I would like to introduce you to Meryl who is a Parenting Facilitator who I have the pleasure of occasionally working with. She has written this wonderful piece on Curiosity that I wanted to share with you. I hope you enjoy it!

I became an Adlerian Parenting Facilitator after raising my three boys who are now currently in various stages of university and transitioning career choices. I was fortunate to have 21 years of parenting support and learning from my parenting mentor, which positively affected us as individuals and as a family. I have great compassion for all parents, as I understand the joys and challenges you are all going through on a daily basis.  Louise suggested I write a blog about parenting and I had great difficulty choosing one topic. However, I decided to write about a parenting skill that I discovered worked well for me and helped me thrive and survive parenthood: curiosity.

Adlerians teach the four C’s (Betty Lou Bettner), which Louise regularly makes reference to:

  • Connect
  • Capable
  • Count
  • Courage

These are important concepts for our children and ourselves, but I discovered four C’s of my own that helped me through an array of developmental stages and parenting upheavals:

  • Calm
  • Constructive
  • Compassionate

For the purpose of this blog, I would like to focus on curiosity because I found this an invaluable tool in helping me remain calm, constructive and compassionate especially when dealing with a toddler, child or adolescent trying to deal with discouragement, emotions or in the throws of power struggle.

During your parenting day everything may be going along quite splendidly. The schedule is working, the commitments are being met, the list is getting checked off, you have dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s and even managed all the C’s.  However, occasionally something happens that causes the energy to shift and suddenly your child is lashing out, moping, whining, upset or doing something that is causing a problem.  When an event happens that leaves you triggered as a parent, choosing to view it with curiosity often saves the need to repair a relationship later. This is because the lens you view the event through changes from disbelief, hurt or annoyance to one of curiosity and problem solving:

  • Why is my child on the floor crying?
  • Why is my child forgetting his homework and lunch?
  • Why is my child whining when we are trying to get to school?
  • Why is he being difficult just before hockey practice?

Sometimes, as parents, we forget to ask the questions or to view an episode from their perspective. Sometimes, we forget in our busy lives to take a breath, sit with them or hold them and ask the questions:

  • Why are you behaving this way?
  • What has you so very upset?
  • Are you tired?
  • Is your homework too difficult or too boring?
  • Would you rather be playing with me than going to school?
  • How are you doing in hockey?

If we are curious, humor and compassion replace annoyance, enabling a parent to begin to solve the mysteries of the situation and of our children. We may even get to have an “Aha” moment when we suddenly comprehend what is really going on in our child’s mind and life. It gives us the OPPORTUNITY to parent and be constructive, remain calm and loving. Curiosity opens the door to problem solving with our children that builds the relationship and ultimately rights the ship with you still at the helm as captain!

When I consult with parents about a problem they may be experiencing with a child, it usually becomes evident it is one or two of the four Adlerian reasons for misbehaviors: attention, power, revenge or withdrawal. However, it wasn’t until a few years into my own parenting and a few sessions of breakdown between parent and child, that I discovered that by getting curious, I suddenly wasn’t as easily triggered by my children’s behavior and I wasn’t as likely to misbehave myself!

Space is created naturally when curiosity is involved and often that bit of space is enough to calm a situation and be constructive. Understanding the child’s perspective (yes, even if it doesn’t make sense to us) allows the parent and child to then move forward as a team into problem solving. Often just by being curious and taking the time to understand the child’s reason for the behavior can provide us with great insight into what is going on for the child.

Remaining open to their possibilities takes the power out of the struggle or problem. Even though as parents we may be very aware that our child may be overtired or overwhelmed, which may be a contributing factor to a behavior, it is important to gain insight into the child’s perspective, their world, their timeframe, as their reasons for the behavior may be truly legitimate to them. Being present and being curious can reveal some very unexpected answers, but the importance is that you are getting answers, you are connecting, you are talking and listening, you are building a very important foundation for the present and for those interesting upcoming future years! You are helping construct a healthy relationship.

Parenting can be overwhelming at times and sometimes it will all fall apart. But take heart because if you are:

  • CURIOUS about your child’s motivations
  • CURIOUS about their behaviors
  • CURIOUS about learning better parenting skills,

then those tougher times become less frequent and the moments of pure parent-child connection and relationship will grow. Those moments build year by year and will serve you well when parenting through adolescence and when your children reach adulthood. So next time if you feel triggered, take a deep breath, tilt your head, observe a moment and then…. GET curious!

Meryl Begert