What do you need from me?

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By Deanne Atkinson

What do you do when your parenting strategies and the tools you use to ensure a happy household no longer work? We all know that sinking feeling when you cook your child’s favourite meal then one day out of the blue he or she refuses to eat it and declares a new found dislike for it. Or when they start to protest against you and no longer cooperate in getting out the door each morning.

Parenting can feel like you are often navigating through life blindfolded and unprepared for the next hurdle. One minute the way you parent your children works; the next it doesn’t and you feel like you have really hit a brick wall. Frustration quickly creeps in and we can start to feel angry and resentful. 

What’s going on? Children will show you through their behaviour that something is up with them or they are struggling with something under the surface. Just like when you are trying to process some difficult emotions and you might be short tempered during this time; a little more inpatient than normal or you might be someone who withdraws until you have moved through what was troubling you. Children will also behave differently if they are stuck emotionally or struggling with something. 

It is important to see beyond the behaviour and spend some time talking to your child asking them what they are feeling. It may take a few attempts for children to open up, especially if they fear they are going to get into trouble, but keep encouraging them to express their feelings so you can then take the necessary action to help them.

Refusing to cooperate could mean they are tired of being told what to do all the time. Children want to be heard and it is easy to fall into the pattern of just telling them what you want them to do. If this is constant, a child at some point will stop and turn their ears off and dig their heels in. Next time this happens pause for a moment instead of getting angry; is there an opportunity for you to change the way you parent? Have their needs changed? Has your parenting style been overpowering and demanding rather than giving them the opportunity to make choices and have a say in their environment?

What do you need from me? This is the question I asked my teenage son when for a few days he was irritated by me and had become curt and moody. Instead of putting it down as normal teenage behaviour I sat him down and asked what he needs from me.  It was a powerful moment in time for our relationship and the way I parent him. I learnt what he no longer needed from me. We talked and talked about what he wanted, needed and what he felt capable of. I needed to adjust my parenting, pull away and give him more freedom and independence which he felt ready for. I trusted his own judgment and gave him my support. His irritation passed and he was back to his happy self.

The point I am trying to make is: look beyond your child’s behaviour to what the underlying cause could be. Be open-minded; sometimes we are the ones who need to change and consequently the children will respond positively. 

Children love to have a say on what goes on in their lives and will often thrive if their independence is nurtured with age-related choices. We all want to feel heard and not made to obey others demands. Next time you feel resistance in the household, take a breath, find the cause and then you can move forward with a plan of action. It really is an opportunity for growth, usually for everyone involved. 


Deanne Atkinson is a Parent Coach and Spiritual Counsellor and founded Parent with Passion to help reduce the negative cycle which occurs in parenting. She has a spiritual approach to parenting which is all about supporting positive emotions and personal development. She helps mums and dads who are struggling with their role.

Deanne runs parenting programs and private consultations in Mornington and Frankston.

For enquiries Deanne can be contacted on 0413 316 079 or at www.parentwithpassion.com You can also join Deanne on Facebook or Instagram

First published in Peninsula Kids – Summer 2018/19

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