Your daughter is sitting on the couch. She’s slouched down, pouty, and has her arms crossed. You don’t know what could be bothering her so you walk over and ask cheerily, “what’s up buttercup?” You encourage her to “go play” and smile at her. She ignores you or, even worse, starts to yell and walks off, slamming her door as she escapes to her bedroom.
What just happened?
In these moments, our kiddos need attunement. They need an adult to match, or mirror, their mood, facial expressions, and energy level so they can feel connected and come back to a comfortable emotional place. Something is happening internally that they’re having a hard time managing.
Think of the last time you interacted with an infant. You probably became captured by their gaze, copying them as they opened and closed their mouth, waved their little hands, and mimicked their sounds. You were a mirror. You helped them feel connected, understood, and human. This is what many of our kids have missed in their early years.
With your child, this may look a little different. If your daughter is sitting back, slouched, on the couch with a quiet demeanor, you may mirror her by doing the same from across the room. You may speak low and tentatively with a neutral mood. If she glances up at you and furrows her eyebrows, you may do the same. If she tilts her head to the side while you speak, you may do so as well. These nonverbal gestures communicate information on a more primitive level and instill a deep feeling of connection. Many of our kids are developmentally younger than their chronological age. These experiences with an attuned adult help them start to catch up.
The next time you are interacting with your kiddo, be a mirror and let us know one thing you noticed in the comments below.