Archive for the ‘Adolescence’ Category
Saying No to One Thing Means Saying Yes to Another
As we Minnesotans watch an April snowstorm blanket the landscape with eight new inches of “pretty stuff”, it’s hard to accept “no” from Mother Nature when we yearn for Spring RIGHT NOW. We desperately want warm sun on our faces, robins and daffodils, not boots, gloves, and snow shovels!
Isn’t it interesting to note how as adults, we have experiences that thwart our desires, just the way our kids do? Last night, my son texted me an interesting thought to ponder. “When we say no to something, we’re saying yes to something else.” Then he typed, in his adorably thought-provoking way, “Opposition.”
When our children are oppositional, they are saying “no” to one thing, such as “brush your teeth”, “get off the computer”, “time for bed”, or “finish your homework.” What’s the thing they are saying “yes” to at that moment? Of course, you might answer, more freedom to play video games, more freedom to stay up late, more freedom to watch a movie instead of finish homework. But there’s more to it than that.
When children oppose their parents, they’re also saying “yes” to their own sense of who they are. As young as 12 months, they’re wired to start opposing their parents’ requests because they are exercising their newfound will. Is this a disrespectful aspect to all children? Some may argue yes. But it’s really more helpful and less conflict producing to see it as a natural developmental phase. As adults, this is our job and we even benefit from celebrating that our kids with big wills are on the right path. We do better to support their will, rather than try to fight it.
So, you might say to me, “How do we get the bath taken in time for bed, when all they want to do is play?” The answer lies in recognizing the emerging will as a vital part of the child’s growth as a person. Acknowledging how much they want to continue to watch their favorite show, play their favorite video game, or finish up their art project, will go a long way toward gaining cooperation. Say, “You’re really into this game, I can see! I notice that you’re gaining a lot of new skills by playing it. Finish this one game and I’ll meet you in your room, ready for bed in 10 minutes.”
This approach acknowledges the child’s will to play the game and also encourages, rather than forces, the letting go. (We all know how well it turns out when we try to force a child to do something.)
Here are the 5 steps:
1. Establish a routine bedtime with your children’s input during a family meeting.
2. Tell your child exactly how you will let him or her know it’s bedtime. Have him sit in front of the computer and rehearse this aspect. Place your hand on his back if he can tolerate it, and say in a respectful tone, “See what time it is? I’ll meet you in your room in 10 minutes.” That’s all. He knows when bedtime is.
3. Just wait respectfully for him to comply. If it takes longer than you thought, rehearse again tomorrow, but don’t lecture now.
4. Give heartfelt appreciation for coming when he does. Even if it’s a few minutes late, you want to let him know he’s been successful in coming to the room. Reward what you want, and you will see more of it.
5. Have a peaceful, appreciative end to the day.
If you need coaching help with these steps, or any other parenting challenge, click here.
That’s NOT FAIR!!!
You’ve heard your kids claim this “truth” a million times. How do you get them to stop throwing fairness up as their inalienable right? It’s annoying, it feels like pressure for you as a parent, and you have no idea how to deal with it.
Here are five tips for dealing with kids who feel life is unfair:
1. This may seem a little harsh, but tell the kids, “We don’t do fair.” It’s not a realistic expectation to think that life for every child will be equal and fair, so why hold it up as a family value?
2. Listen deeply to the feelings underlying the claim of unfairness. “I imagine you are saying that because you feel your brother gets more attention than you do. Is that right?” Being comfortable with the tough feeling a child is expressing tends to neutralize it.
3. Remind the child that each person in the family is having his or her needs met to the best of your ability. We all have clothes, food, a roof over our heads, enough rules, hot water for baths, and lots of love.
4. Comparing “who gets what is a dead-end” conversation. Let the kids know that their legitimate need for material things will be met, and so will their siblings’, and it won’t always be the same or at the same time. Give examples of when the oldest got a bike first because the younger ones weren’t big enough to ride yet; the musically interested one got piano lessons, while the hockey player got skates and ice time; the dancer got ballet lessons and the one who loved Karate had lessons, too. It wasn’t the same (which kids sometimes think is “fair.”)
5. Show your kids how adults don’t live in the world of fairness, either. Every time mom buys a new pair of jeans, dad doesn’t run out and get something of equal value. You both know you’ll be able to get the clothes you need, but not at the same time, and not necessarily items that cost the same.
Part of this exercise is releasing your own thinking that everything in your child’s world should be fair. It’s an easy trap to fall into when you have more than one child. But it’s also fairly easy to correct. Just say, “We don’t do fair, but we do provide for and love each of you.”
If you’d like more information about parent coaching on this or any child-rearing topic, click here for all the details.
How to Parent Well When You Have Your Own Emotional ”Stuff”
Parents often wonder if they can actually be good for their kids when they are carrying emotional baggage from their own childhoods. They think, “How do I parent this child well when I have my own emotional stuff?” It’s a legitimate question, and I’d like to answer it from the perspective of having coached a powerful man who conquered a hard upbringing to connect, and connect well, with his grandson.
Adam was raised in a situation where his own parents didn’t take care of him, and he needed to live with other adults. The understandable resentment for this was a part of the ongoing landscape of his emotional world. And (who knows how this happens?) during his first marriage he became the step-grandpa to a now-12-year-old boy, fully responsible for him after the tragic and untimely death of his wife. When I met this fabulous grandpa, he was remarried to an absolute saint, Gretchen, who had never had children. Together, they were raising a boy who has two living parents, neither of whom took responsibility for him. Anyone who knows kids understands that this is an extremely difficult situation for a child … having two ambivalently attached parents causes mountains of questions. Why don’t they live with me and care for me? What did I do wrong to cause them to reject me? Why don’t they make it better when it seems as if they could? Why do they keep messing up? And it also results in (again, understandable) acting out that would try even the most patient adult. Yelling, screaming, pounding, refusing, swearing, leaving the house … you name it. Adam and his beloved Gretchen fielded all of this from Graydon with Herculean grace (and yes, some rough arguments).
Adam repeatedly came to me with his own questions about how to make life better at home. And as he did this, he listened intently, even at times struggling with his own deep emotions, wanting to control the boy so he didn’t remind him so much of himself. But the boy would not be controlled by the typical, “Do as I say” approach. This led to a lot of conflict.
As our time together progressed, I watched as Adam learned to put his own emotions on the shelf, not always, but often effectively enough to build a strong bond between himself and Graydon. He set limits, which was often painful for both Adam and his grandson. He created and held healthy boundaries between Graydon and his non-custodial dad and mom. He spoke of respect, instilled values, and stayed the course. He skied with Graydon, threw the ball with him, and asked him about his homework. He limited video game use and access to the phone. He encouraged friendships and facilitated outings and sleep-overs with his middle school buddies. He took Graydon on trips to see unexplored parts of the country. He sat in the stands at his basketball and baseball games, and taught him about teamwork. When he heard the coach compliment Graydon, he was sure to let him know. He accompanied his grandson to therapy appointments to help him feel safe to talk about his feelings. On my advice, he even wrote notes to Graydon, expressing the positive things that were sometimes hard to say between “guys”, but were huge in their impact. He spent special time with him every evening before bed, connecting with Graydon on an emotional level, even if they’d had a bad day. All this, with his own wounded childhood, his own feelings of rejection and anger, lurking in the background. For his grandson’s sake, he dug deep regularly, and simply put Graydon first.
I found myself in awe, wondering where he got the inner strength to parent this often rebellious, oppositional child with such love. We hear about children’s resilience in the literature, but who ever talks about grandparents’ resilience? Who makes a big deal of someone like Adam who wrestled with his demons regularly and emerged the hero for Graydon, teaching him by example that he could be better the next time?
It’s an honor to share this story. I write it as I prepare to attend Adam’s utterly untimely memorial service. Yesterday he died at age 57 with much love left to give. Adam inspired me, and I will forever feel blessed, having known him at his finest, even in the hardest moments. Graydon got the message of love from Adam, not perfectly, not every minute, but he got it. And that’s what it takes for a child to grow up emotionally healthy – one truly caring adult who, through his love, frees you up to do, and be, your best.
Parent coaching info is available at www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching.
Holiday Gifts Raising Havoc?
Are the gifts your kids received for the holidays creating havoc in your home?
Are you at a loss as to how to handle this sticky situation?
Let’s say your child received a new PS-3 or Xbox from well-intended but misguided grandparents. Your child is spending way too much time on it. It’s time for a sit-down to repair damaged family relationships and restore harmony in the home.
Here’s what to say:
“I’m the parent and it’s my job to make sure your growing up time is balanced with fun, family, and contributions to our lives. I need to check on the balance now and then. When I checked today, I saw that you’re spending a lot of time on the PS-3, and less time with us. I also notice that your mood is lower and you’re more cranky when you play the games. So we need to make an adjustment. I want to hear your ideas for how to resolve this issue.”
Allow time for the child to think. He or she may become defensive, saying, “It’s my game and I can play it whenever I want to! Grandma gave it to me!” or “I’m not cranky! You’re the one who gets cranky when I play!”
Don’t defend your point here. Just stay with the agenda, which is to resolve the problem. Say, “I’m not interested in arguing about this. But I am interested in hearing your ideas for resolving it. Do you want to offer some right now, or do you need some time to think about it? Take your time. It’s important and I want you to have a chance to think. Maybe you could come up with a few options that we could discuss next time we talk about this.”
When you call the next thinking session, ask your child what he or she decided. Consider the options carefully, not hurrying, asking clarifying questions. If you can live with one of the ideas, say so and consider the issue resolved. If you need to negotiate, say, “I like number 3 because it’s well-thought-out. What would you say to including it with some of my ideas?” Offer your thoughts and decide together on a solution.
This type of collaboration is vital for making decisions that stick. It includes the child in the decision, avoiding the authoritarian “my way or the highway” approach. It models the type of collaboration you expect from your child. You are always teaching with your behavior, don’t forget.
If your child can’t come up with a solution, keep at it anyway. Offer three or four of your own ideas and ask him to rank order them. This keeps choice in the forefront, still including the child in the solution. Again, offer him time to think. The more you do this, the better the decisions will be.
Once a decision is made, post it prominently in the home where the child gets a frequent review. State it positively like this:
The Becker Family has decided together that 1 hour per week is the perfect amount of time for video games. I pledge to help our family stay strong by honoring the 1-hour limit.
Decide together what will happen if the limit is not being honored. You may evoke the parental right to turn the machine off, which is appropriate. Just be sure this is decided in advance, so there are no surprises. If you encounter resistance, don’t argue. Just do as you all decided, turn off the machine, and engage the child in something else. Your actions will speak loudly, and you won’t have to get engaged in a power struggle.
Peace to your homes in 2013! If you need help with this or any other parenting issue, call Jacy at 651-964-4750 or write email@example.com for an appointment.
Response to the Elementary School Shooting
Tina’s client writes:
I can’t help but think of you after reading “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” an article written in response to the school shooting. It’s available through Huffington Post if you haven’t read it. I am writing to thank you, again, for your help with my daughter as I can totally relate to the mother writing the article. I am grateful to not be living in that hell anymore. I owe much of that to you and your work. If we had stayed with traditional therapy, and not changed to your life affirming, parent empowering and child respecting philosophy and method, I might be living an even worse nightmare. I can’t even think about the potential destruction to my daughter. Your work is so important for so many. I am forever grateful! My daughter continues to do well. She is in her 4th month of public high school and is doing well making friends, learning (the system), developing endurance, and showing herself that she can do anything she sets her mind to. I am so proud of her!
Thank you so much!
Read I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother here:
Ask a Question
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
We so often have to tell our kids what to do. We run from home to school, from school to the store, from the store back home. After a hurried dinner, the older siblings have events, to which we need to “drag” the younger ones. Then bedtime carries another whole set of requests. By the time our intense kids are done with the day, they’ve been asked to do 100 things they don’t want to do. Not exactly a formula for a smooth family life!
Many of you have heard me say, instead of issuing an edict: “Time to get ready to go!” or “I said it’s time for dinner, and now I expect you to come,” ask a question instead. To gain cooperation, acknowledge that the child already KNOWS it’s time for dinner. Stating it keeps you in a managerial position that you really don’t want. It prevents the child from learning to “read the family routine” and respond to it for herself.
So instead of saying,”Time for dinner. Everyone wash hands and come to the table!” say, “Did you notice what was going on in the kitchen the past 1/2 hour? Smell anything good?” and pause. Let the kids “wake up” to your family’s process, figure out that dinner is ready, and come on their own. How do you get them there? By sitting down to dinner and waiting.
Some bright kids are insulted by your stating the obvious: “Time to get up and get your clothes on. Come on, find your jeans and shirt. Let’s go. Time for breakfast. When you’re done, get your backpack.” If someone did that to me, I’d be oppositional, too!
So if your child needs a chart for the daily routine, make a chart and watch him follow it. But talk about something else so you don’t become the negative stimulus his brain wakes up to every morning, and goes to bed to every night.
Si nce you’re not recounting the routine any more, you may just have time to talk about something truly meaningful. Share your plans for the day, say what you’re looking forward to, or ask a specific question about your child’s day with sincere curiosity. That’s the way to avoid triggering opposition. And by the way, it builds your relationship, too.
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
Using the Present Moment to Parent Your
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Don’t drag the past into the present moment. Do your best to see the child as “brand new” right now, because she is brand new in every moment. So instead of fearing her next move, and telegraphing your fear with your tone of voice and body language, assume her goodness. It’s amazing what a huge effect this has on the child.
It’s 5:30 p.m. Thirteen-year-old Ava approaches her mom, Sara, who is preparing dinner in the kitchen. For the past three days, Ava has been cranky, mouthy, belligerent and nasty. Sara steels herself, with subtle body stiffening, for Ava’s upcoming comment about something that’s upsetting her. Sara doesn’t turn to Ava, but just stays facing the cake batter on the counter with a firm resolve not to engage her daughter.
Picking up on her mom’s subtle cues, Ava immediately feels rejection. She then lays into her mother with, “Where’s my blue fleece? I can’t find it anywhere! What did you do with it?” Sara has just had her fear realized, and responds with a defensive, “Ava, I’ve told you a thousand times that I am not in charge of your clothes. If you can’t find your fleece, look again. That room is such a mess, I’m not surprised it’s hard to find things.”
Ava has had her fear realized, too, and responds defensively with, “You are always blaming me for things that are not my fault! I just think you did the laundry and lost my fleece in some other drawer, and now you’re afraid to admit it! I wish I didn’t live in this house!”
“Listen to me young lady! You are not allowed to speak to me like that. You have been creating havoc in this house for three days, and I am sick and tired of it! Until you can learn to appreciate living here, you’re grounded!”
“Oh great. This is the worst place in the world, and now you are making me stay here? I’m leaving, and you can’t make me stay.” Ava storms through the back door, leaving Sara at once furious and relieved. “Good! Stay away all night if you want!”
The cycle of angry communication, fueled on thoughts of the past, has just widened the rift between mom and daughter.
Let’s replay this situation with Present Moment Parenting. Sara has learned to avoid dragging the past three days of strife into this moment, realizing that the present can be what she wants it to be with a tiny change in perspective. She remembers, “The present moment is all we have,” which generates a very different response when Ava approaches.
Sara is standing in the kitchen, preparing the carrots for dinner. She is remembering that Ava has had a rough few days, and she wonders what could be bothering her. She decides to find out, and make use of the present moment when it occurs.
Ava comes into the room, sensing that her mom is relaxed, but being stressed herself, she says the same accusatory thing: “Where’s my blue fleece? I can’t find it anywhere! What did you do with it?”
Staying in the present moment, refraining from dragging her fear of the past few days into this conversation, Sara responds with: “I love that blue fleece on you. It’s the perfect color. The last time I saw it, it was in the family room on the hook by the door.” Ava now has an “in” to speak to her mom calmly in this moment. Her defenses have not been triggered, and she can respond with kindness, even though she’s been stressed.
“Thanks, Mom. I’ll look there.”
Sara sets up an “appointment” to find out what’s bothering Ava, weaving it into an activity:
“OK, and when you find it, would you come back and see me? I need your cooking talent tonight. Do you think this cake would be better as a full size cake or cupcakes?”
“Sure. I’ll be back in a second.” She returns, blue fleece slung over her shoulders.
“OK , we’re having the little cousins over, so which kind of cake do you think would work best?”
“I like cupcakes.”
“I’m happy to have you decide, because all day I’ve been making 1,000 decisions, and my decider is worn out. Thanks a ton.”
“I need help deciding something, too. Does your decider still work, or should I wait?”
“Let’s give it a shot, and I’ll let you know.”
“OK, I have been thinking about this boy in my class. He seems to like me, and I like him, but I’ve noticed the other kids making fun of him. I’m not sure how to handle this, because I don’t want to lose those other friends, but I really think this guy is cute and I want to get to know him better.”
“Good thing I don’t have to decide on this one. I think you are going to be the one who does the deciding, but I can help you think about it.” Sara embarks on an interview with Ava about what’s attractive about this cute boy. She’s staying in the present moment, taking Ava just as she is now, and creating a beautiful, safe landing-place for their conversation. My guess is that Ava’s recent crankiness is caused by worry about what to do with the boy situation, but she just didn’t know how to bring it up.
Sara has done a masterful job of staying in the present moment, and can now help Ava to resolve the issue. She’s done more than that, though; she’s also built a stronger bridge to her daughter for the next time she notices that she’s in need of some good “mom time.”
The present moment is enomously effective in healing the relationship with a troubled teen, or any child for that matter. To learn more about applying the present moment through parent coaching, click here.
Adolescence: The Great Cookie Challenge
Copyright ©2011 Tina Feigal
During a recent coaching call, my client related the story of her 11-year-old gifted son with ADHD. He had come home from school, and immediately loaded a platter of cookies, poured a tumbler of milk, and was heading to watch TV. His mother’s comment was, “I don’t think so…that homework has to be done!” What ensued was a huge battle, complete with name calling of the most horrible kind, mom getting shoved, and a call dad, (the parents are divorced, but communicating regularly about their parenting) who came right over and gave his lecture and heated attention to the infraction. The son ended his day with a sense of complete guilt, failure, and disconnectedness from both parents.
I offered my thoughts on how this scene could have been avoided.
First, instead of challenging the 11-year-old holding cookies and milk, see that after a stressful day at school, he can benefit from some comfort in the food form and some down time in front of mindless (but please, appropriate!) TV. Notice the child in the present moment, and then ask a question, rather than deliver a command. A better comment might be, “That platter of cookies looks like exactly the thing a sixth-grader needs after a day at school.” The mom now has her son’s open, non-defended attention, even in the era of adolescence. The question is received more positively: “What’s your plan for homework when you’re done with your snack?”
This question does two things. It forwards the action, and it assumes the child’s responsibility for his own homework. This is crucial. With one foot in adulthood, and another in childhood, the sixth grader needs to have affirmations of his own self-efficacy whenever possible. It also helps him develop his sense of responsibility. The adolescent is not ONE thing. He is fifty things, including a developing being. You facilitate his healthy development by assuming his responsible actions (he may not have known how responsibly he was going to handle his homework before his mom phrased the question this way. It’s all happening at the same time…the development, the attitude formation, and the plan!) Furthermore, you predict his success by forwarding the action. One little well-phrased comment can turn a huge name-calling shove-fest into a moment of enhanced self-esteem and responsibility. We get to choose.
After years of training in authoritarian “teach the child a lesson” approaches, we need to unlearn our knee-jerk reactions to kids in adolescence who look as if they are misbehaving, and learn a whole new way of relating to them. Instead of playing the behavior police by correcting the infraction, we need to take the bigger view. An adolescent is an EXTREMELY self-conscious being. It’s as if a huge search light is on him at all times. His body is changing, his thought processes are changing, and his whole being feels a bit unfamiliar. No wonder he feels self-conscious during adolescence. If he doesn’t even know who he is, he can hardly defend himself against the ill-informed opinions of adults and peers.
So an adolescent needs understanding. He is neither child nor adult, but a fluctuating, spinning, hormone-ridden, uncertain, fabulous, loving, angry, open, close-minded baby adult. He will give you the finger and call you a name that makes your blood boil one minute and climb into your lap the next. During this phase of adolescence, a human being needs empathy, not judgment.
At the end of our coaching session, my client asked me, “What’s my mantra?”
My answer is three-fold: “Don’t judge. Ask: What does he need to learn? Teach him that.”
Copyright © Tina Feigal 2011
For parent coaching help with your children in adolescence, call 651-453-0123.