Archive for the ‘Disrespectful Children’ Category
Holidays with Your Intense Child
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Copyright © 2016
Holidays with your intense child can cause a great deal of discomfort. You’re concerned about keeping things socially acceptable, you would rather not see “that look” on your sister-in-law’s face, and staying home in front of the TV never felt so appealing. But on you go, feeling the pull of family responsibility, not wanting to disappoint people – still knowing you will, because it’s almost impossible to take your child anywhere without a scene.
This holiday season, it’s time to get a handle on visiting others and helping your child maintain some semblance of civility.
Here are five tips for surviving, and even enjoying, the holidays with your intense child. Yes, it’s possible, and no, you don’t need therapy or medication to get there.
- Talk in advance with your child about how it will be at the relatives’ house this holiday. Recall what it felt like last year and take note of how she talks about it.
- Consider that sensory issues are at the core of the misbehavior you see in your child. Too many smells mingling, sparkly things and bright snow, tags in new clothes, sounds of people all talking at once, proximity of other bodies, and the taste of unfamiliar foods can throw a child into a state of complete undoing.
- Make a plan to decrease the sensory input for your child. Ask her what would feel good: would you like to go somewhere in the house if it gets to be too much? How about spending time under mom’s big jacket? What breathing exercises would you like to do to calm yourself? Focus her on special gift giving, so her attention is on others instead of herself.
- Decrease expectations for your child’s participation and ask others to do the same. Remember that intense behavior such as tantrums come from being overwhelmed. If you’ve already had a lot of excitement before the big gathering, your child may be simply unable to take more input. Ask for understanding, explaining that “She just has trouble with too much stimulation at once. We’ve made a plan, and I hope you can support us in it.”
- Go to her frequently throughout the visit to give her positive statements about how well she’s doing. “When you take care of yourself while we’re at Aunt Sarah’s, I feel so proud of you.” “When you joined us for that little chat in the living room and gave out your ornaments, I could tell Grandma really enjoyed it.” “When you were able to play with your little cousin in the den, I know it meant a lot to her.”
These statements help your child stay on a “string of successes.” She will respond with more successes, as you are causing a response in her body that says, “I am good at this.” The better she feels about how she’s doing, the more she’ll do it!
This may just be a great opportunity to come away with a successful visit, which you can talk about with your child, strengthening the bond between you along with her ability to cope! Enjoy your holiday with your intense child!
If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, click here for all the info on parent coaching.
The School Year is Wearing Thin Already
The school year is wearing thin already. We parent coaches usually see an up-tick in referrals from professionals and calls for help from parents at this time of year. Parents are distressed because homework struggles and/or behavior calls from school are increasing. The newness has worn off, and learning issues are coming to light. Children can’t do their math, they bother their friends, they seem testy and disrespectful, and they are emotionally wrecked by the end of the day. Gifted kids are disrupting the classroom because they are being under-challenged. kids with undiscovered reading disabilities are losing their hope. Those with ADHD are remembering that it’s more of the same every day … I can’t focus enough to do what the others do, and I don’t want to be different!
What can parents do to help in these situations? First, understand that if your child is losing interest in school this early in the year, it’s important to
- Listen closely to what he’s saying
- Avoid blaming him for being unmotivated.
If the issues persist week after week, asking the school for accommodations and/or testing is well within your rights and responsibility. If it’s math, reading, or writing that’s causing the issue, the evaluation team can try some strategies to help your child. Do not wait for a few more months to go by. If there’s a true learning issue, the sooner you discover it, the better. If the strategies (i.e., fewer problems or items assigned, moving to the front of the room, or more time allotted for tests) don’t seem to help, the team can decide that a formal learning evaluation should take place.This may involve:
1. the school psychologist (IQ/learning strengths and weaknesses testing)
2. the reading, writing or math specialist (grade level achievement testing)
3. the regular education classroom teacher
4. your input via surveys and conversation
5. music, gym, and art teachersIf your child shows that there’s a significant grade-level lag in his or her abilities, special education can be provided for the Specific Learning Disability in the form of an Individualized Educational Plan, or IEP. The child will have programming, often in the regular classroom with the special education teacher co-teaching as a resource for special needs students. Or the child may be in the special education resource room for math, reading, or writing. Each school handles this according to their staffing configuration. If no learning disability is discovered, the child may be eligible for regular education accommodations that can support him or her. Many schools have supplemental reading programs, in particular, that can be of great help to your child.
If the problems at school are more focused on behavior and emotions, a similar path can be followed by the school staff. After a request from parents or a teacher, a team meets to discuss the issues, and then accommodations (i.e., moving to the front of the room, more breaks between activities, and extra guidance at transition times) are made. If there’s not significant improvement, a special education evaluation can take place. The process involves classroom observation, questionnaires for parents, teachers and familiar adults in the community, and sometimes surveys completed by the child. The parents, the school psychologist, the regular classroom teacher, the social worker or counselor, and the Emotional-Behavioral Disability special ed teacher could all be involved. If the child is determined to be in need of special education in this area, the EBD teacher would write an IEP, and the parents would be invited to hear the details in a meeting. If the parents approve, the school can institute a regular program of support for the child, with contact with the EBD teacher, social worker, or counselor.
IEP’s follow children from year to year in school, and are reviewed annually. Parents are considered part of the IEP team, and are invited to all annual meetings to learn the results of the tests, and to hear of, and contribute to, changes in the plan. If a need for an early IEP meeting becomes apparent, parents are included in it, too. Every three years, the special education team re-evaluates the child’s learning disability to be certain that services are still required. Some children mature out of their need for extra support, so they can be “mainstreamed” fully in the regular education classroom.
Some other children have conditions that interfere with their learning, such as hearing or vision impairment, medical issues, or ADHD, that do not qualify them for special education, but require classroom accommodations. In this case, a 504 plan can be instituted. This is a regular education program by which the school team and parents make plans to assure success in school for children whose needs are not in the special education realm, but are still significant enough to require help. Read more about 504 plans here.
You may also hear your child talking about the classroom, lunchroom, bus, or gym being “too loud.” She may say that she cannot concentrate in class because of certain smells. You might hear that your child is struggling because the lights in the room seem to be flickering. He may say that he cannot stand wearing jeans to school, but can only wear wind pants or sweats. These all point to sensory processing issues (sensory avoidant), which can understandably interfere with learning. Some children have sensory seeking tendencies, wherein they are always touching a wall, other children, the floor, or furniture. They often bump into others and have difficulty keeping their bodies in their own space. For some children, sensory avoidant and sensory seeking are both part of their landscape. Click here for information on Sensory Processing Disorder. These issues can be helped by Occupational Therapy, which is usually delivered outside the school setting, but is no less important than school-based services. OT’s do provide services in school, but usually related to handwriting and other needs that are directly related to school performance. For more concentrated OT, ask your pediatrician for a recommendation, and start with requesting an evaluation from the OT.
Many children whose behaviors are found to be on the autism spectrum receive special education services in autism-specific programs. Evaluations at school and by medical professionals help to determine if autism is the issue. If you have a question about whether your child exhibits traits of autism, be sure to start the conversation early, as that will insure earlier intervention and more academic success for your child. Click here for the characteristics of autism in children.
It’s possible to have sensory issues on their own, and it’s also very common for children with autism to have sensory issues. If your child has sensory concerns, it’s not necessary to assume autism, but it certainly warrants an investigation if some of the other characteristics are also present.
Auditory processing may also be an issue for your child. This is different from the processing disorder above, where it’s hard for the child to receive auditory input. This auditory processing issue involves the inability to get the message from the teacher when he or she is speaking. If your child repeatedly says, “I just didn’t hear him,” or “I don’t remember what she said,” this may be your sign that auditory processing is the issue. For children with ADHD, who appear not to be “paying attention,” you can assume that auditory processing is low. Think about how much of school is delivered auditorily, and it’s no wonder kids with ADHD struggle.
It’s also possible to be gifted and have a learning disability. Your child could exhibit “enormous capacity for novelty” and constant curiosity about topics way beyond the interests of her peers, and still struggle with math, reading, or writing. Do not be lulled into thinking your child is not gifted if one of these areas is not up to grade level. Ask for an evaluation to find out if your child is Twice Exceptional, meaning she’s gifted and struggles with learning in one or more areas. Sometimes gifted children have autism characteristics, as well.
Giftedness is determined by IQ testing. If a child doesn’t make the IQ cut-off for giftedness, the school district may consider the overall creativity, verbal adeptness, interest in advanced subjects, or advanced musical or art abilities to include the child in gifted programming. Many parents are reluctant to say, “My child may be gifted.” Please, please respond if your child is showing signs of giftedness. These children often get overlooked and become discouraged in school, leading to behavior issues. They are vulnerable to depression and anxiety when their learning needs go unrecognized. School personnel who are not attuned to gifted characteristics may not recognize what is causing misbehavior or withdrawal, so it’s up to parents to call attention to this issue, and ask for testing. Again, this is your right and your responsibility.
This can be a dizzying collection of information if you’ve never had to deal with it before. Do not blame yourself if you feel you should have addressed these issues earlier. You could only do what you knew how to do!
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Happy New Year! Now Put That Down!
Comedian Louie Anderson answers the question: What made you laugh in 2015?
A. I made myself laugh the most this year thinking I was so smart or right about something. I can’t tell you how many times I searched for my glasses only to discover them right on my face, or thinking I’ve lost my iPhone or someone has stolen it only to discover that I was sitting on it or it was right there in my hand. Not to mention the keys in my hand, in the door lock or in the ignition of my car. “As plain as the nose on my face,” I can hear my mom say.
Parents, can you relate? I know I find myself laughing about this often. The thing that strikes me most lately is that I am holding something, totally unaware, while I’m holding six other things, and suddenly I’m spilling or making a mess because I failed to put something down.
So in the New Year, let’s all watch how much we’re holding at once. When we are bombarded from all sides by children’s requests, paying bills, doing laundry, buying food, making meals, going to the doctor, helping with homework, taking care of pets, cleaning the house (ha!) and attending to the needs of our work, ourselves and our mates, maybe we should think about putting something down, just for the moment. “Present Moment Parenting”, we call it. It involves taking something up, yes, but also putting something down. Maybe putting several things down.
I’m not just talking just about physical “things” or tasks here, but also thoughts, distractions, and mind-wanderings. Children sense when parents are not present, and they tend to exploit the situation, as you are well aware. They also learn distraction from us. So if you’ve been complaining about your child not being able to focus, try taking a quick inventory of the times he or she has seen you in a distracted state (using the tablet, phone, or computer.) Maybe you’ll see where distraction is being reinforced. And if you feel as if your child is demanding, again, take a look at how you interact with her, just to check whether she’s learning a demanding, hurry-up, right-now sense of urgency from you.
This sense of urgency seems SO necessary in today’s world, but it’s time to rein it in for our mental and physical well-being. We actually can slow our thoughts down to a normal speed, even though it doesn’t seem so. Consider this: at the end of the day, will it matter if you’ve had the average 50,000 thoughts or 20,000? Who will be counting? And what will you gain if you slow the thoughts down? Perhaps a bit of peace of mind, perhaps a slower, more connected relationship with your child or partner. Perhaps mindfulness and fewer health concerns.
I think yoga has enjoyed such popularity in the US and beyond in recent years because as humans, we realize the need to slow down is coming from our inner core. With all that goes on with a busy family, it’s very easy to get caught up in quick, impersonal, even commanding interactions that erode our sense of peace. Let’s learn to listen to our inner voices and say no to the constant “hurry up” of modern life. When we do, we give our children an enormous gift, for this present moment and beyond.
Happy New Year from all of us at the Center for the Challenging Child.
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Five Steps to Helping a Traumatized Child Regain Control
Tina Feigal Copyright © 2015
If you are parenting or teaching a child who has experienced trauma, you know that every day feels like a struggle. This article is written to give you insight into the behaviors that are a direct result of the trauma, and ways to handle those behaviors. There is a compassionate way to approach a traumatized child, just the way we treat animals with compassion when we adopt them, not knowing what they have experienced in the past. Let’s share this far and wide. Our children need our compassion. And they are all our children.
1. Understand that the cause of the behavior is often the effect of stored trauma, not the misbehavior of a cranky child. A traumatized child cannot regulate emotions by “making a better choice” any more than a caged lion can remain calm when someone comes at it with a spear. Having had trauma (neglect; emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse; hunger and inability to anticipate being fed; homelessness; loss of friends or family through separation, divorce, death, or incarceration; drug or alcohol abuse by a parent) changes the child’s brain. It stays in fight-or-flight mode, even when there’s no current threat. This is adaptive brain function, as the brain interprets it as assuring the child’s survival. It’s also difficult for adults who haven’t seen the trauma in action to believe that misbehavior comes from the brain’s over-responses to perceived threat. To help you remember, say to yourself, “This is trauma, not disrespect.”
2. Help the child regulate. If it’s safe to do so, give the child space; avoid approaching the child. After a period of quiet, ask “Would you like to keep crying (yelling) or would you like to calm down now?” Wait with a calm demeanor for the child to show signs of decreasing agitation. Model self-regulating techniques, such as sitting or lying down, breathing deeply, and using soothing self-talk. (I can calm my legs, I can calm my arms, I can calm my head, I can calm my hands, I can calm my feet.)
3. Identify true feelings. “If I guess how you’re feeling, will you tell me if I’m right or wrong? I imagine you are frustrated (angry, sad) because you wanted to do your own thing right now, and we are asking you to join the class.” Have the child draw the feelings on paper. This releases the child by helping the brain get the message, “I am seen. If I’m seen I will survive. I don’t need to act out to be seen, because she just let me know my feelings are real and they are OK.”
4. Provide opportunities for sensory calming or remove child from sensory overload. For example, apply deep pressure (weighted blanket, hugs, self-hugs, pressure on shoulders or legs) or other sensory calming techniques.
5. Check for hunger, thirst, fatigue and/or oncoming illness, and attend to these needs by providing food, drink, rest, or medical care.
Final note: It’s important to remember that consequences do not work for traumatized children. Children who have experienced trauma are in disequilibrium as they have not had their basic needs met. They are experiencing fear for their very survival, and thus cannot attend to the needs of the environment. Their brains are in fight-or-flight, so the reasoning part of the brain is turned off, and planning ahead based on previous consequences is just not possible in this state. Instead of trying to “teach him a lesson”, stick to the steps above. It will save time and frustration, and especially important, it will keep the situation from escalating, which only fuels the brain’s over-response to perceived threat.
For help with this or any other parenting issue, for children of all ages, click here.
What’s Your Child Doing Online?
I get a lot of questions about online and cell phone activity by kids. Should we respect their privacy, or be checking their texts? How about what goes on with video game chats? Is it our business to know what they say and receive on social media? And how do we handle talking with kids about this sensitive issue?
Consider these points:
1. Modern parenting requires knowing what your kids are doing on social media and saying in texts (the two most common ways they communicate with peers.) We now have a “private” life to monitor about which our parents did not have to be so concerned.
2. When children’s brains are not fully developed, their impulses to say and do things that they would not normally do if a parent was present, put them at greater risk for bullying – either being the bully or receiving bullying.
3. Perpetrators are seeing their opportunities, and we need to closely check to be sure the “kids” our children are contacting online are actually kids, not sexual predators.
4. Social media is here to stay, so it’s best to confront these issues head-on, to protect our kids.
5. Open, honest discussion and consistent monitoring are your best strategies for keeping kids safe.
How to talk about it?
First, become familiar with the technology. Set aside a specific time to go over each outlet with your child. This will include Facebook, but less and less with the advent of these more youth-driven applications:
Micro-blogging apps and sites
Chatting, Meeting, Dating apps and sites
When I look at the list above, it seems overwhelming, as I am sure it is to many of you. Keep in mind that if you are paying for a phone, you have the right to know how it’s being used.
And what’s a Self Destructing/Secret App? The message only appears for a few seconds, and is gone forever. This makes it much harder to monitor, and these apps should not be allowed. Children are regularly posting inappropriate photos of themselves and their friends. I know, it’s tough being a parent in these times.
Call a family meeting, and focus on the teens. If you have younger children, it’s good for them to hear your stance on social media and texting.
Make these points very clear:
1. Yes, kids love connecting with their phones. You understand that it’s a wonderful way to stay in touch.
2. We need limits on the phone and computer use, because so much can go wrong when kids are using them, even when they don’t mean to get involved with something they shouldn’t.
3. As long as parents are paying for phones and computer service, they have access to all account passwords, and run frequent checks.
4. Phones sleep in the kitchen at night, so kids get their sleep. Research now shows that the blue light from electronics interferes with sleep, so this is non-negotiable, for health reasons. (Also, it eliminates “too much freedom” to text at night.)
5. Respectful use of language when using electronic devices is not optional. The best way to make sure it is respectful is to give positive feedback when you see respect. Also, include your child in a discussion on what feels respectful to him or her, and how important it is to always show consideration to others. Kindness does not only apply when adults are present and included. It’s the way our family communicates at all times.
Challenging as this topic can be, it’s also a fabulous opportunity to share values with your children. It can be so enriching to your relationship to face this topic with respect and appropriate limits. That’s what keeps a child feeling safe.
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My Kids Don’t Listen to My Advice
Maybe it’s that we as parents typically toss out directives without much thought about how they land on their children:
“You need to get off the video game. It’s not good to spend so much time playing. You’ll miss the rest of your life!”
“You need to clean this room. If there was a fire, you would trip on all this stuff trying to get out.”
“You should always pay attention to the assignments. The teacher gives you instructions, and you need to write them down.”
“You need to get your education. It’s more important than your interest in music. There are no good jobs in music. Use that as a hobby, but get a real job.”
“Listen to me. I’m your dad (mom). I know what it’s like to grow up and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I (my brother, my dad, my mom, your sister) made.”
Sound familiar? If it does, stop and think with me for a minute. If, as an adult, someone gave you these directives, would it inspire you to follow their advice? Or would you tend to discount them, and do your own thing, grumbling under your breath, “Yeah, as if he knows what’s it’s like to be me.”
Here are some tips on gaining your child’s cooperation, rather than demanding it (which never works in any lasting way.)
1. Think about how you’d like to be addressed, and use that much respect in your tone with your child.
2. Ask instead of command. “Let’s take a look at your time on the computer and decide together on a reasonable amount for each day.”
3. Use inquiry when talking about life interests. Hold your own anxiety back regarding your child’s future, and just interview him or her on what’s wonderful about their music, art, writing, sports, math … any interest they show. You are much better off supporting what comes from the child naturally, rather than trying to assign a future to him or her.
4. Remember that your child is developing, not fully formed. They make mistakes, and that’s how they learn. Allow for child development while you create your expectations. If you need some guidance on this for teens, click here.
5. For household tasks, express your heartfelt appreciation every time you see helpful behavior around the home. “When you take your dishes to the dishwasher, I feel very appreciative because it shows me that you care that we live in a healthy home.” “When you straighten your room, I love seeing how you arrange everything. You made it so pleasant in here.” “When you sweep without being asked, I feel so relaxed because it’s one less thing for me to do, and you do a very nice job.”
For help with this or any other parenting issue, click here.
Handling Touch with Touchy Teens
By Tina Feigal Copyright © 2015
Yesterday I coached a mom to put her arm around her teen son and express her appreciation for the living room being picked up. She let it go when I said it, but circled back to it later in the session, saying, “About that putting my arm around him? That’s not happening.”
We discussed what she thought may have been the reason for the “no touch” policy her teen was silently enforcing. She said she didn’t really know, so I offered some ideas. “That one,” she said after I gave a short list, “He doesn’t feel lovable.”
Sad as this is, it doesn’t have to stick. When this caring mom realized that her son didn’t feel lovable, we set about planning to help him receive her touch. Why? Because kids thrive on the unspoken acceptance that comes with touch from their parents. Even when they don’t seem to want it, it can be a powerful message of affirmation.
Another reason to help your child accept touch as a normal form of healthy expression is that you want him able to accept affection as a precursor to forming a romantic relationship. This is normal development, and should be seen in a positive light. If you feel hesitant to touch your teen for fear of being misinterpreted as inappropriate, let that go. Kids need healthy touch from their parents. Arms around shoulders, soft hand caresses, hugs, cheek and forehead kisses, and for some cultures, kisses on the lips, are all bonding tools for parents and children. Don’t miss your opportunity to help your child learn healthy touch.
Here are 4 ways to build toward positive physical affection:
1. Let go of preconceived ideas about touch. Open your heart to moms and dads showing physical affection to their teens, because they need it. But don’t push when your child moves away from your touch. It may take a while before it feels comfortable. Stay focused on the giving aspect of physical touch, rather than what you’re receiving. That will come later.
2. Start with your voice. Use a tone that says, “I accept you.” So if there’s a hole in the screen door, ask gently, “What happened?” and then, “What do you want to do about it?” A lecture at this time will only spark opposition, and won’t get you what you want, which is a screen replaced by your child and an intact relationship. Gentle inquiry will be interpreted as willingness to help them problem solve, but without the judgment. That’s what teens need.
When you need tasks done around the house, meet with your children and ask, “How should we divide the tasks around here?” but don’t offer your ideas. Create a vacuum so they can fill it in with their solutions. Use an appreciative tone when talking about their cooperation: “When you cleaned up the kitchen, I felt so relaxed and happy, because I didn’t even have to ask. You are making my day!” (Note: Even if it’s not perfectly clean, do respond with appreciation. We get more success when we reward their efforts without criticizing the exact way they cleaned up.)
3. If your teen isn’t used to touch, start small. You wouldn’t want to give bear hugs to someone who doesn’t ever hug you, so a warm touch to the forearm when you are talking will be a good start. If that’s rebuffed, let it go and try again with a touch to the hand. When that’s gone well, use opportunities to put your arm gently on his shoulder when talking. Then work toward touching cheeks at bedtime. As these small touches are accepted, you can move toward a light hug, and then a “real hug.” The pace will depend on your focused reading of the teen’s signals, with backing off if it’s not well-received, and starting again with a smaller touch.
4. When your teen needs to feel lovable (and what teen doesn’t?) keep an open dialogue, supported by interested questions about his day, his friends, school, and sports. “What did you learn in science today?” shows interest. “Did you get all your science homework handed in?” communicates controlling. Teens are allergic to being controlled, so you’ll get a lot more conversation when you leave that part out, and just show curiosity. “Thanks for telling me,” is a great response.
Some teens are just not open to touch, even if you do everything right. That’s OK. You tried. But work on the tone of voice and helping him feel lovable anyway, as these are huge in allowing your child to grow toward healthy physical affection.
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Getting Kids to Comply
Tina Feigal Copyright © 2015
Here are five tips for helping them to comply, but without having to nag:
1. Assume kids want to do anything BUT what you’re asking. This is how they’re wired, to be focused on their own agenda, and not on yours. Once you realize this is normal, you won’t feel so frustrated when they’re only interested in their own things. This is more a brain wiring issue than “being self-centered.” It’s normal for them to be this way.
2. Talk to them with respect. Don’t shout your commands from another room. Take the time to go to them and make physical contact if they can tolerate it. A touch on the shoulder or back, just to be sure you’re connecting, is very useful in getting a child’s attention. This will save a lot of time as you lead them to the task. Also, touch is very affirming, which is powerful in helping children get out of themselves in order to relate to others’ needs.
3. Bring your children toward you by trusting them. Say, “I trust you to do your bedtime routine tonight. I’ll meet you in your room in 10 minutes with that book you picked out last night.”
4. Stay focused on them until the task is done. They have radar for your attention, so keep it honed for the period between when you ask and when the task is complete. Again, this saves so much time on the back end.
5. Give your heartfelt appreciation for effort and for completion. “When you respond to my request, I feel so respected and at peace, because you show me that you really are able to work together as a team. Thank you!” “When you finish what you’ve started, I feel quite impressed because you’re sticking with it until the very end, which is such a grown-up thing to do!”
Remember, giving your attention to the behaviors you want is the quickest way to grow those behaviors. It’s also a lot more rewarding for you, which will keep you “in the game.” Watch minutes get shaved off your normal routines, once cooperation is the norm!
If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching for info on how coaching works. Isn’t it time you had a peaceful life with your children?
Happy Valentine’s Day!
How Can You Get More Love Out of Your Child?
Copyright © Tina Feigal 2015
If it does, you may wonder how you help a child who can be very nice in front of others, but when it comes to being home with your family, is able to wreak havoc at any moment. Luckily, there are some great ways to handle this.
1. Have a heart-to-heart talk, just the two of you. Say, “Honey, it seems like I see such a great girl out in public. Your teachers just love you, you get along with your friends, and you’re so polite to their parents. And then you come home, and it’s all so rough. I hear demanding, yelling, stomping, crying and slamming. Can you tell me what’s going on? Maybe you don’t want to tell me right now, but if you do, I want to listen. If not, I’ll get back to you when you’ve had time to think about it. How about tomorrow at 5?” This gives your daughter time to reflect on what is going on. Maybe she doesn’t even know what her triggers are, but you’ve now respectfully opened the door to her figuring them out.
2. Whether it’s now or later, allow an open-hearted time to just listen. Maybe she’s upset because something happened at school, but she was too embarrassed to talk about it. Maybe she’s mad at you because she feels like you never pay attention to her (even though it seems like that’s all you do!) Maybe she’s not feeling well, or worried about something. It could be one of these or myriad other reasons, but here’s your chance to get to the bottom of the feelings. When the feelings are heard, the upsetting behavior won’t be so necessary. When a child feels seen and heard, she loses the need to get your attention in negative ways.
3. Listen without fixing or correcting. Just reflect. “You feel as if I never pay attention to you, and that makes you really mad.” Even if this is a preposterous thought, let it be. It will take some courage and big resolve not to correct her, but the return on investment of your time and attention will be tremendous. You are not seeking the absolute truth here. You are seeking her truth, whether it seems true to you or not.
4. Apologize if it feels right to you. If you have been too busy to give your daughter the attention she needs, say so. “I’m sorry, Honey. I have been so wrapped up in (work, your siblings’ sports, the house project, my parent’s illness) that I have not been able to talk to you the way I’d like. Let’s make a plan for some one-on-one time this weekend.”
5. If you don’t feel like an apology is warranted, that’s OK. Maybe you’ve given your daughter “the moon” but she still doesn’t seem satisfied. Just probe now, very matter-of-factly. “When I took you to practice last week, that felt like you didn’t have enough attention.” “When I gave you a ride to your friend’s house, you still felt like I wasn’t there for you.” “When I made spaghetti when you asked, it seemed like I still didn’t care.” “When I bought you that top on Saturday, it felt like it wasn’t enough.” Don’t defend your actions, just try to get her to think about reasonable expectations. She may say, “Yeah, you did all those things for me, but I still wanted that new video game.” Now just hang in there. “I hear you. When I didn’t go out and get the game, you felt as if I didn’t really care about you.” “Yeah.” Then just say, “Thank you for telling me how you’re feeling.” No lecture on gratitude, no defenses. What you’re doing here is letting your daughter hear the illogical way her mind is working. This is much more powerful than your telling her, so allow time for it to occur.
6. Just wait a few hours or days. When kids have been out of line, and you give them time to process it, they can “bubble to the surface” with their own insight and apology. Again, this is much more powerful than your mini-lecture on gratitude. The learning is coming from inside the child and her direct experience, which results in a much more effective lesson.
7. Give her heartfelt appreciation for her insight. “When you think about things and come up with your own ideas, I am really impressed! It shows how grown up you’re getting.”
You’ve just avoided a big scene, which may have turned into an even bigger one. You’ve equipped your daughter to think about her own actions without having to say, “Now think about your actions, Young Lady!” We all know how well that works. And you’ve engaged in a type of communication that sets the stage for more openness between you and your child. Win, win, win.
If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching, and feel free to call 651-453-0123 or write firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment.
What About When He Gets to the Real World?
Tina Feigal, MS, Ed. © Copyright 2015
So often when I offer parents techniques such as speaking in softer tones, not getting upset, listening deeply, and showing respect to a child, they say, “Well that’s not how it will be in the ‘real world.’ What about when he gets a job and his boss tells him what to do, and he’s just supposed to do it?”
Stop. Wait. We left something out of this picture. It’s called “child development.” The point is that a child is not a “young man,” even though we often call him that. He’s a developing person, so our expectations need to match his developmental phase, or we will definitely have a fight on our hands. When parents make unreasonable demands of their children, they rebel. This is not unnatural, as the “organism child” knows what it’s capable of, and it knows what it’s not. This is more of an instinct on the child’s part than a willful decision. In other words, it’s not conscious.
Let’s take a look at expectations. Would we apply the same argument about the workplace to other areas? The man in this picture climbs to electrical wires 80 feet above the street to repair them. So should his parents have started teaching him to shop for clothes, buy tools, drive to work, climb into a cherry picker, and know what to do up there to avoid electrocution when he was 8? Probably not. But we often get caught in this trap of expectations when it comes to “controlling your behavior” and “showing respect” when we are equally off the mark regarding the child’s capabilities.
Here’s the 8-year-old. He’s not a developed man, as you can see. He has no facial hair, beard, or pronounced jaw. He has no job, no mortgage, and only a third grade education. He looks innocent, and he is. If he crosses his parents, it’s because he doesn’t see the big picture yet, nor does he have the brain development to stop his impulses all the time. If he’s had trauma, or a diagnosis like ADHD, Asperger’s, autism, or an attachment disorder, he’s a lot younger than 8. He could use some softer tones, calm demeanor, listening deeply, and yes some respect, until he gets to the point where he needs to answer to a boss.
In fact, all children need those things. And even adults do. There’s no hard and fast “world out there” that’s guaranteed to chew your son up if you’ve been gentle with him during childhood. But if he does encounter such a world, your gentleness has given him time and space to grow, mature, and become the kind of man who can take the inevitable knocks of life with grace and not anger. The children who can’t respond well to adversity are the ones who were asked to “grow up” too soon.
Having your unique needs met when you’re 2, 8, 16, etc., opens the path to all your educational, social, emotional and worldly maturation. There’s really no other way to get there.
If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching. Call 651-453-0123 or email email@example.com for an appointment today.
5 Ways to Make the Present Moment “New” with Your Child
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed. Copyright © 2014
Parents ask about how to make the present moment more “real” to themselves and their children. Does it really mean letting go of all past information about your child’s behavior? And does it really mean putting an end to fear of future behavior? Yes to both. At a recent presentation by “The Mother of Mindfulness” Ellen Langer, I learned the phrase “making it new.” I thought that was helpful, so I’m sharing it with you today.
Eli’s mom and dad came to me with this scenario. Their 9-year-old was habitually using bad language, refusing any household help requests, and opposing just about every request from his parents. Tony and Marsha love their son. They are feeling traumatized themselves by the constant resistance to everyday life with Eli, and they are desperate for help.
Here’s the way the scene usually plays out:
Tony: “Eli, it’s time to get off the iPad and get ready for bed.”
Eli: “No! I am in the middle of the game.”
Tony: “Eli, I said it’s time for bed. I don’t want to hear another word from you on this. We’ve talked about it 100 times. It’s time for bed and I mean it!”
Eli: “I don’t care what you say. I’m finishing my game!”
Tony: “OK, if that’s what you want. No iPad for a week.”
Eli: “That’s not fair! You can’t do this to me!” and a huge meltdown ensues. Tony feels out of control and awful, and Eli is completely out of his body with rage.
This is a regular occurrence at bedtime, and Tony and Marsha are ready to try anything to make it better.
Here are the five ways to do just that:
1. Realize that for Eli, it feels like the first time he’s ever played this game. I know, it’s hard to imagine, but children’s thinking and adults’ thinking are very different. Eli is completely absorbed, as the game feels new every time he plays it. Respect that turning it off is a big jolt to him. Use a quiet and calm voice, and avoid letting it rise at the end, signifying, “I have this expectation and you’d better fulfill it!” That triggers opposition.
2. Decide in advance (together) what time the game is turned off every night, and help Eli count backwards from bedtime, so he can get finished with the game at an appropriate time. In the PRESENT MOMENT, when the game needs to be shut down, place your trust in his knowing of the rules, and stay with Eli’s emotions. “I know you know it’s time to get finished. It’s a disappointment, yes. Let’s turn it off now, as this is the time we chose.” Then don’t waver. It’s a gift to Eli to hold your ground. It makes you predictable, which is very helpful to him over the long term.
3. Give Eli heartfelt appreciation for turning off the game, even if he’s not cheerful about it. “When you do as we planned, I feel relieved and relaxed. Now we can both have a good night’s sleep. Thank you, Eli.”
4. Remember that Eli doesn’t want to be out of control. Deep down, when you are calm and certain about bedtime, he’s reassured. Again, it feels new to him to hear your calm voice, even though it’s a regular occurrence.
5. Let go of past incidents. Talk to Eli about the game, how many points he has, what a feeling of accomplishment he gets from excelling at it, and how you feel accomplishment in your life. This takes the fight out of the conversation about video games, and allows Eli to get perspective on it. If you hold on to your authority over Eli, he needs to counter it. If you just share your life with him, he can let go and make good decisions. Again, there’s a feeling of newness. That fresh interaction with you can help him ride a wave of cooperation.
Every present moment offers the opportunity to 1. connect with the feelings your child is having, 2. make a plan for when typical conflicts arise, 3. express heartfelt appreciation, 4. present a calm and certain demeanor to your child, and 5. create a casual, interested conversation with your child that conveys, “I’m sharing my life with you” rather than “I’m in charge of you.”
Each step of parenting is a new learning experience. We grow as our kids grow, and there’s nothing wrong with not knowing what to do or say when conflicts arise. Give yourself a break if you blew it, but then resolve to improve the situation next time. If you need help with this process, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching for all the info on ways to set up an appointment and get started!
Three Common Mistakes Parents of Intense Children Make
We’ve all been there. Our kids do something that seems defiant and we immediately match their intensity with our own. We believe in our heart of hearts that when a child misbehaves, we must get stronger in our approach to their behavior in order to correct it. Here are the three things we do that only result in increased intensity.
1. We yell when our children act up. We say, “I said ‘stop it’ and I mean ‘Stop’. Now.” We let them know they are wrong, they made a bad choice, and they need to understand their errors in order to prevent this from ever happening again.
2. We use our bodies to communicate how upset we are. We stand tall over the kids, or we get in their faces to be sure they hear us. Our fingers wag, our brows furrow, and our shoulders tense up.
3. We convince ourselves that if we don’t correct the behaviors, they won’t get corrected, so we POUNCE on them and expect immediate compliance.
Are there ways to avoid these three common mistakes? Yes.
1. Yelling at kids only has effects we don’t want. It causes them to feel the need to defend themselves, and it also communicates unsafe conditions. Intense children have bigger-than-average responses to unsafe conditions, so you may want to consider never yelling again. (I’ve had parents try this, with remarkable results.)
2. Our bodies are like giants to our kids, even if they are pretty big and we’re not. A parent’s stature is more about being their PARENT than about size. When we use our bodies in a threatening way, we cause them to look at us with fear, and fearful kids act defiantly. The preferable way to approach an upset or out-of-control child is “low and slow.” Sit down, speak in a soft tone, and communicate calm. Yes, that’s hard when you’re steamed about the behavior, but I can guarantee you a better result in the long run. If you don’t like escalation, approach your child with calm.
3. Many parents take on a “manager” role. Demands come so fast and furiously that they just don’t have time to wait for children to comply. The pressure builds to the point that the manager in them goes ballistic, because there are 14 balls in the air at once, and they feel they can’t let one of them drop.
Here’s a bit of reality for you: kid time is slower than adult time. If you want things done by 8:30, start much earlier than 8:25. Yes, adults could get it done in 5 minutes, but kids are not adults. Start at 8:00 and allow for some side-winding. It’s in the nature of children to be less organized in their motions that adults, but that’s OK. If you accept it, and encourage the true nature of the child, you’ll actually get to 8:30 much more calmly with a lot more done. Remind yourself you are managing small people. You’ll be a lot happier with your expectations aligned with their nature rather than trying to fit them into adult molds.
One more thing: trusting children to learn and grow in their abilities is a much more peaceful approach than expecting the worst all the time. Notice how well she’s taken responsibility for her toys, or he’s being gentler with his little brother. Sometimes kids are making strides right in front of us, but we fail to notice. If we do notice, we reinforce the growth, and can just sit back and marvel at the natural development of the human being known as “my child.”
If you need help with implementing these ideas, don’t hesitate to call 651-453-0123 or visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching for all the details.
Parent Coaching: An Innovative Approach
to Helping with Challenging Child Behavior
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Director of Family Engagement
Anu Family Services/Center for the Challenging Child
© 2014 by Anu Family Services. All rights reserved. No part of this presentation may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Anu Family Services.
How This Came to Be
History of parent coaching
Used with parents whose children exhibit aggressive, hostile, and/or passive behavior
The EAP-Parent Coaching Match
Not deep therapy
Designed to help employees “get back in the game”
Before Parent Coaching
Parents of a troubled or traumatized child need help with parenting.
Support the family with education.
Therapy/meds for the child
Cycle back to the same issues.
After Parent Coaching
Parents of a troubled or traumatized child need help with parenting.
Support the family with education, frequent coaching contacts.
Help parents help the child feel feelings, avoiding blame, and focusing on healing.
Harmony is restored to family life.
Present Moment Parenting
It’s healing for parents and children to learn new ways of interacting.
It’s all about physical and emotional survival.
Ten Basic Tenets of Present Moment Parenting
1. Attunement in the present moment is vital for a healthy parent-child relationship
2. The overarching goal for every child is to feel lovable.
3. With every interaction, parents are either pushing their children away or drawing them near.
4. Staying the in the present moment reduces parents’ fear of past or future behaviors.
5. All behavior is communication.
6. Respectfully addressing the child’s true feelings eliminates the need for punishment.
7. The child’s body is affected by emotional input from the parent.
8. The greatest human need is to be needed.
9. The parents’ role is to support and guide their children as they become capable in their own right.
10. Parents do the best they can with the tools they have.
Children are Organisms
Water • Sunshine • Fertilizer
Unwrapping Child Behavior
A Physiological Approach
The effect of communication on the child’s body
How is the heart involved?
According to the Institute of Heartmath, the heart is responsive to emotional input.
The amygdala responds to stress, and it sustains the response, even when the threat is over.
“Keep me safe.”
Adrenaline is more readily triggered with children who have experienced trauma. Also, with ADHD.
The Adrenal Glands
The Fear State
The child who is constantly alert to feeling unsafe. This creates a “state” of fear, which dictates responses, often overly reactive.
The child gets blamed for being uncooperative, when she was just unconsciously responding to perceived threat, trying to get back to safety. Fear becomes the default emotion, unless parents know how to reduce it.
Resource: Beyond Consequences
Join the child in the present moment. Scrupulously avoid blame. This assures safety.
What Parents Can Do
Attune to the child to facilitate attachment.
Help her know herself as lovable.
Help others understand.
Daniel Siegel, M.D. – The Mindful Brain
Paul Pearsall, PhD. – The Heart’s Code
Heather Forbes, LCSW – Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control
IN GROUPS OF 3 OR 4
When Does Innocence Disappear?
At what age do children start to willfully manipulate adults?
Types of Parenting
Authoritarian: My way or the highway
Passive: You don’t listen anyway, so why bother?
Authoritative: I’m the parent and I accept responsibility for your welfare. I am also including you in the process of life.
All Behavior is Communication
Why Doesn’t Punishment Work?
Punishment has 3 results:
Temporary stoppage of the behavior
The need to retaliate
Judge, Blame, Punish Cycle
When Parents Live in Fear, We Miss the Love.
A New Way
A New Role for parents
From Behavior Police to Success Mentors
Set Up Success Opportunities
Heartfelt Appreciation: “When you … I feel … because…”
Opposition to Positive Input
First Family Meeting
Second Family Meeting
When a Tradition is Broken, Employ Do-Overs
Do-overs are teachable moments
They avoid “pushing the child away”
Rehearse them at the family meeting.
Play the scene as it happened.
Play it again in a way that works better.
Creates a map in the child’s brain for positivity.
Give heartfelt appreciation for practicing.
Do-Overs with Teens
A casual “Let’s try that again.” If she refuses, don’t push.
Set an example, and parents have do-overs themselves.
Successes are the big deal.
The Do-over is NOT Punishment
Do Not Encourage Do-Overs Until …
Family has had the second meeting.
The family traditions have been posted.
Do-overs have been rehearsed.
They’ve switched roles to practice the do-overs.
Dealing with Anxiety
What are the sources of anxiety?
Learning disability, ADHD
Grief and loss
Every misbehaving child has a degree of anxiety.
Anxiety Defined: Fear where there’s no real threat
How do we help him?
Understand that the child is having a physiological response, not being “impossible,” “picky,” or “looking for attention.”
Manage your own anxiety, for the sake of the child: relaxation techniques, self-care, and/or therapy. Read Self Compassion by Kristin Neff, PhD.
What Parents Can Do
Coaches can provide information, and encourage self-compassion, which both reduce anxiety.
“When we know better, we do better.”
More on Helping a Child with Anxiety
Build self-efficacy slowly over time, as trust develops
Join the child in the present moment, using attunement.
Reassuring the Child
It’s not reassuring to tell the child over and over how much you love her. Too much telling can give her the idea there’s something to worry about.
Join her on the feelings she’s having right now. That will communicate love.
How to Help with the Feelings
“You’re really worried.”
“You want me to take you to the store right now.”
“You’re worried that you won’t get what you want.”
“Your feelings seem very strong and powerful.”
“If I guess how you’re feeling, will you tell me if I’m right or wrong?”
Be willing to be wrong, and just listen. The true feelings will come up. Use the magic of silence.
Avoid Triggering Opposition
How do you think you’d feel if we did as you suggested?
How should we solve this problem so that everyone feels OK about the outcome?
How do you want to limit screen time so that you don’t lose touch with your real life?
How will leaving the house right now go with getting your homework done?
Teach parents to use them instead of directives.
A Better Choice for Young Children
What Works With Older Kids?
Suburban high school with 80 min. subject blocks
37 detentions from last year, 16 more now
Oppositional at home
Verbal altercation with a teacher
Unable to sit in class, failing everything
Question: How long ‘til this child feels safe enough to be kind?
Explore Feelings to Express Grief Directly
The words to use:
“I see you are upset. Do you want to tell me how you are feeling?”
“If I guess, will you tell me if I’m right or wrong?”
Words to Use
Tell me more.
I appreciate your letting me know.
It helps me to hear your story.
Your feelings matter to me.
and more …
When you let me in, I feel deeply honored.
I know it’s not easy to talk about. You are braver than so many kids.
(Listen without judging or fixing.)
Consult the Child on the Solutions
Testing: One, Two, Three …
Mistakes are our teachers
Abused and neglected by his low-IQ mom
Mom’s boyfriend was sex offender
Mom had TPR
Grandma and her husband took her in
He was sexually aggressive with other children
Verbally aggressive with step-grandpa
Had rages, took a knife to grandma
County was ready to send her to residential treatment
Grandpa does “story time” at night.
Question: How long ‘til this child feels safe enough to be kind?
Foster mom who is a healer: has two adopted kids already living with her, 18 (girl) and 13 (boy).
Two boys, 13 and 11, needed placement after mother died suddenly. Dad was on drugs, mutilated himself.
Previous foster placement failed; 14-year-old was blamed.
Family pride in “being an Anderson”
13-year-old using, stealing, needs treatment
11-year-old unable to get up in the a.m.
Coaching the mom helped son do his grief work. Powerful response.
Truancy became the issue for the court.
Ordered to residential.
Mother stayed in the present moment, adopted him.
New discovery of LD
Mom panicked, consumed by every homework detail
Came to coaching, “We’ve lost our little girl.”
Coaching resolved major issues.
Backslid to old ways.
Return to coaching
Question: How long ‘til this child feels safe enough to be kind?
Children’s Sensory Issues
6. Interpersonal sensitivity
To Help Children with Sensory Issues
Realize it’s not just picky or bad behavior
Don’t try to talk them out of their sensitivities
Make adjustments to the environment
Seek occupational therapy
Appreciate the quiet, inwardly-focused child – great work may be happening
The Power of Now
Remember: The Power is in the Positives!
Contact Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed. for training, parenting coach certification, consulting
© 2014 by Anu Family Services. All rights reserved. No part of this presentation may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Anu Family Services.