Archive for the ‘Easing the Elementary Years’ Category

PostHeaderIcon When Your Child Needs a Learning Evaluation

When Your Child Needs a Learning Evaluation

Tina Feigal  Copyright © 2018 Anu Family Services/Center for the Challenging Child

I hear a lot about children struggling with learning in school, and, as a former school psychologist, I’m always anxious to help parents sort out the details and strategies to give their kids the help they need.

Here are some questions I ask that you might consider:

  1. Does your child have unidentified sensory issues that stand in the way of her learning?  Is the lighting in the room glaring to the point that it takes up all your child’s attention?  If she has sensitivity to fluorescent light, it’s like a strobe going off in the room.  If she is sensitive to sound, it’s like bombs dropping all day long.  If she has tactile issues, she feels so uncomfortable with her shirt tag, that she is distracted from what the teacher is saying. Or maybe someone touched her unexpectedly, and it’s taking a long time to recover.  These are all real neurological symptoms and they can be helped.  Occupational therapists do evaluations for sensory issues, and can intervene so that children can settle in and learn.
  2. Does your child lag behind his peers in reading or math?  Do you see consistent frustration and lack of self-esteem during homework time in one of these areas, or both? You have the right to ask for an evaluation from the school if you notice that, despite your efforts to help, not much progress is being made. It could be a Specific Learning Disability in reading or math (dyslexia or dyscalculia). Special education supports these kids.
  3. Does your child struggle with writing (dysgraphia)? If holding a pencil properly and forming letters and numbers is painful for your child, the school has Occupational Therapists who can help with these issues. Alternatives like keyboards can really help, and the OT can advocate for your child to provide either interactive or electronic assistance.
  4. Does she hate to go to school? Having a sensory or learning issue can cause a child to hate school, as she spends the whole day watching others do their work with relative ease, and feels like a constant failure.  Maybe a teacher tries to build her up, but if she doesn’t get the real help she needs, it won’t have a lasting effect. The other kids may call attention to her struggles, which only compounds the problem and makes her desire for school that much less.
  5. Is your child experiencing emotional/behavioral challenges that get in the way of his learning?  There are services for this, too.  If your child has issues with getting along with others, complying with educational  directives, tantrums over small things, or physical fighting, ask for help
  6. Are you exhausted from the demands of homework? If so, you may want to explore a 504 plan if your child has ADHD, anxiety disorder, low vision or hearing, or another health situation that interferes with homework and peace at home.  Reduced assignments can help a lot (if the child gets the math concept, no need to solve 100 problems).  Many other accommodations also exist to help your child, such as seating arrangements, taking tests outside the classroom, fewer test questions, and more time to finish work.Our schools are often not seeing the struggles children exhibit because parents haven’t asked for help.  If you realize that your child may be in this situation, do not hesitate to advocate for her. This may be new territory for you, and it might feel strange to think of your child as needing help, but don’t let your own feelings get in the way of assistance for your child’s learning needs.

    You have the legal right to request a team to evaluate your child at any age. A pre-testing team may meet to see if there’s a solution that isn’t full-blown testing and diagnosis of a problem that leads to special education.  If that has happened and you’re still seeing struggles, let the teacher know, so he or she can act on the information.The whole field of special education for learning disabilities and emotional/behavioral blocks to learning was created as a result of parents’ advocacy for their children.  You can be the drivers of the process for getting your child the needed help.

If you would like coaching for this or any other parenting issue, click here.

PostHeaderIcon Why I Don’t Think Patience is Necessary

Why I Don’t Think Patience is Necessary

Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.   Copyright © 2018

Isn’t that a weird title coming from a parent coach?  You’d think I’d talk about the need for being patient with kids all the time!

So here is something I’ve been thinking about regarding patience: I don’t believe it’s necessary, at least not in the way most people see it.  What do you think of when you think about being “patient?”  I used to think it was gritting one’s teeth and WAITING for a child to get something done: blood pressure rising, muscles tensing, fingers drumming, and negative thoughts starting to take over.

So how do you avoid “being patient” when you have children?  It’s not entirely avoidable, of course, but there is a way to reduce the stress of being patient considerably. Here’s the thing: patience is needed when you think something other than what’s happening should be happening.  If you’re ready to go out the door and your child has been looking for her shoes for 10 minutes, you start to think, “This kid needs to find her shoes!” and you’re impatient, and in a less-than-peaceful place.

But she’s only four, and she doesn’t have coordinated searching methods.  She actually needs some help, which you’ve been resisting giving her because you don’t want her to go to college not being able to find her shoes.  See the disconnect here?  She has 14 years to develop into someone who can find her shoes, but your thoughts are leap-frogging to college and you’re refusing to help. Four is sometimes, not always, too young to be held responsible for finding shoes on one’s own.  When you realize this, and just kindly help her, you don’t have to be patient.  You’re seeing her through the eyes of understanding child development, and remembering that in a year, she likely won’t need this help.

Another example is that your son has homework and he’s delaying getting started.  You expect him to come home from school, have a snack, and sit down to do his work. Somewhere you read or heard that “children should get their homework done right after school,” but when you try to get him to sit down at the kitchen table and open his math, he has a melt-down.  But in sticking to this rule, you’ve missed that he’s still mentally exhausted from keeping it together and thinking of the answers all day at school, and his brain needs a rest. You try to “be patient” and your voice gets tight.  He picks up on your tension, and the resistance to homework increases.  Pretty soon there’s an all-out battle, and you can’t understand why he’s acting this way.

Patience has not served you.  Instead of letting your blood boil, look at your child and realize how tired his whole being is, and that he may need some down time before his brain can come back online for homework. When you see the individual in the context of development, you realize that he’s a kid and he just can’t do math right now. He needs a mental break before he’s ready.  Now, with understanding, you plan for the break and suddenly there’s no need to be patient any more.  You’re attuning to your child instead of setting an agenda he can’t fulfill.  You can include him in the plan for homework, knowing that this works much better than “telling him” when it should be done.  He feels respected and seen, so he doesn’t have to resist.  The homework gets done with hardly any discussion.

The point is that if we see children as children, we don’t feel such a need to be patient, as we’ve allowed for their developmental phase.  We make room for the fact that they are not mature enough for certain things, and give them a hand.  This is not spoiling, but simply seeing what’s realistic for a child this age and offering assistance when it’s appropriate.

Here is a great resource for child development in all areas.  If you have a question about what’s reasonable to expect at what age, take a look at this site.  Some children with a trauma history, ADHD or autism will be behind in their development, so look at the info for a younger age. We aren’t born knowing what’s normal for our children, and we have to learn as we go.  Instead of setting unrealistic expectations and going to battle when they aren’t fulfilled, you can educate yourself and create a much more peaceful home life.  Once you see the child in context, the need to “be patient” dissipates, as you understand that he’s just acting his emotional age.  What a relief for both of you!

If you’d like help with this or any other parenting issue, click here for information about parent coaching.

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Back-to-School Challenges and Solutions

Back-to-School Challenges and Solutions

Hello, Parents!

It’s time for the annual adjustment to school schedules, and with them, renewed demands on your children.  Some of us feel great about the start of the new year, and some are not so enthusiastic.  Some are a combination of the two, depending on your child, and his or her previous challenges.

Here’s a list of ways to take care of not only your child, but also yourself, as the school year begins.

  1. Speak to your child in a matter-of-fact, curious manner when it comes to school. If you’re too enthusiastic, it could cause an anxious child to feel discounted, as your upbeat energy might express a feeling that’s the opposite of his or her own.  This could result in a negative response from your child, something many parents find mystifying. “I was just trying to be enthusiastic for the new year, and all he does is growl at me!”  If you’re not “reading” your child, you may be inadvertently causing him to feel unseen, which will always bring a growl.
  2. Gather the needed supplies, with your child in charge of the checklist. If you take care of it all, he or she misses an opportunity to choose wisely, and to feel empowered.  (Note: if you’ve already bought the supplies, keep the concept – empowerment is the “anti-anxiety.”)
  3. Let your child know you trust him to make good decisions and to do his best. This is different from telling him to make good decisions and do his best.  It’s a much more effective way to encourage him, as it says you think he’s capable, which allows him to think the same of himself.
  4. Keep the lines of communication open, but don’t drill your child for details after school. Allow some down time before you ask about her day.  Instead of “How was your day?” ask specifics, such as, “Who did you share lunch time with today?” or “Did anything funny happen at school today?”  Share your day, and ask your child for some advice.  This evens the playing field, and avoids a feeling of interrogation.  Also remember that it’s hard to remember your day when you’re a child, so go easy if they can’t recall much. Specific questions can help a lot.
  5. Take care of yourself by taking a moment to breathe and relax every few hours.  It’s stressful being the parent of school-age children, and the demands on you are significant. Accept help when it’s offered. Plan some evenings out, get a manicure, hit the tennis court, spend time with a friend.  Do not expect to just keep piling on responsibilities without balancing them with rejuvenating activities.  You’ll do yourself and your family a huge favor by practicing and modeling self-care.If you’d like help with this or any other parenting issue, click here.

 

PostHeaderIcon The Most Horrible Thing Imaginable

The Most Horrible Thing Imaginable

During my 18 years of parent coaching, I’ve heard a lot of stories from parents that fear the most horrible thing for their children.  They worry that they will drop out of school, become drug addicts, not find a suitable career, become parents too young, not have friends, commit crimes, develop personality disorders and any number of “horrible things.”  Their imaginations run wild with the possibilities, and they lie awake at night worrying.

If you are one of those parents, I’m here to reassure you.  SO much of what kids do in childhood is developmentally normal, and not indicative of a failed future.  If you wonder if your child’s behavior is normal for his or her development, visit this site.  https://childdevelopmentinfo.com.

Most of the conflict between parents and children has to do with expectations.  We often fail to see that children are in phases of development, and that they do not resemble adult phases (we’re in them, too!)  So if we have a child who is verbvally articulate and/or big for her age, we may expect her to do things that someone two years older would do.  We get mad when she doesn’t, and start to imagine the most horrible things about her future.  It’s an easy trap.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  If you truly had your expectations aligned with your child’s developmental stage, (not always the same as her chronological age) you’d expect immaturity and it wouldn’t throw you for a loop.  Rather than, “Why doesn’t she do what I ask????” you’d respond with understanding and calm redirection.

I see this every day. Parents try to speak logically to their young one or teen-ager, and the logic is NOT making sense to the child.  You’ve probably had it happen three times today.  “I said we can’t go to the pool right now because your grandma is coming over.” Logical … we have to be here when she comes.

Then the explosion occurs!  “I don’t want to have Grandma over!!!  We’re going to the pool!” The child has no sense of propriety – meaning that when you have someone coming over, you’re home when they arrive.  She is totally wrapped up in her desire to swim, and no logic is going to interfere with that desire.  Here’s where a lot of parents go down a path that doesn’t work.

“Stop being so selfish!  How would you like it if we were going to someone’s house and they weren’t there when we arrived?”

“I wouldn’t care! I just want to swim today! Grandma can come over on a rainy day!”

She has responded with an absolutely normal childlike reaction. Now it’s your job to help calm her, rather than challenge her to be more adult than she is. It also takes a huge effort to reject the fear that she’ll be a brat forever and there’s nothing you can do about it. Especially if you’ve seen a lot of this behavior recently, it’s very hard to divert yourself from the default, “She just can’t act like this and I will not tolerate it!”

The better way is to address her concern is with a calm, low-tone, respectful response, reflecting her big huge desire: “You really want to swim and you want to go right now.”  Here she feels seen and heard, which can readily result in a calm response, rather than defiance.  “I get it, Honey. Summer feels so short and you want to get all you can out of it.”

Then wait. She may still be upset, but she’ll likely come down in a bit. Don’t push; just let her brain come back to being regulated. It feels as if nothing is happening, but it is.

When she’s calmer, ask her what she thinks you and she can do to make it better.  You are not changing your mind about being there for Grandma.  You are including her in your thoughts, knowing you’ll stick to your original plan, but making space for her ideas, as well.  “AND” is a wonderful parentng word.  Grandma is coming, we’ll be here to greet her, AND we’ll figure out the swimming. Since the unconscious drive in your daughter is to be seen, sometimes just seeing her is enough and she can let go. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.

Without yelling, threatening, or even getting upset, you have just helped your daughter through a storm without it becoming a hurricane. You stayed focused in the present moment, rather than fearing the future. This is where all your power is. The most horrible thing didn’t happen, but what did happen is that you connected with your developing child with acceptance and love. The more you do this in the present moment, the more you assure yourself of a positive future for her. Pat yourself on the back. You have found a new way that works for everyone.

If you need help with this or any other parenting issue, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Want to Understand and Help Relieve Your Child’s Anxiety?

Want to Understand and Help Relieve Your Child’s Anxiety?

If you have a child, you’ve likely seen some moments, or even constant occurrences, of anxiety. And it may be causing you to feel anxious, as well, when your child is trying to control the situation, asking questions all the time, withdrawing, arguing, and feeling generally unsettled.
Here are some helpful ways to understand and help relieve your child’s anxiety:
1. What is anxiety?  It’s fear where there’s no present threat.  It comes from the brain’s threat alarm, the amygdala, which often can’t tell when the threat is real or not.  It’s not from children being oppositional; they are just trying to lower their own anxiety. It’s all driven by the brain, and it’s not willful or even conscious on their part.  The brain is saying, “See me!” to the parents or parental figures.  If the child is seen by the parents, the brain registers that the child is safe. If the child is not seen by the parents, the brain registers a threat to survival.
2. What are some of the causes of anxiety in children? The real cause is, as we’ve said, an overactive brain, but some of the events that can make it worse are past trauma, such as parents who abuse or neglect their children (often as a result of their own trauma), family change, such as separation, divorce, incarceration, moving to a new home/community, learning disabilities including ADHD, developmental delay, autism, attachment disorder (often a result of parents’ difficulty in attaching during the child’s infancy), drug use on the part of the parents, and/or a genetic predisposition to anxiety.
3. How does anxiety show up in small children, middle-schoolers, and teens?
In small children, a deep desire to control the situation is a normal aspect of development, but when it’s extreme, we can suspect anxiety. Little ones, who are establishing their sense of self for the first time, feel a deep need to make all the decisions.This is why we see the “terrible twos” and “threenagers” coming into the conversation often. In the case of an anxious little one, we also see clinginess that’s out of the range of typical.  Some parents misinterpret this as “just difficult”, but it’s truly only to lower their own anxiety, not disrespect or crankiness, as it’s often misinterpreted. Young children will also ask “what’s next?” a 1,000 times a day, which helps them feel less vulnerable. Often they talk incessantly, which is normal for some and anxiety for others. The constant talk is actually an avoidance of the uncomfortable feelings of fear. “If I keep talking, I can stave off that fear and I won’t have to feel it so strongly,” is the child’s inner message. Again, this is all unconscious on the child’s part.
Middle schoolers show their anxiety by being very worried about what others think, which is also normal at this stage, but can become extreme. If a child is paralyzed by not having a certain article of clothing, or showing an extreme need to have the same electronics capability as others, it’s time to wonder if it might be anxiety. Another cause of anxiety at this age is the comments on social media made by others about a pre-teen or even about their friends.  Social media is a Pandora’s box of potential harm, as communication  can occur without parental knowledge or guidance. This is a huge call for parents to be vigilant about what’s happening on their children’s phones and tablets.  The anxiety of both “perpetrators” and “victims” is rampant in today’s world. Social media in the hands of those who don’t possess impulse control can create great harm.
Teens are anxious for some of the same reasons as pre-teens, but they have more worldly awareness, which can increase their anxiety. They learn about political activity, world events, and the horrific possibilities for harm to our fellow humans. They may also have a more internal anxiety because of uncertainty about their personal status among peers, love interests, their sexual identity, grades, performing in front of others, post-high school education, future careers, and myriad other issues that come up for teens. So if they appear moody, it’s truly understandable.
4. What are the effects of anxiety on a child?  In addition to the ones we already discussed (controlling behavior, need to know what’s next, and incessant talking) moodiness, isolation, depression, acting out, and rage can all be signs of deep anxiety. These can occur in children of all ages, so don’t assume little ones don’t have strong reactions to anxiety. In older children, you might see them snapping at parents at the slightest request.  They may spend all their time in their room on their electronic devices.  They may act as if they don’t care about anything at all. They may do things, such as drive dangerously or use substances to express their deep feelings. They may fly into a rage whenever their deeply held beliefs are questioned. Again, this is not disrespect, but just the organism child trying to survive in an immature way, because they are immature.

5. What can parents do to help their children become less anxious? The first thing is to help them feel seen, feel felt. This can calm the threat alarm or amygdala, so that the child can function with less anxiety; in other words, think straight and be a contributing member of the family and community.  So we’re not about “getting a child to do what’s right.” We’re freeing the child to do what he or she knows is needed, by lowering anxiety. One way to see the child is to write an “I See You Letter.”  This bypasses the conversational aspect, as so many kids become allergic to their parents’ voices. When something is in writing, it weighs more, as we’ve all experienced. Saying “I see you,” can help parents focus on the issues that are alive for the child right now, and also increase their compassion for the child. It’s so important to give kids space to be immature, and the “I See You Letter” can simply acknowledge the child’s situation and help the amygdala calm down.  Parents don’t even have to solve problems, interestingly.  They can reflect the child’s situation, and then ask for a conversation about solving the problems that includes the child.  We find that self-efficacy, or control over one’s destiny, is the perfect antidote to anxiety.

Other ways to help the child are self-regulation techniques. Often just being told that when you have that yucky feeling, it’s just your brain going overboard is really helpful for the child.  They don’t have to “be” anxiety. They can just say, “Oh, that was my brain overdoing the worry again.” It really helps them to put the source of the problem on their brain instead of their being.  Self-regulation can also be through yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques, and square breathing (inhale for a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4).  When parents do this with their children, they are “co-regulating” – let’s face it, parents often need to lower their own anxiety, too.

For phone, Zoom, or in-person help with this or any other parenting issue, please click here.

PostHeaderIcon I’m Sometimes Too Hard on My Child, Sometimes Too Easy

I’m Sometimes Too Hard on My Child, Sometimes Too Easy

Whew, this is a very common parenting issue.  How do you figure out whether to let things slide or be very strict about what should happen with your child?  If he or she is bright, intense, and opinionated, it can be all the more confusing as to how to hand out the discipline.

 

 

 

Here are 5 tips to help with these decisions:

  1. Remember that it’s almost impossible to be “consistent” all the time, especially when you and your partner/spouse, who likely have different styles, are raising your child together. That said, have a family meeting to get some “rules” or “traditions” established, along with what to do when a rule is broken. That way,  everyone in the house is on the same page. (See page 38 in Present Moment Parenting: The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child for all the details of the family meeting and rule-setting.)
  2. Give intense children your calm and certain response.  “It’s time to get your clothes on for school,” can result in an all-out battle every morning.  “I don’t want to get dressed!” is heard all too often. Instead of getting into a back-and-forth conversation, simply decide the night before that these are the clothes to be worn, and there will not be any discussion about it tomorrow. Then don’t have any.  This isn’t ignoring your child. It’s just letting him know where the energy is and isn’t. The energy is on making a plan and keeping your promise not to talk about it. It is not on engaging in a conversation or negotiation.
  3. Talk about the situation, not the child or yourself.  Children often have radar for relational rationale. “Mommy just really needs you to get done eating so we can go to the store.”  As soon as it’s about your need, somehow the strings are all pulled and the battle for power is on. (You’ve noticed that the teachers at school rarely see these delay tactics, nor a lot of attempt at negotiation.) Instead of making it about your needs or feelings, do what teachers do: state the next steps as facts. “It’s time for …” or “This needs to happen,” are more effective ways to phrase the request. It sounds a little less loving, but it’s actually more loving when you avoid the emotional string-pulling. Your child can transition to the next thing without all the messy feelings in the way, which is a gift.
  4. Allow more time when you need to get ready to go.  It may feel as if you’re already depleted, time-wise, but 10 extra minutes in the morning can make all the difference. If you come across less rushed, your child picks that up and feels less rushed, which results in a more peaceful routine.  Always anticipate “one more thing” that the child will need to do before leaving, and make a plan with the child that “it’s only going to be one more thing, not 12.” Thank him or her sincerely for smoothness whenever you see it.
  5. She’s too lenient, he’s too tough on him.  I get it. Parents are wired differently when it comes to how to handle child behavior. I’d like to offer the too-lenient parent the idea that consistency helps the child feel secure, so please don’t change your mind if you can help it.  This involves asking for a few minutes to think about what should happen, rather than making snap decisions. Children can learn to let parents take their time to think! And for the too-strict parent, I offer that if you loosen your grip on how things should go, you’ll see a more relaxed child, and a more relaxed child will oppose you less.  Keep the “next steps” consistent, but allow small decisions on the child’s part to acknowledge and honor his ability to make them.  Bedtime is bedtime, but he can choose whether it’s a race to brush teeth or a piggy-back ride, which side of the bed he’ll sleep on, and which book to read. If one book is the limit, don’t change it. That confuses the child about who’s in charge, which is deadly for your routine. Simply refer to the previous decision: “We only have one book each night. Tomorrow we can read the other one.” And don’t waver because an open door causes your young experimenter (what happens when I …?) to never come to a clear conclusion. The experiment has to continue until a consistent answer is known, just like what adult scientists do in labs!

Parenting is a tough job. You deserve all the help you can get. Do not hesitate to reach out, as it’s in your best interests to learn how to navigate this most complex relationship. Also, parent coaching makes a great holiday gift! Your health savings account works, too. Click here for more info on parent coaching.

PostHeaderIcon When Child Behavior is Scary

When Child Behavior is Scary

scary-girlWe have all had those moments when child behavior has frightened us as parents.  They sometimes have no impulse control and give us heart attacks with their unexpected aggression toward their siblings.  Or they may jump off a way-too-high surface, and cause us to react with loud warnings.  They may drive the car too far from home, or have a close call on the freeway, leading us to wonder where we went wrong.

On this Halloween, let’s acknowledge that being a parent can be scary for us at times.  When my son was able to go into the world on a large scale, I found myself saying, “Don’t tell me when you’re about to climb that 17,000-foot mountain.  Just tell me when you’re back down.” I felt like I had to protect my heart from his adventurousness.

Being afraid as a parent is normal. The world is so full of opportunities for our kids to “mess up” as my 4-year-old grandson says.  Life is full of mistakes, and if we keep perspective, mistakes are seen as great teachers.  Sometimes, yes, mistakes can have horrible outcomes, but if we stay focused there, we live a life of fear and anxiety.  For some children, this fear gets absorbed, and they are more cautious and anxious than they need to be.  Anxious children can act out, and become more scary to us as we worry over their next moves!

It’s a fine balance for a parent – enough warning vs. enough freedom to explore.

“How much freedom should my toddler/pre-schooler/ primary grade/middle schooler/ teen have?” is a frequently asked question in my work as a parent coach. Knowing what’s normal is not always natural, as we can have amnesia for being that age (and sometimes our normal was not so normal.)

Here are some tips for handling the typical fear that comes with parenting children:

  1. Practice mindfulness.  Check in with your thoughts and ask yourself, “Is there really a danger here and now?” If so, act on it. If not, say to yourself, “There’s no present danger, so I will let my child explore.”
  2. Remind yourself that as much as you’d like to control their every move to keep them safe, children are their own persons.  They have their natural, evolving urges as a normal part of child development, and you shouldn’t try to take that away.
  3. Read up on normal child development.  It’s so important to know what’s appropriate at every age so you can be on track with your expectations. Click here, and bookmark this site.
  4. Take a break from parenting whenever it seems reasonable.  Plan for time to yourself at least once a month, so you can rejuvenate and come back to parenting feeling refreshed.
  5. Call for coaching if you need help in determining what’s normal for your particular child, and how to respond.  We’re here to help!  Click here.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Parent Coaching in Madison, WI

We’ve opened up parent coaching in Madison, WI, and we invite anyone in the area to get in touch with Kim Flood, Certified Parent Coach.

For more information on how coaching works, click here.

In-person, phone, and Skype appointments are available.  Why wait for things to get worse?  Email Kim today! 

PostHeaderIcon Being Vulnerable as a Parent

Being Vulnerable as a Parent

Tina Feigal, MS, Ed. Copyright © 2016 Center for the Challenging Child

Dad and sonMaybe the last thing you ever thought a parent coach would tell you is “be vulnerable with your child.” You’ve spent your whole adult life making sure your child knew who was boss, working hard to never let him take advantage of you. You thought if you did that, you would lose your authority and never get it back. Who wants to live with a child who thinks he’s the boss of his parents? Wouldn’t being vulnerable give him the wrong idea?

Dr. Brené Brown, a social work researcher, talks about “leaning into the discomfort” in her TED Talk on the power of vulnerability. She was NOT built to accept anything uncertain, and railed at the thought of it, as many of us would. You might ask, “What does leaning into the discomfort mean?”

Dr. Brown also talks about “connection” being the reason we’re all here. And she says that shame is the manifestation of disconnection.  Underlying this is “excruciating vulnerability.” To truly connect we need to be vulnerable, she says.

After 6 years of listening to people’s stories on shame, she wrote a book and  published a theory, realizing that the people who have a strong sense of belonging believe they’re worthy of it.  Our fear that we’re not worthy of connection is what causes disconnection, which leads to shame.

Dr. Brown says that “wholehearted people” live from a deep sense of worthiness  and had a “sense  of courage” in common.  This courage is made up of telling who you are with your whole heart, the courage to be imperfect, compassion for self and others, connection as a result of authenticity, and fully embracing vulnerability.  These courageous wholehearteds believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful.  They say it’s necessary to do something where there are no guarantees, i.e. willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. In the words of my dear friend Artem Kuznetsov, this describes “beautiful uncertainty.”

To me there’s nothing more beautiful nor more uncertain than raising a child. Without guarantees of any kind, we rush headlong into the most compelling, uncertain, vulnerable experience of love, usually without a map or compass. And then the children we love so intensely defy us.  They develop their own will, they want what they want, and we feel utterly broad-sided after pouring so much of our hearts into their being. Where’s the gratitude?  Can’t they tell how much we’ve cared?

Frankly, they can’t. Because they’re children.  And it’s completely understandable that parents start to want control, in order to protect themselves from the strong will of their child and the rejection of having your beloved, cherished offspring turn on you. 

It’s normal.  Almost every parent experiences it, especially those with strong-willed children.  So where’s the redemption here? In vulnerability?  Well, yes.

Children who attempt to run the show are often bright.  They may be intellectually bright, interpersonally gifted, intrapersonally astute, highly creative and sensitive, or all of the above. And some average-ability children also attempt to run the show, depending on their own experiences as babies and toddlers.  Whatever the reason, we feel the last thing we should do is become vulnerable with them.  But really, it’s important to do this.

How does it look to be vulnerable to your child? It means stepping off the “perfect, all-knowing adult” platform and getting down to your heart with your child.  When you do this, he starts to realize that you’re human, too, and a switch flips.  He has less to resist when you become less rigid.  Now the grace and light-heartedness for which most parents yearn can begin seeping into your relationship. Herein lies the benefit of “leaning in.”

What do the words look like?  Instead of saying, “I’m your dad and I mean business” when a child is acting out (usually because of a fear), it’s more heart-centered to say, “I know. I had that fear when I was your age, too. Want me to tell you how I got past it? I used to pretend that the monsters under my bed had five eyes, so many that they couldn’t focus well enough to see me.” Here, the father has become a child again, this time for the purpose of connecting with his child. He’s remembering his child-like self, allowing a little vulnerability, and adding a dash of humor to bring intimacy to the conversation.

Dr. Brown’s mission to “control and predict” led her to the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability.

Letting go of the need to control and predict your child and building emotional intimacy is the hallmark of a strong relationship.  You get there by being vulnerable, and you can’t get there without it.

If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, please click here for information about parent coaching.

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PostHeaderIcon Happy New Year! Now Put That Down!

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.
Tina

If you’d like help with this or any other parenting issue, please visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching for the answers to most of your questions.  Have more questions?  Email tina@parentingmojo.com.

 

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Five Steps to Helping a Traumatized Child Regain Control

Five Steps to Helping a Traumatized Child Regain Control

Tina Feigal Copyright © 2015

Stressed childIf 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.

PostHeaderIcon My Kids Don’t Listen to My Advice

My Kids Don’t Listen to My Advice

AdviceWow, it’s frustrating when you KNOW what your kids should do, and you tell them directly, but they just don’t do it. What’s the problem?

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.

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Register for Transforming Challenging Child Behavior

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PostHeaderIcon Getting Kids to Comply

Getting Kids to Comply

Tina Feigal Copyright © 2015

kids brushingI’ve had the opportunity to listen for parents’ themes the past few weeks, and one that comes up over and over is “How do you get kids to do what you need them to do?”

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?

 

PostHeaderIcon Parents Tell Us Parent Coaching Works

Parents Tell Us Parent Coaching Works

 

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