Archive for the ‘Good Parenting’ Category

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 If You Don’t See the Child, You Will See the Rebellion

If You Don’t See the Child, You Will See the Rebellion

More and more, the theme of “seeing” the child is coming into my awareness while coaching parents.  Parents are finding it helpful, as when they’re able to truly attune to their children, the behaviors resolve. So why does “seeing” the child work so well?

The brain is equipped with a threat alarm called the “amygdala.”  It signals the child’s body that there’s a danger at hand which puts his survival at risk.  We all have these helpful amygdalas, and they truly serve to keep us alive. When the child is seen by his parents, upon whom he is dependent for survival, the amygdala can stay calm.

The amygdala is often on overdrive, though, as it doesn’t regulate itself very well.  If a child has had trauma, it sees threat where it used to be, but is no longer.  If a child is just wired intensely, it’s the same. The amygdala often triggers over-reactions.

To calm the amygdala down, we use attunement.  Here’s the definition:

“Attunement” describes how responsive an adult is to a child’s emotional needs. A parent who is attuned will respond with supportive language and behaviors based on the child’s current state. Attuned parents are good at recognizing emotions in children and adapting their response. Well-attuned parents are important in that they are able to detect what their children are feeling or thinking and respond with compassion.

This involves two things: 1. understanding what’s normal for your child’s age, and 2. knowing how to respond in a way that assures the amygdala of survival.

  1. Let’s face it – most parents are not child development experts. I wasn’t when I had my sons, and I imagine you may not be, either.  Here’s a very helpful resource, which you may want to bookmark, that provides ages and stages. Pay close attention to the emotional milestones. It will make your life so much easier. https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/ages-stages/#.WzeJB9VKjIU
  2. Responding with reflective language instead of “adult logic” – a trap many of us fall into – can dramatically improve our ability to calm the child’s amygdala.  When we reflect the child’s present moment emotional state, he feels seen. His amygdala calms down, and he’s not defying you – which is “see me” behavior – anymore, as his body tells him he’ll survive.

“I see you” language looks like this:

“You’re really upset because I said ‘no candy’ right now.” Then wait. Use no logic about it being too close to dinnertime, as the child’s brain is not set up to receive logic. It’s only set up to be seen right now.

Ask a question, which gets the child to think and remember the rules about candy: “Can you remember when we eat candy in our family?”

For a teen or pre-teen, here’s what “I see you” language looks like: “You’re mad because I said it’s time to get off the computer.”  Let a little time pass for the amygdala to register that you see him.  Pause before you talk.

Then: “We both know that I can’t make you get off, but I truly hope you do. We’re having family time right now, and that includes you. Without you, famly time is missing an important member.”

See how this sees, values, and respects the child and doesn’t trigger a rebellious reaction?  It may not work the first few times you try it, but be patient. It takes a while for the brain to learn to trust this new way of interacting, but it will happen. It’s human nature to respond to a respectful invitation, as opposed to a command.  This is the magic in “I see you language.”

Being patient now will save you enormous conflict in the future. And you deserve that.

If you need help with saving your family from conflict, or any other parenting issue, click here.

PostHeaderIcon Teen Boys, Sex, Alcohol

Teen  Boys, Sex, and Alcohol

by Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.

Image result for teen boy mom
Article Copyright © 2018 Center for the Challenging Child

This is a real exchange, published with names changed, and permission from the writer.

Hello Tina,

We met with you years ago when our kids were toddlers and bedtime nearly drove us crazy. They are all teenagers now and I would give anything to go back to those simpler times. My oldest is a 17-year-old boy. His grades are decent. He works a part time job around 20 hours a week. He is not doing a spring sport so he can work and save for college. I know that he and his friends sometime drink. There are two times that I am sure of. He has had the same girlfriend for 2 years now so I worry about sex also. I have tried to have many conversations and talk about what we believe and try to find out what the motive was to drink and where things are headed with the girlfriend and encouraged him to make a thoughtful decision when he is not “in the moment” so that he can fall back to that when the heat is on.

The main issue is in 6 months he is moving off to college and I worry about him making good decisions. I know a certain amount of college partying is very normal, but still worrisome. Any advice?

Thank you ~
Sharla
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Hi Sharla,

I’m happy to hear from you!  It sounds as if you have a wonderful 17-year-old who is going through the normal experiences of adolescence.  I hope that knowing this is very typical helps to relieve some of the stress you’re feeling.  And here are some ideas to help you navigate it:

  1. Let the positives of his life settle into your brain.  His grades are decent, he’s working and saving for school, he has a lasting relationship with his girlfriend.  He’s doing so many things right!
  2. Another huge plus: You have shared your values with him.  As I like to say, “Teens can’t let you know that they hear you, because they are busy individuating and becoming “not-mom.”  This is a necessary developmental step, and all healthy kids do it.  But once you’ve put your message about your values in him, they’re in there, rest assured.  He just can’t say, “Thanks, I got it,” at this point.  No need to repeat yourself about these now, as he knows how you feel, and repeating just becomes irritating.  I know, teens are very sensitive about this, but again, it’s normal.
  3. Your worry about drinking and sex are justified.  You don’t want him to become a father too young, and you don’t want him to break the law by drinking or become an alcoholic.  But reminding him repeatedly will not get you what you want, and he’s old enough now that you cannot control him.  It’s easy to think that a parent should control her son, but it’s just not possible, nor is it your job now that he’s 17. It’s your job to recognize the myriad ways in which he does control himself.
  4. You can help to reinforce his positive behaviors by letting him know how proud you are of him and the many good decisions he’s made so far.  He’s made a lot of good decisions, and he needs to hear that you see them, if he hasn’t already.  Writing them in a note is a powerful way to communicate, as writing weighs more than talking. Plus, guys at this age become “allergic” to their mothers’ voices – I raised three of them, and it’s just the way it is as they become men.
  5. The more you recognize his goodness, the more you will see.  You will also be drawing him toward you instead of pushing him away, which is huge.
  6. Does he have access to condoms? Tell him where to get them if you think he doesn’t.  This looks like condoning pre-marital sex, but if it’s already happening, it’s not going to end because you want it to.  The best solution is to be sure he’s having safe sex.
  7. The motive to drink is the same as it is for 17-year-olds world-wide. They are blossoming adults and this is an adult activity.  If you have seen him under the influence, but not overly drunk, you might want to say, “I’m glad you’re not overdoing it, and I’m glad you’re home safe.”  It’s the same as with sex; you don’t have the power to stop it because he’s growing up, but you do have the power to influence mindful use of it.  If he is overwhelmed by guilt from you, it may have the opposite effect from what you want, and give him a reason to drink more to suppress his feelings (the number one reason people drink.)

I hope this is helpful, Sharla.  Let me know if you’d like to talk more about this, and we can set up an appointment.  Place your trust in your son now, as he’s just learning to trust himself, and he can learn self-trust from your words and attitudes.

Best,
Tina

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

 

 

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Screen Addiction

Screen Addiction: What Parents are Saying

Last month I asked parents to write to me about what was topmost on their minds regarding raising their children.  Almost overwhelmingly, screen addiction was the topic. 

One mom wrote and expressed her concern about her teen daughter.  Here’s her note to me, and my response:

Hi Tina,

Phone/screen addiction is on my mind.

My 16-year-old daughter has been wrestling with screen addiction for the past 2-3 years. I’ve taken her phone away and then tried giving it back to her with agreements about following limits and her behavior deteriorates within about 3-4 weeks. Angry outbursts that eventually turn violent, refusal to follow the phone rules, skipping classes at school and grades plummeting. Currently she does not have a phone. And things have gotten much better.

She’d like to get phone privileges back, but I reminded her that we’ve tried reinstating phone privileges on numerous occasions only to have things get way out of control.

For now, I’ve told her that having a phone is not an option for her.

I do let her use my phone to contact her friends, review her gymnastics videos, etc in the evening once chores and homework are done with the understanding that at 9 pm the wifi is unplugged.

This is truly tough to manage. Do you have any helpful insights?

RW

Hi RW,

I do have an insight for you … you’ve been much braver than many parents in setting limits, and I applaud you!  I think the young brain’s susceptibility to addiction to screens will be seen historically as a turning point in our society, and you have done a wonderful thing for your daughter in saying no to giving her brain a “substance” that it cannot handle.  It’s obvious that she cannot function with constant access to a device, so you have taken the adult role and helped her, just as if her brain was addicted to any other “substance.”  I will be using you as a shining example in VERY tough parenting times.

Thank you,

Tina

There will be more of these notes from parents coming up!  I learned a lot from asking this question, and I can’t wait to share parents’ comments with you.

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 The Why, What, and How of Parent Coaching

The Why, What, and How of Parent Coaching

Read Tina’s latest article here, in “Fostering Families Today” magazine’s January, 2018 edition.

Feigal in Fostering Families Today 1.18

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 What It’s Like Coaching Parents

What It’s Like Coaching Parents: Traveling Further Upstream

I often get the question, as do we all, “What do you do?”  I realize now that people are asking, “What difference do you make?” or “What can you do for me?”  So I thought I’d write about my life as a parent coach, to give you a window on what I can do for you, or those with whom you work.

It all started when my middle son proved to be a fabulous, smart, adorable boy who also gave me a run for my money. He asked a thousand questions each day, and often didn’t like being told what to do. I found my way with him, stumbling often, but he grew up to become a wonderful person. (There’s a ton of hope!)

I became a school psychologist, inspired to make school a pleasant, or at least not harmful, place for kids who struggle with learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disturbance, ADHD, ODD, grief, autism, giftedness, and a variety of other situations.  I had had a less-than-nurturing school experience as a kid, and was determined to change that for others. I kept thinking about what it would be like to be in school 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, and feel like you were always failing and not fitting in.  It was that feeling that kept me going in behalf of kids, to make each day one where they were welcome and accepted.

Then it dawned on me: “If I could go upstream a bit more, and get to the adults who love and care for these kids, we wouldn’t have to have so many evaluations for emotional/behavioral disturbance.”  Who better to do this work of bringing out the best in children than their own parents, who love them, have the most invested in them, and are there when the children need them the most?  Inspired, I hung my shingle as a parent coach and prayed.

That was 2000, and now I have a story to tell!  Each year since the beginning , I have had the enormously gratifying experience of helping parents look further upstream for the reasons behind their children’s behavior, and help them understand how to create peace in their homes.

I went on to teach at my graduate school alma mater, UW-Stout, to train parent coaches through my own business, and then to certify coaches at Adler Graduate School, where I continued to develop more ideas for making parent coaching work the most effectively, to comfort the hearts of parents and children alike.

If your child is being defiant (usually it’s pain being expressed) we’ll explore the reasons, employ insight, adjust the interactions, and see the defiance melt away.  When your child is oppositional, we’ll uncovered the particulars (she needs more self-efficacy, and to be seen and heard) and watch as she blossoms into the loving kid she was meant to be.  When he’s acting depressed and withdrawn (often unexpressed grief), we’ll help him grieve his losses directly, and witness miraculous recovery.

Yes, I think this is the best job in the world.  There is simply nothing like helping parents to heal their own child.

To date, I’ve trained nearly 500 others to coach parents and have been privileged to watch them work their magic with families. I love my position as the Director of Family Engagement at Center for the Challenging Child/Anu Family Services, where the other coaches and I work with Treatment Foster Care parents, bio parents, and kin. These are the most hurt kids, who have been moved from home to home “because of their behavior” (read: unexpressed grief) and we’re finding the same amazing results.  Working with parents who are not in the child welfare realm has been profoundly satisfying, as well. How much job satisfaction can one person have, I ask you?

My heart is full, full, full as I reflect on this incredible journey from mom of an intense and wonderful kid, to a school psychologist, to college and grad school instructor, to parent coach and trainer.  I can share this great news with people, offer hope they never dreamed of, and watch them create miracles in their own homes.  Even thinking about the generational effect of coaching is fabulous … kids who grow up with Present Moment Parenting may just pass that legacy on to their children!

I’ve come to realize that it’s never too late for any child to benefit from their parents’ understanding of the upstream reasons for behavior, and ways to calm them.  Yes, 17, 18, and 19-year-olds can experience healing through their parents’ evolution.  In fact I’ve coached parents of children in their 20’s, 30’s and beyond!  The principles remain the same, the parent-child relationship continues to affect the child for years, and it can always be healed.  What a concept!

How can I help you with your child, or train your staff to do this powerful work?

For more information on healing hearts through parent coaching, click here.

For more information on parenting coach certification, click here.

For information on my speaking and training events, click here.

To check speaking availability, click here.

Thank you for the enormous privilege of serving your family or your staff in healing children’s and parents’ hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon How Can I Tell if My Child Has Trauma Effects?

How Can I Tell if My Child Has Trauma Effects?

You hear a great deal about trauma in the news these days, and you wonder if your child is showing the signs of having been traumatized.  It’s often hard to tell if the trauma is having ongoing effects on your child or if it was even traumatic to him at all!  Here are some examples of trauma and the signs of their effects:

The most traumatic event for a child is the death of, or removal from, a parent. Due to the internal imperative to survive, the child is biologically wired to connect with her parent, and if that connection is broken, even at birth, the signs of trauma can be seen.  But not in every single case. Some children are adopted at birth or later, and never show signs of trauma. Some who are adopted at birth feel the separation deeply.

If the connection to the parent is broken by physical abuse on the part of the parent or other adult, the effects are also significant, and trauma signs are likely to be evident.  Physical abuse is spanking, hitting, choking, restraining for long periods, burning, cutting, and more.  It’s hard to think that a parent would ever do such things to a child, but when a parent has mental illness or a chemical addiction, the urge to protect the child or avoid harming her is dampened or obliterated, and impulse control goes out the window. The child does nothing to provoke this, although the parent will insist that she does. It’s the parent’s lack of restraint that leads to physical abuse.

Similarly, sexual abuse will bring signs of trauma.  Again, it’s never the child’s doing that brings on the abuse, but the parent will insist that he or she caused it somehow.  It’s very likely that the adult has deep pain which is causing the sexual abuse, and also that the adult has been abused as a child. This is why sexual abuse is so horrific. It makes a criminal out of the victim. Sexual abuse profoundly confuses loyalty to the adult with sexual involvement, and can have lifelong effects on the child’s ability to form a healthy sexual relationship. There is no form of sexual interaction with a child that is OK.  Hugging, kissing, massaging, and washing are all part of normal child raising, but touching of genitals for pleasure – either the child touching the adult or the adult touching the child, is abuse. Showing pornography to children or photographing them in sexual positions or without clothing is also sexual abuse.

Emotional/psychological abuse is particularly damaging to a child. The reason this type of abuse (which is also often present with physical and sexual abuse) is so hard to identify and treat is that there are no outward signs of the abuse. In fact, the way systems operate, the abuser is often not stopped, as the law depends on physical findings to prosecute. Emotional abuse, in the form of  blaming children for everything that “goes wrong”, accusing them of things they didn’t do, playing mind games with them, calling them names such as stupid, filthy, unwanted (and worse) has more impact that physical abuse on the future mental health of the child.  It’s insidious, hidden where it cannot be healed, in far too many cases.

Neglect is also highly traumatizing for children. It conveys to the child that he or she is not worthy of parental care, which can go deep into the psychological landscape to create feelings of lack and low self-esteem. Physical neglect, emotional neglect, medical neglect, educational neglect, and exposure to violence are all types of trauma.

What are the signs that a child has had the trauma of abuse?
Children who have experienced trauma often have difficulty trusting others.  When they look to their caregivers as infants or at any age, really, and they don’t get their emotional and physical needs met, their brains undergo a change that involves not being able to trust.  This is not a choice, it’s a physiological response. Once the child touches that hot stove of connection that results in being abandoned, he or she is wired not to touch it again.

Other ways that trauma shows up are: decreased mental ability and memory, lack of “executive functioning” which means they have trouble remembering their homework, remembering to hand it in, organizing their rooms, backpacks or desks, and planning ahead. Constant anxiety is another sign of trauma, as are bed-wetting, lying, stealing, and emotional outbursts for no logical reason.  Sensory sensitivities are also frequently seen in children with traumatic histories. Visual, auditory, smell, touch, and taste input is felt as 1,000 times stronger than for those without trauma.  Another one is “interpersonal sensitivity” where a child is hyper-reactive to the presence of others.  Sensory seeking can also be a sign of trauma, particularly with sexual abuse. These children are absolutely compelled to replay the sexual scene, all on an unconscious level.

The purpose of this article is to highlight the signs of trauma, often also referred to as “stuck grief” for all the missed nurturing the child has experienced.  The next article will offer tips for helping the traumatized child overcome the effects of trauma.

For help with this or any other parenting issue: click here.

To order the book: “Present Moment Parenting: The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child” with chapters on help for parents of children with trauma, by Tina Feigal, Amelia Franck Meyer, and Mechele Pitt, click here.

To download the audio book of “Present Moment Parenting: The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child, click here.

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Am I a Helicopter Parent?

Am I a Helicopter Parent?

You may have wondered if you are too attentive to your child’s needs, or if you have been overly involved in his or her relationships or decisions.  And if you have, you wonder how to stop, to keep your child from becoming so dependent on you or your opinions, that he can’t make decisions for himself.

It can be hard to tell how much is too much.  You are caring, attentive, involved, and dedicated to your child’s success … all the things you hear make up good parenting.  And yet, sometimes you get sideways glances from your friends or relatives.  Other times they come right out and tell you that you shouldn’t be so involved in your child’s life.  Or worse, they avoid talking and withdraw from your friendship, leaving you wondering what you did wrong.

“I want the best for my child,” says a client who comes to me with this issue, “but I don’t know where the line is. Should I be checking his grades online every day or every week?  Should I try to find out who he’s texting, who he’s friends with on Instagram, and how the coach feels about his performance at practice? Should I contact the school counselor if he seems depressed or discouraged?”

What IS a parent’s job in this day of over exposure to media and pressure to perform?

First, realize that it’s a totally different world from the one we grew up in. The sheer number of ways that a child can now interact with the world without parental knowledge is mind-boggling.  The news carries stories of Amber Alerts and stranger abduction.  It’s very hard to know how to navigate this territory, and you are not alone.

Here are some tips for healthy monitoring of your child’s life, without overdoing it.

  1. Place parental controls on all your child’s devices. Don’t apologize for doing this. With the Internet’s reach, it’s simply good parenting to eliminate the vast array of potentially harmful sources.  Google your Internet provider + parental controls to get the info you need. Do this today.
  2. It’s not being too involved if your child is struggling in school, and you check the parent portal once every week or two. Your only response needs to be one of offering help if needed, not a lecture on grades. If your child is doing well, it’s his or her business what the grades look like.
  3. If you are paying for the phone, you have access to the texts and social media passwords. I’m sorry to say it’s important that your child not have privacy in this area, because cyber-bullying and inappropriate postings are too easy for developing humans.  They need our guidance, and having access to them, along with weekly checks, is just prudent practice. Keep in mind that some apps (get a good list here) are designed to have the messages disappear after only a few seconds.  If someone posts something inappropriate that features your child, it IS possible to preserve the image by screen-shot, and pass it on on other social media platforms, which means it’s on the Internet forever.  This needs to be explained to your child.
  4. “No screens an hour before bed” (to prevent sleep loss) and “the phone is charged in the kitchen” (to prevent constant availability) are two good rules.
  5. It’s not overly involved to talk about ways predators can pose as 15-year-olds online and ask teens to meet them in person. Be certain that your child’s whereabouts are always clear to you.  Apps on their phones that communicate with yours can locate them, and I think it’s a good idea. Ask your child to let you know where she is, and expect compliance. Be casual about it, but also be firm. The phone is a privilege, and its use depends on this rule being followed.
  6. Being friends on Facebook or Instagram with your child’s friends is usually over the line. Being friends with their parents is a good way to stay connected, so you know what’s happening in their world, too, and can be united for all your children.
  7. Encourage in-person socialization, so that children don’t forget how to relate one-on-one.  Allowing them to invite friends to your home is not overly involved.  Inviting them yourself, or asking their parents to send them over, is.
  8. Monitor sleep-overs just enough to discourage drinking or inviting unwanted guests. Do not “hang out” with your child’s friends in your home unless invited.
  9. Remember that some level of privacy is necessary for a child to develop normally. Invite sharing, but if you don’t get it, stay relaxed. Have an understanding with your child that if something seems really amiss with a friend, you will be in touch with his or her parents. Use compassion, not policing.
  10. As your child grows into young adulthood, take a stance of support and encouragement, while being there as a guide for the inevitable rough spots.If you have questions about this or any other parenting issue, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching.

 

PostHeaderIcon Holidays with Your Intense Child

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.

 

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!