Archive for the ‘Milder Middle School Moments’ 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 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 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 The School Year is Wearing Thin Already

The School Year is Wearing Thin Already

The school year is wearing thin already. We parent coaches usually see an up-tick in referrals from professionals and calls for help from parents at this time of year. Parents are distressed because homework struggles and/or behavior calls from school are increasing.  The newness has worn off, and learning issues are coming to light.  Children can’t do their math, they bother their friends, they seem testy and disrespectful, and they are emotionally wrecked by the end of the day. Gifted kids are disrupting the classroom because they are being under-challenged. kids with undiscovered reading disabilities are losing their hope. Those with ADHD are remembering that it’s more of the same every day … I can’t focus enough to do what the others do, and I don’t want to  be different!

What can parents do to help in these situations?  First, understand that if your child is losing interest in school this early in the year, it’s important to

  1. Listen closely to what he’s saying
  2. Avoid blaming him for being unmotivated.

    If the issues persist week after week, asking the school for accommodations and/or testing is well within your rights and responsibility. If it’s math, reading, or writing that’s causing the issue, the evaluation team can try some strategies to help your child. Do not wait for a few more months to go by. If there’s a true learning issue, the sooner you discover it, the better.  If the strategies (i.e., fewer problems or items assigned, moving to the front of the room, or more time allotted for tests) don’t seem to help, the team can decide that a formal learning evaluation should take place.This may involve:
    1. the school psychologist (IQ/learning strengths and weaknesses testing)
    2. the reading, writing or math specialist (grade level achievement testing)
    3. the regular education classroom teacher
    4. your input via surveys and conversation
    5. music, gym, and art teachersIf your child shows that there’s a significant grade-level lag in his or her abilities, special education can be provided for the Specific Learning Disability in the form of an Individualized Educational Plan, or IEP. The child will have programming, often in the regular classroom with the special education teacher co-teaching as a resource for special needs students.  Or the child may be in the special education resource room for math, reading, or writing.  Each school handles this according to their staffing configuration. If no learning disability is discovered, the child may be eligible for regular education accommodations that can support him or her. Many schools have supplemental reading programs, in particular, that can be of great help to your child.

If the problems at school are more focused on behavior and emotions, a similar path can be followed by the school staff.  After a request from parents or a teacher, a team meets to discuss the issues, and then accommodations (i.e., moving to the front of the room, more breaks between activities, and extra guidance at transition times) are made. If there’s not significant improvement, a special education evaluation can take place.  The process involves classroom observation, questionnaires for parents, teachers and familiar adults in the community, and sometimes surveys completed by the child.  The parents, the school psychologist, the regular classroom teacher, the social worker or counselor, and the Emotional-Behavioral Disability special ed teacher could all be involved. If the child is determined to be in need of special education in this area, the EBD teacher would write an IEP, and the parents would be invited to hear the details in a meeting. If the parents approve, the school can institute a regular program of support for the child, with contact with the EBD teacher, social worker, or counselor.

IEP’s follow children from year to year in school, and are reviewed annually. Parents are considered part of the IEP team, and are invited to all annual meetings to learn the results of the tests, and to hear of, and contribute to, changes in the plan. If a need for an early IEP meeting becomes apparent, parents are included in it, too.  Every three years, the special education team re-evaluates the child’s learning disability to be certain that services are still required. Some children mature out of their need for extra support, so they can be “mainstreamed” fully in the regular education classroom.

Some other children have conditions that interfere with their learning, such as hearing or vision impairment, medical issues, or ADHD, that do not qualify them for special education, but require classroom accommodations. In this case, a 504 plan can be instituted. This is a regular education program by which the school team and parents make plans to assure success in school for children whose needs are not in the special education realm, but are still significant enough to require help.  Read more about 504 plans here. 

You may also hear your child talking about the classroom, lunchroom, bus, or gym being “too loud.” She may say that she cannot concentrate in class because of certain smells.  You might hear that your child is struggling because the lights in the room seem to be flickering.  He may say that he cannot stand wearing jeans to school, but can only wear wind pants or sweats.  These all point to sensory processing issues (sensory avoidant), which can understandably interfere with learning. Some children have sensory seeking tendencies, wherein they are always touching a wall, other children, the floor, or furniture. They often bump into others and have difficulty keeping their bodies in their own space.  For some children, sensory avoidant and sensory seeking are both part of their landscape. Click here for information on Sensory Processing Disorder. These issues can be helped by Occupational Therapy, which is usually delivered outside the school setting, but is no less important than school-based services.  OT’s do provide services in school, but usually related to handwriting and other needs that are directly related to school performance. For more concentrated OT, ask your pediatrician for a recommendation, and start with requesting an evaluation from the OT.

Many children whose behaviors are found to be on the autism spectrum receive special education services in autism-specific programs.  Evaluations at school and by medical professionals help to determine if autism is the issue.  If you have a question about whether your child exhibits traits of autism, be sure to start the conversation early, as that will insure earlier intervention and more academic success for your child. Click here for the characteristics of autism in children. 

It’s possible to have sensory issues on their own, and it’s also very common for children with autism to have sensory issues. If your child has sensory concerns, it’s not necessary to assume autism, but it certainly warrants an investigation if some of the other characteristics are also present.

Auditory processing may also be an issue for your child.  This is different from the processing disorder above, where it’s hard for the child to receive auditory input.  This auditory processing issue involves the inability to get the message from the teacher when he or she is speaking. If your child repeatedly says, “I just didn’t hear him,” or “I don’t remember what she said,” this may be your sign that auditory processing is the issue. For children with ADHD, who appear not to be “paying attention,” you can assume that auditory processing is low. Think about how much of school is delivered auditorily, and it’s no wonder kids with ADHD struggle.

It’s also possible to be gifted and have a learning disability. Your child could exhibit “enormous capacity for novelty” and constant curiosity about topics way beyond the interests of her peers, and still struggle with math, reading, or writing. Do not be lulled into thinking your child is not gifted if one of these areas is not up to grade level. Ask for an evaluation to find out if your child is Twice Exceptional, meaning she’s gifted and struggles with learning in one or more areas. Sometimes gifted children have autism characteristics, as well.

Giftedness is determined by IQ testing. If a child doesn’t make the IQ cut-off for giftedness, the school district may consider the overall creativity, verbal adeptness, interest in advanced subjects, or advanced musical or art abilities to include the child in gifted programming. Many parents are reluctant to say, “My child may be gifted.”  Please, please respond if your child is showing signs of giftedness. These children often get overlooked and become discouraged in school, leading to behavior issues. They are vulnerable to depression and anxiety when their learning needs go unrecognized. School personnel who are not attuned to gifted characteristics may not recognize what is causing misbehavior or withdrawal, so it’s up to parents to call attention to this issue, and ask for testing. Again, this is your right and your responsibility.

This can be a dizzying collection of information if you’ve never had to deal with it before. Do not blame yourself if you feel you should have addressed these issues earlier. You could only do what you knew how to do!

If you need help sorting these topics out, parent coaching is the ideal way to get that help. Information on coaching is here.  Please write tina@parentingmojo.com or call 651-453-0123 for an appointment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Registration for “Transforming Challenging Child Behavior” by Tina Feigal
Colonial Church of Edina, 6200 Colonial Way, Edina, MN – Fireside Room.
June 9, 2015 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Name ________________________________________

Address _____________________________________

Phone _______________________________________

Email _______________________________________

Credit Card number __________________________ Expiration __________/_____________

Print this page and scan it to tina@parentingmojo.com or FAX to 855.329.2681.
Cost is $30.

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 Happy Valentine’s Day! How Can You Get More Love Out of Your Child?

Happy Valentine’s Day!
How Can You Get More Love Out of Your Child?

Copyright © Tina Feigal 2015

Valentine girlSure, she looks all sweet in the photo, but just tell her she can’t have her way, and watch the smile turn into something you just don’t want to witness. Sound familiar?

If it does, you may wonder how you help a child who can be very nice in front of others, but when it comes to being home with your family, is able to wreak havoc at any moment. Luckily, there are some great ways to handle this.

1. Have a heart-to-heart talk, just the two of you. Say, “Honey, it seems like I see such a great girl out in public. Your teachers just love you, you get along with your friends, and you’re so polite to their parents. And then you come home, and it’s all so rough. I hear demanding, yelling, stomping, crying and slamming. Can you tell me what’s going on? Maybe you don’t want to tell me right now, but if you do, I want to listen.  If not, I’ll get back to you when you’ve had time to think about it.  How about tomorrow at 5?” This gives your daughter time to reflect on what is going on. Maybe she doesn’t even know what her triggers are, but you’ve now respectfully opened the door to her figuring them out.

2. Whether it’s now or later, allow an open-hearted time to just listen.  Maybe she’s upset because something happened at school, but she was too embarrassed to talk about it. Maybe she’s mad at you because she feels like you never pay attention to her (even though it seems like that’s all you do!) Maybe she’s not feeling well, or worried about something. It could be one of these or myriad other reasons, but here’s your chance to get to the bottom of the feelings.  When the feelings are heard, the upsetting behavior won’t be so necessary. When a child feels seen and heard, she loses the need to get your attention in negative ways.

3. Listen without fixing or correcting. Just reflect. “You feel as if I never pay attention to you, and that makes you really mad.” Even if this is a preposterous thought, let it be. It will take some courage and big resolve not to correct her, but the return on investment of your time and attention will be tremendous. You are not seeking the absolute truth here. You are seeking her truth, whether it seems true to you or not.

4. Apologize if it feels right to you. If you have been too busy to give your daughter the attention she needs, say so.  “I’m sorry, Honey. I have been so wrapped up in (work, your siblings’ sports, the house project, my parent’s illness) that I have not been able to talk to you the way I’d like. Let’s make a plan for some one-on-one time this weekend.”

5. If you don’t feel like an apology is warranted, that’s OK. Maybe you’ve given your daughter “the moon” but she still doesn’t seem satisfied. Just probe now, very matter-of-factly. “When I took you to practice last week, that felt like you didn’t have enough attention.”  “When I gave you a ride to your friend’s house, you still felt like I wasn’t there for you.” “When I made spaghetti when you asked, it seemed like I still didn’t care.”  “When I bought you that top on Saturday, it felt like it wasn’t enough.” Don’t defend your actions, just try to get her to think about reasonable expectations.  She may say, “Yeah, you did all those things for me, but I still wanted that new video game.”  Now just hang in there. “I hear you. When I didn’t go out and get the game, you felt as if I didn’t really care about you.” “Yeah.” Then just say, “Thank you for telling me how you’re feeling.”  No lecture on gratitude, no defenses. What you’re doing here is letting your daughter hear the illogical way her mind is working.  This is much more powerful than your telling her, so allow time for it to occur.

6. Just wait a few hours or days. When kids have been out of line, and you give them time to process it, they can “bubble to the surface” with their own insight and apology.  Again, this is much more powerful than your mini-lecture on gratitude. The learning is coming from inside the child and her direct experience, which results in a much more effective lesson.

7. Give her heartfelt appreciation for her insight. “When you think about things and come up with your own ideas, I am really impressed! It shows how grown up you’re getting.”

You’ve just avoided a big scene, which may have turned into an even bigger one. You’ve equipped your daughter to think about her own actions without having to say, “Now think about your actions, Young Lady!”  We all know how well that works.  And you’ve engaged in a type of communication that sets the stage for more openness between you and your child. Win, win, win.

If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching, and feel free to call 651-453-0123 or write tina@parentingmojo.com for an appointment.

 

 

PostHeaderIcon What About When He Gets to the Real World?

What About When He Gets to the Real World?

Tina Feigal, MS, Ed. © Copyright 2015

Toolbox working manSo often when I offer parents techniques such as speaking in softer tones, not getting upset, listening deeply, and showing respect to a child, they say, “Well that’s not how it will be in the ‘real world.’ What about when he gets a job and his boss tells him what to do, and he’s just supposed to do it?”

Stop. Wait. We left something out of this picture.  It’s called “child development.” The point is that a child is not a “young man,” even though we often call him that.  He’s a developing person, so our expectations need to match his developmental phase, or we will definitely have a fight on our hands. When parents make unreasonable demands of their children, they rebel.  This is not unnatural, as the “organism child” knows what it’s capable of, and it knows what it’s not. This is more of an instinct on the child’s part than a willful decision. In other words, it’s not conscious.

Let’s take a look at expectations.  Would we apply the same argument about the workplace to other areas?  The man in this picture climbs to electrical wires 80 feet above the street to repair them.  So should his parents have started teaching him to shop for clothes, buy tools, drive to work, climb into a cherry picker, and know what to do up there to avoid electrocution when he was 8?  Probably not. But we often get caught in this trap of expectations when it comes to “controlling your behavior” and “showing respect” when we are equally off the mark regarding the child’s capabilities.

Sweet boyHere’s the 8-year-old. He’s not a developed man, as you can see.  He has no facial hair, beard, or pronounced jaw. He has no job, no mortgage, and only a third grade education.  He looks innocent, and he is.  If he crosses his parents, it’s because he doesn’t see the big picture yet, nor does he have the brain development to stop his impulses all the time.  If he’s had trauma, or a diagnosis like ADHD, Asperger’s, autism, or an attachment disorder, he’s a lot younger than 8.  He could use some softer tones, calm demeanor, listening deeply, and yes some respect, until he gets to the point where he needs to answer to a boss.

In fact, all children need those things.  And even adults do.  There’s no hard and fast “world out there” that’s guaranteed to chew your son up if you’ve been gentle with him during childhood.  But if he does encounter such a world, your gentleness has given him time and space to grow, mature, and become the kind of man who can take the inevitable knocks of life with grace and not anger.  The children who can’t respond well to adversity are the ones who were asked to “grow up” too soon.

Having your unique needs met when you’re 2, 8, 16, etc., opens the path to all your educational, social, emotional and worldly maturation.  There’s really no other way to get there.

If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching.  Call 651-453-0123 or email tina@parentingmojo.com for an appointment today.

PostHeaderIcon Parents Tell Us Parent Coaching Works

Parents Tell Us Parent Coaching Works

 

Our Pre- and Post-coaching questionnaires reveal great results!

Updated Parent Coaching Works-From Inception

Click this link to see results on
Attributes of Children
n=161
Our favorite attribute:
Before coaching: “My child is loving” – 10 parents responded with “often or always”.
After coaching, 120 parents responded with “often or always.”

Click this link to see results on
Parent Child Relationships
n=161

Click this link to see results on
Behavior Improvements
n=161

PostHeaderIcon What About NFL Turning a Blind Eye to Domestic Abuse?

What About the NFL, and Other Professional Sports Organizations, that Turn a Blind Eye to Domestic Abuse?

I am sharing my thoughts here, and would love to hear yours, as well. Let’s make this an open conversation with the hope that more enlightened attitudes can emerge from it. I know I still have a lot to learn in life, and I trust you feel the same.

Somewhere in Eden Prairie, a 4-year-old boy is healing from the physical wounds his father inflicted on him with a switch (small tree branch) because he got into a disagreement with his brother over a video game. Lacerations on his hand and thighs, and bruises on his lower back and buttocks resulted in a felony child abuse charge in Texas.  According to the Forbes.com article by Gregory McNeal, texts from Adrian Peterson to the boy’s mother included:

  • “Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!”
  • “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”The child said, “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face.”
  • The child expressed worry that Peterson would punch him in the face if the child reported the incident to authorities.
  • The child said that he had been hit by a belt and that “there are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.”
  • The child said that Peterson put leaves in his mouth when he was being hit with the switch while his pants were down.
  • The child told his mother that Peterson “likes belts and switches” and “has a whooping room.”
  • Peterson, admitted to the police that he had “whooped” his son on the backside with a switch as a form of punishment.
  • Peterson also admitted to the police that he administered two different “whoopings” to his son.So here we are, some of us loyal fans of professional sports, wondering if this constitutes child abuse and what to do about it. And we are also contemplating whether AP should ever be allowed back on the field.  Will this be one of those “fans have short memories” incidents where all is forgotten within a few months when the hype dies down?  Or should we all stand up and insist that a loud message be delivered on behalf of innocent four-year-olds? You probably know already what I’m going to say … that of course child abuse needs to be counteracted with stern and swift consequences.But there’s a deeper issue here.  What gives the men of the NFL the mindset that because they are bigger and stronger than their children, they have the right to physically harm them as a form of discipline?  I’ve read the “We are African American, and this is how we manage our children’s behavior” argument, as well.  I also understand that police profiling of African Americans and other people of color is a real issue, and could lie beneath the parenting perspective that we need to keep our children “respectful and under control” to keep the police from harming them. But this argument doesn’t stand up, given that one in three young African American males is incarcerated in this country. Racial profiling is a real-world issue that still needs addressing by police departments in every U.S. city.According to J.E.B. Myers in his article “The History of Child Protection in America” the first recorded societal effort  to rescue a child from parental abuse was by Etta Wheeler in 1874.  U.S. governmental child protection policies and laws were created in 1962.  Adrian Peterson was born in 1985.  There has been plenty of time for Adrian Peterson and his professional sports counterparts to catch on to the fact that children are protected by law from physical and emotional abuse by adults. But of course, being a product of the enormous hype in professional sports can easily give one the idea that the law is for other people, not you.So what have we learned with the discussion around this incident?  Have we learned that hurting children is never, ever, ever justified?  I hope so.  Have we learned not to revere our sports heroes so much that we consider them above the law?  I hope so again.  Because the children are watching to see who we consider our heroes, and they’re following our example.  We need to be strong for them, and draw the line on child and spousal abuse.  We need to make a big point to them that it’s never all right to harm another human for any reason, no matter how angry we get, no matter how much they provoke us, no matter what.

    Here’s what I have learned:  We have a long way to go in the field of coaching parents. We need to include all races and creeds in the mindset that there’s a much, much better way to get good behavior from your child than physical force.  We need to assure that the hearts of children can make it through the formative years without abject fear of their parents’ undeserved wrath.  Because when a child grows up in fear, as the 4-year-old son of Adrian Peterson has been forced to do, he sees the world as a scary place.  His brain structure and function are  indelibly altered by trauma. He defends himself, sometimes more than the situation calls for, and he lands in prison with all the other abused children of the world.  This is a terrible waste of human potential and we know how to fix it.  With this story so widely distributed in the media, my hope is that this is our chance for a huge step forward on healing adult-child relationships, so children can grow up and become healthy parents.

    I am calling for the NFL, NBA, NHL and others to use this opportunity to support parents in the compassionate handling of their children.  I propose a full-on anti-child-abuse effort, funded by major sports, to not only educate parents, but to provide ongoing services to them so that they can feel supported over time.  We need to remember Maya Angelou’s words:  “When we know better, we must do better.”

    Parents, there’s a better way.  Physical wounds heal in a few months, but emotional scars last for decades, and can have hugely damaging effects on children over their lifetimes.  Please, for the sake of your children, find a parent coach to teach you the better way before we see another case like this in the news, before one more child is scarred for life by a parent who thought he or she was doing the right thing.  Pick up the phone now.