Archive for the ‘Oppositional Defiance’ Category
Saying No to One Thing Means Saying Yes to Another
As we Minnesotans watch an April snowstorm blanket the landscape with eight new inches of “pretty stuff”, it’s hard to accept “no” from Mother Nature when we yearn for Spring RIGHT NOW. We desperately want warm sun on our faces, robins and daffodils, not boots, gloves, and snow shovels!
Isn’t it interesting to note how as adults, we have experiences that thwart our desires, just the way our kids do? Last night, my son texted me an interesting thought to ponder. “When we say no to something, we’re saying yes to something else.” Then he typed, in his adorably thought-provoking way, “Opposition.”
When our children are oppositional, they are saying “no” to one thing, such as “brush your teeth”, “get off the computer”, “time for bed”, or “finish your homework.” What’s the thing they are saying “yes” to at that moment? Of course, you might answer, more freedom to play video games, more freedom to stay up late, more freedom to watch a movie instead of finish homework. But there’s more to it than that.
When children oppose their parents, they’re also saying “yes” to their own sense of who they are. As young as 12 months, they’re wired to start opposing their parents’ requests because they are exercising their newfound will. Is this a disrespectful aspect to all children? Some may argue yes. But it’s really more helpful and less conflict producing to see it as a natural developmental phase. As adults, this is our job and we even benefit from celebrating that our kids with big wills are on the right path. We do better to support their will, rather than try to fight it.
So, you might say to me, “How do we get the bath taken in time for bed, when all they want to do is play?” The answer lies in recognizing the emerging will as a vital part of the child’s growth as a person. Acknowledging how much they want to continue to watch their favorite show, play their favorite video game, or finish up their art project, will go a long way toward gaining cooperation. Say, “You’re really into this game, I can see! I notice that you’re gaining a lot of new skills by playing it. Finish this one game and I’ll meet you in your room, ready for bed in 10 minutes.”
This approach acknowledges the child’s will to play the game and also encourages, rather than forces, the letting go. (We all know how well it turns out when we try to force a child to do something.)
Here are the 5 steps:
1. Establish a routine bedtime with your children’s input during a family meeting.
2. Tell your child exactly how you will let him or her know it’s bedtime. Have him sit in front of the computer and rehearse this aspect. Place your hand on his back if he can tolerate it, and say in a respectful tone, “See what time it is? I’ll meet you in your room in 10 minutes.” That’s all. He knows when bedtime is.
3. Just wait respectfully for him to comply. If it takes longer than you thought, rehearse again tomorrow, but don’t lecture now.
4. Give heartfelt appreciation for coming when he does. Even if it’s a few minutes late, you want to let him know he’s been successful in coming to the room. Reward what you want, and you will see more of it.
5. Have a peaceful, appreciative end to the day.
If you need coaching help with these steps, or any other parenting challenge, click here.
That’s NOT FAIR!!!
You’ve heard your kids claim this “truth” a million times. How do you get them to stop throwing fairness up as their inalienable right? It’s annoying, it feels like pressure for you as a parent, and you have no idea how to deal with it.
Here are five tips for dealing with kids who feel life is unfair:
1. This may seem a little harsh, but tell the kids, “We don’t do fair.” It’s not a realistic expectation to think that life for every child will be equal and fair, so why hold it up as a family value?
2. Listen deeply to the feelings underlying the claim of unfairness. “I imagine you are saying that because you feel your brother gets more attention than you do. Is that right?” Being comfortable with the tough feeling a child is expressing tends to neutralize it.
3. Remind the child that each person in the family is having his or her needs met to the best of your ability. We all have clothes, food, a roof over our heads, enough rules, hot water for baths, and lots of love.
4. Comparing “who gets what is a dead-end” conversation. Let the kids know that their legitimate need for material things will be met, and so will their siblings’, and it won’t always be the same or at the same time. Give examples of when the oldest got a bike first because the younger ones weren’t big enough to ride yet; the musically interested one got piano lessons, while the hockey player got skates and ice time; the dancer got ballet lessons and the one who loved Karate had lessons, too. It wasn’t the same (which kids sometimes think is “fair.”)
5. Show your kids how adults don’t live in the world of fairness, either. Every time mom buys a new pair of jeans, dad doesn’t run out and get something of equal value. You both know you’ll be able to get the clothes you need, but not at the same time, and not necessarily items that cost the same.
Part of this exercise is releasing your own thinking that everything in your child’s world should be fair. It’s an easy trap to fall into when you have more than one child. But it’s also fairly easy to correct. Just say, “We don’t do fair, but we do provide for and love each of you.”
If you’d like more information about parent coaching on this or any child-rearing topic, click here for all the details.
How to Parent Well When You Have Your Own Emotional ”Stuff”
Parents often wonder if they can actually be good for their kids when they are carrying emotional baggage from their own childhoods. They think, “How do I parent this child well when I have my own emotional stuff?” It’s a legitimate question, and I’d like to answer it from the perspective of having coached a powerful man who conquered a hard upbringing to connect, and connect well, with his grandson.
Adam was raised in a situation where his own parents didn’t take care of him, and he needed to live with other adults. The understandable resentment for this was a part of the ongoing landscape of his emotional world. And (who knows how this happens?) during his first marriage he became the step-grandpa to a now-12-year-old boy, fully responsible for him after the tragic and untimely death of his wife. When I met this fabulous grandpa, he was remarried to an absolute saint, Gretchen, who had never had children. Together, they were raising a boy who has two living parents, neither of whom took responsibility for him. Anyone who knows kids understands that this is an extremely difficult situation for a child … having two ambivalently attached parents causes mountains of questions. Why don’t they live with me and care for me? What did I do wrong to cause them to reject me? Why don’t they make it better when it seems as if they could? Why do they keep messing up? And it also results in (again, understandable) acting out that would try even the most patient adult. Yelling, screaming, pounding, refusing, swearing, leaving the house … you name it. Adam and his beloved Gretchen fielded all of this from Graydon with Herculean grace (and yes, some rough arguments).
Adam repeatedly came to me with his own questions about how to make life better at home. And as he did this, he listened intently, even at times struggling with his own deep emotions, wanting to control the boy so he didn’t remind him so much of himself. But the boy would not be controlled by the typical, “Do as I say” approach. This led to a lot of conflict.
As our time together progressed, I watched as Adam learned to put his own emotions on the shelf, not always, but often effectively enough to build a strong bond between himself and Graydon. He set limits, which was often painful for both Adam and his grandson. He created and held healthy boundaries between Graydon and his non-custodial dad and mom. He spoke of respect, instilled values, and stayed the course. He skied with Graydon, threw the ball with him, and asked him about his homework. He limited video game use and access to the phone. He encouraged friendships and facilitated outings and sleep-overs with his middle school buddies. He took Graydon on trips to see unexplored parts of the country. He sat in the stands at his basketball and baseball games, and taught him about teamwork. When he heard the coach compliment Graydon, he was sure to let him know. He accompanied his grandson to therapy appointments to help him feel safe to talk about his feelings. On my advice, he even wrote notes to Graydon, expressing the positive things that were sometimes hard to say between “guys”, but were huge in their impact. He spent special time with him every evening before bed, connecting with Graydon on an emotional level, even if they’d had a bad day. All this, with his own wounded childhood, his own feelings of rejection and anger, lurking in the background. For his grandson’s sake, he dug deep regularly, and simply put Graydon first.
I found myself in awe, wondering where he got the inner strength to parent this often rebellious, oppositional child with such love. We hear about children’s resilience in the literature, but who ever talks about grandparents’ resilience? Who makes a big deal of someone like Adam who wrestled with his demons regularly and emerged the hero for Graydon, teaching him by example that he could be better the next time?
It’s an honor to share this story. I write it as I prepare to attend Adam’s utterly untimely memorial service. Yesterday he died at age 57 with much love left to give. Adam inspired me, and I will forever feel blessed, having known him at his finest, even in the hardest moments. Graydon got the message of love from Adam, not perfectly, not every minute, but he got it. And that’s what it takes for a child to grow up emotionally healthy – one truly caring adult who, through his love, frees you up to do, and be, your best.
Parent coaching info is available at www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching.
A Great Mom’s Success Story About
Her 9-Year-Old Son
Here is a testimonial for your website. I could write all day, but I’m guessing you want it short
I felt completely hopeless as I watched my 9 year olds behavior spiral out of control. He was aggressive and violent with me and his siblings, and he was defiant at every turn. The harder we disciplined and the louder we yelled, the worse his behavior became. We were certain if our child’s behavior continued down this path that he was headed for big trouble. We knew we had to make drastic changes to our parenting style because what we were doing was not working. I had read Tina’s book in the past, and I really believed in her message. My husband and I decided to invest in coaching sessions with her, and it has changed our family life drastically within a couple of months. Our son is no longer aggressive, and everyday we keep seeing more good behavior. I feel better about myself as a mother, and it has actually strengthened my relationship with my husband because we are working together now rather than against each other. Tina’s individualized coaching sessions gave us clear direction and a framework for how to handle challenging situations as they arose. Each session with Tina was life changing for me. I learned so much about myself, the kind of parent I want to be, and the kind of family life I want for my children. I would highly recommend Tina to anyone raising an intense child!
And the same day:
I just wanted to write you an email to let you know that after our conversation today, I spoke with my son tonight about his sense of purpose. I took your advice and told him how proud I am of him for thinking about how he can use his talents to make positive changes in this world, especially at such a young age. You should have seen his response, Tina. He was beaming with pride. You could see it in his eyes. He is softer, less anxious and just overall more content with being in his own skin right now. He came from a child ridden with doubt and fear, and filled with anxiety to the point where he was up until 2 in the morning, to a child who is kissing me good-night saying I am the best mommy in the world. There is much work to be done, and it is by no means perfect, but I now have hope and I can see that there is a way out of this. And that I have the power to change this. I thank you for sharing your wisdom. I may sound like a broken record today, but I can’t tell you how grateful I am that our paths have crossed. It is very possible that you may have saved my family. You should be very proud of the work that you do. It is truly life changing.
Don’t Solve the Behavior Problem.
Solve the Real Problem.
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
Every day parents call me about their children’s behavior: “He bit the teacher at daycare.” “She won’t go to bed without manipulating every possible angle to stay up.” “He’s trying to get me to buy a cell phone and I think he’s too young. But wow, does he know how to wear me down!”
Of course, this is what I hear … I am, after all, a parent coach! I actually WANT people to tell me what’s happening with their kids, so I can help them resolve it.
But what I find interesting is that we as adults focus on the behavior, not the underlying cause. The behavior is always just the tip of the proverbial ice berg, just an indicator of something big going on underneath. When parents and teachers focus on the ice berg tip, they feel as if they have good reasons: “He’s being so disrespectful and it has to stop.” “I can’t let him just get away with talking to me (or hitting me or biting someone) like that.” The desire to stop the behavior, and stop it now for once and for all, seems overwhelmingly urgent because parents and teachers feel judged if the child in their care misbehaves. They want to get along, not fight with their kids. And they feel responsible for fixing it immediately.
Here’s where we get into trouble: we cannot make someone stop their behavior … a harsh reality, but it’s really true. From the smallest child to the oldest adult, the internal urge to behave, however badly, usually overrides the desire of someone else who wants them to stop it. So the only answer is to dig underneath to the huge slab of ice below the water and see what’s causing the tip.
It takes some time and development of skills to “read” a child to determine what underlying causes of behavior are being expressed. Mostly we’re in too much of a hurry to take this time, but when the pain gets bad enough, I find parents are very willing to spend it on finding true solutions. I am always impressed by how willing they are!
Here are a few tips on figuring out the underlying cause of behavior, so you can resolve it instead of the behavior itself:
1. “He bit the teacher.” This is a child who does not respond well to being touched when the teacher wants him “over here.” She inadvertently sparks a big response when she takes his shoulders to reposition him. Ice berg tip: He bit the teacher. Underlying cause: extreme sensitivity to touch by people who are not well-known to the child. Solution: respect his need to be told verbally what’s expected, and refrain from moving him physically. End of “bad behavior.”
2. “She won’t go to bed without manipulating every possible angle to stay up.” Ice berg tip: She delays bedtime so late that she’s missing sleep and frustrating the whole family. Underlying cause: originally, it was fear of scary things in the dark created by her very active imagination. Now it’s more of a game to see how much energy match her brain can get from her parents (although this is unconscious, it’s true. She shouldn’t be blamed, just redirected.) Solution: engage her in a conversation when it’s not bedtime, so she can hear you. Have her create a chart of the bedtime routine made of photos of herself doing each task. Rehearse bedtime so she gets a map in her brain for how it can look to go to bed without delays, arguments, nagging, and tears. Break the habit of the brain’s energy match by refusing to give emotional energy to her bedtime. Have her consult her chart, complete the tasks, and express how you are looking forward to reading a book when she’s all ready.
3. “He’s trying to get me to buy a cell phone and I think he’s too young. But wow, does he know how to wear me down!” Talk about this at a family meeting, not when your child is begging for a phone (no energy match for arguing about having one.) Give your child the benefit of trust and ask his good reasons for wanting a phone. Listen completely. Say, “Thank you for telling me those good points! Now, if you will allow me a bit to talk about it, I’d like to share how I feel.” After being respectfully heard, he’s willing to listen to you, too. Talk about the responsibility of having a phone: you pay money, you use it at appropriate times, you make sure people you don’t know have no access to your number, and you use it appropriately (repeated for emphasis.) That means you only call close friends and family, you only use it until 8 p.m., you never use it at school, you keep track of it so it doesn’t get lost, and you keep your calls to 15 minutes or less. No gabbing for hours, as each minute costs money. Ask, “Are you able to pay for the phone at this time?” And then go through each point, asking respectful questions. At the end of the discussion, if he’s not able to fulfill the requirements, assure your child that when he is old enough to pay for and manage the phone, he can certainly have one.
All of this takes thoughtful consideration on the part of parents, which means time and effort. It’s time SO well spent, as your certainty about limits and respectful approach pay off in lack of melt-downs and upset in the future. If you’d like help, let me know. Phone, Skype and In-person coaching are all options for learning these ways of approaching kids’ “ice berg tips” that are creating chaos in your home or school. To learn more about coaching, click here.
Surviving Summer with Intense Children
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, Parent Coach and Parenting Speaker
Here are some helpful hints for keeping the fun alive by reducing the potential for meltdowns, sibling arguments, and non-compliance this summer.
1. Plan ahead WITH your kids, so they know what to expect. Intense kids do not respond well to surprises. Put a calendar next to their beds, so they know what tomorrow brings.
2. Remember, there is no substitute for sleep. If your child is cranky, lying down may be the only solution. Try to avoid sleep deprivation by keeping the kids on a sleep schedule, even when they are having fun. The payoffs will be enormous.
3. Take time for yourself. Do not let all the “pulls” of summer activities wear you down. Take a relaxing bath, sit outside with no media and listen to nature, read a novel, enjoy the present moment.
4. Whenever your typically inflexible child weathers a change with no storm, give him or her heartfelt appreciation: “When you realized our plans had changed, and you stayed so calm, I was really impressed! It shows me you are able to help yourself go with the flow!” This could be right before you see her start to wind up. Any opportunity to reward success will be golden!
5. Put the kids in charge of their sibling issues. Say in advance, “I know you have disagreements sometimes, and I trust you to work them out in nice language. If you really need help, I’m here, but mostly I think you can do this.” When an issue arises, simply say, “How do you want to handle that with Christina?”
6. To kids, summer feels like the time for relaxation and NOT taking orders. Be sure to acknowledge that your children need down time, and make a point to allow for it. Say, “This is your own afternoon off, and you can do whatever you want to with it.” When the need for self-direction gets met, the willingness to take direction from others can increase.
6. Taking a trip? Give your intense child a job. Count on him for something very important, such as photos, journaling, navigation or meal planning. You’ll see excellent behavior if you make him the expert!
7. Re: the photo accompanying this article, get comfortable with dirt. It’s summer, and dirt is a sure sign your kids are engaging with nature and enjoying themselves!
Need help with your intense child? Call 651-453-0123 for professional parent coaching via phone, Skype or in person. Click here for all the details on coaching.
Copyright Tina Feigal 2011
Transforming the Challenging Bedtime
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
“How do we take the pain out of a challenging bedtime?” Among the parents I coach, I find that that this nearly- universal issue arises at some point in the coaching process. Here are some solutions to this often-frustrating everyday issue.
Set up a family meeting. Using the same technique you would with a respected adult, ask your child if she will be available at 7 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss an important issue. This gives the child a sense of being respected and also infuses a feeling of importance into a family issue. I recommend this approach for any topic that needs discussion in your family life.
Use the meeting to lay out the issue of bedtime squabbles as objectively as you can. You might say something like, “I have noticed that we are having trouble settling down without an argument at bedtime. I know that when this happens, we have frustration, delaying, yelling, and tears. The funny thing is, we go to bed every night. Let’s do what we always do, which is say it’s time for bed, go to the bathroom, brush teeth, put on our p.j.s read a story, say good night, and turn off the light. Only let’s do that without the yelling! Would you kids like that? “Yes!” will be the reply. Then ask, “What ideas do you have that might help our bedtime go more smoothly? What do you think the rules should be?”
Use Present Moment Parenting for bedtime behavior management. Establish the rules for bedtimes with the child’s input. Rules should start with “no”: no getting out of bed once the light is out, no asking for more time, no stalling, no negotiating, no whining, no bothering your sister, no crying, no excuses. Children know what the rules are, and the ones they offer will typically be more stringent than yours. Use the child’s rules religiously whenever practical, as this creates buy-in, which strengthens the likelihood that the rules will be followed. The clearer the rules are, the easier it is for the child to follow them. Practice the bedtime routine when it’s not bedtime to help the child get a map in her brain for how it’s supposed to look. This is great fun for the kids, and it increases the likelihood of buy-in, in the same way as creating the rules.
If a rule is broken, there is an immediate, non-negotiable break. A gentle, unemotional “broke a rule take a break”, is all that’s needed. The break should take place in the bed, since that is where the child needs to be, and should last 30 seconds. No energy (no talking, no negotiating, no engagement of any sort) should be directed to the child during the break. If the child refuses to take a break, say, “The break starts when you are calm, and as soon as you make it start, it can end,” with the firm conviction that you have decided that it is bedtime, and there will be no change in your decision. This system builds a sense of security in the child. It implies that you are in charge, and also that you have complete faith that she can go to sleep on her own.
All requests for behavior should start with, “I need you to” rather than questions such as, “Would you please” or “Would you like to” which imply a choice. Remember, when you are clear and certain, you are giving your child a huge gift. It may take a few nights of this clarity for the child to adjust to the routine, but it will be well worth the effort. Every minute you spend making this work now will pay off significantly in the future. You are teaching your child that she can go to sleep on her own just like a big person. This is very valuable information for her, as it will help her to believe in herself in other areas, too.
For steps that are completed with cooperation, use heartfelt appreciation to show that you are noticing and valuing her actions. This creates a powerful heart-to-brain neural pathway for goodness, which strengthens the desired behavior significantly. You might say, “I see that you have your teeth brushed and are headed for your room. Thank you so much for following our plan, Kristi. Every time you do this stuff, I feel like you are making this house such a wonderful place to live!” Using the formula “When you … I feel … because …” for this feedback makes remembering how to deliver it much easier. (For more information on Present Moment Parenting, visit www.parentingmojo.com.)
Set a definite bedtime. Younger children should go to bed earlier than the older ones if there is an age difference of two years or more. Usually a half hour is ample time to separate the two bedtimes. If you have four or more children, you may want to make bedtime more uniform so that you assure your adult time at the end of the day. This is very important. Knowing that you, as a single parent or with your spouse or partner, can definitely count on some winding down time helps you to handle the challenges that will come tomorrow. Do not consider this optional. You need your time alone or time together. It is very good modeling for your children, as well. They need to know that time to oneself or as a couple is vital to healthy adult living, and that it also ensures that mom and dad will be in a much better mood tomorrow.
Include any special rituals in the bedtime routine that the children deem important, and that are acceptable to you. Rituals might be as simple as: wash your face and brush your teeth, take a drink of water, put on p.j.s, say goodnight to the fish, read with mom or dad, settle in for sleep. To communicate respect for her process, indicate that you are as bought in to the ritual as is the child; be sure to remind her to say goodnight to the fish if she forgets. Rituals are very important for children’s transition to the next activity, especially at bedtime. They provide a sense of continuity and comfort, which is vitally important to raising healthy kids. Reading together is my favorite bedtime ritual, as it points out that you value reading and learning, it offers a great opportunity for snuggling, and most important, it truly allows the child to feel your slowed-down, caring energy.
Requests for extending the reading time will be lovingly denied when lights out time has arrived. Make a comment such as, “It makes me so proud to see that you love to read this much, Honey, but tomorrow is another day, and you can read during any free time you have. Now I need to see the light out. Good night. I love you very much.”
Then leave the room and consider the day with children completed (unless, of course, there is a true illness.)
If your child has a problem with separating from you or with nightmares, here are a few options to consider: Place a nightlight in the child’s room. As part of including your child in the solution, have him go with you to the store and pick out a special one. Some nightlights are in the shape of child-friendly characters, but young imaginations can turn them ugly in the night. Neutral nightlights are probably the best. Some have fragrances that can be calming, but they do run out of scent. You may avoid trouble by buying two or three, so that there is always a back-up on hand.
When my youngest son was four years old, he had severe nightmares and was afraid to go to sleep. A friend gave me some room spray that made dreams sweet and not scary. We sprayed the room every night for a few months, and that, with some gentle reassurance, took care of the nightmares. Any type of pleasant spray can serve the purpose. Of course, if your child has sensitivities to chemicals, perfumes, or odors, you will want to avoid this one. Dream catchers are Native American creations in which small hoops with weavings, beads, and feathers, serve to filter out the bad dreams and only allow the good ones. They are wonderful, durable devices for helping children make the transition into a restful night’s sleep. They are fun and easy to make, as well!
Use lovies (dolls, stuffed animals, blankets) generously. Assigning characteristics to them gives the child a sense of control over the night. “My bear knows how to scare away the monsters” is a good indicator of coping in the child whose ability to tell truth from reality is not yet fully developed (typically after age four.) “My dolly can help me dream good dreams” is another helpful statement of empowerment over the night’s threatening feelings. If your child has not ascribed these characteristics to the stuffed animal of choice, it is all right to gently suggest them. “Do you know that this doll came with instructions that said it can help kids sleep well?” Never take away, or threaten to take away, an object that comforts the child at night for any reason. A break is always a better choice for helping the child to gain control of her behavior.
If the child seems too old for the blanket, doll, or stuffed animal, do not be the one to decide whether it is time to give it up. That decision is the child’s, and will be made when he or she is ready. It hurts no one for him to hang on until it’s time to let go, and may be a crucial aide in his emotional development. And never make a decision about the appropriateness of a lovie based on the child’s gender. Little boys who love baby dolls and little girls who carry around their G.I. Joes need the same love and acceptance as their counterparts who depend on same-gender lovies. A positive approach is to ask after the well being of the lovie. “How is Lucy Light today? Have you and she been having fun while I was away?” If spending the night at a friend’s house with the lovie becomes an issue, leave the decision about whether to take the lovie along to the child. Many friends are relieved to see their buddies unpack their lovies when bedtime arrives. It indicates that they are all part of the same “child club” still in need of certain comforts at night. If your child does receive some ridicule for having the lovie along, she can decide what to do about it. She may want to come home, or she may keep the lovie with her and let the ridicule go. She may decide to put it back into her bag for the night. Trust your child’s sense of what will keep her the most comfortable in the situation, and assure her that she can call you to consult on it at any time.
An example of implementing the plan:
Alan and Alicia Elberg had had it with their children, Madison, age 6, and Josh, 11, at bedtime. They were in a constant state of disruption and sleep deprivation especially from Josh’s behavior. He was getting out of bed after lights out, arguing that he was not being treated fairly, saying he was scared, and insisting on more water and food. By the time the battles had been fought over each of these issues, Alan and Alicia were so exhausted and angry that they were at the end of their rope. They were open to any and all suggestions, and decided to give Present Moment Parenting a try.
The Elbergs had their first family meeting, and included their children in creating solutions for the bedtime routine. They made sure that they paid close attention to the input and used a talking piece for the meeting. Whoever has the talking piece at the moment gets the full attention of the others with no interruptions. When finished, that person passes the talking piece to the next person and then gives him full, uninterrupted attention. The talking piece serves as a powerful physical symbol of respect for children and adults alike. The Elbergs wrote down all ideas and used ideas from each family member in their final plan. Josh, who has had the most trouble settling in to bed without conflict, suggested that Alicia or Alan give a ten-minute warning before bedtime. Madison said that she would like the warning to be given in a quiet voice. Alicia responded to their input by saying, “I notice that you are really thinking hard about ways to make our household happy at bedtime. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate hearing your ideas. I wouldn’t have thought of some of them myself. That’s what makes all of these thinkers together so valuable!” Alan contributed the phrase, “I need you to get ready for bed” as the signal for bedtime and said it would be delivered only once. Alicia added that there would be a break for anyone who doesn’t listen. She set the start of bedtime preparation at 7:30 for Madison and 8:00 for Josh, with lights out at 8:00 and 8:30 respectively, and all agreed on the plan.
The Elbergs wrote out the kids’ rules that started with “no.” Their list included no whining, no dawdling, and no getting out of bed, no bothering your sibling, no calling for mom or dad, no arguing, and no excuses. Although these rules struck Alicia and Alan as a bit more harsh than they had envisioned, they thought about the pleasant nature of an evening without these behaviors, and decided to go for it. Each child gave input to the bathroom routine, which ended up with Madison brushing her teeth and using the bathroom first, and Josh following with a nighttime shower to make the morning routine more simple. Madison added, “I want to say prayers with daddy every night, and I want to sleep with my new stuffed giraffe.” Josh said, “I want mom to help me set out my clothes every night so I don’t have to decide in the morning. That will be a lot quicker.” Contingency plans were created for evenings when Alan or Alicia would not be home at bedtime. Alan and Alicia stated that they would read or tell stories with each child, and that they would alternate reading with them. Dad would read a page and Madison would read a sentence, and mom and Josh would work out their plan as they went. A three-minute back-rub for Josh and a head-rub for Madison completed the plan for the nightly routine.
The Elbergs decided that lights would go out at the designated time and that Alan and Alicia will continue with their evening’s activities. If Madison or Josh breaks a rule, s/he will serve a break in the bed with no discussion at all, other than, “Broke a rule, take a break.” Alan or Alicia will be present in the room for the break to monitor it, but will not have any interaction with the child. After the break is completed, the parent will leave the room. (These steps may have to be repeated several times at first, until the child realizes that there is no emotional energy from the parent for breaking a rule.)
Alan and Alicia expressed their heartfelt appreciation for a great meeting to both children and to each other. They followed through with more appreciative expressions the next morning by saying, “I just love it that this is the way we do bedtimes now! I woke up so full of energy today and it looks like you did, too! You kids are the greatest.”
For many parents who read this, the preceding may look like a lot of extra work. No doubt it is extra energy out-put, but the amount of energy is about the same as the energy expended on negativity, and in contrast, it actually results in great improvements! Parents soon realize that the forethought and follow-through they give to bedtimes pay off in a huge way, and they get hooked. And once the children realize that their bedtime routine is solid and predictable, their need to test the limits diminishes significantly, and the chaotic bedtime scenes subside. There is, of course, no guarantee that every single night will be quiet and serene, but progress toward that vision is very possible. Parents who put in the effort toward planning bedtimes and thoughtfully implementing their plans say that it is well worth it when they realize the rewards: peaceful evenings, well-rested children and happy parents!
Copyright © Tina Feigal 2011
Avoid Overindulging Your
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, Parenting Coach and Speaker
As we all know, it is remarkably easy to give in to the demands of an intense child, just to create peace for one moment! You are with relatives, and know that a fit could occur if you remain firm, so you take the path of least resistance. Or you are at home, and need to get out the door for a soccer game or doctor’s appointment. You give in to the child who refuses to get into the car by over-promising something you can’t or don’t want to deliver. We know that all of this can undermine your authority, leaving you to feel guilty about being an ineffective parent, but what is going on for the child? Author and researcher Jeanne Illsley Clarke has found that as overindulged children grow into adulthood, they are burdened with lowered self-esteem as parents, dysfunctional attitudes, and decreased adaptability in the family.
So what can we do to help children grow into healthy, loving adults? How can we prepare them now for their future roles as workers, parents, and spouses? One technique is to be sure that kids feel needed. Recognize that being needed is a basic human need in itself. Create roles for each child, based on their strengths, and uphold those roles as special and necessary whenever you can. Use their talents and strengths in real-life situations, where you actually need help. If you feel you can get it done better and faster by doing it yourself, even though your child could do it, stop yourself right there. Whenever that feeling comes over you, remember that it is a warning sign that you might be missing an opportunity to give your child what she needs. It’s time to slow down now, offer the child a chance to perform a task she’s good at, and pat yourself on the back for assuring her happy adulthood.
Another way to help children avoid the pitfalls of overindulgence is to plan ahead for challenging situations. If you have the decisions made in advance about whether you are going to leave the store with a toy, or without a toy, you are relieved of the possibility of an argument. If your child resists your already-made decision, remain cool and sure of yourself. “We made that decision already,” is all you need to say. Have the child have a do-over or take a break if he argues further.
You may also want to check the calendar to see if you might be overindulging your kids. If you are giving all your time to their activities, and have no time for your spouse or significant other (or yourself), that’s a good sign that things need adjusting. It is REMARKABLY EASY to get into the mindset that if my child isn’t in every conceivable activity in the third grade, he will miss out on something vital to his happiness. It’s just not so. Overindulgence causes him to miss out on something vital to his happiness … the ability to entertain himself in his own way. Decrease the amount of outside activity; give your children time, art supplies, and space. Turn off the TV, set some expectations for an afternoon of creativity, and watch what happens.
Let go of any guilt for possible overindulgence you might have used in the past. It’s a natural response to having a challenging child, without exception. But with new information to motivate your actions, make a plan for reducing overindulgence and bringing balance back to life.
And as always, let me know if you could use some personalized coaching on this topic. Visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching or call 651-453-0123 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting for an appointment.
Using the Present Moment to Parent Your
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Don’t drag the past into the present moment. Do your best to see the child as “brand new” right now, because she is brand new in every moment. So instead of fearing her next move, and telegraphing your fear with your tone of voice and body language, assume her goodness. It’s amazing what a huge effect this has on the child.
It’s 5:30 p.m. Thirteen-year-old Ava approaches her mom, Sara, who is preparing dinner in the kitchen. For the past three days, Ava has been cranky, mouthy, belligerent and nasty. Sara steels herself, with subtle body stiffening, for Ava’s upcoming comment about something that’s upsetting her. Sara doesn’t turn to Ava, but just stays facing the cake batter on the counter with a firm resolve not to engage her daughter.
Picking up on her mom’s subtle cues, Ava immediately feels rejection. She then lays into her mother with, “Where’s my blue fleece? I can’t find it anywhere! What did you do with it?” Sara has just had her fear realized, and responds with a defensive, “Ava, I’ve told you a thousand times that I am not in charge of your clothes. If you can’t find your fleece, look again. That room is such a mess, I’m not surprised it’s hard to find things.”
Ava has had her fear realized, too, and responds defensively with, “You are always blaming me for things that are not my fault! I just think you did the laundry and lost my fleece in some other drawer, and now you’re afraid to admit it! I wish I didn’t live in this house!”
“Listen to me young lady! You are not allowed to speak to me like that. You have been creating havoc in this house for three days, and I am sick and tired of it! Until you can learn to appreciate living here, you’re grounded!”
“Oh great. This is the worst place in the world, and now you are making me stay here? I’m leaving, and you can’t make me stay.” Ava storms through the back door, leaving Sara at once furious and relieved. “Good! Stay away all night if you want!”
The cycle of angry communication, fueled on thoughts of the past, has just widened the rift between mom and daughter.
Let’s replay this situation with Present Moment Parenting. Sara has learned to avoid dragging the past three days of strife into this moment, realizing that the present can be what she wants it to be with a tiny change in perspective. She remembers, “The present moment is all we have,” which generates a very different response when Ava approaches.
Sara is standing in the kitchen, preparing the carrots for dinner. She is remembering that Ava has had a rough few days, and she wonders what could be bothering her. She decides to find out, and make use of the present moment when it occurs.
Ava comes into the room, sensing that her mom is relaxed, but being stressed herself, she says the same accusatory thing: “Where’s my blue fleece? I can’t find it anywhere! What did you do with it?”
Staying in the present moment, refraining from dragging her fear of the past few days into this conversation, Sara responds with: “I love that blue fleece on you. It’s the perfect color. The last time I saw it, it was in the family room on the hook by the door.” Ava now has an “in” to speak to her mom calmly in this moment. Her defenses have not been triggered, and she can respond with kindness, even though she’s been stressed.
“Thanks, Mom. I’ll look there.”
Sara sets up an “appointment” to find out what’s bothering Ava, weaving it into an activity:
“OK, and when you find it, would you come back and see me? I need your cooking talent tonight. Do you think this cake would be better as a full size cake or cupcakes?”
“Sure. I’ll be back in a second.” She returns, blue fleece slung over her shoulders.
“OK , we’re having the little cousins over, so which kind of cake do you think would work best?”
“I like cupcakes.”
“I’m happy to have you decide, because all day I’ve been making 1,000 decisions, and my decider is worn out. Thanks a ton.”
“I need help deciding something, too. Does your decider still work, or should I wait?”
“Let’s give it a shot, and I’ll let you know.”
“OK, I have been thinking about this boy in my class. He seems to like me, and I like him, but I’ve noticed the other kids making fun of him. I’m not sure how to handle this, because I don’t want to lose those other friends, but I really think this guy is cute and I want to get to know him better.”
“Good thing I don’t have to decide on this one. I think you are going to be the one who does the deciding, but I can help you think about it.” Sara embarks on an interview with Ava about what’s attractive about this cute boy. She’s staying in the present moment, taking Ava just as she is now, and creating a beautiful, safe landing-place for their conversation. My guess is that Ava’s recent crankiness is caused by worry about what to do with the boy situation, but she just didn’t know how to bring it up.
Sara has done a masterful job of staying in the present moment, and can now help Ava to resolve the issue. She’s done more than that, though; she’s also built a stronger bridge to her daughter for the next time she notices that she’s in need of some good “mom time.”
The present moment is enomously effective in healing the relationship with a troubled teen, or any child for that matter. To learn more about applying the present moment through parent coaching, click here.
Adolescence: The Great Cookie Challenge
Copyright ©2011 Tina Feigal
During a recent coaching call, my client related the story of her 11-year-old gifted son with ADHD. He had come home from school, and immediately loaded a platter of cookies, poured a tumbler of milk, and was heading to watch TV. His mother’s comment was, “I don’t think so…that homework has to be done!” What ensued was a huge battle, complete with name calling of the most horrible kind, mom getting shoved, and a call dad, (the parents are divorced, but communicating regularly about their parenting) who came right over and gave his lecture and heated attention to the infraction. The son ended his day with a sense of complete guilt, failure, and disconnectedness from both parents.
I offered my thoughts on how this scene could have been avoided.
First, instead of challenging the 11-year-old holding cookies and milk, see that after a stressful day at school, he can benefit from some comfort in the food form and some down time in front of mindless (but please, appropriate!) TV. Notice the child in the present moment, and then ask a question, rather than deliver a command. A better comment might be, “That platter of cookies looks like exactly the thing a sixth-grader needs after a day at school.” The mom now has her son’s open, non-defended attention, even in the era of adolescence. The question is received more positively: “What’s your plan for homework when you’re done with your snack?”
This question does two things. It forwards the action, and it assumes the child’s responsibility for his own homework. This is crucial. With one foot in adulthood, and another in childhood, the sixth grader needs to have affirmations of his own self-efficacy whenever possible. It also helps him develop his sense of responsibility. The adolescent is not ONE thing. He is fifty things, including a developing being. You facilitate his healthy development by assuming his responsible actions (he may not have known how responsibly he was going to handle his homework before his mom phrased the question this way. It’s all happening at the same time…the development, the attitude formation, and the plan!) Furthermore, you predict his success by forwarding the action. One little well-phrased comment can turn a huge name-calling shove-fest into a moment of enhanced self-esteem and responsibility. We get to choose.
After years of training in authoritarian “teach the child a lesson” approaches, we need to unlearn our knee-jerk reactions to kids in adolescence who look as if they are misbehaving, and learn a whole new way of relating to them. Instead of playing the behavior police by correcting the infraction, we need to take the bigger view. An adolescent is an EXTREMELY self-conscious being. It’s as if a huge search light is on him at all times. His body is changing, his thought processes are changing, and his whole being feels a bit unfamiliar. No wonder he feels self-conscious during adolescence. If he doesn’t even know who he is, he can hardly defend himself against the ill-informed opinions of adults and peers.
So an adolescent needs understanding. He is neither child nor adult, but a fluctuating, spinning, hormone-ridden, uncertain, fabulous, loving, angry, open, close-minded baby adult. He will give you the finger and call you a name that makes your blood boil one minute and climb into your lap the next. During this phase of adolescence, a human being needs empathy, not judgment.
At the end of our coaching session, my client asked me, “What’s my mantra?”
My answer is three-fold: “Don’t judge. Ask: What does he need to learn? Teach him that.”
Copyright © Tina Feigal 2011
For parent coaching help with your children in adolescence, call 651-453-0123.
To Change the Behavior, Change the Child’s
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
Children of all ages are motivated by their internal urges (hunger, fatigue, mood, preference) which are influenced by outside forces (time constraints, siblings, friends, parents, grandparents, and teachers.) We forget that the internal urges and outside forces are frequently out of sync. To gain the best cooperation possible, our own instincts tell us that we should deliver the expectation, and the child should comply, and if compliance doesn’t occur, we should use anger to make it occur. As we fail to consider the child’s inner urges, and only consider our own perspective, we keep running the same script over and over with no improvements. A simple request turns into a major tantrum or disrespectful scene, and behavioral storm clouds start to gather. Harsh language, slamming doors, threats, and physical attacks follow what parents thought was a reasonable request. What happened here?
To know the answer to this question, we need to study the child for signs of what’s motivating him or her, in other words, what are his current internal urges? Often some internal negative message, such as “I’m not a good kid, so why should I act like one?” or “I only want my way, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks,” make a child behave the way he does. When a child feels this down, compliance is just not in the offing.
Considering the motivation for behavior is a much better way to actually get the results we want. Now some people think this might be coddling the child. I would argue that with all human beings, listening to internal motivation results in better performance, so why not use this in parenting difficult children? The real “magic” here is to lift the child up so that he feels seen.
Children with ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Attachment Disorder, Giftedness, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and a variety of just plain hard behavior need to be regarded as having their own internal agenda, based on the messages from children’s bodies. If we fail to see them as having these internal urges, we will be in non-stop combat mode.
So the next time you have a request, consider the child’s internal urges before you deliver it, and include an acknowledgement of the child’s inner state in your words. It can look like this: “I realize you hate to be rushed, so I am going to allow extra time for us to get out the door in the morning. You can take your time getting up and dressed, so you can feel more relaxed. We can leave at 7:30 without having to hurry.” The child’s ability to comply is directly related to the amount of sensitivity to his internal urges. The outside force of the need to be on time for school, camp, or practice now seems less foreboding, and he is free to cooperate. You feel better, too, knowing you have a technique to use that’s compassionate and gets positive results.
To create success with your child at home, click here to learn about parent coaching.
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
What Your Child Can’t Tell You
It’s essentially a short-cut. If you want cooperative behavior from your kids, take the short-cut by training your mind to see what’s beneath the communication. Practice seeing your child’s innocence first, and working to understand what lies beneath the foul language, the time spent with the door locked, and the “interesting” style of dress. You will find a vulnerable, changing child who simply doesn’t have insight yet. That’s our job as adults … to gain the insight and act accordingly.
Rather than exhibit anger over disrespectful behavior, acknowledge there’s an emotion that the child cannot express directly lying just under the surface. Kids get hurt a lot easier than most adults realize, so they are compelled to protect their tender hearts by lashing out. If we don’t give them cause to protect themselves (by seeing what’s really going on) they won’t have to be so defensive.
So the next time you see a child “acting out”, ask yourself what’s being communicated. It will be an emotion that the child is too young or too immature to express directly, such as hurt, frustration, disappointment, hopelessness, or something else you can help to identify. Then address the child in those terms, rather than with your own irritation. Say, “You seem upset. Want to tell me what’s up?” or “How about you take some time in your own room until you feel better and we can talk?” or “I remember being your age and feeling that same way. Sit down, and let’s try to make this better together.” You are getting to the root emotion, rather than placing judgment on the child’s behavior. Congratulations! You are on the short-cut to better communication and better behavior with your child.
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
On November 8, 1895, German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was working with his cathode ray generator when he accidentally discovered that it cast an unusual image. A week later, he decided to take an X-ray of his wife’s hand, through which her bones and wedding ring were clearly revealed! The general public and the scientific community were captivated. Röntgen named his discovery “X-radiation”, with the X meaning “unknown”. Today we know these highly useful images as “X-rays.”
In times past, physicians were hard-pressed to come up with theories about what caused symptoms in their patients. X-rays opened up a whole new way of seeing into the body, where broken bones and masses could be visualized, ushering in a world of previously unknown treatments.
Fast forward to 2011, and the idea of seeing into the emotional/behavioral world of children with X-ray vision, while still in its infancy, is starting to catch on. No longer do we simply look at the “outside” of opposition, the the child’s behavior, for answers on how to make it better. We now use emotional X-ray vision to see what’s occurring within the oppositional child. Similar to exploring the physical body, by taking a look inside, we can find the answers to healing.
In the absence of a machine, we are called upon to develop our emotional X-ray skills through our own internal insight into opposition. Since we adults have a wide range of talent when it comes to insight, this is a much messier process than taking X-radiation pictures. But once coached, we find that it’s not as hard as it seems to see where negative child behavior originates. Here’s a primer on seeing into the emotional source of oppositional behaviors:
1. “I hate you”, when X-rayed, is revealed as a statement of frustration. When we treat the frustration with patience, rather than focus on the words, the “hate” dissipates.
2. “You are so stupid”, when X-rayed, is revealed as a call for understanding. When we treat this symptom with deep listening, the bratty behavior evaporates.
3. “I hate myself”, when X-rayed, is revealed as a profound sense of failure. When we treat it with believing in the child’s fundamental goodness, it can be resolved.
4. “Get out of my life”, when X-rayed, is revealed as opposition due to a sense of isolation. When we connect using written notes, a bridge to the child forms, allowing us a path toward a healing connection.
5. “You can’t make me”, when X-rayed, is revealed as insecurity. When we treat it with trust in the child’s abilities (grown-up tasks), we encourage confidence.
X-raying children’s emotions seems like drudgery in this electronic world of fast information from our I-phones. We often don’t have the patience to understand where the behavior comes from; we just want it improved, and immediately. But the naked truth is, oppositional children need patient guidance, which takes time and focused attention. And oppositional behavior is not that hard to overcome, once we stop looking at the outside and hone our X-rays in on the right spot. Parent coaching can help you install your internal emotional X-ray machine. You’ll find the benefits of seeing into opposition enormous, and the results as effective as high-tech surgery.
Avoid Triggering Oppositional Defiance
Sharina Christianson is at her wit’s end with her 9-year-old son Michael’s escalating tantrums and oppositional defiance.
Every time she attempts to gain his cooperation, she knows she is in for a fight. Sharina is desperate for ways to create peace in her family life.From life with my own oppositional child, and working with parents, teachers, and kids in schools, I’ve come up with these hints that can bring real relief:
1) Realize that Michael has oppositional defiance triggers inside that are nearly beyond his control. Saying “you have to” and even just “you” serve as the triggers. Avoid the use of “you” whenever possible.
2) Michael is COMPELLED to oppose you. He does not know how to individuate (become fully himself) gently. He must tell you that you are wrong in order to know himself as separate from you. Your job is to teach him that he is himself, and no one else can ever be him. Appreciate his unique characteristics, and use his talents in daily living. “You are so good at math. Will you help me check the restaurant bill?”
3) Keep in mind that every time you speak to Michael, his brain is watching for something to oppose. Avoid baiting his brain as a strategy to prevent oppositional defiance.
Use language that forwards the action beyond the immediate event to alleviate oppositional defiance
4) Mention a pleasant activity just ahead, or give Michael a grown-up task. The former keeps the focus on positives, and the latter supports his individuation by demonstrating that you trust his abilities. “Brush your teeth right now, or there will be no story tonight,” is replaced by “After you brush your teeth, I’m ready to read your story.” “Get into the car right now, or we won’t be shopping for the toy you wanted” is replaced by, “When we get into the car, I’ll need your help with directions to that new store.”
5) Engage Michael’s problem-solving abilities rather than telling him what to do. Ask questions to prevent oppositional defiance. “You just took the last dessert. Now you have to put that back,” is replaced by “Please check around and notice who didn’t have dessert yet. What needs to happen next?” “It’s not your turn to talk right now,” is replaced by “What’s our rule about letting other people finish speaking?” This encourages Michael to use his own reasoning, which leads him to less dependence on you and more trust in his own abilities.
6) Avoid using the child’s name at the beginning of a request. “Michael, you need to get get your pajamas on right now,” just immediately sets his brain up for oppositional defiance. Instead, say “It’s 8:00. What do you think happens now?” If he plays a “word game” with you, go ahead and entertain him with it for awhile if he is the type of child who can be “jollied” into cooperation. It’s fine to use humor with your child, even when it’s important that he go to bed. Levity helps people cooperate. Arbitrary treatment causes them to rebel. If he is not the type who can maintain control when you ask him “What should happen now?” then just say, “Time for bed, Everyone! Who gets to turn the TV off tonight? Whose turn is it to turn off the lights? Who is on dog duty this week?” This forwards the action and allows the child to cooperate without the challenge of a command.
7) Pat yourself on the back when you are successful in following the steps above. Give yourself small healthy rewards as you improve. (Take a bubble bath; let your schedule have some down time in it; say “no” to a possible commitment, and feel good about it.)
To keep up her progress with Michael, Sharina counts on her weekly phone coaching calls. She shares her challenges and I help her stay on track, offering support for the successes she sometimes misses. Sharina notices that she is helping Michael to improve, and that their home is noticeably more peaceful. She now receives credit for the small victories as she sees Michael’s oppositional defiance disappear and the successes emerge!
Click here for more on parent coaching.