Archive for the ‘Oppositional Defiance’ Category

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

How Can I Tell if My Child Has Trauma Effects?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Holidays with Your Intense Child

Holidays with Your Intense Child

Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Copyright  © 2016

Holidays with your intense child can cause a great deal of discomfort.  You’re concerned about keeping things socially acceptable, you would rather not see “that look” on your sister-in-law’s face, and staying home in front of the TV never felt so appealing. But on you go, feeling the pull of family responsibility, not wanting to disappoint people – still knowing you will, because it’s almost impossible to take your child anywhere without a scene.

This holiday season, it’s time to get a handle on visiting others and helping your child maintain some semblance of civility.

Here are five tips for surviving, and even enjoying, the holidays with your intense child.  Yes, it’s possible, and no, you don’t need therapy or medication to get there.

  1. Talk in advance with your child about how it will be at the relatives’ house this holiday. Recall what it felt like last year and take note of how she talks about it.
  2. Consider that sensory issues are at the core of the misbehavior you see in your child.  Too many smells mingling, sparkly things and bright snow, tags in new clothes, sounds of people all talking at once, proximity of other bodies, and the taste of unfamiliar foods can throw a child into a state of complete undoing.
  3. Make a plan to decrease the sensory input for your child. Ask her what would feel good: would you like to go somewhere in the house if it gets to be too much?  How about spending time under mom’s big jacket? What breathing exercises would you like to do to calm yourself?  Focus her on special gift giving, so her attention is on others instead of herself.
  4. Decrease expectations for your child’s participation and ask others to do the same.  Remember that intense behavior such as tantrums come from being overwhelmed.  If you’ve already had a lot of excitement before the big gathering, your child may be simply unable to take more input. Ask for understanding, explaining that “She just has trouble with too much stimulation at once. We’ve made a plan, and I hope you can support us in it.”
  5. Go to her frequently throughout the visit to give her positive statements about how well she’s doing.  “When you take care of yourself while we’re at Aunt Sarah’s, I feel so proud of you.” “When you joined us for that little chat in the living room and gave out your ornaments, I could tell Grandma really enjoyed it.”  “When you were able to play with your little cousin in the den, I know it meant a lot to her.”

These statements help your child stay on a “string of successes.”  She will respond with more successes, as you are causing a response in her body that says, “I am good at this.”  The better she feels about how she’s doing, the more she’ll do it!

This may just be a great opportunity to come away with a successful visit, which you can talk about with your child, strengthening the bond between you along with her ability to cope! Enjoy your holiday with your intense child!

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

 

PostHeaderIcon 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 This is Quick. Don’t Praise Your Child.

This is Quick. Don’t Praise Your Child.

I imagine you found that headline kind of odd.  Isn’t conventional parenting wisdom all about being positive? Sure it is, but one thing sticks out with being positive. Sometimes we overdo the positives to the point that children can’t live their lives without looking to us for approval. And when we praise, we may fall into the comparison trap, creating kids who are anxious and perfectionistic all the time because they weren’t the BEST at art or baseball or swimming or gymnastics or reading.

We all know kids who give new things one small try and give up.  It’s so frustrating as a parent, because we’re supposed to encourage new things! When  they don’t even try, how are we supposed to do our job?

First, let go a little. Let your child experiment with success and failure. The best teacher is trying and not doing so well, so let her have that teacher. It’s not a reflection on you if she fails and tries again, but she won’t try again if you are monitoring her too closely. She deserves her space and autonomy in her learning world, so don’t stand in the way.

Second, understand that she may be 5, and may not have done her gym or dance routine perfectly, but that’s childhood.  Allow it.  Don’t comment on it. Just let it be.  Don’t even say, “Did you have fun?” every single time.  We are in danger of making “fun” a parental expectation, which takes the fun right out of it!

Third, an 11-year-old is not an 11-year-old is not an 11-year-old.  They vary a LOT.  So if you see others whose children are nimbly rock climbing at 11, absolutely resist the temptation to make sure yours does that, too. Instead appreciate who he actually is, and what he actually likes.  He’s not on this planet to make your parenting persona look good. Sorry, he’s just not. You’ll be a lot happier with your child if you just observe his strengths and encourage, even admire, them.

Fourth, watch what you say within earshot. It’s vitally important to express any negative thoughts about your child where he doesn’t hear them, IF your thoughts are a signal that you need an attitude adjustment. Don’t include your child in that.

Fifth, instead of praise, which usually involves some type of comparison, offer heartfelt appreciation. “When you … I feel … because … ” is a relationship-builder, not a corrective action.  Kids can definitely feel the difference.  And voila!  With heartfelt appreciation, they have room to grow into their true selves!  Everyone wins!

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

 

PostHeaderIcon When Children “Take care of” Their Parents and Siblings

When Children “Take care of” Their Parents and Siblings

I had this question from a foster mom yesterday.  “Should I be all right with my child comforting me and apologizing when we’ve had a disagreement, and there’s been some yelling?”

My answer is, mostly “yes.” But with some caveats.

Some children become “parentified” when they have lived in less-than-healthy situations.  If at a young age, their parent(s) have not fulfilled their emotional and physical needs, children will naturally take on the role of the “missing” need-fulfiller. This can be true whether the parent is present or not.  If the parent has mental health needs of his or her own, is abusing drugs to mask emotional pain, is too busy with work, or is physically not able to take care of the child, the child’s unconscious response is: “Someone has to do this. It must be me.”

Note that I said, “unconscious response.”  This is not a choice on the child’s part, but rather an automatic physiological mechanism. So often I hear the phrase, “She’s trying to manipulate the situation by being the ‘little mother.'” Believe me, if she’d had a mother who was able to do her job, she would have remained in the child role.  Yes, some well-loved children are just natural care-takers, and they are not the ones I am discussing here.  I’m talking about the ones who become extremely uncomfortable with adults caring for the younger siblings, or for themselves.

These children will rush to take care of everyone’s needs, without prompting.  They seem blind to their own needs, as well, and can’t seem to even think about them, let alone attend to them.  When prompted to care for themselves, and not get involved in others’ business, they respond anxiously with, “She needed me!” or “I have to take care of him!” If a new adult says, “You can relax.  I have it now,” this child will become very agitated and confused. This is not obstinance, but a normal reaction for a child who has seen a lack and tried, in his or her own way, to fulfill it.

Children will often act as their siblings’ disciplinarian. At first glance, one could judge the child as unduly harsh with the sibling, and label him or her “mean” or “controlling.”  What’s really happening is that the child again feels an internal imperative to protect the younger ones, and is not mature enough to determine which situations require intense warning, and which ones are not really dangerous. This is natural, as it addresses fundamental safety, and yet it needs intervention.

Another way we see this expressed is when a parent has not met the child’s needs, and the child insists on defending the parent. Even when no one is trying to blame the parent, the child is defensive, guarded, and secretive. The imperative to protect one’s parent is STRONG, as the foundational relationship was, at its onset, representative of the child’s very survival. To engage in criticism of that parent strikes a cord of disloyalty that the child cannot tolerate, as it implies a threat to the child’s survival that was established in infancy, pre-memory.

How do we help kids who seem overprotective of their adults or siblings?

  1. First, avoid asking the child to calm down. That will only escalate the issue, as he or she cannot just calm down on command after building protective responses over time.
  2. Second, build trust with the child.  Act as the adult, guiding decisions and providing structure. Regular bedtimes and meals may be foreign to the child, but over time they provide security.
  3. Third, ask the child’s advice on the sibling’s care. If you are new to this sibling group, the older child, most often, IS the expert on the younger ones, and can provide good information. Sometimes it will be immature, and you’ll have to say, “That’s a great idea.  And to be sure he’s safe, let’s also put these sturdy shoes on him.”
  4. If the child is caretaking to an adult, show appreciation for the care, and then ask, “Do you think I might be able to handle it from here?” or “Do you think she’s grown up enough to make her way through this?” Always start with appreciation, and then ask a question that draws out the child’s intelligence. If the parent has not proven to be adult enough, empathize with the child that it’s uncomfortable to watch him struggle.  Also, lightly let him or her know that each person has to find his way, but don’t get into a big discussion about it.
  5. Rather than repeatedly reassuring the child, ask questions that help him question his need to take care of others.  Reassurance can increase anxiety, as the brain immediately asks, “Well what if that other bad thing happens?”  So getting the child to think works a lot better.

    Back to the question above: if my child has gotten louder and more intense than she intended, is it appropriate for her to apologize and comfort me? Yes, if it’s from a desire to connect and empathize. You want your child to grow up with empathy. If you sense that the child is very anxious when you are upset, it’s time to sit down and talk, when this issue is not occurring, about how you are a big person, and can sometimes get angry or cry, but you’re also taking care of yourself.  Again, genuinely appreciate the child’s comforting gesture, but let him or her know that big people can cope with strong emotions.

    In the case of a sibling needing care, express how nice it is that the child is there for her.  Then ask some questions that imply that the child is the expert on the sibling, followed by a gentle suggestion that the sibling may be able to handle his or her own need.  You’ll sense how much of this the older child can tolerate by his reaction, and take the pacing from that. It will take time, weeks to months, for the older child to feel comfortable allowing the younger one to make a mistake or do something mildly dangerous.

    If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, please click here for coaching information.   If you’d like to explore our findings on parent coaching, click here to see parents’ responses to the experience.

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Five Steps to Helping a Traumatized Child Regain Control

Five Steps to Helping a Traumatized Child Regain Control

Tina Feigal Copyright © 2015

Stressed childIf you are parenting or teaching a child who has experienced trauma, you know that every day feels like a struggle.  This article is written to give you insight into the behaviors that are a direct result of the trauma, and ways to handle those behaviors.  There is a compassionate way to approach a traumatized child, just the way we treat animals with compassion when we adopt them, not knowing what they have experienced in the past. Let’s share this far and wide.  Our children need our compassion. And they are all our children.

1. Understand that the cause of the behavior is often the effect of stored trauma, not the misbehavior of a cranky child. A traumatized child cannot regulate emotions by “making a better choice” any more than a caged lion can remain calm when someone comes at it with a spear. Having had trauma (neglect; emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse; hunger and inability to anticipate being fed; homelessness; loss of friends or family through separation, divorce, death, or incarceration; drug or alcohol abuse by a parent) changes the child’s brain. It stays in fight-or-flight mode, even when there’s no current threat. This is adaptive brain function, as the brain interprets it as assuring the child’s survival. It’s also difficult for adults who haven’t seen the trauma in action to believe that misbehavior comes from the brain’s over-responses to perceived threat. To help you remember, say to yourself, “This is trauma, not disrespect.”

2. Help the child regulate. If it’s safe to do so, give the child space; avoid approaching the child. After a period of quiet, ask “Would you like to keep crying (yelling) or would you like to calm down now?” Wait with a calm demeanor for the child to show signs of decreasing agitation. Model self-regulating techniques, such as sitting or lying down, breathing deeply, and using soothing self-talk. (I can calm my legs, I can calm my arms, I can calm my head, I can calm my hands, I can calm my feet.)

3. Identify true feelings. “If I guess how you’re feeling, will you tell me if I’m right or wrong? I imagine you are frustrated (angry, sad) because you wanted to do your own thing right now, and we are asking you to join the class.” Have the child draw the feelings on paper. This releases the child by helping the brain get the message, “I am seen.  If I’m seen I will survive. I don’t need to act out to be seen, because she just let me know my feelings are real and they are OK.”

4. Provide opportunities for sensory calming or remove child from sensory overload. For example, apply deep pressure (weighted blanket, hugs, self-hugs, pressure on shoulders or legs) or other sensory calming techniques.

5. Check for hunger, thirst, fatigue and/or oncoming illness, and attend to these needs by providing food, drink, rest, or medical care.

Final note: It’s important to remember that consequences do not work for traumatized children. Children who have experienced trauma are in disequilibrium as they have not had their basic needs met. They are experiencing fear for their very survival, and thus cannot attend to the needs of the environment. Their brains are in fight-or-flight, so the reasoning part of the brain is turned off, and planning ahead based on previous consequences is just not possible in this state. Instead of trying to “teach him a lesson”, stick to the steps above. It will save time and frustration, and especially important, it will keep the situation from escalating, which only fuels the brain’s over-response to perceived threat.

For help with this or any other parenting issue, for children of all ages, click here.

PostHeaderIcon My Kids Don’t Listen to My Advice

My Kids Don’t Listen to My Advice

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

Maybe it’s that we as parents typically toss out directives without much thought about how they land on their children:

“You need to get off the video game. It’s not good to spend so much time playing. You’ll miss the rest of your life!”

“You need to clean this room. If there was a fire, you would trip on all this stuff trying to get out.”

“You should always pay attention to the assignments.  The teacher gives you instructions, and  you need to write them down.”

“You need to get your education. It’s more important than your interest in music. There are no good jobs in music. Use that as a hobby, but get a real job.”

“Listen to me. I’m your dad (mom).  I know what it’s like to grow up and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I (my brother, my dad, my mom, your sister) made.”

Sound familiar?  If it does, stop and think with me for a minute. If, as an adult, someone gave you these directives, would it inspire you to follow their advice?  Or would you tend to discount them, and do your own thing, grumbling under your breath, “Yeah, as if he knows what’s it’s like to be me.”

Here are some tips on gaining your child’s cooperation, rather than demanding it (which never works in any lasting way.)

1. Think about how you’d like to be addressed, and use that much respect in your tone with your child.

2. Ask instead of command.  “Let’s take a look at your time on the computer and decide together on a reasonable amount for each day.”

3. Use inquiry when talking about life interests.  Hold your own anxiety back regarding your child’s future, and just interview him or her on what’s wonderful about their music, art, writing, sports, math … any interest they show.  You are much better off supporting what comes from the child naturally, rather than trying to assign a future to him or her.

4.  Remember that your child is developing, not fully formed.  They make mistakes, and that’s how they learn. Allow for child development while you create your expectations.  If you need some guidance on this for teens, click here.

5.  For household tasks, express your heartfelt appreciation every time you see helpful behavior around the home.  “When you take your dishes to the dishwasher, I feel very appreciative because it shows me that you care that we live in a healthy home.”  “When you straighten your room, I love seeing how you arrange everything.  You made it so pleasant in here.”  “When you sweep without being asked, I feel so relaxed because it’s one less thing for me to do, and you do a very nice job.”

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

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Register for Transforming Challenging Child Behavior

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Colonial Church of Edina, 6200 Colonial Way, Edina, MN – Fireside Room.
June 9, 2015 6:30-8:30 p.m.

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PostHeaderIcon Getting Kids to Comply

Getting Kids to Comply

Tina Feigal Copyright © 2015

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

Here are five tips for helping them to comply, but without having to nag:

1.  Assume kids want to do anything BUT what you’re asking.  This is how they’re wired, to be focused on their own agenda, and not on yours. Once you realize this is normal, you won’t feel so frustrated when they’re only interested in their own things. This is more a brain wiring issue than “being self-centered.” It’s normal for them to be this way.

2. Talk to them with respect.  Don’t shout your commands from another room.  Take the time to go to them and make physical contact if they can tolerate it. A touch on the shoulder or back, just to be sure you’re connecting, is very useful in getting a child’s attention.  This will save a lot of time as you lead them to the task.  Also, touch is very affirming, which is powerful in helping children get out of themselves in order to relate to others’ needs.

3. Bring your children toward you by trusting them.  Say, “I trust you to do your bedtime routine tonight. I’ll meet you in your room in 10 minutes with that book you picked out last night.”

4. Stay focused on them until the task is done.  They have radar for your attention, so keep it honed for the period between when you ask and when the task is complete.  Again, this saves so much time on the back end.

5. Give your heartfelt appreciation for effort and for completion.  “When you respond to my request, I feel so respected and at peace, because you show me that you really are able to work together as a team.  Thank you!”  “When you finish what you’ve started, I feel quite impressed because you’re sticking with it until the very end, which is such a grown-up thing to do!”

Remember, giving your attention to the behaviors you want is the quickest way to grow those behaviors.  It’s also a lot more rewarding for you, which will keep you “in the game.”  Watch minutes get shaved off your normal routines, once cooperation is the norm!

If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching for info on how coaching works.  Isn’t it time you had a peaceful life with your children?

 

PostHeaderIcon 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.

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PostHeaderIcon Making the Present Moment New with Your Child

5 Ways to Make the Present Moment “New” with Your Child

Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.  Copyright © 2014

stock-photo-5368788-young-boy-playing-video-gamesParents ask about how to make the present moment more “real” to themselves and their children.  Does it really mean letting go of all past information about your child’s behavior?  And does it really mean putting an end to fear of future behavior?  Yes to both.  At a recent presentation by “The Mother of Mindfulness” Ellen Langer, I learned the phrase “making it new.”  I thought that was helpful, so I’m sharing it with you today.

Eli’s mom and dad came to me with this scenario. Their 9-year-old was habitually using bad language, refusing any household help requests, and opposing just about every request from his parents.  Tony and Marsha love their son.  They are feeling traumatized themselves by the constant resistance to everyday life with Eli, and they are desperate for help.

Here’s the way the scene usually plays out:

Tony: “Eli, it’s time to get off the iPad and get ready for bed.”

Eli: “No! I am in the middle of the game.”

Tony: “Eli, I said it’s time for bed.  I don’t want to hear another word from you on this.  We’ve talked about it 100 times.  It’s time for bed and I mean it!”

Eli: “I don’t care what you say. I’m finishing my game!”

Tony: “OK, if that’s what you want.  No iPad for a week.”

Eli: “That’s not fair!  You can’t do this to me!” and a huge meltdown ensues.  Tony feels out of control and awful, and Eli is completely out of his body with rage.

This is a regular occurrence at bedtime, and Tony and Marsha are ready to try anything to make it better.

Here are the five ways to do just that:

1. Realize that for Eli, it feels like the first time he’s ever played this game.  I know, it’s hard to imagine, but children’s thinking and adults’ thinking are very different.  Eli is completely absorbed, as the game feels new every time he plays it. Respect that turning it off is a big jolt to him.  Use a quiet and calm voice, and avoid letting it rise at the end, signifying, “I have this expectation and you’d better fulfill it!”  That triggers opposition.

2. Decide in advance (together) what time the game is turned off every night, and help Eli count backwards from bedtime, so he can get finished with the game at an appropriate time.  In the PRESENT MOMENT, when the game needs to be shut down, place your trust in his knowing of the rules, and stay with Eli’s emotions.  “I know you know it’s time to get finished.  It’s a disappointment, yes.  Let’s turn it off now, as this is the time we chose.”  Then don’t waver.  It’s a gift to Eli to hold your ground.  It makes you predictable, which is very helpful to him over the long term.

3. Give Eli heartfelt appreciation for turning off the game, even if he’s not cheerful about it.  “When you do as we planned, I feel relieved and relaxed.  Now we can both have a good night’s sleep.  Thank you, Eli.”

4. Remember that Eli doesn’t want to be out of control.  Deep down, when you are calm and certain about bedtime, he’s reassured. Again, it feels new to him to hear your calm voice, even though it’s a regular occurrence.

5. Let go of past incidents.  Talk to Eli about the game, how many points he has, what a feeling of accomplishment he gets from excelling at it, and how you feel accomplishment in your life.  This takes the fight out of the conversation about video games, and allows Eli to get perspective on it.  If you hold on to your authority over Eli, he needs to counter it.  If you just share your life with him, he can let go and make good decisions.  Again, there’s a feeling of newness.  That fresh interaction with you can help him ride a wave of cooperation.

Every present moment offers the opportunity to 1. connect with the feelings your child is having, 2. make a plan for when typical conflicts arise, 3. express heartfelt appreciation, 4.  present a calm and certain demeanor to your child, and 5. create a casual, interested conversation with your child that conveys, “I’m sharing my life with you” rather than “I’m in charge of you.”

Each step of parenting is a new learning experience.  We grow as our kids grow, and there’s nothing wrong with not knowing what to do or say when conflicts arise.  Give yourself a break if you blew it, but then resolve to improve the situation next time.  If you need help with this process, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching for all the info on ways to set up an appointment and get started!

 

 

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Three Common Mistakes Parents of Intense Children Make

Three Common Mistakes Parents of Intense Children Make

father-yellingWe’ve all been there.  Our kids do something that seems defiant and we immediately match their intensity with our own.  We believe in our heart of hearts that when a child misbehaves, we must get stronger in our approach to their behavior in order to correct it.  Here are the three things we do that only result in increased intensity.

1. We yell when our children act up.  We say, “I said ‘stop it’ and I mean ‘Stop’.  Now.”  We let them know they are wrong, they made a bad choice, and they need to understand their errors in order to prevent this from ever happening again.

2. We use our bodies to communicate how upset we are.  We stand tall over the kids, or we get in their faces to be sure they hear us.  Our fingers wag, our brows furrow, and our shoulders tense up.

3. We convince ourselves that if we don’t correct the behaviors, they won’t get corrected, so we POUNCE on them and expect immediate compliance.

Are there ways to avoid these three common mistakes? Yes.

1. Yelling at kids only has effects we don’t want.  It causes them to feel the need to defend themselves, and it also communicates unsafe conditions.  Intense children have bigger-than-average responses to unsafe conditions, so you may want to consider never yelling again. (I’ve had parents try this, with remarkable results.)

2. Our bodies are like giants to our kids, even if they are pretty big and we’re not.  A parent’s stature is more about being their PARENT than about size.  When we use our bodies in a threatening way, we cause them to look at us with fear, and fearful kids act defiantly.  The preferable way to approach an upset or out-of-control child is “low and slow.”  Sit down, speak in a soft tone, and communicate calm.  Yes, that’s hard when you’re steamed about the behavior, but I can guarantee you a better result in the long run.  If you don’t like escalation, approach your child with calm.

3. Many parents take on a “manager” role.  Demands come so fast and furiously that they just don’t have time to wait for children to comply.  The pressure builds to the point that the manager in them goes ballistic, because there are 14 balls in the air at once, and they feel they can’t let one of them drop.

Here’s a bit of reality for you: kid time is slower than adult time.  If you want things done by 8:30, start much earlier than 8:25.  Yes, adults could get it done in 5 minutes, but kids are not adults.  Start at 8:00 and allow for some side-winding.  It’s in the nature of children to be less organized in their motions that adults, but that’s OK.  If you accept it, and encourage the true nature of the child, you’ll actually get to 8:30 much more calmly with a lot more done.  Remind yourself you are managing small people.  You’ll be a lot happier with your expectations aligned with their nature rather than trying to fit them into adult molds.

One more thing: trusting children to learn and grow in their abilities is a much more peaceful approach than expecting the worst all the time.  Notice how well she’s taken responsibility for her toys, or he’s being gentler with his little brother.  Sometimes kids are making strides right in front of us, but we fail to notice.  If we do notice, we reinforce the growth, and can just sit back and marvel at the natural development of the human being known as “my child.”

If you need help with implementing these ideas, don’t hesitate to call 651-453-0123 or visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching for all the details.