Archive for the ‘Taming Teens’ Category
When Child Behavior is Scary
We have all had those moments when child behavior has frightened us as parents. They sometimes have no impulse control and give us heart attacks with their unexpected aggression toward their siblings. Or they may jump off a way-too-high surface, and cause us to react with loud warnings. They may drive the car too far from home, or have a close call on the freeway, leading us to wonder where we went wrong.
On this Halloween, let’s acknowledge that being a parent can be scary for us at times. When my son was able to go into the world on a large scale, I found myself saying, “Don’t tell me when you’re about to climb that 17,000-foot mountain. Just tell me when you’re back down.” I felt like I had to protect my heart from his adventurousness.
Being afraid as a parent is normal. The world is so full of opportunities for our kids to “mess up” as my 4-year-old grandson says. Life is full of mistakes, and if we keep perspective, mistakes are seen as great teachers. Sometimes, yes, mistakes can have horrible outcomes, but if we stay focused there, we live a life of fear and anxiety. For some children, this fear gets absorbed, and they are more cautious and anxious than they need to be. Anxious children can act out, and become more scary to us as we worry over their next moves!
It’s a fine balance for a parent – enough warning vs. enough freedom to explore.
“How much freedom should my toddler/pre-schooler/ primary grade/middle schooler/ teen have?” is a frequently asked question in my work as a parent coach. Knowing what’s normal is not always natural, as we can have amnesia for being that age (and sometimes our normal was not so normal.)
Here are some tips for handling the typical fear that comes with parenting children:
- Practice mindfulness. Check in with your thoughts and ask yourself, “Is there really a danger here and now?” If so, act on it. If not, say to yourself, “There’s no present danger, so I will let my child explore.”
- Remind yourself that as much as you’d like to control their every move to keep them safe, children are their own persons. They have their natural, evolving urges as a normal part of child development, and you shouldn’t try to take that away.
- Read up on normal child development. It’s so important to know what’s appropriate at every age so you can be on track with your expectations. Click here, and bookmark this site.
- Take a break from parenting whenever it seems reasonable. Plan for time to yourself at least once a month, so you can rejuvenate and come back to parenting feeling refreshed.
- Call for coaching if you need help in determining what’s normal for your particular child, and how to respond. We’re here to help! Click here.
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
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.
Happy New Year! Now Put That Down!
Comedian Louie Anderson answers the question: What made you laugh in 2015?
A. I made myself laugh the most this year thinking I was so smart or right about something. I can’t tell you how many times I searched for my glasses only to discover them right on my face, or thinking I’ve lost my iPhone or someone has stolen it only to discover that I was sitting on it or it was right there in my hand. Not to mention the keys in my hand, in the door lock or in the ignition of my car. “As plain as the nose on my face,” I can hear my mom say.
Parents, can you relate? I know I find myself laughing about this often. The thing that strikes me most lately is that I am holding something, totally unaware, while I’m holding six other things, and suddenly I’m spilling or making a mess because I failed to put something down.
So in the New Year, let’s all watch how much we’re holding at once. When we are bombarded from all sides by children’s requests, paying bills, doing laundry, buying food, making meals, going to the doctor, helping with homework, taking care of pets, cleaning the house (ha!) and attending to the needs of our work, ourselves and our mates, maybe we should think about putting something down, just for the moment. “Present Moment Parenting”, we call it. It involves taking something up, yes, but also putting something down. Maybe putting several things down.
I’m not just talking just about physical “things” or tasks here, but also thoughts, distractions, and mind-wanderings. Children sense when parents are not present, and they tend to exploit the situation, as you are well aware. They also learn distraction from us. So if you’ve been complaining about your child not being able to focus, try taking a quick inventory of the times he or she has seen you in a distracted state (using the tablet, phone, or computer.) Maybe you’ll see where distraction is being reinforced. And if you feel as if your child is demanding, again, take a look at how you interact with her, just to check whether she’s learning a demanding, hurry-up, right-now sense of urgency from you.
This sense of urgency seems SO necessary in today’s world, but it’s time to rein it in for our mental and physical well-being. We actually can slow our thoughts down to a normal speed, even though it doesn’t seem so. Consider this: at the end of the day, will it matter if you’ve had the average 50,000 thoughts or 20,000? Who will be counting? And what will you gain if you slow the thoughts down? Perhaps a bit of peace of mind, perhaps a slower, more connected relationship with your child or partner. Perhaps mindfulness and fewer health concerns.
I think yoga has enjoyed such popularity in the US and beyond in recent years because as humans, we realize the need to slow down is coming from our inner core. With all that goes on with a busy family, it’s very easy to get caught up in quick, impersonal, even commanding interactions that erode our sense of peace. Let’s learn to listen to our inner voices and say no to the constant “hurry up” of modern life. When we do, we give our children an enormous gift, for this present moment and beyond.
Happy New Year from all of us at the Center for the Challenging Child.
If you’d like help with this or any other parenting issue, please visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching for the answers to most of your questions. Have more questions? Email email@example.com.
My Kids Don’t Listen to My Advice
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.
Handling Touch with Touchy Teens
By Tina Feigal Copyright © 2015
Yesterday I coached a mom to put her arm around her teen son and express her appreciation for the living room being picked up. She let it go when I said it, but circled back to it later in the session, saying, “About that putting my arm around him? That’s not happening.”
We discussed what she thought may have been the reason for the “no touch” policy her teen was silently enforcing. She said she didn’t really know, so I offered some ideas. “That one,” she said after I gave a short list, “He doesn’t feel lovable.”
Sad as this is, it doesn’t have to stick. When this caring mom realized that her son didn’t feel lovable, we set about planning to help him receive her touch. Why? Because kids thrive on the unspoken acceptance that comes with touch from their parents. Even when they don’t seem to want it, it can be a powerful message of affirmation.
Another reason to help your child accept touch as a normal form of healthy expression is that you want him able to accept affection as a precursor to forming a romantic relationship. This is normal development, and should be seen in a positive light. If you feel hesitant to touch your teen for fear of being misinterpreted as inappropriate, let that go. Kids need healthy touch from their parents. Arms around shoulders, soft hand caresses, hugs, cheek and forehead kisses, and for some cultures, kisses on the lips, are all bonding tools for parents and children. Don’t miss your opportunity to help your child learn healthy touch.
Here are 4 ways to build toward positive physical affection:
1. Let go of preconceived ideas about touch. Open your heart to moms and dads showing physical affection to their teens, because they need it. But don’t push when your child moves away from your touch. It may take a while before it feels comfortable. Stay focused on the giving aspect of physical touch, rather than what you’re receiving. That will come later.
2. Start with your voice. Use a tone that says, “I accept you.” So if there’s a hole in the screen door, ask gently, “What happened?” and then, “What do you want to do about it?” A lecture at this time will only spark opposition, and won’t get you what you want, which is a screen replaced by your child and an intact relationship. Gentle inquiry will be interpreted as willingness to help them problem solve, but without the judgment. That’s what teens need.
When you need tasks done around the house, meet with your children and ask, “How should we divide the tasks around here?” but don’t offer your ideas. Create a vacuum so they can fill it in with their solutions. Use an appreciative tone when talking about their cooperation: “When you cleaned up the kitchen, I felt so relaxed and happy, because I didn’t even have to ask. You are making my day!” (Note: Even if it’s not perfectly clean, do respond with appreciation. We get more success when we reward their efforts without criticizing the exact way they cleaned up.)
3. If your teen isn’t used to touch, start small. You wouldn’t want to give bear hugs to someone who doesn’t ever hug you, so a warm touch to the forearm when you are talking will be a good start. If that’s rebuffed, let it go and try again with a touch to the hand. When that’s gone well, use opportunities to put your arm gently on his shoulder when talking. Then work toward touching cheeks at bedtime. As these small touches are accepted, you can move toward a light hug, and then a “real hug.” The pace will depend on your focused reading of the teen’s signals, with backing off if it’s not well-received, and starting again with a smaller touch.
4. When your teen needs to feel lovable (and what teen doesn’t?) keep an open dialogue, supported by interested questions about his day, his friends, school, and sports. “What did you learn in science today?” shows interest. “Did you get all your science homework handed in?” communicates controlling. Teens are allergic to being controlled, so you’ll get a lot more conversation when you leave that part out, and just show curiosity. “Thanks for telling me,” is a great response.
Some teens are just not open to touch, even if you do everything right. That’s OK. You tried. But work on the tone of voice and helping him feel lovable anyway, as these are huge in allowing your child to grow toward healthy physical affection.
Maybe this article covered everything you needed on this topic. If not, and you’d like customized help with this or any other parenting issue, click here.
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June 9, 2015 6:30-8:30 p.m.
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Getting Kids to Comply
Tina Feigal Copyright © 2015
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?
Happy Valentine’s Day!
How Can You Get More Love Out of Your Child?
Copyright © Tina Feigal 2015
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 email@example.com for an appointment.
Three Common Mistakes Parents of Intense Children Make
We’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.
Parent Coaching: An Innovative Approach
to Helping with Challenging Child Behavior
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Director of Family Engagement
Anu Family Services/Center for the Challenging Child
© 2014 by Anu Family Services. All rights reserved. No part of this presentation may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Anu Family Services.
How This Came to Be
History of parent coaching
Used with parents whose children exhibit aggressive, hostile, and/or passive behavior
The EAP-Parent Coaching Match
Not deep therapy
Designed to help employees “get back in the game”
Before Parent Coaching
Parents of a troubled or traumatized child need help with parenting.
Support the family with education.
Therapy/meds for the child
Cycle back to the same issues.
After Parent Coaching
Parents of a troubled or traumatized child need help with parenting.
Support the family with education, frequent coaching contacts.
Help parents help the child feel feelings, avoiding blame, and focusing on healing.
Harmony is restored to family life.
Present Moment Parenting
It’s healing for parents and children to learn new ways of interacting.
It’s all about physical and emotional survival.
Ten Basic Tenets of Present Moment Parenting
1. Attunement in the present moment is vital for a healthy parent-child relationship
2. The overarching goal for every child is to feel lovable.
3. With every interaction, parents are either pushing their children away or drawing them near.
4. Staying the in the present moment reduces parents’ fear of past or future behaviors.
5. All behavior is communication.
6. Respectfully addressing the child’s true feelings eliminates the need for punishment.
7. The child’s body is affected by emotional input from the parent.
8. The greatest human need is to be needed.
9. The parents’ role is to support and guide their children as they become capable in their own right.
10. Parents do the best they can with the tools they have.
Children are Organisms
Water • Sunshine • Fertilizer
Unwrapping Child Behavior
A Physiological Approach
The effect of communication on the child’s body
How is the heart involved?
According to the Institute of Heartmath, the heart is responsive to emotional input.
The amygdala responds to stress, and it sustains the response, even when the threat is over.
“Keep me safe.”
Adrenaline is more readily triggered with children who have experienced trauma. Also, with ADHD.
The Adrenal Glands
The Fear State
The child who is constantly alert to feeling unsafe. This creates a “state” of fear, which dictates responses, often overly reactive.
The child gets blamed for being uncooperative, when she was just unconsciously responding to perceived threat, trying to get back to safety. Fear becomes the default emotion, unless parents know how to reduce it.
Resource: Beyond Consequences
Join the child in the present moment. Scrupulously avoid blame. This assures safety.
What Parents Can Do
Attune to the child to facilitate attachment.
Help her know herself as lovable.
Help others understand.
Daniel Siegel, M.D. – The Mindful Brain
Paul Pearsall, PhD. – The Heart’s Code
Heather Forbes, LCSW – Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control
IN GROUPS OF 3 OR 4
When Does Innocence Disappear?
At what age do children start to willfully manipulate adults?
Types of Parenting
Authoritarian: My way or the highway
Passive: You don’t listen anyway, so why bother?
Authoritative: I’m the parent and I accept responsibility for your welfare. I am also including you in the process of life.
All Behavior is Communication
Why Doesn’t Punishment Work?
Punishment has 3 results:
Temporary stoppage of the behavior
The need to retaliate
Judge, Blame, Punish Cycle
When Parents Live in Fear, We Miss the Love.
A New Way
A New Role for parents
From Behavior Police to Success Mentors
Set Up Success Opportunities
Heartfelt Appreciation: “When you … I feel … because…”
Opposition to Positive Input
First Family Meeting
Second Family Meeting
When a Tradition is Broken, Employ Do-Overs
Do-overs are teachable moments
They avoid “pushing the child away”
Rehearse them at the family meeting.
Play the scene as it happened.
Play it again in a way that works better.
Creates a map in the child’s brain for positivity.
Give heartfelt appreciation for practicing.
Do-Overs with Teens
A casual “Let’s try that again.” If she refuses, don’t push.
Set an example, and parents have do-overs themselves.
Successes are the big deal.
The Do-over is NOT Punishment
Do Not Encourage Do-Overs Until …
Family has had the second meeting.
The family traditions have been posted.
Do-overs have been rehearsed.
They’ve switched roles to practice the do-overs.
Dealing with Anxiety
What are the sources of anxiety?
Learning disability, ADHD
Grief and loss
Every misbehaving child has a degree of anxiety.
Anxiety Defined: Fear where there’s no real threat
How do we help him?
Understand that the child is having a physiological response, not being “impossible,” “picky,” or “looking for attention.”
Manage your own anxiety, for the sake of the child: relaxation techniques, self-care, and/or therapy. Read Self Compassion by Kristin Neff, PhD.
What Parents Can Do
Coaches can provide information, and encourage self-compassion, which both reduce anxiety.
“When we know better, we do better.”
More on Helping a Child with Anxiety
Build self-efficacy slowly over time, as trust develops
Join the child in the present moment, using attunement.
Reassuring the Child
It’s not reassuring to tell the child over and over how much you love her. Too much telling can give her the idea there’s something to worry about.
Join her on the feelings she’s having right now. That will communicate love.
How to Help with the Feelings
“You’re really worried.”
“You want me to take you to the store right now.”
“You’re worried that you won’t get what you want.”
“Your feelings seem very strong and powerful.”
“If I guess how you’re feeling, will you tell me if I’m right or wrong?”
Be willing to be wrong, and just listen. The true feelings will come up. Use the magic of silence.
Avoid Triggering Opposition
How do you think you’d feel if we did as you suggested?
How should we solve this problem so that everyone feels OK about the outcome?
How do you want to limit screen time so that you don’t lose touch with your real life?
How will leaving the house right now go with getting your homework done?
Teach parents to use them instead of directives.
A Better Choice for Young Children
What Works With Older Kids?
Suburban high school with 80 min. subject blocks
37 detentions from last year, 16 more now
Oppositional at home
Verbal altercation with a teacher
Unable to sit in class, failing everything
Question: How long ‘til this child feels safe enough to be kind?
Explore Feelings to Express Grief Directly
The words to use:
“I see you are upset. Do you want to tell me how you are feeling?”
“If I guess, will you tell me if I’m right or wrong?”
Words to Use
Tell me more.
I appreciate your letting me know.
It helps me to hear your story.
Your feelings matter to me.
and more …
When you let me in, I feel deeply honored.
I know it’s not easy to talk about. You are braver than so many kids.
(Listen without judging or fixing.)
Consult the Child on the Solutions
Testing: One, Two, Three …
Mistakes are our teachers
Abused and neglected by his low-IQ mom
Mom’s boyfriend was sex offender
Mom had TPR
Grandma and her husband took her in
He was sexually aggressive with other children
Verbally aggressive with step-grandpa
Had rages, took a knife to grandma
County was ready to send her to residential treatment
Grandpa does “story time” at night.
Question: How long ‘til this child feels safe enough to be kind?
Foster mom who is a healer: has two adopted kids already living with her, 18 (girl) and 13 (boy).
Two boys, 13 and 11, needed placement after mother died suddenly. Dad was on drugs, mutilated himself.
Previous foster placement failed; 14-year-old was blamed.
Family pride in “being an Anderson”
13-year-old using, stealing, needs treatment
11-year-old unable to get up in the a.m.
Coaching the mom helped son do his grief work. Powerful response.
Truancy became the issue for the court.
Ordered to residential.
Mother stayed in the present moment, adopted him.
New discovery of LD
Mom panicked, consumed by every homework detail
Came to coaching, “We’ve lost our little girl.”
Coaching resolved major issues.
Backslid to old ways.
Return to coaching
Question: How long ‘til this child feels safe enough to be kind?
Children’s Sensory Issues
6. Interpersonal sensitivity
To Help Children with Sensory Issues
Realize it’s not just picky or bad behavior
Don’t try to talk them out of their sensitivities
Make adjustments to the environment
Seek occupational therapy
Appreciate the quiet, inwardly-focused child – great work may be happening
The Power of Now
Remember: The Power is in the Positives!
Contact Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed. for training, parenting coach certification, consulting
© 2014 by Anu Family Services. All rights reserved. No part of this presentation may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Anu Family Services.
What About the NFL, and Other Professional Sports Organizations, that Turn a Blind Eye to Domestic Abuse?
I am sharing my thoughts here, and would love to hear yours, as well. Let’s make this an open conversation with the hope that more enlightened attitudes can emerge from it. I know I still have a lot to learn in life, and I trust you feel the same.
Somewhere in Eden Prairie, a 4-year-old boy is healing from the physical wounds his father inflicted on him with a switch (small tree branch) because he got into a disagreement with his brother over a video game. Lacerations on his hand and thighs, and bruises on his lower back and buttocks resulted in a felony child abuse charge in Texas. According to the Forbes.com article by Gregory McNeal, texts from Adrian Peterson to the boy’s mother included:
- “Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!”
- “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”The child said, “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face.”
- The child expressed worry that Peterson would punch him in the face if the child reported the incident to authorities.
- The child said that he had been hit by a belt and that “there are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.”
- The child said that Peterson put leaves in his mouth when he was being hit with the switch while his pants were down.
- The child told his mother that Peterson “likes belts and switches” and “has a whooping room.”
- Peterson, admitted to the police that he had “whooped” his son on the backside with a switch as a form of punishment.
- Peterson also admitted to the police that he administered two different “whoopings” to his son.So here we are, some of us loyal fans of professional sports, wondering if this constitutes child abuse and what to do about it. And we are also contemplating whether AP should ever be allowed back on the field. Will this be one of those “fans have short memories” incidents where all is forgotten within a few months when the hype dies down? Or should we all stand up and insist that a loud message be delivered on behalf of innocent four-year-olds? You probably know already what I’m going to say … that of course child abuse needs to be counteracted with stern and swift consequences.But there’s a deeper issue here. What gives the men of the NFL the mindset that because they are bigger and stronger than their children, they have the right to physically harm them as a form of discipline? I’ve read the “We are African American, and this is how we manage our children’s behavior” argument, as well. I also understand that police profiling of African Americans and other people of color is a real issue, and could lie beneath the parenting perspective that we need to keep our children “respectful and under control” to keep the police from harming them. But this argument doesn’t stand up, given that one in three young African American males is incarcerated in this country. Racial profiling is a real-world issue that still needs addressing by police departments in every U.S. city.According to J.E.B. Myers in his article “The History of Child Protection in America” the first recorded societal effort to rescue a child from parental abuse was by Etta Wheeler in 1874. U.S. governmental child protection policies and laws were created in 1962. Adrian Peterson was born in 1985. There has been plenty of time for Adrian Peterson and his professional sports counterparts to catch on to the fact that children are protected by law from physical and emotional abuse by adults. But of course, being a product of the enormous hype in professional sports can easily give one the idea that the law is for other people, not you.So what have we learned with the discussion around this incident? Have we learned that hurting children is never, ever, ever justified? I hope so. Have we learned not to revere our sports heroes so much that we consider them above the law? I hope so again. Because the children are watching to see who we consider our heroes, and they’re following our example. We need to be strong for them, and draw the line on child and spousal abuse. We need to make a big point to them that it’s never all right to harm another human for any reason, no matter how angry we get, no matter how much they provoke us, no matter what.
Here’s what I have learned: We have a long way to go in the field of coaching parents. We need to include all races and creeds in the mindset that there’s a much, much better way to get good behavior from your child than physical force. We need to assure that the hearts of children can make it through the formative years without abject fear of their parents’ undeserved wrath. Because when a child grows up in fear, as the 4-year-old son of Adrian Peterson has been forced to do, he sees the world as a scary place. His brain structure and function are indelibly altered by trauma. He defends himself, sometimes more than the situation calls for, and he lands in prison with all the other abused children of the world. This is a terrible waste of human potential and we know how to fix it. With this story so widely distributed in the media, my hope is that this is our chance for a huge step forward on healing adult-child relationships, so children can grow up and become healthy parents.
I am calling for the NFL, NBA, NHL and others to use this opportunity to support parents in the compassionate handling of their children. I propose a full-on anti-child-abuse effort, funded by major sports, to not only educate parents, but to provide ongoing services to them so that they can feel supported over time. We need to remember Maya Angelou’s words: “When we know better, we must do better.”
Parents, there’s a better way. Physical wounds heal in a few months, but emotional scars last for decades, and can have hugely damaging effects on children over their lifetimes. Please, for the sake of your children, find a parent coach to teach you the better way before we see another case like this in the news, before one more child is scarred for life by a parent who thought he or she was doing the right thing. Pick up the phone now.
Time to Get Off the Video Game!
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Here are 10 tips for setting up a system that works to bring an end to the conflicts:
1. At a family meeting, explain to your kids that we now know that too much video game playing is not good for children’s brains, and in fact can damage them. (See the link to an article about this below.)
2. Talk about how when your child wasn’t even born yet, you took care of him in the best way you could. You ate well when you were pregnant, got good sleep, exercised, and went to prenatal visits and childbirth preparation class. When he was a baby you fed, clothed, held, and bathed him when he was completely dependent on you. When he started to walk, you made his environment safe so he wouldn’t get hurt. All along you’ve taught safe behaviors with traffic and strangers, shopped for and cooked good food, provided a home to live in, clothes to wear, and opportunities for fun. You are not about to stop caring for your child now by saying, “OK, spend all the time you want playing games. I’m fine with its effect on your brain, even though I know it’s damaging.” You just wouldn’t do that. Your child needs your perspective on this.
3. In light of the fact that you are doing your job as a parent, explain that overuse of video games is simply not an option. Video games are a privilege. Just like any other privilege, if it’s abused, it isn’t available. Give an example from your adult life that illustrates the same concept, e.g., if I abuse the privilege of driving my car, and do so recklessly, my license will no longer be mine. Kids need to know they aren’t the only ones with limits on their activities.
4. You may want to use an ice cream analogy: “I don’t allow you to eat a quart of ice cream every day because it wouldn’t be good for your body.” Same thing. “I don’t allow you to play unlimited video games because it wouldn’t be good for your brain, which is a very important part of your body.”
5. Come to an agreement on a reasonable amount of playing time, first inviting your child’s input on what he thinks is reasonable. You want to show collaboration here, so you don’t lose your child’s willingness to engage in the solution. From the adult perspective the time playing video games shouldn’t be much, as every minute spent on the game is a minute spent away from nature, people, and physical activity, all of which are known to be VERY good for children’s brains. Maybe ½ hour on weekdays and an hour per day on weekends. During the school year, if there’s homework, that gets done first, and then the privilege of playing video games is activated.
6. Give your child heartfelt appreciation for talking rationally about this, for interacting with you, for spending time in nature, and for engaging in physical activity. This is what you want to increase, and you know that noticing the positive behaviors will do just that.
7. Limit your own video game use. Children learn more from what we do than what we say. Get on your bike and explore the world together instead.
8. Decide together how the “stopping” will happen. When the time is up, does your child want one of these three options?
a. You tell him time is up (your least favorite, because he’s not accepting responsibility for ending the playing time, but keeping it on you, which leads to arguments.)
b. He has the computer timer or a kitchen timer that lets him know time is up.
c. He watches the time and ends play when it’s up (your favorite option, as you don’t have to get involved, and he’s learning self-control.)
9. Ending the video game time is something that’s hard when the brain is addicted, which happens much more readily in young brains than in adult brains. Kids need to learn to anticipate “finishing this level” when there’s time to finish it. So that means that a few minutes before the ending time, they start stopping.
10. Rehearse ending. Go to the computer together, have the child set the timer or show him how to watch the time. Have him play the game while he thinks about stopping (this is a new skill, one that he’s likely never thought about.) Help him anticipate the timer going off and finishing his level. And when time is up, it’s up. Help him sign off. This way he’ll have a map in his brain for stopping appropriately, and you can give him heartfelt appreciation for doing so.
Read what Victoria Dunckley, M.D. says about video game damage to child brains here: http://drdunckley.com/videogames/
Want help with this process? Parent coaching is available to you, no matter where you live. Click here for all the details. www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching
Copyright Center for the Challenging Child ©2013
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.