Archive for the ‘Taming Teens’ Category
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.
Holiday Gifts Raising Havoc?
Are the gifts your kids received for the holidays creating havoc in your home?
Are you at a loss as to how to handle this sticky situation?
Let’s say your child received a new PS-3 or Xbox from well-intended but misguided grandparents. Your child is spending way too much time on it. It’s time for a sit-down to repair damaged family relationships and restore harmony in the home.
Here’s what to say:
“I’m the parent and it’s my job to make sure your growing up time is balanced with fun, family, and contributions to our lives. I need to check on the balance now and then. When I checked today, I saw that you’re spending a lot of time on the PS-3, and less time with us. I also notice that your mood is lower and you’re more cranky when you play the games. So we need to make an adjustment. I want to hear your ideas for how to resolve this issue.”
Allow time for the child to think. He or she may become defensive, saying, “It’s my game and I can play it whenever I want to! Grandma gave it to me!” or “I’m not cranky! You’re the one who gets cranky when I play!”
Don’t defend your point here. Just stay with the agenda, which is to resolve the problem. Say, “I’m not interested in arguing about this. But I am interested in hearing your ideas for resolving it. Do you want to offer some right now, or do you need some time to think about it? Take your time. It’s important and I want you to have a chance to think. Maybe you could come up with a few options that we could discuss next time we talk about this.”
When you call the next thinking session, ask your child what he or she decided. Consider the options carefully, not hurrying, asking clarifying questions. If you can live with one of the ideas, say so and consider the issue resolved. If you need to negotiate, say, “I like number 3 because it’s well-thought-out. What would you say to including it with some of my ideas?” Offer your thoughts and decide together on a solution.
This type of collaboration is vital for making decisions that stick. It includes the child in the decision, avoiding the authoritarian “my way or the highway” approach. It models the type of collaboration you expect from your child. You are always teaching with your behavior, don’t forget.
If your child can’t come up with a solution, keep at it anyway. Offer three or four of your own ideas and ask him to rank order them. This keeps choice in the forefront, still including the child in the solution. Again, offer him time to think. The more you do this, the better the decisions will be.
Once a decision is made, post it prominently in the home where the child gets a frequent review. State it positively like this:
The Becker Family has decided together that 1 hour per week is the perfect amount of time for video games. I pledge to help our family stay strong by honoring the 1-hour limit.
Decide together what will happen if the limit is not being honored. You may evoke the parental right to turn the machine off, which is appropriate. Just be sure this is decided in advance, so there are no surprises. If you encounter resistance, don’t argue. Just do as you all decided, turn off the machine, and engage the child in something else. Your actions will speak loudly, and you won’t have to get engaged in a power struggle.
Peace to your homes in 2013! If you need help with this or any other parenting issue, call Jacy at 651-964-4750 or write firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment.
Don’t Solve the Behavior Problem.
Solve the Real Problem.
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
Every day parents call me about their children’s behavior: “He bit the teacher at daycare.” “She won’t go to bed without manipulating every possible angle to stay up.” “He’s trying to get me to buy a cell phone and I think he’s too young. But wow, does he know how to wear me down!”
Of course, this is what I hear … I am, after all, a parent coach! I actually WANT people to tell me what’s happening with their kids, so I can help them resolve it.
But what I find interesting is that we as adults focus on the behavior, not the underlying cause. The behavior is always just the tip of the proverbial ice berg, just an indicator of something big going on underneath. When parents and teachers focus on the ice berg tip, they feel as if they have good reasons: “He’s being so disrespectful and it has to stop.” “I can’t let him just get away with talking to me (or hitting me or biting someone) like that.” The desire to stop the behavior, and stop it now for once and for all, seems overwhelmingly urgent because parents and teachers feel judged if the child in their care misbehaves. They want to get along, not fight with their kids. And they feel responsible for fixing it immediately.
Here’s where we get into trouble: we cannot make someone stop their behavior … a harsh reality, but it’s really true. From the smallest child to the oldest adult, the internal urge to behave, however badly, usually overrides the desire of someone else who wants them to stop it. So the only answer is to dig underneath to the huge slab of ice below the water and see what’s causing the tip.
It takes some time and development of skills to “read” a child to determine what underlying causes of behavior are being expressed. Mostly we’re in too much of a hurry to take this time, but when the pain gets bad enough, I find parents are very willing to spend it on finding true solutions. I am always impressed by how willing they are!
Here are a few tips on figuring out the underlying cause of behavior, so you can resolve it instead of the behavior itself:
1. “He bit the teacher.” This is a child who does not respond well to being touched when the teacher wants him “over here.” She inadvertently sparks a big response when she takes his shoulders to reposition him. Ice berg tip: He bit the teacher. Underlying cause: extreme sensitivity to touch by people who are not well-known to the child. Solution: respect his need to be told verbally what’s expected, and refrain from moving him physically. End of “bad behavior.”
2. “She won’t go to bed without manipulating every possible angle to stay up.” Ice berg tip: She delays bedtime so late that she’s missing sleep and frustrating the whole family. Underlying cause: originally, it was fear of scary things in the dark created by her very active imagination. Now it’s more of a game to see how much energy match her brain can get from her parents (although this is unconscious, it’s true. She shouldn’t be blamed, just redirected.) Solution: engage her in a conversation when it’s not bedtime, so she can hear you. Have her create a chart of the bedtime routine made of photos of herself doing each task. Rehearse bedtime so she gets a map in her brain for how it can look to go to bed without delays, arguments, nagging, and tears. Break the habit of the brain’s energy match by refusing to give emotional energy to her bedtime. Have her consult her chart, complete the tasks, and express how you are looking forward to reading a book when she’s all ready.
3. “He’s trying to get me to buy a cell phone and I think he’s too young. But wow, does he know how to wear me down!” Talk about this at a family meeting, not when your child is begging for a phone (no energy match for arguing about having one.) Give your child the benefit of trust and ask his good reasons for wanting a phone. Listen completely. Say, “Thank you for telling me those good points! Now, if you will allow me a bit to talk about it, I’d like to share how I feel.” After being respectfully heard, he’s willing to listen to you, too. Talk about the responsibility of having a phone: you pay money, you use it at appropriate times, you make sure people you don’t know have no access to your number, and you use it appropriately (repeated for emphasis.) That means you only call close friends and family, you only use it until 8 p.m., you never use it at school, you keep track of it so it doesn’t get lost, and you keep your calls to 15 minutes or less. No gabbing for hours, as each minute costs money. Ask, “Are you able to pay for the phone at this time?” And then go through each point, asking respectful questions. At the end of the discussion, if he’s not able to fulfill the requirements, assure your child that when he is old enough to pay for and manage the phone, he can certainly have one.
All of this takes thoughtful consideration on the part of parents, which means time and effort. It’s time SO well spent, as your certainty about limits and respectful approach pay off in lack of melt-downs and upset in the future. If you’d like help, let me know. Phone, Skype and In-person coaching are all options for learning these ways of approaching kids’ “ice berg tips” that are creating chaos in your home or school. To learn more about coaching, click here.
Spoiled Child? Use Mindfulness.
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, Parent Coach and Trainer
Are you worried that your child is spoiled? Five fundamental facets of mindfulness from Dr. Daniel Siegel can help you to prevent more spoiling, and alleviate the spoiling that may have already occurred.
1) The ability to be non-judgmental
Please don’t judge the spoiled child. The more you stay in a place of judgment, the more the idea of her being spoiled gets reinforced. Start right now to think of her as kind, considerate and willing to help. Whenever you see a millisecond of that behavior, say, “When you give me a hand with the dishes, I feel so happy and respected. It shows me that you really care.” This will assure that you’ll see that behavior again.
2) Non-reactivity, equanimity
Avoid reacting to spoiled behavior. If you fail to match his high spoiled energy with your high energy level, the behavior will dissipate. Give it time, and never give up.
3) Living in the present moment
In other words, don’t panic. Stay with the child in the present moment. Ask a question, rather than issue an edict. In advance, decide that saying, “I’m bored” is off limits in your house. Have your child make a list of favorite activities and post it on the fridge. If your child acts bored, just reply with “Remember? No saying ‘I’m bored’ in our home. Take a look at your list of things to do and choose one.”
4) Ability to label with words the internal world
Listen deeply to your child and ask her to tell you what’s really happening inside. She may be outwardly yelling because she feels she got fewer privileges than her brother, but the inward feeling might be very different. Instead of yelling at her for yelling, ask “What’s going on?” If she says, “I don’t know,” continue with, “If I guess how you are feeling, will you tell me if I’m right or wrong?” Then name a few feelings. “Would it be that you are disappointed? I notice you didn’t get exactly the same thing as your brother. Could that be it? If you are disappointed, you can tell me directly, and we can talk about it. You don’t have to yell.” This is enormously helpful with a spoiled child. She now has a way to communicate, while being truly seen. And once the true feeling is expressed, just stay with her. “You’re feeling disappointed. I sure see that.”
But don’t fix it. The real desire of a child is to be seen, not to be catered to in every moment. She just has a mistaken belief that being catered to is love. Real love is being seen.
5) The capacity for self-observation
Help your child replay the last upsetting scene, so he can get perspective on his actions. Say he just threw his shoe across the living room, barely missing the table lamp, because someone changed the channel. Instead of getting upset, ask him calmly to get the shoe. Let a few minutes pass, and then say, “Let’s run through that again.” Have him go back to his show, let someone change the channel, and have him throw his shoe. Then replay the scene. Have him go back to his show, let his brother change the channel, and then teach him words directly. “I am watching Sponge Bob. Will you change it back, please?” Coach his brother to say, “OK, but when it’s over, I’d like to choose a show.”
Once a child is spoiled, he’s not like a piece of fruit that can never be restored to an unspoiled state. You always have the opportunity, in every present moment, to turn the spoiled state into a cooperative one. Be mindful of this, and you’ll see the end of the spoiled behavior much sooner than you thought possible!
For help with implementing these steps, or any other child behavior issue, read about parent coaching. Click here.
Like this article? Share it on Twitter now: click here.
Surviving Summer with Intense Children
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, Parent Coach and Parenting Speaker
Here are some helpful hints for keeping the fun alive by reducing the potential for meltdowns, sibling arguments, and non-compliance this summer.
1. Plan ahead WITH your kids, so they know what to expect. Intense kids do not respond well to surprises. Put a calendar next to their beds, so they know what tomorrow brings.
2. Remember, there is no substitute for sleep. If your child is cranky, lying down may be the only solution. Try to avoid sleep deprivation by keeping the kids on a sleep schedule, even when they are having fun. The payoffs will be enormous.
3. Take time for yourself. Do not let all the “pulls” of summer activities wear you down. Take a relaxing bath, sit outside with no media and listen to nature, read a novel, enjoy the present moment.
4. Whenever your typically inflexible child weathers a change with no storm, give him or her heartfelt appreciation: “When you realized our plans had changed, and you stayed so calm, I was really impressed! It shows me you are able to help yourself go with the flow!” This could be right before you see her start to wind up. Any opportunity to reward success will be golden!
5. Put the kids in charge of their sibling issues. Say in advance, “I know you have disagreements sometimes, and I trust you to work them out in nice language. If you really need help, I’m here, but mostly I think you can do this.” When an issue arises, simply say, “How do you want to handle that with Christina?”
6. To kids, summer feels like the time for relaxation and NOT taking orders. Be sure to acknowledge that your children need down time, and make a point to allow for it. Say, “This is your own afternoon off, and you can do whatever you want to with it.” When the need for self-direction gets met, the willingness to take direction from others can increase.
6. Taking a trip? Give your intense child a job. Count on him for something very important, such as photos, journaling, navigation or meal planning. You’ll see excellent behavior if you make him the expert!
7. Re: the photo accompanying this article, get comfortable with dirt. It’s summer, and dirt is a sure sign your kids are engaging with nature and enjoying themselves!
Need help with your intense child? Call 651-453-0123 for professional parent coaching via phone, Skype or in person. Click here for all the details on coaching.
Copyright Tina Feigal 2011
Avoid Overindulging Your
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, Parenting Coach and Speaker
As we all know, it is remarkably easy to give in to the demands of an intense child, just to create peace for one moment! You are with relatives, and know that a fit could occur if you remain firm, so you take the path of least resistance. Or you are at home, and need to get out the door for a soccer game or doctor’s appointment. You give in to the child who refuses to get into the car by over-promising something you can’t or don’t want to deliver. We know that all of this can undermine your authority, leaving you to feel guilty about being an ineffective parent, but what is going on for the child? Author and researcher Jeanne Illsley Clarke has found that as overindulged children grow into adulthood, they are burdened with lowered self-esteem as parents, dysfunctional attitudes, and decreased adaptability in the family.
So what can we do to help children grow into healthy, loving adults? How can we prepare them now for their future roles as workers, parents, and spouses? One technique is to be sure that kids feel needed. Recognize that being needed is a basic human need in itself. Create roles for each child, based on their strengths, and uphold those roles as special and necessary whenever you can. Use their talents and strengths in real-life situations, where you actually need help. If you feel you can get it done better and faster by doing it yourself, even though your child could do it, stop yourself right there. Whenever that feeling comes over you, remember that it is a warning sign that you might be missing an opportunity to give your child what she needs. It’s time to slow down now, offer the child a chance to perform a task she’s good at, and pat yourself on the back for assuring her happy adulthood.
Another way to help children avoid the pitfalls of overindulgence is to plan ahead for challenging situations. If you have the decisions made in advance about whether you are going to leave the store with a toy, or without a toy, you are relieved of the possibility of an argument. If your child resists your already-made decision, remain cool and sure of yourself. “We made that decision already,” is all you need to say. Have the child have a do-over or take a break if he argues further.
You may also want to check the calendar to see if you might be overindulging your kids. If you are giving all your time to their activities, and have no time for your spouse or significant other (or yourself), that’s a good sign that things need adjusting. It is REMARKABLY EASY to get into the mindset that if my child isn’t in every conceivable activity in the third grade, he will miss out on something vital to his happiness. It’s just not so. Overindulgence causes him to miss out on something vital to his happiness … the ability to entertain himself in his own way. Decrease the amount of outside activity; give your children time, art supplies, and space. Turn off the TV, set some expectations for an afternoon of creativity, and watch what happens.
Let go of any guilt for possible overindulgence you might have used in the past. It’s a natural response to having a challenging child, without exception. But with new information to motivate your actions, make a plan for reducing overindulgence and bringing balance back to life.
And as always, let me know if you could use some personalized coaching on this topic. Visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching or call 651-453-0123 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting for an appointment.
Using the Present Moment to Parent Your
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Don’t drag the past into the present moment. Do your best to see the child as “brand new” right now, because she is brand new in every moment. So instead of fearing her next move, and telegraphing your fear with your tone of voice and body language, assume her goodness. It’s amazing what a huge effect this has on the child.
It’s 5:30 p.m. Thirteen-year-old Ava approaches her mom, Sara, who is preparing dinner in the kitchen. For the past three days, Ava has been cranky, mouthy, belligerent and nasty. Sara steels herself, with subtle body stiffening, for Ava’s upcoming comment about something that’s upsetting her. Sara doesn’t turn to Ava, but just stays facing the cake batter on the counter with a firm resolve not to engage her daughter.
Picking up on her mom’s subtle cues, Ava immediately feels rejection. She then lays into her mother with, “Where’s my blue fleece? I can’t find it anywhere! What did you do with it?” Sara has just had her fear realized, and responds with a defensive, “Ava, I’ve told you a thousand times that I am not in charge of your clothes. If you can’t find your fleece, look again. That room is such a mess, I’m not surprised it’s hard to find things.”
Ava has had her fear realized, too, and responds defensively with, “You are always blaming me for things that are not my fault! I just think you did the laundry and lost my fleece in some other drawer, and now you’re afraid to admit it! I wish I didn’t live in this house!”
“Listen to me young lady! You are not allowed to speak to me like that. You have been creating havoc in this house for three days, and I am sick and tired of it! Until you can learn to appreciate living here, you’re grounded!”
“Oh great. This is the worst place in the world, and now you are making me stay here? I’m leaving, and you can’t make me stay.” Ava storms through the back door, leaving Sara at once furious and relieved. “Good! Stay away all night if you want!”
The cycle of angry communication, fueled on thoughts of the past, has just widened the rift between mom and daughter.
Let’s replay this situation with Present Moment Parenting. Sara has learned to avoid dragging the past three days of strife into this moment, realizing that the present can be what she wants it to be with a tiny change in perspective. She remembers, “The present moment is all we have,” which generates a very different response when Ava approaches.
Sara is standing in the kitchen, preparing the carrots for dinner. She is remembering that Ava has had a rough few days, and she wonders what could be bothering her. She decides to find out, and make use of the present moment when it occurs.
Ava comes into the room, sensing that her mom is relaxed, but being stressed herself, she says the same accusatory thing: “Where’s my blue fleece? I can’t find it anywhere! What did you do with it?”
Staying in the present moment, refraining from dragging her fear of the past few days into this conversation, Sara responds with: “I love that blue fleece on you. It’s the perfect color. The last time I saw it, it was in the family room on the hook by the door.” Ava now has an “in” to speak to her mom calmly in this moment. Her defenses have not been triggered, and she can respond with kindness, even though she’s been stressed.
“Thanks, Mom. I’ll look there.”
Sara sets up an “appointment” to find out what’s bothering Ava, weaving it into an activity:
“OK, and when you find it, would you come back and see me? I need your cooking talent tonight. Do you think this cake would be better as a full size cake or cupcakes?”
“Sure. I’ll be back in a second.” She returns, blue fleece slung over her shoulders.
“OK , we’re having the little cousins over, so which kind of cake do you think would work best?”
“I like cupcakes.”
“I’m happy to have you decide, because all day I’ve been making 1,000 decisions, and my decider is worn out. Thanks a ton.”
“I need help deciding something, too. Does your decider still work, or should I wait?”
“Let’s give it a shot, and I’ll let you know.”
“OK, I have been thinking about this boy in my class. He seems to like me, and I like him, but I’ve noticed the other kids making fun of him. I’m not sure how to handle this, because I don’t want to lose those other friends, but I really think this guy is cute and I want to get to know him better.”
“Good thing I don’t have to decide on this one. I think you are going to be the one who does the deciding, but I can help you think about it.” Sara embarks on an interview with Ava about what’s attractive about this cute boy. She’s staying in the present moment, taking Ava just as she is now, and creating a beautiful, safe landing-place for their conversation. My guess is that Ava’s recent crankiness is caused by worry about what to do with the boy situation, but she just didn’t know how to bring it up.
Sara has done a masterful job of staying in the present moment, and can now help Ava to resolve the issue. She’s done more than that, though; she’s also built a stronger bridge to her daughter for the next time she notices that she’s in need of some good “mom time.”
The present moment is enomously effective in healing the relationship with a troubled teen, or any child for that matter. To learn more about applying the present moment through parent coaching, click here.
To Change the Behavior, Change the Child’s
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
Children of all ages are motivated by their internal urges (hunger, fatigue, mood, preference) which are influenced by outside forces (time constraints, siblings, friends, parents, grandparents, and teachers.) We forget that the internal urges and outside forces are frequently out of sync. To gain the best cooperation possible, our own instincts tell us that we should deliver the expectation, and the child should comply, and if compliance doesn’t occur, we should use anger to make it occur. As we fail to consider the child’s inner urges, and only consider our own perspective, we keep running the same script over and over with no improvements. A simple request turns into a major tantrum or disrespectful scene, and behavioral storm clouds start to gather. Harsh language, slamming doors, threats, and physical attacks follow what parents thought was a reasonable request. What happened here?
To know the answer to this question, we need to study the child for signs of what’s motivating him or her, in other words, what are his current internal urges? Often some internal negative message, such as “I’m not a good kid, so why should I act like one?” or “I only want my way, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks,” make a child behave the way he does. When a child feels this down, compliance is just not in the offing.
Considering the motivation for behavior is a much better way to actually get the results we want. Now some people think this might be coddling the child. I would argue that with all human beings, listening to internal motivation results in better performance, so why not use this in parenting difficult children? The real “magic” here is to lift the child up so that he feels seen.
Children with ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Attachment Disorder, Giftedness, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and a variety of just plain hard behavior need to be regarded as having their own internal agenda, based on the messages from children’s bodies. If we fail to see them as having these internal urges, we will be in non-stop combat mode.
So the next time you have a request, consider the child’s internal urges before you deliver it, and include an acknowledgement of the child’s inner state in your words. It can look like this: “I realize you hate to be rushed, so I am going to allow extra time for us to get out the door in the morning. You can take your time getting up and dressed, so you can feel more relaxed. We can leave at 7:30 without having to hurry.” The child’s ability to comply is directly related to the amount of sensitivity to his internal urges. The outside force of the need to be on time for school, camp, or practice now seems less foreboding, and he is free to cooperate. You feel better, too, knowing you have a technique to use that’s compassionate and gets positive results.
To create success with your child at home, click here to learn about parent coaching.
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
What Your Child Can’t Tell You
It’s essentially a short-cut. If you want cooperative behavior from your kids, take the short-cut by training your mind to see what’s beneath the communication. Practice seeing your child’s innocence first, and working to understand what lies beneath the foul language, the time spent with the door locked, and the “interesting” style of dress. You will find a vulnerable, changing child who simply doesn’t have insight yet. That’s our job as adults … to gain the insight and act accordingly.
Rather than exhibit anger over disrespectful behavior, acknowledge there’s an emotion that the child cannot express directly lying just under the surface. Kids get hurt a lot easier than most adults realize, so they are compelled to protect their tender hearts by lashing out. If we don’t give them cause to protect themselves (by seeing what’s really going on) they won’t have to be so defensive.
So the next time you see a child “acting out”, ask yourself what’s being communicated. It will be an emotion that the child is too young or too immature to express directly, such as hurt, frustration, disappointment, hopelessness, or something else you can help to identify. Then address the child in those terms, rather than with your own irritation. Say, “You seem upset. Want to tell me what’s up?” or “How about you take some time in your own room until you feel better and we can talk?” or “I remember being your age and feeling that same way. Sit down, and let’s try to make this better together.” You are getting to the root emotion, rather than placing judgment on the child’s behavior. Congratulations! You are on the short-cut to better communication and better behavior with your child.
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
On November 8, 1895, German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was working with his cathode ray generator when he accidentally discovered that it cast an unusual image. A week later, he decided to take an X-ray of his wife’s hand, through which her bones and wedding ring were clearly revealed! The general public and the scientific community were captivated. Röntgen named his discovery “X-radiation”, with the X meaning “unknown”. Today we know these highly useful images as “X-rays.”
In times past, physicians were hard-pressed to come up with theories about what caused symptoms in their patients. X-rays opened up a whole new way of seeing into the body, where broken bones and masses could be visualized, ushering in a world of previously unknown treatments.
Fast forward to 2011, and the idea of seeing into the emotional/behavioral world of children with X-ray vision, while still in its infancy, is starting to catch on. No longer do we simply look at the “outside” of opposition, the the child’s behavior, for answers on how to make it better. We now use emotional X-ray vision to see what’s occurring within the oppositional child. Similar to exploring the physical body, by taking a look inside, we can find the answers to healing.
In the absence of a machine, we are called upon to develop our emotional X-ray skills through our own internal insight into opposition. Since we adults have a wide range of talent when it comes to insight, this is a much messier process than taking X-radiation pictures. But once coached, we find that it’s not as hard as it seems to see where negative child behavior originates. Here’s a primer on seeing into the emotional source of oppositional behaviors:
1. “I hate you”, when X-rayed, is revealed as a statement of frustration. When we treat the frustration with patience, rather than focus on the words, the “hate” dissipates.
2. “You are so stupid”, when X-rayed, is revealed as a call for understanding. When we treat this symptom with deep listening, the bratty behavior evaporates.
3. “I hate myself”, when X-rayed, is revealed as a profound sense of failure. When we treat it with believing in the child’s fundamental goodness, it can be resolved.
4. “Get out of my life”, when X-rayed, is revealed as opposition due to a sense of isolation. When we connect using written notes, a bridge to the child forms, allowing us a path toward a healing connection.
5. “You can’t make me”, when X-rayed, is revealed as insecurity. When we treat it with trust in the child’s abilities (grown-up tasks), we encourage confidence.
X-raying children’s emotions seems like drudgery in this electronic world of fast information from our I-phones. We often don’t have the patience to understand where the behavior comes from; we just want it improved, and immediately. But the naked truth is, oppositional children need patient guidance, which takes time and focused attention. And oppositional behavior is not that hard to overcome, once we stop looking at the outside and hone our X-rays in on the right spot. Parent coaching can help you install your internal emotional X-ray machine. You’ll find the benefits of seeing into opposition enormous, and the results as effective as high-tech surgery.