Posts Tagged ‘behavior’

PostHeaderIcon What to Do When Meltdowns Happen

What to Do When Meltdowns Happen

We’ve all been there, wondering how in the world we’re supposed to react when our child is out of control.  Here are some tips for dealing with meltdowns from children of all ages, not just the little ones.

  1. Start with compassion. Understand the child’s phase of development and inner state.  This sounds too academic for many, but it’s the answer to so much conflict.  If your child is very young, or has had traumatic experiences, realize that emotional regulation in the brain is not yet developed. This is why we see so many meltdowns.  Compassion can come when parents realize that these kids are not being “naughty”, but just having a hard time regulating HUGE feelings.  It’s exactly the same for tweens and teens.  For great info on this topic, view PBS’ Inside the Teenage Brain. It will help you see what’s happening inside the child, so you can be relieved of judging him or her.  It’s not talked about much, but many parents don’t like being harsh with their children, as it goes against their loving nature.  This is the way out of that trap.
  2. Calm yourself.  You may have heard me talk about children’s amygdalas firing in their brains when they overreact to a perceived threat.  As adults, we’re in a much better position than are children to have perspective on our responses.  We can think about our own behavior in a way that kids can’t.  That said, adults have amygdalas, too! We overreact when we feel a threat from a defiant child. So this takes some forethought, to decide in advance that we’re not going to have such a huge reaction. We can do it, because the payoff for not overreacting is tremendous.  Remaining calm can  prevent that all-too-common volley of screaming when you lose it with your child.  Tantrums are now reduced from 20-30 minutes to only a few, and their intensity is lowered, too. Well worth it.
  3. Connect when you can. Kids of all ages who are having a  meltdown need the opposite of what it seems.  Most of us get the urge to “teach them a lesson” and then “leave them alone.” But the best approach is to connect, as an upset child is actually asking for your love when the upset occurs.  So as soon as the storm has passed, reassure the child that you understand he or she was having a very strong feeling, and that you are not angry.  Ask how you can help.  Listen deeply, and reflect what you hear.  “I hear you saying you were frustrated that I didn’t give you what you wanted right away.” Then pause.  Let the message sink in to the child – the message that he has been seen and heard.  You don’t need to fix the problem.  Listening deeply will soothe the strong feelings.
  4. Make a plan.  Have a family meeting to discuss times when meltdowns occur.  It’s healthy to talk about this, and though your child may not want to, if you approach strong feelings as perfectly normal parts of being alive, you may see more willingness to participate.  For more information on family meetings: how to plan, who does what, what to say, and ways to recover from meltdowns, read Present Moment Parenting: The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child.  Or listen on Audible.
  5. Remember that parenting in a compassionate way goes against most adults’ ways of thinking.  We think that our authority should rule, and children should just listen and comply.  If this has not worked for you, there is a better way.  Give yourself time and space to adjust, and don’t blame yourself.  You were only doing what you knew how to do.  Now it’s time for something that works.

For help with his or any other parenting issue, parent coaching can help.  Click here for more information.

PostHeaderIcon What About When He Gets to the Real World?

What About When He Gets to the Real World?

Tina Feigal, MS, Ed. © Copyright 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PostHeaderIcon Saying No to One Thing Means Saying Yes to Another

Saying No to One Thing Means Saying Yes to Another

As we Minnesotans watch an April snowstorm blanket the landscape with eight new inches of “pretty stuff”, it’s hard to accept “no” from Mother Nature when we yearn for Spring RIGHT NOW.  We desperately want warm sun on our faces, robins and daffodils, not boots, gloves, and snow shovels!

Isn’t it interesting to note how as adults, we have experiences that thwart our desires, just the way our kids do?  Last night, my son texted me an interesting thought to ponder.  “When we say no to something, we’re saying yes to something else.”  Then he typed, in his adorably thought-provoking way, “Opposition.”

When our children are oppositional, they are saying “no” to one thing, such as “brush your teeth”, “get off the computer”, “time for bed”, or “finish your homework.” What’s the thing they are saying “yes” to at that moment?  Of course, you might answer, more freedom to play video games, more freedom to stay up late, more freedom to watch a movie instead of finish homework.  But there’s more to it than that.

When children oppose their parents, they’re also saying “yes” to their own sense of who they are.  As young as 12 months, they’re wired to start opposing their parents’ requests because they are exercising their newfound will.  Is this a disrespectful aspect to all children?  Some may argue yes.  But it’s really more helpful and less conflict producing to see it as a natural developmental phase.  As adults, this is our job and we even benefit from celebrating that our kids with big wills are on the right path. We do better to support their will, rather than try to fight it.

So, you might say to me, “How do we get the bath taken in time for bed, when all they want to do is play?”  The answer lies in recognizing the emerging will as a vital part of the child’s growth as a person.  Acknowledging how much they want to continue to watch their favorite show, play their favorite video game, or finish up their art project, will go a long way toward gaining cooperation.  Say, “You’re really into this game, I can see! I notice that you’re gaining a lot of new skills by playing it. Finish this one game and I’ll meet you in your room, ready for bed in 10 minutes.”

This approach acknowledges the child’s will to play the game and also encourages, rather than forces, the letting go.  (We all know how well it turns out when we try to force a child to do something.)

Here are the 5 steps:
1. Establish a routine bedtime with your children’s input during a family meeting.
2. Tell your child exactly how you will let him or her know it’s bedtime.  Have him sit in front of the computer and rehearse this aspect.  Place your hand on his back if he can tolerate it, and say in a respectful tone, “See what time it is? I’ll meet you in your room in 10 minutes.”  That’s all.  He knows when bedtime is.
3.  Just wait respectfully for him to comply.  If it takes longer than you thought, rehearse again tomorrow, but don’t lecture now.
4. Give heartfelt appreciation for coming when he does.  Even if it’s a few minutes late, you want to let him know he’s been successful in coming to the room.  Reward what you want, and you will see more of it.
5. Have a peaceful, appreciative end to the day.

If you need coaching help with these steps, or any other parenting challenge, click here.

PostHeaderIcon A Great Mom’s Success Story About Her 9-Year-Old Son

A Great Mom’s Success Story About

Her 9-Year-Old Son

Hi Tina,

Here is a testimonial for your website.  I could write all day, but I’m guessing you want it short 🙂

I felt completely hopeless as I watched my 9 year olds behavior spiral out of control. He was aggressive and violent with me and his siblings, and he was defiant at every turn. The harder we disciplined and the louder we yelled, the worse his behavior became. We were certain if our child’s behavior continued down this path that he was headed for big trouble. We knew we had to make drastic changes to our parenting style because what we were doing was not working. I had read Tina’s book in the past, and I really believed in her message. My husband and I decided to invest in coaching sessions with her, and it has changed our family life drastically within a couple of months. Our son is no longer aggressive, and everyday we keep seeing more good behavior. I feel better about myself as a mother, and it has actually strengthened my relationship with my husband because we are working together now rather than against each other. Tina’s individualized coaching sessions gave us clear direction and a framework for how to handle challenging situations as they arose. Each session with Tina was life changing for me. I learned so much about myself, the kind of parent I want to be, and the kind of family life I want for my children. I would highly recommend Tina to anyone raising an intense child!

Angie

And the same day:

I just wanted to write you an email to let you know that after our conversation today, I spoke with my son tonight about his sense of purpose. I took your advice and told him how proud I am of him for thinking about how he can use his talents to make positive changes in this world, especially at such a young age. You should have seen his response, Tina. He was beaming with pride. You could see it in his eyes. He is softer, less anxious and just overall more content with being in his own skin right now. He came from a child ridden with doubt and fear, and filled with anxiety to the point where he was up until 2 in the morning, to a child who is kissing me good-night saying I am the best mommy in the world. There is much work to be done, and it is by no means perfect, but I now have hope and I can see that there is a way out of this. And that I have the power to change this. I thank you for sharing your wisdom. I may sound like a broken record today, but I can’t tell you how grateful I am that our paths have crossed. It is very possible that you may have saved my family. You should be very proud of the work that you do. It is truly life changing.

Angie

 

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon What to Give Your Child for the Holidays

What to Give Your Child for the Holidays

by Tina Feigal © 2011


This holiday season, I’m encouraging you to give your child a different kind of gift than the one you visualized when you read this article’s title.

Each year, kids are excited about the gifts they will receive.  Visions of XBOX 360s, Wii’s, iPhones, skis, dolls, trucks, stuffed animals, Legos, and a variety of other gifts float through their heads.  After the holiday, the gifts often lose some of their allure, and kids are back to saying, “I’m bored.” So let’s focus instead on a gift that keeps on giving.

I’m going to suggest that you give your child a sense of himself as a needed person for a gift this year.  It’s something that doesn’t come to most adults during the annual holiday buying frenzy, but it’s a gift that will keep on giving for a lifetime.  So stop for a few minutes and think of ways you can set your child up for feeling really valued, cared for, and yes, generous, during this holiday season.  After all, isn’t that what we all want?  Kids with a strong sense of their place in the world as contributors?  You have the power in this special time of year to create a kid with a true sense of purpose, something he or she will remember for years to come.

To create a success around being needed, take your child into your confidence around a gift you are thinking of giving his sibling.  Ask, “Do you think she’d like the red sweater or this cute skirt better?”  Then take your child’s advice.  It’s more important to build a giving spirit than to get the perfect gift.

Ask what he thinks he’d like to give his sister, and then offer to help him get it if he’s too young to have his own money. Give him heartfelt appreciation when he makes a selection, and talk up his gift before it’s opened.  Say, “I love how thoughtfully you chose this for Samantha. I think she’s gonna love it.”

Let your kids see you giving to people outside the family who may be in need.  If you are donating toys, don’t just take care of it when they kids are in school, but include them in the selection and the dropping off at the collection site.  This way they feel part of something bigger than the immediate family, and remember how fortunate they are.  Or if there’s a needy family in your faith community, be sure your kids contribute some of their allowance to participate in the family’s giving efforts. If you want grateful, generous kids, put more of your effort into fostering their gratitude and generosity than into trying to please them.

Giving doesn’t have to be material.  If you see an opportunity for your child to push the ottoman closer to grandpa’s chair, give him the gift of quietly suggesting he do so.  If you see him spontaneously sharing his time with a younger cousin, be sure he hears how much you admire that.  If she works hard to maintain a good mood when in a crowd of people, give her positive feedback so she sees what you see, a child who makes an effort for others.

The chances to give your child kudos abound at holiday time.  Plan now to tap the present moment to focus on them, and watch him “glow” with a strong sense of his own strength as a giving person.  The benefits are immeasurable, and everyone receives them!

For parent coaching on what to give your child for the holidays or any other topic, contact Tina Feigal at 651-453-0123 or email tina@parentingmojo.com.

PostHeaderIcon Adolescence: The Great Cookie Challenge

Adolescence: The Great Cookie Challenge

Copyright ©2011 Tina Feigal

 

During a recent coaching call, my client related the story of her 11-year-old gifted son with ADHD. He had come home from school, and immediately loaded a platter of cookies, poured a tumbler of milk, and was heading to watch  TV. His mother’s comment was, “I don’t think so…that homework has to be done!” What ensued was a huge battle, complete with name calling of the most horrible kind, mom getting shoved, and a call dad, (the parents are divorced, but communicating regularly about their parenting) who came right over and gave his lecture and heated attention to the infraction. The son ended his day with a sense of complete guilt, failure, and disconnectedness from both parents.

I offered my thoughts on how this scene could have been avoided.

First, instead of challenging the 11-year-old holding cookies and milk, see that after a stressful day at school, he can benefit from some comfort in the food form and some down time in front of mindless (but please, appropriate!) TV. Notice the child in the present moment, and then ask a question, rather than deliver a command. A better comment might be, “That platter of cookies looks like exactly the thing a sixth-grader needs after a day at school.” The mom now has her son’s open, non-defended attention, even in the era of adolescence. The question is received more positively: “What’s your plan for homework when you’re done with your snack?”

This question does two things. It forwards the action, and it assumes the child’s responsibility for his own homework. This is crucial. With one foot in adulthood, and another in childhood, the sixth grader needs to have affirmations of his own self-efficacy whenever possible. It also helps him develop his sense of responsibility. The adolescent is not ONE thing. He is fifty things, including a developing being. You facilitate his healthy development by assuming his responsible actions (he may not have known how responsibly he was going to handle his homework before his mom phrased the question this way. It’s all happening at the same time…the development, the attitude formation, and the plan!) Furthermore, you predict his success by forwarding the action. One little well-phrased comment can turn a huge name-calling shove-fest into a moment of enhanced self-esteem and responsibility. We get to choose.

After years of training in authoritarian “teach the child a lesson” approaches, we need to unlearn our knee-jerk reactions to kids in adolescence who look as if they are misbehaving, and learn a whole new way of relating to them. Instead of playing the behavior police by correcting the infraction, we need to take the bigger view. An adolescent is an EXTREMELY self-conscious being. It’s as if a huge search light is on him at all times. His body is changing, his thought processes are changing, and his whole being feels a bit unfamiliar. No wonder he feels self-conscious during adolescence. If he doesn’t even know who he is, he can hardly defend himself against the ill-informed opinions of adults and peers.

So an adolescent needs understanding. He is neither child nor adult, but a fluctuating, spinning, hormone-ridden, uncertain, fabulous, loving, angry, open, close-minded baby adult. He will give you the finger and call you a name that makes your blood boil one minute and climb into your lap the next. During this phase of adolescence, a human being needs empathy, not judgment.

At the end of our coaching session, my client asked me, “What’s my mantra?”

My answer is three-fold: “Don’t judge.  Ask: What does he need to learn? Teach him that.”

Copyright © Tina Feigal 2011

For parent coaching help with your children in adolescence, call 651-453-0123.

PostHeaderIcon To Change the Behavior, Change the Child’s Motivation

To Change the Behavior, Change the Child’s

Motivation

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

PostHeaderIcon What Your Child Can’t Tell You

What Your Child Can’t Tell You

Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, Parent Coach and Parenting Speaker
 
You have probably heard the phrase, “All behavior is communication.” The more I think about this, the more I see that it is a crucial thought for raising children. I want everyone to emblazon this idea where they will see it every day. Children misbehave because they lack the communication skills and insight to tell us what’s really happening. It’s our job to look beyond the behavior to the root feelings.
When a child whines, it is not because she likes the sound of whining. It’s because she lacks the maturity and experience to say, “Mom, Dad, I am frustrated right now because you are asking me to hurry for school, but I am a kid and I’m just slower.” Instead, she’ll exhibit all kinds of unwanted behaviors: whining, delaying, arguing, and even getting physically aggressive.
When a grade-schooler refuses to do his homework, it’s not likely that he is simply lazy. His behavior is communicating that he is discouraged in some way. Our first impulse as parents is to make him seethat he needs to get the work done so he can be successful. We remind, cajole, threaten, and eventually explode. Our first impulse would be much more helpful if instead, it was to determine what to do about the discouragement.
When a teenager doesn’t listen to our advice, it’s not because he is just being a jerk. His behavior is communicating that he is in a new phase of development. He needs to make his own decisions, and we are inadvertently calling him incompetent whenever we advise him. He takes it as an insult every time we make a suggestion. He can’t say, “Mom, Dad, I appreciate that you care about me, and that you are more wise than I am. But I need to make these decisions myself because I am becoming a young adult, and that’s what young adults do. Please bear with me as I struggle and even fail sometimes.” So he leaves the house in a huff, giving the door an extra hard slam for emphasis. We would be much better off if our first impulse was to support him in his decision-making, rather than tell him what to do.

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