Posts Tagged ‘child’
When All You Get is Resistance
by Tina Feigal Copyright © 2017
No, no, no, no, no! Are you exhausted from fielding way too many acts of resistance from your child? If so, let’s look at how to get rid of such strong resistance, and replace it with calm cooperation. I can almost hear you saying, “She’s obviously never met this kid!” You’re right, I haven’t met your child, but I do know a thing or two about how resistance develops and what to do about it.
First, when you see repeated resistance, ask yourself, “Why does she respond this way?” Figuring out why you see this behavior is the first step to resolving it. Pushing harder to make her comply is a step away from resolution.
Second, imagine you were in your child’s shoes, with a young person’s perspective. You are totally subject to your adults’ decisions, and you are growing up enough to make some of them yourself. But the adults don’t seem to see that you’re different, so you must resist them until they do. The message of resistance is, “SEE ME!”
Third, look for ways that you can actively notice the changes in your child’s abilities to make her own decisions. Maybe she chose away from a toxic friend last week, or maybe she decided to work on her big assignment with friends instead of going it alone. Maybe she just put her dirty clothes in the hamper without being asked. Or perhaps she was thoughtful to you in an unexpected way. These are all the experiences you can use to see her.
Fourth, let her know. Write a note to your child saying that you notice she’s changing. Tell her specifically how you see her growing, for example, “I saw you make a great decision about phone time last night. You brought it to the kitchen for charging at 9, as we’d decided, and you allowed yourself some unplugged time. That’s the sign of a truly grown up person, and I’m going to be on the lookout for more signs, as they are coming fast right now! I need to adjust my thinking as to how old you really are, and start treating you in a way that you deserve. ”
Fifth, watch the resistance melt. When you see your child for who she is right now, in the Present Moment, her need to resist you loses its purpose. Enjoy your victory, share it with your child’s other parent, and write about it in your gratitude journal.
If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, click here.
Holidays with Your Intense Child
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Copyright © 2016
Holidays with your intense child can cause a great deal of discomfort. You’re concerned about keeping things socially acceptable, you would rather not see “that look” on your sister-in-law’s face, and staying home in front of the TV never felt so appealing. But on you go, feeling the pull of family responsibility, not wanting to disappoint people – still knowing you will, because it’s almost impossible to take your child anywhere without a scene.
This holiday season, it’s time to get a handle on visiting others and helping your child maintain some semblance of civility.
Here are five tips for surviving, and even enjoying, the holidays with your intense child. Yes, it’s possible, and no, you don’t need therapy or medication to get there.
- Talk in advance with your child about how it will be at the relatives’ house this holiday. Recall what it felt like last year and take note of how she talks about it.
- Consider that sensory issues are at the core of the misbehavior you see in your child. Too many smells mingling, sparkly things and bright snow, tags in new clothes, sounds of people all talking at once, proximity of other bodies, and the taste of unfamiliar foods can throw a child into a state of complete undoing.
- Make a plan to decrease the sensory input for your child. Ask her what would feel good: would you like to go somewhere in the house if it gets to be too much? How about spending time under mom’s big jacket? What breathing exercises would you like to do to calm yourself? Focus her on special gift giving, so her attention is on others instead of herself.
- Decrease expectations for your child’s participation and ask others to do the same. Remember that intense behavior such as tantrums come from being overwhelmed. If you’ve already had a lot of excitement before the big gathering, your child may be simply unable to take more input. Ask for understanding, explaining that “She just has trouble with too much stimulation at once. We’ve made a plan, and I hope you can support us in it.”
- Go to her frequently throughout the visit to give her positive statements about how well she’s doing. “When you take care of yourself while we’re at Aunt Sarah’s, I feel so proud of you.” “When you joined us for that little chat in the living room and gave out your ornaments, I could tell Grandma really enjoyed it.” “When you were able to play with your little cousin in the den, I know it meant a lot to her.”
These statements help your child stay on a “string of successes.” She will respond with more successes, as you are causing a response in her body that says, “I am good at this.” The better she feels about how she’s doing, the more she’ll do it!
This may just be a great opportunity to come away with a successful visit, which you can talk about with your child, strengthening the bond between you along with her ability to cope! Enjoy your holiday with your intense child!
If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, click here for all the info on parent coaching.
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.
What to Give Your Child for the Holidays
by Tina Feigal © 2011
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 email@example.com.
Transforming the Challenging Bedtime
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
“How do we take the pain out of a challenging bedtime?” Among the parents I coach, I find that that this nearly- universal issue arises at some point in the coaching process. Here are some solutions to this often-frustrating everyday issue.
Set up a family meeting. Using the same technique you would with a respected adult, ask your child if she will be available at 7 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss an important issue. This gives the child a sense of being respected and also infuses a feeling of importance into a family issue. I recommend this approach for any topic that needs discussion in your family life.
Use the meeting to lay out the issue of bedtime squabbles as objectively as you can. You might say something like, “I have noticed that we are having trouble settling down without an argument at bedtime. I know that when this happens, we have frustration, delaying, yelling, and tears. The funny thing is, we go to bed every night. Let’s do what we always do, which is say it’s time for bed, go to the bathroom, brush teeth, put on our p.j.s read a story, say good night, and turn off the light. Only let’s do that without the yelling! Would you kids like that? “Yes!” will be the reply. Then ask, “What ideas do you have that might help our bedtime go more smoothly? What do you think the rules should be?”
Use Present Moment Parenting for bedtime behavior management. Establish the rules for bedtimes with the child’s input. Rules should start with “no”: no getting out of bed once the light is out, no asking for more time, no stalling, no negotiating, no whining, no bothering your sister, no crying, no excuses. Children know what the rules are, and the ones they offer will typically be more stringent than yours. Use the child’s rules religiously whenever practical, as this creates buy-in, which strengthens the likelihood that the rules will be followed. The clearer the rules are, the easier it is for the child to follow them. Practice the bedtime routine when it’s not bedtime to help the child get a map in her brain for how it’s supposed to look. This is great fun for the kids, and it increases the likelihood of buy-in, in the same way as creating the rules.
If a rule is broken, there is an immediate, non-negotiable break. A gentle, unemotional “broke a rule take a break”, is all that’s needed. The break should take place in the bed, since that is where the child needs to be, and should last 30 seconds. No energy (no talking, no negotiating, no engagement of any sort) should be directed to the child during the break. If the child refuses to take a break, say, “The break starts when you are calm, and as soon as you make it start, it can end,” with the firm conviction that you have decided that it is bedtime, and there will be no change in your decision. This system builds a sense of security in the child. It implies that you are in charge, and also that you have complete faith that she can go to sleep on her own.
All requests for behavior should start with, “I need you to” rather than questions such as, “Would you please” or “Would you like to” which imply a choice. Remember, when you are clear and certain, you are giving your child a huge gift. It may take a few nights of this clarity for the child to adjust to the routine, but it will be well worth the effort. Every minute you spend making this work now will pay off significantly in the future. You are teaching your child that she can go to sleep on her own just like a big person. This is very valuable information for her, as it will help her to believe in herself in other areas, too.
For steps that are completed with cooperation, use heartfelt appreciation to show that you are noticing and valuing her actions. This creates a powerful heart-to-brain neural pathway for goodness, which strengthens the desired behavior significantly. You might say, “I see that you have your teeth brushed and are headed for your room. Thank you so much for following our plan, Kristi. Every time you do this stuff, I feel like you are making this house such a wonderful place to live!” Using the formula “When you … I feel … because …” for this feedback makes remembering how to deliver it much easier. (For more information on Present Moment Parenting, visit www.parentingmojo.com.)
Set a definite bedtime. Younger children should go to bed earlier than the older ones if there is an age difference of two years or more. Usually a half hour is ample time to separate the two bedtimes. If you have four or more children, you may want to make bedtime more uniform so that you assure your adult time at the end of the day. This is very important. Knowing that you, as a single parent or with your spouse or partner, can definitely count on some winding down time helps you to handle the challenges that will come tomorrow. Do not consider this optional. You need your time alone or time together. It is very good modeling for your children, as well. They need to know that time to oneself or as a couple is vital to healthy adult living, and that it also ensures that mom and dad will be in a much better mood tomorrow.
Include any special rituals in the bedtime routine that the children deem important, and that are acceptable to you. Rituals might be as simple as: wash your face and brush your teeth, take a drink of water, put on p.j.s, say goodnight to the fish, read with mom or dad, settle in for sleep. To communicate respect for her process, indicate that you are as bought in to the ritual as is the child; be sure to remind her to say goodnight to the fish if she forgets. Rituals are very important for children’s transition to the next activity, especially at bedtime. They provide a sense of continuity and comfort, which is vitally important to raising healthy kids. Reading together is my favorite bedtime ritual, as it points out that you value reading and learning, it offers a great opportunity for snuggling, and most important, it truly allows the child to feel your slowed-down, caring energy.
Requests for extending the reading time will be lovingly denied when lights out time has arrived. Make a comment such as, “It makes me so proud to see that you love to read this much, Honey, but tomorrow is another day, and you can read during any free time you have. Now I need to see the light out. Good night. I love you very much.”
Then leave the room and consider the day with children completed (unless, of course, there is a true illness.)
If your child has a problem with separating from you or with nightmares, here are a few options to consider: Place a nightlight in the child’s room. As part of including your child in the solution, have him go with you to the store and pick out a special one. Some nightlights are in the shape of child-friendly characters, but young imaginations can turn them ugly in the night. Neutral nightlights are probably the best. Some have fragrances that can be calming, but they do run out of scent. You may avoid trouble by buying two or three, so that there is always a back-up on hand.
When my youngest son was four years old, he had severe nightmares and was afraid to go to sleep. A friend gave me some room spray that made dreams sweet and not scary. We sprayed the room every night for a few months, and that, with some gentle reassurance, took care of the nightmares. Any type of pleasant spray can serve the purpose. Of course, if your child has sensitivities to chemicals, perfumes, or odors, you will want to avoid this one. Dream catchers are Native American creations in which small hoops with weavings, beads, and feathers, serve to filter out the bad dreams and only allow the good ones. They are wonderful, durable devices for helping children make the transition into a restful night’s sleep. They are fun and easy to make, as well!
Use lovies (dolls, stuffed animals, blankets) generously. Assigning characteristics to them gives the child a sense of control over the night. “My bear knows how to scare away the monsters” is a good indicator of coping in the child whose ability to tell truth from reality is not yet fully developed (typically after age four.) “My dolly can help me dream good dreams” is another helpful statement of empowerment over the night’s threatening feelings. If your child has not ascribed these characteristics to the stuffed animal of choice, it is all right to gently suggest them. “Do you know that this doll came with instructions that said it can help kids sleep well?” Never take away, or threaten to take away, an object that comforts the child at night for any reason. A break is always a better choice for helping the child to gain control of her behavior.
If the child seems too old for the blanket, doll, or stuffed animal, do not be the one to decide whether it is time to give it up. That decision is the child’s, and will be made when he or she is ready. It hurts no one for him to hang on until it’s time to let go, and may be a crucial aide in his emotional development. And never make a decision about the appropriateness of a lovie based on the child’s gender. Little boys who love baby dolls and little girls who carry around their G.I. Joes need the same love and acceptance as their counterparts who depend on same-gender lovies. A positive approach is to ask after the well being of the lovie. “How is Lucy Light today? Have you and she been having fun while I was away?” If spending the night at a friend’s house with the lovie becomes an issue, leave the decision about whether to take the lovie along to the child. Many friends are relieved to see their buddies unpack their lovies when bedtime arrives. It indicates that they are all part of the same “child club” still in need of certain comforts at night. If your child does receive some ridicule for having the lovie along, she can decide what to do about it. She may want to come home, or she may keep the lovie with her and let the ridicule go. She may decide to put it back into her bag for the night. Trust your child’s sense of what will keep her the most comfortable in the situation, and assure her that she can call you to consult on it at any time.
An example of implementing the plan:
Alan and Alicia Elberg had had it with their children, Madison, age 6, and Josh, 11, at bedtime. They were in a constant state of disruption and sleep deprivation especially from Josh’s behavior. He was getting out of bed after lights out, arguing that he was not being treated fairly, saying he was scared, and insisting on more water and food. By the time the battles had been fought over each of these issues, Alan and Alicia were so exhausted and angry that they were at the end of their rope. They were open to any and all suggestions, and decided to give Present Moment Parenting a try.
The Elbergs had their first family meeting, and included their children in creating solutions for the bedtime routine. They made sure that they paid close attention to the input and used a talking piece for the meeting. Whoever has the talking piece at the moment gets the full attention of the others with no interruptions. When finished, that person passes the talking piece to the next person and then gives him full, uninterrupted attention. The talking piece serves as a powerful physical symbol of respect for children and adults alike. The Elbergs wrote down all ideas and used ideas from each family member in their final plan. Josh, who has had the most trouble settling in to bed without conflict, suggested that Alicia or Alan give a ten-minute warning before bedtime. Madison said that she would like the warning to be given in a quiet voice. Alicia responded to their input by saying, “I notice that you are really thinking hard about ways to make our household happy at bedtime. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate hearing your ideas. I wouldn’t have thought of some of them myself. That’s what makes all of these thinkers together so valuable!” Alan contributed the phrase, “I need you to get ready for bed” as the signal for bedtime and said it would be delivered only once. Alicia added that there would be a break for anyone who doesn’t listen. She set the start of bedtime preparation at 7:30 for Madison and 8:00 for Josh, with lights out at 8:00 and 8:30 respectively, and all agreed on the plan.
The Elbergs wrote out the kids’ rules that started with “no.” Their list included no whining, no dawdling, and no getting out of bed, no bothering your sibling, no calling for mom or dad, no arguing, and no excuses. Although these rules struck Alicia and Alan as a bit more harsh than they had envisioned, they thought about the pleasant nature of an evening without these behaviors, and decided to go for it. Each child gave input to the bathroom routine, which ended up with Madison brushing her teeth and using the bathroom first, and Josh following with a nighttime shower to make the morning routine more simple. Madison added, “I want to say prayers with daddy every night, and I want to sleep with my new stuffed giraffe.” Josh said, “I want mom to help me set out my clothes every night so I don’t have to decide in the morning. That will be a lot quicker.” Contingency plans were created for evenings when Alan or Alicia would not be home at bedtime. Alan and Alicia stated that they would read or tell stories with each child, and that they would alternate reading with them. Dad would read a page and Madison would read a sentence, and mom and Josh would work out their plan as they went. A three-minute back-rub for Josh and a head-rub for Madison completed the plan for the nightly routine.
The Elbergs decided that lights would go out at the designated time and that Alan and Alicia will continue with their evening’s activities. If Madison or Josh breaks a rule, s/he will serve a break in the bed with no discussion at all, other than, “Broke a rule, take a break.” Alan or Alicia will be present in the room for the break to monitor it, but will not have any interaction with the child. After the break is completed, the parent will leave the room. (These steps may have to be repeated several times at first, until the child realizes that there is no emotional energy from the parent for breaking a rule.)
Alan and Alicia expressed their heartfelt appreciation for a great meeting to both children and to each other. They followed through with more appreciative expressions the next morning by saying, “I just love it that this is the way we do bedtimes now! I woke up so full of energy today and it looks like you did, too! You kids are the greatest.”
For many parents who read this, the preceding may look like a lot of extra work. No doubt it is extra energy out-put, but the amount of energy is about the same as the energy expended on negativity, and in contrast, it actually results in great improvements! Parents soon realize that the forethought and follow-through they give to bedtimes pay off in a huge way, and they get hooked. And once the children realize that their bedtime routine is solid and predictable, their need to test the limits diminishes significantly, and the chaotic bedtime scenes subside. There is, of course, no guarantee that every single night will be quiet and serene, but progress toward that vision is very possible. Parents who put in the effort toward planning bedtimes and thoughtfully implementing their plans say that it is well worth it when they realize the rewards: peaceful evenings, well-rested children and happy parents!
Copyright © Tina Feigal 2011
Avoid Overindulging Your
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, Parenting Coach and Speaker
As we all know, it is remarkably easy to give in to the demands of an intense child, just to create peace for one moment! You are with relatives, and know that a fit could occur if you remain firm, so you take the path of least resistance. Or you are at home, and need to get out the door for a soccer game or doctor’s appointment. You give in to the child who refuses to get into the car by over-promising something you can’t or don’t want to deliver. We know that all of this can undermine your authority, leaving you to feel guilty about being an ineffective parent, but what is going on for the child? Author and researcher Jeanne Illsley Clarke has found that as overindulged children grow into adulthood, they are burdened with lowered self-esteem as parents, dysfunctional attitudes, and decreased adaptability in the family.
So what can we do to help children grow into healthy, loving adults? How can we prepare them now for their future roles as workers, parents, and spouses? One technique is to be sure that kids feel needed. Recognize that being needed is a basic human need in itself. Create roles for each child, based on their strengths, and uphold those roles as special and necessary whenever you can. Use their talents and strengths in real-life situations, where you actually need help. If you feel you can get it done better and faster by doing it yourself, even though your child could do it, stop yourself right there. Whenever that feeling comes over you, remember that it is a warning sign that you might be missing an opportunity to give your child what she needs. It’s time to slow down now, offer the child a chance to perform a task she’s good at, and pat yourself on the back for assuring her happy adulthood.
Another way to help children avoid the pitfalls of overindulgence is to plan ahead for challenging situations. If you have the decisions made in advance about whether you are going to leave the store with a toy, or without a toy, you are relieved of the possibility of an argument. If your child resists your already-made decision, remain cool and sure of yourself. “We made that decision already,” is all you need to say. Have the child have a do-over or take a break if he argues further.
You may also want to check the calendar to see if you might be overindulging your kids. If you are giving all your time to their activities, and have no time for your spouse or significant other (or yourself), that’s a good sign that things need adjusting. It is REMARKABLY EASY to get into the mindset that if my child isn’t in every conceivable activity in the third grade, he will miss out on something vital to his happiness. It’s just not so. Overindulgence causes him to miss out on something vital to his happiness … the ability to entertain himself in his own way. Decrease the amount of outside activity; give your children time, art supplies, and space. Turn off the TV, set some expectations for an afternoon of creativity, and watch what happens.
Let go of any guilt for possible overindulgence you might have used in the past. It’s a natural response to having a challenging child, without exception. But with new information to motivate your actions, make a plan for reducing overindulgence and bringing balance back to life.
And as always, let me know if you could use some personalized coaching on this topic. Visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching or call 651-453-0123 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting for an appointment.
Adolescence: The Great Cookie Challenge
Copyright ©2011 Tina Feigal
During a recent coaching call, my client related the story of her 11-year-old gifted son with ADHD. He had come home from school, and immediately loaded a platter of cookies, poured a tumbler of milk, and was heading to watch TV. His mother’s comment was, “I don’t think so…that homework has to be done!” What ensued was a huge battle, complete with name calling of the most horrible kind, mom getting shoved, and a call dad, (the parents are divorced, but communicating regularly about their parenting) who came right over and gave his lecture and heated attention to the infraction. The son ended his day with a sense of complete guilt, failure, and disconnectedness from both parents.
I offered my thoughts on how this scene could have been avoided.
First, instead of challenging the 11-year-old holding cookies and milk, see that after a stressful day at school, he can benefit from some comfort in the food form and some down time in front of mindless (but please, appropriate!) TV. Notice the child in the present moment, and then ask a question, rather than deliver a command. A better comment might be, “That platter of cookies looks like exactly the thing a sixth-grader needs after a day at school.” The mom now has her son’s open, non-defended attention, even in the era of adolescence. The question is received more positively: “What’s your plan for homework when you’re done with your snack?”
This question does two things. It forwards the action, and it assumes the child’s responsibility for his own homework. This is crucial. With one foot in adulthood, and another in childhood, the sixth grader needs to have affirmations of his own self-efficacy whenever possible. It also helps him develop his sense of responsibility. The adolescent is not ONE thing. He is fifty things, including a developing being. You facilitate his healthy development by assuming his responsible actions (he may not have known how responsibly he was going to handle his homework before his mom phrased the question this way. It’s all happening at the same time…the development, the attitude formation, and the plan!) Furthermore, you predict his success by forwarding the action. One little well-phrased comment can turn a huge name-calling shove-fest into a moment of enhanced self-esteem and responsibility. We get to choose.
After years of training in authoritarian “teach the child a lesson” approaches, we need to unlearn our knee-jerk reactions to kids in adolescence who look as if they are misbehaving, and learn a whole new way of relating to them. Instead of playing the behavior police by correcting the infraction, we need to take the bigger view. An adolescent is an EXTREMELY self-conscious being. It’s as if a huge search light is on him at all times. His body is changing, his thought processes are changing, and his whole being feels a bit unfamiliar. No wonder he feels self-conscious during adolescence. If he doesn’t even know who he is, he can hardly defend himself against the ill-informed opinions of adults and peers.
So an adolescent needs understanding. He is neither child nor adult, but a fluctuating, spinning, hormone-ridden, uncertain, fabulous, loving, angry, open, close-minded baby adult. He will give you the finger and call you a name that makes your blood boil one minute and climb into your lap the next. During this phase of adolescence, a human being needs empathy, not judgment.
At the end of our coaching session, my client asked me, “What’s my mantra?”
My answer is three-fold: “Don’t judge. Ask: What does he need to learn? Teach him that.”
Copyright © Tina Feigal 2011
For parent coaching help with your children in adolescence, call 651-453-0123.
To Change the Behavior, Change the Child’s
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
Children of all ages are motivated by their internal urges (hunger, fatigue, mood, preference) which are influenced by outside forces (time constraints, siblings, friends, parents, grandparents, and teachers.) We forget that the internal urges and outside forces are frequently out of sync. To gain the best cooperation possible, our own instincts tell us that we should deliver the expectation, and the child should comply, and if compliance doesn’t occur, we should use anger to make it occur. As we fail to consider the child’s inner urges, and only consider our own perspective, we keep running the same script over and over with no improvements. A simple request turns into a major tantrum or disrespectful scene, and behavioral storm clouds start to gather. Harsh language, slamming doors, threats, and physical attacks follow what parents thought was a reasonable request. What happened here?
To know the answer to this question, we need to study the child for signs of what’s motivating him or her, in other words, what are his current internal urges? Often some internal negative message, such as “I’m not a good kid, so why should I act like one?” or “I only want my way, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks,” make a child behave the way he does. When a child feels this down, compliance is just not in the offing.
Considering the motivation for behavior is a much better way to actually get the results we want. Now some people think this might be coddling the child. I would argue that with all human beings, listening to internal motivation results in better performance, so why not use this in parenting difficult children? The real “magic” here is to lift the child up so that he feels seen.
Children with ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Attachment Disorder, Giftedness, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and a variety of just plain hard behavior need to be regarded as having their own internal agenda, based on the messages from children’s bodies. If we fail to see them as having these internal urges, we will be in non-stop combat mode.
So the next time you have a request, consider the child’s internal urges before you deliver it, and include an acknowledgement of the child’s inner state in your words. It can look like this: “I realize you hate to be rushed, so I am going to allow extra time for us to get out the door in the morning. You can take your time getting up and dressed, so you can feel more relaxed. We can leave at 7:30 without having to hurry.” The child’s ability to comply is directly related to the amount of sensitivity to his internal urges. The outside force of the need to be on time for school, camp, or practice now seems less foreboding, and he is free to cooperate. You feel better, too, knowing you have a technique to use that’s compassionate and gets positive results.
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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