Posts Tagged ‘help for parents in Minnesota’

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 Kindergartener Faces a Bully and Teaches Mom a Lesson

Kindergartener Faces a Bully and

Teaches Mom a Lesson

By Erin Jauert © 2012

It was a typical Thursday morning.  Everyone had slept a little later than they should have.  Someone had put the peanut butter jar back on the shelf even though it was empty, and a clean pair of matching socks seemed to be as elusive as ever.  As I was double-checking my kindergartener’s backpack and stashing his snack into the front zippered pouch, he looked
up at me with his sweet, dimpled face and said, “Mama, there’s something I forgot to tell
you last night.”  “Oh yeah?” I said, only half listening as my mind raced through a list of
the day’s events.  “There’s a boy on the bus who’s been punching me in the stomach.”

And just like that, my mind went blank.  I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Suddenly, nothing else mattered.  This was, after all, what I’d feared most since that crisp
fall morning 5 months ago when I’d sent him off to his first day of school.  “What do you mean?” I asked, “Has it happened more than once?”  “Yes,” he said, “It happened yesterday and the day before that … and one time last week.”  Doing my best to maintain my composure, I calmly asked, “Do you think you could sit in a different seat where you wouldn’t be near him?”  Without hesitation, my sweet boy insisted, “No, he’s not supposed to, but he climbs all over the bus while it’s moving … no matter where I go, I know he’ll find me.”   My breath caught in the back of my throat and I started to think about how I’d love to teach that little bully a thing or two about messing with my baby.  Little did I know that I was the one about to get schooled.

My 6-year-old continued, “I mean, I know his bucket is empty and that’s why he’s doing it … it’s just that I don’t know how to fill it, Mama.”

It’s hard to say if I was more proud of my son for remembering the lesson his dad and I had thoughtfully weaved into so many prior conversations or more embarrassed that in that moment my kindergartener had to be the one to remind me of it.  Either way, I felt an instant calm sweep over me.  Just as my son had known all along, this wasn’t about him at all.  It was about another child, someone else’s baby, who was lacking something, needing something, wanting something.  I explained to my son that he was exactly right, that in most cases when someone treats another person badly, it’s because they’re feeling bad about themselves.   We brainstormed ideas for ways to fill this little boy’s bucket.  “You could give him a compliment,” I said.  “Maybe I could take him a treat,” my son suggested.  In the end, we agreed that just like everyone else, more than anything, he probably just needed a friend.

Later that morning I watched the clock, noting the kids were probably just getting settled on the bus for the ride home.   Even though he seemed confident with the plan we had devised, I couldn’t shake the nerves as I thought about my baby getting punched in the stomach yet again.  Thirty minutes later the bus pulled up, slowed to a stop and I watched as my kindergartener bounced down the steps.  He didn’t look like a child who had just been punched in the stomach, but I had to hear it for myself.  “So … anything happen with the bully on the bus today?”  I asked.  “Yeah, something happened alright,” he said.  “As soon as we got on, I asked him if he wanted to play with me.  We played Lion King the whole way home … it was awesome!”

While this experience has come and gone in my son’s mind, it’s something I keep revisiting in my own.  I’m sorry that he got punched in the stomach, but grateful that he felt comfortable telling me about it.  I’m ashamed of my initial reaction, but amazed by the way my 6-year-old was able to redirect me to the heart of the issue.  Above all, this experience serves as an important reminder about how important it is as parents that we talk to our children about things that are happening and about things that aren’t happening, but could.  You never know when your kids will encounter a situation where your words will help guide them.   Thanks to many prior conversations about this issue, both directly and indirectly, my kindergartener was armed with the confidence he needed to face a bully on the school bus with both courage and compassion

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 Transforming the Challenging Bedtime

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.)

Troubleshooting

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.”

Conclusion
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

PostHeaderIcon Using the Present Moment to Parent Your Intense Child

Using the Present Moment to Parent Your

Intense Child

Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.

Recently my client wondered how exactly to use the present moment as a tool for bringing out the best behavior in children.   Here are some ideas and an example:

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.

Example:

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.

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