Posts Tagged ‘help’
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.
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