Posts Tagged ‘how to’
Using the Present Moment to Parent Your
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Don’t drag the past into the present moment. Do your best to see the child as “brand new” right now, because she is brand new in every moment. So instead of fearing her next move, and telegraphing your fear with your tone of voice and body language, assume her goodness. It’s amazing what a huge effect this has on the child.
It’s 5:30 p.m. Thirteen-year-old Ava approaches her mom, Sara, who is preparing dinner in the kitchen. For the past three days, Ava has been cranky, mouthy, belligerent and nasty. Sara steels herself, with subtle body stiffening, for Ava’s upcoming comment about something that’s upsetting her. Sara doesn’t turn to Ava, but just stays facing the cake batter on the counter with a firm resolve not to engage her daughter.
Picking up on her mom’s subtle cues, Ava immediately feels rejection. She then lays into her mother with, “Where’s my blue fleece? I can’t find it anywhere! What did you do with it?” Sara has just had her fear realized, and responds with a defensive, “Ava, I’ve told you a thousand times that I am not in charge of your clothes. If you can’t find your fleece, look again. That room is such a mess, I’m not surprised it’s hard to find things.”
Ava has had her fear realized, too, and responds defensively with, “You are always blaming me for things that are not my fault! I just think you did the laundry and lost my fleece in some other drawer, and now you’re afraid to admit it! I wish I didn’t live in this house!”
“Listen to me young lady! You are not allowed to speak to me like that. You have been creating havoc in this house for three days, and I am sick and tired of it! Until you can learn to appreciate living here, you’re grounded!”
“Oh great. This is the worst place in the world, and now you are making me stay here? I’m leaving, and you can’t make me stay.” Ava storms through the back door, leaving Sara at once furious and relieved. “Good! Stay away all night if you want!”
The cycle of angry communication, fueled on thoughts of the past, has just widened the rift between mom and daughter.
Let’s replay this situation with Present Moment Parenting. Sara has learned to avoid dragging the past three days of strife into this moment, realizing that the present can be what she wants it to be with a tiny change in perspective. She remembers, “The present moment is all we have,” which generates a very different response when Ava approaches.
Sara is standing in the kitchen, preparing the carrots for dinner. She is remembering that Ava has had a rough few days, and she wonders what could be bothering her. She decides to find out, and make use of the present moment when it occurs.
Ava comes into the room, sensing that her mom is relaxed, but being stressed herself, she says the same accusatory thing: “Where’s my blue fleece? I can’t find it anywhere! What did you do with it?”
Staying in the present moment, refraining from dragging her fear of the past few days into this conversation, Sara responds with: “I love that blue fleece on you. It’s the perfect color. The last time I saw it, it was in the family room on the hook by the door.” Ava now has an “in” to speak to her mom calmly in this moment. Her defenses have not been triggered, and she can respond with kindness, even though she’s been stressed.
“Thanks, Mom. I’ll look there.”
Sara sets up an “appointment” to find out what’s bothering Ava, weaving it into an activity:
“OK, and when you find it, would you come back and see me? I need your cooking talent tonight. Do you think this cake would be better as a full size cake or cupcakes?”
“Sure. I’ll be back in a second.” She returns, blue fleece slung over her shoulders.
“OK , we’re having the little cousins over, so which kind of cake do you think would work best?”
“I like cupcakes.”
“I’m happy to have you decide, because all day I’ve been making 1,000 decisions, and my decider is worn out. Thanks a ton.”
“I need help deciding something, too. Does your decider still work, or should I wait?”
“Let’s give it a shot, and I’ll let you know.”
“OK, I have been thinking about this boy in my class. He seems to like me, and I like him, but I’ve noticed the other kids making fun of him. I’m not sure how to handle this, because I don’t want to lose those other friends, but I really think this guy is cute and I want to get to know him better.”
“Good thing I don’t have to decide on this one. I think you are going to be the one who does the deciding, but I can help you think about it.” Sara embarks on an interview with Ava about what’s attractive about this cute boy. She’s staying in the present moment, taking Ava just as she is now, and creating a beautiful, safe landing-place for their conversation. My guess is that Ava’s recent crankiness is caused by worry about what to do with the boy situation, but she just didn’t know how to bring it up.
Sara has done a masterful job of staying in the present moment, and can now help Ava to resolve the issue. She’s done more than that, though; she’s also built a stronger bridge to her daughter for the next time she notices that she’s in need of some good “mom time.”
The present moment is enomously effective in healing the relationship with a troubled teen, or any child for that matter. To learn more about applying the present moment through parent coaching, click here.
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.
To create success with your child at home, click here to learn about parent coaching.
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal
What Your Child Can’t Tell You
It’s essentially a short-cut. If you want cooperative behavior from your kids, take the short-cut by training your mind to see what’s beneath the communication. Practice seeing your child’s innocence first, and working to understand what lies beneath the foul language, the time spent with the door locked, and the “interesting” style of dress. You will find a vulnerable, changing child who simply doesn’t have insight yet. That’s our job as adults … to gain the insight and act accordingly.
Rather than exhibit anger over disrespectful behavior, acknowledge there’s an emotion that the child cannot express directly lying just under the surface. Kids get hurt a lot easier than most adults realize, so they are compelled to protect their tender hearts by lashing out. If we don’t give them cause to protect themselves (by seeing what’s really going on) they won’t have to be so defensive.
So the next time you see a child “acting out”, ask yourself what’s being communicated. It will be an emotion that the child is too young or too immature to express directly, such as hurt, frustration, disappointment, hopelessness, or something else you can help to identify. Then address the child in those terms, rather than with your own irritation. Say, “You seem upset. Want to tell me what’s up?” or “How about you take some time in your own room until you feel better and we can talk?” or “I remember being your age and feeling that same way. Sit down, and let’s try to make this better together.” You are getting to the root emotion, rather than placing judgment on the child’s behavior. Congratulations! You are on the short-cut to better communication and better behavior with your child.
Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal