June ’19 Q&A – Control vs. Problem Solving and Balance

Q. I have a 16 yr. old daughter home from boarding school after 3 years. Since school started, she has been with “friends” every evening till 8 or 9 PM. On weekends, she has been out at least till 11 PM. She wants me to extend weeknight curfew to 9 PM and to midnight on weekends. I had said no, that she needed to be home by 6-7 PM at night and by 9 PM on weekends. She said that she does not have homework and gets bored at home with nothing to do. She brought home her first grades report — mostly As & Bs, except a D in Biology and an F in Language Arts. What are your thoughts on curfews?

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If I Don’t Punish or Give Consequences, What DO I Do? How to Use Problem Solving

Even after I outline problem solving to a frustrated parent of a child who just keeps pushing the limits, I get the same reply. “Yeah, okay, but what do I DO?”
It’s hard to understand at first that logical words, emotional understanding and empathy, and asking the child to think is actually DOING anything. We are so accustomed to grounding, time outs, taking away privileges, threatening, and withholding. It’s hard to think a respectful process of working it out is doing something.

What’s hard is dropping the notion that we have to make our children miserable in order to teach lessons.

Break it down. If you do any of the above, you are necessarily causing hurt (understanding behavior). The misguided thinking is that if our children are miserable enough, they will decide not to do the deed again and voila—learning takes place.

Well, yes, learning takes place, but not the kind you are counting on. What they feel is anger, frustration, resentment, misunderstood, unheard. What they learn is:

  • You are not the one to share feelings with or get advice from
  • How to get sneaky so you don’t know what they’re doing
  • Revenge and retaliation
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    Lesson: Acceptance is the first step to Problem Solving

    Lessons for Everyday Parenting

    The Connective Parenting Newsletter, June 2014

    Today’s children seem more and more challenging to our expectations of how we should parent and how they should behave. Many will not take no for an answer and won’t be told what to do. They want to solve their own problems their way. Can you let go and allow them to? It takes the power of acceptance—something most of us were not brought up on.

    Because I believe that all children want to be successful and please the most important people in their lives, I believe their challenges are telling us to see that our way of doing things may not be right for them.

    Resistance begins with us. We approach a newborn with our beliefs and expectations in tact. When that child presents us with behavior we didn’t expect or don’t know how to deal with, we approach it with those assumptions and expectations, which aren’t adjusted to who they are or what they are capable of doing. They resist with reactive behavior and herein lies the power struggle.

    We often intercept the experiences and natural consequences our children need in order to learn, cut off circuits they must explore, and interfere with their own individual development. We expect them to share when they are not yet capable, to be nice and considerate when they are deep in developmental egocentrism, to adhere to our agendas ignoring their own. When we don’t trust our child’s individual process, when we set our expectations for the child we hoped for rather than the child we have, we set up the resistance that shuts them out of our sphere of influence and sends them in the direction we most fear.

    We typically presume to know what is best and teach them what we think they should do.

    If Jacob comes home from school complaining of being pushed around and called a bad name, my fear sets in, mama bear emerges, I stop trusting Jacob’s capability, and launch into my agenda.

    • You need to stand up for yourself and tell him you don’t like that.
    • Just ignore him and walk away.
    • Tell your teacher so she can handle it.
    • Push him back. Give him some of his own medicine.
    • I’m calling your teacher/the principal/that boy’s parents and make sure he gets punished.

    All of these solutions are made with best intentions of protecting Jacob. None are intended to send him the message that he is not capable of handling the situation, or further building his dependency on someone else to solve his problems. They are made out of fear—fear of what could happen. Jacob’s capablity is ignored. He may stop coming to his parents with problems. He likely doesn’t want to be told what to do, rather he needs an understanding parent to help him decide what he thinks he can do.

    In order to develop problem solving skills in your child, you must accept that he is capable first and foremost (to the egree that he actually is). Next comes connection.

    • Oh wow, that must have been hard. Tell me more about what happened.
    • That was a difficult situation to know what to do. You must have felt so angry.

    Then comes problem solving:

    • Being away from it now, what do you think you could have done that might have helped?
    • What do you wish you could say to this boy if you could say anything you wanted?
    • Now, if you were in that situation again, what could you say or do that might stop him from messing with you?
    • Would you like any suggestions or help?

    Many of you might think I am sending Jacob to the lion’s den. Certainly there are instances when you must step in, but do so with your child’s knowledge and agreement. Your goal as a parent is to allow Jacob time to think about the situation and come up with his own solutions that work for him, which may surprise you—and which may fail. It’s not about you and what you would do. It’s about Jacob. It’s about accepting, acknowledging, and developing Jacob’s capacity to think through situations and find solutions. That’s called resilience. When you ask, “What do you think you can do?” you do not want Jacob’s response to be, “I don’t know.”

    Accepting your child’s own process of learning and developing will reduce the challenges they present you with and create connection that will last a lifetime. Your job is guide and facilitator of your child’s unique way of being in this world.

    I cannot say it better than one of my readers on facebook. “Accepting means seeing them for who they are (energy level, interests, and abilities). Parents can still guide them and forage good habits and manners while allowing them to blaze their own path and feed their own inner light.” Beautifully said, Rebecca.

    Special Offer To win a copy of a wonderful new book on how to parent with acceptance—Raise the Child You’ve Got, Not the One You Want, by Nancy Roseread my blog and leave a comment.

    Questions and Answers

    I want your questions. Here’s how it works: You email me a question to bh@bonnieharris.com, and I answer pretty quickly. I put it in a newsletter at a later date. Please try to keep them brief without leaving out critical details.

    I want your questions. Here’s how it works: You email me a question to bh@bonnieharris.com, and I answer pretty quickly. I put it in a newsletter at a later date. Please try to keep them brief without leaving out critical details.



    I have two daughters aged 4 and 3. A few months ago new neighbours moved in with a 5 ½ yo. son. The children play regularly together. There have been a few incidents recently of the boy whispering with my elder daughter, excluding my younger from play. Yesterday he started singing a song about a “baby” directed at my younger daughter, who became very upset. My older daughter joined in with him – also when he is pulling at my younger ones clothes on the trampoline. 3 children together playing is often a difficult number as there is a bit of competition from my elder daughter to get his attention (he was playing happily indoors with my younger daughter yesterday and the older one kept trying to get him to go outside). I took my elder daughter aside yesterday and spoke quite sternly to her. I don’t know the best approach as I don’t want her to be resentful or her and the boy taking my intervention out on my younger daughter.

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    Problem Solving 101

    My husband and I were taking a walk with our 21 month old grandson. For a short distance we needed to walk in the road. I said,

    “Hold my hand Sam. You have to hold my hand in the road.”

    At first he did and then he had a different idea and pulled his hand away. I said,

    “Sam you have to hold my hand.”

    He did not want to comply. So I picked him up as he was working hard to wriggle away from me and said,

    “Sam you have to hold a hand in the road. You can hold Poppy’s hand or my hand, which do you choose?”

    He stopped wriggling. I could see him thinking. He then reached for Poppy and happily took his hand. Then he reached up for mine. For the rest of our walk he wanted to hold both our hands.

    This is problem solving. Quite simple when you understand the principle. But impossible when you are stuck in the old reward and punishment mindset.

    It worked because Sam wasn’t being forced to do something he didn’t want to do—and I got what I wanted. In other words, it worked for both of us—the #1 rule of problem solving.

    When this kind of communication begins early in a child’s life, problem solving becomes second nature. You don’t even realize you’re doing it. When children trust that what they care about is important to you, even when you highly disagree, they are willing to listen to rules because they know nothing punitive or threatening is involved, and they will come out okay. No need to worry about getting in trouble, which keeps the child’s focus entirely on herself—the opposite of what you are trying to teach.

    As children get older, problem solving gets more complex. If you have been parenting in the punitive mindset, believing that your child is being defiant and bad, switching to problem solving first requires a shift in your perception and then building trust so your child knows you are willing to see things differently. If she expects you will yell, take away her iPod, or disrespect her with degrading words, she will get quite cleaver at becoming parent deaf and defy everything in anticipation of attack.

    In my scenario with Sam, my old mindset tells me,

    Sam’s being defiant and disobedient. He’s not listening.

    This of course provokes my anger, which leads to my reactivity—control, domination—grabbing his hand with force and using a hard tone,

    “You will hold my hand or we’re going back in the house! Don’t you even try to get away. It’s not safe. You have to do what I tell you.”

    This works against his agenda and will most likely lead to a power struggle in which I have to fight to win (meaning he has to lose). He will begin to distrust me. Of course it’s not safe. Of course he has to hold my hand. But I can give him a way to comply with my wish without forcing his will and making him think he’s bad.

    I need to understand that he’s not doing what he is doing on purpose to defy me. He’s doing what he wants. When I take it personally, I get my buttons pushed, and I react.

    When I shift from assuming that

    he needs to be taught a lesson and listen to me

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    July ’19 Q&A – Work With Your Child on Issues that Bug You Most

    Q. I currently feel like a failure as a parent. My 12 year old daughter is smart, well behaved, does well in school. However, there are 2 main areas that we often fight about resulting in a tense hostile environment at home. One is sneaking junk food. We have a policy for the kids to choose 2 junk items from the pantry after school. It generally works but my daughter ends up sneaking extras to her room. She cannot seem to stop herself from eating. I cannot constantly monitor her and increasing the ‘allowed’ unhealthy stuff on a daily basis is not an option.

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    How to Step Out of a Power Struggle

    When we engage in power struggles with our children, it means we are invested in being right. When we must be right—”I’m the parent, I know best. You must do what I say”—the child is wrong and is left feeling powerless. The child then must fight back to preserve integrity; either that or the easy-going child submits again and again learning in the process to seek the approval of others to gauge her self-worth.

    Engaging in a power struggle keeps the parent in the position of having to be right.

    Backing down from the fight may feel too vulnerable for many parents. The parent expect the child to back down, to give up, to acknowledge being wrong — in other words, the parent expects the child to be the grown-up first.

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    Mar. ’19 Q&A – Being Your Child’s Friend and Parent, Angry Behavior and When the Coach is a Bully

    Being Your Child’s Friend and Parent

    Q. I do welcome your advice and think you speak a lot of sense, but I am not sure about your advice to be your child’s friend in one of your articles. What is wrong with being a mum? I am the only person who can officially be regarded as mum in my daughter’s life and I feel very proud to be so. I am not sure being a friend is possible as the friendship is automatically unbalanced. I have a number of very good friends, some long term and we have quite balanced relationships, involving give and take. I do not regard my relationship with my daughter as balanced, and she does not seem to understand give and take. I would also say she is a very high maintenance friend, and therefore I would go out of my way not to be her friend if she wasn’t my daughter. I don’t think she is like that with her peers though – I think their relationship is balanced. When choosing activities, we try to pick nice things to do and see, and we get a lot of resistance from her until we get her there and then she loves it. We also get resistance around food and most things at the moment – she is quite selfish and does not seem to understand the notion of helping out, and she wants things from shops all the time, which is wearing.

    A. Being a friend to your child and being your child’s mother are not mutually exclusive. What my article attempts to portray is the role of an authority figure who is also a friend — in my estimation the best kind of authority figure and one who is respected and appreciated more than one who holds power over another. I wonder if some of the resistance you get from your daughter is due to the fact that she feels the hierarchical approach from you and doesn’t feel the “friend” aspect of your relationship.

    I also believe that in order to have a strong connected relationship with our children, we must see the balance. Yes, you have authority because age is a factor. You cannot expect your child to want to do what must be done — clear the dishes, go to the dentist, eat healthy food, discern tech time — so your authority must remind, problem solve, and make agreements to insure things get done in order to maintain balance in your family.

    You cannot expect your child to want to do anything but play, so you must see to all the necessary functions of growing up before your child is old enough to see the importance herself. You do this because your young child is helpless and developmentally incapable of managing on her own.

    Of course, resistance comes due to her stage of development and the limits you must put on her to help her feel that you are in charge and in control — she is too young for this. This is why you are more than a friend. I always advocate for parents to be their child’s #1 ally. That does not mean that setting limits is not necessary, but it can be done in a way that is respectful, that maintains balance.

    You certainly do not want to feel walked over by your friends, nor do you want the power to walk over them. Friends come to agreements mutually. That is very possible with children when we understand that they do not need to be dictated to and directed all the time. Connection with our children requires us to speak to them in the same way we speak to our friends. We do not have the right, nor is it effective teaching, to speak to our children in ways we do not want them to speak to us. Double standards do not work.

    Speaking down to them, telling them what to do and how to do it. With connection and empathy, we get into their shoes and understand their point of view and frame of reference first — important in a friend relationship. Then we talk about what needs to be done — we hear situations, choices, and desires from our children. We listen to their point of view. Then we acknowledge our own and work with problem solving to find a balance that works for both of us. I imagine that is how you work out relationships with your friends as well.

    Being a friend also means knowing whose problem is whose — we do not ask either our child or our friend to solve our problems or take responsibility for them. When I have a problem (don’t like something my child is doing) and yell at my child for being annoying, I am blaming my problem on my child, making my annoyance her problem. When I own it (“I feel annoyed when I hear…. That is not okay with me. Here’s what I would like.”), then my child is far more likely to be cooperative because she does not feel blamed. She can then hear me and what I want. She feels respected and never put down — the foundation of a good friendship.

    It takes a lot of accountability and responsibility to be a good friend to your child as well as a good parent. Both require respect, consideration of each other’s agendas, and a balance of needs. It’s amazing how much resistance falls away when we establish this kind of relationship. You will always be her mum but hopefully you will want to be her friend as well.


    How to Understand Angry Behavior

    Q. I could use some help with my 6 year old daughter who is very strong willed. How do I help break her habit of saying “stupid, idiot, I hate you, no” etc. Do I just ignore her and hope she will outgrow this or is there something more going on behind the scenes? And she likes to yell when she talks to her parents, as if she is angry. Any help you can provide would be most helpful.

    A. No you do not ignore her. Ignoring means that you are paying no attention to the reasons that are prompting her behavior, which will only make her angrier and prone to more attitude and dramatic words. Also ignoring means that it’s okay with you to be spoken to like that.

    Sometimes it takes a bit of detective work to uncover what is going on. But first, ask yourself what you imagine she thinks and feels within your relationship. In your interactions, does she think she is a problem? Does she feel unconditionally accepted by you or might she fear that you wish she were different? Does she feel heard, accepted, understood? Or does she ever complain that she’s bad or indicate in any way that she is putting herself down?

    These are tough problems for a lot of parents who think their job is to make sure their children do what they say. Read my first response about being friends with your child. But also, do not let go of what is important to you and what you need to maintain balance. If she yells “stupid idiot” at you, tell her calmly that you do not want to be spoken to that way. Let her know that you will be in the kitchen when she is ready to tell you what she wants. And then go to the kitchen. Do not engage in a battle of wills.

    I use the metaphor of an iceberg to help parents understand how behavior should be approached. 90% of an iceberg lies beneath the surface of the water. All we see is the tip, but if we don’t acknowledge what lies below the surface, we can crash and sink. Behavior is only the tip of the iceberg; it’s all we see. But if we only address the behavior, we miss the big picture and are in for problems of resistance and reactions. Below the surface of the behavior lies the internal emotional state from which behavior emerges. Draw an iceberg with a “water line” separating the tip from the larger area representing the internal emotional state.

    In the tip, write your daughter’s behavior, words or attitude. When you are in a calm mood, write below the line anything that comes to mind that could be prompting her behavior. When behavior is resistant or angry, I always assume that feelings of powerlessness, feeling unaccepted, and misunderstood are strong possibilities for provoking angry behavior in a young child. Get as specific as you can. She doesn’t like it when I yell at her. Her sister was provoking her a lot today. She hates it when she gets homework.

    When you see what lies beneath the surface and stop taking the behavior at face value, you will feel more compassion for where she is coming from. Once you can switch your perception around to see that she is having a problem and not being a problem, you can address her problem differently. Ex: “Boy you really hate what I just said to you. You wish I would say something different.” or “You must think I don’t understand what you’re asking/wanting. Can you try it again, and I will listen very closely?” You are ignoring her words but not her. You are giving her the connection she needs to get to the root of the problem.

    It sounds like you have what I call an Integrity child. This is a strong-willed child who won’t take no for an answer and will not be told what to do. Nothing wrong with that. It just makes it doubly hard to parent her! I know, I have one.


    When the Coach is a Bully

    Q. I am 63, raised 4 children and have been raising my 10 year old grandson since he was 5 weeks old. My daughter was unable and unwilling to care for him and four years ago committed suicide. He has no father either. He is on the Rec department basketball team this year for the first time ever. One of his coaches is a bully. He screams at the kids all the time, swears and rarely gives a compliment to any child. He has no child on the team himself, although the other coach does, and his son is favored at every game and plays the entire game. I would like you to address this kind of bullying in sports, and I’d like to know your opinion on what a parent could do other than speak to the coach and report these incidents to the Rec department (all of which I have done). It seems this particular coach is also on the Rec department BOD so I think he is well protected. This coach needs to go. There should be no room for a person like him to be coaching 10 and 11 year olds. I do not want my grandson to suffer consequences from my speaking out (although I think he has already).

    A. How awful for you to get a new baby to raise and then lose your own. I can’t imagine the pain of that. I hope your grandson brings you some joy. Your predicament is a tough one. Unfortunately, there are too many stories like yours. Not only bully coaches, but over involved parents can ruin the experience of playing sports for kids. I’m afraid there is nothing more to do other than what you have already done, which is important. After that, it’s no one signing up for that coach’s team. And then you have to decide whether that choice is yours or the child’s.

    I’m curious to know how your grandson feels about his coaches and his experience on the team. If he would rather stay on the team given the present circumstances, then I would do some problem-solving with him. Talk with him about your observations. You do not have to say what a jerk the coach is, merely, “What I see is not okay with me. His way of treating children I find very offensive. I’m wondering what you think about it.”

    It’s important that your grandson know that the bullying is not acceptable. Ask him what effect it has on him, making sure he understands that this is the coach’s problem has, and he is not to blame. Then pose the question: “Is basketball important enough to you to put up with this coach’s rude and inappropriate comments and not take them personally or do you feel bad enough to quit and wait for another team with a different coach?” Let it be your grandson’s choice.

    If he chooses to continue, keep the conversation going with him. But be careful not to infuse your opinion too strongly or he will stop talking. Always let him take the lead with a simple, “How was practice for you today?” If he is up for it, you can do some role playing with him. You can take the role of coach and encourage him to first say anything he wants to you. Let him get it all out. Then ask your grandson what he could say to the coach for real. Don’t tell him what you would say. If it’s inappropriate, say, “Okay, what do you think he would say or do then?” Keep going until he comes up with something respectful of the coach and truthful about his feelings. “I feel really put down when you talk to me that way.” But he may not want to put himself in a vulnerable position, so let him figure out what is best for him.

    I find that this kind of role playing empowers the child. Even if he says nothing at all, he knows he has it inside. And he knows not to take the bullying personally — a very good lesson in understanding people. He will have lots of people like this in his life. The most important lesson is to learn that it is their problem not his. All tough situations can become important learning opportunities — much better than you trying to fix it for him. And blessings to you for taking on your grandson’s upbringing.

    To submit a question, email me at bh@bonnieharris.com with your short question and I will answer you within a few days. It may appear in the newsletter at a later date.


    The When Your Kids Push Your Buttons Audio Course
    Have you ever asked yourself, “Why did I DO that??”
    Wish you knew what else to do?

    Learn to:

    • Understand your reactions and gain control of them
    • Interpret your child’s behavior
    • Set appropriate expectations
    • Defuse your buttons


    Related Articles:

    Can You Be Friends with Your Child?

    6 Reasons Your Child Misbehaves

    Lesson: Acceptance is the first step to Problem Solving

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    Hugs Reduce Stress

    Toxic stress in early childhood can harm children for life, warns the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Don’t think your children have experienced toxic stress? All children do to differing degrees. Whoever said childhood is bliss didn’t know what he was talking about. Children experience stress just by being a child. From nightmares, worry about transitions, being afraid of the dark or thunder storms, social fears, children have a hard lot. And that doesn’t cover huge emotions and dysregulation that they cannot possibly understand when asked, “What’s wrong?” Then being punished, criticized, or threatened for behavior they can’t control…. You name it, a day rarely goes by when a child doesn’t experience stress.

    Stress arises for a child when sensing a threat with no one to protect him from that threat. Children who experience this kind of stress in the early years, even prenatally through mother’s hormones, “…are more likely to suffer heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other physical ailments…also more likely to struggle in school, have short tempers and tangle with the law.”

    A now more than two decade long scientific study by the Academy and the CDC shows the long term, harmful effects on society when we turn a blind eye on the problems faced by young children. From the stress children experience when their parents abuse alcohol or drugs, emotional or physical abuse or neglect, emotional or physical treatment between parents, mental illness, separation or divorce, to a child crying out and not being comforted and feeling unloved — stress comes in all shapes and sizes.

    The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, originally conducted from 1995-1997, is one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being. We now have research showing the connection between disrupted neurodevelopment, social, emotional and cognitive impairment, risky behaviors, disease, disability and even early death to Adverse Childhood Experiences.

    Now that I have thoroughly depressed you, let’s look at what we can do about it.

    The Academy has issued a policy statement that includes, “Protecting young children from adversity is a promising, science-based strategy to address many of the most persistent and costly problems facing contemporary society, including limited educational achievement, diminished economic productivity, criminality, and disparities in health.”


    Prevention Strategies

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    Jan. ’19 Q&A – Fantasy Play, Honor Who Your Child is, and Understanding the Draw of Xbox

    Fantasy Play

    Q. My 4 year old loves pretend play. She often starts out the day by saying, ” pretend I’m Peter Pan and you’re ….” It almost seems like a deep-seated need to play this way. I find that if I don’t play with her like this then she is harder to deal with. I guess another way I think about it, is that when I play with her and follow her direction, it fills her up. I haven’t studied child psychology, but I was wondering if you could provide more insight into this type of play.

    A. You are exactly right. It fills her up. Imagine life for a young child. She is pretty much told what to do, when and how to do it all day every day. School only adds to that. Even after school activities are always adult directed. Our children have lost the opportunity to direct their own play. So when she directs you, she is getting that opportunity to lead, to decide, to direct, to imagine, to create. Let her direct you as much as you can stand. It is here she gets to call the shots.

    Your 4 yr. old is at the developmental peak for fantasy and superhero play. It’s wonderful. She is working out more than you can ever imagine through this kind of play. Peter Pan is a superhero and an absolutely lovely one. Superheroes represent good vs. bad. At this age, it’s very hard for children to understand that good guys have bad qualities and bad guys have good. Right and wrong is black and white to them. Maturity will bring with it the understanding of the grays. Peter Pan actually has some gray areas. But now she is figuring out what’s good and what’s bad along with having the superpower to fly!

    Play pretend with her until you can’t stand it anymore! I remember the day I told my son I just couldn’t play Superman and Lois Lane anymore. He sat down on a rock and cried!!


    Honor Who Your Child is to Ensure Acceptance

    Q. I have a 7 year old boy who is very happy at school where he is surrounded by many good friends and very respectful educators. The difficulty for him is when I suggest trying an extracurricular activity or when he has the opportunity to play with children he doesn’t know, or even when he has to ask for something in a shop where he doesn’t know the adult. He refuses to try anything that implies meeting new people. When I try to speak about it, he refuses and gets angry with me. When he started school, I stayed with him for several days until he made a new friend. That wasn’t a problem because his school allowed for parents to stay for as long as the child needed, but you cannot do the same in an extracurricular setting, as parents are not allowed to stay. I am unsure about how to proceed, whether it is a good idea to push him out of his comfort zone (and how much?) or respect his difficulty at this point.

    A. It sounds like you might have an introvert or a shy extrovert (my term!). I am never in favor of pushing a child out of his comfort zone. It’s a bit by bit process and must be underscored by his knowledge that you get him—accept him just the way he is. Your job as his parent is to ensure that he feels understood by you so that he builds self-confidence and security. If he gets the message that you want him to be different (this is likely why he gets angry with you when you bring it up), then he will believe he is not okay the way he is. He may fight you on this or withdraw even more. Either way, he may lose confidence in himself.

    You are the one with the issue about him not trying new things. He’s fine with it. Look at it as: He is not ready yet. Make sure you find a way to 100% unconditionally accept him for who he is — a kid who likes to watch before he jumps in, an observer who is likely very perceptive, cautious, discerning, quiet. He has shown you that when he is with people he knows and trusts, he does great. I applaud your school for allowing you to stay. More should be this way. I’m sure that has a lot to do with his comfort level at school.


    You can certainly provide him opportunities to watch activities by going to sporting events, theater, concerts, etc. with him to see what might spark his interest. When he feels motivated and confident, he will find his way. He has good friends, so he is not a loner—not that that’s a bad thing either. My guess is that he is just fine, but that you have fears about him not being outgoing and getting involved in new experiences. This may be a situation of you letting go of a preconceived notion of what is best for him. He will when he is ready, feels confident and motivated to push himself.

    When he knows that you support who he is fully and unconditionally, he will be more willing to listen to suggestions you have WHEN he wants to be more courageous. Follow his lead. That doesn’t mean keeping him protected and at home away from activities. But I think any form of pushing will lead him to believe he’s not good enough for you.

    Also, you might want to read the book “Quiet”.


    Understanding the Draw of Xbox

    Q. I am a mum of twin boys age 15 and I find every day a battle. On the other hand, when I read your emails, I realize that I actually create those battles as I don’t make an effort to understand my children at all. Shouting, hiding Xbox don’t seem to work. When I am able to listen and show them I am not against them I get amazing results. I have been hiding the Xbox or blocking access to it for a long time as they are not very good at time management but realize that I don’t achieve anything with that. Negotiations do seem to work, however they find it very difficult to let it go and move away after a number of hours playing. Maybe that is a good time to block it or take away as I am the parent. I don’t seem to get too many objections then. But I still find it very difficult to understand that when we agree on a length of time, they are not able to stick to the agreement. With one boy I get pushed around, sworn at like I am the enemy.

    My current challenge is that one of my boys constantly smacks me like 2 year old when I tell him that it is time to get of the Xbox after several hours or he demands via standing in front me that he gets it back. He corners me from time to time when he does not get his way. As he is taller than me this makes me feel afraid and vulnerable.

    A. The hitting, intimidating, swearing problem comes down to your own self-confidence and psychological strength. Physical size should have nothing to do with it other than your son’s found ability to use it to intimidate you. But that means you can be intimidated. You must stand in your strength, your own personal power and know deeply what you deserve and what you don’t. This is often a parent’s biggest struggle and requires doing your own therapy or personal work to find your strength and self-confidence.

    Your boys are not able to stop playing at the appointed time because they are doing what is most engaging to them. This is a different perception from “won’t” stop playing. The games are too enticing for them to look at the clock and then decide, Oh, we’d better get off because Mom wants us to. We parents have to realize that the way these games have been designed, they can become addictive because they are way more fun and challenging than anything else they would do if they stopped playing. What is better? Why would they want to get off? Especially if you can be intimidated, why would they not argue you down? Many kids feel more successful playing these games than doing anything else in life. Those are the expectations you must hold. There’s nothing wrong with your boys’ desire to play. The problem is with the enticement of the games themselves. When you are more understanding of the draw and why your boys love to play, then you will have a more valid (in their eyes) point of view.

    You have said in your question that negotiations tend to work and you get results when you listen. So keep that up. It’s too easy to fall back on punishment, but it will only backfire and continue to make your job harder and push your boys further away.

    Find a good time to problem solve, negotiate and come up with an agreement. “We have not yet found a way for all of us to work out this issue of Xbox. I want you to play x hours and you would not like any time restrictions at all. As your mom, it is my job to make sure you get exercise and do other things. I know what an enticement Xbox can be and I don’t expect you to want to stop playing. So we need to come up with a plan we can all agree on. When and how much time do you think is reasonable for you to play?”

    Make sure they understand the one rule of problem solving — the solution must be agreed on by all. And infringements of the agreement go back to more problem solving, NOT taking away their time playing. After an agreement is made, set a time for a week away to evaluate the agreement. Say nothing in the meantime. At the time of evaluation, you will all get to say whether or not the agreement worked for you. As soon as you take away their time or the device itself, you are inviting them to hoard their time even more.

    I am going to include a couple of articles I’ve written to hopefully help –




    Also an article I really like – http://project-based-homeschooling.com/camp-creek-blog/sliver-or-how-stop-fighting-about-screen-time


    To submit a question, email me at bh@bonnieharris.com with your short question and I will answer you within a few days. It may appear in the newsletter at a later date.

    We punish our children in an attempt to keep them from pushing our buttons, often escalating the original problem into a cycle of anger and blame. When Your Kids Push Your Buttons is not about what to do to your kids to get them to stop pushing your buttons. This book is about how to be the parent you wish you could be-the parent that only you are holding yourself back from.




    Involve Your Child in Choosing Activities

    To Give In or Let Go: That is the Question

    Gaming: Hobby or Addiction?

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    Engaging Kids in Housework

    Kids don’t want to do chores. That’s a fact. Expect this. That doesn’t mean let them off the hook. It is essential for our kids to be contributing members of the family to develop an investment in and consideration for their family members. A family is a team. When you are on a team, every team player is important to the working of the whole.

    But when you yell, bribe, or threaten them to do their chores, the underlying assumption is that they should want to but they don’t. This unrealistic expectation means you will yell when that expectation is not met. But if you understand that kids don’t want to do chores, you will be more effective at ensuring they get to work.

    Remember when your toddlers and preschoolers begged to run the vacuum, fold laundry, wash windows, and sweep the floor? It would have taken the entire morning and you’d have to do it over anyway. You didn’t have the time or patience so you got them out of the way to just get it done. Well, you might have missed your chance. Little children want to help — until we make them.

    By the time they are capable of doing a decent job, time has elapsed since toddler enthusiasm, and they no longer want to be with you every minute of the day. They are into their own thing and household tasks take them away from their own thing. Of course they don’t want to.

    Now, you know your kids are going to fight you, moan, and complain when you ask them to do their chores. Who wants that? Plus you’ll have to police them, and then what if they don’t do them? That’s when consequences come in to play — usually taking something away that they care about, which turns into a battle and you erode any inkling of desire. Certainly no self-esteem is developed.

    Requiring help is not about teaching them how to clean house or making them do chores for the sake of doing chores. Your kids will most likely keep a decent house one day even if they never clean yours. And they will learn to do what has to be done when it’s their responsibility. Requiring help is about helping. It’s about team work, taking on responsibilities to help the team run more smoothly. It’s about the relationship a child has with his family. It’s about seeing oneself as a helper. A helping child will be far more invested in family events and planning when she feels like an important member of the team, and she will feel more connected to her family as a source of support (the most important protective factor in anything you fear for your child).

    It feels good to know that you help your family out. You feel proud of being needed, of doing things that save time for someone else. I once overheard my twelve-year-old son and his friend trying to best each other as they compared household jobs, griping as their chests swelled. That doesn’t mean they want to or would offer help if you didn’t require it. Don’t expect the offer to help for many years. Instead expect grumbling.


    Here are some key points to help your kids be better helpers:

    • Ditch the word “chores”. No one wants to do chores, but people like to be helpful, useful. Use “help” or “jobs”.
    • Understand and be considerate of their agendas, even things you hate them doing or think of as trite. Remember, your child’s agenda is as important to him as yours is to you. Expect them to want to play rather than help.
    • A child’s job is to get what she wants, when she wants it. We are all like that. Maturity opens the perception that other people want what they want, too. So, consideration and compromises become necessary for relationships. You don’t have to teach your child this (the teaching comes in the doing), and if you try too early, your attempts will fall on deaf, egocentric ears.


    With toddlers and preschoolers:

    • When they want to help “clean” let them as often as you can. Your time now is worth the investment in raising a helper. Try to keep them in the helping mode as they grow more capable of difficult tasks.
    • Set up challenges.
      • Who wants to put cups on the table?
      • and Mrs. Potato Head need to go back in their “house” for the night. Do you want to make them a bed?
      • Would you like to help me fold the laundry today? You could pick which colors you want.
      • How would you like to sweep with the broom while I finish the dishes?
      • Let’s get the bucket. I’ll throw in all the red legos. What color do you want?
      • Do you want to spread the peanut butter yourself or would you like me to help?

      These are genuine questions. They are meant to entice. If your child doesn’t want to, don’t force it. Encourage the enjoyment of doing what you ask instead of the chore of it. “Put your toys away” is a demand and will get resistance.

      • Use motivation instead of threats to insure they do what they shouldn’t be expected to want to do. “
        • After you put the wrapper in the trash, I’ll give you the granola bar.
        • As soon as you your teeth are brushed, I’m going to tickle you silly.”

        Expect and allow forgetting. Don’t set up for failure. Asking a young child to feed a pet is problematic unless it’s spontaneous. “Would you like to feed Fido tonight?” instead of “Your job will be to feed Fido.”

        With kindergartners on:

        • Stick with motivating, not threatening. “As soon as you get your toys put away, we can watch that show.”
        • Own your wants. “I would like you to set your place at the table. That helps me and makes my job easier.” Not, you need to….
        • Ask for help on the spot. “Can you bring that bag of groceries in the house? That way I don’t have to make another trip.”

        When old enough for household jobs:

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