Category Archives: Questions and Answers

Want to Know the Secret to Supporting Your Perfectionist Child?
Anxious little girl

Q. My daughter freezes when she is asked a question on the spot or during exams because she is fearful of being wrong, not knowing the answers or not being able to complete the entire tests. What advice should I give her to help her overcome this fear?

A. Of course you want to help her deal with her fears. Most parents, I find, live by the myth that you can help your child by telling them what you have learned as more experienced human. Makes sense. You want to tell her something that will make her see the light and stop being fearful of getting it wrong. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Advice rarely helps unsolicited.

Your daughter was likely born with sensitivities for self-awareness, a desire for approval, as well as strong capabilities. This can underscore any ideas she has of how important those capabilities are to gain the approval she wants.

As parents, most of us are unaware of how our expectations of our children effect their behavior. Of course, we want our children to do their best, but often inadvertently we send messages that we expect their best all the time. “How many times have I told you?” can send a message that “You should know better,” “Something is wrong with you,” and “Why don’t you understand?” to a sensitive child who comes to fear she isn’t getting it right.

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Is It Ever Effective to Take Away Privileges?
Child yelling

Q. I know you don’t believe in consequences, but is there ever a circumstance where a consequence is effective even when knowing the root cause of the behavior? Example: My 10-year-old son expressed this morning that he wished he didn’t have to go to school. He was moody and angry. I did some digging and turns out he hates music and it’s his first class of the day. I get it. I said missing school isn’t an option and asked if he could think of anything to make the day bearable. He was super angry and wasn’t open to hearing me and started to call me vulgar names/swears. I told him that calling me names is unacceptable—something I’ve told him many times. He stormed outside to ride his scooter for a bit, and I was left wondering if he should lose YouTube after school. Will it make him remember or think twice when he is in the red zone swearing at me? Is it just a thing parents do to feel in control when the situation feels so out of control? Can I do both? Does it make sense to say, “in our home when you call me vulgar names you lose privileges”? 

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28 Reasons to Be a Connective Parent
Connected Parenting

Q. I am really trying to parent my two kids, 5 and 7, differently than the way I was raised. I am good at telling my husband and my friends that I want to parent with connection. But when they say what does that mean, I’m lost. I get about as far as – ‘Well, it just doesn’t feel right to parent the old way.’ And of course I have my days when I lose it and do everything wrong. I wonder if you could help me think thru why I want to do a connective approach and what I can say to my naysayer friends.

A. This is a common conundrum for many parents who want to parent differently but who haven’t yet absorbed the principles of why or experienced the results of a connected relationship yet. It takes time to incorporate a new method before you can explain to others why you are doing what you’re doing.

It also requires a certain amount of child development knowledge not well understood in traditional parenting to know what can be realistically and appropriately expected for a child to succeed at meeting those expectations. As well as a trusting understanding of your child’s unique temperament.

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Feb ’22 Q&A Hitting a Wall? (Revising a conversation from May ’20)
Emotional Exhaustion

Q. I’m utterly overwhelmed. I’m resentful of those who have support from a partner and grandparents and guilty for feeling resentful. Frustrated that there’s no end in sight. Exhausted, emotionally and physically. Sad. I miss my family and friends. Lonely. 3 kids 1, 4 and 8 entirely on my own. Working 60 hours a week. Trying to be grateful I’m employed but there is no balance possible when you have 3 kids in tow. I don’t bathe or sleep without them and if I try, they scream or immediately ‘need’ me for something which is their anxiety showing up. It’s endless. How do I stay sane?

A. We’re on year three of a global pandemic and all of us, especially parents with young unvaccinated children or families with unpredictable child education schedules due to positive COVID cases, are still very much in the throes of it. If we thought we were exhausted in May, 2020, it’s certainly not gotten better for a lot of people. Maybe we’ve become more accustomed to our reality, but emotional stress among our hardworking families is very real and present.   

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Simple Ways to Get Your Child in the Mindset of Gift Giving

gift giving

Q. I have four children ranging from 7 to 14. I have struggled with teaching generosity to each. Do you have any advice for developing a gift-giving guideline?

A. Developing a generous spirit in children is a process that can’t exactly be taught, but experienced. So much of becoming generous, appreciative, and respectful is how it is modeled and what is important to you. Are you generous (that doesn’t mean buying presents), grateful, appreciative, and respectful of your children and of others? If not, this is where to start. We think we can just tell our children to be grateful and to think more of others. We even try to demand it with yelling and disrespectful threats. It doesn’t work that way.

Children naturally love to give things to others and watch faces light up. It is quite empowering when children take an active role in giving. But don’t mistakenly expect that young children will naturally want to be generous with and considerate of others. That expectation will lead to anger and reprimands when you see natural egocentricity, and it seems that all they care about is what they get. That is generally how it is and when they are reprimanded for being egocentric, they tend to grab what they can get more than normal.

Think instead: Of course my child only cares about the presents he will get, the size of the piece of cake I give him, what is going to happen to him. Young children only have the capacity for empathy and consideration of others (which is in place by two) when everything is going their way. But if any stressor is present—if another child has something she wants—egocentricity takes over and her concern is for herself. All this means that the more she feels understood, gotten, supported and validated in her egocentric world, the sooner she will be able to reach out of her world to see and empathize with others.

When children are in their toddler and preschool years, it’s important, even though inconvenient, to take them with you when you shop, or include them in thinking about what you will be giving to people they know. Get them used to the idea that you are giving gifts to others as well as them. As they get older, get them involved in giving gifts to the other parent, siblings, and close relatives. These are either things you buy or things they can make. When they are old enough to have their own money (having an allowance is essential – see related article), encourage purchasing a small gift for those they care about the most.

To get kids in the mindset of gift giving this year, you might:

  • Start with a family dessert time with cookies or cake or a special treat and make a list who you (as a family) are giving gifts to this year.
  • Ask them for gift ideas.
  • Ask who they each would like to give a gift to. Young children can draw pictures, make cards, put on a “show”.
  • Ask if they have unwanted toys or clothes in good shape to give to needy children.
  • Find out where there is a Secret Santa community “tree” of gift requests for children who otherwise won’t have any. Tell them you will pay for each of them to pick a request and get a gift.
  • Find the time to take each to buy or order a gift—unless one will be made—for the other parent or a relative or friend. If old enough to do it themselves, ask about it.
  • Take your kids with you to give a donation to a local food pantry. Hopefully at a time when they see people coming in for food. Discuss.
  • Make sure they write thank-you notes to all outside the immediate family who give them gifts. Help with that process. They don’t have to like the gift to thank for the giving.
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    3 Ways to Solve Being Late to School

    Sleeping girl

    Q. How should I respond to a child (12yo) who is always late (takes too long to get dressed, takes long showers, keeps skipping breakfast because she takes too long to get ready for school) and she responds: “I am lazy”. What can I do to assist her in being more motivated to be on time?

    A. The cause of being late likely has one of three motivating factors. Motivating her to be on time will require a dig into why she is always late rather than focusing on simply the fact that she is. The phrase “she takes too long” leads me to think that you are setting an expectation that she cannot meet right now—and making a judgement that she is wrong. We typically look at behavior and define it as good or bad and react to the behavior accordingly. In doing so we miss the most important factor: what provoked the behavior.

    To determine what the motivating factor is in this case, you want to know:

    1) Is it school she is resisting?

    2) Is the transition from home to school difficult?

    3) Is it her innate slow temperament?

    1) If this is new behavior, and she hasn’t had trouble with transitions in the past, then I would suspect a school-related problem. Is she being bullied, feeling stupid in comparing herself to her classmates, experiencing school or social anxiety? Is social media playing apart and causing friend problems and depression?

    Especially with a tween or teen, getting her to share what’s happening is very tricky, especially if she suspects you would tell her what she should do about her problem or worse, somehow make it her fault (Well, if you would just do such and such that wouldn’t happen…) Start by making connecting statements, not questions, like: It seems to me that your morning lateness may be a resistance to getting to school for some reason. It makes me wonder if something has changed, something has gotten harder for you at school. Period. No requirement for an answer. She can take it in and remain quiet.

    Something like this may need to happen a few times. Eventually, I’m feeling disturbed by this pattern of lateness and am very concerned that something is going on that you don’t want to tell me about. I get it that you don’t want me telling you what to do. And I also promise you that I am here to listen when you’re ready. Still not questions.

    If you feel you have a good connection, you can move into questions. She won’t feel threatened if she trusts you. If she answers your questions and you get to the bottom of it move into problem solving. What do you wish would happen? How do you think you can get there? Is there something you wish you could say that you don’t think you can? Would you like my help or do you want to handle it on your own? Etc.

    2) If she has a hard time with transitions, it’s a gear-change issue. For many kids it’s almost torture to leave where they are and what they’re doing and get their heads in gear for a different environment—even if they want to be where they’re going. In this case you want to give the actual leaving process more time. Start out by discussing how the morning routine doesn’t seem to be working for either of you. Ask her how much time she would ideally like to have between waking up and getting out the door. Give her full control of how she handles that time, but ask her to tell you her routine. Ask her if she wants your help with any of it. With a younger child you would come up with the routine together and find a way for her to check off things as they get done.

    If she says she doesn’t want to go, let her know she doesn’t have a choice about going but she does have a lot of other choices within the parameters of getting to school. See if you can list those choices with her. Let her know that you understand that sometimes what goes on in her head feels out of her control and needs a virtual wrench to get those stiff gears in motion.

    3) If she has always been a slow mover, the most important thing for you is to adjust your expectations. It’s not that she won’t move faster, it’s that she can’t. Her internal system just moves at a slower pace. If she feels pressured to hurry, she may dig in her heels and slow down even more. If her temperament is not understood, she will take criticism of her slowness personally and decide she must be lazy.

    She reminds me of my daughter who always took her time to do anything. I’m a fast mover and was always trying to get her to speed it up until I learned about slow vs active temperaments from Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Raising Your Spirited Child”. She does things slowly and with observation. Things in her path can be distracting. What you can do is make sure she has more time (you too) so she doesn’t feel rushed and wrong. If she says she’s lazy, she’s getting that message even if the words aren’t said. You need to adjust to her before she will adjust to you. read more

    ‘Mom! You’re so annoying!’

    Mother and her son arguing at home

    Q. I know that it’s normal for adolescents to reject their parents to some degree but my son (11) has been coming out with some very explicit insults about me. After school today, when I only said, “Hello”, he replied “You’re so annoying.” I said that I felt it was an unkind thing to say (he has said it a number of times lately) and he said, “Well it’s true, you do annoy me – a lot.” The previous time I said, “What is it about me that annoys you?” and prior to that had let it pass. I can brush it off and not take it personally a few times but when it’s repeated, it’s hard not to feel angry and hurt. Other times he wants to tell me things and is physically affectionate. I don’t expect a growing young person to hang out with Mum, but I give him the best of my care and kindness and all he feels is “annoyed”? It’s not that he says it that I have a problem with – it’s that he feels it. Please help with how to interpret and respond to this.

    A. I had the worst year ever with my daughter when she was 11. She was my button-pusher and I learned so much from parenting her. At 11, her brother went away to school, and she hated being the only one, feeling like she was being watched all the time. She threw a lot of nasty barbs my way, which I didn’t always duck from (but should have). So, I know the hurt you are feeling. I wish I knew then what I know now. read more

    Shift Your Perspective on Screentime

    Q. I don’t know what to do anymore about screens. My 9 and 12 year olds are not only on screens all day for school but then they crave playing their games and it’s all I can do not to just give up. I hate the way they behave when they get off and we end up in some kind of fight or argument because their attitudes are snarky and rude. What can I do to get a handle on it?

    A. It seems that across the board everyone is hitting a Covid wall. Everything that is normally a simple problem turns into huge emotional upheavals. We all want to escape and feel normal again. For most kids, their escape—Covid or no—is into the world of gaming and watching gaming.

    Kids who feel some level of incompetence at school, athletics, and/or friendships find solace and mastery in the video game world. With Covid, kids are stuck at home with parents who are always telling them what to do. Especially when school is online, they are less engaged than ever and feel frustrated and bored. It doesn’t matter to them that they have been staring at a screen all day. It’s what they gain in the gaming world that we need to pay attention to.

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    Feb ’20 Q&A – The Value of Allowance

    Q. What is the right approach to give pocket money to 7.5 year old? I’m confused between giving some amount on a weekly basis as pocket money and keeping a list of chores which can be done to earn money. I don’t want her to think work needs to be done only when you get paid. Neither do I want her to think she is entitled to money.

    A. I couldn’t agree more that teaching your child that work is done only when you are paid for it is a bad idea. That’s why allowance should never be attached to chores.

    What I do believe is that giving an allowance to a child as soon as they are able to understand and be somewhat responsible about money is one of the smartest things you can do. Learning about money—how to manage it, save it, spend it, and value it—is as important for children as learning how to swim. “Entitled” to money—maybe not. But entitled to learn about money—definitely. And you must have it to learn. Critical for the years ahead.

    If your children are used to using their own money and knowing what it is for, you will be teaching life skills in so many areas.

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    Nov ’19 Q&A – Managing Family Disapproval at Holiday Time

    Q. I have worked hard to raise my boys, 5 and 8, very differently from how I was raised. I have followed your principles of Connective Parenting and want to stick with them. One of my boys is very strong-willed and, as you say, “won’t take no for an answer”. The other is a gem, so easy to get along with. With holiday gatherings coming up with old-school parents and in-laws, do you have advice on how to handle unwanted, critical remarks that leave my 5 yr. old feeling angry and reactive whenever they are around—not to mention what a failure I feel like.

    A. When you choose to parent differently from the methods of your parents, you are always at risk for being criticized. Your parents and in-laws likely feel threatened by how you are raising your boys and assume you disapprove of how you were raised (this may be very true). If you are not asking their advice and following their traditions, you are clearly going your own way, and they may feel discarded and even wronged. The hard part for you is to stay neutral and not take their criticism personally—it is all about the one giving the criticism. You do not have to buy into it.

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