Category Archives: tantrums

Are you (accidentally) invalidating your child’s feelings?
Mom with child

Are you trying to do the right thing by validating your child’s feelings only to hear even angrier tirades? Your best intentions backfire and you don’t know why. Let’s break this down to figure out why your child is reacting negatively when you are trying to empathize.

“I am understanding of how my child is feeling, but it seems to just make her madder,” is something I hear from many parents. Progressive parenting has put a lot of emphasis on validating feelings and being empathetic—rightly so. Your kids want nothing more than to know you understand them. But in our impatience to get on with what we want them to do, to correct them, we may end up invalidating their feelings without realizing it.

  1. “I understand you’re upset. You can be angry, but you have to get in the shower.” 
  2. “I get that you’re mad at your sister, but you can’t hit her.”
  3. “You’re upset you got a bad grade. Buck up. You’ll do better next time.”
  4. “A friend should never make fun of you. You need to tell her
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Basic Trust: Seeing All that Glorious Light
New Parents

As I sit blissfully holding my infant grandson, I am struck by his fragility and vulnerability. He is dependent on us, his caregivers. And we in turn look to every possible behavioral sign to determine what needs caring for. Is he hungry, tired, does he have an internal pain, does he need a burp, a suck, a bounce, a diaper change? We rotate through the possibilities hoping to land on the right one, thrilled when we do, worried when we don’t. 

When he’s content, he coos and looks around curious about all he sees. When something is wrong, he makes a pained face and cries. We answer those cries. We will do so for a good long time to come. 

Caregivers must pay attention to behavior that signals a problem the child is having—a need that must be met. As he grows, his cries turn to whines, hurts to frustration and anger. Sensations of discomfort, pain, and hunger get complicated with jealousy, confusion, shame, fear, embarrassment, anger. As he learns he is a separate entity, he understands that he can

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9 Signs Your Defiant Kid is Actually an Integrity Child
Family Fighting

Are you exhausted and overwhelmed by your clever little manipulator who fights you every step of the way, won’t take no for an answer and will not be told what to do? Do the words stubborn, demanding, disrespectful, disobedient, and argumentative come to mind? My guess is you have an Integrity Child* as opposed to that delightfully easy Harmony Child* who makes you feel like the best parent in the world.

In my humble opinion, understanding your Integrity child could be the most important job you will ever do. Orchids* (1 in 5 children)—my term is Integrity to incorporate a broader range—have the potential of becoming the brilliant revolutionaries of the world when given the nurturing their extremely sensitive natures require. When misunderstood and pressured to be different, they can become burdens on society as the very troubled and often addicted young people we fear raising.

As I see it, your Integrity child is born with an internal core of a sense of rightness and justice that drives his every mood and behavior. These kids try our very souls. And

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Connecting with a Child’s Negative Self-Talk
Sad child sitting on windowsill

Q. My son will make a negative statement about anything and then immediately follow it by a more extreme version, e.g. “I want to die…I have wanted to die since I was born!” OR “No, I don’t know that you love me…I have NEVER known that you love me.” I don’t know how to react to these statements – they take me by surprise. Is it just his way of expressing the magnitude of his feelings?

A. Yes—and his words are also telling you that you are not listening to him.

The words of a child tend to get louder and more dramatic when certain needs (they have no idea what) are not getting attended to. This is one reason parenting is the hardest job on the planet—we have to interpret words and behaviors of our kids; not take them at face value but dig into the emotional state that prompted them. Your son most likely does not mean he wants to die. But he could mean that he doesn’t feel acceptable or good enough or heard, and so life

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The Lessons of Stress

Ever notice that when things are going really well and you feel balanced, you are patient, flexible, empathic, and fun-loving with your children? And when you feel generally crummy, stressed, tired and hungry, your focus turns in on yourself and you get quite controlling? It’s natural when something triggers you and you feel out of control of something (a world-wide pandemic perhaps), you grab something in your reach that you think you can control. Your children are easily grabbable.

So if this happens to you under stress, what do you think might be going on with your child when you react to his behavior thinking, He’s trying to control me?

He’s not trying to control you. He’s stressed. And it doesn’t take much to stress out a young child. The younger they are, the less control of their lives and the fewer coping mechanisms they have to manage that stress. Whenever a naturally egocentric child is not getting what he wants, he experiences stress. So he grabs for control wherever he can—grabbing things, grabbing attention, grabbing you or a sibling.

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Don’t Take It Personally

What happens to you when your child behaves less than perfectly? When he ignores you or she screams, “I don’t have to listen to you.” Some of you can respond effectively by changing your behavior and addressing whatever the situation is from a different or calmer place, with a different attitude, tone or posture. But probably many of you get your button pushed, think your child is out to get you and yell back behaving just the way you don’t want your child to behave.

The difference is the parent who takes it personally and the parent who doesn’t. So what makes the difference?

When I’m working with parents on this, I often describe the cartoon in my book “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons” on p.86. The mother is trying her hardest to deflect those oncoming critical remarks with a shield, but the onslaught catches her off guard, and she doesn’t get her shield up in time, so the remarks hit her hard. This perfectly illustrates taking it personally. Once those remarks, attitudes, behaviors are allowed to

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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

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When Do I Draw the Line?

Parents who want to leave the reward and punishment methods behind often have a hard time letting go fully and embracing a truly connective relationship with their children.

When my child won’t do what has to be done, I have to draw the line, don’t I?
I try to be empathic and listen, but where do I draw the line?

What does “Drawing the line” mean? Making your child stop? Not being empathic anymore? Maintaining your authority as a parent? I think it’s worth figuring out what this phrase means as it runs endlessly in the minds of well-intentioned parents trying their best to change old ways.

“Drawing the line” is one of the last bastions of the reward and punishment mindset. It comes out of the frustrated parent dealing with a defiant or resistant child. But what do you do when you draw the line? Is this line similar to a “line in the sand” beyond which one cannot cross? Does that mean you and your child are separated by a line preventing both of you from getting

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Taming Your Gremlin ®*

We all say and do things we don’t mean. How many times have you screamed or slammed a door or hit a child and moments later regretted it. You knew better, right? So how come you didn’t do what you wished you had in the moment? Because your fears and assumptions got the better of you, provoked your emotions, and your reactions were automatic.

Most of us get our buttons pushed. Maybe we forgive ourselves, maybe we don’t. So if we react more often than we’d like, why don’t we cut our children some slack? Children don’t have the benefit of adult reasoning or self-control. Wouldn’t it be smart to expect that your children will behave impulsively, even when they know better?

Of course you want to guide your child toward gaining self-control. Here is one method to reign in impulsivity with no more blame and lecturing.

Ask your child to tame his gremlin

Begin by asking your child if he ever thinks there is something inside him that makes him do things he doesn’t mean to do, i.e. hitting,

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January ’18 Q&A – Sharing & Hogging, School Resistance and The Dark Side

Sharing and Hogging

Q. My three-year-old has a very big issue with sharing and hogging. She has an 18 mo. old sister who is not allowed to touch anything. I understand that my daughter still is having a hard time with her arrival, she has to share me, she doesn’t get to have me all to herself, she doesn’t even get to read books alone with me and on top of it all I am three times as tired, have to do a lot more chores, can’t play with her at the drop of the hat, and she doesn’t get to have all of my adoration just for her. I still feel really guilty about that. At first I thought, fair enough the toys were hers, so I opted to buy my youngest toys for herself. I told my eldest and explained before we bought anything that I was buying for her sister so she doesn’t have to touch hers. She agreed but once the toy is bought she wants to have it and play with it. She gets so

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