Tag Archives: calm

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 be left alone, yelled at, and made to feel bad. He learns he can be a problem to those he loves and needs the most.

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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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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 get past your shield (your boundary), it’s next to impossible to respond neutrally and effectively.

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The Power of Acceptance

All parents struggle with fears and worries about their children and many end up just getting in their own way. When you take your children’s behavior personally and use your authority to control them to do what you want, you may wind up creating the scenario you most fear.

The problem comes when we think it’s our children who need to change when indeed it is us. Whatever you need to do to get to acceptance is the answer.

The following is a story from one of my clients that I find truly inspiring. Her struggles to understand her son and ultimately herself have led to a wonderful relationship. I hope it motivates you to trust your children and let go of a small bit of your fears. You will always have fears and doubts — you wouldn’t be a conscientious parent without them. But in the moment, when your child needs your connection, you must be able to at least temporarily put those fears aside.


Reflections on my journey with my son – Mother of three

I am enjoying a playful moment in the kitchen with my 6’6, 17 year old son. He likes to get in my space and see if he can startle me with his big teenage energy. I get flustered and cry out, “You make me feel anxious when you do that!” He smiles with this gentle warmth and looking right in my eyes​ ​he says lovingly​, “​Mum, it’s not what I do​ that makes you feel anxious. It’s what you ​think​ about what I do.”

The wisdom of his insight seems far beyond his years and the truth of it shimmers in the moment. It has been a lot of inner and outer work for me to get here. I remember hearing years ago that I couldn’t worry and love at the same time. Given that choice I wanted to choose love as the energy that I was offering my children — also to myself as the worry felt utterly agonizing to live with. However, so often things happening on the outside seemed to justify worry and that “thought slide” became easy to glide down with ever repeated use.

We found Bonnie Harris when our child was in middle school. My husband and I consulted her, driven by our deep concerns that our son was developing a gaming addiction. Having been an incredibly active, outdoor-loving child, all of a sudden, he seemed willing to forego what we thought of as his “healthy” choices for spending hours on end in his room in front of a screen. We had entered into a pattern of trying to curb his screen time followed by endless arguing. We had majorly lost connection with our son.

I will not forget that late afternoon meeting in Bonnie’s office, me tearful, my husband and I feeling distant from each other because of our own fighting over how to parent our son, and both of us worried about him. After hearing what we had to say and a long, thoughtful pause, Bonnie gestured to the empty chair in our circle and asked gently, “What do you imagine your son would say if he were sitting here with us and could speak for himself?” Immediately I was drawn to my heart space that felt full of compassion and love for him and I said, “I think he would say, “You don’t understand me.’”

It was an instant, dramatic and powerful paradigm shift. I got out of my head which was very much about me and into my heart where I could truly be with ​him without my thoughts. And he really had spoken to me. At the end of that meeting, Bonnie suggested we make the shift to tell our son we trusted his inner guidance that would help him regulate his gaming. She prepared us that he might really go wild with this freedom for a time, but she suspected things would work out.

I wrote him a letter to express what we had learned and how we were shifting to a place of trust in him. It was greeted with a huge smile and relief. It was so clear that he wanted connection with us too and to feel that we had faith in him to make his own choices.

What a journey it has been in the last 7 years. I cannot count the number of times I have gotten buried in worry while my son smiled at me and said with his eyes, “Trust me.” The title of one of Bonnie’s books is, “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons”. I always used to focus on “When Your Kids Push…” but I had an Aha! moment recently and saw “​Your ​Buttons​” ​seemingly for the first time​.​ These are not our kids buttons, they are ours. And we can certainly do something about our own buttons.

Here is an example of how I have come to discover my own issue and address it. I have often fretted about seeing my son have an interest and then not have the discipline to develop it. He loved playing basketball in middle school, and I imagined he would play in high school but to my surprise he didn’t play any sports for the first three years. To get into a place of trust, I took a good hard look at the button that was being pushed. Where did I have an interest and no discipline? My contemplation led me to start taking voice lessons and practicing daily. It took enormous effort at first, but I felt so fulfilled when I honored my commitment! I saw how it also took my attention away from worrying about my son and it set an example of discipline that he could notice… or not!

To my absolute utter surprise, my son is now on the Varsity Basketball team in his senior year because he said he realized he missed it and wanted to play with his friends. When he tried out, the coach said, “Well son, this is unusual to be trying out in your senior year, but you don’t know what you can do if you don’t try!” He mostly doesn’t play in games but loves practicing, being on a great team and is often getting his teammates cups of water during a timeout. He’s happy and he did it his way. He also has even said that he can see how far he could have come if he had kept playing. And he feels comfortable saying that to us because he feels his parent’s detachment. I know I didn’t cause any of this but because I focused on myself, I feel so fulfilled with my own pursuits and I bring a more joyful, independent me to enjoy going to the team’s games.

In short, I’ve learned when someone pushes my buttons, the only thing I have control over is what I do with the opportunity to see and address my own stuff. That’s so empowering.

I have gotten very creative about my buttons too! I’ve looked for many ways to bring my attention back to myself and not wandering around into my son’s business. When my son got his license and I saw my mind going wild about the potential scenarios that might result from my thrill-seeking teen, I created an imaginary warm, loving and burly bodyguard that I would mentally see by my son’s side to look out for him. I would send them off in my mind with love. It puts my mind at rest in an outer situation where I had no control. It lessons my stress. The button was my own tendency toward anxiety.

After our first meeting with Bonnie, my husband and I jumped fully on the same page to make connection with our son the priority. Over the years we’ve consulted Bonnie when we felt we were parenting in a way that seemed so outside the “norm” of a “top down” approach that is so advocated in our culture. We were checking in with our intuition and having discussions with our son and arriving at solutions and compromises. It was so helpful to have a third party look at all of it and confirm that we were on the right track for our family because our connection and open communication was there. I remember during one of our discussions with our son, he said, “Mum, I know you really care about me, but I think what you don’t understand is that ​I ​really care about me too!”

I heard years ago that something so important to a human being is the ability to make choices. That a teen, when confronted with control from parents will do everything in their power to demonstrate that they have choice, even if it means that the way to do it is by doing something that may appear self-destructive. Whatever we resist persists, especially with regards to teens.

I have witnessed parents fighting to control their teenagers, and it appears that what they are really doing is teaching their teens to cultivate a habit of being really good at lying. What else are the children going to do when faced with a punishment if they tell the truth? And I have seen the heartache of a parent feeling disconnected from their child and at a loss for how to ever get that back with sincerely no understanding that perhaps the way to do it is to let go of their expectations of how things should be and sink into acceptance of what ​is​ with an open heart.

Byron Katie, in her book “A Thousand Names for Joy”, page 186, says it so exquisitely:

“It’s painful to think you know what’s best for your children. It’s hopeless. When you think that you need to protect them, you’re teaching anxiety and dependence. But when you question your mind and learn how not to be mentally in your children’s business, finally there’s an example in the house: someone who knows how to live a happy life. They notice that you have your act together and that you’re happy, so they start to follow. You have taught them everything they know about anxiety and dependence, and now they begin to learn something else, something about what freedom looks like…. If your happiness depends on your children being happy, that makes them your hostages. I think I’ll just skip them and be happy from here. That’s a lot saner. It’s called unconditional love…. If what they do brings them happiness, that’s what I want; if it brings them unhappiness, that’s what I want, because they learn from that what I could never teach them.”

So here I find myself, a woman and a mother who is continually growing and learning and living into new subtleties that are revealed on this journey with my son. There is part of me that wishes I could go back and tell my younger self that all that energy of worrying was for naught, but I had to learn it for myself just as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz couldn’t know about her ruby red slippers and their power from the very beginning.

My son is in a wonderful place in his life, applying to colleges on his own terms, exploring all sorts of new hobbies, one of them being a passion for wall climbing. This young man who I wondered years ago if he would ever even stick it out through high school scored in the 98th percentile of the SAT. When I asked him how he got such a high verbal score he told me about how he is usually reading articles when he is on his phone. I never thought of that! He never had a book in his hand, so I thought…​

And all those hours of gaming? He still loves to game with his friends, and I imagine it will always be a hobby, but it doesn’t dominate his life. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that he has a real knack for computer programming and plans to major in Computer Science. When I watch him program, I see that all those skills he was learning with his fingers in gaming are what he puts to use in programming.

I so look forward to having more of my assumptions dismantled. In fact, I find he has taught me that making assumptions about him, or anyone else for that matter, and judgement of any kind is a huge waste of energy and time. He has been and continues to be my greatest teacher and I am so grateful for it. After all, it is my immense love for my son that has been the force to guide me to continually choose connection with him and set aside my ego when required — to settle into the place of simply not knowing the answer of what is “right”. As I see it, that’s a win-win!      

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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

The study outlines extensive strategies to turn the horrendous statistics around — strengthening economic supports to families, changing social norms to promote positive parenting, quality care and education, better parenting skills training, and intervention methods.

We can’t always control the environment for our children. Death and loss, natural disasters, accidents, an ex-spouse’s choices, disciplinary measures at school, hurtful remarks and bullying are all beyond our control. Nor should we hover and protect our children from growing up and experiencing the world we live in. Many circumstances children find themselves in can be toxic and traumatic, but when they have a protective factor to turn to safely, namely a parent or caring adult who understands, listens, accepts, and connects, a child can deal with and learn to make sense of most experiences. Ignoring, sweeping problems or sensitive issues under the carpet, screaming at and punishing big emotions that parents don’t want or know how to deal with undermine the protection you can provide.

Your connection to your children is the protective factor they need most. But connection is harder than we think, as most parents know. It often requires a mindset shift away from traditional parenting methods.


How you can provide that protective factor:

Stop threatening and punishing — the #1 tactic used by parents to coerce children’s behavior. In order to be the grounding force your children feel safe to come to no matter what, they must trust that you will never pose a threat to them. If they have nowhere to turn for an understanding ear, they will turn exactly where you fear most. This usually means

When we remain stuck in the mindset that punishments and consequences for inappropriate behavior are the way to get appropriate behavior, we forfeit our child’s trust. Mostly what the child learns is “you don’t understand me”, because behavior is provoked by emotions that parents typically pay no attention to. It is the emotional state that needs connection. When that is ignored and parents focus on behavior, the primary link to the protective factors parents provide is broken.

Habitual tactics are easy to fall back on when a child’s behavior gets tough. It is so tempting to pull computer time and cell phones, put kids in time out or send them to their rooms. These tactics miss the mark and only make kids mad. And if they “work”, it is only to get that cell phone back. Sneaky, conniving strategies result, and that all-important connection is risked.


What to do instead – Problem Solving promotes connection:

  • Do nothing in the heat of the moment. When emotions are calm and the prefrontal cortex is back online, work on the situation. This is where parents stumble. We want to forget about it and move on.
  • Resist the temptation to blame. Own and acknowledge your feelings.
  • Look to your child’s need or emotions that provoked the behavior and connect with that need. “You must have been furious with your sister to hit her. Tell me what got you so angry.”
  • Discuss the problem without blame. Own what part of it is yours, “I’m really concerned that you don’t consider my feelings. It is not okay with me when you call me names.”
  • Acknowledge that your child was having a problem that provoked the behavior. It was a mistake, not a crime. Trust your child’s desire to be successful. We all say and do things we don’t mean.
  • Engage your child to come up with a solution that all can agree on.
  • Don’t expect the agreement to work. It’s a process. Keep refining until the behavior stops.
  • Do focus on acceptance, listening, predictability, playtime.
  • Take your focus off behavior and onto what could be going on with your child to get back to compassion. All connection requires compassion.
  • Hug a lot.
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    Oct. ’18 Q&A – Pull-ups for Poops, Healthy Anger and Early Adolescent Rejection

    Pull-ups for Poops

    Q. My 4 yo daughter won’t poop on the potty/toilet. She uses a pull-up to poop (she is very independent in the process). She holds it if she isn’t at home. She is totally fine with peeing in the toilet and has been for about 2 years now. Two things I think are contributing are that she gets constipated and has had some pain with pooping. She says she isn’t ready to go on the toilet because she’s scared it will hurt more. We are working with her Dr. on resolving the constipation and in the last couple months it’s been a lot better. She also regressed in this area when her baby sister was born. I’m not sure if that’s still part of it or not after a year and a half. She does have a few “baby” things she still wants to do, so maybe this is one of those things too. She has said she knows she’s too big to still poop in a pull up (her dad and I have never said anything like that to her). We have tried really hard not to make a big deal about it and let her decide to do it on her own, but I’d really like to stop buying pull-ups!

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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 to each other? Is it a boundary mark that determines the end of your attempt at connection and the beginning of punitive measures?

    “Drawing the line” probably happens when you don’t know what to do next. Perhaps you’re thinking, He’s got to learn; She can’t get away with this; I will not tolerate that kind of talk; He’s becoming a video addict. Your resources are used up, patience is thin, and you fall back on old standards. You take away privileges, you threaten, you yell, you lose control. And the cycle starts all over.

    Of course, you get frustrated and don’t know what to do. No parent alive has ever avoided this state of mind. The problem is you think you should never have to feel this way and should know what to do to make sure your child never pushes you to this point. So if he does, he’s got to learn who’s boss.

    But when he plays by whatever method of drawing the line you use, he’s back into anger: feeling revengeful, misunderstood, powerless, wrong. Then his behavior accelerates, and you get to that line-drawing place more and more often.

    So instead of “drawing a line”, what do you do when that moment hits when your child is behaving unacceptably and you don’t know what to do?


    This is the moment to drop into Being instead of focusing on Doing.

    The state of Being means that you expect to enter that zone of not knowing what to do when your child seems to have the upper hand. The state of Being means that you accept yourself and also accept your child for pushing you to try to get what he wants — after all that is his job.

    But for many parents this unknowing place is unacceptable. You must Do something right now to stop this. It feels as if your child is walking all over you and you are her doormat. That is only true if you remain on the floor.

    When you don’t know what to do, do nothing. Of course, if there is hitting, throwing, some kind of violent behavior, that must be stopped. But stopping it means restraint or getting between two angry people. It does not mean lecturing about how many times you have told him blah, blah. It does not mean yelling at your child, which indicates you have lost control and become more of a target for an angry child. It does not mean using coercive tactics to make your child wrong.

    Much of the time, the behavior that pushes you over the edge into not knowing what to do is resistance or refusal to do something you have asked, throwing jabs or punches at you or a sibling, calling names. None of this is okay. But instead of thinking I have to draw the line, think I need to create a boundary.


    A boundary is a psychological protection for both you and your child.

    Holding a strong boundary means that no one is allowed to abuse you in any form and that your wishes are as important as anyone else’s. You take care of you instead of using your power to control your child and prevent him from doing something (although sometimes you need to use restraint to keep yourself from being hit). A boundary means, I take care of myself and insure that I am okay — exactly what you want to teach your child to do.

    A boundary means you can say:

       This is not okay with me.

                I will not allow anyone to hit me (and I hope you never allow anyone to hit you).

                I don’t like it when this happens.

    You work out problems with you child through relationship. In a relationship you do not exert your power over another. Nor do you ever need to do that with your child in order to gain cooperation.

    What do you do if a friend, co-worker or spouse does something unacceptable to you? You probably don’t take away a privilege. Yelling never accomplishes anything worthwhile, and letting it pass sends the message you are okay with it. The relationship is what is at risk. That is what needs tending — if you want to maintain the relationship.

    Most often you are caught off-guard by your child’s offending behavior. Your emotions flood your brain and you go into reactive mode. But reacting in that mode means defensive, retaliatory behavior that only breaks connection and will never lead to cooperation. IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO DO NOTHING.

    Stop, breathe, and wait until your emotions are cooled and your thinking brain comes back online — when you can be rational again.

    Go back to your child, own your part of the situation, name the problem, and work it out.

    “You really hated what I asked you to do. I probably said it with a frustrated tone. I do have a problem here that I need your help with. It is my job as your parent to get you to bed on time. I get very frustrated and impatient especially when I’m tired at the end of the day and want things to go smoothly. And of course you don’t want to go to bed. You want to keep playing. So we have to work this out so we are both okay with it. Is there something you can think of that would help getting to bed easier so we don’t have to fight about it every night?”

    This re-do of the situation is considerate of your child’s agenda, it accepts your child’s natural desires at her stage of development, it shows responsibility by owning your part, and it acknowledges your job and desire. When your child does not feel blamed, she is far more likely to cooperate with you because she doesn’t have to defend herself against your blame. When you own what is yours—in this case it is your desire to get your child to bed—your child feels more understood and is more willing to work it out.

    You do not need to go into this every night, but if you take the time to invest in your relationship, and you can be trusted not to flip back to “drawing a line”, you will rarely have to have this type of conversation with your child. But when new stages of development arise, when your child is thinking differently, when you are particularly needy, going back to the problem-solving drawing board is always the best way to preserve a strong, loving relationship.

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    Getting Your Kids to Listen to You. Could There Be Anything Better?

    When your kids don’t listen, how long does your patience last?

    You think you’ve tried everything. You ask nicely, you keep asking nicely until you explode, you lecture about all you do for them, you give them consequences for not listening, you give them extra privileges if they do — but your kids still won’t listen.

    You can’t seem to get them do what they should: brush their teeth, go to bed, get off the computer, quiet down in the car, eat a healthy meal, pick up their dirty clothes, etc. What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with you?

    What if: They do listen, but they don’t like what they hear? (That’s not okay, is it?)

    Now ask yourself: Are you asking them for cooperation or obedience?

    You must be clear about what you’re expecting. If you expect obedience (I know, you don’t think you are), your kids hear it in your tone. There’s a “if you don’t do what I say, you’re in trouble” attitude that determines your tone and expectation.

    The key to understanding why your children won’t do what you ask lies in understanding if and why you expect them to. Simply put, they are just being kids, doing what kids are supposed to do — get what they want when they want it. They’re probably not being disrespectful or rude. But you expect more. You expect them to do what you say because you’re the parent and kids should do what they’re told, right? After all isn’t that the way you were brought up? That’s expecting obedience. Nothing wrong with that as long as you take responsibility for it and understand that you are likely to get push-back, especially from strong-willed children.

    When you expect obedience and you don’t get it, the natural and logical progression is for you to feel angry, resentful, frustrated, and/or incompetent. Then you naturally react by nagging, blaming, threatening or worse — because you’re taking it personally and not recognizing that it is normal for your child to resist doing what he doesn’t want to do.

    If you consider yourself to be a “progressive” parent, that means you are not willing to hit your children, threaten the switch or belt, lock them in their rooms with no dinner, or ground them for days on end. No, you don’t want to do what was done to you. But that is what is needed if you expect obedience. You can get it if you are willing to use fear as the motivator to do as you say.

    You’re not willing to do that, but you want the same results. When you expect obedience without the same coercive tactics, you will likely start out patient and calm and end up playing one of your parents. You think because you are being “nicer” than your parents, your children should respond accordingly. But you have to adjust your expectations as well as your motivators.

    The answer is simple. Instead, expect them not to want to do what you say.

    Use the Of Course mantra. Of course my child doesn’t want to brush teeth, go to bed, get out the door on time (your time), pick up toys, do homework, go to the dentist, do the dishes, clean the bathroom and feed the dog.

    Understanding that they don’t want to do this doesn’t mean they don’t have to.

    You will get far more cooperation when you adjust the expectation from they should do what they are told when they are told, to kids just want to be kids and that’s ok.

    When you expect this, you know they need motivation to do what you ask, not threatening coercion. When you expect this, your kids feel your consideration. When you expect this, you are asking your kids to help you with your problem.

    When expectations are realistic, emotional reactions are far calmer, problem solving is much easier to come by, and children do not feel powerless, misunderstood and put upon. When your expectations of your children are set for an adult, your children will feel unfairly treated — and much less likely to cooperate. You’re the same way. No reason your children should feel differently.

    When kids don’t listen it’s because you’re telling them to do something that is not their problem. Picking up toys, getting to bed, brushing their teeth, etc. is your problem—they don’t care. You have to make sure those things get done. You have to get them to do a lot of things they don’t want to do. That’s why kids have to spend approximately eighteen years with parents.

    Your authority as a parent is insuring your kids do what they shouldn’t have to want to do. Because they’re kids. That’s why they need you. But things get much messier than they have to be when you expect that should want to, that it is their job, and they shouldn’t make life hard for you. They should just do what you say.

    Here’s an example of using your authority:

    “It’s time to get your room cleaned up. Of course, that’s the last thing you want to do, right? You’d probably be fine with the strange filing system you have mapped out on your floor! I need to make sure that little critters don’t decide to keep house with you. So how do we make it happen? What would be a good time for you in the next week? How long do think you’d need and let’s get it on the calendar. Do you want my help or do you want to handle it yourself?”

    Then when the time comes, stick to the agreement. At this point, it’s the agreement you are holding your child to. You never have to expect her to want to do it. But you do want to teach her that agreements are important, and her word is trusted.

    “I’ll be happy to take you to your friend’s/to practice as soon as your room is cleaned up. Let me know when you’re ready.”

    Rules and limits can be firm without ever needing to yell, blame, threaten, bribe or punish. It all depends on what you expect.


    The When Your Kids Push Your Buttons Audio Course

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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, kicking, screaming, throwing…. Something that takes control of him. If he doesn’t seem to know what you’re talking about or is not interested, let it go. Try another time with different words. If he says, Yes, continue.

    Tell your child that everybody has a little gremlin inside that wants to take charge and do what it wants to do to run the show. Use an example from a time you said or did something you didn’t mean.

    Now call on your child’s wonderful imagination and creativity wild with these suggestions:
  • Ask him where inside his body his gremlin lives.
  • Tell him to reach inside to that place and touch it.
  • Ask: Is it hard or soft? Does it have a shape? Is it smooth or prickly, cold or hot, slimmy or sticky…. Suggest as many attributes as you can think of.
  • Tell him to grab a hold of it and pull it out.
  • Ask: What does it look like? What color is it? What shape? Does it have eyes, nose, etc? Does it have hair or is it bald? Etc.
  • Ask him to hold it up to his ear … then his nose. Does it rattle or gurgle? What does it smell like?
  • Ask him to give it a name. Use this name from now on.
  • Ask if he will draw a picture of it so you can see what it looks like.
  • Ask him what sort of things it says to him when it wants to do what it wants. (Could be the voice of anxiety and fear as well)
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    February ’18 Q&A – Handling Big Emotions, When Anger Gets Physical and When to Negotiate and When Not

    Handling Big Emotions

    Q. My 4-year-old son still has very intense fits/tantrums. He has an older brother who is 6 1/2. A lot of the time we try and ignore his fits, and usually he will go to his bed and get his loveys and cry. Sometimes his fits can be more than 15 minutes. But the times when I’m struggling with how to deal with them is when we simply can’t ignore and wait—when he does not want to leave the house. I had to literally drag him kicking and screaming into the car. After 10 minutes of him standing in the car (unwilling to get in his seat) and screaming, my husband took him out and hugged/held him and tried to connect with him. We brought him back to the car and the same thing ensued. At this point, we forced him into his chair and buckled him and went to the park as planned, as our older son had been very patiently waiting. He cried the whole 10 minutes there, and refused to get out of the car for a while. Eventually he did get out, and of course he had a fabulous time riding his bike and playing at the park for the next hour. The same thing happens often.

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