Q. Ines, 8, is a very sweet playing, sporty, capable but gentle friend. On the playground one of her better friends at school is starting to bully her. Tonight she was crying as the girl was telling her to go into a dark shed in the playground. Ines said she didn’t want to as she was afraid of the dark. The friend teased her for being a cry baby and insisted etc. My question is what do I do? I encouraged her to say STOP! and that you don’t like the way she is treating you, but she says that is not kind and she doesn’t want to be like her friend. I said to her that she needs to say stop for her friend’s sake too. She ‘practiced’ saying it but sounded like a mouse… that’s not going to transmit a message of strength. She’s going to a party tomorrow and this friend will be there. Ines is afraid that this girl will insist that the room be dark. I know the parents well and could talk to them
Tis the season—for stress, impatience and probably some unrealistic expectations and resentment over why your family isn’t like the happy ones you see on Instagram. That means trickle down stress for your children, no matter what age. Your littlest ones may show it in irregular sleep, eating, toileting and generally cranky behavior. Your middle ones may show it in angry outbursts and words that push anyone’s buttons. And your teens may simply disappear to their rooms to get away from it all.
But all are at risk of some major meltdowns. Mainly because children can’t hold onto as much stress as we can—note: this is a good thing—and are far more likely to let it out at home with the safest people in their lives. More good things.
Nobody likes dealing with kids’ meltdowns. Especially kids. Please do not be influenced to ignore or threaten your child by those who say, “He’s doing that on purpose. He’s just trying to get your attention.” We’ve all had meltdowns. They’re not fun. Your kids aren’t doing it on purpose. And of course
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
Q. I have a very strong-willed, acting out 8-year-old boy. I only recently read and started implementing your 8 principles book and watched your YouTube videos and am trying to implement your “connective parenting” approach which has already been very helpful. But I have struggled with this for so long, and I have a hard time handling friends, family, anyone in public not getting what I am doing. I get lookers, judgments, and even comments of how “bad” he is. They tell me how he needs a smack or more punishment, that he’s disrespectful, etc. I am trying to find confidence in my parenting, but this is a real brick wall. Do you smile politely and say, “My son is having a hard time”? Do you tell them to mind their own business and that you are working on it! Do you just ignore them? It makes me want to wear a t-shirt that states, “I am doing the best I can and so is my son”.
A. I love the tee-shirt idea! You’ll need several so you don’t run
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
Every parent in the US has justified fear for their children’s safety—as well as their own. Even though mass shootings are sparse, when two happen in one weekend, it feels like an everyday occurrence. As we enter the new school year, we wonder—could it happen here? Walking into a big box store or fast food restaurant can trigger the same fear. What is a parent to do or say to a child in this climate of gun violence? I don’t presume to have answers, but I share my thoughts on how to help ourselves and then our children manage horrible situations beyond our control.
We must remind ourselves that “normal” life is more prevalent than mass killings. Although they are on the rise, mass shootings account for less than 2% of annual gun deaths according to gun violence research. Fear and worry about shootings happening in their safe little town would not have helped the victims of these tragedies. Easy to say, I know, but if we are full of fear, that fear communicates to our kids. They become anxious.
How can we be so presumptuous as to think we know what is best for our children, what is the right thing for them to do, what are the right decisions for them to make? Plain and simple – we don’t know. We simply do not know, and to think we do, to believe we should know because it’s our job, not only puts us on a very fragile pedestal but truly hinders our relationship with our children.
We are so attached to being right when it comes to telling our children what to do, we overlook what might actually be right for them — and we don’t ask what they think.
Letting go means coming to terms with the fact that so much of their lives is theirs to figure out.
And yes, parenting is the hardest damn job on the planet, but it’s so much harder when you think it’s your responsibility to fix their problems or that their problems are your fault. Either you know you’re right — and who wants to live with that — or
Q. I’m concerned about my almost 15 year-old boy. He is depressed and with good reason. He is slightly on the spectrum and has A.D.D. (no hyperactivity). We’ve moved twice in 14 months and we’re currently renting. He is a creature of habit and our lives have been very unpredictable for almost three years. He lost his baby brother when he was 6 and had to deal with Mom and Dad’s grief. He is totally quiet and therefore doesn’t make friends. Being stuck at home doesn’t help. He has never really talked much, especially about emotions. How can I help him open up?
A. Everything you have described is life events that have been out of your or your son’s control. Very hard but this is life happening. These are situations that people have to deal with. Depression has all to do with how those events are perceived and dealt with. If your son’s emotions are swept under the carpet, ignored or criticized, then he will be left feeling unheard, alone, misunderstood, etc. – fertile ground for depression. But if
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
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