Tag Archives: worry

Empathy in Action: Nurturing Growth in Your Child
Cuddles

When parents direct their kids and tell them what they should do to improve themselves, it lands on the child as I’m not okay the way I am, instead of empathy in action.  

Q. “How can I help my 8 year old son understand that I love him just the way he is AND I want him to grow, learn and improve? He says he feels humiliated and ashamed every time I ask him to learn something new because he feels like I’m saying he needs to be better than he already is.”

A. How wonderful that your son can tell you how your requests feel to him. So many kids just cram their feelings inside, and so many parents dismiss and deny their remarks with comments like, “That’s not true. I love you just the way you are. I just want you to learn to do new things.”

That sounds logical—to the mind of an adult. But an eight year old doesn’t read it that way. 

The hard part for the parent is to listen and learn from the

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How to Resist the “Toughen Up Trap”
Mom Yelling

The family is a nurturing ground, not a training ground. When I hear parents say, “My job is to prepare him to deal with the real world. People out there aren’t going to care how he feels about what he has to do,” I hear a justification for traditional, authoritarian parenting, and I want to counter it to expose the moving parts.

This all-too-common argument about the responsibility of parents offers license to the threats, punishments, and blame that get dished out, and has forever been dished out, to ensure children’s compliance to what the parents want. When the adults in that family have been brought up under similar punitive tactics, those adults must justify the reasoning behind those tactics. To carry on with the same methods hated and dreaded by those adults as children, they must create a belief in their ultimate worth. “It’s for your own good.”

What good comes of authoritarian coercion? Answer: The continuation of this way of raising children. This is called generational trauma as patterns of parenting pass on through the generations and allow

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The Power of Empathy
Crying Boy

Story: My strong willed 8 year old was diagnosed with anxiety and displays this with anger. Last March I got diagnosed with cancer and needed surgery. His anxiety hit the moon. He’s been acting out by throwing a ball at kids, stepping on their feet, throwing sand, yelling, etc. I practiced your principles of empathy, and he was able to tell me about a kid teasing him for not climbing the rock wall. I would never have found this out had I not set aside his behavior and my problem, used compassion and empathy, and listened. Yesterday when I picked him up, he came running into my arms and cried and cried really, really hard. WOW! He hasn’t cried like that in years. He cried the whole way home and continued at home and let me just sit there with him. I used empathy when needed and let him say all these horrible things about a kid who’s been bullying him. Bingo, I got to the root of his behavior, went right past those weeds. I did my best to

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Unlock Positive Change in Your Child When You Adjust Your Expectations

Q. My son is 11 and an only child. His first reaction to everything is negative, a sigh, makes a face and moans. This is the reaction to every meal (even stuff he likes), an outing he likes or even just being asked to watch tv with us. When we try to do fun family stuff he moans. Nearly every time he enjoys the activity and tells us afterwards, when we ask, that he loved it. He just wants to be playing on his iPad or watching TV on his own in his room. He says these activities take time from his gaming. I get frustrated because I plan these family activities around what he likes to do and yet he moans about going. Then it causes a row because no matter what we do he never gets excited or happy.

A. Constant negativity is very wearing. Especially if you take it personally. What I mean by that is: Does your frustration stem from thinking you have failed to raise a happy kid? Do you think his negativity is your

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How to Manage a Meltdown
Meltdowns

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

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From “Toilet Talk” to Curse Words: How Forbidding Turns Curiosity into Weaponry
silyl faces

Q. We have a 4-year-old turning 5 next month, and we have a lot of toilet talk going on. We’ve tried ignoring it, explaining why it’s not okay and that it’s not okay to use in our house. Nothing seems to work. He just lays around and says: penis, boobies, vagina and other words. No swear words but typical toilet talk. Also he’ll poke me or others and say I can see your booby, bum bum etc. Also with his 1-year-old sister and dogs. Any advice would be appreciated as it’s starting to be such a theme and hard to help him know that it’s not okay to yell this and say it all the time.

A. Actually, it’s you who needs to know it is okay. Your son is right on target developmentally when it comes to “toilet talk.” Four and five-year-old’s have curiosity about their bodies, compare themselves to others, especially the opposite sex, and want to discover what bodies do and what makes them different. Because they are this age, they get silly about it all.

Unfortunately,

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How to Talk to Your Kids About the Hard Stuff
Dad and Son Talking

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I wrote an article called Look for the Helpers inspired by Fred Rogers. I am redoing it with the same basic
message—sadly because so much more has happened. Not only has gun violence increased, but our democracy and our climate are threatened. Whatever side of the political spectrum you fall, the recent overturn of Roe vs. Wade by the Supreme Court requires discussions with your children. How do you assure their safety at school? How do you tell them that the highest court in our nation has undermined the liberty of women?

My son just gave the commencement address at the high school where he teaches.
He too was inspired by Fred Rogers’ words:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother
would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are
helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my
mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still
so many helpers—so

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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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How to Avoid the Struggle of Parenting Under Scrutiny

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

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Opening up Communication so Sadness and Stress Doesn’t Turn to Depression

 

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

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