“Dr. Laura…My son is wound tighter than a drum and everything makes him mad. I know there are tears under there, especially from having a new baby sister. But he won’t cry, he just gets mad! How can I help him work out all these feelings?”
Sometimes, our child seems to be provoking us on purpose, trying to make us crazy. It's almost like she's trying to start a fight, because the minute we set a limit ("Please don't hit the dog; it hurts him"), our child gets angry at us. The truth is, she IS provoking us to start a fight. Not to make us crazy, but because she feels awful inside and doesn't know what to do about it. The best defense (against those bad feelings) is a good offense, so she lashes out at you.
If you can summon up all your warm compassion as you set a kind but firm limit (Get between her and the dog and gently restrain her while saying "I won't let you hit the dog"), your child will sometimes burst into tears. After she sobs her heart out, she'll end up in your arms, and then be cooperative and delightful for the rest of the day, or even week. This can be hard on parents, but once you experience it, you'll start to notice when she just needs to cry, and even to "schedule" meltdowns when she's having a hard time (as described in this post on Preventive Maintenance.)
But more often, your child will be too frightened of that logjam of emotion he’s been tamping down, and he'll stay stuck in the anger, which is a useful defense. The problem is, he needs to cry to release all those feelings. Otherwise, he’ll spend the day (or week) bouncing from one angry incident to the next. But how can you break through his anger to help him release the tears and fears that are driving it? READ POST
“Scheduled meltdowns work just as you describe with my 3.5 year old daughter…But how do I follow this technique, which usually takes about 10 minutes of undivided attention, when I'm also taking care of my 16 month old at the same time?”- Kimberly
“I have found when another child is witnessing the process of my helping a child with emotions they become aware and able to help. Mine often imitate what they've seen me do and can even help each other through upset on their own with empathy and understanding.”- Seasyn
If you have more than one child, you know there are many hard things about parenting siblings. Perhaps the hardest part is when they both need you at once. After all, your love may be unlimited, but you only have two hands.
That’s why preventive maintenance (discussed in our last post) is so important—children’s needs for connection and emotional processing are met on a regular basis, so they don’t fall apart as often.
But there will inevitably be times when you’re the only adult present, you have more than one child in your care, and both children really need you at once, or one child needs your attention for ten minutes but you can’t focus on him because the other child is there. What can you do? READ POST
don't understand how to even begin to validate our very strong willed
2.5 son when he is screaming at me from inside the van and won't get in
his seat so we can get his big sister from school and the 6 month old is
there as well..." - Anita
In my last post, When You Just Don't Have Time for That Meltdown, I pointed out that Preventive Maintenance can help you avoid meltdowns at those inconvenient times, like when you're trying to get your kids in the car to go somewhere. What's preventive maintenance?
Well, what happens to your car if you don't fill it with gas, change the oil, and give it a regular tune up? It ends up in the breakdown lane. Life with children isn't so different. Unfortunately, parents aren't given a preventive maintenance plan for their children. But if you don't refill your child's love tank, roughhouse with him daily so he gets some good giggling in, and give him regular one-on-one time, you can count on more breakdown time. Especially if there's a relatively new baby in the family, or if you're transitioning from conventional parenting to gentle parenting and your child has some old stuffed emotions to process. READ POST
"How would you handle a situation when
you have to leave the park to go get your other two children and
unfortunately can't sit on the bench for thirty minutes while she
cries?" - Sandra
In our last post about setting limits with empathy, the three year old was upset about leaving the park, so the parent supported her through her disappointment, which involved tears and anger on the park bench. But that's not always an option. What do you do then? READ POST
“I'm so tired of parents who can't say No to their
child and let them rule the roost. No wonder kids today don't have any
Most parents assume that not punishing means permissive parenting. But resisting the urge to punish doesn't mean we don't set limits! In fact, neither permissive parenting nor authoritarian parenting work to raise self-disciplined kids.
Kids raised permissively may not have the opportunity to develop self discipline, which is about giving up something we want for something we want more. Kids raised with authoritarian parenting, however, don't develop self-discipline either, because they aren't choosing--they're being forced. Often, they stop cooperating, rebel, and become very good liars.
So yes, in my view LIMITS are an essential part of raising great kids. But not just any limits. EMPATHIC LIMITS. Which means we: READ POST
"The hardest thing is still to calm myself down when my
boys get wild and my buttons get pushed. I end up screaming despite my
best intentions." - Mollie
"When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out." -- Erma Bombeck
Mollie's right. The hardest part of parenting is regulating our own emotions. In our last post, we talked about how to get angry less often. But what happens when your child does something that makes you want to scream, and a playpen won't work? What are your options? READ POST