I posted this only a few months ago, so it may seem familiar to you. I rarely re-post until at least a year has gone by, but in the past week, I have found myself referring about twenty parents to this post. These five
habits are essential for every family, will get you past any rough
patch, and will prevent rough patches. They're a perfect way to start the new year. Enjoy!
Dr. Laura....I 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
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 emotions to process. READ POST
"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." - William Shakespeare
The problem with parenting is that we don't get any prep time. We're always on stage, performing for an audience that responds to our every thoughtless word or action. We learn our lines as we go, improvising. As soon as we master a cue, it's replaced by a new one. We spend the entire play just trying to get ahead of the action enough to think about what to do next. READ POST
"Before we're 8 years old, we have almost no
capacity to filter out information that comes to us. So if parents or
teachers, people we count on to nurture us, say something hurtful to us
before the age of eight...it goes in quite deep and we carry those
misbeliefs with us. They profoundly affect our relationship to
ourselves, to others...our sense of value in the world." -- Dr. David
What did you learn before you were eight? That you're a capable person, worthy of adoration and an abundant life, lovable exactly as you are, even with all of your messy imperfections, bodily functions, anger, fear, and neediness? Or maybe that you somehow aren't lovable enough to have your needs completely met, that some of your feelings and body parts are shameful, that harsh words or even blows might rain down on you at any time? READ POST
“If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” --
Dr. Haim Ginott
Kids have antenna. Whenever you lower your voice to speak to someone else, their ears perk up. And if they hear their name, their attention is riveted.
Kids know we say things to them for effect, whether positive or negative. Their defenses go up and they may not trust our intentions. Are they being manipulated?
But when they hear us saying nice things about them to someone else, there's no filter. They assume it's true. And they live up (or down) to what they hear.
Any specific traits you want to encourage? Say nice things about how your child is developing those traits, not to him but within his hearing. Recognize any progress at all in the right direction.
"He's so determined when he works on a project. He takes a break and then keeps coming back to it."
"She's getting to be so good with her little brother. You should have seen how patient she was when...."
"You won't believe what a great reader he's becoming. He spends more and more time reading these days."
"She's a whiz with numbers."
"He's growing up and becoming so responsible. He barely needs to be reminded to..."
"She's so helpful and considerate. Why just today, she...." READ POST
"Dr. Laura -- I came across your website a month ago
and have been trying to follow the advice in your emails. I am amazed
at the difference in my son in just this short time. Mostly, I try to
just stop when I get upset and see things from his point of view. Thank
you for helping us stay on track!" -- Madeline
"Imagine that your children's behavior is a coded message.
To break the code, translate what they are doing into a sentence that
starts with "I need__________" or "I feel _______." Fill in the blank,
and then respond to that need or feeling, not the behavior." -- Dr.
Sometimes we all make choices that make us feel bad about ourselves. Whether it's more cake, that comment to our spouse, sleeping through the alarm clock, or yelling at our kid, we know better but do it anyway. Why? We're driven by some unmet need or unaddressed feeling. If we can fill that need or resolve that feeling, we can change our behavior.
Your child is no different. Punishing him for acting on his unmet needs or turbulent feelings only gets temporary obedience, if that. Addressing the need or feeling eliminates the source of the misbehavior and allows your child to make choices that make him feel good about himself. How?
To cranky toddler: "Nothing seems to be going right for you this morning after we stayed up so late last night....I think we need an early nap so you can get rid of your crankiness and enjoy your afternoon."
To angry four year old: "You're yelling and very upset....I can hold this pillow for you to hit....I will stay with you while you let out all your angry and sad feelings....it's ok....everybody needs to cry sometimes..."
To whining seven year old: "You've been trying to get my attention all day....I'm closing my computer. You have my undivided attention for twenty minutes. What should we do?"
To moping nine year old: "You seem sad and bored to me. I miss our special times together, since our family has gotten so busy with everyone's schedules. When the little ones nap today, let's have special time for just you and me."
To anxious twelve year old: "You're having a hard time falling asleep at night now, aren't you? That often happens with kids your age. There's a lot going on --- your body changing, your friendships shifting, school getting harder. Even I must seem different -- I'm still trying to figure out how to be a good parent for a kid who's growing up so fast but is still my little girl...Can I lie down with you for a bit at bedtime so we can chat for awhile?"
To disrespectful fourteen year old: "I notice you're snapping at me lately.... you know we don't talk to each other that way in this house....it's not like you to be disrespectful....I'm wondering if this is because you've been wanting more independence and I've been saying no to things you want to do....come sit with me on the couch and let me rub your shoulders....Let's talk about how you can have the independence you want and I can still trust that you're safe."
Watch for unmet needs like sleep, connection and autonomy. Feelings that need to vent include anger, usually with sadness or fear right behind it. You don't have to be a detective or a therapist. Just give your child the benefit of the doubt when he misbehaves, the chance to express himself, and the miracle of your attention. I guarantee a happier, more cooperative child. READ POST
make mistakes, sure, but you desire to do the best you can for him. He
knows that and it’ll make all the difference in the world for him.” --
Most of us find it easy to express love for our kids when things are going right. But when they do things we don't like, we assume we have to withdraw our love to show our disappointment in our child. That's the best way to change their behavior, right?
Actually, no. Like the rest of us, kids change because they're motivated to change and believe they can. In other words, they're motivated by wanting to please us, and they need confidence they can live up to our expectations.
Kids who already feel we're not on their side, and they're always disappointing us, just give up. You can usually tell when your child gives up because she gets defiant, or because you're disciplining more, rather than less. (When kids know we're on their side and believe they can please us, discipline becomes rare, and mild.)
So the first step in influencing our child's behavior is reaffirming the connection, letting him know we're on his side. The next step is offering whatever support is necessary for him to achieve the desired behavior, so that he thinks of himself as a kid who can please us, rather than a kid who is always disappointing us.
How? Psychologists call it scaffolding, but you can think of it as insuring your kid is on the right path by rewarding every step in the right direction. More on that tomorrow. READ POST