“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?” - Jane Nelsen
Parents are often surprised to hear that I suggest they move beyond Discipline. But discipline means "to guide" and most of what we think of as discipline (spankings, consequences, timeouts) actually gets in the way of guiding our kids to better behavior. READ POST
"Dr. Laura...You wrote: 'Sometimes
kids just need to cry...Set a reasonable limit and welcome his meltdown.'
Are you saying that I should just say No and let my son cry, and things
will get better? That's what my parents did, and I spent hours in my
room crying. It wasn't good for me, and it made me so angry at them." -
Shelly makes a good point. Sometimes we all just need a good cry. And kids, with their immature frontal cortex, need to cry more often than adults, to heal all those feelings that are making them act out. But that's only healing if they have a compassionate witness -- the safe haven of a parent. Leaving your child to cry alone just traumatizes her, and gives her the message that she's all alone with those scary feelings, just when she needs us most. READ POST
"I recently discovered Aha! Parenting and am trying hard to change things at our house, but my kids seem to be acting out more. So I still lose it. And I feel so guilty about the past. What am I doing wrong?"
"For me, this type of parenting is a daily choice. Every morning I have to make the commitment not to yell, to stay calm, to chose love. And there is something very empowering about that. I apologize to my kids when I make mistakes and slip - I see that when they accept my apology, they feel empowerment and generosity of spirit. This influences their behavior with each other - there are more kind words and gestures, more "I'm sorry" and more "Don't worry, I know it wasn't your fault" that they extend to each other, than before. There are days when things are a big struggle, but I really feel that something is changing deep within our hearts AND I feel us grow closer together when we choose love, and when in the middle of a tantrum I hug my child and genuinely tell him that I hear his pain and that I'll help him work through it."
Shifting your parenting approach is a big transition, and you can expect some bumps as you and your children learn new patterns of relating. It doesn't mean that you're doing anything wrong. In fact, what's happening is that you're healing old hurt feelings so they stop driving new bad behavior. When your child acts out, he's showing you feelings from the past when you punished or yelled. It takes extra compassion from you, but your empathic response will heal those hurts so you can all move on.
So ditch that guilt -- you're paying the price, after all, and making amends now, by helping your child through all those old hurt feelings. Besides, feeling bad doesn't help you act "good," any more than it helps your child. Here's your plan. Take it step by step. READ POST
"I've been working hard not to yell at my kids. But sometimes I just can't help it. I explode, and then I feel so guilty. I know it isn't really what my kids are doing, it's just me, having a hard day. Is it really possible to stop yelling? What's the secret?" - Natalie
The secret is compassion.
For your child, of course, but start with compassion for yourself. You can't be emotionally generous when you're stressed, running on empty, feeling like you aren't good enough. Once you feel a bit less tense, you'll think better, and you'll be able to reach out to your child in a more relaxed way to turn around whatever is happening. Without yelling.
So when you notice that you're feeling irritable, no shame, no blame. That's just part of being human. We all have hard days. Think of your irritation as a red blinking light on your car dashboard. When you notice it, you: READ POST
"Dr Laura....I'm trying stop yelling, but I can't. And I can't imagine getting my kids to listen if I don't yell at them. ...Can you move in with me for a week?!” - Cheralynn
Like Cheralynn, most parents think they "should" stop yelling, but they don't believe there's another way to get their child's attention. After all, it's our job to teach them, and how else can we get them to listen? It’s not like yelling hurts them; they barely listen, they roll their eyes. Of course they know we love them, even if we yell. Right?
Wrong. The truth is that yelling scares kids. It makes them harden their hearts to us. And when we yell, kids go into fight, flight or freeze, so they stop learning whatever we're trying to teach. What's more, when we yell, it trains kids not to listen to us until we raise our voice. And it trains them to yell at us. READ POST
"Dr. Laura...How should I respond when he yells 'You're not the boss of me!'?" -- Ariel
Defiance. It's guaranteed to push a parent's buttons. After all, we're supposed to be in charge, right? Defiance rubs our nose in the fact that we can't really control another person, whether he's three or thirteen, unless we use force.
Unfortunately, since force creates resistance, either openly or in a passive-aggressive form, it's ultimately a losing strategy. (You might win the battle, but you'll lose the war.)
When we overreact to defiance we escalate the battle. Often, the result is kids who have problems with authority--either they're always in fights, or they can't stand up for themselves.
So what can a parent do about defiance? READ POST
"How much more love and affection can I give him? .... Because once you pee on your brother, you've gone too far, and we have to fix this now."
What's a parent to do when a child acts out in a big way? In a recent post, we evaluated some options: spanking, time-out, sticker charts. Bottom line, they're unlikely to be effective, because they don't get to the root of the behavior. We can assume the toddler is showing his baby brother who's boss because he's feeling major jealousy. Punishing him will just reinforce the sibling rivalry, because it convinces him that he really has lost you.
Then, in our last post, we talked about how connecting differently with your child can turn a situation like this around. Instead of punishing, nip this behavior in the bud by focusing on prevention. Refill your child’s love tank and give her an emotional tune-up on a daily basis, so you don’t end up in the breakdown lane. Hard, yes--but it works. When you connect with your child in the way she needs, most of the time her behavior improves dramatically.
But what if it doesn't? "Just how much more love and attention can I give him?" I call this the leaky cup syndrome. The answer is, if you're really giving him all the love and attention you can, and it isn't changing his behavior, it's because you aren't healing the feelings driving the behavior. READ POST