"Dr. Laura...I love your approach. I understand the ideas. But in the heat of the moment, I find myself tongue-tied and I can't figure out what to say." - Teresa READ POST
Dr. Laura, I see how all your
mindfulness techniques make me a more patient mother. But when I find my temper rising, what can I do in that
moment? I know yelling doesn't work. I know that my inner critic that
tells me I'm a bad mother just makes things worse. But what do I actually DO?" -- Cara
Nothing. Really. You notice what you're feeling, you breathe your way through it, and you DO nothing.
When our temper rises, we all feel an urgent need to DO something, anything. But that's our emergency response system operating. And parenting, despite how it feels, is not usually an emergency.
So the most effective thing you can do is restore yourself to calm before you act. Why? Because the rational brain stops working when you're angry. So when you act from anger or fear, you're never taking constructive action.
I define mindfulness as just noticing our own feelings and thoughts without acting on them. Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg says it more directly: "Mindfulness is not hitting someone in the mouth."
Sure, it feels like we MUST intervene at that moment. Otherwise, our child will "get away with" bad behavior, and will become a terrible person. But that's fear speaking, and it drives us to take actions that make things worse. Later, we realize that we let our emotions run amok. We didn't guide our child with love. We didn't help her WANT to be a more responsible or cooperative person. Instead, we dumped those yucky feelings from our full emotional backpack onto our beloved, vulnerable, child.
So what can you actually DO when you feel your temper rising? READ POST
"Okay, you've convinced me not to punish. But my two year old still bites, has tantrums, throws his food and scribbles on the furniture...." - Rebecca
Unfortunately, a two year old's frontal cortex is still developing the ability to control his emotions and behavior. That means they throw food, break things, have meltdowns, bite when they're mad, and scribble on the furniture. In other words, they act like two year olds.
But since the brain is still developing through the teen years, kids of all ages sometimes lack the rational control to behave as we'd like. Sometimes even 15 year olds act like 2 year olds!
So what can you do when your child acts out, whether he's a toddler or a teen? Here are the five best strategies for preventing misbehavior, for all age kids. READ POST
"What if you do all that, and he still won't brush his teeth? Give up for the night?"
In my post How Can You Set Limits If You Don't Use Threats to Enforce Them? we explored how to deal with the normal resistance that all kids feel from time to time. We used brushing teeth as our example, because most parents have problems with this daily habit in the early years. Why, after all, would any child want to brush his teeth?
I suggested that punishment and force will ultimately create more resistance, because force always creates push-back. After all, how would you feel if someone sat on you, pried open your mouth, forced a toothbrush in and scrubbed? Sure, you might begin to acquiesce. But I'm betting you'd be pushing back in other ways. Force creates power struggles.
I suggested that parents instead: READ POST
"Throw the word "consequence" entirely out of your vocabulary and replace it with the term "problem-solving." -- Becky Eanes
"My 3 year old was sitting on the couch after bath wearing her towel and said NO about 5 times when asked to get into her pj's. I was busy with the baby and I heard my husband say "OK fine -- no books then!" so I said "Hey! We've got a problem - it's bedtime and you need to be in your PJ's -- How do YOU think we should solve it?" And just like that -- she got a big grin her face, suggested we all clap our hands and march our feet and we formed a line right into her room -- happily! Same thing for teeth brushing and potty later! Each time I said "Hey, great problem solving skills! Thank you!" And her response? "You're welcome mama -- no problem!" - Carrie
Most parenting experts suggest that when children "misbehave" the best response is "consequences." Parents are told that letting children experience the consequences of their poor choices will teach them lessons. Makes sense, right? READ POST
"Dr. Laura....In your last post, you warned parents against fighting in front of our kids. But as you always say, we're not perfect, we're human! What are we supposed to do when we disagree? And isn't it good for kids to see parents work out disagreements, and make up? And isn't okay if spouses don't always agree -- we can still love each other."
Yes, Yes, and Yes! The nature of human relationships is that we will sometimes disagree. It's wonderful for children to see their parents model how to work out disagreements. It's important for them to know that we don't always agree, but we always love each other. Kids need to see us ask for what we need without attacking the other person. And it's critical for them to see us make up, with affection and forgiveness.
That doesn't mean it's okay to yell at each other in front of our kids. The research shows that a civil disagreement followed by working things through to a solution, and affectionately making up, can teach kids valuable lessons about working through conflicts constructively. But the research also shows that yelling always affects kids badly. Yelling is not constructive conflict resolution. It's a tantrum.
And no, it's not "authentic." What's authentic is the tears and fears under the yelling. If we could express our hurt and fear, the anger would melt away. As the Dalai Lama said, "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."
But since most of us can't stay as calm as the Dalai Lama, how can you handle the inevitable disagreements that come up in a relationship -- when you live with kids? READ POST
"Yesterday my husband and I had an argument at dinner time in front of the kids. My four year old daughter yelled at us to ‘Be quiet!’ … My two year old had a tough time going to bed, which is unusual for him. Could that have had to do with mommy and daddy arguing?”
In honor of Valentines Day last week, my posts this week are about the intersection between being a parent and being a couple -- specifically, how to work through conflicts when you're in front of the kids. Next week, we'll get back to our Beyond Discipline series, with 10 Alternatives to Consequences and When Kids Just Won't Cooperate.
Conflict is part of every human relationship. If we live with children, those conflicts will sometimes come up in front of the kids. In the past, most experts reassured parents that there’s no harm in children seeing them fight, as long as the kids also see the parents make up afterwards. However, recent developments in neurological research challenge this view. Not surprisingly, it turns out that when children hear yelling, their stress hormones shoot up. In fact, even a sleeping infant registers loud, angry voices and experiences a rush of stress chemicals that takes some time to diminish. READ POST