We expect so much of our kids, don’t we? But when we misperceive their ability to handle themselves well, we make things hard on everyone involved.
That’s the gist of my new article at mom.me:
I hear it from parents all the time. They’ll come to my office and say, their voices full of frustration, “He’s capable of handling himself well. He does it at school and usually at home. But then there are times he just acts so immature and freaks out.”
Sound familiar? Does to me, too. In fact, it sounds just like my kids.
And like these parents, I’ll sometimes take the next, seemingly logical, step and assume that the fact that a child can often make good choices and handle herself well, means that she can always do so.
A father in my office last week described his daughter like this: “She wants things her way. And if things don’t go her way, she might lose it; and she could clearly make a better choice. I know she can deal with stuff well, she just chooses not to.”
Again, this can seem like a logical conclusion. But is it? In other words, if a child often, or even usually, handles herself well, does that mean that when she doesn’t do so, she’s being manipulative or somehow choosing to make things hard on her parents so she can get her way?
Let’s apply it to ourselves. Could someone say something similar about you as a parent? “She’s capable of parenting well. She does it lots of places, and usually she handles herself great at home. But then there are times that she just acts so immature and freaks out.” I don’t know about you, but if someone said that about me, my only response would be, “Guilty as charged.”
But obviously, you and I don’t have bad parenting moments because we’re intentionally acting belligerent so we can get our way. Manipulation implies that we are calculating. But when we mess up with our kids, it’s because the emotions get the best of us and we temporarily don’t act like the kind of parents we want to be.
You see the point I’m making. Just because we parent well lots of times, doesn’t mean we can parent well all the time. The way we handle ourselves really depends so much on
I have a new post up at mom.me. It begins like this:
I recently wrote about why we should be grateful when our little ones throw a tantrum. But aside from understanding that a tantrum is normal and even healthy, what else can we do when we’re actually in this kind of high-stress moment with our kids? I don’t believe parents should ignore a tantrum. When children are truly out of control, that’s when they need us the most. We still need to set clear boundaries, but our response should always be full of love, respect and patience.
Here are seven suggestions for dealing with a toddler’s tantrum:
Yesterday I spent a fun hour with the delightful Richard Fidler on ABC Radio in Australia.
Few experiences any of us undergo are as transformative as parenting. By definition, parenting is about transformation. One of our most important jobs as parents is to witness and influence the evolution of our children from wrinkly newborns with raw nervous systems into integrated, whole humans who know who they are and how to be in the world. And parenting obviously transforms us as well. There are smaller transformations—we learn to do most things “one-handed” while carrying a baby on our hip; we begin to eat at McDonalds; we memorize the names of dinosaurs; we learn to play video games again; we even buy a mini-van (which for some is a bigger transformation than for others). And there are huge, life-changing transformations—we adjust our priorities; we make sacrifices that cost us greatly; we learn to live with worrying and “what ifs”; we forever expand our hearts.
Along the way, we become more creative than we ever knew possible. I’m not talking about the creativity of artists, song-writers, or novelists. I’m talking about the creativity that’s required for survival for anyone caring for children. I knew I’d been forever transformed by my role as a parent when, in my attempt to get through to my non-compliant little streakers, creativity sprung forth from desperation and I made up a song with a chorus that began, “No naked butts on the furniture.” (Unfortunately, it was so catchy that one day I actually Continue Reading »
I know lots of loving parents who use time outs as their primary discipline technique. I’m not saying that time outs are completely unhelpful; more that I don’t think they’re the best alternative we have when it comes to discipline—the goal of which, remember, is to teach.
Reasons I’m Not a Fan of Time-Outs:
#1. What we know about the brain.
Because I know that brain connections are formed from repeated experiences, I don’t want my kids’ repeated experience to be isolation, which they may view as rejection, when they’ve made a mistake.
What I DO want them to repeatedly experience is doing things the right way. So, instead of a time out, I’ll often Continue Reading »
Discipline is a complex and complicated subject. I could write a whole book about it. In fact, I’ve already started working on one.
But when we talk about effective discipline and how parents can achieve the results they want when they interact with their kids, it can actually be it pretty simple. If it were a math formula, it would look like this:
WARMTH + AUTHORITY = EFFECTIVE DISCIPLINE
The research is really clear on this point. Kids who achieve the best outcomes in life – emotionally, educationally, and relationally – have parents who raise them with a high degree of warmth and nurturing, or what I like to call emotional responsiveness, as well as a high degree of authority, where clear boundaries are communicated and enforced. Their parents remain firm and consistent in their boundaries, while still interacting with them in a way that communicates love, respect, and compassion. Warmth and authority are the two sides of the effective-discipline coin.
The first side of the discipline coin: Warmth
When we nurture our children and attune to their internal world, we allow them to know and believe that they are seen, heard, loved, and approved of by their parents. Then they’ll interact with the world around them based on that belief, so that their brains are wired to expect that their needs will be met in intimate relationships. On the other hand, if a parent repeatedly Continue Reading »
[This is a revised version of the first article in a two-part series. Click here to see the second four mistakes.]
Because we’re always parenting our children, it takes real effort to look at our discipline strategies objectively. Good intentions can become less-than-effective habits quickly, and that can leave us operating blindly, disciplining in ways we might not if we thought much about it. Here are some parenting mistakes made by even the best-intentioned, most well-informed parents, along with practical suggestions that might come in handy the next time you find yourself in one of these situations.
Common Discipline Mistake #1: We lay down the law in an emotional moment, then realize we’ve overreacted.
Have you reacted in a way that was a bit “supersized” for the behavior you were trying to address? Maybe your child’s actions didn’t warrant such a dramatic pronoucement: “You can’t go swimming for the rest of the summer!” Or maybe the consequences even had to do with something you were counting on: “Stop calling your brother names or you can’t go to Grandma’s house today.” Of course, she again calls him “stinky-head” and calls your bluff. Your options at this point are to either miss your lunch with your friends or show your child that you don’t mean what you say.
In these moments, give yourself permission to rectify the situation. Obviously, follow-through is important once you’ve set boundaries; otherwise, you’ll lose credibility in your child’s eyes and your child will not have the security of knowing where the limits are. But there are ways to be consistent and still get out of the bind you’re in. For example, Continue Reading »