Magic Wand? Yeah, right. (Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do when your child is upset.)

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One day my seven-year-old became furious with me because I told him he couldn’t invite a friend over to play.  He stormed off to his room and slammed the door.  About a minute later, I heard the door open, then slam again.  I went up to check on him, and taped to the outside of his door, I saw the picture you see here.  (You can see from the drawing below that he regularly uses his artistic talents to communicate his feelings about his parents.)

I went into his room and saw what I knew I’d see:  a big child-sized lump under the covers on his bed. I sat next to the lump and put my hand on what I assumed was a shoulder, and suddenly the lump moved away from me, towards the wall.  From beneath the covers, he cried out, “Get away from me!”

Often at times like this I can become childish and drop down to my child’s level.  I’ve even been known to say things like, “Fine!  If you won’t let me cut that toenail that’s hurting, you can stay in pain all week!”  (Sometimes I’ll throw in a “See if I care!” for good measure.)

But this particular day, I maintained control and handled myself pretty well.  I first tried to acknowledge his feelings: “I know that makes you mad that Ryan can’t come over today.”

His response?  “Yes, and I hate you!”

I stayed calm and said, “Sweetie, I know this is frustrating, but there’s just not time to have Ryan over.  We’re meeting your grandparents for dinner in just a little while.”

After that, he returned to the familiar refrain as he curled tighter and moved as far away from me as possible:  “I said get away from me!”

I reminded him of our rule about talking with each other respectfully, then I went through a series of responses, the ones I regularly talk to parents about.  I comforted; I tried to use nonverbal connection like touch and tone of voice before I tried to problem-solve; I empathized; I tried again to explain.  I even offered an incentive to talk:  a playdate the next day.  But at that moment, he refused to calm down or let me help him in any way.

The point of this story is a reality that people rarely talk about:  Sometimes Continue Reading »

Taboo Subjects: Are There Topics You Should Avoid with Your Kids?

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Sometimes we aren’t sure if and when we should talk to our kids about something. For many parents, subjects related to sexuality, race, and other uncomfortable topics can fall into this category. I was talking to someone the other day who said she’d never want to talk to her kids about masturbation. This post isn’t at all about the particular topic of masturbation—it’s about an important parenting issue.

When our kids are developmentally ready for a particular topic, and/or they could be exposed to it at school or somewhere else, parents should open the door to conversation about the topic. Let’s continue with the topic of masturbation for argument’s sake. For sure by junior high, if not before, Continue Reading »

Setting boundaries AND connecting emotionally

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One thing that isn’t on the notes that we discussed is the importance of boundaries and consequences. It’s important for us to remember that connecting emotionally with our kids, joining with them, and looking at the underlying needs/emotions beyond the surface behavior doesn’t at all mean we should be indulgent. As an example, I think it would be weak and indulgent to respond to a child who’s crying and tantruming in public because he doesn’t want to leave somewhere by asking, “Are you upset? Why are you upset? It’s OK. We can talk when you’re ready.” And leave them crying and being upset, and not making them leave–giving them control over the situation. It doesn’t feel good to them or to you to allow their emotional states to dictate what is happening. A more appropriate response would be something like, “I can see Continue Reading »

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