Got a strong-willed child?

Make your life easier by avoiding these two parenting traps.

Strong-willed kids know what they want and they feel determined to get it. Your opinion is heard, but just doesn’t carry as much weight as it does for a child who loves to please. Strong-willed kids like to learn experientially (just because you TELL them the ground is hot, doesn’t mean they are going to believe you until they try it for themselves). If your child has a strong desire to be in charge of themselves and follow through on their own ideas, this blog is for you. 

Raising a strong-willed preschooler takes a lot of work, patience and parenting savvy. As they grow older, their determination can be directed at things other than defying MOM & DAD. Often, these children will direct their passion towards women’s rights, animal rights, or other causes they feel strongly about. It can be a joy to watch these strong-willed kids make their mark on the world. 

HOWEVER, parenting them when they are little is a big job! We have to try and keep them ALIVE in order for them to change the world and we’ve got to watch out for the dreaded POWER STRUGGLE. Power struggles are a lose-lose situation (click here to read my blog about power struggles) and one of the biggest reasons we get into them is our desire to be a good mom. 

We often don’t even realize that our beliefs about being a good mom have been triggered. We might have subconscious beliefs that sound like this:

A good mom has a kids who get good grades and go to college.

A good mom has kids who eat healthy foods and bathe regularly.

A good mom doesn’t have children with depression or anxiety.

My strong-willed daughter is crispy red right now with a horrible sunburn. This triggers my “I’m a bad Mom” because a “good mom” wouldn’t let this happen.

I tried to put sunscreen on her. I offered, I cajoled, I reminded, but she’s a strong-willed 13 year old and I can only do so much to protect her fair Irish skin. I have learned that if she’s going to make smart choices, it has to be her idea, not mine. If I stay out of it and act like I don’t care, I’m hoping the pain of the sunburn will teach her all she needs to know. (I was hoping her Dad’s skin cancer treatments might send the message but NOT YET!) 

In order to not enter into a power struggle, I have to believe I am still a good Mom, even while she has a terrible sunburn and is damaging her skin.

I have clients who struggle in these areas:

Am I still a good Mom even if my son doesn’t go to college?

Can I be happy and proud of myself as a parent, even if my daughter is depressed?

What if he does break every bone in his body? Can I still think I’ve done my job as his Mom?

Don’t put your ability to believe you’re a good parent, in the hands of your children. It’s a disaster waiting to happen!  It makes us cling with fear and ferocity, to the manner in which our children live their lives. When they sense how invested we are in their behavior, it’s a recipe for rebellion. If you’ve got a strong willed child, notice where your biggest triggers are and consider the idea that you could be a great Mom, no matter what they do. Make room for imperfection in yourself and your children. It will make your life so much easier and your child won’t feel the need to rebel against you.

Believing we are good parents will make parenting a strong-willed child easier, more enjoyable, and pave a quicker path to happiness (and maybe even compliance) for the both of you.

One Habit Happy Parents Have in Common

Do this one thing today to help create more cooperative kids and happier parents.

There is one thing you can do today to have happier, more responsible, self-confident kids. PRAISE THEM. I don’t just mean “You are a great kid” or other general statements. I mean specific, timely, honest praise that gets you more of what you want.  Let’s say you have a 10 year old slob living in your home. He leaves food, shoes, backpacks and smelly socks everywhere. It drives you bonkers. You are constantly bouncing back and forth between frustration, nagging and hopelessness. Turn your attention and try to catch him doing SOMETHING towards your goal of cleanliness. “I noticed that instead of kicking off your shoe so that it would fly and hit the ceiling, you wedged it off and left it in the entry way. Thanks for aiming closer to it’s designated spot, I really appreciate your effort in helping our house stay tidy.”  Even if it’s nearly impossible to find something praise worthy, keep trying and look for the slightest nudge towards what you want. 

Perhaps you live with a surly, private 13 year old whose moods change on a dime. If you want to reinforce more steady, polite behavior, find a moment to praise it. “I notice when your friend came to the door, you were polite and sociable. That must have been hard since you were so grumpy a minute earlier. Being able to manage your emotions is a wonderful life skill and I’m impressed you are learning it at such a young age.”

You don’t want to lie or be sarcastic. Just find one small, incremental movement that demonstrates effort in the direction you want to see. Notice my title says “One thing happy PARENTS have in common”.  Sure, this will help your children be happy, but so will happier parents!  It’s just too easy to see the shortcomings in our kids, especially during adolescence. When we only see the negative in our kids it feels heavy and yucky to us, and to them. Focusing on what our kids are doing well will make everyone feel happier and more at peace. Try it today. Pick a behavior that bugs you and then find something to praise about it. “You brought your dish to the sink!” “Sharing space on your plate with a vegetable takes courage and that zucchini sat there the whole time!”  “I noticed how when you got angry with your sister, you went to your room to cool off instead of letting it escalate.” “You remembered you have a test tomorrow!” “You still brush your teeth every night even though I stopped reminding you!  You are so responsible!”

Avoid “You are so smart” or “Great Job” or anything fixed like intelligence, appearance, talent or skill. The key is to praise their EFFORT, something they have power over changing. Find something every day to praise, you will never regret it!

Is too much technology stressing out our kids?

Kids, Stress, Technology and BUFFERING? 

Our bodies are designed to live outside, moving constantly, with very little noise and external input distracting our brain. Once a year MAYBE a stampede of animals would go by and cause a ruckus or a group of travelers might come through. The thought of living in one place with only familiar faces, eating the exact same food, and doing the same activities day after day, seems immensely boring to me. But it always helps me to remember that our brains and bodies were not designed to handle the level of excitement and external stimulation we get today. What is the cost to our kids of this extreme level of input coming at us 24/7  video games, TV’s, social media alerts and advertisers, all promising MORE EXCITEMENT for a slice of our attention?

Kids show us how they are feeling through their behavior. Parents, noticing their kids stress levels rising, are wondering what is causing so much stress and how they can help?

Modern life creates an unnatural environment for kids. Asking them to sit on hard chairs inside four walls with people they don’t have intimate connections with, is an automatic stress. We want them to listen to someone else’s ideas the majority of the day, keeping an eye on the clock, always looking for the next blast of input. The absence of down time, time to connect with other people time, time to create and get lost in the imagination, time to explore nature and be in the body is unnatural for kids. Time to be inside our own heads without external input allows kids to process the stress of the day and feel refreshed and ready to learn.

We can help our kids by encouraging buffering, to prevent buffering. (WHAT? One word – two meanings – too much fun!)

Just like the spinning wheel on your computer, kids need time to “buffer” or process all the input they’ve taken in during their day. If you have too many windows open on your computer, things get bogged down and overwhelmed. Rather than yelling, crying or melting down, your computer takes a pause, refuses to do more work, until it has processed all that is happening. Kids can “buffer” or process their day by talking, walking, riding bikes, skateboarding, staring into space, creating something, any quiet, repetitive, physical activity. Today’s kids might CLAIM that video games and netflix help them relax but actually it creates a different kind of buffering.

The other “buffering” is what we do to protect us from a stressful world. Like padding on the walls, we buffer ourselves from our own emotions and our own bodies so that we can’t notice how stressed we are. This kind of buffering PREVENTS us from processing and keeps us stuck in a loop that’s hard to get out of. If you’ve ever gone on vacation but took a few days to relax into vacation mode, your constant work load or input addictions were creating a kind of buffering for you. Adults use work, alcohol, food, worrying, clutter, busy-ness, any number of things to buffer ourselves from our genuine emotions. Kids, more and more, are using electronic input to buffer themselves from an overwhelming world.

What can you do to help? 

Remember that neighborhood park you took them to in preschool?  Go there (or let kids go by themselves?) Hang out. It might take a while for them to remember how to entertain themselves.  It’s different than going to “practice” where someone is telling you what to do. Celebrate boredom. Let them see you relaxing. it’s painful to step off the grid but keep at it. Just like you on vacation, it might take a few days but eventually you settle in and it feels delightful.

Fake a blackout. Pretend the power went out, light candles and let yourselves be bored together. Tell stories, play charades, or just do nothing. It was eye opening to see how early my family got sleepy without TV entertainment and artificial lights!

Go camping or visit state parks. There is something about being around water, trees, and fire that connects with our primal brain and tells it to relax. I’m always amused to see kids who have trouble paying attention in class, spend five straight hours burning stuff at a campfire pit.

Music calms the savage beast. If you can’t live without electronics, choose relaxing music or audiobooks. It connects with a different and more relaxing part of the brain. Try www.gonoodle.com or simple habits app to use your electronic devices to encourage downtime.

If you see your kids staring into space, don’t interrupt them. That is very valuable time that is becoming more and more rare. Some kids like to process out loud, others need to process quietly inside their own heads. Be open and supportive to either one.

 

Sign up for my free webinar, Trust Your Gut, Not Your Snapchat Feed.

Trust your gut, not your snap chat feed


Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your kid’s use of technology?

Between homework assignments, researching, online video games, snapchat, texting, youtube, reading books, and easy access to inappropriate content, it seems our whole world is being overrun by technology. For many parents, it feels like technology is taking away childhood.

Parents of adolescents face an interesting challenge. It’s natural for young teenagers to want independence and privacy as they create identities separate from their parents, but the place they seem to want independence is online? How do we keep our kids safe in a world we can’t see or control?

Join me for a free webinar:

Trust Your Gut, Not Your SnapChat Feed.

This webinar will cover 5 things parents can do to help their child build a healthy relationship with technology. Click the button below to register for the free webinar held on Tuesday, April 11th. (A recording will be sent to those who cannot make it live).

CLICK HERE


Below is something I call The Ten Commandments of Texting. (Say it with a loud deep voice for dramatic effect.) Some of it might sound basic but kids don’t know if we don’t tell them. Right now, lessons are being learned by watching others make mistakes and get in trouble. The more we can teach ahead of time, the fewer consequences our kids will have to suffer. Print this and post on your refrigerator, or better yet, share on social media and encourage your kids to do the same. 

The Ten Commandments of Texting 

  1. The person in the room gets priority over the person on the phone. Apologize or ask permission before using your phone in front of them. A quick “excuse me one second” goes a long way.
  2. Never chat with strangers online. Don’t give out personal information to people you haven’t smelled.
  3. Never text when you are angry or hurt. Be nice to yourself. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling then text “I’ll call you” or “FaceTime?” so you can resolve conflict in an appropriate way.
  4. If you see something online or on a group chat that feels weird, icky, or not right, screenshot it and share it with a trusted adult.
  5. Never send or post anything you wouldn’t want to see on a billboard in front of your school.
  6. Beware of using sarcastic humor, it can sound mean instead of funny. Use extra thank you’s, please’s, and emoticons to soften blunt words.
  7. If your media time leaves you feeling yucky, bad or grumpy; unfriend, unfollow or just turn off your phone. Seek happiness and positivity.
  8. Group texts are annoying! Use them only when necessary and don’t add people without permission.
  9. If you message someone three times without a response, stop messaging them. Call, talk in person, or give up.
  10. Devices need a bedtime and days off. Unplug, set boundaries, or take a break. We all need a digital detox once in a while.

The only problem you will ever have

Friendship problems can be confusing, overwhelming, and very common. But really, all problems boil down to just one thing: The problem is we think we shouldn’t have problems.

Friendship problems are here to help us grow. Our problems teach us about empathy (for ourselves and others). They help us figure out who we are, what we like, and what we are willing to tolerate. Conflict helps us to let go and move on, or bring our relationship to a deeper level. Conflict teaches us the importance of advocating for ourselves and communicating our needs in a respectful way. Friendship problems are a super important learning opportunity!

Nicole* could feel her friends pulling away. They started sharing secrets and planning things without including her. They were still kind to her but she felt left out. What should she do?

Shay* was ready to branch out and make new friends. She loved her old group but was ready for something new. Despite her efforts, her old friends were not interested in bringing in any new ones. Shay didn’t want to hurt her old friend’s feelings, but she felt pulled to expand her social circle. As she did, her old friends got mad and unfriended her. Shay wants to shake off the guilt and sadness she feels so she can enjoy her friendships but she doesn’t know how.

Please join me for a mother/daughter workshop and tea, all about female friendships on Saturday, Nov. 16th from 1:00 – 4:00. You and your 10-14 daughter attend together for this helpful and fun mini-retreat. We’ll use our friendship issues, conflicts and girl drama to learn some important life lessons and build skills around empathy, self-compassion, positive self-talk, asking for what you want and standing in your power. Games and activities will help reinforce the lessons. Tea and goodies will be served and the cost is $60. per mother/daughter pair. ($30. individual price). This afternoon workshop will be held in my home so space is limited!

Reserve your spot today by clicking here: 

http://lifecoachingforparents.com/classes/mother-daughter-workshop/

pre-teen girls texting while hanging out at their school

*Names changed to protect these sweet girls