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.

Are you overwhelmed with end of the school year stress?

You might be asking your brain to hold on to too many things.

Watch the video below and try this trick to eliminate overwhelm and take more effective action. It’s a busy time of year, but it doesn’t have to be stressful.

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.

Are you overwhelmed by your calendar and to-do list?

If you feel tired just thinking about your schedule, email and to-do’s, try this Supermom life hack and “Close the Loop”

Do you like to think about things before taking action? When you get an email about a party, a request for donation or volunteering, do you give yourself time to think about it? When someone asks you a question you don’t know the answer to like, “What should we do for spring break this year?” what do you do?

Moms today are often the organizers for the family calendar. When we are asked a question that doesn’t have a clear yes or a clear no, it goes into our mental “think about it” file. The problem is, all these open loops and indecisions drain our energy. It takes energy to remember to get back to that person, do research or weigh the pros and cons. It’s an invisible energy leak that we don’t even realize drains us. If your email inbox is full of things you need to action on, you probably are guilty of keeping too many open loops.

Supermoms who want to accomplish a lot in a day, and still have energy at the end of it, close as many loops as possible. They have learned to book that dentist appointment 6 months from now, say yes or no to that evite (you can always change your mind), give a clear answer to volunteering or donating (they will always ask again). Making decisions clears our energy. When we “put it in the back of our mind”, it keeps us energetically tied to that person and that future event. Too many of these open loops and our energy resources get depleted.

Let’s say you need more information before you can make a decision, respond with “I will let you know by 3/1” and put that date on your calendar. Then pick a day and time to “research family camps” and put that action on your calendar and out of your mind. When you calendar your to-do’s, the only thing you need to remember is to check your calendar.

Your energy goes where your attention goes so if your attention is being pulled in 50 different directions, you will feel exhausted. As you learn to rely on your calendar and can trust yourself to follow through, you will increase your energy and accomplish more in a day.

Emilia felt busy and overwhelmed all the time. With two young children, a part time job, a dog, a house, and a husband who traveled, she could barely make it through the day. She knew there were highly productive people in the world who were WAY busier than she was and got a lot more accomplished. It bugged her knowing it was possible to do more with more energy, but she didn’t know how to do it.

Emilia stopped writing her to-do lists on paper and started putting them on her google calendar. Her calendar was synced with her phone and laptop so wherever she was she had access to her calendar. Whenever a question came up she couldn’t answer right then, she would put it on her calendar whatever the next action step was. “Ask Sophie if she wants to go to girl scout camp. If yes, fill out form. If no, recycle.” Some days she didn’t want to do what the calendar told her so she would just move it to another date or decide not to do it. It took getting used to, but she felt like a superstar with all she was able to accomplish and found herself able to say yes to more fun things.  

Remember to write “actionable steps” on your calendar: write email, call Mom, schedule appointment, research mortgage rates for 15 minutes, etc. If you just write “summer camp” or “dog” on your calendar it may be hard to remember what you planned to do. Any time you schedule “research” or “plan” or other internet related perusing, be sure to put a time limit on it. The internet will suck all your time and energy up like a black hole if we aren’t focused and clear on our goals.

Not sure what’s draining your energy?  Imagine you wake up every morning with a fully charged battery. Where does most of your energy go?  Are you at 10% before 10:00am?  Kids take a lot of our attention and therefore a lot of our energy, but see if you have any other “open loops” that need closing. Sometimes a negative relationship with a loved one can be a big energy drain but a 15 minute “close the loop” conversation will recharge you back to 100%. A job or commute you hate but feel trapped in can take up a lot of your personal energy. Cluttered rooms, a cluttered schedule and a cluttered mind are silent, secret energy drains. Making time to close these open loops will have tremendous payoffs in your energy.

Not sure where to start? Go to www.lifecoachingforparents.com/work-with-me and together we’ll create an action plan you can be motivated to tackle.