“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”: When The Struggles Are More Than Normal

I think we all go through periods in our parenting where we wonder if we are meeting our child’s needs or how that child or teen’s future will look. However, sometimes we may just have times where we feel very much as if the power struggles in our homes are beyond “normal” (whatever that means). Chapter 12 in “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles,” author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka writes on page 199, “Everyone has suggestions for you.  If you’d just be tougher or provide more structure, they advise, but you already feel like you’re a drill sargeant living in a book camp.  Even professionals have minimized your concerns, assuring you it’s just a stage.  But you know in your gut it’s not.  Your child is dealing with something more than temperament or normal development. “

If, despite doing everything “right” your “bad” days with power struggles are far outweighing your “good” days, then trust your gut that says there is something more going on.  For many children, this can be medical issues that just haven’t been diagnosed.  Your child isn’t out to get you or to make your life miserable or trying to be lazy or sabotage themselves or the family.  Your child needs you to believe them and be their advocate.  The chapter in this book  talks plainly about AD/HD, sensory integration dysfunction, language and speech problems, anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, autism spectrum disorder, attachment disorders, encorpresis, and I would add PANS/PANDAS to this list along with bipolar disorder.

The author talks about getting help, which I often find in the United States that the level of help often varies by state and some states have higher levels of specialists than others; how to get a thorough evaluation, and how to focus on your child, because your child is much more than a label.  Your child is a child first and foremost, a unique and wonderful person with gifts and talents.

Chapter 13 of this book talks about stressed-out kids.  A family’s stress levels highly correspond with a child’s stress level.  Kids don’t say they are hurting, they are grieving, they are mourning, they are missing someone, they feel insecure.  Instead they throw tantrums, they shadow you, they have toileting accidents or issues with food or sleep. Lethargy, apathy, disrupted sleep, falling apart over small things can all be signs that the stress level is just too high for that child.  Even happy things such as holidays, birthday parties, school being out for the summer can cause regressions and behavioral troubles.

Connecting and loving your child is always, always, always the first step.  Small children may not be able to name their feelings well up until about age 9, but you as the adult can often figure out how your child is feeling. You know your child better than anyone!  Rhythm helps immensely in helping children weather stress within the family, along with such rituals as eating dinner as a family, connecting during the week with special things, and looking at your child’s extroversion and introversion levels (what would feel connecting to them given their personality and temperament?)  We can teach older children to recognize their stress levels and how to take breaks; teenagers should be able to take a mental health day from school when they need.  Older children should be able to name their feelings and come up with ways to cope and we as families should be able to offer support and caring.

Most of all, what most children need, whether they have medical issues leading toward power struggles or stressful events going on, is for us as adults to SLOW DOWN.  It is plenty for many children to just go to school and come home and be with the family. This is especially true if they are under high school aged. They need models for slowing down, for taking life in stride, for self-care and nurturing. These are the tools that will help them most as an adult.  If you are looking for more on that topic, I did an entire book study chapter by chapter on “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne.  You can see the first post in that series here  and all the posts for that series will come up if you use the search box.

I would love to know what you thought about these two chapters.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”: Too Sensitive or Too Analytical?

Chapter 11 of the wonderful book, “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning For A Lifetime” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is about how we make decisions. Sometimes we can trigger the other people in our household without even meaning to simply because some of us have a response to things that is feeling, and some of us have a response to things that are analytical.

Thinking means we are guided by facts, information received, and respond to that.  Feeling means we often make decision guided by “what feels right.”  This doesn’t mean that those guided by thinking are insensitive or unfeeling, or that those guided by feelings are too sensitive.  There is a great checklist on page 179 regarding “if your child is a thinker”, and includes such things as does logic guide your child’s decisions, they need to know “why” things are done and loves a good debate, values justice and fairness, doesn’t enjoy talking about their feelings, and much more.  Page 180 hold the checklist for children who are feelers and includes such things as needing to work through emotions before being ready to problem solve, highly valuing harmony and avoiding conflict, being deeply concerned with how decisions affect others.  It is very illuminating!

So, if your child is a thinker, you need to deal with facts first and deal with emotion coaching later!  This child may need help to understand other people’s point of view.  Another suggestion by the author is to let these children feel competent  because they highly value acheivement and are often their own toughest critic.  You can help them set goals that include dealing with outcomes and how those outcomes affect others.   You may have to teach them to be tactful and how being tactful is different than lying.  Validating their competence is also really important.  It is also important that if this child has siblings, the rules are fairly applied.   You may also need to explain “why”‘s more frequently, but it is important NOT to get pulled into intellectual traps.

The feeling child needs their feelings validated, and they need solutions that “feel right” for all the parties involved.    They may need reassurance that they are liked – so for these children, it is really important you have a relationship with this child so you can work cooperatively.  Yelling and criticizing doesn’t work work with any child, but a feeling child needs that cooperative feeling in order to focus and do what needs to happen.  They may also need to learn how to be assertive and how they don’t have to and can’t please everyone, and they need to learn how to consider both feelings and facts.

The last few pages are broken down into categories for us as parents – are we extroverted feeling parents?  Extroverted factual parents?  Introverted feeling parents?  Introverted factual parents?

This is a great chapter for all of us who want to bring balance to our children, and give them tools that will help them so much in the future!

I would love to hear what you thought about this chapter!

Blessings,

Carrie

“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” Understanding Introverts and Extroverts

We are up to Chapter 10 in our wonderful book, “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  I love this quote, “We don’t get to choose our children’s type, but we can help our kids understand their style and what they need, and teach them how to work with us, especially if our styles are different.”  

The authors looks at the characteristics of extroverted children (or yourself):

  • Need to go outside of themselves, talking and interacting with others and the world around them in order to figure our how they feel and to find the energy to cope.
  • They tend to share thoughts or feelings as they strike them
  • Wants feedback or affirmation – this doesn’t necessarily mean they have low self-esteem; they just process better with others and with a consensus
  • Extroversion doesn’t mean they need people all the time;  in fact they may be cautious in new situations or in meeting new people.  They like to do their thinking by talking and energized by activity and interaction.
  • Too much time alone leaves them drained and irritable.
  • When they are upset, they don’t want to be alone.
  • Not likely to give you a break without them right there!
  • Extroverted children may ask a lot of questions, talk a lot, interrupt

Characteristics of introverted children (or yourself):

  • Need to go inside of themselves in order to sort out feelings, process, recharge
  • They need space, unstructured time, and quiet
  • They can be social people and strong leaders.  Introversion and extroversion do not describe social skill sets.
  • May learn  best by watching first
  • Often talkative in the evening after having time to reflect on the day
  • May be told to “hurry up” or that they take too long with decision making.
  • Introverted children have a strong sense of personal space – they will choose who and when they will allow in their space.  This doesn’t mean they don’t like affection!
  • Noise and crowds drain them
  • Introverted children may need to come home after school and just be – playdates after school might be a disaster!

These traits are on a continuum, just like all personality traits.

So, how do we work with the extroverted child?  The author gives fantastic suggestions starting on page 165.  An extroverted child may talk about an issue over and over, and it can be exhausting for those listening.  We need to help extroverted children set limits that include respecting the other person.  The author also mentions that if the parent is an introvert and your child is an extrovert, they may need extracurricular activities and visiting friend’s homes because you may not be able to meet that child’s needs for interaction all by yourself without exhaustion! Extroverts always want your attention because they are at their best working and interacting with others.  You need to work with them – they may never want to clean their room alone not because they can’t do it, but because they don’t want to do it alone.  It isn’t that they can’t be independent, they just like others to be with them.

We can coach the introverted child in a different way.  Introverts may pull away when they need space or quiet to pull themselves together.  They aren’t shutting you out, they are recharging.  They may get into trouble by running around with other children and telling them all to be quiet, or when younger, they may even bite or hit to get others out of their space. You may have to work and do something else while the introverted child is taking their time to tell you what happened that made them upset.  They may also need time to practice something privately, like the words they would use when they are upset, before they get into that situation with someone else.  They may also need to be taught how to say hello and greet others or how to enter into a large group.  You cannot push an introverted child into a group, but you can teach them to say, “I need to watch first” or how to say, “I need space.”

This is a fantastic and practical chapter!  I hope you are enjoying it.  Our next chapter is about sensitive vs. analytical personality traits in processing.  I hope you will join me for that one!

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”: What Fuels Power Struggles

We are up to Chapters 7, 8 and 9  in Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning For A Lifetime.” Chapter 7 is  about identifying the real feelings and needs behind power struggles.

She identifies four major threads within power struggles, including:

  • Temperament – the natural way your child reacts to something: how persistent, easily frustrated, sensitive, active, regular, or intense they are, how they cope with transitions and new situations
  • Stress – the environmental factors in your child’s life that may be causing distress
  • Medical Factors- physiological issues that are impacting your child; for example, auditory processing challenges, AD/HD, depression, anxiety
  • Normal Development- developmental tasks that your child is working on and that can be predictable for the age if you know development (and to me also suggests, are you expecting too much or not enough?)

If you can identify the threads inside the power struggle, you will have a much better chance of coming up with a strategy that can address what is happening.

Chapter 8 is entitled, “Why You Blow:  Understanding Your Temperament.”  There is a inborn or genetric dimension to temperament, which describes how we perceive the world and our first, most natural responses to things in the world.  If we understand ourselves, we can understand our reaction to our children’s behavior better.  There is a test starting on page 119 of the book that measures traits such as persistence,sensitivity, adaptability, intensity, regularity of eating/sleeping/elimination, activity level, first reaction, and then a way to put it all together for a score of what kind of emotion coach you are for your children.  The point is to accept yourself and know yourself; honor yourself in your parenting life because it will make parenting that much easier.

Chapter 9 takes these same temperament traits and applies them to children, and gives examples of how to emotion coach for trait.  This author has written two other books about temperament and parenting and I encourage you to read them – one is “Raising Your Spirited Child” and the other one is “Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook.”  They are both fantastic and can be so helpful when you are dealing with a child whom you are trying to understand.

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” – Empathy

Today’s chapter from “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for a Lifetime” by author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is “Empathy.”

In order to develop a sense of trust, a child needs to know

  1.  They can count on their caregiver to respond sensitively to their needs.
  2. They are worthy of attention.

This is not just for infancy, but for all children.  Empathy is the root of being a connected parent.

When I read this, I had three immediate thoughts:

  • Some parents are extremely empathetic, but struggle with boundaries.  Responding empathetically doesn’t always mean giving the child what they want.  There is a difference between wants and needs and feelings are one piece of health within a family.
  • Some parents who are very empathetic themselves don’t have a hard time putting themselves into their child’s shoes and feeling all that emotion, but actually need to learn how to shield their own emotions a little better so they don’t feel constantly emotionally wiped out.
  • Sometimes empathy is hard, particularly if a child’s behavior is hitting, screeching, yelling, fighting, biting, slaming doors, saying “I hate you!”, teen attitude,  general opposition where you feel you have tried everything peacefully to resolve the situation.

Lucky for us, the author does talk about this.  She talks about viewing behaviors as words.  For small children, we can brainstorm what a child is feeling without them being able to verbalize well.  If we can see that our children are not out to “get us” or “be defiant” (hate that word), it is easier for us to remain calm and try to help our children.

Sometimes people give well-meaning advice that is just plain terrible.  The whole you are spoiling him, he wlll grow up to be a brat, you are the one in control….it makes us as parents feel defensive, doesn’t it? The author writes on page 98, “The reality is that our child-rearing lore is full of advice that discourages us from connecting with our kids.”

So true.  Research has shown that connected kids actually are less demanding and easier to care for.  Truth. If you have a child that is connected and you feel is demanding, it could be their personality is just higher needs in general.   You parenting that child with empathy and connection is actually helping, not harming. There are many back posts on this blog about the high needs child/spirited child if you need more encouragement.

Some of us can handle one emotion , but not the others that our child displays.  Many of us are uncomfortable with anger.  Maybe crying and being sad is okay, but we don’t know what to do with true anger, usually because our own feelings of anger were not acceptable by our own parents.  Part of our work is to look at what we were told as children about our emotions, and figure out how do we work towards something healthier.

We also need to monitor ourselves – our own resentment, exhaustion, drained feelings.  As our children grow, they recognize our feelings more and the relationship is more reciprocal. However, if everything a child needs emotionally from you seems like a demand and makes you angry, counseling is really important to unravel that and help you create healthier patterns.

Love to hear your thoughts,

Carrie

 

“Kids, Parents, And Power Struggles” – Chapter 5

This is a GREAT chapter called, “Stopping the Tantrums.” Teaching children how to recognize their emotions and take actions to soothe and calm themselves is really, really important.  It takes years to practice this, because many of us are still working on this as adults (and yet we expect our children to control themselves like adults!)

Think of the way we respond to children.  The scenario author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka gives on page 74 is that of a child coming home from school where every.single.thing has gone wrong.  The child comes home and falls apart.  Did this ever happen to you as a child?  Were you heard?  Or did you hear:

  • Go sit in your room
  • It’s no big deal
  • Or did you hear nothing?  Child problems were ignored because somehow they weren’t as valid as adult problems.
  • Did your parents hug you?  And did you want to be hugged or touched at that time?
  • Did they get in your face and match your intensity?

The author describes pulling out a big bag of fluffy white cotton balls and having parents imagine themselves soothing and diffusing those strong emotions with our children. What would that look like?  What would the words be?  How would we want to be treated?  Teaching children to soothe and calm themselves begins with US. We can choose to soothe and calm, and our children will learn to do the same.

A child’s emotions can be completely hijacked by their fight or flight system.  The author describes on page 77, “Does Your Child Need To Escalate To Be Heard?” on page 77, a common scenario.  She writes, “The more you know about your child’s day and life, the easier it is to pick up the more subtle cues.”   It all begins with connection.  

If we are stressed, our children are stressed too.  When we are stressed, things that don’t normally bother us do bother us, and we either don’t pick up on other’s cues as well (the author calls this “neural static”) or we overract.

Several of the strategies to help bring down intensity:

  • Get down on eye level.  Listen.  You are not getting in your child’s face to yell at them, you are getting on their level to listen to them.
  • Allow enough time for transitions, because this allows time to monitor emotions and then you have time to help manage the emotions.
  • Physcial activity – kids and adults NEED it.  A twenty minute physical break can be really important.
  • Space -sometimes the best thing we can teach our children is to say, “I need space.”
  • Deep breathing
  • Distraction
  • Sensory Activities

Parents wonder if this isn’t SPOILING the child.  The point is this is the first step, not the only step.   Have a plan for soothing for all ages, and teach teens to exercise DAILY (see more about that on page 86).  If you do all of this, and your child still just rages, it’s time to call in a professional.  They can teach your child the best strategies, and it’s easier to do it sooner rather than later.

We are here to be the alley of our child.  Let’s make a plan.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”

This chapter is entitled, “Enforcing Your Standards and Staying Connected.”  Author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka begins this chapter with a story about her fifteen year old daughter who wanted to rent a hotel room with friends to have a party instead of going to the homecoming dance.  They said no, and their daughter complained but didn’t scream and yell or give her parents the silent treatment.  The author writes,” What I realized is that over the years, my daughter had learned our family’s standards – not perfectly, mind you; she is human- but pretty darned well.  Those standards had helped her keep her cool and continue to work with us.  But it’s often difficult to imagine how you can teach your child those skills when his screams drown out your words or his blows are bruising your arm.  How do you soothe and  calm him when he’s kicking and flailing at you?  What do you do when he swears at you?  In the heat of the moment you have to help your child to stop reacting and instead to learn to choose a more respectful and suitable way to express his strong feelings. ”

The steps to this process are all practiced separately over time; only then can the child learn for him or herself to put the steps together to have a more mature response.  The steps are:

  • Have standards and expectations.  That is the foundation, and gives you the ability to say, “This behavior isn’t right; let’s make a different choice.”
  • Enforce the standards of reaction. By that, do we accept hitting as a response to a standard?  Do we accept being sworn at?  We can then stay, “Stop. In our family, we don’t hit.  We don’t swear at each other – you can tell me how angry you are!” Your words have to match your actions, and usually this step is more effective in children who are not yet adolescents.
  • Keep your standards consistent.  You cannot punish when you are in a bad mood, or let things go because you are in a great mood.  No one can predict how you will react if you aren’t consistent, and that can lead a child or teen toward being hypervigilant and prone to being frustrated and feeling helpless because the child doesn’t know where the line is.
  • Deal with guilt.  It is so hard to see our children upset, crying, sad, frustrated, angry.  However, if we avoid all boundaries, our children may not be very nice to be around. If we can’t help them handle their strong feelings, we are showing them that those feelings are not acceptable, and that we are helpless when they feel strongly.
  • Match your actions with your words.  Shouting isn’t action.  Yelling isn’t action.  We need to stop and move to stop our child.
  • Review your standards with the child BEFORE you get in the situation again.
  • Teach your child what they CAN do!  Teach them how to act when they are frustrated or upset.  
  • Practice with your child.  You can pretend and role play the situation with smaller children and go over the situation verbally with older children.
  • Consequences are okay.  Consequences are planned out, laid out, discussed before the situation occurs.
  • If you make a mistake, it’s okay!  There are no perfect parents.  It is okay to admit you didn’t handle something right.  It is okay. too, to have backup.  From page 69, “Research has shown that if one adult says what the standard is, kids may or may not get it.  But if two people say what the standard is, even weeks later, kids still know the standard and follow it.  So if you want to increase your effectiveness, get a backup.”  If you and your partner end up fighting instead of backing each other up, just give each other grace.  Learning to work together is a process that takes time and it involves creating a plan.  
  • You can always change the standards.  If you have been doing things that hurt each other instead of helping, you can always come together and decide what to do differently.

Hope you enjoyed Chapter Four!  On to Chapter Five!

Many blessings,

Carrie