“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

Book Study: “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”

(We are kicking off our new book study on Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for a Lifetime.”  Some of you may be familiar with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Raising Your Spirited Child,” but this book is just as wonderful and I think applicable across a wide range of ages and stages. So grab a copy of the book and follow along!  Also, check out IG and FB @theparentingpassageway for tips/reminders each week based off some of the ideas in each chapter so we can all have winning families and be the parents we want to be!)

Chapter Three is “Bringing Down the Intensity: You’re The Role Model.”  The author jumps right in by saying, “Learning to express strong emotions, like anger and frustration, respectfully and selectively is learned behavior.  You don’t have to be a victim of your emotions.  You can choose your response.  You don’t have to react.”

This is so often easier said then done!  The connection between threatening or frustrating situations and stress hormones is clear.  Our strong emotions can lead to pretty instinctual responses, such as striking back physically or screaming or yelling, giving in completely, shutting down, or emotionally distancing yourself from your child and just breaking off the relationship.

The problem is, none of these things really solve the problem.  They don’t teach our children a new way to react, and they tear apart relationships.  

Instead:

  1. Change the frame.  Our children are not out to get us, to make our lives miserable, they don’t have character flaws that are going to end them up with a wasted life.  See their behavior for what it is.  With older children you can ask them about the why’s.  Give your child the benefit of the doubt and listen.
  2. Set standards….for yourself.  What ways did your family express anger or frustration that you don’t want to repeat?  What do some people around you do to express anger that you don’t want to do?  Is it shaming, yelling, threatening (hopefully not hitting), swearing?  What is your standard and how will you uphold it?  Fear and intimidation may stop a behavior momentarily, or the whole thing may escalate – and does fear and intimidation teach your child how to deal with frustrating emotions or help your relationship with that child?  The author suggests we fill in this sentence:  “The next time I am angry, I promise myself that I will NOT……..” Fill in the blank that works for you.
  3. Monitor your feelings.  Standards are goals, but emotions can really derail our best intentions.  We need to learn how to identify early how to recognize what emotion WE are feeling, and diffuse it.  If we don’t, then we are over the edge and go into the behavior we don’t want at all.  Anger is usually a second emotion – we went past frustration, disappointment, fear, sadness and just went right into anger to cover that up.  The way to start to learn to identify emotions early is to pause for fifteen second throughout the day and just note your feelings.    Look for the big ones- hungry, tired, happy, irritated – and then for the more subtle emotions.  If you find your emotion, you can choose a better response.

Part of this is knowing  your stress cues.  When you are stressed, what do you do?  The author gives examples such as slamming doors, being impatients, screaming at the kids, not smiling, rushing, gritting or grinding our teeth.    We can take the time to diffuse before we walk in the door  or start bedtime routines.  Recognize what the most vulnerable parts of the day really are for you.   Many of us have control of how to tackle those daily or weekly spots, if we just recognize where those spots are!

4.  Learn effective strategies.  PAUSE is the biggest one.  Take a break and come back (walking is a great break).  If your child follows you and clings to your leg and won’t let you take a break away, you can have a time -in place where you can all sit together.  There is a very moving story about this on pages 50-51 if you get a chance to read it.  Some children who have had significant losses or separations, find a parent leaving to gather themselves traumatizing.  Be sure to explain you are not abandoning them, you will come back.  You can use a calming couch or chair (the time in all together method) or find great support for your child, like a neighbor or friend who can come over, and help you.  I urge you to have a few friends or family members you can call when you desperately need a break and who will come no questions asked (and no judgement!).  

Now is the time to make your plan and how you will handle things.  This would also be a great topic to talk to your partner or other adults in the house about.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Book Study: Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles – Chapter 2

“The best antidote to U.S. teenagers’ major health problems – bad habits such as drinking, smoking, promiscuity – turns out to be a close connection with caring parents.” – The Journal of the Medical Association

This is a great quote I think, and it reminds all of us when we lose the forest for the trees why we try to do what we do.  Parenting and being in the trenches is exhausting!  The cajoling to reach normal things in the day for littles – going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, washing hair leads into  juggling homework, dealing with friends for older children and into navigating high school, driving, employment, romantic relationships and more for teenagers.  How can we do it?

I think the answer is in the title of this chapter, Chapter Two:  “The Decision to Connect.”  If we perceive the child as an obstacle to getting something done, something accomplished – then we may be sorely disappointed.  If our goal is to connect with our child in the process of life and in doing all the life things along the way, then we have a much better chance of success.

Chapter Two starts off with a great observation from children jumping rope.  The author writes, ” When we’re in those tugs of war with our kids, it’s much easier to see those struggles as opportunity once we realize we have the same options the kids across the street did.  We always have control of our end of the rope!  We can decide that this is the time to hang on tight, stand firm, and insist, “In our family this is the rule!”  Other times we may decide to step in and work with our child, enjoying together what we couldn’t do alone.  And then there are occasions when we realize it is time to let go of our end of the rope, to hand the whole thing over to our child, and say, “You’re ready.  Take it. You can make this decision.  You can handle it on your own.”

How do we know which of these tactics to use? I think some of it has to do with the size of decisions to be made, and the age of the child. and what our vision is for their adult life. How are we making them functional adults?  The author talks about Stephen Covey’s adage of “Begin with the end in mind.” She gives the example of sitting  with a three year old at bedtime, and people say don’t start that!  However, do you want your teens to see you as someone who makes time for them, who can answer their questions, who can be trusted and help them?  Think about the significant adults in your life who helped you (and those who didn’t) – what were their characteristics?

This does NOT mean we don’t have limits.  When I was a young parent, I think I had a picture of doing all the things so my children would feel close and connected.  I now think what children need to know is family is a partnership of respect, trust and communication between all parties.  Emotional coaching and teaching our children is about meeting their needs – of course!  It is about being responsive and senstive to them!  But it is also is about teaching them through being supportive and encouraging to meet the things that must happen, that need to happen.   How do we emotionally coach a child versus intimidating them?  Building relationships, and building a emotional coach type of parenting style is a process. You will mess it up along the way!  You may go back to less desirable behaviors.  Keep moving forward.  

One way to keep moving forward is to keep track of the developmental phase your child is in- what common things come up?  What has come up for your child?  What are potential strategies you could use to guide this while still connecting?  Who is YOUR support team?  I find many American mothers at least are functioning with NO support team.  No family really, if they have a partner they are gone for long hours, no neighbors per say.  You need a web of support.  Who can be in your pocket?  Who can you call when you are ready to melt down?

Can you identify what your child is feeling and why?  They may not be able to articulate it.  Most feelings have a need behind them.  What’s the need and what’s the best way, including the health of  you and the rest of the family, to address it?  This is partly why I am such a big proponent of rhythm for children – having the same rhythm really decreased the amount of decision making and stress.  If the bedtime order is always the same, there is less protesting and fighting.

Start with the little things–  there is a list on page 34, but here are my favorites from that list:

  • Don’t invalidate. Even if it doesn’t make sense, it can be important to your child, especially littles.  They don’t always make sense; they are little.
  • Take time to listen.
  • Assist but don’t take over
  • State things calmly.

There are great tips in this chapter!  I hope you all are enjoying this book.  When I first read this book, a long time ago, it seemed so much to take in but 18 years into parenting it seems pretty logical – so I think I am proof that we can grow and internalize these behaviors.  You can do it!  If you need help, and want to talk, I have some coaching sessions available by phone if you email me at admin@theparentingpassageway.com

Lots of love,
Carrie