“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”

This post finishes up our chapter- by- chapter look at “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for A Lifetime” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  Chapter 15, entitled, “You’re Not My Boss!” talks about learning to be assertive rather than aggressive.  The author writes, “Learning how to get and use power is a critical stage of emotional development for all chidren.  The window for this stage opens sometime around your child’s fourth birthday and continues for years.” “You’re not the boss of me” might be followed by how we are “mean” parents or how much our child hates us.  This can be very difficult  for parents to hear this and it feels very disrespectful. However, this is often a very preliminary and immature way towards trying to learn to be assertive with the confidence and poise that comes with maturity.

Learning how to be assertive is a skill for a child to develop and learn how to use in life.  It will serve them well in their relationships and in their careers.  The best way to deal with when children are testing out power is to not get too emotionally sucked into this and remain calm.  Enforce respect for all family members calmly and standards that are clear and concise, and most of all know your own trigger points and how those phrases that come out of immature children’s mouths make you feel and act. It is a lot easier to remain neutral and calm and enforce a standard if you know what your trigger is!  Figuring in your child’s temperament, stress levels at the time, etc can also be helpful.

Great phrases you can use to help meet your child include:

  • “Try again please.” (not in a threatening way)
  • “Re-do that one, please” (mine)
  • “Stop. That’s bulldozing.”  That’s a pretty clear picture to a child instead of threatening to wash their mouth out with soap or to tell them to stop being sassy. Many times a child will say they don’t even know they are being disrespectful.  Bulldozing is a pretty clear picture of running someone else over with their words.
  • Teach your child words that persuade others to listen to them – try the list of phrases on page 273 and 274.

Chapter 16 is called, “Can We Talk About This?” and it’s about learning to get along with others.  The family is undoubtedly one of the first places for this! This can involve us letting go (bring the coat with you and put it on if you get cold), managing intensity levels in the house, emotional coaching through situations, and helping our children problem solve.

Teaching our children to solve their own problems leads towards a successful life.  If they can describe a problem, how they feel, and explore, evaluate, and carry  out a solution, they are well on their towards having a very functional adult life!

This can also work well with sibling fighting by first insisting that each sibling listen to the other. In my experience, this wouldn’t work well with the child under 10, but it’s worth a try.   I found the example on page 291 of this book to be a very typical scenario – an introverted child asking an extroverted child to stop and then being triggered when the child doesn’t stop and gets into his space.  Not being heard leads to physical altercations amongst children!

In conclusion, the author writes,  “It’s true that emotion coaching will not eliminate all of the power struggles in your life.  I wish I could say that it would.  But I do know that when that emotional bond is strong, you and your child will find yourselves in a new place…”

May we all grow to love and respect each other,

Blessings,

Carrie

 

Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles

I love Chapter 14 of this book because it is about balancing boundaries and independence, which is something I think as parents we are always riding the line between, no matter what the age of our children.

Part of boundaries and setting limits, particularly for toddlers and onward could be to offer two small choices (either one acceptable), follow through on the choices (I can hold you if you sit quietly or I can put you down), and then be able to not be afraid of the child’s protest, outburst, anger, or sadness. We follow up with the ability to try again.  I like what Mary Sheedy Kurcinka says on page 245: ” When you say yes, you give her a sense of autonomy, a chest-pumping pride of acheivement, a glowing sense of capablity.  When you say no, you are teaching her when and how to stop herself.”

The challenge, of course, is to get the balance right – so many parents say no to each and every thing until the child doubts his or her own capablity, and so many parents never say no to anything at all, meaning the child never learns how to stop him or herself.  It is much harder for older teens and young adults to figure out how to stop themselves and give themselves limits if this was never ever modeled or taught earlier.

Finding that balance can be individual for each child – age, circumstance, but also temperament,  developmental age and maturity, along with  your family’s values. We all want our children to be capable, so sometimes it bothers parents that in order for this to happen we have to model our best decision making for our children, and yes, gradually  helping our child learn to control him or herself.  We teach and we guide.

Manners and safety become good places to start with boundaries and then increasing independence.  Manners are actually important, because it is a sign of respect for other people, and because we all live together. Safety is something  we can’t negotiate on and must set boundaries. Safe doesn’t mean smothering, however, especially as our child grows toward independence and being on their own.  We support our children when they are young and help them move toward the point where we provide guidance.  This is possiblity no where as true than in the older teen years.   Our boundaries are guided by our family values.  The author gives the example of the Olympic ski-jumping champions on page 252.  She writes, ” I have to admit I’d have stopped them from jumping off the roof onto their mattresses even if they’d wanted to.  Today, my kids are not champion ski jumpers.  Theirs are.”

Sometimes when children are younger, what comes up is, “Well, so and so can do this. Their family does this.” That is the point though! Ultimately, not all families have the same rules or the same emphasis on things like work, play, adventure, etc.  We need to look at the child in front of us and figure out how to not only meet that child’s needs and temperament, but how to do that within our family value system.  Sometimes family mission statements are awesome for honing in on that – if you would like to see a back post about that, see Creating A Family Mission Statement

We need to respect our children’s no answers, but sometimes older children need a nudge.  The author points out on page 261 that helping to support a child through sometimes fearful sometimes requires nudging and that nudging is not pushing.  Whether it is learning to ride a bike, potty training, driving a care – sometimes children need a nudge.  It involves talking to your child about what is bothering them about the situation, and seeing what you can do to help support through that.  We also need to be careful to recognize that children may be doing things, just not the way we would do them and that is okay.

What did you all think of this chapter?  There aren’t too many more chapters left in the book and then we will be on to our next book!

Blessings,

Carrie

“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