Three Steps in Dealing With Challenging Behavior

There probably have been complaints about children and teen’s behavior as far back in time as one can imagine!   In light of behavior that is less than desirable and is repeating, I think there are three main steps to take as a parent in dealing with this behavior head-on:

  1.  Ask yourself if this is normal behavior for this age?   Many parents have expectations that are far beyond their child’s age and need to be reassured this is part of childhood maturation.  We are losing perspective on this in American society rapidly.
  2. If it is normal behavior for the age, but it is still making the family full of tension, ask yourself how you will guide it with boundaries so your family can live in harmony? 

a.  For a young children under the age of 7, guide with the principles of rhythm carrying things (lack of sleep, hunger, thirst, etc doesn’t help any behavioral situation!), songs and pictorial speech to move things along, and the child making reasonable restitution for what isn’t going well.  If you determine things aren’t going well due to a lot of stress and hurriedness in the family, try to decrease the amount of stress. Look carefully and listen to what the child in front of you  is telling you, but do balance that with the needs of the family.

b.  For the child ages 9-13, guide with the ideas of rhythm and restitution in mind, and rules of your family and of life in general – how do we treat each other in kindness; how do we treat ourselves and others.  Listen carefully to what your child is saying, but also state the expectations and boundaries firmly and kindly.   Go in with the idea that these things will need to be worked on 500 times or more to stick.  If things in the family are super stressful for varying reasons, consider simplifying and also adding in techniques for dealing with stress for the whole family.

c.  If the child is 14-18, guide with the ideas of family rules in mind, and consequences and restitution.  A teen can vacillate widely from seeming very mature to seeming very young and immature, and it is important to remember that the teenaged brain is not yet fully developed.  You must still be there to guide, and you are not at the “friend” stage of parenting.   Teenagers still want boundaries, limits, and a guide.

3.  If the behavior is not normal for the age...

a.  Is it quirky  behavior and being exacerbated by stress and hurriedness? Simplify things and see if things improve.

b. Is it truly not appropriate behavior and not responding to anything you do?  Then you may need professional help  through family therapy or other behavioral intervention.

c. If you are a homeschooling family, do not assume that going to school will make things better.  I think kids who are having problems at home often will have problems at school unless the family is so chaotic they will function better in a more structured environment. But if the child themselves is really  having problems stemming from themselves, they will have problems across environments.

Just a few thoughts,
Carrie

 

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Creating A Peaceful Home Amidst Conflict

I get a lot of email about sibling fighting between siblings of all different age gaps (they are two years apart, they are six years apart – the age gap doesn’t seem to matter nor what gender the children are!), and also email concerning smaller children who are physically running at their parent, yelling at their parent, etc.  You might think, well, that’s not my children!  Well, great!  However, I find many children, and actually many times children, especially those who feel anxious or angry or generally passionate about things have a harder time handling their big emotions.  So, if your children are super calm and you never had to deal with any of this, it may be more of a temperament or personality thing on the part of your child, along with your parenting!

I think there are several step to helping gain peace amidst conflict in the home, whether the confict is child and parent or child to child.

  1. Figure out what your boundaries are. What will or will you not have in your home?  You cannot just let things go along and then snap because suddenly after the twentieth time your child or the children together do something, you feel upset about it.  If it is your boundary, you must have a plan to act on the behavior  that crosses this boundary every single time.  Decide what is big and what is small – it cannot ALL be big.  Let some of it go, but don’t let all of it go.  You are the parent and the guide to help your child.  Your child is going to try things on; help them figure out which garment should stick.
  2.  Do your best to set the right stage.  A steady rhythm, a life that is not rushing from one thing to the next, making sure the children and yes, even teens,  are rested and fed is really important and have had physical exercise.  Limit the screens if you don’t already. Too much screen time seems to make all people cranky!  Where is your self-care?  We cannot do this without self-care.  Exercise is usually the number one thing mothers tell me that helps them handle their children better.  It is a priority!
  3. IN THE MOMENT:  Calm yourself.  It is much easier when children are older to leave the room, step outside, etc.  and take a moment.  It is harder when children are younger because they may be screaming, hitting, kicking, trying to climb up you in their frustration.  Sometimes just sitting down and holding a child through that can help if you are comfortable with that.  Sometimes just scooping up a small child and being together on the grass outside helps.  Some families do look at helping their children sit down next to them in a cozy spot they have set up for just these occasions.  Tiny children will  need your physical presence to calm down; older children should be able to calm down without you physically holding them.  Time in together and calm down.  Do NOT attempt to talk about what just happened.  No one is ready.  Take this conflict and your reaction into your inner work that night. Why is this so hard for you to keep your cool when this happens? What is the fear undernearth your reaction if you are not calm?
  4.  When everyone is calm, connect.  Talk about what happened simply.  If your child is tiny, under the six/seven change, you may approach this more from a simple statement, a picture of what happened (“Your car (the child himself)  was going too fast and the lamp fell when you took that turn!).  Older children can talk about what happened and you can listen. However, discourage going over and over the same thing. Some older children will do this in an attempt to show you how right they were and how they were wronged and how none of what happened was their fault.  Once is enough.  With that, simple statements also work best.  “We are kind in this family” “We help in this family” when it is your turn to speak.  And yes, you should speak and make clear what happened.  And yes, everyone should learn to apologize and forgive each other as well.  Apologizing and forgiving is also connecting.  Apologizing is genuine; we never force a child to apologize but we model and as a child ages, this should come naturally.
  5. Consequences.  The best consequences include having the child make restitution for what happened – if something broke, they fix it; if they disrupted the entire family, they need to do a chore for the amount of time they disrupted the family; if they hurt a sibling, they need to do something nice for that sibling.   Sometimes teens have a harder time.  For example, sneaky behavior of sneaking out of the house, taking something that isn’t theirs (repeatedly), sneaking onto technology, etc.  This may require not just restitution , but also a natural consequence.  They may loose driving the car for a period of time, for example, if they took the car without asking or snuck out and drove the car.  Many times this step needs to come some time AFTER everything is calmed down and connection is made.  Consequences made in the moment often are just punishments with no direct connection to what happened.
  6. Prevention.  When children are under the six/seven change or even the nine year change, I think a lot of conflict resolution is literally training this order – calming, connecting, consequences and working on the right environment.  However, as children reach the nine year change, I think being able to talk about dealing with frustration and conflict is really important.  How do we handle big emotions? What is the model in our family?  How do we work as a team all together?  How do we love each other in times of conflict?  Many children also need to learn to love themselves. I find this often comes into play a lot in the 9-14 age range.

It sounds simple when we lay it out, but it never is simple in the moment.  The tears, the yelling, or dealing with the same issue fifty times in one day can be trying.  Thinking everything is calmed down and then the yelling or crying starts again is also trying.  However, this is probably one of the most important roles in parenting and homeschooling.  It is character development and the thing many adults need to learn- conflict resolution in a non violent and direct (not passive aggressive) way.  I will be writing some posts by ago about handling emotions and emotional health soon. It is a very imporatnt topic in this day and age when many teens are having challenges mental and emotional health.  We need to be pro-active and work in developmentally appropriate ways to help our children.  The foundation is in the under nine years, but the real work is between the ages of 9-18.

More to come,

Carrie

“Getting Children To Do What We Want”

I field questions all the time that basically boil down to, “How do I get my child to do what I want?”  Well, welcome to dealing with another human being who isn’t you! It is a precious dance between two often very different people with different activity levels and temperaments.  I always joke and tell people if you expect obedience, well, that is more like a dog than a human! Haha.

But seriously, first of all, if you can, please stop thinking of it as a war where the child is thwarting what you want or need to happen. If you come in with the attitude that your child or teen has to do only what you want in the way you want it, then it becomes a mindset of a battlefield.   Put out into your family space that you are team and that you can work together with you, the parent or parents, leading.  Take the time to SHOW your younger children how, when, and where you want things done and also accept that there can be, especially for older children and teens,  more than one way to accomplish the same task.  This is an important attitude to carry!  If you need help with this and see most of the main things your children do as “defiant” then I recommend you take a moment to go through this back post:  Defiance

If you are looking to help children and make a peaceful homelife, then here are some suggestions by age since this is what developmental parenting is all about:

If you are talking about a tiny toddler to second grade  the best way to help guide children along amounts to using connection,  rhythm, pictures in your speech, distraction, and stop talking so much!   If you need help, try these back posts:

Using Our Words Like Pearls

Talking in Pictures To Young Children

Stop Talking

What Kind of Family Are You?

From third grade to sixth grade, I think the best way to help guide these children is through the idea of  connection and loving authority.  Yes, in the Waldorf Schools this is seen as very important in the grades, beginning in first grade and coming into full force with the students in the nine-year change. You simply must rise up and be the kind authority in your home.  This means having actual boundaries and actual consequences. Rhythm is still really important as well as NOT overscheduling this age group.  There should be plenty of time for movement out in nature and child-led play (not games led by adults).

Back post to help:  Authority: The Challenge of Our Times

Freedom Versus Form

Boundaries for Gentle Discipline: Why? How?

Helping A Child Learn To Rule Over Himself

In speaking with twelve to fifteen year olds, I think the main piece of advice i have is to Let. it.go within reason.  You cannot micromanage everything, and everything simply cannot be a battle.  You can use rhythm, connection, simple guiding and conversation about why something should be.   Bite your tongue more.  Many of the awkward or angry or tearful stages these teens go through will be done with the fifteen/sixteen change, whenever that happens for that individual child, and whatever they are doing will change as well unless they are facing serious challenges that need professional help.  Increased responsibiity and freedom in the right amounts is important.

Blog Posts to help:  Playing for the Same Team

Finding Center

Changing Our Parenting Language

The Fifteen/Sixteen Change

This idea of responsbility and freedom always carries over into the time when young adults are forging out into the world after the fifteen/sixteen change.  This is the stage of mentoring and helping along.  Some parents are better at this than others – it can be a fine line between being overbearing and doing everything for a young person or stepping back and not really helping at all.  It is the stage of reminding young adults that whilst there is fun and freedom, there is also responsibility and consequences of their actions.  The seventeen year olds transitioning to this may need some extra help sorting through some of this, and since we know the brain is not fully developed for executive functioning and decision-making until age 28, we know we may need to be around to help, but this is definitely more of a mentoring relationship and model.

Blog Post to help:  After the Fifteen/Sixteen Change

It’s Not Them, It’s You

Children are amazing and incredible and often teach us things that we didn’t even know that we needed to learn. Nearly every time when I have gone through a “rough patch” in my parenting when a child was in a tough developmental stage, I have realized every. single. time. that

It’s not them. It’s me.

If they are making me feel crazy, then I need to work harder.  Their “stuff” is not my “stuff”  and I need to work harder to separate myself from my feelings about it all.   I find if I am holding on to something my children are doing it is because I am approaching something from a place of fear, or a place of being overwhelmed myself in ways that  often have nothing to do with them, or a place of lack of self-care.  Sometimes there is no opportunity to really rectify the lack of self-care or the overwhelm from outside circumstances.

So then I have to hold on to my inner work.  And I have done that more successfully at some times than others, because I am only human.

I get mad. Or tired. Or worried.  That’s life.  But what matters most is what I do with it and how we come out of the valleys.

If you can use the lows to fuel your own self-care, your own growth in patience andin  biting your tongue,  in learning new gentle parenting techniques, in dealing with your own baggage, in improving your own intellectual approach to try to help guide things, then it becomes a positive experience.

Because it’s not about them, it’s about where you are and then how you use that to love and guide a child.

I often find the best way through the parenting patch of weeds or even simply having to watch your child go through a really hard time is up being outside, up being in nature, up using whatever spiritual tools you use, confide in a close friend,  and just love your child.  Connect with them in a one on one way.  Connect with your partner for support if you have that available.

Small phases are small phases, and younger children are not going to grow up and be who they are in these phases that are so  trying to parents. This is something that parents can recognize with more and more experience.  When your first child is six or seven or eight, every single thing they do seems worthy of examination and scrutiny.  Please know that for most circumstances it is all going to work out- for both your child and you!

For older children and teens, sometimes what is going on is more than a phase or a part of the child’s character that needs to be guided. It can be more serious than that.    If it is indeed more serious problems that children and teens are dealing with – addiction, mental health episodes, being a danger to themselves or to others, dealing with dating abuse, abusive friendships – then these deserve a bigger response than just denial that it will all work out in the wash.  Instead, what these older children and teens deserve is  real  and professional help in a timely manner.  Know the resources in your community, and don’t be afraid to name what is going on and seek help.

There will be valleys in parenting, and there will be incredible moments.  There will be holding on and letting go.  The trick is to not lose yourself throughout this process, and to recognize the power of the individual journey.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Dynamic Development

Childhood development is never static and is ever unfolding. Sometimes the big joke in parenting is sort of, “Wow!  I just figured out this stage and now my child is on to something new!”

In my approach to development, I combine my ideas from when I worked as a pediatric physical therapist,  studies from The Gesell Institute, and Waldorf education’s view of the child.  Periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium routinely occur throughout development, typically with disquilibrium around the half-year marks, and pronounced differences  in development typically most dramatically noted around 3 – 3 1/2, 6/7, 9 (talked about an awful lot in Waldorf literature) ,  12 (although I don’t hear much about this one in parenting circles), and 15/16.  I think 15/16 is by far the most difficult transtition.

Parents often ask what they need to be successful throughout all these changes as their child unfolds.  In my personal opinion of working with families over the years, I  think there are four things, mainly, that help this process of helping a child grow:  having your own “stuff”  under control (ever tried living with an alcoholic parent, narcissitic parent, etc?    And not all of us have these things, but most all of us have wounds from living; just some of us own those wounds and try to make this woundedness better for ourselves and the people who love us); affectionate  love and connection to our children (and to your partner if you have one); loving boundaries;   rhythm (which is a defining hallmark of whatever your own family culture is!).  I don’t think it is is about perfection; I don’t think it is about doing everything just right.    A child growing up is also a family growing up and adults developing and changing too.

It is never too late to do these four  things.  All of us can become more self-aware and work on what our wounds and triggers are; nearly all of us can work to become more peaceful and compassionate.  It is never too late to  connect to and love your children.  Children have love languages just like adults do, but most children I know certainly perceive love in time and attention.  I read a few psychology sources that state even just 15-20 mintues of concentrated time a day is important; other sources like this Washington Post article from 2015 talk about how quality is more important than quantity, how family practices like dinners together do matter, and how teens need to spend time with their parents.   We can learn how to hold boundaries; I think I started seriously writing about boundaries back in 2008 and have written many posts on boundaries since then.  This one and  this big list of boundaries are among my favorites.   Finally, it is never too late to discover your  values as a family and prioritize those with your time (this is the beginnings of rhythm and habit!).

In this month often associated with love due to St. Valentine’s Day, let us love our children enough to help them grow in the healthiest ways possible!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

The Big List of Boundaries

One thing I  said  in a previous post is that some families I know have not hardly any boundaries that their child has to adhere to.  I actually am abig  believer in boundaries because I think that boundaries promote health.  This is how boundaries help a child become a functioning adult:

  1. Children need to learn to take responsibility (ownership) for things.  In my family, I have talked a lot about the principle of Ultimate Responsibility, which I think came from the military realm.  We have no reason to argue over fault, we just work together as a team to fix it.  We take responsibility to help even if we didn’t cause the problem.   Responsibility is ownership for oneself in addition to outside things.   Ownership leads to a sense of freedom, because we have choices to fix things, problem solve, work with others, or walk away.
  2. Boundaries free us from people who treat us poorly or who are toxic.  We know where we begin and end, and that these other people are separate and not our responsibility to carry.
  3. Life choices have consequences, and trying to meet a boundary that is in line with a family value requires choices.  I think this is important.  Life is full of things not so good, but also  can be full of many great things, which can make it hard to choose.
  4. Boundaries help people grow and meet opportunities instead of complaining about problems.  Positivity promotes health!

So, without further ado,  here are a few steps to boundaries.

  1.  Figure out your family’s VALUES.  Which values do you want your children to internalize in order to be a “successful” (in whatever way that means to your family) adult?  
  2. What your values are will influence some of the areas you could place boundaries, such as:

Connection – with family members, extended family members, friends, peers?  How important are sibling relationships over peers?  Nuclear family over extended family?  How do you show respect in your family to each other?  What do the adults feel is respectful?

Sleep/Rest – Will there be bedtimes? Rest times?  Quiet times?  Is sleeping in okay?  On what days?  If you safely co-sleep with your littles, when does that stop?  What happens at night when children are older and awake and staying up late – are you all together, do you need to be with your teens at night, is it adult time?

Health Food/Eating – snacks allowed or not?  Can you eat in the living room?  What happens if a child doesn’t eat all of his or her food?  Sweets allowed or not?   Special diets and why?  Along this line, are physical activities important or not?

Chores – does everyone have to help with the nurturing of the home?  Is this only mom’s job?  What is the role of the other adults in the house? What are the children’s responsibilities and at what ages?

Outside Activities – whose activities count? Only the adults?  Only the children?  Both?  How?  How many? Are there days you must be home?  Are there limits on activities?  Some families seem to have a hard time staying home even one day, and some families seem to have a hard time leaving their home.  What is the balance?

Spiritual Practice/ Attendance at a place of worship – Important? Not important? What if it is important to the adults but not teenagers, etc.

Sibling Relationships – Important to spend time together or not?  Siblings before peers?  Lots of time away from home with peers or not?  At what age?

Intimate relationships -Starting with peers – how do we treat our friends?  How do we expect our friends to treat us?  What constitutes bullying?  Sleepovers or no sleepovers?  How many days a week with peers versus just with the family?  When children move into the teenaged years – dating?   Not dating?  What constitutes a healthy and respectful dating relationship?  (Did you know that ten percent of high school teens are reporting physical violence in their dating relationships in the United States?)  How to handle the physical side of intimate relationships?  At what age is dating allowed?  The use of technology in communicating in an intimate relationship and respect around this – what does that look like?

Technology – Allowed, not allowed, what age, what platforms?  Does the phone or computer have restrictions or rest times for devices or both? How old does a child have to be to receive the responsibility of a phone or computer?  How will they show that responsibility? Gaming or no gaming?

Holidays/Gift-giving:  How many gifts?  Extended family? What is the role of children with  extended family during get-togethers?  Included? The children weave and out?  The children go off together?

Homework/Homeschool – What are the boundaries around doing homework or schoolwork?

Those are just some areas I thought of; I am sure there are many more.  I would love to hear boundaries that you think of!

3.  When the boundary is met or unmet, what happens?  This is usually the part that parents equate with “discipline” (ie, punishment).  But is there more to it than that? I think there is because really discipline is authentic leadership and guiding your children and knowing how the boundaries you set are not arbitrary but  fit into your value system.  

Just food for thought on a Monday morning.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brave Parenting

The time to be courageous in your parenting is now.  Brave parenting requires a sense of values and what to be willing to confront and endure in order to have those values live within our children.

If you know your values, then you can ask yourself, “Is what is going on with this child serving those values?  Will this child grow up to be an adult that embodies these values?  What can I do to faciliate these boundaries so these values have a better chance of being a dynamic principle in our lives?”

Sometimes brave parenting requires making hard decisions that are not popular with our children and teenagers, and in this day and age of parents wanting to be friends with their children, this seems more difficult than ever.

When I lose the forest for the trees in parenting, the big things I look at are

  1. Perspective. Would a mom of a now grown-up child think this is a make or break situation?
  2. Boundaries.  Have I been consistent, what are the boundaries? I have friends who cannot name ONE boundary their child has. This, folks, to me, doesn’t bode well for the teenage years.  There are boundaries in life.  They don’t have to be arbitrary or mean, but should organically grow out of your family’s values and love for your child.
  3. Strengths and weaknesses.  Many of you have smaller children, but I have a 16 year old.  So I constantly look at my older children and try to think ahead a bit.  What skills does this child with their personality and temperament really need in  order to succeed in their adult life?
  4. Will our relationship be overall preserved?  Nothing should be so big a deal that it should shatter our love, but I am okay with my children not liking me for short periods. I want to be their friend when they are all grown up, and I want to have fun together, but my job as a parent is bigger than just that.  I need to help guide them towards their own unfolding and their own discovering and yes, eventually their own life.
  5. Self-care.  This is usually the one I totally lose, and this month has been a super stressful and exhausting month.  Aggressive cancer in family member necessitating emergency travel, and emergency surgery for our horse who had colic.  We aren’t out of the woods yet, so I hope I can look at self-care again.  To me, one of the major components of self-care for homeschooling mothers might actually be just letting things go.  We can always find more school days at some point during the year!

How are you brave parenting this week?

Love,
Carrie