TalkBack To Vicki Jardine

A TalkBack on Parenting Issues

Parenting Intentionally to Build Up Your Child’s Confidence November 10, 2008


Imagine daily life from your child’s point of view.  I mean really put yourself in your child’s shoes.  How many times in one day is your child’s ability stretched and how many incidences of perceived failure does your child experience every single day in play or at school or at home?

The sheer number of challenges your child faces each and every day would exhaust an adult completely.  We would be so discouraged if every day we existed on such a steep learning curve as our children deal with daily.   

It is a series of ‘learning experiences’ and ‘personal challenges’.  Can you imagine yourself experiencing even one day like your child’s?  No wonder so many children have such low self-esteem.

What kind of a loving and understanding support are you to your child?  How does your child view you?  Are you the ‘safe haven’, the ‘sanctuary’, where he/she is safe and valued and ‘restored’ to feeling confident? 

Or are you the main source of your child’s feelings of failure and discouragement?  Unintentionally, of course!

Couldn’t we as parents decided INTENTIONALLY to be the source of children’s COURAGE!!!  The source of their CONFIDENCE!

We could consciously work with our children to help them develop self-confidence.  And what might this do for the way we view ourselves as parents?  Might we then feel less conflicted and more confident ourselves?  I believe so, because when you help your child develop confidence, you gain a more communicative, cooperative, helpful, happy and peaceful child who has problem-solving skills and you know you helped make the difference.  I think parents suffer a lot of unnecessary guilt in relation to their children’s emotional needs, brought on by modern lifestyles and the pace of life, generally.

The solution lies in embedding the parenting activities that you are already doing with a philosophy that if your actions as a parent encourage your child, then your child will develop confidence.   No need to add complicated systems and routines to your already busy day.  Simply learn to think differently about how to do the things you are already doing with your children.

If a parent were to come from a place of ‘How can I make sure that every interaction I have with my child leads to him/her building self-confidence?’ Then children would begin to blossom and family life would be a lot easier for parents as a result, too. 


So, from now on why not evaluate your interactions with your child in terms of

             Did I just build my child’s confidence?

             Did I just destroy my child’s confidence?


Imagine the effect that would that have on our parenting?  Doesn’t this simplify things for moms and dads without adding anything to their endless lists of things that have to be done. 

Talk back to me.  Let me know what you think?  Post a comment.


19 Responses to “Parenting Intentionally to Build Up Your Child’s Confidence”

  1. Tammie Says:

    How does one begin to address these talks when the 10 year old refuses to open her mouth? Are there questions we can use to begin such a dialogue?

  2. Nancy Says:

    Whenever you read any help tactics they always seem to make sense – but in every day life how can you make your child do the required tasks and feel encouraged and happy about doing them – for example my 10 year old daughter was crying yesterday and complaining that her life just consists of cleaning and homework and that she has no friends .. I tried to explain that if she done her chores quicker she would have more me time – but it goes in one ear and out the other ( it only seems to add to her unhappiness with herself whatever I say)

  3. vickijardine Says:

    In response to Tammie, I would like to just say that yes, absolutely, there are questions that can be used to start a dialogue with a child.

    Remember though, that from a child’s point of view, when an adult asks questions, the child is often in trouble. Questions can make a child feel like they are being interrogated and that there is only one right answer. They stress if they are not sure they can give the answer that will please.

    So before parents can expect children to answer questions, there are a few things that need to be done to break down barriers and build ‘trust’ and companionship.

    What you are aiming for here is to be ‘able to relate’ to one another. That’s the big picture. But it has to start with the parent. We often think our love is obvious and unconditional.

    Children often do not see that. We, as parents have to show them by our actions that it is true.

    So with that picture in mind, begin to look for things that you can sincerely praise in the child. Look for times when they put in some effort (do not simply notice when something great is achieved). Her effort is what you want to look for, not her results. Take every opportunity to find things that she is actually responsible for making happen and ‘notice’ them. Reward responsibility and maturity. Explain why you are proud and go one step further and let her know the positive repercussions of her good actions. Children often only get to hear the negative repercussions of their undesirable actions.

    Smile at her often and for no apparent reason. And look her in the eye and smile whenever you can think to do it.

    Your daughter needs to understand that no matter what her day is like, no matter what else has happened, that you are her biggest fan and ally.

    Over the next few weeks, begin to tell her stories about when you were her age or when you were small. Kids love to hear those stories. Share how you felt. Don’t just share what happened. You are laying a foundation for her to relate to you. It may take some time. Don’t stop. Keep the big picture.

    You don’t need to drop everything and talk with your child. In fact, it is better if you don’t do that. Just talk while you’re in the car, or while they are in the bath, or when you’re cooking. Just make it a part of the normal thing you do when you’re together.

    Now that you have been ‘modelling’ for your daughter how to talk about feelings and things that happened, you have achieved a couple of things:

    – You have established dialogue to which she may be able to relate.

    – You have helped her see you in a different light. You have given her the vocabulary with which to express her feelings.

    – You have shown her that you are someone who probably understands a lot more than she thought.

    – Last, but not least, you will have made it ‘ok’ for her to tell you things she might not have told you before.

    Now when she won’t open her mouth, you have a foundation on which to stand as you begin to use certain questions to help her open up to you.

    Look for opportunities to say to her, ‘Hey I can only imagine how you’re feeling right now. I remember something like that happened to me when I was your age and I remember it made me feel pretty (good, sad, hurt, unhappy, nervous….or whatever). Remember you are trying to ‘relate’ to her.

    By verbally recognising that she may be experiencing some feelings, you are validating those feelings to some degree. She will start to think of you differently too.

    Some people do not express themselves well verbally , but are better expressing their feelings through art, writing, music or dance. Try to notice what your daughter is like.

    The relationship you really want to ‘foster’ is that of being her biggest fan. Let her know you think she’s great over and over again in as many different ways as you can. Reward effort and not so much achievement. Let her hear you telling someone else how great she is in some way.

    Do whatever it takes to build her trust in you as her ‘support’ and start straight away. It won’t be long before she is a teen and you will want to have this relationship established. Don’t give up when she won’t ‘open her mouth’. Keep it up, till she believes you that you’re her most enthusiastic fan.

    I do hope some of these ideas are helpful to you Tammie. Have you been over to yet? There is more information over there that might give you ideas as well.

    Here’s to your child’s success!

  4. vickijardine Says:

    In response to Nancy, I know what you mean and I agree about the need to have everyday, practical skills and tools for helping deal with the daily situations parents face.

    You describe a situation in which your 10 year old daughter cries because she doesn’t seem to have time for anything but homework and cleaning….and yet she doesn’t seem to take your advice either.

    Here’s some ideas that might help:

    Ask your daughter for her advice on how you can approach ‘fitting in’ a certain set of activities, chores or tasks into a certain amount of available time. Let her know that you are having trouble fitting it all in so you can have some time to yourself as well to do something you enjoy.

    Be sincere about it and really let her come on board as your ‘consultant’.

    My thinking is that she sees you and her as being on opposing sides of the table. By enlisting her help to solve your problem (which happens to be pretty similar to the problem she is having), you are placing the two of you on the same team.

    Because she is being shown the respect and because you are valuing her opinion, she will most likely really try to solve your problem.

    By the way, don’t be surprised if she actually comes up with some brilliant solutions. She will probably astound you. Let her know how amazed and astounded you are at her skill.

    Never say anything like…. ‘so how come you can’t do that for yourself’ ?

    Remember you are wanting to inspire her to believe she has the skills needed to prioritise and organize so she can have enough time to do ‘enjoyable’ things.

    Tell your friends about her strategies and rave about her organizational skills. You may find initially, that your daughter is not able to come up with any solutions for you….so then all you do is begin to talk about different scenarios.

    Scenario 1: First I do these things….they will only take this amount of time and then I can do the longer tasks… and if I don’t let anything distract me, then I should have an hour and half for soaking in the tub.

    Scenario 2: I could get the bigger tasks done then do the smaller ones then I will be able to have that soak in the tub.

    Scenario 3: I get some help from someone to get the big tasks done and then I can breeze through the smaller ones and I should have 2 hours over to do what I please.

    Then ask her which scenario she thinks would be best. Or maybe you come up with one scenario and ask her if she can think of any other scenarios that would allow you to have some free time.

    By using scenarios, you are helping your daughter visualize the tasks as ‘do-able’ and finite. Tasks can seem like they never end to a child. You are also enabling your daughter to see that she is not ‘helpless’ over her time….that she has choices. And to top it all off, you have created a positive opportunity to praise her in an area that she feels powerless over right now.

    Not only that, but you did it without focusing on her situation. You had her focus on yours to develop the skills she needs to tackle her own.

    Sometimes as parents we just need to think like a child and remember that they can easily feel like certain things will always be beyond their grasp. Once we realize that they need our help to realize their own power over the things that happen in their day, we are in a better position to help them.

    I sure hope you find these ideas useful. Let me know how it goes. I love to get feedback and I am sure other parents will want to read about your ideas in relation to this ‘everyday’ situation.

    Here’s to your daughter’s success!

  5. Edna Ferman Says:

    From my experience you have to start the relationship with your kids when they are born. I think that the secret is to have an open communication channels with your kids. It will apply to all areas of their life. The biggest secret is to give them of your time, to discuss and listen, so in time they will give you of their time. It is the same with money mattters, you have to teach them, discuss with them, so many are lacking this knowledge. I developed a money management course just because so many youg people are lacking money skills.

    Keep up the good work, fantastic advice,


  6. Edna Ferman Says:

    Great advice!
    Would love to hear your thoughts in this matter.

  7. Vickie, your website is very informative and extremely well done. I’ve learned so much by reading thru your various themes. At the moment I am not advanced yet to be able to tell you what else you need to do to this blog. Looks super great to me. GREAT JOB.

  8. Ghazal Says:

    Vicki, you have done a great job creating this blog. I have couple of concerns and I would love to hear your ideas about how to at least get start to solve them. I have a five years old daughter and an 8 month old baby boy. Before the birth of my boy, my daughter was ok, she was young and i didnt expect much from her. Yet she was better in terms of listening to me and we were getting along well. After the birth of my second child, things just changed over the two nights that i was in the hospital. She has become too hard to deal with. She does not listen to me at least 90% of the time. She tells me that I am always upset. I know i m always upset, the reason is that whatever…any single thing…i ask her….she does not follow along. She keeps ignoring what i said. Mostly i can see she has no respect for me. At school it has become a little issue because she doesnt listen to her preschool teachers and worse of all she gets them angry. I m trying and trying…but i believe there is something i m not doing right, thus i m not getting the right results. I see other kids her age… far i havent seen any girl at least to be as aggressive and careless towards parents as she is. Help me please.

    Anther concern of mine is my niece. She is 11 years old. She is having major issues with her social life. She has NO friends. Not even one. She is a very beautiful young girl, but something is going on. Basically I am her only FRIEND that she talks to about her social life. I am too old to be her friend, but if there is away to help her find friends of her own age. In school she has no one to play with, at home she is mostly sad, and sometimes i see her trying to become friends with my 5 year old daughter who herself is having issues. It is just hard seeing her going through so much. She cries every time she tells me a story about how NO ONE at school or outside the schools likes her. I have gone to field trips with her just to give her company because there is no one she could talk to. It is just sad to see what she is going through. I thank you in advance for your advice on both of matters.

    • vickijardine Says:

      Dear Ghazal
      I am sorry it has been so difficult since the birth of your baby. I have re-read your post and a couple of things come to mind.

      Firstly, you say that things were ok before the birth of your son as your daughter was young and you didn’t expect much of her. Let me just say that without realizing it, you may very easily have sent the message to your daughter, that you don’t expect much from her.

      Parents often don’t expect much from their young children. They often think this is ‘being understanding’ and appreciating that they are young and don’t have a lot of self-control, patience or maturity of thought.

      While it is true that young children do lack those things, it is actually one of the major roles of a parent to keep raising the bar. If you set your expectations too low, your child will learn to think of themselves as incapable. The unspoken message is that you don’t have that much confidence in them to cope.

      There is some skill in achieving the right balance. If you set your expectations too high, then your child will also develop a sense of being incapable.

      So for you to parent intentionally to build your child’s confidence, you will need to keep in mind what is actually achievable in the first place and then work with your daughter to set little goals, with rewards and stickers and cuddles and smiles. That would be a great way to start.

      The key here is that it is ‘intentional’ on your part. You know, when you do have only one child, for that heavenly period of time, and if that child is not terribly challenging, it is easy for you to not notice that the child is not so much easy to get along with, but doesn’t require ‘getting along with’, because everything is pretty much going their way anyway.

      I mean they don’t have to share you with anyone much and if you play with them, you probably let them win a lot, and if they take a long time to do something, it’s ok because you are not so stressed by other pressures, like another child or schedule to fit in with.

      What I am suggesting is that things probably didnt really change overnight with your child’s behaviors. I think a couple of things have probably happened.

      One is that your daughter has not had to compete with anyone else for your attention and secondly that your daughter and you got along so well, because there was no reason not to. You were always the adult and your child possibly didn’t have to fit in with you so much as you were doing the ‘fitting-in’ with your daughter.

      Hey, if this is the case… then it’s easy to fix.

      The first thing I would do, is take a new outlook toward your daughter. Start by viewing the world through her eyes. Think how each day must have seemed to her, for all these years. Who does she think has been in control of decisions? Who has been doing all the tasks, big and small? Who wins in an argument? If she holds out for what she wants, does she get it in the end? If so, then what conclusions do you think she will draw from that? Really try to imagine how she thinks the whole family structure works and what her role in it must be.

      This is important to do. Because you, as the parent have to understand that any impression your child has at this young age, you most likely gave it to them.

      Once you have established what the world as she knows it looks like, then you can compare that to your perspective. Two things will most likely happen. One is that you will find your heart completely softened as your realize your lovely little one does not have an aggressive and disrespectful heart. Secondly you will see how you have contributed to that and how you can help your child see the world in such a way that you can all cope with, and that will be especially encouraging to her.

      So once you have done that, then it is up to you to communicate to your daughter a small goal. Decide in one behavior change at a time. Let her know what you expect. Let her know why it’s a good thing and how it benefits her and everyone else and how you are counting on her. She must know that you expect it. Set the goal and the reward. Make sure she is eager for the reward. It should not be a big reward…just a sticker or a smiley face. Then help her remember, help her achieve it and then reward her. Keep doing that until she does not need your help. Then increase the expectation and the time period so she is managing herself without a reward for a longer period of time.

      Now of course, this method is something I recommend when a child has already developed some poor habits and you have to actually get some normalcy into your days.

      But you must realize that the most encouraging thing for your daughter is YOU. Your smile, your nod, your pat on the back. You, telling the aunts and uncles and the teachers of her wonderful achievements. The fact that she will see you beaming with pride at her will spur her on.

      You won’t recognize your little girl very soon. It doesn’t take long. Just be sure to not try to work on too many issues at one time.

      You know, I have so much more I could tell you. You do know that I offer private coaching too if you feel like you need some extra help. Just email me at and let me know.

      Or you could check out my online community for parents where you can take the Permission To Shine Program that helps parents raise their children with confidence. You can check that out at

      As for your neice, I believe it is important to have more information before commenting. There are too many unanswered questions that come to mind. Such as, are her parents aware of the situation? Are the teachers aware? What steps have been taken to rectify the situation in school, at home, in the community? When did this start? Was there an incident or event that caused this situation?

      Please email me at and maybe we should set up an appointment online for getting to the bottom of this, because if it is as you say…then no time should be wasted in this young girl’s life. We should try to resolve this situation quickly.

      My prayers and thoughts are with you.

      Warmest wishes

      Vicki Jardine

  9. Sarah Hinds Says:

    Hi Vicki,
    I’ve learned a lot by reading others postings and have a question myself. My daughter Lily is eleven. She is a bright and creative girl, but is easy to anger or become emotional. Her flashy emotions cause damage in our family life as well as with her friends at school. At home, I often find myself tiptoeing around issues to try and reduce these outbursts.
    I understand she has a lot going on- a new middle school, academics, and a changing body. In addition I get the sense that she is searching for who she is and what identifies her. I am torn between trying to encourage after school activities that make her feel like she belongs and letting our family just come home and unwind.
    I also want her to feel like she has coping skills to deal with her emotions when they bubble up so quickly and fiercely within her. I can chat with her about counting to 10, taking a deep breath, etc. , but when she’s gotten her feelings hurt or feels wronged in a situation, her emotional response overrides.
    I would really appreciate any input. Thank you so much for the informative site!

  10. Willi Says:

    My 10 year old spends everyother weekend with her father. she come home tired and miserable. She constantly yella t me and is mean. help

  11. Hello. My name is Michael. I have a 10 year old daughter. Her mother and i have split after 14 years. This is very hard on her and I, And probably her mom. I love her with all my heart. I have a girl friend. Which is awesome. Since i have interduced them I have had, a terrible time with her. She Tells me that i dont care about her. And she dosn”t want to spend time with me. She ignores my calls. and is very short with me. When she wants to end the conversation she just says bye. I feel that i have lost her. How can i get her to open up. She does not want to talk about our relationship and when she does. She says she does not know why she feels or acts this way. I tried to get involved in couseling with her, but she has only went in to talk once and does not want to go again . She feels that she does not need any counseling or help. Her mother is not helpful in any of these situations. I do believe that she does make neggitive comments to our daughter, In reguards to me her father. I do realize . I have no control over what happens When she is with her mom. I truly love my daughter, And very much appreciate any help that you may give me. I am at my whits end. And I am trying to figure out how to proceed in a possitive Manner. To get the relationship back, That we once shared. Thank you so much. Michael.

    • vickijardine Says:

      Hello Michael,

      First of all, I want to thank you for expressing your concerns about your relationship with your daughter. Many people underestimate the importance of ‘fathers’ to children….and also the importance of ‘children’ to fathers.

      Several things come to mind that may help you to weather what is really ‘an emotional storm’ for your daughter:
      1. Develop the perspective that ‘love will win out in the end’. By this I mean keep it in the front of your mind whenever you think about your daughter and whenever you interact with her. Two things are ‘givens’. She loves you (and therefore, you are important to her too). And you love her.

      2. Remember you are the adult. You saw the breakup of the marriage coming. You had some control over what occurred and when. You (and your ex-wife) came to the conclusion you did in many ways ‘together’. You understand all the why’s and why nots. You can see how some things will be immensely better because of the divorce. You understand that it’s possible to function as a ‘family’ in another way than before. You know you love your daughter and that she loves you.

      These are all things that your daughter doesn’t know. Some things, she senses. But she lacks the maturity to understand what she senses because she is so young. She was just secure in the knowledge that she had two parents, that Christmas and Birthdays went a certain way every year, that the sun comes up and goes down and Mom and Dad love me.

      Then with no real warning it has ended, as she knows it. She had no say in the decision. She doesn’t want it to happen. She is now not sure if you do love her like she thought.

      Perhaps your ex-wife does say things, but believe me when I say, that it is the LAST THING YOUR DAUGHTER WANTS TO HEAR. Every time your ex says something, your daughter will be defending you (either verbally, or in her thoughts). Saying negative things about you to your daughter will only serve to undermine your ex-wife’s relationship with her…it does not affect yours negatively in the end. There are very few situations (and they are extreme and twisted) in which the ex-partner can actually affect the ‘feelings’ a child has for the other parent. Of course, this is all the more true if you are present in your daughter’s life, having regular contact with her and spending time together. If you were absent, then negative stories about you could do a lot of damage. But you are not absent. You are involved. So take the perspective that your ex-wife cannot hurt your relationship with your daughter (in the long run), if you are present and involved with your daughter.

      It is too easy to feel like you are helpless in the situation. You are not helpless. And you are not the victim. There doesn’t have to be any victims. You daughter will adjust. But it will take time. You had the luxury of time to get used to the idea of making the break. She did not. You had your ‘angry’ time, your ‘hurt’ time and your ‘accepting’ time. You are ready to move on. Pave a new course…one that includes your daughter.

      But your daughter had none of that. Now is her time to be Angry, Frustrated, Hurt, Doubtful, Insecure, Unaccepting! But mostly….Angry. So let her be angry. It’s not all about you. It is normal and important that she experiences all these emotions. Don’t take it personally. Expect it! It’s healthy and normal for her to be angry. Love her through it. Take the big perspective and validate her feelings. She is only 10. She won’t know the name of the feelings sometimes. Think of her feelings as a big knotted up ball of yarn. It is going to take some time for her to sort through it all.

      3. Act….Don’t REact! This is an important one. Remember it is normal for your daughter to be upset. She is going to be testing you out…to see if you do still love her. She may be so angry that she may do and say things just to make you feel bad because she may feel that your actions make her feel bad. But the truth is that whatever she does, she doesn’t really ‘think’ it out and ‘decide’ it. She is just that big ball of emotions and she just does things out of her emotions. If you are busy ‘reacting’ to everything, and thinking it’s all a sign that the relationship is damaged and might not recover, then the messages you will be sending her will be those of defensiveness and frustration of your own. You know that when you defend yourself you usually sound more guilty. Also, it indicates to the other person that you are somehow dependent on their opinion of you.

      You need to be able to rise above your need to see the love and adoration in your daughter’s eyes for a while. Your emotional security doesn’t need to depend on her impression of you. When she is rude, dismissive, uncommunicative….all the different times you feel the relationship is damaged, these are the times when you have the golden opportunity to reassure your daughter of your love for her. These are the times when she needs your emotional security to be intact, because hers isn’t.

      ACT means ‘come from a place of love and understanding’ and don’t come from a place of ‘how can I make her love me’.
      Love her. Let her know you are the same guy you always were. Be dependable and unchanged when it comes to your dealings with her. If she rejects you….expect it.

      If you ask her about her feelings, she may find that confronting. But be the adult. Say things like: ‘Ok, I know you must feel angry and frustrated. I would too. How can I help? What do you need? What do you want? Is there anything I can do?

      You have to be able to weather the storm though.

      4. Take the long view. This means hold all those perspectives for as long as it takes. In many ways, you have begun a new path in your life and your daughter is standing in the old path not wanting things to change but not able to prevent them from changing. So keep extending your hand. Continue to have the open arms. Get the BIG PICTURE. Hold that picture in your mind all the time. The big picture is that your daughter will turn 11, 12. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and she will become an adult one day. Everything you do today, and every day will become a memory or history. Remember, you have your lifetime to prove yourself to be the loving, warm dad she always had. Just be that dad every day. She deeply wants to be close to you, trust me. If you can take the big picture then every little slight will not seem so big. You guys are on a journey.

      5. Accept that things will never be exactly the same. But YOU and your ex-wife did that. Not your daughter. Accept it. You are on a new path. You can’t be on a new path and the old path at the same time. So create ‘new path experiences’ for you and your daughter and anyone else who is on that path with you (meaning your daughter and your girlfriend). The more things you do together that closely resemble things you did with your wife and daughter as family, the more difficult it is for your daughter. Of course, there will always be lots of those things, like meals, Christmas, Birthdays, shopping. But try to infuse new and different things so your daughter can see how her life is somehow ‘better’ too because of the split. Make it difficult for her to compare the two paths. The new path for you is new and exciting. Well, how can it become exciting for her as well? Don’t shop in the same places, do all the same things. Think ‘new path’!

      I hope these suggestions help. Be patient with yourself and with her. She is behaving normally and you wouldn’t want her to be any other way.

      Warmest Wishes,
      Vicki Jardine

  12. suki Says:

    I think i’m being a fairly terrible, reactive parent at the moment. My lovely sunny natured daughter, 10, has turned moody and I am the sort of person who likes to talk things over, to get to the bottom of the problem, and try and support/find solutions… but I’m terrible when people won’t speak to me. I lose patience very quickly. My daughter won’t speak, and so I end up either getting angry or lecturing her.
    My daughter’s friend is one of those sickeningly brilliant, popular and very mature, helpful girls, so it’s very difficult not to compare my lackadaisical, untidy daughter unfavourably with her. So all round I can see I’m doing a bad job of helping my daughter through her preadolescence.
    Can you give me some ideas of how to turn this around, bearing in mind i’m a single mum and she’s a single child, so it’s naturally going to be quite intense and it’s really hard for me to back off completely.

    • vickijardine Says:

      Hi there Suki

      Would a ‘fairly terrible, reactive parent’ write for ideas on how to be a more effective parent?

      There is not a single parent who is doing everything right. ‘Cos, there is no real ‘right’. There is effective and ineffective.

      The problem is the goal posts keep getting moved (and the playing field is not level to start with) as each child grows. Being effective is more about being appropriately responsive, rather than just knowing what to do.

      In order to be appropriately responsive it helps to have a set of core values regarding your child. For instance, if you believe every child is born with innate gifts and talents and you as the parent are the custodian and steward of the child, whose job it is to provide support and encouragement so they can develop their potential, then this belief will guide and influence your responses in thousands of situations.

      I suggest you make a list for yourself of your ‘basic core values’ concerning your child. Begin each value with:
      ‘I believe my child …….’ (has the right to their own feelings… has her own valid opinions…..needs my help to understand her world etc.)

      Then, read that list every day. Meditate on it, focus on it. Remind yourself of those values over and over again so they begin to insinuate themselves into your daily interactions. You will find yourself about to REACT when one of your values will come to mind and you will hear yourself RESPOND. It is the most amazing thing.

      I do want to make some other suggestions. However this all that time permits today. I will revisit your ‘comment’ and give you some more ideas to build on that foundation of core values.

      Till then, enjoy making your list and focusing on it. I know you will see enormous benefits even from such a small action.

      Warmest Wishes,
      Vicki Jardine

    • vickijardine Says:

      Hi again Suki
      I sure hope my initial response to your question has been helpful. I wanted to now respond more fully.

      It is not easy to be a parent. And it is particularly difficult to be honest with ourselves about our parenting. That’s why I commend you for being evaluative about the kind of parent you think you are at the moment. Just the fact that you are thinking about it means you are doing your best to be an effective parent.

      It also means that you are conscious of the need to be responsive, rather than reactive. Being responsive puts you in the driver’s seat with your child. Being reactive, puts the child in the driver’s seat. So many parents don’t actually think of it that way and so we have many children that are ‘driving’ families.

      It makes you stop and think about the destination doesn’t it!

      In your message, you state that you lose patience very quickly and end up getting angry or lecturing her. And you also indicate that you feel this is not helping her through her pre-adolescence. This is the part I would like to make some suggestions about now.

      First of all, please know that while I am urging you to be ‘responsive’ rather than ‘reactive’…. it is because your daughter is going to definitely be ‘reactive’ not ‘responsive’. The responsibility falls on the parent to be the adult, mature person who has some vision, enough of the whole picture to be fully motivated to take the long view at every point along the way.

      We cannot leave it to our children to meet us half way. How can they? They lack the maturity and the vision and the perspective. Because they lack those things, they then also don’t have the motivation to meet you half way.

      You see, with human behavior it usually comes down to ‘the pay off’. This is just another way to say ‘motivation’.

      As parents, we have ourselves been children, gone through adolescence, survived it (many at a time when parenting was not a science, and children were not considered like they are now), and as a result, we have some perspective. We can all see how things in our lives might have been different, had our parents been different towards us (or simply just different in general). We have all most likely said something out loud about how we wish one or both of our parents had done something or realized what we were going through during our adolescent years. Many adults resent their parents for one reason or another. Many adults determine to do differently by their children (and much to their chagrin, they often repeat the pattern).

      What is so great about this ‘hindsight’ is that it gives us some ‘vision’ regarding the directions we are setting for our own children. This vision is key to us being able to ‘parent’ responsively.

      I am suggesting that you spend some time reflecting on your own adolescence. Isn’t it amazing how ‘not so long ago’ it was? Well, turn that around and realize, it is not all that long, before your little girl will be an adult. Just as it is not that long ago that you were her age. It truly does work both ways.

      So you have a window of opportunity now, to make a difference. It comes down to you being able to motivate yourself.

      So far, I have mentioned:
      – reflect on your adolescence
      – develop a vision for your child
      – use that vision to motivate yourself to be responsive rather than reactive.

      The reason that it needs to be such a purposeful process is that it is such a ‘daily’ role, that of parenting. If you only had to motivate yourself for parenting like you would for an event, then this kind of purposefulness might not be necessary. But parenting is so daily. And not just daily….but ALL DAILY (and all NIGHTLY).

      Our own needs, wants, tiredness, the kind of day we personally are having, whether we are well or not and whether we are stressed or not….these are the kinds of things that require purposeful motivation in order to keep the vision of what we are trying to achieve.

      Our jobs can impose on our lives to the point that we find ourselves struggling to meet the physical and practical needs of our children, let alone the emotional needs. It is so easy to become so busy or consumed with other things, that we lose sight of the vision we have about the way we want to parent.

      So let’s just agree that it is indeed a process that requires due diligence and depends on us being able to remain motivated in order to make responsive choices about the way we parent. It is not difficult to do. It is difficult to REMEMBER TO DO. There is a big difference.

      Actually life is much easier when we do keep this sharp focus on ‘parenting’ because children whose parents can be responsive are much happier and easier to get along with. The running of the home and all that entails goes so much more smoothly. Frustration levels become reduced and situations diffused. Responsive parents don’t feel things are spiraling out of control. So they feel rewarded by the experience.

      So here’s some ‘next steps’ for after you have clarified your vision and gained the motivation you will need to draw on constantly until these things become habitual:

      – View your child as an individual who is doing their best.

      – Remember your child deeply wants you to approve of them.

      – Look for and find things to praise constantly and be genuine about it.

      – When you feel yourself becoming annoyed,

      then capture your vision and regain your motivation to respond rather than react.

      – In order to encourage your child to talk to you,

      learn how to ask open questions. Open questions require explanation to answer, rather than simply yes, or no.

      – If your child is resistant, then get creative.

      Ask their advice. Make them the expert.

      – When your child shuts down a conversation

      surprise them by acknowledging your respect for their choice to not discuss it. The benefits of this are many. They will see that you are not this needy parent-person who is hanging out for them to speak. It diffuses the tension. It makes them feel that you are interested, but not prying.

      – Be prepared to admit that you felt like you imagine they feel,

      (since they won’t communicate their feelings, you can only guess what they may be….never make the mistake of assuming you know how they feel), when you were their age. Tell them directly that you think it is ‘reasonable’ that they don’t want to talk about everything…. but that you are there if they do want to. Let them know, you were not asking so that you could feel better. You were asking so that they could feel better.

      – If your child is rude to you,

      do not accept this. Manners and respect must always be in place. Be big enough to see that they are frustrated, but make sure they know that it is no excuse to be rude. Make sure you acknowledge their frustration even if you don’t know what it is all about (and even if you do). Acknowledge it, validate their right to feel the way they do….but they do not have the right to abuse you, or be rude to you or anyone else.

      – Let them know that you have the big picture.

      Children want you to drive, even though they keep trying to take the wheel. They want to know someone is in control of the vehicle. They seem like they want what they want…but more than that, they want a parent that will make sure they arrive safely, have their needs and some of their wants met, and who will control themselves in most situations.

      – Remember that hormones cause chemical reactions

      in the body and mind. Remember more than half of what they are feeling at any given moment is completely inexplicable to them. Asking them to explain only serves to frustrate them.

      Now on the positive side, here are some ideas of actions you can take to create opportunities that may close the gap between you and your child, while at the same time opening up communication opportunities:

      – Make some ‘traditions’ between you

      For example: Chinese take-out and a movie regularly, cinema and a cafe regularly, take some classes together, mani/pedicure afternoons, park walking, surfing, bowling, martial arts…. It doesn’t matter what it is. But make it frequent and/or regular. The idea is that you are creating something that you both enjoy together. Something that eliminates the ‘parent-child’ dynamic for a short time. This will allow you to show your child that you are both just people, that you struggle to learn things, or that you enjoy their company as a person. You get to like them for being ‘them’ rather than just because you have to ‘cos they are your child. It builds the relationship and provides opportunities to laugh together, to feel attached but not dependent.

      – Look your child in the eye more.

      Establish eye contact from across the room, regularly. Do this when you are out, at a ballgame or the school, or at a friend’s house. Keep looking at them and when they look at you, smile at them or nod approval. By the way, sometimes you will see something that you disapprove of….but truly it will not hurt for you to overlook it. Just turn your head away so they do not see the disapproval (believe me, they will look to you eventually to see if they have disappointed you and you do not want them to feel like that just because they have). You want to purposefully use ‘disapproval’ as a response, rather than as a reaction and so need to be able to switch it on and off. Approval is a much better tool for reinforcing positive behaviors. But the eye contact is essential to making your child feel important, noticed and valued. It is very purposeful.

      – Boast about your child to others when they can hear you doing so.

      – Praise your child all the time.

      You cannot praise them too much. (This also helps you focus on what they do that is great, rather than what they do that is not great).

      – Give some down time to your child.

      But not too much. Enough to say that you respect their need to have physical space and emotional space to just be themselves.

      – Listen to them when they do speak.

      By that I mean, stop what you are doing and look at them. Put everything else out of your mind. And most importantly, don’t interject. Let them finish. Don’t react to the ‘parts’ of what they are saying. Get the whole picture. Let them feel that you are not listening to find fault. Let them feel you are listening to understand. If you do speak, then keep it to things like open questions that show your heart is to support them (even if you really want to scream!). Say things like: Wow or How did that make you feel? What did you do then? Why do you think they said that? How did it turn out in the end? This shows you are listening and not judging. It is respectful. If you hear some things that alarm you, do not react right then. Just make mental note. Keep the big picture and let them talk. It’s like you can be on the same side as they are (their side) but if you react, you immediately move to the other side (against them).

      – Later, when you have given things some thought and you have found it important to do so, address the things you found disturbing or concerning.

      But make sure they understand the reason you are bringing it up….you don’t want them to suffer, you want to be a loving parent and even though you know they have probably already realized it, this particular thing alarmed you a little as a parent (or a lot). It’s all about you staying on the same side of the issue with them. Don’t let them provoke you into reacting. Keep the vision.

      – Laugh with your child

      Cry with your child (if appropriate. Don’t be a basket case but let them see it affects you when they are crying). Rejoice with your child. – Celebrate the good moments of their lives and yours. Have them celebrate with you over your successes.

      Well, these are just some ideas for you. I do wish you the very best and hope to hear from you regarding your daughter. Please give feedback any time because we all take strength from one another as parents. What we really want is to create a parenting community. It is so easy to feel isolated as a parent.

      Remember the saying: ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child!’. Thank God for the internet!

      Warmest Wishes,
      Vicki Jardine

  13. Suki Says:

    Hi Vicki
    I’m operating from an iPhone so not sure if I’m responding on the right part of your site bit I just wanted to thank you so much for taking the time to give me a really full and helpful response to my cry for help! I tried for the last two days to look a things more from her point of view and not to jump at the things that regularly annoy me – that she’s lost her piano music, forgotten to bring her coat home from school – and we certainly had much calmer more loving couple of days! So I’ll go throught all your suggestions and try and develop a vision and way of responding to make this a more regular mode of being.
    Many thanks again – it’s really helpful to get some guidance when you are in a rut.

    Best wishes

    • vickijardine Says:

      Oh Suki I am so pleased to know that some of my suggestions have been helpful. Your message from your phone did end up in the correct place.

      I would love to hear from you again sometime to update us on how you are doing and to share your observations with us and with other parents.

      Also, don’t hesitate to send through any questions you have along the way.

      Best wishes and I will be thinking about you and your daughter.

      Warmest Wishes,
      Vicki Jardine

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