TalkBack To Vicki Jardine

A TalkBack on Parenting Issues

The ‘Up-Side’ of Anger January 3, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — vickijardine @ 8:41 am

Anger can be a good thing. 

Turn this emotion into a learning experience? How?

Just imagine if you never experienced anger.  What would you really be like as a person if anger was not in the human experience?

Perhaps you would have trouble defending your personal boundaries.  You may not recognize when you feel discriminated against, or betrayed or…worse.

You would have no outlet for the emotions of outrage and injustice. 

What would motivate you to stand against things that are not right in your eyes?

What would cause you to defend someone (or a group, principle or nation) who otherwise would go undefended and unprotected from the harmful, opportunistic domination of less than benevolent predators or abusers?

So, when it comes to our children, perhaps it is an emotion that bears thinking about in more depth.  Perhaps anger is actually a ‘good thing’.

You know the scenario:  screaming, angry child throws an enormous tantrum.  An entire family held in the grasp of one small being who is completely out of control.

Oh, wait a minute.  Aren’t all small beings pretty much out of control of themselves?

Isn’t that the point of ‘having a childhood’?  Imagine being born already mature in your emotions, intellect and outlook, while your body needs time to grow and mature. 

Sometimes we forget that childhood is that precious time when we get to learn about life by living it.  It is a time when a fully cognitive parent will understand the emotional and intellectual needs of their child and turn seemingly negative experiences into life’s most valuable lessons.  Hey, I know it sounds very ‘Brady Bunch’ but I keep asking the question: What if? 

What if parents can positively influence their child’s personality development, by helping the child process their emotions, mentally?

It is a rhetorical question, obviously. 

Parents, this is essentially the most important part of your role as a parent.  It is not merely a matter of providing food, clothing and shelter for your children.  Naturally, those things are necessities.  But the sad thing is that in the pursuit of providing physical needs, parents forget or become distracted from providing the mental, emotional and spiritual help that their children need so desperately so that they can understand themselves and the world around them.

The idea is that maturity becomes more a function of a person’s understanding of themselves and others and the world at large, having developed a perspective and awareness of their relationship to others and their own potential as a human being, rather than a chronological measure of physical development.

(Just think of how many immature adults you know….I rest my case!)

Now if that is true, then the role of parenting is so important because a parent with vision will understand and perceive the many and varied learning experiences that their child faces every day. 

A parent with this understanding will have not only the motivation to assist their child appropriately and will take the time to find out how to do so, if they are not sure. 

This parent will also have a high level of compassion for their child as they negotiate a myriad of learning experiences each and every day.

This parent will see beyond the tantrum, to what is really going on.

This parent will understand that ‘ANGER’ is a ‘GOOD THING’.

This parent will help their child understand their anger and will teach them how to ‘choose’ their reactions to things that happen to outrage them.

Let’s look at some of the things that could be angering your child:

  1. He/she does not have the words to express what they are feeling
  2. Something has been perceived as unfair
  3. There is a need not being met
  4. The inconsistencies the child faces are frustrating them
  5. He/she feels ignored, insignificant or invisible

Perhaps there are other causes of anger, but let’s just look at how these basic causes of the emotion of anger become translated into behaviors that we all recognize as ‘anger’ and let’s also look at some ‘positive’ responses a visionary parent might give.

He/she does not have the words to express what they are feeling

  • When a child is hungry, tired or frustrated they don’t necessarily know it.  All they know is they don’t feel good.  You know yourself how it goes.  If you get tired AND hungry, what is your temper like?  It is only because you have developed self-control that you don’t bite everyone’s head off!  Or do you?
  • When your child is throwing what looks like a tantrum, just stop and check if tired or hungry.  But don’t just figure it out for them and then solve it for them. 
  • Help them understand what they are going through.  Psychologists call it ‘meta-cognition’.  Help your child understand their own mind, their thought processes.  Help them see why they are crying and what they are feeling.

Here’s what you can say if you suspect your child is getting tired or hungry:

  • ‘Hey, you know what buddy, maybe you’re feeling so frustrated because you’re hungry.  What say we go get something to eat?  Let’s see if you feel better.  I feel so cranky when I get hungry.’
  • ‘Oh sweetie, maybe you feel so upset because you are tired.  I feel like crying when I am tired too.  Why don’t I help you with that so it’s not so hard for you.’
  • ‘You’re usually such a helpful boy.  Are you feeling tired today?  When I feel tired, I get grumpy and everything seems harder.  Tell me…do you just want to put your head on my shoulder right now?  Maybe you will feel better.’
  • ‘Oh hey there, do you remember the last time you felt like this?  You were just really tired, remember?  Maybe you will feel better after you have a lie down.’
  • Naturally, you do not want to allow a child who is tired to carry on with an escalating tantrum.  Sometimes you as the adult, do need to just take charge and make sure the child gets some rest.
  • Do not wait until the child is tired out of their brain to try and ‘teach them how to handle their anger’.

Start noticing your child’s behaviors before they escalate.  Help the notice when their mood is in the process of changing.  Help them to recognize their own triggers and then help them to learn how to regulate themselves.  Even a young child of two can begin to recognize their feelings.  Just keep talking to them and using words so that as their language develops, they will be able to express their feelings.

Something has been perceived as unfair

OK, so you may be thinking that young, young children will not be able to perceive justice and injustice.  But this is not so.  Again, they simply won’t be able to express it maturely.  Does this mean that you cannot help them with it?  Should you wait until they are mature and then expect them to ‘learn’ about it automatically.

Not at all.  Help them process injustice throughout their young childhood.  Help them learn appropriate ways to express their outrage against injustice. 

Here are some examples of how you can help:

  • ‘I see you’re upset because you feel it is unfair.  Can you tell me what you would like to have happen instead?’
  • ‘Your team lost?  It’s not fair?  Tell me what happened to make it not fair, I really want to understand.  Sometimes I feel angry when things are not fair, too.’

With this one, be prepared to keep asking the same question.  When your child begins to tell you what happened, it will not be a full explanation.  It is like peeling the old proverbial onion.  There will be several layers to the story.

To show you are listening and that you care, simply re-state what your child has told you and then ask the same question.  For example:

  • Oh so the other team cheated.  What happened when they cheated?
  • Oh so when the referee/umpire did that, what happened?
  • Oh so you think the umpire was unfair to your team?
  • Oh, has he/she ever been unfair to the other team? 

You see, what you are wanting is for your child to process in their mind, what happened and draw different conclusions possibly.  Or if it is completely true that the event was indeed unfair, then you want your child to have the opportunity to express it in a healthy way.  You want to give them a voice to express it, and an audience to express it to.

And then you will want to validate their ‘feeling’ of anger at the injustice.  You can make it ‘ok to feel anger’.

Here’s some ideas:

  • ‘I agree, that was totally unfair.  I am so proud of you for the way you have handled that.  Some people might have lost their temper.’
  • ‘Wow, it must have been difficult to control yourself when that happened.  I am glad you didn’t say anything rude even though you were angry.  I am so proud of how you didn’t throw a tantrum.  You behaved so sensibly.’

This approach reinforces to the child, the expectation that even though they are experiencing anger, they can still control how they choose to react to it.

Please note, it is of no consequence if the child’s perception is correct or incorrect.  We are not talking about teaching the child to perceive things appropriately.  We are discussing how we can help a child handle their anger, whether justified or not, makes no difference at all.   You can still validate the child’s feelings whether the offense is real or perceived.  It is very important to remember that. 

A person’s feelings are real (and therefore valid), even if the event is not.

There is a need not being met

Now this is one of the easiest to deal with as a parent.  But it involves being fairly proactive.

You know your child’s needs mostly.  But as they grow and mature, those needs do change and as a parent you need to stay ahead of the game, or at least anticipate the changes and prepare for them.

  • For instance:

Your child used to ‘need’ you to do everything for them, including doing up buttons on shirts.  However there does come a time when a child can physically manage to do up their own buttons.  It is not a skill that is acquired all at once though and there will be some frustration involved…anger even!

When this frustration/anger occurs, you would not be totally surprised would you?  And wouldn’t you agree that it is necessary for the child to have to persevere with the task in order to succeed at it?  And wouldn’t you also agree that without the frustration/anger involved in learning how to conquer button-doing-up, your child might not experience the elation and overwhelming sense of achievement and self-pride when they do finally conquer this skill?

The same is true for other less menial achievements that occur as a result of overcoming frustration.  Achievements such as learning to hit a ball, ride a bike, read a book, sing, dance, do math and to master one’s own temper.

The inconsistencies the child faces are frustrating them

Inconsistencies can be very frustrating for adults.  So imagine being a child and dealing with them all day long.  Here are some examples:

  • Inconsistencies between mother and father: 

Try to develop consistency between you.  Even if you don’t agree on how to do something, agree that it is important to agree and find a solution so your child does not have to deal with the frustration. 

  • Inconsistencies between you, as parents and your friends as parents:

Your child will have friends who are ‘allowed’ to do this and ‘allowed’ to do that.  So make sure you are communicating with your friends who are also parents.  Ask them if it is true that they allow this or that, because all too often it is not actually true.  But if it is true, then think about if this inconsistency is ‘worth it’, or is it something you can compromise on.  If you are finding the inconsistencies are too numerous and varied, it probably means that you do not have a lot in common with your friends and perhaps you should spend more time with people who have similar values to you…at least in terms of when you are ‘visiting’ with children.

  • Inconsistencies between home and school:

Actually, this is a BIG one.  Probably because your child will spend about 5 hours a day at school and because it is the only other place that continually affects your child’s development, both emotionally and academically.

Try to develop consistency with the school.  Many people have nothing but criticism for schools and how things are conducted in schools.  But what positive result comes from being critical.  Get involved.  Get to know the teachers, the administration and the other children and families.  Find out what limitations the school must operate within.  Get to know what help the school needs or wants from it’s parent-body.

The more you know what your child’s teachers are saying and doing, the more you can help your child.

He/she feels ignored, insignificant or invisible

This one is personal.  Only you can make a difference to this situation if it exists.

Are you prepared to put yourself in your child’s shoes and see what it truly ‘feels’ like?

Your child might be experiencing a sense of being insignificant, even though from your perspective you are doing everything ‘for’ them.

Never forget that the most valuable thing you can give your child is your ‘time’.  They value your time, more than anything else.  It is a commodity, and every child knows it.

Another thing every child knows although they would not be able to put it in words most likely, is that:

EVERYONE HAS TIME FOR THAT WHICH IS IMPORTANT TO THEM.

So, in a child’s uncomplicated view of the world, it follows that if you do not have time for me then I must not be important to you.

Can you see how that perception will undermine all your other work to build up your child’s self-esteem, self-belief and their ability to develop their innate potential.

So here’s what you can do:

  • SPEND TIME WITH YOUR CHILD.
  • LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD.
  • LAUGH WITH YOUR CHILD.
  • CRY WITH YOUR CHILD.
  • PLAY WITH YOUR CHILD.
  • EAT WITH YOUR CHILD.
  • READ WITH YOUR CHILD.
  • TALK WITH YOUR CHILD.

And last, but not least….

BE ANGRY WITH YOUR CHILD (NOT ‘AT’ YOUR CHILD!)

Be Angry Along With Your Child, I mean!!!

Share their angry feelings.  Let them see you feeling anger.  Identify with your child’s angry feelings and show them an alternative way of handling that feeling.

Let them see you ACT….NOT RE-ACT.

This is how you teach your child to control themselves and to choose their behaviors, rather than being a slave to powerful emotions that have the potential to ruin their opportunities in life.

TalkBack to me on this topic.  I am sure other parents would love to hear what you have to say.  We all learn from one another.  Leave a comment and have your say.

Warmest wishes,

Vicki Jardine

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Say NO and MEAN IT! July 16, 2009

Does this child look HAPPY to you?

Does this child look HAPPY to you?

 

Don’t be afraid to say NO to your child!

Children actually want you to say ‘no’ some of the time.  It makes them very nervous if the answer is always ‘yes’.

I know it is hard to believe.  Especially when you see how hard they are willing to work to have you change your mind when you do say NO.

They can sulk and throw tantrums and try over and over again, but if you can stick to your answer of NO despite what behaviours they dish up, you will be very surprised to discover that your child, who may have seemed completely out of control in the past, is actually very reasonable and calm and will accept your answers without too much opposition in the future.

The problem is that too often parents cannot stand the tantrum and come to believe that ‘giving in’ is the fastest, most effective solution.  But this is not true.

Step back from the situation and think about this from your child’s point of view.  They may be happier to accept NO for an answer than you think they are.  Perhaps you have not really put that to the test yet.

Let’s look at a scenario:

  • Your child wants something.
  • They let you know they want it.
  • You say NO
  • Your child tries again to get what he/she wants.
  • You again say NO.
  • Your child tries again…and maybe escalates the request to a demand.
  • You again say NO.
  • Then your child wants to know why not.
  • You answer or you don’t answer (doesn’t matter which)
  • Your child then tries to argue the point (whether you made one or not)

What happens next of course depends on you.  It depends largely on what you routinely do in response to your child’s repeated nagging, asking or demanding.

On the surface of it, it seems like the child simply wants to do or have something in particular.  It may even begin to feel like a battle of the wills (and sometimes it is exactly that, but not always!).

More often than not, your child actually understands that when they ask for something, the answer could be NO.  In fact, they will most likely have prepared a list of reasons that they should be allowed to have or do whatever it is that they want (this is of course in the case of an older child).  Young children only know that they want it.  Older children understand the concept of debate, argument and persistence.

Why is it that older children understand those things?

Well, it is because you, the parents taught those things to your child when they were young.

Persistence.  You taught your child to persist, when you changed a NO to a YES simply on the basis of the argument not being ‘worth the trouble’.  Your child learned that if they keep crying, screaming or simply asking over and over again, that you will eventually give in and say yes.  You taught them that by repeatedly doing so.  Later, when they are older they know you will eventually give in, so they are practically running the show a lot of the time.

But what would have happened if you had not allowed your child to see that their persistence paid off in that way?  Imagine if you let your NO be NO and your YES be YES.

It is never too late to bring in a new understanding into the way you run your family.

If you allow your child to have what they want most of the time, then they will expect to get what they want by the same means elsewhere in their life, not only at home with you. 

So what’s wrong with that?

Well it is in fact highly unfair to let a child have what they want most of the time and to let them think that if they nag or throw a tantrum there is an excellent chance they will get what they want. 

This is not something that will happen for them everywhere they go.  It will not happen at school.  It will most likely not happen when they are playing with friends and with the parents of other children.

It would be great at this point if parents could keep in mind what is actually going on when a child escalates their behaviours to get what they want.

Children want to know that you love them more than anything else in the world.  They are not so interested in having what they want as knowing that you care about them.

  • What if you turned every request into an opportunity to show love to your child?
  • What if you looked at requests from your child differently?
  • What if you understood that saying no with love can actually make your child feel happy and secure?
  • What if you took a minute to explain why you are saying no, or that you would like to say yes, but you know it would not be good for your child?
  • What if you refused to enter into debate over a NO?
  • What if you expressed your understanding for why your child wants something and on top of that expressed that while you understand their reason, it does not change your answer?
  • What if you let your child see that you are in fact in control?

How do you think all these things would affect your child?

Well, I can tell you.  If you could do those things, CONSISTENTLY, here’s what you can expect to happen:

  • Your child will feel loved and secure.
  • They will relax in the knowledge that someone who knows more than them is ‘steering the boat’.  They will come to understand that arguing is not the way to turn a situation around. 
  • They will see what it looks like to manage other people rather than react to them. 
  • They will see that wanting something doesn’t mean you will get it. 
  • They will see that your role includes making decisions for them and their role is to live with those decisions.
  • They will learn that throwing a tantrum does not result in a change of decision (and can possibly have the opposite effect).
  • They will learn that love does not mean saying YES all the time.

So next time your child asks you can they have something, don’t be afraid to say NO.  But if you do say NO….stick to it no matter what.

If your child is not used this being the ‘norm’ in your home, then take a few minutes when there is no issue or request being denied and explain your role as the parent so your child can see that possibly something has changed.

It doesn’t matter if your children are strong-willed.  They will give in, in the interest of self-preservation.  If you have been giving your child most of what they want for a very long time, then it is only fair to expect them to ‘hold out’ for a very long time to get what they want.  Remember, you taught them that if they persist, they will get it.  So don’t hold it against them if they do persist.

Just understand that if you don’t stop this pattern of behaviour now, it is going to cost your child dearly as time goes by.  Also, it will mean you have less control over your own life probably for the rest of your life.  Do you really want to be a slave to your child’s whims for the rest of your life? 

How many people in their 50’s and 60’s have you seen still trying to ‘give’ their adult kids what they want one way or another?  When that happens it is easy to see that the parents have been mistaken.  And it is riduculous actually.

It is not as ridiculous when you see that happening with a 3 year old.  However, it really is as damaging to all involved.

So don’t be afraid to say NO and STICK TO IT!  It will save not only time, but ultimately could save your child from having unrealistic expectations of other people for the rest of their lives.

Leave a comment and let people know what you think about saying NO and sticking to it. 

Let us know about your child’s tantrums or if you have any questions you would like answered.

Talkback to me!  I’m interested in what you have to say.

Vicki Jardine

 

The Ultimate Gift July 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — vickijardine @ 6:41 pm

Is it gold?  Is it diamonds?  Is it 5 minutes of peace and quiet?

What is it? 

Is it the birth of a child?  Or is it the love and innocence of a child?

It is none of the above…..and yet it is ALL of the above.

The Ultimate Gift is the gift you are receiving NOW. 

It's the thought that counts!

It's the thought that counts!

 

I don’t mean this blog post from me (though that is pretty special).  I mean that whatever gift your child is giving you at any particular time….that is the Ultimate Gift.

That gift, at that particular moment is a complete expression of love, appreciation, the desire to please and the greatest symbol of your connection with the deepest thoughts and feelings of your child. 

Whatever gift it is, is a symbol of the fact that you are bonded at the ‘heart’ level with this little person and more importantly….they, themselves feel bonded to you.  

You know that when it comes to gifts, it is often not about the gift itself.  The old saying, ‘It’s the thought that counts’, well the feeling counts too.  In fact, the feelings that ‘giving’ provides to the person doing the giving is very important to that person’s self-image.

And when it comes to children, they are the most open-hearted, giving little people on earth.  But they don’t stay that way, do they.  Few children remain as giving and unconditionally loving as they were when they were infants.

Why is this? Where does that ‘open-heartedness’ go?

I think that as parents it is important that we ask ourselves the following kinds of questions:

  • What do I do that encourages my child to be ‘giving’?
  • How do I respond when my child does give me a gift?
  • Do my child’s gifts have an emotional impact on me?
  • How would my child recognize the impact that their gift has had on me?
  • What evidence is there of the value I place on the child’s thoughts and feelings, rather than on the gift itself?

Because, actually the gift itself is not the thing that is ‘ultimate’.  It’s what it symbolizes….to your child.

As parents, carers and guardians, we need to realize what is going through a child’s mind when they give a gift.  What is the child’s motivation and intention?  What is the underlying objective of your child, when he/she gives you a gift?

You know the bible says it is more blessed to ‘give’ than to receive.  Giving therefore is better for the giver, than it is for the one who is receiving the gift.  When I was a child, I could just not fathom that.  How could it be that if I gave someone a gift that I would really like to have myself, I am actually the one more blessed?  Surely the one with the gift is the one who was blessed?

But giving brings joy to the giver.  It also brings a sense that the ‘self’ is a good person and that others appreciate you and you are someone who shows appreciation to others.  Giving says we are connected in a special way. 

Giving produces the kind of happiness that no-one else can provide for us, we can only feel that way about ourselves and others through the act of ‘giving’.

Another important aspect of maximizing the benefits of ‘giving’ to your child is to help your child focus on the good feelings that they experience when they give.  Help them notice that it feels good and to recognize their feelings.

Say things like,

  • ‘You must feel so good to know that your special, thoughtful gift has given me so much happiness!’
  • ‘I know you put a lot of thought into that, and you know what….your special thoughts and the gift are so important to me, because they tell me that you love me, did you know that?’

Or ask some questions about how they arrived at this ‘particular gift’.

  • ‘How did you decide to make this for me?’
  • ‘Oh, you remembered that I said that I love those colors?  Wow, you really care about what would make me feel happy.’

Notice things like:

  • The time it might have taken to make.
  • That they may have needed some help to get the materials, or the gift itself.
  • That they remembered something special that you had said or done for someone else even and translated that information into making or buying something similar for you.
  • Help them recognize the special thoughts, memories, decisions that they made and help them to give themselves credit for taking action on those things.

Also remember that children do not have the emotional development or the vocabulary to recognize and identify feelings, attitudes and thought processes.  Talking about the gift, the gift selection process and the feelings, thoughts and attitudes attached to them is what helps your child develop these all important degrees of maturity.

So, when your child brings you a gift just remember that each little gift is an opportunity for you to show your child that you value that bond and connection you have with them.  It’s a sign between you that you mean something to one another.  Moreover, it is an opportunity for you to turn that into the Ultimate Gift….a deep-seated appreciation that they can develop from simply ‘giving’ to others.   Help them develop an appreciation for themselves, for others and for the thoughts and feelings that connect them to their loved ones.

Talk Back to me.  I want to hear your stories about the times your child has given you a gift.  Or tell me about a gift that you gave your mom or dad when you were a child.  We all have ‘gift’ stories, so let’s share them with one another.

Here’s to you and your child

Warmest Wishes,

Vicki Jardine