I know, I know. If you are a parent; you yell. Maybe you yell 10 times a week, maybe you scream 10 times a day, but you yell. The kids don’t listen. You remind, you cajole, you nag, you bribe, you get fed up…you explode. Everyone, even the most amazingly relaxed people on earth, have a limit. It is human to experience to anger and react to it. Sometimes, it is even appropriate. Yet, we all know that yelling andscreaming at our kids leaves us feeling worse about ourselves, guilty, angrier, and frankly, worn down. Most importantly, yelling doesn’t change misbehaviors!
So, what are the tips I have for the yelling? Here’s why we yell and what to do about it:
1) You are yelling because you are tired. You have a new baby in the house and an active three-year-old, and sleep is hard to come by. Or maybe there is a transition with a new job, an illness, a divorce, or simply your sleep is off from everyday stress. You are feeling wild with exhaustion, and your ability to cope is greatly compromised. I cannot explain how important sleep is, and long term lack of sleep leads to more and more impatience and yelling.
What can you do? Reassess your own routine and make sleep a priority. Avoid caffeine after noon, and don’t turn on the TV or other tech devices at night. Stop eating once you have had dinner, and have a cup of milk or decaf tea. A warm bath can also help! Some people need to hire more help or call in family so that they can sleep…do what you need to do to get the rest you need!
2) You are yelling because your routine is not working for the family. When we are rushed, stressed, or feeling late, stress and impatience are at an all-time high. It becomes easier to view children’s normalbehaviors as threatening challenges, and it starts to feel as though everyone in the family is actively working against you.
What can you do? Pay attention to the yelling and when you are becoming most angry. Is it in the morning? Does the alarm need to be set earlier? What can you prepare the night before? Pay attention to the basic routines in the family and make sure they are running as smoothly as they can (considering they will never be perfect!)
3) You are yelling because you are trying to control your child too much. As your child grows, she wants and needs more choices, more responsibility, and more power. It is easy to fall into a habit where you keep treating her as though she is younger; this is a normal parenting mistake. But it can often result in “you cannot make me do that, I am the boss of myself!” and other behaviors that feel quite defiant. Sometimes, though, when we control our children too much, they can move in the opposite direction and become passive-aggressive. Instead of fighting back, your child is constantly “disappearing” when something needs to get done or they are suddenly useless. This is the child you nag, cajole, threaten, beg, and eventually yell at, to get him to do something.
What can you do? Your children need real jobs. Real work. True responsibility. As young as two, children can be trained to do a whole host of jobs and become valuable individuals in the family! Rather than trying to change (and scream at) your kids, move in the direction of asking yourself: “what job do I need to teach my child so that he can do more for himself?” With patience and training, you can stop controlling your child and start supporting their independence.
4) You are yelling because you are not taking care of yourself or you are feeling unfulfilled. You used to wear good-looking clothes and were respected in the workplace, now you have worn the same yoga pants for five days straight, and “Goodnight Moon” may have too many words for you. You loved your career and felt passionate about your work, now you make grocery lists during meetings and rush to buy diapers on your lunch hour. You feel constantly rushed or incredibly bored. You look like a person you don’t know anymore, and your feel like your body has betrayed you. You don’t see friends enough and don’t have date nights with your partner. You eat left-over food off of plates and don’t exercise. In short, you really are not taking care of yourself. And when you don’t pay attention to your own needs, it is easy for resentment to take root and grow like a weed. Naturally, it is not the fault of your children that you are depressed and angry, but they get the brunt of the frustration and anger. It is easy to snap, yell, and belittle when we are feeling badly about ourselves. And let’s face it, our kids will always forgive us! It can quickly become a bad habit.
What can you do? You have to find a way to start taking care of yourself, from the big things to the little. From possibly leaving a job you hate to going back to work because your bored; from starting to eat well and exercise to joining a mother’s group; from committing to seeing your partner and friends more to going back to school…there are so many ways to start taking care of yourself. And when you are more hopeful, more optimistic, and more yourself, you are less likely to lose your patience and yell. Content people yell less. Parents who pay attention to their own needs are simply kinder to their children. So, from the tiny changes to the big ones, take stock (and responsibility) of your life and make the changes you need! Your whole family will change.
Finally, for whatever you reason you think you are yelling too much at the kids, try to remember that yelling is often the symptom, not the cause of your problems. Try to ask yourself: “why am I yelling?” and start there!
So, your child has a normal worry: the dark, trying something new, typhoons, strangers coming into the house, parents dying, etc.
The child expresses the worry, and then the parent gets busy explaining explaining explaining why that should not be a worry.
The child’s brain cannot comprehend your perspective, but the child DOES understand that you are REALLY paying attention to him or her. The child’s brain (the prefrontal cortex) is making gang-buster maps that say, “WHOA. MOM IS FREAKING OUT. She is REALLY PAYING ATTENTION TO THIS.”
Hence, when little Jimmy wants MORE of your attention he is again, scared of the dark, scared of the stranger, etc.
You keep explaining, even start getting angry, trying to fix the problem, etc.
He keeps getting more scared. You get more frustrated, he gets more scared.
And poof. We have an anxiety problem.
But do we?
The child’s brain is asking the parent (with the fears):
“I am learning the world is big and scary.
Am I SAFE?
AM I YOURS?
WILL YOU ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF ME? NO MATTER WHAT?”
So, you say:
“I know it is dark.
Yes, it can be scary. Let’s find a special flashlight for you.
I will always take of you, in the light and the dark.
I will always be here.
I am in charge.
I love you.”
Could everything end tomorrow? Sure. Who knows. A plane could land on your house.
But love is ENERGY, and energy doesn’t die. Love never dies.
You are sending a message from your heart to your child’s heart,
“NO MATTER WHAT, YOU ARE MINE. I LOVE YOU FOREVER.”
If your eyes tear up to read this, this means that your brain and heart have integrated this information as true.
Simply remembering the different times I have gotten the flu gives me the chills. The fever, the aches, the hours and hours spent in bed…it is awful. And for your kids? It is pretty dreadful, too. And while the everyday cold is obviously more tolerable, it can take a toll too. Feeling run-down and sniffly can bring a whole family down.
So, here are some easy tips for you and your family to help prevent (or mitigate) the cold and flu season:
The rumor that ran rampant when I was little was the “razor blades in candy” story. Do you remember that? I am not sure it ever happened! I think it was an urban legend that everyone glommed onto, and we spent years unwrapping candy and poking it. Now, the fears of razor blades in caramels are largely finished.
These days, instead of irrational razor blade fears, we have an entirely new extreme:
The catalogues for costumes arrive at the end of August, and the candy hits the shelves directly after Labor Day. Our kids are inundated with witches, goblins, ghosts, Frankensteins, skeletons, and jack-o-lanterns so early, and they love it! They sing pumpkin songs and cannot wait to wear their fireman and princess costumes.
The problem? Children have active imaginations that RUN WILD. We cannot wait to take Instagram after Instagram of the cute kids, but by the time Halloween actually rolls around, the kids are exhausted and overwhelmed.
So, when this great day rolls around, how we protect the kiddos from a scary Halloween meltdown?
Have a fun and safe holiday!
In research I recently released concerning parenting challenges and sources of parenting information, parents did not talk about breastfeeding preschoolers, how they are intimidated by French moms, or the fact that they couldn’t force their children to practice the fourth hour of piano (à la Tiger Mom). No, in fact, my research of over five hundred mothers shows that parents are struggling with normal and everyday issues.
When asked to choose what relationship challenges parents face with their children (ages 2 to 10), parents overwhelmingly chose: “Ignoring Requests or Directions”
Simply put: kids are not listening to their parents.
As a parent coach, I run into this. A lot. So, here are some of my thoughts on kids and why they ignore their parents.
1) When we nag, beg, threaten and bribe, we teach our children to ignore us. Why? Without real consequences, children very quickly learn that they can ignore our requests and, well, nothing really happens. And if they wait out our screaming and tantrums…nothing really changes for them, does it? The parent is the one with the problem, not the kids!
2) Ignoring parents is a classic passive power play, and it works! While big, loud, and angry power struggles are obvious ways to struggle, passively ignoring parental requests can also erode at the fabric of family life. Whether it is slowly walking to the car (despite numerous requests to “please, just hurry”), or the child can never ever EVER find their shoes (hence, the parent is begrudgingly dragged into a search and rescue shoe mission), children unconsciously know they are the ones holding the reins. I say unconsciously, because most small children are simply not making conscious decisions to struggle with you. They are just doing what they know how to do, and in this case, it is ignoring the parent to receive attention.
3) Quite often, children ignore parental requests because they don’t know exactly what needs doing. If you are nagging your child, stop and ask yourself this: ”Have I properly trained this child to do the requested task?” If this answer is “no,” consider teaching the child how to do the task! Take your time with it, allow for imperfections and keep the training going! You can train on anything from getting dressed to setting the table to creating a homework system! Involve the children in the decision-making, make it fun and keep it going!
4) Finally, if you have trained and set out explicit goals, and your child still ignores requests, allow for natural consequences. Unless it is a risk to life or limb, what would naturally happen as a result of you not interfering? So, for instance, if the five-year-old refuses to put their shoes on to walk to school, then put the shoes in a bag, and start to walk to school. If the child refuses to take the trash out, then let the trash build up and spill over. If the child will not finish her homework, then allow her to go to school with it incomplete. Yes, this may invite some uncomfortable moments and conversations, but the experience teaches far more than any lecture ever could!
With patience, planning and courage, we can teach our children to listen to us. Screaming, nagging, begging, bribing and punishing don’t work, and I know that our interactions with our kids can be better. So, make a plan and make it positive!
Routine and schedules; schedules and routines. If you are a parent, you are hard-pressed to go anywhere without someone talking to you about sleeping schedules, eating and bedtime routines, and how very important they are to your child’s growth and development! So, what do you need to pay attention to when it comes to your child’s schedule and routine? Here are some ideas:
1. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep. Whether you have a newborn, a toddler, a kindergartner, an elementary or middle school-aged child, sleep is of paramount importance. It affects everything: appetite, ability to focus, energy-level, mood, weight-management, school performance and behavior management in school, as well as your child reaching their basic developmental milestones.
Your family’s schedule needs to be based around the sleep needs of your children. Something I often talk to my clients about is planning the bedtime routine around when they wake up the next morning. What do I mean? Well, if the family needs to be awake by 7:30 AM, and you have a three-year-old, you back up bedtime 12 hours to 7 PM. Some families aren’t eating until 7 PM, pushing the bedtime back to 8 PM or even 9 PM, and leaving the toddler exhausted, under-rested and cranky. Is pushing dinner and bedtime earlier inconvenient for busy working parents? Yes, but I like to remind parents that it won’t be like this forever! Before you know it, your child will be staying up later, and you will be missing those “early-to-bed” days!
2. Eating. Sometimes I hear, “But my child is not hungry,” or, “They don’t eat the food I make!” And I get it. Feeding kids can be tough. Their taste buds are more sensitive than ours, and they really do taste food differently! But this doesn’t mean that meals cannot be prepared and enjoyed together as a family. Don’t succumb to making a steady diet of mac-n-cheese and nuggets! When kids are young, the food may be basic yet wholesome with some nights designated as “try-it nights”! You put out foods that the kids have picked and some that are new and exciting. Kiwis, kumquats and kale are nice options for new “try-it” nights.
The most important thing to remember is that keeping regular meal times (especially dinner) is an antidote to negative behaviors, both now and in the future. Study after study shows that family meals are critical for both communication and a sense of family belonging. It can be a challenge to do this in the early years, all work and little payoff, but the investment will be apparent in years to come! So, make mealtime a priority in your house.
Photo Source: Thinkstock/Comstock
3. Doing nothing. Yes, you read it right. In this day and age, you need to schedule “doing nothing”. If you have paid for it, signed up for it, have to check-in or buy a gift for it…that is doing something. Doing nothing allows for boredom and the all-important slowing down. Now, I am not going to bash technology (I am typing this on an iPad with an iPhone next to me). No, I think our brains can handle far more than we even think, but I do know our kids need to learn how to be bored. Why? Out of boredom comes creativity. Unique ideas spring forth, and kids are allowed to follow a true interest. This interest rarely involves money or complex toys.
For some kids, doing nothing is going to involve playing a sport, or climbing a tree, building Legos, or coloring and drawing. Some may stare at the sky, and some may recreate their classrooms. Doing nothing looks different for every child…so don’t judge it when you see it. As a parent, find your own doing nothing: napping, reading, listening to music you actually like, talking on the phone to a relative or friend, enjoying a glass of anything you like, cooking, writing a letter, practicing your golf swing, shooting hoops, etc. “Yeah,” you think, “with what time?” Well, that is why you need to schedule it! Doing nothing will not happen spontaneously, at least for most families.
It may feel like there are a million components to your family and the schedules and routines you keep. Try not to get too bogged down in too many details, and remember to stick to the basics! Good food, rest and relaxation can take a family far!
Photo Source (upper right): Thinkstock/Goodshot
After this reading this, I had to admit to swearing in front of my kids.
They don’t swear. I don’t swear in public (mostly), and I never swear at them.
But if I drop a can on my toe, you can bet I am not saying, “Oh GEEZ.”
My mother swore. Often. And colorfully. They are strange and fond memories, listening to her swear the leaves that would build up in the city gutters, or hearing her curse out someone who was unkind to the elderly or a child. I was embarrassed AND proud. My mom didn’t (and doesn’t) take shit off of no one. She taught me to be fair, tough, and not mince words; not verbally dance around what is important.
Living is DC to taught me to not mistake “proper” language for morals, strength, erudition, or sincerity. Some of the most under-handed behaviors come from the most curse-free people (politicians?), and well, I ain’t buying it.
Where I grew up, adults peppered their language with words, phrases, and stories that would make a sailor blush. I picked up a good bit of it. It didn’t stop me from becoming an English major, a teacher, a counselor, a coach, and a public speaker. And yes, I curse when I speak (to right crowd and in the right story, it is crucial).
I call ‘em as I see ‘em, and sometimes that is with an F-bomb. I have tried to stop, and it hasn’t worked. So, I am embracing my swearing, Goddammit.
I intended to write something great about sending your little ones back to school.
But, geez…isn’t that boring? Here is a standard blog in a nutshell:
Kids need more sleep, good food, a little more sleep, and some gently nudging back into an organized lifestyle (it’s tough for all of us, isn’t it?) Sprinkle some stuff about making friends and making time for homework, and BOOM, you have yourself the standard back-to-school blog.*
As I frittered away my time, trying to not write the above, I came across this:
No longer forward nor behind
I look in hope or fear;
But, grateful, take the good I find,
The best of now and here.
- John Greenleaf Whittier
Now this, this is saying something.
You see, a couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to find myself with some amazing people at The Omega Institute. There was Susan Cain, who talked about the beauty of the introvert, as well as Sil Reynolds talking about the beauty of mothers and daughters. But the real reason I drove to Rhinebeck, NY? To hear Dr. Gordon Neufeld talk about his book, “Hold on to Your Kids”; a book that has left an indelible impression on me as a parent and a coach.
He talked (and talked) about attachment and “you see,” he would laugh, “you all already know how to do this. There are no secrets here, secrets of how to attach to your children, of how to connect, of how to love. You know how…it is your parenting birthright.”
I got chills and I knew that I would be learning from this man.
So, I suppose this blog is about going back to school…for me! As Shakespeare said: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”
After all, I know enough to know that I know some about life, a bit about parenting (and nothing when it comes to cooking). I know the best I can do is “take the good I find, the best of now and here.” And Dr. Gordon Neufeld is “the best of now and here.”
Learning never ends.
So, as I start to learn again and make myself vulnerable to change, let us remember that our children are vulnerable, too.
They have grown over the summer, changed, made mistakes, had adventures, and forgotten their schoolwork. They will again (and courageously!) head off to school, meet their teachers, see old and new friends, hope people like them, and worry that they are pretty/smart/athletic/funny enough.
This is brave stuff.
We, the parents, we get to love our children for the now and here. We will have gratitude for their very existence, without condition. Not because they are on the team or in the play or running for office. Parents get the “just because” love.
It’s the best kind there is.
A new school year is always my “new year.” I cannot shake the old feelings that come rushing back when I used to teach; it was the best. And nothing is quite as lovely as summer drifting into autumn.
I hope you have a lovely start to this new year. I hope you take your pictures, smile your smiles, hug your big hugs, and cry your goodbye tears.
Life doesn’t get any better than this…
You may have heard or even made statements like:
“These allergies NEVER existed when I was a kid.”
“I think some of these parents are jumping the gun a little here, don’t you?”
“It is unreasonable to expect everyone not to eat ANYTHING…what am I going to pack for lunch?”
And I knew that food allergies were prevalent, but imagine my surprise when my research showed thatfood allergies are the number one reported “special need” by parents (closely followed by ADD/ADHD).
A little poking around, and I found these shocking numbers from the FAAN (The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network):
And a quick trip around the interwebs gives us many theories, but few concrete reasons for this huge spike in food allergies in children. The main theories seem to be:
Whatever we may think of food allergies, and however annoyed we may feel that our child cannot eat her peanut butter and jelly everyday, food allergies are clearly here to stay.
So, to get a better sense of what people are going through, I asked some Facebook followers of mine to tell me about their experiences. People started writing immediately, with the predominant message of “THANK YOU.” Their experiences range from the food allergy being an annoyance to multiple ER trips!
Serena K. says of her seven-year-old and her food allergies (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, flax, lentils and mustard): “Our children grow up a little faster than the average kid because they have to learn to take on responsibilities and manage a potentially life-threatening disability. This disability is invisible, so people rarely can tell who has food allergies. On the flip side, our children are more resilient, mature and articulate because they have to communicate VERY important information to everyone around them.”
Then there is the idea of intolerance and high levels of sensitivities to artificial ingredients and colors in foods, setting off asthma attacks and chronic diarrhea. Joyce S. encourages parents to, “Trust your gut as a parent.” She sought medical advice from multiple doctors, in different specialties until they found the right diet for their son, now 10. Joyce S. also strongly suggests helping the child to self-advocate in school and always includes snacks so that he can join in and feel part of the school parties.
Finding the right doctor is a common theme amongst parents of allergic children. Christine P., whose three-year-old son has a milk allergy says, “We are very careful about exposure, but at the same time, doubt the severity of the allergy. He had no reaction to his accidental exposures, and there is some conflicting research (for some dairy allergies) about no exposure versus limited exposure. We’re in the process of finding a doctor who we think is more up to date on the research to get a second opinion.”
As a parent coach, there is much empathy to be found in these stories. All you have to do is imagine sending your sweet three-year-old, so excited and ready to play, off to school. Trusting and praying that others will help you in keeping him safe and healthy cannot be an easy leap of faith, but it is a leap these parents must make in order for their children to learn and grow.
We can all help these families by, yes, adhering to the dietary restrictions placed by the schools, but more importantly, include these families into your circle.
Photo Source (upper right): Thinkstock/iStockphoto
As a parent coach, one of the chief complaints I hear from parents is: “Why won’t my children listen to me anymore? Things were going so well and now they ignore me, say “No”, or even do the opposite! I am so tired of it.”
But as a parent with young children myself, I know what opposition feels like and it isn’t pretty. As adults, we have a certain idea of how things should proceed and when your kids don’t march along nicely, this can be very frustrating.
So let’s take closer look at some of the reasons our kids don’t listen to us!
1. Developmentally, your child is right on track. It is normal and expected for all children to say no at different ages. For example, two year olds, four year olds, late six year olds…it is completely normal for changes to occur in both the body and the brain that can lead to an increased rate in irritability, sensitivity, and negativity. “Wait” you say, “my child is three and says no all of the time!” Every child is different, and your child may be on a different developmental track. The point is, be open to the idea that your child may not be trying to be disagreeable! They are trapped in a rapidly changing brain and body, and cannot get out! Realizing this will help grow your compassion and forgiveness for the child, as well as find solutions.
2. Your child says no because you are not allowing her or him to grow and change. What do I mean by this? Every child, no matter their temperament, is naturally inclined toward independence and real work. Each child wants to contribute in a real way and see the fruits of their labor. So, when a child is trying to dress herself, for instance, and we continue to step in and interfere, the child will begin to struggle to assert their independence. Try simply allowing the child to try something…what your child can do will surprise you!
3. Your child is saying no because you are asking too many questions. Parenting 101? If you don’t want to hear “no,” don’t ask a question that gives the child a chance to say it! For instance, you know the child is happily putting together a puzzle…so what do you think the answer will be when you ask, “would you like to get in the bathtub?” Of course, that child would rather puzzle away! So, don’t ask the question! Instead, create a transition and don’t offer a choice! Get down on the child’s level, look them in the eye, and say, “Bath time is in 3 minutes. I am setting an alarm. When the alarm goes off, the puzzles are over.” Alarm goes off, you gently and firmly lead the child to bath. Will they struggle? Maybe. But it will be far, far better the “fake choices” struggle!
Whatever you decide to do, remember that the more you struggle, the more you struggle!