Finding a better way to get positive behaviors by acknowledging the real reasons for them. "It Was Never Your Fault"These are some of the most powerful words I use in coaching parents. "It was never your fault," carries a healing message to children that releases them from undeserved guilt. When children are free of guilt, they're learning, listening, and functioning well.
When parents are also freed from guilt, they, too, learn, listen and function well. That's my aim, to help you, as a parent release guilt that you never deserved.
"How does that work?" you might wonder. I offer parents forgiveness because I truly believe you/they have always been doing what you knew how to do. When my kids were young, I made a lot of mistakes. If I'd had a parent coach back then, I would have loved guidance and forgiveness from a trusted professional. I think it would have made all the difference. Now that that ship has sailed, I feel privileged to be able to lead parents through Present Moment Parenting in a way I never was. I feel honored to say, "You did your best. It was never your fault when things didn't go well."
And for kids, it's the same. There's not a child in the world who doesn't want to be in close connection with their parents. After all, parents are their survival, so it makes sense that they would strive to maintain the bond. But their emotional state, undeveloped as it is, prevents them from making the bond stronger. They falter, they have meltdowns, they make their parents feel frustrated and angry.
As the adults, it's our job to realize they never intended this disruption in the closeness with us. They just lacked the brain development to control their outbursts, their refusals, and their nasty words. Once we realize that undeveloped brains is the issue, and not bratty, controlling, impossible kid, we're miles ahead of the game of healing the break between ourselves and our children.
So, what's the first step? Changing our automatic reaction to defiance from one of upset and consequences to one of understanding, calm, and listening to the underlying emotion. When we can do that, our kids feel seen, heard, felt, safe. And from there, we can gain their cooperation.
Recently I heard a quote from a parent that went: "Once I dropped the parent role and focused on strengthening our relationship, everything got better." That to me, is gold.
What do kids need? A loving, accepting, guiding presence. This enables them to learn, follow, and emulate their parents' behavior, especially forgiveness.
If you'd like more information on how parent coaching works, click here. I'd love to help you form that strong, healing bond with your children that reduces defiance, strengthens your relationship, and brings peace to your home.
To read or listen to my book, click here: Present Moment Parenting; The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child.
Feeling Panicky about Social Media, Video Games, Advertising?
Posted: July 6, 2019
Modern parents have a huge assignment, one that their parents didn't have to deal with: keeping their kids safe from input from electronic devices. There's the ever-present phone, the child's quick vulnerability to quick addiction to games, and the land-mine of social media, where bullying can devastate your child's life.
When I posted on this topic on Parenting Mojo's Facebook page, I got a big response. So I'm writing today to offer some tips, but more importantly, to offer some care and concern for you as a parent. I look around at all the stressors involved with raising children, and it's often overwhelming to think how much is involved. "When I was a kid" :-) we were raised on benign neglect, left to our own devices to navigate a much-less-scary world. We were on our bikes until dark, playing "kick the can" after dark, and generally roaming free until we got hungry. Our parents were drinking, smoking, playing cards - in their own world, and only making sure we showed up eventually. We worked around the house as a matter of expectation, not "reward-oriented," and we did our homework alone. In two short generations, the game is completely changed.
I have to say that this type of childhood was great for growing into our confident selves. We had to make a lot of decisions and test the world to find out what worked and what didn't, often with no input from adults. We learned to count on ourselves, for better or worse.
But the world has evolved to one where adult input seems much more pressing. Too many horror stories are online for parents to read - about abductions, sex trafficking, child suicide from bullying, and game addictions that rob kids of their childhood. We have to wonder if technology, with all its benefits to our lives, is really such a good thing in the big picture.
So the tip I want to offer is a weekly screen-free family meeting. These meetings can center you and your children on your values, and help you to make group decisions on screen time and content limits. More importantly, the mere having of a meeting communicates loudly that "our family matters." As a bonus, children learn that their input is respected and that they need to consider adults' perspective, too. That's why it's vital to keep talking until you can all agree on the limits. You want to raise thinkers, not order takers, so have these meetings to get your kids thinking about why there are limits on screen time. Help them realize why adults have to monitor their devices, which is that you are doing the modern parents' job of keeping them safe, not just trying to control them (a frequent mis-interpretation on their part.)
If they say, "Other kids' parents don't do this!" be patient. It's a fact that many others don't. Your response can be that you don't have a role in other families' decision-making, but you do in yours and it's extremely important that you raise your children with your values. They may balk at this, but underneath, know that they feel more secure in your love for them when limits are certain.
And don't forget the present moment as your main parenting tool. Maybe you've made some mistakes in the past about screen time and social media. OK, time to forgive yourself. Use your next present moment to make up for it by connecting with your child. He doesn't need a perfect parent, just one who can admit mistakes and come up with new collaborative solutions. That's being a caring modern day parent, both for your child and for yourself. You matter, too.
For help with this and any other parenting issue: www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching.
I See You Letter
“I See You” Letter
Another tool for helping a child with a traumatized brain, or any child who is asking for attention by showing unwanted behavior, is an “I see you” letter. When something is put into writing, it weighs more. The child can read the message without having to hear the adult’s voice, which is more effective because adult voices have sometimes not proven trustworthy in the past. I encourage caregivers to write the letter in a notebook, so the child can write back, if she so chooses, and review the letter at any time. The re-reading can be very healing. When I’ve encouraged other adults to write this type of letter, they’ve told me that they’ve found it later, stashed in a drawer or other safe spot, but never thrown away, which speaks to its significance to the child.
You can write a letter to a child of any age. If she is old enough to read, just leave it on her pillow. If not, write it out and read it slowly, then hand it to her.
If the child is so hurt that listening to you read a letter is too much, try posting notes that say what you see in her all over her room. Use the components below to craft your letter or your notes.
The components of the “I See You Letter” are:
- I see what you've been through (in details that are significant to her, maybe just the things you know she remembers). You may want to add, "And other things, too, that we haven't talked about." This could spark a response where she shares more.
- In light of your experiences, I realize that none of your recent behavior is your fault. You were just trying to express your pain.
- I'm sorry I blamed you when I just didn't realize that your behavior was your pain being expressed.
- Together we'll work on making it better, and here's how: ______
I just wanted to tell you what I see when I look at you. I see a kid who has had some very rough experiences. When you were younger, your adults did not do what they needed to do to keep you safe. No child should have this happen, as every child deserves and needs to be kept safe. Your mom left you with people who hurt you, and your dad left without saying why. That must hurt so much. I want you to know that this was never, ever your fault. You were an innocent child.
I see a kid who is sensitive and smart. I see a kid who is amazing at figuring out other people. I so appreciate hearing you express what you know long before others your age can do that. I see a kid with artistic ability, and one who cares deeply for our pets. When I watch you with younger children, I am so impressed with how tender you are.
I realize I have gotten angry with you and yelled when you were upset with me. I now get that you just felt threatened, and you did not mean to hurt my feelings or disrespect me. I’m sorry and I will try very hard not to yell in the future. If I make a mistake and yell (because we all make mistakes), I will apologize and have a do-over, because no one deserves to be yelled at.
If you feel like writing back to me in this notebook, that’s great. Feel very free to do so. If not, I’m fine with that, too. I’m just happy to be able to use this notebook to say what I want to tell you in writing.
I am so happy you are in my life. Thank you for all the gifts you give me, especially your smile.
I encourage adults not to ever mention the letter, nor to expect him to say he read it and liked it. For a traumatized child, this may be too much vulnerability. But what often happens is that adults notice a softening in their child, a better attitude, more affection, more focus, and more cooperation. That’s the goal of writing: to see the child clearly, communicate it, allow the amygdala to register that the child is seen and therefore will survive, watch the result in a much more relaxed and relieved child and in an improved relationship. I often describe this process as being “like physics,” as predictable as proven science. It’s truly remarkable how dramatic the results are! And when you think about it, the seeing is the tool for calming the threat alarm. No wonder the child can now function so much more rationally. The more rational front brain is able to work!