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.
Want to Motivate Your Tween or Teen to Do Better in School?
Posted: January 24, 2024
When parents come to me with these issues, I certainly understand their concern. After all, it's our job to make sure our kids do their best in school, right? Let's take a deeper look and uncover effective solutions!
At your child's age, one of the leading developmental tasks is individuation. That means he has to become "not mom" and "not dad" in order to become "me." All kids go through this and it's vital for their sense of self as they progress toward adulthood. It's also the reason your child finds everything you say pretty ridiculous and therefore, you'll see a lot of eye-rolling. Don't take it personally. In fact, say to yourself inside, "Good. He's developing a sense of self as independent from me, and this is just how it looks." When you think about it, you really wouldn't want your son or daughter to grow up not knowing who he or she is as separate from "mom and dad."
When you're checking the parent portal every day, or even more than once a day, you're inadvertently interfering with your child's developmental path. He may be bright and also have a learning struggle like dyslexia and/or ADHD, which causes you to feel vulnerable on his behalf, so your instinct is to check, check, check the homework assignments and grades to avoid a future disaster. Again, I get it.
The only thing wrong with checking the portal and talking to your child about unfinished assignments and grades is that the reaction to this is quite often rebellion. Maybe you've noticed this - it's no fun for either of you and it doesn't really get you what you want, which is more effort and better outcomes.
So rather than continuing to check on the school performance and urge "better effort," I find it's much more effective to say, "Your grades are yours. I'm sorry I've been overly involved in checking up on your work. I trust you to take care of what needs taking care of, and I'm here to support you if needed. Just ask any time. But from now on, I'm going to stay away from the portal, allow you to tell me how school's going, and be a resource for you."
Your child won't really be able to believe this is true right away, so you'll have to stay vigilant in not mentioning her school performance. Just talk about other things when you're together and be encouraging, non-judgmental, and curious. You'll be amazed when within a few weeks, you have a child who says, "I talked to the math teacher about getting more help and we're meeting after school on Wednesdays now," or "I did really well on my English test. I even surprised myself!"
I'm only saying these things because when I coach parents on this issue, this is what we see. Once you let go of the reins on your child's performance, lo and behold, the child picks them up! It seems too simplistic, I understand, but it's actually the way to your destination of an improved school experience for your child. You'll get there, but just on another road than you thought.
And just another word about grades, if you'll indulge me here. Research shows that B students are happier and more successful adults than A students. When you think about it, it makes sense, because they are not living in an academic pressure cooker all the time and they can pay attention to things other than grades, such as relationships with others. Here's one of several articles that supports this theory. Click here.
So moving from "manager" to "mentor" is vital for your child's well-being in this stage of life. The good part is that you get to relax a bit, make your child in charge, and focus more on connecting with him (at 10:30 at night when he suddenly shares what's going on in his life, much to your astonishment.)
For help with this or any other parenting issue, click here.
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!