Posts tagged Feelings

Does Your Child Push Your Buttons?

buddhastatue

Chances are, your child is an expert at pushing your buttons. Here’s how to short circuit the button, so that you can stay in that loving Zen place and stay connected, instead of pushing the disconnection even further along.

If you’ve been reading my blog at all, you know that connection is big for me. Parents tell me ALL the time that what they want most is to know that their child can share things with them, and will come to them when they need support – they want to stay connected, and they want to be trusted. Is this you, too?

When our children get good at pushing buttons, it drives DISconnection and weakens trust. Here’s what to do…

First, remember what I said in my last blog post (read it here): Your child is doing exactly what he needs to be doing to learn what he needs to learn in order to become the person he’s meant to become. Read that again! It’s a BIG concept. Your child MUST push your buttons. He’s learning SOMETHING from the process. So, you may as well use the same process to learn something awesome, too.

And here’s the awesome thing that you can learn from it. (And, happily, a beautiful thing for your child to learn, too.) Your child does not control you. You get to decide how you will react when your child pushes your buttons.

Sorry if that sounds patronizing. You’re a smart person, and of course you know that you have control over your own emotions, but if you’re reading this, chances are you’re having a tough time accessing, or acting on, that knowing in the moment.

First, I’m going to increase your motivation to learn this. Your child needs to know that he or she does not control you. Being in control of a parent’s emotions is a BIG responsibility for a little child. Your child needs to know that YOU are in control, that he or she can trust you to handle stuff. When your little person pushes your buttons and sees you react, that is scary stuff for her. She needs to know that she does not have the power to throw her whole world out of kilter. If your child is older, or a teenager, your peace, your ability to stay calm, gives him or her a safe place to land.

So here’s the magic move. It’s incredibly simple, and it’s much more powerful than you may know.

When the button is being pushed, breathe UNTIL your brain turns off and your heart is speaking clearly. Breathe UNTIL your love for your child bubbles up and overtakes whatever ego-driven, power-focused thing you were about to say or do to your little person. Breathe UNTIL either the moment passes completely, and you can’t remember that the button was pushed, or UNTIL you know exactly what loving thing you can do instead of reacting from fear or anger. Keep breathing.

Breathe into the crunched-up, angry part of yourself that can’t seem to let go of the crunched-up, angry thought that you are holding (see my last blog post to understand where that thought came from ). Breathe into the tips of your toes and the bottom of your belly. Feel and follow your breath into the spaces between your ribs. Breathe with ALL of your attention. Breathe with ALL of your power. Breathe with ALL of your heart. And when your attention shifts back to those crunched-up angry thoughts, breathe louder and deeper.

If your attention is 100% on your breath, your mind will shut off, and the crunched-up angry thoughts will float away.

What will your child do while you are doing all this breathing?

First, he or she may just stop doing whatever he or she was doing that was pushing your buttons, because broken buttons are no fun to push. Second, he or she may try harder to push your buttons, because broken buttons can also be frustrating. That’s okay, chances are you can out-breathe your button pusher. If you can’t, that’s okay, too, because you can always start again. Third, your little button-pusher may get a little worried about you. You are behaving in a way he or she is not used to, and it may be a little disconcerting. Keep breathing. Breathe as if you are eating chocolate, enjoying every single melty bit of it in your mouth, down your throat, in your belly. Breathe joyously. Breathe determinedly. Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Remember that breathing does not mean that you don’t DO anything else. It just means that you don’t do anything IN ANGER. And that is the ultimate key. You may still not know what to do (if this is you, join us for Big Picture Parenting 2015 and learn What to Do Instead of Rewards, Punishment, Praise, and Shame) but there’s a good chance you’ll come up with something much better to do than what you would have done otherwise. And you’ll do it from a place of peace, a place of understanding, and a place of kindness.

Start breathing now. The more you breathe, intentionally, every day, all day, the easier it will be to breathe in the moment. The more your mind is used to existing without thoughts, the easier it will be for your mind to go there when your buttons are being pushed.

Your child will thank you for it.

If you need help short-circuiting your buttons, check out Big Picture Parenting 2015 or call me for a little coaching… 403-607-1463. I’d love to support you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Respond When Your Child is Hurt

comforting2

The other day I was substituting in a classroom full of toddlers, and I saw the teacher comfort a hurt child in a beautiful way. It made me think that we should all be so effective at helping our children’s hurts feel better.

Here are a few tips to help your child feel safe and comforted, and also develop resilience and the ability to ask for help. Yep, all that can come if you support your child’s bump on the head using these few tips!

Tip 1: Be aware of your own response to your child’s hurt. When your child is hurt, depending on elements of your own upbringing, you may instantly be fearful and worried, automatically pulled to downplay it, or you may feel embarrassed for yourself or your child. These reactions can either encourage the child to overfocus on the hurt, or can encourage the child to try to bite her tongue and shut it down, neither of which is a healthy reaction. Notice patterns in your verbal responses and check in with your body to become more aware of your emotional reactions.

Tip 2: Be the secure and available homebase for your child. As soon as the child can crawl, invite him to come to you with all his minor hurts. At once, you give the messages that you are available to comfort him, and that he is capable of coming to you to ask for comfort and support. When he comes to you, open your arms and invite him in to be held, or give your full attention and hear about his hurt.

Tip 3: Reflect your child’s reaction, don’t get stuck in your own. Once you’ve separated your own reaction from your child’s (tip 1), reflect your child’s tone and situation back to him: “You bumped your head! That hurt!” In the classroom I mentioned above, the child came and crawled into the teacher’s arms, and she asked, “What happened?”, then when the child pointed, through tears and wails, she gave words: “Right there? You got bumped right there! The blocks fell right on your arm! Ouch! That hurt!” She continued giving words until the child wandered off.

Tip 4: If your child seems to be playing up the reaction to the hurt, realize that they are still expressing a legitimate need. Rather than getting irritated because your child is “faking”, instead reflect their need for attention or a broader form of comfort. “That really bothered you. You seem to be needing extra, extra, extra love and care right now. I’m available for cuddles!” You may also remind your child that he or she can come for cuddles anytime he or she needs, even when there is no hurt.

Tip 5: In every case, let the hurt be your child’s – you do not need to take on their emotional state as your own. In fact, what your child needs most is for you to stay calm and collected so that they can draw on you as a source of security, an available and secure homebase.

Sending love for all the little hurts!

Emotional Intelligence for Three Year Olds (and UP!)

Unhappy Child

If your 3 or 4 year-old gets stuck in The Dreaded Mental Loop of Misery, there’s a good reason for it.

Your child’s brain is developing the ability to concentrate, to focus on one thing, to repeat and explore a thought. (This is also why they don’t always listen the first time – they’ve just figured out how to get lost in thought.)

One time my daughter and I were in California, heading out to get ice cream. There was grandma! Grandpa! Ice cream! Sunshine! The beach! Everything to be happy about, but no – she was stuck in the Loop of Misery, and nothing I could say seemed to help.

Just like my daughter at this age, your little one can now get stuck repeating a thought, over and over and over again. You probably know adults that do this – and they’re miserable, too. Now’s your opportunity to give your child the tools to cheer up, manage their feelings, and think positively, for the long term. There are two steps in the process.

First, lead the child through. One of my favourite ways to do this is to wait until the tone has shifted from the initial emotion (remember that?) and then ask the child to tell you ten things they love. You can also take turns with this. A great way to practice this skill is to play a game at bedtime. Hold your child’s hand, and have them squeeze your hand every time they think of something they love (or that makes them happy, or that is fun to do, etc). You are showing your child how to actively choose thoughts.

Later, talk to the child about choosing thoughts. Point out that continuing to think about something that makes them feel sad will continue to make them feel sad. Remind them about the 10 Things You Love Game, and how it cheers them up. Remember to only do this once the child has gone THROUGH their emotion. If you distract the child before the emotion has run its course, it will get stuck and keep coming back. This tool is for after the emotion has run its course.

As your child gets older, help them put their emotions in the context of The Serenity Prayer. (God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.) Teach this to your child, and help him or her decide whether the thing they are upset about needs their acceptance, or their courage. If it’s the former, go through the process above, and if it’s the latter, help them make a plan to make the changes that need to be made. 

Emotional intelligence is the foundation of a happy life. Start now to give your child the tools to manage their thoughts and understand their emotions!

And check out the Big Picture Parenting Online Course – it’s packed full of concepts and hands-on tools that will change your perspectives, behaviours and experience of parenting, in such a good way.

Please comment below and let me know how these ideas work in your life!

 

 

 

The Best Toddler Distraction Tool EVER (Meltdown Support, Right Here)

Toddler tantrum

With children of every age, the key to supporting them through their emotions is to be able to identify when the emotion has processed enough that the child can move on.

To identify when the child is ready to move on, first allow the feeling in the first place (reflect, reflect, reflect).

Then, listen for tone to change – when the child’s expression shifts from a heartfelt cry to an “I’m stuck in this and need help out” sort of a whine, you know that you can stop reflecting and start helping your child to move on. 

For a young child, this usually means being distracted by something else (and forgetting about the little truck), and for an older child it may be just letting it go, or it may be getting started thinking on solving the problem.

And here it is! The best toddler distraction tool EVER…. is to describe something that interests the child in detail, because children around this age are fascinated by interesting language: “Look at the puppy’s fluffy black tail! It is waving back and forth! And his nose is all shiny and wet! Look, he is coming over here to lick you with his pink tongue…Let’s give him gentle touches by his soft ears.”

In general, for toddlers, choices, descriptions, and invitations to action are usually effective distractions.

Please comment below and share about your favourite toddler distraction tool, or best toddler distraction story! We’d love to hear.

And if you need more help with your particular toddler, let’s connect. If you’ve got a toddler, this is a great time to get yourself on track to being the parent you really want to be. I’d love to help! Call me to see if coaching might be a fit for you…. 403-607-1463…or take a look at my coaching packages here.

How to Handle Tantrums, Meltdowns, and General Unrest

mama holding children

When I was coaching one time, I asked the dad in the family what he did to express his feelings in a healthy way. He stared blankly at me as if to ask, “What feelings? Are parents allowed to have feelings?”

This is a very common theme amongst parents. We often think that in order to be “good” parents, we shouldn’t have feelings.

That is just plain not true. In fact, the worst thing you can do for your kids is to act like you don’t have feelings. How will they know how to express their feelings in a healthy way if you don’t provide a strong example for them?

Kids have big feelings. Parents do, too. Click <here> to find out how to support your kids when they are having big feelings, and how to set the example for them.

First, shift your perception. I prefer the word “meltdown” to “tantrum”. “Tantrum” implies anger, defiance, and disobedience, and inspires your opposition. “Meltdown” implies overwhelm, lack of control, and a need for help, and inspires your compassion. When your child is overwhelmed by big feelings, he or she needs your compassion, not your opposition.

Next, think ahead and set your child up for success. Meltdowns are caused by overwhelm, lack of control OR hunger, thirst, or tiredness. DON’T spend a whole day at the mall when you know that your child can’t handle it. DO bring along healthy snacks and drinks. Every child is different. Know your children and plan ahead to meet their needs.

No matter how much you plan ahead, most children will have meltdowns sometimes. It’s a normal and natural part of growing up. To support your child’s big feelings, no matter the age of the child, show them that you hear and understand them by reflecting what you see about their feelings, needs, and wants. For a toddler, use very simple language. For all ages, reflect tone and body language, too.

For a toddler: “Yes! You WANT that little truck!” (Stomp your foot.)

For your elementary child: “I hear you! You really are NOT in the mood for spaghetti AGAIN!” (Speak emphatically.)

For your teenager: “I get it! This whole situation is really, really frustrating for you.” (Reflect your teen’s tone.)

Then, KEEP LISTENING while your child talks or shows you his or her feelings. Your child may be kicking and screaming, but the more you reflect and listen, the shorter the meltdown will be. (Unless you have been shutting down feelings for a while – if so, reflecting will give your child permission to let it ALLLL out, and meltdowns may get worse before they get better.)

At another time, when your child is NOT melting down, clarify which behaviours are okay with big feelings, and which aren’t. (These will likely be different at home or when out.) During the meltdown, if your child is doing things that are unacceptable, firmly repeat, “You CAN stomp feet, yell, jump up and down, punch pillows, run around, or growl when you’re upset.” With smaller children, give fewer options to keep it simple.

Then manage the situation to prevent the unacceptable behaviour (ie put away things your child is breaking, lovingly hold the child so they cannot hit their sister, take a loud child outside if they are disrupting the restaurant).

Lastly, help your child say what they need to say. “You CAN say, ‘I did NOT like that ONE BIT!!!'” or “You CAN say, ‘I need you to be fair when you play games with me!!'”

And, all the time, set the example. If you’ve been yelling AT your children or expressing your feelings in an aggressive or unacceptable way when you’re upset, instead growl and stomp around, do the “mad dance”, or otherwise release your energy harmlessly into the Universe, then come back into conversation with your child when you’ve gotten it all out and are able to be respectful.

YES, mom and dad! You CAN stomp around, yell, jump up and down, punch pillows, run around, or growl when you’re upset! Just don’t direct negative energy AT anyone or at breakable things. What’s acceptable in every home is different, but I encourage you to broaden your idea of what is acceptable behaviour to express emotions.

As your next step, if you need extra support, give me a call and let’s set up some coaching time – I’d love to help you to stay connected with your kids, and to help you to help them thrive in today’s rapidly changing world. Enjoy, and please comment below about how YOU help your children through tantrums, meltdowns, and general unrest…I love to hear from you!

 

 

Helping Your Child With Fears

childwithscarecrow

Helping Your Child With Fears

Lots of children have a love-hate relationship with Hallowe’en, (not to mention animals, insects, and other common objects of fear).  If your young child is experiencing fears, one of the most helpful things you can do is to affirm their feelings.  Let your child know that everybody is afraid sometimes, and that you will be there for them.

When a child is pushed to get to close to something they are afraid of, laughed at, or scolded for being afraid, you risk having the fear become a phobia.  This type of response will also damage your child’s trust in you.

Often, sharing knowledge about how other people do things can be very helpful.  You might let your child know that, since lots of people are afraid of things, there are lots of ways that people can stop being afraid.  Then you can try some of the ideas below together.  Overcoming fears may be as simple as outgrowing them, or may be a more complex process.

If your child is afraid of something that you don’t like, make sure you let him or her know that you don’t like that thing, either.  Your child will see your example of acting calmly even though you don’t like that thing, and that can help him or her to feel braver.

Since very young children are often afraid of faces that have angry expressions or that don’t look quite right, Hallowe’en witches, ghosts, skulls, or other scary masks or decorations can be especially frightening.  For a child under three, the easiest solution is to do your best to avoid exposing the little one to things that you know he or she finds scary.  The child will have lots of time to reach new levels of understanding and overcome these fears with time.

If your young child sees something that he or she is afraid of, as soon as you have affirmed the feeling, you can try to distract your child.  “You didn’t like that at all!  I don’t like those either.  Hey, look!  There’s someone dressed up as a chicken!”  With older children (3 or 4) you can talk to them about choosing to think about something else once their initial fear has settled down a bit.  The song “My Favourite Things” can be very helpful for this (even if you can’t sing like Julie Andrews;).

If your child is afraid of animals or insects (like the Hallowe’en spider), the fear can often be softened by reading books or watching you or someone else interact with the animal or bug.  Again, if the child is too frightened, hold him or her close and stay far away unless the child agrees to move closer.  You can also sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or other songs related to the specific fear.

As your child gets older (3, 4, or 5) you can give more information throughout the year about things like skulls and skeletons, witches and ghosts.  The explanations that appeal to most children might be very scientific, involving feeling their own bones, or they might be more story-like, sounding something like this:

“People used to think that witches were people who could do magic by mixing funny things together and saying interesting words.  Like…maybe the witch could mix the hair of a dog with a pair of someone’s socks, say “slitheraniffle” and suddenly the person would get hairy feet!  Do you think that really happens?  Probably not, but sometimes people like to pretend.  People thought that it would be kind of scary for witches to be able to do those kinds of things, and they imagined people with super-long noses and green skin and called them witches.”

When talking about Hallowe’en, it also helps to explain that some people think it’s fun to be a little scared.  You might say that people like to feel all of their feelings, and being afraid is one kind of feeling. I’ve also found it really helpful to use the phrase “Love is stronger than fear.” When children ask why people like scary things, it may be because people like to be reminded that love is stronger than fear, so to prove it, they do scary things and then laugh and have fun with their friends.

One of the best ways to help someone overcome a fear is to help them to take an action that addresses the fear directly.  One possible action is to prepare the child with something to say to the thing they are afraid of.  They might say “Hey, you skeleton!  Stop scaring me!” or “Hello, little kitty, please be gentle with me.”  They might also have a stuffed toy they like to cuddle that can help them to not be afraid, or at home, they might turn on the light, cover the book with the scary picture in it with a blanket, or dance the “Brave Dance”.

The son of a friend of mine had been stung by wasps, and was given a wing-flapping, cawing pterodactyl to frighten wasps away.  When a wasp came near, he pushed the button and the thing went into action, sometimes dispelling the wasp, and usually dispelling the fear.

Another way to help overcome a fear is to offer your own physical or emotional support.  If your child needs your support, you can squat down and reassure that you are close by, or allow him or her into your arms.  If you are in a situation where your child is afraid to move away from you, you might consider giving him a rock or something else to keep in his pocket to remind him of you, or singing to him as he goes past the scary thing.  My little one has been afraid of our cat at various times, and “singing her” through the house has often helped her to go somewhere that the cat may have been lurking.

For older children, it often helps to sit down together and write down the ideas you choose to try, then try out each idea several times to see if it helps.

I hope that these ideas help you to enjoy a fun and fearless Hallowe’en!

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