In case you missed it, start here with Part 1 of this mini series in which I introduced the book Love Limits & Lessons and the powerful impact it has had on my parenting repertoire. Included in that post was the fantastic opportunity for readers to write in with questions for author, Bill Corbett to provide some thoughts on!
First for a little background. Bill Corbett is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the National Children’s Alliance (NCA), the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology (NASAP), and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). He is also on the Resource Advisory Committee of Attachment Parenting International (API) and spent 12 years as a parent educator and training director with the International Network for Children and Families. His syndicated column on discipline and child behavior appears in local family publications in many states across the country. He has 3 grown children, 2 grandchildren, and 3 step children. Needless to say, he’s got some great insight to share!
Q. My biggest parenting struggle these days is getting my son dressed in the morning. He’s four and lately it has turned into a huge battle every morning…I’m not sure what’s happening here or how to get out of this power struggle.
A. Children crave “reconnecting” with the parent(s) in the morning after being a part over night (this also happens after school). Parents are more successful if they spend 10 – 20 minutes in an activity with the child that makes the child feel important and special. The parent should refrain from speaking and let the child do all the talking. It can even mean just eating breakfast with the child and asking him open ended questions. A visual timer should be set, not audible. Audible timers and sticker charts don’t work for the most part. Plus the sticker charts become tiresome to maintain. Preschoolers live only in the moment and have great difficulty seeing ahead to the collection of stickers. If the child isn’t allowed to reconnect with the primary parent, then he will attempt to get that need met by running away from getting dressed or doing the opposite of what the parent wants him to do. In other words, avoiding what the parents wants him to do is his way of getting that connection through attention and feeling powerful.
The parent could try laying out two different outfits for the boy to wear and to give him power by allowing him to pick one of the outfits. This makes him feel valuable and powerful and avoids his need to find his power on his terms.
If the parent is already doing all of this and more, than the pediatrician’s suggestion of bringing the child to school in his pajamas is a good one. But in order to make this work, it’s important to get the school to work with the parent by creating the requirement that the child cannot enter the classroom until he is completely dressed. This means that the parent must bring the change of clothes in a bag and had the child and the bag to a teacher, and then leave. It will be up to the “receiving” teacher to lay down the rule for the child and remain with him (outside of the classroom) until he dresses himself. The teacher should also refrain from showing any emotion (such as frustration) or speaking to the child.
One additional note: preschoolers LOVE when they have the power to make adults react. So if the parent is getting worked up over the child not putting on his clothes, such as yelling, scolding, reminding, etc., the child will love this. Therefore the parent must remain completely calm and silent so as not to give the child a reason to avoid getting dressed. The parent must behave as if it doesn’t even bother her/him and just be ready with a change of clothes in a bag to leave with.
Q. Right now I’m struggling with my 3 year old tantrums (like kicking me when I strap her into her car seat), keeping my monkey of a 2 year old from climbing everything (both safety concerns as we’ll as a listening issue) and the never-ending battle of sharing.
A. Tantrums are usually a child’s way of saying, “I’m tired of you adults bossing me around all the time, I wish you would give me advance notice when transition is about to occur.” More than the tantrum, I suggest the parent focus on what CAUSED the tantrum. In other words, determine what the triggers are that set the child off. You cannot just walk up to a child and shut a cartoon off, or demand she get dressed, or suddenly remove her dish from the table and expect her to comply happily. She needs advanced notice, something visual to watch for that tells her transition is about to occur soon. That’s where visual schedules and visual timers come into play. [Visual products like these can be found at http://www.StopTheTantrums.com.]
The parent will also be more successful by giving the child a choice in the matter. She could say, “Would you like grandma to put you in the car seat or mommy?” If mom is alone, she could say, “Would you like mommy to put you in the car seat or would you like to go in there by yourself?” Please keep in mind that if the parent is stressed and rushed, the child can pick up on that instantly and will become resistant and uncooperative. If that’s the situation, then I can only suggest that the parent calm down in order to obtain some success. It also works well to redirect the child’s attention when getting ready to get in the car to go somewhere, such as having a special toy in the car that the child loves and can play with ONLY while riding in the car. Or getting the child to focus on where you’re going and getting her excited about what will happen at the destination.
The 2-year-old climbing is an indication that the child needs to climb. Therefore, the solution at home is to establish a climbing device or apparatus in a play room somewhere. Then, ever time the toddler begins to climb other furniture, the parent should immediately bring the child to that special climbing apparatus and do it without speaking. And do it every single time calmly.
Q. Any thoughts or advice on how to negotiate helping an emotionally distressed preschooler when you yourself are feeling equally as emotionally distressed?
A. Please know that a child can feel the emotional chaos that the adults who care for him are feeling. The ultimate solution is to calm yourself and that feeling too will be transmitted to the child.
[See above for advice on the emotional outbursts and tantrums]
Q. My daughter is 11 so I’m dealing with getting homework and chores done in a timely manner. Also cell phones/social media/Internet – how can one give them some freedom yet make sure they understand how important it is to think before texting/posting something. Another issue is my daughter got bad acne early (2nd grade!!) and now she is dealing (still) with being picked on about that in addition to trying to handle the start of puberty, any tips on making things easier? Making sure she knows she can talk to me about anything & everything?
A. There should be established “windows of time” for texting at home, and times when it is not allowed. In fact, the parent should be setting the expectation that the cell phone or iPod should be “signed out” for approved use and then “signed back in” later. Here are some suggestions: First establish when the child will do her homework, with her input. Some kids can do it as soon as they get home and some need a break. Work with her to establish how long she needs and the start and stop time. Once it’s established it should be the set time frame every day, Monday thru Thursday. Document it and post it so that it is not forgotten. During homework time, all electronic devices should be turned in or at least be turned off and out of the child’s reach. If the child has to use a computer, it should be a family computer located in a common area where the parent can look over the child’s shoulder at any given time. Here is the hardest and the most important rule… this “no electronics” rule should be established every day, Mon.-Thurs., even if the child has no homework. If the child has not finished her homework and the designated homework time is up, that is of no concern to the parent. That is the child’s problem. If she want to not finish her math and go text, that’s her choice. Cell phones should not be allowed to be “signed back out” if the chores are not completed. A cell phone is a privilege and not a right.
If the child is dealing with a health or physical issue that is generating ridicule from her peers, the parents job is to teach the child how to deflect those comments or remarks and not take them personally. My two daughters were red-heads and they suffered extreme ridicule through the two primary phases of childhood, at the early school age and then again as a teenager when their male peers became sexually aware of girls and sexuality. The boys were mean. Each time one of my girls came home crying, I would coach them to say to themselves in response to ridicule, “No matter what you say or do to me, I am still a worthwhile person.” This repetitive script helps a child to rebuild their self-image and program their self-talk in a positive and reinforcing way.
Finally, the secret to getting a child to want to talk to the parent about anything and everything is to refrain from blaming, yelling, accusing, punishing, lecturing, guilting, spanking, or anything else that involves bringing up things the child does wrong and doing it in an accusatory manner. It involves demonstrating unconditional love and kindness, no matter what mistakes the child has made. It also involves engaging the child in warm, friendly, open discussions often where the parent asks open ended questions to get the child to share his or her feelings, dreams and thoughts without judgment, criticism or reprimand.
Q. We have a 2.5 year old special needs child, yet to be diagnosed, that we are adopting and I struggle with her behavior a lot. We are currently doing PCIT/PCAT once a week and she has a teacher come to our home twice a week, during those appointments she is bright, playful, appropriately verbal, attention seeking, silly, basically a typical 2 year old… When we don’t have a teacher or therapist here she is quiet, her play is rudimentary and distracted, she doesn’t act silly or seek attention, and she behaves like she can’t do things she normally does easily (use words, put clothes on/take them off, eat, etc.). I’ve attributed this difference to her needing the one on one attention but having three other children (9, 5, and 1), I can’t give her that kind of attention 100% of the time. I’ve scheduled times each day where she and I are alone doing stimulating activities, she thrives then but goes back to her quiet self as soon as my attention has to be shared. What more can I do for her?
A. Sounds like you’re doing some great things already and to keep up the special date time with her. The important thing is to not allow yourself to be impacted when she withdraws. Avoid reacting to the withdrawal and act like it doesn’t even effect you; like you don’t even notice it. Any over reaction by anyone around her will motivate her to continue to behave this way. Look for special ways that she can gain attention (dancing, drawing, jumping on pillows, singing, acting out, wearing silly hats, dress-up, etc.) that everyone will notice. What things does she like to do that you could create opportunities for her to do more of? And when she does do something, even if it means pushing in her chair or eating all of her carrots, make a big deal of it with everyone present. Consult the 9 and 5 year old to help you notice things and they too can make a big deal out things she does well. Brief visitors about this need for more attention and have them pay special attention to her with the littlest things. If she draws pictures, put them on display for all to see. Also, be sure to join the visiting teacher with the attention she gives her. Make her feel like the same caliber of attention is coming from both of you at the same time. And use a visual timer to time the special time you have with her. This will allow her to see that it is established and is real.
For further insight and parenting tips from Bill, check out a recent article on 10 Tips for Raising a More Peaceful Child along with these other great local resources:
http://www.CooperativeKids.com [click on TV SHOW]
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