SOURCE: The Gottman Institute
As parents, we want the very best for our kids. We work hard to raise strong individuals who will go on to lead happy lives and have good moral standing. Sometimes, however, we find ourselves questioning our parenting choices, crossing our fingers and hoping we’re doing this whole parenting thing right.
Our hopes, dreams, and fears about parenting will never cease, but as it turns out, we don’t have to wing it and rely on hope alone anymore. With Emotion Coaching we now have a science-based roadmap for how to raise well-balanced, higher achieving, and emotionally intelligent children.
Research by Dr. John Gottman shows that emotional awareness and the ability to manage feelings will determine how successful and happy our children are throughout life, even more than their IQ. Being an Emotion Coach to our kids has positive and long-lasting effects, providing a buffer for the complexities of life that allows them to be more confident, intelligent, and well-rounded individuals.
Below are three do’s and don’ts for building your child’s emotional intelligence.
1. Do recognize negative emotions as an opportunity to connect.
Use your child’s negative emotions as an opportunity to connect, heal, and grow. Children have a hard time controlling their emotions. Stay compassionate, loving, and kind. Communicate empathy and understanding so that your child can begin to understand and piece together their heightened emotional state. Try saying, “It sounds like you’re frustrated! I totally get it,” or, “You seem so angry right now. Is it because Sandy took your toy? I completely understand why you’d be angry.”
Don’t punish, dismiss, or scold your child for being emotional.
Negative emotions are age appropriate and will eventually subside as kids grow. By disregarding their feelings as insignificant or sending the message that their feelings are bad, you are in effect sending the message that they are bad. This damaging perception can stay with them throughout adulthood.
2. Do help your child label their emotions.
Help your child put words and meaning to how they’re feeling. Once children can appropriately recognize and label their emotions, they’re more apt to regulating themselves without feeling overwhelmed. Try using phrases like, “I can sense you’re getting upset” or, “It sounds like you’re really hurt.”
Don’t convey judgment or frustration.
Sometimes our kids can do or say things that are downright unacceptable and it’s hard to understand the emotions that seem unwarranted or irrational. But try putting yourself in your child’s shoes. Ask questions, seek understanding, and convey to them that you’re on their side, you support them, and you’re there to hold their hand through those moments where things feel overwhelming and tough.
3. Do set limits and problem-solve.
Help them find ways of responding differently in the future. Enlist their help in seeking alternative solutions to their struggles. Kids yearn for autonomy, and this is a great way to teach them that they are capable of self-regulating themselves in a world that seems unfair and particularly upsetting. Remind them that all emotions are acceptable but all behaviors are not. Here’s a great phrase to set limits and aid in problem solving: “I understand you’re upset, but hitting is not okay. How can you express your feelings without hitting next time?”
Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to learn and grow.
They have an innate capacity to develop into high functioning adults who can problem-solve and respond intelligently to life’s dilemmas. As children, however, they need a listening ear, a hand to hold, and a parent who can challenge them to reach from within and respond accordingly.
Being a parent is a challenging and never-ending job. With just three small steps, you can raise children who are bright, self-confident, and better able to navigate the intricacies of life with ease and confidence.
Parents want nothing more than to see childhood remain a time of carefree wonder and joy for their children, an age of innocence wherein the troubles of the wider world are kept at a safe distance by caring adult oversight.
As such, the parents who have anxious children are faced with a difficult dilemma: How do they protect their children from the multitude of relatively “normal” activities (e.g. going to school, socializing with friends) that provoke anxiety and fear while also ensuring that they experience life fully and develop properly? How do they help their child manage anxiety?
There are no easy answers to the above question. Psychologist Tali Shenfield, PhD suggests that parents first evaluate the level of child’s anxiety with a free child anxiety screening test and then, depending on test results, use the following anxiety management strategies:
When most parents hear their child expressing irrational fears, their first response is to assure their child that, logically, there is nothing to worry about. While this act is well-intentioned, it’s usually ineffective; the brain of any anxious individual – young or old – is too engaged in the “fight or flight” response (wherein activity in the prefrontal cortex, the “logical” part of the brain, is suppressed) to properly process new information.
What an anxious child therefore really needs is a parent who simply feels with him- one who pauses with him, joins him in taking a few deep breaths, and then validates his emotions as being acceptable.
Once you have empathized with your child and he has visibly calmed down, then and only then should you look for possible solutions. Do this while engaging your child: Ask him what he thinks would help him to feel better and overcome his fears.
Children – even children without chronic anxiety – frequently struggle with fears of being “different” from their peers or unacceptable to their parents. If your child feels like his anxiety means something is “wrong” with him, his issues with worry will only increase as he will be plagued by constant self-doubt.
To prevent the above from happening, avoid labelling your child (i.e. don’t call him an “anxious person” or a “worrier”); instead, explain to him fear’s historically beneficial role in protecting us from harm (i.e. our instincts once helped us to avoid predators in the wild).
Ideally, you should teach your child to see worry like a tool: It’s useful in some situations, but in others, our brains are simply reacting to “false alarms” due to instinct. Tell your child that it’s possible to learn a few simple methods for recognizing these false alarms and for dealing with them effectively.
Role playing exercises, such as having your child create a character which embodies his worry, can help your child learn how to dismantle his anxieties. Use a toy (such as a doll or stuffed animal) to represent the character your child creates, then you and your child can sit together and practice talking the character out of his misplaced fears. Make sure that every time the character succeeds in overcoming his anxiety during the stories created for him, he ends up with a “happy ending” as a result.
Our fears have a way of distorting reality, making situations appear much scarier than they actually are. To help your child overcome the mind’s innate tendency to exaggerate objects of worry, teach him to:
The more your child feels as though he should be able to simply shove his worries away, the more he will believe he is somehow failing when he cannot. You should therefore avoid saying things like, “There’s no reason to be afraid” and instead encourage your child to express his worries.
Creating a “worry diary” is an excellent strategy for getting your child to vent what’s bothering him; have him spend 15 minutes a day writing down any worry that is weighing on him – no matter how small – and allow him to share those worries with you if he wishes. At the end of the 15 minutes, have him literally close the book on his worries and set them aside.
Like anxious adults, anxious children spend a lot of time preoccupied with “what ifs.” Instruct your child to try to catch his “what if” thoughts and replace them with “what is” thoughts. For example, if he’s thinking, “What if my new friend stops liking me?” he should pause, focus on nothing but his breath for a few moments, then look around and take in “what is”: The sun shining as he waits for the bus, the sound of the birds in the trees, the feeling of the warm air.
Intentionally returning one’s focus to the present in this way (by focusing on sensory perceptions) is a form of Mindfulness, a popular therapeutic practice which has been repeatedly shown to lessen anxiety.
It is usually impossible – and always unhelpful – for an anxious individual to avoid everything that is causing him anxiety. Instead, your child should try the “ladder” approach: Overcoming fearful situations by working up to them in a succession of small steps.
If your child is afraid of dogs, for instance, have him start by observing a familiar dog (one that belongs to a friend, for example) from a distance, then have him walk closer to the dog while it’s safely leashed, then have him try to pet the dog while another person is still holding the leash, and then finally, let him interact with the dog briefly while it’s off its leash. If this process is repeated a few times with a few different friendly dogs, your child will likely overcome his terror.
Ask your child to write down a series of steps to take when he needs to calm down (e.g. pause, breathe deeply, count to ten, evaluate the facts of the situation, etc.), so that he has something clear to refer to when he begins to feel panicky and confused. Make sure that your child carries a copy of this checklist with him until he memorizes the steps.
Many parents of anxious children wonder if they have somehow “caused” their child to become excessively fearful, but this is usually not the case: Genetics and environmental factors over which parents have limited control (bullying at school, for example, or a traumatic accident) often lie at the root of childhood anxiety – not “bad parenting.”
It’s important to avoid blaming yourself for your child’s anxiety; the more you do so, the more emotional you will become about the situation and the less able you will be to help your child stay calm (your own worry will eventually cause you to become reactive, which will affirm your child’s idea that there is something to be afraid of). Instead, see yourself as your child’s ally, a member of his team as he fights against anxiety.
Remember, being compassionate to yourself, as well as to your child, is essential when creating a calm, loving, and healthy home for your whole family. If you find yourself struggling to cope with your child’s anxiety, don’t go it alone – seek the aid of friends, family members, and if necessary, a mental health professional. With the right support, you and your child can triumph over irrational fears and live full, happy lives.
I am not alone when it comes to frequently losing it with my children.
My research shows that screaming is a common problem in motherhood. While there are specific circumstances in which yelling is imperative, such as with safety issues or an emergency, I confess that valid reasons for my outbursts have been infrequent.
In my study, moms listed the top anger-causing stressors as fatigue and being overwhelmed with demands on their time. Stressors or not, a loss of control often leads to self-imposed guilt. And families are too often left wounded and confused by a yelling mom.
I remember when Seth, then 2, was supposed to be in his crib and going to sleep. My husband, Curt, was out of town, so I was facilitating the bedtime routine solo. After giving Seth a bath and reading him a bedtime story, I retrieved one last drink of water, listened to his prayers and settled him for the night.
I was eight months pregnant and exhausted, so my focus, after closing his bedroom door, was on relaxing with a good book and drifting off to sleep. In less than five minutes, I heard the door of his room creak open.
“Seth,” I said sternly, “you better climb right back in your bed.” He closed the door, and I could hear him climb back into his bed. This scenario repeated itself two more times. Finally, I put down my book, heaved myself out of the recliner and charged into his room yelling, “You are driving me crazy; stay in your bed!”
Seth began to cry, and through his sobs he replied, “But it’s just so lonely in here.”
A wave of guilt engulfed me. My sweet toddler had been wounded by my loud, angry words.
That was several years ago, and I’ve since learned that being honest with myself and recognizing the destructive influence that screaming has on my children is the first step in changing this pattern of poor communication.
Here are other habit-changing behaviors:
Whenever the triggers for “losing it” are present, I recognize the problem, lower my voice and acknowledge I am not alone in this struggle, which helps defuse my anger. The response I give my children is always more appropriate.”
The freedom from guilt has been my catalyst to parent in the way that God desires.
After all, my goal is to reflect Him well to my family.
Sue Heimer is an author and Christian speaker on topics ranging from “Living a Life of Faith” to “When You Feel Like Screaming — Help for frustrated mothers.”
SOURCE: Kim Blackham
It’s normal for children to have some anxieties–the world is big, and many experiences are new and untested. Many kids are afraid of the dark, worried about shots at the doctor’s office, have a fear of being left alone, or feel anxious about an upcoming test.
But what do you do when your child’s anxieties seem to be taking over his or her entire sense of well-being?
If children can separate themselves from their anxieties, it will be easier for them to understand and manage them. Help your child understand that worries and anxieties are normal–we all have them!–but that we get to decide which worries and concerns we are going to allow.
Ask them what happens to them physically when they are afraid. Where do they feel it? Sometimes people feel it as a sickening ball in their stomach. Other times people feel it as a tight knot in their chest, or as the sensation of being hot and sticky all over. See if your child can identify the physical response he or she has to different anxieties.
SEE KIM’S ENTIRE ARTICLE AT: http://www.kimblackham.com/how-to-help-your-anxious-child/
SOURCE: Jason Houser/Family Life
The last thing I (Jason) want to hear from my wife as I walk through the door at the end of a hard day are these words: “We have a situation. You need to deal with it.”
But it happens.
I remember one evening when one of our sons was 7. I had given him a pocketknife, thinking he was ready to handle that kind of responsibility (in my defense, it was a very small knife). I even gave him explicit instructions, telling him that if he abused this privilege in any way, the knife would immediately be taken away from him.
For several months, there were no problems. Then my wife found that the headrest of the leather seat in the back of her van had been “wounded.” We asked our son if he had used his knife to cut the seat, but he adamantly denied the charge. He almost had us convinced that it might have been someone else.
We brought in some CSI forensics experts, took fingerprints, and interrogated all of his friends under a hot light at our kitchen table. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we did do a bit of detective work. We deduced that the new pocketknife was indeed the weapon used in the crime.
When we confronted him a second time, he broke. Tears flowed as we talked to him in his room. We left him there for a few minutes so we could discuss our plan for discipline. And we needed a little time to cool down.
As upset as we were that he had destroyed the headrest, we were more concerned about his lying to us. We had experienced a couple other times when he had lied, and we knew that this needed to be corrected, for his benefit and for the good of our family. We decided that the best option was to give him a spanking and walk him through a process of reconciliation.
We went back into his room and talked through his actions. We shared with him how his lies had hurt everyone in our family because they had destroyed our trust. We explained that lying is a sin, and because of his sin, he had disobeyed God and dishonored us, his parents. We asked him if he wanted to ask God and us for forgiveness. He said yes, and we led him through a prayer asking God for forgiveness. We told him that we forgave him too.
Then we informed him that he was going to be spanked for his disobedience. After I spanked him, I hugged him and told him I loved him. I reminded him that a father disciplines a child he loves, and that was why I was doing this. We left him alone in his room and asked him to let us know when he was ready to come back and join the family.
He stayed in his room for at least 30 minutes and then asked to join us. We reassured him that we were glad he was back with us. And we continued on with our night. We didn’t mention it to him again. As difficult as it is for us to follow through in times like these, we knew it was the right thing.
There are a few things I’d like to highlight from this example with our son.
First, if you haven’t experienced this already, you will soon. When a child is disobedient, it is difficult to remain calm. Most parents get angry with their children at some point, and the flesh—the sinful nature in all of us—reacts selfishly rather than responding in love. In these moments, a parent needs to regain composure, pray, and step back from the situation before disciplining the children.
You’ll also notice that we addressed our son directly and told him specifically how he had been disobedient, in words appropriate to his age level. We reminded him that we loved him, and we made sure he understood that we were disciplining him because we wanted what was best for him. We took the time to walk him through the process of forgiveness, both with us and with the Lord.
All of this took a significant amount of time and energy, but it’s critical to the discipline process. After this, I administered the appropriate discipline that my wife and I had decided on, and we both hugged him and reassured him of our love for him.
Finally, we left him in his room to give him some time to think about his disobedience and consider the consequences. This gave him a chance to calm down, to let his emotions settle, and to reflect and learn from what he had just experienced. We made sure he knew that he was free to rejoin the family when he was ready, that the discipline was over.
The harvest of godly discipline
In Hebrews 12 there is an amazing word of encouragement. God promises us that if we are willing to walk through the hard process of discipline, there is a wonderful result: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (v.11, emphasis added).
A farmer has to wait months before his crops are ready for harvest. Whether we’re talking about apples or oranges, growth doesn’t happen overnight. But today we live in a culture of instant gratification. We lack the patience to wait for things that develop over time, preferring immediate results.
The harvest of discipline doesn’t come immediately after we administer correction to our children. It takes time. You may not see the fruit until tomorrow, a year from now, or even 10 years from now. That’s why you’ll need to have faith in God and His promises. You’ll need to believe that the result God promises is better, in the long run, than any immediate result you can gain from other ways of responding to your kids.
But there is an added blessing in this! You see, God is also cultivating patience in your life, one of the fruits of His Spirit. And trust us, you will need it.
You will also see the benefit of discipline as God’s character grows in your children. You will be leading them to the Lord, helping them understand their sin and their need for a Savior. You will be cultivating the soil of their heart and planting the seeds of godly character by teaching and modeling the gospel to them. It may take several years for these seeds to bear fruit, but God is faithful.
She wanted to be in charge
As a toddler, my niece, Kylie, would have made James Dobson’s “strong-willed child” top 10 list. She created chaos in her parents’ lives. One time, she finger-painted an entire wall while her parents were in another room.
They were a young couple, and she was their first child, and she was determined to prove that she was in charge. Kylie always wanted to have things her way, and if that didn’t happen, she would clear the room with an epic meltdown. Her parents were desperate for peace, so they sought wise biblical counsel and developed a plan to discipline their daughter. They faithfully discipled her through discipline, and eventually she came to understand and submit to their authority.
Today Kylie is one of the most joy-filled followers of Jesus I know. She is walking with the Lord and trusting him. She has an infectious smile, and she reflects the goodness of Christ in such a beautiful way. The Lord has put a special fire and passion in her spirit, and she knows that it is best expressed under the authority of her parents.
I believe that the Lord has gifted her to lead others, but her stubbornness and rebelliousness needed to be reshaped—changed from selflessness to the meekness of Christ—to make her more like Jesus.
Every time I go to Joshua and Linda’s home now, I feel the peace of the Lord. Their home is a great reminder to me that God faithfully produces a harvest as we plant the seeds of godly character in the hearts of our children. It encourages me to be faithful as I work through the unpleasant aspects of discipline in order to enjoy the harvest of righteousness.
Reflecting the Father’s loving heart
Discipline is a challenge, but it is vital. And godly discipline is a combination of love, wisdom, and consequences. We are best at disciplining our children when we reflect our Fathers’ loving heart and His desire for holiness.
Most people tend to think of God as overly lenient or overly strict. But God is neither of these. In Romans 11:22, Paul describes how God’s holy love can be express in different ways—as kindness or as severity, depending on the situation: “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (ESV).
As Christian parents, you will need to exercise wisdom to practice discipline in a balanced way that reflects the discipline of God. Sometimes you will need to emphasize the severe consequences of rebellion; at other times you’ll need to highlight the kindness and mercy of God. In every situation, you must learn to point your children to the grace of God, showing them that like your discipline of them, God’s discipline is for their own good, to help them become more like Jesus.
SOURCE: Jenae Jacobson/Family Life
We’ve all been there. You ask your child (for the fifth time) not to do something, only to turn around and find him doing that very thing. A situation like this one can get even the calmest person’s blood boiling and might normally lend itself to yelling, screaming, or harsh anger.
Although the misbehavior needs to be dealt with swiftly and fairly, there are much healthier alternatives to losing your cool in the process. Implement one of the suggestions below to keep yourself in check. Once the misbehavior is handled in a calm manner, try one of the “After the situation” suggestions to get your blood pressure back to normal and restore unity in the home. And before you think I’m claiming to be an expert on the topic, let me assure you that you couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I’m writing this as much for my benefit as anyone else’s!
Before and during the situation
1. Pray. Pray for patience. Pray for peace. Pray for the supernatural ability to handle the situation as God would want you to.
2. Take a few deep breaths. As you exhale, attempt to mentally release whatever anger you are harboring. As cheesy as it sounds, it helps.
3. Take a time-out in the bathroom—and lock the door. As moms of young children, sometimes we just need a few minutes to clear our head before venturing back into the battlefield. And say a prayer your kids won’t hurt each other in the process of your “Mommy time-out.”
After the situation
4. Be spontaneous—don’t say a word to the kids, but instead go outside and start blowing bubbles (or something equally as fun). Invite them to join you whenever they are ready. Obviously, this should happen after the discipline and consequences have taken place.
5. Open your Bible and quickly thumb through your index to find some Scriptures on anger. Repeat them over and over to yourself. I’ve also found it helpful to have those particular Scriptures memorized so that they can be recalled at a moment’s notice (Proverbs 15:1, anyone?).
6. Turn on a movie for the kids and jump in the bathtub. Although I don’t think TV should frequently be used as a babysitter, you shouldn’t feel guilty in those moments when you need to use it as one (for your own sanity and for the temporary well-being of your children).
7. Start a tickle fight. After moments of tension (especially after a child is disciplined), she needs to be assured of your love for her and that you generallyenjoy spending time with her. What better way to show that than a tickle fight? Plus, laughter is good for the soul … so everyone wins!
8. Read a book together. There are few things in our household that will calm my very energetic boys quicker than sitting down to read a book in my lap. Not only does this give everyone an opportunity to settle down, it also allows for some good cuddling time.
9. Spend some one-on-one time with the perpetrator. If you have more than one child, it is amazing how enjoyable and easy it is to spend time with just one child at a time! And it could be that the child who ignited the flame of fury could be needing just a little bit of affirmation. Taking an hour or two to spend time with that child will not only reassure him of your love, but it also will be an enjoyable bonding experience for both of you.
10. Stop feeling guilty and inadequate. Every mother has regrets—for an unkind word, perhaps, or a harsh tone, or full-blown screaming. I fervently believe that God uses child rearing to humble our (at times) prideful hearts. Through this He is teaching us to rely on Him and not to depend on ourselves. We can’t be the kind of mothers we want to be, or the mothers our children need us to be, on our own. We must look to His strength, love, and kindness.
Those feelings of self-doubt and continual guilt are not from God. They are Satan’s way of attacking us. When we feel like this, we become debilitated. We become grouchy. We become irritable and short-fused. We don’t want to serve because we don’t feel like it. And that’s just what the enemy wants.
So next time you are faced with an otherwise explosive situation as a mom, try one of these tips to help diffuse both you and everyone around you.