The other evening, my son was really having a hard time listening. I don’t know about you, but when my child isn’t listening, it can trigger lots of different emotions, such as frustration, annoyance and even anger. In these moments, since it’s easy to interpret his lack of listening as a form of disrespect, I consciously work on being mindful of how I am perceiving his behaviour.
If I view it from the perspective of him being intentionally disrespectful and choosing not to listen to me, it’s very easy to react from my anger. However, if I step back and become an observer, I notice something completely different – I notice that he’s tired.
When kids have a tired brain their ability to listen and respond is significantly diminished. They don’t have the capacity to engage with us the way they would when they’re well-rested.
It’s important to recognize this because children, mine included, won’t say, “I’m really tired, and I can’t listen properly because my brain is exhausted.” If I even suggest he might be tired, he will vehemently deny that his words and actions have anything to do with being exhausted.
Instead of interpreting his lack of listening as disrespect, which would cause me to react, I choose to view it as exhaustion. I know that his tired brain is hindering any possibility of a rational discussion. My focus becomes staying calm and avoid taking his words personally, so I can help him achieve a relaxed state.
If there are issues that need addressing, I save those conversations for the morning. After a good night’s sleep, he wakes up transformed, like a totally different person!
This is what I know: Tired brains can’t rationalize. They are reactive, lack emotional regulation and aren’t open to listening and learning. Remembering this will help you approach their behaviour with empathy and patience, allowing you to support them in the best way possible.
Until next time…
12 Oct 2023
How to Handle Kids’ Disappointments and Strengthen Bonds
Life is a series of ups and downs and it’s natural for children to face disappointment along the way.
When my son confides in me about a disappointment, my natural instinct is to think of solutions and ways to fix it, especially if he is feeling sad and dejected.
Disappointments are valuable life lessons that help develop skills like perseverance, empathy, resilience and problem-solving. If you try to protect them from disappointment, it will stop them from developing these essential skills. Without a healthy approach to disappointments, a young person can feel like a failure, causing them to give up or quit.
Below are four strategies to help you and the child in your life effectively deal with disappointment:
1. Acknowledge Emotions
Let them know that it’s okay to feel disappointed and that it’s an emotion that everyone encounters at various times in their life. Remember to acknowledge your own emotions when you see a child experiencing disappointment. Being able to feel your own discomfort is an important part of teaching them to lean into uncomfortable emotions.
2. Validate Emotions
Refrain from dismissing their emotions. Avoid phrases like “It’s not a big deal” or “You’re overreacting.” Such statements invalidate their emotions and can make them feel unheard or misunderstood. Instead, validate their emotions by saying, ‘I understand you’re feeling really disappointed right now’ or ‘That must have been really tough for you.’
3. Teach Emotional Management Strategies
Help them identify healthy ways to release their emotions that bring them comfort and calmness when they are upset, such as deep breathing, counting to ten, or finding an activity that relaxes them.
4. Encourage a Problem-Solving Mindset
Together brainstorm potential solutions or strategies to improve the situation. This approach gives them a plan to better prepare them for handling future disappointments.
Providing a supportive and understanding environment goes a long way to helping a child not only navigate disappointment, but also develop resilience.
Until next time…
28 Sep 2023
Building Emotional Connection, One ‘Refresh’ at a Time
Emotions run high. Meltdowns occur. Tantrums happen.
You can’t have conflict resolution without first facing conflict.
You can’t have redirection without first creating connection.
When you have moments of despair, they need repair.
One effective strategy for enhancing conflict resolution, fostering connection, and facilitating repair is to incorporate ‘refresh’ into your resource toolbox, much like refreshing a computer when it’s bogged down and not functioning properly.
To illustrate the effectiveness of using ‘refresh’, let me share a recent circumstance involving my 11-year-old son.
The other day he experienced a really tough moment as we were about to leave the house. He wasn’t getting something he wanted within the timeframe he was hoping for. While this wouldn’t typically bother him, on that particular day it triggered an emotional storm! I should also add that he had some late nights that had obviously caught up to him, although suggesting that to him wasn’t an option.
I needed to remain calm and steady in his emotional storm – not an easy task, especially when I was frustrated, realizing we needed to leave and I wasn’t even ready! Nothing I said was helpful or comforting. I took a deep breath and stepped away, giving him the space to feel what he was feeling.
After a few minutes, I bent down to his level, knowing this wasn’t the time to question his behaviour or engage in a conversation about it. Instead, I recognized that he needed to hit the ‘refresh button’.
I looked at him and said, “I understand you’re upset that things aren’t going the way you wanted them to. I’m feeling the same way.” (this validates the emotions felt and adds connection)
I presented two options:
1. Continue with our back-and-forth.
2. Take a deep breath and ‘refresh, starting over.
He chose to ‘refresh’, and we did just that without the need to have a further conversation. We hugged and both felt a weight lifted. (this is our way of creating repair)
Despite a bumpy start, we had a wonderful day.
13 Sep 2023
How to Stay Consistent When Kids Push Your Limits
During a discussion with a parent, she shared that she frequently found herself giving in to her daughter after initially saying no. (I can certainly relate, having faced similar situations with my son.) It was clear that her daughter had learned a powerful lesson about testing boundaries. She learned that her tenacity and unwavering determination often led to successfully getting her own way, often leaving her parent feeling disrespected and even resentful. Giving in had created a pattern that her parent wanted to break.
Kids can experience intense emotions, especially when they don’t get their way, which can easily lead to tantrums, arguments, and power struggles. When this happens, it can be easy for us not to follow through with consistency, especially if we are feeling emotionally drained and want to avoid conflict.
It’s important to establish clear and consistent boundaries. Holding a boundary for your child can be incredibly challenging when you know they are going to be disappointed and push back. Trust me, I’m not always perfect at it myself.
Something that continues to help me is reminding myself that my son can feel upset and angry and that I can still hold my boundary. I repeat in my head, ‘His disappointment is not my guilt.’
Setting reasonable boundaries and maintaining them isn’t about suppressing a child’s desires; it’s about teaching them valuable life skills. It’s about helping them understand limits and that choices have consequences. It allows them to learn how to navigate disappointment and frustration. It’s a crucial part of their emotional growth and development.
This what I know: Staying consistent and helping a child understand the value of boundaries will have everlasting benefits in their relationships, careers, and overall well-being throughout their life.
Until next time…
28 Jun 2023
Where’s the Parenting Manual?
When you become a parent, you are expected to know all the ins and outs of raising a child. You may still be asking – ‘where’s the parenting manual?’ – especially when it comes to emotions. Since one doesn’t exist, I would like to share three tips I have learned from my parenting journey that has made a difference for me and my family.
1. Be the calm in your child’s emotional storm. Being calm can be difficult, especially when a child’s behaviour triggers your emotions. You can’t help a child regulate theirs if you are lost in your own. Training yourself to be conscious of the emotions you are experiencing so that you can manage them, is essential to being able to best help your child with what they are experiencing. When a child is reacting from emotions, stay curious – what has happened that is creating the emotion? Remember that they are not a bad kid, they are a kid experiencing a BIG feeling that they are not sure how to navigate.
2. I don’t say to my son, ‘make a good choice’ because in the heat of his emotion (like anger, frustration, sadness, jealousy), he feels he is making a good choice. It’s important to be specific: make a kind choice, make a responsible choice, a respectful choice, a brave choice – replace ‘good’ with the specific character trait you are hoping they make a choice from. Although emotions are natural and normal, they aren’t the reliable place to make all choices from.
3. A key part of being able to help strengthen your child’s well-being is being aware of the strategies that help them manage and navigate tough emotions in healthy ways. Ask your child what helps them find their calm. Create a list of their ways so you know what to suggest when emotions arise. Post the list somewhere that will serve as a reminder for both you and them. Knowing strategies in advance helps the emotionally charged child better bounce back from challenges and stressors.
This is What I Know: Parenting is both a wonderful and stressful process. It is not a sprint, it’s a marathon – exhausting and frustrating at times, but also joyous and rewarding!
Until next time…
5 Apr 2023
Two Strategies to Help Kids with Their Challenging Behaviours
When kids display challenging behaviours, it’s easy to react from your emotions.
You can easily respond with frustration, irritation and anger, triggering you to yell, ‘Why would you say/do that?!’
Training yourself to be aware of the emotions you are experiencing and how to navigate them is an essential part of teaching kids to do the same.
Before you can help a child self-regulate – you must do it first.
Take a moment to pause and breathe deep. Then try asking this question, ‘What were you feeling when you said/did that?’ You are now creating an opportunity for a more meaningful and empathetic dialogue which will help you get to the root of what is really happening.
Helping children learn to be aware of their emotions and how to move with and through them in healthy ways helps to shift their behaviour.
Here are two strategies I find extremely helpful to do with my 10 year old son…
If he can’t find the words to tell me the emotion he is feeling, I bring out the ‘elephant emotions‘ poster. Approaching the situation from this angle allows him to identify the emotion that led to his behaviour. It also helps him understand that he was making his choice from that emotion. I remind him that he is a good kid that is having a hard time with his emotions.
This is what I know: When a circumstance happens, it triggers an emotion and out of the emotion you see a behaviour. These two strategies will help you discuss openly the process of recognizing, identifying and releasing emotions in healthy ways so that the next time they react from a circumstance, instead of reprimanding, you can say with compassion and patience, ‘What are you/were you feeling?’
Until next time,
12 Oct 2022
How to Help a Child’s Negative Self-Talk
Kids are constantly encountering new experiences and challenges which can trigger uncomfortable emotions causing them to speak negatively about themselves. No one wants to hear a child putting themselves down.
Positive self-talk is about speaking to themselves with compassion, empathy, kindness and respect.
Benefits of Positive Self-Talk
Enhances emotional & mental well-being
Boosts confidence in their own abilities
Influences their choices & decisions
Tips to Promote Positive Self-Talk
Emotions – Kids want to know that they are not bad, nor wrong for feeling how they feel. We all feel a wide range of emotions. They can feel angry, frustrated, disappointed and still show respect for themselves, others and their dreams. Kids need to be reminded, ‘It’s ok to feel.’ These words provide both comfort, validation and connection.
Reframing – Redirect their thoughts by asking them questions like: ‘What is one lesson you learned from this experience?’ or ‘Who could you ask to help support you?’ or ‘ What could you do differently the next time?’ Helping them see the circumstance through a different lens helps them to learn and grow.
Model positive self-talk – Modelling what you want children to learn is the best way to teach. If you find you are putting yourself down, admit it. Use it as a teachable moment. Let’s face it – we’re not perfect! Let them know what you wish you would have said.
Recognize their talents & strengths – Even though it’s important for them to recognize negative thoughts and uncomfortable feelings, they can learn to reframe their mindset and focus on their strengths. Have them create a list of their talents & strengths to have a visual reminder.
Gratitude – Choosing to focus on something they are grateful for is a powerful mindset shift that helps them bounce back from challenging times and move though tough emotions. Since their brain can only focus on one thought at a time, choosing to look at what they are grateful for (especially during difficult times and mistakes made) is a powerful practice that strengthens resilience. Ask them, ‘What could you be grateful for from the challenge or mistake?‘
Over time what children repeat determines their belief about themselves and their abilities. Below is a list of phrases your child/student can use to remind them that what they say matters to their confidence, resilience & well-being.
Until next time…
14 Sep 2022
Strengthen a Child’s Resilience
As kids get older they start to rely more on the relationships with their friends, and less on their parents.
This can be problematic if they believe their friends are the only people they need in their village. Without the benefit of life experiences, friends usually can’t give the support and advice a young person needs to responsibly navigate to adulthood.
Even though I had wonderful friends, they didn’t have the guidance I needed when I shared my sadness and confusion around my parent’s divorce, the lack of relationship with my dad after the divorce and the boy in my class who made fun of me most days.
My mum could see I was struggling and recognized I needed more than she could give me. She realized she needed to expand my village. She started sending me to character development courses, support groups and leadership camps.
As a preteen and teen I wasn’t the least bit interested in going. Getting really angry telling her I didn’t want to go and telling her I didn’t like her, got me nowhere. My Mum would simply reply, ‘You don’t have a choice.’
How does expanding a child’s village help?
I couldn’t see any benefit in my mum’s decision at the time – all I could see was that her choices were taking away time from me hanging out with my friends. Now in reflection, I can clearly see that by expanding my village to include mentors, coaches, teachers, new experiences and wisdom taught me to be confident, responsible and resilient.
Teaching your child the importance of learning from different mentors and role models will not only enrich and expand “their village”, it will also help develop their mental, emotional and physical well-being
Your child will probably not thank you for expanding their village. However, one day they will look back as I did…