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Parenting Toolbox Thought: If you think about today as having thousands of small choices, you can begin to believe that change in your family is possible. If you only look at the day as one way or the other, you limit yourself and make life continue to feel impossible. Be aware of the choices that present themselves every few minutes and take a thoughtful step in a different direction toward a better destination for your family relationships.
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In my years of work with teenagers, I have learned some very important secrets that might interest parents. It wasn’t easy getting these secrets. Your teen will probably deny all of them. For some, it is so secret, even they are not consciously aware of it. But trust me, once they know that you know about what most of them know, it will improve your relationship. What do I mean? Let me show you by telling the first secret…
“When kids are bullied or harassed or mistreated or threatened or embarrassed or humiliated using the Internet and computer and cellphones, they tend to struggle. They tend to struggle emotionally, they tend to struggle psychologically, academically, with behavioral problems. So we as a society need to step up” - Sameer Hinduja (Cyberbullying Research Center) via @Submitthedoc
How you feel about yourself as a parent has a lot to do with how you talk to yourself. I’m not inferring that you have mental disorder or that you hear voices. I often tease friends and family members when I catch them talking to themselves if they are answering themselves too. Everyone talks to themselves with little awareness of it. Self-talk is automatic and carried out repeatedly through the waking hours. Hidden behind parents self-talk are their thoughts which are rational and irrational. Rational thoughts create positive, realistic feelings and behaviors. Irrational thoughts create negative, unrealistic feelings and behaviors.
Most parents assume that events around them produce these feelings. You can see examples of this in young children who say, “You make me angry!” The reality is that events cannot make you feel anything. Situations can be stressful but they cannot dictate our emotions. Take, for example, the parent who becomes angry at her children for running around the grocery store while another parent just brushes it off as “having too much energy” with no feelings of anger. Regardless of whether children should be running around the store, attitudes determine parents emotional and behavioral reactions.
These thoughts get expressed in our self-talk which, in turn, reinforce our thinking. Changing our thoughts, and by that some of our negative feelings and behaviors, can be as easy as changing what parents say to themselves. By easy, I mean, they can be consciously controlled. Like anything, parents must make them a regular part of their daily routine till positive self-talk comes naturally.
Some examples of negative self-talk would be:
"I am a mean mother." "I never get a moment to my self." "Everyone takes, takes, takes and no one gives to me." In contrast, some examples of positive self-talk would be: "I sometimes make mistakes but I always try to be the best mom I can be." "I deserve to take some time for my self and not feel guilty." "Children need to learn boundaries and respect." "Although it is nice to be appreciated, I do not have to have the approval of my family to feel good."
The first examples overgeneralized and focused on the negative part of parenting. It is easy to focus on the problems. Finding solutions and positive reframes of the parenting job is much harder. To help, parents can make a self-talk plan.
A self-talk plan empowers parents to look at the positive aspects of parenting or view it in a new light. Parents can identify several situations which usually produce negative or distressing feelings. Next, parents can identify their automatic thoughts and feelings about those situations by listening to what they say to themselves. And finally, parents can create more positive ways of talking to themselves about those situations. Here is an example:
1. Children walk through the house with dirty shoes (distressing situations). 2. My kids have no respect for me or how hard I work around here (automatic thought). 3. I know how hard I have worked and I need to provide consequences for walking through the house with dirty shoes (positive reframe).
Every time a parent starts to feel those negative emotions bubbling up, they must stop immediately and evaluate what they were just saying to themselves before the emotions started. Most of the time this will be the self-talk that needs changing. Here are some more positive self-talk statements:
"I am a good parent." "I do the best I can." "I may make mistakes but that does not determine my worth." "It is O.K. if I feel frustrated or anxious. Emotions will pass as quickly as they come." "I am not helpless. I have people and resources to call upon if I need to." "This is an opportunity to teach my children about life and not ‘the end.’" "I just need to take one step at a time and everything that can be done will be." "I can stay calm when my family members are being difficult." "I can get my child’s cooperation without having to threaten or yell." "He/she is responsible for their actions and feelings, not me." "In the long run, who will remember anyway." "In the big scheme of things, this is really a very small matter." "Other people’s opinions are not important to me." "I do not need other people’s approval to feel good about myself." "I won’t put pressure on my self to be the perfect parent." "I will not make assumptions about my families actions. I will ask them directly." "I will not react, but act on problems with my children." "I can still enjoy life, even if it is hard." "I will respect others even if they do not show me respect." "I do not have to be abused or mistreated. I can change my life to be more satisfying."
In addition to using these self-talk statements, read books like "Don’t sweat the small stuff. It is all small stuff" and others that encourage positive affirmations. Daily reading materials, spiritual texts and devotionals, and songs can also change what you say to yourself so that you can change your parenting experience.
Most of us can relate, on some level, to scenes such as these – to ways our parents over-connected or lived through us, as a reflection of them. But when dealing with a narcissistic parent day in and day out throughout one’s childhood, the impact can be devastating. For example, in “The Joy Luck Club,” the little girl quits playing chess in retaliation to her mother’s intrusiveness. Her mother responds by giving her the silent treatment. After weeks, the young girl makes an effort to regain her mother’s approval and announces that she’s decided to play chess again. Without so much as a glance, her mother coldly replies that it won’t be so easy for her anymore. This cutting remark shatters the girl’s confidence, and, as her mother predicted, she can no longer win. Her voiceover concludes the story with, “This power I had, this belief in myself… I could actually feel it draining away… All the secrets I once saw… I couldn’t see them anymore. All I could see was–were my mistakes, my weaknesses.”
The problem with narcissistic parents is that, although the focus seems to be on the child, there is actually very little regard for the child in their parenting style. When her daughter insulted her own ego, the mother in the film no longer saw use for her the young girl’s talent. She didn’t support her daughter playing chess, because it made her daughter feel good or gave her confidence. She supported it, because it gave her the chance to feel like a winner, to bask in her child’s accomplishments and take credit for skills that were not her own.
People who feel they deserve success are among those most likely to fail when challenges arise, research from New Zealand has revealed.
“People who believe that they don’t need to work for good grades – that they are just entitled to them by right – are annoying, but there wasn’t any evidence before now that it’s actually a self-destructive strategy,” says study co-author Professor Jamin Halberstadt, at the University of Ontago in New Zealand.
The study also supports the notion that people who feel excessively entitled believe that others are responsible for their success or failure, and are less motivated to put in extra effort when required.
“When an entitled person encounters obstacles to achieving an outcome, they feel like they shouldn’t have to work for it,” Jamin says. “In fact, you should see a challenge as evidence that you need to work harder.”
How do I help my kids through a move, especially when I’m torn between trying to make their environment comfortable (e.g. unpacking) and trying to help them sort out everything that is new in their lives? They are definitely struggling, missing our old home and life. Frankly, it’s been hard on us all.
Most children thrive on the familiar. The experience of beging tossed around by the changes that come with a move can feel overwhelming, even if there are great things about a new house or neighborhood. Here are some thoughts about how to help your children adjust.
• Prioritize. While you may long to unpack those boxes and start feeling settled, your children need help processing big feelings about all the changes in their lives. Take your cues from them; put aside your unpacking and take time to talk or snuggle, even if it means living with the visual chaos a little longer.
• Engage in familiar routines. In the midst of change, children need to lean on the things that are the same. Read the stories they love, maintain consistent bedtime rituals, play favorite games and sit down together for family meals — even if you’re surrounded by boxes!
• Involve them in making the house a home. Many children do better with a move when they feel included in the process. Let your children unpack books or organize the silverware. Having a job can help them feel less untethered, creating an anchor and sense of connection to their new environment.
• Give your children time to adjust. New houses have new smells and sounds, and it takes time to get used to the feel of a different place. Point out the positive elements in their new environment. Did you notice how the neighborhood park has a basketball court? But let them know you’re also aware of the things that are not the same. This kitchen doesn’t have big windows like our other one did.
• Encourage tears. It’s natural that your children may be sad about moving, even if they’re excited about their new home. If you consistently try to talk them out of their feelings by pointing out all the swell things about this house versus the older one, they will learn to withhold and suppress negative emotions. Encourage them to have a good cry, if that’s what’s needed.
• Take care of yourself. Moving is extremely stressful (not to mention exhausting!) Even if you’re happy with where you are now, the physical and emotional energy you have expended to arrive in your new home can take a lot out of you. Make sure you’re eating well, resting and taking time to recharge with friends and loved ones. Don’t push beyond your limits; you’ll wear yourself out, and your children will be affected by your fatigue and irritability.
Your kids are coping with what may be the biggest loss they have yet faced in their young lives. While children generally adapt to change quickly, allow for a period of adjustment, and pace yourself so you can be there for them in the ways that matter most; as the steady and loving presence that makes anyplace they lay their head feel like home.
They know every excuse in the book: I need a drink of water. I forgot to give you a hug goodnight. I heard a noise outside my window. Bedtime can be a nightly power struggle for parents when children do not want to go to bed resulting in no winners. Here are some ways parents and children have both won the pajama game:
* Provide a “bedtime friend.” Michael refused to sleep unless his mother lay down next to him every night. At first, this was a comforting experience for both parent and child. But, over time, it took Michael longer and longer to go to sleep and he would cry whenever his mother tried to get up to go to bed herself. His mother quickly recognized that Michael needed a transitional object or “bedtime friend” that would substitute the feelings of comfort that she provided him and would allow him to go to sleep alone.
Together they went and bought a stuffed animal that Michael found warm and comforting. His mother talked with him before the trip about finding a “bedtime fiend” and what its purpose would be. After the purchase, she spoke to the stuffed animal, in front of Michael, and told it that it had “a very important job” to help Michael go to sleep. This employed Michael’s young imagination and helped to transfer the comforting qualities of his mother to the animal. Of course the transition from parent to transitional object was not an easy one and Michael resisted the change at first. But with a lot of patience and perseverance, Michael was able to sleep on his own, with his new “bedtime friend.”
* Celebrate a good nights sleep. Even the most difficult sleeper has an occasional good nights sleep. Perhaps it was only due to exhaustion that a child didn’t get back up with a bedtime excuse. Celebrate it anyway! In the morning prepare the child’s favorite meal. Sing, dance, or do whatever it takes to give the child positive attention to the basic fact of having a no-excuse, sleep-filled night. Too many parents do their “song and dance routines” at night after the excuses have been given, reinforcing the very problem parents want to stop. During these stress times, ignore the irritating please for water or the annoying claims of nighttime terrors. Instead, redirect the child back to bed with a minimum amount of words or actions. This will rechannel the power struggle and increase the percentage for successful bedtime routines.
* Discourage scary stories or television show. Sarah complained of monsters under the bed, ghosts in the closet, and killers outside her window. Nothing her parents did got rid of their daughter’s fears. Finally they found the root of the problem: Sarah had been watching scary movie at a friends house on a recent sleep over and had been exchanging scary stories with friends at school. Her parents talked to the other parents and convinced Sarah to stop the tales of terror. Within a week she was going to bed without any problems.
* Make a bedtime routine. Being a single mother and working a full time job forced Eleanor to use a babysitter for her son Ben in the evenings. Ben had developed a custom of waiting up for his mother and spends some “time together” before going to bed. Eleanor knew he should be going to bed earlier but felt guilty about leaving Ben with someone else and not being with him more. Once, on a very quilt-filled night, after yelling at him before school, she brought home ice cream for them to share together. After that, Ben expected a treat every night. In addition, his late night routine got later and later. It stopped being simply about waiting for mom to not wanting to go to bed at all. The final straw was when Ben’s teacher called and informed Eleanor that Ben was falling in sleep in class. She resolved to change the nighttime routine.
She arranged to have more time in the mornings before he had to go to school to spend together. She enlisted the support of the babysitter to put him in his room and turn off the lights even if he didn’t go to sleep. He was to go through the motions of bedtime regardless. When she came home there were no treats and their interaction was simple and quick: a kiss, a hug, and a tuck into bed with the lights quickly out. It took some doing but Eleanor was able to get Ben to settle into a bedtime routine.
* Share the workload. Getting Tasha to bed was work! Her mother did everything she could think of to get Tasha to stay in bed but after a long day her mother just didn’t have the patience of the energy for a big fight. And Tasha knew all the right buttons to push on mom to make her mad and manipulate her into giving her what she wanted (even after being told no). Finally, Tasha’s mother recruited the father to back her up or take over when the mother felt like she was weakening. The parents agreed to a plan of action prior to the bedtime battle and they consistently enforced it, winning the war. Tasha would try and divide and conquer but the greater numbers and the parental teamwork held firm and Tasha finally stayed in bed.
Getting children to go and stay in bed is no easy task. Parents face he limitless excuses and untiring energy of children who know how to maneuver around their parents with amazing ease. In order for both parties to win the pajama game, parents must use some special bedtime tactics to even the odds. But none of these things will prevail if parents are not consistent and provide positive attention to good nighttime behavior. How parents cope with the bedtime disruptions is as important (maybe more) that what they do to get their children to bed.