Can parenting be detrimental to our well-being? According to a new study, the answer is: It depends. Over the years, many studies have evaluated the relationship between parenting and mental health. Admittedly, this topic is complex and the findings have been mixed. Some researchers report that raising children contributes to our happiness and well-being. Others suggest the opposite may be true. A recent study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies suggests that it’s not whether we’re parents - but how we parent - that may be an important factor to consider. According to researchers at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, women who engage in “intensive parenting” are likely to experience negative mental health outcomes like stress and depression. The authors focused on women because they tend to be much more likely to engage in this type of parenting style.
So, what is intensive parenting?
In a nutshell, it’s an underlying belief held by parents (typically moms) that parents should always sacrifice their needs for the needs of their children. These parents also tend to seek their own happiness primarily through their kids. And they always strive to offer stimulating activities to their children without giving kids much down-time or opportunities to entertain themselves. What’s more, these parents often view themselves as more capable than their partners and, as a result, tend to take on too many parenting tasks throughout the day. This may ultimately lead to burnout and resentment.
In an online questionnaire of 181 mothers of young children, the authors of this study found that mothers who believed that the woman is the essential parent were less satisfied with their lives. In addition, women who believed that parenting is especially challenging were more stressed and depressed. Approximately 23 percent of this sample had symptoms of depression – a number much higher than the estimated rate of depression among adults in the United States (around 10 percent).
If parenting with this level of intensity can lead to such negative feelings, why are plenty of moms engaging in it? The answer is complex. Most likely, women believe that putting their own needs and well-being aside will make them better mothers and, ultimately, benefit their children. Of course, the irony is that this type of parenting may contribute to more negative outcomes for all involved.
Certainly, children are more likely to thrive when their parents are happy and emotionally healthy. And parents are more likely to enjoy the parenting journey when they strike a balance that involves caring for their children and caring for themselves.
In two parent homes, experts suggest that sharing the parenting responsibilities can enhance each parent’s well-being and feelings of competence. Also, it can be helpful to seek childcare help from trusted family members and friends. Even small breaks like taking a walk, going out for a cup of coffee, or reading a magazine can go a long way in helping parents recharge and feel less stressed.
So how do you find a healthy balance so you can care for your children and yourself? Or is this a difficult challenge?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The Cure for Whining
Should they get what they want by whining? Absolutely not. Should they learn that they can get their way by marshaling good arguments and making them in a reasonable, humorous, charming way that meets your needs as well as theirs? Absolutely, if you want them to get anywhere in life. But how to help them make that transition?
Whining is common with toddlers and preschoolers. Parents are usually advised to tell their kids to ask in a nice voice, because they can’t hear the whiny voice. But whining is a symptom of a deeper issue. So if you want to eliminate whining, you have to address what’s underneath. If your child’s whining is driving you crazy, here are six parent-proven secrets to stop your child from whining. Which secret you use depends on why he’s whining.
1. Whining because he doesn’t have the internal resources to cope with what’s being asked of him:
When humans feel overwhelmed, they get whiny. (As a toddler, he would have thrown himself howling to the ground, but by three or four he can often whine instead.) Meet his basic needs for food, rest, down time, run-around time, and connection with you, or you can count on whining. He may not tantrum as much as he used to, but he will certainly whine if you force him to endure that shopping trip while he’s hungry and tired. Why create a negative situation from which he’ll learn and repeat?
2. Whining because she needs more connection:
Be pre-emptive. Make sure that your child gets enough of your positive attention, unprovoked. Pre-empt whining by giving attention BEFORE she gets demanding. Anyone who’s had to ask a romantic partner “Do you love me?” knows that attention given after you ask can never really fill the need. The secret is to take the initiative and give attention the child hasn’t asked for, often, so she feels your support and connection. And of course it’s particularly important to give attention when she shows the first sign of needing your emotional support, before that quick downhill slide. (No, you’re not rewarding “bad” behavior by giving her attention when she’s whining. If she were whining from hunger, would you think you were rewarding that by feeding her? It’s our job to meet kids’ needs so they have the internal resources to cope. That includes giving them our loving presence so they feel safe and loved.)
3. Whining because she doesn’t like what’s happening but feels powerless to get her way:
Lawrence Cohen says, “When children whine they are feeling powerless. If we scold them for whining or refuse to listen to them we increase their feelings of powerlessness. If we give in so they will stop whining, we reward that powerlessness. But if we relaxedly, playfully, invite them to use a strong voice, we increase their sense of confidence and competence. And we find a bridge back to close connection.”
Start by letting her know that you hear what she wants, and you see her point of view: “You really want to go to the playground, and you keep telling me that, and here I keep stopping at all these stores that you aren’t expecting, and you’re disappointed, right?” Sometimes just feeling heard is enough to stop whining in its tracks.
Then, if she keeps whining, you can say playfully “You don’t sound like yourself. I wonder where your usual strong voice went?”
Express confidence that your child can use her “strong” voice and offer your assistance to help her find it, by making it into a game: “Hey, where did your strong voice go? It was here a minute ago. I LOVE your strong voice! I’ll help you find it. Help me look. Is it under the chair? No…In the toy box? No…. HEY! You found it!! That was your strong voice!! Yay! I love your strong voice! Now, tell me again what you need, in your strong voice.”
Finally, give her alternate tools by teaching her how to ask appropriately for something and negotiate with you. Since whining is so often a function of powerlessness, helping your child to feel that she can get what she wants through reasonable measures will carry over into the rest of her life.
In other words, you don’t want her to learn that she gets her way in life by whining or tantrumming, but you do want her to learn that she can get what she wants through managing her emotions, seeing things from the other person’s point of view and setting up win/win situations. (And of course, that’s what you always try to model.)
So if you simply don’t have time to go to the playground today, then don’t. Be empathic about his desire, and nurture him through the meltdown, as described in #4 below. But if your objection is to his whining, rather than his request, and he manages to pull himself together and ask in a reasonable way for what he wants, then you’ll be able to engage in the kind of conflict resolution that finds a win/win solution.
“Ok, you want to go to the playground, and I need to stop at the hardware store. Let’s do this: If we’re really quick at the hardware store, we’ll have time to stop at the playground on the way home. Think you can help me be quick? And if you are really fast about getting in and out of your car seat, we can stay even longer at the playground.”
Are you “rewarding” whining? No, you’re empowering him by demonstrating that finding solutions that work for both of you is the way to get what he wants in life.
4. Whining because he needs to cry:
He has a lot of pent-up emotions about things that are stressing him — the new babysitter you left him with on Friday night, that kid who grabbed the truck away in the sandbox, potty training, the new baby — there’s no end of stressful developmental challenges! Toddlers let off stress by simply having a meltdown, but as they get older they gain more self-control, and begin to whine instead. Be kind in response to his whining until you get home and have a few minutes to spend with him. Then draw him onto your lap, look him in the eye and say “I notice you were feeling so whiny and sad, Sweetie. Do you just need to cuddle and maybe cry a bit? Everybody needs to cry sometimes. I’m right here to hold you.”
5. Whining because it works:
Don’t reward whining. Don’t give in and buy the candy. But there is never a reason to be less than kind about it. Responding to his desire with empathy (“You wish you could have that candy”) helps him feel less alone with his disappointment. And there’s nothing wrong with finding something else that will make him happy, like a shiny red apple or a trip to the playground. That teaches him to look for win/win solutions. If, by contrast, he feels like he only gets what he wants by whining, he’ll become an expert whiner.
6. Whining because you’ll do anything to stop it:
Change your attitude. Why do parents hate whining so much? Because whining is your little one’s more mature form of crying. She’s letting you know she needs your attention. And human grownups are programmed to react to whining as much as to crying, so the needs of tiny humans get met. So the minute you hear that whine, you react with anxiety. You’ll do anything to stop it.
But if you can take a deep breath and remind yourself that there’s no crisis, you’ll feel a lot better, and you’ll parent better. Don’t let your automatic crisis mode of fight or flight kick in. Don’t feel like you have to do anything at all except love your child. Just smile at your child and give her a big hug. Most of the time, the whining will stop.
Have you ever had one of those moments when something comes out of your mouth that doesn’t sound anything like you? You snap at your partner or scold your child, using words you never use or threats you’d never see through. Afterwards, you stand there stumped for a few seconds wondering, “Where did that come from?” Then, it hits you — you sound just like your mother or father.
For better or worse, many of our parents’ traits live on in us. This can be a good thing; positive identifications with qualities we liked in our parents help us to take on characteristics we respect and admire. Unfortunately, on the flip side, negative traits in our parents, especially those that caused us misery, fear and frustration, can also linger in our psyche and impact our behavior. This is especially the case in present moments of stress in our life today that somehow remind us of our past and manage to set off old triggers in us.
As you may imagine, scenarios that are reminiscent of our childhood are increasingly likely to arise when we ourselves become parents. We may not really remember how our dad used to snap on long car trips until our own kids start bickering in the backseat. We may not recall our mom teasing us when we whined cried until we find ourselves making a sarcastic comment to our own child when he or she gets fussy.
The good news is, by noticing these traits inside ourselves, by identifying where they come from, and by altering our behavior to match our own standards and principles, we can differentiate from negative programming from our past. We can become more and more like the parent we want to be, not necessarily the one we were raised by.
There are several important steps in the process of differentiation. First, you have to become observers of your own reactions. You should try to notice interactions between you and your children that seem out of character or don’t represent a way you want to be. Do certain behaviors or situations trigger you? For example, does helping your daughter with homework spark an unusual amount of frustration or impatience? Do your son’s tantrums make you lose your temper? Think of the scenes and scenarios that lead to negative interactions between you and your child. Is there a pattern?
The second step to this process involves asking yourself the question, “Could I be projecting characteristics or dynamics from my own childhood, reliving or reenacting aspects of my own childhood with my kids?” To figure this out means becoming aware of how you yourself were parented. Were your parents impatient with you when it came to helping you with school work? Were they overly pressuring, complacent or unsupportive? Did your parents ever “lose it” with you when you were having an emotional meltdown?
As you start to piece together memories, you might start begin to see the value of making a coherent narrative about your past. Telling your story, even to yourself, can help you to understand your actions in the present and consciously decide how to move into your future.
Reflecting on and putting together your story can be painful. Sad memories are sure to arise. The realization that your parents were human, and therefore, imperfect, can be tough to accept. We have a natural tendency to want to protect our parents. We even unconsciously identify with their critical attitudes toward us and often take on their disparaging points of view as our own. This internalized parent is what we refer to as one’s “critical inner voice.” It can feel threatening to separate from the people who we once relied on for care and safety. Yet, by having compassion for our child selves, we can extend this feeling to our children. We can differentiate from our parents’ less desirable attitudes and traits, while maintaining qualities that we admired in them.
Once we make the connection between past events and our present behavior, and once we have feeling for ourselves and the struggles we endured, we become much stronger in our effort to challenge the negative traits we have as parents. We can question critical or indulgent attitudes and behaviors toward our children that don’t seem to fit the situation. We can recognize that, just as we are not our parents, our children are not our child selves. Thus, we can become more attuned to what’s really going on in our kids. We can start to separate from the parents we don’t want to be and become the people we’d like our kids to one day imitate.
To read more from Dr. Lisa Firestone, visit PsychAlive.org
After being in the parenting education field for over two decades I have come to realize that the most effective parenting strategies are those that focus on the atmosphere in the home and not behavior modification of children. If you want to create the family of your dreams, you have to spend more time on changing the atmosphere in your home. Too many parenting programs focus on manipulating children’s behavior to gain compliance. They strive for a position of leverage of parent over child that often ends up in child over parent. The objective is to make the parent more powerful and the more children submissive. This might work in the short run but after a while the home has a negative atmosphere that suffocates everyone!
A friend of mine sent me a comic strip that said: “Don’t yell at your kids. Lean in and whisper. It is much scarier.” There is some truth to this pictorial pun as so many parents rely on force of will and voice instead of building relationship and attachment. Of course there are times where you will have to stand your ground with a child. You absolutely need to give consequences for inappropriate behavior but you cannot do this without some sort of emotional balance. Over time, the more you order your child around and expect blind obedience or choose to yell louder because obviously he wasn’t listening the first time, will create a climate of hostility and resentment. Is this the type of dream home you were picturing?
Research on attachment and neuroscience validates this need for emotional balance. Children with secure attachment styles are more cooperative, make better morale decisions, perform better in school, and have more empathy toward others, just to name a few positive qualities. Children without healthy attachment styles appear to have little conscience, poor academic performance, and severe behavioral problems. Although these are two parenting extremes, my personal observations are that most parents lean to the lack of emotional warmth and attachment style of parenting. Spending a half hour coloring with a child or watching a cartoon with them once in a while will not make up for hours of yelling and power struggling.
To achieve this type of dream family, you have to wake up in the morning with a dedicated intentionality to shift the atmosphere in your home. Call this new idea your new parenting mission statement. Call it whatever you want, but you have to make it job number one until you achieve the home life you have dreamt about. You cannot begin the day thinking about how you will “get” someone to do what you want him or her to do today. Although you need to get your child to school on time and you may need to get all the days chores completed, you have to keep the bigger picture in mind that you are going to create a new and better atmosphere along the way.
In order to change an atmosphere, you have to start working with your child from the inside out. Put your emphasis on their internal motivations and not on behavioral expectations. This will require you to spend some time getting to know your child better. Really, getting to know them. This will cost you time and energy from other tasks like laundry, work or television programs. Yes, television! It will also cost you some preconceived ideas about what it means to be a “good parent” in today’s society (we aren’t going to go into those today however).
When heated moments come up with your child, and they will, you have to kneel down, look your child in the eye, and whisper words of direction and encouragement. As the comic strip suggested, this may be scary to your child, not because of the evil tone you take in your whisper but because they have never heard you lower your voice and talk in such an intimate manner. This is guaranteed to get their attention!
You also have to start a practice of nurturing your family members “inner gold” to see a substantial return on relational investments. This will require you to focus on the atmosphere of your home more than control strategies or chore charts. Try making a chart of each person’s unique qualities and attributes. I know you may have to think long and hard but anything is worth noting. Once you have a list of them, how can you create an atmosphere to build on those qualities? What encouragement can you give each family member? How do family members talk to one another? What will make your home safe enough for the other family members to put this precious trait or gift out in the open for examine and nurturing? Once you have started this process, most of the battles you have been (unsuccessfully) fighting will no longer necessary.
Spend 80% of your time developing this atmosphere. The other 20% can be spent on chore charts. Here’s a quick example about how this can benefit mom, dad and the kids:
Johnny is the typical teen. He has a habit of putting his large feet on the coffee table. Mom doesn’t like his size 13 feet on the table and this turns into a huge argument every day. Mom now decides to change the atmosphere or to be more specific, change the living room. Now, there is no coffee table. It holds mom’s quite holiday items in the back room. Mom sits on the couch and asks Johnny about his day. He mumbles in confusion at this new tactic mom is taking. Mom shows empathy for his long day at school and sport practices after school. She offers to make him a snack and sits back down and eats it with him instead of complaining how this snack will ruin dinner. She also hasn’t commented once about how his feet stink after practice. He lets slip that a friend got dumped by his girlfriend. Mom never moralizes or tries to teach a lesson on how to treat a girl. Instead she asks questions to encourage more conversation from Johnny and just says ‘Uh-huh” to the parts of the conversation she has an opinion about. Frequently, mom states: “Tell me more…” about parts of the story to draw about out more conversation and information. After the snack is over, Johnny surprisingly takes his plate to the kitchen without mom “reminding” him to do it. Maybe it is because there was no coffee table to leave it on but mom is just glad to not have the battle with him. Mom gives Johnny a choice to work on homework before or after dinner time instead of telling him to get it done now since he just had a snack. Johnny just walks to his room to start on it, slightly bewildered by what just happened but with a smile on his face.
Here’s another example:
Sally is just 6 years old and very impulsive. She often runs instead of walks, leaves her toys all over the place and rarely finishes a project once started. Trying to get her to eat her dinner without talking or getting up from the table is a constant source of frustration for her parents. Dad decides to try something different and instead of yelling at Sally to pick up her toys or not run through the house, he puts left over toys into a “buy back bin”. When Sally completes her dinner without getting up from the table, he lets her “buy back” her toys to play with. If she doesn’t sit with the family, they stay in the bin over night for safe keeping. Tomorrow is another day and another practice at sitting down during dinner. When Sally runs through the house, dad asks her to do a “redo.” Sally has to go back from where she ran from and “redo” this behavior by walking. This seems to work well for Sally, not just in the area of running, but in many behavioral areas she struggles with. When Sally talks at the dinner table, dad doesn’t remind her for the hundredth time to be quiet and eat her food, he engages her in more conversation. Sally loves this opportunity for attention and finishes her food in record time which has been another source of contention with her parents. She even ate her broccoli which she said tastes like dirt. After dinner, mom and dad turn off the television and wait on doing the dishes till she is asleep. Instead they work on her homework together versus having her sit at the kitchen table alone to do it and then they read a book and get ready for bed. They make getting on her pajamas a race between her and mom to see who can change the quickest. Sally always wins and gets 17 kisses as her prize. They have a set routine ever night now instead of bedtime being somewhere between 8 and 10 pm! Now mom and dad have more time together too.
* The two examples above utilize Parenting Toolbox tools entitled: Talk Tools, Moving the Furniture, Time Cushions, Choices, Redo’s, Energy Drains, Homework Hassle Helpers, Following the Leader, and Bedtime Routines. You can get them and more by ordering my ebook here!
Take a moment right now to reflect on the current atmosphere in your home. Is it warm and cozy or cold and unbearable? What is one thing you can do differently by changing up the tone, routine or focusing on the inner “gold” of your child? How can you work with your child’s behavior instead of against it? What new tool or tip can you incorporate versus yelling louder? What needs to be physically moved, turned off or reordered to bring a more positive atmosphere in your home?
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In this Dream Parenting series so far we have explored some introductory ideas, such as “Doing More of What Works” and “Finding An Audience of Appreciation.” These two ideas provide a foundation to doing some deeper dream parenting work. It is time now to ask ourselves some tough parenting questions.
The first question is “Why did you become a parent in the first place?”
This is an important question to ask because it gives you a glimpse into your motivations and drives. It allows you to recognize why certain triggers create explosions of anger and frustration in your home. If parents were truly honest, many would answer that they didn’t want or weren’t ready for parenting. They may have come to parenting by accident or coercion or because they thought they should.
I personally came from the generation that believed you should marry young and start your family right away. I am not blaming anyone since I made that decision myself. However, I realize now how immature I was when I started my family and how many challenges I have had to overcome from making that decision. I also recognize that I am a much younger grandfather and can actually chase after my two grandsons without risking physical damage!
Other parents may have started their family in hopes that the child would fulfill a need in the parents life. Parents own loss or emptiness in relationships or a lack of a sense of purpose can get projected into our children placing a huge disadvantage on to them.
Nontraditional families, such as step parents, grandparents raising their grandchildren or adoptive/foster parents start their families after some sort of trauma has occurred. Rescue fantasies or beliefs that “love is all you need” will quickly dissappear when the behavioral problems begin.
Asking this question about our original motivations make us honest for the hard work we need to do next. It puts us in perspective to deal with the pros and cons of our reasons for parenting in the first place and provides a clear path for ourselves and our families.
The second question is “Do you really want to change?”
The fact that we may have made a poor decision to parents does not alter the reality that we have to now manage that decision. Living in a parenting state of delusion that things should be different or resentment about why we parented in the first place will not aid us in making necessary changes. We now have to ask ourselvs if we really want to have the dream family we deserve to have or are we going to keep doing what we have always done that no longer works for us.
Perhaps you had the right motivations about parenting and the timing and circumstances were ideal to start your family and yet you are still having family problems. That doesn’t make the second question any easier. Change often means pain and the majority of people avoid it for that reason.
This question is important because it means work. It means feeling uncomfortable. It requies repairing some broken areas in our lives. The good news is that change is possible.
If you answer “yes” to this question, you must then ask a the second part: What will be your first step to building your dream family? It won’t happen over night so what one thing will you start doing differently today to start the change process? What resources, support, and information can you make a plan to engage in right away?
Share your answers to these questions on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/parentingtoolbox
A major part of discipline is learning how to talk with children. The way you talk to your child teaches him how to talk to others. Here are some talking tips we have learned with our children:1. Connect Before You DirectBefore giving your child directions, squat to your child’s eye level and engage your child in eye-to-eye contact to get his attention. Teach him how to focus: “Mary, I need your eyes.” “Billy, I need your ears.” Offer the same body language when listening to the child. Be sure not to make your eye contact so intense that your child perceives it as controlling rather than connecting.2. Address The ChildOpen your request with the child’s name, “Lauren, will you please…”3. Stay BriefWe use the one-sentence rule: Put the main directive in the opening sentence. The longer you ramble, the more likely your child is to become parent-deaf. Too much talking is a very common mistake when dialoging about an issue. It gives the child the feeling that you’re not quite sure what it is you want to say. If she can keep you talking she can get you sidetracked.4. Stay SimpleUse short sentences with one-syllable words. Listen to how kids communicate with each other and take note. When your child shows that glazed, disinterested look, you are no longer being understood.5. Ask Your Child to Repeat the Request Back to YouIf he can’t, it’s too long or too complicated.6. Make an offer the child can’t refuseYou can reason with a two or three-year-old, especially to avoid power struggles. “Get dressed so you can go outside and play.” Offer a reason for your request that is to the child’s advantage, and one that is difficult to refuse. This gives her a reason to move out of her power position and do what you want her to do.7. Be PositiveInstead of “no running,” try: “Inside we walk, outside you may run.”8. Begin your Directives With “I want.”Instead of “Get down,” say “I want you to get down.” Instead of “Let Becky have a turn,” say “I want you to let Becky have a turn now.” This works well with children who want to please but don’t like being ordered. By saying “I want,” you give a reason for compliance rather than just an order.9. “When…Then.”“When you get your teeth brushed, then we’ll begin the story.” “When your work is finished, then you can watch TV.” “When,” which implies that you expect obedience, works better than “if,” which suggests that the child has a choice when you don’t mean to give him one.10. Legs First, Mouth SecondInstead of hollering, “Turn off the TV, it’s time for dinner!” walk into the room where your child is watching TV, join in with your child’s interests for a few minutes, and then, during a commercial break, have your child turn off the TV. Going to your child conveys you’re serious about your request; otherwise children interpret this as a mere preference.11. Give Choices“Do you want to put your pajamas on or brush your teeth first?” “Red shirt or blue one?”12. Speak Developmentally CorrectlyThe younger the child, the shorter and simpler your directives should be. Consider your child’s level of understanding. For example, a common error parents make is asking a three-year- old, “Why did you do that?” Most adults can’t always answer that question about their behavior. Try instead, “Let’s talk about what you did.”13. Speak Socially CorrectlyEven a two-year-old can learn “please.” Expect your child to be polite. Children shouldn’t feel manners are optional. Speak to your children the way you want them to speak to you.14. Speak Psychologically CorrectlyThreats and judgmental openers are likely to put the child on the defensive. “You” messages make a child clam up. “I” messages are non-accusing. Instead of “You’d better do this…” or “You must…,” try “I would like….” or “I am so pleased when you…” Instead of “You need to clear the table,” say “I need you to clear the table.” Don’t ask a leading question when a negative answer is not an option. “Will you please pick up your coat?” Just say, “Pick up your coat, please.”15. Write ItReminders can evolve into nagging so easily, especially for preteens who feel being told things puts them in the slave category. Without saying a word you can communicate anything you need said. Talk with a pad and pencil. Leave humorous notes for your child. Then sit back and watch it happen.16. Talk The Child DownThe louder your child yells, the softer you respond. Let your child ventilate while you interject timely comments: “I understand” or “Can I help?” Sometimes just having a caring listener available will wind down the tantrum. If you come in at his level, you have two tantrums to deal with. Be the adult for him.17. Settle The ListenerBefore giving your directive, restore emotional equilibrium, otherwise you are wasting your time. Nothing sinks in when a child is an emotional wreck.18. Replay Your MessageToddlers need to be told a thousand times. Children under two have difficulty internalizing your directives. Most three- year-olds begin to internalize directives so that what you ask begins to sink in. Do less and less repeating as your child gets older. Preteens regard repetition as nagging.19. Let Your Child Complete The ThoughtInstead of “Don’t leave your mess piled up,” try: “Matthew, think of where you want to store your soccer stuff.” Letting the child fill in the blanks is more likely to create a lasting lesson.20. Use Rhyme Rules“If you hit, you must sit.” Get your child to repeat them.21. Give Likable AlternativesYou can’t go by yourself to the park; but you can play in the neighbor’s yard.22. Give Advance Notice“We are leaving soon. Say bye-bye to the toys, bye-bye to the girls…”23. Open Up a Closed ChildCarefully chosen phrases open up closed little minds and mouths. Stick to topics that you know your child gets excited about. Ask questions that require more than a yes or no. Stick to specifics. Instead of “Did you have a good day at school today?” try “What is the most fun thing you did today?”24. Use “When You…I Feel…Because…”When you run away from mommy in the store I feel worried because you might get lost.25. Close The DiscussionIf a matter is really closed to discussion, say so. “I’m not changing my mind about this. Sorry.” You’ll save wear and tear on both you and your child. Reserve your “I mean business” tone of voice for when you do.
6 Steps to Take When Your Child and his Teacher Just Can’t Get Along
What should you do when your child doesn’t like his teacher? Should you call the principal or sit on the class? Or should you brush it off as a normal childhood grievance and move on?
You beat the back-to-school shopping blues, mastered your hectic morning routine, and haven’t had one homework headache to date. Then, just when this school year is promising to be smooth sailing, your star student comes home with the complaint all parents dread: “Mom, I hate my teacher!” (Drat! You knew things were going too well!)
So now what do you do? Ignore the problem and hope it goes away? Write a nasty note to the teacher in your child’s planner? Storm into the principal’s office to complain?
The correct answer is: “None of the above!” Instead, you have to give the problem careful consideration and think before you act in any capacity.
The negative feelings a child has about his teacher can have any number of origins. It can be anything from frustration over a bad grade on a test to a more serious situation that could potentially impede his learning. But you can’t know for sure until you follow some simple steps and do some investigating of your own.
Here are six steps that any parent should take in order to effectively address her child’s accusations about his teacher.
Step 1: Expect It
At some point, most kids are going to come home complaining that they hate their teacher. Admit it, most of us had our share of teachers we weren’t so fond of when we were growing up as well—and most of us stuck it out and eventually discovered that the teacher wasn’t so bad after all. So don’t be too alarmed when you hear those first complaints as you are pulling out of the carpool line after school. It’s completely normal for children to feel frustrated with their teachers at some point during their school years.
Related: 4 Academic Lessons to Teach at Home
Just stay calm, don’t jump to any conclusions, and certainly don’t take any action before you’ve given the complaint and your child some time and careful consideration.
Your best initial response in this situation is to be calm, to listen to his complaints and be reassuring. Then remind yourself to tune into to your child a bit closer over the next few days to see if the problem goes away or sticks around. If the complaints disappear- great! If not, then its time to take the next step and form a plan for resolving whatever issue is as hand.
Step 2: Don’t Fly Off the Handle
Just because Sally came home from school one day full of complaints about her teacher, it doesn’t mean you should pick up the phone and start demanding that she be removed from her classroom. The best policy is to be patient. Her complaints could be the result of a particularly bad day, her frustration with a difficult test or assignment, or embarrassment over being called down in front of the class. If she continues to complain-and if the complaints are consistent-then you can be confident that its time to take some action.
Don’t be too quick to call the principal and demand that your child be reassigned a new teacher. Doing so only sends your kid the message that you are going swoop in and solve every little problem for her – and she does need to learn how to get along with all kinds of people. Be careful not to badmouth the teacher in front of your child. If the problem miraculously disappears within a day or two, you will run the risk of tainting her view for the rest of the year.
Step 3: Get to the Heart of the Matter
So your child has come home and told you that he hates his teacher. But what does he really mean when he says that? Getting to the root of the complaint is paramount to you finding a solution. Asking your child “Why” questions will typically reveal little in your quest, so pose “What” queries instead.
When you sit down with your child, ask him the following: “What does your teacher do that concerns you?” “What have you tried to make this work?” “What could your teacher do to make it better?” “What do the kids who are happy with the teacher say about her?” The answers to these questions will help you to figure out if this is your child’s problem or an issue with the teacher’s style or personality.
Getting to the heart of the issue is the only way you can begin to solve it effectively. Is this a personality conflict with the teacher in which your child feels the teacher is unfair or too strict? Or is your kid concerned he won’t succeed because of his teacher’s expectations? It could be that it’s not really an issue with the teacher at all, but instead a reflection of other problems your child is experiencing at school.
For instance, if he is having trouble making friends, is being bullied, or has a learning problem, he may be channeling that frustration into a problem with her teacher. Once you know the real issue you’ll be able to create solutions.
Step 4: Get Perspective from Parents and Peers
When your child comes to you with a problem, its natural to want to take her word for it so that you can swoop in and make it better as soon as possible. However, a good indicator into what’s really going on in your child’s classroom is how other students and parents feel about the teacher. Before you take your kid at face value, or brush him off completely, talk to some of the other parents to see if their children have expressed similar concerns. At their next play date, ask your child’s friends what they think about their teacher. If what you hear is in line with the complaints you’ve been hearing at home, then it may be time to take action. If not, then it may call for a little more investigation before you stage a teacher takeover.
Listen to your child’s friends and their parents to get their take. Go to open house night at the school and listen to the teacher’s expectations and watch her style so that you can get a feel for how she may interact with the students and run her classroom. You can even plant yourself outside the classroom door as a ploy that you’re picking your child up early so that you can watch how they relate to one another. It’s important that you don’t just jump to conclusions-and into action- before you get the story from all sides.
Step 5: Make a Date with the Teacher
If the complaints last at least a week then it may be time to set up a conference with the teacher. Of course, or if you see a sudden change in your child’s behavior: he becomes more anxious and clingy, has trouble sleeping, is in emotional or physical distress, or starts refusing to go to school, call for a conference, ASAP.
And while confronting the situation head-on probably isn’t on the top of your list of things you’re looking forward to-don’t wait. The best approach is to use caution and listen to the teacher’s side. Begin the meeting positively by briefly describing the problem and sticking to the facts as you know them. Once you’ve laid it out on the line, ask the teacher what the two of you can do to solve the problem. Letting her know that you are willing to work with her, and not against her, will go a long way towards garnering results. Remember, kids do act differently in different situations.
If your child is older, then it might be helpful for him attend the meeting with you and that you let him do the speaking. Explain to the teacher that you are there to support your child but that he needs to try and work things out on his own. Once there, watch the teacher’s interaction with your child. Are you catching positive vibes and a genuine concern? Is your child more anxious or relaxed?The goal in the meeting is to see if your child and teacher are able to talk through their differences and come up with a positive solution.
And do let your child know he may not be able to transfer classes before you go into the meeting. Its important that he understands a positive resolution with that particular teacher is the best solution, in the likely event that he will remain in the same classroom for the rest of the school year. Much will depend of the dynamics of the situation, but if your child has had a pattern of expecting to be bailed out-and you’ve complied-refrain!
Step 6: Take Your Issue To the Higher-Ups
If you have exhausted all the other options and things continue to be tens then its time for you to involve someone from the school’s chain of command. Whether it’s the principal, vice principal, or your child’s guidance counselor, it’s important that you get someone involved that is in a position to address your concerns about the teacher with some action. When you meet with them, make sure you remain calm and tell your side of the story from a factual point of view. It may also be helpful to have a written record of the complaint and any steps or actions (like the previous teacher conference) that you have taken up to that time.
If you find yourself in a situation that is continuing to decline, then its time to involve a third party. If things continue to be tense despite the meeting, if the teacher refuses to meet with you or if your child’s behavior or learning begins to slide set up a meeting with principal or counselor immediately. Keep in mind that you may still end up having to switch schools but a positive learning experience is crucial for your child’s education. In the end, you just want to find the solution that provides the safest, healthiest environment for your child to learn and grow.
Like any other parenting problem, the key to solving this one is patience. I n most cases, our children are spending their days with qualified educators who will help them to grow and prosper as the school year progresses. If there truly is a problem that needs to be solved, it will benefit both you and your child if you handle it in a calm, respectful way that isn’t accusatory or attacking. After all, you are your child’s teacher outside of the classroom…so always keep in mind that those little eyes will be watching!
Michele Borba, Ed.D., is an educational psychologist, former teacher, and mom. She is recognized for offering research-driven advice culled from a career of working with over one million parents, educators, and children. A frequent Today show contributor and recipient of the National Educator Award, Michele is the author of 22 books including Building Moral Intelligence, No More Misbehavin’, and The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.
Parenting is a tough and often, lonely job. Who can you talk to share your successes and your struggles? Who will appluad you when you have a good day and hug you when you don’t? You need an audience that is nonjudgemental and empathic. Not many of us have this in their lives currently. You may have to look long and hard for this person(s) but don’t give up on this exercise. It is important. Call this person daily and tell them what you did great, no matter how small. Let them be your cheerleader. In turn, you can be there’s. This isn’t necessarily a time for confession of your parenting problems but you don’t have to hide them either. You wand, no need, to find someone who will appreciate your efforts and your end results.
Cyberbullying (well, bullying in general) is becoming a bigger problem for today’s youth. The internet has created a web of connections that allows teens to harass others from behind a screen and never be held accountable for their actions. Now, another teen has reportedly taken her own life due to bullying which occurred both on- and off-line.
Amanda Todd of Canada made a bad decision when she was in seventh grade. It was while talking on a webcam that she flashed a stranger. Although the incident seemed to be forgotten, a year later she was faced with the possibility of the photo surfacing and being shown to everyone. Threats ensued and the picture eventually released. She was depressed, as can be imagined, and things never seemed to get better, despite the fact that she was on antidepressants.
She uploaded a Youtube video detailing her bullying through the use of note cards and then allegedly committed suicide. The video has gone viral and has really struck a chord with people. Why did this young girl choose this fate? While some may blame the bullies, there are others who are blaming the parents, and not just in Amanda’s case, but in these kinds of stories in general.
The Vancouver Sun ran a report, outlining the reactions to Amanda Todd’s story from all around the world. While nearly everyone agreed that the story was tragic, many felt that the internet is to blame. Many pointed out that through the use of social networking, teens are connected 24/7. However, it isn’t solely an internet issue, though, is it? Many users also pointed out that it is a parent’s responsibility to monitor what their children do on the internet. Of course, these days, kids are connected to the web via their laptops and their smartphones, the latter of which can make it harder to monitor.
One Facebook user said, “No matter how old they are, follow your children/teen’s activities on the internet. It’s not ‘an invasion of privacy’ to be attentive to this type of activity, especially since this behaviour is so prevalent in today’s society and it’s new to everyone.”
The problem is all of this technology is very new and too often, parents aren’t exactly keen on how it works.
Amanda’s mother seemed to help her the best she could, even relocating her daughter to a different school when the bullying got out of hand. Sadly, the bullying followed her there, something that she was virtually unable to escape.
Several Facebook pages have gone up in memory of Amanda, one in particular reaching nearly 34,000 likes at the writing of this article. There, many people have expressed their condolences and continue to discuss what needs to be done to prevent teens from taking their own lives due to bullying.
Ron Asks: How are you protecting your teens from this kind of abuse online? Share your thoughts and comments with us…