Inside: The strong-willed child is more complicated to understand and parent, these guidelines provide a framework for doing it the emotionally healthy way.
When you’re raising the strong-willed child, you just know.
When you’re raising the strong-willed child, you just know.
I stood there shocked trying to wipe my tears.
Not the kind of tears that come from a bruised heart, but the ones that come involuntarily from having a toy chucked at that sensitive part of your nose. Ouuuuch.
Anyone who’s tried positive parenting or positive discipline has something in common.
They’ve battled against the self-doubt, insecurity, and ambivalence that comes along with the risk of doing things differently.
My eyelids are heavy from a late night of decorating heart cookies for my seven-year old’s classroom, only to be followed by an early morning of packing lunches and finishing up homework and signing what seem to be hundreds of school forms (and where are all the dang pens anyway!?).
Inside: Experts share their top positive parenting techniques for raising emotionally healthy and well-adjusted children.
Parenting often feels like a fifty sided Rubik’s cube, deceivingly simple before you really get into it, but seemingly impossible to figure out when you’re in the thick of things.
Instead of contending with brightly colored toys, parents find themselves sorting out variables such as their own upbringing, expectations of others and wading through the massive amount of parenting information at our fingertips.
Oh, and then there’s the small task of taking into account each child’s individual needs and challenges.
Have you ever taken the time to really think and reflect on what qualities you’d most like to see in the little human being you’re raising? Of course, I’m not talking about the qualities you’d like to see now, those are fairly easy for most of us to tick off.
I’d say it was around my daughter’s third birthday when it became clear we were in over our heads.
Between unmet expectations that a child will always listen to their parents and the harsh reactions and discipline that flowed from our frustration, we felt like we were hitting our heads against a brick wall with our fierce pig-tailed little lady.
Tornadoes. Pre-natal hormones. A strong willed child.
Some things in nature are a force to be reckoned with.
Want to see a confident, experienced parent drop to their knees in desperation? Look for someone parenting a strong willed child. The strong willed child is excellent at launching great parents into full-on emotional breakdown mode with behaviors such as defiance, oppositionality and intense emotions.
“I didn’t have fun at recess today mom, Annie said we weren’t friends anymore this year, so now we’re not friends anymore”.
These were the words of my 6-year-old daughter on her first day of the First grade. She and Annie had been best friends the year before, but it appeared Annie had grown close with another classmate over the summer.
As I inquired about how school went that first day, my daughter’s exterior appeared tough, but I could tell underneath she was crushed.
Witnessing our child get hurt by a friend or peer is hard to see as a parent. Maybe it’s because, on a certain level, we can feel the pull of that basic human need to be liked and accepted, and want nothing more for our child.
While witnessing our child having friendship problems isn’t easy, it is a normal and healthy way for your child to learn life-long emotional coping, conflict resolution, and communication skills.
Let’s talk about an easy 6 step plan to not only help your child navigate their friendship problems but also to prepare them to successfully deal with relationship conflict in the future.
This step could be the easy one, if it weren’t for all that pesky emotional baggage we carry around as parents. When you see your child experience social pain, it brings back issues and challenges from your own past. When the emotional area of our brain gets activated we are more apt to engage in any number of unhelpful behaviors, including jumping in prematurely, interrupting, offering unsolicited advice and trying to control/fix the outcome of the situation.
Being aware of the emotions popping up for you and holding back when the urge to ‘fix’ sets in, will allow you to keep your lips sealed until your child has had a chance to fully explain. When we are mindful of our emotions we’ll know when the right time to respond comes.
This piece is utterly important. Why? Not only will empathizing with your child strengthen your relationship, feeling heard and understood is the conduit of moving your child from their emotion brain (amygdala) to their more rational problem-solving brain (pre-frontal cortex). It’s also the key piece that humans need to go from emotionally stuck to feeling heard and understood which allows us to move on and work through the situation.
Dr. Brene Brown defines empathy succinctly and effectively “empathy means to feel with other people”.
When we empathize we can see things from our child’s point of view and provide a safe space free of judgment or criticism.
Great questions are the beginning of great conversations. When you approach your child’s situation with an open and curious mind you can ask questions that will help you to gain insight to what’s underneath her struggles and how to get to the heart of the situation. Some great open-ended questions to ask are:
What bothered you most about what happened?
How did it feel when that happened? How do you think they may have been feeling?
If you could go back and have a ‘do-over’ what would you do differently?
Far and away the best thing you can do as a parent when helping your child solve friendship problems is to give your child the skills to initiate and engage in active problem-solving. Working through our emotions is key, but we also don’t want to stay stuck in the land of ‘the feels’ forever.
By initiating a conversation on how your child wants to move forward gets them to critically think about what might make things less stressful next time their friend leaves them out or takes something without asking.
Someday, my honest hope is that communication and problem-solving skills are universally taught in schools (shocking coming from a therapist I know). How can we be shocked to see children as young as preschoolers engaging in relational aggression when we don’t give our kids the framework they need to solve friendship problems?
Your kids love hearing stories about you versus getting lectured. Discuss a time you had to work something out with a co-worker or sibling and the related challenges/successes that followed. A great mini-framework to offer your child covers basic communication and conflict resolution skills:
Despite any uncomfortable feelings you may have regarding your child’s peer conflicts, it’s essential you step back and allow your child the time and space to proceed as they wish with their peer relationships.
My daughter continued to talk about Annie and their severed friendship for weeks. I had listened, empathized and offered feedback but my daughter still didn’t have the confidence to approach her old friend.
Then one day after school she got into the van and nonchalantly mentioned, “oh mom I played with Annie in gym, we talked about it and now we’re friends again.” It certainly wasn’t on my timetable (Annie’s family are good family friends of ours), but she did put into place the important concepts we talked about when she was fully ready.
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