How do you bring yourself back around to hope when you feel discouraged as a parent?
Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, psychotherapist & co-author of Whole Brain Child and No Drama Discipline, and I explored this question in 2017 during a virtual interview.
We began the conversation by talking about the meaning of discipline. And how parents can have outdated notions that it has to feel bad to the kid - a punishment - to “work.”
However, as child specialists and parent educators, we know that punishment often makes a child feel discouraged. And if they are an emotionally intense child it triggers a retaliation response where they become more reactive towards you.
Consider the impulsive child with ADHD.
Recently, we celebrated my 11-year old nephew’s golden birthday at the Mall of America’s indoor amusement park. The lights, stimulation, and overall excitement made it an extremely difficult environment to gain his attention.
My nephew ran from ride-to-ride without listening to what the other kids or adults wanted. It appeared as though he didn’t care about anyone else and that he was deliberately ignoring instruction.
While his mom was in the food court, Auntie Sammy (me!) was in charge. I had to take a beat to figure out how I could elicit better listening so everyone could have more fun together.
I won’t lie – punishment for running ahead crossed my mind.
Fortunately, I’m well practiced at being a behavior detective and considering what’s really happening beneath the behavior. So, after grounding myself with deep breaths and getting into a space where I could be more effective, I decided to focus on meeting him where he was at.
Here’s how our conversation went (in line for the surfboard ride):
Me: “I can see you’re really excited. I bet you have a whole list of rides you want to do.”
Him: “I do!! And everyone is so slow. There might not be enough time to do them all.”
Me: (Whoa. I didn’t expect that. Pause to think about what to say next.) “Hmm, yes that would be frustrating if you didn’t get to go on everything you want. Especially because it’s YOUR birthday.”
Him: “Yeah! And my favorite cousin wants to go on different rides. She never goes with me.”
Me: “Oh! I didn’t notice that. It seems kind of lonely to have to go on rides by yourself!”
Him: “I guess so.”
Me: “Well, it IS your birthday – AND I want you to go on the rides you want – but it’s also nice to be with your cousins to celebrate together. Maybe we could plan the next two rides together and each person gets to choose one.”
Him: (Noticeably relaxed in his body) “Ok.”
So, what happened in his brain here?
We bypassed the discipline topic, which would have triggered a fight about how unfair it was simply for being excited on his birthday, and addressed the front burner issue: big, uncommunicated emotions.
Children and parents both feel discouraged when they don’t understand one another.
As adults, we cannot expect kids to initiate problem solving in situations that are above their capacity.
We can support them by seeing/acknowledging where their behavior is coming from (think: uncommunicated emotions), practicing connectivity, and opening the door for collaboration.
With the New Year (and New Year Resolutions) upon us, I invite you to consider how you want your relationship to feel with your child.
If you feel discouraged, you might need a mind-body refresh. Can you step away from your child(ren) for a couple hours to do something that’s fun?
Or maybe you need to seek support from someone who is trained to walk alongside parents and offer specific behavior tools that uplift you and your family.
I’m here to encourage -- and equip – you.
Let me know how you want your relationship with your child to feel in 2022 -- I love hearing from you!
P.S. We have 63 Google Reviews with a 5-star rating here. Mom, Jamie, wrote: “This program has components of some of the most effective behavioral interventions known, coordinated perfectly together, to create one of the best behavioral programs I’ve encountered. I truly believe this program cannot only change a life, but it can also save a life.”
P.P.S If you want parenting tactics that create more peace at home I have 2 open spots. Book an Assessment Session here to see if we can help.
Continuing education, advanced training, and parent coach certification for professionals who support intense kids and their families. View my mental health Ted Talk on helping families heal from stress here.
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