Category: Parenting Techniques

Young little girl hugging her mother while looking at camera.

Can Children Bully Their Parents?

The notion of child bullies is nothing new. We often hear about kids bullying other kids, which unfortunately can lead to a number of significant consequences, including triggering self-harm, or worse, suicide for the bullying victim. Despite this, bullying has become so commonplace, especially within the last century or so, that the “playground bully” has become a veritable archetype in coming-of-age stories and school-based narratives. That being said, what motivates children to bully others? And what happens when this bullying is taken home?

Lesser known is the fact that children can actually bully their own parents. It’s hard to believe at first, especially when we consider the age and size discrepancies, as well as the difference in authority.  However, this happens more frequently than many of us may realize. Psychotherapist, author, and public speaker, Dr. Sean Grover has more than 20 years of experience working with both adults and children in his practice. In that time, he’s witnessed numerous cases of adults whom he feels were being bullied by their children. According to him, these parents and their children come from various cultures and communities. What connects them, however, is three commonly occurring scenarios which lead to this unique and harmful relationship:

Three Common Ties to Child Bullies

  • The parents were bullied by their own parents.
  • The parents, themselves, are narcissistic.
  • The parents had parents that were absent or neglectful.

These three characteristics appear to be the common threads which link such instances of dominance-reversal and parent-abuse together. Understanding them can help explain why kids may choose to bully their parents as well as why the parents have fallen into the role of bullying victim. Kids may act in such a way that is bullying to others for a variety of reasons. Among the most common, according to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, are the experience of physical abuse or turmoil in the home, or a desire to stand out to others in a way that they have learned garners them the most attention. More often than not, bullies, themselves, have been or are being bullied, oftentimes by those who are bigger and stronger than they are. Unfortunately, their bullies are often found at home. When this situation is reversed, however, explaining this behavior becomes a bit more complex.

When Parents Have Been Bullied By Their Own Parents

One of the most common scenarios observed in parents who are bullied by their children is that they had also been victim to bullying by their own parents. In other words, this “culture” of bullying and abuse passes down from one generation to the next. The victims remain victims, only now the perpetrators of the abuse are the children.

Because these parents had been bullied when they were young, they may compensate by being overly liberal with their own children. These parents are effectively attempting to undo their own history of abuse by allowing their children the freedom they were denied. However, freedom in excess can be dangerous. After all, kids require guidance in order to grow and develop in a healthy manner. That being said, very recently, there has been a backlash against overly authoritarian parenting techniques of the past. Because of this, in an attempt to distance themselves from these methods, many parents today may find themselves falling towards the opposite ends of the spectrum and being too permissive.

Though their hearts are in the right place, they consequently leave their child’s behavior unregulated and undisciplined. This means that the child may lack a developed sense of boundaries or what kind of behavior is acceptable. Not understanding boundaries or not being checked when those boundaries are crossed contributes to repeat behavior, which ultimately leads to bullying.

When Parents Were the Victims of Neglect

Sometimes, however, the parents weren’t abused but instead were neglected by their own parents. This leads to a different set of challenges. For example, adults who have grown up with parents that were absent or neglectful may not know how to act as a parent themselves. Without a parenting model to go by, many adults find themselves overwhelmed by this new role. They might defer difficult or unpopular decisions, like those having to do with discipline or rule enforcement, thereby shifting the burden of parenting from themselves to their children.

Now initially, many children may jump at the opportunity to seize control from their parents, but in reality they are completely unprepared to manage themselves successfully. When parents don’t provide the necessary guidance a child needs to flourish, they will grow frustrated and, as a result, become abusive.

What Happens When Parents are Narcissistic

The third most common characteristic of parents who are bullied by their children are that the parents, themselves, are narcissistic. Essentially what this means is that these parents often don’t truly listen to their children and are more preoccupied with their own wants and needs. They will likely monopolize conversations, make frequent comparisons to themselves even when it’s not warranted, and they will react with opposition towards their children acting in a manner that is unique or individualistic. This is because these parents would like their children to develop in a way that is the most similar to themselves. While there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to recognize aspect of oneself in one’s children, kids are ultimately their own people. Not recognizing this can mean compromising a child’s need to express themselves and use their own voices.

From the child’s perspective, they may feel as though their parents are looking past them rather than at them. A desire for recognition, appreciation, and respect can lead to frequent instances of “acting out.” This is what evolves into bullying behavior. In an effort to break free from their parent’s self-absorption, these children will try to make everything about them, their choices motivated by anger and frustration. Narcissistic parenting results in a lack of emotional fulfillment for the children. Because these needs aren’t being met, a conflict arises between the parents and their kids who feel deprived. These patterns, left unrecognized and unchecked can ultimately lead to estrangement between parent and child.

Breaking the Cycle can Break the Habit

By recognizing these cycles of behavior and their causes we can properly address the problem of children bullying their parents. Therapists often help bring these issues to light and guide both parents and children in ways to alter their communication and behavior so that it is mutually beneficial, rather than conflicting or abusive. The past affects the present, and this holds especially true when we look at how our childhoods can affect how we raise our own kids in the present and future.

For family therapy options in Boca Raton, please call our office @ 800-378-9354.

Many parents dread the day their child grows old enough to leave the nest. It’s not always easy to see the baby you once held in your arms grow too big for you to carry, and then eventually it will be time for them to leave for school or to strike out on their own. Nevertheless it’s an important milestone, both for parent and child. This will be the moment when your child truly forges their own independence and takes that necessary step into adulthood. For many of us, the worry that accompanies this departure largely stems from our own experiences and transition. We certainly had our own hopes, dreams, fears, and anxieties; we had our own successes and made our own mistakes.

It’s likely every parent’s hope that you can protect your children as much as possible from the harsh realities of the world that you may have faced at one point or another. It is these worries that are harbored the day your child announces they’re ready to leave, and as happy as you may want to be for them, it’s perfectly natural for you to miss them and for you to want to keep them safe as you always have.

There is no set way to make this moment or process easy, but there are some ways to make this transition more manageable for you and your child. Below are some tips that can help prepare your child for “leaving the nest” and make you feel safer as well:

1. Keep Communication Open

On first glance this seems simple, but talk really is the most powerful tool we have, both amongst ourselves and with our children. Of course, you might find that your child thinks they can manage perfectly well on their own without any of your help, but this is seldom the case. Regular contact is really important for both parent and child, to maintain a healthy support system that will allow your child to grow as an adult and as an individual. While texting may seem sometimes like a convenient alternative, particularly for your child, it cannot and should not replace hearing each other’s voices, as this can be an important way to strengthen your bond and reestablish connection over long distances.

2. Prepare for Rejection

This is probably one of the most difficult experiences for parents. Rejection has many forms; perhaps its when your kid tells you they’re going home and they mean back to their dorm or apartment, or they don’t tell you that they’re spending Thanksgiving or some other holiday with their friend or significant other’s family. Just keep in mind that while this feeling of loss may be painful, it’s not because they’re disregarding your importance as their parent. They’re just trying to feel autonomous so try not to take these instances too personally and discuss ways that you can spend time with them as well.

3. Don’t Lecture; Discuss

There is a fine line between discussion and lecture. A discussion allows for two voices to exchange ideas whereas a lecture is a lot more one-sided and dictatorial. Keep in mind that young adults, while still immature in a lot of ways, still want to be treated like adults. Your child will want you to hear their opinions and, more importantly, value them. Don’t lecture them on what they’re not doing or not doing right, instead ask them questions and listen to what they have to say. Treat them with the same respect you would a friend or peer, even though they’re still your child. They want to know that what they say matters.

4. Leave Room for Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. Chances are you did growing up and your kid will too. While getting in trouble is not good, everyone is prone to the occasional poor decision making and having to deal with the consequences. For your child perhaps this may be getting notice from their school for breaking a rule or getting a ticket, or even getting fired from their job. In any case they will have to deal with the repercussions of their own choices, and likely won’t need further consequence depending on the offence. If they try to come to you to talk about their problems and are met with hostility they will likely not do so again in the future, which can potentially lead to them getting in even more trouble since they’ll feel as though they can’t ask for help. Of course, judgment is key to determining whether or not a situation requires further intervention, but just be mindful that they’re still learning how to be an adult and that means learning to be responsible even when they’re on their own.

5. Consult, Don’t Pressure

This one may be tricky. As parents you want what is best for your child, even if they don’t always see that themselves. However, you must try to remember that what is best for them may not necessarily be the same as what was best for you at that age, and that their happiness is also important. For example, you might want your child to become a doctor or lawyer, but perhaps they love writing and want to major in English. Rather than pressuring them to follow a path they have no interest in and causing school to become a chore, allow them to pursue their own goals and ambitions, and encourage them to see the benefits and drawbacks of each career path they’re interested in pursuing. Ultimately if they’re going to be studying for years and working for years after, its a good idea for them to enjoy the field they’re working in. Let your child and their advisors craft the curriculum that will work best for them. If all goes well it won’t be a waste of money, even if it may not have been your first choice of study when you were in school. This also can be applied to a number of other situations in which your child will seek your input and advice but will pull back if they feel as though they’re being pressured into doing something they won’t enjoy. Allow them to come to you and feel supported. In this way you’re opening up an avenue for communication that enables them to keep you updated with their lives and respect your views and opinions on various matters when they come to you for help.

Having your child leave home isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be so stressful and torturous either. By following these guidelines you can learn how to communicate with your child so as to allow them their independence whilst simultaneously maintaining a loving, trusting relationship with them where they know they can come to you when they need you. And they will.

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Supporting a Parent Who Lost a Child

Losing a child is one of the most difficult things that a person can go through.  No matter how old the child is, the pain is going to be some of the strongest you have ever experienced.  If you are a parent who lost a child,  you can probably count the things that people have said to you that you wish they had not.  Many people may think that they are trying to be comforting and helpful, but sometimes their comments feel more like a swift kick to the shins.  If you are struggling for what to say to someone who is grieving the loss of a child, here are a few options of what not to say and maybe some things that you could say instead.

Four Things You Should Never Say To A Parent Who Lost A Child

#1 Everything Happens for a Reason

Everything does not necessarily happen for a reason.  At least not that we of this world know about.  Sometimes life just does not make sense.  We all want for the world to be a safe place all the time, but that just is not the case.  Losing a child or knowing someone who has lost a child is one of the fastest ways to feel how unsafe the world can be.  One of the best things that you can say to grieving parents is that the death of their child does not make sense, that it is not fair, and that you wish there was something you could do to take away some of their suffering.

#2  Time Heals All Wounds

This is not entirely true either.  Rather than healing all wounds, time can soften a wound and change the ways in which grief effects you.  No matter how much time passes, not all wounds are going to heal.  The wound of losing a child will stay with you forever, but you will be able to experience it in different ways as you get further from the death.  It could be a good idea for you to ask the grieving person what you can do to help.  You could also just let him or her know that you are there and you are available to help if you are needed.

#3  Be Thankful

Telling someone to be thankful when he or she has just lost one of the most important things in his or her life will seem insensitive and like you do not understand the pain that is truly going on.  The most common things that others tell grieving parents to be thankful for is that living children, that they had the child at all, or that they can have more children.  The people who bring up these things often do not know if these are really the things that the parent should be thankful for.  These parents may not be able to have more children.  They may not have more children.  And they are more thankful than anyone could ever know for the time they had with their deceased child.  Their gratitude for every single moment they had with that child is what keeps them from staying in bed all day and choosing to leave the world behind.  Rather than telling the parent to be thankful, you should tell him or her that you are thankful for the time you had with the child, that you are thankful for them, and that you are thankful for their friendship.

 #4  Move on, or Let Go

When you tell a parent grieving the loss of a child to move on and get over it, you are causing that parent pain and you are rubbing salt into an already gaping wound.  The only things that these parents have to hold on to is the memories of this child and the love for him or her.  There is no moving on from that.  These grieving parents will always have both of those things.  They will not stop loving and thinking about and caring for a child who is lost to them.  They will not give up on a child who they would have gladly traded places with.

As mentioned earlier, it gets a little easier to carry around the weight of missing someone so much.  The hurt gets a little softer and more manageable, but there is not going to be a time when letting go of a lost child can truly happen.  Instead, let the parents know that you are there to walk beside them and hold on to them.  That is really what they need the most.

For support and advice on how to cope with the loss of a child, please call our Boca Raton office.

preteen daughter listening to music and rolling eyes with her mother trying to talk to her

Staying Close With Teenage Daughters

When your daughter goes from being your adorable little girl to the difficult preteen stage now called “the tweens”, it can be daunting for you.  Girls of that age can be moody, self-centered, overdramatic, surly, condescending, and prone to throwing tantrums.  Tween girls can also take on mature demeanors and be affectionate and very kind, but the hormones that are flooding their changing bodies sometimes make it more important for them to feel like they are figuring out their place in the world.  This can often come at the expense of their family’s feelings among other things.  She is likely to be working very hard to feel grown up and independent which means that it may be hard for her to show her need and affection for you as her parent.

If you are willing to adjust your thinking to the changing needs of your growing preteen daughter, this could be the perfect opportunity to keep your relationship solid so that you can both weather the coming years together.

Five Tips To Stay Close With Your Preteen Daughter

1. Give her some independence

It is normal for your preteen daughter to want to have some freedom from you.  She should be able to make some of her own choices.  Trying to control all of her choices will only be inviting rebellion.  If you can find appropriate ways for your daughter to make some of her own choices, then she will not need to rebel.  She is not always going to make the right choices, but even adults do not do the right thing all the time.

2. Encourage the things she is passionate about.

Any place that your daughter can feel confident and competent is a good thing.  She will be able to lose herself in the activity and forget everything else.  When she finds something that she is passionate about – it could be sports, painting, singing, dancing, or anything else – encourage her to continue doing it.  Help her to make it possible to continue doing the things that she loves the most.  It should be her decision rather than something that you or other family members push her towards.

3. Schedule quality time with your daughter.

In recent years, there has been a big push for families creating time to spend together.  Take that notion one step further and schedule time for you to spend with your daughter alone.  Choose a time each week when she is unlikely to have other conflicts like school or opportunities to be with friends, and choose something that you both like to do.  Even something as simple as taking a walk together is enough.  You are taking this time to seek a connection with her so that she knows that you care about her and understand that her life has meaning.

4. Insist that your preteen daughter get at least nine hours of sleep.

It is going to start to be harder for her to fall asleep.  With everything that is going on in her body, getting enough sleep can be difficult.  Science has attributed some of the moodiness of teenagers to not getting enough sleep which causes too much cortisol to stay in their bodies making them edgy and difficult to deal with.  She may fight you, but an earlier bedtime is going to be better for her in the long run.  If she is having trouble falling asleep, teach her some relaxation exercises so that she is at least getting some rest while waiting to fall asleep.

5. Talk about anything she wants to talk about.

Because of her age and her proximity to the teenage years, your daughter is going want information about love and sex.  She has certainly picked up some information along the way, but it has been proven that kids who are close with their parents or kids who are free to talk about what they want to know with their parents tend to be better equipped to deal with situations when they arise.  Teaching your daughter to walk away from any situation that is too much for her to handle is one of the best things that you can do.  Make it okay for your daughter to talk to you about anything and everything that she has questions about.  And be honest with your answers.

Six Healthy Ways to Help Your Child Cope with Divorce

It is not difficult to imagine the difficulty that children often have when their parents get divorced.  Many parents, even those who both want to be involved in the lives of their children and those who truly love their children more than anything else, sometimes have a difficult time figuring out how to make the best out of what is going to be a tough situation all around.  When you are hurting, it is hard to wade through your own feelings and focus on the feelings of your child.  He or she is going to have some very specific emotions surrounding the breakup of your family, but you can help your child work through some of the issues.  You cannot heal all of the pain that your child is going to experience, but you can help him or her to cope with the disappointments and the difficulties that come with divorce.

1. Make sure your child knows that he or she is loved.

There are lots of situations when children will blame themselves for their parents’ divorce.  They think that if only they were better behaved or more fun than their parents would have stayed together.  While you know that this is not true, your child may not.  Continually reassure your child that he or she is the most important thing in your life and that you love him or her.  Explain to him or her that while sometimes adults do not want to be together anymore, that does not mean that he or she has done anything wrong or is not loved.

2. Talk honestly about the situation.

Sometimes parents let children down.  When one parents does not show up at the appointed time, the child will be disappointed.  Even adults make big mistakes.  Let your child know the truth about the situation.  If you do not understand the motivations of the child’s other parents, say as much, but stay away from bad mouthing or talking down about your child’s other parent.  Let your child talk honestly about how he or she feels.

3. Encourage open communication.

It is not just when one parent lets down the child that he or she should be able to talk about feelings.  Your child should be talking to both of his or her parents about the feelings that are coming out of your decision to divorce.  Encourage your child to discuss his or her feelings without anger or yelling, but still with honestly.  He or she should be able to express disappointment, feelings of loss, loneliness, or hurt.

4. Be willing to change the arrangement with your ex to make your child a priority.

Consistency is important.  So working out a schedule with your ex that will allow your child to know when he or she has to be in a certain location can be very beneficial for his or her mental health.  You have to take your schedule and your ex’s schedule into account, but if there are days that are regularly difficult or the schedules do not meld well than you need to rethink your arrangement.

5. Get other adults involved.

If you are lucky enough to have other adults in your life who love your child than you should get them more involved in the life of the child.  Maybe a grandparent or a friend could pick your child up from school one day a week and get him or her started with homework or an afterschool activity.  Other adults can be role models for your child just as you can.  Getting others involved with your child can give him or her an outlet for some of the feelings that are difficult to express to you or your ex.

6. Regardless of your feelings, make the transitions of your child peaceful.

When your child is going back and forth between you and your ex, there is the potential for problems.  Keep in mind the feelings of your child when you are going back and forth.  It is very easy for your child to believe that he or she is the problem if it is these transitions that are causing so much stress.  Do not fight with your ex while you are transitioning your child.  Do not fight with your ex when you are within ear shot of your child.  If you are going to fight, do it in private when your child is elsewhere.  He or she will easily absorb any of the negative feelings that come out of this kind of fighting.

teenage communication parenting techniques

Learn to Better Communicate with Your Teenager

Some people will describe teenagers as a species all their own.  Teenagers’ bodies are so overrun by the hormones that are coursing through their veins that they can be difficult and irritable.  They can be emotionally driven and motivated to keep most adults out of their lives completely.  Teenagers can be very difficult to communicate with especially when it comes to talking about difficult subjects.  Difficult subjects do not have to be limited to drugs or alcohol.  When talking to a parent or guardian, a difficult subject for a teenager can be anything that he or she does not want to be talking about. But sometimes it is necessary to talk about things even if they are uncomfortable.

There are some things that you can do to make talking to your teenager a little easier on both of you and make the conversation more productive. Working on cultivating an atmosphere of open communication should be something that is ongoing.

1. Take Interest In What They Like

One of the easiest ways to encourage open communication is to take an interest in what your teenager is saying or doing.  No one likes to feel as though they are being ignored.  You do not need to like everything that your teenager likes, but it is a good idea to be able have a natural conversation.  If you and your teenager are already having regular conversations about regular things than talking about more difficult subjects should be a little easier.

2. Don’t Let Your Emotions Get The Best Of You – Treat Them With Respect

Always treat your teenager with respect.  Even though he or she is likely to make mistakes and not treat you how you feel that you should be all the time, he or she should be treated with the respect and courtesy that you would give anyone else while still maintaining your authoritative energy.  One of the easiest ways to exhibit this courtesy is to knock before entering your teenager’s room.  It is also a good idea allow space for your teenager’s thoughts and opinions.  Even if you do not agree, it can be very helpful for him or her to have some space to explore his or her own perceptions of the world.

 3. Encourage Problem Solving Rather Than Scorning

When it comes to talking to your teenager about difficult subjects like drugs, sex, death, or the law, it can be your first reaction, especially if your teenager has made some kind of mistake or cause d some kind of a problem, to ask some very loaded questions.  If you find that the first questions that come to mind start with “How could you…”, “What were you thinking…”, or “What is wrong with you…”, stop yourself.  These questions are not going to lead you to any of the places where open and constructive conversations are possible.  Instead, think about problem solving and ask what he or she plans to do to rectify the situation or be proactive so that it does not happen again.  Ask if he or she would like to run any of the potential ideas past you since talking things out often makes them easier to process.  Remember to avoid blaming so that the dialogue keeps flowing.

 4. Always Listen With An Open Mind

If and when you move on to the brain storming or problem solving portion of the conversation, remember that that is what you are doing.  You are not meant to be pushing your opinions off on your teenager.  You are meant to be aiding him or her in making his or her own decisions.  Pointing out the negatives in the situation is not going to be productive either.  Make an effort to be positive and encouraging in your comments.  Offer helpful suggestions, but mostly listen.  Listen to your teenager while he or she works out the problem at hand.  Often, parents or guardians spend too much time talking and telling teenagers what they should be doing rather than giving the teenager the space to figure things out for him or herself.  If your teenager knows that he or she can expect a lecture or to be talked down to when there is a problem, he or she is unlikely to come to you for help when it is really needed.

 5. Stay Calm and Supportive

All you really need to do to be able to foster better communication with your teenager is to stay calm.  Remember that you are talking to a person and not just your child.  He or she is capable of making decisions and figuring things out.  All of these steps will lead you to a more open and communicative relationships as your teenager grows into adulthood.

Five Ways to Build a Strong Relationship With Your Teen

Raising an adolescent is tough.  Some say that with the current technology challenges and the current media models, raising an adolescent now is tougher than it has ever been.  When it comes to dealing with some of the big issues like drug and alcohol use, it is really easy to get stuck in the trap of mistrust and negativity on both sides.  Mistrust can quickly become a habit rather than a fleeting occurrence, and it will quickly erode your relationship with your teen.  There are a number of ways that you can improve your parenting and improve your relationship with your adolescent so that you can start talking about the big issues as he or she continues to grow.

1. Communicate

When you ask questions about what your adolescent is involved in, he or she may think that you are prying because that would be the typical adolescent response.  But if you make it clear that you are asking because you care about the things that he or she is involved in and you are actually interested in what he or she has to say, your point will eventually get across.  They to get involved with some of his or her activities.  Be available for things like fundraising, chaperoning, or simply attending events hosted by your adolescent’s group.  Be supportive of art classes or music lessons or performance art pieces.  And talk about these things a lot.

2. Listen and Respond without Judgment

There are very few things that will make a teenager stop talking faster than judgment and advice when it was not requested.  It is okay for your teen to make mistakes.  Adolescences is the best time for learning and making mistakes.  Making judgments about the mistakes that have already been made is not going to be useful.  When your teen asks you for help, give your honest advice about what can be done now, not what could have been done before.  Listen to him or her talk about discuss what could be done next time if nothing can be done this time. Listening is key to a healthy relationship with your teen.

3. Reflect the Behavior You Expect

It is really easy to give back the kind of behavior that your teen gives to you.  Teenagers often respond to their parents with short responses and curt answers.  You should be polite even when you are dealing with bad behavior.  You should be respectful of your teen’s feeling. He or she may be dealing with some issues that you do not know about.  Or he or she may just be annoyed with you because you are a parent and he or she is a child.  Whatever the cause, there is no reason for you to engage in adolescent behavior.  If there is a behavior problem, treat him or her like a troublesome employee.  Lay out your expectations.  Be very clear about what you expect to see.  Give your child a timeline for the consequences for continuing the behavior.

4. Discipline 

Your teen needs to know that you mean business.  If he or she is exhibiting a behavior that you have already talked about, follow through with your expressed discipline plan.  Your teen will get the hint that you are not joking.  You are right to correct behavior that you think it in appropriate, but always remember to criticize the behavior and not the teen.  Do not tell him or her that he or she is stupid.  Instead say that the behavior he or she exhibited was not smart.  Mention that in the future you expect better because your teen is better.  If you say something that you do not mean in the middle of an argument, apologize for it and correct your mistake.

5. Make Spending Time Together a Routine

When your child was little, he or she was around you all the time.  But now that he or she is older, often more time is spent separately than together.  So you are going to have to make some time specifically for spending together.  Plan a fun weekly outing or a dinner together.  Make cooking something that you can do together.  Even a regular 20 minute car trip for just the two of you can be enough.

Parenting Techniques

Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs in the world, if not the toughest.  It’s also one that doesn’t require a degree.  How wonderful would it be if along with a positive pregnancy test came a free intensive parenting techniques program!  Oh sure, there are tons of books on parenting techniques out there, but with so many different voices often giving contradictory advice, it can be frustrating.  Therefore, I’d like to use the next few blog posts to discuss some of the techniques that make the most sense to me.

Remove Emotions from Parenting

While it might seem to go against our nature, one of the most important parenting techniques is to remove emotions from the parenting process.  Our kids stress us out, but when we show frustration in our interactions with them, we lose.  Exchanges with irritated parents immediately put children on the defensive and make them more prone to dig their heels in rather than to comply.  This hurts our relationships with them and also causes more stress in the family.

The old way of thinking in the psychological world was that if you were angry, it was best to let it all out in order to feel better.  Fortunately, we now know that this is a faulty parenting technique that doesn’t work. Expressing anger in an angry voice and with angry words merely increases anger. The best way to interact with a child, despite feeling angry, is to speak in a soft, monotone voice and simply and kindly put forth what needs to be done and what choices the child has.  For example, instead of shouting, “How many times do I have to tell you to clean the table?!” it is better to say, “Hey Johnny, I need you to clean the table now.  If you decide to get it done in the next five minutes then you can enjoy your dessert, but if you decide not to, then unfortunately dessert is not going to be an option today.”  And the most beautiful part is that you don’t have to wait around for a response! You can walk away and let him make his choice.

As parents, we aren’t robots, so there will certainly be times that our emotions carry through, especially if our patience has worn thin.  However, the more we can engage in emotionless confrontations, the better we’ll feel and the less fighting and stress there will be overall.

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