What to Say When Your Child is Upset


What are the perfect words to say to your child when their feelings are hurt, they don’t know what to do, or are upset by something that has happened? Taryn Voget of the Everyday Genius Institute interviewed parenting expert and kid whisperer Heather Criswell. Tune in and get the perfect line to use with your child in many situations.

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Step-by-step technique for handling disrespectful behavior.

I have spent the past several months deconstructing Heather’s parenting strategies.  I was so inspired by her genius that I knew I had to share it with the world. So Heather and I decided to co-author a book, How to Raise a Happy Child (and be happy too): Modern Parenting Techniques that Work, which will be released later this year.  Since the topic of parenting is so rich, we also decided to launch this website and blog, which you are reading now.

This post features one of the many techniques that will be in our book.  It answers the question every parent wants to know: “How do I address my child’s disrespectful behavior in a way that works?”

I figured out Heather’s strategy by watching her eye movements. In literally about a nano-second her eyes darted to 4 different places – each place was a step in her mental process. The eyes are like a map of the brain and tracking eye movements is one of the best ways to slow down someone’s thought process. I’ll let her take it from here and explain:

Enter Heather Criswell:

When I am interacting with children I am aware of opportunities for teachable moments – for chances to connect with a child.

Recently Taryn and I were talking about how I guide children’s behavior. Until Taryn unpacked my strategy and thinking process, I was not consciously aware that I had such a rehearsed mental script for dealing with a child’s disrespectful behavior. These steps happen so fast in my mind, after so many years of practice, I had become completely unaware of my own strategy. All this time I just assumed it was intuition.  It turns out my intuition has a structure.  Who knew the steps in my process could be understood by tracking my eye movements?!

So let’s take an undesirable behavior as an example.  Let’s say my young son just hit me out of anger and frustration. Here is exactly what I do, step-by-step:

1. I immediately ask myself: “Is this a behavior I can let go, or do I need to address it?”
This one is easy. It’s a “deal breaker” behavior for me. I need to address it. I don’t deserve to be hit by anyone.

2. I instantly recall a situation where my child was behaving completely opposite of what he is doing now.
I remember a moment when my child was loving and respectful. I remember his light and smile in that moment and hold it in my mind. As I hold that image of him, in my mind and heart I know my child is love and this behavior is not who he is. It is important for me to remember this so I can approach him in a loving state.

3. I now ask myself: “How can I connect with him?” Then I ask: “How can he hear what I need? How can I hear what he needs? How can we both get what we need from this situation?”
I recall a time I connected with my son and we both heard each other. I remember what I did in a previous situation where we connected.  (Note:  Connecting to me means putting any of my own anger or frustration aside and looking at each other eye-to-eye and connecting heart-to-heart.)

4. I then repeat that past strategy in this moment.
In this particular case, the best way for me to connect with my son is to have a moment of silence. Then I simply tell him, “I don’t deserve to be hit.” I ask him, “What do you need from me?” I then remind him, “If you want to hit something, you are welcome to hit the punching bag in your room.” (I direct the child to where it IS appropriate to demonstrate that particular behavior.)

5. The situation is now considered closed. It is free from shame, guilt or frustration.
We both have had an opportunity to be heard. We both know what to do next time we feel the same way.

[Taryn’s comment: Can you imagine what it would feel like as a child to have someone hold an image of you at your best and then address you with that image in mind and a feeling of total love for you?  Can you imagine what it would feel like as an adult?!  Secondly, can you imagine how much more effective your own parent (or boss or spouse) would be if they made sure they had an energetic connection with you before they addressed you? It sure beats yelling across the house, “Go clean your room!!!” I believe that the difference that makes a huge difference is Heather’s simple question to herself, “How can I connect with my child in this moment?” It drives her entire strategy.  It drives HOW she talks with the child in a way the child can hear.  She gets herself in a good emotional state – a state where she can connect with the child – by remembering a time when the child was great.  This step puts her in a place of love so that when she talks with the child, the child feels her love and he wants to listen.  Contrast that with what many people do, which is assume a position of authority and tell their child in a stern voice that they need to change their behavior.

Over the years Heather has built up a huge catalog of examples to draw from on how to connect with children and what to say in any given moment.  Parents will be able to draw on their own catalog of examples of when their child at their best and when they connected successfully.]

Back to Heather for another example using this strategy….

I realized I use this same strategy, regardless of the undesirable behavior. For example, a couple of months ago my husband and I watched a friend’s 9-year old child, John, for a couple of days. John is sitting on our couch and demands brownies. He says, “Go get me some brownies.”

1. I immediately ask myself: “Is this a behavior I can let go or do I need to address it?”
This one is easy.  It’s a “deal breaker” behavior.  I need to address it.  I deserve to be addressed with respect.

2. I instantly recall a situation when this child was behaving completely opposite of what he is doing now.
I remember a moment when John was loving and respectful. I remember John’s appreciation when we went to his favorite restaurant for lunch. As I hold that image of him, in my mind and heart I know this child is love and this behavior is not who he is. It is important for me to remember this so I can approach him in a loving state.

3. I now ask myself: “How can I connect with him?” I then ask: “How can he hear what I need? How can I hear what he needs? How can we both get what we need from this situation?”
We are not around this child often, so I have to add a step to my process. I pull from my mental catalog of the children I’ve worked with over the years. I remember a child from my school that reminds me of John and I recall a time I connected with this other child.  (Note:  Connecting to me means putting any of my own anger or frustration aside and looking at each other eye-to-eye and connecting heart-to-heart.)

4. I then repeat that past strategy in this moment.
In this particular case, I state what John CAN do with an unwavering energy and tone to my voice. I look John right in the eye, make sure we connect, and then use the following script

Me: “You are more than welcome to go get brownies if you want them.”

John: “Will you please go get me brownies?”

Me: “Let me be clear. If you would like some brownies, you are welcome to go get them yourself.”

John: “I’m going to go get some brownies.”

Me: “I think that is a great idea! I would do that too.”

6. The situation is now considered closed. It is free from shame, guilt or frustration.
We both have had an opportunity to be heard. We both know what to do next time we feel the same way. (Note: I didn’t have to tell him he was being dis-respectful, he knew exactly what he was doing. That’s why his second response added the word “please.”  As long as I stay clear and consistent, he gets it without words.)

That’s it.  That’s what I do!  Next time you have an opportunity, try this strategy out with a child in your life (or heck, even your spouse).  It took me 20 years of practice to perfect my own technique.  I’m sure your child will give you 20 years too!  🙂

 

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Raise A Happy Child - Parenting Blog, Book and Videos

What makes a parent a good parent?

What Makes a Good Parent - Good Mom

 Tune into this BlogTalkRadio show on “What makes a parent a good parent?”

 

 

Wouldn’t it be great if children came with a manual? I recently shared my thoughts on parenting – and what makes a good parent – with Dr. Wendy Dearborn, Holistic Life Coach.

In this BlogTalkRadio show I share what parents can do to be their best with themselves and with their children.

Listen in as Dr. Wendy challenges some of my thoughts. And stay tuned while I share with a teacher who called in on why we need to update our parenting strategies to work with the modern children coming into this world.  This is an episode full of unconventional wisdom and specific strategies parents can use in their families.

 

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Raise A Happy Child - Parenting Blog, Book and Videos

Who is the curfew for?

Parents and Kids Curfew

In my teens I was dating a guy that did not fit the picture of the man my father thought I should be dating.

Here’s the story:

In the early 90’s (ok really early, like 1990), I was dating my first love.  He was everything I could ask for in a boyfriend.  He loved me for exactly who I was and wanted to be with me always.

I was over at his house on a typical Friday night watching a movie.  I was truly exhausted from going to school and working all day.  We started the movie and we both fell asleep.

I didn’t have a curfew, technically.   I would just tell my father what I was doing and ask him what time he wanted me home.  If I didn’t agree with him, I would state my case, and often he would meet me somewhere in the middle.  So on this day in particular my father expected me home at 12:30am.

Well, as you can probably guess, I over-slept.  When I woke up,  I looked at the clock and it was 3:30 am!   As a quick reminder, there were no cell phones (at least for the average teenager) at this time and my boyfriend could not afford a phone in his apartment.  So, the dilemma in my mind was, “Do I rush home and deal with it then or do I stop at a payphone (remember those?) at 3:30am?”  I opted for the plan to rush home and deal with the consequences.  The only thought in my head the whole way home was, “I am in soooo much trouble!”

I run up the stairs to our apartment, I swing the door open and see my dad with the yellow pages in his lap, on the phone, crying.  He drops the phone, looks at me and starts crying harder.  This is so not what I expected! I had only seen my father cry one other time, when my parents decided to divorce.

I look at him and instantly feel his pain. I know that he was so scared that something had happened to me.  He adored the ground I walked on and could not imagine life without me.

I started to explain. “Dad, I am so, so, so sorry!  I was over at John’s house and we were watching a movie and I fell asleep!  You know he doesn’t have a phone and I knew you would be worried so I drove home as fast as I could!”

The Wisdom of Alan Robie (my father):

His response: “I knew that you would never do that to me, so I figured you were in the hospital.  I am just so glad you are ok.  You know how much I love you and I can’t imagine my life without you in it!”

I cried and told my dad I was so sorry to worry him and I would make sure it didn’t happen again.  And from that point on, I set my boyfriend’s alarm clock, just in case.

So here’s the million-dollar question….

Did I learn my lesson without punishment??

Absolutely!

My father knew in his heart that I would never intentionally make him worry about me.  He held me in a space of greatness.  He believed in me and came to the conclusion that I had to be in the hospital.  It was the only reason he could see why I didn’t keep my word about my curfew.

This situation opened a door for understanding – an understanding that my father was not my authority.  He was someone who loved me beyond words.  After seeing the truth of my father, his tears, his fears, and his concerns for my well being, I made a decision to make sure my actions reflected the respect and love I had for him.  I was offered the gift of seeing my father as a human who loved me so much that he never gave into the idea that I would purposely do this “to” him.

I learned from the experience, not a punishment.

This was one of the most defining and inspirational moments in my life.  It taught me that if you hold the ones you love in greatness, they will rise to the occasion and be great.

 

 

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Raise A Happy Child - Parenting Blog, Book and Videos

 

Why Ignoring Undesirable Behavior is the Best Thing You Can Do

Parents Ignoring Behavior

When I was taking Child Development classes, I was taught that when you ignore “bad” behavior in the classroom, “bad” behavior would multiply.   And eventually your students will have you tied up, gagged, and take over!

As I worked with children from around the world at the MGM Grand Hotel youth center in Las Vegas, I learned quickly to ignore a lot of behavior.  I did this not because I wanted to, but simply because I could not understand them.  When I was faced with children that were upset or angry and expressing their feelings in a foreign language, the only choice I had was to ignore or re-direct them.  It actually taught me that addressing the anger by talking or reasoning would not work.  And in fact it just made both of us more upset and frustrated.

After I opened my pre-school, I soon realized that I could not possibly address every child’s undesirable behavior.  If I chose to go this route, my entire day would be reprimanding child after child.  That would be a terrible day for me, and an even worse day for the children.

I learned that the more I stayed out of the way, the more they would work it out on their own. The more I ignored, the happier we all were.

I want to be clear: I had “deal breakers.” My deal-breakers were situations that needed to be addressed due to safety or general concern for the child’s well-being.  But overall, these situations were limited compared to the everyday stories of pre-school misbehaving.

In most schools you will hear teachers say over, and over, and over again:

“Share your toys with him.”

“Be nice to her.”

Stop talking like that.”

Use your nice voice.” Or, “Use your inside voice.” (Which by the way makes no sense to a child.  To them their voice is their voice, inside or outside.)

“Stop throwing your toys.”

The list can go on and on and on!  I decided early on to pick out my “deal breakers,” the behaviors that I needed to address anytime I witnessed them.  And when I came across a deal breaker, I needed a plan of how to re-direct the child towards the desired behavior.  (Note: all other mildly undesirable behavior, I ignore.)

So how does this look at home?

My daughter is not as “tidy” as I would desire.  My house is my sanctuary and I feel really good when it is clean, organized, and in order.  My daughter doesn’t feel the same way.  She likes, or actually doesn’t care about, walking through a pile of clothes to get to her bed.  Nor does she mind digging through a box full of make-up to get what she needs for the day and leaving the remaining pile on the floor next to the clothes.

I can honestly deal with her rolling her eyes at me when I say something about her lack of tidiness.  That really doesn’t phase me.  But the mess?  It is beyond anything I can deal with.  I did my best.  I shut the door and I ignored it as long as I can.  Now I can’t take it anymore.  It has become deal-breaker for me.

I address her with a simple conversation.  I say, “This room is not working for me.  I know that we have different styles of living.  I am willing to work with you.  We need to move somewhere in the middle so we can both live together under one roof.  Here’s what I am willing to live with:  I need to be able to see your floor, see your bed spread, and see your table.  Is that something that will work for you?”

We have a conversation, defining our needs, and how we can come together to make it work.  I treat her with respect, the same respect I offer my friends and even strangers, and we figure it out.

I have my “deal-breakers” established early on so when I see a behavior that is on that list I address it.  If it is not on the list, I let it go.  It is such a relief because I know that I am not the only person in the world my child will learn from or grow with.  I can’t imagine a boss or even my own parent nitpicking on every single little thing I do “wrong” or not to “expectation.”  I don’t want to be under that kind of microscope and neither does my child.  I honor what is important to me and let go of the restAnd we are all a lot happier.

 

 

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