3 Things You Can Do Now- to help with your child’s behavior

3 Things You Can Do For Child's Behavior

Ever feel like your end results aren’t anything like what you really wanted for your family or for your child?

For instance- you want your child to do well in school and so you’ve set homework as a priority.  You have the time carved out and the homework area set- but at the end of ‘homework time’, things end with you being frustrated and your child crying and saying she hates school.

Not cool, fun or effective- for anyone!

Listen, you aren’t alone!  Most parents want good things for their children.  But good intentions does not always equal good results.

The following are a few shifts in thinking, responding and questioning to make powerful change for actually GETTING more of that outcome you want.

And bonus…every single shift can be immediately implemented!

1.  Turn Down the ‘Shark Music’.

“Here we go again…”,  “She always has to have it her way”, “He can’t take no for an answer”…

Da dum, Da dum, Dadumdadumdadum (my attempt at the Jaws music)

We all do it- give into doom and gloom thoughts that keep us trapped in our fears about the future or stuck on what’s happened in the past (aka “shark music”).

The key is not getting stuck there- and choosing a better soundtrack!

This type of thinking predicts negative outcomes and leaves us feeling totally powerless.  Parenting with ‘shark music’ looming in the background leads us to react and not respond with calm, thoughtful intention.

And worse- our kids feel this and that translates to them generally feeling fearful, frustrated, shut down and trapped.

Notice your background music and what’s not helpful.  Turn the volume down on the negatives by giving your valuable attention to thoughts that are actually helpful and truthful.  Here are a few to try on for size:

  • “Change is possible.”
  • “Mistakes happen.”
  • “How else can we handle the situation.”
  • “We can do this!”

2.  Become More Self-Aware.

Positive thinking is great, but you can’t just think yourself into better outcomes- you behave your way into them.  Notice your typical reactions to tough behaviors and be open to doing something different.  I bet you have certain ‘buttons’ and some general reactions.

Think about the times you’re most likely to be reactive or to have that ‘button’ pushed.

For instance the dreaded homework time or when your child talks back.

What’s your typical reaction at those times?

Do you yell, stonewall, or overly punish?  Maybe your reaction is just to give in- that seems so much easier at the moment.

Now ask yourself- are these the responses you want and more importantly, are they helpful?  Stay rooted in your values and the positive outcomes you want.

Jot down things you can do to bring yourself to a more thoughtful place- breathe, limit your distractions, focus on solutions.  These things can help you parent more responsively (vs reactively).

3. Ask Better Questions.

When your child consistently shows up with behaviors you don’t want, get out of the autopilot reactions that aren’t working.

Quit asking “What’s wrong with my kid?” and start asking these three questions.  They’ll help you figure out what is going on, what you want your child to learn and how to do that more effectively.

Question #1: Why did my child act this way?  Behavior is simply another form of communication.  Use that to your advantage and listen to what it tells you.  Could your child be telling you she needs help organizing herself at school?  Is your child telling you he is overwhelmed?  Is your child seeking attention, boundaries or control?

Question #2: What do I want my child to learn?  The goal of discipline isn’t about punishing. The goal is for your child to learn.  Dealing with tough behaviors is an opportunity for you to teach.  Get rooted in your values and decide what life-skills may need strengthening- responsibility, focus, respect, self-control, appropriate ways to express big feelings…

Question #3: How can I best teach that?  Considering your child’s age, stage and their emotional, physical and developmental needs, make an informed decision on what your child needs to learn the lesson you very wonderfully want him to learn.   A natural or logical consequence may be the right prescription for learning- or perhaps an opportunity to re-do the behavior is what’s best.  Sometimes a chart or checklist is the solution- every situation is different and this is your opportunity to get creative.

Go for progress.

Simple solutions aren’t always simple in application, but you CAN do this!

If you’re looking for more help on handling tough behaviors and helpful information for happy families, join my free monthly newsletter that has exclusive content, helpful tips, and updates.   You can join by adding your name and email to the form below or to the side of this page.  As a gift for signing up, you’ll gain instant access to my free download “Handling Difficult Behaviors” complete with video and behavior planner.

If you want to dig even further into this topic, I highly recommend Dr. Dan Siegel’s book, No-Drama Discipline or the other awesome books I know, use and love on my resources page.

Just remember that parenting is a journey- and it’s important to focus on progress, not perfection. 

With encouragement along the road…

Jenna

Jenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens, and parents in Georgetown, TX.   She offers counseling services, courses and classes to help families enjoy life more fully and get to a smoother, healthier path.

 

The 4 Habits of Parents and Kids Who Don’t Have Anxiety Problems

flowers 4 habits of anxiety

You set clothes out the night before.  Kids went to bed at a decent hour.  You did everything you know to be right.

But it happened again.

Anxiety consumed the morning.

“No- I don’t want to go!  I hate school!  Can’t you just let me stay at home!?” 

Oh, those dreaded cries!  It sucks your energy and gets the day started in the exact opposite tone that you had hoped.

Flooded with doubt you start comparing yourself to other families.  You wonder what everyone else seems to know that you don’t and it feels like anxiety is taking over your family’s joy.

You are not alone!  Tons of families struggle with anxiety problems.  If you or your child experience excessive anxiety, that does not mean there is something wrong. It just means that something you are doing is not working.

There are some key things that people who do not struggle with anxiety do differently.

And here’s the good news…you can do them too and you can model and teach your child as well.  As you learn and handle anxiety better yourself, it will give you the tools for helping your child through this, too.

There are no big secrets or magic tricks here. These are all straightforward habits that you can get into, starting right now.

In the long run, your anxiety will only change if you change your behavior. And even though you can’t control the anxiety, you definitely CAN control what you do and guide your child to do the same.

Habit #1: Don’t put up a fight.

The most basic, most important thing to know about anxiety is that avoidance does not work.  What you resist will persist!

The harder you try to not feel anxious, the more anxious you will feel. This is why anxiety does not get better on its own.

So, the only choice is to accept: instead of fighting the anxiety, simply allow the anxiety to be there. This might sound crazy at first, but it really does work.

People who don’t have an anxiety problem DO still have some anxiety…it’s a normal part of life.  But anxiety feeds off of you fighting with it; so if you fight it, it only gets worse.  Parents, show loving care and help when needed, but please don’t ‘feed’ into your child’s anxiety too much.  Without time and attention, the anxiety eventually backs down without having to do anything about it.

Habit #2: Be okay with uncertainty.

In some way, almost all forms of anxiety stem from fear of uncertainty. Anxious folks really struggle with tolerating the unknown. They feel like they MUST know things and be in control of every situation. But this is never possible…life always involves some uncertainty.

Because of this reason, tools like calendars, schedules, and predictability can help to ease some symptoms with kids or adults.  In fact, I use those tools myself.    Realize, however, that those are tools and that life always involves some uncertainty.  People who do not struggle with anxiety problems know and accept this.

Let go of the excessive lengths to mentally analyze situations or excessively plan for every possible outcome.  Focus on what’s happening in the present moment (life is so much more fun that way).

Habit #3: Let go of the expectations. 

Children and adults with anxiety problems put demands on their feelings. They believe there is a right way and a wrong way to feel for certain situations. For instance, one might think that it’s okay to feel anxious before a test, but it’s not okay to feel panicky for seemingly no reason.

Here’s the truth- you are who you are and you feel the way you feel.  There is not a right or wrong way that someone ‘should’ feel in a given situation.  Feelings come and go. They happen to you and they do not identify you or your child.

It’s for this reason that I highly recommend avoiding terms like “I am anxious” or “I am sad”.  You may feel anxious or you may feel sad in the moment, but all feelings are passing and NOT who you are.  Notice and accept that.

People who don’t have an anxiety problem don’t overidentify with emotions or set unrealistic expectations that they should feel calm all the time. So when anxiety hits, it’s no big deal.  They let themselves feel whatever they feel and move on with their day.

Habit #4: Just Keep Swimming!

My favorite fish, Dory, lived in uncertainty and unknown to the extreme (short term memory issues, if you don’t recall).  Faced with the fear of all fears, fighting for life, her motto ‘Just keep swimming!’ gives light to the power of movement forward and of not becoming frozen in fear.

Listen, you are a courageous and amazing being.  Let that sink in.

Life is filled with highs and lows.  People who don’t have anxiety problems feel anxious (and sad, depressed and lonely)- but they don’t let it stop them from moving ahead.  They keep right on going, in spite of the anxiety. They accept that some anxiety is a normal part of life.  They may even reframe that energy as excitement and simply keep moving.  By not letting it change how they spend their time, they prevent it from becoming a persistent problem.

This is one of the most important habits to know- stay actively moving and looking forward.

Anxiety can seem big, but you are bigger and stronger and I know you can handle this.

If you consistently apply these habits, you will no longer be doing the things that fuel the anxiety and you will begin to see things move in a more positive direction.

There are so many treatment methods, tools and ways to help with managing anxiety.  I wrote a post on this topic, “Helping Children With Anxiety“, which has lots of helpful things to try.

Developing new habits takes courage, effort and time.  But you CAN train yourself to become aware and to make these shifts.  Write down the top 2 habits you’d especially like to focus on.  It’s about progress, not perfection.

Having someone to talk to can really help- an encouraging spouse, parent, friend or counselor can make a big difference.

Need more help? – I have a FREE download to give you support!  Grab it on the sidebar or at the bottom of this page.  You can also contact me for a free counseling/coaching phone consult.

Parenting can be easier- You got this!

Jenna Fleming, LPC, NCCJenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens, and parents in Georgetown, TX.   She offers counseling services, courses and classes to help families enjoy life more fully and get to a smoother, healthier path.

4 Keys to Prevent Tough Behaviors

At a loss with handling your kid’s behavior?

Be honest- have you been getting caught up in power-struggles?  Punishments aren’t working and now your kid is just angry.

Many parents don’t see other options.  If they quit nagging, the kids will ‘go nuts’ but they’re unhappy and know that the nagging is poison to everyone.

I get it- handling difficult behavior is, well…difficult.

But there are ways- better and more effective ones- to handle tough behavior and get results.

The best way for dealing with tough behavior is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

I’ve created a video with 4 simple keys that can refocus the family, improve communication and lessen the arguments.  I’ve also got some added notes to help below.

These preventions will help your family use your energy for relationships and learning (not nagging and frustration).

Love unconditionally- The first key seems so simple, yet it’s so big.  There is always a reason for behavior and often it’s to get attention or approval.  If your kid has a belief that their behavior is connected to their worth or your love, the result is an insecure sense of self- and the resulting behaviors.  Set the record straight.  Your love for your child is not based on their performance.  It is based on them being your child.  Period.  We don’t always approve of our children’s behaviors and that’s okay, but your love for your child is always there.

Be Consistent- Let’s face it.  Threats are easy to make, but follow through is tough. Being consistent means keeping promises, having clear expectations and doing what you say. Consistency is one of the most important parent skills because it lets your child know that they can trust you.  When you trust someone, you have more respect for them, less anxiety and won’t waste energy testing their boundaries.  Kids are no different.  Simply put- be a man or woman of your word!

Use Proactive Approaches- Bet you can think of a specific situation that really aggravates you.  Is it always happening at a certain time of day- like homework or bedtime?  If you know some common threads around difficult behavior, rather than reacting as usual, start thinking how you can proactively prevent or detour them. Say your child always throws a fit in the middle of shopping- Are they hungry? Are they bored?  Can you plan ahead with snacks and role-playing the scenario with what to do when your kid gets bored?  Often it’s sibling issues.  Can you set up a win-win agreement about times when tempers flare?

Flip discipline- The typical approach is for a child to have access to many privileges, but when something goes ‘wrong’ the parent sets a boundary or consequence limiting the “fun stuff”.  This works for lots of kids, but for others, it simply does not work. They act like they ‘don’t care’ or waste energy in anger (often escalating the situation) rather than learning the lesson they need to learn.  Try using idea of rights, responsibilities and privileges in your home.  Kids have the right to certain things- food, safety and love.  These things come with no strings attached.  But to access the privileges like television or sports, talk with your child about their responsibilities (your expectations). When a responsibility is not met, this will help to focus on the learning not the anger and help with your consistency.

These aren’t magic solutions, I must admit.  But if you aren’t liking the results in your home, be open to a few new ways of thinking and operating.

These keys will help you lay a strong foundation for addressing that common thread all of us parents have- loving our children through difficult behaviors.

Wishing you smooth roads ahead…

 

Jenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens and parents in Georgetown, TX.   She offers counseling services, courses and classes to help families enjoy life more fully and get to a smoother, healthier path.

4 Reasons Kids Misbehave (and what Parents can do)

Have you ever wondered why your kids act up?

Boy, I can think of several visits with friends gone sour after my kid’s constant interruptions.  Or the times when a full-blown fit erupts in the checkout line.  Every parent can understand these moments of aggravation and it’s also natural for kids to test their world and make mistakes.

What if I told you that your kid’s behavior is telling you something important and that understanding what it is can help decrease frustrations (theirs and yours)?

There are four common reasons kids misbehave.

Knowing why your kids act up can help you determine how to respond.  Below are those common reasons and some helpful tips parents can take.

 1.  They are testing your boundaries!  If kids aren’t sure where the ‘limit’ is, they are guaranteed to do some testing to find out just where that is.

What you can do: Check your boundaries! Expectations are unseen boundaries.  The only way kids ‘see’ them is by how we communicate and our consistency of them.  Get clear on what you want and explain that simply to your kids.  Be true to your word- if you say something, follow through.  Consistency is an essential ingredient in handling behavior and raising healthy kids.

2.  They are telling you something!  Did you know that behavior is one of the primary ways kids communicate?  I can think of a time or two my kid’s behavior communicated clearly that they needed more sleep!

What you can do: Listen to the behavior! Don’t get caught up on dealing just with actions- see what’s under their attitude.  The most common things kids tell us with behavior is a need for more power/control, feeling overwhelmed, wanting attention or having a physical need (like hunger, thirst or sensory overload).  Help your kids by naming their need and then guiding them to help meet it.

3.  They haven’t learned the skill.  Sometimes parents expect what their child either hasn’t or isn’t ready to learn.  A four year old’s attention span is way different than a 14 year old’s (though some have made cases against it).  You may have an unrealistic expectation.  Many parental frustrations fall under undeveloped or lagging executive function skills- the developmental skills that have to do with managing oneself.

What you can do: Role play scenarios before going into a new situation.  Be clear with your expectations. Help your child organize themselves with schedules, charts or calendars.

4.  They are acting like you. Yes, I said it!  More than we realize, our little ones are reflections of us.  Within the last 5 years, neuroscience has discovered just how wired we are to mimic our parents through the discovery of  mirror neurons.  Children may not always do what they are told, but they absolutely do what they see.

What you can do: Be the change you wish to see in the world.  I love that quote attributed to Gandhi.  It’s truth is powerful.  Be aware of your actions, reactions, and in every way how you are modeling.  Most importantly, take care of yourself and tend to your own needs.  Children with anxiety often have a parent with anxiety.   By tending to your needs, staying positive and focusing on modeling correct behavior, your child will benefit greatly.

Children don’t come with instructions, but understanding some basics about their behavior  can really help.

Be consistent, aware of needs, focus on teaching and modeling and I tell you, you will see improvement.

Yes, there’s still gonna be bumps along the road, but understanding and acting on this will help smooth some of those rough spots.

Smile, play and enjoy the journey, parents!

Jenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens and parents in Georgetown, TX.   She offers counseling services, courses and classes to help families enjoy life more fully and get to a smoother, healthier path.

7 Apps that help kids handle their feelings

It can be tough for children to understand what they’re feeling and to channel those feelings in positive ways.   A key in supporting children is to help them gain emotional intelligence — knowing what emotions are, how they work, and how to use/manage them.  Another treatment growing rapidly in popularity is to develop mindfulness practices, a form of meditation.  A recent John Hopkins study found that only eight weeks of meditation was effective in treating depression, pain, and anxieties.  With technology readily accessible, these fun apps can be helpful in developing these skills in children.

1. ADHD Trainer

ADHD Trainer is a cognitive tool for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It was created to help them work on focus and memory concepts, with the help of playing “games”.

2. Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame

With sections for both parents and children, this Sesame Street app teaches young kids how to keep calm and carry on.  It supports children in managing anxieties and anger issues.

3. Calm

The app helps children learn and develop meditation skills.  Their “Sleep Stories” function tells tales to help users fall asleep easier.

4. Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings

Children often have a difficult time expressing their feelings. PBS’s Daniel Tiger teaches children how to calm down when angry, celebrate proud moments, and relax with music and activities.

5. Headspace

This popular meditation app has five themes: Calm, Focus, Kindness, Sleep, and Wake Up, and the app is customized for three age groups—under 5, 6-8, and 9-12. There is also an adult version to practice mindfulness alongside your child.

6. HelloMind

Great for young worries, this app helps to change negative thought patterns. Children can choose treatments based on whatever is bothering them. Examples include low self-esteem, needing courage, or being afraid to stick up for one’s self.

7. Mindfulness for Children

This app helps children learn tools to help manage anxiety such as breathing exercises that they can use at school, during sports, or anytime they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stimming, Tics and Quirky Kids

At a restaurant your child randomly yells out odd sounds.  In the grocery store, your daughter flaps her arms when the cold air of the freezer section hits her skin.  When asked to leave, your son has a meltdown because he didn’t finish the level he was at on a video game.  Your family just can’t go to loud places because your kid covers his ears and becomes too distressed.

Quirky kids have confusing behavior to the majority of folks.   Some of the more common sound and visual ‘quirks’ are called stimming or tics.  Having some knowledge and tools to help can be very empowering in understanding and supporting our kids.

About Stimming

Stimming- a repetitive body movement that self-stimulates one or more senses in a regulated manner. While everyone stims sometimes, people on the autism spectrum do it far more frequently than their neurotypical counterparts. We categorize 3 specific types of stimming:

  • Hand stimming, including hand flapping, finger waving, and finger wiggling
  • Body stimming, including rocking, spinning, and head bobbing
  • Vocal stimming, including groaning, screeching, and various forms of vocalization

Stimming is used for self-soothing, self-regulating and to gain control over our bodies and environment- like the urge to scratch an itch or move to music.  While this behavior can be publicly embarrassing, avoid shaming your child for this natural way they are behaving.  With children who have some self-awareness, parents can teach their child to be aware of the stimming and give them alternatives that are more socially appropriate to use in public.  The children can save their more disruptive stimming for the private setting.

About Tics

Tic– a sudden, repetitive, non-rhythmic motor movement or vocalization.  Countered to the ‘itch feeling’ of stimming, a tic is more like a ‘sneeze’ that just happens.  Tics occur on a spectrum, the more severe being called Tourette syndrome.  Tics are classified as either phonic (verbal) or motor (muscle) and can be simple or complex.  Examples of simple motor tics are hand clapping, neck stretching, mouth movements, head, arm or leg jerks, and facial grimacing. Examples of simple vocal tics are throat clearing, sniffing, or grunting.

Tourette syndrome children may exhibit symptoms of other comorbid conditions along with their motor and phonic tics. Associated conditions include attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD or ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), learning disabilities and sleep disorders.

Knowledge and understanding are the best treatments available for tics.  Limiting caffeine, relaxation and behavioral approaches are used to address tics.  There have also been some studies on Habit Reversal Training and dopamine as use for treatment, but there is no clear evidence at this time.

How Parents can Help

Become aware—Learn about your child and his/her behaviors.  Become mindful of your own interaction with your child and teach in ways that are most likely to get a positive response.  Learn what is likely to trigger a melt-down for your child, so you can try to minimize them.

Learn to love structure, consistent schedules and routines– Behavior, communication, and social skills can all be areas of concern for quirky kids and maintaining a solid, loving, and structured approach in caring for your child, can help greatly.  Some helpful ideas here: use a calendar, create a schedule, use ‘If-then’ charts or other behavior charts and reward systems.  Give warning before transitions or schedule changes.

Partner with the school- Sometimes support systems may be needed for your child like a behavior plan, a 504 accommodation plan or an IEP for special services.  Keep communication open and positive with the school to create a good partnership.

Teach social behavior with purpose and fun– know your child’s interests and use those as opportunities for teaching.  For kids who don’t easily pick up on social cues, it’s important to be specific about teaching them- eye contact, personal space, how to get attention appropriately, how to stick with the topic of a conversation, table manners and so on.  We fall trap to frustration or embarrassment quite easily because for many kids, this comes more naturally and these behaviors can put us in a socially awkward position as parents.  Think of yourself as a social skill teacher and find opportunities to talk about these social skills before they have an opportunity to put them in action.  Role plays, frequent feedback, stories and games are really helpful teaching tools.

Monitor and have limits on screens- It is common for quirky kids to be attracted to very specific interests.  Sometimes that can be extreme interest in video games.  Be cautious of the amount and type of games your child is playing.  Many games (such as violent games) reinforce inappropriate social behaviors and prevent kids from interacting in the real world.  Neurologically, too much screen time can also amplify negative symptoms from conditions like OCD.

And Most Importantly…

Be patient and stay optimistic. Your child, like every child, has a whole lifetime to learn.  It is important that you take care of yourself, stay patient and remember that we are on a journey.  Your child is a gift.  Enjoy them right where they are along this path.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net