Aha! Parenting Moments Weekly 9-13-15

It’s finally the first day of school. Your children are so excited, they took forever to fall asleep last night. They struggled this morning over what to wear. They barely picked at that healthy breakfast you got up early to make for them. Their excitement is tinged with nervousness, naturally. And who better to take it out on than their brother or sister, sitting next to them in the back seat?

Mason: “I wonder what Mrs. Jones will be like. Is she strict?”

Savannah: “She’s mean. All the kids say so.”

Mason: “Oh, no! I hope she’ll like me.”

Savannah: “She won’t. Nobody likes you.”

Mason: “They do, too! Last year, Mrs. Wright liked me!”

Savannah: “That’s because you’re a goody two-shoes. And they don’t really like you.”

Mason: “Mom! Do people like me?

Mom: “Of course they do, Mason. Savannah, stop being mean to your brother. Let’s everybody be nice and have a nice drive to the first day of school.”

Savannah: “I’m just telling the truth.” (Makes a nasty face at Mason)

Mason: “You meany!” (Shoves at Savannah)

Savannah: “Mooommmmm! He hit me!”

Mom (Yelling): “Okay, that’s it! No TV tonight for either of you. And no more talking! If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all!”

Before you know it, you’re yelling. By the time they get out of the car, the kids are sullen. Your plans for a peaceful start to the day just evaporated before your eyes. Backseat bickering can completely ruin your morning.

Luckily, there are things you can do to turn the tide when the tone gets tense in your car. Let's rewind and see what the parent can do and say to turn this around...

Ages and Stages: Early Years

You’ve probably put a lot of thought and effort into helping your child adjust to school for the first time. And maybe you’ve been looking forward to your new freedom. But if you’re like most parents, you’ve found yourself wiping away a tear or two as well. So for a little help managing your own separation anxiety, here’s my 12 Step Program for Moms!

(What about Dads? This is for you, too. But I have to admit, I never hear from Dads that this separation is difficult for them!)

1. Develop goodbye rituals.

They comfort you as well as your child.

2. Honor your feelings.

Your job as a parent is to be there for your child and protect him. You work hard to have a close relationship with him. Of course you feel sad when you separate, and a bit worried about whether he will be ok. Don't be embarrassed. Nature designed you that way!

3. Manage your own feelings privately

So that you can reassure your child that there’s nothing to be upset about. Kids pick up our cues. You can’t expect your child to look forward to playing with the other kids in preschool if you have tears in your eyes as you say goodbye. If separating from your child triggers your own issues, use the opportunity to work them through with a counselor.

4. Help your child make a smooth adjustment.

Any parent gets upset when her kid wails and clutches her. But remember that most kids have some separation anxiety they have to work through, and don’t over-react. It makes things harder for your child, and for you. Don't tell your child you'll be in the parking lot in case he needs you -- that just makes it hard for him to settle into the classroom. Instead, say that you will be back to pick him up at a given time. You can always listen outside the classroom (without him knowing you're there) to see when he stops crying, and to hear how the teacher is dealing with his upset....

Ages and Stages: Teens

"We need to rethink the old metaphor of separating from our teens and replace it with the concept of extension. That is, during adolescence, teenagers need to extend away from their parents, all the while staying connected to their parents. Their job is to extend; your job is to connect."
-Michael Riera

My Aha! Parenting moment this week is about letting our kids take the lead. This is my son's first month at college. We email back and forth several times a week about logistical stuff – "Mom, will you mail me something I forgot?"-- so we’re in touch, but he doesn’t seem to want to chat on the phone. He never calls us. When I call him, he handles the logistical part of the discussion well, but when I ask “What are you doing tonight?”or “Who are you hanging out with?” or even “What’s your first paper on?” he tells me he’s too busy to talk.

Often, it’s because I’ve caught him in the dining hall or on the way to class, but sometimes he’s just reading in his dorm room. So I know that he actually could sit and chat with me. Before he left for college, we talked all the time, although he's never been much for talking on the phone.

I remind myself that if he started talking with me, he would miss me more. He would feel less independent. It's easier for him not to go near those feelings that might lead to homesickness. Of course, I’m missing him, so I'd love to hear what's going on in his life. I console myself that he really is caught up in a whirlwind of new experiences, and I can hear in his voice that he's happy.

Last Friday evening I found myself on the subway train my son took to school for six years. I reminisced about how he would call me every day as he got off the train, to let me know he would be home in ten minutes. He started this at age 12, but continued right through until he left for college. If it was after midnight, he would text. I wondered how he felt now, on campus, on his way home to his dorm room, with no one to call. Did it make him feel alone, abandoned? I decided he probably felt liberated.

Until that night at 2:30 in the morning, when the phone rang....


"Sending children away to get control of their anger perpetuates the feeling of 'badness" inside them...Chances are they were already feeling not very good about themselves before the outburst and the isolation just serves to confirm in their own minds that they were right." -- Otto Weininger,Ph.D. Time-In Parenting

When our kids get angry, it pushes buttons for most of us.  We're not perfect, but we try to be loving parents.  Why is our child lashing out like this?

Many parents send an angry child to her room to "calm down."  After all, what else can we do? We certainly can't reason with her when she's furious. It's no time to teach lessons or ask for an apology. She needs to calm down.

If we send him to his room, he will indeed calm down, eventually. He'll also have gotten a clear message that his anger is unacceptable, and that he's on his own when it comes to managing his big scary feelings--we don't know how to help him. He won't have worked through whatever led to his anger. Instead, he'll have stuffed the anger, so it's no longer under conscious control, and will burst out again soon. No wonder so many of us develop anger-management issues, whether that means we yell at our kids, throw tantrums with our partner, or overeat to avoid acknowledging angry feelings.

What can we do instead? We can help our kids learn to manage their anger responsibly. That begins with accepting anger -- without acting on it.  

This is one of the most critical tasks of childhood--learning to tolerate the wounds of everyday life without moving into reactive anger. People who can do this are able to resolve challenges more constructively. We call them emotionally intelligent.

Kids learn emotional intelligence when we teach them that all their feelings are okay, but they always have a choice about how they act. How? Here are ten tips....

Quotes of the Week

"Bedtime. I don't know why bad things have to happen to good people."- Honest Toddler


"Violence is what happens when we cannot manage our own suffering." - Parker Palmer


"Disconnection is at the heart of many behavior propblems. We often respond to "bad behavior" with isolation, time outs, humiliation, hitting, slapping, threats, yelling or withdrawal of love. These responses create even more disconnection, which is why they don't work very well." - Dr. Lawrence Cohen "Morality is doing what's right no matter what you're told. Obedience is doing what you're told no matter what's right." - H.L. Mencken


"The best solution when your ADHD child-- or any child-- feels overwhelmed by a project, task or chore is to break it down into smaller pieces–sometimesreally small pieces." - Dr. Sharon Saline

"Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate." - Anonymous


"Some who support [more] coercive strategies assume that children will run wild if they are not controlled. However, the children for whom this is true typically turn out to be those accustomed to being controlled— those who are not trusted, given explanations, encouraged to think for themselves, helped to develop and internalize good values, and so on. Control breeds the need for more control, which is used to justify the use of control." ― Alfie Kohn


"Be present – it is the only moment that matters."- Peaceful Warrior

"Where there is great love, there are always miracles." - Willa Cather
One dad's experience: "Woooow!....as soon as the book arrived and I simply read about reconnecting and, of course, regulating yourself, it worked. It didn't work straight away, but, of course, I stopped yelling and started to listen to reconnect. It so is obvious, duh, and Dr. Laura Markham gave us little catch phrases to use to help up on our quest happier. 'Take a do over', 'Appreciate your child', 'Remind yourself YOU'RE the grown up' (so why are you yelling), breathe! are all little reminders about, not being a better parent, but are little hints about making life easier for yourself and everyone around you.

Like I said, it's my first day and it's all a bit new, but this book has helped me so much already. My son, who is only four, has noticed the difference and so has my wife. You should have seen the look on her face when, I re-entered the room for the third time and my son actually allowed me to play with him! In the past, I have left the room more times than I can count, but on this occasion, I came back and tried again and then I tried again! My son noticed too and decided that, since I came back into the room a few times, he would play with me after all. I must say that, if you keep trying it's really with it. It only has to be a quality ten minutes and there's distinct difference to the child. I will try to do more of it everyday, from now on. I think I do it all ready, but even so, I'll really make the conscious effort. As Dr. Laura Markham said, "Connection, connection, connection! It's really worth it!"

Some really good things I like about the book is that Dr. Laura Markham doesn't preach at you, but simply gives hints that may help you in the long run. The author is non-judgemental and tries to gentle prod you in a right direction. The book is very well indexed and you can find the information that you need very easily as well. So, it's a great reference book, too." - 
 Kamiyahagi on Amazon