5 Simple Secrets
For Connecting with your
Extra Tricky Child
Kids seem to have a way of knowing exactly how to push our buttons. And in those moments, the last feeling that we want to feel is “connection.” Our brains like to tell us there’s danger and that we either need to yell or escape the situation.
But neither yelling nor escaping is going to create a connection with our kids. And those are the exact moments when they need us the most. They really aren’t out to make our lives miserable. They just aren’t feeling safe, and they are looking to us to help them to feel it.
Taking ourselves from a place of resistance to a place of love involves a process of questioning the unhelpful thoughts that we are currently thinking, allowing ourselves to feel and process the emotions that they create, then working on re-routing our brains to thoughts that will serve us better. A lot of times, the reason we are feeling disconnected and angry is because of our own feelings of shame or inadequacy.
Always remember that you can’t hate yourself into becoming a better parent. That’s you against you and you will lose every time. Remember that you are completely whole and you are the perfect mother for your child. Why? because you ARE their mom. The definition of a successful parent is one who is the kind of parent that THEY want to be. The way that your child turns out isn’t a reflection of that. Give yourself lots of time and grace. Parenting kids with special needs is not for the faint of heart! It’s hard work and it’s a continual learning experience. And YOU are the perfect person for the job.
I want to share some secrets that will help you to connect more easily with your child during those tough moments when all you want to do is yell or run away. Sometimes all it takes is a little tweak of our thoughts!
Pick the one that resonates with you the most, and practice that one first. You can write it on a note card and keep it in your pocket to peek at throughout the day, or set it as an alarm on your phone to read at certain times. The key is being intentional and allowing those opportunities to practice, practice, practice!
Secret #1: NOTHING HAS GONE WRONG HERE
When a child is back talking, lying or yelling at us, our brains like to tell us that something has gone wrong, which immediately creates a disconnect.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Everything is going just right. Kids are supposed to do these things sometimes. (Gasp!)
How do we know this?
Because they do. It’s part of their classroom experience. They are learning to be humans on this earth. And sometimes, talking back, yelling, or lying is part of that learning experience.
Does this mean that we just let them do these things without teaching them? Absolutely not. It’s always good to teach them about being respectful and responsible. But the key here is that you don’t hinge your happiness on whether they get it right away, and you don’t let it mean anything about you or your abilities as a parent.
Our children’s behaviors are not what make us mad or frustrated. Our feelings come from our thoughts. So it’s our thoughts about, or the meaning that we give the behavior that makes us feel miserable. Telling yourself, “Nothing has gone wrong here, and leaning into what is lightens everything up, so we can access more useful emotions, like curiousity or humor.
Secret #2: GET CURIOUS
The reason that humans get upset or misbehave is because their brains are telling them that they aren’t safe. In that moment, they are needing some help processing their emotions in order to calm down and help their brains start operating from the prefrontal cortex, where logical thinking happens. Who better to help them with this than you?
Ignoring the behavior may do the trick for the moment, but it doesn’t take care of their need. So it’s going to resurface again eventually.
And the problem with lecturing, isolating or punishing is that it never teaches anything to someone whose brain is currently operating in fight or flight mode. It only makes them feel alienated. Think back to the last time you spouted out your expectations to a child. You most likely had very little engagement from them.
All people, no matter what age or verbal ability, have a voice and want to be heard. As parents, our job is to make sure that they learn to use it. Teaching them that it’s best to feel their feelings and express them will help them learn that they don’t have to overreact in the future, and will help them grow into more emotionally mature adults.
Children feel heard when parents listen. Sit with your child. Lean toward him, soften your facial expressions and show interest, keeping your talking to a minimum.
If you must talk, you can encourage the flow of communication by using non-committal acknowledgments like: "mh-hm," "oh," "really," and "Tell me more about that."
The phrase, “Tell me more about that” is like magic. It doesn’t place judgement or accuse, and it shows genuine interest as a parent for your child AND what's going on for them. And IT WORKS.
Here are some examples of how this works:
Your daughter starts crying because she wants to watch TV, but you asked her to empty the dishwasher first . You say, "I can see that you really want to watch TV right now. Tell me more about that."
Your 10 year old loses a soccer game then says, "They cheated. It's so unfair." You say, "Tell me more about that."
You hear yelling going on. You let the kids fight and when the 7 year old comes in to declare, “I hate having little sisters." You say, "Tell me more about that."
Then you are silent, and you listen without giving advice. This is NOT the time for you to share; this is your child's time to share. Just listen. As a parent, respectful listening needs to be your MOST used tool.
Secret #3: HE/SHE IS JUST LIKE YOU!
She gets ornery when she’s hungry...She’s just like me!
She worries that she’s not fitting in... She’s just like me!
He gets fired up when he feels threatened. He’s just like me!
He lies sometimes to avoid discomfort... He’s just like me!
She procrastinates doing things that aren’t fun... She’s just like me!
He gets bored on long car rides and wants something to do...He’s just like me!
It’s interesting how our brains tell us that something is wrong with our kids when they do these things....they’re human beings. Humans are supposed to struggle with things sometimes. Don’t you struggle with some of the same things? Try extending the same compassion or help that you would want someone to extend to you when you show up as human beings do. Could your expectations be a little high? Consider it. Then repeat these words in your mind: “He’s just like me!”
Secret #4: THEY DON’T HAVE TO EARN YOUR LOVE
Do you tend to withhold your love from your child when he doesn’t comply with your expectations? Ask yourself this question honestly.
It feels so easy to love our kids unconditionally during the good times — like when we're celebrating their latest triumph, sharing a laugh, or when they have good grades. This is when unconditional love is easy. It feels like we'll ALWAYS love them, no matter what in those happy moments.
But then things change, and things DEFINITELY change when you're living with kids who extra tricky. They don’t do their chores, they lie to you, they cause trouble at school...Okay, now what?
Do you still unconditionally love them? Do you keep parenting the same way you did when times were good? Most likely not. Because you have a human brain. Most parents unknowingly abandon unconditional love in these moments. It can feel impossible for us to love our kids in these "bad" times--when their feelings aren't so positive and their behaviors aren't so pretty. Isn’t it ironic that when they need our love and connection the MOST is when we fail to love them completely?
Think of a time when you child did something that you didn’t like.
Got it in your head? Now, I want you to go to Fantasy Land. Picture what it would have been like to love them without conditions in that moment.
How does that feel to you? How would things have been different?
Our feelings are what drive our actions. And the feeling of love feels amazing. When we can just decide to love with no conditions, it drives us to respond in a connected way, which will get you...and your child...much better results.
I like to keep in mind that as human beings, our worth was decided as 100% the moment we were created. Nothing that we do or fail to do can change that in God’s eyes.
So why not extend love no matter what when our kids mess up? Just try it...see what happens. You can teach right and wrong without withholding your love.
Secret #5: THINK OF THOSE “MOMENTS” AS
A CHANCE TO PRACTICE!
Urges only become problems when we act upon them. For example, the urge to eat a bowl of ice cream at 10:00 pm only becomes a problem when we actually eat it.
Same goes for lashing out at our kids….or hiding in our room scrolling on our phones when they’re fighting...with each other or with your spouse!
It’s not a problem to have those urges because our bodies were totally made to process them. But acting on them can turn them into big problems. So think of processing urges like getting really good at a skill, like shooting a basketball into a hoop. The more you practice, the more skilled you get at doing it. Instead of getting all upset (or hiding away) when your child smacks a sibling on the head, try thinking of it as a great opportunity to practice your urge-processing skill. You could even make a game of it and keep track of it. After 25 times of staying calm, you get to go buy yourself a new shirt! Hey, how about going for 100!? Processing an urge 100 times will make you a PRO.
Parenting extra tricky kiddos requires a ton of work and tests us more than we ever imagined. But using these little secrets that I have learned from life coaching can help you keep that all-important connection. Try writing them on sticky notes and posting them in a place where you’ll see them often. Or create reminders in your phone that pop up during times of the day when things often get tense.
Teaching moms how to feel greater peace in their journeys with their special kiddos is the hallmark of my coaching program. I have used life coaching to move myself to a place of acceptance and peace, where I once thought there was no way it was possible. I have since become a Certified Life Coach and I specialize in helping burnt out moms who have kids with special needs or challenges.
I work with my clients over Zoom, so it doesn’t matter where you live. It’s so easy to get started! Go to www.heatherfillmorecoaching.com and click on “Work With Me” to sign up for a free call.