Good from Within
This applies not only to our children, but also to us as parents. Even if we sometimes lose our temper and say things to our children (or partner) that we would have been better off not saying, we can still redeem ourselves because ultimately we are also good from within.
It is, however, a misconception that assuming the good means that the child can indulge in anything under the banner of 'anything goes'. We still need to set boundaries for a child's bad behavior, but we need to separate the bad behavior from the nature of the child.
Assuming goodness shows that you take on the role of leader of the family. This gives the child the confidence that there is someone who can steer them in the right direction when things go wrong.
Children strongly react to the reflection we give on our child, such as a sibling having much better table manners. This reinforces the image and behavior of the child in a negative way. It's better to say, 'You're a good child but you're having a hard time right now. I'm here to help you through it.' This helps them understand their own situation better and makes it easier to regulate emotions and make better decisions.
When a conflict arises, there are actually two truths. We must then be curious about the truth of the other party. What is his or her reality? This way, both parties feel heard, which leads to a deeper and better connection. For example, the reality of the parent is that screen time is over. The reality of the child is that he or she is angry that the television is turning off. It is then the parent's task to reach a compromise. But even if no compromise is possible (the TV really has to go off because we have to leave), it is still important to acknowledge that a child may be angry about that.
Our first task is to create a safe environment for our children. Both physically and mentally. If a child becomes physical (hitting or kicking), it is our job as parents to intervene and prevent harm. It is important to remember that children sometimes have short circuits and therefore can no longer make good decisions. This can be tiring and uncomfortable for us as parents, but it is perfectly normal. We don't tell the child what not to do, but what we do when a dangerous situation arises.
Validate the child's feeling. Don't say 'There's no reason to be angry,' but 'I see you're angry and I understand that.' This doesn't mean the child will immediately stop shouting or crying, but in the long run, the child learns to regulate emotions better.
According to Kennedy, it is a good goal for a parent to become skilled at 'repairing' the relationship. Something will always go wrong at some point, but you can develop the skill to go back to your child and not be defensive but open to connection.
A healthy relationship is not an absence of conflicts, but where conflicts are resolved in a good way. Resolving conflicts can lead to a deeper connection. Therefore, it is important to become good at resolving conflicts.
Dealing with Disappointments and Setbacks
Your child needs to learn to deal with disappointments. This makes them more resilient and better able to deal with setbacks. So if a child says, 'Everyone in my class has already lost a tooth, except me...'. Don't respond with 'But you're very good at reading!' So don't avoid the bad feeling by covering it up with something else, but talk about the feeling: 'That's unfortunate. I understand it doesn't feel good. You know, when I was your age, I had the same...'
How to Deal with Bad Behavior?
Behavioral problems are often a cry for attention. Bad behavior is therefore rarely fixable in the heat of the moment. Connection must be constantly made through more one-on-one time and affirmation that the child is seen and appreciated.
You can see your child as a kind of 'emotion bank' where you sometimes borrow something. For example, by asking them to do something they don't feel like doing. Or denying them something they ask for, like ice cream for breakfast. So you have to make sure this bank is well stocked. You do this by often connecting with them and giving them attention. Kennedy calls this 'connection capital'.
A strategy she recommends for building this connection capital is 'Play No Phone' (PNP) time. This means putting away your phone and spending time solely with the child. You are then fully present with the child and not distracted by your phone (or tablet or laptop). Is the child being difficult or rude? Then that calls for PNP time.
If there is a challenge coming up, such as the television going off soon, prepare the child for that. Indicate that a difficult moment is coming up and that you understand that the child may be angry when the TV goes off. By practicing this more often, the child learns to deal with these kinds of moments better and regulate the emotion.
It is important to be silly. Laughing lowers the stress hormone. So try to resolve difficult situations in a funny way.
If your child is upset about something, you can refer to yourself (when you were the same age) struggling with the same problem and how you solved it. 'Did I ever tell you about that time when I...'
How to Get Your Child to Do Something They Don't Want to Do?
Yelling at your child is pointless because the child then enters a kind of survival mode and uses all their energy to get through that moment. There is then no energy left to process the message you, as a parent, have.
A favorite trick of Kennedy's to get her children to do things is the 'Close Your Eyes Hack'. You want, for example, the child to put on their shoes. You then say, 'I'll close my eyes, and when I open them again, I can't believe my child has their shoes on!' This makes the child feel like they're in control rather than being told what to do.
When a child has a tantrum, they can no longer regulate their emotions. It's a biological issue, not an act of disobedience. During a tantrum, you must remain calm yourself and ensure that no dangerous situations arise. It is not our job as parents to stop the tantrum because we want the child to decide this for themselves. One way to deal with tantrums is to clearly state the underlying desire, for example, if the child wants ice cream for breakfast. By speaking this out loud, the child feels heard and it helps calm them down.
Don't say 'Stop throwing toys.' but 'I won't allow you to throw toys.' By using 'I won't allow,' you show that you as a parent are in control.
Many families try to prevent conflicts by dividing everything 'fairly' between the children. However, by pursuing this fairness, you only create more conflicts because the children start watching each other to see if everything is being divided 'fairly.'
When children have conflicts between them, encourage them to solve it themselves. This teaches children to make compromises and solve problems.
If children give us a backtalk or resist us, parents usually want to break off contact. However, what the child actually needs is someone who makes an effort to reconnect. If a child acts sassy or annoying, it's actually a cry for attention: "Don't you understand that something big is happening inside me that I have no control over?"
Whining = a great desire + helplessness. When a child really wants something but doesn't have the control to influence the situation, they start whining. Whining is also a kind of emotional outlet. The best way to deal with whining is to make a joke about it. And if a child asks for something with a whining tone, set a good example by showing how you want your children to ask for things. 'Could you please pass me that book? Thank you, Daddy.'
If a Child Lies
Don't seek a confession. Try to find out why the child is lying and create an environment where the child can tell the truth. If a child lies, for example, 'I didn't knock over that lamp because I was playing in another room,' this may be a way for the child to deal with shame. The fact that a child doesn't tell the truth is because the truth is hard and scary.
Seeing the lie as a wish makes your child feel like you're a team and increases the chance that next time the truth will be told.
When a child is afraid, we as parents tend to correct the child and say that something is not scary at all, in other words: 'your feeling is wrong.' Trying to rationalize a child's fear is never a successful strategy. Instead, you should go along with the child's fear, as if you're jumping into the dark hole with them. Then you can practice difficult situations and validate the child's fear by indicating that it's logical for them to be afraid of something.
A hesitant or shy child is not a problem to be solved. Usually, the child's shyness causes discomfort for the parents and not for the child. You should see it as your child being confident enough to decide when, for example, to join in playing with a group of children. You can then say to your child, 'You know best when you're ready to go play with your friends.'
Kennedy mentions a method from dietitian Ellyn Satter as follows: It is the parents' job to determine what food is offered. It is the child's job to decide how much of it to eat. Another tactic is not to withhold dessert as a kind of reward, but to serve it directly with dinner. This makes the dessert less 'exciting.'
Self-confidence comes when parents allow and connect with the child's feelings. Even difficult emotions such as sadness, disappointment, jealousy, and anger must be accepted and discussed. Your child must feel safe to be themselves, regardless of the emotion.
When giving a child a compliment, focus mainly on what is happening in the child or the process rather than the end product. 'I see you used different colors for this drawing, tell me about that.' or 'How did you come up with the idea to make this?' This way, the child learns more about themselves than fishing for compliments.