Dealing with Jealous Feelings

There are always people who have more than us – just like there are always those who have less. Unfortunately, instead of feeling grateful for having more than others do, it is all too easy for children, teens and even adults to feel jealous of those who have more. Jealous feelings are not only unpleasant to experience, but also potentially destructive; the emotion can transform otherwise well-behaved youngsters into “green-eyed monsters” who behave very badly. “Why does HE have more! It isn’t fair!” can be followed by grabbing whatever it is out of the child’s hand. Older kids may react by snubbing or mocking others – or worse. It’s important then that parents teach their children how to manage jealousy and envy from an early age.

If your child experiences jealousy feelings, consider the following tips:

Be “Fair” not “Equal”
In your home, make it a priority to meet the individual needs of family members. If one child needs new shoes, he or she gets them – but there is no need to get shoes for another child in the family who does not currently need them. Getting both children shoes would be trying to make things “equal” whereas getting each child shoes when they’re needed is “fair.” When the child asks “Why does SHE get new shoes and I don’t?” you can answer “because SHE needs shoes now and you don’t.  When YOU need shoes, you’ll be getting them – I promise!” In other words, everyone will get what they need at the right time.

When serving dessert, refrain from taking out the ruler to make sure everyone gets the exact same size piece of cake. “He has a bigger piece!” can be answered with “It all works out in the end – sometimes his piece is a bit bigger and sometimes yours is the bigger one.” Your relaxed attitude and your refusal to try to make things equal can help a child learn that equality is not really necessary.

Easy & Difficult Children
Most parents do not have difficulty treating their kids approximately the same – giving each approximately (not exactly!) the same kind of wardrobe, the same types of privileges and so on. Where parents might experience a greater challenge would be in the way they treat favored and not-favored children. For instance, it is just easier to smile at, joke around with and complement easy-going, cooperative children. More challenging children tend to earn themselves more criticism, complaint and negativity. Treating the “easy” child and the “difficult” child the same is quite a challenge – but try to do it anyway. Children are VERY sensitive. The difficult child doesn’t want to be difficult (no matter what it looks like to you); he or she is suffering from some internal challenge. The child can easily see that you like a sibling more and the subsequent jealousy and hurt can be very destructive. It’s O.K. to ACT more loving than you feel; care less about the risk of possible deception and more about the devastating effects of parental rejection. And, of course, it is essential to avoid making comparisons between the children. Each one needs to be celebrated according to his or her OWN milestones and accomplishments.

Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem
As much as you can, emphasize, acknowledge and celebrate each of your children’s strengths — let them know that they are people of worth and value. Show them everyday how much they matter to you. Furthermore, communicate that everyone is unique, with their own gifts and charisms. A sibling may be a better singer, but it doesn’t mean that one is inferior or lacking. Perhaps one’s talent lies elsewhere! Having cute nicknames that highlight each child’s strength and unique identity can help – only if the child identifies positively with his or her nickname. For instance, in one family, we might have “Canary Carol” or sings so beautifully and “Hammer Henry” who is a very competent young handyman. Avoid potentially insulting labels like “Brainy Ben” – the brains in the family and his less bright sister “Beautiful Betty” – it is much more important to highlight Betty’s strongpoints in skill, talent and personality than just her exterior looks. Everyone has some speciality – finding one of your child’s many strong points highlights this fact and reduces insecurity and jealousy.

Most importantly, encourage your child to celebrate the sibling’s successes and strengths. Help your kids to feel the joy of pride in a sibling’s accomplishment – whether it is the building of a tall block tower or winning on the debating team. Encourage a family feeling of group identification: “You little Rosses are all adorable!” (or brilliant, super, thoughtful, etc.). Also encourage each child to bring gifts for the others in the family – “Did you get candy when you went to see Grandma today? Why don’t you offer some to your brother?” Follow up with the CLeaR Method (comment, label reward – see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for details). “You shared so nicely. That was so generous of you! I think you both deserve to go to the park with Mommy this afternoon.”

Name and Accept Feelings
When your child expresses a jealous feeling, refrain from reprimanding him. A feeling is just a feeling – just name it:  “Yes, I understand that you’d like new shoes now too. It’s hard to wait. It doesn’t seem fair.”  Without using the word “but” make a new sentence to continue your thoughts: “You’ll be getting new shoes when you need them. Remember how you got shoes in the summer but no one else in the family did? That’s because YOU needed them and they didn’t. Everyone gets shoes when they need them.”

Discipline Misbehavior
While feelings are all acceptable, behaviors may not be. If your jealous child lashes out at you or a sibling, the misbehavior needs correction. “I understand that you wanted his toy. You cannot grab it from him – you need to wait your turn. From now on, when you grab things away from him, you won’t get your turn at all that day.” (See the 2X-Rule of discipline in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice.)

Consider Bach Flower Therapy
The Bach Flower Remedy called “Holly” can help ease jealous and angry feelings. This harmless, water-based remedy can help “turn off” the tendency to fall into jealousy (learn more about Bach Flowers in “Bach Flower Remedies” on this site).

Consider Professional Help
If your child is really suffering jealous feelings and your interventions are not helping, do consult a mental health professional for further guidance.

Child Wakes Baby

Picture this scene: You’ve just finished spending 45 minutes of gentle rocking and singing to put your baby to sleep. But the effort is well worth it. Finally, you can get some well-deserved rest. You may even be able to catch up on your reading. Except… your thoughts are suddenly interrupted by a loud and demanding cry on the baby monitor. Your older child has just woken the baby up! Beyond frustrated, you get up, drag your feet to the nursery, and start the bedtime ritual all over again.

Why does this keep happening? Why can’t your older child just let the baby sleep? Consider the following:

Your Child is Bored
Sometimes, your child disturbs your sleeping baby out of simple boredom. With nothing interesting to do, kids look for diversions (the baby is an excellent distraction!) and even company. They may even want to play with their sibling, but don’t have the patience to wait until their brother or sister is awake. If this is the case, the best thing for a parent to do is find ways to engage their child while the baby is sleeping.

There are many individual games – available in toy stores and online – designed to challenge a child’s intellectual and motor development. Have these games or activities handy; they can be used to entertain bored children so that they don’t become disruptive while you are busy trying to settle the baby. Sometimes, you may be able to arrange play dates to time with your infant’s regular sleeping schedule. If you’re fortunate, there may be another adult around who can spend time with your child while you are occupied.

Your Child Doesn’t Understand Why the Baby Must Sleep
It’s tempting to reprimand or punish a child for waking up the baby, especially when he or she ends up creating so more work for the parent. But it’s important for parents to remember that the younger a child is, the less likely he or she understands why the baby’s sleep is so important. Try to explain to your child what sleep does, in a manner appropriate to his or her age. For example, parents can share with a toddler how babies become healthier when they sleep because their tiny cells grow and become stronger. If you can inject your explanation with a lot of visual imagery (you can even draw a cell growing bigger and bigger), your child will likely develop a healthy respect for sleep. Who knows, your little talk might make it easier for you to put them to bed as well!

Your Child is Acting Out
A new baby can be threatening; your child may be feeling jealousy and resentment against the infant and, out of that anger, WANTS to disturb the baby’s peace. Perhaps you’ve been accidentally giving the youngster too much negative attention which can lead to more misbehavior. In this case, carefully reduce the amount of negative feedback you are giving him (like telling him “no” or “don’t do that” or “you’ll be punished if you continue to do that,” etc.). Instead, use the CLeaR Method of positive guidance, filling your conversation with positive comments, positive labels and even positive rewards (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for more information about the Clear Method). Use the CLeaR Method to specifically reinforce your child’s patience at letting the baby sleep – give PLENTY of positive attention whenever your child manages to walk by the sleeping infant without waking him.

Keep in mind, too, that your child may be seeking your attention simply because he feels a little lost in all the fuss over the new family member. Indeed, you may be too tired to give him as much time and attention as you did before the baby was born and the mischievous child is just trying to reclaim his place in your heart (albeit the wrong way). He or she may feel that the only time you pay attention is when the baby is awake, which is why the baby must be awake all the time. If you think that this could be the problem, redouble your efforts to talk to this youngster during the day (just give him a little more eye contact and a little more verbal contact) and try to do something to make him feel special at least once a day (i.e. make chocolate milk “just for him” or play a short game with him or draw a funny picture for him or sit down and read him a story in the middle of the day, etc.) Keep in mind that if your new baby has made you feel more stressed than usual, your child may be reacting to your increased stress level with his own brand of misbehavior. Perhaps you need more household help,more time out of the house or something else in order to put YOU in a better mood. This might indirectly help your child stop seeking negative attention in the form of waking the baby.

You Have Not Yet Established Your Parental Authority
It is possible that the one who wakes up the baby is really old enough to know better. No matter how many times you tell him to let the baby sleep, he ignores you. He may even think it’s funny to defy his parents and get a reaction from the baby. In this case, it is possible that you have not yet established your authority. Review the 2X-Rule (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice) – a quiet, respectful, firm method of discipline that helps reduce misbehavior. When the child wakes the baby, he receives an appropriate  negative consequence. You have to be consistent with this, making sure that the child receives the consequence over and over again. However, if after 3 or 4 consequences he is not improving, then continue with the general structure of discipline, replacing your ineffective punishment with a different one that might be more effective. Use each consequence 3 or 4 times and monitor your results. You will eventually find the punishment that motivates this youngster to let his new sibling sleep! When using the 2X-Rule, make sure that you are careful to maintain a high ratio of positive attention at the same time (use the 80-20 Rule in order to ensure the effectiveness of discipline).

Your Child May Have A Defiant Nature
It could be that there’s nothing more that you can do behaviorally – your child is simply unresponsive to normal interventions. If this is the case, consider Bach Flower Therapy. The Bach remedy Holly for jealousy can be helpful along with Vine (for being strong-willed and doing what he wants to do no matter what), Chestnut Bud (for being unresponsive to discipline and guidance and Walnut (for adjusting to changes in the home). Using the remedies for a few weeks or a few months can help ease the child out of his stuck and unhappy place to a more cooperative, happier one! Put all the remedies in one mixing bottle filled with water – 2 drops of each. Add a bit of brandy (1/2  a teaspoon to prevent the growth of bacteria) and give your child 4 drops in a bit of liquid (milk, chocolate milk, juice, soup, water, soda etc.) 4 times a day with or without food. You can find more information about the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

Seek Professional Guidance
If nothing seems to work and the child is still waking a sibling, consider consulting a mental health professional who can take a closer look at what is going on and help design a uniquely tailored intervention.

Stealing in Very Young Children

Your little pre-schooler just took his brother’s wallet and put it in his own drawer. Your little toddler hid the neighbor’s paper weight on her shorts pocket. And you’ve been looking for your brand new hairbrush all day, only to find that your 6-year old has taken it without permission to use for her dolly’s hair.

What’s the best way to handle stealing in young children?

Parents are right to be concerned about unethical behavior in their kids. It is, after all, a parental task to properly socialize their children, ensuring that they have appropriate behavior and good values. Clearly, “stealing” is a highly inappropriate behavior that must be stopped in its tracks.

But here’s the good news: stealing among very young children, 6 years old and below, is actually quite normal and common. More importantly, “theft” among members of this young group does not necessarily indicate future problems with the law!

Why Do Young Kids Steal?
There are many possible reasons why young children steal. Consider the following:

They Want to Explore
As children make the transition from infancy to toddlerhood, they begin to seriously explore their environment. Their curiosity drives them to touch everything around them – even objects that are forbidden to handle. They will try to break apart their toys, just to see what makes them tick.  Anything and everything is fair game for touching – even a hair brush might be interesting to a particular youngster. Consequently, when kids are very young they might take something, not because they have the intention to steal, but because they just want to examine or manipulate that object. And if they never give it back, it’s simply because they have no sense of natural order – they never return things they take for the same reason they never pick up after themselves! They’re not yet socialized and civilized.

They are Selfish by Nature
Young kids steal because they are born egocentric: that is, they think the world revolves around them. It is only when a child gets older that he or she develops empathy, or the realization that another person may have a different point of view. Thus, a child may feel justified to take something he  wants or likes, without regard for another’s feelings. He cannot imagine the upset and grief of the one who has now lost the object.

They Don’t Understand Ownership
The concept of ownership is too abstract for a very young mind. Kids only understand presence and absence; things are either in front of them or they’re not. They do not understand the idea that property belongs to others even when the others aren’t around. They also fail to understand that others may choose NOT to lend their items. Every object around them is just part of the world — there for taking!

They are Looking for Attention
Lastly, parents may not be aware that they might be reinforcing stealing behavior, by reacting with upset or anger, or even by reprimanding or punishing. They may also have accidentally indicated that stealing is funny, when having a good laugh over a long-missing object that turns out to be under the child’s pillow. Since small children are prone to do anything for attention, it’s important that parents minimize attention around the issue of taking other people’s belongings. A simple, “that belongs to your sister” followed by getting up and giving it back to the sibling, is sufficient for really small children.

How to Educate a Young “Thief”
When a child is really young, – say around 3 years old and less –  the best intervention is to just ignore the taking behavior, apart from giving instructions to give the item back (i.e. “This is Katie’s toy – let’s give it back to her.”). Reprimanding or punishing a behavior that will most often disappear on its own may even be counterproductive; it might shame or frighten the child for no  reason. Simply “childproof” your environment during these early years – keep valuables out of sight and reach and handle episodes of inappropriate touching and taking on a per-case basis.

As a child gets older, you can take the opportunity to teach him or her that stealing is wrong. You can start by introducing your 4 or 5 year old to the concepts of private property and personal ownership. You may also begin teaching which objects are objects are “public property” and which ones require permissions. Bibliotherapy – the reading of relevant story books – can be helpful at this stage. Ask your local librarian for some titles. You can also teach a young child important communication skills, showing them how to get  what they want or need by asking for it in an acceptable fashion. For example, you can teach them how to ask permission to play with a toy that they don’t own. Teaching them to return an object to its original location or owner and apologizing if they took something they shouldn’t, are also a good interventions. Again, a simple “We don’t take what isn’t ours,” is enough for this age group. “Please give it back right now.” If you suspect that your child is stealing in order to get extra attention, try offering more attention in healthier ways. If the problem doesn’t clear up, do seek professional intervention.

As a child grows a bit older – certainly by 5 and 6 years of age – go ahead and begin employing negative consequences for stealing. Follow the 2X-Rule formula for discipline (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for details on this quiet, firm and respectful way to discipline children). In addition, encourage more appropriate behavior by remembering to acknowledge or even reward appropriate behaviors like asking permission before touching things and refraining from touching what shouldn’t be touched.

Other Interventions
Do keep in mind that each child is different and sometimes, children have an “itch” to take what isn’t theirs to take despite the best educational strategies of home and school. Characteristics like impulsivity, jealousy and even neediness are often inherited along with other traits and characteristics. If your child has a tendency to take things despite your best efforts, don’t blame yourself or even him! Simply work with this challenge patiently and lovingly. That will help a lot in itself. Consider Bach Flower Therapy for a little extra help: remedies in this system that may be helpful are Chestnut Bud (for impulsive, dishonest behavior), Holly (for jealousy), and Vine (for strong will, wanting what he wants). Read more about Bach Flower Remedies and how they can be used on this site (see Bach Flower Remedies).

If the problem is persistent or severe, do consult a child psychologist for further help. Breaking the taking habit early is the best approach!

Understanding Your Teen

Teenagers can be challenging to raise. However, knowing what “makes them tick,” can make the job far easier. Let’s look at the typical characteristics of teenagers in order to better understand this period of life.

The following are some of the hallmarks of the teenage years, and some tips on how parents can help navigate them:

Rapid Physical Changes
Adolescence is a time of many physical changes as children gradually transform into young adults. For boys, there is a “growth spurt” — a rapid increase in height and weight, sometimes followed by changes in bone structure. Hair starts to grow in different places: the face, the armpits, the legs and the pubic areas. The adolescent’s voice deepens, and sounds more “grown up.” There are increases in muscle mass and strength as well.

Girls are also have sudden increases in height and weight. Breasts develop, hips become more defined, and body hair grows in the pubic and armpit areas. This is also the time when menstruation begins, often bringing along hormonally induced mood swings.

In both genders, the skin becomes more sensitive and sweaty, making adolescents more prone to pimples or acne. Kids develop at different paces – some making early changes and others making later ones. Often, kids are self-conscious about where they are in the normal distribution. Everyone wants to be “average” but of course, that isn’t possible. As a result, teens can feel embarrassed, inadequate or otherwise troubled by their physical changes: boys with squeaky voices and girls with flat chests can feel temporarily inadequate or self-conscious. Sometimes, the lingering consequences of insecurity can last for decades. Parents can help by being sensitive to their teens, never making rude jokes or unkind remarks. After all, every human being must go through adolescence on his or her way to adulthood. The gentle support and guidance of a parent can make the transition easier.

From Parent Approval to Peer Approval
At this stage of development, your child’s main focus of attention will shift from you to their same-aged classmates and friends. They may now prefer to spend more time with friends than with family members. Some kids don’t even want to be seen with parents in public! It’s all part of the push toward independence. Their “cutting of the apron strings” is a temporary phase: as your child journeys to adulthood, a healthy balance between family life and social life will emerge — and you’ll regain your place in their heart.

Testing Limits
As mentioned, kids at this time are exploring their identity and independence. Testing of rules and limits is all about pushing the borders now, bursting out of the protective shell. Teens might violate curfew, disobey house rules, experiment with various risk-taking behaviors, and constantly negotiate their “rights.” You might bring books home from the local library on subjects like smoking, alcohol, sex, drug use and so on. There are many books for this age group designed to be appealing to teens – with pictures and simple explanations this literature can provide the warnings and education your child needs in a teen-friendly way. Books can be a better method than dire warnings from an anxious parent.

At this point, parents should strike that balance between being understanding of their child’s need to be autonomous, and setting reasonable and consistent rules for their child’s safety and well-being.. As a rule, try to accommodate the new freedoms they ask for, for as long as safeguards are in place. Take the opportunity to teach about responsibility and accountability. It’s important NOT to establish rules that none of their friends have. Instead, allow your child to be a normal teen within his or her community and try to put your own fears to rest. It can be helpful to access the help of a parenting professional or mental health professional to get normal parameters such as age-appropriate curfews on weeknights and weekends, dress codes, use of alcohol and drugs and so on. If you have an accurate frame of reference, your rules will be more appropriate – and your child will probably have a greater respect for your decisions, which might lead to greater compliance with your rules.

An Increased Interest in Sexuality
Your child will now be showing an interest in all things sexual including advertisements, internet porn, and real people. Don’t be surprised if you see your normally “plain and simple” son or daughter dolling up a bit, and taking an interest in grooming, fashion and flirting. This is all a normal part of the growing up process. Modern teenagers may be more open about sexuality than older generations and may want to be sexually active and more sexually active at earlier ages. Many kids in today’s society are confused about their sexual orientation and some may benefit from professional guidance. Your job is to share your values, provide information and establish clear expectations. You probably don’t want your child to be making babies just quite yet but teenagers don’t automatically know how to prevent that from happening. Teach responsibility and safety in sexuality – don’t assume that your child has learned this at school or on the street. Your child needs to know about sexual diseases as well and how to both prevent them and identify early symptoms. Some parents arrange for the child’s doctor to explain the details of contraception and sexual protection from pregnancy and disease.

Anger and Conflict During Discipline

Discipline is hard for parents and kids alike. Tempers can flare on both sides. Angry kids are challenging to deal with, but angry parents can actually cause trauma in their children. Indeed, much accidental psychological damage is done during disciplinary episodes. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s look at what causes anger during discipline and see what we can do to prevent it.

Discipline is Education
Offering children guidance and a good parental model is very important. For instance, telling children that they need to refrain from talking with their mouth full of food and also showing them through the parental model that this is how people conduct themselves is the best way to begin to the education process. However, this “one-two punch” is not always completely sufficient to get the point across. For instance, you may be a very responsible person who always comes home on time or at least calls to say when you’ll be late. The fact that you behave this way AND that you’ve explained to your 16 year old daughter how important it is to conduct oneself this way, does not guarantee that your daughter will conduct herself that way. You may have to do more to get the lesson across in a way that affects her behavior. Sometimes “more” involves giving positive attention or even positive rewards for appropriate behavior in order to reinforce that behavior. However, sometimes “more” involves giving negative consequences in order to discourage unacceptable or inappropriate behavior. Negative consequences are TOOLS in a system of discipline.

Discipline is related to the word “disciple” – student. When the parent offers discipline to the child, it is a form of education. As such, it has nothing to do with emotions like anger or behaviors like yelling. A good disciplinarian is simply a good teacher.

The Teaching Moment
Since discipline is nothing more than teaching, it is important to choose an appropriate time and place for any lesson that you wish to impart. This is called “the teaching moment.” A teaching moment is usually fairly private (never in front of guests). It is a moment in which the child is calm. It is also a moment in which the parent is calm. If these conditions are not met, the parent should wait before attempting to discipline. A parent has about 20 years to raise a child – there is no “emergency” (unless the child is standing in traffic). In general, wait until you are both calm and you have an appropriate location in which you can speak. If either of you is upset, just wait longer. It is fine to wait hours, days, or sometimes even longer (the older the child the longer it’s possible to wait).

Most of what goes wrong during discipline happens because the parent did not choose a “teaching moment.” Instead, the parent felt upset and punished the child while still angry. This causes the parent to use emotion instead of appropriate negative consequences, to try to teach the lesson. Since the parent is upset, his or her ability to choose an appropriate negative consequence is severely compromised. Angry feels can seriously interfere with the thinking process.  In anger, the parent might choose a negative consequence that is too harsh, too long or otherwise too unreasonable. Moreover, the chances of the parent being able to explain what he or she wants and doesn’t want from the child are fairly slim, due to the parent’s intense upset. Instead of communicating in such a way that the child would be able to hear or want to hear, the parent is likely to communicate in a way that infuriates the child or shuts him down. The parent may use escalatory language and say hurtful things. This, of course, makes the child very upset and he may then lash out in kind or more so. When the parent “loses it” the child is much more inclined to lose it as well. Now we have a shouting match instead of “discipline.”

Arguments and Conflict
A cycle occurs: the child’s upset triggers parental upset that triggers more upset in the child and so on. As the child gets more and more out of control, he is likely to show less and less respect to the parent. The child’s rudeness causes the parent to become more and more offended, insulted, enraged and punitive, which causes the child to feel more offended, insulted, enraged and vengeful.

The one to break the cycle of anger and conflict during discipline is the PARENT. No matter how rude, wild or out-of-control the child is, the parent must stay calm, collected and adult throughout any communication. The parent can use the Two Times Rule – 2X Rule – to carry out discipline (see the full explanation of the 2X Rule in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice, by Sarah Chana Radcliffe). The parent says something once, says it again with a warning of a consequence, and then gives the consequence if necessary. The parent stays calm and quiet throughout. The consequence has been chosen earlier, when the parent was thinking about the child’s behavioral lapses. If the child argues, a similar structure of communication is used to stop it: the parent follows the “I-Do-Not-Argue-With-You” rule (also described in full in Raising Your Kids without Raising Your Voice).

When children see that their parents can actually stay perfectly calm, respectful, caring and reasonable during moments of intense stress, they will use the model as one of the valuable tools they’ll have for learning how it is done. Moreover, parents can use discipline itself to help teach children that it is fine to feel anger, but it is not fine to just express it without regard to people’s feelings. The Relationship Rule is a step-by-step process for teaching children how to express themselves politely, even when feeling upset. The consistent parental model is very, very important in making the lessons stick!

Professional Resources
If children or parents get so out of control during episodes of discipline that they have trouble calming themselves down, professional help can be enlisted to help restore a sense of control and inner discipline. Mental health professionals can offer strategies and interventions that can directly target upset and angry feelings, helping parent and/or child to feel calmer and happier in general, as well as during moments of discipline!

How to Offer Correction and Criticism

“You know, you’ve been such an inconsistent parent! I don’t know what you really want. You don’t explain your rules very well. You punish me even for things that are not my fault. And when I need you, you are not there. You can’t even tell me you love me every day!”

Imagine that your child suddenly knocked on your door and issued a scathing tirade such as the one above. How would you feel? You might feel hurt, attacked, abused and unappreciated. You might feel like you never did anything right. Even if your child was just “trying to help,” you might still be left reeling in pain. Correction and criticism can be painful for anyone to hear – an important point to remember when you must offer criticism to your child. It is, however, possible to minimize the pain and destructive impact of criticism when one knows how to carefully present negative feedback.

To make your criticism as constructive as possible, consider the following tips:

Inquire – Don’t Lecture
In many cases, children are already aware of what they did poorly or wrong. Therefore, lecturing them about their failures and weaknesses just reinforces a disappointment they already feel. Instead of giving them a laundry list of bad calls, why don’t you just open the conversation with a gentle query: “Do you know what didn’t work for you?” Focusing on diagnosing where the problem lies is more constructive than tearing down a child’s already fragile self-esteem.

Choose a Teaching Moment
Don’t offer criticism when you are feeling upset or when the child is upset. Rather, wait for a teaching moment – a time when both of you are calm. Think of what you want your child to know and actually plan how you will present that information. Trying to teach a child an important lesson when either of you is upset is not only a waste of time, but can also be destructive. Lessons delivered with anger, sarcasm, ugly facial expressions, a raised voice and all the rest get lost in the sea of emotion. When you want the lesson to be learned, don’t allow the distraction of upset emotions. Wait till a calm and quiet time to provide education and redirection.

Coach, but with Permission
What if your child has no idea where the mistake lies? Then adopt the role of a mentor, instead of judge and jury. Instead of forcing your lessons, respectfully ask your child for permission to teach. “Would you like me to tell you how it could have been done differently?” Asking for your child’s permission doesn’t merely show courtesy on your part – it also makes sure that your child chooses to learn by saying “yes” to instruction.

Praise & Encourage
In any negative situation, you can always find something to compliment. In fact, just the mere fact that your child tried something new, or is currently listening to you, is cause for celebration. Don’t focus on the negative. Before you offer your correction and criticism, emphasize how proud you are for the right things they’ve been doing. In fact, try to use the “sandwich” approach: praise, correct, praise. This formula helps make negative feedback more bearable. “I like the way you are slanting those letters. Now if you just make them a bit taller they’ll look really nice – especially because you’ve formed them so well!

Explain the Effect of an Action 
If you are giving correction and criticism because of a negative behavior, then see if you can share the impact it has on YOU. Refrain from making it about the child’s personal flaws. For example, instead of telling your child that he or she was irresponsible for not calling home after curfew, explain instead how worried you were and how much you would have appreciated a call. Kids are more likely to respond positively to a correction or a criticism when they know that their response matters to you on an emotional level. “When you forget to take the garbage out, then I have to do it as I’m rushing out the door and this makes me get a late start which then makes me feel tense and rushed all the way to work!”

Focus on the Behavior, Not the Person
You love your child; you always will. And no amount of misbehavior or bad decision-making can take away that love. But if you engage in name-calling and personal attacks, you communicate that your anger is personal and permanent. Instead of raising negative personality traits (e.g. “You’re so inconsiderate”), focus on the observable behavior (e.g. “You promised that you would help out at the garage today, but you went to the concert instead.”). The rule in family life is “never use negative labels no matter how accurate they may seem to be.”

Name  the Behavior that You Want  to See
Share your optimism for change by communicating the positive behavior that you would like to see in the future. This step is important, as it communicates that you see the mistake or misbehavior as a one-time episode and not a problem that can’t be solved. Kids tend to want to fulfill expectations of the people that they love, so communicating that your expectations are positive is a step in the right direction. “I know that you can get into bed on time by putting your mind to it.”

Choosing Negative Consequences

Negative consequences are an important part of a parent’s toolkit. Although some people believe that it is possible to raise children without using negative consequences, most parenting experts recommend the moderate and responsible use of consequences as an effective teaching tool in the context of a warm and loving parent-child relationship. Similarly, while there are some children who may never need a negative consequence to curb their behavior, most kids will benefit from the occasional negative consequence during their twenty developmental years. In fact, the careful application of negative consequences can help parents avoid the use of more toxic interventions like the expression of anger or helplessness. Consequences are used to educate the child, not punish him or her. In order to be effective, they must be delivered without malice, anger, upset or any other punitive, hurtful or shaming attitude. Indeed, the more similar a negative consequence is to a parking ticket, the better. Just like a parking ticket is delivered without emotion (no anger, rejection, humiliation, etc.), so too a consequence is delivered in a matter-of-fact manner. Consequences replace anger as a parenting tool. Yet, it is important to select consequences that are effective. A consequence that does not improve the child’s misbehavior is worse than useless – it can be harmful. Ineffective consequences frustrate parents and fail to educate children. In a cost-benefit analysis they lose out because they cause annoyance and upset without leading to any positive change in behavior. What kind of negative consequences can parents use that will actually be helpful?

Consider the following tips:

Natural Consequences
First, it helps to remember that parents need not always come up with consequences. In many cases, parents can simply let nature take its course, and let the school of life do the teaching. The idea of surrendering the reins may be counterintuitive for many, especially if you grew up raised under traditional parenting values. But experience can be the best teacher and restraint can be the best parental intervention.

When do you use natural consequence to discipline? Put simply, when your child seems to have realized that he has “bitten off more than he can chew” or that he is “reaping what he sowed.” These are the occasions when the natural effect of our kids’ disobedience or misbehavior is already jarring, or at least thought-provoking, for a child. In these situations, a parent’s reprimand would be superfluous. Sometimes nothing at all needs to be said. Other times, parents may want to simply sit down with their child, and gently ask: “Do you understand why things ended this way?”

Here’s an example: suppose you have repeatedly told your 7 year old son not to leave his fragile toy out where the toddler might get his hands on it, but your son ignored your advice and… the toy got broken by small, curious hands. Do you still need to give a negative consequence? Not at all!  It’s unlikely your child will repeat his mistake again. You can just express sympathy and skip the tempting parental lecture. Ideally, you would take some time before replacing the broken toy, so that the lesson will stick.

The same goes when your adolescent gets in trouble in the community or at school. You can show emotional support while allowing the consequences to unfold on their own. If you don’t need to add anything in order to get the point across, then don’t! Your educational power derives largely from the strength of your parent-child bond, so whenever you can be “the good guy” definitely take the opportunity!

Logical Consequences
The use of natural consequences during discipline has its limitations, however. For one thing, not all misbehavior produces negative consequences. For instance, a naturally smart child can still pass with flying colors at school even if he fails to study or repeatedly comes late to class. More importantly, some natural consequences threaten a child’s physical and emotional safety and must be avoided. For example, the natural consequence of not wearing a safety helmet during biking is an accident — something no parent would allow just for the sake of teaching a lesson!

In these situations, a bit more creativity is required from parents. Parents can try to develop “logical consequences”: consequences that may not be natural, but are still related to the lesson of cause and effect that you want to teach. As with natural consequences, the goal of logical consequences is not to punish, but to instruct.

To come up with the best logical consequence for your child’s misbehavior, pick a punishment that is related to the “crime.” For instance, a child who doesn’t put away his Lego after playing, loses the privilege to play with Lego the next day. Or, a child who doesn’t get into his pajamas in a timely manner, doesn’t “have time” now for his regular bedtime story. Perhaps a child who takes your car for the evening and leaves the gas on “empty” when he returns it, doesn’t get to borrow it for awhile.

Illogical Consequences
While logical consequences are great, they are only effective if they happen to be “the right priced ticket.” For instance, suppose the youngster who leaves a Lego mess doesn’t particularly care whether or not he gets to play with Lego tomorrow. Suppose he has a hundred other equally interesting toys and will not feel put out by not being able to use the Lego. In that case, removing the Lego is not going to be an effective consequence. When you select a consequence, think of making it equal to “a hundred dollar speeding ticket.” What consequence would annoy your child comparably to how annoyed YOU might feel if you got a hundred dollar speeding ticket? The Lego offender might be sufficiently bothered by losing dessert. Of course, losing dessert has nothing at all to do with not putting away one’s toys, just like losing a hundred dollars has nothing at all to do with driving too fast. However, if losing dessert is highly annoying to the child, then maybe it will help him remember to put away his toys in the future. Illogical consequences are consequences that provide sufficient annoyance that they successfully teach the desired lesson, even though they have nothing to do with the original misbehavior. Parents can choose from a list of possibilities such as:

  • Removal of the child’s favorite possessions (for up to 24 hours only, and as little as 5 min)
  • Removal of privileges (for up to 24 hours only, and as little as 5 min)
  • Time-out (for the number of minutes of the child’s age, plus or minus 2)
  • Removal of snack/junk food treats (only 1 per consequence)
  • Extra work
  • Writing lines/essays
  • Practicing the desired behavior over and over (for a couple of minutes only)

Many examples of negative consequences in each category can be found in the book Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

Curfew

Teenagers are getting ready for independent adult living. They have a strong drive to explore the world and gain greater control over their time and actions; they yearn for greater freedom. Although parents may feel insulted or hurt, cialis their kids are not so much trying to escape from home as they are trying to run toward their own futures.

A much sought-after freedom at this point in a young person’s life is the freedom to stay out late with friends. Parents, however, remain loving and protective – they are concerned about their child’s safety and well-being. For this reason, they still want to set curfews – times that their child must be home by. Parents also tend to want to know where their teens are going and who they’re with. Adolescents, on the other hand, are often loathe to provide this information, feeling that it is an intrusion on their precious privacy. It’s important to find the middle ground between the child’s developmental needs and the need that parents have to be responsible guardians. The curfew issue must be negotiated in some sort of win-win way.

If curfews are an issue in your house, consider the following tips:

A Good Negotiator Listens Well
Invite your teen to express his or her needs and wishes around a curfew. Let the child talk openly. Repeat and summarize what you hear. Go slow – don’t rush to correct, advise or reply. It’s more important to listen well, naming the feelings that are being expressed (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for tips on Emotional Coaching – the best way to listen). Your goal is to understand your child’s needs and respond to them as best you can. It’s important to be flexible and to give your child a chance to prove that he or she can be responsible. Your flexibility and the child’s responsibility are a great team when it comes to curfews!

Respect the Normal Need for Increasing Independence
Except in unusual circumstances, it’s best to allow the curfew itself to do the work. Don’t call your child when he or she is out – that behavior directly contradicts the child’s need for increasing independence. Don’t ask the child to check in with you either. Assume that a teenager can take care of him or herself when out for the evening, just like you don’t have to report to anyone every half hour just to show that you’re still alive! Unusual circumstances that might justify breaking this rule might be that your child is taking a long road trip and you want to know if he arrived safely at his destination, or your child is going to a place where there is likely to be some unsavory people and you have legitimate safety concerns. Obviously the need to hear from your child during his or her time away from your home should be an exception to the usual rule of “See you later!”

Experiment and Adjust
Try making tentative curfews. “We can try this curfew for this month and see how it goes.” If the child is responsible – coming home on time without trying to renegotiate the curfew each time – then that curfew can become more permanent or it might be extended by 15 minutes to see how that works. As the child proves him or herself again and again, you can continue to move the curfew to the maximum point that you feel is safe and healthy for that youngster.

Stick with Your Agreements
Although your child can have an “emergency” once in awhile, regular weekly adjustments to a curfew should not be occurring. If the curfew is midnight, for example, last minute calls home to “please extend it till 12:30” need to be discouraged by your negative response. A curfew that turns out to be impractical can be renegotiated once the child is home. Sit down and talk about the challenges of the current curfew and readjust as necessary. Do not readjust it every time the child is out! However, do try to be flexible when there are special occasions – graduation parties, New Year’s Eve and other special occasions may require a temporary extension of an otherwise static curfew.

If Necessary, Use Discipline
Once you and your child have agreed upon a reasonable curfew, expect it to be honored. The first time there is a problem (arriving any time later than 10 minutes past the curfew), apply Step 1 of the 2X-Rule (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for more details about this form of discipline). Tell the child that curfew must be honored. The second time lateness occurs, issue a warning that further breaches of curfew will always result in a punishment (name the specific punishment you have in mind – i.e. losing driving privileges for the week, losing cell phone for the day and so on). Apply consequences for every further breach, but also sit down with your teen and discuss the problem – why is curfew hard to follow? What would work better? Work together as a team – don’t make it a game or worse, a battle. In a positive relationship, it should be easy and pleasant to establish an appropriate curfew. If it is simply too difficult, then consider some professional help – a family counselor or psychologist can often help you solve the problem quickly.

Child Gets Angry During Discipline

Parenting experts agree that the goal of discipline is not reprimand or punish, but to help children learn what is expected of them with regards to healthy, safe, and socially and morally appropriate behavior. This is the reason why anger really has no place in discipline; anger has nothing to do with teaching. But what if it’s your child who can’t control his or her anger during moments of discipline? Even a calm and patient parent will often be challenged by a child seething with rage.

If your child tends to get very angry when you discipline him or her, consider the following tips:

Call For a Time-Out
There is no law that discipline must happen in the moment of misbehavior – in fact, when a child is too upset to be receptive, discipline can be counterproductive – not only useless, but possibly even destructive. It is essential that neither parent nor child be upset at the time of discipline. Instead, let the discipline wait until an appropriate “teaching moment” – a time when everyone is calm. It doesn’t matter if this teaching moment occurs minutes or hours or even days after the original misconduct. Your goal is to be effective, not prompt.

If you sense that your child is too angry to listen to anything that you have to say, or too emotional to process his or her own behavior, you can call for a time out. “I can see that you are very upset right now. Why don’t we take a break to calm down? We can talk about this tomorrow.”  Waiting can be a wiser choice that forcing an issue right away. Who knows, your child’s perspective about an event can change with a good night’s rest! He might wake up in the morning seeing it YOUR way even before you approach him.

Practice De-Escalation Techniques
In some cases, you will be able to help your child de-escalate in the upset moment. There are many calming techniques that parents can use in situations when kids become very angry. One way is to use “emotional coaching” – name and accept the child’s anger, and open the floor for venting. Consider the following:

Child: You never let me have any fun! Other kids get to go to the playground today. You’re the only one who said no. You’re so mean!

Parent: I can see that you’re very angry about this. And I understand – it’s very upsetting if you think everyone is going to the park except you. You’re mad at Mommy.

Allowing kids to have their feelings is a good way to help them process and release anger before trying to talk about misbehavior. Another de-escalation technique is to speak slowly in a soft and gentle tone, helping to draw the child’s emotional wavelength to a quieter, calmer place. A different kind of de-escalation technique altogether is to use the Bach Flower mixture called Rescue Remedy (you can find more information about Bach Flower Remedies and Rescue Remedy online and throughout this site). When a child is out-of-control with rage, spraying a bit of Rescue Remedy every couple of minutes on his arm or even right into his mouth can rapidly help restore him to calm. If you decide to use Rescue Remedy, only employ it if you have already explained its use to your child in a calm moment so that it won’t feel like some sort of “attack!”  If you want, you can also experiment with a technique that some parents have found helpful – use this one only if you and your child are used to joking around in better times – throw yourself down on the floor and do a good imitation of what the child is doing; many children will stop their tantrum and laugh at the antics of the parent.

Know Your Child’s Triggers
Sometimes a parent’s behavior actually TRIGGERS a child’s rage. It might be worthwhile to consider your own words and actions during moments of discipline. For instance, your own shouting might trigger a disrespectful comeback from the child. Perhaps your words are taunting or provocative. Perhaps you are steamrolling – frustrating and overwhelming your youngster with your verbiage. Maybe you are being stubborn, close-minded or unreasonable. Maybe your punishments are unfair or outrageous. Ask your spouse, other kids or a professional to help you figure this out.

Teach Your Child How to Express Upset Properly
Keep in mind that a child is entitled to feel unhappy during discipline. What’s important is that he or she knows how to express upset and anger appropriately – safely and respectfully. You can permit your child to express frustration and upset – just be sure to teach him or her how to do it. Teach your child what you expect of him or her, following the steps outlined in “The Relationship Rule” in the book Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

How to Discipline without Anger

Parents frequently feel angry at their kids – especially when those kids engage in behavior that is destructive, dangerous, mean, foolish, messy, illegal, immoral, thoughtless, selfish and otherwise… childish.  But given that unrestrained displays of anger can traumatize children, parents have to learn how to discipline without rage, upset or even irritation. While anger is an emotion, it is NOT a parenting tool. Discipline is a parenting tool and it has nothing to do with anger. In fact, discipline is related to the word “disciple” – student. When the parent offers discipline to the child, it is nothing more than a form of teaching. As such, it should have nothing to do with emotions like anger or behaviors like yelling. A good disciplinarian is simply a good teacher.

The following are some tips on how parents can keep the big A in check during discipline:

Don’t Discipline “In the Moment”
There is no reason to discipline the moment some inappropriate behavior occurs. Both you and your child must be in a calm frame of mind in order for discipline to be effective. Therefore, step back and allow YOURSELF to calm down (this also gives your child time to re-boot!). Start thinking about what the child did incorrectly and what you want him or her to do instead in the future. Do some research, if necessary” talk about your child’s behavior to your spouse, a friend or a professional counselor. Take the time to think things through and make a plan to prevent misbehavior in the future. Check out parenting resources on the internet and in books in order to see how others have dealt with similar situations. Taking the time to do your homework will pay off in the long term. Instead of quickly releasing destructive anger, you’ll be able to develop a constructive, effective intervention.

The Teaching Moment
Since discipline is nothing more than teaching, it is important to choose an appropriate time and place for any lesson that you wish to impart. This is called “the teaching moment.” A teaching moment is usually fairly private (never in front of guests). It is a moment in which the child is calm. It is also a moment in which the parent is calm. If these conditions are not met, the parent should wait before attempting to discipline. We have about 20 years to raise a child – there is no “emergency” (unless the child is standing in traffic). In general, wait until you are both calm and you have an appropriate location in which you can speak. If either of you is upset, just wait longer. Hours, days, or in very rare cases – even longer – are fine.

Most of what goes wrong during discipline happens because the parent did not choose a “teaching moment.” Instead, the parent felt upset and punished the child while still angry. This causes the parent to use emotion instead of appropriate negative consequences, to try to teach the lesson. Since the parent is upset, his or her ability to choose an appropriate negative consequence is severely compromised. In anger, the parent might choose something too harsh, too long or otherwise too unreasonable. Moreover, the chances of the parent being able to explain what he or she wants and doesn’t want from the child are fairly slim, due to the parent’s intense upset. Instead of communicating in such a way that the child would be able to hear or want to hear, the parent communicates in a way that infuriates the child or shuts him down. The parent may use escalatory language and say hurtful things. This, of course, makes the child very upset and he may then lash out in kind or more so. When the parent “loses it” the child is much more inclined to lose it as well. Now we have a shouting match instead of “discipline.”

Follow a Structure for Discipline
No matter how rude, wild or out-of-control the child is, the parent must stay calm, collected and adult throughout any communication. The parent can use the Two Times Rule – 2X Rule – to carry out discipline (see details in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice, by Sarah Chana Radcliffe). The parent says something once, says it again with a warning of a consequence, and then gives the consequence if necessary. The parent stays calm and quiet throughout. The consequence has been chosen earlier, when the parent was thinking about the child’s behavioral lapses. If the child argues, a similar structure of communication is used to stop it: the parent follows the “I-Do-Not-Argue-With-You” rule as described in the book.

Speak Softly and Slowly
A simple way to reduce anger during discipline is to force ourselves to speak in a low, quiet, even tone. Use non-inflammatory language: talk about the behavior but NOT about your child’s character traits! Refrain from using any negative label, even if the label fits perfectly (i.e. don’t call your child a “liar” even if he clearly is one!). Instead, just talk about the fact that he sometimes lies. If speaking in a normal tone of voice is too difficult at the moment, then it’s time to take a break. Rule of thumb: it’s better to say nothing at all than to say something hurtful.

Provide a Model of Self-Control
When children see that their parents can actually stay perfectly calm, respectful, caring and reasonable during moments of intense stress, they will use the model as one of the valuable tools they’ll have for learning how it is done. Moreover, parents can use discipline itself to help teach children that it is fine to feel anger, but it is not fine to just express it any old way, without regard to people’s feelings. The Relationship Rule is a step-by-step process for teaching kids how to express themselves politely, even when feeling upset (like in a moment of discipline!). The consistent parental model is very, very important in making lessons stick!

Take Specific Steps to Calm Yourself Down
If you notice that you are feeling very angry at any point in the discipline process, take specific steps to calm down your nervous system. For instance, take a break – tell the child that you are feeling too upset to continue and that you’re going to go calm yourself down. The child will have a chance to SEE how a person is supposed to manage angry feelings. Take some space. SIT DOWN and DRINK WATER SLOWLY. Or, like Grandma said, take 10 slow, deep breaths. This will help you turn off adrenaline. Learn EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique – a form of acupressure that can turn your anger off in a couple of minutes. Try Rescue Remedy (a Bach Flower Remedy used to help turn off adrenaline, panic and rage – available online and at health food stores everywhere) – put a few drops in water or drop it straight on your pulse points.

Discipline YOURSELF for Losing Control
Wanting to not use anger is a good beginning, but not enough. Follow up your good intentions with actual negative consequences for “losing it.” For instance, if you express anger, send a certain amount of money to charity (make it large enough to discourage future blow-ups). Or, discipline yourself by having to write out an essay after an explosion, outlining the extremely destructive effects of parental rage. Or, make yourself do a large number of push-ups or other physically taxing exercise. Ask a family member to video you in the midst of your rage and then sit down and watch it over and over again – you’re not going to like what you see. If these measures don’t completely cure your tendency to express anger in the home after a three month period, get professional help. Your children deserve it. Plus, you’ll be happier as well!

Use Stress Management Tools Regularly
Parenting is hard and frustrating work. Most parents experience plenty of stress, anger and rage along the way. However, when parents have a good support system, a stress-reduction routine, a balanced lifestyle and a terrific sense of humor, they survive it all in good health. Do what you can to stress-proof your life. Be nice to yourself every single day. Try to get the right amount of sleep, exercise, quality nutrition, fun and other mood-boosters that can help you take parenting in stride. Consider giving yourself little breaks throughout the day.

Use Anger-Management Strategies
If you’re a person who is prone to anger, whether at home or at work, perhaps it’s best to look inwards first. Your children aren’t the cause of your anger; they simply trigger the anger that is always close to the surface. Use self-help and/or professional help to reduce your own build up of stress and anger. Techniques and interventions like psychotherapy, EFT (emotional freedom technique), Bach Flower Remedies, anger management courses, psychotropic (antidepressant) medication and bi-lateral stimulation tapes are all effective ways to help reduce chronic irritability, negativity and rage.