Child is Destructive

Children can be destructive for several reasons. Some are “innocently” destructive due to excess energy and poor judgment. Kids with ADHD, viagra dosage for instance, can play too wildly at times, accidentally causing damage to property through impulsive behavior. Other kids are destructive on purpose, acting out their anger, hurt or frustration. This sometimes occurs because of their inborn temperament, sometimes because of watching parents or older siblings behave similarly and sometimes a combination of both nature and nurture. Some kids are destructive only at home whereas others are destructive elsewhere as well. In all cases, parents need to know how to stop their child’s destructive actions.

If your child is destructive at times, consider the following tips:

Never Lose Control
The destructive child is out-of-control and needs to see a model of excellent self-control. No matter how upset you are with your child’s destructive behavior, control your own behavior! Even if your youngster broke your favorite, irreplaceable camera, heirloom or something similar, restrain yourself: no yelling, no touching the child, no name-calling, no verbal abuse of any kind. Instead, let the child know that you need to THINK about what you’re going to do about his behavior, and then leave the scene of the crime to do just that. If you lose control in front of your child, how can you expect him to behave differently?

Teach Your Child the Importance of Respecting Property
Let your child know that he can’t destroy property just because he’s upset. Explain to him the value (monetary or sentimental) of things and the consequences his actions have not only on himself in terms of getting punished, but on those whose property he destroys. Ask him how he would feel if someone broke or damaged his favorite toy or his bike. Let him know that when he destroys someone’s property, he’s making them feel the same way. The child may simply not fully understand the consequences his actions have.

Use the 2X-Rule
If your child continues to be destructive, warn him or her that acting in this way will result in a negative consequence in the future. You can say “From now on whenever you are destructive, you will lose “screens for that day.” or something along those lines. If the destruction is very serious (i.e. damaging a car or a house or causing expensive or severe damage to property), use “jail level” consequences (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for a detailed explanation of discipline strategies, including “ticket” and “jail-level” negative consequences). “Jail level” consequences are punishments that your child would REALLY dislike. The “ticket-level” consequence of losing screens for a day can be annoying or slightly upsetting to children, but most will recover quickly. The “jail-level” consequence of losing screens for a week (or longer for an older child) however, might be something that the child really can’t bear. All children have different feelings about what is or isn’t important to them though. You should pick both regular, “ticket-level” consequences and very serious “jail-level” consequences according to your own child’s value system. If losing a story at bedtime is upsetting enough, that can be a consequence for playing with balls in the living room after being told not to do so. For another child, losing dessert will be the language he understands best. For a child who has painted your walls with magic marker, you might warn that future occurrences of this very destructive behavior will cost the child significant portions of his allowance or the privilege of riding his new bike. See Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for an extended list of negative consequences.

Teach Anger-Management strategies
If your child’s destructive behavior occurs mostly when he’s angry, teach him alternative ways of handling this strong emotion. There are many techniques and strategies to help your child manage his anger and many internet resources and books on this subject. Some tips that you may find helpful include:

  • Teach your child to think about the situation and it’s consequences before he acts.
  • Teach breathing techniques to your child. These can help calm your child down in moments of anger. One simple technique your child can use is to think the word “in” while breathing in and think the word “out” while breathing out. Have him practice nightly at bedtime in order for this technique to be truly available and calming in a moment of upset.
  • Teach him how to communicate his feelings in the right way when he is angry.
  • Teach him how to be able to “let go” after upset has occurred.
  • Anger and tantrums can often come about after a build up of stress, so teach your child stress reduction methods as well.

Use the CLeaR Method
In the CLeaR method, a parent gives the child a comment on what he is doing correctly, a label on how he is acting, and a reward to reinforce positive behavior. If your child is often reckless and careless while playing but is at the moment playing quite appropriately, give him a comment – “I see that you’re being careful with your toys today.” a label -“That’s very mature of you.” followed by a reward -“You can play outside for longer today since you’re being so careful.” when he plays carefully.

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. If your child exhibits violent rage that leads to destruction of property, the flower remedy Vine may help him. For loss of control, the flower remedy Cherry Plum is used. If your child has meltdowns when provoked, you can try the remedy Impatiens. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the negative behavior disappears. Start treatment again, if the behavior returns. Eventually, the behavior should diminish completely.

Seek Professional Help
If your child continues to exhibit destructive behavior despite all the interventions you employ, it is best to arrange for professional assessment and treatment. It is possible that you need a “tighter” educational approach and it is also possible that your child him or herself, will benefit from therapeutic intervention. Ask your doctor for a referral to a pediatric mental health professional.

Child is Angry After Divorce or Separation

Anger is a natural reaction to loss, threat or helplessness. When we feel that something is being taken away from us, we feel anger; it’s an instinct born out of protecting what we consider to be ours. When we feel insecure, uncertain or attacked, we get mad. And when we feel like we don’t have any control over what is going on in our life, when we feel victimized but incapable of fighting back, we can feel enraged.

It’s understandable then for children whose parents are separating or divorcing, to feel anger. When a marriage falls apart, all three “anger triggers” are present: loss, threat and helplessness. In many cases, children are simply caught in the cross-fire of fighting spouses. The spouses will go their separate ways and the children will be the ones who have to live with the short-term and long-term consequences of the broken marriage.

If you’re a parent experiencing divorce or separation, the following are some tips to help you deal with your children’s anger:

Acknowledge That They Have a Right to Be Angry
As mentioned, anger is a normal and expected reaction during divorce or separation. It’s an appropriate feeling; that is, the situation is really anger-provoking. Do not devalue your children’s anger in any way, nor ignore it or “pass it over.” The worst thing that a loved one can do during this difficult time is to make a child feel guilty for feeling whatever he or she feels. Instead, both parents must strive to communicate that they know their kids are angry, and that they respect their right to that emotion. It is often hard for parents to acknowledge and accept their child’s anger; they want to believe that the children will be as “happy” and relieved about the divorce as they are. They tell themselves that it’s better for the children this way. Few parents can stand the guilt they would feel if they acknowledged to themselves that their children might be truly hurt by the divorce. For all these reasons, it takes a brave parent to allow a child to express his or her anger and upset. And yet, allowing it is one of the biggest favors a parent can do for his or her child at this time.

Help Them Find Ways to Deal with their Anger
Anger is not black or white; instead it’s a complex emotion that has many nuances, shades and colors. It is important that you provide you child with the opportunity to look at their anger, and see (a) where is it coming from, (b) how strong it is, and (c) where is it directed. When a person can break down his or her feelings into its component parts, the feeling becomes less of a vague consuming monster and more of a state that’s tolerable inside and can be discussed and shared outside.

This step is important as different kids experience divorce and separation differently. In fact, even siblings have different reasons for their anger. One can be upset because he or she wasn’t consulted in the decision-making; another sibling can be upset because he or she blames herself for not noticing the problem and saving the marriage. A parent must be able to take a personalized approach to their children’s anger, so that specific issues can be responded to effectively.

Give Them an Avenue to Express their Anger
Anger is an emotion that is best released; otherwise it can eat a person up and even cause mental health issues like depression or anxiety. Art therapy may be suitable for some children, giving them a safe way to release the darkness of their inner world. Professional art therapists are trained to help people of all ages release negative emotions in a healthy way. Some children may do better by talking about their feeling. They may be able to talk to a parent when the parent is skilled in  “Emotional Coaching” (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe). Emotional Coaching involves welcoming, accepting and naming a child’s feelings without judgment or correction of any kind. In this way, the emotion is safely released and healed. For instance, if a child says, “I hate you for leaving Mommy” the father can respond, “You’re really really mad at me for breaking up this family. I can understand that. This is not something you ever wanted. You want us all to be together.” By saying all this, the father allows the child to express his rage and let it turn into the sadness that is really under the surface. If the child starts to cry after hearing his father reflect his feelings, the father can say, “I know this makes you so sad. It’s so painful not to have us all together anymore.” And then the child will cry some more and the father can just sit silently near the child, allowing all the pain to move freely. This approach is very healing. It is very different from the “cheerleader” approach in which a parent says things like, “Don’t worry – it will all be great! You’ll have two homes and lots of fun going back and forth and all your friends will be jealous, etc.” This kind of response can actually make a child furious, because the parent is rejecting the child’s pain instead of facing it head on. Child psychologists are trained listeners who know how to help kids express and release their pain. If your child isn’t opening up to you or is inconsolable or is having problems at school or misbehaving excessively at home, do try to arrange for professional therapy – it can really help.

Children’s Emotions After Divorce or Separation

Parental divorce or separation is a painful process — for everyone concerned. No amount of careful preparation, heart-to-heart talk, and therapy can make it less agonizing— just more manageable. After all, a loved one is technically saying goodbye. Even if everyone remains be a part of each other’s lives after the marital dissolution, the reality is: nothing will ever be the same.

In order to help children deal with the impact of divorce or separation, it’s important that parents know the roller-coaster of emotions kids go through during the process. The following are some of what children feel after divorce or separation:

Shock
“I knew the situation was bad, but I wasn’t aware it was that bad.”

Kids are often blindsided by their parent’s decision to divorce or separate. To protect children from family problems, parents tend to keep their kids out of the loop. Consequently, the news of finally ending the marriage comes as a big shock. And even if some outward sign of fighting exists, kids being naturally optimistic often think that the fighting is temporary and can be resolved. Even in homes where divorce is threatened openly and frequently, children often “get used” to the threat as just a common part of fighting – they can still be shocked when parents finally act on their words. Children who may not be so shocked are those who have experienced parental divorce before, and have some idea of what is going on.

Anger
Anger is a normal emotion felt by children undergoing parental divorce and separation. The anger can be directed towards one particular parent, the parent whom the child feels is to blame for the marriage not working out. The anger can also be directed to both parents; kids may feel that mom and dad didn’t try hard enough to save their family. In some cases, children may just be angry at the situation. They empathize with their parents well enough, but they would understandably rather that they don’t suffer such a major loss.

Self-blame
Children do blame themselves for parental divorce or separation. Because of the old philosophy of “staying married for the children’s sake,” kids may have the idea that parental love of kids should be enough to keep a couple together. Thus, when a marriage breaks down, kids feel like they failed in providing their parents a reason to try harder. Older children may blame themselves for not doing enough to save the marriage — maybe they’ve already noticed that something is wrong but didn’t say anything about it. Younger children may think that the divorce or separation is directly or indirectly caused by their behavior. It’s not unusual, for example, for a pre-schooler to irrationally conclude that the divorce or separation pushed through because parents are always fighting about their performance in school.

Fear
The source of security in a family is the parents’ stable marriage. A divorce or separation, therefore, can be quite unsettling for a child. Where would the family live? How will they earn enough income to support everyone? Would we have to live with somebody new? And are there any more jarring changes coming our way? There are so many question marks after a divorce or separation that being afraid is just an expected reaction.

Sadness
And of course, kids feel sadness and even depression during this stressful time. There are many losses that come after a divorce or separation, some of which can never be recovered. Understandably a new living arrangement has to be negotiated, and it’s possible that a child will have to give up proximity to a parent once all the legalities are finalized. Siblings may even end up living in different residences. There are also intangible losses, like the loss of dreams about the family. Sadness is a natural part of grieving for a loss, and is a normal reaction among children during parental divorce or separation.

Dealing with Children’s Feelings
The key to helping children with their feelings about divorce is to let them have their feelings. Don’t try to cheer them up or talk them out of their negative emotions. Doing so may cause the feelings to go underground where they might fester, show up as depression or anxiety later, re-route to physical aches and pains or manifest in various types of behavioral challenges. Letting kids be appropriately upset is the healthiest way to help them feel better faster. This is NOT the time to show sympathy by letting them know that YOU also feel scared, mad and sad. Save your feelings for your meeting with your therapist or for discussion with your adult friends. Your kids have already lost one parent; they must not lose another. They really need you now and even though you yourself may be going through intense emotional challenges, it is unfair to unload that onto your children. They will feel that they have to be strong and help YOU or they will feel that they don’t want to add to your burdens by sharing their real misery. What they need from you now is a listening ear and a good model of coping. When they see that you are NOT falling apart, it will give them hope that they will get through this too. If you are, in fact, having a very hard time, seeking professional counseling will help both you and your kids.

Preparing Children for Separation and Divorce

You and your spouse have decided that it’s time to end your marriage. Now it’s time for “the talk.” What can parents tell their children about divorce or separation that will make the situation easier for them to accept? The news will certainly be painful to hear – even if everyone “has seen it coming” for some time.  The breakup of a family is a true trauma in a child’s life no matter how “well” it goes. But there are things parents can do to help their kids adjust better.

Consider the following:

Do Have That Talk
First, it’s important that parents communicate to their children what has happened, what is happening and what will happen. Some couples fear that by raising the issue of divorce or separation to their children, they will just cause panic and pain. However, children – even the really young ones – are very sensitive. They may not say it, but they can always sense if something is not right. It’s actually better to keep kids in the loop, rather than leaving things to their imagination.

So set a date for that heartfelt family conversation. Have the meeting in a quiet, private and conducive place, at a time when the kids are not tired, sleepy or stressed from other activities. As much as possible, both you and your (ex) spouse should be present; it helps if parents present a united front when they deliver the news.

Talk to Your Children About the Divorce or Separation in a Manner Appropriate to their Age
It’s your children’s right to know what is happening in the family. In fact, ideally, they should be consulted as soon as the decision to divorce or separate has been finalized, and certainly several weeks before anyone has to leave the family home. This is not a conversation that should happen “the night of” or even “the night before.” You’ve had a long time to work this through; children also need time to adjust to the idea. Knowing about it a few weeks before anything happens does not add more pain; the situation is usually painful from the child’s point of view no matter how it is accomplished (except in cases where the separation/divorce will put an end to terrifying situations such as violence in the home).

What You Tell Your Children Depends on How Old They Are
The younger the children are, the more difficult it is for them to understand abstract concepts like irreconcilable differences, marital problems or even difficulties getting along. In fact, children under six can barely understand anything about marriage. Tell this group the truth: “You are too young to understand why Mommy and Daddy can’t live together anymore. You just have to understand that we have decided that this is the best choice for our family and we will both still take care of all of you.”

For children old enough to understand a little bit about relationships (the 6 – 10 year old crowd) you can add a little more detail: “Mommy and Daddy have had marriage problems for quite awhile now. We have tried to work them out in many ways. Nothing is helping. We have decided that the best thing for us to do is live apart. We will both still take care of you but at different times and in our different houses.”

For tweens and teens, even more information can be provided but keep in mind that children of any age do not understand adult marital problems. Moreover, you have no obligation to tell them the details that have led to your decision to divorce. Whether your partner’s verbal abuse, internet addiction, alcohol problem or boring personality has contributed to the end of your marriage, it is not your child’s business. Instead, you can tell this age group that “Mommy and Daddy have been dealing with many difficult issues for a long time and have decided that it is best to live apart from now on. Our relationship has become strained to the point where we can no longer live our lives together. We need to move on. We will continue to be your parents forever, and look after you as usual, except in our own separate homes.” If one parent is already in a relationship with another person, this information should be shared at this time since discovering it later could be a serious betrayal of trust between parent and child. In addition, if the divorce is the result of something the child already knows a lot about such as a parent’s violence or addiction, this can be mentioned at this time as well (“As you know, we have been dealing with Daddy’s drinking problem for a long time and both Daddy and I understand that it is no longer possible to continue the marriage this way…”). However, if the child does not know about “the fatal flaw” (i.e. the father’s pornography addiction), there is absolutely no need to divulge it. When the divorce is a shock – as when the parents have been getting along very well but an affair is discovered or some sort of illicit behavior has been discovered), parents can say “Although Mommy and I get along very well as you know, there are sometimes things that happen in marriages that cannot be fixed and we have been dealing with issues like that; unfortunately, we have to go our separate ways.” Just because a child wants to know the reason does not mean that parents have to provide it. Some sorts of information can actually scar developing human beings. If the positive image of each parent can remain intact, the child will fare much better after divorce. It is bad enough to lose a family. It is even worse if a child has to also lose a parent due to a new, negative picture of the person. Keep in mind that adults can be good parents even when they are poor marriage partners. Try hard not to tarnish the reputation of your spouse so that you do not rob your child of the opportunity to have two parents.

It’s best NOT to tell your child that you and your spouse have “fallen out of love.” Marriage is about commitment, compromise, learning to live together, growing and much more. Love is only one part of it – a part that waxes and wanes throughout the years and decades. While people are usually “in love” at the time of marriage, the nature of their love changes throughout the marriage. In long term marriages, they can be many loveless years inbetween many love-filled decades. There can be disappointments and betrayals. However, enduring marriages continue to pick up the thread of love and weave it in. If everyone divorced when feeling “not in love” there would not be a marriage left standing! Help your children to understand that marriage is a complex relationship in which people learn to care for each other and work together and always try to work out difficulties and differences. Sometimes, however, it is not possible to solve marital problems – something that you can’t explain to them now, but they’ll understand when they are much older.

Emphasize That the Divorce is Not Their Fault and Do Not Speak Badly of Your Spouse
This is very important: regardless of how old you children are, always emphasize that the divorce is not their fault. Kids have been known to blame themselves for a marital dissolution, either directly (“If I had only encouraged them to talk more…”) or indirectly (“Am I not a good enough reason for them to stay married?”). Stress that some situations are beyond anyone’s control, and need not be anyone’s fault.

Provide Them the Opportunity to Express Their Feelings
Give your children time to adjust to the news. Talking to your children about divorce or separation is not a one-way street. The family meeting is also an avenue to let your children express how they feel about the situation. Reactions can vary; some children will have a more difficult time than others. Expect anger, sadness, panic and rage. Don’t dispute these feelings; your children have a right to feel them. Instead acknowledge all feelings, and affirm that it’s normal for them to feel that way. Don’t offer false reasurrances of how wonderful life will be. Let time heal. Let the new life speak for itself. And be prepared to provide your children with professional counseling if they are having severe or enduring reactions to the loss of the family unit.

Note that navigating through any loss always takes time; so don’t expect your children to accept your decision right away. Neither should you compel them to agree with you. Denial and rebellion are also normal. Just emphasize the firmness of the decision, and your continued support if they need your help to cope.

Orient Them About the Changes That are to Come
Divorce and separation are periods of intense instability. It’s helpful for children to know beforehand what to expect, so that they can anticipate the changes that are coming. These changes may include new living arrangements, new parenting arrangements, and possibly some lifestyle changes as the family budget gets cut. Let them know that although there will be changes, you and their other parent will be there for them through everything. If this isn’t true (because the other parent has abandoned the family), then just let me know that YOU will be there through everything. Again, welcome their feelings and allow them to vent.

Remember that all change is hard. Be easy on yourself and your kids as you negotiate the changes that separation and divorce will bring.

For young children, read picture books on the subject of divorce – your local librarian can suggest numerous titles. There are also excellent books written for teenagers and these can be a big help for older kids.

Tips for Dealing with Separation or Divorce

When parents separate, adiposity children can experience many different emotions. If separation means the end to a violent or intensely conflicted home-life, children may experience relief. In most cases, they experience sadness – especially when they are strongly attached to both parents. Often they feel confused, lost, upset. It’s not unusual for kids to feel tremendous anger as well; they are losing their home, their stability, their security. Sometimes they are resentful, feeling that they shouldn’t have to shuffle back and forth between homes or move out of their old home or otherwise deal with difficult conditions. Other common emotions include feelings of abandonment, fear, worry, depression and even trauma. Sometimes children will benefit from professional help to sort out all their feelings, but in many cases the parents themselves can provide the necessary emotional support.

If your family is going through marital separation, consider the following tips:

Welcome Your Child’s Feelings with Emotional Coaching
If your child expresses worry, anger, depression, abandonment or any other emotion as a result of the divorce or separation, try using emotional coaching. Emotional coaching is the naming of feelings. In this scenario, you may say things to your child such as “I know you’re sad that we won’t all be living together in the same house anymore.” or “I know you’re upset about having to sleep in two different beds,” or “I know you miss Daddy so much.”  You can talk about whatever feeling your child has about any aspect of the separation or divorce.  . Through acknowledging and accepting your child’s feelings about what is going on, you can help him release those feelings a little. If your child believes that his situation after the divorce is terrible, don’t try to downplay his feelings (i.e. by saying “it’s not really so bad – there’s lots of advantages to having two homes”). Accept and acknowledge your child’s feelings the way he feels them, not the way you want him to feel them.

Continue to Provide Appropriate Limits for Unacceptable Behaviors
Just because kids are hurting doesn’t mean it’s O.K. for them to become rude, aggressive, disobedient or otherwise badly behaved.  Your continued use of boundary-setting tools, rules and expectations will actually help increase their sense of security and emotional equilibrium. Be loving and respectful but firm. Follow the Relationship Rule as explained in the book Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice. The Relationship Rule states “I do not give, nor do I accept, any form of disrespectful communication. I only give, and I only accept, respectful communication.”  This means that you don’t yell at or insult your child and you do not allow the child to yell at or insult you! Do not accept the excuse that your child is frustrated or traumatized by the break up of the family. While it is understandable that children will feel hurt, confused, overwhelmed, angry and grief stricken, it is NOT O.K. for them to act out these feelings with rudeness to their parents.

Offer Professional Support
If your kids are hurting, they may benefit from extra time with the school guidance counsellor or a mental health professional. There are also support groups for children experiencing divorce (which may be offered by local family service agencies). Your child may need someone to talk to who won’t be hurt by his anger or sadness. Allow him or her to talk to a therapist – or even a neighbor or relative – without asking him or her to tell you about the conversation. Privacy can give the child the opportunity to really clear out troubling emotions.

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. The flower remedy Walnut can help your child adjust to the many changes that may occur in his life after the divorce. Honeysuckle can help him not dwell on his former life, painfully longing for a return to the past. The flower remedy Willow can help ease any resentment the youngster might be experiencing as a result of the divorce. Star of Bethlehem can reduce feelings of shock, trauma and grief. If depression manifests as a result of the divorce, the flower remedy Gorse can help. When your child worries about his future and new life, Mimulus is the flower remedy to turn to. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the emotional distress dissipates. Start treatment again, if it returns. Bach Flower Therapy cannot erase the pain of divorce, but it can sometimes help reduce the duration or intensity of initial distress that the child suffers.  Bach Flower Therapy is just one tool that adults or children can employ to help cope with stress. Using it may help reduce side-effects of stress such as sleeplessness, illness, behavioral problems and other stress-related conditions.

Be Aware of the Impact of Your Own Mood
Going through separation and/or divorce is really hard on parents. You may be distracted, traumatized, grieving, upset and overwhelmed. It’s hard to parent in this state. If possible, get professional support and/or join a support group (even if it’s just on-line) for divorcing parents. Make sure you have time to yourself each day. Single parenting is exhausting and difficult – if you don’t take good care of yourself, you’ll soon have insufficient patience for your child or children. Exercise and feed yourself well. Try to sleep. Learn mindfulness meditation and research stress reduction techniques. Be aware that your children are watching you carefully; they need you to be healthy for them.

Minimize Conflict with Your Ex
On-going conflict between separating and divorcing spouses is the factor that causes the most maladjustment in children from broken homes. Your children have the best chance of developing in a normal and healthy way when you have a friendly, cooperative and respectful relationship with their other parent. If the other parent is impossible to deal with, try to never speak about this fact when the kids can hear you. Bad-mouthing their parent (even when everything you say is the absolute truth) severely harms the children. You might hate your own mother, but you don’t want other people insulting her nonetheless. Insulting your child’s parent is an insult to the child him or herself. Moreover, the conflict itself is traumatizing. Children often end up in decades of psychotherapy to recover from the effects of witness their parents’ post-divorce conflict. Save your children from this fate by being determined to act respectfully toward your ex-spouse and never speaking badly about him or her.

Keep Routines Normal
Resist the temptation to sleep with your children once your spouse has moved out. You don’t want to have to kick them out of your bed when you decide to remarry. Normal routines increase stability, so keep life as normal as possible and the same way it was before the divorce.

Kids Need Laughter
Even if it’s a stressful time in your life, remember that kids are kids – they need lightness and laughter. You can bring this into their life with funny bedtime stories, silly games, outings, movies or other amusing activities.

Help for Angry Parents

Grownups sometimes act like children. This is great when they’re playing with their kids – it can make for a rollicking good time. However, it’s not at all great when the child-like behavior consists of having tantrums, slamming doors, calling names, making mean faces or otherwise acting like an out-of-control pre-schooler. While such behavior in a youngster is completely unacceptable and requires remediation, it is so much worse when it occurs in a parent. It upsets the whole household –  disturbing, frightening and sometimes even physically harming family members. Despite the harm that parental anger can cause, it is a fact that normal parents get mad. What can parents do, then, to minimize the harmful effects of their own rage, irritation, resentment and other forms of anger?

Anger in the Home
Anger, itself, is a feeling – an emotion. It is experienced physically as a tightening of muscles, a holding of breath and/or a rush of adrenalin. Anger is not a behavior. A person behaves a certain way when angry. The behavior that occurs depends on the person’s inborn nature, upbringing, education, training and personal development. Some people choose to “act out” their anger, actually demonstrating what they are experiencing inside. They are so upset that they feel like screaming – and they do. They are so upset that they feel like kicking someone or something – and they do. They are so upset that they feel like saying terrible things – and they do.

Other people choose to put a lid on their anger and withdraw until the mood passes. They, too, are so upset that they feel like screaming – but they don’t. They, too, feel like kicking, throwing or smashing something or someone – but they don’t. They feel like saying all sorts of terrible things but they refrain. Instead, they remove themselves from the scene that is triggering all the upset and take themselves to a place where they can let the energy move through and out of their body and mind. If knowledgeable and skilled, they may even speed that process along by using a technique or strategy that helps them to rapidly process their anger and completely resolve it. Otherwise, they may do the best they can on their own and finish the job up later with the help of the offending party and/or a third party.

Consequences of Parental Anger
Many people fall somewhere in the middle of these two styles – showing some anger and also showing some restraint. Obviously, showing less anger will cause less damage to all concerned. However, it is unfortunately true that ANY amount of visible and/or audible anger causes SOME amount of harm. Minor anger causes temporary hurt, moderate anger has stronger negative effects on children and intense anger tends to have intensely negative effects. We wish it wasn’t so because, as I suggested earlier, we all get mad sometimes. We wish that we could “get away” with expressing some of that anger since it often feels so good to move it through our body, our mouth and our muscles.  Unfortunately, when a person expresses rage, someone else experiences abuse (mistreatment, disrespect, emotional and/or physical harm). In other words, it is as if the angry person spews out his or her venom, literally vomiting bad energy onto whoever he or she is yelling at. The recipient of the anger feels soiled and damaged. Frequent exposure to this sort of toxic energy actually damages developing human beings.

The Parental Model
In addition, parental expression of anger is also a teaching tool. Adults show their kids how anger is expressed. Screamers all too often raise screamers (by showing their kids a destructive technique) and always leave their children deprived of a healthy model (by failing to show them a constructive way to negotiate strong emotion). Although a child can overcome his parents’ anger style, it is a challenge we don’t really want to present to our youngsters. Parental impulsiveness, lack of maturity, lack of skill and lack of self-control not only hurts children in the moment, it also hurts them for a lifetime as they either mimic the destructive behavior in their own families or they struggle against its effects inside themselves.

Choosing Healthy Ways to Express Angry Feelings
Feelings and behaviors are two different things. We will all feel angry at times because it is one of the emotions that is there for our own protection. However, none of us needs to act badly when we’re angry. We can tell a spouse or child that we are upset; there is no need to shout. We can impose negative consequences on children; there is no need for insult or other hurtful words or actions. We can always be mindful of our own dignity and the dignity of others even when we’re frustrated, hurt, insulted, exhausted, troubled or otherwise emotionally challenged. But we can’t choose these healthy communication tools while adrenalin – the fight-or-flight chemical – is coursing through our brains and body.

The trick, then, is to find effective ways to turn off anger CHEMISTRY so that rational and healthy choices can be made in the moment. The calm brain can make good choices, but the agitated brain just reacts however it wants to in the moment, without regard to the long term consequences of those actions.

The ability to turn off the chemistry of anger is a learned skill. It involves any technique that calms the body down. Slowing the breathing is one such technique. When a parent is feeling upset, he or she can purposely start to breathe more slowly and evenly. It will take a number of minutes before anger chemistry stops flowing, so patience is required. Leaving the conversation, drinking a tall glass of water, walking around the block – all these activities can help the brain recover. But the most valuable action even after one has left the conversation, is to slow the breathing more and more. The heart will also slow down, the muscles will relax and the brain will finally work again!

Removing feelings of helplessness is another important tool to help prevent and reduce anger. Parenting books, anger management books, classes,online resources, counseling, social support, spiritual guidance and a host of other resources are available to help provide tools, options and techniques to handle complex parenting situations. Being prepared and having a clear philosophy in advance can definitely help prevent rage attacks. If someone has tried all of these approaches and still gets angry easily, then adding several physical tools can help too: daily exercise, herbs, acupuncture, homeopathy, Bach Flower Therapy, essential oils and psychotropic medications can all help soothe the easily agitated psyche.

Anyone who cares enough about his or her family to learn how to eradicate anger-induced bad behavior can succeed. We can all be well-behaved parents – if we really want to be.

Parent Can’t Stop Yelling

One of the really wonderful things about being human is our ability to choose freely. It’s up to us. Of course, God gives us some very strong direction, advice and instructions; but He still leaves it up to us to choose our course of action. Therefore, when it comes to parenting, we can all do exactly as we please.

Alone in Our Home
Alone with our children, no one can stop us from saying or doing whatever we want to. Thus, if a child isn’t listening and we’re getting frustrated, we can yell at her if we so desire. We can yell at her whenever we want to, as many times a day, week, month and year as we choose to. Nonetheless, there are consequences when we yell at our children.

Short and Long Term Consequences
The short term consequences for children who are yelled at too frequently and/or too intensely may include any of the following:

  • Behavioural problems such as aggression or lack of cooperation
  • Academic problems
  • Nervous habits
  • Moodiness
  • Health issues (including headaches and stomach aches)

The long term consequences for children who are yelled at too frequently and/or too intensely may include any of the following:

  • Low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Personality disorders and other psychiatric issues
  • Addictions
  • Health issues
  • Impaired relationship with parents
  • Tendency to choose abusive friends and mates
  • Troubled marriages due to lack of anger management skills
  • Troubled parenting due to lack of anger management skills
  • Troubled work relationships
  • In some cases, criminal behaviour

Safe Havens
In homes in which parents choose to handle their feelings of frustration, fear, disappointment, rage, resentment and upset respectfully, the entire family enjoys a safe haven, an oasis in an otherwise stressful world. When parents maintain their dignity and respect the dignity of their children during moments of correction, boundary setting and discipline, their children’s brains become wired for self-control, restraint and sensitivity. In other words, when parents move through the parenting day quietly, respectfully and kindly no matter what they are feeling inside and no matter what their children are doing outside, they provide a powerful model for their children to emulate. Moreover, when they teach their children the skills involved in such self-management, they send an enduring message: family life is about respect: we do not give or receive verbal abuse no matter how frustrated, irritated, provoked or otherwise upset, we may be. The results for children reared in this manner generally include the following:

  • High regard for self and others
  • Life-long positive relationship with parents
  • Ability to achieve academic, social, mental, emotional and physical potentials
  • Reduced levels of stress; higher levels of well-being
  • A life filled with love: successful marriage and parenting experiences
  • High level of emotional intelligence leading to success in every endeavor

Yell If You Want To
If you’re tired, stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated with your spouse, annoyed at your relatives or otherwise challenged, you may feel like yelling at times. Or, if you are feeling helpless and out of control with the kids, unable to get them to do what you want, you may feel like yelling. Yelling “works” – it changes what a child is doing right now. But it comes with a price. The consequences of yelling are real. In the most minor case, where yelling occurs only rarely, it encourages self-centeredness: “When I want something and you are not providing it, then I no longer have to show you basic respect and I no longer have to behave appropriately; when I want something and you are not providing it, then I no longer have to care about your feelings – I can just scream in your face.” However, frequent and/or intense yelling does more than teach this one lesson of self-worship – it damages personality.

Nonetheless, if you want to yell, go ahead. Yell if you want to.

How to Deal with an Angry Spouse

We’re human and we sometimes get mad. Anger is a feeling. It is not a behavior. Behaviors are what people do, find actions that they take. When you are mad, what do you do? Do you pout? Do you shout? Do you grumble and mumble? Do you withdraw or do you attack? We all have our ways.

Expressed anger often leads to behaviors that are destructive on every level: personally, interpersonally and spiritually. Working on ourselves to reduce the amount of time we are triggered into an angry emotional state can be helpful; obviously, the less we feel anger, the less we’ll have to control our behavior. Sometimes this work can consist of self-reflection, personal development through classes or counselling or even reading books on anger management. Sometimes relaxation and stress-management counseling will help lower our anger thermostats. Sometimes psychotherapy or medication is needed in order not to be living too close to the boiling point. However, whether or not we manage to reduce our angry feelings, it is ESSENTIAL that we learn to eliminate our angry behaviors.

The Angry Spouse
Some people marry a person who turns out to have a problem with anger. Sometimes the anger is evident even in the dating period, but it is misinterpreted as being tolerable or normal. For instance, people who grow up with angry parents don’t always recognize anger as a toxic trait in a spouse-to-be. In fact, it seems rather familiar to them in a way that makes them feel like they’re at home. This is one of the great costs of angry parenting—it causes children to be at significant risk for being comfortable with angry people and therefore choosing such a person to be a spouse. Unfortunately, this can lead to a lifetime of marital pain or to the pain of divorce.

Sometimes the anger is not noticeable during the dating period, but rather is well hidden. It comes out only after the wedding, sometimes within weeks and sometimes within months. Unfortunately, marital partners do not always understand the implications of an angry outburst on the part of their spouse. Often, they think it is a freak accident, something out of character that has occurred once or twice and will never occur again. Usually, they can’t foresee what this anger will look like a couple of years down the line or what it’s effects will be on the children yet to be born.

However, there is a large body of research that informs us as to the progression and effects of anger in family life. According to the literature, angry behaviors often tend to increase over time. They don’t tend to just disappear on their own. Spouses who put up with angry behavior by remaining silent or by voicing disapproval without mentioning any real consequences, send a message loud and clear: “Go ahead and be aggressive. I’ll tolerate it.” The result is that angry behavior not only persists — it can sometimes actually worsen over time. This is true of both angry men and angry women; both genders can be guilty of escalating abusive behavior. Yelling becomes swearing. Swearing becomes stamping and slamming. Stamping and slamming becomes throwing things, followed by punching and kicking holes in the walls. Next comes assault. So many people have followed this well-worn path that it is now totally predictable by law enforcement agencies, family service agencies and mental health professionals. Spouses who don’t stop small signs of aggression when they first appear will have a much larger symptoms of violence to address in the end. Unfortunately, by that time, there may be children around who then must endure the trauma of living with aggression in the marriage. In addition, women should know that pregnancy itself is a condition that is statistically linked to a higher incidence of aggressive behavior in male partners. Therefore, the time to put a halt to any inappropriate expression of anger is long before the first pregnancy. Men need to understand that female aggression, while not always as dangerous as male aggression, can indeed lead to physical injury (sometimes serious injury or even death) and always leads to psychological injury; it hurts deeply to be so disrespected and so badly treated by someone who is supposed to be your life partner and best friend. Children are equally scarred by witnessing male or female physical and/or verbal violence.

Ending Inappropriate Expression of Anger
How does one stop one’s spouse from expressing anger inappropriately? Apply the 2X-Rule: on the very first occasion of disrespectful treatment, address the issue clearly using Step One. (If physical violence of any kind has occurred, skip this first step and go straight to step two below.)  Step one might sound something like this: “I don’t want ugly communications to be part of my marriage and my life. We can do better and if we do better, we’ll protect and nurture our love. If we don’t do better, we might lose one of the most important things we have in our lives: our affection for each other.” The next time disrespect is communicated, repeat the same message as in Step One and add a warning.  Step Two might sound something like: “This has already happened one time too many. If it happens again, I’m going to speak to “so and so” and see if he/she can refer us to a counselor.” “So and so” can be a priest or rabbi, a family doctor or another therapist. It should not be a relative (who will, upon hearing of mistreatment, never forgive your partner long after you have forgiven him or her!). It should not be a friend either (who may be unskilled and end up simply escorting you to divorce court). This step of exposing mistreatment, however, is crucial. As soon as an abusive partner realizes that his or her behavior will be exposed outside the home, healing begins to occur. No one wants outsiders to see such an unattractive picture of them. Always let an angry spouse know that others will know. Do this even if the behavior you are concerned about is verbal disrespect. Stopping such behavior in its tracks protects your marriage and allows love to flourish.

If physical aggression is occurring, make it clear to your partner that you cannot live together in the same house until that behavior is permanently rectified. Ask your doctor for a referral for your spouse to an official anger management program. Consider separating physically until the partner has a graduation certificate and you feel confident that he or she understands that you will not live with this in the marriage. Your partner can control him or herself and will only “lose control” to the extent that you permit it. The only people who truly cannot control the expression of their anger are people with severe mental illness and these people should generally be locked up away from society since they are a danger to everyone. Spouses who are only aggressive at home are very much in control of their behavior. That’s why they only scream, insult, hit or throw things but they never take a weapon and actually use it in a fatal way! They are, in fact, totally in control.

Removing inappropriate expressions of anger in your home is only the first step to building a healthy relationship. Taking classes and counseling can help build good anger management and communication skills that will safeguard love and nurture a wholesome family atmosphere. Although it is best to stop inappropriate anger before it gets a foothold, it is never too late. Healing and growth occurs throughout the lifetime.

Bad Moods

Some people are always in a good mood. The moody child isn’t one of them. He’s known for his frown, his complaints and his tantrums that occur frequently enough that his parents call him “moody.” Some moody kids are actually in a bad mood from the time they get up in the morning till the time they go to sleep at night. Their glass is always half empty; nothing is ever just right. They feel sad, hurt, angry, neglected, abandoned, mistreated, and generally unhappy. They feel this way even when their parents are normal, kind people trying their best.

Some moody kids have alterations in their emotional states, moving from miserable to content off and on throughout the day. They may be happy as long as things are going their way, but then, blow up when there is a hitch (when Mom says “no” or anticipated plans fail, for example). Some moody kids actually travel daily across a spectrum of emotional states ranging from lows to highs: from grumpy to delightful to enraged to ecstatic to grief stricken to full of joy.

Why are Kids Moody?
Children and adults can experience temporary moodiness that is out of their normal stable character. This occurs when people haven’t eaten well or haven’t slept enough or when they’re coming down with an illness. It can occur also when there is an unusual amount of stress or pressure or chaos. For instance, in the days before “moving day” a family may find itself living in a house that is full of boxes, unable to locate needed clothing or pots or what have you, living without the comforts of home for some days before and after the actual move. During this period the whole family may be in a bad mood. However, once they are settled, the mood will also settle and the family members will return to their normal pleasant states.

People who have experienced a trauma may suffer a number of symptoms such as trouble sleeping, panic attacks and uncharacteristic irritability. Once the trauma is treated, the bad mood will lift. Living in a chronically stressful situation can also affect mood in otherwise normal kids and grownups. Going through a difficult, drawn-out divorce, for example, can put everyone in a bad mood for some years.

Some people have bad moods because of their diet. Excess sugar and caffeine can negatively affect mood in anyone; after chocolate milk and cookies kids can become grumpy, angry and sour. Some kids have sensitivities to ingredients in foods or they have allergies or food intolerances. These can all cause irritability and bad mood. Once the diet is adjusted, the mood will improve.

However, chronic bad mood, including the alternating moods described above, that are not explained by temporary circumstances or health issues may better be explained by inherited characteristics. Irritable mood in children can be a precursor of adult depression. In adults depression manifests as sadness with other physical and emotional symptoms. However, in children, depression is expressed as irritability and regular bad mood. Adults may treat their depressions with therapy and/or medication. These treatments are rarely employed in the treatment of children’s mood issues, reserved for particularly severe cases of emotional dysfunction. However, there are many alternative treatments for children’s mood issues that can be very effective.

Helping Heal Bad Moods
Naturopathic treatments can be quite helpful. Bach Flower Therapy, for example, is a form of vibrational medicine that is harmless and yet powerful. Like beautiful music (another form of “vibrational medicine”), Bach Flowers lift mood gently. This form of treatment can decrease negativity, tantrums, discouragement, jealousy, anger, rigidity and other low-mood characteristics. You can learn more about Bach Flower Therapy online and/or find a Bach Flower Practitioner to further guide you.

There are many other naturopathic and alternative treatments for children’s mood issues. Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) supplementation and other nutritional support can be very therapeutic for all mood issues and particularly in the treatment of alternating high and low moods. A nutritionist experienced in the treatment of children’s mood disorders can design a therapeutic diet for your child. Homeopathic treatment, cranial sacral work, acupuncture and other treatments all have been found to be helpful and safe in the treatment of mood issues. Although some research and experimentation may be necessary until the right treatment is found for your youngster, it is worth the trouble. Helping a child grow up more happily not only brings him (and you!) more happiness, it also affects his developing brain for the future.

Behavioral treatment of mood disorders can be carried out by you in your home. It is helpful to use “emotional coaching” in response to a child’s expressions of unhappiness. This involves naming and accepting his feeling. “Yes, I see you’re upset,” or “Yes, it’s very disappointing,” or “You’re really mad about this” are simple statements that you can make to your disgruntled youngster. What should NOT be said is, “You’re never happy about anything!” or “I’m tired of your complaints” or “There’s no reason for you to be so unhappy.” A parent’s irritation only makes matters worse. Emotional coaching, on the other hand, has been shown to help children become more emotionally intelligent over time, better able to remain calm and emotionally stable, perform better in school, do better socially, emotionally and even physically. Emotional coaching—the naming and welcoming of all feelings—eventually helps children suffer less frequent and less intense negative emotion.

It isn’t necessary to try to make a moody child happy. And it isn’t really possible. Rather, focus on accepting that the child is in pain. Moody kids don’t want to be grumpy and unhappy. They are victims of their genes and inborn temperaments. They deserve your sympathy, support and compassion. Showing your child you care about his or her mood issues by seeking out treatment is a powerful message in itself.

It is hard to parent children with chronically bad moods. Be sure to take care of yourself: manage your stress, exercise, socialize, take breaks and laugh. Your moody child needs you to be in a good mood!

How to Soothe Your Cranky Baby

Babies have very clear personalities that are evident from the moment of birth. Some are so calm and easy-going. Some look and sound mad. Some look worried. It’s possible that their individual journeys down the birth canal have affected their mood and disposition but their genes also play a major role. Psychologists now say that at least 50% of personality is present before parents have a chance to have an impact on their kids. As any parent of more than one child knows, each child is different.

Babies Impact on Their Caregivers
Babies have a strong impact on their parents. A relaxed and placid, cooperative baby makes the parent feel the same way. Such a baby inspires parental confidence even if this is the first child. Parents of easy-going, content babies feel successful as parents and this makes them actually like their baby even more.

Tense, irritable, crabby babies make their parents feel that way too! They make their parents feel helpless, inept and inadequate. This causes them to be somewhat aversive to their parents – after all, we tend to shrink away from people who make us feel like failures. Although it’s not the baby’s fault, parents can’t help but feel resentful toward an infant that refuses to be soothed or comforted. They try everything they possibly can, but still the baby remains unsettled and unhappy. After months of this kind of cycle, parents can feel distressed, burnt-out and detached from their infant.

Loving Difficult Babies
There is no trick to loving a cooperative baby. There is a BIG trick to loving a more challenging infant. With non-responsive babies, parents must remind themselves that gentle handling and patient care-giving DOES make a difference to the child. Difficult babies are stressed from the inside. When parents provide a soothing, confident handling from the outside, the experience does impact on the child’s nervous system. Agitated handling creates more agitation for the infant; calm handling gets recorded in the infants brain and its impact accumulates over time, helping the child to develop in an optimal way. Since parents cannot get immediate feedback from the baby him or herself, they must give THEMSELVES positive feedback instead. Every time you hold your difficult infant, actually tell yourself “I am doing therapeutic parenting. It is so good for my baby. It will help him/her in the long run.” By rewarding yourself verbally (and in any other way you want to!) you can help your own body and mind resist the stress of a (temporarily) thankless child.

In addition, make sure to engage in other activities that DO give positive feedback. Take breaks from your baby in order to do what you enjoy doing and what you feel successful at. Use a babysitter frequently in order to give yourself time to replenish your energy so that you can continue to give love to this baby without exhaustion, resentment and strain.

Seek social support, therapy, alternative stress relief and any other intervention that can help strengthen and nurture you because your baby needs you. You must undo the effects that the baby can have on your nervous system and continuously restore and re-balance your system.

By looking after yourself, you’ll be doing the very best for your baby. This is true for every parent and all the more so for parents of challenging babies.