Child Always Needs to be First

Teaching a child how to wait his turn is part of the process of building his or her emotional intelligence. Not all kids start at the same place when it comes to the ability to wait patiently (or any other trait for that matter!). The ability to wait is called upon regularly throughout life –  from lining up for baseball tickets to dealing with not getting accepted for the team or school in a given year. Unless we have the patience and the fortitude to wait, we can find ourselves defeated by frustration.

If your child has a need to always be first, consider the following tips:

Start with Emotional Coaching
Emotional Coaching – the naming of feelings – is a good place to start. When your child runs ahead screaming that he or she wants to be first, you can say something like, “You want to be first!” This simple acknowledgment lets the child know that you understand. Now you are in a much better position to help the child make a shift. For instance, you can say something like, “You want to be first! Let’s let (your brother/friend/whoever) have a chance to be first this time.” Although this may not yield instant cooperation, the short naming of the child’s feeling does increase the chances that the child will be able to shift.

When an older child is the one who badly needs to be first, the step of Emotional Coaching is even more important. Be careful not to use the word “but” when naming a child’s feeling. For instance, instead of saying “I know you want to be first, but others need a turn and you can’t push them out of the way,” you would say “I know you really want to be first. It’s hard to let someone get ahead of you. Still, other also need a turn. You can’t push them out of the way.” Although the difference between the two structures is small (the size of a period!), the difference in meaning is large. The word “but” acts like an eraser, erasing the understanding and compassion of the Emotional Coaching that just occurred.

Offer Simple Explanations
Let your impatient youngster know that others have needs and feelings too. “Jason feels sad when he doesn’t get a turn to go first.” “Rachel doesn’t like to be pushed.” “Everyone deserves a chance to be first.”

There is no need to offer long lectures or reprimands. Keep your lesson short and sweet. When YOU must make your child wait, offer similarly simple explanations: “The baby has to get his first; you’ll get yours in a moment.” “You got served first last time, now it’s Kara’s turn.” Brief, matter-of-fact and business-like works better than more emotionally laden responses.

Acknowledge and Reinforce
Look for any little sign of patience and try to make a comment. In fact, the most effective type of positive reinforcement can be found within the 3-step process called The CLeaR Method – comment, label, reward (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on using this educational technique). When your child has been able to wait without making a huge raucous, the CleaR Method might sound something like, “You waited your turn! That was very patient of you. I think you deserve an extra treat in your lunch for that.”

Try Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Remedies are harmless, water-based tinctures available in health food stores around the world. They address emotional tendencies and help bring out-of-balance emotions into balance. Indeed, over time they help to gradually eliminate or minimize negative inborn emotional tendencies. There are 38 different remedies in the system, each helping to correct a particular stressful emotion. Several remedies can be prepared in one mixing bottle. An empty mixing bottle is filled nearly to the top with water; two drops of each desired remedy is put in the bottle. The remainder of the bottle is filled with a bit of brandy in order to prevent bacteria from growing in the bottle (which will last about a month when used according to directions – 4 drops in a small amount of liquid 4 times a day). The remedies that are often useful for inability to wait, are the following:

  • Impatiens reduces a sense of urgency
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  • Holly reduces feelings of competition, anger, over-sensitivity
  • Vervain reduces issues around fairness
  • Vine reduces excessively strong will, rigidity, aggression

For further guidance with the the Bach Flower Remedies, consult a Bach Flower Practitioner in your area.

Be Patient
If your toddler or young child can’t seem to wait his turn, don’t panic – at this age most children have trouble with patience. Moreover, toddlers are an egocentric crowd, wanting what they want right now without the ability to take the needs of others into consideration. But don’t worry – egocentricity will ease up in just a few short decades. Be patient! Despite this, however, toddlerhood is actually a good time to START a training process; just don’t expect any instant results. Move steadily, slowly and patiently as you encourage your child to be more patient and selfless.

Negative Consequences vs. Punishment

Some people use the words consequences and punishment interchangeably. However, there are significant differences between these two concepts that all parents need to understand. Let us examine these differences and learn why they are so important.

Natural Consequences
“Natural consequences” refer to the natural effects of a behavior, effects that occur whether or not parents intervene. The connection between cause and effect is clear, and it’s a connection that any person can make with reasoning and logic. For example, the consequence of climbing on an unsteady ladder or chair may be toppling off; the consequence of not eating breakfast and lunch may be experiencing hunger pains. No one has to step in to provide the lesson; the lesson happens naturally as a direct result of the behavior.

Logical Consequences
“Logical consequences” are negative consequences that are arranged by the parent or other caregiver. These are aversive events that are created in order to teach a lesson. They are directly related to the child’s misbehavior. For instance, a child who repeatedly racks up a huge cell phone bill might be denied cell phone privileges for a time if the behavior persists. Or, a child who continuously leaves his toys out instead of putting them away, may be denied the privilege of playing with those toys (for a short time) if that behavior persists. In other words, the child will be able to make the connection between what he is doing wrong and the price he is paying. These consequences are designed to help him improve his ways. The child is always given a warning before logical consequences are applied so that he can choose to repair the behavior instead of paying the price. For instance, the child may be told, “from now on, if you leave your toys all over the floor, you will not be able to play with for 24 hours.” This helps the child make a conscious decision about his own actions.

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Illogical Consequences
“Illogical consequences” are negative consequences that are arranged by the parent or other caregiver, just like “logical consequences.” However, there is no logical connection between the consequence and the misbehavior. In cases where the logical consequence is not possible or would not be a deterrent, the parent creates an “illogical consequence” instead. For instance, if the child couldn’t care less that he won’t be able to play with those toys the next day, then this will not be an effective consequence for him, even though it is “logical.” Therefore, the parent might say, “From now on, when you leave your toys all over the floor, you will lose your afternoon treat.” If this will motivate the child to clean up his mess, then it may certainly be used. The child will still be able to make the connection between his behavior and his unfortunate loss of his junk food. As in logical consequences, the child is always given the choice to behave appropriately by being warned of a consequence ahead of time.

Punishment
Unlike consequences, punishment is any technique whose goal is to cause the child emotional or physical pain. In punishment, pain is the essential element of the consequence. The goal of the pain is meant to cause a behavioral change but it is also partially intended as a sort of parental “revenge” – a desire to show the child who is boss or show the child how upset the parent is. Whereas a negative consequence is meant to be annoying enough to motivate behavioral change, it is NOT meant to reflect the parent’s degree of upset or anger. In fact, anger has no role whatsoever in the application of negative consequences; the consequences are meant to replace the need for anger. Anger is seen as a parental emotion, not a parenting tool. Perhaps the easiest way to observe the difference between a consequence and a punishment is to see how each might sound in context. Let’s suppose a 5 year old has stuck her tongue out at her mother. If Mom chooses to use a negative consequence, she would do so in the structured format called the 2X-Rule (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on applying negative consequences using this structure). On the second occasion of sticking out the tongue, Mom says something like, “As I’ve explained to you before, we don’t stick out a tongue at Mommy because it’s not respectful and it hurts Mommy’s feelings. If you are feeling mad at Mommy, just use your words and tell Mommy you’re mad. From now on, when you stick your tongue out at Mommy, you will lose stories at bedtime.” If the child now earns herself loss of stories one night for sticking out her tongue again, the child will recognize the connection between the disrespectful behavior and the loss of stories, and probably make an adjustment in her behavior.

Now let’s see how punishment might have sounded: upon receiving the “tongue,” Mom says, “THAT’S IT FOR YOU YOUNG LADY! NO STORIES AT BEDTIME TONIGHT!”  We see that anger is a big part of Mom’s educational strategy and that there is an element of revenge or getting back at the child for her inappropriate behavior. There is no warning, no educational strategy – just a quick kick-back. The negative consequence in this scenario is much less powerful than the negative effect – it is the rejection that the child will remember, not the importance of politeness.  In general, punishment is a negative consequence thrown at the child (usually in anger) at the time the child is misbehaving. There is no warning. The consequence is meant to “hurt” the child into behaving better. For instance, when a parent sees a child grabbing toys away from the baby, she might suddenly yell,” You’ve just lost T.V. this afternoon!” Rather than providing education, the parent is providing retribution. And this is how the child feels it. Without being warned, the child feels attacked. He has not been given the choice to improve or comply. If the parent had stated a rule and a consequence, all of this would be different. “We don’t grab toys because it is upsetting the baby. Please let him play. From now on, when I see you grab toys, you’ll have to leave the room for a while.” This structure provides education, not just pain. In general, we could say that punishment makes the parent feel better. Indeed, punishment is often harsh, providing a release for the anger that a parent feels when a child misbehaves. Again, this has nothing to do with education. It is an emotional reaction.

Punishment is unhealthy for children, leading to behavioral and emotional problems. It can also harm the parent-child bond and negatively affect academic performance, social skills and physical health. On the other hand, negative consequences provide education without unnecessary and unfortunate short term or long term negative effects. Even so, this is only true when negative consequences constitute a minute part of the child’s experience while the major part consists of conditional and unconditional forms of good-feeling, positive attention (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for a detailed discussion of the correct ratio of loving to guiding interventions and strategies for achieving that ratio in everyday parenting).

Child is Violent

Some kids are naturally gentle and empathetic, remaining that way throughout their lives. However, many children are easily provoked and some are chronically impulsive and reactive –  grabbing what they want without regard to the feelings or desires of others or displaying their displeasure in dramatic or belligerent ways. Small children who hurt others are usually considered to be “aggressive” while bigger kids and teens who use physical aggression are considered to be “violent.” In all cases, parental guidance is necessary; all children have to learn to control their impulses and find positive and acceptable ways of getting their needs met, expressing feelings and interacting with others.

If your child is lashing out aggressively, consider the following tips:

What is Violence?
Violent behavior is any behavior that uses force to overpower others, causes pain to self or others, or causes destruction of physical property. The use of profanity and discriminatory language, extreme temper tantrums, threats, meanness and cruelty, vandalism, physical and sexual assault are all examples of violent behavior to others. Self-directed violence is any form of aggressive self-harm such as slapping, cutting or burning oneself.

What Causes Violent Behavior?
There are many possible causes for violent behavior, including genetic and environmental factors. For some, physical reactivity is just a short phase in their development while for others, it arises out of an enduring inherited disposition to poor impulse control. If your child is chronically violent, consider the possibility of conditions like Conduct Disorder (CD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), substance abuse and even psychosis. Ask your doctor for direction.

It should be noted that a child from a loving home can be very aggressive just as  a child from an aggressive home can be mild mannered. Indeed, violent behavior can be both learned and unlearned. Although completely “normal” children can be violent at times, frequent aggressive behavior always indicates a problem that requires parental, and often professional, attention. As previously mentioned, a  mental health condition may be at the root of problems with aggression; once the condition is properly assessed and treated, aggressive behavior diminishes – when frequent or serious aggression occurs in children over the age of 5, a professional assessment is important (pre-schoolers have a higher rate of natural aggression; professional assessment would only be indicated if the child’s behavior interfered with his/her social life, school placement or normal functioning in the home). Some physical conditions can also lead to aggressive behavior. For this reason, any child who regularly behaves aggressively should be assessed by a physician. In some cases, violent behavior is modeled in the home or community of a child, not only providing an unhealthy model, but also failing to provide a healthy one.

Other Factors Contributing to Violent Behavior
Media can also play a role in the development of aggressive and even violent  behaviors in some children. Computer games, T.V. and movies today are more violent than they used to be, with scenes depicting aggression presented in a very graphic fashion. Watching violent images tends to desensitize children to the impact of aggressive behavior. The repetitive imagery also has a programming effect on the mind, helping to inculcate patterns of aggression.

Certain parenting styles have been linked to incidents of violence among young people. Specifically, authoritarian parenting – cold and punitive – can increase aggressive behavior in kids. Authoritative parenting, on the other hand, which is warm and loving but sets appropriate boundaries and limits, DECREASES aggression and violence and contributes to health emotional development (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for an example of authoritative parenting). In helping kids manage upset and angry emotions, the use of Emotional Coaching is important. Emotional Coaching is the skill of naming a child’s feelings; it has the effect of soothing upset emotions but most importantly, it contributes to the development of higher emotional intelligence. High E.Q. increases the child’s ability to “self-soothe” (regulate emotional distress) and lessens violent tendencies (see John Gottman’s book no deposit online casino play games
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child for more details).

But violence among young people may also be linked to weak parental control and what is called the permissive parenting style. When misbehavior does not get noticed and/or properly addressed  by parents, children may become apply less self-control. Specifically, parents who do not take serious steps to stop a young child’s aggressive behaviors in the home – hitting, spitting, biting, hurting people, throwing and/or  destroying property – should not be surprised if the child maintains those kinds of behaviors throughout adolescence and longer. In other words, children do not necessarily just outgrow violent behaviors that persist beyond age 6 or 7. Of course, parents can NEVER use aggression to help a child learn to refrain from aggression. Only calm, fair, kind and firm parenting techniques can be employed. Parenting books and courses may offer a wealth of reasonable interventions for childhood aggression. Nonetheless, if parents have tried but failed to curb these kinds of behaviors in a young child, they should definitely enlist professional help. The earlier the child is stopped from engaging in violent behavior, the easier it is to “reprogram” his or her brain for healthier and more appropriate communication skills.

Genetic Vulnerability
When a child or a teen exhibits violent behavior that youngster is suffering. Happy, well-adjusted kids aren’t violent. The child may have been born with a predisposition to aggression but that vulnerability may be linked to a mood disorder or personality disorder – neither of which predispose the youngster to peace of mind and happiness. Both psychotropic and alternative interventions can effectively address biological factors contributing to aggression. Consider speaking to a naturopathic practitioner in addition to your medical doctor. In most cases, counseling, anger management therapies and other cognitive-behavioral interventions will also be an important part of complete healing.

When a child is otherwise functioning very well and his or her aggression seems to be a temperamental, inborn tendency and acts of aggression are rare enough or mild enough NOT to significantly interfere with his or her functioning or well-being, an intervention to seriously consider is Bach Flower Therapy. Bach Flower remedies can often turn off violent tendencies and are certainly worth a try even when violence is a serious problem (along with other interventions in this latter case). Sometimes they are all that is needed while at other times, the remedies may be a helpful part of a more comprehensive strategy for aggression and violence that includes one or more treatment modality (such as psychotherapy, psychotropic medication, naturopathic interventions, self-regulation strategies, etc.). Since Bach Flowers do not interact with any other substance, they can be used safely along with any medicine, herb, or nutritional program. For violent behavior, it is best to consult a Bach Flower Practitioner, but if you can’t find one, of the 38 Bach Flower remedies you should consider Vine (for strong-will, stubborn and bully-type behaviors), Holly (for aggression that is triggered by jealousy, hurt and insult), Impatiens (for anger arising out of nervous tension and emotional strain) and Chestnut Bud (for violence that is impulsive and unresponsive to normal discipline strategies). All of these can be mixed in one treatment bottle (see the article on Bach Flower Remedies on this site).

On the other hand, the child may have started off with perfectly healthy genes and later developed emotional problems due to stressful life circumstances. Family dysfunction, conflicted homes or high conflict divorce, chronic learning problems, abuse, assault, victimization and trauma may all lead to a build up of anger and stress that may be acted out in aggression. If your child has been through hard times, professional counseling can help ease emotional distress as well as provide appropriate communication and anger-management skills. In addition, do whatever you can to improve your own emotional balance, communication skills, stress management skills and anger management skills so as to provide the best possible model for your child. This is important even when you have no role whatsoever in your child’s violent approach to life. A consistent healthy model can only help the situation and in some cases, it is all that you can provide.

Child is a Bad Loser

It’s important for parents to teach their children how to be good losers. The ability to accept defeat with honor is a skill that will serve kids well in childhood and even later on, during their adult lives.

So how can parents teach their kids the art of losing? Consider the following:

Whenever Kids Take a Loss, Empathize and Encourage
Losing is very threatening because it can make a person feel weak or inadequate. Celebrating a child’s strengths and emphasizing the child’s power to continuously improve, can provide an antidote to insecure thoughts and feelings while it simultaneously teaches the child how to think about his or her own performance. For instance, suppose a child entered a chess tournament and lost a game. Parents can first empathize with the feelings of disappointment of losing and, afterward, go on to discuss various strengths and strategies: “Yes, I know that you feel bad about losing. You really put up a good battle! You scored a lot of points with that excellent move you made on the third turn. With a few more moves like that, you’ll soon be beating that fellow! Just keep at it!”

Give Your Child a Legitimate Outlet for his Frustration
It’s understandable for kids to have negative feelings about losing. In fact, your child’s upset should tell you that he or she has a healthy desire for achievement as well as a developed sense of competition. A person gets upset after losing because he is motivated, because he worked hard at his activity, or because he wants the benefits that come with winning. Disappointment is the natural consequence of losing.

Instead of negating your children’s feelings (“There’s no reason to be upset…”), respect your child’s right to be upset. If he needs to be alone for awhile, or cry in front of you, then let him. Use Emotional Coaching (the naming of feelings) to help him process his disappointment (“I know it’s hard to lose when you’ve practiced so long and tried so hard. It’s very disappointing.”) Naming the feelings helps them move more quickly out of the child’s psyche. It’s important that kids learn that it’s safe to feel whatever they really feel and to express what they feel appropriately (in words) rather than act out their upset inappropriately by walking out, stomping out, insulting their opponent, or refusing to accept a judge’s or referee’s decision.

Model What It’s Like to Lose Gracefully
The best way to teach your child how to gracefully accept defeat is by gracefully accepting your own losses. You best meal didn’t make the finals of the cook-out? Then express sadness, but don’t whine, pout or badmouth your opponents. Your boss gave the promotion you’ve been angling for to your annoying office mate? Then let your child see that you wish your peer well.

If you can share stories of resiliency in your family, trials and disappointment that you’ve overcome just by simply maintaining a healthy attitude, then you are on your way in instilling sportsmanship in your child. You may also provide your child with positive role models for sportsmanship through selected movies, books and personal stories.

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Encourage Your Child to Engage in a Variety of Activities
Some kids take defeat to heart because they have already defined themselves solely in terms of the sport, game or endeavor that they have decided to pursue. But just because a child is a brilliant pianist doesn’t mean that is all he or she is. Likewise, being a skilled quarterback is not the entirety of a child’s personality. Encourage your child to pursue other sources of self-esteem, enjoyment and satisfaction. This way when they lose, they know it’s just one game — not the end of the world.

Take the Pressure Off
As a parent, you need to ask yourself from time to time: “Do I want my child to win way more than he or she wants to win?” What if you’re a frustrated skater, and want your child to live the dreams you never reached? Putting undue pressure on a child can take away the enjoyment of a competition, and force your child to view losing in terms of disappointing not only himself, but you and maybe others as well. This can inflate the seriousness of the loss in the child’s mind, lifting it out of the realm of losing a playful game to the realm of failing to meet the expectations of significant others. Therefore, be careful not to act like your child’s success or failure in a particular endeavor is exceedingly important to YOU! You need to be fine with your child’s failure before you can ever hope that he or she will survive it. When a child senses that he or she is disappointing a parent through a failure or loss, it is much harder for the child to put that loss into perspective and move gracefully forward. Seeing your child as more than a performer will help the child see him or herself in a healthier, more balanced perspective as well.

Lastly, Teach Your Child to be a Good Winner
Empathy is a good tool in teaching children how to accept defeat gracefully. When your child wins a game, encourage him or her to imagine the feelings of those on the losing the team and encourage him or her to reach out to the opponents with congratulations for a good match. Let them enjoy what it’s like to be on the winning side of the fence without becoming arrogant or aggressive. This way when it’s their turn to lose, they will be more able to empathize with their winning opponent, and offer heartfelt congratulations.