Ask Amy: My Child Hates Me!

“My 6 year old told me recently he hated me and he wished he had a different Mother. I couldn’t believe it! It hurt my feelings and at the same time made me furious. I told him that was disrespectful and he was not allowed to talk to me that way. I then sent him to his room. I don’t know if that was the best thing to do. What should I do if it happens again?”

PWA Sept Ask Amy

It is hard to hear a remark like this from someone we’ve invested so much into for the last 6 years, isn’t it? You will probably hear it again, so let’s come up with a plan.

Rest assured that most young kids I know that say things like this do not really mean it! It usually comes on the heels of them not getting something they want or things not going their way. In other words, they are mad when we say no! The bottom line is they haven’t learned how to use their words to let us know they are feeling angry.

Here’s what we should do.

Acknowledge the fact that they are mad, give them permission to feel that way and then teach them to use their words appropriately.

The next time you hear “I hate you,” respond by saying “I think you’re trying to tell me you are mad because I said no. I want you to know it’s ok that you’re mad and you can always say, Mommy, I’m mad at you because you won’t let me buy this toy”.

You are modeling for him what you want him to do the next time he’s upset with you. That’s addressing the real issue, which is his anger.

Getting angry with him, telling him to stop talking to you like that, sending him to his room, making him apologize to you are all things that further ignite his anger.

Let me know if this helps!

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

Family Spotlight: Debbie Fischer

Structured Doll Play

My husband and I, along with our two sons – ages 4 and 1 ½ years, recently underwent a cross-country move. As corporate relocations tend to go, we moved into a temporary apartment and a preschool that happened to have openings for both boys. Within 2 months, we moved again – this time into our permanent house and, a few months later, to a preschool located near the house. That’s two house moves and two preschool moves in six months.

While our 4-year-old, Graham, had treated the initial move like a grand adventure, the final switch into his permanent daycare was less than smooth. His teachers weren’t as fun (so he said), and the other kids weren’t his friends. Since switching preschools, he started to have more tears about going to school in the morning. Over the next few months, the resistance to attending preschool dramatically increased. He had frequent tummy aches, would sob at drop-off, and ultimately required a teacher handoff at the door. He even began to cry about going to school when we’d tuck him into bed at night, knowing it was coming the next morning. Soon, our normally-awesome sleeper started to wander into our bedroom at night.

When my husband and I would ask him what was going on he’d either say that he didn’t like his teacher or the kids at school were mean to him. One morning, my husband had Graham strapped in the car – ready to go to school – when Graham said he had to make a potty stop. I stayed behind to take him to school after he was finished.

I poked my head into the bathroom to let Graham know that I would be the one taking him in that morning. He looked up at me from the toilet and tears started rolling down his face. Through a strained voice, he said, “Mommy, I am feeling very sad.” We ascertained that he did not actually need to go potty, but rather was delaying the inevitable school drop-off. We washed up and moved to the living room couch to talk more about it. There, he told me that kids at school were being mean to him.

My husband and I, frankly worried about bullying, scheduled a parent-teacher conference to learn more. When I told his teacher about his most recent delay tactic of asking to use the bathroom, she chimed in that he was excessively asking to use the restroom at school too. This is a great school, with incredibly patient teachers, so when they use the word “excessive”, I knew it wasn’t an exaggeration. The teachers also reinforced that they were seeing no issues with the other children at school. In fact, they said, Graham regularly plays with almost everyone in his class. Of course, there are normal disputes over toys, etc, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary.

They were pretty certain we were dealing with garden-variety separation anxiety. They gave us some ideas on how to deal with it at home. They assured us that separation anxiety can ebb and flow, and creep up every now and again without much warning – especially if a family has undergone so many changes in a short period, as ours had.

We tried the tactics that the school gave us, but none of them seemed to help, so I called Ms. Amy. She had been a great help to my son while we were still in the Dallas area, and she knew Graham. Amy agreed this sounded very much like separation anxiety and, among other great tips, suggested we try structured doll play to provide Graham with some additional comfort with our school drop-off/pick-up routine.

I tried it that very night. I asked Graham if he wanted to play a new game with me. He was very excited to try something new! I told him we were going to play “School Drop-off,” and he immediately picked out dolls and stuffed animals to represent each member of the family. The dolls sat down for breakfast together, like we do as a family, then the daddy doll told Graham’s doll that it was time to go to school. As my son’s doll approached the toy car, he stopped and spoke – through his doll voice – and said, “I don’t want to go to school.” I had the daddy doll ask him why. My son’s doll said, “Because I poop a lot… I have diarrhea.”

This was not at all what I was expecting to hear, but it instantly made sense! A few weeks back, Graham had a little stomach bug and had a potty accident at school. School policy dictated that he had to wear a Pull-up for the rest of the day. At the time, it didn’t seem to phase him, but apparently the incident had left some deeper marks than we all knew.

I focused on my doll again, and used the daddy doll to tell him that he was sick then, but he is not sick now and that those types of accidents would not happen anymore. We played through the rest of the drop-off and pick-up routine. Graham loved it so much he asked to play it again two more times!

The next morning, I expected his anxiety to magically be gone, but it wasn’t. It seemed a little lessened but not by much. We briefly reinforced what the daddy doll had told the Graham doll the night before as he left for school. That evening, Graham asked to play “School Drop-off” again, so we did, and there was no talk of dreading school the next day. His drop-off the next morning was just a bit smoother.

Throughout that week, the drop-offs became increasingly easier. The potty break requests during school dwindled as well. Now, almost 2 months later, we have no mysterious tummy aches, no night-wakings, and no significant anxiety about drop-off at preschool. Graham still doesn’t love the idea of going to school on a Monday morning, but it’s nothing like it used to be. He even comes home talking about friends he’s played with that day. Every now and then, he will ask to play “School Drop-off” with me, but the interest in it usually dwindles about halfway through. He doesn’t seem to need it anymore.

I couldn’t believe how effective structured doll play was for Graham. Not only that he was excited to play it but that he was instantly able to tell me what he was feeling – where weeks of asking had only led to canned answers. As his doll was telling mine all his worries, it was a little bit of an awkward transition for me to process what he was telling me as a mother, then respond as a doll character. It was also apparent to me how long it had been since I had played dolls and pretend. I felt pretty rusty – it’s not as easy as it used to be, and felt a little silly too. Also, in not so little ways, my reaching out to Graham with an idea for a game, and making a concerted effort to leave behind household chores to get on the floor for some focused play time, made him feel valued and loved as well.

I can’t thank Amy enough for these lessons!

Debbie Fischer

Bedtime: Why Won’t She Just Go To Sleep?!

Imagine the perfect night – you help your child get ready for bed, read a bedtime story, say prayers, tuck her in, hug and kiss her goodnight and leave the room. She drifts off to a peaceful sleep, you get adult time, and you don’t hear from her, or see her again until the next morning. What a perfect and seemingly simple way to end the day, right? Wrong. Rarely does this scenario exist, especially in the early years.

Bedtime battles can be one of the biggest battles parents face. Some kiddos don’t want to go to bed because of a fear, others don’t want to be separated from their parents, others worry that they might miss something, and some just have a hard time falling asleep. If there are real emotional issues, it’s best to help your child work through those or she will never be able to get off to a peaceful night’s sleep. The last thing you want is for bedtime to turn into a power struggle.

The goal should be for them to learn to fall asleep by themselves, stay asleep and wake up feeling rested and refreshed the next morning. We are teaching them that establishing good sleep habits early in life is a healthy way to take good care of our bodies.
Truth be told, there are certain things we cannot make our children do and going to sleep is one of them. Let’s focus on what we can control and consider what we can do to ensure bedtime does not turn into a battlefield.

  • Establish a set evening routine to develop good habits. This does take time but it is imperative to do it and stay consistent if you want a successful bedtime outcome.
  • Give them a 30-minute warning, signaling it’s time to begin to wrap things up and finish what they are doing – no new activities and, please, no screen time.
  • Create a peaceful environment. Calm parents contribute to an easier bedtime. When there is stress during their day, our kids have greater inability to fall asleep because of the stress hormone, cortisol. It prohibits them from being able to calm themselves.
  • Allow them unhurried time to transition. This might include a bath, jammies, teeth, chat, story, prayers, hugs and kisses before you say goodnight and leave their room.
  • Stand firm if they try to keep you engaged by getting up after the bedtime routine has ended. This is where things can go awry quickly. They need to tell you one more thing, get one more drink of water, have one more kiss and so on. If this happens, kindly say “it’s time to go back to bed” and gently lead her back. No talking, no getting angry – very scripted and rehearsed. You might have to do this repeatedly until she gets the message that you will not tolerate her manipulation.

Bedtime can be a sweet and meaningful way to end the day. Having these patterns established can take some of the stress out of it, and allow everybody to sign off for the day while feeling good about the closeness of the parent-child relationship.

Sweet dreams.

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

Potty Training: Power Struggle or Perfect Timing

Potty training, gone bad, can create huge problems in families and create stress in the parent-child relationship. When this happens, no one wins. Parents start the process determined they are going to make their child use the potty and some kids are simply not ready. If that happens in your home, please go ahead and put it on hold Parenting with Amytemporarily. Why, you ask? Potty training will never be a success with that dynamic.

Almost every single time there is a potty issue and it is not a medical issue, there is a determined child and a determined parent involved. This is the worst combination of personalities because power struggles emerge in all their glory. If parents don’t learn how to work with their child’s strong will, not only will we have potty issues, we’ll now have parent-child relationship problems which creates emotional and behavioral problems.

Here is the bottom line. It’s impossible to make someone use the toilet. We can make them sit there, but we cannot make them go. That is absolutely something we cannot control.

Learning to use the potty is a huge developmental task and successful potty training depends on emotional and physical readiness of your child, not chronological age. Some 2 year olds are ready; others have no interest whatsoever.

If kids are ready and if parents have the right mindset, potty training will be fairly easy. Readiness is the key word to consider before beginning the process – both child and parent readiness.

Is your child ready?

All of the following tasks occur naturally in kids, somewhere between 2 and 4 years of age. The more yes’s, the more ready they are.

  • Does she understand basic directions and follow them?
  • Is she expressing any interest in the potty?
  • Does she talk about wanting to wear panties?
  • Does she fuss about a wet or dirty diaper?
  • Can she stay dry for long periods of time?
  • Does she like to please?
  • Is she saying or acting like she wants to be more independent?

Are you ready?

If you’re feeling stressed about potty training or feeling overwhelmed with life, it might not be the right time to start. Wait. Keep in mind that teaching your child to use the potty should be as natural as teaching her how to work a puzzle. Can you:

  • Be positive
  • Use humor
  • Relax
  • Understand this is something you cannot control
  • Be tolerant and patient when accidents happen
  • Start when no other big events or issues are going on
  • Block off at least 3 days to be at home and commit to the cause

Potty Training is a Process

  • Expect accidents. Many of them. Respond and refrain from reacting. All you need to say is “Accidents happen. Let’s get cleaned up.” To punish, shame or guilt is never effective.
  • When you start, it’s panties or underwear all the time, except, of course, naptime or nighttime.
  • Never force a child to sit on the potty until she goes. This is seen as punishment. It will blow up in your face.
  • Be aware that already anxious and fearful kids sometimes withhold, so watch for constipation.
  • The process can’t be rushed.

What if your child is resistant? 

Go into this prepared to deal with it. Consider calling a halt…only temporarily though, if you are met with pushback. Continuing to deal with a child that is not receptive will be a considerable drain of your time and energy. What this usually means is that she is not ready. Honestly, the worst thing you can do is to push through and continue. I’ve never, ever seen anything good come out of this scenario.

It’s hard not to feel embarrassed and compare when other kids seemingly have no potty issues and yours is still having accidents. Remember this is your child’s process and one that she needs to be the boss of. Potty training takes time. It WILL happen. She will not go off to college in a pull-up.

When it does, I’d say a potty dance is in order!

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

 

Family Spotlight: Jennifer Eckert

Then:

Wow… thinking back to the time period that brought us to Amy’s door – sometimes it feels like it was so long ago, and sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. Desperate is the word I would use to describe that time period. Although it was scary and I was completely at a loss as to how to parent my child, I am so grateful that I was desperate and vulnerable enough to get help. Amy provided exactly the tools, support and comfort we needed.  I would say to any parentEckert Family struggling with an issue with their child – be desperate and vulnerable. There is no shame in not knowing what to do.

Our son, Josh, was a handful – well, he still is. I remember the exact moment when I knew we had a “passionate” child on our hands – he was 13 months old, not verbal yet, but full of things to say. He was standing at the refrigerator, banging on it and screaming for milk, but only in sounds that a mom would know what their child wanted. He was desperate, too. He couldn’t talk but boy did he want and need to. Since Josh couldn’t talk, he was physical. He would hit, throw, run away from me. I was really at a loss. I remember sitting in the pediatricians office just crying to the nurse practitioner about my 2-year old. I “didn’t know what to do!” Thank God for her, and for my desperation, because that moment led me on a path towards help, answers and finally feeling like everything would be “okay”.

How:

The nurse practitioner suggested we start by calling Amy Meyer and a speech therapist. Thankfully, Josh’s non-verbal abilities were pretty easily fixed. I think he was just stuck, and once he got “unstuck” verbally, he has not stopped talking since! Josh becoming verbal, although not overnight, was helpful because he could tell us what was going on, instead of being physical.

The play therapy was quite a journey. First, Amy was wonderful – she was non-judgmental and caring – she was all that we needed. As I mentioned above, I think that is the most important aspect of the process of therapy I received, and still carry with me today, is that “everything is going to be okay”.  I didn’t always know what that would look like, and it might not be pretty to everyone else, but I knew in my heart that we would all be okay, because we were getting help.

Through play therapy we learned what behaviors to care about and what to let go of. Josh was (and still is) all about control. For example – Josh hated to have me brush his hair. Well –my goodness, to have a child go to pre-school without great looking hair – what will people think? Hmmm.. we found out quickly that was a battle we really didn’t need to fight. What a relief!  I was so happy to receive “permission” from Amy that certain behaviors were okay. A particular issue that I remember is that Josh never – truly never – sat down to eat dinner. He always stood up. I cannot tell you how we fought with him over that issue! When we discussed it with Amy, we all agreed that as long as he was with us at the table, ate his food and helped clean up, it was fine that he stood up. Something like this may not fly in another household, but it truly had to in ours because we had to learn that compromise was the key. I feel so grateful that early on, we were able to get to know this child, get to understand that things might look different with him –and that’s “okay”. I can honestly tell you that if we had not gone through those years with Amy, I would be further into the pit that I was in at the time.

There were many situations when I really gave into Josh because it was just so much easier. I was tired of fighting every single little thing with him. I think we made a lot of mistakes by letting Josh have control, and letting him run our family at certain times because it was just such a whipping to stay strong and do the “right” thing. As we learned from Amy, consistency was, and still is, the key.

Now

Oh gosh – Josh is now 10, almost 11, and time certainly does fly! We met Amy when Josh was 2 or 3. I remember talking with Amy and she told me that more than likely,   Josh was ADHD. Because Josh was only 2/3 at the time, he was too young for a formal diagnosis, but I am here to tell you she was right on the money. Amy suggested we go to a diagnostic psychologist and Josh was formally diagnosed at 6 years old (when he was in kindergarten). Since then, we continue to learn a lot about Josh everyday. I really think that since we were so open to help when Josh was young, it has enabled us to be so throughout our parenting journey with him and our other two children (Callie – 13 and Truitt – 6). Since Josh formally stopped seeing Amy, my husband and I have checked in with her a couple of times and I truly feel like I can call her anytime to make an appointment and receive her counsel.  We reached out to her when we knew it was time to take the nest step and have Josh diagnosed – I knew she would be the best source for us. We reached out to her when I was worried about a new problem that arose – sometimes you just need a refresher and a safety net as a parent, and she provided that for us.

Am I the “perfect parent” now because we went to therapy? Nope, I am far from it.  I am flawed, human – I make mistakes daily, hourly. But, I know that we gleaned so much from our time with Amy and I still use that knowledge everyday. I am open to realizing that each of my children is unique and needs different things from me. I realize some things are worth the battle and some are not. One aspect that has stuck with me from going to see Amy is that Josh is who he is. I cannot make him be someone different, I cannot make him be compliant when that is not his nature, I cannot have all the control. That being said, I know that because he is strong willed, we need to be vigilant about helping him realize his strengths and weaknesses. We are fumbling through this process, but we are trying to maintain the tools we learned from Amy to the best of our ability.

Hopefully we are raising great kids that will turn into great adults. Thank goodness we are not alone. It brings me comfort knowing that I can still reach out to Amy.

Jennifer Eckert

Family Spotlight: Brooke Mulford

Before we came to see Amy, I would describe my husband and I as frustrated, end-of-our rope parents. We were struggling with a child who took all of our attention and energy, and then some. I would say the problem persisted for close to a year. We would halfway attempt methods discussed in the multiple parentingBrooke Mulford books we had bought or checked out from the library, but we had no real success and were even more frustrated when nothing worked.

After multiple incidents at home and our daughter’s school, involving hitting and anger, I called Amy, who had been recommended to us by our daughter’s preschool teacher.

Our concerns were that we needed to ‘figure’ our daughter out before it was too late. We also wanted to be better parents.

In the beginning, the processed helped us by making us accountable, which meant that I had to report back to Amy about how things were going. This helped us tremendously! I felt like if we were spending the time and money, we needed to also put forth the effort. And after that, the process changed us. We finally had the tools we needed to be successful parents. We learned that our parenting style just didn’t work, and really clashed with our daughter’s personality. Honestly, I never would have thought that some of the things we were doing wrong were such a big deal until we started making just a couple of ‘small’ changes and saw the improvement!

Our daughter is now beginning to recognize her own feelings and learning how to express them. Her anger and physical aggression towards others almost always stems from frustration, so Amy gave us tools to help her express herself in more appropriate ways, and in turn, help her to make better decisions. I think the thing that was the most shocking to me was how quickly these changes affected our household- it is literally life-changing!

We still have rough days, but they are few and far between. I feel like now we can regain control of the day, as opposed to going from one frustration to another. I believe it has made us happier people over all, and has had a positive impact on our marriage as well. Two less frustrated people who finally feel like successful parents-which is what I believe all parents want at their core-to raise happy, healthy children who are able to cope with life and things that come their way.

Things are good. I feel like we enjoy being parents to our daughter now, and can give her the time and patience that she deserves. That might sound terrible, but when the days were full of frustration, I honestly didn’t want to be around her most of the time. It was a tremendous learning experience for all of us, since we all play a part in our children’s upbringing. Things in our family are very different…we have changed from reactive parents to active parents-which is what our daughter needs and deserves. Our daughter hasn’t had a bad day at school in almost two months-I can pick her up from school and not hold my breath while asking her teacher how the day went! Things are still going great!!

Brooke Mulford

What Your Communication Says About Your Family

When I was growing up, my family did not really communicate. Did yours?

Oh, we talked, a little bit, but that’s different from really communicating.

Since good communication is at the foundation of any close parent-child relationship, why don’t we explore ways to be effective in that area?

Most often, when we think of communication, we think of talking. It might come as a surprise, but that’s actuallypwa_feature_communication_2 the least important aspect of communicating— 7% the experts tell us. The next 23% has to do with the tone, emotion, volume and intonation in our voice. The last 70% is the largest and most significant portion of communication—the non-verbal. This is our facial expressions, eye contact, posture and gestures, which speak the loudest and contain the real truth.

Communication is connection. Healthy families share feelings, thoughts and beliefs. Our children want to be heard and understood, so how do we let them know we really hear them and convey we understand what they’re trying to tell us?

This kind of connection begins at birth. The first thing an infant uses is his senses. The way you talk to your infant as he coos at you, the way you look into his eyes and the way you smile at him are all ways that let him know you’re listening. Genuine listening is giving him your full attention. To be emotionally present means that we listen with our whole being…ears, eyes, face, body and heart. You are communicating to him how valuable he is to you. Isn’t it amazing that we can tell our infants how much we love them with our faces?

If we want our kids to share their hearts with us, they must feel secure in the parent-child relationship. We can build trust by really listening. To really listen means we don’t criticize, judge or shame. We simply listen and then reflect and validate what they said. Your child says he hates school and all of the work his teacher makes him do. A response might be “you seem pretty angry about what happened at school today.”

Does listening like this mean we agree with what is being said? Not necessarily. All it means is that I hear you and I understand. Being open-minded and sensitive to others thoughts, feelings and beliefs demonstrates we get it.

Being available, on their terms, is something many parents struggle with. We tend to want our kids to talk when it’s convenient for us. It doesn’t work that way, especially for teens.

When your children do confide in you, listen carefully and then offer them words that encourage and lift them up. “I know you will figure it out.”

What says to our kids we’re not listening? A lot, but I’ll just list a few: fiddling around with electronics, multitasking, watching TV, interrupting them while they are trying to tell us something, lecturing and nagging when they’re sharing with us, not making eye contact with them, acting bored or telling them to hurry up and get to the point, interrogating and putting them on the hot seat, asking questions and asking “why” are sure-fire ways to shut a kiddo down. Are you ever guilty of any of these?

Give some thought to your family’s communication style. Decide if there are things you need to change. If you desire a closeness and connectedness with your kids and if you want them to feel free to talk to you about matters large and small, encourage your family to communicate in ways that convey respect, love and acceptance.

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

Family Spotlight: Jennifer Bourgeois

Three years ago we experienced a major life change, the death of my mother. I tried to shield my children from the pain that I was experiencing but I didn’t realize at the time how my decisions would affect my children and their own grief. As time went on we began noticing a change in our oldest daughter, Emma. At first we didn’t realize what was going on with her and why she was acting out so much and refusing to separate from me. She was afraid to do things that she normally loved, didn’t want to go to school and would cry every morning, and also became defiant towards us. At the time she was 9 and in 3rd grade. I became very fearful of our mother-daughter relationship and the negative effects on my family. During my own childhood my oldest sister was a “trouble maker” and even as an adult I never understood what happened in her childhood to cause her to rebel the way she did.

Bourgeois-Photo-IMG_3345

The relationship that developed between my parents and oldest sister completely changed the dynamic of my childhood family and I knew I didn’t want that for my family. I was terrified that my oldest daughter would end up like my oldest sister. I was scared and almost felt hopeless.

My father and my other sister were also worried but I didn’t really know what to do about it. My pediatrician recommended counseling and gave us a list of counselors. I was feeling overwhelmed so my husband made the initial call to Amy and she said that she had experience in dealing with grief and children. That’s great but could Emma’s behavior be from grief or are we destined to go down the same road my family went down when I was a child?

I will never forget the first meeting with Amy. I feel like I could cry just writing this now. She has the most calming, non-threatening, warm presence and I immediately wanted to talk to her for hours. I knew that Emma would feel very safe with her. After that first meeting with Amy we felt a sense of relief but also knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. It was a little overwhelming because I knew I would have to really examine myself and my parenting, but I knew we were at least headed in the right direction. Emma met with Amy once a week for about 6 months. It was a rocky six months in our house to say the least. As time went on though we learned so much about Emma, ourselves, our own childhood, and our style of parenting. Talking with Amy I felt inspired to become a better parent.

Despite my fear of ruining my daughter, she helped me to believe in myself as a mother. My parenting style I wouldn’t say completely changed but rather grew and still continues to grow. I honestly don’t know where my family would be today without Amy’s guidance. After a period of time, Emma’s wounds healed and mine did too. We still have to work on our relationship together but it doesn’t feel like we are just spinning our wheels. We can actually see the positive results of our parenting.

This year, about two years after our difficult time with Emma, our youngest daughter, Elizabeth began going through a really awful time. We had an idea of what was going on but because she wasn’t able to verbalize her feelings, just like Emma, we didn’t know for sure. She was seven and was incredibly defiant and super, strong willed. I didn’t know what to do with her and I was sure that what I was doing was only making things worse. This time though I felt such comfort knowing exactly where to turn. Unlike with Emma, I didn’t doubt that things would ever get better. This time I knew with work and time things would be ok. Actually, I knew things would be better than ok. Instead of feeling like a failure as a mother, I actually looked forward to Amy’s help. Every child is different and I needed help parenting my strong willed baby. Elizabeth also needed help in trusting herself and other people. This experience with Amy and Elizabeth has been very different than with Emma. Talking with Amy inspires me to examine the way I parent Elizabeth and my other children. We are still In the process of learning what works for her and what doesn’t but I know that we will be ok, not only ok but a much better family than before we sought Amy’s help.

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Family Spotlight: Shannon Harris

I don’t know what I don’t know. I keep learning this lesson over and over.

I love being a mom. However, it often feels like we are walking a tightrope between teaching grace and yet providing discipline, having a sense of humor and teaching respect, deciding when the small ‘stuff’ I actually ‘big’ stuff, and vice versa.Parenting with Amy

Two years ago we attended a parenting group with Amy. These few things have made a big impact for the way we parent:

As a working mom, ‘mom guilt’ can occur daily. Amy taught us to give our kids at least 15 minutes of quality time per day. While this seems like a small amount of time, it gets all to easy to be ‘busy’ and miss this opportunity. So, whether I am coloring with the kids, having them help me make dinner, throwing a football with my son or reading books together…. I know it is critical to make the time.

It is innate to ‘fix’ our babies. If they fall and skin their knee, get a bandaid. If they are hungry, feed them. If they are sad, cheer them up. While I still need to tend to their physical needs, Amy taught me that I don’t need to ‘fix’ their feelings. I need to teach them that I am ok when they are sad, or mad, or hurt. I need to validate what they are feeling. Let them sit in their feelings. I can say “I know you are mad at me because you didn’t get….” And just let them be mad until they want to work it through. I have started to see the fruit of this process now with my 7 year old. Recently, when he has been disrespectful to me, I have shared with him from my perspective, “I don’t like the way you spoke to me. It makes me sad when you talk to in that manner.” And then I am quiet. On his own, he has now gone off, only to come back 30 minutes later and apologize to me. This shows me he is taking time to process how I am feeling. Which means he is taking time to process his feelings.

In our house, we have a saying “When you mess up, you fess up.” Often as the parent, your instinct is to not show weakness with your kids. But, Amy gave me permission to tell my kids that I am sorry. Or come back to them and explain ‘I didn’t like the way I handled the situation’ today, or ‘I have thought about what I said and I have changed my mind.’ A lot of times we excuse our behavior as parents with the rationale that ‘kids are resilient., or unaffected, or won’t remember.’ As resilient and forgiving as they are, they do remember. I love that we have BOTH Authority in our home AND show humility with our children. My kids are learning that the expectation is not to be perfect, the expectation is to OWN their choices and the consequences. This has to be taught by example.

When we were on a family vacation, my daughter was coming down an elevator with my sister. The doors shut before my daughter got out. For 45 terrifying seconds, she was hysterical in the elevator alone. She seemed to be ok…just frightened…until about one month later when she wouldn’t let me out of her sight. Cried when I left her at school. Didn’t want to her dance recital or school concert. My natural inclination was to push her through so she (or I) wouldn’t miss out. I was coached to ‘let her heal.’ I needed to build her confidence and trust. Not put her in situations that caused anxiety. Pull back and meet her where she was at. And so we did. I had to keep the normal school and church routines, but soccer, playdates, dance, performances…I had to let them go. It took almost a year for her to fully regain her confidence and not have a ‘spirit of fear.’ But, now she is thriving: dance, playdates, rides the bus to school, skiing. I was so thankful to get guidance during this period, and have a plan to deal with her anxiety.

Lastly, in working with Amy, you learn you have to stop comparing your parenting to other parents. You as a parent have to discern what is best for your kids. And it is valuable to have someone objective, who can know your parenting style and your issues, and give you the ‘words’ to say to your children. I feel empowered when a challenge comes up, but I have a plan on how to handle it. For example, when my kids: roll their eyes, use inappropriate language, have a disrespectful tone, have power struggles with friends, feel inferior in sports or academics, etc. I am equipped with ‘words’ and actions to handle these things. I can validate their feelings, discern if I need to step in or hold back, and be available to talk through the next step or consequences.

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Help! How do I handle my moody child?

All feelings are permitted, actions are limited.
We must not deny a child’s perceptions.
Only after a child feels right, can he think right.
Only after a child feels right, can he do right.
Haim Ginott

If you’re like me, you might have grown up during the day when expressing your feelings just wasn’t acceptable. A common message heard years ago was “you shouldn’t feel that way.” I’m curious — what message do you remember hearing?

We all have feelings and naturally come into this world expressing them.

Teaching our children how to manage their feelings is one of the single most important skills we can equip them with, yet most often, the very one we miss. pwa_feature_feelings
When they have the ability and our permission to say, “I feel happy today” “I’m feeling frustrated” or “I’m so mad at you,” not only are they emotionally healthy but there is also an added bonus that most parents don’t realize. They have fewer behavioral issues when they know how to manage their emotions wisely.

The goal in teaching our kids this emotional intelligence is to help them recognize, name and express what they are feeling. How do I do that, you say? I’m so glad you asked because I absolutely love it when parents come back to me and say “this really works”!

Model emotional astuteness.

How do you express your emotions when you are mad? Remember that kids learn so much from us by watching and listening to what we do and say. Are you able to say “I had a frustrating day today”?

Validate and acknowledge their emotions.

We have to be good listeners to do this and it’s never too early to start. Infants cry when it’s time to be fed. We want to validate that by saying “You’re mad because you are hungry.”

Daniel Siegel, M.D and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., in their book, The Whole-Brain Child, say it beautifully — “name it to tame it” — this is what helps our children make sense of what’s happening to them.

With the youngest kids, start with these four feelings: happy, sad, mad and scared. “Wow. I bet that dream did scare you” or “You look so happy today”!

For older kids, we can be more specific and use bigger words: disappointed, frustrated, annoyed and elated. “You were so annoyed you had to be home before your friends did.”

These responses convey to our kids that we understand and we accept their emotions. This is empathy. Don’t we usually feel better when someone gets us? When we validate our kids feelings, this is how they feel too. And when they feel good, they usually act good. Our acceptance also helps them understand and accept themselves. This makes it easier for them to resolve their feelings and move on.

Allow your children to express all emotions.

Feelings can either be expressed or repressed. When repressed, they come out sideways and have the potential to cause many problems. When they have the words to express what they are feeling, they will have less need to act them out.

A physical release is necessary for some children. For younger kids, give them something they can get physical with after stating the limit. ”It’s ok that you’re mad at me, but I am not for hitting. Feel free to hit this pillow.” For intense older kiddos, a boxing bag in the garage is a good option.

One caveat — the key to successfully teaching our kids about emotions is dependent on the state of the parent-child relationship. Remember when there is a disconnect in this relationship, they are not going to be able to accept our attempts to help them with their emotions or be open to anything we are trying to teach them.

Emotions matter more than anything and we should take them very seriously. At the end of the day, we want our kids to be equipped with the skills necessary to be compassionate, whole and emotionally healthy adults.

There’s Always Hope,

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Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more!