I want to start by pointing out that just because something works for me, it may not work for someone else. Some children struggle more than others and some need medication to manage their issues while others may not. What remains true is that there is a solution for every child and parent, you just have to keep trying different methods until you find the one that works for your child.
That said, I base my parenting on healing, love, compassion, and truth.
Communication is of the utmost importance in all areas of my life, especially with my daughter. Without communication, there is no understanding, healing, and resolution. Yes, at times, your daughter may not feel like communicating, and that's okay but you have to figure out a way where you can at least communicate with her where she listens until she is ready to reciprocate.
My 11-year-old daughter is an introvert who struggles with anxiety and depression. She is very quiet and often shuts down and resorts to solitude. She bottles up her thoughts and emotions. She doesn't trust many people and probably feels like they would get it anyway.
Communication on my part here is even more important to prevent the bottling up of pain.
What if the child suffers from anger outbursts?
1. Trying to communicate with an angry person period is impossible. The best thing you can do is let the person know that you refuse to communicate while they are lashing out and will be back once they are calm - follow through is extremely important. In the calm moments, you can ask questions, reassure, explain your intentions, show love, and remind them that they - as a person - are not bad but they do need to learn how to communicate in a healthy way and you will helo them.
The key here is to be as clear as you can, calm and focused on making it known that they are not alone. You need to consistently remind them that in order for you to be there for them, they need to learn how to communicate calmly and clearly.
We are not mind-readers after all!
Share personal stories
As adults, parents, teachers, doctors, we are advised to not share stories from our personal lives with children but I disagree. To a certain extent obviously. Keep out any stories containing violence and sexual activity but do share the emotions, the pain, the thoughts, the message, and the lessons within the stories.
I also hear about not sharing your personal stories as sometimes it may make the other person feel like you are comparing or wanting the attention on you, therefore, resulting in them not feeling heard or seen. I agree that in certain situations, this is true, such as when others are simply looking to vent or looking to feel supported. Here, you would simply say, I hear you, I see you, and I am here for you. But in the event of giving advice, educating, teaching, informing, or guiding someone into a healthier mindset, it can help to share your story to show them that recovery is possible, there is hope and they are not a lost cause. It also allows them to see that "Hey, mom's been through the same thing! She really does get it!"
When you share personal stories with the child or person that you are trying to help, it allows them to see you as a person with feelings instead of just an authority figure or someone "out to get them".
When I say personal stories, I don't just mean talking about the positive results of a situation or your positive experiences. I include the stories about when you stole things from the store, the day you ran away from home, that night where you told your mom that you hated her, the times you cried yourself to sleep as a child.
I also include current-day stories, for example, my daughter despises going to school. I told her about how sometimes adults don't like going to work but it's something that we have to do. Then I turned her thoughts into positive ones by reminding her that school is not forever and once she starts working, she'll always have the option of quitting and finding something she loves. Her situation is temporary.
This is something that we often forget in life - everything is temporary and it can become overwhelming when we can't see the end, especially if we are unhappy in our situation.
I have shared personal stories of my childhood, my parents and how they raised me, what I wished my parents had done with me explaining my own parenting, the emotions I struggled with, the anxiety I felt growing up, etc.
In doing so, you remind your child that you weren't always a mom. You were a struggling child too.
Reconnect with your childhood
One way of connecting with my daughter is by reconnecting with the little girl I used to be. When we raise children we tend to get so caught up in the parenting and the adulting that we forget - we used to be kids too once upon a time.
I know a lot of us, use our childhood to prevent our kids from making the same mistakes but the truth is that we can't do that. Our kids NEED to make mistakes so that they can learn and grow just like we did.
As human beings, we don't only learn from what we are taught by other people, but we learn best from our experiences - good and bad. Our kids are no different.
What makes it hard for us is that as parents, we are forced to witness these young people make those mistakes. We know better. Yes, we do, but we know better BECAUSE of our mistakes, not because our parents said so.
Close your eyes and go back to those early days. Do you remember the way your parents disciplined you? Do you remember how you felt? Did you listen to what they were saying? Did you care about what they were saying?
I use that in my conversations with my daughter. I even call her out. I'll say things like, "Look, I know you're probably thinking to yourself, omg, she talks too much and rolling your eyes in your mind, I know, I did it too but... I say all these things because I care and I hope that you're listening." She'll usually laugh because she knows I'm right, and I'll laugh with her, even within a disciplining speech but then I go back to being serious and I'll redirect the conversation to my core message.
When I reconnect with my childhood, I feel like it minimizes the anger I feel towards my child because the reality is that all kids make mistakes, struggle, and rebel. When I am less angry and am connected to my inner child, it's easier for me to connect with my daughter and relate to what she may be going through and the reasons why she is doing what she is doing. Then it becomes easier to find solutions - together. Make sure you give your kids choices and involve them in the process. This way your child feels in control and like you are partners.
When I discipline my kids, I reassure them.
That doesn't mean they're not in trouble or I am soft. It means that I am keeping their mental health in check and making sure that my discipline - while probably making them angry or sad - does not traumatize them or aggravate their mental illnesses.
For example, someone who suffers from anxiety and/or depression can feel like they are a bad person in general and need a reminder that THEY are not bad, their actions were.
I often say, "I am upset with your actions, but I love you. I discipline you because love you. I take away privileges because I am trying to teach you right from wrong because I love you and want you to have a healthy future."
See how I said healthy future. Not successful. Not positive.
Your choice of words when you are reassuring them is important because you want to cultivate hope and confidence in the fact that they CAN do better without having to be perfect at it.
I use words like it's okay, mistake, imperfect, try again, and possible. These are all words that don't demand perfection because perfection doesn't exist and I will never expect perfection from my kids. But I do suggest effort on their part.
Mental health check in
I always try to do a mental health check-in when I discipline. I know sometimes, we lose our cool, we get angry, we yell, and we may say things we don't mean making it hard to have healthy conversations or making it easy to forget about the mental health check-in. If this happens, come back to your child later on that day when you are feeling calm but do make sure you follow up because if your child is struggling mentally or emotionally, you want to be there to reassure them that you love them and you are there for them.
I usually do the check-in at the end of the conversation that way I get a look into her day, her thoughts, and her emotions. After having shared your own personal stories and having connected with your child, you will have made it a safe place for them to open up as well. You trusted them with your truth, now they can trust you with theirs. It also opens up the space for questions about the discipline or anything else on their mind. Here you might have to repeat some of the things you already explained, that's okay.
Upon doing this the other day, I told my daughter that if she ever needed to talk, I was there and would listen. She then admitted to me that often she feels like she needs to talk but she never knows what to say and she'd prefer if ai approached her and asked questions that she could answer. I appreciated this turnaround because by me letting her know that she's not alone and allowing her to come to me, I found out that she WANTS me to come to her and inquire about how she feels. She invited me into HER world. She is letting me know that she is open to communication.
We have planned to have a mother-daughter chat once a week every Sunday to check in.
Explain your emotions
We get angry, disappointed, and sad. We feel betrayed. Lied to. Disrespected.
Tell your child that.
Explain to them how you feel. Be vulnerable. Show them your soft side. Be honest about your feelings.
When you're angry, figure out why. Are you angry because you're scared? Do you feel ignored? Rejected? Powerless?
Anger often has an underlying cause. Often it stems from our own trauma and triggers. Be open about it with your child.
When you can become self-aware of your own anger, you can be a better role model for your child especially if they struggle with anger issues as well.
Then explain those underlying feelings. Why were you scared? Why does it bother you to feel powerless?
I told my daughter that feeling powerless with her scares me because that means that I cannot teach her about the world, therefore, she is more at risk for danger. She is more likely to make big mistakes with big consequences, like jail.
When you explain your own emotions, it also gives them insight into their own emotions. Sometimes they feel things like anger and don't know why or can't put it into words but if you do, that helps them take a closer look and come up with solutions for themselves.
By explaining your emotions to them you are showing them how to look inward, practice self-awareness, and practice communication.
Leading by example is very powerful with your children. Remember the saying, "monkey see, monkey do"? It definitely applies here.
Stand your ground
Don't forget to stand your ground. You can do all these steps to connect and understand your child, but do make sure that your child knows that the punishments are still very active and they have to earn your trust again.
Children have a way of manipulating your soft side - don't let them. You can communicate and reassure them but still have boundaries and rules set in place.
What I like about giving them choices and involving them in the process is that though they feel in control, you're still the one coming up with the choices.
Showing love is not conditional. It's not because you are disciplining them that you cannot show love. You can be stern, you can have boundaries, you can have rules, punishments, consequences, and still hug them and tell them that you love them. This shows them that hey, you made a mistake, but I still love you.
Sometimes, children will connect your anger or punishments to your hatred of them. You must hate them. You must wish they didn't exist. My daughter has felt that way. I tell her, "You might drive me crazy, upset me, and disappoint me, but I will always love you and try to help you as long as you try with me."
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Michelle Brady