Pam was a busy mom who wanted to raise her two young children to be independent little people. She operated in survival mode quite often, wanting to nurture a family that thrived. Yet she always ended up feeling like a stressed mom who was always feeling tired. Attachment parenting was her focus. She tried to be a mom who was both demanding and responsive, an authoritative parent who loved her boys. Although Pam’s efforts concentrated on age-appropriate chores and age-appropriate bedtime routines, she reported that her child discipline strategies were lacking. She desperately wanted to get her kids to listen the first time. But instead, Pam found herself throwing her hands in the air. “My older son Justin is an angry child,” she lamented. “And my younger son Tyler is an aggressive toddler. They don’t listen so well. What am I doing wrong?”
As Pam and I joined forces, her first goal was to calm the chaos in her living room. Next, get the clarity and confidence she needed to relax, ditch the guilt of not doing everything right, and know she was doing a great job.
Here at In Touch Parenting, we believe that if you can relate to parents like Pam, you are NOT using your full potential. However, we feel confident that our parenting approach can help you achieve your desired results. For upwards of 20 years, we have helped busy parents just like you discover how to:
- Get your kids to listen the first time so you can be patient and stop yelling.
- Stop the whining, so you don’t have to worry about meltdowns, ruining your kids, or raising them to hate you.
- End the backtalk so your children will respect you, bond with you, and cooperate without all the drama.
Our approach has seven guiding principles.
Begin with the end in mind
Effective parents follow the science and not grandma’s opinion. Studies on childhood development indicate that the single and most significant predictor of children’s success (regardless of race, religion, or culture) is the relationship they have with a primary caregiver. So, I asked Pam to imagine what type of relationship she wanted to have with Justin by the time he was 20-years old. I asked her to think about what she might want to hear him say if I asked the question, “Justin, now that you are 20-years old, what was it like growing up with your mom all those years?”
I asked Pam to reflect on how she might want Justin to respond to other questions like: “When you misbehaved, how did your mom engage with you emotionally? Was her overall tone cold, judgmental, and indifferent? Or, was it usually warm, understanding, and caring?”
When I help parents begin with the end in mind, it helps them establish a clear picture of what they want life to look like in twenty years. Best of all, it gives them a clearer picture of why relating well, regardless of the situation, is so important right now.
Practice healthy self-care habits
Many moms these days describe themselves as an always tired mom, a busy mom or a stressed mom. The trick is to find creative ways to calm the chaos in your living room. For example, finding time for yourself might feel like finding a unicorn, but you can do it. Remember, if you keep your batteries charged, you can remain an effective and happy parent. Try taking a walk after dinner. Linger in the bathtub with a good book. Go to yoga or coffee with a friend. Sneak out to Target alone when the kids go to bed! When your batteries get charged, you have full access to your brain.
Develop a secure attachment parenting style
Children need secure attachment from at least one primary caregiver. When children are distressed, they need to know that protection is near. They need to know they can rely on us for emotional comfort. As Pam developed a secure attachment parenting style, she didn’t tell Justin and Tyler they were important, she showed them. With just a few tweaks, Pam’s parenting style showed her boys that she was emotionally accessible, available, and present for them.
When Justin misbehaved, we helped Pam stop yelling and develop an authoritative parenting style. Although she became more responsive when Justin was in distress, she also remained firm and demanding. As Pam employed a more authoritative parenting style, Justin quickly learned that his thoughts and feelings mattered, but she wasn’t going to be manipulated by them. In other words, Pam became kind and compassionate, but set clear limits and was more consistent with enforcing her boundaries.
When Justin needed to be put back on the right track, Pam focused on positive parenting. We discussed the value of giving clear and gentle guidance. As Pam focused on positive parenting, she focused on working with Justin in difficult times and resisting the temptation to raise her voice and be punitive, especially when she was upset.
If you like what you’re reading so far, then you will love the audio program I created for you called, “How To Get Kids To Listen The First Time Without Raising Your Voice!” You can get all the details here.
Provide balanced expectations like age-appropriate chores
Some dangers come from placing unrealistic expectations on a child. We all have hopes and dreams for a child before he is even born (not a bad thing), and Pam was no exception. However, Pam’s dreams had turned into expectations that were too high for Justin. They placed too much pressure on Justin to be perfect around things like picking up his toys and keeping his room clean. In response, Justin often felt powerless or like a failure when he was unable to live up to Pam’s expectations. He became the angry child in those moments. Other times, Justin gave up easily or avoided trying to excel, and stepped into the angry child role again and again.
Once we helped Pam get her expectations in harmony with what he could deliver, Justin started to pursue and try out new things. We worked on age-appropriate chores, age-appropriate bedtimes, and age-appropriate discipline for her boys. For example, instead of telling Justin to take out the trash, Pam asked if he needed help with the heavy bags. When she asked Tyler to put away his toys, she said, “Okay buddy, it’s time to put away your toys. Do you want some help or can you do it by yourself?” Tyler stopped being the aggressive toddler and became the helpful toddler.
With just a few age-appropriate tweaks, Pam’s boys felt confident in their tasks. Pam’s angry child and her aggressive toddler turned into helpful little people she was proud to call her boys.
Share the control with authoritative parenting
Talking so kids will listen without power struggles is critical. When Justin came home with a bad grade on his spelling test, Pam practiced what her new approach. She remembered to transfer the problem to him by asking lots of thinking questions. She quietly said, “Wow, it looks like you don’t like that grade.” Justin’s face fell as he grew quiet. Next, Pam said softly, ” Sweetie, how do you want to solve that problem?” Justin muttered, “I don’t know.” In response, Pam said, “Well, would you like to know how other kids solve it?” Interacting this way created a moment for them to discuss his choices going forward.
Provide empathy first, then consequences
When Pam’s boys misbehaved, her go-to technique was typically anger and frustration. Then, it escalated into warning and reminding that sometimes turned into yelling. When we become angry with children, it activates the survival centers in their brain. As a result, children get concerned with personal safety, and learning becomes inhibited or nonexistent.
When kids blow it, find your compassion or lock in the empathy. Try saying something like, “I’m sorry.” Or, “I know this is so hard, but young men who don’t make their beds don’t play outside.” Think of this simple formula:
Anger + consequences = shame and doubt
Empathy + consequences = learning
As Pam took a more relational approach to discipline, it helped Justin the “angry child” relax and helped him learn. Even more, it helped Tyler; her “aggressive toddler” turn into mommy’s little helper.
Forgive and repair well
When you blow it (and you will), don’t be afraid to ask for forgiveness. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be good at mending, repair, and reconciliation. As Pam shared her heart and explained why she occasionally blew it with her angry child and aggressive toddler, she used it as an opportunity to touch their pain and connect again. She avoided excuses and just stated the truth, that she messed up, was sorry, and wanted to understand how they felt about the conflict.
A Point to Ponder
So few of us are using our full potential, especially when faced with an angry child or an aggressive toddler. Yet Pam felt terrific because her commitment to attachment-focused parenting changed everything. It helped her boys calm down, bond with her, and listen better. When her boys did misbehave, she locked in the empathy, found her compassion and used her positive parenting tactics to guide them gently.
At In Touch Parenting, we dedicate ourselves to following the science of effective parenting and helping every Pam on the planet calm the chaos, raise emotionally intelligent kids, and reclaim your family harmony!