One of the changes we wanted to make with Science of Parenting was the idea of being able to talk to children about tough topics – especially around relationships. At times we struggle just talking to other adults about tough relationship topics (ie. divorce, co-parenting, broken relationships), so might we be able to say that it is ‘normal’ to struggle with talking with children about tough relationship topics?
If you haven’t had a chance to check out our resources in “Parenting in Challenging Moments” I would encourage you to do so. Parenting isn’t easy and THAT is the reality. Divorce, co-parenting and broken relationships aren’t easy either but we do need to take the time to talk with children about them.
Our hope is that the resources available here may help you start a conversation as you work through the difficulties.
We’ve been talking a lot about challenging behavior lately. And yeah, even us Science of Parenting folks have children who challenge us!
Today we want to look at how we can respond to challenging behavior. Maybe your preschooler has been testing out new lies, or your school age child has been skipping homework, or your preteen is throwing attitude around like it’s confetti, or your teen is not touching base when they are out and about. Whichever one resonates with you, finding a way to respond to problematic behavior can be a challenge. How do we strike a balance between too harsh and too lax?
Luckily, the National Institute on Drug Abuse looks at research on how parents can help their kids stay on the right path, and they have a handy little acronym for helping parents identify appropriate consequences – SANE (and I mean that acronym has all kinds of double meaning, am I right?).
- S – Small consequences are better
- When we are especially angry or frustrated with our child, chances are we are more likely to fly off the handle a bit with our consequences (Stop. Breathe. Talk. to save the day again!). Instead, try to find small consequences that relate directly to the child’s behavior. Like if your child is being difficult at bedtime because they want to watch more TV, you might consider taking away TV privileges for a few days.
- A – Avoid consequences that punish you
- When we give consequences to our child, it needs to be something we can and will follow through on. But when we choose consequences that make our lives as parents more difficult, we might be less likelihood to carry out the consequences like we originally planned. So if your teenager is abusing their school permit, you may decide that they need to lose that privilege for a few days. You can avoid this from punishing you (by you having to drive them) by having your teenager have to find their own ride to school or maybe ride the bus.
- N – Nonabusive responses
- Yup, we sometimes are very angry with our kids when they don’t meet our expectations, but we don’t want that anger to have so much power that we respond to our children in unhealthy ways. As we say at Science of Parenting, “Hitting Harms. Yelling Hurts.” (Another place where Stop. Breathe. Talk. can be our saving grace!)
- E – Effective consequences
- Effective consequences are consequences that are under your control and that actually help deter your child from wanting to do that behavior again (non-rewarding). Of course, this is the whole point of consequences right!
So when we are thinking about consequences, try to stay SANE (you see what I did there?).
Do you ever get the feeling people watch your every move and judge you? Well sometimes, while parenting, we can feel people’s eyes on us as we interact with our children. And, it is wonderful when our interactions with our children are positive, but that is not every day. We all have days that we are reminded how hard it is to be a parent. We are reminded that parenting is a skill set that grows with each passing day….
Recently, our Science of Parenting team began a new guidance and discipline ‘campaign’ because , well parenting in challenging moments is hard. Remaining calm, cool and collected is even harder. For months (many months) we talked about how we could help parents in the heat of the moment. How could we share with them that we understand their frustrations, challenges and even their fears? We wanted parents to know that “we get it”, “we’ve been there” and most of all “we are not here to judge your parenting”.
We began to write a long list of everything we ourselves had tried. We sifted and sorted and played with the words. And then we stepped back. We stopped. We began to take deep breaths and we talked. And it hit us. As parents, of children at any age (infants to grown children) THAT is how we can best handle parenting in challenging moments. No matter what our child is yelling, screaming or doing. We the adult, the parent can ALWAYS stop breathe and talk. We are the role models, we are their rock, we are their foundation of trust.
Our campaign for parenting in challenging moments looks like this:
Stop. Take a moment to think about how you really want to respond to your child.
Breathe. Consider what is happening with your emotions. Take a deep breathe or two to calm down.
Talk. Once you have gathered your thoughts, be intentional with your words to help guide your child toward the outcome you really want.
Parenting is difficult. We at Science of Parenting want you to know we understand that. We are here to help. Check out our resources at www.scienceofparenting.org
Teenagers… Wait, what was your reaction when you read that word? Maybe an eye roll, a sigh, or perhaps a smile? Each of us have a different experience with raising teenagers – some parents think it is the most fun age during their parenting journey while others dread it. Some of us may even fall into the tendency to paint a mental picture of the teenage years filled with back talk, conversations about curfews, and loud music behind closed doors. But there is a flip side to that coin – seeing your teenager live out their values, getting the opportunity to watch them achieve and excel in their passions, and having meaningful and heartfelt conversations.
Regardless of which way you tend to view the teenage years, most of us who have raised teenagers know that these are the years when friends become a really BIG DEAL, right? Teens care what their classmates think about their looks and what they say and do. And as parents, you watch them grow closer and closer to friends, and it might feel like they are slipping away from you. But great news – they’re not. Sure, your teen is probably growing stronger relationships with their friends, but adolescents (a.k.a. teenagers) still care a lot about their parents and what they think! So don’t lose heart – your teen does hear what you say, and your opinion matters to them!
So continue to communicate your values to your teenager, even if you think you already have or if they give you the “I know this already” look. Sometimes the teen years bring their own challenges, but so does every age (I gotta say, I bet your teenager doesn’t cry while you cook supper like my toddler does, so that’s a plus J). Remember that while you are going to have some challenging moments here and there, you are also going to have some pretty amazing ones too.
Do you have more questions about navigating challenging parenting moments with your teenager? Check out the Parenting in Challenging Moments page on our Science of Parenting website. You can find resources for parenting a child of any age under the Guidance by Age section.
“I love my child. I love my child. I love my child.”
Seriously, I do love my child, but sometimes I have to remind myself in the heat of the moment. For example, right now my daughter is in this phase where she stands at my feet screaming while I try to cook supper. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the kitchen for three minutes or thirty, I can count on her to find me and whine “Momma, Momma, up, up, up!” and then proceed to cry when I can’t hold her while simultaneously cooking on the stove. It can be seriously crazy-making. (I think the part that makes me craziest is that she doesn’t do it to my husband when he cooks supper!).
But here’s the thing – I know she is doing it because she wants to be with her momma. I know her behavior is worse than usual right before supper time because she is hungry. I also know there might come a day when she is older that she doesn’t want to be with her mom all the time. I KNOW all of those things, and yet in the heat of the moment in front of the stove I’m tempted to lose my cool (again). I hear my voice go from “hey silly goose, can you go play with your blocks for a little bit?” to calling to my husband to “get her out of here” much quicker than I’d like to admit…. Sometimes I’m proud of how well I do during these moments in the kitchen, and other times I wish my patience had lasted a bit longer for me. But one thing that is consistent – every time I choose to Stop. Breathe. Talk. instead of go with my first reaction, I do better. Sometimes I remember to pause and take a deep breath right away when I start to feel frustrated, and other times I don’t remember until I’ve already gotten more irritated than I should have. But it doesn’t matter how far into the situation I am – when I take that extra moment to think about what I want to say and how I want this interaction with my child to go, I know it helps me be a more effective and responsive parent.
“I love my child. I love my child. I love my child”.
Seriously, we do love our children, and sometimes we say this phrase to ourselves because we are beaming with pride or soaking in a sweet moment – like watching your child take their first steps, or having a warm conversation with your teenager, or hearing your school-age kiddo was kind to someone. These amazing moments help make up for the not-so-good ones. But the reality is that the journey of being a parent is a mixture of amazing moments with challenging ones sprinkled in between. Maybe your challenging moments look like mine where your child is really testing your patience and you are about to lose your cool (or already started to). Or maybe your moment is something bigger like navigating your new role as a stepparent or responding to your child being bullied.
Whether your challenging moment is one where you forget to think or one where you’re thinking a lot, Science of Parenting wants to help. We believe that you love your kids and want to do what is best for them, so we want to help you find trustworthy information that is based in research so that you can know what you are doing is helping your child. If you are experiencing a challenging moment, go take a peek at our Parenting in Challenging Moments page to see what the research might say about what you’re experiencing.