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Last edited October 28th 2016

Did you grow up hearing phrases like, ’She’s a naughty child’? My mum frequently said it about me. I was the child who was always pushing the limits – the child testing the boundaries.

Fast forward to 2015.

I’m the last out the door and everyone is already in the car.

My adult son teasingly eases the car forward, as though he’ll leave me behind. I jump into the back seat and smilingly exclaim to him,

‘Oh, you’re naughty!’

’Naughty,’ repeats my toddler grandson.

‘’That’s a new word,’ says his mother.  ‘He’s never heard that one before!’

As we travel I muse how much I appreciate that his parents never label him as ‘naughty’. They never refer to him as a ‘bold child’, even at times when he’s acting out. They are aware that when his behaviour is challenging for them, there’s something going on for him that needs attention. He’s not ‘naughty’!

‘Isn’t it strange, ‘ I comment. ‘We never use the word “naughty” to describe an adult, unless we say ‘He has a naughty sense of humour,” or “naughty underwear”.’ We give this term a different meaning for adults. When we talk about a child being naughty, whether it’s a toddler tantrum, a child who won’t listen, or a defiant child, what we’re really meaning is, ‘My child won’t do what he’s told,’ ‘My child won’t comply.’ In other words, we’re saying, ‘My child won’t follow my agenda.’  But just because your child is choosing to follow his one path, not yours, doesn’t mean he deserves a shaming label.

‘Do you have a word in Danish for “naughty?”‘ I ask Sophia.

‘No, not really,’ she says. ‘If we were talking about a child who seems to be always acting out we might comment that the child was, “Uopdragen”. “Opdrage” means, “to raise”. So “uopdragen” literally  means “unraised”. ‘

As we drive along the highway I muse on this. “Uopdragen – unraised,” isn’t saying the child is “naughty”; it isn’t shaming the child.  It isn’t making the child “wrong”. It’s saying the parent hasn’t fulfilled the responsibility of raising the child; the parent hasn’t given the child the support and skills needed to interact successfully.

I think the Danes are recognising something significant here; it’s our job as parents to successfully raise our children. To  “opdrage” – to raise your child, whether your child is “easy to raise” or challenging  – takes mindful parenting, commitment and consistency.

As parents it is our responsibility to raise a child. This is our task – blaming or shaming our child won’t achieve what’s needed.

 

5 Parenting Tips for when you might be tempted to label your child as ‘naughty’. 

1. Your children’s behaviour is about them, your response is about you.  

When your children act out, it doesn’t mean you’re a “bad parent”. It means your children are trying to let you know something is “not ok” for them.  If you let your thoughts run away with, “What will other people think?” you won’t be able to focus on what your child needs.

 

2. Respond rather than React 

Think of ‘React’ as in a knee-jerk reaction  – instant and without thinking. In any situation you have a split second to determine whether this is an emergency, (where you need to instantly react to ensure safety) or whether to pause and assess what’s needed. In most situations, except for “emergency” concerns, if you want to “raise your child”, it’s more helpful to pause to assess, then respond in a way that gives your child the message, “I’m here for you.”

 

2. Focus on your breathing.

When you want to respond, but can feel your own anger or anxiety is likely to overwhelm, take a moment to focus on slowing and steadying your breathing. When your own strong emotions get in the way it becomes impossible to figure out what’s needed in that moment to effectively ‘raise a child’. When you steady your breathing you will steady your thoughts.

 

3. Remember to ‘HALT’.

When you need to deal with your child’s challenging behaviour, first stop and use the ‘HALT signpost‘ to ask yourself, ‘Is my child Hungry? / Anxious or Angry? / Lonely or iLL? /  Tired?’ When you respond to your child’s needs often the challenging behaviour will dissipate.  Ask yourself, ‘What’s really needed here?’

 

4. Remember, ‘All behaviour makes sense.’ 

Often our children’s challenging behaviour can be frustrating or worrying for us as parents. Remember your children are not “naughty” and they not trying to “get at you”. They are trying to let you know they are in a “not-okay” place. They are acting out because they need your support. Ask yourself, ‘What might this behaviour be telling me?’

 

5.  Recognise a Challenging Moment is a Teaching Opportunity

Maybe it’s a teaching moment for yourself as parent – about what works, what doesn’t and what’s needed. And sometimes it’s an opportunity for you to help your child learn about life.  Most times that lesson is not a lecture, but what we model. The lesson is in our actions.  Maybe it’s a lesson of, “You are loved, no matter what,’ or a lesson in kindness, a lesson in, ‘I trust you.’ What lessons do you most want your child to learn?

 

For more parenting tips about how to ‘raise’ your child, particularly at times when their behaviour is challenging, see new Parenting book, ‘BEHAVE – What To Do When Your Child Won’t  by Val Mullally.

Last edited October 25th 2015

‘I don’t want to go to school’

Jamie had been excited about going to school until the big day came.

Suddenly she was clinging onto her mum’s shirt, her arms wrapped tightly around her as though she would be washed away by the tide of excited new pupils.

Her mum was embarassed that her ‘big girl’ was suddenly reduced to tears.

‘Now what do I do?’ she thought. The thoughts raced through her head, ‘Traffic’s going to be heavy today. Got to get to work. Can’t leave her here like this. What do I tell my boss? The other kids are going to laugh at her if she’s blubbing like this.’

Four year old Amy wasn’t as vocal as Jamie about her protest. But in the last few days before school started, she’d been very quiet and seemed to lose her appetite.

Both Jamie’s and Amy’s parents are worried about whether their child will settle at school.

What can a parent do when your child’s anxiety is eating away at her like a mouse with cheddar cheese?

The good news is that you, as parent, can make a big difference in how your child copes with school.

I came across a magical little formula about Anxiety recently on the cover of Chip Conley’s book, ‘Emotional Equations’.

Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness

Even though this isn’t a Parenting book, Conley’s approach can be helpful in responding to unhappy children. A parent can reduce a child’s Anxiety by increasing their sense of Certainty and reducing the sense of Powerlessness.

There’s a number of ways that you can help your child with this. Here are a few Parenting tips if your child’s anxious about starting school that will increase your child’s sense of certainty  and give a sense of having some  power in the situation, and this can significantly decrease your chid’s uncertainty.

1. Firstly and most importantly, no matter what stage of schooling your child is at, ensure that your child knows that his experience matters and that you are trying to understand. (Discover more about how to connect with your child so that he feels heard and validated: Childcare Concerns: How to Listen to Your Child)

2. Think what choices you can give him:

  • Discuss if he would like to meet a friend at the gate and go in together.
  • If he’s anxious about saying goodbye to you ask if he wants to say goodbye at the school gate or if he wants you to walk to the classroom door with him.
  • Give him a choice of what he’d like for his snack.

3. Ensure that he has the information and skills he needs, e.g. where’s the toilet, what’s the teacher’s name, how to open his snack box

4. Make sure he is being collected by someone he has a secure and warm relationship with. (Ideally Dad or Mum, or someone your child has a close, connected relationship with). Explain who will be there to meet him, and make sure that the person is there well ahead of time.is your child anxious about starting school?

A final tip:

Remember emotions are contagious. If you are stressed, frustrated or anxious your child is very likely to ‘catch’ that emotion.

So prepare everything well ahead of time to avoid last minute stress and focus on  being calm and centred.

Keep in mind:

Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness

I’d love to hear what other ideas you suggest.

P.S. For practical support on being the Parent you’d love to be, discover our online Parenting course:’ BEHAVE-WHAT TO Do When Your Child Won’t’ and face-to-face training offered by accredited Parent Coach Val Mullally MA.

 

 

Last edited August 31st 2017

How to listen to get my child to talk was a mystery I couldn’t solve when my children were young.  I mean, how to get your child to REALLY talk so you knew what was going on at times when you knew something wasn’t okay for your child.

I remember my own son becoming so upset about nursery school that eventually I let him stay home. Some months later, when he was settled in primary school, we drove past the previous school and he said,

‘Oh, that’s where I used to go to school. I didn’t want to go because they wanted me to be in the Christmas play.’

Here he was telling me exactly what the problem was – but months earlier, nothing I’d tried helped me to find out what was wrong. I just had a child who was so upset that nothing worked when it came to leaving him at school.

What I wish I’d known then was how to connect so he would tell me his story. 

Here’s a coaching tool to unlock communication that I wish I’d known back then.

If you want your child to talk, a key awareness that’s needed is to ‘PARK’.

Whether the issue is bullying, your child unhappy at school, sibling  rivalry or whatever, often as parents we rush in with a PLAN  (i.e. find solutions), instead of ‘PARKing our own story to hear our child’s. So often we try to imagine the problem. We try to do something helpful. We try to offer a solution. But first your child  needs to experience that you’re connecting with  his (or her) perspective.

When your  child senses you don’t ‘get him’, he’s likely to keep up the non-communication barriers. He needs to sense you’re there for him. that you want to hear hist story,

‘Well, of course I’m there for him,’  I would have replied.

What I didn’t realise then was that to really ‘be there for him’ the first thing I need to do is PARK my own agenda.

And as a parent, my agenda was often ‘Fix it.’

We want instant ‘sort it out.’

But some things need time. Some things need to be processed.

Just as the most successsful doctors are those who listen first to you, who hear what you think, what’s concerning you, what you know  is needed – that is what your child needs too.

So PARK your agenda: your desire for a quick fix, your desire to try to reason that he really likes school / that he has lots of friends/ that his sister likes school. None of your  information is likely to be helpful for him, at this point.

PARK your frustration, your worries that you have to make this better.

Put yourself in neutral.

Choose to see your child’s situation with compassion, trying to imagine it from his perspective, and yet without emotionally hooking in.

Imagine if the doctor became upset that he couldn’t ‘fix you’ – you would lose all sense of trust and safety with him.

So PARK everything that’s about you – your desires, your emotions, your solutions.

Choose to put that all aside and just be present to your child.

Listen without interrupting; without offering solutions.

Show by your body language, by your listening presence, that you are there to hear your child’s story.

What I’m suggesting isn’t easy. It takes time, skill and practice on your part. Here’s another blog about the Koemba approach on how to effectively communicate with your child because a deeper connection is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give your child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last edited October 25th 2015