Aha parenting moment

A few weeks ago I picked Ben up from group therapy. He was in a state. Kicking and screaming and refusing to leave. The therapist normally can calm him down and get him in a good place before he leaves but sometimes it doesn’t work in the time frame allotted. In this case another kid was waiting for his session. Our therapist asked me to finish for her and gave me a piece of parenting advice that was so valuable I just HAD to share it.

It was so simple and I’d seen it so many time in therapy that I was kicking myself I never put the steps together. Three simple steps that can be used over and over again in almost any situation!

1. Acknowledge. When Ben tells me he wished I would go to sleep and never wake up, I should not take that personally. I should not wish he would fall asleep and never wake up back, or tell him how difficult his life would be without me, or guilt him into feeling that one day he’ll regret those words. Even though truthfully, those hurtful words make me think all these things in my head. Instead, I should put aside the hurt. I should not take it personally. I should look at him and say, “Sounds like you are really mad at me, Ben.” “Wow, those are strong words.” or “You must really feel hurt.” Keep ACKNOWLEDGING the feelings until he feels calm and heard. Pretty soon he will start saying things like, “Yeah, you made me angry!” “I’m so mad!”

2. Ask Questions. Next, I should ASK him, “What made you so angry?”. Perhaps it’s something I or someone else did wrong, or something he perceived someone did wrong to him. Or maybe it’s just a completely outrageous reason like Aaron is wearing his shoes and he doesn’t want to share, even though he is standing in Jack’s shoes at that very moment ignoring Jack as Jack is standing there, equally upset that Ben is in his shoes.

3. Find a Solution. Whatever the reason, do not get angry. Do not roll your eyes. Do not dismiss his feelings even if you think that are absolutely ridiculous. Do not yell. Do not name call. Do not punish. Just say, “Okay, how can we FIX THIS PROBLEM for next time?” Find a solution that works for both of you. Offer suggestions. Work together. Occasionally you may have to put down a rule and say, “I know you are upset by this, but it’s dangerous for your body to do that so I can’t let you.” You can offer a suggestion of what he can do next.

By the way, this piece of advice is good for all your kids. And your spouse. And your parents. And your co-workers. And anyone you come across at all in life. It’s just such a good little nugget. Try it out today on someone. You’ll be amazed by the results!

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