The Right Kind of Conflict

by Kaye Wilson on January 27, 2017

with donutI could never understand why my kids wouldn’t just do what I wanted them to do. They seemed to love making me crazy, no matter what I did or said, and it didn’t bother them when I got angry and frustrated!

My guess is that your toddlers are like mine were–lots of energy and curiosity, loving the fact that they can feed themselves, use the potty, and run really fast. They’ve figured out how easy it is for them to get into things while you’re busy doing something else, or run away from you, often in public places. They completely understand the power of the tantrum and use it often, also in public places! And they aren’t afraid of conflict.

I used to think all conflict was bad, and did everything I could to avoid it, including using threats (Do you want a spanking?), making deals (If you eat this, you can have that!), and trying to explain (We don’t hit! That’s not nice!). But that was before I understood the right kind of conflict!

Here’s what usually happened, pick any scenario: meal time, the child refuses to eat; I call her to come, she runs away;  I tell her to not touch, she grabs (and often breaks) something; we’re at the store, she throws a fit and screams because she can’t have something. In every situation, I become irritated and flustered. I say “No!” followed by a threat, deal, or explanation designed to get her to do what I want her to do–eat, come here, put it down, stand up and stop crying, whatever. She continues to refuse and resist, so the threats, etc. increase along with the pitch and volume of my voice. You’ve been here before, so I don’t have to explain in detail what happens–it ends, but it’s not pretty.

I honestly expected that after one messy incident like that, my child would understand that I didn’t like this behavior, and never do it again. I mean, who in their right mind would willingly do something she knew was going to result in such conflict, including angry words, tears, and often yanking of arms? Oh right–a toddler!

Here is what I learned to do.

  1. First, decide ahead of time what I will and will not allow. Just a few, basic rules–eat what I give her, stay beside me, keep her hands to herself, etc.
  2. Make my expectations clear ahead of time. “This is what’s for dinner, sweetheart! You don’t have to like it, you just have to eat it!” At the park, “You can play anywhere within this boundary, kiddo!” etc.
  3. Be ready with consequences. Don’t fight if she refuses to eat what you serve–smile and say “That’s ok!” If she comes back hungry offer her the same thing, and don’t give in with any alternatives or snacks. If he bolts at the park, don’t run after him and don’t yell–keep an eye on him, and head for the car. When he sees you’re going to leave he’ll come closer, and you can grab him. Calmly put him in the car (screaming and crying) and leave,  explaining (again, calmly) that he broke the rule so you have to leave.
  4. Adjust my expectations. Because toddlers have no impulse control on their own, I learned to expect that at any moment my child could become unhinged. I learned not to be surprised at her refusals and outbursts.
  5. Be absolutely unflappable. Since I was now expecting whatever she might dish up, I learned not to register anger or frustration, but to simply keep calm and implement the consequence.
  6. Be ready for more. Toddlers aren’t rational. They don’t think about what they’re doing, they just act on impulse. For this reason, I learned to expect several repeat performances.
  7. Be a brick wall. Toddlers gain security from knowing where the boundaries are. Don’t move them! If it’s not okay to refuse food today, it has to be not okay to refuse food tomorrow. If tantrums are not allowed today, they must not be allowed tomorrow. What you will or will not allow has to be the same day after day, regardless of where you are, and your response to your child’s behavior has to be the same day after day, regardless of where you are!

    “What you will or will not allow has to be the same day after day, regardless of where you are, and your response to your child’s behavior has to be the same day after day, regardless of where you are.”

Understanding these things, and changing the way I approached dealing with my toddlers changed these episodes from being power struggles where everyone ended up bloody, to a simple test: Mom, are you still in charge? As long as I stayed calm and immovable, my toddlers learned that I was in charge, and that they could count on me to mean what I said. Conflict? Yes. But your toddler’s security and your own sanity depend on it!

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My 4 Steps To Holiday Peace On Earth

by Kaye Wilson on December 1, 2016

babies' xmas

What is it about Christmas that can lead to so much stress?

As a  young wife and mother, I found myself tired, stressed, and often sick by the end of the holiday season. Looking back now, I can laugh about it, but early on I had some not-so-wonderful times.

Growing up, I believed that real women make things, especially at Christmas. I was determined to be the best wife and mother I could be, so one Christmas I headed to the local craft store, baby in tow, to buy something to make as gifts. I wasn’t sure what that “something” would be, but I figured such an enormous store would have plenty of inspiration.

By the time I’d settled on something, my baby was screaming, and I ended up at the car with a couple of items I hadn’t paid for–they’d been in a basket under the stroller and I had overlooked them at the checkout. I just sighed and loaded everything into the car, too tired to get the baby out and make the slog back across the parking lot to the store. It was the first and only time I ever shoplifted.

Gwen wearing xmas treeThen there was the year I decided the kids would help me make Christmas cards using tempera paint and potato stamps (bas-relief designs cut into a raw potato half). My helpers–an infant, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old–were very willing, but not terribly able, and I eventually gave up. I put them down for naps, finished the cards myself, and cleaned up the mess just in time to get the kids up and start fixing dinner.

My eventual decision to forego craft projects didn’t solve the holiday stress problem, however. There were program rehearsals, special clothes, decorations, relatives, and all of the other holiday delights that so often don’t really delight us at all.

On top of that, I often felt guilty for being so materialistic. My children had more toys than they would ever play with, and yet they were looking through the toy catalogs, making lists for more. I couldn’t imagine how I would ever convey the “reason for the season” to them.

After some soul-searching (and some pretty stressful years), I came up with the following strategies for making this season more enjoyable.

Make a plan.

  1. Take a calendar, a pad of paper, and a pencil to a cafe or coffee shop. If you’re married, make it a date. Mark all parties, programs, and outings on the calendar. List every person or charity you want to give to, list what you plan to buy, and approximately what you want to spend for each. If you’re married, divide the list into who will shop for each item.
  2. Set aside particular times for wrapping gifts, enjoying cocoa by the fire, reading Christmas books to the kids, etc.
  3. Rather than taking the kids shopping with you, plan a trip to the mall only for the purpose of seeing Santa and all the decorations. For all actual shopping, hire a sitter or shop while the kids are in school.

Eliminate non-essentials

  1. Pitch the catalogs. They create clutter, waste time, and give kids way too many ideas. Besides, everything in a catalog is online anyway.
  2. If you love projects with your kids, terrific! If you’re like me and don’t handle that well, give them the materials to make their own decorations, or the ingredients for cutout cookies (assuming they’re old enough). They will not feel neglected, I promise.
  3. Spend a couple of hours gathering toys your kids never use. Bag them and put them in the attic, or donate them to the Salvation Army. If your kids protest, tell them you have to make room for new toys–can’t keep them all! Be firm.

    My daughter's table set for Christmas Eve dinner, 2015. No paper plates this time!

    My daughter’s table set for Christmas Eve dinner, 2015. No paper plates this time!

Simplify

  1. Keep meals simple. If you’re entertaining, it’s not necessary to prepare the most elaborate cocktails, the most hip hors d’oeuvres, the fanciest meal or the most sensational dessert. Even consider buying part or all of the meal–frozen lasagna or rotisserie chicken, bagged salad, frozen pie, etc.–and maybe use disposable dinnerware! The important thing is to enjoy your friends and family.
  2. Use all one kind of giftwrap–all white with red ribbon, all brown craft paper with plaid ribbon, all gold with red, etc. If that’s not to your taste, fine, but it can make wrapping simpler.
  3. Go media and tech free a couple of evenings each week. Go to the library for special holiday books, turn the Christmas music on, let your kids work on crafts, and relax!

Prioritize Your Health

  1. Stress, crowds, lack of sleep, and lots of rich holiday food can lead to sickness. In addition to limiting stress by doing the things listed above, be sure to get plenty of sleep, drink a lot of water, and try to not eat too many sweets. You’ll feel so much better!

I can look back on my early days and laugh at some of the stress I created for myself. I meant well, I promise! But the stress was hard on my health and well-being, and created stress for everyone around me as well.

This holiday season, give yourself and your family the gift of  less stress and more peace and goodwill.

B under tree

Do you have some great strategies for coping with the stresses of the season? I’d love to hear them–share them with me, and I will share them in another post!

 

 

What Did You Expect?!

by Kaye Wilson on November 28, 2016

Mac in kitchen drawerAsk any child-training expert what the key is for training kids, and nine times out of ten the answer will be “consistency.” I was always told this, and it really is true. However, there was one thing that consistently got in the way of my being consistent–my expectations. I expected my children to understand my reasons for not letting them do certain things. I expected them to want to obey me. I expected that they would want to avoid getting in trouble. I was wrong.

My kids hit each other, ate toadstools, lied, threw tantrums, and did just about any other misbehavior you can think of, regardless of the consequences! To be fair, they also surprised me with gifts, hugs, and expressions of gratitude, and provided a steady stream of joy and delight. Even so, respectful behavior was something I was always working to cultivate in them.

When I coach parents, I give them a plan for addressing specific behavior issues with their children, which they are asked to implement between sessions. I always remind them of two things: 1)Change takes a long time–weeks or even months. 2) Things will probably get worse before they get better.

Most parents either don’t really hear me, or don’t really believe me. They expect the same things I did–quick compliance, problem solved. Nearly always at the next session these parents tell me either that the plan “didn’t work” or that this week was unusually busy and they weren’t able to use the plan. The reality is, they tried it a couple of times, their child(ren) tested them, and they gave up. No matter how many sessions I have with parents, if they don’t adjust their expectations and commit long-term, they will never gain much ground.

brook dishwasherNothing in life can be changed instantly; whether it’s building muscle, losing weight, learning a new skill, or what have you, you have to do the work to get the result–no pain, no gain. If you expect to keep doing what you’re doing, you will not see change, period.

Change only happens when you clearly understand what it’s going to take, and commit yourself to it, with the expectation that there are no shortcuts.

Think of it this way: when you enroll your child in kindergarten, you don’t expect him to have a highschool diploma by the end of the year; you know it’s going to take every single one of the years from kindergarten through 12th grade to achieve that goal, so you aren’t surprised when you have to go through the annual ritual of enrolling and buying school supplies each August. You just expect it.

Here is what to expect in the area of teaching children how to behave:

  1. Kids do things you don’t expect, all the time.
  2. Cultivating good behavior (not perfect!) is a long-term process; it’ll take every minute between now and when your child leaves home.
  3. Your child will resist and test you in various ways, all along the way.
  4. If you stay calm and firm, things will be much easier for both you and your child(ren).
  5. If you stay the course, you’ll have done everything in your power to bring your child to responsible adulthood–and that’s all anyone can expect.

There is no magic formula to “getting” your child to behave. Well-behaved children can only be found with parents who don’t make excuses, who have realistic expectations, and who are willing to embrace a steady, consistent approach to a process that will take a lifetime.

Read more about ParentCoachOKC here.

Brook with purse

Take A Load Off

by Kaye Wilson on November 14, 2016

img_1524Five kids. For a young, insecure mom, it was a lot. I felt the weight of their dependence on me, and my responsibility for them, keenly.

I often lay awake at night, worrying: Was I doing enough for them? Was I being too strict? Too lenient? Was I giving them enough individual attention? Was I neglecting anyone?

Homeschooling only intensified this; I felt pressured to get everything right, felt it was my responsibility to teach them everything. As much as I loved it—and I really loved it!—it was a lot. Any academic, social or spiritual lack, any bad attitudes or habits, how well they did their school work or their chores—in my mind it all came down to whether or not I was doing enough, and doing it well enough. There was always more that I could be doing, or doing better.

Outwardly I was positive and cheerful; as I said, I really loved homeschooling, and loved being a mom. But on the inside I was just plain overwhelmed. I would often go into the bathroom to cry, then dry my tears and come out as if nothing was wrong because I believed it would harm my kids to see me crying.

It seemed a cruel twist; the thing that gave the greatest joy and sense of meaning to my life—being a mother—was the very thing that was making me a neurotic wreck.

But was motherhood really the problem?img_1526

As I considered this, I realized the real problem wasn’t simply that my goals were unrealistic—even though they probably were. The problem was that I had assumed full responsibility for my children’s future. Forget circumstances or their own choices—I figured what they chose and how they handled circumstances depended on how well I did my job as their mom.

If you’ve read more of my blog posts, you may know that I eventually put the kids in a private school. In doing that, I had less control over things, and had to learn to trust God, other adults, and my children a lot more, which turned out to be less of a challenge and more of a relief than I had thought it would be!

I wouldn’t be a parent coach if I didn’t believe that a parent’s influence is of vital importance to a child’s future, and I can’t tell you statistically how that influence compares to other influences. But I can tell you this: The ultimate responsibility for any person’s life lies with himself alone.

For me and my kids, realizing this made for a better life. Sure, there were still times when I’d have to fight off fears of the future, or guilt for my mistakes. But having felt the freedom of knowing it wasn’t entirely up to me, I never wanted to go back. The responsibility for  a child’s future is a load no parent is equipped to carry. I took that load off, and it now rests where it belongs, divided evenly on the shoulders of my five grown children.FRANCE 2012 241

An Apology, And Grace

by Kaye Wilson on October 30, 2016

The last post from me was pretty horrible. It was smug, and implied that all you have to do is points 1, 2, and 3 to get some kind of perfect adult child who rightly recognizes it was your selfless wonderfulness that got them to this place of perfection.

My deepest and most sincere apologies, especially to my own children.

I’m not sure if there is an adequate explanation for that post, but I’ll try, and then I’ll end by saying something a bit more true and less pompous.

What you read in that last post is a pretty good representation of how I viewed life for a very long time. That is, if you do certain things, certain other things will follow.  I can’t blame this thinking on my own parents–I honestly don’t know what their thoughts on this would be, but regardless, nobody made me think in this way. I took on this viewpoint because of certain rules I learned through life experience, and certain deductions I made based on these rules.

Here are the basic rules:

  1. If you do what people in authority want you to do, you will not get in trouble, and you will get good grades
  2. If you get good grades everyone is happy, and you get approval
  3. If you are polite and people think you’re smart, you get respect, approval, and sometimes prizes
  4. All of the above can apply to all levels of education and also to jobs

Here are the deductions that I made from all of these rules:

  1. Everything functions in this way, including relationships: put in a, and b will come out
  2. Following these rules will prevent serious mistakes and large pain
  3. This is the best way to make sure your children end up okay

There is a serious problem here, though: life isn’t school, and you don’t get points for keeping the rules. Children are people to be loved, not creatures to be trained. Relationships are living things, not vending machines that give you whatever treat you want if you just put in the correct currency.

Through failure (which, by the way, I continue to experience fairly often in various ways) and thanks to friends and family who have continued to love me in spite of this kind of nonsense, I am learning that life is not a contest to be won, or something to be mastered. Sure, there are manners and life lessons you can teach your kids, but the most important thing is that they know you love them, no matter what. There is a place for goals, but we should never give our kids the impression that life will be smooth sailing if only we do certain things and avoid certain other things.

I did too much of this with my children, for far too long. They are grown, and by God’s grace, they still love me in spite of my tendency to reduce everything to a formula of rules. My daily prayer for each of them is that they experience grace–from me and from all those they love–because it’s grace and only grace that makes room for real life and love.

 

 

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Three Steps To Our Kids’ Future

by Kaye Wilson on October 27, 2016

 

We conscientious parents take our job very seriously. We understand it’s a img_1574big responsibility, and that we’re supposed to bring up our kids to be ready for the future, whatever that means. If we’re honest, what we parents really want is to enjoy our adult children, and for them to want to spend time with us. We want to get along with them and not have to bail them out of trouble–we want our adult kids to be good people who other people respect and like, with a healthy life of their own. But how does this happen? Our kids are babies, or toddlers, or in middle-school–how do we get there from here?

To get from