How to Have the Family You Dream Of
by Brianna Dubbs, LMFT
I’m often asked for advice on parenting tips and tricks to overcome challenges. People have varying struggles that depend on different factors, such as their own personalities, their child’s temperament, everyday stress, unplanned events that may occur during the day, etc. Often what I find is that people usually want a quick fix, an easy solution, a fast answer.
What if I told you that I have a special solution?
One that’s easy and quick and doesn’t take any time or practice. One that would make your children listen to you. Put away their toys. Finish their dinner. Go to sleep on time. Be happy.
All you have to do is purchase my highly-recommended, works-every-time, blue blanket; and I’ll throw in free fairy dust if you order one today.
Simply wrap your child in this blanket to stop tantrums dead in its tracks.
When placed on their heads, this magic blanket hypnotizes them so you can tell your child to do whatever you need and want them to do, and the tasks get done…immediately!
This parenting product is foolproof! It’s as reliable as the latest exercise gadget that you place on your stomach daily for 30 minutes that can burn away fat, giving you rock hard abs while you watch TV.
My technique is also just like the pill you can take with every meal or the shaker potion you add to your food that allows you to magically shed undesirable weight. You see, raising children who are happy confident, respectful and independent is as easy as being healthy and exercising.
That’s what most parents hope for, a quick fix.
It’s very easy to practice parenting in the traditional ways that most people do. There are a ton of seemingly magical solutions that take your child from terrible to wonderful overnight. However, the long-term and lasting result is not there. As soon as you’ve tackled one problem with your parenting blue blanket, a new one pops up.
Why does this happen?
Parents are firefighting the superficial issues. The underlying problem, the root cause, is not being addressed. Habits are not changing. Therefore, the child and the parent are not truly finding the help they need and continue unproductive patterns, creating constant struggles that lead to frustration for both of them.
But parenting, just like anything where a fabulous result is desired, requires time, energy, dedication and a strong commitment to the end result.
In short, it takes work and not being selfish. The prize for proper parenting practices are children who are happy, confident, respectful and independent and parents who feel confident, happy, peaceful and connected to their children.
The answers and solutions I’ll provide you are simple. The work in implementing them for our child and getting past our selfishness is what’s painful.
My simple answer to most parenting questions and advice:
1. Recognize your child is a person with his or her own needs, wants, feelings and desires.
2. Attend to their needs first in everything you do.
3. Attend to the meaning of their behavior next not just the actual behavior by itself.
4. Have consistent clear expectations with consistent clear consequences that are followed through with.
5. Repeat over and over and over all day long.
Let’s break this down into an example.
You have a two-year-old and a seven-year-old. The two-year-old is having temper tantrums and melts down often. She does not want to share, wants to run away and be independent from her parents. Then wants to be near her parents constantly and struggles to go with sitters or family that she is familiar with. The seven-year old knows everything and constantly corrects her parents. When playing with her two-year-old sibling she has very specific ideas about how to play, what she wants to play and the role she wants her sibling to be in as they play. The two fight often.
Parents struggle with how to deal with these two different ages and find themselves in a constant battle of trying to discern who’s right, who needs the time out, who started what, and they just want the fighting to end.
They’ve lost their patience and find themselves yelling at their children out of frustration and just want their children to follow their advice and rules, which they repeat daily.
There may also be an underlying struggle from the parents where they have lost their own identity and their ability to get their own needs met due to their dramatic lifestyle change. I see that this often is also translated into the parent’s struggles as they just want the child to bend to them and follow what the parent wants. This ultimately leads to the parents missing who and what their children need and continues the cycle of frustration.
We are going to recognize these two very different beings and what they need and want. Let’s look at the two-year-old. Developmentally the two-year-old struggles to share and is finding out that the world exists and she wants to play in it. She still desperately needs her parents and wants to be with them often and at the same time wants to explore the world without them. She is testing out how to be a separate self and how to still need and want her parents. Because her language is still developing she often expresses her anger, fear, frustration by screaming, crying or melting down when she is so frustrated by not getting what she needs or not being understood.
We are going to respond to what the child needs. The tw0-year-old needs her parents to understand the developmental struggle and to be with her when she wants them and to allow her to explore when she wants to be away. She is confused by the pull she feels in herself. She is helped when her parents respond to her need to be close and then allow her to move away when she wants. She needs further help and clarification of what she is feeling and attempting to express in her behavior. This takes some detective work, at times, from the parents.
Understand what the behavior is saying rather than just focus on the surface of the behavior. When the seven-year-old is dictating to her two-year-old sibling that she wants to play a certain way and there is going to be no compromise and then she melts when her sibling won’t bend and lashes out by hitting, screaming or name calling her behavior is saying a lot. She is angry and frustrated and wants her way. Yes, I know she can’t always have her way and she needs to learn this lesson. But first, let’s help her with her feelings so she doesn’t act out in a manner that is unacceptable by saying “Right now, you feel angry and upset that you can’t have your way. You want your sister to do exactly what you say and she isn’t so this makes you mad.” Repeat these words to her until she is calm.
Provide clear and consistent expectations and consequences. In the above example we have a seven-year-old who is calling her tw0-year-old sister names because she won’t follow her directions. After, we have helped the seven-year-old with her feelings and frustration we then move to a consequence. At 7 she understands that it isn’t ok to name call and in your house this means that she gets a time-out, or she isn’t allowed to play with her sister for a little bit and needs to sit quietly to read. Once you have helped her calm down you state to her this rule. “In our house we don’t call each other names. You need to sit here quietly for 7 minutes.” Have her sit away. After this have her apologize to her sister and see if you can’t facilitate play where taking turns and sharing is a part of the game. The two-year-old gets to say what happens for a bit and then the seven–year-old gets to say what happens. They take turns back and forth. You may have to continue to help them with this until they are able to do it on their own.
Repeat, repeat, repeat. The above only works when it is consistently implemented and this is the hardest part of all the steps. We as parents have to put aside ourselves and what we had thought we needed or wanted to do to facilitate the process for our children in their daily lives. When we are consistent in our responses to them as a person, attending to their feelings and needs, and provide clear consistent guidance they feel safe and secure and have an understanding of their world. The tantrums and frustration naturally go away as they can rely and rest in you and the secure foundation you are providing for them.
Having help and guidance in the above process is where I come in.
The above is easy and simple just like eating well and exercising. It is hard to maintain and continue to implement.
Just like you may need a nutritionist and a physical trainer to hold you accountable for your healthy lifestyle and habit changes you want to implement. You also need a parenting coach to guide you, hold you accountable, cheer you on when you made the mark and help you get back on track when you pulled out the whole big gallon of ice cream.
It’s not easy to be alone and sometimes it’s even harder to ask for help. We need others to help us in our journey! Let me know how I can assist and I would love to help your family maintain a peace and happiness I know you desire.