When kids (and adults) experience tangled and confusing emotions that are difficult to express, what often comes out is anger. It feels vulnerable to be anxious, ashamed, sad, embarrassed, disappointed, discouraged, overwhelmed, confused, hurt or rejected. A typical response is to self-protect by avoiding or hiding those emotions under a layer of anger. We may not even be aware of those emotions. Unfortunately, when what we show is our anger, that’s usually what we get back from others, and it escalates the conflict instead of solving it.
Helping kids understand this emotional dynamic can be a challenge. We’ve designed a fun activity for you, adaptable for different ages or learning styles to equip your kids with the insight they’ll need for less meltdowns now, and healthy relationships in the future.
If you have an intense child (or know someone who does), watch this short video, produced in partnership with FamilyLife Canada. You’ll learn what might be going on with your intense child that is driving his/her difficulty. And then make sure to read the story below about a family who put these insights into practice.
An Intense Child from FamilyLife Canada on Vimeo.
Rich and Paige* came for coaching because they were very concerned and frustrated by one of their kids who was particularly intense. In their first session, most parents want to immediately brainstorm responses to try to stop the behavior. It’s typical in our coaching process, however, to start with the essential first step: looking below the surface to discover what was going on in parents’ hearts. We discovered that when their son Leo had one of his meltdowns, or expressed big dramatic emotions, his parents’ thoughts revealed their frustration and judgments. As we talked, they were grieved that through both their verbal and non-verbal communication, Leo was most surely feeling the message, ‘Leo is a problem.’ As we talked, we pinpointed thought processes such as:
- Seriously, where does this come from? I shouldn’t have to deal with this, he’s just being ridiculous.
- When he acts like that, it drains my desire to be affectionate with him.
- He’s so different from me. I don’t relate to this kind of behavior at all.
- He’s just trying to get our attention.
We began to talk about general reasons why intense kids have big reactions, which are covered in the video above, as well as specific reasons that Leo might be struggling. We looked thoroughly at Rich and Paige’s beliefs about their son, and their level of heart connection with him.
In their second coaching session, Rich and Paige were much more peaceful. They talked about their growing compassion for their son, their increased joy and connection with him, and how much better he was doing. Their beliefs were now:
- My son needs my help to learn to handle his difficult emotions.
- I really want to do what I can to guide him away from his “black sheep of the family” identity.
- I so value the increased connection and joy in our relationship as I’ve prioritized that, and I think it’s really meeting a deep need for him.
- It’s wonderful to see him more encouraged about himself.
The next time your intense child has big emotions, ask the Holy Spirit for insight into your thoughts, beliefs and possible judgments. Rather than trying to figure out what to do in these situations to stop the behavior, consider what’s really going on in your child, and how you can meet their deeper needs.
Take 10 to 15 minutes to find out your strengths and challenges with our free parenting assessment.
You’ve likely heard the wise advice to give two choices to help empower kids and significantly decrease power struggles. What you may not have heard is how kids often feel “trapped” by the choices parents present to them.
In partnership with Family Life Canada, we produced a number of short videos. Watch to learn how the choices you give your kids might empower them….or make them feel trapped.
Parents want to be able to help their kids calm down when conflict happens. So it can be quite discouraging when conflicts spiral out of control. If screaming matches are normal at your house, or even if they are infrequent but still troublesome, here are three developmental stages to consider. Whether you have a toddler or a teen, we’ll offer practical tips to help you teach your kids to calm down so they can solve problems well.
“Here we go again,” you think as your child gets more and more beet red in the face and your voices escalate. Realizing your face color is matching his, shade for glowing shade, you command, “Go to your room!” with as much dominant “authority” as possible! But even if your child complies, you know he hates feeling controlled and grows ever more resentful. You feel stuck, and wonder how this dynamic will look in 5 or 10 years…
To get unstuck from this pattern, it helps to understand how you might feel if you were angrily sent to your room: Ashamed, intimidated, powerless and defeated? Misunderstood and seething under the surface?
Making Easter real to your kids can happen when you’re NOT at your scrubbed and shiny Sunday best!
“Stop arguing and get moving – NOW!”
“NO!!!!” my strong-will son responded with steely determination.
I had frequent conflicts with Daniel, our oldest child. I often ended up feeling discouraged and ashamed after our conflicts, even if we apologized to each other.
“How do I get my child to listen?!!”
Listening when you’re addressed by someone is a great life skill, but one that often our children don’t seem too eager to learn! Frustrated parents often say, “I hate it, but I just have to yell, and then they’ll finally listen.” What we’ve learned through decades of coaching parents is that a little connection and creativity goes a long way in helping kids tune in when they hear, “Time for dinner!” or “Pick up your toys, please!”
“Nooooo, Mommy, Noooooo! Don’t GO!” screams the little fighting octopus fastened to your legs. It can be heart wrenching and embarrassing to pry your child away from you, and inconvenient when you’ve got a time constraint. (Why is my child the only one who gets hysterical every time we try to leave childcare to go to the church service?)
Christmas…Like the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” While we cherish meaningful time with those dearest to us, these highly charged celebrations often stress parents, over-stimulate children, and incline both to volatile behavior. Seven simple ideas will protect the Joy of the Season, and minimize the likelihood of holiday meltdowns and conflicts. These ideas are anchored in the principle that we all behave better when we feel better! After reading through, choose one or two options that fit your family and focus on them this year.
Anchor the season in perspective.
Christmas is about God’s greatest gift to humans – his son Jesus Christ. This gets all too easily lost in our cultural expression of the holiday. Of all the Christmas preparation, what might not really need to be done? What would it take to build a few extra minutes into each day for rest, prayer, or meditation to delight in the eternal Savior who came to earth to reveal God to us? What’s one simple thing you could do to help your kids enter into this with you? Write your ideas in the comments section to inspire and connect with others!