Joslyn and Mike’s sensitive 4-year-old Tyler had perfected the art of out-of-control meltdowns, sassiness, and occasional aggression. When they came for coaching, they were exhausted from trying to manage this difficult behavior when it occurred. Through the coaching process Joslyn and Mike were learning to carefully teach, encourage and affirm wise behavior, even when it manifested in small ways. In general, Tyler was doing much better at home, but he was still easily over-stimulated in public places and could get out of control quickly. Joslyn shared her story:
Tyler didn’t have school Friday, so he ended up going to the post office with me. Now I realize that most people don’t find the post office terribly stressful, but for our family’s specific needs it is a complicated, multiple step process.
In most of my trips, Tyler has not done well AT ALL at staying under control when I go through my routine, and then wait in line. This day, however, we walked in and without me asking him, he sat down and waited patiently. When I made eye contact with him a few minutes later, I had him come stand with me in line and he did great.
When we left, I praised him and thanked him. He looked up at me and said, “Did I show maturity??”
When I hugged him and agreed that he had been very mature, the big grin on his face spread even farther. It was clear he was pleased with himself and I was undeniably pleased too.
Working to help him understand and value wise choices is really paying off!
What was different this time? Joslyn and Mike were reaping the harvest of their thoughtful, proactive effort to build the strengths needed to offset his misbehavior. Here’s what they had worked on:
- They taught Tyler how to take deep breaths to calm himself down. (“Dragon breaths” – big, long inhale through flared nostrils; slow “fiery” exhale through your mouth. He even began to suggest dragon breaths to other family members who were upset!)
- They taught him how to identify and appropriately express the intense emotions that caused some of his meltdowns.
- They encouraged and affirmed even small efforts at self-control, and let Tyler know how mature (or kind, or safe, or…) he was acting and specific ways that it was helpful.
Like Joslyn and Mike, you can reap the benefits of proactive teaching and training. It can be hard work, but the payoff is great! Consider the action points below to deepen your family’s culture of respect, wisdom, and maturity:
Apply it Now:
- Identify the top 3 or 4 difficult behaviors your child struggles with. Is there a common underlying cause? – like rigidly needing for things to go his way, lack of awareness of others’ feelings, inability to manage her strong emotions…. etc.
- What skill and/or value would best equip your child to avoid that misbehavior? (e.g. flexibility, listening to and valuing other people’s feelings, emotional awareness and self-regulation)
- Choose one quality to focus on at a time and try to develop a plan for growing that as a strength.
- Affirm the little bits of progress you observe!
What are your parenting strengths?
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