Here is an interesting question a mother had regarding parenting her child.
Read on… I’m sure you’ll enjoy this short, yet powerful insight.
A woman once approached a great parenting expert and asked him for advice. “My son is acting up at home and causing us much aggravation. My husband is generally a soft-spoken fellow who rarely raises his voice. Recently, though, he grabbed my son, yelling at him and threatening him to toe the line. When I asked him to stop, he explained that he had to instill fear in this child, in order to get him to listen. I feel like I am stuck in the middle and don’t know what to do. I am a mother. I feel badly for my child. On the other hand, we really need him to improve. What course of action should we take?”
The wise parenting expert listened carefully to the mother’s words and reassured her that everything would be all right. He then explained to her, “Fear is psychological dynamite. The wrong kind of fear could easily become an obsession. The way to develop proper fear is through a gently manner, through respect for one’s parents. Teach this child respect, and then he will fear his parents through love. If a person truly loves someone, then he is afraid to do them harm. That is healthy fear, for it stems from love.”
The woman smiled through her tears and headed back home, armed with the insight and wisdom to save her child and help her family.
Weeding the Three P’s
Some children seem to be stuck in the kvetch cycle. Neutral situations become worst-case scenarios, sullied by murky “what-if” questions and worries. What if something goes wrong? What if they don’t like it? What if I fail? They are programmed to expect the worse – and visualize that as fact. Small setbacks are viewed as major catastrophes. Minor disappointments call for major tantrums. Life is tough, and it’s bound to become tougher. They feel helpless and hopeless.
These children are not clinically depressed. Rather, their negative thinking writes a depressing thought script. They do not enjoy being pessimists and would love to be different. However, they do not know how to switch their brain’s channels.
Negative thinking is inaccurate, exaggerated, and severe. Think back to your last mistake. If your reaction was “it’s okay. I can fix this,” you bounced back well. If your response was, “how silly of me! I always mess things up. What a disaster,” try to recall how long this thought lasted. Did it fade out quickly, or was it like a scratched CD, replaying in your mind, engraving itself into your psyche? Negative thinkers are constantly flooded by these depreciating thoughts. As the thoughts rerun over and over, they gain momentum and credibility; the person starts to believe and internalize them.
Parents often wonder, “Why is my child consistently pessimistic? Why does the slightest tremor cause my child to crumble while most children remain unaffected? Is it possible to prevent negativity, or is this sour attitude permanent?”
Let’s peak inside a human brain. After every experience, the brain lays down tracks connecting point A and point B. These are called neural transmitters, and they are the memory tracks. For children stuck in the kvetch cycle, negative experience’s tracks are cemented in place…permanently. Their thoughts travel back and forth across these tracks, predicting the future as a repeat of all previous bad events, impacting one and all, and, worst of all, being their fault.
For children with a pessimistic style, negative events are processed using the three P’s: permanent, pervasive, and personal. These thought processes bring about feelings of overwhelmed helplessness (Martin Seligman).
They think that nothing bad is temporary, occasional, or manageable. The opposite! The worst is permanently here to stay. My teacher scowled at me today. She will never like me.
They use a single bad event as an overarching, pervasive indicator for everything else. I failed my math quiz. I will flunk all tests in fourth grade.
They think that it’s their personal fault. Our class did not win the raffle campaign because I did not bring in enough booklets.
|Negative Thinker||“I failed my math test.||I will never do well||on any test.||I am just not smart.”|
|Positive Thinker||“I failed my math test.||Next time||I’ll study harder||and do okay.”|
The more often children explain events with the three P’s, the more this thinking pattern becomes a matter of habit, their automatic response to every life situation. As more events are viewed through the prism of the three P’s, life becomes one problematic story.
These children’s brains work on overdrive to concoct the creative, improbable P-explanations. However, since they are so used to these thoughts, even when logically convinced to think differently, the P-thought will still be the first one to pop up.
So, how can this cycle be stopped?
Train children to ride another track – often. After all, the most frequently traveled neural tracks become the brain’s favorite highways. The more a person thinks a certain way, the more he is bound to continue thinking along those lines. So, if children jog along the pessimistic track, explaining events according to the three P’s, they will become more and more skilled at P-thinking. However, if these children are taught to create new tracks – and use them frequently –they will counter their negative cycle.
To teach children how to answer back the three P’s, train them to specific-size problems to reality, instead of distorting them to overblown proportions. When problems are globalized, they seem overwhelming, but when problems are narrowed down, they become manageable.
Try this hands-on experiment together. Examine a leaf under a microscope, and see how unrecognizable it becomes. Explain that monstrous problems often begin as tiny buds. However, when viewed under the magnifying glass, they become unrecognizable, monstrous blobs of green. The next time your child exaggerates one of life’s bumps, concluding, “I’m dumb. Nothing good happens to me. I deserve it,” remind him about magnified leaves. Ask him to identify this issue’s specific triggers and delimitations, so that he can paint a more accurate picture of the problem. This realistic perspective curbs his pessimism; once his problem has shrunk to a manageable size, he thinks and feels more positively about it.
When talking to your child, listen out for “extreme words” because they are red flags for the cognitive misconceptions of the permanent/pervasive thinker. These “extreme words” include nothing, everything, always, and never. Teach your child to substitute these absolutes with more accurate expressions, such as sometimes, some things, and some ways (to undo pervasive thinking) and sometimes, temporary, right now, occasionally, not yet, and at this moment (to undo permanent thinking.) These modified word choices train your child to think more accurately. For example, your daughter complains, “I am never going to be the Teachers Monitor.” First, validate her frustration. Then, ask her, “Was Stacey already the Teachers Monitor? And Kim? And Dorothy? So how many girls were already chosen to be the Teachers Monitor? And how many girls were not the Teachers Monitor yet? Do you think that the girls that didn’t get a turn won’t ever be chosen? Oh, so do you think you’re going to get your chance, too? You just didn’t get a turn yet…”
A creative game that teaches your child to speak up against the “pessimistic permanent voice” is the Pencil or Pen Game. Write down ten negative and positive scenarios. Have your child comment on every scenario. Then, decide whether the comment should be written in pen because it is permanent or in pencil because it is not an absolute.
For example, your child’s scenario reads “I missed the bus.” If he responds, “I always miss the bus,” or, “The bus always come early,” write his responses in pencil because they do not hold true always. Your child’s scenario is “I baked a delicious cake.” She might say, “I am a good baker. I follow directions carefully.” Since these are all-time truths – despite the fact that she may occasionally mess up a cake, these qualities remain – write them in pen.
This game counteracts pessimistic children’s mantra that the bad is here to stay and the good happened randomly. (Response to negative: I lost the race. I will never win a race. vs. Response to positive: I won the ballgame. The other players did not play well. I just got lucky.) This game helps your child see that negative external factors are often temporary, but positive internal qualities are permanent. This gives your child the ability to view the negative and positive more accurately.
For children who are stuck with pervasive thinking and assume that every mishap has lifelong repercussions, you may use a tree analogy. Ask your child, “What part of the tree is this situation? A branch? A leaf? A root?” This helps your child zoom out and think how this isolated incident is really impacting the bigger picture. For example, when your child says, “I laughed during my solo. Now I will never sing in a choir again. I will never get a job when I graduate. I will never have any friends,” ask your child, “Is this one choir performance like a trunk or a leaf? Does five minutes of less-than-perfect performance cause a lifetime of failure?”
While you teach your child to view negative situations more realistically, help your child focus on the rosy parts of life. Highlight positive moments. Harp on how the child made things go well. Train him to build new tracks and to travel on those tracks often, so that this should become his brain’s primary route.
Of course, emphasize a hard work ethic, the importance of perseverance, overcoming disappointment, and being the best they can. Optimistically speaking, I am positive that your child can learn a new upbeat modus operandi – and that’s a realistic, unexaggerated prediction.
Sources: Freeing your Child from Negative Thinking by Tamar E. Chansy
One of the symptoms that anxious children and perfectionists contend with is crippling “what-if” thoughts. These negative thoughts cause them to despair of managing their lives and sap their ability to fight their core challenges. Teach children how to respond to the three P’s in the “what-if” statements. Then, they will have the courage to overcome their anxiety/perfectionism.
Of course, establishing proper discipline is easier said than done. In fact, the most common question asked by parents is “HOW DO I GET MY KIDS TO LISTEN?!” However, there is no “one quick-fix solution,” because so many puzzle pieces must fall into place in order for a home’s harmony to resonate. Presuming that the initial foundations of peace, unconditional love, acceptance and communication are in place, we will now explore several discipline techniques which will help us restore respect and discipline in the household.
Before we start with practical pointers, we must have a proper perspective on commanding respect. We must realize that this is not about us; it’s about them. It’s not that we need the honor of having our children speak respectfully at the dinner table. Rather, our children need this training because we want to mold the child into the perfect person we want him to become. So giving in and forgoing this respect is not a service, but rather a disservice, to the child, for we are denying him the opportunity to grow and develop properly.
One component of respect is listening to one’s parents. Therefore, we are obligated to insist on compliance.
Practically speaking, this training is best started when children are young and impressionable. It is then that you can physically “help them” to listen by taking their hand and directing them to do the required action or go to where they have to be.
When giving commands, use a firm, self-assured voice. Even young children detect when you are hesitant or unconfident. Avoid threats, warnings, and ultimatums as they undermine your authority. You can use the “broken record technique” (repeat your command in a calm, firm manner over and over until the child complies) or “when-then technique,” (When you clean up your room, you can go outside to play” instead of “if” which gives wiggling room for non-compliance.) If your child needs to have some power, give him choices and time frames, (“Please make sure the table is cleared before dinner” instead of “DO IT NOW!!!”) Whichever method you may choose to use, do not accept “no” for an answer. This is imperative, because early training sets the stage for respect for all authority throughout life.
Once children are a little older, it is the parent’s choice to be smart and selective when giving commands, demanding only that which the child is capable of fulfilling. For example, asking for something while a child is in middle of playing, or in a tired, cranky mood is setting him up for failure. Think before commanding and do not teach your child disobedience!
Try to set up routines, so that you can preempt tricky situation. When a child knows what is expected of him and is aware of the consequences if the routine is not followed, he is quicker to comply and accepts the consequence.
When you are in a situation over which you have no influence, do not exert your power, because you are embarking on a losing battle. At best, you will win while compromising your values by yelling, threatening, punishing, etc.
Remember that you too can press the pause button. Model proper behavior by thinking before you act. Use impulse control and ask yourself, “Is this the proper request at the proper time? Am I realistic that I can influence this situation? What is the best way to ask my child and set him up for success?”
In summary, start when your children are young by confidently training them to listen. As your children grow older, continue to guide them with firmness and love. Think before commanding and set up routines to avoid confrontation. Most importantly, spend time planning smart solutions at calm times, so you will know how to handle the real-life scenarios.
If you’re a grandmother, watching your babies grow into adolescents, then time whizzes.
If you’re a first-time mother, anxiously awaiting the arrival of your colicky six-month-old’s first tooth, so that you can sleep through the night once again, then time crawls.
If you’re a seasoned mother, when you’re dealing with the terrible twos and intolerable teens and trying in-betweens, then time drags. But, when you rush to make dinner before the bus beeps, settle the little ones before the next division marches in, tidy up some housework before the night slips away, then time speeds.
In reality, the clock moves consistently. It doesn’t skip a second, it doesn’t pause for a millisecond. It’s our challenge to stop pushing the clock backwards-and stop racing the clock forwards. We must aim to live with the clock, appreciating the special gift that every new present offers us.
Yes, we have lofty goals for our children’s future. However, we have to be understanding of their “growth capacity” in the present.
It’s crucial to realize that growth is a gradual process. Plants don’t sprout overnight. Neither do children. While you anxiously wait for your offshoots to blossom, you may see very little apparent improvement. Yet, deep underground, all your nurturing and nudging is planting seeds of growth.
It’s important for us to be patient, to realize that life takes time. How much time and effort does it take for us, adults, to master one good trait? Children are people, too. And change is difficult for them, as well. We must be understanding, encouraging and patient. Very patient and very encouraging. Then, with parental guidance, some day in the future, we will see positive results.
It’s important to realize that growth is a process. A process has steps. A person undergoes various stages. We must demand age-appropriate expectations. We must know where our children are holding, in order to help them keep on climbing the ladder. After all, we can’t expect to reach the top of a ladder if we skip pivotal rungs. Evaluate whether expectations are age-appropriate and realistic.
After all, if we push our child to do something before he’s ready, we’ll have to push. And “pushing things down his throat” breeds resentment. Once an action is associated with bad feelings, it’s very difficult to undo the damage done-even when it is already the appropriate time for the child to assume this responsibility.
Behaviors a child will outgrow, we can overlook. Behaviors that grow with the child, we must correct.”
What a powerful lesson! Sometimes, we become frustrated that our two-year-old bites, our four-year-old doesn’t share his new toy and the five-year-old fights. Of course we have to put a stop to improper behavior. However, we must realize that we are dealing with a two-year-old, who is acting like…a two-year-old. And that’s the way he’s meant to behave!
This brings us to our final thought. Enjoy your two-year-old, your ten-year-old, your twenty-two-year old. True, our children are still a “project-in-progress.” True, the process takes time. But, enjoy it while it’s here.There are so many singular joys, unique to every stage of life. We must take a moment to pause and thank God for the challenges, the triumphs, the pleasures and the pains of this special present. Because, when you think about life, it speeds by so fast. All too quickly, this special stage of motherhood, when we are the focal point in our child’s life, is replaced by new stages with different sweet moments. So, treasure the gift of the present.