Want Less Anxious, Bossy Kids? Do This! – Part 2
I hope you had a good perspective shift in Part One of Want Less Anxious and Bossy Kids (If you didn’t catch that tip, I recommend you go back and read it before continuing.) One of the reasons I love teaching parents is because there are shifts like this that can make such a huge difference, and aren’t massively difficult. Another reason I love to help parents is because it was so hard for me, so I know what you are going through!
Now let’s talk about the times when it is extra hard to be your child’s strong GPS. For example, how do you manage to be a strong GPS for your tantruming or defiant child? It may seem impossible! We all know that it truly can be impossible to force our child to do things, especially in the middle of a meltdown!
The trick is to get in front of the child’s behavior in one of a few ways. The idea is to be like a jiu-jitsu master; you don’t fight the direction that the energy is going. Instead, you transform it to your ends.
The way to do this is to claim what’s happening as your idea or by making it clear you are fine with what is going to happen. I’ll also share a third option that is a slight variant of these two afterward. To illustrate what I mean, I’ll give some examples.
If your child is about to have a meltdown that you know you either can’t stop, or you don’t have the energy to stop, you can pretend that what your child wants, is what you want! It may seem crazy, but it can be very effective. You may have to maneuver a bit to make it happen. For example, you can say that you changed your mind, or that you forgot that you’d decided that today you would let X happen, or otherwise make it seem like it was your idea.
Say you are about to go into the grocery store, and you aren’t up to dealing with the meltdown because you are too tired, don’t have time, etc. In the moment, you can stay in the lead by choosing to pretend that you changed your mind about going in the first place.
That’s a drastic option and it’s not your only option.
While that may be unpleasant in the short-term, moves like this can help you to get to a much better place where your child listens that much more readily. Sometimes the easiest thing you can do is be like water over rocks, and go with the flow. In the long run, you can divert the stream to where you want to go more quickly by not fighting it in the moment.
Another example is if your child is starting to meltdown about gum, and you know you aren’t going to be able to avert the temper tantrum because your child is already so cranky, hungry, tired, etc. You can say as he starts to whine, “You know what?! Today is your lucky day. My rule still is no gum when we are at the grocery store, but I decided that there can be a once-only exception.”
Parents worry that this is a slippery slope, and it can be. If you aren’t working on being your child’s strong GPS and setting limits while acknowledging feelings, then this can contribute to you seeming like a weak GPS. But the fact is, if you can’t control your child’s behavior, you are way better off pretending you want what is going to happen than showing that you are powerless. The former maintains what strength you have asa a GPS. The latter exposes the fact that you aren’t a strong GPS, and further erodes your child’s chances of listening to you in the future!
If the meltdown is already happening, and you know you can’t stop it, you can indicate to your child in a positive tone of voice that you can handle their outburst. You can say, “Wow. I see you are UPSET! I wish you weren’t so upset, but I can handle it, sweetheart. I can see you are going to cry and scream, so go ahead and do what you need to do.”
This second option works better with younger kids. As well, you need to have a calm manner, not an antagonistic one! You aren’t daring your child, but you are making it clear that you can handle their outburst. Sometimes this approach will lessen or even stop a tantrum! If your child doesn’t respond well for whatever reason, then don’t use this option! When it works it’s great, as it changes your dynamic from your child seeing you anxious to avoid a tantrum at all costs to them seeing you be calm about the fact that it is going to happen.
I thought I’d get to finish this tip this week, but it’s getting long! So next week I’ll share the last option. It is one that is highly recommended with teens and in situations where you have major issues with your child not listening!