Why does everything turn into a power struggle?
People create power struggles when they feel powerless. With young children, power struggles often occur after giving the child a command or when the child is tired, hungry or otherwise stressed. Power struggles are such a prominent concern that I have recorded an audio lecture CD titled Preventing Power Struggles to empower parents and caregivers to better prepare for and respond to this particular kind of conflict. Knowledge of child development, connection and active calming will help you to lessen power struggles.
Child development: Before age six, children process information 12 times slower than adults. We must slow down our speech and give only one or two commands at a time. If we speak at a normal pace and say, “Finish your snack, get your crayons and go color in the TV room.” The child may only process bits of information, hearing “crayons color the TV.”
Young children cannot conjugate the word “don’t.” When we say, “Don’t touch the lamp,” they hear, “Touch the lamp!” They look at you with a smile and touch the lamp. We think, “You wicked child, you deliberately defied me,” and enter power struggle territory. Instead of using “don’t,” pivot and tell the child what to do. “Don’t touch the lamp,” becomes, “Hold my hand (offer your hand) so you can learn how to touch delicate things softly.” “Don’t run,” becomes, “Walk slowly like this.”
Children under age seven also lack mature inner speech. Adults use inner speech to rehearse choices and outcomes before we act. Instead of inner speech, children encode information in pictures. So, we can use pictures to guide children’s behavior and avoid power struggles. Use your body as a picture by modeling what you want, use your words to help paint pictures of what you want, and put up actual pictures that show what to do. Instead of, “Walk in the house,” say, “Walk carefully with each foot going like this through the house.” Not only do you get better compliance (fewer power struggles), you also build language and literacy.
Finally, the brain is a pattern-seeking device. The more consistent your routines, the easier it is for the brain to pick up the pattern. If there is a consistent routine, the brain picks up the pattern, the child feels safe, and his neurological resources can be used for learning and exploration rather than for protection, and power struggles lessen.
Connection: Research indicates that the motivation to behave comes from being in relationship. Research also indicates that five minutes a day of focused play with children ages five and under reduces power struggles by 50%. Ten minutes of my I Love You Rituals per day will improve a child’s motivation and willingness, and decrease power struggles. If you don’t use I Love You Rituals, be certain to make time daily for specific, focused bonding activity you can share.
Active Calming: Finally, the absolute key for staying in control of yourself and helping to avoid power struggles is active calming. In Conscious Discipline, I call it “being a S.T.A.R.,” which stands for Smile, Take a deep breath, And Relax. Three deep breaths will turn the stress response off in the body. Once you are able to regulate your inner state through deep breathing, you obtain access to the highest centers of your brain. While you are taking these deep breaths, affirm to yourself, “I’m safe. I feel calm. I can handle this.” These words are chosen based on research: They unhook you from the survival center of your brain and plug you into the rational part of your brain. Now you can respond calmly in the face of a power struggle, and access your inner wisdom to come up with solutions rather than entering into the fray. Practice active calming in your life and teach it to your children. Read Shubert is a S.T.A.R. over and over so this deep breathing technique becomes second nature. Demonstrate being a S.T.A.R. when you’re having a difficult time, and help your child learn to do the same!
When is my baby old enough to understand what "No" means?
We use “no” over and over in an effort to communicate with children. Maybe we think that because it is short and simple, it must be clear in its meaning. But what does “no” look like, how does “no” behave? To communicate effectively and encourage your child’s success, tell and show your child what to do (rather than what not to do).
To be clear in our communication, we must paint a picture of what we want the child to do. We have words that chatter away in our brains; children under about eight years old only have images. For this reason, it is imperative that we give commands in the positive. “Stop hitting your little sister” becomes “touch your sister gently on her arm.” “Pick up your blocks” becomes “put your blocks in the bucket like this.” Since children use mental pictures to guide their behavior instead of words, it is helpful if we use pictures to guide their behavior as well. Use your body as a picture by modeling what you want, use your words to help paint pictures of what you want, put up actual pictures that show what to do, and use the word “stop” rather than “no.” “Stop” means a cessation of movement. Starting in infancy play as many stop and go activities as possible. Walking while carrying your baby you can chant, “We walk and we walk and we walk and stop!” As they grow older, play fun stop and go games. Ultimately, they will learn that “stop” means “pause” or “hold up,” and that split second provides the time you need to jump in and guide or discipline them.
Also, whenever we’re upset, we’re focused on what we don’t want. We get more of the things we focus on, and so we soon end up in a negative loop. To help children be successful with our commands, it is essential for us to pivot and focus on what we want. Pivoting is simply pausing when you are upset (and focused on what you don’t want), and then using the Power of Attention to focus on what you do want. It’s a mental pivot, similar to how a soldier pivots and does an about-face when marching. When you feel yourself getting upset, say to yourself, “I’m feeling upset. I must be focused on what I don’t want. What do I want?” Then tell the child what to do. Focusing your child on what you want them to do will help them to be successful in following your commands.
There’s a child at my center who cries at drop off and nap time. What can I do to help?
It is challenging to offer much specific support without knowing more detailed information, but allow me to offer some broad support ideas. Generally, situations like this can be eased with consistent use of routines and rituals. Essentially, this child is feeling unsafe and/or unconnected for some reason. Creating a clear, repetitive routine that includes connecting rituals should help your situation, but realize that this will take consistency over time to make a real impact.
The brain is pattern-seeking, and when it can perceive a clear pattern, the child will naturally feel safer and become more calm. Establish a routine in which the same person greets this child every day upon arrival. The greeting will focus on connecting with the child and should include eye contact, touch, presence and playfulness. My I Love You Rituals book provides many examples of wonderful activities that would be appropriate. Similarly, you will also want to create a routine that includes another connecting ritual every day at nap time. I would suggest having the same person conduct an I Love You Ritual such as "Snuggle up."
Above all else, remember that the most important thing you can do to facilitate a child's return to a calm state is to remain in a calm and loving state yourself. It is difficult at times, but you can handle it and we are here to support you every step of the way. Resources that would be helpful in addition to the I Love You Rituals book include Brain Smart Choices for Connection and Caring (provides many I Love You Rituals and calming techniques to conduct together), the Safe Place Mat (which serves as a helpful cue for upset young ones if you've taught them the four calming strategies displayed on it), Shubert is a S.T.A.R. (another active calming tool), and, of course, my Conscious Discipline book.
What should I do when my preschooler clings on to me when I drop him off at preschool?
Your preschooler’s body is telling you important information about his feelings. Provide empathy for his upset, focus on safety and provide a connection before you leave. Say, “Your body tells me you might be feeling scared about staying at preschool while I go to work. You are safe at preschool. Mrs. Kendall will keep you safe.” Breathe together using an active calming technique like the S.T.A.R. (Read Shubert is a S.T.A.R. frequently at home so this deep breathing technique becomes second nature.) Establish a connection ritual that you do together every morning at goodbye time. Involve Mrs. Kendall in the ritual if possible. A favorite ritual from my I Love You Ritual book would be ideal. After the ritual, it is time for you to leave. Breathe deeply and assertively state, “I’ll be back after naptime. Mrs. Kendall will keep you safe. You can handle it,” and pass your child off into Mrs. Kendall’s waiting hands. As you leave, envision your child as capable and strong, instead of feeling bad about leaving or upset about the disruption. Turn and walk away, breathing and wishing him well.
It’s also helpful to know that during a certain developmental stage from 18 months to 2 ½ years, leaving Mom is more difficult for your child. If possible, you might ask your significant other to drop the child off.
What should I do when my preschooler doesn’t want to leave preschool? In the morning she doesn’t want to leave me, but at pick up time, I can’t get her out the door!
Your preschooler communicates to you through his/her actions. She is probably saying, “I missed you all day. I love you so much. I had fun today, but I’m still mad at you for not being with me.” Let go of the list of things you are going to be late for and your agenda, and become present in this moment. This allows you to stop being angry or trying to bribe the child. Speak to the moment. Bend down at her eye level and say, “You’ve had a great day with all your friends. It’s hard to leave when you are having so much fun. You seem angry. When you feel angry, you can be a drain or a balloon. Which do you choose?” Perform the active calming technique and breathe together. Then assertively provide two positive choices, “You can take my hand or skip to the car” (or two other acceptable choices for getting into the car.
Is a preschooler saying, "I hate you!" a normal developmental milestone?
Saying “I hate you” is one of many typical ways that preschoolers express feelings of frustration and anger. The ability to know what you are feeling at the time you are feeling it is the key to all emotional intelligence. Young children have not yet acquired the ability to label their emotions (I feel anger) or manage them enough to express them in socially acceptable ways.
Emotional intelligence allows us to manage our feelings, resolve conflicts and basically get along with one another. Emotional intelligence, like cognitive intelligence, takes decades to mature and requires certain experiences to bring about that maturity. Many adults, regardless of age, still have trouble identifying, managing and expressing their anger in helpful ways. Just think about your response when your own children are not ready to leave the house on time or your attempts to have children do their chores fall on deaf ears. Our own expression of anger can be very blaming and attacking. “What did I just tell you? Am I talking to thin air? Why can’t you just listen?” are all adult forms of “I hate you.” Our expressions of anger and response to children’s attempts at communicating their anger will lead to or impede their growing emotional intelligence.
Young children have immature emotional systems. There is a huge difference between feeling an emotion (sad, happy, disappointed) and expressing that feeling in a socially acceptable manner. Young children feel the emotion but lack the social and emotional skills to express what they feel. That’s where our emotional coaching comes in! It becomes our job to help children express their feelings instead of act them out (tantrum, stomp off, throw things, hide, etc.). It also becomes our job to help them verbally express them in helpful instead of hurtful ways.
Many children attempt to control their world so that everything goes their way in order to minimize the upset they feel and must deal with. Unless we help them deal with their feelings of frustration, anger and disappointment, they will grow more skilled at control and manipulation than at emotional intelligence. Without the skills of knowing what they are feeling, they will not learn to manage those feeling nor be able to empathetically recognize those feeling in others. In short, they will have trouble with close relationships throughout their lives.
Many adults give into children’s inappropriate expressions of emotions, giving them the illusion that acting out will make the world go their way. When we do this, we unconsciously teach them that hurtful actions yield positive results. These children grow up attempting to control others instead of modulating and expressing their own feelings. The ability to express their feelings is dependent on how we teach them through our modeling and responses to their upset. So when a child says, “I hate you,” overlay this expression with a socially acceptable one such as, “You seem angry? You were hoping/wanting ______.” (Fill in the blank with the desire you think they are blocking.) End by validating their feelings and encouraging them, “It’s hard to ________. You can handle this.” Remember to speak from the heart.
I am in the process of creating two new products to help parents, caregivers, educators and counselors assist children with the difficult task of recognizing, naming and calming difficult emotions. Check back often to see us launch the new iChoose board and iFeel feeling buddies to help increase the emotional intelligence of the children in your care.
My preschooler has started to lie. I know she’s drawing on the walls and furniture but she’s refusing to admit it. What can I do?
We have a choice, we can focus on getting our children to admit their errors and feel bad for their actions, or we can focus on helping our children learn to be responsible by experiencing the consequences of their actions.
In this case, you could go for admission of guilt and say, “Did you draw on these walls?” Asking a question you already know the answer to is a trap. More than likely, preschoolers will deny they did anything. Denial is a defense mechanism used when faced with fear of threat. Once the child denies the situation, then we really become upset, usually saying something like, “Don’t you lie to me. Lying just makes things worse.” From here the interaction can only deteriorate and the opportunity to teach a new skill is lost.
Alternately, we could set a limit and hold the child accountable for her actions by saying, “You wanted to draw some pictures. You may not draw on the walls. Drawing is something you do on paper. You can clean the walls with rag or sponge. What is your choice?” It is important to follow up with your child later when she is drawing on paper by saying, “You did it! You remembered to draw on the paper. Good for you, honey.” Then hug and kiss her all over.
My daughter tattles on the children around her, even when what they are doing has no impact on her. What can I do to make this tattling stop?
In this tattling scenario, the child is telling you about something that is happening around her, not to her. Sometimes children use tattling because they think it’s helpful to let adults know what someone else is doing. Other times, the motivation behind tattling may be to get another child in trouble because s/he bruised the tattler’s feelings in some way earlier in the day. Regardless of the motivation, you can utilize tattling to focus on personal self-control and teach self-control to children.
As your child approaches you and says, "Kimberly isn't doing her homework," try responding, "Are you telling me to be helpful or hurtful?" This question will bring the child's awareness to his or her own intent. Young children who are very honest will often say, "Hurtful." Your response would then be, "What could you do right now to be helpful?" Generally, the child will not know. This will give you the wonderful opportunity to teach. You might say, "You could go to Kimberly and ask her if she would like some help with her homework."
If the child's response to your original question is "helpful," then you can ask, "How is telling me about Kimberly helpful?" The child may respond, "I want her to get good grades." Then you can direct the child to share those thoughts with Kimberly by saying, "If you want Kimberly to get good grades, you could ask if she needs help with her homework."
I am over hearing my child say, “I don't care!"
Does this sound familiar? You give your son a consequence: "Chris, if you don't clean your room, you may not use the computer. " Chris snaps, "I don't care!"
Hold off on reacting with an aggressive, “You better start caring!” or passively caving in to your child’s distress. Instead, consider that "I don't care" is a signal that your child needs you; that he doesn't feel cared for.
If you are prone to aggression, breathe and see “I don’t care” as information about your child’s wellbeing.
If you are likely to buckle, breathe and remember to stay firm on the "no computer" consequence.
Then, to help your child through “I don’t care,” carve out extra time together to heal your relationship. Spend time doing activities that are fun for you both. Reconnect and be present with your child. You cannot buy your way out of “I don’t care” with gifts, nor can you punish it away by removing privileges. The single greatest motivation for a child to behave comes from family relationships, so work to keep them healthy. Do I Love You Rituals with younger children, carve out private time doing things they enjoy with your older children, start putting love notes in backpacks, and enjoy family meals together as often as possible. Your loving presence will provide the long-term solution to “I don’t care.”
How can I say "no" and be heard?
In its simplest terms, saying “no” and being heard is called “assertiveness.” It is a key skill that both adults and children must cultivate in order to develop healthy relationships. Assertive commands focus on what you want to have happen, give clear information about what to do, and are given in a tone of voice that says “just do it.” Conscious Discipline (educators) and Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline (parents) spend ample time focusing on the skill of assertiveness. My Setting Limits Without Guilt audio lecture CD is also an excellent resource of most parents dealing with this issue. The following tips from these publications will get you started:
Focus on what to do: When you are upset, you are always focused on what you don’t want. Use active calming techniques to regain your composure as necessary, and then shift your focus away from what’s wrong. Instead, focus on what you want to have happen. Have you ever heard an Olympic athlete visualize “not losing?” No! They focus on diving their cleanest dive or running their fastest race in order to achieve their goal. You must do the same with your goal is to paint a picture with your words and gestures of exactly what you want the child to do.
“Don’t you dare touch anything in this store” focuses on what you don’t want (don’t touch). Pivot and reframe it in the positive, “Keep your hands in your pockets.” All assertive commands give usable information. “Don’t ____” is not usable information because it doesn’t tell what to do. “Don’t hit your brother” becomes: “When you want your brother to move say, “move please.”
Give the command assertively: There are three tones of voice we use when we communicate: passive, aggressive and assertive.
A passive approach says, “Approve of me, love me, is it okay with you if___.” A passive approach does not engender respect or compliance, so a passive person often resorts to manipulation or ‘going through the back door’ to get their needs met. Passive communication is not effective communication.
An aggressive approach says, “I am right and you are wrong, no matter what.” It often includes threats, blame, severe consequences or “you” statements that are focused solely on the other person. An aggressive approach invites a defensive response and engenders fear. Aggressive communication is not effective communication.
An assertive approach says, “Do this,” in a clear and respectful manner with a voice of no doubt. With children, follow these steps to deliver an assertive command:
We have an unruly brood of kids between the ages of five and twelve. How can we get them to use manners? They really enjoy belching at the dinner table and taking food from siblings’ plates.
Conscious Discipline asks us to change our perception of conflict. Questioning how we can get a child to do something implies making them act differently. “How do I get my child to stay in her bed.” “How do I make my child finish his homework?” My first suggestion is to change the question. We cannot make another person do anything. If you have tried to make a smoker quit smoking, a drinker quit drinking, a miserable person happy or a baby eat peas, you know what I’m talking about. The only person we can make change is our self.
Change the question and ask yourself, “How am I going to help my children more likely choose to use manners at the dinner table?” From this question, we can generate a number of possible solutions. Here are some suggestions:
My 7-year-old daughter is really bossy. She bullies her sister and bosses her friends around when they come over. What can we do to discourage her from behaving this way?
Discouraging a child or a child’s behavior (young children do not separate who they are from what they do) is dangerous ground to walk on. Discouragement is like taking an antibiotic. Antibiotics destroy bad bacteria, but they also kill a significant number of good cells at the same time. Instead, I would focus on what you want the child to do and then decide on how to encourage that behavior. In this case, the new question we could ask ourselves is “How do I encourage my seven-year-old daughter to be more cooperative with her sister and playmates?” With this question, the following steps could be helpful:
1) Teach the victims of her bossiness to use their assertive BIG voice in setting a limit on the seven-year-old’s behavior. Shubert’ BIG Voice is an excellent resource toward this end. For example, if the child pushes her sister, go to the sister first and say, “You sister just pushed you. Did you like it?” When she says, “No,” tell her to say, “Stop, I don’t like it when you push me.” In bullying and bossy situations, it is imperative to go the victim first, empowering children how to deal with these situations. More often than not, we chase after the aggressor saying such things as, “Was that nice? How would you like it if people treated you like that?” or “Why are you doing this?” or, “That’s mean, go to your room.” None of these comments teaches either child what to do in social settings.
2) Teach the bossy child another way of communicating. Turn to the aggressive child next and set a limit. “You wanted your sister to move so you pushed her. You may not push, pushing hurts. When you want you sister to move say, ‘Move, please.’ Say it now for practice.”
This process of teaching will take some time. Research indicates that for a child to learn a new skill or concept it takes 2000 times in context. The good news is that you no longer need to ask your child, “How many times do I have to tell you?” because now you know the answer… 2000. Stick with it; change will happen as your children internalize these new skills.
My child is acting really mean. He’s hitting and biting us, saying, “I hate you.” and spitting at people. How can I help him to stop?
The first step to understand is that all behavior, including misbehavior, is a form of communication. You must ask yourself, “What is my child trying to say with his actions? Is he saying, ‘I feel angry,’ or is he saying, ‘I want attention.’”
The second step is to quit trying to stop children’s behavior. When you attempt to stop something, you will tend to resist what is happening and rely on fear, force, coercion or manipulation. More than likely, these are the same skills your child is using to get what he wants, and you’re trying to stop him from using! Also, when we attempt to stop a child’s behavior, we end up with side effects. The first side effect, of course, is power struggles. The second is a crushed spirit (both yours and theirs). This is the same spirit they will need to say, “no” to peers and “yes” to advanced math classes. I prefer to focus on transforming behavior so the child actually learns different ways of calling for help. To do this, we must focus on what we want the child to do instead of what we want to stop. If I said to you, “Don’t think about a purple alligator,” what immediately pops into your mind? “What you focus on you get more of” is one of the major principles of Conscious Discipline, found both in my Conscious Discipline book (educators) and Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline (parents).
If you believe your child is hitting because he is angry and does not know how to express his feelings without hitting and hurting, I might say:
“Stop (hold onto his hand so he cannot hurt you). I will not let you hurt me or anyone else. When you feel angry say, ‘I feel angry.’” You must teach this skill over and over again. If your child refuses to be cooperative and willing to learn another way, then you must rebuild your relationship. The motivation to behave comes from being in relationship with one another. You know this from your own marriage… If your relationship is going well and one person asks the other, “Honey, while you’re up will you get me something from the refrigerator?” The answer is usually, “Yes.” However, if the relationship is severed and struggles have been the norm, the answer is more likely, “You have legs, get it yourself.” The same is true with children.
One more piece of information may be helpful: It is developmentally normal for stressed toddlers to bite and stressed preschoolers to hit. I do not know the age of your child. A four-year-old (or older) child who is biting could indicate potential problems. If this is the case, you may wish to seek professional guidance.
My eight-year-old doesn’t listen very well. Even though I remind him repeatedly, he’s not cleaning his room or putting away his possessions.
First and foremost, it is important to understand what is going on with many seven and eight-year-old children in regard to listening. Young children do not have mature inner speech. In other words, they do not talk to themselves inside their heads like adults. This has profound implication for disciplining children. Mature inner speech is the manner in which we, as adults, think through the consequences of our actions before we act. Most young children, knowing the consequence (loss of TV privileges, etc) still choose to misbehave. When the consequence is given, they meltdown with upset and begging, “I’ll be good now.” At around six to eight years of age, inner speech is maturing. This means that what used to be only outer speech now is going underground to become inner speech. For the first time, children have two conversations to attend to at once. They are more like adults. They can listen to the chatter in their heads as well as the talk of others. Often they will ask, “What?” even as you talk, appearing deaf at times. To help them through this developmental process here are some suggestions:
1) Stay calm. Remember, “What you focus on your get more of.” When you are upset, you are always focused on what you don’t want.
2) Do not shout at your child from across the room. Usually, we will start shouting the child’s name. “Kenyon, Kenyon, do you hear me. KENYON! Listen to me,” etc. This upset will be followed by a lecture. “I am your mother and I expect you to listen to me. Do you hear me now?”
Instead, walk up to your child and get as close to his face as you can until he makes eye contact with you. Once your child makes eye contact, gently say, “Well there you are.” Then say, “Room.” One word will be a sufficient reminder for many children.
Follow this up with encouragement as he begins to do what you’ve asked of him. You might say, “There you go. You can do it. Sometimes it is just hard to get started.”
3) If your child is not following through with a task, there is a good chance you are not following through with encouragement. You are telling children what you want them to do, but not taking the time to celebrate their accomplishments. Children need lots of encouragement. Imagine a football game where everyone sat quietly until a touchdown was made. We need to encourage our children like we do a team attempting to get two yards for a first down!
My Routine and Responsibility Cards are a helpful tool for putting more consistency in your home. A homemade job chart might also prove helpful, but remember that in addition to these tools, there is no substitute for encouragement and helpful parental reminders.
My child has started to steal. He’s sneaking money from my purse and recently I discovered toys in his room that we didn’t buy -- we suspect he might be taking things from his friends. How should we approach this with him?
Stealing is a sign that your child feels deprived in some area. This feeling of deprivation is always about intangible things such as a feeling of lack of love, lack of attention, or lack of value or worth. It’s helpful to think of children’s behavior belonging to two categories: One is behavior that is extending love (help). The other is asking for love (help). A child who is extending love or help is behaving in cooperative, caring and helpful ways. A child who is calling for love or help would be acting disrespectful, mean or uncooperative. In the case of stealing, the child is screaming for help. The help needed falls into one or both of the following categories:
Nurture: The child may need more focused attention and more family togetherness time.
Structure: The child needs clear limits with clear consequences. He or she needs to know that people mean what they say and say what they mean.
With that as your backdrop of understanding, I would suggest the following:
I feel like many of today’s children are self-centered and materialistic. What can I do to teach children to care more about others?
First, teach children empathy by helping them identify others’ emotions. When something occurs, help the child focus on the other child's face and name the emotion. Use phrasing like, "See her face? Her face says, ‘Ouch, pinching hurts. I want you to touch me softly.’" " See her face? Her face says, ‘I want you to play with me.’"
Next, begin to notice helpful and kind behaviors. Use the phrase, "You _______ so ________. That was helpful (kind, thoughtful, etc.).” “You set the table so we would be ready to eat. That was helpful." Noticing in this way tells children that their behavior makes a difference to the family (or classroom).
As a final note, parents can help by shifting to family activities that don't involve material things. Bake cookies to take to the fire department, give each other coupons for time spent together, back scratches, table setting, etc.
When two kids are fighting, what should I do?
First, breathe deeply and affirm, “I’m safe. Keep breathing. I can handle this,” so you can approach the children calmly. I heard a coach once start a story about breaking up a schoolyard fight by saying, “I knew I really had the composure thing down pat when I noticed myself automatically breathing and saying, “I’m safe, keep breathing, I’ve got this,” in my head as I sprinted across the court to get to Marcus and Jacob.”
Physically separate the children and assertively say, “Stop.” Breathe and focus on maintaining the inner state you want both children to return to. Encourage them to take a deep breath. Say, “Breathe with me,” and help them calm themselves.
Next, get down to their eye-level and say, “Both of you seem so angry. Something must have happened.” Let each child know you will listen to her story. Ask the first child, “Something must have happened?” in a questioning tone. Offer support to the second child by positioning yourself next to her and putting your hand on her shoulder as you listen. The second child will often interrupt, “But she…” Reassure her by keeping your hand on her shoulder and saying, “It’s hard to wait your turn. You will get a turn when she’s finished.” When the first child has finished, restate what she said to get clarification, offer empathy and reframe the situation with positive intent. “You were angry because she took your hat. You wanted it back and forgot to ask.” Then reposition yourself next to the first child and ask the second child to share. Restate, clarify, offer empathy and reframe with positive intent. “You were upset about what she said on the bus and didn’t know other ways to let her know.” Utilize the Time Machine after both sides shar:
Step 1: Ask, “Did you like it when she_____?”
Step 2: She responds “NO!”
Step 3: Set the limit on the hurtful act and include choices for the next time: “You may not grab someone’s hat. Grabbing is hurtful. The next time you want her to know you are upset with something she said, say, ' I didn’t like it when you said_____.' Next time please say or do _____. Or come ask me for help.” Step 4: Say it now for practice.
How do you recognize the difference between a child who is having normal behavior issues and one who needs specialized services?
Developmentally, children between the ages of 3-5 years old will test and question authority to determine what is and is not allowed. Children at this age check the limits and boundaries to figure out the expectations and rules of the environment.
When the behaviors become persistent and maladaptive to an extreme degree and they impede with the child’s learning process, then it would be recommended that the referral for special services begin. These children may also have an inability to form interpersonal relationships with others and/or inconsistent moods including depression. Some children may exhibit similar behaviors during a stressful time; such as the death of a loved one, recent move, change of schools or other life changing scenarios. For that reason, it is imperative that the child be observed over an extended period of time and not just referred due to a momentary reaction. In Contact your child’s school counselor or a mental health professional for additional assistance.