I haven’t posted anything for what seems to me like ages! We’ve been busy trying to socialise more, and my son also seems to be extremely argumentative with school work at the moment, which leaves me exhausted at the end of a day. I guess everyone gets tired as we approach the end of the school term.
One of the big difficulties with homeschooling is that you can’t really get away from each other when you need to. He has ODD, ADHD and Anxiety Disorder. He’s also seven years old, and a boy. That means, when I’ve had enough of him and him of me, we can’t really go off on our own separate ways. Not for too long anyway. He gets up to stuff if you leave him unattended in the garden for too long. He gets up to stuff if you leave him in his bedroom for too long. I don’t like to leave him with an ipad game or in front of the TV for very long because that’s not really helpful for ADHD brains. So what can you do? Suck it up Princess… that’s about it. Grin and bear it until Daddy gets home and takes over with a rompish outdoor play session or something like that.
That’s not really the subject of today’s post though. Today I thought I’d put in a little word about being ‘weak’. It’s something that I struggle with, and I think a lot of Mum’s who start emotion coaching their kids can easily fall into the trap of being weak with them. So when I say ‘weak’ what do a mean? I mean giving in too easily, or letting your child sucker you into not following through with something you’ve said. When you have an emotionally sensitive child, and you are trying to emotion coach them through something, it can be a very tricky balance. It’s so important not to be weak though. Kids need to know that you are in charge. Particularly anxious kids.
Anxiety in children often comes through as ‘bossiness’ or they try to take control of every situation because they don’t feel their adults are trustworthy enough to take control. This is particularly relevant if they have had the experience of their parent giving in to them a lot.
“I mean how can mum or dad possibly protect them and take charge in an emergency or stressful situation if they can’t even stay in control of me?”
So, not being weak doesn’t mean you are being unkind or mean to your child. You can be strong without being mean. It’s a balancing act, and most parents flip one way or the other. Circle of Security Parenting talks about the main crux of being a parent as being “Bigger, Wiser, Strong and Kind”. Some parents find it difficult to be Strong. Being Wiser and Kind without being Bigger and Wiser leaves you with Weak. Being Bigger and Strong without Wise and Kind, leaves you with Mean. It takes a bit of work to get the balance right.
Here is a good personal example.
The other day, my son was arguing about doing his work. I told him that he had to do it before he was allowed to do what he wanted to do. He wanted to play an ipad game and have an ice block because it was hot. What I should have done, was insist that he do his work first, because that is the rule we have for school work. He commenced a very articulate and persuasive argument about how his brain would work much better after he had cooled down with his ice block and cleared his thoughts with his game.
I was suckered. Big time. His argument was logical and it was hot after all, and what would it hurt if I gave him a little bit of slack this time and let him have his ice block and play his game for ten minutes? He would get the work done later, no harm done. Wrong.
After his ice block, he then argued for something else. There was now another 15 minutes worth of him trying to get out of his work, which is exactly what his goal had been with the first successful argument he had presented. I had just taught him that if he argues with me, I might sometimes give in. For a child with his stubbornness and ODD, that equates to “argue at EVERY opportunity because you are bound to win sometimes, and then it’s worth it!”
What should I have done? Well, I should have won the argument the first time. Kindly. It’s frustrating when whatever you say, a child argues back with you. Sometimes he threatens to kill me, or wait until I’m asleep and then kill me. The trick is to ignore all that because he’s trying to provoke me to yell at him, or get all upset and argue back, or send him to his room. All of which, although negative results, get him out of doing school work for longer, so he has technically won. He’s smart. He’s worked that much out. Hit the right buttons and you get your own way. Sure, you feel like crap and you are in trouble, but you’ve avoided the one thing that REALLY makes you anxious!
I need to strengthen my resolve when I set a rule. It needs to be followed through. If I say no ice block, then no ice block! He won’t die from it. He isn’t suffering a world of endless neglect if he doesn’t get and ice block today!
The lesson I want him to learn is that when I say something I mean it. If I’ve set something a little too harsh or unattainable, then I need to enforce it until he’s given it a good go to do what I said. Then I can come to him and admit that I got that one a bit wrong and will set a more realistic target next time. Let him now I am appreciative that he listened and followed my rules, even if they weren’t entirely fair that time. Once he’s arguing less or not at all, then I can sometimes allow the rule to change mid way through or change the routine a little. Until then, it’s just weakness. If he thinks I’m weak, his anxieties increase and he tries to control everything. Eventually he takes more and more control away from me, I get more and more frustrated as I have less and less control over the situation and nothing is going to get done or end well for either of us!
You can still emotion coach a child while you are being strong. In fact I find it a really good time to do it. He is allowed to complain about a limit I’ve set. He’s allowed to question it in a logical and exploratory way. What he’s not allowed to do is defy me completely, shout, punch, hit, scratch, throw tantrums, get crazy. If he thinks something is unfair, I can let him know that I can see he thinks it’s unfair. I can sympathise with him that he thinks it sucks, but let him know patiently that he still has to get it done.
Just remember… you are the adult, and if you act like one, keeping your patience, being gentle and kind, but strong and not backing down on your decisions, time and time again, your child can just be a kid and trust that you have their back and are in control of stuff, so they don’t need to be!