Strong-Willed Kids Module 3

As your kids act out and continue to test you, because that is what kids do, try not to lose your cool with them. Sometimes you will because you are human and sometimes you will bark out orders at them because you are frustrated and at your wits end, but remember that this will not get you what you truly want – a child that listens (age-appropriately), a child that is thriving, and a family that is flowing and thriving! Try the tools below to help build trust with your kids, to set them up to succeed in their interactions with you and to help them learn how to self soothe when the going gets tough. We can work on the latter as parents as well!

MODULE 3 / Build Trust!

  • Build trust and confidence – say what you mean!
  • Hit the reset button – instead of instilling fear!

Say What You Mean – Be Clear:

Speak clearly and say what you really mean and what you really want of them. Kids are fairly literal so if you say “let’s clean up the toys now,” they hear that you are going to do it with them.

  • Let’s means you and me. If you want them to clean up without you, don’t use “let’s,” but rather try “I need you to put away the toys now”.

Additionally, try to limit instructions to no more than 2 or 3 in one request. Young kids can’t keep track of too many instructions. Set them up to succeed! And amplify it when they do! Additionally, stay away from subjective requests. Say what you REALLY and truly need from them. Instead of “be good” try “be giving”.

Say More Yes – Flip it!

Say more yes and reserve the NO for when it really matters such as when it comes to safety. “NO! Don’t touch the hot stove!” or “NO! Don’t run into oncoming traffic!” Otherwise, try to flip it and to stay with the positive. For example try “stay on the grass” vs. “don’t run into the street”. Always reframe towards the positive, towards the Yes! We are all more apt to resist the NO and to embrace the Yes!

Hit the Reset Button

When necessary, hit the reset button vs. utilizing traditional time-outs that typically punish a child vs. give him a true break to reset himself.

  • Punishment instills fear and does not stop behavior, certainly not in the long run. Notice that your child often goes to time-out for the same reasons?

Punishments weaken the relationship and create a never-ending cycle of behavior and punishment and more punishment, which still does not yield long-term results. Punishment and fear are not efficient for long-term behavior change. Try using time-out as just that – a TIME OUT – not punishment but rather a “re-set” time, a break, a calm down moment.

In the same way that we may feel our blood start to boil sometimes and know that we need to calm ourselves down (stop, breathe deep, scream silently to ourselves, repeat our mommy mantras…), kids need our support in doing just that.

  • We need to teach our kids how to self-soothe!

Provide your kids that needed “time-out”, that “re-set” opportunity, that break, that pause, a reset, and provide them that true TIME OUT, that moment they need to calm down. Don’t banish them by sending them to their room or a corner – just ask them to pause – to notice their breathing, to breath deeply, to think – offer them ways to calm down. And model it to them whenever you possibly can! (Don’t discipline them during the break, just let them calm down, and calm yourself too if you need to!)

  • As you practice this new skill with them and remain consistent they will learn that they do not get your attention by misbehaving.

Do not lecture, do not threaten, just say…”it sounds like you need a moment to re-set or I don’t listen when you scream, I need you to take a time out”. Choose your words wisely and clearly. You do hear them but you don’t listen. Listen is active. Listen means you give your attention. You do not give your attention when they scream, hit, whine – you name it. And don’t say “let’s take a time out” unless you plan to join them! Be clear. Say what you want and need.

Exercise 1: Flip it!

  • Challenge Yourself! 

Write down 3-5 things you often tell your child not to do – the ones you hear yourself saying over and over again such as “don’t jump on the couch,” or “don’t hit your sister,” or “don’t let go of my hand,” etc. Now flip it! Practice saying it in a positive way, taking out the words Don’t or No all together, such as “we jump on the floor or on the couch we sit,” or “we keep our hands to ourselves or we use our hands to hug sister,” or “when we cross the street we hold hands”. Practice practice practice saying things clearly and positively to create trust!

Exercise 2: Practice the Re-set!

Write down some ways that you self-soothe and some ways you might teach your child to. Hit the reset button at least once this week with your child and let us know how it went. Remember…parenting is a journey and a process. Nothing is magic!

Practice, be consistent and be patient!