Got Battle Fatigue? Try These 5 Steps Next Time a Conflict Arises.

I don’t know about you, but I have battle fatigue. I am so sick of the hundreds of little daily struggles that can become epic emotional brawls in the blink of an eye. A request to brush teeth can turn into a power struggle that ends in tears and yelling. The teeth might get brushed eventually, but why does it have to take getting angry for that to happen?

I know this sounds familiar to many of you. The parents I coach all struggle with some degree of yelling and negative ‘reactivity’ to their children’s behaviors. I am no exception to the trap of reactivity either. When I get triggered – usually by a continual refusal to cooperate with what I believe are basic requests – it takes quite a conscious effort to slow myself down. My first reaction is to be frustrated, angry, and even incredulous. My thoughts say, “How dare she defy me!” or “What is her problem!”.

Such thoughts and feelings are all about me. In these moments, I’m not really considering the thoughts and feelings of my child. I’m not considering her internal world or how she’s experiencing this moment. I’m not looking for solutions or lessons to teach either. I am seeking to control the situation and to control my child. The problem with this is that we both feel badly with the outcome.

When I think about these power struggles, I realize there’s two ways I can handle them: I can use control or I can use connection.

Control seeks to use my power, size, and assumed superiority over my child to gain my desired outcome.

Connection seeks to relate to my child’s ‘in the moment’ experience and to find collaborative ways of moving forward toward a mutually amicable outcome.

I’ve been observing what works in my family to elicit more of the cooperation I desire, and I can tell you it is definitely the way of connection.

To keep myself on the path of connection, I try to follow these 5 steps when conflicts arise:

1. Calm Down: Slow down. Pause. Leave the room for a few minutes and take several deep breaths if I need to.

2. Connect: Connect with my feelings first. I notice how I feel in my body: tense, shaky, hot, weak, etc.
I notice my thoughts and feelings: tiredness, frustration, anger, fear, anxiety, etc. Next, I connect with my child’s feelings using compassion and empathy. I validate the feelings we’re both having out loud to my child.

3. Clearing state expectations: Calmly, but firmly, I tell my child what I would like them to do. Again, I empathize. For example, I might say: “I know it’s hard to stop playing and get ready for bed. I understand you’re feeling _________ about that. Here’s what we need to do ___________.”

4. Collaborate/Compromise: I ask for my child’s ideas and thoughts. I’m open to problem-solving. Is there a creative solution? Is there a compromise? For example, I might say: “What can we do to help you get ready for bed?” or “Let’s show Bear-Bear how well you brush your teeth!”

5. Consequences: When your child still resists, you may need to discipline. Discipline should only come from the calm, centered place of connection. Consequences work best when they’re meaningful to the child and arise naturally from their choices. For example, I might say: “If you don’t brush your teeth now, there will only be time for one book tonight.”

If you’re still encountering resistance, go back to step one.

The really cool thing about these steps is they save me so much time! I might think “putting my foot down” and acting the tyrant will squash resistance and put an end to a disagreement, but that almost never happens. These 5 steps work to de-escalate the tension and focus our attention on what actually works. What I like best is that my children see me as their ally and partner in these situations, not the enemy that needs to be defeated.

The examples I give come from my experience with a toddler and a preschooler, but the basics of connection can and should be applied to any relationship. When I think of the classic image of a teenager and parent struggling for control, I picture backtalk, yelling, slamming doors, tears, and heaps of guilt. Not that much different from what we experience with young children.

The point is, children at any age almost never want to do what we tell them, but they almost always copy our actions. Parents can be assertive, strong leaders who their kids will want to follow when authority comes from a place of authentic connection, not from a place of superiority.

The importance of calming down before responding to difficult behaviors cannot be emphasized enough. You do that so the unconscious stuff like anger and bitterness don’t overwhelm you and get passed onto your children. But another important reason is to model for your kids good self-control and emotional regulation. Becoming more in touch with your feelings, allows you to better attune to your child’s feelings. Put simply, when you drop the superiority complex and start treating your children as real people with thoughts, feelings, and desires of their own, you’ll see big changes.

Yes, yelling can be effective in the moment. Fear works like a stun gun to temporarily silence children. But is that what we want? Obedience won by fear? Yelling is also just a quick fix; you’ll notice the bad behavior coming right back an hour later. To get your kids to listen to you and cooperate more, you’re going to have to invest in the relationship as it unfolds in the moment. As parents, we can lead our families using the principles of connection, rather than tools of dominance and control.


Passing a Love of the Outdoors from Generation to Generation

I share a love and appreciation of the outdoors with my friend and colleague, Hannah Benedict. We want to pass on our love of nature to our kids. In this blog post, Hannah shares how her parents made the outdoors a fun experience for her growing up, and how she now applies these strategies to her own parenting. Number two gave me the reminder I needed!


Hannah’s heart is to live and parent wholeheartedly and she is passionate about working with parents and individuals so they can do the same. She loves the outdoors, believes in the marriage of chocolate and peanut butter, and tries to live each day to its fullest. You can read more at http://www.foundationsplc.com/blog.html


How to Pick A Great Preschool

It’s that time of year, time to pick a preschool! I remember feeling pretty overwhelmed the first time I did it. I must have visited five different schools, but I never really knew what I was supposed to be looking for.

I learned the hard way that when it comes to preschools, looks can be deceiving. The first preschool my daughter attended had a charming appearance. It was like stepping into a page from The Land of Nod catalogue. I fell in love with its decor and forgot to pay attention to the really important pieces of how the classroom functioned and what my child would be doing all day. We knew after the first few months that it wasn’t a good fit for her. When I did my second round of looking the following year, I had my priorities straight.

All preschools you consider should be licensed and have qualified, caring teachers. Beyond these two basics, what should you look for?

Here are my Top 5 Priorities in a Preschool:

1 Play At The Center of the Day –

Most grown-ups look at playing as simply an activity for amusement or recreation, because that is how we tend to use it in our own lives. For children, there is far more to play than meets the eye. Playing, the kind of free, unstructured play that most children excel at, is essential to healthy development in all areas of a child’s functioning. To parents who want a preschool environment with strong academics and instruction, I say there is no better teacher for your child at this young age than play.

University of Cambridge researcher, David Whitebread, reviewed the relevant research evidence on the benefits of play-based pre-schools and found, “Pretend play supports children’s early development of symbolic representational skills, including those of literacy, more powerfully than direct instruction.”

Free-play does not mean a free-for-all. A skillful teacher will know how to guide children’s play to amplify it’s benefits. They will also know when to intervene in order to help children negotiate parameters of their play with other children.

Talk to the teachers about how they prioritize and manage play throughout the school day.

2. Outdoors Everyday-

Research is mounting to show the many positive side-effects of spending time outdoors. Direct experience with a natural environment improves student learning and behavior, and promotes emotional well-being. Interestingly, researchers at the University of Illinois found that symptoms of ADD were significantly reduced in children when they engage with nature. Children need to move in all directions to strengthen and develop the vestibular system. Climbing trees or playground structures, doing cartwheels, rolling down hills, etc. are necessary activities for kids.

Talk to the teachers to find out how much time kids spend outside and in what conditions. Bonus points if they engage the children in nature studies within the classroom.

3. Classroom Community –

For many kids, preschool is the first place outside the home where they learn how to be a member in a community. While the teacher should get to know each child as an individual, you also want your child to feel like they belong to this special group. Socialization, relationship-building, and conflict resolution are at the forefront of creating a safe and positive classroom. The classroom should emphasize manners and respect for all, as well as personal responsibility. When it comes to discipline, emphasis should be placed on teaching rather than punishment. Children should participate in tidying up and having small jobs as helpers in the classroom.

Talk to the teachers about the ways in which they foster a sense of community for the kids and the parents. Understand their policies around discipline to make sure they mesh with your values. Ask about ways you can contribute and cooperate with the school over the course of the year.

4. Environment –

What do you see when you walk in? How does the space make you feel? Things should be organized, clean, and safe. There should be plenty of toys that encourage imaginative play such as dress-up clothes and building blocks. There should be art supplies and children’s artwork on the walls. The room(s) should be big enough for kids to move around comfortably. There should be outdoor space for play and preferably a quiet indoor space where kids can rest and relax. There should be a sense of order (even in the midst of children playing and creating) and routine so children feel secure in the predictability of the day.

Have a good look around all areas of the preschool including classroom, kitchen, and bathrooms.
Talk to the teachers about safety, cleanliness procedures, and daily routines.

5. Teacher Rapport –

Having good communication with your child’s teacher is key for a successful school year. Make sure you feel comfortable talking with the teacher and get a good sense of how communication between school and home takes place. This relationship becomes especially important if your child has any learning or behavior difficulties. Teachers should always be open and responsive to the parent’s understanding of their child.

Talk to the teacher about their background and experience. Observe the teacher as they work in the classroom and interact with students and other adults. Pay attention to the body language, as well as the words.
Look for a teacher who emphasizes student strengths and participation over deficits and performance.