Listen to what I do instead of punishments…

 

I know that every parent is doing the best they can with the resources they were given or are aware of. I also believe that everyone truly has good intent yet may lack the know-how to get their needs met in calm, respectful ways. We all can very easily feel overwhelmed and unable to express ourselves. This is extremely true for children. Even if you have told them a hundred times, they were likely overwhelmed by conflicting thoughts or emotions or some other variable and didn’t absorb the message fully. They are also learning. Learning is messy, repetitive, and challenging process at its best. It may sometimes feel that our children are out to make our lives difficult, that something must be wrong if they haven’t got the message yet, or that they are purposely not applying themselves. I assure you, they are learning. Slow down to actively listen, empathize, assert yourself and problem solve together. You’ll be surprised how willing they are to cooperate when they feel heard, empowered, and trusted to do so.

trust based responses

Here is a great article on active listening with kids:  https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/healthy-communication/the-skill-of-listening/

Here is a link to my recommended Parenting Resources

Take Wonderful Care,

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Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my posts reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only as this online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers,  as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

 

Negative effects of toxic stress

All negativity comes from a state of stress within our central nervous system. Stress can be an emotional, mental, physical, or chemical stimulus that is prolonged, unpredictable, and/or overwhelming to our body and mind. Stress can come in the form of having big and conflicting emotions at once, lacking skills and not knowing how to handle the situation appropriately, or having unmet needs like nutrition, rest, connection, etc. Any stress that goes on unexpressed, unprocessed, and/or misunderstood can become toxic and traumatic.  Naturally, experiences that involve actual or perceived death or serious injury increases the potential for toxic levels of stress and trauma. Toxic stress and trauma lead to dysregulation which is being in a state of STRESS beyond one’s window of tolerance and does the following:

  • Alters the chemistry and functioning of your mind/body/heart connections;
  • Creates unconscious emotions of fear;
  • Activates stress hormones and flight/flight/freeze mode of reactions;
  • Decreases ability to access higher brain functions (i.e. problem-solving, planning, language, knowing right from wrong etc.)
  • Decreases our tolerance level and increases sensitivity to stress
  • Creates more rigid, inflexible, incoherent, temperamental and chaotic reactions
  • Click the following link for more information on Effects of Toxic Stress

Our natural stress response exists on a continuum from hyper-aroused to hypo-aroused with mild to extreme reactions. Hyper-aroused is when we are over-active, on alert and in fight or flight mode. In this state, we may act out aggressively or feel anxious. Hypo-aroused is when we shut down and are in a state of freeze or collapse mode. In this state, we tend to withdraw and feel depressed. Just as we are all different, so are our responses to stress. There are many contextual layers that influence the variance in our responses and the likelihood of negative effects like our window of tolerance, temperament, environment, genetic expression, the availability of protective and supportive relationships along with the presence of risk and resiliency factors.

Our experiences, especially the ones in childhood, create our templates and filters for how to process stimuli and stressors and how to respond. The first three years of life creates the blueprint for all future relationships. Most caregivers do not realize how impactful their reactions, mood, and behaviors are on their children. Children depend on caregivers for everything so if a caregiver is unavailable, angry, depressed, neglectful, out of control or acting in a way the child doesn’t understand, then the child will perceive this as a threat to their livelihood which will activate their stress response system. It is important to note that it doesn’t matter if the stress is a real threat or not as our central nervous system just has to perceive it as a threat. Our perception and interpretation of a current event instantly get filtered through our past lens of experiences and developed belief system. I highly recommend learning more about how Adverse Childhood Experiences affect our health.

From my experience, negative consequences such as conflict, “disorders” and “diseases” are the result of an overstimulated, fearful and dysregulated central nervous system which manifests itself through different reactions and symptoms dependant on our interpersonal neurobiology. This is why they’re so many new diagnoses, disorders, and diseases as they keep evolving along with the dynamics and increase of toxins within our minds, bodies, relationships, environment, and our world. As a society, we have failed to promote sustainable, compassionate ways to get our vital needs met. We all have vital needs to feel safe, connected, heard, and understood. When we meet these needs, then we can naturally calm our central nervous system which allows us to access our higher brain functions and innate intelligence as well as integrate new positive experience and coping skills and even heal past trauma. When we consistently meet these vital needs, our central nervous will become securely integrated. When our brains are well integrated then we can optimally process stimuli, self-regulate, connect as well as enable more intricate functions to emerge like insight, empathy, intuition, and morality. This in-depth level of integration results in greater kindness, resilience, and health.

To learn more how you can promote sustainable, compassionate ways to get your needs met in your family, check out my post Promoting Resiliency and Connection Tips

You can learn more about me and my online therapeutic services at WeCounsel

Take Wonderful Care,

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Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seeking referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

 

Children are sages…

After observing and working with hundreds of children as well as having my own, I have discovered:
1) Children are sages. They are naturally present and connected to their innate intelligence as well as have less negativity and filters that block their senses or distort their perceptions. They are also operating at different brain frequencies due to their developmental stage.
 
2) Due to their heightened sensitivities and lack of filters, any negative energy directed at them is often perceived as threatening and often unconsciously labeled as “YELLING at them” because that is how it feels to their being. This will naturally trigger the fight, flight or freeze stress responses (fight doesn’t kick in until about age 2).
 
3) “I’m bored” typically means that they are experiencing negative or uncomfortable feelings that they are unaware of and cannot identify.
 
4) “It’s weird” usually means that are aware of some negative or uncomfortable feelings but don’t know what they are or how to describe them.
 
5) All negative behavior comes from a state of stress and/or unmet need. Most often they are physiologically or emotionally uncomfortable and unable to identify or communicate their feelings/needs, as well as lack the skillset to get their needs met effectively. Even if they should know what to do because you’ve said it 100 times, when triggered into a state of stress, they are unable to access that part of the brain till they feel calm and safe.
 

meditation

Please treat children how you wish you were treated when you were young. It really makes a difference as you are programming their brains for love or fear and what is done to them, they will do to society.
 
Check out my post summarizes common stressors and Enriching Resiliency & Connections as a family.
 
Take Wonderful Care,
Debra
 
Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA and provide online counseling at WeCounsel.com
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A glimpse into one boy’s emotional development

When my son was six years old, I had two teachers suggest that my son was “emotionally immature.” Honestly, these complaints were very hard for me to swallow on many levels, especially since I am passionate about emotional intelligence and helping children to cope with emotions.

I, as respectfully as possible, accepted and validated their comments because of course, he is emotionally immature: he’s six years old. I felt defensive, shocked and angered. I just wanted to rip my son away from these people who I had entrusted to care for him. I even home-educate my son because most affordable school environments, in my opinion, are emotionally neglectful and abusive.

I internally chewed long and hard on their statements. I really had to grieve this situation. I typically blame myself whenever negative situations occur and worried intensely if I had messed up somewhere… I felt guilty for adding stress to the teachers; Was I crazy for teaching him to question authority and share his feelings? From their point of view and context, I could see where they were coming from yet it sickened me that this is the mind frame of most.

I want to just shine a bright light on the world about emotional development… You see society tends to think that one is emotionally mature because they handle their emotions. This is true to a degree, but one needs to have opportunities to express their emotions in order to learn how to handle their emotions in various settings and relationships.  There is a learning curve for every new dynamic or experience.

It seems we give kids until about the age of one to three years old to work this out, then we demand they listen and obey us without whining or tantrums. Sadly, what many think as an emotionally mature child is one who is appearing obedient under the guise of actually feeling fear and freezing (like in a state of fight, flight or freeze). They don’t know what to do but have learned that more negative energy will be directed at them if they don’t just stop.  Eventually, this leads to suppressing emotions and even dissociating when triggered in stressful environments. Far worse consequences and dysfunctional patterns develop from here.

Here’s is one my favorite quotes about emotional development and children:

“What is a normal child like? Does he just eat and grow and smile sweetly? No, that is not what he is like. The normal child, if he has confidence in mother and father, pulls out all stops. In the course of time he tries out his power to disrupt, to destroy, to frighten, to wear down, to waste, to wrangle, and to appropriate…At the start he absolutely needs to live in a circle of love and strength (with consequent tolerance) if he is not to be fearful of his own thoughts and his images to make progress in his emotional development.”

-Donald W. Winnecott, The Child, The Family, and the Outside World

Now, back to my sweet, sensitive son… Anyone who knows him well has seen his empathetic, kind, and resilient nature as well as his ability to regulate himself. He started initiating group hugs when he was two and doing the meditative “umm” when he was in pre-school to calm down. He made a dragon from Legos to guard his baby sister’s ashes and deeply mourned the loss of his great-grandma. When I am stressed, he echoes the words of the sage in me. He’s my buddha boy, and this is just a quick snapshot of the gracious qualities he shines upon his family and dearest friends.

During this same period of time, my son was overwhelmed by contradictory messages. He would complain about how come he often sees other kids hitting other kids and their siblings. I validate that it is confusing and may seem unfair yet stress he has learned a special skill and can control himself even when he feels so angry. I describe how many others are still in the process of learning to control their emotions and behaviors and how their brain gets flooded and they can’t get to their loving, smart files.

He also would ask why he cries so much but no one else seems to cry. He agonized about what’s wrong with him and feels stupid that he cries so easily. I validate his pain yet stress that he cries because he has a big heart: he cares so much about what people think of him and the quality of work he produces. That although he appears weak and dramatic by society’s expectations for “normal boy” behavior, he is indeed strong, brave, spirited and willful. Sadly, with so few kids to empathize with him, he was starting to wish he didn’t care so much.

Another sad part of all this is that when a kid, or even an adult for that matter, is being emotional, that can actually be a sign of trust; that they feel somewhat safe to process their hard and vulnerable feelings with you.  Emotional outbursts are opportunities for connection and growth yet we as listeners can’t often handle the feelings. We feel too uncomfortable and just want to contain them as quickly as possible. Teachers fear they are disturbing learning environment instead of seeing it as an intense learning experience. Even with my successful experiences of utilizing intense emotions, I still get triggered by fear and just want to stop the discomfort and run away. It is also hard to be compassionate and present with an angry child especially when the child in you just wants to fight back.

The next time a child is giving you grief, take a deep breath and give them the gift of your presence, attention, a warm embrace, a shoulder to cry on and listen. You don’t even need to think of things to say just be still, present and listen. If it feels right, reflect only what you are hearing them say like identify feelings.

‎”When children feel understood, their loneliness and hurt diminish. When children are understood, their love for their parent is deepened. A parent’s sympathy serves as emotional first aid for bruised feelings. When we genuinely acknowledge a child’s plight and voice her disappointment, she often gathers the strength to face reality.” ~Haim Ginott

I recommend the book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys by Michael Thompson, Ph.D. & Dan Kindlon, Ph.D.

http://michaelthompson-phd.com/books/raising-cain/

http://www.pbs.org/parents/raisingboys/

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/11/17/boys-emotional-support_a_23280737/

Here’s also a video on how important it is to meet emotional needs

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

Learn more about me and Online Therapy services

 

lessons from my son meme (2)

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, and referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

Healing Song

I have inherited some devastating negative core beliefs that get triggered easily like when anything goes wrong, I instantly feel that It’s all my fault. When I break something or make a mess, I feel I am a complete failure and utterly stupid. Sadly, I have unconsciously passed this same negative tape onto my son. It has grown more apparent the more I expand my awareness for it. Even though I know they are not true, they still feel very real to my body, mind, and soul and as much I tell myself and my son they are not true, we need to heal and rewrite in the moments we feel them the most.

As we were getting ready to leave the house one day, he boisterously bounced into the wall and a picture frame crashed to the floor. As I am aware that things breaking are one of my triggers, my body viscerally reacted negatively. Almost simultaneously, my son hung his head down saying  ”I’m so stupid.” As soon as possible, I told myself out loud to “let it go” and move onto to next step. Unexpectedly, he went back to the frame to try to fix it and I reacted negatively again as I was afraid he’d get hurt from glass and we were under a time crunch.

His head hung in shame again, he stammered toward the door, muttering “It’s all my fault.”

The next feelings and thoughts poured through me in a matter of milliseconds….At first I was filled with anger and disappointment of how could he feel so bad about himself; how I don’t have the time to deal with this now; how many times do we have to go through this…then feelings of guilt and shame came of  how could I have let this self-hatred seep into my son’s self-consciousness and how come I cannot heal us both and get over it…

I caught the negative tape going wild in my mind and chose to give myself and my son the same love and compassion I wish to give everyone.

As my son turned the door handle to escape outside, I told myself I must not let him start his day this way. I ran to him as boisterously as he bounced into the wall just moments before, pulled his head up and bellowed “Raise your head.” As this was happening so quickly, I could still feel the tension in my hands.  His look instantly told me to get my body, tone, and words to match the message of love I wanted to give. I hugged him and began singing,

I love you no matter what glass breaks.

I kissed him in tune to my melody on his cheek and I looked at his eyes as they began to well up. I continued to sing:

I love you no matter what breaks.

again I repeatedly kissed him on his cheek and as I saw tears beginning to fall, I sang:

You could knock the house down and all I would care is that you were safe and sound.

followed with more kisses, he tearfully said,

“That is the kindest thing I have ever heard.”

I responded that every word of it was true and we hugged. His younger sister who was watching the whole thing then joyfully pleaded, “I want kisses on the cheek too.” We went on to have a great day and I believe some of those negative messages have healed.

Who’s the Boss?

Many systems operate from the assumption that there needs to be a hierarchy, someone at the top, a boss to lead, to have power over. When my son was younger, he would sometimes say that it felt like I was the boss of him and he has to do what I say. I reflect back that yes, it does feel like I am telling him what to do a lot. I tell him that I don’t want to boss him around and that I want him to be his own boss.  I do know it is my job to protect and teach him healthy behaviors so when he does things that jeopardize safety or health, I tend to interject. But upon great reflection and listening to my son, I stopped my re-directions, lectures, scowling, and controlling reactions etc. I began to reflect what I was seeing, identifying feelings and trusting him to figure it out. It might take longer, things break and get messy, and he will get hurt, yet he learns what he was meant to learn every time I “let go.” I am amazed and feel great relief every time I do it. Of course, when the threat is of imminent loss of life or limb, I will still jump in but really how often does this happen. I choose to live my life in trust, not fear.

For example, once when he was playing a video game on our computer. I realized that I could not listen to my music on the computer while he was doing this. I felt irritated and entitled to be able to listen to my music on my computer. I snapped at him that he now had a shorter time to play. I felt the negativity tighten my body and heard the shrill in my voice. I stopped myself, apologized to my son for being grumpy at him, shared my feelings in a neutral tone about how I was feeling frustrated that I couldn’t listen to my music because he was using the computer. I let it go and started another conversation with my partner. Within moments, my son turned the sound off his game then opened up our music files and asked what music I would like to hear. All of this happened in less than five minutes and he was five years old.

I could cite 1000 interchanges like this where my children teach me about the power of love and trust, but honestly, this is something one must brother gently leading the wayexperiment with and experience the connection for themselves. Personally, my children get me to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy life to its fullest when I am open to accepting their influence. I welcome my son’s so-called “back talk.” He makes valid points and gets me to change fear-based habits. I believe we were all created equal, this includes children. I even think children have greater insight and personal power because their body/mind/souls have absorbed less negativity or interference and are more connected. I work every day to embrace fear, let go, and love and trust more. To lead by example and use power-with instead of power-over. It is hard to let go and can be scary due to life’s unpredictable nature and the fact that many of us are completely unfamiliar with it.

This may help, imagine having a controlling boss, the ones who would like to dictate everything and seem to never be satisfied, focuses on what you do wrong all the time… Now how happy and well adjusted would you be if you lived with that boss 24/7?

If you’d like support on how to lead and guide your children with respect and confidence, you can learn more about my services by calling me at 847 603 4677 or check out Debra Wallace MS LMFT profile at WeCounsel.com

Take Wonderful Care,blog signature

P.S. Here’s an article on how Kids who talk back become more successful adults

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seeking referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA