What This Is Like from a Parent’s Perspective

 

It’s not that you don’t expect children to worry about some things. But when their worries really affect your life…

….When they worry about going to places they’ve been before many times…

…Or when they want to skip school because they’re worried about tests, or friends…

You want to help them learn not to worry so much. But you don’t know how. 

 

What This Is Like From a Child’s Perspective

 

It doesn’t feel good to feel out of control and nervous about things. Children don’t choose to worry, and they know it doesn’t make sense.

But when parents reassure them that everything will be ok,

It doesn’t make their fears go away. 

It only makes them feel misunderstood, since they can’t HELP feeling worried.

They want to stop being nervous, but they don’t know how.

 

 

How It Usually Goes When

Children Worry

 

 

Scenario: It’s time for Rose to go to her dance class.

She has been there 3 times before, but she is insisting to her dad that she doesn’t want to go.

 

Dad: Rose, you have to go to your class. You liked it last week.

Rose: I didn’t!

Dad: Yes you did. You told me after the class that you had fun.

Rose: I like the dancing but I don’t like the other kids.

Dad: How do you know that if you don’t talk to them?

Rose: I don’t want to talk to them.

Dad: Well Rose, we paid for this class. So you need to go, even if you don’t like the kids.

Rose: No, Daddy! I’m NOT going.

Dad: Oh yes you are.

Rose: I HATE it there, Daddy. Please don’t make me go. (She starts crying.)

Dad: Rose, this is silly. Just get in the car.

 

Rose doesn’t move. Dad knows he’ll get her in the car eventually, but he doesn’t want to have to go through this every single week.

 

 

How It Could Go Instead When

Children Worry

 

Scenario: It’s time for Rose to go to her dance class.

She has been there 3 times before, but she is insisting to her dad that she doesn’t want to go.

 

Dad: Rose, you have to go to your class. You liked it last week.

Rose: I didn’t!

Dad: Yes you did. You told me after the class that you had fun.

Rose: I like the dancing but I don’t like the other kids.

Dad: Why not?

Rose: I just don’t.

CALM

Rose’s dad is frustrated that Rose isn’t being logical. He wants talk some sense into her, but he knows if he focuses on that, she will shut down.

Instead, he focuses on staying calm so Rose can feel safe enough to get out of her (illogical) Yuck.

 

Dad: That must be hard.

Rose: Yeah.

Dad: Something must be going on at dance class for you. 

Rose (doesn’t say anything).

Dad: I bet something happened for you not to like it….

Rose: That girl laughed!

Dad: Who?

Rose: One of the girls in my class. I couldn’t get a step right and she laughed at me. 

Dad: Oh Rose, I’m sorry to hear that. That’s hard.

Rose (doesn’t say anything).

Dad: You do NOT want that to happen again.

CONNECT

Instead of trying to fix the situation or cheer up Rose, Dad focuses on connecting (and getting into Rose’s world with her) so that she feels safe.

He knows that if he doesn’t demonstrate that he “gets it,” she will NOT be open to solutions and new perspectives.  

 

Rose: I just don’t want to see her again.

Dad: Yeah. It’ll make you mad all over again?

Rose: Yeah.

Dad (sighs). Sweetie, I wish you could stay home. (Pauses.) It’s not an option though. So…how can you get through this class with that icky girl there?

 

CORRECT

While Rose’s dad respects Rose’s perspective, he still sets a firm boundary. Then he helps her find a solution to cope with the boundary he has set (that she must go to class). 

He focuses on being firm while teaching her tools to be successful

Rose: I don’t know.

Dad: Can I give you a suggestion?

Rose: I guess.

Dad: You know what I do when I’m upset? I say a silly word in my head. Over and over. (Pauses.) But I’m not sure if that would work for you in your class. What do you think? 

Rose: Well I’m not sure about a silly word. But maybe a silly song. I know this thing called “Peanut Butter Jelly Time.”

Dad: Really? How does it go?

Rose: “It’s peanut butter jelly time, peanut butter jelly time…”

Dad (laughs). Do you think you can sing that AND dance at the same time?

Rose: I can try.

Dad: Can you keep singing it to me as we drive to dance class?

Rose: Yeah.

Dad and Rose walk to the car and go to dance class. 

 

NOTE: If Dad’s “tool” for handling her discomfort didn’t help Rose, he would have to re-state his boundary, being very firm about the fact that she had to go to dance class. That boundary would put Rose deeper into Yuck, and he would let her “travel the curve” so that she could once again act responsibly and go to class.

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How to Make In-the-Moment Parenting Work

 

Though Rose’s dad used Calm, Connect, Correct, proactive deposits will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If you want to give your child tools to be successful (so they worry less), remember: 

 

Depositing into CALM

You will not be able to stay calm if

a.) your own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low (if you feel helpless or out of control)

b.) you have the expectation that your children will have the same priorities that you do

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm. 

 

Depositing into CONNECT

You will be able to connect if

a.) you respect that ALL behavior has a reason and

b.) you understand those reasons (in a case like this, that when you give children the tools to handle their fears, they will face their fears)

When you become comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, you will be able to connect more effectively. 

 

Depositing into CORRECT

You will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) You have demonstrated consistently in the past that you mean what you say when you set a boundary like “We are going to class even if it is scary.”

b.) You have made enough deposits into your kids’ emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t put them immediately into Yuck.

When you demonstrate that you mean what you say and when you make deposits into your kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, you  will be able to correct behavior more effectively.