Thursday, July 26, 2012

Your Ideas for Handling a Strong Willed Child.

After my post where I sent out an SOS cry for help with handling some of the -ahem- issues we're dealing with with Brayden, I received a SLEW of helpful emails, comments and facebook messages. So many in fact, that I'm almost positive I cannot send thank-yous to all of you who have weighed in on the subject (my post was even spotlighted on BlogHer!). Thankfully with as many that have responded, I felt relieved to know there were other mommy's who have been here in this battle. Some of them were battle tested and have lived to say to me "you're ok! You'll make it!" Others were able to tell me that they were right here with me.

You know, sometimes I wish moms (and I'm included, as I'm sure there are many other areas I should be more vulnerable with my inadequacies) would be open and honest about motherhood. Isn't it great and refreshing to read about someone else who is right there were you are? As women, I feel that we deal with a great amount of insecurity. It's where Satan is really allowed to take over our mental state. For me, it affects me as a mom and wife when I get in that slump where I think that I must be the only one who deals with the constant choas of life as a mom. So before I list out some of the suggestions that everyone gave, I would love to encourage everyone to be more vulnerable about where you really are as a mom (and person for that matter!). I assure you that 99% of the time you'll get someone who will sigh deeply when you open up and then respond with "And I thought I was the only one!"

Also, I'd like to point out that it's only been a couple of days since we got some of this advice. I OBVIOUSLY don't have this down pat. Brayden has still had several epic tantrums since I wrote my initial post. I will say that some of these things were implemented immediately (I'll be sure to tell you which ones) and I noticed a difference in the way he reacted to me. Others we're still trying to figure out the logistics of how it will work out when we implement our new strategies. If you implement any of these things with your own strong willed wonder child, please leave a comment to let me know how you did it and what kind of response you received. So without further ado, I give you the list that you, my readers, helped me compile.
  1. Several books were suggested. I am a 50/50 person when it comes to books (my husband on the other hand is an avid reader and will almost always have a stack of at least 10 books that are on his to-read list). Here are some of the books:
      1. The Strong-Willed Child by James Dobson (I've read this and really liked it. I'm pretty sure Brayden was somehow his test child all those years ago when he wrote it.)
      2. Making Your Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Dr. Kevin Lehman
      3. Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
      4. Creative Correction by Lisa Whelchel (we own this and plan on reading it)
      5. Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk
      6. Love and Logic by Jim Fay (I also own this one on Kindle, but haven't had a chance to read it yet). 
      7. Don't Make Me Count to 3 by Ginger Plowman (I borrowed this one and have read it, but Brayden was small. It would probably help if I read it again now that he's old enough to implement some of it's principles. This book is great for any parent, not just those of strong willed children. It gives practical discipline examples that point back to scripture so that it not only deals with the behavior but the heart of the matter).
  2. Sticker Charts were mentioned by a lot of people who left comments or emailed me. Basic premise: give stickers for obedience (or the things you are working on), take stickers away if the response your child gives is not what you have talked about. We are about to implement this strategy, and are just working on building the list of 2-3 things that we want to work on. Several also mentioned to make sure the chart only lists 3-5 things on it so that it doesn't overwhelm either you or your child. Once the child reaches "x" amount of stickers, he/she gets a treasure out of the treasure chest (go to the dollar store for small trinket treats). 
  3. Don't lose your cool. This was a big one for me. I generally start out fine, but by 10 minutes in and being bit, thrashed and hit, I'm teetering on the brink of mental insanity (can you really blame me?!). I've been praying for hte Lord to give me PATIENCE and wisdom on how to handle each situation with Brayden, and I've asked several of my closest friends to pray the same for me. Guess what? Today has been a breakthrough day for me. I have kept my cool and maintained calm even if all hell is breaking loose. And you know what? Eventually Brayden stopped. He feeds off of my emotions (much like a newborn will be fussy if the mom is stressed). If I remain calm, chances are the cycle stops a lot more quickly than if we're both in a state of frustration and stress. 
  4. Give your child choices and release the fact that they may chose the wrong one. Ahh, the word release makes me shudder. I am a control freak and REALLY struggle with that whole release concept. I am learning that I can equip my kids with the best tools, but it's up to them if they use them or not. I think prayer helps with the mental state of releasing, because it allows us to cast our cares upon the Lord.
  5. If they are physically violent (kicking/hitting/biting/etc), hold them tight in such a way that it reduces the chance of physical harm being down to yourself, your child or other children with you. I know it sounds silly, but even though Brayden is only 3, I have a hard time containing him... he's a STRONG little boy! I mentioned my frustration about this to my friend who used to work with children who had behavioral issues and would act out in negative physical behavior. She said to cross the child's arms across their chest and hold their hands firmly on their sides. You do this while you are standing or sitting behind them. This ensures that they are unable to hit/kick/bite you while they are so worked up. I did this with Brayden the other day. At first I wasn't sure it would work because he really fought me. But after about 10 minutes of him screaming and thrashing and realizing that he was getting no where, he relaxed and I was able to talk to him in a way that we both weren't angry and we both communicated well. It was a HUGE breakthrough for us. He knows I will not talk to him until he calms down. I've had to do this several times since last week, and I've already seen the amount of time he is being physically violent lessen. He doesn't want to be contained, so will calm down to a level where we can both reason without high emotions getting the best of either of us.
  6. Immediate treats for positive behavior. I did this the other day at Chick-Fil-A. I explained to Brayden my expectations of his behavior and explained what the reward would be if he obeyed, and the consequence would be if he didn't obey. (This also points back to allowing him to chose). What do you know? When I said it was time to go, Brayden said "yes maam" to me, put his backpack and shoes on, and walked happily out of the door. I about did a happy dance in the parking lot, but refrained my enthusiasm :) Oh, and his treat was a small, melt in your mouth mint that CFA gives out for free. It seriously can be that small and they'll bite (no pun intended) on your little scheme :) I would also like to put in this point that I find it EXTREMELY important for your child to maintain eye contact when you are talking to them, especially on points of behavior expectations. This ensures that you know they understand. Brayden is always required to look me in the eye, and then always respond with "yes maam mommy" after I am done. I feel like this is a good habit to have, even as adults, and I want my kids to start young in knowing that if you are having a conversation you should always look someone in the eye. Between this and the hold mentioned above, it has really cut the tantrum issues down over the past week. 
  7. Allergies or Food Intolerances. One of the comments mentions this, and then I actually recently read a study about children with ADHD having links to gluten intolerances, as well as dye allergies. Once parents removed those types of foods from their diets, the child exhibited a change in behavior almost instantly. Not sure we are dealing with that with Brayden since he's never shown an intolerance of any kind, but definitely something to look into should things continue down a path that is not pleasant. A friend of mine mentioned a high intake of sugar can be linked to the tantrums, which I think I am noticing in Brayden, so I've been really mindful of when/if he gets sugary treats, and if so, it's small at most.
  8. Be consistent. I'm pretty sure this phrase is on the 10 commandments of parenting somewhere that no one's found. People will tell you this from the moment your child pops out. Be consistent with schedule. Consistent with diet. Consistent with discipline. We try REALLY hard, but a lot of times it's so easy to just give in. Parenting is HARD and is NOT for the faint of heart.
  9. Validate Their Feelings. I do this to some degree, especially letting him know that it's ok to be sad/angry etc, but that WHAT WE DO with out emotions is what matters. I also make sure that if we do have to discpline, he knows he's not getting in trouble for being mad or for being sad, but that he's in trouble for acting out in a way that is not appropriate. I'll be honest... a lot of times that I speak about feelings with Brayden, I tend to remember that I probably need the same reminder!
  10. PRAY. PRAY. PRAY. This is actually really encouraged in Dobson's book Strong Willed Child. I couldn't agree more. I mean, even if your child is NOT strong willed, I still think the power of prayer goes a long way in helping mold our children into who the Lord wants them to be. I'd also like to say that it's important to ask others to pray for us. I love knowing that I can send an email out to my friends and within 5 minutes have atleast 20 people who are on their knees interceding on my behalf. Let's be honest... it's hard to pray for someone who just kicked you with their Keens, nearly bit your hand off, and screamed at you as if you were the spawn of Satan. But guess what? Your friends aren't riled up emotionally and can go to the throne on behalf of you and your child. I love Christian community for this very reason. After dealing with these epic tantrums for a few weeks now, I finally understand why some parents say that their child "keeps them on their knees". Sometimes it's all you can do. And the funny thing is is that I think that the Lord intended it that way. Parenting is a lot like marriage. It's one of life's richest blessings. But I think ultimately that the Lord made both for us to become more like Him. That means at times it strips us of us and makes us completely dependent on the Lord. He wants us to be at His feet asking for His power and His guidance. I'm slowly but surely learning this concept. Somehow I think that I probably have a LOOOOOONG ways to go in completely comprehending the enormity of it though. I wrote a post last week highlighting a bit more of why I pray for my kids. You can read it HERE.
Thanks to all who helped compile all of these ideas for me! I'll be sure to keep you posted as we try to implement a lot of them (trying to implement them all at once sounds daunting, but I'm slightly tempted as I am desperate to get back to a sense of normalcy with my life). If you have anything you'd like to add, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email!

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