Google+ Authentic Parenting: 10 Things Not To Do To An Upset Child and A Couple of Things You Can Do

Thursday, December 8, 2011

10 Things Not To Do To An Upset Child and A Couple of Things You Can Do

When children become upset - no matter the reason - it seems as if all polite adult behavior goes out the door. Suddenly, because it is a child, it's normal and accepted to be rude, rough and plain intolerant. Our children's emotional outbursts bring out our inner child and unhinge a lot of discomfort, they remind us of our powerlessness and the reactions of the adults in our lives and often create atrocious response. children are humans too, and if we want to break this vicious cycle, these are a few of the reactions we should try to repress:
Image: Creative Donkey on Flickr
  1. Threaten - "Santa won't come if you don't stop crying!" Not only do we devalorize our children's emotions by threatening them (see below), we also put ourselves high and mighty and make them feel little (see below) and powerless. 
  2. Devalue their emotions - "Stop crying! Don't be like that! You're overacting!" Children's emotions are real, just as real as adult emotions, only they haven't learned to repress them yet (and let's hope they don't, for their emotional and physical benefit). Just because these raw emotions make you uncomfortable doesn't mean they are displaced. And even if you think their outburst doesn't fit the situation, try to look at it from their part, they're just tiny, so everything is huge to them.
  3. Punish - There are millions of reasons not to punish a child, too many to go into for the sake of this post. But when they are upset, it is as displaced as it can get. 
  4. Mimick - How often have I seen an adult start fake crying when a child is upset. That's about as pathetic and impolite as you can get. You wouldn't do it to your best friend, would you? So why do it to a child.
  5. Belittle - "Stop being a baby! How old are you?"
  6. Walk Away - Walking away tells your child their emotions don't matter, that they annoy you, that they don't deserve your love and attention and that you are not there for them. Are these the lessons you want them to learn? A little side not, sometimes you can get so upset by the events that walking away probably is the best option. Then do so, and take the moment to analyze your feelings and why you react this way. It's better to disconnect then to physically or emotionally harm your child.
  7. Phase out - Acting like nothing is wrong and you don't hear or see them has the same effect as walking away. Again, however, if this is the only way you can keep from becoming abusive, it's a better option. Take a moment to evaluate this reaction later on and find a way to deal with the situation in a healthier way.
  8. Act irritated - Seeing our child upset is uncomfortable for the most of us, but we shouldn't make our children feel like they are a nuisance just because they have emotions. That will only teach them to push their emotions down, not to deal with them.
  9. Sigh - Sighing makes your child feel like a burden, like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. However, your child's emotions are not yours to fix, there is no reason to feel burdened.  If you feel like sighing, take a deep breath instead, maybe invite your child to do this too. This will make both of you feel better.
  10. Yell - People yell when they are powerless and out of resources, if your child is emotional, chances are this will only make matter worse. Read this article about yelling to find out the many reasons why this isn't the best response to any situation and how you can counteract this.  If you have to yell, don't yell at your child, but vocalize, turn it into opera if that's what helps.
Now imagine anyone doing any of these to you when you are crying because you're really hurt. Wouldn't feel good, would it?
Obviously, I wouldn't just tell you what not to do without offering you a set of alternative reactions. However, there is no quick fix (you don't even need to fix anything, emotions are human and expressing them is healthy), every child and every situation is different. You know your child best and you probably already know what not to do in certain situation.
  1. Get down to their level - Getting on an equal level eases the big adult small child discomfort and will make both parties feel more equal. It's also harder to be angry and punitive when you're on your knees.
  2. Look them in the eyes - Making eye contact can be a good way to ground yourself and to get rid of your stress. The child can connect with you and know he is loved.
  3. Hug them - For some children, physical contact during emotional outbursts can be hugely comforting. It is also a way to show your concern and presence. (Some children don't like to be touched, and may get even more upset by this)
  4. Remain present - Just being there without judgement or frantic looking for solutions lets them know that their emotions are valid and gives them the momentum to soothe themselves. 
  5. Ask them what they would like - Maybe they are upset because of something and explaining it will help them out of this situation. Knowing they have a listening ear can often be enough.
  6. Sit with them - Just doing nothing might be the best approach, this way you are telling the child that you are there, and that you are not worried, and he gets to take care of his emotions on his own. 
  7. Speak calmly - whisper even, if that's what calms you down, it will generally calm the child too.
  8. Hum - singing or humming will ease out the stress in you and might refocus the child's attention. 
Check out my favourite peaceful parenting books:




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81 comments:

  1. Thanks for this! Three year olds can be very demanding with regards outbursts and tantrums...

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  2. Way easier said then to do. I'm sorry but if my child is crying because she wants another Popsicle after having had three, I'm going to try to talk to her if that doesn't work I'm walking away.

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    1. why apologise unless you feel you are doing the wrong thing? try sitting with her, cuddle if s/he lets you, while they rage and cry. they will eventually stop, and learn your boundary. and still feel heard. no need to walk away from your child. learn to cope with ALL their emotions.

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    2. Good lord, for real???? Candy and can't have a new toy tears don't get treated the same as, I'm hurt, afraid or frustrated tears. How do they learn what is acceptable behavior when you treat it the same way?

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    3. Because to a small child who is cognitively incapable of understanding why the world can't always be the way they want/expect it to be because they do not YET know that other people also have feelings and needs, it *is* a genuine frustration and it is perfectly possible to empathize with those feelings while continuing to say no to the thing s/he can't have. Been there, done that. Mine is now almost 11. Her feelings have always been treated with respect...even when she was crying as a toddler because she couldn't have the kind of yogurt she wanted. She's kind, compassionate, incredibly articulate about her own feelings and considerate of other peoples. I do not believe these things are unconnected. You can say "I can see you're frustrated that you can't have x, but you can't because....". A hug is only ever a bad idea if the child doesn't want one

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    4. "A Hug is only ever a bad idea if the child doesn't want one" That is solid gold, I might just make a meme out of that

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    5. maybe NOT give them the popsicles to begin with? let alone 2 or 3???

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  3. What a great post! Thanks for such wonderful reminders and encouragement at a time when our children needs us the most. One thing I notice is my children will definately mirror my feelings as well...its a challenge to always be the 'rock', but its also very healthy for them to see and have a variety of different emotions. Great post!

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  4. I have been directed to your article from facebook. I found it very interesting and translated it into spanish. My version is at http://www.facebook.com/notes/enrique-henny/10-cosas-que-no-se-le-deben-hacer-a-un-ni%C3%B1o-contrariado-y-un-par-de-cosas-que-us/2627067948385

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  5. Wow Enrique! that's so cool! Thank you! I'll be linking to it

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  6. @Sarah: ISn't that the truth... Nothing's more challenging then dealing with an upset kid if you're already upset. The best thing in that situation is to find something that calms all of you down (though I do repeat: seriously challenging!)

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  7. @Anonymous: peaceful parenting is extremely challenging and sometimes indeed frustrating. And yes, in some circumstances, it's better to choose the lesser of evils, if we get really ticked off,it's better to leave then to yell. If you can't leave, it's better to yell (into the air, not at your child) then to spank, etc... Since most of us haven't been parented in a gentle fashion, parenting our children often comes down to re-parenting ourselves

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    1. Great response. Parenting triggers old childhood hurts and requires us to do the inner work and self reflection to do things better than what we received as children ourselves. I know i will makemistakes but my hope is simply improvement and i hope my kids will one day be even better to their kids than i was able to be to them. That is the goal, raising healthy adults who will go out into the world capable of meeting challenges.

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  8. I really like how most of the 'What TO do' suggestions involve -not talking-. So often, as adults we rush in with words and solutions to try to make the behaviour stop, because it makes us anxious to see our child upset or angry. But if we can own that, realizing we are really trying to make ourselves feel better, then we can give the child the space to feel how they feel.

    I wanted to add a suggestion to the what to do list: Gently move the child to a safe space. If you take your child to a quiet area of the store, restaurant, school or home (wherever they are when they get upset), after that it is easier to just let things run their course. We feel more urgency to quiet our child when we have an audience.

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    1. Amen to that - my daughter used to scream " don't look at me" to everyone around her when she was upset, so I gently suggested that when she is upset it's best to go find a safe place to be upset. I'm afraid that she learned to be ashamed of her feelings from our reactions, but she really has BIG feelings - her screams really hurt our ears.

      Another thought that I'm trying is just to breathe when the big emotions hit, to help gain perspective and deal with my own reaction.

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  9. @ Anonymous- just a thought.... I'm not sure what kind of Popsicles you're giving your child, but the sugar and dyes in them (if present) can be addicting and mood altering. There is always an issue behind "unwanted" behavior....

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  10. Great post. We often forget that crying is not bad behaviour, it's just that we don't like it. Sympathising can be hard sometimes but I find it achieves quiet quicker than yelling or ignoring.

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  11. @Lisa: Correct... I didn't really think about that when I was composing the list, but the verbal diarrhea parents often get to 'soothe' their kids often have a reverse effect and are indeed just a means of making ourselves feel better. good suggestion too! thanks

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  12. It's also really great to give voice to what they're feeling so they understand it, for example, "You might be frustrated that (fill in the blank)" or "I'm sorry that (fill in the blank) seems to make your angry". That way you show that you understand their feelings and also help them start to process them. Using this method, along with a hug or just staying close by, has really helped me with my 16 month old.

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  13. This is very situation-based. Each cry, each kid. There's a difference between crying, whining to get something and having a tantrum. What this writer doesn't get, or hasn't yet, is that kids can be very manipulative. Once they figure out that crying works--to get attention, a toy, food, etc. they'll use it to get what they want. I totally get comforting a child who is hurt, scared, in pain. I also get acknowledging them and their feelings as well. But....the parents have feelings as well. They need as much if not more care and nurturing because parenting is HARD! We forget that all the time. And eventually kids have to learn to self-comfort (without meds or drugs) and to cope with their feelings and frustrations. JMHO

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    1. @Cattledog - it almost seem like the author hasn't actually interacted with any real children.

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  14. This is very situation-based. Each cry, each kid. There's a difference between crying, whining to get something and having a tantrum. What this writer is forgetting that kids can be very manipulative. One they figure out that crying "works"--to get attention, a toy, etc. they'll use it to get what they want. I get acknowledging them, comforting the hurt, the scared. But....Eventually they have to learn to self-comfort (not self-medicate) and to cope with feelings and frustration. JMHO

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  15. Well said @ Cattledog Mom! This post gives some good tips, but really, NOONE manages to stay calm at all times, and in all situations. And why should they? Hasn't a parent the right to show his emotions?

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  16. @cattledog mom. Thanks. I have a daughter who is cute as anything but extremely difficult to handle. I have tried the steps above but she has gotten to a point for sheer attention she will throw a fit. My 1 daughter will get herself so worked up (if she didn't get her way)she would start hyperventilating and I was instructed when she started like that to teach her how to relax hold her close and breathe with her. Honestly it worked great...and then she learned. She learned everytime she didn't get her way that she would just hyperventilate she would go from 0 to 60 in 1/2 a second. She did this because mommy would come over and spend special time and hold her close. She began seeing this as a reward for acting up and it got so bad. Now I know she was doing this for attention and my daughter needs to be the center of attention all the time. She is hysterical has a bigger than life personality and huge brown eyes and long lashed to boot she can make anyone laugh and she does. I love my kids more than anything but as a parents we learned not always will one thing work for all kids. I have 3 and each are different. The above worked for our oldest but it didnt work for our other daughter and honestly it made me feel like a bad parent. But we are learning as we go we have started making special time for all our kids alone as I know they need this. And we acknowledge when she acts up we ignore her and when she calms down we talk. But I totally agree each child is different. Teaching my daughter how to have self control and respect is very hard and a long process.

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  17. @CattledogMom - you are right that every situation is different for every child and every parent, based on the temperaments of each child, stress levels, and other factors. However, I don't think the approach to parenting this blog takes is one where children are 'manipulators'. Children do not know how to manipulate - they seek understanding, communication and connection with the people they love - just like we do as adults. When a child is upset (crying, tantrum, just want something) they have a need that is not being met. We can show empathy, which in turn will teach them how to empathize. Also, the only way a child 'learns' that crying gets a response like receiving something they want is only based on the 'reactive' behaviour of an adult. Instead, consider acknowledging your child's feelings at the moment, "I see your very upset about not getting another popsicle. I know you would like one, they taste very good. Mommy wants you to be healthy so I would love to prepare you a healthy snack if you are still hungry." They will quickly learn that talking about it and feeling 'heard' and 'understood' gives them a sense of being human and connected to someone. When an adult responds in a way that causes disconnectedness, or by just 'giving in', that is how children learn to be disconnected - but can easily be mistaken by adults as 'manipulative'. The only way crying "works" in a child's eye, is if the parent responds in that way. But if they respond how I describe here, the child learns they are loved, connected and secure in their family unit. I've written a similar post on my blog here: http://sarahblackwell.ca/2011/11/25/in-a-toy-store-near-you/

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  18. Cattledog Mom: If they're getting tons of positive attention, then they wont act out for attention. Also, on a slightly related note lying and manipulating are normal PRE-SCHOOLER developmental tools, any child younger is NOT manipulating you. And there are very gentle ways to work through those phases too.

    Also, self-comfort isn't something most adults can do either.... why expect something out of your child that you probably can't do yourself?

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    1. I love that you brought this up. Adults expect way too much from children that thdy themselves can't or refuse to do. I think we all need to re evaluate out own expectations before we expect our children to sit through something they don't enjoy without finding something to entertain themselves, yell at them to comply without becomming defensive when we ourselves would react in a similar way. And sooooo many other things. Children are learning from watching us maybe we need to set a better example

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  19. Cattledog Mom--I'm with you. Comforting for pain, whether emotional or physical, I get and believe worthy of comforting and patience. The almost-4-year-old who crumples to the floor because his Spiderman hat can't be found 5 minutes before you need to walk out the door to a doctor's appointment is not.
    PUT ON THE LIGHTNING MCQUEEN HAT AND WALK YOURSELF OUT TO THE TRUCK. NOW. I HAVE FIVE OTHER CHILDREN, TWO YOUNGER THAN YOU. Get over the pain of your loss while I drive.
    --MultiparaMom

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  20. All this is great and a good reminder because truthfully we all forget our manners. We are only human. That said, mama guilt is a killer and if we yell at our kid during a moment of stress or phase out to get ourselves together(which I am guilty of) we should forgive ourselves and move on. I appreciate parenting tips such as this but it also bugs me a little bit because it adds fuel to the enormous fire of mama guilt. Good enough parenting is good enough. Perfection is punishing.

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  21. You forgot a big one in the second list, what about LISTEN? Alot of the times my kids just need to be heard and then they feel better and are able to calm themselves down without me doing anything more than listening and encouraging them to tell me how their feeling

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  22. The people who run this site are parents, but I see nothing that qualifies them as parenting experts. They have degrees in communications. There advice may be sound...but then again it may not be.

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  23. Good advice , but I agree that every situation and child is different. I find a lot of these arenting blogs sound very utopian. We all lose it at times. We're human. Creating Mama-guilt is not appropriate, either, and I finished reading these tips and thought, "Man, I must be a horrible mom because I've done this or that," even though my kids are great, are polite, have good respectful behavior most of the time, and are perpetually complimented on their public demeanor, compassion and citizenry. Hmmm. Guess I'm doing an ok job, even though I'm human no Utopias here .... or anywhere I suspect.

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  24. I am geniunely looking for solutions to the crying problem. But what do I do when the 4 yr old is crying because the 2yr old bit him. The two yr old is crying because he is in trouble, the baby is crying because the other two carrying on have woken her and the 5 year old is crying because everyone else is and she wants the attention for herself or because she can no longer hear the TV or because she decided to hurt the 2yr old because he hurt her other brother??? There is NEVER just one child crying at a time in this house, which makes it physically impossible to apply the suggestions, and equally impossible to avoid the what not to do list. So what can I do???

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    1. Preventative solution: birth control.

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    2. You WATCH IT Anonymous! How completely rude and insensitive can you be?!

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    3. You WATCH IT Anon! How completely insensitive and rude can you be?! Why shame someone who is doing their best to raise children! And who is giving those children the immeasurable blessing of siblings!? I agree that whether you have two or four or more, it is very rare that there is just one child that needs your attention at one time. It is a battle...I remember learning in collage about the five to one rule. Five positives to every one negative. That is what helps me. When we have a negative, I try to make some positives for that child and show more love the rest of the day. We all want to give our children our best and we are all doing our best. These articles are good reminders and instead of making us feel guilty, can just be seen as good reminders to try a little harder tomorrow to do a little better.

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  25. I am a Kindergarten teacher and mother of two. My son is fifteen years old and my daughter is five years old. As the mother of one five year old and teacher of Twenty-three more, I am still no expert and never claim to be. I can say this however, first, it's not always easy to differentiate the child's emotions before you try anything. I don't like timeout, or all that mushy, gushy parenting. I do use an approach that creates a better situation before the real reaction. I call it "cool off". It's not walking away, but it does involve disconnecting for a bit for both you and the child. Don't try to talk it out right away. They are not listening. Do not put words in their mouth. Giving reasons and suggestions just gives them a multiple choice situation of words they may not even understand, and you may just seem condescending to the child. Instead, say this. "I think we need a minute to cool off. You tell me when you're ready." This lets them know that you are listening, and will listen, while giving you a minute to chill out. This way, you're helping them gain control of their own emotions and set their own pace. But not so much control over the adult that they figure out how to manipulate. They know that they have your attention, and now they have something to calm down for. You can breathe, they can breathe, "almost" leveling the field but not completely. You still have to be able to manage, not control the situation, without making a fool of yourself or belittling the child. In my classroom, we have a quiet spot. I ask my students, "Do you need some time in the cool of corner?" Now don't be fooled by the name. It has plush toys and a soft spot to sit. Comforting, but not so fun that they try to get there all the time. My last words are, "when you're ready, come back to join us and we'll talk." If they are too upset to grasp even that many words, just lead them there and the comfortable area wont make them feel punished for having emotions. This has saved me hours of teaching time as you can imagine. If I had to stop and implement some long, crazy, mushy explanation every time, I'd never get to teach.

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  26. To Cattledog mum
    Do you think you could reflect on ways you might be able to meet your child's needs so they they don't feel the need to resort to manipulation? If it is attention for example, is it possible for you or somebody else to give them the attention they are needing? Or, is it that they need to express frustration or anger or disappointment in a safe environment? Sometimes it may help your child just to acknowledge that they've been heard. They might want something that is unhealthy or totally inconvenient. You don't have to give it to them but you can let them know that it's ok to want these things and that you understand their pain/anger/disappointment/frustration. Help your child to feel heard and to find a solution.

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  27. Great advice and unfortunately, I am another of those who is guilty of all the items listed. Every day is a challenge with a child with autism, a diva princess, and a newborn. Thanks for making me want to try harder.

    On a side note, let me preface this by saying I am not one of those people who normally gets my undies in a bunch over spelling errors and such on the web - we ALL make them - nor am I trying to criticize but I couldn't help but notice the use of the word (or not a word rather) "devalorize." I read a few of your posts and you seem very intelligent so the use of a word I've never heard before and one that does not appear in the dictionary surprised me. Perhaps you meant to say "devalue" or "minimize" in place of it? Again, please understand that I am not trying to criticize. As someone who loves to write myself, I just hate to see the value of a writer's piece brought down a notch due to a small detail such as the one that stood out to me in this piece.

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  28. great post. the "remain present" is the thing i do with my 2 1/2 year old son. he does not like to be touched and screams more if i try to talk to him. so i just sit on the floor next to him until he is done. then afterword i validate what he was feeling (so he can identify his emotion) and usually he gives me a hug. i have also taught him that when he is angry it's good for him to stomp on the ground, that way he doesn't yell at me, cuz he is focused on the stomping. after he stomps for about 20 seconds he feels better and runs along to play. there are days where he is a little harder to handle than others, so on those days i get very focused and write down all the positive traits of my son: calm, loving, happy, healthy, active, a joy to be around, etc. this changes my energy and in turn changes his. it works very quickly too. i'll have a day where he is crying and screaming about everything, then i'll spend 2-3 minutes focusing on his positive traits that i enjoy (i don't say them to him i just focus on them in my head) and it's like magic. he stops screaming and we have a cooperative relationship again.

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  29. @Autismomma, thanks for pointing that out. I am not a native English speaker, it is only my third language, and my spell corrector does slip up sometimes!

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  30. Thank you KimraDiggs! Great advice. I have noticed that if I get too hung up on my 2,5 yr old son not being/behaving the way I want him to, his behavior gets worse. And worse. When I am able to calm myself down and concentrate on the love I feel for him, he seems to mellow out.

    Usually I'm very easy-going and would never yell, punish etc. I've always thought it is best for me to just "ride the tantrum strom". Whining hasn't irritated me much yet either. But, things are changing... I'm pregnant with twins, due in six weeks and I guess I, too, like every other parent of multiples will be sleep deprived for a long time. I know how prickly I can be when I haven't had enough rest. So I can totally symphatize with everyone who commented here about having yelled often or walking away/disconnecting from the child. I'm expecting next year to be a bit more of a rocky ride with my son.

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  31. Thanks for the great reminder about gentle and respectful parenting. I was hoping to get your perspective on the way things are at my house.

    My 7 year old son was diagnosed with asthma at age 3. It is fairly well controlled and we've seen a lot of improvement in the last 12 months. His triggers are viral load and strong emotions. He can go from calm and happy to hysterical in not time.

    In the moment I want to be giving him time and helping him to work through his feelings in his own way and time, but I need to be making sure that he controls his breathing so that we don't need his emergency inhaler or end up in the ER. I also want to be dealing with the cause of the strong emotions whether it is trouble with homework or a sibling who threw a truck at him (like what happened last night), but I have to deal with the breathing and I lose that parenting opportunity. I am concerned about his long term emotional wellness, but in the moment I am more concerned by his gasping for air and his lips turning blue. It almost seems like this is his habit or way of expressing himself, it's all or nothing, no half measures.

    I desperately want him to know that he is entitled to his emotions, that they are respected, that boys HAVE a full range of emotions, but the reality is that he needs the skills to stay calm and control his breathing.

    What do you suggest? Any ideas? We do talk about things after he has calmed down, but it is only recently that he has matured to the point that his attention span is long enough to talk about the problem that happened 15 minutes ago.

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  32. While I don't agree with the article, it was worth it to read MommyMrs.Lopez's comment. The 'cool-off' corner is a great idea! I will definitely set one up in my house.

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  33. Well put @CattledogMom I totally agree! This post does give great tips that can be used at certain times in certain situations. I’m not claiming to be a perfect parent but I know I’m not going to feel bad because sometimes I don’t do what’s listed. He’s great in public and with other people, they rave at how well-mannered he is so heck, my husband and I must be doing something right. What I want to tell other parents instead of giving them so many rules is IT’S OKAY, its okay not to do everything listed in every book or blog. IT’S OKAY that sometimes you don’t get down to their level. IT’S OKAY that you sometimes lose your temper and yell. IT’S OKAY, just do the best you can and call it a day. Your kids will understand when they get older and they have kids:) As long as you’re not verbally or physically abusing or neglecting your child and your putting in a 100% effort in being the best parent YOU can be that’s all that matters at the end of the day. @Crunchy Mommy:I am the mother of a 4 year old and I have to say I disagree toddlers CAN be manipulative, very much so. They are smart and pretty darn crafty. If they notice that they can throw a fit to get something then there going to do it. We’ve seen it in public, we’ve seen it in our children, and we all know this isn’t some unheard phenomenon. Of course they would, why wouldn’t they, it’s called testing the limits which is very normal. That’s why we as parents need to find ways to positively stop that and sometimes walking away or having them calm down or what I like to call “get it together time” before we continue on with the situation is best. As for self-comfort, your right some adults can’t do that and you know what it’s SAD. Sometimes, not all but sometimes, we need to learn to self-soothe, everybody can’t fix every situation for you or make you feel better. So yes sometimes I will tell my son to go to his room and calm down because throwing a fit because you can’t find your ironman toy and its right in front of your face, I’m going to be honest here, I’m not really going to deal with that!

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  34. I entirely agree with the article. When I parent with those "don'ts", the situation just escalates. When I parent with the "dos", we all stay a bit calmer. I'm very surprised at the amount of defensiveness among the comments. We all get it wrong, but isn't it great to be reminded of our goals?

    Maybe our goals differ. My goals are that my child would feel loved first, respected second, obedient to me third (or maybe even farther down the list). Research tells us that they are learning most by our example and least by our commands.

    I don't want my child to mimic me, walk away from me, yell at me or ignore me, so why would I want to do that to my child?

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  35. One more thought: the article never says "Give in to what the child wants." It only gives ways to handle the emotional response of you standing your ground on the issue.

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  36. Hi Tina,
    Obviously, your son's immediate health is the most important factor. However, you do say that his attacks are triggered by his strong emotions, so it is important for him to get a 'tool box' so to speak to deal with these emotions.
    SOmething like a box of soothing things he can easily access to calm him down, a cosy comforting corner... This will enable him too to deal with himself and the breathing - eventually.
    When you are there, gently remove him from the situation, say that you are doing so so he can find his center again, this way he will learn to remove himself.

    Breathing is actually a good tactic to handle strong emotions, so I don't think you are denying him his emotions.

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  37. Every child is different, every situation is different ... so, for example, these guidelines partially conflict with some actual research (http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/12/05/143062378/whats-behind-a-temper-tantrum-scientists-deconstruct-the-screams), at least in terms of what's going on inside a toddler during a temper tantrum. In any case, I do like the tone of this article to not belittle or minimize the child's emotional state, that's a message I think doesn't get out enough.

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  38. @Mandy don't think of the comments as defensive, everyone just sees things in different lights. Also, I believe that you are getting the wrong impression. Don't think that just because some people don't agree that there goals differ from yours. Everyone parents diffently and you can take many routes and get to the same location. I feel that all of the commenters and including the person who wrote the blog have something in common, they want there children to be happy, healthy and feel loved. I actually commented (Anonymous @6:48) I want my son to be emotionally and physicall healthy, happy, to always feel loved and to know I will always be present in his life even if I walk away, lose my temper, or send him to a timeout, I just won't put up with nonsense. If you think back to how most parents, parented back in the day they did none of what is listed. I know my mother did'nt, it was her way or the highway but at the end of the day I always knew she loved me and would be there for me no matter what. I have tweaked her parenting style to suite me so I may not everything she did but the solid base is there. It's amazing to hear people say you should do it this way or that way, no you should do it YOUR way. The key is no matter how you choose to discipline always show your children you love them, lots of hugs and lots of kisses and don't stay mad. My daughter recently passed away and what that told me is life is short, live it and do the best that you can. No one should feel guilty, no matter what there parenting style as long as your giving 110%!

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  39. I agree with pp that these points are a little idealistic to be of use when a parent needs them the most (I.e. in moment of complete meltdown). Here's the thing: while I always want my daughter to understand that I value her emotions and want to validate them, I think that it's extremely important for reasons of socialization that she learns to identify situations where certain emotions might be inappropriately expressed. In a perfect world, this would not be an issue, but I think that, as an adult who successfully makes the distinction between (in)appropriate expressions of emotion, my daughter will forgive me for the moments when I didn't indulge her.

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  40. Totally incompetent writing ignoring some of the basics of how and why children behave. Some kids need leadership and strong examples. Not weak "my child is an angel" tips. The headlines are phrased to support the blogs view and not provide a balance. 'Punish' sounds bad, but the right word should be 'discipline' as unattractive as it sounds. And we all know kids who need more well applied discipline. Harden up a bit bloggers and parents - child raising is not all sugar and honey and tough decisions need to be made sometimes. And that involves regarding your child as a naughty little person when appropriate and treat them accordingly with well defined boundries...despite shattering your view that my baby is an angel and all their bad behavior is the parents fault and strength is harmful.

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  41. Saw this recommended on a friend's FB post, and was irritated. Then, read the comments, and got even more angry. Why do mothers feel it their duty to tell other mothers how to raise their kids? As a former nanny, I had no problem dealing with my charges and their emotions. Then, I became a mother. Everything my son feels, I feel too, and act in ways I never would have imagined. Do I yell? yes. Did I ever yell at the kids I nannied for? never. Does this make me a bad mom? No. But it definitely makes me feel guilty, and I don't need this article or any more strangers adding to that list. Every parent is different, every child is different. They have to find their own rhythm, their own way to sync, rather than change their personalities. Becoming a mother robbed me of any self confidence I ever had, and I know I am not the only one who feels that way. It is the best thing that ever happened to me, but I have had to take a lot of time to rebuild. I am the best mother for my son, and only I know how to handle him. Every day, every decision I make is in his best interests. We have a strong bond, another reason why I am writing this to defend that sacred space I feel that this article has invaded. I don't deserve, nor find it respectful to be judged unfairly by the way I handle my son's emotions. I love him, but I also have to take care of myself and my family as well, and depending on the issue, his needs might not come first and THAT IS OK. The lady above who ripped into another mother for giving her kid a popsicle deserves a right good spanking. Which, I notice, is one thing you left off of your list. Who are you to judge? Do you know how deflated your comment must have made her feel? Shame on you! I would like to say to all mothers out there, that this is the hardest job in the world, but that we don't have to take everything on our shoulders. Fellow mothers should support fellow mothers emotionally, by just telling then that it will be ok, instead of tearing them down. then maybe we can be the utopian type of mother this article was obviously meant for. Whenever I see a mom in a difficult spot, I try to commiserate, by telling her to breathe and everything will be ok. Because it will. Deep down we know that, but it would be nice to hear it from time to time.

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  42. I agree with cattledogmama and some of the others. Some of the suggestions may work, but more than likely for those of smaller families. When you have 7 children you can't sit there catering to everyone all the time. And yes children do manipulate when they think it will get them their own way. They might not be doing it and thinking, "oh I am going to manipulate mom", but they are thinking "what can I do to get what I want" That is normal for any kid. If they are just throwing a temper tantrum they go to their room until they are done. My 4yr old will sit there and cry at the table b/c she doesn't like the dinner that is made. Sorry I am not going to reason with her over this, she needs to stop crying or be excused. I am not a restaurant, you eat what you get or you go hungry. I am also not going to make everyone other member of the family listen to her fit. If the older kids can't seem to get along they get consequenses and have to learn to get along. We are preparing them for adulthood. Their college teacher isn't going to sit and listen to why an assignement isn't fair and their bosses aren't going to do it either. Hurt, tired, hungry, ect need consoling. Fits don't. Now the very little ones babies and young toddlers are different, they are still figuring things out. We don't allow back talk or disrespect to adults or each other. Yes there is corner time and consequences to all actions...good ones and not good ones. I love Dr. Ray Gaurendi and his parenting advice, he has 10 children as well so he gets the big family thing.

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  43. This type of parenting is exactly what is wrong with our children. Let's not forget they are the child and you are the adult. Let's not disillusion our children into thinking it is OK to act or react any way they please. My children know that I am their authority and will NEVER reason with them. ( No more than the law will when they become adults.) As adults if we act out in an unacceptable manner, there are consequences. It would help if we would raise our children in this same fashion!!

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  44. @Anonymous comment 43. Your children are children. When they are adults, the law might not reason with them, but there's a whole series of actions that happen in the brain between seeing the opportunity to break the law, and actually breaking it. Being authoritarian as a parent doesn't teach them to reach their own conclusions of right and wrong and it doesn't prepare them mentally or emotionally for life ahead of them - it just teaches them to follow what the authority figure in their life tells them to do.

    What happens when they're 17 and the most influential person in their life happens to be the 18 year old 'leader of the pack' who tells them to break the law?

    Reasoning with them allows them to understand action and consequence, gives value to their opinions and allows them to grow mentally, which means they'll hopefully never get to the point of breaking the law.

    Nothing in peaceful parenting says that there shouldn't be consequences - it's just about what we teach them when we're not using words.

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  45. though i dont think any of this actually could help a great deal, its very sweet advice i think we can all use. esp those of us that have turned into grumps :)
    if for no other reason than o make life happier

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  46. I always start with hugging and empathizing, but sometimes it just makes my daughter get more upset. She'll be crying about something and I go to comfort her and she screams and hits at me, but if I leave her alone (not locked in) she finishes crying in her own time and comes to me when she's ready for a hug.

    And I'm exactly the same way. Sometimes I'm sad and I want a hug and sometimes I want you to leave me alone thank you very much.

    If I'm in that mood and you try humming at me, I will want to hurt you. Since I'm an adult and not 3, I won't actually try to rip your face off, but supressing that impulse isn't helping my bad mood any.

    Finally, there are times when you just have to suck it up right now, get on with things, and cry when you've got time. What's the gentle way to teach kids how to do that?

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    1. This has been more like my experience. I take issue with any article that wants to try and assess blame when a particular methodology doesn't work. Your kid is having a meltdown, well, that's your fault because you didn't do A, B, and C correctly. But what if I did and they just didn't work. My answer mirrors many of those who already replied, including yours, Liz, that kids are different and at different times, different things work to soothe. Sometimes a hug and discussion fit the bill, at other times my son just needs a little space to process things for himself. We're all just doing our best. Sometimes we will make mistakes. As long as we love our children, they're going to be just fine. Reading tips like those mentioned above just gives me more parenting choices, but they aren't the only parenting tools I have and they won't always be the ones I use.

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  47. I love what "MommyMrs.Lopez" does in her classroom. That is a great idea, in my opinion.

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  48. @Liz: I think that all people learn in due time that there are moments where we can't openly share our feelings, that's just natural socialization, sadly... and even if they didn't, would that be such an issue? Maybe the world would be somewhat of a better place if we were allowed to have feelings in public, even the ones who are perceived as negative.

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  49. I will use these same tips meant for children for my elderly mother who is very demanding at times. She gets upset and you can not reason with her. I needed this help.

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  50. I needed these reminders today. Thank you! I often find myself walking away and switching off from the excess feelings, maybe because they weren't valued when I was having them as a kid, and I want to find better ways to deal with them.

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  51. These are nice, gentle reminders. I am not perfect, nor should I expect myself to be perfect.

    That said, I have to join the commenters who voiced that these are harder to implement with large families. When you have one or two children, go for it. I'm still waiting for someone in the gentle discipline/peaceful parenting arena to come out with something of use for those of us who like the principles but who are managing a larger family as well. Maybe I'll have to write about it myself...

    As for the Mommy Guilt...yes. These types of posts bring it but I'm not sure that's the poster's fault. The faults we see in others are reflections of faults we see in ourselves. Since I've been a mom, I've realized that each family has it's own unique dynamic and the experts are those within the family itself. Sometimes a nudge from outside is useful but, ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We are all trying to do our best and we are the experts on our own kids.

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  52. I loved this article and thought it was full of positive suggestions. It's kind of strange to me that so many people would be so angry after reading it. I don't see any indication that the author would judge you for reacting one way or another. It actually seems like the suggestion is to keep a level head and show your kid that you value their emotions and needs.

    Thank you for the lovely suggestions and for the reminders that kids have authentic feelings, too. These are the exact kind of tips I got in a parenting seminar this week and it did wonders for my perspective on "unwanted behavior" and gave me renewed patience with my 20 month old.

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  53. My brother and his wife are peacefully parenting their older son into being a defiant, manipulative, rude, disrespectful, unfriendly, unpleasant, whiny little boy who is so domineering he captures and holds hostage a room full of people with his epic tantrums.

    Peaceful parenting has about as much chance of succeeding with that kid as a handyman trying to nail jello to the wall.

    If a child needs the touchy-feely soft approach to stop a tantrum, certainly attempt the ideas listed here. Good luck.

    My experience with tantrums involves removing a child from the situation to a different physical location. Practice breathing if you are able to capture the child's attention enough to do this. Most of the time, though, the extreme loss of control simply needs to run its course in a quiet place. Once self control has been regained, then hugs and talking through it can occur. Again, though, that is my experience.

    Hopefully readers here will take the items they find valuable and leave the rest without making anyone else feel bad. That's the point, after all.

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  54. I loved the article, but the biggest challenge is changing myself and the way i react. I the past i had not found the perfect reaction mainly because, I haven't been raised gently and don't have a good model around.
    My daughter is very much active and has occasional tantrums. But my husband and I do try to enforce the rules . We get down to her lever ask her what's wrong, ect... but usually she doesn't calm down. So walking away makes it worse, hugging is fatal because she will hit you, the only thing we managed to do is give her 3 counts to calm down before she gets a cold shower. I feel like a total failure when we resort to the shower but i rationalise it is by it still being better than the hard way or giving her a slap. Downside is the fear of a shower but on the other side she often will stop on the count of two and rarely gets the shower anymore.
    I often find my patience at his limits and now that we have our son it is a even bigger challenge then before. In my entourage I often get remarks on how my daughter character, some say she reflects our context others say that just the way she is weird but i think it is also the way we react that influence her. I printed the list so i can read whenever.

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  55. wow.. thanks so much for the reminder! When you have a 2 year old & year old boys, you'll tend to forget this!

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  56. Thanks a lot. Our anger kill our thinking about our child and we act as wild. Really it makes me guilty at this point. I don't know so many times it happens to me, but I realise after when my son understand listens to me. Later I feel tooooooooo bad about my behaviour towards him. We adults forget we are parents because we love our children more and we never like to see our children is doing wrong and without using sense doing the work. But finally I realise I did the same mistake like a child, without using my sense I punished my child itself. sorry to say...... But this is what you posted it helps all parents who always think in our place not in the place of a child.
    thanks once again. Its worth full. I read this daily and try to correct my mistakes.

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  57. I don't like how you say, "you wouldn't do that to your best friend"... No, I wouldn't, but you shouldn't parent as a best friend; and, my best friend wouldn't cry simply because I asked her to clean up her toys. I agree that you should try to comfort, but sometimes the situation calls for teaching them that they can't behave in any way they want. Walking away is better then teaching them it's okay to scream and cry when they don't get their way.

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  58. My kids are entertained and creative with their quickies!! At first they annoyed me when the grandparents gave them to my kids for Christmas, but once I found a big baggie to contain them and my kids actually played nicely with them I decided they weren't so bad after all. I have to admit I still haven't figured out why they all have this plastic ball to go in--just the quickies themselves will do, they don't need a plastic ball to live in. MyKidsGuide

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  59. Oh my, it appears I've stumbled on the epicenter of our child worship society. This kind of parenting gives into the manipulative nature of children, and only reinforces the notion that you can get your way in life by manipulating other people, and that you should indeed get your way all of the time. Has it ever crossed your minds that all this does is set your child up for a lifetime of disappointments and zero coping skills when life is difficult and does not go your way? Thanks also to parents for unleashing two generations of entitled attitude and spoiled brats on the rest of us who are now dealing with your adult kids who need to be spoon fed every damn thing as adults and are incapable of independent responsible and unselfish behavior.

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  60. I'm not sure why, but when I try to share this on Facebook, one of the rude and negative comments someone has left on the post shows up as the "preview" of the article. Bummer!

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    1. I have noticed this too... It's a recent FB development I think, to show the comments rather than the text. What you could do is hare it via pinterest?

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  61. What an interesting string of comments. The article was interesting--yes, utopian but a good reminder of how not to run rough-shod over a child who is upset. I am similarly not sure why people are so upset about the article or comments. I am not a perfect parent (which is why I, like the rest of you, are reading advice on this site). But that is okay. In my case, our 3 year-old used to be really shy but now has a very strong and outgoing personality. I think it is awesome (I was painfully shy when I was little and don't want that for my kids), but it is also challenging. I am adjusting to the idea that I need to parent her in a different way given that she is strong-willed. There is definitely no one-size-fits all approach, but I do like the blogger's idea of validating your child's feelings and treating him/ her like a worthwhile person.

    As an aside, I am a pediatrician and wanted to point out that if a child's asthma is severe enough that an ER visit can be triggered by a tantrum, the child should see his/ her doctor and see if a controller medicine is needed. That severity of symptoms suggests that the asthma is not under good control & requires more intervention. A parent should not need to adjust her discipline strategy due to fear of an asthma attack.

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  62. Wow, after reading this I feel like the worst parent ever.... I have the utmost respect for anyone that can do this day in and day out. Whoever can do this day in and day out with little ones "Go you!!"

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    1. Hi MoniMoton
      This was certainly not intended as a way to make parents feel bad about themselves. Just as an investigation of the common things we do to kids and what effects they have. It's an opportunity to grow as a parent, not to feel guilty :)

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  63. Ok, so I have been reading articles like this all day to try and find help for my child's problems. They aren't HUGE, by any means, but the issues are still hindering her learning and social development. I've poured through these comments and hoped for expanded suggestions, and all I can say is wow.

    Now, I'm what most people consider a young mom. I'm 26, I have two children, the oldest is 4 and a half. She's a really awesome kid, love her to pieces, but she has emotional mood swings that even leave me wondering just what the hell happened to make her so sad?

    I've tried the gambit, from some of the no-no's on this list, all the way to the level and calm and quiet and holding and none of this works. Really. I mean I REALLY REALLY tried. When your child sits for hours in the time-out chair even after you've told her time-out is over (I mean she will sit there after the five minute time-out and just sob) and cry. She cries over the sticker she didn't get as a reward at school halfway through the day and cry about it all the way until she gets off the bus. It's crazy, really borderline obsessive about the tiniest things. At what point do I stop trying to comfort her? I have the house to clean, laundry to do, not to mention her 9 month old sister to take care of.

    Yes, we have our own special time to hang out, just her and I for a couple hours a day. We take walks and talk about whatever it is she wants to tell me. I let her help me do things that she wants to, like helping me fold laundry, and helping give her sister a bath or a bottle, washing dishes even! She wants to do these things, mind y'all.

    I've considered taking her to a child psychologist, I feel awful about that, but I don't know what else to do. It's more than just the crying, it's the not listening to her teacher in school, not playing by rules, playing too rough with her friends and then not stopping after they tell her to. We've tried talking, discipline, and all that's really left is a big fat question mark over my- and her teachers- head.

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  64. I've been searching through articles and forums like this all day in hopes for a helpful answer. So far though, none of them have said anything different than what I've already tried. What's more, is there are so many strongly opinionated parents that have this clear cut line of whats ok and what isn't and they seem extremely hostile towards those of us that don't think a bit of silent treatment is going to kill our kid. I've had it done to me as a child, it's part of why I can see when I'm being irrational.

    My child is awesome. She's four and a half, high spirited, high energy, tons of creative fun. She has a few problems though that NO ONE knows how to deal with. I've run the gambit of cuddling and talking, time outs, taking away toys or tv time, and I am at wits end. Whats the problem? She doesn't listen. Not your usual not listening, but the "If I'm not looking at you I can't hear you" almost constant not listening. She plays too rough with her friends, and doesn't listen when they say stop. In school (head-start) she doesn't listen to the teacher and even goes as far as to say "I don't have to, I don't want to listen to you" She's a bit better about listening to me, but if I tell her one specific thing and then ask her "Now what did I say?" as soon as I've finished, she can't even repeat what I said, even if what I said was "It's not nice to hit". Furthermore, she cries. It's not a tantrum, it's just absolute tears and sobbing over something like "The teacher didn't give me a sticker" and it persists. All. Damn. Day. She'll come off the bus crying about a sticker from two hours ago. I tried distraction, talking, hugging, sitting her on the landing here in the livingroom to let her calm down...NOTHING WORKS. So what do I do? Do I neglect the baby to try and manage this behavior? Or do I simply not give it attention? How much time is too much to devote to something like that? The listening issue takes persistence I know, but the crying...I don't know what to do. I've tried everything, so as a last ditch effort, I'm posting to an article I only half heartedly agree with. Any suggestions? Child psychologist is an option at this point, but drugs are not.

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    1. Hello Amy,

      I can just feel your sheer frustration from the words you wrote here, and believe me if I say I understand! Your daughter sound sA LOT like my daughter, though she is now slightly older.

      Like my daughter, your child is probably highly sensitive, thus the crying about seemingly silly things, the shutting off, because that's what she's doing when she's not listening.

      There is no gold advice here, just little things, and knowing that someone else knows how hard it is and that you're not alone.

      What I can tell you:
      - these kids are easily spooked and tough love tactics REALLY don't work, generally, they'll only generate the opposite of what you desire. SO time outs, threats, bribes... no go with these kids. Same as the sticker rewards the teacher was probably using.

      The defiance against the teacher most likely stems from a lack of connection, which is hard to fiw on your end. My daughter is not schooled and I'm pretty sure she wouldn't fare well in a school environment. Is there any way you could help your child attach to the teacher? Maybe organise a fun out of school outing with the teacher if (s)he is up for it?

      The crying can be very annoying, but try to see that for her, these are real hurt, how ridiculous they may look to us. If you acknowledge her hurt, instead of brushing it off, she'll probably get over them much quicker. Instead of pushing her away when she's crying about futilities, tell her you understand, give her a hug, establish connection. These are kids that do really well with physical and emotional connection.

      Furthermore, I can recommend two books: Hold on To Your Kids by Gabor Maté and Gordon Neufeld and Raising Your Spirited Child.

      If you would like, I also do mentoring, just send me an email if you'd like to discuss this further

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