Recently I’ve been feeling defeated with parenting one of my daughters. This daughter experiences intense feelings which often spill over into our family and can overwhelm me.
Because of the age of my kids (10 and 13) and sensitivity to their feelings, I’m not going to share too many personal stories but I do want to share what’s helped ME shift my parenting first of all, as well as what’s helped HER grow and bloom. Two things: Bloom: 50 Things to Say, Think and Do, with Anxious, Angry and Over-the-Top Kids by Dr. Lynne Kenney and Wendy Young and weekly coaching calls with Cynthia Bjork.
Bloom: 50 Things to Say, Think and Do, with Anxious, Angry and Over-the-Top Kids by Dr. Lynne Kenney and Wendy Young
Dr. Lynne Kenney, co-author of Bloom, helped me to shift my mindset, and to find compassion for my daughter instead of irritation and anger. Her wisdom helped me shift my thoughts from “her misbehavior is annoying and rude” to “this isn’t misbehavior, but a skill deficit, a cry for help.“
Bloom’s chapters are organized around specific behavior scenarios. Each chapter ends with the VERY helpful prompts for what we can say, think, and do — and these mantras are also on pages which you can cut out or print out with a QR code!! (See example below.) Let me share a few more examples from chapter five, the “Daunting Disrespect” chapter.
What We Can SAY
Do you need help figuring out how to say it differently?
When you talk like that, it tells me you’re not very happy inside.
I can hear that you want something but your tone is in the way of my understanding exactly what it is.
What We Can THINK
Remember: “You can be right or you can be in a relationship.” Being in a relationship means that you don’t need to assert power and control.
Calm = effective. It’s useful to ask yourself, “Is my goal to control my child or to teach her how to control herself.”
My child is crying out for help.
What We Can DO
If your child continues sassing, stay neutral. Simply say, “I’ll be able to hear what you need when you’re speaking in a calm, respectful voice, like I am.”
Lower your voice, whisper or move more slowly. This tells the defensive brain (the limbic system), I am not in flight mode, so you have the space to calm down and be heard. The calmer you are, the more effective you will be.”
Sometimes under the sass is a child who needs to cry. When you redirect the sass, you may get a lot of tears, just be there to listen.
The authors remind us that change is not overnight — that we must continue to provide intentional and ongoing support for our children to help them align with our family values. Just like a bamboo tree that requires water but doesn’t start growing for five years, growth can suddenly happen. We must be patient.
I’m still not sure I’ll ever understand how it feels to be in my daughter’s body that because of sensory processing disorder feels like her skin is on inside out, sounds are too loud, lights are too bright. But I can understand that her behavior is a reaction of what is happening internally, particularly in her brain — not an evil plot to annoy me.
I can understand that I can help her find new thoughts, new actions.
And this book helps. A lot.
My daughter needs me to be the bigger brain right now. She needs me to keep this new mindset.
I want to be intentional and proactive — not triggered by my daughter’s behaviors.
Thankfully I have Bloom to remind me how to be your best parenting self — and that both my daughter and I are growing and blooming.
*Clinics, community organizations and schools purchase cases of books for 40% off from unhookedbooks.com to sell as fundraisers or give to teachers and child care providers.
Weekly Phone Coaching with Cynthia Bjork
I first met Cynthia Bjork 20 years ago when we taught across the hall from each other then watched her soar as a teacher coach and a therapist. I think she’s amazingly gifted as a teacher, coach, and intuitive. Otherwise, why would I have my daughter work with her? Or recommend her to you all?
Cynthia’s strength is her depth of experience. She doesn’t use a formula but intuitively knows what tools to use and where to start supporting both adults and children. She gives guidance and asks questions and it’s amazing how she’s helped my daughter make her own ah-has. Let me give you an example I know when my daughter was really annoyed with a friend’s behavior. In the coaching time, my daughter realized that she herself has behaved in a similar way before. This helped her have empathy instead of anger.
Some of the coaching tools Cynthia uses (she has a lot!) that I really like are The Work (Byron Katie) and the waterfall of feelings. The waterfall of feelings, as I understand it, is to help move through feelings using short feeling prompts. I’ve done it myself and it’s SO helpful! You can skip any of the feelings if they’re not right for the situation.
Anyway, they have weekly coaching calls and I see lovely little sprouts growing. And now I’m thinking big picture — bamboo. So even if I don’t see green sprouts every week, I trust and believe.
Can you relate?
*also read my review of Kim John Payne’s book, The Soul of Discipline: The Simplicity Parenting Approach to Warm, Firm, and Calm Guidance — From Toddlers to Teens. It’s also a life-changing parenting book!