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The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways

The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving of ways.I snapped a picture of this quote on the wall at the Magellan International School the other day, and posted it on Facebook.  A week or so later, it had been shared by 68 people, and viewed by nearly 7000.  Obviously, this quote resonates for many of us.

One of the first things I tell most parents that I work with is that behavior is a communication, and that understanding the message in a child’s behavior is incredibly helpful for changing those behaviors.  To put it another way, something is behind or underneath unwanted behavior; triggering or motivating or strengthening it.  Those hidden drivers are usually unmet needs of some variety.  When parents can identify what those unmet needs are, they typically find that those underlying needs are needs they want to support.  In other words: the behaviors are unwanted, but the needs driving those behaviors are understandable!

Children who are acting in unloving ways are likely to themselves be feeling unloved, unwanted, not valuable, incapable, powerless, or hurt. (*) The response those children need isn’t greater control, or bigger punishments, they need understanding, compassion, and support for their growth.   LOVE.

How should a parent respond to these ‘unloving’ behaviors?  That’s a more complicated topic than this blog post can tackle, but here’s a little basic information.  A sustainable and effective response will include: staying calm and compassionate ourselves, not taking obnoxious (or even mean) behaviors personally, plenty of self-care for the parent/caregiver, working to understand the drivers of unwanted behaviors, identifying patterns and triggers, modifying the environment to prevent problem situations and support positive ones, and using circle-back conversations to provide information/support for learning, growing, and healing.

Can you spot the need for love in a child’s unloving behaviors today?  Stay tuned for next month’s article, which will share more details about how to do this.  (Or contact me!)

(*) And, it’s worth mentioning, physical states are deeply influential: hunger, thirst, tiredness, and overstimulation can all stimulate crummy behavior.

(**)  I googled for the origin of this quote.  I didn’t really find anything definitive, but one source said that it was the words of a teacher quoted by Russell Barkley (ADHD expert.)  Anyway, kudos to that teacher, whoever she may be.  :^)

More about the plane crash

Austin-American Statesman writer Tara Trower adds to the conversation about talking with your children about Austin’s plane crash.  Read her blog post here. 

Talking with children about Austin’s plane crash tragedy

First & foremost, the best advice I can give you not only applies to this conversation, but many, many other difficult ones:

The most important thing for a parent to do in any difficult conversation is simply to BE & STAY open to communication.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you need to give your child a particular piece of information, or say a particular phrase.  Parenting is never accomplished in one moment.  Parenting is all about repeated experiences/events/conversations.  Remember–it’s all about the RELATIONSHIP, and you want to have the kind of relationship where your children know that they can come to you to talk about difficult, awkward, or emotional topics.  So: make this a “talkable moment,” be honest, calm, serious, supportive, loving, and listenlistenlisten. 

That said, I know I’d want some concrete advice, too, so here goes:

Recommendations differ for different ages.  The youngest children may not need any information–if they haven’t been exposed and you’re sure they won’t be, you may very well be able to avoid the topic of this event altogether.  (read footnote #1)

Children typically do better when they hear difficult/emotional information from a trusted source first, so consider bringing the topic up yourself with an older child. They are likely to overhear something somewhere anyway.  It’s important that they be able to get accurate, age-appropriate information from you to help them balance–or correct–what they’ve already heard. 

Your child may not have a strong emotional reaction to the news–it is an abstract concept to many of them.  Instead, they may be curious or confused.  This is normal.   

An older child/teenager may be able to understand the bigger picture and may indeed have an emotional reaction.  Remember that there is a wide range of “normal” emotional responses, including anger, fear, sadness, confusion, and more. 

Younger children sometimes ‘test out’ emotions, by reacting to this sort of information with stronger feeling than you might expect.  This is typically a normal and healthy way for children to learn about emotion.  Use your intuition with regard to whether it’s an ‘experimental’ emotional response or a sign that your child is having (too) hard of a time coping with this or other hidden problems.

It’s absolutely fine to share YOUR feelings with your child, as long as you are doing so (relatively) calmly, with role-modeling or teaching in mind.  In other words, try to talk about your feelings, not demonstrate them. 

Do you have to drive by the building?  If your young child asks you what happened, you can say

“A plane crashed into that building today.” 

With older, or more inquisitive children, you might add in more details, either intially, or as part of the conversation, including phrases like:

  • A man flew a plane into that building. 
  • He did it on purpose.  
  • A man who worked there died, as did the pilot.  Other people were injured.
  • That building has many government workers in it, and the pilot blamed the government for his problems. 
  • It’s normal to feel angry, even very angry sometimes, but it’s not normal to act out feelings like that.  He has hurt many, many people with his choices.

Tune in to what is ‘behind’ your child’s questions.  What sounds like a request for more information may actually be your child’s indirect request for reassurance.  They may need to hear that: they are safe; such acts are actually rare, that planes/buildings/Austin are all safe places for them, and that you will keep them safe. 

Be prepared for questions to come up again later, even much later, and at odd times.  As children develop, so to does their ability to understand the world.  They may “re-process” this information in 6 or 12 or 24+ months, and need to talk about it with you again.  Just be patient and loving and remember to focus on open communication. (footnote #2)

FYI, some of the signs of a child who is having serious problems adjusting can include: persistent somatic complaints, problems sleeping or eating, inability or disinterest in normal/previously enjoyable activites, depression/sadness most of the day more days than not, talk or hints of suicide or worthlessness.  If you see these signs, please consult with a professional right away.



#1.  But.  Please don’t avoid talking about death in general, okay? It’s much easier for children to grasp the concept when they get to learn it abstractly, not while also processing a serious personal loss.

#2.  Also, hold your precious babies close tonight.  I’m doing that, and also sending a little loving light in the direction of the children and grandchildren of (all) the victims and the pilot’s 12 year old daughter, too.

Free stuff for Austin Moms

Maybe this happens every year, or perhaps it’s particular to this year’s economy, but I keep hearing about cool free things for moms this week.  I’m posting the short list I have now, and will update it this week as I hear about new stuff.  (because who doesn’t love free!)  I do not have an affiliation with any of these organizations/businesses, but I am friends with the owners of a number of the Mama-owned businesses.  :^)

(okay, I’m affiliated with this one:  Me.  Leave a comment on this entry to be entered to win one of 2 $10 off coupons to be used on any workshop in the next 6 months.)  Tell a joke, wish joy to a mother, or just say hi!

Renee Trudeau’s book “The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal” is available for a free download this weekend here.  Renee is the founder of Career Strategists, and I know & like Renee from her work as the leader of a local group for self-employed moms.  This book is popular & came highly recommended to me.  (I’m going to download it, too.)

Free yoga for kids and moms at Soma Vida.  Sonya Davis, one of the founders of this mama-friendly coworking & more space, is a highly regarded local business coach.  I’ve been to the center, and it is very peaceful and beautiful.  More info here.

Free Food:
Mamas eat free at Carino’s.

Mamas eat free at Mama Fu’s.  I can’t find a link for this one, I got it via email.  But the details say you have to spend $15, and it’s good for May 4-10.

Free initial consultation with Libra Fitness, with the purchase of one of packages 1-4.  Libra Fitness is owned by the wonderful Chris Heidel, a good friend and mama.)  More info here.  (FYI, the prices on her website will be $30 cheaper with this discount.) Chris has a great quote for moms (for Mother’s Day and everyday!)  She says:  “There is nothing better a mother can do for her family that to do something to take care of herself.”

Chance to win a free 8.5 x 11 signed print from artist Curlin Sullivan.  Curlin is a local mama and artist who makes the cutest cards, vases, and more.  She’s giving away a signed print called “Happy Mother’s Day 2009”.  You’ve GOT to go look at the print (on her blog,) it’s very very cute.  Leave a comment to be entered to win.
Free download of the book “Backyard Pearls: Cultivating Wisdom and Joy in Everyday Life.”  This book is written by Carolyn Scarborough, a life coach for women ready to express themselves via articles, blogs or writing the book inside them.  Visit her website here.

Free parenting session with Paula Stiernberg.  Paula is the educational director at the First United Methodist Church downtown, and a very sweet lady.  She’s brought me in to speak to groups at her church several times now.  She does a workshop I hear great things about, too, about choosing the right school for your child.  She’s offering a free parenting session ($95 value!) in honor of Mother’s Day.  (wow!)  You can call her at 698-5283 to schedule.  

Free kids’ yoga.  Steal some time just for you and drop the kids off for this free class
taught by Jodi Komitor, founder of Next Generation Yoga!  Call Kula
Yoga at (512) 542-3334 to reserve your spot: very limited space
available.  Class times:  Friday @ 4 for Kids’ Yoga ages 5-7.  Saturday @ 4, Kids’ Yoga ages 3-4.  Sunday @ 10am: Free family yoga for families with 2-3 year olds.  Please remember that you must call ahead to reserve your spot. 

Know any more?  Pass the info along and I’ll post it for all to share.  Yea free stuff!

I used the random number generator to choose #3 and #5.  Monica, and Lindsey, send me an email and I’ll reply with coupon info.  Congrats, and Happy Mother’s Day to all!