Join me for a parenting group!
It’s a 6 session group based on the Arc of the Tantrum, and the work that I do with parents in my parent coaching practice. It is not a therapy group.
Each session walks parents through a critical step in understanding–and then shaping–their child’s behavior. About half of each session will be spent learning or reviewing concepts, and about half will give parents a chance to ask questions and fine-tune. Every session comes with optional homework to help parents put ideas into daily life practice.
- Understanding brains and behavior
- Understanding ‘tantrums’ (and if not tantrums, then understanding the biggest upset moments)
- Understanding YOUR child’s signals
- What parents can/can’t, and should/shouldn’t control
- Growth vs. Finish Line Parenting
- The Regulation Roller Coaster
- Getting off the roller coaster
- How to stay calm when your kid is freaking out
- How to effectively help your child grow
- Managing siblings
Parents, and especially white parents, have important work to embrace around being, and parenting, in anti-racist ways. Let’s start with two steps.
#1: Understand “anti-racism.”
I believe that most everyone in my life would describe themselves as “not racist.” If asked, they would disavow racist ideas and actions. However, as I have learned embarrassingly recently, it is not enough to just be “not racist.” We have to learn how to be, and actually practice being, “anti-racist.”
Racism is a machine. A machine that influences thoughts, actions, and results. Where white people are concerned, it generally works behind the scenes, and to our benefit.
I’ve thought of myself as “not racist” my whole life, but at the same time, I was benefitting from that racist machine. I didn’t create or feed that machine, but, -and this part is important: I never used to do anything to dismantle that machine, either. (*The killer realization? Realizing that I had worked to dismantle other machines—like sexism—but the one that benefitted me, I left alone.)
If you say you “aren’t racist,” and you want to live according to your values, you must work to dismantle the racist machine. This is what being “anti-racist” means.
#2: Talk to Your Kids.
When the lessons are really important, parents teach things proactively. (eg: safety) We need to add teaching about racism to that list. We must educate our white children about racism, how white supremacy works, and ways they can help dismantle the machine. We need to speak openly about skin color and institutionalized racism in this country. We need history lessons, values-based lessons, and concrete examples in their current lives.
I bet many of you have had conversations with your kids about things like strangers, approaching houses on Halloween, looking both ways, not climbing on the fence at zoos and the Grand Canyon, etc. Parents of older kids have probably talked about vaping and dark alleys and parking lots and parties with alcohol. We do that because we believe it will help keep our kids safe. It’s (past) time white parents took the same approach to parenting about race.
Our country is literally on fire today, and no conversation around tonight’s dinner table is going to fix that. But… what if we each had a hundred conversations over the next hundred days?
What anti-racist conversation can you start at dinner tonight?
Anti-Racist Conversation Ideas (aka Lessons to Share)
- Policing issues. White kids should know that black parents sit their children down and have “the talk” with them about what to do if/when they interact with police. Why isn’t that a thing in white families? Why do white families generally think of the police as public servants, heroes even, whose job it is to serve and protect, but black families generally have a different relationship with the police? Note: I do not recommend showing the George Floyd video to kids. Watching a real murder is (or should be) traumatic. Trauma doesn’t facilitate learning and growth.
- Black Lives Matter. Where did this phrase come from? Why is it offensive to instead say “All Lives Matter”?
- The tendency of White people to use calling the police as their personal enforcer when they are displeased about what someone Black is doing. (IE, BBQ Becky, Amy Cooper, Permit Patty) (If you want to go really deep—maybe with a teenager—see if you can connect this type of citizen-enforcement behavior with colonialism.) By the way, I think the Amy Cooper/Central Park a great video to show to kids, because it’s obvious racism, weaponizing white privilege, and it’s not graphic violence.
- White women as a group are known to inappropriately touch black strangers’ hair. See if you can help your child imagine a parallel between bodily boundary crossing today and slavery past.
- What are your child’s school mascots? Are they people? Why is that wrong?
- Who was the real “Jim Crow;” what’s the history there, drawing a clear line from that to why blackface is not okay.
- What was “red-lining” Does it impact your current neighborhood today? Connect red-lining and property values and acquiring inter-generational wealth.
- Does your town (or school district) have streets, buildings or statues that honor Confederate War Heroes? Were they named or erected in response to the civil rights movement?
- “I don’t see color.” What’s wrong with that phrase?
- Why is wearing a Native American headdress offensive? (similarly, the inappropriateness of wearing another culture’s traditional dress for Halloween)
- What is “voter suppression?” Consider pulling up an old “Literacy test.” My home state of Louisiana used this one—which was to be completed in 10 minutes, and one wrong answer meant the test-taker would fail. https://sharetngov.tnsosfiles.com/tsla/exhibits/aale/pdfs/Voter%20Test%20LA.pdf
- What is a “Micro-aggression?” Can your child think of any racial microaggressions they have witnessed?
- What is a “Micro-invalidation”? Has your child ever seen a teacher avoid calling the name of a child when that name looked “foreign?”
- Is there a history of white people avoiding responsibility by claiming innocent intent? Can a poor response to being told that we’ve offended make things even worse? Whose experience should be focused on?
This is all only a start. There’s more work to be done than just conversations, but we can at least start here.
Last note: I did a parenting webinar called “Talking with Kids about Race” a year or so ago with a friend and colleague: Jeffrey Swan. The webinar is now free to watch. Please do go check it out.
If you’re looking for extra support for how to talk with your kids about race, we’d love for you to watch this webinar from 2018. It’s now free for anyone to access.
Taking Charge of ADHD by Russell Barkley
Super-parenting for ADD by Edward Hallowell. (He also has a podcast with about a million episodes. Free and easy to access!)
Late, Lost, and Unprepared by Joyce Cooper-Kahn & Laurie Dietzel
This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you click the links and then buy. (and if you do, thanks!)
There are several articles, a video, and a webinar on this blog, created specifically to help parents through the divorce process. They are collected below for easy access.
- How to tell the kids
- When to tell the kids
- 7 Things kids want parents to remember
- Book recommendations about divorce for kids
- Book recommendations about divorce for parents
- When parents start dating again
- Divorce & Teens (video)
- How to tell your kids you are separating or divorcing (online class)
Please feel free to email me with questions or to set up an appointment for parent coaching around divorce, co-parenting, or however you think I can help.
Note: This was originally published in 2012, but every time I add to this, I repost it with the current date, just to make it a little easier for myself & others to find the post again!
It’s late January, and the outside temperature at 6:30 this morning was in the 30s. Our thermostat inside says the house is 71 degrees, but even I didn’t think that getting out from under the covers sounded like a good idea this morning. My kids? They were even less interested in getting up, getting ready, and going outside to go to school. Mornings are such a hard sell, especially on school days, especially when it’s cold & dark, especially when we didn’t go to bed on time the night before. Just, yuck.
My clients often talk about the stress they feel related to getting out the door on time on weekdays. There is so much that needs to be done, the timeline is usually tight, it’s a “pinch point” in a family’s day that often leads to stress, conflict, and bad feelings. (not to mention tardy slips.)
There are a few really effective and good-feeling tools at improving this daily routine that I’ve discovered over the years, and I’d like to share them with you. Join me for a FREE and short webinar where I’ll share parenting hacks for getting your kids awake, up, moving, and out the door… with 57% less* unhappiness.
Wednesday, January 30, 12 noon.
(*) I made that number up. The hacks are good ones, though. :^)
Don’t try this one:
Imagine that we can plot a tantrum on a graph…
The “y-axis” is “level of tantrum” and the “x-axis” is “time.” The tantrum shape is a bell curve, divided into stages. The first stage: there’s no tantrum, but then there’s some sort of trigger, after which behavior begins to worsen. It escalates to its worst level (dysregulation zone) and after time begins to reduce, eventually coming back to ‘zero.’
The place where parents are most motivated to intervene in their child’s behavior?
That top (orange) area.
The place where interventions are LEAST likely to do any good?
Also that top (orange) area. (Aha.)
Flip the illustration over (or look at the bottom half) and you’ll see the bell curve shape reproduced, with 5 differently colored columns. These columns coordinate with the stages of the tantrum, and include advice on best techniques for managing behaviors during that phase.
Parents, this is a cheat-sheet! A short-cut to understanding and better responding to behavior. Use this to pick effective interventions based on your child’s brain functioning at any given moment.
To say it another way–this helps make sense of your child’s tantrums, explains why some things you do just make things worse, and gives a parent guidance for what TO do instead.
This is the concept that parents, over and over, have told me has been most helpful for them, in understanding and managing behavior.
(PS. “Tantrums” aren’t just for toddlers! Teenagers and you and me–we all have a version of tantrums, too!)
I’M SO EXCITED THAT WE NOW HAVE THE ARC TRANSLATED INTO TWO MORE LANGUAGES:
- The Arc of the Tantrum infographic in Spanish. (click link for .pdf format)
- And Indonesian! Really!!!! The Arc of the Tantrum infographic in Indonesian.
- By the way, if you are fluent in another language and would like to see this infographic in your language, contact me. We might be able to make it happen.
- The **Webinar**! This blog post is a ton of information, striped down to its most basic level, but the webinar gives you a chance to hear the concepts explained more thoroughly, with more examples and details that make it easier to understand and implement. Our brains typically need to interact with information more than however long you spend on this page to be able to use that information. Give yourself the gift of more support! Join us live or watch the replay anytime.
- The Arc of the Tantrum infographic in English as a pdf file. This is the better file for printing. Put it on your fridge! Give it to a friend or a teacher.
- The Arc of the Tantrum 3 minute sampler video
- “Are you going to let her get away with that?” blog post
- The Kids who Need the Most Love will ask for it in the most Unloving Ways
My 7 year old asked me this question not too long ago. It took me a minute to understand what she was saying—her pronunciation was ‘creative,’ plus the topic took me by surprise. But once I figured it out, I was both sad and grateful to her for asking the question.
I told her that yes, I had seen segregation as a child. I grew up in rural Louisiana, which in the 80s was very segregated. I told her my strongest childhood memory of segregation—how the doctor’s office that we went to had two waiting rooms, but patients separated by race instead of sick & well. Sadly, I had many more stories of segregated spaces to share: my high school lunch room, every church I’ve ever been in, and every neighborhood I’ve ever lived in.
Like most of the white progressive families I know, my unconscious default is to not talk about race. I was certainly brought up to believe that doing so is extremely impolite. It’s really only in the last few years that I’ve begun to challenge that for myself and with my family. As I see it now, though, it’s not impolite, it is crucial.
Research over the years has demonstrated clearly that even very young children notice racial differences, and all humans are susceptible to what’s known as “in group bias.” In-group bias is that hard-wired tendency to prefer people who are like us in some way, and to make decisions and value judgements based on whether someone is in our group or not. I think these two findings make a very, very strong case for the importance of talking with kids about race.
So how do you do that?
Well, sometimes your kid makes it easy and asks a question, or, less comfortably, you might also hear your child saying something that reflects bias. Either of those two situations is a perfect “talkable” moment for conversation. You can prompt good conversations, too—using daily life situations to point out issues related to race and social justice. For example, when you spot (or suspect) white privilege moments, observed segregation, or stereotypes in the media.
It’s also important for parents (especially white parents) to do their own work here. How can/should we grow personally in our own awareness of (and work against) racial injustice? How segregated is your daily life? Can you change that? Watch your inner voice and reactions through a racial filter—can you catch yourself (even inadvertently) revisiting old racist stereotypes? Can you self-talk out of some of those reactions?
The thing I keep coming back to is the reminder that we DO need to talk about race with our kids. We need to help our kids be aware that racism is both “out there” and “in here.” We need to expand our relationships and experiences to include increasing diversity. We need to role model and encourage empathy and critical thinking, and the kind of moral development that is always working towards equality and justice.
We can and should do this work.
If you’re interested in learning more about talking with kids about race, including what sorts of conversation and lessons are appropriate for which ages, consider joining the webinar I’m co-presenting this Friday.
Imagine that interactions about behavior in your parenting life can be neatly divided in to two categories of situations. Overly simplistic, yes, but work with me here for a minute. Depending on the category, I propose that two distinct types of situations, goals, and behavior management strategies apply. And, knowing which category you are dealing with (and keeping an eye for how much time you spend in each one) is an excellent asset for parenting well.
Category 1: Finish Line Parenting
Finish Line Parenting is what 99% of us were employing this morning at 7:30am. In my house, weekdays at 7:30am during the school year often look about the same. PUT ON YOUR SHOES! WHERE IS YOUR BACKPACK? HERE’S YOUR LUNCH! ACCCKK HURRY UP! I might not be actually yelling, but I am often wound up a bit and/or micro-managing, Worse, there are the days when the usual techniques aren’t working, and parents feel like the only way they are going to get their child out the door in time is to use bribes, threats, yelling, consequences, etc.
I call these situations “Finish Line Parenting” situations, because in those moments, our priorities are about an outcome, ie the ‘finish line.’ The finish line might be getting to school before the tardy bell, hustling a tantruming child away from judging eyes, or getting your child to back away from a busy street curb, but your primary goal for that moment is about achieving something external IN that moment.
When parents have short-term goals, and a child’s participation is necessary for success, there is a potential for conflict. If our child doesn’t just happen to feel like doing whatever it is that we want them to do, and we don’t think that the goal should be postponed or discarded, we are left with a situation where the only way to achieve our goals is to make another person to do what we want. The techniques for doing that are generally techniques that use power, like the above named yelling, bribes, threats, etc. Our focus on a short-term result, when combined with our child’s non-agreement, means that we will likely need to use our power in order to control our child. This, while necessary at times, is a parenting technique that comes with some less desirable side effects.
Think about a time when you felt like someone didn’t care about what you wanted, but rather only their own opinions & priorities. I’d wager that it felt bad to you, and our kids are no different. Overused power and control techniques tend to result in lower relationship closeness, increased deceit, and more power struggling.
Now, having said all that, I will also strongly say that I don’t think it’s possible to parent without doing this some of the time. Children, by definition, are immature and unable to always make decisions based on long-term health and well-being. Part of our job as parents is to make them do things even if they don’t want to. So, don’t read this like I’m saying that Finish Line Parenting techniques are bad. They aren’t bad, they are just better when used thoughtfully and sparingly. Our goal should be to limit their use, and look for situations where we can pull tools from the other category.
Category 2: Growth Parenting
Growth Parenting moments are those when we can choose to opt out of our otherwise goal-directed activity, and let our child’s preferences or needs take priority. Growth parenting techniques vary widely, but typically involve lots of calm energy, patience, and good boundaries, and sometimes also include physical calming, playfulness, reflection, validation, and parental time-outs. Growth parenting lets the child’s needs set the timeline. Growth Parenting techniques are flexible and responsive to the situation, and especially to the needs of the child.
Growth parenting techniques are what we are employing when, for example, we see our child struggling with something, and we think twice about intervening. Growth parenting is when we see our child getting more and more upset because they didn’t get the thing they wanted, and we take a deep breath, stay present but not over-involved, and let them wrestle with those difficult feelings in an age-appropriately independent manner. Growth parenting is when we offer calm connection during hard times, and wait until later to handle needed feedback or reparations.
Growth parenting is when the trip to Target you thought you were about to take gets set aside because you realize that the priority is now giving your child a chance to practice tolerating some uncomfortable emotion. This is no longer Target-shopping time on your calendar. Target can wait. Your new agenda item for 2pm is “Let my child practice feeling and tolerating and managing difficult emotions.”
Growth Parenting techniques can challenge us–it’s hard sometimes to stay calm when your child is escalating and not being cooperative. The effort pays off, though, because these moments facilitate long-term growth and maturity for our children, particularly around the critical skills of tolerating and managing difficult emotions. The other payoff–these techniques strengthen our relationships.
Telling them apart
Last thought– improving our ability to differentiate between growth and finish line parenting moments is really where the rubber meets the road. When I can see that a moment isn’t a finish line parenting moment, it instantly steers me towards a way of being with my child that is inherently de-escalating.
If you’d like to put this in to practice, identify 2-3 moments recently where you parented as though it was a finish line moment, but can now see that it did not have to be. Once we begin to identify them in real time, there is freedom and connectedness in those moments.
Think of a time recently when your child was upset, maybe really upset. What he was upset about wasn’t a major life loss, or a safety issue. Rather, he was just very displeased about something, for example, he wanted the green one instead of the yellow one. Or he was really excited about going to the museum but you just found out that it’s closed. Or you promised to bring him something from your trip but you sadly forgot. Really, the situations that can cause upset are limitless—the key component is that your child is upset, and you’ve tried and been unsuccessful at talking things through. You may or may not care deeply about your child’s complaint, but you definitely care about them, and you have tried to help them calm down, but your reason, logic, reassurance, perspective or compromise offerings haven’t been successful. So what’s left?
60-40-0. Use this equation as a guide for how you are going to interact for the next few minutes. (*) Take a deep breath (always a good idea in most any parenting situation) and begin to nonverbally send a message that 60% of your energy is compassion. Allow your body to slump a little. Put a compassionate expression on your face. Mine includes knitting my eyebrows together and poking my lips out a little with a slight downturn—but you do what’s normal for you. It’s generally better not to speak, but if you must, make little noncommittal mmm-mmms and the like. I often find that I tip my head to one side and nod as well. Spend a moment channeling compassion towards your child for the emotions that they are feeling.
After the first few seconds of channeling compassion, make sure that your non-verbal communication demonstrates that 40% of your energy is… bored. Yes, bored. You’re mostly compassionate, but really, you are also pretty bored with this tantrum, these behaviors, this fit… the Gene Wilder/Willy Wonka meme above isn’t quite perfect, but hopefully you get the drift. Your level of interest in the fit starts to decrease steadily. To be clear, don’t express snark, provocation, or teasing, as those will totally backfire. Just… don’t be super interested.
And the last bit of your energy—precisely 0%, is “not getting sucked in.” Your child is having this tantrum. It’s his. The feelings that provoked the tantrum? Also his. You have tried to help him, but he wasn’t ready or able to accept the help. So… your job is to be compassionately present, while not letting his feelings nor his management of those feelings trigger you to react with your own emotions. (**)
* If the tantrums are not measured in minutes, please consider individualized advice from a professional—an article isn’t enough support.
** It’s okay to move in and out of “presence,” too, for example after a couple of minutes you might say “I can tell you are really feeling upset about this. I’m sorry it’s so hard. I’m going to step out of here for a minute but will come back to check on you shortly.”