From Chaos to Calm


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Angry Children, Worried Parents


From Chaos to Calm - Order Now!When it comes to kids, challenging or less easy is in the eye of the beholder. What one parent might find challenging may seem like a breeze to another. Some children are difficult, frustrating, and would stymie almost anyone's best efforts. But just as often almost any child fits someone's description of challenging. At any given moment, a child's behavior may outstrip a parent's ability to deal with the situation. It's then that the situation, the child or both are challenging. The adult isn't a bad parent or even inept. It only means that right now, for this minute, the parent is just ill equipped to handle the situation.

You may want to read this book because there is a behavior problem in your family. Your child may be suffering - he's bullied or feels left out or inept in social or play situations. He may be struggling at school. More likely, you or the school is suffering. At times, it is overwhelming. Your child is the one considered "a handful." He responds to situations with anger or frustration. He refuses to follow directions. You've tried everything you know to do and have run out of options. You're concerned, frustrated and feeling guilty. You may be worried that your child will always have problems. Or you may be afraid that if you don't get a handle on the situation now, it could spiral out of control. You may be agonizing that your child's difficult behavior is a measure of your competency as a parent or person. Bad child equals bad parent.

Maybe only you feel this way. Perhaps your child's father (or mother) keeps saying: "You're making too big a deal out of this. There's no problem." Or "whatever it is, it'll pass." Maybe your marriage is already under stress because of other problems. Even if it isn't, it's probably under stress because of the challenge this child presents. Maybe your child's other parent blames you. "It's your fault Junior's like this." "If you'd just handled Jennifer differently, there wouldn't be any problem."

You're frustrated because you've exhausted the "tricks" you know to do. You started by doing what comes naturally. When that didn't work, you tried suggestions from relatives, friends, and your pediatrician. You are surprised by how angry your child makes you. And, like Jan and Jamie were, you may be concerned that your reactions may be damaging your child.

Maybe you're almost paralyzed by your child's behavior. Again and again, you hear yourself reacting in the same old way. You know it isn't going to work, but you don't know what else to do. So, sometimes, you do nothing. You let it go. You know that's not the answer, but you're afraid of making things worse. You may even "walk on eggshells" or stop going places as a family because you fear your child's disruptive behavior. If so, you're probably seething inside, furious with yourself and your child. So, much of the time, you just react - with high volume, over-the-top emotion. You go from feeling out of control to having no control.

That's when the guilt sets in. You can't believe you said or did that. You hate the parent you've become. Or maybe you're so frustrated with your inability to change your kid's behavior that you've started to dislike your own child. "Who," you moan, "dislikes their own child? What kind of a parent am I?"

The Chaotic Household

A chaotic household is one in physical or emotional disarray. Physical disruption may come from frantic rushing around and arguing every morning as you try to get your child (and yourself) up, dressed and out the door. It may be the shouting when he won't go to bed and you're so tired you can't take one more minute of his behavior. Maybe it's the anguish you feel whenever you attempt one of those increasingly less-frequent public outings that culminate in raised voices, tears and wailing. It's the knot in your stomach when the teacher telephones and you have to forcibly resist the impulse to just hang up instead of listen to one more complaint about your child's behavior. It's the exhaustion you feel when you're asked to "do something" about your child's behavior and you have to keep from screaming at a teacher or daycare provider "What do you want me to do? What do you want me to say? You're supposed to be the expert."

The emotional drain of a chaotic household also comes from hearing yourself barking directions, issuing ultimatums, and knowing in the pit of your stomach that your child is not going to do what you want anyway. Too often, there's a palpable tension in your household - a feeling that an explosion is waiting to happen. At times, you're overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness; other times resolved to "get a handle on" the situation or behavior. Your inability to do so exacerbates your frustration, which, in turn, adds to the chaos.

Chaos is not just the reality of having an unpredictable child. It's the emotional volatility-the frustration, depression, and anger--that accompanies effort upon fruitless effort to "fix" the child's behavior. Family functioning seems at the mercy of this child. Even if that isn't actually so, it certainly feels like it. If the child's behavior is negative and unpredictable, then the household is, by definition, in chaos.

Are You a Challenged Parent?

Much of what determines "challenging" is your own mood, time of day, and outside pressures. What you see as a challenge one day may not seem so bad the next. But if you don't know what to do about it, if it keeps happening day after day, despite your best efforts to change it, you are a challenged parent.

Much of what determines "challenging" is your own mood, time of day, and outside pressures. What you see as a challenge one day may not seem so bad the next. But if you don't know what to do about it, if it keeps happening day after day, despite your best efforts to change it, you are a challenged parent.

A challenging or less-easy child is any child whose behavior stymies parental attempts to change it. This is the kid who won't go to bed, won't stay in bed, and has to negotiate every request and argue every direction. This is the child who holds the family hostage to his negative behavior. His reactions and overreactions dictate where you go and don't go, how long you stay and whether you can go back again. Some may eventually receive a clinical diagnosis. But a challenging child is not just the child with the label; it is any child who has simply outstripped your ability to parent.

We use the terms "challenging" and "less easy" child interchangeably because some children are challenging because their behavior has earned them a label, or diagnosis, that confirms that you have a tough kid by almost anyone's standards. Others, however, are challenging because they are less easy by comparison-with their siblings, other students in their class, or other children in the neighborhood. They may also be challenging, or less easy, because their temperament simply isn't a good match for your own. They aren't "bad" kids, nor are you a "bad" parent. You simply must learn different ways to deal with the challenges this child presents. No one incident or behavior means your child has a disorder. But, overlooking patterns of behavior can delay getting the help you need to deal with him.

You may want to read the book hoping it will tell you THE right way to parent. "THE right way" to parent doesn't exist. If it did, it would be in one book, instead of the hundreds currently on the market. If you think about it, THE right way implies that there is only one kind of child. Anyone with more than one child knows that's not the case. Children don't just come in all sizes, shapes and colors. They also have a variety of temperaments and a vast array of skills and behaviors. Some behaviors are good; many are not so good.

So, if there's no ONE right way to parent and kids come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments, the next best thing to a manual (or warranty) for each child is a resource that helps you know what to do. Our book will help you know what to do to prevent blowouts and tantrums and make daily life run more smoothly. It will suggest ways to structure situations so that certain problem behaviors don't occur. Our book can do this without turning you into pretzels, trying to be something you're not. It will help you decide what you can change to make a real difference in your child's life.

In other words, this book provides answers. It will give you a framework for knowing that what you do - the way you respond as a parent - is good for your child. You will learn what to do in those situations when you're not sure what to do. And gain some confidence that what you did was, in fact, just fine.

Our book uses the story of Jan, Jamie, Theodore and Caroline to illustrate what the next year or two may be like in your family's life if you follow our suggestions. We'll help you learn what to do to maintain positive changes. We cover the whole gambit of issues Theodore's family experienced so you can see how one family implemented this approach.

I advocate and teach planned parenting rather than reactive parenting. It isn't easy. It takes more work, more time, and more thought. It's a lifestyle, not a one-time effort. It is, however, the most empowering change I have ever witnessed in a parent. The result is the freedom to see your child for what he is, instead of what he is not, and to value and build on his strengths.

Provide Structure and Predictability

Angry Children, Worried Parents - Order Now!Few things give a child a greater chance for success than living in a home with parents who can anticipate his needs and provide sufficient structure in his life until he acquires the skills to do so for himself.

All children need structure in their lives.  Some can develop it for themselves, but most need adults to provide that structure for them.  And some children need more structure than others do.  In the same way, most kids prefer predictability.  They like to know roughly how the day will go, what will happen if they misbehave, and that there will be no school on holidays. For some children, however, predictability isn’t merely desirable or preferable—it’s essential. Without it, they feel out of control or overwhelmed by the moment. This can easily result in anger.  When they feel out of control, they may act that way. 

Many explosive situations are varying expressions of the same root causes arising day after day.  These situations repeatedly result in the same frustrations: tempers flare and meltdowns occur.  Parental frustration fuels child anger, which, in turn, fuels parental anger.  Avoiding conditions that result in meltdowns is a key component to planned parenting.

If trips to the grocery store end in argument and punishment, don’t take your child to the store—or go with a short list so you’re not there long.  Prepare the child by having a list with one empty line that is his to fill with one item he would like to purchase.  The one line is a visual message that he can pick only one item, not one from each aisle.

If a child’s fatigue when she returns from an overnight stay with a friend makes it difficult for her to participate in family activities the next day, don’t plan activities the day after an overnight.  Better to reschedule or to do the activity without the child than to have another angry meltdown.

Know your child as he is, not who he ought to be or who you thought he was.  Thinking that he ought to be able to do something or that he already can do it will inevitably lead to frustration and failure.  His age may not be a good indicator of his abilities: for example, maybe he ought to be able to make it through three brief stops, and maybe his younger brother can, but he can’t.  And your thinking he should be able to doesn’t make him able to.

Before you can make changes, you must see your child for who she is rather than who she is not, and value and build on her strengths. A realistic view of your child’s strengths and “improvables” decreases the likelihood that inflated expectations will result in frustration for both of you.

And don’t take bad behavior personally. The way we interpret our child’s behavior plays a significant role in how we respond to that behavior.  Take care not to attribute negative motives to your child’s behavior; the moment you do, you will be more reactive than responsive.

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