trying to get her to change. I had to change my thinking from “she’s the problem and I need to fix her” to “what can I do differently to get a more positive response from her?” I’m working on stating my expectation, then restating with even fewer words, if necessary, and not engaging. This works better.
The big breakthrough came when I was able to respond with empathy when she was upset rather than trying to make her stop. Any upset child needs to feel they are heard before they can think. It’s very hard to listen, but I tried it with success.
She was very upset because she didn’t want to do her bedtime routine which includes washing up, brushing her teeth, and reading a book. She was screaming and crying. I can’t stand it when she acts this way.
Normally I would either tell her firmly to stop it and I would try to isolate her to calm her down. Or I would just scream back at her with everyone feeling horrible.
Instead, I used Cynthia’s advice. I controlled my temper and said, “Come here. Let me hold you. Are you sad?
I was amazed how positively she responded to this empathetic approach. She calmed down much quicker than she had in the past.
She even opened up and said she was upset about school. She said that none of her girlfriends would play with her. I realized that this was the big reason behind her upset. She hadn’t shared her true feelings with me before probably because I was always upset with her so she didn’t feel safe to share.
I felt so happy and surprised that she shared her sad feelings with me. I thanked her for talking to me about something so important.
Now Cynthia is helping me with how to talk so she will open up more and I can help her think about possible solutions to her friendship challenge. I’m instructed to not tell her what to do. Instead, I will follow her 3 Step Problem-Solving Process and she will make the final decision of what to do. This will give her power over her life rather than trying to have power over me.
To learn more about strong-willed children and what not to say read Common Phrases that Trigger Power Struggles With Strong-Willed Children.
To invite Cynthia Klein to speak at your organization or for private parenting education, contact her at 650.679.8138, or bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com. She is a columnist for the magazine Parenting on the Peninsula.