I’m a divorced mom of a 9 year-old daughter and 7 year-old son.
I contacted Cynthia for private parenting coaching due to challenges with my 9-year-old daughter. My daughter often complained about her younger brother and needed constant validation that I loved her just as much as her brother. She would frequently get upset, say that life wasn’t fair, and act as if she was the most important person in the family. I was worn out because none of my attempts to make her feel better helped.
My daughter also wouldn’t let me play alone with her brother and had a hard time playing with her brother herself. She would have tantrums, and we were never able to solve problems together.
Instead of making things better, my actions as a parent were making my daughter’s behavior worse. I was having negative thoughts and feelings about her like, “You turn everything into a power struggle, you’re trying to test me, you’re defying me, and this is manipulation.”
When my daughter would get upset, I tried to reason with her, and when that didn’t work, I told her to stop her behavior. I struggled to set limits and follow through, partially because I felt guilty about my recent divorce from my kids’ father, so I didn’t provide a stable environment. I would give warnings and consequences that didn’t build cooperation. My daughter continued to think of herself first. When I listened to her, I often unintentionally blocked her expression of feelings, so she never really felt heard. Thus, her whining and complaining would increase. Not only did my way of listening not help my daughter process her negative feelings, it fed those feelings.
When I started working with Cynthia, I was completely overwhelmed. During the three months of working together, I became aware of my own ineffective thoughts and behaviors as well as what to think and do instead. When Cynthia and I reviewed my progress at the end of the 3-month program, we could hardly remember the problems that had caused me so much suffering. I had made so many changes that brought about quick, positive changes in my daughter. The transformation in our family was like night and day.
By learning what wasn’t effective and following Cynthia’s suggestions, I stopped trying to take away my daughter’s negative feelings. I learned that I was placating her because I was uncomfortable with hearing her pain. Once I learned how to listen to her and respond with empathetic words, her distress dissipated quickly. My kids and I also learned how to collaboratively solve problems together during family meetings, which my daughter loved.
I also realized that I don’t have to be available 100% of the time. By being available all the time, I wasn’t teaching my daughter to respect my needs. It was important for me to set personal boundaries as well as limits and expectations on my kids’ behavior. I discovered that setting guidelines together and writing them in our rule book gave my daughter the security she needs and greatly reduced her anxiety. I believe this increased her self-esteem as well.
Currently, I focus on influencing my daughter to have positive behavior through independence rather than trying to control her negative behavior through negative tactics. She now cooperates and doesn’t rebel.
My daughter no longer complains that things are unfair because we continually discuss how to resolve issues so that they feel fair. She no longer says she wishes she didn’t have a brother or worries I care more about him than I do about her. I was shocked when, on Mother’s Day, my daughter and son played together for an hour and let me do what I wanted to do. I’m happy to report that I no longer feel drained or overwhelmed.
Recently, my daughter and I had a one-on-one fancy fondue dinner. She told me all about her school life and how difficult one of her teachers can be. I listened without trying to change her feelings, and she opened up more and more. I felt so connected to her!
My 3 successful parenting strategies are:
- Set my own personal boundaries
- Listen and respond with empathetic statements without blocking communication when my daughter is upset.
- Have weekly family meetings so we discuss everyone’s concerns and create rules for creating a cooperative family together.
Now, I feel confident that I’m parenting in an effective way. I now know that setting boundaries about what I will and won’t do is an essential part of parenting and not a sign that I’m being lazy or not giving enough to my kids. I see how much more relaxed my kids are with clear rules and expectations, and that allows me to relax, too, and enjoy my kids, which was my goal all along.
©2018 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Certified Parenting Educator since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, private parenting coaching sessions, and her book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. She works with parents of 5 – 25 year-old children.
To learn how Cynthia can help you solve your specific challenges, contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, [email protected], or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute discovery session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!