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   The Connective Parenting Newsletter                                                                                 July 2012
 
Questions and Answers for Everyday Parenting
In This Issue
Potty Talk
Managing Spouse Anger
Screen Time
Story
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Upcoming Schedule
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 Greetings!

Welcome to the Connective Parenting newsletter. I'll be sending this to you bimonthly, with the first mailing devoted to my thoughts and teachings on Everyday Lessons for Parenting. The second mailing is dedicated to Questions and Answers and your stories.  Please send your questions and stories to bh@bonnieharris.com.


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Potty Talk

Q. We have a 4 year old who has started using potty-talk everywhere. We've discussed how that kind of language is useful in certain circumstances. He gets time-outs for using them, usually right after he's been told not to. He has so much fun saying pooh and pee and fart, also making farty noises. And my husband gets so angry about it. How do I support his fun-loving adventurous nature and foster cooperation?

 

A. Expecting your four year old to stop using potty language and putting him in time-out for it is like punishing a dog for running after a squirrel. Potty talk is the language of four year olds; they love it (for some reason) and get a huge kick out of using it. To punish your son for using it only confuses him and makes him think he is a bad person. This will backfire. He now knows how powerful those words are, so you have given him a loaded weapon with your attention to them. Whenever he feels angry, etc. he will know how to get you upset-"You're a poopy-head". Instead of forbidding potty talk, acknowledge that it is silly and fun for him. Either ignore it because it will go away of its own accord (it will linger longer when he senses your resistance to it) or set a time of the day when you play along with him. Let him use it all he wants between 4:30 and 5:30, for instance, and come up with your own silly words to play and giggle right along with him. If he uses the words at other times of the day, tell him to save it for your special time. Ask yourself what you or your husband are afraid of. If it's that he won't listen to you and do what you say, then it's time to reevaluate what kind of relationship you want to have with him long-term. If you go for the hierarchical relationship, you might be in for some power struggles. If you are afraid he will offend others, then be clear that that is your problem and let him know that they are words to use at home. When you give permission instead of forbid, you can set parameters around the behavior that your child is likely to cooperate with. 

 

Managing a Spouse's Anger

Q. How can I help my husband to stop losing his temper with our 6 yr. old? They are falling out a lot because she is rude to him, i.e. attitude, answering back. He just gets cross and refuses to talk to her, which seems a bit childish to me but could well be the problem. Tonight after they fell out, I went upstairs and had a quiet word with her saying Daddy loves her very much but doesn't like it when she is rude to him. She did come downstairs and say she was sorry and gave him a hug, which he accepted gracefully. I am pretty sure it will happen again but I wonder if there is anything I can suggest to my husband that he say to her rather than flying off the handle. Would it be to say, I don't like the way you

said that, maybe say it again? Something like that?

 

A. Your husband, like so many parents, is taking her behavior personally and not understanding that there is emotional provocation. She is not reacting to him the way she does because she likes it, she is reacting from an internal emotional state--probably of anger and frustration. It's likely that that state means she is feeling powerless, unacceptable, or disrespected by him (getting cross and refusing to talk to her is being disrespectful), or she simply doesn't like what he told her to do. We don't think about the fact that we would never accept from our children the behavior we give them. We think that if we act negatively toward them, it will teach them to act positively toward us. In fact we are modeling the behavior we don't like and sending messages to our children we least intend (that they are unacceptable, bad, wrong, stupid, a disappointment, etc.). Your suggestion is a good one. "That didn't sound like you. Can you try again?" or "Let's put that on pause for a second, rewind, and start again." But you see, he can only say something like that if his button (perhaps the Control Button) has not been pushed and if he doesn't take her behavior at face value. When you tell her that daddy doesn't like it when she is rude to him, does she have the opportunity to say, "Well, I don't like it when he is rude to me either"? Better to say, "It sounds like you were feeling pretty mad at daddy when you said.... Then connect with her feelings BEFORE you say, "Would you like to try again and say what you meant?" We have to be the ones to model respect always, even and most especially when our children are being rude. Saying that you don't like to be talked to a certain way is still respectful--most importantly of yourself. We can't expect our children to stop acting like children especially when we act like children.

Most important, however, is not to play know-it-all. Your husband will not take well to your corrections. Present a situation with understanding of how difficult you have found it to deal with these behaviors. You might say, "What I found to work better is to say something like...." And never undermine your husband in the moment of their argument. 

 

Screen Time

Q. I really struggle with my son who is almost eleven. He is both a gentle soul easily frightened by spiders and going into a dark room alone, as well as fiery, fiercely determined, tenacious and full of the "warrior" energy. He struggles to focus in school, has repeated a grade, and shows some ADD behaviors. (impulsive, angers easily). He was adopted at birth, and I assume some of the anger comes from that experience. Our struggles have to do mostly with screen/electronic time and also sweets--both addictive stimulants that he has a really hard time limiting. It's gotten to the point where I feel our entire relationship is about this issue. He wants more than I feel is healthy, and I try to establish rules and he's always pushing against them. Our general rule for screen time has been one hour a day during the week, which usually involves episodes from some series or games, and more on the weekend for movies.  As soon as

he comes home from school he wants to jump on the computer. Typically, once he's on, it's hard to get him off without multiple, "five more minutes," angry words, and threats of "no screen time for two days". I think you would say we shouldn't threaten consequences, but I don't know how else to set limits. I worry that he isn't reading more. He enjoys athletics and we make sure he keeps these activities in his life, including martial arts to help feed his love of battles (this is what he mostly likes to read about and do with his screen time). How do I shift the dynamic, embrace his warrior ADD self, while limiting his screen time to a healthy amount?

 

A. None of us knows what is a healthy amount, but we all have our opinions and fears. Technology is a cultural change that we are unprepared for and we don't know what the fallout will be over time. I do believe computers and computer games are addictive for many children. ADHD children seem particularly drawn in, but perhaps this is a good thing. It is something they feel successful doing. I would suggest a couple things.

1) Pick games together and sit with him for some of the time. Ask him to teach you to play. He won't be willing if he thinks you will only judge the games. You must truly be curious and have fun with it. One of the causes of children's resistance is that parents are only critical of what they love. You need to be able to see what he does and see what he loves about it so you're not his adversary. Then and only then will he be willing to cooperate with you.

2) Explain to him that your worry is yours alone and you understand what he wants. Set an experiment with him. Let him know that you will give him the jurisdiction over when and how much he plays. After the allotted time (say two weeks), you will reassess to see how the experiment has gone. I am finding that many parents see the resistance to doing other things disappear when they don't have to fight with parents over doing what they love. They begin to get off on their own when they don't fear not having enough time. Make sure you keep reading and outdoor activities as a part of your life together rather than trying to send him outside to play while you stay in. Martial arts is great. 

He may well need to "come down" from a day of school by playing a game he has control over. If he trusts that you can see his side of it, then you can work out an after school schedule engaging him in the process if you find the experiment doesn't work. If you let him play first before homework and chores you just need to make it clear to him that you need assurance that you BOTH get what you want. Embrace his warrior by loving his warrior and acknowledging what warriors need to do.

 

See my latest blog (below).  

 

Stories

 

My eleven year old son had thrown his apple core in his bedroom trash can-a Red Sox metal can with no liner. I am already afraid enough of what grows from the junk in his room. He mentioned it being in there this morning (which also tells me, he knows that I have asked him not to put food stuff in there) so I asked him to get out the apple core and put it in the kitchen trash. Of course he asked why, and I explained all of that to him, and not wanting bugs and food in there. He said, "Well, then you take it out."  I said, "Will you please take it out!" he said, "NO, YOU do it!" Whew, hit my button!!!!  I took a breath or two, and said, "Hmmm, so how do you think you could get it out of there without touching it (knowing how much he hates that)?" He said "BY YOU DOING IT!"  Breathe breathe breathe.... "How could "YOU" do it without touching it?"  He came out carrying the entire trash can. "Mom, can you help me dump it all in the kitchen trash bag?"  WOW!!!!!!  WOW!!!!!!

 

More stories please!
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Give Up Screentime Fights  

 I have been trying an experiment  with some of the parents I work with and finding an amazing success rate. My suggestion is to lay off your children's screen time.
 
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Upcoming Schedule                             


Peterborough, NH
Sept. 2012 - June 2013                    New Offering!  
The River Center, 46 Concord St.
Parent/Child Connections class for parents of 6-12 yr. olds
Thursdays, 9:30-11:30 am
Cost: Sliding scale
Registration and info: Amy McGee
amy@rivercenter.us or 603 924-6800


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Oct. 19-22, 2012
When Your Kids Push Your Buttons Professional Certification Training
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Information and Resources

Contact: 
Bonnie Harris, Connective Parenting email: bh@bonnieharris.com
phone: 603-924-6639
website: www.bonnieharris.com or www.connectiveparenting.com

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