Punishment Answers

How to talk to my toddler to get her to understand?

Dear Catey, I am so glad that you are reaching out for support and help with your daughter.  When we don't know how to handle something in life, it is important but also humbling to ask for help. And this is a great place to land with questions about parenting.   It seems like you are frustrated with your daughter's actions and have also tried everything you know to help her to stop hurting others with hitting and yelling. I can understand how you want to help her and do what is wise to guide her to a different action.   If we were sitting together, we would chat about what you have done to help her with this action and we would dialogue about how you are feeling towards your daughter as well.  Because I am just answering your question, we miss out on that opportunity for you to explain more about what has helped, even for a little bit of time, as well as what your emotional state is like in this reality with your daughter.  Those are important factors in moving towards a solution for your daughter.   So, because we're conversing in this kind of format, know that I am going to be writing things that you may already know and hopefully will also give you some guidance that you don't know so that things can shift and change.   I also encourage you to keep working closely with the daycare facility to help your daughter in that setting.  Have you asked them what they recommend as a change agent for her in that environment?   Let's chat about what your daughter needs to change.   Because your daughter is three, it will not work to talk with her about her behavior and then expect change.  Three year olds, can not change just because we talk to them about their behavior.  She will need to have some behavior changes in her life in order for her to know in action, that she needs to change.  We will talk about what that means.   Of course, you can still talk with your daughter about her actions and how they have affected others and ways she has hurt others.  And we can never expect a three year old to change because we tell them that they need to change.   When a child is acting out, we get to help them learn how to respond to life by how we then respond to them.  What is the daycare facility doing in response to her hitting and yelling at the other kids and the teachers?  Their response is going to be a very important part of the equation.  Three year olds learn the best when the reactions to negative behaviors happen right away.  So when she is hitting, what are they doing in response to her hitting?  If they are doing nothing, that is telling your daughter that it is OK to continue with that behavior.  If they are saying don't do that and there is no other change, again, that is going to communicate with your daughter that it is OK to do that action.  Three year olds learn best by having a reaction in the moment after a bad decision, such as yelling or hitting.  This would look like, the teacher noticing her hitting another kid and then saying, "Sweetie, you have to go inside because you can't be outside when you hit friends."  And then taking her inside while everyone else is outside.  This could also look like, "Honey, because you hit your friend, you have to stop playing right now and have some time sitting on this bean bag chair."  The immediate reaction to the hitting or yelling will teach your daughter that that action is not appropriate.   I also wonder, what do you do when you are at home with your daughter and she is yelling at you or anyone else in the family?  If yelling and or hitting is something your daughter is seeing by you or anyone else in the home, without negative consequences, she will see and believe that that behavior is appropriate for other people and other settings.   It is important that any kind of yelling or hitting be addressed at home. If your daughter is yelling at home, stop what you are doing, go to your daughter's level and then say with strength and kindness, "Honey you can't yell at the dog.  Now you have to sit on the stairs for three minutes."  Or "Sweetie, you can't hit your brother.  Now you have to be done with your snack for three minutes."  This reaction on your part or the part of any of the other care givers in the home, is important for your daugther to know, in the moment, that she can not do those behaviors.   It is VERY important that that response is happening consistently when your daughter is yelling and hitting.  If she is given a consequence for only half or even two thirds of the times of yelling or hitting, she will learn that she can still get away with it.  If we want a child's behavior to go away, we have to be diligent to address it every time it is happening.  This may disrupt the family, because you might have to stop a grocery trip, or you may have to stop dinner or a movie, in order to give consequences AND there is a very positive long term gain for the short term pain of follow through.  If you want some good resources for parenting, I would recommend several very good resources that will help with this as well as many other issues with parenting. Good Inside by Dr Becky Kennedy. Dr Becky also has a parenting website that you can learn from as well.  www.goodinside.com How to Have a New Kid by Friday By Kevin Leman This is a Christian resource within the parent realm, if that is something you would like.  I wish you the best of luck!Paula
Answered on 02/07/2023

My husband and I have different parenting styles and can't come to an agreement. How can we fix this?

Parenting Hack Many parenting books recommend an approach to parenting that is empathetic yet direct. It's easy to read these approaches or hear about them and then decide what sort of parents you will be like. It's a whole other story when we try to live it out, however, and you two are discovering why.  There are many ways in which this situation could be tackled. The focus here is to identify what sort of person you want to raise and agree on it. It seems best that you two come together, do the aspects of parenting that you can decide on and focus less on how to get there? The sort of child, a future adult you both want can often be agreed on more easily. For example, you want an empathetic adult, who cares for others, takes care of his future wife and children, has hobbies, and is willing to sacrifice the lesser things for the greater. You want an adult who will positively contribute to society, be slow to react, and be able to tolerate difficult emotions rather than run and try to fix or escape all the time.  These are the desired characteristics I hear from people who are struggling in life. People, maybe even you two, may have been raised in homes that did not model the above behaviors, and therefore these ways of life were not fathomable to the child. So, as the parents of this future adult, you want to be able to model these traits, not just speak on them. This tiny brain in your midst is watching every move and isn't able to justify behaviors through stress or circumstance as adults do. So, the first thing for you two is to talk about how you think the child sees things. What do you think the child is noticing? You can play this game with the child while in the car to and from somewhere. You can look in the rearview mirror and ask the child, "If I were you and you were me, what would you see." In the car, the child might answer something like the windshield is what they would see, and you, through their eyes, would see the car's back seat. It's an exercise that draws kids out of their own heads.  Another approach to parenting, especially to a child who talks back, is to ask them, "what do you think I am going to say right now?" But, you have to ask them with genuine curiosity. Ask the child reflective questions to get them to think outside themselves and put them in the headspace of what they see from you. One time my child started painting the table instead of the paper (almost anytime we paint, she does this actually), and rather than say, "we don't paint the table," she runs away laughing, which then elevated me to a command, I asked her, "what do you think I am supposed to do right now?" She looked at me and said, "don't do that." I then asked her why she would I say that, "Because it makes a mess that you have to clean up." Which then she conceded. Now, don't for a second think that was the way of things after that because they are children, exploring their boundaries, who they are how far they are going to go to discover that, so she constantly pushes (she is seven now), but she has modeled something critical.  Here's the rub, you have to find value in instilling values and model behaviors you would want to see in someone you trust as an adult. There are a million recommendations of what to do in every finite situation. The reality is you and your husband have to come together at the points you can agree and also agree to model support for the other. You are modeling what it is like to be on a team and how to work with people. If it turns into your justification for parenting versus his, and you are convinced that because yours is fitting that he is wrong, that's errored thinking and, quite honestly, egocentric (selfish).  I will say to sit down and come up with the main things you want all discussions to settle on. He is a four-year-old boy who is exploring his territory and seeing what is his and where his little kingdom stops. You two are showing him boundaries. You can start appreciating the battle because he will not lie down and give up; he fights. He wants what he sees and is willing to fight you two for it; it's commendable. However, you must show him where he stops, and you start, and he cannot infringe on that. Respect the child's behaviors (you don't have to agree, but respect), and you can approach the situation calmly and with the attitude; this is precisely what it takes to form a human these days.  Focus on a few main things each day and every interaction, and you and your spouse NEED to come together on this. Respect each other's decisions; if you cannot, you need to understand why that is and how you CAN come together. You two providing a safe environment means more than all the other things. A safe and consistent environment is critical for the child to feel safe and learn who they are. You are to provide that first and foremost. 
Answered on 01/15/2023

How do I forgive my father for leaving even though that was the best decision for him?

Forgive, Not for Him, But For Yourself A father's life is no longer about himself but rather about how he fulfills the most crucial role in his life, raising kids. When a father becomes addicted, a disease for the sake of conversation, and the behaviors accompanying this, he fails at his job. The ways in which he fails are significant, and often the worst results of are hidden deep down in the children. Forgiveness is the act that breaks the trend of resentment and emotions running our lives. Forgiveness allows us to heal this wounded child inside of us that says if we stay angry, he stays hurt, and we can stay safe by never getting hurt again.  The only one to suffer is you. If you stay angry, or whatever the opposite of forgiving is, you must dedicate energy to that. Forgiveness, however, is letting it go. You don't have to agree or do anything once you find a way to forgive; you get peace. As long as you don't let your "righteous" mind that wants things to be "fair" speak up and control your actions, much like he probably did, you will be at peace when you learn to forgive and practice it in your thoughts.  Resentment will kill you if you don't get a handle on it. Alcoholism is often treated through a spiritual transformation. One of the most significant changes in dependence is discovering more about yourself, your view of life, and what you are connected/attached to. Without a higher power or some moral compass, people who struggle with addiction justify their behaviors on their feelings and then will always fail. It's why relapse is so prevalent. The work that needs to be done to be able to live life on life's terms is profound, and many aren't ready or expect to have to do that much.  This is all downright unfair. You have been wronged, ripped out of a childhood and now dealing with the consequences of a choice/disease your father had/chose. Even if addiction is strictly a brain disease, just like any disease, there are choices to be made that exasperate or improve our conditions. You have every right to allow your inner child who was mistreated to be angry and grieve. You do not have the right to be a victim and stay angry. You do not have the right to not participate in life because of what has happened. No matter what has happened to us as children, our life is ours; let's own it and work with what we have been given.  You will work on forgiving because it benefits your children/current or future/spouse/friends etc. You forgive because that is how you transcend addiction and find your bulletproof vest to live on life's terms and maintain despite the pains of real life. You forgive because you aren't going to let this wounded ego control you and tell you what to do. You will acknowledge your anger, but you will not act on it. You will acknowledge the pain, experience it, and not run from it. You will not abuse your life by trying to remedy or avoid the inevitable pain, and sadness like an alcoholic does. You will learn to be grateful for the bad parts because it teaches you things. You are going to do the things your mind, formed from the material of your father, tells you not to do. This situation will involve forgiveness.   If you haven't noticed by now, your emotions pass, your thoughts pass, but your deep, embittered view of yourself and others initiated by the disdain of your father is a habitual response that leads you to where you don't want to go. Stop the formation of a habit that will bring you down. When you start to notice resentments or "poor me" thinking, stop them and find something to be grateful for at that moment. Please do not indulge in the habit of being angry; it will be hard to break.  Utilize all of this information to change how you see the activity of forgiveness. You aren't going to, 'forgive," but you are going to love. Forgiveness is too abstract. You focus on how you can give yourself what you needed growing up, love, support, and acceptance. Forgiveness will come with this. You will learn to forgive, not to forgive, but because you love yourself. By maintaining peace for myself, I get to be empathetic, understanding, loving, and kind to others. I know that when I don't do these things, I am not doing well and feel angry and resentful.  You are worth the work. You are advocating for that child, giving yourself what you never did growing up. Love. 
Answered on 12/29/2022

What can I do to help my 4yo stop her violent tantrum ?

Thank you for expressing your concerns in detail. Hopefully, I can provide you with some answers using behavior modification approaches to parenting your child.  When looking at the function of behavior, it seems that your child's behaving due to tangible items and possible for attention as well.  She seems to have you guys trained very well that when she wants something, and demands it, she will continue to have a tantrum until received. I would not suggest that your hug your child during a tantrum, that is reinforcing enabling and coddling behavior.  Instead, I recommend that you put firm boundaries down.  Take away anything she wants and if she is able to have it later, tell her when and only when she calms down.  You may need to put her in her room and close the door or put her in a chair and tell her she can get out once she is calm.  She then will be able to self regulate her own emotions and she will learn that she can only get what she wants or your attention if it is earned and when she completes the desired behavior which is to calm down and self regulate her moods.  Use positive reinforcement and words of encouragement at every sign of cooperation or calmness.It will be important for everyone who disciplines her to follow the same consequence.  If one person caves into your child's demands and gives her something she wants (tangible or attention) while she is acting out, then she is learning to have that behavior reinforced.   She will also learn to manipulate and split the caregivers against one another because one parent is allowing bad behavior.It will be important to be consistent for at least 30 days or until she learns that she will not receive and item until she is calm.  She may also need to learn "no" as a response if she is not able to obtain the item at a later time.  Remember, you get to chose which behavior you want to reinforce. If you give her items or attention when she is acting out, you are reinforcing it.  If you teach your child "No" or "At a later time" only when she is calm, she is learning that you are in control and only positive behaviors will be reinforced.Hope that helps and good luck!
Answered on 10/22/2022

How to help and discipline a ADHD toddler

Smart children can be very challenging to raise!  You said a toddler, and so I am wondering how much language she has yet.  But one thing that is true for even the youngest babies is that you connect with them by helping them to feel that you understand what they are trying to communicate, and they can count on you to take care of their needs at least the majority of the time.  Remember that children do want to be good, and your love is the most important thing to them above everything else.  The thing that children fear the most is losing their parents, and to a child, they imagine that if you are not pleased with them you could reject them and they could lose you.  It might not always seem that way, but that is what matters the most to a very young child.  They want to be good.  They want to be loved.  They want you to know that they are trying. But children don't have all of the skills that they need to be good all of the time.  It is difficult even for adults to manage their emotions when emotions get intense.  Children are full of inner conflicts.  As much as they want your approval, they also have a powerful need to learn about their environment, to experiment, and to assert their independence.  And that combination can really get them into trouble.  Sometimes they are deliberately testing their limits to make sure that you still love them, no matter what they do, and that can be incredibly frustrating.  It is also developmentally normal, to an extent. Your job is to teach her the limits so that she can be safe and grow and mature and ultimately become more trusted and independent. As frustrating as it is, all of these challenging behaviors and difficult emotions are opportunities to bond and strengthen your relationship with your child.  John Gottman, one of the best known family therapists, has outlined a technique called "Emotion Coaching and Problem Solving" for helping parents to learn how to teach and coach their children through difficult emotions and challenging behavior.  You can read more about it in Gottman's book, "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child." The first step is to be aware of your child's emotions.  The second step is to recognize that when your child is experiencing difficult emotions (which often leads to impulsive behavior), that is an opportunity for you to bond with your child. Third, tune in to what your child is communicating (verbally or non-verbally).  Listen with empathy and validate how the child is feeling.  Feelings are never wrong - they just are.  Feelings are not the same as behaving though. Fourth, help your child to learn to identify their feelings and the words for them, and to be able to express their feelings with words. I realize that this may sound like reasoning.  The difference is that reasoning expects your child to recognize the logic in what you are saying to her, while emotion coaching is about you listening to your child and helping her to feel heard and to communicate better.  The focus is on what your child cares about the most right then in that moment, and that is something that she will be motivated to connect with. The final step in emotion coaching is problem solving.  Sometimes you won't even need this step once your child feels understood and can say how she feels with words.  When you do need a problem solving step, the way that it works is to guide your child to find a solution, while teaching limits and exploring the consequences or "what ifs."  As much as she is able to, ask your child what needs to be done.  Ask her what will happen if you do what she is proposing, and help her to shape that into a reasonable and appropriate solution.  For example, if she ran into the street, of course you are going to stop her and make sure that she is safe.  You will probably be scared and mad and upset because she could have gotten hurt.  Recognize your own emotions and what you need to do to regulate your emotions.  And then see if you can understand what your child is feeling.  Be curious about why she did that.  Was she frustrated because she wanted to go play in the park and you told her no?  Recognize that this is an opportunity to understand each other and bond together.  Validate her frustration (even if she can't go play in the park right now, she can still be frustrated).  Help her to name that feeling.  Explain that she can't go play in the park and she has to stay with you and out of the street.  Ask her what she thinks would help her to stay safe and out of the street and also help her to feel better.  Explore those ideas and come up with a plan together based on her own suggestions.
Answered on 06/10/2022

How to handle feuding with family about helping to care for our mother who has dementia and lives with us

Hi Lisa,   I am sorry to hear of your family conflict. Taking care of a loved one, particularly one who has dementia is no easy matter.    You mention having a “huge argument” recently.  Was this with your mother, or another loved one?  If they are not talking to you, this sounds like Stonewalling and an unhealthy communication style.  John Gottman talks about this and the “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” which are also to be avoided.  You may want to look these up.  Then again, perhaps the individual needs some space for a short while which can be okay. Taking turns may be needed so that you also can have the space for yourself that you need.  Personal boundaries are essentially the limits or “rules” we set for ourselves within relationships.  On BetterHelp, there are often Groupinars held on this topic that you might be interested in, and sometimes even on more specific topics like caring for aging family.    It is important to know your own worth and value.  It sounds like this is something you are beginning to question more and what is truly acceptable for you.  Our intuition is very powerful and it is telling you that something is not right.  I would trust and honor that.  In addition, notice what emotions are coming up for you and honor those.  If you feel like you are being taken advantage of in any way, you may need to set some limits.   And know that is okay to say “no” and to be assertive.  It often does not feel comfortable to do so, especially if you are not one that is accustomed to being assertive.  And your family may respond to you differently if they are not accustomed to that behavior from you.  If you want to express some feelings towards them and set limits, start by speaking with “I Statements” and they may respond with less defensiveness.   I recommend to all my clients that they practice consistent self-care.  Do you feel like you are doing enough to take care of yourself?  Calming exercises like deep breathing, yoga and meditation can go a long way.  And many people also find journaling their thoughts and feelings very helpful.  This may be something you want to explore.    I hope some of this helps.  If you decide to move forward in therapy, seek out a provider who has experience with the elderly, including those with dementia-related disorders.  And of course there is a lot of literature out there on the subject as well.  I know that there are many professionals on this platform who would be more than happy to help you!    Good luck and be well, Alicia
Answered on 05/16/2022

How do I forgive my parents and stop them from triggering me?

Dear Bec,   Thank you for your message and sharing with me the dynamics between you and your family, and your struggles with forgiveness regarding the pain you've been suffering from.    We do have the right to be angry at how the lack of courage from the ones who have hurt us and have left us feeling unresolved and unfairly treated. It could be true that because of how much shame and guilt the other person is feeling, they might not ever have the courage to come to us, acknowledge what they have done and apologize.   They have hurt us once in the past, yet by allowing this resentment to build, I am afraid that it means we are giving them the license to continue hurting us.   It is unfortunate that this is a situation where it doesn't seem to be fair, the ones who have wounded us continue to live their lives while we are still sitting in the wounds. I can understand how frustrated and angry that feels, I would be feeling the same way given in this situation.   Meanwhile I am also thinking about our future, your future and what is best for your interest. On that note if you would like, I would like to propose forgiveness. Not to agree / accept the person's wrong doing or letting them go from being hold accountable, rather this forgiveness is all about setting ourselves free from continue being hurt / controlled by this person's action / inaction.   As you have been practicing kindness, I am sure you have noticed that we have much control over how we want to feel and we can make choices to promote kindness within ourselves, regardless of how others treat us or what life brings us.   “Forgiveness is the most powerful thing that you can do for your physiology and your spirituality.  Yet, it remains one of the least attractive things to us, largely because our egos rule so unequivocally. To forgive is somehow associated with saying that it is all right, that we accept the evil deed. But this is not forgiveness. Forgiveness means that you fill yourself with love and you radiate that love outward and refuse to hang onto the venom or hatred that was engendered by the behaviors that caused the wounds.” ~ Wayne Dyer   Here are some thoughts that I have when it comes to forgiveness, perhaps some benefits when we practice letting go of resentments and allow forgiveness to bring peace and healing back into our heart:   1. Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves   “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” ~ Maya Angelou   Your mind might try to convince you that forgiveness is “letting someone off the hook,” and that you are in fact doing those who mistreated you a favor by forgiving them, but the truth of the matter is that you are doing yourself a favor.   Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself, to be at peace, to be happy and to be able to sleep at night. You’re not doing this for them, you’re doing it for yourself, to set yourself free from the feelings of hurt, anger and helplessness that kept both of you attached for so long, and to be at peace.   2. Forgiveness is an act of strength   “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute if the strong.” ~ Gandhi    Contrary to what you have been led to believe, forgiveness is an act of strength. You don’t forgive because you are weak, but because you are strong enough to realize that only by letting go of resentments you will be happy and at peace.   3. Forgiveness is a sign of self-love   “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.    Love yourself enough to let go of all the toxicity from your life and free yourself from all the anger, bitterness and resentments.  If you’re mad, be mad. Don’t hide and suppress your feelings. Let it all out, but once you’re done with being mad, allow forgiveness to enter your heart. Let go and love!    4. When you forgive, you find peace   “If you let go a little you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.” ~ Ajahn Chah   Peace of mind is what you find the moment you let go of any grudges and any resentments you might be holding on to. The moment you say to yourself: “It is time to let go, it is time to forgive”, that will be the moment you will find peace.    5. If you forgive, you will be forgiven   “In this world, you are given as you give. And you are forgiven as you forgive. While you go your way through each lovely day, you create your future as you live.” ~ Peace Pilgrim   In life, we get what we give, and we reap what we sow. And since we’re all humans, and we all make mistakes, the more we forgive others for the past, present and future mistakes, the more others will forgive us when we will make mistakes. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. That also means forgiving ourselves. The more we practice forgiveness, we will find ourselves having more grace and compassion for others, and for ourselves, which would result in peace, comfort and calmness.   I hope this is helpful. Again I want to acknowledge how difficult it is to navigate these waters, especially when some of these pain and acts are ongoing. I just want to acknowledge your courage in seeking to learn about forgiveness.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to learn your thoughts, Jono
Answered on 05/24/2021