0

“I Feel Like a Failure as a Parent.” How to Turn That Hopeless Feeling Around

What is the worst thing a parent can feel, in your opinion? I’ll give you a few seconds to think about that before I give you my answer.

From my perspective, the worst thing a parent can feel is “hopeless.” This is when you’re feeling like there’s no hope for you, your child or your family because everything, absolutely everything, is going wrong and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

I’ve talked with many parents who have been on this road; I’ve been there myself.

You’re standing in a spot, looking toward the future and everything you see is bleak. The only word that can describe how you see yourself as a parent is “failure.” It’s a pretty awful feeling.  You wake up in the morning and as soon as your daughter sees you, you get some sort of negative, snarky comment.  Or, you go into your son’s room and see he still hasn’t cleaned up the mess that’s been there for weeks (months!) and when you ask him about it, you get a “F-you, Mom” as a reply. There is a fear that seeps into everyday life that your children will never develop the skills to be productive members of society. The responsibility of it all can make you feel overwhelmed and defeated, and your day hasn’t even really started yet.  It can be enough to make any parent wonder how you could have ever thought having children was a good idea.

What can a parent do to change this seeming downward spiral?

Most of us are trying to raise our kids using the same tools and techniques our parents used. And, while those techniques may have worked with our generation, they are not very effective with this generation of kids. Where I would never even consider talking back to my mom (at least not while she was in the same room as me), kids today are growing up in a different culture, one where disrespect and defiance towards adults are much more accepted and often glorified in media. The line between children and adults has become blurred, with many kids not seeing the boundary at all.

Apr18_FBgraphic-2

On the parental support line for The Total Transformation Program, we talk about how it all starts with assuming control and conveying the calm self confidence of an empowered parent. Does this mean you will actually feel like you are always in control? No, probably not. When I’m faced with a situation where I’m not really feeling in control, a saying that we used a lot when I worked in a residential facility comes to mind: “Fake it till you make it.” In other words, act as if you are in control even if you’re not feeling like you are. You will get to a point where assuming control comes naturally and you’ll no longer be acting.

Related: How to get back your parental control and authority, and become the effective parent you always wanted to be.

Let’s say you are asking your son to clean his room for the umpteenth time. Be clear with your expectations and let him know that, until he cleans his room, he’s not going to be able to use the car.  Link the task to one of his privileges. Start having him earn those things he considers rights by linking them to what you want him to do.  He may respond to your request with “Whatever” or something equally irritating. How do you respond? If you’re like many parents, you might jump into the fray, feet first, saying something like “How dare you talk to me that way? Who do you think you are? Let me tell you something…” He responds with something even more disrespectful, and a fight begins. Now, the issue is no longer about whether or not his room gets clean. Instead, it’s about the power struggle you are now fully involved in.

So, try something different. Instead of getting into that argument, ignore the remark and walk away.  Go into another room, go for a walk, do anything other than get into an argument. Even though it may feel like he’s winning, the truth is, you’re still the one with the power. He’s not going to get the privilege until his room is clean, so what is he actually winning?

There are many other tools in The Total Transformation Program that will help you respond to your child’s behavior more effectively, helping you turn what seems like a hopeless situation into one with a much more promising outlook. Believe me, there is hope — I help parents find it every single day. All it takes is a little courage on your part to start doing things a little differently, so you can assume control of your parenting and your family.

Denise Rowden is the parent of two teens: a 17-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son.  She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from USM and is currently working on her M.Ed. in Mental Health Counseling at UMO. Denise has been a parental advisor with the Parental Support Line since 2010.

If you find any comments that are rude or inappropriate, please contact us immediately.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
0

New Report Examines Quality in Boston’s Early Education and Care Programs

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Last month, Boston EQUIP — the Early Education Quality Improvement Project— released two reports on the quality of early childhood programs in Boston:

- Community Profiles 2013, a comprehensive online survey of early education providers in Boston, and

- the Boston Quality Inventory (BQI) 2013, an in-depth study of program quality conducted at a sample of home-based and center-based early education and care programs

 These reports present crucial data that help inform and advance the policy conversation about how to improve program quality. Research shows that early education programs must be high-quality in order to see lasting positive impacts on children’s development.

Launched in 1994, Boston EQUIP is “a project of Associated Early Care and Education with a broad goal and mission – to collaborate with members of the Boston early education community to systematically evaluate, set goals for, and improve upon the quality of early childhood programs,” according to a press release. The project is aligned with Boston’s Thrive in 5 School Readiness Roadmap, which “sets goals and strategies for strengthening, coordinating and improving the quality of child and family-serving systems in the city, in order to prepare children to succeed in school.”

The BQI report was conducted by Nancy Marshall and her colleagues at the Work, Families and Children Research Group at the Wellesley Centers for Women. The findings are based on program quality data collected on-site at a random sample of licensed programs: 45 center-based programs serving infants and toddlers; 45 center-based programs serving preschoolers; and 45 family child care homes.

The BQI is the third in a series of inventories that were also taken in 2007 and 2010.

Key Findings

Among the BQI’s main themes is the need to provide more higher education and professional development programs for early childhood teachers. As the report says, Better trained and educated teachers are “are urgently needed to close achievement gaps and to support early literacy and reading proficiency.”

Findings include:

- Since 2009, more educators have Bachelor’s or higher degrees. This is true for all provider types.

- The proportion of Boston’s community preschool classrooms taught by teachers with a bachelor’s or higher rose from 37 percent in 2010 to 62 percent of classrooms in 2013.

 - Salaries of early educators in community-based programs remain stagnant.

 - Most center-based and family child care programs are using Teaching Strategies Gold developmental assessments to ensure quality outcomes for young children.

 - Boston’s community preschool classrooms have maintained the quality improvements of general curriculum practices and emotional and social support.

 - Boston’s community preschool classrooms showed significant improvements on literacy. In 2007, 11 percent of classrooms met the “Good” benchmark on the SELA Literacy Index. In 2013, 29 percent of classrooms met the “Good” benchmark on the ELLCO Literacy Index. But as the report notes, “there is still considerable room for improvement.”

 - The number of Boston’s accredited early childhood providers has dropped and is now the lowest recorded overall accreditation since 2005.

Recommendations

The reports four central recommendations call for improvements in a range of areas:

1. Increase the proportion of early childhood educators with Bachelor’s degrees.

Researchers “found that having an educator with a bachelors’ degree or more was significantly associated with the quality of BQI 2013 infant, toddler and preschool classrooms.” And among family child care homes, providers who had a Child Development Associate certificate or some college education provided higher quality early care and education than providers who only had a high school diploma or equivalent.

2. Provide more training and coaching for Boston early childhood educators.

Specifically, the report calls for training teachers to promote language development for infants and toddlers and in preschool classrooms. For infants and toddlers, this includes responses to children’s attempts to communicate, talking to children frequently throughout the day, and reading books to interested children.

Family care providers should get more training in the age-appropriate use of television and other media. And preschool classroom teachers should be trained to integrate daily writing into their classrooms.

“Some of this training may be available through formal education, but even when educators have a BA degree, additional training has been found to be associated with higher quality.”

3. Improve health and safety practices in centers and family child care homes.

Researchers found inconsistent hand washing among children and adults as well as tripping and choking hazards. In addition, some programs relied on public playgrounds that lacked fencing or were not well maintained.

“Because young children are still developing their own health and safety behaviors, early childhood classrooms face additional requirements when protecting the health and safety of young children.”

4. Increase accreditation of programs by professional early childhood associations.

“About half (52 percent) of Boston’s early care and education centers are accredited by NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children; in the BQI 2013, about half (53.3 percent) of centers in the preschool random sample were accredited. Accreditation rates for family child care providers in the BQI 2013 are low; 15 percent were currently accredited by NAFCC, the National Association for Family Child Care.”

As the report concludes overall, continuing investments are needed to improve the quality of early education and care programs so that children who live in Boston and Massachusetts can have the strong start they need to succeed in school and in life.

Cities and towns across Massachusetts — particularly the Gateway Cities — need their own quality studies so that these municipalities can have more informed local conversations about early education and school readiness.

Like this:

Like Loading…

Related

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
0

Can you "enforce" your limits without force?

“I try to use positive parenting, but there always comes a point where I’m stuck and threaten a timeout. Without punishment, how do I enforce my limits?  I can remind him until I’m blue in the face about the things he’s supposed to do, but I can’t actually MAKE him. What do I do to make my child behave, if I can’t use force?” – Lisabet

“Punishments erode relationships and moral growth.” – Alfie Kohn

This is a terrific question. How can we “enforce” our limits?

The short answer is, force doesn’t actually “work” to “make” kids behave. Sure, it might get your child to comply for this minute. But it doesn’t raise the self-disciplined child you want. And I don’t think you just want obedience (although we all do, sometimes!) You want to raise a good person, who WANTS to cooperate, and to do the right thing.

So force, or the threat of force, works temporarily. Timeouts scare young children into complying because they’re a form of ritual, temporary abandonment.  But they don’t teach kids to regulate the emotions that drove them to behave badly, so the misbehavior continues. Eventually, kids rebel and you have to escalate your force. You can drag your flailing child, but sooner or later you won’t be able to do that, and in the meantime she’s not learning to manage herself.

What’s more, the more often you resort to force, the less your child will WANT to cooperate. I hear frequently from parents of six year olds who have become defiant, now that they can’t be dragged to timeout. The six year olds who were never punished with timeouts (or other punishment) but were instead taught family expectations and emotional regulation are much better behaved and cooperative.

So force doesn’t actually get kids to behave any better. In fact, research shows that punishment makes kids misbehave more. (There’s a list of studies about this on the Aha! Parenting website: Why Positive Parenting?)

Here’s why. WE know that brushing teeth, not hitting his sister and not sneaking a cookie are for your child’s highest good. But he doesn’t. In fact, he is strongly driven to avoid teeth brushing, demolish his rival, and eat as many cookies as he can. The only reason for him to go against what he thinks will serve him is that he trusts us to always have his best interests at heart.

But when we punish, he feels wronged. Even if we can get him to parrot back to us why he was punished, he still feels wronged inside.  (Don’t you remember feeling this way with your parents?)  What’s more, he doesn’t really see how to control the bad feelings that drove him to behave badly. So he feels all alone with those scary feelings, and we aren’t there to help him. He doesn’t actually know how to make himself behave when he gets upset. He concludes that he’s a bad person. He feels less and less like trying to please us. That’s why punishment destroys our child’s desire to behave.

So we can’t “enforce” our limits, with or without force.  But we CAN make it likely that our child will want to meet our expectations and comply with our limits.  How?

1. Teach appropriate behavior with loving guidance.
If your child doesn’t know the appropriate behavior, help her learn it. If she does know but won’t do it, then help her want to.  With brushing teeth, that means making it fun and giving her control.  To resist hitting her sister, that means helping her develop a competing impulse, like the desire to please you, and the desire to see herself as a good person. Over time, positive interactions outweigh negative ones and she actually feels affection for her sister.  But she’ll also need some tools for emotional regulation.

2. Teach emotional regulation by modeling emotional regulation. 
Kids learn how to handle big emotions by watching how we do it.

Does that mean you can’t get mad?  No. It means you calm down as soon as you can — eventually (hopefully) before you open your mouth.  And you support yourself in every way so you have the internal resources to regulate yourself. Anyone will blow up once they’re pushed over the edge. So your responsibility as the grown-up is to stay away from the edge.

3. Set limits with empathy.  
Want your child to accept your limits? State them clearly, kindly, and with understanding of what your child is feeling. If you need to, get in his face in a friendly way to let him know you aren’t going anywhere until he does what you’re asking.

“Sweetie, you know the rule is that everyone clears their own plate after dinner…I know you can’t wait to watch your show, AND no TV until your plate is cleared.” (Marching child back to dining table) “Let’s go…”

“It’s hard to stop playing and get ready for bed…I bet when you’re a grown-up, you’ll never go to bed, will you?”

4. Help your child manage his emotions by helping him express them.
Even if we’re always calm, children still have big feelings. They learn to regulate those emotions when we accept their feelings, even as we limit their actions.

“You’re so mad at your sister.  I won’t let you hurt her. Come here, Sweetie, what’s going on that you’re so upset?” 

Young children need to express emotions by laughing, yawning, trembling, or crying. As they get older, their brain development allows them to use words and stories to self-regulate. Of course, even adults need to cry sometimes, so children of any age might need your help to cry about a disappointment or hurt. Some parents are fine with sadness, but when their child gets angry, they get angry back. But your child’s anger is masking his hurt, fear, sadness, or powerlessness. He won’t show those deeper feelings to you unless he feels safe enough; he’ll just keep “acting them out” with “bad” or angry behavior. That’s why creating safety is the best parental response any time big emotions flare up. The more safety, the more he can show you what’s really going on under that anger. (How do you create safety? In the moment, with compassion. The rest of the time, with empathy and playfulness.)

5. Empower your child to make repairs.
Kids feel terrible when they hurt others. They need a way to dig out of the hole they’ve created for themselves, so they can feel (and act) like a good person again.  Support your child to find ways to repair relationships and make amends.  Can your toddler get the ice pack or his friend’s blankie?  Can your four year old rebuild the tower with his brother?  Can your six year old make her sister a card or do her sister’s chore? 

If YOU impose these as consequences, you’re right back to punishment.  But if you model this kind of making amends in your family, your child will naturally copy it.  And if you apologize often, your child will learn to do so also.  Note that all humans need to calm down before apologies and amends are sincere and meaningful. First, help your child express her feelings.  Then, wonder aloud if there’s a way she could find to make things better again.

6. Above all else, protect the relationship. 
Connection trumps everything else in parenting.  Children “behave” because they love and trust us and never want to disappoint us. But we have to earn that level of devotion.  We earn it by managing our own emotions so we can stay compassionate with our child and help her when she most needs us. Which, if you were wondering, is when she seems to least deserve it. Children need physical snuggling and roughhousing to feel close on a daily basis, and they need our non-reactive compassion to help them through the tough spots. Your child isn’t cooperating? Reconnect.

And you’ll never find yourself reaching for force again.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
0

When Empathy Doesn't "Work"

“I had just read Dr. Laura’s blog about staying calm and acknowledging his desires. When the screaming and stomping began, I stopped what I was doing and sat down next to my three year old. I made eye contact, listened to his complaint and did not let the screaming anger me; I then calmly explained that I hear him. I know cheesy poofs are so tasty and I love them too but he will have to wait half an hour until dinnertime. He blubbered briefly, collapsed into my arms for a minute and then went to play with his toys. My husband congratulated me on keeping my cool.  The best part? He was perfectly pleasant the rest of the evening. Wow!” – Aimee

When parents begin using gentle guidance,  they’re often amazed by how well empathy “works” to calm their child.  For most people, just having our views and feelings acknowledged makes us feel better, so we’re more cooperative.  So once parents get past their fear of “agreeing” with their child’s “negative emotions” they quickly learn to empathize when their child is having a hard time:

  • “Nothing’s going right for you today, huh?”
  • “You wish you could have ice cream now, I hear you.”
  • “You are very mad at me!

In fact, empathy is so effective in reconnecting with our upset child and helping her calm down that it takes us by surprise when it “doesn’t work.”

But empathy isn’t a trick to control the other person.  It’s a means of connection, and of helping our child process emotion.  So when empathy doesn’t “work,” consider whether you’re really connecting, and whether you’re helping your child with her emotions.

Here are the problems I hear most often from parents about “using” empathy:

1. “Empathy makes my child cry harder.” Yes, when we validate kids’ feelings, the emotions do usually intensify. But we aren’t creating those bad feelings. They’re in there anyway. Think about a time when you had some big feelings locked up inside — maybe something bad happened. You were holding it together. Then someone arrived with whom you felt safe, and they hugged you or said something compassionate, and you burst into tears. So when kids have big feelings and we empathize, they do get more in touch with the feelings. But that’s a good thing. Because once they feel those emotions, the emotions evaporate. That’s how emotions work.

2. “Empathy doesn’t stop the tantrum.”  Once your child is swept into “fight or flight” words don’t help.  So instead of labeling emotion, communicate safety so your child can show you all those feelings. The fewer words the better, just enough so she hears your compassion and knows you’re standing by with a hug. Empathy won’t stop the tantrum, but it will help your child let all those feelings up and out. That’s what’s healing.

3. “I keep repeating ‘You are very sad and frustrated’  but they get mad and tell me not to say it.”  How we acknowledge feelings depends on how old the other person is.  With an angry toddler, you might get down on his level and say “You’re so mad!”  The toddler is often reassured: Mom doesn’t think it’s an emergency; there’s even a name for this tidal wave that’s swamping him. 

But as kids get older, telling them what they feel makes them angrier. Like most of us, they don’t want to be analyzed or manipulated, they want to know you see their side of things. Imagine if you were upset and your partner just kept repeating “You are very sad and frustrated!”

So instead of labeling the emotion, try really really understanding and empathizing with his perspective: “Oh, Sweetie…how disappointing to see something you want so badly and have me say No…  I hear how much you want it….I wish I could say Yes, but not today.”

As kids grow, a simple “Oh, Sweetie, I’m sorry it’s so hard” or even just “Mmmm…. Oh, no…..My goodness!” will get your empathy across.

And of course, while your child is in the middle of the tantrum, you don’t need to tell them how sad and mad they are. The only thing they need to know is that they’re safe, and you’re ready with a hug when they’re ready.

4. “I empathize with the emotions, but then she’s still upset about it.”  Empathy helps us see our child’s view and reconnect with her. And sometimes that’s enough to defuse her emotions. But often we need to go a step further, and help her solve the problem.

“You’re so upset that your little sister keeps knocking down your tower. Let’s find a place for you to build that is out of her reach.”

Sometimes she needs our support to solve it herself:

“You’re so mad at your brother. I think he needs to hear how you feel. Let’s go find your brother, and I will stay with you while you tell him.

And sometimes she simply can’t have what she wants, but you can give her what she wants with a wish:

“Do you want me to write this here on your birthday list so when it comes time we won’t forget about it?”

Sometimes, though, wish fulfillment isn’t enough and there’s no solving the problem. The disappointment is so great — or it triggers some earlier hurt that’s still lurking and waiting to be expressed — that only tears will do. In that case, the empathy “worked” so your child felt safe enough to show you his upset.  That’s how kids build resilience — they feel safe enough with you to let themselves feel their disappointment fully — and they learn they can come out on the other side feeling ok. He’s crying?  That’s a GOOD thing.

5.  “I say ‘You are mad but we don’t hit’ and he hits again ten minutes later.“  If your message isn’t getting through, it’s usually because your child needs more help with his emotions than your empathy is giving him. 

Sometimes when we use the word “but” kids don’t feel their feelings are really being acknowledged. You might see if there’s a difference when you say “You are really mad, aren’t you? AND we don’t hit.” Or sometimes your tone of voice makes a tremendous difference — parroting the words doesn’t actually help you connect.

But the big reason that empathic reminders don’t prevent more hitting is that you simply can’t expect “talk” of any kind to solve the problem. Kids who hit have big fear locked inside. They need you to create safety and set a compassionate limit so they can cry and show you that fear. Only then does hitting usually stop. (Want more pointers on how to do help kids with big emotions? Here’s a whole post for you.)

In fact, empathy ALWAYS works to reconnect and help with emotions. (Sometimes that means the emotions come gushing out, which is ultimately healing.) So if your empathy doesn’t seem to be “working,” maybe words are getting in your way. Stop trying to come up with the right words. Instead, imagine yourself as a child feeling what your son or daughter is feeling at this moment. What do you wish your parent would do right now to love you through this?  Do that.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
0

Parents Get Tips on How to Help Their Children Become “Future Ready”

April 16, 2014 by Alyssa Haywoode

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for

A new education initiative called Future Ready Massachusetts offers parents insights about how to prepare their children for college and careers. It’s a smart way to make sure that parents are in the know about what their children need to succeed.

“Being Future Ready means having the knowledge, skills and attitudes to complete whatever education and training you need to achieve your goals in school, work and life,” the website explains.

The Future Ready campaign has two goals:

 1. to increase the number of students who succeed in their colleges and careers, and

2. to build community and family support to encourage students to complete a rigorous course of study that prepares them for better opportunities after high school.

 Future Ready is a collaboration between the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education in partnership with many other organizations across the commonwealth.

We are glad to see that Future Ready’s vision begins at birth and includes early education as the foundation of a continuum of educational programs and academic support that lead to college and career readiness.

The campaign offers three pieces of advice:

Start Now: Students can’t just dream about the future, they need a plan.

 Aim High: Students should take challenging courses that prepare them for later success.

 Look Beyond: Studying and good grades are essential, but students can also find jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities that teach them about the world of work.

 On the Future Ready website, parents can find resources in five areas:

- early education

- elementary school

- middle school

- high school, and

- beyond high school

 The early education page (written in partnership with Strategies for Children) features links to several high-quality resources, including the new WGBH website “Resources for Early Learning”; the Department of Early Education and Care’s Early Learning Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers; and the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s “Encouraging Your Child to Read” booklet, written by Nonie Lesaux and her colleagues, and available in English and Spanish.

The website also encourages communities to become Future Ready by helping students achieve their long-term goals. The South Shore, Quincy and Worcester are three of the areas adopting aspects of the Future Ready plan.

As the Future Ready website says, “Real people are the ‘bridge’ of this campaign – influential adults equipped with key pieces of information on college and career readiness preparation, provided by the Future Ready campaign, are the most important point of contact to students.”

Click here to sign up for Future Ready’s newsletter. Or follow Future Ready on Twitter at @FutureReadyMA — or on Facebook.

Like this:

Like Loading…

Related

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS