A few years ago, before autism diagnoses and home education and understanding our family dynamic better, my husband and I started following the advice in a book called 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child. The title gives the game away and pretty much sums up what you can expect. Follow the ten day programme by the author – who happens to be a leading child and family psychotherapist – and within ten days you will have a less defiant child on your hands. Day One is all about taking a step back and recognising your own negative parenting traits.
Reading about the detrimental long term effects these behaviours can have on children was sobering to say the least. Every single parent on the planet is guilty of at least a few of them, and at the time we were doing almost all of them. Fast forward to now, in the age of fake news and echo chambers, and not being able to have a conflicting conversation (or so it seems), I think us parents owe it to our children to own up when we’re in the wrong. Telling ourselves that it’s okay to do something, because “everyone else does it” will only come back to bite us on the bum. Of that I am absolutely convinced. Which is why I’m re-sharing this old piece. Really hope it comes in handy for your family.
We all know it’s not great to shout at our kids, but I’ve had cycles where voices were being raised on an hourly (let alone daily!) basis. It’s been upsetting for all concerned, including myself. Reading this, in the book, was a real wake up call.
“When you yell at your kids you are showing poor impulse control delivered through a temper tantrum.”
Honestly and truthfully, I had never looked at it like that before! The next part made made tears spring to my eyes.
“I encourage you to realise, as I did, that we are bullying our children when we yell at them.”
Due to being bullied as a child myself, I absolutely despise the word and was horrified to think of myself as one. I am not claiming to be perfect, goodness knows we have had our rough patches, but I am definitely not a shouty mum anymore.
There’s an incredible line in the film Wonder: “if you have the chance to be right or kind, be kind.” Nagging at children just means they completely tune out to everything that is said. I’ve learnt over the years that it’s sometimes best to just walk away and keep my mouth shut.
Bringing up past conflicts
Starting the day with a fresh slate is absolutely essential in my house. There is absolutely no room for holding on to resentment from previous days and weeks.
Most kids are not evil geniuses plotting and planning on how to make their folks miserable, but it can definitely feel that way when you’re in the midst of dealing with severely challenging behaviour from them. My mind has had a habit of running away with me at times, and blaming others. Which gets me absolutely nowhere. A large part of my book Become the Best You talks about how detrimental toxic relationships are, and toxic thoughts are just as bad. Except we are in full control of stopping them.
I’m pleased to say that I haven’t ever criticized my kids. Mainly because I saw it a lot in my childhood, and know it can lead to low self-esteem as time goes on.
I’m working on this one, but I’ll admit, it’s tough for me. When 5yo does something to her brother or sister, then shows absolutely no remorse at all, my natural instinct is to try and make her feel bad about it. I know logically that it’s fools errand though, and an apology without sincerity is not worth having. Again I’m learning to just keep my mouth shut and walk away in these situations, but it does not come easy to me.
I’d recently started doing this too, but as with holding on to past conflicts it was a fairly new habit and an easy one to put a stop to. Now I know that we are a neuro-diverse family, and none of my children particularly understand sarcasm, I just don’t go there.
I guess this is a combination of guilt tripping and nagging. The more I lecture, the less she listens, so what’s the point?
We were in a terrible mess with this one, threatening to take things away on a daily basis. The main problem with our defiant little girl is that she is constantly testing the boundaries and seeing if we will follow through with our threats. Then when she’d pushed it too far and had the thing taken away all hell would break loose. We had to stop the threats, but also stop the on the spot punishments too. They were doing no one any good, and it’s another thing that I’m proud to say we have been mostly successful with.
Not listening to your child
I don’t think this was ever done intentionally, but in the book he talks about the importance of properly listening to your kids. Letting them get their point across, even if you think you have something to say that you feel is more important. This is a tricky one, because in the heat of the moment sometimes the last thing we want to do is listen to what they have to say.
Denying your child’s feelings
This is another tricky one, because my girl can dish it out but can’t take it at all. When the toddler fights back 5yo will come crying for sympathy, the last thing I feel like giving her considering she’s been goading her sister for two hours previously. As difficult as it has been at points, I’ve had to just ignore what happened beforehand and give her the comfort she needs.
We put so much emphasis on what the kids are doing, but by focusing our efforts on eradicating negative parenting traits behaviour, over time it trickles down. This is the long game, but it’s so very worth it.
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