These tactics will keep you in control while also making your child feel loved, no matter their age.
Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore believe they can help you raise an emotionally intelligent visionary and they’ve got the resources to prove it. Through their Hand-in-Hand Parenting foundation, they offer educational materials, one-on-one consulting, and a support network for anyone navigating the kind of parenting challenges that lead to fights, resignations, avoidance, (and premature grays). Their mission: Improve society by improving family bonds, which all starts with how you communicate with each other. In their latest book, Listen ($25, amazon.com), you’ll discover techniques for overcoming temper tantrums, chore refusals, smartphone wars, and more. Here are some highlights.
The Challenge: Toddler Won’t Let You Leave
The Solution: Say Goodbye Earlier
If you’re uncomfortable letting him cry as you slip out the door, then “plan to say goodbye an hour earlier than the time you have to leave,” even if you don’t actually leave, says Patty Wipfler. First listen, then assure. “Tell your child you’re always coming back. That you see it’s hard but he’ll be safe. When the crying slows down, say once again it’s time for you to go so he can very slowly meet the challenge of your departure, but with you right there.” If the parting becomes routine (you’re going to work or dropping him off at the babysitter’s), remind him the day before so the separation is less of a surprise.
Why it works: The child’s fear disappears while you’re listening to him and is replaced with a sense of feeling cared for. It takes awhile, because every child and situation is different, says Tosha Schore, “but the process is deeply healing and gives you the chance to help your child face something difficult with all the support he needs to rise to the challenge.” What if you don’t have an extra hour to say goodbye? Try the tactic on a weekend, or refer to number two.
The Challenge: Five-Year-Old Has Meltdowns Before School
The Solution: Give Her Five
“This might be a sign your child is trying to heal from an enduring upset (maybe one that took place at school), but the morning rush gets in the way,” says Schore. Two good ways to remedy issues: Carve out five minutes of what Schore and Wipfler refer to as “Special Time,” where you set aside one-on-one time for your child to do anything she wants with your support. “When the five minutes are over, give a hug and promise more tomorrow,” Schore suggests. Or, start the day 30 minutes earlier than usual if she has a big reservoir of feelings that are triggered often so you have time to listen, either while at home or in transit.
Why it works: Because it gives children the connection they need from you right up front; your listening ear eases their anxiety. Whether it’s five, 15, or 35 minutes, “the point is to hand the child the reins of the relationship for a period while we learn what’s on their minds through play,” Wipfler explains. “For many children, Special Time in the morning can transform their whole attitude,” says Schore.
The Challenge: Two-Year-Old Has a Problem With Sharing
The Solution: Turn on the Spotlight
“We like the ‘I’ll be with you while you wait’ policy,” says Schore. If two children want the same toy, the one who has it keeps it for as long as he wants. Explain to the other child they have to wait but you’ll be right there with them, even if he cries and throws a tantrum. What if your child “hoards” a toy for days? Schore suggests saying something like, “‘Tomorrow, I’m going to ask you to let your brother have the first turn with your favorite toy. If it’s hard, I’ll be with you.’” If he expresses big feelings, let him. Eventually he’ll learn to recover and cooperate on his own and you won’t have to monitor turns.
Why it works: When children feel connected, they are naturally generous with one another. Supporting them with your physical presence helps them feel heard and included. “Plus once the tension is released, he or she will be able to think of other things to do and play more flexibly,” explains Wipfler.
The Challenge: 10-Year-Old Snubs Clean Up Time
The Solution: Try Play
If a child refuses to do a chore, a good first step is to warm the relationship. Wipfler suggests trying five minutes of Special Time where she does whatever she wants before tidying up or playing a silly game where she’s in charge (role playing, for example, where she becomes the parent and you throw a pretend fit about not wanting to do what she asks, or even wrestling makes for good fun). This is especially the case with a dreaded task or when they first return home from school. “One mother came to me furious at her children who would walk into the house, drop their things by the front door, and run to the living room to play,” Wipfler says. “I pointed out that all day they’d been doing what their teachers wanted, so rather than greet them with a demand, it might work better to join them in play and then ask them to empty their backpacks.”
Why it works: You get their attention without making them feel bad and it provides balance. By focusing on making them laugh, everyone can feel connected.
The Challenge: Teen is Addicted to Electronics
The Solution: Be the “Good Cop”
We can set successful limits when we are clear the limits make sense. “It’s when we’re not confident that we feel like a bad cop,” says Wipfler. “But when we’re whole in our decision, there’s no need to negotiate or try to control how our children feel, as long we show love throughout, repeat the limit if necessary, and keep our voice warm and ears open.” If she continues to struggle with getting off the cell phone, try a family meeting where, together, everyone comes up with a set of family rules for electronic use.
Why it works: “Once your child has released her anger or frustration, she will cooperate, and it only takes a few minutes,” says Schore. Plus, being consistent while standing your ground and showing love will make them feel better to the point where you won’t have to ask them for the device.