This entry is part 23 of 32 in the series Still Standing
Do you parent a challenging child? Does every conversation turn into a battle of words?
Here are some of the ways Aaron, our attachment therapist, is teaching us how to shift conversations with challenging kids.
Remember, the goal is not to win a war of words, but to bring a closeness to the relationship.
Sometimes our kids put up a wall of negativity and need to be challenged to shift out of their negative patterns. They need to be taught to think in a new way.
Keep these new conversations brief.
Adults talk too much.  This is our number one mistake. Get in, make a point, and get out.
How to Shift Conversations with Challenging Kids|The Holy Mess

How to Shift Conversations with Challenging Kids

Here are sample conversations and tips for how to gradually move conversations in a new, more positive direction.

My son, in the car last night after Tae Kwon Do practice:
Son: Aww, man, we have to go home? I don’t want to go home. I hate home!
Mom: Why do you hate home?’
Son: We have too many rules. I hate our rules.
In the past I would have said, “Yep, we have rules. Bummer. Get in the car.”
Now, taking the veil off:
Mom: What’s the problem for you with following the rules?
Son: I don’t like it.
M: I see. Interesting. You want to be in control.
Son: Yes.
M: Hmm, so you have something going on inside of you that needs to be in control. What’s up with that?
Son: Nothing.
M: Oh, I think it’s something. Other kids follow the rules okay. That doesn’t make you a bad kid, but we are going to figure it out. Aaron’s already talked to you about it. There’s a reason why you always need to be in control. What is it?
Son: (silent.)
~~~
When my son gets angry, I used to say, “I see you are afraid.”
Now:
“I see you are angry. So, what’s the fear about?”
Son: “I’m not afraid.”
Mom: “So calm down. “
Son: “I am calm.”
Mom: Point out the body language that shows he’s not calm. Then if needed, go back to, “So, what’s the fear about?”
~~~
These conversations are fairly confrontational and stir up our kids “stuff”.
Remember to say these things in a loving or neutral way, but stay in the moment, right there looking your kids in the eye. Don’t waiver as you say it. Expect a response. Speak with a tone of authority.
~~~
Up until this point in his life, we’ve acknowledged that our son has controlling behaviors. Now we are taking it to the next level by showing him that he cannot be in control.
We are starting to turn the tables back to him and ask him,  “Why do you need to be in control?”
These are tough questions but he needs to come up with the answers.
~~~
Ask your child, “What will happen if you aren’t in control?”
“What will happen if you don’t get your way?” (The scissors, the choice you want, etc.) “Are you going to die? Are you going to get taken away by someone?”
Help your child get to the root of these fears.
Then we can start dealing with it.
~~~
When our son says, “Its not fair,” this is how we respond.
 (Also see this blog post for when kids say “It’s Not Fair!”) Many kids with siblings (or classmates) have this struggle. For kids with attachment issues, it’s magnified.
Start with genuinely reflect back the feelings. “I hear you saying it’s not fair because _____.” The feelings are real.
Then say, “Now, what are you going to do about your feelings here.”
In other words, what are YOU (the child) going to do.
Our son often tries to put the blame on someone else, or expects us to fix his problems for him.
Now we put it back on him to figure out.
(Even if he doesn’t at first, he will eventually start to.)
If he says he doesn’t know how, I remind him, “I know you are a smart kid. You can figure this out. I know you well enough to know you can do this.”
~~~
When our son has temper tantrums, we ask him how old he thinks he’s acting, then we tell him we expect him to act his age. “How old are you acting right now? Yes, you are acting like a 2 year old right now. Stop. I expect you to act like the 10 year old that you are.”
~~~
These are just a few of the strategies that have worked for us to shift conversations with challenging kids.
What strategies have you found helpful when working with challenging kids?

Still StandingStill Standing|The Holy Mess

Bible Verse

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58

Journal Prompt

How can you be steadfast in God’s work for you?

Resources

Do You Have Secondary PTSD?

When Your Daughter Wants to Dye Her Hair Blue

A Courageous Boy Needs a Brave Mom


How to Shift Conversations with Challenging Kids|The Holy Mess

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