Why do most parents yell? Is it really effective to use force, fear or manipulation to make a child behave? How can you raise an independent, disciplined and cooperative kid? Does punishment really work? You can learn about these and more from this book. There was once a mother named Cynthia who sought the help of Dr Laura. Cynthia said that her mother was a yeller. Her grandmother was a yeller as well. Most parents in her family were yellers. How can she break the cycle? We all want happy kids. We all want to avoid tantrums and bad behaviour. Years of studies have shown that it is possible. There is a proven and effective way to raise happy kids. That is to become a peaceful parent.
You may be surprised to know that to have a good relationship with your child, you should start with yourself. The first step to be a peaceful parent is regulating yourself. You will learn how to face your own childhood and to control your own emotions. The second step is fostering connection. You will learn how to build a strong connection with your child from infancy, toddlerhood, preschool and elementary school. It is possible to develop a close bond with your teenager. You will learn how. The third step is coaching, not controlling. You will learn how to coach your child’s emotions. You will learn about emotional intelligence and how you can help your child achieve it. Emotions are important. Coaching them will equip your child against the challenges of life
PART ONE: REGULATING YOURSELF
Your Number One Responsibility as a Parent
Many people say that being a parent is one of the toughest jobs. Why? First because it takes so much responsibility and second because there are no clear instructions as how to do it right. But is this really true? The first one certainly is. However, the answer to the second question will surprise you. Studies have concluded time and again that parents who are warm, connected and calm raise responsible, cheerful and self-disciplined children. Experts have proven that yelling is not an effective way to make kids follow. Instead, it damages the family’s relationship. You can be a peaceful parent as well. You can have kids who are respectful and well-behaved. The first thing you need to learn is mindfulness. It is about managing your emotions. You are being mindful when you get upset but don’t act on it.
Every day, your child will do something that will make you mad. They are children. They do not know what’s right or wrong. They have yet to learn how to control their emotions. And you as the parent should be the one to teach them. You yourself should learn to master your own emotions. Say for example, that your older daughter hits your younger daughter. Should you come up and punish your older one at once? Of course what she did is wrong. But you must first understand where that rage is coming from. Your older daughter is jealous of her little sister. Because she is a child, she cannot control that emotion. If you approach your older one with yelling and spanking, you are just showing that you yourself cannot control your own emotions. Therefore, your first task as a parent is to be mindful.
Breaking the Cycle: Healing Your Own Wounds
Now, there can be times that you just cannot bear the situation. Here is another big idea that you need to learn. Raising children will bring you back to your own childhood. If you have unhealed wounds from when you were a child, it is likely that you will inflict the same pain on your kid. Your child will remind you of the time when your dad was always distant or your mom was always mad. Your kid will trigger those unpleasant memories. You have to ask yourself, do you want your child to have that same unhappy childhood? Do you want your son or daughter to feel the same pain?You can break the cycle. You can heal your own childhood wounds so that your child would not experience it. You can heal yourself so that you can build for you and your child a happier life. Your son or daughter can live without the self-doubt, the loneliness, and the fears that you once had.
Here are three ways with which you can heal your childhood wounds and create a better childhood for your children. The first one is “Use your inner pause button”. When you are triggered by whatever your child did, take a deep breath and hit your pause button. Stop and think of what you’re going to do. Are you about to hit your child? Are you about to say insulting words? Hit pause. Stop yelling even if you’re in the middle of the sentence. Turn around and leave the room. It isn’t embarrassing to do even if you suddenly stop while your slapping hand is on mid-air. The time to be embarrassed is when you show to your kid that you cannot control your own self. Be embarrassed when you are having a tantrum because your emotions overwhelm you.The second way is to “Reset your own story.” For example, your father left the family when you were young. Because of that, you felt like you are not good enough, that you are worthless because you’re not worth it enough for your father to stay. Reset your frame of mind.
You are now an adult. You have to realize that you are a unique person. Your father had his own reasons why he left. That has nothing to do with you. Another example, your mother often slapped you. Because of that, you concluded that you’re a bad kid. That you are not deserving of love. Hit reset. It’s time for you to live in the fact that your mother has got her own problems.The reason she hit you is because she had issues of her own.Every child is longing for love and attention. Every child tries to get it in the only way that he or she knew. If you only got attention when you did something wrong, don’t let that happen to your own child.The third way is to “Relieve your stress.”
Maybe the reason why you’re so mad at your child is because you are tired. Maybe, you lack sleep. Maybe, you had a disagreement with your partner or your boss. That is not a reason to lash out on your child.Do whatever it is that relieves your stress. It can be a hot bath,meditation, yoga, exercise or cheeseburgers. Listen to music or watch TV. When you are calm and peaceful, that’s when you can perform best as a parent.
How to Manage Your Anger
The discussion brings us to anger management. How can you prevent yourself from acting out on your anger? How can you stop seeing your child as a menace?You are human. It is natural to feel anger. But it is not natural to go on a tantrum. Here’s the truth. The more you act on your anger, the more you will become angry. The neuro-transmitters in your brain and the hormones in your body will do their job.Now, are you going to teach your child that it’s okay to have a tantrum because parents have them too? Are you going to teach them that it’s okay to hurt people when you’re mad?
You can choose not to hit, not to curse, not to threat and not to insult your child. If you need to scream you can do it inside the car. Roll up the windows and scream out. Here are more ways towards anger management.The first technique is “Help your body to release anger.” Your muscles will tense, your breathing will be faster and your pulse will race because of the angry hormones and neuro-transmitters in your body. You can release the tension by shaking your hands, taking ten deep breaths or humming to yourself.Even when you’re really mad, find a way to laugh or force yourself to smile. Laughing and smiling will send a new message to your brain. You’ll notice that your body calms down. Your pulse and breathing will return to normal.The second technique is “Avoid physical force, no matter what”. Spanking makes your child stop and follow at the moment. But it creates a rift in your relationship. Your child will not understand that it is the behaviour that is bad and not him or her as a person.
The third technique is “Avoid threats”. You’ve heard all the threats that parents can make. The thing is that threats are only effective if they actually happen. If your child learns that your threats are empty, he or she will only continue the bad behaviour.The fourth technique is “Monitor your words and tone of voice”. Studies have shown that if we speak calmly, we will feel calm and people will also be calm towards us. If you give a calm message, you will get a calm response.
But if you give a furious message, you’ll also have a furious response. it works with your upset kid or the annoyed waitress.The fifth technique is “Choose your own battles”.Focus on the more important things. You can let it pass when your daughter leaves her dirty clothes on the floor. But not when she hurts her younger sister. It is not good to reprimand all the time. By choosing your battles, you can save the discipline for the lessons she really needs to learn like caring for others.Stop and smell the roses. Yes, being a parent means taking care of your child while making ends meet. Sometimes, you get overwhelmed with adult stuff. But choose to live in the moment. Appreciate the love and happiness that your child brings. Enjoy the sound of his laughter, the scent of his hair, the pride in his face when he masters something new.
PART TWO: FOSTERING CONNECTION
Every child needs a parent who is 110% on their side. If a child knows for sure that there is someone watching out for him, he will be brave enough to explore the world. He will learn to love himself and to love other people because of the parent’s unconditional love.You have taken the first step on being a peaceful parent. That is regulating yourself. Now, you will learn about the second step which is fostering connection. Dr Laura discussed how you can connect with your child stage by stage from infancy, toddler, preschool and elementary years.
Babies 0-13 months: Rewiring the Brain
The parts of the brain which deals with emotions are developed during infancy. Specifically, they are the right hemisphere, the hippocampus, and the amygdala. These parts are responsible for mental health, stress management, anxiety and emotion control.Deep connection with babies 0-13 months ensures that they will have strong emotional health.Essentially, the parent will wire the baby’s brain and entire nervous system. For example, if a baby has a depressed mother, the baby will get used to low stimulation and the lack of positive feeling.
Here is an example of good communication with an infant. Imagine your baby staring at you. If you smile and coo, the baby will smile back and kick his feet in excitement. If you smile and coo more, the baby will be more excited. Both of you will feel the connection.But after a while, the baby will get tired. He’s had enough excitement. He would want to calm down. You’ll notice that the baby looks away. Because you’re too delighted, you try to make him smile more but this time he will not smile back The baby will glance back to check if it’s already safe to engage with you. He will check if you have calmed down as well. If you have, he will snuggle closer to your body. The baby will feel content because you have understood his cue.
Your child will learn that you are there to fill his needs. You are there to help him. The infant will conclude that he is in a safe universe. He will learn how to trust. A contented baby grows into a cooperative happy child.There is a misconception that it is good to ignore when babies cry. But this only makes the child anxious. It makes them more whiny and irritable. Babies need soothing. By being soothed by a parent, that’s how an infant learns to regulate his emotions.He will learn to calm down because he knows you will respond to his needs.That trust in the universe is what will make him grow to a happy toddler. Because he knows the universe is safe, he will be free to explore around and take pride in what he can do
Toddlers (13-36 months): Building Secure Attachment
What is secure attachment? It is when your child enjoys that strong connection with you. It is when a child is secure with love that’s why she has high self-esteem, can deal with stressful situations, can perform well at school and have good relationship with friends.Toddlers are happy to have their own individual bodies. That’s why they move around so much. If the infant played on your feet, the toddler will play away from you, but he or she will check from time to time if you are still there.You are the North Star of your child’s life. From birth to 9 years old,you are the bright star which he or she orbits around. Take for example a toddler in a playground.You take your child one afternoon to the park. You will sit on the bench nearby while she plays on the sandbox.
The toddler will play happily but she will look up every now and then to see if you’re still there.If you transfer to a bench farther away, the toddler will be worried. She still sees you and you still wave back but you will see the frown on her face. She will not go back to playing. She may even cry.The toddler will call you and run towards you. She will “refuel” and embrace you for a while. After that she will go back to the sandbox. What just happened? The North Star moved and the toddler had to reorient herself. Without you, she will be lost in a confusing world.That’s how important your connection with your child is.There are parents who send their kids to day care as early as two years old. They don’t realize how much negative impact it has on the child. Toddlers are stressed when they are away from their parents. They tend to act out more.They don’t know how to control their emotions. They go on tantrums or hurt playmates.
Preschoolers (3 to 5 Years): Developing Independence
3 years old can speak out their needs and wait to have them met. That’s why they’re ready for preschool. But you are still the North Star for him or her. You are your child’s main source of information about the world and about himself.There are parents who worry that their 3 year old child is scared of being left at school. They wonder “What’s wrong with my child? Why isn’t she more independent?”We have to rethink about our definition of independence. Some parents expect their kids to separate easily from them as a toddler, to sleepover without looking back at age 5 and to go on a one month camping at age 9. But that is not independence. That is detachment.
Kids are designed by biology to follow the North Star. If the North Star isn’t there, they will follow teachers or friends. Kids are born dependent so that they are open to guidance and protection from the parent.If a toddler is not bothered with the parent leaving the room, he is not being independent. The toddler is being avoidant. He may have given up on his unmet needs. The parent is too detached to provide for them. And so the toddler learns to disguise his anxiety when he is alone but deep inside his heart is racing.When we pressure a toddler to be independent, he will only become needier. If you are not there to fill his needs, he will turn to someone else for emotional attachment.
An independent child is a securely attached child. He has deep connection with his parent that’s why he can perform tasks appropriate for his age. He can play with other kids without being violent. He can do homework on his own. He can participate in class and join sports activities without having a tantrum.An independent child is confident about parent’s love that’s why they can interact with the world and manage his own self well. If you’re child knows that you’re always there, they can focus on their developmental task. If they are not pre-occupied with getting your attention, they will have great achievements.
Elementary Schoolers (6 to 9 Years): Foundation for the Teen Years
At this point, a parent may feel relieved that the child spends more time with friends. The parent can focus on other things such as keeping the household and making a living. It is possible for you and your 8 year old not to see each other on a whole weekend. Your child’s schedule may be packed with various activities such as sleepovers, game practice and movies with friends.That is where the problem lies. Your child should be firmly connected with you as the North Start so that he or she will not be influenced by peers or media. Your child is more exposed to the outside world. That is why before it’s too late, you and your child should have that solid bond.Without deep connection, it is likely that a child in the adolescence stage would not listen to the parent anymore. He or she will not pay attention to guidance. The teenager will seek attachment from other sources than the parent. We don’t want that.
Here are three effective ways to connect with your busy student. First is to “Make family rituals”. Set brunch every Sunday or grocery shopping every Saturday. Make trips to the beach every summer or create costumes together every Halloween. It can be any activity that your whole family enjoys. If it happens on a regular basis, your child will look forward to that quality time together.Second, “Resist permitting your child to go out so that you can get more adult stuff done.” Spend some relaxing time with your child, a time when you are not both bugged by activities. You can stay at home and just talk with each other. That is a great foundation for your relationship.
Third, “Allow your child to have small regressions”. Your child is very much independent now but there are times when she really needs emotional support. Regression means times when your child’s “baby self” will come out and ask for more attention. Do not shame her by telling her to “act her age”. Give the affection that your child needs.The elementary years are your last best chance to connect with your child. Cherish the moment while you are still the North Star, the center of your child’s life.
PART 3: COACHING, NOT CONTROLLING
We teach our children how to count and how to brush their teeth. We teach them what’s right and what’s wrong. But sometimes we forget the most important lessons they need to learn.That is how to manage their feelings and how to understand the feelings of other people.We are talking about EQ or Emotional Intelligence Quotient. Why does it matter? What makes it so important? EQ is important because emotions are important.If you have anxiety,you can’t handle a big project at work. If you don’t understand how your partner feels,you cannot solve a marital conflict. If you cannot control your anger, you cannot fix a conflict with a workmate or a friend.Your child’s EQ will determine the quality of his life. He cannot excel at school if he doesn’t know how to manage stress and anxiety. A child with good emotional health manages his emotions and his own behaviour. He is cooperative and self-disciplined. How does your child learn EQ? He doesn’t learn it from school, from friends or from the TV. He will learn it from you. The parent is the emotion coach. You can coach your kid to be aware of emotions and how to express them in proper ways. You can start emotion coaching starting from infancy.
Babies: A Bedrock of Trust
The foundation of your child’s EQ is trust. She has to conclude that she is in a safe universe.The psychologist Harry Stack Sullivan has found out one hundred years ago that babies pick up anxiety or lack of trust from the parent. Their stress hormones increase when they hear angry voices from the parent or even from TV.To avoid anxiety, your baby needs your calm voice, gentle touch and loving eye contact. Your secure embrace is what soothes her. It assures her that the universe is a safe place. It gives her the message that there’s no need to panic. She can calm down and relax.When your baby feels hungry, indigestion or scared because of being put down, her fight-of-light hormones shoots up. Specifically, these are cortisol and adrenaline.The baby will cry out loud and throw her body around.
As a peaceful parent, you will come to pick her up and soothe her. You will embrace her and give her what she needs. Every time that you respond to her cues, you are leading your child’s brain towards emotional intelligence. You are developing her soothing biochemical and hormones.By soothing, you are also teaching your child that hunger and fear can be alleviated.There’s no need to panic. Your baby will learn that someone will surely come to help and protect her. She will learn that she can trust the universe. This trust is her foundation for building loving relationships with other people.Are you worried if you have soothed your child all the time that she needed it? Have you understood her cues and responded to her accordingly when she was an infant? There’s no need to doubt yourself.There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. You just have to be good enough. Repair the relationship you have with your child while there’s time.
Toddlers: Unconditional Love
Kids 1-3 years old assert themselves. That is their job as a toddler. They want to prove that they are a unique being and they want to do things on their own. Toddlers will always explore their environment. That is why it’s challenging to take care of them.Let’s consider the story of Katie. Her parents have fostered a connection with her as an infant. They have responded well to Katie’s needs so she has learned to trust the universe.Katie knew that Mom and Dad love her. However, when she became a toddler, things changed. Her parents would always yell. “No Katie! Don’t touch that! Stand still while I change you! It won’t hurt, stop crying! You broke it! You’re a bad girl!”
One day, Katie had the perfect idea of fitting the doughnut into the CD player. She was shocked of Dad’s reaction. He approached all of a sudden and smacked her hand. Katie cried out loud. She lied on the floor. She is wondering why her loving parents have turned into monsters.Katie even heard Mom say “Ignore her. We can’t tolerate her tantrums.” Katie screams louder. She felt that her parents have abandoned her.Toddlers have tantrums because they cannot control their emotions. As the parent, you should teach your toddler how to calm down and manage what she’s feeling. That is by soothing her and talking in a gentle voice.
Ignoring your child, threatening to leave or punishing are ineffective ways to deal with a tantrum. Your toddler will feel that you have abandoned her. The child’s brain will signal panic.If this continues, she will grow into a whiny, defiant and aggressive pre-schooler.Your child is not a lab rat. She will not be conditioned by pain and abandonment. If you tell her that she’s a bad girl, she will really play the part. Because she doesn’t know how to control her emotions, she has the tendency to hit the dog, throw plates and pull your hair.Show unconditional love when your child is having a tantrum. Embrace her, let her cry and understand her feelings. Maybe she is afraid because Daddy is leaving. Maybe she is jealous because your attention is on your phone. Let her express the emotion. By doing so, you will teach her that she can manage her feelings and she can feel better again.
Empathy is the ability to feel what others feel. That is innate in mammals like us. A dog feels when a family member is sad. It will offer comfort by snuggling or licking. A baby who sees another baby cry will also start to cry. Neurologists have studied that we have “mirror neurons” which fire up when we see someone with strong emotions.A pre-schooler who hurts a friend or a classmate shows that his empathy is damaged. This is how a child becomes a bully. Let’s take the story of the 3 year old boy named Troy.As an infant, Troy was often left to cry. He wasn’t soothed enough. He became irritable and prone to tantrums. Troy’s parents are misinformed. They believe that tantrums shouldn’t be tolerated. When he throws a fit in the shopping mall, mom and dad threatens to leave him.
That is why Troy became anxious. He became very needy and demanding. When he became a toddler, Troy often go t into power struggles with mom and dad. He learned to supress his feelings because he knows that his parents can leave or punish him.Troy didn’t learn how to manage his emotions. His parents didn’t respond with his needs and so he feels unloved. Troy carries a backpack of supressed fear and anger. His tantrums got worse. He is easily triggered. When he sees another child cry, he screams “Shut up!” When a playmate touches his toy, he is ready to punch or push hard.Troy didn’t develop emotional intelligence. He doesn’t want to look like the unloved helpless child that’s why he turns himself to a bully. If Troy’s situation continues, he could slam out of the house at age 12 and experiment with drugs at age 15.
You learned that yelling, spanking and abandonment are ineffective ways to discipline a child.If you have instilled deep connection and emotional intelligence in your child, he will have self-discipline.You have learned the three steps to become a peaceful parent. You learned that to raise happy, respectful and responsible kids, you need to first regulate yourself, second foster connection and third coach emotions.It takes effort and patience but being a peaceful parent is more rewarding. Imagine you and your adolescent child having quality bonding time together.Imagine your child growing up as a thriving individual, one who could deal with life’s challenges and achieve amazing things.Remember that you are the North Star of your child’s life. If you have had a tough childhood, you can build a new life with your child. If you had been a yelling parent, you can still change that.If you stop yelling and start connecting today, you will enjoy a loving and nurturing relationship with your child for the rest of your life.