As excited as I was to be pregnant with my second child, I was also really scared about the prospect of managing two children. My first child was the center of my universe and as much as friends with multiple children reassured me that it would all work out, I still had some genuine fears. As my due date approached, testing limits, tantrums and power struggles became a part of my daily routine with my almost 3 year old. I knew I needed some tools and strategies to help me. Luckily, my son’s day care provider with over 30 years’ experience, Denise Cooper, gave me simple-to-use techniques to curb my son’s meltdowns. She coached me on how to win my son’s cooperation with a loving approach. It worked like magic and I wanted to learn more.
Denise introduced me to the seminal work of child psychiatrist, Rudolf Dreikurs, MD. Through Dr. Dreikurs’ writing, I discovered that to be successful it takes more than just a few techniques. Dreikurs teaches that a child’s primary goal is to feel a sense of belonging and significance. When children do not feel a sense of belonging they turn to one of four “mistaken goals” of misbehavior: to gain undue attention, to gain power, to gain revenge or to show inadequacy.
The greatest tool I found from my research was learning to use my own reaction as a guide. I realized that when I felt annoyed by my son’s misbehavior, he was seeking undue attention. When I felt angry, we were involved in a power struggle. I could then use this information to find the most effective tool to win his cooperation. When I cooked dinner, and my son pulled at my pant legs stating, “mommy, mommy, mommy”, I kindly turned to him and suggested, “Now that you are a big four year old, I wonder if you could help set the table all by yourself? Would you like to try?” He beamed with pride, and eagerly assisted. Therefore, instead of seeking undue attention, he felt like an integral part of our family unit, and he felt encouraged. We were shifting from self-centered to family-centered. As a licensed therapist, I felt inspired to share my findings with other families; and as a parent, I was relieved that I was making positive changes in my family.
From the onset, I found it helpful to have a support network to discuss the challenges of raising cooperative and happy children. In addition to my collaboration with Denise Cooper, I am grateful for my friend and colleague, Deborah Mitchell, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and mother of two. As we shared and practiced our new parenting techniques, it was clear that we were on to something that needed to be shared with other parents. This conviction inspired us to create, Parent Inc. Denise, Deborah and I combined our passion and resources to create a 6-week skills-based curriculum that teaches parents to better understand their children’s misbehavior and to encourage a sense of belonging that naturally leads to cooperative behavior. We also offer individual consultations.
Some Parent Inc. Helpful Phrases:
1. Show me…
Commanding your child to, “put on your shoes”, could invoke a power struggle. Instead, in a friendly and engaging tone say, “Show me how you can put your shoes on all by yourself.”
2. It’s time to: “It’s time to get ready.” Versus “Go get ready.”
3. Do you want to do it all by yourself or would you like to do it together? Versus “Come over here and I will do it for you.”
4. I wonder if you can remember all by yourself. This phrase is helpful when a child repeatedly asks about timing, the order of something or the agreed upon rules.
5. It is good manners to say thank you. When said nonchalantly and seemingly without investment, this observation can work better than the usual command of “Say, thank you.”
Our upcoming 6-week series begins January 7, 2014 and meets on Tuesdays from 9:30-11am at 1702 Union Street. Contact Cheryl Jacobs, MFT at (415) 722-0638 or Deborah Mitchell, Ph. D at (415) 271-6524 to sign up for our next class or to learn more about our other services.
Cheryl Jacobs, LMFT, has been a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist since 2009, and has been working with children and families in various setting for over 17 years.