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You’re a parent of a struggling learner. You are constantly worried that your child isn’t making enough progress, is struggling too much, and may ultimately wind up homeless in the gutter.
(Maybe your brain doesn’t go that far consciously, but on some level, it probably does!)
Meanwhile, your struggling learner is feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. They assume they must be “dumb” because reading feels so much harder for them that it does for other kids.
In this moment, you find yourself at the kitchen table. Yelling. (again) “You have to complete your reading worksheet!”
Your kid isn’t looking at you. They’re mad. They’re not talking to you and they’re certainly not doing the worksheet!
What’s going on?
According to Vibha Arora,- a conscious parenting coach and a positive discipline coach who runs the Woe to Wow parenting program, we need to start with a pause. We need to start by stopping ourselves. Walking away. Taking a breath. Our kid’s mirror neurons will have seen our frustration and are mirroring it. So when we calm down, they will also be able to calm down.
Dealing with the Child’s issues
Our next step is to figure out WHY our child is refusing to do the assignment. Is it too hard? Uninteresting? Are they just too hungry? Or did something totally unrelated upset them earlier in the day?
Vibha tells us that the upset child either has a lagging skill or a missing need. Figuring out what that lagging skill or missing need is will allow us to problem solve with our child.
One strategy that can be intrinsically motivating and can end power struggles is to offer limited choices, which supports autonomy. Limited choices is exactly what it sounds like: choices given that are limited in scope. Do you want to do your homework with a pen or a pencil? Do you want to read at the table or on the couch?
Limited choices takes away the choice about the required activity and place the choice in how that task might be accomplished. Without limited choices, our kids hear, “Do your homework” and almost reflexively respond with, “no” because they haven’t heard a choice. They make a choice for themselves. Yes, I will do as I am told or no I will not.
Placing the task in the context of choice allows your child to still feel powerful and maintain their autonomy. For some children, autonomy is extremely motivating. It also builds self-esteem.
Dealing with Parent Triggers
Going back to the parent and child dynamic. That parent is yelling at their kid because they are being triggered. Vibha Arora’s background as a conscious parenting coach guides her response to the parent’s emotions. That parent’s triggers usually stem from fears. They might be afraid of judgement. They might be afraid that their child won’t be successful. The latter ultimately is the fear of your child ending up homeless in a gutter.
And while yelling won’t get our child to work and won’t make them “successful”, it is an automatic response in the moment.
So what do we do instead?
We start by taking a break. We “practice the pause,” as Vibha says. We remember that it is not an emergency. We step away, we take deep breaths. We do the things that we teach children to do when they are upset.
Vibha also encourages parents to focus on what really matters. She tells parents, “remember who you are tucking in at night.”
That, my friend, is powerful.
Follow Vibha Arora: Facebook and Instagram
Contact Vibha Arora: https://www.vibha-arora.com/
Find out more about Woe to Wow parenting: https://www.vibha-arora.com/woetowowparenting/