Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An Answer to Prayer

Do you struggle with hyper, emotional, impossible to control children? You are not alone.

My confession : I have struggled with my daughter for the past year. She has always been intense and head-strong, and as she's grown we have reacted to it by spanking harder or more often, yelling, telling her she was annoying, pushing her around, and other things I now know are immature and hurtful. I knew something had to change when she began to threaten her own safety, and others around her. I've never told anyone this, but one day I saw her watch the baby fall off the couch, and she actually smiled! It shocked me! Did I have an evil child? No. I had an angry and hurt child, who was very strong to the core and refused to be broken.
My sister told me "It sounds like you need Celebrate Calm."   Immediately I was irritated.  Just one more parenting program that I knew wouldn't work.

The thing I was struck with immediately as I began to read Celebrate Calm newsletters, was, "It's like this guy is peeking through our windows!  He's describing my family exactly!"  I have begun to experiment a little, and am finding immediate, positive results.

I am still a work in progress, and I have not been completely successfull in changing the way I parent yet, but it's baby steps, and I definitely am taking those!

Here is a sample of a newsletter from Celebrate Calm:
[Shortened, and changes in colors and appearances have been done by me. My comments are in these blue brackets.]
Why You Should Want A Strong-Willed Child
Confession: When my son was young, he was a really "difficult" child in every sense. I struggled with this and tried to drive this oppositional nature out of him.
Instead, I drove it deeper within him and began down a path of destroying my relationship with my son.

It wasn't until I heard a still, small voice whispering three questions to me that I began to see Casey in a different way: What if there isn't necessarily anything wrong with your son? What if he is made this way on purpose, and you are frustrating those purposes? What if instead of changing Casey, you are the one who needs to change? Ouch.

The response to those three questions forever changed my life and my relationship with my son. And it is the reason Celebrate!Calm exists today. I cannot tell you how many parents lament, "Why couldn't I have been given an easier/complaint child?" I understand the internal struggle when you realize parenting is more difficult than you expected. But I must ask you the same tough question: are you ready to grow up and be mature rather than just wishing your child would be different?

A Warning

I believe in firm, matter-of-fact rules, expectations and consequences. I am principled and cannot be moved emotionally by my teenage son. I am the king of my home, but I do not walk around acting like an immature, insecure dictator who cannot stand when my son disagrees with me.
I let my yes be yes and my no be no.

But that is far different from the negative, stern, harsh tone we often adopt with these children out of frustration. Many parents think their job is to "drive the disobedience" out of their strong-willed children. Alas, many of us unwittingly engender this disobedience and set our kids up for failure. We are so unyielding and demanding in our approach, that we create battles and "yes-no" standoffs repeatedly throughout the day. Are you creating battles where none need exist?

[This felt like a slap in the face, and a kick in the pants; both of which I needed!]

If you take this approach, you will drive this oppositional nature deeper into your child. You will sever your relationship with your own child. You will send the message that there is something wrong with your child, that you don't like him or her, that he'll never meet your expectations. You'll withhold the affirmation and unconditional acceptance your child desperately needs. And guess what happens? Kids like this find themselves seeking affirmation and acceptance from other disaffected peer groups. They will seek acceptance somewhere--better from you than a teenage boy, or group of social outcasts.
Many of you grew up in homes like this, dealing with rejection from your parents, and now you find yourself repeating the cycle. You must, must, must change this.

[So on the positive end, what DO we do? Kirk gives 4 steps that are simplistic in principle, but far from simple to achieve. He expounds a great deal on each of these, but I will just give a summary.]

1. Check your own heart and deal with your own anxiety.
[This morning I was concerned that my daughter needed to go to the bathroom and was holding it in. I could feel my blood pressure rising, and I realized that each time I told her to go, my heart raced more. I came close to yelling at her to GO POTTY! Instead, I paused and looked inward. Why did this bother me? I said to myself; it's not healthy for her to hold it. Besides, she needs to learn to just go so she doesn't have accidents the way I did as a child. Then I realized my anxiety stemmed from my own childhood, and I needed to take a step back and let her have ownership over her own bladder, and childhood. I did not allow her to ignore or disobey me, but I calmed myself down, and refused to be moved to anger or frustration. Just another way I used Kirk's advice in my daily life.]
2. Calm yourself: Don't take it personally.
3. Give your child some ownership.
(So for kids who are naturally more independent, I want to show the big picture and create the parameters, but give them some options.) [For instance, I wanted my daughter to pick up her litter and throw it in the trash this morning. She ignored me when I said, "Pick that up and put it in the trash." But when I said, "Kaylee, we want this floor to be clean, right? Let's pick up our trash so the floor can be clean." She perked up, and picked it up. But she didn't throw it away immediately. It was too easy a task. She asked to take the trash to the can across the room and behind a shopping cart instead of the one a few feet away. At first I tried to convince her that the closer one was better, but then I stopped myself. I realized that she just needed more of a challenge, and I allowed it, then praised her afterwards. Everyone won.]
4. Cultivate gifts, talents, and passions.

[To see more, go to, or reply to this post requesting more info. I can send you the specific newsletter I got this from.]


My friends and family have heard me tell about how I love this website and this program. I have not invested yet in the CDs Kirk sells, though I want to desperately. I've seen and felt progress just by getting the free newsletters. I have learned so much, but more importantly, I've had the shift in perspective that is the foundation for change.

If you read these descriptions, and feel it applies to you, don't be afraid to check it out. The newsletter I signed up for comes as he writes them, which is sporadic, and he doesn't share email addresses. I love to talk about the things I'm learning with anyone and everyone, because I think every child and every family ought to have this gift.

I thought I was doing well to "have high expectations" of my daughter. But all I was really doing was disaproving of my daughter, day after day, until frustration and disappointment became a part of who she was, and how she saw herself. Now we have a better idea of the direction we should be taking, and we have more tools to draw from. I can't wait to learn even more and keep practicing!

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