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When kids lie or say, “I hate myself!” and “I’m so stupid!”

Few words strike fear in your heart like your kids saying, “I hate myself!” and “I’m so stupid” or lying blatantly. Your anxiety kicks in–how can he feel that way after all we’ve done for him, have I done something wrong, is he destined to be unhappy? Instead of lecturing or overreacting, we stay connected, discover the underlying root of the issue, and then address that issue. Some Moms on our Facebook page asked me to address this yesterday…so I am, below!

Changing A Generation of Family Dysfunction-Cool, huh?!
Kirk, I bought your CDs…and began listening. Slowly my life changed for the better. I found new techniques to gain strength after a long day. I would leave the CDs on so when my wife took my car, they would be playing. She began to listen, we talked about it, and guess what happened…our family’s life improved. We don’t fight before church or school, we don’t push our anxieties on to our children, and we take time to learn lessons, not punish. Thank you for your courage to show me how to change my life and my family’s life by getting out of a generation of family dysfunction.

Lying isn’t the real issue–it’s a fig leaf to cover shame. Watch how this works. I’m a toddler or a teen. I don’t have much self-control so I impulsively do something wrong. Now I realize it was wrong, I am ashamed and fear my parents are going to be mad at me. What’s my first instinct? Lie! That’s why lecturing or punishing doesn’t work. But if you actively show your child how to control himself and create an environment where boldly saying, “I messed up!” is met with calm, you will stop the lying. Do you and your spouse know how to control your own anxiety, perfectionism and constant lecturing/yelling? Have you physically shown and practiced how to control impulses at the store and with annoying siblings? Can you listen, discipline, forgive and give meaningful consequences without freaking out?
(If you need personal mentoring to control your anxiety, join the Calm Challenge.)

So what do you do when your child proclaims, “I hate myself,” “I wish I hadn’t been born” or even “You’re stupid!”? Always discuss such statements with your child’s doctor or therapist, especially if you have a family history of depression, bipolar disorder, etc. In 99.9% of cases, what the child is really saying is this:

“I am so frustrated with myself. I keep messing up and that makes me stupid. My brother and sister don’t get in trouble like I do. I don’t even feel like I can control myself and I’m tired of always being yelled at and in trouble. I need some help! I need tools to change!”

Lectures, threats and punishment will not work. The real problem is the underlying lack of self-control and resulting shame that fuel such frightening statements. The child doesn’t hate himself or you–he hates messing up, getting yelled at and being in trouble. Try this next time.

1) Hear the screaming as a cry for help. Sit down. It’s calming.

2) Practice acknowledgement. “Jacob, I can understand why you would be so frustrated. Sometimes it feels like the whole world is against you, doesn’t it?”

3) Listen. Let him talk and get the frustration, anger and pain out.

4) “Jacob, I can understand why you’d want to lie or scream like that. It makes sense to me. I have felt frustrated and angry before. Do you feel frustrated with yourself, like you wish you were a different person or could control yourself?”

5) Listen more. Yeah, this takes time. But it’s worth it.

6) Offer reassurance. “Here’s the deal, Jacob. I like who you are. I like your intensity. I like your imagination and ideas and energy. I like that you’re a hurricane sometimes. I want to use that energy in positive ways to that it’s creative and not destructive.”

7) Move to problem solving. “So what can we begin doing the next time you feel frustrated or angry?” Another great question: “What can *I* do next time you’re upset to help you calm down?”

8) Physically practice a new calming routine. What is it that calms your child? Coloring, listening to or playing music, jumping on a mini-trampoline, doing push-ups with Dad, doing a silly dance, playing with the dog? Make this your new routine.

9) Build your child’s self-confidence. Competence breeds confidence so make sure your child has opportunities to use his unique gifts and passions. Many kids feel bad about themselves because adults only focus on their weaknesses.

10) Teach your child self-control. Have you practiced self-control with your kids? Have you physically shown them how to practice impulse control? Do they know how to keep from blurting out in class, from whining for that candy at Target? As the Dad above wrote, it takes work to change a generation of family dysfunction and negative patterns. But once Mom and Dad can control their own anxiety, yelling, perfectionism, fear and lecturing…and once you teach your children how to control themselves, EVERYTHING begins to change. No lying, siblings learning how to handle conflict, fewer meltdowns, no more “I hate myself!”, etc.

Give your kids tools to change. Get the tools 40,000 other parents use daily to change. They are even on sale right now. And you can start a new family tree…free of the yelling, screaming and defiance.

Stop relatives from doing this–it destroys kids.

I saw a boy get destroyed today and no one noticed.At a friend’s Christmas party, families streamed in and a familiar scene took shape. Uncles, aunts and grandparents began to echo the dangerous lie that good children have good grades and good behavior. “Look how smart he is, dear. He made the honor roll again! Here’s a little extra gift for you.” “She’s such a well-behaved and polite girl. I can see why you are so popular in school.” As the children were paraded around, Jacob sat in the corner by himself quietly building with his Legos, listening to all of this.

He struggles with behavior in school–it’s hard for him to sit still, memorize information and get good grades. He works five times harder than the rest of the kids, but struggles. Know what he feels like? A bad kid. A stupid kid. No wonder he shuts down and has no confidence. No wonder he says, “I’m stupid” and verbalizes open frustration. No wonder he’s oppositional. He has trouble sleeping, doesn’t like many different foods, is very sensitive. And sometimes he’s just a difficult kid…because he’s so misunderstood.

Not one single person at that party praised Jacob for his amazing imagination, ability to see in three dimensions and create/build/draw/invent. All they said is that he pushes people’s buttons. But they missed the fact that he’s good at pushing buttons because he gets people, he understands what makes people tick, he’s an old soul…and one day he’s going to help a lot of people because he has a huge heart. But Jacob doesn’t fit the mold so he suffers something worse than bullying everyday.

Know what Jacob hears every day of his life? “You are different. And your different isn’t good. You, in fact, are difficult. Why can’t you be like your siblings and relatives? Until you can learn to fit in and be like the others, your opinion isn’t as valuable and our affection will be withheld. The fact is you embarrass us, Jacob. Too bad you get diminished, destroyed and shoved aside because we are too weak as adults to focus on what’s really important, and instead value outward appearances. Just shape up and we’ll accept you, too.”

I am going to speak bluntly here. I hadn’t planned to write this today and it’s not a nice Christmas message, but it’s critical we hear this. Because this scene will be repeated in millions of homes this coming week. It’s not always aunts and uncles and grandparents who do this. In some homes, a father tears his kids down. Because that’s what his father did to him. We as men need to grow up and stop taking out this anger on innocent kids. In some homes, the Mom is relentlessly negative and harps on the kids because her Mom was like that. She better get control of her anxiety or it will literally destroy relationships and the child’s confidence.

If your child needs to hear that they have a great future ahead of them, that their difference is a GOOD thing, then let them listen to the CDs we created. It will change your children and how YOU view your kids. We give you specific, step-by-step words and actions that help your kids be successful, stop the yelling and defiance. Make 2012 radically different–you can change your family tree and break these generational patterns for good. But it doesn’t happen without specific help. Everything is on clearance and we work with everyone’s budget so call or reply to this email.
Take the Calm Challenge to start the New Year with a 40-day plan to overcome your anxiety, perfectionism or yelling with new habits. We’ll help you learn to be assertive, control yourself and be that calm, confident person you’ve wanted to be. Be bold and take action so your kids don’t suffer in silence.

Keep enjoying your kids. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

Social skills: not invited to birthday parties?

Many of our kids struggle with social skills because of asynchronous development. They often relate better to adults, older and younger children, even animals–but struggle to connect with their peers. Many kids suffer the pain of being excluded from birthday parties. A Mom sent me this question yesterday.

“A friend told me that her daughter (10) wants to invite my daughter’s good friend (9) who lives right next door to us to her birthday party, but may not invite my daughter (10). The kids played together a lot the last two weekends so I am surprised. My daughter is immature and silly and I don’t blame her friend for not wanting to invite her. Do I hurt my daughter’s feelings on purpose and let her know what this mom said hoping it’s an ah ha moment, or do I spare her feelings?”

Some great parents on Facebook helped out with fantastic recommendations, so click here to read those insightful ideas. Here’s my take. I always like to take a look at the larger picture, not just what we need to do to survive the moment. What larger life lesson or skill can we build? This will not produce an “Ah ha” moment for your daughter. It will just hurt her. So I would approach the other Mom.

“I appreciate you telling me about your daughter’s misgivings. Our girls are friends and I thought we could use this as a learning experience for both of them. My daughter needs to learn how to interact with other girls. She gets really anxious in social situations-so she talks too much, dominates conversations and acts silly. Since you are a friend, I could use your help teaching my daughter new skills. Your daughter has always been patient with mine and I can understand why she’d be reticent about inviting her, but I think this could be an opportunity to show your daughter how to be inclusive, get along with people who are different, and stand up for those who get left out. What if we worked together to teach our girls some new skills?”

Sure, this makes you vulnerable. The other Mom can reject your idea. But that will tell you clearly whether she’s a friend or just a neighbor. If she rejects your idea, then you grieve the loss of a friendship, forgive, then find new friends. But my gut tells me she’ll work with you because you’re going to give her specific ideas:

Birthday daughter could say this, “Rebeccah, I could really use your help at my birthday party. You are so creative and fun and I was hoping you could be the official photographer for my party. Could you come over early on Saturday so we can plan things out? It would make my day special to get some fun pictures.”

Now Rebeccah feels special, she has a specific job to do using her gifts (counters anxiety, builds confidence), and she’s getting there early before the other girls (huge advantage!). I would coach the Birthday daughter to introduce Rebeccah to her friends according to her gifts. “This is my friend Rebeccah. She is an amazing artist and so creative, so she’s going to be taking pictures today of the party.”

We’ve taught both girls new skills and shown them how to use their gifts to complement each other. When you calm your anxiety, you can use messy life experiences as opportunities to learn new skills. That unfulfilling marriage you’re in? Sounds like an opportunity for hubby and wife to learn some new relationship skills. Exhausted by an energetic, event defiant child? Have a spouse who loses it all the time? More opportunities to learn new tools and grow into a new person.

At this point in my life, I have no use for band-aids, tricks or little tips. I am interested in one thing only: your complete transformation as a person and family. Nothing else will do. If you are ready to make changes with specific, practical strategies like the above, then listen to the CDs, take the 40-Day Calm Challenge or schedule a workshop. It’s very easy and we work with everyone’s budget. Just ask for help.

Share your ideas and questions below!

Chores aren’t that important?

There are mythologies we like to create around parenting. If you just parent the right way, your kids will be well-behaved. If you teach kids to do chores when they are little, they will grow up to be responsible. If kids study hard and go to college, they will be able to get a job. Not always.

So much is out of control that we want to know, “If I do x, then y will happen.” We want that formula so we know with the right input, we’ll get a consistent result. But relationships can’t be defined by a formula. That’s why they are so hard.

Watch what happens. You know what it takes to be responsible and successful in life. You teach these basic life lessons to your kids. “Do your chores. You’ll learn to be responsible. Life isn’t about fun things and what you want to do–there are things everyone has to do that aren’t fun or enjoyable.” When your child doesn’t do his chores consistently or follow your directions, how do we react?

We get anxious. Uh-oh. They aren’t following the formula. Warning bells go off. We press more, demand more, make them do it. They resist. We get angry. Some of us (me in my Freak Dad days) then begin to subtly cut our kids off–we withhold affection, praise, warmth. “If you’re not going to listen to me, then I’m going to withhold something from you. I am going to punish you because you are causing me anxiety, you are going to embarrass me, you are going to fail. After all the energy, time, money and emotional that I have put into you…and you respond by NOT doing what I ask or say?”

We may not say it so bluntly, but it’s underneath the surface. Our acceptance and love becomes conditional. We justify it. Ready to go deeper? Some of us use this as an excuse NOT to have a deep, vulnerable relationship with our child. I find that with many of the Dads I work with. It’s easier that way. It’s either my way or the highway, and when they choose the highway, it’s a relief. We have an excuse not to connect and do the messy work relationships demand.

 One reason we created a dedicated Christian parenting site is that I’ve seen this dynamic more in Christian homes than others–there is so much pressure to perform, to have the “good kids” so you’re not judged, to have the perfect family. Relationships between fathers, mothers and children get severed at the altar of what we perceive as disobedience. (By the way, I cringe every time I see Christian and Parenting together–you may be surprised by the new website).

Can you see how this becomes all about US? All about MY anxiety and MY embarrassment and MY disappointment at the child’s behavior? That’s why you can’t just boil this down to some formula. Some kids don’t do chores when they are 8…and become highly responsible. Some kids look lazy and undisciplined at 12…but find their passion and never look back. Sometimes there is no right answer or strategy. You know what I really want? Kids who are merciful, compassionate leaders.

People love our curriculum because it is filled with hundreds of concrete, practical strategies to help create responsible, respectful children. So we believe in that. That’s why 45,000 parents use our CDs. They want that assurance. And it’s very effective. But at the end of the day, I have zero interest in tricks and tips. What this is really about is transformation. It’s not about WHAT YOU DO as much as WHO YOU ARE.

By the way, I expect kids to do chores. And I can show you how to get your kids to do their chores.  But I think sometimes people expect 7-year- olds to act like 35-year-olds or do it with this great enthusiasm. Do not allow your fear or anxiety to make the expectations ridiculous or cause a powder keg in your home. Your best lecture is your example–model the behavior you want to see. And remember that your relationship is primary.

Do you agree or disagree? Need clarification? Post on the blog below (you can do so anonymously using a fake name!) or email me anytime. And remember to share this with other parents if you found this helpful.

(This post was originally send out as a Calm Christian Parenting newsletter. You can join our Facebook page or newsletter list by clicking on this www.CalmChristianParenting.com link. Lots of controversial posts and a refreshing perspective you haven’t seen from most Christian parenting sites. Take a look.)

My view on medication

Medication can be an effective tool to help your child. Some children absolutely need medication. I am against physicians using medication as a first resort or as a magic pill in isolation without using other tools. I don’t like when teachers expect the child to change, without changing the way they teach the child. I don’t like when parents expect the child to change, without changing their own behavior. I like to use as many tools as possible to help a child succeed.

I prefer to use any number of tools first:
Control myself and my anxiety
Create a calm home with order and structure
Meet root internal needs for order, stimulation and sensory
Teach children how their brains work best
Use proactive strategies at home
Use proactive strategies in the classroom
Nutrition—deal with root digestive/gut issues
Use gifts and passions to help with confidence, social skills and motivation
Therapy (psychologist, counselor, Occupational Therapy)

Be careful before you judge others. Walk in another person’s shoes first. You have no idea what other people have tried first, second, third and tenth. You have no idea of the energy, money and tears spent by many parents. You don’t know how hard many parents have tried to change diet and a dozen other things.

Let me make the distinction for you. Yes, we all hate that society as a whole has resorted to medication to solve everything. But I know something about the parents here who follow Celebrate Calm—these are the most engaged, hardest working parents out there. We challenge parents more than most. We’re tough on ourselves as adults. You can count on the fact that if there is a parent on this page, they have exhausted their resources first before making this choice.

I have something FREE to share with you. In the first five minutes, it makes our approach very clear.  This is the first of three CalmCourse sessions on Medication. Very helpful. Click here to listen for FREE online.

I wanted to make sure my position is clear so there is no misunderstanding. Is this clear? Need more clarification? Agree or disagree?

More help with social skills

Q: My teenage boys struggle with making friends. Any tips?
One of the best ways to form friendships is by working on a project together with other kids, especially if they share a common passion or interest. One of my favorite strategies is asking teachers to pair your child with another student who shares similar interests–ask them to work on a special project together. During the process of working together, they find interests they share in common; they learn how to ask questions about each other. Then see if you can get this student coming over to your house or doing things together with your child.

I also like older kids working outside the home–whether at a job, internship or volunteering. Just getting out among other kids–especially if they share a common interest like feeding the homeless or working with animals–provides more opportunities to connect.

Lots of other social skills ideas to come. Click on this blog post to see other social skills tips.

Your son can’t have an IEP because he’s gifted.

IEP Myth: “Your child doesn’t qualify for an IEP because he is in the Gifted & Talented program.”

Do not believe this myth! It will keep you from getting your child the help he needs and deserves in school. A common tactic is to “lump and dump” children in with others to disqualify them from special education services. But that is completely contrary to what the law says. That is why it is called an INDIVIDUALIZED Education Program. It is all about the needs of the individual child, not a group such as “gifted” students.

Take the time to learn the truth about getting your child special education services. There are so many myths, lies and confusion. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need a step-by-step plan.

Click here to watch this video showing you how to advocate for your child. This is the best IEP resource on the planet.

Yes, I am angry.

There is some anger in today’s newsletter. We discuss a decision made by a school that I term “idiotic.” Perhaps I should have used a different term. Like short-sighted, destructive, stupid, ignorant, cowardly. You tell me. I’m tired of seeing kids’  confidence shot while supposed grown-ups refuse to problem solve or give kids tools to succeed. It must stop. Read the newsletter and share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

If you don’t get the newsletter yet, click here to sign up. It’s free and helpful.

Homework anxiety–3 steps

A Mom who struggles with anxiety shared this story. I bet you can use the same three steps in your life.

“I picked something up yesterday from the Calm 24/7 CDs.  When stuck in traffic with anxiety, you said you do three things…give thanks, put yourself in the other driver’s place, and ask what’s the worst that could happen.  So, I am making it my new routine to ask those same things.  I went in the laundry room and whispered to God thanks for having healthy children and spouse…I put myself into a 10-year-old’s shoes…he has way too many expectations from his teachers…lots of homework, a high level of organization is expected to keep all this going.  Of course this is overwhelming and I really am amazed that he handles it as well as he does. And what’s the worst that can happen? Well, I don’t know.  So maybe he doesn’t do any homework this weekend.”

How can you apply this to your life?

I refuse to change my child…

I refuse to change my child to make others more comfortable or alleviate my own embarrassment. I love his creativity, intensity, imagination and wit. I prefer his strong will, strong opinions and strong sense of self. His behavior isn’t perfect, but his heart is golden. He is not a follower; he is a leader. I refuse to allow other people’s opinions to determine how I view my child. I celebrate my child’s flaws and gifts.