Episode 110 Transcript

TRANSCRIPT: Your Parenting Long Game Episode 110 – When Your Child Has a Great Day But They Still Melt Down or Complain


Hello, it’s Rachel, and welcome to episode 110 of Your Parenting Long Game, where I’m going to be talking about a behavior that you’re very likely to see over this holiday season… but it’s also a behavior that may come up at any time. So it almost doesn’t matter when you are listening to this episode.


Last week I talked about the long game parenting strategy of being proactive. And I also mentioned that one part of being proactive to set yourself up for success this holiday season is expecting that some negative behaviors are going to happen and I want you to not get triggered by it. I decided to do a specific episode to demonstrate this because this issue is one that parents tell me about over and over again, especially during the holiday season. And the issue is you have a great day with your child…you do so much for them.. you give them this amazing day, but they still melt down or complain or do something else negative at the end of the day (or even in the middle of the day!).


I worked with a family where mom Rosemary spent an amazing day with her son, Spencer. She had spent the morning playing games that he wanted to because on that particular morning, Spencer’s brother was at a sleepover so she could spend a lot of one-on-one time with him. And she was doing things that he loved. She had also taken him to a party that he wanted to go to. And she saw that when he was there, he was having a really good time. But when they had to leave the party, even though she had given him warnings, he melted down in front of everybody and embarrassed her. She was not only mortified though. She was also a little bit resentful because she’s thinking “I just had this amazing day with him. Why is he melting down? Why is he being so difficult?”


Maybe you can relate to a day like this — where you give your child so much, you spend so much time with them. Maybe you even bend the rules a little bit and say, sure, you can have 10 minutes extra of video time today. You see that they’re in a good place that they’re having a good time. And at some point during the day, maybe it’s even out of the blue, they melt down or they act ungrateful or disrespectful. How could we not get upset by that?


But of course, I want you to remember that there are always reasons for every behavior. And we are going to talk about those reasons today.


Before I get into the reasons I want thank those of you who are rating and reviewing the podcast. I know you are busy and I really appreciate the time that you are taking. I read every single one. And if you are listening and haven’t left a review yet, I’d really appreciate if you do. Not just because it keeps me inspired to create more value for you, which it does. But it also allows me to reach even more listeners offering tips that can hopefully reduce their parenting stress.


And speaking of a little bit of parenting stress, let’s talk about the reasons that kids may have a great day, but then end up in a bad place. So the first reason is that honestly, when something is really good, it’s hard for kids when it ends. Basically, they’ve just had a really good time. Everything is feeling good, which in their minds doesn’t happen all the time. They don’t feel good all the time. So something is feeling good, but then it has to stop and they don’t want it to. So they’re feeling all of this frustration and disappointment, and they’re probably feeling pretty out of control because someone else is making it stop, not them. And there’s nothing they can do about it. And they just don’t have a great way of coping with all of these feelings. Children can handle this better when they have mature coping skills, but most children don’t have coping skills. So when something ends, it’s really hard for them.


Another thing to keep in mind when a child has a really good day getting lots of things that they want. I say this all the time: When kids have what they need, they have better behavior, moods and attitudes. But giving them what they WANT is not the same thing as giving them what they NEED. They need a sense of connection, respect, and control and safety. They WANT gifts. They want to be taken places. They want for you to be flexible in your rules…but those aren’t things they NEED. So again, giving them a sense of connection, respect, control, and security — that’s going to lead to better behavior, but buying them things and doing things for them is not necessarily always going to lead to better behavior.


But there’s one more thing: Even when you are giving them what you need — even what you’re doing what I call “making deposits” into their sense of connection and respect and control and security — there isn’t a linear relationship between those deposits you’re making and their behavior. Parents say all to me all the time, “I spent so much time with my child, but then they didn’t go to bed easily for me that night!” Unfortunately, it’s not like you give them two deposits and you get two good behaviors in return.


This even exchange is something logical. And it would be nice if it worked that way. But remember, logic is overridden by yuck. When a child is really upset about something ending, or maybe they’re just tired, they’re not thinking, oh, but my mom just spent two hours with me this morning. So I need to not be disappointed and go to bed easily for her. It’s especially difficult for them to be “good” or “easy” when they have biological yuck — when they are tired or are over stimulated.


So imagine Spencer from the beginning of this episode that I talked about. Remember, he’d spent a great morning with his mom. He went to a party. He had a good time. But what happened was that he was likely tired from the excitement of being with his mom and then going to a party. Having an exciting day can actually wipe a child out. So Spencer’s brain isn’t going to say “I’m tired, but mom was just really nice to me all day. So I’m gonna ignore the way I feel inside and act me really mature and responsible right now.” It just doesn’t work that way. Keep in mind: If you think, well, I gave them what they want. You can’t automatically assume that they’re going give you what you want, which is better behavior, moods, and attitudes.


What can you do about this? Never schedule anything fun? Of course that’s not the solution. Instead, we can work on being less bothered by it. Now I want to say that I’m a big believer that we do not want to raise spoiled children. I have to be honest, that entitlement is a trigger for me. So I teach families lots of ways to reduce entitlement and to increase the sense of gratitude in families. I talk about things like gratitude trees, especially around the holidays — where you can make a little tree and have leaves that are made out of pieces of paper that talk about what they are grateful for. Or you can make sure they are making gifts for others. You can also have them save their own money for at least one gift so they can put in perspective how much things cost and they can appreciate a little bit more what is done for them. Another way I really, really like helping kids reduce their entitlement is for you to let them know that you don’t get everything you want. It’s interesting kids actually don’t realize that we hold back on buying ourselves, everything they want. They don’t hear us going through the thoughts in our minds saying, “Hey, I’d love to buy that new car, but I’m not going to right now, I’m gonna hold off.” They don’t know that we are sacrificing as well. So again, there are a lot of ways you can teach your children to be grateful and to have less of an entitled attitude, but that’s not really what’s going on here.


And I wanna make that clear, as I mentioned, what’s going on in these situations is that they are probably in Yuck. So I have other tips for you as well. The good news is, is that what I’m about to share with you is actually going be helpful much faster because it’s in your control. Whether your child is grateful or not is not in your control, but all of these tips are in your control.


The first thing I want to ask you to do is to recognize that a lot of what we feel when we are doing something for our child, and then they’re having a negative behavior, mood or attitude….what we feel in those moments is resentment, right? We give them things and then they complain or they don’t appreciate it. I have an episode on why resentment is often related to a lack of boundaries. In this case, we expect that we do something for our kids and they appreciate it, but that’s not always gonna happen because kids are not robots. They don’t necessarily have predictable behavior. And it’s not necessarily, as I said before, linear. So you have to do what you wanna do because you WANT to. if you are overextending yourself, if you’re not setting a boundary, if you’re doing things because you think it’ll make your child happy, I wouldn’t recommend doing them. You want do something because you want to, not because you need to them to react in a certain way.


And if you do decide, “OK, I want to give my child what they need” — remember I talked about being more effective when you are depositing into needs, not wants — if you do decide to make those deposits, you have to do it because you know it will strengthen your relationship overall and you know, it will improve their self-esteem overall, not because you want an even exchange on a particular day.


Another you wanna think about in order to help yourself not get so upset when kids do have this negative behavior, is that when it happens, your child is having a problem, not being a problem. Remind yourself why the behavior might be happening. And when it comes to understanding this behavior, you can use what I call an “of course, because” statement. This is basically a statement where you say “Of course _________ because __________” and it really helps you understand another person’s behavior.


Remember Rosemary and Spencer from the beginning of the episode? Rosemary, Spencer’s mom, might say to herself, “Of course he’s irritable leaving the party because he’s wired and he’s tired from going and going all day long. That takes its toll.” See how different Rosemary’s gonna feel and react if she shifts her story from, “Oh, I gave him a good day and now he’s being ungrateful” to “Of course he’s irritable because he’s wired and tired from going and going and going all day long. That takes its toll.” Our Yuck (or lack of Yuck) is all about how we think about a situation and what our motivation is.


Now don’t forget though, that in the last episode, I also talked about how to find some of the patterns and behavior so this negativity doesn’t happen to begin with. But you also do want to realize that you can’t reduce all negativity.


But if you understand it and not get triggered by it, things can go so much better because ultimately when you recognize that your child is a child who is not always gonna be mature, you will get less upset when inevitably they act immature. And when you remember that your child is having a problem, not being a problem, you can give them what they need to feel and do better. And here is the last piece of this — it’s such an important key –when your motivation is to give them things because it’s what makes you feel good, regardless of how they receive it, you won’t have to ride the roller coaster of emotions and you can enjoy this holiday season no matter what is going on around you.

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