I recently had to file my first ever missing persons report as my dear sweet six year old daughter has disappeared and left in her place an eye rolling, foot stomping, arm crossing, face making, volatile pint size tornado. It seems in the short months since her sixth birthday, my cuddly, caring, well mannered child is off-the-charts and unrecognizably disrespectful and sassy …I miss her where did she go? Even my husband, who has nerves of steel, has been brought to his knees pleading for mercy. After a simple bedtime story she goes ballistic when met with “It is not time to dance, sweetheart – it is time for bed”…in the most loving, yet firm tone.
We’ve had many discussions, over many dinners, along with many glasses of red wine (purely medicinal of course) trying to figure out how to bring her back, what happened, where did she get this from, when will it go away? Despite our best efforts to figure this out and depleting our wine collection, there is a time when you just have to call in the experts, and that’s just what we did when I booked a session with Betsey Brown Braun, child development and behavior specialist in Pacific Palisades, California, who’s latest book, ‘You’re Not The Boss Of Me’ sounds like it was taken from my daughters daily script. Alas – someone who might shed some light on where my daughter is hiding.
Meeting brilliant Betsy and staring into her stunning blue eyes, you are immediately transfixed as you begin to realize if you can’t find the answers here, you’re up a creek. She is the mother of triplets born 32 years ago, “before it was hip” as she likes to say and has faced every parenting dilemma imaginable and lived to tell. Along with writing two books she lectures, advises, speaks, consults, gives seminars, and provides forums where she shares her 40 plus years of parenting expertise to stupefied parents like myself.
My husband and I, armed with our questions and notes, soaked up every wise word she gave us to help us understand our daughter’s recent behavior and how to help all of us through this critical developmental phase.
10 game-changing tips for dealing with childhood drama, sassy behavior and establishing respect:
1. Establishing Individuality is the job of childhood.
2. In order for a child to define themselves it is necessary to defy others.
3. In defiance there brings volatility, otherwise known as drama – “I can do it myself, I don’t need you, go away, you’re not the boss of me” and at the same time ambivalence “I need you, where did you go, I don’t know how?!”
4. Don’t try to fix the problem or issue in the heat of battle – when they are least likely to hear you.
5. Stop the disrespectful behavior first…
6 . by not engaging in disrespectful behavior: Parent: “I don’t want to be with someone who speaks to me that way” then take a time out for yourself and, this is key, close the door!
7. Or offer them a “do-over”. Parent: “Would you like to try that again?”
8. Help them take responsibility for their actions by enforcing and upholding consequences.
9. Teach them that by choosing their behavior they are also choosing their consequences. Parent: “If you choose to behave this way then you are choosing to go home now” – then back it up.
10. Revisit and talk to them about their behavior when they are calm.
Betsy explained, there is not one solution that fixes everything – to start, parents need to help distinguish where the behavior is coming from, whether is it the child’s temperament, environment, development, or possibly a combination. There are cases where the difficult behavior is innate or “factory equipped” as she says and it is a matter of working with the child’s hard wiring.
Regardless of where the disrespectful or difficult behavior is coming from – it is rare that children are aware of how they are coming across. (Betsy’s tip: video tape their behavior and play it back to them to help bring vivid awareness to their actions.) As a parent, I only want the best possible life for my children and have come to realize that in order to do this I need to help them gracefully find themselves through this arduous developmental process called childhood, and celebrate their beautiful growth along the way…so much for the missing persons report.
I would love to hear your thoughts, experience and stories – please leave a comment and share your wisdom with us.
Celebrate Growth! XO ~ L