Elementary Aged Children

Putting Positive Parenting into Practice:

Megan James, M. Ed. a school guidance counselor and mom, has compiled various information to help parents of elementary school-aged children build a strong relationship with their children centered around emotional connections, setting empathic limits, and loving guidance.

Below is a list of scenarios created to help manage emotions, decode behavior, and connect and validate behaviors to avoid escalating behaviors and prevent tantrums and tears!

SCENARIO: Almost every morning your child says she doesn’t want to go to school but the teacher reports she is thriving. Nonetheless, she drags her feet (sometimes literally!) to do all the necessary things to get off to school on time. You nag until the nag becomes a yell and nothing seems to make her move faster

1) MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS: One of your triggers is feeling stressed to get out the door, so you are as proactive as possible by getting things ready the night before. You also get up a few minutes earlier to start the day doing something for yourself before the rest of the house is awake.

2) DECODE THE BEHAVIOR: You ask yourself, why does my child act this way? Does she get enough sleep? Is there a reason she doesn’t want to go to school? Does she feel connected to me? You remember a positive parenting phrase: “Every human cooperates for those she feels connected to.” You realize she is not cooperating because she doesn’t have a reason to. She is going to get your attention one way or another, and her hurting heart is getting it through fights. She doesn’t have the maturity to say, “Mom, I love you, and I need you to see me and hold me more. I need you to laugh and stop your angry face. I’m afraid you think I’m bad. I’m afraid I am bad. I’m afraid you love my brother more.”

3) CONNECT BEFORE YOU CORRECT: You decide to start each day with a morning snuggle—just the two of you, no distractions. You stop talking about what isn’t working and have faith that she wants to be a child who cooperates. You look for opportunities to say things like, “I know your heart. I know what a great girl you are.” You make a big effort to create time and space where you look into her eyes and really listen to her. You set aside time every day away from her siblings to do things like going to the library, hiking, snuggling, listening to her favorite music, playing sports, etc.

4) VALIDATE HER FEELINGS/EXPERIENCE: You commit to “moving her along” as wordlessly and kindly as possible. You project that you are on her side with your words and body language. If she is crying or angry, you say, “Mornings are really tough, huh? I wish I could just stay in my pj’s and be with you all day! I’m here to help you get through this. Would you like a hug?”

SCENARIO: Your child has once again exceeded his set time limits for playing video games. Historically, tantrums ensue when you turn the games off.

1. MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS: You notice the tension rising in your chest and throat and so you consciously take a minute to take three deep breaths and repeat a positive mantra in your head. “I can be calm.”

2. DECODE THE BEHAVIOR: You ask yourself, why did my child act this way? Did he forget the limits? Does he need more structure/routine after school? More connection with me? Other activities that are more interesting? Does he just need to unwind and have some fun after school? Does gaming satisfy a basic need that he has? Does it help him connect with friends? Does he need self-control skill building?

3. CONNECT BEFORE YOU CORRECT: You sit down next to him and put your hand on his knee. You say, “I see you’re playing XYZ game again. I can see why you like it. I know you’re having a lot of fun, but did you notice that video game time is over? It’s time to turn it off.” Your child starts to complain and asks for more time.

4. SET EMPATHIC LIMITS: You say, “It’s hard to stop doing something you enjoy, and this is one of your favorite things. Would you like to turn it off yourself or shall I help you?” He ignores you. You say, “I know you really want to play more, but video game time is up. I’m turning it off now.” You turn off the video game and your child starts yelling and storms out of the room. You realize that his lack of cooperation is an indication that your relationship needs strengthening and you make a mental note to start having at least 10 minutes of one-on-one time with him a day.

SCENARIO: Your child fights you to come to the dinner table and then resists eating. Dinner time has become a battle zone just to get her to eat.

1. MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS: You realize that your child not eating the food you’ve prepared is a trigger for you. You commit to doing the inner work you need to do to be calm at mealtimes.

2. DECODE THE BEHAVIOR: You ask yourself, why did my child act this way? Is she having a hard time with the transition to dinner? Is she not cooperating because she needs more connection with you? Does she feel pressured to eat? Are the portions too big? Is she eating too many snacks after school? Does she feel like she has no say in what or how much she eats? Is she simply not hungry? You realize your job is not to control what or how much your child eats. Your job is to provide lots of variety at meals in manageable amounts and let her be in charge of whether and how much she eats.

3. CONNECT BEFORE YOU CORRECT: You commit to having 10 minutes of special one-on-one time each day. You make a point to connect with her before you make the request for her to come to dinner.

4. SET EMPATHIC LIMITS/VALIDATE HER FEELINGS: You say, “It’s hard to stop playing when I say it’s time for dinner…AND your body needs food to be strong and healthy. I hear you…you wish we didn’t have chicken for dinner. It’s not your favorite. You wish we could have pizza every night, I bet. You don’t have to eat, but you do have to come to the table and join us for dinner.”

5. TEACH: You ask yourself what lesson do I want to teach and how can I best teach it? You value family connection and want dinner to be a time of family bonding (rather than “get my kid to eat time”). You want her to have a healthy relationship with food. You say, “Dinner time hasn’t been very fun for us lately, has it? I’ve been pressuring you to eat your food. This has been frustrating and upsetting for you, am I right? I’m really sorry I’ve been nagging and hovering over you so much. I’m going to try hard not to do that anymore. Instead I’m going to focus on fixing healthy meals for us and then let you be in charge of what and how much you want to eat of it. How does that sound? Do you have any ideas for how to make dinner time more fun for everyone?

Community Programs

Docs in the Park Reach out and Read Girls on the Run United Way of Frederick Maryland Interagency Early Childhood Committee Mental Health Association LiveWell Frederick Family Resource, Information & Education Network for Down Syndrome