Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Parenting Question: What do I do when my kid is in a bad mood?

June 17, 2015

This is Part 3 of my Q&A blog series in which I alternately answer parenting questions and teen questions. If you’re just joining us, you can check out Part 1 How do I keep my child away from a bad friend?” and Part 2Who was that guy my mom was with?”

You've been warned!

You’ve been warned!

Today’s Question: I get that nobody is happy all the time. I’m not! But when my 9 year old son is in a bad mood, it’s not fun for anyone. I’ll admit, I’m not always very patient with him when he’s like that. Obviously that doesn’t help. So, what do I do when my kid is in a bad mood?

Bad moods are kind of like stinky cheese. You open the wrapper and they permeate everything and everyone. The unhelpful thing that parents often do is try to get a child out of a bad mood by distraction or becoming the court jester.  When parents rush in believing it’s always their job to turn that frown into a smile then they’re in for a lot of trouble and they’re not helping their children learn to deal with the ups and downs of life.

Life can be really frustrating. Life can be disappointing. And, if your child expects that everyone will be treated equally, then life is also unfair! OK, so we’re all agreed that crap happens and so do bad moods. Kids need us to teach them essential life skills: resilience and GRIT, which is all about being able to rub up against the challenging aspects of life without wilting and giving up. GRIT also involves the ability to figure out what’s your next best move in the current situation.

When a bad mood strikes there isn’t really anything that a parent has to do. That may be a newsflash for some. It’s only when the bad mood is accompanied by unacceptable behavior – rudeness, unkindness, destruction, etc.  that parents need to intervene. Otherwise, how will our children learn to be good people?

I was talking to my friend, Dr. Deborah Gilboa (AskDrG.com) about her most recent book, Get the Behavior You Want Without Being the Parent You Hate. One of the points she made that jumped out at me was about how we need to teach children that their feelings are less important than their behavior. She’s spot on. As caring parents and educators, we have focused too much on children’s emotions. (“What are you feeling!?”) When that becomes the end-all and be-all, kids assume that their emotions are more important than what they do or say. What little Max feels is not an acceptable excuse for everything he may do. The clear message for Max: Feel whatever you’re feeling. If you’re in a bad mood, be in a bad mood. But you do not have the right to intentionally be cruel or in any way disrespectful to anyone (online or off).

Instead of providing kids with excuses for bad behavior (“She just did it because she was upset.” “He only said that because he’s jealous.”) let’s do a better job teaching them how to deal with unsettling emotions. Let’s also help them understand that sometimes, even when we are disappointed, hurt, or frustrated, we can calm down and express ourselves without hurting anyone.  These life skills will help all of us behave in ways that make us feel good about who we are.

Got a parenting question about raising tweens and teens? Just ask.

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Get the behavior you want without being the parent you hate

December 10, 2014

My name is Annie Fox and I endorse this book!

I’m Annie Fox and I approve this message!

I read lots of parenting books, but only recommend the top notch. That means they deliver pragmatic advice in small, well-organized, chunks of digestible wisdom. No big chunks, please. Who’s got the time? It helps a lot if the book’s tone is so engaging I can imagine the author talking to me over a cup of coffee. Also, it’s a good thing if the descriptions of parent-child interactions are so spot-on I’m chuckling and misting over throughout. (Yes, a good parenting book is as likely to make me cry as it is to have me laughing and calling out to David, “Sweetie, you’ve gotta hear this!”)  Added requirement for any great parenting book: I have to learn something new. Not so easy because, as I said, I read loads of them.

For all the above reasons, I’m happy to recommend Dr. Deborah Gilboa’s latest book, Get the Behavior You Want Without Being the Parent You Hate. Before I tell you what I learned, let me tell you who needs this book – Any parent who has ever wondered if there’s a better way to get your child to:

1. Brush his/her teeth

2. Get along better with siblings

3. Quit whining about being “booooorrrrreeeed” and learn to manage their free time creatively

4. Do something you require without your constant nagging

… plus fifty other things that kids need to learn in order to be become respectful, responsible, and resilient young adults.

Dr. Gilboa, aka @AskDocG, is a practicing family physician, and a parenting expert. She’s also the mom of four boys who,  have apparently brought her to edge of sanity more than once. In the book’s introduction she admits that she has “nagged, yelled at, threatened, and guilted my children to try to get them to behave well. Not all of the time, and usually not on purpose, but, just like many parents, I’ve done all this and more. Not only do I feel really horrible about it afterwards, but (and here is the kicker) it doesn’t work.” So you see, Doc G is also honest, humble and funny. What’s not to like?

Listen to my podcast interview with Doc G.

As for what I learned from Get the Behavior You Want… it came from section 5: What you do is more important than what you feel. Think about it for a minute. Most of the time we mindful parents do our best to get our children in touch with their feelings. “How do you feel now, sweetheart?” “And how did what he said this morning make you feel?” “How do you think you’ll feel about that tomorrow?” The message to kids: how they feel is pretty much the most important thing. Doc G points out that feelings are important, but they should not be accepted as an excuse for poor behavior. Something parents do all the time!

We do it when we say, “Oh, she’s just in a bad mood.” “He’s had a hard day.” “She’s overtired.” Doc G teaches that we need to help our kids become accountable for their behavior. And we can accomplish that by empathizing with our kids’ feelings (“I understand why that made you angry….”) while still sticking with our standards of behavior (“….but biting is totally unacceptable in this family. And here’s the consequence for the doing it…”)

It’s not always easy for an unhappy, overtired child to accept responsibility for his or her actions, but parenting is all about clear standards and consistent responses, isn’t it?

Thanks, Doc G!

Try making this shift in the way you deal with unacceptable behavior from your kids and let me know how it goes.

 

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