Catch them at the right moment. It's important to realize that if you see your child in the crashed-out position on the couch, it is probably not the best time to ask him to take out the trash, feed the cat, tickle the goldfish, empty the dishwasher, or repaint the entire house! Wait for those rare moments of verticality, when he is upright and ideally on the move, and then try.
|How To Be Fierce To Your Children|
Also, realize that it takes them time to process your requests. If you have teenagers, this is especially important to know. Make a request or a suggestion and then move on. Let the processing begin. It might take a few minutes for an idea to convert into action. An unwise parent makes a request and then waits nearby while their child processes the information. Don't do this. Put in your request and then move away. Return periodically to check on and applaud progress.
For example, you might say, "Please feed the cat," and then move away. Come back after a few minutes and say, "Ah good, you've raised one arm." Leave again. Return after a few minutes and say, "Ah good, the cat is nearby."
One mother recently tried this out. She went home and said to her daughter, "Please put the trash out," and walked away. There was a deathly silence throughout the house. Not a murmur. Then she heard the back door slam and her daughter said, "I'm not taking out the recycling bin, thought!"
10. They need you!
In your darker moments, this might be hard to believe. But they do need you. Bright children probably need more time from their parents than other kids. They need time to feel loved, they need time to learn to curb their more erratic impulses, and they need time to feel they can give something back as well. They may not always give this impression, but they do.
All children fear abandonment. Bright children often fear that they won't be loved if they are not funny, thrill-seeking, determined, wise-cracking, vigilant, or successful enough. Much of their forcefulness is camouflaged fear and worry.
Learning that you are loved for who you are rather than for what you do is one of the great lessons of life. Bright children need to learn this lesson, and it is one that only parents can really teach.
News Flash! Your child does not need you as a friend. He or she does need you as a "fierce friend."
A fierce friend
One of the best definitions of good parenting for bright children I have ever come across derives from the Buddhist tradition. It's called "fierce friendship." A fierce friend is someone who:
- treats their relationship as if there is no way out,
- acts as if they are always on their child's side, and
- is clearly not going to put up with the "BS" the child sometimes puts out.
Being a fierce friend to your child takes some steely resolve. The first thing to do is to determinedly place yourself at the center of your child's life. Bright kids are talented at maneuvering parents to the sidelines when it suits them. Help them to know that in life, as they are growing up, if they want things to happen, they are going to have to negotiate with you.
It's almost as if you are saying to your child, "Come hell of high water, by hook or by crook, you are going to have to put up with me." While this degree of firmness may sound harsh, it actually reassures the child and helps her to form a solid base through her relationship with you. What you are really saying to your child is, "Whatever happens, I will not give up on you." This is certainty as important for teenagers as it is for younger children.
The second characteristic of fierce friends is that they are always on your side. They are your biggest supporter. Bright kids have a talent for extracting the worst from some adults - adults who will want to cajole, control, and coerce them. Unfortunately, these kids will have plenty of opportunities to perceive the world as a fairly hostile and punishing place. They need an antidote to this. The antidote is you.
Being your child's biggest supporter means focusing more on her strengths and positives than on her irritating behaviors. It means when she does "Lose it," you are there to say, "Don't worry, I know you'll get past this." Bright kids need your love most when they deserve it least.
In counseling sessions, bright kids often comment on the power that their parent's belief in them has. One young adult reflected to me, "I really wanted to get into a life of crime and drugs, but my mother kept telling me she believed in me and loved me, and I just couldn't let her down,"
Being a fierce friend a|so means helping your child to avoid some negative outcomes. Swooping her up or distracting her and moving her out of harm's way are important strategies.
There is a school of thinking in parenting books that parents should let natural consequences apply. For example, if a child doesn't put clothes in the hamper, the parent doesn't wash the clothes, and eventually the child will tearn to put their clothes in the hamper. This is logical and works for many families.
But when you have a bright kid, this type of parenting doesn't work. The extreme nature of her behaviors means we need to find faster ways of intervening. Letting natural consequences apply might mean that your child finds out that if she loses her cool or has tantrums in social situations, people won't want to be with her. If you sit back and allow this type of teaming to happen, by the time the lesson has been learned, she won't have any friends. Letting natural consequences apply for bright kids would be like allowing your child to play on the road so she can learn that trucks might run her over. To find out more, you can check out How To Be Fierce To Your Children.