Episode summary:

In this episode, Susan shares a unique way of thinking about our child’s challenging behaviors, offering new ways of coming to terms with who they are–versus who we wish they could be. 

Susan Stiffelman is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, an educational therapist and a highly lauded speaker. She is the author Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and Parenting With Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (an Eckhart Tolle Edition).Susan offers online events for parents around the world on topics like Raising Tweens and Teens, Parenting in the Digital Age, and Raising Siblings and also hosts a monthly support group with Wendy Behary on Co-Parenting with a Narcissist.​​​​​​​ www.susanstiffelman.com

Things you’ll learn from this episode:

• A less stress-producing way of thinking about your child’s most frustrating behaviors
• The importance of taking a helicopter view of life’s challenging situations
• How we can overcome resistance to who are child is

Get every episode delivered automatically!

Stay up to date!

Would you like to receive free parenting articles, practical tips, upcoming events, and new podcast episodes directly to your inbox?
Sign up below to receive updates about my work!

Transcript:

Speaker 1:
Hi there. Welcome to the Parenting Without Power Struggles podcast. I’m Susan Stiffelman. I’m your host. I’m a marriage and family therapist, a teacher. I was an educational therapist for many years. I’m a mom and the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting with Presence. And for many years, I actually was the weekly advice columnist for AOL and then for Huffington post on all things parenting. So I’ve been doing this work for a very long time. And this podcast is my way of sharing. Some of the things I’ve learned, the glimmers of insight, and certainly the experiences I’ve had with parents and their children over 40 years or more. So here we are, we are, many of us are most parents now parenting their children during a pandemic, which has its own challenges. But on top of that, very few of you are sending your kids to school.

Speaker 1:
Most children are learning from home, either in a homeschool program that you’re delivering, where you’re either buying a curriculum or a set of curriculums, or you’re making it up or your children, which is more commonly are being taught by their teacher remotely in a distance learning program. And oftentimes you all are working from home yourself. So there’s a lot of moving parts at making this work. We have to address our kids’ anxieties and their disappointment and sadness about not being able to go to school, their worries about the pandemic and grandma or someone. And then all the issues related to sitting in front of a screen to do lessons when it’s kind of an unnatural way to engage with learning material. So all of these things have informed my decision to put together a series, which I hope you’ve heard about, but if not, I would love for you to join us.

Speaker 1:
It’s at Susanstiffelman.com right there in the middle of the home page. And it’s called Homeschooling Without Power Struggles because that’s the aim. And we have wonderful colleagues, Marilyn Mosley, who is the founder of one of the oldest and most successful distance learning programs in the country, Laurel Springs school, and who also homeschooled her three children and Rebecca Kochenderfer who homeschooled her children and was the founder of homeschool.com and has mentored thousands of homeschooling parents. So the three of us collectively have probably homeschooled our kids at least 75 years. And in this series, which is packed with practical and emotional and psychological and every kind of support along with a workbook and tons of vetted and tested resources to make it easier for you to travel this of homeschooling, whether you chose to do it, or it’s the last thing you ever thought you’d be doing.

Speaker 1:
So I hope you’ll check that out. There’s still time to register it. In fact, most people will watch the replays over the next few weeks. So there’s no time constraint there, but it can be really helpful. And one of the things that has emerged as I’ve been putting this curriculum together for the class is something I wanted to actually devote this whole episode to, which is a term I’ve coined some years ago called snapshot child syndrome. You’ve probably never heard of this particular syndrome. Although there are a lot of syndromes out there. This one might be new to you. It’s not a real thing. I made it up. But the idea is that, imagine that you’re holding in your hand, a photograph of your ideal child. This is the child who, when you say honey, it’s time to start. Your online classes sits down and says, thanks mom, for reminding me, I didn’t want to be late.

Speaker 1:
And, and when the teacher, you know, or, or when your child’s teacher says, well make sure that you get your assignments turned in your snapshot child. The one in the photograph that you’re holding is, you know, I’ll be ready early. Or you say to that snapshot child, the ideal child we hunt where you helped me out and take out the trash. Of course I will mom. So we all, whether we realize it or not, we have an image in our head of this ideal child who our child should be. And then we have the real child. That’s a child is hiding under the table during their online classes, licking the dog or the floor or the one who just chooses not to go. And we’re in the other room working and we can’t hover and be, you know, kind of policing our kids all the time or this net, the child we actually have as the one who ignores us when you asked them to take out the trash or turn off the video game.

Speaker 1:
So this can create, as you might know, from experience, a lot of frustration for parents, a lot of stress, a lot of concern at times. And here’s why we think it’s because our child is hiding under the table during their online class, you know, playing on our phone instead of attending to the lesson that’s being taught, or we think it’s because our child ignores us when you ask them to take out the trash. But in fact, I want to frame it a little bit differently. The reason we get stressed and upset when our child behaves in the ways that they do is that they aren’t a match for this photo of the ideal child. We’re holding in our hand. In other words, it’s the mismatch between who we think our child should be this ideal version and who our child actually is. And life is so much harder with children when we are resistant to who we have as a child, because we’re constantly trying to contort and conform and modify and convince that child to be like the snapshot child, the idealized child, that photo, that we’re holding, where this child is incredibly compliant and likes the things that we like and has a temperament.

Speaker 1:
That’s easy for us to, to get along with. So it’s a very powerful concept because it runs deep. You know, when we have resistance to who our child is, their temperament, their learning style, the things they prefer to do, whether they’re very active or very introverted or extroverted when we are in resistance to who our child actually is, the child, first of all feels it, it promotes resistance and disconnection, and it just makes our life so, so much harder. So in terms of homeschooling our children, we have to meet our kids where they are. This is just how it’s going to work best is to accept that we might have a child. For instance, who’s a very fidgety, I had a session online zoom session, recently, a meeting I had to attend that I wasn’t really keen to attend, but it was something I was obligated to do.

Speaker 1:
And you should have seen me, or maybe you shouldn’t have, I was pacing around the living room at one point because I had the, I was, I was on a portable device. I was with my camera off deadheading the flowers in the garden. I, at one point it was making a cup of tea. Now imagine me as a nine year old in front of a screen with a teacher who required me to sit still and stay focused in a visual and auditory way throughout a 45 minute lesson on a topic, I had absolutely no natural interest in imagine that dilemma. And then of course, the way we approach those kids who don’t want us stay focused on the screen, who are hiding under the table, playing, you know, drawing or what something else they’d rather do, the way we approach them is to punish or shame or lecture them, which does not further our cause.

Speaker 1:
So in this course, we’re really focusing and in my work in general, focusing on helping parents see who the, who they have as a child. And for some of you having your kids learning from home is kind of regulatory. It might be opening your eyes to some of the challenges you didn’t know your youngster had from sitting in a classroom day in and day out. So that’s one of the silver linings is that we can begin to understand who we have. We can begin to work with learning style. And in our course, we talk about some different models that can be very helpful for customizing the way you approach based on your child’s preferred learning style. I mentioned multiple intelligence theory, which we’ve talked about in this podcast, in which we talk about in the class as well, so that we accept and actually celebrate who we have as a child, rather than trying to force them into a mold that doesn’t fit.

Speaker 1:
Because I know for me personally, if someone had said to me during that meeting, that I wasn’t very interested in, you better sit down here and stare at that screen for the entire hour and 15 minutes or 20 minutes of this meeting, it would have been very, very difficult. And so all of these examples and ideas are meant to encourage you to relax a little bit. If your child is having trouble with homeschooling and to get, take a few steps back and become more curious and less judgmental or afraid of how your child might be different from the optimal ideal child.

Speaker 1:
So that’s all I’m going to say about this right now. I want you to kind of, or encourage you to think in a larger way, get up in that helicopter, as opposed to being right there in the microcosm of your day to day life, get up and see the larger view and the larger view of what we’re all going through is number one, it is incredibly difficult. There’s so much uncertainty and there’s so much anxiety. This is a very difficult time. There is no way around it. Number two, what we’re doing on a day to day hour to hour basis is not nearly as meaningful as the large picture. How are children going to emerge from this time? Will they feel competent and confident and excited and passionate about themselves as learners or will they have come to associate learning with something awful that they dread, which launches them into their adult life.

Speaker 1:
Very limited in terms of the paths they can pursue, because for, for many kids, as they grow up, they do have to keep learning. And if kids hate learning based on what they’re going through day in and day out right now, they’re going to do the easy thing. The thing that doesn’t challenge them or stretch them, or perhaps isn’t meaningful to them in their adult and their adult career. So we want to take the larger view, understand how difficult this is and understand that the hour to hour interactions that we have are aren’t whether our child does this particular assignment well or not, is not nearly as important as the overall atmosphere and climate and attitudes that we’re cultivating. So I hope you’ve enjoyed this. If you have, it would be amazing. If you could take a minute to just leave a review or at least a rating for the podcast, because it really helps us reach other parents.

Speaker 1:
And that’s my aim. That’s my goal is to really send these kinds of messages of positivity, attachment connection, acceptance, compassion, resilience out to parents all over the world. And we are slowly making our way to do that. This week I would encourage you to just step back and notice who your child is, be less concerned about checking certain things off your list, and more curious to understand how they best learn what their strengths are and play to those. And of course, if you want to take the course with me, I would so love to have you join us. Most people will watch this over the next few weeks as a replay it’s at Susanstiffelman.com. And please tell your friends about it and stay in touch. We have a newsletter that goes out with lots of support, tips, guidance, and inspiration for parents. And again, that’s at Susanstiffelman.com. Okay. Then remember, no matter how busy life gets, and it can be very busy, no matter how busy life gets look for those moments of sweetness, and joy.

YouTube
YouTube
Twitter
Visit Us
Follow Me