Hi, I’ve been reading HIH material for over a year now, and have taken the sleep class and downloaded the “Helping Angry Children” booklet. My husband and I are struggling with how to do Staylistening with our 5 year-old daughter when she is physically expressing her feelings (hitting, kicking, biting, spitting, throwing things). She is fast and strong, and doesn’t like us to “hold her body”. We say things like, “I’m going to hold your body to keep you and me safe while your hands feel like scratching.” But this just increases her intensity (like every time), and she struggles, tries to hurt us more, yells that we’re hurting her, she can’t breathe, etc. (we are trying to hold her as gently as possible while keeping everyone safe). Then she’ll say, “Okay, I won’t hit you, just let me go!” When we let her go, she goes right back into hitting (like she’s not done expressing her big feelings). Her 2 year-old sister is often watching this, and I don’t want her to feel afraid. I feel like I’ve come to dread and worry about her big feelings, which is not helpful for any of us! It’s like she goes straight to intense anger and agression, rather than expressing sadness (crying) or disappointment or fear (even though I know that’s the underlying feeling). I want to feel like I know what to do, and that my actions will increase our connection during these moments, rather than leave us both feeling worried and fearful, or angry.
I’ll answer in detail later tonight, but if there is anyway you can jump on the live Q/A that starts in 45 minutes with Kirsten Nottleson. Kirsten is a genius at all that physical stuff. Here’s the info and I’ll write more later. We have some ideas that can help. Hang in there, good mama! So glad you reached out!
****LIVE Q/A TODAY AT 12 NOON**** Pacific Time
Instructor Kirsten Nottleson is looking forward to your live Q&A on Thursday, January 5th.
The call will be an open forum, so you’re welcome to ask any question that pertains to your family’s current situation.
Call in at 12:00pm PST on Thursday, January 5th.
Dial (425) 440-5100 and enter guest ID 388632#
Other US domestic and international call-in numbers can be found here: http://instanteleseminar.com/local/
Alternately, you can join in via web call as the call begins. http://iTeleseminar.com/93182070I
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We look forward to you joining us on this call!
Kirsten and the Hand in Hand Parenting Team
Unfortunately I can’t join the call! I have to pick up my daughters at noon from pre-school. I’m so disappointed! But, thank you for responding, and I’ll look forward to hearing more later.
I just went through this- I could have written it myself. I have three children. Have you done the aggression course? That’s the first one I did which brought me to hand in hand. I also worried about restraining my daughter and still do. So what I’m doing is jumping all the way in- nightly listening exchanges, doing the course material for aggression, limits, sibling rivalry…it’s made a huge difference. I’m in San Diego if you’d like to exchange after 8 or 830 pm. 8585310770 i won’t give advice or feedback and I definitely won’t judge! The guilt and fear was eating me alive. Hope you get a small relief
Thanks for your response, Laura! And for your offer to listen. It’s nice (for me!) to know that other caring parents are having similar experiences.
I’m sorry it’s taken me a few days to get back to you. I’m so glad that Laura reached out to you!
So..YES – it can be so tough to listen to a kiddo when they are aggressive. I second Laura’s recommendation of the No More Hitting Self-Guided Course. You will get bits and pieces of that course delivered to you in the weekly Parenting Club emails. But in the course, itself, Patty really lays it out step-by-step.
Helping Your Child with Aggressive Behaviors
Patty starts by explaining that an aggressive child is a SCARED child. Some of us know how that FEAR got packed in their emotional processing center or emotional backpack – hard birth, early medical intervention or early childhood trauma – but some of us don’t. It doesn’t really matter. Fear is Fear. I’m sure you remember Patty talking about fear in terms of children having trouble sleeping.
Nothing shuts our brain down faster than fear. We literallycannot think and we have no access to the language logical part of our brain. So, your daughter seems to “agree” that she can stop and as soon as you let go, she lashes out again. That’s the fear. She tries to tamp it down, but as soon as you let go, it grabs her again.
What your daughter needs – what her nervous system is asking for – is for you to contain her, as you have been doing, so that she can kick and thrash and scream and FIGHT FOR HER LIFE. A child who is aggressive and physically out of control is SCARED OUT OF THEIR MIND. Even though she protests loudly, she is desperate for someone to help her stop in a way that won’t pour more fear into her already scared mind.
You can imagine, too, that the fear is like a wall or tower of isolation and she’s stuck in there. She needs you to let her blast through that wall, so that she can get to the sadness and grief that is underneath the fear.
You will have to get a lot of Listening Time in order to do this. If you do not have a Listening Partner, yet, you need to get one – or several. In order for us to see that aggression as fear – and see that they are drowning in that fear – we have to be getting regular listening time so that we can offload our own fear, and so that we can ANCHOR our scared kiddo in our love and attention as they fight for their life. You being calm and reassuring will also help your 2 yr old to know that all is well.
Something I recommend is: if you can set up an in-person Listening Partnership, that you might ask them to contain you or you could contain them as they fight. This will give you a sense of how you can keep your daughter safe and and still provide great tenderness and reassurance that you are there and that she will get through this Emotional Bad Dream. This could be something you and your husband could do for each other. Practice tenderly containing each other, while one person fights for their life.
Although I’ve just focused on your Staylistening with her, you’ve probably heard that our Tools work best when used in tandem. This is particularly true when a kiddo is working on fear. You want to counter the fear with lots of SPECIAL TIME and Rough’n’Tumble Play where you take the LESS powerful role. This will increase her sense of safety and connection and counter her feelings of powerlessness. It will also keep your relationship in balance. LAUGHTER is also offloading fear, so try to set more Limits playfully, using PLAYLISTENING. That way it won’t feel like you are always having to Staylisten to stop the aggression. Laughter will help your whole family – including your 2 yr old. Laughter always makes parenting go easier!
Fear is one of the biggest Emotional Projects a kiddo can have. Your daughter is so fortunate that you are willing to listen to her big big expressions of fear. Using all the Tools together: YOU getting Listening Time, putting in more Laughter and Play and, then when you do have to stop her – letting her fight for her life – I think that combination will start to shift things for all of you.
You are awesome parents. Please let us know what you discover on this journey and keep reaching out.
Peace & Smiles,
Hand in Hand Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
Follow me on facebook: Parenting by Connection with Kathy
“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi
Hi Kathy, thank you so much for your response. We had already been thinking all of that, but needed to hear it from someone else! A few days ago, my husband was able to do a long (hour) stay listening session with our daughter. She fought and cried and shook and sweated – it was really intense. Earlier in the evening my husband and done a short staylistening session, and Maya (5) had stopped fighting at the end and said, “I love you, Daddy!” She got out of his arms and went about playing happily. This experience gave him the confidence, and hope, that this could work. So later, when her pillow was just too flat, and itchy, etc. at bedtime, he held the limit around the pillow/bedtime and that led to the long staylistening session.
Since then, Maya has been a lot more relaxed and happy. She has spit at us a few times when frustrated, but no hitting, kicking, pushing, etc. She has even been able to use words to tell me about her experiences (not when she’s mad, but at other times when she’s thoughtful about things). One example was, “Mommy, I feel really stuck when I’m mad.” Another time she whispered in my ear, “I’m not going to hurt you anymore.” I responded by telling her that I knew how much she loved me and that I feel her love even when she is angry.
So, thank you again so much for taking the time to give such a detailed response!