How To Get a Toddler to Cooperate

How To Get a Toddler to Cooperate

How To Get A Toddler To Cooperate

Tips to get your toddler to cooperate more provided by a certified parent coach

The toddler years can be filled with a whole lot of parental frustration, but it doesn’t have to. Check out these tips to get your toddler to cooperate and listen more.

Start small, with clear simple instructions

It is important to only give one instruction at a time and to stay close to your toddler to ensure compliance in the beginning.

When your toddler is beginning to learn compliance, avoid giving directions when you are on the move, distracted or in a hurry. Instead, make sure you are giving instructions when your child is an arm’s length away or less. Once your toddler grows and learns, you can work your way up to 3 instructions at once, but remember, they must remain simple.

If your toddler struggles with more instructions, do not be afraid to drop back to only one instruction at a time and work up their stamina over time. You can also increase your distance from them, but if they regress to not doing a requested behavior then you need to go back to being close.

Limit distractions

Toddlers are not made for multitasking so make sure distractions are limited when you are giving your instructions. This means your child’s head is not buried in a screen or they are not immersed in their play when you are talking.

A toddler’s play is their work and just as you need to get to a good stopping point so you can switch tasks, so does your toddler. If you need to gain your toddler’s attention, make sure to give them a warning about the need for their attention and get down on their level. Visual timers, like from Time Timer*, can be a great way to help toddlers transition to listening or to a different activity.

Make demands mean something

If you want your toddler to do something, make sure you actually want them to do it. Otherwise, if you request they do something to later back off and do it yourself, you are sending them mixed signals.

For toddlers, consistency is the key. They need to learn that every time you make a request you expect them to complete the task, not sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. So once you have made the decision that you want your toddler to do something, then insist they do what you are requesting.

This requires you to show them exactly how to do it until they have learned the expected behavior. If they refuse, make sure to break down the task into smaller tasks that are easier to complete. So instead of ‘put your toys in the box’ you might first say ‘find the box’.

Extra tips for transitions

Calmly tell your child to take their time with the task, that the next fun thing on the agenda (like reading a book with you) can wait until they are done.

If a child is playing it can be helpful to play with them for a minute or two before transitioning them to the new activity you are requiring.

Make sure to preview what the next activity and expectations will be before making the demand.

Be clear about what you want

Toddlers feel more secure when they are told exactly what to do. So instead of telling your child to get ready to go, try telling them ‘go put on your shoes, then put on your coat’.

Keep the instructions as a requirement, not a ‘would you like to…’ or ‘how about you…’ as those words make it seem like the toddler has a choice in the matter. If there is no choice to what you want your toddler to do, using choice wording will invite conflict and refusal if your toddler does not want to do it.

Offer limited choices

Sometimes offering your toddler a choice can help with non-compliance. For example, you can brush your teeth first or you can use the potty first. Make sure you are offering choices you can live with and limit the choices you offer to two.

Understand your toddler’s resistance

Sometimes we don’t like what we have to do. Toddlers are no different. If your toddler starts to have a meltdown reflect back your child’s feelings. Repeat they do not want to stop playing, wear their coat, leave, etc. Restate back to them that they are mad, sad, frustrated, disappointed, etc. Acknowledging their feelings by reflecting them back, will help your toddler transition through their meltdown faster.

Once they have calmed down offer them a hug, but remain insistent in the task being completed. That may mean you need to help them start the task or break it down into smaller tasks. It can also help to reaffirm your family’s values when enforcing the required task by stating “This is what we do in our family”.

Help your toddler learn

Toddlers learn best through mirroring and modeling so in the beginning, do the tasks along side your child so they learn how you expect the task to be done. Over time you will be able to remove yourself from participating once your toddler has learned what is expected.

*Happy Parenting & Families does not receive any compensation for recommending this product.

Cell Phone Agreement

Cell Phone Agreement

Cell Phone Agreements

Get your free cell phone agreement to help your child stay safe and minimize power struggles

Whether you are thinking about giving your child a cell phone or you already have, it is always a good idea to have a cell phone agreement to set up some ground rules that will help protect them and minimize fights.

Whether you decide to use our free cell phone agreement or you want to just get some ideas to make your own, follow these guidelines for easier implementation and better compliance.

1. Rules should be designed around safety, allowing kids the ability to learn freedom and independence in a safe way.

2. Consequences should be designed to have immediate impact so that the expectations and enforcement are clear to the child.

3. Consequences should also be created with the idea that the impact should be just enough to stop the unacceptable behavior, allow for an opportunity to learn and be forgiven for mistakes (remember they are still learning and mistakes are to be expected) and to make the implementation and follow through easier for parents/caregivers. In short, don’t chose a consequence that is going to be too hard to follow through on or is going to make your life more miserable than your child’s, resulting in you changing the consequence after the fact.

4. Make sure you talk about the rules and have the contract signed at a time when everyone is available to have the discussion without being rushed. Allow kids a chance to question the rules and consequences and settle on something everyone can live with. Don’t expect a child to follow rules or accept consequences that you have not explained clearly to them beforehand, even if it does seem like a no brainer to you.

Click below for a free cell phone agreement. Use it as a way to open a conversation about what cell phone expectations are, consequences for misuse and to keep everyone on the same page.

Access your free cell phone agreement here

Is your young adult failing to launch?

Is your young adult failing to launch?

Is your child failing to launch?

Parents can help their child who is failing to launch by making this one change

Have you ever fought with your older teenager or young adult over doing an “adult” task? They know the task is necessary, but you can’t figure out why they “forget”, avoid or refuse to do it. If so, it may be that they are struggling to launch.

What causes a child to fail to launch?

As teenagers grow into adults, their bodies and brains are changing so they can become an adult. But just because the brain and body have changed does not mean a teenager feels like an adult. Often, they get stuck with the uncomfortable feeling of ‘now what do I do’?

As parents, we expect our older children to be responsible for managing their daily lives. But for a young adult this responsibility can create a lot of anxiety and fear.

We all fear the unknown. We like routines and knowing what to do. But for young adults most tasks they do fall into the unknown category of life. It may be the first time they have to do something on their own. They need to learn to set appointments, apply for jobs, register for classes, file taxes, etc.

Some children do fine with the unknown. But others struggle because they have no idea what to expect or what is expected from them. This leads to them putting up a wall or shutting down to avoid the unknown. As parents, we see this as “forgetting” to do things, avoiding a task or flat out refusing to do something.

What exactly is happening?

Young adults who are failing to launch, are often struggling because of a fear of the unknown. They don’t understand the process or what to say or how the other party is going to react. All these unknowns prove to be too overwhelming and so they tell themselves it is safer if they don’t do it.

Even if there are consequences, it is not necessarily enough of a motivator for action. Why? Because the consequence is generally known. Fear will usually make those struggling with action choose the known. Because it is often viewed as less dangerous than the unknown they are facing.

So what can we do as parents?

Go back to the basics. As parents, our main job is to teach our children how we expect them to act. So just because your child is older does not mean your teaching days are behind you.

Ask your child what feels hard about the task. What are they worried about? Listen to their answer and then offer to do the task with them, like they are your shadow. This way they can see an example that takes away the unknown. Let them see how a business call goes, how to fix an error on a bill, how to talk to the bank about their account, etc.

Once your child sees what they have to do, most will feel relieved and ready to do the task the next time.

If your child indicates they still have fear, then practice with them again. For the second time though, let your child take charge and you be the shadow. This will give them the security of knowing they have backup. But at the same time it will give them the experience of how to handle the situation.

Final thoughts

As parents we sometimes forget what it is like to be a child. Fear of the unknown can lead children to question their capability. This in turn can result in them avoiding life. These feelings do not usually go away by themselves. Nor do they disappear because your child now looks like an adult.

Fight the urge to do the task for your child. Instead, teach your child they are capable through practice.

For those parents that are reading this to prevent a failure to launch:

You can set your child up for success through chores beginning at an early age. Sprinkle in bringing them along for errands or listening in to calls with businesses. Modeling how to do adult tasks will make them more confident as they grow.

Modeling is one of the best ways to teach a child, so let your child see what you do!

3 Tips to Decrease Meltdowns

3 Tips to Decrease Meltdowns

3 tips to decrease meltdowns and tantrums

Minneapolis Parent Coach Jen Kiss gives 3 tips to decrease meltdowns and tantrums

As we all know, meltdowns and tantrums have a way of ruling the roost when they are in full swing. Whether your goal is to stop behavior before it occurs or have a quicker resolution, the key is finding the source. To do this, you have to do some investigating about why your child’s behavior is occurring.

At first glance, you may think the answer is obvious. For instance you may think it was because they didn’t get their way. Or you may have no idea because it feels like it came out of nowhere. But the key to solving behavior issues is to look a little deeper into your child’s reactions. All behavior is communication. When your child has a meltdown or tantrum they are trying to communicate with you.

So what is your child trying to communicate?

Where Behaviors Come From

Fear or Anxiety

A lot of challenging behaviors come out of fear or anxiety. From refusing to go to bed or school, to opposing everything you say, fear is often at the core of these very frustrating behaviors. Usually fear causes children to try to control their environment as a way to try to cope. This can show up as being rigid about what they will or won’t do, being clingy, avoiding certain places or people or becoming bossy and demanding. It can also show up as aggressive behavior because the child’s brain is trying to fight against their fear.

Sensory Sensitivities

For a child who has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or sensory sensitivities, the world can feel like a minefield. Children can become overwhelmed when tasked with something their bodies are uncomfortable with. As a result, many kids with sensory sensitivities use avoidance to manage these sensitivities. They may also have big reactions to certain stimulus or it may seem like they completely tune the world out.

Stress and Overwhelm

Kids are not immune to stress, trauma or overwhelm. In fact, stress often affects kids more because their ability to regulate their emotions, self-soothe, cope and have perspective are still developing. When a child’s stress tolerance is breached the limited skills they do have go right out the window. This leaves kids reacting from their lower brain, which is charge of the stress response. When kids are stressed or overwhelmed it can show up as aggression, disinterest or avoidance.


Trauma does not need to be a big, scary event. Trauma can be a lot of little events that add up over time or a single event. The nature of the event and whether there is a caring adult to help after the event, will determine whether a child experiences trauma.

If your child has a history of trauma, their amygdala can be enlarged because it is working overtime. An enlarged amygdala results in hypervigilence and more stress responses. Like stress, trauma limits a child’s ability to control their actions when triggered. Trauma can be triggered from everyday events or sensory stimulus, like smells. Trauma behaviors are usually much more extreme in their aggression. In addition, trauma tantrums can last for a very long time.

Learning Disability or Neurodiversity Struggles

Children with learning disabilities and neurodiversity struggle because their brain can’t do what is being asked of them. This can be extremely frustrating for the parent and child. While it often appears as being lazy or defiant, the child is actually neither of these things. Executive functioning abilities, which includes focus and attention, impulse control and predicting consequences, can be delayed or harder to master in children that have learning disabilities and neurodiversity. Research has shown that these children have brains that are wired in a different way. Research also indicates these children tend to experience anxiety and depression at a higher rate. Mental health struggles have a direct link to behavior challenges.

Connection or Relationship Troubles

We are social creatures by nature. When a child is not connecting to the important people in their lives, it can set off behavior challenges. A child who is lacking connection may become less trusting of others for fear of further rejection. Or they may become provoking and aggressive to demand others pay attention to them.

Lack of connection can have serious effects on a child’s attachment with caregivers and can lead to mental health issues that last into adulthood. If your child is struggling with behaviors, start by looking at your relationship. How much undivided connection time you are spending with them a day? If your child lacks alone time with you to talk or bond, make this a priority. Spending time with your child would be a good first step to reducing unwanted behaviors.

For teenagers, their main source for connection are their friends. Rejection by peers can lead to depression or significant behavior issues. If things seem fine in your relationship, check in to see how their friend relationships are going. Don’t push too hard, but let them know you are open for talking any time.


Regardless of which category you think your child falls into, the solutions remain the same. So it is okay if your child falls into more than one category; that is not uncommon. It just might mean that it will take longer for your child to work through learning emotional regulation and impulse control because they have a few more hurdles in their way.

1. Spend at least 5 minutes a day connecting with your child

This time should be planned into your day the same way an important meeting would be. This time is spent doing whatever your child would like to do or talk about. Make sure to keep the time uninterrupted. If you need to interrupt your time to deal with something urgent, let your child know and set a time to circle back later.

2. Reflect back to your child so they know you understand their struggles

Whether your child is struggling with fear, stress, neurodiversity or sensory sensitivities, acknowledging why something is hard can be a game changer. If you want to get ahead of behaviors, reflect their feelings back to them as they are beginning to escalate. After reflecting back, like ‘that made you mad, you did not like that at all’, offer to do a coping technique with them. Coping techniques such as slow breathing and hugs are good for any age. If your child escalated too fast you can still reflect during their tantrum to make it shorter. Keep the words small and your voice calm. Listening is the key.

3. Provide “just right” accommodations to decrease meltdowns and tantrums

While we do not want to accommodate too much, we do want to make sure we are supportive. This means we provide just enough support to stretch your child into building their coping and self-regulation skills. For example, you may help them get started with deep breathing and ask for them to continue without you. Or you begin a hard task together and slowly remove yourself over time.

For anxiety and fear, while we do not want to create too much stress, the ultimate goal will be to show the child that they can be uncomfortable and still be okay. This is how we build up their confidence and resilience and lessen behavior challenges. Always start with little steps towards your goal since going too fast can make your child resist. If you want to learn more about how to do this with your child, check out our 3 Ways to Help Your Child with Anxiety.

For sensory sensitivities, accommodations are usually necessary. Like anxiety, the goal is to help them learn to build up tolerance so they can function better in their lives. Because sensory sensitivities can be complex and span all 8 senses, it can be very helpful to work with an occupational therapist to make progress.

Final Thoughts

All behavior is communication. If you listen to what your child’s behavior is trying to communicate you can get to the root cause. Once you know their motive, you can parent from a better, more effective place. Knowing why our kids act the way they do allows us to do the things that will help minimize their behaviors. It also allows us to view our children from a different light and meet them with compassion and patience. And when we do that, challenging behaviors lessen dramatically.

When You Are Triggered by Your Child

When You Are Triggered by Your Child

When You Are Triggered By Your Child

When your childs challenging behavior triggers your rage_parent coaching can help solve difficult behaviors

Are you a parent triggered by your child?

No one can push your buttons the way your child does. But for some parents, interactions with their child can feel more extreme because their child not only pushes their buttons, but triggers uncontrollable reactions.

When a parent feels triggered it can come out as anger. It may feel like you have a shorter fuse and that you explode more. Sometimes it comes out as avoidance. Feeling like you can’t stand to be in the same physical space as your child or interact with them. And sometimes it comes out as giving in or giving up. Feeling like you can’t possibly win. Feeling so exhausted you question if you can do anything right so you simply chose to do nothing.

No matter how you react, the end result is the same. You feel like you are failing as a parent. Like parenting is incredibly hard and frustrating. And often times it leads you to feel like you don’t want to be a parent to your child.

And then you have the guilt for having such thoughts. And you feel alone because no one else seems to have these struggles like you.

I know that feeling because it is a feeling I used to get a lot when my eldest was young. For me, my child triggered my anxiety. Whenever they began to spiral I could feel my anxiety rising. And as a result I would try to control the environment to keep my child from becoming triggered. Because it was the only way I thought I could keep myself from becoming triggered. Because when I became triggered I became angry. And when I was angry I was not the parent I wanted to be.

I knew I was not helping my child and that I was hurting our relationship. But I couldn’t figure out how to not get triggered by my child. And for me, I felt confused and upset after I was triggered. Because before I had my eldest I was laid back and handled pressure well. I couldn’t figure out how I had gotten to this point of dreading my child’s reactions or how to break the cycle.

So what did I do? Well it took some time to recognize that my child was actually a trigger for me. That it was more than just getting on my nerves or pushing my buttons. They were causing a very intense, uncontrollable reaction in me. And that because of that reaction and how much I dreaded it, I was doing a lot to try to avoid or minimize my child’s triggers.

Once I realized I was being triggered I needed to reflect on how I wanted to live and parent. I took a hard look at how I was parenting. And I realized that I was putting a lot of effort in, but not getting the results I wanted. In short, I was doing a lot of accommodations, but still being triggered a lot of the time.

That caused me to realize that if I wanted something to be different I was going to have to do something different. Because what I was doing was not working for my child or for me.

Being triggered by your child does not make you a bad parent. But it does make parenting harder. A lot harder. So if your child is triggering you, you are not alone. And while it can be a good idea to work with a therapist or counselor to discover why you become triggered, this article is about the things you can do right now to break free from being triggered by your child.

These things all take time, so give yourself some grace and understanding. Behaviors don’t change overnight. Just keep showing up and doing the work. That is how you make changes.

Breaking Free of Being Triggered By Your Child

1. Understand your body’s reaction – This is not just in your head

Your body is having a biological reaction to your child’s behaviors. When your child has a big reaction, or you have an intense memory of how your child reacted the last time, your fear center becomes triggered. This is a normal reaction anytime we experience someone’s anger or when we feel threatened.

When our fear is triggered, we react in a very biological way. Our survival instincts kick in and that means our thinking brain shuts off. So we have a harder time regulating ourselves. Meaning we often escalate right along with our child who is upset.

So how do we interrupt this biological reaction? We need to remember to practice coping techniques. If you are becoming triggered you need to take care of yourself first. Regaining your calm is necessary to be able to effectively calm down your child. Try taking deep breaths, removing yourself temporarily from the room if it is safe for your child, or naming your feelings.

By practicing coping techniques you can regain control over your body’s reaction and bring your thinking brain back online. Once you are able to think again it becomes easier to problem solve solutions to help your child as well.

2. Understand it may not be your child who is causing you to be triggered, it may be you

When your child hits certain milestones or ages, it is natural for you to remember your childhood at that age. Depending on your experience, your family interactions or how you felt at that time it may cause old feelings and trauma to resurface.

And what a lot of people don’t know is that trauma can be caused by small events. And it varies from individual to individual. Trauma can be caused by invalidations or criticisms that get repeated over and over, often without the parent being aware that any harm is being done to their child. In short, trauma is based on your individual response to an event that you found overwhelming and that you could not fully process. So it is not uncommon for our parenting to bring up trauma that we did not know existed.

That is why when our child behaves a certain way or reminds you of when you were young, your childhood feelings reemerge. And the tricky thing about trauma is it blends time together. What happened in the past and how we felt gets mixed with what is happening now and how we feel now. Making it hard to realize our emotions and triggers are coming from the past.

So how do we move past a trauma we didn’t even realize we had? This is where mindfulness, yoga or Qigong can help. Each of these tools helps you to breathe and focus on the present moment. And when we can breathe and bring awareness to how our body feels in this moment we can begin to separate out the past from the present. Yoga and Qigong can be especially helpful if your body needs movement in order to focus on the present.

By practicing a form of mindfulness you are creating space to notice and question your feelings. What are you feeling? Why might you be feeling this? And when you can answer these questions you can then make an intentional decision about how you are going to proceed. And that ability to be intentional has the power to change your interactions with your child and their interactions with you.

3. Instead of avoiding being triggered, work on interrupting your triggers

It is easy to get into the habit of trying to avoid your child during certain time periods or events. Or to bend over backwards with accommodations. And it is easy to say you are doing it to keep the peace and make things easier for everyone. But it’s time to ask yourself if it really is easier.

Chances are your avoidance is leading to more behavior issues because kids tend to escalate behaviors if they feel they are being ignored. Or you are actually spending a lot of your time and energy on making accommodations.

So what can you do? Practice the STOP mantra. When your child is escalating and you feel like you are going to escalate right along with them 1. Stop 2. Take 3 deep breaths 3. Observe what you are feeling and 4. Proceed with intent.

The importance of breaking the avoidance habit is because avoidance is not a long term solution. Emotions that are not dealt with do not go away on their own. They usually resurface later with more intensity. The key to moving past your emotions is noticing what you are feeling. And moving past your emotions is critical to forming new behaviors for you and your child.

4. Choose to practice empathy and compassion for both your child and yourself

When you become triggered as a parent, parenting gets 10x harder. So acknowledge your struggle. Tell yourself that this is really hard right now. And tell yourself you are doing the best you can right now. Practicing this kind of self-compassion can help you shed any guilt or shame you are piling on top of yourself. It also lets you experience a little kindness when you need it most.

But don’t forget about your child. It may be hard to do as your child is triggering you, but remember they are a child. They are not trying to make you upset. They are trying to communicate they are struggling and that they need help. It’s just neither of you are at your best right now. Remind yourself of these things and you will find you are able to be more empathetic to your child. And empathy leads to connection, understanding and patience. All of which help resolve behavior challenges faster.

5. Work on repairing your relationship after you have been triggered

No parent is perfect. All parents yell. All parents have said something to their child they later regret. What happens during an escalation doesn’t matter nearly as much as what happens after the event.

Repairing is the act of acknowledging your actions and making amends for them. In order to do this, you need to acknowledge your part in the escalation. This means you let your child know how you were feeling, why you reacted the way you did and how you could have done better.

Repairing is critical. Not only does it teach your child valuable relationship skills, but it helps you put your emotions and reactions into context so you can recognize and learn from them. It helps to create awareness and accountability, which can help you change your future responses. Repairing also helps protect your child from trauma because it gives them a chance to process their feelings and emotions about an event.

Final Thoughts

Parenting is never easy. Especially if your child triggers uncontrollable emotions in you. But becoming triggered is something you can change.

If you are triggered by your child and need help or support, I invite you to schedule a free 30 minute chat to talk about how parent coaching can help support you and your child.

Schedule a Free 30 Minute Chat

3 Ways to Help Your Child With Anxiety

3 Ways to Help Your Child With Anxiety

3 Ways to Help your child with anxiety

A parent or caregiver can help an anxious child learn coping techniques for better anxiety management

All parents have experience dealing with an anxious child from time to time. But for children that require “more” due to a learning disability, giftedness, being twice exceptional (2e), having special needs, a disorder, or trauma, child anxiety can take on its own life and even rule the roost.

If you are dealing with a child that experiences high anxiety you know it can be very taxing on you as a parent or caregiver. Children deal with it in several different ways, asking what ifs constantly, catastrophizing, and becoming very rigid and controlling, just to name a few.

So how can you as a parent or caregiver help your child with anxiety?

Here are 3 tools to start using now to help your child with anxiety.

1. Help your child feel safe

Anxiety lives in the brain and in the imagination of a child. So it is not surprising that children who’s brains are wired differently tend to experience anxiety more intensely and at a higher rate than other children. “More” kids are wired for anxiousness.

Because of a child’s anxiety, they may avoid trying things or doing things. This is because new does not feel safe. New is less predictable. All children find safety and comfort in routines and predictability, but this is especially true of our “more” kids who are neurodiverse or have experienced trauma or loss. So if we want our “more” kids to let go of their rigidity and control that stems from anxiety they must first feel safe in their environment.

So how do we do this?

Use baby steps to show your child success and address their fears. Maybe your child meltdowns at the mere thought of getting on the school bus. So start with something small, like simply driving past the bus stop. Then once your child seems fine with that, stop at the bus stop and let your child watch the bus go by. Next have your child get out of the car and watch the bus go by (make sure you wave the bus by or have a quick talk with the bus driver to let them know that you are just practicing and that your child will need some more time before they will ride the bus). After that have your child practice standing at the bus stop and watching the bus go by. And finally have your child get on the bus.

It takes time, practicing each step several times until the child can remain calm. And depending on your child’s anxiety level, they may go faster or slower with the steps.

Provide encouragement and excitement as they do each step, especially if they were uncomfortable doing it. Also, talk to them about their progress as they continue to build up their stamina. It’s all about showing them what they can do and that they will be okay. The important thing is to keep them moving forward, even if it is uncomfortable and slow.

You can also use positive language toward your child while acknowledging their anxiety. Say things like ‘I get it. This is really scary for you. And I believe you can handle this’. If you show your child you believe in them, they will start to believe in themselves.

2. Pull back on accommodations and practice coping instead

Almost every single parent or caregiver who loves a child with anxiety knows their triggers. You know what situation is likely to make your child spin into an anxious meltdown and so you make changes and accommodations to avoid these meltdowns. And you are quite loving to do it, but you may actually be making it harder for your child to learn how to cope effectively with their anxiety.

You might be wondering why accommodations are bad, after all they can save you from major meltdowns. But what accommodations actually can do is make home or being with a parent feel like the only safe place, actually increasing a child’s anxiety about the outside world because the contrast between the known and the unknown is so different.

For our “more” kids, anxiety is a part of them. Remember I said it was hardwired into their brain? This means that they will most likely always struggle with anxiety their entire life, but you can help them struggle less and learn to cope better when you ditch the accommodations.

Does that mean we immediately throw out all of the accommodations our child with anxiety has become dependent upon? Absolutely not! That would be a monumental meltdown no parent or child should have to experience.

What it means is you should begin to think about how you can start scaling back your accommodations to make your child stretch their ability to handle their anxiety in order to grow in their capacity to handle situations. This may be painful for all involved in the beginning, but if you can stick with it consistently for a few weeks it will have long term results.

To start, choose one very specific situation which causes your child to become filled with anxiety. A common one is needing to talk to someone they don’t know well (like a restaurant worker, sales person, librarian, etc.). So maybe if you would normally be the one to place your child’s order at a restaurant you give your child advanced warning that you will no longer be doing this, that you believe they are capable of this task and even offer to have a few practice conversations with them, where you pretend to be the wait staff. Then take them to a restaurant and remind them it is their responsibility to order for themselves, if they choose not to order then they simply will have to wait to eat until they get home.

Will your child possibly go hungry for an hour? Yes, possibly. Will your child have a meltdown in public and make you uncomfortable and embarrassed? Yes, possibly. But keep your eye on the prize. You are stretching your child so they can succeed and function in life independent of you.

For our “more” kids, they naturally have to work harder to learn and master their coping skills. Reassure your child you believe they can do this. Tell them they will be okay even if they are scared and uncomfortable. And while you are at it, tell that to yourself.

3. Reframe your child’s anxiety

So often we view anxiety as a bad thing, something to be avoided or something we need to get rid of. But in reality, anxiety itself is not bad for us. It stems from a part of the brain that is trying to keep us safe, which is a good thing if we are actually in a situation where we could be in danger. It just sometimes gets a little overexcited and views everything as a threat and for our “more” kids that can create an overwhelming combination for child and parent alike.

As I said before, our “more” kids are hard-wired to be predisposed for anxiety. This means “getting rid” of anxiety is not likely, so instead we must reframe how our child views their anxiety.

To do this, start by talking to your child about worry’s “job”. When talking to kids, it can be helpful to give worry a persona, turn it into a character (yes, this even works for teens), that your child can picture in their head or even draw out on paper. Explain how worry’s job is to keep them safe and to help point out when things don’t seem safe.

Next, explain to your child that sometimes worry gets overexcited and starts pointing to everything and saying it is a danger, but that your child has the power to help keep worry from getting too carried away.

Now help your child create a written plan for a specific situation, either with words or pictures, where your child shows how they will solve the problem for their ‘what if’ worries.

Once your child can see the various solutions to their problems give your child the language to tell worry ‘it’s not that bad, I can handle this’ or ‘I know you are scared, but I know I can do this’ or even ‘I know you are trying to help, but I am going to be fine’.

Two things are at work here.

One, kids are learning how to recognize their worry is sometimes not accurate and how to provide their brain solutions ahead of time so problem solving becomes more automatic.

Two, research shows I statements and positive affirmations can have a significant effect on attitudes, actions and behaviors.

Final Thoughts

Your child’s anxiety can feel overwhelming to both you and your child and while you may not be able to get rid of their anxiety you can take significant steps to lessen the impact of anxiety in their lives. Your “more” child has the tools they need, but they need to practice them a lot and they need your support and guidance to give them confidence that they will be okay.

Now it’s time for action! Pick one of the above tools and commit to using it with your child consistently for the next 4 weeks and see the impact it can have on your child’s anxiety.