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I'm Avital.

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Are your kids ever on the receiving end of name-calling? Do they get their feelings hurt by other kids, and you find yourself struggling with how to deal with it or help them through it? 

In this episode we’ll dive into some ways you can help your children become healthy and strong individuals by coaching them through the friction and conflict they’re bound to experience throughout their childhood.                     

  • [3:11] Name calling and hurt feelings are par for the course and aren’t as bad as you might think.  I’ve been in the position where I’ve got calls from other parents, my child had hurt their child’s feelings, or that their kids don’t want to come play. Not a day goes by where I don’t get a message from a parent though about this situation. I want to normalize it. I even want to say, it’s ultimately a good thing! (I’ll explain why)
  • [4:54] Our natural tendency is to be empathetic and protective…but sometimes we overprotect. This is totally appropriate to be empathetic when our child is hurt. We do all sorts of things to stop it from happening again with that child. Sometimes, we can go overboard in that direction! We are actually sending our child the message that they are a victim, and should feel justified in their pain, fury, self-righteousness. So much of our own childhood pain and hurt comes in, that we sort of over compensate for the times we wish we were protected.
  • [6:59] Being overprotective can make our children feel incapable of handling conflict.  Our child might think the name they were called is true!  They might think it’s a HUGE deal, and that they need an adult to stand up for them.         
  • [8:04] We also don’t want to just brush it off as no big deal.  This offers no tools for processing. “Don’t cry”, “Brush it off”, “it’s no big deal.” Basically, it shouldn’t have hurt their feelings and we just push them through it. In both extremes, the child is left with zero abilities for handling it the next time. In the first case, they think they need to be rescued. In the second case, they think even though they’re feeling all these difficult feelings, from the adult’s perspective they shouldn’t be feeling them!
  • [9:40] There will be times when you need to involve other people (parents, teachers, etc.).  Protection IS our role sometimes. If it’s truly bullying and our child is not safe, we do need to step in. Sometime though, there has been a “definition creep” around terms like bullying. Sometimes it’s teasing, leaving someone out, or name calling- but that’s not bullying. 
  • [10:41] Not every single conflict between kids is “bullying” or “unsafe.” To seek to harm, intimidate or coerce someone perceived as vulnerable. Every act of meanness between kids is bullying. Not even every hit! When we make it seem like bullying, we are MAKING our children into victims of bullying. It can weaken them in a way. In regular day to day conflicts it doesn’t serve us to have this definition creep. The same goes for safety! Being safe used to be about physical safety. Making it seem like something is ‘violent’ is much easier than it was a couple of decades ago.
    [12:47] We need to experience friction & conflict in childhood to help us learn how to deal with it.  “A culture that allows the concept of “safety” to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy” – Greg Lukianoff, Author of The Coddling of the American Mind. 
  • [18:22] The 3 “un-truths” explored in The Coddling of the American Mind. The first, is the untruth of fragility. What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. When someone calls you a name, it’s not true that it will somehow make you weaker and leave you scarred. The second one, is the untruth of emotional reasoning. This one is the untruth that you should always trust your feelings. In other words, if you feel like a victim then you ARE one. The third untruth is us vs. them. Often people might say, “Oh he’s  a bad kid, so that’s why he did that to you.” This discounts the fact that all of us are capable of doing good and bad. 
  • [20:09] Give a little bit of empathy, but mostly focus on coaching them.   For example, if someone was called fat and stupid, how can we teach them to handle that? If we only empathize, what we’re saying between the lines is that those names can hurt you because in some way they’re true.  But this being brushed off by adults is not helpful either.
  • [21:52] The untruth of fragility. “From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal, because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take your friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again from time to time, so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope that every now and then your opponent will gloat. It is a way for you understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you will be ignored so that you will understand the importance of listening to others. And I hope that you will have just enough pain to understand compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit or not, will depend on your ability to see the message in your misfortune.” -Greg Lukianoff
  • [24:09] The untruth of emotional reasoning. The idea that we must always trust our feelings. In peaceful parenting schools of though, we say that whatever our child feels is real for them. It’s OK to feel your feelings. All feelings are allowed. The other ideas though, is how we talk to those feelings, and learning that we have an incredible POWER over how we feel. We think a certain thing about a situation, and our thoughts create our feelings. Byron Katie says the first two questions we must ask ourselves in her book Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life are “Is it true?” and “Can you absolutely know it’s true?” Also, maybe it’s OK if it’s true. Maybe you love being weird, or you embrace being lazy for example. What if we say NOT to trust that initial feeling, but to question those thoughts they’ve having. If they don’t think it’s true that they’re stupid, than you can frame it up in a way that serves them. Imagine if we raise a generation of kids who don’t fall prey to anything other people say about them, especially in a world of social media. It’s  a really important skill to learn that other people’s words don’t have to hurt us.
  • [30:52] The untruth of Us vs. Them. This is the idea that life is a battle between good people and bad people. People often label one kid as bad, and one kid as good. Kids need to go through difficult things with others though, in a safe environment so they can learn how to work through them.

Let’s do our best to reframe the conflicts our children experience as opportunities to coach them and help them develop into healthy and strong people who can handle whatever life throws at them.  

If you enjoyed this episode and it inspired you in some way, I’d love to hear about your biggest takeaway. Take a selfie of you listening or a screenshot of the show, post it to Instagram stories, and tag me @parentingjunkie or feel free to DM me on Instagram, I try to reply to as many as I can!

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One Reply to “TPJ 44: Coaching Up the Hurt Child”

  1. Avital, Thank you for helping me a fellow imperfect parent heal myself and then heal my children. The Coaching Up the Hurt Child Episode was esp helpful for me as an adult. I’m grateful for the tools you have shared to not victimize children but empower them to question their situation and not rely on emotional reasoning. Brilliant! Listening to your show is my moment to breath after the kids go to bed or when I’m on mommy overload. Your content is powerful and after listening I’m a calmer happier mama. Thank you for sharing all your goodness with the world!

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