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4 ways to change our thinking on struggling kids

written by Scotti Weintraub of Reframe Parenting

When your child is struggling at school - or at home - it’s easy to see the challenges as theirs alone. After all, you’re spending time and energy trying to figure out what’s going on and get them help. But as parents, we aren’t our kids and we aren’t walking in their shoes. Our perspective is different and our job is different too. When our kids are struggling, it’s a good time to re-think our role and how we fill it as parents.

Am I really saying that parents need to do some of their own work? Well, yes. But not in a punitive, or you’ve done something wrong, kind of way. How about we flip it around instead? What if instead of work, it’s an opportunity?

While having a child who struggles is difficult, it gives us the chance to look at our role as parents in a big-picture kind of way and reevaluate how we approach their challenges. Looking at our kids with different lenses (I call them reframes!), gives us a peek into what’s hiding underneath our kids’ challenges - and our reactions to them too.

4 parenting reframes to try when your child is struggling:

  1. We are not our kids. It can be hard to remember that our kids are not a reflection of us or even our own needs. Each child is a unique human with unique strengths and needs. If we focus too much on how we would manage a situation (“I was a good student and always did my work - why can’t they just turn in their homework?”), we miss the truth of who THEY are and what THEY need.

  2. Our kids’ struggles are not a reflection of our parenting. I would write this one on a giant billboard if I could because it’s a hard one to internalize. Their struggles, whatever they are, are not our fault or a measurement of our success as parents. Good parents have kids who struggle.

  3. Curiosity is our friend. If we approach our kids’ struggles with curiosity, then we move from blame to discovery. “I wonder” is my favorite phrase for this. “I wonder what’s happening when he isn’t turning in his homework?” starts a conversation rather than shutting one down. It leaves room for your child to get involved in figuring out what’s happening too.

  4. The more we learn and grow ourselves, the better able we are to meet their challenges with compassion and understanding instead of frustration and criticism about their short-comings and needs.

When you try on some of these new ways of thinking, how does your child look different to you? Can you see them in a way you haven’t before? What changed?

Looking for more support in figuring it out? Reframe Parenting has support and resources to get you started! Unsure what’s happening at school with your child, download our School Struggle Checklist.

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