The kids were driving me crazy!
I wanted to scream.
My fun trip to the mall with the kids had quickly turned into a nightmare!
Not listening to directions…
Constant arguing, screaming, whining and complaining…
Demanding toys, video games, and treats…
It was all getting out of control!
When I asked them to watch out for other people, they assured me they were just fine (as they bumped into shoppers time and time again).
When I asked them to stand here, here was the only place I didn’t find them!
When I nicely explained to them why I wouldn’t be able to buy them what they asked for, they argued for the next 10 minutes about why my logic was wrong and how very right it would be for me to buy it for them.
I was frustrated. I was annoyed. But most of all, I was exhausted!
If that wasn’t enough to make me feel awful, the looky-lous at the store decided that they wanted to make my day just a little bit more difficult!
Their eyes weighed in on me. I could read their minds.
“She’s such a terrible mom. Can you imagine letting your kids act like that in public?”
“Doesn’t she have ears? Can’t she hear them? Doesn’t she want them to shut up just as much as we do?”
And my favorite, “My kid will never act like that!” (Admit it…you know you said that at least once in your pre-kid days when you thought disciplining kids was a breeze and proper public behavior was all that mattered as a parent!)
I Felt Totally Embarrassed…and Judged
The judgmental stares were focused right on me and I could physically feel the weight of their judgment! The kids I was with weren’t my kids, but those judgmental onlookers didn’t know that.
They didn’t know that I was a well-respected therapist who works with kids with challenging behaviors on a daily basis (nor would they have been able to guess this by the way I was failing miserably at helping these kids to show some common decency in this public setting).
They didn’t know that I was trying to be respectful to the mom of these children, feeling like it wasn’t my place to discipline her kids without her permission (because how annoying is that when someone thinks that they know how to discipline your kids better than you do and they take the liberty of just doing it for you without asking for any input from you!)
They didn’t know any of this. All they knew was that I was the adult who was with them and I was the adult who was responsible for them. It didn’t matter to those judgmental onlookers if I was their mom, their aunt, their neighbor or their therapist.
I was responsible for them and I was not doing a good job (because in their eyes, the only measurement of a “good job” was kids who resemble a Parents Magazine cover.
Have you ever felt like people who watch you in public think you are the worst mom there ever was?
Have you ever noticed the judgmental stares of those who just know they could do your job better than you and wondered if they really understand your situation and what it’s like to raise your kids?Have you ever noticed the judgmental stares of those who just know they could do your job as a parent better than you? Click To Tweet
I felt so judged that day and wondered how these people can give such nasty glances without knowing anything about me, my situation or who these kids are. I wondered why onlookers think that they have the right to judge someone’s parenting skills without any true understanding of what challenges this parent is truly facing.
I had never experienced it before until that moment. Prior to that—like most of you—I was the judgmental onlooker, vowing that my child would never act like that. (Come on…we’ve all been there! We all had that slap-in-the-face moment when we realized that disciplining children is much, much harder than we thought it was going to be back when we were the perfect parent in our pre-kid days!).
But yet here I was, with a Master’s degree and many years of experience counseling children with behavioral difficulties, failing at the very job I was trained to do.
Maybe it was my respect for this mom and my refusal to jump into disciplinarian mode, because I didn’t know exactly how she’d best like the situation to be handled to teach her kids the lessons that she wanted for them (after all, that is her choice and her right as a mom!).
Maybe it was the fact that all of my experience with challenging behaviors had been with my clients, and these kids were kids that I loved and cared about, and somehow that just made things different.
Maybe it was because I was a failure, a fraud. Maybe I didn’t know a dang thing about really helping kids to actually want to listen and show respect for other people, simply because it’s the right thing to do!
As I stood in the middle of the mall, judgmental stares strengthening around me, I thought about that last excuse for a long time. I judged myself with the similar nasty thoughts that everyone else was throwing my way and almost convinced myself that I truly was a failure and an incompetent person who can’t even get some innocent little children to follow directions and show a little respect to me and the other shoppers.
As I thought about my incompetency, my eyes started filling with tears.
Hey, I know you’ve been there.
You’ve been in the middle of the store with one or more kids who simply won’t listen to you, who argue with everything you say and to make matters worse, it seems like everyone in the entire store sees it happening right before their eyes.
I mean seriously, why does it seem like everyone hears your child when she says, “No!” but yet when she’s being mommy’s little helper, there’s no one to be seen?! I guess Murphy’s Law doesn’t forget about parenting!
I want you to know two things:
First, You’re not a failure as a mom…not even in the slightest.
Those people at the store who are judging you because you can’t get your child to sit down in the cart and stop knocking items off of the shelf, don’t have the slightest idea what you’re going through.
You see, people who judge you usually fall into one of three categories:
#1: They’re young, they’ve never had kids, and in their mind, they are the perfect parent.
They know exactly how their kid is going to turn out and exactly how to resolve every parenting dilemma. Any amount of trying to convince them that parenting is hard will go right over their head.
They simply don’t understand how hard it is to be a parent, nor do they understand that getting a kid to listen and follow directions is like .001% of the role of parenting and that there’s a million other things that you worry about more than how they act in public (although those judgmental stares make you care a little bit more than you normally would!).
#2: They’re old, they’ve raised kids “the right way” and in their mind, they were the perfect parent.
They use statements like, “Back in my day…” or “Kids these days…” before they advocate for some outdated, overly punitive discipline technique that teaches children that listening to adult directions is the ONLY thing that matters in life. They think that your concerns about your kid’s self-esteem are unwarranted and want you to know that teaching kids to follow directions is your #1 priority as their parent.
It’s also likely that this group of parenting judgers are so far removed from raising children that they’ve conveniently forgotten how difficult it is to get an entire week’s worth of necessary groceries with one or more kids whose interest in the necessities of the family are limited at best!
They’ve forgotten the times that they cried because their kids weren’t listening and miraculously only seem to remember the times that they were able to get the kids to listen while they achieved their shopping goals.
#3: They hit the parenting jackpot and bore a Mother Teresa-like child who goes with the flow, is excellent at listening to directions, and spends their entire childhood doing things that make adults say, “Awww!”
This mom has absolutely no idea what it’s like to live your life. While you’re exhausting yourself in the car telling your child what your expectations are for them at the store, talking about consequences and trying to prepare yourself emotionally for what you know will be a test of your wills from the second you walk in the door until the second you close the car door again, this woman spends the car ride to the store singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider and answering her daughter’s questions about how she can use the profits from her lemonade stand to help the needy.
She thinks that she’s an amazing mom and that all of her hard work is the reason why she isn’t screaming at her kids in public or the target of those judgmental stares, and she thinks that all you need to do is to be just like her.
You’re not a terrible mom.
Actually, you’re an amazing mom who puts more effort in than the average mom (both because you’re awesome and because your child’s behaviors require it of you), but since your child doesn’t act like the kids of those other moms who seem to have it together all the time, you feel like you’re a bad mom.
And when those other people who simply don’t understand what it’s like to raise your kid pass judgment on you for something they see at the store, you feel even worse!
Second, even though it seems like it, life doesn’t have to be this way!
It’s so very difficult when you have a child who constantly refuses to listen to directions or is regularly arguing with almost everything you say.
It’s exhausting and it can be tempting to wonder:
“Is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my parenting life?”
“Is this what parenting is all about, because it’s totally not what I signed up for!”
“Is there anything I can do to survive this, because I don’t think I’m gonna make it!”
Sometimes, you might be tempted to tell yourself, “This is just the way it has to be. This is my child and I have to accept it.” You might place yourself in a black hole, convincing yourself that there’s no out, no resolution until that dreaded day when your child goes off to college and you’re feeling sad for a completely different reason!
You don’t want to waste your child’s childhood away! You don’t want to miss out on these precious, memory-making moments wishing for the day that you won’t have to argue every direction you ever give!
But is there any other way?
Yes…there is. And it isn’t as hard as you might think.
While your child’s behaviors aren’t your fault, there is something that you can do about it.
Let’s rewind back to that moment at the mall, when I was standing in the middle of the mall with kids who refused to listen, tears welling up in my eyes and judgmental stares boring holes in my back.
I thought that there was nothing that I could do, that I was destined to spend the rest of this trip to the mall feeling exhausted, incompetent and judged.
I could have completely lost it, yelling at the kids at the top of my lungs so that they knew how seriously pissed off I was by their behavior.
I could have broke down and cried, ignoring them for the rest of the shopping trip, just praying for that blessed moment when we would be out of the public eye.
I could have even bribed them, just hoping that promising them something special would bring back the sanity that I so desperately needed.
I could have done all of those things, but I took a moment, thought about what kind of consequences those actions would have and realized that none of them were viable options for me.
I didn’t want to yell.
I didn’t want to threaten to spank, take something away or ground them (nor did I feel that I had any sort of authority to do this to someone else’s kids!).
I didn’t want to beg and plead as I bribed them with candy, toys or unplanned trips to the park.
I didn’t want to do any of this, but I did want this to stop, both for their sake and mine.
From “No! And you can’t make me!” to “I guess I could try that!”
After taking a few seconds to really think through the situation and decide what I truly wanted to accomplish in this moment, I tapped into my list of tricks that I use with my challenging clients.
You see, after a few years of working with kids who are defiant, aggressive, disrespectful and sometimes dangerous to themselves and to me, I had developed a set of tricks that I can use in a variety of scenarios to help these kids to achieve the positive behaviors that are essential for their success.
These techniques don’t involve threatening, spanking, or screaming, and their ultimate goal is to teach a valuable lesson without making them feel like they’re being trained like a dog (because I really don’t think I’m doing a kid much good if I say, “If you listen, I’ll buy you a treat!”
I raked through the skills in my head, picking out a trick that I knew would help these kids to improve their behavior, without destroying my initial goal to be respectful of this mom and her desires about disciplining her children.
I took a few seconds, implemented one of my favorite tricks, The Interviewer Technique, and within just a few minutes, the kids were transformed into completely different children.
When I spoke, they listened.
No one was arguing.
No one was asking me to buy them things.
No one was crying…actually all of them were smiling and seemed quite happy.
No one was tattling.
All of them stayed within arm’s reach; no one cut off anyone in a wheelchair, which is unfortunately not what I can say about their behavior just minutes beforehand!
All of them were being kind to each other, with their words and their bodies.
You’re probably wondering what it is exactly that I did, because you’re thinking it has to be too good to be true. You might be thinking to yourself, “Sure, it worked for her, but these weren’t her kids. It’s just different when it’s your own kids.”
Unlike the many childless advisers you’ve come across in the past, I’m not going to vehemently defend myself and try to prove to you how much I really do know about kids. Because I agree with you that when it’s your kids—kids you love, worry about, stay awake at night wondering if you’re ruining them for life—it’s just different.
You might be able to get your nieces, nephews, and even the neighbor kids to listen without much of a challenge. But with your kids, it’s a completely different story.
You love them more.
You worry about them and question everything you do with them.
And they listen to you at an unbelievably smaller rate than they listen to their aunts and uncles, grandparents, and sometimes even the adults in the neighborhood.
That’s the natural tendency of children, and that doesn’t change even when you’re using some of the best tactics on the planet. Sometimes, they just don’t listen!
When I started sharing my tricks with moms, I was totally open and honest with them about the tricks that I had tried and had had some success with. I wanted to share them with these moms because I didn’t think it was fair to hoard those techniques for myself, but I also didn’t want them to feel like they were failures if it didn’t work for them when it did work for me.
I worked closely with many moms who were struggling with their child’s stubborn, argumentative and defiant behaviors to see if we could get these techniques to have a decent success rate with real moms, not just a therapist who spends less than a few hours each week with that challenging kid.
We tweaked the techniques to work for people who spend hours with their kids, who love and worry about their kids much more than I do with my clients (not that I don’t care for them deeply, but come one, nothing trumps a mother’s love!).
After years of testing these out, I’ve found that there are 9 techniques that work for real moms of real kids to help them to go from arguing with their child every day (and crying about it in the shower) to raising a child who actually wants to listen more often (and smiling about it in the shower).
And while it probably isn’t fair to these moms who put all of that work into figuring out if these techniques actually work (and paying me $100+ per hour each time I helped them to perfect these techniques), I also don’t think it’s fair to you for me to have these techniques that I know will work to help your child go from “No! And you can’t make me!” to “OK. I guess I could try that, mom” and refuse to share them with you!
So I’m doing just that.
If you’re interested in cashing in on all of the money and hard work that these moms put into proving that you too can help your kid become less argumentative and more cooperative, then download your copy of The Busy Mom’s 9-Step Guide To Raising Kids Who Actually Want to Listen.