Nicholeen Tells more about World’s Strictest Parents6 min read

"Dear Nicholeen: I watched the show and was so impressed by your calm and collected attitude. I loved it when your son said, “she’s trying to push my mom’s buttons, but it won’t work.” One of my biggest problems is I allow kids to push my buttons and engage me in non-productive discourse (getting off track of what we’re talking about). These get me so frustrated. I don’t know how you did it with James and Hannah. I admire your patience, love and skills.

Can you tell us any more about some of the experiences that happened that weren’t included in the final edit. I’m curious to learn more about it."

This is a great comment. Let me fill you in a bit on the whole situation my sweet, big talking 12 year old, was commenting on:

James and Hannah were very used to running away if they didn't get their way. The reason people continue running is because it is a form of power struggle that usually works. It stops{C}a conflict in their favor, USUALLY. But, not at my house. One thing I learned when I did foster care for troubled teens for many years was that in order to help them see what needed to change in their lives and behaviors I had to never forget and be consistent and calm. If a foster child ran away (and almost all of them did at least once because they thought I would give up on them) I would contact the appropriate people to look for them to get them back to me and then I would wait. This was easy to do, because all the teens were in state's care and were looked for by the police because they were violating a court order to have treatment in my home.

The state workers would always ask me if I wanted them back in my home and I would always say yes because I wanted them to come back and have to accept the consequences of what they did. They needed to learn that running away couldn't get them out of whatever they didn't want to accept before they ran away. (That was a run away tangent, but hopefully helpful to understand my philosophy.)

Hannah and James ran a way many times. (About 5 in one two days) On this occasion they ran away because they didn't want to do homeschool with us. As soon as they found out we were a homeschool family they started to yell and tell us they weren't children any more. You saw this footage by the front door.

Finally, after running away they asked to come back into my house. I invited them in and sat down to talk. As soon as I started recounting the situation which preceded the run they started to get mad and yell and say silly things like I was a bad mother and I was sheltering my children too much and that my children will be stupid and that my dog didn't look healthy. Anything they could think of. Every time the teens yelled something at me I said the same thing, "It seems like you really want to talk to me about something right now. I would love to have a conversation with you about your concerns, but I can't talk to you when you are not calm. You need to get calm and then we can talk." I said this so many times, I stopped counting.

Finally I realized that they needed to be told how to make things change for the better, because they just didn't understand naturally that when families are happy then fun times happen. So, I went outside and told them how my children were viewing the situation. (This was shown) Then I explained to them that we had fun plans for that day, but the plans were all missed because the teens spent the day arguing. Then I told them that if they chose to say okay to me as a parent then I would gain enough respect for them to make sure their visit was very enjoyable. For some reason I think they thought I was trying to make life horrible for them just to get them mad, when in reality I was trying to make life good for them by letting them live, love, laugh, and play with us.

At this point the youth decided to calm down and James even said, "Come on Hannah. Let's just do the school and dress like they want us to. It's not worth ruining our whole week in America over." Hannah was more reluctant to agree, but in the end felt the same.

After this we talked through all of their behaviors and how they can always disagree appropriately with me (That is one of the four basic skills I teach). I reminded them how to disagree and then we did some school and they followed through with their extra chores. Normally, if I my own children or foster children would have behaved this way, they would have earned the biggest consequence our home has, but since I only had eight days to do a lot of things with Hannah and James I knew I had to choose different consequences. The film crew would not allow me to let them lose their priviliges for 24 hours because it would ruin the show.

After some thougt I told James and Hannah that they had to plan, shop for and make dinner for the family that night and that they had to do it with certain amount of US dollars for part of their school. They both agreed to their consequence. In fact, I think they actually liked their consequence. I wanted them to so that they could see how great homeschooling could really be.

The dinner they made was really good. James was quite a chef and even treated us to authentic English dishes. Then we all had to dress up to respect the effort and occasion and then we sat as a family and ate and talked.

My favorite part of this whole day was when James and Londyn (my seven year old) sat by each other at dinner and Londyn said, "James I really like you." James was so touched that he just melted. He hugged her and beamed the rest of the night.

To answer your question simply and directly, I would say, "I know you want to talk to me right now, but I can't talk to you until you are calm. You need to calm down." Then I would write whatever preceeded the fit on a pad of paper and keep it in your pocket so that you don't forget when they become calm to talk about it again. If a fit can make a subject go away even if a negative consequence is earned the teen sees the tantrum as useful. It's okay to write things down. I do it all the time! My cupboards have been known to be covered with sticky notes which say things like, "Paije lost snack privilege until Tomorrow." Etc.

In closing, the best way to stop them from pushing your buttons and getting you off track is by never replying to them when they are angry, upset, pouty, or acting depressed. Just say your pre-planned phrase. Thanks for the comment. ~Nicholeen

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