Mrs. Mayo-Cody has worked with children all her life, as a teacher’s aide, a licensed vocational nurse (LVN/LPN) and a school counselor. Born and raised in San Diego, she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology, and her master’s degree in counseling at San Diego State University. Because of her love of travel, it took her a few extra years to complete college, but it was worth it! She speaks fluent Spanish and has visited many countries around the globe.
She and her husband have a son at EHS. When she is not working, she likes to spend active time with her family and friends – mountain biking, skiing, hiking and traveling. She also likes to relax, read, and do creative projects around the house.
Responding to your Child’s’ Complaints about School
“So, how was your day?”
This deceptively simple question can, at times, elicit an overwhelming response from your child, right?!
- It was the worst day ever!
- The teacher is mean.
- Nobody likes me.
- So and so was mean to me again.
- School is so boring.
- School is too hard.
How to respond in a way that encourages resiliency and a positive attitude, honors the child’s feelings and thoughts, AND takes into account our own parenting strengths and limitations? That’s the million dollar question! Here are some guidelines that will help:
- Listen and mirror back what you hear. Ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand. This helps children learn to identify their feelings, which is the first step to developing healthy coping strategies. e.g. “It sounds like you feel hurt and frustrated because the kids in your science group are not listening to your ideas.” Or, “Are you feeling angry because ____ is still calling you names even though you told him to stop?”
- Let them verbally blow off some steam in a respectful way. It’s ok to say “I’m so angry with ______!” but it’s not ok to say “______ is such a stupid jerk!” Help them learn to own their feelings and responses. It’s important to set a good example for them in our adult interactions.
- Maneuver the dialogue toward finding solutions when possible. It’s important to help them develop their own solutions, rather than jumping in to fix it ourselves. Ask them if they’d like some advice or ideas, but let them take the lead.
- Avoid unintentionally encouraging your child to seek “sympathy attention” by overreacting to their complaints, or giving them “victim points” when they perceive that they have been wronged. It’s important to say something like “I’m so sorry this happened; I know you feel hurt.” but it’s also important to demonstrate your confidence that they are strong and capable of handling the ups and downs of life.
- Question whether their complaints are the actual source of their discontent or if there may be a different problem, e.g. hunger, fatigue, desire for attention etc. It’s often hard for kids (and human beings in general) to determine the actual source of their negative feelings, and kids need help learning this skill.
- Help them cultivate an attitude of gratitude by focusing more attention on positives rather than negatives. Consider instituting a family rule of stating three positives before stating a complaint.
- Consider consulting with the teacher, school counselor, trusted friend, or family member. They may have valuable insights and ideas.
- Help them develop healthy coping strategies, and avoid negative ones:
- Healthy coping strategies
- Deep breaths
- Fun, relaxing activities
- Strategizing solutions
- Counting blessings
- Negative coping strategies
- Acting out in anger
- Holding feelings in
- Blaming others
- Negative self-talk
- Healthy coping strategies
Know that all kids are unique; some are more naturally happier and positive, while others are wired to be more anxious and negative. Resist labeling your child, and know that our guidance can make a big difference. You got this!
Gratitude is a hot topic among researchers these days. Studies suggest that an attitude of gratitude correlates strongly with increased happiness, optimism and school success. It takes practice to cultivate a habit of gratitude, and may even go against our human nature. As a survival instinct, we humans seem to be hardwired to focus more on the negative than the positive. Anticipating a spear-wielding enemy ensured our longevity more than appreciating the warmth of the morning sun. Our brains seem to be better at keeping us safe than happy. Focusing our attention on what we are grateful for is an exercise which helps redirect our minds to focus more on positive aspects of life, which over time becomes a way of life.
In November, our ARPS monthly student assembly will focus on the importance of gratitude. Students and teachers in some classrooms are currently discussing the importance of being thankful and keeping daily gratitude journals. Here are some suggestions you may want to try at home:
- As a family, take turns talking about things you are grateful for on a regular basis. If your kids enjoy competition, offer kudos for the most creative, most unexpected, most numerous etc. Convenient times to discuss gratitude include:
- When riding in the car
- During meals
- Before bed
- First thing in the morning
- Set an example for your kids by taking every opportunity to express gratitude. Talk about the things and people that you appreciate.
- Remind your kids to express gratitude to others. It’s OK to ask them in a pleasant way, “Did you notice that I made you a nice lunch? What do you say?” Or “Go thank your coach for all his hard work.” Be patient; it may take thousands of repetitions. At 16 years old, my own son is now consistently remembering to thank me when I give him a ride, make him a meal etc. Several times recently, he has told me how much he appreciates what I do for him. Yay for gratitude!
Here’s an interesting, short video on gratitude: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCV-mEsASLA
We are grateful for our Aspen Ridge families!
September 8th, 2017 post
- Be respectful (words, body language, and tone of voice) If you’re too upset, take time to calm down before trying to work it out.
- Tell the truth.
- Try your best to understand the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Repeat what you’ve heard to check for understanding.
- Set the expectation that we speak respectfully about others. For example, “Instead of calling Johnny a jerk, I expect you to say that you’re angry with him.”
- Stress the importance of honesty.
- Listen without judgement.
- Reflect back what you hear, “It sounds like you’re angry that Johnny wouldn’t play with you at recess.” or “I can tell that your feelings are hurt since the girls went to the pool yesterday and didn’t invite you.”
- Set the expectation of empathy for the other person’s thoughts and feelings. “I wonder why Johnny reacted in anger, do you think his feelings were hurt too?” Or, “I wonder if you could have accidentally done something to cause him to feel left out?”
- Help them make a plan to address the conflict or avoid future conflicts:
- Walk away/ignore the behavior.
- Ask an adult for help.
- Talk with the other student about their feelings.
- Avoid overreacting to their hurt feelings and emotional ups and downs.