If your child is using manipulation to avoid something causing anxiety or fear, don't be too quick to let her off the hook. First, think things through. If she is capable of the task and the expectation is fair and reachable, then do not give in. That would be a huge mistake. Instead, insist that she face her fear. A big part of life is learning how to cope, and childhood is the best time to learn how.
Do not dismiss your child's fear or punish her for it.The fear is very real. Instead, comfort her by acknowledging that you understand how she feels.Then let her know you believe in her and are confident she can succeed. Be very clear that you will not rescue her, but will help her cope until she prevails. Here are a few ideas to help her face her fears without manipulating her way out:
• Recognize feelings. "I know it seems hard, but you can do it." "I know how apprehensive you feel, but I'm here for you."
• Teach coping skills. Teach her a few healthy ways to deal with her anxiety, such as saying a statement inside her head to help her handle the stress:"Chill out, calm down.""I can do this.""It's nothing I can't handle."Teach her to close her eyes and slowly breathe in and out three times. Or ask her to think of a place she has been where she feels calm—for instance, the beach, her bed, the park.When anxiety kicks in, tell her to close her eyes and imagine that spot, while breathing slowly.
• Model accepting blame. Help your kid learn how to accept blame for her actions. Start by admitting your own shortcomings so your kids have a model to copy—for example: "This was all my fault: I should have read the movie section before dragging you here to find out the show started thirty minutes ago." Then expect your family to take ownership for their mistakes and not pass the blame onto others.
• Arrange tutoring. Does she need special help to improve? If so, arrange it.
• Rehearse the skill. New skills take lots of practice, so rehearse them over and over until your child gains the confidence to demonstrate the skill in front of others.
• Celebrate little steps. Acknowledge each little effort your child makes along the way, and then celebrate her successes both big and little.
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