Parent Coaching Blog

Oct
16

The Big Little Moments of our Day

Why is it that smallest parts of our day lead to the BIGGEST MELTDOWNS?

Moving from bed to getting dressed
Moving from breakfast to packing up back packs
Moving from car to preschool drop off
Moving from tv off to homework time
Moving from playtime in the backyard to dinner….

Where is your BIGGEST MELTDOWN?
It is very likely that it is happening in the time between events or the TRANSITIONS.

These little moments should be short lived.
Yet, they tend to be the sticking points where kids put up a fight & whittle your time away.
If you find yourself taking too much time correcting behaviors between events in your day, transition issues is probably the culprit.

Here are some quick transition tips to make them positive, teachable moments….
Within in each transition:
-Pause 
Before you head into the next event. 
-Review 
the previous scene (positively and negatively)
“Even though you were upset last night before bed, you fell asleep and slept all night!”
-Connect 
to your child (hug, pat on the back, listening ear)
“Can I snuggle a little in your bed with you before you have to get up?”
-Preview 
(setting up the agenda, expectations and boundaries)
“Okay, we are going to head to breakfast…
I will work on getting it ready and you will work on getting your clothes on and be at the table by the time the food is ready…”
“Remember my car is leaving at 8:30 so if you are not ready for school you will come as you are… clothes or no clothes, breakfast or no breakfast”

Other pointers… 

-Remind them that you’ve seen them succeed before
“I was so excited to see you come down the stairs yesterday just as I was putting your oatmeal on the table… You are really getting good at this”

-Give Grace for Choice and Space (NO HOVERING)
“You will need a short sleeve shirt and a long pants… you choose something that fits those rules or I can choose for you”
“I wonder if you will meet me at the top of the stairs when you are ready or surprise me at the kitchen table when I least expect it”
“I will head downstairs and not bother you while you make your choice and do your job”
Always give a “you do this______while I do _______” statement to help you avoid too much mommy controlling/lingering/hovering

-Preview the Agenda ahead… first we will___, second____, third___
-Use visuals to lay out the storyline/agenda/rules/checklist of items to do
-Use simple/less language and more clear cue words
First Clothes, Second Meet me at the Table, Third pack up to go
-Avoid Please?, Okay?, or Yes/No questions.  They make kids think that all this is optional
-Positives Positives Positives... avoid too much gushy positive just simple I noticed statements
-Offer a well placed HELP or a well placed YES these are special because you are helping or saying yes with something you usually say no to
Can I help you do that today because I know you are running a little behind (this makes your help special and not all the time)
Mom can I have an extra cup of juice this morning… YES I know how fast you were running around to get ready so quickly
-Add fun and excitement to the transition: 
music on the radio in the kitchen as we clean up our plates
racing to the top of the stairs like bunny rabbits
counting off like a rocket ship as you buckle them into their seat belts and head on your way

WOW! That’s a lot of stuff to jam pack into a tiny little transition time!
So just try one new thing from this list of ideas.  Add it in consistently before adding in another idea.
Soon your transitions will run much more smoothly and you will avoid wasting all that time coaxing them from one event to the next.

Jul
17

Talk Talk

Too Much TalkingWe spend so much time talking to our kids.

 

Lecturing them about why bonking their brother over the head with a block is not a good idea.
Debating with them about whether 8:00 PM  is too late for another snack.
Giving them a spiel on how to be polite at Grandma’s house
Completing a discourse on how to make a bed
Barking Commands
Shouting Directions
Reciting the Golden Rules of our home

When all is said and done,  parents can  feel like they are talking in circles and going nowhere fast…

Children can easily get lost in all the language that comes at them, and
odds are, you are losing them  after the first few words or statements.

So, if you need to catch  your child’s attention and do it quickly (within the first few seconds of communicating with them),   keep it simple, direct and clear.   This is especially true if you are in the heat of a power struggle with your child.  Keep your words short and clear.    Your phrases should be key phrases that you use regularly and you should repeat them a few times in order to get their attention instead of going on and on in lecture format.

Here’s a quick example of WHAT NOT TO DO…
Tommy!!,  what are you doing?  Don’t  hit  the doggie on the head.  Be nice to the doggie and pat her on the head nicely like this or stay away from the doggie and go play with your toys. 

If we really need to get our point across without a lot of words and emotion, then
try to bring it down to a more direct approach like this:

No No Hit the Doggy
Yes Yes Love  the Doggy
Yes Yes Pat the Doggy (gesturing gentle patting)
No  No Hit the Doggy

Make sure to repeat the same phrase and actions every time that situation arises again.   If you repeat the same phrase every time it happens,  your quick key phrases will become  THE STANDARD, the predictable routine, and your “policy” for the situation.  Your child will come to count on these phrases as cues, and at one point, they may even begin to say it back to you before the words leave your mouth.

When you are dealing with schedules and routines, you can use the same kind of simple phrases and avoid the long drawn out dissertation that describes your schedule.

Here’s a common example of WHAT NOT TO DO:
After you eat your breakfast and put your clothes on, we are going to go to Grandma’s house, but first ,we will drive by daddy’s office and drop off something for daddy.  At Grandma’s house we are going to go swimming and have fun.

Try this approach instead and add simple images drawn on  a scrap piece of paper for even better communication.
First Breakfast (with image of #1 and breakfast foods)
Second Get Ready (with image of #2 and kids getting ready)
Third Drive to Daddy’s Office ( with image of #3 and card driving to Daddy’s office)
Then GRANDAMA’s to go SWIMMING
!  Yeahhh FUN FUN FUN ( with image of #4 and grandma’s house)

This may seem like a cold and simple minded communication style approach, and you may worry that it won’t help foster language skills in your child, but I have found that the opposite is true.  When a child can clearly hear you and clue in to what you are talking about (even the brightest child), they can successfully maneuever through their day in more positive ways.  In turn, this  will open up more opportunity for positive language interactions with them as you read books, share stories with description and help them describe their emotions.   This is not how you will talk to them all day long.  You will  just use this style  when it is important that they listen.

Here’s one more thing to consider…
Support your simple phrases with “EXTRAS”.

-change in voice tone and inflection to catch their attention
– simple visuals (like pictures of routines or how they should act),
-repetition,
-rhyming,
-gestures,
-sing song tones

Add all of these things so you can avoid adding… MORE WORDS!

Jul
1

What are your Key Phrases?

phrasesYou probably have certain phrases that roll off your tongue on a daily basis.  In fact, your children could probably tell us what you are going to say even before it comes out of your mouth.  Think about your key phrases and post them around your house.  They will give you a visual reminder of your system and phrases for positive behavior support and the visual cues might help the children to remember to make the good choice.

Here are a few of the Key Phrases that the Mattson kids have heard over and over again…

Me first goes last
(they know this means if you scramble to get the biggest piece of pizza you will get the smallest piece 🙂
Nice gets Nice and Nasty gets nothing
(Notice this doesn’t say Nice gets Nice and Nasty gets Nasty.  When they make the good choice they will get to participate in good times and get the nice attention of mommy.  When they make a nasty choice, they will not get my emotions, or my drama and they definitely won’t get any nice treats.)
Make a good choice
(I used to say this even to my older students as they transitioned back into their regular classroom.  It was my standard phrase, and they came to expect it and of course they had their standard phrase back to me… The long drawn out… “We will Mrs. Mattson”.  These were big kiddos with some heavy duty problems, but they seemed to take comfort in this back and forth between us.  They would  count on me to say it (however annoying it may be to them 😉 and it made me feel like I had one final ounce of influence on them as they  headed out to the real world beyond my small resource room.)
Rewind…
This just gives them a second chance at making the good choice… Would you like to say that again in a nicer tone (REWIND).
Take a break
This just means get it together so you can come back and “join the party”
When in doubt… choose kind…(This is from the book Wonder by RJ Palcio)
This is a new one that has entered our world over the last year because my kids and I read this book.  It is a simple reminder that you are in charge of your choices and your outcomes will be so much easier for everyone if you simply choose the thing that is kind.

Jun
17

No More Why?

 

Stop asking Why
and Start asking What

Your 10 year old crashed her bike into your new car.
Your toddler threw his toy at the puppy.
Your son whacked his sister over the head with his toy train.
And you say…
“Why in the world did you do that?”

This question assumes your child was thinking, and odds are there was no thinking going on at all.

We use this phrase to get more information but all we end up getting is more headache.   I guess we assume this phrase will cut the perpetrator some slack, let him have his chance to tell his side of the story, or help him come up with a good excuse for being nasty.  By opening up the conversation with questions about the child’s “thought process”, we set ourselves an emotional debate.

 

Let’s think this through…
Is it debateable that his brother deserved a whack over the head?  Maybe.
BUT  if we stick to the WHAT we can focus on the behavior and not the emotions that caused the behavior.
Simply put… WE DONT HIT… even if our brother annoys us.
There is no need for you to focus on:WHY he did it.

If we really want to know why they did it,  simply ask more WHAT questions instead of delving into the WHY. The WHAT questions will yield more of the info you need as they help you gather the facts.

Start with these FACT collecting questions :
WHAT HAPPENED (to your brother, to the car, to the puppy)?
WHAT HAPPENED FIRST, SECOND, THIRD?
WHAT happened just before?
WHAT happened just after?
WHAT were you feeling just before?
WHAT were you felling just after?
WHAT else could you have done when you feel ______?
WHAT are the house rules?
WHAT can you do to show you are sorry?
WHAT are you going to do next time?

WHY questions lead to excuses, emotions, tattling, debate, finger pointing and zero resolution of behavior.  They also lead to waaay too much conversation and we lose our children in the language.  Parents and children may end up fussing and screaming at each other and a second layer of yuck enters the scene.

When you stick to the  WHAT questions it helps the parents work through this without getting accusatory and emotional.  They stay matter of fact:

“I love you I can’t stand what you did”  (to your brother, the car, the puppy).

It also allows parents a chance to actually hear the child and may help you pause enough to give all sides and perspectives of the story.  The WHAT questions lead to the facts,  the problems, the solutions, the alternatives, and they help our kids learn to rewind, restart and regulate their choices which might help them when this situation arises again.  And unfortunately we all know it will arise again.   Remember their growing and so are we…

 

Apr
17

How to Have A Child in Bloom

carrot seedHow to Have a Child in Bloom

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss is one of my favorite books to share with children especially at springtime.

 

   This book is a lesson in faith, hope, patience and care.  The boy in the book has faith that the seeds he has planted will eventually sprout.  Patiently he waits as everyone around him says that the carrot plant will not grow.  He takes care of the plant by giving it warmth from the sun and water to grow,  and eventually it grows!!!

 

When we are in the middle or raising our kids, these “growing years” can seem to go on an on.  If we focus on the people and world around us and what everyone else is telling us, we might begin to feel like our little sprout is just not good enough and that our care and concern just isn’t producing the right results.

 

Here’s the good news… In the end our children WILL grow and make it through these tough stages.  All your hard work, patience, faith, care, warmth, and nourishing will pay off.  Your children and family won’t be perfect but they will grow and bloom from where they are now.

 

So don’t give up…
Focus on the things that the boy in the Carrot Seed focused on:

 

Warmth:  Give your child positive experiences, positive feedback, and hugs and laughter galore.  Give them attention when they need it, and room to grow when they need space.  Be a light in their life that models how to control emotions, take a break when you need it and choose kindness mixed with firmness as a means to all ends.

 

Water:  Nourish your child with a variety of experiences that match their interests and gifts.  Don’t fill in every free moment with activities.   Make sure you add in free time to nourish their soul.  Feed them with friendships that give them what they need socially and family time that sets them up with structure, routines and traditions to last their lifetime.

 

Weed:  Focus on what is not working and weed it out of your family life… is it too much screen time and not enough active play? Then get rid of it for a while and add in more running and jumping.  What are your zero tolerance behaviors that you want to dig up and pull out of your child’s life.  Deal with them one at a time digging deep and really getting to the root of the problem.  Weed out friends who are not supporting your parenting style and get rid of events and activities that don’t match up to your family’s values and plan.

 

You are the planter and they are the seeds…
Take care of them and they will Bloom!

Apr
1

Step Up your Time Out Strategies

time outWhat is your current method for dealing with poor behavior choices?Odds are it involves some form of Time Out.

When we look up what the definition of a time-out is we find this:

Time out is a technique in which a child is removed from activity and forced to sit alone for a few minutes in order to calm down.

Time out is usually a punishment or consequence surrounded by negative emotions, words and actions.  It usually involves isolation for a set time and it is always designed and controlled by the  parent.

If Time out is working,  you will know because your child won’t have to go there all day everyday.  If instead,  you are finding that every 15 minutes you are dragging your child to time out only to have him turn around and do it all again, IT’s NOT WORKING!!!

I really can’t say this enough.

If your current method of dealing with behaviors  is not working, then try something else.!

It has been my experience that Time Out (as described above) works best if we include it as one of the set steps within our CONSEQUENCE CONTINUUM.

TIME OUT cannot be THE BE ALL END ALL of your behavior modification plan.

So what other steps should you have on this consequence continuum?  My theory is that we need our kids to begin to regulate self and this needs to be our main concern.  This means that  they will begin to recognize what is not working for them,  think about choices and get themselves together on their own without us dragging them through the Time Out shenanigans all day everyday.

Here are some quick steps to include in your Consequence Continuum…

1.  Give them CHANCES to get it together before we drag them to Time out.
2.  Help them come up with ALTERNATIVE choices for dealing with their world.
3.  PREVIEW and TEACH the new choices through modeling and reminding.
4.  Give them PRACTICE making better choices  in successful small increments of time
5.  Let them REWIND so they can do it better, say it nicer, or try it another way.
6.  Offer a chance to PAUSE and TAKE a BREAK so that they can calm on their own
7.  Choose ZONES or ACTIVITIES that encourage calming and regrouping.   Try to make the TAKE A BREAK ZONE include choices and a spot that is different than TIME OUT… because Time out has usually been a punishment TAKE a BREAK ZONE has to be more positive.
8.  Allow your child a chance to come out of break when they are ready to rejoin the social scene
9.  If they just can’t get it together, or if they have done something that is off the charts bad then they will have to go to a TIME OUT where they are firmly escorted and they TAKE A LOSS

Having layers or steps in your plan will allow the child to taste the sweet success of self control and regulation more often and avoid the defeat of regular time out punishment.   It allows parents more opportunities to catch their child being good and a chance  to tell their child that they noticed that they are growing in their self control.

Remember  in all these, it is the child who has made a choice to go there by choosing the negative behavior.  This takes the pressure off of the parent and it releases some of the emotion tied to consequences.  You love them you just don’t love the behavior and their behavior has led them to the consequence.   If you choose to make a poor choice over and over again you have chosen to go to TIME OUT.  If you choose to get it together through the PREVIEW, REWIND, or TAKE A BREAK steps then you have chosen to avoid TIME OUT.

Hopefully your child will see this play out consistently from you and they will begin to see that getting it together on their own through the first steps is much easier to deal with than going to TIME OUT all day everyday.

Feb
24

Don’t Avoid the Noid…

behavior  noidYour child’s outbursts  in public can make you want to pull your hair out and run for the hills.  They put you and your spouse on high alert and can even cause you to win enemies (the people sitting next to you at church)  and lose your friends (the parents of the kid your child bit at storytime).
The Truth is… You can’t avoid going to the grocery store, visiting the library for story time, or going to restaurants forever.   If you do avoid them,  how will your child ever learn to do it right?   If you are struggling with some kind of public display of bad behavior start by practicing the skills they need at home.  Here are some ideas to get you started:
Practice: Make Believe Style
1. Practice at your dinner table or playtable near your kid size kitchen.  Let them have a chance as  the waitress and give them a “show” of what not to do.  Then talk about the rules for the restaurant table.
2.  Practice going to story time by hosting a story time for your child and all their  stuffed animals.  Let daddy play the part of the disruptive kid and then talk about the rules for story time.
3.  Practice how to go to the grocery store by setting up a model store with your play grocery cart and food.  Go through what is yes and no behavior for the grocery store.
Preview the new expectations and replacement behaviors
Before you get to where you are going, read through a list of dos and don’ts and add in pictures so they can see it and hear it.
Give them the steps for what will happen if things don’t go well.
Give them certain cue words that you will say when you want to get their attention.
Real Life Practice… celebrate small bits of progress
Choose a time when you can go with one child at a time so they get the individual attention they need to learn these public behaviors.
Plan on a visit that will be short and sweet so that you can ensure more success
Don’t make it a high stakes visit to the store or fancy restaurant… start small with a quick trip or a joint that is kid friendly
 Remember they are still growing
Notice the positives and go back to the drawing board with the negatives
Go home and acknowledge how well they did with certain things
Give them more practice and redo your consequences if things aren’t working
All this practice won’t make your next outing perfect,
but it might make it a little easier.
It will set your child on track to continual improvement

Dec
24

Surviving Family Parties

kids tableSpending time with family around the holidays can add extra busyness to the already stressed-out lives we live day to day…
Will our kids be polite?
Will they eat all of Grandma’s green beans?
Will we have to leave early to ward off the ugly behavior?
Use these times as teachable moments to preview expectations and set up boundaries on what we can and can’t act like in public.  Practice the expectations as home and set your child up for success by following their cues that let you know when they have had enough.  Change it up and don’t expect them to last too long.  Have an exit strategy in place so when the time comes you can scoot without a fuss.  Remember you might get an earful from Great Aunt Martha about how you should be parenting.  Instead of brushing it off as “crazy talk”, take it to heart  and be grateful for the fresh perspective… Some of the tried and true methods for raising children are the best and she just might have something to offer your style and situation.

Oct
24

Caution Don’t Feed the Monsters

feed the monsterDo you have monster-like-behavior lurking in your house?  Whining, Screaming, gnawing at your emotions and patience?  Like any monster, in order to survive, this behavior has to be fed a daily dose of sustenance.  What are your giving to your child’s behavior that helps it survive?  Is it a dollop of good old fashioned attention that feeds the wild beast? Is it your emotional reaction that this behavior gobbles down and then begs for more?  Is it conversation and debate that helps this behavior linger around your dinner table a little longer?

How do we put an end to the monster behaviors and replace them with civilized, well mannered, regulated princes and princesses?
First:  In order to put an end to the monster we need to name it… I don’t mean calling it Godzilla, King Kong, or Snufflelufogus… We just need to say what it is: biting, pushing, talking back, arguing, tantrumming, or refusal to do something.  If we don’t name it we can’t get rid of it.
Second:  Once your monster has a name, you need to go on the search for this behavior around your house and throughout your day… This is a bold and scary step, but you can’t take care of a monster until you know where or when it shows up and find the patterns to the behavior… So be on the look out for monster behavior hiding in the shadows of your day.
Third:   When you see the monster stop feeding it.  That means stop talking so much, stop the back and forth tug of war which Monsters love to compete in, stop reacting to the monster with shrugs, screams or emotional breakdowns.   Monsters can only survive when you feed them.   Start to be aware of how you as the parents might be contributing to the life of the behavior.
Fourth:  Visualize peace in your kingdom and decide what you would like to replace the monster behavior with… sharing, caring, using words or kind actions and then train your monster on how to replace the yucky behavior with more appropriate behavior.   What would you like to see more of? And how can you teach them how to do it right?
Fifth: When a little prince or princess shows up feed them with positive reinforcement.  Let your kids know that you would like to see more of the positive behaviors in your kingdom and do this by saying a quick, “I noticed….” sentence.

Follow these steps and you will begin to turn this scary script into a fairy tale.

Quick Tips for Monster Slayers!
Give them the tools and practice they need to learn to take a break and melt away their Monster emotions.
Lay out the procedures for what will happen when they just can’t pull it together (will they take a break, take a loss or take a timed out?)
Preview that monster behaviors are zero tolerance : no hurting, no fussing, no disrespect
Remind them that nice gets nice and nasty gets nothing: no attention, no emotion, no drama
Give them chances to rewind and say something or do something in a more royal fashion…
Give them opportunities to take a break and rejoin the social scene when they are ready to be nice.
Take a break yourself when you need it and pause before you enter into the Monster’s territory.
Walk away and tell them to let you know when they’re ready to make a better choice… don’t engage a monster!!!
Take yourself out of the storyline… Let them be the character in this show so that they can be in charge of how it ends…

Make a vow to stop feeding the monsters in your house and you will find that your home is filled with waaaaay  more treats and a lot less tricks!


Oct
8

Give your family some legs to stand upon…

If you read my Mealtimes Matter passage from my August Newsletter, then you know how important I think it is for families to gather around a table whether it be for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Call it my soapbox, but I have a few more ideas on how we solidify our families. These essential things can both enrich a family’s mealtime and can strengthen your family in general. When a family comes to me for guidance on their parenting issues we can usually find that one of these essentials is missing from their family life and without it they’re feeling a little wobbly (like a table with only three legs). Having all four of these essentials present in your family life can fill in the gaps of your parenting and give it a solid base to stand upon.

Faith time: Coming together in faith conversations and experiences can support parents by helping them to answer the big questions… Who do we need to model? What do we need to avoid? Why does it matter? How can I survive all this? Faith can help parents come up with boundaries, routines and priorities and can be an excellent starting point when coming up with your essential family rules and procedures. It can be a rock to stand on or a shoulder to cry on when parents are feeling alone, confused, or overwhelmed. Find moments within your week to connect your child to your faith. Share your experiences, add to your own knowledge of your faith by reading and learning about your faith, and then begin weaving it into the fabric of your family life.
Playtime: Coming together to be silly, joyful, and playful gives us a chance to  breakdown the walls that too many boundaries can harbor and allows us a chance to think or act like a child. By playing with our children (I mean really playing not just going to their sporting events), we get a moment to see things from their perspective. You will see that there are so many skills to teach them embedded right into these tiniest moments of fun. Playtime offers us a chance to foster sportsmanship (how to win and lose with grace). It also gives us an opportunity to help our children learn how to wait, take turns, problem solve and plan. Self esteem and taking risks are a part of playtime and creative juices are always overflowing when we step into the realm of play. So get down and dirty with your kids: dress up, act out, roll around and get your sillies out. You’ll see your family bloom from these spontaneous positive playtime experiences.
Book and Learning Time: Coming together to share stories and information gives us teachable moments and conversations that help children understand their world. I don’t mean doing flashcards at the pool in the middle of the summer (all work an no play makes Johnny and Mommy very dull). I mean cuddling up in a soft chair and delving into a great book, or what about, using the characters in a story as models or examples of how to get along in their world.  Let their worries from the day release as they share how the story reminds them of their own experiences and help them to see a fresh perspective when they read or learn about people who are different from them. Sharing books provides a golden opportunity for parents to connect with their kids on many levels… In your busy day don’t let sharing a good book or teachable moments go away.
Rest or Down Time: Coming Together to sit and do nothing or taking time apart to veg-out without a plan can be a very rare occasion in this hustle and bustle world of GO…GO…GO… It’s so easy to flip the calendar and find it suddenly filled from Sunday to Saturday with extra activities and scheduled places to be. In fact, it seems we do these calendar catastrophes to ourselves so we don’t have to hear the dreaded, “I’m bored!!” We think: “ I have to fill up their days with activities so they don’t have a minute to get themselves in trouble.” But being bored can enrich your child’s imagination, bring their stress levels down to a healthy state of mind, and allow time for them to express creative ideas and problem solving strategies. Plug down time into your schedule… Help your child get healthy amounts of sleep and don’t forget to include enough rest and down time into your own schedule so you can consistently be at your best.

Is one of these essential things missing from your parenting plan? How can you add it in?   Weed out your calendar so it’s nearly blank.  Then fill it back up with the essential things that matter most: Mealtimes, Faith Times, Books and Learning time, Playtime and Down time… Put everything else on the calendar as secondary concerns, and I think you will see your family begin to bloom.