Parent Coaching Blog

Nov
30

Get a Handle on Technology in your Family Life

When you look through your child’s Holiday Wish List, do you see mostly technology toys?
DVD’s
Video Games
Gaming Systems
Tablets
Laptops
Phones
itunes gift cards
Cameras
Adding in more technology may end up subtracting more from your family time. Don’t let technology rob your family of crucial teachable, positive growth moments that involve people to people connections?

KEEP THESE THINGS IN MIND

Parents Need to Model Moderate Tech Time
Avoid being on your smart phone constantly. This includes: texting and constantly connecting to social media (Facebook or instagram) and looking things up when your child is around.
Avoid being on your phone at transition times within your day (for example: at pick up or drop off from school, dinner time or bed time)
Just be present. BE THERE with your child… eye to eye, ready to hear them and connect to what they need from you. Give them the attention they crave so they don’t seek attention in negative or inappropriate ways… this goes for ALL KIDS ALL AGES (especially teens… They STILL need you)
Compartmentalize your time on tech and put a solid boundary on when you yourself are on it. Let no email, phone ringtone or text beep interrupt your conversations with your child. It can wait!! This is crucial to modeling that technology is not allowed to rule the house and that parents won’t choose tech over personal relationships!
Fill Your Home and Their Life with “Anti-Tech” Options... so they are less likely to rely on technology to entertain their brain.

Are you stuck on what to buy beyond tech? Take your child to the gift shops at local museums (Cincinnati Museum Center, Art Museum, Cincinnati Nature Center) and see all the really cool toys, books and gifts they have to offer. Take note of the things that your child is interested in make sure these things fill the space under the tree on Christmas morning.
Follow their tech lead... If they love to play doll dress up games on their iPad then buy them a real life doll with lots of real life buttons and snaps and crazy outfits to keep their little hands busy and their minds creating. If they like games like Mind Craft then buy them architecture sets or real life mini tools to build things… Kids brains cannot truly bloom on tech experiences. To really grow in knowledge and skills they have to touch, feel, and move their bodies while they learn.
Limit tech time in general by limiting tech experiences when you are out and about… Children DO NOT need to be watching tv everytime they sit their tush in their car seat. They SHOULD NOT be playing on your phone every time you sit down to dinner at a restaurant. Going through the grocery store SHOULD NOT be a “total tech” experience for your child as they get sucked into games on your phone. We should use these mini parts of their day as opportunities to teach patience, creative play, and engagement with their world and the people in their family. Save tech time for a small portion of your day not as the GO TO option in all situations. If you have never tried taking your child out and about without the phone to keep them busy this will be very tough at first, but hang in there as you and your child get more practice you will begin to see them grow.

Monitor your Child’s Tech Experiences
Parents need to be consistently checking in on their tweens and teens as they open themselves up to more texting and social media.
It is not an invasion of privacy to read through your child’s phone and get a heads up on what the chatter is about… look for signs of cyber bullying, inappropriate language (from your child or their friends) and apps that encourage connections with strangers and inappropriate content.
Don’t freak out or harp on what you find just slip the things you want them to know into your next teachable moment or crucial conversation. We want to build open conversations with our kids about the realities of the tech world they live in. It is here to stay and it is our job to teach them the boundaries around it.
Find out as much as you can about the new apps that are coming out daily… use websites like www.awiredfamily.org or www.aplatformforgood.org or The Big Disconnect

 

If you are worried that your child is spending too much time on tech they most likely are. Think real life first and use tech as a LAST RESORT!!!

Aug
10

That Darn Purple Dinosaur and his Clean Up Song

40494543_sWhat is it with that song? … You know the one…

Clean Up Clean Up Everybody Everywhere…

Clean Up Clean Up…

Everybody do your share…

That song haunts me sometimes when I least expect it.  Yes, my kids (especially my older kids) loved that Purple Dinosaur and his songs stuck with them and much to my dismay they stuck in my head too.  In fact if Evy or Mick Mattson were to walk in here right now, they could probably sing through any of those wretched songs word for word.  There is something to be said about having a catchy tune to transition a child from a pleasant event (like: playing with their toys) and move them towards a not so pleasant event (like: cleaning up those toys).  The song becomes a cue and the change in pitch of their mother’s voice redirects their brains to fall in line and do that job in a more joyful way.

So, the lesson learned is when you feel like your kids are tuning you out, tune into a catchy song to get them to listen.  It doesn’t have to be one from a popular kids tv show (although if it is a show they are into it won’t hurt).  It could simply be any words put to a common tune.  You could sing about eating vegetables to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  You could sing about making good choices to the tune of Do You Know the Muffin Man?  You could even sing about their emotions or temper tantrums and how to calm down by coming up with a song that goes to the tune of This Little Light of Mine.  Maybe you could even get your kids on board to help you come up with a song.  Whatever works, it is worth a shot to add singing to your parenting toolbox.

The one thing that is sure to happen is that singing might make you steer clear of the heightened emotions that often make behaviors go from bad to worse.  It may calm your own emotions down, keep you from talking and describing too much and singing will most certainly make you in a less serious and more playful mood.  If you are using less words, less emotion, having more fun, smiling more, and more calm you are way more likely to get your child’s attention in positive ways.   So if singing can help you do these things let’s put singing to use more often in our day to day parenting.

Jul
10

Invisible Mommy by Rachel Caswell

IMG_9670Sometimes Don’t You Wish You Were Invisible…
This was a strategy I learned from some random internet search and quickly fell in love with the idea because it worked in my fourth grade classroom. During small group time I would be working with a group of children in the back of the room and wanted to give this group my undivided attention. This meant I truly could not be bothered by simple questions that the other students could answer on their own. So, out came the “I’m invisible” light. This was a simple touch light that looks like these…. (Picture courtesy of aliexpress.com)invisible

On the top of the light, I wrote, “I’m invisible.” When the light was turned on, Mrs. Caswell was….you guessed it, invisible! This means if you were not in my small group at my table you could not ask me a question. One of my favorite memories of this little light was listening to my students in small groups. You would often hear, “Don’t ask her…Her light is on…She’s invisible…” I would peek out of the corner of my eye when they weren’t looking to make sure it was something that truly did not need my attention. Then, I would see them solve the problem on their own and continue their work. Of course, I gave the students lots of examples of times it would be perfectly okay to interrupt me when my light is on. Like a bathroom break, or injury.

So, what does this have to do with parenting?

Well, you can use a light at home too! How? It’s easy. First, buy yourself a little touch light. I found two at Bed Bath and Beyond for just $6.99. Just click here. Then, write “I’m invisible” on the light, but, don’t get started just yet!

Before you use this light, you must TEACH MODEL AND PRACTICE what this is all about. Think about times of your day when you really just can’t be bothered by kid interruptions. Maybe it’s during an important phone call, when you are busy making dinner, or doing emails. Then, teach your kids why you are going to turn on the light. Say something like, “Mommy or Daddy are going to turn on this little light and that means they are doing something very important and cannot be disturbed unless it’s an emergency.” Then, MODEL this new system by roleplaying or drawing it out in a storyline so they can see how it will work. Play a silly game where you turn on the light and become invisible. Then, PRACTICE it for very short increments of time and praise your child for not disturbing you. I would PRACTICE for just a minute or so at first, then slowly go up to your 10-15 minute time period of no interruptions. Have fun becoming invisible, and hey… maybe brothers and sisters could try this out with one another too!

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.

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
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.

Sep
3

Meal Times Matter

Although dinner time at our house may not always run smoothly, it serves as the number one factor that ensures our family’s success. 

Studies show that children who sit down with their family regularly ( for breakfast, lunch, or dinner) are more likely to do well in school, attain their goals, and succeed socially.  This is because the family meal time provides routine, consistency and connection.  The rules and expectations of family life are practiced at this table.  Sharing and caring about each others’ lives takes place here, and it’s also a place to practice socially correct behaviors while trying new things in the company of those who love you no matter what.              

 If we have meals together regularly, we have better odds at having children who succeed.   Even if  the only time we can connect  is during a late night snack or over cereal and milk before the bus comes, make it count, sit down with your kids and pause a bit.   

The world is telling us that sports ,activities, and work matter , but I think we know what really matters. 

 Making connections with our kids THAT’S what matters most.  

Helping them connect the dots of their world is what these connections can do and what better place to do this than around your dinner table.  Make mealtimes matter ,carve out moments around the table breaking bread and uniting as a family.  If you do this regularly you will see your family BLOOM.

If you agree that meal time matters, or if you simply want to find out more about what research says regarding regular family meals,  check out one of my favorite reads:

The Surprising Power of Family Meals by Miriam Weinstein