Parent Coaching Blog

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.

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
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.

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

Sep
3

Win Win situation

We expect our kids to be big kids yet we end up doing everything for them.

By letting your kids have more chances to do things for themselves and do these things with success we can hand over more power and control to them which is all they really want.

Simple things like carrying their own dish to clear the table, holding their own backpack into school, or making their own bed can be first steps to independence for them and freedom for you.

Doing these things on their own without expecting them to be perfect at them allows them to feel like they are contributing and growing in self help skills.

It’s the low expectations on performance that is key for parents to wrap their head around.  We cannot expect our kids to know how to do these things well on the first try.  So give them baby steps to success and repetition with the practice so they feel repeated success before you send them on to the next level of expectation.

For example:  Make your bed can start out by fluffing your pillow and lining them up.  Then once they master this and do it automatically without a cue, add in one more step like, pulling up your first layer or sheet.  Teach them next how to pull it up while flattening out and let them practice these first two steps for a while before mastering the next steps of making the bed.  Always add in one new skill at a time while layering the mastered skills on top of each other.  What I mean by this is if they have mastered how to flatten out the sheet then when they get to the point where they can pull up two or three layers they will have also mastered how to flatten out each of those layers.
These little achievements build their confidence and allow for the control they are searching for. They call for mini moments of praise and the only reward needed is the feeling of accomplishment and contribution to the family system.
It’s a win win situation… We do less. They do more… and everyone is a little happier.

Apr
29

Child in Bloom’s Top 10

After each workshop, I ask the parents to write down the one tip they are going to go home and try to implement.

Here is a list of the
Top 10 tips chosen by parents this year:

10. Role play or use puppets to act out positive behaviors with your child.
9. Design a list of Stop and Go behaviors that fit your family’s style and needs.
8. Use a visual chart to help your child see and regulate their emotional state.
7. Use phrases like: Nice gets nice and nasty gets nothing,
Let Me Know, Work it out or Walk away, Me First Goes Last,
and Make a Good Choice to support your parenting.
6. Give your child the power they are requesting by offering choices
including the choice to let Mom choose,
or the choice to take a break or take a loss if they aren’t cooperating.
5. Use simple signs to talk to your kids like thumbs up or down.
4. Preview how to behave in certain scenarios using visual stories.
3. Change your tone: using less emotion and a more clear, firm, and kind tone.
2. Use remote control parenting…
Fast Forward (Preview), Rewind (Try it again),
Pause (take a break), Mute(less talk and emotion).
1. Use phrases like, “I’ve noticed…” to acknowledge positive behavior

Feb
5

Can You Spot The Pattern

Patterns… Where does the behavior show up? When is the behavior absent? Who handles the behavior best?  What triggers the behavior?  How does your parenting response affect the behavior?  Why is the behavior worse in certain environments?  …. Follow the patterns to find the best methods for dealing with your child’s behavior.

Nov
28

Teach your child to take a look at themselves…

How do we help a child own up to their behavior choices and begin to make a change?

The following  methods encourage a child to be in charge of their good choice making…

Tell them the expectations upfront so they know what they are working towards.

Give them a chance to rewind when they’ve made a poor choice.

Give them a chance to take a break when they’ve made a poor choice and before entering back into the social scene.

Have them look around and recognize what other good choice makers are doing.

The above mentioned skills help children  learn how to start good choice making and stop bad choice making.   Here is one more key skill  that can help a child begin to self regulate and make the shift from negative to positive choices.

Allow your child a chance to look at their progress.

 

Choose one behavior you want your child to focus on and zero in on it.

For example if you want them to practice taking turns while they play on the playground,

you could remind them about this skill before you get to the playground and ask them to pay attention to how they are doing while they are playing.  Then at the end of the playtime, ask them to tell you how they did.  You could try to catch them being good so that you can help them remember their good choices later when they self reflect. 

They could do this self assessment through:

     A simple conversation between parent and child where they tell you what went well and what did not go so well

     A  “picture story telling” where they draw the things that went well and the things that did not go so well.

     A “fill in the blank story telling” where you give them two prompts

           “I took turns when I…” 

           “I did not take turns when I…” 

           “My friend took turns when she…”

           “I felt ___________when my friend did not take turns.”

This could be a drawing or writing exercise that you help them with or they do on their own depending on their age.

       A  simple smiley face chart where they color in how they did and how they felt.

      A sticker chart or some other kind of reward chart where they evaluate their progress.

Of course their perspective could be different than what really happened… This is very normal for early childhood development.  They see their world differently and might need us to be specific about the good and bad choices that we saw them making.  This skill takes practice for your and your child so try it more than one time before you give up. 

 Make self reflection a part of your daily time together and encourage your child to reflect on their own progress as they start to own up to their behavior choices.

Sep
22

The Rule of Thumb When Making Rules…

                              

Children as young as three can think things through using the statements… “If … Then…”  This is called the age of reason where they can judge what might happen next if they choose certain behaviors.  This means at this early age, we can already guide our children to take on the job of regulating their behavior.  Having clear rules and expectations helps us help them make good choices.  Here is summary of how you might start to incorporate your rules and expectations into your family life.

 

LET CHILDREN KNOW WHAT IS EXPECTED

  First, State the positive expectations…. 

When designing your house rules, make sure to consistently state the positive things you want or expect.    Here are a few examples of what you might expect.  Only choose three (at the most) that work for your family and make sure they are general.

   Be Nice   Be Helpful    Be Honest   Be Gentle   Be in Control

 Then, Get specific. Start to think about what each positive expectation covers, and make sure your children understand that each broad expectation has specific parts to it. Children under 7 need to see these specifics visually in order to understand them, so showing them pictures of good choices is a great idea.

Being  Nice = being nice with your body, your words, and your actions

Being  Helpful = helping your family and friends, your home, and yourself (by doing your best)

Being in Control= controlling your body and actions, your words, and your emotions

Finally, Be on the lookout for good choices.  Tell them you noticed when they made a good choice, and reinforce the behavior with your attention to it.  For example state, “I noticed how you were in control of your body when we waited in line at the store. You probably wanted to touch the candybars but you didn’t and that was a good choice.” 

 

LET CHILDREN KNOW WHAT IS NOT ALLOWED

 “Zero in” on Zero Tolerance Behaviors

No Fussing      No Fighting      No Hurting     No Whining    No Lying

Choose a few  items from this list or your own ideas that make sense in your home.  These should be broad enough to cover a lot of ground. Again, visually showing children under age 7 examples of these negative behaviors is a good idea so that we can help them better understand what we are talking about.  For example:

No Fussing means no whining, no screaming, and no wailing

 

GIVE YOUR CHILD TOOLS TO HELP THEM REGULATE BEHAVIOR

Give them a chance to rewind  and do it over again without the bad choices. Parent may have to give them examples of how they could have done things differently like: Say that again in a nice way, Show me how to play nice with your sister, Say nothing instead of saying something nasty.

 Allow  them a chance to take a break.  When they are unable to rewind on the spot and give you an alternative to the bad choice, allow them a chance to take a break away from the group and return on their own when they are ready to be nice. This break is not a negative consequence but just a chance to regroup.  They may take it a multitude of different ways and whatever works to get them to regroup is an okay choice for a break.  The goal is the regrouping not the actual break.  So help your child decide what is going to work and use it.

Remind them that… Nice gets nice and Nasty gets nothing

Come up with a list of the things that are important to your child and take these things away for a designated time period if they do not get their behavior on track after rewinding or taking a break:  tv, computers, favorite toys, snacks, dessert for the day.  Make sure what you take away is something meaningful,  so that they weigh the consequences of their actions.  If you tell them they will lose something, then you HAVE to be willing to follow through.  

 

If we set them up with these boundaries and tools, the child should begin to regulate their behavior without us doing it for them.

Having rules and  system for how they work will give the child the boundaries and expectations they need to feel secure and safe.

Having Tools and a system for how they work will give the child the chance to be in charge of their behavior.

 

The child gets the chance to succeed on his own!  

 

The child gets the chance to stay  and play.

 

The child gets the chance to have special things later in his day.

 

Thumbs up to parents who use rules and boundaries to help their child bloom and grow!