New Perspective for the New Year

What if all the things we think are important really didn’t matter at all….?

I know that thinking like this might rock your world but
what if…
your child’s grades & getting inducted into the gifted class or national honor society didn’t matter?
what if…
how your child performed on the STEM classes or AP exam didn’t matter?
what if…
having all the cool people sit with your child at the lunch table didn’t matter?
what if 
scoring the winning touch down or making the select soccer team didn’t matter?
The world is telling you that all this stuff matters.
The world is telling parents that signing our kids up for soccer at age three is important.
The world is telling parents that spending money on expensive preschools is essential.
The world is telling parents that it is key to keep your child busy in all kinds of enrichment.

What if all this didn’t matter because the only thing that mattered was that you
taught your child to behave, 

you 
encouraged your child to be kind and giving
you 
instilled in your child a sense of rules and boundaries and respect for authority
you 
spent quality time with your child undistracted by the hub bub of the world.
you 
allowed your child to suffer through loss and you didn’t give in so they could avoid pain

What if being a resourceful, reflective, and responsive parent was all that mattered?
What if all parents started to focus on this most important job?
What kind of children would show up on the doorsteps of our schools?
What kind of children would be playing and participating on our rec. sports teams?
How would this affect the outcomes at school and sports and extra curriculars?
I believe that in the end kids would do better on their AP exams, be more likely to get good grades, do better on the soccer field and succeed in all those things we mentioned above if they could just learn to behave.

In the end wouldn’t everyone ensure success for our children if we focused more on teaching children to get along and less on the skills that the world is telling us are important.  I truly believe that all kids can do well at all things when they learn to behave, when they begin to get along, when they learn to listen to authority and to their peers, and when we focus on the skills that are more human and less worldly.

Add List Making to your parenting practices and see how you can change your family dynamic this month…

Who doesn’t feel better as they check things off their list?
Putting all this info down on paper, helps us to set goals and remember what we don’t want to forget.

Here are some list ideas to get you started…
The Training List…. What are the social and emotional skills you need to teach your kids?  When you see a negative pattern of behavior from your child, note it on your training list.  This list is simply a list of the things you have recognized as something you need to go over with your child outside of the moment.  Keep this list in mind when you have a teachable moment with your child.  Use your child to help problem solve the situation and don’t forget to do most of your teaching and training using visuals (draw or act out what you would like it to look like next time) and avoid the long lecture or emotional ranting and raving.

The Stop and Go Behavior List:  What are the Stop Behaviors that you would like to see go BYE BYE?  What are the replacement behavior options that you need to train (teach, model and practice)?

The Leverage List:  What are the positive things that your child wants that you could use as leverage for good choice making?  What are the things they love and already have that you could take away if needed?  These “things” don’t need to be things at all… They can be simply adding in an extra five minutes on the iPad,  a special trip to the library with mom,  a walk around the block with dad…. Whatever makes your child soar… Let’s work towards it!  Or If you feel like your child has so much already,  let’s start working towards earning these things instead of just handing them over without good choice making.  This list will be fluid and ever changing as your child’s interests and development ebbs and flows.  So add to it whenever you see a window of leverage,  and make sure you run to it when you need to secure a solid and meaningful consequence.

The Calming List:   What are the things that help your child calm themselves?  If you have a list of these, look at it and use it to help them calm down when they need to PAUSE.  Each child in your home will have different things that work, so your list should be specific to the child.  You can also post images and/or words to have the options readily available for your child when they need to choose how they will calm down.   This list can be ever changing too, so keep adding to it as you see your child new methods to regulate their emotions.  If there is something that really works to help calm them, make sure to purposely plug these calming strategies into their day.  If you are like most parents you might want to think of a list of things to help you calm when you are upset.

The Elephant List:  When your child wants to do something right now, but it just isn’t the time or place to do it, use your elephant list to write it down and help your remember.    The Elephant list helps  you remember  what you promised.   The list becomes your reminder and your child will feel safe knowing that although the answer is NO now it might be YES later.    Good News:   your child will feel like they are being heard… Bad News:   you actually have to play that 100th game of Candyland sometime in the near future.

Solutions for …”MEAL-TIME MELTDOWNS”

These are some of the best tips and actions plans we have used to support families with children who are picky eaters, fussing at the table, or simply making mealtimes miserable…

1.  Give Kids the Power they are “Craving”  through choice and voice and purpose
Choice:Offer more than one vegetable. Offer two options on the number of bites
Voice:Listen to their opinions and work w/ them outside the moment to problem solve it
Purpose: Give kids jobs around the kitchen… “The pastry chef” “The salad master”

2.   Change it up
Eat in different space (move to the fancy dining room or outside)
If your kids are squirming all over their seat why not try a new kind of seat
Add a special treat to dinnertime like candlelight or music or conversation cards

3.  Do Something Different with Dessert
Put it on their plate as part of the meal & let them choose to eat it 1st if they like
Put it on a fancy serving tray in the middle of the table (even if it is just fruit or oreos)
Save it for a special treat after so many days of good meal manners
Get rid of it all together and just add it in as a special surprise for good choices

4.  TEACH MODEL PRACTICE  (TMP)
Draw out or video tape a plan for how you want dinner to be… allow the kids to help with this
Read and watch what to do and what not to do at the table
TMP  specifically about how many bites are expected, what kinds of food choices
TMP   specifically about how we speak to parents and siblings at the table
TMP  how to listen and not interrupt
TMP  what the consequences of poor choices will be and follow through

5.  Have Rules and Cues for eating posted…these become the bad guy
Use the pictures to point so you don’t have to use words…
Point to the rules (no interrupting) when they try to step into conversation
Point to the number one when they are taking their first bite, 2 for second…
Point to the dinner rules before getting started…

6.  Be happy with the smallest “bit” of progress when it comes to sensitive “buds”
Maybe they will move from yuck!!! to smelling the new food
Maybe they will progress from smelling to licking the new food
Maybe they will progress from licking to sucking on the new food
Then… biting it and chewing it and swallowing it…

7.  Allow little guys to alternate back and forth between eating and fun…
First Take a bite then color on your picture page
First Take a bite then tell me a story from kindergarten
First Take a bite then we will read a short poem…
Whatever works… at least they are eating!

8.  Keep it consistent…
We drink Milk at dinnertime
We have three bites for three year olds
We try everything…
We do not hurt the cook’s feelings with nasty words

9.  Think about set up…
Provide Healthy Appetizers so you have another chance to get in the good stuff
Provide more choice by offering taco bars, potato bars, pasta bars and more
Get them involved in the set up so they get excited about the choices

10.  Be flexible with where and when they make their healthy choices… 
Could we add more healthy snacks into their lunch box?
Could we sneak it into their smoothies after school?
Could we offer it as a power snack in the middle of playing super heroes?

Action Plan for Getting Grumpy Kids out of Bed…

Serve your little one “breakfast in bed.”  

Many kids wake up starving especially those finicky picky eaters who refused to eat the night before.  So why not have a granola bar waiting for them at their bedside when they wake up to help them get their blood sugar flowing and help them to start off on the right foot?  One client recently told me how this worked so well for their oldest child that they have begun to use it with all their kiddos.  Their son was extremely slow to warm up to the idea of getting out of bed, but with a yummy snack ready for him he was more apt to jump out of bed.  That boost of energy helped him be less moody and more ready to accomplish his early morning routines… Of course like all our action plans, this is just an idea but one worth trying if you are at your wits end.  If you do this or any new response with your parenting, remember you have to TEACH MODEL and PRACTICE the expectations. You can’t just “willy nilly” start this plan tomorrow without boundaries and expectations.   They need to know the procedures so they can follow them.  

Show and Tell

A teacher could spend their whole day saying NO NO NO.
No running,
No calling out,
No leaning on chairs,
No talking, NO NO NO…
But what works better is to give a child or a classroom of children the YES YES YES behaviors they desire instead of constantly correcting.  So, if you find yourself constantly calling your child out and you feel like a broken record, try calling out the expected behaviors instead.  A teacher who wants her children to walk down the hallway without talking will call out… Walk Walk Walk, Quiet Quiet Quiet to give the group the specific expected behaviors.  By doing this, the teacher is investing more in the positive behavior than the negative behavior.

For parents, this means telling your child what to do… giving them a new replacement behavior instead of correcting what NOT to do.  If you find yourself shouting out all day and using negative correcting methods like:  Stop Hitting!  Don’t Do That!   Quit Pushing!   No! No! No!
Use the phrase, “SHOW ME” to encourage a child to model the better choices. For instance, for a three year old big brother who has a tendency to be rough with his baby sister, use these “SHOW ME ” phrases:  “SHOW ME how you tickle her toes… SHOW ME how you snuggle with her… SHOW ME how you share your toy with her.”    This takes the negative spin off the correction and invites the child to make a better choice.    It lessens the chance of the power play between parent and child because the child gets busy trying to show you the better choice and avoids the repetition of the bad choice to get your attention.

Another way to avoid so much NO NO NO is to encourage a child to TELL you the better choice… TELL ME how you will behave outside with your brother,  TELL ME how you will sit at the table,  TELL ME what went well in the bathtub tonight,  TELL ME How you can talk nicely to your mom.

Have your child use show and tell to improve behaviors.  You can use these methods on the spot or call a family meeting and have kids show and tell their best choices of the day!

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!!!

All They Need is Love through Power and Attention

There are two things that children are usually looking for when they display inappropriate behaviors…the connected child

Power and Attention

The authors of the book The Connected Child do a wonderful job of describing healing and helpful ways to connect to your children.  They designed the book with adoptive children in mind, but their great ideas can help every parent succeed in giving their child what they need.

When it comes to the Power Hungry Child consider that they use Triangulation to protect themselves. Many times a child who has had a disconnected home life has seen that triangulating or tag teaming against someone is one way to gain control in their mixed up life. The author of The Connected Child just calls on parents to see this as normal and as a means of self protection. The child isn’t doing this because they are mean or nasty.  They are doing this because they are trying to feel safe, secure and in control. Reinforce how you their number one cheerleader and that you are on your child’s team and love them NO MATTER WHAT. Reinforce that you want the best for them so they don’t have to draw sides to gain that feeling of security. Being consistent is the one way you can show that you continually are in their corner and that they can count on you. Even if they don’t like the outcome or consequence, they know you will always follow through and that makes them feel safe. Children are begging for that kind of order and consistency.

When it comes to the Attention seeking Child consider the idea of Matching them.
So many times parents try to connect with kids but do it in adult ways that don’t match up or coordinate with the playful nature of the child. Parents who really connect with kids are the ones who get down on the floor with their kids, mirror how they are sitting, follow their lead in the play, restate what the child is talking about, and simply connect through matching the tone or voice level and demeanor of the child. This kind of connecting is non-threatening and playful and eases parents into deeper synchronicity with their child. The child in turn feels that you are not there to critique, boss, or control but instead you are there to simply look them in the eye, listen to them and be truly present in the play.

If you feel like you have a disconnected relationship with your child check out this book. It was written for families who are going through adoption but the ideas can help all parents make solid relationships with their children.

The Connected Child by Purvis, Cross, and Sunshine

We love it!! One of our NKY coaches Rachel Caswell is in the process of adopting a child and she recommended this book to me.  Connect to Rachel rachel@childinbloom.com if you feel like you need the support of someone who understands the process of adopting a child and the fine tune parenting you sometimes need to work through.

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.

Great Tips from Gretchen Greenawalt

GretchenG.R.O.W.
As a seed grows into a flower, so a child into an adult. Watching people develop amazes me and helps me to see that all things are possible with little bits of support. That’s why I’ve loved coaching people through the years whether it be the students in my classroom or the college students I worked with on the campus of Ohio State University.

One of the strategies that I implement in my coaching conversations is based on the acronym G.R.O.W. Throughout my career coaching college students, on any topic from dating advice, to addictions, from parents to academics, I help my coachee first set a Goal for the conversation. After listening to the Realities of their situation, I help the individual identify and set a feasible goal. Then the coachee and I discuss all the Options for action that they can plan to take as a means to reach the goal. Finally I help the coachee pick one of the options and decide to act on it. The conversation would end with the coachee having a next step that they WILL complete before our next session.

It’s as simple as that…
G.R.O.W. = Grow, Reality, Options, and Will do.

These coaching moments have proved to be life changing moments for the people I have coached in the past and I am excited to extend my coaching reach into the realm of helping parents Bloom and GROW. With my background in child development and education and my experience coaching adults, parent coaching through Child in Bloom seems like a natural next step. As I talk with Moms and Dads about the realities of their situations, we will be able to devise goals, identify options and tools to support the progress towards the goals, and with regular meet ups the parents will be held accountable for what they will do to begin to shift their parenting approaches.

Great Tip from Gretchen!

Use only three to five words at a time to communicate to your children in the heat of a power struggle…

The other day, my husband and I were going to the movies with our daughter. My husband was attempting to describe with lots of words why our daughter had to go potty before the movie started. The description was simply not sinking in and a fuss was about to ensue. She wanted to eat her popcorn and go into the movie but she DID NOT want to go potty… The back and forth between her fussing and his description went on and on until finally I said clearly (with less than five words at a time)

“Go Potty … Get Popcorn
No Potty… No Popcorn.”
I also showed her these two choices by putting my two hands out (showing choice one or choice two).

Giving her these two simple phrases made it crystal clear to her and with in seconds she simply said, “I want to go Potty so I can have Popcorn!” Wow! Magic!

Diffuse a Temper Tantrum with Signs By Shannon Buckner

Shannon Buckner

It’s 5:00 in the evening and you’re prepping for dinner. Suddenly, your 12 month old shrieks from the next room. By the time you get to her side she’s thrown herself on the floor, flailing her arms and legs. As you calm her down, you are trying to figure out the cause of her distress. Is she hurt? Is she scared? Finally she slows her crying. Hmmm… No help.You look around but instead decide to distract her with a light snack as you return to your dinner prep. Problem solved?

All behavior is a form of communication. What a parent sees as a tantrum, a toddler sees as a way of letting her parents know of a need or a want or an expression of emotion . By incorporating a few simple signs into your daily conversations, you can start to break down the barrier of communication between yourself and your toddler. Using visuals with children, especially toddlers, is vital for effective communication. These visuals can be in the form of pictures, role playing, or in this case, sign language.

The following four signs are ones I’ve used regularly with my own children from a young age. Their addition to our daily routines have diffused countless events before my son or daughter has become overly emotional.
More (Using both hands, gather your fingertips to your thumb and tap your fingers together several times),
All done (Using both hands keeping your hands open with your palms up, twist your wrists turning your palms down),
Help (Close one hand into a fist and place it on your other open palm, raise both hands together),
Please (Place your hand flat against your chest and rub it in a circle)

Toddlers are able to use these 4 signs for almost any need. Please note that the signs you use in your life don’t have to be “By the Book” in terms of official American Sign Language signs. Just pick an easy to follow sign or symbol and use your hands to help visualize the communication to your child, and then do this consistently with your child so they grasp the concept and begin to use it themselves to help them tell what they need or want.

When my 18 month old wants a drink, she regularly stands next to the fridge and signs ‘please’. If we finish playing a game and she wants to play again, she will sign ‘more’. These signs are just a few of thousands you can use. Eventually it can be helpful to teach your toddler the sign for diaper, milk, hurt or ‘ouch’, thirsty, book, sleepy, scared and Mommy and Daddy. Now, imagine the opening situation with the addition of a few important signs. As you approach your screaming toddler she is signing ‘help’. Quickly you ask her, “help with what?” Your toddler leans down and attempts to reach a ball that rolled under the couch. No luck. She sits up and signs ‘help’ again. You reach under the couch and retrieve the ball, returning it to your toddler and going back to finish your dinner prep. Problem solved? Diffusion of Temper Tantrum? Happier Parents? Happier Child? You bet.

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!

One Kind Word Can Warm Three Winter Months

bb87d432-e783-42c7-bfc3-80076f5f6eed-3It’s  freezing outside and we are all having dreams of summer days spent poolside.

What if we could warm up these chilly days by saying or doing something kind and teaching our children that one small good choice can melt someone’s heart.

If you’ve attended one of my group presentations, then you have probably heard me talk about “pennies in my pocket”.

One of my former teaching positions was a pretty rough setting where I felt like all day long I was saying… Stop that! You can’t do that! Quit it! Enough! I was so busy policing the bad choices that I didn’t even recognize all the good things that were already happening in the classroom. My classroom aide in this setting was very wise and helped me to see that if I rewired my focus and put more of my energy into noticing the good choices I may change the whole classroom dynamic.

I decided I needed some help in this venture so I made up a system to train my brain to focus more on the positives. I would put 10 pennies in my pocket and every time I noticed a positive behavior (even the smallest bit of progress and believe me this was not an easy task), I would shift a penny to my other pocket. I had to move all ten pennies in one hour and this practice really forced me to change my approach. I was forced to find good stuff happening and overlook some of the negative behaviors in the process. I did this regularly for a month and soon my brain had a new habit. It began to focus first on what was good about my situation and then zero in on what needed fixing.

Not only was this new approach changing me, the kind words and positive feedback started to rewire my students’ brains too. Many of my students had been stuck in a negative storyline where they were the central character. They acted out the expected behavior which was getting them into tons of trouble. Bad choice making was their story and they were sticking to it…

Here’s how the the story would go…
They would act up,
I would call it out,
They would assume this is who they are (the bad kid who acted up) and then of course they would fulfill that role in the classroom one more time
I would call them out again
The cycle would continue.
This was who they were and who they had always been so they were staying “in character”. When I started to notice positive bits of progress instead of all the bad stuff, they suddenly had a new storyline. They were getting attention for sitting quietly instead of constantly getting my attention for calling out. They began to work to catch my attention in new and positive ways and the whole class dynamic began to shift.

One kind word or positive affirmation changed their whole day…. It warmed our classroom and we began to settle into a whole new dynamic. Try catching your child when they are “doing it right”. I know throughout their day there has to be a few times when they are making good choices… So notice these moments more than you notice the bad and maybe you will warm up your whole house!

By the way… you can pass this positive focus onto your kids too and have them start to point out what their siblings are doing right… We call it “tootling” at our house when we tootle instead of tattle and toot our brother or sister’s horn!

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

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.

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

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.

The It Factor…

The “it factor”…
Stop it!
End it!
Quit it!

Are you tired of these phrases?
Whether they are coming from parent to child or sibling to sibling, these phrases have one thing in common… It


Do you know why these phrases rarely work?

Because they aren’t specific enough.
Train yourself to be more specific in your requests by stating the obvious.
Instead of using phrases with a simple “it” start using more specific requests like these:
“Stop teasing your brother with silly faces.”

“End the back and forth bragging.”

“Quit poking your sister with that stick.”

Get specific and teach your kids to do the same…

“Stop coming in my room and taking my things without asking.”

“Quit pinching me in the back seat when mom isn’t looking.”
When we get specific about what we don’t want there’s no dispute over what “it” is.
Just end it!

Its Show Time

It’s Show Time!

What show is playing at your house these days?

Maybe the baby in your family is running the show.
Maybe your toddler’s temper tantrums resemble a horror show.
Maybe your your over-the-top reactions are keeping everyone on the edge of their seats.
Maybe the sibling rivalry has turned into a violent fight scene.
Maybe your child’s emotional rollercoaster is the newest drama.

Whatever show is unfolding in your home these days, it’s your role as the director to make a change in order to make it go away. Each person in your home probably has a strict script that they stick to. Each child finds their niche or storyline and replays that scene over and over again because it’s what gets them noticed. Even as parents we pick roles and settle into it as our comfort zone whether it be the strict enforcer, the lenient side kick or the firm and consistent lead role. The first step you need to take in making a change to a negative scene is to reflect on the following questions and determine all the characters living on your set…

What is the storyline your child has assumed in the family?
What is your part in the drama?
How does your part add to the storyline or take away from the sequence of events?
Does the audience (or rest of the family) feed the negative scripts with their attention?
Do the characters repeat their negative behaviors over and over
because of the attention they receive and because they assume this is their place on the stage?
Can you give people in your family a whole new script with specific tools to help them work through conflict?
Can you rehearse, practice and role play how these new scripts will look?
What changes could you make to help lead this storyline to a happy ending?

If you have drama happening at your home, it’s not too late. You still have time to develop strong leading ladies and gentlemen who have a character sketch that includes civil and loveable behaviors. You won’t win an academy award as the director of this drama, but if you begin to look carefully to see the roles everyone has assumed within your family’s storyline, you will begin to see patterns of behavior. Then you can begin to design a new script that will lead to a happy ending.

The “Good Life”

One of my favorite children’s books for helping children understand the reading comprehension concept of cause and effect is a book called That’s Good, That’s Bad  by Margery Cuyler. 

In this book, a young boy, starts his visit to the zoo when his parents get him a shiny red balloon.

 Oh, That’s Good!… No That’s Bad! because…

He is suddenly lifted high above the zoo.  He loved flying high above the zoo so he could see all the animals below him.

 Oh That’s Good!… No That’s Bad! because…

His balloon popped on a tall prickly branch, he fell into a swamp.   Luckily he was able to ride to shore on a roly poly hippo

 Oh That’s Good!… No That’s Bad! because…

Ten baboons were fighting at the river bank and they chased him…

The story goes back and forth between bad and good outcomes until the boy ends up plopping back into his parents arms when a stork carries him across the zoo.  This book helps to open up a discussion with children about how each event in story has an impact on the whole storyline.   When they understand this they begin to realize they can control the storyline in their own writing by shifting positive and negative events and outcomes.

What does this have to do with parenting?????

Wouldn’t it be great if we could help our children connect to the cause and effect of their behaviors and in turn, help them see that their actions affect the storyline of their day.     

 Here’s an example: 

“Hey Mom!”  said the little boy as he walked in the door after school,  “I was able to go outside for recess today because I made good choices during center time.”

 Oh That’s Good… No that’s Bad! because

 “It was 32 degrees outside and everyone was freezing.  I had a heavy coat on and was running around with my friends to keep warm.  We got really excited.”

Oh That’s Good…No That’s Bad ! because

“ I got so excited that I felt like punching my friend in the stomach. I calmed down after I hit him.”

 Oh That’s Good… No That’s Bad! because

“My friend didn’t like it and he cried all the way over to the teacher.  The teacher helped him feel better.”

Oh That’s Good… No That’s Bad! because

“When the teacher saw him crying she made me go talk to the principal, and I have to stay in from recess the rest of the week  and That’s Bad!”

Helping our children experience the real life logical consequences to their behavior can help them see that they have power in their choices and when they make positive choices they can have the “good life”.

 

 

Nasty Gets Nothing

Let’s define nasty behavior…
Hurting: with words and tone, hitting, pinching, biting …
Fussing: screaming, yelling, talking back, whining, tantrums…
Naming these STOP behaviors is the first step.
No Hurting and No Fussing are the only rules you really need.
Now that we know what we are dealing with, lets get to work on eliminating these poor choices.

It’s hard to help your child overcome their nasty behavior if you are busy making excuses for it….
He only BITES when he is tired.
She is so sweet but sometimes she SLAPS her sister when she doesn’t feel like sharing her toys.
She’s two so she SCREAMS and YELLS to get her way.
He WHINES all through dinner only when I make things he doesn’t want to eat.
… After we name the behavior the next step in getting rid of it is to get rid of our excuses.
There is NO excuse for nasty.

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.

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! 

                            

Don’t be a such a sucker….

What child doesn’t love a trip to the bank?  It’s one of the many errands on Mom’s list of places to go that kids simply don’t mind attending.  Why is this? SUCKERS!!!

Here’s what happened the other day: 

 I was in the drive-through line at our bank…

It was one of the final days of summer, and so I had a car full of kids.  There were big kids and little kids and everyone knew what their prize would be if they stayed quiet while I tried to hear the teller’s directions over the speaker. The teller asked, “Do you have children in the car and are they allowed to have a sucker.”  These questions were her typical questions.  She was so kind to ask them, and I responded, “I have four children in the car, and yes, they are allowed to have a sucker, thank you so much.” 

      However, the teller went beyond her call of duty with her next question… With one quick question she opened up a can of worms instead of that yummy jar of dum dum suckers.   She said, “And what flavors do they want?”  My children’s eyes lit up because not only did they get a sucker, but they got to choose the flavor! Holy Moly! Life is good!

       What I want to know is :  When did things change?   When did we move from offering a special treat to appeasing our children’s every want and desire?  This shift (I fear) is what is creating havoc in many of our homes.  This question of “what do you want?” changes the road ahead in our families as it puts the child in the driver’s seat.  I think the question stems from our need to avoid having our children suffer. 

Maybe parents are thinking these things…

“My children have a mind of their own, and why would I want them to have to suffer through eating a sucker they don’t like.”

“Wouldn’t it be tortuous to expect them to sit quietly while I speak to the teller, and then give them a black raspberry sucker when they really wanted a watermelon one?” 

“What a horrible mother I would be if I didn’t give them what they wanted! Shouldn’t  I give them what they deserve?   Which is …. Which is…”

Well, I guess that is the million dollar question.  

What do our children deserve?

 Do children deserve special treats or are special treats an added bonus to their expected behavior?

This may sound radical, but I say:  children don’t deserve anything for making good choices while you wait at the bank or when they act as they are expected to act. 

     Now, if the teller is nice enough to offer you a sucker, then you may have one, but the deal is: You get what you get and you don’t have a fit.  If you don’t like the flavor you have received, then you kindly pass it on to your brother, and ask if he would like to swap flavors.  If no one wants to swap, you keep the sucker to share with your poor mother who has driven you all over town, or you simply throw it away when you get home.   

 Is this logical or am I crazy?  

Crazy is:  dooming our children to a life filled with constant pleasure and no suffering.  This is because eventually life will deal them a “Yucky Sucker”, and they won’t know how to suffer gracefully because they’ve never had to do this before. 

Back to our bank story:   I kindly responded, “We are okay with whatever flavor we get,” (as my children cringed and groaned at me in the back seats).  Then the teller said, “Thank you for being so easy going. I just had a mom drive back through the line because the sucker I gave her wasn’t her child’s favorite, and she didn’t want to hear him cry about it all the way home.”

YIKES!    Are you kidding me? Is this what we’ve resorted to…? 

 Are these the Life Rules for children in 2012

1.  Get a treat for doing nothing out of the ordinary. 

2.  Cry as hard as you can when you don’t like the treat. 

3.  Then your mother will beg for another free treat so that she doesn’t have to listen to you suffer.   

Here are  my final thoughts…

  1. When  it comes to freebies like suckers at the bank,  there is no fussing… You get what you get and you don’t have a fit.  If children are allowed to throw a fit and get what they want, their parents are supporting negative behaviors.
  2. If you do throw a fit, then you will get nothing.   Mom or dad will not contrive the perfect scenario to make your wishes come true.  They will not coddle you until you calm down over your “horrible experience”.  Although this will be a challenge for parents,  they will simply say, “Let me know when you are ready to join us or if you change your mind about your treat.” 
  3. Then mom and dad will tune you out and not react to your fit so that you learn to regulate your emotions on your own.

Ahhhh isn’t life with children so sweet?

Family Game Night

      Hurry !  Before the rush of back to school events begins to take over your calendar, plan a weekly game night.  Book it on your calendar. Then, turn off the tv and video games, put away your phone or IPAD, and leave the dirty dishes in the sink.  Meet your family at the kitchen table or some cozy spot around your house and play an old favorite. 

       Even your littlest ones can join in on a more advanced game if you choose a game where they can have a job to do or a modified version made just for them.   Allow yourself to bend the rules, and make the game fit your family’s style, time frame, and specific needs and interests.  Let the kids get creative and allow them to add new rules to the game.  This can mean simply tweaking the smallest procedure or objective so that you get to play it with a new spin, and the kids get to feel like they are in charge of the fun.

      If you meet weekly for your family game night, allow a different family member to pick the game for next week and book it on the calendar so it is “planned in stone”.  If you’re consistent your kids won’t worry that they haven’t had a chance to choose the game because they will know their turn is right around the corner. 

        While you play together, keep your eyes open so that you can see new skills you didn’t know your child had… (Maybe that third grader is an aspiring banker, or maybe your preschooler has fine motor skills that help him succeed at building great Mouse Traps).  Let them see you relax and focus on them while you smile and engage in the fun.

        While you play, observe their behavior.  Catch them when they are acting respectfully  or when they have followed directions.  Be specific and note exactly what you see that is positive.  For example:  “Kerry, I noticed you asked your brother if you could help him move his game piece when it was out of his reach,” or “Tim, when you found out that Mark was the winner of the game I noticed that you were upset but you didn’t yell or scream you just said, ‘good game’.”  Tell them you noticed their good sportsmanship and polite behavior, and then watch them try to repeat the positive behavior over and over again. 

      When it comes to winning or losing,  allow them to suffer through the losses naturally so that they learn it is a part of life.  Set boundaries from the beginning for sportsmanship and consequences for the inevitable fussing, hurting or quitting.  Write these boundaries/rules or consequences on paper or draw a picture to depict what will happen when kids don’t make good choices.  When and if the those negative behaviors come up simply point and state…”The rules say ‘no fussing or you will lose a point’.”

   And by the way, it doesn’t have to be a board game … What about a game of freeze tag or capture the flag in the backyard on these crisp end of summer nights?  What about making up a new game with the gigantic blow up ball your kindergartener got for his birthday?  The only rules are family and fun…   

     Soon enough your schedule will be booked with homework, parent teacher conferences, and holiday plans so make a date weekly to connect on a positive level with your children.  Use these moments with your children as “parent-able moments” where you show your child how to play nicely and let them see that your family knows how to relax and have fun together… Make it a Game Night tonight…

Cute doesn’t Cut it…

Believe me. I am the first to melt when I see a little girl with ruffles on her tush… or a handsome young preschooler with a Cincinnati Reds jersey to match his MLB hat.   I simply love to find a good deal on great clothes for kids, and my own children know when it comes to a photo opt… cute clothes matter to their mom.   With back to school around the corner, I don’t have to tell you how expensive it can be to ensure your kid is the cutest kid to walk in the door of his classroom.    The children’s clothing market is hot.   There are options all over the web for parents to find  great outfits for great prices,  and then shower their kids with designer labels.

The other day I was at a restaurant and saw the most darling curly haired child dressed in the sharpest duds.  His seer-sucker shorts and designer green polo shirt were so sweet.   His shoes may have cost more than my weekly grocery bill, and his monogrammed belt were one of a kind.  Mom and Dad had obviously spent time, money and energy addressing this little guy’s style.  There is no doubt about it… He was adorable, but his poor choices and out of control behavior were all I could see.  If only his demeanor were as enchanting as his appearance.  He was spitting his food out, yelling words like “YUCK”,  and “I Hate This” .  He was running around the dining area screaming with glee as Mom and Dad sipped wine and smiled at him, “Isn’t he sooo cute?”    

I say simply… CUTE doesn’t CUT it!

I would love to see a world where parents invest in resources that support positive behavior.  It’s time for parents to spend less time surfacing the web for great deals on ribbons and bows and more time finding ideas on how to get their child to pay attention to the rules of their home.  I would like to see more facebook  posts where parents recognize and share their child’s good choices instead of their adorable Easter Bunny photo shoot. 

I say… dig deep into your parenting approaches and decide what matters most to you and your spouse.  Then, set up house rules that mirror what you expect.     Instead of focusing on how great your child looks in the mirror, make sure their behavior mirrors your family expectations.  Are they a friend to the neighbor kids?   Are they accepting of people who are different from them?  Do they help around the house and wait patiently for their turn to talk or play? Can you take them to a restaurant without getting dirty looks from other customers?

 How cute everyone’s child would be if they could all: sit quietly and attend to a task, use kind words, share their things, and listen on the first time.

It is easy to be “caught up in cute”.  The world around us is telling parents that being cute is the most important thing, but Child in Bloom Parents know the difference.  Cute only goes so far, and when parents and their children bloom… The sky’s  the limit.

By the way… here are some quick tips for dining with your little ones…

  1.  Set up a visual storyline before going to the restaurant that tells your child what to expect, how we behave politely, and what the consequences will be if rules are not followed.
  2. Practice these same rules at your own dinner table and when playing pretend restaurant with your child at home.  Practice and remind your child of these expectations over and over again.
  3. Follow through on the first time if your child doesn’t follow the plan.
  4. Find ways to make dining developmentally appropriate… Your child’s attention matches directly to their age and so bring more than enough stuff to keep them entertained.
  5. Ask for a table that is remote and far away from diners who want to have a quiet evening away.
  6. Boothes are always a good choice for spreading out and giving your child the room they need to wiggle and giggle.
  7. Order your child’s food in advance and let your waiter know you might need to leave in a hurry when the child has lost their steam.
  8. Bring food and drinks to offer while you wait.
  9. Have an exit plan that involves getting up to peek at the restaurant’s fish tank, or walk to the parking lot to get a breather.  Never let your child roam a restaurant freely.
  10. Pay attention to your child and put your phones to the side as you focus on this special time with your family.

The Honest Truth about sibling emotions…

Here is the honest truth…  It is the first week of July, halfway through summer and it is clear to me that brothers and sisters don’t always get along.  We have a choice to make as their parents… and what we decide could make or break the rest of our summer.  Here are three responses that parents make when dealing with the brothers and sisters living in their home. 

+ The “Positive” Parent

We can insist on positive relations between our children at all times.  Saying things like: “You are brothers and you will be best friends for a lifetime no matter what”  or “You are lucky to have a sister so hug and make up.”  Or when we hear things like, “I don’t like you!” or “You make me soooo mad!”  we could quickly cut the conversation off and make them feel ashamed for being negative with their words and emotions.  When we choose this approach it may seem like we are helping our kids solidify positive relations with each other.   For the short term it might silence the negative emotions,  but what we might be doing in the long term is creating more  resentment because the honest negative emotions are not allowed to surface.

-The “Negative” Parent

We could settle into a doom and gloom perspective when our children start to fight; assuming the worst.  And we could begin to think that our kids will never get along.    We might say things like, “ My oldest and youngest just can’t get along, I know their personalities just don’t mesh and never will”  Or “All my kids do is bicker.  They will never get along so why bother making them be friendly with each other now.”  When we choose this perspective we emphasize their differences, encourage the negative relationship and avoid honest conversation about how to get beyond the differences.  It can become a situation where we portray them as enemies and they repeat the behavior over and over again assuming it is their role in the family.

“The Child in Bloom” Parent

Here is a third solution for dealing with sibling emotion.  What if we acknowledge the mixed emotions and have our children tell us the truth of how they feel?  Even if the truth hurts (I can’t stand to be around my baby sister, I don’t want him to be my brother anymore, I hate her, I wish he would go away) we can at least allow them to get the emotions off their chest.  We can begin by saying things to them that reinforce the truth of what they are feeling, “ I understand that sometimes you wish you had mom and dad all to yourself” or “I get what you are saying, you are annoyed by your little sister today.”   Once they share the emotion they may begin to problem solve on their own about how to get along.  If they can’t tell you how they really feel out loud then have them express it in another way.  They can do this through: writing, drawing, using puppets, storytelling, or acting it out.  Then start to focus on the positives even  the smallest moments when your children  are getting along.  Allow them to recognize these moments.  Then help them to realize that even though the truth is that they don’t always get along they do have moments when they can connect. These positive moments may begin to happen more often as the children find things they have in common and when we acknowledge the mixed emotions of being siblings.

I will be speaking at the Honeybee bookstore on the topic of emotions.  This blog ties nicely to our discussion last month on Sibling Rivalry and is a great intro into our discussion on how to help children deal with their emotions.   If you like this conversation and want to continue it, join me July 11th from 10-11 AM at the Honeybee bookstore in Madeira. Please  feel free to  share this info with a friend who might want to hear some fresh perspectives and if you are planning to come to the Honeybee bring a friend along.  Children are always welcome, too.

 

Say “Tootles” to Tattling

  If your house is anything like mine, you have children who spend their days tattling on their siblings and you spend your day refereeing the arguments.

When we acknowledge the tattling the accusing child gets two bonuses:

First: They reported a negative behavior and “saved the day”

Second:  They feel like they have moved up in the ranks of rivalry because their brother or sister will surely move down after being caught red handed. 

Here’s a typical tattling scenario: 

  • The children are playing a game nicely.
  • All is good in the home… Mom and Dad are smiling… Ahhh!
  • The parent gives no attention  to the children because they think: “Why mess with a good thing?”
  • Suddenly the climate of the play changes…
  • Something is unfair and the dice get thrown across the game table.
  • A child yells, “I quit.  Mom and Dad,  Josh  cheated!” …
  • Momand Dad are  forced to pay attention.
  • Mom and Dad have to weed through the sequence of the showdown.
  • Mom and Dad have to figure out the consequences of the actions.
  • Mom and Dad have a headache. 

What if the scenario went a different way:    

  • Mom walks by the table where her children are playing nicely, and makes a specific comment about something positive she sees them doing. “I noticed that you let your brother go first.”
  • Mom reinforces that they should try to “work out” their differences as arguments come up and make it fair so everyone can continue the game. “What is your plan if someone thinks something is unfair?”
  • Mom mentions she wants each brother or sister to catch their siblings doing something good during the game and report back to her when they are finished.
  • The children’s focus will turn from personal gain to group gain.  They will be able to report how well the game went, how well they worked together to solve problems and Mom no longer has to be the referee. 
  • They will work through problems as they come up and focus on the positives instead of the negatives. All the while they will be noticing their siblings strengths.

This is called positive peer reinforcement, and it is something that teachers are trying to do more and more within their class settings.  Some people call this tootling because it causes children to focus on the positive instead of negative behaviors replacing tattling with “tooting some else’s horn” .(Skinner et al. 2000) You can try this in the home setting too. 

Here are some steps to make it a success: 

  1. Mom and Dad specifically call out positive behavior when they see it and clearly state the positive behavior they would like to see.
  2. Children focus on catching each other making the good choices that match Mom and Dad’s plan
  3. Children report the good choices that others made (instead of tattling on the “bad choices”)
  4. Positive Behavior increases as children work to get the positive attention of their siblings and parents
  5. Shift happens from personal gain to group gain
  6. Children team up to be good
  7. Mom and Dad cease being the referees
  8. Everyone is a little more positive and peaceful

As parents, you might want to tally up the “tootles” at the end of the day and acknowledge the positive choices made.  You could even have your children work towards achieving a certain number of tootles for a family surprise. 

Studies show that the rate of positive behaviors go up when positive behaviors are emphasized, recognized and acknowleged, and likewise, negative behaviors increase when we continue to recognize, emphasize and acknowledge them.  So focus on the positive to get a peaceful home.

Toot your child’s horn today!

Skinner, C. H., Cashwell, T. H., & Skinner, A. L. (2000). Increasing tootling: The effects of a peermonitored interdependent group contingencies program on students’ reports of peers’ prosocial behaviors. Psychology in the Schools, 37, 263–270.

 

Rules Rules Rules…

Rules for your city

Rules for your church

Rules for your library

Rules for a classroom

Rules for a school

Rules for eating

Rules for traveling in a car

Rules for riding a bike

Rules for…

The list of rules in our world could go on and on, but the rule of thumb is that every part of our day runs smoothly when there are expectations set up in advance and when everyone knows what is going on.

What if a library did not set up rules to govern how we borrow and return books?  What if once we get food was on the table there were no rules that labeled how and where you were suppose to eat it?  What if when driving in our car we did not clearly know the rules of the road?  There could be utter chaos, no one would feel safe and there would be no order.

The same chaos and mess could end up taking over your home if you do not begin to take a step in the right direction and devise a list of your house rules…

If using the word rules bothers you then simply call them systems, expectations, boundaries or your house motto.

Start with what you expect.  These should be the three basic over arching goals for behavior such as: be nice, be a good listener, and be honest.   You should then detail what this does and doesn’t look like. Next you should identify a system as to how these rules will be followed and how mom’s and dad’s responses will try to increase positive behavior and decrease negative behavior.  

Give your child a clear list of zero tolerance behaviors including basic statements that cover a lot of territory…

There will be no: hurting, fussing, or fighting

Then give them tools to work through the inevitable mess ups… 1. Allow them to rewind when they feel like they want to retell something in a nicer way, or when they want to redo an action or word that came our of their mouth.  2.  Tell them that taking a break and coming back ready to make good choices is what adults do all the time when they say things like… “I will be taking a quick walk and then I will be right back to talk this through”.  Let them know it is a possible way to help them get their behavior back on track. 3.  Alternative ways to solve the problem.  If you are fighting over homework, allow the child to decide where they will do their homework… Inside the play tent in the basement or at their desk in their room. 

By giving them tools for success that could help them turn their behavior around, you are giving them a chance to redo the behavior and  learn from it.  They will begin to repeat the positive behaviors and omit the negative behaviors once they know the systems, consequences, expectations,and rewards of following through on your house rules.