Raising them to Leave the Nest…by Renee Mattson, M.Ed.

In 6 months, our oldest child Evy will be turning 16 and be able to drive. She will be behind the wheel as Toby and I sit teeth-clenched beside our little lady bug with her “Temps”.  YIKES!!! I know we will be gritting our teeth for lots of reasons beyond the mere fact that a 15 year old is driving us down the highway with minimal to no skills… DOUBLE YIKES!!!  But mostly because we know it’s the beginning of the end in terms of our time with Evy in our nest.

She has almost 2 years of high school under her belt and here we are with only a few years left with her in our home…I pause as I type this wrapping my brain around how our family will change and did we do everything we were suppose to do to prep her for her way…and the answer is a resounding YES.  Honestly, Toby and I have joked for years that Evy has always been more mature than her mom and dad, but is she ready to face the real challenges that life will most certainly bring her way.

What are the skills we dreamed we would give her…

  • How to be a friend... that is loyal and patient and kind and brings joy to others
  • How to speak up when things are not right... to save a friend or stranger
  • How to work diligently so that you can attain the things you dream of
  • How to bounce back and try try again when things don’t go your way or you mess up
  • How to Pause and take time for yourself... go for a run, take a well deserved nap, regroup
How did it happen that I REALLY feel confident that she is ready to leave the nest?
I can’t quantify it… I can’t qualify it…
I can’t name a time or place where each skill was gained,
but I know she is ready.  I know that we can safely let her go.She knows boundaries and knows her conscience… She knows how to judge right from wrong and listens to her gut…. Maybe at first the gut response was her knowledge of what things fit within the boundaries of our family and so maybe this is where our parenting came in…
We allowed for flexible thinking, but we ALWAYS tried to have clear boundaries of STOP and GO behaviors. 

She knows that actions are always followed by consequences … She realized that she could choose to do all kinds of things and she also realized that with that power in choice she also had to take on the consequences of her choice.
We tried to step out of the way and let the consequences do their job.

She knows she can count on her parents for consistent follow through and support.  If we promise we deliver (positively and negatively).  If we set the boundary and consequence we follow through, if she does something successfully we are there to help her celebrate ALWAYS.  We focused more on her recovery skills than her choices.
We realized that it was inevitable that she would ebb and flow between mess and success and we tried to be the steady current that kept her afloat.  

I can now see that the one thing that mattered most for Evy is that:

We tried!!
We tried and tried…again and again.
Continually messing up
Continually figuring it out as we go along and
Continually using her as our little guinea pig.

So that a year from now she will drive off out of driveway only to head to a friend’s house without us in the car… and then a few years later head down the highway on her way to her dorm room and so on and so on. Continually figuring it out along her way knowing that we are here as a continual steady current of support and we will never stop trying as we ebb and flow through parenting mess and parenting success.

We hope that you will see Child in Bloom coaches as steady current of support as you keep trying…remember that we are parents too, learning along the way and with many tips and tools of support that can help pave the way to positive parenting.

A Clean Slate by Rachel Caswell

We all make mistakes and need second chances. We give our friends, coworkers, loved ones do overs. We offer forgiveness and a chance to try again.

As parents, we need to give our kids that same opportunity. We need to give them the chance to fail and try again. But, I know it can be tough when we get caught up in the frustrations of misbehavior.

Our two year old daughter has had a tough weekend for a number of reasons. She’s starting to test the waters to see what she can get away with. When we asked her not to touch our coffee cup, she stared at us and kept tapping it. When we asked her to sit at the table to eat her breakfast, she reached for her bowl, looked us in the eyes, and turned it upside down.

Parenting is hard, but we can offer second chances.

I heard my husband talking to my daughter in the other room. He said, “How about a clean slate?” “Let’s start over.” As I listened to him, I smiled. It had been a tough morning, but he was at a place where he wanted our daughter to get a second chance. A clean slate. A do-over.

Child in Bloom teaches parents the importance of letting kids rewind and try their behavior again. What a valuable lesson for our kids and us big kids too. Sometimes we just need a clean slate.

Let’s all go into this week giving our kids a chance to rewind and try again to succeed.

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.

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.  

Make a Parenting Mental Checklist

If there is a behavior that is driving you crazy, run through our Parenting Mental Checklist to see if you have covered all your bases…

Did you…

  • Teach, Model and Practice before this situation came up?
  • Fast Forward and give the child a chance to see and visualize how we behave?
  • Pause and Remind before transitioning into this situation?
  • Did you set a clear boundary and consequences for their choices?
  • Did you follow through on what you set up?
  • Did you use minimal words (3-5 words at a time)?
  • Did you stay calm without getting emotional?
  • Did you catch them being good (even if it was small bits of progress)?

If not,  no worries… there is always tomorrow.  Just by changing one of these parenting behaviors you might start to see a change towards positive behaviors!!   Make a sign with these cues and hang it somewhere in your house so you can use it to help you remember the parenting tools you want to use next time.

Make your Child’s “Drama Behavior” Exit Stage Left…

Do you have a drama king or queen living in your house?
What about a three-nager acting like they rule the roost?
Or maybe you have the “real deal” (teen) causing all kinds of headaches.

Here’s what we have found… When parents get silly, act and think like a child more, and add in positive drama opportunities themselves there tends to be less power plays.    Adding in more silly and fun times might lead to more connection time between parent and child.  This in turn leads to less attention and drama seeking behaviors from the child.   So let your guard down and get dramatic!

We don’t mean you need to mirror  that yucky teen dramatic behavior  (huffing and puffing around the house).   We mean get silly, relax, have fun, add in role playing, funny voices, laid back antics and maybe you will avoid the power struggle.  Laugh more, play more, create more, joke more and connect more.   Don’t be so serious all the time.

If your child wants to play pretend then follow along and join them on their adventure to a different world.  Connect to the child where they are even if they are in make believe ” la la land” .  It is perfectly normal for 3-5 year olds to spend much of their day in the dramatic play world so join them.

Sticking to your guns and trying to forcefully change a child’s mind simply won’t work in the middle of their temper tantrums… So change up the vibe by adding in dramatic responses that are silly and engaging and connected to dramatic play experiences.  These are the things that will help them regroup and get them off the temper tantrum track.

We know you will see behaviors shift and attitudes lift when you get silly and dramatic and mirror back a kid like perspective.

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!!!

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.

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.