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.

Summer Musings from Anne Jaroszewicz …

Summer…the best time of year, and three warm, glorious months to take a break from the routines of the school year and recharge.   It’s a time we encourage our children to take walks in the woods or simply lie in a hammock and daydream!  But, when was the last time WE took that walk in the woods or lay in that hammock and daydreamed about our hopes and dreams for our children?

I was reminded of the importance of spending that time in the hammock and  “thoughtfully wishing” a future for our children when I recently re-read Hal Edward Runkel’s book, “Scream Free Parenting”.   In it, he takes us through an exercise of visualizing our children as the adults we hope they will be.  He asks us to consider questions such as, ‘What is the content of (your adult child’s) character?  How self-sufficient is he/she?  Does he/she take responsibility for his choices?  Is he/she physically healthy and active?’  You get the picture.   Once we answer these questions, we realize, in order for our children to become the adults we hope they will be, they need practice….practice making choices (even bad ones!) and learning that choices come with consequences (good and not so good!).  And they need to start practicing NOW, when they are young!

So, in addition to spending that time in the hammock this summer, look for opportunities to give your kids practice in, Decision-making (PB&J or grilled cheese? Blue or Pink shorts? Swim or bike ride?), Responsibility (chores first, then fun), and Choices have Consequences (follow through when they break the rules…EVERYTIME).  No, the Summer won’t be without fights, meltdowns, and tough parenting moments, but thanks to your “thoughtful wishing” you will know it is all part of Helping Them GROW!

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.

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.

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!

A Constant Mess…

A friend of ours is a writer.  He is doing a piece on Love and asked Toby and I to contribute our own perspectives on: What is Love?  Getting this question posed to us at this season of Christmas has been a true blessing because it has allowed us to see the connections between the love we have as parents and the love shown by God at Christmas.  So here goes my shot at the question… summing it up in two main truths.

LOVE IS… Saying Yes to the Mess

Do you remember the Velveteen Rabbit?  When the worn and torn up plush bunny realizes that being loved means being a little shabby.  Well, in the story of Christmas, God shows up with Love in Hand the shabbiest of places.  He chooses a simple young girl to be his vessel to house His Saving Son.  This child arrives into a sticky and messy situation with a confused husband-to-be and questions all around.  And of course that manger scene… It couldn’t be more messy.   All these things were God’s version of true love.  It was one giant mess of a situation, but Mary said YES to it.   I wonder sometimes: How did she do it? She must have turned her focus on the little bundle of LOVE that sat right smack dab in the middle of it in order to get through.  She did not focus on the dirt and the crowded stable, she had to focus on what mattered most and that was the LOVE and her faith in God’s support along the way.

Raising children is a messy business.  Sticky table tops, crunched up pieces of cookie on the floor of your car.  Just think about what your Christmas morning living room will look like… not to mention all the messy sibling squabbles you are going to have to deal with over the next few weeks of break and what about all the sick kids at your house…

OH THE MESS!!!

But here’s the deal:  You’ve said YES to all this.  You’ve made the choice to enter into the messiest of lives and if you can do it with joy and peace and understanding it can be the greatest version of love.  Hang tight through the mess letting it go a little.   Try focussing on the love that sits right smack dab in the middle of it… and keep in mind they are growing and learning and need your support along the way.

LOVE IS …  A Constant that cannot be undone

Just like the Veleteen Rabbit learned once your real you will always be real.  Once Love shows up it does not shift or change.  God again shows us this through Christmas.  There is no give and take of HIS love… it is all give and we continue to be the recipient of this love year after year  no matter what… NO MATTER WHAT!   That little phrase means so much and helps to show LOVE in that steady constant stream that does not ebb or flow with negative or positive emotion but stays the course and never ends.  

This kind of love is the same we have for our own children.  Yes of course there are behaviors and situations surrounding our children that we cannot stand but the LOVE part… it stays steady.  You cannot change it.  It isn’t an emotion that runs high or low depending on the moment.  It is long living, never changing and just there… NO MATTER WHAT.  Knowing this helps us keep our emotions at bay and helps us to deal more matter of factly with the ups and downs that come our way.

So that’s it…Love is a Constant and Love is a Mess…

You might be saying… “Love is a Constant Mess”.

I say, “I’ll take it!”

Although things will shift from toddlers with sticky fingers to teen-agers with sticky situations the mess goes on.   I will keep steady keeping my emotions in check and knowing that I love them no matter what  just as God has shown me His LOVE through the gifts of Christmas that go on and on.

Through my family’s growing years, my house will not be perfectly clean, my bank account will not be overflowing, and my nights will be a little more sleepless.   These things shall pass and I will survive.   But the steady stream of LOVE and LEARNING that we pass on to our children will go on and on reaching into the far depths of our family’s future.

Know that Child in Bloom is constantly here to help you as you work through your family’s growing years.  Don’t go it alone… contact Child in Bloom to get the support you need and make the most of your mess 🙂

 

 

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.

Happy Father’s Day

Here are few things my husband Toby has taught my children and the best part is he has taught them these things not through long drawn out conversations or dissertations but through his example…

He’s taught them…
…How to be a supportive son as he calls on his own parents and loves them unconditionally.

… How to be a great big brother as he continues to positively connect with his own little sister

…. How to be a loyal friend who takes life seriously when he’s suppose to and adds a dose of laughter and humor to all situations

… How to be a loving,devoted, and prayerful husband who recognizes we are walking through our marriage hand in hand with each other and alongside a greater power

For all these things his parenting has given great gifts to our kids.

Happy Fathers Day from Child in Bloom…Photo: Here are few things my husband Toby has taught my children and the best part is he has taught them these things not through long drawn out conversations or dissertations but through his example...</p><br />
<p>He's taught them...<br /><br />
...How to be a supportive son as he calls on his own parents and loves them unconditionally.</p><br />
<p>... How to be a great big brother as he continues to positively connect with his own little sister</p><br />
<p>.... How to be a loyal friend who takes life seriously when he's suppose to and adds a dose of laughter and humor to all situations</p><br />
<p>... How to be a loving,devoted, and prayerful husband who recognizes we are walking through our marriage hand in hand with each other and alongside a greater power</p><br />
<p>For all these things his parenting has given great gifts to our kids.  </p><br />
<p>Happy Fathers Day from Child in Bloom...

Play it Safe

Your number one house rule should be “We are Safe”. This is the one way to make sure that no one gets hurt or humiliated. This means that adults will not hurt or humiliate a child and children will follow suit. It also means that they will make choices that are safe.

Of course being safe means being in control of our bodies, our words, and our choices. Parents get to be the guardians of what is safe and unsafe and they have to stick to this number one rule as they practice a zero tolerance approach to dangerous play, unsafe decisions or harmful behavior.

Think about the things around your house and the routines in your daily schedule as you decide upon safety standards that will support this number one rule.

Use key words to show you mean what you say…” Danger!” is a great quick phrase that can let even the littlest child know that they are nearing an unsafe zone. Change the tone of your voice when you say this phrase so they can tell you mean it. Get down on their level and point to the danger item as you redirect them to another safer choice. Give them an alternate behavior to take the place of the dangerous choice.
Here is an example of what you might say…”No jumping on the couch. Danger! We can sit or lay on the couch, but we cannot jump on the couch. If we want to jump we can jump on the pile of pillows on the floor. ” Here is how we could say this same statement to an even younger child in a more clear and succinct way, “Danger! No Jump on Couch. No No. We can sit. We can lay. But no Jump. Jump on Pillows. Yes Yes. “

Practice makes perfect, so you might have to demo or role play how to play and be safe. Tell them the story of what could happen if they were unsafe. Talk to your child outside of the moment about these things because having an in depth conversation in the heat of the activity will most likely be unsuccessful.

Don’t Go “Chicken Little” On Us

Some say we’re raising our children in The Age of Information, and who can argue with this?  If we need  any insights to support our parenting, it’s literally at our fingertips within seconds. 

Like an acorn falling from the tree of knowledge tree, all this information can be a blessing and a curse.

Maybe a better name for this generation of parenting would be…The Age of Information Anxiety   

As moms of the new millenium, we have so much to worry about: car seats, flu shots, preschool sign-ups, IQ testing, brand names, bullying, peer pressure, screen time, perfect party planning, and more. 

A quick web search on topics like these (below) could send our heads spinning and cause any mom to “Go Chicken Little”…

 

The effects of high fructose corn syrup on children…    “Help! The sky is falling; the sky is falling!!!… I just read that I may doom my child to obesity because I allowed him to put ketchup on his broccoli to get him to eat it.  What should I do???? Skip the broccoli or risk obesity???”

How to properly perform time out procedures with toddlers…Help! The sky is falling; the sky is falling… I can’t get timeout to work for my child… There must be something wrong with me because it’s not changing my child’s behavior.”

Is it ever okay to take away a child’s “lovie”?… Help! the sky is falling; the sky is falling… Yesterday I took away my 4 year old’s favorite bear because he’s been hitting his baby brother over the head with it… Did I wreck his self esteem forever?”

Reasons we should avoid too much screen time… “Help! The sky is falling; the sky is falling… I’ve been letting my youngest child watch tv while I cook dinner EVERY NIGHT, and I just read that too much tv can cause ADHD…. AHHH”

Best bets for three year old birthday bashes …”Help! The sky is falling; the sky is falling… I saw the cutest ideas on Pintrest for a three year old birthday party, but the prize baggies have to be sewn, and the cake has to be made from scratch.

 If you start searching, there are thousands of opinions all claiming to have each parenting topic perfectly mastered. 

 Don’t be fooled so easily… YOU are the only one true expert on your parenting situation.

  You know exactly what you can handle and what will and will not work in your home.  So, don’t let the internet become your Foxy Loxy.  It will only add to the fear and anxiety and cloud your natural instincts.  

Leave the worrying to Chicken Little,  and reflect on the questions below to help you figure out what matters most to you.  Once you have done some inner reflection, your little acorn (or family) will grow into the great big oak tree it was meant to be. 

What routine parts of the day cause trouble for your kids?

Are my husband and I on the same page with our methods of parenting?

If not, how can we meet in the middle?

What is one new response that is doable for my family?

What are the things that are most important to me and my spouse?

How can I avoid getting sucked into worries about how my parenting compares to the rest of the world?

 How can I remember to catch my children being good?

How can I encourage my child to be independent and self regulated?

What are the real safety concerns I need to be aware of for my child’s age level?

 Can we live moderately as a family and stay afloat in this sea of information?

 

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.

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.