The problems just keep coming…No matter how we try to avoid the road blocks that stand in the way of our child’s life it is bound to happen that they come across a problem and they will need skills to solve around it.
The worst thing we can do as parents is to constantly problem solve for them, instead we need to focus on giving them chances to practice critical thinking skills on their own.
This means we might have to sit back and watch them suffer and struggle a little. The suffering and struggling is good for them. It helps them to become critical thinkers and resilient to the point that they can bounce back from the problems easier and easier with each new experience because like we said earlier…the problems will keep coming.
Recently, one of my long time Child in Bloom fans emailed me for some books to use to help kids learn to problem solve. Here are the books I mentioned to her:
My favorite… Battlefield of the Mind for Kids by Joyce Meyer (there are some religious, Christian themes to this which goes nicely if you are looking for a faith based approach to problem solving).
Great Ideas and Activities that are Kid Friendly… The Survival Guide for Kids with Behavior Challenges by Dr. Tom McIntyre (This is about how to make good choices and stay out of trouble, but I have to admit I DO NOT like the title of this because I think this book good for ALL kids and I can’t imagine any child wanting to read a book titled this way… Still, it is a great book!)
The American Girl Series has some great troubleshooting books for friendship, safety and simply growing up.
Look for books on Conflict Resolution
Here is a great book on parenting that has some wonderful ideas on creating problem solving kiddos… Thinking Parent… Thinking Child
I love this book as a teacher (I used to use it in my classroom way back when…) Teaching Conflict Resolution Through Children’s Literature It is a list of great activities and literature books that support conflict resolution and critical thinking.
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.
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?
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.
A teacher could spend their whole day saying NO NO NO.
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!
We know that Choice is one way we can give children the power they are trying so desperately to gain. When setting up your choices keep these things in mind:
- Give them two viable choices that you can live with.
- Make one of the choices a more preferable choice that they may desire more.
- Giving them a Choice takes them off the Power Playing Track and onto the Decision Making Track
- When giving them a choice start with a fact question : Where? When? With Whom? What? How?
Here are some examples:
- Where will we put your lego project when we leave for grandmas… on the table or on the counter?
- When will you brush your teeth… before pjs or after pjs?
- Who do you want to bring with you into the tub… your super heroes or your pirates?
- What veggie will you eat…salad or asparagus?
- How many things will you clean up… 10 or 15?
- How will you go upstairs… crawling up the stairs like a baby or running fast like cheetah?
These choices can work for tweens and teens too… See examples below:
- Where will you do your homework… on the couch or at the kitchen table?
- When will you start your social studies project… Friday night or Saturday morning?
- Who could you call to help you with your homework… neighbor or grandpa?
- What outfit will you wear to church… the blue polo or the long sleeve oxford?
- How many math problems will do before dinner… 5 or 10?
- What time should we meet up at the entrance to Kings Island… 5 or 6?
Whatever you do avoid the Why questions because they put the focus on feelings and lead to debate and power struggles.
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.
There are two things that children are usually looking for when they display inappropriate behaviors…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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!
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.
Sometimes 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)
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!
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”
-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.
You probably have certain phrases that roll off your tongue on a daily basis. In fact, your children could probably tell us what you are going to say even before it comes out of your mouth. Think about your key phrases and post them around your house. They will give you a visual reminder of your system and phrases for positive behavior support and the visual cues might help the children to remember to make the good choice.
Here are a few of the Key Phrases that the Mattson kids have heard over and over again…
Me first goes last
(they know this means if you scramble to get the biggest piece of pizza you will get the smallest piece 🙂
Nice gets Nice and Nasty gets nothing
(Notice this doesn’t say Nice gets Nice and Nasty gets Nasty. When they make the good choice they will get to participate in good times and get the nice attention of mommy. When they make a nasty choice, they will not get my emotions, or my drama and they definitely won’t get any nice treats.)
Make a good choice
(I used to say this even to my older students as they transitioned back into their regular classroom. It was my standard phrase, and they came to expect it and of course they had their standard phrase back to me… The long drawn out… “We will Mrs. Mattson”. These were big kiddos with some heavy duty problems, but they seemed to take comfort in this back and forth between us. They would count on me to say it (however annoying it may be to them 😉 and it made me feel like I had one final ounce of influence on them as they headed out to the real world beyond my small resource room.)
This just gives them a second chance at making the good choice… Would you like to say that again in a nicer tone (REWIND).
Take a break
This just means get it together so you can come back and “join the party”
When in doubt… choose kind…(This is from the book Wonder by RJ Palcio)
This is a new one that has entered our world over the last year because my kids and I read this book. It is a simple reminder that you are in charge of your choices and your outcomes will be so much easier for everyone if you simply choose the thing that is kind.
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.
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!
Is it because you’re both stuck on seeing the world in black or white?
What would happen if you tweaked your perspectives and did some flexible thinking to work things out?
Think about what you can and can’t live with, set boundaries around these things but know and show that there are multiple ways to get to the same end.
Make a list of …creative ways to do the same old thing. Ask your child what they think might help solve the issue. Sit with other parents and brainstorm a list of solutions.
When we fade our perspective into gray, we might find a middle ground that is filled with less perfection and more peaceful relationships.
“Teach your child to show strength by self control, not by controlling others” —-John Taylor PH.D and author of From Defiance to Cooperation
How do we teach self control?
Discuss choice making…. Positive and Negative
Acknowledge positive choices and self control when you see them
… Give tools for self control like: a chance to rewind or a chance to take a break
Model using these tools as the parent saying ” I think I want to rewind and say this again in a calmer voice” or ” I am going to take a break before I talk to you about this…”
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”.
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!
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.
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
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.
Here are a few of the bedtime ideas I have used in the past. Although they may seem like common knowledge, many parents seem to omit these key items in their bedtime routines.
Routines…Positive Interactions…Support for negative feelings…Clear Boundaries Continue reading “Bedtime Routines For Toddler Sleeping”