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!
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.
Here are some quick tips on getting kids to sleep…
1. Meditation: There are some great apps, CD’s, and books out there that focus on mediations for children and help children reboot their brains as they attempt to fall asleep or calm down when they are revved up. My favorite are books are by Maureen Garth: Moonbeams, Starbright and Earthlight. They have make believe stories that parents can calmly read to sleepy kiddos. The goal is that the child will be able to revisit the meditative scene in their minds when mom and dad are away or when they are trying to cope with stress or worry.
2. Calming Sensory Tools: Depending on what your child’s sensory choice is, find something that he can fiddle with that helps to calm his senses. Oral children might use a calming chewy necklace to chew on. Visual children might like to count stars on their ceiling or watch a lava lamp. Tactile children may want to lay stuffed animals around their bodies to make them feel snug. Auditory children may want to listen to a sound machine or a comforting box fan as they fall asleep. Whatever they need make it part of your bedtime routine.
3. Storytelling about their day… Catch your child being good throughout the day and send them off to sleep with a recap on all the growing and blooming they did that day. Don’t spend time lecturing or debating right before bed, but instead spend time affirming how you saw them making progress (even if it is the tiniest bit of progress). Remember it is our job to help our child retell their storyline so that it is more positive than negative. As you send them off to dream their night away, help them to see that you have noticed they are really trying and really BLOOMiNG!
4. Keep it simple and calm… Many parents I work with have designed the most intricate bed time rituals. Do you feel like your list of to do’s before bedtime continues to grow and grow… turn on the fan, rub their back twenty times, sing four songs, tell about your favorite part of their day. Whatever you do for your systematic bedtime, make is short and sweet. End with a quick I love you and you love me… come across confident and not nervous about bedtime. They will feed off of your confidence or anxiety and mirror each back at you. So keep it less emotional and more matter of fact. A few steps for each part of the routine should be all you need.
Next Day prep: clothes picked out, backpack ready to go, lunches made.
Bathroom steps: potty, teeth, possibly a bath (but you really don’t have to do this every night!)
Bedroom steps:pjs on, one to two stories and prayer
5. Visuals and Charts to Support: If you are using a visual chart to support your bedtime routine, make the children in charge of it. The reason I like to put the kids in charge is that I am just so busy (like you) and odds are I will forget to follow through on it. So make it so that they own the chart. If they want to earn the sticker or stamp they have to remember to do the things on the chart AND remember to give themselves the credit.
6. Leave your timeframe Open ended: Who says we need a hard an fast bed time? It IS best to have a regular bedtime, but who says we have to have a hard and fast bed time? In order to release the power plays that sometimes go with bedtime rituals, give your child a window of time that they may hop in bed… For Example: Quiet time begins at 7:30 and lights out will be 8:15. You can hop in your bed at any time between 7:30 or 8:15. If you are not following expectations and hurting, fussing, or disrespecting the rules (too loud, too rowdy), then you will go to bed right then. This open ended approach gives them the pseudo power they love to gain, and helps you have a system for lights out!
7. If you have an escapee… Whatever works…. within reason and respect and as long as you have given them a preview of what will happen, you have gone through it visually, and you are dealing with it “in the moment” without a lot of emotion.
Here are some tried and true methods that I have seen work!
- The gate goes up if you get out of bed.
- The door is open as long as kids are in bed.
- The light stays on as long as you are on your way to dreamland.
- Some parents will start by sitting in the room as the child gets calm, then moving little by little towards the door.
- Some parents put the kids in the bed and then tell them confidently that mommy will be putting a few towels away and come back and check on you.
- I have even resorted to telling them that their favorite animal will have to sleep with Mommy tonight if you cannot stay in your bed… “Lamby is tired and will come to sleep with me if you get out of bed”
- If they are 4 or 5 they might have a solid enough sense of time that you could postpone a reward until morning if they fall asleep without problems.
- Younger than that it might be too big of a time lapse to get them to connect the dots between reward and behavior.
8. When all else fails design a Social Story/Picture Story detailing how we go to sleep… NO NO’s and Yes Yes’s to help them visualize how this will go. Read the book during other parts of the day so they can begin to visualize it.
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.
Sticking with those Parenting New Year’s Resolutions?
If one of your resolutions was to change the dynamics in your household around PARENTING, Child in Bloom wants to help you get there. Here are a few tips to help insure your SUCCESS!
- Start small – begin by taking on ONE behavior at a time. When we try to change everything at once, we end up right back in the ‘whack-a-mole’ cycle! Ask yourself (and your spouse), what is the ONE behavior that, if changed, could really improve the day?
- Identify a replacement behavior – If they can no longer do X, what CAN they do instead? NAME IT! This is so crucial to getting everyone on the same page, (and for sticking with your 2016 goals!).
- Teach, Model and PRACTICE the NEW scenario. Draw it out or Act it out – Say, “This is what ____________behavior looked like in 2015 – This is the NEW WAY our family is going to do this in 2016! If you have never done this type of Parenting (TEACH/MODEL/PRACTICE) this ‘new’ NEW YEAR’s approach should get them to sit up and take notice!
- Make it VISUAL! Write down the ONE behavior you are working on and then POST it EVERYWHERE! (Over your bathroom and kitchen sinks, at the kitchen table, on the wall in the playroom, on the dashboard of your car, in your wallet!). When the behavior comes up (and it will!), point to the sign as a reminder of the NEW 2016 plan, and thenREVIEW the plan and let them REWIND and try it again – the right way.
- STICK WITH IT! It’s a NEW “BEHAVIOR DIET”, and it is going to take some getting used to. Studies show people who make it through the first THREE weeks of a diet have a very high rate of dieting success – but it is HARD to get past weeks one and two!
Think of that grumbling stomach when you are dieting as a metaphor for the grousing and grumbling you will hear from your kids. REDIRECT them to the replacement behavior, just as you might redirect your food choices from chips and ice cream to healthier choices if you are dieting.CHANGE is HARD!!! EXPECT it to be hard! Have a calendar somewhere in plain sight, and cross off each day of the New Behavior Plan. COMMIT to sticking with it for a minimum of 3 weeks. IT WILL BE SO WORTH IT!!
Make 2016 your family’s “Year of Change”. Good Luck, and remember, the coaches at Child in Bloom are here to help give you a Boost anytime you feel like giving up!
What is it with that song? … You know the one…
Clean Up Clean Up Everybody Everywhere…
Clean Up Clean Up…
Everybody do your share…
That song haunts me sometimes when I least expect it. Yes, my kids (especially my older kids) loved that Purple Dinosaur and his songs stuck with them and much to my dismay they stuck in my head too. In fact if Evy or Mick Mattson were to walk in here right now, they could probably sing through any of those wretched songs word for word. There is something to be said about having a catchy tune to transition a child from a pleasant event (like: playing with their toys) and move them towards a not so pleasant event (like: cleaning up those toys). The song becomes a cue and the change in pitch of their mother’s voice redirects their brains to fall in line and do that job in a more joyful way.
So, the lesson learned is when you feel like your kids are tuning you out, tune into a catchy song to get them to listen. It doesn’t have to be one from a popular kids tv show (although if it is a show they are into it won’t hurt). It could simply be any words put to a common tune. You could sing about eating vegetables to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. You could sing about making good choices to the tune of Do You Know the Muffin Man? You could even sing about their emotions or temper tantrums and how to calm down by coming up with a song that goes to the tune of This Little Light of Mine. Maybe you could even get your kids on board to help you come up with a song. Whatever works, it is worth a shot to add singing to your parenting toolbox.
The one thing that is sure to happen is that singing might make you steer clear of the heightened emotions that often make behaviors go from bad to worse. It may calm your own emotions down, keep you from talking and describing too much and singing will most certainly make you in a less serious and more playful mood. If you are using less words, less emotion, having more fun, smiling more, and more calm you are way more likely to get your child’s attention in positive ways. So if singing can help you do these things let’s put singing to use more often in our day to day parenting.
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.
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.
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
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.
After each workshop, I ask the parents to write down the one tip they are going to go home and try to implement.
Here is a list of the
Top 10 tips chosen by parents this year:
10. Role play or use puppets to act out positive behaviors with your child.
9. Design a list of Stop and Go behaviors that fit your family’s style and needs.
8. Use a visual chart to help your child see and regulate their emotional state.
7. Use phrases like: Nice gets nice and nasty gets nothing,
Let Me Know, Work it out or Walk away, Me First Goes Last,
and Make a Good Choice to support your parenting.
6. Give your child the power they are requesting by offering choices
including the choice to let Mom choose,
or the choice to take a break or take a loss if they aren’t cooperating.
5. Use simple signs to talk to your kids like thumbs up or down.
4. Preview how to behave in certain scenarios using visual stories.
3. Change your tone: using less emotion and a more clear, firm, and kind tone.
2. Use remote control parenting…
Fast Forward (Preview), Rewind (Try it again),
Pause (take a break), Mute(less talk and emotion).
1. Use phrases like, “I’ve noticed…” to acknowledge positive behavior
Patterns… Where does the behavior show up? When is the behavior absent? Who handles the behavior best? What triggers the behavior? How does your parenting response affect the behavior? Why is the behavior worse in certain environments? …. Follow the patterns to find the best methods for dealing with your child’s behavior.
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.
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!
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…
- 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.
- 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.
- Follow through on the first time if your child doesn’t follow the plan.
- 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.
- Ask for a table that is remote and far away from diners who want to have a quiet evening away.
- Boothes are always a good choice for spreading out and giving your child the room they need to wiggle and giggle.
- 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.
- Bring food and drinks to offer while you wait.
- 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.
- Pay attention to your child and put your phones to the side as you focus on this special time with your family.
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”