Category Archives: Everyday Parenting

If I Don’t Punish or Give Consequences, What DO I Do?

Even after I outline problem solving to a frustrated parent of a child who just keeps pushing the limits, I get the same reply. “Yeah, okay, but what do I DO?”
It’s hard to understand at first that logical words, emotional understanding and empathy, and asking the child to think is actually DOING anything. We are so accustomed to grounding, time outs, taking away privileges, threatening, and withholding. It’s hard to think a respectful process of working it out is doing something.


What’s hard is dropping the notion that we have to make our children miserable in order to teach lessons.

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Monthly Q&A – Grieving, Transitions and News Anxiety

How to Deal With Grieving

Q. My 3.5 yo nephew’s adored grandmother has just died. She lived far away and he and his mother have just spent two weeks with her. They just got back only to discover that she died right after they left. My question is how his parents should handle this with my nephew. She was very special to him and he was very, very fond of her. Should they be honest, should they just say that she has gone to heaven – how honest would you recommend they be with a 3.5 year old’s processing of the news and his handling of grief?

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5 Things Never to Ask Your Child Right After School

You want to interact and make connection when your kids get home from school. Your kids do too but not in the way you might think.

You’ve missed them, you want to know what they did all day, how they got along, if they had any problems. But questions can feel like an interrogation.

  1. How was school today?
  2. What do you have for homework?
  3. When are you going to do your homework?
  4. What did you get on the test?
  5. What did you learn today?

They have just spent a long hard day meeting (or not) expectations, doing things they might not want to do, following orders, coping for hours, and hopefully working hard and learning. Probably the last they want to do is go over their day with you. They need a break. They need to know here is the place where I can be myself. They need to chill.

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10 Ways to Get Respect from Your Child
Parent/child respect
We want our children to grow to be happy and successful, yes — but more specifically, to be responsible, respectful, grateful, honest, kind, empathic, helpful and giving to others. The irony is that traditional methods of parenting — varying degrees of reward and punishment, threats and criticizing — teaches exactly the opposite.

In my 30 years of working with parents on how to better connect with their children (ultimately resulting in better behavior), I have learned one thing over and over and over. It’s all about relationship. In order to get respect from our children, we need to be respectful of them. Nothing else needs to be taught about how to be a good person that consistent work on a gratifying and mutually respectful relationship doesn’t teach. But it’s not simple.

Developing a Respectful Relationship with Your Child Involves:

  1. Understanding the power of connection. Empathizing with and understanding your child’s agenda, instead of telling them what to do and expecting it to be done according to your agenda.
  2. This may be the hardest — stepping back and trusting your child to do the right thing and allowing many mistakes to get there. Trusting means letting go of nagging and hyper-vigilance.
  3. No blaming and criticizing. The message you intend isn’t the message that is received. A child who feels bad about himself, behaves badly.
  4. The ability to remain objective and observe what is happening right now rather than getting triggered by the past or fears of the future.
  5. Understanding and allowing all of your children’s desires and wishes — not fulfilling all of them, just acknowledging them.
  6. Finding balance through understanding that no family member’s rights and needs are any more or less important than another’s.
  7. Holding appropriate expectations for each child to insure they feel accepted. Accept the child you have, not the child you wish you had. If your expectations are too high for this moment, your child will think he can never be who you want.
  8. Maintaining respectful interaction with your children even when setting a limit or correcting behavior. There is never a need to be disrespectful. Firmness and clarity is all part of establishing mutual respect.
  9. Maintaining a respectful relationship with your spouse or partner to model the relationships you hope your children to have.
  10. Being the type of person you want your child to become.

A good relationship is like a mobile dancing in the breeze. It requires sacrifice, compromise, give and take, and respect for one another — balance. A good relationship is mutually satisfying and leaves you feeling better and stronger. Balance in the relationship comes through understanding and consideration of each other’s needs and agendas — very different for adults and children.

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12 Ways to Boost School Motivation
Discouraged Student
Do you, unintentionally, teach your children that their school performance is for you—not for them? If so, school motivation will diminish.

Parents place so much value on grades and performance that the message to the child is, I care more about how you do than what you do. For too many children, school is a prison sentence to endure, and if they don’t do well, they are a huge disappointment to the most important people in their lives. We need to hand over education to our children and let them know they have our support in doing the best they can but not our disapproval if they don’t.

Jacquelynne Eccles, professor of psychology and research scientist at the University of Michigan, has said, “… motivation and engagement in school on average drops as they move from the elementary school into the secondary school system. You see it in attendance, in getting into trouble, in drop outs from high school and also in dropping out of college.” Dr. Eccles’ perspective of why this is stems from the mindset of the student. She explains, “They don’t think they can succeed in school. They don’t think it’s important; they don’t see its relevance to their lives. It creates too much anxiety. It’s not taught in a way that’s interesting, so it has no appeal to them.” She says, “…students are more likely to be fully engaged in school if they expect they can do well and if they value the learning that schools provide.”

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Pacifiers / Shyness / Self-loathing
Pacifying an upset baby

Your Questions / My Answers

Should I use the pacifier for calming?

Q. My son is 2.5 years. My question relates to dummy use. He has always soothed through sucking! I breastfed until he was two. Then I fell pregnant just before his 2nd birthday so a drop in supply. I offered a dummy for nighttime comfort only. Lately he’s asking for it throughout the day. My calm, easy going little boy is experiencing lots of tantrums in response to minor incidents, like when we play and my assigned character does something he doesn’t like. After yelling what he thinks should happen, he often hits or kicks me and screams, ‘Where’s my dummy!? Get my dummy! Get it! Get it!!!!’. I’ll stop what I’m doing and find his dummy. He is instantly soothed. Tantrums are exhausting as I am nearing the end of pregnancy. I read your post saying that with a soothing calm presence, children will calm down, at which point we can say, ‘look what you were able to do, etc’ thus showing that they can get through and deal with difficult feelings. Is my son’s reliance on a dummy preventing him from learning he can calm himself? Could my pregnancy be related to his tantrums / need to soothe.

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The Power of Waiting
Waiting to cool
No matter the child, no matter the situation, waiting for emotions to cool and for the situation to pass, can make all the difference in your ability to connect.

The following is a story from the mom of an Aspergers child:

As we drove to school one Monday morning, out of the blue my ten year old son said, “Mum, I want to say sorry for what happened on Thursday.”

My son is an ‘Aspiekid’ – he has traits of Aspergers, meaning he was born with a different kind of ‘wiring’ in the brain than most of us. One result of this is that he sometimes gets very distressed about things that others would consider insignificant or even ‘stupid’ to get upset about. He finds it harder than most people to move past these upsets, and when this happens I call it “getting stuck”.

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Involve Your Child in Choosing Activities
Choosing activities
With summer vacation here, how do you choose the right programs or activities for your kids?

Sometimes it’s clear, sometimes it’s not. Lots of agendas are involved when schedules and locations are important in choosing activities year-round.

When choosing activities, consider:

  • This is for your child, not you. Of course it must work for you, but try not to project what you loved as a kid, or what you wish you had gotten to do.
  • Do not sign your child up for something you think she will like and then inform her what she will be doing.
  • Make suggestions but not directions. “What about…? If I were you, I would love that – but that’s me.”
  • Go over general categories—day or sleep away camp, sports programs, theater programs, horse camps, art or music programs, etc. Then include your child (if old enough) in some of the research. The more your child is involved, the more engaged he will be and the less you will be blamed if it doesn’t work out.
  • Job-aged kids need your help and support during the job search, but not your leg-work. Acknowledge the difficulty, share your experiences, be open to hear the griping, offer suggestions, but do not do the work.

Commitment

Many children change their minds, and fears arise about quitting and teaching commitment. This is not limited to summer activities. What do you do when money has been spent? Or children who begged for a program dig in their heals and refuse to go after a couple of sessions? Others start off resisting but with gentle prodding find that once involved they love it.

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Gaming: Hobby or Addiction?
Gaming: Hobby or Addiction?

Do you worry that your child who loves gaming more than anything else has an addiction?

If so, chances are you panic and fear a future for your child that is not pretty. In that emotional state you react in anger and wield threatening consequences when your child resists and get into ugly power struggles that create a wider and wider gulf between you. You feel hopeless and your child grabs for every screen second he can. “Consequences” do nothing.

There is a big difference between a hobby gamer and an addicted gamer — and you need to know the difference.

Gaming is a thrill for many kids. It’s an arena where success and feeling in charge are more easily achieved for children who don’t find it in school or social relationships. It’s easy to connect with others through a game, and mastery is euphoric. It’s the mastery part that can be addictive, especially for the child who finds it nowhere else.

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How to Get to Calm: Lessons from the Oregon Trail
Getting to Calm

What would it take for you to stay calm when it comes to managing your kids’ behavior? Sometimes it feels like a herculean task.

Remember the Oregon trail? One wagon after another followed the tracks made by earlier wagons. The ruts got deeper and deeper as more wagons rode west. In places, a person could stand in ruts up to their waist. It would have been impossible for a wagoneer to veer off in another direction.

When we react to our children the same way over and over, we dig ourselves into emotional and behavioral ruts. Ruts run especially deep when they stem from beliefs we hold about ourselves learned in childhood. If you believe you’re never good enough, a disappointment, or unlovable, etc. from remarks made by parents or teachers, those beliefs stick and can drive your behavior.

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