Category Archives: Discipline

Homebound with Kids: Crisis or Opportunity?

I am more scared about spending all day every day with my 4 kids and their different emotions and stages than I am about getting a virus.  Mom on facebook.

We are floundering in uncharted territory. Never could we imagine the scenario we are all living with this coronavirus. Now more than ever is the time to BREATHE, give everyone a break, and connect with those precious children of yours.

Yet at the same time, you and the people around you may be flipping in and out of panic or at least worry, fear, and overwhelm. You’re all cooped up in one place together and will drive each other crazy!

This is the greatest unknown we have ever faced. Humans need a sense of certainty and security. This pandemic has taken every shred of that out from under us. I offer here a few suggestions and realize every home situation is different.

Managing yourself in this predicament:

  • Many of you and your children have an inherent stamina to weather the storm, to acknowledge there is nothing to be done but wait it out. But others who have an enormous sensitivity to their own and other people’s tension and anxiety, just feel everything more intensely. For those, the need for order and stability is even greater. As well as the need for self-care.
  • Check in on your need to control. The more you need it, the more you become victim to fear and panic. When you feel it coming up, that’s the time for breathing deeply at the very least and maybe walking outside.
  • Check your catastrophizing. If you fear you will never work again, recognize that as a fear, not a fact. Then turn it into a fact. This is hard right now being out of work. I get afraid easily. Then your fear becomes self-compassion.
  • Find a mantra when that feeling of anxiety or panic arises. Something like, I can do this, We have each other, One day at a time, Keep on keeping on.
  • Actually schedule a time each day or at least every other to connect with a partner or trusted friend to explode your worry. Seriously. Do not try to bottle it up for the sake of your kids. You will be far calmer with your kids if you let out your anger, fear, or panic with someone who promises not to tell you to just calm down.
  • This can be a time to do things you never have time to do. Take a learning program or online yoga class, clean out that closet, wash windows. Plan something that can involve all of you. Or take on a project just for yourself you can do after the kids are in bed.
  • Practice connection. Watch for what each of your children needs, how they are different. Pay attention to and connect with the underlying emotions provoking behavior instead of yelling at or threatening the behavior.
  • If your kids are focused on screens, learn from them. Ask what about this game fascinates, challenges your child. Ask them to teach you how to play.
  • Have fun.

If you and your spouse are both working from home:

  • There will be distractions galore. Plan with your partner on-call working hours when you, not your partner can be distracted. Say from 9:00-11:00, if kids need someone, you are the go-to, not your partner.
  • Wear a certain color when you are not to be disturbed unless the house is on fire.
  • Designate certain hours when each of you are with the kids so the other can work—and when you are together as a family. Make it clear.

Talking to your kids about coronavirus:

  • The most important thing to keep in mind is egocentrism consumes your children’s brains until at least age seven, and then it only starts to wane. Your young children are concerned about one thing—what does this mean for me? Don’t expect kindness and consideration for others. But do model it.
  • It’s important to be able to answer your children’s questions honestly. That doesn’t mean every last detail. It just means don’t lie. It’s a tricky balance to communicate the seriousness of this pandemic to understand why they have to stay home, forgo playdates and sleep-overs, not take the car to visit friends, and wash their hands 20 times a day without instilling unnecessary fear.
  • Talk about how germs spread and scatter. Tell them that some germs give us a cold and some germs make us very sick. That’s why we have to be very careful about keeping our bodies healthy so they can fight off the bad germs.
  • For all kids, it is safe to emphasize that children either do not get the virus or have it so mildly it feels like a cold. Let them know, that you also would probably get it mildly. The reason it is so critical to stay home away from people is because it is so very contagious, spreadable. And that old people and those who are already very sick can actually die of it.
  • And yes, let them know this is critical for their grandparents. But they will be fine as long as they don’t get the germs.
  • With kids old enough to understand, talk about what you are all doing to help contain the spread of the virus even if you aren’t in danger yourselves. Discuss why it’s wrong to get together with other people on the chance you might pick up some germs and pass them on injuring people you may not even know. It’s a great time to talk about doing the right thing.
  • Plan ahead for how each child wants to handle meltdowns. Discuss the reality of being together all the time. What works best for each? Some may want alone time in their rooms. Some may want to stick to you more than ever. How will you all respect each other’s needs including yours?

Talking to your kids about schoolwork:

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Feb ’20 Q&A – The Value of Allowance

Q. What is the right approach to give pocket money to 7.5 year old? I’m confused between giving some amount on a weekly basis as pocket money and keeping a list of chores which can be done to earn money. I don’t want her to think work needs to be done only when you get paid. Neither do I want her to think she is entitled to money.

A. I couldn’t agree more that teaching your child that work is done only when you are paid for it is a bad idea. That’s why allowance should never be attached to chores.

What I do believe is that giving an allowance to a child as soon as they are able to understand and be somewhat responsible about money is one of the smartest things you can do. Learning about money—how to manage it, save it, spend it, and value it—is as important for children as learning how to swim. “Entitled” to money—maybe not. But entitled to learn about money—definitely. And you must have it to learn. Critical for the years ahead.

If your children are used to using their own money and knowing what it is for, you will be teaching life skills in so many areas.

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Dec ’19 Q&A – When Expectations are Off and Trust Gets Lost

Q. I am currently feeling like a failure as a parent. My 12 year old daughter is smart, well behaved, does well in school. However, there are 2 main areas where we fight and tempers flare resulting in a tense hostile environment at home. 

1) She sneaks food. She loves junk food like cookies and chips. We have a policy at home where the kids get to choose 2 junk items from the pantry as snack after school. And the deal is they don’t eat anything later. It works in most part, but she ends up taking 1-2 extra things on the side to her room. I am worried about the impact of constant junking on her teeth & overall health. She just cannot stop herself from eating. I cannot constantly monitor her and increasing the ‘allowed’ unhealthy stuff on a daily basis is not an option. 

2) The other is her watching You Tube, again without my knowledge. She has to use the laptop for homework, and I cannot baby sit while she is doing that as I have another kid and work to take care of. And mainly I want to give her the independence of making the right choices in the long term. Watching screen distracts her from homework, impacts the quality of her work so it takes till dinner time to complete! Plus, I don’t approve of what she watches. While age appropriate they are a waste of time and not shows that will enrich her, improve her skills and help her grow as an individual. 

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What to do When Your Button Gets Pushed

We all know what it’s like to lose it with a child. When that button gets pushed, you see red, your authority and sanity flies out the window and you say and do things you swore you never would. It feels like there’s nothing you can do about it—but there is. Once you know that button belongs to you, and your reaction is your responsibility, not your child’s to change so you can stay calm, the job of uncovering that button and identifying it is the next step. It’s a peeling away process, and the layers to be peeled are not at all obvious for most of us.

After a button-pushing situation, take the time to dig. It’s easiest to start with your reactions. If you didn’t like your reaction, write down what you did.

Reaction: When that happened, I blew up and screamed.

Then think about how you felt. Your emotions are one word. I felt like I was a terrible parent is a thought. The feeling might be hopeless.

Feelings: I felt used, resentful, unappreciated.

Okay great, you have identified your reaction and your emotions.

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Don’t Take It Personally

What happens to you when your child behaves less than perfectly? When he ignores you or she screams, “I don’t have to listen to you.” Some of you can respond effectively by changing your behavior and addressing whatever the situation is from a different or calmer place, with a different attitude, tone or posture. But probably many of you get your button pushed, think your child is out to get you and yell back behaving just the way you don’t want your child to behave.

The difference is the parent who takes it personally and the parent who doesn’t. So what makes the difference?

When I’m working with parents on this, I often describe the cartoon in my book “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons” on p.86. The mother is trying her hardest to deflect those oncoming critical remarks with a shield, but the onslaught catches her off guard, and she doesn’t get her shield up in time, so the remarks hit her hard. This perfectly illustrates taking it personally. Once those remarks, attitudes, behaviors are allowed to get past your shield (your boundary), it’s next to impossible to respond neutrally and effectively.

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8 Suggestions for Teaching Mindfulness to Children

By Aimee Laurence

Mindfulness is good for all of us. It helps us be present as parents, choosing better responses instead of going with the first thing that comes to mind. It’s also good for children because it helps them pay attention, stay calm when they feel upset, and improves their decision making. In order to teach these skills to your children, you need to first establish your own practice so you can teach what you know. You also want to keep it simple so your children can understand that at its core, it means being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and what’s happening around you.

The purpose of teaching mindfulness to your children is to allow them to gain better awareness of their experiences, both inner and outer, to understand their thoughts and emotions, and to be better at controlling impulses. With that being said, you need to manage your own expectations, because it’s impossible that you’ll eliminate tantrums, or completely calm down your child – they are kids and it’s normal for them to be loud and exuberant. With this in mind, here are 8 different ways you can start introducing mindfulness to your children at home.

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July ’19 Q&A – Work With Your Child on Issues that Bug You Most

Q. I currently feel like a failure as a parent. My 12 year old daughter is smart, well behaved, does well in school. However, there are 2 main areas that we often fight about resulting in a tense hostile environment at home. One is sneaking junk food. We have a policy for the kids to choose 2 junk items from the pantry after school. It generally works but my daughter ends up sneaking extras to her room. She cannot seem to stop herself from eating. I cannot constantly monitor her and increasing the ‘allowed’ unhealthy stuff on a daily basis is not an option.

The other habit is watching YouTube without my knowledge. She has to use the laptop for homework, and I cannot baby sit. I want to give her the independence of making the right choices in the long term. Watching YouTube distracts her from homework and impacts the quality of her work. And I do not approve of the type of videos she watches. They are age appropriate but have no enriching content and are a waste of time. I would like her to watch videos that will enrich her, improve her skills and help her grow as an individual.

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Engaging Kids in Housework

Kids don’t want to do chores. That’s a fact. Expect this. That doesn’t mean let them off the hook. It is essential for our kids to be contributing members of the family to develop an investment in and consideration for their family members. A family is a team. When you are on a team, every team player is important to the working of the whole.

But when you yell, bribe, or threaten them to do their chores, the underlying assumption is that they should want to but they don’t. This unrealistic expectation means you will yell when that expectation is not met. But if you understand that kids don’t want to do chores, you will be more effective at ensuring they get to work.

Remember when your toddlers and preschoolers begged to run the vacuum, fold laundry, wash windows, and sweep the floor? It would have taken the entire morning and you’d have to do it over anyway. You didn’t have the time or patience so you got them out of the way to just get it done. Well, you might have missed your chance. Little children want to help — until we make them.

By the time they are capable of doing a decent job, time has elapsed since toddler enthusiasm, and they no longer want to be with you every minute of the day. They are into their own thing and household tasks take them away from their own thing. Of course they don’t want to.

Now, you know your kids are going to fight you, moan, and complain when you ask them to do their chores. Who wants that? Plus you’ll have to police them, and then what if they don’t do them? That’s when consequences come in to play — usually taking something away that they care about, which turns into a battle and you erode any inkling of desire. Certainly no self-esteem is developed.

Requiring help is not about teaching them how to clean house or making them do chores for the sake of doing chores. Your kids will most likely keep a decent house one day even if they never clean yours. And they will learn to do what has to be done when it’s their responsibility. Requiring help is about helping. It’s about team work, taking on responsibilities to help the team run more smoothly. It’s about the relationship a child has with his family. It’s about seeing oneself as a helper. A helping child will be far more invested in family events and planning when she feels like an important member of the team, and she will feel more connected to her family as a source of support (the most important protective factor in anything you fear for your child).

It feels good to know that you help your family out. You feel proud of being needed, of doing things that save time for someone else. I once overheard my twelve-year-old son and his friend trying to best each other as they compared household jobs, griping as their chests swelled. That doesn’t mean they want to or would offer help if you didn’t require it. Don’t expect the offer to help for many years. Instead expect grumbling.

 

Here are some key points to help your kids be better helpers:

  • Ditch the word “chores”. No one wants to do chores, but people like to be helpful, useful. Use “help” or “jobs”.
  • Understand and be considerate of their agendas, even things you hate them doing or think of as trite. Remember, your child’s agenda is as important to him as yours is to you. Expect them to want to play rather than help.
  • A child’s job is to get what she wants, when she wants it. We are all like that. Maturity opens the perception that other people want what they want, too. So, consideration and compromises become necessary for relationships. You don’t have to teach your child this (the teaching comes in the doing), and if you try too early, your attempts will fall on deaf, egocentric ears.
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    Sept. ’18 Q&A – Old Beliefs, English as a Second Language and Teen Swearing

    Old Beliefs Interfere with Appropriate Discipline

    Q. I could never argue my case to my parents and was told not to sass them and be quiet or I wouldn’t get to do what I wanted or I’d have privileges taken away. I don’t like how my parents handled this, but I still ended up believing that if I don’t give consequences/punishments to my child, he will keep misbehaving. I will, however, let him make his case when he’s older.

    Our son is 4 yrs. old. We have a rule not to get into daddy’s toolbox in the garage. He was drawn to one particular tool. I’ve explained that the tools are expensive and that he can only use them with an adult. After 3 times getting the same tool, I finally put it up high. A few days ago I was out in the yard and came back to the garage to find he’d gotten out a tube of Ultra Black. It’s VERY gooey, thick, black silicone stuff. It was an ultra PAIN to wash off his hands and feet. We also have a rule to stay in the back yard, which we’ve gone over MANY times—he still goes out of the back yard. (We’re waiting for a new fence to be installed.) Is a natural consequence of going out of the backyard that he can’t play outside any more that day? Do I just talk to him about this rule? Are my expectations too high thinking he will just stay in the back yard? Same for not getting into the toolbox?

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    Hindsight on Gaming and Screentime

    Gaming and computer usage is probably the hottest topic in parenting. I have said much about it and share some articles here, but there is nothing like the horse’s mouth. This mom of an 18 yr. old son and two teen daughters, commented on my Facebook Group so eloquently that I asked her if she would write more about her experience. Below is just that. I couldn’t have said it better, so I share it with you:

    My son is now 18 and we had a talk recently about gaming and Fortnite specifically as we seem inundated with commentary around parent’s frustrations and concerns about the amount of time their kids are spending playing this game. It was a fascinating chat as we have some perspective now and can reflect on what worked and equally importantly what did not work well managing his love of gaming growing up.

    Looking back, my seminal moment came when he was 16 and wanted to use his own money to build a PC for gaming. He is now able to reflect on how we approached screens — this part was not always comfortable to hear — and how gaming now fits into his life as one of his many interests, hobbies and passions.

    He has always gamed, and this was a real hot spot for us. We all argued about it – my son and I argued, his Dad and he argued, and my husband and I argued about how long he was on line or whose turn it was to get him off! We valued family time, and him having multiple interests and balance, so we set rules which have always been simple and clear: A maximum time a day, one screen at a time (no double dipping), never in the bedroom (in the kitchen until he was a teen) and only after chores and homework. The consequence for not getting off was that the time was further limited the following day.

     

    The biggest lesson that I learned when he was younger was to try and engage. It never worked to shout from the next room or give no notice when it was time to get off. A better strategy was to engage first with what he was doing (perhaps asking to see his Minecraft creation), agree on a 5 or 10-minute warning (a timer worked well) and acknowledge him for the tough task of getting off. I tried to remain calm but clearly did not always get it right.

    When he was 16 and asked to buy and build his own gaming PC, the answer was quite simply, NO, as surely that would just lead to more focus on and time online. He was angry and frustrated and wrote a long email setting out all his issues around my approach to his gaming.  He pointed out, and I realised during the “discussions” around this new PC, that I just did not “get” his love and interest in gaming. He told me that this was his hobby, that I never understood or liked it (did I know the names of the games he played?) and that I had no trouble being involved in his sisters’ interests (I made it known that riding was a much healthier pursuit!). I only ever saw and brought up the negatives without taking any time to appreciate that he enjoyed the strategy, the action and the fun while finding new friends and feeling part of a community. He even added links to research and articles that highlighted the benefits of various games.

    He reminded me that he did well in school, had other interests, and kept to the limits and rules. And he was right! I needed to address my own issues and show the empathy he deserved.  Deep down (and not so deep down!) his gaming was a real button pusher for me. I worried that he loved gaming too much. I would react badly when he needed help getting off. I realize now that I was extrapolating to a life addicted to gaming and his subsequent ruin.

    He did get his PC and through many conversations (the two-way kind) about why, where, when and how this PC would be used, I gained a deeper understanding and closer connection with my son.

    For his part, when he looks back he can now see that the limits were an important part of learning self-control, although he still thinks that I was at times too rigid and didn’t completely “get it”.  He acknowledges that just as in the off-line world kids need to be taught and learn safety, self-control and resilience, they do need these lessons in the on-line world too. Just as they won’t learn from experience if they never leave the house, they won’t learn how to manage their on-line life unless they are allowed on-line with appropriate boundaries.

    So, what about Fortnite? According to my son, it’s compelling as it is cross platform, it’s free, it’s simple and team oriented yet strategic and the objective of being the last man standing is fun! It is however just another game – as Minecraft was for him growing up. So, the same principle applies. We are trying to teach on and off-line resilience as there will be another Fortnite in the future.

    A few of our suggestions:

  • Educate yourself – know and understand what they are playing and all the features.
  • Set age appropriate, clear boundaries that reflect your values and their age, stage and temperament. Just as you would not let them loose in the mall until old enough and without first teaching how to find you or their way home, don’t let them loose on-line without some training and rules.
  • Be consistent, be respectful and above all be empathetic.
  • Support your kids in their off-line interests. Be a mud slinger – let them try lots of things and see what sticks.
  • Family time – eat as many meals together as you can, have fun and keep the conversation going!
  • Know your child — My son is very intense, sensitive and did not like transitions when he was young. Understanding your child’s temperament is vital when it comes to having appropriate expectations for their ability to manage screens and their need for help in doing so.
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