Steps to Help a Bullied Child
Bullied Child

It is not easy to learn your child is being bullied. You are ready to do battle—anything to save your child from the pain and agony of daily terrorizing. Especially if you were bullied as a child. It’s hard enough to watch a sibling use age and power to overcome the wishes of the younger but a school bully, or a controlling friend is quite another thing. High emotional reactions from parents are always understandable but never helpful.

Bullying has likely been going on awhile when most parents learn of it—if they ever do. For the child, being the target of a bully is humiliating and shameful. The target does not want anyone to know. Even the most loving and accepting parent is often the last to find out for fear he may be letting his parents down. After all, to the target, he assumes it must be his fault. He must be weak and ineffective at preventing the bullying.

Therefore it is up to the parent to interpret behavioral signs. Not an easy thing to do. Changes in typical behavior, moodiness, staying alone, loss of appetite or sleep, sudden or more intense rudeness toward siblings or parents are a few behaviors that could signal bullying.

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The Powerful Meaning of Play

Q: Our bedtime pattern seems to be my 4-yr-old daughter pushing limits until there’s a consequence; then she sulks. Two nights ago, for example, she had a couple of little stuffed animals that she was giving voices to that kept interrupting story-time. I said she could hold onto them as long as they didn’t interrupt but they’d have to go downstairs until tomorrow if they couldn’t be quiet. Of course they weren’t. Last night she got a balloon out and was playing with it and wouldn’t put it away. Same thing until I raised my voice. She is getting very silly and defiant around bedtime, often with her older sister’s encouragement. Any ideas?

A. It’s your interpretation that she pushes to get you angry or until there’s a consequence. Almost all kids push or act out to be heard and accepted. Nothing she is doing here is wrong. It’s simply an inconvenience—but it is unacceptable to you.

Read over this question and see that your daughter is being reprimanded for playing. Yes, it’s disruptive to what you want, but it is play. And she wants your engagement in that play.

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Expert Advice to Design the Ultimate Kids Playroom at Home – Porch
Playroom
April 15, 2022 This article first appeared in Porch Playing involves so much more than just having fun. It’s an essential activity for kids to have a healthy development. As parents, you can adapt any space at home and design a playroom where your kids can explore, get creative, and learn. We asked experts for their tips and input on how to create the perfect playroom for your kids at home.

What are the  activities that help with the development of children’s skills?

“PLAY! When children play, they are in fact learning. This is true for adults too. For infants, parent-guided play is great for eye tracking, voice and face recognition. These can all be done by holding, talking and singing to a baby or moving an object left and right so they can follow it with their eyes. The PlanToys PlayGym is great for infants. As they get older, they will work on fine and gross motor skills. Pulling our Rainbow Alligator or moving beers from one hive to another with our Beehive set. My favorite type of play for children is pretend play. They get to use their imagination and there is no limits with that. Children can develop those creative skills by playing with our Victorian Dollhouse,  playing make believe with as a chef with our Wonky Fruits, or recording their adventures to share with the world using our Vlogger Set.“

PlanToys

What activities can parents implement for their kids to learn different languages?

“To learn a new language, repetition is the key. Also, children learn better from a friend than from a formal teacher. Parents can buy language companions like ROYBI Robot which teaches children new languages through conversation and repetition. They can create fun family moments, for example bringing the toy to the dinner table and playing the lessons related to food. This way not just the child but the entire family can learn and creates an exciting family bond. Parents should consider language tools that have a variety of lessons so they can incorporate these into their daily and fun activities. Language learning should be fun!”

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Basic Trust: Seeing All that Glorious Light
New Parents

As I sit blissfully holding my infant grandson, I am struck by his fragility and vulnerability. He is dependent on us, his caregivers. And we in turn look to every possible behavioral sign to determine what needs caring for. Is he hungry, tired, does he have an internal pain, does he need a burp, a suck, a bounce, a diaper change? We rotate through the possibilities hoping to land on the right one, thrilled when we do, worried when we don’t. 

When he’s content, he coos and looks around curious about all he sees. When something is wrong, he makes a pained face and cries. We answer those cries. We will do so for a good long time to come. 

Caregivers must pay attention to behavior that signals a problem the child is having—a need that must be met. As he grows, his cries turn to whines, hurts to frustration and anger. Sensations of discomfort, pain, and hunger get complicated with jealousy, confusion, shame, fear, embarrassment, anger. As he learns he is a separate entity, he understands that he can be left alone, yelled at, and made to feel bad. He learns he can be a problem to those he loves and needs the most.

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28 Reasons to Be a Connective Parent
Connected Parenting

Q. I am really trying to parent my two kids, 5 and 7, differently than the way I was raised. I am good at telling my husband and my friends that I want to parent with connection. But when they say what does that mean, I’m lost. I get about as far as – ‘Well, it just doesn’t feel right to parent the old way.’ And of course I have my days when I lose it and do everything wrong. I wonder if you could help me think thru why I want to do a connective approach and what I can say to my naysayer friends.

A. This is a common conundrum for many parents who want to parent differently but who haven’t yet absorbed the principles of why or experienced the results of a connected relationship yet. It takes time to incorporate a new method before you can explain to others why you are doing what you’re doing.

It also requires a certain amount of child development knowledge not well understood in traditional parenting to know what can be realistically and appropriately expected for a child to succeed at meeting those expectations. As well as a trusting understanding of your child’s unique temperament.

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Chores and Other Distasteful Words
Child Doing Chores

I hate the word chores, and I can guarantee your kids do too. Asking kids to do chores is like saying I want you to take on this drudgery, this burden. And then when the expectation is that they should do them willingly because of all you do for them—that’s a catastrophe waiting to happen.

First, think of another word. I have heard them called contributions, which has exactly the right intention behind it. Jobs can feel a bit more important than the onus of chores. Do your chores sounds like an imposed sentence.

Second, set your expectations of your kids appropriately. Do not ever expect that your kids will be happy to help. Wanting to help out and having consideration of all you do, comes with maturity. Children are naturally egocentric and care only about their own happiness—frustrating, yes, but developmentally appropriate. They grow into being considerate when their needs are considered.

Third, set your expectations of yourself appropriately. Expect that from a very young age, your children are going to do tasks to be helpful. Just don’t expect them to like it or to think of their jobs without reminders and prompts. The important thing is that they do them, so they learn they are important contributing members of the family. A family is a team. When you are on a team, every player is important to its success.

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Feb ’22 Q&A Hitting a Wall? (Revising a conversation from May ’20)
Emotional Exhaustion

Q. I’m utterly overwhelmed. I’m resentful of those who have support from a partner and grandparents and guilty for feeling resentful. Frustrated that there’s no end in sight. Exhausted, emotionally and physically. Sad. I miss my family and friends. Lonely. 3 kids 1, 4 and 8 entirely on my own. Working 60 hours a week. Trying to be grateful I’m employed but there is no balance possible when you have 3 kids in tow. I don’t bathe or sleep without them and if I try, they scream or immediately ‘need’ me for something which is their anxiety showing up. It’s endless. How do I stay sane?

A. We’re on year three of a global pandemic and all of us, especially parents with young unvaccinated children or families with unpredictable child education schedules due to positive COVID cases, are still very much in the throes of it. If we thought we were exhausted in May, 2020, it’s certainly not gotten better for a lot of people. Maybe we’ve become more accustomed to our reality, but emotional stress among our hardworking families is very real and present.   

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Willful Defiance: A Lesson for Parents and Teachers

Defiant Child

We live in a school culture within a parenting culture that expects its children to fit in and embrace that culture.

For many children acculturation happens seamlessly. But for at least 1 in 5 children*, it requires giving up oneself, shifting off base, and surrendering to a non-nurturing authority. In other words, understanding that you are wrong and the other is right. Parents are expected to take on the role of enforcer using consequences, threats, punishment, withdrawal of what is most cherished—coercive tactics to manipulate children into being who they are expected to be. 

These are the children we see as defiant and oppositional. The square pegs society tries to fit into its round holes. And if they don’t adjust enough, they become the troublemakers, the problems, the ones we fear our children will grow up to be. These are the children who are tough to raise and who cause problems in classrooms. 

At home, they fight the rules and argue every direction given. Parents complain they never listen, won’t do as they’re told and refuse to comply. At school they are considered disruptive, attention-seekers. The problem worsens with reprimands, isolation, and punishment. Counselors are brought in but counseling that typically focuses on training the child to self-control, keep emotions in the “green zone”—messages that unintentionally say You’re not right the way you are. This “help” further identifies the child as the troublemaker, the one who can’t get along, the one who isn’t like the others who don’t need a counselor’s help. 

The message is loud and clear to all the “normal” children—this is the child with a problem, the one not to trust, to stay away from, to tattle on, to make fun of. All children are harmed in this process of coercion by isolation.

Why do we think making children feel alone and wrong is going to motivate them to do what we want? If they acquiesce, it is out of fear which leads to stress and anxiety. 

What we miss seeing in these children is their intense awareness of justice, of knowing what is not right for them, that they can’t, not won’t fit. These children have a sensitive litmus monitor to anything that does not feel fair to them (to them being the operative words). They tend to be smart, easily bored, charismatic (class clown), extremely loving, highly sensitive both emotionally and physically (too light, sound, smell, clothing, stimulation) and fiercely loyal. They want desperately to do the right thing, but they can’t do what someone else thinks is right if it doesn’t fit who they are. They have a strong sense of personal integrity. We miss these aspects because they can be so hard to get along with since their idea of what is right doesn’t fit with what is needed to maintain acclimation both at home and in the classroom. They resist, they fight, they cannot acquiesce.

I believe these are the potential leaders of the world when given the chance. But we do our best to censor them at every turn, so they are rarely able to meet their potential.

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  • First, we must acknowledge and support their “squareness” seeing it as different, not wrong. These children are often trouble-seekers, not trouble-makers*. They shine a light on hypocrisies, wrong doings, unreasonableness, and inequities in our culture. They are the canaries in our coal mines. Unfortunately, when we don’t listen to them, they can no longer listen to us. When we try to force them to change, they wither and become the real trouble-makers of society.
  • Instead of sending them off to therapists (although this can be helpful), we need to better support parents in doing the work that therapists do. Parents, therapists, teachers, principals all need a new mindset through which to view these children.

  • We need new and different schools in every community that are project and exploration based made just for square pegs. They need an environment that serves their way of thinking, that fosters their unique creativity. That square peg when supported, seen and heard for that unique perspective, could change the world.

  • This is hard for parents schooled in the I’m the parent and I know best philosophy when their behavior is not what is expected. Parents and teachers must step across the gap to stand shoulder to shoulder with these trouble-seekers so they learn to trust themselves and the authorities in their lives. Parents and teachers need to see the disruptive, attention-seeking behaviors as signals of their pain, frustration, confusion, powerlessness. They must learn how to connect with that emotional level, leaving the behavior aside. Punishing, reprimanding, threatening undesirable behavior denies everything that provokes it.

  • We must learn to address the child’s experience rather than insist the child understand and be considerate of ours. Once children feel accepted, consideration becomes easy. Acceptance doesn’t mean allowing all behavior. It means, I accept that you are feeling in a way that causes you to behave in this manner. Their emotions must be allowed as uncomfortable and inconvenient as they are, so we can learn from them, not shove them back inside to fester.

  • Instead of denying their emotions with There’s nothing to be upset or scared about or You’re fine or Calm down, we must help them feel okay by naming emotions, sharing our own, letting them know they are gotten. And not make them feel that the “green zone” is the only good place to be.

  • Their unacceptable behavior must be interpreted as cries for help, not as evidence for admonishment. Disruptive, provocative, rude, angry behaviors are the child’s attempts to be heard. Instead of ignoring, punishing or silencing that behavior, connecting with the need to be heard and understood will eventually calm the child. But when they are given the chance to be heard only under certain circumstances determined by the authority—using the right words and tone, at the right time, on the right topic, they are not usually cooperative because they still cannot trust themselves. They need to be heard even when what they are saying is inconvenient, angry, troublesome and provocative.

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    Jan ’22 Q&A – The Rise in Suicide Since COVID-19: Can strong boundaries make a difference? (Revising a conversation from Oct ‘19)

    Young Teen in Despair

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    A. Too many children all over the country seem to be feeling so forsaken that ending their lives is the only answer. How does anyone, much less a child, come to this conclusion? I cannot presume to have the answer. What we are left with is the question: How do we protect our children from such devastating despair?

    According to U.S. News, over the last two years, there has been a steep increase in teen suicide attempts. From February 2020 to March 2021 “emergency rooms visits for suspected suicide attempts were over 50% higher among girls aged 12–17 than during the same period in 2019, according to the study” they referenced. 

    Some of the mental health issues teens are experiencing have to do with increased drug use and the effects of social media. But the question must address more fundamental layers. Many young people can resist drug use or moderate it. All are subject to social media. Some have addictive tendencies that are more vulnerable to drug use and some are victims of cyber bullying. This is not the result of poor parenting.

    Layer on the pandemic, and there are further elements at play. Since COVID-19’s arrival, there is even more reason to be concerned. Laura Kester, an adolescent medicine physician at UC Davis Health explains, “The challenges that children and teens normally face have been amplified by isolation and distancing during the pandemic.” In the full article, UC Davis shares signs of depression, what to do if someone you know is depressed, treatment options and additional resources for families trying to support struggling teens.

    Stress and instability over the last two years have taken a toll, not only on children but adults as well. Children who suffer from poverty, racial injustice and mental disabilities are disproportionately affected. NPR’s “Short Wave” shared in January 2022 that pediatricians have seen a dramatic rise in children struggling with mental health issues. The 9-minute interview captures deeper insights and offers resources. 

    While the pandemic has had adverse effects on mental health for nearly all, its impacts on children who are particularly sensitive may be more demonstrative. According to Dr. W. Thomas Boyce, a pediatrician, research scientist and author of “The Orchid and The Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive,” many children have extreme sensitivities to their environment. 

    Boyce notes that Orchids account for 1 in 5 children. I use the name Integrity children to incorporate a little broader range of kids demonstrating these behaviors. In my experience, the Integrity child is born with an internal core of a sense of rightness and justice that drives his every mood and behavior. These kids try our very souls. And while we think they will never learn and we fear for their futures, what they are doing is demanding our personal responsibility and integrity. (This can be hard to see from the trenches of daily battles.)

    At the same time, these children are so susceptible to their social settings—whether pernicious and threatening or nurturant and sustaining—that their outcomes are bound to their external environment. 

    They have an inherent stress reactivity to their situations so much so that when the environment does not suit them, as with the orchid flower, they wither. But when the environment matches their specific needs, they blossom with magnificence. Dandelion children, which I refer to as Harmony kids, as you can imagine, are children who do well anywhere.

    Due to the reactivity of Integrity children, they are more susceptible to despair. So what can parents do? Can we better learn the signs? What if we see “a sign”—spending more isolated time in their room, for instance? Is that a symptom of depression or a teen’s desire for separation? Going into protective mode can risk connection with a teen fighting over-protection. How much do we do? How much do we not do?

    The closest I can come to finding an answer to how to protect our children from despair is to understand that we parents are not responsible for our children’s happiness. Seem paradoxical?

    When my daughter (an Integrity child) was very young, she had a lot of fear and struggled mightily with many aspects of daily life. After using up my bag of tools, I engaged a therapist. The first session was with me. I told her about my daughter’s pain with tears streaming down my cheeks. She said to me one of the most important things I’ve ever heard: =&1=&

    Once I was able to step outside my daughter’s pain, anger, sadness, and fear, and allow her to have it, I was better able to support her and hold her. It was no longer about me—what I had to do to make her happy, what was wrong with me that I couldn’t, why wasn’t she getting over it? That thinking meant I was taking responsibility for her emotions. So, when I tried to take it all away, but couldn’t, it became my fault—I had failed her. Then I would try harder. Then she had both her upset and mine to deal with. =&2=&

    Our children’s journeys are theirs. We cannot presume to dictate what that journey should entail—though we try. What our children need most is the confidence that we are always there to help if they need it, to advise if they ask for it, and to offer a safety net no matter what. That is our responsibility. =&3=& When we yell at them for not listening, they do not make us yell. When we feel distraught because they make choices we wouldn’t, they are not making us distraught. =&4=&

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    So what do we mean when we’re talking about connection? What does it look like day to day?

    It means solving problems together; it means working on your relationship rather than threatening and punishing your child to do what you say; it means focusing more on what is right rather than wrong; it means letting go of control all along the way as your child’s needs change; it means understanding what those needs are instead of assuming you know best; it means having compassion instead of fury when his behavior signals he is having a problem.

    These are best parenting practices whether your child is an Integrity Child or a Harmony Child. But with Integrity Children, these best practices are essential.

    • When your child feels down, be there as a sounding board without advice.
    • Don’t blame yourself.
    • Let go of control by allowing your child responsibility over herself as she is able.
    • Be there when he needs you without feeling unappreciated when he doesn’t.
    • Make sure your kids learn family responsibilities early. Expect resistance. That’s okay.
    • Trust your teen to have a good head on her shoulders rather than distrusting the world she lives in and her choices. Focus on the positive in order to problem-solve the negative.
    • Never take privileges away—you may be taking away their life-lines.
    • Maintain your integrity and focus on what you want and don’t want rather than dictating what they should do.
    • Don’t interrogate your child with questions or tell him what to do. Make connection first, “I’m concerned when I see…so I am afraid that…I wonder if” Question later, “What is your plan? What do you think? Does that help? What else would you like to try?”
    • Share your personal experiences to demonstrate you get it, you believe him, you’ve been there and you’ve made it out of the problem. 
    • Watch for major changes in behavior patterns in a short period of time. And of course intervene when you know there is a problem.

    =&7=&Your children need to know they are gotten by you. When they distrust your reactions, worry that you don’t understand, fear your retribution when they make mistakes, your connection will be lost. =&8=& read more

    ‘Tis the Season for Compassion

    Holiday Hug

    Expectations are always high at this time of year. It’s the season for joy, friendly people wishing each other cheer, generosity of spirit, and family gatherings. But just as often, it’s not for so many.

    The stress and tension of buying gifts, satisfying expectant children, and anticipating family gatherings fraught with anxiety and judgement are also heightened at this time of year. Loneliness, grief, and loss feel heavier now than at any other time. Suicide statistics peak. And on top of all the usual stress, we are in our second holiday season marred by a world-wide pandemic with a new and possibly scarier variant at our doorstep. The unhappy and the sick feel more isolated, rejected, and angry at this time of year.

    Now that I have fully depressed all of you, I do not mean to be a downer. What I want is to prod your compassion and empathy to understand that this season is just as hard for many as it can be joyful for others.

    Can you allow a family member’s, even your child’s, sadness, depression, anger, without allowing it to spoiling your own happiness? Can you be the support that a loved one needs without worrying you must do something about it, feeling guilty and then backing away because you don’t know what to do? Are you free to feel how you want without fearing the judgment of others?

    Many hate and resent this time of year—the commercialism, the lies and myths, the money spent, the decorating, the fake cheeriness. We come in all shapes and sizes of how we celebrate, what we believe, what brings us happiness, and what brings us down. The question is not can we simply tolerate the differences. Can we accept them? That does not mean agreeing, joining, or endorsing. Can I accept that people are different, that someone believes something that I don’t, that my child thinks it’s wrong that he doesn’t have a smartphone and I disagree? That I feel happy, and you feel despair? Or vice versa. And it’s okay. I don’t have to change anything.

    True empathy means I get how you see the world from your vantage point, in your experience of the world with the feelings that come up for you—and I don’t judge that. It does not mean I agree with or share your point of view. It does not mean it is my job to fix things for you so that you see it differently. It really and truly means I understand. It’s not sympathy. Sympathy puts me in your experience with you. Empathy means I can stand in my experience and understand and support you in your experience.

    Can you empathize—understand another’s point of view—without being brought down by it or thinking you must fix it? If you think you should but know you can’t fix it, that’s when you will walk away, avoid, or ignore the one who is hurting—because you feel incompetent. But all any of us really want is just to be heard, recognized, and validated—not fixed or changed.

    Parents tend to take responsibility for their children’s feelings. Christmas is for children after all—isn’t it? We expect their excitement and smiling faces. But what about disappointed, sad, bereft children? Isn’t Christmas for them too? We all want our children to be happy but taking responsibility for that happiness puts you in a no-win situation. You are not responsible for their happiness—an impossible task. You are responsible for all your feelings, words, and behavior. But that is what you often want to blame on others.

    I often get questions from parents complaining their child is “ruining it for everyone else” or “dragging everyone down by her mood. It’s not fair to the rest of us.” Have you ever felt depressed, lonely, angry? Of course you have. Do you feel that way to make others feel the same? I doubt it. Don’t put that power on your children—or anyone for that matter. You will only increase their unhappiness and add to their guilt when they learn that they are “making” everyone else feel bad.

    Empathy, acceptance, support, consideration, and respect go a long way toward providing the unhappy person with what they need. A person at any age needs to feel normal and accepted no matter what they are experiencing. When we meet anger with anger, we send the message that your anger causes mine, and it’s not okay. Staying above it, yet empathic with the angry person means you are not being dragged down into the negative experience. And you are providing space for the anger of the other to dissipate on its own.

    No one, but children especially, should ever feel forced to alter their feelings. Yes, they are often inconvenient and can take up a lot of space. But isolating, belittling, criticizing, and blaming adds fuel to the emotional fire. If it does put out the flames, it’s only temporary. Burning embers burst into flame at the next opportunity.

    This holiday season see if you can feel free to feel however you do. If someone tries to talk you out of your mood or cheer you up or bring you down, simply ask to be accepted and understood. Try, “I’m not asking you to do anything about it. I just need to be here for as long as I need. I’m only asking you to understand.” Just let it be. This too will pass. read more