Simple Ways to Get Your Child in the Mindset of Gift Giving
gift giving

Q. I have four children ranging from 7 to 14. I have struggled with teaching generosity to each. Do you have any advice for developing a gift-giving guideline?

A. Developing a generous spirit in children is a process that can’t exactly be taught, but experienced. So much of becoming generous, appreciative, and respectful is how it is modeled and what is important to you. Are you generous (that doesn’t mean buying presents), grateful, appreciative, and respectful of your children and of others? If not, this is where to start. We think we can just tell our children to be grateful and to think more of others. We even try to demand it with yelling and disrespectful threats. It doesn’t work that way.

Children naturally love to give things to others and watch faces light up. It is quite empowering when children take an active role in giving. But don’t mistakenly expect that young children will naturally want to be generous with and considerate of others. That expectation will lead to anger and reprimands when you see natural egocentricity, and it seems that all they care about is what they get. That is generally how it is and when they are reprimanded for being egocentric, they tend to grab what they can get more than normal.

read more
6 Warning Signs You Need to Empower Your Harmony Child
Harmony Child with Mom

Harmony children* are just what the name implies — they thrive on harmony. They hate fights, anger and tension and will do what they can to avoid it. Unlike an Integrity child*, Harmony kids can easily comply with your wishes and back down when faced with anger. Similar to the Dandelion child* who does well in any environment, your Harmony child is likely to be flexible and can transition well.

Whereas an Integrity child has you tearing your hair out, Harmony kids make you feel like a great parent. They will work hard to meet high expectations. This child can get very upset and angry but gets over it pretty quickly. Things that stick to your Integrity kid like Velcro, roll off your Harmony child like water off a duck’s back. This child is easy to live with and doesn’t often stress you out or give you reason to worry.

They make great friends and generally have lots of them. They are easy to like as they are good at understanding all points of view. They can move from group to group with their chameleon-like qualities and rarely cause discomfort or discord among friends. They generally fit well in school because they are malleable and work diligently. They make great mediators and can stand up for the kid who gets bullied.

read more
3 Ways to Solve Being Late to School
Sleeping girl

Q. How should I respond to a child (12yo) who is always late (takes too long to get dressed, takes long showers, keeps skipping breakfast because she takes too long to get ready for school) and she responds: “I am lazy”. What can I do to assist her in being more motivated to be on time?

A. The cause of being late likely has one of three motivating factors. Motivating her to be on time will require a dig into why she is always late rather than focusing on simply the fact that she is. The phrase “she takes too long” leads me to think that you are setting an expectation that she cannot meet right now—and making a judgement that she is wrong. We typically look at behavior and define it as good or bad and react to the behavior accordingly. In doing so we miss the most important factor: what provoked the behavior.

To determine what the motivating factor is in this case, you want to know:

1) Is it school she is resisting?

2) Is the transition from home to school difficult?

3) Is it her innate slow temperament?

read more
9 Signs Your Defiant Kid is Actually an Integrity Child
Family Fighting

Are you exhausted and overwhelmed by your clever little manipulator who fights you every step of the way, won’t take no for an answer and will not be told what to do? Do the words stubborn, demanding, disrespectful, disobedient, and argumentative come to mind? My guess is you have an Integrity Child* as opposed to that delightfully easy Harmony Child* who makes you feel like the best parent in the world.

In my humble opinion, understanding your Integrity child could be the most important job you will ever do. Orchids* (1 in 5 children)—my term is Integrity to incorporate a broader range—have the potential of becoming the brilliant revolutionaries of the world when given the nurturing their extremely sensitive natures require. When misunderstood and pressured to be different, they can become burdens on society as the very troubled and often addicted young people we fear raising.

As I see it, your 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. But it’s hard to see that from the trenches of daily battles.

read more
Thinking Outside the Box for School-Resistant Kids
Frustrated Teen

My proposed solution is simple: don’t waste a lot of time and money pushing kids in directions they don’t want to go. Instead find out what weirdness they excel at and encourage them to do that. Then get out of the way. ~ Seth Godin

Q. What is the best way to respond to my 12 yo son who refuses to go to school? It started after he had 2 teachers who focused on the things he couldn’t do. We eventually pulled him and put him in private school but that only worked for about a year. We pulled him altogether last year on the advice of his therapist. Virtual school was a nightmare, and we were taking care of my dying father in the house too. It was too much. He really hates school. He is super smart but has dysgraphia, ADHD and anxiety so he really struggles.

A. I imagine there are a lot of kids this pandemic has pushed to the surface who were falling through the cracks pre-Covid. The silver lining of this struggle may be that you have come up against a dead end with traditional school before serious problems arise for your son in high school. This is a tough problem but one that needs solving sooner rather than later.

read more
3 Ways to Set the Emotional Tone for the New School Year
Masked school kids

I know I’m not alone in thinking this school year would be sort of back to normal. But it’s not over yet and many believe it won’t ever be. We are in a new reality that we first believed temporary. Our kids are going back to school but this year with no option for remote learning. In some parts of the country that may seem fine, but in other parts parents feel like they’re throwing their kids to the wolves.

What kids care about is their own experience. Navigating masks and relationships back at school can be tricky for kids wondering where they stand. Friendships are likely shifting leaving hurt and unhappiness for many. Some kids are fine with masks and forget they are wearing them. Some are hypervigilant and feel unsafe if others are unmasked. And some are sensitive to masks or are simply resistant. Some worry about getting exposed. Does that mean quarantine, missing school, bringing Covid home, getting sick, ending up remote?

While they have their own physical and emotional responses to the situation, children are highly influenced by their parents’ reactions and responses to this year’s new and changing protocols. All of which affects how they manage their experiences.

read more
‘Mom! You’re so annoying!’
Mother and her son arguing at home

Q. I know that it’s normal for adolescents to reject their parents to some degree but my son (11) has been coming out with some very explicit insults about me. After school today, when I only said, “Hello”, he replied “You’re so annoying.” I said that I felt it was an unkind thing to say (he has said it a number of times lately) and he said, “Well it’s true, you do annoy me – a lot.” The previous time I said, “What is it about me that annoys you?” and prior to that had let it pass. I can brush it off and not take it personally a few times but when it’s repeated, it’s hard not to feel angry and hurt. Other times he wants to tell me things and is physically affectionate. I don’t expect a growing young person to hang out with Mum, but I give him the best of my care and kindness and all he feels is “annoyed”? It’s not that he says it that I have a problem with – it’s that he feels it. Please help with how to interpret and respond to this.

A. I had the worst year ever with my daughter when she was 11. She was my button-pusher and I learned so much from parenting her. At 11, her brother went away to school, and she hated being the only one, feeling like she was being watched all the time. She threw a lot of nasty barbs my way, which I didn’t always duck from (but should have). So, I know the hurt you are feeling. I wish I knew then what I know now.

read more
Just Being
Father and son relaxing in front of a colorful house

This summer, especially following this Covid-fraught school year, I want to revisit my Be more, teach less philosophy. Kids love summer. It’s a time to be laid back and let go of all the tension around schoolwork and grades. And this year especially, after the stress of remote learning, very little socializing, everyone home on each other’s back, a good deal of simply being is called for.

read more
Cookie Momster
Mousetrap in Cookie Jar

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, she sneaks food. In this area, we fight and tempers flare creating a hostile environment at home. 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 snacks after school. It works in most part, but she ends up taking 1-2 extra things 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.

A. My advice is to focus most on the facts that your daughter is smart, well-behaved, and competent. It’s all-too natural for our fears to get in the way of trusting who our children are. She is not yet thinking about what is good for her health and well-being and what she should be doing to enrich herself and her body. That’s not her job—yet.

read more
Social Media Masquerade
Girl in festive dress and carnival mask posing

We get freaked out about how our kids present themselves on social media and what and how they communicate. Much of that freak-out is justified. But remember, for centuries we have been altering our public self-image. Directing portrait artists and photographers to present the best you; attention on clothes and makeup to enhance appearance, wigs to cover unwashed hair. Letter writing has always allowed carefully thought-out words as opposed to spontaneous and possibly awkward conversation. We have always cared about our public image. Nothing new here—except social media presents a constant reminder that one’s “real” self is deficient.

read more