Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

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(Parenting) Teaching Moments

During one of my college Psychology courses, one of my professors had the class do a simple exercise. She told us to not think about a blue elephant for one minute. I failed miserably. In my genuine attempt to not think about this hideous blue elephant, I must have thought about it 10 times. My focus was on eliminating the behavior. The students who had a much higher success rate, used the replacement strategy and focused on what they could do. They thought about a pink elephant or a green elephant with yellow polka dots.

There have been many times since that day where I have referenced and applied this strategy in my life.

img_45242If you have more than one child, you’ve had moments where you see the younger child act out in a way that they learned from their older sibling. However, when that action it is directed at them, the older sibling is appalled. We try to relate the concept back to their own life and actions, but the words usually don’t appear to make a significant impact.

When we give behavior examples like this to our older children, they typically focus on what the child is supposed to not do. Don’t hit. Don’t grab. Don’t yell. Simply encouraging the child to eliminate a behavior does not usually present a call to action, thus increasing the probability that they will revert back to the action that they already know how to do.

The next time you watch one of these exchanges happen between your children, try a new strategy. After addressing the younger child’s behavior, turn to the older child and present them with a call to action. You can do this by describing how the younger child at least partially learned this behavior by watching others and that we need to work together to teach the younger child a positive way of acting and relating. This empowers them with a way to act when they are frustrated with their siblings as well as teaches them the significance of their own actions. Pass the baton and turn a teaching moment into a teaching moment.


(Parenting) Decision Opportunities

Teaching our children how to make wise choices is a complex challenge that we face daily as parents. We work to equip them with decision-making strategies, an understanding of long-term consequences, a sensitivity to others who img_3974are affected by their decisions, and try to help them develop a moral foundation for them to draw from. This process becomes increasingly complicated as the child grows older and most solutions are not black and white.

No matter the child’s age, though, the foundation for making big decisions is laid in the small decisions of every day life. It is where the child develops confidence, learns stratgeties, and can test their wings, all with you standing nearby. From the parent’s standpoint, it is rarely convenient to allow or encourage this development. It is time consuming, inefficient, and messy. But it is worth it.

Be on the lookout for oportunities where you can let your child be the one to make decisions. If needed, narrow the options or possible solutions to keep decisions at a level where they won’t become overwhelmeed and can experieince success. This is a simple way to help them pour a foundation on which they can build.


(Parenting) Accessible Book Stash

Seeing your child curl up with a book is such a sweet sight. Many of us just wish that our children would do it more frequently!

To encourage reading in your home, create an easily accessible book stash in one of your main living areas. This could be a basket in the corner or a bottom shelf on an easy-to-access bookshelf. For added appeal, stick a couple of pillows, a blanket, or a beanbag near the books. Sometimes simply creating an environment to allow for the development of good habits is all the encouragement that our kids need.

*Tip – Join your kids in front of the book collection every once in awhile. By participating with them, even just occasionally, you reinforce, encourage, and create positive memories and associations with the activity, thus encouraging your child to repeat it.



(Parenting) Grumpiness

You woke up on the wrong side of the bed and are having a bad day. You were up too late the night before, greeted by too many demands first thing in the morning, and are just plain grumpy. Is it any wonder you have narrow margins with the kids, don’t feel like being social, or snap at your husband? If somebody demands a lot of you or jumps on your case for your bad attitude, does that magically motivate you to change your tune? Usually it just pushes you further into your grumpiness.

On days like this, sometimes you need a restart button. Or at least 15 minutes of quiet time by yourself to reset your attitude. Sometimes a hug, a few understanding words, or a listening ear is all that is needed to turn your day around.

Our kids have these days too. Sometimes there is an obvious reason for it and other times there isn’t. Yet instead of showing them compassion on these rough days and teaching them how they can effectively change their attitudes, we often become extra stern in our demand for obedience. The next time you see that they are having a rough day, don’t combat it with a harsh word. Gently pull them aside, give them a hug and say something like, “I see that you are having a rough day today. Do you want to spend a few minutes cuddling on the couch with me or spend some time by yourself until you are ready to try again?” Reflect their feelings back to them and show them that you are on their side. This gives them a chance to open up with you and, even more importantly, figure out for themselves what is bother them.

When you walk them through an attitude adjustment like that, you do much more than just avoid an unproductive confrontation. You equip them for life.


(Parenting) Pursue Your Child

Even on days that I really strive to be positive, I feel like I end up saying “no” to my kids a lot. Especially when it comes to requests to do something with them, I frequently feel like a wet blanket.

Here is a simple way to change that pattern. Look for an opportunity to do something with them without them requesting it. Select an activity that you know they love or that they have previously asked you to do with them.

We all desire to be pursued by the ones we love. When somebody that we love comes to us and wants to be with us, and in fact offers to do something with us that they know we love to do, we feel a surge of love and appreciation. They love us! They want to be with us! They understand what is important to us!

It is the same with a child’s heart. We need to pursue them.

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(Parenting) Work Ethic

A good work ethic, a desire to serve others, a willingness to help when needed. These are all character traits that us parents desire to see our children develop. But cultivating them is a daily challenge. And how exactly are we supposed to do it??

If you look for it, you will see times when your child displays at least the beginning of the desire to work and serve. As adults, we often don’t recognize it for what it is. They are inefficient in most tasks and their ability to serve somebody effectively is frequently immature. And we are busy with life. It is rarely convenient to let them help sweep the floor, use the feather duster or take a turn pushing the vacuum. They slosh water onto the floor when “helping” with the dishes, put items away where they do not go (and where you cannot find them), and they pull out the real flowers along with the weeds. And it requires time and patience on our part. Lots of it.

dishesThe first step, though, is to recognize the desire in your child to work and serve. It will usually come in the form of a request to help you or an attempt to try a task independently. Let them try! Put aside efficiency, worry about the mess later, and recognize the beauty in their imperfect attempt.

If your child is going through a phase where they are not frequently seeking opportunities like I described, then don’t push them. (Note: this is different than chore requirements. I’m referring here to times when the child is seeking to explore a task on their own initiative.) You cannot force somebody to desire something, but you can provide them with opportunities to explore existing, emerging, or potential desires. A true work ethic is not just about accomplishing tasks, but a desire to work.


(Parenting) Repetition

Have you discovered yet that parenting is all about repetition? Whether it is in the form of a reminder or a consistent, yet every-changing, way of guiding the child’s behavior, a lot of the parenting challenges we face day in and day out are the same. This can be so frustrating! It can cause us to question whether or not we are making an impact on our child, and if they are learning or listening at all.

But then have you noticed that on repetition #50, then #71, #86, #90, #92, and #93, they get it?

If you embrace this fundamental function of parenting, it will change your world. I challenge you to put aside thoughts that begin with, “They should know….” Maybe they do know. But if they display behavior that contradicts it, that simply means that they still need you to teach and guide them. Your work is not done when the child simply gains head-knowledge. You finally start gaining ground when you see that knowledge changing their actions, and then when  you see that knowledge changing their actions on a consistent basis.

So next time you have to repeat yourself….again….take heart and don’t give up. You are making a huge impact on the life of your child and the repetition is just a reminder that they still need you to walk with them.


(Parenting) Setting the Tone for the Day

The first hour that everybody is awake often sets the tone for the rest of the day. For many of us parents, it is also one of the most difficult times of the day to try to match the energy level of our children. They bound out of bed bursting with energy, creativity, and chatter. We just try to survive until we can get through that first cup of coffee.

Yet don’t underestimate the significance of that first hour of the day. Dare to be the one to set the tone for the hours to come. Here are some ideas to help you do that.

1) Greet them affectionately and with a positive tone when they wake up. I sometimes find myself complaining about how some days begin with whining, fusing, and arguing, but then I often hear the same tone reflected in my own voice. Break the cycle.

2) Spend some time participating in intentional interactions with your kids. Children are always looking for ways to interact with their parents and to explore some of their independence. Tension between us and our children often happens when we underestimate the significance of either of those childhood needs. Spend a little bit of time reading with them, doing a small craft, or playing a game. By meeting this need, even in a small way, at the beginning of the day will help free them to focus on free play and exploration instead of attempting to gain your attention.

3) Keep all forms of media turned off. The best that you can, refrain from turning on the TV or computer during the first hour or two of the day. We have all experienced the dulling of the mind that can result from too much time in front of a screen. Don’t let that set the tone for your day. You are much more likely to return to an active state if you are active initially and then have only short media interactions.

We can’t make attitude decisions for the other members of the family, but we do have the power to set the tone in our own home. Keep your attitute positive, remain active, and provide opporunities for interactions and exploration. It is hard to remain grumpy for too long when you are immersed in a positive environment.