Tuesday, October 21, 2014

3 Steps to Help Your Child Make Friends

It is a painful experience to watch your child struggle with friendships.  When your child is hurting you experience the pain in a most excruciating way, and often you feel powerless to respond.  You want to search out the child responsible for causing your child's pain or loneliness and "get even" or "teach that kid a lesson".  But trust me when I say, you only are seeing one side of the story.  Every situation has more than one side.  So, as difficult as this advice is to follow...take a deep breath and let it go.  Then refocus your efforts on the here and now.  What can you do to help your child facilitate lasting and quality friendships?  Sit down with your child and imagine a trip to the idea store...here is what I mean...

1.  Speak to your child about what qualities make up a good friend.  Brainstorm the type of friend your child hopes to find.  Is it someone who shares certain interests? Or someone who has qualities that would compliment your child?  Maybe an outgoing child because your child is shy, or an athletic child because your child loves to play sports.  Talk about morals and values, does your child want a friend that can be trusted and will be loyal?  Discuss why these qualities would be valuable to a lasting friendship.

2.  Discuss what your child might do to find that type of friend.  Does someone already come to mind?  You can encourage your child to reach out to a new person who they think might make a good friend.  Suggest that they sit by someone new at lunch or look for new friendships on the playground.  Maybe your child needs to join a club or activity that would expose him/her to new children who share his/her interests.

3.  Agree on a goal your child can work towards in the coming weeks.  Perhaps the challenge is to invite someone new over for a play date, or play with a new child during recess.    Challenge your child to reach out to children who don't already have many friends, and be the one to help other children who feel excluded.

Make it clear to your child that their friendships are their choice to make.  You are not willing or able to make friends for them.  But you are available to love and support them at all times.  Empower them with your confidence that they will find good and true friends.  Urge them to be patient with themselves and others.  Solid friendships take time to build.  And remember, all children really need is one true friend.  It is wonderful to be blessed with more, but as long as your child has a friend, they have the relationship that is so important to their development.  And if they don't have that one friend right now, take a trip together to "the idea store" and gather some ideas for how to find that special friend who is waiting to meet and make friends with your child.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Don't Burden Your Children!

Picture for a moment that you are enjoying a peaceful walk with your child.  You are enjoying his/her company and the beauty of nature all around you is calming and delightful.  Now imagine that you stop and give your child a backpack to carry, and inside it is one brick.  As you walk along, you stop and add another brick, and another, and eventually the backpack is bulging with bricks and your child is being forced to carry this enormous weight.  He/She is struggling to keep up with you, and the backpack is too heavy for him/her to manage.  You ignore the struggle and keep walking down the path, oblivious to your child's plight. Are you thinking: Ridiculous?  Far Fetched? Would never happen?

If you fight with your child's other parent in front of your child, you are doing this very thing.  You are burdening your child with your own anger, resentment, and lack of maturity.  This scenario is NOT FAIR for your child.  Children have tender hearts and those hearts are aimed directly at their parents.  To criticize or fight with the other parent makes your child feel less than.  Less than good enough.  Less than the child you both wanted.  Less than powerless.  Children are scarred by adults fighting in front of them.

Adult relationships are complicated.  I get that.  Sometimes disagreements arise.  I get that, too.  But consistently arguing in front of your child is not only hurting them in the present, you are hurting their future, too.  You are modeling an unhealthy relationship and will make it more difficult for them to create and experience a healthy, loving, adult relationship down the road.

A few years ago, I had a preschooler who was sharing with me that Daddy and Mommy argued a lot. "I try to get them to stop and be nice, but sometimes they just don't listen!"  His little face reflecting the pain and frustration he felt has stayed with me.  His message is clear.  Don't argue in front of your children.  You can do better and they deserve better.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Good Enough Parenting

      I recently had the good fortune to spend a week in London, a city that always hums with excitement and never ceases to amaze me.  While walking towards a museum I came upon this gate pictured above.  It totally cracked me up and made me wish that I had investigated a little further, especially if they had a bookstore/gift shop.  It would be wonderful to have an official "Good Enough College" T-shirt!
    My parenting column today is a warning to parents who practice "Good Enough" parenting.  Let me explain.  Often I see parents who justify their parenting duties or lack of them as being "Good Enough".  Do any of these examples sound familiar?

  1. You want time to surf the net or catch up on facebook, plug in a DVD or let your child watch mindless TV for hours on end.  It keeps him/her quiet and you are free to do what you want.  
  2. Your child puts up a whiny fit for something and time after time you give in and let the child have what they have been tantruming for, because it buys you the peace you want and so what is the harm in it?
  3. Your mode of communicating with your child is usually yelling or endlessly repeating yourself and you can't figure out why junior doesn't really listen to you.
  4. You know you love your child, so you feel as if you are doing all that you need to do to be a good parent.
  5. You buy your children everything they want, so you always ease your mind when it comes to asking yourself if you are good parent or not.
  6. You allow your children to sleep in your bed and manipulate your behavior at night time so that no one in your family is properly rested. 
This post is written to you as a cautionary tale.  This mode of parenting has an end result that will not be pretty.  Being a "Good Enough" parent means you are justifying behavior patterns that will put you and your family on a road to difficulty in the future.  Constantly giving in to your children, putting their electronic experiences before reality, and allowing them to grow up in an environment based on laziness and manipulation will result in your children learning how to manipulate you, and also missing out on the opportunity for you to teach your children about important things such as communication, empathy and self control.  But it ALL starts with YOU! 

Don't settle for being a Good Enough Parent!  Find parenting classes or read and study parenting articles and books that will help develop into an effective and wise parent.  You will NEVER regret effort put into improving your family life.  Parenting is the most important job you will ever have.  Don't settle for anything less than excellence.  Being "Good Enough" simply isn't good enough for you or your children.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

6 Ways to Enjoy a Family Centered Fall!

Fall is the perfect season to put your family at the top of your priority list.  There are so many simple, yet wonderful activities that you can do as a family that can strengthen your bonds with one another.  Reserve some of that precious weekend time to venture out and experience some seasonal activities together.  I have compiled a list of a few of my favorites that I hope inspire you to spend quality time enjoying your precious family.

  • Pick some Apples:  Find an orchard and head out for an afternoon of fresh air and apple picking.  Kids of all ages can and will enjoy this, and once you bring home your wonderful red or green treasures, the fun continues because you can all work together to peel and cut the apples and bake a deliciously simple apple crisp.  Yum!
  • Take a Hike:  Throw on your hiking shoes and visit a state park for a healthy hike.  Don't forget to pack a backpack with water and some healthy snacks.  It has been proven that time spent in nature reduces stress--and just about everyone I know can benefit from that.  In addition, the physical fatigue will mean that you are bringing home tired and calm children, and isn't that a great reward.
  • Visit a Farm:  There are farms that hold pumpkin festivals at this time of year, and that is always a fun outing.  Go and pick out the perfect pumpkin, so that you will be ready to carve your jack-o-lantern later this month.  Or jump on the hay wagon for a hay ride, and visit the petting zoo and pony rides.
  • Football:  Take your children to see a high school or college football game.  From learning the sport, to watching the halftime show and visiting the concession stand, this is a fun outing to enjoy all together.
  • Take a Ride:  Whether it is on your bikes or horseback.  Venture out and share a ride somewhere.  Fall weather is cool and invigorating and simply invites you to hop on a bike or a horse and explore a new trail.
  • Build a Fire:  Find a place that you can safely and legally start a campfire.  Then pack up the marshmallows and spend an evening enjoying the stars.  And if you know anyone who plays the guitar, invite them along, too!
 The key to having a happy family is to enjoying each others' company.  And in our face paced world, finding the time to do this becomes harder all the time.  So reserve some time to spend with the ones you love the most.  You will be so glad that you did.  Don't forget to take pictures.  But put your phone away for the day, and spend real quality time talking and laughing with your children.

Happy Fall!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Spanking is NOT Okay!


There are some parents who defend spanking their children as their "right" to discipline.  But I am not one of them and although I firmly believe in discipline, I know that there are better, and healthier methods of teaching your children right from wrong.  How do I know this for sure?  In my preschool class, I am called upon constantly to correct children's behavior and keep them focused, on task and learning in a positive and nurturing environment.  And I never have felt the need to use my physical power to accomplish any of this.

Now I must admit, in raising my own four children there were a few times I sent a slap their way.  And in my younger days, I know I did use the threat of spanking as a deterrent.  But as the years passed, my husband and I were determined to refrain from using any form of physical punishment as a method of discipline.  "Why?" you ask.  "What is so harmful about a spanking?", "It is the only thing that works!", "My parents spanked me and I turned out alright!"  Let me spell it out simply and clearly for you...

THERE ARE BETTER WAYS TO DISCIPLINE YOUR CHILD!  And if you use the other ways effectively, they eliminate the need for spanking altogether.  First, you must admit that most of your spanking is done out of anger.  This is UNACCEPTABLE!  YOU are the adult in the situation and you are not behaving as an adult!  You are controlling a smaller human being through fear.  This results in your own children thinking that is okay to control another person through physical threat and violence.  I know that is not a lesson you want to teach your kid, right?

Discipline should be coming from a place of wisdom.  You want to teach your child that what he/she is doing is not okay and cannot continue.  Also, you want to reinforce to your child that you love and care about them unconditionally, but you are also the authority in their lives until they are grown and no longer in your care.  To do this, you must earn the respect of your child...and spanking doesn't result in your child respecting you...only your power over him/her.

There are many techniques that can be effectively used for discipline issues.  Discipline should be targeted at the age and development of your child and also the severity of the action you wish to stop.  Discipline is especially effective when it teaches something.  Chores can be used as punishment.  So can taking away a favorite activity or toy of your child.  The duration of the punishment also needs to be realistic and something that you will stick to, but difficult enough on your child to be memorable.  This blog contains a earlier post about other discipline strategies which you may find helpful:
But the bottom line is, don't hit your kids.  There are better ways to accomplish your goals.  Don't raise a hand to them.  They are precious little people, who deserve your very best.  If you are having issues with their behavior, educate yourself.  Don't take it out on them.  They love you and don't want to fear you.  You can learn new ways of dealing with them that will benefit your entire family.