Tuesday, April 12, 2016
I recently returned from a vacation, and I found myself surrounded by families enjoying time together at our resort. There was one family that I noticed had two lively and active boys...and although their behavior did not bother me or the other guests one bit, I came away feeling very sad for their mother. It was clear that these boys did not respect or listen to her at all--ever. She would have to repeatedly ask them to do things, and then plead with them, and then usually give up...because her words had zero effect on these boys. These situations were repeated over and over again, and I observed them at breakfast or by the pool continually ignoring every word that their mother said.
So where does this lack of respect come from? I can tell you. It is a combination of factors. The other parent normally plays a role in this. If the father disrespects the mother, the children learn disrespect. And if the mother disrespects the father, the children learn disrespect. And if you, as a parent don't demand that your children listen to you...then you are disrespecting yourself and teaching your children not to listen to your words.
I felt so sorry for this mom. She was not enjoying the precious vacation time she was sharing with her beautiful boys. She seemed so lonely, and dare I say--pathetic. And thinking about the future, I wondered if these boys would ever see the error in their ways. Would they come to appreciate their loving mother? Would they grow up to be loving partners or disrespect their significant others in future relationships. Had they learned this behavior from their dad? Would the cycle continue?
The takeaway is that teaching our children to respect us as loving their loving parents is of paramount importance. It sets them up to form respectful relationships throughout the rest of their lives with teachers, coaches, bosses and loved ones. Don't settle for anything less than loving respect from your children. It takes loads of work, but is well worth the effort.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2016
These little three and four year olds are capable of demonstrating such empathy and compassion. I see them ushering our new friends to circle time, making room for them on our carpet, helpfully showing them where to hang their school bag or how to find their mailbox. I see them eagerly taking these new students "under their wing" to help them understand what is going on in the classroom and eagerly approaching them at play time.
Our world is so full of negativity. We have gotten so complacent about mean spirited behavior. We accept it from our politicians. We are entertained by it on social media, movies and television. We practice it in our daily lives by passing judgement on others, and filling our days with gossip and snarky backstabbing behaviors.
Our world would be a better place if we reconnected with openness, kindness and empathy that our little ones possess. They give me hope for the future, and we all should take a page from their playbook and adopt it into our daily lives.
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Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Thursday, March 3, 2016
There is wisdom in balance. Keeping the elements of life in balance leads to a calm and peaceful existence. Life with children is rarely characterized as calm and peaceful and with each additional child the chaos can multiply. But balance is an extremely important element of good parenting.
Research has shown that the most effective parents over time are those who combine nurturing with authority. In other words, parents who are responsive and emotionally connected with their children, but who also play the important role of authority figure in their children's lives have been shown over time to raise the most emotionally balanced and less destructive children. For further reading on this research see below*
Many parents struggle with the authority figure role. Does your child listen to you? Do they follow your rules? Do they respect your words? Do they know that ultimately you are the boss of them until they grow up and leave your house? If not, you have some work to do.
Children and master manipulators. They know how to push our buttons for sport. They are not as emotionally engaged when we are really angry. And they have an easy time tuning us out if they have learned that we really don't mean what we say. So how can this dynamic be changed? Here are some tips that my husband and I found worked after years of practice.
1. Have high standards for behavior and communicate those expectations to your child. This means teaching manners and polite social behavior, expecting your child to respect your and his/her teachers and coaches, and in general behaving in a manner that brings happiness and joy to others.
2. Only say what you mean. Children quickly learn that idle threats mean nothing. If you consistently say that you will do something and then don't do it, you are actively teaching your child to tune you out and worse, not trust your words. Words are so important...spend them wisely.
3. Don't allow bad behavior to spiral. Nip it in the bud. If your child has begun to back talk or be sassy, you may find it cute or not a big deal at first, but then you get used to it and somewhere along the way you stop noticing it. And then it becomes a problem. We found that it is much better to be proactive about little behavior slips than reactive when behavior has gotten out of control. Make sure that your child knows what it is you expect and then do not tolerate anything less. (for more ideas on positive discipline read this: splashparenting.com/2013/03/six-steps-toward-positive-discipline
4. Authority Figures Don't Negotiate! My husband taught me to not accept arguing and whining when we were giving one of our children a consequence for bad behavior. He would calmly remind our child that if he/she argued about the consequence, the consequence would be doubled. This tip worked like magic. If your child knows that a punishment could be doubled, he/she usually reflects on whether the whining and arguing are worth the risk, and the answer is always no!
Children want and need you to be the parent and for them to be the child. They need their parents to be loving and kind and yet strong enough to earn their respect and teach them self control. It is counter intuitive--we want to give in to our children and let them do, be, and have anything that makes them happy...but by always giving in to their desires we are not teaching them the important skills of self control and showing them that we care enough to set limits--it is a fatal swap--peace in the present for contentment in the future. Giving in to your child's tantrum is teaching your child that tantrums work, and always giving your child everything they want will set them up for a future of discontent. Good parenting requires the healthy balance of loving our children enough to act as the authority in their lives. This means being strong enough to set limits on our children's behavior. Through limits, our children learn self control, and respect for us. Without limits, children continue to push the boundaries looking for where we will finally set the limits. And if we never set limits at all, our children believe that we don't care enough to set them. So practice that balance for healthy and effective parenting. Be the loving, authority in your child's life.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016
As I was walking my dog this morning, I came across this freshly cut tree stump. It caused me to reflect. This stump revealed to me that this tree was healthy and strong. It was not rotting from the inside out. It had laid down ring after ring of years of experiences. My prayer is that if I were to gaze inside each of my children I would see the same thing, that my children are strong and healthy from the inside out. That they have what it takes to weather the winds of this confusing and at times depressing world. That their self identity will continue to support them in their life paths.
As parents, don't we all hope and pray for this to be the result of our shared time with our children? We all go through the moments and days and years trying to build resilience and strength into our children from the inside out. We want them to lay down rings that speak to their self worth, their talents and abilities, their hopes and dreams. We want their rings to connect to their roots--to us their parents, to their aunts and uncles, and grandparents. The generations of those who walked before us and sacrificed and loved and pushed forward their hopes and dreams and ideals in order that we may become all we were meant to become and in turn grow another generation dedicated to the future hopefulness of our collective existence.
But forming strong rings in our children requires an element of struggle. Children who have everything provided to them and are expected to contribute nothing, do not grow strong rings. Children who have parents who solve every issue and rush in to always make everything better, do not grow strong rings. As difficult as it is to hear, children grow rings through pain. Children grow rings through struggle. Children grow rings through perseverance and work. Children grow rings through controlled rebellion and parental love, nurturing and authority. Children grow rings through a spiritual life. Children grow rings through valuable friendships and positive social interactions--and sometimes by weathering the storms of disappointment in failed friendships and peer relationships.
I hope that as parents, we all can understand the value of raising our children to have strong rings and deep roots, for our good and all the good that is to come into each of our children's lives.
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