Tuesday, September 24, 2013

YOU are the Captain of your Family's Ship!

As a parent, you are a captain of your ship.  So why is this important? As with most relationships, as you get comfortable with your role as a parent you begin to establish certain patterns of behavior that your children quickly identify and respond to.  Their responses usually differ from each other, hence the "he is so different from his brother!" statement.  But the fact is that your children read your behavior and then respond.  Kid's see you as the captain, but if you don't live up to the role, mutiny will ensue.

For instance, first thing in the morning your children turn on the tv, don't eat their breakfast, begrudgingly put on their clothes, forget to brush their teeth or hair, and when the clock is reminding you it is time to leave, you angrily begin yelling at them about everything including the fact that they don't have shoes on and haven't packed up their backpack.  Sound familiar yet?

But rather than setting aside some time for personal reflection, you find yourself repeating the pattern over and over and over again.  Stressful mornings that you attribute to your kids lack of effort is really not about them at all--IT IS YOUR FAULT!

Now this is not written to heap mountains of guilt onto your platter...oh no, I have walked this path before and want to share the hidden secret that will transform your mornings...you need to change your behavior.

First of all, you are the captain of the ship...so you need to regain control.  Rules are made for this, so tell your children that their will be no tv or computer in the morning until they are completely ready for school--and this means all siblings are all ready.  (All hands on deck to reference the captain idea).  Next, don't cave.  I mean you cannot cave into whining, pleading, anger, tears, whatever your crew throws at you.  That is just their way of trying to regain mutiny status.  And if you allow them to win, the next time you try to establish authority will be that much harder.

All good captains have procedures.  So it is your job to teach your kid's what the morning routine is supposed to include.  Make a  poster or write it in magnets on your refrigerator--whatever works.
Make sure that they understand the rules.  No tv or computer until everyone is completely ready to walk out the door.  That means they have backpacks and lunches packed, shoes on feet or at least nearby and accounted for, and coats and outerwear lying at the ready.  No exceptions.

And as the captain, you need to refrain from yelling.  Just calmly go through the morning responding with encouragement and reminders to keep them on track, but refrain from the tv or computer reward until you inspect the troops and confirm that everything has been done to your satisfaction.

It really is as simple as that.  At first your children may test your resolve, but if you remain calm and strong, this routine will help you sail smoothly into many peaceful mornings. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Be a Good Sport Parent

 When you look up "sport" on the online dictionary (Dictionary.com) the third definition is this:

diversion; recreation; pleasant pastime.  
And yet, how many of us parents see our kid's sports as this?  A diversion?  no.  Our children's sports activities are played in order to fill our days and give us much more than a simple diversion.  Why else would we be hooting and hollering, yelling at coaches and refs?  Ranting about bad calls and unfair practices!  I think not.  Much more than a simple diversion.
Recreation.  Well, that sounds all fine and good.  We don't want our children to be fat oafs like the Dursley child in Harry Potter.  They need recreation.  Especially when recess and gym class are being cut in favor of academics.  But recreation sounds so purely enjoyable.  Recreation never got anyone a scholarship.  Sports are supposed to be teaching tenacity and discipline and toughness, but I digress.
Pleasant pastime?  Who are you kidding.  Have you seen the cost of sports lately?  I mean, it starts with the uniforms and the shoes and equipment, but then it includes the cost of transporting them from state to state, and the snacks and the meals and the end of the season parties.  Where is the pleasant in all of this?
My question is this, Where has this definition of sport gone?  Parents have kidnapped it and held it hostage.  We have replaced it with do or die competitiveness beginning in preschool.  We have demanded that our children play more than park district or little league.  They need travel sports and leagues that offer elite interstate matches.  We need to push and push and yell and yell.  We need to attend not every game but every practice as well-where we critique the coaching and the officiating and anything else that might stand between our child and stardom. Can I just offer this simple reminder to all Sports Parents:

CHILL OUT PEOPLE!  Let your child play sports in order to have fun.  Watch them play and cheer them on but leave your own ego at the door.  Allow coaches to coach and officials to officiate.  Remember that they are only human, and make mistakes.  But they are volunteering there time and doing the best that they can.  And don't scream at your child to correct anything that he/she does.  It is not your job.  Just enjoy the game.  And after the game is over, get in to the car and simply say the following phrase.  "I hope you had fun, I did because I love seeing you out there doing your best."  End of story.  That is all you need to do as a good sport parent. Let's all collectively agree to end the madness so that our children can truly experience the definition of sport: diversion, recreation and pleasant pastime!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Night, Night, Sleep Tight!

  Establishing bedtime routines for young children can often times be a struggle.  And the sad truth of it is, the longer parents delay this "chore" the more difficult it becomes.  Parents create major struggles for themselves when they fail to stand up to their children and be the adult in the relationship.  Many parents love to cuddle and snuggle their small children and love to see them fall asleep on the couch of the family room.  Somehow as the toddler grows, this behavior morphs into a child who can't or won't fall asleep in his or her own room.  The child who stays up until all hours of the night cannot be expected to function academically, socially or emotionally.  This is not a healthy practice because the child who is going to bed at late hours of the night, needs to sleep late in the morning.  Then school begins and this becomes a major problem.  A child cannot function at his or her peak ability level when he/she is not getting proper sleep.

So what are parents to do?  Revisit their approach to bedtime.  Communicate to the child that there are going to be some changes.  Teach the child that the new routine will be a scheduled bedtime preceded by a bath and book.  Warm baths calm their nervous system and help the child relax.  The book allows for some parent/child bonding and snuggle time.  Then it should be lights out, with the understanding that the child is not to get out of bed until morning.  If the child tantrums, it will take about two weeks of staying STRONG and calmly repeating the pattern to firmly establish it.  Each time the child gets up, a non emotional and non communicative parent, places the child back in bed.  An older child may require positive reinforcement such as a special outing or reward earned when he/she stays in bed all night for an agreed upon period of time.  But the understanding must be that there is no going back to the old, bad habits.  Older children have had years of practice manipulating their parents.  So for this to work, the parent must stay strong and NOT negotiate.  It is in the long term interest of the child to learn to calm themselves and sleep in their own space.  And putting a television in the child's room should NEVER be an option.  Television offers no redeeming benefits to children of any age when it is being watched in place of sleep.

When the going get tough, keep the long term benefits in mind.  Your child will be healthier, happier, more alert, and able to cope with quality sleep.  These benefits far outweigh the short term annoyance of dealing with an unhappy child.  Your job is to parent, and good parenting means making your child unhappy at times, for their own good.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Don't Like Your Child's Teacher? Here's some advice!

Many years ago, as a young grade school student, one of my children was assigned to a be in the classroom of a very popular teacher.  As the year progressed, I had many occasions to interact with this teacher, and on each occasion I came away with a slightly sick and confused feeling.  The teacher had a way of speaking to me that caused my jaw clench and the back muscles in my neck tighten.  And I interacted with this teacher quite a bit, as I was a mom volunteer on several major events.  My daughter, on the other hand, loved this woman and everything that went on in her classroom.  She was an extremely happy child and loved this teacher throughout the year.

Can anyone relate to this story, yet?  Well things actually got worse.  A situation arose where the teacher said something to my daughter that did not sit well with my husband or I, and at the time we had a friend on the school board, who we called, who then called the principal, who then called the teacher and things were rather uncomfortable for a few weeks.

Why am I reliving this embarrassing drama? Because I would be the first to say that we mishandled this situation from start to finish.  Hopefully, outing my mistake can help other parents who are facing a similar dilemma.  So here are my tips to dealing with "difficult" teacher situations:

1.  Don't dis the teacher in front of any of your children, ever.

2.  View your relationship with the teacher as distinctly different than your child's because it is...it is a relationship between two adults and has nothing to do with the day to day experiences your child is having. 

3.  If you have an issue with the teacher, take it up with the teacher.  It is the mature and respectful thing to do.  Would you want someone with an issue about you to go straight to your boss?  If you are worried about repercussions, ask another professional to sit in on the meeting with you.

4.  Let minor things go, only get involved if something is major.  Will this problem still be a major problem two weeks from now?  If not, let it go.

5.  Go into the meeting with the attitude that you are looking to increase understanding and common ground, rather that to "win".

6.  Don't poison your child's attitude about the teacher, a year is an awfully long time to have to suffer through a poor relationship.

7.  Remember that there will be loads of adults involved in teaching your child throughout the years.  Learning to deal with different personalities and persevere when the going gets tough are life long lessons for your child...and for you.

8.  Don't make your first step to call your friend on the school board.

9.  Try to always take the high road, and give the teacher the benefit of the doubt.

10.  Remember this too shall pass.  Don't embarrass your child with your actions.