Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Put Your Kid's To Work!

 How many parents out there have had the following scenario play out in your home: Ask child to perform a simple task, followed by child pushing off task for a few minutes, followed by parents asking a second time, followed by child pushing off task for a few more minutes, followed by parent asking (or let's be honest-Yelling) for child to do the task, followed by child yelling back and still not performing the task.  Finally followed by exasperated parent giving up...and doing the task!

Every parent at one time or another has thought, "it is just easier to do it myself!" but by repeating this scene day after day in your home, you are hurting yourself and your child.  Why?  Because you are not garnering respect from your child.  You are not giving your child life skills to use when he/she doesn't live under your roof any longer. And you are not developing your child's inner voice that will speak to him/her about the importance of doing everyday the mundane tasks that ultimately need to be done.  Think in extreme cases you are creating a future hoarder or worse, a child who grows up to be incapable of doing anything for himself/herself and lives with you forever!

The goal of parenting should be to support your child as he/she grows into an adult able to support himself/herself in the real world and thrive both socially and emotionally.  A great way to help your child become more capable is to have expectations about tasks that he/she needs to perform within your household--CHORES!

Even the littlest of children can begin to help with family tasks.  Have your two year old put toys and/or shoes and away, set the table, or even "make the bed".  Efforts of little ones will not always be up to your standards, but be patient and capitalize on the fact that are eager to help.  As they grow, their responsibilities should, too.  Kids can lend a hand on garbage day, by taking out the trash.  They can help with pet care.  They can set the table and wash dishes.  Having no expectations of your children, is granting them a free ride through life, and that is not your job.  Your job is to teach them how to thrive in the real world.  Chores also are a great way to reinforce that you are a team, your family works together and that you as the parent, are the "coach".   All these are powerful lessons for the healthy development of your children.  And though it might be a struggle at first, keep in mind that implementing chores for your kids will benefit them for years to come.  Stay strong and have high expectations!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Parents: 5 Hints to Better Communication!

As a mom of teenagers and young adults, I recognize the importance of communication.  Communication with teenagers often times allows a parent to guide teens into making better choices, or finding a voice when confronted with conflict, or advocating for themselves when negotiating with a teacher, coach or boss.  In short, having open lines of communication between you and your teenagers is imperative, and those lines begin their formation when your child is young.

So here are a few tips to help parents maximize the formation of good communication between you and your child--no matter what their age.  The earlier you practice these, the better!

1.  Good Listening is Key:  Often times, we don't listen enough.  When our children talk to us we immediately begin to interrupt and chime in with our opinions or criticisms.  Children will only continue to talk to an adult who actively listens to them.  So practice being quiet and really listening when your child has something to share with you.

2.  Eliminate Distractions:  When your child wants to talk to you, nothing should be more important.  Put down your cellphone, turn away from the computer, mute the television.  Show with your body language and your eye contact that you are tuned in and attentive.

3.  Search and Discover Effective Environments:  As anyone of multiple children knows, all children are very different!  So try to figure out what environment allows each of your children to open up and talk.  Recently my preschoolers took a walk together, and a little boy who is as quiet as a mouse in the classroom, talked the entire way around the block.  Kids have preferences about where and when they talk.  It may be when riding in the car, or laying in their bed before falling asleep.  Maybe they come home from school ready to talk, or maybe they need time to relax but like talking at dinner.  Sometimes all it takes is a mug of hot chocolate!  Anywhere and anytime, your job as their loving parent is to encourage them to open up to you as a willing and ready listener.

4.  Don't Embarrass Them:  A common mistake of parents is to overshare with others information that they hear from their children.  If your child thinks that anything he/she says to you may be broadcasted to the world, they will opt to not share much.  Kids are very sensitive to this and respect a parent who can keep things within the house and not advertise everything to the neighborhood.

5.  Trust is Imperative:  Just as any parent wants to trust in their children, children want to trust that you keep your word.  If you make it common practice to call teachers or other parents about issues, even when you told your child you would not, you are risking their trust in you.  At times, you will have to step in to situations, but first make sure that your child is aware of what you plan to do and don't play the roulette game of telling him/her one thing and behaving differently.

These five tips, when practiced consistently will allow the communication between you and your child to grow and blossom into a beautiful relationship that will serve you both in the years to come.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Kind Heart of Children

Working at a preschool, I am frequently reminded of the kind heart that young children possess.  I see it revealed when they rush in to help a sad friend or offer excited ideas about helping in any situation brought to their attention.  I truly believe that children are born into our world with the tenderest and most loving heart.

The challenge for parents is to protect that young heart and help a maturing child not fall prey to our selfish societal norms, but to help a child's heart grow in kindness and helpfulness as their bodies and minds grow and mature.  A few examples come to mind.  I remember when Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast in the U.S. and a group of school age children responded in my Chicago area neighborhood by raising money for the American Red Cross.  I know children who have held lemonade stands and donated proceeds to a local animal shelter, or a neighbor girl, who instead of birthday presents, asked for donations for a local charity.  And most recently, I know of a group of fourth grade boys, so moved by the courage of a child suffering with cancer, that they mobilized their grade school to make donations to help support the family during this difficult time.

So what can parents do to foster this type of love and concern on the part of their children?  Here are a few ideas:

1.  Model kindness and charity in your own lives.  Set goals for yourself, such as an act of kindness a day, or an act of charity each month.  Whatever makes sense for you and is achievable.  Then share your goals with your children and allow them to witness your participation.  Children truly learn what they live...so by doing this you will be planting the seeds of kindness within them.

2.  Encourage them to think of others.  Research confirms that children who have greater social and emotional skills fare better in the world than those who do not.  So by taking the time to teach your children to think of others, you will secretly be benefiting them as well.  A good place to start is your local library where you can find books that can help you teach your children about thinking of others and practicing kindness.

3.  Acquaint them with religious beliefs.  Universally, religion emphasizes ideals such as caring for your neighbor and thinking about issues larger than your self.  These ideas can motivate individuals to work for the greater good, and not be completely dependent on worldly possessions and a life of self satisfaction over personal relationships.

4.  Support their efforts.  If your child has an idea that involves reaching out to others encourage it, support it, and help them to make it happen.  All of this effort will be worth it to you and your child, as it will strengthen the relationship between both of you and help your child to develop confidence in his/her ideas and ability to make them happen.

5.  Take pride in making the world a better place.  By raising a compassionate and caring child, you will be offering our world a gift.  The more we as parents can do to encourage our children to mature into caring and kind adults, the better off your family, your community and ultimately our world will be.  So make this a priority.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Families Rule with Family Rules!

Everyone knows that different environments have different rules.  When you are in school, you are taught early on what rules you are to follow.  When you have a job, your training includes what is expected of you.  When you play sports or games, there are always carefully defined rules.  And in learning to drive, you must understand the rules of the road.  But often times, in our homes, where we spend the majority of our time together as a family, we forget the importance of having rules that are clearly understood and recognized by all family members.  Every strong organization needs rules and so to have a strong family you need rules, too!

It helps to think about your family as a business or team.  What are your long term and short term goals?  What structure have you put in to place (either formally or informally) to accomplish these goals?  What is your mission as parents, and what do you hope to achieve when it comes to the raising of your children?

In the groups of parents that I have worked with, we often devote time to creating a family mission statement and then the creation of family rules.  This exercise can help all members of the family to understand one another and also come together as a cohesive unit.  The first step in creating family rules is to have parents sit down and discuss what rules they can agree on to enforce and honor within their household.  It does no good to have rules, only to allow them to be broken with no consequences.  This makes the entire process null and void.  The rules should be simple and easily understood.  Some suggestions might be "Only Kind Words Spoken" (no swearing) or "Only Hugs" (no Hitting or Kicking) etc.  Parents must also be able to honor the rules because the "Do as I say but not as I do" method WILL NOT WORK!

Once the rules are agreed upon, it is time to have a family meeting where the rules are unveiled and discussed.  In addition to introducing rules, the meeting should be a time where the family can discuss the consequences for breaking the rules.  Parents need not be too specific as to what the consequences might be because different age children require different consequences.  But younger children benefit from a clear understanding that the consequence will result when the rule is broken.  PARENTS MUST BE CONSISTENT IN CONNECTING THE CONSEQUENCE WITH THE RULE BREAKING!

If your family has never outlined any rules, my advice is to start slowly.  Pick a few key rules and be ready to share them and enforce them.  It is never easy at first, and your kids will definitely test your resolve.  But stay strong in the interest of building a healthy and happy family.   Remember, baby steps down the road of improved parenting is always the key.  Just tackle one or two major issues at a time.  Once those improve your parenting confidence will grow and you will be able to move forward toward a more harmonious and fulfilling family life.