Tuesday, October 28, 2014

There is Power in a Hug!

Children can be quite unlovable at times.  They whine, complain, have temper tantrums, "forget" to do what we have told them a million times to do, and the list can go on and on.  But when our children are frustrating us and we are feeling anything but love towards them, ironically they need our love the most.  The more unlovable they are, the more they need our love and acceptance.  They need to reconnect with us.  They need us to reinforce the lesson that we love them no matter what; that as their parent, we are always present for them.

The best way to show a child of any age how much you love them, is by using physical touch.  Children need the calming message a hug sends.  They need to feel your love as you stroke their hair, or rub their back, or hold their hand.  Don't get too busy to make the effort to connect with your child in this way.  And take the time to learn what they like.  Some children don't want their heads to be touched but love a hand or foot rub.  And I can't think of anyone who doesn't like a loving hug.  Make time to cuddle your children and reinforce the message of just how very much you love them.

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.