All posts in Birth 0 – Age 9

Back to School Honeymoon is Over

Three Steps to a Smooth Morning Routine

As we move deeper into the school year, it’s likely that the honeymoon period that had us whistling Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s off to school we go!, is slowly being replaced with Let’s go, let’s go, I won’t be late no-mo! The truth is, navigating the school year successfully takes a bit of planning, a flexible attitude, and a willingness to make course corrections when necessary.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

    A) You’ve gone from making the kids favorite breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, helping them find the perfect outfit, and ensuring their backpacks were organized and well stocked to:

      Throwing a cold bagel on a napkin while you insist they put on more suitable clothing as you yell “it’s not MY backpack, where did you put it last?”, as you walk out the door shaking your head and wondering how everything deteriorated so quickly.
    B) You’ve gone from providing a yummy post-school snack, with plenty of time to talk about the day and go through the backpack together, read all the notes from school, sign all the necessary forms and provide a quiet place for homework to:

      Throw pre-cut carrots in a bowl, tossing papers straight into the bin, and arguing about whether homework will get done now or after dinner.
    C) And maybe, you’ve switched from calm baths with time to connect, a few books to end the evening, a warm hug, lights out and the kids all dreaming of sugar plum fairies by 8:00 pm to:

      Kids fighting about everything from who gets to pet the dog to whose turn it is to use the iPod next, refusal to bathe and wash teeth, increased nagging to get the kids upstairs so you can start the bedtime routine to shouts of THERE WILL BE NO BOOKS AT ALL TONIGHT, to a few rushed kisses, lights off and half way down the stairs you here MAMA… MAMA… MAMA!!!!

Yup, that’s what it was like in my house all those years ago. And, here is what I learned:

Making one change and sticking with it for 3 weeks will create some positive momentum.

Then slowly and surely you can begin to attack other areas that have you pulling your hair out and wishing you had dropped the kids off at college instead of the local elementary school.

I suggest the best place to start is with Morning Routines.

In my experience, a strong, organized morning routine will help set the tone for the rest of the day. Plus, you can use the strategies for morning routines to deal with homework hassles and bedtime bedlam. You know me, I want to work smarter, not harder, and that means finding strategies that work in multiple ways.

Now, new parents, before you get out the pen and paper scribing exactly how you want the morning to go thinking this is the time to “tell em how this is going to work”, it’s time to think about the areas of the morning that are tripping up the kids. Maybe they’re not trained with how to get themselves ready, make breakfast, set an alarm, pack the bag. Maybe they haven’t been asked what THEY want to wear, when & how they want to wake, and what the perfect morning looks like to them.

Your Homework

Step 1. Take a few mornings to NOTICE where the kids are tripped up. When you find yourself getting ready to remind, nag, bribe, and do it for them, PAUSE. Write it down. You want to pack the bag? Pause. Johnny needs training on how to pack a bag. Uh oh, you start in on the reminders of what time it is? Pause. Might be time to talk about keeping time. You get it… (For those of you who’ve been with us a while – this is a mild form of Do Nothing, Say Nothing for the mornings.)

Step 2. Make a date to talk with your kids about what they’d like to see in a perfect morning. This doesn’t happen when you’re rushing out the door. Maybe it’s at dinner, or over a snack or during the weekend. Choose a time when you can be as encouraging and non-judgemental as possible. Ask questions about what they believe needs to happen in the AM, in which order, and when? Be ready to oblige. Be ready to let them choose. Feel like too much? Just agree to try one or two of their ideas. And let them roll with it.

Step 3. Avoid the urge to slip into your old habits. Just see how it goes. No need to point out anything that’s not perfect… they’re trying something new! And you signed up to let them. Hey, what’s the worst thing that can happen? They realize it wasn’t a good idea, that you trusted them to try something new, and you were available to help them later when they needed to try again. You’re raising an adult after all. Trust them. Trust yourself.

Establishing a child-led morning routine is one way to implement a more democratic approach to parenting. It takes time, but if you want it badly enough, step back and observe the tripping points, carve out time to consider your kids’ ideas, and practice patience as you let them make choices, mistakes – and celebrate the successes!

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If They Can Walk, They Can Work!

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Old enough to walk, old enough to work!

A) You’re not alone

B) Now’s the time to do something about changing roles, and

C) Believe it or not, both you AND the kids will be glad you did now, and for years to come.

I realized at an early stage in my pregnancy with my first child that I could either be the maid or be emotionally available to my children, but I could not do both. Since there’s a far greater payoff to being emotionally available, I decided to train my children early on to help with the household chores.

Now, if you’re at all put off by the word train, here are a few other verbs straight out of my thesaurus: teach, coach, educate, instruct, guide, prepare, tutor… and you’ve got to love this one… school.

I use the word train because that’s what it is. And let’s face it, training is useful – it makes us all better at what we do. And knowing how to learn from our training is a skill in and of itself. A skill, I might add, that will serve your children well as they go off to school, into the workplace… but that’s another topic for another day. Back to making everyone’s life easier and more pleasant by taking off that maid’s outfit and giving your children a chance to be part of the family fun.

Is there an optimal time for training?

The quick answer is YES! Over the years I developed a very simple answer for parents when they would ask me how young they could start training their children to help around the house. My answer is, “If they can walk, they can work.” That’s right moms and dads, it’s never too early.

There are two good reasons to start training your children in what is essentially the fine art of cooperation and contribution, as soon as possible.

1. The first reason is that, if children have been invited to participate in family chores from a young age, contributions will be a normal and routine part of their daily lives by the time they hit the pre-adolescent, “I am not interested” age. So, it’s actually less painful for both you and your kids if you start ‘em young.

Consider this. When our children are very small, they come to us asking to help and we are quick to reply with, “No, too hot; too heavy; too dangerous; too sharp; too fast; you are too little; too slow; too short.” And then we send them out of the kitchen and into the other room to play with the plastic kitchens and plastic food and say, “Now go play and have fun.”

We continue to do this, over and over, for years, until one day, about the time that same child turns 10, WE decide it’s time for them to be responsible for their stuff and we start in with, “Hey, pick up your back pack; unpack your backpack; put your dishes away; clear the table; pick up your room; do your laundry…” Sorry ladies and gents, but by then, it’s too late! We have missed the most opportune time for training.

You see, when children are very, very interested in just about everything around them – including mimicking mom and dad, you, as a responsible, pro-active parent, can use that natural curiosity to everybody’s advantage and get everyone involved in doing their part around the house.

2. The second reason to start training your children early to contribute to the household chores is a very practical one – kids need years of practice to become good at doing “stuff” around the house.

Just take a second and look around your home. I’m sure you’d agree that tasks which truly contribute to running even the simplest of households require some pretty complex skills, and developing any skill takes practice, more practice, and even more practice. The sooner you start practicing a skill, the sooner that skill develops.

So, just how should I go about training my toddler to contribute to the household chores?

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • An immaculate house is NOT the primary goal. If you want it clean to your standards, wait until the kids are in bed and clean it yourself – but for goodness sakes, don’t get caught!
  • Set reasonable expectations based on the child’s age.
  • Notice what your child is doing, and talk about it.
  • Train in small time increments.
  • Start with something relatively easy, like putting back toys, then move on to more advanced tasks like picking up trash and helping with the dishes.

The following checklists should help you get started with your first attempt:

Planning Basics

  • What two jobs can my toddler attempt successfully?
  • When am I going to train him or her? (Pick a time in the day that works for you and your child.)
  • What are my expectations?

When Your Child Says, “No”

  • Smile and walk away.
  • Go do something more interesting like read your book, listen to music, paint…

It’s also good to keep in mind that training in the art of cooperation and contribution doesn’t have to be explicitly planned during the early stages of training. As long as you’re ready when the opportunity presents itself, you can instill this spirit at a moment’s notice.

When Your Little One Tugs On Your Pant Leg to Play

  • Say “Yes, I would LOVE to play with you, as soon as we use bubbles to wash the dishes!”
  • Ask another question like “Would you like to learn how to squeeze the dish soap or turn on the dishwasher?”

Above all, DON’T GIVE UP — the ability to cooperate and contribute is a life skill that takes practice. And, whether you know it or not, your little ones will notice that you never give up on them, and that means the world.

If you have stories about how life has changed, now that you have handed in your feather duster and started training your kids, please share your comments below!

For more information on HOW to stay patient, set reasonable expectations, teach in small increments, and encourage your child (& yourself) along the way, purchase our Home Program and join the forum — Today!

How To End Tantrums (in 4 Words)

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These FOUR words end tantrums.

No Joke

  • No, you are not going to “give in” to them!
  • No, you are not going to “naughty chair” them. No, you are not going to “talk about it”.
  • What you ARE going to do, is add three of the most POWERFUL words on the planet to the word YES and turn temper tantrum -ing toddlers (or teens for that matter) into patient, cooperative thoughtful family members.

Don’t believe me? Well here is a true story that demonstrates just how effective these 4 words are, when used correctly.

I was walking with my good friend and her two children ages 1 and 2, whom I absolutely adore, and the family dogs. The goal was to get some exercise and reconnect with each other while getting the kids out of the house for some much needed fresh air and sunshine. Unfortunately, once we started walking, the kids started in with some classic demands and, well, here is what happened…

It started out with a “Waaaa” from the one-year-old and several whiny “I waaaant toooo waaaalk” from the two-year-old. Like most parents, my friend eventually gave in and let the two-year-old walk, and, as you know, if you let one out, you have to let the other one out, right?

I was immediately impressed with my friend’s circus-like talent. She started by holding the one-year-old in her arms, trying all the while to push the stroller while keeping the other child on the sidewalk. Soon enough, she was juggling two kids, a stroller, and the dogs in beautiful, chaotic synchronization. Amazed… if not utterly stunned by what she had taken on, I remained quiet and observed. And yes, of course, I eventually offered to help.

No doubt some of you recognize this story and are smiling, nodding, or even shaking your head with that blank, shell-shocked look on your face. Well, keep reading because there IS relief to this timeless riddle.

Alas, the girls did not want to walk OR be held OR do anything else for very long. And, it soon became clear that changing their position up, down, over, around and through, wasn’t even their GOAL. What they really wanted was to keep their mommy busy with them, at the expense of everything else – including visiting with me.

Very quickly, neither my friend nor I were having any fun. I had lost interest in the endless circus act, and we were not able to talk and connect with these two ruckus munchkins demanding all of the attention. So, we soon retreated home and the walk was officially over.

The next day when my friend and I had a quiet moment, we discussed the events that had unfolded the day before. We talked about how quickly the walk had degenerated from a time for two adult friends to connect, into a circus routine with the children in the center ring, running the show.

As you probably know, this is a situation parents find themselves in quite often. If you’re just now expecting your first child, or are thinking about having children, all you have to do is look around the next time you are in the grocery store. You’ll see moms carrying the baby, cajoling the toddler, or bouncing the baby while trying to make it through at least putting the essentials in the cart.

And then there are fathers, gallantly trying to avoid a public tantrum by giving in to their little one’s pleading cries for gum, candy or treats. And, as in my dear friend’s case, there are constant accommodations in response to pleas for freedom from or return to the stroller. This is called The Slippery Slope – that place where parents find themselves when they know at any minute things could go from good to bad, or from bad to really bad!

So, what’s a well-meaning, law-abiding parent to do?

It’s all about training. We can either train our kids to believe that life is all about them, and that it is their job to keep us busy with them, OR we can train our kids in the fine arts of patience, respect, flexibility, cooperation, and manners – arts that are also valuable life skills that will pay dividends faster than you can say “play date!”

OK, I get it. But just HOW does one do teach these fine arts?

Start small by creating opportunities from everyday life, and for those moments that catch you off guard try this simple strategy I call, “Yes, As soon as…” Quick, easy, and highly adaptable, using this strategy results in simple, but effective exchanges like this:

Child: “Can I walk?”
Parent: “Yes, as soon as we get to our road.”
Child: “Can I watch TV?”
Parent: “Yes, as soon as you finish your homework.”
Child: “Can I have a cookie?”
Parent: “Yes, as soon as you eat something healthy.”

The tantrums and the whining usually begin when we tell our children, “No.” And, it ends when we either give in or get mad. Neither one breaks the cycle or teaches our children anything useful. So, say “Yes,” instead, AND… make sure that “Yes” is part of an agreement between you and your child. You agree to let your child do something or have something they want, when they prove to you that they can handle the privilege.

If you have trouble getting started, remember this.

It may not work the first time, and is not intended to stand alone, so you should also:

  • Have faith in your kids – they can handle both the disappointments and privileges.
  • Have your kids help you find solutions to problems if you are stuck.
  • And always, always, take the time to make a plan.

Now, just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine what it will be like if, after 6 months, your family was tantrum-free. It’s all worth considering isn’t it?

Intelligent Design: Routines Don’t Just Appear with a Big “Bang

Revamping your family’s routines can be a strategic challenge – a chess game of cause and effect. Ultimately, you must observe your kids and then “design” a household environment that will lead to effortless routines. You’re probably thinking,”Please, that’s gonna be hard!” But actually, it’s kind of fun because once you’ve figured it out, it’s almost as if by magic, your kid begins to sail through the day. Trust us, you’ll feel pretty savvy once you’ve decided to redesign your deal!

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1. Observe your kids for a day or two and look for what I call their “natural rhythm”. You may have to employ the “duct tape” technique (a technique developed by me to assist in keeping my mouth shut because I lacked the necessary discipline to do it without assistance) in order to get “accurate” information about how your kids are currently handling their morning. Don’t worry if you are late for a day or two, or homework gets left undone, or if bedtime is a bit frazzled. You are investing in the emotional health of your family, so a small disruption in the family might be necessary.

2. Identify where you get stuck (example: We can’t get bedtime right. We’ve tried everything). List observations about why you get stuck (Bedtime is messy because they share a room and one reads quietly before bed while the other jumps around).

3. Identify where the day flows well (after school, the kids get home and put their backpacks in the mudroom).

4. Tell your kids that you have been trying to set up the routines in the family the way you like them and you realize that you made a mistake.

5. Invite them to sit down with you and lay out how they would set up each routine. Here is how I started it – “In a perfect world, on a perfect day, what would the morning look like to you?” And then I listened. Really listened to what they were telling me.

6. Identify the goal of having a Morning, Afternoon and Bedtime routine.

EXAMPLES

  • To get out of the house on time, every day, with all our stuff, a good breakfast in the belly with everyone smiling and excited about the day.
  • To have a calm afternoon that helps the family reconnect and prepare for the 2nd half of the day.
  • To say goodnight, feeling connected, loving and peaceful.

Great, then you play with variables and options. Try them! You don’t have to stick with what’s not working.

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SMART TIP FOR ROUTINE REDESIGN

1. Know what you believe about HOW morning, afternoons and bedtimes “should” be. Once you know your preferences and what the perfect routine would consist of – for you – put it on a shelf and pull it out when the kids leave home at 18.

2. Decide that you will give, whatever routine you set up, time to work. We tend to jump from one routine to another if we don’t get immediate results. My recommendation, wait at least 2 weeks before you start making any significant tweaks to any routine or system to try and implement into daily life with the kids.

3. Keep it within reach! If you want your child to pack a lunch easily and enthusiastically, store the food where they can reach it. The same goes for nontoxic cleaners and clothing. Many routine hiccups can be addressed by physically moving materials kids are expected to handle down to their level.

Have fun! Practice makes progress!

Use the Force: Follow a Child’s Natural Rhythm and Preference

Anyone with kids has probably noticed the 5:00 hour is somehow a portal to the dark side. There’s no getting around it. It’s been called “the bewitching hour”, “arsenic hour” and reversely, “happy hour” by parents who choose to check out while the chaos ensues.

Gilmans

Joking aside, this is the perfect example of how to use natural forces to your advantage. Maybe, asking the kids to sit down and crack the books at 5:00 is asking for a meltdown—one that could be avoided by simply going with the flow of natural productivity. Homework at 3:00? Possibly. Homework at 6:00? Doable. But homework at 5:00? Probably not. The point is, it’s important to notice your child’s natural rhythms and preference and then leverage them to create seamless routines that support an instinctual nature. If your child is squirrely at 5pm, that might be a good time to invite him into the kitchen and have him make his lunch for the following day. Perhaps your child is a morning person. Invite them to make lunches before the bus. Got a late sleeper? Develop a routine that will have them prep their stuff before they go to bed so they get up and follow the same process right out the door.

There are some influences that can’t be changed, but there are many small adjustments that will lead to a much smoother flow throughout the day. And remember: expect hotspots around the am and bedtime routines, transitions to leave the house and getting “stuff” together for sports and activities. No matter what your rhythms and preferences are, understanding them and working with them will make each and every day more enjoyable for you and everyone around you.

Finding the right rhythm may take some time. Here are some ideas to get you going.

  • Identify the night owls and the morning larks.
  • Identify the rabbits and the turtles.
  • If a conflict ensues regarding an activity at a certain time of day – this is your key.
  • Have faith. Try it out. Give it time. And TRUST.

Getting The Kids Involved

Getting the Kids Involved Means Letting them Participate 

work is worthIt sounds super obvious to most parents that if you want kids to follow a daily routine, they have to help create it and then feel supported as they practice mastering the routine on their own. Well, that’s not always how things play out. We often “let” the kids participate when it’s convenient for us or when they are doing things “right” but as soon as they fall behind, or don’t do things exactly the way we want them, we step in and muddle everything up. Creating, executing and mastering routines takes time and while the kids are practicing, life happens. But if we can shift our thinking, if we can let the routine lead the day, we’ll find that children can take on more responsibility, become less dependent on us for everything and we can all enjoy that time between activities vs. rushing and hurrying things along.

What does this mean? It means, if your child is supposed to pack a backpack for school, you wont jump in and do it as the clock starts ticking louder and louder. And so, yes, you’ll be late. Yes, your kid will wear PJ’s to school. Yes, they won’t have a lunch if they don’t feel like making one. Once you learn to let go, the child will know you trust they can do it and that’s when the magic happens. Obviously, allowing a kid to go to school hungry because they forgot their lunch or left their homework behind, is a hard lesson to learn! Most parents think they just can’t let that happen. But they soon find out they can and it only happens once or twice.

IMG_6573Over time, once your children realize you’re going about the routine and that you trust them to manage on their own, they begin to master tasks that lead to confidence and capability. After the peaceful, relaxed and orderly routine is established, you’ll never look back!

Are you ready for a routine?

Kids CAN Do So Much! With a solid routine and less interference, kids of all ages CAN and WILL:

  • get dressed
  • make lunches
  • bring a backpack
  • get ready for bed quickly
  • wake up for school on time
  • finish homework
  • brush their teeth
  • feed the pets
  • and so much more!

Head’s Up! It’ll be bumpy for just a short while. Once you master the routine, it’ll get smoother and sweeter. In the beginning, you’ll have to focus on these few things:

kid workPatience. Don’t step in, even if you’re late.

Correcting. If a kid packs three granola bars for his lunch, hey it’s a start. It’ll get better- don’t get caught up in the little stuff.

Let go. You’ll just have to sacrifice a few events (like bball practice or dinner out) in order to learn the routine.

Once it’s in place, it’ll be just fine.
Trust the kids. Just trust them. They will find a way if you’re not there doing everything for them.

Siblings Part 3: Tips To Bring More Joy

stop the fighting

Watching your kids play nicely together, hearing a shared giggle, watching a potential fight averted, because of some savvy negotiating between your 6 and 8 year old is just about every parent’s idea of a dream come true. But raising kids who truly enjoy each other is a process that takes years. It’s important that parents recognize that building on small moments, bringing a child’s awareness to the moments that “work” with a sometimes pesky sibling, providing situations in which kids can practice solving problems around play, will go a long way in creating sibling relationships that will stay strong and loving for years to come.

Personally, I made the decision when my kids were young, that if I could choose between kids who got along between 2 – 18 and kids who were close from 18 to 80, my choice would be the later. One of the major trip ups for parents around kids getting along when they are young, is the belief that we parents are responsible for those relationships. Maybe if we did more of one thing or less of another, we could guarantee our kids would be each other’s best friends for life – pinky swear. But nothing could be further from the truth. Take a page from your adult experience and trust that by following these easy but powerful 10 tips, you will indeed raise kids who truly enjoy each other’s company more with each passing year. And yes, you will witness this before they leave home.

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1. Appreciations: Just like suggesting to someone who has a head ache that they drink water, before they run to the doctor for an MRI, using appreciations as a way to combat sibling squabbles is often overlooked because of it’s simplicity. But as a mom who raised 5 kids in a blended family dynamic, this was the key to my kids not only enjoying life together under one roof, but the reason the 5 of them are still as thick as thieves as young adults.

2. Adler’s Golden Rule: “ I use Adler’s “see with their eyes, hear with their ears and feel with their heart” to help my children understand a sibling they are struggling with. Inevitably, there is a moment of empathy and awareness, which translates into a more relaxed and accepting dynamic. This has become the foundation for conversations when one sibling is struggling with another’s choice of behavior.” Mother of 4 children, ages 7 – 16.

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

3. No Blood – No Break – No Foul: “I stay out of every single squabble that doesn’t include blood or break. And yes, it’s tough. Especially in public. It’s easy for parents to get pulled into the tussle and as soon as I’m there, I can see the entire dynamic change. It’s no longer an opportunity for my kids to work together to solve the problem, it’s about me trying to decide who needs to change or do something different and the relationship between the kids takes a psychic hit. I would say, that at this point, my kids spend less than 10% of their time squabbling for more than just a few minutes. They have strategies that work for almost every occasion, including walking away, writing it on the problem board, negotiating and sometimes, just throwing themselves down on the ground and hoping for a sympathetic sibling to concede the toy.” Mother of 3 children, under the age of 5

4. Use Reality as your Guide: “I had kids who were very physical and it really concerned me. I thought that the fighting defined the relationship and it scared me. Over time, as I learned to watch the kids in other situations, I realized that they had a high degree of respect for each other and often times worked together in ways that I overlooked. I think it’s important for parents to really challenge their beliefs about what it means for kids to enjoy each other because truly, I think it can sometimes be a bit Polly-Anna. And today, my kids are as close as any siblings I know.” Mother of 3 children, ages 25 – 19

5. Get an accurate idea of how often your kids get along and how they “do” getting along. Most parents admit that when challenged to do this, they recognize that the kids get along more then they give them credit for. So take a deep breath and relax. Remember to acknowledge when the kids are working together or enjoying each other and be specific so they can use this information again and again.

6. Give them a break from each other. Even kids can get sick and tired of hanging with the same folks for too long. Sometimes it’s that simple. Allow them time alone, with other friends, with parents one-on-one and don’t get caught up in the “it’s not fair” song and dance.

7. If you have friends with older kids (like young teens) leverage them. They can teach your kids the importance of getting along with their siblings in a way that we, the parents, can’t. Hearing a story from a 10, 13 or 16 year old about how awesome they think their sibling is, or a time when their sibling came to their rescue, can go along way in helping shift your child’s perspective towards their pesky sibling.

8. Stop fretting. Most kids do enjoy each other. They might not show it the way you want them too, but they are young, they are doing the best they can. Allow the relationship to grow over time, slowly and naturally. Watch that you aren’t comparing or judging and that your expectations are in line with reality.

9. Keep your own childhood out of the picture. You aren’t raising yourself and over compensating for a lousy relationship with your sister will only guarantee that your kids struggle to create meaningful relationships with each other. If you model for your kids what a healthy relationship looks like, sounds like and feels like, they have a much better chance of establishing a healthy one with their siblings. Trying to force kids to get along usually back fires and causes more fractures not less.

10. Take pictures of the times people are enjoying each other and post them around the house. When kids start to squabble, bring them over to a picture and ask them to remind you of what was happening in the action. Along with this, make sure appreciations during Family Meetings includes when kids are rockin it out together. Remember, whatever you pay attention too – you get more of.

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Remember to pace yourself. It’s not nearly as important to have young children who have developed the skills which makes it possible for us to get along with people day in and day out for years, as it is to help them build a strong foundation that will grow with them over time and solidify the relationship they have with their brothers and sisters.

Siblings Fighting? Making Small Tweaks Can Change the Game

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

Here are the 3 simple tweaks (the first step) you can make to break the cycle of fighting in your home and create a little more peace, harmony and enjoyment from all that I promised you.

1. If YOU are still trying to GET your children to get along, the solution is simple: STOP. (In the next post I’ll share the most powerful strategy there is for eliminating the majority of the fighting in your home.) But first, I want you to stop getting involved and observe.

2. Because kids fight for their parents, the solution is to just watch what happens when you act like you don’t notice and walk out of the room or act like you found something more interesting to pay attention to. That doesn’t mean you ignore a situation where you think someone is in serious jeopardy of being hurt, but it does mean you learn to ignore the fighting that is designed to engage YOU. I walked around with headphones on and pretended to listen to music. This drove my kids nuts, but within a few short minutes, they were either dancing with me, or laughing at my taste in music. In either case, the fighting stopped and we could move on with our day.

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3. If you are doing things for your children that they could do for themselves, the solution is to: Invite, Train, Encourage and Support your children as they begin to engage in navigating the hills and valleys of their own lives. By inviting, training, encouraging and supporting your children, you will begin to notice that EVERYONE is in a new relationship with each other and that no one seems all that interested in fighting with anyone else.

If you just realized that you do too much for your children, I invite you to learn more about how to implement the Timeline for Training Strategy.

For Auld Lang Syne

SnowflakesI hear those sleigh bells ringing… It’s that time of year again and everyone here would like to extend to all of you our best wishes for a happy holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, this month is sure to be filled with parties, excitement, presents and, truth be told, stress!

During these trying times, It’s easy to overlook the very thing that we are supposed to be celebrating – our relationships with family. It’s easy to be short-tempered when your To-Do List requires more hours in the day than you have or your kids are bouncing off the walls from excitement or sugar.

Whatever the case try to remember a few simple tips:

  • Be easy on yourself and your kids.
  • Don’t worry if each moment isn’t picture perfect.
  • Don’t worry if those cookies didn’t get made because you preferred to listen quietly by the fire to the snow falling with your little one (or big one) curled up next to you.

So whether you’re riding in a wonderland of snow, or drinking a cup of kindness, we hope you all enjoy this holiday season and wish you all the best in the New Year.

~Vicki

Self Control. Who has it?

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If I ask 100 people about their thoughts on control, 99.5 will whisper “I am a control freak”, as if this is a bad thing. Personally, I embrace and celebrate my “control freakish” nature. Why? Because the truth is, being a control freak is not the problem.

The problem comes from trying to control the external world instead of developing control of your internal world, which really means – demonstrating consistent self-control.

Of those same 100 people, 99.5 of them will readily admit that they spend the majority of their time trying to control everything outside of themselves. Why? Because it’s easier to try and control someone else or something else (ha) then it is to control your own thoughts, words and actions and to a certain extent, I agree.

I agree that it’s easier to “try” and control other people and situations than it is to develop the discipline necessary to control yourself. But the truth is, and we all know it, is that we can’t control ANYTHING beyond our own thoughts, words and actions.

Now when we think about the many ways, we well-meaning parents try and control our kids, it’s important that we also look at the consequences of our decision to try and control them.

Subtle Control– Subtle control can best be described as a friendly dictate from a well-meaning parent. You know? A parent who has their child’s best interest in mind. A parent who only wants their kids to experience the brighter side of life. A parent who KNOWS that if the child would just do what they say, the way they say to do, the child will most certainly turn out to be a happy, well adjusted, never sent to the principal’s office kind of kid. But alas, the child who is subjected to subtle control soon loses their voice and as the voice goes, so does the mental muscle to navigate their way through the world with any sense of confidence and enthusiasm. In other words, we create kids who will follow along with little resistance but who in essence are sitting on the sidelines of their life, while their parents do it for them.

Overt Control – Overt control can best be described as the bossy, dictatorial, I-said-so kind of control. These parents don’t care to disguise their decision to control their kids and their kids’ lives. And surprisingly enough, their motivation to control is much like the subtle parents reasons. To ensure the kids make few or no mistakes, cruise through life with ease, and make their parents lives as easy as possible.

There are some inherent problems in this kind of parenting, not the least of which is that the kids begin to “push back” under all this heavy handed controlling. They quickly learn that controlling other people is a primary goal in life. After all, they are learning from the most important people in their life. Is it any wonder the kids begin to assert their own kind of control of their parents. But the other problem, and one far more concerning to me as a parent, is the fracture it leads to between parent and child. In an overtly controlling dynamic, constant jockeying for position replaces other, healthier ways of connecting.

If you wish to model for your children the benefit of developing and maintaining self-control, start with these simple exercises:

• Start paying attention  to what you are thinking. Seriously. So often, a parent’s mouth will start moving before they have paused long enough to “THINK” about what it is they are going to say next and if it will enhance or interfere with the relationship they have with their child.

Teach yourself to pause and to change what you are thinking. Learn to spin the thought on its axis until you have sniffed out any desire you might have to control the wee little one in front of you. As you begin to develop mental muscle, your ability to actually decide on your thoughts will become easier and easier. And if we are to believe that what comes out of our mouths is based on what we are thinking, then controlling the words we use will be infinitely easier. The words we choose will be in line with our thinking and our thinking is to demonstrate self-control and enhance the relationship with our child. Fabulous.

Remember, your body works for your thoughts.  As your thinking and speaking shifts from directing and reactive to thoughtful and intentional responses, your actions will follow. Imagine actions that are kind, patient, intentional, supportive, forgiving, loving, kind and understanding. Picture yourself influencing your child’s life from this perspective and you can quickly see the distinct advantages of practicing self-control rather than wasting time and energy trying to control the external world.

• Have fun.

Practicing Gratitude

gratitude

I believe this is the third or maybe fourth year that we have posted this story. The fifth grade student who orchestrated this scene below is now a senior in high school. You may have read this before, but we can never be reminded enough about the simple beauty of practicing gratitude.

“Thank you very much, thank you. Thank you very, very much.”

Those words were sung by the enthusiastic students at a recent assembly held at a local elementary school. The applause and appreciation were for the school’s longtime janitor.

At the assembly, a fifth grade student and the art teacher requested that the janitor come to the front of the room. I watched as this humble, gentle man, caught off guard by the request and the cheers from the students, was asked to remove his ball cap, which was replaced with a crown made of decorated construction paper. He was instructed to take a seat on a “throne,” reserved just for him.

He sat on his “throne” as poised and calm as anyone I have ever seen-looking out at all the children, teachers, and parents with complete admiration and appreciation for each and every one of them. There we stood, his audience, appreciating him, honoring him, & thanking him.

I see this man every morning, greeting the children as they arrive with a “Hey, you, how are you?” “Good morning!” or “Have a great day!”

Then he always turns to me and says “That’s why I do this, you know-those kids. It’s important they have a clean place to go to school and learn.” Maybe that’s why the kids wanted to appreciate him, because they can feel his heart in his work and in his commitment to them.

Friday those kids practiced the art of gratitude. They took the time to notice and appreciate a special person in their lives.

So the next time you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed, find your child or another family member and say “Thank you for being you – just the way you are.”

Living our values, whether it be gratitude, respect, integrity, kindness or whatever rings most important to you, takes intention, commitment and practice.

As always, feel free to share ways that you have practiced living your values in your life.

How to Handle Toddler Meltdowns

toddler meltdownParenting Q & A with Vicki Hoefle

Question: How do I handle “bad” toddler behaviors- aka toddler meltdowns?

Scenario: My 2.5 year old daughter does not do this often, but three times in the last 2 weeks she has either hit me or thrown a toy at me. My friend witnessed one of the episodes and told me I should take a firm stand on this behavior and let her know that I will not tolerate it. Should I sit her down and tell her that her behavior is unacceptable, send her to her room or is there another strategy that might get better results.

Answer:

Wow, only 3 times in 2 weeks. I would be toasting to that exceptional behavior, not trying to find a strategy to punish her which I am fairly certain will turn your 3 times in 2 weeks to 3 times every day.

When stumped on how to handle toddler meltdowns, consider this:

Kids hit, throw, bite, pull, punch, scream, spit, holler, cry, pout, hug, kiss, cuddle, laugh, and say I love you because they are learning.

What are they learning? How to interpret the world. They are looking for responses to all these behaviors as a way to inform them on which ones bring mom and dad closer to them, and which behaviors push mom and dad away from them.

The best and most effective strategy is this – pay attention to the behaviors that will best serve your child (these are sure to delight you as well) and ignore the ones that will cause her trouble as she grows and matures.

QUESTION for YOU: Have you ever had a moment when you didn’t know how to handle toddler behaviors? What did you try and how did it go?

What is Your Child Thinking?

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Are you living with a child who is constantly challenging your rules, your ideas, the outfits you choose, the lunch you pack, the bedtime you set, or the morning routine you created step-by-step? Do you feel as though this wonderful child is all-of-a-sudden challenging your authority? I get it, you’ve lived for years on this planet, you know your child very well, and you know what he needs to function at his best. It makes sense that you put it all into play. You may often ask yourself, Why is he so defiant? What is he thinking?

And then you go to the grocery store and there is the child, the child you wish was yours just for this moment. You know, that do-as-you’re-told fellow with textbook manners, neat clothing, exquisite restraint, sticky sweet personality and the cherub-like smile that appears just at the most opportune time.

You wonder what is that parent doing, you compare yourself and clamp down further on your own child. Only to receive more push-back and more lip. Before you drive yourself crazy, take a moment and think about what is “motivating” this child to “behave.”

For a Moment, Consider This

Sure, he’s compliant, he’ll follow orders, and never talk back, but do you ever stop and wonder why? Is he afraid of punishment or to disappoint? Is he being bribed and working toward a reward? Or is he praised to the point that he is afraid of making a mistake? None of these thoughts are healthy when they appear in adult relationships, so why are we using strategies that create these thoughts when our kids are little?

One thing we do know is that that child is definitely not learning to challenge the world around him. Of course, it’s not his fault, he’s been trained to be a “great” kid (and yes, we all want great kids,) but there’s something missing in this child’s life: the ability to think, to choose and to do for himself.

Your defiant, obstinate, bossy, pain-in-the-neck child is telling you that he wants to develop his voice, figure out what works best for him, and practice making mistakes and revising his plan. Your job is to support him through this process, because it could get messy.

Thinking kids are Messy

Why encourage your child to think for himself when you already know what’s best and can avoid all that mess? Here’s why: Because, eventually, your child will have to either make his own choices, or go along with the crowd (because you’ve trained him to do this) and although this may not be concerning when you’re living with a 2, 5, or 7 year old, it can be damn alarming when you’re living with a 13 or 16 year old.

Raising thinking children takes effort, however when you consider the alternative, it’s worth it. I encourage you to allow your children time to practice navigating their own lives according to their values, their preferences and their interests, while they are living at home with you. In other words kids who practices making choices when they are little, will be strong enough to make smart, thoughtful, and skillful choices later – when the stakes are higher. They will also know how to take responsibility for those choices, good, bad, or indifferent. And when amends are in order they’ll be willing to make them.

So, the next time your child is willing to make a choice around clothing, shoes, bedtime, food, baseball, piano lessons, ballet, or anything else for that matter, stop and ask yourself, “Is this a chance for me to let my child choose?” Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure is worth a moment of reflection.

Interested in learning more about raising thinking children? Learn how with Vicki’s Tools for Success. Take the time to develop confidence in your parenting decisions and to trust your child to make his or her own choices. (Italicize the paragraph) and linke Vicki’s Tools for Success to the link below.

www.vickihoefle.com/tools-success

Problems with Potty Training? Give up

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Your attempt to have all the power.

When parents ask me,

How do I GET my kids to use the toilet?
How do I GET my kids to eat dinner?
How do I GET my kids to go to sleep at night?

My first thought is “how the heck should I know?” I’m not in the business of teaching parents more ways to control their kids.

Never in my 25 years of motherhood have I ever been able to GET my kids to do something they didn’t want to do. More specifically when it comes to potty training, eating and sleeping challenges, there is typically a deeper issue at hand.

Think about this for a minute. How do you make a child go the bathroom? How do you make a child eat something he refuses to eat? How do you make a child fall asleep? When it comes to these three areas,  the child is clearly in control.

Now don’t get me wrong, bribing, coaxing, and rewarding may provide the desired result in the short-term, but the downside is that you can find yourself right back at it only moments later. With these problems the quick fix method does nothing to facilitate independence in your children over the long term or solve the problem in the short term.

Any attempt to try and “get the kids” to do what you want only reinforces for the child that, “you can’t make him” and here he asserts his own personal power. So if you are experiencing trouble in any of these areas, take a moment and think about your relationship with your child.

Are there areas of his life where you could offer him more control? Is he picking out his clothes? Is he able to decide on certain foods he will eat? Have you incorporated some of his ideas into the bedtime routine? Does he have free time to do what he thinks is fun? Are you inviting him to help out with the real jobs around the house or are you sending him to play with his toys?

Most of the behaviors we experience with our kids are symptoms of an underlying problem. As parents we tend to hone in on changing the symptom and miss the real problem all together. The next time you are tempted to ask, “How do I get…” think about a different question, “What will it take for my child to…” This will help you look at situation(s) from a different perspective, identify what might be missing for your child and what you can do to help him move forward.

Remember, you are the best parent for your children. It’s not an easy road, but it’s a road worth traveling.

-Vicki

Resources on Sex and Kids

With so much information out there, it can be difficult to approach the topic of sex with your children.  I’ve read my share of books on the subject, and today’s blog post highlights two authors whose expertise is helpful to parents of boys and girls of all ages.

About Michael Thompson

An expert in child and family psychology, Dr. Thompson is the author of nine books and has consulted with hundreds of schools. In his thirty-five years as a clinical psychologist, he has developed incredible insight into the emotional and social development of boys in particular. Read more about Michael Thompson here.

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of  Boys (with Dan Kindlon, Ph.D)

Discussing a nation of boys that is “emotionally illiterate”, Kindlon and Thompson set out to answer the question: “what do boys need that they’re not getting?”
Learn more

It’s a Boy!: Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18 (with Teresa Barker)

In exploring the developmental, psychological, social, emotional, and academic life of boys, Thompson and journalist coauthor Teresa Barker identify key transitions in psychological and emotional growth, and the many ways in which boys attempt to define themselves.
Learn more

Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children (with Cathe O’Neill-Grace and Lawrence J Cohen)

Thompson and Grace demonstrate that children’s friendships are alternately intimate and intense, and cruel.  These two experts use a combination of research and their own experience in schools to give parents a deeper understanding of the motives and meanings of children’s social behavior.
Learn more

About Leonard Sax

Dr. Sax is a longtime psychologist and family physician, and has worked with hundreds of schools and spoke on child and adolescent development in eleven countries.  He uses scientific research and his own experience as a parent and a doctor to gain insight into the unique challenges our kids face today.

Boys Adrift

Dr. Sax argues that a combination of social and biological factors is creating an environment that is literally toxic to boys. Outside forces such as overemphasis on reading and math as early as kindergarten, too much time spent playing video games, and overlooked endocrine disturbances are actually causing damage to boys’ brains.  The result is a generation of men who are less resilient and less ambitious than their older peers. However, Dr. Sax tempers his argument with simple remedies and action plans that parents can begin to implement right away – and includes inspiring stories of success.
Learn more

Girls On the Edge

Young women are at risk today. In Girls on the Edge, Dr. Leonard Sax shares stories of girls who look confident and strong on the outside but are fragile within. Sax provides parents with tools to help girls become confident women, along with practical tips on helping your daughter choose a sport, nurturing her spirit through female-centered activities, and more.
Learn more

Resources for 2014

Oh those lazy days of summer…or maybe not. Regardless of how you are able to spend your summer days, here is a recommended reading list for all of you. There a many experts in the field of parenting and many who have specific expertise. Bookmark this blog and when you have the time you can peck away at this list of my absolute favorites. Next week I’ll post my top resources on Kids and Sex.

Protecting The Gift
by Gavin de Becker

In Protecting the Gift, Gavin de Becker shares with readers his remarkable insight into human behavior, providing them with a fascinating look at how human predators work and how they select their targets and most important, how parents can protect their children. He offers the comforting knowledge that, like every creature on earth, human beings can predict violent behavior. In fact, he says, parents are hardwired to do just that.
Learn more

Mindset
by Carol Dweck

Every so often a truly groundbreaking idea comes along. This is one. Mindset explains:
Why brains and talent don’t bring success
How they can stand in the way of it
Why praising brains and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment, but jeopardizes them
How teaching a simple idea about the brain raises grades and productivity
What all great CEOs, parents, teachers, athletes know
Mindset is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in decades of research on achievement and success—a simple idea that makes all the difference.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.
Learn more

Children the Challenge
by Rudolf Dreikurs

Children: The Challenge gives the key to parents who seek to build trust and love in their families, and raise happier, healthier, and better behaved children. Based on a lifetime of experience with children–their problems, their delights, their challenges–Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs, one of America’s foremost child psychiatrists presents an easy to follow program that teaches parents how to cope with the common childhood problems that occur from toddler through preteen years. This warm and reassuring reference helps parents to understand their children’s actions better, giving them the guidance necessary to discipline lovingly and effectively.
Learn more

Nurture Shock
by Po Bronson

What if we told you…
that dishonesty in children is a positive trait
that arguing in front of your kids can make you a good role model
and that if you praise your children you risk making them fail
…and it was all true?

Using a cutting-edge combination of behavioural psychology and neuroscience, award-winning journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman have produced an innovative, counter-intuitive read that will change the way we interact with our children forever.

They demonstrate that for years our best intentions with children have been our worst ideas, using break-through scientific studies to prove that our instincts and received wisdom are all wrong. Nurtureshock is the Freakonomics of childhood and adolescence, exploring logic-defying insights into child development that have far-reaching relevance for us all.
Learn more

Queen Bees and Wannabees
by Rosalind Wiseman

When Rosalind Wiseman first published Queen Bees & Wannabes, it fundamentally changed the way that adults looked at girls’ friendships and conflicts. From how they choose their best friends, how they express their anger, their boundaries with boys, and their relationships with parents—Wiseman showed how girls of every background are profoundly influenced by their interactions with each other.
Now, Wiseman has revised and updated her groundbreaking book for a new generation of girls, and explores:
How girls’ experiences before adolescence impact their teen years, future relationships, and overall success
The different roles girls play in and outside of cliques as Queen Bees, Targets, and Bystanders, and how this defines how they and others are treated
Girls’ power plays—from fake apologies to fights over IM and text message
Where boys fit into the equation of girl conflicts and how you can help your daughter better hold her own with the opposite sex
Checking your baggage—recognizing how your experiences impact the way you parent, and how to be sanely involved in your daughter’s difficult, yet common social conflicts
Packed with insights on technology’s impact on Girl World and enlivened with the experiences of girls, boys, and parents, the book that inspired the hit movie Mean Girls offers concrete strategies to help you empower your daughter to be socially competent and treat herself with dignity.
Learn more

Masterminds and Wingmen
by Rosalind Wiseman

In 2002, Rosalind Wiseman wrote Queen Bees and Wannabes and established a new way to understand girls’ social dynamics. Now Wiseman has done the same for boys. Wiseman’s new book, Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World, shows what’s really happening in boys’ lives. It creates a new language and analytical framework to understand the power of boys’ social hierarchies and how these influence their decision-making and emotional well-being. Wiseman’s hard-hitting challenge to parents and educators establishes a road map to reach boys and help them to grow into the best brothers, friends, students, athletes, boyfriends, and sons they can be.
Learn more

The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence
by Rachel Simmons

In The Curse of the Good Girl, Rachel Simmons argues that girls are pressured to embrace a version of selfhood that sharply curtails their power and potential. Unerringly nice, polite, modest, and selfless, the Good Girl is an identity so narrowly defined that it’s unachievable. When girls fail to live up to these empty expectations—experiencing conflicts with peers, making mistakes in the classroom or on the playing field—they become paralyzed by self-criticism, stunting the growth of vital skills and habits. Simmons traces the poisonous impact of Good Girl pressure on development and provides a strategy to reverse the tide. At once illuminating and prescriptive, The Curse of the Good Girl is an essential guide to contemporary girl culture and a call to arms from a new front in female empowerment.
Looking to the stories shared by the women and girls who attend her workshops, Simmons shows that pressure from parents, teachers, coaches, media, and peers erects a psychological glass ceiling that begins to enforce its confines in girlhood and extends across the female lifespan. The curse erodes girls’ ability to know, express, and manage a complete range of feelings. It expects girls to be selfless, limiting the expression of their needs. It requires modesty, depriving them of permission to articulate their strengths and goals. It diminishes assertive body language, quiets voices and weakens handshakes. It touches all areas of girls’ lives and follows many into adulthood, limiting their personal and professional potential.
We have long lamented the loss of self-esteem in adolescent girls, recognizing that while the doors of opportunity are open to twenty-first-century American girls, many lack the confidence to walk through them. In The Curse of the Good Girl, Simmons provides the first comprehensive action plan to silence the curse and bolster the self. Her inspiring message: that the most critical freedom we can win for our daughters is the liberty not only to listen to their inner voice, but to act on it.
Learn more

It’s Okay Not To Share
by Heather Shumaker

Although it flips convention on its head, It’s OK Not to Share… is based on child development and emerging neuroscience research. Discover concrete skills to help your child prevent bullying, channel active energy, express feelings appropriately and much more. It’s designed to make you rethink what you thought you knew about parenting and give you saner days.
Learn more

Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years
by Michelle Icard

 

Middle School Makeover is a guide for parents and educators to help the tweens in their lives navigate the socially fraught hallways, gyms, and cafeterias of middle school. The book helps parents, teachers, and other adults in middle school settings to understand the social dilemmas and other issues that kids today face. Author Michelle Icard covers a large range of topics, beginning with helping us understand what is happening in the brains of tweens and how these neurological development affects decision-making and questions around identity. She also addresses social media, dating, and peer exclusion. Using both recent research and her personal, extensive experience working with middle-school-aged kids and their parents, Icard offers readers concrete and practical advice for guiding children through this chaotic developmental stage while also building their confidence.
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Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain
by Daniel J. Siegel

In this groundbreaking book, the bestselling author of Parenting from the Inside Out and The Whole-Brain Child shows parents how to turn one of the most challenging developmental periods in their children’s lives into one of the most rewarding. Between the ages of 12 and 24, the brain changes in important and often maddening ways. It’s no wonder that many parents approach their child’s adolescence with fear and trepidation. According to renowned neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel, however, if parents and teens can work together to form a deeper understanding of the brain science behind all the tumult, they will be able to turn conflict into connection and form a deeper understanding of one another. In Brainstorm, Siegel illuminates how brain development affects teenagers’ behaviour and relationships. Drawing on important new research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, he explores exciting ways in which understanding how the teenage brain functions can help parents make what is in fact an incredibly positive period of growth, change, and experimentation in their children’s lives less lonely and distressing on both sides of the generational divide.
Learn more

Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children
By Michael G. Thompson, Ph.D. and Catherine O’Neill Grace with Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D.

 

Friends broaden our children’s horizons, share their joys and secrets, and accompany them on their journeys into ever wider worlds. But friends can also gossip and betray, tease and exclude. Children can cause untold suffering, not only for their peers but for parents as well. In this wise and insightful book, psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph.D., and children’s book author Catherine O’Neill Grace, illuminate the crucial and often hidden role that friendship plays in the lives of children from birth through adolescence.
Drawing on fascinating new research as well as their own extensive experience in schools, Thompson and Grace demonstrate that children’s friendships begin early–in infancy–and run exceptionally deep in intensity and loyalty. As children grow, their friendships become more complex and layered but also more emotionally fraught, marked by both extraordinary intimacy and bewildering cruelty. As parents, we watch, and often live through vicariously, the tumult that our children experience as they encounter the “cool” crowd, shifting alliances, bullies, and disloyal best friends.
Best Friends, Worst Enemies brings to life the drama of childhood relationships, guiding parents to a deeper understanding of the motives and meanings of social behavior. Here you will find penetrating discussions of the difference between friendship and popularity, how boys and girls deal in unique ways with intimacy and commitment, whether all kids need a best friend, why cliques form and what you can do about them.
Filled with anecdotes that ring amazingly true to life, Best Friends, Worst Enemies probes the magic and the heartbreak that all children experience with their friends. Parents, teachers, counselors–indeed anyone who cares about children–will find this an eye-opening and wonderfully affirming book.
Learn more

How to Handle Toddler Meltdowns

toddler meltdown

Question: How do I handle “bad” toddler behaviors- aka toddler meltdown?

Scenario: My 2.5 year old daughter does not do this often, but three times in the last 2 weeks she has either hit me or thrown a toy at me. My friend witnessed one of the episodes and told me I should take a firm stand on this behavior and let her know that I will not tolerate it. Should I sit her down and tell her that her behavior is unacceptable, send her to her room or is there another strategy that might get better results.

Answer:

Wow, only 3 times in 2 weeks. I would be toasting to that exceptional behavior, not trying to find a strategy to punish her which I am fairly certain will turn your 3 times in 2 weeks to 3 times every day.

When stumped on how to handle toddler meltdowns, consider this:

Kids hit, throw, bite, pull, punch, scream, spit, holler, cry, pout, hug, kiss, cuddle, laugh, and say I love you because they are learning.

What are they learning? How to interpret the world. They are looking for responses to all these behaviors as a way to inform them on which ones bring mom and dad closer to them, and which behaviors push mom and dad away from them.

The best and most effective strategy is this – pay attention to the behaviors that will best serve your child (these are sure to delight you as well) and ignore the ones that will cause her trouble as she grows and matures.

QUESTION for YOU: Have you ever had a moment when you didn’t know how to handle toddler behaviors? What did you try and how did it go?

Five Tips to End Sibling Rivalry

It’s the Simple Things that Trip us Up

Let’s say you’re having one of those June-Cleaver-would-croak-if-she-saw-you moments. Your kids are rowdy, screeching and tearin’ the place apart. You look into the mirror and say, “If only they could get along and end this sibling rivalry my life would be bliss.” (Yeah right ☺).

Screaming and fighting happens. Sometimes it’s as simple as a child who is over tired or hungry. Maybe it’s the time of day that triggers a fisticuffs between siblings. And truth is, sometimes it’s something more. But before you spend too much time probing, rule out the simple reasons kids can go at each other without provocation.

With a little preemptive planning, you can cut off the small ‘skirmishes’ that pop-up and drain your energy leaving you feeling more like Lizzy Borden than Mrs. Cleaver.

Here’s how you find that mommy bliss and get back to your buntcake and bonbons:

  • Stop and think: Is there a simple reason the kids are fighting? Do they just need food? Offer it without engaging.
  • Notice the rhythm of your children’s behaviors. Redirect the energy BEFORE the “He hit me, no I didn’t” song starts to play on full blast (on repeat).
  • Zip your mouth, ma. The “telling them” and trying to “get them” to get along doesn’t work. Ignore it and find something productive to do instead. And if you invite them into an activity that seems more interesting that the fight, they are bound to check it out.
  • Stay Out Of It. It’s that simple. Don’t care. Don’t get annoyed. Don’t listen to the tattles. Don’t correct the kids. It’s none of your business. (Of course, if they are in harm’s way, do what you have to). Put your headphones on if need be and sing away. You’d be surprised how many kids will give up a fist fight when they hear a parents singing to Talking Heads.
  • Give them something else to do. AHHHH – There’s the rub. Most parents aren’t sure WHAT ELSE TO DO – so they return to the old ways….

Fighting can be avoided with a little investigation, a bit of redirecting and a willingness not to make things worse. Best of all, practicing these tips over time – goes a long way to eliminating sibling rivalry.

Less is More does not mean Permissive


For more information on parenting visit KidsInTheHouse.com

Duct Tape Parenting; A Less is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Kids (Bibliomotion 2012) has been published for almost two years and we have had the great fortune to introduce this philosophy to over 10,000 parents through our book sales.

A common question that we have received from parents who are interested in reading the book, but not yet ready to step back and let go of the helicopter hover, has been how is “less is more” different from Permissive Parenting? First I would suggest reading the book and the answer will be clear, however in simple terms – Permissive Parenting is no boundaries while Less is More is boundaries (order) with the freedom to make mistakes and learn from experience.

Children raised in a permissive household tend to have real difficulty with any kind of boundary or structure outside of the home. Typically they’ve been indulged and mom and dad have done everything they can to avoid any kind of meltdown, temper tantrum, disruption, sadness, or anger. So the children really never gets the chance to develop the kinds of resources that will help them deal with a much different world, one that doesn’t really take into account that they’ve been pampered and spoiled and not expected to take care of themselves or recover from any kind of upsets.

As these kids begin to grow, their anxiety increases because there’s a sense that they’re not navigating the world around them as well as their peer group. They don’t have the resources. They don’t have the confidence. They don’t have the experience. They’re used to just asking and receiving. Or having someone save them from a difficult situation. Or even making those situations go away altogether.

So consider stepping back, letting go and inviting your children into the process of living, making decisions, making mistakes, developing necessary life skills and resources. Remember we are raising 27-year-olds, not seven-year-olds and they need loads of time to practice – within a designated set of boundaries, that grow as they do – to come out on the other side with the mental muscle, courage, and resilience it takes to navigate life as a healthy adult.

How to Stop Screaming and Start Engaging


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As parents, most of us will ask our kids to get dressed, or brush their teeth, or go get their homework so we can get in the car. As kids, they typically will ignore that first request. We then follow with a few more requests using a really nice calm voice. The kids continue to ignore us. And it’s at that point that we change from nice to screeching, yelling, demanding, and threatening. And it seems to us as parents that’s the only time our children get engaged, when we escalate into the screaming, which is not really what we want to be doing. Most parents I speak with say they would love to be able to stop screaming.

It’s important for parents to understand that first of all most kids are parents deaf. It’s a little bit like the Charlie Brown scenario. What they hear through those first requests is [wah-wah, wah-wah]. All of these requests and reminders train the kids that they don’t really have to move until we escalate. So one of the ways to break that pattern is to start out by giving our kids choices, because they have to answer you.

When you speak to your kids change from a direction to a request or a choice. “John, would you like to brush your teeth now or after this commercial? Mary, would you like to get your homework now or after we finish dinner. Jamie, do you want to brush your teeth now or after we finish reading the book?”

The child is required to then respond in some way. Once you receive a response, you can move the conversation forward. Even if the child replies by saying, “neither”, you have the beginning of a conversation started and you can answer, “I see. When would you be willing to…?” Try it and see if this helps you to stop screaming.