All posts in Parenting Tips & How To

Children and Food. Another Relationship to Consider.

kids-lunch“You know, all those kids whose parents were sending them to school with carrot sticks and avocados and 3 oz of lean turkey 5 years ago are now showing up in my office as pre-teens with serious eating issues.  They are starving and now they have this wonky idea about the role food plays in their lives.  I wish I could record some of the conversations I have with these kids, so their parents could hear how messed up their views on food and nutrition are. I spend half my time trying to re-educate them, but many of the kids say they have to sneak to eat anything that isn’t sanctioned by mom or dad.”

I almost fell out of my chair when my friend who is a nutritionist and pediatrician shared this with me.  I asked her to share three tips she would give parents that would help correct this dangerous trend.

I have listed her suggestions for creating a more balanced approach to nutrition.

1.  Keep your own eating issues out of the equation. When talking to the parents whose kids communicate unhealthy ideas around food, eating and nutrition, it is immediately understood that it is the parents’ issue that is driving the decisions around their child’s nutrition. Either parents are afraid kids will struggle with weight issues and start focusing too heavily on calorie counting at a very young age or they are hyper vigilant about disease and limit any and all processed food. Parents must first examine their own relationship with food, health, nutrition, and disease and deal with those issues personally.  Then, seek out a nutritionist who can help address concerns and assist in helping the parents create a more balanced approach to nutrition.  With all this focus on obesity, it’s easy to understand how we can let fear drive our decision making process around nutrition, but it’s important that we recognize that swinging the pendulum too far the other way is just as dangerous.

2.  It’s tempting to connect nutrition, food, and fuel for the body, to body size, body type or body weight in order to “motivate” kids to eat in healthier ways. Unfortunately, the minute parents begin making those connections is the minute many kids start thinking there is something wrong with their bodies.  Teaching kids about healthy nutrition starts by inviting them to look at cookbooks to find tasty meals, weighing fruit and veggies at the grocery store, selecting healthy snacks and sometimes, not so healthy snacks, and then being invited into the kitchen where they have the opportunity to develop a healthy relationship with food.

3. Everything in Moderation. Whether you are Vegan, Paleo, or somewhere in between, your kids need a variety of food to not only stay healthy, but to develop that healthy relationship with food. Limiting certain foods or denying them all together will only create power struggles and eating problems. When kids see their friends eating those tasty treats and they know what the “food policy” is in their homes, the more tempted they are to sneak which leaves them feeling badly about who they are and nervous about talking to their folks.

 

The Two Reasons Less is More

work is worthIt’s not uncommon for a mom with a seven and five year old to recommend my book to a friend with younger children. The reason a parent of older kids recommends my book or encourages a parent with young children to attend a 6 week class I am teaching is because they know something the parent of the younger children does not.

And that is:

“You can do it now, or you can do it later, but you are going to have to do it – the earlier you start the easier it is – so start now.”

No matter how old your children are when you are introduced to this Less is More Approach to parenting, the concepts and strategies are there to support you as you teach your kids about healthy relationships and support their drive towards independence. This approach is flexible and can be adapted to meet any special circumstances in your family. This short blog is intended to inform those with younger kids who may be wondering – “But really – will it work for kids who are only a year old?”  The answer is yes and  I hope the following summary helps answer any questions you may have.

 This is not really a parenting program.  It is an approach to parenting that you can continue to use throughout your children’s lives, no matter how old they are.

At it’s core, this approach is about two things:

 1.  Helping your children learn what constitutes a healthy relationship through the relationship they have with you, their parent, so that they can enter into healthy relationships with people beyond their immediate family..  This means that the go-to, in-the-moment, not-sure-what-else-to-do strategies, which include nagging, reminding, lecturing, saving, bribing, coaxing, or punishing are replaced with strategies that build cooperative and respectful relationships which makes it possible to limit power struggles and enjoy life with a toddler or a teen.

The relationship strategies I teach are a far cry from the quick fix strategies many parents use to “get” their kids to do what they want or to stop doing something they disapprove of.  What I know, is that if a parent begins incorporating these relationship strategies into their life when their children are very young, they will be among the many parents who have not found it necessary to spend exorbitant amounts of time nagging, reminding, counting, time-outing, threatening or bribing their kids just to get through the day.  Will you get the hairy eyeball from some busybody watching you in the store – you bet, but you will also raise a child who is capable, competent, happy, respectful and responsible so it’s worth a few snarky comments when you consider the reward.

 2.  Providing as many opportunities as we can for our children to become more independent and self-reliant by helping them develop the skills necessary to navigate their fast past, ever changing world with confidence and enthusiasm.  And this begins by allowing them a chance to make simple choices, share in decision making, learning how to self soothe and overcome momentary frustrations and disappointments.

For parents with very young children, it’s important to allow them a chance to struggle, fuss, even cry before we rush to their sides and try and make them happy and content again.  The ability to overcome a bit of frustration or waiting helps them build confidence and is in fact a basic skill that they will continue to develop for many, many years.

If all you do, is take your cues from your child when he shows interest in feeding himself, or getting in the car-seat with help, or putting on a t-shirt, or making toast, you will go along way in laying the groundwork necessary for raising a remarkably capable and responsible young person.

If you think I am a competent young adult, stop treating me like an immature child

Growing into competent young adultsSitting in the doctor’s office last week, I overheard a mother and her sixteen-year-old daughter chatting. How do I know she was sixteen-years-old? Because she was talking about the rules that go along with being a new driver, mainly, that she is not allowed to drive anyone under 22-years-old for 6 months. Totally lame in her words.

The topic of their conversation suddenly shifted and before I knew what was happening, their exchange went from casual disdain, to blatant hostility, to full on, clenched teeth verbal warfare about whether or not mom would be going into the exam room with the same sixteen-year-old young woman who was just moments before talking about driving a vehicle.

Question: What might this mom believe about the relationship she has with her daughter that makes it possible for her to see her as a competent adult ready to get behind the wheel of a car, but not mature enough to go into the exam room on her own?

Question: Is this a common phenomenon? Accepting our kids are growing up and becoming competent young adults in some ways – dating, cars, college – and yet refusing to accept that they are growing up in other ways – exam rooms, using manners, choosing friends.

Question: Is needing to be needed as a parent making it difficult to identify these “markers” in our teens’ lives and if so, does that explain the “pushback” we feel as they become more competent young adults?

Question: Does a sixteen-year-old who is old enough to drive and probably date, have the right to decide whether her mother joins her in the exam room?

Question: Do we, as parents who changed diapers, wiped tears away, giggled under covers get confused because our kids will always remain MY child, but not always be A child?

This is just one example of how as parents, in our desire to stay connected to our kids, inadvertently enter into power struggles that push our children further from us. Take a moment and consider all the ways your pre-teen may be showing you that she is ready to be treated more like a competent young adult, than a school-aged-child.

Consider that by letting go just a bit more each day, you are sending the message to your child that you trust her and have faith in her ability to handle her life. Kids who know their parents have faith in their ability to handle the ups and downs of life along with making the daily decisions that go along with being an adult, feel more connected to them. While kids who have hovering parents who continue to hound them with questions, offering opinions and advice, want to run as far away from their parents as possible.

Let’s keep our kids close, by giving them space and supporting their march towards independence.

Kids Developing Worrisome Habits? Stop Blaming the Neighbors.

If we want our children to change their behavior, we must first change ours.Earlier this week, we shared this article on our facebook page. Don’t Text While Parenting — It Will Make You Cranky

For many this proved as a wake up call.  As this article so plainly points out, it is parents, adults, who model unhealthy and addictive behavior when it comes to technology but instead of taking responsibility for our actions and instead of having the courage to admit that our kids are modeling exactly what they see mom and dad doing, we spend hours talking about the neighbors, the kids on the bus, and the negative influence this dangerous technology has on our children.

Whenever parents talk to me about “pesky” behavior or worrisome habits, I remind them that kids are modeling EXACTLY what they are exposed to – by their parents.  It is me, it is you, it is every parent and adult, we must accept that we are role models. If we want our children to change their behavior, we must first change ours.

 Here is an example from my own life:

I am talking to my daughter, Zoe, on Skype. (Yes, that is the two of us many years ago in the picture above.) She has taken a break from her studies and has called to chat about something important that she is discussing in one of her child development classes.  We are deep into a conversation we both care about, sharing ideas, thoughts, concerns, and solutions. I get a facebook message – POP – and Zoe is in mid-sentence. I ignore this distraction for a moment but then I open up the message and think to myself, I will just respond real quick.  Now, I already know that the brain can not multi-task.  (I too, read that scientific study that confirmed what we already know.)  The brain can not successfully focus on two things at the same time. One of the activities or thoughts takes a back seat – it is deemed, “not as important”.  This is what happened to Zoe’s sentence, it got relegated to the “not as important” pile. Suddenly, as I am clicking away to answer this message I notice that Zoe has stopped talking.  I stop typing.

She says “Let me know when you are done and then I will continue with what I was saying.”  No malice in her voice.  “Either talk to me or talk to the other person, but be present for at least one of us.”  Message received loud and clear.

I stopped nagging my kids about their technology the first time Zoe busted me like this.  I used her strategy instead to invite re-engagement with my children and I made damn sure I wasn’t trying to multi-task as they were talking to me.  Even if we were 3000 miles away and I could mute myself so they couldn’t hear me typing to someone else.

The next time you are tempted to complain about the impact of technology in your child’s life, examine your own practices and I think you will find that like everything else, the remedy to this national crisis is looking back at you from the mirror.

Stuck in a Parenting Rut? Don’t move the Deck Chairs

Over coffee this morning with a friend who recently had her second child, the conversation turned to parenting ruts.

 Parenting Rut“It’s funny, when we had our first child we talked about how we would co-parent and distribute the jobs of child-rearing equitably. We committed to supporting each others’ unique ways of bonding with our child and we thought we really had our s… together.  But fast forward six years and the birth of our second child and it is crystal clear to both of us that we are in some deep parenting ruts that are not healthy. Not for our kids, not for us personally, not for us as a couple and not for us as a family.  I don’t know how the hell this happened but what is scarier is that I have no idea what to do about it.”

 I knew what she was talking about, as I recognized after the birth of my second child that I was living in some pretty nasty parenting ruts myself.  But I wanted to know more about her experience.

 “What has you concerned most?” I asked.

 She thought for a while and said, “I want to change those ruts, but when I think of all the areas I need to make the changes, it seems completely overwhelming.  We both work, we are raising two kids with a six year age gap and I just don’t have any idea where to start.”

 I sat quietly and waited.

 “I have this feeling in my gut, or maybe in my heart, that I am going about this wrong, but I can’t tell you why I feel that way.”

 I asked, “Is it a little bit like you are trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic but you already know the Titanic is going down?”  Her eyes lit up.

 Bingo. The sweet spot of “knowing” on some deep intuitive level that this is exactly what is going on and knowing that the solution is to change the course of the Titanic not rearrange the deck chairs.

 “Okay, smarty” she said, “I know what the deck chairs represent – the ruts we are in – but what does the Titanic represent?”

 “Your thinking.” I said, “When people, parents, give themselves time to pause, to rest, to contemplate, to examine without rushing to “do” anything, they create a space that supports a change in thinking. This change in thinking is usually dramatic, dynamic, and directional.  As our thinking changes so do our actions. As our actions change to support the new thinking, our thinking becomes more aligned with our true goals. With this new clarity our confidence builds, we commit more deeply to this new thinking and change continues. It can be several months before a parent notices for the first time that the changes taking place in her life, the ruts are being replaced with paved roads of clarity and direction and it is happening with no struggle, no push, no exertion of energy. This is often described as a graceful process which happens naturally and effortlessly.”

 We talked for a while longer, she rolling the possibilities through her mind and me holding the space of that earlier “aha” moment. As I drove home, I was reminded that we are a culture that believes that when we feel stuck, changing our circumstances, our location or our relationships will bring about a feeling of wholeness, of completion, but because our thinking hasn’t changed, it isn’t long before the aching returns, new ruts emerge and we are once again rearranging the deckchairs of our life.

Rude & Disrespectful Behavior? How Does Your Child Say Hello?

misbehavingQuestion: I have a nine-year-old who is so rude to people when they come over that they are completely taken aback. I, of course am embarrassed and angry that after 9 years this child still refuses to say hello when we have guests and goes out of her way to spew as much snark as she can. We have talked about this over and over again and she doesn’t see that she is doing anything wrong. Even people who ignore the snarky attitude and try to be polite, or ask her questions about school or show an interest in her are shot down. What is going on with her?

Answer: Adler’s teaching suggest that you meet a child’s kick with a kick and a smile with a smile, since that is how the child is saying, hello. Initially, it was difficult for me to “meet the child” where he was, but after many failed attempts at winning children over who were so clearly uninterested in me, I gave up and tried his approach. Here is a story to illustrate.

Recently I visited a friend I hadn’t seen in years. I was visiting and we were so excited to spend time together. Her children are 13, 9 and 4. When I arrived I was greeted at the door by her 9 year old.

“Who are you?” she asked.
“I’m Vicki. I am a friend of your moms. She is expecting me. May I come in?”

She looked at me and said “No, wait here and I will see if you really are a friend and if my mom wants to see you.”

Alrighty then. So there I stood till my friend opened the door and started apologizing. I gave her a hug and told her to relax. Everything would be fine. Nine-year-olds don’t scare me. She cautioned me that it would be like this for our entire visit and I assured her it would not.

Here is the thing, when a child says hello by kicking you, the only respectful thing to do is to meet her where she is and kick back (metaphorically speaking of course, not literally.) Not hard, but enough for the child to know you understand the rules of the game and you are willing to play.

The bantering began. Back and forth we went with snarky comments that just missed being downright rude and qualifying as disrespectful behavior. I didn’t try and win her over. I didn’t show any real interest in making conversation. I answered her questions with disinterested shortness and waited.

Here is what I know about kids, if you give them what they think they want, they will generally change their minds and in changing their minds will change the way they interact with you.

At one point she looked at me and said, “you are sort of mean.” I said, “I am not the least bit mean, you started the game so I am playing along. If you don’t like it, then change the game.”
She looked at me. I said it again. “Listen, this is how you like to get to know people and that’s fine with me. But it’s not my game, it’s yours. If you want to play a new game, start a new one.” She thought about this for quite some time and then asked me, from the other room, if I wanted to come in and look at her….whatever it was. Contact. A new connection. Start the game over.

I said, “sure, I’d love to. I’ll be there as soon as I finish this conversation with your mom. About five minutes. Can you wait that long?” She said, “sure.”

And so, we said hello again.

As parents, we tend to jump on our kids if they say “hello” in anything other than Emily Post politeness. I have lived by the following motto for the last 25 years and it has served me well. Try it and see if making contact with kids of any age doesn’t become more interesting and rewarding.

I do not care if a child says hello to me upon meeting me. I care that when I leave they consider me a friend and give me a hug goodbye. It is not the child’s job to reach out and make contact. It is my job to ensure in the child’s mind that it is safe to connect to me and that I might just be a fun person to hang out with. The job is mine. Not the child’s.

Do you Interfere with or Enhance your Relationships?

interfering with or enhancing the relationshipSometimes we forget WHY we had children in the first place. Our lives get busy, our resources get tapped, the parenting techniques passed down from our own parents and learned from all the expert books we’ve read aren’t working and we find ourselves screaming at – or giving in to our children, just so we can get through the moment and onto the next thing.

  • Long gone are the promises we made to be patience and understanding – no matter what.
  • Long gone are the dreams of smooth mornings and calm nights
  • Long gone are the visions of siblings who played together peacefully and with nothing but joy on their faces.
  • Long gone is the belief that our child would love school and relish homework.

These dreams and promises have been replaced with reality and that reality includes tired, grouchy children who throw endless temper tantrums or make unreasonable demands and fight with their siblings until everyone is in tears and the reality of parenting, the truth of what it means to live with children day in and day out, brings us to our knees in frustration and exhaustion.  We resort to bribing, begging, screaming and finally punishing or giving up.  And the reasons we first decided to have children slip further from our minds.

It Doesn’t Have to be Like that

Okay, so maybe that was a bit melodramatic.  In truth, only occasionally, do most of us feel completely defeated in our role as parents. The rest of the time we find a way to put on our big girl panties and do the best we can. At times a genuine smile from a child whose arms are wrapped tightly around our neck is enough to restore our passion and enthusiasm for parenting.

One thing about this parenting journey that is true and I believe is worth remembering is this

“In every moment we are either interfering with or enhancing the relationship we have with our kids.”

Everything we do, every parenting decision we make is either interfering with or enhancing the relationship we have with our children, but we rarely take the time to evaluate which of these we are doing – interfering or enhancing.

It’s clear that most of us want to spend the majority of our time enhancing the relationship we have with our kids.  After all, it’s when we start interfering on a regular basis that things get really ugly and we find ourselves wondering why we thought having kids was a good idea in the first place.

Here are three of my tried and true tips for enhancing the relationship with our kids.

  • Superimpose the face of your best friend on your child.  Now, talk to your best friend and if you wouldn’t say it to her, don’t say it to your child. ( I am not suggesting you be your child’s best friend, this is a great test to keep the way you treat your children in check.)
  • Imagine you overhear your child describing you to his or her best friend.  What word would best capture you? Is it the word you hope your child will use to describe you?  If not, change what you are doing and act accordingly.
  • Decide that being right is overrated and you would rather be wrong if it means that you and your child maintain a healthy, happy and satisfying relationship for years to come.

And finally, as the infamous Mr. Rogers said:

“I doubt that we can ever successfully impose values or attitudes or behavior on our children…certainly not by threat, guilt or punishment.  But I do believe that they can be induced through relationships where parents and children are growing together.  Such relationships are, I believe, built on trust, example, talk and caring.”

Podcast: Contributions

In this conversation with Vicki Hoefle, we talk about contributions. Learning how to contribute to the household helps children develop self-esteem and resiliency, qualities that will support them for life. This episode explains how to encourage our children to contribute, including very young children.

Listen below and learn how to invite your kids to participate in the operations of the home. Would you like to quit your job as the maid?

Control – Who has it? Who wants it?

Control_postIf 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.

1. 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 her voice and as the voice goes, so does the mental muscle to navigate her 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 lives, while their parents make decisions for them.

2. Overt Control – Overt control can best be described as the bossy, dictatorial, “because 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 about controlling others from the most important and influential people in their life. Is it any wonder that eventually, these kids begin to assert their own kind of control over their parents? But the other problem, and one far more concerning to me as a parent, is the fracture it creates 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:

1. Start paying attention to what you are thinking. Seriously. So often, a parent’s mouth will start moving before pausing long enough to “THINK” about what it is she is going to say next and if it will enhance or interfere with the relationship with her child. Teach yourself to pause and to change what you are thinking. Learn to spin the thought on it’s 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 what thoughts best support a healthy relationship with your child 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.

2. Imagine actions that are kind, patient, intentional, supportive, forgiving, loving, kind and understanding. As your thinking and speaking shifts from random, off the cuff comments to thoughtful, intentional responses, your actions will follow. Remember, your body works for your thoughts.  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.

Podcast: Family Meetings

In this conversation with Vicki Hoefle, founder of Parenting on Track, we talk about Family Meetings. The family meeting is perhaps the most important tool in developing a healthy family. This episode explains why family meetings are so helpful and includes tips on running more effective family meetings.

Listen to learn more. Have you held Family Meetings in the past with your children? How is this version different? What do you like about this new Family Meeting style.

Register for our online Family Meetings Course here:
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Working it Out

NEWQuestion: When parents are working to create a parenting plan that work for both of them is it okay to “work things through” in front of the kids

For instance, this came up w/ our six-year-old and teeth-brushing; I was saying she could do it herself, but my daughter kept insisting she needed help and melting down.  Her dad was saying he had been helping her because he thought she needed it. We started to work it out in front her and things went from bad to worse.

 

Answer: I recommend to every parent I work with that before they make any changes in their parenting style or introduce a new strategy, that they spend time with their spouse talking about the following:

 

  • What is our goal for making this change?

  • What are our expectations for ourselves and for our kids?

  • What is likely to trip us up and send us back to our old ways?

  • What resources can we use to get us through tough moments?

  • How will we know things are slowly changing and we are making progress?

 

If you start with this easy set of questions, you will find it easier to start out prepared and not be tempted to work out the kinks in front of your kids.  And don’t worry if you need to remove yourself for a few minutes and caucus in the other room until you both get back on the same page.  Modeling for kids how you and your spouse work together is a valuable lesson. If you can stay calm and respectful, work out your differences in front of the kids.  How else will they learn about healthy, cooperative relationships?

 

QUESTION: Do you and your spouse take the time to create a plan that will support the changes you are making within your family? Or do you end up winging it most of the time?

Podcast: Privileges & Responsibilities

Would you like to say yes to your kids? Would you like to raise kids who take care of their things, manage their time, and treat their siblings with respect? By implementing, a simple strategy, Privileges and Responsibilities in your family, you can with confidence.

Listen to this podcast below and learn more. Let us know what you think or if you have any questions.

Happy Holidays: Lower Your Expectations and Relax!

holiday travel with kidsHappy Holidays to You and Yours

For some of us, just the thought of the Holiday hustle and bustle can cause anxiety. For most of us, Holiday related stress or anxiety kicks in when it’s time to pile into the car, take that long drive or pack our bags for the airport. We begin to worry, asking and wondering questions like:

  • “Will the kids behave?”
  • “How do we discipline them in front of our friends/relatives?”
  • “What do we do if they can’t sit still for the long car, train or plane ride?”

Search the web and you’ll find plenty of advice on what to bring, how to pack and all that “practical” jazz. What you won’t find are quality tips for handling the hair-raising moments while you’re IN THE MOMENT. You know these moments when:

  • Your child is running up and down the aisles or screaming non-stop on a crowded airplane (and everyone is giving you the hairy eyeball); or
  • When your child is melting down at Grandma’s house because it just isn’t the right cheese and cracker; or when
  • Your child takes the present from Uncle Joe and instead of saying thank you, says “Is that all I’m getting?” or “I don’t like it.”

Moments like these are going to happen because, frankly, our children aren’t perfect. And it’s time that we stop expecting them to perform perfectly during the holiday season, when we are more stressed than usual, kids are tired and excited all at the same time, and we are pushing the limits of their coping skills with all of the shopping, traveling and visiting we’re doing.

What matters most is not if our children behave perfectly, it’s how we respond to them when they don’t.

It is often overlooked that our response to our children’s behavior is so often the thing that makes it either go away or causes us to slide further down that slippery slope into the rabbit hole. If we give in to the whining, try to yell or bribe them back to good behavior, or embarrass them with a forced thank you, it will surely backfire either then and there or at some later point. So what is a parent to do?

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Lower your expectations. It’s ok if the children aren’t perfect. Give yourself some space to relax.
  • Have conversations ahead of time about what it means to behave well at a party, on a plane, or wherever you will be. Ask the kids to help generate a list of expectations for their behavior.
  • Give them examples of kindness and gratitude every day with appreciations—you’ll be surprised at how much they learn by modeling, and it’s never too late to start.
  • Take your cues from the kids: Are they tired? Then leave the party early. Are they bored? Then find out how they would like to spend the hour layover in the airport.
  • When you find yourself in one of those “moments,” confronted with a child who is acting other than you would like, try distraction. Do whatever it takes to move them away from the moment or the thing they are melting down about, and worry about what caused it later.
  • Invite children to decorate, pick “fancy outfits” or dresses, frost cookies and so forth. Get them invested in the Holiday events! But remember, if they don’t want to be, don’t force it. It’s not the end of the world if your child isn’t willing to pose with the cat for a Holiday card.

If you invite your children into the process of deciding for themselves how they want to behave, how they would like to spend the long hours in the car, or what it means to be grateful for something, then you will find that those tough moments become fewer and farther between. Similarly, when you show respect whenever it’s clear they’ve hit their limits, they will calm down and reel it in much faster. So, when you are in the moment—do your best to relax and try to get out of the situation with distraction and re-direction, so that you can enjoy yourself and leave the 2013 holiday season with good memories.

10 Ways to Connect with Your Spouse

Connect with your spouse. Connect with Your Spouse Over the Busy Holiday Season

Let’s face it, the relationships with our spouses and significant others tend to slide to the backburner during this time of year simply because our agendas have us attending to many other commitments. Although it’s easy to disconnect and plow through the day, making our lists and checking them twice, we should always remember to tend the key adult relationships in our life.

Sure, as adults, we can handle a stretch of less attentiveness or focus, but it sure doesn’t hurt – no matter how busy we get- to stop, look around and make the effort to be “nice” to each other. Even if it’s goofy, it’s an attempt to say, HI OVER THERE, I KNOW YOU…LOVE YA!

Try these simple (but effective!) ways to connect with your spouse that will keep the friendship aflame:

  1. In the middle of a TV show, blurt something kind out so that everyone looks at you in a slightly questioning way.
  2. Shout across the room – Hey, ya know what I love about you……
  3. Or walk out of the kitchen and whisper something sweet into your spouses ear. The smile on their face will convey to the kids that whatever you said, made the other person feel good inside.
  4. Sing a love song on your way out the door so all the kids can hear you.
  5. Leave flowers by the stairs.
  6. Write a LOVE note and tape it to the mirror or coffee maker.
  7. Send a text that says “I love you because you….”
  8. Keep appreciations going all November and December on ONE whiteboard. FILL IT UP
  9. Give an early gift when you know your loved one will be extra busy
  10. Bring home a favorite dinner or treat just because.

You get the idea- what ideas do YOU have? Please share!

Saying Thank You to Our Children

Thank you Happy Thanksgiving!

Let us look around and say thank you to our children.

  • Thank you for being who you are.
  • Thank you for trusting me as your parent.

Our thank yous can be simple and silly, because all those tiny, acknowledged efforts are the ones that bring us together.

So kiddos:

  • Thank you for helping me change the TV station (you know that remote drives me bonkers).
  • Thank you for being funny yesterday when I was grouchy because we ran out of coffee.
  • Thank you for playing along even though you don’t like yahtzee.
  • Thank you for finding my keys when I nearly short circuited.
  • Thank you for telling me to calm down when I got upset over the broken dish my neighbor had lent me.
  • Thank you for saying, “there’s nothing embarrassing about you mom” even if I know I can be kind of dorky.
  • Thank you for listening to the song I like on repeat without changing the station.
  • Thank you for caring about me. I am lucky to have you in my life.

Love you all!

Here’s a POEM I share every year.

Enjoy.

4 Tips for Peaceful Holidays

holidayOh holiday joy and splendor and…yes, hustle and bustle. Thanksgiving is upon us and while this next month is, for many, the most cherished time of year, we all feel some level of extra anxiety, stress and aggravation because we know the Holidays and all their tinseled commitments, are charging toward us, whether or not we’re ready.

As we become excited to see loved ones and look forward to sharing delicious food and fun traditions, we also feel the pressure to prepare, serve, find, give, make, decorate and  attempt far too many tasks our calendars can comfortably accommodate. When the to-dos eclipse the be-happys, it becomes far too easy to overlook the very thing that we are supposed to be celebrating: our relationships with our family members.

Reasonably, everyone can become a little, shall we say, short-fused, when tired from travel or hopped up on sugar! We can say things we don’t mean or snap in frustration at those who simply ask a question. Harmony during the Holidays isn’t always 100% and that’s ok. If you’re willing to let the little stuff go and focus on what matters – the relationships and making memories- then you’ll feel more relaxed and happy in times of chaos.

4 Tips for Peaceful Holidays:

  1. Be easy on yourself and your kids. Messes and mistakes are bound to happen. Expect them and move it along quickly!

  2. Don’t worry if each moment isn’t picture perfect. So what the sweaters don’t match? Oh well, life goes on.

  3. Choose what matters and don’t feel guilty! Yep, those cookies didn’t get made but you sure did enjoy snuggling on the couch, beside the fire, watching the snow fall in peace and quiet.

  4. Give what you can. If the budget’s tight, then the budget’s tight. Do not add extra pressure to give perfect gifts if the stress of paying for them (and the shipping too!) will cause a ripple effect on your family’s holiday harmony.

Enjoy that cup of cheer, and smile. This is the good stuff.

Whining & Willpower

Q&A with Vicki Hoefle

weedWhat can I about all this whining!?

Scenario: I’m trying to deal with a whining 2.5 year old. I’ve tried ignoring her, but it only gets stronger and my daughter will keep at it for up to 30 minutes. I believe you suggest not giving prompts like “Use big girls words”.   So the battle just continues. She is stronger than me at times. Yowza the willpower.

Answer:  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if your 3 year old has more willpower then you do now, you are in for a hell of time when she hits 13.  I don’t believe a parent can throw their hands in the air and claim a small child can out maneuver them in life.  There is more going on here so lets examine a few things that might be contributing to your dilemma.

  1. I would be interested to hear how this interaction ends.  Do you give in at the end of the 30 minutes because you are worn out?  If so, then you have taught her tenacity and she is using that tenacity to wear you down.  If she finally stops on her own, then you would see an improvement in the whining.

  2. I am going to guess that you don’t want to be the bad guy, that you may want your daughter to like you, which is reasonable.  But in wanting her to like you or not be upset with you or call you a mean mommy, you are giving in and creating a whining monster that other people will not find so endearing.  So you will have to decide at some point, that other people liking her is more important then her liking you – at least initially.

  3. You aren’t comfortable showing respect for yourself so it’s hard when a 3 year old challenges an already shaky area for you.

  4. You haven’t really committed to tackling the problem and you give up and give in when you run out of steam.  The only solution for this is to fully commit to your strategy.  Your energy will convey to her that you are serious and when she sees it in your eyes, hears it in your voice, she will know it’s time for a change.

QUESTION: Is whining a problem in your house? How is ignoring and/ or another strategy working out?

 

Tips to Stop the Fighting!

Q&A with Vicki Hoefle

stop the fightingQuestion: I know many families who have kids that do not fight. Mine do. What’s the trick to stop the fighting?

Scenario: I have two kids (ages 9 and 6) who are very physical when they fight.   I’ve tried to ignore it when I can, I tell them to work it out and it still continues. They kick, scratch, squeeze and hit one another on occasion. No one has gone to the ER but they have drawn blood.

Answer: The good news is, there is no trick.  

Most families that have kids who consistently get along and do not demonstrate a high degree of physical fighting have one thing in common.  They layer their strategies and create an entire system for raising respectful kids who know how to handle frustration and how to work things out without resorting to physical fighting.  Why doesn’t every parent use this layering technique if it gets such great results?  Because like anything worth having it can be difficult in the beginning.  Here are a few tips to help you turn things around and stop the fighting.

  1. Understand that most kids fight for their parent’s attention (no not always, but enough of the time that it’s a good place to start).  What happens if you leave the room, or put headphones on?  Do they follow you?  Do they get louder?  When they tattle, what is your response?  Do you say – “Oh, wow.  That doesn’t sound fun at all?” Or, do you start playing referee and trying to help them come up with ways to solve the problem.  If you are involved in the back and forth, chances are good that some of the fighting is for your benefit.

  2. It’s easy to say to kids “work it out” but who in the world takes the time to actually teach kids how to work through conflict?  We used weekly Family Meetings to teach our kids the skill of conflict resolution, which included an emphasis on communication and it worked well.  Ask a parent you see who has kids who get along how they taught their kids to work it out.  It doesn’t mean the strategy will work in exactly the same way for you, but I bet you pick up a tip that you could try.  There are great books out there to help as well.  Start with Non-Violent Communication if you want to influence the entire family.

  3. Focus your attention on the behaviors that you want to see more of.  That doesn’t mean you praise those behaviors.  It means you notice them, acknowledge them and let the kids know, that YOU know how hard it is to walk away from a fight or to forgive a brother who is bugging you or how helpful they are and how much you enjoy their company in the kitchen, etc.  Remember that you get more of what you pay attention too, so if you want to raise kids who leverage their strengths and develop character traits that will last a lifetime, focus your attention and energy on those.

Fighting can easily become a way of life if you aren’t armed with multiple strategies for creating a peaceful and harmonious household.  It is possible though and with some thought, it can be an exciting journey.

Question:  What is your go-to strategy for teaching kids how to get along?

To Bribe or Not to Bribe? No Question.

Treating Human BeingsIt took me three separate visits to the article in the New York Times Opinion Page, posted on October 28, 2013 in order to finish reading the article. At the end of each section, I hit the delete button and swore I wouldn’t read any more. But then I wondered – maybe there is an a-ha moment later in the article, and so I went back to read more. There was no a-ha moment, just an unabashedly boastful proclamation about one author’s use of bribes and rewards to manipulate her children.

I can’t really describe how upsetting and confusing this article is for me. Don’t get me wrong, I understand this kind of article creates a real buzz out there in the world, just look at all the comments. But to paint such a disparaging picture of your own children and then share it with the world to what – boost subscriber-ship or ignite a fire storm of controversy? I have to be honest, I just do not get it. Here is what I find so distasteful about this article.

1. I am a mother who has raised 5 children. I can not for the life of me understand how a mother could show such little faith in her children’s innate desire to learn, master their environment, and contribute to the world in positive ways

Oh sure, I know kids have long moments of apathy, disinterest and being less than cooperative, but for the most part, when a supportive parent provides a nurturing environment, kids get about the business of learning, mastery and contribution with very little coaxing from anyone.

And I wonder, when her children are older, what they will think of this article and the lack of faith their mom had in them. Maybe they will understand and accept that it was her job or that she didn’t really mean what she wrote, but I have found, that you never know how a child is going to interpret a parent’s intention and I am not sure I would be willing to risk what is at stake here.

2. Does she really believe there will be a moment when her children no longer depend on bribes and rewards to do the unpleasant tasks we are all required to do as adults? Or are we, the unsuspecting public going to have to pay for her unwillingness to help her kids learn that sometimes, whether you like it or not, things need to be done and most people don’t care whether you do them with a smile or a pout on your face. That choice is entirely up to you.

It seems her kids are missing out on a few critical skills that would make their adult lives far more rewarding, fulfilling and satisfying. But again, maybe teaching those skills is someone else’s job.

3. And finally, I shudder to think how many other parents will be influenced by her position and subscribe to the idea that bribing and rewarding children in order to manipulate them and make their lives easier is a reasonable proposition, and forget, that these kids are the future leaders of the free world. Maybe she doesn’t hold high hopes that her kids will have the grit, mental muscle or interest in becoming leaders who lead by example.

I’m not really sure what the purpose of this article was – except maybe to piss a lot of us off, in which case, I think it worked brilliantly. But beyond that, I can’t see that it offers any real value to a parenting conversation that supports any of us in our effort to raise more thoughtful, resilient, responsible and respectful human beings.

Choose to Focus on Positives

Q&A With Vicki Hoefle

focusQuestion:  How can I shift my attention away from negative behaviors and focus on positives?

Since subscribing to the Duct Tape Parenting  “do nothing, say nothing” philosophy (which for the most part has improved our lives), we have noticed an increase in the amount that our 8-year-old physically (hard pinching) and psychologically (hate-words galore) bullies our 5-year-old (both are girls).

Together (as a family) we wrote out a list of behaviors that we mutually deem unacceptable and posted it on the fridge, and if one of those behaviors happens, then play-date privileges for that day are revoked. This has worked to a degree, but has increased the amount of tattling, and does not work well if I am not witness to the offending behavior. I also worry that this approach falls too much into the punitive/corrective category of parenting, which we are trying in earnest to avoid. Any thoughts/suggestions will be much appreciated.

Answer:

You have two things working against you here.

The first is that you are focusing on the unacceptable behavior we ensures you will see no progress at all. Switch your attention and choose to focus on positives-  all those character traits you want to see more of. For instance:

We are a family that values: Mutual Respect, Forgiveness and Being Helpful. We live these values by: Talking to each other instead of yelling, accepting that people make mistakes and forgiving them when they apologize and help each other out by taking care of ourselves and working together around the house. Then, when you “catch” each other actually living these values, you can celebrate them. By focusing on what you want, you are sure to more of it.

Second, when you instituted the: If you mess up you loose your privileges for the day, you activated a competitive dynamic. Of course the kids are going to try and catch their siblings screwing up and then tattling on them. If your instincts tell you that the strategy you have implemented is punitive – LISTEN TO IT. That’s we have instincts and gut responses.

When you choose to focus on positives, it will  end the competitive dynamic will go along way in rebooting the family and bringing out the best in everyone.

QUESTION: Do you spend more time and energy on the negatives or the positives?