All posts tagged Belief Systems

Your Kids WILL See Porn

I receive so many great questions from parents each week and now, with their permission, I will be sharing them with our parenting community along with my thoughts on the subjects. I think it’s important that we leverage our collective experiences and as the Adlerian community would say, you can solve problems one at a time or you can solve the problem one time. Here is to making life simpler for everyone in our community.

trust child

I received an email from a distraught and frightened mom the other day who discovered her 11-year-old son had searched “sex” and “naked girls” on his computer and had ultimately seen pornographic images and videos. This is not the first time I have heard from a parent in this situation, and it won’t be the last. So hold on to your hats, as most of you know, I don’t hold back.

Sex and porn

Two topics I mention many times in classes, blogs, presentations, and my books because this is the
world our kids live in and the world we must parent from. If you have kids ages 11 and older they have most likely seen porn. They might be looking at it right now up in their room on their laptop. Did you hear me? YOUR KID IS LOOKING AT PORN. Don’t fool yourself by thinking that your sweet little 11-year-old son would NEVER, doesn’t even know it exists, and is satisfied with the birds and the bees talk that you had two years ago. He has seen porn. She has seen porn. Yes, this applies to our daughters as well. Children are curious about sex. They are curious about body parts. They hear about oral sex and might even have some friends who have experienced it.

Overcome your fears and release the judgement

This is normal. This is natural. This is the world our kids live in. The question is will you be part of this world or not? It is time to be honest with yourself, muster up the courage to face reality head on, and be involved in this stage of your child’s development. You (and more importantly your child) will be more prepared to face the reality in which we live. Are you going to sit back and hope they don’t come across porn or are you going to assume they will (or already have) seen it and face that reality with a clear head and open heart?

Identify the part that trips you up. Identify the fear that keeps you in denial. Identify the belief that paralyzes you. Identify, embrace and solve that problem, so you can support your child as he/she develops and matures.

Get Educated

Remember, knowledge is power. As a parent, you want knowledge on the subject so you feel confident talking about it with your kids and you want your kids to have knowledge so they can make informed decisions. This applies to every area of life with kids – sex, porn, technology, drugs, cheating, stealing, relationships, and so on.

Specifically when it comes to talking to your kids about porn Amy Lang has a great article, How to Talk to Kids about Pornography on her blog, Birds and Bees and Kids.
https://birdsandbeesandkids.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-pornography-2/

Also check out Laci Green on youtube. She doesn’t hold back and is in touch with the world today and the issues our kids are facing.
https://www.youtube.com/user/lacigreen/videos

Talk to friends and create a support system

If you are still feeling a bit sheepish, reach out to your friends. I usually tell you the opposite- Don’t bother asking friends and neighbors “advice” about your kids because your kids are different than your friends kids and you are a different parent. Two kids could be displaying the same behavior, but for completely different reasons, so what works for Suzy and her kid won’t work for you and yours. However, with a topic like sex/porn, all parents will walk through this in a similar fashion. Most parents are nervous, unsure, terrified, unclear on how to talk to their kids about this and tend to just start lecturing and putting stricter “rules” alongside the technology usage. So in this case, it can be a great thing to talk to your friends. You’ll find you are not alone and you might learn a thing or two, yourself. It’s also important that while you don’t shame your kids during this phase, that you also don’t shame yourself. The mother who reached out to me most recently expressed feelings of shame, failure, embarrassment, and was just defeated. She didn’t talk to anyone about it because she felt like it reflected so badly on her and that her friends would think less of her for being a mom who “let that happen on her watch.” Get over it parents – Be real with eachother. Stop judging others and they will stop judging you. Your kids are their own separate entity – not always a direct reflection of you. And again, the fact of the matter is, your friends kids have probably seen porn too and they just don’t know it. Stick together on this journey. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It IS something to be educated on and prepared to handle with your children.

Jump in and try it

When I tell parents to “talk to your kids about sex/porn,” I don’t mean just once. I mean constantly – like every other day. Talk to them about it so much and so casually, that the topic is just as normal to talk about as what they ate for lunch or how they’re doing on their science project. Ask questions about what he knows. Offer information before she asks for it. I’m not suggesting you drill your kids with questions and accusations. I’m suggesting the opposite. You’re at the counter chopping carrots with your daughter and you might say, “so, who’s having sex in the 7th grade?” Or you’re in the car with your son and you have the chance to say, “Let’s talk oral sex.” He knows that it’s out there and he’s heard about it. Ask him about that. Keep talking and keep asking questions, until your kid is so over the topic that when a friend suggests they look at naked pictures online your kid says, “no thanks, I’m all set with that. My mom talks about it every single day.” And then chat about it some more. It’s not a sit down, eye to eye, serious and scary conversation. It’s just a reality – it’s sex, it’s hormones, it’s puberty, it’s masturbating, it’s porn. It’s also love, and relationships, and intimacy and pleasure and boundaries and body awareness and communication.

Remember, our kids are growing and changing and investigating. If we want to receive an invitation into their lives and stay connected as a trusted ally, so that we can be the source of their sexual education, it takes work. Work on our parts to stay open and non-judgmental, to parent from a place of confidence and poise, create a support system and keep practicing. You won’t get it right the first time (or maybe even the second or third), but keep at it. I trust you would rather be honest with yourself and take steps to connect with your sons and daughters about what their reality is, instead of hiding under your covers pretending that it won’t happen again or didn’t happen at all.

#growingagrownup

I’d love to hear from more of you. If you have a question or an area that is challenging you, please go to our contact form and send it in. We’ll do our best to answer it via email and we’d love it if you’d give us permission to post on our blog to help others.

Parenting Land Mine

As anyone who knows me can attest, I was a free range parent long before the words helicopter parenting, tiger mom or free range were part of the parenting landscape.

I parented with 2 things in mind.

1. keep the relationship with my kids strong, healthy, honest and robust

2. foster their independence in every moment

challenge

Yes, I received dirty looks from shop-keepers and store-clerks when my kids were allowed to roam inside their establishments unsupervised while I stood outside and waited for them. The scowls turned to smiles as my kids navigated the aisles without breaking anything “fragile” and then opened their purses and paid with their own money for the little treasures they found in these stores. Fostering independence comes with scowls and skepticism. That’s okay. It didn’t stop us.

I got phone calls from coaches who informed me that I needed to make sure my kids had all their “gear” and were at practice 15 minutes before practice – huh? I politely declined their invitation and let them know that I was committed to raising independent kids who could figure out how to manage something as simple as a pair of cleats, shin guards and a water bottle. As far as getting to practice on-time, I
suggested that perhaps they might also like to foster a bit of independence in the kids they were coaching and ask the kids to make sure they were to practice when they were expected to be there.

As the kids got a bit older, I supported their innate desire to wander further from home (and truth be told, I was a bit nervous the first 42 times they suggested it). But with training, some guidelines and practice, I knew it was the right thing to do if I was really going to stand behind my (here it is again) value to raise independent kids who would one day become adults.

Did I take unnecessary risks? Hell no, but I would bet Danielle Meitiv didn’t think she was taking unnecessary risks either time she supported her kids in walking the short distance home from school.

vicki-training kids blog

I find it remarkable that there is a conversation suggesting that these parents be bullied into changing their parenting style because of the fear that CPS will get involved. I wonder where the world would be today if the woman suffrages ran home because they were scared of a little controversy and backlash from the powers that be. If I was inclined, I could probably think of a dozen or more instances in history where people stood up for their rights at the risk of imprisonment, but maybe parenting is different. Maybe in fact, more of us should parent according to what our neighbors think is appropriate or at the very least, parent according to popular culture norms and our biggest fears, which at present seem to be that an organization established to ensure the safety of children might threaten you with taking your children if they disagree with your parenting style.

Am I the only one that sees the intrinsic danger in where this is going? Fortunately for me, my kids are grown. Unfortunately, in the next ten years they will begin their own parenting journey and it is my great hope that as a society we find the balance needed in order to raise a generation of people who can make informed decisions, are invested in their communities and take personal responsibility for their words, attitudes and actions. But maybe that is asking too much as well. Maybe, along with raising independent children, we should abandon these other traits and be satisfied raising compliant children who do what they are told by people who are not their parents.

What is happening to the Meitivs is another example of how extreme and out of balance parenting has become. At one time, there was a code of conduct among parents that read something like: Do not judge, lest you be judged and help out when you can. Simple. Now it’s judge everything, especially if you know nothing about the people or the situation, share your opinions and judgments openly and often with as many people as you can find and turn your back on a parent who in any way parents in a style you deem unacceptable. It’s a minefield out in the parenting world and anyone who claims that parents stick together is living under a rock. Yes, of course there are wonderful tribes to be had, but more often then not, parents are finding themselves alone, judged and changing the way they parent in order to, in the case of the Maryland parents, keep their kids at home where
they are most certainly safer than they would be in Child Protective Services or Foster Care.

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I don’t believe this is happening to this family because of who they are or what they are doing necessarily. I think that the spotlight is on them in order for us to begin a
dialogue about the new age of parenting and how we must all adapt, work together and support each other if we are to raise children who flourish as adults.

With all that has been written about the hazards of over-parenting, helicopter parenting, micro-managing kids, the real crime is crippling children by parenting from a place of fear, guilt, and shame.

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.

When we change, the kids change. It’s that simple.


For more information on parenting visit KidsInTheHouse.com

It’s important for parents to recognize that it doesn’t matter if their children have been exhibiting pesky negative behaviors for two years, five years, seven years, or twenty years. It’s possible for change. It may take a little longer depending on the age of the child, but it’s possible. And it’s really very simple once you create a new plan in your own head as the parent. So if your connection with this child has been through power struggles, and that’s the relationship all of the time, what changes it is my response to that invitation to the power struggle. So if it’s cold out, and my child says, “I’m wearing shorts”, and what he expects is for me to say, “no you’re not”, I can say, “okay, wear shorts.” And let it go. And watch in that moment as suddenly there’s a new look on his face as he realizes something different is happening. If you did that over the course of a couple of weeks, your child would have to change because your responses to him were changing. That’s the power of this approach to parenting. We’re back in the driver’s seat as parents. When we change, the kids have to change. It’s that simple.

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.
Learn more

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

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.

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.

3 Tips: Creating New Parenting Habits

Tips for creating NEW parenting habits.Q & A with Vicki Hoefle

Question: My husband and I are sold on this less is more approach to parenting.  We have implemented Family Meetings, replaced praise with encouragement, are trying to foster independence and get real with our expectations.  How do I transition between my old style of parenting and my new improved style?  Habits are hard to break and I am really struggling.

Answer:  The truth is, there is no easy way to break an old habit and replace it with a newer, healthier habit.  But there are a few things you can do to make the transition a little more enjoyable for everyone.

Here are my top 3 tips for creating NEW parenting habits:

  1. Identify the old habit you want to replace (choose the easiest to break) and the new habit you will replace it with. For example:  My old habit is to give my kids to many choices for breakfast and that leads to fights and power struggles.  This week my new habit is to give my kids two choices and I will make sure they are food choices I know they will eat. Or, another example might be:  My old habit is to nag my kids to get moving in the morning.  This week my new habit will be to trust that they can take care of everything on their own if I give them a chance and to wait in the car quietly until it is time to go.

  2. Focus on that one new habit for no less than 2 weeks.  It’s easy to feel bombarded with all the changes you want to make, but take it from me, focusing on one habit and sticking with it will create crazy momentum that will make future changes easier and more enjoyable.

  3. Track and CELEBRATE your progress and improvement. We live in a world that tells us to buy the new wardrobe AFTER you drop that 60 lbs, by a new car AFTER you get the corner office (you currently work in the mail room), and take that big vacation AFTER you have $200K in your saving account. REALLY?  Instead, find an easy way to track your progress on a regular basis (I recommend either daily or ever other day) and then find simple and meaningful ways to celebrate them.  This is guaranteed to keep you inspired AND you are modeling for your children that the process is as important as the goal.

As Tony Horton from P90X would say – Do your Best and Forget the Rest.  If you set reasonable expectations for yourself, you focus on one thing at a time and you make time to celebrate – you won’t be disappointed.

Question for you:  What strategy have you employed to implement new habits?

Average Kids Kick Ass

kickass1Because they freakin’ do!

I’ve been taking a lot of heat lately for suggesting that for the most part, we are all raising “average” kids.  That it is unlikely there will be 100’s of Vermont kids (or kids from any other state) that go on to live exceptional lives doing exceptionally satisfying work that is sure to impact the world in some significant way.  It is far more likely, that the vast majority of kids will grow up to be average, everyday individuals who construct lives that they either find satisfying or lives that leave them feeling resentful that they aren’t satisfied with the life they were expecting to live.

I know what parents are thinking when I tell them they will probably raise average kids — “She doesn’t know MY child.  MY child is, in fact, exceptional, special, better than….”.  Maybe, but I doubt it.

After I ruffle feathers, I go on to ask “So what’s wrong with average?  When did being average become a bad thing?”  I’m average, my kids are average, most of my friends are average, most of my family members are average.  And we seem to be doing okay.

I’ll go on record now as saying that when I was pregnant with Hannah, 25 years ago, I prayed for an average child.  Not too cute, not too smart, not too athletic.  Just average.  Do you know why?  Because I think average kids have a better shot at creating a meaningful life for themselves.  After all, no one is paying attention to them.  No one has unrealistic expectations for them.  I think kids who really are exceptional in some way, may have challenges that few of us recognize, because, well, we are average.

I believe that average people, who work their fannies off, and accept that life is full of ups and down and believe that the universe is conspiring for (ALL of) our happiness, have a leg up on those who think they are exceptional.  Imagine the pressure to maintain your exceptional status.  Yikers.

Maybe besides being average, we are simple.  The truth is, I am happy a good portion of my life.  Even when things suck, I can be happy. My kids are happy. Believe me there have been times in their lives when things sucked.  But in spite of that, they were happy growing up and still are happy as twenty-somethings out there navigating the world on their own.

Happiness, connection to self and others, a strong work ethic, enjoyment in the simple things is far more important to me then being exceptional, special or as a my friend Cindy Pierce says “precious”.  I want average kids who kick ass.

My grandfather used to say, “Work harder than everyone else for less pay.”

I like that.  It fits with my idea of life.  I taught my kids this value.  From the time they applied for their first jobs, most of them at age 10 and certainly when they hit the job market at 14-years-old, they were taught to work harder than anyone else and never to expect anything more than the guy working beside them. When they got older I included these pearls of wisdom “from 18-years-old to 28-years-old you will, in all likelihood be eating Top Ramen, living in ratty apartments, shared with people who are complete slobs, commuting for 90 minutes one way, to jobs that are less than fulfilling.  This is the path you must travel so at 29-years-old you have the skills and experience, wisdom and patience, tenacity and insight to actually create a life that has meaning to you and for you in a job you find exciting, stimulating and satisfying.  It isn’t going to happen any other way, kids.  So buckle up and get ready for the ride.”

And all five of them will tell you that this is the truth.  And yet, for all that “tough love” talk, they are thriving and truly enjoying this rough part of the journey.  As they say, it builds character.

So when I got the 35th email with the link to this article sent to me, I decided maybe it was the universe suggesting I write about it and share a few of my thoughts. I don’t care so much about special or exceptional.

  •  I care that my kids love their lives as young adults when so many other young adults are really struggling to make sense of the world.
  • I love that my kids love each other, take care of each other and include each other in their lives.
  • I love that my kids call, text, skype, IM me when there is something exciting to share both good and bad.
  • I have a front row seat to their lives, because I can be counted on to sit quietly until I am asked to become an active participant.

So I guess what I am saying is this: I will take average any day of the week.  Anybody else out there feeling okay about average?

Attitude is Everything

One of the reasons I so enjoy this video is because this young man is addressing High School kids. Most people I know feel awkward and nervous when addressing teenagers.

They are so accustomed to the idea that teens are

  • Hard to reach
  • Disrespectful
  • Self Centered
  • Uninterested
  • Cold-Hearted
  • Cruel
  • Disconnected
  • Immature
  • Sassy

This limiting belief in turn, limits the amount of interaction and conversation whenever possible.

In this video, it is clear, that this young man is connecting deeply with these kids. He isn’t afraid of them. He can’t afford to be afraid! If he was, he would still be in bed wondering why he was born with no arms and no legs.

Instead, he invites these young people into his life. He uses his sense of humor and the confidence he has developed over a lifetime of dealing with daily challenges, to connect to a group of individuals who will do more for creating a culture of acceptance and inclusion, than an audience of middle aged, teary-eyed, soft-hearted adults (who, will forget all about this kid in an hour when their lives take center stage again).

It’s not just this young man’s story that is inspiring, but his willingness to “invest”, yes invest, in the younger generation. I suspect, that this one assembly will leave a deeper imprint in the lives of the teenagers, than anything else they attended during their high school experience.

And I suspect that all the “talk” about acceptance, inclusion, tolerance, kindness, respect – that they have been hearing from adults for 15 years means nothing in comparison to these few moments, with a real individual, who openly and honestly shares his story.

This video isn’t just a reminder to us to be grateful for all we have, but a reminder to me, that young people, when given a chance, can become ambassadors for a kinder, more accepting future.

For more about this amazing young man and his story visit http://www.attitudeisaltitude.com/

A Democratic Family

Democratic FamilyAdlerian Parent Education aims to give children the skills to meet life challenges in a constructive, positive way and the courage to circumvent the many pitfalls and dangers that confront children in society. It supports parents by providing them with tools to ease and handle the stress of being a parent, and to raise children with courage and compassion.

This is why I am a parent educator and why I believe that raising children in a democratic family is the solution to not only the bullying crisis we currently face, but of arming the next generation of leaders capable of making the tough decisions, who will fight for what is right, will demand justice for those who can not fight, and will demonstrate the power of treating one’s self and others with dignity and respect.

The bottom line is this — children who feel good about themselves, who know that they belong and are important to their family do not feel threatened and do not need to control. Instead they look to create environments in which everyone feels good about themselves and knows there is a place in the group just for them.

It is my experience, that no child who feels good about themselves enjoys watching their peers struggle or get in trouble. This is a true sign that there is hope. This is a true sign that the cycle of bullying can indeed be broken when the number of children who feel good about themselves outnumber the children who doubt their importance and value.

I believe that if parents commit to better understanding the democratic family  and the power it has to create and sustain respectful, cooperative, relationships, those parents will do whatever is necessary to implement the concepts and strategies available to them today.

I believe that if we are to truly impact the world in positive ways, we must take the cycle of bullying seriously and to do whatever is necessary to take responsibility for the way we raise our children who will either play the role of the bully, bullied, bystander or who will as Barbara Coloroso states in her book, The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, “understand what to do, how to do it and have the Willingness to do it.”

This very short description of Democratic Parenting comes from Henry Stein’s work

Image:

The child is seen as equal, integrated part of the family, cooperative, and doing his share. He is loved and accepted. The child is offered reasonable progressive challenges and permitted to develop at his own pace.

Parent’s Attitude:

Accepts child’s uniqueness. Provides love, respect, and feeling of equality. Encourages child to correct mistakes and develop capacities. Guides child to find significant in contribution.

Child’s Response:

Feels security and love and acceptance. Experiences own strength by conquering difficulties. Finds satisfaction in achievement and contribution. Not afraid to try and fail. Sees world as safe and friendly.

Before we conclude our series and I offer some specific ways you can begin to create a culture of dignity and respect, I invite you — no, I challenge you to take inventory over the next week and to evaluate your parenting style.

I challenge you to listen to yourself when you speak to your children, to watch your attitude and how it affects the relationship you have with your kids, to acknowledge the areas where change is needed and to get ready to commit to parenting in a way that supports the raising of healthy, strong and compassionate children.

No Boundaries

The Permissive Style of parenting also contributes to the bullying cycle. A lack of structure in the day-to-day life of the family, unclear boundaries and expectations, a lack of consistency and follow-through along with a tendency to “save” children from the frustrations and challenges of life, create an environment that is often times chaotic, frightening, unstable and is full of mixed messages.

When children are confused by the words, behavior and action of their parents, when inconsistency is the norm, it becomes increasingly more difficult for children to make sense of the world beyond their front door. Reading cues from school mates, keeping themselves safe, voicing their opinions, needs and desires, is impaired and kids become part of the bullying cycle.

When follow-through is missing in a child’s life at home, it seems reasonable to them, that a bully just might get away with his behavior on the playground. These kids often end up being bullied, but they can also try to avoid the bully by hiding out OR to volunteer another likely candidate for the role of the bullied in order to stay safe on the schoolyard.

Often spoiled in the permissive household, children learn to avoid responsibility, to blame others and to look for the easy way out. Not surprising, these kids make up each of the central characters Barbara identifies in her book, The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander.

These kids can find themselves watching as the bullying cycle takes place before their eyes and feel powerless to do anything about it. But they can also decide to taunt the bully and later claim “I didn’t do anything” and finally, they take up the roll of bullying because they are experts at avoiding responsibility and diverting blame to others.

In other cases, children raised in permissive households become the tyrant in the house that everyone works to appease and this same attitude is brought to the schoolyard. A belief that the rules don’t apply to them, that they are entitled to whatever they want and will gladly take what they deem “theirs” along with an eerie disconnection from how their behavior impacts others.

No matter how you slice it, a Permissive Style of parenting isn’t helping our children develop the skills they need in order to know as Barbara Coloroso states in her book, What to do, How to do it and the Willingness to do it when it comes to breaking the bullying cycle of violence.

This week, take some time and determine if you are a permissive parent. If you are, don’t waste your time beating yourself up over it. Instead, take this next week to challenge some of the assumptions you have made about parenting. Notice how your choices and actions are influencing your kids.

Next week we will talk about the Democratic Style of parenting and how to create a truly Democratic household.

Parenting like a Brick-Wall

successful parentingBy now, you probably have a good idea of how well you are “talking the talk and walking the walk”.
For many parents, it’s an eye opener to realize how much bossing, dictating, lecturing, and controlling there is going on in the house.

Many parents adapt an Authoritarian Parenting Style in an attempt to

  • Minimize mistakes their children make
  • Keep the family operating efficiently
  • Instill the values that are important to the parents
  • Make sure children recognize when their behavior is unacceptable

What many parents don’t realize is that this style of parenting, what Coloroso calls the “brick-wall family”, can create both bullies, bullied kids and even by-standers. See Barbara Coloroso’s Book, The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander.

Generally speaking, kids raised in an Authoritarian environment or controlled, and made to “do what their parent’s tell them to do”. Their feelings are often overlooked, minimized or completely ignored. They have little, if any say, in decision making and are often relegated to the sidelines of their own lives.

As a result, common characteristics children of Authoritarian Parenting exhibit include:

  • Delay in developing their own “voice”
  • NO confidence in using their “voice”
  • Feeling powerless in situations
  • Feeling powerless in relationships where there is a clear “boss”
  • More comfortable following what others do
  • Have no sense of what is right or wrong if it isn’t told to you
  • Not willing to risk “getting” in trouble so stand quietly by
  • Love and acceptance are conditional

Juxtapose this with a child who develops characteristics, which include:

  • A desire to control those they perceive as weaker
  • A willingness to manipulate others to do their bidding
  • Exploiting those who are weaker
  • Blaming others and avoid taking responsibility for actions
  • A lack of empathy and compassion for others
  • A belief that the rules do not apply to them
  • Able to justify their bullying tendencies

Go back and take a look. Are you Authoritarian? Does your children’s behavior fall in one of these lists?
Next week we will look at the Jelly-fish (spineless) family.

Bullying: A Parent’s Influence

In order to break the cycle of bullying, a clear understanding of the family dynamic is required.

Starting Point

If the family unit is built on a sense of community, mutual respect, acceptance of individual uniqueness, love and care, it is reasonable to think children will embody these traits in the world beyond our threshold.

If children are raised with a strong sense that they “belong” and play an important role in the family, they will develop the necessary skills to

• Connect with classmates
• Create and maintain a health classroom culture
• Participate in solving classroom problems
• Impact the climate of an entire school.

On page 76 of The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, Barbara Coloroso states that, “A kid must want to be the kind of person who acts courageously – or kindly, or fairly, or justly – must know how to do it, and must be willing to do it.”

Coloroso suggests that kids raised in a family that “talks the talk and walks the walk” are not only more prepared to deal with bullying, but that in fact they are the solution to the bullying phenomenon.

This week, I encourage you to take some time to consider your “talk and your walk”, and what messages they are sending your children.

Raising children in a family where the What, How and the Willingness to act courageously is cultivated and encouraged is the responsibility of every parent raising children in the 21st century.

The question becomes HOW to do that as well as identify the roadblocks that stop us from parenting from this perspective.

Exploring the 3 unique Parenting Styles available to parents will make our course of action abundantly clear, and when that vital clarity is provided, we will know what steps to take to ensure that our children when put in a compromising position will indeed know What to do, How to do it and the create the Willingness to do it.

Passing up Personal Prestige

This blog post is reprinted with permission from the author, an amazing, committed, passionate, flexible, creative mother, wife, sister and friend.

For more inspirational posts, visit http://flockmother.wordpress.com/


Some people will think I’m a bad mom.

There it is. That jagged little pill. I still haven’t completely choked it down. It gives me that little pit in my stomach when I force myself to do what’s best for my kids … even in public.

“Does she have a backpack?” asked the driver of the van that Charlotte takes to camp each morning.

I knew it was still in our car that was parked about 10 yards away.

“Yes. In the car,” I said. He stared at me.

“Is she going to have it by the time I drive away?” he asked, eyebrows raised.

“I don’t know,” I said as we watched Charlotte settle in to the back seat without her backpack. I smiled uncomfortably and said, “We like to say, ‘If you don’t want to do it forever, don’t do it once!’”

“Okaaay….” he said, eyebrows still raised in disbelief.

My stomach tightened slightly as we stood in silence. Ten seconds passed and then we watched as Charlotte calmly unfastened her seat belt, hopped out of the van, and ran to the car to get her backpack.

Yes, some people will think I’m a bad mom. But what’s more important, what they think? Or this:

Read some comments below:

    Great one! Thank you for including the quote, “If you don’t want to do if forever, don’t do it once.”

    Hey, we’re all getting more comfortable with sitting in uncomfortable spots with this stuff…and somehow it always pays off. Kudos to you for this one, love the idea that your trust in your kids and their ability to handle things is not willing to be rocked by other people’s preconceptions.

    Reply from Flockmother: Yes, each time it gets a little easier to ignore the skeptics. Sometimes I still have to consciously control the self-talk in my head. This time it was, “Either she’ll remember on her own, or she’ll find a way to get through her day without it. Either way, I trust that she’ll be fine, and what this guy here thinks of that just … doesn’t … matter.”

    That and shoving my hands in my pockets and pursing my lips shut helps too.

Celebrate your Mistakes!

Is there a moment that defines the power and necessity of celebrating “a willingness to participate in life” vs. a positive outcome? Yes. there is.

Shopping Trip to Hell

The day before school started, in the heat of the day, I took 5 children to the grocery store; 4 biological kids and a friend’s child who was staying with us for the day.

At the end of the trip, the youngest (6) pulled out her money and picked out a candy bar to purchase. Her older sister (9) noticed the sign that said buy one, get 2 free. Hmmm? The 9 year old did a quick calculation- that’s 3 candy bars for the price of one – and quickly & earnestly suggested that she and her older sister (age 12) be the recipients of the 2 additional candy bars. But wait — the 9 year old suddenly realizes that there weren’t enough free candy bars for the friend. Not to worry, it’s just a problem that needs a solution – right? So, she asks the 6 year old to buy another candy bar, after all they are just a buck and her sister appears loaded with ones – thus making sure everyone got a candy bar with 2 left over for good measure.

I Don’t Think So…

Unfortunately, the 6 year old didn’t see it quite this way. Instead of agreeing, she took a stand … nope, not gonna’ happen, really only wanted to spend money on one candy bar for herself. Her sisters getting candy was just a side benefit…she dug in her heels and innocently inquired why the friend did not have his own money to buy his own candy bar?

“C’mon! Please!” and the begging began. The 9 year old was even willing to PAY the $1 for the extra candy bar when we got home… but the 6 year old was not budging and proceeded through the line to buy her 3 candy bars. The 9 year old continued with the pleading and begging, which only served to inflame her younger sister until finally, the 6 year old reverted to – wait for it – punching and scratching the 9 year old. Lovely right?

Stop Looking at Me, I’ll Handle it!

At this point, people began to stare and look a bit concerned. And then it happened – I was stung; stung by the bug called, personal prestige. The transaction at the register was completed, I walked outside and in an emotionally charged state…took the candy from the child who was hitting and threw all 3 candy bars in the trash. Done. End of story. I know, very mature of me.

In my irrational and embarrassed state – I justified my actions by convincing myself in the moment, that

“A child who hits to solve a problem, does not deserve candy.”

The Fight for Justice Ensues!

As soon as the candy was confiscated and tossed, the 9 year old – recipient of the punching, defender of fairness and sharing – turned to me and protested whole-heartedly that I “could not do that because the candy did not belong to me. I did not buy that candy and did not have the right to throw it out” and the screaming fit ensued.

I kept walking until we reached the car. I climbed in and let the older 2 kids unload the grocery bags. I managed to keep my mouth shut, although I was seething inside, not so much about the hitting, as that wasn’t directed at me, but at the dressing down I had taken, in public by my 9 year old, and drove home in silence. I shudder to think of all the nasty thoughts I had during the ride home.

Celebrate the Dragon Lady?

Yes, I screwed up. Because of the Parenting On Track™ program I knew it. Because of the program, I knew not to look for a discipline strategy right in that moment.

Because of the program I knew I had “mistaken beliefs” and they had been activated. Because of the program, I had the self-restraint to keep my mouth shut on the drive home.

Because of the program, I knew how to apologize to my children. Because of the program, in the 15 minutes it took to get home, I had a genuine, sincere, heart-felt appreciation for the 9 year old whose tantrum received the brunt of my negative thoughts, feelings and energy.

A Miraculous Perspective

“E, I am sorry. I am sorry for getting involved. I am sorry that I did not show you that I trusted the two of you to handle things. I am sorry that I did not keep my focus on your younger sister and encourage the rest of you to leave the store and go to the car.”

“Do you want to know what I KNOW to be true about who you are on the planet? I know that you are the most loyal sister in the world. I know that no matter what, you will stand up for your sister until the end. I know that you are concerned with justice and fairness and no matter what it takes you will do what it takes to fight for what you believe is right. Thank you.”

Yes, I said all of that and I meant every word of it. And all it took was a mere 15 minutes to shift from blame, anger and revenge, to respect, appreciation and love – for myself and for my children.

The trip to the grocery store ended in a big fat hug and a greater awareness of myself and my daughter. A reason to celebrate – ABSOLUTELY!

What? You let her GET AWAY with it?

“Now what?” “Isn’t there a consequence for hitting?” “How does your daughter know it’s not ok to throw a temper tantrum in the store?” “You just can’t let her get away with that.” “You are the parent. YOU are in control.” “Some things are just not OK.” “Why didn’t you just loan her the money?”

I know the questions. I know the statements. I have heard them all and even have my own set of voices yelling at me from inside my head.

Be – Do – Have

I will follow up with all of my children when I am not vibrating with emotion, and I can trust myself to be reasonable, respectful and loving.

I will focus on what I can do differently the next time, and answer the question:

“What will it take for E(9) and J(6) to find their voices AND treat others with compassion, empathy, and respect?”

This question will not be answered in a trip to the grocery store, in a response to hitting that demonstrates (adult) power- over another human (child). It will be answered in small steps, individual moments every day that invite my children into the process of living, making decisions, experiencing the outcomes and moving forward.

We will have 25 more episodes in the grocery store, I am sure of that. And if every time I commit to working toward enhancing the relationship I have with my children, encouraging their budding independence and maintaining self-respect, I have reason to celebrate.

The Bullied Child

Last week I introduced Barbara Coloroso’s definition of both Bullying and the Bully from her book, The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander; From Preschool to High-School – How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence. If you missed it or would like to learn more, go check out last week’s blog post.

At the end of the post, I suggested that parents take a week to observe and learn from their children’s behavior, and resist the temptation to either assess too quickly or jump in with action if they suspect their child might be a bully.

Today I introduce the Bullied and again, suggest that instead of “doing” anything, parents begin to look for any signs that their child might experience bullying in their daily lives.

The Bullied

The truth is, it could be anyone and often times is – anyone. No longer is the bullied child easy to recognize. Bullied children come in all shapes and sizes, ages and races, religious backgrounds and physical attributes. They can be athletes, academics, socially comfortable, popular, awkward, introverts or anything in between.

What accounts for a children being bullied isn’t so much their characteristics as much as it the bully’s need to “single out a recipient of verbal, physical, or relational aggression, merely because they are different.” (Page 42)

Imagine for a moment – being different as the precursor for a child being targeted for bullying. How could any parent adequately prepare for this possibility? It is literally impossible for parents to “be on the look out” for a child who fits the profile of a potentially bullied kid when there is no profile.

But at least parents can rely on their children telling them that they are experiencing bullying, right? Not so.

In her book, Barbara asserts that many children who are bullied, avoid telling their parents that bullying is occurring in their life and worse, to what extend they are being bullied. Her list of reasons why children don’t talk with parents or authority figures includes:

  • Shame
  • Fear of retaliation
  • No one can help
  • No one will help
  • It’s part of growing up
  • Adults are in on it
  • False sense of loyalty

Barbara does suggest that there are signs that kids are being bullied and if parents are informed and willing to consider that their child might indeed be experiencing bullying – although they don’t fit the profile – then a parent can intervene to stop the cycle of violence.

Here are just a few signs that might indicate something is going on.*

  • Abrupt lack of interest in school
  • Drop in grades
  • Withdraws from family and school
  • Taking parents money
  • Beeline to the bathroom when they return home
  • Sad, sullen, angry or scared after a phone call or email
  • Acts out of character
  • Disheveled, torn or missing clothes

*For a complete list, please refer to p.50-53 in Barbara Coloroso’s book.

What’s most disturbing is that many kids who find themselves bullied, eventually, become the bully.

“If the assumption made by teenagers is that potential attackers in their schools are kids who were picked on- and the statistics seem to bear this out-then keeping children from becoming victims of bullying would substantially reduce the risk of future acts of violence and would certainly reduce the number of kids, who, choose death over facing the brutality of their peers.” (Page 61)

Even if you are living with a child who seems to “fit in” at school and until now, you had no reason to suspect they might be on the receiving end of bullying, be on the look out for signals that you might have overlooked a message your child may be trying to send you.

As you follow along with this series, take some time to consider how you will talk with your child about the subject as you learn more in the coming weeks.

From Frog Collecting to Number Crunching

Along with buying new pencils and notebooks, “back to school” also means a return to routines, alarm clocks, and the responsibilities that many of our children left behind with the last bell in June. There are all kinds of systems families can use, and Parenting On Track is about progress, change, and the long-term goal of encouraging independence and self-reliance in our children.

Here is my “top 10” list for making the transition from frog collecting to number crunching a smooth one, for kids and parents alike. With these pointers in mind, you’ll help your children begin the school year on the right foot.

1. Ask yourself, “What will it take for my children to manage their schedules independently?” Work with your kids to make a list of everything that needs to happen in order for your kids to be ready for the school day. Access what they can do already, where they need some training, and what they need to learn from scratch. Set aside time each week to practice these life skills, and be sure to acknowledge growth and progress.

2. Allow your kids to establish a routine that works for them, even if they flounder for a week or two. This means not reminding them to pack their homework or asking if they remembered their soccer gear. Having to sit out a game or miss recess is a far more effective way for youngsters to learn to be responsible than parents constantly reminding.

3. Have faith that your children can handle the natural consequences of their decisions. If your daughter refuses to do her homework, let her work it out with the teacher, even if her grades suffer. Whereas the grades will come and go over the years, the self-reliance and sense of accountability that she’ll learn by solving her own problems will serve her well for the rest of her life.

4. Show empathy and help your children work through any problems that arise, but don’t be their savior. School offers a perfect testing ground for kids to learn how to be responsible for themselves and acquire the skills they’ll need in the “real world” after graduation.

5. Set parameters about acceptable dress for school that you and your kids can agree on, and then bite your tongue. Many schools have rules about attire (such as no midriffs or undergarments showing) that can help you frame this discussion. You may not love the outfits that your children choose to wear, but showing them that you respect their choices and believe in their ability to select their own clothing is far more important in the long run.

6. Establish a framework for discussing the ups and downs that your kids are sure to encounter as the school year progresses. You want your children to know that you’re on their side, no matter what. If your son brings home an “A” or scores the lead role in the school play, encourage him by asking questions about the experience. How did he prepare? What did that accomplishment feel like? Did he need to to work hard to reach his goal, or did it come easily to him? Likewise, if your daughter comes home with a “D” or doesn’t make the hockey team, you can ask her about that experience. How did she prepare for that moment? How does she feel about her grade? Was this important to her? What could she do differently next time?

7. Create a roadmap with your children to help them set goals for the year and begin thinking about what it will take to achieve those goals. Your kids will feel a sense of empowerment as they define and take ownership over their plans for the coming year.

8. Set up a time every week to connect as a family. This could be a dinner, a family outing, or a scheduled family meeting. The gathering does not have to take place at the same time every week, but be sure that it’s on everyone’s calendar so that it doesn’t fall through the cracks.

9. Figure out what you, as a parent, can let go of to encourage your childrens’ independence. Deciding not to “remind” or “do for” your kids may be hard at first, but in doing so, you are demonstrating to your children that you have faith in their abilities.

10. Go slow. Encourage progress and recognize growth, and remember that you are the best parent for your child.

Social Interest and Healthy Families

Simply put, we are a culture preoccupied with our own Self Interest which, unfortunately is reinforced on a daily basis.

Two prevailing attitudes which emerge with regularity are:

  • What’s in it for me? OR What will I get?
  • What will people think of me?

Here are a number of questions children ask themselves every day which can be influenced by the What’s in it for me/What will I get attitude.

What will I get, if I…

  • Use the potty?
  • Sleep in my own bed?
  • Sit still for a hair cut?
  • Let the doctor give me a check up?
  • Say I am sorry?
  • Help with daily contributions?
  • Stop fighting with my siblings?
  • Apply myself at school?
  • Agree to come home on time?
  • Stop calling my family names?
  • Drop the attitude?

Scary, isn’t it? You begin to get a sense of how that attitude might affect your kids as employees, spouses and parents.

The second attitude – What will people think of me is more commonly seen in adults. It sounds something like.

What will people think of me, if…

  • My kids aren’t properly clothed, fed, washed, groomed?
  • My kids are disrespectful, rude, display bad manners, are sassy to me?
  • My kids do poorly in school or are not star athletes?
  • I can’t afford to have my kids do all the things their friends do and have what their friends have?
  • I can’t control my kids?

This attitude is disastrous for parents and children alike. As parents, it is difficult enough to make responsible and respectful decisions regarding our children. To compound the problem by adding the – What will people think of me, significantly limits our ability to parent from our best. The decisions we make about and for our children can no longer be influenced by what others will think of us.

Tips for Success

If you, as the parent, ever wonder about HOW you are making decisions, take a few seconds and answer this one question:

The needs of the situation require that I do what?

Here is what Adler had to say on the subject of Social Interest:

    “A healthy person is concerned for other people and has a sincere desire to contribute to society. So, Never do anything for a child that a child can do for herself.”

    “The first step in teaching social interest is to teach self-reliance.
    So, Never rob your children of opportunities to feel capable.”

Here are 3 examples that illustrate the power of Social Interest:

1. Imagine your child arrives at school properly trained in Social Interest. He may look around the room and say, “The needs of the situation require that I…”

  • Choose a place to sit.
  • Have a pencil to write with and all the other supplies I will need for the day.
  • Raise my hand when I have a question.
  • Do my homework as is expected of me.
  • Allow other children to speak.
  • Follow through with the agreements I make with the teacher.

Imagine a school room with students who are ALL asking themselves this same set of questions. Powerful stuff.

2. Now imagine your children at home and asking themselves internally, “The needs of the situation require that I…”

  • Help my brother out with homework because he is struggling and math is easy for me.
  • Say no to friends who ask me out and I know they will be drinking.
  • Practice my instrument, because I made an agreement with my parents and music teacher.
  • Miss my soccer game so I can go to an important family function.
  • Do my contributions, even though I was up late, because everyone else is expected to do theirs.

Yes, I know it seems too good to be true, but consider this for a minute, we are always in the process of choosing. That includes how we interpret situations. So either our kids are asking themselves, what will I get out of this, or they are asking themselves the needs of the situation require that I do what. Why is it so hard for parents to believe, that children, when given a chance, will act from the position of the highest social interest?

Okay, lastly –

3. Imagine yourself, as a parent who asks on a regular basis, “The needs of the situation require that I…”

  • Allow my children to experience frustration, so they can learn more about themselves.
  • Stay cool and put this on the agenda for Family Meeting.
  • Apologize when I make a mistake.
  • Remain flexible as my children learn to navigate their way around an ever changing world.
  • Model empathy, compassion and forgiveness if I expect my children to develop these attributes.
  • Avoid comparing my children with anyone else – ever.
  • Allow my child to make a choice, even though I know it may end poorly.
  • Respect the natural consequence my child is going to experience with faith and confidence.
  • Explain to the teacher why my child is coming to school with no lunch and no homework.
  • Refrain from telling stories about my child in social situations where everyone else is complaining.

Again, you see the power this one question has in influencing every decision we make. So this week, anchor the power of developing Social Interest in yourself, your children and your family.

The Parenting On Track™ Family

Alright, so on the flip side of my last post;

You know you are a Parenting On Track™ family when….

10. Your 6 year old daughter wears her best high heel shoes in a snowstorm – and you have the confidence that she will learn a valuable lesson, as you wait patiently and support her learning.

9. You lock yourself in the bathroom during a temper tantrum – because you know all about feeding the weed and you are not about to feed this one.

8. You get a call from your child’s teacher, because he forgot his lunch for the past 3 days – and instead of apologizing, you confidently explain that you are raising a thinking child and trust that any day now, he will figure out a valuable lesson and the problem will be solved once and for all.

7. Your child goes to school in her pajamas at least twice a week – and you have long ago given up your mistaken belief that “good” mommies make sure their children are color-coordinated, because this morning, like every other morning, your child gave you a big fat kiss, a super-duper squeeze and said I love you, before heading off to school – and that means more than a matching outfit.

6. You do nothing and say nothing unless its physically or morally dangerous – because you know that 90% of the time, if not more, doing or saying anything will only make things worse and there really isn’t any reason to make things worse with a 4 year old who is doing his best at figuring out the world.

5. Your whites are pink – and you don’t care because in another 4 weeks, you will have another person in your house, who is capable of sorting, washing, drying, folding and putting away clothes without whining, griping, or complaining.

4. Your 17 year old child, makes a point of coming over during a basketball game with friends, hugs you and tells you he loves you – and the crazy thing is, this is perfectly normal because it happens on a regular basis.

3. Your kid makes a mistake, and it actually brings your family closer, instead of pushing everyone apart – family meetings, which are a staple of your lives, has given rise to amazing problem solvers who appreciate everyone in the family and understand that mistakes are indeed opportunities to learn.

2. Your children honestly believe that without them, the family would not function, and you, the parent, would not be able to manage your life effectively – and you bask in this knowledge even as you listen to other parents brag about how much their children need and depend on them.

1. You extend the invitation to your children to participate in life, they accept and when it’s time for them to go out on their own, they step out with confidence and enthusiasm and look back at you and say, “Thanks!” Ah – the thrill of victory.

To all the thousands of parents, who invested their time and energy and a few bucks in creating a family that is sometimes impossible to describe to someone who isn’t living it, thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories and your struggles. Thank you for believing in yourselves and your kids and in a program that promises to deliver what most of us dreamed about when we held our first child in our arms.