In this conversation with Vicki Hoefle, we talk about problem solving and more specifically incorporating problem solving into the system of Family Meeting. How would you like to give up your job as law enforcement officer and show your kids another solution to all the fighting, tattling and telling?
I’m not sure when small children became something that needed fixing. Personally, I don’t believe that any child is broken. Their behavior might be problematic and their intentions with their behavior might be mistaken—but they certainly aren’t broken. Not only that, but I think most parents I know want to get away from (or avoid altogether) reacting to problems as they arise and move to avoiding them in the first place.
If I just described you, you aren’t alone—and I have some good news. You can avoid problematic behavior in your house, and you can do it today. I could list for you a whole host of things that you can do today to steer your family clear of problems, but instead I am going to give you just one—an easy one. Connect with your kids over the positive things they do.
Sounds easy, right? It might be easier said than done, and here’s what I mean by that. Watch yourself for a few days, and try to notice how often you connect with your kids over the negative or problematic things they do and how many times you connect over the positive things they do. I think you will find that you, like so many busy parents today, are quicker to point out what they are doing wrong than what they are doing right. You do this because you think that by pointing it out, you will get rid of the behavior. Guess what? Just the opposite happens.
Most children just want attention and to connect with their parents. When we give them attention over mistaken behavior, we are giving them what they want, and they will do more of it to get our attention. So I am asking you to turn that around and start to give more of your attention to the positive things they do. Shower them with it!
Here are some examples:
- Thanks for making your bed today—it is so helpful to me when you contribute to keeping the house clean.
- I see you are playing with your brother—I really appreciate it when you two spend time together doing something you both enjoy.
- I really enjoy going to the market with you.
- You got a high mark on that homework assignment—your hard work certainly seems to have paid off.
- Would you join me in ________________ (you fill in the blank); I could really use your help.
Connecting with our kids over the positive things they do and the way we feel about them is one of the easiest (and most rewarding) things you can start doing today. I guarantee positive results!
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There aren’t any strategies in the Parenting On Track™ Program that I don’t use with my own family. One strategy that has played a particularly important role in the evolution of my family has been Family Meetings.
When my children were very young, Family Meetings helped us define, at the very core, what kind of family we wanted to “be”. The result of that early work is seen in the individuals, family members and community members we have become.
Initially, Family Meetings were a way for us to come together each week and invest in the health of our family. It was the place that taught my kids about kindness through appreciations and that their contribution to family work made the whole family run more smoothly. They learned about money and, instead of fighting when we shopped together, we looked forward to this shared experience. It was only later that I realized the impact that allowance had played in my children’s healthy relationship with money.
As life got more challenging, Family Meetings became a safe place for us to bring both individual and family problems. Because everyone in the family was invested in finding a solution, there was little or no time spent on blaming or sabotage. Instead, my children became proficient at identifying problems and coming up with solutions that worked for everyone.
The older the kids got, the more Family Meetings began to change. Because there were fewer and fewer problems to work on, it left time to talk about vacations, community service, college, travel and other interests in our kids’ lives. Because all five of the kids got along so well (weekly appreciations will do that to a family), they looked for ways to appreciate other people in their lives that might otherwise go unnoticed. Because contributions were a way of “being” and not just doing, they spread their wings and began working outside of the home to bring in money and gain experience that would be useful when they could get “real” jobs at 14.
Without Family Meetings, we might have done what so many other families end up doing—trying to deal with daily life as it comes toward you like a crashing wave. Sometimes you can ride those waves, but sometimes those waves can crush a family of seven. We never had to worry about that with Family Meetings. In a way, Family Meetings became the lifeboat that we traveled in together, navigating both the rough waters and calm seas. The key part was that we did it together, every week at the same time and place, as a family.
Because I think Family Meetings play such an important role in the nurturing of a healthy family, I decided to take the month of March to put out a series of articles about the components of Family Meetings and the role each of those components can play in promoting healthy relationships within your family. So, stayed tuned; next week we’ll talk about Appreciations.
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School started just over a month ago and, already, I’ve gotten questions from parents about “bullying.” What can a parent do about a child that is being bullied, witnessing the bullying or is even being a bully him or herself? Parents are worried and looking for answers, and the “experts” seem to have thrown their hands in the air because they don’t know what to do.
I know… scary stuff, right?
I think the reason others have not come up with an answer to the problem of bullying is because there is no “quick fix.” There is no one sentence, slogan or catch phrase that will just make it all go away overnight.
Instead of a quick fix, and we know those really just amount to a whole lot of false hope, I can offer you a REAL solution – one that starts with a powerful new perspective.
Rather than asking, “How do I get rid of the bullying quickly?” try asking, “How do I deal with bullying?” Yes, it’s a small change, but an important one because from this new perspective we can begin to tackle this problem realistically.
My answer to our new question, “How do I deal with bullying?” is to change the climate, first at home, so that changes at school can follow.
For the child that’s being bullied
It can be helpful to start by asking, “Why is my child being bullied?” Now, it may be that there is some form of bullying going at home which is contributing to the problem. Remember, we’re coming at this from a whole new perspective, so let’s just take a deep breath and look at this together.
Demanding, dictating, telling, making decisions, thinking your way is the only way… or the only “right” way… all of that can feel a lot like bullying to a young child. And, by the way, it doesn’t matter if you have a sweet, syrupy voice. If it is your way or nothing, and if your kids can’t challenge you or stand up to you, how are they supposed to learn how to challenge or stand up to anyone else?
When these kids go out into the world without having practiced the fine art of non-physical, self-defense, the “Bullies” can spot them a mile away. Mind you, there are varying degrees of bullying and it can come from a variety of sources – from peers to adults, basically anyone looking to influence or intimidate impressionable kids. And these ill-equipped kids are easy for them to spot – they look scared, don’t know how to say NO or to say YES, cannot or choose not to articulate their preferences, or stand up for what they believe, and this makes them easy targets.
Bottom line? Protecting your child from bullying starts at home, and it is well within your power to start making a difference today!
And what about the child that may become the bully?
Now, back to that same child, the one who experiences what is, in effect, bullying… though you as the parent may feel you’re just “looking out of their best interests” or “making things easier” by making the “right” decisions. Imagine that this child decides that no one else is EVER going to push them around, so they decide to become the bully… just to make sure they have the power and, therefore, cannot lose. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense, and I imagine some of us could look back and find instances where we’ve done exactly the same thing. In this scenario, the child doesn’t really choose the bully position – they actually choose NOT TO BE BULLIED by taking that powerful position for themselves. And, based on their experience, they think they’re faced with an Either/Or proposition – with no options available for them in the middle.
Okay. My eyes are open. Now what?
In order for your kids to have the confidence to stand up for themselves, look people in the eye, walk and talk with confidence, express their opinion, support other people’s opinions, walk away from fights, and stand up when necessary, they are going to have to practice – you guessed it – in your home.
And, of course, the parents… yes, that’s you… have to be fully on board to help make it happen.
For help changing the climate in your home to facilitate and support the development of these important life skills, check out our downloadable Parenting On Track™MP3 – Parenting Styles. This audio will help you to immediately change the climate just by learning a little bit about what your parenting style is, and how you can make positive adjustments to it. If you like what you hear, the Parenting On Track™Multi-Media Home Program can help you make even greater changes – changes that can significantly improve the health of your family today and long into the future.
I know bullying is a tough topic, and some of you may have strong opinions you’d like to share. I invite and encourage you to share your thoughts right here using the blog comment forum below. Thanks again for visit and your continued support. Parenting On Track™ is… OK, OK, I say it… on track to reach more families in 2008 than ever before!