All posts tagged Relationship

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

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


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

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

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

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

The P word.

This is the time of year, as high school seniors receive letters from colleges, as our elementary school athletes finish up their winter sports seasons and begin training for the spring festivities, or our students win recognition in the form of scholarships and awards. When our kids accomplish something, it can be easy to tell them how proud we are of them or share with our friends how proud we are of our children’s latest achievements. I know this makes sense to us. Our kids do great things and we want them to know how we feel, and how happy we are for them. In some cases we want our neighbors or relatives to know how great our children are (in turn) how great we are as parents and that we have raised such marvelous wonders.

The reason we boast and praise our children is not nearly as important as the answer to this question. What do you say to your child when she misses the mark? What do you say when he falls a bit short? What do you say when she fails or gets rejected?

“Oh, that’s ok, honey, you were accepted to the other two colleges.” Or you may say, “Don’t cry, I know you tried.” Do you ever tell your child, “You dropped the ball in center-field, I am so proud of you.” No.

Children interpret this attempt to make them feel better, as a lack of pride in them, as they are right now (warts, mistakes, foul-ups, rejections and all.) And since you are not proud of them, they can often interpret this as disappointment.

Vicki with Zoe

Here is an example and a conversation to illustrate.

On Friday, my daughter received her acceptance letter from Columbia University in New York. After hours and hours of research to find a program in her field of interest, she applied to graduate school a few months earlier. She was elated and couldn’t wait to share the news with us. My husband and I were on the phone with her when she opened the letter. Zoe and my husband screamed and shouted and hooted and hollered. When everyone settled down, the following conversation ensued:

Zoe: So mom, are you proud of me?

Me: Zoe, I am so happy that you got into the program you wanted and I am impressed with how hard you worked for 4 years to make this dream come true. I
am inspired to work hard for my own dreams and I am thrilled that you will be living in New York.

Zoe: Mom, come on, say it – say you are proud of me.

Iain: I am proud of you Zoe.

Zoe: I know, but I want to hear Mom say it. She never uses the “P” word. She is the only mom I know who is more comfortable dropping the “f” bomb than using the “P” word.

Me: I’m sorry Zoe, but if I tell you I am proud of you now, the next time something like this happens and say you don’t get in, you might think I am disappointed in you, and that just wouldn’t be true. See, the thing is, if a parent says they are proud, then that leaves room for a parent to be disappointed and I can assure you Zoe, that I am never, ever, disappointed in you. The best I can give you my darling is this – perhaps on my death bed, as I am saying goodbye, I will look at you and say – I am proud to be your mother.

She fell silent. I heard her take a big gulp of air and she closed our conversation.

Zoe: I love you and I am proud of me and I couldn’t have done it without all the faith and support and love that I got from you and pops.

Consider your words carefully and consider the message those words carry with them when delivered on young ears with impressionable minds.

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.

Tips: Train Kids / Fix Relationship

In the last post, I told you the solution to any “problem” you’ll encounter in parenting: train the kids or fix the relationship.

Today is a little boost of information about how to identify which type of problem you are facing (training or relationship) and how to filter the information so you can clearly steer out.

Identify Any Problem as a Pattern of Facts (Not Stories and Emotions!)

First, you have to identify a recurring “problem” and notice any triggers and patterns (including responses!). Then you can isolate the behavior and decide if it’s training or relationship related.

Helpful Hints:

GENERALLY, if it’s something the kids are physically doing or not doing, it’s likely training. (Example, every morning the kids mess around when they are supposed to be getting dressed. I yell. Repeat.).

If it’s something the kids are emotionally doing or not doing, it’s likely the relationship. (Example: Big brother is being mean to the little brothers by saying I hate you to everyone. I get upset, talk calmly only to get frustrated and exhausted and then, I lecture him. Repeat.).

Remember, if it’s nonsense, just ignore it- it will go away on its own! However, if it’s something bigger that is becoming problematic, take the time to look at the facts.

Here are some more example facts – they could be anything:

Fact:  Every morning my child does or does not do ______.
Fact: He can do it.
Fact: He doesn’t know how to do it.
Fact: He gets frustrated at the same point, etc.
Fact: He is getting angry around lunch everyday.
Fact: She says I hate you when the sisters interrupt her.
Fact: Nobody gets along whenever they are bored in the living room.

Limiting Beliefs: Letting Go of the Stories I Believe…

Second, you must REMOVE emotion and toss beliefs about “kids who _________” before you can continue. You must also toss beliefs about “parents who ___________.”

For example, if you believe kids who do not put their things away are lazy and ungrateful, you must tell yourself that is NOT true. Kids who do not put their things away have not been trained to put their things away.

Example: I believe a child who talks back is rude and disrespectful. It’s ok to say to yourself, Untrue. A child who talks back is in a fractured relationship. Once this thinking sets in, you can move things along and begin to see change.

Similarly, if you believe that parents who do not “do something to teach a lesson” when a child talks back is a slacker, then you must toss the idea that “doing something for the sake of not letting her get away with it” is reasonable. If a parent’s reaction does not train the child to behave or act appropriately, or put the relationship first, it will do no good anyway!

Create the habit of tossing beliefs that will interfere with you moving toward your goal.

Make the Switch: Reactive to Proactive

Stop being reactive and begin to be proactive about how you will respond. Just like any other change, you’ve got to make a plan. Here is a helpful chart to walk you through the process and get your mind heading in a good direction:

Strategies for Change

And finally, once you know what you’re in for: more training or fixing the relationship, or both, you can begin to put all the pieces together to create new patterns and facts within your house. This chart (below) is simple- if it’s a training problem, you’ll want to factor in plenty of demonstration, time and patience. If it’s a relationship problem, you’ll want to factor in plenty of empathy, time and patience. Questions? Ask away! Want to learn more? Pre-order Duct Tape Parenting for an in-depth look at training and relationship strategies (August 21st!).


Same Drama, Different Day?

dramaThe Solution is…Train the kids or fix the relationship. That’s it.

Raise your hand if you’ve had at least one of these thoughts run through your mind (hand raised): this isn’t working or this is exhausting or why won’t he just listen? If your hand is up, you’ve probably been through the ringer at least once (or perhaps a gentle slide into in a rabbit hole) with some pesky behavior, attitude or habit that left you scratching your head and thinking, what can I do? I’ve tried everything.

Ok, so, maybe you’ve tried “everything”  to “cover up” the problem with yelling, bribing, threatening, etc. or you’ve yielded to to attitudes, demands and “fast getaways” because you felt you didn’t know what to do. Maybe, like many parents, you found yourself disciplining (actually punishing), taking away or growing resentful and angry all while going round and round in a “cul de sac” cycle of behavior-reaction-behavior-reaction-behavior-reaction…and then ultimately, frustration. While it may feel like you’ve tried “everything” you probably haven’t.

The Point?

The point of this post is to deliver a simple message that will help lift ANY fog of parenting “problems”- a solution so clear it will change your brain and support your decision to QUIT Being the Maid (or Feed the Weed- coming next) or any other long term solution that you commit to.

Every pesky behavior– annoying, “bad” or ugly– is a symptom of one of two things:

  •  Lack of Training or
  • a Fractured Relationship

Both are worth fixing.