September 25th, 2015
My daughter has a t-shirt that reads “Summer, please don’t leave me”, which is exactly how I’m feeling now that the days are getting shorter and the skies are turning grey. Our natural tendency in autumn is to head indoors. Once inside, it’s easy to turn to the things that are easy to do. So, the iPad or the x-Box emerge and one-by-one each member of the family disappears into their own zone.
When you were ten years old and you woke up in the morning to see that the sky was grey what were the things that you loved to do? Were your first thoughts to call your friends to arrange a potentially muddy game of football; did you hope that you’d be able to go and see a movie; stay in your room to build a Meccano creation, or were you curled up reading a good book, or listening to music …? What activities gave you your best days when the weather was gross?
English Heritage has created a website and app (I know … we’re trying to go lo-tech here) with 50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4. Many of these are warm-weather activities but some of them can be adapted for a less than pleasant day. After all, as the Scandinavians say, ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing’. If your plan is to head outside, take a hint from English Heritage and try …
Head to www.geocaching.com and create an account for your family. You can also download the app for your phone - which makes it easy as you have a built-in GPS. To make it more challenging, encourage your children to use a compass. Caches are located all over the world. We have found them in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the US, and all over the UK. Caches can be all sorts of things from virtual caches to small plastic containers with knick knacks inside. It’s not only a fun exercise in navigation and treasure hunting, but because most caches are created by locals, it is also a great way to discover hidden gems of places that you might not have known about.
Create a Family Vision Board
Our friend Kelly Pietrangelli (Project Me for Busy Mums) is a huge advocate of brainstorming with kids about what kinds of things they’d like to be doing in future. All you need is some large pieces of poster board … and lots of questions. Kelly starts with things like “what will you be doing for fun in 5 years? What will your hobbies be?” Vision boards are a great way to set goals and by keeping them visible around the house those things you and your children include are more likely to happen.
I cannot tell you how many people I have met recently who have put down their phones, cleared the kitchen table, pulled out the felt-tips and started colouring … yes, as a family! One friend - a mother of 3 teenagers - told me that her daughter sat down with her one evening, then was joined by a couple of her daughter’s friends and the four of them sat, coloured and talked for a good two hours. Check out amazon.com … they have loads.
Tap into Pinterest
Pinterest can be a bit like Marmite. People either really love it, or feel totally overwhelmed by all the craftiness that it seems everyone else seems to possess. I’m somewhere in the middle and love to have a quick search of FAMILY CRAFTS to come up with some fun ideas. Why not …
What we have learned in all our years of working with families is that children don’t want things as much as time with their parents. Children want to feel connected. Take some time this autumn to find some new hobbies. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. You just need to carve out time. Make your weekends be times when you’re not racing from one activity to the next. These are the days when you can create family memories and add to your list of fun family stories.
September 20th, 2015
Responsibility can seem like a daunting word. If we think about all the things we are responsible for, it can be frightening and overwhelming. We are responsible for ourselves, our responses, our relationships, our mistakes, our education and careers, our health and well-being … and while our children are growing up, we are responsible for all those things for them as well. But our goal is to teach them to be responsible for themselves.
When parents ask us how they can encourage their children to be more responsible, here’s what we suggest:
Be your child’s emotion coach
Today we understand the value of raising emotionally intelligent children – children who are confident, resilient, empathetic, compassionate and authentic. The way to raise emotionally intelligent children is to be their emotion coach. That means that when your children are upset, angry, jealous, disappointed, afraid, feeling inadequate, left out or let down… that you acknowledge the feelings and support your child to find her own solutions. Accepting your children’s feelings doesn’t mean that you are agreeing with them or accepting all behaviours. If your child says “I HATE YOU. YOU’RE THE WORST MOTHER EVER” and you respond with “you’re mad that you have to go to Granny’s and you can’t go to your friend’s party” … it is not a confession or agreement. It is just allowing their feelings to be heard. And once the feeling is released you may go back to address the behaviour.
Often, we are quick to invalidate our children’s feelings because we want to fix things for them and make everything better. Rather than advising them and telling them what to do, it is better for them to allow them to come up with their own solutions.
Teaching children how to deal with uncomfortable feelings with words will teach them to be responsible for dealing with life’s knocks in a positive way. We can also coach them to deal with anger by taking vigorous exercise or with sadness by listening to music or with overwhelm by putting something in order and we can model how we deal with these feelings ourselves.
Use the mistakes process
Children will make mistakes. For children to learn, we need to be able to see mistakes and failure as an opportunity to learn. The mistakes process will leave you and your children with new learning and a strengthened connection. This needs to be done when everyone is calm … so take some cool down time beforehand to be able to handle the situation positively. You’ll need to start by acknowledging the feelings involved.
Set up for Success
At the heart of positive parenting is teaching our children what they can be responsible for – given their age and stage of development. Setting up for success means being a proactive and prepared parent. It means teaching your child to tie his shoes throughout the summer holidays rather than thinking he’ll be able to do it on the first day of school. It’s about giving some thought and training rather than ambushing your children at the last minute expecting that they’ll be happy and willing to do what is required. Talking through things ahead of time with your children – whether it’s your 4 year old’s first day of school or your teenager’s first secondary school party – is preparing them so they are ready for what could happen.
When children have chores to do, they start to see themselves as contributing to the family. Add on the descriptive praise they receive from you when they have done the chore and they develop the feeling of being trusted. That in turn builds their confidence and motivation to continue to help out!
Chores teach children valuable life skills. Whether your children are making their beds and tidying their rooms, or cooking, cleaning up, preparing a table for dinner, helping in the garden, or taking care of a pet, we know that children gain a stronger sense of pride and dignity from being a contributing member of the family.
Writer Joan Dideon said: “The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” We want to give our children the gift of self-respect. By using these four parenting tools, you will purposefully ensure that you are passing on that gift every day.
September 13th, 2015
As the children go back to school you may be thinking of all the areas associated with school where you end up battling with your kids. Often we're told to pick our battles but I say don't pick battles with your children. Battles are between enemies and result in a win/lose situation. If you win, your child loses. We often forget this when we talk about not letting our children ‘get away with things’ and not letting them win.
Parents do need to provide discipline for children because their frontal lobes are not yet fully developed (and won’t be until their 20s). So we have to lend them our higher brains with their greater capacity for rational thought and impulse control. We are not our children’s enemy –we are their teacher. The purpose of discipline is not to win, or to get revenge, but to teach. Effective discipline comes from influence over time rather than the exercise of power in the moment.
We need to make sure we avoid the terminology of battles even in our own minds because language shapes our experience and the more we talk or even think about battling with our kids the more that will happen. That’s how our brains work.
What makes you want to go into battle with your child? Is it when you’ve asked them nicely to do something several times and they ignore you? And then you calmly and reasonably give them a gentle warning that they won’t get their TV time or stories… and they ignore you. And then you shout… but they still ignore you. And then you take away the TV or story… and then they react. They act as if that came straight out of the blue and is the most unreasonable thing ever and you are the meanest mummy/daddy in the world.
Generally when people suggest picking your battles it means choosing which things you’re going to get into a lather about and ignoring the rest. At The Parent Practice we say don’t ignore behaviours that you’re not happy about and don’t battle over them. Don’t ignore but take small actions before the behaviour escalates too far and while you’re still calm enough to deal with it.
Take action sooner with take 2s –Get your child to do it again correctly. This works well for little things like saying please and thank you or speaking in a polite tone of voice or asking to get down from the table.
Here’s how you can teach rather than engaging in battles:
If something has gone wrong and you’re heading into battle mode:
Kids will get things wrong because they’re learning but the way we teach them how to behave will have long term ramifications for how they deal with disagreements in their lives. Instead of teaching them to get into battles don’t we want to teach them to try to understand, use words to negotiate and compromise?
For more on Positive discipline techniques see www.theparentpractice.com
September 07th, 2015
How are you feeling about the return to the school routine? Perhaps you have a littlie starting school for the very first time? Or a tween making that big transition to secondary school?
Many clients we speak to are breathing a huge sigh of relief as getting back to a regular routine and a bit of ME TIME is much needed, but there are others for whom the transition may not be so welcome.
Perhaps you are feeling anxious about the rushed mornings and the thought of getting everyone up and out of the house by 8.15am or earlier!
Perhaps you have a child who does not like change or transition and finds going to school hard.
It may not surprise you to hear that the key to a successful return to school is PREPARATION, PREPARATION, PREPARATION!
Take some time NOW to Set Up For Success with these top tips
This year make getting ready for school a team effort as much as possible.
Chat through what is needed for the first day back - ask the children questions to get their input and Descriptively Praise their answers. Ask THEM to write shopping or other lists and check items off. All these things help them not only take responsibility and develop competencies which boosts self-esteem..
Emotional preparation is just as important as getting kit together.
Build confidence by focusing on your children’s efforts, attitude and improvements – not results!
Although schools keep their main focus on results, we can provide an alternate view, putting the emphasis on the journey or process. Keep noticing their efforts WHENEVER your children display them describing in detail the ‘good’ stuff they do.
Praise them for qualities that they are showing in non-academic areas such as perseverance and they will likely transfer those attributes to school life.
For example: “I am impressed how you kept working on this juggling. It’s complicated and time-consuming but you persevered until you could do it.” Or “You made such an effort to keep up with everyone today, and you kept a smiley face and a happy voice which meant we all had a lovely day out together.”
Helping them cope with their feelings
There are many feelings associated with school – good ones, and not so good ones. And we need to know how our children feel – even when the feelings are ones that we’d rather protect them from, or don’t feel comfortable handling.
When we accept and validate uncomfortable feelings we reduce the need for children to ‘act out’ these feelings in ‘misbehaviour’ - such as being ‘mean’ to siblings or rude to parents or defiance. We help them learn how to identify and manage negative feelings appropriately.
For example: “I imagine you are totally exhausted by all the new people and places you have dealt with this week. It probably feels quite overwhelming.” Or “You might feel like you can’t possibly do one more thing for anyone this afternoon. You’ve been told what to do all day long, and now all you want to do is nothing.”
Remember, there is a clear distinction between acknowledging negative feelings and condoning negative behaviour. So, although it’s understandable a child might feel left out at school, it is NOT acceptable to hit a sibling.
Sometimes children’s excitement at starting school is tinged with the conflicting and confusing feeling of anxiety.
Sometimes feelings show up in butterflies in the tummy, headaches, eczema or nausea. It can help children to know that these feelings won’t last and there are solutions too, like breathing, visualisations or distraction. It helps to hear that other people have similar feelings – most children love hearing about your experiences at school.
Empathise with any reluctance to go to school. It is TOTALLY normal for there to be times when they don’t want to go. Knowing that feeling is understood and accepted makes it easier to keep going.
For example: “I bet you wish you could stay at home today – it’s such a huge change to being on holiday. You probably wish we were still on the beach.”
“You might be wishing you didn’t have to change schools. You feel sad about leaving your friends and teachers. Maybe you are worried you won’t know anyone and you won’t make friends quickly. You might miss your old school for a while. Maybe a part of you is also looking forward to making new friends and having more activities. It can be confusing when you feel two different feelings at the same time.”
Continued reluctance may mean there is something else going on which merits further investigation.
And three last tips!
First, remember how tiring school is for children of all ages. It’s not unusual for children to display regressive behaviour – sucking thumbs, using baby voices, or disrupted sleep and rudeness because they are so exhausted by their efforts to be ‘good’ at school. Plan time for them to rest each afternoon and at the weekend – avoid lots of playdates and activities until things settle down.
Secondly, our children follow where we lead. When we enthuse, we create enthusiasm. When we look forward to new challenges, they do too. And when we show an appetite for learning, they pick this up. So, be positive about school, and it will help give them a very good start.
And finally, “rushing is the enemy of love”. I know it sounds obvious but just getting up 20 minutes earlier will enable you to get on top of things and prevent overwhelm and stress. When we start the day off feeling in charge we will feel more confident about using all our skills and get results!
Follow these tips and let us know the results and any other great tips for helping your children go back to school?
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Elaine and Melissa