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Parenting 101: Director vs Leader

What, or rather, who is “The Director?”   The Director is really the controller of all things good and right in the home.

 

Many of us are familiar with this role, as it sounds something like this:

 

  • “Get your shoes on.”
  • “Go get your book bag.”
  • “Eat your vegetables.”
  • “Sit up straight.”
  • “Leave your sister alone.”
  • “Stop that!”
  • “Go change your clothes, comb your hair and brush your teeth.”

 

For many of you, this may seem like second nature.  Despite the exhausting, frustrating and somewhat brain-deading nature of these never-ending instructions, we often believe that it’s necessary.

 

But it’s not!

 

Children Thrive On Leadership—Not Control!

 

There are several critical distinctions between the role of leadership as a parent, and the role of Director.  These distinctions are important, because they produce very different outcomes.

 

In the moment of the daily rush of things, it appears that the Director is absolutely essential.  And it might even be reasonable to argue that very early on in your toddler’s life, that these instructions were helpful.  That makes sense…right?

 

But with the perspective of time, we begin to see that the Director’s role seems to become more and more essential as time goes on.  In fact, as children age and we expect to see emerging independence, we see growing ‘dependence.’  While Mom or Dad ought to be working themselves out of the Directing business, the true Director is stuck!  It seems that they have more and more work to do.

This doesn’t seem to make any sense, as children should be taking on more responsibility—but they don’t.  This points us to the problems that come with simply accepting the role of  Director.

 

“Directing” Promotes Dependence – Not Independence

 

The Director assumes that they must make it all happen in their home.  The moment that there is a lack of progress in getting ready, or completing an assignment, or even getting through dinner, the Director takes over and starts instructing.

 

Here is where the problem emerges: the Director’s  role appears to be needed.

 

That’s right, when directing early on, it appears to produce results.  The children actually seem to listen to the Director, and progress is made.  Things keep moving forward!  Life appears to be good.

 

But through the eyes of time, we notice where the Director starts to lose power and influence.  As children age, we notice that the children who are “directed” the most seem to become more dependent on their parents, rather than more independent.

 

The problem becomes evident when the twelve-year-old that has to be asked ten times to brush their teeth.  We also see  competent children become more and more helpless—seeming forgetting the most basic lessons they have learned.  Many times, these ‘over-directed’ children appear absolutely helpless and unable to make a decision without mom or dad telling them what to do next.

 

The Director’s weaknesses show up early on and are more obvious with the more strong-willed or challenging child, who resists the Director, and begins to create an escalating series of “stand-offs” where the Director’s power is tested.

 

Bottom line: no independence is nurtured under the Director’s watch.

 

Instead Of A Director, Children Need Leadership

 

Good leaders display several qualities that separate them from poor leaders.  First, they lead by example.  They are excellent models who walk their talk.  They don’t yell at others and expect others to remain calm.  They don’t preach one message, and yet do another.  Leaders are good examples for their followers.

 

Leaders also create a positive vision, and can keep their focus there.  Families needs parents who have a vision of just how good the family can be.  How much can they contribute to their community?  How hard can they work on the soccer field?  How much love is possible when you really commit your life to it?  Good leaders bring a vision of possibility into the home, and inspire their children to become better.

 

Third, leaders know how to hold their family accountable.  Without accountability there is nothing.  It’s all just talk and more talk.  Often we see this mistake made, where there’s lecture after lecture, and yet those systems are put in place to hold children accountable to doing their best.  Parents who are good leaders for their family find ways to create simple systems to hold their children accountable to being their best.

 

Combined, these qualities transform a child.  Consider leading, as a way of parenting—rather than directing.

 

Help For Your Picky Eater

  • Do you end up preparing three meals every night, and tire of being a short-order cook?
  • Are there endless negotiations over food, and battles have exhausted you?
  • Do you worry about health concerns because your picky eater is so stubborn, and only eats junk?

If so, then you likely know that you share this struggle with millions of parents.  And yet, the situation is almost always easily resolved…with clear guidance and a firm commitment to build healthy patterns of eating.  As a Licensed Psychologist, I have witnessed the most stubborn of picky eaters surrender their habits in just a matter of days.

However, because you are changing a pattern of behavior…the change is not always easy.  In fact, many times you will have to overcome your own personal struggles with false ideas…such as, “I can’t let them go to bed hungry.”  Well…yes you can.  IF…you realize that they are choosing to go to bed hungry after you offered them wonderful, yummy food.  They have to learn from their choices.

If you decide that you will feed them junk food, in response to their refusal to eat healthy food…you set up a pattern where their resistance is actually “fed” and rewarded by you giving in…and letting them eat junk food.  This is a recipe for disaster…no pun intendedJ

Anyway, here’s my quick-start version of what you must to do to start getting a handle on your picky eater.

QUICK START GUIDE FOR HELPING YOUR PICKY EATER!

  1. Adjust your mindset.To expand the foods your child eats, it is essential to let go of the idea that you can (or should) force or demand your kids to eat healthy food.  Please notice my choice of words carefully, as we must drop the idea of “demanding” our children to eat.

    This is not to say that you relinquish the goal of healthy eating.  We do not.  It simply acknowledges that forcing or demanding your children to eat healthier will not work.

  1. Start out by assertively cleaning out your pantry.

    Get rid of all the junk food, sodas, potato chips, ice cream, candy bars, etc.  Simply do not have these foods in your house as an option, and instead substitute healthy alternatives…such as an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

    Many folks want to make these changes slow and easy.  My suggestion is to take the opposite approach.  If it’s junk food…it’s JUNK.  So throw it away.  You really don’t need to read another article, or take another week to talk about it.

    For some, you can be methodical and consistent…and you can take out a food a week.  But for most, that’s just not reality.  One food gets deleted from the pantry, and within a month, another one or two substitutes find their way back ‘home.’

 

  1. Announce: “I’m no longer the short-order cook.”

    Now…you must walk your talk.  Prepare healthy meals with a variety of foods.  After you prepare a meal, let the kids know that this is the meal for the evening.  There will be no additions or changes, depending on the preferences of anyone in the family.

    Yes, I know that sounds radical for many of you who believe your children won’t eat the good stuff you prepare for everyone, but it’s just not true.

    It is true that they will continue to demand that you be their personal on-demand chef…as long as you are willing to do it.

 

  1. If children complain or resist eating the healthy food, use this very simple formula for communicating with them:

    “You have a choice.  Eat what’s here…and you will feel good.  Or…don’t eat, complain, pick at your food and you will feel hungry.  You choose.”  Now…just leave them to decide.

  1. If any of your children refuse to eat, simply do not resist or battle with them. Don’t argue with them, and don’t allow them to get alternative food.  Just stick to your guns about the food that is available, and that they are free to walk away hungry.

    If children complain and pick at their food, do not talk to them during these times WHILE they are complaining.  Instead, engage with someone else at the table, simply ignoring their complaints and criticisms of the food. When your child begins to talk without complaint or begins eating, engage and talk to them freely.

  2. Don’t worry if they go to bed hungry a few nights. All will be okay. They will readily survive an occasional night here and there without an evening meal.

    Instead, you must trust that the natural learning processes of nature will begin to take hold in the days ahead.  When your children learn that there will be no fights over food, and that no other options are available after a meal, the hunger that they experience eventually becomes a powerful teacher and instructor. They will learn to eat what is offered MOST of the time.  Simply don’t sweat the other times, as they will grow fewer and farther apart.

As a reminder, the guidelines outlined in this article will eliminate and reduce symptoms of picky eating.  If you son or daughter is exhibiting more serious symptoms consistent with a possible eating disorder, it is imperative that you obtain a professional evaluation and possible intervention.

Nurturing Cooperation among Siblings: Stop Sibling Battles and Sibling Rivalry

By Randy L Cale, PhD

 

One of the most persistent struggles parents encounter is the battles that occur between siblings.  Many parents feel frustrated because their efforts to nurture a cooperative environment in the home are thwarted by constant bickering and fighting among siblings.  Sibling rivalry is enough to get you pulling out your hair!  Many of us feel we didn’t sign up for this…when sibling battles rage out of control.

Here are the essential tips that will allow you to establish sanity in your home….whether there are two or ten kids driving you crazy with sibling rivalry and sibling battles. Please note that these proven solutions run contrary to many popular approaches that are failing parents and children.  I encourage you to be open, and consider testing these over the next 30 days.

 

  1. It isn’t fair.

    Trying to make things fair is an endless battle, and leads to increasing frustration and constant negotiation with your children. No matter how hard you work to make it ‘fair’ they will often see you as NOT being fair.

    Solution:  Stop talking about ‘playing fair’ and stop trying to make things fair.  Stop trying to figure out what’s really fair.  Stop negotiating around issues of fairness, and trying to sort out what is fair for one versus the other.

    In reality, we can all find many examples where life is not fair.  I am not suggesting that we ignore unfairness; it’s simply much more complicated to sort out what’s fair or unfair between siblings.  From your children’s perspective, it will not behoove them to beat the “it’s not fair” drum.  Ultimately, this ‘victim’ stance is one that just grows over time, and consumes their whole life view for many children.

    I encourage you to explain to the kids that life is often not fair, and that you will do your best to make your home environment healthy and fair, but you will not negotiate or discuss this topic any more.

 

  1. If Mom or Dad gets involved, you both suffer the consequences.

    Regardless of the situation, avoid trying to figure out who did what.  This will only drive you into insanity as the kids get older.

    Instead, if you are going to step into a sibling issue, do so with authority and a clear consequence.

    Make sure that the consequence is felt equally by both siblings.  No discussion.  Just the consequence.  On a practical level, take away the video game if they are going to fight over it.  Remove the toy if they can’t share.

    And if it’s really ugly between them, don’t try to figure out who started it…send both to time out.

    Your goal here is to reflect more of ‘reality’ for your kids.  In real life, very seldom will someone really try to figure out who started “it.”  Instead, it’s likely that they will both suffer the consequences.  More importantly, this teaches everyone to take responsibility for how you play, when you walk away and how you problem solve with your sibling.  These are critical life skills.  You will be amazed at what a powerful learning process this is for your kids.

 

  1. Nurture a sense of shared cooperation.

    Create an environment where the children understand that their fate is shared through a cooperative effort.  Expand their awareness of how their future together will be enlarged if they cooperate.

    In addition, purchase toys, and engage the children in sports that require mutual participation.  If it requires two to play tennis, then it becomes mutually beneficial to learn how to support each other remaining on the tennis court.

 

  1. Cultivate your interest when children are cooperating.

    Make certain that you notice when there is cooperation.  Give them a smile or a wink.  Make sure that you are giving energy to times when the kids are actually getting along.  We usually do this the other way around, and devote most of our energy to the problem moments.  The secret to nurturing a cooperative home where kids get along well is to make sure that cooperation gets more of your energy than anything else.

 

If you stick to these fundamentals, I think that will discover that, after some initial struggles, your children learn to get along better.   If it feels as if the sibling conflicts in your home are more severe, and you need more detail and precision, you may want consider my new “Sibling Solution Guide” found at www.SiblingsWithoutRivalry.com

 

Nurturing Your Childs Creativity

A growing source of concern is the lack of creativity parents and teachers are observing at home and at school.  I receive many questions from parents wondering what they can do to nurture creativity.  Here are a few simple guidelines that can help you ensure that your child’s creativity will prosper.

  1. Avoid activities that squash your child’s creativity.

    Whether it’s constant TV watching, playing video games, regular trips to the theme park, or weekly shopping expeditions, kids are becoming more and more conditioned to expect entertainment.  This is probably the most dangerous threat to your child’s creativity.  If they are allowed to spend endless hours absorbed in passive entertainment, without active engagement, it is clear that their creative capacities will suffer.
  2. Expose kids to play that requires creativity.

    Instead of TV and video games, fill your home with toys and materials that require creativity.  Make sure that you have lots of blank paper and crayon, building blocks and legos, as well as old-fashioned toys that allows for creating stories that endlessly change and evolve.

    When it is time to decorate a room, invite your kids to be a part of this.  When it is time to paint a wall, ask them to come up with a creative idea.

  3. Engage kids in creative problem solving around the house.

    As kids get older, invite them to creativity come up with solutions with you.  When it’s time to plan a new garden, get the family involved in the garden plan.

    When it’s time to redecorate a room, put all the furniture in the middle of the room and ask them to help come up with options.  When their bicycle chain keeps hopping off its sprocket, rather than fixing it for them….invite them to come up with a solution that could fix the problem.

    The common denominator here is to ask.  Ask your children for input.  Ask them for a creative solution.   Keep them engaged in a home where creativity is a constant part of the cooperative problem solving that occurs.

    And let them see that creativity allows for many options to be explored.  You can keep “playing” in the creative possibilities…as you come up with solutions to these everyday problems.

 

  1. Creativity is like a muscle…it has to be worked.

    Kids come into the world with remarkable imaginations, and an almost endless capacity for creativity.  In various ways, both obvious and not so obvious, kids are taught to stifle their creativity.

    This begins in little ways, when they are taught to color only inside the lines.  Much of their learning involves replicating and duplicating exactly what is taught.  If not careful, children experience a world where little value is placed on creative expression.  If you want creativity to prosper, you have to work this muscle.

 

  1. Make sure that you notice moments of creativity.

    Especially during the younger years, give energy to moments of your child’s creativity.  Rather than ignoring them when they’re playing in creative ways, or working their imagination, spend a few moments noticing them doing these activities.

    You must give energy to the activities that you value….if you want those characteristics to grow.  In the case of creativity, you can do your part by making sure that you catch your kids…while they are being creative.  Don’t wait until the project is over….catch them while it’s happening.

    In this way, you invest your energy in what you really value.  This will ensure that you use every ounce of your influence to nurture those creative juices and to keep that muscle strong.

 

  1. Be the person you want your kids to be.

    As I have mentioned in other articles on my TerrificParenting website, you cannot escape what you model.  If your kids grow up in a home where you model creativity and using your imagination, they can’t help but become a part of this.

    Children emulate their parents.  It’s just the way it is.  You have remarkable influence just through the behavior you model every day to your kids.

    Be willing to challenge yourself to remain creatively active in the evenings.  Rather than sitting in front of the TV, help to stimulate creative play with your kids.  Paint.  Write.  Create a story with your kids.  But work your own creative muscle…while you engage your kids.

 

 

The Secret of the “Three Strike Rule” For Summer Sanity

While most of us look forward to summer sunshine and fun with the family, the reality of family outings is often not very pretty.  Whether it’s negotiations over ice cream, siblings fighting in line at the pool or a tantrum because life isn’t going their way—summers bring a relentless demand upon our parenting skills.

Some children are easy, and some are not.  However, the freedom of summer combined with all the goodies can often mean that even the most easy-going children can become a challenge.

 

Summer Parenting Test:  Preparedness To Have Fun Test!

 

Here’s a good summertime test to find out how enjoyable your summer will (likely) be.

 

Question 1:   “How often does it feel like I am working harder at my children’s enjoyment than they are?”

 

If you find that it often feels that you are the one working harder than your children to enjoy family outings, then you may want to seek a change.  This article becomes very important to a more peaceful, enjoyable summer.

 

Question 2:  “How often do child behaviors (e.g., whining, crying, tantrums, complaints, upsets, etc.) get in the way of a enjoying a family outing?”

 

Again, if this is true for you, then perhaps a change is needed.

 

Question 3:  How often are you ‘dancing around’ your child’s upsets, and go out of your way to avoid a meltdown?

 

The more your answers fall to the frequent side, then the more likely you need to master my Three Strike Rule. Of course, master these ideas only if you want to keep your sanity!

 

 

Summer Sanity:  The Three Strike Rule

 

The Three Strike Rule gives you an amazing formula that supports and strengthens your role as a parent, honors your child’s inherent capacity to learn, and ultimately respects everyone’s right to enjoy fun outings and family vacations.

 

Here’s how it works.  You explain to your children that you have established a general “Summer Outing” rule for all family outings.  You further explain what specific positive behaviors you expect in public, and that your expectation is always there when out in public. If they bring those positive behaviors with them into the outings, everything will go fine.

 

You also explain the types of behaviors that will get them in trouble.  Fighting between siblings, screaming or yelling, or incessant whining and complaining will all fall under the Three Strike Rule.  Also included would be any for of disrespect, property destruction, or even not listening to mom or dad.

 

Finally, the Three Strike Rule will work like this.  Strike One:  the first time the children get out of control, you simply take a break.  Let them know, “Strike One. We are going to take a break.”

 

Regardless of what you are doing or what you are engaged in, take your children by the hand and walk to a bench, or an area out of the way, where you can sit quietly.  Let them know that once they are perfectly quiet, you will then take five minutes before anyone leaves or moves.  If they want to talk, let them know the five minutes starts over again.

 

Once the five minutes is up, you can return to your swimming, playing, shopping or dinning experience.  If, there is not a bench where you are located, make sure you feel free to walk out to the car and sit in the car for five minutes.  It has a very powerful effect, because the consequence follows close to the heals of the their choice.

 

Strike Two:  You then wait for five minutes of silence.  After this, then resume life!

 

Return to your shopping, dinning, or whatever recreation you are doing, you continue on as if nothing had happened.  However, if the children’s behavior is over the line that you have established, you now announce, “Strike Two. We are going to take another short break.  Announce, “One more strike, and we are done here.”

 

Again, drop what you are doing, and find a bench to sit on. If you have to go to the car to allow for the tantrum or whining, then you do so.  Once again, you allow for whatever whining or complaining to occur.  Only after there is quiet for five minutes do you return.

 

Strike Three:  While it will be unusual for you to get to Strike Three, it sometimes happens.  When you reach Strike Three, you let the children know that “you are done for the day.”  Wherever you are, or whatever you are doing, pack it up and you head home.  As you get to the car, please make sure that you take another five minute time out before the car moves.  This may take awhile, as you may be getting a lot of whining, complaining, or outbursts from the children.  Just let them have these moments, and wait for the five minutes of silence.

 

You then return home.  If you were at Disney World you go back to your hotel room.  If you were at a restaurant you take the food to go, or you could simply walk away and leave it on the table and pay on the way out.

 

It is essential not to get too concerned about the drama that you will see when you follow through with the Three Strike Rule.  For many children, you are going to get some drama.  For others, you will get big drama!

 

Make sure you do not get pulled into the drama.  Allow them to have the drama, and just stick to your guns on the consequences.  The magic is not in the threat of the third strike.  The magic is in the experience of feeling the effects of the third strike!

 

Stick to the simplicity of this plan, and don’t be afraid to follow through.  By the time your real summer fun begins, the kids will be on track.

 

 

Help For Your Picky Eater

  • Do you end up preparing three meals every night, and tire of being a short-order cook?
  • Are there endless negotiations over food, and battles have exhausted you?
  • Do you worry about health concerns because your picky eater is so stubborn, and only eats junk?

If so, then you likely know that you share this struggle with millions of parents.  And yet, the situation is almost always easily resolved…with clear guidance and a firm commitment to build healthy patterns of eating.  As a Licensed Psychologist, I have witnessed the most stubborn of picky eaters surrender their habits in just a matter of days.

However, because you are changing a pattern of behavior…the change is not always easy.  In fact, many times you will have to overcome your own personal struggles with false ideas…such as, “I can’t let them go to bed hungry.”  Well…yes you can.  IF…you realize that they are choosing to go to bed hungry after you offered them wonderful, yummy food.  They have to learn from their choices.

If you decide that you will feed them junk food, in response to their refusal to eat healthy food…you set up a pattern where their resistance is actually “fed” and rewarded by you giving in…and letting them eat junk food.  This is a recipe for disaster…no pun intendedJ

Anyway, here’s my quick-start version of what you must to do to start getting a handle on your picky eater.

QUICK START GUIDE FOR HELPING YOUR PICKY EATER!

  1. Adjust your mindset.To expand the foods your child eats, it is essential to let go of the idea that you can (or should) force or demand your kids to eat healthy food.  Please notice my choice of words carefully, as we must drop the idea of “demanding” our children to eat.This is not to say that you relinquish the goal of healthy eating.  We do not.  It simply acknowledges that forcing or demanding your children to eat healthier will not work.
  1. Start out by assertively cleaning out your pantry.Get rid of all the junk food, sodas, potato chips, ice cream, candy bars, etc.  Simply do not have these foods in your house as an option, and instead substitute healthy alternatives…such as an abundance of fruits and vegetables.Many folks want to make these changes slow and easy.  My suggestion is to take the opposite approach.  If it’s junk food…it’s JUNK.  So throw it away.  You really don’t need to read another article, or take another week to talk about it.

    For some, you can be methodical and consistent…and you can take out a food a week.  But for most, that’s just not reality.  One food gets deleted from the pantry, and within a month, another one or two substitutes find their way back ‘home.’

 

  1. Announce: “I’m no longer the short-order cook.”Now…you must walk your talk.  Prepare healthy meals with a variety of foods.  After you prepare a meal, let the kids know that this is the meal for the evening.  There will be no additions or changes, depending on the preferences of anyone in the family.Yes, I know that sounds radical for many of you who believe your children won’t eat the good stuff you prepare for everyone, but it’s just not true.

    It is true that they will continue to demand that you be their personal on-demand chef…as long as you are willing to do it.

 

  1. If children complain or resist eating the healthy food, use this very simple formula for communicating with them:”You have a choice.  Eat what’s here…and you will feel good.  Or…don’t eat, complain, pick at your food and you will feel hungry.  You choose.”  Now…just leave them to decide.
  1. If any of your children refuse to eat, simply do not resist or battle with them. Don’t argue with them, and don’t allow them to get alternative food.  Just stick to your guns about the food that is available, and that they are free to walk away hungry.If children complain and pick at their food, do not talk to them during these times WHILE they are complaining.  Instead, engage with someone else at the table, simply ignoring their complaints and criticisms of the food. When your child begins to talk without complaint or begins eating, engage and talk to them freely.
  1. Don’t worry if they go to bed hungry a few nights. All will be okay. They will readily survive an occasional night here and there without an evening meal.Instead, you must trust that the natural learning processes of nature will begin to take hold in the days ahead.  When your children learn that there will be no fights over food, and that no other options are available after a meal, the hunger that they experience eventually becomes a powerful teacher and instructor. They will learn to eat what is offered MOST of the time.  Simply don’t sweat the other times, as they will grow fewer and farther apart.

As a reminder, the guidelines outlined in this article will eliminate and reduce symptoms of picky eating.  If you son or daughter is exhibiting more serious symptoms consistent with a possible eating disorder, it is imperative that you obtain a professional evaluation and possible intervention.

Children Need Clear and Consistent Limits

Limits are important for children because they teach kids what to expect about reality. As they go through the educational system, get jobs, have friendships and romantic relationships, there will always be limits.

Life sets limits on all of us, and learning to live happily and effectively within them is a skill we acquire through our childhood experiences. But many parents are unwilling or unable to set and maintain limits.  Here are a few examples:

 

Recently, I counseled a single father whose six-year-old son regularly goes to bed between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, falling asleep in front of the TV set with his dad. Dad says, “Ryan just doesn’t want to go to bed, and I can’t stand for him be mad at me.”

 

Another client complained about the money she was spending on her two children, both in elementary school. She explained that she couldn’t go anywhere without having to stop at Wal-Mart or the mall to buy something for the kids. If she didn’t, they’d “throw a fit.”

 

Still another recent example comes from an executive mom who works 60 to 70 hours a week, leaving almost all the childcare to an au pair. To lessen her guilt, she does whatever the kids want on weekends.  Now…three years later…Mom says, “My daughter thinks she’s my boss. How did that happen?”

 

What could you learn from these examples?  Well, perhaps it’s clear to you that kids need limits, and yet, like many parents, you struggle to hold the line on the limits you set.

 

What might cause you to be reluctant or unable to set and maintain firm limits?

  • Anxiety about repeating your parents’ mistakes, so you overcompensate.
  • Fear that the consequences of your kid’s choices will traumatize them.
  • Afraid that they will be harmed by their upsets.
  • Fear that your kids won’t like you when you stick to your decisions.
  • Guilt about feeling that you haven’t been around enough.
  • Fear (in a divorce) that you’ll lose your connection to your children.
  • Fear of embarrassment over the tantrum you can’t control in public.

 

Such fear-based parenting decisions will not prepare kids for the reality of life.

 

There’s a different way. Children need and benefit from limits. It’s not just Dr Cale’s theory here.  This is well documented with lots of research, and we all know…it’s just  “common sense.”

 

What if kids don’t get experience realistic limits?  They grow up thinking that there are no limits set by society (when there are) and they falsely believe there is no consequence for many of their actions (when there will be).  They also learn dangerously inaccurate expectations, particularly when minimal efforts on their part are rewarded with significant returns.

 

It can be remarkably seductive to get caught up in the loving responses young kids give to parents when parents soften the limits they have set.  It can make you all warm and fuzzy inside, if you aren’t paying attention.  If you are paying attention, then you see how you have just destroyed the integrity of your word.  When this is repeated over and over…then the real damage begins to unfold as you see that your word is not respected with your kids.

 

YOU CAN AVOID THIS!  It’s essential to keep your focus on the long-term vision of what you want your children to learn. Make your decisions with that that vision, and your values, clearly in min.  If you abandon that vision to avoid pain or fear, you’re relieving your immediate anxiety rather than making healthy parenting choices.

 

Is it easier to buy the toy than deal with the tantrum? Yes! Is it easier to let them watch one more TV show than struggle over turning it off? Yes! Is it easier to do those chores yourself than make sure the kids do them? You bet!

 

All of these are short-term solutions to anxiety and fear…and they produce long-term problems of growing complexity.  It may seem easier in the short term, but in the long term, you’re better off setting limits and sticking to them. If you don’t, there’ll be more trouble down the road.

 

  • If you say “no” and then give in to a tantrum, your children learn that “no” is simply a signal to have a tantrum. They know they can get what they want.

 

  • If you say it’s bedtime and then allow them to stay up for another hour because they whine, your words are a signal that it’s time to whine.

 

  • If your teen keeps calling and asking to stay out another hour, and you repeatedly negotiate, then your words are only a signal for negotiation. Eventually, your words demand no respect.

 

Bottom line:  For your kids to learn about reality, you must set limits for them to experience.  For your words to have meaning, you must stick to the limits you set.  Not just on your good days, but every day.

 

Stop the Kids from Arguing

One of the most consistent drains on our energy and our enthusiasm is to live in a world where kids are constantly arguing.  They argue about bedtime.  They argue about eating their vegetables.  They argue about homework.  They argue about which show to watch.  They argue about who owns what toy.  They argue about whether it is going to rain or not.  They argue about whether it is too cold for gloves.

Sometimes, as children get older, many of us might be inclined to see these arguments as signs of good negotiators or attorneys.  Don’t be fooled!

 

Such Arguing Children Do Not Become Good Negotiators or Attorneys.

 

Children who are constantly negotiating and arguing over every daily responsibility or necessity learn to waste much of their life energy and ability on useless arguments.  You see their time is wasted arguing sometimes for hours over a task that would take them ten minutes.

 

They become ‘conditioned’ to invest themselves in these worthless arguments, and over time, you see their energy and attention evaporate from those tasks that are more important.  If not careful, some of these same children learn to argue with teachers, peers, and coaches in the same manner.

 

These Children Argue in Ways That Empower False Thinking.

 

This is what is really dangerous.  When children grow up arguing over every little thing, they come to believe that their faulty arguments are worthy of attention and validation.

 

When kids are arguing over bedtime, it is as if they believe that they know what is best for them — when it comes to bedtime.  This is not true.  Parents know better.

 

When children argue about whether or not they should do their homework, they think they know best about homework.  They do not.  Parents know best.

 

When kids argue over whether they should eat their vegetables or not, the argument empowers the belief that they should not eat vegetables.  Kids do not know best about which food is good for them.  Parents do.

 

If not careful, you will find them arguing as if they know best about absolutely everything.  As they move into middle school or adolescent years, you will see that the negotiator has now decided that they truly know more about everything!  And…they are willing to tell you about it!

 

Over and over again, most of the arguments that are driving you crazy have no basis in a valid or meaningful position.  While the argument itself is enough to drive you crazy, it is important to realize that these arguments present more risk to your child’s future than it appears.  They are not learning to become good attorneys; they are learning to believe arguments that will only waste their life and time.

 

Stop It Now…While You Can.  You have the power to turn off these arguments in your home.

 

The Secret to Ending All Worthless Arguments and Negotiations

 

I have always found this to be true:  Children never argue with parents who don’t argue with them.  It’s that simple.

 

Your children will only argue if you are willing to stay in the ring with them.  So step out of the argument.  Not after trying to have the last word, but as soon as the argument begins.  Just step out of it.  Don’t explain it.  Don’t try to get them to understand or agree.  Just don’t argue.

 

When your children say, I don’t want to do my homework…don’t argue.  When they say they don’t want to go to bed, or eat their veggies, or take out the trash…don’t argue.  When you say no, and they want to argue…just don’t do it.

 

Hold your ground with your decision, but DO NOT argue about it.  (Remember:  you never win anyway…and it usually just ends ugly!)  So stop it now…while you can.

 

When you do so, the wise choice to NOT argue will require you to learn how to manage your children’s behavior using your action—not your words.  I encourage you to invest in gaining the parenting tools that support your strength as a parent, rather than continuing in these worthless arguments wasting your time and theirs.

 

Take Control of Your Home … Not Your Kids

The title of this article might seem a bit strange to you.  Yet, it’s not strange at all, once you understand where I am going here.

When dealing with children who are moving through those preadolescent and adolescent years, our tendency is often to end up responding to them in very controlling ways.  We speak to them as if we have control over them, and we don’t.  We make the same mistake with younger children, but often we get by with it for years.

 

The bottom line is that we don’t control our kids.  The more that we end up falling into the trap of trying to control them, when we don’t have control, the more we end up in feudal battles and constant struggles.  It’s frustrating to think we have “control” when we don’t.

 

In many ways, when you open to this truth, you also open to an enlightened way of parenting that gives you tremendous power to teach your kids critical life lessons.

 

First, however, let’s review what it sounds like when you’re really trying to control your kids, and it’s not working.  It could sound like…

 

  • “Cut off that TV now.”
  • “Stop hitting your brother.”
  • “Eat those vegetables.”
  • “Clean up your room.”
  • “Do your homework.”
  • “Get off the phone.”

 

You notice the theme.  These parents are responding to their children as if they did have control.  Do you like to be talked to in this way?  Of course not!  And neither do your kids.  More importantly, it doesn’t reflect reality.  We simply don’t control their behavior with our words.

 

So what’s the alternative?

 

The alternative is to shift your focus from controlling your kids to controlling the environment.  This is a critical distinction that shifts your focus from the illusion of having control over your kids (because you don’t) to the reality of what you do control:  your home environment.

 

In fact, you control everything that your kids really care about.  You control whether or not there is a TV or cable in the house, whether the car goes to soccer practice, whether the phone works, and even what food is in the refrigerator.  You control everything that they care about.

 

How does this work on a practical basis?

 

  • Tim doesn’t want to eat what is on his plate.  You control whether there is desert, a snack or relief from his hunger two hours later.  Let him know that he doesn’t have to eat, but that there will be no snacks until the next meal, and that he might go hungry.  The choice is his, but the control is yours.
  • You ask Abby to turn off the TV.  She ignores you.  You control whether the TV remains on or off.  You could turn off the TV, and disconnect the cable for the next 24 hours.  She chooses how to respond to your request, but you control what she cares about…more TV.
  • Caroline remains on the telephone after you’ve asked her to get off.  Again, you avoid repeating yourself, and looking foolish by demanding she hang up…while she ignores you.  Instead, you take control of your home by unplugging the phone and letting her know that she has no telephone privileges until the next day.
  • Joey refuses to do his homework.  You have tried to force him in the past, but he gets very obstinate.  So, focus on what you control.  Shut down all the toys, TV and video games before Joey gets home.  Let him know he can take as long as he wants…but there’s no fun until the homework is done.

 

See how simple this can be!  Instead of trying to control your kid’s actions, you focus on controlling the environment in response to your children’s choices.  This enables your kids to learn from their choices, and releases you from trying to force or demand behavior.

 

Notice how this reflects the reality of life.  No one stops us from speeding, but yet there is a consequence when we do.  No one stops us from going over our cell phone minutes, but we pay a price when we do.  No one says you can’t show up late for work, but when you do, you may find yourself looking for a new job.

 

Reality:  Life doesn’t control our actions.  We do.  And yet, life does give us consequences for our choices.  You want the same for your kids at home…so that they are prepared for life.

 

When you really get this approach, you expand your power as a parent.  You move into a world where you focus on teaching your kids rather than controlling them.  This will revolutionize how you deal with your kids, and get you out of the world where you use endless words to try to manage behavior.  Words will not teach the lessons you want to teach.  Consequences will.  And you control all the consequences that are really important to your kids.

 

Be willing to take control of your environment, and create daily opportunities for your kids to learn from their choices.  When you stick to this fundamental, many of your normal parenting challenges are eliminated within weeks.

 

Teens More Frequently Bullied Online

When socializing on the Internet, many teens are exposed to “cyber-bullies.”  Cyber bullying occurs when highly negative or abusive language is used, or there are threats of violence or assault.  Over the past five years, researchers have seen a 50% increase in the amount of cyber bullying that teenagers experience.

Surveys of teens Internet behavior reveal some disturbing trends.

 

Typically, cyber-bullies represent no real threat.  In the wide majority of circumstances, this takes the form of ugly comments about looks or friendships or boyfriends.  For most, this has relatively little consequence.  However, some teenagers are deeply bothered by the conversations they experience.

 

Teen discussions online often use harsh language.  If you allow your teenager to chat freely on the Internet, without monitoring their conversations, it is likely that you are missing a very disturbing trend.  Absent any parental limitations, teenagers often end up using harsh, and profane language.  In my parent coaching practice, I see more and more examples of teenagers whose parents do not model such language, and the adolescent does not use such language at home.  However, on the Internet, they become “one of the crowd” and ultimately end up using very abusive and ugly language.

 

Internet chat rooms become very personalized.  Another growing trend is for chat and instant messaging (IM) sessions to take on a highly personalized quality.  As if no one is watching, teens (and particularly teenage girls) will open up and share the most intimate thoughts and feelings.  In doing so however, they then open themselves up for ridicule and attack.  These can get very ugly.  Many parents are appalled when they discover the true nature of the dialogue that goes on in their homes!

 

The teenagers who are most vulnerable are the newbies, who are not particularly Internet savvy.   When new to the Internet chat world, adolescents are often not prepared for the harsh language they experience.  Many feel traumatized, and deeply hurt, by how quickly conversations deteriorate into personal attacks.

 

Those who are quite savvy, and who use the Internet frequently for socializing, express fewer incidents of cyber-bullying behavior.  This appears to be the result of learning not to take the conversations personally.   However, very few parents would view these discussions as healthy.

 

What can parents do?

 

  • Use parental controls on your browser. Then monitor. Monitor. Monitor.

 

Most parents will affirm that they do monitor their child’s activities.  However, your teenager is likely much more savvy than you are.  It is not enough to occasionally walk by and look over their shoulder.  You need to make sure the parental controls are always activated.  You don’t need to know more about computers, but you must know more about monitoring the computer than they do!

 

  • Purchase “ghostware” to know what your teenager is doing when you aren’t looking.

 

It is relatively easy to install software on your computer that will allow you to monitor what your teenager is doing.  Unfortunately, you may be able to trust your teenager, but you can’t trust everyone that they are meeting online.  It is essential to carefully monitor communications, to ensure that your teenager is following guidelines that you can support.  This also gives you a tool for keeping track of their language, and the quality of the exchanges.   You can see every keystroke made when they are online, or writing an email.

 

They won’t like it…but…the Internet is the gateway to the entire world…the good and the bad.  In my opinion, it is fair game to warn your teenager that this is not a confidential form of communication, and that you will be watching over their shoulders.  They don’t need to know exactly how you are doing this.  You just need to keep an eye on things, and have integrity by letting them know you will be watching.

 

  • Keep the computer in a central area of the home.

 

There is a growing trend for teenagers to have a computer in their bedroom.  With several teenagers in the home, this makes monitoring computer usage difficult.

 

It is much easier if you establish a ground rule that requires the computer to be within eyesight.  In this way, your presence serves as a significant deterrent to behavior and conversations that you would not approve of.

 

  • Establish clear consequences for violating your guidelines.

 

Establish guidelines about the kind of language that you approve of.  Also, make it clear that your teenager is not to have their profile on websites such as Myspace.com or Facebook.com.  Furthermore, make it clear what types of websites are off limits for them, such as sights containing adult language and content.

 

Once you have established these guidelines, then make sure that your teenager understands that there will be a consequence for violating the guidelines.  If you make clear that they’ll lose the computer for a week, and then follow through with that consequence, your teenager will learn to honor the guidelines that you put into place.

If you follow these simple principles, I think that you’ll find that you can keep a handle on your teenager, and make sure that they are not a victim of cyber-bullies, or other negative influences online.  Read more about this on my new blog, at www.TerrificParenting.net.

 

 

 

 

 

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