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Holiday Help For You and the Kids

The holidays are often a time where we anticipate lots of wonderful family time together.  Whether we celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or simply plan to share time with family, we often spend much our energy and resources on creating the best possible experiences for our children.  Yet many parents dread some of the practical challenges of getting through the holiday break.  This is an article about managing the holidays from a practical point of view.  Here are five simple ways to make the holidays easier, happier, and more rewarding.

  1. Kids thrive on structure, so take advantage of this during their break.

    How do most teachers manage a classroom with 25 kids?  They do so by establishing a structure and routine in which kids thrive.  Most families that function smoothly and effortlessly adhere to a fairly consistent structure.

    Want the holidays to go smoothly?  Make a daily plan!

    That’s right: make a plan for how things will unfold each day.  As much as possible, create some consistency in the daily plan.  In other words, make sure the days are relatively predictable for your kids.  They will experience less stress and the day will flow more easily.

  2. Take advantage of the leverage you have available.

    What do I mean by this?  Set up a daily plan that includes a “work, then play” component.  If you are home with the kids everyday, make sure that they take on some responsibilities each and every day, before they are free to begin play.  While this may not happen on Christmas morning, this could easily occur throughout the rest of the Holidays.

    By work then play, I mean set up a simple daily plan where the kids are required to complete a few responsibilities, and perhaps read for a half hour before they are allowed to play.  Simply don’t let the TV, the video games, or the toys to come out before their “work” is done.  This can make your life easier, and the sense of structure helps to keep children in an environment that feels predictable and comfortable.

  3. Set limits on behavior with consequences…not words and threats.

    Over the course of the holiday break, there will inevitably be times when the children’s behavior escalates.  If you find yourself threatening, negotiating, and reminding kids over and over, then please consider this:  It is much easier to establish limits on how loud, or how physical, or how volatile their behavior can be by using consequences…rather than words or threats.

    Don’t be afraid to put the kids into time out even in the middle of a family get together, if their behavior is out of control.  If you are at Grandma’s house and everyone’s trying to enjoy a meal, and your son is out of control, walk him to the car and sit in the car for a 10-minute time out.  You will likely only need to do this once or twice, and your kids will get the message.

  4. It’s okay… if they are not happy with you every moment.

    In order to maintain limits, and to teach children to function within those limits, it is essential to discipline children at times.  Be willing to do so, regardless of where you are.

    If you allow any situation to dictate whether or not you intervene with your children’s misbehavior, your children will learn that they “own you” in those situations.  You will inevitably loose more and more control over their behaviors in those situations.

    So don’t worry if they are not happy with you all the time, that’s okay!  Simply don’t take it personally.  The fact that they’re not happy is something that they’ll get over.

  5. Invest more of yourself… not more of your pocketbook.

    I know this might seem a bit trite, but at times it seems as though we have all gotten lost.  We get lost by looking around at a culture that is so immersed in more…more…more… that we teach our children that the holidays are really about what you get, and not what you give.

    So as you think about what you’ll give during the holiday season, I invite you to consider how you could be giving more of yourself.  Not giving more stuff.  Not giving more gifts.  Not giving more parties.  Not giving the perfect gift.

    But instead, giving more moments of yourself.  How?

 

  • Not more toys, but more time with the kids while playing with the toys.
  • Not bigger meals, but more time with the children during simple snacks.
  • Not more play dates with all their friends, but more play dates with Mom and Dad.

    In essence, I invite you to seek more depth in the moments of the Holidays rather than more gifts.  It’s not about more ”presents,” but more “presence.”

    These are lessons for all of us.  I encourage you to pause, and reflect upon how these simple ideas can really make a difference this holiday season.  Seasons Greetings to all!

 

 

 

How to Nurture Real Happiness This Holiday Season One Obstacle and One Solution

The Holiday Season is just around the corner, and our thoughts often turn to family, friends and community.  We are already shopping for bargains, making our lists, and trying to determine the ‘just right’ present.

For many, we also find ourselves reflecting upon what is most important to us, such as appreciation, gratitude, love and genuine happiness.  Sometimes, we observe our children with the excessive focus on ‘what am I getting’ and this strikes a bothersome cord.

Intuitively, we know that this focus on only ‘getting more stuff’ can lead to a greedy life, and one lacking in appreciation and genuine happiness.  This ‘give me more’ perspective often comes with little interest in ‘giving back’ to the amazing world that permits us such abundance.

How Can We Nurture Happiness and Appreciation This Holiday Season?

There is little doubt about where the trends of society are taking us.  There is more and more focus on adding to the stack of toys, goodies and electronic entertainment.

Almost everyone who discusses these trends expresses their intuitive worry about where this is taking families and children.  So why don’t we change?  Why don’t we move to a more where our hearts tug us this Holiday Season?

One Obstacle:  We Share a False Story!

The false story is that our children will somehow be ‘left out’ or ‘lose out’ of opportunities if they are not given every possibly new gadget and toy available.  This false story drives us to signing up 7 year olds on Facebook, and having them carrying cell phones.  In a recent interview with some parents, they related, “Well, all her friends are on Facebook.”

This is dangerous thinking because we now continue to follow the trends that argue against the values that we stand behind.  This is not necessarily the easy path.

Few things of value really are.

Instead, we choose the path that aligns with what we really view as important.  For most of us, we want happiness and gratitude to be a strong characteristic in our home.  If we drop the false story, then here is a simple way to move in the right direction.

One Solution:  Nurture Acts of Generosity and Giving

One powerful way of having the genuine experience of gratitude is through giving.  Now sometimes the giving is only in where what we ‘give’ our attention to.  Sometimes it is a moment of giving a smile.  Sometimes it is a moment of giving our time.  But still

At home, many of us give and give to our children, hoping that one day they will begin to be more grateful and satisfied with all of the abundance they have in their life.  Yes, it doesn’t seem to happen!  Why?  Because we let them experience something different….

  • ‘Getting & More Getting’ Are Allies With Greed!

When children only experience ‘getting’ we see that many children (and adults) only become interested in more getting more (i.e., otherwise known as greed).  It’s not a complicated or mysterious process, as this is natural.

When children simply get, get, and get even more—they become ‘hooked’ on the getting.  There is no opportunity for their brains to have that experience of ‘gratitude’ that opens naturally from truly giving from the heart.

How often do we see children now getting more than we could have dreamed of—and yet only having disappointment because they want more?

This is a habit of wanting more comes from the life of constantly ‘getting’ without giving…

  • Giving Is a Way of Finding Genuine Happiness & Gratitude

Start a focus in your family on having everyone more involved in acts of generosity—from the smallest to the more significant ones.  Worry less about signing up for a new sport every season, and more about Saturday afternoons at grandma’s house helping out (without getting paid).

Clean out the house regularly, and refuse to allow anyone to harbor toys that go unused.  Instead, have the children donate them to those in need.

If they participate in a school or special events activity, make certain that they also offer some of their time to helping out…whether it’s clean up, organization or simply putting things away after the events.

Also, we can easily volunteer at church, temple, homeless shelters, food pantries, hospitals, youth groups, and other organizations.  In each of these ways, we begin to nurture values that not only bring more joy in the act of giving, but perhaps more powerful is the change in children when they now get to receive.

 

Keeping Your Sanity This Holiday Season

3 Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them

We often find ourselves losing our cool, or getting anxious and frustrated, at the time when most want to enjoy family and friends.  If you have found yourself in those (common) shoes, then here are a few tips that will help you and your families enjoy the Holidays with more ease and comfort.

 

  1. Thoughts of “Holiday Bliss” For All

    Perhaps due to the books we read, or the movies we watch, many of us grew up with parental directive of Holiday bliss for all!  This can result in taking on enormous amounts of responsibility to create moments of Holiday perfection for our children and the family.

    Yet, this is not the way things normally work out!  We often find the best laid plans result in moments that are ‘less’ than what we imagined in our minds.  We then get frustrated when life doesn’t unfold as we wanted.  So what’s the solution?

    Solution:  Holiday Bliss Follows Daily Bliss
    There is little of ‘real’ value that we give over the holidays that we can’t give every single day.  If we get caught up in making one day or one event the ‘biggie’ — then we really don’t get it.

    Start with the actions that bring daily bliss to you…and do them today.  Give from your heart today.  Give in small ways today.  Give love where it’s unexpected today.

    Do all of these things now, and then we aren’t doing all this work for weeks on end—seeking the blissful moment.  Make them all blissful moments, and the Holidays become icing on the cake.

 

  1. Trying To Create Moments For Others, and Getting Lost In Their Reactions.

    We usually make the mistake of creating scenes in our mind where we ‘see’ the response of our children, or our family or friends, and get excited about ‘creating’ these moments for them.  The problem comes in when we get addicted to the imagined response or reaction to our gift, or our meal or even our decorating.

    Our addiction to other’s reactions is most obvious when their response is the opposite of what we intended.  Yikes!  We are devastated, and upset.

    Solution:  Focus Only On Appreciation for “Your Best”

    The key here is to shift the focus from what others do or say—to noticing what my heart ‘tugs’ at me to do.  What is it that feels right?  If it is giving—then give the best you can.  If it is loving—then love the best you can.  If it is sharing your thoughts—then share the best you can.

    Just keep your focus on your actions of doing your best, and then BRING APPRECIATION TO THOSE MOMENTS.  There’s no need for anything fancy, just be smiling as you give, as your share and as you entertain—with an eye toward appreciating your own desire to give it your best.

    Then, as they like or dislike, you know that you are just there to do the best you can.  You can’t do more.

 

  1. Repeating Bad Decisions Year After Year Out of Guilt or Obligation.

    As a family, it is important to invest some energy into reviewing previous Holiday Seasons and noticing what worked, and what didn’t work.  It is a typical human fault that we adopt a ‘losing strategy’ and yet tend to repeat this over and over—despite our pain and suffering.

    So plan a 30 minute family review session over dinner.  The reason behind this family discussion is to increase awareness of what has worked, and what didn’t work.  Be honest about the time, energy and psychological costs of various decisions.

    At times, your children may enjoy events that simply cost too much emotionally for mom or dad.  At other times, you may notice that certain parties or celebrations involved huge amounts of time and energy, and yet brought relatively little return.

    Solution:    Identify Losing Strategies and Drop Them Like A Hot Potato!

    Be brutally honest.  Was it worth it?  If not, then force yourself to makes some changes.  Get help.  Reduce the spending.  Cancel it.  Have someone else do it.  Decline an offer.

    One of the best ways to see your way through this is with some independent input.  Bring an outside party into your family discussion, and let them offer some input.   Give them permission to be honest, and offer strong suggestions.  You don’t have to take their advice—you just want some input.

    The goal is sanity and peace.  Not perfection.  If you choose less, it can be more—when you are focused on just doing your best to enjoy, love and share.

 

Have a great Holiday Season!

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.

 

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