Monday, September 28, 2015

When Siblings Fight

In most homes, the children share all their toys, laugh out loud as they play together, and give each other spontaneous hugs throughout the day.  Aah, no. 

As a parent of two boys who were 17 months apart in age, I dreamed of them treating each other as special lifelong friends -  buddies that would be there for each other through thick and thin...  

I received a pretty dramatic dose of reality as soon as the youngest was mobile. They were territorial, competitive and sometimes down right combative!  I was continually amazed as I observed them develop their crafty skills of manipulation to achieve their own individual goals.  

I realized I needed to develop some conflict resolution skills and set some limits, but I could see this was going to consume serious parenting time and effort over the next eighteen years, or so.

Sibling relationships are the school-room for developing positive communication, compromise and friendship skills.  Parents can and should set limits that will keep your home a safe and happy place in which the children can grow up. Here are some ideas you might want to consider to set these limits:
  • Set the expectation that hurtful words and actions will not be tolerated. Siblings will not be allowed to physically or verbally mistreat each other. Setting and holding your children to this expectation will make your home a happier place and will prepare your children well for transition into the school setting.  
  • Require your children to use a calm and quiet tone of voice when they become angry and upset - don't allow yelling and screaming.  This is an enormously important element of self control that your children will benefit from in every aspect of their lives. Honestly, I had to work on my own self control to be able to help my children learn self control. I knew I needed to practice what I was preaching to be effective. 
  • Communicate that you expect the children to solve their arguments on their own as much as possible.  They need to be able to learn from their mistakes and experience the whole gamut of emotions that comes along with getting along.  
  • Set up ground rules for times when they are completely unable to resolve a problem on their own.  You can listen as they explain the situation, and make the decisions fairly and impartially.  At this point, the children have given the problem over to you. They must, therefore, accept your decision without resistance.  Sometimes you may want to explain your thinking and how you have come to your decision, but the children should understand that if they bring a problem to you, they will no longer have any say in how the problem is resolved.  
Don't expect every problem to be solved with happiness and hugs.  Life brings challenges, conflicts and difficulties to all of us. Learning how to respond in healthy ways to disappointments and disagreements is essential to building positive relationships at home, school and work. Don't give into the temptation of making everything perfect for your children. Doing this will rob them of important opportunities to develop coping skills they will need as adults.  When your child is upset by the outcome of an argument, communicate your empathy and suggest a coping skill they might use, like moving on to some other activity in the day.  
Well, my boys are all grown up now and enjoy something close to my dream of them being special lifelong friends!  Here is a link to some other ideas on sibling relationships.  I hope you find this post and the link helpful.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Eat Your Veggies, Reggie!

Meal times can be one of the most important ways to build, strengthen and enjoy family relationships!  As parents, we often think of good nutrition as the main reason for family meals.  I would suggest that nutrition is less important than enjoying pleasant family conversation and connection.  

As parents, you can choose to keep meal times less stressful and more meaningful by deciding not to force children to eat certain kinds and amounts of food.  Sounds radical, right??!  Not really.  Explain the following things to your children:
  • The most important thing about meal time is being together as a family.  Eating is less important.  
  • Children will be able to choose what and how much they will eat from the food provided at the table.  If they choose not to eat what is provided, they may wait until the next meal to eat - which might be breakfast, but they must remain at the table to participate in the family time.
  • Parents also may choose to allow children to eat whatever fruits and vegetables are on hand, but will not prepare additional food because children choose not to eat what has been prepared and served. 
  • Explain that the family will talk calmly about a wide variety of topics such as, books the children are reading, memories of family vacations, dreams, jokes, wishes, world problems, news stories, school, the "old days" and funny experiences.  Keep the conversations light, but also full of deep content.
You may be wondering about good nutrition.  As a rule, children will eat what is most available to them to get the nutrition their bodies need.  When you transition to a focus on family relationships, you also might want to reduce the availability of low nutritional food options that are present in your home.  It would not be healthy for children to refuse the nutritious food you provide at dinner and then snack all evening on cookies, cakes and candy.  Instead keep celery, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, apples, oranges, bananas and other nutritious foods available. 
You can adapt this concept any way you want to make it work for your family.  Send me some comments to let me know how it works in your home.  I have attached a link with some statistics that are enlightening about this topic.  Bon appetite!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I Hate You!

"I hate you!"  These words can cut straight to the heart of any parent when uttered by their child.  However, parents don't always need to take this statement seriously. Children of all ages can become emotional and angry when parents set healthy boundaries for them.  Parents have wisdom that is beyond what the minds of youngsters can understand.  Wise parents set limits regardless of their children's response, and they stick to them.

Children carefully observe their parents and know the best tools to leverage to get what they want.  Hateful words are a tool that some children use to influence their parents to give in to the child's demands. Children also test their parents' boundaries to see if their word can be trusted. When parents stand firm even in through hateful, disrespectful words, children learn they can trust their parents. This trust can help in building strong positive parent-child relationships. 

Here is another take on maintaining the limits.  When you set limits for your children, you give them a proactive way to respond to negative peer pressure. They can cite your rules for not participating in risky behaviors as their reason for not going along. Any parent would be happy to take the blame in this instance, right? 

So... how should you respond to this type of outburst from your child?  First of all, remain the calm, healthy adult who will not get sucked into the child's loss of control. Hold on to your self control, no matter what.  When you do, you will be more credible and believable.  You need to be in control of yourself when your child is out of control.  You want to show that you care about the child, but will not give in to the demands.  Keep your voice quiet and utter one or more of these phrases:
  • "I'm disappointed to hear that because I love you very much."
  • "I can see that your are unhappy about my decision, but it will stand."
  • "You are angry.  We can talk about this when you calm down."
  • "Those words hurt my feelings, but I will not change my mind."
  • "I love you too much to argue with you about this.  We can talk later when you are calm."
  • Any other phrase that rolls off your tongue in a calm and caring tone will be effective.
You might want to choose just one phrase and repeat it over and over again. This is called the "Broken Record" technique.  It can help you avoid an argument that escalates and goes in a myriad of directions.  Here is a link with some additional thoughts on this topic.  Hang in there parents! Prove you love your kids enough to provide them with healthy, reasonable limits.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Growth Mindset? What's That?

Recently Teachers have been reading, learning and talking about Growth Mindset, and they are really excited about it!  All the buzz is related to a book called Growth Mindset,  by Carol Dwek.  Carol Dwek, Ph.D., is one of the world's leading researchers in the field of motivation and is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.  Her research has focused on why people succeed and how to foster success in people.  Parents and teachers are alike in their desire to see children grow, learn and succeed.  This research is worthy of our attention and consideration.

In brief, her research suggests that how adults praise children can encourage or discourage them in terms of their ability to work though challenges, to accomplish goals and learn from their effort.  

As adults, we know that most important things in life require work, time and effort.  However, we often praise children for things that come easy to them. We say, "Wow! You got and "A" in math.  You must be smart", or "You are a talented basketball player!"  

Dr. Dwek found that when children are praised for their intelligence or abilities, they are significantly less motivated to put forth effort to succeed.  On the other hand, when children are praised for working through struggles and challenges, they develop positive attitudes about the effort required to accomplish goals.  

Teachers across the country are implementing many of Dr. Dwek's principals to help their students see that putting forth effort to learn is a necessary skill that can be developed and used throughout their lives.  

Resilience is the ability to accomplish a goal or task even when it is challenging and difficult.  All of us need resilience to be successful in our careers and our personal lives.  I hope you will go online to look up more information about Dr. Dwek's research.  I have added just one of the many  links to videos in which Dr. Carol Dwek explains her findings with greater detail.  

And...I want to thank you for persevering to the end of this blog post!!