Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem In Yourself and Your Child”

How is everyone doing reading along in this fabulous book?  We are up to Chapters 9 and 10, and these are great chapters.

Chapter 9 is entitled, “Parenting Responses That Affect Self-Esteem” and it gives a number of different scenarios with responses from a nurturing parent, a structured parent, a marshmallow parent, and a criticizing parent.  I think this could be really helpful to parents new to different developmental stages.  If you are curious about the differences in these responses, I refer you to the scenarios but in a nutshell:

Nurturing Responses – based on respect, love, support, encourages self-responsibility, parents help children, children are seen as having capacity to grow and succeed, warm

Structuring Responses – also based on respect, but offer more set limits and sometimes demands a performance outcome; expects children to be capable and responsible.  This kind of response can work well WITH a nurturing response.

Marshmallow Responses – grants freedom but doesn’t make a child accountable or responsible.  It sounds supportive, but in reality views children as inadequate and incapable.  It blames others, or the situation for a problem.  Views children as fragile.

Criticizing Responses – based on disrespect, ridicule, blaming, fault finding, comparing, labeling.  Humor is often cruel, touch is not warm but instead punishing.

What style do you use the most?  The good news is that it is possible to change your response style!  You can catch your children being good, you can find the things they are doing right, you can give up blaming and fault finding.  Mistakes can be fixed, and children can learn responsibility!  

Chapter 10 is about parents being leaders.  I love this, as it was one of the first topics I ever blogged about when I started this blog 10 YEARS ago!  So, if we are going to be leaders, we need

1- Vision, direction, goals.

2- We need to communicate our vision, direction, goals.

3.  We need to keep focused

4. – We need to consider the needs of others  – we are team as a family!  This is the FIRST place that children learn teamwork.  Team sports are awesome, but the family is the first team!

5. – Support the progress – support over the obstacles.

6.- Expect success!

If you are a REACTIVE parent, you are reacting, usually with threats, force, criticism, humiliation, ridicule, punishment.  We can, instead, be proactive!  What are the biggest sticking points for the day?  How could thing flow smoother?  What is our big vision as a family and how are we communicating that?  If you want to see more, here is a post I wrote some time ago about writing a Family Mission Statement.  Pages 93-94 of this book also talk about crafting a vision of a Winning Family.

A closing thought from page 94:  “If you live your life from your highest values, you will bring peace and compassion to your family, community, and world.”

The change begins with us!  Please leave me a comment and if you have a link to your Family Mission Statement, I would love to read it!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Empowering Your Child

I think sometimes we as parents can really confuse what we are supposed to be doing as parents.  Our children need to be able to do things that will help them learn how to make great decisions, that will foster their skills in communication, that will help them become functional adults.   There will be mistakes along the way; protection from mistakes and therefore protection from a child developing resilience is not the goal.

So, in that vein, these are the messages that I wish more parents would say to their children when things get hard for the child:

You can do this.

You can do hard things.

I believe in you and I believe you can handle this.

I love you no matter what, but I do expect you to make good choices.

You don’t need avoid the things in life that are difficult.

You can deal with the things that come your way.

It is okay to make mistakes.

It is okay to ask for help.

Taking responsibility is important.

You are going to make great decisions now and as an adult. I trust you.

You are amazing, and  you’ve got this.  I am here to help, but you really can do this.

 

Are there any other empowering phrases you wish people would say to their children?  Leave me a comment in the comment box!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Toolbox of Tips For Communicating With 9-12 Year Olds

This is second in a three-part series of discipline, communication, and development for 9-12 year olds so we can all be more effective parents!  The first part to this series can be found here and got a warm reception from readers as it tackled discipline, responsibility, protection, sports, emotional intelligence, and more.

One thing I love about this age is that I think we have a chance to make a big impact on how we resolve conflict and communicate with one another.  The home is really the first and most major place in which children learn this!

So, the first thing to be aware of is what is your communication style?  I find many adults have a really hard time helping 9-12 year olds with conflict and communication within the family because they themselves were never taught communication skills or conflict resolution?   So, I think we need to think of things such as:

  • How do we deal with things and other people when things are not flowing smoothly? How do we react? What do we say?
  • Do we accommodate conflict by being a people pleaser and backing down on our boundary?  Do we avoid conflict and run away?  Do we become competitive and try to win over why we are right?
  • How good are we a collaborating during times of conflict?
  • Are we direct?  Can we say and use “I ” statements directly when we communicate – “I am frustrated!”  “I am angry!”  But……
  •  What do we do with those feelings then, though?  Take it out on everyone around us?  Yell, scream, shut people out, cry?
  • Do we put people down when we are frustrated or irritated at the situation?  What do we perceive as “disrespect”, why, and what do we do about it?
  • Do we use steps in resolving conflicts?  Only then can we really model.

For younger children, we often think of things such as using our bodies to walk over to the child, connecting with the child and getting the child’s attention, using a calm voice with a simple request, helping the child follow-through in the request.  If conflict ensues, it often is just a matter of hungry/tired/exhausted/needing connection, helping the child calm down, following through or making restitution.  Attacking, lecturing in a long tirade, blaming doesn’t do anything to teach a child how to communicate or solve conflict.

For older children, things become infinitively more complex however.  There is often less of a “working together” model in place developmentally, which is normal, but it can also impact communication and openness.  Here are some suggestions to lay a good baseline:

What are the ESSENTIAL family rules (boundaries)?  Not like pick your socks up off the floor, but the really essential things. What specifically triggers the adults in the family, and the 9-12 year olds and makes the house less peaceful?  What is so essential it can’t be avoided, but what is not essential and could be discarded?  Pick and choose the ESSENTIAL.

In our family, this does include respect and good manners for one another.  Manners are how we show we care about one another, and we should have respect for the fact that we are all different people with different temperaments, personalities, and interests living in the same house together.

If there are things like doing homework or completing chores causing conflict in the family how could you break it down into an action plan that garners cooperation?

Make the family a place of POSITIVENESS and SUPPORT.  One of my favorite phrases to use with my children is, “I am here to help you.  Tell me what you would like to see happen.”  That opening often sets up a much better conversation.

Make the family a place of TEAMWORK.  This is often set in ages birth-9, but it is never too late to start!

EMPOWER.  Children ages 9-12 are not going to do things the way you do them as an adult, but the more empowerment you can give them within the rules of the house and what needs to happen. What will happen if responsibilities are not done?  If poor words are chosen?  If the child becomes completely angry?  Figure these things out in a time of quiet and calm, and have it ready to go and draw upon.

START TEACHING. Responding to what other people say in a defensive way is not an effective way to communicate, and just like learning to walk or throw a baseball, learning how to communicate takes PRACTICE.  A few hints:

Everyone must be calm. This step often takes much, much longer than everyone would like.  Take the time to calm down. Come back later.  There are few things that have to be solved in a split second.

No defensiveness. No yelling. No name calling.  No accusations.  No physicality. If any of these things happen on the part of your 9 to 12 year old to you, stay calm.  Tell your child you would like to help them.  Most 9-12 year olds can still get really overwhelmed by emotions, and need space and time. Defensiveness, yelling, name calling, accusations only ramps up the whole thing and instead of problem solving it is just emotions spilling everywhere.

We can all disagree, but the reality is if we all live together, we have to come up with solutions that work for the family, and we have to agree upon boundaries and rules in order to  live together.  Nine to twelve year olds are often not really logical, so it is important to help guide the discussions.

Listen carefully, and talk about how things happened and what you would each like to see happen.  Come up with a plan.   Make restitution.

I would love to hear your experiences in communicating with your 9-12 year olds!  Let’s exchange ideas!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

Three Steps in Dealing With Challenging Behavior

There probably have been complaints about children and teen’s behavior as far back in time as one can imagine!   In light of behavior that is less than desirable and is repeating, I think there are three main steps to take as a parent in dealing with this behavior head-on:

  1.  Ask yourself if this is normal behavior for this age?   Many parents have expectations that are far beyond their child’s age and need to be reassured this is part of childhood maturation.  We are losing perspective on this in American society rapidly.
  2. If it is normal behavior for the age, but it is still making the family full of tension, ask yourself how you will guide it with boundaries so your family can live in harmony? 

a.  For a young children under the age of 7, guide with the principles of rhythm carrying things (lack of sleep, hunger, thirst, etc doesn’t help any behavioral situation!), songs and pictorial speech to move things along, and the child making reasonable restitution for what isn’t going well.  If you determine things aren’t going well due to a lot of stress and hurriedness in the family, try to decrease the amount of stress. Look carefully and listen to what the child in front of you  is telling you, but do balance that with the needs of the family.

b.  For the child ages 9-13, guide with the ideas of rhythm and restitution in mind, and rules of your family and of life in general – how do we treat each other in kindness; how do we treat ourselves and others.  Listen carefully to what your child is saying, but also state the expectations and boundaries firmly and kindly.   Go in with the idea that these things will need to be worked on 500 times or more to stick.  If things in the family are super stressful for varying reasons, consider simplifying and also adding in techniques for dealing with stress for the whole family.

c.  If the child is 14-18, guide with the ideas of family rules in mind, and consequences and restitution.  A teen can vacillate widely from seeming very mature to seeming very young and immature, and it is important to remember that the teenaged brain is not yet fully developed.  You must still be there to guide, and you are not at the “friend” stage of parenting.   Teenagers still want boundaries, limits, and a guide.

3.  If the behavior is not normal for the age...

a.  Is it quirky  behavior and being exacerbated by stress and hurriedness? Simplify things and see if things improve.

b. Is it truly not appropriate behavior and not responding to anything you do?  Then you may need professional help  through family therapy or other behavioral intervention.

c. If you are a homeschooling family, do not assume that going to school will make things better.  I think kids who are having problems at home often will have problems at school unless the family is so chaotic they will function better in a more structured environment. But if the child themselves is really  having problems stemming from themselves, they will have problems across environments.

Just a few thoughts,
Carrie

 

It’s Not Them, It’s You

Children are amazing and incredible and often teach us things that we didn’t even know that we needed to learn. Nearly every time when I have gone through a “rough patch” in my parenting when a child was in a tough developmental stage, I have realized every. single. time. that

It’s not them. It’s me.

If they are making me feel crazy, then I need to work harder.  Their “stuff” is not my “stuff”  and I need to work harder to separate myself from my feelings about it all.   I find if I am holding on to something my children are doing it is because I am approaching something from a place of fear, or a place of being overwhelmed myself in ways that  often have nothing to do with them, or a place of lack of self-care.  Sometimes there is no opportunity to really rectify the lack of self-care or the overwhelm from outside circumstances.

So then I have to hold on to my inner work.  And I have done that more successfully at some times than others, because I am only human.

I get mad. Or tired. Or worried.  That’s life.  But what matters most is what I do with it and how we come out of the valleys.

If you can use the lows to fuel your own self-care, your own growth in patience andin  biting your tongue,  in learning new gentle parenting techniques, in dealing with your own baggage, in improving your own intellectual approach to try to help guide things, then it becomes a positive experience.

Because it’s not about them, it’s about where you are and then how you use that to love and guide a child.

I often find the best way through the parenting patch of weeds or even simply having to watch your child go through a really hard time is up being outside, up being in nature, up using whatever spiritual tools you use, confide in a close friend,  and just love your child.  Connect with them in a one on one way.  Connect with your partner for support if you have that available.

Small phases are small phases, and younger children are not going to grow up and be who they are in these phases that are so  trying to parents. This is something that parents can recognize with more and more experience.  When your first child is six or seven or eight, every single thing they do seems worthy of examination and scrutiny.  Please know that for most circumstances it is all going to work out- for both your child and you!

For older children and teens, sometimes what is going on is more than a phase or a part of the child’s character that needs to be guided. It can be more serious than that.    If it is indeed more serious problems that children and teens are dealing with – addiction, mental health episodes, being a danger to themselves or to others, dealing with dating abuse, abusive friendships – then these deserve a bigger response than just denial that it will all work out in the wash.  Instead, what these older children and teens deserve is  real  and professional help in a timely manner.  Know the resources in your community, and don’t be afraid to name what is going on and seek help.

There will be valleys in parenting, and there will be incredible moments.  There will be holding on and letting go.  The trick is to not lose yourself throughout this process, and to recognize the power of the individual journey.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Dynamic Development

Childhood development is never static and is ever unfolding. Sometimes the big joke in parenting is sort of, “Wow!  I just figured out this stage and now my child is on to something new!”

In my approach to development, I combine my ideas from when I worked as a pediatric physical therapist,  studies from The Gesell Institute, and Waldorf education’s view of the child.  Periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium routinely occur throughout development, typically with disquilibrium around the half-year marks, and pronounced differences  in development typically most dramatically noted around 3 – 3 1/2, 6/7, 9 (talked about an awful lot in Waldorf literature) ,  12 (although I don’t hear much about this one in parenting circles), and 15/16.  I think 15/16 is by far the most difficult transtition.

Parents often ask what they need to be successful throughout all these changes as their child unfolds.  In my personal opinion of working with families over the years, I  think there are four things, mainly, that help this process of helping a child grow:  having your own “stuff”  under control (ever tried living with an alcoholic parent, narcissitic parent, etc?    And not all of us have these things, but most all of us have wounds from living; just some of us own those wounds and try to make this woundedness better for ourselves and the people who love us); affectionate  love and connection to our children (and to your partner if you have one); loving boundaries;   rhythm (which is a defining hallmark of whatever your own family culture is!).  I don’t think it is is about perfection; I don’t think it is about doing everything just right.    A child growing up is also a family growing up and adults developing and changing too.

It is never too late to do these four  things.  All of us can become more self-aware and work on what our wounds and triggers are; nearly all of us can work to become more peaceful and compassionate.  It is never too late to  connect to and love your children.  Children have love languages just like adults do, but most children I know certainly perceive love in time and attention.  I read a few psychology sources that state even just 15-20 mintues of concentrated time a day is important; other sources like this Washington Post article from 2015 talk about how quality is more important than quantity, how family practices like dinners together do matter, and how teens need to spend time with their parents.   We can learn how to hold boundaries; I think I started seriously writing about boundaries back in 2008 and have written many posts on boundaries since then.  This one and  this big list of boundaries are among my favorites.   Finally, it is never too late to discover your  values as a family and prioritize those with your time (this is the beginnings of rhythm and habit!).

In this month often associated with love due to St. Valentine’s Day, let us love our children enough to help them grow in the healthiest ways possible!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

The Big List of Boundaries

One thing I  said  in a previous post is that some families I know have not hardly any boundaries that their child has to adhere to.  I actually am abig  believer in boundaries because I think that boundaries promote health.  This is how boundaries help a child become a functioning adult:

  1. Children need to learn to take responsibility (ownership) for things.  In my family, I have talked a lot about the principle of Ultimate Responsibility, which I think came from the military realm.  We have no reason to argue over fault, we just work together as a team to fix it.  We take responsibility to help even if we didn’t cause the problem.   Responsibility is ownership for oneself in addition to outside things.   Ownership leads to a sense of freedom, because we have choices to fix things, problem solve, work with others, or walk away.
  2. Boundaries free us from people who treat us poorly or who are toxic.  We know where we begin and end, and that these other people are separate and not our responsibility to carry.
  3. Life choices have consequences, and trying to meet a boundary that is in line with a family value requires choices.  I think this is important.  Life is full of things not so good, but also  can be full of many great things, which can make it hard to choose.
  4. Boundaries help people grow and meet opportunities instead of complaining about problems.  Positivity promotes health!

So, without further ado,  here are a few steps to boundaries.

  1.  Figure out your family’s VALUES.  Which values do you want your children to internalize in order to be a “successful” (in whatever way that means to your family) adult?  
  2. What your values are will influence some of the areas you could place boundaries, such as:

Connection – with family members, extended family members, friends, peers?  How important are sibling relationships over peers?  Nuclear family over extended family?  How do you show respect in your family to each other?  What do the adults feel is respectful?

Sleep/Rest – Will there be bedtimes? Rest times?  Quiet times?  Is sleeping in okay?  On what days?  If you safely co-sleep with your littles, when does that stop?  What happens at night when children are older and awake and staying up late – are you all together, do you need to be with your teens at night, is it adult time?

Health Food/Eating – snacks allowed or not?  Can you eat in the living room?  What happens if a child doesn’t eat all of his or her food?  Sweets allowed or not?   Special diets and why?  Along this line, are physical activities important or not?

Chores – does everyone have to help with the nurturing of the home?  Is this only mom’s job?  What is the role of the other adults in the house? What are the children’s responsibilities and at what ages?

Outside Activities – whose activities count? Only the adults?  Only the children?  Both?  How?  How many? Are there days you must be home?  Are there limits on activities?  Some families seem to have a hard time staying home even one day, and some families seem to have a hard time leaving their home.  What is the balance?

Spiritual Practice/ Attendance at a place of worship – Important? Not important? What if it is important to the adults but not teenagers, etc.

Sibling Relationships – Important to spend time together or not?  Siblings before peers?  Lots of time away from home with peers or not?  At what age?

Intimate relationships -Starting with peers – how do we treat our friends?  How do we expect our friends to treat us?  What constitutes bullying?  Sleepovers or no sleepovers?  How many days a week with peers versus just with the family?  When children move into the teenaged years – dating?   Not dating?  What constitutes a healthy and respectful dating relationship?  (Did you know that ten percent of high school teens are reporting physical violence in their dating relationships in the United States?)  How to handle the physical side of intimate relationships?  At what age is dating allowed?  The use of technology in communicating in an intimate relationship and respect around this – what does that look like?

Technology – Allowed, not allowed, what age, what platforms?  Does the phone or computer have restrictions or rest times for devices or both? How old does a child have to be to receive the responsibility of a phone or computer?  How will they show that responsibility? Gaming or no gaming?

Holidays/Gift-giving:  How many gifts?  Extended family? What is the role of children with  extended family during get-togethers?  Included? The children weave and out?  The children go off together?

Homework/Homeschool – What are the boundaries around doing homework or schoolwork?

Those are just some areas I thought of; I am sure there are many more.  I would love to hear boundaries that you think of!

3.  When the boundary is met or unmet, what happens?  This is usually the part that parents equate with “discipline” (ie, punishment).  But is there more to it than that? I think there is because really discipline is authentic leadership and guiding your children and knowing how the boundaries you set are not arbitrary but  fit into your value system.  

Just food for thought on a Monday morning.

Blessings,

Carrie