Tag Archives: Parenting children

Parenting children

3 Little Known Reasons Why Your Teen Acts Up

Parenting middle school children is kind of like a close encounter with an alien species: suddenly the child who was calm, collected, and fairly responsive to parental intervention is an expert on imitating The Blob at one moment, and a raging tiger the next.

Of course, as parents we know to expect this, but somehow I think most of us get caught out in the rain on this one. Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

It’s not that we don’t want our children to grow up to be happy, successful adults who can handle pretty much whatever the world throws at them – it’s more like we’re hoping we can skip the vegetables and cut right to the dessert.

For those of you who insist on eating your green beans before the chocolate mousse pie, here are some tips that will help you understand why that hulking stranger in your child’s bedroom sometimes acts like they do:

1) Sleep deprivation

Teenagers are fantastic at the great denial: the insistence that they are not tired, and have too much to do anyway to possibly even consider sleeping.

The fact is, however, that your teenager is growing at a rapid rate. Both boys and girls can add an extra 8-9 cm a year to their height. Toss in added muscle mass, bone density, and the general increase in hormones and you’ve got one heck of a stone soup.

All of that growing means that teenagers need a lot of sleep- at least 9.5 hours a night. Since studies show that the average teen gets only about 7.4 hours of sleep a night, you can probably guess the result: a cranky, grumpy teen who acts a lot like they did when they were three and needed a good nap before they were human again.

If you do the math, you can easily see that a teen who gets up at 6:00 am for school would need to be in bed by 9:00 pm in order to get the right amount of sleep. Unfortunately, studies show that many teens aren’t able to fall asleep that early, because their brains aren’t ready for bed.

You can help your teen get the sleep they need by encouraging a regular bedtime (the body can’t easily make up missed sleep), encouraging your teen to participate in some form of exercise during the day, and eliminating caffeine.

2) Hunger

As a parent of a teenager you may have noticed the rapid disappearance of foodstuffs in your house, and so hunger would usually not be on your shortlist of why teens can get out of control.

Unfortunately for your food budget, growing teens really do need a lot of extra energy. Plus, it’s quite common for teens to fill up on junk or fast food, depriving their bodies of the protein they need for long-lasting energy.

You can help your teen by providing low-fat, high-energy protein snacks, such as peanut butter, beef jerky, cottage cheese and fruit, tuna, protein bars, and believe it or not - oatmeal.

3)Time with you

It may seem hard to imagine, but your teenager really does want to spend time with you. Most teens do want a relationship with their parents; they’re a lot like toddlers, who want to be independent while reserving the right to monopolize your attention.

If you take a look at your teen’s day and see that most of your interactions were on the order of “are you ever going to take out the garbage” or “turn down that music-not all of us want to go deaf,” then you might want to consider taking some time off to spend some quality time with your teen.

Sometimes teens are wary about spending time with their parents because they imagine it’s merely a cover for “the big talk.” So you don’t have to plan a night out on the town, if that will raise your teen’s hackles. Instead, make an extra effort to be fully “there” when your teen comes home, or sits down with you at the table.

It’s easy to be so focused on socializing online that we forget the people in front of us.

Instead, put away the ipod, the Blackberry. Shut off the TV, and send your PC to sleep. Try something novel and old-fashioned instead: Talk to your children. You might be surprised at what they have to say.

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Parenting children

What’s the REAL Reason Parenting Is So Difficult?

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One of the most difficult things I find about raising children-big or small- is the way it forces you to call upon every one of the abilities you possess (and even some that you don’t). I like to give the example of my job as residence manager at a 24-hour supervised residence for emotionally disabled women.

Those were the days before cell phones were popular, so I carried a beeper 24 hours a day. I was responsible for 12 clients and nearly double that in staff. My work days were regularly 10 or more hours long, and on any one of those days I might have been running a staff meeting, preparing for a state inspection, or evaluating whether or not a client’s out of control behavior warranted a trip to the psych ward at the local hospital- to be escorted by yours truly.

Still, after all of that responsibility, it was ten times harder to be a stay-at-home mom with my EIGHT MONTH OLD daughter. Yep, to some of you out there it may seem like an exaggeration. Others of you out there I’m sure are nodding your heads in agreement. So, for the clueless I’ll spell it out: raising a child is hard work if you take it seriously.

Now I DON’T mean running around to take your child to Little League, or piano lessons, or a local swim meet. Nor do I mean the time it takes to find the right school for your child, or pick out the best educational toy on the market. That’s just the busy work, the little details that clutter up the big picture.

In reality, the hardest part of raising children is being suddenly faced with YOURSELF.

What the heck does that mean?

Being a parent, and especially a stay-at-home one, means you are suddenly on your own. No longer will your boss praise you for a job well done, while your colleagues look on with envy. No longer will you finish the day with a good day’s work behind you, closing the book on a list of old tasks completed and new ones yet to be done.

At home, you face the same jobs over and over. You will spend an hour doing dishes while trying to supervise play time, and then someone will come along and put a dirty plate in the sink. Then you’ll spend a few hours trying to put children to bed who have absolutely no desire for sleep, despite the fact that you are dead on your feet.

How will you react? Will you let your tiredness and your frustration rule the roost, or will you be able to take a step back and remember what parenting is all about anyway? Will you be able to reach deep down inside, and motivate yourself- without relying on the praise of others- to get the job done?

Being a good parent especially means being forced to evaluate your values, beliefs, and ideals. For example, when your preschooler throws a fit in the canned goods aisle at the local supermarket, you’ll be forced to make a split second decision: will you choose to care about what people think about you? Or will you let your fear of what other people override what you know is best?

Will you put yourself before your child, because you have one more thing to buy that can’t wait, or will you be able to put your child’s needs before yours?

Fortunately, parenting is not an all or nothing venture. I have days where I realize I spent all of my time glued to the computer, trying to get a little bit of work done. I didn’t have to; it was just easier than facing the hullaboo outside my door.

Then there are times when I realize I spent the entire day ordering everyone around, attempting to maintain order among the masses. It was only after I went to bed, that I realized I never read that new library book I brought especially for my seven year old, or that I never made the homemade fingerpaint I promised myself I’d make together with my 2 and 3 year olds.

It’s those times, after a final circuit through the house covering up little bodies and looking in on bigger ones, that I am thankful that tomorrow I’ll have a chance to do it all over again.

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Parenting children

3 Tips on How to Encourage Empathy in Your Preschooler-Parenting Children

Is your child oblivious to how his actions affect others?

Have you ever watched your child at the park, or in the schoolyard, and noticed they just don’t seem to connect well with other kids? For some children, this means that they appear not to notice that they’re hogging all the toys, unwilling to share – while the other children look angrily on.

Others don’t notice when another child has hurt themselves. They’ll often walk right on by, even to the point of stepping over the crying child without a look at whom they’re stepping over.

We’re not born knowing how to empathize with others.

Empathy is a basic trait that can be seen in babies just a few months old. When a baby notices the happy look on her mother’s face, and smiles, or notices a frown and looks worried or upset, that is the beginning of empathy.

But while empathy is an important trait, it isn’t inborn. We learn how to be empathetic through the experiences we go through in life. And as we age, we continue to deepen our ability to empathize on an emotional and intellectual level.

If a child can’t empathize with others, they won’t get along with them either.

Your child has numerous opportunities during the day to show empathy. How will Mommy feel if I touch this glass vase? How will my little brother feel if I take his toy away? Your child uses empathy to imagine how others feel, and react appropriately.

If he can’t imagine how others might feel when he does something, or if his friends feel he is too self-absorbed to care about them, he’ll suffer.

You can, however, teach your child to be more empathetic. Here are some tips you can follow in order to help your child learn to be more empathetic:

Encourage your child to help others.

Even a preschooler has many opportunities throughout the day to help others. Each time your child helps another person, draw their attention to how the other person feels now that they’ve helped. For example, let’s say you’d like your child to bring a toy to the baby.

Before you ask him to bring it, remind him of a time when he needed something and someone else helped him. Remind him how he felt when that happened, “Remember how happy you were when Daddy got the ball out from under the couch for you?”

Then when your child brings the baby a toy, say to your child, “Look how happy the baby is! See how he’s smiling? You made him so happy.” This helps your child learn to recognize feelings.

Teach your child to recognize nonverbal body signals.

Part of being empathetic is noticing the subtle nonverbal signals that we give. Teach your child to recognize some basic ones, like body posture, and facial expressions. You can do this with pictures, or demonstrate it yourself.

Strengthen your child’s ability to see cause and effect.

Noticing that mom is angry is one level of empathy. But realizing that mom is unhappy because something happened to make her upset, is a higher level. You can strengthen your child’s ability to see cause and effect by pointing out instances of as they occur throughout the day.

For example, if you’re feeling frustrated because you can’t find your keys, say to your child, “I’m feeling really frustrated right now. Do you know why? Because (add the emphasis by changing your tone of voice) I can’t find my keys!”

When you find your keys, ask your child to guess how you feel. Suggest they look at your face and your body language for cues (be specific). When they correctly guess “happy,” ask them why. If they need help you can give leading answers “because I found my ---“

Understanding cause and effect is the foundation of teaching your child how to problem solve. And a child who can use her empathetic skills to solve problems is one who looks to make the world a better place not just for themselves, but for others as well.




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Parenting children

The Myth of Punishment

Many parenting gurus today claim punishment is off-limits. Punishment, they say, is unacceptable. They justify themselves by arguing that punishment-usually yelling, or hitting, cause “blame, shame, or pain,” in the child, and should therefore be assiduously avoided.

It is true that yelling and hitting cause all of these things. And the truth is, even if they didn’t cause some form of pain to the child, they would still be ineffective, since generally a parent who engages in these behaviors is out of control. A parent who is out of control, is by definition going to be ineffective in disciplining their child. When your child misbehaves, your reaction shouldn’t be a spur of the moment knee kick in the dark. It should be a well-thought out response based on your family’s values, your child’s personality and maturity level, and the act itself.

But one thing that the parenting gurus fail to take into account is that even when you tell your child you are unhappy with their behavior, the child experiences pain. Even if you say to them, "I'm really disappointed you did that," they'll still feel shame.

The truth is, the fact that they feel a little shame, or some emotional pain, is a good thing. Using natural and logical consequences may be effective, but the real reason they work is because your child loves you, and knows that you love him. His surety of your love is the single most potent factor in wanting to change for the better.

So when you tell your child how saddened you are by their behavior, because you know they can do better, they’re going to feel a little bad about it. Of course, different children will show different responses depending on their personality: some will hang their heads down, others will look off into the distance, and some will break down crying no matter how nicely you say it.

That’s okay. They feel that way because they care what you think of them, and they want your love and respect. They're sorry that they've done something to lose it, even temporarily, and if you have a good relationship with your child, they’ll do just about anything to get your respect back.

The problem becomes when you have a poor relationship with your child. Perhaps you haven’t invested time in raising your child, finding it easier to be busy with work, hobbies, or just “stuff.” Maybe you have a hard time accepting who your child is, and your child knows it. It could be you’ve done everything you can for your child, assuming that she realizes it was all for her. She may not realize it.

If you don’t spend any time with your child-just because they are who they are-or if you don’t take the time to show day to day how much you care about them, then don’t assume they know you love them. And when you don’t have a good relationship with your child, then the shame or the pain cause the exact opposite reaction: rebellion, power struggles, and anger.

In their eyes, they’ve already lost your love, so why should they change?

As a parent, your ultimate goal is to ensure that your children can face life’s challenges without the expectation of positive or negative consequences. If you have a good relationship, you won’t need to use shame or pain against your child. If you don’t have a good relationship…then get working on it.

Agree or disagree?  Tell me what you think-leave your comment below.

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Book and Product Reviews

Review Monday: “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

This book is one of my absolute favorites. I remember reading this book years ago when my daughter, who is now a teenager, was a wee wild child on wheels. Despite extensive experience with children, my first was quite a challenge. I knew she was bright, but I had no idea how to deal with her sensitivity to clothing, her high level of activity, or her dramatic outbursts. Having been a calm, quiet child myself, I loved her dearly, but was often at a loss of how to pick up the pieces when the tornado blew through our previously quiet house.

Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is a talented writer, with years of experience helping parents learn to understand their spirited children. She helped me understand the concept of a spirited child –a child who is “more” than the average child in several ways-more sensitive, more dramatic, more moody. She taught me how to understand my daughter and gave me techniques that really work on how to handle her spiritedness.

In fact, I realized as I flipped through the book again how much her method is a mainstay of the system I use to counsel my clients. Having been blessed with several more spirited children, I came to realize how essential it is to understand the personality of your child before you jump into disciplining them.

Different children react differently to stress, to parenting methods, and to their environment. It is absolutely critical that a parent wishing to tighten up their disciplinary skills first consider the personality of their child before they use a generic discipline program with any child-spirited or not.

Kurcinka  not only helps you determine which of your child’s behaviors are due to their spiritedness, but even gives you very specific guidelines on how to prevent the behavior from occurring. She doesn’t make excuses for poor behavior, nor does she attribute all problem behavior to a child’s spiritedness. Still, her method is so thorough that the majority of things she suggests would work even with an average child and many  types of run-of-the mill behavior problems.

An extra plus of this book is the way it is written. As a workshop presenter for many years, she has a wealth of real-life experiences to draw from. Instead of raw theory, which can sometimes be confusing or just plain boring, she writes the book so that you feel you are sitting in on one of her workshops, right along with her group of parents, sharing, laughing, and learning how to appreciate your spirited child. In fact, when it was finally time for the group to meet for their last session, I was so sorry to see it end that I read the book a second time!

If you are parenting a child who is “more”- more sensitive, more energetic, more dramatic, more moody- you’ll find this book absolutely indispensable. Not only will you actually learn to appreciate your child’s antics (yes, it’s possible!), but you’ll come away with tools you can use for a lifetime that will help you help your child be the best they can be.

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On the Home Front

On the Home Front: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back- How to Handle Setbacks

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Sometimes there are days in life when you feel like packing up camp and heading for the hills. Yesterday was one of those days. Just when I think my foster daughter has made so much progress-boom! she does something to remind me we still have some ways to go.

When she first came to us she had a lot of growing up to do, both intellectually and emotionally. One of the hardest things with both her and her sister is that they had no awareness of boundaries, and very little self-control. So if they felt like doing something, they did it. Whether it was a pack of chocolate bars in the store, or a sibling's favorite toy, if they wanted it, they took it.

Of course we vacillated between brief explanations of why they couldn't have that particular object, and convincing said sibling to share the favorite toy, but it was quite a battle. They wanted that toy, and they wanted it now-with a passion. Once, her 3 year old sister had such a hissy fit every single passerby stopped to watch. The other children have long since learned that kind of behavior will get them nowhere, but of course they had yet to learn.

Over time they learned to share, and to accept comfort from others. They realized that food came three times a day, with snacks, and so they didn't have to ask for thirds and fourths if they really weren't hungry. They even learned that sometimes it's more fun to give than take, and that some things are better if you wait for them.

All this progress must have given me a false sense of security, so I was astounded on Wednesday-referred from here on as Red Letter Day-to see the same sorts of behaviors I thought had pretty much been eliminated. Okay, not eliminated, but at least greatly reduced.

Suddenly C. was begging food from a sibling. Her sister was grabbing all the packets of tissue she could find and distributing it freely around the house; when I confiscated the tissue packets, I found her with several rolls of toilet paper instead. Then I turned around to see that her sister had ripped up the special holiday worksheets from kindergarten. To make it worse, no one was exhibiting any signs of remorse.

It's days like this that keep you humble. Had I thought I was Superwoman because C. knew all her colors, could count to 10, and was learning her letters? HAH! Did I think I was someone special because I toilet-trained two toddlers in one week? DOUBLE HAH!I felt like somewhere in some alternate dimension an evil little leprechaun was rolling around hysterically on the floor in a fit of laughter.

In between time-outs and other clever diversions, I took a call from a client. I stood in my room, one hand on the phone and the other on the door, trying to hold back the sounds of revolt on the other side. My client, who has a 7 -year old son who is learning disabled,was feeling kind of worn out from all the work having such a child entails. She was feeling discouraged, since all the progress made the previous year seemed to have dissipated over the summer.

I slipped easily into professional speak, explaining to her how often this occurs, even with typically developing children. I even managed to convince her how this period of disintegration was actually necessary in order for more growth to occur. I gave her some real-life examples from her son's history, and we ended the conversation on a positive note.

As I leaned against the door, preparing myself mentally for the onslaught to come. Suddenly I realized that everything I had said so easily applied to me as well. I too needed to remember that real progress is slow, and, as the saying goes, is two steps forward and one step back. I was so focused on the future that I had forgotten the past refuses to be forgotten so easily.

I needed to remember that setbacks are not a sign of failure, or of incompetency: they are simply quaint signposts on the road to the future, that remind us how far we've come. I took a deep breath, and opened the door, ready to set out on the road again.

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Are You a Slave to Your Children?

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I just had a very interesting conversation with a very good friend of mine. She is a single mother who homeschools her 3 children (the oldest is 15 and already in her first year of college), runs several businesses, and still manages to go on exotic vacations and get the housework done- all on a budget that most of us would consider frugal, to put it mildly.

So I asked her, "How do you do it? How in the world did you manage to juggle all of that work and still get everything done?" Having had a child with a learning disability home for several months, I know I found it difficult to help him with his daily lessons, deal with my private clients, do housework, take care of my other 6 children, and maintain this site.

Our conversation was so interesting that in the near future I plan on interviewing her so you can hear her in person-her advice is practical, to the point, and so true. In the meantime, I"ll share with you a statement that really hit the bulls' eye: " I taught my kids to be independent, because that's my job- everyone's job- as a mother. And besides, why should I be a slave to my kids?"

Her point was that most parents do too much for their children: instead of teaching them how to do it themselves, they take away the chance to teach the child to be independent and responsible (and make it easier on mom) by doing it for them.

Now I don't know about you, but I am definitely guilty as charged! And my kids are pretty independent (or so I thought). The older ones have been doing laundry since they were about 10, they often cook lunch or dinner, shop, pay bills for me, and a lot more.

But still, when it came down to it, if there was a pair of someone's shoes on the floor, and I asked them to pick it up, some of them would answer, "But it's not mine! I didn't put it there!" Of course I gave them the answer that " it doesn't matter who put it there, it just needs to be put away," but I must admit I was bothered by the fact that this was their response.

After we talked about it, I realized that this all started when they were 2, and tried to help me fold the laundry. Sometimes I would let them, and sometimes I would do a slick redirect: "why don't you go play with your blocks honey?"

Dumb and dumber. If you read Maria Montessori, you'll see one of the fundamental principles she explains is that a child's work is to master the world around them. What do children spend their time all day doing? Trying to be like Mommy and Daddy. Anyone who has been around children longer than an hour will tell you that even 12 month will try to put away the groceries -especially if you've got plenty of breakables (LOL).

And an 18 month old will fight you to the death just so they can do it "alone," even if they don't quite possess the skills to get the job done.

So when you complain that your 11 year old won't help around the house-heck, won't even clean up after himself, well you hit the party just a little too late. That is a child who at 18 months should have carried his folded clothing to his drawer and put it away. That's the 3 year old who should have been allowed to make his own sandwich (with a child-friendly knife, of course).

That's the 5 year old who could have helped you make grilled cheese sandwiches-first preparing the sandwiches, and then learning how to tell you when the sandwiches are ready to be turned over.

That's the seven year old who should have washed, folded, and put away his own laundry.

I think you get the point. As my friend put it: every other animal in the world (insects too) has to work to survive. Why should my child be any different?

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