30 Days to New & Improved Family Success

Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday that heartily welcomes one and all to engage in at least two ubiquitous human practices; eating good food, and of course, giving thanks.  If we ponder just those two things, we notice that the typical family eats three times a day and gives thanks… well… hmmm?   How often are we really giving thanks?  Surely it is not just on Thanksgiving Day!  Most would agree that this noble act “should be”, “ought to be” practiced daily.  And I agree!

Parents and children alike have much to gain by conscientiously giving thanks.  Research proves it!

According to Psychology Today, participants in a study about gratitude reported greater levels of optimism, positive mood, and feelings of belongingness. 

These individuals were more likely to help someone struggling with a personal problem by rendering emotional support with pro-social behavior.  Study participants also complained of less physical pains and boasted better sleep.  And guess what?  All these benefits came without lifting an elbow, finger, knee, or toe for exercise!  That alone makes me feel thankful!

Ah yes! “Feeling” thankful is as important as “thinking” thankful.  When you are authentically thankful, where do you feel it in your body?  Do your shoulder’s drop?  Maybe you are like me and you sense warmth over your heart.  Some of you may feel the corners of your mouth form a smile while others will inhale, and then exhale deeply with content.  Psychological well being doesn’t just have to come from our thoughts; it is accompanied by gratified emotions that are sensed by our bodies.  Go ahead.  Sense yours!

You’ve heard the saying “It takes 30 days to make a habit.” 

This November I’d like to invite you and your family to join me for 30 days of giving thanks.  Let’s not wait for a New Years “resolution” to experience psychological, social, and or physical benefits.

Starting today November 1st, ask each member of your family to verbalize something that they are thankful for.  This five minute family conversation not only allows joyful bonding, it opens windows of opportunity for parents to learn more about their children’s thoughts and emotions.  What a great forum to praise or guide your children as they mature!

Your family’s thanks can include joyful occurrences or difficult life lessons that allowed your wisdom to grow.  You can be humorous, serious, or exuberant.   Your may express a current experience or one that you recall from the past.  It should, however, be sincere.

Here is an example of something I’m grateful for.  Last year Atlanta was hit by an ice storm.  While that is not unusual, the fact that the ice didn’t melt for six days was highly atypical.   After being stranded in our homes for nearly a week, we finally headed out to run an errand.  Another car decided to pass us on what turned out to be a slick patch of ice.  Yup… you guessed it.  His car slammed right into ours.  I was thankful that no one was hurt.  But that’s not where my thanks stopped.  My son was with us.  He had just received his driver’s permit and this experience taught him several lessons including what not to do in challenging road conditions, and the steps to take when one has a car accident.  Lastly, the gentleman who caused the accident took full responsibility for his actions and that fueled my faith that good honest people do exist in the world.

The accident was a dark cloud with several bright silver linings.  It taught me to remember to always seek the good in any difficult situation and I’m thankful for that lesson too!

So what about you?  What example of thanks will you share with your own family today?  How will all of you become a deep well of support and inspiration, poised to benefit each other and those around you?  

Please share your thoughts and thanks in our comments section!  Oh… and THANK YOU!

These Questions Will Get Your Kids Talking!

Curious parents want to know! 

What’s really going on when my kids are at school?  What do they think of their friends, bullies, class clowns, teachers, lessons, lunch or recess?   More importantly, when I ask my kids about how their day went, how do I get them to say more than “fine” or “good?”

Here is a small sampling of questions to jumpstart meaningful dialogue between parent and child.  Pick one or pick them all.  Just don’t pick them all at once or you’ll raise your kids’ suspicions and make them steer clear of your “interrogation!”

ABOUT PEERS and FRIENDS: 

  •  Who decides what to do at recess?  What makes it fun?  Who or what makes it stressful?
  •  Who did you eat lunch with today?  Do you eat with the same kids every day or do you mix it up?  Can anyone join you at lunchtime or do   they need (a ringleader’s) “permission?”
  •  What do you do to welcome the new kids at your school?  When are you a leader?  When are you a follower?  What makes you a good leader?
  •  Which of your friends would you nominate as “The Best School Citizen?”  What characteristics qualify them to earn this award?
  •  What characteristics do your friends appreciate about you?

ABOUT BULLIES and STRESS:

  • Which kids get in trouble the most at school?  On the bus?  Who / what situation challenges you the most?  Why?
  • If you could teach these kids a thing or two about staying out of trouble what would you teach them? 
  • What do you think makes bullies act the way they do?  What makes you angry about bullies?  What makes you feel sorry for them?
  • What one thing do you regret saying or doing to another student?  What would you do differently next time?
  • Name three things would make school less stressful.

 

IN THE CLASSROOM:

  • What teacher deserves a raise?  What makes their class fun?  What helps you to learn most effectively?
  • What class / teacher challenges you the most?  If you were the teacher in this class, what would you do differently?
  • Who makes the class laugh?  What makes this disruptive or fun for you?
  • Without actually doing your homework for you, what can I do to help you do your best?
  • Name three things that make you look forward to school.

 

Your children’s answers to these questions are insights as to how they make observations, formulate judgments, feel emotions, and make decisions.  Remember to keep your questions open ended by starting them with “who”, “what”, “where”, “how”, “when”,  “tell me more about…” or “describe….”  Though kids can still give you short answers, it will be harder for them!  Ask the questions in light-heartedly in a calm, relaxed setting and you’ll likely get some solid information.  Not only will you learn more about your child’s school life, hopefully you’ll learn new things about their personality and preferences.  Then, you can capitalize on opportunities to guide and teach them how to navigate the game of life. 

Please visit our comments section and let us know how these questions worked for you.  Feel free to add your ideas to the lists so we can learn from each other.

Susan Boyle, Bullying, Judgment, and Your Kids!

"Look!" "Lauren is wearing Ugg boots." "She thinks she's hot so let's teach her a lesson and just ignore her!" (Lauren got the boots as a gift from her grandmother. She was nervous about wearing them because she usually doesn’t wear designer brands.) "Josh's dad drives him to school when he lives only a few blocks away and could walk." "What a lazy loser!" (Josh’s peers don’t know that he has a fragile bone disease and that doctors have asked him to avoid tripping and falling on uneven sidewalks.)

“Those kids get straight A’s.” “They’re such bookworm nerds!” “No wonder they have no real friends.” (The straight A students are funny and personable if only some of their peers would give them a chance.)

We all pass judgment. Sometimes it can serve as a 6th sense that protects us from danger. Most of the time however, passing judgment is an unjust allegation. Kids in particular observe something and make up their minds about it before acquiring any facts. Their observation is a mere sliver of the big picture. Kids then go on to express this observation as an assumption using words that can be hurtful because they are not necessarily true. The words in turn can become nasty rumors and lead to schoolyard pranks that hurt, alienate, or otherwise harass the person being judged. Suddenly an innocent child is subject to teasing or full-fledged bullying. So what can we do to help?

Parents and teachers can choose from an array of ideas to help their kids to be fair and friendly instead of judgmental. My new favorite is the old classic video of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent. I know. You’ve already seen it, but would you please consider watching it again with your kids or students beside you? Pay close attention to the judges and the audience. Assess their facial expressions and ponder what they might have been thinking both before and after Ms. Boyle sings. Then ask the kids what they observed. Query them on how passing judgment can be unfair. Ask why one of the judges called the incident “the biggest wake-up call ever.”

To really connect with your kids, consider sharing your own experiences related to passing judgment or being the recipient of it. Then ask them to share theirs. You might just learn something new about their “secret” life at school, sports or other extracurricular activities. Lastly, solicit your children’s solutions. Gandhi said “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” How do your children think they can be that change?

It takes a village so let’s support one another. After you watch the video http://youtu.be/RxPZh4AnWyk please come back and leave us a comment of the wisdom you and your children shared.

10 Tips to Deal with Back Talk from Kids

Talking BackBack talk from kids rears its ugly head to annoy, challenge, and sometimes even embarrass parents.  It doesn’t just come from teenagers, even tiny tots catch on to “sassing” their parents.  Luckily, parents can remedy this surly syndrome.  Let’s jump right with the following tips.  As always, take what works and toss what doesn’t. You’re the parent and you get to decide! 1.  It is important to note that kids who back talk are normal.  This is part of their natural desire to grow toward independence.  Since they learn by trial and error, they are testing their limits to see what works and what doesn't.

2.  Try not to snap back at your child.  Doing so will justify their behavior and procure more of it.  Instead of getting annoyed with them, try looking at the situation as an opportunity to teach.  (This won’t work all the time, but the more you try, the better you will get at it.)

3.  Rule out hunger or fatigue as catalysts for back talk or any other unpleasant behavior.  Physical discomforts would make anyone cranky and short tempered.  Then, set rules and limits that work best for your family.  Experts advise that kids actually want limits set for them so that they can help themselves self regulate.  Here is what a limit might sound like.  “In this family, we speak with courtesy and a pleasant tone of voice.  Talking back with rude words, tones, or gestures will not be tolerated.”

4.  Teach your child how you would like them to express themselves including a courteous tone of voice, pleasant facial expressions, and civilized body language.  This might seem like common sense, but remember that what your children learn from the media and some of their friends is anything but common sense or common courtesy!  Of course the more you role model high-quality communication the more you’ll be able to teach by example.  Your child’s brain does not just learn by listening to what you say, it learns by observing what you do.

5.  Empathize with your child.  Okay, I know!  The last thing you want to do when you’ve just been sassed is to be empathetic but try for just a moment try to actually feel the frustration that is making your child talk back.  I’m not saying you must agree with them; just try to understand where they are coming from. It is very likely that the back talk was provoked by a strong emotion such as anger, disappointment, or frustration. Once you identify why your child is having a strong emotion resulting in back talk, you both can lay the groundwork for problem solving both.

6.  Use empathy again, but this time as a teaching tool.  Ask your child how he would feel if his closest friends or family addressed him with back-talk.  Of course, this step is best done when your child is calm and not talking back!  It is a step that can allow for bonding between parent and child.  Building empathy takes time but is a key competency of emotional intelligence and it addresses how we communicate with each other.  With your patience and persistence it can work wonders.

7.  Age appropriate consequences should be delivered for the child who continues with back talk.  Remember though that consequences only work for parents who commit to enforce them with consistency.  If you don’t do this, you are teaching your child that your rules are meaningless and that you can be manipulated.  Not good!

8.  If you catch your child regressing a bit but the circumstance isn’t severe enough to be enforced with a firm consequence, consider this simple question as a gentle reminder:  “How do you speak to me?”

9.  Kids are smart and sensitive.  They can pick up on insincerity so please sincerely PRAISE your child when you see that he /she has made improvements.  "I really like the calmness and maturity with which you expressed yourself."  “I’m proud of your efforts.” Watch the pride on your child’s face when positive feedback is rendered.

10. After you praise your kids, please praise yourself.  The steps outlined above require patience and persistence often in very grueling emotional situations.  Parenting is the hardest job on the planet, and you just advanced the success in yours.  BRAVO!

Over to you.  How do you handle back talk with your kids?  Did your parents have tricks that worked on you when you were growing up?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments section.

Defending Dads!

 I love to laugh, especially at imaginative and funny TV commercials. However lately, I’ve seen a disturbing trend in the ones that poke fun at men and fathers as if they were congenital dunces!  In fact, this actually worries me! Okay… I get it! Women, as statistical facts indicate, are the major decision makers in most households so these TV ads are aimed at women not necessarily to denigrate men, but to play on women’s emotions in hopes that they’ll slice the family savings account for products and services.  One has to wonder though, when the subliminal types of messages with their disparaging facial expressions, belittling body language or overt condescending language toward men become part of our everyday thinking.  Are women and girls being beguiled to disvalue boys and men?  I certainly hope not; because eventually these girls and boys will marry, and they must know how to respect and honor each other for their nuptials to have a chance, and to set a high-quality example for their own kids.

Over the last few decades, women’s roles have grown exponentially outside of the home yet they have also maintained their domestic role and maternal inclinations of child rearing.  For this they deserve immense respect.  In fairness to men, their growth also deserves respect.  I am pleased to see many movements where men embrace their vital role as parent, express detachment from their traditional role of “breadwinner” and share domestic responsibilities.  So why, when so many men are trying so hard, is there a culture that mocks them?  Why do the TV media, extreme feminists, and Hollywood starlets purposely choosing single parenthood, perpetuating trends that advocate the “I don’t need a man mentality?  I’m all for the independence of any given individual but when it comes to rearing children, both a mother and a father are ideal.

Research supports my belief that men, generally speaking, deserve to be respected (even if a woman can do their job) and fathers deserve to be heartily defended for their roles, which frankly, women cannot replicate!

Psychologist John Gottman outlines research stating that even though mothers generally spent more time with kids than fathers, that the quality of interaction provided by fathers was a more powerful predictor of the child’s later success or failure with school and friends.   It was believed that fathers have this extreme influence on their children because their particular type of bonding evoked powerful emotions in kids.   It is important to note, however, that a physically present dad didn’t create this research finding, but that the emotionally present dad did!  So kudos to dads who choose to be present in this manner!

This is further supported by the following research based facts listed at the National Fatherhood Initiative.

  • The National Center for Educational Statistics reported that when fathers are involved in their children's education, the kids were more likely to get A’s, enjoy school, and participate in extracurricular activities.
  • Kids with engaged fathers demonstrate "a greater ability to take initiative and evidence self-control."
  • When these boys grew up, they were more likely to be good dads themselves.

But when fathers are devalued, here's the result:

  • Their children have a higher rate of asthma, headaches, anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems.
  • Teenagers are at greater risk of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use, and suicide
  • Adolescent girls are 3 times more likely to engage in sexual relations by the time they turn 15 and 5 times more likely to become a teen mother.

Here’s more:  In 1996, Duncan, et. al. found that “For predicting a child’s self esteem, it is sustained contact with the father that matters for sons, but physical affection from fathers that matters for daughters.”

The list proving a father’s worth goes on and on so I felt it was important enough to write about.  And the timing seems right since Father’s Day is fast approaching.

In fairness to the moms (remember that I’m one too) you bet you matter by leaps and bounds!  But we have to realize it isn’t a race about who’s a better person or parent.  Each of us has a vital role to play in the lives of children and sometimes, circumstances create it so that a dad just can’t be present.  If your child’s dad is missing in action because of necessary travel, divorce, death, or simply detachment, then you are my hero for doing the job solo.  However, when Dad is around and doing his job, try not to let those derogatory TV commercials subtly get to you.   Value your children’s Dad and remember to thank him.  And know that your kids are watching your every move.  If you treat men respectfully, they will learn to do the same.

Please don’t treat Dad like the babysitter with a list of instructional do’s and don’ts.  Allow his personality to shine in his own unique way.  You might just find that the man will surprise you when he’s allowed to think and act for himself.  After all, what’s more important?  A father feeling good about spending time with kids, or worrying about “mom” reaming him out because little tikes ears weren’t cleaned well enough?  Mom needs to be Dad’s partner, not his gatekeeper.

So on this upcoming Father’s Day, I’d like to thank not only my husband who is a fantastic Dad, but all the men, who give of themselves not just physically, but emotionally, to nurture their kids into happy, successful citizens of our world.  Good job Dads!  Keep up the great work!  Our future generations depend on it!

Reader comments are cherished.  Please share yours.