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How to Talk to Your Kids About…Strangers

As parents, we know we need to talk to our children about strangers, but it is hard to know how to talk to our children without scaring them.

Start by helping your children understand what a stranger is. A stranger is anyone that your family doesn’t know very well. They don’t have to look mean and evil like TV portrays.

When I was explaining strangers to our daughter, she said, “but we don’t know policemen, so are they strangers?”

Ah, after talking about bad strangers, be sure you explain that there are also Safe Strangers. Safe strangers are those people that our children can go to for help. Firemen, policemen, and teachers are good examples.

Once your child understands what a stranger is, talk about dangerous situations.

Explain to your children that anytime an adult…

  • Asks your child to keep a secret
  • Asks them for directions or help
  • Does or says something that makes them uncomfortable
  • Encourages them to disobey you or do something wrong

They need to get away and tell an adult immediately.

Next, role-play situations that your child might be faced with. (Helping your children understand that in these situations, it is okay to say “no” to an adult). Some examples might include…

  • A stranger asks your child if they want a ride home
  • A stranger stops to ask if your child has seen their missing dog
  • A stranger asks your child for directions
  • A stranger asks your child if they want a treat or candy.

Talk to your child about what to do if they are ever faced with one of these situations.

  1. Never get close to the car, or the stranger. Keep your distance.
  2. Yell “No” as loud as you can and run away from the stranger.
  3. Tell an adult, or safe stranger what has happened right away.

Practice possible dangerous situations so your children know what to do. This will give them more confidence if the situation ever presents itself, and will give you a little peace of mind as you send them out the door each day.

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Diversity

Children are very quick to point out differences. With their limited experiences and understanding, it is hard to explain that differences are a wonderful part of life. Talking to our children about diversity can be tricky. We don’t want to compromise our family values, but we want to cultivate a true respect for everyone.

There are a few key conversations we can have, that will help.

  • Have a “diversity” conversation. Talk about differences that exist in your family. “Jill’s favorite color is pink, yours is blue. Your favorite food is spaghetti, mommy loves chicken” Explain that we are all different, and that is a good thing, not bad. When you encounter new people, explain that there are differences and similarities between all of us just like having different favorite colors. This simple conversation will help our children begin to understand diversity and see that liking different colors and foods is not bad, just different.
  • Challenge your children to get to know someone new on a regular basis and find out what they have in common. If they conclude that they have nothing in common, teach them that they still deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. Tie this back into your “diversity” conversations. “Remember, Jill likes a different color than you do, we don’t treat her mean because she likes something different.” Talk about how treating others with respect means that we take some time to get to know them and understand them. Our children need to understand that they might not like all the other kids, but they need to give them all a chance. In our house we encourage our children to meet someone new at school each week. Then our children talk to us about all the things they learned about the new person during dinner each Friday night.
  • Talk about the fact that diversity does not mean we forgo our values. Begin when children are young, and explain that there are choices that other people make that are not acceptable in our home. That is fine, but that doesn’t mean that we are rude or judgmental because they choose differently. To raise children who accept diversity talk to them about different cultures and traditions. You can start with something as simple as having them try different foods.

We will find that by talking to our kids about diversity, they will also learn key values like love, respect, kindness, and compassion for others.

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Bedtime

Bedtime is hard for many families. Everyone is tired, worn out, and short on patience. As parents, if we stick to a routine and change the way we think about putting our kids to bed, it will really help with the bedtime battles. It can be a great time of day when we relax, connect, listen, talk and teach.

Remember, sleep breeds sleep. The more your child sleeps, the more your child will sleep. We need to stop thinking that skipping naps will make getting them into bed easier.

To make bedtime an enjoyable time of day for everyone, ESTABLISH A ROUTINE. By sticking to a routine, kids know what to expect. This will help them feel safe and secure because things are predictable. Predictability brings comfort.

Your routine should include…

  • Setting a bed time and sticking with it. The more lenient you are with bedtime, the more going to bed will be a battle.
  • Starting your bedtime routine at least 30 minutes before you want your kids to be in bed. This will allow time for your child to wind down, just like we need to do. Rushing them through bedtime prep does not allow them to do and say all that they need to in order to feel ready to stay quiet and sleep.
  • Establish a sequence in which you will accomplish the same bedtime tasks every night. (For example…Put on Pj’s, go to the bathroom, brush teeth, read a book, talk about the day, say prayers, hugs and kisses, lights out).
  • Change the way you think about bedtime. Time to start thinking about bedtime as a way to connect with our children. A time to laugh and snuggle and talk.

When talking to your kids about bedtime…

Don’t threaten. (“If you don’t go to sleep, you can’t play tomorrow”). This only makes things worse. Instead, stick to a routine, give lots of time to get ready for bed, and talk about the fun things that you will do, like “Tell me what you liked best about today and then we will turn out the lights”.

When kids get out of bed, be firm and say “You need to sleep in your bed”. Then, with little to no words at all, return them to their beds. At first, you might have to do this a lot. Keep with and don’t give in, not even one night.

Don’t get 10 glasses of water. Only respond to requests once. Explain that they can have one request and that is all. They will learn to use that request wisely and pretty soon, the requests will stop. Going up every time they call will fuel the fire and drag the process out for hours.

If bedtimes are already difficult in your family, remember that behavior can be modified. Establish and stick to your routine, don’t give up hope, be patient and don’t quit.

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Mistakes

Mistakes are part of life. Learning from our mistakes is a vital part of growing up.

In fact, research shows us that kids learn more from making mistakes, then taking the easy route and getting everything correct all the time.

So how do we talk to our kids about their mistakes?

  • Don’t sigh or scoff when your children make mistakes or when discussing their mistakes.
  • Don’t talk about how the mistake has made your life inconvenient. Never make your child feel bad because you had to exert effort to clean up after a mess, or work through the mistake.
  • Don’t ask for perfection. Instead, offer praise for their effort.
  • Don’t talk about their past mistakes. Our kids will never want to do better if they think we will just point out the mistakes they have made in the past.
  • Don’t withhold love or affection as a punishment for mistakes.
  • Do encourage your children to take responsibility for their mistakes.

Turn the error into an opportunity…a wrong into something right…

Talk to children about what they can learn from their mistakes. As parents it is not our job to rescue them when they make a mistake, but instead to help them focus on a solution to the problem so they can avoid making the same mistake again. Acknowledge that OUR kids mess up, and refrain from blaming everyone else.

Talk to children about what to do when they make mistakes, and how to right the wrong.

Thank them for being honest and admitting when they have done something wrong.

Talk about the positives, and the lessons that can be learned from the mistake.

Do tell your children about mistakes you have made. Don’t unload all of the mistakes you have made, but using good judgment, use personal examples to teach your children. Focus on what you learned and how you felt. Talk about the consequences.

Mistakes are normal – we all make them. Your kids probably feel like they make them all the time. And the truth is, they probably do – it’s all part of growing up. What we can do is help them learn from the mistakes they make so they know how to better handle situations and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

How to Get Your Kids to “Hear” You

Getting our kids to listenIt’s a basic premise for successful parenting: You tell your kids what you want them to do, and they do it. But how often do you resort to yelling or pestering to get that result?

The problem may be you, not your kids, according to parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries and 22 other books. “We blame the kids for not listening; we tune in to them instead of ourselves,” says Borba. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What could I be doing?’ It’s not just what you say; it’s what you do.”

Getting kids to listen takes a time commitment on your part, both in terms of changing your behavior and getting your message across. These 9 steps will help you gain your children’s respect and compliance.

  1. Don’t ask; tell.
    Your kids shouldn’t be doing you a favor; they should be respecting what you say. So don’t turn your statements into questions. “Make sure your comment has a period after it,” says Borba. Watch out for that throwaway ending: “OK?”
  2. Lower your voice.
    It will catch their attention. “ They’re not used to you talking quietly; they’re used to you using the opposite tone,” says Borba.
  3. Be brief and clear.
    Keep it to 10 seconds. If you spend more time than that, they’ll tune you out.
  4. Make sure they’ve heard you.
    Have your kids parrot back what you’ve just said. You’ll know for sure they understand, and it will reinforce the message that you mean business. (Note: This step requires an additional 10-second time commitment on your part.)
  5. Look them in the eye.
    “Get eyeball-to-eyeball instead of talking across the room,” advises Borba. Squat or bend over to make direct contact if need be.
  6. Be realistic.
    If your child is engrossed in something — a game, a book, a TV show — don’t expect him to drop it instantly and swing around to listen to you. (Would you be able, or willing, to do the same if you were in the middle of something?)
  7. Stand your ground.
    Literally. If you don’t get timely compliance, go to your kids and plant your feet in front of them. You don’t have to say anything more. They’ll get the message and know you mean business. “Your expectation is that they stop what they’re doing and listen,” says Borba. “And you’re going to stand there until they do it.”
  8. Take action.
    If they still don’t budge, walk over and turn off the TV or take away the book. “You’re now retraining your kids: “You don’t listen, you don’t watch. This is how we behave,” says Borba.
  9. Model respectful behavior.
    Say “please” the first time you call for their attention or tell them what you want them to do. Say “thanks” when they do it. Think of what you’re showing your kids and ask yourself if you would want them to copy it.

It may take awhile for your kids to change their behavior, especially if they’ve been tuning you out for a long time. But it may also take you awhile to change yours. The good news is, according to Borba: It’s never too late to get your kids to listen to you and follow through. In the process, you just may teach them a thing or two about asking for, and expecting to be treated respectfully by others – and that would make this an invaluable lesson for both of you.

Kids Not Communicating: Are you speaking their language?

While I was kicking the soccer ball with a nine-year-old boy this week, it struck me that family conversations like The Family Meeting really need to be conducted outside in the fresh air. Who likes to be cooped up around the dinner table talking about what needs improving? I actually like the dinner table, ’cause it provides structure for conversations and easy opportunities for life lessons, not to mention the delicious food. But let’s just for a moment, consider that you might be willing to interact with your kids, teach them new skills and get close to their hearts with a bit of outdoor movement.

For many years, I have been working with families in their homes, teaching brain-based parenting skills. These families are kind, involved and caring. Often they have a child with a brain uniqueness such as ADHD. But increasingly, they are families just like yours where parents simply feel overwhelmed, children won’t do as they are told or home organization needs a bit of a touch up. Having earned my master’s degree in physical education longer ago than I care to admit, it has always struck me that when we play with our children they communicate better, feel more attached and even open up more.

So I’ve been thinking lately, “Are we speaking the child’s language or do we need to change things up?

What’s New? The past few years, I’ve been walking into homes with hoola-hoops, exercise balls and SPARKPE equipment, more than the traditional therapy fare. When we introduce families to the concept that we need to SEE IT, SAY IT, WRITE IT, PLAY IT and BUILD IT to LEARN IT, most families are game.

Where to start? Well you likely have sports equipment, lawn chairs, a chess set, a few games and other cool stuff in your home calling out to be used. You could make a portable family activities bag. I have a huge duffel bag I tote on wheels that has all sorts of goodies for engagement.

Inside are:

  • 3 marker boards
  • 10 expo markers
  • A set of base ten math blocks (kids love these for math, building or communicating)
  • 6 tennis balls
  • 6 polyspots
  • 3 cones
  • 1 dodge ball
  • 1 soccer ball
  • 1 deck of cards
  • White paper, graph paper, pens, stickers, glue, tape, scissors and more

What to do?

Got something on your mind? Want to know about your child’s day? Want to help your children practice taking turns and sharing? Family activities open the opportunity for exploration and learning.

A few fast ideas:

1. Kick the soccer ball back and forth, stand rather close together at first so that even beginners experience the feeling of accomplishment.

Now make a game out of it.

  • Parent: “Do you want to play the What’s the right thing to do game?”
  • Child: “No, I just want to play.”
  • Parent: “That’s right, we’ll play. I’ll name a situation when I kick the ball, then you can give me a good idea when you kick the ball. Let’s see.” “What’s the right thing to do when your classmate talks to you when you’re both supposed to be paying attention to the teacher?”
  • Child: “I just ignore him.”
  • Parent: “Right, good idea. What can you actually say?”
  • Child: “I can say, be quiet we’ll get in trouble.”

Change up the questions, give your child the opportunity to ask the questions when he or she gets familiar with the game.

You can have conversations about anything:

  • What family contributions (tasks) can the kids make in our home?
  • What can we do when Johnny takes our toys in the sandbox?
  • What do we do with our bodies when mom says, No!
  • What are three nice things we can do instead of rolling our eyes at our sister.
  • What are three things we can do as a family this weekend?

2. Bounce the tennis ball. There is nothing like rhythm to get the brain engaged. Alternate choosing a new rhythm to bounce the tennis ball to. I always have one ball for each person, bouncing the ball on your own is easier that bouncing it to another person.

3. Pass the talking ball. Are your kids all talking at one time? Identify one ball, stuffed animal or bean bag as the “talking ball.” When you sit or stand to talk as a family be it outside your car, at the kitchen table or in the store, if things get heated or muddled-up have one person hold the ball and only that person speaks everyone else listens.

4. Use many different modalities, if your kids generate a good idea while playing ball or chess, ask them to write it on the marker board to teach other family members later.

5. Play 15-30 minutes at a time. Honestly, a good solid exploration can take place in as little as three minutes.

If this is new to you you may be skeptical or thinks it’s silly. But when you see how the kids connect with you, talk with more ease and use their creativity in making new games, you’ll appreciate the magic of moving while talking. There is no one way to move and talk, but there is ample evidence that movement enhances brain function, improves concentration, decreases impulsivity and engages the brain. For the scientists among you, consider taking a peek at some of the following books:

So get moving before you start talking. Let us know what your family comes up with. We’re interested.

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This post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method”. Used in practice for a number of years, The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world.

 

 

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