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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.

 

 

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Difficult Subjects

As parents, we will have numerous opportunities to talk to our children about tough subjects. Topics like death, drugs, bullying and sex…it can be intimidating to know how to engage in these types of conversations.

To make it even more challenging – talking to your children about drugs is a very different conversation than talking to your kids about death. That’s why we created the “How to talk to your kids” series – to give you the advice and tools you need as a parent to handle each subject – no matter how tricky (or uncomfortable) it gets.

On a positive note, although each situation will be different, there are some key points to remember that we can use with our children to help any and all tough conversations run more smoothly.
  • Start the Conversation-Early: Naturally, we want to put off the “tough topics” until we have to. But instead of waiting for these tough topics to find you and your family, start early and talk to your children first. For example, instead of waiting for your child to tell you they have been approached by a stranger, reference the “How to talk to your kids about strangers” post and prepare them first, so they know what to say and how to handle the situation long before it happens.
  • Create an open environment: Provide opportunities for your children to talk about how they feel, what they are worried about, what they are hearing and seeing at school and through the media. We do this by not judging, not over-scheduling our children (so we have time to be with them), and being available at the crossroads to listen. Spend one-on-one time together and build trust.
  • Listen to your child: Determine when your children like to talk. Maybe it is right after school, or at night before bed. Be available during those times. Then let go of your own agenda and really hear your child. Don’t just listen so you can talk. Get to their level, look them in the eyes, and talk less than they do. Don’t ever shut them down and remember that you don’t have to comment on everything.
  • Be honest: Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t have all the answers to their questions. Be honest and tell the truth. We see this a lot with the topic of death. Parents don’t know how to talk to their children, so they might say “grandma is just sleeping.” This just causes more stress and confusion and now you have to answer more hard questions, like “when is grandma going to wake up?” (Keep reading the “How to talk to your kids” series to learn more tips on how to handle specific conversations such as death, sex, drugs, and even what to do when mommy is sick).
  • Be patient: Tough conversations take time. Don’t worry about saying it all the first time you converse. Listen more than you talk, and be patient and hear the entire conversation.
  • Stay on their level: Answer your children’s questions on a level that they can understand. Simple words and explanations work best. Keep the facts appropriate for their age and don’t include more facts than necessary.
  • Use everyday opportunities to talk: Did you just watch a movie where a child was bullied? Use it as a lead-in, to a conversation about bullying. Keep your eyes and ears open for the opportunities that present themselves everyday. They can be natural “openers” for the tough topics. Dr Michele Borba, recognized expert in parenting, bullying, youth violence, and character development, offers some wonderful advice to parents on how they can recognize bullying at any age. As she says “the more we know about bullying, the better we will be able to parent our children”
  • Revisit: Talking about the “tough stuff” once is not enough. Revisit the topics and make yourself available when they have questions they want to revisit.

As parents, if we want to successfully talk to our kids about tough topics, we have to first develop a trusting and comfortable relationship with them. The above 8 suggestions can help us set the stage to better prepare them, and you, for the tough conversations and situations to come.

Video: How to Recognize and Deal with Child Sexual Abuse

It can be difficult to know whether a child is being abused, as the abuser may be secretive about their actions. In this video, aimed at parents and carers, a child sex abuse consultant from the Marie Collins Foundation explains what to do if you think a child is being harmed, and how to discuss the subject of abuse with a child.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

Child sexual abuse is any sexual behaviour directed towards children…by adults, male and female, and by young people themselves.

Child Sexual Abuse Involves Activities Ranging from:

  • Voyeurism
  • to rape of children
  • and now involves sexual behavior online

What Do We Need to Know

  • 1 in 6 young adults reported being sexually abused before age 16 (results of recent UK study)
  • Very few (~25%) tell anyone due to extensive guilt
  • Impact can be extensive

Signs to look for

  • Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys/objects
  • Nightmares/sleeping problems
  • Withdrawing or becoming clingy
  • Personality changes or regressing to younger behaviors
  • Unaccountable fear of particular places or people
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Physical signs
  • Becoming secretive

How Do We Handle This

  • If someone makes you uncomfortable around your child, and you suspect someone is abusing your child – call a helpline and talk to someone
    • UK: 0808 1000 900
    • US & Canada: 800-422-4453
    • Australia: 1 800 55 1800
  • Talk to your child
    • adjust the conversation to their age
    • try not to act shocked – be reassuring
    • try not to interrupt other than to check that the child is alright
    • let them know you will keep them safe, but you will need to bring in help – the police or children’s services – to do that.

It’s a big step to make that call and accuse someone and we often hesitate – but if you don’t – know that the abuse will continue and the child or children could be affected for the rest of their life.

Additional UK Resources:

  • Childline: 0800 1111
  • NSPCC National Child Protection Helpline: 0800 8005000
  • Child Exploitation and Online Protection: www.ceop.police.uk/report-abuse
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From www.nhs.uk

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A Day in the Life of an Anxious Stepmother

How do you cope with worry over your children? I have always been a worst case scenario type of woman. I struggle with anxiety on a nearly daily basis. My step-son, however, has never evoked particular anxiety in me. He’s a sweet kid and funny to talk to. I enjoy spending time with him and we usually just hang out and play with legos or chase each other in the yard.

We don’t see each other often and I’ve never experienced him falling or injuring himself in one of the numerous ways I hear boys his age do. I had never truly feared for his safety until a couple of weeks ago.

My husband and I went for a day hike up in North Georgia. We only bother with our phones during a day hike if we are worried about getting lost. Usually, we keep them on airplane mode or even leave them in the car. We hiked probably five miles that day before heading back around dinner time.

My husband checked his phone for the first time as we approached the car. He had a text from his mom saying that his son had fallen and hit his head on the radiator and they were in the emergency room. That was all it took. The anxiety took over in a matter of minutes. I trained as an EMT, I know what head trauma can do. I have experience with brain injuries caused by concussions and now all of that prior knowledge is flooding into my thoughts. I need more information.

I urge my husband to call his mom since the message was an hour ago. He glances at me pointedly and calls her. No one answers. We call her a couple of more times, no response. I am flustered. Why would she only send that one text? Don’t they know we need to know how bad it is?!

My husband calls his dad who answers the phone with a smile in his voice, I am annoyed instead of relieved. How can he smile at a time like this? I must know how badly my step-son is hurt. I need all the information.

I start whispering commands to my husband about what to ask and when his dad says “well, he won’t need to have his head removed,” I start sputtering so loudly that my husband gets annoyed. It should be noted, he has not panicked at any point.

It turned out that everything was fine, there would be bruising and if he fell and hit his head again, he would need to see a doctor immediately. My husband’s parents scheduled a follow-up appointment and that was that. We called Darion later to check on him and he was excited to watch Doctor Who all night.

My panic was unwarranted and next time, I will try harder to keep my calm until I actually know what’s going on. Both for my own mental sake and the sake of those around me.

I only realized later how badly I had freaked out and it made me think about those of you who do this full time. I’m deeply impressed with the mental strength and fortitude is takes to be a parent.

Mental health is so important and you must have some amazing coping mechanisms.

Please know, I see you holding that crying baby and calmly catching your toddler before she can hit the ground again as she explores the sidewalk, and I am impressed. I know you’re working so hard to keep everything balanced and raise beautiful children and I want to recognize you for that and tell you that we will keep supporting you the best we can.

I would love to hear from you guys!

Tell me your stories of panic-inducing moments or drop tips in the comments about how you support your mental health as a parent or caregiver.

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