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Special Needs Kids Are All Around Us – Please Teach Acceptance

Maybe I am sensitized to the topic, but it seems like everywhere I turn these days people are talking about special needs kids.  Sometimes it’s sad, like the Canadian boy who took his own life, and sometimes it’s joyful, like the radio DJ who asked, “What can we do better to help kids with special needs in our community?”

Clearly kids with special needs is a hot topic. I hope this is a trend toward acceptance.

Additionally just this past weekend, U.S. President-elect Joseph Biden Jr. said the following in his acceptance speech: “We must make the promise of the country real for everybody — no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability.”  What followed was a deluge of appreciation on Twitter – it was the first time a President or Prime Minister had included the disabled in their call for a better future.

Each time you see someone who is different you have a chance to teach your child that the person has rights in our society just by saying hello to them, holding a door open or even just smiling. Actions really do speak louder than words, and it may give you a chance to examine your own attitudes and prejudices.

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Editor’s Note:  The federal funding law for autism, was renewed in 2019 for another five years as the Autism CARES Act of 2019. The original law was signed by President George W. Bush and the 2011 and 2014 bills were signed by President Obama and the 2019 law by President Trump. Total funding under the act should exceed $369 million by 2024 for autism research, services, training and monitoring by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

If We Want Ethical Kids, They Need to Learn “Honor” From Us

We all wish to grow healthy, happy relationships with our children. We interact, play and talk with our children to enjoy one another and feel connected. In those moments when we are in conflict with our kids at home, we wonder “What can I do to enhance my relationships with my children?”

One way to improve our relationships is to show that we honor one another.

In its simplest terms, honor is the degree of value, worth and importance you place on a relationship. It is granting another person a position of value in your life.

You likely model honor in your own home naturally. You are caring, loving and trustworthy. If you are ready to delve deeper, here are some steps to spring you forward in the depth and experience of teaching honor in your own home.

Honor begins at home here’s why:

  • You are your kid’s finest role model. If you respect your children in your words and behaviors they learn to do the same with others.
  • Honor is about allegiance, when you teach your children to honor their relationships they become friends who stand up for one another, support one another and are true to each other.
  • Honoring honesty, hard work and patience builds children who value hard work and completing tasks to their rightful end.

Reflect for a moment: Do you honor your relationships? Is it important to you that people honor and give value to what you say and feel? How do you show your kids that you honor them?

Here are some questions to ponder. You might even wish to write them in a journal and note what you do, when and why? This process will bring honor front of mind, help you monitor your tone and change your behavior as needed.

  • Do I talk with my children eye to eye?
  • Do I share their exuberance when they show me their schoolwork?
  • Do I make their lunches based on what’s quick or do I buy food that will keep them healthy, and that they in turn like?
  • Do I take phone calls in my car when I am with my kids?
  • Do we make an effort to sit down to family breakfast and dinner?
  • Do I attend my children’s activities and pay attention to them, or do I take calls on my cell phone while my children are doing their best to show me their achievements? **Editor’s note:  although Covid-19 has significantly curtailed our children’s ability to participate in a number of activities, the question is still worth considering: when you are with your child, are you “with them”?
  • Do I involve my children in the tasks of everyday life such as cleaning, cooking and caring for our home? Or do I tell them “I’ll do it” because that is easier than working through the process with them or dealing with pending messes?
  • Do I take the time to genuinely learn about my child’s interests?
  • Do I schedule my work hours when the kids are doing their schoolwork (irrespective of location), or do I work at home all hours of the night when they are not engaged in schoolwork and need time with me?
  • Do I focus on what my children do right rather than what my children do wrong?

No one is perfect, but when we strive to be mindful about how we honor our family, it builds trust, respect and love.

In relationships where we honor one another, listen to our children’s unique voices and really hear what they need, we improve how we communicate, how we express our love and how we get along across a lifetime.

If you are ready to take steps today try this:

  1. Be consistent with your children.
  2. Be attuned to their individual needs.
  3. Respond to your kids by getting off the couch, computer or phone and going to them. Proximity matters when you are communicating with your children.
  4. Take your child’s concerns seriously. This means acknowledging their feelings. Do not mock or tease your children. Sarcasm is painful and it cuts deeply.
  5. Match your child’s exuberance and excitement by sharing whole-heartedly in their joy.
  6. Give your children your undivided attention in the moments they need you.

If we wish to raise ethical kids in this complicated world, we need to begin with the lessons we teach at home. Being present, modeling respect and showing the meaning of honor is a solid start at any age.

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.

This Holiday Season, Ask Yourself – Am I Raising a Spoiled Child?

“Spoiled! Not my kid!” Right??? Or would you admit that your child is just a tad bit spoiled?

All the polls say that most Americans feel kids today are more spoiled than ever. A TIME/CNN poll found that two out of three parents feel their kids are spoiled. A poll by the New American Dream showed 70 percent of parents believe kids are too focused on buying things. I have to say I agree with the polls. The truth is there is no gene for spoiled. We have ourselves to blame for this one. Spoiled is clearly a learned behavior and one that is none too pleasant. But the good news is that this trait can be turned around. The first step to a makeover is realizing why spoiling our kids doesn’t do them any favors. The second step is taking an honest reflection to see if your child is moving into the “spoiled category.” Here is how to get started:

The Dangers of Raising Spoiled Kids

Of course we love our kids and want the best for them. We don’t want to see them unhappy for a single second. But indulging our kids’ every little whim doesn’t do our kids any favors. In fact, there are a few dangers to overindulging kids. Here are my top four concerns:

  • Don’t win popularity contests. Forget the birthday party invitations. Spoiled kids are not pleasant to be around. Other children do not like them because spoiled kids are often bossy and selfish. Who wants to be around a kid who always wants thing to go his way, who rarely shares, and who considers his own needs first? Adults (especially teachers) are turned off to spoiled kids because they are often rude and make excessive demands.
  • Reduces perseverance. Because everything comes a bit easier, a spoiled child has a tougher time handling the downsides of life. Spoiled kids are used to getting their way ASAP so they not only may have reduced perseverance when it comes to schoolwork but also a tougher time handling advertisy and the harder parts of life.
  • Lowers self-esteem. New research shows that always getting what you want leads to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, more psychosomatic complaints, and worse relationships with parents.You’re also in danger of the raising an “always unsatisfied” kid who always wants more and is never appreciative.
  • Robs character. Watch out! Spoiled kids often measure their worth based on what they have instead of who they are. They have a tougher time in the “empathy” department of feeling for others (a benchmark of ethical behavior) because they are more concerned about themselves.

But how do you know if your kid is spoiled? Here is my four word review for spoiled.

A Four-Word Test For a Spoiled Kid

There are four words that typically describe spoiled children. How is your child doing? Here is my four-word test for a spoiled kid that I shared on the TODAY show:

  • “NO!” She can’t handle the word. He expects to get what she wants and usually does. Take my Toy store test. Your child is in walking down the toy aisle and wants a toy he doesn’t need. You say no. Can you kid handle no (or does he beg, nag or have a tantrum to get his way).
  • “ME!” She is self-centered and thinks the world revolves around her. She thinks more of herself than about others. She feels “entitled” and expects special favors and generally succeeds in getting them. He watches TV. You do the housework. She doesn’t like the dinner. You cook another meal just for her. He wants an extension on his homework assignment that he never got around to doing and expects the teacher to give it to him.
  • “GIMME!” A spoiled kid is more into getting than receiving, because she has so much and she just wants more. She’s generally unappreciative and a bit greedy. You can’t think of what to give her for the holidays because she already has everything. He requests things only by brand name. She bases her character on what she owns and wears instead of who she is. Do you feel more like an ATM machine than a parent?
  • “NOW!” A spoiled kid just can’t wait and wants things A.S.A.P. It’s just plain easier to give in to this child than to postpone her request. She interrupts when you’re on the phone and expects you to stop. And you do. She whines to get the cookie-n.o.w.-and can’t wait for after dinner.

Be honest…Do any of those words fit your child’s typical behavior? Any one words could indicate that your child is moving into the “spoiled” category. Here is another quick test: Do you think an outsider would consider your child spoiled? If so, it’s time for a serious makeover.

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Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—along with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, it hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy. The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured.  UnSelfie is a blueprint for parents and educators who want activate our children’s hearts and shift their focus from I, me, and mine… to we, us, and ours.  It’s time to include “empathy” in our parenting and teaching!  UnSelfie is AVAILABLE NOW at amazon.com.

5 Tantrum Parenting Mistakes and the Tamers That Keep You Sane

No one wants to be the parent with the red-faced toddler screaming and crying at the grocery checkout because he can’t have Gummi Bears. But when parents attempt to calm kids down, they often get it wrong, according to experts.

Here are the most common mistakes parents make — and what works instead.

Tantrum Mistake No. 1: You try reasoning with him.

Parents tend to keep talking and explaining to their overwrought child why he can’t have the thing he wants. “He’s emotionally wound up and incapable at that moment of being logical,” says Susan Stiffelman, a family therapist and author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected. “Trying to make him think rationally will actually make him feel more alone.”

Tantrum Tamer: Stop talking. After your initial explanation, don’t say another word to him, suggests Stiffelman. Once he realizes his tantrum isn’t getting him anywhere, he’ll calm down.

Tantrum Mistake No. 2: You’re unclear about the rule.

If you tell your child “No” but then start hedging as his tantrum escalates, he’ll sense your hesitation and keep at it until you give in, says Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12.

Tantrum Tamer: Spell it out and stick to it. “If you’re clear and consistent, pretty soon the kid will understand that when you say “No,” you mean no, and if he pushes, nothing good will come of it.”

Tantrum Mistake No. 3: You’re not empathetic.

It’s hard to have sympathy in the middle of a meltdown, but not acknowledging that your child is upset makes him feel that his frustrations are going unheard, according to Stiffelman.

Tantrum Tamer: Show you understand. If your child goes ballistic when the baby sitter arrives, say something like: “It doesn’t seem fair that you can’t go out to dinner with Mommy and Daddy tonight.” But don’t add an explanation; that will make things worse. Expecting a young child to understand is unrealistic because … he won’t.

Tantrum Mistake No. 4: You lose your temper.

One out-of-control person is enough. What’s more, “you’re modeling bad temper to your child,” says Phelan. “Although sometimes you can intimidate him into quieting down, this will only give you a false sense of control.”

Tantrum Tamer: Keep quiet. Remain calm and say nothing. And if you’re in a public place, leave as quickly as possible.

Tantrum Mistake No. 5: You ignore his needs.

You’re asking for trouble if you’re not tuned in to what sets him off, according to Stiffelman. You can avoid many meltdowns by taking his needs into account.

Tantrum Tamer: Think ahead. If your child frequently has a meltdown when you two spend the entire morning running from store to store doing errands, adjust your schedule accordingly. Not playing to your child’s tantrums helps restore calm — for both of you.

And while you can’t always avoid meltdowns, having smart strategies lets you keep them from escalating and stop them sooner.



Why Research Says it’s Actually Good for Kids to Daydream

School has been in session for a couple of months now, but winter break is still weeks away. This is prime time for kids to start to be a little less focused, distracted, and perhaps even daydream during school time. In our culture of hyper-stimulation and constant information flow, the idea of daydreaming often get met with judgmental glances and even reprimand from teachers. While we all want our kids to focus on their school work, research suggests that there may be a valuable place for daydreaming as well.

In recent years, researchers have begun to look into what the brain does during these times of “day dreaming” or what they call “inward attention.” They are beginning to see how time spent focused inward may actually help students focus better on outward tasks. Some research has shown that when times of inward reflection were incorporated into the school day, students often became less anxious, performed better on tests, and were able to plan more effectively.

Time for inward reflection is also linked to social-emotional development. In order to understand the feelings of others, our own feelings, and gain insight into moral decision-making, allowing time of inward reflection is necessary. Kids’ brains are still quite immature in many ways. If time is not allowed for them to decompress from constant input and have time to actually make meaning of all the information they absorb, it will ultimately have no place in their lives in the long-term.

This idea of inward attention, of course, goes against much of our cultural atmosphere at this time. We are constantly bombarded by information, technology, screens, etc. Even for adults, this constant stimulation can be overwhelming, but for kids it can be paralyzing. I’ve seen examples of this in my own experience with youngsters. While volunteering in my son’s kindergarten class, I sometimes notice kids just staring off into space and not “paying attention.” While they may seem “unfocused” to the observer, I wonder if they are not just having a moment of this “inward attention” to help their brain re-group from all the stimulation.

Children are learning and absorbing information almost constantly, especially at school. It’s great to be able to allow them some time to just day dream or let their mind wander without having to worry about the end product. I have noticed this even with my 3-year-old. After playing for a while, he will often just lay down and drink something or hold a toy, seemingly “doing nothing.” After a few minutes, however, he will perk up and say something clever or begin playing in a new way. It seems that, given the opportunity, kids will carve out this “day dreaming” time for themselves.

If this time of inward attention is so important for children’s development, how can we allow space for this in our homes?

  • Allow time after school for kids to “decompress” from the day without other forms of stimulation (e.g., TV, tablets, etc.)
  • Allow for quiet time on a regular basis. Kids may resist this at first, but once it becomes routine they usually learn to enjoy it. They can read books or play quietly with toys but the overall goal is time without a set goal or schedule.
  • Time in nature can often promote inward attention. Allow kids plenty of time to be outside, go for hikes or just play in the leaves.
  • Promote a mindset of reflection in your home. Recognize that not everything you or your child does has to be productive. This goes against what our culture tells us, but it’s possible. Your child spending an hour playing in the leaves or sitting in their room daydreaming is not “wasted time.”

We all know the importance of children learning to focus their attention on tasks or assignments. In fact, the ability to focus on a task and persist when it gets difficult has been linked to many positive outcomes for kids. An inward focus, however, may be equally important for children to help develop these focusing skills, as well as develop social-emotional skills.

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