Saturday, February 21, 2015

Why Do I Parent The Way I Do?

Have you ever wondered why you parent the way you do? As a parent do you feel the need to discipline over silly little things and find yourself relaxed over things that other parents find important. For example, “My children must wear their bike helmets if they ride their bike, but when they get on their skateboards, I don’t require them to put on a helmet.” Or, “When my daughter’s room is messy, I take away her cell phone but if she breaks her curfew, I seem to let her off the hook.” Sometimes our rational doesn’t make sense. The good news is this might be something you can blame on your parents.. at least part of it anyway. We usually parent how our parents did, even if we hated how they did it. Why? Because often that is the only example we know. These examples are impressed upon our minds during childhood and represent much of what is referred to as “the unconscious”. The mind organizes itself into separate and discrete areas to deal with life’s circumstances. Later on as parents if we are unprepared in how we will deal with a situation we depend on our unconscious. It probably drives you crazy to watch your parents discipline your children, their grandchildren. Many of their parenting techniques seem antiquated. Take for example spanking. Spanking used to be considered a positive form of discipline. We know better now. Many studies have been done on spanking in the U.S. and other countries. The evidence is clear that the effects of spanking are negative. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other professional organizations take a clear stand against the physical punishment of children. Many of these parenting flaws in our lives end up becoming the “norm” in our homes because we were raised with them. The good news is if we understand where our parenting skills originated, they are easier to analyze and change. Improvement comes when we can acknowledge that we are doing it wrong. Then it is important to believe these behaviors are preventable or can be changed. Parents should be able to identify the methods they are using as uplifting and beneficial or harmful and damaging. Children give immediate feedback to your parenting. Pay attention to their behavior and what they say. This type of parenting helps especially if you remember how you felt when your parents used those same tactics on you. Some parents go so far as to let their children set their own rules and punishments. Oft times the kids set stricter on themselves than the parents would be. One thing to remember: You must be an example and model the behavior you desire. Children are too bright to be told to do one thing while they watch you do another. Be honest with your kids and in your dealings with others. Tell the truth. Admit to your children when you make mistakes in your parenting and apologize for them. Apologize when you get angry. Explain to your children what upsets you and why. If you find you cannot change all of your quirky behaviors you can at least acknowledge and laugh about them. This humorous act alone will give your kids the option for change. Maggie Stevens/ParentFix

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Help I'm Losing My Teen

Each week I participate in a parenting podcast where parents submit questions. There is one topic my cohost and I get week after week: “Help, I am losing my teen.” To give you an idea, here is a question I received last week: “Help! I feel like I'm losing my 17 yr old son to rebellion...I've read the comments regarding getting teens to be responsible and pay for different things like cars, phones etc..and I've tried to impose rules requiring a good balance between responsibility and priviledge but my lazy 17 yr old son only wants things his way. I've been battling with him for months about getting a job and pulling his own weight around the house. He just got a 29 ACT score so he's very smart but not acting like it. I think he would rather play in his band than go to college. He will not do chores around the house, except to do his own laundry. He sits around playing X-box and drums. This past weekend I was so totally fed up that I took the car away, and cancelled the xbox subscription. He got mad of course, called me horrible names and spent the weekend at a friends house. It seems that the more rules I impose on my son the more I push him away. I don't know what to do anymore. If I give in he doesn't learn anything. any advice “ Teen rebellion or teens out-of-control is a big issue. Too many parents live in homes that have become battlefields between parent and their teenager. This problem is not isolated to a few families. It is happening in far to many homes. There are many programs set up to prey on parents who are struggling and need help. In desperation, many parents turn to the wrong source for help. There are wilderness survival programs where teens are taken against their will and through basic survival skills are taught to behave. At schools or academy’s teens live their full time and must learn appropriate behavior before they are allowed to leave. that promise change. I am not a fan of these programs because they are very costly and too many parents believe that the end result will automatically fix their child. If you have no other alternative, make sure you have researched the best place for your child. They cost a lot of money($15,000-20,000 a month) The most expensive program is not always the best. One of the things I would look for is a good follow up or after care program. These programs can can clean up your child in a rather short amount of time. The problem comes when your child comes home they fall back into the old behavior. Why? Because they are back in the same environment that led to the deviant behavior. It is important to remove the child from their current environment to break the cycle, including the people in their lives that often contribute to their underlying feelings It is those underlying feelings that are the cause for the deviant behavior. If the goal of the parents is have some one else fix the child, then they will fail no matter how much money they spend or how ever many programs they sign them up for. I believe the problem needs to be solved in the home with parents and child attending regular therapy sessions. The key is a good therapist. If the therapist is not asking for change from both parent and child find a new therapist. Simple Steps for Improving Teen behavior: Parent needs to understand the teenage years and have patience with them as they learn. The teenage years are not only puzzling for you as a parent. The teen years are very confusing for your child. Think of your teen as children in adult bodies. The home cannot be run as a dictatorship. Parents and teens should set the rules together and also agree upon discipline. Positive talk about future plans. Make sure those plans are the child’s dreams, not yours. Listen to your child. What to do if you currently have a troubled teen: Find a good therapist. If you need help, contact me on my website and I will give you the name of a good therapist Be open to attending therapy with your child. Listen to the therapist and realize something is wrong in your home A good therapist may make you uncomfortable because they will be asking you to change You must be open to change and then make the changes The sooner you make changes, the sooner you will see improvement in your child

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What's Your Parenting Style? We all love our kids beyond measure, but there are vast differences when it comes to deciding what our kids should do and how they should behave. We all have a certain style in the way we talk to our children, how we discuss family rules, our expectations, what we will tolerate and how we discipline. Understanding these parenting styles, will hopefully help to improve your parenting. I like to visualize the 5 major types on a scale which adapts as our children grow and we learn. It changes as our children go from toddler to teen. We can vacillate between styles, but we usually gravitate to one side or the other. Drill Sergeant_____________Middle Ground__________________PushOver Let me give you a brief explanation of each style beginning with the far left and far right: Boot Camp/Authoritative: You control every aspect of your child's life, taking over all decision making and enforcing a rigid structure on your child. When it comes to setting rules and expectations with your kids, you're the grownup and you know what's best. And since this is the case, it's not really necessary to always explain the logic or rationale behind your rules and expectations. You are anxious and afraid that if you don't impose control, your child won't get it right on his own. To be fair, you do your best to apply your standards equally to each child. You believe it is important for parents to make decisions for their kids and that, generally, rules and expectations shouldn't be open to discussion. You are an optimizer, making life as perfect as possible for your child. Example: Red Foreman from That 70"s show or Claire Dunphy from Modern Family Push Over: Anything goes! You mostly use a hands-off parenting style. While you give your child a lot of independence, you probably don't feel very connected to her. You may feel too busy or overwhelmed with other obligations to be very involved in your child's life. You bolt when the school volunteer list is handed out. Your children may not develop strong social skills because you prefer not to allow friends to play at your house. Parenting overwhelms you or you may believe your child will learn most of his lessons from outside the home. You do not enjoy conflict with your child, so you do not discipline or set any rules for your child. Your child may not learn how to work through conflict and when things get difficult in life, he may just ignore it. Your child's physical safety is a concern when your child has little or no parenting. Example: Morticia and Gomez Addams from The Addams Family The Middle Ground: The Middle Ground is where love, discipline and respect intersect. This type of parent acts as a teacher and guidance counselor in a child's life. You offer guidance, not control. You understand the real life developmental stage of a child. You are warm and involved, but firm and consistent in setting and enforcing limits. Middle Ground parents have relationships with their teens that include trust, mutual respect, and strong and open communication. You encourage and give your teenagers the freedom to express their own ideas, beliefs and individuality. Middle Ground parenting works because it does three things. First, your warmth, love and involvement make your teen more open to your influence. Second, by providing structure through limits and consequences, your teen develops the ability to regulate his behavior and make good decisions. And third, the open, two-way communication in your relationship helps your teen develop the thinking and social skills needed to succeed outside the family. It takes a lot of effort to be a Middle Ground parent, especially when a parent is exhausted. But the work is worth it. Example: Mike and Carol Brady from The Brady Bunch What's Your Parenting Style Quiz 1. Your baby drops his pacifier at Lagoon? You.. a. No problem, you always carry pacifier wipes. b. Rinse it off when you find a drinking fountain c. Who has time to wash off a pacifier?? 2. You and your five-year-old daughter are having a play date at a friend's house. When asked what she wants for lunch, your shy daughter lowers her head and refuses to answer. What do you do? a. Command her to answer the question immediately, or she is going home. b. Squatting down to your daughter's eye level, you talk her through the situation, helping her answer the question on her own. c. Speak for your daughter, telling the host what she likes and explaining that she is just shy. 3. It's a cold winter day and your three-year-old son refuses to wear a coat. What is your solution? a. Yell at him to stop whining while you force his coat on. b. Sit down with your son and explain why it is necessary to dress warm in cold weather. Involve him in the decision. c. Shrug your shoulders and let him run out the door in whatever he wants. 4. Your four-year-old son refuses to go to bed. How do you react? a. Threaten to lock him in his room if he doesn't go to bed immediately. b. Discuss with him why it is important to get enough sleep. Create a bedtime schedule that give him comfort and routine. Read a story of his choice and snuggle together until he is relaxed and ready to sleep. c. Let him fall asleep in front of the television. 5. You get a call from your son's teacher who explains that your son has carved a hole in the wall and blamed another student for what he's done. What do you do? a. You yell and send your son to his room, grounding him without asking for his side of the story b. Begin by patiently discussing the problem and his reasons for doing it. Help him to repair the damage or earn money to pay to have it fixed. Help him work through why he shouldn't blame other kids and acknowledge it is difficult but important to admit when he has done something wrong. Discuss how he would like to apologize and then guide him through it. Approach your son and when he refused so talk, you throw your hands in the air and tell him he can do what he wants since it probably wasn't his fault anyway. Results: If your answers were mostly B you are a Middle Ground Parent. Congratulations! Studies show that adolescents raised by Middle Ground parents do better in school, report less depression and anxiety, have higher self-esteem and self-reliance and are less likely to engage in all types of risky problem behavior. If most of your answers were A, you may be more of a drill sergeant than a parent. Change your belief that children should conform to your commands. Try to tone down the control and dial up the warmth and love. If most of your answers were C, while your free-wheeling carefree attitude is to be admired, it may serve your children better to have more structure in their lives. Also, give your child a large dose of your undivided attention. In closing, one-size parenting doesn't fit all. Circumstances change as your child moves from toddler to teen. They also change as you become a better parent. We all vacillate between styles, but work towards becoming a middle ground parent.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Secrets to Creating Low Stress Families

Have you ever wondered how your family life compares to others? Most of us at some point in our parenting wonder if what goes on in our home would be considered normal? We should be proud of the fact that each family is unique and have their own personality but sometimes it is nice to get a glimpse into the lives of other families...if for no other reason than to better take care of your own.

Researchers from UCLA did a study on thirty two California families that can help you decide how your family is doing. In the first experiment of its kind, thirty-two California families allowed a three person research team into their homes for four days (morning ‘til night). They conducted this research through interviews with each member of the family. Spending time in each home they witnessed sibling arguments, dinner conversations, homework panics, after school shuttling, temper tantrums, etc. The team measured the stress levels of each family member throughout the day. Through those stressful moments researchers discovered great ways to lower the stress in all of our homes. (The tips also came as the researchers witnessed key instances of warmth and love between family members) Some of the secrets of low stress families will surprise you. Use what they learned to calm the stress and create more joy in your home.

1. Low-stress couples don’t divvy up the chores. One part of the research included the division of household chores between couples and how that related to marital satisfaction. Regardless of who did more, spouses were happier when they were working towards the same goals. Splitting and assigning chores created more of a division...a more his job/my job attitude. With a shared goals attitude there was more of a ‘we-ness’...we do for our family, not, I do this for you. Children pay attention to these interactions. Kids notice how their parents come to solutions in their marriage and will eventually mirror what they have witnessed. If both partners have an understanding of what needs to be done (husband vacuuming while the wife helps with homework) you can get rid of the “keeping score”conflict. One important notation: Researchers noticed that when wives expressed appreciation, husbands did more around the house.

2. Low-stress moms make dinner from scratch. As a heat and serve mom(more than I care to admit), this one surprised me. But I think they have a point. All the families spent approximately one hour preparing dinner, whether it was fresh or processed. The moms who prepared processed, overcompensated by having additional side dishes. Simple, fresh and healthy seems to be the key. Researchers also found it best to encourage help from the kids. When involved with food choices and preparation, the kids ate what was served, engaged in conversation and were happier.

3. Low-stress families find small moments of togetherness. The battle of quality time vs. quantity time is never ending. Quit worrying about expensive family vacations or perfect family outings. Real bonding time comes from the brief moments we spend with our children. Create great conversation when you are driving your kids to a soccer game. Make bedtime a special story and snuggling time. Steal a few minutes right after school. What child doesn’t love the ol’ cookies and milk after school. It is also the perfect time to find out about your child’s day. Family relationships thrive from the simple routines we form in life. Slow down and find time to cherish these moments.

4. Low-stress moms take five minutes of me time. My first reaction to this tip was, who has time for this? Researchers think it is better to take that selfish 5-10 minutes to unwind before trying to tackle family issues. Mom’s especially need to figure out how to unwind and what makes them happy and calm. Whether it is a quick exercise routine, reading a chapter in a book, Jamba Juice, or yoga, find out what makes you your best self. Indulgent as it is, your family needs your best you.

5. Low-stress families watch TV together. I loved this one because it takes some of the guilt away! Sometimes there is just not enough strength or planning time for a more interactive activity. Cut yourself some slack and remember that memories can be created watching the Jazz score a winning basket. It is O.K to spend 30 minutes laughing at the craziness of another family on Modern Family. Or relaxing with a movie, popcorn, and the entire family snuggled under blankets. Whenever you are having positive interaction with your children, you are building relationships. In the end, those bonds are what hold a family together.

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Like You Just The Way You Are!

I Like You Just The Way You Are!

That famous quote came from children’s television personality, Mr. Rogers. Fred Rogers based his television show on the fact that if somebody cares about you, you will care about others. Think about how this applies to you and your children. When you look at your child, is it possible to overlook the flaws and love your child just the way she is? As parents, we spend much of our parenting time teaching and improving, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But I strongly believe that our children need more approval and love.

I see many parents who are chronically disappointed in their kids. When I ask parents in my workshops what would happen if they gave their children permission to be who they really are, many say they felt obligated to be disapproving. We live in an immediate society. At our fingertips, technology hands us urgent and precise answers to every question we have. Living in this world we begin to expect perfection. We must remember that this same approach does not work with our children. As parents we need to tone it down a notch when we are dealing with our kids. Parents must not focus on their children behaving perfectly just because they demand it. We all have a lifetime to work on becoming the best that we can be. Our children need that time. There are steps that must take place in a child’s life for them to grasp certain concepts. To help your children make it in the world, cut back a bit on the expectations and give our children some breathing room.

So how do we make sure our kids know we like them just the way they are?
(This advice is not only for parents, but grandparents too!)

Fun is a necessity! Spend time with your child. Relax and have fun with your children. Fun is what builds respect and strengthens your relationship. Laugh with your kids. You don’t stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing.
Share your dreams and goals for your family. Too often we get caught up in the day to day happenings of our lives and forget to talk with our kids about why we do what we do. Children need to hear your stories of life experiences. That is how they will understand your values. If you share with them the goals you have for the family, they will better understand the decisions you make and your intentions.
Know your child and their capabilities. Every child has talents. Help your child excel by discovering what his are. You can’t expect your child to successfully make it into a prestigious college if they are struggling in high school. Parents set their kids up for failure and disappointments when their expectations are too high. Help them understand what they are capable of and then help them find the path to achieve those goals.
Compliment your kids. Who doesn’t need to be told good things? Notice when your child does something well. Everybody is good at something. Do they dress nicely? Get good grades? Play video games well? Does the dishes? Compliment them on small things, big things...basically anytime you catch them doing good.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we looked at people and jelly beans and we liked them all? And we didn’t just choose the people that we thought were pretty or smart, or ate just the red or black jelly beans because they were our favorite flavors, but realized that people and jelly beans come in a variety and we can enjoy something about each one and love them for what they are.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why Kids Choose The Friends They Do

Do you remember when your mom and dad warned you to stay away from certain kids? And then maybe pushed you to make friends with others? Now that you are a parent I’ll bet you find yourself doing that same thing--mostly without success.

Between the ages of 5 and 12, making friends is one of the most important missions of childhood - a social skill that will endure throughout their lives. Developmentally, school-age children are ready to form more complex relationships. They become increasingly able to communicate both their feelings and their ideas. At this age they are no longer so bound to the family or so concerned mostly about themselves. Friends are important because they share with one another the pleasures and frustrations of childhood.

Choosing friends

A number of factors can come into play as your youngster selects his friends. If he feels good about himself, and if he has been loved and respected within the family, he is more likely to make good choices of friends. If you and your spouse relate to each other well, and if your child has caring and supportive relationships with his brothers and sisters, he will have seen and experienced positive examples of how people can relate, and he will carry these impressions over into his own friendships, including the friends he chooses. On the other hand, if those family experiences have not been supportive and confidence-boosting, he is likely to seek out peers who have similar types of troubles. Make sure your home environment is healthy.
There is a reason children choose the friends they do. As a parent, it is helpful to be aware of what these reasons are and why your child chooses them. Sometimes they pick friends who have personality traits they desire. For example:

Personality Trait Why This is Enticing
Fun Seekers---------Use it to improve their happiness level
Popular----------------Raise their own status with others
Gregarious------------Help them to lose their own shyness
Smart-------------------Makes them feel smarter or help with their grades
Funny-------------------Others want to be around or make them laugh
Cute older brother---Date to the prom
Negative influence---Rebel against their parents

Once you understand why your child has chosen a particular friend, take some time to help your child understand why he has chosen a particular friend. This is will also give you an opportunity to discuss his own values, feelings, and behaviors.

Healthy friendships

A healthy friendship is one in which both children are on an equal footing. Neither child should dominate the other to make all the decisions on what activities to pursue. They should share and make an effort to please each other.

Negative peer influences

Dealing with negative peer influences is a challenge, but there are solutions. Some parents may demand that their own youngster stop spending time with this "bad influence," but this is not the best strategy. Your kids have to find out for themselves who their true friends are and who are people that are using them or just passing through their lives. If you interfere too often, you’ll lose the ability to guide them and you’ll likely make it harder for them to make critical decisions that they need to as they’ll be rebelling against you when choosing their friends rather than using their own judgment.

At the same time, do not hesitate to express your displeasure over the less desirable playmates. Speak calmly and rationally when you explain why you would prefer that your child not spend too much time with them. Let him know the natural consequences if he ends up adopting the unacceptable behavior that you have seen in these other children, while still not absolutely forbidding the friendship. This approach will teach your youngster to think more logically and assume responsibility of his actions, and show that you trust his growing capacity to make the right decisions.

Encourage Self Expression

You want your child to enjoy healthy friendships, but you also want her to have a mind of her own. Teach your child that sometimes friends can disagree, or have different interests, beliefs, or tastes in clothing, music, and hobbies. Encourage her to seek her own path, and give her the confidence to say "no" to a friend whose trying to lead her down the wrong path.

Your child’s preoccupation with people and events outside the family is natural and you should respect her boundaries, but it is imperative to remain actively involved in your child's life. Too often, peers end up filling the vacuum left by parents who are overly critical or largely absent.

So what is a parents role? Stay involved, but remember: You would never want your child to choose your friends, so do not attempt to pick the people your child will associate with.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How To Get Kids Out The Door On Time

School is back in session. The excitement of the first few weeks is over and now you are falling back into old habits of previous years. It seems like there is always something that stops the getting-to-school-on-time momentum cold. It could be you hit the snooze button one too many times and now you are running late. Maybe your son cannot find his backpack or your daughter has changed her outfit ten times. You know all calm has left the house when you’re screeching and threatening “If you’re not out the door in five minutes, no Xbox tonight!”

It is time for a back-to-school morning intervention. Before I mention practical tactics to make your mornings positive, lets understand why it is not a good thing to start every day totally stressed. Studies have found that children who are often tardy have lower GPAs, lower standardized test scores and lower graduation rates. What studies cannot show is the damage that is done to a child’s self esteem when mom is yelling as they leave the house. I guarantee your child will not be performing at his best if your home is a battleground in the mornings.

So lets de-stress your mornings. When your children hear “Hurry up!”, “We’re late!”, “Let’s go!”, they dig their heels in and slow down. It is a natural reaction. Your goal is to be positive and not freak out in the mornings. Preparation begins the night before. Try to get clothes laid out. Plan lunch. Fill backpacks and set them by the door.

If your child has a difficult time waking up in the mornings, instead of walking into their room and barking “get up”, try something different. For younger children, get up 5 minutes earlier and go cuddle with them in bed. It is a delightful and peaceful way to start the morning. When it comes to older children, let your child be self reliant. Most kids will be thrilled to let mom and dad off the nagging track of school on-timeness. Take them to the store and let them pick an alarm that lets them wake up to music. Prepare yourself that there will be late days filled with anxiety. Be there to help, but let them experience it. Eventually, they will figure it out.

Throughout this process, give them positive feed back. Tell them how good they are at getting up on time, or how proud you are of them for preparing their backpack the night before. They will not be perfect everyday, but your goal is to find one thing they are doing right. You no longer need to be the drill sergeant. When you see your child walk out the door with a smile on their face in the mornings, your day will be complete!