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.