Thursday, November 27, 2008

Obama’s parenting

Let’s set aside how Obama will perform as President and instead look at how Barack and Michelle handle parenting. Many noticed that in his presidential acceptance speech he included his promise to his daughters to get a puppy after the campaign was over. What did his girls think when their dad mentioned his promise to them of a puppy in his speech? Perhaps they stood a little taller knowing their dad valued his promise to them enough to mention it in his speech.

Yesterday Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha spent time handing out food at a Chicago church’s food bank. According to an article in the Seattle Times, Barack said he brought the girls to the church because “I want them to learn the importance of how fortunate they are and to make sure they're giving back.”

This week I read that the girls will have to do chores at the White House. Another excellent parenting move on the part of Michelle and Barack! Doing chores teaches children many valuable lessons and luckily Malia and Sasha won’t be missing out on these important lessons.

Barack has also “called on fathers to do more to support their children growing up, invoking his own absent dad.” He values family and especially emphasizes the responsibilities fathers have in raising their children.

Given the few glimpses of their parenting, it looks like the Obamas will serve as wonderful parenting role models. Having their family in the White House brings hope of a greater focus on the importance of parenting.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reducing holiday stress

In December I often find myself feeling stressed out with everything I’m trying to get done. Now it happens that besides Christmas, my son, husband and a number of other family members also have birthdays in December. One year I wrote down all the extra tasks I do in December. My list included 20 additional tasks! Just looking at the list helped me realize why I sometimes feel overwhelmed at this time of year.

Writing down the list also helped me think through my choices. I certainly did not have to do every item on the list but almost all the items were things I wanted to do. I reduced my stress by eliminating any items that I didn’t really want to do and starting earlier on certain tasks.

I want the holidays to be fun, happy times for my family. By controlling my stress level, I’m able to be the kind of parent I want to be and the holidays are more fun for everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The science of raising children

Temple University psychologist, Laurence Steinberg, has written a book titled The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting. The principles are based on research in child development. He explains “One of the most encouraging findings from research on children’s development is that the fundamentals of good parenting are the same regardless of whether your child is male or female, six or sixteen, an only child, a twin, or a child with multiple siblings. They are the same regardless of whether the primary parent is a mother, father, or some other caregiver. The basic principles of good parenting have been corroborated in studies done in different parts of the world, with different ethnic and racial groups, in poor as well as in rich families, and in families with divorced, separated, and married parents.”

He goes on to say “In my view, good parenting is parenting that fosters psychological adjustment – elements like honesty, empathy, self-reliance, kindness, cooperation, self-control and cheerfulness.” He provides a scientific background for his criteria in what constitutes good parenting. You can read a brief overview of the ten principles and read the book for more details.

He points out “… no doubt there will be readers who see the ten principles as little more than common sense. But although the principles certainly make sense, their use is anything but common.” There definitely is a big gap between parenting practices that make sense and being able to follow these practices day in and day out!



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Never mind, I’ll do it!

As parents we can find ourselves frustrated by the lack of speed our children have in getting tasks done. When we are tired of waiting or really need something done right now, we may find ourselves saying “Never mind, I’ll do it!” It often takes less time and energy to simply do it ourselves. However, when we jump in and do something our children should be doing, we are stealing the opportunity for them to increase their self discipline and sense of responsibility.

What do our children think when they hear us say “Never mind, I’ll do it”? Perhaps thoughts like:
  • I can get out of doing work if I simply delay long enough.
  • Dad is mad at me but at least I don’t have to do it.
  • I’m kind of lazy.

Since there are no positive messages being sent in this situation, it’s something to avoid doing.

One dad described being so frustrated with his 5-year-old’s slowness in getting dressed that he finally took over and dressed his son. In his anger he scolded his son saying he was acting like a baby and shouldn’t need help getting dressed. What thoughts was this boy probably having about himself in this situation? What thoughts was he having about his dad?

Another approach this dad could have taken was to give his son the choice of getting dressed at home or taking his clothes in a bag and getting dressed at school. Allowing our children to accomplish their own tasks in their own way is a gift which will help them grow.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Parents who are hard on themselves

This was the last week of a seven week Priceless Parenting discussion group. One mom came up to me at the end and stated “This is the first parenting class I’ve taken where I haven’t left feeling like I’m a bad mom.” I was glad to hear that she felt supported as a parent instead of criticized.

Parenting is really difficult. Our children challenge us and cause us to grow in ways we never imagined before having kids. I give any parent taking a parenting class a lot of credit for working hard to be the best parent possible. These parents tend to set high expectations for themselves and are sometimes too hard on themselves when they don’t handle every parenting situation as they would ideally like to.

Another mom said she was so happy to hear in one of the lessons that it took me a couple years of practice before I was able to primarily respond with empathy rather than anger to my children’s misbehavior. She was pleased to know she didn’t have to accomplish this in just seven weeks! Changing your own behavior takes time, dedication and plenty of practice.

Taking a parenting class should increase your skills while leaving you feeling better about your parenting, not worse. While there isn’t one parenting technique that will magically work with all children, there are many approaches that work extremely well. I’ve tried to capture this information in the Priceless Parenting class so that parents can have easy access to this knowledge and enjoy parenting more.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Too tired to set limits

One mom told the story of how not setting a limit led to a painful experience. She was very tired and had just put her youngest down for a nap. However, her 4-year-old son said he wasn’t tired. Instead of resting, he wanted to work on his racing skills. His plan was to run up and down the hallway to improve his speed.

Mom decided to lay on the coach for a little rest. Her son eventually started ending his hallway run by jumping onto the coach. At first he was jumping on near her feet but with each successive run, he got a little closer to her head. She had her hands near her face for protection in case he got too close … which is exactly what happened. His knee hit her squarely on the bridge of her nose. Immediately there was blood and tremendous pain. Luckily a trip to the doctor confirmed her nose had not been broken. Yikes!

I know how it feels to be really tired and want just a few minutes of rest. It can take all the energy we have plus some to deal with our kids at these times. Sometimes it’s only in hindsight that we realize had we taken the time to set a limit earlier, the ultimate cost would have been much less.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Choosing your response

Yesterday morning my son forgot to take his trumpet along to catch the bus. He ran back to the house to get it and when he ran back to the bus stop he sadly saw the bus just pulling away. He dashed back home and asked me for a ride to school.

I knew what I was going to do … give him a ride to school. Now my choice was how I was going to be during that drive … crabby and irritated or calm and pleasant. I choose to be pleasant. I didn’t lecture or even mention any payback for my time driving him (and later in the day he gladly helped me with a couple things I needed to get done).

Thankfully this is the first time this year he’s missed the bus. However, there have been similar situations in the past where I’ve chosen to be crabby and irritated while providing a ride. Even I don’t like being in the car with myself when I’m acting that way! Although driving him to school wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time, choosing to be calm and pleasant made the situation much better for both of us.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ranting and raving with poor results

I was visiting a company last week and overheard a woman loudly complain “I’m changing the copier paper again! Nobody else must use the copier because I’m the one always changing the paper. Everyone else here is just lazy!” A minute later she proclaimed “This is the third time I’ve said this out loud. I can’t believe how lazy everyone else is!”

She was clearly irritated. However, the way she chose to express herself was both ineffective and insulting to her co-workers. Ranting loudly and calling people lazy is not a successful formula for motivating people to change their behavior!

This reminds me of similar situations I’ve witnessed between parents and their children. Parents will sometimes complain loudly about their children’s behavior hoping that hearing this will somehow motivate their children to positively change. They are disappointed when the ranting motivates their children to leave the situation but not change the desired behavior.

In this office example, a better approach would have been for her to mention the problem during a staff meeting. She could explain that she feels frustrated because it always seems to be her responsibility to change the copier paper. She could then either ask for suggestions for resolving the problem or offer her own solution. They could choose an option, try it out and discuss it further if needed. This approach would allow her to treat her co-workers with respect while working together towards a solution.