Monday, December 28, 2009

Everyone’s “Baby Self”

Some of the most entertaining parenting books I’ve read are those written by Anthony Wolf. Like his other books, The Secret of Parenting: How to Be in Charge of Today's Kids--from Toddlers to Preteens--Without Threats or Punishment is filled practical advice using plenty of humor.

In this book he defines two different sides to everyone’s personality: the baby self and the mature self; “… the baby self must be fed and fed now, and it has zero tolerance for any form of stress. The baby self feeds itself by indulging, collapsing, relaxing, unwinding – soaking up all the good stuff.” He contrasts that with “the mature self is willing to work, will tolerate stress, has patience, has self-control, and can and is willing to delay gratification.”

Parents often see more of the baby self while children save their mature self for situations outside the home. He gives many examples of how to deal with familiar baby self favorites like “You can’t make me!”, “I hate you!”, “It’s not fair!” and “I’m bored.” Wolf presents his parenting wisdom in an amusing way making his books a pleasure to read.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lighting Hope

In this season of holy days and holidays, find a time to gather your family and light a candle. Share a moment of peace together. Ask everyone to think of one wish they have for the world and one thing they could do to help make that wish come true.

Monday, December 21, 2009

When Your Teen’s Viewpoint Is Wrong

Part of being a teenager is separating and individuating your parents. This includes trying on new ideas, especially ideas that don’t match your parents’ ideas!

Mark was exasperated with his son’s lack of appreciation for learning a foreign language. Zach was taking Spanish in school and it happened to be his worst subject.

Wanting Zach to put more effort into his Spanish class, Mark tried explaining the importance of understanding a foreign culture. Zach responded that he lives in America and has no need or desire to learn about other cultures. The more Mark worked on convincing Zach on the benefits of learning Spanish, the more adamant Zach became about why it was a waste of time.

In retrospect, Mark realized he should just have listed to Zach without trying to change his mind. In the future he plans to ask questions about why Zach feels a certain way without trying to convince him to think differently. By detaching himself from Zach’s viewpoints on controversial subjects, Mark believes he can more easily listen without insisting Zach adhere to his philosophy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Family Gatherings: Fun for Everyone?

When families gather together for a celebration, each participant brings their own history, behavior and expectations. When these different expectations and behaviors clash, the celebrations are often far from the peaceful, loving gatherings depicted in TV holiday commercials! However, when common problems can be anticipated and planned for ahead of time, there is a greater likelihood of a joyful celebration rather than a stressful experience.

To make these events positive and fun for everyone, it's helpful to consider the areas that cause stress for many families: preparing and hosting the gathering and monitoring the interactions between children from different families.

Planning, Preparing and Hosting the Family Gathering

One mom wrote seeking ideas for changing her family gatherings. "I come from a largish family (5 children) who still live in the general area. We're all in our fifties now, married with our own children aged 13 to 25. We still get together at one of our houses for every holiday, four times a year (usually numbering 18-23 people). I have to admit, I absolutely dread these get-togethers. For one thing, my sister, aged mother and I do most of the work. The three brothers do less, and the sisters-in-law and nieces and nephews do nothing. As we get older, it gets more and more exhausting, and it seems like I hardly see my siblings other than these get-togethers, where I'm usually irritated and too busy to really talk much to anyone. Is it unusual to get together this often at our ages? Shouldn't the nieces and nephews be contributing by the time they're out of college?"

Sharing the workload is a key ingredient to making family gatherings fun for everyone. If you're encountering this type of problem, think about some new ideas you'd like to try out and discuss them with your spouse or partner. These new ideas which might include:

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Carrying Past Problems Around

Ann described how she helped her foster daughter, Megan, appreciate the impact all her past problems were having on her current life. Ann gathered a big pile of different size rocks. For each problem from Megan’s past, like how poorly she was treated by her mother, Ann instructed Megan to pick out a rock to represent it. They went through all the different terrible things that had happened to Megan. For each one Megan picked out the size rock that represented that horrible event.

Once she had selected all the rocks, Ann asked Megan to get a backpack from her room. She then instructed Megan to put all the rocks in the backpack and put the backpack on. How does it feel to wear the backpack? “It’s really heavy.” Take the backpack off. How does that feel? “Much better!

Ann then compared constantly carrying around all those past problems to carrying the heavy backpack filled with rocks. She encouraged Megan to consider which rocks she could leave out knowing that she could always come back and pick those rocks up later. This exercise really helped Megan feel how she was allowing her past problems to influence her current situation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New approaches to challenging behaviors

When our children’s misbehavior continues despite our efforts to change it, whatever we are doing clearly isn’t working! It’s easy to get into parenting ruts where we continue to use the same response to our children’s misbehavior even though it isn’t having any positive effect.

One mom told me about how angry she was when her boys were supposed to be napping but instead they were goofing around in their bedroom. This had been going on for months despite her efforts to stop it by spanking them or yelling at them. We worked on thinking through other approaches that were more likely to succeed.

When the limits you trying to set on your children’s behavior are not effective, you will often see the behavior continue and most likely escalate. The
Priceless Parenting Guidebook
is filled with ideas for handling everyday parenting challenges. It includes a challenging behavior worksheet for tracking new approaches. By focusing on changing one behavior at a time, parents can build on their successes without becoming overwhelmed by trying to change too much all at once.

Monday, December 7, 2009

When We Can’t Prevent Pain

The mom of a teenage girl called me in tears. One of her daughter’s classmates had told mutual friends something about her daughter’s character that simply wasn’t true. This mom wanted to somehow protect her daughter from the pain of this situation. Unfortunately, we really can’t protect our children from this type of pain.

What we can do is give our children our support. We can listen to their struggles while avoiding trying to solve the problem for them. Allowing them to develop their own emotional resources to deal with unpleasant situations gives them the tools they need to succeed as adults.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Setting Limits with Babies

When do you need to start thinking about setting limits with your baby? As soon as your baby is capable of doing something that causes a problem or hurts someone, it’s time to set a limit. Behaviors that call for parents to set a limit range from throwing food off the highchair to pulling hair and biting.

When my son was 10 months old, he decided to crawl over to his 3-year-old sister and bite her. This certainly hurt and we definitely needed to help him learn that biting was not part of feeling safe together. So whenever he bit her, I’d gently pick him up, carry him to his room and place him on the floor while saying “Uh oh! It’s so sad you decided to bite Kristie.” The door was open so he could crawl back whenever he was ready.

As I left the room, he would start crying and of course Kristie was already crying from being bit. Yikes! The good news is that it only took him a handful of times to learn that biting always meant a trip to his room and he stopped biting her. He also never bit anyone else. Lesson learned!