Thursday, September 30, 2010

Please read me a story!

If you have young children, are you reading stories to them every day? According to the Reach Out and Read organization, “Reading aloud to young children is the single most effective thing parents can do to help prepare their children to succeed in school.”

Unfortunately, not all children are read to daily. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study followed 14,000 children born in 2001. What percentage of those children were read stories daily by family members? I was shocked to find out that in all age groups, it was less than 46%!
  • 9-months-old: 32.5%
  • 2-years-old: 45.3%
  • 4-years-old: 38.6%

Besides spending some wonderful time together, reading stories together provides opportunities for discussing your values with your children. Recently I was reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to a group of preschoolers. We got to the part where Alexander’s best friend has just demoted him from best friend to third best friend at which point Alexander says to him “I hope you sit on a tack.” We had a great discussion around questions like “Is it ok to say mean things to people if you’re really mad at them? What else could Alexander have done?”
Enjoy reading a story to your children tonight!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bullying at school

NorthWest Cable News' recent "Back to School with NorthWest Families" program covered the problem of bullying at school. This is a significant problem in the lives of far too many students. By gaining a deeper understanding of what is really going on in schools, you will be in a better position to help your child.

Bullying takes various forms including threats, taunting and spreading vicious rumors. Now with the internet, cyberbullying takes bullying to a whole new level. I participated in this program by discussing some of these challenges with Shaniqua Manning, the show's News Anchor.

Click this picture to watch the 5 minute video:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Do your children hate your phone?

What do your children really think about the phone calls you answer and the texting you do when you’re with them? NBC’s Dateline producer Kate Snow did a short interview with young children about their feelings on this.

During the discussion, one boy states "I wish phones were never invented!" Snow responds "Ouch! That’s right parents. Our need to always be plugged in is sending our kids a message that they’re not as important."

This two minute video provides insight about how children feel and react to being interrupted by phones.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

3 Keys to Developing Children's Empathy

Children are not born with empathy. They are born with the capacity to have empathy but it only develops under certain conditions. Parents play a critical role in developing their children's empathy.

In their book, Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential - and Endangered, Perry and Szalavitz write “The essence of empathy is the ability to stand in another's shoes, to feel what it's like there and to care about making it better if it hurts.” They document numerous cases where children have not experienced adequate empathy while growing up. These kids' behavior towards others also reflects a lack of empathy which often leads to serious problems.

There are three key things you can do to help develop empathy in your children:
(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What would your kid do?

We’d all like to believe our children would make the right choice when presented with a challenging situation like whether or not to answer the door to a stranger. But would they make the choice you hope they’d make?

"The Perils of Parenting" program, produced by NBC's Dateline, tested kids in tough situations like these:
  • A stranger comes to the door with a badge asking to come in to inspect milk. Would your child let him in?
  • What would your child do if she were playing a video game with a group of kids and one of the kids started bullying another one?
  • Would your child approach a car when the driver calls out to them that he needs help finding his lost puppy?
  • Would your teen get into a car when he knows that the driver has been drinking? 
  • If your young child was told not to peek at a toy on a table behind him, would he peek?
They tested these situations using hidden cameras where the parents were in a room watching as the scenes unfolded. Parents knew the choice they hoped their children will make – but often they expressed doubt as to whether their child would really make the wise choice. In this unscientific test, parents who periodically drilled their kids on what to do in situations like these made better choices.

What would your child do? This show just might encourage you to have a few more discussions with your children about handling tough situations!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why, why, why?

Recently I spent time with a family whose 3-year-old was seriously testing his parent’s patience by asking "why?" after almost everything they said. Their older boys had not gone through the stage of relentless "why?" asking and they certainly wished Caleb would have skipped this stage too! They were ready to scream the next time he asked that question!

What's going on with young children that cause them to act like this? According to the Adlerian theory of behavior, children's behavior has a purpose with the goal of feeling belonging and significance. By looking at Caleb's behavior from this viewpoint, he feels a sense of belonging when he can participate in the conversation. Given his limited conversational skills at this age, one of the easiest ways he can continue the conversation is by asking "why?"

He also gains a sense of significance since asking "why?" typically gets a response from his parents. They can sometimes get a break by asking him in return "Why do you think that happened?" Soon Caleb will develop more sophisticated conversation skills, but until that day they are working on their patience!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Formula for Communicating Better with Children

It's easy to respond to your children's behavior in ways that shutdown communication.  If your child comes to you upset because his sister won't share a toy with him, the response that pops into your mind might be "I'm so tired of your fighting!" or "Stop complaining and play with something else."  Saying something like this may get him to go away but probably won't make him feel understood.

In her book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, Naomi Aldort describes her SALVE formula for better communication.

S – "Separate yourself from your child’s behavior and emotions with a Silent Self-talk. This is the hardest step; once you can do it, the rest flows easily. Notice that when your child’s action elicits your reaction, your mind puts words into your mouth. … To avoid hurting your child, read the words on the automatic window silently in your head."

A –“Attention on your child. When you have silently investigated the conversation inside your head (which has nothing to do with your child), shift your attention from yourself and your inner monologue to your child.”

L – "Listen to what your child is saying or to what his actions may be indicating; then listen some more. Make eye contact with your child and ask questions that would provide him with an opportunity to speak some more, or if the child expresses himself non-verbally, to let him know that you understand"

V – "Validate your child’s feelings and the needs he expresses without dramatizing and without adding your own perception."

E – "Empower your child to resolve his own upset by getting out of his way and trusting him. Show confidence in his resourcefulness by not getting all wound up and by not rushing to fix everything."

In the situation where your son has come to you upset because his sister won't share a toy with him, the SALVE formula night work like this:

S - You think "I'm so tired of your fighting!" but you don't say this.
A - You look at your son.
L - You listen and summarize, "You asked to play with her zoo animals but she said no."
V - You validate his feelings, "You're mad because you can't play with the zoo animals right now."
E - You let him decide on what to do next.

The Listening and Validating steps may take awhile as your son continues to discuss the situation.  By not jumping in to solve the problem, you empower him to figure out how to resolve it. 

Check out her book for a more indepth explanation of the SALVE formula plus many other examples:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Seeking guidance from other parents

Parenting is challenging in many ways. However, there is a lot of help available. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel or go it alone. By reaching out to other parents I learned that almost everyone is struggling with similar issues.

Other parents are usually happy to share what they’ve learned when asked! The Priceless Parenting discussion forum is a place where you can ask other parents for their ideas and it's free to join.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Celebrating your parenting success

When's the last time you took time to recognize and celebrate one of your parenting successes?  From small parenting accomplishments like keeping your cool while your child melts down to big ones like launching your teen into college, give yourself a pat on the back!

We are so busy raising our children that it can be difficult to take time to slow down and think about what we've done well.  What milestones has your family recently accomplished?
  • Your baby's first birthday - parenting the first year deserves a celebration
  • Your child getting potty training - now there's something to really celebrate!
  • Your child starting kindergarten, middle school, high school or college - milestone events
We recently dropped my daughter off for her first year of college. I knew that letting her go might be challenging since it's an area my parents struggled with when it came time for me to leave the house.  So I worked especially hard to see the exciting transition from my daughter's viewpoint and not burden her with any guilt for leaving.  I think I did well.  I have a real sense of accomplishment in helping her successfully get settled into college.  Now that's something worth celebrating! 

Wherever you are in parenting, whatever success you've experienced, take time to appreciate the hard work you've put into parenting!