Critical Comments Flow Freely from Parents

Do you make more positive comments or negative comments to your children? If you're like most parents, you make a lot more negative comments than positive ones. In her book, Building Moral Intelligence, Dr. Michele Borba writes "studies reveal that the average parent makes 18 critical comments to his child for every one positive comment."

Really? Could we really be making that many critical comments to our children? In their article, "Why Our Kids Are Out of Control", Azerrad and Change report "Glenn Latham, Ed.D., a family and educational consultant, has found that adults typically ignore 90 percent or more of the good things children do. Instead, they pay attention to children when they behave badly."

Sadly the research clearly indicates that parents easily fall into the habit of paying more attention to misbehavior than good behavior.

Getting Attention for Misbehavior

Whenever you find yourself yelling at your kids or nagging them, you're focusing on the behavior you don't want. Statements like these focus on children's misbehavior:
  • "Stop whining!"
  • "Don't look at me that way."
  • "You're wasting time - now get going on your homework."
  • "Quit your fighting!"
  • "Don't lie to me."
By giving attention to misbehavior, we actually increase the chance that the misbehavior will be repeated. This isn't what we want!

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Kids Suspended for Bullying on Facebook

McClure Middle School in Seattle recently suspended 28 students for allegedly bullying a classmate through Facebook.  Apparently a Facebook page was created that students could sign up for if they didn't like a certain student.  When the problem was discovered, the page was taken down and the school began conversations with both the parents and the students about appropriate Internet usage.

Computers and cellphones make it increasingly easy for children to make big, public mistakes.  Unfortunately kids' brains are not done developing until they are about 25-years-old and the last parts to develop are the areas responsible for thinking through consequences, impulse control and emotional regulation.

Given this, parents need to continually discuss the serious responsibilities and consequences of using digital technologies with their children.  Parents also need to monitor what their children are doing online.  While there are software programs to monitor online activity, there are also low tech ways to keep tabs on children like
  • stopping by periodically to see what your kids are doing online
  • asking them to show you the sites they enjoy visiting
  • checking their browser history 
  • friending them on Facebook
What are you doing to keep your kids safe and appropriate on the internet?


Kids searching for sex and porn

Norton Family Online released the most searched for terms by children in 2009. Across all three age groups (7 and under, 8 - 12, 13 - 18) sex or porn was in the #4 spot for most search for terms. Yikes!

They gathered this data from parents using their service to monitor and block certain web content. Unfortunately, the data is skewed by the fact that parents log into their kids' accounts and type in "sex" or "porn" to verify the Norton software is working. So the real truth of how often kids search for "sex" or "porn" can't be determined from this data.

However, undoubtedly there are a number of children searching for "sex" or "porn". The ability for children to learn about sex on the internet makes it even more critical for parents to discuss sexuality with their children starting early. By having these conversations, parents can help their children understand their values and increase the likelihood the kids will turn to them for questions instead of the internet.

Planned Parenthood outlines what children should know at different ages in their article Human Sexuality — What Children Need to Know and When. There are also a number of great books for different ages on sexuality.

Writing Instead of Grounding

Once children are tweens or teens, many parents ground their children as a generic consequence to misbehavior. The hope is that by requiring teens to stay at home and not be with friends, teens will learn to make better choices. However, teens are probably more likely to spend their time thinking about how to not get caught in the future!

An approach which is more likely to encourage teens to learn from a poor choice is to ask them to write about it. One dad explained how he used this technique with his son, Tim. Tim had gone to the movie theater with friends but when they got there the movie was sold out so they decided to walk to a nearby park and hang out instead. The dad was upset because Tim had failed to update him on his plans and he was worried when Tim didn’t come home after the movie.

Instead of grounding him, the dad asked Tim to write about the situation answering questions like:
  • What was the sequence of events that happened?
  • What influenced your actions?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • What type of amends do you think you should make for this situation?
The dad explained that he would decide on any further consequences based on Tim’s reflection.

Struggling to write down the answers to these types of tough questions can help teens learn from their poor choices. While they may be tempted to blame others for their actions, the goal of this exercise is for them to realize their own role in the situation and take responsibility for the results of their actions.

Free Resources on Stopping Bullying

Bullying is a problem for many children. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Stop Bullying Now web site:

"Bullying is more common than many adults realize. Most studies show that between 15-25% of American students are bullied with some frequency."

This site provides a rich set of free information, games, handouts, cartoon books and videos for both adults and children. Topics like these are covered:
  • Characteristics of children who bully and those who are bullied
  • Best practices in preventing bullying
  • Effective ways for kids to respond to bullying
  • What parents and teachers can do to stop bullying
There is information and resources for starting a "Stop Bullying Now!" campaign in your school or community. You can also order a free copy of the Stop Bullying Now! DVD Video Tool Kit.

“I’m not that good.”

Last weekend after enjoying dinner with some friends, my 17-year-old daughter, Kristie, her friend Sara and I were in the kitchen cleaning up. Sara asked Kristie how her gymnastics season was going this year. Kristie responded, “Well, I’m not really that good but I’m having fun.”

What? Not that good? It all depends on your frame of reference. Yes, compared to elite gymnasts, Kristie’s skills are not as good. Compared to anyone who has ever tried to do a cartwheel, her skills are nothing short of amazing.

As any parent of a teen can tell you, jumping into the middle of a conversation between them and their friends is risky business. However, I just couldn’t let this pass so I chimed in with “Anyone who can do a back handspring on a beam is good!” Kristie smiled appreciatively and said “Thanks, Mom.”

By reflecting back my view of reality to Kristie, she stopped to consider that she just might be judging herself a little too harshly. Helping kids appreciate their talents is a wonderful gift parents can give their children.

When Preschoolers Ask Why

If you spend time with preschoolers, you have undoubtedly been asked many questions which start with "why".

"Why do I have to go to bed?"
"Why are the leaves falling off the trees?"
"Why can't I watch more TV?"

Young children are trying to learn more about how the world works and one of the ways they do this is by asking lots of questions.

Researchers from the University of Michigan set up situations for preschoolers to intentionally provoke questions. When the children asked questions, adults would either give an explanation or a non-explanation. The researchers then measured how the kids reacted for each type of response. The LiveScience article on this research reported:
They found significant differences in types of reactions to the explanatory answers versus the non-explanatory ones. Nearly 30 percent of the time kids would agree, nod or say "oh" after getting a true explanation, compared with just under 13 percent of the time for non-explanations.

For such non-answers, more than 20 percent of the time kids re-asked the original question. Just 1 percent of kids receiving an explanation did the same.

If you don't want to hear the same question over and over, give an explanation but be ready for follow-up questions!

Bullying Children

Recently I was at a hotel pool enjoying sitting in the hot tub while a number of children and parents were splashing around in the nearby pool. I noticed one dad who was encouraging his young daughter, who was probably about 4-years-old, to swim out to him. He stood a few feet from the edge of the pool and she was hanging onto the edge of the pool. Finally he convinced her to swim out to him. When she started swimming towards him he stepped back so she had to swim a bit further to reach him. She panicked and was sobbing by the time she reached him.

Later on he commanded her to swim out to him but naturally she was afraid given the previous incident. He threatened her with having to leave the pool or get a spanking if she didn’t swim out to him. She ended up crying a number of times during this swimming session.

I don’t think this dad meant to be so mean to his daughter but from where I sat it felt like he was bullying her. He didn’t seem to care that she was scared and crying in reaction to what he was doing.

If we want our children to be sensitive to the feelings of others, than we need to be sensitive to their feelings. When our children are crying in response to our actions, it’s time to take a step back and reflect on our own behavior to see if there isn’t a better approach.

Fostering Growth using the Mentoring Parenting Style

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