Unintentionally Adding Fuel to Your Children’s Misbehavior

Recently I was sitting in church listening to the intergenerational choir sing a beautiful song. My attention was broken when a preschool boy a couple rows ahead started protesting and crying. His mother looked embarrassed as she quickly stood up to take him out of the church.

As she picked him up, she pleaded in a quivering voice "Zack, you have to stop crying!" Her command to stop crying caused him to escalate his behavior to also include hitting her on the head. Ouch!

If you’ve ever been in a public situation struggling with your children’s behavior, you can relate to what this mom was going through. Although it’s unclear what caused Zach’s outburst in the first place, his mom’s response unintentionally added fuel to the fire.

When you realize that a situation didn’t go as well as you wished, it’s helpful to review what happened after the fact and figure out what you might want to do differently in the future.

Keeping Your Private Parts Private

Kimberly King, a kindergarten teacher, thought she had done a good job of discussing appropriate and inappropriate touch with her kids. However, when her 5-year-old son, Zack, went to the neighbor's house for a sleepover, he was not really prepared for what happened. Zack ended up being pressured by his best friend to engage in inappropriate behavior.

While Zack found creative ways to resist cooperating, he was deeply effected by the event. This book is co-written by Zack and his mom as a way to help other kids learn from Zack's experience.

It's a wonderful resource for helping discuss the difference between people who are behaving appropriately ("green flag people") and those who aren't ("red flag people"). Children are given examples of how they might be bribed or threatened along with ideas for how to tell someone.

May There Be Peace in Your Home

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

-- Lao Tzu (570-490 B.C.)

Children Do Bring Happiness

Although there are various research studies showing couples with children are not as happy as those without children, I know that I'm happier because I have children. They've enriched my life in ways that are hard to measure.

In her book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin describes the happiness children provide. She begins by stating
"From my own experience, I knew that Jamie and I squabbled far more often once we had kids, we had fewer adventures, and we had less time for each other. Nevertheless, despite these findings, I had to reject the experts' argument that children don't bring happiness. Because they do. Not always in a moment-to-moment way, perhaps, but in a more profound way."

She then goes on to describe this happiness.
"In many ways, the happiness of having children falls into the kind of happiness that could be called fog happiness. Fog is elusive. Fog surrounds you and transforms the atmosphere, but when you try to examine it, it vanishes. Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don't really seem to bring much happiness at all - yet somehow they do."

The deep love I feel for my children is part of my fog; it surrounds me with warmth even when we're apart.

Calm, Confident Parenting - 6 Week Class

Creating a Frazzle-Free Family

Do you want to begin 2012 by bringing out the fantastic in your family? Are you ready to replace yelling and threatening with calm, confident parenting?

Parenting can be a pleasure or a pain. You will experience more pleasure when you have the right tools.

We'll explore ideas that can save your sanity and pave a path to a joyful family life. Learn how to turn ...
  • tantrums into emotional regulation
  • not listening into cooperation
  • arguments into conversations
  • power struggles into mutual agreements
  • disrespect into civil behavior

Do you have children ages 1 - 12? Register today for one of these classes:

Choice #1
Dates: Mondays, Jan. 9th - Feb. 13th, 7:00 - 8:30 PM
Location:  Evergreen Hospital, 12040 NE 128th Street, Kirkland, WA
Cost: $197/person or $297/couple - register by 12/31 to save $20/person


Choice #2
Dates: Mondays, Jan. 9th - Feb. 13th, 11:00 - 12:30 PM Pacific Time
Location:  online (recordings will be available)
Cost: $197/person or $297/couple - register by 12/31 to save $20/person

About the Presenter
Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., has helped thousands of parents from across the United States to Australia through her online classes, presentations, coaching and Priceless Parenting Guidebook.  Parents excitedly report their success in replacing yelling and threatening with calm, confident parenting.  When your children’s behavior is really pushing your buttons, discover ways to set effective limits, invite cooperation and have a lot more fun together!

More Information
Contact Kathy at 425-770-1629 or Kathy@PricelessParenting.com


Tots and Technology

The amount of screen time recommended by experts for young children and the amount of screen time the average child watches are two very different numbers. Kids are averaging double the amount of recommended time in front of screens.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
  • Children under 2 should have no screen time (Research reality: these kids average of 2 hours per day)
  • Children over the age of 2 should watch no more than 2 hours a day (Research reality: these kids average of 4 hours per day)
Why is this so important? Young children’s brains are being wired based on what they are experiencing. One of the critical systems being developed is how to form and maintain emotional relationships. Developing these emotional relationships requires lots of interaction with loving caregivers. When kids miss this care, later on they fail to thrive in peer relationships and also tend to do poorly in school.

There are so many tantalizing new devices being developed for tots like the Vinci tablet. The description on Amazon is “VINCI is a new category of early learning systems exclusively designed for children ages 4 and under.” While it’s tempting to plug young kids into screens to keep them occupied, there are serious ramifications which are not immediately apparent.

You are responsible for setting limits on your children’s screen time. The Active Bodies, Active Mind website has more ideas for reducing screen time.

Creating Your Frazzle-Free Family

Take a minute to sit back and think about a time when your family was operating smoothly and everyone was feeling pretty good. What was going on?

Below are some of the things that come to mind for my family when things are going well.

Everyone is
  • pitching in with household tasks
  • joining the family for meals
  • acting respectful
  • feeling supported and loved
  • remembering to let the rest of the family know where they are and when they'll be home
  • feeling like they have enough time and don't have to rush
  • healthy, getting enough rest and exercise
  • having some time for fun
Do these things happen all the time? No, but when they do happen, our family atmosphere is more pleasant.

Beginning with Changing Yourself

What changes could you make to your own behavior which would positively impact your family? Since you absolutely control your own behavior, you can make these changes happen!

Gretchen Rubin invested a year working on changing her life for the better. Each month she focused on a different part of her life and described her journey in The Happiness Project. She tackled things like going to bed earlier, organizing her things, asking for help, stopping nagging, acknowledging people's feelings and taking time to be silly.

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Developing Empathy

How do children learn to have empathy for others? They learn it by experiencing empathy themselves.

When children are upset, you can show empathy by identifying the feeling they are expressing and then making a guess as to why they are feeling that way. For example if your child is crying you might say, “You look really sad. Is it because we have to leave now?” If you guess right, your child may cry even harder because you’ve acknowledged the feeling.

However, children also recover more quickly after feeling heard. By expressing empathy for your child, the whole incident will probably go more smoothly than had you responded “stop crying” or “you’re fine”.

Too Many Gifts

I was recently meeting with three couples from a very wealthy family. Each of these couples was concerned about the amount of gifts their children received from the grandparents. It wasn’t just slightly overboard … those kids received hundreds of presents. They even had trouble staying focused on opening that many presents.

The parents were overwhelmed with the amount of stuff their children received. They needed to cart it all back home plus find a place for everything. Yikes!

What could these parents do to improve the situation? One option would be to sit down with the grandparents ahead of time and discuss their concerns. However, the couples felt they really couldn’t talk to the grandparents about reducing the amount of presents without causing a major family rift. The grandparents wanted to express their love with all these gifts.

Another option would be for the parents to allow the children to keep a certain number of presents and donate the rest. Or the children and parents could go through the previous years’ gifts in November and donate a majority of those presents.

Have you dealt with a similar situation? Please leave a comment about how you handled it.

Negotiating for a Different Choice

What do you do when you give your children a choice and instead of one of your options they come up with their own option? One mom explained how frustrated she felt when her 4-year-old son did this. Whatever she choices she offered, he always wanted something else.

She solved the problem by giving him another choice; she could choose or he could choose. He always decided he wanted to be the one making the choice!

Practicing Gratitude

How is practicing gratitude built into your family routines? Do you give thanks before meals? Do you have a gratitude jar on your table for family members to leave notes of thanks? My favorite gratitude practice is thinking of three things I’m thankful for before getting out of bed each morning.

Brené Brown has actually researched gratitude. In The Gifts of Imperfection she explains what her research has revealed, "When it comes to gratitude, the word that jumped out at me throughout this research process is practice. I don't necessarily think another researcher would have been so taken aback, but as someone who thought that knowledge was more important than practice, I found these words to be a call to action."

Knowledge is helpful but all the knowledge in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t put it into practice. Gratitude takes practice. How do you and your children practice it?

When are children able to imitate you?

How old do children need to be before they start imitating others? Surprisingly, babies are born ready to imitate!

Andrew Meltzoff, one of the authors of The Scientist in the Crib, found that newborn babies only hours old could imitate him sticking out his tongue. Look out mom and dad ... your baby is ready to watch and imitate you right away!

Here is a fun video showing a dad whose twin babies are imitating his dancing in their own way:

Rhymes and Songs for Young Children

One of my children’s favorite activities when they were young was attending Story Time at our local library. Miss Theresa, our librarian, was excellent at keeping the children’s attention while also making them feel special and included.

Thanks to the King County Libraries for capturing some of these favorite rhymes and songs in videos. You can watch these videos with your children or watch them yourself so you can teach your children new songs and rhymes. There are over 900 rhymes and songs so you’ll have plenty to choose from!

Finding a Solution Instead of Issuing a Consequence

A mom explained how worried and angry she was when her teenage son did not come home from school one day and failed to let her know where he was. Although he has a cellphone, he forgot to call and let her know he was staying after school to work on a project.

When he came home, she told him the consequence for his forgetting to call was that he would not be able to choose any TV programs for the next week. He would have to watch whatever the other family members had selected.

How would this situation be different if instead of searching for a consequence to fit the crime, they looked for a solution? What solutions might work? Perhaps he could set an alarm on his cellphone for 5 minutes after school ends to remind him to call if he wasn’t coming straight home. Or he could write his after school plans on a calendar at home. He could leave a note on the kitchen table in the morning if he planned to stay late.

There are lots of possible solutions to help ensure the problem doesn’t occur again. If you were in this boy’s shoes, would you prefer having a consequence or coming up with a solution?

Excellent math, science, history tutoring - free!

A number of parents have shared their frustration over watching their kids struggle with math and science. There's now a solution!

I recently learned about the Khan Academy from my husband who is an 8th grade science teacher at a private school in Seattle. As part of the teachers' ongoing education, he attended a workshop where he heard Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, speak.

Starting the Khan Academy

Khan began tutoring his nieces and nephews in 2004. Since he was in a different city than they were, he talked them through the problems while using Yahoo!'s Doodle notepad to show them what he meant.

He was excellent at explaining math concepts and soon he had more students than he could easily handle given his full time job as a hedge fund analyst.

A friend suggested that he capture what he was teaching in Youtube videos. This was the beginning of what is now a library of over 2,600 videos available free at the Khan Academy.

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

What were your parents like?

How were you raised? What did you like about what your parents did and what things do you want to do differently with your own children? What type of parenting did your children's other parent experience?

It's unlikely that both of you experienced similar childhoods. That means that unconsciously you will each be parenting from a different background. If you both remember loving how your parents treated you, you will have an easier time parenting because you can simply repeat what you learned from your parents.

However, if you are like many, there are things you absolutely want to do differently with your own children. For example, I knew I didn't want to spank my kids even though I was spanked. We also knew we didn't want to put extreme academic pressure on our children like my husband had experienced.

Changing your parenting to be different than the way you were raised takes work. One wonderful way to explore other ideas for parenting is through taking a parenting class or reading and discussing parenting books together.

My husband and I took parenting classes and read books. It was the best investment we've ever made!

Who controls what?

When you find yourself in power struggles with your children, consider what you actually control versus what your children control. If you are trying to control something they ultimately control, then you will probably lose.

For example, one parent who helped out at her child’s preschool noticed that the adults were often struggling with the children over putting on their jackets before going outside. The kids would complain that they weren’t cold and then refused to cooperate in getting their jackets on.

The adults decided to change the situation by creating a new expectation that all children would take their jackets outside with them but they could either hang them up outside or wear them. If they hung their jacket up outside, they could always put it on if they got cold.

The children were much more cooperative given their new authority over whether or not to put on their jackets. Everyone was happier!

Chocolate Happiness

When I was a child I really loved chocolate. Eating chocolate simply filled me with happiness. In fact I enjoyed it so much that one year for my birthday the gift I asked for was chocolate. I was delighted to see a big bowl of Brach’s chocolates by my plate that birthday dinner!

Halloween was my favorite holiday because it involved the very fun part of dressing up and then going trick-or-treating to receive lots of delicious chocolate! Tonight I’m looking forward to the trick-or-treaters who will be ringing our doorbell. I have a large supply of chocolate candy which I will undoubtedly have to sample beforehand to make sure it’s ok for the kids.

I hope you are able to enjoy some Halloween magic with children tonight!

Practicing Saying Thank You

Do your children ever forget to say thank you? Most children need quite a few reminders from their parents before they reliably remember on their own.

If your kids could use a little practice in saying thank you, Halloween provides a perfect opportunity! Before they go trick-or-treating, review how they should respond when someone gives them a treat. Try role playing different situations to give your kids an opportunity to practice before the real thing.

When they are out trick-or-treating they may still need a few gentle reminders as the excitement of the evening can cause kids to forget. Practicing on Halloween will help them improve their gratitude skills!

Turning Off the Radio to Listen to His Daughter

When you drive in the car with your children, how do you typically interact? Are you each in your own worlds with the kids watching a DVD while you listen to the radio?

One dad recently completed a Priceless Parenting online parenting class and was inspired to look at how he was spending his time with his 4-year-old daughter. He decided to make some changes and wrote "I've gotten into the habit of turning off the radio, and simply talking, and mostly listening to my daughter during our drives home from her Mother's home. It has really brought us closer together, and she seems to be more respectful towards me as a result."

She sounds like one lucky girl to have a dad who makes space to listen to her!

Are You a Sounding Board or a Sponge?

When your children come to you with problems, what do you typically do? Do you try to find a solution to their problem or do you simply listen and leave finding a solution up to them? You may find your natural reaction is to help your children find a solution and even believe this is your responsibility.

However, when you take on finding solutions to your children’s problems, you become a sponge for their problems instead of a sounding board. The biggest risks in being a sponge are that your children learn to rely on you for solutions instead of themselves and that you become overwhelmed with trying to solve their problems.

The next time your children come to you with a problem, try listening and asking them what they think they are going to do about it. Help them think through the consequences of different solutions and then leave the choice of how to solve the problem up to them.

A Servant Named Mom

A mom recently told me how frustrated she was to be continually doing most of the housework while her husband relaxed watching TV and her kids goofed around. They took it for granted that she would get things done and she was feeling resentful and unappreciated. Since her kids were 10 and 12-years-old, they were certainly capable of helping out but they rarely did.

What can you do if you find yourself being your family’s servant and want to change the situation? One approach is to call a family meeting to create a plan for dividing up the household chores.

Begin the meeting by writing down all the tasks that needed to be done in order to keep your home functioning. Try to include everything from bringing in the mail and buying groceries to paying bills.

Next estimate how often each task needed to be done. For example, how often does your family agree the bathroom should be cleaned? The bedding washed? The floors vacuumed?

Now create a list showing all the tasks that need to be done each week. For tasks that need to be done each day like preparing dinner, you may want to write down “Monday dinner”, “Tuesday dinner” and so on. This way different people can sign up for different days. Finally have everyone sign up for the tasks they will be doing.

You can plan to have another family meeting in a week to check with everyone on how things are going and if anyone wants to change chores. Posting the chore list in a central location can help everyone remember their commitments. It can also be helpful for children to have their own chore list so they can easily check it off.

Balancing the workload will help everyone feel like an important contributor to your family’s success!

What will your children's legacy be?

One of the gifts Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, left the world was the commencement speech he gave at the Stanford College graduation in 2005. This speech captured the wisdom he had learned from his experiences - wisdom that can help us as parents.

Dreams for Your Children

What dreams do you have for your children? Do you hope that they will one day go to college? Steve Jobs biological mom sure did. She was an unwed college graduate student and decided to have him adopted by college graduates. However, these college graduates wanted a girl not a boy so he ended up being adopted by a mom who had not graduated from college and a dad who had not graduated from high school.

His biological mom only agreed to sign the adoption papers after the couple agreed they would send Steve to college. Did they keep their promise? Yes. He attended Reed College for six months before deciding the cost of spending his parents' savings wasn't worth it.

Although he dropped out of college, he found a way to attend some of the classes that interested him the most. While he did not attend college in the way his biological mom hoped he would, he did learn what he needed to know to pursue his own dreams.

Your Children's Great Work

What type of work do you hope your children will someday have? Your children are deeply attuned to your desires for them.

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Ooshee, Whooshee, Gooshe Time!

Whenever she came home from work, the first thing Mary liked to do was change into more comfortable clothes. This simple task was made less pleasant by her young son, Ryan, since he always seemed to cause trouble during this time. Why couldn’t he just behave for a few minutes while she changed?!

One day it dawned on Mary that Ryan was desperate for some of her attention and preferred negative attention over no attention at all. She changed the dynamics by establishing what she called Ooshee, Whooshee, Gooshe Time.

Instead of immediately changing her clothes after work, the first thing she did was sit down with Ryan for their 5 to 10 minutes of Ooshee, Whooshee, Gooshe Time. He got her undivided attention for whatever he wanted to discuss or do. Having this special time together seemed to make the rest of the evening go so much better.

Suicide Without a Warning

I’ve recently spoken to two moms whose teens were suicidal. Neither thought their teen was thinking of killing themselves. They didn’t see any warning signs.

In one case, Diane had noticed her daughter, Chloe, had been overreacting to little things at home. Diane thought maybe it was from the pressure of the new school year or perhaps just hormones. However, when Chloe blew up at her brother for supposedly losing her hairbands (which in fact Chloe had accidentally tossed in with the dirty laundry), Diane decided to make an appointment for Chloe to see the school psychologist.

After seeing Chloe, the psychologist immediately called Diane. This was serious. Chloe had a plan for how she was going to kill herself. Diane was shocked; she had no idea that Chloe had even considered killing herself. Chloe entered an in-patient treatment program and got the help she needed.

The other mom, Susan, also did not see any suicide warning signs in her 16-year-old son Ryan. Susan and Ryan’s father had both volunteered for a few years on a suicide prevention hotline so they were well aware of the warning signs. Ryan planned out his suicide without either of his parents realizing what was going on. Tragically, he succeeded in killing himself last month.

Losing a child to suicide is a parent’s worst nightmare. What can we do to help prevent this type of tragedy with our own children? One thing we can do is discuss our concerns around suicide with our teens. We can ask them “Have you ever thought about killing yourself?” Asking the question won’t plant the idea in their heads, however, it will give them the opportunity to talk.

Do you really need to bring up such an unpleasant topic with your teens? Yes, you do. The 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and local schools found that one in 16 high school students had attempted suicide in the previous year.

If you'd like more information about youth suicide and talking to your teens, check out the Parent Resource Program by the Jason Foundation.

Fighting or Sticking Together?

I heard a story at church about a mom who one day sat down in her backyard with a book to enjoy a few moments of quiet pleasure. No sooner than she was settled into her comfortable chair when she heard her children and their friends begin fighting with each other. This was not the first time that she had been disturbed by their bickering.

She called them over. When they reluctantly made it to her, she asked them to each get two sticks. They set off to get their sticks and soon they were arguing over who had a certain stick first and whose sticks were better.

When they finally brought the sticks to her, she asked them to each give her one of their sticks. She tied these sticks up with a ribbon. She then asked the children to break their remaining stick. Each child was easily able to break their stick.

Next she handed the bundle of sticks tied with the ribbon to the youngest child to break. However, the child could not break the bundle of sticks. All the children were given a turn and none of them could break the bundle of sticks.

She explained to the children that they are each like one stick that can easily be broken. However when they stay together like the bundle of sticks, they are stronger. It was a wonderful demonstration of the power of sticking together instead of fighting!

Calming a Crying Baby

There's nothing like an inconsolable, crying baby to put a parent on edge. What would it be worth to know a routine that would reliably calm down an infant?

Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, proposes a combination of behaviors that will quickly soothe most babies. There are five activities used to calm the baby he refers to as the "5 S's":
  • swaddle
  • side/stomach position
  • shushing
  • swinging
  • sucking
My daughter did a lot of crying the first few months. I wished I would have known about these ideas for calming her down.

This video shows a dad quickly calming his crying baby using this method:

Your Real Influence on Your Kids

What do economists have to tell us about parenting? A recent Freakonomics Radio podcast interviewed a number of economists trying to answer the question “how much do parents really matter, and in what dimensions?”

They discussed that research shows parents have little influence on the amount of education their children ultimately received or the amount of money their adult children eventually make. Parents have a far greater influence on their children’s relationship skills.

Bryan Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University and author of Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids had this to say:
There’s a great Swedish twins study, where the twins were in their fifties and sixties and seventies, and even when you’re in your seventies, whether or not your parents were kind to you stays with you, and you know, identical twins, fraternal twins have similar and quite high levels of agreement on these questions, which is the smoking gun for nurture really mattering. So the way that your kids feels about and remembers you. The quality of the relationship. This is where you really have an effect and where it is very long lasting, it really does last a lifetime.

Your children learn to how to love from you loving them. They learn how to treat others with empathy by experiencing you treating them with empathy. It is your relationship with them that has the biggest influence on them.

Questions Imply Choice

Be careful to only use questions when you want to consider your child’s opinion in a matter. When you ask your children a question, it implies that you would like a response from them and that their response may have an effect on the matter at hand. If this is not the case, use a statement instead of a question.

These are some questions which probably should be statements:
  • Are you getting ready for school?
  • Isn’t it time to turn that off?
  • We’re going to leave in five minutes, ok?
  • Do you think it’s time to get ready for bed?
  • Don’t you think you’ve had enough?
This week pay attention to how you make requests to your children. Are you using questions when you really do not want to be giving your children a choice? If so, switch to statements!

Being Treated with Respect

Do your kids treat you with respect? If not, you are the only one who can change this. Your children will treat you with respect when you insist on being treated with respect.

For example, how do you respond if your young child says “I want a glass of water.”? Since this is a command and not a respectful request, you could reply “I’ll be happy to get you a glass of water just as soon as you ask politely.”

Likewise, if your child is speaking to you disrespectfully, you can always respond “I’ll be happy to talk to you just as soon as you are treating me with respect.” By consistently pushing back whenever your children cross the line into being disrespectful, they will learn to treat you with the respect you deserve.

When is Struggling the Best Way Out?

One of the hardest parts about being a parent is watching your children struggle. Whether your child is struggling to master a new skill in a sport or a homework assignment, it can be hard to take a step back and let your child handle it.

There's a Native American legend of a man watching a butterfly as it fought to emerge from a small hole in its cocoon. He watched for several hours as the butterfly struggled to force its body through this little hole. After awhile it stopped pushing and seemed to have given up. The man decided to help the butterfly by carefully enlarging the hole. The butterfly quickly emerged but its body was swollen and its wings were shriveled. It crawled around dragging its wings.

What the man didn't realize was that the butterfly needed to struggle through the small opening in order to force the fluids from its body into its wings which would strengthen its wings to fly. Having missed that opportunity to push through the small opening, the butterfly was weak and was never able to fly.

The man's desire to help that butterfly sadly had the opposite effect. Children are a lot like butterflies. They need to struggle in order to learn how to fly.

Doing Your Own Work

Children learn by doing. When your children do a task, they build their brain connections. When you do a task for them, you reinforce your own brain connections without adding to theirs.

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Learning to Solve Problems

When kids play together, disagreements will arise. By guiding them to solving their own problems instead of figuring it out for them, they learn how to resolve their differences.

One mom told the story of her 4-year-old son Alex and his friend Jake playing in a sandbox together. Alex was using a shovel to fill a bucket with sand. He put the shovel down to dump the bucket of sand on a large pile he was creating.

Jake had been digging a hole with a small rake and took the shovel to continue digging after Alex set it down. When Alex came back, he grabbed the shovel out of Jake’s hands. Jake then tried taking the shovel back and soon both boys were crying.

While this mom could have jumped in and solved the problem for the boys, instead she began by explaining what she saw happen. “Alex set the shovel down and Jake thought he was done using it. However, Alex set it down because he needed to empty the bucket and he still wanted to use it. How do you think you can solve this problem?”

She encouraged the boys to come up with a solution. Some of the ideas they discussed were:
  • Develop a new rule that if somebody sets a toy down, it means that someone else is free to use it.
  • Each boy can use the shovel for two minutes and then it’s the next person’s turn.
  • Find another shovel.
  • Put away the shovel so neither one can use it.
Alex and Jake decided to take two-minute turns. They had an egg timer which they set to know when it was time to switch. They are on their way to independently solving their own problems!

Why take a parenting class?

One mom wrote asking why taking a parenting class is better than just learning from family, friends and neighbors. This is a fair question.

What makes a parenting class potentially more valuable than these other sources?
  • The information in parenting classes ideally comes from what researchers and experts have learned works best with kids.
  • Classes pull together the best information from a variety of sources and provide lots of ideas so you can choose what works best with your children.
  • The instructors have often looked at outcomes from different parenting practices and know what really are “best practices" in parenting.
  • You can learn about the normal developmental stages children go through along with common problems parents face at different stages in their children’s lives.
  • You can gain ideas for doing things differently than your parents did.
  • You can discuss what’s going on with your children with someone who is impartial.
Parenting is like continually taking on a new job! The initial training from the childbirth center typically involves taking care of the baby’s needs – baths, diapering, feeding, burping, calming techniques. However, as children grow their needs change. Parenting classes are a great way of getting the information you need when you need it.

Trusting Your Feelings

Your children’s bodies won’t lie to them. If they are feeling tense and uneasy in a situation, this is important information. Caroline Goodell founder of the Institute for Body Awareness explains “There is a relationship between muscle tension and emotional tension. Muscles relax when a person feels comfortable and safe.”

Your children’s bodies are their guides for answering questions like these:
  • Am I safe?
  • Can I trust this?
  • Is this right for me?
You can help them learn to trust their bodies by asking questions about how their bodies are feeling.
  • Are your shoulders relaxed or tense?
  • Is your breathing shallow or deep?
  • Are your eyebrows tightened up or relaxed?
If they find their body is feeling stressed, the next step is for them to figure out why and what might need to change to make them feel better.

Listening Without Trying to Fix It

It can be extremely difficult to listen to your children when they are distressed. It’s so tempting to jump in and try to fix it! The following story demonstrates this well.

A mom described picking her daughter, Olivia, up from school. Olivia was clearly upset when she got into the car and started complaining about how hard the math test was. Her mom immediately tried to help her think about solutions – maybe others didn’t do well either, perhaps she can get extra credit or go in early to school for extra help.

Olivia responded to her mom’s suggestions with increased ranting and raving saying she didn’t understand how hard it was! Olivia would have been more likely to feel heard if her mom had listened patiently and repeated back her feelings with care and interest. This approach also would empower Olivia to own the problem and the solution.

If you hear your children turning up the volume on their complaints, you know they probably don’t feel understood. Try taking a step back to listen and reflect their feelings. Once they feel heard, they’ll be in a better position to decide what they want to do about it.

Building Character

What character traits do you consider important for your children to develop? How do you encourage those traits?

We were fortunate that our children’s elementary school included an emphasis on teaching character traits like honesty, respect and compassion. Each month the entire school focused on one quality – understanding it and practicing it.

At the end of each year two students who exemplify these character traits were chosen for recognition. Students selected for this humanitarian award needed to meet these guidelines:
  • Promote understanding and harmony.
  • Be sensitive to the feelings of others.
  • Value differences among people.
  • Show compassion and concern for others.
  • Be thoughtful and kind.
  • Peacefully solve conflicts.
  • Cope and adjust to new and different situations.
  • Have a positive outlook.
  • Practice humanitarian behaviors continuously.
  • Applaud and support others in their endeavors.
  • Seek out friendships with others.
  • Work cooperatively with others.
  • Treat others with respect and dignity.
  • Take risks to improve situations.
The school environment felt genuinely supportive and kind due everyone striving towards these behaviors. These are behaviors worth encouraging!

Guiding Children Through Embarrassing Moments

One teacher described how embarrassed a 7-year-old boy was when he occasionally wet his pants. Although the other kids knew they weren’t supposed to tease him, they did it anyway.

The kind teacher told the boy “Everyone has things that don’t work for them. You’ll figure this out. Go change your pants right now and then we’ll play a game.” The teacher did not make a big deal of it and also gave the boy confidence that he would eventually solve the problem.

Kindergarten Worksheets

Preschoolers have many skills to learn before they are ready for kindergarten. You can find a lot of ideas for helping your children develop social-emotional skills in parenting classes. Where can you get ideas for helping your child with reading, writing and math skills?

A former kindergarten teacher has created a wonderful web site called School Sparks. This site is filled with free worksheets for topics like

  • Learning the alphabet
  • Fine and gross motor skill development
  • Auditory processing
  • Visual discrimination
  • Letter/Word awareness
  • Phonemic awareness
  • Math/number awareness

There are also games like bingo which help children learn while having fun. Print out whatever worksheets your children would like and let the fun begin!

Learning Life Lessons Picking Blueberries

What can children learn from picking blueberries? Quite a lot it turns out!

A two-year-old girl was at our house picking blueberries and immediately eating each one. My husband stood nearby explaining to her how picking blueberries was like many life experiences. Some were kind of sour, some were sweet, some looked like they would be good but weren’t and others turned out to be better than they looked.

Like life experiences, just because one blueberry doesn’t turn out as good as expected, it doesn’t mean it’s time to stop picking blueberries. Rather each sour one teaches you what to look for in the ripe, sweet ones. He encouraged her to keep on picking and reassured her that way she’d be bound to get her fill of sweet, wonderful experiences!

Misbehaving at the Store

Megan, mom of a 2-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl, told me how embarrassed she was during a recent trip to the grocery store. Her daughter started putting things into the cart that weren’t on the list. When Megan told her she wasn’t buying these things and she needed to put them back, her daughter started screaming. Her son contributed to the mayhem by tossing a couple other items into the cart.

When calmly reasoning with the children didn’t work, Megan found herself yelling at them and feeling like an out-of-control crazy woman. Yikes! This is not the way she wanted it to be.

Although she was trying to set limits on her children’s behavior, it really wasn’t working. We discussed some other things she could try. She decided that next time she would take a friend along to the store. When the kids acted up, she plans to calmly take them out to the car and put them in their car seats. Her friend will watch them in the car while she finishes shopping.

Knowing that other parents have suffered through these same types of struggles and having a new plan helped Megan feel more hopeful. Sometimes just getting some new ideas to try is the beginning of turning a situation around!

Parenting vows

When a couple is married, they take wedding vows promising how they will treat each other and live together. When a child is born, no such vows are typically taken. However, if you were to make a vow to your child, what would you say?

Below is what I would say. Click the picture if you'd like to print out a copy. What would you vow to your child?

We, _______________________________,
welcome you, _______________________________,
as our beloved child.
We promise to
love you unconditionally,
feed you nutritiously,
protect you from harm,
treat you with respect,
guide you in learning from mistakes,
laugh with you,
play with you,
comfort you in times of sadness,
encourage you to develop your talents,
support you in striving to achieve your goals,
be open and honest with you,
and be there for you for the rest of our lives.

Where’s the limit?

I recently watched a preschooler test the limits of acceptable behavior in church. The child was sitting alongside the aisle with his mom. First he stood up next to his chair. Next he wandered a little into the aisle. Not getting any negative feedback, he roamed a couple rows down.

He then tried jumping up and down. Of course he chose to do this right during a quiet time so it did get people’s attention. Still his mom did not react.

Finally he did some clapping while stamping his feet. At this point his mom picked him up and brought him back to his seat.

He had finally found the limit! Kids naturally try stretching the boundaries. It’s part of exploring and growing. When you see your children’s behavior continuing and escalating, it’s time to let them know they’ve reached a boundary.

Normal Parenting Problems

All parents run into challenges in handling their children’s behavior. Just like normally developing children will try cooing, sitting up, crawling and walking, they will also try throwing tantrums, whining and screaming.

It can sometimes feel like you are the only parent who is struggling to handle your children’s behavior. Nevertheless, the truth is all parents go through these challenges.

One preschooler teacher described how she could see parents struggling with their children and wanted to help. However, parents often became defensive if she tried discussing it.

She went on to explain that this is why she really likes the Priceless Parenting Guidebook. When she shows parents stories in the book from other families, they realize they aren’t alone. They are also much more open to trying out the new ideas suggested in the book.

Read this book to tap into the universal body of research and knowledge about how to handle every day parenting challenges!

Developing a Child’s Moral Compass

It isn’t enough to know right from wrong. Children also need to choose the right behavior even when the wrong behavior is very tempting. Even when they are pretty sure they won’t get caught.

How do children develop their own internal moral compass? They learn through observing the behavior of parents, relatives, teachers, religious leaders and others. They learn by experiencing the consequences of their own choices.

Your children won’t always make the right decisions. One mom found this out when her 13-year-old daughter ignored family rules by going to “stranger hook-up” websites and giving out her name, phone number and email address. Although this girl knew she wasn’t supposed to do this, the allure of all the positive attention was just too much for her.

Her parents decided to help their daughter by limiting these types of choices at least for awhile. When she’s more prepared to handle her cellphone and computer responsibly, she’ll have another chance.

Mistakes are part of learning and developing a strong moral compass. Your children will make mistakes. What they learn depends on how you respond.

How to Parent

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a simple "how to parent" guide that you could use to address any possible parenting challenge?  It's just not that easy! 

You have a unique background that influences how you relate to your children and each of your children is unique.  What works for one child will not necessarily work for another. It's complicated!

However the more ideas you have for responding to your children's behavior, the better equipped you will be to handle any situation.  You can get these ideas from friends, relatives, books, presentations and parenting classes.

On Monday the Mom's Choice Awards® named Priceless Parenting's online parenting classes among the best in family-friendly media, products and services. Priceless Parenting's goal is to provide parents the tools and ideas they need to do their best possible parenting. We are honored to receive this award acknowledging the tremendous value parents get from our classes!

Consequences - abusive or instructive?

The pain from inappropriate consequences can last a lifetime. Marge, a woman in her 60's, recalled an incident that happened when she was about 8-years-old.

Marge's chore was to wash the dishes. She was looking out the window, working away and trying to come up with ideas to make the chore a little more fun. A bottle of grape scented Crazy Foam was sitting along side the kitchen sink.

Marge had the perfect idea! She took a small dot of that wonderful smelling Crazy Foam on her dishcloth and used it to wash the next plate. Marge loved that grape scent wafting in the air. The dish washing task was much more delightful with Crazy Foam!

Marge's new found dishwashing happiness came to an abrupt end when her father entered the kitchen. According to him Crazy Foam was only supposed to be used in the bathtub. He made her stand on a kitchen chair with a mouth full of Crazy Foam while he yelled at her for how stupid she had been. His tirade lasted a long time; her mother stood in the doorway silently.

After she was finally allowed to leave, young Marge did some serious thinking about how she would protect herself and her younger siblings in the future. That day a crater opened up between Marge and her parents, one that was so wide it was never bridged.

Marge knew she didn't deserve to be treated that way.  Her father's consequence was abusive, not instructive.   Marge learned to do anything necessary to avoid the wrath of her father including lying.  This is not the lesson he wanted her to learn.

Listening for the Underlying Message

When kids are upset, it can be hard for them to communicate their feelings. One mom experienced this when her 6-year-old son Zach left his new toy in a guest’s bedroom. Zach did not realize he had forgotten his new toy in the bedroom until the guest was already asleep. Mom explained to Zach that he was not allowed to go into the bedroom to get his toy and disturb the guest’s sleep.

The next morning when mom greeted Zach with “Good Morning!” he responded by whining about how the guest was still asleep and so he still couldn’t get his toy. Mom replied “Let’s not start the day with whining.” When Zach continued whining, she explained that she would listen to him when his voice sounded like hers. Zach’s behavior continued escalating until he was kicking and hitting as his mom tried to hold him.

He really lost it when mom became concerned about what the guest would think of Zach’s behavior and told him he was acting like a brat. He screamed back "I’m not a brat!"

Yikes! How could this situation have been handled in a way that might not have resulted in Zach’s behavior escalating?

When Zach woke up in the morning and whined about how long it was going to be until the guest woke up, Mom addressed the whining instead of the underlying message. Zach had really been patient waiting all night to get his new toy and now he had to wait even longer. His reaction may have been different had Mom responded "I'm so impressed with how you did not disturb our guest all night. Wow! It's really hard to have to wait even longer isn't it?"

Zach might have then felt understood. When people feel understood, their behavior calms down instead of escalating.

Insist on Being Treated with Respect

Why is it so important that your children treat you with respect? Because if they don’t, they also won’t treat other adults with respect!

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was also teaching first graders at church once a week along with three other adults. We struggled the entire year to get the kids to cooperate. Many of the kids wouldn’t do even the simple things we asked them to do like gathering in a circle so we could play a game.

I was very frustrated by their lack of respect for me as a volunteer teacher. And I noticed one thing - the kids who were disrespectful to me were also disrespectful to their parents when their parents came to pick them up.

When you insist that your children treat you with respect, you also teach them how to treat others with respect. This is a lesson worth teaching!

Bossing Your Kids Versus Leading Them

Do you liked to be bossed around? Probably not! How does the thought of being managed by someone else make you feel? Irritated? Angry? Rebellious? If you’re like most, you react negatively to someone trying to boss or control you.

Your children are no different. They also do not like when you try to control their behavior. You can test this out by watching their reaction to commands like "Hurry up!", "Stop fighting!" or "Quit your whining."

The role of a parent is similar to being a boss, manager or leader. If you shy away from being the boss in your family and try instead to be your children’s friend, that leaves your family without the strong leadership it really needs.

Considering the Characteristics of Your Favorite Boss

I was recently at a conference where the audience was asked to think about their favorite boss or manager. The presenter then asked what qualities made this person such a good boss.

These are some of the important characteristics mentioned:

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Authenticity Versus Safety

Young children are so refreshing because they are always authentic. You know exactly how they are feeling because they visibly show their feelings and haven’t developed the ability to hide those feelings.

Maintaining that authenticity throughout one’s life is no small feat. BrenĂ© Brown issues this warning in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, "I think we should be born with a warning label similar to the ones that come on cigarette packages: Caution: If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief."

When you encourage your children to figure out who they really are and develop their talents, you’re helping them on their way to living an authentic life. When you have the courage to live authentically yourself, your children will learn from your example. It isn’t the easy path but it is the path worth taking.

Politeness counts!

Teaching your kids basic social graces like saying “please” and “thank you” will help them succeed in life. It takes years of practice and reminders but eventually your children will remember these phrases all on their own!

George Bernard Shaw stated "There is no accomplishment so easy to acquire as politeness, and none more profitable." From knowing how to greet someone to understanding table manners, children who are comfortable with these skills excel in social situations.

While it is often easy to let manners slip at home, home is really the perfect place to practice. Being polite within your family is not only good practice it makes for a lot more everyday pleasantness!

Teens – Joy or Terror?

I recently met a mom who declared that all 15-year-old boys should be sent away from their families to an outdoor camp. She made this declaration based on the problems she was experiencing with her own son plus the ones she saw friends with teens struggling to handle.

When things go wrong in the teen years, it causes families enormous amounts of stress and strife – something we’d all like to avoid. How can you increase the possibility that your children will have fairly smooth sailing through the teen years?

Work hard when they are young to develop their ability to make wise decisions. Allow them to make many decisions and experience the consequences of those decisions. Barry LePatner puts it this way "Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment."

Are your kids getting the experience they need to grow into responsible teens? Prepare now for amazingly wonderful teens!

Parenting obstacles

What gets in your way of being the best parent you possibly can be? Sometimes you may just need some new ideas for dealing with challenging situations. If this is the case, parenting classes and parenting books can be wonderful resources.

At other times you already know how you ideally want to handle a parenting situation but revert back to less effective techniques like yelling and ordering your kids around. What triggers this for you?

Is it feeling pressed for time? That’s the trigger for me. Once I feel under time pressure, all bets are off for thoughtful, considerate parenting!

Is it a lack of energy? One mom explained she knew that her strong willed daughter reacted much better when she gave her choices. However, sometimes she just didn’t feel like she had the energy to use that approach and instead just gave her daughter a command.

Is it a certain behavior from your child? One dad realized he was blowing up at his son whenever he saw him playing video games before his homework was done.

Once you know what your triggers are, you can make plans to reduce those conditions. For me, leaving plenty of time to get ready to go somewhere is essential. What helps you?

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