When Your Child Refuses to Participate

A mom explained her exasperation when 7-year-old son, Carter, refused to continue with his swimming lessons. He had taken swimming classes the year before and advanced to the next level. However, after three weeks of lessons, Carter declared he no longer wanted to go to his swimming lessons.

His mom took him to the next lesson anyhow since they had paid for the six lesson series. Carter refused to get in the water. The next week his dad took him to the lesson and he still refused to get in the water.

Finally on the last class another instructor invited Carter to play in the shallow water. He got in the shallow end of the pool and had a lot of fun.

Upon reflecting on this sequence of events, his mom realized that Carter often lashed out in anger or acted obstinate when he was scared. She went back and talked to him about what had happened that third week of swimming class.

She learned that the instructor had the kids swimming and told them not to grab onto the wall. Carter wasn’t sure he could keep swimming but was also scared to take a break by holding onto the wall. He hated feeling terrified and so decided the best way out was to stop participating.

Once she understood why Carter was refusing to join the swimming lesson, she was able to help him come up with a better strategy for handling this type of situation in the future.

Four Ways to Reduce Sibling Name-Calling

A mom wrote how much she would like to stop her two boys from calling each other names.  So far nothing she and her husband have tried has really worked.

Kids calling each other names is definitely a behavior they control.  Although you cannot control the words your kids choose to use, you can set it up so they are encouraged to use self-control.  Here are four possible ways to do that:
  1. During a family meeting, discuss the problem with name calling and brainstorm ideas for solving it.  Write down all the ideas and then circle the ones that meet everyone’s needs.  Let the kids choose which idea to try first.  Revisit how it’s going at next week’s family meeting.
  2. Catch your kids being good.  For example, if they haven’t called each other any names for the past hour, comment “I appreciate how you’ve avoided any name calling for the past hour.”  This will reinforce the behavior you want.
  3. Another possibility is to respond to name calling by having the child go to his room and write about it – what happened, what other options he could have chosen besides name calling, what he will do differently next time and what type of amends he thinks he should make.  When he’s done writing, discuss it. 
  4. Put 20 quarters in a container for each boy and place the container in a central location like the kitchen.  Tell them that you’ll be taking a quarter out of their bucket each time you hear them name calling.  Let them know that at the end of 3 weeks (or whatever time frame you want) that they can keep the remaining quarters.  Alternatively, you could promise them a trip to somewhere like Dairy Queen at the end of three weeks where they can spend their remaining quarters on a treat.
If you have another approach that has worked well, please share it in the comments below.

Helping Young Kids Learn to Intentionally Focus

The type of focus kids need to succeed in school is intentional focus. The type of focus kids have when using a digital device like playing on an iPad is called hyperfocus.

Hyperfocus is defined by the UrbanDictionary as “a theoretical state of being or ability in which one is able to concentrate and focus on a particular subject so intensely, ultimately becoming oblivious to everything else around.” Experts recommend limiting preschooler’s screen time to 1-2 hours a day and elementary age kids to 2-3 hours a day.

You can help your children develop intentional focus and follow directions by playing these games with them:

  • Clapping game:
    • I clap out a rhythm and the children repeat it. This is fairly easy for most kids.
    • Now change the rule so that when I clap once, the kids clap twice and when I clap twice, the kids clap once.
    • You can make it as difficult as you want: when I clap once, kids clap twice, when I clap twice, the kids clap three times and when I clap three times the kids clap once.
    • Even when kids can repeat the rule back to you, they typically fall back into clapping like you are clapping after a couple rounds.
  • Red light, Green light. When I say red light the children stop. Green light means the children can walk again. If you walk on a red light, you go back to the starting line.
  • Simon Says – only do behavior if I begin with “Simon says” like “Simon says touch your head.”
  • Follow Me – Hop on one foot, skip, gallop, march, swing your arms in circles …
  • Putting puzzles together. 
  • Playing board games.

Improving Communication Through Family Meetings

Do you ever feel like the members of your family are not all on the same page?  Is there family stress around trying to get everything done?  Are you concerned about an ongoing problems with your kids? 

Family meetings are a wonderful tool for improving communication and implementing changes.  These weekly meetings teach your kids skills like how to problem solve and how to present ideas.

This is the basic outline of these meetings: 

1.  Go over the agenda (during the week anyone can add items to the agenda that they would like to discuss).
2.  Each person takes a turn giving everyone else in the group a compliment.  This helps set a positive tone and also focuses attention on what you appreciate about each other.
3.  Review any action items from last week's agenda.  If your family tried a solution to a problem, discuss how that solution worked.  Does the solution need adjusting or changing?   
4.  Go through this week's agenda items.  Brainstorm possible solutions to whatever problems need to be addressed.  Choose one solution to try that meets everyone's needs.  
5.  Review the calendar for the week - who is doing what and when.  Discuss any transportation related to these activties.
6.  Close with a fun activity or a snack. 

It's helpful to have a notebook where someone records what is discussed and decided at the meeting.  This makes it easier to review any action items from the previous week's meeting (step 3 above).

You may want to limit the meetings to a certain amount of time.  If you aren't able to get through all the agenda items, those can carry over to next week's agenda.

The goal is to keep the meeting positive and constructive.  Ideally everyone should leave the meeting feeling like they were heard. 

Avoiding Your Kids Responding "You're Not Listening!"

Listening is one of those skills that really doesn't seem like it's all that difficult. Why then do so many children report that their parents don't listen to them?

Maybe it's because there are many ways to unintentionally stop conversations with your kids. These traps are so easy to fall into that you may not even realize something has gone wrong until your child walks away in a huff.

Saying Things That Stop Conversation

It’s easy to respond to your children in ways that shutdown the conversation. In his book People Skills, Robert Bolton identifies 12 conversation roadblocks.

Being judgmental:
  • Criticizing: "That wasn’t a very smart thing to do."
  • Name calling: "You are such a brat!"
  • Diagnosing: "The reason you drag your feet on getting your chores done is that just you want to upset me."
  • Praising Evaluatively: "You’re the best player in the school. The tryouts will be breeze for you."

Avoiding the child’s concerns:

(Read the rest of the article on Priceless Parenting)

Sugared Cereal Is Not Healthy For Kids

Did you know that  sugared cereals have more sugar per serving than frosted cakes or donuts? Yikes! Dr. Michael Greger's article, &qu...