"Every child deserves Great Parenting & every parent deserves the Joy that Great Parenting can bring."

 

The Greatest Gift

Many of us struggle with the right gifts to give our children around the holidays. It’s fun to give them gifts that light up their faces and they enjoy. The things, as we all know, tend to be temporary and won’t last all year. There is something, however, that will be a gift that you can give your children all year long and that will last a lifetime.

The gift of appreciation

Communicating to your children everyday what you appreciate about them is a practice that will build and encourage them as well as train them to become appreciative of who they are and what they have in their lives.

The definition of appreciate is: to recognize the full worth of. What if we were communicating regularly that our children are fully worth it, just because?

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Note how they belong to the family: “You’ve got my eyes and Daddy’s chin.”
  • Step back and look at them like you did when they were newborns, what do you see?
  • Perhaps a strong sense of humor, or a desire to figure things out, tell them your observations: “Your curiosity will help you learn a lot.” or “I enjoy laughing with you!”
  • Acknowledge their contribution: “You setting the table tonight gave us a nice place to eat together as a family.”
  • Make observations about their strengths: “You know how to look at an argument from many viewpoints!” or “I notice how generous you are when sharing your snack with your friend.”
  • Express your confidence in them: “I know this is hard and I’ve seen you handle hard things before, I know you can do it”.

There are so many adults driven by the question in their own minds of whether they are worth it or not. Let’s help our children see that they are not defined by their accomplishments, or only how they behave, that they are appreciated just because and we appreciate and love them for who they are, not only what they do. That’s the greatest and longest lasting gift we can give.

12 years to learn to love them

When my kids were fairly young I was chatting with a mom with older kids. We were talking about teenage kids and she said, “It’s a good thing you get 12 years to learn to love them!” I was silently appalled. Her negativity and cynicism didn’t sit right with me. Although I had some parenting frustrations, I loved my children more than anything and knew my kids wouldn’t be like “that”. It did, however, spark some fear of the unknown. What did this experienced mom know that I didn’t? Why did teenagers have this reputation, what challenges would it cause for me?

Would my kids be moody, need more privacy than I was comfortable with, and experiment with dating, drinking, and different social circles? Would I know what to do and accept my changing role as parent of a teen versus a parent of a younger child? How would I help them navigate the difficult teen years, and how would I navigate them myself, especially with 3 children of varying ages?

Fortunately by the time my kids entered the adolescent years, I had some go-to resources. I had been taking parenting courses and the courses for parents of teens were available just when I needed them. The experiential style of the programs drove the messages home about what was needed from me (setting limits while giving up some control-scary!), and how to do that. I found other parents going through the same things I was and leaders that offered information, support, and great advice.

Were the teen years perfect for us – by no means!! We had our share of disagreements, calling on the carpet, anxious thoughts about what their future would hold, and tearful late night support sessions. Along with that scary stuff, we also had, celebrations for hard work that paid off, family fun hanging out and enjoying each other, dinners with everyone helping out, and respectful appreciation for each other as individuals.

There’s no avoiding the tough things that teens and families have to go through, AND, there is a way to handle it so those years are not just about surviving, but about thriving with confident respectful communications that keep the relationships intact. Twelve years is a turning point, and you embracing this new phase of development with knowledge, confidence, and a clear understanding of your role will deepen the love rather than make it more volatile.

I don’t like my sandwich cut that way!

I remember being really surprised when my son came home from school one day and announced that they weren’t allowed to trade at lunch anymore. It prompted me to ask some questions and apparently a number of kids didn’t want their own lunches and traded their food with their friends. I asked my son if he liked to trade and he said no because he wanted the snacks that he had packed for himself but some of the other kids had snacks their moms’ gave them.

Because the morning is such a busy and stressful part of the day, parents find themselves making their kids’ lunch. They say it’s faster this way. The problem is it robs the child of the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lunch, learn how to make choices, prepare food, and remember to bring the lunch to school. It also eliminates the whining over how the sandwich is cut, or what kind of fruit they have, and ensures more of the food will be eaten.

The short-term benefit of saving a few minutes does not exceed the long-term developmental opportunities. In the long run, as well, it saves the parent time, since the child is handling the lunch himself.

Here are a few tips for training your kids to prepare their own lunch:

  1. Consider making it the night before – ask yourself what’s more important – having a fresh sandwich or having a quiet morning?
  2. Prepare a system to succeed. You want this to be an easy process for your child. He needs to be able to open the refrigerator, quickly pick 2 or 3 things and put it in his lunch box. If he wants to eat pasta, you can boil it ahead of time and put it in small plastic containers, so the child just needs to grab the container.
  3. Teach him to pack a nutritious lunch that includes protein, fruits/vegetables.
  4. Even toddlers can help make their lunch. They can make choices, put food in zip lock bags, put in the ice pack, close the lunch box, etc.

Help your child in the beginning and train them in an encouraging way. Preparing lunch with your child can take 5 minutes. Consider making/finding the time.

The training period can take a few days or weeks. Whenever you do something for your child that he can do for himself, you’re sending him a discouraging message that he is not capable of doing things. Acquiring independence helps your child feel better about himself, and have better self esteem.

My daddy is mad at me

I used to volunteer to sell lunch tickets in the lobby of my children’s school. One day a little girl in pre-k got dropped off and as she walked into the lobby where I was sitting, I noticed she was upset. I asked her what was wrong and she started to sob uncontrollably. She could barely get the words out, she said “My…daddy…is…mad…at…me…” through her sobs. My heart broke at that moment, and to this day when I tell this story, I get a lump in my throat. My heart broke not only for this little girl who was starting her day very upset and thinking that her father disapproved of her, but also knowing that I had been that parent. I had, more than once, been so frazzled making sure everybody was was up, dressed, had eaten, brushed their teeth, had their backpacks, had their shoes on and was in the car on time that I was angry and had yelled at my children before school. I started my day stressed and I was the reason they started their day stressed.

I am grateful now that our school had parent volunteers like me and teachers that could help my kids on those difficult days, and, that I found some help through parenting classes to help me be a better parent. I discovered a better mindset, good strategies, and calming support. Come to my Conquering Morning Mayhem workshop on December 2 and find out how you, too, can have better routines that help create more harmony and less stress for you and your family. You will have more days that start off right.

How to teach manners

The holidays are approaching and we all want our children to exhibit good manners, especially when the extended family is around.

For young children it is helpful to have practice and walk through what might be happening at a family gathering. A practice run prior to the get-together can help prepare them for a potentially overwhelming event. They need to learn the traditions that to you may take for granted through training, involvement, and experience.

For instance, a meal served buffet style, family style with large bowls on the table, or passing plates to be served from one end of the table to the other may be a new routine and walking through it ahead of time may keep smaller children calmer and more patient while food is being served. Also, explaining the expectations of when they can leave the table or if a toast or prayer will be said before the meal will help them feel involved and more comfortable when they know what is coming next.

In addition to training, manners are taught by modeling, sharing & encouraging.

Kids who grow up in a house where they hear the words “please, thank you, and I’m sorry” will more likely use them as adults.

Instead of constant reminding and lecturing you can share personal examples why good manners are important. For example:

  1. Today I had lunch with a friend and he was talking while he was eating – it was disgusting.
  2. Yesterday I was at the bank and the teller was so polite and helpful, I enjoyed working with him.
  3. This morning, my client called and thanked me for my customer service. He was very appreciative. It is a pleasure working with him.
  4. My sister called to apologize and it made me feel special and loved.

Most importantly, encourage and notice every time your children use good manners, and choose to ignore when they forget to use the “magic” words.

You can say:

  • Grandma had such a big smile when you hugged her and thanked her for the birthday gift!
  • Our waitress really appreciated how polite you were by saying please and thank you while you were ordering.
  • You and your brother really worked out the problem, that was brave of you to tell him you were sorry.
  • I appreciate your patience while I was finishing up my conversation with the doctor.

When children know what to expect, they are more likely to be cooperative and you can be more relaxed and enjoy time with the extended family.

Communicating love through actions

Do you love your child?

I’m sure you do. The question is, does your child feel loved? Saying “I love you” may not be enough. It is better to show that we love our children, as well, through our actions. Consider this story: A child accidentally broke a vase. The mother was very upset. After a few minutes of screaming and yelling, the child asked her “If I broke my leg, would you be that upset?” You don’t want your child to believe that the vase is more important than him. A better way to approach this scenario is to focus on safety first and ask the child “Are you ok? Are you hurt?” or say “Be careful there are pieces of glass all over the floor.” and then focus on cleaning it up together.

Later, you can problem solve with your child and decide together what needs to be done. Maybe he can fix the vase, buy a new one (from his allowance), or agree on how to prevent it in the future. Remember to send the message of love through actions and not just words.

I don’t want to go to soccer anymore

This time of year the newness of the school year is over and the novelty of activities is waning and sometimes our kids inform us that they don’t want to continue with an after school activity like soccer, karate, music, ballet, etc. Since most of the time we are already committed financially to those activities and want our children to follow through, we get frustrated and try to convince/bribe/force our kids into going.

Instead of getting angry, it’s important to identify what you are upset about: that you want your child to learn about commitment, that you don’t want the other parents and kids to see your child as a quitter, or perhaps that the team won’t have enough players without your child?

One option to resolve this is that you can explain that the child has to attend the activity, but he can choose to participate or just sit/watch/cheer the team. We call this parenting tool freedom within limits. The child is not choosing whether to go or not, and has choice over how he/she will participate and at what level.

This solution reduces the risk of getting angry or hurting your relationship with your child. Through the process you are teaching him the importance of being part of the team and honoring his previous commitments in a respectful way.

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