Archive for June 2011

Family dinner: drug & alcohol abuse prevention

June 28, 2011
pizza making former adolescent. Family dinner is the anti-drug. Family dinner prevents drug abuse, alcohol abuse and cigarette addiction. Family dinner is the best and most effective way to prevent drug abuse
Difficult children eventually grow up and become interesting. I have many “Ian” stories because he was so challenging. He was the third child born in 3.5 years, and has a younger sister. Ian is making pizza dough here. Making pizza together on Friday nights and watching a movie together was one of our family traditions.

I can still see Ian, above, then 17 years old, standing in the kitchen, looking down at me from his 6’2″ height, arguing in a tortured voice.
Ian: “Why do I have to eat family dinner?”
Me: “You must have dinner with us tonight.”
Ian: “It’s stupid.” Shakes hands and shoulders. Sighs.
Me: “It will only take 20 minutes. Then you can go out with your friends.” Some things are non-negotiable. Every fiber of my being sent the message that I was not going to budge from this expectation.
Ian: “I don’t see why I must have family dinner.” I give him the last word. No worries. He came to family dinner and got a dose of connection, values and love.
The primary reason to have family dinner:
Research  shows that regular family dinner (breakfast works, too) three or more times a week results in lower use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes among teens and tweens.
Family dinner interrupts the time between 2 pm school dismissal and midnight, when junior operators must be off the road. So it limits the distance and trouble they can get into.
The worst trouble one of our teens ever got into was when that teen should have been home for family dinner. Bob and I had become permissive. We immediately got back on the family dinner track.
Our family made pizza together on many Friday nights and watched a G or PG-rated movie together. Everyone put toppings of their choice on a small pizza. By middle school, they could make and roll out the dough so it was a team effort. We all pitched in to clean up. My “kids” request pizza when they come home to visit and we share an enjoyable family dinner.
And Ian? When he celebrated his 26th birthday a few months ago, do you know what he served for a bunch of friends? A dozen homemade pizzas. As they devoured the delicious gourmet pizza, friends commented, “You MADE this? Man, this is really good!”
Get some pizza pans. Connect to your kids. Look how fast they’ve grown already. They will leave home — and this will make you happy. Family dinner reduces the likelihood they will stray towards drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. This will make you happier.

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Me and we time

June 27, 2011
For parents, the most valuable investment in your family is your marriage. Take time to spend together because parenting is all about family. The stronger your family, the happier and better-adjusted your children will be. You are the role model for how to take care of yourselves and sustain a marriage.
“We time” is an essential investment in a family’s well-being and preservation.

I remember my last few hours of “me time” in June: the baby was down for her morning nap, the boys were at their last day of preschool and my oldest was in first grade. I thought, “What should I do with this time, probably my last uninterrupted moment until September?”

I got myself a snack that I didn’t have to share, sat in the recliner and treated myself to an hour of reading a book. It was my last uninterrupted daytime moment until September. My daughter calls this “me time.” Mothers and fathers — especially full-time mom/dads — need
“me time” to be better parents. Me time makes us more patient, loving and kind.

Couples need “we time” to stay connected, to forgive each other for being imperfect and to have fun together — one of the best ways to preserve marriage.

Bob and I created “we time” at least one weekend a year, and week-long vacations alone together every few years. We hoodwinked relatives (usually my mother), asked single friends to come for the weekend, hired nannies, and traded childcare with other families to re-connect and have childless fun. We also went out on dates at least once a month.

I recommend a regime of “we time” to all parents. Kids grow up and leave home. Marriages can erode and leave home without regular nourishment.

“We time” was money in the marriage bank. If both parents are employed, “we time” is just as essential as it is for domo-gurus (stay-at-home moms/dads).

I worried for our marriage when our nest emptied after 25 continuous years of parenting. Regular doses of “we time” along with frequent tune-ups (marriage therapy and marriage encounters) and intensive workshops helped our marriage survive and thrive.

The first 20 years of marriage and raising little children creates the most stress on time, money and your relationship. Hang in there. Schedule “we time” and “me time” this summer. It’s an enjoyable investment.

This could happen anywhere

June 20, 2011
when there are few resources, it can cause sibling rivalry. Brothers and sisters can learn so much from being allowed to interact with each other and work out their own problems. Raising children and discipline is all about allowing children to learn how to get along, that fighting hurts, that sibling rivalry is part of life. Sibling rivalry might drive parents nuts, so WE parents must change our behavior and manage our emotions so our children have the opportunities to discover how to make good decisions in life.
Scarce resources make for interesting family times.

Enrique, 10, says, “Dad, can I have some ice cream?

Dad says, “There’s a little left. You can have it.”

Maria, 8, pipes up, “I want some.”

Enrique agrees to share with Maria. Dad is flabbergasted because Enrique has Asperger Syndrome and sharing is rare. Elated, dad goes back to reading his book.

Maria takes more than her fair share and eats it. Enrique discovers a piddling amount left and crows about the injustice for 15 minutes.

Dad tolerates Enrique’s complaints. He doesn’t rush out to the store. When Mom comes home, Dad reports the incident, which re-ignites Enrique’s whining, much to Dad’s annoyance.

This could happen in any family because there are always scarce resources, sibling rivalry, people who will share, and people who will take advantage of their generosity.

Dad asked our parenting workshop, “What to do?”

1. Appreciate that Enrique and Maria have each other to learn from. Sibling offer some of life’s richest lessons.

2. Put the issue on the family meeting agenda — always posted on the fridge, ready to diffuse tense situations and provide a calm forum later. Mom and Dad can ask the kids for ideas on how to handle such a situation in the future, such as “You cut, I pick.”

Write down viable suggestions and agree on which ones to follow, even if parents do not fully support them. Give kids’ suggestions a full trial, which will nurture your child’s self-esteem, connect them to the family, give them faith in the family meeting system and confidence that they will be treated with mutual respect.

During “compliments” Dad can recognize Enrique for sharing, even though sharing doesn’t alway work out. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share again.

This is why I advocate family meetings. They are valuable forums to work out problems, connect to the family and nurture a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

3. Allowing Enrique and Maria to work it out allows them to learn how to manage emotions and behavior. Usually these lessons are painful. Welcome to life – for typical people and those with special needs.

4. Dad can report to Mom out of earshot of Enrique. This would have eliminated the nuisance of chapter two of the complaining.

5. Dad and Mom can privately agree to NOT intervene in the sibling rivalry and announce the new policy at the family meeting. They must follow through by leaving the area, putting on headphones or earmuffs, asking the kids to take it outside, putting the issue on the family meeting, and encouraging the children by saying, “I know you two can work it out.” This is having a plan. Things may get worse before they get better because the kids will test the parents’ new behavior.

YAY Dad for not running out to buy more ice cream, which may create entitlement.

What I love about this scenario is that it exemplifies family life. Having a plan ready, knowing that sibling rivalry is normal and allowing them to work it out allows parents and kids to manage their emotions and behavior.

Slow down, you move too fast

June 13, 2011
bath time is an excellent time for children to unwind so bedtime is not a discipline problem. Water soothes children and gets them ready for bed. Parenting is about taking time and spending time and love to get children to do what we want- also known as cooperation and discipline. Positive discipline is easy when you know how to do it.
Tubby time for sisters. I’m a great believer in a nightly bath as therapy to get ready for sleep.

Watching children play together, catching them being good, witnessing their daily activities without criticism, rushing or interfering is one of the most important things you can do for your family.

It’s time well invested in the parent-child relationship. I learned how to watch quietly when Ian, my third child, was very difficult and I didn’t like him very much. My assignment was to “rebuild the relationship.” I had to practice seeing his positive attributes.

It took at least three months of forcing myself to change my attitude towards Ian, then 2 years old, was very demanding, controlling, loud, powerful and a trouble-maker with his older brother and sister, to start to see his beauty, charm and persistence.

Last week at a parenting workshop when I described how to just watch children in action, the mother of four children ages 4 to 15 had an “aha” moment.

“When I just watch my 7 and 4 year olds take a bath, and I’m not cleaning the bathroom, dealing with the 15-year-old in the hall, making phone calls or doing a dozen other things at the same time, they go to bed without a fuss, without coming out and asking for another drink of water.”

This is why parenting workshops are so effective. They give parents an opportunity to  step back from the hectic, emotional and consuming job of taking care of children, and see the big picture.

A smooth bedtime routine benefits everyone — parents, children and the family environment. After 7 or 8 pm, little children do not have the emotional or physical capacity to be awake. However, we must satisfy their emotional needs and wind them down for bed by using a soothing bath where we are not distracted.

Just watch. Wait. Enjoy the moment — they will be grown up sooner than you will ever believe.

When Ian turned 13, he decided to build a skateboard ramp in the driveway with the help of his friends. I continued my routine of watching quietly — and it was very interesting to see his crew in action. They taught me when the hour is late (after 2 pm) and the problem great,  quit and go swimming. Ian and his buddies finished that skateboard ramp, which impressed me and gave them a great deal of confidence and competence.

Watching was sheer delight. Remember to slow down, watch and don’t miss their growing up.

Mirror mirror on the wall

June 9, 2011
Parents are about the only people responsible for their child's behavior. Their children mirror back their parenting style. The most effective way to solve a discipline problem for a toddler, preschooler, school age, child, tween or teen or teenager is to change the parents behavior. My book Raising Able will give many great ideas on how to solve common discipline problems, which usually stem from the parents.
When our three little children reflected our poor parenting skills, it was motivation to learn positive parenting skills. I found out that I WAS THE PROBLEM .

Do you have a problem child? A difficult discipline problem? A toddler, child, tween or teenager who regularly challenges, aggravates and frustrates you?

I can relate. I had three children in 3.5 years and I yelled at, sometimes hit and often punished them and STILL didn’t get the results I wanted.

Then I found out about parenting support groups and joined one. And then another one. I kept going until I began to lead of parenting groups. We teach what we most need to learn. I learned I was the problem — not my kids! I had to learn different ways to respond to them. It took time, attention and effort — that were worth the investment. Workshops are also fun!

Experts agree.  The most effective way to change a child’s behavior is to change the parent. See this article: http://www.washington.edu/news/archive/uweek/18654

If you have problems with your child’s behavior, then you — mom, dad, whoever is raising the child — must learn to be consistent, show mutual respect and to act, not yak about setting kind and firm limits. Take time to invest in your family’s future with family dinner, family meetings and family chores. Learn how to deal with morning and bedtime routines, homework, sibling rivalry, tantrums, mealtime, power struggles and more.

The best way to improve your child’s behavior is to improve yours. You can read a book — I have one for sale. You can take a course. A
4-week parenting skills course starts tonight — Thursday, June 9, 2011 at Roudenbush Community Center in Westford, Mass. from 7-9 pm. It could change your life . Come tonight for the introduction, no charge, no obligation. If you like it, sign up. Hope to see you there.

If you can’t come, contact me for phone coaching or at your home in the Boston area. Parenting is THE most important — and difficult — task most of us will do in our lifetimes. You can learn to manage your child’s behavior by changing how YOU set limits, follow through, and establish a democratic family where parents and children have rights.

ACT don’t YAK and other ways to cut your yelling by 50%

June 6, 2011
This workshop shows women talking about parenting, how to parent the best way - from a positive attitude. We take the time to reflect on how we discipline our children, tweens, teens, preschoolers and toddlers in the Boston, AYer, Chelmsford, Westford, CArlisle, Acton, Dracut, Bedford area. We come together to plan strategies so we act, don't yak. These women are meeting in CHelmsford, near Westford and ACton, Massachusetts.

Parenting groups are fun, and you will take away new strategies every time. That's me in the middle, surrounded by a group of mothers in Chelmsford. Fathers are always welcome.

I’m not sure how my children would have turned out without my going to parenting workshops, where I learned about their motivations and to change my behavior, which, in turn, changed their behavior. Everything was based on mutual respect and power-sharing, which were hard for me to learn. You see, I wanted to rule my family of four children born in seven years with the baseball bat, not the feather duster.

The first thing that happened as a result of attending parenting workshops was that yelling at my kids decreased by at least half. I eventually reserved yelling for that special time right before my period, and  I learned to mark my calendar so I could manage my emotions and hormones.

I learned the enjoyable art of encouragement, how to hold family meetings to nurture mutual respect and much more, the importance of family dinner and chores, and how to use natural and logical consequences.  I gave up praise, punishment, reward, yelling and frustration and replaced it with a positive relationship with my children that has lasted into their adulthood.

Parenting groups are fun and filled with laughter because if you can’t laugh at it, you can’t live with it. None of us are perfect parents and besides, if we were , everyone would hate us. Workshops give us a step back from the forest, to see the trees, and make a plan to manage the forest using positive strategies. We get ideas from other parents and learn what to expect developmentally. Of course, everything is confidential, abstain from judgment and create a supportive environment.

Summer can be intense because the children don’t have school routines and we’re around them so much more. Sign up for one or both of these workshops offered in Westford and Acton, Massachusetts.

Westford at the Roudenbush Community Center starts Thursday, June 9 at 7 pm and goes June 16, 23 and 30.

Acton at Acton Community Education starts Wednesday, June 29, skips July 6, and continues on July 13, 20 and 27.

Do join us and have fun, gain confidence and skills and establish a positive connection with your children for life — and to sail through the teenage years on a foundation of mutual respect.