Archive for October 2011

Model a positive attitude when you’re powerless

October 31, 2011
halloween storms remind us how important it is to set a positive attitude as part of positive parenting. What you DO is more important that what you SAY. There are plenty of chores when the power is out. Work together as a team. Encourage their efforts. Use the extra time to have a family meeting. You can discipline children without getting angry. Children, tweens, teens, and teenagers respond to positive parenting.

Power outages call for creativity. That a measuring cup of milk heating on the wood stove insert for a mochachino.

Settling in for three to seven days without power in Ayer, Mass. with 640,000 people, reminds me of the importance of parents setting a positive family attitude.

My friend “Jill” grew up as the oldest of eight children in a family that struggled to make ends meet. On days when there was no food to eat in the house in the 1950s, when milk and bread were still delivered door-to-door, her father would steal food to feed his hungry brood.

Jill’s mother then toasted the bread, heated the milk, poured it over the bread and sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar to make an old-fashioned treat called milk toast.
Here’s where attitude came in. As she served the milk toast to her children, Jill’s mom said, “Mmm. Isn’t this good?” and passed on the priceless gifts of attitude and gratitude. They had something to fill their bellies and it tasted good. Any food on an empty stomach tastes delicious.

Parents convey attitude towards our children non-verbally more than with words. Children pay more attention to what we do over what we say. Attitude can be conveyed in body language, what we don’t say, and how we say it.

I copied my mother’s attitude towards sarcasm. My mother made it clear to her nine children what she thought of sarcasm, calling it “the weakest form of communication.” Avoid sarcasm if you can, and If your family uses it to communicate, put “sarcasm” on the family meeting agenda and talk about the pros and cons of sarcasm. There aren’t many “pros.”

It’s easy to be happy and patient when things are going our way. When raising children and keeping long-term relationships going, it’s the challenges, disappointments and hardships that test our character.

My biggest challenge in raising four kids was to learn to manage my anger, develop patience and learn positive parenting skills like encouragement and family meetings. Parenting is THE most difficult and most important task most of us will do in our lifetimes, with the longest lasting legacy.

I remember one winter when my children, then ages 8, 6, 4, and 1,  had back-to-back cases of chicken pox and strep throat. I was home all day and night for nearly a month. In those days, the phone was my connection to other adults to keep my sanity.

My mother provided a friendly ear, and encouraged me by saying with a laugh, “You’re developing character, Susan.” She instilled in me the priceless gift of, “You can do it” which carries over to every aspect of my life. Surprise Halloween storms and unexpected bumps of parenting provide many opportunities to develop a positive attitude and character.

Have some fun with your kids this week. Use the extra time to have a family meeting, one of THE most powerful parenting tools to develop your child’s critical thinking, self-esteem and confidence, make a strong family connection, set a positive family atmosphere, enhance communication and practice teamwork and mutual respect.

Family meetings are worth the investment of time and energy. See my free tip sheet and other postings on how to hold them. You’ll be glad you get into the habit.

What is Your Child Really Saying? Translating ‘attitude’

October 26, 2011

Guest Blog by Judy Arnall

Attitude is sarcastic anger. Sometimes, it‟s a snarky I-statement or You statement If you look underneath, often, it‟s a sign that your child is ready for more independence and feels thwarted in some way. Does she have reasonable choices? Can you give her more ability to make decisions? Or does she feel that she never has control over anything?

Children want their needs and wants taken care of, just like adults do.

When looking at sass from your child, try to identify what they are really trying to communicate based on their need or feeling (NOF), stripped of the sarcasm, and then feed it back to them. “You are upset because I’m interrupting your game?”

Share your feelings. “When I hear your tone, I fee disrespected. I would like to talk about this. Can we try this again? Here is how you can say what you are feeling. Instead of saying, “Whatevah!” say, I’m feeling nagged. Please leave me alone.” Then I will really hear you. Can you try that please?”

Sometimes, you really have to give them the exact words to use, or they don‟t know the respectful way to assert their needs. It’s a critical life skill to speak up respectfully so people can know what‟s bothering you but still not feel attacked.

Or you could gently say, “Do you want a moment to rephrase that?” You could use humor in your response. You could also just walk away and your body language will reveal you don’t want to be spoken to that way. Responding with anger or sarcasm doesn‟t teach them anything other than its okay for them to continue that way.

Be sure to model assertive politeness instead of “attitude” yourself. It’s a hard trap to not fall into especially when family sarcasm is portrayed all over the media as cool and desirable. It’s a false representation.

If you said, “whatever” to your boss when she asked you why your project was late, I would bet that she wouldn’t laugh. You are the perfect person to teach your children the assertiveness skills they need in life. Start at home!

Attitude Statements Your Child Might Use

  • You’re not my boss
  • I hate you
  • I’m not your slave
  • I’ll do what I want
  • You don’t love me
  • You don’t understand
  • It’s not fair
  • This is dumb
  • I can’t do it
  • I have rights!
  • Fine!
  • Whatever!
  • I don’t care

Persuasive Statements that Adults Listen To

  • I’d like a choice
  • I didn’t like what you said
  • That doesn’t seem fair
  • I need to try
  • I need attention
  • Please listen to my opinion
  • I feel capable and responsible
  • I feel scared, worried, about failing
  • I don’t know how
  • Please help me
  • Please let me have a choice
  • I’m feeling pushed
  • I’m scared

This blog is from another parenting educator, Judy Arnall from Canada. We both come from the same positive parenting approach based on the works of Dr. Alfred Adler. Judy Arnall is an award-winning parenting and teacher conference speaker, mom of five children and author.
Reach her at jarnall@shaw.ca, www.professionalparenting.ca

Make allowances pay

October 17, 2011
Managing money for family vacations is critical for kids and money. An allowance for children and tweens can be used to teach them how to budget and save, and to NOT spend more than they have. It's OK to say no. Money and children is a complex topic that can be simplified through allowances. Children and money often comes up in the media. Let kids experience not having money or having to delay gratification. De-emphasize buying THINGs. Can you live without things? Go to yard sales to teach kids how to spend money wisely.

These kids on vacation carry their own backpacks -- hopefully with lunch inside. An upcoming vacation or holiday are excellent opportunities to teach kids how to save money.

While watching the Patriots yesterday, I took note of commercials because I rarely watch TV. “Aunt Sue, how do you know what to buy unless you watch TV?” my nephew asked dryly.

I don’t need to buy much. I might want to buy more than I need. Managing my emotions around my wants has been critical to money peace.

Spending less than you earn is a valuable life lesson that parents can teach kids from age five on.

Five year olds can learn to manage small amounts of money through a weekly allowance not tied to chores. Give her 50 cents and allow her to lose it, give it away, save it or spend it on whatever she wants. Introduce the idea of saving for a special occasion, such as an excursion, day trip or holiday.
When she gets in first grade, increase the allowance so she can choose whether to buy lunch a few days a week or make a brown bag lunch and save money. Put “allowance” on the family meeting agenda. Kids as young as 3 years old can participate in a 10 minute family meeting that includes compliments, new business, a snack and family fun. See my tip sheet on family meetings.
Talk about how they can budget their allowance, plan, donate and save for special occasions. Don’t do it for them. Allow them to experience spending all of their money and your kind firm refusal to be a money machine. Unless you want to undermine their money management by showing them that you’ll always bail them out of financial problems, and they should be able to buy everything they want.
Award allowances without tying them to chores because they contribute to the family welfare, they also share in the benefits. If you bribe them , you’re teaching them to manipulate people with money, and to work for money.
According to research, money is the LOWEST form of motivation. Have you ever worked only for the money or had an employee only in it for the money? Both are bankrupt.
It takes time to learn to manage money and develop internal motivation to contribute to a family and society. Allowances teach children to manage small amounts of money with guidance, and to patronize yard sales.
By the time children are old enough to “want” things, they are old enough to earn money outside of the family by pet care, yard work, mother’s helper, lemonade stands and more creative ideas. I discourage the practice of paying kids to do special chores to earn money for special purchases.
Do not feel sorry for them! They can work outside of the family for what they want. Delayed gratification encourages the priceless lesson of self-discipline and avoids addiction to “stuff.”
My husband bought his third new car ever on Friday. The first new car was in 1981, the second — a work truck — was bought in 2005. Bob drove used cars while we paid for food and housing, shoes, braces, school trips, fun things, teen beater cars, and college education for our four children.
At the end of the day, it’s nice to have a new car that we could have lived without. One of the things I appreciate about him the most is his healthy and generous relationship to money. You can nurture this in your children by your example, encouraging them to live within their means, and setting kind and firm limits.

Make friends with money from the start

October 10, 2011
Children doing chores is an important part of growing up. Children should NOT be paid for doing chores unless they pay parents for doing chores. Children can learn to manage money by being given an allowance and learning how it feels to run out of money. Children, tweens and teens can learn to budget money, plan for special occasions and trips, and spend money carefully. They can learn by having an allowance, but not tied to chores
My daughter Kristen, then about age 6, is painting the basement playroom. Kristen did not get cash for doing this. Her rewards were much more valuable: being connected to our family (the BEST substance abuse prevention) teamwork, learning a work ethic, developing a skill, nurturing self-esteem, self-discipline and competence. Today, Kristen is earning a Masters in Fine Arts in sculpture.

Money. Can’t live without it. Seems like there’s never enough. Many a marriage has failed over money. The challenge is how to teach children the golden rule: spend less than you earn.

You can convey this to children so they grow up to have successful relationships with money, and their life partners.

DO NOT pay children to contribute around the house, also known as chores. Do not pay children to work for money at home unless you want to:

1. Guarantee that you will always have to pay them to do that task, earn that grade, or practice that instrument;

2. Teach them that money can be used to manipulate others; or

3. Teach them that work ought only be done for money. Research shows that money is the LOWEST motivation to do anything.

Parents must be creative, have a plan and work together to make teamwork fun to motivate kids without money, fear or punishment.

This takes time. Pay, praise and reward and punishment are quick and dirty. Creating an environment where contributions are encouraged and appreciated takes time and patience — like most aspects of good parenting.

Start with a family meeting.  This is where to reinforce positive parenting and mold your child into the adult you envision. Or at least to manage their behavior to live peacefully until they leave home 🙂

Make a list of everything parents do around the house. Ask every child, tween and teen to make a list of what s/he does. Self-chores do not count, such as, “make my bed, clear my dish, put my toys away.” We’re looking for contributions for the common good: emptying the wastebaskets, setting the table, making the salad or dessert for dinner, mowing the lawn, painting a room. Notice how those chores increased in complexity, as they do as a child gets older.

Ask them what responsibilities they’d like to take on. Write them down. Expect them to do the job in the coming week, month and year. Encourage and appreciate their efforts. Hold them to their agreements by being kind, firm and consistent. This is how they develop the precious gift of self-discipline — doing something we don’t feel like doing at that moment.

Do not pay them by the chore. Do not withhold allowance if they don’t do them. DO give them an allowance that is NOT tied to money. They contribute to the common good, they enjoy the rewards of being in a family. Don’t you have bad days/weeks at work where your performance was lacking?

Here’s a true story about how to handle requests for payment of chores.

Me: (Fixing dinner.) Noah, it’s time to empty the dishwasher. (Notice I didn’t ask him. He agreed to do to the job at a family meeting.)

Noah (age 8): Mom, will you pay me for emptying the dishwasher?

Me: (Pause. Thinking quickly.) Sure, Noah. I’ll pay you $3 for emptying the dishwasher.

Noah: (eyes light up.)

Me: But dinner is $5.

Next post: How to use allowances to teach children how to manage their money.

Is my child deaf?

October 3, 2011
These boys are under water and can't hear their parents. They have become mother deaf. "My kids won't listen" is a common complaint of parents. Part of discipline and disciplining is to teach children how to listen. This means you must ACT not YAK . The more you yak, the less they listen. If you do not follow througn in a kind, firm friendly and immediate manner, you will train your child NOT to listen. This is a parental problem.
These boys really can’t hear what their parents are saying.

“My child doesn’t listen” is the most common complaint I’m hearing during my fall parenting skills workshops. One parent described it brilliantly when she said, “It’s like I’m not even here. I’m invisible.”

The good news is that this situation can be changed. You can restore your child’s hearing abilities.
The bad news? Mom and Dad have trained the child to be parent-deaf. As with many discipline issues, the problem is the parent. Trust me, I’ve been the guilty party a hundred times and had to change MY behavior. Then the kids change.  As you know, we cannot change them. We can only change ourselves.

Here’s the roadmap on how to eliminate parent-deafness.
1. Start with awareness and determine what is most important. Notice I didn’t say, “Choose your battles.” This sets the stage for power struggles. They are ugly, trust me, I’ve been in enough of them.
2. When you say something to your child, get his attention. Look him in the eye. Say it once. Do not repeat it. Make sure what you are saying is worth following up on. If he doesn’t respond, ask, “Did you hear what I said?”
If he says “What?” to everything you say, he might have the “what disease.” Then you need a pretend vaccination against it. Give it to him, right in the arm, with humor. Say “I’m vaccinating you against the ‘what disease.'” From then on, whenever he says “What?” say, “I think you heard me.” or “What do you think I said?” or ask, “Do the vaccination wear off? Do you need a booster?” Then grab him close, laughing, and give him another what-disease shot in the arm.
3. If your child has heard you and chooses not to respond, you must ACT not YAK. (Thanks to Dr. Sam Goldstein for the brilliant Act Don’t Yak.) Do not repeat what you said unless you want to continue to train her to ignore what you say.
Can you see how it is imperative to follow through immediately by acting? Make sure you are kind, firm and immediate. You will have to get up, interrupt what you’re doing and prove you mean business.
Here are some examples.
1. “Pick up your toys.” If you have kids under 24 years old, get used to picking up. The younger they are, the more you will have to act by picking up with them. Endless picking up is a fact of raising kids. It is not fair. Get rid of some toys or rotate bags of toys to the attic. Yakking, “Clean up your room” is like saying to you, “Go clean up K-Mart.” Where do you start?
2. “Go brush your teeth and get ready for bed.” Most normal children will ignore this. You must ACT and do it with them. Establish a bedtime routine where you are with them every step of the way, which also insures they will stay in bed.
3. “Get ready for school!” You can only take preventative action on this one by preparing a plan. Talk about the morning routine at a family meeting. Read my free e-book “Are you ready yet?” After educating them on how to take responsibility in the morning for getting ready on time, have an ACTion plan. Have your little diva choose her clothes the night before. Be ready  to go out to the car with her clothes in a bag if she is not ready at the agreed upon time. She will inevitably choose the coldest wettest day of the year to test your resolve.
Parenting is not for the faint-hearted. Parent-deafness can be deadly. Start with awareness and begin the new training today. Allow three weeks to three months to develop a new habit. You can do it.