Archive for the ‘parenting classes’ category

What I wish I knew as a young mom

September 6, 2012
What I wish I knew as a young mother- spend more time, less worry. love them, set limits and love with logic. Limits set kindly and firmly are the most important. I had NO IDEA how much parenting support groups would help me be a better mother

This is three families at a cottage off the coast of Maine. My family is in the front two rows. Our friend Bruce is on the second row in the plaid shirt and Colin is wearing the baseball cap.

There’s so much to know to be a good mother that young moms can’t know it all. They can learn it from their kids and from other moms. Here’s ten things I wish I knew, or I discovered along the way.

1. Time is short, even though it feels long when they’re young. Cherish their childhood. It will be gone faster than you can believe. I know everyone says this and the days are long.  Go the extra mile even when it’s hard.

2. Motherhood means sacrifice. You will eventually have more time for you. See #1. Learn to give as much as humanly possible. They’ll always want more anyways!

3. Take care of yourself. It took me a few years to learn this one. Self-care makes you a better mother. Spend some time and money on YOU. Then you have more to give.

4. Don’t fool with regret and guilt. Do your best. There is no perfect mother out there. As long as you get it right at least half the time, you’re good. Get help! See #5.

5. Other mothers and experienced mothers can help. Parenting support groups saved me and showed me how to have a respectful and healthy relationship with my kids, without yelling, threatening, spanking, bribing and punishment. It was an investment of time and effort that paid off.

6. HAVE FUN. Your kids will cherish the good times and hopefully forgive and forget the not-so-good. Kids thrive on fun. Laugh, play games, tell stories, play Charades together.

7. Kids don’t have to have it all. Learn to say “no” in a kind and firm way. Encourage them to earn money to buy more stuff. Show them how to have fun without spending a dime.

8. Kids are wonderful teachers. They are patient and kind. They will reflect back who and what we are. Sometimes the reflection is painful. They are flexible and can learn from us, especially through our actions. My kids let me make the same mistake over and over again until I figured out a different way.

9. Having family meetings and having kids do chores and family dinners are like putting money in the bank, an investment in everything you want your kids to become in the future.

10. Don’t sweat the small stuff. When my two young sons discovered a mud bath and got really dirty, my choice was to reprimand them or surrender and get out the camera, quickly, and laugh.

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.

“Pretty smart — for an adult.”

November 11, 2010

I LOVE the feedback the young people deliver to me — through the parents, who are being coached on the Raising Able Family Management System.

Example one: “Freddie” is 14, a freshman in high school, and has ADD. His mother often nags, chastizes, bosses around, reminds, praises, punishes and rewards him for various behaviors. She has trouble keeping track of all of the agreements and punitive measures.

When Mom wanted Freddoe to keep food scraps to a minimum in his bedroom, she got him to comply by taking away his X-box headgear. This is NOT related, respectful and reasonable. We are working on a plan for the two of them to empower him to clean up his area to prevent roaches and mice by using encouragement, expectation and teamwork. 

Freddie likes to stay up late playing video games, and his mother could not figure out how to persuade him to get more sleep. Nagging and threatening did not work.

In desperation, she followed my suggestion, which was this: “Freddie is old enough to start making decisions for himself. Let him experience the natural consequences of staying up late and feeling like mashed mud the next morning.”

“It only took him two months,” said Freddie’s mother. “I told him who suggested it, and he said, ‘She’s pretty smart — for an adult.'”

I think Freddie is “pretty smart” for a teen.

Example two:  The mother of “Emily” came to my six-week class to learn to set limits for her 7-year-old mini-tyrant. Mom started making small changes and implementing plans for chronic situations, like the bedtime routine.

When Emily resists and challenges — as is normal with a new system — her mother says, “I learned about this in my class on the Raising Able Family Management Plan.”

Emily said to her mother, “Tell her ‘That’s enough of that plan.‘”

In the long run, the Emilies and Freddies of the world, and their families, are better off with a consistent plan.

Both of Emily and Freddie are only children — which adds to the challenge. Every time their parents master one stage of development, the child has matured and moved on to something new, and the parents never get to use the knowledge again. The dynamic of two adults to one child is challenging because the child must navigate in an adult world; and three is a crowd. There are many successful “only” children.  It is just a different scenario than having two or more children.

I enjoy the youngsters’ feedback because it means the parents are managing their emotions and expectations, and using encouragement and empowerment to get the children to do what they want — the signature of a good manager.

Encouragement is like nectar for families.

October 7, 2010

Encouragement is one of the most powerful ways to boost family relationships. Encouragement can change the way parents interact with all kinds of children — special, spirited, disabled, temporarily able-bodied, typical and more!
Encouragement is easy to learn and can be practiced daily. See my free tip sheet on encouragement and get some more tips on this short video.

Praise as sickly-sweet candy

September 27, 2010
praise is like candy, encouragement like apples. Encouragement is one of the best ways to see the positive in children and other people. Encouragement is the best way to teach - discipline - children. Children respond to encouragement. Praise is extrinsic motivation. encouragement is used by savvy parents. Parents who know how to relate to people use encouragement. encouragement gives courage.

Photo by Bill Longshaw

When I had four children in seven years, this is how I kept my sanity.

1. Help — from hubby, house cleaners, preschool, teen sitters, family and parenting groups. I didn’t need a play group. I had my own!

2. One consistent approach to child rearing that I learned at parenting groups. This is what I now teach and speak on.

3. ENCOURAGEMENT. More than anything else, learning the art of encouragement empowered me to better manage my tribe of little people.

Encouragement is recognizing effort made, noticing the positive, taking baby steps towards a goal, noting specific attributes. It’s low key.

Encouragement is like an apple — full of fiber and vitamins, sweet juicy and crisp but not too sweet, satisfying, versatile, provides long-term benefits.

The evil twin of encouragement is praise — which many parents use to communicate & motivate children.

Praise is like candy — provides a HIGH followed by a low and craving for more. It will rot your teeth and brain and put on the pounds.  It’s a sweet and addictive high-energy drug. Praise feels good temporarily and is not sustainable.

The biggest problems with praise are as follows.

1. It’s addictive, just like candy.

2. Praise can only be given AFTER success — versus encouragement, which can be given after failure.

A parent can never says “I’m so proud of you for coming in last place in the race.” An encouraging parent can say, “It took a lot of courage for you to keep going and finish the race. That’s an accomplishment.”

3. It’s extrinsic motivation. Children work for praise and external reward. Encouragement provides internal — intrinsic — motivation.

Encouragement requires more thought and involvement in the effort or achievement. Encouragement is about the deed, not the doer. Encouragement is NOT about how it makes the parent look and feel.

Parenting skills workshops taught me the art of managing people by using encouragement, natural and logical consequences and family meetings. By far, the most powerful technique is encouragement. See my tip sheet at right on encouragement for more ideas.

Give me a bushel of apples any day over a bag of candy.

apples are sustainable and healthy unlike candy. Apples- encouragement, candy- praise. Disciplining children is TEACHing children. Discipline is the art of management.

Photo by Paul.

It’s not what happens but how you handle it

September 13, 2010

On Sunday, a 13-year-old stood up at our Unitarian Church [a modern church community with no religious dogma except our seven principles] during candles of caring and announced that he had been kicked out of a summer camp and had decided to attend church more often.

His honesty, courage and willingness to handle his shame impressed me. As with most teenagers and children who make a bad decision, he felt bad for what he did, which is worse punishment than any parent can inflict.

The youngster really suffered for his bad decision, and we have ALL made them! Afterward, I shared with him that one of my teens was arrested for shoplifting. “Dana” felt remorseful and self-critical for what happened. Dana really learned from getting arrested for shoplifting and never got into trouble with the law again.

We never grounded Dana, however we did shorten Dana’s leash and starting doing more family activities. The incident was a wake-up call to me, the parenting expert. I had to ask, “What did I do to contribute to this situation?” The answer was hard to swallow — I had become a slacker parent. Parenting can be grueling! After 25 years, we had gotten tired.

Dana felt so bad that we didn’t inflict a “punishment.” The trouble with punishment is that it leads rebellion, revenge and resentment. It erodes the parent-child/teen relationship.

There are so many other ways to discipline/teach children how to make better decisions. Most of them start with mom and dad showing mutual respect for children and taking time to listen, share meals and do things together.

Good managers (moms/dads) are good motivators

August 12, 2010

The complex job of motherhood is similar to being a manager — we are tasked with influencing people to do what we want. The people are smaller, and like good employees, they want to please us.

At work or in a family, everything hinges on the quality of the relationship, how conflicts are handled, mutual respect — or the lack of it, reasonable expectations, and how managers motivate people.

What I like about the parenting/management approach I teach (online workshops starting Sept. 1) is that it is based on mutual respect for parents and children. I emphasize a positive approach, especially for spirited children.

My third child was very difficult as a toddler. I didn’t like him very much because he was so demanding and complained loudly when he didn’t get his needs met. I took some parenting workshops and it changed my attitude towards Ian.  I began focusing on what he was doing right.

I learned about the enjoyable art of encouragement, how to let natural consequences happen, and to use family meetings – dinner – and – chores to teach him responsibility and give him a place to belong in the family.

I learned management skills, which included creating a family team. My four children did chores as soon as they could walk — without getting paid by the chore, only by allowance. Paying someone to do something is the LOWEST motivation. Money is the quickest and dirtiest way for parents to manipulate their children. In the long-term, it will bankrupt your relationship if money is the only tool you have to motivate your children.

The highest forms of motivation, according to Daniel Pink, author of “Drive,” are mastery, autonomy and purpose. Alfred Adler would add a fourth primary motivation — the need to belong — to a family, workplace, team, community or whatever.

Good managers are good motivators. My book and online workshops teach parents how to do it well, without bribery, berating, beating or nagging.