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Showing posts tagged with: Calm parenting

“The Best Kept Secret of Parenting”

Moms and Dads, listen closely because I have something to tell you. Please promise not to tell anyone because this is a secret that I bet no one else has ever told you. Are you ready? Here goes: we don’t like everything about our kids. Yeah, I said it. I am a Family Coach, a special education teacher, and the mother of an adult son and daughter. I have been working with children for several decades and I love kids of all ages, babies through adults. So I know what I am talking about when I tell you that we don’t like everything about our kids. Now don’t get me wrong. We love our kids, we are proud of our kids, we are thrilled with our kids, we want nothing but the best for our kids, and (most of the time) we wouldn’t trade them for anyone else. But let’s be honest. Our children have a few traits that we don’t like. Some of our kids have traits that we don’t like because they remind of their other parent, and we had hoped our kids wouldn’t get that trait. Some of our kids that traits that we don’t like because they remind us of ourselves. And again, we had hoped our kids wouldn’t get that trait. My husband and I had one child who didn’t talk a lot (just like Dad), and that was occasionally frustrating to both of us. We also had one child who talked a lot (just like Mom) and that too was sometimes frustrating to us. Some parents like to go to bed early but their young child is a night owl who is still wide awake at 9:00 pm. Some parents love to read but their children just don’t get the pleasure of losing themselves in a good book. Some parents are gourmet cooks who have children whose favorite food is macaroni and cheese...everyday. Some of our kids are louder than we had hoped for, some are more introverted than we had expected, and some truly thrive in a messy room while we love bins and baskets. I believe most parents have had the experience of saying to themselves, “I wish my kid didn’t do that” or “I wish my kid would do that”. Now think about your partner. Do you like everything about him or her? Most likely you have thought “I wish he enjoyed this more” or “I wish she enjoyed that less”. (Fill in your own blanks. I am not getting in the middle of that one!) It doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner, it just means you are being realistic. Most likely you recognized these differences early in your relationship, but fell in love anyways. Remember that you are not raising a clone, you are raising an individual. Appreciate the differences between you and your child, and enjoy watching your young child grow into a real person, with their own opinions, their own interests, and their own personality traits. To me, that is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a parent. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t mind if you share this secret with other parents. Just don’t share it with your kids. They deserve to be loved, and liked, by us just the way they are. They don’t need to change; they just need to be themselves. Because they are perfect just the way they are.

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It’s January, and Time for a New (Paper) Calendar!

My daughter comes home from school and says she have a book report due in three weeks. I make a note on my laptop or phone as a reminder. Two weeks later, I ask her about the assignment and she says “I forgot”. My phone beeps with a reminder that it is garbage collection day. I see that my kid has not hauled the garbage cans out to the curb. When I talk with him to find out why, he says “I forgot”. My daughter’s soccer practice changes and I adjust the time in my phone. One week later my husband is late to a game, asks me why I didn’t let him know, and I say “I forgot”. (No, of course this never happened to me.) Balancing a family’s schedule is challenging to say the least. There are family activities, school schedules, holiday events, athletic practices and games, music lessons and performances, play dates, birthday parties, business travel, and weekend plans. And those all-important date nights. Usually one parent takes on the responsibility of maintaining the family calendar, but they usually do it electronically. While it is helpful to have someone who is responsible, it is more helpful when every family member sees the whole schedule. Having a large paper (or white board) calendar in your kitchen or family room helps to keep everyone aware of everyone's schedule. A shared paper calendar teaches children time management, allows them to see for themselves why parents sometimes need to say “no”, and encourages them to take on more responsibility for their own time and decisions. A shared paper calendar reduces disagreements and arguments and frustrated feelings. And a shared paper calendar makes you feel more like a team, all on the same page…literally. Now when my son asks me if I can drive him somewhere, I tell him to check the calendar and see if I am available or already booked doing something else. He can now see for himself if I am able to say “yes”, and will not feel annoyed with me if I say “no”. Now when my tween asks if she can join the robotics team, we can look at the calendar together and see if the training schedule will fit in with her already scheduled activities. She will no longer feel that I am just being mean by saying “no”. She can see for herself if time will allow her to join, and will understand if she needs to turn down the opportunity. Now when my teen tells me on a Tuesday that he wants to go to a party Saturday night (and he is given permission to go), he can write it on the calendar for all to see. He can also see that when he notifies us at least 3 days in advance, as is our family rule, we are more likely to say “Yes”. So go buy a large size desk calendar and one marker, in different colors, for each family member. Hang the calendar where everyone can see it, and store the markers nearby. Write down everyone’s activities and tasks, the everyday ones as well as all the new things that pop up. And then remember to look at it every day. It’s going to help, I promise.

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8 Steps to Prepare for School

. Yikes! Here in California, some kids are already back to school. But if you are lucky/unlucky enough to still have some summer vacation left, here are some strategies for easing into the new school year. Transition slowly from your summer schedule to your school hours and routines. One week before school starts, figure out your child’s school schedule. Have your kids go to bed and wake up in the morning at the times they will for school, and try to eat breakfast and dinner at the times they will on school days. Some children are nervous about being left alone at school and will have a difficult time saying good-bye. Always remember that a short good-bye is better than a long one. When leaving your child at school on the first day, or when you say good-bye at the school bus stop, give your child a hug and a kiss and say “Have fun at school!” And then just walk away with a wave and a smile. If you are confident and excited about saying good-bye, then your child will have the same positive feelings. Buy school supplies now while the local stores are fully stocked and having sales. Buy a sturdy backpack that is large enough to hold your child’s items, but not so big that your child cannot wear it comfortably. And when you do go shopping, take the kids with you. Let them try on the backpack to make sure it fits, and allow them to select their own school materials. Some children, especially those going to a new school, are nervous about meeting new people. So before the school year begins, practice with your children what it will be like to meet their new teacher and new classmates. Explain that the first day of school is a good day for making a new friend. Tell your child to introduce themselves to at least one child who was not in their classroom last year. Talk about how most children are nervous, and that it is a kind thing to reach out to a new student who might not know anyone. If your child is going to walk or ride their bike to school, you should practice the route with your child at least two times before the first day of school. If biking, teach your child to walk their bikes through all intersections and to bike in a single file. For the children who walk to school, see if you can find a walking buddy. If you walk are that buddy, look for other children and parents who live close to you and will also be walking the same path. And of course, if you drive children to school, always make sure every child is properly buckled every time! Before the first day of school, set up a homework station at home. This will be the spot where your child does their homework every night, and also the spot where they keep a homework kit in this station. Buy a small plastic tote, and fill it with an assortment of school supplies, such as pens, pencils, a sharpener, paper, and markers. Then at homework time, your child goes to their station and has all needed suplies. This allows them to be organized and not to waste any time looking for what they need when they start their homework. And don’t forget to set up a small basket for yourself where you can keep school forms, lunch orders, and any items that need to be returned to school. To make mornings easier, make lunches the night before, leaving only the refrigerated items to be packed in the morning. Have each child lay out their clothes, including shoes, the night before, and put their backpacks by the front door. Many parents find themselves needing to call out to their children several times before the kids actually get up. Decide with your children if they want you to wake them (once!) or if they want an alarm clock. Stick with whatever you choose together, but then make it your child’s responsibility to be up on time. To help with keeping track of everyone’s schedules, post a family event calendar in a public place. Use magnets to attach the calendar to the refrigerator, or just hang it on the wall. Assign a different marker color to each family member, and write events in the corresponding color for each person. A bulletin board in the kitchen is also very helpful to post school lunch options, sports schedules, and notes that must go back to school. Take time every night to discuss the next day’s schedule and make sure all items are ready. Here’s to the beginning of a great school year!

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Nine Ways to Handle Sibling Rivalry

Or how to keep my sanity while my kids are fighting. Our kids fight over toys, candy, electronics, bed times, and when one is chewing too loudly or taking up too much space in the car. They fight for our attention, to get the other in trouble, because they're bored, and because it's fun. (Not for us certainly, but sometime for them.) Here are some ways to keep our cool and to reduce the number of fights. • If there is no blood, just ignore the fight! Children argue to get their parents’ attention. If you run to them at every yell or complaint, you have taught them that arguing with their sibling gets your attention. If one child is being hurt, then of course you must intervene immediately. But one kid yelling at or pushing the other does not require an immediate parental intervention. • Accept sibling rivalry as a normal and expected part of family life. Most children fight with their siblings. It is not a sign of a bigger problem or of family dysfunction. It does not mean they will grow up hating each other or with twisted psyches. Didn’t you fight with your siblings? • Avoid comparing one child to another. Your children are individuals; allow them to express themselves in their own way. Just because one kid accomplishes something does not mean her sibling is capable of doing the same. And just because you are angry or annoyed with one child does not mean you should express those irritated emotions to all your children. • Respect each child’s need to be away from his siblings. Kids need time to play alone without including their siblings every time. Each child should be allowed to have certain items that he doesn’t have to share. It is also okay for a child to NOT include his siblings in play dates. • Make sure that you are not playing favorites among your kids. Give each child a turn to sit next to you in a restaurant or while reading stories. Also, don’t always assume the bigger child is the aggressor and the little child is the victim. It could be the other way around! • Spend one-on-one time with each child every day. Even if it is just 5 minutes with each kid! • Do not take sides. Listen to both of their stories or tell them both to take a break. Do not discipline one over the other unless you saw the entire incident. • Teach them how to resolve the issue themselves. This is an opportunity to teach conflict resolution, negotiation, problem solving, and other important life skills. You can start the ball rolling by giving them a choice, such as, “I will give you 5 minutes to decide which show to watch, but if you can’t agree, then the TV will be turned off.” Let them know that you trust them to resolve the issue themselves. • Accept all feelings but not all actions. You can tell your kids “It’s okay to disagree with your siblings or to feel annoyed with them, but I expect you to use your words to resolve things. In our family, it is not okay to hit.” And finally, remember that the relationships your children have with each other will be the longest of their lives. They might be fighting now, but they won't be doing that forever.

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Eleven Steps to Calmer Parenting

Parenting is the toughest job in the world, but also the most rewarding. The journey is long, and how we approach each day makes a huge difference in how we feel. Remaining calm is good for our own mental health but also a wonderful lesson to our children. Children often act the way their parents act. So take a deep breath, remember that this stage will soon be over, and demonstrate a sense of calm and control. The calmer you are, the calmer your children will be. Take care of yourself. It’s hard to take care of your children, your partner, and your home when you haven’t first taken care of yourself. In order to be the best parent you can be, you need to make sure that you are feeling as good as you can. So exercise, eat right, say “no” when you want to, and don’t feel guilty. Your children deserve a happy and healthy parent. Stop trying to be perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so stop aiming for that. Just be the best parent you can be; allow yourself to make mistakes and show your children that striving to do your best is always the goal. Sleep in one weekend morning. When I had young children, Sunday was the morning I could sleep in. This simply meant I did not have to be the first adult out of bed at the first sound of a kid’s voice. Having an extra 20 minutes in bed alone was a weekly luxury that helped start my Sunday in a calm mood, and actually made the whole week better because I knew my morning was coming. And Saturday morning was Dad’s turn. Give yourself a 10 minute time-out. When you arrive home from work, your children are excited to see you and have a lot of things to share. Give each one a quick hug, then go into your room alone for 10 minutes. Change your clothes, breathe deeply, and transition from “employee” to “parent”. This short break will rejuvenate you for the rest of your busy evening. Your kids won’t like it, but you will, and they will learn to accept it. Stick to a schedule. Having a regular time to wake up, leave for school, get home from work, eat dinner, and put the kids to bed makes the day go much more smoothly. Being consistent with your schedule eliminates a lot of decision making, and contributes to a calmer household. Have date nights. You chose your partner for a reason, but it is sometimes difficult to remember why during the chaos of raising kids. But one day the kids will be grown, and you two will be alone again. Keep your relationship fresh with a weekly or monthly date night. Just a simple movie and dinner with adult conversation is a wonderful treat. Stay connected to your friends. You spend a lot of time setting up play dates for your kids. Well, set some up for yourself. You deserve to have fun too. Be yourself. Of course you are a parent, but you are still you, complete with emotions, hopes, and ideas. Parent the way you want, not how your mother-in-law expects. Allow your children to see your true feelings and your silly side. Don’t let the title of “Parent” make you into a new person, just a more special one. Take a deep breath. Not everything is an emergency. Some things can wait. So just take a deep breath and enjoy this roller coast ride of parenting. Enjoy the highs but don’t get too low with the lows. Things will always get better. Don’t yell. Just tell. When our kids yell at us, we feel tense. When we yell at out kids, we feel worse. It is much easier for people, including your children, to listen to a firm but calm voice than to a yelling voice. You want your kids to listen to your words rather than to focus on your anger. Laugh more. What your kid is doing might not be funny to you, but it sure is funny to everyone else. So go ahead and laugh more. It can’t hurt, and it might just make you a calmer parent.

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