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Showing posts tagged with: goal of parenting

“The Value of Empathy”

At 5:30 every weekday morning I head to my local YMCA to work out. Each morning I am greeted with this “Empathy” sign. And I smile every time I see it. Empathy: what a great value, what a great skill. Empathy: the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and see things the way they see things. Empathy: a trait that successful adults have and that we need to teach our children. Being empathetic means that we understand people’s views besides our own, helps us to be kinder to other people, and gives us the ability to be open-minded, friendly, and considerate. Empathy: a skill that will greatly increase the communication we have with our kids. When we can put ourselves in our children’s shoes, and try to see things the way they see things, it makes it a lot easier for us to connect with our kids and to have healthy conversations. (Plus, we need to remember that they are kids, and that they express themselves the only way they know how. Is it immature, and frustrating, and annoying sometimes? Sure – because they’re kids!) So how do we teach empathy? By being empathetic! By saying things like “I understand”, “that makes sense”, “I can see you are frustrated”, and “it's okay to feel that way”. We also can teach empathy by being polite to the homeless man on the street, by donating our gently used clothing to those less fortunate, and by having people of different races, nationalities, and ages in our friend circle. When we respond with empathy to our children, when we truly listen to our children, we are letting them know we understand; we are letting them know that it's okay to say what they said; we are letting them know that their feelings are valid and accepted. Our responding with empathy makes our children feel heard and understood. And when they have expressed their feelings and opinions, when they feel heard and understood, they are able to then listen to us and to move on from the topic they are feeling stuck on. When you display empathy to your children, to friends, and to strangers, you will naturally be teaching your children to be empathetic and kind. When you display empathy to your children, they will start to be empathetic and kind to you and to others. And isn't that a goal of parenting?

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“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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“Why Your Kids Need to Fail”

Yes, they do. Our children need to fail, so they learn that they can come back from failure. So they learn that failure is simply the first try. We love our kids so much. We work for, and hope for, their happiness. We do not want them to experience sadness, failure, or disappointment. We want them only to experience success and joy, and we do not want their tender psyches to ever take a hit. And, let’s be honest, happy children are easier children. Happy children do not complain (as much), whine (as often), or require as much time and attention. But failure is a real part of real life. There is no way to avoid sadness, disappointment, and unhappiness. These things, even if painful at the moment, teach children responsibility, resiliency, and independence. These things prepare our children for a successful adulthood, when they are responsible for their own actions and their own feelings. Our job is to teach them today, so they can do it for themselves tomorrow. Toddlers Parents of toddlers watch their children closely on the playground to make sure everyone is safe and having fun. Parents of toddlers supervise their older children to make sure the toddler is not being verbally teased and is being given their fair turn. But sometimes toddlers are bored, sometimes they are teased, and sometimes not every child plays fairly. If we immediately intervene every time we feel our toddler is unhappy, how will our toddler learn to speak up for themselves? We do need to immediately intervene in every kind of safety issue, and we do need to teach our toddler how to express themselves. But we don’t need to “rescue’ them from every moment of unhappiness. Kids Parents call the coach to explain that their child had a headache and that’s why the kid did not do their best at the competitive tryout. Parents call the teacher to explain that they had a family event and that is why their child was too tired to study when they get a low grade on a test. But these calls and excuses do not help our kids understand the truth. Did they not make the team because they did not try their hardest? Did they fail the test because they did not study hard enough? Motivation comes from within, and learning the hard way is sometimes the best lesson. How will our kids learn to do their best when we allow them to get away with a poor effort? We do need to empathize when they are disappointed, and we need to teach them how to handle it when they are sad. But we don’t need to fix every disappointment. Teens Parents log in to their teen’s school web site to monitor every homework assignment and every quiz score. Parents continue to feel it is their responsibility to get their teen to school on time in the morning. But this close and careful supervision does not help our teen learn to be responsible and independent. Teens need to learn the natural consequences of being late to school and of not turning in their homework. Our teens will be in college soon, and will not have their parents around to protect them from their own mistakes. Parents must make sure that their teen knows how to handle disappointment and failure when we are not there to help them. So empathize when your children fail; share stories of your own failures; give them a hug if they need one; help them express their feelings with words. But do let them fail.

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The True Goal of Parenting

Life of a Child I write this week with such a heavy heart. I am very saddened by the latest mass shooting in Florida. (The lastest? How terrible that I have to say that.) Seventeen more people have been killed at a school, including 14 children. A school - where moms and dads send their children every day, counting on the adults there to teach them, to care for them, and to keep them safe. School shootings just feel especially wrong, and especially scary. During these tough times, as we struggle with our own emotions, and with how to answer our children's questions, it is especially important to remember the true goal of parenting: To raise a successful adult. To raise an adult who is kind and considerate and honest and giving and thoughtful and who looks out for their fellow citizens. And the time to start these lessons is today. Now. No matter your child's age. Let's all agree today to teach our children to be kind, to be an upstander, to sit next to the friend-less child at lunch, to invite the lonely child for a play date, to think of other's feelings. Let's role model being polite to the homeless person we pass on the street, to take cookies to meet the new neighbor, to offer a hand when a friend needs help. There is a lot of work to be done in this country to protect our kids and ourselves. I feel a little helpless to bring about change. But there is one thing I can do: I can teach my kids to be successful adults. I can connect with every child I come in contact with so no child feels alone. I can look out for kids who might need my help. I can be a person of love and calm and acceptance. And I can ask you to please do the same.

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