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Showing posts tagged with: preschoolers

“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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“Happy Holidays from My Family to Yours”

The holidays are here! Hopefully they will be filled with fun times: visiting with families and friends, presents, sharing with those less fortunate, good food. But they are also filled with your children - school is on vacation! Don't try to stay busy with your kids every minute, as a relaxed schedule is nice for two weeks. So just have fun. Bake cookies, go to the park, visit Santa at the mall, and have play dates with friends. Go out in the cold one night to look at the stars and look for your breath. Stay in pajamas later than usual, hang out at home and play, and make breakfast for dinner. Watch movies at home and in a movie theater, go to a museum, and laugh a lot. Teach your children that every family celebrates different holidays in different ways, and that is what makes this season so special. Every child should be taught to appreciate diversity, and to value our differences. Make writing thank you notes a part of your holiday traditions also. Teach them how to write a polite note, and insist they write the note within one week of receiving the gift (or risk losing it!) Your teens are thrilled to be on vacation. Hopefully they have just finished the stress of finals, and can't wait to do nothing for the next 2 weeks. They don't want or expect to be entertained by you. In fact, some teens don't want to spend any time with you! They want to schedule their own activities, make their own plans, and just have you agree to all their requests. Sleeping late and allowing them more time to play computer games and text their friends is fine. They need unscheduled time with fewer expectations and less pressure. But they also still need supervision and enforcement of the same health and safety rules. Maybe they can stay out late on a week night - but you still need to know where they are and who they are with. And, finally, at every age, take lots of pictures! They are only this age once. Thank you for allowing me to join you on your parenting journey. I look forward to seeing what 2019 will bring to us all.

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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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Mid-Summer Reminders

Toddlers * Leave your cell phone next to your child's car seat in the back as a reminder. * Use sunscreen and play in the shade as much as possible * Provide calm breaks during their long day of playing. * Try to be indoors during the hottest hours of the day. * Touch the slide for heat before allowing your toddler to slide down. * Do not leave your toddler alone near water even for a minute. Kids * Insist on sunscreen( when you can) and offer a hat. * Do not call your child a “swimmer” until she truly can swim. * Summer is a great time to learn a new skill – including different chores. * Make a list of fun at-home activities, writing each on an index card. When your kid says “I am bored", tell him to go choose an index card. * Allow them be lazy sometimes – it is summer vacation. In fact, schedule some unscheduled time. Lying in the grass is a good activity at every age. * Try to be patient – they will be going back to school soon. Teens * Encourage sunscreen. * Remind your younger teen to let you know when they change locations. * Summer is a great time for our teens to get their first job, to earn their own money, and to be taught financial skills. * Allow your teen to sleep late sometimes – it is summer vacation. While our teens still need limits, rules, and structure, we can also be a little more flexible and relaxed. * Try to enjoy having them around – some will be heading off to college, and you will miss them.

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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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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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Time to Enjoy YOUR Holiday Traditions

holiday card (2) As we head into our final weeks of holiday preparation, I want you to identify your most favorite holiday traditions. Opening one present on Christmas Eve? Lighting the candles together on Hanukkah? Having a family dinner on Christmas Day? (Going to a movie on Christmas morning with my kids is my favorite tradition which we will again do this year.) We all have our favorite things from our childhood that we want to continue with our kids, and some we feel obligated to continue. But now you are the parent and you get to decide what your holiday traditions will be. The truth is that we can't do everything and we can't have everything that we want (or think we want). I see families being stressed and anxious and bothered by the holidays, and unable to fully enjoy this time of year. I would like to see you and your family enjoying the holiday season with anticipation, excitement, and joy; not with dread, exhaustion, and high expectations. Look at the difference between “need to” vs. “want to”. When you hear yourself saying “I need to do mail holiday cards”, stop and ask yourself if you need to or if you want to. If you truly need to, then either do it yourself or get others to help. But if you don’t NEED to, if you really WANT to, then do it with joy. Let’s teach our children that the holidays are a time to be together, to connect, to enjoy each other. If we demonstrate that the holidays are stressful and filled with pressure trying to fit everything in, that is the lesson they will take with them into their adulthood. Let’s teach our kids the true meaning of the holidays: peace and love and fun and excitement. So go ahead and write a letter to Santa, light the candles together, pull a tag from the Giving Tree, or go to a movie. Enjoy your five most favorite traditions. But do them all with joy and love, and let go of the rest. My family joins me in wishing you and yours a memorable, fun, and safe holiday season and a happy, healthy 2018.

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The Value of Chores: What, When, and Why?

What? Here are some suggestions, though you know your child best. Remember sometimes kids are more capable than we give them credit for, so ask them which chores they think they can do. They just might surprise you. Ages 2-3: Hang wet towel on hook, put toys in bins, put trash in the garbage can, throw dirty clothes in hamper, wipe up spills, help put away groceries, dust the coffee table Ages 4-6: Help fold towels and socks, sort dark and light laundry, assist in meal planning, wash vegetables, help to empty dishwasher, feed the pets, clean room, use whisk broom and pan Ages 7-10: Use an alarm clock, prepare own snack, load and empty dishwasher, put away clean laundry, complete homework, read to younger siblings, cook simple foods, water plants Ages 10+: Manage an allowance, make bed, operate washer and dryer, mow the lawn, cook a meal, wash the car, babysit younger sibling, haul garbage and recycling cans to curb Teenagers: Every single thing you can do. (Legally.) When? Today. Now. Not many parents of grown kids tell me “I wish I had given my kids fewer chores when they were young”. Most wish they had given their children more chores and more responsibilities. So start today, no matter your child’s age. It’s never too late.Siblings Doing Dishes Why? Because a family is a team, and the team works better when everyone pitches in. Because assigning chores says that you believe in your children, you have confidence in them, and their help is needed and appreciated. Because completion of chores makes children feel capable, valued, and helpful. Because chores helps children learn time management, the value of hard work, and how to work as a team. Because successful adults know how to do laundry, make beds, empty dishwashers, mow lawns, care for pets and plants, work with others, and clean up their own mess. And it is our job to teach them how to do these things, and more, one small step at a time.

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A Potty Training Success Story!

A potty training success story shared with me by one of my coaching clients. Maybe this can help you and your family. Congrats to Mom, Dad, and Jackson! "When my son, Jackson, turned 2 we started introducing the potty. My husband and I talked about it daily and would mention, “one day you will pee in the potty like Mommy and Daddy.” At 3 he decided, before bath time, to pee in the toilet and we got super excited! He did it a few times but then went back to wetting his pants and refusing to pee in the toilet. Of course we then moved to bribery with candy and toys, which worked for a while, but then he decided that wearing his pull up was better than our bribes. My husband and I decided to take a break on trying to "force" the issue. By the time he turned 4, I was at my wits end. Asking him to use the potty turned into unbearable tantrums and frustrations. Finally, I talked with Susan and she gave an excellent idea! Both Jackson and I looked at the calendar (I have a giant one hanging on the wall), circled a date, and said “no more pull ups after this day.” Then each evening before bed, we would mark a red X the day counting down. Sure enough, since that day, we have had no accidents, fully potty trained (during the day AND night), peeing AND pooping in the toilet!! We couldn't have been any prouder! Or more shocked! It has been a full 2 weeks and has been great!! Thank you, Susan!"

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