TalkBack To Vicki Jardine

A TalkBack on Parenting Issues

Spoil Your Child and Spoil Your Child’s Chances February 12, 2011

The other day I was talking to a mother of an 11 year old boy.   He is not doing very well in school, despite being fairly bright.  He has been suspended several times so far this year for behavior related things and is now on academic probation.  She has tried everything she knows to do and admitted that she is having difficulty sleeping and is experiencing some anxiety over her son.

The school counsellor is inclined to refer the boy for assessing to see if he has a ‘condition’ and is requesting the teachers to compile a profile of this child’s behaviors which might be useful to those who would be conducting the psychological analysis.

While I understand that many children are suffering conditions brought on by various external and internal elements, and these can be measured and treated (and should be), I also feel that before going down that road all adults involved in the care of that child should agree to determine whether it could simply be a case of immaturity combined with other elements like lack of self-discipline, laziness, lack of motivation, poor positive recognition or simply pure ‘indulgence’.  Then if all those things have been ruled out, then proceed to psychological evaluation.

In the case of this particular child, he does not have a condition, I don’t believe.  But he IS suffering.  He is suffering the realization that the world as he knew it, does not actually exist.

Until now he has lived in a world where he could have pretty much whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it.  He could just make everyone laugh and they would forgive his tardiness, his irresponsibility, his forgetfulness and his laziness.  He could turn on the charm and dance around and joke with everyone, parents and teachers alike, and get through every single day without major incident of consequence TO HIM.  Of course, his parents and teachers were pulling their hair out looking for a solution for him.

And therein lies the key!

Thinking is a necessary skill

We have to make sure that we provide children with opportunities in which we link what is important for them to LEARN with what IS SIMPLY IMPORTANT TO THEM.

So for example, with this young man I have been describing, it has become very apparent now, at age 11 that this young man is going through a paradigm shift.  Suddenly, teachers are expecting him to accomplish work during class.  His parents, who have even paid for tutors up till now with little or no lasting results, now expect him to take his studies seriously.

But how?

How can this boy suddenly see the world a different way?  And if he doesn’t begin to see the world a different way, then he may end up on medication for a condition that he has been diagnosed with.

But what if he does not have a condition?  What if he is simply…. spoiled?

Now of course, every child is different, but here’s what I found with this boy:

He is not accustomed to using his brain.  At the very point at which he needs to engage his thought processes, he instead expends huge amounts of energy trying to avoid ‘thinking’.

He is very clever, actually.  The thoughts that occupy his mind are all related to playing.

How can I play?

When can I play?

Who can I play with?

His teachers say he will copy from the board.  He sits still if forced to.  He can even appear to be listening and probably is listening.

But when it comes to accessing his knowledge, applying information or actually initiating an idea, this boy just ‘folds’.

He employs tactics like asking clarifying questions.  These work really well to give the impression he is engaged with the topic.  However truth be known, it is a tactic to keep the teacher talking, so as to minimize the time left for him to work independently.

If the teacher maintains the stance that he has enough information to begin the task and is not drawn into any extra prolonged explanations, and then this boy simply states, ‘I don’t understand’.

But it is not true in this boy’s case.  He absolutely does understand.  Remember, I said he was bright.  He understands, but he has neither  the motivation nor the habit of engaging his thought processes, as he has never had to use them this way before.

If the teacher then says to him,

‘Yes, you do understand.  You are a very smart boy.  You just need to think about what you know, and then you will work out for yourself, what to do’.

It is at this point where he can see the tactics have not worked.  Now, in order to get what he really wants…..TO PLAY…. he has to get the work done.

So guess what!  He does it.  And he does it correctly with excellent attention to detail.  Sometimes he is a little shaky on his confidence, and is hesitant, but on the whole once he finds out that what has always worked for him in the past does no longer work, that the only way he can reach his personal goal (to play) is to reach his teacher’s goal first, he then just gets on with it.

Then the young man has the opportunity to develop confidence in himself and in his abilities.  If he does gain in confidence, then it is possible for the adults in his life to help him recognize the good feelings he has when he independently solves a problem, completes class work or homework, or contributes in the classroom.

All those times while he was little, he should not have been indulged.  He should never have come to see the world as a place in which you simply play and never take responsibility for anything.

It is very hard on him to re-calibrate his thinking now.  And remember, he was almost on the path to medication.

He is not sick.  He does not have a condition.  He is merely ‘spoiled’.

As parents, it is a good idea to make sure you are allowing your child to strive, not struggle.  Allow him or her to work things out for themselves.  Don’t be too quick to give the solution to a problem, be it how to tie shoelaces or button a shirt, to how to solve an algebraic equation.  Let your child feel good about trying.  Let them feel better about trying than about succeeding.

In this time and age that we live in, one of the greatest gifts you can give your child is the opportunity to develop ‘innovative’ thought processes.  Experimenting, failing, trying again, creating, trying something different, learning from mistakes.  These are the qualities and skills we want to be helping our children develop.

Our role is not to smooth out all the bumps in the road so they don’t feel upset or inconvenienced.

Our role is to be there cheering them on, setting an example, exposing them to positive role models, providing learning opportunities and encouraging them when it doesn’t go as they hoped.

 

Cause and Effect January 16, 2010

Cause and Effect....or Choices and Consequences

Have you ever wondered why your child seems better behaved for one person than they are for another?

Or why does your child conform to expectations at school much better than he/she does at home for you?

It happens all the time, mom can’t get her child to take a nap, but every day at pre-school the teacher manages to get 20 small children to lie down at the same time.  Is it a phenomenon?  Or can it be explained?

I believe it can be quite simply explained in 2 words:  Cause and Effect.

Child-Care professionals understand the need to introduce the concept of ‘consequences’ to very young children.  Once a child understands that there are consequences to the choices they make, most of the time they will choose well.  So for example when it comes to nap-time, the children know that if they lie down for a little while, they will then get to play with something special, or they will have a treat and their teacher will be really happy with them….the payoffs to them are numerous and irrefutable.  They will see that for those children who chose not to nap, they will miss out.  Most children clearly understand ‘cause and effect’ when the adults in their life have clearly linked the consequences of their choices to the outcomes that they receive.

No matter how irrational your child seems, they truly do understand the language of Cause and Effect. 

Humans, no matter how young simply do not do things for which there is no evident payoff.  It will make daily life a lot easier for you as a parent, if you learn to talk to your child in terms of choices and consequences.  If you make it clear what will happen if they do one thing and what will happen if they do another, then they will usually choose the outcome that they want and will surprise you by the degree of commitment they can show to that outcome.

If your child does not lie down and take a nap when you know they need to, then that can be explained by the fact that your child doesn’t see what the payoff is. 

When it comes to payoff, there really does need to be some emotional payoff as well.  Going back to the pre-school example, you will notice that the outcome for napping was not just a treat or something special.  It also includes that the teacher is very happy with them.  The teacher will smile a lot at each child, pat them lovingly on the back, shoulder or head and will instinctively make sure each child knows they made a good choice…and that people are proud of them.  The teacher may boast about them to other adults and tell their mom and dad how wonderful they are and how they always nap well like it is some really big achievement.

I know this because I know the payoff for the teacher is that more of the children will nap well and so the day will be a better one.  Cause and Effect!

So no matter how old your child is, make sure you are arranging your child’s world so that it is clearly a series of choices each with different outcomes and that you are helping your child see what the payoff is to them, in language they will understand.  When they make a poor choice and the ‘effect’ is not what the child wants, let them learn from that.  Don’t save them all the time.  Let your child forego a nap or whatever but then make sure that they see that when they don’t nap, they are tired and cranky and that playing isn’t as much fun for the rest of the day.  Help them see that now, because they didn’t nap, they cannot go to the park or stay up and watch their show on television.  Let them see that they chose that and that next time they might want to make the other choice.  Show them what the ‘effect’ would have looked like had they made the other choice.  That they would now be able to stay up, that they would not be feeling so out of sorts with everyone and everything if they had had that nap.

Then next time when they have to choose to nap or not, help them remember the way they felt when they made the choice not to nap last time.  Help them connect the choice they have to make right now, with the ‘effects’ they have suffered in the past.  Remember that they need you to always connect the dots for them.

This applies to almost all the things that fill up your child’s day…not just to napping. 

I am sure you have stories about times your child had a lesson in ‘cause and effect’, or you have some situations you would like some help bringing into a ‘cause and effect’ understanding for your child.  If you want to share some of your ideas, stories or want some suggestions about how to word some of the choices positively, then please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post and I will answer you and I am sure some other parents will also bring their experiences to light.  Sharing what we know works for the sake of our children, in this very quickly changing world.  That’s what modern parenting is all about.

So talkback with me on the subject of ‘cause and effect’.  I want to hear what you have to say.

Warmest Wishes,

Vicki Jardine

 

The ‘Up-Side’ of Anger January 3, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — vickijardine @ 8:41 am

Anger can be a good thing. 

Turn this emotion into a learning experience? How?

Just imagine if you never experienced anger.  What would you really be like as a person if anger was not in the human experience?

Perhaps you would have trouble defending your personal boundaries.  You may not recognize when you feel discriminated against, or betrayed or…worse.

You would have no outlet for the emotions of outrage and injustice. 

What would motivate you to stand against things that are not right in your eyes?

What would cause you to defend someone (or a group, principle or nation) who otherwise would go undefended and unprotected from the harmful, opportunistic domination of less than benevolent predators or abusers?

So, when it comes to our children, perhaps it is an emotion that bears thinking about in more depth.  Perhaps anger is actually a ‘good thing’.

You know the scenario:  screaming, angry child throws an enormous tantrum.  An entire family held in the grasp of one small being who is completely out of control.

Oh, wait a minute.  Aren’t all small beings pretty much out of control of themselves?

Isn’t that the point of ‘having a childhood’?  Imagine being born already mature in your emotions, intellect and outlook, while your body needs time to grow and mature. 

Sometimes we forget that childhood is that precious time when we get to learn about life by living it.  It is a time when a fully cognitive parent will understand the emotional and intellectual needs of their child and turn seemingly negative experiences into life’s most valuable lessons.  Hey, I know it sounds very ‘Brady Bunch’ but I keep asking the question: What if? 

What if parents can positively influence their child’s personality development, by helping the child process their emotions, mentally?

It is a rhetorical question, obviously. 

Parents, this is essentially the most important part of your role as a parent.  It is not merely a matter of providing food, clothing and shelter for your children.  Naturally, those things are necessities.  But the sad thing is that in the pursuit of providing physical needs, parents forget or become distracted from providing the mental, emotional and spiritual help that their children need so desperately so that they can understand themselves and the world around them.

The idea is that maturity becomes more a function of a person’s understanding of themselves and others and the world at large, having developed a perspective and awareness of their relationship to others and their own potential as a human being, rather than a chronological measure of physical development.

(Just think of how many immature adults you know….I rest my case!)

Now if that is true, then the role of parenting is so important because a parent with vision will understand and perceive the many and varied learning experiences that their child faces every day. 

A parent with this understanding will have not only the motivation to assist their child appropriately and will take the time to find out how to do so, if they are not sure. 

This parent will also have a high level of compassion for their child as they negotiate a myriad of learning experiences each and every day.

This parent will see beyond the tantrum, to what is really going on.

This parent will understand that ‘ANGER’ is a ‘GOOD THING’.

This parent will help their child understand their anger and will teach them how to ‘choose’ their reactions to things that happen to outrage them.

Let’s look at some of the things that could be angering your child:

  1. He/she does not have the words to express what they are feeling
  2. Something has been perceived as unfair
  3. There is a need not being met
  4. The inconsistencies the child faces are frustrating them
  5. He/she feels ignored, insignificant or invisible

Perhaps there are other causes of anger, but let’s just look at how these basic causes of the emotion of anger become translated into behaviors that we all recognize as ‘anger’ and let’s also look at some ‘positive’ responses a visionary parent might give.

He/she does not have the words to express what they are feeling

  • When a child is hungry, tired or frustrated they don’t necessarily know it.  All they know is they don’t feel good.  You know yourself how it goes.  If you get tired AND hungry, what is your temper like?  It is only because you have developed self-control that you don’t bite everyone’s head off!  Or do you?
  • When your child is throwing what looks like a tantrum, just stop and check if tired or hungry.  But don’t just figure it out for them and then solve it for them. 
  • Help them understand what they are going through.  Psychologists call it ‘meta-cognition’.  Help your child understand their own mind, their thought processes.  Help them see why they are crying and what they are feeling.

Here’s what you can say if you suspect your child is getting tired or hungry:

  • ‘Hey, you know what buddy, maybe you’re feeling so frustrated because you’re hungry.  What say we go get something to eat?  Let’s see if you feel better.  I feel so cranky when I get hungry.’
  • ‘Oh sweetie, maybe you feel so upset because you are tired.  I feel like crying when I am tired too.  Why don’t I help you with that so it’s not so hard for you.’
  • ‘You’re usually such a helpful boy.  Are you feeling tired today?  When I feel tired, I get grumpy and everything seems harder.  Tell me…do you just want to put your head on my shoulder right now?  Maybe you will feel better.’
  • ‘Oh hey there, do you remember the last time you felt like this?  You were just really tired, remember?  Maybe you will feel better after you have a lie down.’
  • Naturally, you do not want to allow a child who is tired to carry on with an escalating tantrum.  Sometimes you as the adult, do need to just take charge and make sure the child gets some rest.
  • Do not wait until the child is tired out of their brain to try and ‘teach them how to handle their anger’.

Start noticing your child’s behaviors before they escalate.  Help the notice when their mood is in the process of changing.  Help them to recognize their own triggers and then help them to learn how to regulate themselves.  Even a young child of two can begin to recognize their feelings.  Just keep talking to them and using words so that as their language develops, they will be able to express their feelings.

Something has been perceived as unfair

OK, so you may be thinking that young, young children will not be able to perceive justice and injustice.  But this is not so.  Again, they simply won’t be able to express it maturely.  Does this mean that you cannot help them with it?  Should you wait until they are mature and then expect them to ‘learn’ about it automatically.

Not at all.  Help them process injustice throughout their young childhood.  Help them learn appropriate ways to express their outrage against injustice. 

Here are some examples of how you can help:

  • ‘I see you’re upset because you feel it is unfair.  Can you tell me what you would like to have happen instead?’
  • ‘Your team lost?  It’s not fair?  Tell me what happened to make it not fair, I really want to understand.  Sometimes I feel angry when things are not fair, too.’

With this one, be prepared to keep asking the same question.  When your child begins to tell you what happened, it will not be a full explanation.  It is like peeling the old proverbial onion.  There will be several layers to the story.

To show you are listening and that you care, simply re-state what your child has told you and then ask the same question.  For example:

  • Oh so the other team cheated.  What happened when they cheated?
  • Oh so when the referee/umpire did that, what happened?
  • Oh so you think the umpire was unfair to your team?
  • Oh, has he/she ever been unfair to the other team? 

You see, what you are wanting is for your child to process in their mind, what happened and draw different conclusions possibly.  Or if it is completely true that the event was indeed unfair, then you want your child to have the opportunity to express it in a healthy way.  You want to give them a voice to express it, and an audience to express it to.

And then you will want to validate their ‘feeling’ of anger at the injustice.  You can make it ‘ok to feel anger’.

Here’s some ideas:

  • ‘I agree, that was totally unfair.  I am so proud of you for the way you have handled that.  Some people might have lost their temper.’
  • ‘Wow, it must have been difficult to control yourself when that happened.  I am glad you didn’t say anything rude even though you were angry.  I am so proud of how you didn’t throw a tantrum.  You behaved so sensibly.’

This approach reinforces to the child, the expectation that even though they are experiencing anger, they can still control how they choose to react to it.

Please note, it is of no consequence if the child’s perception is correct or incorrect.  We are not talking about teaching the child to perceive things appropriately.  We are discussing how we can help a child handle their anger, whether justified or not, makes no difference at all.   You can still validate the child’s feelings whether the offense is real or perceived.  It is very important to remember that. 

A person’s feelings are real (and therefore valid), even if the event is not.

There is a need not being met

Now this is one of the easiest to deal with as a parent.  But it involves being fairly proactive.

You know your child’s needs mostly.  But as they grow and mature, those needs do change and as a parent you need to stay ahead of the game, or at least anticipate the changes and prepare for them.

  • For instance:

Your child used to ‘need’ you to do everything for them, including doing up buttons on shirts.  However there does come a time when a child can physically manage to do up their own buttons.  It is not a skill that is acquired all at once though and there will be some frustration involved…anger even!

When this frustration/anger occurs, you would not be totally surprised would you?  And wouldn’t you agree that it is necessary for the child to have to persevere with the task in order to succeed at it?  And wouldn’t you also agree that without the frustration/anger involved in learning how to conquer button-doing-up, your child might not experience the elation and overwhelming sense of achievement and self-pride when they do finally conquer this skill?

The same is true for other less menial achievements that occur as a result of overcoming frustration.  Achievements such as learning to hit a ball, ride a bike, read a book, sing, dance, do math and to master one’s own temper.

The inconsistencies the child faces are frustrating them

Inconsistencies can be very frustrating for adults.  So imagine being a child and dealing with them all day long.  Here are some examples:

  • Inconsistencies between mother and father: 

Try to develop consistency between you.  Even if you don’t agree on how to do something, agree that it is important to agree and find a solution so your child does not have to deal with the frustration. 

  • Inconsistencies between you, as parents and your friends as parents:

Your child will have friends who are ‘allowed’ to do this and ‘allowed’ to do that.  So make sure you are communicating with your friends who are also parents.  Ask them if it is true that they allow this or that, because all too often it is not actually true.  But if it is true, then think about if this inconsistency is ‘worth it’, or is it something you can compromise on.  If you are finding the inconsistencies are too numerous and varied, it probably means that you do not have a lot in common with your friends and perhaps you should spend more time with people who have similar values to you…at least in terms of when you are ‘visiting’ with children.

  • Inconsistencies between home and school:

Actually, this is a BIG one.  Probably because your child will spend about 5 hours a day at school and because it is the only other place that continually affects your child’s development, both emotionally and academically.

Try to develop consistency with the school.  Many people have nothing but criticism for schools and how things are conducted in schools.  But what positive result comes from being critical.  Get involved.  Get to know the teachers, the administration and the other children and families.  Find out what limitations the school must operate within.  Get to know what help the school needs or wants from it’s parent-body.

The more you know what your child’s teachers are saying and doing, the more you can help your child.

He/she feels ignored, insignificant or invisible

This one is personal.  Only you can make a difference to this situation if it exists.

Are you prepared to put yourself in your child’s shoes and see what it truly ‘feels’ like?

Your child might be experiencing a sense of being insignificant, even though from your perspective you are doing everything ‘for’ them.

Never forget that the most valuable thing you can give your child is your ‘time’.  They value your time, more than anything else.  It is a commodity, and every child knows it.

Another thing every child knows although they would not be able to put it in words most likely, is that:

EVERYONE HAS TIME FOR THAT WHICH IS IMPORTANT TO THEM.

So, in a child’s uncomplicated view of the world, it follows that if you do not have time for me then I must not be important to you.

Can you see how that perception will undermine all your other work to build up your child’s self-esteem, self-belief and their ability to develop their innate potential.

So here’s what you can do:

  • SPEND TIME WITH YOUR CHILD.
  • LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD.
  • LAUGH WITH YOUR CHILD.
  • CRY WITH YOUR CHILD.
  • PLAY WITH YOUR CHILD.
  • EAT WITH YOUR CHILD.
  • READ WITH YOUR CHILD.
  • TALK WITH YOUR CHILD.

And last, but not least….

BE ANGRY WITH YOUR CHILD (NOT ‘AT’ YOUR CHILD!)

Be Angry Along With Your Child, I mean!!!

Share their angry feelings.  Let them see you feeling anger.  Identify with your child’s angry feelings and show them an alternative way of handling that feeling.

Let them see you ACT….NOT RE-ACT.

This is how you teach your child to control themselves and to choose their behaviors, rather than being a slave to powerful emotions that have the potential to ruin their opportunities in life.

TalkBack to me on this topic.  I am sure other parents would love to hear what you have to say.  We all learn from one another.  Leave a comment and have your say.

Warmest wishes,

Vicki Jardine

 

Managing Kids When You Don’t Feel Motivated July 29, 2009

Feeling too tired?

Feeling drained?

Feeling frustrated about your job or the economy?

Just feeling like you are not where you thought you would be at the age you are?

Grieving the loss of a loved one?

Get the BIG PICTURE!

Get the BIG PICTURE!

Coping with a difficult relationship?

Struggling to overcome your own bad habits?

Managing an ongoing health issue of a loved one, or an aging parent?

Or simply feeling depressed and finding it difficult to snap out of?

How can you motivate yourself to be upbeat and positive for the sake of everyone around, especially your children?

No matter how you are feeling, parenthood does not wait for you to get it together.  It is literally 24/7 – ongoing.

Your child is counting on you to be a grown-up.  It will not have crossed your child’s mind that you are not the ideal model of an adult.  In fact, your child will most definitely model themselves on you (even if, as they grow older they really don’t wish to).

We parents need to be able to see the big picture.  We need to be able to view our daily life in perspective.  When we remember that we, ourselves are only part of the picture and all that we think we are suffering, will one day be ‘history’ much of which was of little real importance in the scheme of things, then we can begin to appreciate the needs of those around us.

I guess what I am saying is we only get one chance to parent our children.  They only have one childhood and it is truly only a ‘few years’ long.  In those years, we get to model for our children what it is to:

  • Care about others
  • Work towards goals
  • Be responsible
  • Be honest with ourselves and others
  • Contribute to sustainability of the globe

We cannot afford to get bogged down in the daily-ness of life with all its’ ups and downs.  We have to think about how we impact on our families and how they are looking to their parents to cope, lead, guide and inspire them.

We need to focus on being their sanctuary from the hardships they face on a daily basis rather than focusing on our own.  Because when we can do this, we have the knowledge that we are doing something great.  Something absolutely ‘invaluable’ that no amount of money can buy. 

We are giving our children the place of importance that they deserve, that builds their self-esteem, that teaches them how to value others needs and how to ‘focus-forward’, rather than on the way they are feeling at any given time.

They are going to need these qualities as they grow and mature into the magnificent adults that they will be.  You will find that while you may have been a ‘bit down’ some of the time when your children were young, that you cannot even really recall why you were down, in the years to come.  

Whatever the problem today, it is not made better by letting it get on top of you.  You will only look back and think about the days you wasted, rather than building your child’s bright future….and therefore your own. 

Once you are a parent, your happiness, sense of accomplishment and self-opinion does become inexplicably tied up in how you rate what you have done for your children, one way or another.  Your joy is very much dependent on how you perceive your children’s lives ‘turn out’, whether you like it or not.

So when you are feeling down, upset, out of sorts or stuck in an emotional black hole, you can re-focus your thoughts and motivate yourself to see the day through your children’s eyes.  I know it sounds simplistic and you are probably thinking I have never been unmotivated or ‘down’. 

I have though.  I have experienced what it feels like to just not be able to muster the energy I need, for one reason or another.  And one thing I have come to realize is that life is just like that.  Ups and downs. 

I am not saying that you don’t count or that the way you feel is not valid.  I am merely saying that in a day or two, or week or two, or month or two, the way you are feeling today will not be remembered. 

Feelings come and go. 

We dont have a lot of control over feelings.

But we do have control over thoughts.  We can think about things differently.  We can recognize that there is a ‘big picture’ and it is happy, rosy and filled with joy.  We can gain encouragement for ourselves to see how the big, rosy picture can motivate us out of feeling down.

Focusing on how things can turn out if we perservere and keep sight of the vision motivates because we all want to experience joy and happiness.  It is a need and a driving force within us.  And if that is true, then we can get the energy we need for today because we believe it will result in producing the end result that we are looking for.

Here are some tips to help you:

  • Recognize the signs that you are ‘down’.
  • Admit how your ‘downer’ may be affecting those around you.
  • Decide to re-focus on the bigger picture and put the daily picture into perspective (think 5-10 years). Here’s how to re-focus:
    • Imagine what joy you will feel when you see you have raised healthy and happy children.
    • Imagine (really see) your life the way you want it to be rather than keeping on looking at it the way it is now.
  • Take actions consistent with your image of your happy life and family.
  • Remind yourself of the ‘big picture’ and know that what you do today is building that picture.
  • Re-focus every hour or minute if you have to. 
  • Never give up on your dream for your family.

I know it sounds too simplistic.  But what if it is just that simple?

I am reminded of a verse from the Bible that really is consistent with this idea:

Philipians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Think on these things. 

What if it is telling us not to dwell on how down we are feeling? 

What if we can truly become motivated to be happy, even when we are down, simply by refusing to dwell on what we are down about?

I believe that so many of us parents have been raised by imperfect parents who simply did their best, but didn’t know what to really teach us about managing our everyday lives. 

I believe we struggle as adults without children.  But then we find ourselves with children and suddenly, we know we have one chance to help them.  One chance to set them up for life.

Then we try to draw on our own imperfect experiences, like that is going to be enough. 

It’s not enough to just draw on the past.  We have to really develop some vision about the future and work towards setting our children up for that.

So next time you just feel paralysed by your own problems and feel unmotivated, try to think about the future and the needs of your children and take the steps to motivate yourself through it. 

Simplistic?  Yes….but nonetheless true….and it’s worth the effort, I promise!

TalkBack to me.  I value your opinions.  Everyone has either experienced difficulties such as these, or knows someone who has.

Let other parents know about your solutions.  Share your thoughts on this subject.

Bye for now,

Vicki Jardine

 

Say NO and MEAN IT! July 16, 2009

Does this child look HAPPY to you?

Does this child look HAPPY to you?

 

Don’t be afraid to say NO to your child!

Children actually want you to say ‘no’ some of the time.  It makes them very nervous if the answer is always ‘yes’.

I know it is hard to believe.  Especially when you see how hard they are willing to work to have you change your mind when you do say NO.

They can sulk and throw tantrums and try over and over again, but if you can stick to your answer of NO despite what behaviours they dish up, you will be very surprised to discover that your child, who may have seemed completely out of control in the past, is actually very reasonable and calm and will accept your answers without too much opposition in the future.

The problem is that too often parents cannot stand the tantrum and come to believe that ‘giving in’ is the fastest, most effective solution.  But this is not true.

Step back from the situation and think about this from your child’s point of view.  They may be happier to accept NO for an answer than you think they are.  Perhaps you have not really put that to the test yet.

Let’s look at a scenario:

  • Your child wants something.
  • They let you know they want it.
  • You say NO
  • Your child tries again to get what he/she wants.
  • You again say NO.
  • Your child tries again…and maybe escalates the request to a demand.
  • You again say NO.
  • Then your child wants to know why not.
  • You answer or you don’t answer (doesn’t matter which)
  • Your child then tries to argue the point (whether you made one or not)

What happens next of course depends on you.  It depends largely on what you routinely do in response to your child’s repeated nagging, asking or demanding.

On the surface of it, it seems like the child simply wants to do or have something in particular.  It may even begin to feel like a battle of the wills (and sometimes it is exactly that, but not always!).

More often than not, your child actually understands that when they ask for something, the answer could be NO.  In fact, they will most likely have prepared a list of reasons that they should be allowed to have or do whatever it is that they want (this is of course in the case of an older child).  Young children only know that they want it.  Older children understand the concept of debate, argument and persistence.

Why is it that older children understand those things?

Well, it is because you, the parents taught those things to your child when they were young.

Persistence.  You taught your child to persist, when you changed a NO to a YES simply on the basis of the argument not being ‘worth the trouble’.  Your child learned that if they keep crying, screaming or simply asking over and over again, that you will eventually give in and say yes.  You taught them that by repeatedly doing so.  Later, when they are older they know you will eventually give in, so they are practically running the show a lot of the time.

But what would have happened if you had not allowed your child to see that their persistence paid off in that way?  Imagine if you let your NO be NO and your YES be YES.

It is never too late to bring in a new understanding into the way you run your family.

If you allow your child to have what they want most of the time, then they will expect to get what they want by the same means elsewhere in their life, not only at home with you. 

So what’s wrong with that?

Well it is in fact highly unfair to let a child have what they want most of the time and to let them think that if they nag or throw a tantrum there is an excellent chance they will get what they want. 

This is not something that will happen for them everywhere they go.  It will not happen at school.  It will most likely not happen when they are playing with friends and with the parents of other children.

It would be great at this point if parents could keep in mind what is actually going on when a child escalates their behaviours to get what they want.

Children want to know that you love them more than anything else in the world.  They are not so interested in having what they want as knowing that you care about them.

  • What if you turned every request into an opportunity to show love to your child?
  • What if you looked at requests from your child differently?
  • What if you understood that saying no with love can actually make your child feel happy and secure?
  • What if you took a minute to explain why you are saying no, or that you would like to say yes, but you know it would not be good for your child?
  • What if you refused to enter into debate over a NO?
  • What if you expressed your understanding for why your child wants something and on top of that expressed that while you understand their reason, it does not change your answer?
  • What if you let your child see that you are in fact in control?

How do you think all these things would affect your child?

Well, I can tell you.  If you could do those things, CONSISTENTLY, here’s what you can expect to happen:

  • Your child will feel loved and secure.
  • They will relax in the knowledge that someone who knows more than them is ‘steering the boat’.  They will come to understand that arguing is not the way to turn a situation around. 
  • They will see what it looks like to manage other people rather than react to them. 
  • They will see that wanting something doesn’t mean you will get it. 
  • They will see that your role includes making decisions for them and their role is to live with those decisions.
  • They will learn that throwing a tantrum does not result in a change of decision (and can possibly have the opposite effect).
  • They will learn that love does not mean saying YES all the time.

So next time your child asks you can they have something, don’t be afraid to say NO.  But if you do say NO….stick to it no matter what.

If your child is not used this being the ‘norm’ in your home, then take a few minutes when there is no issue or request being denied and explain your role as the parent so your child can see that possibly something has changed.

It doesn’t matter if your children are strong-willed.  They will give in, in the interest of self-preservation.  If you have been giving your child most of what they want for a very long time, then it is only fair to expect them to ‘hold out’ for a very long time to get what they want.  Remember, you taught them that if they persist, they will get it.  So don’t hold it against them if they do persist.

Just understand that if you don’t stop this pattern of behaviour now, it is going to cost your child dearly as time goes by.  Also, it will mean you have less control over your own life probably for the rest of your life.  Do you really want to be a slave to your child’s whims for the rest of your life? 

How many people in their 50’s and 60’s have you seen still trying to ‘give’ their adult kids what they want one way or another?  When that happens it is easy to see that the parents have been mistaken.  And it is riduculous actually.

It is not as ridiculous when you see that happening with a 3 year old.  However, it really is as damaging to all involved.

So don’t be afraid to say NO and STICK TO IT!  It will save not only time, but ultimately could save your child from having unrealistic expectations of other people for the rest of their lives.

Leave a comment and let people know what you think about saying NO and sticking to it. 

Let us know about your child’s tantrums or if you have any questions you would like answered.

Talkback to me!  I’m interested in what you have to say.

Vicki Jardine

 

The Ultimate Gift July 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — vickijardine @ 6:41 pm

Is it gold?  Is it diamonds?  Is it 5 minutes of peace and quiet?

What is it? 

Is it the birth of a child?  Or is it the love and innocence of a child?

It is none of the above…..and yet it is ALL of the above.

The Ultimate Gift is the gift you are receiving NOW. 

It's the thought that counts!

It's the thought that counts!

 

I don’t mean this blog post from me (though that is pretty special).  I mean that whatever gift your child is giving you at any particular time….that is the Ultimate Gift.

That gift, at that particular moment is a complete expression of love, appreciation, the desire to please and the greatest symbol of your connection with the deepest thoughts and feelings of your child. 

Whatever gift it is, is a symbol of the fact that you are bonded at the ‘heart’ level with this little person and more importantly….they, themselves feel bonded to you.  

You know that when it comes to gifts, it is often not about the gift itself.  The old saying, ‘It’s the thought that counts’, well the feeling counts too.  In fact, the feelings that ‘giving’ provides to the person doing the giving is very important to that person’s self-image.

And when it comes to children, they are the most open-hearted, giving little people on earth.  But they don’t stay that way, do they.  Few children remain as giving and unconditionally loving as they were when they were infants.

Why is this? Where does that ‘open-heartedness’ go?

I think that as parents it is important that we ask ourselves the following kinds of questions:

  • What do I do that encourages my child to be ‘giving’?
  • How do I respond when my child does give me a gift?
  • Do my child’s gifts have an emotional impact on me?
  • How would my child recognize the impact that their gift has had on me?
  • What evidence is there of the value I place on the child’s thoughts and feelings, rather than on the gift itself?

Because, actually the gift itself is not the thing that is ‘ultimate’.  It’s what it symbolizes….to your child.

As parents, carers and guardians, we need to realize what is going through a child’s mind when they give a gift.  What is the child’s motivation and intention?  What is the underlying objective of your child, when he/she gives you a gift?

You know the bible says it is more blessed to ‘give’ than to receive.  Giving therefore is better for the giver, than it is for the one who is receiving the gift.  When I was a child, I could just not fathom that.  How could it be that if I gave someone a gift that I would really like to have myself, I am actually the one more blessed?  Surely the one with the gift is the one who was blessed?

But giving brings joy to the giver.  It also brings a sense that the ‘self’ is a good person and that others appreciate you and you are someone who shows appreciation to others.  Giving says we are connected in a special way. 

Giving produces the kind of happiness that no-one else can provide for us, we can only feel that way about ourselves and others through the act of ‘giving’.

Another important aspect of maximizing the benefits of ‘giving’ to your child is to help your child focus on the good feelings that they experience when they give.  Help them notice that it feels good and to recognize their feelings.

Say things like,

  • ‘You must feel so good to know that your special, thoughtful gift has given me so much happiness!’
  • ‘I know you put a lot of thought into that, and you know what….your special thoughts and the gift are so important to me, because they tell me that you love me, did you know that?’

Or ask some questions about how they arrived at this ‘particular gift’.

  • ‘How did you decide to make this for me?’
  • ‘Oh, you remembered that I said that I love those colors?  Wow, you really care about what would make me feel happy.’

Notice things like:

  • The time it might have taken to make.
  • That they may have needed some help to get the materials, or the gift itself.
  • That they remembered something special that you had said or done for someone else even and translated that information into making or buying something similar for you.
  • Help them recognize the special thoughts, memories, decisions that they made and help them to give themselves credit for taking action on those things.

Also remember that children do not have the emotional development or the vocabulary to recognize and identify feelings, attitudes and thought processes.  Talking about the gift, the gift selection process and the feelings, thoughts and attitudes attached to them is what helps your child develop these all important degrees of maturity.

So, when your child brings you a gift just remember that each little gift is an opportunity for you to show your child that you value that bond and connection you have with them.  It’s a sign between you that you mean something to one another.  Moreover, it is an opportunity for you to turn that into the Ultimate Gift….a deep-seated appreciation that they can develop from simply ‘giving’ to others.   Help them develop an appreciation for themselves, for others and for the thoughts and feelings that connect them to their loved ones.

Talk Back to me.  I want to hear your stories about the times your child has given you a gift.  Or tell me about a gift that you gave your mom or dad when you were a child.  We all have ‘gift’ stories, so let’s share them with one another.

Here’s to you and your child

Warmest Wishes,

Vicki Jardine

 

Fathers! Are Your Kids Sure You Love Them? June 12, 2009

Father's DayThis week I was fortunate enough to witness a father’s love for his child and how that love inspired the child to achieve more than ever before.  How beautiful to see the look of security and self-pride in the eyes of this child as his father gave gentle and loving encouragement, believing wholeheartedly in the child.  It was not a case of an amazing feat of fatherly love like that of Dick Hoyt to his son Rick.  (If you haven’t seen the tribute to Rick and Dick Hoyt, just go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flRvsO8m_KI and watch this inspirational video).  But this is not the kind of fatherly act I am talking about today. 

Today, I want to focus on the importance of ‘fathers’ to their children and the small and seemingly insignificant acts of love and encouragement a father can give to his child.

From speaking with so many parents over the years, it is evident that many, many mothers and fathers completely underestimate the importance of the father’s role as parent.  It’s like possessing the most effective tool and shoving into a cupboard and never using it.  Then wondering why the task is so difficult.

Most fathers do love their children.  That is true.

But if that is true, then why is it that when you ask children do they believe their father loves them, many, (and I mean too many), will answer no?

 This perception of not being loved by their father has such far-reaching effects on the development of the child.   Nothing else can replace it for the child.  Not the extra love of a mother, or even grandparents. 

So if fathers do love their children, then why do so many children think that they don’t?

This is what I want to address today as we approach Father’s Day in the USA. 

You have most probably heard that a person’s perception of a situation is ‘their reality’.  Well, so it is for children.  A father may love their child immensely, but if that child cannot perceive that love, then that child’s reality is that their father does not love them.

So let’s just assume that the love exists.  So now, how can fathers ensure that their children are able to detect that love, find evidence of that love and perceive that love.  How can a father convey their love to their children in ways that really make a difference to the child and how they see themselves. 

Well, here’s some things for fathers to remember, why it is so important and how you can take various opportunities to demonstrate your love for your child:

  1. Your child’s world is dominated by how he thinks you see him/her.

Children formulate ideas about who they are, based on the feedback that they get from you.  They look to you to understand what kind of person, they themselves are. 

What to do:

  • Give your child feedback that is positive.  Look for the positive.  Too often they get to hear what they have done wrong. 
  • Tell them what you like about them. 
  • Tell them the ways in which they remind you of yourself at their age. 
  • Tell them the ways in which they remind you of their mother (in a good way). 
  • Tell them when you feel pride in them.  Emphasize that you are proud of their efforts…not only their achievements.
  • In your child’s presence boast about them to other people.
  1. Your child will do a lot of things to have your approval.

If you make it very clear to a child when you are happy with them and why, they will feel very good.  They will be motivated to get that ‘good feeling’ all the time.  This is such a powerful tool that you can use to help your child to mature confidently, because when a child is praised and recognized they will internalize that good feeling and they will begin to strive against their desire to play all the time, to actually do the things that you want them to. 

What to do:

  • Decide what you expect from your child. 
  • Be aware of your own expectations, so you can communicate them clearly to your child. 
  • Then when there is anything at all to praise…PRAISE it. 
  • Notice if they do something right.  Let them know you noticed.  If it’s a big deal, you can reward it even.  
  • After you have established an environment where your child is aware of your expectations and can anticipate your approval, you don’t always have to find words.  Sometimes a thumbs up and a huge smile is enough.  A wink and a nod at the child when they are looking at you to see your reaction to their effort or achievement can be so powerful. 
  • You may not know this, but each thing that is quite small to you…it may simply be that you wanted your son to put his bike in a certain place every evening and he is not always diligent with this.  Well on the occasion that he does put it in the right place….he does so with a huge feeling of anticipation about how impressed you are going to be.  But sometimes we parents come home and see the bike in the correct place … and think…yes, that’s how it should be.  We miss the opportunity to appreciate that from the minute the child put the bike there, he is anticipating your positive reaction, recognition and approval.

OK, so you get the idea.

Here are some more things your child wants from their father and how you can help your child to perceive your love for them.

  • Look them in the eyes when you talk to them.
  • Let them know you like them
  • Don’t just hug them….cuddle them.  If you don’t know what that means, then that’s sad, so look it up.
  • Talk to them about yourself.  Talk about now and also when you were a boy and what you think about things. 
  • Talk about your feelings to your children.
  • Tell them how you feel about them.
  • Set a good example all the time because they are definitely going to model themselves on you…. and they are watching to see how you handle things, both good and bad.
  • Top up their emotional security every hour or so with a look, a pat, a hug, a simple ‘are you ok?’
  • Your child wants to be recognized by you for every little positive thing they do.

So Fathers this Father’s Day stop and notice how hungry your children are for your love.  Look into their eyes and down into the core of their being.  Remember the first time you ever saw them and how tiny and helpless they were.  Appreciate how important you are to them and how they need you to love them in ways that make them ‘feel loved’.

Read the messages your child writes to you on Father’s Day and have an emotion about it.  You need to let them see that they can move you emotionally. 

Fathers, your children need to know that they are as important to you…..as you are to them!

TalkBack to me.  Share your fathering experiences with other fathers.  Mothers too!  Is there anything you want Fathers to know about their kids?  Let’s get some discussion on this topic.

Here’s to your child’s happiness and security.

Warmest Wishes

Vicki Jardine

 

 
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