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10 Principles of an Aware Parent

I just learned about Dr. Aletha Solter’s book and principles of Aware Parenting. I don’t know why it took so long to become acquainted with her work but her ideas are extremely close to my own thoughts on parenting. Her ideas are timely in this day of discovery about the healing aspects of mindfulness. Read through her 10 Principles and see where they resonate with your own parenting thoughts. Source: http://www.awareparenting.com/english.htm “1. Aware parents fill their children’s needs for physical contact (holding, cuddling, etc.). They do not worry about "spoiling” their children.

2. Aware parents accept the entire range of emotions and listen non-judgmentally to children’s expressions of feelings. They realize that they cannot prevent all sadness, anger, or frustration, and they do not attempt to stop children from releasing painful feelings through crying or raging.

3. Aware parents offer age-appropriate stimulation, and trust children to learn at their own rate and in their own way. They do not try to hurry children on to new stages of development.

4. Aware parents offer encouragement for learning new skills, but do not judge children’s performance with either criticism or evaluative praise.

5. Aware parents spend time each day giving full attention to their children. During this special, quality time, they observe, listen, respond, and join in their children’s play (if invited to do so), but they do not direct the children’s activities.

6. Aware parents protect children from danger, but they do not attempt to prevent all of their children’s mistakes, problems, or conflicts.

7. Aware parents encourage children to be autonomous problem-solvers and help only when needed. They do not solve their children’s problems for them.

8. Aware parents set reasonable boundaries and limits, gently guide children towards acceptable behavior, and consider everyone’s needs when solving conflicts. They do not control children with bribes, rewards, threats, or punishments of any kind.

9. Aware parents take care of themselves and are honest about their own needs and feelings. They do not sacrifice themselves to the point of becoming resentful.

10. Aware parents strive to be aware of the ways in which their own childhood pain interferes with their ability to be good parents, and they make conscious efforts to avoid passing on their own hurts to their children.

Aware Parenting is based on the work of Dr. Aletha Solter. For more information, please see Dr. Aletha Solter’s books, The Aware BabyHelping Young Children Flourish, Tears and Tantrums, and Raising Drug-Free Kids

 

Depression and Parental Insightfulness

Research articles often have a “duh” factor when it comes to outcomes in various studies. After you read them you think “I could have told you that!” The up side of academic studies is that they point a laser light of attention on areas of life that need attention. Society seems more willing to spend money and time on correcting problems when we draw a big circle around a social problem in the lab.

This was true, for me, of a study on the level of parental insightfulness and maternal depression (see clip below). The findings of the study was that mom’s (why do we always study moms!) who were depressed are less likely to be able to see life from the vantage point of their children. This results in less emotional attachment and parenting effectiveness. The obviousness of this research is that mom’s or dad’s that are depressed are less likely to see much of anything outside of their own internal pain. This isn’t a slam on depressed parents. I have experienced it and it isn’t purposeful. Depression is usually due to a chemical imbalance and requires professional interventions that may or may not involve medications.

I mention this study on the blog because I want draw a big circle around this issue and say that the long-term effects of a poor attachment between parent and child can have some serious effects on self-esteem and future relationships. I guess this is a call to action for anyone who feels they are depressed, even occasionally. Help yourself and your child by getting some help. There is plenty of help available, from changing diets to clinical therapy. I have found that playing with my child lifts my mood even when I was tired and emotionally down.

“Insightfulness is seen as the mental capacity that provides the context for a secure child–parent attachment. It involves the ability to see things from the child’s perspective and is based on insight into the child’s motives, a complex view of the child and openness to new information about the child. To test our hypothesis that maternal insightfulness is related to maternal depression, we utilized the Insightfulness Assessment (IA) developed by Oppenheim and Koren-Karie to conduct and analyse interviews in which mothers discussed their perceptions of video segments of their interactions with their children. We compared the results of a control group of 30 mothers without a diagnosis of depression with a sample of 23 mothers diagnosed with depression (International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision). As expected, depression was negatively related to maternal insightfulness.”

Source: onlinelibrary.wiley.com Share what you have done to increase your mood and deal with depression by leaving a comment below or posting on our Facebook ParentingToolbox Page.

Using Your E.A.R.S. to Help Children Problem-Solve

Someone once joked that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we could listen twice as much as we talked. Not bad advice actually. Many parents would do well to heed that advice. This doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t talk to their children. It’s just that they shouldn’t be so quick to give advice or lecture of the right and wrongs of a problem. Listen first, then talk. Better yet, ask questions to get at the solutions to children’s problems. This causes them to feel as if they came up with the answer and take more ownership for the problem. E.A.R.S. is a helpful acronym for parents who want to improve their problem-solving skills with their children.

E = Elicit

The starting point for problem-solving with children is to elicit possible solutions that already exist in the child’s repertoire. Ask questions such as, “What would you think would make the situation better?” This implies that there is a solution and that the child has the ability to utilize it. If they don’t have an answer to this question, try this one: “What would your _______ (supply a relevant name here) say you are doing about the situation?”

This implies that the child is already solving his problem. The fact of the matter is that every response to a problem is a solution to a problem. Only some responses are better than others and have fewer severe consequences. The job of parents is to acknowledge children’s efforts and then direct them to use better responses.

If the child persists that there wasn’t anything good about what he did in the situation, then ask, “What was the part of the situation that was better than the other parts?” And if the child does recite some ‘better than other parts’ of the situation, ask, “How did you do that?” This encourages the child to learn from their own behaviors and increase positive responses.

If the child suffered severe consequences for his response to the situation, ask, “What did you learn from the situation?” Most successes are the result of trial and error and determining what doesn’t work.

A = Amplify

Amplify refers to the use of questions to get more details about any positive efforts toward problem-solving. Use who, what, where, when, and how questions. For example, “Who noticed you do that?” or “When did you decide to do that?” or “How did they respond to your solution?” Never use why questions. Why is a very judgemental word and will stop all attempts to help the child problem-solving because he feels bad about his efforts. Over time this can develop into a pattern of behavior where the child never tries anything new because he is afraid of failing. If he doesn’t try, he doesn’t fail. At least that is the rationale.

R = Reinforce

Years of behavioral change research have taught us that there are two ways to create change in others. Reward desired behaviors and ignore or mildly punish undesirable behavior. So be sure to reinforce any effort to solving a problem. Even failed attempts are worthy of acknowledgment. The child must want and value positive change. Reinforcement will be the motivating force for this value. Be sure, though, that you use verbal or social reinforcement. Don’t give in to bribes (candy, toys, and money) to reinforce the child. This will reinforce dependent and manipulative behavior and decrease independent problem-solution. The best reinforcers are a surprise. When children do not know when to expect a reinforcer (a compliment or public acknowledgment) they will be more motivated, ready for reinforcement at any moment in time.

S = Start again

Learning to problem-solving and listening to our children to help them, is a process. It can’t be done once and then left alone. It must be done over and over again. Repetition is a fundamental principle of learning. The more you do something the better you get at it. And now that the child has found a solution to a problem, plan for the next one. Most problems pop up again in life. Brainstorm solutions for the next time. And finally, treat every problem as an experiment where new and clever solutions can be tested. So use those two ears to listen more then you talk but when you do talk, ask solution-focused questions to help children problem-solve.

What is your CQ? (Curiosity Intelligence Quotient)

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein

Yes, that was Albert Einstein who revealed that the key to being smart is not to
know a lot but to keep curious and learning through out the life span. Do we encourage our children in their curiosity about life? Do we still foster this type of intelligence in ourselves?

I went on a hike recently and stopped to rest and noticed a small yellow worm inching its way across the path. I was fascinated by it’s movement. This is what it was like for me as a child. I notice it in my grandson when he stops everything to observe something that interests him. As an adult, I am way to busy to “stop and smell the flowers” as they say. In my efforts to get things done, I miss many opportunities to enjoy the amazing things all around me.

How have you encouraged CQ in your children and in yourself? Share with us. Leave a comment below or post a reply on Facebook by clicking here!

What will you learn today?

17 Hugs A Day

My wife and I have a joke that we tell each other and family members: It takes a minimum of 17 hugs a day to feel normal. I will confess that there is no scientific research that supports 17 hugs per day therapy…at least not yet. Nevertheless, we have come to recognize that need for touch and have adopted the idea that hugs, at least 17 is what gets us through the daily life hassles.

At a recent conference on Attachment Theory, where there was some real scientific data, a presenter on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stated that data suggests that the little stressors of everyday living can add up to the same effects of someone who has undergone a single, major life trauma, like a robbery or death of a loved one or car accident. We let these little incidents of life go by without any real concern. Perhaps we feel embarrassed to admit how much a poor marriage or teenager defiance or even workplace stress really does affect us.

Can parents acts as prevention specialists for our children. As adults, we need 17 hugs just to maintain normal living. Our children need them to counter the cumulative effects of stress on their lives to avoid PTCS – Post Traumatic Childhood Stress. If you don’t believe there is a such a thing, just observe children interacting on a play ground. There are some mean things thrown back and forth on the jungle gym, let me tell you! Add to that some homework pressures and the constant media bombardment of negative words and images and what child wouldn’t feel slightly traumatized? As parents, the least we can do is give some touch therapy with a few hugs a day.

John Bowlby, the great attachment theorist, stated that attachment is essential to normal development (see my blog post on this here). Guardians are supposed to be our safe haven from life. Home should be a place of refuge from the constant stress of school and work. Granted, there are chores and homework to be done but how can you carve our 30 minutes a day for some connection. Parents are quick to use Time-Out, how about some Time-In? It might be good for mom and dad too.

Starting today, give a few more hugs than usual. It is OK to start slow and work your way up. And yes, teenagers love them too. You just have to be a little more crafty in your approach.

 

Power of Silly

There are a lot of very good parenting techniques available to parents in the form of parenting books, videos and classes. I have written and taught them myself. What you don’t often hear about is how to “do” parenting when the rubber hits the road. How do you get through the daily grind of life and keep a cheerful face and engage your child (or for some us multiple children)? My best parenting advice is this: Be silly. I know, parenting should be serious, shouldn’t it? The truth is that it is serious way too often.

Silliness is a useful way to lighten up the mood in the home and to engage bored or irritable children. Over the years I have used variations on the silly theme with mostly good effect. Here’s a few to try on and see how they fit for you:

Change the game rules Parents can get exhausted playing the same old game of “Go Fish” or “Sorry.” Anything done hundreds of times can be hum drum. Spice it up by changing the game rules. Use a pirate voice when playing a card game. “Argh, give me your fours!” Narrate the characters in the book you read at bedtime every night. Act it out instead of reading it. This weekend I played my niece, nephews and grandson Ping Pong Poetry. Every time you hit the ball you have to rhyme a word: Ping, sing, ring, thing, king, etc. It resulted in several belly laughs.

Tell a joke This is perhaps the simplest silly strategy. Have a long car ride? Tell a few Knock-Knock jokes. OK, you might have to do a google search first to come up with a few but it will be worth the research! I have one I told me kids over and over again. They groaned every time I would start to tell it but I could tell by their smiles they loved the “tradition” of it as well. Want to hear it? “How do you make a hanky (hankerchief) dance? Put a little boogie in it.” Made you laugh? I know it is a little irreverent but isn’t that the point here?

Make up a song Need to get your kids to focus and march in a file through a store without touching everything? Come up with a marching song and sing it (quietly) as you go down the aisles. Preschool teachers do this all the time to get kids to clean up their mess and move to a new classroom activity. Use it at home too.

Food can be fun Got a picky eater? Dinner time always turns into a fight? Use the food to create some fun. Put coloring food into the milk. Make a game out of how slowly you can eat. Wiggle your nose at others around the table and see who can catch who doing it. Eat in courses, switch seats for each one or use your opposite eating hand to do it. Make faces out of the foot as you place it on the plate. We often use special pancake forms on the griddle to make dinosaur shapes. A lot of food is package in shapes of animals or other character. I enjoy bitting their heads off. Sorry, but I do. Have a crunching contest – keeps kids focused and eating mom!

Wear funny slippers My sister-in-law came over for the weekend and wore fluffy pink slippers most of the weekend. She was comfortable and the kids loved making fun of her. Keep a full house of people energized and in good humor. Alternate this strategy by wearing bright clothing, mix patterns or act cool in your shades. I am sure you have a few silly tricks up your sleeve.

Share them with us by leaving a comment or Facebook post or Tweet us! Let’s pool our silliness ideas together and use it to increase cooperation, enjoy each other more, and decrease stress levels.

Putting your worst parenting foot forward

I have spent a lifetime being defensive. The world, frankly, is a harsh place to live and over time one can become quite hyper vigilant and self-protective. It takes some risk to put yourself out there after suffering rejection and betrayal. Unfortunately, that is the only way to live in an intimate relationship with other people, like your family.

I get that there are abusers out there and it may not be wise counsel to open yourself to that. I am not asking for anyone to be a victim. I am addressing the more basic, day-to-day willingness to be open and non-defensive. I have spoken about the benefits of this in other posts on TransPARENTcy, etc. It may be worthwhile to read those posts.

Try an experiment with me: Put your worst foot forward. Instead of covering up your mistakes or telling little white lies about your parenting performance, try sharing a parenting issue you really want to change about yourself. You will have to pick the right moment and to be safe, the right person at first. After you do that, ask for some honest feedback. I mean really honest. Look the person in the eye and don’t talk until they are done. If they hedge their comments, ask for further clarification until you get to the bone of truth. Finally, state your appreciation and willingness to consider incorporating that information. Take the next 24 hours to do just that.

I wonder what response this will initiate in others? I am curious what it will do to you if you can live in a non-defensive position? Protecting ourselves takes energy. Lots of it. What would happen with all that creative juice if you applied it to making your parenting better versus avoiding change?

Change is uncomfortable but nothing real and satisfying is achieved by avoiding it. The biggest therapeutic truth I know (I didn’t say I always practice it) is that you have to go through the pain to get to the other side. I wonder what that other side will look like for you in your closest relationships.

Share your experiences with this by leaving us a comment or tweet us @ronhuxley or go to our Facebook page!

Games Parents Play!

Sometimes parenting just seems like a game…that you can never win. The other team has more energy, more time, and more players. To help parents improve the odds, we’ve come up with some new “game plans” that might even the score.

Follow the Leader is a parenting tool that can be used in two ways: 1) As a game; and 2) as a “redirection” tool. When using this tool as a game, parents can invite their children to play “follow the leader.” This game is fun on family trips or vacations. Families with more than one child can have each child take turns leading the family hike or singing a song. The leader has the power to choose which forest path to take or which song to sing. Each child (and parent) gets the opportunity to be the leader, thereby encouraging equality and fairness. When used as a “redirection” tool controlling children can be direct their need to take charge of a particular task, such as getting the family together for dinner or organizing a wood gathering party for the campfire. Children who power-struggle with their parents can benefit from this latter application.

Freeze Play is a parenting tool variation of the Time-Out parenting tool. Time-out is usually conducted by isolating or excluding a child from the rest of the family or classroom. In this traditional form children are sent to their room, a chair in the kitchen, outside the classroom door, or left facing a wall. Time-Out has a number of disadvantages, the primary one being that it involves the use of punishment that may seem harsh to some parents and children. Some children may become out-of-control or physically destructive when put in isolation or exclusion time-out. Fortunately, parents can use a different form of time-out, that behaviorists call “nonexclusionary time-out.”

Nonexclusionary time-out, like isolation and exclusionary time-out, eliminates reinforces (interaction with others). It accomplishes this by freezing the moment of interaction with the child for a very brief, but poignant amount of time. For example, if a child starts whining when told they must wait for dinner to eat, the parent can firmly but evenly, say, “stop!” The parent then avoids eye contact (i.e., attention during the discipline) for a few seconds and the child is prohibited from communicating during this time. Afterwards the parent can nonchalantly carry on the task at hand or use Time-In or educational parenting tool. Be careful not to place too much emphasis on talking about the misbehavior afterwards as it might inadvertently reinforce the child to misbehave again for the attention it gains.

It might be necessary for the parent to tell the child what is going to happen during “freeze play” and the expectation that their will be no communication/eye contact during that time, so that the child knows why the parent is “acting this way.” In addition, the old rule of thumb for time-out, one minute for every year of life, can be used in Freeze Play by substituting seconds for minutes (e.g., one frozen second for every year of life.)

Huddling is a parenting tool similar in function to the Family Meeting parenting tool but different in form. Huddling is a quick, informal, type of family meeting that any number of family members can have together and can occur at any time or place. Football players do this before every play to make sure the team knows what the plan is and to make clear everyone’s job. Rather that set an agenda and have a formal meeting. Family members can stop whatever they are doing to have a quick, little meeting about a specific problem or task. Parents can play the captain by telling the family to “huddle together.” Put arms around one another for support or just gather together in a circle, face in. Talk about the problem or task and assign jobs or ask for quick input. Decide on a plan of action and say “lets go!” Parents can use this tool at the zoo to decide what they are going to go see first, at the restaurant to decide what everyone wants to eat, and at home to decide what toys need to be gather before going to the park.

While these “game plans” don’t guarantee a winning season, they can coach parents on new ways to improve there performance and their satisfaction in parenting. Go parents!

Behavior Charts: Free Parenting Tool

Have you seen our new Parenting Reports Section yet? There are several ebook, reports, whitepapers and charts for parents to build stronger, happier families. Today we are featuring one of our general behavior charts. Get it here: http://www.parentingtoolbox.com/parenting-reports/

Behavior charts are a great tool for parents to set structure and limits in the home. Be sure to communicate clearly with children about your expectations and get their buy in. Additionally, be sure that they are developmental appropriate to age and stage. A younger child can’t do as much as an older child but older child also have (or can earn) more freedom and independence. Evaluate your progress on a weekly basis to ensure the tool is working properly. Lastly, remember that a chart is just a tool and not a magic wand. If it doesn’t work for your child, use something else or feel free to alter it as needed.

Tell us how it went by leaving us a comment below or tweeting us or sharing on our Facebook page.

Putting on Your Anger Management Tool Belt

This article was written some time ago on how to deal with anger in the workplace. I think it a powerful resource for parents at home as well…Enjoy!

Do you wake up in the morning with your stomach tied up in knots? Does the thought of going to work and dealing with your co-workers seem unbearable? Have you ever thought that if you never had to deal with people, your job would be great? Family therapist Ron Huxley shares some tools for conflict resolution.

Use prevention to avoid problems

It is easier to deal with a problem or a problem person if you know it is coming. It’s when you are surprised by a co-worker’s rude behavior that you’re unable to cope with him. Knowing that a co-worker will be rude to you gives you time to plan how you will handle him.

It doesn’t mean to plan how you will be equally rude back to him. It means finding a way to protect you emotionally and then turn the situation around, if possible. Finding the right tool for the job to do just that is where most of us get stuck.

The anger tool belt

Dealing with problems is like fixing a household appliance. You need to know how the appliance works and you need the right tools for the job. When you plan to deal with your angry co-worker, you will need an anger tool belt filled with an assortment of anger management tools.

Tool #1: Labels

Perhaps the most basic tool available to us is communication. If your co-worker barks at you when asked about an overdue report, respond to him by labeling his feelings. For example, stating “You’re angry at me right now” can actually reduce his anger towards you. The most basic reason for this is that your co-worker suddenly feels understood. It is far easier to be angry with people who don’t listen then it is for people who do.

Labels let the air out of the proverbial balloon before it fills up and explodes. It gives you mastery over the emotion by taking the person out of the emotion, makes it a force of its own, to be handled and managed. Most arguments focus on personal attacks and not the problem to be solved. Giving an emotion, like anger, a label allows you to acknowledge the emotion and move on to finding a solution separate from blaming one another.

Your co-worker, expecting a retort, may look momentarily stunned by your new response and then mutter, “Yeah, I’m buried up to eyeballs with work. Give me ‘til Friday and I’ll have the report ready.” At that point the two of you can negotiate a time for the report that is mutually acceptable.

Tool #2: Negotiation

Negotiation skills are essential in dealing with angry people. Negotiation is a tool that allows for a win/win situation to occur between two parties who do not already mutually agree. It has several steps:

Step 1: Know what is negotiable and not negotiable. If next Friday is not an acceptable time for the report, you are in a much better position to negotiate and not feel used by him. Specify, matter of factly, what is and is not an acceptable time for the report.

Step 2: Be open-minded. Be willing to listen and consider the other person’s viewpoint. Stephen Covey, in his book the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” suggests that you seek first to understand the other person before you ask to be understood. You will increase your co-worker’s cooperation by asking him to tell you what is troubling him first.

Step 3: Set a time limit. Keep the negotiation time short to prevent the discussion from getting off track. It usually ends up in blaming each other for one’s problems. Keep things on the topic at hand and to the point no matter how much they get off topic.

Step 4: Keep it private. Don’t embarrass your co-worker by negotiating in public. He will be more likely to react negatively if he thinks others are watching him. Ask to talk to him in a private room.

Step 5: Stay calm and cool. Don’t try to negotiate when feeling angry, tired, or preoccupied with other things. If the situation gets too hot, suggest taking a few minutes to cool off and then resume the negotiation. Set this up as a ground rule before negotiating if you think a heated discussion is likely.

Step 6: Acknowledge the others’ point of view. Even if your co-worker is totally off base, acknowledge his feelings about the report. They are important to him even if they are irrational. One way to do this is to say, “I can see how you could feel the way you do given your work load.”

Step 7: Restate the final solution once it is reached. Most failures to cooperate after a negotiation is due to a misunderstanding about what EXACTLY were agreed upon. Write it in memo form if that seems necessary.

Of course, labels and negotiation may not be enough. Your co-worker may continue to be rude and attacking even when you acknowledging his anger. Negotiation may falter because he refuses to budge. No matter how you try to communicate, his obnoxious behavior is unrelenting. That’s when you use the tool of change.

Tool #3: Change Your Situation

Many people believe that they have no choice but to put up with the co-worker’s obnoxious behavior. They let people walk over them because they are in positions of power. It might be a boss who has the power to fire you or your spouse who can make your life miserable or your co-worker who won’t give you the report you need to make you look irresponsible. The reality is that you always have a choice. You can change yourself, the stressor, or the situation. Notice that changing the other person was not one of the choices listed here although that is the one most often chosen. It is also the one that is the least effective. You have no guarantees that you can change the other person. You always have a 100% guarantee to change yourself. But isn’t that being a victim? No, you are never a victim when you choose what and how to change.

You can change yourself by taking care of yourself. Are you getting enough exercise and sleep? What is your diet like? Do you spend a few moments meditating or engaging in relaxing activities every day? The better you take care of yourself, the better you can deal with that angry co-worker.

You can change yourself by changing how you respond to angry people. Using the communication tools above is a step in the right direction. Your co-worker expects you to act in a pre-programmed manner. Call it a dance. He leads and you follow. Changing the dance steps changes the dance.

You can change the stressor by getting more organized. Perhaps if you were more organized you could have asked your co-worker for the report earlier in the week lessening the chances of an angry reaction from him. The more organized you are the better you are able to cope with unexpected problems or problem people.

You can also change your work situation. You don’t have to stay where you are. You might think that you do, for whatever reason, but it is still a choice you are making. Even if you stay in the job you have now, you can always ask to be reassigned to a new department or share a new cubicle with another employee.

There are always choices. And having choices empowers us to deal with angry people in a more confident manner.

Finding a little serenity

Let’s be honest: Life is difficult. This is a basic truth of various wisdom traditions and perhaps, of common sense. But the fact that life is full of problems, shouldn’t be your focus. Your focus should be on how will you respond to problems and problem people. Don’t be surprised by them when you know they will rear their ugly heads again and again. Instead, get a plan and a tool belt full of anger management tools.

Use these tools to change your life so that you don’t wake up every morning with a knot in your stomach. Work on you and you may be pleasantly surprised by the results it creates in others. One way of looking at all of this is the Serenity Prayer popularized by the Alcoholics Anonymous movement. Hey, why should millions of people have all the good stuff? If it helps them overcome alcoholism, maybe it can help you deal with angry people.

The Serenity Prayer goes something like this: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Finding a little serenity means changing what we can, the best way that we can and not stressing over what we can’t change, namely other people.