Are you Parenting Like Your Parent?

Have you ever had one of those moments when something comes out of your mouth that doesn’t sound anything like you? You snap at your partner or scold your child, using words you never use or threats you’d never see through. Afterwards, you stand there stumped for a few seconds wondering, “Where did that come from?” Then, it hits you – you sound just like your mother or father.

For better or worse, many of our parents’ traits live on in us. This can be a good thing; positive identifications with qualities we liked in our parents help us to take on characteristics we respect and admire. Unfortunately, on the flip side, negative traits in our parents, especially those that caused us misery, fear and frustration, can also linger in our psyche and impact our behavior. This is especially the case in present moments of stress in our life today that somehow remind us of our past and manage to set off old triggers in us.

As you may imagine, scenarios that are reminiscent of our childhood are increasingly likely to arise when we ourselves become parents. We may not really remember how our dad used to snap on long car trips until our own kids start bickering in the backseat. We may not recall our mom teasing us when we whined cried until we find ourselves making a sarcastic comment to our own child when he or she gets fussy.

The good news is, by noticing these traits inside ourselves, by identifying where they come from, and by altering our behavior to match our own standards and principles, we can differentiate from negative programming from our past. We can become more and more like the parent we want to be, not necessarily the one we were raised by.

There are several important steps in the process of differentiation. First, you have to become observers of your own reactions. You should try to notice interactions between you and your children that seem out of character or don’t represent a way you want to be. Do certain behaviors or situations trigger you? For example, does helping your daughter with homework spark an unusual amount of frustration or impatience? Do your son’s tantrums make you lose your temper? Think of the scenes and scenarios that lead to negative interactions between you and your child. Is there a pattern?

The second step to this process involves asking yourself the question, “Could I be projecting characteristics or dynamics from my own childhood, reliving or reenacting aspects of my own childhood with my kids?” To figure this out means becoming aware of how you yourself were parented. Were your parents impatient with you when it came to helping you with school work? Were they overly pressuring, complacent or unsupportive? Did your parents ever “lose it” with you when you were having an emotional meltdown?

As you start to piece together memories, you might start begin to see the value of making a coherent narrative about your past. Telling your story, even to yourself, can help you to understand your actions in the present and consciously decide how to move into your future.

Reflecting on and putting together your story can be painful. Sad memories are sure to arise. The realization that your parents were human, and therefore, imperfect, can be tough to accept. We have a natural tendency to want to protect our parents. We even unconsciously identify with their critical attitudes toward us and often take on their disparaging points of view as our own. This internalized parent is what we refer to as one’s “critical inner voice.” It can feel threatening to separate from the people who we once relied on for care and safety. Yet, by having compassion for our child selves, we can extend this feeling to our children. We can differentiate from our parents’ less desirable attitudes and traits, while maintaining qualities that we admired in them.

Once we make the connection between past events and our present behavior, and once we have feeling for ourselves and the struggles we endured, we become much stronger in our effort to challenge the negative traits we have as parents. We can question critical or indulgent attitudes and behaviors toward our children that don’t seem to fit the situation. We can recognize that, just as we are not our parents, our children are not our child selves. Thus, we can become more attuned to what’s really going on in our kids. We can start to separate from the parents we don’t want to be and become the people we’d like our kids to one day imitate.

Join Dr. Lisa Firestone for the free Dec. 4 Webinar, “How to Raise an Emotionally Healthy Child. ” Learn more or register here

To read more from Dr. Lisa Firestone, visit

25 Ways to Talk So Children Will Listen

A major part of discipline is learning how to talk with children. The way you
talk to your child teaches him how to talk to others. Here are some talking
tips we have learned with our children:

1. Connect Before You Direct

Before giving your child directions,
squat to your child’s eye level and engage your child in eye-to-eye contact to
get his attention. Teach him how to focus: “Mary, I need your eyes.” “Billy, I
need your ears.” Offer the same body language when listening to the child. Be
sure not to make your eye contact so intense that your child perceives it as
controlling rather than connecting.

2. Address The Child

Open your request with the child’s name,
“Lauren, will you please…”

3. Stay Brief

We use the one-sentence rule: Put the main directive
in the opening sentence. The longer you ramble, the more likely your child is
to become parent-deaf. Too much talking is a very common mistake when dialoging
about an issue. It gives the child the feeling that you’re not quite sure what
it is you want to say. If she can keep you talking she can get you sidetracked.

4. Stay Simple

Use short sentences with one-syllable words. Listen
to how kids communicate with each other and take note. When your child shows
that glazed, disinterested look, you are no longer being understood.

5. Ask Your Child to Repeat the Request Back to You

If he can’t,
it’s too long or too complicated.

6. Make an offer the child can’t refuse

You can reason with a two
or three-year-old, especially to avoid power struggles. “Get dressed so you can
go outside and play.” Offer a reason for your request that is to the child’s
advantage, and one that is difficult to refuse. This gives her a reason to move
out of her power position and do what you want her to do.

7. Be Positive

Instead of “no running,” try: “Inside we walk,
outside you may run.”

8. Begin your Directives With “I want.”

Instead of “Get down,” say
“I want you to get down.” Instead of “Let Becky have a turn,” say “I want you
to let Becky have a turn now.” This works well with children who want to please
but don’t like being ordered. By saying “I want,” you give a reason for
compliance rather than just an order.

9. “When…Then.”

“When you get your teeth brushed, then we’ll begin
the story.” “When your work is finished, then you can watch TV.” “When,” which
implies that you expect obedience, works better than “if,” which suggests that
the child has a choice when you don’t mean to give him one.

10. Legs First, Mouth Second

Instead of hollering, “Turn off the
TV, it’s time for dinner!” walk into the room where your child is watching TV,
join in with your child’s interests for a few minutes, and then, during a
commercial break, have your child turn off the TV. Going to your child conveys
you’re serious about your request; otherwise children interpret this as a mere

11. Give Choices

“Do you want to put your pajamas on or brush your
teeth first?” “Red shirt or blue one?”

12. Speak Developmentally Correctly

The younger the child, the
shorter and simpler your directives should be. Consider your child’s level of
understanding. For example, a common error parents make is asking a three-year-
old, “Why did you do that?” Most adults can’t always answer that question about
their behavior. Try instead, “Let’s talk about what you did.”

13. Speak Socially Correctly

Even a two-year-old can learn
“please.” Expect your child to be polite. Children shouldn’t feel manners are
optional. Speak to your children the way you want them to speak to you.

14. Speak Psychologically Correctly

Threats and judgmental openers
are likely to put the child on the defensive. “You” messages make a child clam
up. “I” messages are non-accusing. Instead of “You’d better do this…” or “You
must…,” try “I would like….” or “I am so pleased when you…” Instead of
“You need to clear the table,” say “I need you to clear the table.” Don’t ask a
leading question when a negative answer is not an option. “Will you please pick
up your coat?” Just say, “Pick up your coat, please.”

15. Write It

Reminders can evolve into nagging so easily,
especially for preteens who feel being told things puts them in the slave
category. Without saying a word you can communicate anything you need said.
Talk with a pad and pencil. Leave humorous notes for your child. Then sit back
and watch it happen.

16. Talk The Child Down

The louder your child yells, the softer you
respond. Let your child ventilate while you interject timely comments: “I
understand” or “Can I help?” Sometimes just having a caring listener available
will wind down the tantrum. If you come in at his level, you have two tantrums
to deal with. Be the adult for him.

17. Settle The Listener

Before giving your directive, restore
emotional equilibrium, otherwise you are wasting your time. Nothing sinks in
when a child is an emotional wreck.

18. Replay Your Message

Toddlers need to be told a thousand times.
Children under two have difficulty internalizing your directives. Most three-
year-olds begin to internalize directives so that what you ask begins to sink
in. Do less and less repeating as your child gets older. Preteens regard
repetition as nagging.

19. Let Your Child Complete The Thought

Instead of “Don’t leave
your mess piled up,” try: “Matthew, think of where you want to store your soccer
stuff.” Letting the child fill in the blanks is more likely to create a lasting

20. Use Rhyme Rules

“If you hit, you must sit.” Get your child to
repeat them.

21. Give Likable Alternatives

You can’t go by yourself to the park;
but you can play in the neighbor’s yard.

22. Give Advance Notice

“We are leaving soon. Say bye-bye to the
toys, bye-bye to the girls…”

23. Open Up a Closed Child

Carefully chosen phrases open up closed
little minds and mouths. Stick to topics that you know your child gets excited
about. Ask questions that require more than a yes or no. Stick to specifics.
Instead of “Did you have a good day at school today?” try “What is the most fun
thing you did today?”

24. Use “When You…I Feel…Because…”

When you run away from mommy in
the store I feel worried because you might get lost.

25. Close The Discussion

If a matter is really closed to discussion, say
so. “I’m not changing my mind about this. Sorry.” You’ll save wear and tear
on both you and your child. Reserve your “I mean business” tone of voice for
when you do.

5 Steps to Raising Optimistic Children

5 Steps to Raising Optimistic Children
by Dr. Tony Fiore

I had just completed a session with 17-year old Julie who suffered from severe depression. Julie believed she was a total failure and would never be able to change anything in her life. Julie also felt all her shortcomings were her own fault. Where, I ask myself, did such a young person acquire this negative and fatalistic thinking?

The answer soon became apparent when I invited her parents into the session. They began discussing numerous life events and explaining them in ways that their children were learning. The car, for example, got dented because you can’t trust anybody these days; Mom yelled at brother because she was in a bad mood; you can’t get ahead in this world unless you know somebody, etc.

As a parent, your own thinking style is always on display and your children are listening intently!

The Importance of Optimism

Why should you want your child to be an optimist?

Because, as Dr. Martin Seligman explains:

“Pessimism (the opposite of optimism) is an entrenched habit of mind that has sweeping and disastrous consequences: depressed mood, resignation, underachievement and even unexpectedly poor physical health.”

Children with optimistic thinking skills are better able to interpret failure, have a stronger sense of personal mastery and are better able to bounce back when things go wrong in their lives.

Because parents are a major contributors to the thinking styles of their children’s developing minds, it is important to adhere to the following five steps to ensure healthy mental habits in your children.

How Parents Can Help

Step 1: Learn to think optimistically yourself. What children see and hear indirectly from you as you lead your life and interact with others influences them much more than what you try to ‘teach’ them.

You can model optimism for your child by incorporating optimistic mental skills into your own way of thinking. This is not easy and does not occur over night. But with practice, almost everyone can learn to think differently about life’s events – even parents!

Step 2: Teach your child that there is a connection between how they think and how they feel. You can do this most easily by saying aloud how your own thoughts about adversity create negative feelings in you.

For example, if you are driving your child to school and a driver cuts you off, verbalize the link between your thoughts and feelings by saying something like “I wonder why I’m feeling so angry; I guess I was saying to myself: ‘Now I’m going to be late because the guy in front of me is going so darn slow. If he is going to drive like that he shouldn’t drive during rush hour. How rude.’”

Step 3: Create a game called ‘thought catching.’ This helps your child learn to identify the thoughts that flit across his or her mind at the times they feel worst. These thoughts, although barely noticeable, greatly affect mood and behavior.

For instance, if your child received a poor grade, ask:
“When you got your grade, what did you say to yourself?”

Step 4: Teach your child how to evaluate automatic thoughts. This means acknowledging that they things you say to yourself are not necessarily accurate.

For instance, after receiving the poor grade your child may be telling himself he is a failure, he is not as smart as other kids; he will never be able to succeed in school, etc. Many of these self-statements may not be accurate, but they are ‘automatic’ in that situation.

Step 5: Instruct your child on how to generate more accurate explanations (to themselves) when bad things happen and use them to challenge your child’s automatic but inaccurate thoughts. Part of this process involves looking for evidence to the contrary (good grades in the past, success in other life areas, etc).

Another skill to teach your child to help him or her think optimistically is to ‘decatastrophize’ the situation – that is – help your child see that the bad event may not be as bad or will not have the adverse consequences imagined. Few things in life are as devastating as we fear, yet we blow them up in our minds.

Parents can influence the thinking styles of their children by modeling the principals of optimistic thinking.

About the Author: Dr. Tony Fiore ( is a So. California licensed psychologist, and anger management trainer. His company, The Anger Coach, provides anger and stress management programs, training and products to individuals, couples, and the workplace.

For an easy step-by-step plan to build your relationship with your child and end your child’s difficult behavior forever, check out the “Complete Connection Parenting Community HERE.

Fathers Can Teach Their Children Persistence: Study

FRIDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) – Children learn persistence from their fathers, according to a new study, and this skill can lead to better performance at school and a reduced risk of criminal behavior.

The study included adolescents aged 11 to 14 in 325 two-parent families; they were followed for several years by researchers from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

About 52 percent of the fathers in the study exhibited above-average levels of authoritative parenting. The children of these fathers were significantly more likely to develop persistence, which led to better outcomes at school and lower levels of delinquency.

The findings were published June 15 in the Journal of Early Adolescence.

“There are relatively few studies that highlight the unique role of fathers,” study co-author Laura Padilla-Walker, a professor in BYU’s School of Family Life, said in a university news release. “This research also helps to establish that traits such as persistence – which can be taught – are key to a child’s life success.”

The researchers emphasized that authoritative parenting is different from authoritarian parenting and has three basic features: children feel warmth and love from their father; children are granted an appropriate level of autonomy; and fathers emphasize accountability and the reasons behind rules.

Although this study included two-parent families, the researchers suggested that single parents may still be able to help teach their children about persistence.

“Fathers should continue to be involved in their children’s lives and engage in high-quality interactions, even if the quantity of those interactions might be lower than is desirable,” Padilla-Walker said.