Using Your Parenting E.A.R.S.

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 have you been doing to make your 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 judgmental 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.

CONTACT Ron today for an appointment at 530-339-6888 or Rehuxley@gmail.com

Grab the Good: Five habits of happy families

Let’s face it, when it comes to difficult jobs, parenting is as hard as it gets.  It can be lonely, isolating and frustrating, while filled to the brim with love, laughter and blessings every day.  Refresh your parenting skills by implementing these happy family habits right now.

Communication

According to clinical psychologist Pamela Dockstader-Ortiz, undistracted communication is a top strategy of happy families. 

“We can start by practicing better self-awareness in the moment so that we can be truly present when interacting with our family,” Dockstader-Ortiz says. “This will convey to the other person that you are giving them 100 percent of your attention, that you are genuinely interested, and that they matter!”  

She also recommends keeping a family notebook, where each member uses a different color pen, to keep communication lines open during the busiest of schedules.

Tradition

I treasure the traditions my husband and I have established at home, and Dockstader-Ortiz agrees. 

“Traditions are important because they offer a sense of identity, belonging and togetherness…. and are unique in each family.”

She adds that traditions need not be elaborate or complicated – eating a regular family meal counts as a tradition as well. Find small ways, like holiday baking or family walks, to create distinctive traditions for your family to cherish for years to come.

Boundaries

Boundaries define personal limits and promote self-reliance in children. 

“One of our goals as parents is to help our children to differentiate, and become autonomous and separate individuals,” says Dockstader-Ortiz. “We can do this by promoting and supporting their individual thoughts and ideas, and likes and dislikes.” 

Supporting kids in this way and celebrating their uniqueness fosters kids’ self-esteem.   

Respect

In our home, learning and demonstrating respectful behavior is a family rule, but like most, it occasionally gets broken. Life comes into play and we lose our focus, but we shouldn’t, because respectful behavior is a cornerstone of happy family interactions.

“Each moment and situation in our day to day life offers opportunity to guide and teach our children life lessons about values, beliefs, as well as right from wrong,” says Dockstader-Ortiz. “We have the ability to model pro-social behavior for our children to learn — leading by example begins at home — and the earlier the better!”  

Relaxation

Happy families understand that playtime is integral in family happiness. 

“Playtime with our children is so important because there is a time to be a parent and then a time to level the playing ground, so to speak, by relating to our children and nurturing the relationship on a whole different level,” says Dockstader-Ortiz. 

She advises keeping family fun free of expectations, criticisms and judgments in order to foster independent thinking, imagination and creativity.

Molly Logan Anderson is a writer, wife and mom of three who lives in the Chicago suburbs.  Intent on finding good in every day through her blog and website www.GrabTheGood.com, she hopes to help others do the same.  From good family, to good advice, to good causes and good style, Molly is writing about it.

Ron Reflects: I know this is the time when families start getting ready for school again. Is this a time of rejoicing for mom and dad or did the summer go too quickly? Share by clicking the reply button.