Archive | August, 2012

6 Tips You Need to Know as a Parent

31 Aug

“In spite of the six thousand parenting manuals in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck—and, of course, courage.” —Bill Cosby

  • Take time for yourself. Spend more time with your kids.
  • Don’t expect too much. Don’t expect too little.
  • Embrace technology. Resist technology.
  • Be consistent. Be flexible.

We swim in a sea of advice on how to raise kids, and the messages are sometimes contradictory and confusing. The “shoulds” and “oughtas” come to us through real-life conversations with friends, pediatricians, and well-intentioned in-laws – and virtual voices that stream to us in digital forms. We all want to do right by our kids, but sifting through all the expertise can leave us feeling wobbly and insecure.

Despite all the written and unwritten “rules” on what it means to be a good mom or dad, there are some things to remember that can help you maintain your center of gravity during those times of doubt and second-guessing:

1. You are the expert – for your child. No one knows your child quite the way you do. In your role as a parent you’ve spent a lot of hours watching, listening, experimenting and readjusting. You’ve got the data to support what your gut is telling you. Consider the information and advice you are getting from other trusted sources, but in the end, make parenting decisions based on your own experience and intuition.

2. Your kids want you to be confident. As adults, we don’t want to work for bosses who don’t seem to know what they’re doing. It’s hard to gauge our own actions when the person in charge is unsure or wishy-washy. The same goes for kids . Confident parents make kids feel secure. Sometimes you just have to fake it ‘til you make it, but that’s OK.

3. Not all guilt is equal. Guilt can undermine confidence, but there’s a difference between useful guilt and false guilt. Useful guilt is our conscience telling us that something important is genuinely out of whack – like when screen time has taken over face-to-face time in the family. False guilt is all the peripheral stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run – like when you didn’t have time to do laundry so your daughter had to wear swimsuit bottoms under her jeans. Have a good laugh and let the false stuff go.

4. You’re wiser today than you were yesterday. We all make mistakes along the way, but that’s what makes parenting an art form. The things we’re worrying about today are generally not the things that were a really big deal a year ago. Children grow up, we figure things out, and we move on. That’s why grandparents tend to have a more relaxed attitude about raising kids – they have the perspective (and selective memory) that only time can provide.

5. Focus on what you’re doing right. As parents it’s easy to dwell on our foibles and failings. So you lost your cool when the kids missed the bus, but in the same day you also oohed and aahed over a great report card, made meatloaf from scratch (letting your 4-year-old crack the egg), and listened with rapt attention to the details of THE BEST RECESS EVER over dinner. Few have achieved a 4.0 grade point average in parenting – let perfection go and aim for B’s.

6. Children will find their way – and so will you. Some kids seem to take the freeway through ages and stages, with apparent ease and smooth-sailing, while others take the – shall we say – scenic route. Regardless of the path, you can breathe easy knowing that the vast majority of kids come round right in the end to become full-functioning members of society. And you’ll be left wondering why you ever doubted yourself.

Sources:   (Taken from the ParentFurther website)

1. Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With by Bonnie Harris, 2008, Adams Media.

2. Take Back Your Kids: Confident Parenting in Turbulent Times by William Doherty, 2000, Sorin Books.

3. Building your self-confidence as a parent.

4. I’m a Fantastic Mom via Parenting.com

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The Art of Feedback

30 Aug

I found this article to be really helpful.  Parenting can be so difficult and I find I spend a lot of time making sure to be careful with my words when speaking to my children.  Author Heidi Grant Halverson offers some great advice.

Giving a child feedback – both criticism and praise – is more than just useful; it’s essential.  While it may be hard for kids to get motivated, it’s impossible for them to stay motivate when they aren’t sure if they’re on the right track.  Giving well-crafted, frequent feedback is one of our most important jobs as parents and teachers.

But as every one of us knows, sometimes  the feedback we give doesn’t seem to be all that motivating.  Even with the best intentions, our words of encouragement or disapproval can easily backfire or seem to fall on deaf ears, and many of us have a hard time understanding why.

Luckily, scientific studies on motivation have shed light on why some types of feedback work and others don’t.  If you’ve gotten it wrong in the past (and who hasn’t?), then you can do a better job of giving feedback from now on by sticking to a few simple rules:

Rule #1:  When things go wrong, keep it real.  It’s not easy to tell a child that they screwed up, and knowing this may cause anxiety, disappointment or embarrassment.  But don’t make the mistake of protecting a child’s feelings at the expense of telling them what they truly need to hear.  Remember that without honest feedback, kids can’t possibly figure out what to do differently next time.

Also, don’t take away a child’s sense of responsibility for what went wrong (assuming he or she is in fact to blame), just because you don’t want to be “hard” on them.  Letting children off the hook for their own mistakes, telling them that they “tried their best” when it’s clear they didn’t, may leave kids feeling powerless to improve.

Rule #2:  When things go wrong, fight self-doubt.  Children need to believe that success is within reach, no matter what mistakes they have made in the past.  To do this,

  • Be specific.  What needs improvement, and what exactly can be done to improve?
  • Emphasize actions that they have the power to change.  Talk about aspects of performance that are under their control, like the time and effort that were put into practicing, or the study method which was used.
  • Avoid praising effort when it didn’t pay off.  Many parents try to console their child by saying things like “Well honey, you didn’t do very well but you worked hard and really tried your best.”  Why does anyone think that is comforting?  For the record – it’s not.
  • Studies show that, after a failure, being complimented for “effort” not only makes kids feel stupid, it also leaves them feeling like they can’t improve.  In these instances, it’s really best to stick to purely informational feedback – if effort isn’t the problem, help them figure out what is.

Rule #3: When things go right, avoid praising ability.  I know we all like to hear how smart and talented we are, and so naturally we assume that it’s what kids want to hear too.  Of course they do.  But it’s not what the need to hear to stay motivated.

Studies conducted by Carol Dweck and her colleagues show that when children are praised for having high ability, it leaves them more vulnerable to self-doubt when they are faced with a challenge later.  If being successful means that a child is “smart,” then they’re likely to conclude that they aren’t smart when having a harder time.

Make sure that you also praise aspects of your child’s performance that were under their control.  Talk about a creative approach, careful planning, persistence and effort, and a positive attitude.  Praise actions, not just abilities.  That way, when your child runs into trouble later on, they’ll remember what helped them to succeed int he past and put that knowledge to good use.

Did you like this article?  Leave me a comment and by the way…thanks for reading!

Link

Turn Off the TV, It’s Affecting Your Sleep!

21 Aug

Turn Off the TV, It’s Affecting Your Sleep!

This is a quick video everyone needs to see!

Do You Know Someone Who Just Wears You Out?

9 Aug

When my clients ask me how they can learn to accept certain difficult people in their lives, I rarely answer the question directly.  I often say something along the lines of “The way I choose who I allow into my life is by the way that I feel when I am with them, and more importantly how I feel after I have left them.”  Then I begin to ask the client to think about their own situation and the people and relationships they are struggling with.  I ask the following questions: “Do you feel better or worse when you walk away from them?  Are you energized or drained?  Do they lift you up or bring you down?”

According to Relational Cultural Theory, when we leave conversation with someone and feel rundown, we have experienced “disconnection.” Conversely, when we leave conversation energized, we have experienced “connection.”

So, if you feel tired by many exchanges in your day-to-day life, work on mutuality (the exchange of responsiveness from all parties during connection). Surprisingly, sometimes all we have to do is model what we want to get more of it.

If you are longing for deeper connections try the following:

  • Be more accepting of differences
  • Work toward resolution rather than winning
  • Encourage vulnerability in the self and others (that means deal with your uncomfortable feelings if someone begins to cry)
  • Be authentic (speak from a place of SELF and don’t internally criticize everything you say or do)
  • Be empathetic (put yourself in the other’s shoes).

When these ways of relating become more common for you, it feels better to be around others. You get feelings of empowerment from exchanges, maybe even inspired by others!  Plus, your feelings of self-worth go up and getting more desirable relationships gets easier.

RCT (Relational Cultural Theory) posits we get more (not less) relationally complex as we develop across the lifespan. That is, we do not trend toward towards individuation, rather we trend towards creating, sustaining, and deepening connections with others. So it is imperative that we strive for mutual growth rather than isolation or we stunt our development.

If you are familiar with Erik Erikson and his psychosocial developmental stages across the lifespan, you know about his 6th stage of Intimacy vs. Isolation.  I imagine this stage is our most focused attempt to connect with others in an intimate way and the beginning of our journey to deepen our relationships throughout our lifetime.