about Y's Words for parents
YMCA Youth & Family Services
' trained staff and parent volunteers provide workshops and classes that help parents be more effective in parent-child and/or parent-teen relationships. We offer workshops at libraries, PTA meetings and school-sponsored programs that are tailored to fit the needs of the community. Workshops and classes are available for parents of preschoolers through high-schoolers to explore topics such as bedtime/morning struggles, lying, chores and sibling fighting.
Parents will learn to identify the purpose of a child's misbehavior and develop effective discipline and encouragement strategies to positively redirect. We offer an opportunity to become familiar with the concepts of logical and natural consequences, mutual respect, encouragement, and goals of misbehavior. The group discussion format teaches skills to help improve parent/teen relations, develop self-esteem, and promote responsible teenage behavior at home, in school, and in the community.
Consultations are for parents who seek skill development, techniques tailored to their concerns, and who can benefit from support and encouragement from our parenting staff. Appropriate referrals are parents who seem likely to benefit from 1-3 sessions of consultation. Fees based on a sliding scale, however no one will be denied services based on ability to pay.
For registration and information, call us at (301) 593-1160 or email us.
For our parenting schedule, please click here
Y’s Words: Library Workshops
Free, Donations appreciated
Helping Kids Deal with Anger
Anger is good for identifying problems but not good for solving them. This workshop will address ways parents can help their children recognize early warning signs and develop strategies for dealing with their anger in a positive way.
Tuesday, January 21, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Davis Library, 6400 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda
Ten Reasons Children Don’t Succeed… and Eleven Things Parents Can Do
Come to this parenting skills workshop to discover common pitfalls of parenting that deprive children of the opportunity to succeed with daily tasks of living. Parents will learn strategies for helping kids become more confident, courageous, capable and caring.
Wednesday, January 29, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. White Oak Library, 11701 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring
Raising Responsible Children and Teens
This parenting workshop will address: getting children’s cooperation with chores, instituting a plan for allowance, and setting limits that hold kids accountable.
Wednesday, January 22, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Silver Spring Library, 8901 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring
Building Resilience in Children and Teens
How can we help our children develop the inner strength to take life’s ups and down in stride: deal with disappointment, frustration and adversity. We hope they will take on challenges and adjust to change. Specific strategies to develop “psychological muscle” will be discussed.
Monday, January 27, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. Bethesda Library, 7400 Arlington Rd., Bethesda
For registration and information, call us at (301) 229-1347 or email us
Parenting Classes in February
Parents will learn to identify the purposes of a child’s misbehavior and develop effective discipline and encouragement strategies for positively redirecting these behaviors. Skills include: Developing effective consequences, structuring choices, and ending power struggles.
Required text, available first night: $20, suggested donation $30/person, no one will be turned away
Thursdays, February 6 – March 13, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Forest Glen Community Center. 1102 Forest Glen Road, Silver Spring
A down-to-earth and practical way to meet the challenges of raising teenagers. The group discussion format teaches skills to help improve parent/teen relations; develop teen self-esteem and self-reliance; and promote responsible teen behavior at home, school and in the community.
Required text, available first night: $20, suggested donation $30/person, no one will be turned away
Wednesdays, February 5 – March 12, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m
YMCA Ayrlawn Center, 5650 Oakmont Ave., Bethesda
For registration and information, call us at (301) 229-1347 or email us.
suburban hospital seminars
Our next seminar at Suburban Hospital is scheduled for Spring 2014! More details coming soon...
From Frog Collecting to Number Crunching
Along with buying new pencils and notebooks, back to school means a return to routines, alarm clocks, and the responsibilities that many of our children left behind with the last bell in June. There are all kinds of systems families can use, and Vicki Hoefle offers a plan that is about progress, change, and the long-term goal of encouraging independence and self-reliance in our children.
Here is my “top 10” list
for making the transition from frog collecting to number crunching a smooth one, for kids and parents alike. With these pointers in mind, you’ll help your children begin the school year on the right foot.
1. Ask yourself, “What will it take for my children to manage their schedules independently?” Work with your kids to make a list of everything that needs to happen in order for your kids to be ready for the school day.
2. Allow your kids to establish a routine that works for them, even if they flounder for a week or two.
3. Have faith that your children can handle the natural consequences of their decisions.
4. Show empathy and help your children work through any problems that arise, but don’t be their savior.
5. Set parameters about acceptable dress for school that you and your kids can agree on, and then bite your tongue.
6. Establish a framework for discussing the ups and downs that your kids are sure to encounter as the school year progresses. You want your children to know that you’re on their side, no matter what.
7. Create a roadmap with your children to help them set goals for the year and begin thinking about what it will take to achieve those goals.
8. Set up a time every week to connect as a family.
9. Figure out what you, as a parent, can let go of to encourage your childrens’ independence.
10. Go slow. Encourage progress and recognize growth, and remember that you are the best parent for your child.
Teaching Your Kids About Money:
Allowance, Summer Jobs and College
ALLOWANCE by Joe Lanza
Many parents start teaching kids money management through allowance. Giving your kids an allowance is not a guarantee of teaching monetary responsibility – in fact, you may be teaching them that money will just show up. How can you create an allowance system that also teaches responsibility?
I’m a fan of allowance. I loved watching my kids evaluate whether something they wanted was worth their money (of course it was worth my money!). But not everyone agrees that kids learn healthy spending habits. The great allowance debate roars on, and may have moved to a whole new level with a personal-finance scholar’s recent assertion that a “regular, unconditional allowance may be akin to cruelty to children.” Read more: business.time.com/2013/03/26/expert-paying-kids-allowance-is-cruelty/#ixzz2Uhj2EGjG
The challenge is to create an allowance framework that teaches budgeting, saving and credit concerns. Many parents also use allowance to teach philanthropy – what Adlerians call “interest in the interests of others.” Here are some guidelines:
1. Separate allowance from chores. Allowance is given to develop a child’s responsibility, sense of the value of money; not as a reward for getting chores done.
2. Control the sense of entitlement in our culture of affluence. Do your kids tend to think that they MUST have the current popular item? Ask them how important clothes are when picking friends? Do they have friends who can’t afford cell phones, laptops, video games and how does that affect them socializing?
3. Setting amounts. Decide what you would like your child to pay for and how much you would like your child to have for discretionary spending. It’s important that it be enough to experience whimsical purchasing and then experience wishing you had some money left.
4. Let them make mistakes. Don’t bail them out. Don’t let them borrow money. Don’t make a lot of rules about what they can buy.
5. Require a percentage to savings and to philanthropy. I teach a “three-jar” system: “share,” “save” and “spend smart.” My 7-year-old daughter gets a $7 allowance every Friday. Each week, we require that she deposit two dollars into her “save” jar and one into her “share” jar. She can divvy up the four remaining dollars among any of the jars.
A summer job can be a real eye-opener for kids about the real world. They can learn:
• Why education is important (I don’t want to spend my life in jobs like this one)
• The importance of arriving on time, being focused on work, understanding what bosses are looking for in employees, what an 8 hour work day feels like!
• I can do it! Just realizing you can call or walk in and ask for a job (and survive rejection) is an important life lesson
• A new vision of themselves – I can succeed in the adult world of work
• The value of a dollar – when you work all day and end up with X, it’s a reality check
• Social skills of interviewing for the job, interacting with colleagues, bosses, customers.
SENDING YOUR TEEN OFF TO COLLEGE
Many kids end up graduating with debt, for their education and for their poor money management decisions. This website is from a 20-year-old and is a gold mine of ideas on spending decisions and credit card decisions. This link is to credit card information – but spend time on his other sections:
Summary: Make responsibility a part of the family dialogue:
• What options are you considering?
• That’s your decision.
• I think you can handle that.
• How do feel about how that worked out?
“You are the biggest financial influence in your child’s life. Most of what your children will learn about handling money will come from watching you handle yours.” Michelle Singletary
The Anxieties of Children and Teens
From the Monsters Under the Bed to Preparing for College
Regardless of age, there is always plenty to worry about. To worry is a universal phenomenon. Adults have bills to pay and a whole gambit of expectations to meet. The coupling of worry and concern tends to provoke action. Under normal conditions, this action is simply referred to as problem-solving. In other words, on the useful side of life, worry generates an important call to action.
Do the worries of children follow the same trajectory? Yes, of course. The school-age child may find he's worried about an up-coming exam or report. Ideally, the message becomes, “Get prepared!” and the child responds in kind. Child, adolescent and adult worries flow in and out of any given life. They differ in accordance with age or developmental stages, as well as the circumstances that surround the individual. They are transitory in nature. Anxiety is a higher grade of worry. It doesn’t have the same in/out flow. Anxiety has staying power. In children, it can be quite specific as when it is provoked by exams; before, during and afterwards. Or, it can be quite generalized as when concerns around being safe seem constant.
Anxieties are associated with the immediate or foreseeable future. They are related to obligations, demands, expectations of self or others or individualized fears that seem imminent or potentially dangerous. In almost all circumstances, the anxious individual, be it child or teen, has a perception of being unprepared to meet the life challenge, or even unable; as in the case of an upcoming audition or try-out. In this scenario, the child/teen is anxious weeks in advance. Anxiety has penetrated. Ultimately, the child/teen fails to appear for the audition or try-out.
Worries Become Anxiety When…
Anxiety becomes a boni fide disorder when it handicaps normal life functions. For example, when the child cannot bear to be separated from his mother and will not go to school. Or, when the teenager is so concerned about what “they” think of him that his constant awareness makes for constant discomfort leading to a refusal to partake.
Most commonly seen by a child or family therapist are the following types of anxieties, spelled out by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (Facts for Families, 11/12).
Symptoms of separation anxiety include:
• Constant thoughts and intense fears about the safety of parents and caretakers
• Refusing to go to school
• Frequent stomachaches and other physical complaints
• Extreme worries about sleeping away from home
• Being overly clingy
• Panic or tantrums at times of separation from caregivers
• Trouble sleeping or nightmares
Symptoms of phobia include:
• Extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, i.e. insects or needles
• The fears cause significant distress and interfere with usual activities
Symptoms of social anxiety include:
• Fears of meeting or talking to people
• Avoidance of social situations
• Few friends outside the family
Other symptoms of anxious children include:
• Many worries about things before they happen
• Constant worries or concerns about family, school, friends, or activities
• Repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or actions (compulsions)
• Fears of embarrassment or making mistakes
• Low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence
Also important to underscore is an anxiety associated with 17 and 18 year olds, particularly prevalent in senior year of high school. This anxiety is characterized by an avoidance of the future. Symptoms of avoidance of the future include:
• Procrastination of anything related to that which follows high school
• Avoidance of all questions regarding “what’s next?”
• Seemingly indifferent to passing senior year
• Lack of motivation to secure a driver’s license
• Loss of self in drugs, alcohol use, or video games
So What is a Parent to Do?
The first task is NOT to minimize the child’s fears by responding with a cursory, “It’s nothing; you’ll be OK; just don’t worry about it!” The much better response is to embrace the concerns and position oneself as an ally with your child. The parent becomes a collaborator in helping the child to shrink the anxiety. If the anxiety can be seen as an entity, albeit an unfriendly one, that interferes with the child’s satisfaction in life, the team of parent and child now has an opponent. The parent has joined an effort to beat back the anxiety. As the child feels joined, the parent is likely to become even more aware of the anxiety’s hold on her child, and just how deeply the child wishes that he were normal, as in free of the anxiety. If the anxiety persists beyond the parent and child’s creative attack, the alliance allows the parent to suggest to the child the enlistment of a professional member to the team, a child or family therapist.
The job description of a parent who has volunteered to become an anti-anxiety agent includes:
• To be a voice of optimism and constant encouragement
• To be patient with a gradual and incremental pursuit of change
• To be a collaborative and creative problem-solver
Here are transgressions the parent is advised to avoid:
• To become impatient, angry and derogatory
• To succumb to the child’s fears and conclude that “Maybe this is too much for you.”
Most anxieties of childhood and adolescence are not life sentences. They can be overcome. Many parents used to be terribly afraid of the dark and sought safety in their parent’s bed. Many parents are amazed to this day that they finally left home and navigated life quite well on their own. Anxieties are a part of growing up. When posed as a challenge, even better a joint challenge, they become a problem to be surpassed. They are among the adverse circumstances in our children’s pursuit of life. If handled wisely, they build competence and confidence, the ingredients of full participation.
Steven J. Stein is a marriage and family therapist, practicing in Rockville, MD. He works with school-age children and adults on a wide array of mental health concerns. He is grateful to the YMCA’s Youth & Family Services for the opportunity to present on this topic.
A Different Approach to Bullying
“It places responsibility directly upon the shoulders of the victim, where it should be. Whether or not he is upset is entirely up to him, not the bully.” Izzy Kalman
There has been a lot of talk and programs and money addressing the issue of bullying, especially in the schools. There have been some promising results in schools that commit to the process with a significant amount of time – a difficult resource to find in the school curriculum. To find out more about successful programs in schools, click here
I’d like to encourage you to consider an option for parents dealing with a child who is being verbally bullied. This is a plan to help your child take an active role in changing the interaction with bullies. One powerful deterrent to bullying is engaging other kids to intervene. This may not be a response your child can create. Bringing adults into the situation does not often succeed. We do need to encourage our kids to be aware of their role as bystander. For more information on this, please visit the Bullying Prevention Institute
The different approach I would like to share with you focuses on teaching your child new skills in how they react to bullying. It’s an empowering model – just the opposite of how bullying victims feel. When we encourage kids to go to adults we are saying we don’t think you can deal with this on your own. The problem for adults is assessing the risk of harm and the risk of additional harm when the adult gets involved. But harm is already being done. How can we help our kids protect themselves? Here’s an idea that might work for your kids. It’s a large website with lots of information. I’ve pulled just a note from his website with his perspective. This model is intended to empower NOT to discourage them from telling adults what is happening to them. Be sure to empathize with the feelings or your child. Be sure to present this model as a way for your child to let the bully get what he or she wants - to see you upset. If you interested in Izzy's model, please visit his website
A general note about bullies: The word “bully” has negative connotations. The general attitude of adults is that the bullies are bad and must be made to stop their bullying. I, though, am not judging the bullies. I refer to kids as being bullies only in the sense that they apparently have the upper hand in the bully/victim interactions. We are to consider them as being no better and no worse than victims. In fact, we are to consider them as necessary for the learning of social skills. Childhood is a time when children practice the skills they will need in their adult lives. If they don’t learn how to deal with aggression in their formative years, how in the world are they going to know how to do it when they are adults? It is more useful to see bullies as the social sparring partners of our children. Bullies give our children the opportunity to learn to deal with aggression, an essential life skill, and we are to be grateful to them rather than angry. Our job is not to protect the victims from the bullies, but to teach the victims how to defeat the bullies – by not getting upset.
Mom always liked you best
Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers
“I wish I had Ross’s parents” - Monica Geller, sister of Ross on “Friends”
Modern Family, Claire and Mitchell, Alex and Hailey
Bart and Lisa Simpson on the “The Simpsons”
Cain and Abel
You get the idea, the list goes on and on.
I have a vivid image of the first time I heard Tommy Smothers say “Mom always liked you best”. It was an epiphany for me – you can say that out loud? You can acknowledge those feelings? I also have a strong memory of sitting with my kids watching Roseanne Barr. It’s a close up of Roseanne sitting on Darlene’s bed and kissing her goodnight and she says “You are my favorite daughter”. I was a little uncomfortable. Then she moved across the room to Becky’s bed and kissed her goodnight and said “You are my favorite daughter”. It helped my kids to be able to laugh about those desires to be the favorite. When issues are unspeakable they have so much more power.
Birth order is a factor in our personalities. When you meet someone who is a twin, what is often your first question? Which one of you was born first? How many or your friends do you know their birth order? We live in a world that often focuses on vertical rather than horizontal definitions of value. People want to know a person’s status to know how to relate to him/her. People may be less interested in the contributions a person makes to the group than their status in the group. This stratification begins in the family. Who is the oldest? Biggest? Strongest? Smartest? Most athletic? Best behaved? Most loved?
Every child is born into the second act of a play and must create their own role.
Here are some pointers for decreasing the level of sibling rivalry.
- Don’t take sides during conflicts. Allow your children to work out their own problems as much as possible. If someone is getting hurt, separate them in positive time-outs. When you play judge and jury, part of the intensity of the conflicts is who Mom or Dad choose. Even the ‘victim’ is making choices and may have played an antagonistic role that is less obvious.
- Put them in the same boat: “If you can’t share the toys, we’ll need to put them away.”
- Change the arena: “Take it outside” (sometimes when the parents can’t hear the conflict it loses intensity).
- Put them in charge: “I think you two can work this out."
- Acknowledge hateful/jealous feelings. One day my five-year-old son came to me and I said “I hate him!” I was just about to say “no, you don’t, he’s your brother” when the intensity of his feelings reminded me of similar feelings I had about my siblings when I was a child. So, instead, I said “I remember feeling that way about your uncle”. His whole body relaxed. It didn’t make the problem go away, but it was comforting to know that these are not uncommon feelings and people can move on from them.
- Use reflective listening – “You sound furious"
- Encourage your child to put feelings into words, “What about your sister is so maddening?” You don’t need to agree or disagree.
- Use imagination: “Wouldn’t it be great if you never had to share anything?” “Do you wish you could be the big sister?” What would you like best about being an only child?
- Celebrate each child’s uniqueness, but without labeling.
- Avoid even the positive labels: Rachel is our serious student, Justin is the athlete. Let each child have access to each role.
- Don’t compare – ever! Instead of “I wish you could take care of your things like David does.” Say: “I see your toys are all over the yard.”
- Favoritism: recognize your own prejudices: birth order, introvert/extrovert, personality styles, interests - be aware of how you may, even inadvertently, be showing favoritism.
- Give according to individual needs – avoid always trying to be fair.
In response to “David got more…..” Say “Are you still hungry?” “Do you need some attention?” “Do you wish you had a new toy too?” You don’t need to buy the new toy – just acknowledge the feeling and, depending on the issue, talk about plans: “When we get home lets spend some time building with legos.” Do not get sucked into their comparisons, if you count out the strawberries, you are agreeing that everything has to be equal.
- Strategies for creating a less competitive environment
- Model the behaviors you want to see.
- Express your feelings in words.
- Don’t resort to name-calling.
- Put yourself into a time-out when you feel you are unable to respond rationally.
- Use problem-solving skills: “What can we do about this?”
- Use encouragement.
- Get along with your siblings.
- Emphasize teamwork: chores, family meetings.
- Recognize the importance of learning to deal with conflicts.
- Teach empathy. Ask kids to imagine what someone else is feeling. A good way to do this is with books and movies. Here’s a list. I’ve also included a list of resources for parents that do a good job of addressing sibling issues.
Resources: Kvols, K. Redirecting Children’s Behavior
McKay, Gary Raising Respectful Kids in a Rude World
Faber, Adele & Mazlish, Elaine Siblings Without Rivalry
Bullies2buddies.com Thought provoking perspective on bully/victim roles.
Kyla Boyse, http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/sibriv.htm
Children’s Books and Movies on Sibling Rivalry
Blume, Judy Pain and the Great One
Brown, Marc Arthur’s Baby
Casseley Sophie and Sammy’s Library Sleep Over
Cummings Jimmy Lee Did It!
Harris, Robie Mail Harry to the Moon!
Havill Jamaica Tag-along
Henkes Julius, the Baby of the World!
Henkes Sheila Rae’s Peppermint Stick
Hughes Big Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook
Hutchins Silly Billy
Iwasaki A New Baby is Coming to My House
Keller Geraldine First (and others)
Keller What Alvin Wanted
Kvasnosky Zelda and Ivy and the Boy Next Door
Magorian Who’s Going to Take Care of ME?
Michels I Was Born To Be a Sister
McDaniel Katie Can (Rookie Reader)
Oppenheim James Will Never Die
Polacco My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother
Rogers The New Baby
Wells Morris’ Disappearing Bag
Berry Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Fights With Brothers and Sisters
Blume, Judy Superfudge
Blume, Judy Soupy Saturdays with The Pain and The Great One
Calvert The Stone Pony
Guest, E Iris and Walter and Baby Rose
Johnson Do Like Kyla (ages 4-9)
Joosse I Love You the Purplest (ages 4 – 9)
Pennypacker, S Clementine and the family meeting
Pevsner And You Give Me a Pain, Elaine
Rosenberg Brothers and Sisters (J306.87)
Senisi Brothers and Sisters (J306.87)
Yezerski Queen of the World (ages 4-9)
Henkes, K Sheila Rae’s Peppermint Stick
VanLeeuwen Oliver and Amanda Pig Stories
Vega, Denise Rock on : a story of guitars, gigs, girls, and a brother
The Rugrats G
Cheaper by the Dozen G
Peter Pan G
Lion King G
A River Runs Through It PG
My Big Fat Greek Wedding PG
16 Candles PG
Dominick and Eugene PG13
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off PG13
My Left Foot R
Like Water for Chocolate R
You Can Count on Me R
Passenger Side (Indie film – mature) NR
"Say You're Sorry"
How often do you find yourself using these words? Are they really accomplishing what you want?
What are your kids learning?
- I can get out of trouble by lying. Sometimes saying I’m sorry is used like a GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card. The attitude is “If I just say I’m sorry, Mom won’t be mad anymore.”
- It’s not important how I feel. I may feel perfectly justified in my behavior. I may be glad the other child is hurt, crying, upset. Or I may feel devastated by what I did. Whether or not the child is really sorry is irrelevant.
- My sister or brother matters more than me. The victim may be manipulating the situation to get the bully in trouble. You are perpetuating the cycle, allowing the kids to bring you into every squabble and allowing every interaction to be about whom Mom or Dad loves best.
- What really counts is power. The big person can make the small person do things, say things – its about humiliation.
Let’s consider a scenario. You hear the scream and find your 5 year old standing over your 3 year old, David, who is crying and holding his arm. When David sees you he says, “Jason hit me!”
What are your options:
1. Walk away – no blood drawn. If you need to talk, say: “If you two can’t get along, you’ll have to go into different rooms (or put the toys away, etc).” Make the kids responsible for their own behavior AND for working out a solution.
2. Mediate - this is an ongoing problem and you know it will escalate from here. “Okay, I see that you two are unable to share this game (or toy, space). What can you suggest to work this out?” If neither child responds, offer a choice. “You can find a way to share or you can each play with something else.”
3. Intervene - the victim is really in pain. You can’t let this go. ‘”When you hurt each other, I feel really frustrated. Let’s all take a timeout and then we can talk about what happened.” Note that you are not assessing blame. Both kids may, and probably do, have some responsibility for what happened. Then when everyone is calmer, sit down together. “What happened?” “What were you feeling, Jason? David?……….” “I understand that it is hard for you when your brother ………………..” “Can you think of a better way to deal with this situation than hurting each other?” “I’d like each of you to take some time to think about your responsibility in this unhappiness.” You are all problem-solving, not assessing blame and handing out punishments.
Establish goals for yourself, have a plan for what you will do when the kids fight.
1. Institute clear household rules, enforce them consistently and dispassionately. “In our house we don’t hit each other. You need to be alone for 10 minutes (depending on the age of the child). I’ll set the timer. Do you want to sit in your room or on the stairs?”
2. Have a realistic picture of why kids fight: sibling issues, lack of communication skills, too young to control aggressive impulses. Recognize that most kids fight, most kids are capable of hurting others and your role is to help them find better ways to deal with their frustration and anger. These are teachable moments.
3. Work on teaching the capacity to empathize. “Look how unhappy he is.” “Why do you think your brother acted this way?’ “What do you think you could do to make him feel better?”
4. Establish a rule that we are responsible for our actions PERIOD. If you break something, you replace it. If you scratch your brother, you get the bandaids. If you knock over the blocks, you pick them up. To be sure your strategy is about responsibility and not punishment, you could offer to help.
5. One of the best ways to teach kids about apologies is to use them yourself. When you say a heart-felt “I’m sorry” your kids learn about how much it can mean from the receiver’s side. It’s a great opportunity to teach them what an apology is. Add a description that explains exactly what you are sorry for doing and how you expect to do better next time. “I’m sorry I yelled at you about the mess in the family room. Next time I will talk to you in a nice voice and work out a plan to solve the problem.” Be sure you are modeling a sincere apology. An insincere apology like: “I’m sorry I yelled at you about the mess in the family room, but you always leave your toys all over the house” will train your kids to make apologies that are really an attempt to blame the victim for your bad behavior instead of acknowledging responsibility and planning for improvement.
There are developmental issues that are important to understand in disciplining your children. Jean Piaget, noted child psychologist, believed that characteristics of moral reasoning are not fully in place until a child reaches age 8 or 9. A young child’s capacity to define behavior as unacceptable is based on the anticipated reactions of adults, not on internalized moral feelings. A child will decide not to throw a block at another child not because it’s wrong to hurt someone else, but because he’ll get in trouble with Mom.
Between the ages of 5 to 7 a child develops the capacity to understand intentionality. Before that, he/she does not distinguish whether a child tripped and fell into his legos spaceship or knocked it over on purpose. It’s not until a child is 8 or 9 that he/she is able to consider events from someone else’s point of view and assess their motivation.
While these cognitive skills develop in the middle of childhood, the capacity for empathy begins in infancy. Studies find that infants become upset by another child’s tears. When a one year-old begins to realize that he/she exists apart from other people, he/she will imitate the distress of others. As a two year-old, a child will try to comfort others in distress. According to Daniel Goleman, author of The Nature of Emotional Intelligence, “Children were more empathic when the discipline included calling strong attention to the distress their misbehavior caused someone else: ‘Look how sad you’ve made her feel’ instead of ‘That was naughty’.”
What is it we want when are children misbehave? We want recognition that they have made a mistake. An “Oops, my bad” is a first step. We’re looking for really acknowledging what went wrong. The next thing we want is a plan to do better in the future. Without this, apologies mean very little. Can they articulate what better would look like? Do they sound sincere in this goal? Lastly, we want restitution. What can you do to make it better? If something is broken, fix it or replace it (if possible and reasonable). If someone’s feelings are hurt, what will help with those feelings? One mom asked her misbehaving child to write down ten things he loved about his brother. She said it took a long time but was meaningful to both of them. If someone is physically hurt, what can you do to help? Band aid, ice, distraction by entertaining them?
When you tell children to “Say you’re sorry” you are taking over responsibility for their actions. Instead, focus on helping them recognize what they did wrong and how to fix it. As your children grow, they will be able to internalize the voice that says what they did wrong and how they can fix it. And then, hopefully, the voice will become strong enough to stop the behavior.
YMCA Youth & Family Services
Wadsworth, Barry Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive and Affective Development, Longman Publisheres, USA, 1996
Goleman, Daniel The Nature of Emotional Intelligence Bantam Books, 1995
Sleep, glorious sleep
Winter is a great time to develop good sleeping habits. There’s a lot of press coverage of how sleep deprivation is affecting children’s and teen’s academic performance, weight, behavior, safety, mental health. We all know they need to sleep the problem is helping them get the
sleep they need.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends these basic daily sleep requirements for children, adolescents, pre-teens and teens:
ELEM. SCHOOL STUDENTS:
Here’s something I hadn’t considered: Put some thought into finding your child’s ideal bedtime. In the
evening, look for the time when your child really is starting to slow down and getting physically tired. That's the time that they should be going to sleep, so get their bedtime routine done and get them into bed
before that time. If you wait beyond that time, then your child tends to get a second wind. At that point they will become more difficult to handle, and will have a harder time falling asleep.
Hoban’s 5 tips for healthy back-to-school sleep habits for children and teens:
Keep a regular wake-up time and bedtime: If a child is having sleep problems, oversleeping or missing school, it’s important to create a regular sleep routine for them that will work seven days a week. “But
children who only have occasional sleep problems may not require an extremely rigid schedule, and sometimes tolerate slightly greater flexibility of bedtime and wake-up time,” says Hoban.
Establish a bedtime routine: A bedtime routine can help promote an easy and quick transition to nighttime sleep, he says. For younger children, try 15 to 30 minutes of quiet activities before bedtime, such
as reading. Activities parents should discourage before bed include watching television, exercising, and using the computer or video games.
Create a balanced schedule: Identify and prioritize activities that allow for downtime and sufficient sleep time. Help students avoid an overloaded schedule that can lead to stress and difficulty coping,
which can contribute to poor health and sleep problems.
Don’t use the weekends to catch up on sleep: The effects of going to bed late or sleeping in on the weekends can create sleep problems, especially for adolescents, says Hoban. “Children who are weekend night owls or sleep in on the weekends will often have a very different sleep pattern than they do on weekdays, increasing the likelihood for insomnia during the week and making it more difficult for them for them to fall asleep at an appropriate time on school nights.”
Be a role model: Parents can be role models for school-aged children by establishing their own regular sleep schedules and a home environment conducive to healthy sleeping habits.
University of Michigan Health System Pediatric Sleep Specialist
Timothy Hoban, M.D.,
the impact of homework on your FAMILY
Is it time to assess how homework is going in your house?
Is it still a nightly tug of war – or have you had some success in handing off responsibility and prioritizing your child’s use of out-of-school time?
Do you feel like homework is having a negative impact on your relationship with your child?
What are the Needs of the Situation?
Assess the educational benefits
of the work he is being asked to do. What would really happen if she didn’t do her homework? Would her schoolwork suffer? Would his grades suffer because of the failure to turn it in or because of the missed opportunity to review the material? Read Alfie Kohn’s The Myth of Homework
to consider other perspectives.
Talk to your child’s teachers to be sure you understand their homework policy. What is the teacher’s goal with the homework? What happens if no homework is done? What happens if it is incomplete? How is homework helping your child learn the material?
Assess what is getting in your child’s way of completing homework – okay, I bet you’ve thought about this for hours. She just hates doing it, he has other things he really wants to do, it’s tedious and discouraging, she says no one really looks at it, he says he doesn’t learn anything from it, she says she doesn’t care about college... Sit down with a school counselor and get another perspective. Is the homework serving an educational purpose? How can you advocate for your child so that she is being helped by homework and not just frustrated or tormented?
How Can You Change Your Role?
Take a timeout from the role of enforcer. Ask someone else to spend time supervising your child with homework: grandparent, hire a local teenager to come in, hire a tutor (depending on the age of your child and the subjects that are causing the most difficulty). Ask your child what would happen if for 6 weeks you said nothing about homework. Does he or she want the responsibility? If the grades suffer would your child care? Rotate the job with your spouse, every other week.
Have a family routine that limits homework time and creates shared time for fun activities. Make sure you find ways to get involved in your child’s interests. Read the sports page, listen to rap music, play the video games, get your own facebook page – whatever they love develop a knowledge and capacity to share. You do need to be careful to respect their privacy. This concept looks different for an 8 year old and a 13 year old.
Look at your long range goals for your child. Do they share your dreams? How will you feel and what will you do if your child takes a different path? What is your worst case scenario and how would you deal with it? Consider different paths to the same goal: who do you know that found a successful career after floating around aimlessly for years?