YMCA Youth & Family Services professional staff and trained parent volunteer leaders provide workshops and classes that help parents to be more effective in parent-child and/or parent-teen relationships. We offer our 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 preschool through high school age children to explore such topics 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 for positively redirecting these behaviors. These programs offer parents 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 teenage self-esteem, and promote responsible teenage behavior at home, in school, and in the community.
Y’s Words for Parents: Parent Consultations
Individual parents who are seeking parenting skills concepts, specific techniques tailored to their parenting 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. Contact: 301-593-1160.
For registration and information, call us at (301) 229-1347 or email us. For a PDF of our parenting schedule, please click here.
- Summer Workshops
- Parenting Classes resume in October
- Anxiety: From Monsters Under the Bed to Preparing for College
- A Different Approach to Bullying
- Actually, I am the Boss of You
- Mom Always Liked You Best
- "Say You're Sorry"
- Creating a New Tradition: Family Meetings
- Challenges of Parenting in the 21st Century
- Sleep, Glorious Sleep
- Assessing the Impact of Homework on your Family
YMCA Youth & Family Services Parenting Programs: spring 2013
For registration and information, call us at (301) 229-1347 or email us.
Y'S WORDS Workshops
Anxiety in Children and Teens: When Worries Get in the Way
What is anxiety and what strategies can we use to help children (and parents) cope?
• Understanding anxiety, its roots and how it is different from depression.
• Evaluating the severity of the anxiety and when to intervene.
• Specific strategies for parents to deal with their own anxieties.
• Specific strategies for parents to deal with their child’s anxieties.
Wednesday, July 17, 7:00 – 8:30 pm. Parents of children
Wednesday, July 24, 7:00 – 8:30 pm. Parents of teens
YMCA Youth & Family Services, 9601 Colesville Road, Silver Spring
Anger: Trigger Thoughts and Distortions
Anger is an emotional reaction to pain or risk of pain. How we perceive the situation affects our feelings of anger. This workshop will help you identify trigger thoughts that intensify your or your child’s anger. We will analyze the distortions and develop alternative coping strategies.
Wednesday, July 31, 7:00 – 8:30 pm.
YMCA Youth & Family Services, 9601 Colesville Road, Silver Spring
Family In Focus
A series of three live family counseling demonstrations will teach basic Adlerian parenting concepts such as encouragement, goals of misbehavior, and discipline with respect. Through a dynamic, Open Forum counseling session, one family will receive specific help with an issue dealing with the challenges of daily routines in parenting. The ‘Family in Focus' interviews will be led by family counselors, Rob Guttenberg and Barbara Karpas.
Registration required. Families interested in signing up to be a family in focus can let us know when registering.
Thursdays, July 11, 18, 25. 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
YMCA Ayrlawn Program Center, 5650 Oakmont Avenue, Bethesda
Y's Words Parenting Classes: next classes in October
Parenting Children (Six sessions)
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, April 11 – May 16, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. United Church of Christ, 9525 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring
Parenting Teens (Six sessions)
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
Tuesdays, April 9– May 14, 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.
From the Monster Under the Bed to Preparing for College
The Anxieties of Children and Teens
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 the following duties:
• 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 or Tolerance websites.
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.
Actually, I am the Boss of You
As parents we need power to do our jobs to feed, clothe, educate and keep our children safe. Kids need power to become adults who take care of themselves and contribute to society.
One of the most important things parents do is handover power to our children in a steady stream of new responsibilities and new freedoms. We empower our children.
First take some time to look at how power plays out in your household. Ask your kids where they have power. Don’t turn it into a discussion, just think about what power means to them. (I’d love to hear their responses: parenting @ymcadc.org.) Then think about how you define your role as parent. Do you often just give in to your child’s demands to avoid an ugly scene? Do you have a little of the: “When I say jump, you say how high” parenting style? Do you find yourself concerned that other people see you as weak? Children need leadership from adults who don’t need to be leaders. Create a list of the topics of your arguments (it’s also useful to note times and other factors so that you can look for patterns). Use this to understand what the big issues are and make a plan to reach a new level of understanding with your children – so many times the issues repeat day after day. Pick a small issue to begin a new process for dealing with these power struggles.
Second recognize that you can only change you. BUT that means you can change the interactions and, over time, the relationships. Kids cooperate when they believe that the adult has the needs of the situation in mind with every decision. Kids cooperate when they believe that adults are acting in everyone’s best interest or, more importantly, in the best interest of the family. Adults have information and perspective that kids don’t, adults make decisions based on these.
So let’s address how to deal with ongoing power struggles. The first step is to disengage – if you don’t push back, your child will realize there’s no point in pushing. This may begin with walking out of the room if things are really heated, but more meaningful are statements and questions that show a genuine interest in your child’s concerns.
“You sound really upset.” Can we sit down and talk about this?
“Can we talk about why this is so important to you?”
“What options do you see?”
"Remember, when you engage in an argument with your child, you're just giving him more power." Jim Lehman
Look at your patterns of communication – are you contributing to the belief that if I just keep talking I will get my way? Or if I just get louder and angrier I will get my way? Get in the habit of less talking more action. Decide what you can and will do, let your child know what will happen and then do it. ‘If you fight over those toys, I will put them away for the day.” “If you use your phone during class, I will take it away for a week.”
If this is an ongoing and ongoing issue that you have clearly explained what is expected, that is the time to walk out – because the child has moved from a communication about a concern to a behavior with the primary goal of making the adult angry. “If I can’t have my way at least I CAN make you angry.” This is not a strategy we want to encourage in our children and not just because it’s so maddening. It not only doesn’t help our relationship, it teaches a behavior strategy that is destructive in other relationships as well.
One of the best ways to deal with a power struggle is to offer choices. Would you like to have your computer time at 4:00 pm or at 6:00 pm? Do you want to do your homework before dinner or after dinner? Do you want to set the table or clean up after dinner?
For a framework for addressing concerns with your child, visit Jim Lehman’s website.
“Remember that genuine empowerment comes from the development of appropriate life skills, such as communication and learning how to meet responsibilities-- and developing age-appropriate problem-solving skills.” Jim Lehman
The Key to Increasing Your Child’s Autonomy Wisely (And the 4 Little Questions You Should Always Ask)
Remember, with every increase in autonomy for your child, there should be an increase in responsibility and accountability. For instance, let's say your child wants to stay up till nine o'clock at night instead of eight o'clock. You decide that staying up an hour later isn't going to interfere with your child’s need for sleep and that he’s old enough to handle the later bedtime. So you both reach a compromise of 8:30 p.m. to see how that goes.
Most parents will think the case is closed at this point—but if you leave it there, I don't believe you've done enough to teach your kid how to solve problems. You need to make clear to your child how you expect increased responsibility with increased autonomy. So I think the end of any conversation that centers around a change or an increase in power has to include these four questions:
1. How will we know it's working?
We'll know staying up later is working if you still get up on time in the morning.
2. How do we know it's not working?
If you have a hard time getting up on time and don’t have energy during the day.
3. What will we do if it's not working?
We'll go back to the old time, 8:00 p.m.
4. What will we do if it is working?
We'll continue with this new bedtime.
See Lehman’s website for more information. Lehman’s conversation is a great example of a problem-solving model that empowers children and builds parent-child relationships.
Power is a part of our lives. Our culture may put a very high value on power but that doesn’t mean our families need to be constantly in conflict. Some children are discouraged to the point of not even really caring about the topic of the conflict because their real interest is in being in conflict. If you feel that your child is never open to cooperating over the issues of contention it may be time to get more help. We have resources within our agency (counseling and parent consultations) and knowledge of other resources in our community.
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.
o Put them in the same boat: “If you can’t share the toys, we’ll need to put them away.”
o Change the arena: “Take it outside” (sometimes when the parents can’t hear the conflict it loses intensity).
o 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.
o Avoid even the positive labels: Rachel is our serious student, Justin is the athlete. Let each child have access to each role.
o 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.
o Express your feelings in words.
o Don’t resort to name-calling.
o Put yourself into a time-out when you feel you are unable to respond rationally.
o Use problem-solving skills: “What can we do about this?”
o Use encouragement.
o 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.”
- o 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.
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
summer is a great time to start a new tradition:
Here's the script of a podcast from Jane Nelsen (of the Positive Discipline series fame) to inspire you about the whys of family meeting. Then I have a list of how-tos. I hope you and your family have a wonderful summer.
Several years ago some Adlerians recorded a bunch of family meetings in different families. For two years they looked for the perfect family meeting. Finally they gave up because they couldn't find a perfect family meeting. However, they were delighted with the positive results in families (more effective communication, focusing on solutions, having more fun together) even though their meetings were not perfect.
Keeping in mind that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn, the biggest mistake parents made that kept the meetings from coming closer to perfection was talking too much. Children are not thrilled about family meetings that provide another platform for parents to lecture. Parents need to talk less and listen more. Yes, I know how difficult this is. I’m still working on it. Somehow we parents think we aren’t doing our jobs unless we are talking, talking, talking.
Another mistake was trying to fix feelings (or to try talking children out of having their feelings) instead of just listening. Sometimes it can be encouraging to validate feelings, but try validating feelings with your lips together, "Mmmmm." This allows children to discover that they can work through their feelings and learn from them.
It is most effective to have family meetings once a week and to stick to an allotted time of 20 to 30 minutes even if everything on the agenda has not been covered. This just might help your children learn "delayed gratification." Also, it gives them time to absorb what was discussed during the meeting, to try the agreed upon solution, and to practice working things out for themselves in between meetings. Family meetings are one of the most important tools parents can use to teach children so many valuable social and life skills such as:
• Listening skills
• Brainstorming skills
• Problem-solving skills
• Mutual respect
• The value of cooling off before solving a problem. (Problems are put on the family meeting agenda so a cooling off period takes place before focusing on solutions to the challenge.)
• Concern for others
• Accountability in a safe environment. (People dont worry about admitting mistakes when they know they will be supported to find solutions instead of experiencing blame, shame, or pain.)
• How to choose solutions that are respectful to everyone concerned
• A sense of belonging and significance
• Social interest
• That mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn
• Having fun together as a family
Family Meetings provide an opportunity for parents to:
• Avoid power struggles by respectfully sharing control
• Avoid micromanaging children, so children learn self-discipline
• Listen in ways that invite children to listen
• Respectfully share responsibility
• Create good memories through a family tradition
• Model all of the skills they want their children to learn
Where else can you get so much for such a small investment in time? Family meetings provide a wonderful family tradition that may carry on for generations. A funny story about that: my children loved family meetings when they were six to twelve or so. Then they started complaining, as typical teens do, about how stupid family meetings were. I asked them to humor me, and that we could shorten the time from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.
One day Mary, one of the complainers, spent the night at a friend’s house. The next day she announced, That family is so screwed up. They should be having family meetings.
When Mary went off to college, she initiated regular family meetings with her roommates and said they would not have survived without them.
Family Meetings - Podcast
Posted by Dr. Jane Nelsen and Mary Nelsen-Tamborski on 7/11/2011 to Podcasts
Some Ground Rules for Conducting Family Meetings
Every person has an equal voice. Although it is hard for parents to give up some of their authority, family meetings don’t work very well unless every person has an equal voice in the decisions made. Every person, including small children, needs to feel that he or she will be heard and can make a difference in what the family decides to do.
Everyone may share what he or she thinks and feels about each issue. It is important that every person at family meetings be encouraged to speak up and say what he or she thinks and feels about whatever question is on the table. In order to make decisions that are reasonable and fair to everyone, the family needs to hear what all the opinions and feelings are, even the negative ones.
Decisions are made by consensus. Consensus decision-making means that when there is disagreement, the parties involved discuss the matter until all are agreed. It does not mean that a vote is taken and the majority rules. If an agreement cannot be reached in a family meeting, then one of two things may happen; either the matter is tabled until the next meeting, when it will be discussed further, or (if it urgently requires decision and action) the parent may exercise his or her duty as head of the household to make a decision to carry it out.
All decisions hold until the next meeting. All decisions should be carried out at least until the next meeting, when they can be discussed again.
Some decisions are reserved for parents. Basic questions of health and welfare are parental responsibilities, and the decision is sometimes theirs alone to make. But discussion should always be allowed and encouraged. Sometimes a parent must tell the children of a decision already made. When a parent has been told by his or company that a move is required, for example, he or she can’t ask the children for approval. However, the parent can allow them to express their thoughts, concerns and feelings about the move and to share in the planning.
Meetings are scheduled by family consensus. This can be one of the first issues to be discussed. It’s important that everyone realize that if you don’t attend you are still responsible to live by the decisions made. Keep your meetings short, not more than a half hour.
Make your meetings positive and fun. You can start your meetings with everyone saying something positive. You can end your meetings with a fun activity: a snack, game or special activity. Use your meetings to discuss vacations and to plan family time together.
CHALLENGES OF PARENTING IN THE 21ST CENTURY
by Pam Mintz
Once again I’m in a parenting class and the topic of computer time comes up. I’ve heard a range of solutions: taking the cables with you to work, flipping the electrical power off to the bedrooms at 10, timers that buzz, locking up the machines, computer programs that limit use. The struggle goes on and on. Parents are concerned about loss of sleep, loss of friends and family time, exposure to violence, exposure to sexually explicit media, cyber bullying. The list goes on and on. And I haven’t even addressed cell phones. Parenting in the 21st century has a whole new set of issues. The experience of teenagers and of parenting teenagers has not changed so significantly since the advent of cars. A whole new, much larger, world is now at their fingertips.
On April 19, we are bringing in a psychologist whose practice serves families struggling with internet problems, especially internet addiction concerns. He will address how parents can best create a home environment with respect for each other and with limits on use of technology while helping everyone get the best that these new technologies offer us.
Questions to consider:
If you are at dinner with someone, under what circumstances should your phone be on the table?
Should your phone be in your bedroom, should your phone ever be under your pillow?
How often should you be checking your social networking site?
At what point in the evening should you stop checking in with your technology?
Should you buy your child a game that is rated for older children because his/her friends are all playing it?
Should you allow your child’s emails, texts, or Facebook entries to be private and unmonitored?
What technology should be allowed in a child’s room?
Come and hear Dr. Spector address these issues. Parents and students are welcome in hopes of encouraging a productive and respectful conversation at home. Go to www.yfstechnology.event.brite to register.
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:
PRESCHOOLERS: 11-13 Hours
ELEM. SCHOOL STUDENTS: 10-12 Hours
PRE-TEENS: 9-11 Hours
TEENS: 8.5-9 Hours
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.,
Assessing 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?
Talk to parents of underachievers who have made it out of high school and out into the world. What do they wish they had done differently?
One rationale I hear for the importance of homework is having the parents engaged in their child’s education. Think of other ways to be involved. Volunteer in the classroom (elementary school), keep up on what they are studying and augment it with online research, visits to museums, family discussions with people you know in the field, documentaries or PBS shows, books from the library. Demonstrate the love of learning at all ages.
Take a class. It’s always interesting for me when people in our parenting classes fail to keep up with the reading and then talk about how frustrating it is that their kids aren’t doing their homework. What got in the way for them?
Bring home work from your office or pull out home tasks when it’s homework time. This can be a good way to demonstrate what you want to see in your child, to give you something that limits your capacity to become too involved in your child’s work and to help you empathize with trying to do tasks when you are home and ready for some down time.
Check out the Race to Nowhere website.