December 29, 2009

Using Time Out Effectively

Time out is probably the most common behavior management strategy known to parents. I often have parents tell me that time outs don't work. They don't work because you're probably using it in a negative way instead of a positive way.

Think of how time outs are used in sports. The purpose is to stop the clock, take a deep breath, get a drink of water, regroup, take a look at what isn't working, and come up with a new game plan.

Is that the logic you employ when you put your child in time out or does it sound more like this: "I've had enough of this nonsense! Sit on this chair and think about what you just did!" You sit the timer for five minutes but chances are slim your five year old is going to feel remorseful. Instead she's probably spending those five minutes plotting how she will get revenge!

A negative time out is based on the idea that in order to get a child to do better we first have to make them feel worse. A positive time out is based on the premise that children "do" better when they "feel" better. Apply this to yourself. Do you do better when you feel worse or when you feel better?

A positive time out gives children and their parents time and space to calm down until they can once again think rationally instead of emotionally. When you're rational it's much easier to learn from mistakes, problem solve and make amends for any hurt or damage the inappropriate behavior might have caused. It's another way for parents to teach important skills that will last a lifetime.

December 19, 2009

Do You Buy Or Make Christmas Memories?

Do you remember the gifts you gave your child last Christmas? Better yet, do you think your child remembers?

From the moment holiday toy commercials air on TV children begin compiling their Christmas wish list. Parents determined to give their child the best Christmas ever rush out to purchase everything on the list. Unfortunately children live in the moment so their wish lists are always expanding and changing. Parents don’t want their child to be disappointed on Christmas morning so they rush back to the store or to and buy more toys. It’s not only exhausting but it’s also expensive. I’m willing to bet that’s not the meaning of Christmas you want to instill in your child.

If this scenario sounds familiar to you I suggest you ask yourself a few questions. Are you afraid your child might be disappointed on Christmas morning? Are you trying to avoid feeling guilty about not giving your child everything they want? What message do you want to convey to your children about the meaning of Christmas?

Perhaps it’s time to start a new Christmas tradition. Release yourself from trying to buy the Christmas your child thinks she wants and replace it with a Christmas that she needs. A Christmas with simple gifts and simple pleasures will make memories that will last a lifetime.

December 18, 2009

The Perfect Christmas Morning

If you're like the majority of parents you've been shopping for weeks to find the perfect gifts that you just know your children will love. You envision awaking Christmas morning to watch your children open their gifts with smiles and squeals of excitement. After the gifts are opened you imagine your family will spend the day reveling in the joy of the season and happy to be together making memories of the perfect Christmas.

The perfect Christmas. Is it possible?

The family cat has gotten to the gifts before your children and the perfectly wrapped gifts now look like they've survived a tornado.

Son number one opens all his gifts and begins to sob hysterically because he didn't get a green Bakugan. Son number two has already broken the door off his Zhu Zhu garage and is angry with you because you can't fix it. Your daughter's pile of new toys has already been discarded and at the bottom of that pile is a hot pink Snuggie you had hoped would replace her worn out blankie. She's now whining, while holding that blankie, because she's hungry and wants you to make pancakes.

You take a deep breath trying not to show your disappointment as you ask yourself, "What went wrong? Why can't we have a perfect Christmas?"

Society or more specifically the media has a way of convincing us that we can create perfection yet in reality no aspect of our life is perfect yet we continue to try and convince ourselves that we can achieve perfection on Christmas morning.

When you set your sights so high there is absolutely no way to achieve them so you end up feeling disappointed and defeated which leads to overlooking the small things that really make Christmas special.

Small things like your daughter giving you a kiss with pancake syrup on her lips. Your older son allowing his little brother to playing with his Bakugan even if it's only for ten minutes. The whole family, still in pajamas, sitting on the floor near the Christmas tree reading together The Night Before Christmas while munching on sugar cookies and candy canes.

Grab that digital camera Santa brought you, if you can figure out how to turn it on, and take some photos of these precious moments. They're the ones that you will look back on ten years from now with a tear in your eye, a smile on your face, and a tug in your heart longing to repeat that 2009 not-so-perfect Christmas that was perfect after all.

December 17, 2009

Don't Overlook Traditional Games When Buying Holiday Gifts

Whether you're shopping for a child or an adult don't overlook traditional games as that perfect gift. Many retail stores have lowered their prices this year on these types of games making them affordable gifts that can bring hours of family interaction and they don't require batteries.

Here are some games I recommend:

Yahtzee.....which I saw at Walmart recently for only $5.00

Trouble.....priced at many discount stores this holiday season from $9.00 -$10.00

Cootie, Don't Break the Ice, Don't Spill the Beans and Ants in the Pants all from Milton Bradley can be purchased for as little as $5.00

Twister is a great game to get your family moving and it will generate laughter.

Card games such as Uno and Old Maid, Kerplunk, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly, BINGO, Checkers. The list goes on. Think back to your own childhood and the games you remember playing. Chances are the children, and the grown-up children, in your life would enjoy them as well.

What traditional games will be found under your tree this holiday season?

December 13, 2009

Potty Training Wars

I often hear from exhausted parents that their child is potty trained to urinate in the potty yet won't have BM's in the potty.

Usually this is a control issue and it's sometimes related to things going in in the family, For instance, an addition of a new baby to the family could be at the root of it. Many well meaning parents want to get the first born completely potty trained by the time the baby arrives. That can put a lot of pressure on both parents and child.

I often tell parents that when a second child enters a family the first-born views it much like you would if your spouse said, "Honey, things between us are really great, but another woman/man is going to be moving in with us. She/he will be so much fun and you can do things together." Your response would probably be "I don't think so!" Your first-born has no control over a baby entering the family but he can control his BM's.

Parents resort to begging and bribing the child to go poop in the potty. This is giving your child negative attention and he's taking advantage of it. The more you push the more he's going to want to take control and then you've got a battle of wills.

Some parents will try to reason with their young child and ask them repeatedly why he doesn't want to poop in the potty. A child of three or four really doesn't know the answer to that question because they're not developmentally able to be rational about this like an adult.

When potty training has become a war between parent and child I suggest parents stop pushing. That will lessen the child's need to control the situation and reduce everyone's stress. He'll do it when he's ready.

Also ask yourself if you're giving your child enough positive attention. That may be what he's seeking because because by controlling his BM's he's certainly got your attention.

December 11, 2009

Parenting: Fair vs. Equal

As a parent have you fallen into the pattern of what you do for one child you do for the other? Do you try to ensure your children are treated equally when it comes to attention, time and things?

Perhaps it's time to look at treating your children fairly instead of equally. Fair and equal are not the same thing. Treating children equally means you treat them exactly the same. Treating children fairly means you take into account the individual needs of each child.

For example, your youngest child needs a new pair of shoes. The sibling says, "I didn't get a new pair of shoes. That's not fair!" It's important for you as the parent to point out that their sibling outgrew their shoes and needed a new pair so that was fair. Getting a new pair of shoes, when they're not needed, simply because a sibling received a new pair would be equal treatment not fair treatment and in our family we believe in being fair.

Using a fair approach instead of an equal approach might be something you are not currently doing or perhaps you are challenged with doing it as consistently as you would like. Take a close look at why you treat your children equally instead of fairly. Ask yourself some questions. Do I not want to hurt my child's feelings? Does it bother me to see my child disappointed? Am I afraid my children will think I love one of them more than the other? What message am I sending to my children when I treat them equally all of the time.

Are your children learning from you that they should expect equal treatment irregardless of the situation? Does that reflect how society treats us? Life isn't always fair and it certainly doesn't always treat us equally. That's an important lesson for parents to teach their children.

I encourage you to take small steps in changing the way you treat your children. Strive to treat them fairly and not equally. If you're unable to make this change on her own it might be time to enlist the help of a parenting coach or a counselor.

December 3, 2009

Managing the Holidays

As Christmas looms closer, your children may be bouncing off the walls in anticipation of holiday preparations, parties and the gifts they hope to receive. Even though they are exhibiting happy energy it can get out of hand. An over-eager child might break ornaments while helping decorate the tree. They might drop the plate of cookies you baked for the neighbors or give away secrets about what's in the packages.

Here are some suggestions for how to get things under control without curbing your child's excitement.

* Even with all the extra events, keep your child's routine as consistent as possible. This includes making sure your child gets enough sleep.

* Write down special events on the family calendar. This eliminates your child continually asking when events will occur.

* Enlist your child to help with gift wrapping, making place cards for the family dinner or even helping clean the house in preparation for guests.

* Suggest they play a board game or other quiet activity. Play a holiday CD. This will have a calming effect and bring their excitement level down a notch.

By helping your child find ways to channel all of their holiday excitement, things in your house will be much more manageable.