February 22, 2011

Catch Your Child Being Good

Children love attention and they will do anything to get it. If the only way to get your attention is to do something bad, it's not hard to figure out which behavior she'll do repeatedly.

Try to catch your child doing something good. Call your child by name when you see her doing something positive. You might say, "Kelsey, I saw you help your brother put on his jacket. That's great!" After she gets over the initial shock of hearing her name followed by something positive rather than negative, she'll smile proudly, stand a little taller and make an effort to get caught doing something right in the future.

Stay away from generic praise such as, "You were good today." Find specific incidents which define good behavior. "Thank you for remembering to pick up your toys," and "You took turns with your sister," describe the behaviors you want from your child.

Praise and attention are powerful motivators. Catch your child doing something good this week and comment on it. Your child will love the attention and you will have added something new to your bag of parenting tricks.

February 21, 2011

All Behavior Has a Purpose

Most of the time children either get something or they avoid something by engaging in a particular behavior. Think of a problem behavior you are currently seeing. What do you think your child is getting or avoiding by engaging in that behavior?

If your child uses a behavior to get something, try and figure out what he's hoping to gain. It could be attention, an item, an activity or control.

If the behavior is to avoid something ask yourself if your child is trying to avoid attention, tasks, demands or activities.

Now take a closer look at what triggers the behavior. What happens right before, or what sets off the behavior? Also note anything that sets up the behavior. This could be something related to home or family, social or environmental conditions, biological or medical conditions.

Once you've established the above, ask yourself the following questions:

When is the problem behavior least likely to occur?

When is my child most successful at managing this behavior?

Use the answers to these two questions to come up with a plan to address or redirect the problem behavior. Are you able to eliminate the trigger? Make your child a part of the solution by enlisting his help in coming up with a way to change the behavior.

I'd like your thoughts about problem behaviors to which you've felt challenged and how you went about redirecting them.

February 19, 2011

I'm Not Afraid!

Almost every child has gone through a phase of being afraid of monsters. They see them in the shadows of their room while lying in bed, they think they're in the closet and under the bed. It can be very exhausting for a parent to constantly reassure their child that there are no monsters in their room.

I have an easy, inexpensive suggestion. Buy a can of air freshener, preferably lavender scented as it can have a calming effect. Make a label that reads, MONSTER SPRAY; wrap it around the can and secure it with glue or tape.

During your child's bedtime routine (your child DOES have one I hope) spray the room while your child repeats the phrase, "I'M NOT AFRAID!." It should help ward off his fear and make bedtime much easier.

February 18, 2011

"Oh, Mom! It's Only Change!"

That was my young daughter's response when I asked her why there were coins scattered on the floor of her room. I told her I was going to vacuum and the coins had to be picked up. She ignored me. My response was telling her that if I had to pick the coins up I was going to keep them. She shrugged her shoulders and said it was fine.

Over the course of the next few weeks, whenever I vacuumed her room, I put the coins I found into a jar. When the jar was half full, I took it to her room, dumped it on her bed and told her to help me count it. It totaled nearly five dollars! I scooped the coins back into the jar while talking out loud about what I was going to buy with the money. By the look of disbelief on her face I knew my little experiment had been successful.

I never again found coins on her floor. What have you done to teach your children about the value of money?

February 16, 2011

When Does a Child Need Therapy?

Therapy can be beneficial to children who are dealing with death, abandonment, or abuse. Children who are experiencing difficulty adjusting to moving, starting school or divorce can find emotional support in therapy.

All children, from time to time, exhibit what adults may call “abnormal behavior.” When a child exhibits the same abnormal behaviors over a long period of time or when a child exhibits several abnormal behaviors at once, it’s wise to seek help.

The first step would be to have the child evaluated for a physical cause to the abnormal behavior. If there’s no indication of a physical cause or if medical treatment does not eliminate the abnormal behaviors, therapy should be the next step.

February 15, 2011

Does My Child Have Social Anxiety?

I recently had a parent express the following concern:

We have a 4 year old who is very shy. It often shows up when she experiences a new situation. She recently started preschool and although the teacher says she is making great progress she is not social like the other children. She has been participating in gymnastics for two years and is just now at the point where she will participate and talk with the instructor.

I am wondering if she has social anxiety? What can we do to help her. Does she need to be introduced to new situations and activities?

This is my response:

Being shy could be a part of her temperament. She could also be more introverted than extroverted. If most of your family members are extroverted and she's introverted it's perfectly natural for you to want her to be like the rest of you. Some children are more cautious in new situations. Try not to compare her to other children her age as each child develops at their own pace.

As a four year old, she is still developmentally learning how to navigate social relationships. It sounds like she is already active in social settings and that specifically at school her teacher sees she is making progress. That's a good thing and it's a gradual thing so applaud the small steps she is making. Tell her you're proud of her. Build on her strengths. Between school and gymnastics I think she's involved in ample opportunities for developing social skills. If you involve her in too many activities she may become overwhelmed and have even more difficulty socially.

Pay attention to how you and other family members refer to her shyness. Do you use that word to describe her? It's possible she takes on some of the attributes of shyness because that's what she hears from the significant adults in her life.

Social anxiety disorder includes an inability to participate in social settings, worrying about fitting it, panic attacks, etc. It's difficult to diagnosis such a disorder in a preschooler as we cannot discount the fact that some of their shyness and or anxiety can be related to the fact that their social skills are still evolving.

February 13, 2011

Do You Model Good Stress Managment for Your Children?

The word stress brings to mind negative feelings of being overwhelmed and overloaded.

Too much stress can cause exhaustion and impede our judgment. However, it’s important to recognize that stress can be good. Stress provides a rush of adrenalin that gets us through life’s challenges. Stress itself is not the problem. The way the body responds to stress is the problem.

No two people respond to stress in the same way and there is no single right way to cope with stress. Each of us needs to experiment with different ways of managing stress until we find one that works best.

One of my own ways of responding to stress is through deep breathing. It’s recommend by author and physician, Dr. Andrew Weil who calls it The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise.

1. Slowly breathe in through your nose to the count of 4.

2. Hold the breath for a count of 7.

3. Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. When you exhale make a soft “whoosh” sound by holding the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth.

4. Repeat three more times.

I have found this breathing exercise to be very useful and it’s something I always have with me. I use it whenever something upsetting happens – before I react. I also find it useful to help me fall asleep.

One mother I worked with practiced this deep breathing exercise and whenever she started to snap at her children her young daughter would say, “Mom, remember to breath!”

Children learn how to cope with stress from watching adults handle their problems. Are you satisfied with the way you respond to stress? What stress management skills would you like your child to learn from you?

February 10, 2011

Let's Make Play-Dough!

The winter weather has brought snow and frigid temperatures. Schools are canceled and parents are looking for fun things to keep kids occupied. I suggest making play dough. Here's my favorite recipe.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Food coloring

Mix dry ingredients in a saucepan. Add oil, water and food coloring and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when dough begins to pull away from the sides of the saucepan and forms a ball. Pour out and knead a few minutes. Store play-dough in a plastic bag or airtight container.

Use cookie sheets for a play dough surface. It's easy to clean and the edges keep the play-dough contained. Plastic knives, Popsicle sticks, and cookie cutters make great tools. An empty plastic bottle can be a rolling pin. Encourage your child to roll out the dough into long snakes. Pinch and twist the snakes into shapes, letters of the alphabet and their name. All these activities increase hand strength and strengthen fine motor skills.

Simple Ways to Tell Your Child, "I Love You!"

Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make their toast or their sandwich.

Tuck a love note into their backpack. Write a short note or draw a smiley face on a napkin and put it in their lunch box. Slide the note under their dinner plate or place it under their pillow.

Give your child coupons redeemable for things like a half hour of your undivided attention, their favorite dinner, playing a board game with them, etc. Send your child on a scavenger hunt around the house to find the coupons.

February 8, 2011

Guaranteed to Make a Child Smile

Write a letter to your child and mail it. Children rarely receive mail so when they do it’s special.


I was just thinking about you and

what I was thinking is you are so__________


February 7, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of Making Mistakes

What do you first do when you learn to swim? You make mistakes, do you not? And what happens? You make other mistakes, and when you have made all the mistakes you possibly can without drowning - and some of them many times over - what do you find? That you can swim? Well - life is just the same as learning to swim! Do not be afraid of making mistakes, for there is no other way of learning how to live!" ~ psychiatrist, Alfred Adler.

As a parent you'll make mistakes. That's a given. Parenting is about trail and error so when it comes to discipline don’t be afraid to try something new with your child. Sometimes you'll be successful and sometimes you won't. When you do make a mistake apologize to your child. Tell him or her you’re doing the best you can and that sometimes you make mistakes. What a great way to be a positive role model for your child.

February 6, 2011

Whose Birthday Is It?

My daughter Emilie was eight when she walked into the dining room as I was setting the table for dinner. She asked, “Whose birthday is it?” I replied, “It’s no ones birthday, I just thought it would be nice for us to have dinner in the dining room.” She gave me a puzzled look and walked away her ponytail swaying behind her.

Her question made me stop and ask myself, “Have I been giving my family the impression that they’re not special enough to eat in the dining room unless it’s their birthday?” Who can be more special than family?

Use the good dishes and light some candles. Even grilled cheese will look like a gourmet meal.

February 1, 2011

A New Pair of Socks

Nothing is more comforting to me than a new pair of socks. I always keep a couple of new pairs in my dresser drawer and when I’ve had a stressful day I put on a pair and snuggle up in my favorite chair with a good book. There’s something about that feeling of new socks that comforts me.

Send a new pair of socks to someone who is going a through a difficult time. Include a note detailing what the socks are for. Ask that they do one thing in return. Send a new pair of socks to someone else who is in need of some TLC. I've done this small favor many times and the recipient is always grateful.