November 28, 2011

The Marshmallow Test

In an experiment, young children were offered either one marshmallow now, or two marshmallows later, which might determine if these kids will be successful later in life.

November 20, 2011

Is Your Child ALWAYS Seeking Your Attention?

Children want and need attention and they will do anything to get it. Quite often they’re most in need of attention when you’re in the middle of something important.

Dr. Garry Landreth is known for his writing and work in promoting play therapy. He suggests that when a child needs your attention you stop what you're doing and give him a "Thirty Second Burst of Attention."

Let’s say you’re on the phone with your friend Brenda and your son approached you saying “Mom, Mom, Mom!” He’s tugging on your pants leg and jumping up and down. Your usual reaction is probably shaking your head at him while mouthing the words, “Not now! I’m busy! Go play!”
What if instead you said, "Excuse me for thirty seconds, Brenda.” You put down the phone, got down on your son's level and said, "I have thirty seconds to listen. What do you need to tell me?" As he shares with you his enthusiasm over the dead bug he found, nod your head to communicate that you’re listening and that you care about what he is saying. At the end of thirty seconds you say, "John, thanks for sharing that with me. Now I'm going to finish my conversation with Brenda."

Your child’s need for attention would have been satisfied in thirty seconds. Thirty seconds! That’s not too much of a hardship on your time is it?

When I suggest this technique to parents they usually ask me, “Do you give only one thirty second burst? What if they keep bugging you?” Gently tell them you need to finish what you were doing. Remind them that you listened to them, and when you are finished with your current task, you can spend time with them again. As a general rule of thumb, when you give a child undivided attention, even as little as thirty seconds, it will meet their immediate need for attention.

Have you tried giving your child a thirty second burst of attention? Did it work? I'd enjoy hearing your comments.

November 16, 2011

Power Play

I love to watch children play. As a play therapist, play is an integral part of my work. I'm always searching for toys to add to my play therapy room, so it's not unusual to find me wandering the toy aisles at discount department stores.

On a recent toy shopping excursion, I found myself drawn to the superhero aisle. From the top shelf to the bottom shelf  there were superhero action figures, sports balls, board games, battery-powered toys and costumes. In the electronics department were several superhero movies. The clothing department featured children's T-shirts, shoes, pajamas and even underwear containing images of superheroes.

What is it about a superhero that children find so appealing? Perhaps it's the extraordinary power of a superhero or the fact that superheroes triumph over villains. Maybe it's the distinctive costumes they wear. No matter which of those characteristics attract a child's attention, children will imitate superheroes.

Children will also imitate their parents. Realizing your child is watching you and imitating you can lead to a greater awareness of the behaviors you are modeling. That awareness can lead to intentional behaviors. I wonder what might transpire if a parent intentionally strived to become their child's superhero?

Yes, I know parents are busy, but if Clark Kent finds the time to sneak away from his daily commitments and transform into Superman, surely parents can take 15 minutes out of their day to don a costume, assume extraordinary powers and engage their child in some superhero play.

Imagine the adventures that await you. Together you and your child can invent your own superhero names and create an insignia. The next time your child is facing a challenge, grab your capes (it can be as simple as towels tied around your necks), put your hands on your hips, jut out your chests and morph into your superhero persona's.

Imagine you are soaring above the challenge. Encourage your child to come up with a solution to his problem by using his super powers. By letting him assume the responsibility for making a decision, he will begin to feel powerful. A child who feels powerful will find the courage to face a challenging situation, and his problem will feel less daunting.

I know what some parents are thinking. You're concerned that once your child starts leaping around the house pretending to be a superhero, things will get out of hand, furniture will be broken and maybe a trip to the emergency room will be necessary.

Allow me to lessen your fear. When you're participating in the play, you can direct it and set the rules. If your child becomes overly aggressive, you can stop the play. By engaging your child in superhero play, you will be teaching him the importance of boundaries, cooperative play and of working together to solve problems.

Superhero play can encourage creativity in your child. Make your own costumes and props. An empty cardboard box could become your fortress or your cave. Write a superhero story with your child in which the two of you are the main characters. Your superhero characters not only could be powerful, they also could possess traits of being kind and helpful.

Illustrate your story using photos of you and your child in your superhero costumes. Go a step further and use a video camera to film a superhero movie starring you and your child. Make some popcorn and invite other family members to movie premiere night.

Children need heroes in their lives. What parent wouldn't want to be their child's superhero? I think it's something that is certainly worth donning a cape.

November 15, 2011

Parenting: Fair versus 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 regardless 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 your own it might be time to enlist the help of a parenting coach or a counselor.

November 1, 2011

Pam's Parenting Tip of the Month

"Potty Training Made Easy"


Potty training is an important milestone. It can be a source of stress for parents if they begin potty training before their child is ready or if their child is resistant. Here's some information on the do's and don'ts of potty training that will help you set the stage for success.  


Most children show signs of readiness between the ages of 18 and 24 months. However, age isn't the only factor. Your child also needs to have the 3 P's.

Physiological Readiness. When your child is dry for longer intervals of time (after a nap) voids larger amounts at a time or when your child tells you they're voiding your child is displaying bladder readiness.

Physical Readiness. Your child must be able to walk to and from the bathroom, pull their pants up and down and get on and off the potty independently.
Psychological Readiness. If your child isn't bothered by wet or dirty diapers or isn't interested in sitting on the potty you're not going to get very far. Your child must be willing.

If you recognize the 3 P's in your child wait a few weeks to ensure readiness. While you're waiting you can begin to teach the process of potty training by setting the stage. This includes having your child observe others using the toilet, introducing books or videos on the subject, talking about using the potty "soon" and choosing a potty chair. Let your child know that when they're ready they can use the potty. If you notice your child is voiding, remark on it: "Are you peeing?"

 Things to Keep in Mind:

Patience! Patience! Patience! It can take several weeks to months to complete the pr
ocess of potty training.

Two steps forward, one step back. You'll have good days and bad days. There will be accidents.

Know when to back o
ff. Push too hard and your child may push back with more accidents and/or resistance.

December's Parenting Tip of the Month will discuss Managing Potty Training Resistance.