Tuesday, June 7, 2016

When Family Moments Don't Go As Planned

I’m pleased to share the news that my fourth grandchild, Ashton John, was born last week. We arrived at the hospital just after he was born, and because both mother and son were doing great, we all got to meet and hold Ashton and welcome him to the family. After a while, the only person left to be introduced to Ashton was his sister Coraline, my 18-month-old granddaughter.
Coraline had already heard a lot about her baby brother. For months, her mom had been pointing to her belly and saying "This is your brother." If someone asked Coraline where her brother was, she would immediately point to her mom’s belly. And now it was time for her to meet him in person, so her dad brought her into the room.
She was very quiet as she cautiously walked over to the bed. She stopped and stared. After some encouragement, she climbed up onto the bed next to her mom and gently placed her small hand on her new brother. She even began to caress him and smile.
All of a sudden, the baby started to cry and Coraline screamed! She quickly climbed off the bed and ran into her father's arms. All she could do was point toward the exit door, trying to get her father to take her out of the room. The adults in the room couldn't help but laugh at her response, but I could see the disappointment in my daughter's face. The meeting hadn’t gone go as she had hoped.
In truth, Coraline’s response was a surprise to all of us. Her parents had done their best to prepare their first child for the arrival of the second, and they honestly believed Coraline was going to be fine.
I’m happy to report that since that day Coraline has calmed and has now taken a great interest in her new baby brother. I guess her first response to him was just real life evidence that even when we do our best with our children, they can still surprise us with an unexpected response. When that happens, we’d be doing ourselves a favor to remember that even though we can’t predict or control every reaction our child is going to have, we can still be there to help them get through it.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Avoiding Tantrums at the Store

Do your kids drive you crazy asking you to buy them things while you're at the store with them? They start by asking for something they see, but as soon as you say "no" they begin to escalate the situation with pleading, demanding, and sometimes an all out temper tantrum. You try not to over react, but it seems like the only way to get them to stop is to give in and buy them what they wanted, yell at them to stop bugging you, or threaten them with punishment when you get to the car or home. 

By the time you leave the store, you are not a happy camper. On top of that, none of those solutions works very well. The problem with using threats is that what worked today may not work tomorrow. Giving in to your children's demands is even worse because it teaches them that making demands works, and then demanding becomes their go-to solution for getting what they want.

Try this tip the next time you head to the store with the kids. Before you get out of the car in the store's parking lot, gather the kids together and announce that you need their help: 

  • Ask them what they think the rules should be while they're in the store.
  • Thank them for their help, and acknowledge whatever ideas they offer up.
  • Add to the list of rules that you're NOT WILLING to buy any toys or sweets today.
  • Avoid using emotion in your voice and remain calm and friendly.
  • Ask each of them to agree to the rules before entering the store.

This is the same strategy I started using when my kids were younger, so I know from experience that it can feel a little awkward the first time you use it. On the other hand, how much worse can it be than the alternative?

Here's to Happier Parenting!

Bill Corbett

Monday, August 10, 2015

Why Parents Shouldn't Punish Their Children

Punishment is a tool designed to make a child "pay for what they did" and to feel bad about the way they acted. The belief is that the bad feeling will stick with them and motivate them to not repeat the behavior or action.

But punishment has side effects that can create more problems for the parent then they originally had. For example, making a child feel bad can backfire and motivate them to hide and lie about their mistakes. It can also damage the parent/child relationship.

Think back to your own childhood and remember a time
when you were punished. How did you feel? How did you feel about yourself at that moment? What did you want to do as a result of the punishment? How did you feel toward the punisher?

I've asked these questions numerous times in my workshops and not once did any adult say they felt good about anything in that moment. We now know that making a child feel bad about what they did affects the way they think and feel about them self.

You wouldn't buy one jacket to fit all of your kids, and you wouldn't take one prescription pill to fix every sickness you come down with, so why would you use one form of discipline for all behavior situations. Each situation requires a different solution.

It's not easy being a parent today and knowing what response should be used with every challenging behavior. And it's hard for a parent to change habits when they don't have the right skills to replace ineffective techniques with more effective ones.

That's why I believe that parents should commit to becoming a life-long student when it comes to raising children. There are many great books that offer successful strategies and lots of parenting classes and workshops offered in the community.

Begin by looking up information on, or getting help with, consequences and using them to replace punishment. A consequence is much more respectful to the child and can have longer lasting positive effects on him or her and the behavior.

And a consequence does not always have to be about the child; it can be about the parent. For example, if the child uses words that are hurtful to the parent or the child hits the parent, the consequence could be that the parent makes a strong statement declaring a refusal to let anyone hurt them physically or verbally, and then leaving the area where the child is.

This type of response demonstrates (and teaches the child) about keeping them self safe from being hurt. The consequence is the child losing access to the parent in that moment. For example, the parent could say, "I don't let anyone hurt me," and then quickly walk away. In this example, there was no need to do anything to the child, resulting in a higher level of learning on the part of the child. Having trouble believing this? Try it the next time your child acts out this way.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

7 Things Every Child of Divorce Needs

PARENTS WHO LISTEN MORE AND SPEAK LESS. A child's emotions, thoughts, and behavior may be unstable during this difficult time. They need to be able to express how they feel without their emotions begin stuffed. Some of the things they say may be difficult for the parent to hear, so don't dismiss or minimize what is said or how they feel.

REGULAR ACCESS TO GRANDPARENTS. Relationships with your extended family may be difficult for you, but the kids still need them. Determine what access grandparents and other extended family members will have to your children and remain open to the fact that these adults can be very helpful during this difficult time. It can often times be easier for children to express their feelings to grandparents and others.

not talking about the inexpensive divorce class that most states require all divorcing parents to go through, I'm talking about a multi-session parenting class in which parents learn about the development stages of childhood and what constitutes normal and abnormal behavior. Getting this additional help from a class or even a parent coach can prepare you for major behavior challenges caused by the divorce.

FIRM BOUNDARIES AND LIMITATIONS. Even though many children and teens will push the limits even further during a divorce, they require firm rules to know that the parents are still in charge and care. Firm boundaries creates feelings of safety and love, especially during difficult times such as divorce. Avoid the urge to give in and bend rules, just to avoid hearing the dreadful statement, "I want to go live with my Dad (or Mom)."

RESPECTFUL TALK ABOUT THE OTHER PARENT. Your issues with your ex are your issues, not your child's. No matter how terrible of a person you feel your ex was to you or to the kids, your children will most likely still see them as the wonderful, flawless parent they once were. You don't have to speak affectionately about them in front of the kids, just respectfully.

CONSISTENCY ON RULES OF ACCESS TO INAPPROPRIATE MATERIAL. Your son comes home from a visitation with the other parent, with a new smart phone, tablet, violent video game, or any other object you normally don't allow him to have. Avoid thinking that he can keep it just because the other parent gave it to him. Calmly and kindly hold on to that item until the next visitation occurs. You can't do anything about what your child is exposed to in the other parent's home, but you can in your own.

PARENTS WITH EMOTIONAL SUPPORT. Going through a divorce can be devastating and something no one should go through alone. Seek out support groups in your community to get the help you need. Many churches offer a continuing workshop and support group called Divorce Care that is open to anyone, even if you are not a member of the church. Your children need you emotionally strong and able to provide the support they will need to get through this difficult time.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Stop Waiting for Permission to be the Best Parent Ever

Did someone in your past hurt you to the point where you can't let go? Were you abused as a child by a parent, guardian, or another adult? Or perhaps you were mistreated as a young adult and you're still waiting for that person to apologize for what they did? 

You are a beautiful, talented, and precious individual who is responsible for raising a child or teen, and they need you here and now—100%. But it’s very possible that past experiences may be holding you back from living your dreams and being fully present for them. There’s also a chance you’re never going to get the apology you've needed for so long. So what do you do about it? Give yourself the permission you've been waiting for to be the wonderful person—and parent—you were intended to be. 

Inspired by her own experience of writing the letter of
apology she knew she was never going to get, author Valerie Utton wrote, Letters of Apology: How to Stop Waiting for Permission to Be the Wonderful Person You Are (Inkwell Productions, 2007). In it she compiles a collection of anonymously written letters of apology contributed by people who were truly sorry for the hurt they imposed on others. Then, with encouragement and guidance, she inspires readers with the knowledge that they can write the letter of apology they’ve been waiting for, freeing themselves in the process. In her book she says:

The truth is that we don't need anybody’s apology to tell us who we are. The idea that anyone can give us permission to believe in our own true innate self worth is nothing more than an illusion that can be exposed as easily as we can expose the magic of pulling a coin out of a child's ear.

As many adults were, I was mistreated as a child. Through my own healing, I realized I had to come up with the apology I was due on my own. I learned that in order to be the person I wanted to be, I had to rid myself of the anger and hatred for that person so I could forgive and move on. Ultimately, that act of forgiveness was for me and not the person who hurt me.

So why don't we all apologize for the things we did (and do) that hurt others. Some avoid apologizing because thinking about what they did brings up feelings of shame and embarrassment. Parents who have done things that hurt their children don't always step up to apologize. It's easier to push it away instead of dealing with it head on. What they don't know is that their child may be waiting for an apology before they move on with their life.

Valerie says that apologies should be simple and straight forward. She said they can be difficult to hear and accept if they are diluted with indirect blame and justifications. But a true, healing apology should include just seven words, I'm sorry I did this to you. That’s it! Is there a letter of apology you need to write to yourself or someone else today?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

MA Judges Say It's OK to Spank - But You Don't Have To

Last week, Massachusetts' highest court determined that parents cannot be charged for spanking their minor children as long as the force used is 'reasonable.' The spanking delivered cannot cause the child physical harm or mental distress. But just because this group of misguided justices says it's OK to hit a child, there are far more effective means for handling misbehavior in young children. Here are five alternatives you can begin using immediately.

Satisfy a Need. Children who fall in the 0 - 18 month age bracket do not misbehave; they are simply expressing needs that must be satisfied. Therefore, there is no need to spank or use any other punitive means for managing behavior. During this phase of the child's life, they are moving, touching and making sounds to express a need that parents must learn to interpret and meet.

Redirection or Distraction. Toddlers and preschoolers often
do things that are annoying or frustrating to the adult: trying to touch something they shouldn't, being demanding about performing a difficult task, or screaming loudly. Using emotional excitement in bringing the child's attention to something else in the moment is an easy way to break or stop the annoying behavior. Saying "Quick, quick... let's look out the window and find a birdie in the back yard," can move a child from fascination with a wall light switch to scanning the flowers for a feathered creature.

Remove the Child. As I always tell parents, churches, restaurants and grocery stores were made for adults, not children. If it's a tantrum that you're dealing with at one of these places, you can try one of the suggestions above. But if you do and you don't get the results you're looking for, taking the child out of the establishment and going home may be the only solution. Think about how you feel inside when you're hungry, tired or stressed. Would having someone hit you solve the problem?

Remove the Target. If the child is mistreating a pet, throwing toys or hitting another child or an adult, removing the target may be the solution. The reason this works is because it presents a perfect learning opportunity to the child; a logical consequence. If you mistreat or misuse something, then you lose it. If she is mad and throwing a toy, the toy is placed out of her reach. If he is hitting another child, then play time is over. And if she is being too rough with a pet, then the pet is moved to another room.

Calm Yourself. The next time your child is out of control, check in with yourself and assess your own disposition. Adults caring for children who are feeling anxious, stressed or angry can actually transmit those feelings to the children around them. Have you ever noticed how we sometimes take on the emotion of other adults we are with? The same can happen to children.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Do You Get to Know the Parents of Your Children's Friends?

If you don't, you should. It is every parent's responsibility to get to know their children's friends, including the parents of those friends. This is especially important if you allow your children to go to their friends' homes to play or hangout. Doing so provides clues as to how safe your child will be in their home and whether there will be positive or negative things that could  influence your children while they're in the care of these other adults.

One day, a father dropping off his daughter to play with ours,
immediately began backing out of the driveway after his little girl got out of the car. I quickly approached the car to introduce myself and without saying a word, he rolled down the window and just stared at me. I was stunned when he responded in a manner that said, "So what." He reluctantly said his name and quickly drove away. I could not believe that he was dropping his sweet little 9-year-old daughter off at a house he had never been inside of, nor met the adults who live there! 

How could a parent be so trusting or not care enough to want to know what kinds of things or activities his daughter might see or experience while at that home? Lucky for him, my wife and I are trusting, caring and responsible parents, but what if we weren't? Why does it seem that so few parents take the time and effort to check out the adults who will be responsible for their child's safety and care?

One day my 7-year-old son revealed that he was watching R-rated HBO movies on a large screen TV in the bedroom of one of his neighborhood playmates. I was shocked and told him that I would need to speak with his mother before he could go back over to that home to play with his friend. 

A few days later, I saw that boys mom outside, working in the garden. I approached her and revealed what I had learned. I shouldn't have been surprised when she reacted in a way that told me she didn't see a problem with it. She then uttered two very classic but annoying statements: "Boys will be boys," and "They are going to see it all somewhere so why not let them see it in their own home."

Today's progressive entertainment industry has made it known that they are not responsible for what our children see and hear. They are in the business to make money and to sell what many adults want to buy. Many parents are in denial that they themselves are responsible for managing what their children are exposed to. And if they aren't in denial, then they just haven't yet come to terms with this responsibility, a responsibility their parents didn't have. These two factors alone have contributed to the inappropriate accelerated maturity of our children.