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5 Empowering Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen

By Vicki Glembocki

Having a hard time getting your children to follow directions? Me too. So my friends and I decided to try our own group therapy. Don’t laugh — it work

A few months ago I crashed headfirst into my most frustrating parenting problem to date: My daughters were ignoring me. I could tell them five times to do anything — get dressed, turn off the TV, brush their teeth — and they either didn’t hear me or didn’t listen. So I’d tell them five more times, louder and louder. It seemed the only way I could inspire Blair, 6, and Drew, 4, to action was if I yelled like one of The Real Housewives of New Jersey and then threatened to throw their blankies away.

This was not the kind of parent I wanted to be. But their inability to obey or even acknowledge my husband, Thad, and me made us feel powerless. While walking through Target one Saturday, I heard no fewer than five parents say some variation of, “If you don’t start listening, we’re walking out of this store right now!”

I recognized that at least part of the problem was me. After much lamenting about my lame parenting skills, I got lucky: A friend’s mom mentioned what she calls “the Bible” on the subject: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. When I checked it out at fabermazlish.com, I saw that there’s an accompanying DIY workshop for $130 (both were updated last year in honor of the book’s 30th anniversary). Granted, the authors are moms, not child psychologists or toddler whisperers. But the book was a national best-seller, and parents continue to host workshops using the authors’ ideas.

To see if their advice still held up, I wrangled four equally desperate mom buddies and ordered the workshop. I got two CDs and a guide with directions for leading the group. We met every Tuesday night in my living room for seven weeks, spending much of our 90-minute sessions talking about our struggles with listening-challenged kids as if we were in a 12-step program. We followed along as actors played out scenarios on the CD, did some role-playing of our own, and completed weekly homework assignments, such as reading parts of How to Talk and Liberated Parents, Liberated Children, by the same authors, and then applying our new communication skills. Not all of Faber and Mazlish’s advice rang true for us. Their suggestion to post a to-do list on the fridge so we wouldn’t have to keep reminding our kids of their responsibilities, for instance, didn’t pan out (especially because I had to keep reminding my girls to look at the note!). But other tips truly got our kids to start paying attention — and, better yet, got us to stop screaming at them. Carrie, the mom of a 6-year-old, summed up our collective reaction by the end: “This really works!”

Say it With a Single Word

The situation My daughters have only one assigned chore: to carry their plates to the sink when they’re done eating. Still, not a night went by when I didn’t need to tell them to do it, sometimes three times. Even that didn’t guarantee they would — and who would finally clear them? Take a guess.

The old way After they ignored my repeated commands, I’d sit Blair and Drew down and preach for ten minutes about how I wasn’t their servant and this wasn’t a restaurant.

The better way Kids usually know what they’re supposed to do; they just need some simple reminding. “They’ll tune you out when you go on and on,” Faber told me. “Instead, try just one word to jog their memory.”

The result After dinner one night, all I said was “plates.” At first the girls looked at me as if I were speaking in an alien tongue. But a second later, they picked them up and headed for the kitchen. After roughly a month of reinforcement, I don’t need to say anything; they do it automatically. “Teeth!” works equally well for getting them to brush, as does “Shoes” to replace my typical morning mantra: “Find your shoes and put them on; find your shoes and put them on”. And when I hear Blair screaming, “Give me that!” I simply say, “Nice words” (okay, that’s two words). I practically faint when she says, “Drew, would you please give that to me?”

Empower Your Kid

Provide Information

talking to child

The situation My friend Michele had just served lunch when, as was her habit, 2-year-old Everly jumped off her chair, climbed back on, turned around, stood up, and then stomped on the cushion.

The old way When Everly wouldn’t respond to a patient “You need to sit still,” Michele would get annoyed and say something like, “How hard is it to understand? You must sit down!” Everly would cry but still not sit. In the end, she’d get a time-out, which didn’t change her behavior.

The better way State the facts instead of always issuing commands. “Who doesn’t rebel against constant orders?” asks Faber. (I know I do.) Kids aren’t robots programmed to do our bidding. They need to exercise their free will, which is why they often do exactly the opposite of what we ask them to. The trick is to turn your directive into a teaching moment. So instead of, “Put that milk away,” you might simply say: “Milk spoils when it’s left out.” This approach says to a child, “I know that when you have all the information, you’ll do the right thing,'” Faber explains.

The result The next time Everly played jungle gym at mealtime, Michele took a calming breath and then said, “Honey, chairs are meant for sitting.” ?Everly smiled at her mother, sat down, and then started eating. “That never happened before,” Michele reports. She still has to remind her daughter now and then, but in the end, Everly listens. The technique applies to other situations as well. Rather than saying, “Stop touching everything,” Michele now points out, “Those delicate things can break very easily.” Ditto for “Legos belong in the green bin so you can find them the next time you want to play with them” and “Unflushed toilets get stinky.”

Give Your Child a Choice

The situation Three days after our final session, Joan took her kids to Orlando. At the Magic Kingdom, she handed them hats to shield the sun. Her 6-year-old put hers on willingly. Her almost-5-year-old, Sam, refused.

The old way “I’d try to persuade him to cooperate,” Joan says. Inevitably, she’d end up shouting, “If you don’t put it on, you can’t go on any more rides.” Then he’d bawl his eyes out, and no one would have any fun.

The better way Offer your child choices. “Threats and punishment don’t work,” Faber explains on one of the workshop CDs. “Rather than feeling sorry for not cooperating, a child tends to become even more stubborn. But when you make him part of the decision, he’s far more likely to do what’s acceptable to you.”

The result Joan left it up to her son: “Sam, you can put your hat on now or after you sit out the next ride.” Sam still wouldn’t comply. “But after he missed out on Peter Pan’s Flight, I said, ‘Sam, here’s your hat,’ and he put it right on,” Joan says.

State Your Expectations

The situation Amy let her kids turn on the TV before they left for school. After one show was over, she’d take Adrian, 4, to get dressed while Angela, 7, kept watching. But when it was Angela’s turn to get ready, she’d whine, “Just ten more minutes. Please? Pleeeeeeeaaase!”

The old way Amy would yell: “No, you’ve watched enough. That’s it.” Angela would complain some more. Amy would yell, “I said no!” Then, after more begging, she’d add, “You’ve already had more TV time than Adrian. You’re being ungrateful.”

The better way Let your kids know your plan ahead of time. Amy should tell Angela something like this: “After you’ve brushed your teeth and are totally dressed and ready to go, you can watch a little more TV while I get your brother dressed. That way you’ll be on time for school.”

The result The first time Amy tried this tactic, Angela turned off the TV without saying a word. But the second morning, she refused and started bellyaching again. Amy quickly realized she hadn’t reminded Angela of the plan in advance this time. So the following morning she stated it again clearly: “When I leave with Adrian, I expect you to turn off the TV.” Success. She finds the strategy equally effective for other situations (“No starting new games until the one you’ve just played is put away”).

Name Their Feelings

The situation Carrie’s daughter Tatum, 6, was happily blowing bubbles with a friend. Suddenly, Tatum stormed into the room, wailing, “Mina’s not giving me a turn.”

The old way “I’d say something like, “There’s no reason to cry over this,” Carrie says. What would Tatum do? The opposite — cry more and likely ruin the rest of the playdate.

The better way Parents need to listen too. “Everyone wants to know they’ve been heard and understood,” Faber argues. Telling a child to stop crying sends the message that her feelings don’t matter. Kids often cry (or whine, yell, or stomp) because they can’t communicate why they’re upset or don’t know how to deal with the emotion. “You need to give them the words to express it,” Faber says.

The result Next time, Carrie looked Tatum in the eye and described what she thought her daughter was feeling: “You seem really frustrated!” Tatum stared at her in surprise and then announced, “I am.” Carrie held her tongue to keep from giving advice (“You need to ?”), defending her friend (“Mina deserves a turn too”), or getting philosophical (“That’s life”). Instead, she said, “Oh.” Tatum kept talking: “I wish I had two bottles of bubbles.” Carrie asked, “How can we work this out so it’s fair to you and Mina?” Tatum said by taking turns. Carrie suggested they use a kitchen timer, and Tatum explained the plan to Mina. Everyone wound up happy. “It’s hard to stop yourself from saying too much,” says Carrie. She’s right. Phrases like, “You never listen to me” and “How many times do I have to tell you?” become ingrained in our brain. During the workshop, my friends and I realize that it’s going to take a bit of practice to stop uttering these expressions. But that’s the entire point: to change the way we talk to our kids, so they not only understand what we’re trying to say but actually want to listen.

Palm harbor Schools 7 Discipline Mistakes All Moms Make

By Katy Rank Lev from

When it comes to dealing with bad behavior, everyone screws up. We’ll help you do it right.

p_101750498.jpgI haven’t been to the post office since “the incident.” I was that wild-eyed woman with a screaming child, slowly working my way up the line as one customer after another let me go ahead. Turns out my desperate attempts to comfort my kid were the result of a rookie error. The tantrum came from an oversight I made earlier that day: failing to notice the signals (eye-rubbing and crankiness) that he was tired. No wonder he had a meltdown.

I’m hardly alone in missing my child’s cues, says Parents advisor Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. According to her, there are patterns to behavior. Kids do the same things when they’re tired, hungry, or getting fed up; it’s up to adults to take note and adjust accordingly. My son’s moodiness should have told me to let him nap, then run errands when he was ready.

Ignoring a kid’s signs is one of many discipline mistakes parents make all the time, but fixing them can make a huge difference in the parenting experience. We asked the experts to reveal the most common missteps.

We’re Too Negative

“Don’t hit your sister!” “Stop pulling the dog’s tail!” The number of things you tell your toddler or preschooler not to do is endless.

THE FIX Ask for the behavior you want to see. Nobody wants to raise a child who doesn’t understand limits, but “parents say ‘no’ so frequently that kids become deaf to it — and the word loses its power,” Dr. Borba explains. Moreover, “we often tell kids not to do something without letting them know what they should be doing,” notes Linda Sonna, Ph.D., author of The Everything Toddler Book. So save the naysaying for truly dangerous situations (think: fork in the electrical socket or your child eating the spider plant), and focus on telling kids how you would like them to behave. For example, instead of, “No standing in the bathtub!” try, “We sit down in the bathtub because it’s slippery.” Later, when you notice your kid splashing away in a seated position, offer some praise (“I like how you’re sitting!”) to reinforce her good behavior.

We Expect Too Much From Our Kids

You’re sitting in church when your toddler shouts. As soon as you shush him, he does it again. Mortifying! Why doesn’t he listen?

THE FIX Play teacher. Very young children still haven’t developed impulse control or learned the social graces required in public places like stores and restaurants. “Parents assume kids know more than they do,” Dr. Sonna says.

When your child breaks a norm, remind yourself that he isn’t trying to be a pain — he just doesn’t know how to act in the situation, so snapping isn’t effective (or fair). Focus on showing your child how you want him to behave, softly saying things like, “I’m being quiet because I’m in church, but if I need something from Dad I lean in close to whisper.” Also point out what others are doing (“Look how Charlie is coloring while he waits for his meal to arrive”). Kids are born mimics, so modeling or drawing attention to something we want them to do goes a long way.

“It takes time and repetition for kids to learn to handle themselves,” Dr. Sonna says, which means you should expect to give your kid a lot of reminders — and remove him when he doesn’t get the message. Over time, he’ll learn how to act.

We Model Behavior We Don’t Want to See

When you drop something, you yell. A man cuts you off and you call him a rude name. But then you get mad if your kid reacts the same way when things don’t go her way.

THE FIX Apologize and take a do-over. There’s a boomerang effect to behavior: If we yell, our kids probably will too, says Devra Renner, coauthor of Mommy Guilt. Yes, it’s hard to be on perfect behavior around the clock, so apologize when you do slip up. “Emotions are powerful and difficult to control, even for grown-ups,” Renner notes, but saying “sorry” demonstrates that we’re accountable for our actions nonetheless.

It also creates the chance to talk about why you reacted the way you did and offers appropriate ways to respond when you’re feeling frustrated. That’s what Deena Blumenfeld, of Pittsburgh, did when her son Owen, 5, protested so much about getting dressed that she snapped, “Just shut up and get dressed!” Realizing this was not how she’d want her son to react in a similar situation, she knelt down, apologized, then talked about how important it is to be on time for school. It worked: Owen got ready for school calmly after that.

We Intervene When Our Kids Simply Annoy Us

p_101750500.jpgYou hear your children chasing each other around the house and immediately shout.

THE FIX Ignore selectively. Often, parents feel the need to step in every time kids do something, well, kid-like. But always being the bad guy is exhausting, Dr. Borba notes. Keep in mind that children sometimes do things that are irksome because they’re exploring new skills. (So your toddler could be dumping juice into his cereal because he’s learning about liquids.) Other times, they’re seeking attention. When it comes to reacting, Dr. Borba’s rule of thumb is: When safety isn’t an issue, try watchful waiting. If your 6-year-old is playing his recorder with his nose, try not to shout. See what happens if you just continue with what you’re doing as if nothing is happening. Most likely, if you don’t respond, he will eventually stop — and you’ll feel calmer, having avoided a shouting match.

We’re All Talk and No Action

“Turn off the TV… I’m serious this time… Really!” Your kids continue bad behavior when warnings are vague for the same reason you run yellow lights — there aren’t consequences.

THE FIX Set limits and follow through. Nagging, second chances, and negotiation all convey that cooperation is optional, says Robert MacKenzie, Ph.D., author of Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child. To teach kids to follow rules, make expectations clear, then take action when they’re broken. If you want your kid to, say, get off the couch and do homework, start with respectful directives (“Please turn off the TV now and do your work”). If she follows through, thank her. If not, give a consequence: “I’m turning off the TV now. Until your work is finished, your TV privileges are suspended.”

We Use Time-Out Ineffectively

When you send your 3-year-old to his room after he hits his brother, he starts banging his head on the floor in rage.

THE FIX Consider a time-in. A time-out is meant to be a chance for a child to calm down, not a punishment. Some kids respond well to the suggestion that they go to a quiet room until they’re chill. But others view it as a rejection, and it riles them up. Plus, it doesn’t teach kids how you want them to behave. As an alternative, Dr. Sonna suggests taking a “time-in,” where you sit quietly with your kid. If he’s very upset, hold him to get him settled down, Dr. Sonna adds. Once he’s relaxed, calmly explain why the behavior wasn’t okay. Too angry to comfort him? Put yourself in time-out; once you’ve relaxed, discuss what you would like your child to do differently. You might start by saying: “What can you do instead of hitting when Milo grabs your train?”

We Assume What Works for One Kid Will Work for the Other

The best way to deal with your son’s whining is to get down at eye level and explain how his actions need to change. But your daughter is more aggressive and refuses to listen.

THE FIX Develop a diverse toolbox. It’s easy to blame your kid when a discipline technique fails. But “you may have to go about getting the behavior you want in different ways with each kid,” notes Avivia Pflock, coauthor of Mommy Guilt. While one might respond to a verbal reminder about what is acceptable, the other might need a consequence when she acts up — like having her Wii unplugged. Being firm with one child and touchy-feely with another isn’t being inconsistent; it’s tuning in to different needs and learning styles, Pflock assures. “The punishment should fit the crime — and the kid.”

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7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders

7-Crippling-Parenting-Behaviors-That-Keep-Children-From-Growing-Into-LeadersWhile I spend my professional time now as a career success coach, writer, and leadership trainer, I was a marriage and family therapist in my past, and worked for several years with couples, families, and children. Through that experience, I witnessed a very wide array of both functional and dysfunctional parenting behaviors. As a parent myself, I’ve learned that all the wisdom and love in the world doesn’t necessarily protect you from parenting in ways that hold your children back from thriving, gaining independence and becoming the leaders they have the potential to be.

I was intrigued, then, to catch up with leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore and learn more about how we as parents are failing our children today — coddling and crippling them — and keeping them from becoming leaders they are destined to be. Tim is a best-selling author of more than 25 books, includingGeneration iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenges of Becoming Authentic Adults, and the Habitudes® series. He is Founder and President of Growing Leaders, an organization dedicated to mentoring today’s young people to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Tim had this to share about the 7 damaging parenting behaviors that keep children from becoming leaders – of their own lives and of the world’s enterprises:

1. We don’t let our children experience risk

We live in a world that warns us of danger at every turn. The “safety first” preoccupation enforces our fear of losing our kids, so we do everything we can to protect them. It’s our job after all, but we have insulated them from healthy risk-taking behavior and it’s had an adverse effect. Psychologists in Europe have discovered that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee, they frequently have phobias as adults. Kids need to fall a few times to learn it’s normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require. If parents remove risk from children’s lives, we will likely experience high arrogance and low self-esteem in our growing leaders.

2. We rescue too quickly

Today’s generation of young people has not developed some of the life skills kids did 30 years ago because adults swoop in and take care of problems for them. When we rescue too quickly and over-indulge our children with “assistance,” we remove the need for them to navigate hardships and solve problems on their own. It’s parenting for the short-term and it sorely misses the point of leadership—to equip our young people to do it without help. Sooner or later, kids get used to someone rescuing them: “If I fail or fall short, an adult will smooth things over and remove any consequences for my misconduct.” When in reality, this isn’t even remotely close to how the world works, and therefore it disables our kids from becoming competent adults.

3. We rave too easily

The self-esteem movement has been around since Baby Boomers were kids, but it took root in our school systems in the 1980s. Attend a little league baseball game and you’ll see that everyone is a winner. This “everyone gets a trophy” mentality might make our kids feel special, but research is now indicating this method has unintended
consequences. Kids eventually observe that Mom and Dad are the only ones who think they’re awesome when no one else is saying it. They begin to doubt the objectivity of their parents; it feels good in the moment, but it’s not connected to reality. When we rave too easily and disregard poor behavior, children eventually learn to cheat, exaggerate and lie and to avoid difficult reality. They have not been conditioned to face it.

4. We let guilt get in the way of leading well

Your child does not have to love you every minute. Your kids will get over the disappointment, but they won’t get over the effects of being spoiled. So tell them “no” or “not now,” and let them fight for what they really value and need. As parents, we tend to give them what they want when rewarding our children, especially with multiple kids. When one does well in something, we feel it’s unfair to praise and reward that one and not the other. This is unrealistic and misses an opportunity to enforce the point to our kids that success is dependent upon our own actions and good deeds. Be careful not to teach them a good grade is rewarded by a trip to the mall. If your relationship is based on material rewards, kids will experience neither intrinsic motivation nor unconditional
love.

5. We don’t share our past mistakes

Healthy teens are going to want to spread their wings and they’ll need to try things on their own. We as adults must let them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help them navigate these waters. Share with them the relevant mistakes you made when you were their age in a way that helps them learn to make good choices. (Avoid negative “lessons learned” having to do with smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs, etc.) Also, kids must prepare to encounter slip-ups and face the consequences of their decisions. Share how you felt when you faced a similar experience, what drove your actions, and the resulting lessons learned. Because we’re not the only influence on our kids, we must be the best influence.

6. We mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity

Intelligence is often used as a measurement of a child’s maturity, and as a result parents assume an intelligent child is ready for the world. That’s not the case. Some professional athletes and Hollywood starlets, for example, possess unimaginable talent, but still get caught in a public scandal. Just because giftedness is present in one aspect of a child’s life, don’t assume it pervades all areas. There is no magic “age of responsibility” or a proven guide as to when a child should be given specific freedoms, but a good rule of thumb is to observe other children the same age as yours. If you notice that they are doing more themselves than your child does, you may be delaying your child’s independence.

7. We don’t practice what we preach

As parents, it is our responsibility to model the life we want our children to live. To help them lead a life of character and become dependable and accountable for their words and actions. As the leaders of our homes, we can start by only speaking honest words – white lies will surface and slowly erode character. Watch yourself in the little ethical choices that others might notice, because your kids will notice too. If you don’t cut corners, for example, they will know it’s not acceptable for them to either. Show your kids what it means to give selflessly and joyfully by volunteering for a service project or with a community group. Leave people and places better than you found them, and your kids will take note and do the same.

Why do parents engage in these behaviors (what are they afraid of if they don’t)? Do these behaviors come from fear or from poor understanding of what strong parenting (with good boundaries) is?

Tim shares:
“I think both fear and lack of understanding play a role here, but it leads with the fact that each generation of parents is usually compensating for something the previous generation did. The primary adults in kids’ lives today have focused on now rather thanlater. It’s about their happiness today not their readiness tomorrow. I suspect it’s a reaction. Many parents today had Moms and Dads who were all about getting ready for tomorrow: saving money, not spending it, and getting ready for retirement. In response, many of us bought into the message: embrace the moment. You deserve it. Enjoy today. And we did. For many, it resulted in credit card debt and the inability to delay gratification. This may be the crux of our challenge. The truth is, parents who are able to focus on tomorrow, not just today, produce better results.” How can parents move away from these negative behaviors (without having to hire a family therapist to help)?

Tim says: “It’s important for parents to become exceedingly self-aware of their words and actions when interacting with their children, or with others when their children are nearby. Care enough to train them, not merely treat them to a good life. Coach them, more than coddle.”

Here’s a start:

1. Talk over the issues you wish you would’ve known about adulthood.
2. Allow them to attempt things that stretch them and even let them fail.
3. Discuss future consequences if they fail to master certain disciplines.
4. Aid them in matching their strengths to real-world problems.
5. Furnish projects that require patience, so they learn to delay gratification.
6. Teach them that life is about choices and trade-offs; they can’t do everything.
7. Initiate (or simulate) adult tasks like paying bills or making business deals.
8. Introduce them to potential mentors from your network.
9. Help them envision a fulfilling future, and then discuss the steps to get there.
10. Celebrate progress they make toward autonomy and responsibility.

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9 Parenting Steps That Foster Growth, Confidence And Leadership In Kids

Part of the new series “Parenting for Success”

9-Parenting-Steps-That-Foster-Growth-Confidence-Leadership-In-KidsIn January, I published a parenting post featuring Dr. Tim Elmore’s great insights on the 7 crippling parenting behaviors that keep children from growing into leaders. With more than 5.7 million views and growing, we know this piece struck a powerful chord among parents across the globe. Both Tim and I received hundreds of comments, emails, and questions from parents of all walks of life, asking how to apply these ideas into practice. Some parents disagreed, and also challenged our concept of “leadership” and asked, “Can’t we just let our children be who they are rather than make them into leaders?” (Great question.)

From my perspective, the goal is not to “force” our children to be anything they’re not, but instead, to foster, encourage and support them to be all they dream to be in the world. To do that, we need to understand some fundamentals about parenting behaviors that encourage growth, confidence and self-reliance, versus actions that stifle independence and critical thinking.

Offering the flip-slide of our previous piece on what NOT to do, Dr. Elmore has shared 9 parenting steps that will foster growth, confidence and leadership in teenage children:

Tim suggests parents help their children:

1. Find mentors and ask for help.

Take your teens with you to meet colleagues and help them find mentors. As my kids grew up, I included them on trips to meet with colleagues who I knew they’d benefit from meeting. At first, my children didn’t know how to respond, but eventually they learned to bring a pad to take notes. From these times, they found mentors they could contact and ask questions they may never feel comfortable asking mom or dad. It matured them and helped them think like leaders, and helped them obtain guidance and support outside of their parents.

2. Develop a “growth” mindset.

Praise them for effort, concentration, action and strategies. Research shows that effective leaders possess a “growth mindset” not a “fixed mindset.” Instead of praising kids for their smarts or looks, affirm variables that are in their control, like hard work, or good strategy or honest words. This cultivates a healthy attitude that is open to taking calculated risks. It also prevents them from quitting or being afraid to fail or struggle.
While talent and intelligence are wonderful to possess, attitude is actually more important (and more impactful) than aptitude.

3. Identify their gifts and translate them into service.

This step is paramount. Something great happens when our kids find a gift inside them that they can then turn it into something that adds value to others. And if they can monetize it, even better. Help them to do just that. A friend of mine said his three teens were lazy until last summer when he had them create a flyer listing jobs they could perform (and would enjoy doing) for neighbors. It worked. They were energized all summer and made some money too. They’ve been transformed. They are more entrepreneurial now than ever. This fostered work ethic and ingenuity.

4. Expand their critical thinking.

Have them find challenging news topics that interest them, and determine how to respond. Research shows that schools and homes have failed to cultivate critical thinking skills in students. In my training with teens, I have kids watch the news or read a book that was full of conflict. As they recognized the dilemmas, I asked them to choose one challenge, then imagine what they’d do if they were in charge of solving it. We would discuss their strategy and learn from it. This exercise gives them vision, and teaches them that leaders earn their influence by solving problems and serving people.

5. Actively engage in social gatherings.

This generation of kids (teens) spends more time with each other than with adults. They also spend more time on screens, diminishing face-to-face conversations. I believe we must equip kids to be “hosts” not just “guests” in life. Hold a party or social gathering for some of your friends (without their children) and ask your kids to help be hosts for the evening. Encourage them to learn to answer the door, take the coats, introduce guests to
each other, and serve them. This builds people and communication skills. At first, my children rolled their eyes at this idea, but later became very comfortable interacting with adults. They’re now both gainfully employed. When they’re old enough, have them host their own social gatherings as well, and assist in planning events at their school and other outside organizations, to further their planning, communication, and interpersonal relationship skills.

6. Learn about the realities of money.

Invite them to help you pay the bills and choose where money goes. If kids aren’t exposed to the realities of life – such as how we keep the lights on in the house or having to choose between a new tablet or food for the remainder of the month – how are they going to learn them? I have a friend who is a mom to two teenage sons and she had them sit down with her at the computer to pay bills on-line. They quickly saw how much money it took to run a household—and as a result, they lighten up on asking for new phones. At times they had more days in the month left than money to pay everything off, so her boys helped choose what bills to pay now and which to pay later. This was a great reality check on finances, delayed gratification, and decision-making.

7. Embrace challenge, and don’t shy away from failure.

Genuine leadership qualities surface when kids are challenged to do something hard, and when they don’t shy away from possible failure. In our work with over 7,000 schools, I encourage kids to engage with underserved cultures and communities, to teach them to serve, support and problem-solve. In fact, ourHabitudes books, we use images to spark conversations and equip kids to learn to see life this way. With my own kids, we have visited impoverished neighborhoods nearby and developing nations too. This exposure is healthy and learning to serve is priceless. We make it an adventure. Children thrive at the opportunity to do things they feel important and meaningful, but
are also challenging and difficult to address, where there are no easy answers.

8. Develop their worldview.

Many children are reading content online, and watching YouTube videos throughout the day. They are formulating their own opinions and views on all that they digest. This is rich food for thought that can be encouraged and built upon. Take your children to the movies, watch videos and read articles with them. Talk about the stories you see, and you’ll inevitably become engaged in conversation that helps them evaluate and analyze what took place and why. Help them build their critical thinking skills, and encourage the formulation of their own views. As young adults, they will automatically begin to think more deeply about life around them, and gain awareness of their own philosophy of what’s happening in film, media, and in the news, which helps them think deeply,
interpret experiences, and develop their own positive worldview.

9. Learn that life is about adding value.

Our culture naturally conditions us to be consumers, not always contributors. Help your children support a cause that is important to them. Few projects cultivate leadership and ambition like choosing a worthwhile cause outside their small sphere of influence, and finding a way to support it or raise money for it. This requires courage, planning, decision-making and people skills. Eventually, the fund raiser must do the “ask.” When kids do this, they develop all kinds of positive qualities, not the least of which is emotional intelligence. They learn to manage emotions—both theirs and those other people – and they learn to accept rejection and move on. While IQ is important, EQ is an even more important life skill.

To become the best, most successful parents we can be, we need to gain awareness of our actions and behaviors, which in turn generates greater choice in how we want to shape our children’s growth and future. You are your children’s first and most important role models – everything you say and do impacts their self-concept and their view of the world. Take the time today to explore your actions and revise them to ensure you are supporting your children to think and live as fully as possible, and are on the way to reaching their highest potential.

February 2016 Newsletter

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6 Ways to Make Consequences More Effective

Address Behavior Problems Effectively and Efficiently
By Amy Morin | Discipline Expert | Updated December 15, 2014.

6-Ways-to-Make-Consequences-More-Effective

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It’s quite often that parents enter into my therapy office to tell me that “consequences just don’t work” with their child. Whether they’re using time out or taking away privileges, they feel like their child is immune to consequences because the behaviors aren’t changing.

Consequences are an important part of discipline, however. They can work with even the toughest kids when they are used appropriately and it can be a great way to help kids change their behavior. There are some strategies parents can use to make consequences more effective.

1. Be Consistent with Your Consequences
Positive and negative consequences will only work if they are given consistently. If you only take away your child’s video games only two out of every three times that he hits his brother, he’ll quickly learn he’s got a good chance of getting away with hitting and he’ll be willing to risk it. If however, you are consistent in giving him a consequence each and every time, his behavior will change.

Sticking to consequences is also part of consistency. If you tell your child he can’t go out and play for the rest of the day, but by afternoon, you change your mind and let him go outside anyway, he won’t learn. It’s essential that you stick to it no matter how much he whines, begs or promises to change his behavior.

2. Keep Building a Healthy Relationship
A healthy relationship with your child is a necessary foundation for discipline. If your child loves and respects you, consequences will be much more effective. Giving your child positive attention and spending quality time together helps develop a positive relationship. This is also true if you are disciplining a step-child, grandchild or any other child.

3. Make Consequences Time Sensitive
Any consequence should be time sensitive. Saying, “You’re grounded until I say so,” just isn’t a good motivator. Neither is saying, “You can’t go anywhere until I can trust you again.” Instead, it’s important to outline how long the consequence is in effect.

Usually 24 hours is a good amount of time to take something away from a child. However, there may be times that take away a privilege until your child earns it back. If this is the case, outline exactly what needs to happen for your child to earn it back. Instead of saying, “You can’t have your cell phone back until I can trust you,” say, “You can begin earning the right to use your phone for one hour a night if you get all your homework done and tell the truth for the next two weeks.”

4. Give Consequences Immediately
The best consequences are immediate. Taking away your child’s overnight with Grandma that is planned for next week is not likely to be as effective as taking away his electronics right now. Immediate consequences ensure kids remember why they received the consequence in the first place. If it’s delayed by a week, they’re more likely to forget.

There may be times, however, that it’s not possible to give immediate consequences. If you find out your child got into trouble on the bus three days ago, the consequence will obviously need to be delayed. Or, if he misbehaves right before he gets on the bus in the morning, you may need to wait until he gets home from school before you can give him a consequence.

5. Use Consequences as a Teaching Tool
There’s a difference between consequences and punishment. Consequences should be used as a teaching tool and shouldn’t shame or embarrass kids. Logical consequences are a great way to ensure that the consequence fits with the misbehavior.

Natural consequences can be a great teaching tool when they are used deliberately. Using a natural consequence doesn’t mean your child is allowed to get away with misbehavior. Instead, it should be used as an opportunity for him to learn from his mistakes.

6. Give Consequences Sparingly
Consequences should be used sparingly. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t take away a privilege when it is deserved, but consequences become less effective when they are used too much. Kids who lose all of their privileges for an extended period of time begin to lose motivation to earn it back. Time out also becomes less effective when it is used many times a day for weeks at a time. Consequences can be used in conjunction with other discipline tools, such as reward systems, praise and active ignoring to help kids manage their behaviors.

January 2016 Newsletter

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