Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Can't Spoil a Child through Love

Though we all worry about spoiling our child, rest assured that you cannot spoil your child with love. Love doesn't spoil children. Love is imperative to a child's healthy development, and it's just not possible to love your child too much. They need caring adults to spend time with them, play with them, teach them, protect them, and enjoy life with them.

It's a parent's job to provide love, safety and encouragement. The process of growing up provides children with lots of challenges. Try to listen openly and understand their situation and communicate honestly with them when they have difficulties and letdowns in their life.

Set appropriate limits with your child and then adhere to them. Establishing limits with your child gives them a sense of safety and security.  Sometimes parents do not set limits because they don't want to fight with their children. They don't want to cause bad feelings. They may beg a child to comply. Or they may make a rule and fail to enforce it. They may nag without ever enforcing the rules. None of these helps children. When your child fails to adhere or comply with the boundaries you've set for them, be firm yet kind in your response. This lets them know that you're serious about the rule but dedicated to helping and loving them.  Bear in mind though that each child is different and what works for one child may not work for another.  For example, one child may respond well to the direct approach of telling them a specific time to be home, where another child may need a gentle reminder that it's now time to come home. 
Develop a firm but kind manner of making and enforcing your household's rules and expectations.  There's no need to fear our children, and there should be no need to instill a sense of fear in our children in order to get them to comply. 

Training the Fussy Eater

Toddlers can be fussy eaters who refuses to try a new food at least half of the time. Approximately half of all toddlers fit this description, so it is no wonder that food issues are a source of stress for parents.
Establishing healthy eating patterns is important to avoid problems such as obesity and eating disorders later in life. Various strategies can help your child accept a wider range of foods.  It may be necessary to offer a food to your child as many as 10 different times before they choose to eat it.  The problem is, many parents get frustrated and give up before the fourth or fifth try.

Try to make foods fun.  Colorful foods like carrot sticks, raisins, apples, grapes, cheese sticks and crackers can all be fun and healthy choices for your growing toddler.  Explain to them that eating good food is important so they'll grow big and strong, and how it will help them run faster and play longer.
Children learn behaviors from their parents. If you restrict yourself to a narrow range of foods, your child will take notice and mimic your caution. Don't limit your child's food variety to only those foods you prefer. It may be that your child's tastes are different to yours, and perhaps you are simply serving them foods they don't happen to like.  Try to set a good example and try a variety of foods in front of your child.  It could motivate them to do the same.

If your child seems healthy and energetic, then they are eating enough. If you are still concerned, keep an eye on how much food they actually eat over the day. Children tend to graze constantly, rather than restrict their eating to three meals per day like adults. You may be surprised how those little handfuls and snacks add up. For further reassurance, check your child's growth and weight charts, or check with your child's pediatrician.

Try not to worry, and remember, that unless a child is ill, they will eat.   Children are very good at judging their hunger and fullness signals. Try to stay relaxed about mealtime and offer your child a wide variety of foods, and most importantly, remember to set a good example by trying a wide variety of foods yourself.  You may discover you and your toddler share a new found favorite food!

Time Outs Help Reinforce Positive Behavior and Discourage Misbehaving

Disciplining a young child using the time out method can be very effective, and will work  with children as young as 18-24 months old. By using this method of discipline parents are giving the child time to sit quietly and alone after misbehaving, without becoming angry or agitated with the child.

Designate an appropriate area in the house where the child is isolated from interacting with others.  It can be a corner in their bedroom, a space on the kitchen floor or a special chair that's labeled specifically for time outs.  The length should be age appropriate.  A good rule of thumb is generally one minute per year of age.  A kitchen timer is helpful in counting down your child's punishment time. 

Time out for toddlers is used to give them a chance to regroup and calm down. It's doubtful they will sit completely still, and they should not be forced to try.    

All children should be asked in a firm but pleasant tone to complete a designated task or stop an undesired behavior.  If their behavior persists, they should be verbally directed to behave once again, with eye contact being made and the time out spot pointed out.  If after this warning the behavior still persists, they should be escorted to the time out location and told exactly why they are being sent there. Maintain a calm but firm tone with them.  Once they've quietly served their time in the time out location it's important to discuss with the child why they were sent there and that if the behavior occurs again, they will again be sent to time out.  Older children should then agree to do what you told him to do or cease misbehaving.  Children who leave their time out location before their time is up must be made aware that privileges will be lost as a result.

It's likely that your time out method will have to be modified to fit the temperament of your child and your own parenting style. And remember to reinforce positive behavior with praises, hugs and smiles.  Time out can successfully be used outside the home such a grocery stores, restaurants, or shopping centers.  It's important to emphasize to the child that time out will be enforced should they misbehave while there.  Be consistent and place the child in time out should they misbehave in the store.  If you don't, they'll get the message early on that you're inconsistent and will be more likely to test your boundaries.

The Whys of Whining


It's irritating, it's frustrating and it gets on your last nerve. Though it's obnoxious and unacceptable, it's actually an effective for your child to get your attention. It's whining. But, like other bad habits, you can nip it in the bud early with a few simple strategies to teach your child there are other appropriate, effective forms of communicating with you.

First, try limiting the situations that trigger it. Avoid extra errands when the kids are hungry.  Don't let them get involved in a frustrating game or project prior to bedtime. Pay attention when your child is talking, as sometimes whining is a reaction when a child feels you aren't giving them your full attention. Praise them for not whining and talking in a normal and understandable voice that allows you to fully understand what they are saying to you.

When the whining begins, don't overreact. Keep your response simple, calm and neutral.  Ask your child to repeat the request in a normal tone. When giving in seems inevitable, don't delay. If you must finish the grocery shopping so you can put dinner on the table, for instance, and your child starts whining for a snack, offer something healthy right away.

Once a limit has been set, parents should follow through. It's imperative that both parents are on board with this limit and fully follow through when the whining rule has been violated.

If you have an older child that's developing a whining habit, suggest they come up with a solution to their perceived boredom or other voiced problem.  If you suggest possible alternatives, it might just prolong the child's whining.

Sometimes whining can be the result of trauma and trouble in their life. A divorce, serious family illness or problems at school may be at the root.  Additional positive attention and quality one-on-one time may be just the medicine your child needs at a time like this. Your pediatrician can also suggest alternatives to curb whining should the positive attention and disciplinary actions be ineffective.

The Truth about Lying

Honesty and dishonesty are learned in the home. Parents are often concerned when their child or adolescent lies.

Young children often make up stories and tell tall tales. This is normal activity because they enjoy hearing stories and making up stories for fun. These young children may blur the distinction between reality and fantasy.  This is probably more a result of an active imagination than an attempt to deliberately lie about something.

An older child or adolescent may tell a lie to be self-serving, such as denying responsibility or to try and get out of a chore or task. Parents should respond to isolated instances of lying by talking with the youngster about the importance of truthfulness, honesty and trust.

Some adolescents discover that lying may be considered acceptable in certain situations such as not telling a boyfriend or girlfriend the real reasons for breaking up because they don't want to hurt their feelings. Other adolescents may lie to protect their privacy or to help them feel psychologically separate and independent from their parents.

Parents are the most important role models for their children. When a child or adolescent lies, parents should take some time to have a serious talk and discuss the difference between make believe and reality, and lying and telling the truth. They should open an honest line of communication to find out exactly why the child chose to tell a lie, and to discuss alternatives to lying.  A parent should lead by example and never lie, and when they are caught in a lie, express remorse and regret for making a conscious decision to tell a lie.   Clear, understandable consequences for lying should be discussed with the child early on.
However, some forms of lying are cause for concern, and might indicate an underlying emotional problem. Some children, who know the difference between truthfulness and lying, tell elaborate stories which appear believable. Children or adolescents usually relate these stories with enthusiasm because they receive a lot of attention as they tell the lie.

Other children or adolescents, who otherwise seem responsible, fall into a pattern of repetitive lying. They often feel that lying is the easiest way to deal with the demands of parents, teachers and friends. These children are usually not trying to be bad or malicious but the repetitive pattern of lying becomes a bad habit.  A serious repetitive pattern of lying should be cause for concern.  Consult a professional adolescent or child psychologist to find out whether help is needed.

The Positive Influence of Being Involved in your Child's Education

It has been shown many times over in research studies that a parent who is involved in their child's education has a positive impact. It's reflected in improved grades and test scores, strong attendance, a higher rate of homework completion, higher graduation rates, improved attitudes and behaviors in the child, as well as the child being more likely to become involved in positive extra-curricular activities. Send out the message early in your child's education that your home is an involved and active supporter of their learning.

Probably the most important element of a positive learning environment at home is structure. But what is too little or too much?  If we're too lenient or expect too little, your child may become disorganized or unmotivated.  If we're too rigid and strict, it can cause undue pressure or cause your child to feel unable to deliver on your expectations. 

So what's the best way to meet in the middle and create a positive learning environment for your child at home? 

Help your child develop a work area where they can study and focus without being interrupted. Children usually do better when they have a private study area away from interruption. If your child prefers doing their work at the kitchen table, make sure other family members understand the kitchen is off-limits during study time.  Make sure your child has plenty of supplies and reference materials available and that the area has plenty of light.  Regardless of its location, ensure the area is quiet and that your child can study and work uninterrupted.

Agree on a regular time for studying. To help your child make homework a habit, schedule a set time each day for homework. Perhaps breaking study time up into smaller increments would work better for your child than one solid period. Work with your child to find out what works best for them. In addition, be sure your child has a sufficient break between the time they arrive home from school before they sit down to work in order to 'decompress' from their school day.

Help your child develop a method of keeping track of homework assignments. This can be a difficult chore for some students. Developing a successful way of keeping track of assignments then scratching them off as completed helps them develop a productive method for accomplishing tasks later in life.
Develop a positive line of communication with your child's teacher.  Teachers are usually very willing and excited to work with an involved parent to help the child's overall success in school.  Whether it's notes sent back and forth in your child's backpack or an e-mail correspondence, make sure your teacher knows your open for suggestions as how to better assist them in the homework and study process at home. 

The Keys to Effective Discipline

Disciplining a child is one of the most important, yet difficult, roles of being a parent.  Effective discipline teaches a child to be self-disciplined later in life.  It helps your child grow up to be happy and well-adjusted. Effective and positive discipline teaches and guides children, and helps them to feel safe, secure, and valued.  

Discipline should be based on a child's age, development and temperament. A parent's goals by disciplining their child is to protect them from danger, to help them learn self-control and self-discipline and to develop a sense of responsibility. 

Children should be respectful of their parent's authority. If they're disciplined harshly or unfairly, especially if it includes shouting or humiliating, will make it difficult if not impossible for a child to respect and trust their parent.

Parents must be consistent in their discipline. Discipline that's not consistent is confusing to children, no matter how old they are. If parents are inconsistent in the way they discipline their children, children may find it hard to respect them. It can also indirectly encourage misbehaving and result in confusion and frustration for the child.

Discipline must also be fair.  Parents must make sure that the punishment fits the crime and doesn't punish too severely or is too lax. The consequences of their actions should be related to their behavior.
In order to discourage bad behavior, give your child choices about what to do. He will appreciate the chance to make decisions. Make sure rules that protect the safety, health and well-being of your child are given top priority.  If your child is irritable, tired or upset, be understanding and try to help calm them. It's important to keep in mind that bad behavior can sometimes be circumstantial. 

Encourage positive behavior in your child by spending quality time alone with your child each day. Give your child hugs, cuddles or a gentle pat on the back, and give praise when praise is due.  If your child is angry or sad, try to understand why.  Teach your child good behavior by setting a good example and behaving properly and appropriately yourself. 

The Importance of Crystal-Clear Rules for your Child

The world is a far more scary and complicated place than it was when you were a child.  As a result, it's imperative that you set adequate yet fair boundaries with your child.  It's a very important role in your parenting responsibilities. Children must make difficult decisions each day, and if they don't have clear, firm boundaries set, they may not always make the wisest choice. Limits teach children proper restraint in social and individual activities and provide children with necessary structure and security to assist in healthy development. Setting limits also provide children with guidance before they have an opportunity to get into trouble, thus making them more successful with everyday life. 

A child's age and developmental level needs to be considered when setting limits. All children have a need for independence and individualization; however, they also need structure, security and parental involvement. It goes without saying that the needs of a 2-year old vary greatly than those of a teenager. A toddler has a strong desire to explore and investigate, but parameters need to be set to ensure their safety while doing so. Teenagers need to be able to be an individual and be independent, but with strong parental guidance and influence, are more likely to make smart choices in difficult situations.

Limits should be discussed and set prior to the situation. Though situations arise that weren't planned on, daily situations should have set limits and expectations. A teenager who breaks curfew may have the privilege of going out with friends revoked until they learn respect for the rules.  A child who misbehaves while playing with a friend may need to be separated from the fun until they can learn to properly behave.
Children respond in a positive manner in an environment in which they know what to expect and what is excepted of them. A child will be more respectful towards rules and more willing to abide by them if the rules are clear and consistent.  Additionally, it's crucial that once a limit is set that they caregiver stick to it.  A child is less likely to try and manipulate a caregiver into changing the limits when their experience has been that there's no bending on the limits.   And remember, you are the one who sets the limits and lays down the law.  There's no need to argue with your child.  Be firm and consistent and they are less likely to challenge the rules and will accept the consequences.

The Importance of a Regular Routine to your Child

Regular schedules provide the day with a structure that orders a young child's world. Although predictability can be tiresome for adults, children thrive on repetition and routine. Schedules begin from the first days of life. Babies, especially, need regular sleep and meal programs and even routines leading up to those activities.

As they gets older, when a child knows what is going to happen and who is going to be there, it allows them to think and feel more independently,  and feel more safe and secure.  A disrupted routine can set a child off and cause them to feel insecure and irritable. 

Dinnertime is a great place to start setting a routine.  Sitting together at the dinner table gives children the opportunity to share their day and talk about their feelings.  This is also a great time to include some responsibility in your child's routine, such as helping to set or clear the table.

And regardless of how exhausted you or your children may be, don't be tempted to skip winding down from the day.  This is part of a nighttime ritual and allows both child and parent to decompress after a busy day.  It also helps bedtime go more smoothly.  This is usually the time of day when parent and child can spend some quality time together, so fight the urge to start the laundry or do the dishes until after the child has gone to bed.  If this isn't possible, consider trading off these duties with your spouse each night to ensure your child has quality time with each parent on a regular basis.  Take the time to find out what wind-down strategy works best for your child.  Some children are actually energized instead of relaxed by a warm bath, so if that's the case with your child, bath time should be saved for a different time of day.  Whatever routine you settle on, make it quiet, relaxing, and tranquil for everyone. 

And though routines are essential, there should be some room to be flexible as well.  You might be out late at night on a family outing, have unexpected company show up that may result in a skipped meal or nap in the car while running errands in the evening.  In these instances, it's important for you to keep your cool.  If you express frustration or anger about disrupting the routine, your child will as well.  Prepare children for such unexpected events and show them that though it can happen from time to time, the routine will return the next day.

The Family that Eats Together Stays Healthy Together

Recent studies have shown that not only do children like to sit down at the dinner table and eat a meal with their parents, but they are more likely to eat a well-balanced, nutritious meal when they do.  But with the hectic lives we seem to lead these days, getting the family all together in the same place at the same time can be a difficult chore. Between work schedules, after-school activities, errands, and the like, it seems we have less and less time.   But with a few simple ideas and some planning, meal time can be an enjoyable and treasured family time.

Designate no less than one night per week to have a sit-down meal with your family.  Sunday nights are usually a good choice for this because you have more time to relax and the weekend chores have been completed. 

Involve your children in the meal planning and preparation.  This gives them a strong sense of self and the foundation for a lifetime of healthy meal planning and preparation. 

Make sure the television is off, and make it a rule that all phone calls go to voice mail or the answering machine during the meal.  Take this time to visit with one another and enjoy one another's company.  This is a great time to reconnect and find out what events happened this week.  Take your time eating, and teach your children how to do the same in the process.  Eating slowly is a healthy habit.  Don't jump up and start clearing dishes and putting things away until everyone is done eating and talking. 

On those days that you can't sit down as a family, try to make a habit of sitting down and chatting with them while they are eating, instead of rushing around catching up on the chores.  This shows them you're interested and that you care and want to be and involved and important part of their every day life. 

The Detrimental Effects of Verbal Abuse and How to Stop the Cycle

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."

That's just not true. Name-calling hurts -- especially when the person doing it is a parent, a teacher, or a coach. Yelling and screaming might have been the way you were brought up and you might think it worked for you, so why wouldn't it work for your kids? But did it? Remember how it made you feel. You probably felt belittled, devalued, and insignificant. You certainly don't want your own children to feel that way.   It may cause emotional trauma that can result in long-term hurt. Among other things, verbal abuse can undermine your child's self-esteem, damage his ability to trust and form relationships, and chip away at his academic and social skills. Name-calling, swearing, insulting, threatening bodily harm, blaming or using sarcasm are all forms of verbal abuse.

What are the signs that a child is suffering from verbal abuse?  They may have a very negative self-image.  They may commit acts that are self-destructive, such as cutting, hitting or scratching themselves, as well as other reckless and dangerous activities. They may exhibit physical aggression, be delinquent in school, or display interpersonal problems.  They may hit other children, frequently fight with classmates at school, or be cruel to animals.  They may also exhibit delays in their social, physical, academic or emotional development.

Recent research suggests that children who suffer from verbal abuse are highly likely to become victims of abuse later in life, become abusive themselves, or become depressed and self-destructive later in life
It's normal for most parents at one time or another to feel frustrated and angry with their children.  They may lash out verbally in these instances and say things they later regret.  It's when these instances become more and more frequent that there is cause for concern.  If this describes you, it's imperative that you seek professional help to learn more positive, meaningful and constructive forms of discipline, and for help in learning methods to control your anger.  Remember to give yourself a time out if you feel an outburst coming on.  Try to refrain from saying mean, sarcastic or belittling things to your child. 

Remember, your child learns what he lives.  Don't be a bad example and teach him bad behavior early on.
Remember that your child is a precious gift and should be treated with love, kindness, respect and tenderness.  If you exhibit these to your child on a daily basis, they will learn what they live and grow to do the same as adults.

Teach your Child to Give Respect and They'll Gain Respect in Return

One of the most important things you can teach your child is respect and the best way to teach respect is to show respect. When a child experiences respect, they know what it feels like and begin to understand how important it is.

Keep in mind the saying "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Respect is an attitude. Being respectful helps a child succeed in life. If children don't have respect for peers, authority, or themselves, it's almost impossible for them to succeed. A respectful child takes care of belongings and responsibilities, and a respectful child gets along with peers.

Schools teach children about respect, but parents have the most influence on how respectful children become. Until children show respect at home, it's unlikely they will show it anywhere else.

How can you show respect to your child?  If you do something wrong, admit it and apologize.  Don't embarrass, insult or make fun of your child. Compliment them and let your child make choices and take responsibility. Listen to your child's side of the story before making a decision on an issue or problem.  Be polite and use "please" and "thank you" when asking them to do things. Knock before entering your child's room. Keep promises. Show your child that you mean what you say. And give your child your full attention.

And most important, teach your children that respect is earned. Make sure that you are leading by example and modeling respectful behavior. Be a law-abiding citizen. Show concern for your environment, animals and other people.  Openly and honestly discuss exampled of witnessed disrespect.

In addition, teach your child to respect themselves. Self-respect is one of the most important forms of respect. Once we respect ourselves, it is easier to respect others.

Help them set and achieve goals. Encourage honesty and teach them that people make mistakes, and that they are the best way to learn.

Most importantly, praise your child often for good deeds, behaviors or traits, and tell them you love them at least several times each day. You're sure to raise a child capable of giving and gaining respect.

Teach Children to Respect by Treating them with Respect

In order to teach or child to treat others with respect and dignity, they must also be treated that way.  And childhood is a time for children to learn about the world, including how to get along with others. Parents play an essential role in teaching children how to form healthy relationships and grow into socially adept individuals.  This social competence allows children to be cooperative and generous, express their feelings, and empathize with others.

The most effective way to teach children this lesson is by modeling the behavior you want to encourage.  Every time you say "please" or lend a helping hand, you are showing your children how you would like them to act. Ask for your children's help with daily tasks, and accept their offers of help. Praise your child's good behavior and traits often, and help them realize how good it feels inside to do a good deed or be generous with another person.

Socially competent children are ones who have a strong sense of self worth and importance.  When a child feels good about themselves, it's easy for them to treat others in a positive, helpful manner.
Encourage acts of generosity through sharing and cooperation.  Let your child know when it's someone else's turn with a toy or on the swing and praise their ability to recognize this on their own.  Thank them for being polite and respectful and for sharing and cooperating.

Children know from their own experiences that words can hurt, and that name-calling, teasing, or excluding others affects how people feel. Children want to be treated fairly, but they don't always understand how to treat others the same way. One way to teach fairness is to explain a rule to your child, pointing out that it applies to him as well as to others.

Take the Bite out of your Toddler's Biting Problem

The majority of toddlers engage in some biting between their first and third birthdays. Probably the most common reason is that it is one of the few ways of communicating that's effective for them, before verbal skills are developed. However, not all children bite. Some choose other forms of communication, such as grabbing, shoving, or punching.

Another reason toddlers bite is to express frustration, a feeling which is very common with toddlers, because both their communication skills and their motor skills are so limited.
To a young toddler it can be funny to see mommy suddenly bolt upright or for a playmate to start crying. Toddlers may also bite because they're teething or because they put everything in their mouths anyway, so why not someone's arm? It could even be something as simple as hunger.

But how do you teach your child not to bite?  Make it perfectly clear that the biting is hurtful and wrong and point out to your child how much pain their biting has caused.  Express that biting is wrong and unacceptable and that neither mommy or daddy like it. 

If you discover that your child is biting out of frustration, try giving them an alternative to express to people they are having a difficult time.  Though language is a difficult task at this age, most toddlers can be taught words that are appropriate for such a situation.  For instance, "You need to tell mommy or daddy that you need help and not bite us," or "Show mommy what you need, but don't bite.  You'll hurt her if you bite and I know you don't want to hurt mommy, do you?"

Experts agree that parents should try not to give biting so much attention that it becomes an attention-getter. This is true of all behavior that you don't want to see repeated.  Firmly tell the child again that there is no biting allowed, that it is wrong, and that it hurts people. 

Tactics for Tackling a Toddler's Temper Tantrum

Even the best behaved toddler has an occasional temper tantrum.  A tantrum can range from whining and crying to screaming, kicking, hitting, and breath holding. They're equally common in boys and girls and usually occur from age 1 to age 3. Some children may experience regular tantrums, whereas for other children, tantrums may be rare. Some kids are more prone to throwing a temper tantrum than others.
Toddlers are trying to master the world and when they aren't able to accomplish a task, they often use one of the only tools at their disposal for venting frustration - a tantrum. There are several basic causes of tantrums that are familiar to parents everywhere: The child is seeking attention or is tired, hungry, or uncomfortable. In addition, tantrums are often the result of children's frustration with the world.  Frustration is an unavoidable part of kids' lives as they learn how people, objects, and their own bodies work.

Tantrums are common during the second year of life, a time when children are acquiring language. Toddlers generally understand more than they can express. As language skills improve, tantrums tend to decrease.

Keep off-limits objects out of sight and out of reach, which will make struggles less likely to develop over them. Distract your child. Take advantage of your little one's short attention span by offering a replacement for the coveted object or beginning a new activity to replace the frustrating or forbidden one.  And choose your battles: consider the request carefully when your child wants something. Is it outrageous? Maybe it isn't. Accommodate when possible to avoid an outburst.

Make sure your child isn't acting up simply because he or she isn't getting enough attention. To a child, negative attention (a parent's response to a tantrum) is better than no attention at all. Try to establish a habit of catching your child being good ("time in"), which means rewarding your little one with attention and praise for positive behavior.  This will teach them that acting appropriately makes mommy and daddy happy and proud, and they'll be anxious to do it again and again.

Successful Two-Way Communications with your Child

One of the most frustrating challenges we face as parents is communicating effectively with our child. Though we strive to open an honest two-way line of communication with our child, we become frustrated when it appears their attention isn't solely on us or the conversation at hand.  Yet we seem to find it's perfectly acceptable to discuss things with them while reading the paper, folding clothes, or working on the computer and then are often left wondering when the lines of communication broke.

Children are by nature easily distracted and not always responsive to their environment. It is the responsibility of the parent to emphasize positive patterns of communication and ensure the child learns that ignoring communication is not acceptable. Early prevention, in the form of educating your child about the proper forms of communication, is the key to ensuring that the non-verbal agreement does not take hold.  Teach your child by example.  Remain completely and totally focused on them and the conversation at hand.  Turn off the television; allow calls to go to the voicemail, or go in a room where there are no distractions.

Talk to your child, and explain to them in age-appropriate terms how they are communicating and why their method doesn't work.  Show your child how to communicate effectively, even when the questions are hard.

Make yourself an active listener.  Let them voice their opinion or side of the story and ask questions to ensure you understand their viewpoint. 

Be constant in the manner in which you communicate with you child. Send the same message with each and every interaction. Allow your child to see that you will call their attention to those times that the unwanted behavior rears its ugly head.

Kids will be kids and they will sometimes be distractive and non-communicative. You are the expert in knowing your child's behavior and can best judge the improvement in their communications. The best way to ensure healthy communication patterns is to model positive communication skills.

Providing a Safe and Secure Home for your Child

Accidents in the home are the primary cause of death in U.S. children.  By taking a few simple precautions, these injuries can be avoided, making your home safe for your child and the children who visit it.

In your kitchen, you should be sure to install safety latches on cabinets and drawers. This helps keep them out of the everyday household chemicals you use to clean your home and dishware with, and also keeps them from grabbing sharp objects like scissors or knives from inside the drawers. Use the back burners when cooking on the stovetop, and keep the handles of your pots and pans turned out of a curious child's reach while cooking.

Safety latches should be installed on cabinets and drawers in your bathrooms as well to keep them out of unsafe household cleaning products and medicines.  Be sure to unplug any electrical appliance such as a blow dryer or curling iron directly after use and put out of a child's reach.  Teach them early that electricity and water do not mix and that no electrical appliances of any kind should ever be immersed in or placed under running water.  Toilet locks should also be used in homes that have small children to keep lids down.  Young children are 'top heavy' and can easily fall into a toilet if they lean in to play in it.  Since a young child can drown in less than just an inch of water, it is imperative to closely supervise them in the bathroom at all times.

Around your house, be sure to secure furniture such as bookshelves and heavy furniture that could tip easily to the wall using brackets.  Use doorknob covers to keep them out of rooms with potential hazards and to keep them from leaving the house unsupervised.  Make sure your window blinds do not have looped cords on them as they can present a strangulation hazard to a young child.  And always cover your electrical outlets with protective covers to keep small fingers from them and small objects from being inserted into them. 

Check your house over carefully for other potential hazards and address them immediately.  With these precautions and some common sense, your household will be your child's haven. 

Protect your Child's Emotional Well-Being

In our effort to balance very full and hectic lives with our families and our jobs, we may have been neglecting an all-important facet of our child's life:  their emotional well-being.  The first three years of a child's life is a critical time for a child, and the trauma of changing child care providers or having a 'part-time' parent float in and out of their life can be very traumatic and destabilizing for them.  It's imperative that parents, educators, involved adults and care providers make a concerted joint effort to ensure that a child's emotional needs are met on a daily basis, just as their physical needs are.  The effects of not meeting a child's emotional needs, especially during the first three years of life, can have devastating consequences. Violent, disruptive or defiant behaviors can result.

The first three years of life are critical in a number of ways. This is when bonding and emotional separation takes place.  If there are interruptions in either of these processes, misbehaviors from the child can result. This can later have an affect on their relationships later in life and hinder them in developing their own healthy relationships as adolescents or adults.

During the first three years of life, the brain goes through its most rapid development ever, the likes of which will never been experienced again. By the time they are three years old, a child's brain is already 'hardwired' from the experiences they've had to that point.  It's imperative that these be loving, supportive, safe, positive experiences so the brain will be conditioned to expect positive things.  If they've been frightening, hurtful, abusive, or dangerous, then the brain is conditioned to expect negative occurrences.
Therefore it's critical that parents, caregivers and other involved adults make a concerted effort to make sure the child's emotional needs are met in a positive, constructive and healthy manner.  Parents should ensure that the child's care providers are stable and consistent, and don't move them around to different childcare providers during this important phase. Ensure a child feels safe and secure with structured and consistent schedules and routines.  Be sure to spend as much quality time with your child at this time as possible, regardless of your otherwise busy and hectic lifestyle.  A child can sense that such a schedule is stressful to you and it can become a frightening or confusing element for them.  Therefore it's important to take time out to reassure them that you're never too busy for them.

Remember that your child's emotional well-being is just as important as their physical, so do your part to ensure your child knows he's growing up safe, secure, treasured and loved.

Productive and Positive Potty Training

Your child's showing all the signs of being ready to potty train. That's great! But now, where do you start?
Explain to your toddler that going potty is a normal process of life and everyone does it, even animals. Talk with them about the toilet, a special place where they can potty just like the big kids. Tell him how the potty works and let him try flushing himself. Explain that they will be wearing underwear and not diapers.  Find some educational and entertaining videos of their favorite characters learning to go potty. Be sure to involve other family members in the process and emphasize the importance of consistency during this process.

Make a special trip to the store and purchase new underwear with your toddler.  Let them have a voice in what you get. The underwear will have much more significance if your toddler helped choose them.
Overalls, pants with lots of buttons, snaps or zips, tight or restrictive clothing and oversized shirts will all be an obstacle to your child during this process. Put these kinds of clothes away for the time being.
Decide whether or not you're going to use pull-ups, training pants or regular underwear and try to stick with this decision so your child has consistency and isn't confused. Think about whether or not you want to use rewards or not. Figure out a strategy on how to handle potty issues when you're away from home.
If your child is in child care, ask your provider for their advice and make sure there aren't any hard and fast rules the center or caregiver has in place that may be an issue. Let them know that you're going to start and enlist their help with the process. 

Praise your child for each successful trip to the potty, and comfort them when accidents happen and try to remain patient and calm when they do. Avoid using candy or other treats as reinforcement. Let them know that it will take a while to get the hang of using the potty, and encourage and praise each attempt they make.  With consistency, encouragement and praise, they'll soon be completely trained.

Present a Unified Parental Front When Disciplining your Child

Disciplining your child is never easy.  You probably know from experience and mistakes how important it is to be consistent, firm and to always follow through with designated disciplinary consequences.  But when there are two parents involved, it's crucial they are both on the same page and apply discipline consistently regardless of marital status.

Parents should agree on how to discipline their children. To become reliable to children, both parents must be consistent in dealing with similar situations. In a situation where the parents are separated or divorced, disagreeing with each other over upbringing can create a confusing situation for children.  They should make a concerted effort to keep their child's best interests at heart and sit down with their child and line out the rules and expectations and the consequences for violating those rules.  Both should agree that the intended discipline is fair, and apply it consistently in a firm yet fair manner in each home.
In addition, if there are disagreements regarding discipline or other parenting issues, they are best resolved when the child is not present.  If the child senses discord, they may attempt to manipulate the situation to their advantage. 

When teaching good behavior, parents should "practice what they preach." Children learn values and beliefs more by examples adults set than by verbal instructions. Screaming at a child to be quiet or paddling a child for hitting is hypocritical and ineffective. Decide what is important and what parental response to use to teach your child. It would be more effective to calmly tell your child to be quiet or use "time-out" when a child is physically aggressive.

And remember what works now may not work later down the road. Situations may dictate a different approach, and time and maturity may demand a child's rule be modified or abolished altogether. Sometimes your common sense will help you decide when bedtime rules should be modified or table manners relaxed.  Some rules will be the same, others will be modified or abolished, and new ones will be introduced. But regardless of the situation, parents should always present a unified front and work together and not against each other in providing effective discipline for their child.

Positive Praise for your Child's Pride

Praising a child correctly is important to the development of positive behaviors. It's a great way to encourage constructive future behavior. When you give praise you are giving your child a feeling of positive feedback, which increases their sense of confidence, self esteem and abilities.  When you praise your child, you are pointing out the way they've acted, an action they've taken, or simply who they are. When your child looks good, tell him so. When your child does anything that pleases you, let him know. You should also praise a child's effort to do well, even if it doesn't come out so good in the end. You should find something each day about your child to praise.

Be on the lookout constantly for behaviors or actions deserving of praise, but don't be over the top about it.  Be sincere and honest in your praise. Wait for unexpected or previously unnoticed good behavior and praise your child for it.  And when you see such action or behaviors, praise immediately so the child will know exactly what behavior or action was deemed praiseworthy. It's also very important to look your child square in the eye when you praise him, and reinforce the positive behavior, action or trait being praised with a gesture such as a warm smile, a hug, scruff of the hair, or caress his face while you tell him.

Be exact, and state precisely what action, behavior or trait you find praiseworthy.  And most importantly, never directly follow praise with criticism or negative comments.  Let your child know what they did right and reward them for it before you let them know what they did wrong and punish for misbehaving or a misdeed.

So be sure to admire and congratulate your child and celebrate the good person they are growing into by praising their positive actions, behaviors and traits daily.  You'll be building a strong sense of self in your child and you'll grow closer as a result.

Positive Discipline without Hurting your Child

Children always seem to find a way to 'push our buttons' at times and really try our patience.  It's easy to feel irritated, sad, angry, annoyed, confused and hurt.  It's at these times when our parenting skills are really tested, and that it's imperative we maintain a kind but firm stance when it comes to doling out the discipline.  And let's face it - none of us ever want to hurt our child with physical or verbal abuse.  We want to teach our child that such things are wrong, and punishing a misdeed or inappropriate action by yelling or hitting is hypocritical at best. 

Our goal when disciplining our children is to teach them to be responsible, cooperative, kind and respectful.  The best way to teach this is to always remain consistent, follow through with the same punishment for the same misdeed, and to discuss the discipline with your child openly and honestly afterwards.

Always keep in mind that the age, maturity level, and temperament of your child should always be considered when enforcing a set disciplinary action.  Disciplinary actions should be discussed and understood in advance so that children know what they have coming when they've misbehaved and can give pause and hopefully choose an appropriate route to avoid it.  And most importantly, remember that it's not the child you dislike; it's his or her chosen behavior, action or misdeed.

If you need to, give yourself a brief 'time out' before responding with appropriate discipline.  Sometimes we need a short cooling off period before dealing with our children's misdeeds in order to avoid a misdeed of our own.  Yelling and hitting should never be an option. 

Keep an open mind as a parent, and be willing to learn with and from your child.  We all make mistakes and it's important to realize that not every form of discipline works with every child. Children are just as unique as adults are, and forms of discipline should be tailored to fit the individual needs of both parent and child.  But with a little forethought, patience, firmness, love and understanding, the discipline can have a positive outcome for all involved.

Physical Punishment is Ineffective and Harmful

Effective discipline does not involve physical punishment of children. Recent studies have shown a direct link between physical punishment and several negative developmental outcomes for children including physical injury, increased aggression, antisocial behavior, difficulty adjusting as an adult and a higher tolerance towards violence. Research has also shown that physical punishment poses a risk to the safety and development of children. It is crucial for parents to gain an awareness of other approaches to discipline because it is all too simple for physical punishment to turn into child abuse and result in severe physical injury, detrimental emotional damage and even death. Each year thousands of children continue to die as a result of physical abuse. Children have a right to be protected from physical abuse, and laws in every state demand severe punishment for those found guilty of physically harming a child.

Most parents do not want to use physical punishment as a form of discipline.  A child that lives in an abusive environment is likely to grow up and either be abusive themselves or have severe social, emotional, physical and cognitive delays in development.  Parents' disciplinary methods serve as strong models to children that teach them how to deal with life's day-to-day challenges. It is important for parents to model appropriate behavior and to establish expectations as well as limits. Children have a right to live in a safe, secure and nurturing environment, and their dignity must be respected. Parents must consistently use fair and logical consequences whenever children fail to follow rules. They must keep in mind that a child is not a miniature adult, but only a child and that discipline must be age appropriate and fit the child's temperament and maturity. 

Adults who recognize they have a problem with physically abusing their children should immediately seek professional help and ensure their children are taken to a safe environment to avoid harming them further.

Our Ever-Changing Role as a Parent

We watch our children grow right before our very eyes.  It seems like yesterday they were a baby learning to crawl, walk, and feed themselves, and now they're in school, involved in activities, making friends, and learning to be more and more independent.  Parents before us have said that from the time they're born, we are constantly learning to let go.  As a result, our parenting strategies have to change. As our child grows, develops, learns, and matures, so does our parenting role.

As your child has grown, you undoubtedly have discovered they have their own unique personality and temperament.  You've probably unconsciously redeveloped your parenting skills around the individual needs of your child.  And no two children are exactly alike, and therefore, neither should your parenting style.  Some children may need more guidance and feel more unsure of themselves, so we've become used to having to guide, lead, show and encourage that child consistently through their childhood while still trying to encourage independence and give praise in order to build their self esteem and confidence level.  Yet another child may be very intrinsically motivated and very willful and not need a great deal of guidance or leadership from you. While you encourage their independence, it's also important that you also encourage their ability to ask for help when needed and continue to praise good deeds, actions, and traits.  

The most important tools we have in order to successfully adjust our parenting skills are our eyes and our ears.  We have to see what's going on with our child and we have to hear what they are telling us.  It's important that we encourage our child to be their own individual while still being available to them at whatever level or degree they need us to be.  Sometimes it's situation-specific as well.  A child may not need us to be as directly involved with their schooling to ensure their overall academic success, but they may need us to be more involved in their social life as they may be feeling a bit shaky or scared when it comes to making new friends or meeting new people. 

So the bottom line is this:  as your child grows and changes, so should your parenting skills.  Keep your eyes and ears open and communicate honestly and openly with your child, and you'll both mature gracefully.

The Process of Negotiating the Rules with your Child

We all know as parents that discussing and negotiating the rules with our children is never easy.  Children are all very different, and what might need to be a rule for one, may not even be an issue for another.  That being said, there are many parameters that we set as parents that are the hard and fast rules - those with no 'wiggle room.' Those are the rules set forth to protect our child's health, safety and well-being.  These rules and their consequences should be very clearly defined and it should be understood by all involved that they are there for a very important reason and that they are 'all or nothing.' 

Rules that keep our children safe are of the utmost importance.  These could include everything from teaching youngsters not to touch the hot stove to teaching your school aged child the importance of obeying the laws while riding their bicycle.  Children need to understand these rules are to be followed to the letter and there is no room for negotiation here. 

For adolescents and teenagers, such rules should include expectations about drinking, the use of illegal drugs, or safe defensive driving.  These rules are also imperative to a child's health, well-being and safety.  There should be no room for experimentation or relaxing the rules in specific social situations. 

There are rules that can be fairly and equitably negotiated with your children as well.  Rules regarding how many hours per week can be spent on video game playing, what time a child is expected home for dinner, what time each night homework is to be completed, or how late a teenager is allowed to stay out on weekend nights are all rules that can be discussed openly and honestly between you and your child. These should also be consistent, however.  Don't' allow 11 p.m. one weekend night and then tell your teenager 9:30 the following weekend night when going out with the same group of friends.  If your teenager broke the 11 p.m. curfew the weekend before, the consequence of losing the privilege of going out that weekend should be strictly enforced.  Don't bend the rule just because your teenager seems genuinely sorry and promises never to do it again.  Consequences should be consistent, fair, and always followed through.    

Make Quality Time with your Child Count

In today's busy world, work, household chores and social activities all put a strain on your time with your child. But as you well know, it's imperative that you spend quality time together. It helps strengthen the bond between parent and child, and lets your child know you can be trusted and counted on. Children who spend quality time with their parents often do better in school, and excel in extracurricular activities, hobbies or sports. And though it can be 'scheduled' to a degree, it's something that happens when you least expect it.  Therefore it's important that you do spend as much time as possible with your child in a relaxed atmosphere and do things together that you both enjoy. 

But you're asking yourself, "Where am I going to find the time? My schedule's crazy enough as it is!" Well, for something as important as your child, you need to start digging around in that crazy schedule and find the time.  Prioritizing is the key. 

Here's some helpful suggestions on how to make the most of your time and find quality time where you least expect it.

Look at your household chore list and decide which ones can be left undone or be done imperfectly in order to make more family time.  You might also want to consider leaving certain things until after your child has gone to bed to make the most of your time together.

Turn some of your everyday routines together count.  Sing some favorite silly songs on the way to daycare, or make that drive to and from school a great opportunity to discuss what's happening in your child's life.

If you have more than one child, realize that each of them needs your individual attention. You may really have to juggle things around to make this happen, but try to be flexible and creative when spending time with each of your kids.  And no matter what, don't skip those individual times with each child.  By doing so you show them they're lower down on the priority list than the dry cleaning or the grocery shopping.
Children thrive on stability and routines, so plan your quality times so that they can take place regularly. Maybe you can walk the dog together on weekend morning, take a shopping excursion together, have a scheduled night each week for a sit-down dinner together, or make a trip to the park.

Learn from Your Mistakes and so will Your Child

Everyone makes mistakes. Granted, some mistakes are more significant than others and harder to get over, but they are a part of life. How individuals deal with those mistakes is significant to their self-esteem.  Children who are taught from an early age to admit to their mistakes understand that it's not a crime to make one, and they seem to have the ability to cope much better with them.  They recognize that a mistake was made and admit the error. Most importantly, these children also develop a strategy to change the mistake and not do the same thing again.

The process of making and learning from mistakes is an extremely valuable life skill for everyone because learning involves risking. Every time children risk, they will not always succeed.  But they tried something new and most likely learned from it as a result. 

Children with low self-esteem deal with making a mistake quite differently. More often than not, these children use the experience to devalue themselves. Instead of looking at the error as an opportunity to learn, these children interpret the experience as a reason to quit and never try again. They view it as a devaluing and humiliating experience.

You can help your child cope with mistakes by first making sure they understand that everyone makes mistakes, even you.  Own up to your own mistakes to teach them there's no shame in making them. Make sure they understand that it's okay to make mistakes.  This presents a great opportunity to tell your child what you've learned to do differently the next time.  Then, offer strategies to turn mistakes into learning opportunities. In the process, you can provide your child with an opportunity to enhance their self-esteem and accept responsibility for the mistakes they make. Help your child to realize that the mistake is the problem, and not them.  Then help them develop a positive plan for the next time around, and what they'll do differently the next time to avoid making the same mistake again.

Interrupt your Child's Interruption Habit

Trying to teach your child not to interrupt can sometimes be an exercise in frustration. 
Telling them there's a time to interrupt (in case of a fire) and a time to not interrupt (boredom) isn't enough. But putting these principles into practice is easier said than done, especially for a very verbal or high-energy kid. That's why now is a good time to revisit some basic lessons about good manners and teaching your child to wait their turn to speak.

First of all, set a reasonable expectation. School-aged children have a difficult time holding their thoughts for more than a few minutes.  Indicate to her as best as you can that you'll be with them as soon as possible and then stay true to your word. 

Develop some ideas for them to occupy themselves with while you're on the phone or otherwise unavailable. Keep a box full of puzzles, crayons, colorful markers or other quiet toys nearby that they can only use when you have to make a call. Set snacks and drinks on an accessible level so they don't have to interrupt you for help.

When you need to make a call or have an important conversation with a visitor, head off trouble by saying you're about to phone someone or have a conversation and estimate how long you expect to talk. Ask them if they need anything before you make your call or have your conversation with your company. Then do your best to adhere to that time schedule, and excuse yourself from the conversation long enough to check on them. Let them know you'll be a bit longer if that's the case and see if they need anything before returning to your conversation.

Reading is a great tool to teach manners.  Find several books on the subject then read them together. Discuss afterwards what your child learned from the story and how they'll handle a similar situation in their life the next time it occurs.

And as always, children learn what they live.  Your child is very unlikely to learn not to interrupt if they hears you, your spouse, or their siblings constantly interrupting each other.  Your actions have a strong influence on your child, so be a good example and ask permission to speak before speaking, and apologize when you inadvertently interrupt.

Hobbies are Healthy

Hobbies benefit children in many ways. It gives a child an opportunity to express themselves, and it allows them to discover themselves and build self-esteem. They are also great educational tools. A child interested in rock collecting learns about geology and science, and a child in writing stories learns about sentence structure and proper grammar. Hobbies teach children to set and achieve goals, solve problems and make decisions.  They can also set the course for what your child becomes later in life as they often turn into lifelong interests or careers. 

Children who have hobbies are usually following in their parents footsteps, so set a good example by pursuing your own hobby.  Your child will need space for their hobby, so find an area designated specifically for his hobby so he can work on it. Realize that hobbies can sometimes be quite messy, so be at the ready for messes as they come with the territory.

Be available to your child to provide guidance, support and encouragement.  This is a great time to teach your child strong work habits, such as following directions closely, setting goals, and proper planning and organization.  Show them that nothing worthwhile is ever easy, especially when they begin to become frustrated with their progress.  It's also a good time to teach them about personal responsibility and show them how important it is to properly care for their work area and their 'tools of the trade.'

Children will be more encouraged to work on their hobbies if activities like watching television or playing video games are limited.  It's been noted by experts that by age 15, the average child has spent more time watching television than sitting in a classroom.  Again, here's where setting a good example is crucial.  Instead of watching that four-hour football game on Saturday, turn the TV off and work on your own hobby.  Your child may want to join in or work on their own as a result.

Hobbies are rewarding and enriching parts of our lives, so encourage your child to explore his own interests and find a hobby of their very own.

Help your Child Kick the Thumb Sucking Habit

Thumb sucking is a concern many parents have. Toddlers suck their thumbs because it's comforting and calming. It's probably something they did before they were born and revert back to it when they are nervous, agitated, scared or ill.  They may also use it to lull themselves back to sleep in the middle of the night.

Parents shouldn't concern themselves unless it continues after the age their permanent teeth begin to appear, around six years old. Experts say that it's the intensity of the thumb sucking and the tongue's thrust that deforms teeth and makes braces necessary later. Children who rest their thumb passively in their mouth are less likely to have difficulty than children who suck aggressively. If you're concerned, closely monitor your child and analyze his technique. If they appears to be sucking vigorously, you may want to begin curbing their habit earlier.

Punishing or nagging your child to stop won't help because it's usually an automatic response. Attempting to curb it by putting an elastic bandage on his thumb or another method will seem like unjust punishment, especially since they indulge in the habit for comfort and security.

Try to wait it out. Children usually give up thumb-sucking when they've found other ways to calm and comfort themselves. Consider offering them other alternatives to comfort themselves such as a soft blanket or lullaby toy

The key is to notice when and where they are likely to suck their thumbs and offer an alternative.  If it happens while they are tired, try giving more naps.  If they suck their thumb frequently while watching television, try to distract them with a toy that will keep their hands occupied. 

Older children may need gentle reminders to curtail thumb sucking while in public, and praise should be given freely when the child finds and uses an acceptable alternative.  Your child's pediatric dentist can offer other suggestions for helping your child kick the thumb sucking habit.

Harsh Discipline: Does it do More Harm than Good?

Recent studies suggest that low-income parents tend to endorse much harsher discipline, partially because they hold stronger beliefs about the value of spanking and experience higher levels of stress.
However, parents who work in high-stress jobs or are stay-at-home parents who are feeling frustrated or isolated are also at risk.  It's imperative that parents recognize their tendency to punish a child too severely and take the needed steps to make sure the punishment is appropriate for their child's age, temperament and maturity level. 

The study's finding showed that parents from lower income levels or work high pressure jobs are more stressed, and they react more emotionally to their child's behavior, and thus use harsher discipline. A parent in this situation may benefit from outside assistance and learning about alternative disciplinary strategies that are more appropriate and less harsh. 

It's also important for a parent to realize that children thrive on praise.  Parents in such a situation may always jump to discipline but fail to praise their child for their good deeds, behaviors and traits.  Children instinctively want to please their parents and make them proud.  By encouraging positive behavior, the parent will most likely discourage the behavior that has driven them in the past to punish too harshly. 
In order to encourage positive behavior deserving of praise, parents might want to consider giving their child a task they know they're able to accomplish, and praise their efforts along the way.  Parents need to also consistently praise their children for the positive traits they possess.  Their child might be good at math in school, helpful to their little brother or sister, or is good at drawing pictures.  Praise these good traits and the child is likely to respond by acting appropriately and behaving positively in order to gain more praise.

In the end, it's important to remember that a child is just that - a child.  A parent should make a concerted effort to make sure the discipline is appropriate and take care of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally so they can optimally provide for their child's physical and emotional well-being. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Handling Conflict about Rules Enforcement at Home

Some parents may worry that setting strict rules may distance them from their children.  But this simply isn't the case.  Though they may gripe and complain and get upset when you become the enforcer, they realize deep down that this shows you care.  These parameters you set forth and enforce make your child feel loved, safe, and secure. 

It's never easy developing and introducing rules. Parents may tend to avoid setting rules because they fear confrontation and unpleasantness. But the uncomfortable stuff isn't necessarily a reflection on your relationship with your child, it's just the nature of adolescence - breaking rules and pushing limits is a part of growing up.  We tend to want to be our child's friend sometimes, and when we're laying down the law that just isn't possible.  Our primary role is to protect, nurture and provide for our children. 

When kids break rules, parents often overreact with harsh, disproportionate and unenforceable punishment, which undermines the effectiveness of setting rules. Instead, when you first tell your child about a new rule, discuss the consequences of breaking that rule - what the punishment will be and how it will be carried out. Consequences must go hand in hand with limits so that your child knows what the cost of breaking the rules will be. The punishments you set should be reasonable and related to the violation. For example, if you catch your son and his friends smoking, you might "ground" him by restricting his social activities for two weeks.

Punishments should only involve penalties you discussed before the rule was broken. Also, never issue empty threats. It's understandable that you'll be angry when house rules are broken, and sharing your feelings of anger, disappointment, or sadness can have a powerfully motivating effect on your child. Since we're all more inclined to say things we don't mean when we're upset, it's sometimes best to give ourselves a time-out period to cool off before we say something we don't mean.
Make the ground rules crystal clear to your child.  It's imperative that you are consistent and follow through with a defined disciplinary action after each infraction, and that your child understands the reasons why.      


Get Involved in your Child's Activities, Hobbies and School

It's probably no secret that children who have involved parents are more happy, healthy, and well-adjusted and excel at their educational and extracurricular pursuits.  It can increase their cognitive development, keeps them motivated, strengthens the parent-child relationship, and has a direct positive influence on their overall academic achievement.  In turn, it can also help parents achieve a positive outlook on their parenting, increase their own self confidence and self esteem, and will most likely feel more satisfied with their child's educational experience at school.

But where do you get involved?   With today's busy schedules between home, work, and school, it may feel that the average family has very little quality time to offer.  However, different options and levels of commitment are available to fit every parent's availability, and with some careful planning and dedication, you can make it a positive experience for both yourself and your child.

First of all, discover what your child is most passionate about.  Maybe you've thought about volunteering for the school bake sale to raise money, but your child is actually more actively involved in her local Girl Scouts troop.   If that's the case, then get together with the other Girl Scout parents and see what you can contribute to help the troop.  Maybe you could organize a bake sale to benefit their next summer outing. 
It's also important to consider what skills, talents and abilities you can bring to the table.  Maybe your child's school is in desperate need of your help organizing a fundraiser, but your skills in sewing and designing might better serve the school if you were to help in making the costumes for the school play.  Remember, you want this to be a positive experience for both of you, and if your child senses that you're not happy with what you've chosen to become involved in, then they likely will not be happy as well. 
But the bottom line is get involved and stay involved.  Children of involved parents are less likely to get into mischief, have emotional problems, or have problems in school.  You benefit by connecting with and staying connected to your child.  It's a win-win situation for you both.

Follow Through Is the Key to Successful Discipline

Let's face it.  There are just some days when it would just seem easier to let your child have his way than feeling like you're fighting a losing battle when trying to discipline them.  They beg, plead, cry, barter and scream - anything to get out of doing the time for their crime.  However, don't lose your strength and your will during this time.  It's times like these when consistent disciplinary action is imperative to teaching your child positive and acceptable behaviors.  There is no room for negotiation when it comes to bad behaviors and there should be no room for exceptions when it comes time for punishing misdeeds or bad behavior. 

Hopefully before any misdeeds occur, you've sat down with your child and discussed the consequences of misdeeds and inappropriate behavior or decisions.  Be concise and consistent when discussing these consequences so that when the time to implement them comes, you can follow through with ease.  Children are classically testing the boundaries and limits set on them on a continual basis, and the temptation to 'bend the rules' just once or twice can be overwhelming when they're really trying your patience.  But be firm yet fair.  Emphasize that this was the understood consequence for this particular misdeed or inappropriate action, and that now is not the time to negotiate.  Afterwards, take time out to discuss the situation with your child, and if it seems that perhaps a consequence that worked at first isn't working anymore, rethink that punishment and negotiate with your child.  Of course, parameters that are set for their well-being or safety should never be negotiated.  But in other instances, it may be time to develop a new consequence based on your child's age, temperament or maturity level. 

It's also imperative that your spouse and any other adult caregivers are all on the same page and following through on punishments with the same level of consistency and clarity.  Should you determine that what was once working isn't working anymore and develop a new parameter, be sure all adult caregivers are brought into the loop so that follow through remains consistent and clear.

Expect Only the Best from Your Child

Expect the best from your child.  If you expect the best behavior and performance you're your child, it's often what you will get.  Children pick up on our beliefs about them, form a self-concept that matches that belief, and perform accordingly. If we expect them to be lazy, they'll be lazy, which will confirm our expectations for them, and the cycle toward failure is started. If, on the other hand, we expect our kids to be successful, productive, creative, and responsible and honestly believe it to be true, then our children can't help but rise to the occasion and confirm our best opinions of them with their positive actions. So expect nothing but the best from your children and watch them fulfill your expectations. 

Praise your child often when they perform a good deed or accomplish a new task.  Set simple, clear and consistent rules so your child knows exactly what is expected and the consequences of misbehaving or breaking the rules. Maintain a consistent daily routine for your child as much as possible, and make sure your child gets lots of physical activity and time to play and socialize with their friends.  Encourage your child to learn how to make appropriate choices, and encourage your child to do things for themselves. Allow your child to talk about strong feelings, which will help them work through their anger and frustration. 

Above all, be a positive role model for your child, as their strongest educator is your example.  Take care of yourself, and expect the best from yourself.  Make appropriate choices and be firm yet fair when disciplining your child. Make sure to spend lots of quality time with your child, and encourage them to become involved in activities that foster cooperation and a sense of accomplishment.  If you have great expectations of your child, you'll be greatly pleased in the end.

Encouraging Play Encourages a Child's Development

We've all heard the term, "Oh, that's child's play." It implies something is easy, frivolous and unimportant in the overall scheme of things.  But to a child, child's play is essential to their mental, social, emotional, and physical development. 

We all know that children like to play. But what we may not know is the importance of play in a child's life. Play is essential to every area of a child's growth and development.

Play provides a means for energy to be put to use. It strengthens and refines small and large motor skills, and it builds stamina and strength. Sensory learning develops mostly through play. Play is significant to physical development in that without it the body could not grow and develop normally.

Children possess a natural curiosity. They, explore, learn and make sense out of their environment by playing. Parents and educators alike can support this learning activity by ensuring age-appropriate toys, materials and environments are available to the child.

Play enables children to know things about the world and to discover information essential to learning. Through play children learn basic concepts such as colors, counting, how to build things, and how to solve problems. Thinking and reasoning skills are at work every time a child engages in some type of play.
Children learn to relate to one another, negotiate roles, share, and obey rules through play. They also learn how to belong to a group and how to be part of a team. A child obtains and retains friends through play.

Play fulfills many needs including a sense of accomplishment, successfully giving and receiving attention, and the need for self-esteem. It helps them develop a strong sense of self, and is emotionally satisfying to them.  They learn about fairness, and through pretending learn appropriate ways of expressing emotion such as anger, fear, frustration, stress and discover ways of dealing with these feelings.

So encourage your child's play.  Color pictures, make finger paintings, build buildings and imaginary cities with blocks, and built a tent in the middle of the living room and go camping! And as we all know, childhood is fleeting, so let them enjoy being a kid while they are one!

Encourage your Child to Feel Important

It's imperative for a child's healthy development to feel important and worthy.  Healthy self-esteem is a child's armor against the challenges of the world. Kids who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily and enjoy life. These kids are realistic and generally optimistic.  It's also been shown that children who feel important are well-rounded, respectful, and excel in academics, extracurricular activities and hobbies and develop healthy relationships with their peers. 

In contrast, for children who do not feel important or cherished have low self-esteem, and challenges can become sources of major anxiety and frustration. Children who think poorly of themselves have a hard time finding solving problems, and may become passive, withdrawn, or depressed.
You are the biggest influence in your child feeling important, valued and worthy.  Remember to praise your child for a job well done, and also for putting for a valiant effort.  Praise the good traits they naturally possess, and help them find ways to learn from their mistakes and failures.  Be honest and sincere in your praise.  Help them realize that you also suffer from self doubt and can make mistakes from time to time, but that you know that you are important, valued and loved.  When you nurture your own self -esteem and importance, your child will learn to do the same, so be sure to lead by example and steer clear of self-depreciating yourself or engaging in activities that lower your self-worth or importance. 

Your child may have inaccurate or irrational beliefs about themselves, their abilities or their traits.  Accentuate the positive about your child, and encourage your child to set realistic expectations and standards for themselves.  Help them identify traits or skills they'd like to improve and help them come up with a game plan for accomplishing that goal. Encourage your child to become involved in cooperative activities that foster a sense of teamwork and accomplishment.

Through these and other positive, affirming activities, your child is sure to develop a strong sense of self importance, value and worth which will carry into their adult years.

Do As I Say and As I Do

Children learn to imitate at a very young age.  It's how they learn to behave, care for themselves, develop new skills, and communicate with others. From their earliest moments they watch you closely and pattern their own behavior and beliefs after yours. Your examples become permanent images, which will shape their attitudes and actions for the rest of their life.
It's important to be responsible, consistent and loving with your child.  This also holds true for the relationship you have with your spouse, your parents, and other family members and friends that are also a part of your child's life.  Own up to mistakes when you make them, and communicate open and honestly with all family members. 
It's also important to take good care of yourself.  When we're focusing on what's best for our child it's easy to neglect our own needs.  Your child and your family are counting on you physically and emotionally, so it's imperative that you teach your child by example that taking care of yourself helps you to take care of them and the rest of your family.  This shows your child that not only do you love them and the rest of the family, but you love yourself as well.  This is an important step in teaching your child about self esteem.  This may involve getting a sitter and treating yourself out to dinner and a movie, or doing another favorite activity on your own.  This teaches your child that you are not only their parent, but your own person with your interests and needs, and also gives them a chance to show you how well they can do without you with them for a while.
It's also important to nurture your relationship with your spouse.  Let your child see you communicate in a positive and healthy manner with one another, and show love and affection for one another so your child can begin to learn early on what a healthy marriage should be like. 
You'll soon see your child patterning many of his behaviors after your own.  So make sure that what you say and do around your child will help build a strong sense of security and self esteem.

Control your Anger, Don't let it Control You

Anger can be a paralyzing and debilitating condition.  But it can be a terrifying and degrading experience for your child if you're taking your anger out on them.  Physical and verbal abuse of a child can have lasting and lethal implications, so it's crucial that as a parent, you do whatever necessary to get your anger in check.

As a parent, you have a wonderful opportunity to undo the wrongs that were done to you as a child if you had an angry and abusive parent or parents. It can be very curative and demonstrate you where your troubles lie are and inspire you to fix them. Perhaps your past is filled with unresolved hurt and anger.  If so, take the necessary steps to heal yourself.  If you don't, you could unwillingly and unthinkingly harm your child. Studies have shown that children whose mothers often express anger are more likely to be difficult to discipline.  Identify problems from your past and honestly look at current situations that are angering you. Maybe you aren't fulfilled at work; perhaps your spouse and you are having relationship troubles, maybe you have other personal issues or unfulfilled goals that are bothering you. If all your child ever sees is your angry face and hears an angry voice, that's what they'll most likely grow into as well.

It's important to 'pick your battles' when parenting. Accidents and nuisances don't warrant the energy and agony it takes to get angry.  But misbehaviors such as a child hurting themselves, others or property demand a firm, quick and appropriate response from you. You will probably have to continually remind yourself that the small stuff isn't worth getting worked up over. And remind yourself also that you're the one in control of your anger; don't let your anger control you.  Put yourself in time out, take a deep breath, walk away, do whatever you have to in order to get a grip on yourself before addressing the situation if you feel your anger coming on strong.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Constructing Your Child's Healthy Sense of Self Esteem

Constructing Your Child's Healthy Sense of Self Esteem
Your child's self esteem is their mental foundation. A self-assured child is confident, secure, happy, well-adjusted and successful. They can solve problems that come their way, and it thrives under a loving parent's nurturing care.
What are some good ways to built self esteem in your child?
Most importantly, accept your child for who they are, and help them do the same. Teach your child that nobody is perfect, and that everyone makes mistakes. Show them how to learn and grow from their mistakes, and let them know that you also make mistakes.   Children with high self esteem are able to take lessons from mistakes and apply them down the road.  A child with low self esteem become frustrated and resort to self-depreciating behavior, such as calling themselves 'stupid' and vowing to 'never try that again.'
Help your child discover their abilities and talents, and encourage outlets for them to build on and improve them.  Praise a child not only for improvements in abilities and skills, but also for the traits they naturally possess.
Encourage your child to make positive choices.  Open an honest dialog with your child and discuss the possibilities with them.  Children who learn skills for making positive choices when they are younger are well-prepared for the tougher choices they have to make when they are older.
Ensure that you spend lots of quality time with your child, at least once a week. Whether you are shooting baskets or going out to grab a hamburger, take time to talk and keep in touch.  If you find it difficult to squeeze in quality time during a hectic week, take the time to talk about things during the drive to school or while they are helping you put the groceries away.

Consistency is Key to Successful Discipline

Consistency is Key to Successful Discipline
Consistency is key to successfully teaching your child right from wrong when disciplining them.  It keeps small misdeeds and bad behaviors from later becoming bigger misdeeds and worse behaviors.  You have to stand firm and mean it when you say, "Turn off the television now"or "no dessert after dinner because you didn't touch your dinner." Consistency teaches your child there are defined consequences for misdeeds and inappropriate or unacceptable actions or behaviors.   Inconsistency when disciplining makes you directly responsible for your children's misbehavior and doesn't teach them how to be responsible for their actions.
It's also that each partner is consistent with the discipline.  If one parent is too strict and the other is too lenient, the child will key into that and try to manipulate the situation to his or her advantage.  Parents must agree on disciplinary action in advance and make a commitment to one another to be consistent in implementing and following through with the consequences.  This can be especially difficult if the child's parents are separated or divorced.  Though you may not be together anymore, it's imperative that you parent on common ground. Openly and honestly discuss these parameters with your former spouse and your child in advance, so that if discipline is needed, the consequences of such misbehavior are well understood in advance. Any disagreements between parents should be discussed out of the child's earshot.
Consistency is about being strong and standing firm, even when doing so is extremely difficult or exhausting.  It can sometimes be hard to come home after a hard day at work only to find a hard night of parenting in front of you.  Your child will consistently test the boundaries and 'push the envelope' with you to see if there's any play in those consequences.  By standing firm you are showing there is not and that you expect them to do nothing less than take responsibility for their actions. 

Connect with Your Child but Don't Overdo it

Connect with Your Child but Don't Overdo it
We all want to connect and be involved with our child.  Children of involved parents generally feel more confident, assured and have a higher level of self esteem.  They excel in school and do well in extracurricular activities and with their hobbies. 
But is there such a thing as too much involvement? It's imperative when you're becoming involved with your school-aged child's activities and academics that you recognize the line of what being too involved can be. 
Remember, you're becoming involved in your child's life.  It's important that you don't intrude too much upon it.  Children need their space and privacy and they need to be able to develop their own skills, talents and abilities.  In our eagerness to help our child succeed, it's tempting to want to step in and start doing things for them because you feel they are doing it incorrectly or inadequately.  But remember, you had to learn too, and this is their chance to learn on their own. 
Be there to encourage and support your child, and offer praise at a job well done.  But also remember to step back and allow your child to learn from their own mistakes, and to develop their own way of doing things. We all know from our own life experiences that there's always more than just one way to do something, and just because your child is doing it differently than you would doesn't make it wrong.  Who knows, it could present a terrific opportunity for you to learn from your child as well. 
In addition, try not to become too overbearing or nosy when it comes to their social life.  Be available for them should they need to talk and encourage them to share their troubles with you so you can help them sort through a problem.  But if they say they don't want to talk about it or they just need some time to figure things out for themselves, respect that need by letting them know you're available whenever they need you.  This is an important part of growing up and allowing a child to figure his own way through things is an integral part of that process. 

Clear Expectations Make Discipline Easier

Clear Expectations Make Discipline Easier
Sometimes it can be very challenging to communicate anything with your child.  Setting clear expectations regarding what's acceptable behavior and what isn't imperative to successfully teaching your child right from wrong.  If the parameters are muddled or the child learns that in one situation the rules hold true yet in another situation the same rule does not, it makes for confusion and frustration on both sides. 
Sit down with your child well in advance and line out the expectations and consequences of misbehaving or a misdeed.  Make it clear that in no uncertain terms is there any room for negotiation at the time of the infraction, and that should such a behavior occur you intend to be firm in your discipline.  Rules regarding your child's safety, health or well-being should have no room for negotiation when being set or enforced.  Other rules can be openly and honestly discussed with your child and an agreed upon action should be forged that both parents and child can agree upon.  If necessary, make a contract between parent and child.  Lay it all out in black and white, in language your child can clearly understand.  For younger children, you might want to develop a good behavior chart within the contract, and for each week that goes by without any infractions being noted, a favorite or special activity might be earned.  The connection between good deeds and special time with mom and/or dad might be just the currency they understand.
But all children need to understand that disciplining them is your way of teaching them what's acceptable behavior and what isn't.  It may seem as though children fight rules and regulations, but they truly know that such parameters are meant for their well-being, health, safety, and enable them to grow into a mature person capable of making wise decisions.  

Chores Can Help your Child Learn about Teamwork and a Strong Work Ethic

Chores Can Help your Child Learn about Teamwork and a Strong Work Ethic
Chores can help develop a sense of responsibility and self worth in your child.  It should be understood by all family members they are expected and necessary to a household running successfully and efficiently.  They can help create a sense of unity and family and is a great place for your child to learn about teamwork.  Parents should take special care to handle the delegation of chores to children so they don't become a source of frustration or create arguments.
Allow your child to have an active say in the delegation of chores.  Give them choices.  We all have household chores that we don't like to do, but if it's a chore the child enjoys doing then there's less likelihood it will create a battle in the end.  The child will most likely appreciate having the chance to be heard and having a choice.
It's imperative that you set parameters early on for the successful completion of a chore.  They may not perform up to snuff when they first start performing the chore, but show them where improvement is needed and praise them for a strong effort.  Also make sure the child understands there will be repercussions if they only put forth a minimal effort. Ensure the child understands the need for the chore's effective and efficient completion. Set consequences for substandard completion as a team.  Make sure they see that if they don't perform their chores, it affects the other members of the team. Spouses must work together and be a strong example for their children by completing their own chores each day.  And don't allow a child to undermine your authority by battling with you over a designated chore.  Stand your ground and don't give in, and emphasize the consequence and negative effect an uncompleted chore has on the family. 
And keep an open mind when a child wants to discuss their thoughts or express their opinions about chores.  Make sure the conversation stays positive and on target.

Celebrate your Child's Uniqueness

Celebrate your Child's Uniqueness
Just like a snowflake or a fingerprint, every child is unique in their own special way. Every child has a unique way of feeling, thinking, and interacting with others. Some children are shy, while others are outgoing; some are active, while others are calm; some are fretful, while others are easy-going. As a loving and nurturing parent, it's your job to encourage them to embrace their uniqueness and celebrate their individual qualities. 
Allow your child to express themselves through their interests.  They may find a creative outlet in theatre, dancing or art, or they may be exceptionally talented in the sciences.  Encourage them to embrace what they like to do, what interests them, and what makes them happy.  Help them realize that they don't need to worry about being 'like everyone else.'
Teach your child to make positive choices, and praise them for good deeds, behaviors and positive traits they possess.  Encourage them to become actively involved in their community, and introduce them to activities that promote a sense of cooperation and accomplishment.  Be firm yet fair when handing down discipline for misdeeds or misbehaviors, and make certain the rules and consequences for breaking the rules are clearly defined.  Show a cooperative, loving and united front with your spouse when it comes to discipline.
Accept and celebrate your child's uniqueness. Remember that your child is an individual. Allow your child to have his or her own personal preferences and feelings, which may be different from your own.
And finally, encourage your child to be true to themselves by doing the same.  Show your child how to make positive choices with the choices you make, and that nobody is perfect and you too make mistakes.  Show your child that mistakes can be a great learning experience, and that they should not be ashamed or embarrassed about making them.  .