More of the Same? Try Something Else.

March 31st, 2019

Okay. You've learned about active listening when your child is upset. You've got the "you feel" down pat. Even though you are on target, a repetitive "you feel" statement fro you could well annoy your child or, worse, be tuned out with a dismissive "whatever!" The key to helpful active listening is not only reflecting back to your child what you believe she is feeling. It is also tuning in nonverbally, perhaps a hug?, as well as verbally, with feelings. Most importantly, be creative and dare to be different with your words and presentation. "It sounds like you're..." "I'm not sure I'm hearing you right. Is it...?", "Wow! You're really..." Such variations tells your child that you are really trying to capture what's going on with her and not just trying to score points with "you feel..." When you notice her emotional fever going down, then you can switch to problem-solving with her permission. "I've got some thoughts about how you can handle this. Do you want to hear them?"  Now you are connecting with her in her emotional pain and helping her move past it without owning it yourself. Dare to be different.

Don’t Forget to Flip It

March 27th, 2019

As parents, it is part of our job to direct our kids and, as needed, to confront them. Neither of these go well with yelling and frustration. If you power up, so will your child. A way to avoid such power struggle is to use active listening after directing or confronting. If your child stalls or refuses your direction, assume that there is a reason. Using active listening will help you understand where her bluster came from. The bluster is actually evidence of an emotional fever, because it's not usually like her. Active listening is your go-to when you see her emotional fever. Once her fever is calmed, you can go back to your direction or confrontation, but without the power struggle

Who’s In Charge?

March 25th, 2019

It's not a maybe. It's a certainty. Kids will always test the limits. Why? If feels like the reason is simply to get on your last nerve. However, it's deeper than that. Your child is navigating his world. Imagine doing that blindfolded in a blackened room. Feeling your way would be terrifying. When your child is testing the limits, he is doing so to make sure the limit is there. They want your guidance and direction, your confrontations and boundaries. Your authority is like taking the blindfold off and turning on the lights, so your child knows where he is and how to get where he wants to go. While being firm, celebrate your child's limit-testing as a new teachable moment.

Can’t Get A Word In Edgewise?

March 23rd, 2019

When I work with couples in marriage therapy, I take mental note of the approximate proportion of talk time each has. A telling sign of difficulty is when one spouse talks way more than the other. This is also true of parenting, especially with teens. If you want to have a meaningful relationship with your teen, enter his inner world of thoughts and feelings. Your access is by listening in general and by active listening in particular. When teens feel heard, even if you don't fully understand, they feel valued and they will be more likely to give you a pass into their world.

When They are on Your Last Nerve

March 21st, 2019

Children are hard-wired to test our limits. But why do they do that? First, it's a vital part of growing up and transferring power from the parents to the child. Second, kids test the limits to be sure that they are there. The last thing a child wants to be is in charge. Being given no limits creates fear and anxiety in the child. So, they act out to assure that you will set them straight, confront, set healthy boundaries for their behavior. Aaah, thanks, mom. That was scary there for a moment. When you child is plucking your last nerve, their words and actions are code for "Help me. I'm in over my head and need you to be back in charge."

Is Your Family Surviving or Thriving?

March 19th, 2019

It's easy to get by. You know, function, do the bare minimum, get to the next day without drama. That's called surviving. But can you work on raising your family's standard from surviving to thriving? That would be making time for each other, mattering in each other's lives, looking forward to quality time together. We all tend to get in a rut and just do what we are comfortable doing. We can, however, step just a little bit our of our comfort zone and do the unexpected. Things eating together as a family, with no electronics at the table, planning a family game night, talk about how our day's went, talk to each other about our hopes and dreams for the future.  These gestures are the hallmark of a thriving family life. When you move from surviving to thriving, you make the most of the precious time you all have together.

You are a Role Model for your Children

March 17th, 2019

Good, bad, or indifferent, you are a role model for your children. When our kids are toddlers, they hang on our every word. As they get older, not so much. Regardless, what you say and do, and how you say and do it, sticks with your child. As you set the example for your child, you want your character, temperament, and priorities to shine. He won't be a carbon copy of you, but the personalities that our kids develop over a lifetime come 80% from you, 15% from their peer group, and are only 5% unique to them. Being a good role model for your child will be your gift to him that will pay dividends for his whole lifetime. What kind of role model are you?

Lighten the Load

March 15th, 2019

       With busy families, there is always too much to do and not enough time within which to do it all. Getting and staying organized will reduce the stress of getting everything done and also build family relationships. Three rules come to mind. First, plan upcoming events with at least 3-days' notice. Second, delegate, delegate, and, oh yeah, delegate. As your kids get older, they can help out. You may have to show them and teach them at first, but doing for themselves will lighten your load. Finally, use weekly family meetings to look at how the past week went and to plan events coming up in the next week. Keep a large, dry erase calendar where everybody can post things as they come up. No surprises equals better planning. Lighten your load by staying organized.

Help Your Child Stay in the Moment

March 13th, 2019

        When you are able to help your child stay in the moment, you are clearing out the potential emotional baggage that clutters life decisions. Focusing on past situations and issues tends to ramp up depression. Focusing on future situations and potential issues tends to ramp up anxiety. Mindful parenting promotes focusing on both yours and your child's needs and feelings at that moment. It is the best opportunity to successfully sort things out. It can also be a source for teachable moments and will enhance emotional intimacy. Be a mindful parent and help your child stay in the moment.

Conquering Chaos Central

March 11th, 2019

           Sometimes, too much is going on. It feels like chaos central at your home. Guess what? You are not alone. Chaos leads to feeling overwhelmed and not in charge. As parents, you want life to be as neat and orderly as possible. When everything seems to be out of control in your home, consider these 3 steps, prepare, instruct, and reward, to regain rule and order.

           First, after getting a reading on how over-the-top things are, plan a family meeting to lay it all out for the kids. Prepare to use your active listening during the meeting as the fur flies. Use the meeting to find things that can be scheduled, and then make the schedule. Find things that can be planned for. If morning routine is chaotic, find all the things that can be done the night before, so that mornings are less hectic. For example, pack lunches in the fridge the night before, lay out clothes to wear, secure backpacks. The less cluttered crunch time is, the less chaotic.

           Second, make a list of instructions so that the planned tasks will occur accordingly. Give a copy of these instructions to each family member, both for compliance and accountability. Set the following week as the time to implement a "test run" of your plans.

           Finally, reward the efforts by all to follow through on the instructions by setting aside a family reward. Of course, things won't go perfectly, so consistency is the name of the game. Chaos central conquered.

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