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Archive for the ‘Behavior’ Category

5 Simple Ways to Make Life Easier for Your Sensitive Kid

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Sensory smart parenting made easy.

Jayden, an active preschooler, loves the playground. After a few minutes, he’s so revved up that he starts running around, bulldozes over other children in his path, and then digs into the sandbox, spraying his little sister, Jenny, nearby. Jenny starts crying because she hates sand on her skin, and it’s sticking more than usual because she refused to let you properly rub in sunblock. She can’t stand that either. You manage to calm both kids down and head to the supermarket because you forgot to buy frozen spinach cakes, the only vegetable they’ll eat. You bribe them with cookies to behave and grab another brand of spinach cakes because they’re out of the usual one. Maybe they won’t notice? Fortunately, your spouse bathes the kids so you can make dinner, turning up the music to tune out the complaints:

“The bath is too hot!”
“You’re pulling my hair!”
“My pajamas hurt!”
“That music is too LOUD!”

Then you serve dinner. The kids are pleased with the mac n’ cheese at exactly the temperature they like but … the spinach cakes are WRONG. Jenny starts to wail and Jayden calls her a baby. And the nighttime battles begin.

Quirks vs. Sensory Issues?

Do your child’s likes and dislikes make you feel like you’re catering to a cute but impossible dictator? All of us have preferences and intolerances. But there’s a big difference between the endearing quirks that all kids have and sensory issues that make living with children SO very difficult at times.

We all learn through our senses, both the familiar ones—touch, sight, sound, taste and smell—and some that are less well known: vestibular (our sense of movement), proprioception (our internal body awareness), and interoception (our sense of physiological well-being or distress). Sensory processing refers to how we transform all of these sensory messages into useful information so we know what’s going on in the world and with our bodies so we can respond proportionately.

Some of our kids, and some of us, are wired differently. When people have sensory processing issues, their brains do not interpret sensory information accurately and reliably, so their responses may be out of proportion. They may overreact to certain sensory experiences that don’t seem to bother anyone else. They might be hypersensitive, feeling things too intensely and thus overreacting to a tiny scratch or to getting messy with glue or paint. The hypersensitive child might be fussy about clothing or food textures. A child can also be hyposensitive (underreactive), needing a lot of input for it to register in his brain—stuffing his mouth with food to feel it in there, sprawling on the floor during circle time to feel the floor beneath him, or playing too roughly at recess. Many kids have sensory meltdowns when there is too much input to process, as can happen in a busy classroom or crowded store. Fortunately there are “sensory smart” parenting hacks you can use to minimize the effect of these sensitivities.

1.Keep a journal to help you predict and prepare for sensory-related problems.

Write out where the problem happened, what preceded it, the problematic behavior and what seemed to help.

2. Create a visual or written list of the day’s events so your child knows what to expect.

Children (and many adults) feel more confident and capable when they know what’s ahead. If a disliked activity is planned, collaborate on ways to make it more tolerable such as downloading favorite music on your smartphone for your child to hear while she’s sitting in the doctor’s office.

3. Bring a bag of tricks to help your child stay on an even keel.

If you know your child gets fidgety when waiting in line, keep a supply of calming items: an unbreakable show globe, a container of putty, chewing gum and so on. If your child is sensitive to noise, bring sound-reducing earmuffs, noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs.

4. Get them moving! Kids need to move, some more than others.

If your child is bouncing off the walls when it’s time to sit down for dinner, plan ahead and have him get intense movement before dinner such as climbing a few sets of stairs, jumping on a mini-trampoline with a safety bar (or a mat on the floor), running laps and so on. If your kid loves screens, put on a gonoodle.com or other online activity that encourages movement. Exercise keeps kids healthy and also generates those feel-good chemicals that keep kids happy too.

5. Take breaks and don’t over-schedule.

We’re all overworked and overbooked these days. We mighy be used to it, and lots of kids thrive on being busy, but sensitive kids need downtime. Keeping it together at school all day among active kids and all of those academic, social and behavioral demands is a lot to ask of a sensitive child. Taking a short restorative break in a quiet, softly lit room or taking a peaceful walk in a park after school can make all the difference!

When to Get Help

Some kids, teens and adults have sensory challenges so significant that they interfere with learning, playing, working—and the ability to parent confidently. Somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of children have what’s called sensory processing disorder (SPD), including those diagnosed with autism and attention deficits, as well as kids who do not have any other developmental issues. The Sensory Checklist in Raising a Sensory Smart Child, which you can also download from sensorysmarts.com, will help you better understand your child’s sensitivities. A pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in sensory challenges can help you create more sensory-friendly environments and routines while, even more importantly, building your child’s ability to better process everyday sensory experiences.


Lindsey Biel, M.A., OTR/L, is an occupational therapist with a private practice in New York City. She is co-author of the award-winning book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues.

 

This article was written by Lindsey Biel from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

What to do When Your Kid’s Teacher Wants to Talk About Behavior Problems

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Be ready to listen and help create a plan.

A creeping feeling of dread comes the first time the teacher reaches out. Early in the school year, the teacher pulls you aside or sends an email saying,“Can we find some time to talk?” Most parents know in the back of their mind some behavior challenges are on the horizon, but don’t know how they’ll manifest in school. As a parent, the conversations that follow can be daunting. But you can do your child, and yourself, a world of good if you hone in on what your child’s teacher is saying. Here are five steps to engage with your teacher in the most productive way possible.

1. Don’t Panic

The teacher isn’t judging you. She isn’t judging your child. In fact, everybody involved is aligned on the same goal: how can we create the best possible experience for this child? Of course, you’re going to have anxiety over the wellbeing of your child, so it’s not easy to put it aside. But in its place, view the conversation as an invitation to start a dialogue. Until you have more information, you don’t want to make assumptions about the road ahead.

2. Listen

Your teacher spends a lot of time with your child, especially in the early grades. Teachers know your child and want to see him succeed. As the conversation begins with your teacher, gather as much information as you can. Ask her to be specific about the behaviors that have been observed, and why they are concerning. Here are some specific questions you can ask:

  • How big of a problem is this? The teacher could simply be telling you about a single challenging episode, just so you know, with no long-term plan of action necessary. Or, they could be clueing you into a more significant problem.

  • What is the nature of the problem? It could be things like trouble with transitions, or aggression.

  • Should we be pulling in more resources? There are many things a school can do to help a kid who is struggling, including specific supports at school (sometimes called Response to Intervention or RTI) all the way to arranging for an evaluation for your child. An evaluation is a more significant step, but also opens up doors to increased aid and professional services your child may be entitled to. Schools are responsible for creating learning environments for all students.

  • What supports might help at home? The teacher will have some ideas about tools and methods that might work at home. Even better, they can match the system at school.

3. Build a Team and Stay Positive

Everyone wants your child to succeed. If you get defensive, it makes the team less productive. If the teacher is helping you understand the onset of more complex issues, the two of you are going to have to work together to communicate with doctors and insurance. You’ll want to plot out strategies and understand how you can navigate your specific school to create the best environment possible for your child. Your teacher isn’t blaming you and wants to work with you. Complex problems are going to mean stepping into a world of increased supports with a catacomb-like vocabulary. Your teacher and the school staff have been there before. At the point you get here, you’ll also want to turn to your pediatrician, and start thinking about additional professional services (like a psychologist or clinical social worker).

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you won’t be able to talk to school staff with trust. While you shouldn’t give up on re-establishing that trust, there are members of your community you can turn to. Many communities will have a SEPAC (special education parent advisory council) that can help. A special education advocate can also be a starting point, since they’ll know the system. Finding a local advocate is usually as simple as turning to your local parent community (a Facebook group in your hometown) and asking for recommendations.

4. Follow Up

Once a teacher alerts you there’s a problem, try to check in after you first talk. This is going to be the first clue on how seriously the teacher takes the problem. If the check-in suggests everyone has moved on, that’s great. If the teacher is talking about supports that have been put in place and how everyone is responding to them, then you have a clue they view the challenges as something that will persist. If supports are ongoing, try to keep checking in, and see how things are progressing. Even if your child is receiving supports, you should still expect progress. Schools are getting better about taking data and should be able to tell you how things are going.

5. Find Ways to Support Your Child in the Home

You can extend your child’s learning into your home. What this looks like will depend on what challenges you’re facing. Your teacher might have some recommendations, or you could echo the supports being used in the classroom. If you’ve reached out to your doctor, then they might have some ideas as well. I personally tend to recommend methods that reward kids’ innate drive to learn through exploration. At some level, we all know we’re not going to be able to reason kids through behavioral challenges. But we can tap into experiential learning. Sports can do this; some kids find a place where they latch onto the teamwork aspect. Surprisingly, video games can sometimes pull off the same trick, especially if the family can play together and develop ways to cooperate.

Jason Kahn PhD is a dad, Researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, Instructor at Harvard Medical School, Co-founder & Chief Science Officer at Mightier. Mightier uses the power of bioresponsive games to help kids build and practice calming skills to meet real-world challenges.

 

This article was written by Jason Kahn PhD from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Why You Should Let Your Kid Fail (Sometimes)

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Is your child resilient? How do you, as a parent, support your child while also bringing out their strength and bounce-back for the days ahead? You let them fail. Sometimes.

“At any age, humans are hardwired to have coping skills,” says pediatrician Edward Gaydos, DO. “The real question is, how do we help our children shape and interpret experiences? I think one thing we need to do is give kids a  comfortable space for failure, and then empower them to try again.”

How kids learn from failure

Today, many kids feel the invisible but heavy pressure to be the best, to stand at the top, and to collect the most awards, scholarships or trophies. The truth is, we can’t all always win king or queen of the mountain every time we play.

Parents with unrealistically high expectations can unwittingly create anxiety and fear in their children. Rather than creating an environment where they feel the need to win every time, it would be healthier and more realistic to expect setbacks sometimes — especially because we all tend to learn more from our mistakes than from success,” he says.

For example, if you take a quiz, you tend to remember the answers that you got wrong rather than those that were correct.

A parent’s role

Part of this process of building resilience is about ourselves, the parents. We are the ones waiting eagerly at the sidelines, rooting for our favorite little people.

Check in with yourself and see if you are living any of your own dreams through your child. If so, this can create a lot of pressure and expectation, making kids feel self-conscious or even inadequate. Instead, we need to be supportive while giving children room to breathe.

“Children shouldn’t be the center of attention, but rather treated as part of a special community, your family and those you invite into your circle,” Dr. Gaydos says.

He offers the following tips to parents:

  • Validate your child’s fears or concerns.
  • Let kids figure some things out on their own.
  • Encourage children to be in situations where they interact with others and learn social cues.

Fail, learn and try again — it’s all OK

When children are allowed to have a variety of experiences in which they are allowed to fail and try again, they naturally learn more.

“You can help their kids by teaching them that life is about learning, making mistakes, and then working hard not to make the same mistakes again. This, to me, is how you define wisdom.”

He says it’s OK to tell your children that you are learning from your own mistakes. It helps children to trust you and to understand that we are all in the journey together.

 

This article was written by Children’s Health Team from Cleveland Clinic and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Fast Ways to Subdue Your Child’s Worst Temper Tantrum

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Help your kids calm down without losing your cool.

Tantrums occur when a child’s system of managing her feelings and thoughts collapses. It’s an expression in external action of internal feelings over which the child is seeking control. The best thing you can do as a parent is learn to understand the reason for the tantrums, to face the outburst without losing your composure and to help your child find a better way of displaying her intense emotions.

Temper tantrums may look similar, but the reasons for them vary considerably. A typical sign of a problem is when the child has trouble tolerating being told “No” in response to something he wants. This is often seen as the cause, but it’s usually evidence of inner difficulties that need to be deciphered in order to help the child. A tantrum that follows a parent or caregiver saying “No” is usually just the tip of the iceberg. Internal and external stressors prior to that have paved the way for the tantrum. Look for meaning beyond how the child reacts to the word “No.”

Children with ADHD, learning disabilities or sensory problems deal with additional frustrations compared to other children, so they’re more likely to have tantrums. Similarly, children with anxiety, phobias, depression, experiences of traumatic events or a tendency to feel over-stimulated may fall apart when they’re overwhelmed with excessive worries and fears.

Use these tips to help interpret and subdue the emotions behind your child’s temper tantrums:

1. Help your child name feelings. Early on, teach youngsters feeling language, like happy, sad, mad and glad. As they grow older, give them the nuances of anger, such as irritated, frustrated, disappointed, annoyed and hurt. Vocabulary is important in helping the child to assess how angry he feels and why. Naming the emotions gives him the opportunity to express himself in words rather than physical actions when he’s upset.

2. Acknowledge the anger. It’s important that you tolerate angry feelings and not try to dissuade your child or teen from having these feelings. Your child or teen shouldn’t feel that you’re afraid of his emotions or that you’ll judge him harshly for having them. A child or teen needs to know that having and expressing anger doesn’t make him a bad person.

3. Remain calm amid the storm. As a parent, the best way to help your child during a tantrum is to remain calm. Children need to know their tantrums aren’t so powerful and scary that you can’t withstand them. It’s important for the child to know that her anger doesn’t overpower you and that you’re able to hear and endure the anger. Experiencing anger can actually frighten your child, and she needs to know that having and expressing such emotions doesn’t frighten you, too. This will help her to know that she can share her feelings with you.

4. Teach self-regulation. When the tantrum behavior slips outside the home, embarrassment becomes a part of the equation. You may need to take fast action in order to prevent humiliation for both you and your child. If possible, attend quickly to what the child needs or remove the child from the situation. Leaving a public place is not a way to punish the child—it’s a way to quickly reduce the 
stimulation and stop the outburst. Later, when everyone is calm, speak to your child about the situation. If the child is very young, her attention span is likely to be short, but a quick description of the problem along with a simple and easy rule like this can work: “Being upset belongs at home where we can solve problems.” Containing her anger and delaying its expression until a more appropriate time can only be internalized by a child if the parent also follows the tenets of self-regulation.

5. Help to ease transitions. Children who have difficulty with unexpected or planned transitions between activities may tantrum at those times or immediately afterward. You can prepare a younger child for a planned transition by advising him there are five minutes left before the change. You can give an older child an idea of the sequence of activities for the day so he feels prepared for what’s ahead. 


Tantrums that last more than half an hour and are unusually intense with flailing limbs and shocking shrieks where the child or teen seems to be unaware of the world around her may end in the youngster being exhausted, falling asleep, and later not remembering the tantrum. These actions and emotions, especially in children four years and older, are not typical and need special attention. Some young people who have tantrums, particularly later in life, may have a neurological disorder such as a bipolar disorder.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D, is a psychoanalyst with specialized clinical training in infant-parent, child, adolescent, and adult psychotherapy a unique practice that covers the life span. Dr. Hollman is widely published on topics relevant to parents and children such as juried articles and chapters in the international Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, The International Journal of Infant Observation and the Inner World of the Mother. She is the author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence—Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, winner of the Mom’s Choice Award, and the Busy Parent’s Guides series of books: The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Anxiety in Children and Teens—The Parental Intelligence Way, and The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Anger in Children and Teens—The Parental Intelligence Way (Familius, Aug. 1, 2018). Learn more at lauriehollmanphd.com.

 

This article was written by Laurie Hollman Ph.D from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Ways to Head Off a Discipline Problem So It Won’t Derail Your Day

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Why making space for kids’ feelings can be a game-changer.

It’s that familiar scene. Child care pickup. Your child is thrilled to see you and then 20 minutes later, he melts down because you cooked chicken for dinner instead of pasta. As a working mother, tantrums can feel all the more painful because they’re ruining those precious few moments you get with your little ones.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In the past five years, I discovered dozens of new discipline ideas, while reporting my book The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever—And What to Do About It. Here are just a few of the winning strategies I found for stopping a discipline problem in its tracks. The next time you’re at a loss, try one of these.

1. Pause

First of all, shed any guilt you may feel about not spending enough time with your kids, as compared to your mother or your mother-in-law. The truth is, modern parents spend more time with kids than at any time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping time use data. Even as women flooded into the workforce between 1965 and 2015, mothers’ time spent caring for children rose from 10 hours to 15 hours a week. Dad’s time on child care leaped from 2.5 to 7 hours in that same time period.

Take a breath. Or two. When we pause before responding, we’re giving our nervous systems a chance to regulate. Then, we can better access the part of our brains that is creative and solves problems. We can find better strategies than yelling or ordering a time out. We might even lead our children into a more regulated state themselves.

Use that pause to shift your perspective. Yes, the family’s priority is getting dinner on the table and moving into the bedtime routine. But your child’s interests and preferences also matter. It doesn’t cost you that much time to take a minute to empathize and say, “I know, you really love pasta!” before moving smoothly on with your evening. That moment of acknowledgement is more likely to ease your child out of a tantrum than saying, in an annoyed voice, “We had pasta three times this week already!”

2. Deploy Humor

Children are sometimes so … childish! They giggle at farts and still half-believe that possibly, monsters may inhabit the patch of woods down the street. Harness their love of humor! If you tickle their funny bone, you can distract them out of a power struggle before they dig in too deep.

For example, when our children were just learning table manners, my husband Brian made up an alternate family—the Bewis family—that was filled with badly behaved boys. We could invoke the Bewis boys when we saw a child eating with their hands, or leaving the table without picking up a plate. “I hear the Bewis boys never clear their plates,” we would say. They’d giggle and retrieve their plates while making up their own stories of terrible goings on in the Bewis household.

You can also use make believe to empathize with a child’s impractical yet deeply-held desire, rather than trying to force him or her to comply with yours. For example: “Oh, if I had a magic wand, I would wave it so we all could go to Disneyland tomorrow! That would be so much more fun than school.” Being understood defuses your child’s growing upset. You don’t need to be the one to rain on your child’s parade—life will do that soon enough.

3. Give Choices

This is such common parenting advice, it’s almost a cliché. Bear with me. Often, when we give a child a choice, we’re only offering two things that we want the child to do—neither of which they want. As they grow, they see right through that farce.

Instead, open your mind to what your child wants. Sure, it may be impractical. Consider whether it’s truly impossible. Be creative about whether you can accommodate their wishes. If there’s no harm done … say yes.

Who cares if they wear the same favorite pants three days in a row, as long as they’re not obviously dirty? And if French toast is a healthy meal for breakfast, why not have it occasionally for dinner? Does it really matter whether your child gets dressed before coming down for breakfast? Maybe it’s okay for him to pop back upstairs to change out of pajamas—or even sleep in the clean sweats he’s going to wear to school. A child who’s doing what he wants moves a whole lot faster than one who’s being forced by mom.

I’m not talking about becoming a short-order cook or a servant to your child’s whims. But as your children get older, they increasingly want to contribute ideas and influence what the family does. If your children always hate what’s for dinner, invite them to suggest some meals, or even go shopping with you. Create a rotating schedule of dinners that everyone has agreed to in advance. The more they’re involved in the process, the less they’ll object. Yes, this takes more time at first, but your hard work will pay off when you have an 11-year old who can plan and cook the family dinner.

 

The Good News About Bad Behavior

 

Katherine Reynolds Lewis is a Washington, D.C.–area journalist, mother of three and author of The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever—And What to Do About It, *available from PublicAffairs, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Courtesy of PublicAffairs

4. Connect

There are so many opportunities to connect with our children. The drive to school or walk to the bus stop. The time after dinner when we’re all full and happy. An early morning snuggle before the rest of the family wakes.

But often we fail to take advantage of these fleeting moments. The to-do list or the window to check email seems more pressing. Resist this temptation. Work when you need to work; be with your family when you can. Don’t let the two contaminate each other unintentionally.

Every time you focus just on your child—playing Candyland or listening to a long story about a favorite YouTuber—you are depositing into the bank of your relationship. That undistracted time will serve as a reserve for you to draw on the next time there’s conflict in your relationship, or a power struggle starts to loom.

It doesn’t have to be a half hour or hour of your time. You’ll see the pay-off from even five minutes throwing the ball, or a sincere thank you for something they did to help you. Start keeping track of the times when you truly connect with each child, and see if you can boost that number over time—like a plank challenge or other goal you set for yourself.

5. Plan Ahead

Sometimes, all of our best efforts fail. A hungry or tired child simply cannot do what’s needed in a situation. Or something unexpected happens and your little one spirals out of control. Maybe everyone screams—or cries. That’s not a disaster. It’s an opportunity for you to learn.

Take stock of the experience at a later time when everyone is calm. If your kids are old enough, ask them what it was like for them. Brainstorm what might help in the future to prevent such problems. Routines are a huge boon to smooth family life, and keep discipline problems from erupting even before they begin.

An earlier bedtime can help with the morning routine. Reminder signs on the wall can spark a child’s memory without Mom nagging about backpack or teeth brushing. Small children can help make signs for the daily routines, either taking photos of each step or crayoning their own interpretation.

Don’t worry about having a consequence or a reaction for every instance of childish misbehavior. You can usually count on the same problem cropping up again, by which time you’ll be ready with your brainstormed solution.

 

This article was written by Katherine Reynolds Lewis from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The One Simple Thing That Finally Got My Kids to Stop Fighting

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Tired of sibling squabbles over toys, devices, and anything else they can think of? So was I—till I tried this mom-tested strategy that actually worked!

Remember when you thought your kids would be best friends, sharing toys and learning from each other in harmony every day of their lives? If so, I bet you also remember the first time they fought over a toy (or piece of cake, or stool at the kitchen island, or, or, or…).

The truth is, unless your kid is an only child, you’ve likely witnessed sibling squabbles every day of your parenting life. Older siblings will lose their cool when a younger sibling infringes on their territory. And that younger sibling knows just how to push the button that causes their older sib to lose it.

Honestly, it left me fed up and exhausted. There are plenty of toys in the house—so why must they fight over that tiny plastic duck that no one cared about yesterday?

Since my usual approach—lengthy lectures about the benefits of compromise—didn’t seem to be working, I asked my friend Cheryl Butler, aka Mighty Mommy, for advice.

To combat the warlike atmosphere in my home, Cheryl, a mother of eight who somehow finds time to write and podcast about her experiences, suggested putting up a set of household rules in a heavily-trafficked area. Each rule focuses on a particular behavior that is a barrier to peace. My list looked like this:

1. In a conflict, no hurting (hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting) is ever allowed. If this happens, the consequence is no screen time for a week.

2. No name-calling or personal insults about someone’s physical appearance. Consequence same as in Rule #1.

3. If anyone is fighting over a toy, that toy goes into time-out. No questions asked.

4. Any person who demands to be first, will go last.

5. Whatever is borrowed must be returned. If it isn’t, the consequence is that the borrower must choose an item from their sibling’s room to replace the missing one.*

*It’s a good idea to institute a borrowing protocol in which the child who borrows something from a sibling must put up collateral—a possession that will be returned only when the borrowed item is returned. (This is particularly effective once your kids have gadgets).

Amazingly, once these rules were written down, they were harder for my kids to ignore—and even harder to argue with. So the next time a toy became the cause of World War III, I simply took it away and wordlessly pointed to Rule #3. It’s not my rule, kids—it’s the house rule. And it’s helped restore peace and sanity to our home.

 

This article was written by Beata Santora from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

4 Ways to Raise Siblings Who Love Each Other

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Siblings who fight a lot gain surprising advantages, from thicker skins to sharper negotiating skills. Plus, “Savvy parents know that a conflict-free relationship between siblings is not the same as a close-knit relationship,” writes Chicago Tribune parenting columnist Heidi Stevens. The goal is to have kids who love as hard as they battle. Here, four tips for raising lifelong best friends who share everything—including you.

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Fight smart in front of them

When parents handle conflict and anger with each other in a healthy, respectful way, they are modeling how their kids should face off. If you slam doors, hurl insults or, um, actual household items, it’s a safe bet they’ll mimic you the next time someone pushes their buttons. Added incentive to hit above the (emotional) belt? Kids cannot keep secrets. Ask anyone who’s died a little inside while her kid told the dentist how Mommy threw her egg sandwich at Daddy.

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When in doubt, let them work it out

Unless your kids’ fights are about to enter the realm of bloodshed or bullying, or they’re stuck in a pattern where an older child seems to always dominate a younger one, give them a minute before you get involved. Per experts, siblings’ fights are valuable opportunities for growth. Hair-trigger intervention only perpetuates their reliance on you as a referee. Also, stepping in may mean taking sides—a surefire way to stir up sibling rivalry. “It can be more difficult to hang back and observe emotional situations than to try to solve problems for your kids on the spot,” writes parenting expert Michelle Woo, citing research on how kids in Germany and Japan become self-reliant by problem-solving amongst themselves. “[What kids] need is consistent guidance, a place to explore their feelings, a model of kindness. What they probably don’t need is a referee monitoring every single play.” As Jeffrey Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us, told NPR: “One of the most profound effects siblings have on you is that area of conflict resolution skills, that area of relationship formation and maintenance.” 

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Or don’t! Try this instead

A growing number of psychologists and educators swears by a conflict resolution method called Restorative Circles. You step in at the start of a fight and ask your kids to take a deep breath and sit down with you calmly in a circle. (Obviously, for screaming banshee fights, separation and soothing come first.) For just a few minutes, each child gets a chance to speak their grievance (You ask: “What do you want your brother to know?”), and the other child(ren) is asked to interpret what they’ve just heard (“What did you hear your sister saying?”). Then you go back to the first child (“Is that what you meant?”) until a mutual understanding is reached/all kids feel heard. Then everyone brainstorms ideas to find an agreeable solution.

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The family that plays together, stays together

Even—especially—if your kids are like oil and water, or more than a few years apart, it can be tempting to let them lead separate lives. Try not to. Choose toys that appeal to all age groups (Marry us, Bristle Blocks!), group activities on weekends or family vacations, and require them to show up for each other’s games or recitals. No matter how much they fight, research shows reason to be optimistic. “About 10, 15 percent of sibling relationships truly are so toxic that they’re irreparable,” says Kluger. “But 85 percent are anywhere from fixable to terrific.” After all, he notes: “Our parents leave us too soon, our spouses and our kids come along too late…Siblings are the longest relationships we’ll ever have in our lives.”

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

A Trick to Teach Kids Compassion

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It’s easy to conclude that people generally suck. Don’t they, though? There’s the driver who cut you off, the lady who appears out of nowhere to swipe the last Costco sample off the tray when you’ve been waiting patiently in line, the “friend” who’s forgotten your birthday three years in a row. I get why we’d assume others just aren’t trying.

But this, of course, is a damaging outlook to take. It closes us off from connection, and makes us cranky and bitter. As a parent, I want to teach my daughter to view others with compassion over judgment—a tough skill to learn, but one that will serve her every day. Sabina Nawaz, writing for Harvard Business Review, shares an activity that I like a lot. She and her kids play what they call Multiple Meanings, a simple people-watching game that promotes empathy. Here’s how it works:

We take turns creating stories from observations of people and events on trips to and from school. For example, if we see a man walking rapidly on the sidewalk with tattooed arms and a sleeveless vest, we might make up a story that he’s late for work because his car broke down, so he’s walking fast to get help. Maybe he owns a tattoo parlor across the bridge and is a walking advertisement for his business. Or maybe he’s meeting someone in the park and is running late. Our children then use the skill when they’re upset about something at home or at school. This is especially helpful when my sons argue and come to me for mediation. To reduce the heat in the conflict, I ask: “What other meanings can you make about why your brother borrowed your Lego airplane?” The goal is to be able to calm themselves down and be more empathetic, so they approach someone else with curiosity instead of judgment.

We often teach kids to mind their own business. But what if we didn’t? What if we taught them to wonder about people, even those who might hurt them? What if we reminded them that everyone is fighting a hard battle? What if will pushed them to challenge their assumptions and give others the benefit of the doubt—or even better, ask them about their lives? In Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong, she asks her husband if he believes people are doing the best they can. His response was this: “I don’t know. I really don’t. All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” That is exactly it.

With your kids, help them use their natural love for stories to come up with their own narratives for the toddler throwing a tantrum in the grocery store, the man who’s getting upset at the bank or the bully in the book their reading. In the end, the story they’re changing will be their own.

 

This article was written by shared by Michelle Woo to Lifehacker and Michelle Woo on Offspring from Lifehacker and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How I Finally Got My Kids to Eat Their Veggies—and Like It

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I used to stand in front of the blender so they couldn’t see. Sautéed zucchini, red and yellow peppers, spinach—I’d throw it all in there quickly with the tomato sauce and breathe a sigh of relief when the crunching would stop and the swirling would begin. Meanwhile, my boys (4 and 6 at the time) would play with their Legos on the kitchen table none the wiser. Sure, I could openly put some veggies on the table (exactly two: broccoli and carrots), but that never felt like enough.

Then one day, a letter came home from my son’s kindergarten PE teacher announcing a nutrition challenge she called Strive for Five. Based on the National Cancer Institute’s recommendation to eat five servings of fruits or vegetables each day, all kindergarten classes would compete to eat at least three servings (but aim for five) of fruits or vegetables a day to celebrate National Nutrition Month in March. All the parents got a handy calendar so we could keep track. The reward? The kindergarten class with the most servings got to choose an activity for PE.

That night, as my husband and I were munching on potato chips on the couch, I remembered that the letter said that the challenge might help parents eat better, too. That promise that we’d start eating a Mediterranean diet this year hadn’t really been working out.

“What do you think if we all did the challenge?” I said.

After my husband finished his delicate, crispy, so-salty-it-sings potato chip, he wiped his hands and said he was all for it. He reminded me that March is the beginning of Greek lent, when he cuts out meat and dairy for 40 days. If I wanted, I could join him, too. Over breakfast the next day, we told the kids that we’re all going to get in on the competition.

“Even me?” said the four-year-old.

“Yes, even you,” I said.

“But what do we get?” my kindergartner asked. I told the boys that, just like the school reward, we could do an activity of their choice for a day. The outing could be anything they wanted, within reason, like going to the aquarium or the science museum or the arcade (read: family time).

The boys grabbed some magic markers and decorated their calendars with pictures and added their names. I posted them on the fridge at eye level so they could easily mark them up every day. They boys were so excited, they wanted to start that day, but I told them they’d have to wait until March 1.

While the idea seemed perfect for our family, because we’re naturally a little competitive (my husband even told the boys, “I’m going to destroy you!”), I honestly didn’t think my kids would follow through. Take our attempt at chore lists. They got tired of being asked to do a chore and mark up their magnetic chart, and I got tired of asking them. My boys were certainly acting excited about the fruit and veggie challenge, but I thought maybe at the end they’d forgo the veggies and focus only on fruit (they eat fruit like I eat chips). Or they’d give up altogether.

But amazingly, they totally owned it.

“Does this count as a serving?” the boys would ask me, nearly every day. Five broccoli florets, check. Four raw carrots, check. Spinach with garlic, check! Two spoonfuls of sautéed mushrooms, absolutely check! Toward the end, my kindergartner even discovered the joy of salad sprinkled generously with vinegar. The boys totally motivated us, too; my husband and I were finally eating like we were in the Mediterranean. Every time the boys marked up their chart, they grinned, as if they were getting away with something. Little did they know I thought I was getting away with something, too.

It may have worked because they could take care of their own chart. Or maybe they had the arcade in mind, but I also think they had a chance to outshine their parents every day. When do kids get to do that? When my kindergartner was tallying up his servings for the day, he’d also count up everyone else’s. “Ha! I have… 7 and Daddy has only 5!” Every week or so, he’d add up everyone’s total servings for the month so far, just to see who was pulling ahead (math skills!).

My little one, I must admit, fell off the wagon toward the end. In the last week, he started saying “I don’t care if I win,” with chocolate on his cheek. But my kindergartner cared very much, and during the month he started reading nutrition labels on almost everything we ate (“Mom, this orange juice is good for you. It has no sodium!” he even said to me).

On the last day, my kindergartner and my husband were neck and neck. “You’re totally going down!” my husband said to him at breakfast. After our boy left the room, I whispered to my husband that maybe we could let him win, just this once. “He’s come so far, and he totally deserves it,” I said. He just smiled at me.

At the arcade, our boys shot up dinosaurs as my husband and I sipped on our coffee, thinking we were totally owning this parenting thing. My kindergartner’s class won the competition at school, too. Mostly, my kids’ good eating habits stuck around after March. They do eat more veggies than they did before the challenge, but I’m not above mashing sweet potato into pancake batter.

 

This article was written by Cheryl Pappas from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Summer is Upon Us

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The kids are out of school – now what? Summer camp, summer school, amusement parks, sleep ins, sleep overs, party, pow wows at the park, extended weekends, family reunion, vacation, family time… But what about those chores? The ones that you hardly have time to complete all on your own. The ones that you’ve been hanging onto since the first day of Spring.

Growing up for me, a country girl- Alabama, chores were apart of a daily routine. They didn’t just happen during the 3-month summer vacation from school. They weren’t assigned as a weekend only type deal. There was work to be done, every single day of the week. Our chores may have increased on the weekend and during the summer, but days were never absent or short of the responsibility to complete chores.

From raking the leaves in the front and backyard, to vacuuming the house, polishing silver, Windex the glass, washing dishes, mopping the floor, putting away the dishes, dusting the furniture, cleaning our rooms, doing the laundry and helping in any other way around the house. Sometimes that meant rearranging furniture with my OCD dad.

Doing chores almost super exceeded extra curricular activities outside of the house. The responsibility of doing chores, topped the “most important thing to do in the Kenny household’, list. Nice and tidy. My mother and father ran a tight ship. Dad with his strict set of rules sometimes leaked over into just how perfectly the bed had to be made- a chore in and within itself.

There was never anything in place to make these chores fun. And as a rule of thumb, the values that were impressed upon us came with understanding a chore, as responsibility and no rewards are given or to be expected, for doing what you are supposed to do anyway.

While that idea has stained itself on my way of parenting, I have decided to add some spice to the value; without loosing the flavor. Meaning, I do think it’s ok to reward good behavior … And I do think you can still maintain the value in the lesson of doing what’s required, without expecting rewards. And because I think most people do a better job at anything, when they feel appreciated.

Here are a few things to consider, that I’ve personally improved the chore system, to make it something fun, while rewarding and teaching. Wax on… Wax off…. (Some of you know exactly where that comes from) and that’s why I know now, that doing my chores as a child, was not all for nothing. “First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule Daniel son, not mine” Mr Miyagi

Competition — Make it a race. A fun- Family-friendly, race. One that encourages friendly camaraderie.

They have to do the chore anyway- bottom line. So how about a lesson within the responsibility. How about, maximize the learning opportunity by introducing concepts. Concepts of winning, loosing, completion, efficiency, accuracy, effectiveness. Inspections after the chore can determine this and if can be rated on a star scale. If you have more than one child, you can assign responsibilities that are age appropriate and place them in in a track bracket. Who can make it to the 100-yard finish line?

In implementing this competitive route to doing chores, I think it teaches perspective team work, creative ways of doing things, allowing them to maneuver through the task and find what works best. I think it helps them to develop the right attitude and perspective on handling assignments that will be competitive assigned to later; without being sore losers or overly aggressive obnoxious winners.

(Keep the discussion of wins, loose or draw, nearby. So that your child doesn’t feel like they are a looser and so that they won’t misunderstand the benefit of the lessons). “It’s ok to lose to opponent. It’s never okay to lose to fear” Mr Miyagi

One mom said, “there are no losers” and while I agree when it comes to children, we can’t extract that from the fact that there are times in life where they will not finish first. There are times where it’s going to be very clear that the best is who will be chosen. We cannot ignore that, out of the fear that we are teaching our children to compete. Stay with me on this.

Goal markers (100 yard line markers) (3 point basketball shots) (point system) how many points do they need for 10$ to go to the movies on Friday (teenager) how many points to go to get ice cream on Saturday (toddler) you’re taking them for ice cream anyway and you are also giving your teenager money for movies anyway… Why not make them earn it?

Make it a board game like monopoly – replacing the monopoly spaces with places your child of teenager wants to go, or with things they want or with things that you want your child to do. Don’t sleep on books. Books are rewards too. Dinner certificates, Gift certificates, amazon gift certificates for teenager or even smaller children, mani pedi for girls, spa day, golf lessons, track sessions, gift bags, swag bags, gift sets with educational material. The list goes on.

I’ve placed things like (get out of jail free) if you make it there from performing chores, then you may have an extra hour on curfew or an extra $10 to go out Friday or a ticket to a ball game etc. big and small items can go on the board and it can be customized to your pocketbook. Creative things that cost nothing can be placed on the board. Prizes -small and creative. Allowance- incentive -Rewards- (movie, outdoor activity of child’s choice, healthy cupcake etc. Praise – make sure to congratulate and uplift them, by telling how important it was. Assigning chores, gives responsibility and the act of successfully completing it makes them feel great!

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

 

This article was written by Niedria D. Kenny from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.