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Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

5 Ways to Make Tough Conversations with Kids Easier

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1. Time it right.

Weekend mornings are preferable because you’re not rushing to get everyone out the door and your kids can return to you—and the topic—if they have more questions or fears later in the day. Many kids (and grownups) are grouchy and exhausted by the evening.

“And even if your kids seem to be in a great mood, a drowsy brain can’t take in information as well, and any tears or anxious questions make it hard to wind down for sleep,” says Dawn Huebner, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of the self-help children’s book

2. Rehearse beforehand.

If the situation is emotional for you—for example, your pet needs to be put down or someone in your family is sick—take time to practice what you’re going to say, either in front of a mirror or with your partner or a close friend. That will help you keep your composure and deliver the news in the way that you want, says Dr. Huebner. “It’s okay for kids to see that their parents are sad, but the initial conversation sets the tone, and if you’re sobbing or stumbling over your words, your children may feel frightened.”

3. Speak on their level.

Complex concepts such as moving, divorce, or death are difficult for children to comprehend, says Paige Greytok, a family psychotherapist in Greenwich, Connecticut. If you flood your kids with all the nitty-gritty details, they may get overwhelmed or shut down. Instead, use short and straightforward sentences with age-appropriate explanations.

4. Validate in the moment.

Labeling emotions can help your young child put words to whatever feelings bubble up. For instance, you can say, “It sounds like that makes you sad” or “Is that scary?” But resist the urge to jump into fix-it mode. “It’s tempting to minimize feelings by saying something like ‘Don’t be afraid,’ but remember, whatever your child is feeling is real and valid to her,” says Dr. Huebner. “Children need to ‘feel felt’ before they can move on to things like processing and problem solving.”

5. Check back in.

The conversation isn’t over when it ends, points out Greytok. With a hard topic, kids will have further questions, so make it clear that you’re always available to discuss this again and that they can come to you with any questions or worries, big or small.

 

This article was written by Kate Rockwood from Parents and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Trying to Build Your Kid’s Self Control? These Other 2 Skills Will Help

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This will put your child on a path to better behavior.

Ben is repeatedly being poked with a pencil by his sister, Cassie, while they’re sitting at the kitchen table writing thank-you notes. Despite the message on the refrigerator door that reads, “Make good choices,” he’s about to hit her back.

Self-control is the ability to stop behavior. It means you won’t get in the way of yourself when working towards a goal. Lots of studies have established how important self-control is for life success, but disturbingly, researchers have also shown how our kids’ capacity for self-control has diminished over the past few decades.

We can’t expect our kids to magically have high levels of self-control without help. Self-control can be thought of like a muscle—exertion in the short-term can leave you feeling depleted and tired. But over time, exercising self-control will bulk it up and strengthen it.

The fact that it can be taught is both a ray of hope for parents and a light at the end of the tunnel for kindergarten teachers everywhere, but it comes with the burden of figuring out how we should be actively teaching and practicing self-control. We get there faster by cultivating the two skills that make self-control efforts more effective: creativity and empathy.

1. Teach Creativity

As a society, we say we value creativity, but we don’t teach it and we don’t really encourage it. Creativity is very important when generating ideas to solve self-control issues. If a child can imagine the consequences of his behavior, he might come up with a different path to achieve a goal. These both require imagination.

We can teach Ben to think through possible outcomes in his head. If we stop emphasizing what not to do and teach what can be done, Ben has way more options here than just sit or hit. Ben can cry. Ben can tell his sister to stop, he can pretend to be surprised by something he sees out the window, or he can choose to change seats. He can say, “Hey, are you going to do that all evening?” in a low funny voice. Make it Ben’s job to come up with creative alternatives to the situation.

Imaginative processes are also powerful tools that can control attention in younger children, and thus boost self-control. Take the incredibly hard task of standing still. This is nearly impossible for kids to do for long periods of time (or for some kids, impossible to do for 10 seconds). But if you ask preschoolers to stand at attention while acting as “lookouts,” they can be still for 12 minutes, whereas when simply asked to stand still, they average four still minutes.

Another study found that adding an imaginary friend who watches to see if a child can follow directions boosts the amount of time that she can spend doing a super boring task. (I might enlist this trick to get my kids to unload the dishwasher next week!) Doing things like this with your kids is fun and it will help make self-control a habit.

2. Teach Empathy

Teaching empathy is important for self-control too because there has to be a reason to not act that way. You can either control your behavior to reach your own long-term goals, or you can control it out of consideration for other people’s feelings.

A great imagination sets the stage for increased empathy, which helps your child understand how others think or feel and can lead to a self-control boost. Does Ben’s sister deserve a good smack back? There’s likely a lot more to the story.

Maybe she’s simply bored, but maybe she’s anxious about her test tomorrow. Maybe she has ADHD. Maybe she thinks Ben stole the bigger lemon bar for dessert. Maybe she has difficulty spelling and her dad clearly pointed this out when she sat down with that pencil and a blank pile of notecards. Ben will understand the situation much better if he can appreciate the wide range of days his sister might have had.

Self-Control Is Not Our End Game

Self-control is a straight “no.” That’s hard to hear at any age. But if you can see and choose a better way of getting what you want, that becomes self-regulation. Self-regulation says, “You can’t do or have what you want in this way, but let’s figure out another way to do it or get it.” When you color the edges of self-control with creativity and empathy, you see things differently. You become a “yes.”

We don’t want kids who simply have amazing self-control. We don’t want our son to just sit there being poked with a pencil for an entire hour by virtue of his impressive willpower. No, we want our son to be a problem solver instead. We want him to decide to resolve the situation creatively, with respect for all parties involved, even when he has depleted self-control at the end of a long day.

To get there, we just have to practice. There are neuroscience-based ways to teach our kids great self-regulation using a few minutes every day. The goal of practicing is to make a habit of creativity, of empathy, and of self-control so our children eventually do the right thing as effortlessly as possible.

We want our kids to have good behavior spring up from well-oiled brain machinery. This allows these future adults to save their intentional energy for higher-level thinking, for compassion, and for changing the world.

Erin Clabough, Ph.D., is a mother of four who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Her parenting style has been highly influenced by her background in brain development research. She teaches biology and neuroscience at Hampton-Sydney College and conducts research in developmental brain function and other areas. She writes for popular media such as Psychology Today, TODAY Parenting, and other publications. She is the author of Second Nature: How Parents Can Use Neuroscience to Help Kids Develop Empathy, Creativity, and Self-Control (Sounds True, January 8, 2019). Dr. Clabough resides in Charlottesville, VA.

 

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

6 questions you should ask your kids every single day

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In today’s digital world it is becoming harder and harder to actually connect with our children. They come home from school to the waiting television and usually end up playing video games on the tablet while watching TV (no judgement, we all do it). We don’t really know our children because none of us really know how to communicate anymore.

The typical daily parental question is, “How was your day?” And the typical response from our kids is “fine,” “good,” “OK” or any other one word response they can come up with without actually thinking. This question is lame. It will always get you a one-word answer and leave you wondering why you even bothered to ask. The key to understanding our children is to trick them into talking by asking questions that cannot be answered with “fine” or “good.”

Here’s some proven suggestions that will give you true insight into your child’s life.

1. What made you laugh today?

The random things that kids find funny are absolutely hilarious. My nieces and nephews tell the worst jokes, but their insane laughter is contagious and we always end up laughing together. You know what they say; families who laugh together, stay together!

2. What made you sad today?

Hopefully the answer to this question is nothing too major and depressing, but kids have emotions too. No one likes to voluntarily share sad things that happen every day and our kids are no different, but children are also inherently honest. When asked point-blank, in a place they feel safe, they will open up. You may have to pry, but it will be worth it.

3. Who did you play with today (note that teenagers prefer the phrase”hang out”)?

As much as it may worry us, our kids’ friends will have a huge impact on who they become, which is why we have to know who they are. This is a subtle way to find out if Susie is still hanging out with bad news Bobbie or if she has found new friends to play hopscotch with during recess. When you know your children’s friends, you don’t have to hope they will stay out of trouble.

4. What made you proud today?

Sometimes we are too preoccupied to fully appreciate the lint collection being shoved in our faces right at dinner time, so give your children this chance to brag a little bit and show off their creations or good deeds for the day. This also creates a killer opportunity to praise your child and to reinforce good behaviors.

5. Who made you smile today?

People are the source of true happiness and true friends will bring that joy to the forefront. The people who make your kids smile on a daily basis are the ones worth keeping around. Those are the true, lifelong friends that will hopefully be in their lives forever.

6. What’s something interesting you learned today?

This is the ultimate show and tell moment for your children. Despite what they may think, our children really are learning new things daily. This question makes them actually stop and think about what they learned and helps them internalize those things by condensing and sharing them with you.

You may be thinking there is not enough time in the day to sit and ask all of these questions and that’s OK. Tweak these questions to work for you and your family. Ask them all at once or twice a week, ask a couple each day or ask them all every day. If it is hard to talk during family dinner time, then bedtime is the perfect opportunity to review the day. Sit on the side of your child’s bed (even your teenagers) tuck them in and ask these six great questions. Try it in a way that works for you. You will be grateful you did, even if your kids do complain you’re getting repetitive.

 

This article was written by Kelsey Robertson from Family Share and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Why you shouldn’t sneak away from your kids when you leave the house (even if they cry)

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Even though this article was originally written with working mothers in mind, this is great information for all parents!

It’s very normal for babies and young children to be attached to their mother. Children want to feel protected, and the closer they are to their parents, the safer they feel. So it’s understandable for a child to start crying if their mother suddenly disappears from sight. To avoid this automatic crying fit, moms will try to sneak out of the house when someone else is watching the kids, but it’s better if your children see you leave.

Why should children see us when we leave home?

Before parting, it’s best to tell your kid where you’re going and that you’ll be back soon. Although it is painful to see them cry, it’s the healthiest thing to do. As they get older, they’ll understand that you always return after you leave.

It took me a while to understand this. With my youngest son, I often left the house unannounced and disappeared from his sight when he was distracted. He spent a lot of time running around the house looking for me after I left. Because of my pattern of sneaking away when going out, he sometimes got scared and thought I had left him when I was just in another room of the house.

To help reduce his anxiety, I began to look at things from his point of view and react accordingly. When I had to leave the house, I explained that I would only leave for a few minutes and then return. I also would explain that I was still at home (even when he couldn’t see me) I was just in the bedroom. I now could let my son happily play with his father in the kitchen because he knew I wouldn’t leave for the market without saying goodbye.

But won’t they suffer more if they see me go?

Depending on the child’s age and relationship with their parents, their reaction when their mother leaves may vary. However, it is always better to say goodbye when you leave so your child can start handling their emotions when mother and child separate.

It’s also important to explain to your child that you’ll leave but will return, or else even a five-minute absence can cause children to panic. In early childhood stages, 10 minutes feels much longer for your child than it does for you. Over time, the child will understand that Mom comes back after all, and their crying fits will lessen in time and frequency.

Will they every stop crying when I leave?

The crying won’t stop immediately, and maybe not even soon. But just because you don’t hear them cry when you leave doesn’t mean the babysitter doesn’t have to handle their tears when you leave. However, it’s not the end of the world if they cry. Always allowing your child to say goodbye even when he cries will allow him to get used to the pattern and thus eventually balance out his emotions.

Disappearing from your child’s sight without warning can generate feelings of insecurity and lack of protection. Never leave home without saying goodbye to your child. Remember that good communication and emotional bonds (even when they are young) generate an emotional support in your child that will affect them for their whole life.

 

This article was written by Fernanda Gonzalez Casafús from Family Share and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

6 Ways to Motivate Your Child For Good

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It can be a challenge to motivate children to do hard tasks whether it be schoolwork or chores. Too often, these interactions turn into power struggles or flat-out bribery. Receiving the right motivation and attention will transform your child’s attitude towards difficult tasks. As a parent, you can help your child develop intrinsic motivation that will allow them to become driven and resilient adults.

If your child is having issues at school or around the house, check out these tips for some ways to motivate your child without yelling, bribery or meltdowns.

1. Focus On Mastery

It’s completely understandable that parents want their children to succeed in school, including getting good grades. However, it’s important to understand that grades are a poor reflection of actual knowledge. Children and students quickly get in the habit of learning something just until the test, then forget it once the test is over. This is counter-productive for learning and curiosity and frequently results in poor motivation.

As a parent, you can combat this by focusing on mastery and learning instead of grades. Ask about something they learned that interested them that day instead of asking what score they got on their spelling test. Engaging your children in the actual material of the lesson, appealing to their innate curiosity about the world, develops a lasting, internal motivation that lasts.

2. Always Encourage

What comes naturally to adults takes time to develop. In other words, rather than being nit-picky about how smooth the bedsheets are, take time to thank and encourage the child for going as far as making the bed.

By focusing on encouragement, your child develops initiative when it comes to work that needs to be done. Eventually, sloppiness will sort itself out as your child gets older and learns.

3. Have Clear Expectations

Let’s be honest: kids today have more on their plate than previous generations. From ridiculous amounts of standardized testing to social media to helicopter parenting- children often feel as though a million things are being thrown at them at once. Even children burn out.

To help your children remain focused and motivated, be clear in your expectations for them. Don’t say you’ll be proud of them for trying so hard in school but wrinkle your nose at a B. Nothing frustrates a child more than constantly moving goal-posts. Instead, be consistent with your expectations so your child knows what to do.

4. Competition Without Comparison

Competition can be an extremely motivating force. Encourage these feelings in a healthy way to make children feel pride in their accomplishments by rewarding success and giving feedback.

Just a note: try to avoid competition and comparison between siblings or other family members. Family is a place where each child is accepted just as they are, so never compare one’s strength with another’s weakness. Competition can create motivation- just don’t go too far.

5. Create The Right Environment

In terms of schoolwork, sometimes the materials in the classroom just aren’t right for your child. Everyone has a different learning style, but in a classroom it’s downright impossible for the teacher to cater to each student.

Consider tutoring and specialized social studies textbooks that focus on making content engaging to children who struggle in those areas. Focusing on making learning accessible and fun reduces any resentment or frustration a child feels that might cause them to misbehave.

6. Communication Is Key

When I was in middle school, report card day was a day of panic. I remember classmates passing around a bottle of white-out, frantically trying to forge grades to avoid punishment for getting a B. Unfortunately, that attitude is all-too common today.

For parents, that type of underhanded behavior hurts but try considering it as a symptom of a larger problem. You need to create trust and kindness towards your child. To keep your child motivated, try to reframe failure as a way of learning rather than a harsh punishment. When a child feels safe coming to you when they’re having issues, you encourage a resilient attitude towards failure and a lasting motivation.

 

This article was written by Natalie Bracco 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.

Could ‘Emotion Coaching’ Be the Key to Good Parenting?

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Sick of parenting advice? Then read on, because according to experts, this may be the last piece of it you’ll ever need. “Emotion Coaching”—a lifelong process designed to teach children how to manage their difficult feelings—was designed by psychologist Dr. John Gottman. His theory? “The key to good parenting lies in understanding the emotional source of problematic behavior.” Bookmark these five simple steps in advance of your kid’s next meltdown.

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Step 1: Be aware of your child’s emotion

“Show your child respect and understanding in moments when they feel misunderstood, upset, or frustrated,” writes Gottman. Rather than tuning out ’til the storm passes, distracting, bribing or punishing them, roll up your sleeves and get in there. “Talk through their feelings with them and try to understand their source.” Your goal is simple: Empathy. Put yourself in his little shoes to understand what’s motivating his strong emotion.

The next time your son hits his sister, for example, do not lose your cool and immediately send him to his room for a time out. Instead, try saying something like: “I can see that you’re really mad that your sister knocked down your tower. Do you also feel frustrated because you worked on it all morning and now you need to start over? Does that make you feel overwhelmed?” Try offering up your own experience: “Once, when I was working on a big work project, my computer broke and erased it all! I remember I felt so hopeless. But I redid my work, and it came out even better in the end.”

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Step 2: Recognize your child’s expression of emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching

This step is simply about shifting your perspective. Try looking at the-stuff-of-nightmares outbursts (e.g., tantrums on the floor of the cheese aisle) as the definition of “a teachable moment.” Of course they will trigger your own anxiety. But by supporting your child when she’s in crisis-mode, you are—in a funny way—actually controlling the moment. Best of all, you’re creating memories she can later recall to self-soothe, teaching her, ultimately, to work through problems herself.

Step 3: Listen with empathy and validate your child’s feelings

“Rather than asking a child how they feel, observe them—their facial expressions, body language, gestures, and the tone of their voice. If your toddler is crying, she probably doesn’t know why. Asking her won’t help,” explains one of Gottman’s colleagues. Instead of drilling down with questions, offer simple observations (“You seem really upset”) and validation (“My feelings would be hurt if my friend pushed me, too.”). Once your child is calm, collaborate on problem-solving strategies or solutions. (“Would it make you feel better if we all had a talk about taking turns? Or should we try playing with something else?”)

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Step 4: Help your child learn to label their emotions with words

Per Dr. Gottman, finding words to describe a problem “can help children transform an amorphous, scary, uncomfortable feeling into something definable, something that has boundaries and is a normal part of life… [something that] everybody has and everybody can handle.” Naming emotions has even been shown to calm a child’s central nervous system, he writes. Adds UC Berkeley sociologist Dr. Christine Carter of Gottman’s method: “The larger our children’s emotion vocabulary is, the easier it is to label emotions in the heat of the moment.”

Here’s a Gottman-supplied sample dialog between a father and son (emphasis ours):

Dad: “It sounds like you feel upset about the math test.”
Son: “Yeah… I feel like I could have done better. I should have studied more. Jimmy got an A. He told everyone.”
Dad: “I know how that goes. I used to HATE it when I had messed up on something and other kids shouted out their good grades. It made me so jealous.”
Son: “It’s sooo annoying! It felt really bad… I guess I was jealous.”

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Step 5: Set limits when you are helping your child solve problems or deal with upsetting situations appropriately

After you empathize, validate, connect, etc., your work as a parent is not done. You still need to deal with the problematic behavior. The key is to treat the behavior as unacceptable—not the child. Describe the problem without making it personal, blaming or shaming: “Feeling angry is ok but hitting is not. Hitting hurts. Little sisters are not for hitting.” Then, problem-solve together. You might ask: “What could you do the next time you feel angry with her?” He might suggest: “Count to ten? Take a walk? Hit a pillow? Come and tell you?” Helping your child decide on a solution is empowering, writes Gottman, because it enhances “their abilities and confidence in thinking for themselves.” With enough repetition, he promises they will.

 

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.

Life-Changing Tricks to Make Morning Routines Easier

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We asked you what product or strategy helps streamline your mornings and get you out the door on time. These ideas are serious game changers.

I wait until I’m at work to have my coffee. It motivates me to get ready and keeps me from lingering.

Libby Cutler, Richmond, Virginia

I keep the kids’ socks, shoes, and hair stuff next to the garage door so we don’t have to run around for the last few things we need to leave the house.

—Valerie Thompson, Houston

I shower and wash my hair in the evening, then sleep on a silk pillowcase. In the a.m., I just fluff out my hair with a light styling product. It saves me up to half an hour.

— Susan Katz, Henderson, Nevada

I set my alarm to an upbeat song to stop myself from pressing snooze. There’s no better way to get moving in the morning.

— @DARTHCAKEINATOR

Twenty years ago, I decided to wear only dresses to work. They’re easy and comfortable, and they require less outfit coordination.

— Kimberly Gremillion, Alexandria, Louisiana

While preparing for bed, my husband and I talk through the next day. It helps us get on the same page in case we forgot about something. And knowing we’re ready for the day ahead helps us sleep better.

— Mayhew Lester, Dallas

I taught my five children to make their own lunches. From the age of about four, they started learning what should be included in a healthy(ish) lunch and being given a budget at the grocery store to use on their favorite snacks. This also helps keep them from complaining about not liking what I packed or not having an extra snack after school.

— Ashley Gaines, Jacksonville, Florida

The Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker is a game changer in the mornings. I’m able to serve my 5-year-old a hot breakfast while tending to my newborn at the same time. Talk about a win!

— Molly Woodsum, Tallahassee, Florida

One of our young daughters used to require 45 minutes to get dressed in her winter gear. Amazon’s Alexa helped us implement our pediatrician’s advice to set a timer. The kids jump to get their shoes, coats, and backpacks every time she rings.

— Amanda Dreyer, Madison, Wisconsin

A keypad lock on my front door. Because I mostly walk, bike, and take public transportation, I rarely need car keys; the keypad lets me forgo carrying a house key, too. No more search-and-destroy missions or fumbling around before leaving the house, which translates into less stress getting to my destination.

— Kate Schwarz, Washington D.C.

When my children were younger and in school, I made a breakfast menu with pictures of their favorite food and drinks, such as cereal, bagels, OJ, and chocolate milk. Before they went to bed, they circled what they wanted. It made morning time easy, with no complaints!

— Debi Muller, Plantation, Florida

Binder clips. My hands chafe and get cold easily, so I’m always wearing gloves during the winter. I keep my gloves together using the clips and put them in a clear plastic bin in the closet. It makes it easy to grab a pair of gloves and go.

— Marge Laskowski, Miller Place, New York

Setting the coffee maker on a timer the night before. The scent helps me move faster.

— @ANJUBSM

A hatchback car. I work in forestry, so I leave the house with my arms full of backpacks, binders, tools, and equipment. When I bought my most recent car, I insisted on a hatchback so I could just shove everything in quickly and not dirty the passenger seats.

— Camille Stephens, Logan, Utah

Every single clock is set 10 minutes ahead.

— Ann-Marie Lyons, Frankfort, Illinois

I spend a few minutes cuddling with my children. It makes them much more willing to do what needs to be done to get out the door.

— Tiffiny Wolf, Atlanta

 

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