Let???s face it, when it comes to difficult jobs, parenting is as hard as it gets. It can be lonely, isolating and frustrating, while filled to the brim with love, laughter and blessings every day. Refresh your parenting skills by implementing these happy family habits right now.
According to clinical psychologist Pamela Dockstader-Ortiz, undistracted communication is a top strategy of happy families.
???We can start by practicing better self-awareness in the moment so that we can be truly present when interacting with our family,??? Dockstader-Ortiz says. ???This will convey to the other person that you are giving them 100 percent of your attention, that you are genuinely interested, and that they matter!???
She also recommends keeping a family notebook, where each member uses a different color pen, to keep communication lines open during the busiest of schedules.
I treasure the traditions my husband and I have established at home, and Dockstader-Ortiz agrees.
???Traditions are important because they offer a sense of identity, belonging and togetherness???. and are unique in each family.???
She adds that traditions need not be elaborate or complicated — eating a regular family meal counts as a tradition as well. Find small ways, like holiday baking or family walks, to create distinctive traditions for your family to cherish for years to come.
Boundaries define personal limits and promote self-reliance in children.
???One of our goals as parents is to help our children to differentiate, and become autonomous and separate individuals,??? says Dockstader-Ortiz. ???We can do this by promoting and supporting their individual thoughts and ideas, and likes and dislikes.???
Supporting kids in this way and celebrating their uniqueness fosters kids??? self-esteem.
In our home, learning and demonstrating respectful behavior is a family rule, but like most, it occasionally gets broken. Life comes into play and we lose our focus, but we shouldn???t, because respectful behavior is a cornerstone of happy family interactions.
???Each moment and situation in our day to day life offers opportunity to guide and teach our children life lessons about values, beliefs, as well as right from wrong,??? says Dockstader-Ortiz. ???We have the ability to model pro-social behavior for our children to learn ??? leading by example begins at home ??? and the earlier the better!???
Happy families understand that playtime is integral in family happiness.
???Playtime with our children is so important because there is a time to be a parent and then a time to level the playing ground, so to speak, by relating to our children and nurturing the relationship on a whole different level,??? says Dockstader-Ortiz.
She advises keeping family fun free of expectations, criticisms and judgments in order to foster independent thinking, imagination and creativity.
Molly Logan Anderson is a writer, wife and mom of three who lives in the Chicago suburbs. Intent on finding good in every day through her blog and website www.GrabTheGood.com, she hopes to help others do the same. From good family, to good advice, to good causes and good style, Molly is writing about it.
Ron Reflects: I know this is the time when families start getting ready for school again. Is this a time of rejoicing for mom and dad or did the summer go too quickly? Share by clicking the reply button.
Joint custody arrangements, especially after an acrimonious split, can be exhausting and infuriating. It can be extremely difficult to get past the painful history you may have with your ex and overcome any built-up resentment. Making shared decisions, interacting with each another at drop-offs, or just speaking to a person you’d rather forget all about can seem like impossible tasks. But while it’s true that co-parenting isn’t an easy solution, it is the best way to ensure your children’s needs are met and they are able to retain close relationships with both parents.
It may be helpful to start thinking of your relationship with your ex as a completely new one—one that is entirely about the well-being of your children, and not about either of you. Your marriage may be over, but your family is not; doing what is best for your kids is your most important priority. The first step to being a mature, responsible co-parent is to always put your children’s needs ahead of your own.
Co-parenting is the best option for your children
Through your parenting partnership, your kids should recognize that they are more important than the conflict that ended the marriage—and understand that your love for them will prevail despite changing circumstances. Kids whose divorced parents have a cooperative relationship:
- Feel secure. When confident of the love of both parents, kids adjust more quickly and easily to divorce and have better self-esteem.
- Benefit from consistency. Co-parenting fosters similar rules, discipline, and rewards between households, so children know what to expect, and what’s expected of them.
- Better understand problem solving. Children who see their parents continuing to work together are more likely to learn how to effectively and peacefully solve problems themselves.
- Have a healthy example to follow. By cooperating with the other parent, you are establishing a life pattern your children can carry into the future.
Need More Help with Divorce?
Helpguide’s Bring Your Life into Balance mindfulness toolkit can help.
The key to co-parenting is to focus on your children—and your children only. Yes, this can be very difficult. It means that your own emotions—any anger, resentment, or hurt—must take a back seat to the needs of your children. Admittedly, setting aside such strong feelings may be the hardest part of learning to work cooperatively with your ex, but it’s also perhaps the most vital. Co-parenting is not about your feelings, or those of your ex-spouse, but rather about your child’s happiness, stability, and future well-being.
Separating feelings from behavior
It’s okay to be hurt and angry, but your feelings don’t have to dictate your behavior. Instead, let what’s best for your kids—you working cooperatively with the other parent—motivate your actions.
- Get your feelings out somewhere else. Never vent to your child. Friends, therapists, or even a loving pet can all make good listeners when you need to get negative feelings off your chest. Exercise can also be a healthy outlet for letting off steam.
- Stay kid-focused. If you feel angry or resentful, try to remember why you need to act with purpose and grace: your child’s best interests are at stake. If your anger feels overwhelming, looking at a photograph of your child may help you calm down.
- Use your body. Consciously putting your shoulders down, breathing evenly and deeply, and standing erect can keep you distracted from your anger, and can have a relaxing effect.
Children in the middle
You may never completely lose all of your resentment or bitterness about your break up, but what you can do is compartmentalize those feelings and remind yourself that they are your issues, not your child’s. Resolve to keep your issues with your ex away from your children.
- Never use kids as messengers. When you have your child tell the other parent something for you, it puts him or her in the center of your conflict. The goal is to keep your child out of your relationship issues, so call or email your ex yourself.
- Keep your issues to yourself. Never say negative things about your ex to your children, or make them feel like they have to choose. Your child has a right to a relationship with his or her other parent that is free of your influence.
Relieving stress in the moment—no matter who you’re dealing with
It may seem impossible to stay calm when dealing with a difficult ex-spouse who’s hurt you in the past or has a real knack for pushing your buttons. But by practicing quick stress relief techniques, you can learn to stay in control when the pressure builds.
Peaceful, consistent, and purposeful communication with your ex is essential to the success of co-parenting—even though it may seem absolutely impossible. It all begins with your mindset. Think about communication with your ex as having the highest purpose: your child’s well-being. Before contact with your ex, ask yourself how your talk will affect your child, and resolve to conduct yourself with dignity. Make your child the focal point of every discussion you have with your ex-partner.
Communication with your ex is likely to be a tough task. Remember that it isn’t always necessary to meet your ex in person—speaking over the phone or exchanging texts or emails is fine for the majority of conversations. The goal is to establish conflict-free communication, so see which type of contact works best for you. Whether talking via email, phone, or in person, the following methods can help you initiate and maintain effective communication:
- Set a business-like tone. Approach the relationship with your ex as a business partnership where your “business” is your children’s well-being. Speak or write to your ex as you would a colleague—with cordiality, respect, and neutrality. Relax and talk slowly.
- Make requests. Instead of making statements, which can be misinterpreted as demands, try framing as much as you can as requests. Requests can begin “Would you be willing to…?” or “Can we try…?”
- Listen. Communicating with maturity starts with listening. Even if you end up disagreeing with the other parent, you should at least be able to convey to your ex that you’ve understood his or her point of view. And listening does not signify approval, so you won’t lose anything by allowing your ex to voice his or her opinions.
- Show restraint. Keep in mind that communicating with one another is going to be necessary for the length of your children’s entire childhood—if not longer. You can train yourself to not overreact to your ex, and over time you can become numb to the buttons he or she tries to push.
- Commit to meeting/talking consistently. Frequent communication with your ex will convey the message to your children that
you and their other parent are a united front. This may be extremely difficult in the early stages of your divorce or separation.
- Keep conversations kid-focused. You can control the content of your communication. Never let a discussion with your ex-partner digress into a conversation about your needs or his/her needs; it should always be about your child’s needs only.
Improving the relationship with your ex
If you are truly ready to rebuild trust after a separation or divorce, be sincere about your efforts. Remember your children’s best interests as you move forward to improve your relationship.
- Ask his or her opinion. This fairly simple technique can effectively jump-start positive communications between you and your ex. Take an issue that you don’t feel strongly about, and ask for your ex’s input, showing that you value his or her input.
- Apologize. When you’re sorry about something, take the time to apologize sincerely—even if the incident happened a long time ago. Apologizing can be very powerful in moving your relationship away from being adversaries.
- Chill out. If a special outing with your ex is going to cut into your time with your child by an hour, graciously let it be. Remember that it’s all about what is best for your child; plus, when you show flexibility, your ex is more likely to be flexible with you.
Parenting is full of decisions you’ll have to make with your ex, whether you like each another or not. Cooperating and communicating without blow-ups or bickering makes decision-making far easier on everybody. If you shoot for consistency, geniality, and teamwork with your ex, the details of child-rearing decisions tend to fall into place.
Aim for consistency
It’s healthy for children to be exposed to different perspectives and to learn to be flexible, but they also need to know they’re living under the same basic set of expectations at each home. Aiming for consistency between your home and your ex’s avoids confusion for your children.
- Rules. Rules don’t have to be exactly the same between two households, but if you and your ex-spouse establish generally consistent guidelines, your kids won’t have to bounce back and forth between two radically different disciplinary environments. Important lifestyle rules like homework issues, curfews, and off-limit activities should be followed in both households.
- Discipline. Try to follow similar systems of consequences for broken rules, even if the infraction didn’t happen under your roof. So, if your kids have lost TV privileges while at your ex’s house, follow through with the restriction. The same can be done for rewarding good behavior.
- Schedule. Where you can, aim for some consistency in your children’s schedules. Making meals, homework, and bedtimes similar can go a long way toward your child’s adjustment to having two homes.
Major decisions need to be made by both you and your ex. Being open, honest, and straightforward about important issues is crucial to both your relationship with your ex and your children’s well-being.
- Medical needs. Effective co-parenting can help parents focus on the best medical care for the child, and can help reduce anxiety for everyone. Whether you decide to designate one parent to communicate primarily with health care professionals or attend medical appointments together, keep one another in the loop.
- Education. School plays a major role in maintaining a stable environment for your kids, so be sure to let them know about changes in your child’s living situation. Speak with your ex ahead of time about class schedules, extra-curricular activities, and parent-teacher conferences, and be polite to him or her at school or sports events.
- Financial issues. The cost of maintaining two separate households can strain your attempts to be effective co-parents. Set a realistic budget and keep accurate records for shared expenses. Be gracious if your ex provides opportunities for your children that you cannot provide.
As you co-parent, you and your ex are bound to disagree over certain issues. Keep the following in mind as you try to come to consensus with your ex.
- Respect can go a long way. Simple manners are often neglected between co-parents, even though they should be the foundation for co-parenting. Being considerate and respectful includes letting your ex know about school events, being flexible about your schedule when possible, and taking his or her opinion seriously.
- Keep talking. It might sound tedious, but if you disagree about something important, you will need to continue to communicate about the topic. Never discuss your differences of opinions with or in front of your child. If you still can’t agree, you may need to talk to a third party, like a therapist or mediator.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you disagree about important issues like a medical surgery or choice of school for your child, by all means keep the discussion going. But if you want your child in bed by 7:30 and your ex says 8:00, try to let it go and save your energy for the bigger issues.
- Compromise. Yes, you will need to come around to your ex spouse’s point of view as often as he or she comes around to yours. It may not always be your first choice, but compromise allows you both to “win” and makes both of you more likely to be flexible in the future.
The actual move from one household to another, whether it happens every few days or just on weekends, can be a very hard time for children. Transitions represent a major change in your children’s reality. Every reunion with one parent is also a separation with the other; each “hello” is also a “goodbye.” In joint custody arrangements, transition time is inevitable, but there are many things you can do to help make exchanges and transitions easier, both when your children leave and return.
When your child leaves
As kids prepare to leave your house for your ex’s, try to stay positive and deliver them on time. You can use the following strategies to help make transitions easier:
- Help children anticipate change. Remind kids they’ll be leaving for the other parent’s house a day or two before the visit.
- Pack in advance. Depending on their age, help children pack their bags well before they leave so that they don’t forget anything they’ll miss. Encourage packing familiar reminders like a special stuffed toy or photograph.
Always drop off—never pick up the child on “switch day.” It’s a good idea to avoid “taking” your child from the other parent so that you don’t risk interrupting or curtailing a special moment. Drop off your child at the other parent’s house instead.
When your child returns
The beginning of your children’s return to your home can be awkward or even rocky. You can try the following to help your child adjust:
- Keep things low-key. When children first enter your home, try to have some down time together—read a book or do some other quiet activity.
- Double up. To make packing simpler and make kids feel more comfortable when they are at the
other parent’s house, have kids keep certain basics—toothbrush, hairbrush, pajamas—at both houses.
- Allow the child space. Children often need a little time to adjust to the transition. If they seem to need some space, do something else nearby. In time, things will get back to normal.
- Establish a special routine. Play a game or serve the same special meal each time your child returns. Kids thrive on routine—if they know exactly what to expect when they return to you it can help the transition.
Dealing with visitation refusal
Sometimes kids refuse to leave one parent to be with the other. Although this can be a difficult situation, it is also common for children in joint custody.
- Find the cause. The problem may be one that is easy to resolve, like paying more attention to your child, making a change in discipline style, or having more toys or other entertainment. Or it may be that an emotional reason is at hand, such as conflict or misunderstanding. Talk to your child about his or her refusal.
- Go with the flow. Whether you have detected the reason for the refusal or not, try to give your child the space and time that he or she obviously needs. It may have nothing to do with you at all. And take heart: most cases of visitation refusal are temporary.
- Talk to your ex. A heart-to-heart with your ex about the refusal may be challenging and emotional, but can help you figure out what the problem is. Try to be sensitive and understanding to your ex as you discuss this touchy subject.
By Demetria Gallegos
- Everett Collection
- Parents fall into roles within the household. How hard is it to change them?
When my daughters ask what???s for dinner, I have the extreme pleasure of saying, ???I don???t know.??? Because I rarely do. Their dad makes almost every meal, usually from scratch, and in his hands, it???s tasty, economical and healthful.
John???s reign as Meal Parent began almost 16 years ago, shortly after our oldest was born. When Jamie was ready for solids, she got home-made baby food, which made other mothers in our playgroup feel a little insecure. I don???t remember ever asking him to be in charge of meals, but he was good at it, and ??? as the parent at home ??? he felt it was his responsibility.
At the time, with just one little baby, I never would have imagined who I have become. Turns out, I???m in charge of Homework, Housekeeping, Photos and Tech Support.
I never understood how unrelenting the chores of parenthood would be, and how we would naturally fall into these roles. It???s beautiful when it works (did I mention he???s also Laundry, Shopping and Dishes Parent? ??? I know, I hit the jackpot).
But sometimes you have to take on jobs that no one wants. Midnight Parent, to help the child with the bad stomach. Sewage Clean-Up Custodian, after a basement shower drain kept exploding. Bug Killer. Shoveling the Driveway for Three Days After a Blizzard to Extricate the Cars Parent. You step up when duty calls. Every time these roles are invoked, I reflect anew with deep humility on how single parents do it.
I wrote this week about how John has been Pet Parent all these years, and how I considered challenging his primacy when one of the girls set her heart on adopting a cat. In the end, I chose not to, in part because of my respect for the thoughtful process he has gone through with the girls to evaluate different potential pets and our ability to care for them well. It???s always been his turf.
But things are changing and roles are shifting as our daughters get older, and we all become more mindful of how entrenched these patterns have become.
Propelling the four of them through homework can still be onerous, but increasingly, they track their own responsibilities and progress.
The girls and I have finally begun to feel guilty about leaving dishes in the sink, and realize how much John has been spoiling us.
One of our girls is very interested in cooking, and has begun trying recipes on us ??? to our delight. We need more of that to happen. And, in truth, I should probably make more than the occasional grilled cheese.
Jugglers, which parent are you? What do you think of the division of labor? Would you set up things differently if you were starting over again?
Ron Asks: “How do you divide the parenting roles in your household?”
Based on the book by Amy Ford
Helping adoptive parents with advice and experience in raising children of different ethnicity.
Top 10 Things White Parents Need to Know When Raising African American Children
Darker skin is drier than lighter skin
Expect to use a generous amount of lotion daily. Find a brand with the least amount of water content in order to maximize the amount of hydration.
Sandboxes are not your friend
Sandboxes are not your friend It takes an enormous amount of time and effort to remove sand from your child’s hair. Avoid the sandbox until you are ready for the challenge.
- Limit Your Child’s Exposure to Water
Your child’s hair is naturally dry and washing their hair as often as you wash your own will cause the hair to dry even more and break. Hair washing once per week is fine.
- Hair is Huge
Your child’s hair is nothing like your own. Your child’s hair is nothing like your own, don’t treat it as such.
- Wash weekly with a hydrating shampoo
- Condition, Condition, Condition
- Comb for boys, brush for girls
- Silk Scarf for girls overnight
- Do what it takes to master the hair
The hair of a minority child is an expression of cultural pride and is directly linked to self-esteem.
- White Privilege
You have it, your child doesn’t. White privilege is the undeserved, unprompted advantages afforded to whites in this country in the areas of banking, education, and society.
- Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
Not everyone in your life will support your decision to parent a child of a different race. You may lose some friends or family members. Can you handle it?
- Be prepared to become a minority
Adopting a child of a different race automatically moves you into minority status. Gone are the days of being anonymous. Prepare yourself for the attention coming your way. It is helpful to practice how you will respond to questions about the unique nature of your family. Decide as a family how much information you are comfortable sharing.
- Racism is wide spread in this country in ways that may not be visible until you accept a child of a different race into your family. It may take a while for you to feel it or see it, but your child will feel it immediately. It is part of his every day experience. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening. Embrace the differences and celebrate the likenesses.
- Your African American child has needs you cannot meet. It truly takes a village to raise a child and never has it been truer than in raising one of a different race. Your child has physical, cultural, and emotional needs that you cannot meet without taking the time to build a support system. Look to churches, sports teams, parenting groups, child care workers, teachers, and play groups for support.
Ron Replies: I am currently working on a seminar on Adoption Clinical Skills concerning transracial adoptions and thought this could be helpful to prospective adoptive parents.
Click “like” if you think “parents need the right tools to do the job of parenting”.
Child and Family Expert, Ron Huxley, is letting you into his Parenting “Inner Circle” to teach you the tricks of how to (re)gain control of your home.
Over 20 years of parenting education, family therapy, court-mandated classroom experiences are yours when you join this exclusive parenting membership.
Backyard Water Games
The pool ain’t the only place for wet summer magic. Put on your suits and stay poolside. More fun to come!
This game can be played on the back lawn. What you’ll need is a hose with a nozzle that will allow for a straight, steady stream of water. You can either play the game as a limbo game or a hurdle game. Use the steady stream of water as the limbo stick. Kids must maneuver their bodies under the stream of water without getting soaked. The lower the stream is, the harder it is to go under it. The stream will be lowered when every kid makes it under the previous stream.
You cannot crawl on the ground to get past the stream???you have to walk???arching your back as you go! If the ground is too slippery for kids to arch their backs while walking under the stream, let them hunch forward instead???we don’t want anyone to get hurt!
If you decide to play the game as a hurdle, you might want to put some padding on the ground because kids could slip when they land on the ground. Try some rubber matting???something that might have a little traction for wet, slippery feet.
Water Gun Wars
Here’s a good way to enjoy a hot summer day without a swimming pool. For this game, you might want to invest in some of those supersoaker water guns. They don’t have to be the super-powered supersoakers because, again, the idea of water play is safety. But some of the super capacity but low-powered supersoakers are perfect. If you can’t get a supersoaker, a regular water pistol will do. To play the game, you can just fire at each other, or you can include a game of Tag in all the squirting!
The player who is ???It??? gets the water gun and must tag the other players by squirting them with the gun. The person who is tagged first gets to take over the gun and do the squirting.
Try playing this game as Freeze Tag. You must freeze in place when you are squirted by the water pistol. You can be unfrozen by having another player crawl (or swim) between your legs. If ???It??? manages to freeze everyone, he or she gets to squirt again.
You can also play that ???It??? has the pistol, but only until he or she is tagged by another player. If ???It??? cannot squirt the player before being tagged, he or she must relinquish the power of the pistol to the person who tagged him or her.
Please only use the water pistols inside your yard and always make sure they are brightly colored. There are too many horror stories in the news these days about kids and realistic-looking toy guns. Be careful!
You can also play this game in the pool. It just makes it harder to get out of the way when you’re waist-deep in water.
Try this game on a really hot summer day in your backyard kiddie pool. Kids will love it, but believe me???if it’s hot enough adults will play, too.
Fill the kiddie pool with water and add ice cubes! Have each person try to remove the ice cubes with their feet. You’ll be cool before you know it! For a real challenge, have each person remove the ice cubes using only one foot. The person to remove the most ice cubes is the winner. With adults, don’t worry about who wins???just think ??? ???cold!???
More on: Games
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Family Games ?? 2002 by BookEnds, LLC. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To order this book visit Amazon’s web site or call 1-800-253-6476.
Q: Tell us a bit about your background and what led you to First Presbyterian School in Santa Monica.
A: “I went to graduate school in UCLA where I completed my master’s degree in Early Education and Psychology. While I was there I was invited to join the teaching staff of the Early Childhood Unit at the UCLA Elementary School. This wonderful opportunity gave me a very strong foundation of integrating theory and practice. Because the school is part of the UCLA Graduate School of Education, I was involved in research projects and mentoring student teachers. The aspects of visibility, team teaching, dialogue, research and innovation that I learned there have continued to inform my work as a teacher and a director of a school to this day.
I became the Director of First Pres 26 years ago and had the opportunity to work with the teachers to evolve the school in a way that supported children’s thinking and development in social, emotional, physical, and cognitive areas. When I read an article in the journal of The National Association for the Education of Young Children, called “Beautiful Spaces, Caring Places,” I became very intrigued about what was going on in the schools in the municipality of Reggio Emilia, Italy, and set out to learn more. It’s a philosophy that is constantly evolving. We never say we are a Reggio school—because we are not in that part of Italy—but we have been inspired by their philosophy.
*While I was at home with two young children, I organized a parent education class for a group of my friends that met with success. After starting at First Pres, I began an individual consulting program as well because I found that some parents wanted more personal support. I continue to teach parenting classes and consult with parents as well.”
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about Reggio Emilia and how this approach to education works within a school?
A: “At First Pres, we have been inspired and working with the Reggio Approach for 13 years. We continue to consult with Amelia Gambetti, a liaison between Reggio Children and schools in the U.S and throughout the world. She encouraged us to embrace our identity within our own context and community.
The Reggio Approach sees the school as a system of interactions and relationships and the daily life of the school reflects and values children, teachers and parents as protagonists in the learning process. The system is about facilitating children’s own powers of thinking. In doing that, there’s a sense of the expressive and the communicative and cognitive capacities that each individual has. The environment is rich with many materials, which can give form to their ideas. They are learning through all their senses. It is a pedagogy based on listening. Teachers listen to children’s ideas, document and reflect with them as they formulate, test and revisit their theories while building knowledge and skills. When children come to school, they already have their own theories and ideas developed through their early experiences. We begin with a strong image of the child as capable and competent. Children are protagonists in the learning process and learning is co-constructed with the teacher and other children as they work together in small and large groups sharing their ideas and listening to others’ ideas.
There is a pedagogy of listening that gives respect to each individual’s ideas within the context of the community and a give and take between children as they talk and solve problems together. Most of the learning takes place in small groups, which promotes deepening levels of thinking. Children are provoked by others’ questions. Everyday there is engaged, dynamic learning!”
Q: You co-wrote Parenting from the Inside Out (which I would recommend as required reading to any parent) with neurobiologist Daniel Siegel, M.D, and if you had to sum up what this style of parenting is, how would you describe it?
A: ““Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Helps Us Raise Children Who Thrive,” is a parenting style based on relationships. Becoming a parent can trigger unresolved issues that we may unknowingly carry from our relationships with our own parents, and can interfere with us being the kind of parent we want to be. I work with many parents who are stuck in ineffective relationship patterns with their children. Because our book integrates both left and right brain processing, offering both narrative stories and neuroscience research on the brain and relationships, it offers a hopeful message to parents. The feedback I receive from parents often includes that their other relationships become more satisfying as well.
Learning to communicate is at the core of effective parent/child relationships. Reflective dialogue supports the child in feeling understood and strengthens their core sense of selves. When we are able to listen with an open mind and open heart, our child feels understood even if they are not getting what they want. Respectful communication is very important to develop, because when we have children, one of the things that we’re doing is we’re essentially telling them who they are. We are giving them an image of themselves, and we want to give them an image of themselves as being confident, capable and lovable.”
Q: What are some simple exercises we can think about as parents to help us overcome our own negative patterns and not hurt our children?
A: “I think we have to start by being self-aware and honest with ourselves. It helps if we check in with ourselves to see how we are feeling to help us slow down our reaction. We are then less likely to act in a way that we might regret later. If we don’t take care of our own feelings, they will most likely come out in indirect ways, which disconnect us from our children and family.
When everyday routines aren’t working well, talk with your children about the problem and include them in a conversation about possible solutions. Ask them what they think would help solve the problem. When we include children in the process of making a plan they are more invested in its success because they have been given the respect of being part of a collaborative problem solving process. Here’s an example of how you might begin:
What do you think would help us get out of the house
on time in the morning because we’ve been late the last three days. It’s just not working. It seems like every morning I’m getting mad and raising my voice and you probably don’t like that. Let’s make a plan so that we can have a pleasant morning and everyone can be ready to leave the house on time.
Inviting your child/children to offer some ideas of what they think could help, makes a significant difference. It helps to have an honest conversation with kids about what’s not working, rather than getting angry at the same thing over and over again every morning. Stop doing what isn’t working. Getting angry at our children in the morning is unlikely to have any positive results. When we’re angry at our children, they’ll often defend themselves by getting angry at us. Sometimes children get mad at us because they think we’re going to get angry at them. When both we and our children are defensive, communication breaks down.
I often advise parents who feel stuck in a negative pattern with their child, to stop doing what isn’t working, and observe and reflect on both their child’s behavior and their own before making any change.
This is a good time to journal. Journaling can be helpful as it gives witness to our thoughts and feelings. The very act of writing can begin movement towards calming and healing and we are able to become more compassionate to our children and ourselves. When we are angry at our child, we may also be angry at ourselves because our child’s behavior makes us feel like an incompetent parent.
Another good time to journal is when you become more aware of what triggers a negative, unsuccessful response. When you notice that your reactions are more intense and extreme than the situation might merit, this awareness gives you an opportunity to change. The disruptive issue may have more to do with leftover or unresolved issues from your own childhood than with your child’s behavior. Writing your thoughts and feelings can be very helpful and begin to give us a deeper understanding of our child and ourselves.”