Tag Archive for parent child relationship

Mother and Child in Sync…A Husband’s Role?

Little girl baking christmas cookies

A study from the University of Cambridge used EEG’s to look at mothers’ brains and their babies’ brains while they interacted. They noticed that their brain waves synchronized, especially during positive interactions with lots of eye contact. This sharing of positive emotional states allowed mother and child to connect better. It also stimulated the development of their babies’ mental capacities. Although this study dealt with mothers and babies, I think it is likely true that happy mothers bond best with their children of all ages. And, the better the mother/child bond, the better the child grows and matures. With that in mind, a question popped into my mind. How can I, as a husband help my children have a happy mother? Does a mother’s happiness have anything to do with me, a husband and father? You bet. The happiest mothers are those who feel supported and loved by the father of their children. So, if you want your children to have the best relationship possible with their mother and reap all the benefits of that attuned relationship, practice these three tips.

  • Team up with your wife. She needs to know she is not alone in raising your children. Help take care of the home. Do some chores. Cook some meals. Clean the bathroom. Help take care of the baby. Change some diapers. Play with the baby. As an added benefit, know that seeing your do housework will enamor your wife toward you (Read Forget the Flowers…Do The Dishes). Watching you enjoy time with your baby and your children will really enamor her.
  • Emotionally connect with your wife. Share her joys and struggles. When she is happy, rejoice with her. When she is sad, mourn with her. Share your own joys and fears with her. Talk to her about how much you enjoy and love being a father and a husband. Also talk to her about your fears and concerns. You will grow more emotionally connected as you share your emotions with one another.
  • Honor your wife. We honor our wife by assuring she knows how much we value her. So, compliment her. Tell her she looks beautiful. Encourage her. Show her affection. Hold her hand while watching your child play on the floor, in the playground, or in the high school band. Give your wife a hug and kiss every night before you go to sleep and every morning before you leave for the day. Honor your wife. (This may actually be A Provocative Secret for a More Satisfying Sex Life.)

These three simple activities represent ways in which you, as a husband, can help your children have a happy mother. And, when their mother is happy their brains will be better attuned and ready to grow in a healthier way.

Sure, Children Lie…But Parents?

It’s true. Children lie. But parents? A collaborative effort of four universities from four different countries (Singapore, Canada, US, and China) conducted a study exploring the impact of parental lies…so they must have known parents lie. I had to ask myself…what kind of lies might parents tell their children? As soon as I asked, I began to recall some lies I have heard parents tell their children. “Tell them I’m not home.” “If you don’t behave, I’ll call the police.” “Tell them I’m sick and we’ll go to the park.” “I’m too tired to play” (while working on a home project). “You aren’t tired.”

Yes, parents lie sometimes. But, when parents lie, it seems to carry dire consequences. Which brings me back to the collaborative study exploring the impact of parental lies. The clinicians involved in the study found that lying led to short-term compliance but long-term problems. Sure, the little white lie got the children to behave in the moment, but it led to negative consequences as the children grew up.  Specifically, the more a person reported being lied to as a child, the more likely they lied to their parents as they got older. They also reported greater difficulty managing various psychological and social challenges. They exhibited more disruptive behavior, conduct problems, selfish behaviors, and manipulative behaviors. They reported feeling guilt and shame more often as well.

With so many behavioral, social, and emotional challenges arising in our children from parental lies, you might want to try an alternative.

  • Acknowledge your children’s feelings and your own feelings rather than dismissing them with a lie. (“You can’t be tired.” “You have no reason to be upset.” “I’m not angry!!”) Let your children know it is ok to have various feelings. Then teach them how to respond to those feelings in an appropriate manner.
  • Give your children information. Rather than lie, explain…truthfully. Our children can learn from the truth.
  • Offer choices. No need to lie and tell them the green shirt with the hole in it is dirty when in truth you simply do not want them to wear a shirt with  hole in it. Give them the information. Explain why you do not want them to wear it. Then offer them a choice of other clothes they can wear.

How else might you avoid telling your children lies?

The Digital Bedtime Story?

I love to read. When my daughters were young, I loved reading to them at bedtime. I also loved lying in the bed with my wife and children listening to my wife read Little House on the Prairie or The Chronicles of Narnia to our children. We read physical books to our children…you know, books made of real paper as opposed to e-books. I’m not sure we had the choice of using e-books when my children were young. Still, the smell and touch of the paper, the sound of a turning page…it all has a certain beauty to it.

Today, you might think to read bedtime stories from an e-book, a nook, or a kindle to your children. But before you do, consider this small study published in 2019. This study involved 37 parent-child pairs. The children were an average of 29-months-old. The researchers observed and recorded behaviors while these parent-child pairs read stories together. In fact, each pair read each story in three different formats: a physical book, an e-reading tablet, and an e-reading tablet on which the story was interactive (touching added sounds, enhanced pictures, read words).

After observing and coding behavior, the researchers found that parent-child pairs using e-readers battled for possession of the tablet more often than they did when using a physical  book. Children moved so the parent could not see the e-reader more often, controlling the parent’s ability to read. Children and parents touched the book more often, pushed the other person’s hand away. Parents and children grabbed the book or attempted to move it out of the other’s range as well. In other words, parent and child exerted more effort to control the e-reader. They exhibited more behaviors aimed at “managing possession” of the tablet.

Why? The researchers note that tablets are generally for solitary use. For instance, parents may use the e-reader as an electronic babysitter for the child, letting their play with it alone while they clean the kitchen. This may increase the difficulty of using it collaboratively as a pair. Children also love to explore what is generally off limits to them. So, when an e-reader, which is generally off limits to them or turned off so they cannot use it, is suddenly presented to them, they may want to possess it. The researchers also suggest that both parent and child may be “mesmerized” by the screens that invite each one into a solitary interaction with the screen. In other words, in the long run, we really do not know why parents and children battled more for control of the e-reader when they can collaborate and share with the physical book. Perhaps that will be the next study we read.

But, whatever the reason, physical books led to greater interactive sharing versus attempts to control and possess. I like what the author of Bedtime Stories in the Digital Age concluded after reviewing this information: “if our parent-child interactions shape our future behaviors (and they do), we might want to read physical books with our children. Doing so is a more collaborative, less controlling interaction.”  And, if our world needs anything right now, it needs more collaborative, less controlling people. So, pick up a couple of physical books and enjoy reading them with your child.

Your Children Are Watching…Teach Them Well

I like the words of Alison Gopnik in her book The Gardener and The Carpenter. “Children not only do as you do, they do as you intend to do, as you really ought to have done, and as it would make most sense for you to do.”

It’s true. Children don’t simply do as we tell them to do. They do as we do. They imitate our actions and repeat our words. Who hasn’t had the experience of hearing your toddler shouting out the profanity you said only one time in moment of frustration. Our children learn by observing us. But they learn even more than that. They learn and do as we intended to do, even when we mess up along the way. Consider the study involving 18-month-old toddlers watching someone trying to take a toy apart. As the person tries to take the toy apart, their fingers keep slipping. The 18-month-old children do not imitate the slipping fingers. They recognize the intent and imitate the intent by taking the toy apart without their fingers slipping. (Consider this example too. It’s one of my favorites and it’s An Amazing Parenting Insight Learned in Three Parts). Yes, our children imitate our intended behaviors.

They also do what we “really ought to have done” and what makes most efficient sense. Consider this example. A group of 18-month-old children watch as a person tries to make a box light up. The person’s arms were wrapped up, so he was unable to use them. So, to make the box light up, he lightly bangs his head on the box. The 18-month-old children do not bang their head on the box to get it to light up. Instead, they recognize the intent was to hit the box so it would light up. They also recognize the person’s inability to use their arms and the greater efficiency of using arms. So, they bang the box with their hands to make the box light up. Children do as we “really ought to have done.”

Still, on more caveat about this quote. Children are more likely to do as we intend and as we “really ought to have done” when we have a relationship with them. Children learn best from within a loving relationship. Which leads to a second quote by Alison Gopnik that I really like: “The key to love in practice is doing things together…participating in the world in a way that accommodates the strengths and weaknesses of both of you,” you and your child. Our children learn by observing and imitating. They imitate our intended purpose and will modify their actions to those that are most efficient and effective…even when we mess up. So, love your child by doing things together. Let them observe your patience when interacting with things in the world and your kindness when interacting with other people. Let them participate in the shopping, the acts of kindness, the cleaning, the games, the cooking. Let them observe your patience, your kindness, your joy… and they will imitate. They will imitate our intended actions and attitudes even when we mess up. (Really, this is great news. Consider how great this news is by reading My Children Are Copy Cats, No What?.)

Daily Questions to Strengthen Your Marriage & Family

Building a stronger, more intimate marriage is as simple as asking the right questions…and then responding to the answers you’re given. Asking the right questions can also build a stronger family. With that in mind, let me share 10 questions you can ask your spouse, children, or parents to strengthen your family and marriage today.

  1. How can I help you today?
  2. What can I do to serve you today?
  3. What can I do to help you right now?
  4. How can I show my spouse (child, parent) love today?
  5. What can I do to bring joy into my spouse’s (child’s, parent’s) life today?
  6. What can I tell my spouse (child, parent) ‘thank you’ for today?
  7. What can I do or say today so my spouse (child, parent) will know how much I adore them?
  8. Is there anything for which I need to apologize to my spouse (child, parent) today?
  9. What can I say to make my spouse (child, parent) feel special today?
  10. And last, but not least… How can I pray for you?

Daddy, Can I Date?

I remember the day it happened. My 6th grade daughter asked me if she could date a particular young man. My first thought was, “Is she crazy? My little girl…another man? No way!” Maybe I was overreacting. So, rather than give her my initial thoughts, I became curious. “What does it mean to date someone?” I asked.

“I don’t know?” she answered. “I guess we’d see each other at school and talk.”

Still curious, I pushed a little further. “Would you kiss him?”
“Eww. Daaad. Yuck.”

“I guess that’s a ‘no’?” She shook her head. “Well, are you going to hold hands?”
“No. That’s gross.”

Satisfied that her idea of dating was very different than my initial fears, I said, “Sure. You can date him.”

Dating seems like such a normal part of the teen years. Many consider it an important learning experience for teens, helping them develop their self-identity and social skills. It increases their awareness of others. It helps them learn about their emotions and the emotions of others.  But, is it necessary? What if your teen just doesn’t date? Will they still learn these things? According to research from the University of Georgia, the answer is “Yes.”

The researchers conducting this study analyzed data that followed students from the 6th grade through 12th grade. Every spring, students completed surveys that included information on dating, social and emotional factors, relationships with peers and family, symptoms of depression, and suicidal thoughts. Their teachers also completed questionnaires rating each student’s social skills, leadership skills, and levels of depression.

The results are interesting. First, the self-reports of students did not differ between dating and non-dating students. However, the teachers rated the non-dating students significantly higher in social skills and leadership skills than their dating peers.

In addition, scores on the depression scale were significantly lower for the non-dating students (according to the teachers). The non-dating students also reported being sad or depressed at a significantly lower rate than the dating students. It seems that non-dating teens avoid a great deal of drama and so experience a lower incidence of depression. Overall, it turns out that both dating and non-dating are normal, healthy behaviors for teens. Both dating and non-dating teens learn social skills and grow emotionally. Both grow in their self-identity. No worries. Dating or not, our children can mature into healthy, happy adults.

A Child, A Dream or A Plan?

To have a child is to dream, to hope, to believe in a better world. Parents may be distressed and pessimistic about the future of so many things (the environment, the ability of people to care for and love one another, healthcare, etc.); but, when we fall in love and have children, we make an implicit statement of hope that the world can and will improve. Perhaps we have this hope because our children are born through our expression of love. They are a life created and nurtured by our love. Even more, like the Grinch’s heart, our love grows “three sizes” even before our children breath their first breath and “three sizes” more when they return our love.  With each infant giggle and toddler step, our hopes and dreams grow and rise on stronger wings of love.

But there is a danger in all this. Sometimes we begin to pin our hopes and dreams on a blueprint that we have secretly developed in our minds. We begin to focus on the perceived outcome of our dream, our blueprint, rather than our children’s dreams. We may even label our child as the athlete, the teacher, the little mother, the future lawyer, or the senator based on the blueprint we have in mind. Our label, rather than an admiring and jovial epitaph to hold lightly, becomes etched in stone for all eternity. We start to believe that raising our child is like following the blueprint—carefully follow the blueprint and you will create the end result you always dreamed of and planned for.

The problem, however, arises from the fact that our children are not “the end result” of our neatly designed blueprints and plans. They are not products and outcomes but living dynamic beings in their own right. They will not be confined by our dreams. They have dreams of their own to pursue.

Our children are not the product of our carefully designed plans, but seeds planted in the soil nourished by our love, attention, and vision. They are the tender shoot that grows under the protection of the loving structure we provide. They are the young plants flourishing in the gentle rains and sunlight of our loving discipline. We don’t really know exactly when the wildflower we call our children will bloom, what color it will be, or even what fruit it will produce. We only know that in the soil of our love and structure, they will grow strong and beautiful. They will reach for their own dreams…and we will support their branches.

Yes, Alison Gopnik is right. Parenting is much more like a gardener nourishing a wildflower garden than it is like a carpenter following blueprints. So, pick up your hoe and your fertilizer and start to nourish an environment in which your children can thrive. Then sit back and enjoy the beauty of who they become.

Good News for Parents of Children with Asthma

Northwestern University conducted a study exploring the interaction between neighborhood environmental conditions, families, and asthma symptoms in children diagnosed with asthma. Using Google Street View, the researchers took a virtual walk through each neighborhood considered to look at evidence of graffiti, abandoned cars, bars on home windows and doors, and abandoned homes. Then they interviewed the children who lived in the various communities about their family relationships, especially regarding support, trust, and conflict present in the family. Finally, they measured asthma outcomes in the children. 

They discovered that children living in neighborhoods high in danger and disorder had fewer asthma symptoms and fewer activity limitations when they had better family relationships. The children with positive family relationships also had better pulmonary functioning.  (In neighborhoods lower in danger and disorder, family relationships did not impact their asthma.)

That’s great news. Positive family relationships helped to decrease children’s symptoms of asthma. It buffered them from the impact of other negative environmental factors that might increase those symptoms (like living in a dangerous neighborhood). So, if you have a child with asthma and you want to help them manage their asthma effectively, build positive family relationships in general and a positive relationship with your child, in particular. Here are some great ways to do it.

  • Spend time in positive activities with your child. Read to them. Play games with them. Go for a walk with them. Talk with them. Develop a bedtime routine that includes time together before bed. Be creative in how you do it but spend time with your children. (Here are some Mundane Opportunities for Quality Time with your children.)
  • Keep your promises. Follow through on your word. Doing so will increase their trust in you. It will also increase their self-control (Teach Your Child the Art of Waiting).
  • Become knowledgeable of their lives. Learn about their interests. Meet their friends. Help them with schoolwork. Show interest in their hobbies. Acknowledge their strengths. Remember Parents are Students…and Guess Who the Teacher Is!
  • Acknowledge the “positives” in their life. Show gratitude for their positive actions. Thank them for doing chores (even if they’re supposed to do them). Acknowledge their efforts. Recognize their beauty. Thank them for dressing appropriately.

These four actions can help you build a positive relationship with your child. If you live in a neighborhood that presents some dangers and disorder, that relationship with help your child manage their asthma symptoms more effectively…and this treatment is free!

Rather Than Building a Bully, Try This…

None of us want our children to become a bully. That’s why I really like the study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. The researchers of that study followed 1,409 children from 7th through 9th grade to explore how parenting style impacts a teen’s ability to manage emotions such as anger. This study revealed the negative impact of a parenting style that expressed criticism, sarcasm, put-downs, and hostility toward children while using emotional and physical coercion to gain compliance from children. They called this a “derisive parenting style.”

This “derisive style” of parenting contributed to children who had poorly regulated or poorly controlled anger. In the peer interactions, poorly controlled anger led to more negative emotions, greater verbal and physical aggression, and hostility. The poorly controlled anger put teens at greater risk for bullying AND victimization AND for becoming a bully who is also victimized by other bullies.

I don’t know any parent who wants their child to becomes a bully, a victim, or a bully-victim. So, rather than using “derisive parenting style” let me suggest a kinder, more loving kind style.

  • Rather than criticism offer sincere appreciation for what’s done well, constructive appraisals around areas of potential improvement, and acceptance for differing ideas.
  • Rather than sarcasm offer playful banter, respectful limits, and loving boundaries.
  • Rather than put-downs offer much needed encouragement, admiration of positive effort, and compliments on personal growth.
  • Rather than verbal hostility offer verbal affection, loving and firm boundaries, and light-hearted opportunities for laughter.
  • Rather than physical coercion offer healthy physical affection, physical assistance, and gentle guidance.
  • Rather than emotional coercion like shame and guilt offer the emotional support, acceptance of different ideas and methods, and assurance of love.

Ironically, replacing a “derisive parenting style” with a more loving, supportive parenting style results in greater compliance as well as a more independent, confident, and self-controlled child. Step away from building a bully with “derisive parenting;” build a strong, confident child by using a kinder, more loving parenting style instead.

Parents Are Students…& Guess Who the Teacher Is?

I was talking with a father of a teen. He was struggling to establish a relationship with his daughter, so I asked him to tell me about her. He struggled to tell me her birthday, interests, likes, and dislikes. He tried to explain his difficulty learning and remembering this information. He seemed so uncomfortable that I changed the subject to sports. He sighed with relief as we discussed his favorite football players. He knew their weight, height, and age as well as their position, speed, college attended, completions, and other relevant stats.

As we talked, I had to ask, “How did you learn all this?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I guess it just like it. It’s important to me. I enjoy the games.”

“Hmmm. Isn’t your daughter just as likable, important, and enjoyable?”

The fact is, we learn about those things we value. We learn about the things we enjoy. And, we value and enjoy our children. Even more, our children need us to learn the details, the stats, of their lives. If we don’t learn their stats, they will feel lonely, unimportant, and uninteresting. They will feel as though we don’t value them and love them.  They will feel unloved. To put it another way, our children will feel loved as we learn and know the stats of their lives.

Guess who will teach you your children’s stats? That’s right. Your children will! They are the teachers and we are their students in learning the stats of their lives. So, become a good student by:

  1. Listening to the teacher. Listen closely as they talk about their lives. Listen to the stories that include their friends, their activities, their fears, their peers, their studies. Listen closely.
  2. Remembering the details. You may have to write some things down in a notebook to help you remember the constantly changing plays, players involved, and opponents. Call it your Children’s Stats notebook. Review the information now and again.
  3. Asking them about the details of their lives. Now that you know the stats of their lives, talk with your children about them. Ask them how that project for English is going. Ask about the argument they had with their friend. Ask them about things that interest them and how they are resolving various areas of discomfort. Then, as they answer, go back to #1 and start again. They will grow. The answers will evolve. The players, the plays, and the opponents will change. The goals will mature. With that in mind, go back to #1 and repeat: listen, remember, and ask.

At least two things will happen as you learn your children’s stats. One, your relationship with them will grow. They will feel loved by you and draw near to you. Two, you will enjoy your relationship with your children more. What’s not to love about that? Learn the stats.

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