Tag Archive for parenting

Raising Royalty

Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, Prince William…it seems they’ve been on the news every month this year. I must admit, I don’t know a lot about the royal family. But this year you couldn’t help but see some of the “royal news.” They always look good. They always present well. They smile. They show respect. They interact well with others. It all got me thinking. Maybe we want to raise our children like royalty. Here are a few tips from watching the royal family in the news to help get us started.

  • Royalty dresses modestly. They do not dress pretentiously or provocatively. Instead, they dress in a way that reveals respect for themselves and others. We want to teach our children to dress respectfully and modestly as well. We want them to learn that “it’s hard to speak to a person’s heart when all you can see is their parts.” We want them to learn that their dress contributes to how people see them and what people believe about their character. In other words, we want to teach our children to dress like royalty, modestly and respectfully.
  • Royalty greets people with a smile. They are polite and gracious in their interactions. They show respectful interest in others. Don’t we want our children to do the same? We look on with pride when our children interact with other people respectfully and politely. We teach them to treat others with grace and respect. We teach them to act like royalty. (Read The Chick-fil-A Family Interaction Model and The Mighty Power of Kindness for Families for more.)
  • In this age of social media, royalty posts wisely. It is not befitting for royalty to enter petty disagreements and conflicts. Instead royalty publishes on social media wisely. Let’s teach our children to do the same. (20 Family Rules for Social Media…Straight from God for some practical ideas.)
  • Royalty keeps private things private, not just on social media but in all areas of their life. They limit inappropriate public displays of affection and carefully monitor their speech to remain respectful, refined, and mature. Isn’t it important to us to teach our children the same?

Yes. We want to raise royalty…and these four tips will help us do it right! Why not start today?

The One Trait Kids Need to Achieve

Did you know that children from a lower socioeconomic status often have lower academic achievement than peers from families with higher income? According to several studies, children who live in families with a lower socioeconomic status start school with a disadvantage, they don’t have access to the same resources. As a result, they have lower academic achievement UNLESS… Yes, there is a BUT to this statement. There is one trait that levels the playing field. If children have this one trait, they perform equally well regardless of socioeconomic status! This trait even gives an advantage. Most important, parents can nurture it! What is this all-powerful trait for academic achievement? Curiosity. That’s right. (Learn more about the benefit of curiosity in Parenting the Curious Explorer.)children exhibit curiosity they achieve well regardless of socioeconomic level and even ability to sustain attention (What Science Says is One Trait Kids Most Need to Succeed in School). Fortunately, parents can nurture curiosity. If your curious about how to nurture curiosity, try these 6 tips.

  1. Ask questions. When your children show an interest in something, even a fleeting interest, ask them questions about that interest. Become a student of your children’s interests. Let them teach you about the object or topic of their interest.
  2. Let them ask questions. I know…sometimes it gets old listening to our children incessantly ask questions. But, let them ask. Feed their inquisitive nature. Encourage their exploration. If you don’t know the answer, help them look it up. You’ll learn a lot. They’ll learn a lot. You’ll deepen your relationship with them. And, you’ll nurture a curiosity that will contribute to future achievement.
  3. Make up alternative endings. Enjoy a good book or movie with your children. Then write a new ending. Maybe write two. What happened to Cinderella when she and the prince run off together? What did Moana do after she restored Te Fiti’s heart, what other adventures did she experience? Use your imagination and have fun.
  4. Allow your children to experience new things. Better yet, encourage your children to experience new things. You don’t have to push them into things. You can do it with them. Take them to free concerts of all types of music. Accompany them to the park, the zoo, the river, the ocean, the conservatory. Visit the aviary and make up stories about the strange birds you find.
  5. Travel. Traveling is a great way to experience new things and nurture curiosity. You don’t have to travel far. Look around your state and see what would be of interest to visit. There are historic sites, nature sites, and interesting factories. For instance, our family had the opportunity to visit the Crayola factory, the Bluebell Ice cream plant, the Andy Warhol Museum, Gettysburg, and Lincoln’s home among others. Traveling also allows your children to experience different cultures. It all nurtures curiosity. What can you visit near your home or near family?
  6. Pay attention. When you pay attention to your children and focus on the things that catch their attention, you increase their attention span (Nurture Your Child’s Attention Span) and their curiosity.

I’m curious…what are some other ways you nurture your children’s curiosity? Share them in the comment section below.

Mealtime and the “Picky Eater”

Do you have a “picky eater”? Oops, I made my first mistake in helping that child learn to eat better. I might have greater success teaching my child to eat a healthy diet by calling him or her a “learning eater” rather than a “picky eater.” Just this small change in label opens greater possibilities for growth and change. “Picky” implies an unchanging global trait whereas “learning” implies room for growth. “Learning” implies the child can learn to like a broader array of foods and styles of cooking. “Learning” suggests there is something more out there to find out about as opposed to an enduring trait of “picky.” So, if you want your child to be less picky and more of a learner when it comes to food, start using the phrase “learning eater.” While we’re at it, here are five other tips to help your “learning eater” to eat better.

  1. Involve your child in food shopping, cooking, and even growing the food if possible. Let them experience the whole process of farm to table food. This will increase your child’s understanding, appreciation, and respect for food.
  2. Make meal time enjoyable. Keep demands and anger away from the dinner table. Do not nag your child about eating or doing chores while at the dinner table. Instead, make meal time enjoyable. Celebrate your relationships. Encourage your children. Tell them what you admire and adore about them. Inform them about what they do that makes them proud.
  3. Quit using dessert for a reward or a bribe.
  4. Include a couple of vegetables with each meal. Don’t push the veggies or nag them to eat the veggies. Just provide a couple of veggies and let them choose one to eat.
  5. Keep snacking to a minimum. Provide healthy snacks as well.

What other tips do you have for helping your children learn to eat a healthy diet?

What Do You Really Want for Your Children?

I hate to say it, but parents have a huge responsibility. A tremendous burden rests on our shoulders. The future of our world depends on the priorities and values we instill in our children. I mean, it’s true but I didn’t think about that kind of responsibility when my wife and I decided to have children. But we quickly came to realize the need to take that responsibility seriously. We had to ask ourselves what values we really want to instill in our children. We needed to assess what we really want our children to learn. We had to nurture and teach our children to enable them to “see the big picture.”  Here are some of the questions we ask of ourselves. What are your answers?

  • Do we want our children to learn that the most important aspect of life is to win at any cost or do we want them to play the game while encouraging and supporting even the competition?
  • Do we want our children to learn to “get over on the system” or to live with integrity and honesty while working to change the system?
  • Do we want our children to pursue their own interests to the neglect of others or to pursue their interests while remaining aware, respectful, and encouraging of other peoples’ interests as well?
  • Do we want our children to fight for “my rights” or to have a more expansive view that also considers the rights of others and balancing the rights of all through service and sacrifice?
  • Do we want our children to get rich or to share with those who have genuine need?
  • Do we want our children to work to the neglect of relationship or to work to gain the resources they can use to build relationships?
  • Do we want our children to worry about the future at the expense of enjoying the moment or to prepare for the future while enjoying the moment? In fact, to even believe that how we enjoy the moment shapes our future!
  • Do we want our children to learn that “my” job or interests is most important and prestigious or to learn that everyone’s jobs and interests carry importance, prestige, and an amazing set of knowledge not everyone shares?
  • Do we want our children to learn that “my” opinion is best or to develop a genuine interest and respect in other people’s ideas and opinions, even if you disagree?

You cannot NOT teach your children these values. In your everyday words and actions, you teach your children these values.  They learn them from what you say and what you do, how you treat them and how you treat one another. Consider the values you want them to learn. Then start living them out in your daily life today!

Talk to Your Children, Change Their Brain, & Their Behavior

You can strengthen your pre-teen’s brain (11-to 13-years-old) and decrease the chances of them abusing food, alcohol, and drugs by engaging in this one behavior. This one behavior strengthens connections in areas of the brain associated with less harmful alcohol use, drug use, and emotional eating at the age of 25! Not to be too repetitive but engaging in this one behavior with your pre-teen can decrease the chances of them abusing drugs, alcohol, or food in their mid-twenties. What behavior could do all that? Greater parent-child communication. Simply keeping the lines of communication open with your children as they move into and through the teen years strengthens connections in the anterior salience network (ASN) of the brain. Connections in this area of the brain are associated with less alcohol and drug abuse and less overeating in the mid-twenties. These results were revealed in a 14-year longitudinal study conducted through the University of Georgia’s Center for Family Research.  How can you maintain a robust communication with your child as they move into and through adolescence?

1.     Listen. The most effective way to keep communication with your children and teens strong, start by listening. Listen to their words and listen to their body language. Listen to their facial expression. Listen to understand their world, their motives, their intent.

2.     Engage your children in conversation and activity. Provide time for conversation. This will require you to spend time, lots of time, with your children. Enjoy time in fun activities with your children. Enjoy time taking them shopping, fishing, playing catch, watching movies, eating. Enjoy time with your children and engage your children every day.

3.     Go deeper than a “because I said so” when explaining limits and life. Talk about the important things of life. Don’t shy away from controversial issues. Enjoy the discussion.  One caveat: don’t expect full agreement on all issues with your teen. Instead, allow for differences. Teach your teens to think through their ideas and beliefs. 

4.     Listen. Did I say that before? It’s worth saying again. Begin and end your interactions with your children and teens by listening.

Turn up the Tunes & Get Close to Your Teen

Researchers from the University of Arizona surveyed young adults (average 21-years-old) about the frequency with which they engaged in activities such as listening to music, attending concerts, or playing instruments with their parents between 8- and 14-years-old. The survey also assessed the 21-year-olds’ current relationship with their parent. They discovered that shared musical experiences, especially in early adolescence, led to a better parent-child relationship when the child moved into young adulthood. The researchers explain that sharing musical experiences causes the participants to coordinate their actions and even their biology (Learn more in What Do “Twinkle Twinkle,” Oxytocin, & the Saccuus Have in Common…?). This synchronizing leads to better relationship quality. Music also elicits shared emotion. When you listen to music together you share emotions with those listening with you. Sharing emotions brings us closer together. Synchronizing our actions and sharing emotions help us develop a long-term connection with our children that extends into young adulthood. In other words, sharing musical experiences with your children can enhance your relationship with them when they become young adults! (You can even turn sharing music into a family fun night.)

If you don’t play an instrument, don’t worry. Shared musical experiences can be as simple as listening to music together. So, if you want to have a strong relationship with your children as they move into young adulthood, listening to music together as they grow up can help. Turn on the radio. Listen to music in the car and in the house. Dance in the living room. Go to concerts together. Enjoy all kinds of music, especially the music your children enjoy. Introduce music of various genres (classical, jazz, pop, R&B, metal, punk, rap, etc.). You and your children may learn something new about each genre…and enjoy learning about music together. Talk about the different types of music as you listen. Pick out your favorites. Sing along. Whistle along. Clap your hands to the rhythm. A little shared music will build harmonies of love between you and your children that will last a lifetime!

A Prep School for Young Love

I discovered an amazingly impactful prep school for young adulthood romance, aka, young love. Notice I said “impactful” not “effective.” This prep school can effectively promote healthy romance in young adulthood, but it can also effectively promote problematic, drama-filled and even violent romance in young adulthood. Makes you wonder if we even want our children to attend this prep school, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, you have no choice about whether your children attend. They will and do attend this prep school. Fortunately, you have total control over staffing and curriculum! The prep school is your home. The staff are the parents of your children (that’s you). The curriculum is your marriage and your parenting strategies.

Researchers at Penn state recruited 974 adolescents to assess this prep school (Read about it in Parents May Help Prep Kids for Healthier, Less Violent Relationships.) They met with the young people three times between sixth and ninth grade to gather information about how their families got along, how consistent and harsh punishment was in their home, and how they interacted with their parents. Then, when the children were around 19.5-years-old, the researchers asked them about their romantic relationships including their feelings of love, their problem-solving abilities, and whether they ever engaged in physical or verbal violence with their romantic partner.  They discovered three curriculum and staffing guidelines for the most positive and effective prep school for young love.

  1. A prep school that produced young adults who engaged in better problem solving within their romantic relationships utilized staff (parents) who created a supportive home and practiced positive parenting (Dunkin’ Donuts & A Better Behaved Child tells more). Supportive home and positive parenting practices strike a balance between rules and relationship. Parents in such home lead in love, promote values built on a foundation of love, and discipline from a position of love. (Where are you On the Parenting See-Saw )
  2. A prep school that produced young adults who felt more love and connection in their romantic relationships promoted a positive engagement between children and staff (parents). Work to create a close bond with your children. This will involve investing time in their lives, following through on promises, and learning about their interests and hobbies. Engage with your children in daily routines, play, and activities that promote connection. (Here are 3 Simple Ways to Bond With Your Child)
  3. A prep school associated with a lower risk of violence in young adults’ romantic relationships was one which built a more “cohesive and organized family climate.” In other words, the family prep school provided enough structure and love to promote a sense of security and safety. It provides the structure of a predictable daily life that allows each person to have a fair understanding of the “next event” as well as their role in the home.  It also provides the love that undergirds each person’s sense of inherent worth and value while guiding them toward a healthier, independent life. This combination of structure that flows from love promotes cohesion and stability. In this balance of structure and love, curriculum includes validation and problem-solving, learning to persist, acceptance of temporary failures as learning experiences.

If you are a parent, you currently run a Young Adulthood Romance (YAR) Preparatory School for your children. I propose you implement these three curriculum and staffing guidelines for your children today. You will be so happy you did when they bring home their boyfriends or girlfriends in the future!

The Work of Dad

I recently read an interesting article by John A. Cuddeback entitled Reclaiming a Father’s Presence at Home. In this article, he makes a “radical suggestion” that we measure a man’s success in life, his manhood even, by the quality of his presence in his home and with his family. Based on a historical analysis of the diminishing presence of the father in the home, he describes how the success of children and the ongoing success of family are impacted by a father’s presence or lack of presence. Without the active presence of a father, family relationships weaken. The depth of connections become more superficial. Beliefs around productivity and leisure change, succumbing to the more readily available cultural trends that also weaken the family unit (like technology, busy-ness, adult-organized and run activities). It was a very interesting article. I see the validity of his perspective.

Fortunately, the author did not stop with the description of how a father’s lack of presence impacts children and families. He also offered some excellent suggestions for reversing this trend. In my mind, these suggestions reveal the most important work of a Dad, the work that will transcend any other work he will every do. These suggestions reveal a work that will make all other activities of a Dad pale in comparison. Let me briefly share these suggestions for the work of a Dad.

  1. A Dad’s work begins with loving his wife well. A home begins with a man and a woman who love one another. With this in mind, a man’s presence in the home, a Dad’s work, begins with his presence to his wife. In loving his wife and being present to her needs, a Dad sets the stage for his children’s sense of security. From a loving, nurturing marital relationship flows the love and nurturance children need to thrive. When the marital relationship is marred with antagonism, mistrust, and harshness, children lose their sense of security. They experience the world as antagonistic, untrustworthy, and harsh. They become more vigilant, more skeptical, and more self-protective. When a man loves his wife well, his wife flourishes. Their relationship overflows with love and kindness. They function as a team. Children experience the world as loving, trustworthy, and cooperative. Truly, a Dad’s work in the home begins with loving his wife well.
  2. A Dad’s work involves engaging in “home arts” with his family. “Home arts” include activities in which parent and child engage together, generally with the parent acting as mentor. These activities often involved learning together and always mean sharing time together. “Home arts” may include cooking, gardening, carpentry, mechanics, landscaping, music…whatever the interests of your family happen to be. For other families “home arts” may also include activities such as reading, writing, historical explorations, biology, or similar pursuits. Whatever the “home art” that fits with your family, it will involve the Dad making an investment of time and energy in the lives of his children and spouse. It will require spending time together negotiating and pursuing common interests. That is the beauty of Dad’s work in the home. It involves time shared together pursuing a common interest and goal…which leads a third work of a Dad in the home.
  3. A Dad’s work means prioritizing shared activities. Shared activities differ from “home arts” because they often do not involve learning as a goal. Shared activities do allow families to enjoy time together and may, at times, overlap with “home arts.” But the main goal of shared activities is to have enjoyable time together sharing fun and life. One shared activity that research has shown to have a positive impact on family is the family meal. Another shared activity research has shown especially impactful when Dads participate is reading together. Other shared activities can include praying and worshiping as a family, singing together, and outdoor activities like playing catch, bike riding, or hiking. These shared activities provide fertile soil for conversations and deepening relationships as your family solves problems and overcomes obstacles together.

The work of Dad in the home involves his intentional presence. It begins with loving his wife well. From there it flows into “home arts” and shared activities.  Although this work takes intention, it culminates in joy and reveals man at his best! So, Dad, let’s get to work.

What Can Puzzles Teach Us About Self-Critical Children & Their Parents?

What can puzzles teach us about self-critical children and their parents? I must admit…that’s not a question I ever asked myself.  However, researchers at the National University of Singapore did and boy am I glad. They followed 263 children for 5 years starting at 7-years-old. In the first year, the children were given puzzles to solve in a limited period of time. Their parents accompanied them and were told they could help if needed. The researchers’ objective was to watch whether the parent became intrusive and, if they did, how intrusive.  An example of highly intrusive parenting would involve a parent taking the puzzle away from the child to reverse a mistake they had made. The researchers wanted to know whether the parent interfered with their child’s problem-solving opportunities or allowed their child to learn from mistakes. This puzzle assessment was repeated when the children were 8-, 9-, and 11-years-old.  The researchers also tested the children for levels of self-criticalness and perfectionism. Guess what the research uncovered. You got it. Children who had highly intrusive parents engaged in more self-critical behavior and perfectionism. The children in this study who reported increased levels of self-critical behavior and perfectionism also reported more symptoms of depression and anxiety as the study progressed. Consider the progression suggested by this study. Parents intrude upon their children’s activities by interfering with their children’s independent problem-solving. This conveys an implicit message from parent to child that “you can’t solve your own problems; I have to step in to do it for you.” As a result, children never feel “good enough.” Although they feel inadequate, they also recognize their parents’ desire for perfection. As a result, even the smallest mistake leads the child to criticize themselves for not being “perfect,” for not “meeting standards.”  This, in turn, increases the risk for depression and anxiety. I like the quote from the lead researcher: “Our findings indicate that in a society that emphasizes academic excellence…parents may set unrealistically high expectations on their children. As a result, a sizable segment of children may become fearful of making mistakes. Also, because they are supposed to be ‘perfect,’ they can become disinclined to admit failures and inadequacies and seek help when needed, further exacerbating their risk for emotional problems.”

So, what’s a parent to do? Here are 3 ideas.

  1. Focus on your children’s efforts rather than the end results. Acknowledge your children’s efforts rather than comparing their results with someone else’s results. Effort produces success over time. So, focus on effort and nurture an excitement to try new things without fear of failure (which brings us to tip number 2).
  2. Create an environment in which mistakes and temporary failures are opportunities for learning. Ask what your children learned rather than the final grade they earned. When they do poorly on a test or project, discuss what they did well before moving to discuss how to correct the areas in which they did poorly. Discuss what they learned from their mistakes and “flops.” In other words, turn failures, poor performances, and mistakes into opportunities to learn rather than opportunities to evaluate and blame. (Do Your Child a Favor: Love Mistakes)
  3. Let your children struggle to find their own solution. Do not step in to “fix it” or “solve it” for them. Let them work at it. Let them pursue options they think of independently. You can ask some questions to spark their imaginative solutions, but don’t just them the solution. Rather than fix what they did wrong, ask they how they might fix it. When they get stuck, discuss possible ideas and the basis for those ideas. Nurture their ability to think and pursue solutions independently. (Read Do You Rob Your Teen of Victory? to learn more.)

Put these three practices in place and you will help raise children who pursue excellence without becoming self-critical and perfectionistic. And we learn all this because someone asked what puzzles can teach us about self-critical children and their parents!

Your Parenting Style Could Be Killing You

Did you know your parenting style can impact your health? It’s true. How you choose to parent will impact your physical and mental health. Let me explain.

We’ve all heard of helicopter parents. Helicopter parents often parent from a position of anxiety. They hover over their children and rescue them from any hint of frustration or challenge.  They engage in constant vigilance to spot their children’s potential struggles and then make heroic efforts to relieve them of the stress and frustration of the challenge. As you can imagine, this can leave the helicopter parent feeling stressed, pressured, and burned out.  Helicopter parents live with a constant anxiety that their children might become overwhelmed by stress, frustrated by failure, or saddened by “less than perfect” results. This constant stress and anxiety leaves the helicopter parent vulnerable to a myriad of health problems. For instance, it can leave them vulnerable to depression. Constant stress also increases the risk of gastrointestinal problems like reflux as well as problems like insomnia and a weakened immune system. In other words, the helicopter parent may place themselves at greater risk of catching the very virus from which they are trying to protect their child. (Are you a helicopter parent?)

What about the authoritarian parent? The “I’m-the-boss” parent often parents out of fear. They believe rules can provide a measure of safety and so make rules the priority. “If only we have the right rules in place our children will be safe.” They attempt to protect their children from the “dangers out there” and believe enough rules will offer the protective buffer. With the right rules in place, children will be safe and parents will experience less worry. Rules will save the day. Unfortunately, children eventually rebel in search of their individual identity. They must eventually face the dangers of the world. Yes, they will make mistakes as they face the world and establish their place in the world. Parental anxiety increases during these times. Fears are manifested as anger. Shouting and demand-making escalate as fear and lack of control increase. Anger, shouting, and exploding frustrations take a toll on parental health. Anger triggers the fight-or-flight response. Heart rates increase. Muscles tighten. Blood pressure increases. Cholesterol increases. Risk of heart attack increases. (Read Where Are You On the Parenting See Saw describes the “I’m-the-boss” parent as heavy on the authority side.)

What’s a parent to do? The two parenting styles described above have detrimental effects on health; one parenting style has a preventative effect on our health. What parenting style is this? A parenting style of positive discipline. In positive discipline parents focus on a balance between connection and age-appropriate rules. They work to provide a warm and emotional relationship while also providing age appropriate structure.  Parents who practice positive discipline focus on the beliefs and motives behind the behaviors not just the behaviors themselves. They learn more about their children, their abilities, their interests, their fears. By focusing on relationships and encouraging an intimate knowledge of your children, this parenting style boosts confidence in parenting. Those who have greater confidence tend to have great health and longer lives. Confidence and balance helps a parent engage in their children with more patience. This all helps protect against depression. It enhances immunity. It promotes health. (Here’s an example of positive discipline I witnessed at Dunkin Donuts.)

So, if you want to life a healthy life, adjust your parenting style. Practice a style of positive discipline. Oh…there is another benefit of positive discipline. Children thrive under positive discipline. They grow more confident. They listen better. They exhibit fewer behavioral problems. And yes, all this will add to your health as well!

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