Tag Archive for role model

But I Really Neeeeed Them!

I remember standing in a checkout line behind a mother and her preschool age son. As they waited their turn, her son examined the candy shelves. His eyes lit up when he saw gummy bears. He turned to his mother to ask if she would buy them for him. She shook her head “no” but he persisted. She calmly looked at him and said, “Not today honey. We are not going to get any gummy bears today.” As disappointment filled his eyes, he pleaded in a voice that would make any salesman proud, “But Mom, I neeeeeed them!” I believed him. That young man had a dire need for gummy bears. The fact is, our children do have dire needs, albeit not for gummy bears (although I can understand that need myself). What are a child’s greatest needs?
     ·         Children need unconditional love from their parent. Children need their parents to invest the time necessary to build and maintain a deep relationship with them. This unconditional love and connection provides a sense of security for children. And, security allows them to explore, learn, and grow more competent. Our children need our unconditional love.

·         Children need to be heard. In fact, listening attentively to children is more important than anything we can actually say. Listening lets a child know that we value them. Listening also allows a parent to know their children: how they think, what they like, what they fear.  Ultimately, listening allows a parent to learn who their children are. Our children need us to listen attentively to them.

·         Children need a positive example to follow. The first and most powerful example children will follow is the example of their parents. Children learn more from observing their parents’ daily actions than they ever learn from our words of wisdom and experience. They will do as we do before they do as we say. Determine what kind of person you want your child to become and then become that person yourself. Clear the path for your child by setting the example yourself.

·         Children need to know we believe in them. One way they know we believe in them is when we stop hovering and trust them to accomplish the challenges set before them. They also learn that we believe in them when we entrust real responsibility to them, whether that be chores around the house, a part-time job, spending their own birthday money, or helping us with a household job. Let your children know you believe in and trust their ability.

·         Children need us to get out of their way so they can learn from their own experience. I don’t mean that parents should let their children stray into dangerous situations. However, sometimes we need to get out of the way. Let them experience the consequences of their mistakes and the joys of their success. Let them struggle through the difficulties of a challenging task or assignment. Let them learn what they can control and in what areas they need assistance. Children need us to stop hovering so they have the freedom to learn and grow on their own.
Children easily express their need for gummy bears, but they may have difficulty expressing the five needs discussed above. Nonetheless, they will find a way to have these needs met. They may assert their independence to make us “get out of the way” or nag us to be heard. You may even find them acting out behaviors and words they have seen in you that you find embarrassing. But, one way or another, they will express these needs and push to have them met. Why not take this year to meet these five needs in a positive way? Make it your goal for the coming year to provide for these needs in your children. They “really neeeed them!”

Parents: Sowing & Reaping

“You reap what you sow.” I was thinking about this ancient saying the other day. We often tell our children to be careful what they sow because it will come back around to them in the reaping. In other words, there are natural consequences to our actions—a good lesson for our children to learn. But, parents can learn from this saying as well, especially in regards to how we treat our children. Think about it, we “reap what we sow.” Our children pick up everything we do and say. Worse yet, they repeat everything we say and do…good or bad. I have noticed that children not only repeat what their parents say or do, but they do so with little to no restraint. For instance, an adult may limit their swearing to times when they are very angry. But their preschooler hears that curse word and repeats it indiscriminately, without restraint, at the worst times, in the most inopportune moment. On the positive side, imagine a child watching you engage in acts of kindness or generosity and then practicing those virtues with abandon. Or picture your child overhearing you energetically speaking highly of others and doing the same. “You reap what you sow.”
I read a Jewish folktale in which a father kicks the grandfather out of their home. The grandfather roams the streets as a homeless beggar. One cold night, he sees his grandson playing in the yard. He explains who he is and asks for a blanket. The grandson runs into the house and asks his father for a blanket to give the old man. His father sends him to the attic to get one. When the grandson does not quickly return, his father goes in search of him and finds him cutting a blanket in half. “Why are you doing?” his father asks. “I am cutting the blanket in half, Father, so that I can give half to my grandfather. I am going to keep the other half for you. When you grow old and go out to beg in the cold, I’ll give you this part of the blanket to keep you warm,” the son replied. The father was stunned…but he realized that he was reaping what he had sown. It’s a “cat’s in the cradle” sort of thing.
The moral of the story: parents reap what they sow.  How do you want your children to “turn out”? How do you want them to behave? What character do you want them to develop? Begin to model that character today because your children are watching, learning, copying, and practicing…and we will “reap what we sow.”

Teaching Your Child Perspective Taking

Children are not born with the ability to see the world through another person’s eyes. They have to learn to take another person’s perspective. If they do not learn this, they grow intolerant, self-centered, and uncaring. How can a parent help their children develop the ability to see various situations from another person’s perspective? Here are 4 suggestions:
  • Model perspective taking in your life. Begin by modeling perspective taking in your relationship with your child. Take the time to see things from your child’s perspective. Allow your child to explain his point of view and then accept that point of view. His point of view may sound magical or immature–after all, he is a child. You may even disagree with his perspective, but accept it before you discuss it. As your child matures, use everyday situations to point out other people’s perspectives. For instance, discuss how friends might perceive something your child said or did, how teachers might perceive various students’ behavior, or how siblings might view an event differently than he does. Let your child explore and express various ideas without judgment, especially in his teen years. Definitely add your ideas into the mix and express your perspective, but do so without judging the ideas and values that he expresses. 
  • Explore the perspective of fictional characters. Start reading stories with your children when they are young. As they mature, discuss stories that you both read. In particular, discuss the characters in the story and their perspective of the situations they encounter. Explore how the story characters might feel, what circumstances and thoughts contribute to those feelings, and what resources the characters might use to deal with those feelings. Help your child develop an understanding of how that character’s perspective contributes to their actions and emotions. You can do this with movie characters as well. Engaging in these talks allows your child to begin to explore the perspective of another person, even if it is a fictional story character. 
  • Have some fun with perspective taking. I often play a game of “Happy, Mad, & Sad” with children at work. It is like “Paper, Scissors, & Rock;” but, instead of using hand signals, we make a happy face, a mad face, or a sad face. I score by saying happy beats sad, sad beats mad, and mad beats happy. It does not really matter which emotion beats the others, only that you get to practice seeing the expression on one another’s face—an important skill for perspective taking. You can also enjoy some people watching in a mall or park. Observe people walking by and quietly make up little stories about the character’s life and emotions. Fill the story with supporting observations. For instance, “those two just met in the ice cream shop because they still have their cones. They are walking in step with one another and smiling when they look at one another, so they have fallen deeply in love”…or “they walk in step with one another because they are both marching band members and can no longer walk out of sync…” Play a game while driving in which you name as many reasons as possible for why a car sped by or why another driver cut you off in traffic. Make note that each reason is merely a guess and an assumption, but represents a possible perspective of the other person. And, the perspective we focus on can lead to our becoming angry (“that jerk did that on purpose”), compassionate (“I hope they are not running to an emergency”), or cautious (“did they just fall asleep and drift into my lane?”). Remember, there is often more than one possible reason for a person’s behavior, more than one possible perspective. Encourage your child to consider those perspectives, even if they do not agree with them.
  • Finally, as your child experiences various circumstances in life, talk to him about the perspective of others in that situation as well. When you witness a commotion in a restaurant, help them observe not just the commotion but how those around the commotion respond. After watching a close football game, observe the winning team’s demeanor and the losing team’s demeanor. Watch the interviews with both teams and talk about each person’s response. When your child has a fight with a sibling, help him observe the impact on his siblings and you.
That is just 4 ideas to help teach your child perspective taking. You can practice each idea in your daily life, without even looking like you are teaching anything! By helping your child grow in their ability to take another person’s perspective, they will grow more understanding, accepting, and considerate. They will show more empathy and compassion toward those around them. They will mature, growing into adults with a strong character!

3 Ways Parents Shape Their Children’s Mind

Children learn from everything their parents do and say. That is a bold and rather frightening statement; but, it is true. Parents cannot not teach, lead, and guide their children. Children are watching, listening, and learning from their parents every moment of every day. Children learn to show politeness, express gratitude, and practicing kindness by watching their parents do the same. Unfortunately, children also pick up language they hear their parents mumble under their breath in anger. They enact their parent’s most undesirable habits and practice them with little restraint. This constant learning extends beyond mere actions and words to include a child’s thought life as well. A parent’s words and actions influence how their children think about themselves, their abilities, their relationships. Think about that: a parent’s words and actions mold their children’s thought life which forms their children’s confidence, relationships, and self-concept…ultimately, their success. This is a huge responsibility. With the weight of that responsibility in mind, we, as parents and family shepherds, have to ask ourselves, “Do my words and actions instill beneficial, life-enhancing ways of thinking in my child or do they instill detrimental, hurtful patterns of thought in my child?” Here are 3 ways you, as your family’s shepherd, can guide your children to think in beneficial, life-enhancing ways.
     ·         Model life-enhancing thought patterns in your own life. Think out loud around your children and let them hear beneficial patterns of thought. Let them hear how you avoid “making a mountain out of a mole hill.” Let them experience you recognizing that a negative event is temporary not permanent. Acknowledge what is, and what is not, your responsibility in the midst of difficult situations. Give your children the opportunity to discover that your most common thoughts focus around things that are true, respectful, admirable, of good reputation, and praiseworthy. One of the most crucial times to model life-enhancing thought patterns centers on times of discipline. When you discipline misbehavior, make sure your words reflect a firm, but grace-filled, love. Practically speaking, this means no name-calling, focus on behavior not character, do not make the misbehavior bigger than necessary by lecturing or “going on and on,” and express faith in your child, that he can and will (and most likely has in the past) engage in the positive behaviors you desire.

·         Teach life-enhancing thought patterns in all situations. Talk to your children in difficult times, challenging times, and happy times to encourage thought patterns that promote humility, respect, love, and truth in each situation. When their team loses a game, teach them to think about what they can learn and how to improve. When their team wins a game, teach them to think about showing grace and respect to their opponent. When their mind reaches for the worst case scenario in the midst of a challenging situation, teach them to question that worst case and search for the reality of the situation instead. Teach your children to listen to their thoughts, investigate the evidence for their thoughts, question the usefulness of their thoughts, and consider any realistic alternatives for their thoughts.

·         Practice gratitude. Every night ask your children to name 3 events they experienced during the day for which they are grateful. Write them down; keep a list. Throughout the day, say “thank you” every chance you get. Tell your children “thank you” when they do something kind. Tell your spouse “thank you” for supper. Tell the stranger “thank you” for holding the door open, the waitress for bringing your food, the other driving for letting you into the line of traffic. Let gratitude permeate your language and your actions. Then it will permeate your children’s thoughts as well. The life-enhancing thought pattern of gratitude will become your children’s natural approach to life, their modus operandi. Is there any better way to live than to live with gratitude?
Parents cannot not teach, lead, and guide their children, even when it comes to patterns of thought. As you might imagine, teaching your children life-enhancing thought patterns will demand your time and attention, your best listening ear, a heart of patience, and a compassionate sensitivity…but, the results are well worth the effort.

Teaching Your Family to Laugh

I love the videos of laughing babies (Click Here to Watch). It’s contagious. It makes me laugh as well. I also love to watch my family laugh. It is contagious. When they laugh, I laugh with them…we all laugh together. Even more interesting, laughter is good for us! It boosts our immune system and fights disease. It relieves stress, depression, and anxiety. Laughter also improves attention and aids in memory. It lowers blood pressure, tones abdominal muscles, and burns calories. Wait, there’s more…. Laughter boosts self-confidence and gives us the mental strength needed to cope with life’s challenges. Laughter within the family connects us with one another and communicates an intimate comfort with one another. I love laughter. Some of my favorite memories involve my family engulfed in hysterical laughter. I cannot remember what we laughed about, only that we laughed together…naturally, candidly, and without restraint. This brings up one way to build intimacy, relieve tension, and remove anger in the family—engage in open, unbridled laughter together. Don’t know where to start? Try these suggestions:
     ·         Tell jokes. If you do not know any jokes, look some up on-line (Ducksters has Children’s jokes) or borrow a book from the library.
     ·         Recall funny events from your life. Share funny experiences from your childhood or teen years. Remember funny experiences you have shared as a family.

·         Share funny things you have encountered over the last couple days or weeks.

·         Model using humor in your own life. Let your family see you relieve a tense situation with humor, perhaps even making fun of your own shortcomings in the process. Humor and laughter provide a wonderful outlet for dealing with personal mistakes.

·         Be silly just for the fun of it. Use a funny voice. Make a funny face. Make up funny lyrics to a familiar tune. They do not have to make sense or be beautiful. They are, after all, meant to be silly, not serious; funny, not profound.

·         Let your family laugh at your mistakes and shortcomings now and again. Let them see that you do not take yourself too seriously. Life is too short to take too serious. Enjoy it, laugh.

·         One caveat to throw in here…differentiate between what is funny and what is hurtful when you tell a joke or funny story. Teach your children to do the same. Humor is meant to bring joy to all those present. Steer clear of humor that hurts or ridicules and enjoy humor that encourages or brings joy to everyone’s day.
There you go, 7 ways to nurture humor in the home. Now go tell a joke, share a giggle, and roll on the ground in laughter…together. It’s for your own good!

Do I Discipline or Sabotage?

My two daughters were upstairs arguing…yelling so loud I couldn’t even think. I tried to ignore them and let them work out this minor battle, but my frustration increased with the volume of their voices. Finally, I could take it no longer. I walked to the bottom of the stairs and yelled, “Stop the yelling. We don’t yell in this house!” As soon as I said it, it hit me. Did I just yell that we don’t yell in this house? I suddenly realized that my actions gave a different message than my words—my means did not match the ends I desired. I had to laugh…then I had to walk up the stairs to talk with my daughters about yelling in the house. I look back and laugh now, but how often do we reach for an end by using the wrong means? How often do we use methods that actually sabotage our disciplinary goal? Think about it…
     ·         We rudely reprimand our children in front of everyone for being impolite. I’ve even heard parents swear at their children and call them names for being impolite. Wouldn’t it model politeness if we quietly and politely told them to stop the impolite behavior and took them aside to explain more appropriate behavior if they persist?
     ·         We tell our children to “use your words” when angry, but grab them and physically force them to look at us when we are frustrated. Couldn’t we find a way of using our words in such a situation?
     ·         We encourage teens to think for themselves when confronted with peer pressure, but keep talking in an effort to convince them of our opinion if they do not agree with us. How often could we safely tell them one time and let them learn from their mistakes? Or, even accept that they might have different ideas than we do?
     ·         We insist on the truth, but ask them “if they did so and so” when we know the answer, setting them up to tell a lie in order to save face. Why not just tell them what we know?
     ·         We assume the worst of our children, even if that behavior is outside their normal character, while encouraging them to trust us.
All in all, the method of discipline needs to match the goal we desire. The style of discipline we use has to match the goal of our the discipline or we will be ineffective. Children learn more from our actions than our desires and our speeches. If we want our children and teens to become polite and compassionate adults, we need to discipline with politeness and compassion rather than rudeness and insensitivity. If we want our children to become more self-controlled and thoughtful, we need to model self-control and thoughtfulness in our interactions with them. I needed to walk up the stairs and talk to my daughters about their volume, not throw my yelling into the mix when I try to “stop the yelling.” We, as parents and family shepherds, need to model the behaviors we want our children to learn, even in the midst of discipline.

7 Ways to Teach Dependability

Infants need their parents. Their parents feed them, bathe them, change their diapers, clothe them, help them get to sleep, calm them, and so on. In spite of all this effort from parents, I’ve never heard an infant tell his mother, “I see you’re busy with dinner, Mom. Don’t worry about my bottle. I’m hungry, but I’ll wait until your done cooking dinner to eat.” No, he just cries for his bottle. He is powerless to care for himself; and self-focused in his desire to get what he needs when he wants it. His problem (whether it be hunger or a soiled diaper) is your problem. If you don’t believe me, sit in the car with a hungry infant for a while.
As family shepherds, we do not want our children to remain completely dependent, self-focused, and demanding for their entire life. We want them to grow and mature…to become independent. We want them to become responsible for their emotions, attitudes, behaviors, and daily choices. As they mature, we hope they will identify their own strengths, what they can accomplish on their own, and what they need help with. We want them to gain the courage and wisdom to reach out to others rather than give up when they face a seemingly insurmountable challenge. We also want them to help others when asked to. Overall, we want our children to become adults who exhibit a maturity that allows for intimate relationships, shared effort, mutual accomplishments, and joyful interactions.
How do parents help their children move from dependent, demanding kids to mature, dependable adults? Here are some suggestions.
·         Invest time and effort in your relationship with your child. Relationships are at the heart of parenting. Parents teach, instruct, and discipline effectively from the foundation of a strong relationship with their child. 
·         Validate your child’s emotions. Accept and affirm your child’s feelings, even if you do not always like them. For instance, if your child yells, “I hate you” in anger, accept his anger. Label the anger while setting a limit on appropriate expression. A parent might calmly say something like, “You are really angry with me. I still love you. It’s OK to be angry with me.” When your child calms down, you might talk repeat that statement and tell him it would be better to simply say, “I’m mad at you”–probably a more accurate statement in the long run. In this manner, you teach your child to express and manage their emotions. You teach them to become responsible for their own emotions.
·         Teach your children positive alternative behaviors. The more alternative responses your child knows, the wiser choices he can make. If he only knows to hit and yell when angry, he will hit and yell. However, if you teach him, through your actions and words, that he can also walk away, take a deep breath, calmly assert himself, verbally and respectfully express his anger, or find an adult, he has more tools and options available to make a wiser choice. 
·         Model self-control. A parent models self-control when he does not let his child provoke him to action or control his actions. When a parent does not give in to a child’s tantrum or demanding behavior, he models independence and self-control. When a parent does not jump into a power struggle with a child, he models strength and self-control. As a parent, model independence, an ability to manage emotions, behaviors, and decision making.
·         Model effective ways of dealing with your own weaknesses. Let your child see you turn to other people for assistance. Allow them to see you work with other people to pool strengths and accomplish a greater result. You can even reach out to your child and utilize his strengths to help you accomplish a task. In the process, you model that we all have weaknesses and we can ask for help when we need it.
·         Encourage your child to step out of their comfort zone. When your child commits to a course of action, insist that he complete it. When he starts a project but wants to quit when it gets difficult, encourage him to continue and support his efforts. Praise his persistence and effort when he finishes the task. This teaches your child the value of commitment. It also teaches him that some tasks are difficult. Even though we may feel vulnerable and uncomfortable with a difficult task, we don’t give up. We keep working at it. We seek help if necessary. We finish what we started. 
·         Teach your child to fail successfully. Teach him that failure is not the enemy, but the teacher…not a reason to quit, but an opportunity to learn. Tell him stories about those who failed and learned from that failure only to become successful people…like Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison. Tell him stories about your own failures and what you learned from those failures. Walk through moments of failure with him. Empathize with his disappointment and discouragement while encouraging him to find the lesson. Help him separate what he can change about the situation and what he has no control over.
Practice these 7 suggestions and you will find your child growing more mature and independent.
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