World Classroom: Is It Okay to Pull Your Child Out of School to Travel? by @HelpMeSara

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I don’t believe I am alone in saying that one of the things I like least about travel are airports – especially during peak periods when students and their families flock South to escape the cold of winter. There are always long line ups, delays and depending on the weather conditions at home, chaos. My preference is to travel during the school year when both airports and tourist attractions are less attended.

The problem with this, of course, is that my daughter will miss days at school. Things are even more complicated now that our older daughter has graduated University and is in the working world. When we want to travel as a family, we need to also consider when she can get time off. Being self employed has many pros, one of which is that my husband and I can both plan time off work as we wish, so at least that doesn’t have to factor into our equation.

When a good friend approached her daughter’s teacher about her missing two weeks of school for a trip to Europe, the teacher was actually encouraging. She told my friend what I believe too. That is, depending on where you are vacationing, there’s a whole lot to learn by actually being up and personal with historical places that you might see in Time magazine or on the Internet.

For example, actually seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre or standing beside the Eiffel Tower can’t compare to learning about it in History class. This, along with the opportunity of practising one’s French and of being exposed to different cultures and traditions, enriches a child’s life. I realize that not everyone is going to Paris on vacation, but even taking a road trip with one’s family to another part of the country in which they live can be eye opening and complements learning at school.

Planning a trip with your children at a time other than when there is a planned break from school is not taken lightly by most parents. There are several factors to consider when doing so. To make your job easier, I’m suggesting the acronym FLAG to help you remember some of the most important considerations when making your decision.

F stands for Frequency. How often do you take your child out of school to vacation with you? If it’s infrequent, then your child will likely not fall behind as a result of doing so. If he misses school too often as a result of travelling, then he might get the impression that you don’t believe school is important.

L stands for Length. How many days of school will your child be missing? If it’s just a few, then there will be less to catch up on. If he’s missing a whole week or two, then this might make catching up more difficult.

A is for Ability. How capable is your child, and more importantly, how capable does your child feel about being able to catch up to the rest of the class on her return? If she hates missing even one day of school for fear of missing a class, then her anxiety might not be worth the trip. After all, she’s the one who has to get caught up.

G is for Grade. Depending on his age and grade, there may be more or less work to catch up on and concepts may be more or less difficult. It stands to reason that missing a few days of kindergarten, for example, may be less problematic than missing a week of Grade 8.

Whatever you decide, happy holidays!

Sara Dimerman is a Psychologist, Author and mom to two daughters. For more advice, connect at www.helpmesara.com or on Twitter @helpmesara.

Helping With Homework: Are We Helping or Hindering Our Children? by @HelpMeSara

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I was an independent, motivated student and so my parents never felt the need to watch over me to make sure my school work was done. They trusted that I knew what I was doing and so long as I continued to prove them right, they left me alone.

I understand that not every student is motivated or eager to do well. So parents often ask my advice about how much intervention is appropriate, and where/ how to draw the line when it comes to helping with school work.

My answer is not the same for everyone.

I take several things into account before responding. First, I want to know the age of the child. I also want to know about his or her academic history. Has there been a diagnosis of a learning disability, for example? Is the child generally organized and motivated but then suddenly sloppy and uninterested?

Have the parents set a pattern that is hard to change? For example, if parents always sit with their children to do homework and maybe even given then answers to the more difficult questions, then it will be hard to go from 100 percent involvement to none. I also want to know about what is going on at home? Are there any family dynamics that may be affecting the child’s ability to focus?

Depending on the situation, I adjust my advice accordingly. My core belief, under ‘normal’ circumstances, is that it’s best for parents to stay within reach, but not on top of their children. In other words, be on hand whenever your children ask for homework support, but if you are working harder and are more worried than them about end results, then there’s something wrong with this picture.

I have spoken to many parents who have become resentful over time as a result of dropping their own work to be available to their child right away, only to feel that they are doing the lion’s share of the work. For example, a child may leave the room to watch TV or may stay but begin texting back and forth with friends while a parent pores over a chapter in the textbook looking for the answer to a question her child has been unable to find on his own. It’s no wonder that a parent resents doing the work while her child does something leisurely.

Other parents have shared their hurt or anger with me because their child is rude or disrespectful after asking for help. This may be in the form of eye rolling or yelling that “you dont know what you’re saying” or “we didn’t learn it that way” or even worse, “you’re stupid!” When a parent shares that she is being treated this way, I ask what she thinks a co-worker or employee might do when spoken to in this manner. The answer is usually “she would quit.” “Exactly,” I say, “and you can quit too!” Not meanly or abruptly, but as a consequence for the child’s behaviour.

Presented in advance, it’s best for a parent to create boundaries as in “when you ask for my help, I need you to remain in the room – either attending to what I am reading or doing other homework. I also need you to ask for my help with enough notice that I don’t have to drop what I am doing immediately and not after (fill in the blank yourself) pm at night. If you call me names or yell at me, I will put the work aside and you will need to do it on your own.”

Despite the script, quitting is not so easy especially if you’re worried about what will happen if you don’t stay to help, even after being treated poorly. You may worry that without help, your child’s grades will decline and in the future, may not be accepted into their University of choice. While understandable, this way of thinking keeps you working harder than your child and continues to perpetuate the negative cycle between you.

Besides the obvious concerns with this dynamic, a child cannot feel proud of his or her accomplishments when you have done most of the work. In addition, a teacher will not be able to identify gaps in knowledge if a child gets the entire worksheets answers correct because of your knowledge and in the future, even if your child does get into that College of choice, how will he manage without you by his side?

Along with taking a step back, only helping when your child requests it and even then, remaining true to what you are willing to tolerate, it is imperative that you not spoon feed the answers. Rather determine where your child is stuck and help him through the process so that he can understand more about how to get to the correct answer rather just what it is.

When homework hassles are getting in the way of your relationship and the levels of stress in the household are way higher because of it, I often recommend hiring a tutor who can take this off your plate and having a discussion with the teacher so that he or she understands more about what your child needs.

Sara Dimerman is a Psychologist, Author and mom to two daughters. For more advice, connect at www.helpmesara.com or on Twitter @helpmesara.

Thermometer or Thermostat? On Taking Control of Your Inner Self by @WellGrounded

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No way around it.  This mompreneur stuff is not for the faint of heart.  And there’s no insulating yourself from being knocked off center sometimes – sometimes multiple times a day. Motherhood, like entrepreneurship, asks you to step forward every day into unknown land, navigate new terrain and bring your best self forward time and time again.   I had one of those days last week.

I remember seeing a bumper sticker once that read: “Thermometers react to the temperature, thermostats control the temperature.  Which are you?” 

Here’s the thing, whether it’s our children or the response from our clients – if we can’t learn how to step fully into the role of the thermostat and control our own inner temperature, we are bound to be at the mercy of the temperatures of everyone and everything else that is going on in our lives. Let’s start with kids.

Kids are supposed to be thermometers.  It’s how they are wired from the start.  They don’t have the capacity to regulate their outer environment very well.  But they are experts at receiving the energy, tone and “temperature” from those around them.  In fact they are constantly trying to figure out what they are supposed to be doing by watching, modeling and exploring their reactions to the world around them.

So thermometers are reactionary and they have no internal regulation system. 

Think about what happens when kids are in tense or anxiety filled situations.   Or when they are tired or hungry or it is just too hot outside.  They are receiving the temperature around them and when we are keyed into their reactions we can tell that they need support in cooling off because they can’t do it themselves.

It is in their nature to siphon from us the tone and energy of their world.  Ever feel like kids suck you dry?  Well, it’s because they do literally. (And incidentally, that’s their job.)  They don’t have an internal locus of control yet and they are feeding directly off of whoever is in their world.

Now shift to the adults. One of the things that I believe we are meant to do for our children is to help them develop and strengthen their internal locus of control.  Kids are meant to grow from thermometers to thermostats as part of a healthy developmental pattern.

But here’s the rub.  We as parents can’t support this healthy development in our children if WE haven’t crossed over from a thermometer to a thermostat.  And for many adults, we simply weren’t taught how to establish a strong, resilient, healthy internal locus of control – particularly when we are in high stress situations.

That’s where this gets sticky. Whether we are dealing with an issue in the boardroom or the playroom – all day long we are asked to make choices and respond in ways that keep us moving forward toward experiencing life the way we truly want to be experiencing it – with warm, loving connection, efficient productivity, and easy to generate happiness.

But, no one can be a thermostat when they are stressed out internally.  So the key to being a thermostat in today’s stress-crazed culture is to learn how to maintain an inner calm amidst the storm.

Many of us are adults functioning as a thermometers and reacting to the world around us with an outer locus of control. I know, for myself, it felt like I regressed back to thermometer level once I became a mom and the waters of my life started to boil over day after day after day. My life as a mom added more stress than I had ever experienced before.  And this stress hit deeper and more intensely than I’d experienced before.

And a stressed body and mind CAN NOT function as a thermostat.  It’s impossible.  In fact you can toggle back and forth between thermometer and thermostat depending on whether you are in a calm state or stressed state. I believe that as a women living in a stress-crazed world the most crucial skill we can learn is stress resiliency – how to live from inner calm, deep reserves and robust resiliency – even when the waters around her feel turbulent and choppy.

So how do we do that exactly? Especially when it feels like we are being asked to fix the plane while it is in mid-flight? It’s really the crux of the work I do, of what transformed my own life (and still is). Remember my thermometer melt down I talked about earlier?

I’ll never promise you you won’t get off center, you will – it’s a guarantee.  But I am seeing the radical difference in my own life of what happens when I have strong supports in place to keep me course correcting before I spiral so far out of control that it can takes weeks or months or years to pull myself back together.

And these strong supports all have one thing in common – they tap right into the area of our brain that controls whether we are functioning under a stress state or a calm state – I call them limbic calming techniques.

Here’s a few examples of what I do when I find myself spiraling into a stress state throughout my day.

  • I slow down and connect with a close friend that is 100% there for my best interest- I felt safe, I felt heard and I felt cared for.
  • I make sure I didn’t give in to caffeine or excess sugar- which I know adds to my anxiety and inner chaos. Instead I go for the calming foods that I know work for me.
  • I bring in some stress-reducing mind/body/breath exercises which turn on the calm from the inside out.
  • I opt for a short walk to get outside with fresh air.
  • I pay attention to my internal conversation, what triggers were set off and how much of that was baggage from my own past and not the truth of the situation.
  • I speak kindly to myself and remind myself over and over again I’m doing the very best I can and my personal best is all I can offer.

The more often I reach for calming tools, the faster these episodes of high stress resolve and dissipate. That is the power of self care to me. It’s why I feel it’s non-negotiable for every mother and entrepreneur to be equipped with simple, effective tools to care for and protect her sacred core.  In fact who we are (at the core) is all we ever really have to offer ourselves, our spouses, our children and our world.

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How do we, as mothers living in the modern world, exactly and practically replenish so that we stay full rather than live on fumes most days?

I want to invite you to consider what it would feel like to live a year giving yourself not only the permission, but the support and the tools you need in order to change the pattern of self care in your life. Introducing … Replenish 365! My heartfelt offering: a full year, supremely supported, completely comprehensive, momentum building, real-life, real-change, self-care circle for moms who are ready for vibrant health in every area of their lives.

Visit www.wellgroundedlife.com to find out more about Replenish 365 and for more valuable resources designed to equip moms to live vibrant lives.

 

Mission Possible – Using a Family Mission Statement to Connect your Family

Does your family have a mission?

Cue the Mission: Impossible theme song. I am an action flick gal. I have seen every James Bond movie at least three times, I was first in line to see Transformers, and I never miss a superhero adventure.

So, when the topic of missions comes up, it is no surprise that the first thing that pops in my mind is the theme song from Mission: Impossible. The mission I have in mind isn’t an impossible one, but like the M:I character, Ethan Hunt, it does require a focus and teamwork to achieve it.

Whether it’s a top-secret mission, one from God or one from within, a mission declares what you would like your life to look. It directs your life and asserts your purpose. It answers questions, such as: How do we choose to live our life? What values support us? What are our priorities?

So, your, well, mission – should you choose to accept it – is to identify and craft your own family mission statement. Whether you are a family of two or twenty, a mission statement provides everyone a say in how the family goes and grows in life as an individuals and as a team.

7 Steps to Creating Your Family Mission

#1: Establish your personal mission. Consider the current status of your life, values, priorities, goals, education, professional pursuits, leisure activities and roles you enjoy on a regular basis. Get specific! (If you haven’t done a Life Perspective Plan, you get one at juliesmith.com.) Encourage your spouse, life partner, and/or older children to determine their personal mission as well.

#2: Gather all the family members for a family meeting. Be sure to include anyone that lives in the same house: younger children, children who live/visit on a part-time basis and even grandparents who may live in the home. Explain that you will all be contributing to the creation of a mission statement. Let your family know that a mission is NOT a list of rules, requirements or punishments; rather, it is a roadmap for the family’s journey through life.

#3: Characterize your family by asking each family member list adjectives that describe your family. For example, our family describes itself as loving, quirky, authentic, funny, kind, creative and smart. (Be sure everyone contributes.) As each word is shared, list it on a white board for all to see. Additionally, ask family members to listen without judgment as each person’s shares his or her dreams, goals, priorities, and if completed, personal mission. These contributions start to lay the foundation of what your family mission will encompass.

#4: Brainstorm ideas to include in your family mission statement. Ask each person to contribute ideas. (Remember to do this without censorship as this is a brainstorming session.) Prompt ideas with questions such as: “What goals do we have as a family?” “If there was a definition of us in the dictionary, what would it say?” “If a stranger met us, what would they think of our interactions together?” “What inside jokes does our family share?” “What traits do we admire?” “What do we find unacceptable?” “If we were honored at an award show, what award would we win?”

#5: Craft your mission by forming the ideas in sentences. Once you have composed your sentences into a statement, edit it until everyone is agreement with both the words and the sentiment. An example may be, “The Smiths live authentically and judgment-free. We strive for continued growth, knowledge and new experiences. We are not defined by one trait or thought; rather, we are motivated by our qualities: quirky, creative, intellect, kind, honest and fun. Collectively and individually, we create the life we want.”

#6: Refine your mission into a short motto. A motto is one sentence that summarizes your family’s mission. Depending on your family, you may choose to write it in code, rhyme or verse. Some families create a catchy, humorous affirmation as their motto. The key is to make it easy to remember and touch on at lest a few of the points in your mission. My family’s motto is “The Smiths are true to their best selves.” It also could be funny or in code, as long as your family knows what it means and represents.

#7: Print out your motto and family mission statement, and ask everyone sign and date it. Post both mission and motto in a variety of prominent places in your home and business. Start creating habits and objectives that support your mission. As decisions are made both at home and business, tie them back to your family mission to ensure alignment in both areas for ultimate success.

Looking for more tips on teaching kids about character? Connect with Julie at www.juliesmith.com!

Parenting 101: New School Year, Fresh Start – How to Start a Healthy Routine for Back to School

Forget January. September is when everything starts anew when you have school-aged children! Every September, we as parents vow that THIS is the year we are going to achieve the perfect back to school morning!

While it’s true all parents dream of smooth and calm morning routines where everyone walks out the door for school dressed, fed, brushed and on time, the reality is most are in scramble mode, throwing lunches together, searching for permission forms, breaking up arguments and causing the children to eat breakfast in the car.

The 6 Rules for Back to School to Start the Year Right

Rule #1: Routine, Routine, Routine! That is the secret! Kids thrive on routine and parent can relish in routine. Bedtime should be as consistent as wake up time. When everyone arrives home from school, everything from homework to permission forms to library books goes in one place and things like hats, mittens, jackets are hung up in their place. This way nothing goes astray.

Rule #2: Reach. Put everything in reach so the kids can help out. A low pantry shelf can hold small cereal containers, bowls, spoons and cups so breakfast can be handled on their own by children as young as three.

Rule #3: Responsibilities. Share them! Kids love to help! They can handle picking out clothes, emptying the dishwasher, packing up their backpacks, taking their vitamins, setting out the lunch containers and filling water bottles.

Rule #4: Reminders. Get some poster board, colorful markers and talk with the kids about what needs to get done each morning: get dressed, brush hair, brush teeth, homework/library books, vitamins, pack backpack, empty dishwasher, etc. Then post this list of reminders on the hall closet door. When kids are not sure what to do next, they know where to go to make sure they have completed everything. Add in stickers or a checklist for the really young ones so they feel like they are accomplishing something.

Rule #5: Recipe. Make a commitment to yourself and your kids that is year you will strive to make at least one homemade snack. Get the kids to help. A double batch of oatmeal applesauce cookies and a loaf of whole-wheat banana bread take just an hour to make and will get you through at least two weeks of school snacks. Store extras in the freezer, cut up and ready to pack in lunch containers on school mornings.

#6: Relax. Every new routine will take a bit of tweaking, but if each family member is given a role and works toward the same goal, your morning routine will quickly become second nature. And if you still show up late to school one morning and forget to brush hair, it’s okay; math class will still happen and tomorrow is another chance to try it again!

Deb Lowther is a mother of 3 young daughters who has worked out her routine through years of school mornings. She blogs about raising healthy kids at www.iron-kids.com!

Parenting 101: Strategies for Stress-Free Back to School Shopping with the Kids

While still in the midst of summer fun, the unavoidable looms ahead. The back-to-school commercials have begun to lure your child into the “I want. . .”, “I need. . .”, or “I must have . . .” mindset.

If you have not already begun, it’s only a matter of time before you have to start looking for back to school bargains and thinking about fighting those crowds.

Shopping is usually not a child’s favorite thing to do, unless the purchases are intended for them. Even then, shopping can lose it’s glamour and glitz after only an hour or less, especially for a child with sensory issues that can easily be overwhelmed by the lights, the noise and the people in a big box store.

There are many things a parent can do to make a back-to-school shopping excursion with their child as positive as it can be. Having a plan of action and giving your special child some warning is the best way to tackle any shopping trip.

A spur of the moment decision to enter into the shopping scene is very risky business and can easily backfire on anyone, especially if your child is on the Autism spectrum.

Strategies for Back to School Shopping with the Kids

#1: Discuss the game plan with your child ahead of time. Children on the autism spectrum tend to be very concrete so let them know where you are going, how long it will take and what to expect. The more your child knows the better she will be able to cope. Consider providing her with a picture schedule or a written list of what is going to happen.

#2: Take realistic steps towards your goal. Unless your back-to school list is very short, plan for more than one shopping spree and don’t try to get everything you need packed into one excursion. Children with autism function better when activities are divided into small chunks of time. Being mindful of everyone’s limited capacity for patience and frustration tolerance will help prevent the type of emotional meltdown you want to avoid in public.

#3: Make a shopping list and stick to it. If buying school supplies is the goal for the day, keep it to that and save the school clothes or other items for another day. Straying from the game plan will only risk heightening your child’s anxiety as children with Autism do best when they know exactly what to expect. If possible, involve your child in creating the list of supplies. If the list is agreed upon prior to going shopping by both of you it is easy to point to the list and say no to additional requests.

#4: Leave the house with a full tank. This is not a reference to your car’s fuel tank but your child’s best level of functioning. Make sure your child is well rested and fed prior to leaving the house. Spending time in a crowded, noisy and strange environment can be taxing and unsettling for any child, let alone a child with sensory issues. Bringing favorite snacks and water to keep your child well hydrated can help maintain an energy level necessary to cope with possible overstimulation.

#5: Create an atmosphere of fun and learning. Make up creative games you can play with your child while shopping. If he is old enough, ask him to be your helper by telling him what you are looking for and call it a treasure hunt. Challenge your child to identify colors, count items or give him something that is OK to touch and ask him to describe it. Make sure you have included one activity on the shopping trip that is enjoyable for you and your child.

#6: Limit your child’s TV viewing diet. If your child watches any TV, you can be sure that she is receiving numerous media messages, which promote the notion that consumption is the pathway to happiness, love, acceptance, and success. These messages are also creeping into the Internet and the cell phones that now seem to be a normal part of life for most children. The media madness that advances a commercial culture may impact your shopping trip, your child and your wallet more than you realize.

These strategies will not guarantee that your shopping experience with your child unfolds exactly as you hope but being prepared will definitely help you reduce the risk of anything unexpected from developing. When you can create a positive experience with this first of many school related activities, you will be helping your child take a positive first step towards a new school year.

Want more strategies for dealing with a child on the autism spectrum? Get your free ecourse, Parenting a Child with Autism – 3 Secrets to Thrive and a weekly parenting tip newsletter, The Spectrum, @ www.parentcoachingforautism.com.

Entrepreneurial Kids: Money Management – How to Raise Money Smart Kids!

It doesn’t take long before kids figure out that money has a special status in our society. Just watch the eyes of a 4-year-old light up at the sight of a penny lying on the ground, “Money!” or listen to their excited voices as they share just how much money the tooth fairy left them under their pillows.

Knowing how to manage your money is an essential life skill. As parents, we can start to educate and empower our children to make smart choices with their money. By teaching them to spend and save their money wisely, we are giving them a gift that lasts a lifetime.

8 Ways to Teach Kids about Money Management and Raise Money Smart Kids

#1: Is there a record of it? – Keeping good records of money saved, invested, or spent is another important skill young people must learn. To make it easy, they can use 12 envelopes, 1 for each month, with a larger envelope to hold all the envelopes for the year or you can use a spreadsheet. It really depends on the child’s style. Establish this system for each child in the family.

#2: Going Shopping! – Going to the grocery store is often a child’s first experience with money. Spending smart at the grocery store (using coupons, shopping sales, comparing unit prices) can save thousands of dollars each year for a family with children. To help kids learn, show them how to compare prices per item/oz/lb etc. Ask them questions to help them figure out what is the best item to purchase. On other shopping trips, you can talk to your kids about quality products, warranties, and other things to consider when making purchases.

#3: Let them spend! – Whether they make a great purchase or a poor purchase, they will learn from their spending choices. You can then initiate an open discussion of spending pros and cons before they make another purchase. Do not fall into the “I-told-you-so” conversation trap because they will stop listening. Asking them questions and letting them come to the conclusions on their own is the best method of teaching. Encourage them to do research and consider other things they could do with that money before making a purchase.

#4: Do they have ad sensibility? – Talk to your children about how to evaluate TV, radio, print, and digital ads. Encourage them to ask lots of questions about the ad. How does the ad make them feel when they see it/hear it? Is a price offered truly a sale price? Are there other products available that will do a better job, are less expensive, or offer better value? Remember to tell them that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

#5: Drowning in Debt! – If you charge interest on small loans you make to your children, they will learn quickly how expensive it is to rent other people’s money. We did this with our daughter over the summer. She learned really quickly that a plane ticket costs a lot more when you pay for it with interest added on.

#6: Paper or plastic? – Every time you open your wallet, you have the opportunity to use paper (cash/check) or plastic (credit/debit). When you choose to use plastic, be sure to explain to your children that you are borrowing the credit card company’s money. If you pay it back within a certain time period, you get to borrow it for free, but if you don’t, you have to pay them lots of extra fees such as interest, late charges and more.

#7: Who’s knows your information? – Be very clear with children about protecting their personal information: name, address, passwords, social security number, bank account numbers, etc. Money fraud and identity theft can happen even with children. My daughter’s social security number was stolen when she was just a few years old! Shred receipts you don’t need for tax purposes and anything with a name and address listed on it.

#8: Family Finance Councils – Sit down as a family for regular group discussions. Talk about money goals; the difference between cash, checks, and credit cards; wise spending habits; how to avoid the use of credit; the advantages of saving and even investments. As your children get older, you can also discuss what is happening with money and economics locally, nationally and internationally.

All of this information will be important as they take on more responsibility for their own financial well-being. By helping them develop smart money skills early, you are setting them up for future success!

Want to raise a CEO Kid? Head on over to RaisingCEOKids.com to grab your copies of “40 FREE and Low Cost Tools to Help you Grow Biz” and “The Power of One” Webinar. For daily updates, LIKE RaisingCEOKids on Facebook!

Putting a STOP to Bullying – What Parents Can Do to Put a Stop to Bullying

We all hear about bullying and the negative impact on kids and their self-confidence, but until it happens to you, it’s difficult to imagine how it feels as a parent knowing your child is the victim and not some abstract story you hear about on the news.

I didn’t think much of it when I picked my 10-year-old up from basketball camp when he was a little quiet because he was bound to be tired from the 9-hour days at camp. When he was still quiet when I gave him the milkshake, I thought something may be going on, wondering if it was more than the exhaustion from non-stop basketball drills were the reason he barely even touched it.

So I asked, “Is there anything you’d like to talk about?” Silence. I knew something was wrong, and in 5-4-3-2-1 seconds, I knew exactly what it was – bullying.

Shedding a tear, he said, “Mom, a lot of guys were taunting me today. It was terrible. They made fun of my jersey, told me my favorite player sucked and then said I sucked because I missed a bunch of shots. Then I got bullied on the court and pushed down. It went on all day.” By then the tears were flowing full stream.

My heart sunk. I wanted to protect my boy. I wanted take away the pain. And, in all honestly, I wanted to yell back at the boys who had bullied my son. But I didn’t do any of that.

Instead, I pulled the car over, looked directly at him and said, “I’m so sorry, Finn. That stinks. Big time. There are so many things I could say to you right now about how to handle yourself. First, though, I think it is more important to let you cry. Get all those feelings of frustration out. Then, I think a big sip of your shake is due. Also, finally, if you want, I’d love to give you a giant hug.” He took advantage of all three, and once he calmed down, we were able to talk.

Bullying is still seen by some as normal behavior that is “not big deal,” and while many cases of bullying do resolve themselves, bullying should not be taken lightly. Overreacting is not a good idea either. It’s important to assess the seriousness of the situation and respond accordingly.

How to STOP the Bullying Without Singling Your Child Out

#1: Keep your feelings in check – As a parent, you want to protect your child at all costs, especially when he or she is hurt. However, your child wants to protect you as well. When you show how upset you are, it adds more charge to the situation.

A parent overreacting can fuel any insecurities or anxieties your child is feeling causing him or her to shut down. Your child can feel like they are to blame for causing you grief. Instead, save those feelings until you are alone, and ask yourself, “What does my child need from me right now?”

#2: Provide a safe space for your child to express his or her feelings – Young people are emotional warehouses. They are filled with happiness, sadness, joy, frustration, calm, anger and so much more. As a parent, let your child know that it is okay to express those emotions.

Give him or her permission to cry or yell or just sit. Releasing those emotions in a safe space allows your child to move through the situation rather than hold it in or ignore it.

#3: Talk it out – Children are often reluctant to talk about being the victim of bullying so it is important to reassure them that talking about it will help and that you care about their well-being. Also, many kids think that telling their parents or teachers about being a victim of bullying will only make it worse so be sure to take positive steps that will not instigate the problem.

Ask your child what he or she has tried to do to stop the bullying and give them other ways to stop it. Give your child permission and suggestions on how to stop bullying themselves: using humor, or just remaining calm will stop bullying. When children react confidently and assert themselves to a bully, he will often stop without adult intervention.

Bullying is not about being right or wrong. It’s about feeling heard. Bullies want to feel heard. And, contrary to popular believe, bullies do not have low esteem. Actually, bullies generally feel good about themselves. They bully others for power.

Encourage your child to understand that just because someone says something about him or her doesn’t make it true. If your child diffuses the situation by shrugging it off or laughing – even if it is at oneself – it shows confidence. Again, the bullying isn’t really about your child. It’s about the bully feeling powerful, and bullies are less likely to feel powerful around those who feel confident.

#4: Continue to support your child in other ways – One of the best self-esteem boosters is to cultivate a habit of gratitude. Realizing your blessing can help to act as a shield against negative responses.

A few good exercises in gratitude include having a gratitude board (use a white board and write your blessings on it each day), a gratitude jar (write down notes of gratitude in a jar and pull them out at dinner), or just sharing what you are grateful for each day at breakfast, dinner or bedtime.

#5: Depending on the severity, report the bullying – If your child is a victim of bullying and it is cruel enough to cause physical, emotional or self-esteem damage, then you and your child should inform your child’s teacher and principal about the situation.

Schools have no tolerance for bullying and if they are aware of what is going on will work with parents and students to create a solution. Confronting the parent of your child’s bully may or may not be a good idea, so talk with the school first.

Sometimes the parents of a child who is bullying others will be unaware of what is going on and will be willing to help. Other times, those parents may deny that there is a problem or not want to help. Children are often afraid that they bully will find out that they told on them and bully them even more severely. While it is a legitimate fear, taking the proper, positive action will usually not result in more bullying.

Thankfully for us, there is a happy ending to our story. The next morning, as my son got ready for his last day of basketball camp, the tears were gone. They had been replaced with a renewed sense of worth.

As he put on a basketball jersey similar to the one he wore yesterday, I asked, “Is that the shirt you are wearing today?” His reply was, “Yep. I don’t really care what these kids think or say. I’m going wear my shirt because I like it. And, if they tease me, I’m going to say ‘Dude, really’ cuz bottom line is I don’t care if they like me because I like me.”

Has your child experienced bullying? What steps did you take to support your child and stop the bullying? Please share your experience in the comments below!

Julie Watson Smith, MHS, is a Leadership Mentor and the founder of Character Clubs, an afterschool program designed to inspire character, confidence and community in kids, ages 3-13. Julie is a vocal advocate for creating a culture of character that helps children learn to lead at home, school and in the world. To start the conversation in your home, check out her workbook, Karmic Acts of Character, designed for families.

Parenting 101: Teaching Kids Goal Setting: 6 Ways to Help Kids Become Goal-Setters and Goal-Getters

It’s 2011—and that means goal setting for all of us, including our kids. Of course, goal setting is nothing without commitment and perseverance. It takes time, energy, and sacrifice. Even for the kids who seem the most passionate about new goals, stick-to-itiveness can be a challenge.

Ugh.

How do we get our kids to stay focused on their goals and see them through to the end?

#1: Help them define what their best effort looks like: Let’s face it. Many of us are guilty of “phoning it in.” We can’t simply do what we’ve always done even if it’s not our best—that may keep us treading water but it won’t move us forward.

When I coach clients on goal setting and goal getting, I go through a series of questions that shine light on effort and results. On a scale from 1 to 10, what would level 10 effort look like (and where would it get them)? What level of effort have they been exerting to achieve this goal in the past (and where has it gotten them)? And finally, if there is indeed a discrepancy between these two primary answers, what adjustments, if any, need to be made?

#2: Squelch self-limiting labels and thoughts: Sometimes kids label themselves (i.e. “I’m stupid,” “I’m bad at math.”). Other times parents do it for them (i.e. “She’s my shy one,” “He’s not coordinated like his brother.”). There comes a time when we need to help our kids kick these self-limiting labels to the curb and provide them with evidence of the contrary.

For example, remind the child who says she “stinks at taking tests” of the high score she received on two consecutive history tests last semester or a child who has been labeled “careless” of the great care she took with her community service project in school. When you give them permission to dismiss old labels they can shed self-limiting thoughts and negative goal-robbing language that have been holding them back.

#3: Support vision as well as goals: “Vision” is our Powerful Word of the Month for January. It gives nuance to the goal-setting process as it asks our kids to not only identify what they want but what it will look like, feel like, and sound like, once that goal is achieved.

Vision, when clear, can feel so REAL and present that it keeps goal-setters motivated and invested. They can literally “taste” success and are drawn to see their goals through to the finish line.

#4: Encourage a Persevering Attitude: The motto I talk about in any of my speaking engagements to educators, parents and of course, to the kids/teens themselves, is “I’ve got a no-quit-go-for-it-attitude.” How do you encourage an attitude like that?

Research tells us that getting (and keeping) kids involved in various positive activities, supporting self-reliance, understanding how parenting style contributes, and ensuring high yet age-appropriate expectations for your child are all important. When we tell a child what we believe they can or can’t do, they often believe us whether or not it’s actually true.

#5: Support Internal rewards: Some parents offer external rewards for commitment like toys, money, or TV. They are subsequently always looking for something else to motivate them to go after their dreams.

The best rewards, however, are internally- generated. Help your kids connect their feelings of pride and excitement to their performance and effort. For example—here’s an abridged conversation I had with one 8-year-old child:

“Wow! You cooked an awesome breakfast for your parents all by yourself? That must have been quite a feeling. What did you think of that—how did it make you feel?

“I feel really…good! I mean, I wasn’t sure it would come out good and it did. It really did. It was awesome!”

“What happens to your body and your mind when you feel like that?

“It’s like, all over. It feels good. Like I can do anything.”

Feelings of pride happen when our kids try their hardest and they accomplish their goals. They make them stand up straighter, smile bigger, and try harder. By pointing out that they are in control of these positive feelings, they will be more likely to put out the effort to stay focused and persevere.

#6: Don’t allow a pattern of quitting to occur: When kids seem to continually ask you if they can quit, it’s vital that we don’t simply give in. While young kids may not be quitting “life-altering” activities, studies repeatedly show that early behavior predicts later behavior.

In other words, by giving in, we can unintentionally set our kids up for a pattern of quitting that continues into adolescence and adulthood when commitment is mandatory and stakes are high. It’s important to take the time to ensure our kids understand the time commitment that will be expected and enforced whenever they choose to join and activity.

As it’s a brand new year, the slate is wiped clean and the possibilities are boundless. Let’s help our kids (and ourselves) to make this the year of going the extra mile—the year they realize their goals and make their 2011 dreams come true.

Want to have Dr. Robyn speak at your school or to your company? Book her for your 2011 event now!

Parenting 101: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and It was Daddy! How to Break the News about Santa Claus

A few weeks ago, my ten-year-old son asked if I was the tooth fairy. “What makes you think that,” I asked. “I found a secret supply of gold glitter which looked just like fairy dust.”

Oops. Guess it’s time to find better hiding places!

It seemed like the right time to share the truth with him. After the tears dried and sadness subsided (mine and his), he asked, “So, is Santa real or are you Santa too?”

Gulp.

Learning the truth about Santa Claus is a milestone towards adulthood. It’s a big step towards growing up. And while I was around my son’s age when I found out about Santa, I wasn’t sure my son was ready. Heck, I wasn’t sure I was ready.

Santa Claus is the symbol of childhood innocence. The big red guy resides in a place where fantasy and reality intermingle. Uncovering the truth can cause those worlds to separate. Learning that Santa Clause isn’t real can be a difficult transition for children and parents alike.

How to Break the News that Santa Claus isn’t REAL

#1: Let your child initiate the conversation. Instead of saying, “It’s about time you learned the truth,” or “You’re old enough to know…”, let your child come to you when they are ready. Keep in mind, many children already have an idea about Santa; they just like to keep the tradition going.

#2: Be truthful and considerate. Blurting out, “Yep, I’m Santa. It’s been me the whole time. I’m sooo glad I got that off my chest,” may be truthful, but there is a better way. Share the history of the real St. Nick and how you enjoy keeping that joy and magic alive.

#3: Be empathetic. Put yourself in your child’s place. What would you need from someone if you were in his or her situation? How would you feel? Angry or betrayed? Confused or worried? Now, consider what your child needs from you. If your child feels lied to, give him or her easy-to-understand examples, such as how you kept daddy’s birthday party a secret to surprise him or how you played pretend or dress up because it made everyone happy. Also, be sure to give hugs, time and space. Children are great healers.

#4: Don’t make your child feel wrong or discount their feelings. Avoid saying things like, “That’s life. You’ll learn many things are not what you think they are,” “I’m surprised it took you this long to figure this out since so many younger kids already know” or even “Get over it. I’ve heard enough from you about Santa Claus.”

#5: Keep Santa as part of your holiday tradition. Once your child knows, don’t jump off the Santa Claus bandwagon. Reassure him or her that holidays will still be special. Let them continue believing in the magic. Children often find comfort and acceptance in playing along with you. So, put out the cookies, track Santa on Christmas Eve and yes, have Santa presents under the tree.

Santa may not be “real,” but he does live. Santa is the jolly bearded man at the mall listening to the children’s holiday wishes. He is the red-suited woman ringing the bell by a donation bucket. He is the mom and dad who sneak downstairs after the kids have gone to sleep to put treasures under the tree. He is the joy and wonder of twinkling lights on Christmas Eve and the excitement of discovering a half-empty glass of milk and cookie crumbs on Christmas morning.

Santa Clause is the spirit of kindness and giving – something that lives in each and every one of us. And that is very real.

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