Archive for June, 2010

Inspired parents = Inspired kiddos!

June 28, 2010

Today as I read the work of Betty Mahalik, a professional coach, I found this paragraph:  “So this week I ask:  what inspires you?  What lifts you up beyond the mundane and ordinary; beyond the circle of your own self-interest?  What makes your heart sing?  And what underutilized gift do you have that might be a source of inspiration to others?  How long has it been since you felt truly inspired, and what do you intend to do about it?”

And, based on that encouragement, I want to remind you of how important your example is to your children.  If you believe that your importance in the life of your children ends with your providing their basic needs, we’ll need to see about stretching that out a bit.  What you do, what you say, how you look, your voice tone, whether or not you smile now and then – all of these things communicate to your children that they may well become this kind of person too.  We all want our children to become the ‘best that they can be’, so let me remind you that you – Mom and Dad – are the biggest and most influential forces in the world to your children!  And, when your children sense that you are ‘inspired’ (whatever that means to you!), they will catch that from you and become inspired, too!

So, you want your children to be curious – then you must demonstrate your curiousity!  You want your children to be quiet and respectful in the presence of others – then you must demonstrate your reserve.  You want your children to be willing to try new things – then you must be trying new things (and sometimes all you’ll learn is that you don’t want to go there again!!)  The vital message – ‘Be What You Wish For Your Children To Become!’

The example that Betty M. used was watching young children learn to play the violin via the Suzuki Method.  Very young children can learn to play that versatile instrument.  And, my mind went back years ago as I sat at a banquet waiting to address the educators after dinner.  Our entertainment while eating consisted of a group of young people (5 years to 15 years of age) walking amongst us and playing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’!  One darling little girl approached me and as the portion of the tune required no hands on the strings, she offered her hand in a handshake.  I took her hand, smiled, and held it just a little bit too long.  She realized she needed to get that hand back to the strings, and gave me a look (I would now describe it as a glare!) which would have delivered me into the next world if that were possible!  I learned an important lesson – just shake hands and let it go!  And, I hope, at this late date, that she learned that teasing can be a part of our lives if it isn’t hurtful or malicious!  She continued to play ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ with a natural, inspiring spirit!

Be aware of the example you provide for your kiddos!!


“I hate you!”

June 25, 2010

From time to time we’ll hear our children say something like:  “I hate you!”  And, that has the potential to bring the worst forward in both us and the child!  Parents often respond to this by challenging it, and this frequently brings a shower of tears from the child (perhaps realizing that this is not true).  More than likely the root of this statement lies in our using our power over the child to get something accomplished and the child hates the fact that you have and you use that power!  So, let’s take a peek at ‘power’ and work toward using it as our friend and the child’s comfort rather than bringing forth the ‘monster’ in the child.

Mahatma Gandhi, known primarily for his work with non-violence in conflict resolution, tells us:  “Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.” I think those are easy words to say and hard to implement.  However, I also think that we can (and perhaps we must) find a way to use the power of love to work with our children.  Every day and in every way, we can strive to use love to protect our kids from dangers, we can help them develop habits which will serve them well in the future, we can help them nurture a sense of responsibility and ‘care-full’ ness, we can encourage their natural curiousity to learn about all things, we can, in short, guide them with our love into the kind of lifestyle which brings continuing rewards instead of constant pressure and failure.

Starting today, you  can use your power of love to create a child who will become the kind of adult you had in mind when you gave birth to this child!

Keep Your Word!

June 22, 2010

Today’s message is also the main point I make in my book, ‘Build the Fort . . Today!’ When you tell your child that you’ll do something and you don’t do it, your child will feel badly ‘let down’.  And, we know that children have long memories, so it behooves us to keep our word with our kids!  When we parents and other adults say that we’re going to do something, kids see this as a ‘promise’ – we adults would call it an informal contract!  And, it’s very important that we keep our word.

And, whenever you tell a chld that you’ll do something and you follow through and ‘do it’, you establish a valuable trust account in the child.  The trust you establish will be returned!  Children learn by observing significant others in their lives – therefore, when the child learns that people can be trusted, they too will become people who can be trusted.

On Correcting Me!

June 18, 2010

I know that I don’t always do the things you expect your child to do, but when I’ve gotten things wrong, when I’ve misbehaved, when I’ve let you down, and even when I’ve done things that I know are wrong, I need to have you correct me!  But please do not correct me in front of others if you can help it!  If you would talk quietly with me in private, I’ll pay more attention and I’ll be more inclined to do as you advise.

When you reprimand me in front of my friends, my reaction is to place my feet firmly in concrete and I will not budge – I don’t want to ‘lose face with my friends’ so I’ll ‘act big’ and begin to have hostile feelings toward you!

So, that’s today’s counsel – lay out your expectations in advance, when I don’t live up to them, please talk to me when we’re alone together!  I’ll have more respect for you, I’ll have more room to make the changes necessary, and I’ll not feel diminished in front of others!

Start Early with this!

June 15, 2010

A Riddle! -I am your constant companion!  -I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden! -I will push you onward or drag you down to failure! -I am completely at your command! – Half the things you do might just as well be turned over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly! -I am easily managed; however, you must merely be firm with me.  Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons I will do it automatically! -I am the servant of all great people, and alas, of all failures as well! -Those who are great, I have made great! -Those who are failures, I have made failures! -I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a person! You may run me for profit or run me for ruin – it makes no difference to me! -Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet.  Be easy with me, and I will destroy you!  Who am I?

Did you guess?  Beginning with my first day free from my mom’s womb, I begin to learn and establish habits – patterns of behavior that will go with me for the rest of my life!  As many of us have learned, habits are difficult to change and sometimes can bring a good deal of pain to those of us who carry them with us!  With that in mind, we adults in the lives of children must be aware that bad habits can be formed quickly, efficiently, and permanently into the psyche of our little ones!  And, if you’re still reading, here comes the important part of this message – ‘it’s just as easy to establish ‘good habits’ (ones that are not harmful to self or others) as it is to form the destructive habits which will ‘walk’ with us for many years and will be difficult to shed!  So, how can this work in your life?

Once again, let me bring forth from my memory some experiences with the pets I’ve enjoyed over the years!  Dogs seem to be on a constant search for food and they will turn their nose up to the food in their dish when adults are eating at the mealtime table!  Realizing that this ‘people’ food is superior in taste to that dry dog food, the dog will ‘park’ near the person who is most apt to share his/her food with the animal.  The look in their eyes is one of pleading for just a taste.  They will sometimes ‘whimper’ to let you know that they’re there!  And, very often that person with a soft heart will reach over and feed the dog one tiny morsel of the roast beef, or one little portion of something not eaten!  This first act sets the stage for a behavior or tendency which will be hard to shake later on!  A habit has been formed!

Now let’s assume that our children are far superior in mental ability to even the most intelligent pet and let’s assume that we begin a process of allowing a bad habit to form!  Over time this ‘habit’ can become a part of the child’s behavior.  Focusing too much attention on a child for doing something which can be potentially harmful or dangerous can create the tendency to repeat that behavior and even enhance it!  Laughing too much at what parents consider funny when in fact it’s an abusive comment or behavior, can teach the child that this behavior will be accepted = even appreciated and applauded.  So, what can we as responsible parents do?

First a ‘don’t’:  “Don’t let me form bad habits.  I have to rely on you to detect them in their earliest stages.”  And, then a do:  “Acknowledge and applaud constructive behaviors so that in my development I come to find these as an appropriate way to get the affection (attention) that I crave! Do let me grow with positive, constructive and appropriate habits!  Please!

Firm and Fair!

June 10, 2010

So, we’ve discussed listening to our children, getting our children to listen to us and in doing these things we help the child to know he/she is important, that what the child is saying is important, and we’ve set the foundation for their respecting and learning from us!  And, now the beginning stages of setting up an environment where the child will feel more secure.  For a variety of reasons, we sometimes believe that when we let our children do whatever they choose to do, whenever they choose to do it they will develop into happy, responsible and respectful adults.  Children, if they were able to speak to us, might say, “Be firm with me.  Fair but firm is what I prefer even when I seem to balk at your ‘No!’ or rebel against your rules, or when I’m disrespectful when you deny me ‘my way’!”

This doesn’t need to mean that parents serve as a ‘helicopter’ hovering over our children at all times.  It does mean that at many times as the child learns about this world of ours, we parents must emerge as the adult and probably practice a phrase which came from an early television show:  “Father (or Mother) Knows Best”!

That means that there will be times when we say, “No!” and mean “No!”  Not one parent in this world will know what will happen the first time the child hears a non-negotiable ‘No!’  Tears?  Tantrums?  Pouting?  Striking out?  But beneath all of those challenges the child hopes that we’ll be firm and fair!

And, you’ll discover that the child will migrate toward that person who has the insight contained in these thoughts.  We entertained one evening years ago, a family with a child who had never heard ‘No!’ from her parents.  When the child started pushing her food off her plate onto the table and eventually, onto the floor, both Denise and I said quietly but firmly, ‘No, No!  We don’t do that here!’  The misbehavior stopped, the child ate her food, and when the meal was over went to sit on Denise’s lap and later came to me for attention after dinner!  Children want us all to be firm and fair!

Getting kids to listen!

June 8, 2010

Today, I’m going to let Michael Lee speak for me!  I agree so much with what he’s told us about getting kids to listen to us!  First of all, we need to assume that we have established a strong relationship with our kids and this takes time and patience, but will pay dividends in everything we say to kids or do with kids!

So, having said that, how do we get our kids to listen to us?  Here are three tips from Lee!

Tip #1:  Catch them in a Good Mood.

When children are in a good mood, they’re very sweet even if a bit mischievous. As long as they’re happy, they’re more likely to listen to you.

Trying to talk them when they’re having a tantrum or when they’re upset is like talking to a brick wall. All they’ll think about is how unhappy they are at the moment.

Tip # 2: Say What You Mean.

Getting kids to listen doesn’t work the same way as getting adults to listen. Adults need long sentences and explanations before they become convinced of something. Kids, on the other hand, need a more direct approach.

Avoid going around in circles. Instead of rambling on and on about how they’re lucky to have a family and how they would feel if the situation were reversed, just tell them that teasing their kid brothers and sisters is wrong and that they shouldn’t do it again.

They already have a short attention span as it is. In their case, the more direct to the point you are, the better your chances of getting your message across.

Tip # 3: Be Creative.

When getting kids to listen, a little creativity doesn’t hurt. For example, if you want to get a six-year-old girl to drink her milk, why don’t you enlist the help of her favorite cartoon character or storybook character? Tell her that Alice in Wonderland drinks her milk like a good girl every night.

For a boy’s wounded knee, you can tell him that if Iron Man were in his place, he would bravely allow the nurse to dab the wound with medicine.

This kind of technique pretty much works on everything. You can also easily incorporate these little “life lessons” in the middle of a bedtime story.

As difficult as it is to believe, getting kids to listen can actually be pretty fun. Kids might present a problem sometimes, but it’s nothing a little patience and a lot of love can’t fix.

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Listening with your heart!

June 4, 2010

You have asked what I mean when I advise listening with your ears, your eyes and your heart!  You have told me how you can listen with your ears (I’m going to believe that you’re doing more than ‘hearing’!)  You’ve shared examples with me (for which I’m grateful) of listening with your eyes.  And, you question this ‘listening with your heart’ business!

So, this will be a short blog!  Whenever you are free of your own ‘stuff’ – free to focus entirely on what the child is saying – your child will know that your ‘heart is in here’!  You can re-enforce that by saying, “You must really feel _____________ (and use a ‘feeling word’ here:  excited, angry, scared, puzzled). When you say this, the child will talk even more, knowing that you’re not just hearing or seeing, but that you’re really into the message the child is sending!  You’re listening with your heart in addition to your ears and eyes!  Your child will develop more skills in expressing feelings in this relationship, and this listening with your heart will pay dividends down the road.

Today, REALLY listen to one other person – your child, your spouse, a good friend – and feel that satisfaction of knowing that you were able to focus entirely on the other!  Good luck!

Our kids hear us!

June 1, 2010

More on Listening today!  Let’s take a look at our children’s listening to us!  Many have heard this thought:  ‘Children hear what you say about them, even if they weren’t there when you said it!’  Now, most would concede that this is a physical impossibility, still there might be enough truth contained in this to warrant another look!  Consider this:

When we speak to our pets, the tone of our voice, the volume of our speaking, the speed of our speech may communicate much more than the words do!  Imagine saying this to your pet in slow comforting tones:  “You are the best, most loving, easy-going creature on the face of the earth!”  A dog’s tail will wag furiously, our cat will arch his/her back, purr and move toward the speaker.  Then imagine saying in the same tone:  “You are the ugliest creature on the face of the earth.  Why anyone would love you is beyond me!”  The pet’s reaction will be the same!

So, the things that communicate the meaning are not the words.  And, when we speak ill of our children when we’re far from them, that tone, that volume, that speed of speaking shows up in our face-to-face communication with them.  In this way the kids hear ‘what we are saying about them, even when they’re not there when we say these things’!

If you can then acknowledge that your children are listening – with their eyes and heart as well as with their ears – and that the words are not as important as some other variables, let me encourage you to focus upon the most positive things you can in your children and ‘Spread The Word’ about them!  Everywhere you go, you’ll be bringing a sense of self-worth to your child, and you’ll be surprised at what this does for you as well.