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Respond to Your Child’s “Getting On With Growing Up” Responses (Greg Warburton)

The following article is excerpted from Greg Warburton’s book, Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance.

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Greg Warburton, Ask More, Tell Less

I can live for two months on a good compliment. —Mark Twain

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Responding to the child’s response is a dynamic, interactive process between parent and child. Begin your continuous praise practice now. Children behave in myriad ways; sometimes what they do is troubling, and at other times it is positive, exciting, and transformative.

Getting Out of The Compliment Desert
Unfortunately, our busy, attention-fractured world can lead us into a compliment desert because we often take our children’s positive behaviors for granted. Or parents may believe that their children just know how to do certain things and behave in certain ways and no longer require any recognition for their positive ways of being. Vigilantly practicing responding (verbally and nonverbally) to your child’s getting-on-with-growing-up behavior response, and no longer taking good behavior for granted, can quickly put your family on a positively different pathway and provides an esteem-boosting oasis. Begin right now to consider how you too can move your family onto this pathway as you review the story below.

Greg Warburton, Ask More, Tell LessThe Meeting
I had been asked to meet a family with four children, ages five, seven, nine, and 11 who had been removed from an abusive home while living with their father and stepmother. They were now living with their mother, she seemed frantic and overwhelmed. She started our meeting by telling me that the children were not behaving for her and she didn’t know what to do to “bring them back into control.”

Picture me sitting in a room with all four children and their mother to talk about troubling behavior and adjusting to their new home, when all the children really wanted to do was play. How do I begin to engage them, to cause them to become attentive, curious, and active participants and, most importantly, begin to change the direction of their lives?

I started by noticing all of the growing-up things I saw them do or heard them say from the moment we began our meeting, and told each of them about what I was seeing. The instant anything positive happened, I responded with verbal praise.

Early in the meeting, I heard seven-year-old Abby say, “I have an attitude.” I immediately asked, “Did you notice the growing-up thing you just did?”

She shook her head to indicate that she didn’t know what I was referring to, but she seemed curious and engaged by my language and my excitement.

Me: Well then, I’m sure glad I saw it so I can tell you about it. Are you ready to hear what it was?

Abby: (Nods her head to mean “yes.”)

Me: I just caught you telling yourself and your family the truth about how you act sometimes.

To help her identify how this behavior connects to successful growing up, I continued:

Me: Does telling the truth help kids grow up or grow down?

Abby: Grow up.

Once I had acknowledged and reinforced her positive behavior with verbal praise, I moved on to externalizing the problem (from Chapter 13):

Me: How big does this attitude seem to be?

When she didn’t answer right away, I suggested candidate sizes:

Me: Does it seem bigger than you, as big as the room, as big as the world?

Abby (seeming amused): As big as the world.

Me: How much do you want to shrink the attitude?

Abby (clapping her hands together with excitement): All the way to ZERO!

As you analyze all that happened in the moment of interacting with one of the children, imagine the path we would have traveled had I responded to Abby’s statement by asking, “WHY are you having an attitude?”

My experience teaches me that Abby would typically have responded, “I don’t know, and I don’t care!” This predictable response usually leads the adult to telling the child what will happen if she doesn’t change her attitude and/or believing the child is being resistant: “Well, you know what will happen if you keep showing this bad attitude. You will stay in trouble and you won’t get any privileges, and you won’t have any friends” (and so forth). Instead, Abby was now engaged and curious. She was listening, thinking, and deciding about what she was going to do to fix the attitude trouble.

Build Awareness

One thing parents always have complete control over is which behavior they pay attention to. As you build your awareness, you will notice that there is always some good and appropriate behavior occurring, no matter what troubling and inappropriate behavior may be going on at the moment. But in our always-too-busy modern world, it is easy to take compliant, cooperative behavior for granted and confine the big energy and attention to behavior trouble. The problem with this approach is that any behavior that gets a parent’s main mental and emotional focus will tend to be repeated.

Remember, you do get to choose what behavior you will respond to day in and day out throughout your child’s adventures in growing up. In my 30 years counseling with kids, teens and parents, I have vigilantly chosen to see the socially successful behavior(s) and “catch them and praise them for getting-on-with-growing up.” ###

Greg Warburton is an experienced mental health professional who believes that children and parents grow as they become more self-reliant. For more information about his work and this book, go to his website [link].

 

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March 31, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Parents, Resilience | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Your GPS for “Perfect” Parenting (Kirsten Siggins)

perfect parenting, institute of curiosity, family values, Kirsten Siggins

Being a parent these days is tough. So often I coach people who find their life as parents to be overwhelming. In our hyper-connected world of smartphones and social media, society has created an image of perfection in aspects of our lives, including how we are ‘supposed to’ show up as parents, which very few feel they are able to achieve. This societal expectation can create impossible challenges for many, leaving a wake of frustration, anger, judgment, shame, and even blame. I think we can all agree being a parent is hard enough and no one welcomes the pressures of trying to achieve “perfect” parenting.

Curiosity is at the Core

So what can we strive for as parents? At the Institute of Curiosity, we believe curiosity is at the core of being the best parent you can possibly be, whatever that looks like for you. Each of us, based on our upbringing, experiences and education can use curiosity to better understand ourselves and understand others, which supports us in being a better, stronger and happier self.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder and like conflict, it begins with our values. When you have clarity around your personal values, you can co-create family values that will help you navigate the challenges of being a parent. This also helps your family in conflict! Developing joint values around parenting supports a unified approach when dealing with issues with your kids. These values create a GPS for you to stay focused in all aspects of your lives including challenges that arise for your family and help you align with your vision of ‘perfect’ parenting.

3 Steps to Creating Your GPS for Perfect’ Parenting

1. Identify and define your values. Get curious to understand what’s non-negotiable for you. Ask yourself right now, “what are my values?” If you don’t know, that’s OK and it is time to start exploring them. Explore them personally and with your partner. As you explore them, it is important to define what they mean to you as we all define our values differently.

For example, adventure may be the movies for one and skydiving for another. Until you are clear on what adventure means to you it is difficult to live in alignment. Once you are clear on your values, you will gain clarity around what holds importance for you, what the non-negotiable are in your life. You will also gain that same clarity around your partner and how you want to show up together as parents. If you need some help exploring your values, check out a step by step process here: http://www.instituteofcuriosity.com/what-do-you-value-what-you-need-to-know-to-be-successful/

2. Identify your family values. What holds importance for you as a family? Working with your partner and kids, using the same steps as above, identify and define your family values. Once defined, clarity will be gained around how you and your family want to navigate life together. These values will support your kids in how they behave, make decision and manage expectations. Family values will also support you as a parent navigating the many challenges with continuity, and create consistency your kids can rely on. These values will also come in handy when in conflict!

The Power of Curiosity, curious questions, staying curiousAs an example, let’s say safety is a family value. Your teen wants to go to a party and you are concerned about their safety, you don’t want them to go. Rather than an all out war of “I am going/ No you aren’t” you can use that value as the focal point of your conversation when discussing the party to learn about your teen and their approach to the party. It could sound like: ‘Safety is one of our family values and we wonder, how do you plan to ensure you are safe while at this party? What strategies do you have in mind if you find yourself in a situation where your safety could be at risk?” Questions like these take the focus off you and your teen so you can both focus on your joint value of safety. Together you can decide if strategies need to be developed to ensure safety in order for your teen to attend the party.

3. Stay open and curious. As you discuss what is important to each other ensure that you stay open and ask curious questions to learn (focus on questions beginning with WHAT & HOW). We are each unique and just because you are a family, it doesn’t mean you all value the same things OR define your values the same way. Your definition of safety may be very different than your child’s, making it difficult to align and cause conflict. Be present to listen to your kids and spouse as they discuss what they value and how they define that. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it does allow you to better understand their perspective and experiences, and creates a framework that helps each family member make choices in their every day interactions.

This navigation system ensures you stay the course and support each family member in the challenges that present themselves each day. Sounds pretty perfect, right?

For more tips and tools to stay curious & connected, even in conflict, visit: www.instituteofcuriosity.com

Kathy Taberner & Kirsten Siggins are a mother/daughter communication consulting team with a focus on curiosity and founders of the Institute Of Curiosity. Their book, The Power Of Curiosity: How To Have Real Conversations That Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding (Morgan James 2015), gives parents or leaders (or both) the skills and the method to stay curious and connected in all conversations, even in conflict.

March 24, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Video Games: The New Plague (Dr. Larry Waldman)

Larry Waldman, video games, addictive video gamesVideo games are like crack cocaine to today’s youth. Many children, especially boys between the ages of 11 and 16, spend untold hours involved with these electronic games, often from the time they come home from school until they finally go to bed. Far too many kids spend essentially entire weekends (and most of their holiday and summer breaks) playing these “games.” I regularly hear reports from parents that their children engage in “gaming” to the neglect of homework, reading, eating with the family, or going out with the family. No-shows to college classes are at an all-time high due to students missing class to play video games.

Addictive

To say that video gaming is addictive is not an exaggeration. These addictive games are brightly colored, quite visually and orally stimulating, very life-like, and, most importantly, are self-regulated. Kids whom are unable to sit and concentrate for 15 minutes in school will spend an entire afternoon alone in their room intensely focused on a video game.

Promotes Lethargy and Obesity

Children of previous generations watched too much TV—this writer included. Nevertheless, those TV-watching kids managed to occasionally pull themselves from the “boob tube” to get out and interact and socialize with peers. Today’s “gamers” are socially isolated. “Virtual friends”–other kids who play along remotely–are considered “best friends” by many “gamers” today, though they have never met in person. Because of video games, today’s kids do not have the same opportunities to learn social skills as did children of previous generations.

Data on the epidemic of obesity in US adults (60%) suggests that the early bad habit of excessive TV-watching may be part of the reason many adults today fail to exercise. If the majority of the previous generation of TV-watching kids are now obese as adults, even though they got some exercise as children, what can we expect from the current generation of kids whom are not active even as children?! In 15-20 years we are going to see some of the largest “tushes” known to man—but their thumbs will be long and lean. (Some newer games encourage activity, interestingly, but their use is in the minority.)

Promotes Violence

Finally, and most significantly, we must consider the medium of these games to which are kids are addicted. The overwhelming majority of these video games involve violence—graphic violence, replete with screams, life-like blood, and gore.

In the 1970’s and ‘80’s many research studies were conducted which documented the negative psychological effect excessive TV-watching—and its associate violence–had on kids. Today’s “gamer” views more violence in an afternoon than I did throughout my entire childhood of watching TV.

WRWI firmly believe it is no coincidence that many of the young men who were responsible for some of the recent shootings we all have heard about were reported to be active “gamers.” I am not about to argue that video games caused these tragedies, but I have to wonder if electronically killing thousands of “aliens,” monsters, or “bad guys” over hundreds of hours of video gaming, could distort a young person’s reality or desensitize them to the value of life?

Pilots learn to fly via simulation. Maybe we should start calling this process video “training”—not gaming. I am waiting for the first defense attorney to use the “Gamer’s Syndrome” as a means to defend their client.

The Result

Every older generation thinks the younger generation is “going to hell in a hand-basket.” I remember when I got into the Beatles and my mother thought I had “lost my religion.” Having worked with hundreds of children over the past 40 years, I have become truly worried about the impact video games are having on our youth. I am fearful that soon we will have a generation of under-socialized, impulsive, impatient, entitled, apathetic, aggressive, obese young adults. To this health professional, video games are the newest plague.

What to Do

Parents, please toss out the X-Box or, at least, limit its use. Take a walk or hike with your child. Take a bike ride. Do something fun, active, and interactive; go to the gym together. It will be good for you and your child.###

Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for 38 years. He has worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples. He also provides forensic consultations. He speaks professionally to laypersons, educators, corporations, and fellow mental health professionals. He teaches graduate courses for Northern Arizona University. He is the author of five books (currently) involving parenting, marriage, personal wellness, and private practice. His contact information is: 602-418-8161; LarryWaldmanPhD@cox.net; TopPhoenixPsychologist.com.

 

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coaching Our Kids Through Anxious Moments (Dr. Kristen Costa)

Dr Kristen Costa, Reset, keyed up, anxious moments, anxious child, traps to avoidWhen our kids are walloped with anxiety, it’s usually not pretty.

They rant. They rave. They make blanket statements on the condition of their lives.

Sometimes they emotionally throw up on us. And it’s likely that we are getting the worst of it, with their raw emotions spilling out, and even perhaps setting off our own anxiety.

Dr. Kristen Lee Costa, Reset: Make the Most of Your Stess, keyed up, anxious moments, anxious child, traps to avoid

Keyed Up

We can just as easily feel keyed up when they are keyed up. As parents and caregivers, it can be difficult to choose our words wisely and offer counsel that helps an anxious child know that they are resilient, and capable of coming up for air and regrouping once they’ve regained their footing.

Traps to Avoid

Beliefs born out of anxious moments can catapult us into an avalanche of messy cognitive distortions and self-sabotage. Here are some traps to avoid; they are well worth teaching our kids (and ourselves) to avoid in those messy moments:

Trap # 1: Bolting. The quick exit is so tempting when things go awry. Even though the instinct to try help make it better for our kids, tough moments are powerful teachers. Helping them confront what is happening and work through it can build grit and stress resistance, which are essential through every stage of life.

Trap # 2: Trying to problem solve in the heat of the moment. When we’re clobbered with stress, we want to make immediate sense of things. Unfortunately, high anxiety levels can interfere with rational thinking. Teaching our kids when to problem solve and when to hold off is a valuable skill.

Trap # 3: Keeping it a secret. Letting anxiety and negative emotions fester and go untended only makes matters worse. Anxiety is part of life. When we normalize this for our kids, they are more likely to open up and reach out for help. Creating a space where kids can vent and admit they are struggling is vital.

Coaching our kids through anxious moments takes finesse. By helping them see these common anxiety traps, we support them in creating habits that cultivate resilience. ###

Dr. Kristen Costa speaks not only from her 20+ years as a mental health clinician and educator, but as a parent. Known as “America’s Stress and Burnout Doc,” Dr. Kris is the author of the award-winning book, RESET: Make the Most of Your Stress, and she’s a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Psychology Today. [website]

March 10, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Real Conversation with Your Teen: Make It a New Norm (Dr. Laurie Hollman)

real conversation, Laurie Hollman, talking to teensThe next time you talk to your teen, notice how often he or you share your attention with your smart phone. How long can you talk without an intervening text? What is the impact of these diversions on your parent-teen relationship? What might be the value of real conversation?

Remember …?
Remember the day your daughter came home with a dismal look on her face? Head down, she walked right past you without much of a hello while glancing at a text on her phone. Did you think to question what that dismal expression meant or were you deterred by her texting or your own phone ringing? How many days passed before you found out her boyfriend had just broken up with her and she felt lost and alone?

Remember when your son threw down his backpack as he marched into the house? Except for the cell phone in his hand, the silence toward you plus his grim exterior suggested he had abandoned all traces of connections with others. He raced upstairs and you didn’t see him until you called three times that dinner was ready.

When he said he wasn’t hungry, you got a text from your husband that he’d be late and so you ate alone while texting your friend. How many days passed before you were informed by email from a teacher that your son was failing both English and math, the news that silenced him that day and made him lose his appetite.

Heed the Warning
When texting is primary and talking is secondary, heed the warning that you and your teen are growing distant. You can blame the smart phone, but be a smart parent and call a halt to this progression. Talking to teens requires all your attention.

real conversation, Unlocking Parental Intelligence, Laurie Hollman, talking to teensThis doesn’t mean moving in like an army captain to take away your kid’s phone. After all, you’re also carrying out the same smart phone diversion tactics interfering with your relationship. It does mean giving your child your full attention when needed, not googling for more data about what’s being discussed. It does mean having real conversations without interruptions. Stop googling and start talking!

8 Tips for Real Conversation

1. Put your cell phone far away. The very presence of the phone may change the tone and content of the conversation.
2. Maintain eye contact. This means you are fully present with complete attention.
3. If you’re getting bored and have that cell phone urge, listen more carefully and closely to what is being said and respond in kind.
4. Keep your mind in the present, not diverted elsewhere if the image of your phone comes to mind.
5. If you feel the desire to go find your phone and not stay in the conversation, consider that what’s being discussed is a bit disturbing. All the more reason for a parent to stay in the conversation with your teen! Maybe you are about to hear something distressing but important.
6. If you miss your phone, it’s a clue you have just lost empathy toward your teen. Why would you choose your phone over your child? Something’s off and you need to attend to your feelings.
7. Real conversation without interruption builds bonds because it fosters connections. It’s like hugging with words when you really listen to your teen.
8. Now make face-to-face conversation a priority. Engage your teen at least once a day for at least ten to twenty minutes. It will be rewarding because you will understand your child better and your child will feel he or she is loveable to you.

As parents, we owe it to our kids to keep phones away from the dinner table, the living room, and the car. They deserve to be listened to with our full attention. The time is now to make real conversation the new norm. ###

Laurie Hollman, PhD, [website] is a psychoanalyst with a new book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius and wherever books are sold.

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment