Monday, August 22, 2011

"Sometimes I Don't Like My Child." Great Article

I found this great article and had to share it. I feel like this too often. It is written by Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC  from 

It’s a truth we don’t often admit, even to ourselves: we don’t always like our kids. I can hear the guilt in parents’ voices when they say, “Sometimes I really don’t like my child. He’s a pain, he argues with me all the time and he’s just not fun to be around.” Or maybe your child just isn’t the person you thought he would be: perhaps he’s not academic or outgoing enough, or maybe he likes to complain and is very negative. It’s important to accept the fact that you won’t always like your kids—and they won’t always like you. This is especially hard for parents of difficult, acting out kids to grapple with. But the fact is, you’re on your way to less guilt and a better relationship with your child when you can acknowledge your feelings.

You can’t change a tiger into a leopard; these are your child’s stripes.

I’m very empathetic to parents in this situation because I recognize how painful it is. It’s important not to feel guilty about it because we all have expectations of what our children will be like, and it can be very painful when they’re not what we expected. You feel let down, and then you feel guilty for feeling that way. But remember, as James Lehman says, you have to learn to “Parent the child you have, not the child you wish you had.” Facing the truth is always an important first step.
The first thing to do is ask yourself, “What am I feeling and why?” Take a minute to pause, step back and think about it for a moment. Maybe you don’t like her because she’s so different from you. Maybe you don’t always like your child because she acts out, is defiant and oppositional and causes havoc in your home. Maybe her behavior is stressing you out and wearing you down and causing friction between you and your spouse. All understandable reasons to feel dislike towards your child. Why would you like someone who treats you poorly, is contrary or behaves in obnoxious ways?
But if you look closely, disliking your child is more about you than about her because these are your feelings—your reactions—to her. And in turn, those reactions may even contribute to your child’s unlikeable behaviors. That’s the good news, since the only person you can change is yourself anyway. Here are a few things that you can do to build the relationship and like your child at least most of the time.
Face your feelings: Acknowledge and accept your feelings. Don’t push them away because you think it’s bad or wrong to dislike your child. You don’t have to like your truth; you just have to own it.
Find the cause: Recognize what’s causing you to dislike your child. If it’s because he’s different from you or because he’s not how you want him to be, then manage your own expectations. Accept your child for who he is and pay attention to his strengths, rather than focusing on what you think are his weaknesses. Remember, it's very easy to forget that it's the behavior you don't like, not the whole person.
Get to know your child better: Get to know who your child is and what he needs; find out what really makes him tick, rather than who you want him to be. Your child can read it if you are disappointed in him; his acting out and negative feelings towards you may even increase because of it.
Are there contributing factors? If you’re feeling dislike because of your child’s defiant behavior, is there any way you or others in your family are contributing to his behavior. Is he acting out other unresolved issues?
Ask yourself the following questions, and answer them honestly:
               Could your child be behaving poorly as a way to keep you and your spouse engaged with each other by focusing on a “problem child”?
               Is his behavior poor because no one is holding him accountable?
               Is he overly or underly focused upon in the family?
               Does he have too much power because you allow yourself to be intimidated by him? Do you always give in or never give in?
               Is your relationship with him defined around problems instead of just enjoying each other?
               Are your frustrations and unresolved issues with your own parents intensifying your reactions and actions with your child?
               Is your child somehow getting caught between your difficulties with your mate?
The importance of playfulness: Bring more playfulness and less seriousness to your interactions. Recognize that your child may be a problem, but he is not the problem: your interactions have been the problem. You’re a part of that, too, so stay focused on changing your role in the dance. Make special dates and times together. Listen to him—really listen. Accept him for who he is. Be yourself with him. Let him know your preferences, beliefs and values. Love him and stop worrying about him so much. And remember, loving him also means holding him accountable.
Anger creates reactivity: Remember that your anger and resentment about feeling disappointed in your child creates more judgments and reactivity. Stop reacting and start responding more thoughtfully and positively. Power struggles often happen when you try to change someone else into who you think they should be. Just let go of the rope in that tug-of-war you're in with your child. Don’t always try to get the last word or prove you’re right. Admit to your mistakes and struggles.
Maximize the positives and minimize the negatives: You can start focusing on what’s right––not wrong––with your child today and begin building on what is good. Having a positive mindset leads to more positives. Build your relationship by letting your child know what you appreciate about him daily. Ask him to help you in things he’s strong in, so you build on his strengths. Spend time together without discussing the problem.
Commit to not criticizing him or trying to change him. One of the things I do is I actually get up in the morning and I really say, “Okay, not one criticism can come out of my mouth today.” I actually have to make that a very conscious thought and activity. It’s so automatic for some of us. And so half the time I really don’t even know when I’m saying something negative. So make a conscious effort.
I think about the concept of appreciation or gratefulness as well, because sometimes I just take so much for granted. After all, in the heat of the moment, it's easy to only see the negatives. But try to find the positives; notice when your child does something well. The more you look through positive lenses, the more you'll appreciate what's in front of you. Point out your child's strengths and describe what you see. For example, you can say, “You looked like you were about to scream at your brother, but I noticed how you pulled yourself together and walked away. How did you do that? That was impressive.” So point out a very specific behavior and move it to positive instead of somehow making it into a negative.
Focus on your reactions: Get more focused on yourself than on your child in order to build and improve your relationship with him. Decide how you want to behave with him, no matter how he behaves with you.
When There’s a Personality Clash with Your Child
What if your personalities simply clash? Maybe your child is not a friend you would have chosen. Perhaps you're too different or too similar. But look at it this way: You might not like your boss, but you still have to find a way to get along with her. Problems start when you carry around a lot of disappointment about somebody and try to change them in some way or another. That's when that negative cycle—that push–pull—begins.
If you decide you want to change how you’ve been reacting, stating it can sometimes be good. You can take responsibility for how you’ve been feeling and dealing with your child up until now and even apologize for some of the ways that you’ve responded to things. Show that you really see and understand it and that you’re working on doing a better job. Kids really appreciate that. I think it’s worthwhile to talk to your teen or child and say something like, “It’s really important to me for us to get along. And I recognize that I haven’t been so easy on you. I recognize that I can be too hard on you sometimes (or whatever the case may be) and I just want you to know that I apologize for my part in it. I’m really working on it.” Leave it at that, and don’t add, “And I hope you do too.”
Just own your part in it. I know it’s very hard for parents to apologize for their part when they really see it as their kids being bratty and obnoxious. And maybe your child is being obnoxious, but don't wait for him to change. Instead, take responsibility to make those interactions different.
You can’t change a tiger into a leopard; these are your child’s stripes. Now get to know him, appreciate him and enjoy his good qualities. Deal with your own issues and anxiety around it. If you absolutely can’t get over it, seek out therapy. Get to the bottom of what’s really bothering you and try to understand and manage your emotions. If you can calm down and come to terms with who your child is–and accept him and not try to change or fix him–then you'll be able to relax. Here's the paradox: if your child can feel deeply accepted for who he is, warts and all, he'll be able to look at himself and change what he isn't satisfied with. That’s when your child can feel good inside of himself–and blossom into the person he’s meant to be.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why do Kids Say Bad Words

Why children acquire harsh language.

Children begin using words that raise the hair on the back of our necks after they’ve heard others use those words, or after those words have been aimed at them. Grownups use this kind of language when they’re upset, and the behavior trickles down toward children, usually with the original emotional heat welded to the words. Because harsh behavior spreads like a bad cold from adult to child and then from child to child, just about every child on the planet is exposed to name-calling, or bad words behavior, sooner or later. So it's not your child's fault that he has acquired harsh language, any more than it’s his fault that he gets a runny nose.

When children use harsh language, they may not understand what the words mean literally: it’s the tone that makes an imprint on them, and it’s the tone that raises parental warning flags. That electric emotional charge irritates the child's delicate internal system, and makes the words stick like little globs of muck in their innocent minds. Then, when the child is feeling isolated, threatened or upset, out comes this little pre-fabricated routine of harsh words and a harsh tone, just the way he once heard it. It isn't what the child really wants to be doing, but he literally can’t think of any other way to signal that he is feeling badly. He’s upset. His behavior says, "See what I've been exposed to? It's nasty and disturbing. I'm going to show you how awful it is." Then, he gives you a vivid picture of what he’s heard at school or on the street. It’s a cry for help.

Traditional interventions don’t really help.

If you demand that your child stop, and get angry at him for having this difficulty, he may stop out of fear, but the anger and the fear hamper his intelligence. One more experience of harshness makes it even more likely that he will fall into this behavior again soon. Meeting an upset child with harshness just compounds the tension he's under. It's not the best way to go, though generations of parents have given that kind of heated response. The child uses the harsh language silently in his mind, stewing with anger, and it all pops out later, having festered. We’ve all had this experience: “Go ahead. Shut me up now. You’ll pay later,” is the bitter attitude that punishment fosters.

On the other hand, reasoning with a child who's using bad language doesn’t work that well, either. Reasoning can sometimes work to distract a child for a time, but it doesn't address the emotional tension he’s harboring, the tension that sets the stage for the harsh behavior. That’s the real cause of his troubles, and It's that tension that needs to be addressed.

But we definitely do not recommend just letting name-calling behavior go unchecked. It’s frightening to children to have their hurtful behavior ignored, and it wears on everyone in the environment. Some response must be found that honors the goodness of the child, but definitely curbs the harshness.

Start with yourself!

If you react with upset or anger or sudden outbursts, you won’t have much flexibility with your child until you’ve handled your own storehouse of feelings. There are important questions, the answers to which will help you defuse the situation so that you can be of real help to your child.

Find someone who you can ask to listen to you, simply listen, while you talk about what happens inside of you when harsh language is being used. You don’t need advice. You need someone’s supportive and undivided attention while you explore what’s behind the heat that erupts when your child needs help from you.

That heat comes from some tense experience you have carried forward from your own experience. Were you punished harshly for talking that way? Did you see siblings being punished? What kinds of language did your parents use when they became angry? What's your history with the exact word your child is using that triggers a big response from you? These questions are important, and answering them may put you in touch with how you felt as a child, how you were treated, and with the longings for closeness and belonging that you had. A good cry or a good laugh will help you relax.

Try to remember: your child is going to turn out all right! He needs some guidance, but you don't have to worry that a few bad word incidents mean he's on the road to disaster!

Then, observe.

Second (and this may sound odd, but bear with me), observe. When does your child use these words? What kinds of situations? Right when he comes home from school or daycare? When his siblings are playing with his things? Only around a group of children? When you've been busy for the last ten minutes? Fifteen minutes? When he faces a transition? Try to figure out what the situations are that make him feel separate, lonely, or disconnected enough to act harshly. There are clues to places where he loses his confidence in the timing of his behavior. For instance, one child I knew only called names when he came into preschool after a group of children had formed around an activity. Entering the group, he must have felt scared that there wasn’t room for him. So he called his friends names! Once you understand the situations that strain your child’s confidence, try offering support. Here are a couple of ways to do that.

Use Special Time strategically

Try Special Time. It's a very simple but powerful tool, especially when used just before or after challenging situations. For instance, do 10 minutes of Special Time right when you get home at night, if he's using harsh language late in the day. Or if he tends to mouth off by 10 a.m. on Saturday mornings, then start Saturdays with a good 20 minutes of Special Time. Or offer it several times a day, just 5 minutes, if he's targeting his sibling. It can serve to help a child feel more connected, and get reconnected. It's a proactive tool--do it before trouble starts, and see if it helps.

Set limits with warmth and, when you can, with humor.

Special Time won’t erase the use of harsh language, but it will make the limits you set work to help relieve your child’s frightened or aggressive behavior. You need to stop the harsh language, but with good will toward your child. You don't have to pull a serious parental power play every time a child uses a harsh word. You DO need to address that behavior, the very first time it appears. But you don't have to be the bad guy. It works much better if you assume that your child is tender and loving, and is just trapped underneath some unpleasant bad feelings for the moment. To help him get free, try something like one of the following interventions:

• Good naturedly scoop him up in your arms, and say, "Ahhk! I heard that S-word! I heard you say "S-lovely!" Nuzzle him, cuddle him, see if you can get him laughing with the physical affection you offer him.

• Say, "When you say "Stupid!" I say, "Here comes the Stupid sweeper!" Then, be a silly Stupid Sweeper, lumbering around after him with your arms out, in mock fork-lift fashion, attempting to scoop him up in your arms or throw him over your shoulders and bounce him around a bit.

• Say, "Oooh! I'm going to get anybody who says that Stupid word! Here I come!" and chase him around, taking care not to catch him too soon. When you finally succeed, toss him and wrestle him some, affectionately, with warmth.

Why do this? Because your child is signaling that he can't think--the use of harsh language means that he can't feel his connections with anyone in the family. Playing with good humor, getting laughter and affection going, tussling and wrestling and chasing in order to make lively contact without trying to punish, helps a child recover the feeling that it's good to be in the family. Your protest, goofy as it is, sets a model for protesting when he is called names, or when others are called names and you're not there to moderate the action. The laughter and physical play will help him relax, offload the bad feelings he's been carrying, and get oriented to being a cooperative member of the family again. Don’t be surprised if he wants to play “the Stupid Game” over and over again: he can feel the healing action of the laughter and the affection you are offering, and he wants to soak up as much of that as he can. He’s trying to recover from the effects of behavior that has rankled his system. His instincts are good!

Often, a good cry is waiting in the wings for a listener.

If there’s sadness or fear stored underneath his use of harsh language, those feelings will burst forth when you tell him it’s time to stop playing the “Stupid Game,” or when you simply reach over, put your arm around him, and say gently, “I can’t let you say those things to me. What happened to make you want to call me Stupid?”

You don’t always need to respond with humor: sometimes, just moving in, offering eye contact and warmth, and a limit, will help him notice how badly he is feeling underneath. His feelings will make him want to run away, or call you more names, or lash out with fists or feet. Stay nearby, keep him from hurting anyone, and follow him if he leaves. He needs you nearby so that he can feel the possibility of connecting with you. He needs a listener.

When the name-calling happened, he was stunned, and probably frightened. He couldn’t tell anyone how he felt. Now, he has you. Now is the time to pour out the upset and confusion and anger he absorbed. He may aim his upset at you. But if he’s crying, perspiring, or thrashing, your listening is a healing force that’s going to relieve the stored tension that’s behind this behavior. He may not cry right when you stop the name-calling, but find a little excuse five minutes later: his noodles have too much cheese on them, or water has spilled onto his shirt. Don’t quibble with the way he began to cry, no matter how trivial it is. It kicks the door open so he can feel the hurt that throbs and bothers. LISTEN. He's clearing out the emotional roots of the harsh language kick that he's been on. When someone was calling him names, or calling his friends names, he didn't protest, he was too frozen or confused to do so. So now, safe with you, he can finish the protest he would have loved to launch, if he had had support while names were being called.

Listen, be patient, keep directing him gently toward looking again at his cheesy noodles, or at the wet spot on his shirt, but leave lots of time for him to have these big feelings first. He'll get back to functioning when he's finished, and you'll see positive changes in his behavior soon.

Monday, June 20, 2011

When Should You Start Disciplining?

By Kathryn Perrotti Leavitt            
 A Necessary Action 

Whenever my 1-year-old son, Luke, is near rocks, he likes to shovel them into his mouth. And when he sees our cat, he likes to lunge, even though the cat likes to swipe and hiss.

These kinds of moments make up any given day, and figuring out how to shield my son from harm without breaking his spirit usually leaves me totally confused. In my humble experience, getting a toddler to stop eating rocks is easier said than done.

At this tender age, traditional discipline, such as time-out, doesn't work. But what does, and at what age is it appropriate to try which tactics? As you may have guessed, it's as necessary for parents to learn how to discipline properly as it is for children to learn that some behaviors are unsafe or just socially inappropriate.

Ultimately, it's a long process, but when it's done well, it will be a positive experience that will help your child.

The Birth of Discipline

Setting limits, reinforcing good behavior, and discouraging less-desirable behavior can start when your child is a young baby, according to experts. "There are things that even young babies have to learn not to do, such as pulling your hair," says Judith Myers-Walls, PhD, associate professor of child development and family studies at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana.

Because little babies have limited language comprehension, memory, and attention spans, the best strategies to employ early on are more about damage control than about teaching an actual lesson. Distracting (helping him move from a not-so-good activity to something better) and ignoring (just what the name implies) are two very effective strategies. If, for example, your 4-month-old discovers how much fun it is to yank your hair, you might gently remove her hand, give it a kiss, and redirect it toward something fun and appropriate, such as a rattle or other toy.

Of course, you never want to ignore a behavior that's potentially dangerous, but looking the other way when your 7-month-old cheerfully pelts his 59th Cheerio from his high chair is a smart move. It's essential to remember that very young children are utterly guileless; your Cheerio pitcher isn't trying to annoy you. He's learning how to control his hands and beginning to understand the concept of cause and effect. As annoying as this behavior is, it's important not to get upset or overreact.

In fact, a recent study found that 39 percent of parents think that their baby is taunting them when he continually changes channels on the remote. Many parents become frustrated when a child engages in such behaviors, says Nancy Samalin, author of Loving Without Spoiling (McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books, 2003). Your best bet is to maintain a calm demeanor and carry on with what you were doing.

8 to 12 Months

When your baby starts to crawl, around the 8-month mark, it's time to think about setting limits. Suddenly everything -- from the knickknacks on your side table to those rolls of toilet paper under the bathroom sink -- are big no-nos.

A child this age only wants to explore (he has no concept of what he should or shouldn't do), so if you don't want him to touch something, place it out of his reach through childproofing and let child-friendly items take center stage. Experts say this is the best way to help your child stay out of trouble and makes it a lot easier to follow the rules.

Of course, many of us merely say no when we catch our little ones getting into mischief. Unfortunately, it's not a reliable discipline method for kids this age. Your child can comprehend by the tone of your voice that "no" means something different from "I love you," but she doesn't understand the real meaning of the word. Furthermore, she doesn't have the self-control to heed your request.

Use other techniques to reinforce the lesson that some things are off-limits, as Cristina Soto of New York City does. "Starting at around 8 or 9 months, every time my daughter Sonia got near an outlet, I'd say 'Aah aaah!' in a playfully scary voice so she'd stop and look at me," says Soto. "I kept doing it. After a while she'd cruise over to an outlet, point, and say, 'Aah aaah!' to me."

12 to 24 Months

Around this age, your child's communication skills are blossoming, so you can start explaining basic rules -- don't pull kitty's tail -- for example. You can also begin using the word no judiciously, in serious situations. Too many could wear out the word and eventually render it completely useless.

Your child's physical skills are coming into full play, too. Your new little walker will likely be thrilled with his freshly minted independence -- and frustrated that he can't do all the things he'd like.

Enter the age of tantrums. While tantrums require a quick response from you, these emotional thunderstorms are a part of growing up and not a cue for harsher discipline techniques, such as taking away a privilege or sending a child to his room.

When tantrums strike, "you need to know your own child," says Claire Lerner, a child development specialist at Zero to Three. Some kids calm down quickly through distraction; others need a hug. But if a tantrum is lengthy, remove your child from the situation and gently explain what's going on ("We can't stay in the store if you continue screaming") until he calms down.

Frustration that stems from your toddler's inability to communicate effectively can lead to hitting or biting, too. Disciplining such scenarios involves telling your child what not to do quickly and simply and redirecting him toward an appropriate activity. For example, if your child hits you because you've interrupted his play for a diaper change, say, "We don't hit, it hurts," and give him a toy he can play with while you diaper him.

24 to 36 Months

The two-year mark ushers in twos' programs, preschool, and play dates, which are great for your child's socialization skills but also present a new set of discipline problems. Sharing -- toys, time, and attention -- is difficult at this age. What complicates matters further is that folks (and kids!) outside your family may end up in the path of a toy-snatching toddler who happens to belong to you.

Toddlers understand easy commands, empathy, and cause and effect, so you can now employ these concepts when you discipline. If your child grabs a crayon from his friend, for example, you can say, "We don't grab toys. Taking Billy's crayon hurts his feelings," and then give him a similar crayon to play with.

A key to disciplining toddlers and preschoolers is to keep things very simple. According to a study conducted by Susan G. O'Leary, PhD, professor of psychology at The State University of New York at Stony Brook, those moms with long reprimands were less effective than those with short and direct ones.

Susan Simmons of South Riding, Virginia, the mother of 2-1/2-year-old Mia, agrees. "When Mia hit 2, I started giving her long explanations as to why she couldn't do something, but I realized she didn't understand. Now when she wants to have an ice pop before dinner, I just say 'You can't have one now,' and leave it at that."

Using Time-Outs

Kids between the ages of 24 to 36 months are also ready for you to try using time-outs. Time-out works like this: When your child misbehaves, for every year of his age, he gets one minute to sit quietly in a chair or in his room to calm himself down (for example, a 3-year-old gets three minutes). He gets up when you say time-out is over.

Of course, every child is different, and no one discipline method will work all the time. But the more practice you get doling it out and the more your child understands boundaries, the happier everyone will be.

Kathryn Perrotti Leavitt, a mother of one, is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, November 2004. 

Helping kids get out and get Fresh Air.

The Fresh Air Fund is a not-for-profit agency that provides free summer vacations in the country to New York City children from disadvantaged communities. Each year, thousands of children visit volunteer host families in 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada through the Friendly Town Program or attend one of five Fresh Air Fund summer camps. The Fresh Air Fund has helped more than 1.7 million children since 1877.

Thanks to host families who open up their homes for a few weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods have experienced the joys of Fresh Air experiences.

 If you or someone you know is able to host, please sign up now. In 2010, The Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared their friendship and homes up to two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.

Thanks to host families who open up their homes for a few weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods have experienced the joys of Fresh Air experiences.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to deal with Kids And Stealing

by Teresa, The CuteKid™ Staff

Most children try stealing at least once. How a parent reacts to the kid’s stealing usually determines whether or not the behavior is repeated. Some parents may feel that the item was insignificant and not worth really mentioning. Yet stealing often turns into a habit and as one friend pointed out nobody starts out stealing cars.

When young kids steal they often do not realize that it is wrong. They see an object that
they want and so they take it. It is up to the parent to teach their child that it is not right. If you find that your child has taken something without paying talk about how it is wrong. Take your child back to the store, make them apologize the manager, and return or pay for the item.

By the time children are about six they realize that stealing is wrong. Yet children this age
will still steal items. It may be because they want to see if they can get away with it or are struggling with loneliness or other issues. If you suspect your child stole something confront them directly. This is usually enough to make them tell the truth. Then do the same as you would with a younger child. Make him take responsibility for the stolen item and apologize.

Teenagers usually steal because of peer pressure or they want items that they cannot
afford. If kids are stealing they will usually go directly to their room and hide the object. If your child acts strangely when coming home from the store – investigate. My husband remembers the time when he and a friend stole a bunch of cassettes from a store. They were caught and the police were called. My husband’s mother allowed him to be taken to the police station in the police car. He also not only had to return the items but pay for them as well. Because of the discipline he received he never stole again.

For all children it is important that parents set a good example. Do not steal things yourself. If you find a wallet or money lying on the ground turn it in to the store and see if someone claims it. Once while four-wheeling my husband and I found a tent we turned it into the police department. After two months no one claimed it so it was ours. We can sleep in it without feeling guilty.
If despite your efforts the stealing continues you will need to determine the underlying cause for the stealing. Often a counselor can help your child overcome the desire and habit of stealing. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top 10 Tips for Family Closeness

*         Make family time a priority. Use pen and ink to schedule family time. Pencil can be erased. So often, family time takes a back seat to the business of the day. When you put your family first, you are showing your children that they are important.

*         Have meals together. Coming together as a family unit on a regular basis gives you all a chance to catch up with each other. It also allows you to huddle together, and give your family your undivided attention. Turn off the TV, iPods, and don't answer the phone. You can even put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the front door so that friends won't knock (and you keep the neighbors guessing!) Please remember: Mealtime is not the time for reprimands or confrontations.

*         Spend one-on-one time with each child. Whether you have one child or many, children like to spend individual time with each parent. So, make a date! The anticipation of time alone can be very exciting. The activity is not nearly as important as knowing they have time coming up to spend with you.alone! Whenever possible, choose an activity that you both have an interest in. If it is difficult to find a shared activity, then child's choice (within reason) should apply. Remember, this is time for your children to have you all to themselves, enjoying your company and sharing their interests with you. One word of caution: don't make a promise if you are not absolutely sure you can keep it.

*         Take outings/vacations together. Time away together gives you a chance to leave the daily grind behind and spend time focused on each other. Try to take a little getaway; it can be simple or elaborate; inexpensive or a month's salary. It really doesn't matter. Or how about just running away for the day together and having a picnic, hitting tennis balls, or taking the children out for pizza and a movie?

*         Develop traditions and rituals. Family traditions create a sense of belonging and cohesiveness. They can help define your family, sharing customs unique to you and yours. Traditions can center around holidays, ethnicity, cultural or religious practices and life cycle events. Or, make up your own. You can have bedtime rituals, weekend traditions, etc. Schedule a weekly time that all family members need to be present and accounted for. This could be pizza, popcorn and movie night, Sunday brunch, etc. Foster childhood traditions that can be carried into adulthood.

*         Create and share memories. Keep a memory box for each child filled with photographs, artwork, school papers, birthday cards, etc. A scrapbook of your child's accomplishments, milestones and successes is a great way to build self-esteem. Share pictures and stories of when you were growing up. Children like to hear 'little mommy' or 'little daddy' stories, as long as they aren't the, "Well, when I was your age" sagas.

*         Show an interest in your children's hobbies, etc. Showing interest in your children's activities, even if you wouldn't personally choose them for yourself, is a fabulous way to validate your children and maintain a close bond. So, if they ask you to play or hear all about it, by all means, do so. And appreciate that they want your involvement.

*         Attend your children's activities. Nothing conveys love to your children clearer than your presence. Being at their sporting events, concerts, plays, field trips, and so on, will help continue your family closeness. And if all of the members of the family can be there to enjoy each other's endeavors, all the better.

*         Delight in your children daily. Find reasons to be glad you're a parent, and share them with your children. Affirmations such as, "I'm so lucky to be your mom," or "You really brighten up my day," are simple ways to let them know that they bring joy to your life.

*         Laugh a lot. Building humor into your family routine can make daily life more enjoyable. It might include having everyone tell something funny about their day, a new joke or even something silly they made up. It can be making silly faces (yes, mom and dad, you too), playing a game with mixed up rules or watching a funny video together. When you're laughing together you are usually not arguing! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

10 Ways To Build Your Child's Confidence

by TeresaThe CuteKid™ Staff 
A confident child is sure of his/her abilities, recognizing and accepting both his/her strengths and weaknesses. We all want our children to be confident. But for many children confidence does not come naturally. Confidence must be nutured even for the child who seems confident all ready. Read on for 10 ways to build your child's confidence.
1. Say you are proud Tell your child when they have accomplished something 
and you are proud of them. Tell others about your child's accomplishments and positive qualities. Let your child overhear you praising them to others. I often tell others, in front of my son, what a great reader he is and how well he does at math. He thinks he's the best at math in his first grade class. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. The point is that he thinks he is good and that gives him the confidence he needs to keep trying and learn new things.
2. Give responsibility Giving your child jobs to do around the house helps them feel valuable. It also teaches them adult skills. Assign your child chores that they must accomplish everyday. As they complete their chores they will acquire a feeling of self-worth and confidence in their abilities. Have your child help you with the dishes. Even my two-year-old puts her plate in the sink after she is finished eating. My four-year-old loves to help me fold laundry. My six-year-old has to make his bed and keep his room clean. All of my children help me clean up toys. My children also love to help dad wash the cars.
3. Don't label One of the worst things a parent can do is to label their child. Yet it is so easy to do. I found myself often saying in a teasing tone that my youngest child was a "stinker" or "little monster." I realized my labeling was impacting not my daughter but my son when I heard him telling his sister that she was a "monster." As parents we need to be careful that we give our child positive labels that reflect inner personality traits.

Sometimes parents focus on the physical traits of a child. Either saying that they are beautiful or a certain trait is ugly, like having big feet or a nose that is too large. Focusing on our child's physical characteristics whether good or bad teaches them that looks are what matter.
4. Encourage talents Write down all of the things that your child is good at. Then choose one thing that your child wants to pursue. It could be as simple as taking your child to the library each week because they like to and are good at reading. Or you could enroll your child in sports, child dance class, drama, art, or music class. The goal is to provide a positive experience for your child and allow them to excel at something.
5. Listen Let your child know they are important by really listening to them. Get down on eye level and give them your complete attention. If your child feels that you are not listening they will stop talking. They will feel that their opinions and feelings are not valued. And if a child feels that their own parent won't listen to them then they will believe that no one else will want to listen either.
6. Establish routines When you have set routines and a home that is predictable your child will feel more secure. Your child will be less likely to be afraid to venture out into the world when they know they can come home to a secure and loving environment. Having established routines helps your child understand what is expected of them and reach those expectations thus increasing their confidence.
7. Address your child by name Calling your child by name shows that you value them and that you feel that they are important enough to address by name. Using your child's name gives them a label that they can wear proudly. When my son was younger he would go up to people and proudly say, "I'm Tyler." He knew who he was. Children who are confident will address others by their name more frequently. They are unafraid to address others by name and will be better able to ask for help.
8. Play with your child Parents playing with children helps build their self-confidence because it shows them their parents enjoy being with them. Children learn through play and one of the many things they can learn is confidence. Play is a great time to role-play and praise your child. Playing with your child and allowing them to dictate the play gives them a feeling of importance and accomplishment. My girls love to play dolls or have a tea party with mommy and my son likes to pretend to go camping and play board games.
9. Set rules and consequences Children need to have set rules and consequences. This helps them feel valued and secure. A child who is required to follow rules will realize that their parents love them enough to set and enforce rules. Interestingly enough one study found that few teenagers wished their parents had established fewer rules, but many teenagers wished there parents had given more rules.
10. Be a positive mirror How your child perceives herself is based largely upon how you perceive your child. Do you reflect negative or positive images? Does you child know that her opinions matter to you? Does he think that you enjoy being with him? Providing positive reflections of your child helps him feel good about himself. It is also important to help your child realize that you value them because of who they are not just how they perform.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sit-Down Games

Buy yourself some couch time with these easy games
By Melody Warnick 

You need a breather after chasing your child for hours -- but what if she's still raring to go? Buy yourself some couch time with these easy games:
Follow the leader. No marching required! Just have your child imitate upper-body movements, like clapping hands or waving arms. When she gets the hang of it, have her mimic a series of claps, waves, knee slaps, shoulder shrugs, and head nods.
Scavenger hunt. Draw pictures of household objects, like a cup, a hairbrush, and a pillow, then time your kid as she searches for the real things.
Sound off. Do your best impression of an animal ("Woof!") and ask your toddler to guess what you are. Once she gets it right, let her copy your sound, then move on to another animal.
Ball game. Sit on opposite ends of the sofa, then roll a ball between you, naming a new color each time one of you gets the ball. Let your kid chase after it if it falls.
Stick together. Draw a shape on a sticky note and have your child attach it to something that has that shape, like a plate for a circle or a book for a rectangle.
Sock it to me. Hold open an empty laundry bag while your child tries to score baskets using rolled-up socks. Gradually change the size of the bag's opening from large to small to keep the game interesting.
Don't wake the giant. Pretend to sleep while letting your toddler try to steal your blanket without "waking" you. Shift around and snore to build suspense, then roll over with a roar and tickle her silly. The only challenge? Not actually falling asleep.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Importance of Children Being Active

It's easy to see why kids these days are often too involved with watching television, playing video games or playing on the computer. It's what many of the adults in their lives do as well.
The problem is that children need to engage in active play as a part of their development. It helps build physical, social, intellectual and emotional skills. 
It's easy to tell yourself that you're doing well by your child to give access to educational television programs and computer games. There's even some truth to that at appropriate ages. But these cannot take the place of what is learned and accomplished with active play. It's a different kind of learning than what is done on a screen.
Active play builds both large and small motor skills, for example. There's a lot of skill that goes into something eventually as simple as catching a gently tossed ball. Just think how difficult it is for a toddler to play catch at first. But eventually the skill is learned and balls are caught.

Active play also allows children to increase their agility, coordination, balance and overall physical fitness.

7 reasons why you should prioritize children being active -
  1. Activity increases self-confidence and self-belief, an extremely important part of development that will cultivate friendships and leadership qualities
  2. Activity will enhance concentration for learning and understanding new challenges - it keeps the brain fresh
  3. Activity burns body fats for energy, keeping your child fitter and leaner
  4. Activity over a sustained period will develop passions and interests that help maintain a balanced lifestyle for today and into the future
  5. Activity will lessen the chance of health-related disease such as diabetes and skin conditions
  6. Activity with parents will strengthen the bond between child and parent
  7. Activity with parents will help develop a healthy relationship around behavioral patterns and in turn develop a happier, healthier child

If you are not sure what kind of activities to do check out this great article.