Monthly Archives: December 2009

Happy 2010

The countdown to 2010 has begun.

Most of us spend some time reflecting on how we can make this new year better than the last.  People make resolutions, determined to improve something in their lives.  Parents often resolve to stop yelling, pay more attention, practice more patience, be a better role model.

I suggest, if you are pondering new and different resolutions, to think back over your past year’s successes – the things you already know have worked in your family – the times when everything just jelled – and resolve to continue doing more of the same.

When parents talk to me about a particularly challenging situation they are experiencing with a child, I always ask them to also tell me about the times that go well with that same child.  What’s the difference between the frustrating day and the feel- good day?  What is it their child is choosing to do during those positive times, what are the parents doing and then we work from there.

Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families calls this working from one’s circle of influence vs. one’s circle of concern.  In our circle of influence we find ourselves positive, proactive, problem solving, focusing on what works.  In our circle of concern, we concentrate on what’s wrong, what’s overwhelming, the impossibilities, and the negatives.

So this New Years, give it a try. Remind yourselves of what you’re already doing that’s working, that you know feels right and try to do more of it.

Then take the time to celebrate yourself  – and your family –  in confidence and assurance about the new year ahead.

Here’s to a positive and very happy 2010!

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Ready or not, I’m done

Hanging my family’s Christmas stockings recently, (never too old for a stocking) I took a careful look at my own.  A flood of memories rushed in as I recalled the year I made that stocking along with one for my husband and one-year-old daughter.  I was a young mother at the time, preparing to go to my in-laws to spend Christmas.  I wanted everything to be perfect.

Well, it would not be absolutely perfect.  I didn’t have enough time to finish my stocking (as well as probably several other unnecessary items I had on my list).  So I attached my name, on the front of that stocking, with straight pins.  And guess what?  Those pins are still there.  I’ve left them all these years for a very good reason – to remind me that at some point, you say that’s enough, that’s all the time there is.  Ready or not, I’m done!

So if you’re facing a check-off list of things still to accomplish, to bake, to knit, to sew, to clean, to buy, try this technique.  Start checking off what’s not going to happen this year.  Chances are you’ve probably overshot anyhow.  And you can bet your family would prefer your time and energy focused on them.

Instead, think of a few relaxing things to enjoy together that maybe didn’t make it on to your original “to do” list.  Have you walked in your neighborhood yet to see the decorations?  Sat together with just the tree lights on and soaked in the beauty and magic of it all?  Sat alone with just the tree lights on and soaked in the beauty and magic of it all?

Grab the basket of cards you’ve received and read them aloud to your children. Definitely quit saving those yummy cookies for company only and start enjoying them now.

Do it!  Cross out what isn’t essential for you and your family and spend some time considering what is, (maybe while soaking in the tub).  That should make everything pretty darn perfect.

Enjoy!

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Sharing

As parents, we put a lot of effort, energy, and concern into “making” our children learn to share.  Well … this is the season for sharing!  What a  perfect opportunity for children to discover and assimilate the pleasures and joys that sharing brings.

All childhood development is on a continuum and the art of sharing is no exception.  Just as we would not expect a toddler newly walking to keep pace with an adult, we must appreciate where our children fall on the sharing continuum.

You might be familiar with the Toddler Creed that states:  “If I want it, it’s mine.  If I give it to you and change my mind later, it’s mine.  If I can take it away from you, it’s mine.  If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.  If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine.  If it looks just like mine, it is mine.”

Sharing evolves in children from this toddler stronghold, baby step by baby step, through modeling and being treated generously by the adults in their lives.  It is not preaching about sharing or demanding our child shares that brings growth and change.  It is the way in which we generously interact with our children, our family, our friends, and our neighbors that matters.

That’s why the holiday season lends itself so beautifully for children to witness generosity of spirit.  The anticipation,excitement, and delight that a child feels when he’s created or chosen a gift for a special person, wrapped it himself and proudly presented it, reinforces the pure joy one gets from giving.

It is in the fun of inviting friends to a holiday cookie exchange, delivering handmade cards to special neighbors, bringing a chosen food item to put in the community food basket, putting a dollar in the Salvation Army bucket, that spirits grow.

And it is as simple as letting your child help you shovel the walk for the elderly neighbors or overhear you call them and ask if you can pick up something they need at the supermarket on a cold and snowy day.  It is through our words and actions, we are showing our child what caring and sharing is about.

As much opportunity as there is during this season for sharing, there is also the flip side that parents tell me about.  Lots of relatives will be gathering, lots of cousins, lots of new special toys, and lots of upset children claiming possession.

A good rule of thumb when several children around the same age are present is to give a matching gift to each child, so they can join forces and play together with their new toys.  This shared playing will make happy memories and connections.

Parents often tell me about the older child who is constantly fighting with the younger sibling for wrecking his buildings or getting into his stuff.  It is helpful to create a safe spot for your oldest to be able to play undisturbed if that’s what he chooses.  Otherwise, if he wants to play in the family space, then everyone plays together.

Before company arrives, give your child the opportunity to decide to put away any toy item that she is not ready to share.  It is this act of respect for your child and this acknowledgment of ownership that will fill her with the confidence and willingness to share.

So parents, embrace your children at the stage they are at and trust in their developing generous spirits during this holiday season.

On Friday, December 18th, at 9:30 a.m., Family Resources Friday Play Shoppe will be making their quarterly visit to our friends at Bethany St. Joseph’s Care Center.  We’ll walk down the halls, visiting residents in their rooms, while the children carry baskets of snowflake greetings to pass out.

It’s a lovely way to share the joy!  For more information, give me a call at Family Resources, 784-8125.

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Tug of War

Picture any kind of battle you are having with your child as a tug of war.  Two people, one at either end, each pulling hard as the other pulls even harder.  What happens when one lets go?  The tug of war is over.

As parents, we need to learn when to let go.

I talked to a mom the other day who admitted she was over the top busy – work, school, home.  The pace she described was frenetic.  She had not one extra moment in her day for anything that might throw this tight schedule off.

There was only one hitch.  Her four and a half year-old-son was finding this pace too fast, too much.  He was a dreamer, a thinker, slow to switch gears.  When he isn’t rushed, when he has the time he needs to connect and feel ready to move on, his mom says he is absolutely agreeable and accommodating.  But the dilemma for this particular parent was – her son needs to get with the program – now!

Therefore, they are engaged in a daily tug of war, which is affecting their relationship and her son’s behavior both at home and in daycare.

When I asked how this behavior played itself out, this parent described their morning –   a fast, jump- in- your- clothes, put- your- shoes- on, zip- your- jacket, grab- your- backpack, out- the- door- race.  Her son was always lagging behind.

In these situations, this dutiful mom tried to reason with her son, took away favorite toys, canceled special activities,threatened early bedtimes only to end in a full-blown melt-down with the mom determined more than ever that this behavior has to end.

This is where, as parents, we must step back and look at the needs of the moment.  This child, both developmentally and temperamentally, is telling his mom, “I can’t keep up.”  His mom, doing what she feels she needs to do for the family, is considering his inability to “cooperate” as misbehavior that she must “nip in the bud”.

And so the tug of war goes on.  I suggest the parent  drop her end of the rope.  End the tug of war.

In most cases of on-going conflict and tugs-of-war, there is a disconnect somewhere in the circuit system.  In order to get back on track, we need to find the connect switch and turn it on.  It can often be as simple as, in this situation, having the parent get up a bit earlier herself in order to be ready to share a few moments to connect with her son, to make the morning seem less rushed, to help her son feel noticed.

So, if you are having an on-going battle with your child, try dropping your end of the rope and consider what it is your child needs versus what you need to get accomplished. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is a connect or a disconnect with your child.  A disconnect leaves both of you feeling drained and disappointed.  A connect is palpable – you can almost touch it, it feels so right.

Trust me, dropping the rope is not giving in or spoiling.  I believe it is a sign of strength that empowers both you and your child.  Happy connecting!

If you are in the midst of a power struggle with your child and would like to talk about it, Family Resources offers Warm Lines and Family Coaching, free of charge.  Just call 784-8125 and say you have a parenting question.

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