Monthly Archives: May 2010


How many times a day have you found  yourself  telling your child to do something only to end with “okay?”.  Or beginning a directive with “Do you want to …” when there really is no choice but to do what you’re requesting.

All of us can predict where we find ourselves next – right in the middle of a confrontation, our child saying no, arguing, debating, stalling. The opening is there for negotiation and your child senses this – and will go for it every time.  It’s a familiar dance every parent has gone through.

It’s hard to stop.  Even when we know better.

But let’s try.  This week, bite your tongue before the all-too-ready “okay?” comes out.  A clear, brief statement is best.  Just tell your child what he needs to do – in a kind but sure voice.  “Take your plate to the sink.”  “Go and get your shoes.”  “Put the top back on the marker.”

And instead of …”“Do you want to ….”, use “it’s time”.  It’s time to put away your blocksgo home for lunchget ready for a bath“It’s time” separates you from the reason and provides a sense of secure, predictable routine to your message.

The difference is really in your expectations, delivery of those expectations and the confidence you exude that your child will listen and you will follow through.  If you find yourself, however, being a micro manager and constantly directing and reminding your child about every little thing,  this will be a perfect time to change that behavior.   Choose to say only what you absolutely need your child to do. Your child will be relieved and that alone may make listening more effective.

Experts say it takes at least three weeks to change a behavior pattern so be prepared – both for yourself and your child’s response.  Take that time.  Notice the difference.  Feel more in charge, yet more relaxed.  Your children will be too.

 If you’d like some help or support while trying this, give me a call at Family Resources, 784-8125 to talk on the phone or make an appointment to come in.

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Dirty Hands

I was remembering recently the time we had some friends over. Their young girls were enthralled to be digging up carrots from our garden. Erin, the four-year-old came running over to where there were some tasty treats set out. Clasping her dirty hands behind her back, she proceeded to manuever biting the grapes off their stems with her mouth. Her mom immediately jumped all over her about how impolite her actions were. To this admonition, Erin looked perplexed and amazed, “But you told me not to touch anything with my dirty hands!”

I love that story. So often the things we see our children doing that we think are inappropriate make perfect sense to them. Like Erin, they have used their problem solving abilities, followed the directive, felt confident their actions would be acceptable. Fortunately, in this case, Erin was commended for thinking up a good idea even as she was led to the kitchen to wash her hands.

Thinking up the good ideas – problem solving – is great fun and a vital skill for every child to learn. So often, as adults, we jump in too soon with the solution at hand and give it to our children. How much more valuable and mind-expanding to ask them, “What do you think we should do? How can we work this out? Why do you think…” and listen to their answers. It takes year of practice to come up with good ideas and use good judgment.  What parents will continually learn,however, if they listen, children have a lot to teach us

I think so often, as parents, we can be quick to react to our children’s behavior when we don’t have all the facts. All of us can remember some time in our childhood when we were falsely admonished for something that wasn’t our fault. I like what Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, author of Your Spirited Child; Kids, Parents and Power Struggles; and Sleepless in America says.  She encourages parents to give your child her say, even if not her way.

Listen – consider – explore  “below the surface of a problem” –  your child will feel respected and learn from you to do the same.

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There will be Time

Today is Mother’s Day – a day rightly set apart to recognize the love and caring that mothers give to us throughout their lives. Mothers come in all shapes, sizes, colors and backgrounds. There are mothers who are childless because they made the difficult decision to give their baby a better life through adoption, there are mothers grief-stricken from losing a child, there are mothers in crisis, mothers in bliss, mothers,all, with the one thought of protecting, caring and doing their very best for their child.

So to every mother out there, to those mothers who have passed on and still remain in our hearts, to those mothers yet to be, I offer sincere, heartfelt recognition with appreciation for your strenth, love and support.

And to the moms who are in the throes of raising young children right now, I share this poem and the assurance that there will be time.

Happy Mother’s Day!


There is time still
for sitting in cafes
in Paris
sipping wine.
Time still
for going to meet
the guru.
There is time still.
Now I am caring for eternity.
Carrying bodies soft with sleep
to beds of quilted
cars and trucks and pillows.
Answering cries deep out of
nighttime fears.
Tying shoes.
Opening doors.
My soul now is dwelling in
the house of tomorrow.
Tomorrow there will be time
for long leisurely conversations,
For canvases to paint
And pots to turn.
Time still.
So I surrender now
to them and this,
Knowing it is they
who will teach me
how to do it all.

Author unknown

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Play matters

On the local evening news recently, I listened to a fifteen-year-old boy being interviewed after participating at a skateboard event in the area.  Skateboarding, he said, was his absolute passion.  He shared that in skateboarding, kids teach themselves, watch others, set their own goals.  This was what first attracted him to the sport.  I was taken by his spirit.

I started thinking about what he said and realized, sadly, that maybe skateboarding is the last bastion of initiative  left for young people to explore on their own.  So far, at least, I haven’t heard of any skateboarding classes or adult-led instruction.  The freedom and anticipation to independently choose and learn through play, through watching, through waiting till one feels ready for many of childhood’s experiences, has morphed over the years to today’s need for lessons, at earlier and earlier ages, to perfect one’s skills.

Experts are discovering how this emphasis on adult-directed instruction aimed at younger children is interrupting the development of self-regulation in our children.  Preschools, daycares, kindergartens and elementary classrooms are recognizing this more and more.   The children lack the ability to self-regulate.  Self-regulation is being able to control oneself  independently, without the need for outside authority. 

A recent international study found that the 7-year-olds of today have self-regulation levels more like those of the preschool child of the 1940’s.  They attributed this to the decline in both the quantity and quality of dramatic, pretend play in young children’s lives and the rise in adult-directed activities designed to teach specific skills.  Children are spending less and less time playing – dramatic play, make-believe-play, pretend play, on-their-own-what-shall-we-play-today-play, at home, in preschools and in kindergarten, and this is affecting the way children interact with each other, their own initiative, and their ability to self-regulate and problem-solve.   Children are also watching more TV and playing on computers at earlier ages.  These activities do not offer the same advantage as pretend play.

For children to reap the benefits of dramatic play,one of the key elements is Time – time to plan their play, figure out each others’ roles, find their props.  And while they are planning, they are talking to each other, making concessions, suggesting, listening, allowing, maturing in their ability to play,to self-regulate, to be curious,  to use their own initiative , preparing themselves for future success in the classroom, on the sports field, or in the orchestra. 

So this summer, stop and think before you sign your children up for too many extra progrms.  Instead, let them play together, give them time, offer sand and water, blocks and dress-up clothes, cardboard boxes, a blanket over the clothes line and watch them play – and learn.

They’ll be figuring out the world around them,  fueling their own sense of curiosity and imagination, their ability to make decisions. 

 And like the 15-year-old skateboarder, learning and setting their own goals – with passion.

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