Ask Amy: Can I Learn to Connect to my Child?

Jeni writesYou always talk about the significance of the parent-child relationship and how important that connection is. I’m not sure I know how to really connect because I’m pretty sure I never experienced that from my parents. Could you talk about ways to connect and stay connected to my child?

Great question Jeni! You’re right, if you’ve never felt really connected to your parents, it’s highly unlikely that you would know how to do it. The good news is, you can learn!

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Connection takes time. Your time. Your undivided attention is the best way to let your kids know how much you value them. Why not start by playing with your child if they are younger or just hanging out with them if they are older? These times of connection are not times to teach, lecture or nag. They are times for letting the child lead the play or conversation. It’s on their terms and their choosing. You’re just along for the ride doing and talking about things that are of interest to them, not you.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Peek a boo
  • Hide and Seek
  • I Spy
  • Chase
  • Go on a walk
  • Ride bikes
  • Cook
  • Wrestle
  • Tickle games
  • Sing and dance
  • Board games
  • Cards

Hopefully, these ideas will get you started. Thirty minutes, one time a week, is what I like to suggest for this kind of one-on-one time. No distractions from technology, siblings, spouses, friends, chores, etc.

Of course, it’s also important to connect in a quicker way each day. Take 5–10 minutes to check in and see how their day was, what they are feeling and if all is well in their world.

I can promise, if these times are done correctly, you will have a child that is more compliant, cooperative and happy.

I’d love to hear how this works for you, Jeni!
 
There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

Ask Amy: How do I get my child to shake the shyness?

“My daughter is so shy. She hides behind me when people speak to her and when she gets invited to birthday parties; she is glued to my leg while everyone else is having a great time. I hate this for her and it is embarrassing for me. How can I help her?”

PWA Oct Ask Amy

Relax! If you’re anxious, you’re making things harder for her. She sounds like the kind of child that is slow to warm up. Give her time to scan the room to see who is there or check out the person that is speaking to her.

In your embarrassment and uncomfortableness, do not call her shy in an apologetic way. ”Oh, she’s just shy” is what many parents say. When kids are labeled, often they live up to their label.

Make sure you do not answer for her, or tell her what to say. Things like this embarrass a more introverted child.

Since kids learn best by playing, role-play different scenarios at home with her. It is always a good idea, before going out, to prepare her and set the expectation. “You don’t have to carry on a conversation, but I do expect you to make eye contact and say hello when someone speaks to you.”

Encourage her by pointing out how brave she was when she looked at Macy’s Mom and said hello.

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

Ask Amy: My Child Hates Me!

“My 6 year old told me recently he hated me and he wished he had a different Mother. I couldn’t believe it! It hurt my feelings and at the same time made me furious. I told him that was disrespectful and he was not allowed to talk to me that way. I then sent him to his room. I don’t know if that was the best thing to do. What should I do if it happens again?”

PWA Sept Ask Amy

It is hard to hear a remark like this from someone we’ve invested so much into for the last 6 years, isn’t it? You will probably hear it again, so let’s come up with a plan.

Rest assured that most young kids I know that say things like this do not really mean it! It usually comes on the heels of them not getting something they want or things not going their way. In other words, they are mad when we say no! The bottom line is they haven’t learned how to use their words to let us know they are feeling angry.

Here’s what we should do.

Acknowledge the fact that they are mad, give them permission to feel that way and then teach them to use their words appropriately.

The next time you hear “I hate you,” respond by saying “I think you’re trying to tell me you are mad because I said no. I want you to know it’s ok that you’re mad and you can always say, Mommy, I’m mad at you because you won’t let me buy this toy”.

You are modeling for him what you want him to do the next time he’s upset with you. That’s addressing the real issue, which is his anger.

Getting angry with him, telling him to stop talking to you like that, sending him to his room, making him apologize to you are all things that further ignite his anger.

Let me know if this helps!

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

The Battle For Power

When I hear a parent say “she argues with me about everything,” I immediately start to wonder is it Mom or Dad that is controlling and likes to hold the power. You see, I have yet to meet a power hungry kid without at least one power hungry parent.

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We all need to feel powerful and have some control in our lives and our children are no exception. When we don’t give them any control, or even if they have control but don’t perceive they do, they begin to fight for it and power struggles ensue.

We usually begin to see kids fighting for power and independence around 2 years of age. This is healthy and normal and what they are supposed to be doing at this stage in their development. If we know and accept that and learn how to handle ourselves appropriately, then we can better help them manage themselves. The more we can give them developmentally appropriate ways to be in control and feel powerful, the less power struggles we are going to have.

Contrary to what some parents believe, when we argue with our children, we abdicate our role as parents and put our kids in control. This is way too much power for them and they can’t handle it emotionally. They become angry, resentful and overwhelmed and their behavior escalates. Parents feel the same emotions, and now everyone is in a bad place.

So, what’s the secret you say? You are. Yes, you. You hold the power!

Here’s what to do:

  • Just stop it. Bow out. Do not engage. Doesn’t that sound easy? In theory it is, however, practical application proves different.
  • Give them choices. Only give two options and make certain they are both acceptable with you.
  • Pick your battles. We know this but it’s so hard to pull off. Is it really necessary to engage about whether she should put on her coat? No. After you suggest it, and she resists, let it go. Trust that she will come back for the coat when she gets cold enough.
  • Make sure the parent-child relationship is solid. When they feel disconnected from us, they behave much worse. Take time to do a little nurturing if they are fighting for control.

If you can be mindful of these suggestions and implement them, I’ll just bet you will not encounter as many battles as you normally do. It’s sure worth a try!

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

Back to School – Tips for An Easy Transition!

It’s hard to believe it’s already that time of year again! The lazy, hazy days of summer are coming to an end and a new school year is dawning.

For moms and dads, this is often a happy time as they are weary after having the kids at home all summer. Most kids, however, are usually not happy about the end of their summer fun. The beginning of a new year can be a hard adjustment for some kiddos or a simple transition for others.

Getting back into a school routine or at least a more consistent one is tough, but can sure make a difference in the way your child adjusts to the new year. Soon, the nights of staying up a little later, sleeping in a bit longer and all manner of summer fun will be a thing of the past. Here a some ways to make the transition easier:

  • Consider easing back into your school routine by beginning about two to three weeks before school kicks off.
  • Gradually begin to tweak your bedtime schedule so that everyone is getting to bed earlier. Equally as important is waking up earlier in the mornings.
  • Teach them to be organized and make decisions about their clothes the night before. This translates to less stress in the mornings.
  • Give them opportunities to be independent and responsible. Set them up for success by giving them responsibilities at home so they can experience what it is like. For example, you might make it their responsibility to pack their backpacks and lunchbox.
  • If a new school is on the horizon this year, a peek inside might help allay any anxiety your child is having. Go to the building and let them see where they will be going each day.
  • Implement a daily homework routine. Whether that is immediately after school, after their snack and a little downtime, or even after dinner for teens, having a set time established helps everybody.
  • Prepare them for the separation from you, particularly if this is their first year to attend school or if you have an anxious child. Let them know what the morning drop off will look like. Be specific. “I’ll be able to walk you into your classroom the first week of school and after that, I’ll drop you off in the carpool line.”
  • We set the tone for the family. Get enough rest and get up early enough so that you aren’t rushed. Allow time for the unexpected.

Kids take their cues from us. If we are excited about the new year and happy with their teacher, chances are they will be too. If we’re anxious and worried that they might not be in the class with their best friend, worried that they might get lost trying to get to their classes on time with all of their materials or unhappy because they didn’t get the teacher we wanted, they will probably unhappy be too.

Hoping your family gets an A+ on this transition into another year of school!

Bedtime: Why Won’t She Just Go To Sleep?!

Imagine the perfect night – you help your child get ready for bed, read a bedtime story, say prayers, tuck her in, hug and kiss her goodnight and leave the room. She drifts off to a peaceful sleep, you get adult time, and you don’t hear from her, or see her again until the next morning. What a perfect and seemingly simple way to end the day, right? Wrong. Rarely does this scenario exist, especially in the early years.

Bedtime battles can be one of the biggest battles parents face. Some kiddos don’t want to go to bed because of a fear, others don’t want to be separated from their parents, others worry that they might miss something, and some just have a hard time falling asleep. If there are real emotional issues, it’s best to help your child work through those or she will never be able to get off to a peaceful night’s sleep. The last thing you want is for bedtime to turn into a power struggle.

The goal should be for them to learn to fall asleep by themselves, stay asleep and wake up feeling rested and refreshed the next morning. We are teaching them that establishing good sleep habits early in life is a healthy way to take good care of our bodies.
Truth be told, there are certain things we cannot make our children do and going to sleep is one of them. Let’s focus on what we can control and consider what we can do to ensure bedtime does not turn into a battlefield.

  • Establish a set evening routine to develop good habits. This does take time but it is imperative to do it and stay consistent if you want a successful bedtime outcome.
  • Give them a 30-minute warning, signaling it’s time to begin to wrap things up and finish what they are doing – no new activities and, please, no screen time.
  • Create a peaceful environment. Calm parents contribute to an easier bedtime. When there is stress during their day, our kids have greater inability to fall asleep because of the stress hormone, cortisol. It prohibits them from being able to calm themselves.
  • Allow them unhurried time to transition. This might include a bath, jammies, teeth, chat, story, prayers, hugs and kisses before you say goodnight and leave their room.
  • Stand firm if they try to keep you engaged by getting up after the bedtime routine has ended. This is where things can go awry quickly. They need to tell you one more thing, get one more drink of water, have one more kiss and so on. If this happens, kindly say “it’s time to go back to bed” and gently lead her back. No talking, no getting angry – very scripted and rehearsed. You might have to do this repeatedly until she gets the message that you will not tolerate her manipulation.

Bedtime can be a sweet and meaningful way to end the day. Having these patterns established can take some of the stress out of it, and allow everybody to sign off for the day while feeling good about the closeness of the parent-child relationship.

Sweet dreams.

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

All I Want Is R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Respect means different things to different people. Since respect is not a concrete concept, it can be a bit of a challenge to teach.

Respect is how we show others we value them.

It’s our attitude or mindset toward others, what we believe about them and how we treat them. It can be pwa_feature_respectabout valuing others’ opinion, lifestyle, etc. whether they are the same as ours or not, and it can also be about treating others with kindness and holding them in high regard.

Then there’s self-respect. 

How I see myself and the way I go about living. How about you? Were you a respectful kid? Did you feel respected as a child? How about as an adult? Are you pleased with the way you currently do life?

How to help your child learn about respect.      

  1. We can’t expect our children to respect us if we don’t respect them. We can’t even demand respect. Some parents  tell me “she WILL respect me.” Almost daily I hear “she is so disrespectful.” The first thing I ask is “how are you treating her”? That, by the way, is not the most popular question I ask. It can strike a nerve. We’re the adults and it’s up to us to model what respect is. To expect our kids to respect us when we’re treating them with disrespect is absolutely wrong.
  2. Next to treating our kids and spouse with respect is how we treat others. Remember, your kids are watching you because you are their role model.
    • Do you rant and rave when somebody cuts you off in traffic or are you gracious and let them in?
    • Do you treat waiters the same way you treat your banker?
    • Are you kind to your housekeeper?
  3. Let your child know you value her by listening to her thoughts and feelings. Be a family that requires respect. Tell your kids “in this family, when someone speaks to us, we respond. To ignore is rude and disrespectful.”
  4. When you see someone treating others shabbily, bring that up in conversation with your children. Say “I noticed he was mean to her. What do you think about what he said”? Get them to think and dialogue about it with you.
  5. Require good manners in your family. Please, thank you, yes ma’am, no sir, etc.  We can start with these basics when they are toddlers.
  6. Teaching our kids how to listen is another skill that conveys respect and is necessary. When we’re talking to him, we expect him to put down his game and listen. We must show him the same respect.

If your child is speaking to you in a disrespectful way, make sure that you don’t respond in kind. You can request that you would like for her to come up with a more respectful way to talk to you and that you will be ready to listen when she does.

The Golden Rule is the best example we can use to help our kids understand what respect means. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you or simply put, treat others the way you want to be treated. The ability to be able to put ourselves in another person’s shoes is called empathy. Begin to teach your child about this important concept.

Respect is a must if you desire strong and healthy relationships. The parent-child relationship suffers greatly if there is little or no respect. If it is your desire to have the kind of parent-child relationship that is built on mutual respect, I’m excited for you. The reason?

You will be blessed.  

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more!

Revealing the Truth About Spanking

Let’s cut straight to the chase. Please, don’t do it! Period. That could be the end of this newsletter, but let’s go on.

Spanking is probably one of the most hotly debated topics of parenting and one where we might just have to agree to disagree. I can’t argue with parents when they sit in my office and tell me “well it worked on me.” I agree withSpanking doesn’t provide the long-term results you desire. them, because it probably did work — for the moment anyway. Children usually straighten up after a spanking because they are fearful of us and they are in physical pain. Emotionally, they are sad, embarrassed and angry. But, this kind of change in their behavior is not for the long term. Most importantly though, because of the hitting, there is a disconnect in the parent-child relationship. When that connection is gone, we’ve got problems.

Parents also say to me “my parents spanked me and I turned out just fine.” I agree with that too, because they probably are ok. Then, I ask them

if they hadn’t been spanked, do they think they would be less likely to spank their kids? Did they feel close to their parents after they were spanked? Did they trust their parents and feel safe enough to go to them with important matters. And then, I want to know how they remember feeling after they got a spanking. I also want to know if it made them feel like cooperating or rebelling.

With a steady diet of this negative way of parenting, children can become:

  • Defiant
  • Revengeful
  • Rebellious

One mother was in disbelief when her child told her that he liked to make her mad. He was paying her back. For what?  He was so angry with her because of the way she punished him. By the way, yelling, threatening and spanking were her preferred ways to try and manage him.  

Spanking relieves parents of their stress since they usually wait to spank until they’re at the end of their rope. That is unfair to take their frustration out on their kids in this way. Before most parents spank, they usually feel out of control. Nothing they are doing is working and they are furious. Spanking allows them to exert power over their kids and feel more in control.

A child’s self-worth is usually negatively affected when they are hit.  Who could feel good about themselves after a spanking? If you were paddled as a child, stop for a minute and try to remember how you felt about yourself after the fact.

Aggression begets aggression. Expect that if we hit our kids, they are likely to hit when they feel angry too. Is this the lesson we want to teach them?

The parent-child relationship is hurt when we hit our kids. This is the most detrimental repercussion from spanking. Keep in mind that this is the most important relationship in their life and how conflictual it is for them to feel close and loving to someone that is hurting them. Hitting devalues this precious relationship. When kids experience a disconnect from their parents,  they are resentful, fearful and distrustful and much less likely to be cooperative and do the right thing.

When we spank, we miss an opportunity to teach our kids how we expect them to behave. They’re in trouble for something, we smack them, yell at them and send them to their room and it’s over. The next time, instead of deciding to spank when they are misbehaving, stop yourself and ask how you can use the misbehavior as a teaching opportunity.

Warning. This does require more patience on your part.

Spanking does not work and the research is clear. Some of the long-term effects of regular spanking can lead to depression and anxiety. If you’re interested in the research, Elizabeth Gershoff, Ph.D. at UT, and Catherine Taylor, Ph.D. at Tulane, cite some of the latest findings in their research.

Honestly, there are two things all spankers say to me.

  • They don’t want to do it and never thought they would
  • They don’t feel good about themselves after they do it

No matter how you might try to justify it, spanking is not the answer. The opposite of that is loving guidance reinforced by a strong parent-child relationship. Carefully reconsider if you are a spanker.

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more!

 

Dealing with Loss

It’s natural for parents to want to shield their children from having to deal with loss, but it’s not the right thing to do. Death is a reality and it’s impossible to shield them from it.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that this might be the first time your child has ever had to deal with death. Keep in mind, that the unknown can be coMan carrying a sad small childnfusing and scary. Your job is to help them make sense of what is going on and prepare them for what is coming. Some of their anxiety can be alleviated if they know what lies ahead. 

We know that children do grieve although a bit differently than adults. They express it in their behavior and thoughts and by their emotions and physical reactions. Over time, feelings about the loss change and emotions can ebb and flow. We used to say we could bring closure to a loss, but now we’re saying the bereavement process is ongoing.

So, let’s come up with some healthy ways to help children grieve. When we talk to them about death, we want to make sure it is geared toward their developmental level. The information you give a teen will be vastly different than what you’d give a seven-year-old. We want to be sensitive to their feelings yet shoot straight. This is not a time to sugar coat the loss, but to tell the truth, judiciously. Too much information can be overwhelming. Do use the word death or died. “He will not be coming back home, his heart stopped working or he stopped breathing.”

Allow them to express any emotion they have. They might feel angry or sad and it’s our job to acknowledge that by saying “this is upsetting for you. I know how much you loved her.”

Make sure to talk and remember the loved one. Look at pictures and share stories and memories with your child. Let your child share too, if she wishes.
If they have questions about the death, answer them honestly. If it was a suicide, and they are old enough, tell them and say that it was just something we don’t understand and something we just don’t have answers for. You don’t want to lie about it and have them find out from someone else.

Try to maintain your normal routine as much as you can. A feeling of normalcy helps both parents and children feel safe. For example, send your children back to school as soon as they are ready instead of keeping them at home.

We want to instill our beliefs in our children and this is a perfect way to teach them about our faith. What an opportunity to teach them and model for them how your faith plays into dealing with loss.

Keep in mind your children are taking their cues from you. Model for them. It’s all right for them to see you tearful and upset. Be cautious though. If you’re having intense emotions, try to do it away from the kids, as that could be scary and overwhelming for them.

Allow them to attend the memorial service if they want to but don’t force it if they don’t want to go. Saying goodbye is an important part of the grief process.  Prepare them by letting them know about the service. Explain there will be lots of people there and some might be sad while others might be happy. Let them know they will see the casket with the body in it. Tell them there will be singing and there will be someone talking about the person.

As I said earlier, death is a lifelong loss. Grief comes in waves and intensity and the reactions are unique to each child. As a parent, your job is to be sensitive and understanding when they are hurting.

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

Discipline is not Punishment

“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?” – Jane Nelsen

That quote is an oldie, but I still love it because it’s so true. Most parents I know feel a need to punish their kids for doing something wrong. Punitive measures tend to make children feel embarrassed and angry and when they feel that way, their desire to cooperate will be much less. For example, they have a bad day at school, we want to immediately punish them, in part, because we’re mad and embarrassed about it. So before thinking it through, we might take away computer privileges when they get home. We believe that simply by punishing our children for misbehaving they won’t make the same mistake again. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Let’s clarify the difference between discipline and punishment. Many parents get confused with the two. They say “I’m going to discipline her” when what they’re really meaning is “I’m going to make her pay for this.” That is punishment. Discipline is not punishment. They are two totally different things.

Punishment is negative and punitive. It makes them suffer for their wrongdoing and focuses on parental control. That is called external locus of control. This control causes children to respond in a defensive way. Punishment focuses on the wrongs and breeds hostility and frustration in both parent and child. Punishment shames and usually doesn’t work. Then, when it fails, we’ve got frustrated parents. That only escalates their need to work harder to get their child under their control. Healthy parents do not want to control their children.

Discipline, on the other hand, is positive and nurturing. It means to teach or lead and focuses on internal control. This teaches kids to think for PWA_Discipline Articlethemselves so they can be self-regulated. We allow them to own their problem and figure out ways to solve it. Discipline is teaching children how we expect them to behave, in other words, guiding them. It is something you do with, not to your child. Discipline creates an attitude of concern on the parent’s part. Kids usually respond to that attitude and want to change their behavior.

To be effective disciplinarians, a strong parent-child relationship must be in place — a relationship where the child feels connected and loved unconditionally.  When children are connected in this way, they usually want to act right and do what is right.

After you are certain the parent-child relationship is solid, look at yourself. Are you leading by example? In other words, are you behaving the way you want them to behave? Surprisingly, many parents do not. So many of us expect our children to be what we are not. It is a mistake to expect our children’s behavior to change without changing ours. It’s unfair too.

The more positive we can be, the better. Focus on what your child is doing right, not what he is doing wrong. Catch them being good. To validate positive behavior, high five them, hug them or even notice what they’ve done by expressing it verbally.

Try to get to the root of the misbehavior. Are they mad at us? Did they have a fight with a friend? Did they have to go to the principal’s office and are afraid to tell us? Sometimes they just don’t have the words to tell us what they are feeling.

Why not begin to consider yourself a guide, much like a shepherd? They gently guided and lead the flock. Intentional parents walk beside, instructing, inspiring and encouraging but never provoking or bullying. Remember, from here on out, that the parent-child relationship is your secret weapon in effective discipline.

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy