Reflective Parenting

Respond rather than react to your children


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Tips for Helping Children Handle School Stress

Hello Everyone!

A few days ago, I was walking through a school hallway when I saw a poster that listed ways for students to reduce their stress at school.  My first reaction was surprise; my second reaction was one of gratitude.  Gratitude to the administration and school staff for acknowledging that stress is an increasing issue for students and identifying ways for students to diffuse their stress.  Here are some tips that will hopefully prove useful for school staff, parents and youth.

  • Be a good role model.  Practice some kind of meditation (breathing, visualization, prayer, yoga).  Doing so will help you say YES to life and be a positive role model in your children’s lives.
  • I know mornings are rush times!  Parents, make sure that you MINDFULLY focus a minute or so on your child(ren) before they leave for school.  What does it mean to mindfully focus?  Focus ALL your loving attention on your child.  Take their hands, put your hands on their shoulder(s) and let them know they will be in your heart that day, that you will be sending them compassion and positive energy throughout the day, and you will be looking forward to them coming home.  After all, they are going to work, too!
  • Parents, paste, pin, fasten a family picture inside their backpack with an accompanying note that identifies a strength and/or a character trait.  An accompanying short note helps.  Example:  “You are my sweet Lisa.  When I see your smile, you light up my world.  I am so grateful you are my little girl.”  OR  “It’s a pleasure to watch you progress in your swimming lessons.  At first, you were frightened to put your head in the water,   but now you are floating on your own!  I admire your determination.”  Change the note every week.
  • Strongly encourage your children to go outside at recess and noon hour and PLAY.  It is invigorating for children to swing, slide, play basketball.  Children who PLAY rather than stand around and grumble until the bell rings do better in school.
  • Teach your children that they are in charge of their own feelings and thoughts.  When they feel tired, crabby, encourage them to move and change their mood!
  • Teach your children to FOCUS on their breathing when they are feeling cranky, anxious, angry, etc.  To themselves, they can say, “Breathe in the good, breathe out the bad.”  Have them practice this with you several times with you.  Do it often and make it a habit.
  • Conflict inevitably arises on the school playground.  When your child complains that Sally no longer wants to be a friend, acknowledge feelings and indicate that Sally may be having a bad day, just wants to be alone or play with others.  Remind them that tomorrow will probably be different and Sally will be a friend again.  Tell your child that feelings and thoughts are temporary.
  • Be sure your children eat healthy foods (the less processed, the better) and drink water (stay clear of juice boxes and energy drinks)
  • Children need 8-10 hours of sleep.  Even if your children don’t sleep right away when they go to bed, they can read in bed, listen to calm music or engage in quiet activities.
  • Put away the technology at least an hour before bed.  Avoid sending cell phones, etc. to school.  Even if it isn’t school policy, advise your children to only use cell phones for specific times (not recess or lunch!).
  • Teach your children that they can always appreciate themselves.  Not everyone is going to notice their successes, but they can always congratulate themselves on their progress, big and small.  Image

Consistently following these tips will help your children have a better sense of well-being and experience less stress!

Blessings,

Judith


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Tips for Setting and Enforcing Consequences

Hello Parents,

Let me assure and reassure you that consequences DO work.  Let’s take a look at how you, as parents can make consequences work for you.

Consequences are a natural part of life for all of us, and the sooner children learn that their actions result in either positive or negative results, the better.  Providing consequences sets boundaries, and kids like boundaries.  With boundaries, they feel safe, cared for and secure.

It takes CONSISTENT WORK on the parents’ part to enforce consequences, especially when they are negative.  Many times I have heard parents say that they tell their kids over and over again what they want them to do, and their children do not follow their instructions.

FIRST POINT:  Tell your children your EXPECTATIONS of them clearly and specifically.  Example:  ”Please have the table set in 15 minutes.  Make sure you include the salt and pepper shakers, butter, napkins, and salad dressings.”  It is important that the child has the ABILITY to complete the set expectations.  Be sure your expectations are REASONABLE.

SECOND POINT:  Give REASONS whenever possible for your expectations. For example:  ”We all like to sit down to a hot rather than a luke-warm dinner.  Having the table set on time makes this possible.”  Kids often fulfill your expectations when they know the “whys” behind your requests.

THIRD POINT:  Follow up with a logical or natural consequence.  When the task is completed appropriately, let your child know you appreciate their willingness to complete the task.  A hug, a pat on the back, a word of encouragement lets your child know you have noticed their efforts.  If something is missed, you might say, “The table looks great, but we need the salad dressings to season the salad.”  In this way, you are stating what they have done (noticing the positive) and encouraging them to finish the task.

If dinner is nearly ready and the table is not set, give one warning and a logical consequence.  ”Jane, I need the table set now.  If I set the table, you’ll be totally responsible for clearing up after dinner.  And if that’s the case, it’s going to cut into your computer/homework time.  It’s your choice.”

FOURTH POINT  Follow through on the consequence.  Following through is often the most difficult part.  Children will engage in debate.  ”But I always set the table.”  ”You’re being mean.”  ”If I have to clean up, I won’t have the time to finish my homework.”  Some of the reasons may have some validity; however, your child made a choice.  And with choices come consequences.  If homework isn’t finished, then it’s the child’s responsibility to explain to the teacher why it isn’t finished.  Following through on consequences teaches responsibility, resilience, cooperation and independence.

FIFTH POINT:  Don’t cave in to your child’s requests, often stated angrily or sarcastically, to avoid the consequences.  Taking responsibility for one’s actions is a life skill.  And one of your responsibilities as a parent is to prepare your child for life.  Feeling sorry for them, thinking it’s easier to just do it yourself, saving them from the consequences of their actions results in dependency.  Dependent children are not happy children.

SIXTH POINT:  Talk with your child about consequences.  Make sure you and your child are calm when you talk.  Anger accomplishes nothing.  Explain the necessity of consistency, cooperation, teamwork, choices and consequences.  Make sure your child knows s/he is loved unconditionally even when behaviors are unacceptable.

How helpful is this post for helping you, as parents, enforce consequences?

Until next time,

Judith


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Tips on How to Have a Loving and Inexpensive Family Valentine’s Day

ImageHello All,

Valentine’s Day is here again!  Usually the first thing that comes to mind for many is buying chocolates and flowers for your partner and candy as well as gifts for the kids.  I’m not indicating that is bad, but I’m wondering if we can make Valentine’s Day more than a “bought” experience?  Here are some tips that will make Valentine’s Day more meaningful for you, your partner and your spouse.

  • Begin with breakfast.  Slice in some strawberries or raspberries with your breakfast cereal.  Try drinking cranberry juice (it’s pretty and it’s healthy!).  Sing a song together.  It can be as wacky as singing Happy Valentine’s Day to the tune of Happy Birthday!
  • Send your kids and spouse a love note (in a valentine shape, of course) reminding them how much you love them.  Include one or two things that you especially love about them.
  • Cut lunch food into heart shapes.  Try to include as many “red” food items as you can…carrots, tomatoes…
  • Encourage your children to wear something pink or red…it might just be a red scarf, red earrings or red mittens or a red t-shirt.
  • Encourage each other to say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” with a smile to all they meet throughout the day.
  • Encourage each other to do random acts of kindness throughout the day.
  • Ask your family members what they can do to help someone who may be struggling getting through Valentine’s Day.  It’s not the happiest day for some.
  • Parents, write a letter to your children letting them know specific things you love and appreciate about them.  And, children, do the same for your parents.
  • Make a concerted effort to meet together for dinner.  Discuss the loving and kind things you did at work, school and home.  Show your appreciation for each other by telling each member of the family at least ONE thing you love about them.
  • Use e-mail, skype, etc. to contact friends and families with words of appreciation and love.
  • Have fun and prepare a “red” dinner meal.  Spaghetti, red cabbage, tomatoes, apples, are foods that come to mind.
  • Bake simple cookies together (no bake chocolate cookies are a favorite in our family).
  • Read Valentine’s stories or stories about the power of love.
  • Mom and Dad, tell your story of how you met and fell in love.
  • Make home-made cards or pictures for each other and take pictures to remind you of  this special day.

LOVE is a NOUN and a VERB.  How are you going to show your love to family members, colleagues, friends, neighbours, teachers on Valentine’s Day and throughout the coming year?  Acts of love and kindness are always remembered…

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.  May love bond you together more this year than ever.  As the song says, “Love will keep us together.”   Let your love show in word and deed.

Blessings,

Judith


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Benefits of Giving Experiences for Presents at Christmas

Hello All,

Parents, are you wandering the stores wondering what to buy your children?  Or, are you looking at the gifts your children want and gagging at the prices?  If this is your dilemma, let me help!

Things you buy children have a short-term shelf life.  Next year, at this time, the toys you buy this year may well not even exist!  This Christmas give yourselves and your children experiences that they will remember for years to come.

Here are some suggestions:

1.  Make Christmas more than a one-day event.  For instance, bake Christmas cookies (gingerbread cookies are a favorite for kids to make), attend free Christmas events (there are probably more than you think!), watch Christmas DVD’s, read Christmas poems/stories, sing Christmas carols, decorate a “kids” Christmas tree with homemade ornaments and popcorn and cranberry chains, etc.  Crafts are a great way to encourage creativity and imagination.

2.  Take your children to a Christmas concert or special presentation such as The Nutcracker.  They will learn to appreciate Christmas classics and how to behave appropriately in the theatre.

3.  For Christmas gifts, buy “experiences” rather than things.  For instance, spend money on lessons (e.g. skating, dance, swimming,art etc.)  In this way, the presents will last long after Christmas and will help your children develop their talents.

4.  Encourage your children to give you “coupons” rather than gifts.  For instance, coupons to make a meal, to walk the dog, to clean the kitchen, to help with the younger children, to clean your room, to fold the clothes, etc.  Gifts like these teach responsibility and independence.

5.  Spend time playing games like Monopoly, etc.  Playing games helps bond you together as a family, encourages cooperation, and social skills.

6.  Do random acts of kindness.  Identify gently used clothes and toys and donate them.  Identify a few friends who might “be down on their luck” and be a secret “Santa.”  If you are a musical family, volunteer to share your skills at your local hospices, nursing homes and hospital wards.  Phone first and make an appointment.

One of my best memories of Christmas is remembering the many years I had 3 young friends over to make gingerbread cookies.  Yes, there was flour all over, but years later I still remember the joy on the kids’ faces  and their excitement at showing their families their “treasures.”

What are you going to do to make your children’s Christmas this year a memorable one?  Love to hear your suggestions.  (judith@judithbarnard.com)

Blessings,

Judith


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Tips to Cope with Hallowe’en Candy

Hello Parents,

The big day has come and gone and now you probably have more candy in your household than you want or need.  Here are several tips to cope with kids and candy.

  • You, the parents, are the keeper of the candy bags.  Letting children keep their candy bags in their bedrooms is a recipe for disaster.  Older children may be granted this privilege if you know they will handle the candy responsibly.
  • Go through the candy and discard any candy that looks suspicious.
  • Donate a portion of candy to those you know who couldn’t participate in  Hallowe’en.  Many people, including friends and relatives, live in condos and townhouses which do not allow trick or treaters.  They, especially those living alone, would probably appreciate a small gift of candy.
  • Let your children pick out a few treats to eat at recess OR lunch.  If you find that your children are just eating the candy, then the natural consequence is not to include the candy as snacks or dessert the following day.
  • Avoid giving candy as night-time snacks.  Increased sugar levels will lead to less sleep.
  • If children start to become grumpy, complain about tummy aches and/or engage in disruptive behaviors, it’s time for a candy-free day.
  • Choose to let your children have more candy on the week-ends when they can engage in outdoor activities to run those “sugar highs” off.
  • For after-school snacks, include healthy snacks along with Hallowe’en candy.

Hallowe’en is an exciting time for children, and the thought of having so much candy at their fingertips is an overwhelming temptation for children.  Use this time as an opportunity to teach them about what food their bodies need to function properly (good nutrition) and the effects of eating too much candy.

Teach them that eating too much candy has an IMPACT on them and those around them.  The best thing they can do is to learn how to regulate their candy intake appropriately.  In that way, they learn to show compassion and kindness for themselves and their bodies as well as for others (you, their teachers) they interact with on a daily basis!

What are you going to do this Hallowe’en to teach you children how to appropriately manage their candy intake?

Until next time,

Judith


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New Beginnings!

Hello All!

New beginnings!  School!  And with every new beginning come expectations.  Expectations of ourselves and others.  It seems like expectations “should” be clear.  But many times they are not, and that’s where difficulties begin and drag on…  Let’s hope this post will help parents, educators and children be on the same page…

Expectations need to be explicit rather than implicit.  So many times, all of us just “expect” people to know each other’s expectations.  In my experience, that doesn’t happen often.  Very few of us are good mind readers.  School is a vitally important part of a child’s academic and social world, and the impact, positive or negative, can be long-lasting.

CHILDREN and PARENTS

Here are some questions for you, as parents, that help clarify expectations…

1.  What are your expectations for your child, academically, socially?
2.  Are your expectations reasonable, attainable and realistic?
3.  What does your child think of your expectations?
4.  What expectations does your child have of school?
5.  Have you discussed your expectations with each other?
6.  Have you written your expectations down?

Children do better at school when they know what you, as parents, expect AND that those expectations are reasonable.

PARENTS and SCHOOL

1.  Make sure you know what the school expects of your child.
2.  Make sure you know what the school expects of you, the parent.
3.  Schools usually have written protocols around safety, communication with the teacher/principal/counselor, et al.  If you don’t receive written protocols, ASK for them.
4.  Read the protocols carefully and keep them in a safe place so you can refer to them as needed.
5.  Go over school protocols with your children.  Ask them to explain their understanding of the protocols.  Don’t assume they know.
6.  Note any ambiguities or any protocols that you want clarified.
7.  When you seek to clarify expectations from the school, use examples.  Using examples is a concrete way of making sense of protocols that  seem abstract to you.  Consider this kind of dialogue:  “I’m not sure what x means.  My meaning is:…….  Is that your meaning as well?  For example, if x happened, what would the protocol be?
8.  Assume the best of the school personnel.  As a former teacher and the daughter of an educator, the great majority of educators CARE about your child and you.  They want to help.
9.  Protocols can’t cover every situation.  If you need special accommodations for your child, please let the school know IN WRITING.  Copy your e-mail/letter to all concerned parties.  Request a response and a meeting, if necessary.
10. Familiarize yourself with the school AND school district web-site.  Expectations for educational personnel, parents and students are often posted there.

REMINDERS

1.  There are certain things schools can’t do.  Accept their limitations.
2.  Be pleasant and positive.
3.  Share pertinent information.
4.  Get to know the classroom teacher.  If you can, volunteer.
5.  If you have a meeting with a teacher/principal, consider taking a friend along for support.
6.  When corresponding with the school, write or phone when you are calm and collected.
7.  Most difficulties are the result of misinterpretations.  Words mean different things to different people.  Keep talking things out.

A final reminder: if you are positive about school, your children will pick up those vibes.  The opposite is true, too.

All the best for a great school year!

Until next time,

Judith


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Are Parents Teaching Their Children Independence or Dependence?

Hello All,

Today while I was driving, I was listening to a fascinating commentary on what university students today can do versus the university students of the 70’s.  Revealing information!  Coupled with that interview, I read a short article in this month’s “Readers Digest” on adult children returning home after receiving their degrees. Students today are very informed when it comes to technology.  No surprise there.  The report indicated that students today are far more knowledgeable about financial matters than those of us who graduated in the 70’s and 80’s.  I wish I had known more in my teens, my early twenties and thirties about financial matters such as investments and saving for retirement.  There seems to be a down-side, though, and that is that students have difficulty applying their knowledge of finances practically.

There is an increasing tendency for students to rely more and actually depend on their parents to help them further financially support their education as well as contributing substantially to help them buy cars and homes.  Home is becoming a place where adult children return home, expect all the privileges without taking on any or many of the responsibilities needed to keep a home running smoothly.  A surprising number of adult children don’t feel they need to pay their parents rent because they are saving to buy a house, etc.  The home they want to buy usually has to be “new” with all the accompanying pluses such as granite counter-tops, hardwood floors and up-t0-date appliances even though most admit they plan to eat out rather than cook,   In essence, they want the newest and the best.

And here’s another angle.  The radio commentary revealed that university students, unlike their counterparts in the 70’s and 80’s, flounder when they live in a university setting away from home.  Doing laundry, organizing their time, cooking, even boiling a egg are completely foreign and overwhelming tasks!

On a fairly regular basis I watch Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s show, Princess.  Gail is a well-recognized Canadian financial advisor and writer, known for her down-to-earth, blunt assessments and acerbic manner.  Most of the “princesses” are young 20 and 30 somethings who feel that their parents and others, usually friends, roomies and their significant others, “owe” them the life-style their parents have taken years to attain.  They pay for cell phones, cars (new ones!), condos (the best!), car insurance, etc.  Their children, often in entry-level jobs, are borrowing money from their parents or using their limited salaries to buy designer clothes, eat out, party hard and expensively and beauty (I never knew one could spend that much on manicures, tanning, pedicures, make-up and hair!) What’s happened here?  It’s fascinating to see how the parents of the “princesses” react.  The great majority of them realize that they had a significant part to play in how their adult behavior children are now coping or, well, not coping.  They have encouraged, with every good intention, their children’s sense of entitlement.  Many of them state that they wanted an easier life for their children than they had.  They soon realize they need to step back and watch their children struggle to develop life-skills that they needed to be encouraging all along.  Some of the characteristics the “princesses” and, I’m sure that includes “princes” as well include:

  • an absorption of self
  • a lack of empathy
  • a lack of gratitude
  • a sense of “I want it, and I’ll do what I have to get it (including “stealing” Mom’s credit card)”
  • an unrealistic view that, even with a degree, you don’t need to pay your “dues” when starting a job
  • a sense of entitlement
  • an unreliable work ethic and
  • little, if any, sense of the impact of their actions.

And, now the final question?  If the parents of the “princesses” had it to do over again, what would they do differently?  Would they prepare their children any differently?

I am interested in receiving responses to this post.  What are your experiences as parents?  Looking forward to your responses.

Best,

Judith