Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Is Time-Out a harmful method of discipline? November 24, 2010

Filed under: health,Lacko Family Chronicles,motherhood — rjlacko @ 10:53 am

We are not spankers. Certainly, there have been times when my boys have pushed me to the point where I’ve given it serious thought. But what does hitting teach? Only that hitting is OK. And it’s not, in my opinion. What’s more, a smack in the rear doesn’t resolve the initial conflict.

Over the last five and a half years of parenting, my husband and I have relied heavily on time-outs, using the age-to-minutes ratio often “recommended.” It has done precious little to alleviate undesirable behavior and offers more to us as parents in the form of a moment to clear our own heads (which should not go undervalued.)

Kimberley Clayton Blaine, , MA, MFT, is the executive producer of the online parenting show TheGoToMom and author of The Go-To Mom’s Parents’ Guide to Emotion Coaching Young Children, and The Internet Mommy, says too many time-outs may be ineffective at best, and downright harmful at worst. She suggests kids subjected to repeated time-outs may develop poor emotion control because they are left alone without support and validation when they need it most. “Empathy is truly the foundation for effective parenting, and it is also necessary in creating a stronger bond between parent and child,” she adds. “Time-outs are the antithesis of that.”

Blaine advocates an alternate method that takes into account a child’s developmental limitations and that serves as guidance rather than punishment. For children over two, she suggests using a “cool-down” or “thinking time” instead. Not only is this method gentle, it keeps the parent by the child’s side to help him learn to calm himself down and think through what happened. (Incidentally, for babies two and under, Blaine recommends distraction and redirection instead. At this age your baby is simply too young to understand the concept of a thinking time; instead, give him a new item of interest or move him to an exciting location.)

Here are Blaine’s steps teach you how to use a cool-down or thinking time successfully:

Get down at your child’s level. Be sure to maintain good eye contact; give a warning and ask if what she is doing is “okay” or “not okay.” If your child doesn’t calm down or stop the unacceptable behavior, then lead him to a “quiet area” or “thinking area.” Sit with him and offer assistance and love. Remember, this is not a punishment.

Be aware that time is not important—having your child calm down is. Disregard the “one minute times your child’s age” stance that most use as a guide. Don’t give a five-year-old “five minutes to think”; sometimes the older child needs only a minute or two to come up with a better solution. On the other hand, a younger child may need to cuddle or sit with you for ten minutes until she’s calm. As you’re sitting there, empathize, validate and reflect what you see. An understood child is less likely to be fraught. Once your child is calm, ask him to tell you “what’s wrong” or “what’s going on.” Restate the problem again more clearly if he has difficulty.

Ask your child, “What will you do differently next time?” Name the expected behavior if she doesn’t know. Thank your child for helping you come up with a solution. It’s important that he hears this positive reinforcement.

Set the expectation for the future by wrapping up with, “If you don’t listen next time, what will happen?” Inform your child that you will take actions to help and that you will not tolerate unacceptable behavior.

“Responding to your child in a reasonable, calm and patient manner is absolutely vital in building a connection,” says Blaine. “And, after all, connection is the key ingredient in helping guide our children. Punishment, on the other hand, forces a disconnection that undermines the goal of helping them someday become independent.”

On the surface, I really like this approach, but it might be unrealistic. Blaine seems to overlook that some behavior is not just inappropriate or undesirable but downright unacceptable.  I have to wonder if my child would mistake my “validation and positive reinforcement” for a direct signal that it’s OK to use bad behavior, because there really are no consequences. Mommy will be right there with a hug and a kiss when rules are broken, just like she is when good behavior occurs. So what’s the difference?  He is rewarded either way.

Perhaps it is only my short-coming, but I am driven to great sadness when my boys are unkind to one another. Hurtful deeds including punching, pushing or “you’re-not-my-friend-ing” make me so upset. My worst fear is that, as they grow in muscularity and power, they may one day do actual harm to one another. And on a deeper level, I want them as siblings to be close throughout their lives, to stand up for each other and hold one another in the highest esteem. We are family and we love and encourage one another, at all times. At least, that’s what I keep telling them! So, when this happens I separate them through time-out. From where I stand, you can’t continue to play with someone you are harming. When we’ve all had a moment to calm our heads, I do go and talk to the perpetrator and reinforce our loving, gentle treatment of one another and after they hug, say sorry, and accept the apology, they may continue playing together again…until the next infraction, that is.

Do you have an effective, loving method of discipline? Please comment below!

 

How – and Why – to Instill True Gratitude in Your Kids November 16, 2010

I’m not going to say my five-year-old is ungrateful–I’m not entirely certain he has a complete understanding of the concept, but I also know that he has searched his heart earnestly and decided he would rather live with us than be raised in the Jedi Temple among younglings and padawans. Trust me, I’m flattered by his choice.

Nonetheless, he wants one of every toy he lays eyes upon, and has kicked up quite a fuss in stores when he has not been awarded a toy he deems “rightfully” his.

Worse, he has adopted a habit of leaving a wonderful activity (such as a park outing or birthday party) only to hop in the car and demand to go immediately somewhere else equally as fun. Eerg! How about, “Thanks, mom! That was fun!”

Overall, it seems all parents  have thrown up their hands at some point in frustration, but husband-and-wife authors  David and Andrea Reiser say, “Yes, it is possible to refocus our children’s attention and values,” in their new book Letters from Home: A Wake-up Call For Success and Wealth (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-4706379-2-0, $27.95, http://www.ReiserMedia.com).

“And at the center of the values we teach ought to be a profound sense of gratitude—for where we live, for the rights and privileges we have here, for family and friends—not to mention the many material blessings most kids have.”

Yes, teaching your kids to say “thank you” is important, but truly instilling a sense of gratitude in them is another matter entirely.  “Gratitude is an attitude of deep appreciation and thankfulness for the kindnesses and benefits you perceive yourself as receiving,” David explains.

Written in the form of letters to the authors’ four sons, the book explores 15 basic American virtues that built our country and that foster individual and familial success.   If you’re ready to start growing an attitude of gratitude in your own household, read on for additional reasons why gratitude is good, and for tips on how to establish it in your own family.

WHY INSTILL GRATITUDE? Gratitude is good for you! Believe it or not, gratitude is good for you on a very basic level. In fact, a study conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, reveals that cultivating gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25 percent, and can also cause individuals to live happier, more satisfied lives and enjoy increased levels of self-esteem, hope, empathy, and optimism.

Gratitude grants perspective—even in kids. When you take into account the sheer amount of opportunities, privileges, and material possessions most kids enjoy through no effort of their own, it’s easy to see why many of them feel entitled. After all, they’re used to getting a great deal without knowing or caring where it comes from. However, practicing gratitude underscores the fact that all of those toys and lessons and creature comforts don’t just pop out of thin air. “When your children specifically articulate that the things they own and the opportunities they have come from someone other than themselves, they’ll develop a healthy understanding of how interdependent we all are on one another…and they’ll be more inclined to treat others with genuine respect,” explains Andrea.

Gratitude improves relationships. Who would you rather work with: a colleague who freely acknowledges and appreciates your contributions, or a colleague who takes your efforts for granted with—at most—a perfunctory grunt of thanks? It’s a simple principle: gratitude fosters stronger, more positive, and more genuine relationships.

Gratitude counteracts the “gimmes.” “Fundamentally, gratitude is all about being aware of who or what makes positive aspects of your life possible, and acknowledging that,” Andrea explains. “When your kids learn to think like that, they’ll be much less likely to make mindless, self-centered demands. Plus, they’ll appreciate what they have, and their happiness won’t be based as heavily on material things.”

HOW TO INSTILL GRATITUDE

Don’t just count your blessings—name them. Have a minute of thanks at the same time each day—you and your kids can each name a few things you’re thankful for. Whether the list includes a favorite toy, a good grade, or a hug from Grandma, this tradition will start the day off in a positive frame of mind.  David suggests, “If you have older kids, encourage them to keep a gratitude journal and write down a few things they were thankful for each day before going to bed.”

Be a grateful parent. As most parents know, the way you treat your kids affects their development much more than the rules you set. When it comes to gratitude, tell your kids why you’re grateful to have them….and do it often.  “It goes without saying that you love your kids, and that you’re thankful beyond words for their love, their smiles, their hugs, and so much more,” David says. “When you tell them those things, their self-esteem will be boosted for the right reasons (not because they have the latest smartphone or because they’re dressed fashionably). Plus, your example will show them that gratitude extends well beyond material things.”

Don’t shower them with too much stuff. This dilutes the “gratitude” impulse. Remember, all things in moderation…including your kids’ stuff.  “If you buy your daughter whatever she wants, whenever she wants it, she won’t value or respect her belongings,” Andrea points out. “After all, there’s plenty more where everything else came from! And what’s more, she’ll grow up believing that getting what she wants is her due.”  When your child wants something, make him pitch in. (Don’t be the sole provider.) If your child receives an allowance (or, for older kids, has a job), think twice before letting him pocket every last penny. If he wants a new video game, bike, or even to go on a trip with friends, ask him to help save for those things himself.  “Depending on the amount of your child’s weekly allowance or how much he makes mowing lawns on the side, you may still end up footing a majority of the bill yourself,” David admits. “And that’s okay—after all, you are the parent. The point is, though, that your children will be active participants in working toward what they want. When they understand the real value of a dollar, they’ll be more likely to appreciate what you and others do for them.”

Keep a stack of thank-you cards on hand. Insist that your kids use them often. By and large, sending out thank-you notes is one of those arts that seems to be dying. Don’t let that be the case in your house. Send out regular thank-you notes—definitely when your child receives a gift, but also to teachers at the end of the school year, for example, and to Little League coaches and ballet teachers. “Make sure your child is the one composing and hand-writing the notes, not you,” Andrea clarifies. “However, realize that parents need to set the example by modeling writing formal thank-you notes on a variety of occasions.”

Set a good example. Say “thank you” sincerely and often. The values your children espouse as their lives proceed aren’t those that you nag them into learning, but the ones they see you living out. “Every day, there are numerous opportunities for you to model gratitude to your children,” David instructs. “For example, thank the waitress who delivers your food, the cashier who rings you up at the grocery store, and the teller at the bank who cashes your check. When your kids see you expressing thanks, they’ll do so too.”

Ask your kids to give back. The old saying, “It’s better to give than to receive” has stuck around for a reason. It really does feel great to help someone else out. Depending on their ages, encourage your kids to rake leaves for an elderly neighbor, say, or volunteer at a nursing home a few hours a week. “You might even make service a family activity,” Andrea suggests. “When your kids give their time and energy to help others, they’ll be less likely to take things like health, home, and family for granted—plus, selfless service tends to dilute selfishness in kids and adults alike.”

Insist on politeness and respect all around. When your kids treat other people with dignity and respect, they’ll be more likely to appreciate the ways in which those folks contribute to and improve their own lives. They’ll be less likely to take assistance and kindness for granted, and more likely to value it as much as it deserves.  “Specifically, it’s important for parents to model to their children the importance of treating all people with respect,” David clarifies.

Find the silver lining. We’re all tempted to see the glass half-empty from time to time…and kids are no exception. When you hear your child complaining or griping about something, try to find a response that looks on the bright side. It’s called an “attitude of gratitude” for a reason—it’s about perspective more than circumstance.  “Often, kids and adults alike are more unhappy than they need to be because they’re overlooking positives for which they should be grateful,” points out David.

Andrea concludes, “We truly are a nation built on gratitude—think about the scores of immigrants who have come here over the years, bursting with thankfulness for the chance to start a new, free life. “Your own children are probably being raised in vastly different circumstances, but it’s still important that they carry on a legacy of gratitude. Start taking steps to instill this important attitude in your family today, and we all just might wake up to a more pleasant tomorrow.”

David and Andrea Reiser are proud to contribute 100 percent of royalties and other income from the publication of the book by supporting three personally meaningful charities in the following proportion: 50 percent to Share Our Strength (www.strength.org), 40 percent to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (www.mskcc.org), and 10 percent to FORCE (www.facingourrisk.org). For more information, please visit http://www.ReiserMedia.com.

 

Creative Alternatives for Wasteful Wrapping Paper = A Greener Holiday! November 10, 2010

Filed under: Fun Family Weekend Ideas — rjlacko @ 11:45 am
Tags: , , , , ,

If visions of shredded wrapping paper are taking over the sugar plums that should be dancing in your head this time of year, it might be time to put down the wrapping paper and plastic bows in favor of greener options.

Harmful dyes, excess paper waste and plastic ribbons that animals eventually get a hold of are just a few of the holiday wrapping culprits. According to The Recycling Consortium, the U.K. alone uses 32 square miles of Christmas wrapping paper each year—enough to cover Manhattan and have 9 square miles to spare!

Green living expert Cara Smusiak, contributing writer on www.NaturallySavvy.com, has a great list of 5 quick and easy options for cutting down on wrapping paper this holiday season.

Box it up
Hat boxes, fabric-wrapped storage boxes and photo boxes are great for “wrapping” gifts for any occasion, but are great options for winter holidays. They can be used for storage later on and they stand up to a few flurries better than paper. Add some fabric ribbon tied in a bow and you have a lovely package.

Basket case
Pile a bunch of small items into a banana leaf or wicker basket, and finish off with fabric ribbon secured with an ornament or a broach picked up from a second-hand store.

Textile
Wrap gifts in fabric remnants. You can pick up remnants at most fabric stores, often at 50 to 66 percent off the regular price. Fold the fabric around the gift and secure with raffia or a fabric ribbon, or sew a simple sac to hold anything from an iPod to a bottle of wine.

The Old World
Use out-of-date maps to wrap gifts you’re giving to travel lovers. It’s a great way to reuse a paper item before it hits the recycling bin. Secure with raffia or butcher’s twine.

Jar head
Use a glass container or large mason jar for giving homemade treats. If you’re sharing your favorite recipe, layer the dry ingredients in the jar, and attach the recipe to the jar with a ribbon.

If you truly can’t resist the urge to tear away at a paper-wrapped gift, look for recycled wrapping paper. (Just say no to foils and sparkles.) And be sure to use every last scrap!