Girl Leadership’s Twitter Chat on Pixar’s “Inside Out” at #HowDoYouFeel

inside-out

I am excited to join in a conversation about emotions incited by the new Pixar movie, “Inside Out.” This chat, organized by Girl Leadership, includes participants from Common Sense Media, Ruler – the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Encourage Play and more. I will represent CASEL- the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. Please consider joining this valuable conversation as we consider how to help children understand their emotions and use them as cues to better their lives. Join us Friday, June 26th, 1:00 p.m. EST and 10:00 a.m., PST. at #HowDoYouFeel.

In honor of this important discussion, I am reposting an article on establishing emotional boundaries in family life.

Boundaries

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Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.

– Brene Brown

Boundary lines define the playing field. They outline the perimeter and if you step outside, you are, at least temporarily, out of the game. Emotional boundaries operate in the same way. They are the rules of engagement and often, they are disguised or unspoken. Our sense of emotional boundaries can be established by a combination of our culture, religion or belief system, community and our own upbringing. As a result, it can be a tricky terrain for adults and children to navigate. Trickier still, each environment we enter and each person we encounter has a different set of boundary lines. At Karen’s house, it’s “inside voices” only. In the first grade classroom, we raise our hands before we speak. At home, no one leaves the dinner table until the last person is finished. Children need to learn how to navigate through various environments and relationships with awareness and adjust their behaviors accordingly. Becoming sensitive to boundary lines raises children’s social awareness and ability to adapt to a variety of environments and situations. They can be more adept in relationships because they have more information about how to be respectful.

I often tell E, “You are the boss of you.” He loves hearing it. And I’ve seen surprised reactions from other adults when I’ve said it. I get a look akin to, what happened to “When you are under my roof, you play by my rules?” These two principles are not in conflict. Children are the boss of their own behavioral choices. They are in charge of their body and how they use it. And with that great power comes great responsibility. Encouraging their awareness of their own control and ability to make decisions helps them exercise their self-regulatory skills. If they have regular opportunities for practice in their own boundary setting, they will be prepared to respond when faced with ethical questions or inappropriate boundary crossing with peers or adults when you are not with them. And in your household, your family’s boundary lines can become internalized and understood by all so that your child makes decisions using those lines as a consistent guide.

As kids grow older, they will most certainly be challenged by emotional boundaries with their peers. They will face questions such as, “How much is acceptable to share on Facebook or other social media? How much information do I share with others when there are serious family problems at home? When does a comment from a classmate become a serious threat to safety? What is considered cheating and how far should I go to get a good grade?” Creating opportunities to discuss and become more aware of boundary lines throughout childhood will provide that chance for practice. This practice is central to the development of emotional intelligence, or the “expression of emotion, the regulation of emotion in the self and others, and the utilization of emotional context in problem solving.”[i]

In Rules in School,[ii] one of the co-authors writes about an experiment conducted in her household when she was a child. The children in the family knew the rule of cleaning up after themselves but weren’t adhering to it. They didn’t care. It was too much trouble to take dirty dishes to the kitchen or put toys away. And so her parents decided to remove the rule. And as a result, the kids left the dirty dishes on the table and the toys in the middle of floor. No clean up. The parents remained calm over six days of the accumulating mess. The kids began to feel stressed and chaotic until they couldn’t stand it anymore and worked hard to clean up. Because they had directly experienced the consequences of the absence of the rule, they internalized the meaning and importance and from then on took the rule to heart. Though this experiment is not always possible (or tolerable for parents!), it is possible to promote ownership over rules and boundaries in a household.

Raise your awareness of your sense of and sensitivity to boundaries. Do you feel taken advantage of by others? Do you feel someone has not respected you and your values? If so, then have you constructively shared those feelings and perspectives with the other person to articulate your own boundaries? The toughest work in becoming the parent we want to be is the work on our own emotional intelligence. Yet, we know that the modeling we do is more instructive than a thousand lectures. Take a moment to write down your own feelings of violation and ask how you’ve dealt with them. Have you communicated in a way that owns your feelings and perceptions? Have you clearly communicated your defining lines so that the other person knows the rules of interaction with you? Have you owned your own emotions (no one can make you feel a particular way)? You can communicate how you are feeling and control your response.

Involve your children in discussing, setting and understanding the rules of the household. Though we know that “because I said so” is no longer a parenting strategy that works, what takes it place? Lectures or long explanations to help children understand the meaning of a rule often fall on deaf ears. Neither strategy promotes the child’s ability to practice self-regulation. Beginning with questions can help a child consider the possibilities themselves and help you understand what their perceptions are. These questions can emerge from the goals and desires the child holds dear. For example, “I know you love your train sets. How do you think we can keep them safe when you are not playing with them?” “What if Dad walks through the living room with a snack in his hand and doesn’t look down and steps on your train?” Wait patiently for a child’s response. Allow them to do some thinking about the rules and household safety. Even if what they comment on is not exactly on target, they are thinking about it and trying to answer your questions. Talking through possible consequences can help them practice thinking ahead to the logical outcomes of an action or inaction.

Open and facilitate ongoing dialogue about where to draw boundaries lines in order to help your children understand their ever changing world. Maintaining a trusting connection with your child is critical in keeping these lines of communication open. Invite discussion about ethical dilemmas and challenging situations in a non-judgmental way without providing ready answers. “I’ve been hearing about kids sharing pictures of themselves online. What do you think about that? Where might you draw the line on what is appropriate and what is not?” Give your son or daughter a chance to think through the question. He may not respond to you in that moment. Let it hang in the air. Give him a chance to reflect and come back to you another time if needed. Raise the question and then create the safe space for a dialogue to occur.

Create safe boundary lines at home. It’s not surprising that a child that is uncomfortable with the boundary lines at home will have a much more challenging time understanding and respecting boundary lines at school or in the community. Sometimes our awareness of this is raised by watching our child struggle with school relationships. Discuss your own emotional boundaries at home. You will know when boundary lines have been crossed because family members will be upset and feel disrespected. Because boundary lines are different for each individual, defining the lines in a family means communicating about how each family member can feel respected whenever a problem occurs.

Understanding what a child is dealing with developmentally can help a parent listen and act with greater empathy. I have summarized the following developmental points related to boundaries and rules from the book, Yardsticks; Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14[iii] by Chip Wood, an outstanding resource for understanding the typical developmental trajectory of a child.

Emotional Boundary and Rule Understanding by Age/Developmental Level:

Preschoolers –

Want to know, “Who’s the boss?” Feel safe and comfortable with consistent routines. They are working on understanding the rules. It may be enough to say, “It’s the rule” particularly if it’s part of a consistent routine.

Kindergarten and Early Elementary –

Experience a whole new level of rules and expectations so work hard to grasp the new rules. May talk about rules often. May also “tattle” on another child who is breaking the rules. In these cases, remember that a child helping to enforce a rule with another child is their way of internalizing and understanding that rule.

Middle Elementary –

Are increasingly interested in logic, natural laws and how the world works. May become interested in issues of fairness and argue for fairness and justice.

Middle School Age –

Interested in and developing an ability for deductive reasoning and mathematical problem solving. They have a strong desire to test limits and rules. “Saving face” or maintaining a sense of respect is very important. They are highly aware of their social image. Children need access to trusting adults who will discuss important and serious social issues such as drugs, alcohol, sex, disease, violence and family problems.

High School Age –

Are eager to examine greater social issues and justice and fairness. Feelings can be easily hurt. Peer influence is of great importance and can create a high level of anxiety. Young adults can grapple with cause and effect but do not have a fully established logical brain yet. They are fighting to define their own identity but also crave trusted adult connections.

Particularly when a friendship is at stake and more importantly, a child feelings of self-worth, it takes great courage to speak up and draw the boundaries necessary to maintain a healthy relationship. But with practice, your children will be ready.

References

[i] Mayer, J.D., & Salovey, P. (1993). The Intelligence of Emotional Intelligence. Intelligence, 17, 433-442.

[ii] Brady, K., Forton, M.B. & Porter, D. (2010). Rules in Schools; Teaching Discipline in the Responsive Classroom. Turners Falls, MA; Northeast Foundation for Children.

[iii] Wood, C. (2007). Yardsticks; Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14 (3rd Ed.) Turners Falls, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.

* Originally posted on Confident Parents, Confident Kids on 1-23-14.

Happy Father’s Day!

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

Dad and Jenny at the beach

Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.

— Anne Geddes

Here’s to all of the Dads who embrace their roles and are there for the fun times and the hard times too when we need them most. I am grateful to my own Dad who has always been there for me and to my husband who is always there for our son. Thanks, Dads!

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Smart Home Media Use: Limiting Screen Time

confidentparentsconfidentkids:

As warmer temperatures rise to blazing hot, kids may be tempted to remain in their air conditioned homes and entertain themselves with video games, YouTube videos and Facebook posts. Hours can turn into days as they lose track of time. And busy parents may allow it since it provides focused time that adults can attend to their own responsibilities. Set expectations at the beginning of summer for screen time. Why is it important to limit screen time? And how should it be limited? The following article shares the suggestions and information you need to have a productive dialogue about media. Have those important conversations with your kids instead of arguing each time the television needs to be turned off. Help your kids experience all that summer has to offer with outdoor activities, creative indoor play and in-person time with friends. Happy summer!

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

Smart Home Media Use, Limiting Screen Time illustr by Jennifer Miller

Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.

– Jim Morrison

The second day of school my son brought home a short booklet that was to be signed by all family members. It was the technology policy for his school. Covering every facet of screen interaction, each statement began with “No….” It is indeed critical for each school to have a policy on how technology is used. But in family life, the policy, or “rules” around screen time are just not enough. I began asking, what do kids know about screens, their effects and why they should be limited? How are children taught to interact with screens – what to do in addition to what not to do? As I was asking these questions, two friends, also readers, got in touch and asked whether I had any written media agreement for a family. I promised that I would research and work…

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Thinking Before and After Acting; New Article in Smart Parents Series

Sincerity by Jennifer Miller

Check out the latest article by Confident Parents, Confident Kids’ author, Jennifer Miller helping parents prepare their children for responsible decision making by practicing thinking before they act and reflecting afterward on choices made. It was written in partnership with Roger Weissberg of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. It can be read now on educational reformer Thomas Vander Ark’s Getting Smart site and will run in the Huffington Post Education section in the coming week. Here’s are the first few paragraphs…

Parenting with Social and Emotional Learning: Thinking Before and After Actions

Recently after I witnessed a child hitting another child in the face on a playground, I heard his first words afterward muttered through a steady stream of tears. “I just wasn’t thinking.”

“Think, think, think,” said Winnie the Pooh. And, that silly old bear might have been wiser than Christopher Robin imagined. Stopping to think may not seem a priority in our fast-paced lives but it just may be one key to raising socially and emotionally intelligent children. Sure there are numerous ways we can promote children’s self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. We can model empathy as did the mother who regularly makes meals for sick friends and whose child replicated that lesson through her empathy for her friend who was in the hospital. We can coach our child when they are confused by a complex of emotions by offering expressive language and asking, “Is that the way you are feeling?” Or we can offer practice opportunities to help a child to learn to control his impulses. Instead of lashing out in anger, he’ll know how to express himself without harming others. Read the full article.

Summer Reading

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

Summer reading pic 001

That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings

are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone.

You belong.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

When I was growing up, my neighborhood library held the “Super Summer Reading Program.” I so fondly recall weekly trips to the library with my Mom to pick up my stack of books and return home to swing on the porch hammock with a gripping mystery in hand. After each book read, I would carefully record the title in my log to turn in at the end of the summer for the great satisfaction of a list of 55 books conquered and a free pizza from the local pizzeria. When summer breezes blow, I yearn for books to take me away and for that time when leisure was abundant. Summertime is now a good opportunity for me to read…

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A Moment of Beginnings and Endings

sun and school by Jennifer Miller

Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The pace of activities and anticipation of summer can add to a sense of frenzy in these final school days. Children are excited about vacations and swimming. Parents are ready to shed the early morning commute to school and homework duty. It’s tempting to race blindly forward into the sunshine without looking back. But there is significant value in taking a moment to reflect on the growth of the past year – friendships, academic progress and newly developed interests. Children may be sad to leave their teacher, their friends and the predictability of the school routine. They may worry about the loss of that stability over the summer and all of the unknowns of the anticipated next school year. But there are some small, simple steps you can take to ease the transition and also deepen the lessons of the year through reflection. Here are a few suggestions.

In Reflection…

Work together with your child on a thoughtful card or letter for her teacher.
End of the year gifts or flowers for a teacher are one traditional way to show appreciation. But consider instead of or in addition to a gift, sitting down with your child to write a letter together about what you appreciate about that teacher and the past school year. Talk about it a bit before launching into writing. “What were some of your favorite activities you remember from this year? Why is your teacher so special? Do you remember a time when your teacher was especially kind?” are all questions you might ask before putting words to paper. It will serve as a meaningful gift to the teacher and help your child reflect on her year.

Create a temporary museum using artifacts of learning.
You likely have a pile, a bin or a busting-at-the-seams binder of school work from the past year. Before recycling or stashing away, why not use the accumulated papers as evidence of learning and growth and a tangible way to reflect on that progress? Use your home as a museum. Place the school work in the order of the school year starting in the fall. Line them up across chairs, the couch and on end tables for display. Walk through as a family and talk about what you notice particularly when you note positive developments. With a little support from you, your kids may be excited to put together the museum themselves. With multiple children, use different rooms of the house and you may have a full academic museum for an evening.

Create a time capsule.
A terrific early summer activity might be to generate a time capsule in memory of this past school year. Work with your child to find and decorate a shoe box or other container and mark with the name of the child and dates of the school year. Now ask your child to consider their older self. What if he came across this time capsule hidden in the attic years later? What items would help him remember the unique attributes of this past school year?

Transitioning into Summer…

Talk about your routine “lite.”
Though you may be eager to relinquish the rigor of the daily school routine, children still thrive with some sense of predictability. So talk about changes in your routine while your family is together. Consider your morning, bedtime and meal times and other transitions in the day. How will things stay the same? How will things change? Having this discussion can help set expectations for the summer and also provide that sense of stability children can thrive on through routines.

Consider instituting quiet time or reading hour.
Sure, you may be gone some days during a typical quiet time. But consider assigning a particular time of day to serve as a quiet time whenever you are around the house. After lunch seems to work well for our family. Turn off devices and media. Haul out blankets and books. You could include snacks. But it should be a time when all in the household “power down” and take it easy. Set the expectation for this at the beginning of summer and kids will assume it’s part of their summer routine.

In Anticipation of the Next Level in the Fall…

Catch a glimpse of next year.
While you are able with school staff still around, wander past next year’s classroom with your child. See if you might catch next year’s teacher in the hallway just to say hello. Perhaps talk with a student who has just ended the next level and ask about highlights from the year. Teachers are likely talking with students about their next step. And your child might be harboring worries about the great unknown ahead. Stepping into the new environment and even making a brief connection with the teacher can go a long way toward allaying fears and preparing for a smooth transition.

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Beginnings for Confident Parents, Confident Kids!

Confident Parents, Confident Kids will be undergoing a number of changes this summer in anticipation of launching a whole new set of helpful resources for parents this fall. To support this work, CPCK has added a new summer intern. Welcome, Ashley Kolbeck! Ashley, CPCK Intern by Jennifer MillerAshley is a graduate of Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in Speech Therapy. She serves as a nanny and is a caring child advocate. Her internship is made possible through a cooperative agreement with Kimberly Allison, long-time reader and contributor to this community. Thank you, Kimberly!

For the fall, here are some of the new resources you can anticipate finding on Confident Parents, Confident Kids!

  • Easy access to children’s book recommendations divided by age groups and selected for particular social and emotional competency topics
  • Recommendations for best parenting and organization sites related to social and emotional learning
  • Top CPCK games to help promote social and emotional skills
  • New, short educational videos to teach specific strategies in parenting with social and emotional learning on this site and a CPCK YouTube Channel
  • And additional inactive online learning opportunities.

And as always, you can count on thoughtful articles weekly with practical strategies for your family to continue this important dialogue. In order to make all of these changes to the site this summer, CPCK will be publishing the top most popular articles from the past three years each week, June through August. So you can catch up on any that you have missed. And we can provide you with outstanding new resources this fall! Happy endings and beginnings to you and your family!

Strange Calm

Strange Calm by Jennifer Miller

“Our Mom wasn’t like other Moms.” a twenty-something daughter of my mentor recalled. “As kids, when we were doing something crazy, she wouldn’t yell. She would get so quiet.”

“And she moved really slowly.” added the thirty-something sister. “We called it her strange calm.”

“And I guess it worked because we were weirded out by it but we stopped what we were doing and just watched her.”

I listened to this conversation years ago before I became a parent but have recently realized the power of its application in family life. Do you notice that musical pieces that include a moment of silence have the greatest emotional impact? You stop and notice the silence. And the energy of the piece changes. The lack of sound calls attention through sheer contrast. Teachers in schools apply this principle and talk at a whisper when it’s getting too loud. “Those who can hear my voice, clap once. Those who can hear my voice, clap twice.” And on a much larger scale, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi used their own form of calmness as social nonviolent protest. And it changed the tone of the conflict. It was impossible to ignore. Escalation of the emotional drama either by yelling, punishing or getting upset is expected by kids. But what if you sat down in the middle of it, shut your eyes and became quiet?

Strange calm is an easy technique to use at home as well in times of great chaos or even when kids are misbehaving. There are numerous benefits to this strategy. At the very least, you will not contribute to the emotional upheaval. It gives you the chance to breathe, restore your mental facilities and think about the situation at hand before acting. You will be more capable of a constructive response – the one you might hope for and plan for in calmer times – because of the chance to pause and reflect. And additionally, you are modeling self-management and self-discipline in a challenging moment. This is particularly impactful modeling for children who struggle with impulse control.

When discussing a family emotional safety plan at a recent workshop, one parent said, “I would love to be able to leave the room to calm down when I am upset and my kids are acting out but I’m afraid they’ll hurt one another. I don’t feel like I can leave.” When siblings are fighting, it may enrage a parent standing nearby but leaving to calm down may not be practical. So why not calm down right where you are?

Another parent carried around post-it notes and pen and wrote down her frustrations when the volume and upset escalated with her kids. “My daughter stopped and wanted to know what I was doing.” And that’s the idea. It stops her disturbing action. She has the opportunity to pause and find out what’s going on with Mom. Her daughter is learning that there are a number of ways to cope with stressful moments that do not involve contributing to and escalating the conflict.

Like anything worthwhile, moderation is best. Use this technique too often and it becomes expected and perhaps ignored. But use it when the chaos is escalating along with your last nerves and you may feel a renewed sense of power and control as you change the tone of your environment.

* Thanks for the inspiration, Ginny Blankenship, Anna and Margaret Lang!

CPCK’s Author Jennifer Miller in the Deseret National News

Jennifer and Ethan Miller

Check out the article Emotional Intelligence Is No Accident by Lois Collins published today in the Deseret National News. It begins…

From the time her son Ethan was a toddler, Jennifer Miller tried to help him find appropriate ways to express his frustrations. If he would bite, hit or throw tantrums — perfectly normal for a frustrated toddler, but not happy stuff for those around him — she would ask him about his other options. Could he hit a pillow instead? Or roar like a lion? Run in a circle or stomp his feet? How could he express his anger without hurting others, Miller, a child development expert, would ask.

Read more at http://national.deseretnews.com/article/4529/Emotional-intelligence-is-no-accident.html#QpwuCy3YqlpR4sqc.99

Coaching as a Tool for Raising a Confident Kid

I have a problem by Jennifer Miller

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.

– Roger Lewin

Coaching can be a powerful way to help our children become more self-aware while understanding their thoughts and feelings and how they impact their behavior choices. It can also give them valuable practice in problem solving and responsible decision making. Similar to a sports coach, the parent coach expresses confidence that his child will succeed in his efforts. But in contrast to a sports coach, parent coaching is not focused on the technique (HOW our child solves the problem) nor attached to the outcome. It is about helping a child think through their own solutions to a problem.

Our kids come to us with problems regularly. And so often, in the busyness of the day, we respond with a solution. And though our hurried response may help them clean up the mess of the moment, it does not prompt them to think for themselves about their problems, how they are feeling and their options for moving forward. There are two conversations below in which the same issue is addressed. The first is a possible hurried response. The second takes a coaching approach.

The hurried conversation:

“Mom, Morgan’s being mean.” says Adam.

“Yep, this happens a lot. What’s he doing?” asks Mom.

“He keeps poking me with a stick.” replies Adam.

“You tell him to cut it out or I’ll need to come talk to him.” responds Mom.

And off Adam goes to implement Mom’s solution with the possibility of her needing to intervene. Next is an example of a parent using a coaching approach in that same conversation.

The coaching conversation:

“Mom, Morgan’s being mean.” says Adam.

“What’s he doing?” says Mom.

“He keeps poking me with a stick.” replies Adam.

“It sounds like you are annoyed. Is that true?” says Mom.

“Yeah, what do I do to get him to stop?” – Adam.

“Why do you think he’s poking you?” – Mom.

“To get my attention.” – Adam.

“And how are you responding?” – Mom.

“I keep telling him to stop but he won’t!” – Adam.

“Telling him to stop doesn’t seem to be working. What could you do differently to stop his poking?” – Mom.

“I could stop giving him attention, leave and then only come back when he agrees to stop poking.” – Adam.

“Sounds good. Go for it.” – Mom.

In the hurried example, Mom accepts full responsibility for the problem. Not only does she solve the problem for him, but also expresses that she’ll likely need to intervene when his attempts do not work. And you can bet, he’ll be coming right back to her. She has inadvertently promoted his dependence on her to solve his problems. And certainly, Adam has not been required to think much further about the situation. However in the coaching conversation, Mom probes to find out a bit more about the problem, how Adam is feeling about it and how he is responding. She points out what’s not working and asks openly what he feels could work. Adam could have responded with any number of solutions and she was ready to support any that seemed safe alternatives. She leaves him, expressing confidence in his ability to handle the situation. And I know (since this is based on a true story) that he will be successful. As a result Adam feels a sense of competence and autonomy in being able to handle his own relationship issues.

The purpose of coaching is to help a person find his own solutions to his problem. Inherent in the coaching model is the belief and trust that an individual has that ability to solve his own issues. The coach through questions, active listening and focused reflections creates the conditions necessary for a person to have his own realizations about his feelings and thoughts and how they are informing his behaviors. This deepens his self-awareness.

So often we are in a telling or directing role as parents. The essential challenge of using coaching is that we have to suspend our own judgment about the problem at hand in order to effectively play the role. Attachment to a particular outcome lessens our power. When our child may be coming to us about a friendship challenge, it is an ideal opportunity to offer coaching support. For obvious reasons, problems that pose a high safety risk are likely not appropriate for a coaching conversation since you will desire a particular outcome.

The field of coaching has so much to offer in understanding how we can be better communicators and help others resolve their own problems bringing out their best selves. My husband is a certified coach preparing future hospital presidents for their roles with these techniques. He has shared his course texts with me and the following are my interpretation of recommendations from Coaching Skills; A Handbook by Jenny Rogers with my own child developmental spin.

Use open-ended questions without an agenda. Use these questions to further define the problem so that your child can better solve it. Jenny Rogers writes about the “magical questions” that fit any context or problem which, in essence, are: “What”” (What’s the problem?), “So what?” (What are the consequences?) and “What’s next?” (How will you move forward?) Avoid questions that are simply answered with a “yes” or “no” since they will not prompt thinking. Also avoid “leading” questions – ones that offer advice. For example, “Shouldn’t you…,” “Wouldn’t it be better to…,” or “Why don’t you try…”

Name an emotion and ask if your observation is accurate. In addition to learning about the problem, your child can benefit from identifying how she is feeling about it. Help your child better understand what she’s feeling by listening for the feeling, articulating it as specifically as possible and then asking if you are accurate. For example, “It sounds like you are hurt and embarrassed. Is that right?” Your child will certainly tell you if you have not hit the mark with your feelings assessment. And they will be given the chance to further define their emotions in the process. Jenny Rogers writes, “As coaches our role is often to help others articulate feelings that are there but go unrecognized, or to help them say out loud what they have kept inside.”

Challenge to initiate new thinking. In most situations, there are a number of possible solutions. I never want my son to feel trapped in a problem. So I know that offering him practice in brainstorming many solutions will prepare him for life’s biggest challenges. If a child’s response to the situation is not working, ask her to come up with a new solution. For more on practicing brainstorming many options to a problem, check out Elements of a Confident Kid… Brainstormer.

Summarize. After you’ve talked about the problem and your child’s solution, summarize it succinctly for him without embellishing or adding your own opinions. “Your problem was Morgan trying to get your attention by poking you. Your asking him to stop wasn’t working. Now you are going to leave until he can agree not to poke anymore.” This will help your child solidify his own thinking and reaffirm that you’ve heard him and his own solution.

Eliminate judgment. Though you may be well aware of Morgan’s proclivity to poke and poke, leave your judgment about the individuals and the problem out of your conversation. Though it may be a valid frustration on your part, it could also sabotage the effectiveness of your coaching to imply or share the judgment. Using your own self-discipline as you guide your child through their thought process will pay off as you also watch them competently solve their own problem.

Express genuine confidence. No, we cannot possibly know how another person will react in any given situation so we cannot be sure of how things will turn out. However we can be certain that our child can handle problems in their relationships. That certainty will give them confidence as they try out their own solutions. Jenny Rogers uses the helpful comparison of the placebo effect in medicine. If a person senses the doctor’s full confidence in the drug’s ability to heal, they are much more likely to be healed. If we say, “You could try that and see if it works,” we sound hesitant and unsure. But a simple, “Good. Go for it!” expresses that we know our kid can work it out.

The process of coaching with a child can be an authentic vehicle for promoting social and emotional skills. By giving them a chance to address their problems, they can feel a sense of control over their own lives and relationships. They are given the chance to think through their feelings and reactions. That time for reflection can create the space and opportunity for consequential thinking which is an essential ingredient of responsible decision making. Parent coaching is a key component of confident parents raising confident kids.

Reference

Rogers, J. (2012). Coaching Skills; A Handbook (3rd Ed.). NY: McGraw-Hill Open University Press.

* Special thanks to Jason Miller for his support in doing the research for this article.

A Wish for Mother’s Day

mothers day pic

My wish for Mother’s Day is that every Mom have an empathetic confidant who lends a listening ear. The sense of shared understanding and ability to be cared for and loved no matter what can help us all rise like a phoenix out of the ashes, better than ever. On the part of the listener, it requires self-discipline, suspending judgment and entering into another’s pain. On the part of the sharer, it requires courage to allow that kind of vulnerability. “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive,” writes Brene Brown in Daring Greatly.

I want to pay special tribute to my Mom who has always been my confidant. She teaches me that I can change the patterns of the past and make better choices with empathy and love as my guide. She has shown me a million small ways to practice empathy. These photos depict just a few. Thank you, Mom, for the daily support you offer me. I treasure you in my life more than words can express!

Happy Mother’s Day All! 

Jenn, Mom gardening pic 1Jenn, Mom raking leaves matching ponchos pic

 

Jenn, Mom on beach picNose kiss Jenn, Mom pic

 

Recent Picture of Author, Jennifer Miller and Mom/Editor, Linda Smith

Recent Picture of Author, Jennifer Miller and Mom/Editor, Linda Smith