Say What?

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As we grow accustomed to having family members around more of the time with kids home from school or time on vacation together, listening may rise as an issue of concern. This article provides ways to bolster your own listening skills and teach and reinforce them with enjoyable games for your children. Wishing you a cooperative summer in which all family members feel heard and understood.

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

Listening Illustr JSM

When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen.

– Stephen Covey

Most parents, particularly with young children, may feel like they are listening all day long. Because children are exploring the world around them, they may have many observations and questions. “Why are you going upstairs?” “What is Dad doing now?” “How many days until school is out?” and “Why is that bird chirping outside our window?” Though we perceive that we are listening regularly, often times, the reality is, we are not. Research reinforces that notion. The average person listens with only 25% efficiency.1 And no wonder. There are multiple distractions from people and media that compete for our attention. Listening is a critical skill for your children as they attempt to make friends, participate in family life and achieve in school…

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Tone Tuning

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

Tone tuning illust

Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little

Cheep, cheep, cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more.

–          From the musical, Music Man (1957)

It is easy to forget that the music of our speech, our tone of voice, communicates just as much as the actual content of what is said. In fact, we may often feel that what we said has not been heard but notice that the emotion behind it causes family members to react. A gentle, monotone, “The dishwasher is broken.” is very different than a stressed, high-pitched, “The dishwasher is broken!” We offer instructions, directives and corrections to our children all day. We require their compliance to get through our routines. So how does our tone of voice affect what our children hear and how they respond? And could our awareness of our tone of voice make a difference in…

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The Inherently Creative Family

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Summertime is a perfect chance to get creative together. Here are some ideas for engaging the artist in every family member.

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

CreativeFamilybyJenniferMiller

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign-posts on the way to what may be. Sign-posts toward greater knowledge.

– Robert Henri1

All individuals are inherently creative. But we typically reserve the title of “Artist” as a sacred one for which only specially anointed individuals are worthy. However, our humanness makes us all creative. My son, E, has no interest in initiating drawing on his own. Although when there is drawing time at school and all of the other children are involved, he will create fascinating pictures that give me insights into his thoughts and feelings.

Our family viewing the Earth from space with hugs and kisses (xo) by our six year old son, E Miller. Our family viewing…

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Using “Inside Out” to Discuss Emotions with Kids; A New Article by Jennifer Miller on NBC’s Parent Toolkit

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Hope you’ll check out “More Than A Movie: The Parenting Opportunity of ‘Inside Out'” by CPCK’s author, Jennifer Miller on NBC’s Parent Toolkit. The movie creates a significant opportunity to discuss the role of emotions in our lives if parents seize it! There are reflection questions and a discussion of each age/stage that might view it. I hope you’ll use it as a resource for your own reflections with your kids! Learning about emotions – what a wonderful excuse to head to the movies! Check it out and happy summer!

Here’s how it begins:

If you haven’t heard already, there’s a new Pixar movie out called “Inside Out.” One of the great things about being a parent is the opportunity to include learning in everyday activities with kids – like seeing a movie together. “Inside Out” is an example of this. The movie offers ample opportunity to discuss with our kids the role of emotions in our lives. We get to experience the outside changes that are occurring in Riley’s life with a move to a new city and we experience what is happening in her brain at the same time. Anger, Sadness, Joy, Disgust and Fear are all personified as characters that hold the controls while she goes through her life’s adventures. Viewers can participate in major changes going on in Riley’s brain as she develops new ways of thinking as a tween-ager and lets go of some of her childhood memories. The movie raises important questions about how we perceive our emotions, how they impact the choices we make and ultimately the life we experience. It opens the door to dialogue at all ages if parents seize the chance. Here are some considerations as you experience and then reflect on the movie with your children. If you haven’t already seen the movie – spoiler alerts ahead! Read the full article.

Citizen Kid

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Though originally published during the winter holiday season, this article offers ideas for helping your child develop as a citizen all year long. Happy Fourth of July, to U.S. readers! And for all readers, I hope you enjoy the many thoughts on ways we can grow kids who feel connected to and take responsibility for their unique contribution to a community.

Originally posted on confident parents confident kids:

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What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.

Nelson Mandela

“How’s my little buddy doing?” says Butcher Keith as my son giggles and hides behind my legs. Butcher Bob upon spotting my face takes off for the deli counter to produce a slice of freshly cut Colby cheese, or as we affectionately call it, “Bob cheese” for my son to munch on as we shop. We have been going to our local Mom and Pop owned grocery store since we moved to our neighborhood and certainly since our son was born. He has grown up knowing the names and personalities of each individual who helps us with our seafood or produce or checks us out when we are ready to leave. We…

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

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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

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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:

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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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