Parents Using Coaching Strategies to Raise Confident Kids

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 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. 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.

Originally published on May 14, 2015.

Cultivating Family Flow

What is it… why you want it… and how to get it!

“I had no idea it was so late!” my ten-year-old exclaimed lifting his head up after a few hours of finely-crafting origami Star Wars figures with his cousin, Grandma and myself who were equally entranced in our crafting projects. Clearly, we were experiencing flow – family flow. We lost track of time, deeply engaged in the creative work in front of us. The top researcher on this topic and author of the national bestseller Flow; The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, explains flow this way:

Flow is…

“that state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”1

Flow activities seem to have a few aspects in common. They are that:

    • there is a problem that needs solving;
    • there is a sense that we have the ability to work toward solving it;
    • we bring our creativity to the task;
    • the process of working on the problem is the focus (not the outcome or product);
    • the goal feels enjoyable, important or worthwhile.

There are also a few conditions that seem to work against the creation of flow. Flow cannot exist:

    • if the individual is feeling self-conscious (like others are watching and judging);
    • if the individual feels she did not choose the problem but it was forced upon her; or
    • if the person feels anxious about the outcome or product of her work.

Children are already well-equipped for engaging in flow since they enter that state each time they are playing. Imaginative play, social play, and physical play are all sources during which children experience flow. And you, as a parent, certainly have noticed. When you try and stop the play to move on to the next activity, you often get a disoriented and upset child. After all, they were in a reverie of focused attention. Their goal is to keep the enjoyment going. Your goal to move on is disrupting their flow.

Flow calms. That focused attention is the experience of mindfulness, being fully present. And because focused attention is required for success in school, these experiences of flow, if protected and encouraged, can offer children the chance to exercise their self-control, the executive function that is said to be a predictor of success. They block out noises around them. They do not get easily distracted by the movements of others in the room. They are completely centered on the task at hand. Isn’t that also the kind of attention that’s needed when taking a high stakes achievement test or performing anything with excellence? The flow state offers that chance to rehearse the vital skill of self-control in an enjoyable, highly desirable way.

Not only does Csikszentmihalyi argue that flow is important in family life, he writes that it’s an essential ingredient in order to sustain and grow families over the long run. Without it, he claims families will ultimately become frustrated at impasses with one another and bored and disengaged. That’s because when we engage in flow together, we are engaging in learning. And through that learning, we are individually developing while simultaneously connecting, deepening our trust and intimacy.

Csikszentmihalyi says that the formula for establishing family flow is trust and unconditional acceptance. When engaged in learning – and our children are consistently engaged in learning whether it is academic or social or emotional or physical – we show our children that we have confidence in their ability to learn anything or achieve any goal they set their mind to.

Activities can begin as flow-producing, like a new team sport or a new friendship, but can change if parents begin to focus their comments and energies on outcomes as in, “we need to work toward winning every game,” or judging the friend as in, “I don’t like the way she talks.” The intrinsic value of the activity goes away as the outside voices begin to produce self-doubt.

In the big picture, families can cultivate flow as a part of who they are and how they function. Though the positive goal we set for ourselves will differ from family to family, maximizing each member’s ability to learn and grow and maximizing how your family team learns and grows together can be a focusing force. Here are six ways a family might do this.

  1. Practice Real, Humanly Flawed Unconditional Love.

Here’s what the wise philosopher and poet – a go-to source for my personal renewal – Mark Nepo writes:

Unconditional love is not so much about how we receive and endure each other, as it is about the deep vow to never, under any condition, stop bringing the flawed truth of who we are to each other.2

Yes and wow! How can we do this for our children who hang on to our attention and reflections on their identity?

  1. Learn about our Children’s Development.

Learning about our children’s development extends our patience as we begin to understand why they challenge us as they do. Instead of irritation or upset, we can recognize the learning taking place. We put the frustration in its place recognizing – this challenge is a normal part of what they are going through at this age/stage. We can more easily grasp why they are faltering or even failing in some areas. In order to develop, they have to fall down or fall short. When we know that they are working on a new level of understanding, we can better support that development. This site often provides developmental guidance and check out the NBC Parent Toolkit for lots of resources on each age and stage. Make this the most important birthday gift you give to your child by reading about his or her developmental milestones each time a new age arrives.

  1. Problem? Poor Choice? Begin with the Magic of Compassion.

When problems arise, if we stop, breathe (to calm down) and activate compassion in our minds, it will help us become responsive to our children and allow us to transform a challenging moment into a teachable moment. Compassion will push us to discover our child’s perspective.

We can ask three questions:

“What is motivating our child right now? What is his goal here?”

“How can I best help or support his learning?”

“What can I learn from this?”

  1. Do Emotional Coaching.

Research supports that emotional coaching works. 3 When your child is upset, name the feeling and ask if your labeling is correct. The simple act of naming an emotion can help a child feel more understood. Reflect on feelings about problems. And show your confidence in your child’s ability to find a solution. Ask “What do you think you could do about this?” And follow your child’s lead. When children feel capable of solving their own problems, they are going to be more likely to dig in and work through challenges engaging in flow. To learn more about how to use emotional coaching in your parenting, check out: Coaching, A Tool for Raising Confident Kids.

5.  Lean into your own Developmental Journey.

Our development is never-ending. We can recognize that the inner call to our next learning challenge – as toddlers have when they know it’s time to walk – does not end with adolescence. It continues though, as adults, we tend to mute that drive in service to other goals. Listening and leaning into your own adult developmental journey means following your own learning wherever it takes you. Often that can mean facing discomfort, even pain. It can require looking at aspects of ourselves we’d rather ignore. But if we lean in, we’ll have greater empathy for our children who are faced with daily developmental challenges. And we’ll actively participate in family flow as we focus on learning as individuals and as a family.

Coaching can also be a great source for adults to get in touch with their own developmental edge. If you want to identify a credentialed coach in your area for yourself, check out the International Coaching Federation’s site. Or read about adult development. Check out: The Adult Years; Mastering the Art of Self-Renewal by Frederick Hudson. 4

6. Stay on your own Mat.

I love this phrase borrowed from Yoga and frequently, repeat it to myself as I am challenged. First, it means not comparing yourself to others. And not comparing your children to other children. It can also mean that your problems are yours and yours alone to solve. And your children’s problems are theirs and theirs alone to solve. We can support, encourage, coach and love but we can’t do it for them. If we do, we take away their power and their opportunity to learn and internalize the most valuable social and emotional skills that will help them become resilient during even greater challenges to come.

The small experiences of family life matter too. And there are a million different ways we can experience flow in our time together. Anytime we play together, we have the chance to experience flow. Anytime we participate in creating art together whether that means a dance party, a crafting corner, or a music-making jam session, we can experience flow. When we discover the wonder of nature in our backyard or at a park, when we cook or bake, when we participate in service to our community, and when we read together, these all can produce the experience of flow. Even when we gather as a family to solve a problem together, there is an opportunity to experience flow.

I asked my ten-year-old son when he experiences total engagement in an activity – when he loses track of time. He responded – “bowling, vacation, and school.” I asked “When or what are you doing when you experience flow in school?” and he responded, “Anytime! All the time!” Learning can be a joy in families. Particularly if we are aware of ways we can cultivate those times, they can become our most cherished memories!

References:

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, Harper Collins Publishers.

Nepo, M. (2000). The Book of Awakening. Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have. San Francisco, CA: Canari Press.

Gottman, J. & Declaire, J. (1997). Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. The Heart of Parenting. NY: Simon and Schuster.

Hudson, F. (1999). The Adult Years, Mastering the Art of Self-Renewal. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

* The author was fully experiencing flow when writing this article. 🙂

Originally published on 4/19/18.

Learn the Research-Based Ways Families Can Fight Fairly

All families argue. It’s not whether you fight but how you fight that makes the difference

Don’t miss discussing and signing the pledge at the end of the article! 

After some happy outdoor play, I heard my son E run straight up to his bedroom and slam the door. As I knocked and entered his room, his face was red and wet with tears. “What happened?” I asked. “Jonathan (E’s cousin) wouldn’t listen to me,” E sputtered between sobs. “I was mad and he put his fingers in his ears and sang so he couldn’t hear me.” It is infuriating when one person is trying to discuss a problem and the other is putting up a wall. Friends and family members will argue. But one of the keys to maintaining and growing intimate relationships is fighting fairly.

Throughout childhood, kids are beginning to understand how to disagree and struggle with another person’s perspectives. They may be more impulsive and lash out or run away or even dig in their “heels” deepening the power struggle. I’ve heard many Moms’ worries and disappointments over their siblings fighting repeatedly over the same issues at the same time of day when patience is low and kids are tired and hungry for dinner. So how can you deal with your children’s conflicts?

Take a look at your own arguments. Kids are learning directly from observing how we handle conflicts with our partners. Do you shout or name call or run away? Do you lash out with passive aggressive comments? Whether we like it or not, our kids are keen observers of how we work through our arguments. Their sense of security is shaken, whether they are a toddler or a teenager when they witness their parents fighting. So they are eager to see how and whether we are able to resolve our problems and move toward a closer relationship.

John Gottman, who has done extensive research on marriage, found that couples who stayed together versus those who divorced did not fight less. In fact, they fought just as often. But there were some keys to how they fought fairly. He writes, “A lasting marriage results from a couple’s ability to resolve the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship.”1 In addition, they balanced their negativity with positivity. There was, in fact, a magical amount of five positive interactions to one negative interaction, called the Gottman Ratio, that allowed for long-term, sustainable relationships. And it’s true with our parent-child and sibling relationships as well. Consider at the end of a particularly difficult day with your kids, “Did they have five positive interactions with you to counteract the one challenging one?”

Studies have been conducted on how kids’ developing brains are impacted by parents’ conflicts. Kids who lived in households with regular fighting experienced a stress level others who lived in more peaceful households did not. Over time, that stress compromised their brain development leading to impairments in learning and memory. But kids who lived in households in which parents argued but genuinely resolved the arguments (Kids were aware if parents faked a resolution.) were actually happier than before they experienced the argument, claims E. Mark Cummings, senior researcher at Notre Dame University. He writes

It reassures kids that parents can work things through. We know this by the feelings they show, what they say, and their behavior—they run off and play. Constructive conflict is associated with better outcomes over time. 2

If the quality of the fighting and subsequent interactions is critical in sustaining a healthy marital relationship, then it’s conceivable that it is also critical for sustaining positive friend and family relationships. And since kids learn directly from the modeling of their parents’ arguments, it’s worth examining how you fight with one another.

There are ways of fighting that are unfair and those are important to discuss as a family. Using physical force, for example, of any kind has been found ineffective. In fact, a recent meta-analysis of five decades of research showed that spanking a child results in short-term negative outcomes like aggression and defiance and long-term outcomes like substance abuse. 3 Also, when a child goes to another child or adult to get them on “their side” of the conflict, that triangulation can create deeper problems for all involved. There are four other ways of fighting unfairly, in particular, that were identified by expert John Gottman, leading to the destructiveness of relationships. These forms of fighting were regularly found in the relationships that were headed for separation or divorce. In addition to creating an agreement between you and your partner not to use these forms of fighting, I’ve listed ways to teach your kids not to use them as well.

Agree with family members not to use:

1.Criticism.
Though it can be tempting to criticize another (and at times, it may seem harmless), those words constitute an attack on the person you love. Focus on the problem at hand, the struggle, not the quality or character of the person with whom you are fighting. Criticism of another can remain in the heart and mind of the recipient and whittle away at the trust in a relationship.

Teaching your kids.
When my child is mad at another, I typically say “We are all learning. Your friend is learning too.” Focus on the problem, not on the person. He may not be getting his needs met. We may not be able to understand why he is doing what is making us mad but we can understand that there’s a reason for it. Reframe how you discuss the problem. Say “What actions/choices didn’t you like?” versus “What did he do wrong?”

2. Contempt.
Contempt is another way of showing disdain for another person. It may involve name-calling, hostile humor or sarcasm, dismissive or baiting body language or mockery. None of these are fighting fair. Not only are these forms of character attacks but they also have the implicit intention to harm the other’s feelings.

Broken Heart by Jennifer Miller
Teach your kids about the destructiveness of name-calling by using the broken heart example.

Teaching your kids.
It’s never okay to name-call no matter how mad you are or think the other deserves it. You might ask, “If you held up a mirror and that body language or those words came back to address you, how would you feel?” One way we taught kids about hurting other’s feelings in schools was by the broken heart example. Draw a simple heart on a piece of paper. Now have the child call the paper disparaging names. Tear the paper each time he calls it a name. When finished, work together to tape the paper back together. Though you can reassemble the heart, it becomes permanently damaged. Children need to understand their words can have that same impact. Don’t allow contempt to pass between siblings. Tell them to go cool off first. Then, come back and you can help kids talk to one another in constructive ways.

3. Defensiveness.
Being on the defensive is a slippery slope that sinks further down into the argumentative mire. It does not help anyone work toward a resolution. It’s easy to become defensive when the other is placing blame. So make a rule in your household. Avoid words like “always” and “never” in conflicts. First of all, it can’t be true that someone is always one way or never another. And second, it leads to further escalation of the conflict and often to hurt feelings. The best way to avoid defensiveness is by owning your own role in the problem, not pointing the finger and blaming other (watch for starting statements with “You…”), and hoping (though there’s no forcing it) others will accept their roles.

Teaching your kids.
We agree not to use “always” and “never” in our household. If they are used, it’s time to cool down and see what other words could be used. Also, teach your kids to say how they played a role in the situation first. Use I statements such as, “I feel mad when you grab my toy because I was playing with it.” Owning your role in problem takes courage. So teach them how to take responsibility in the most challenging of circumstances by practicing simple words they can use.

4. Stonewalling.
This takes place when a person refuses to listen, shuts down the argument or gives the silent treatment such as Jonathan closing his ears and singing. Make no mistake about this technique. It is not peacemaking. Far from it, this method of fighting is aggressive and hurtful to the person on the receiving end.

Teaching your kids.
Don’t allow kids to confuse time to cool down with stonewalling. There is a significant emotional difference. In the first, a person leaves upset and returns calmer and ready for constructive dialogue. In the latter, a person leaves upset and the upset escalates with both conflict participants. Silent treatment or shutting down another person only leads to more problems, hurt and upset. When kids are calmer, encourage them to come back together to work it out. If they struggle with talking, have them write to one another. Communication between the two is critical to work through their problem. For more on facilitating problem-solving between kids in conflict, check out “Working It Out.”

Establishing some guidelines for fighting fair for all family members can ensure that you are ready when the inevitable problems arise.

Guidelines for Fighting Fair

Instead, your family can agree to…

Get proactive about how you are going to calm down. What do you do when you feel the heat rising in your face from anger and frustration? Develop your own plan for calming down in advance of troubles. And have the discussion with your family. Use the Family Emotional Safety Plan as a simple guide for that discussion. Also, are there times of the day when siblings tend to fight over and again? If so, proactively institute a quiet time or “brain break” as schools who use mindfulness practices call it. A brain break involves simply sitting down and focusing on breathing to regain your calm. It can become a powerful household tool if parents use and model it too.

Trust that the other person has good intentions. If we begin from a place of blaming and accusation, defensive walls go up on both sides. In order to keep those emotional walls from being erected, we need to trust that there is a good reason behind the other’s arguments.

Start with empathy. When a conflict arises, training yourself to think about the thoughts and feelings of the other involved helps us communicate with compassion and fairness. It can be difficult to focus on empathy when we are in our own heads reinforcing our perspectives and creating new arguments to support our main points. But after a focus on calming down, we are more capable of doing this. You might begin with, “I think you are feeling worried and frustrated and you want me to change my actions so that you don’t feel that way anymore. Is that correct?”

Take responsibility for your role only. Ask “What’s my role in this problem?” and “How can I articulate my role fairly?” You may say “I admit that I didn’t pick up your library book today but I am feeling frustrated because I had a good reason why I did not.” This also helps avoid the blame game. When you take responsibility for your own role in the situation, the other is more likely to take responsibility for his role as well.

Seek understanding. Often we cannot move on from our conflicts because we feel so sorely misunderstood. And at times, though it can be uncomfortable, we miss the chance to gain understanding by not sharing our feelings, thinking it will leave us vulnerable. In fact, it is in the sharing of our feelings that we begin to connect more deeply to the core problem and offer a chance to resolve it constructively. In order to resolve the issue, use “I” message language. “I feel frustrated and mad when you don’t tell me you are coming home late because I’ve worked hard on a family dinner.” And make sure you offer to turn the tables to gain an understanding of your partner’s perspectives.

Work together on an agreement. No agreement is going to work if needs – physical or emotional – are not met. So before finding solutions ask “What needs have to be met on both sides?” Then with those needs in mind, discuss ways you might move forward and resolve the problem.

End with love. This is typically not a possible way to close a conflict if the problem is still there, not truly resolved. But if you’ve heard each other’s feelings and thoughts, worked to understand one another and tried to resolve the problem fairly, then ending with an expression of your love and care is not only possible, it’s likely.

Conflicts are the most rigorous tests of our relationships. Reflect with your partner on your own methods of arguing so that you can ensure you are modeling the behaviors you want your kids to learn. And give your children ample practice with calming down and then communicating with each other in respectful and constructive ways so that when they are on their own in the world, they will carry those critical problem-solving skills with them. If you do, you will feel confident that your kids will be prepared to pursue healthy, sustainable relationships.

References:

1. Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (1994). What makes marriage work? It’s how you resolve conflict that matters most. Psychology Today. Retrieved on 4/27/16. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200910/what-makes-marriage-work

2. Divecha, D. (2014). What Happens to Children When Parents Fight. Developmental Science. Retrieved on 4/27/16 at http://www.developmentalscience.com/blog/2014/04/30/what-happens-to-children-when-parents-fight

3. Elizabeth T. Gershoff, Andrew Grogan-Kaylor. Spanking and Child Outcomes: Old Controversies and New Meta-Analyses. Journal of Family Psychology, 2016; DOI: 10.1037/fam0000191

Confident Parents, Confident Kids Fighting Fair Family Pledge

Fighting is inevitable in families. It does not represent weakness but only reality. I know that the way we fight – what we say, how we say it and what we do – can either deepen our intimacy and strengthen our bonds or create divisions and break down trust. Here is our family commitment to one another.

We, the _______________________ (insert last name(s)) family, will…

  1. Plan ahead.
    We’ll develop a plan for dealing with heated emotions, expressing ourselves respectfully and calming down. Each will create their own individual response and share it with the others in the family. We will respect each person’s plan. See the Family Emotional Safety Plan for a simple template.
  2. Take responsibility for our own feelings and role in the problem.
    Instead of blaming others, we will voice our own feelings. We’ll ask “What am I feeling? What’s my role in this problem?” and “How can I articulate and take responsibility for my role fairly?”
    3. Move to empathy and get curious about other’s perspectives.
    We’ll assume that other family members have good intentions and that everyone can make mistakes. We’ll ask, “What are you feeling? What are you thinking?” Then, we’ll listen with an open mind and heart seeking understanding.
    4. Work together to meet each other’s needs and forge an agreement.
    No agreement is going to work if needs — physical or emotional — are not met. So before finding solutions ask “What needs have to be met on both sides?” Then with those needs in mind, we’ll discuss ways to move forward and work to resolve the problem.
    5. End with love.
    This is typically not a possible way to close a conflict if the problem is not truly resolved. But when we’ve heard each other’s feelings and thoughts, worked to understand one another and tried to resolve the problem fairly, then we’ll end with an expression of love and care.

We, the __________________________(insert last name(s)) family, pledge not to use the following types of fighting that we know are destructive to our loving relationships. They can whittle away at our trust of one another and rock our foundation.

We will not…

  1. Use physical force.
    Whether it’s between siblings or between a parent and child (including spanking), using physical force in a conflict signals that the individual has lost all control and only believes s/he can regain it with physical dominance. Five decades of research shows there are no positive and only negative outcomes when force is used. See the following article for numerous alternatives. Brainstorm alternatives so that children have other options at the ready.
    2. Triangulate.
    We will not talk with one person about another when they are not present. We will go directly to the person with whom we have the problem.
    3. Criticize.
    We will not judge or comment on the character of a person in the struggle but focus our energies and words on solving the problem at hand.
    4. Show contempt.
    We will not use hostile humor, sarcasm, name-calling, mockery or baiting body language. We recognize these all involve some kind of aggression and character attack with the implicit intention of causing harm.
    5. Become defensive or blaming.
    We will not point fingers and use “You…” language. Words like “always, never or forever” will not enter into our arguments since they cannot represent the truth.
    6. Stonewall.
    We will not refuse to listen, shut down the argument or give the silent treatment.

We know that our loving family relationships will continue to grow stronger through our commitment to this pledge.

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Discuss and sign the Fighting Fair Family Pledge with your loved ones. Here’s the printable pdf document! 

On of CPCK’s most popular articles, this was originally published on 4/28/16. Also, published on the Askoka Changemakers’ Blog.

Summertime Playdates

The Benefits, Opportunities, and Ways to Address Challenges

“Mom, can I have a playdate with Tommy?” my son asks excitedly. Why do I feel ancient when I recall that playdates didn’t exist when I was a young girl? But in truth, kids were sent outside to play with their neighborhood friends or siblings and certainly, parents didn’t travel anywhere beyond their street to assist their child in connecting with friends. Our evolution to playdates represents our growing recognition of our children’s social needs.

More than ever, parents realize that play is the vocation of childhood. It’s the central vehicle for learning – a catalyst for kids’ physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. In play, a child is in control of the world he creates, his only limitation being his imagination.

Developmental Psychologist Lev Vygotsky wrote, “In play, a child is always above his average age, above his daily behavior; in play, it is as though he were a head taller than himself.” Children have the ability and urge to create highly advanced pretend play scenarios, both with others and on their own.

In social play, kids practice cooperation, negotiation, inclusion, communication, flexibility and diversity appreciation. In solo play, children can grow their sense of identity and also practice perspective taking abilities as they pretend to be another person.

Pretend play also can serve a significant role in a children’s mental health and sense of well-being. They are able to face the most feared obstacles with the courage of a true hero whether it’s confronting monsters or villains, weapons or diseases, and even injury or death. Through play, they can conquer these fears and show their strength and resilience.

Social and solo play not only contribute to developing kids’ social and emotional life skills but they also contribute to academics. Often imaginative play will include counting (math), categorizing (science) and storytelling (language) among many other cognitive essentials for school-age children. And there is just no such thing as growing too old to play. When adults are creative or engage in any art form, there is play at work.

And if those aren’t enough benefits to convince you that playdates are valuable, here’s yet another, not to be underestimated. Playdates can provide a powerful parent support network. When my son was an infant, toddler and then, preschooler, a group of Moms formed a regular weekly playdate rotation in which Moms attended and enjoyed coffee and conversation while the little ones played. This became an invaluable source of support for our parenting as we discussed challenges, found commonalities and learned from one another differing ways each of us were addressing those challenges.

In the full schedule-laden school-age years, parents can cooperate or take shifts hosting each other for playdates on free summer days or on weekends. This offers a period of time free for the parents who are not on point to host. And when it’s your turn to host, you can create a safe, caring environment conducive to play.

In addition to the many benefits of play for your child, there are some questions that could be asked related to planning and hosting playdates. Some of these may include:

  • How should a playdate be initiated? Do I wait for my child to ask or seek out friends for my child?
  • If I am hosting, should I have ground rules and if so, how should I communicate them?
  • What if the other child I am hosting makes poor choices? How do I handle a discipline issue with another family’s child?
  • If I am sending my child to another person’s house for a playdate, are there questions I should ask in advance? How well do I need to know the friend’s family? How do I make sure it’s safe?
  • Are there rules or discussions I should have with my own child before going to someone else’s house?

All of these important questions and some added tips will be responded to in the following playdate suggestions.

Follow your Child’s Lead.

Who knows why we are particularly attracted to another person and seek out their friendship? Perhaps it has to do with our developmental needs. But it’s impossible to truly predict which peers our child will gravitate toward. So follow their lead! Who does your child talk about at home? That’s a perfect place to begin.

Get to Know the Other Child and his Family.

So you want to create opportunities outside of camp, extracurriculars or school for Tommy and your son to play since he talks about him frequently? But perhaps you don’t know Tommy or his parents. Instead of scheduling a first playdate, schedule a family meet-up. “We’re going bowling this weekend, would your family like to join us?” Or it may be easier to identify a school activity – a summer festival perhaps? – where parents are invited and seek out Tommy and his family to have an initial conversation. Introduce yourselves and express a desire for a playdate. You’ve then laid the groundwork for the new relationship between your family and theirs. After all, if another family is going to trust you to care for their child, they need to get to know you – and vice versa. It absolutely takes a village!

Talk to your Child before the Playdate about Ground Rules
(including playing with one another, not on screens!)

You want to prepare your child for a fun, successful playdate and you don’t want to have to do a lot of supervising and managing during the playdate if you don’t have to. So why not discuss ahead of time the rules that make the most sense? I always begin a conversation about rules by setting the stage and asking, “I’ll bet you are excited to have Tommy over. I’m so glad! What rules do we need to think about for the time he’s here so that you both can stay safe and have a great time?” And then, let him consider or offer options. Write them down to demonstrate that it’s official and important (and to refer back to if you need to do so during the playdate). Be sure to keep rules brief and frame them in the positive. What do you want them to do versus not to do? So one might be, “Keep play safe.” Discuss what that means. Climbing on furniture or more physical play may not be safe. If tempted, then maybe a good solution would be to play outside if the weather permits. Others may include: staying in certain play areas or living spaces (and avoid others); inside voices are the best to use; or bathroom time is for one child at a time.

Reserve Screen Time for Times Other Than When Friends Are Over

Yes, screen time could take over an entire playdate. Indeed, kids will want to play video games with one another or watch a movie. But plenty of screen time takes place when kids are home without friends there. I’ve noticed that children who are used to many hours of screen time take a little longer to figure out what to play when screens aren’t available. But all of those wonderful benefits of pretend and engage in social play are not fully realized if children are on screens during their playdates. Our rule is “Friends are more important than screens.” And we put away devices before they come. If asked, we share that’s it’s our rule to promote more fun, creative playtime. We leave out costumes, art supplies, legos and other imaginative toys (see resource at the end for more ideas!). My son at ten-years-old now only requires blankets and pillows since fort-making has become his latest pastime with his pals. Create a ready environment for play together and children will forget about their need for screens and reap all of the benefits of their social play together.

Partner with your Child to Communicate Rules to his Friend.

You’ve already discussed safety rules with your child. Welcome your child’s friend in and express your happiness that he’s there to play. Get out the rules you discussed and briefly talk about them. Let the friend know that he can come to you if he’s hurt or feels unsafe or for any reason. And then send them off to have fun!

What If Poor Choices Are Made by Another Person’s Child?

If it’s a minor issue or breakage of your rules, offer first that every family has different rules. You might say to both children, “Tommy’s family likely has different rules at his house and so is just learning about our rules. At our house, we don’t play rough enough that things break. We choose to go outside. Let’s work together to clean up or repair the broken item. Then, you can choose – You can continue to play your game outside or pick a different, less-rough game inside.”

If it’s a major issue, in other words, a child is harmed, then calling the other parents makes sense. But placing blame will not build bridges with that other family so if you need to make the phone call, consider how you’ll create a safe space for discussion. Instead of saying, “Your child hit my child. Come get him.”, you might instead say, “We value Tommy’s friendship. There was some hitting today at our house. It may be a good time to just take a break and calm down since both kids are upset. Then, maybe we can try again another time. For today though, could you please come get Tommy?” In that circumstance, you’ve done your best to keep all safe while preserving the relationship. Either the other family or you can make the choice going forward whether it’s important to offer second chances and try another playdate.

Set the Stage for Sending Your Child to Another’s Home:

Ask about House Rules in Advance.

If you have a playdate set with another family, simply ask what their house rules are. If any particular rule is particularly important, they’ll communicate that to you and you’ll be able to discuss it with your child in advance.

Trust Your Gut.

Your gut is yours and your child’s very own internal safety device. Teach them to use it! Since children are learning about their feelings and developing a language to express them, they may more readily be able to identify physical signs of discomfort first. Their tummy may feel nauseous. Practice doing gut checks. If you see an image in the media that is disturbing, ask how their tummy feels. Make the connection between that icky feeling not only as a sign of discomfort but as a sign of danger and to get out of the situation. If children are taught to trust that feeling, they will become more likely to leave a high-risk circumstance. Let them know if they feel unsafe at another child’s house to find a caring adult and ask to call home. Have an easy plan at the ready so that your child knows how to get in touch with you.

If Trouble, Tell a Caring Adult.

To prevent abusive situations, it’s helpful to get to know the other family first. But also, you can coach your child to find safety in an unsafe situation. If your child feels unsafe, she needs to learn to “look for the helpers,” as Mr. Rogers wisely advised. Abuse usually takes place when two are alone together. Though a perpetrator can and often does rationalize his behavior, there is also a clear sense that it’s not acceptable to others. So if your child knows to find a trusted, caring adult to help, they can remove themselves from the dangerous situation. This teaching is in opposition to the old “stranger danger” counsel kids used to be taught. If your child is afraid of strangers, he won’t seek the help he needs. Instead, work on finding a helper. Practice. Can you find a helper when you are at the store together? Ask your child, “Who would you go to?” Talk about it with your child when you encounter another lost child, witness a fire, or see any kind of dangerous situation. If you feel scared, look for a helper! If the person you are with is scaring you, look for a helper!

Discuss a Way to Get in Touch with You.

Send along your name and number in your child’s backpack or even pin it on their clothing so that they can get ahold of you if they need to. Practice making a phone call to you if they have not used the phone. If it’s a first playdate, keep the timeframe short as a trial run so that you gain more trust with the family and the environment.

Though it takes a bit of effort on the part of parents, children will certainly benefit from friend playtime. Look for ways you can connect with other parents too and you’ll reap some of the supportive benefits of growing relationships in your community!

Extra Resource:

Printable Playthings to Stir the Imagination (Many of Which Are Ready Household Objects)

Adapted from original article titled “All About Playdates” published March 8, 2018.

Join Me Tonight! – Helping Kids Find Purpose

Join me at 7:00 p.m. EST tonight for an extra special Parent Toolkit Talk on helping children find their sense of purpose. It’s shaping up to be a lively and rich conversation! Log on to Twitter and search for #ToolkitTalk. If you post to the conversation, be sure and use the hashtag – #ToolkitTalk – so that each comment or question you post feeds right into the dialogue. Looking forward to it!

My Dad’s Support in Finding a Sense of Purpose + Upcoming NBC Chat on Purpose

You might just call me a “poster child” for the topic of parents helping kids find their sense of purpose. My deeply loved but certainly nontraditional career path is a direct result of my parents’ investment in my sense of purpose. And their support of my development occurred at a time coming of age in the early nineties when purpose and meaning as it related to work was far less commonly discussed.

I love the synchronicity of the fact that Father’s Day is this coming weekend and it coincides with an upcoming NBC Parent Toolkit Twitter Chat on helping kids discover their sense of purpose. My Dad facilitated my own development of a sense of purpose and I have such a fulfilling, meaningful career and life because of his guidance, support, and encouragement.

As we face challenges today with teen depression and anxiety, the suicides of beautiful contributors to our world in the news, and worries about our own children, I’m not sure a more important conversation could take place. 

In attempting to find our sense of purpose, we have to ask ourselves key questions and listen carefully and overtime for the answers. Ultimately the big question is “Who am I?” But I recall a college philosophy professor drilling us on that question and snickering to myself about it thinking the answer must be obvious. “What does that really mean?” I thought as an emerging adult. Some relevant and related questions may include:

  1. What work or activities place us in a state of flow, or focused attention?
  2. What do we deeply desire to learn about or in what direction do we desire growing?
  3. How can we meaningfully contribute to the world? What legacy do we want to leave behind?

As a child, I was so fortunate to hear regularly at the dinner table about both of my parents’ focus on meaning and service through their work. That helped lay a foundation for my reflections later. But when I had to select a major in college, I began with the first question. I knew I was in a state of flow when I did art. But then, my peers, teachers and guidance counselors led me to, what they felt, was the next step by encouraging me to next figure out how I could make money through art. Without asking those next all-important questions – what did I want to learn more about? how could I meaningfully contribute to the world? – I came upon a crisis early before even stepping out beyond my senior year. 

My practical side had decided that advertising was the way I could use my art and make money. And when I had a tiny taste of that world through an internship, I could not picture myself in the culture, doing the work. And momentarily, as I cried to my Dad, I wondered whether my four focused years of study were wasted. 

That’s when my Dad wrote down questions for me to consider. He didn’t want me to respond to him. He wanted me to go and be alone. To breath. To create mental space. And to deeply consider what I cared about and what I found meaningful beyond all constraints including the opinions of my friends and teachers. No other peer of mine received this kind of guidance. Yet, it is precisely this support that helped me discover a path to meaningfully contributing in ways that were far beyond my wildest young dreams.

Dad and I – David Smith with Jennifer (Smith) Miller

What I realized about the process of searching for your sense of purpose through my own search is that it is an emerging process, not an instant realization. It’s an awakening and a deepening of your self-awareness that takes time and reflection. No one can do it for you or specifically direct you to your own answers. But they can do what my Dad did for me. He supported me at a time when I felt fragile and confused. He guided me back to myself to discover the wisdom that was already within. And he asked the essential questions to help me get there.

To my Dad who is always reading, How can I possibly thank you for that shaping contribution to my life? I hope you count it as one of your most meaningful contributions and legacies. Happy Father’s Day! I am so grateful.

To my partner and the father of our son, E, who has taken his own extensive journey to find his sense of purpose and is now engaged in his meaningful work by helping others find their meaning in work, I am grateful for you and all of the emotional intelligence you bring to our family.

And to all, happy Father’s Day to you, Dads and/or to the Dads in your lives! We are grateful for the meaningful roles you play in our children’s lives.

I hope you’ll join this all-important conversation next Tuesday evening. Please mark your calendars for this #ToolkitTalk on June 19th at 7:00 p.m. EST, with me and Psychology expert, Kendall Cotton Bronk on the topic of “Helping Our Kids Find Purpose.”

#ToolkitTalk

Exploring Nature with Children at Varying Ages and Stages

Benefits and Simple Ideas for Summer Enrichment

“Mom, come quickly!” E says practically jumping up and down. “There’s a bluejay in our yard!” And this scene has played out over and again but with varying creatures – bunnies, beetles, and butterflies – oh my! If you have a patch of grass outside your door, there’s an opportunity for your kids to explore nature. Take them to a park and no screens, toys or equipment are required for discovery. As spring moves toward summer, it seems we are all feeling “nature-starved” and ready to get out to experience the beautiful weather.

There’s strong evidence that points to a range of benefits for children who get outside and play. In schools, teachers have worried that taking kids outside will result in misbehaviors and a lack of control. But when they’ve tried it out, such as leading students through a park while creating field journals or tending a community garden, they have found just the opposite. Students were more engaged and held greater focus on the learning taking place. (1)

And for families, there are significant benefits for discovering nature together including greater:

  • family connectedness
  • cooperation skills
  • empathy and perspective-taking skills
  • caring
  • sense of awe and wonder
  • motivation to learn (2)

One study compared a group of preteens who spent five days in nature with no screen time with a demographically similar group of preteens at home who engaged in regular activities including daily screen time.(3) That study showed that the children who spent the time in nature after only five days were more skilled at taking social cues including nonverbals and understanding each others’ emotions. That short time spent with peers in nature enhanced their abilities to connect and communicate with one another.

The experience of being in nature, appreciating and discovering and learning together as a family, is an incredibly simple and yet, powerful way to spend time together. You really only need to go for a walk together outside. But sometimes, we appreciate and can use a bit more structure and inspiration. So as we kick off the summer season, here are some ideas for exploration at various ages and stages.

Preschool

Discover Bugs; Play Hide and Peek!

This game involves lifting up and peeking under any and every rock you can find to explore the world of bugs that live underneath. Preschoolers will be thrilled by the pill bugs, worms, slugs and more that are just waiting to be discovered. The nine- and ten-year-old in the photograph below still find it exciting!

Track Animals

Go on a nature walk and look in the dirt for tracks. See if you can follow and attempt to identify various paw prints you see in the mud. And be sure to leave your own!

My son and his friend excavating behind the garage in search of bugs!

Early Elementary

Go on a Nature Scavenger Hunt

Print off one of the many checklists on Pinterest and head to the park or a woods nearby. Some lists are fairly simple and straightforward such as, find a stick, a stone, and a ladybug. Some are more involved such as, find litter, find an animal hole, or find a group of mushrooms.

Plant a Garden

Designate a small spot in the yard to dig up and allow your child ownership over the lot. Help her line the edges with rocks to divide the space. Pick out seeds at a local garden shop and consider all of the requirements for growing – sun, soil, water? Plant, tend, weed and marvel. If you plant herbs or vegetables, incorporate the crop into family dinners and your child can feel proud to have grown what you are eating.

Create a Habitat

You may select a cardboard box or else find a small place in your yard for your child to create a habitat. My son likes to find a perfectly shaded spot under a bush.  Consider what animals might want to live there and what they require to be happy? Will they need a water source? What kind of food will they gather? Help your child make a habitat for a local chipmunk, ant colony or mouse.

Middle to Late Elementary

Create a Nature Journal

You’ll need a few items in order to create a nature journal. Get a blank notebook. Fill a pencil pouch with colored pencils and a glue stick. And pack your camera (or camera phone if that’s the only option) too. Now head to a natural setting. The challenge is to recreate the natural setting in your notebook by drawing, taking pictures of and writing about the different aspects of the habitat you are experiencing. Draw pinecones. Write about the smell in the air. Glue pine needles onto your pages. Imagine getting it back out in the middle of winter. Would your notebook place you right back where you are? This activity can enhance a child’s discovery and appreciation of a place while adding their own creativity to the mix.

Assemble a Nature Art Collage

Go on your nature walk together with an empty bag for collecting. Pick up natural treasures along the way such as seed pods, buckeyes, and flower petals. Then, find a suitable backdrop like cardboard or even, a wood plank. Now arrange and glue (an adult may need to help if a hot glue gun is necessary).

Go “Creeking”

As adults, we can forget or simply underestimate the incredible lure of a trickling stream. You need no instructions for kids here. Just let them go (and make sure their shoes can get muddy and wet!). Skipping rocks, looking for crayfish, and finding fossils are all on the agenda here. In my experience, we have to practically drag our child away when it’s time to leave.

Middle to High School

Identify

Check out a field guide from your local library or bookstore. Find a natural subject that most interests your son/daughter. There are guides for fossils, rocks and minerals, plants, wildflowers, birds, woodland creatures, trees and more. Now head to the park or hiking trails and see what you can identify together. Take pictures or keep a log of your finds.

Camp

Camping as a family does not have to require major equipment or planning. In fact, you can pitch a tent in the backyard or at a nearby nature preserve and enjoy the bonding that occurs because of it. Make a bonfire and share ghost stories. Take a hike. Pick out the constellations in the night sky. Leave your electronics behind.

In addition to all of the aforementioned benefits of getting out in nature with your children, it can have the added impact of calming us down and changing to a slower, more steady pace in contrast to our daily lives. We notice the small details of our surroundings. And we engage in the wonder of nature together. Hope you find time this summer to appreciate nature with your kids and enjoy the many benefits of exploration together.

Resources

Books:

How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature
by Scott Sampson

Balanced and Barefoot; How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident and Capable Children
By Angela J. Hanscom

Supportive Organizations:

The Nature Kids Institute

The Children and Nature Network

Science Kids

References:

(1) Scott, G., Colquhoun, D., (2013). Changing spaces, changing relationships: The positive impact of learning out of doors. Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 17(1), 47 – 53.

(2) Garst, B. A., Baughman, S., Franz, N. K, Seidel, R. W., (2013). Strengthening families: Exploring the impacts of family camp experiences on family functioning and parenting. Journal of Experiential Education, 36(1), 65-77.

(3) Uhls, Y. T., Michikyan, M., Morris, J., Garcia, D., Small, G. W., Zgourou, E., Greenfield, P. M., (2014). Five days at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues. Computers in Human Behavior, 39, 387-392.

Originally published on April 17, 2017.

Diving Into Summer? Check Out: Summer Sanity Strategies

“Mom, what do you really want to do this summer?” my son asked me during our bedtime pillow talk last night. I had to think. I wanted my summer sunshine dreams of lemonade stands, library visits, and creeking at local parks to roll off my tongue but instead, my mind was a-jumble.

In our race to the finish line of school, my head is swimming with work agendas and classroom parent tasks to complete. It wasn’t easy to get my mind quickly focused on summertime fun though that’s precisely the hope of my ten-year-old boy. And as I attempt to, waves of anxiety tend to rush through my veins as I figure out the windows of time in which I can accomplish work during those sunny summer days in the midst of playtime.

I know, though, that if I take some time over the coming weeks to do some collective summer dreaming while establishing some “lite” routines, our summer will be filled with cooperation, shared responsibility, and opportunities for those precious moments of spontaneity — the ones that I truly want to define our summer.

So with that in mind, here are the ways in which we’ll establish a foundation for fun. Perhaps some of these tips will help your household enjoy the summer as well.

Take Time for Sunny Summer Dreaming.

Grab a poster board or newsprint and brainstorm together a list of favorite activities you want to be sure and get in over the summer. Separate into “at home” and “out.” Make sure there are some ideas that can be done as solo play. Hang it on the refrigerator or somewhere you can refer to it throughout the summer. This serves as a terrific way to anticipate the fun of summer and can be an invaluable support for pointing to when your child comes to you bored and unsure of how to spend his/her time. I’ve done this every summer with great success. This summer, my son took the initiative himself without prompting and wrote out thirty-five ideas for summer fun! 

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? Perhaps, you’l agree that getting dressed should happen by a certain time in the morning? Having this discussion can help set expectations for the summer and also provide that sense of stability children can thrive on through routines.

Set Up a Regular Quiet Reading Time.

Sure, you may be out of the house 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 could work, late afternoon or right before dinner. 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.

Create a Simple Camp or Pool Checklist

Is there a place you tend to go daily in the summertime whether it’s day camp or a pool? Make sure you’ve set up your children for success in getting ready and out of the door with ease. Create a simple checklist together of what’s consistently needed. Bug spray? Check. Sun tan lotion? Check. Water bottle? Check. Use a dry erase board and kids can actually check off items each day. It will help them take responsibility for their own preparation and you won’t have to become the summertime nag! 

Discuss Responsibilities and Consider Adding a Job List

Hopefully, your children understand their household responsibilities throughout the year. But anytime there is a transition, it’s a good moment to revisit. And you may consider one added responsibility to contribute to the household that’s age-appropriate since there tends to be more time in the summer. In addition, if you’re child is eager to earn money but too young to go out and get a job, you may consider putting together a list of jobs beyond their typical responsibilities such as, sweeping the first floor carpet for a $1.00. This will add to their practice of taking responsibility for jobs and offer a chance for your child to earn money this summer while helping you out! Consider a time when you do chores and offer that time for all family members to work together. 

For more on establishing household responsibilities with children, check out this article.  And for an age-appropriate household responsibility list, check out this printable!

Talk about Screen Time Limits and Expectations.

Avoid a daily battle or the chance your child might become addicted to screens and not flourish through multiple activities this summer beyond screens. Learn as a family the reasons why it’s important to limit screen time. Focus on the positive benefits of using time in other ways. Then, be clear together about what limits you’ll agree upon. 

For more on facts about why it’s important to limit screen time as well as, a family media meeting agenda and a family screen time agreement, check out this article.

The warmer weather brings about so many opportunities for laughter and exploration together. May your summer be filled with those kinds of magical moments with your children!

Coming Soon! The Mindfulness In Education Summit

Starting Monday, May 28th…

I hope you’ll join me for this upcoming FREE online event! I’ll be speaking with Helen Maffini, co-author of Developing Children’s Emotional Intelligence on Monday, May 28th about Dealing with Anger — for Yourself and Your Child!

Other speakers include Daniel Goleman, bestselling author of the transformational book, Emotional Intelligence and most recently, Altered Traits; Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body, Susan Kaiser Greenland, author of The Mindful Child and Mindful Games and Adam Avin of Wuf Shanti among many others! LEARN MORE AND/OR SIGN UP HERE! 

 

 

 

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