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 on spring break. Clearly, he was experiencing flow – family flow. He lost track of time, deeply engaged in the creative work in front of him. 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 school and in families. Particularly if we are aware of ways we can cultivate those times, they can become our most cherished family 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. 🙂

Promoting Sibling Kindness For All Ages

And Teaching Turn-Taking to Young Children

“My child gets a new toy, shows it off and then rips it away telling her sibling, ‘No! You can’t play with it!’”

“I want my children to feel grateful for her brothers and for their toys and our life together.”

“If one has it, the other one wants it. It’s that simple.”

“I deal with so much bickering between brother and sister.”

“How do you adjust for their ages? How do you not require the older one to always give up something for the younger one?”

“My older son pokes the younger one to taunt her and it gets her upset every time.”

These concerns were the subject of my conversation with a local Mom’s Club yesterday. This group of parents’ biggest worries centered around sibling relationships. And there is wisdom in focusing on the central role they play in our children’s development. In fact, researchers have concluded that sibling relationships are unique from any other in that they can be as influential as both adult-child relationships and peer-to-peer interactions.1 

Further, the frequent and often emotionally charged social exchanges of siblings serve as an impetus for social and emotional development as young children work to establish their status in the sibling relationship and their niche in the family.2

Though the trend in family size shows decreasing numbers, in 82% of U.S. families with children under the age of 18, there is at least one sibling.3 Researchers consistently find that siblings do serve as role models with younger siblings tending to imitate older siblings more frequently than the reverse.4, 5 How parents foster sibling relationships and treat all members in a family can help shape that influence on their children’s social and emotional development. Roles and identities in a family begin to take shape early and can have an impact on a child’s sense of confidence and ability to achieve. 

Siblings can become competitive with one another, fighting over possessions, or achievement status, or Mom and Dad’s attention. But they can also foster greatness in one another. An older sibling can protect a younger sibling from household dangers. And sisters and brothers can play in ways that build social and emotional competence as they take one another’s perspective, negotiate the melding of their imaginations and create worlds together. In addition, they can work toward understanding how to be in close age relationships in healthy ways working through problems together, healing hurts, forgiving, and showing love for one another.

There is much parents can do in small, simple ways to cultivate sibling kindness. One of the most important can be cultivated as habits of thinking. You might consider:

  • How do you talk about your gratefulness for each family member and for your good life together?
  • How do you take notice of positive, kind behaviors between and among siblings?

Though it may seem obvious, regularly discussing gratitude helps cultivate grateful thinking in our children. And while we may get daily doses of negativity from social media or other sources, we may have to become more intentional about voicing our gratitude for our lives with one another. Picking a time of day in which to do it consistently helps cultivate the habit. 

In addition, do you point out when you see siblings getting along, working together? We may tend to quickly pour our coffee and breathe a sigh of relief when our children are playing at a peaceful hum. And though you don’t want to break that peace-filled play reverie (nor do you need to), take note to say a word about it later. “I notice that you and your sister were building a fort this afternoon as a team working together. I just love seeing that!” Those simple recognitions will go a long way toward promoting more of the same.

In addition, sharing toys and dealing with possessions in a family can become a regular challenge particularly with young children. How does a parent deal with the issue of sharing so as not to prioritize one over another and to teach valuable social lessons?

Parents can keep in mind that toys are not simply entertainment vehicles for children as we might tend to view them. Instead, they are tools for development. And as such, they play a critical role in a child’s life. This is not to claim that every toy is critical but all toys can be viewed as having the potential to support learning. So when a child is heavily engaged in playing with a toy hammer working hard on his fine motor skills and its taken away, it’s no wonder he cries in anger and upset. Parent enforced sharing can easily become a power struggle and sends the message that your child’s learning is not sacred and important but can be shifted to the other child in a moment’s notice.It does help to establish a simple, clear rule about turn-taking and also, to practice turn-taking as a family.

Here are some helpful tips for teaching turn-taking with young children!

  1. Establish the “Do No Harm” Rule.

In other words, play can be acceptable as long as each individual stays safe and respects the safety of the toys or tools and the household environment. As long as people or things remain undamaged, then children’s play can continue. If harm is caused, guide each child to repair harm. See more on this important topic below.

  1. Put Away the Most Sacred.

Perhaps there is a single teddy bear, in our case, Betsy Bear, who is beloved. When we have others over for playdate or even if siblings are playing together with toys strewn about, we are careful to put Betsy Bear away in a safe place in the closet. After all, that one toy would cause great upset if she were to be harmed. We don’t put away multiple toys but each child can have one very sacred toy that can be theirs alone to keep safe and away from the playing area.

3. Practicing Turn Taking.

Young children can benefit from a number of opportunities to practice. Not only does it help them at home, but also it prepares them for interactions in playgroups and eventually in preschool. Practice at dinnertime with the whole family and be sure and model the behavior first. “Momma is taking a turn with the salt shaker. Once I’m finished, I’ll let Daddy have his turn.” Then, just before going into a time of day when play is taking place, remind of your practice. “Remember how we took turns at dinner. Let’s try that out today.”

Here are various fun games that can easily be played at home that could involve turn-taking. Some are quick and some are more elaborate. 

Ball play – kicking or rolling the ball back and forth

Hide and seek – take turns hiding and seeking each round

Bake – make something yummy and take turns measuring and pouring ingredients

Hopscotch – take turns hopping down the numbers

Vehicle Obstacle Course – create an easy obstacle course on your driveway for their bikes. Use cones or sticks or stuffed animals that they must ride around. Maybe they have to pick up a stuffed animal on the other side of a series of rocks. This can be easy and fun!

Music Making – Put on some music and get out one instrument to play with it. Allow the siblings to take turns banging the drum or humming on the kazoo to the music.

4. Take Time to Address Upset.

If fighting occurs, take the time required to help each child calm down. Perhaps they need to seek a comfort item like a blanket or a quiet space. When all have had a chance to calm down, then focus on feelings. Reflect back what you thought you saw. “You seemed mad and sad when your brother grabbed your toy, is that right?” “Brother, you seemed angry at your sister for not giving the toy to you. Is that right?” 

Emphasize that we are all learning how to play together cooperatively. Do not place blame. If a child needs to repair harm of a broken toy or broken feelings, help him or her do that. Then, focus on how all can feel better. Talk about comforting activities. Will drawing help? Will a walk outside to get fresh air help? Change the playthings and if you can, the environment to recreate the energy and start fresh.

Here are some helpful tips for encouraging sibling kindness at any age! 

1. Conduct an Attention Audit

To children, our attention is a reward. What do we reinforce each day through our attention? Also, is one child in particular receiving more positive or negative feedback? Ask yourself the following questions to raise your awareness about the balance of your encouraging, supportive comments versus your critical ones. Go through these questions for each child and then, consider how your attention may be perceived between siblings.

  • What are typical daily comments I make in relation to _______________ (insert family members) behavior?
  • How many of those comments are about problems I observe?
  • How many of those comments recognize positive contributions?
  • How frequently do I comment on that particular problem behavior? (twice a day, weekly?)
  • Does the behavior truly harm the child or others or property? And if so, how can I facilitate a behavior change by modeling or coaching? If not, how can I let it go?

2. Model Sibling Kindness

How can you practice being kind to one another? Practicing turn-taking with toys is certainly one way. But when your family is spending free time together, how can you model kind behaviors you want to see in your children? Can you demonstrate helping behaviors from one child to the other? One way to model with young children is to show them how to act  kindly, for example, by putting away another child’s toy. And then, taking it the next step, by asking if the child might teach her favorite doll or bear how to treat their sibling kindly. Watch as she plays demonstrates gently putting another toy in its place.

3. Notice and Reinforce Sibling Kindness

Children will reproduce behaviors that we name and recognize – whether positive or negative. Look for even small acts of care between siblings and call them out. “I notice you held the door for your brother. That was a caring gesture.” Make discussions of spotting kindness a regular part of your dinner conversation recognizing any family members small acts. Children will learn that it is a family value and will begin to notice more themselves as well as, replicate the behaviors you are paying attention to.

4. Set a Positive Goal.

During a family discussion, identify particularly challenging times. For example, “It seems like right before dinner when we are tired from the day and hungry, we typically get into arguments about using screens or which toys should be shared.” Take a moment to share ideas on alternatives for those moments. Ask, “what could we do instead to get along during that time?” Then, set a positive goal. You might decide, “We will work as a team to help prepare for dinner so that we can move toward eating quickly.” If you begin a playtime with a goal of collaboration, children are much more likely to focus on solving problems and working together. Just before entering those challenging times of day, be sure and provide a helpful, gentle reminder. “Remember our teamwork goal.”

5. Support Siblings in Repairing Harm.

When damage has been done to a plaything or a person, a child needs to learn to take responsibility for the harm caused by working to repair it whether physical or psychological. Parents can lead a child through this process and teach the invaluable skill of responsible decision-making. When Joey breaks his sister’s Barbie doll, Mom can work with Joey to repair it. But in addition to the physical repairing of harm, Joey may have hurt his sister’s feelings. So Mom could ask Joey how he thinks he could help his sister feel better. Asking your child how they might repair hurt feelings helps him think through alternatives. He may offer his sister a hug or help her with a project she’s working on. However he chooses to help, the parent can support  Joey in following through. This prepares siblings with practice so that they can be prepared to make things better on their own during playtime.

Sibling relationships do play a shaping role in children’s social and emotional development. There’s much parents can do to create a home culture that fosters kindness. By simply focusing on recognizing and promoting care between brothers and sisters, children are much more likely to regularly show loving kindness to one another. 

 

References:

1. McHale, S.M., Updegraff, K.A., & Whiteman, S.D. (2012). Sibling relationships and influences in childhood and adolescence. Journal of Marriage and Family, Sept. 24.

2. Dunn J. Sibling relationships in early childhood. Child Development. 1983;54:787–811.

3. King et al. (2010). Integrated Public Use Micro-data Series, Current Population Survey: Version 3.0. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. 

4. Brim OG. (1958). Family structure and sex role learning by children: A further analysis of Helen Koch’s data. Sociometry. 21:1–16.

5. Abramovitch R, Corter CM, Lando B. (1979). Sibling interaction in the home. Child Development. 50:997–1003.

Stop, Think, Go! Problem-Solving Practice for Your Family

If you have a problem, don’t muddle through.
Here’s a simple rap about what to do.
Stop, calm down before you act.
You’ll think more clearly – that’s a fact.
Say the problem and how you feel.
Set a positive goal (and try to be real).
Now for some “brainy” contributions,
make out a list with lots of solutions.
Slow down, though, and use some sense
‘cause you gotta consider each consequence.
Now if you’ve done your thinking and you’re planning ahead,
you can face your problem with a little less dread.
So knowing you’ve done everything you can,
go ahead – try the very best plan.

– Terri Kazmier, New Haven (CT) Middle School Music Teacher

“He messed with my stuff while I was gone. My Lego set is broken. Moooooooom!” cries Zachary about his brother. Sibling rivalry is a common family problem. Mom could fix it. “Go help your brother fix his Lego set.” Or she could help her children learn valuable skills in problem-solving. These opportunities for practicing critical life skills happen daily if you look for them. And especially in the warmer days with spring break through summer break, your children may be home more often with conflicts emerging. Collaborative problem-solving is not one skill alone but requires a whole host of skills including self-control and stress management, self-awareness of both thoughts and feelings, perspective-taking and empathy, listening and effectively communicating, goal setting, anticipating consequences and evaluating actions.

Roger Weissberg, one of the top leaders in the field of social and emotional learning and Chief Knowledge Officer for the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and my mentor, ongoing collaborator and friend agreed to share the Traffic Light model that he and his colleagues created at Yale University with the New Haven Public Schools. The Social Development Project affected the lives of countless children, drawing from one of the lowest income communities in the country. Students learned, practiced and used these skills in role-playing and real-life settings over and again making the development of these social skills a part of the culture and expectations of that school system.

In addition to using this model to promote problem-solving between students in schools, it was also used for discipline purposes. If a child’s behavior merited an in-school suspension, then those children spent the time reflecting on the problem, how they felt and what actions they chose, a successful alternative to detentions and suspensions. They brainstormed ways they could act differently. And they created a positive plan for how they might act the next time they were in that situation. You too can use this as a discipline tool in your home. When your child has acted in a destructive way – either hurt someone’s feelings or property – spend time reflecting on what they did and the impact it had on those around them. Then ask, “What if you made a different choice in that same situation? What choices do you have? And what would happen as a result of those actions?”

Dr. Weissberg writes that this promotes “consequential thinking.” 1 Children begin to think through the consequences of their actions prior to choosing how to act. And that kind of thinking promotes responsible decision-making. This New Haven Public Schools training was used to prevent high-risk behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy and violence in the adolescent years. Imagine if your children were engaged in developing these skills prior to that time of high peer pressures. They would be ready and prepared with well-rehearsed tools when they are tempted by their friends and you are not there at that moment to protect them.

The beauty of this model is in its simplicity. Hang up a picture of a traffic light or print out the following one-page handout from Dr. Weissberg — Social Problem Solving Curriculum Traffic Light by Roger Weissberg et al. or use my illustration as a reminder. 2 Try this out first as a game when there’s not a problem. Role play through it. Make it fun and dramatic. Adults can stand and be the stop light. Call out a problem or better yet, have kids call out a common problem they have had. Children can run toward you, the stop light. Hold your hand up and signal “Stop!” Everybody can breathe loudly to emphasize the practice and add to the fun. Now on yellow, place your hand straight out and kids can take gentle steps standing in one place while you talk through the yellow light steps below. As they become adept at the game, ask them to tell you what the yellow light steps include. Have them think out loud. Now put your hand down and announce, “Go!” They can run forward and then, try out their solution. Here’s the process.

RED LIGHT
Stop! Calm down and think before you act.

No problem-solving is going to occur, no feelings repaired until all involved calm down. So take the time you and your child need to calm down. Breathe! You can use easy-to-use teaching methods to help kids practice deep breathing such as bubble blowing, ocean wave or teddy bear belly breathing (see “Understanding Anger” article for descriptions of each). Take a moment for some quiet time in your own spaces. Then…

YELLOW LIGHT
Caution. Feel. Communicate. Think.

Say the problem and how you feel.

Parents can model this by saying, “I am feeling frustrated that you and your brother are arguing. How are you feeling?” It helps to have a list of feelings at the ready so that if your child struggles with coming up with a feeling, he can pick one off of a list that best represents how he’s feeling. This practice alone will expand his feeling’s vocabulary and he’ll be better equipped the next time to be in touch with and communicate his situation. I’ve listed below this article three resources for feelings’ lists.

Now, set a positive goal.

Before moving to “Go,” have your child think about what they want for themselves and the others involved. The goal may be as simple as, “I just want to get along with my brother,” or “I want to keep my toys safe.” Weissberg writes that setting a positive goal for kids simply means “How do you want things to end up?”

Think of lots of solutions.

Before jumping to one solution, think of lots. “I could hide my Legos where my brother can’t find them.” “We could agree to ask one another before playing with the others’ toys.” “We could promise to repair anything we break.” Involve all who were a part of the problem to generate solutions. Children who understand there are many choices in a problem situation are less likely to feel trapped into making an unhealthy decision but can step back and examine the options.

Think ahead to the consequences.

Parents can ask, “What if you tried hiding your Legos from your brother? What might happen?” Think through the realistic consequences with your children of their various solutions – both long and short term. “It might work tomorrow. But what happens when you forget in a few weeks and leave them out on your bedroom floor? Then what?” This is a critical step in helping children think through the outcomes of their choices before making them – important practice for later problems when the stakes are higher.

GREEN LIGHT
                                                                                                                

Go! Try out your best plan.

Maybe your children have agreed to ask one another before they play with the other’s toy. Try it out right away. See how it works. If it does not work, then talk about it and make slight adjustments or decide on another plan altogether that might work better.

Parents can use logical consequences in concert with this model. For example, if Zachary has harmed his brother, then he can generate solutions to repair the relationship. He may offer a sincere apology. He may spend time fixing the broken Lego set. He may help find a place to keep the Lego set safe. Children need parents’ support in repairing harm done. They need to know that there are multiple options for not only repairing a physical object but also, repairing hurt feelings. So brainstorm options together and help kids implement them.

Family meetings can be an ideal time to use this Traffic Light model too. Bring a problem to a meeting that concerns everyone. Select a fairly low stakes problem for the first one to raise at a family meeting. Gain practice with the model and with all family members collaborating on a solution. Watch as your skill as a family progresses and you are able to bring hotter issues to the table.

One positive goal I have set for my own life is to not have regrets. Acting impulsively, making quick unexamined decisions can certainly lead to regret so I particularly appreciate that this Traffic Light model includes examining consequences before acting. These are skills I hope my son will cultivate so this season, as the weather gets warmer and we can run out on our driveway, we’ll be practicing our “Stop!,” “Think,” and “Go” as we work through heated ten-year-old issues. “E has the coolest crayons. I want them!” We’ll laugh together and learn together. And I’ll feel great about how I am giving him skills that will last a lifetime.

* A big thank you to Roger Weissberg for sharing his model and for his excellent work that has positively impacted countless parents, educators and children alike. You can learn more about Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) by visiting their website.

Feelings Vocabulary Lists

How are you feeling today? Poster by Jim Borgman

Children’s Feelings List from the Children’s Center, University of California, Santa Barbara

Feelings Inventory from the Center for Nonviolent Communication

References

1. Weissberg, R.P., Barton, H.A., & Shriver, T.P. (1997). The social-competence promotion program for young adolescents. In G.W. Albee & T.P. Gullota (Eds.), Primary prevention exemplars: The Lela Rowland Awards (pp. 268-290). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

2. Weissberg, R.P., Jackson, A.S., & Shriver, T.P. ( ). Promoting positive social development and health practices in young urban adolescents. In M.J. Elias (Ed.). Social decision making and life skills development: Guidelines for middle school educators (pp. 45-77). Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publications.

Originally published March 5, 2015.

Spring Road Trip Cooperative Games

We’re going on a road trip, a road trip, a road trip.
We’re going on a road trip to see what we can see!

We typically venture out on a small road trip during spring break taking advantage of the freedom and warmer weather. It’s tempting to hand a child an iPad and allow the video games and programs to fill the idle time. Then I think back to my own road trips as a child, sometimes thirteen hours in a non-air-conditioned car, and of course, with no handy portable device to fill my time. I recall being happily consumed with my crayons and a sketch pad. I filled every single page with drawings of sand castles, mermaids and sea creatures anticipating our vacation at the beach. But now, my son, who is so used to easily accessible entertainment and high level stimulation, seems to require more than just that trusty old sketch pad. But engage him with a family game, and he is delighted to play.

The following car games can offer ways to connect as a family and build cooperative skills all the while enjoying your time together. It can set a collaborative tone preparing all family members for a positive adventure together.

Cooperative Storytelling
One person begins a story with a main character and a setting. Start with a few juicy details – “One day a giant sea turtle named Freddy sauntered down the isle of a grocery store looking for his favorite potato chips…” and then pass off the story to the next person to fill in what comes next. Offer a few sentences and then continue to pass the story along with each family member contributing key details to move your adventure forward. In my experience, the stories that emerge from these games are a joy and delight with surprises around every corner! Our family loves this game!

Where in the World Guessing Game
“Where in the world is E?” we ask and E begins to describe his surroundings. He picks any city, community or habitat in the world and offers details about the attributes of his environment without naming it and we have to guess the place.

Creature Guessing Game
Similarly, one person thinks of a creature. All of the guessers ask questions of the individual with a creature in mind. “Is it small, medium or large? Does it live in the forest? Does it eat plants or animals?” When you have enough details, guess the creature. Go around and give each person the chance to think of an animal.

Name the Face
See if you can express an emotion with only your facial expression. (This could be tricky for drivers!) Think of the emotion and perform the facial expression of that emotion. See if others can guess what you are feeling.

More, More!
Select a category such as ice cream flavors, popular songs or amusement park rides. Call out as many different kinds as you can until you’ve exhausted your list of ideas. This offers practice in brainstorming, a valuable skill used in coming up with solutions to a problem.

Cell Phone
Do you remember the old game “Telephone”? Think of a sentence. Start simple and make them more challenging as you go. Whisper it into the ear of another family member. Each person whispers to the next person exactly what they heard whispered in their ear. Have the last person say what they heard aloud. It’s ideal if you can go quickly and try it a couple of times. Then you are able to see if listening and communication improves with practice and focus.

We Write the Songs
Pick out a family favorite song – one that everyone knows. Now select a favorite animal (your pet?), place (your school?) or person (your best friend?). Change the words of the song to describe or tell the story of that creature or place. Make sure all family members have the chance to contribute. Practice and sing it with gusto!

Radio Story
Turn on the radio. Listen to the first station that plays. Is it a song or a commercial? Now cooperatively tell the background story of the song or commercial. How was the song written? Why was the product developed (if a commercial)? What story does it really tell? Make it imaginative, the crazier, the better. None of it should be based on real facts. Each family member can add details to your radio backstory.

Social Dilemmas
Tweens and teens are often fascinated with social dilemmas since they are dealing with more complex social issues regularly. This may interest that age group. One person offers a social problem such as a friend wants to get on the highway with her friends and drive out of town without telling anyone. What do you do? Or an animal is about to get run over by a car in the road at the same time your toddler brother is running down the street. What do you do? These can offer interesting ethical considerations and turn into involving conversations. The trick for parents is to remain in open-minded dialogue mode, offering ideas and not criticizing.

Try out these road trip games or create your own and watch the time fly past as you laugh and creatively, cooperatively play with your family. Happy adventures!

Resource:

Our Grandma Linda sent us a gift this Spring that we’ve started to use at our Sunday night family dinners entitled And Then, Story Starters, 20 Imaginative Beginnings. It’s a book-size deck of cards, each with its own riveting story starter. These prompts offer rich details from which to build and could be of great use if you want to try the cooperative storytelling and would like help in getting started.

 

 

Originally posted May 26, 2016

Household Responsibilities – A Defensive Conversation and a Productive Conversation…

And Tools and Tips!

It’s a Sunday afternoon. Mom and Dad have decided that at ten years of age their daughter, Molly, could be taking more responsibility for her contributions to the household. They attempt to set the stage. Mom puts out a snack for family members. She grabs a clipboard, paper, and marker to create a list together. And all family members sit down for a reasonable discussion. And it begins well. Mom says, “I’ve noticed you consistently making your bed in the morning now after we talked about it a few weeks back and that’s great. That’s exactly the kind of contribution we want to encourage. We thought, since you are getting older and more capable, we’d look at all the ways you can contribute to our household.” Dad agrees, “Yes, we’d like to help you be successful in taking care of your belongings.”

And then, it happens. She leans back in her chair – as she often does while eating meals – and her snack dribbles down onto the floor. Dad, witnessing this, says in a frustrated tone “Lean! You’ve got to lean!” which is a refrain he utters frequently at dinnertime as the dining room carpet becomes dotted with food crumbs. Mom and Dad watch Molly’s face as the red hue seems to advance from her chin to forehead. And that’s it – conversation over. She springs out of her chair and off – up to her room.

Perhaps this is a familiar scene to you. Though Mom and Dad attempt to communicate as a team, your child may feel outnumbered. Though you may approach the conversation with the best, most constructive intentions, defensiveness may creep up and when it does, your chances of influencing your child’s behaviors are slim to none. It may end in a power struggle. It may end with scolding or yelling, crying or silence, and certainly with frustrations on all sides.

Yet the importance of these discussions throughout your child’s development remains. Yes, they’ll grow more and more capable of taking on responsibilities that they could not attempt in previous years. And not only do you want to make sure that the tasks get accomplished (and you don’t turn into the family nag) but also, you want your child to internalize the desire and skills associated with taking responsibility. So the question becomes, how do you help a child learn to take increasing responsibility for contributing to your household?

There are numerous ways. And I’ll share those tips and helpful tools too. But first, I’ll share the second, far more successful attempt this family took with the responsibility conversation later that day. After Molly stormed to her room, Mom and Dad refilled their coffee (yes, this was a necessary next step!) and sat down to talk with one another about what worked, what didn’t and formulate a game plan.

They framed some aspects of the conversation really well. The snack and sitting together was nice. The clipboard ready for their plan was helpful. Recognizing the ways in which Molly already contributed was key. And Molly seemed pleased and responsive to that recognition. They weren’t scolding nor were they acting like they were starting from scratch. She had a history of positively contributing and her parents were noticing those contributions. But the minute Dad shifted to scolding, the power dynamic changed. Before the comment on leaning, there was shared power. But after, there were sides – the parents versus the child. So the team approach they were trying for failed. As Mom and Dad reflected on this, they talked about how to sustain shared power throughout the conversation. How can we approach Molly so that we invite her feedback and ensure that she’s heard, understood and given a voice and a choice to take ownership of her contributions?

When ready, Mom and Dad went to her room. After ample cooldown time, they asked if they might talk with her again. Mom and Dad sat down lower than Molly to visually show that they were not attempting to dominate her in this conversation. Dad apologized for the nagging and said this was precisely why they were talking about this – so they wouldn’t be tempted to nag her about anything. “How can you decide on the ways you can contribute and we agree as a family?” they asked. “And how can you find ways to remember so that we don’t have to nag?”

Molly was eager to find a way not to be nagged so she helped with creating a list of ways she could take more responsibility. They went through each idea and discussed how she would remember in the moment. The ideas all came from Molly. For leaning over her food at the table during meals, Molly wanted to make a little reminder sign that read, “Please lean” with a smiley face. (Clearly, she wanted a friendly reminder!) And she put a pillow behind her to push her forward in her chair. For screen time limits, she was going to set a timer and shut down the iPad when the timer buzzed. For each responsibility, Molly figured out a way that she could remember either with a sign or an alarm. Mom, Dad, and Molly ended their family conversation with the agreement to work together to make signs and set alarms to get her prepared to be successful.

And so far, Mom and Dad report it has been highly successful (true story!). Molly is keeping up with her chores. And Mom and Dad are making sure to notice and share their appreciation for her actions when they see those helpful behaviors.

Engage intrinsic motivation.
Children and adults alike are intrinsically motivated by feeling a sense of autonomy, belonging and competence. Contributing to the care of your family’s home can meet all three of those needs. As you formulate ways to discuss, consider engaging these forms of motivation to help internalize a sense of responsibility.

Understand developmental appropriateness.
At each age and stage, there are tendencies or trends that align with and can serve as helpful motivation for contributing to the care of your home and family. For examples, four-year-olds love jobs they can do. It makes them feel big and competent. But they may struggle with clumsiness and will have short attention spans. Remember that each time they contribute, they are in training for a lifetime of contribution. Give them short, quick tasks for which they can be successful. For young children, allot more time and make it an enjoyable part of their play. Here are some wonderful cleanup songs you can use to send the signal that it’s clean up time. Making a daily routine of clean up can help ensure success. The following is a printable chart that lists various developmental milestones at particular ages that can support your efforts to involve your child in household responsibilities along with some ideas for task readiness.  Household Responsibilities by Age/Stage Printable Chart

Collaborate as a family team.
Do you notice you gain energy for the work ahead when others are digging in alongside of you? It’s true for kids too. Don’t assign and then, kick back and watch. When it’s time to clean up, when it’s time to do laundry, or whatever the chore, family members who work together will get chores accomplished together. Children will feel a greater sense of motivation to contribute if you are working right alongside them.

Authentically empower.
Be sure you allow your child to take responsibility for a task and complete it themselves. Don’t go behind and fix it if you feel it’s not up to your standards. This does not offer a child the sense of satisfaction of completing a task. And if there are a number of tasks, make a checklist so that your child can check off each when completed.

Be sure your child is adequately prepared to load the dishwasher or set the table. When introducing a new responsibility, try interactive modeling as a way to teach your child how to contribute. We, as parents, often forget that children are still learning many ways of doing things that we take for granted. Interactive modeling can be a way to ensure you are doing what you can to help your child learn the actions necessary to meet your expectations.

From author Margaret Berry Wilson’s book, Interactive Modeling; A Powerful Technique for Teaching Children, we can learn from this simple seven-step process that teachers use in schools. 1

1. Say what you will model and why.
2. Model the behavior.
3. Ask your child what he noticed.
4. Invite your child to model.
5. Ask what he noticed with his own modeling.
6. Practice together.
7. Provide specific feedback starting with strengths using “I notice…”

The following is an example of how this might look between a parent and child. Be certain and pick a time to do this when you do not have time pressures.

1. You might say, “Watch how I play waiter. You can try it after me!” You could wear an apron like a waiter might or put on a name tag.
2. Now set the table as you would like it and as your child watches and you go through the motions, be sure to notice any areas that may pose difficulties for your child such as getting out and placing knives at each place setting. Address those directly. “Since the knives can be dangerous, I’ll do that part of the process each night and you can do the rest.”
3. Ask, “What did you notice when I was acting like a waiter?”
4. You might say, “Okay, your turn to pretend to be the waiter.” Dress him up in the apron and name tag to maintain the fun.
5. After he plays his role ask, “What did you notice when you did it?”
6. Now practice it together. Don’t skip this! It’s important that your child gets the chance to work alongside you while cooperatively going through the process.
7. In providing feedback, be specific and start with strengths. “I noticed you handled the silverware carefully. Terrific! When you put the napkins down, be sure to count so that each person gets one.” If you share too many issues, your child might tune out so pick your top few areas for improvement only.

Brainstorm solutions to challenges.
If you find yourself in a position similar to Molly’s parents where they were hearing themselves regularly nagging to get tasks accomplished, then go back to the drawing board. Brainstorm solutions to specific challenges to eliminate nagging. For more on brainstorming solutions with your child, check out this article.

Recognize and celebrate but don’t bait.
It’s critical to notice and point out when your children are contributing. This may seem insignificant but your words can have a reinforcing effect so that they are much more apt to continue the positive behavior. “I notice you put away your dishes without my asking!” is all you need say. If your family team accomplishes a larger project, going out for ice cream, watching an enjoyable movie, and simply doing a family team cheer can further celebrate your hard work.

Many parents and teachers use reward stickers or charts to guide home contributions trying to incentivize work. Others pay for chores through an allowance or a pay-per-task. Though it may seem an easy solution, it does not help children internalize their role as a caring family member and contributor. It does not send the message, “we contribute to the care of our home because we are part of this family.” Instead, it serves as bait and sometimes may not be enticing enough to keep the motivation high. I tested this with my own son on three different occasions. We brainstormed a list of regular responsibilities and additional ones that could be done for payment. Consistently the ones that were on his regular responsibilities’ list were accomplished and he didn’t touch the other ones. Why? Play was far more important on his agenda. “At any age, rewards are less effective than intrinsic motivation for promoting effective learning” states Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards; The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes.2 Why not engage their intrinsic motivation for feelings of autonomy, belonging and competence and work with them on the skills and processes necessary to internalize that sense of responsibility?

You will be teaching your kids how to be a substantial contributor in a family. And that will serve them on school projects, collaborative teams at work and in their own roles as parents someday. It will take patience. But rest assured, practicing responsibility at home is practice for a lifetime of caring contributions.

References:

  1. Wilson, M.B. (2012). Interactive modeling; A powerful technique for teaching children. Turners Falls, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.
    2. Kohn, A. (1999). Punished by Rewards; The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes. NY: Houghton Mifflin.

Live Today – Common Sense Parenting Talk Radio Show

Jennifer Miller of Confident Parents, Confident Kids joins Dr. James Casale on the radio talk show, “Common Sense Parenting.” Join us today, Thursday, March 15 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on W4WN Radio.

We plan to discuss when parents can begin building social and emotional skills in their children and how and what skills parents may need to build in themselves to become more effective with their children. We plan to touch on relationship skills and bullying plus much more! We’ll talk caller questions and hope to have a rich discussion.

Dr. Casale is a former school principal in Florida who is the author of multiple books including “Family Pledge.” He focuses on parents as children’s first teachers and role models and how they can create a culture of learning in their family life. I can’t wait to talk with him!

If you miss today’s show, a recording will become available in future weeks on iHeart Radio. I’ll be sure and share the link! Hope you can join!

On Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global… “Preventing Your Children’s ‘Me Too'”

How do we, as parents, prevent child abuse and harassment?

The “Me Too” movement got my mental wheels churning, as it has for so many. I began wondering, “What can we, as parents, do to prevent our own children’s ‘Me too’?”

Particularly if we have been through harassment and felt that pain and vulnerability, we may fear for our kids. But unless we turn that fear into constructive action, it will not assist us in empowering them with the knowledge and skills to keep them safe. Because harassment or abuse can often go unreported, it’s impossible to truly understand the scope of the problem. But there are some facts we can know and understand. Don’t miss the full article on Thrive Global with specific steps parents can take to prevent abuse. 

 

 

 

All About Playdates…

The Benefits, Opportunities, and Ways to Address Challenges

“Mom, can I have a playdate with Tommy?” my son says excitedly after school on most days of the week. 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 actually 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 social and solo.

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 become 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 after school 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 children 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 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 science fair, a math night – 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 used; 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 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 or find a way 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. 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)

On NBC Parent Toolkit… “Do Adult Arguments Help or Hurt Our Children’s Learning?”

The short answer is – it depends! Learn more about the distinction between arguing to win versus arguing to learn. Think about your own dialogue with friends and family in person and on social media. Learn specific ways you can argue for learning while simultaneously promoting this constructive form of dialogue with your child.

Here’s how the article begins…

“Recess is no fun anymore!” my ten-year-old son laments after school. I listened, surprised, knowing that recess is an essential time to get fresh air and stretch those muscles that have been atrophying in desk chairs all morning. “How come?” I ask. “We always play football,” responds my son, “and everyone argues and then no one plays anymore. We just walk away.” “What do they argue about?” I ask. “Everything!” says my son. “Who gets the ball. Who lost the ball. Who scored points.”

Even though it’s disappointing to hear from my son, it’s not surprising. We watch competitive arguing, or arguing to win, in our national political debates and on social media. So our kids see examples everywhere for entering conversations with the sole intent to win.

But are these examples doing a disservice to our kids? Are they setting them up for difficulties in school and in their relationships? Read the full article on NBC Parent Toolkit! 

 

 

 

New Podcast Interview on Solo Parenting Life…


I was delighted to talk with Dr. Robbin Rockett, a licensed clinical psychologist, who created a podcast series offering targeted support for Moms and Dads who are parenting on their own called Solo Parenting Life. Dr. Rockett is raising three young children on her own and wanted to help others in a similar position. From dating, finances, stress management, parenting, and co-parenting, Dr. Rockett talks with experts, therapists, and authors to offer guidance. I talked with her about parenting with social and emotional intelligence. In our conversation, I recalled my own big feelings that arose as my toddler son lashed out and how I learned to step back, reflect, and plan for emotionally intelligent responses when challenged. We also talked about challenges through various ages and stages and Dr. Rockett shared some of her own parenting challenges and solutions. I hope you’ll join us for this enriching conversation!

Here’s Dr. Rockett’s introduction to our conversation:

One of the biggest fears many parents face is the fear that we are not preparing our kids for the “Real World.” Life skills are difficult to teach, but they are so important for our children to be successful. The official name for this vital skillset is “Social Emotional Intelligence,” or the ability to navigate social problems with empathy and self-respect. I am excited to begin to dive into this topic with Jennifer Miller today. Jennifer is the founder of Confident Parents, Confident Kids, an online compendium of resources all about parenting children with a high Social Emotional Intelligence. She is quite the expert on the topic, and today she will share practical examples as well as encouraging stories showcasing exactly why we should be prioritizing Social Emotional Intelligence in our parenting.

After realizing there really was not a simple, research-based resource for parents on Social Emotional Intelligence, Jennifer set out to create one. She used her own personal struggles as well as her informed perspectives to write articles and offer up tips for parents. When her son was very young, Jennifer noticed she had quite an emotional response to his misbehaviors. Rather than being content with these feelings and challenges, Jennifer armed herself with knowledge and changed her parenting to model and reflect Social Emotional Intelligence. I think Jennifer’s approach is admirable, and I know you will be encouraged by her stories. Rather than hiding the struggle, Jennifer embraces the process of slowly developing the skills that will set her son up for an incredible future.

You do not have to be ruled by the fear of failing your children. Thanks to Jennifer, you have resources at your disposal to help you develop Social Emotional Intelligence with your kiddos.

Listen to the podcast here and explore Dr. Rockett’s site and other podcasts too! 

Much thanks to Dr. Robbin Rockett for this opportunity!

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