The article begins…
Though the sunshine sparkles through the yellow leaves during these beautiful Fall days, there is less light in the morning and evening. And we’ve been doing this school thing for a few months now. We’ve poured it on and now we are slowing down a bit – tired. My husband and I noticed that some of the routines that used to run smoothly are in need of an update. In particular, we’ve noticed that our son leaves his dishes behind for someone else to take care of, whether it’s breakfast or dinner. He’s picked them up, cleaned them off and placed them in the dishwasher in the past. We know he can do it. But he’s forgetting regularly. And we began to remind him but realized we had down-shifted into nagging. When reminders happen day-after-day, then a parent knows that she’s entered the hamster wheel, a vicious cycle going nowhere. So the question becomes, “How does learning take place? How is change facilitated?”
We informally – Mom, Dad and E, our nine-year-old, sat around one night after dinner and brainstormed solutions. “The taking-in-of-the-dishes seems to be challenging. It’s hard to remember when you’ve got play you are eager to get to. What could help you remember?” I said and we started thinking off all kinds of ways to help him remember with E chiming in his ideas. “I could wear one of those rubber bracelets.” Or “I could not get dessert until my dishes are returned.” We talked about the possibilities of each and how they might work. And finally, he resolved that if we say simply “Dishes.” quietly when he’s asking to leave the table, that’s all the help he needs to remember. And it’s worked exceedingly well.
In addition, my husband and I resolved to be certain and notice when he did his routines without our reminders. So often, we play the “Gotcha!” game as parents. “You forgot this.” “You left that behind.” “You made a mess here.” And because we are so busy focused on the mistakes of life, we forget ourselves to point to the good even though we all tend to forget daily tasks. “Ooops, you are going to have to wear a day-old shirt because I forgot to get the laundry done last night.” is a common refrain of my own.
If you didn’t catch the podcast featuring Jennifer Miller of Confident Parents, Confident Kids with interviewers and PTA leaders LaWanda Toney and Helen Westmoreland entitled: “Notes from the Backpack: How to Raise Confident Kids,” check it out here!
Thank you for your partnership over the past few weeks, National Parent Teacher Association!
What an honor and delight to join the new podcast from the National Parent Teacher Association, “Notes from the Backpack!” Hosts LaWanda Toney, Director of Strategic Communications and Helen Westmoreland, Director of Family Engagement interviewed CPCK’s Jennifer Miller with wise and stimulating questions and even asked several listeners in advance to pose parenting challenges they were facing in hopes of discovering ways to handle them that would promote parent and child confidence and emotional intelligence.
Don’t miss this conversation! Listen to the National PTA’s “Notes from the Backpack; How to Raise Confident Kids”.
For Spanish speakers, scroll to the bottom of the page for the Spanish version of the National PTA’s “Notes from the Backpack; How to Raise Confident Kids”.
“Uuuwwaaaahhhh” I heard from our dining room table and recognized immediately the telltale sign of my son getting frustrated with his homework. “He hasn’t been working that long,” was my first thought. My second was, “this is gonna be a long night.” Children of all ages will experience frustration during homework time. And because we want our children to succeed, our reaction to that frustration might be “oh, come on, you can do it” and also, “dig in, don’t give up, keep going!” But when a child is truly feeling stuck, they may begin to spin their mental wheels getting nowhere. This can lead to a long night of parent-child battles as a parent moves from encouragement to insistence. “You’ve got to get this done!” And the child moves from minor aggravation to giving up. “I just can’t figure it out!”
Research confirms that short breaks help a person’s brain refresh and process. Staring at the page may not produce any new thinking in your child and in fact, staying there when irritated can burn valuable fuel and decrease motivation to put in the hard work necessary to get through the learning process.
But if he walks away, gets some fresh air, or moves a bit, he might feel differently. This small change of scenery can boost thinking skills in powerful ways. He can think more clearly and become a better problem-solver when he returns. He may even gain some new ideas or solutions to his problem removed from the work setting. This functions in the same way that we experience the “shower effect.” Do you get your best ideas in the shower too? Or perhaps your most creative thoughts come when you are driving in the car with no laptop or notepad at the ready? Or maybe when you’ve laid down to go to sleep for the night, your brain starts firing off brilliant thoughts. In order to access our top thinking skills, we require a mental rest. Consider that a short brain break for your child is working with their natural thinking processes to facilitate them, not fight against them.
So although our intention to promote grit and “stick-to-attive-ness” in our children comes from a genuine hope to help them be successful, teaching and promoting brain breaks can help children learn to manage their emotions more effectively while working. And in addition, they may be able to extend their focused attention when they return to work with added motivation from the fuel they’ve gained.
Here are some simple ways to teach, practice, and promote the essential brain break.
Talk about the Brain Break during a regular (non-frustrating) homework time.
Or if homework is consistently frustrating, then pick a non-homework time to talk about how to take brain breaks.
See if you can come up with a few ideas together. What can your child do when taking a brain break? You might ask: “What makes you feel better or gives you comfort when you’re feeling frustrated?” You can share some restorative ideas like walking outside and breathing in the fresh air, doing some jumping jacks or a yoga pose, getting a drink of water, or visiting a favorite stuffed friend. For young children, imitate your favorite animal. Hop like a bunny or jump from limb to limb like a squirrel. For older children, listen to your favorite song or play on a musical instrument. Have your child write or draw their ideas. Keep that paper in your homework location so that when it’s needed, you can remind your child to take a look at what ideas she’s had and pick one. Daniel Goleman’s book entitled “Focus; The Hidden Driver of Excellence” recommends getting outside in nature as one of the most restorative (and just stepping outside your front door counts!). He also writes that checking email, surfing the web, or playing video games are not restorative so avoid those when you are generating brain break ideas.
Discuss school brain breaks.
Yes, brain breaks are key at school too. But does your child’s teacher offer them? Even if they do, they are likely structured breaks for all students and may not serve your own child’s needs at the moment she has them. Help her learn self-management skills by figuring out what she can do in the midst of frustrating moments when she is sitting at her desk completing a worksheet or taking a test. Because mindfulness simply means becoming aware of your body and your thoughts and feelings (and holding compassion for those feelings – not judgement), it can be done anywhere. Your child could count to ten slowly while breathing deeply. Your child could tap each finger on her page individually while breathing noticing the touching sensation. She could wiggle each toe in her shoes noticing how that feels. These pauses can help her bring her focus back to her work.
Set a timer.
Brain breaks should not be long. After all, your child has work to accomplish and especially on school nights, time is limited. So allow enough time to move away and change the perspective but not so much time that your child gets involved in another activity. One to three minutes could be enough to accomplish that goal. Also, put your child in charge of the timer. You don’t want to be the one managing this break. Give your child that responsibility.
Do a dry run.
Practice is important before using it. Include deep breathing in your practice. For young children, try out hot chocolate breathing or teddy bear breathing to practice this important part of the break. For older children, you can merely count to ten while breathing or exaggerate the sound of your deep breathing together. Call “brain break.” Move away from work, breathe deeply, and try out your child’s idea for one restorative practice. This practice will ensure that she is well-rehearsed and can call upon that memory when she’s feeling frustrated and taken over by her flight or fight survival brain.
Notice, remind, and reinforce through reflection.
After you’ve generated ideas and practiced, then notice when you see your child getting frustrated. You might say, “I notice you have a frustrated look on your face. Would a brain break help?” Then after she does a brain break and her homework is complete, reflect. “Did that help you and how did it help you?” in order to maximize her learning.
For parents, teaching and promoting brain breaks with your child can serve as a helpful reminder to us. Yes, we also require brain breaks as we deal with a myriad of responsibilities and attempt to use focused attention with our child, as well as our work, as well as our household and social responsibilities. If you notice you are feeling overloaded with it all, how can you incorporate brain breaks into your own day to help you become more effective? I think I’ll take one…right now.
For Educators, check out this great article on Edutopia on how to incorporate brain breaks and other focusing activities into your daily classroom routines.
Goleman, D. (2013). Focus; The hidden driven of excellence. NY: Harper Collins.
Kim et al. (2018). Daily micro-breaks and job performance: General work engagement as a cross-level moderator. Journal of Applied Psychology. 103 (7) 772-786.
Originally published on February 17, 2019.
The Vietnamese publisher of parenting and self-help books, Thai Ha, is working with QuartoKnows Publishing Group. They will translate the new “Confident Parents, Confident Kids” book into Vietnamese and publish with the original illustrations next year. Thank you, Quarto, Fair Winds Press, and Thai Ha for this tremendous opportunity!
It’s a big week for Jennifer Miller of Confident Parents, Confident Kids as the first two final printed copies were received and… spoiler alert: it’s gorgeous! Thank you, Quarto/Fair Winds Press, Todd Conly, Meredith Quinn, Amanda Waddell, and Tina Wainscott of The Seymour Agency for your collaborative efforts to make this possible!
Watch Jennifer Miller and her son open up those first copies. It’s appropriate that it’s a book about kids’ big feelings and our big feelings as parents! How many big feelings can you tell Jennifer is experiencing in this video? Her son, Ethan is quieter but definitely experiencing some big feelings himself. Can you tell?
Join today and catch my interview with Adam Avin along with interviews on:
Jennifer Miller of CPCK will speak on…
Delighted to post today’s article from author Amy Petrou from Generation Mindful, an organization that supports families with toys and tools for building emotional intelligence, discussing some of the developmental themes of the teenage years and how parents and teens can work together through it all.
As children enter their teen years, they need to adapt in several ways. So too do their parents. Teenagers assert their independence since it is an important part of their journey to adulthood but they still need their parents to play an active role in their lives.
One of the biggest changes in the parent-child relationship is the amount of time your teen will want to spend with you. While they may have seemed quite attached to you before, as they grow older, they will want to spend more time with their friends. Even when they are at home, they may want to listen to music or hang out in their rooms alone.
It doesn’t mean they love you less, but they are naturally more inclined to operate on their own terms and they want more freedom. They’ll also learn to form their own opinions, make their own decisions, and take on more responsibility. While you may have less time with your teen, there are several ways to make that time enjoyable and meaningful. Taking a positive approach to parenting during this period can be very effective in growing a trusting and connected relationship.
Making the Most of Time with Your Teen
Sure, you want your child to see you as a parent and not a best friend but you still want them to know you’re fun and interesting. Talk to them about activities you find exciting or share fun parts of your day with them. Make an effort to do things together even if you don’t have common interests. Watching a game with them if they’re into sports or letting them teach you to play their favorite video game could bring you closer.
At the same time, give your teenager space when they need it. They may not always be in the mood to talk or spend time with you. Instead of taking this personally, allow them to have time alone or spend time with their friends. Remember, they need their privacy just as much as you do.
Helping Your Teen Develop a Positive Self-Identity
Teenagers have a lot to figure out including their very self-identity. Their self-image is often closely tied to the feedback they get from their peers. Therefore, they’ll want to hear about how cool they are from their friends. However, they also value your opinion so make the effort to notice when they act responsibly or with kindness. The way they think and feel about themselves impacts their behavior. Help them develop positive self-identity by:
Finding Ways to Communicate Effectively
When your child was younger, they may have been eager to tell you about every little part of their day. It may have been easy to get them to talk about their feelings while playing games. As they become teenagers, they are likely to be less open, not because they are hiding something but because they value their privacy and independence. You may need to change the way you communicate with them if you want to have effective conversations.
It is a good idea to practice active listening. Give your teen your full attention when they’re speaking and focus on the feelings they express. Repeat the key points back to them. Saying something like “I get the impression that this made you sad” helps you avoid misunderstandings. It also helps the teenager to identify and handle their emotions. Respect their opinion even if you don’t agree with their point of view.
To create opportunities for communication, you’ll need to be flexible. Scheduling quality time is important since it gives your child the assurance that you are available. Taking any available opportunity to catch up with them also allows for meaningful interaction and building trust.
Teaching Teens Responsible Decision-Making
By the time your child enters their teenage years, they will already have some values which they learned from their family, friends, and teachers. However, part of adolescence is about learning to make smart decisions based on personal values. Your child will be faced with choices that test and refine their morals and values. Your teen has a mind of their own, but they still look to you for guidance, even when it doesn’t seem like it.
If you want them to have sound values, you must model the right behaviors. Think about the example you’re setting regarding things like respect for others, honesty, perseverance, and health. In addition, reflecting on ethical dilemmas and leaving questions open-ended offers your teen valuable practice in thinking through actions and consequences. They get an opportunity to practice applying those values to real-life problems they might face.
Teaching Teens About Choices and Logical Consequences
Establishing and following through on rules and boundaries is about striking a balance. Your child needs to make more decisions on their own but if you’re overly permissive, they may make unwise decisions. They often don’t understand how their actions could have lifelong consequences. If you’re wondering about the best way to teach self-discipline, consider the following:
Make the Rules Clear
If your teen knows the rules, they can be held accountable when they break them. Consider getting input from them on rules regarding curfew or having friends over since this can help make them more responsible. It is a good idea to post the rules in an area where they can easily see them.
Listen to Your Child’s Reasoning
As an adult, you know that there are sometimes valid reasons for breaking the rules. Find out why your teenager deviated from what you agreed on instead of acting right away. Maybe their extra-curricular activity really did run late, or they had good reasons for missing the bus. Also, learn about rules together so that you can co-create them with information to back them up. For example, collaboratively researching the science-backed sleep requirements for your teen’s age can help you to agree on a bedtime or curfew.
Ensure the Consequences Match the Action
If your teenager goes to a party even though you told them not to, grounding them may be an appropriate response. However, if they didn’t study for a test and they got a poor grade, that’s a natural consequence. No additional parent consequences are needed but reflecting on it together can help a teen think through what happened and how they might make changes the next time.
How can they repair the damage that they’ve caused whether it’s a broken chair or a broken friendship? Ask them for ideas on how they can mend the relationship and then, support them in following through. This teaches them how to take responsibility for their actions and it takes bravery. Your guidance and support through this process can go a long way in showing them how to make up for their poor choices.
Let the Small Things Go
If your child’s action or belief doesn’t hurt them or anyone else, don’t focus on it too much. If they wear their hair in a way you don’t like, as long as it is not inappropriate for school or another setting, avoid fussing about it. Focus on the bigger issues which really affect their growth and development.
To Sum Up
Guiding your child through their teenage years requires different strategies than those which worked during pre-adolescence. You will need to maintain a balance between learning about, co-creating, and upholding rules and letting your child make their own decisions. Even if it seems like they don’t need you anymore, they do. Use the positive parenting tips outlined here to help you parent more effectively.
Amy Petrou is a content advocate at GenMindful.com, and a mother of two. In her free time you will find her writing on her blog, reading and searching for pottery and paintings to add to her growing collection and searching for pottery and paintings to add to her growing collection.
Generation Mindful creates a tools and toys that nurture emotional intelligence of our new generation. Our goal is to serve as an inspiration for our community to embrace positive discipline mindfully and playfully.
Here’s one of their terrific family games to enjoy time together while building your children’s emotional vocabulary:
Coming up next week: September 23rd through September 27th, sign up for The Mindful Kids Peace Summit for tweens and teens. It’s an online initiative for middle and high schools, providing curriculum to help engage students aged 11 to 17 in social emotional learning, positive psychology, enhanced physical and mental health and wellbeing, and mindfulness. Students learn ways to cope with stress, deal with emotions, and learn about how to contribute to their social and emotional well-being.
Videos will address subjects like diversity, inclusion, communication, kindness, anti- bullying, mindfulness as a tool to deal with stress, learning to interact with others, self-awareness, self-regulation, self-compassion, resilience, positive psychology, collaboration, empathy, and more. Fifteen-year-old Adam Avin interviews many of the pioneers in the mindfulness and psychology fields including Jennifer Miller of Confident Parents, Confident Kids. More than 50 subject matter experts talk, demo, or give a presentation, and in between segments, celebrities speak about their health and wellness, and why mindfulness and kindness are so important.
Schools that register for the summit have access to it throughout the school year so they can watch the 45 hours of content at their leisure. There are videos, lesson plans, suggested activities, projects, and discussion points for parents and teachers to download if they want as well, so teachers, if they choose, can continue an open dialogue with the kids each day.
The Summit is Free during Peace Week, Sept 23-27th. Purchase the Summit for $99 per school if purchased prior to Sept 23rd. Thereafter, the Summit will be $169. Register today!
Mindful Kids Peace Summit 9-2019 Daily Themes:
DAY 1: We Are All One: Diversity, Inclusion, and Communication
DAY 2: Living Together in Peace: Kindness and Anti-Bullying (Stop the Violence)
DAY 3: Mindfulness Matters: Tools for Kids to De-Stress and Cope with Emotions (include Yoga, Meditation, Breathing, Positivity)
DAY 4: Doing Good: Things We Can Do Together to Make the World a Better Place, Interacting with Others, Compassion, and Collaboration
DAY 5: Social Emotional Learning (including Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Resilience), & Positive Psychology: More Mindfulness for Teens, and how Teachers and Parents can help.
Parents consistently say that big feelings – their own and their children’s – represent their biggest challenges in parenting. How can we learn about our children’s emotional reflexes, their born temperament, and how they impact their emotions and choices? How do we know how to support our children’s growing social and emotional skills at each age and stage? And how can we gain confidence that we are parenting in a way that will lead to our children’s success? All these questions are addressed in the new book: Confident Parents, Confident Kids: Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Kids — From Toddlers to Teenager.
Early praise for Confident Parents, Confident Kids:
“With a solid tie to research, this book makes gaining confidence in parenting highly accessible and offers a million small ways parents can promote their children’s success. Where was this book when I was a new parent?”
– Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of Unselfie and The Big Book of Parenting Solutions
“We need parents who use their powerful influence to advance kids’ readiness for our global community. With that in mind, I have advocated for and supported social and emotional learning as fundamental to children’s success. Jennifer Miller’s book is an essential guide for helping parents hone their own social and emotional skills while helping their children do the same”.
– United States Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13), author of A Mindful Nation and The Real Food Revolution.
Jennifer Miller is a world-class expert in how to parent effectively. This book is very informative, and I encourage parents to read and re-read over the years as your children grow up. Miller provides perspectives and practical strategies that will make parenting experiences more enjoyable. They will also help parents to raise happy, caring, responsible, and successful children.
– Roger Weissberg, Leading Scientist in Children’s Social and Emotional Development, Chief Knowledge Officer, Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Endowed Chair, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Education, University of Illinois at Chicago
“I seriously can’t wait to get ahold of this!”
– Katie Goodburn Lewis, Mom and Wellness Entrepreneur
Can’t wait for this fully illustrated book on how to help children learn about their big feelings at each age and stage and promote emotional intelligence in our parenting! Pre-order now! Release day is Nov. 5, 2019!
Help celebrate the countdown — 50 days to publication! Pre-order now and gain an age-by-stage guide on how to promote children’s social and emotional skills from babies to teenagers!
Think we should prioritize children’s #socialandemotionallearning at home? Check out the new book: Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teenagers! Pre-order now!
The 50 day countdown to publication is on! Learn about how to promote your child’s social and emotional skills at each age and stage — and emotional intelligence in dealing with the big feelings that go with parenting. Pre-order now: Confident Parents, Confident Kids; Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teenagers!
Thank you for your contribution to this valuable dialogue about our roles as parents and educators!
© Copyright, 2019, Jennifer Smith Miller. All rights reserved.