It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in the movement there is life, and in change there is power.
– Alan Cohen
How are you going to teach your children social and emotional skills? How can you, the responsive, reflective, continuously improving parent, incorporate one new strategy to support your children’s learning and development? Trying to do the best for our kids can feel overwhelming. We may ask, “Where do I start?”
This Spring in this season of rebirth, Confident Parents, Confident Kids issues a challenge. The following are twenty-five ideas for teaching, modeling, practicing and reinforcing critical skills in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision making and relationship skills at home. You have the opportunity to pick one and make it happen consistently in the months of March, April and May. Make yourself accountable by posting a reminder note in your calendar or on your refrigerator. Tell your partner and a friend. If you want to make a change or improvement in your life, it helps to have support. If you know others are aware of your goal, you’ll not only have their reinforcement but also their watchful eyes to ensure you are focused in your pursuit. Try one challenge for the next three months and then write in and tell us about it. As you watch emerging buds on the trees and the green of Spring appear, create some new life in your own family by trying one of these ideas. Share your story and I’ll share it with our readership!
1. Write or verbally share real or imagined stories of your child and include positive attributes of his/her personality and character. For more, read Story of Self.
2. Use “I notice …” statements with your child and point out specific strengths that she demonstrates.
3. Expand your family’s feelings vocabulary. Brainstorm together as many feelings as you can think of and write them down. Then when discussing a problem or upset, pull out the list and use it to pinpoint your feelings.
4. After an upsetting situation, work with your child to help him or her identify and articulate his/her own feelings. For more, read Parent Private Investigator.
5. Renew yourself for you and your family. Prioritize 15-20 minutes of quiet solitude per day for reflection. Become more self-aware through this daily mindfulness experience.
1. Be mindful and present with your children for a pre-determined time slot each day. Find fifteen minutes to immerse yourself in play. For more, read Play and a Happy Holiday to You.
2. Use a constructive strategy consistently for dealing with anger when upset with your children or spouse. (i.e. Go for a walk; Go to a safe, quiet space; Breathe or listen to calming music).
3. When you need access to more patience in a frustrating situation with your children, take time to breath out loud in front of them.
4. Be proactive about your child’s fears. Pick one fear and work on easing their worries this month by seeking out children’s books that deal with the topic in a constructive way (Learn more about sharks and the purpose they serve in the ocean for example.) and read them with him/her. For more, read Boo! Common Fears and How to Help Children Deal with Them.
5. Practice waiting with patience with your children when the natural opportunity arises and it makes sense. Begin with a short waiting period (one minute? five minutes?) and then work on extending the time. For more, read Strategies for Teaching Self-Control.
- Practice respecting others’ ideas. If you choose this as a goal, make a point of thoroughly listening to others’ ideas and asking clarifying questions or making empathetic comments in response. Save any critical comments for a later time (and use the three-to-one rule, three strengths to one area for improvement).
- In a disagreement, work on articulating the other person’s perspective before sharing your own.
- Stop yourself before you criticize a group of people. Do not pass stereotypes on to the next generation. Find something empathetic to say instead.
- Identify someone in your close circle (family, friends, neighbors) with whom you often disagree. Each time you know you are going to encounter that person, think about their perspective. As you hold more empathetic thoughts, you are more likely to improve your relationship.
- Find one service opportunity in your school, community or immediate neighborhood. Is there an elderly person who can’t leave the house? Bring a bowl of soup and good conversation and include your child in that process.
Responsible Decision Making
1. Find opportunities to allow your child choices. Give them full decision making power in an area you feel comfortable. Talk over consequences of choices including the impact to other people and give them valuable practice in reviewing the outcomes and making responsible choices.
2. Practice creative idea generation. When faced with any kind of problem, don’t skip to a solution right away. Ask your child, “What else could we do to address this?” Try to come up with a number of creative ideas before pursuing one.
3. When reading with your children, discuss decision making. Ask “Why did the main character make that choice? What happened as a result? And what would have happened if he had chosen a different path?”
4. Before you make a decision for yourself, talk about why you should or should not do something and allow your children hear you work through the potential outcomes and consequences.
5. Use more open-ended questions with your family. Allow the questions to help explore new paths of thinking and see where they lead. For more, read Are Questions the Answer?
1. Practice good listening skills. With your children, act out what poor listening looks like. Laugh and have fun with it. Then show what good listening skills look like. Make a pact to try out these skills each night at dinner.
2. Use paraphrasing (summarizing what a person says) when someone is upset to ensure that you truly understand what they are thinking and/or feeling. And teach your children how to paraphrase as a useful listening tool.
3. Disconnect to connect. Make a commitment to the family being together (you determine how much and when) – for dinner or before bedtime to enjoy one another without electronic distractions.
4. Add “I love you no matter what happens.” to your routine when speaking to family members before bedtime on days when there are disagreements or problems. For more, read Unconditional Love and Attention.
5. Begin using “I” Statements as a regular way of communicating with family members. Teach your children how to use them for effective communication when problems arise. For more, read The Comeback Kid.