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School vacation is coming up – How to connect with your child

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment
Kids volunteer project Japan

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I can’t believe it is almost Christmas but it is! Nine more days. If your house is anything like mine, the excitement factor is ratcheting up on a daily basis and with it comes some behaviors that can be, ah, rather trying for us parents!!! So when I read this post recently, I remembered the importance of playing with kids as a behavior improvement strategy.

Playtime with kids is a great activity, as everyone is usually very relaxed and happy after engaging in some play time.  Somehow, however,  there always seems to be something else that has to be done. Housework, calls to be made, emails to be sent, errands to be run, work to be completed – you feel the pressure and just want to get it done! But then a conversation with someone who is older (who has had young kids and been there, done that)  is a reminder of how fleeting this time is.

So to remind myself and you, here are some reasons to just play with your kids
(reposted from Positive Parenting Solutions, as I don’t have much time to write these days!):

1. Creating Emotional Connection: Much of the daily interaction between parents and children consists of “ordering, correcting and directing.” (“Don’t forget to drink your milk”, “it’s time to take a bath”, “stop hitting your sister”, etc.) When parents order, correct, and direct, they are in the “Parent Ego State” and this type of interaction often invites the “fight or flight” response in our kids, resulting inpower struggles.

When parents play on the floor and have FUN with their kids – both the parent and child are operating in the “Child Ego State”. The “child” ego state is where emotional connections are made. It doesn’t require a long time to create emotional bonds – but being INTENTIONAL about spending PLAY time each day with your child in the “child ego state” will do wonders for strengthening the emotional connections.

2. Fewer attention-seeking misbehaviors: When parents play WITH their children, they are PROACTIVELY filling the child’s attention basket in positive ways. Children have a hard-wired need for attention. If parents don’t provide sufficient POSITIVE attention, children will resort to negative behaviors to get it – whining, clinging, helplessness, sibling fighting, etc. When parents implement consistent playtime WITH their children – attention-seeking misbehaviors begin to fall off the radar screen!

3. More cooperative children! As parents fill attention baskets in POSITIVE ways and emotional connection increases, children consistently become MORE COOPERATIVE at other times during the day! When the child’s core emotional requirements for connection and attention are met, he doesn’t feel the need to “fight us” to get negative attention and is more cooperative when asked to do things throughout the day. It’s a beautiful thing!

So play board games, wrestle on the floor (this is our family favorite since everyone can join in), do crafts, play tag or hide and seek, go sledding or ice skating- whatever your child enjoys (and it is even better when you enjoy it too!). There is also a great book out there by Lawrence Cohen called Playful Parenting that focuses exclusively on this topic. I highly recommend the book and will blog about that some other time.

And please let me know if you have any good playtime ideas or anything else to add. I would love to get active discussions going on this blog, so please feel free to comment, comment, comment!! 🙂

 

 

Some more great tips on listening to your child

November 13, 2010 Leave a comment

From Childhood Unbound by Ron Taffel:

1) Pace yourself to be on a similar wavelength with your child. It has been shown that if you mirror someone’s behavior (tone of voice, posture) then they are more likely to open up to you.
2) Don’t interrupt, don’t assume and don’t finish sentences.
3) Try not to immediately fix as in “you are the best, it’s not so bad, etc.”. All such efforts make kids dig in deeper to a negative place and shut you out.
4) Ask concrete questions. For example, the question “what happened then” is powerful for kids because it makes them feel like you really want to hear their story.
5) Help kids tell that story by gently moving them along, without judgment.
6) Stay away from asking why. No one really knows the answer to that question. When, what and who are much better word choices.
7) Sometime after they share something important with you, tell them how good it made you feel…

Listening with Empathy

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment

One of my very favorite parenting books, which I received as a gift from my father-in-law, is Haim Ginott’s Between Parent and Child. It is a classic that was published over 35 years ago (although I just saw on Amazon that his wife released a revised edition some years back).

I have been trying to remind myself lately to really, really listen to each of the kids so that they feel heard. Sometimes that is all that they seem to need. Not for me to solve their problems, but to just listen. I try to practice active listening, reflecting back what the kids tell me, and really trying to understand where they are coming from.

One step further than active listening, Ginott emphasizes the need to empathize with a child when listening. This requires some interpretation andIt is hard to do under stress (I almost find it impossible to do when running late), but when done, it really does connect you with your child in amazing ways. Examples he gives are:

1) Respond to feelings rather than a reported event. For example, if a sister is asking why her brother received more presents, she is likely asking about the love the parent has for her rather than more presents. So a good response would be to ask whether she is wondering if he is loved more than her because he received more presents. Then let the conversation flow and reassure. Or when a child comes home to complain about a friend or teacher or his life in some other dimension, respond to his feeling tone rather than obtain details. It is more comforting for them to be understood and that their feelings are normal than for the parent to devise a solution. So if your child comes home saying he hates his teacher, you could respond by saying emphatically, “you had a really rough day!” and then let him spew.

2) Accept ambivalent feelings. Children can feel two ways about people – e.g., they can love them and be angry at the same time. When we acknowledge these feelings (e.g., you seem to feel two ways about your teacher, you like him and dislike him). Our calm acceptance of these feelings makes them realize that they are understood and that is something others feel from time to time as well.

3) Mirror emotions. Rather than judge an emotion that your child is having (e.g., there is nothing to be afraid of, don’t be sad, etc.), however well-intended, try to just help your child label their feelings. To the child, this will be experienced as very comforting. Once calmed down, the child might be ready to explore solutions. Not only does this convey to the child that you are willing to take the time to understand him, it also teaches him how to problem solve, rather than having the parent do so.