You Don’t Have to Be Like Your Parents

How to Change Your Parenting Style

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by Judy Arnall, BA, CCFE

Do you come from a “dysfunctional family?”  Is your ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score so high that you worry about doing the same to your kids? Can parenting habits change in one generation? Yes, you can change your child’s destiny! Many parents with ACE scores as high as 7 has raised children with 1 or less. You can too!

If you were raised by less than stellar parents, here are some changes you can make to become the parent you wished you had, for the next generation that you are raising. You do not have to repeat negative parenting habits with your own children. You can change your parenting style from over permissive or authoritarian, to a collaborative/democratic positive parenting style.

  • Fake it until you make it. Act like the parents you admire. Copy what they do.
  • Start with yourself. Learn to love you. Change self-talk into positive, loving thoughts about how you look, and what you do, and who you are.
  • Learn the language of respectful communication. Take a course through colleges, universities, churches, parent centers or community centers. Learn how to use I-statements, active listening and problem-solving.
  • Learn child development through courses, or books, to help you know what to expect from children at different ages. Only 23% of parents know child development past the infant stage, and it’s essential for parenting.
  • If you were excessively criticized as a child, consciously make the effort to encourage your own children and hold back the negative.
  • If you were not hugged or touched as a child, make a concerted effort to hug, cuddle and hold your own children, even if it feels alien to you.
  • If you were hurt, upset or sick and were told to “buck up, suck it up, or shut up”, give your child comfort by saying “It’s okay to feel what you do.”  And hug, caress and pat your child with non-sexual touch.
  • If you were ignored as a child, respond right away to your own children.  Give focused attention when they need it and even when they don’t. It’s ok to have fun with your children.
  • If your parents never played with you as a child, read, talk with and play with your own children.
  • When you are angry, take a time out. Your time-out. Not your child’s. What need of yours is not getting met?  How can you meet it? Work on your anger first and you will make better parenting decisions when you are calm.
  • Forgive your parents. They probably did the best they knew how at the time, with the resources they had.
  • Know what your triggers and hot buttons are. We all have sensitive areas in parenting, no matter what our background was, and our awareness of them helps us to come up with alternative behaviours and coping strategies.
  • Start looking at your life through the lens of gratitude. Being grateful enriches life.

Parenting, for the most part, is a learned pattern. We can change parenting patterns and develop new ones. When we become aware of our shortfalls and make a conscious effort to change how we behave, we become really good at parenting after lots of  practice. Don’t worry if you make mistakes. Rome was not built in a day. Even with new learned behaviours, in times of stress, we tend to fall back on our old habits. Apologize and vow to do better next time. With renewed commitment, we get better at changing old habits with time, practice, information and continuance. You can change family dynamics in one generation and give your child the healthy gift of less ACES in their childhood.  It all starts with you!

To Register for Kindergarten or Not

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Wondering if you should register your child for Kindergarten this year or next year? If you have a child with a birthday late into the year such as January or February, you could register them this year or next. Should you wait? BTW, the practice of waiting is called “Red Shirting.”

The benefit of registering a child early is daycare savings, and the benefit of registering later are that the child is always in the older section of the class. They can cognitively grasp concepts easier because their brains are developmentally a year older than their peers.

In my twenty years of teaching parent groups, both teachers and parents who have had to make this decision report that it is almost always better to wait. A child may be ready academically such as knowing colors, numbers and maybe even reading, but socially and emotionally, may still be immature. Executive function takes a big leap during the 3-5 years and takings turns, sitting still in circle time, and refraining from hitting when frustrated, all require a certain amount of self-control. Does the child have this level of social and emotional development. If the child can do everything in the photo above, they might be ready. If not, a year can make a huge difference.

How to Raise A Respectful Teen

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There have been a lot of opinions published online lately regarding public shaming of children on the internet and social media, in order to teach kids a lesson and acquire good behaviour. Public shaming is emotionally damaging to children, erodes their self-esteem and shuts down communication. Good parenting involves mutual respect in a loving relationship. Mutual respect is treating another human being as no less and no more than one would like to be treated. If we don’t want to be publicly shamed, we shouldn’t do it to our children. Respect transcends age, race, religion, culture and social status in importance in starting and keeping relationships and that is also the case with child discipline. There is no room for punishment in a respectful parent-child relationship. So what to do instead?

Here are some “don’ts” and “dos” that I have learned over my 24 years of parenting that really work to gain cooperation and increase communication.

• Don’t call your child names or put down her ideas.
• Don’t talk about him disapprovingly in front of other people.
• Don’t make faces at your children, roll your eyes, and mimic them or use words dripping with sarcasm.
You are their leader and model for respectful behavior. As the adult, you must rise above immature responses.
• Don’t use your child’s possessions, break them or give them away without your child’s permission.
• Don’t go into your child’s room, computers, drawers, closets, and snoop. Don’t allow their siblings and others to snoop either.
• Don’t use sarcasm when addressing your child’s behaviour such as “I’m not your slave. Make your own lunch!”
• Don’t punish your child which includes everything from grounding, time-out, withdrawal of privileges, to hitting, fines, and confiscating treasures and electronics.
• Don’t yell, threaten, criticize, belittle shame or punish your children in public, or online, especially in front of their peers.
• Don’t tell them to “Suck it up,” or “Be a big boy,” if they display any kind of feelings that you don’t like.
• Don’t call in the forces and go in full frontal war mode when your child is disrespectful to you. Don’t engage in full power struggle and fight (punish) anyway you can until you win. You may win the argument but lose your connection, communication, sharing and collaboration in the relationship.
• Don’t turn away and let it go when your children are disrespectful. Call them on it by clearly explaining your expectations that everyone is treated with respect (and be sure you are modeling the same). Insist on restitution, apology, fixing the situation to make it better, or any steps you both think might help toward mending that relationship. Do request an expectation from your child that they will work toward change, when both of you are calmer. Set a time to talk.
• Don’t ignore other people’s children when they are disrespectful to you and others in public. It takes a village to raise a child. Confront the child, and later, their parent if there is no change, and insist on civility and politeness.
• Do stay calm as much as you are able to. You need a calm frame of mind to deal with your child. Tell your child, you are very angry, and are going to take a short break, if you need a few minutes to calm down.
• Do confront with your I-statement (“I feel unappreciated when I upgrade your computer and you don’t express thanks for my time and cost.”)
• Do listen carefully to the response, and be truly open to what your child is feeling. Listening and validating her feelings doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. (“You seem to feel upset about the amount of chores you have to do around the house?”)
• Do problem-solve the situation. (“Let’s go for a ‘walk and talk’ and see if we can find a solution that meets both our needs.”)
• Do say, “Please,” “Thank you,” or “I-appreciate…” to your child.
• Do apologize when you make a parenting blunder.
• Do look at backtalk as an opportunity to teach your child assertiveness with appropriate language skills.
• Do treat others, especially people in service roles, with politeness and kindness when your children are watching.
• Do treat your parenting partner with the same respect that you want. Don’t use name-calling, shaming, put-downs, and sarcasm in your words. Do treat their treasures and accomplishments as items that are as valuable and cherished as yours.

In other words, promote respect, be a model of kindness and politeness, and address learning situations respectfully with your children by problem-solving and that old standby, listening. Enjoy the communication that will flow when you practice respectful parenting!

Baby Playtime: How Much is Enough?

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New moms often ask, “How much should I play with baby?”  The simple answer is, “As much as you wish to.”  Babies love faces and the best time to interact with those they love is face-to-face contact times such as bath times, diaper changes, and feeding times.

During those contact times, it helps to sing, talk, tickle, read, make facial expressions and use vocal variety to baby.  Don’t forget to smile.  Babies love facial interaction and they will naturally turn their head away when they have had enough.

Try to give baby some “tummy time” for several minute periods each day.  It helps baby to develop neck and upper arm muscles and it relieves pressure on the head so that the risk of plagiocephally (flat head) is reduced.  Many babies don’t like tummy time, on a hard floor, so it can be helpful to put baby on parent’s chest while parent is lying down on the sofa.  This counts as tummy time.  Also, keep in mind that tummy time can be several minutes, several times a day, instead of a twenty-minute marathon every day.

Baby carriers are a wonderful way for babies to be stimulated and entertained through the day.  Baby watching you make dinner from the elevated view of a backpack is fascinating for him and is just as stimulating for his brain development as watching “educational” videos.

In spite of our society’s intensive push to give early learning to young children, try to avoid worrying about how much stimulation and playtime she is supposed to be getting.  If you enjoy spending time with baby, interacting with your natural enthusiasm, rest assured she is getting enough stimulation!

http://www.professionalparenting.ca (403) 714-6766 jarnall@shaw.ca

How to Handle a Bad Report Card

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The exam results are in!

Your child brings home a bad report card. Your first instinct may be to punish him in order to make him raise his marks. However, will that really solve the problem? We know from research in the workplace, that punishment never solves motivation or performance problems, so why would it work for children?  What can do you do to encourage him instead?  It’s good to keep in mind that a report card is only one “view” of your child. It’s a picture to report to parents what the child is like in school. However, he is a multifaceted learner with strengths and room for improvement in all areas of his life, just as anybody is.  Think of your child’s performance like a three legged stool.  All three legs are required for the stool to function and all perspectives can give an accurate assessment of the child as a learner.

One leg of the stool is from the teacher who is gives an academic skills report. This report should include information on how the child is doing learning subject matter in the four cores of math, language arts, science, social studies, and options. Schools like to report on character and other things that are not academic, but they only see the child participating in an institutional setting with many peers. The teacher does not see the child at home, or “outside of school” social situations.

The other leg is the parent who also gives a report card on two of the most important learning’s: life skills and people skills. The parent can present the report card to the child at any given time. Life skills include chores, money management, organization skills, problem-solving, initiative, responsibilities, health and wellbeing maintenance, and volunteer commitment.  In other words – all the skills that parents witness at home. People skills include sharing, sibling conflict resolution, attitude, listening, assertiveness, and politeness, emotional intelligence at home and out in social situations. Most people with academic and technical brilliance lose their jobs not because of inefficiency in that area, but because of lack of people and life skills.  These are the some of the most important skills to develop.  These skills can be learned and practiced by all children.  Not all children can get an “A” in math, but all children can learn to be polite and organized.

The final leg of the three legged stool is the child. He can self-evaluate and give himself a report card on all three components – Academic skills, life skills and people skills.  This is the most important evaluation and parents and teachers can ask how they can support growth and success for the child in all these areas.

Finally, the parent, teacher and child should discuss where the strengths are and room-for-improvement and come to an agreement on how to go about setting improvement in place.

Education is a journey, and is not a race. The letter or number grade does not indicate learning or self- awareness.  In fact, when children only chase a grade, they can be more prone to cheating and learn nothing.  We learn the best when we fail or make mistakes which over insight and reflection, give us ideas for change. When children make mistakes, ask them “what did you learn from this?”  The ability to self-evaluate, and find motivation to start again is the real learning and the upmost key to success. The Winklevoss twins learned more about life and resilience in their court battle with Facebook, than all those academic years at Harvard.

Parents, de-emphasize the numbers. As a society, we tend to treasure what we measure, but learning can’t be denigrated to a number.  Most of what we do in life that really counts; love, help, volunteering, life learning, and kindness can’t be evaluated by a number, but can be observed, noticed and appreciated.

No one is perfect and we all have room for improvement. Your job as parents is to figure out with your child, how can you pick him up, dust him off and support him moving forward?

Judy Arnall is a non-punitive parenting and education expert.  jarnall@shaw.ca

http://www.professionalparenting.ca

 

Education Options for Preschool Children Ages 3-5

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By the time a child reaches the preschool age of three to five, they have changed in so many ways. Many children are ready to expand their world outside of home and interact more with peers, teachers and other parents.

 

Physically, preschoolers are capable of many tasks. Emotionally, many can control their anger and uncomfortable emotions much better. Socially, they are curious about other children. The element of other people to play with adds fun, creativity, and learning (and sometimes needed conflict resolution) with other children.

 

The cognitive development of preschoolers puts them squarely in the magical/fantasy element of brain development. Their whole world is constructed of “make-believe” which further enhances play with others. They also have enough brain power and self control to understand a few safety limits and to listen to adults a wee bit more than toddlers.

 

Many parents wonder what type of education is best for this age. The answer really depends on the child. Factors that affect this are: gender, temperament, personality, and learning style more than age alone.

 

Gender Differences

 

In terms of gender, preschool boys are still quite active and find it hard to sit, concentrate and participate in circle time. They tend to fidget more when compelled to listen to music, storybook reading or teachers talking. Programs to look for should be active and fun with a high physical component. Preschools with lots of circle time and quiet play should not be the first choice. Girls, tend to love role-playing with toys and make believe play and often can sit longer to listen to stories.

 

Temperament and Personality

 

Temperament is another consideration. For spirited children a small group is less sensory stimulating than a large group. An unstructured type of play environment such as Waldorf, Montessori, or PACT play program would be more suitable. Children decide where and when they would like to explore in these programs, instead of having definite centre times. An easygoing child would adapt more to structured settings such as conventional preschools that have set times for snack, music, and creative play.

 

Introverted children who prefer the company of a parent, home and his own toys may not benefit from structured learning environments. Research shows that some types of preschool help disadvantaged children catch up to what they need to know for grade one. However, for children with a stimulating home environment (homes that have books and toys), early schooling doesn’t make any difference in grade three test scores. If your child is an extravert and his boisterousness is wearing you thin, the excitement of preschool may be what your child is craving.

 

 

Learning Styles

 

Learning styles also play a key factor. Your child’s learning style emerges by the preschool years. A good preschool should mix up their program delivery to accommodate learning styles.  If your child is auditory, then circle time, oral instruction and story listening are their preferred ways to take in information.  If your child is visual, then videos, picture books, and painting/ art should be high on their list. If your child is kinesthetic, then again, a high physical game content is needed with lots of building materials, art supplies, board games etc. as well as a good chunk of playground time.

 

It’s important for parents to keep in mind the developmental tasks of preschoolers. Their job is to explore with all their senses.  Touch, hear, see, taste, smell and move!  Worksheets have no place in preschool or Kindergarten.  Those are the times for learning how to play, get along and have fun.

 

What to Consider

 

New options include all day preschool. If you child tolerates daycare well, then they should be happy to ease into all day preschool. There is not much difference in the level of activities offered to children, but to be funded as a preschool, there may be pressure to add more “academic” looking activities. Parents should be warned though that grade one entrance has no expectations that children should know more than to write their name and use the bathroom independently.

 

Kindergarten is still optional and voluntary in Alberta. It is assumed that in grade one, children are coming with no academic advantage. The grade one curriculum starts at knowledge level zero. Many children who have spent three years in an “academic” preschool may be bored in grade one if they already have covered colours, letters and numbers and have attended all the typical field trips already. In addition, children that have not attended preschool or Kindergarten catch up pretty quickly on the social rules of learning to take turns, line-up and raise their hand to speak.

 

Look for preschools with lots of unstructured toys that are open-ended play value. Sand tables, paint, playdough, blocks, people, houses, cars, trains, building toys, dress-up, puppets, art supplies, are very good toys in addition to a playground. So many families have computers, video consoles and hand held gaming systems at home, that children have ample opportunity to use them at home. Preschools away from home should have more physically interactive toys. At this age, it’s better to paint on paper and build with Lego than to do it on a computer screen. Children need the tactile experience.

 

As always, parents who try out a preschool program should watch their child for signs of discontent. Anxiety, sleeplessness, increased temper tantrums and sibling fighting, moodiness, and eating jags are signs of stress. Give a program two weeks and if signs do not subside, it may not be the right time for a formal play environment for your child. That’s okay, because they have plenty of time for outside the home experiences when they are older.