Giddens School MLK March 2013, Photo By Casey Moot
As a social worker, I thought I was pretty aware of the various “isms” that run deep in our society, from outward acts of discrimination to institutionalized oppression. As a Jewish woman, I am also part of a minority group, but not one that is visible from the outside. As I moved toward marriage and parenthood, I specifically chose where I lived because I wanted to be part of a diverse community. I thought about how I would teach my children about various cultures and religions. I chose Giddens School for preschool through elementary grades for my children specifically because of their diversity and social justice mission. I thought about how I would pass along my own culture and those of our extended family to my children. I was going to raise children who saw everyone as equal, regardless of race, religion, sex, gender, ability, marital status, family structure, and socio-economic status. I was ready to help the next generation create a new world where everyone was valued for who they were as an individual.
What I didn’t realize was that I had a huge blind spot. When my oldest daughter was about three, she was in her first year at Giddens School preschool. We drove by a mural of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. every single day on the way to and from school. One day, as we were driving by, she said, “my teacher is black like Martin Luther King, and so are some of my friends in my class.” I answered, “Yes, you are right, they are all black.” She then went on to count each person in her class that had skin that was dark brown, light brown and pink skin, and after that, moved on to categorizing by hair color. I thought, wow, this makes total sense. One of the earliest ways babies and young children make sense of their world is by sorting. As a matter of fact, there are thousands of toys you can buy based solely on sorting by color, shape, and size. While we had answered questions about different cultures and religions, we usually focused on what was the same, what different cultures shared. We certainly didn’t want to spend time on difference, because we hoped our child would grow up free of seeing what is different, especially around race. Yet, my child had been working this out for herself, likely for a long time.
Four Year Old's Sign for Martin Luther King Jr. Day March at Giddens School
By six months, babies find differences in skin color and gender interesting, and will focus longer on images of people of different gender and skin color than their own. While looking at the images longer does not indicate a racial preference, it does mean the babies were noticing something different (Katz, 2003). So why hadn’t we been talking about difference? Did I really believe that not pointing out difference would keep my child from seeing difference? And, did I really not want her to see difference? The answer to both of these was NO! Suddenly I saw that scene in from St. Elmo’s Fire in my head, with the old lady whispering the word cancer, as if whispering it makes it less real.
Soon after, I had a name for my blind spot. Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman had just named it in their new book Nurture Shock. Like them, I had been unknowingly subscribing to Diverse Environment Theory, the belief that just being a part of a diverse environment and regularly exposing your children to different races and cultures was better than talking about race. Their theory, and my mind, went on to say, let’s not draw attention to race so that our kids grow up viewing everyone as the same.
Once I understood my underlying false assumptions, it was amazing to me that I had missed it. I had spent so much time reflecting over the years on my own experience of society, what privilege I have, what hurt I had felt being a part of a minority group, how my privilege impacts those I work with and so on. I had a background in child development and work with families and yet, here I was with a semi-truck size blind spot on this one. Here’s the thing though, you can’t change what you can’t see, and now I was ready to do something different. Luckily, the teachers at my children’s school were having the conversations with my three year old that I was not having yet. I was now ready to join in and add more depth to exploring diversity as a family.
Many liberal Caucasian parents have found themselves in the same boat. In fact, 75% of white parents never or almost never talk about race, while non-white parents are three times more likely to have had discussions around race with their children (Brown, Tanner-Smith, Lesane-Brown & Ezell, 2007). For families that are part of a minority or marginalized culture, these conversations may come up regularly as family members experience subtle or not so subtle oppression because of their race or culture. No matter our life experience, there are concrete ways we can facilitate our children’s awareness and maybe even increase our own along the way.
Giddens School MLK March 2013, Photo By Casey Moot
Notice and Ask Questions. Since we know our kids are noticing differences and categorizing from the time they are babies, we need to take the lead and add to their understanding. When looking at picture books, feel free to use descriptive words to talk about skin color. Talk about all of the varied shades of human skin. If we don’t use the words, our children get the idea that they shouldn’t as well. Talk about differences in bodies, abilities, and family structure when opportunities present themselves. Explore the different clothing worn by people around the world. The more comfort we have in talking about these things, the more our children will as well.
Acknowledge and Answer Questions. There’s the moment all parents fear, our child loudly says, “He’s fat,” or asks, “Why is she in a wheelchair?” while in line at the grocery store. The natural instinct is to shush our child. We don’t want to draw more attention to the situation; we don’t want to hurt feelings. Many parents don’t know what to say in those moments. However, our attitude in those moments conveys a great deal about our own beliefs. If your child is pointing and staring though, you can let them know that sometimes people feel uncomfortable when we point at them.
First off, acknowledge that your child has noticed something. “You noticed that his body is different than yours,” or, “You notice that she moves around in a wheel chair instead of walking.” You can then say, “Each person is unique, and it looks like you might have some questions about that.”
When answering questions, use non-judgmental, descriptive words such as “that woman is Asian,” or, “Yes, he uses a cane to walk.” This helps build their diversity vocabulary. If you are unsure of what to say in the moment, you can let your child know that you would like to think about it and continue the discussion at a later time.
Exposure Still Matters. While simply exposing our kids to diverse environments is not enough, it is still a critical part of raising culturally and socially aware kids. Besides, this exposure becomes material for having meaningful discussions with our children.
Food and music are both great ways of introducing our children to different cultures. Eat at restaurants with cuisine from other countries or visit museums that have exhibits on different cultures. If you ever find yourself in Greensboro, North Carolina, be sure to visit the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. This museum is built around the Woolworth lunch counter where four students began a journey that changed our country. Our oldest was five and was immediately deep in thought as she processed all she was seeing. She spoke up in our tour group and said to the guide how much she had learned about what she was seeing at her school in Seattle. Both the guide and the rest of the group were amazed at her level of understanding of civil rights in America.
Giddens School MLK March 2013, Photo By Casey Moot
Many cities have cultural centers and celebrations for a wide variety of groups. My own family enjoys visiting the wonderful Festál Cultural Festivals that take place at Seattle Center throughout the year. We get to hear music, see art and visual performances, and try out new foods. More importantly, we get to spend time with people who may be different from us and learn from each other.
Take a look at the toys and books you have in the house. Are they all representative of your culture or the dominant culture? Dolls with different skin color and toys from different parts of the world add to your child’s understanding of diversity and allow space for conversation.
Children’s books are another fantastic way to explore diversity, both similarities and differences. Young children love looking at faces, so books with all different types of people in them are usually a hit. As children get older, historical fiction and biographies can deepen their understanding of diverse people throughout history. While these may bring up challenging questions, your honesty and openness will help your child understand that we have to know our history to know where we want to go in the future.
Here are some of our favorite books around cultural awareness:
Whoever You Are, by Mem Fox
I'm Like You, You're Like Me: A Book About Understanding and Appreciating Each Other, by Cindy Gainer
All The World, by Liz Garton Scanlon
The Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss
Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, by Peter Menzel &Faith D'Aluisio
Addy American Girl Historical Fiction Series
Josefina American Girl Historical Fiction Series
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney
Rosa's Bus, by Jo S. Kittinger and Steven Walker
As parents, we tell our children that ignoring problems does not make them go away. We talk to them about facing challenges, because that’s how you grow. This is one area where we need to really walk our talk. Conversations about diversity can be hard. We have to face the fact that horrible injustices took place long ago and still take place today. However, if we want our children to continue making the world a better place, we need to help them get the language and understanding they need to do so. So let’s challenge ourselves as parents to open the door to questions and conversations that do just that. These discussions will have a huge impact on your child’s ability to make sense of their world and continue building a world where we respect all human experience, not just our own.
I was recently reading a piece that a business management expert wrote about being a good leader and boss. As I read this short bite in insight, I realized that all of the principals and ideas that he presented apply to success in parenting.
In working with clients over the years on navigating challenges at home with their children I cannot count the number of times a mom or dad has said to me, “I do all of these things in the work place and am very successful at it. But for some reason I did not connect the way I communicate with my employees/boss as the same way I might speak to my children.” This blog post is a twist on what Lex Sisney wrote about on “How to Give an Order” on his website Organizational Physics.
How should you give an order to your child?
It’s pretty easy actually. Don’t.
Instead of thinking that your role as parent means having power over your children, think instead of having power with them. (Note: This idea comes up in Positive Discipline a lot when they talk about working with children versus doing to children.) Put another way, the order shouldn’t be given by you to them but should come from a shared awareness of the situation itself. For example, let’s say that you have company coming over and toys need to be picked up and beds made. Your child comes into the kitchen and you bark out an order, “Get back to your room to clean up your toys and make your bed before our friends get here. Go!!”
Fast? Yes. Effective? No.
Why isn’t that effective? Because every time you issue an order to your child you deplete your reserve of authority and you also deplete their reserve of power. Authority is the authorized right to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to something. Clearly, a parent has more authority than their children. But, like an artesian well with a fixed amount of water, each time the parent draws upon his or her authority, they take some water from the well. If they keep being “bossy” and playing the authority card, that well will soon run dry and they won’t have any authority left at all. Yes, you have authority over our kids. But when you over-play the authority card and issue orders like, “Clean up your room because I said so,” you are already doomed. Your kids might listen to that once, maybe twice, but soon their reaction is going to be, “So what? You can’t make me. In fact, I think you’re meanie.” And if you try to revert to even more authority, then the relationship with our child is only going to deteriorate faster to where you’re constantly issuing orders, following up, and then feeling exacerbated and frustrated that those orders are not instantly followed. I think I can safely say, based on my own experience as a parent and as a family coach, that most parents would prefer being happy and highly effective to being exhausted and unhappy.
Remember, each time you draw on authority, you lose a finite resource. So use it sparingly and only in emergencies.
The other thing that happens when orders get issued is the “orderee” feels a loss of power. Power is the ability to exercise self-determination, creativity, and to help and/or hinder a situation. And children are starving for it because, quite honestly, they have little to no control or power over most of their lives.
Here’s an example: Think of the last time you were issued an order by an authority figure? Wasn’t your reaction something like, “What a jerk that guy is. He’s not even seeing the situation clearly. Idiot! I wish that I were in charge and then I’d show him.” Now whether you or the authority figure was right, or the orders were right, is not the point at all. The point is that instead of thinking creatively and objectively about the problem and finding breakthrough solutions, you reacted negatively to the act of being given an order itself. You felt less powerful and if you did follow through on the order, didn’t you do just enough to meet the letter of the law versus exercising your full creative power?
So, each time an order is given, both the order-giver and the order-taker lose. The order-giver loses authority and the order-taker loses power. The best way to give an order is not to give an order at all. Instead, make sure that respective accountabilities are clear and then draw out the facts and viewpoints on the situation itself so that the former “order-taker” naturally creates and accepts their own order and follows through with self-determination and creativity. Let’s go back to the scenario where you have company coming over and you need your child to clean their toys and make their bed. Instead of an order like, “Go clean your room now!” It is a mutually respectful dialogue on the situation itself:
Parent: “So the last time I walked by your room I noticed that your bed was not made and your books were on the floor. Does it still look that way?”
Child: “I put most of my books on the desk.”
Parent: “What do you think we need to do to get it ready before our friends come over?”
Child: “I don’t know, put stuff away.”
Parent: “Anything I can do to support you?”
Child: “Yeah, can you help me with my blankets? They are all the way off my bed and I cannot lift them up”
Parent: “You got it. I will be up in a minute to help with that. What can you do with the rest of the books on the floor until I get there?”
Child: “I can put the rest of the books on the bookshelf.”
Parent: “Great, let me know when you have that done and I will be up there right after.”
It’s obviously a simple dialogue but the right spirit is there. Will they actually clean their room? Who knows. Nevertheless, their chances of getting the room cleaned in a timely manner are significantly higher than if the parent was barking orders. The child has their power intact and is thinking and acting in a creative and self-deterministic way and the parent isn’t depleting their authority to get it done.
On occasion, GROW Parenting will answer reader questions on our blog. We choose questions based on the issues we frequently hear about from families we work with. In today’s post, I answer a parent’s question regarding a child who loves to entertain and needs some guidance around when he can do that.
Dear GROW Parenting,
Well, it turns out I've raised a Class Clown! My 2nd grader is more interested in entertaining his friends than paying attention in class, in gymnastics, and in after-school activities.
There are worse problems to have of course, but it's becoming an issue more and more often. It's not so much what he's doing, but the fact that he doesn't know when to quit. Any good exercises for self-control or paying attention to what's going on around you?
Thank you for writing to us with such a great question! Sounds like you have a creative and outgoing son who just needs a little coaching on when and where it is appropriate for him to share his talents. While his humorous approach may be causing problems for him, this is a wonderful opportunity to help him build his self-control and self-discipline skills.
The first step in helping our children learn to regulate their behavior is to help them gain awareness of the thoughts and feelings that are motivating those behaviors. It can be very challenging to stop a given behavior when we are not yet aware of why we are doing it.
One of my favorite strategies for helping children draw awareness to their thoughts and feelings is to play a game called Freeze. Here’s how it works:
When you guys are home, introduce the idea of anyone being able to call out freeze. Everyone has to stop talking and still their bodies. Then have each person “notice” what is going on around him or her. You might notice that the room was loud. A sibling might notice that they can't get their brother's attention. Your son might notice that he is feeling really happy. In the beginning, the goal is to just get people practicing the concept of freezing and noticing, without any judgment as to whether what they notice is right or wrong.
As this game is being introduced, I would play with it in a fun way. You could say, “I want to teach you this new way that any of us can stop a situation that feels overwhelming or stressful. Anyone in the family can say freeze and everyone has to stop what they are doing for a minute. We will say one thing we notice about the situation.” Be sure to really make it a game as you introduce it. Tell your son to get as silly as he can and see how quickly he can stop his body/voice when someone says freeze. Reverse it and you act silly, loud, crazy and he gets to yell freeze. Make it fun and silly.
As you get more practice, add some feeling words to the description of what is happening. You could say, “It’s loud in here and I feel overwhelmed.” Help your son name his feelings as well. His feeling may be "I am so happy, it’s hard to sit still.” It’s ok if his feeling in the moment and yours don’t match up. The idea is to just build this skill of being able to notice what we are feeling in ourselves and what those around us might be feeling.
As he gets better at describing what his feelings in moment, you can now begin to have deeper conversations about feelings. Sometimes we are so frustrated with our child’s behavior, that we overlook the feeling behind it. It may be helpful to share with your son that all feelings are ok, but we need to be mindful of when and how we express them.
Some great questions to spark conversation are: What are the appropriate ways we can express our feelings? Are there places and times that are better for acting on our feelings than others? Could he plan a regular silly time after school? Would he like to have friends over for a stand up comedy show, or do one at recess? The one that might help him the most in the moment is what can he do when he has the urge to do something but it’s not the right time? Maybe he can write a word or two down so he can remember his silly joke at recess and tell friends then. The more you invite his ideas, the more likely he is to recall and use them in the moment.
Our long-term goal as parents is not to rid our children of the habits that bother us, nor is it to decide which feelings are acceptable. Instead we can focus on what skills our children need to manage their behavior.
The goal of playing freeze is really about helping your son:
- Notice his feelings and desires in the moment.
- Be able to stop and reflect when he is feeling them.
- Assess when a good time to express those feelings and desires might be.
- Still get to do the things that he enjoys but find a way to do them at an appropriate place and time.
Thanks again for sharing your question with us and we hope your little comedian continues to find joy in making people laugh. Laughter is one thing we can all use throughout life!
Yes, we all do it. We make them say, “I am sorry” even when they are not. Or maybe they just don’t understand what there is to be sorry for. Regardless, over and over I hear parents tell their kids to say, “I’m Sorry”. And when kids just parrot “I'm Sorry” like they are told many times, the next request is to “say it like you mean it”. Are we just asking them to be better liars? Why do we do it?
There are a handful of reasons, but mainly because we really do want them to be sorry, and we, as their parent, want to save face when other parents are watching and listening. How do we as parents expect them to truly feel sorry when we don’t create the space to allow them to feel what we think they should feel? The message we are often sending is that it does not matter what happened that led to this action and that sometimes the one who cries the loudest gets the apology. So what can we do instead? There are a handful of responses that will not only teach children how to handle strong emotions better but will also lead to actual empathy.
Here are a few ideas to try out instead of asking your child to repeat an empty statement:
1) Start by asking what happened. There does not need to a victim and a perpetrator in every situation. Give each child the time and space to say what happened that lead up to the painful statement or behavior. You may learn that there should actually be an apology from both parties. You can simply ask, “What just happened?” or “What made you say/do that?”
2) Help your child identify how their action or statement made the other child feel. Help them to notice some of the cues that might indicate a feeling. Ex, “Did you see Emily’s face? How did she look? How do you think that made her feel?”
3) Problem Solve. If your child is actually at fault, help your child to figure out how this situation can be rectified or solved. The goal is not to make them feel worse. Children actually do better when they feel better. And sometimes the opportunity is to help your child build a new skill so that they can handle a future situation in a healthier, safer and more positive way.
4) Model empathy, plain and simple. The best way to teach your child empathy is by demonstrating empathy towards them yourself. Your actions always speak louder than your words! Get more ideas on teaching/modeling empathy and compassion in our Compassion Starts With You post from last Fall.
Making mistakes is part of growing up and being human. They help us and our children to become better people. Making repairs and Saying Sorry when we mean it, are two great skills that we all probably need to work on! So slow down and take the time to connect with and coach your child. The outcome will be a child who has an internal moral compass that will drive them to make a truly honest and heartfelt apology.
In our last post, Melissa shared the amazing power of routine charts and the secret to making them work. This week, we kick it up a notch by sharing how this tool can be used in new ways to solve recurring challenges in the home.
Once upon a time, we were a well functioning team each morning. It was surprising, given that I was not and am still not a morning person. We had one child, and daddy delighted in helping our toddler kick off the day. We had a lovely routine chart that helped us move through getting dressed and brushing teeth. My part was to press snooze, imagining that somehow that extra seven minutes of sleep was going to make a difference. I was eternally grateful for my husband's willingness to take the lead in the morning so I could grumpily move from sleep to wakefulness and put on my happy face before joining them 15 minutes later. Our little one was free to choose what she wanted for breakfast when they arrived downstairs.
When our second was born, breakfast was still calm for a while. Little sister happily joined along in whatever we did. Her breakfast requests were easy: milk, milk and more milk. And then it all changed. Somewhere around age two, little sister woke up to the world and realized no big sister would rule over her breakfast! Nope. She had requests of her own. That's when the Breakfast Battle in Seattle began.
Some days little sister would say she wanted what big sister wanted. That was until she took a bite and realized that she didn't like it. Then she would want something else. Other days they wanted different things. Two kids, two working parents, and two different breakfasts? For those of you who read our post, A Parenting Recipe for Raising Healthy Eaters, you may remember that short order cooking was not an option in our house. Our system of how our kids were choosing breakfast in the morning had set us up for feeling like we were running a restaurant. Our first plan of attack was to tell the children they needed to agree on something they both wanted. It was a good first step, but you can imagine how quickly they were able to mutually agree. Particularly with hovering parents, eager to get breakfast on the table and everyone out the door. Next try was alternating days; one child picked one day, the other picked the next. This worked ok, but most of the time the child who didn't pick just didn't eat their breakfast. Not to mention the complicated mathematical formula needed to figure out how to deal with their being five weekdays and two children wanting to have the same number of days to choose breakfast. The alternating days didn't seem to work for any of us.
After weeks of frustrating mornings, it was time to come up with a new plan. We had just made some changes as a family to our morning routine chart and that's when it hit that this amazing concept of a routine chart could be used in other ways. Maybe even to solve our breakfast challenge!
The grownups in the house did some reflecting on what we were and were not willing to do in the mornings. We were willing to give them the opportunity to choose what they wanted for breakfast, as long as they could agree on what they wanted and the choices were made before we needed to make breakfast. The next step was to bring the kids in to the conversation.
We started out with a question, as that is much more likely to encourage their participation in the discussion. We simply asked how they felt the current system of alternating was working. They both admitted it was not working for them. We let them know that we see how important it is for them to have a say in what is for breakfast but that our system was not working for us either, and asked if they would like to try something different. Again, asking instead of telling helps get their buy in.
Knowing that routines and planning ahead worked very well for us, I shared my idea of creating a breakfast chart. The idea was that together we would make a chart where they could select from various weekday breakfast options. We brainstormed a list of all of the items that were ok for weekday breakfasts. When they suggested things that were not a good fit for weekdays, we put them on a separate list so we could be sure to include those on weekends. When we had our list, together we found clip art or made pictures of the different breakfast options. I made a very basic chart with the days of the week and a space for the breakfast choice for that day.
Making the chart was only the first step. The next was to come to some agreements around how we would use it. We let them know that we needed to have their decision before breakfast time each day and wondered how they thought they could accomplish that task. Kids are great problem solvers, and we got another reminder of how well they can do this when given the space to do so. Big sister suggested they fill in the breakfast chart for the week after family meetings on Sundays and this worked for little sister too. We let them know that we were confident they could handle this task all by themselves and so we wouldn't be bugging them about it. We would simply prepare what was on the chart for a given day. We also committed to having the weekday breakfast options on hand. The girls couldn't wait to wrap up our family meeting and get going on their new breakfast chart.
I must admit, as we finished making our chart and they were ready to fill in the week, I was sure an argument would ensue over what to do about that fifth day where they would have to decide together. I knew we had been clear that this was their job, so I stayed out of the room so I would not be tempted to get involved. Within minutes they had decided each day of the week together, made sure they had a variety of choices in there and had a blast doing so. Even though I know how well this kind of thing can work, sometimes I still am shocked at how quickly and easily change can happen. This was one of those moments.
On Monday morning, we all approached breakfast with excitement as our new system was ready to go. There was no need to discuss, nag, or lose patience. I swear they even ate more breakfast that first week! The first month sailed by like a smoothly oiled machine. One Sunday night in the second month, I noticed after bedtime that they had not changed the chart from the previous week. While in the past I may have tried to rescue them out of this by giving them time to fill it out in the morning, I reminded myself that we had been totally clear that we would prepare what was on the chart, so we went ahead and made what was on there. There were a few tears and groans, but I stayed calm, and within minutes they were over it. After school, they rushed to the chart to set it up for the rest of the week and we were back on track.
Over three years later, we don't have breakfast hassles anymore, and we rarely use the chart. I remember my husband being concerned that all of these charts would feel too rigid and be more time consuming then they are worth. Just last week he mentioned how amazing it is that the creation of the chart and relatively short-term use of them solves the problem for good. It's not the chart itself that creates all the change, but what the chart represents. For our family, it represents trust in each other that we can work together to solve problems, that mistakes are a wonderful opportunity to learn, and that respectful sharing of power with our children creates peace in the home while helping them feel connected and capable.
So, routine charts are not just for bedtime anymore. With some planning and teamwork, your family can use routine charts to solve many parenting challenges quite effectively. The keys to success are to make them with your child, get clear on what each person is responsible for and follow through with kindness and firmness when things get off track. The benefits are well worth the time spent making the chart. We give our children the chance to show us how capable they are, which increases their self-confidence and self-discipline. As for us parents, we get to stop nagging and just sit back and watch our kids shine.
Every parent at one time or another has either thought about or made a chart for their child. It seems like there is never enough time to get out the door in the morning or get kids to bed without power struggles, no matter how much time you have. The type of charts that we suggest using are not reward charts, because there are no stickers or prizes that your child identifies or earns. Yet, there are valuable gifts that are received such as valuable life skills and responsibility! Now who doesn’t feel great about helping their child develop confidence, independence, and responsibility?
At GROW Parenting, we love integrating routine or responsibility charts into our parenting plans because they help take the power struggles out of our daily routines. Most parents that we work with want to create more clarity and consistency in their parenting so they don’t have to keep reminding and repeating themselves. It is just too exhausting and time consuming! The routine chart is a beautiful tool that can help parents help their kids to do what they need to do without the hassles, power struggles or melt downs. We draw our approach to creating Routine Charts from Positive Discipline, which is unique because it brings the child into the process by allowing them to identify what needs to be on the chart, how it looks and where it goes.
The secret to these charts is to create the chart WITH your children. Start with either a bedtime or morning routine. Ask your child to tell you everything that he or she needs to do to get ready. If your child is too young to write, then take dictation. Then narrow the routine down to 3-8 tasks based on your child’s age and ability. When you are ready to actually make the cart, be sure to get your budding designer/artist involved. Have them design the cards for each task. Children love pictures of themselves doing each task or pictures they have drawn of the task. Then let your child hang the routine chart where he or she can see and reach it. This generally tends to be in an area where the routine takes place or a central passageway in your home. Involving children in the creation of their routine chart not only increases their sense of belonging and significance, but also reduces power struggles by giving them more power over their lives and increases their willingness to follow what they have helped create.
Once you have your chart ready up and to go, the next important step is to take time for training. Walk through the process and practice the routine together. Younger children will need more direction and assistance when using the chart initially. Nevertheless, eventually all children can manage their chart on their own. This is a process and takes time, patience, and energy. However, the payoff is worth the investment because your routine will begin to flow and the power struggles will begin to dissipate!
You might be thinking, “What happens when kids get sidetracked and derailed?” The answer is: We gently help them get back on track by either asking questions or using verbal or physical cues. Some questions to ask might be: “What is next on your routine chart?” “What are you going to do now?” or “Where can you look to find out what you need to do next?”. Sometimes having a code word or hand signal can be helpful to redirect them back to the routine. This keeps you out of the power struggle and keeps them focused on what needs to happen next. The ultimate result is less stress and more joy in your home!
We love using routine charts with our own children and our clients report success when implementing with their families. We would love to hear what you have tried or noticed using routine/responsibility charts and other creative ideas you might have!
With some families, fashion frustration starts quite young. I know many parents who at one time during infancy were shocked with what their partner dressed their baby in. I think my own husband delighted in dressing our first child in the craziest outfits possible just to watch my blood pressure rise. Alas, the days of my control over my daughter’s clothing choices were short lived. Somewhere around age two, my daughter was ready to debut her own sense of style and who was I to stand in the way?
Well, to be honest, I did try and stand in the way. Like many parents, I worried her choices would leave her too hot, too cold, too fancy, or too grubby. But then there were the days when her choices involved stripes, polka dots, and clashing colors; dresses with pants, shorts and rain boots at the same time; and the dreaded solid color from head to toe, in pink no less! It’s not like I am a fashionista myself, but I worried my little mismatched munchkin was color and pattern blind and would someday end up on “What Not to Wear.” I would try and be subtle, “How about we change your shirt so it matches your pants.” Like any strong-willed two year old, the answer was always a resounding “NO!” It’s amazing how fast those power struggles put me right back in the dressing room arguing with my own parents over back-to-school clothes. I quickly realized that conflicts over clothing must end and put my professional hat on to help me get some perspective.
Young children do not have many choices. They go to bed when we tell them to, they eat what we give them, they go to school where we take them, and are cared for by those we leave them with. It’s amazing they adapt as well as they do. Somewhere along the way, they want some sense of power as well. As they become more involved with dressing themselves, they naturally begin to use this as an opportunity to assert themselves to feel some independence and control over their world.
It is important to give our children room to do this, but like other opportunities for independence, this room can come in ways that work for parents as well. Basically, it comes down to accepting that we have to pick our battles with kids. We have to assess whether an issue is important enough to us to stand our ground or whether it’s something we can let go. We all have different values and thoughts on what the answer is for each of the challenges we face with our kids. The best approach is to let go of all the stuff you can, so that your word and limits on the really important stuff (safety, respect, health, etc.) will be heard as important.
What I realized when it came to clothes is that there were a few things that were important to me. I let go of control in the areas that were not important to me, and made some clear decisions around the areas that were important to me. We created three guidelines around clothing choices when she was about two, and those are the same three we use over five years later. Here’s what we came up with: dress appropriate for the weather, dress appropriate for where we are going (we don't wear fancy stuff to school, or we need to wear something nice to a fancy occasion), and no bellies showing unless we are in swimsuits. This last one helped me address both moving out of beloved clothes that were way too small, and the concern that “sexy” is entering the wardrobe of girls at a frighteningly early age. A few years ago, we added one more step to help us avoid morning hassles- our kids need to pick out their clothes the night before.
Our mantra for clothing challenges, and most parenting challenges, is to be kind and firm at the same time: We give our children the freedom to dress how they want, but we are firm on our three guidelines. Our children know these guidelines and have agreed to them.
When choices don't fit those rules, we ask, "How does that choice fit with our rules about what we can wear?" Then the child gets to be the one to evaluate that and select again. When we have clear guidelines and our children know what they are, we can then ask questions to prompt what you have talked about. This is much less likely to lead to a power struggle. "What do you need to wear so you won't be cold outside?" "What do you need to put on before we leave the house?” When she does do what she needs to, just add a simple thank you.
I know the question you are about to ask; I can hear it from here. "What if my child chooses not to put on a coat, then she is going to freeze!" I have two good options for you:
1) You can say, "Well, we can't go out without our coats on. I will know you are ready to leave for school when you have your coat on/bring it to me to help you put on.” Then casually and calmly find something to do while she works that out for herself. Try to stay away from hovering, telling her things she already knows, engaging as little as possible without being disrespectful. They are looking for power. If you don't react, she is going to quickly learn that she is more powerful when she takes care of what she needs to.
2) You can give your child a choice. "Its really cold outside and I feel concerned you will be really cold without your coat. Would you like to wear it or carry it/put it in your backpack?” When we give them a choice, they are likely to choose, especially if we are kind and respectful as we say it. If you leave the house and your child later says, “I'm cold,” you can say, “What can you do to get warmer?” Try to steer clear of saying, “I told you so” as that just gets kids in the power struggle place instead of thinking for themselves, "wow, mom was right, I do need to wear a coat."
There are of course other options, but if they don’t model respect for ourselves (the firm part) and respect for our children (the kind part), I am not sure if they will get the results you want as quickly and lovingly.
Parenting through this kind of challenge is hard. You grow this baby inside you, they are literally part of you and rely on you completely in the first year, and then you spend the next however many years reminding yourself that they are their own person and we have to view them as such. Yes, we have to keep them safe, but we also have to allow them to take risks, to learn things for themselves, develop self-discipline, self-confidence, etc. Allowing them to make their own clothing choices is one of the ways we can let them separate in to their own unique person.
It is amazing what happens when we get clear on what really matters to us, and communicate that in a calm respectful way to our children. Clothing struggles are just one place where parenting in this way can really help us. There are still going to be days when you must bite your tongue and accept that your sense of fashion may differ greatly from your child’s. When we are clear on the guidelines though, it becomes easier for us to let the rest go.
What I do know for sure is that this kind of parenting works. It’s about parenting from kindness and firmness at the same time, allowing our kids room to both succeed and fail, and learning that a good portion of parenting challenges involve us shifting our own perspective. It raises amazing kids who know how to take care of themselves because they have been given room to do so. They are respectful and empathetic because their parents have been with them. Chances are, with all the room to express their fashion freedom as little ones, they will grow in to self confident adults with a style all their own. Be sure to hold on to pictures of those crazy outfits. Your grandchildren will love them!
At GROW Parenting we work with many parents of school age children. We frequently hear from parents that they feel like their children are trying to “manipulate” them. Parents are reporting this behavior as early as the ripe old age of two! And yes, these children can and do become very skilled manipulators or negotiators. However, this only happens when someone has been modeling and teaching these skills. Read More...
On occasion, GROW Parenting will answer reader questions on our blog. We choose questions based on the issues we frequently hear about from families we work with. In today’s post, I answer a parent’s question regarding setting limits on technology use.
Dear GROW Parenting,
We have a 5-year old boy who has been exposed to iPhone and iPad games and stories, some educational and some not so educational (ahem, angry birds). On a daily basis, he asks if he can have our iPhone or iPad to play a game. Often it seems like my exhaustion level is what dictates whether or not he gets to have it. Yes, we have a time frame of no more than 1 hour total between pre-recorded TV shows and games. Some days are just full of play and friends so no games. Even when I set a timer so he knows when it is time to stop, it still ends in a battle or tears. I'm just so struck by how insistent he can get in arguing with me about getting a chance to play the games. What do you suggest to achieve a good balance while maintaining a good relationship with your child, especially boys?
We are just two days away from Halloween! Have you made a plan with your children for helping them celebrate without turning in to monsters? Often our best parenting comes when we think ahead and involve our children in the discussion. GROW Parenting has three tips to help your family enjoy the day: Read More...
We just finished our first full week of the school year, and like many families, the transition has not been smooth. No matter how much we stick to routines during the summer, keep early bedtimes, and discuss and plan for the new year, we often find ourselves hanging on for the wild ride that ensues during these early weeks. By Friday night, I felt as if I deserved a medal for just surviving, and flipping my lid just a wee bit less than I might have.
Transitions can be stressful, and one of the major transitions families face is in the fall when kids head back to school and schedules change. Although parents might feel like no one's chaos could possibly be more chaotic than their own, in reality families face many of the same difficulties when it comes to keeping a schedule on track. Here are three of them, with some simple tips that will return order and efficiency to your family's life.
On occasion, GROW Parenting will answer reader questions on our blog. We choose questions based on the issues we frequently hear about from families we work with. In today’s post, I answer a parent’s question about how to get her child to apologize.
Dear GROW Parenting,
My 6 year old threw a fit at camp last week for a variety of reasons. We have figured it out what caused it. However, during the fit she was VERY rude to her counselor. She refuses to say sorry or write a note or even draw a picture. She is embarrassed. I'm embarrassed. Any thoughts?
This year alone, at my children’s school, three mothers in one grade level received breast cancer diagnoses. I know this is not a statistic per se, but the sheer fact that it is now so “common” is harrowing. Read More...
Big Sister/Brother Boot Camp:
Preparing Your Child for a New Baby
10 Tips To Prepare Your Child For A New Sibling
Is baby number two, three or four on the way? While this is exciting news, many parents wonder how their existing child or children will adjust to the changes ahead. With some thought and planning, we can ease this transition for the whole family. Here are ten tips for helping your current kiddos get ready for their starring role as big brother or sister. Read More...
On occasion, GROW Parenting will answer reader questions on our blog. We choose questions based on the issues we frequently hear about from families we work with. In today’s post, I answer a parent’s question regarding preschoolers and hitting.
We have been struggling for some time with our three year old hitting and kicking others. It is happening both and school and at home. He has an older brother who is six, and is generally a happy, easygoing child. He is very articulate and can express himself quite well, so this behavior is surprising to us.
It's particularly upsetting for us because he acts so happy and smiles when he hits, so it seems kind of deviant; yet my head tells me he's just looking for attention or testing for safety. We know it’s not going to help the situation to think of him as hitter. Instead, we want to understand the need, from his perspective, to hit, push, or kick others. We would love some ideas for how to deal with this issue. Read More...
This article originally appeared as a guest post on Herbivoracious.
“What’s for dinner?” “Ugh, I hate green beans!” “Can I have dessert yet?” “I’m not hungry (but I will be as soon as you clear the table)”…the list of mealtime complaints can go on and on. Not to mention the mayhem that may ensue before your little one can even talk. Not many parents can forget the frustration of thrown food, the mess of the yogurt in the hair, or the game of “watch mommy pick up my bagel over and over again.”
Food is a huge part of human life and most parents I meet cannot wait to dive in to the world of food with their babies. As the wife of a food blogger and chef, we must have spent weeks talking about what our first food would be! Little did we know we were in store for a whole lot more than the idyllic family meals of The Cosby Show.
October through January is the busiest time of year for parents seeking admission at all grade levels from preschool through college at independent and public schools. In those hectic months, parents try to identify schools, visit them, apply and get interviewed. That’s a lot of ground to cover in four months and it misses one crucial beginning step. A good part of choosing the right school relies on knowing what matters to your child and your family.
1) Greater understanding
2) Learning or honing skills
3) Choosing to practice skills until they become natural Read More...
My daughter tends to gravitate toward me (Papa), who is home with her more frequently. If I am home, she refuses to let her Dad help her with anything, give her a bath, or give her affection. Last night it came to a head when after when she didn’t want him to hug and kiss her goodnight. It was understandably quite upsetting to him. In the back of my mind I'm certain this is normal, but I also feel as though I need to do something. Read More...
Changing our habits can be challenging but here’s a great way to get started. Look at your list of characteristics and life skills that you want your children to have. Select the three values that matter most to your and your family and make those your focus for 2012. This is a great activity to do with your partner! Doing this together will get you on the same page as you work toward making positive changes in your family. Read More...
Here’s a great activity from Positive Discipline for helping you get clear on what your own bigger picture looks like. Sit down by yourself or with your co-parent and make a list of the current challenges you have with our kids. The day-to-day stuff that makes you want to scream. The idea behind this list is not to label these problems/behaviors we need to get rid of in our kids. The goal is just to get them out there. Read More...
When we adopt a wider lens, it gets us out of the immediate power struggle, frees us up not to be "perfect" parents, and allows us more time to slow down and really think before acting. When we slow down, we can usually find more options for how to deal with the current stressor. We also gain the ability to respond with greater empathy, which usually leads to quicker changes in behavior than when we respond from a place of fear and frustration. Read More...
Parenting is a tough job and requires lots of on the job training. We only become better parents when we take care our ourselves, stay open to learning, and practice parenting tools that are in alignment with our values. There are lots of things we can do to be the parents that we want to be. But it is usually best to only focus on two or three areas of improvement at a time. Here are a few reminders that will not only help make parenting feel less stressful, but also make parenting your kiddos more enjoyable. Read More...
If you are in the Seattle area, you have most likely been home all week with the kiddos. You may have had a brief break on Tuesday when school started two hours late and ended two hours early, but besides that, most of us have been home since the snow came on Sunday. I have been reflecting lately on how the sheer joy of a snow day as a child can turn us in to grumpy parents, wondering when life can get back to normal. So four days in to our Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon or whatever you want to call it, lets help each other out. Here's 5 indoor activities using things many of us have in the house to help entertain the wee ones. Then it's your turn! Read More...
Encouraging clean up is a common struggle in many families. Whose job is it? If you clean them up are you letting them get away with something? Is it worth the struggle to make them do it? Lets take a look at these common questions.
As I have witnessed our bedtime successes and struggles over the years, I have a theory on why this time of day is so hard: There is a mismatch in what parents and children want at that time of day. Parents are tired. We have made it through dinner and know that clean up, lunch packing, our own chores are all still waiting for us. If we can just get the kids to bed, we may even get a chance to relax before it’s time for us to go to bed.
For those who have read my previous posts, you know I am a huge fan of Positive Discipline. I had heard of the model before having children, but didn't really dive in to deeper learning until I became a parent.
As new parenting challenges cropped up I wanted to learn how to deal with power struggles and behavior challenges in a way that aligned with my core values. Time outs and consequences seemed to be popular methods, but they didn't feel good to me and I didn't believe they worked in the long run. (Stay tuned for a post on why time outs don't work in the near future.) On the other hand, if I didn't deal with discipline the "right" way, would I raise a child without respect for others? Read More...