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Getting Your Kids To Listen

Do you feel like you are repeating yourself over and over again, yet your child isn’t responding? Your child just sits there staring at you with a glassy look, or doesn’t even turn towards your direction and you know she has perfectly good hearing? You are asking her to help her little brother but you feel like all she is hearing is “blah… blah, blah… blah, blah” like the adults in the old Peanuts cartoons? Yes, it’s normal behavior for many pre-teens but doesn’t have to be accepted as the status quo. In fact, there are some tried and true strategies that parents and experts agree work towards getting your kids to listen more closely. You could see huge improvement in your family life by adopting these tips into your daily routine.

First of all, start by making a point of listening to them. Take the time to listen to the stories they come home from school excited about, ask questions and show you are engaged. Try to be non-judgmental and talk to them in a calm tone. If you are checking your email or texting someone, you come across as uninterested. By stopping whatever you are doing and making eye contact you show them that you care and in turn you role model how to listen attentively to others.

In return, when you are ready for them to listen to you, don’t just start nagging them from another room. Yelling orders from across the house rarely gets anything accomplished. Once again, put down what you are doing and walk into the same room to engage the child by making eye contact and even asking him or her to pay attention while you speak with him. Wait until he finishes what he’s doing and then use as few words as possible to get your point across. Kids tend to zone out if you are long-winded about the subject at hand. Keep your explanation clear and simple.

Sometimes the way you word something can make all the difference. There has been a general movement towards giving kids more control by giving them choices. However, this can backfire if you have a stubborn, tired or even a slightly rambunctious kid. If you are spending a lot of time spinning in circles because your kids just aren’t doing what you’d like, stop asking and start telling. This means instead of asking them “Do you want to clean your room before or after dinner?” say “Please go upstairs before dinner and put your clothes in the laundry basket and your books on the shelf. Dinner will be ready in 15 minutes.” Calmly explain to them why you are asking them for their cooperation. “If you wait until after dinner, you won’t have the time you need to finish your homework, shower and read.”

Lastly, be consistent! Kids find comfort and security in a predictable home environment. If you set routines and rules then you have a better chance of getting your kids to listen and comply with your wishes. If you ask them to clean their room, but then back down if they whine, plead or ignore you, then you teach them that they don’t really need to listen to you. If you have clearly explained face to face what you would like of them in a respectful and calm manner, and they get in the habit of not complying, show them that you mean business by taking away toys, electronics or other luxuries. On the other hand, reward them with praise when they do listen. With consistency, your kids will eventually learn what the repercussions are and will most likely opt for the positive route.

Teaching Your Kids Self-Control Helps Them Throughout Life

Children often exhibit aggressive, bullying, disrespectful or conflictual behavior because they lack the ability to manage their anger. Kids should understand that being angry is okay, but it’s how they display these feelings that is crucial. As parents, one of the most important life skills we can teach our children is self-control. This helps them to think about and make the appropriate decisions when a maddening person or obstacle is in their way.  In fact, studies show that kids with poor self-control are more likely to have aggressive behavioral problems, anxiety and depression, as they get older.  Parenting education classes are a great resource to help gain the necessary skills to get your kids on track.  Some quick tips are as follows:

To start with at a young age, parents should encourage children to talk about their feelings. When parents dismiss or disapprove of their child’s negative emotions, it just makes them angrier and doesn’t teach them how to resolve the conflict. Instead, when parents empathize and help them work through the feelings, they learn constructive and positive ways to cope. Early on, start with the basic feelings of happy, sad, angry and fearful. How do these feelings look and how should we appropriately respond to them? Reading books together about different topics, like those from the Berenstain Bears or Happy, Sad, Silly, Mad can help get the conversation going. Explain that every single one of us gets emotional, but there are better ways to respond to these feelings than others. Make a point of keeping the avenue of communication open with them throughout childhood so they will continue to share with you during their teen years.

From early on our kids are watching our every move. As a parent or caregiver, we are the role models that they trust to show them the right path. If you have a meltdown and start yelling when the computer isn’t working as expected, then they will follow suit. Instead, take a deep breath and verbally walk through the resolution. “I am going to turn off the computer and restart it” or “I will call the tech department when I have time later today” shows them that maintaining self-control allows you to think clearly and problem solve during frustrating situations. In the same vain, it’s important to show your children that they can’t get the upper hand by throwing tantrums or acting up. For example, if you are at the mall and your child wants an ice cream and throws a fit, don’t give in. Take them aside, stay calm and explain why he or she can’t have the ice cream right now, or just go home. This will demonstrate that their tantrum was a pointless and ineffective way of trying to get what they want.

Furthermore, setting appropriate limits and boundaries helps children to understand what is expected of them. Every time that we set a boundary, the child must learn self-control. Of course, he would rather be playing Xbox until midnight, but when we stick to our guns and get them into the bath and bed, your encouragement and warm response helps them to choose the better path. The child’s motivation for your positive reinforcement or for some type of reward for good behavior teaches him to manage his emotions. Of course like anything that one gets good at, it takes practice and consistency! 

Some Thoughts About Raising Kids With Strong Character Traits

Last week my son came home with a print out from his elementary school teacher that was meant for the parents. It was titled Common Mistakes Parents Today Make and was food for thought to tie-in with the month long “Kids of Character" program the school is embarking upon. Honestly, the first thing that crossed my mind when I looked at it was that the administration had probably had it with our helicopter parenting and overindulged children. So I sat down and read through the material, which attempted to shed new insight into what many parents are creating by hovering over their kids and micromanaging, their every academic, athletic and social move.

Did you know that many psychologists today are seeing a rising number of depressed people in their twenties? When they are interviewed, these young adults state that they had great childhoods and they rarely experienced major disappointments or tragedy. Now that they are on their own and don’t have their parents to protect them, the realities of adulthood and the normal adversity of life is too overwhelming. In other words, we’ve made their life so easy because we don’t want to see them get hurt or face disappointment that they aren’t prepared for the world after college. So, all our attempts to be good, caring and involved parents might be a bit too much and our kids aren't learning the life-coping skills they need in the long-term.

In order to build kids with strong character, it’s important to think past what will make them happy right now, but about what traits will help them in the long term. Although we all have the best intentions, our actions may not be in the best interest of our kids. Some things to think about are as follows:

1. Child-centered homes. We are so happy to do everything for them and our lives revolve around them. To build a kid of character, an important trait the child needs to possess is to be less selfish and more selfless.

2. Best friends with your kids. Many of us grew up in a generation in which punishments could be physical and severe. We have bad memories so have gone the opposite direction by striving to be their friends. Many parents have lost the position of authority in the household in an attempt to be sure their child likes them. Kids need structure and boundaries to learn the difference between right and wrong behavior.

3. Not accepting negative feedback about your kids. Parents today often don’t want to hear anything troubling about their children. They want a diagnosis to be made and dealt with at school so they don’t have to be made responsible for their child’s behavior. It’s important to remember that our kids aren’t perfect, will make mistakes and it’s up to us to model appropriate behavior.

4. Awards For Participation. The most common theme is that our kids are so used to getting rewards just for showing up that when they get into the real world and are expected to perform and work hard at a job, they don’t know how. In some cases, they don’t even realize that just showing up isn’t enough. To build strong character, a child needs to learn how to lose graciously and that working hard towards a goal will benefit them throughout their life.

Parenting Classes For Child Custody Issues

There are a variety of reasons why a parent or caregiver might want to take a parenting class. For some it’s because they are first time parents and want an idea of what to expect. Others are already well seasoned with a number of children but just want to touch base on the most recent expert advice, or they want to change the dynamics of their household. Poor parenting skills can contribute to unneeded stress. Furthermore, some new parents take the classes because they are about to adopt or become foster parents and for many it’s because they have been court ordered as a requirement of their divorce. Lastly, a number of our parenting class clients come to us during divorce proceedings not because the judge has already mandated they take classes, but as a proactive measure because their attorney is helping them to build a strong child custody case so they can be a bigger influence in raising their kids.

One recent example of this comes from a client that recently called explaining that she wanted to take our advanced parenting class over the weekend in preparation for an upcoming court hearing. She and her husband were going through a nasty divorce and he was trying to hurt her by asking that the kids live with him full time. She felt like he had absolutely no grounds for this and even more ridiculous was that he worked long hours and would have to hire a nanny to actually handle the kids. It was just vindictive. She said she moving forward by doing everything possible to look good in the eyes of the court, including taking this class.

When custody issues arise, the courts will consider a number of factors that contribute to what is in the best of interest of the children. Some of these include their age, the ability of each parent to provide a stable home, how the children will be affected if the current situation is disrupted, the children’s wishes and the quality of the parent/child relationship to this point. They will look at what the involvement of each parent has been and would continue to be.

Generally, your attorney will work with you to get you prepared to have appropriate etiquette in front of the judge. This means speaking calmly and rationally, avoiding any emotional outbursts or interruptions and answering questions respectfully, honestly and directly. The judge will expect you to come prepared with all the appropriate financial documentation, custody requests and even a co-parenting plan. Many parenting classes include a lesson on how to go about setting-up a co-parenting plan.

As our client explained, her attorney told her that sitting and hoping for the best isn’t enough. She should do whatever she could to improve herself and the lifestyle that she could provide for her kids. This meant everything from getting them to places on time, keeping a safe and clean home and getting a job if possible. It also meant showing the judge she was really serious about her requests for custody by taking parenting classes for self-improvement purposes.

Positive Ways To Communicate With Your Kids

Parenting is one of the toughest jobs out there. It is so fulfilling, but can also be so frustrating. When the children are babies and toddlers, many parents express how difficult a time period it is because of the lack of sleep and basic care giving responsibilities that infants need from their parents to survive. However, as kids get older, schedules get busier and school becomes more intense, tension in the family can really begin to spike. Many parents reflect back and long for the days when diaper changing, naptime and tumbling class were the only things they had to worry about each day. Suddenly, the kids are voicing strong opinions that they don’t necessarily agree with, problems are arising with friendships, and grades are ever important. With all the emotions and stress, parents can forget that they set the overall tone in the house by the way they respond to and handle these situations. Experts agree that parents that take a more positive, warm and supportive approach when interacting with their kids, ultimately create a calmer and more well-balanced home.

One of the first things that parents who are interested in turning their home life around can do is consider how they are speaking when communicating with the kids. Sometimes, either due to a lack of patience, time or consideration we get into the habit of barking negative statements like:

  • “You are wasting time and will make us late!”
  • “You aren’t going anywhere until you get a sweatshirt on!”
  • “You can’t have dessert until you wash up!”
  • “Stop interrupting your sister!”

Instead, you can guide and support your children by replacing these negative comments with more effective positive statements like:

  • “We will be leaving the house in 10 minutes. Please get dressed or bring the clothes you need in the car.”
  • “You can go outside to play as soon as you get your sweatshirt on.”
  • “Dessert is ready for you as soon as you wash your hands!”
  • “I know it’s hard to wait for your turn to speak at the dinner table, but your sister wants a chance to tell us about her day too.”

In order for children to choose the positive behavior we are looking for, they need to believe that they are capable and responsible members of the family. When we communicate with them in a calm, respectful and clear way, they have a greater chance of understanding what is expected of them and it encourages them to continue their appropriate behavior. It creates a positive identity and awareness of self-control. In contrast, when we nag, scream or use condescending tones, we convey to them that we feel like they can’t follow-through unless we’re on them. This in turn causes a lack of self-esteem and often times the child will live up to this perceived lack of confidence by acting out in negative ways.

In conjunction with utilizing positive statements to help direct your children, you will help strengthen their appropriate behavior by also following up with positive reinforcement. For example, when your child has followed through by getting into the car fully dressed within the 10-minute window you asked for, praise them for their effort.