Register Now
Member Login
Mobile Friendly

How To Identify and Nurture Your Child's Interests

Creativity in children begins when they are babies but is more easily recognizable around 18 months when they become toddlers. At this point, parents can see how the child expresses his or her curiosity as they explore the world around them. You might notice that he or she loves to finger paint, play dress up and sing, or kick a soccer ball around. As your child develops, they might exhibit tendencies toward a perfect pitch, an eye for design, a knack for numbers, or an athletic prowess. Not every person is born with innate talent, but we can support, train and help children to develop strengths in the areas they love. As parents, we can play a huge part in nurturing creative abilities by providing opportunities for the child to express his ideas, and providing the optimism to help him succeed!

How do you go about finding and nurturing your child’s interests? It starts with a strong parenting foundation and observation. What does your child like to do? What does he seem good at? At an early age, you can follow his lead and then provide the resources he needs to stick with it. For example, if you see that your child likes to pound on the piano keys, provide him with a low cost keyboard until he’s ready for lessons. Or, if you notice that she loves to sing, provide her with children’s music to sing along to and even a pretend microphone. If he has a huge interest in building, provide him with blocks or even Legos. This doesn’t have to be a big investment at first. Initially you can find these items used at second hand stores or on Craigslist or EBay.

It’s also important to expose your child to new things otherwise you’ll never know whether or not a passion could develop. Don’t force them to do something, but try a couple art lessons or a season of basketball to expand their world. Even if they flip out after a couple of weeks and insist on quitting, they may eventually go back to it. Some children want to be able to things perfectly right off the bat, and when they can’t they get frustrated and want to stop. Your continued encouragement and support might convince them to stick with it, or interest them to try it again.

Research shows that children who are involved in extracurricular activities tend to have higher self-esteem, better time management skills, have better grades and reach higher levels of education, and are less likely to drink or do drugs. To further nurture and encourage your child’s interests, parents should:

1. Be sure it’s your child’s thing, not yours.

2. Do your best to provide the lessons, mentors, materials and guidance to help them improve their skills. Local community centers are often a great low-cost way to go about this.

3. Show interest in their passion by attending performances or playing the sport with your child. For example, if your child is good at playing tennis, practice with him for fun during your free time. If your child is interested in painting, take her to museums to see some of the works of great artists.

4. Don’t emphasize winning. Research shows that major talents almost always had positive, supportive parents by their side to help keep things in perspective. Standing by your child whether they win the spelling bee or lose plays a huge part in their ability to succeed.

Cooperative Parenting Skills Help Establish A United Front

Remember when you first embarked on your relationship together and thought what a great parent the other would be? You could picture him/her playing in the park with your toddler or helping with homework and you felt excited and at peace? Did you ever actually discuss your parenting philosophies out loud to one another? In a perfect world, couples would take the time to discuss how they want to raise the kids prior to having them. They would talk about different parenting styles, what they liked or disliked about their own upbringing, and agree or come to compromises on the details in order to avoid any surprises later on. In reality, most couples just assume that since they have the same basic morals and values, likes and dislikes, that child rearing will naturally work out smoothly. However, you can take a look around to see that this isn’t necessarily the case. The job of parenting is full of trials and errors and it’s normal that couples will disagree and become frustrated with each other. I know in my own family, I favored going to one parent instead of the other because I knew I’d like the answer better. This is turn made my dad feel like my mother was unsupportive and constantly undermining him. It added to the list of reasons why divorce was imminent.

Cooperative parenting isn’t always easy. It takes a plan and certain skills to succeed. Most experts agree that the following platform is crucial to create a strong parenting team:

1. Empathy. If you always think you are right and that your spouse is being difficult, you’ll just end up constantly frustrated. When a parenting situation arises that you don’t agree with, take some time to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and look at it from his/her point of view. Maybe they have insight that you aren’t aware of.

2. Open communication. Instead of fighting over each individual video game or movie that your child watches, talk about your basic underlying values. For example, explain why you think a certain type of violence shouldn’t be allowed in anything the kids play or watch. If you still can’t agree, come to a compromise.

3. Create emotional intimacy. Share your failings and fears with your spouse. Be ready to admit mistakes. Remember it’s not about who is right, but how you can work it out together to create a united front.

4. Don’t fight about it in front of kids. When kids see their parents fight it creates a sense of fear and uncertainty that they might get divorced. Also, the kids might try to take sides, which can cause further deterioration of the situation. Agree to disagree and discuss it later when they aren’t around.

Parents who are interested in learning more about current research on successful parenting skills can benefit from reading or taking parenting classes. Group or online parenting classes offer even the most seasoned parent updated tips on how to manage stress, build the child’s self-esteem, set boundaries, and take responsibility to be a positive role model. Divorcing parents often are court ordered to take these classes to learn how to overcome differences in order to cooperatively parent while residing separately.

The Art of Active Listening Builds Lifelong Bonds

Parents often complain that their kids don’t listen to them. “Jeremy tunes out the minute I start talking and I know I’m coming across like the teacher in the old Peanuts cartoons!” “I have to repeat myself at least three times to get my daughter to hear me!” This is because we spend a lot of our day giving orders or telling our kids how to respond to things instead of asking them how they feel and then listening closely and without bias to their response. Your first thought might be that you just don’t have time, or don’t honestly want their opinion. Or, sometimes it makes us feel so uncomfortable when our kids are feeling stressed or unhappy that we don’t want to know the details, and hope the issues will blow over on their own. However, one of the most important factors in building a strong, life-long bond with your child is to master the art of active listening.

Active listening is a term used by many experts to define a way of listening in which you make a conscious effort to devote your attention to the other person and restate or paraphrase what you heard to make sure you understood it. It’s a non-judgmental way of promoting conversation by accepting your child’s point of view, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it. By utilizing this technique, parents’ role model a positive way to pay complete attention and discuss a situation with their child in a calm manner, therefore teaching them how to do the same.

Many specialists believe that this is the best way to get kids to vent and then come to their own conclusions about how to solve a particular problem. It builds self-esteem to know that the parent respects them, and teaches problem-solving skills. An example of active listening that comes up in daily conversation in most homes would go something like this: Your child comes home and says she hates her teacher! Some of us might respond with something like “You have to go to school like everyone else and everyone has a bad teacher once in a while, so deal with it!” or “I’ll go to the principal tomorrow to have you switched out”. Instead, an active listener would say something like “It sounds like you are really angry at your teacher. You expect her to pay attention to your needs and to get the other kids under control, but she just isn’t doing it. It’s frustrating but do you think there are things you can do to make it better?” This way you don’t belittle the problem or solve it for them. You may not get the result that you had in mind right away, but once the child has time to let all her negative feelings out, she might come up with some solutions that make her feel more empowered and happier.

Engaging in this kind of interaction creates a supportive bond so that your child will feel comfortable coming to you with her problems. To learn more successful parenting pointers, it’s always helpful for even the most seasoned parents to learn new skills with the help of reading material, online parenting classes or traditional in-person group classes. The energy and time you put into your children will reward you for a lifetime.

Raising Children To Become Independent Young Adults

This was the weekend of holiday parties. It was great to get together with our friends and visit with their older kids who are back for the holiday break from college. It was really interesting to hear the different experiences that each child has been having and mostly how happy they all are. However, there was one teen that had a very different story to tell. She is going to a college about 1 hour away, so we’ve been able to visit with her briefly throughout her first quarter and have noted that she was having a seriously difficult time adjusting to being on her own. Now, in this relaxed holiday atmosphere, she opened up about it and spent the night explaining to all of us adults how miserable she is because of all the studying, loud parties and general loneliness she was feeling. She hasn’t been making many friends and was begging her parents to let her come back home and go to the local JC for a while. Her parents in return are completely fed up with her request and ongoing negativity, and feel like she’s old enough to face the real world instead of coming back into the safe bubble of home. Listening to all of this made us talk about why some kids thrive when they are away from their parents and other’s don’t. Although many of us are guilty as parents of coddling our children and doing our best to make their lives as stress-free and easy as possible, we also hope that we are raising them to become independent thinkers, take responsibility and face the challenges of everyday life. We could see the worry on some of our friend’s faces about what mistakes they are making in this regard.

Research shows that our parenting style has a significant impact on our children’s ability to take responsibility for their actions and eventual independence. It’s a process that starts at birth and continues into adulthood. Although we might want our kids to stay with us forever, we know that the ultimate goal is to see them able to successfully navigate the real world on their own. Parents who are overly controlling and manage their child’s every move, tend to raise kids that are unsure of their own choices. These are the kids whose parents choose what they will wear each day, create a sense of insecurity by texting them every hour asking how they are doing, and just don’t give them any freedom to make their own decisions. Then when they get out in the real world, they haven’t had the life experiences they need to help them stand up to a noisy roommate or figure out how to manage their time to allow for studying as well as downtime.

In contrast, parents can provide support and guidance to become an independent and responsible adult by giving their kids the opportunity to make age-appropriate choices and by allowing them to experience the consequences of the choice. For example, you can be the parent who nags your child to wear a jacket on cold days or even drives to school to drop it off, but one way to get the child to take responsibility for staying warm is to let them experience a day of discomfort from the cold because they chose to not dress warmly enough. Let them realize the consequences of their behavior instead of always making their world a perfect place.

So, be sure to establish expectations and set limits but then give them independence to use their own judgment in every stage of childhood. Letting them make and learn from their mistakes will help them to gain self-confidence to trust their own decision-making skills and take responsibility for their own happiness.

How To Nurture A Close Your Relationship With Your Kids

Nurturing and supporting your child to create a strong relationship is an investment that you will benefit from all your life. We frequently have clients who come to us because they are frustrated and feeling helpless with the direction things are going with their kids. They are looking for new skills to help improve their parent-child relationship and for a happier family life. There is no question that parenting can be a stressful job, but there are definitely certain things that we can do to help strengthen those ties.

Take a moment to consider that every interaction you have with your child contributes to your overall relationship. If you work long hours and then come home to point out their flaws, they will look elsewhere for emotional support either in their friends, other adults or eventually in their boyfriends or girlfriends. Here are some tips to take into consideration:

1. More time is better. Some parents believe that it’s quality not quantity. However, it takes time to build strong relationships and if you’re not available, it makes it more difficult to create that bond. The more ordinary time you give them, the more chances you have that your children will open up to you. You don’t need to be sitting face to face, but hanging around in the kitchen cleaning up dishes while they are doing their homework offers them the opportunity to talk.

2. Devote undistracted time. When you are shopping or at the playground, are you on the phone with a friend or checking your email while they off by themselves or trailing behind you? Children thrive on positive attention, so do your best each day to make sure you give them some of your undivided attention.

3. Listen closely. You may be completely preoccupied with your own worries and hear them talking, but not really pay attention to what they’re saying. The more you show them you care about what they are saying, the more they will open up to you. It’s a good pattern to get into early on, so by their teen years the communication channel is well established.

4. Role model respectful behavior. Yes, you need to set the rules but if you do it by barking out orders, they will learn that this is how to treat others. You might even catch them treating their friends in this manner while they are playing. If you want them to treat you respectfully in their teen years, teach them now how to speak clearly, honestly and with respect by following your lead.

5. Be positive. Kids look to their parents to help build their self-esteem. If you spend a lot of time focusing on their negative behavior and criticizing them, they won’t feel very good about themselves and they won’t come to you for your opinion. Instead, point out the good things they do as they are doing them. This means that you don’t have to wait until they win the first place award to give them praise, but give it to them while they are working on and improving their skills.

Taking these practices to heart will help to build the trust you need for a strong foundation. It’s time and energy well spent.