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Joyful Musings--a weekly blog

Joyful Parenting Coaching is focused on clarity, consistency, connection, being an effective parent, finding balance as a parent, and above all being a confident and joyous parent. Topics include communication, having difficult conversations, having constructive conversations, chores, routines, family meetings,  I teach parent education and parenting classes because parenting is a skill—not something we are born knowing. Get the parenting skills you need today!

Filtering by Tag: kids

Is Your Child Spoiled?

Elisabeth Stitt

When it comes to “spoiling,” this is when I see problems:

  1. Parents deny their children something only to give in in the face of whiny, petulant, disruptive behavior.
  2. Parents give their children everything always, so children never learn to handle disappointment.
  3. Parents give their children everything always, so children develop a warped sense of entitlement and fail to recognize the difference between needs and wants.

Read on to find out the solutions. 

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11 teen suicides in 9 years.  In one community.   In my community.

Elisabeth Stitt

11 teen suicides in 9 years.  In one community.   In my community.
How does that happen?  Your first answer might be to blame the parents.  Where were they?  Didn't they know they were putting too much pressure on their son?  Why didn't they do something?

But it's not that simple.

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My Child Doesn't Eat Enough

Elisabeth Stitt

Concern over what your child is or is not eating is a common one.  And it makes sense that we are concerned about it.  Our fundamental job is to keep our children alive; and eating well is fundamental to thriving.   

What makes the topic of eating especially charged is that it is one of the areas where children have control.  You cannot force food into a child’s mouth, and even if you do, her upset about food being forced down her throat will often cause her to throw it right back up again.  

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Keep Your Child a Child

Elisabeth Stitt

by Elisabeth Stitt

Children are exposed to more and more at younger and younger ages.  Data showing the negative effects of of exposure to violence, inappropriate sexuality and offensive language are convincing. The media is a powerful influencer in our children's understandings of how the world is put together and of what their role in it should be.  Unfortunately, far too often, the message little girls get is that they have to be pretty, sexual beings to have a place; and little boys absorb the view that they have to be powerful, strong men of physical action to be seen and counted.  

ARE YOU REDUCING YOUR CHILD TO A STEREOTYPE?

While affected by media messages, your children are still looking first and foremost to you for who they should be and how they should feel about things.  There is much you can do to counteract the influence of the media, advertising and industries which cater to swaying children. 

First, parents can help control media influence by not buying their children clothes with messages on them.  When you put your daughter in a t-shirt that says, “I’m a princess” or “Princesses rule” (or even has a sparkly rhinestone crown), you are reinforcing the idea that you want her to look like a princess.  And what princesses do kids look to?  Primarily Disney princesses.  Talk about unrealistic body examples!  

Little boys play with action figures whose bulging muscles are at least as outrageously out of proportion as Barbie’s ridiculously small waste.  Although there are lots of superheroes who do not have super powers, they are most often depicted in physically fighting mode.  I grew up watching Bat Man and although I know that Bruce Wayne didn’t just rely on his muscles, my main memory of Bat Man were words like “Biff” and “Pow” flashing on the screen.  The predominant message of what it meant to be an outstanding man was not using reason and common sense and smarts.  Nope.  When I saw boys wearing t-shirts with the batman symbol, I assumed they admired his physical power.   

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE PRINCESS/SUPERHERO IS 100% COMING FROM YOUR CHILD?

(If you feel like an image perception is 100% coming from your child, I have two thoughts.  One, fantasy play is very typical for 3 and 4 year olds, so just look for the obsession to taper off as your children turn 5, 6 or 7.  Two, get curious about what it means to them and then see how you can meet that quality in some other way.  Maybe when you ask what is so great about being Batman (after looking at you like you are an idiot), your son says with glowing eyes, "He protects the world!"  Great!  I love that!  You can help him see what are other ways besides being a super hero he can help protect the world.  For example, teach him the communication skills he needs to be an UPstander, an advocate for the underdog, or perhaps a champion of conservation.  

LET YOUR CHILDREN BE THEIR AGE

Another step for parents is to buy clothing that “looks your age.”  I have heard parents justify a short-cropped halter top for an 8 year old because “it’s so hot.”  And yet that same parent would likely not dress an 8-year-old son in a sleeveless cropped t-shirt.  There are lots of attractive, comfortable clothes that allow children to move freely and play that aren’t layered with any other messages about what their bodies should look like or who the kids should be.  Parents would be wise to reflect thoughtfully on what image or message the clothes their children wear actually project.  

CAREFUL THE THINGS YOU SAY: CHILDREN WILL LISTEN

Yes, the media plays a role in forming your kids’ views, but let’s face it; kids are sponges who pick up their parents’ attitudes.  Every time you comment on someone’s body—whether it is someone you know in person or someone you see on television—you are building your child’s crib sheet of what bodies should look like.  The comment said with disapproval that your neighbor looks like she has gained some weight tells your child that you would disapprove of her gaining some weight—perhaps at a stage in her development when she should expect to be putting on some weight before adolescence.  Probably that is not what you meant, but kids have a tendency to overgeneralize without our realizing it.  

Most importantly, parents need to become comfortable with their own bodies.  Media influence is big, but your own confidence in and enjoyment of your body is even bigger.  I realize that is easier said than done as body image is something lots of people struggle with, but to the extent that you can relate eating well and exercising to having more energy, sleeping better and generally feeling good, you will be setting a healthy example for your child no matter how you actually feel about your body.  

FOCUS ON WHO PEOPLE ARE NOT HOW THEY LOOK

Finally, although parents spend time telling children to stand up straight or get their hair out of their eyes so their faces will be visible, in general parents will serve their children to well to promote a message of Handsome Is as Handsome Does.  Remind children that their value lies not in how they look but in who they are as people, in what kindness and goodness they bring to the world.  A toothy, easily given, heartfelt smile is worth infinitely more than perfectly straight, white teeth hidden behind a sneer.  Comment on people you admire and what they have done to make you admire them.  Leave their physical physic out of it.  

Keep Your Kids Stress Free During the Holidays by Managing Your Own Stress in These Two Key Areas

Elisabeth Stitt

 

By Elisabeth Stitt

Do you remember Christmas as magical? Many people do.  But that was not my experience of Christmas as a child. Indeed, even as an adult, it took many years to experience awe and beauty in Christmas.  Now I love the magic of Christmas, but I’m sure you’ll agree, it can be hard to find and sustain the magic under all the stress.  Growing up I spent the month of December waiting for my mom to blow up.  She so wanted—really wanted—to create magical Christmases for us—and there certainly were moments of warmth and togetherness.  But mostly, we never knew when the gulf between the scene she imagined in her head and the reality of creating (and getting my father on board for) that scene would have her resembling a Halloween witch rather than a Christmas angel.  

Of course, kids can be stressed during the holidays as their routines get upset and they are vulnerable to being over stimulated, but my experience is that their stress depends largely on how stressed their parents are.  In talking with parents, I have found there are two big areas that bring up a lot of adult tension during the season.  

Tip #1:  OVERSPENDING

     In most partnerships there are two different approaches to spending money.  They say that opposites attract, and while I don’t think that is always true, I do think there is something to the notion that part of our attraction to our partners is for something they have or can do easily that we wish we had or could do easily.  My husband is a spender.  I am a saver.  A lifetime of saving has left me wondering if I’m missing something—a little fun maybe?  a little spontaneity? a little luxury?  Living with my husband has been a lesson in learning to spend more and enjoy it!  I am more willing, for example, to invest in something pretty even if it will only get used at Christmas time.  I delight more in buying special holiday foods.  That being said,  I do not think “But it’s Christmas!” is an invitation to spend without thinking.  

     With luck, you and your spouse are learning and growing from each other when it comes to spending.  But if anything is going to bring up money conflicts, I have found the holiday season to be it.  So, my recommendation is to have the conversations early and often.  The saver in the family will want to argue down every little dime.  See if you can adopt an attitude of not worrying about every 3rd or 4th thing and just buying it.  The spender in the family will spend without thinking and will come home sheepishly with packages.  See if you can actively resist buying the third or fourth thing.  If you are a saver, it might help to remember Christmas does come but once a year.  If you are a spender, it might reassure you to remember the Youtube video that came out that showed the kids willing to give up ALL their Christmas presents if it meant that their parents got something they wanted or needed.  More is not more, and sometimes less is more.  Meeting each other in the middle is what will allow both of you to move through the holiday season with a minimum of stress.  

Tip #2:  DEALING WITH EXTENDED FAMILY

     The first stress extended family brings up is who is going to have Christmas where.  Will you switch off between husband’s family and wife’s family every year?  What about with divorced families?  And what happens as the children grow and begin to have serious romantic relationships of their own? No matter how you draw the lines, it seems like someone is disappointed.  Kids overhear our conversations about the logistics and feel disloyal if they want something else. I have no good solutions for these challenges other than to acknowledge that it is stressful and with a deep, deep breath try to let go of the emotion attached to it.  The other step I take for my own self is to have a small ritual that counts as the core of Christmas to me.  That way, no matter who comes to our house or whose house we celebrate at, my daughter and I have sung Silent Night by the lights of the Christmas tree.  I feel like as long as we have that, we can flex with the rest.  

     Family is also often a double edge sword.  On the one hand we long to be all together.  On the other hand not everyone gets along equally.  Here are some of the more mild complaints I’ve heard recently: 

• I like my mother-in-law but she makes me feel like a complete dud in the kitchen, and when I bring something store-bought rather than risk my poor skills, she looks at me like I don’t care enough to make homemade.   

•My father-in-law is a nice enough man.  Until he’s had a little too much egg nog.

•Jack’s sister is great fun, but she has no control at all over her kids and it makes every meal a circus.  

The fact that Christmas comes once a year makes the little time we have together feel more precious, so it has to be perfect.  That makes us less tolerant than we might otherwise be.  

And what is it about stepping back into our childhood homes that makes us feel—and act!—like children again?  I am a mature, generally very secure woman.  But when the whole family is together I fall into the pattern of waiting for people to tell me where to sit, how to help and generally what to do.  No matter how pulled together I feel in front of the mirror in the morning, I wait for my sister’s glance that says I am a disappointment.  Over the years, I have learned what triggers me and am able to sidestep the trigger with more grace.  I recognize that most of what is going on is just in my head, and I just have to let it go.   

Acknowledging to your kids what happens when adult children go home can help prepare them for your unexpected responses and moods.  

Of course there other reasons we get stressed during the holidays.  Quite simply—however lovely events might be—the late nights and break from routines will stress us.  If you can deal with the two biggies—money and family—you will be in better shape to adjust to the late nights and extra socializing.