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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 Category: Communication

GETTING YOUR TWEEN AND TEEN KID TO SLEEP AT NIGHT

Elisabeth Stitt

What are some bad sleep habits elementary school, tweens and teens have?

•Having their phones in their rooms with them.  Yes, a smart phone makes a good alarm, but not if kids are texting and checking social media all night, so better to get your child a conventional alarm clock.  

•Going fully speed ahead right up until bed time.  People need wind down time.  Just as when they were babies or toddlers, kids should have a routine that calms and soothes.

•Varying their bedtimes by a lot.  While the occasional late night can’t be avoided, sleep experts agree going to bed at around the same time every night is helpful.

•Trying to make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping until noon on Saturday.  

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

Elisabeth Stitt

A recent Quora question was how do we teach our children priorities.  The answer is simple.  Every time you make a choice, you are teaching your child your priorities.

You are in the middle of cooking dinner, and your child demands that you stop what you are doing and come see this marvelous bug that he is looking at.

If you turn off the stove and go look, you are prioritizing curiosity, discovery, enthusiasm and in-the-moment excitement.

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Separation Anxiety in Older Kids

Elisabeth Stitt

Both as a teacher and as a camp counselor, I have dealt with plenty of separation anxiety in older kids.  

In early elementary kids, it is still common to have a transition period as a child enters a new classroom.  Even if the child was perfectly happy in the classroom next door the year before, he may spend the first couple of weeks crying in his new classroom.  Intellectually, he knows he was happy the year before and will probably be happy again, but in between then and now, he has spent a lovely, long summer in the bosom of his family.  For him separation anxiety is wrapped up in feeling uncomfortable with a new routine.  Once he has cycled through the weekly schedule a couple of times and feels he knows his teacher, he is fine.  

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No, Mommy! Don't go! 8 Tips for Dealing with Separation Anxiety

Elisabeth Stitt

Separation anxiety is a normal stage for kids to go through.  It starts around 6 months and usually tapers off around 2 years old.  During these months a baby is first gaining the cognitive recognition that you still exist when you are not there, which means baby can now miss you when you are not there.  The problem often intensifies because at the same time baby realizes that her primary source of food and comfort can leave her, she is also testing the ways in which she is an individual.  That's scary!  A lot of separation anxiety is about finding that fine line between growing more independent and at some level still knowing she is fully dependent on you for survival.  

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What Would You Do If Your Child Were Caught Shoplifting?

Elisabeth Stitt

This blog is in response to a letter a mom sent me about her son:

Dear Elisabeth,

I am so angry and mortified.  My 10-year-old got caught shop lifting, and I am afraid this is a sign of much worse things to come.  

Upset and Worried in Tulsa

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Your Success Rate As a Parent Is Greater Than You Think

Elisabeth Stitt

(In addition to being an author on parenting, Hogan is putting together an awesome in-person conference for parents in August 2017.  Called the United We Parent Conference, it will take place in Southern California and will include great speakers (like me!) and breakout groups for parents to share their insights and issues.)

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Help, Elisabeth! I still really don't know what effective logical consequences are!"

Elisabeth Stitt

People often ask me, what consequence should I give my child for situation X.  

There is no one right answer for that because each family is different, but here are some guidelines:

Logical consequences should

•be related to the problem

•be age appropriate

•allow a child his/her dignity

And most importantly, you HAVE to be able to follow through with them or you are back at square one, so it has to work for your family and for that particular child (fair is not equal). 

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When It Is Time for Consequences

Elisabeth Stitt

So far, everything you have done to build your consistency muscle has focused on the positive--you have modeled correct behavior, praised correct behavior and trained for correct behavior.  But still your child is using disrespectful behavior!  Now is when it get's real, when you are going to set an expectation and then hold the limit.  This will probably mean that you need to have a consequence ready--one that you can absolutely follow through on.  

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Building the Consistency Muscle: Tip 3A: Model and Train

Elisabeth Stitt

So, you have prioritized your values (If not, go to previous step HERE) and are clear  about where you want to build your consistency muscle.  That's hugely important.

HERE'S AN EXAMPLE

Let's say you have decided to consistently require your children to speak respectfully.  Love that.  But do your children know what it means to speak respectfully? Probably not, so you have to teach them. 

STEP ONE: MODEL

Model respectful speech.  I hope this is obvious, but how can you expect your children to speak respectfully if you are not modeling that in all your interactions with others?  This includes how you speak about people.  If over dinner you complain what a neanderthal jerk your boss is, your children are going to hear that, so while it is okay to criticize people, make sure that it is in respectful language.  Perhaps you would say something like, "I wish my boss were up to date on the latest approaches and were more open to listening to fresh ideas."  Little ears are listening all the time!  How you speak to the people you love is even more important, so avoid the first two of John Gottman's Four Horsemen, criticism and contempt, at all costs.  Finally, use polite and loving language with your own children is key.  

STEP TWO: PRAISE

Catch Your Children Doing Good.  Remember, you have been catching your children doing good in order to develop your consistency muscle.  If the values exercise last week has you shifting your focus, go back to the step where you praise, praise, praise every time your child is (in this example) using respectful language.  Say, "I heard you say Thank You to your teacher.  That was so respectful."  or "When you asked your brother, 'May I please have it after you?', that was exactly the kind of respectful language we expect in this house."  Build up models for them so that they get a clearer and clearer idea of what you want before you make it a non-negotiable.  

STEP THREE: TEACH

A bi-product of kids being technologically advanced is that many of them lag in their interpersonal skills.  Compared to what you might have learned already at your child's age about how to get along well with others in the world, today's children spent many fewer hours figuring out how to speak in such a way that strengthens connections and warms relationships.  The more we use our phones to deposit checks and order the weeks groceries, the less kids see us interacting with a wide variety of people.  In the absence of daily modeling, we need to teach our kids skills explicitly.  

One of my favorite teaching methods is role playing.  Ask your kids what the would say in different situations and how they would say it.  Start with people they know--their teachers, coaches, school personnel like the crossing guard or the office manager.  Set the expectation that it is respectful to greet and acknowledge these people.  Teach them stock phrases like, "Hello, Mrs. Stitt, how are you today?"  Teach them how they can extend the conversation:  "Isn't this a lovely day?" or "Did you have a good weekend?" or "Happy Chinese New Year! It's the Year of the Rooster, you know!"  Tell them explicitly it is respectful to express an interest.  When you pick them up for school ask, "Whose day did you brighten today?"  

STEP FOUR: TRAIN

Once you have taught your kids what it means to be respectful, they will have an understanding of being respectful, but they still won't have the habit.  Before you start reprimanding your children for being disrespectful,  make sure that you have done enough training.  Think about how long it takes to train yourself to do something until it is absolutely automatic.  I am currently training myself to sit up straight.  It didn't used to be such an issue because while teaching I spent so many hours on my feet, but now that I am in front of the computer most of the day, I have to think about it very consciously.  Boy, is is a slow process! Your kids will need lots and lots and lots of gentle reminders, so when they do not speak respectfully (or clean up their toys or remember their chores, etc), do not assume they are being defiant!  This is so important.  You want your rules followed, and they will be, but it will take time before your kids are consistent.  

Your job for the time being is to CATCH THEM DOING GOOD when they do it right and to gently remind them when they forget. Let them know that they are in training, and you want to do whatever you can in supporting their remembering.  This is the time to brainstorm structures that will help them remember (I still have to set an alarm to keep track of which week is recycling week).  

Next week we will get to what to do when training period is over, and it is finally time to add some teeth to your rules.  

 

 

 

 

How Can I Help My Daughter Study for 7th Grade Science?

Elisabeth Stitt

Teach your daughter how to study a textbook. Kids think they can just read a textbook the way they read a novel, but although both involve reading, they are really very different tasks.

Here are some guidelines on using a textbook:

BEFORE READING

Preview all the pictures and graphics (Some textbook companies include information in the pictures/graphics/sidebars, etc that they do not include in the body paragraphs, and often this information shows up on tests). Read the first paragraph, all the section headings and the last paragraph of the chapter. Go over and look up any italicized words in the text. STOP and summarize in your mind ideas like, “This chapter appears to be about…. The material I already know something about is…. The part that looks the hardest is….” READ the review questions at the end of the chapter. Make guesses about what the answers might be. Guessing will help you be on the look out for information as you read that confirms or denies your answers.

WHILE READING

Read in sections. At the end of each section, close the book (using a bookmark to track the page) and try to summarize in your mind what you have read. Say any difficult or new words OUT LOUD to try to fix them in your mind. If you are having a hard time summarizing, reread. Finally, when you can generally summarize, take notes and/or draw pictures or diagrams of what you have read IN YOUR OWN WORDS. Only go back to the text to double check you’ve got it right. Proceed to the next section.

AFTER READING

After reading: Whether your teacher requires it or not, go back to the questions at the end of the chapter and do them. If none of the questions asks you to summarize the main ideas of the chapter, write a paragraph of 5–7 sentences that will become your quick guide to what the chapter is about.

As you can see, studying a textbook takes much longer than reading a textbook, but when your teacher says, “Read pages 56–61,” she really doesn’t mean read. She means study. You might think, “Oh, that’s just 5 pages. That will take around 10 minutes.” It will not. Once you get good at this process, it will take you around 30 minutes for the before/while/after steps, but when you are first learning it, it will take much longer, so be sure to set aside some extra time.

LOOP YOUR STUDYING

Knowledge in the sciences is accumulative. Subsequent chapters require you to know the information from previous chapters. For this reason, keep your notes from all chapters for the entire year. (If you are taking notes on binder paper, you don’t have to carry the whole year around with you but can transfer previous chapters to a binder you keep at home.)  Every time you sit down to study new material, take 5 minutes or so to review old material.  Furthermore, a good teacher will ask questions from previous chapters on every test, so set a time in your schedule to go back and review them from time to time.

LOOK AHEAD

It can be hard to understand material two or three chapters away from the one you are working on, but there is still value in looking at ahead to those chapters.  Look at the titles, graphics and photos.  Start getting curious about what it means.  Be on the look out in your current and past chapters that might connect to the topics and themes coming up.  

Knowing how to be a good student is infinitely more valuable in the 7th grade than any particular knowledge gained of a particular topic.  Because grades count relatively little, 7th grade is the perfect time to focus on learning how to learn.  That is a skill that you will take with you no matter what classes you take in the future.  

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.  

Why Does My Kid Behave Like That?

Elisabeth Stitt

Parents are often baffled by their children’s misbehavior.  Worse, they are often hurt by their children’s behavior.  I believe the hurt comes from reacting to the behavior as if the child were an adult and not keeping in mind that most children do not have the emotional maturity to get their needs met through effective communication.  Not being able to use language to communicate their needs, they use their behavior.

Fortunately, if you can interpret the misbehavior correctly, you have a good chance of meeting the child’s need.  According to the work of researchers and educators like Linda Albert, Don Dinkkmeyer (Sr. and Jr. and Rudolf Dreikurs, misbehavior often comes from one of these four needs:  Attention, Power, Revenge and Avoidance of Failure.  Let’s take a look at each. 

Attention

When a child is doing something to get attention, the adult often feels irritated or annoyed.  Quite likely the adult is busy or trying to get through something and resents being interrupted from his current task. 

Let’s say that you are making cookie dough, so your kids can decorate cookies.  You are busy measuring and mixing and paying attention to the recipe.  The more absorbed you become with your recipe, the more disconnected from you your child feels.  Because you are your child’s source of security, feeling disconnected from you is scarier than any other reaction you are likely to give. 

To get your attention, so he feels connected again, your child begins play with the flour in the jar, running it through his hands.  Seeing it, you scold him in an annoyed voice and remind him of his promise to be good.  He stops for a moment, but soon his need for connection grows bigger than his fear of your reaction, so he starts banging the wooden mixing spoon on the tabletop.  This time you bark at him a little more strongly until he stops.

By the time the dough is ready, you are feeling resentful that he hasn’t let you get on in peace and really don’t even want to make cookies with the kids.  He feels tense and even more disconnected.

What can you do? 

Ideally, when you get that annoyed or irritated feeling, you will see it as a sign of your child’s lack of connection and will strive to find a way to connect even as you continue with your task.  Perhaps you will just look at him and lovingly acknowledge that it is hard to wait.  Perhaps you will be willing to sacrifice a cup of flour and give him two small bowls so he can practice measuring a teaspoon from one bowl and dumping it in another.  If he is old enough to read, perhaps you will put him in charge of reading the ingredients to you. 

Power

It is natural for children to want to feel that they are in control of their own lives.  We all want to feel we have choice and can affect the outcome of things; children are not different.  Power can come out in the form of bossiness as in, “You have to let me measure the flour!” Or can come in the form of refusal as in, “No, I’m not going to measure the flour and you can’t make me!”  In both cases, the child just doesn’t want to be told what to do.  The passive child will simply ignore your requests (but make no mistake, the goal of the behavior is still a bid for power).  

To be thwarted threatens our own sense of control and—I am not sure why—being thwarted by our own children affects us more than when being controlled by almost anyone else.  We react either by being more combative back (“Don’t you dare talk to me that way!  There won’t be any cookies if I don’t get an apology”) or by giving in to whatever the child wants.  The latter might help the child feel better in the short run; in the long run, however, giving in to our kids all the time makes them feel insecure (because while they want some control, total control is way too much responsibility and is scary). 

What can you do?

Allow a child’s combative or resistant behavior to be a clue that she is feeling powerless.  Start looking for ways to give her some power.  One of the best ways to do this is to offer her some choice as in “Are you going to measure the flour using the half-cup measure or the full-cup measure?”  Using an option like this, you neatly sidestep the rude tone and redirect your child into some new thinking.  If you must hold the limit, can you offer something else instead as in “I cannot risk flour all over the kitchen, but would you like to grate the orange or count out 20 walnuts for chopping?”  By giving her a choice, you reestablish your child’s sense of self. 

Revenge

When we realize or suspect that a child’s misbehavior has been done in the spirit of revenge, we are often not only angry, we are also hurt.  We know that whatever we did to get the child mad, we did not do it to deliberately make him angry.  If we allow our hurt to get the better of us, we might even try to get revenge back.  Perhaps your child deliberately dropped the bag of flour.  You know it was deliberate and now you feel like wringing his neck.  Here you are taking your precious time to make cookies—and he repays you by being a jerk!  Perhaps you retaliate by calling him clumsy or by punishing him with total responsibility for kitchen clean up later. 

What can you do? 

Unfortunately, you do have to be the responsible one!!  Yes, I know it is hard not to get your own revenge back.  But revenge is a sign of a child’s anger and defensiveness.  It is behavior that says, “I am only okay if the score is even and I get my fair share.”  This is a child who is living with a belief of scarcity.  She is afraid that if she does not assure that she get her due by means fair or foul that she lacks importance or has less value.  Instead of punishing her, it is your job to assure her of your love.  You might say something like, “I know you wouldn’t have dropped the flour on purpose unless you had lots of angry feelings inside.  I am really sorry you are feeling that way.  What can I do to help you feel better?”  I know this might feel counter intuitive to you as a parent and like you are condoning taking revenge, but it is too easy for revenge to get in a vicious cycle.  You have to back off and meet anger with love.  Love and forgiveness are the most effective tool for disarming the downward spiral of revenge.  (Once the connection has been reestablished, then you can look at the flour and say briskly, "Now, what needs to happen here?"  If the child truly feels connected again, she will move to help clean up the flour.  

Avoidance of Failure

A frequent source of misbehavior is avoidance of failure.  In some ways these misbehaviors seem the least aggressive but frequently because of the lack of action they can draw on, the adult himself feels helpless and depressed by the child’s reaction.  These behaviors might have you banging your head against the wall.

Let’s say that you ask your child to cream the butter and sugar.  Because the butter is a little cold still, the child finds herself struggling.  Afraid she is not going to succeed to your liking, your child puts her head on the table and says, “I can’t do it. It’s too hard.”  At first you encourage her brightly, “Sure you can!  You can do it,” but she still maintains that she can’t and instead of lifting her head, sighs gustily.  She is waiting for you to come in and rescue her.  “Here,” you say as you pick up the spoon, “It’s not so hard.  You do it like this.”  And before you know it, you have done the whole task.

This kind of learned helplessness drains energy from both of you.   

What can you do?

Avoidance of failure comes from a fear of disappointing one’s parents and of damaging one’s sense of being capable.  There is a lot you can do to combat it.  The primary action you can take is to help your child develop a growth mindset.  Make mistakes okay by modeling making mistakes yourself and learning from them.  Reassure your child that while getting the task “right” might affect the outcome of the cookies, it will not affect your love for her.  Assure her that there will be other chances to make cookies and to get it right;  Not everything has to be learned today.  Finally, You can also help her problem solve about how to work around obstacles.  Even a two year old might know that if the butter is too cold to blend right now, waiting 10 minutes might make all the difference.  A three year old might suggest her parent get the task started by cutting the cube of butter into small chunks first.  Given the chance for critical thinking, most kids can find a way of getting to a working solution that can allow them to be successful.

In Conclusion

It is my firm belief that children are not inherently mean.  Every child wants to feel loved, connected and like he is a good, worthwhile person.  As he is growing and learning, however, his sense of self is vulnerable and easily hurt.  When that happens, he feels alone, cast out in the world.  At that point, a pleasing child will go overboard to win your approval.  Most children, however, will work through their angry, hurt, scared feelings through some kind of misbehavior.  Our job as parents is to be detectives and to try to understand the feeling and the source behind the behavior.  That way we are most able to get the child’s needs met so that he can be his best self again. 

If you are struggling

It really can be hard not to take our children's behavior personally.  We are doing our best to provide them what they need, often bending over backwards to give them a nice time or to create magical birthdays or holidays, and when they reward us with hostility, anger, whining, or arguing, strong feelings surge up in us.  It does not feel fair.  It feels like a slap in the face after all our efforts.  

If you are swamped with resentment, frustration or hopelessness, let's talk.  Working through those feelings and learning concrete steps you can take is exactly what coaching addresses.  CONTACT ME today for a complimentary Harmony at Home Assessment session.  

WHAT DO I DO WHEN MY CHILD....

Elisabeth Stitt

I get lots of questions from parents about their kids--parents who don't know how they got where they are and don't know where to go from here.  The older your child gets, the more out of control you can feel as a parent.  

QUESTION:  My 12 year old got so mad at being told (repeatedly) to go to bed that when he slammed the door, it shattered.  I am at my wits’ end. 

ANSWER: Oh, wow.  That must have been so upsetting for you.
 
Although your instinct might have you wanting to come down hard on him, he needs your love and understanding just as much as a four year old does.  I get that that might be really hard for you.  A broken door is a big deal and having a kid that wound up feels completely out of control.  But here’s the truth:  When you get into a physical power struggle with a teenager, chances are he is going to win—which means you lose, which means everyone loses.  Even if he is not physically bigger than you are right now, he is smart and can think of a lot of ways to get around you or to infuriate you. 
 
Besides, you don’t want to “win” over your child.  You want your child to be happy and expending his energies in positive ways. 
 
The older a child gets, the harder it is for us to be patient and empathetic (He ought to know better, we think).  And yet a twelve year old is still a child—a child with hormones racing around inside until he feels he has to explode to feel normal again.
 
So start with empathy:  “I am so sorry you are feeling so upset.  It is really scary to feel so out of control.  I am guessing that you wouldn’t have reacted so strongly if you felt that your needs were getting met.  When you are feeling calmer, we need to brainstorm some solutions that might make everyone happier.” 
 
When everyone is calm, consider having a family meeting.  Be ready to do a lot—a lot—of listening.  (Click HERE for access to my free ebook on The Family Meeting.) Children who really feel seen and heard calm down enough emotionally to access their prefrontal cortex (where their most creative thinking goes on).  Be prepared to make some compromises.  Remember, your child is not behaving badly to spite you.  He does not want to feel disconnected from you.  If he could get what he needs peacefully, he would.  It is not too late to work on nonviolent communication.  Keep at it, and eventually he will be able to tell you what is so important to him.  In the meanwhile, based on my many years of working with middle school kids, here are some things you might guess he needs:
•more choice
•more independence
•more responsibility outside of school (chores, being trusted with some money, making decisions about things like where/how to hang the Christmas lights) 
•reassurance that you believe in him
•reassurance that you will love him no matter what (even if he breaks the door)
•reassurance that adolescence is a phase; it will get easier and he won’t always feel like this
•recognition that he is a work in progress; you don’t expect him to be perfect
•help reframing his so-called weaknesses into strengths
•understanding that messing up is a chance for learning next time
•lots of praise for what he does well
•appreciation for his contributions outside of his school performance
 
Use family meetings to engage his critical thinking skills.  Present issues as problems that you would like him to help solve.  For example, you might say, “Doctors recommend that 12 year olds get 9 to 11 hours of sleep.  How are you going to arrange your schedule so that you get enough sleep?”  By having him come up with a plan, he is more likely to follow it.  If getting to bed on time is an issue, offer a lot of empathy and press for more ideas: “I can see how tempting it is to read one more chapter of your book, and at the same time, a teenager with two hours less sleep than he needs is functioning at the same level as someone who has had two beers.  I worry that the rest of your day tomorrow is just going to be that much harder and I want you to have lots of energy.  How could we rearrange your day so you have enough time to enjoy reading your book?"
 
Once your child is calm, brainstorm ways for him to calm down before he gets that out of control (deep breathing, stepping outside for a moment, excusing himself to the bathroom for a few minutes). 

It is also time to brainstorm ways to make sure the door gets fixed.  Does he have the money to pay for it?  If not, how can he earn it?  Does he get an allowance?  Can it come out of that?  When things fall apart and so much damage is done, it is going to take a while to make things right.  Through it all, offering your child empathy and your steadfast belief that he has learned from the experience is what will allow him to forgive himself and move on.  

Let's go back to how to avoid having a broken door in the first place.  When kids get that out of control, chances are something has been building up for some time.  I love the family meeting as a structure, because it guarantees that on a weekly basis each family member gets to share three good things.  This keeps everyone focusing on the positive.  If your child is struggling to find three good things, it is a red flag that that child probably has issues that are overwhelming him.  The agenda portion of the family meeting allows each family member to bring up concerns and to brainstorm them together.  In this case, Mom might have backed off in the short run, knowing that she could talk about bed time and listening at the family meeting.  

My FREE ebook, THE FAMILY MEETING: GET 4 POWERFUL STEPS TO HARMONY AND CALM IN YOUR HOUSE, will guide you through how to optimize the meeting not only for logistics, but more importantly as a tool that helps you honor each child as an individual, giving them time and space to feel seen and heard.  


 

 

How Do You Deal with Your Kids When You and Your Husband Disagree?  

Elisabeth Stitt

by Elisabeth Stitt

WE CARE SO DEEPLY,  IT IS HARD TO SHIFT OUR POSITION

Ideally, spouses will agree with each other.  Indeed, were the world ideal, that would be easy.  Parenting is so personal, however, that it really is hard for parents to have worked out ahead of time what they want their approach to be. Parenting decisions are arguably the most important you'll ever make!  Talk about pressure. It is hard to give up your own point of view.

FIND AREAS IN COMMON AND HAVE EACH OTHER'S BACKS

I find it helps when parents focus more on what they agree on than on what they disagree on.   The first key is that the core values are the same.  I find it very constructive when parents narrow in on 3-4 absolutes.  For example, “In our family we are kind” or “In our family, we take care of our things.”  Which values parents focus on is less important than the power of a consistently presented message around agreed upon ideas. If parents have a lot of agreement and emphasis on the biggies for their family, there will be less need to micromanage each other.  I coach most parents to give their partner more space to parent the way each wants to.  

The second key is that at least there is an agreement in place to support each other.  In my blended family, my husband and stepchildren agreed to eat at the table with the t.v. off when I was there.  Nights I wasn’t home, they ate in front of the t.v.  When my younger stepson asked why they didn’t when I wasn’t home, my husband said, “What matters is that Elisabeth cares, so when she is home, we do it for her.”  In this case, my husband didn’t share the value of sitting at the table, but he did have my back.  I, for my part, let go of trying to convince him that I was right or even why it was important to me.  It was enough that he supported me.  By each giving each other some space, we both kept peace and presented a united front.  

ACCEPT DIFFERENCES IN THE LITTLE THINGS

As long as the core values are in place, it is okay for parents to have different approaches.  If Dad is supervising homework and he says yes to 15 minutes of shooting hoops before getting started, Mom should walk away, even if she has a problem with it.  In the same vein, if Mom is happy to have all the toys thrown into one big bin, Dad needs to wait until he is in charge to have kids sort the toys into separate bins.  Kids can handle two standards to some extent.  That being said, I do find it useful for spouses to have a rule that says kids have to take the first answer they get.  Of course, sometimes this will just mean that kids will go to the parent from whom they can get the yes.  In my own family growing up, that meant that my father always defaulted back to, “Ask your mother” or “Yes, if Mommy says so," but what is really important is that one parent's yes cannot fall to the other parent.  In other words, if mom says yes to a sleepover at Annie's, she cannot now expect dad to drop what he is doing to drive their daughter to the sleepover--or to be the one to pick her up in the morning.  Or if dad says yes to watching a movie that will keep kids up after bed time, it is not fair if mom is the one dealing with rude, grumpy children in the morning.

MAKE SURE THE DOWN SIDE OF YOUR PARENTING DECISIONS DON'T FALL TO YOUR PARENTING PARTNER

Similarly, for parents co-parenting from two separate households, I like the rule that dad cannot say yes to something that is on mom's day.  If my daughter wanted a play date on my weekend, she had to call and ask me.  That made it simpler as for the most part as we didn’t have to agree.  On the other hand, we had little control over what the other spouse did—and sometimes that made it really hard for me to hold my tongue.  For instance, my daughter's dad said yes to her going rock climbing with friends.  That freaked me out, but in the short run a) it was too late for me to do anything about it, and b) it was more important to back up my trust in her father than to make a big scene.  

IN MOST CASES, RELATIONSHIP SHOULD TRUMP PARENTING STYLE

The bottom line here is that the relationship between the parents is usually more important than a particular parenting decision.  Children can thrive with a wide variety of parenting styles as long as they feel safe and secure.  They get that from having their parents on the same page.  

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.  

 

Monstrous Meltdowns at the Market

Elisabeth Stitt

A client recently asked how she could avoid her kids having meltdowns at the supermarket. 

PLAN WHEN TO SHOP

1.  Try to plan your shopping for a time of day when you don’t have your kids with you.  (Maybe you can trade babysitting with a neighbor and watch her kids one day while she shops, so that you can leave your kids with her the next day while you shop.)

2.   If you must shop with your kids, try to shop at a time of day when they are most likely to handle it well because they are rested, fed and ideally have had some unstructured play time. 

SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS IN ADVANCE

3.   If there is no “ideal” time in your family and you have no option but to take your kids with you, it is KEY that before going to the supermarket, you set expectations.

Here’s what I did those days I went pick my child up from after school care, know we were going to have to go to the store.   (Note:  By five, most children will be a lot less likely to tantrum than when they were younger, but some kids take longer to learn to regulate their emotions, so while tantrums are tapering off, don’t worry too much if your child is still having them at five.)

•  I would start by pulling her aside at childcare into some quiet corner. I would get her on my lap and hold her until I had her attention. Sometimes, this meant a tantrum right there at childcare. It was a break from her routine. I was springing on her that her evening routine was going to be altered. She wouldn't get her playtime with mommy before dinner. Sometimes just holding her on my lap and not letting her run around the center would set her off crying. That was okay with me. Remember, even on a good day a child is more likely to cry between 5:00 and 6:00 o'clock than any other time. It's as if all the emotional stresses of the day have built up in children by then and they are just looking for an excuse to cry them out. Frankly, if my daughter was going to have a meltdown, I would rather that she have it at the center where we could sit on a beanbag in the corner than that she have it in the middle of the cereal aisle. Yes, a tantrum takes time. You cannot hurry it along, and I admit that while I was sitting there letting her wail it out, I was mentally revising my shopping list down to the bare essentials I could get away with without making tomorrow a hard day, too. On a happier note, the miracle of a good cry is that it really is like letting the storm wash through with its thunder and lighting. At the end of it, my daughter's tension would be spent and almost without exception she would be ready to calmly go to the store.

Although it might seem counter intuitive, the last minute trips to the store when she hadn't had a chance to cry were by far the trickier ones, the ones that required every bit of patience and creativity on my part to move us along without upset.

On the way to the store, I would use the time in the car to set the expectations for what would happen once we got to the store: I would explain, we were only getting a few things (could she hold the list for me?); we weren't getting anything that wasn't on the list (that meant no requests for raspberries, dinosaur pasta or "special treat" cereal); but we were getting apples (did she want red or green?). I would acknowledge that she didn’t want to go to the store and ask her what might make going to the store easier? Did she want to walk or sit in the cart? Would she keep her bottom down? Otherwise she was going to be walking. How could she help Mommy? Could she count the apples? Sort the food by whether or not it went in the fridge or the cupboard? Hold the reusable grocery bags and hand them to the bagger? My main aim here in addition to letting her know what kind of behavior would be expected was to make her feel needed and included. Instead of my dragging her to the store because I had no choice, I would pose it as how lovely it was that she was there to assist me.

MAKE THE TRIP FUN

4.  Once at the store, be all about cheerful confidence that the trip was going to be quick and fun. Often, I would turn it into a song and we would skip through the parking lot (Yes, I skipped in public. If it made a five o'clock shopping trip go off without a hitch, dignity be damned). We would sing: We're going to the store/We're going to the store/Hi Ho the Merry-o,/We're going to the store. If it was working, we'd add more verses (We'll buy the apples first/We'll buy the apples first/Hi Ho the Merry-o/We'll buy the apples first). As we were singing, we wouldn't have to stop to have conversation about whether she would walk or  she would sit because we had already worked that out in the car. If she did decide to resist, I wouldn't let her change her mind because I knew that if I gave in on that first agreement, all I was doing was putting off the inevitable battle for later inside the store. Instead, I would get down to eye level, hold her hands or stroke her arms and gently remind her of her agreement. Sometimes that brought on a crying jag right there outside the store [Let me offer up a small prayer of thanks here that I was parenting in California. The weather was rarely so bad that we couldn't take the time to have the tantrum outside the store. If it had been, I suppose I would have had to go back to the car and let her do her crying there.]

STICK TO THE PLAN

5.  Stick to the plan.  You know as well as I do that a grocery store is specifically designed as a land mine that a parent must negotiate through. Yes, the store does deliberately place toys and yummy snacks right where a child is most likely to see them. That's why I would use the shopping list plus empathy. My daughter would cry out in great need for something--bubbles, maybe--and I would say, "Aw, too bad it is not on the list!" And then as I pushed by the bubbles, I might add in my most energized voice, "I love bubbles! They're so much fun!! I like the way they shimmer with different colors!! Don't you think bubbles are just the prettiest?" At this point, on a good day, my daughter would get excited just talking about bubbles. By the time she got back to wanting to buy them, we would be aisles away and looking for the next item on the list. On a bad day, this might be where the tears finally appeared. Remember, some days there are just tears that need to fall. A child has been keeping it together all day at school, but now that she is with you, her parent, she can safely fall apart secure in the knowledge that you won't abandon her. At this point, you have to make a decision. It might be possible to keep offering sympathy while at the same time going down your shopping list: "Aw, Sweetie. I know you really wanted those bubbles, You really like them and really wish you could get some. I know that's hard, Pumpkin. I wish I could make it easier for you." For my own part, if the crying was at a reasonable decibel and I didn't think I was making the other patrons suffer too badly, I would push through my list, continuing to murmur comforting sounds, taking her hand if she would let me. If it was really bad, I would ask the clerk at the front of the store to watch my cart and head outside until she finished crying. Once she was done--and that could be a while--we would head back in and finish.  As much as it might have helped me get through the shopping list without a tantrum, I made sure not to give in to the bubbles or whatever it was she wanted. 

KNOW THAT THIS STAGE WILL PASS!

6.  When all else fails at the end of the day, know that this is just a developmental stage your child is going throughWith each passing month, she will be better able to handle herself and will be more and more able to help you.  Soon you will have your kids so well trained that you will wait until your kids are with you to shop.  While you work your way through the vegetables, they will be your gophers running to pick up more butter and some milk.  They will know which bread, cereal and crackers your family favors.  They’ll be so helpful, the days of tantrums in the store will seem a distant memory. 

Where are you getting snagged by your kids?  

Hi.  Every parent has some parts of the day that she does well.  Every parent has some parts of the day that just don't seem to work.  Wouldn't you like to know what's the one change you could make that would smooth out the rough patches?  That's what my Harmony at Home Family Assessment does--identify the sticky points so that you know where to focus your parenting energies most efficiently.  TEXT me with some times that work for you, and we'll find you a date.  

Happy Parenting,

Elisabeth

Elisabeth Stitt

Joyful Parenting Coaching

650.248.8916

www.elisabethstitt.com  

categories Communication, Build Connections, Confidence, Parenting
tags communication, confidence, connection, parenting plan, parenting is hard, parenting is hard!

Teaching Kids to Meditate: Ages 2 to 12

Elisabeth Stitt

You have probably heard of the benefits of routine meditation practices.  Studies have linked meditation to decreased stress, decreased depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia, and an increased quality of life.  Studies have even found that people who practiced meditation regularly had more gray matter in the frontal cortex, which is associated with working memory and executive decision making.  A parent asked me how young you can start meditation with children.  I don’t know, though there are studies on kids as young as second grade, and my guess is there is no reason not to start sooner—as long as it is does not become one more thing parents feel they should do with their kids.  With one in five children saying they worry “a lot or a great deal” about their lives, meditation may be one way for them to calm their monkey brain.

The question is how to teach very young children to meditate.  I would start by saying it is a process! 

An important aspect of meditation is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is really about paying attention to the moment by opening one’s senses fully. Ask children to sit and close their eyes. What do they hear? smell? What textures are they aware of? Can they feel their bones on the ground? Can they feel the movement of their body as they breath in and out? Can they hear their heart beating? Can they slow their breath but breathing in? Over time have kids extend the number of seconds it takes to breath in, pause, and then breath out, pause, breathe in, pause, breath out, pause.

Get kids to become aware of when and where they are tense.

The next approach might be teaching them to tense and relax different parts of their body. (In a classroom, this can be done sitting at their desks). This helps them learn to focus and it helps them feel the difference between tense and relaxed muscles. Work from the toes up to the head. Ask children to curl their toes as hard as they can and then relax, flex their feet as hard as they can and then relax, tighten their straight legs as hard as they can by pulling them together. Continue to work in this way up through the top of their head. Then work back down to their toes. Then ask them to take a deep breath in and out and as they let the air out to let their whole body relax.

Kids are naturals at guided meditations as they already live in their imaginations. 

As a third step, have kids do a guided meditation. I have introduced kids to this as an eyes open exercise. I have allowed them to draw or color as I imagine them walking through nature. With a recording of sounds of nature playing in the background, I guide them down a woodland path to a glen with wild flowers and birds and a still pond with water bugs making the only movement on the water. As I describe it, they draw whatever they are inspired to draw.

With kids at home, choose a time when your kids are sleepy and you can go straight to going to eyes closed on the floor or even in bed and just have them imagine the journey. If you have the space in the classroom for your kids to lie on the floor, then work towards having them do the guided meditation not drawing but just with their eyes closed. Start with short ones and then as they learn to settle into it, you can make them longer. (A guided meditation can be an excellent introduction to a writing exercise. You might ask them, for example, to describe what they see in the glen when they get there. Or if there is a river in the guided meditation, ask them what they find further down the river.

If none of these techniques work, don't worry.  Modeling meditation through developing your own daily practice might work.  Or you might just wait six months and try then. 

A combination of these ideas keeps things fresh for kids while at the same time helping them get the benefits we associate with meditation.  Again, take it slow!  Keep it light and playful.  You might scoff at the idea of a first grader worried because she has not been able to meditate right, but I have stood in line at the grocery store as one mother complained to another about her own meditation and watched the expression on her little girl's face.  To me it seemed to say, "Oh no.  One more thing for me to worry about!"  So, have fun with it.  If it helps your family--or one particular child--great!  If not, LET IT GO!!  Playing outside on the grass or climbing a tree will also go far to restoring kids' equilibrium.   

 


In the way that sometimes happens, I finish writing a blog and then I find another someone else who had covered the same material but even better!  You might enjoy this INFOGRAPHIC