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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: Build Connections

DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS

Elisabeth Stitt

Even many adults don't learn the skill of having difficult conversations effectively.  Most people just want everyone else to be happy.  Certainly, no one modeled for me how to stay present even when conversations got uncomfortable.  It was so much easier to just give up or give in.  Now, of course, there are times when going with the flow is the name of the game, but if you want your kids to learn the balance between keeping the peace and learning to advocate for themselves in a constructive way, they are going to learn that much sooner if you teach it to them explicitly. 

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Say Yes When You Can, But Don't Be Afraid of Saying No

Elisabeth Stitt

Most parents understand and are comfortable with this when it comes to safety.  Your two year old may want to climb the wobbly ladder by himself but you know that the risk is too great, so you offer a compromise--she may climb it with you hanging on to him tightly or she may climb her toy slide by herself.  He may not use the big knife to cut onions but he may use the plastic knife to cut bananas or to spread butter.  

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Chores for All Ages

Elisabeth Stitt

There are many reasons to give kids chores (To see a comprehensive list, go HEREKids like to feel needed and capable.  Chores help with both.  When parents set up chores as “In our family we help each other,” kids see their work as being an important part of being a member of the family.  Plus, kids like knowing they are able to do things on their own.  They like being able to know that they were the one who made the living room sparkle or who saw to it that every family member had a sandwich ready to take in his lunch.  When all the family members are contributing, it frees up time for family fun, and parents are less stressed.  Parents have to get themselves ready for work.  If the kids are making lunch for everyone while Mom and Dad are getting breakfast on the table, families end up having a few minutes to sit down and start the day together.  

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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.  

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.  


 

 

Every Day Is Labor Day!

Elisabeth Stitt

And Every Day is Independence Day...

by Elisabeth Stitt

Maria Montessori's rule of thumb is, "Never do for the child what he can do for himself."  Her entire educational program is built around the idea that by building on kids' basic skills and giving them more and more to do, we build their power--their self-confidence, their self-control and their self efficacy.  

I love the word self efficacy.  It means a person's "confidence in the ability to exert control over one's own motivation, behavior, and social environment."  

It is worth remembering that when we give kids positive control over their lives, they have much less need to gain negative control through whiny, bratty, out of control behavior.  

Set Kids Up for Success with the Skills and Tools they Need

By asking kids to help--to labor--along side you, you will be giving them a sense of personal power.  There are a lot of ways to do this with toddlers and preschoolers.  I outline some here in my blog on making pancakes.  My blog on Making the Bed is really about connecting with your children through daily activities, but it also demonstrates how a daily chore can increasingly be given over to the child.  HOW TO GET THEM UP AND OUT THE DOOR ON THEIR OWN is a blog that also resonated with lots of parents. Another really great resource is Jeanne-Marie Paynel's videos on how to set up basic living skill development for your kids. Here, for example, is a demonstration of how to teach a small child to peel a hard-boiled egg and what competencies it will help develop.  

For young children helping out means being a connected part of the family.  It means stepping into their own power--not as dependents but as contributors.   Many kids' first real phrase is along the lines of "Me do.  No Mommy do.  Me do."  

Historically, children worked along side their parents, learning the tasks of home and hearth, field and barn from the moment they could toddle.  Now they mostly spend the day separate from us.  Depending on the preschool curriculum, your children may get opportunities to learn independence tasks at school, but it still mostly falls on us to structure home life in such a way that kids become increasingly independent.  

Recommendations for Building Independence:  

•Make a list of basic skills that kids need for daily tasks.  This includes things like pouring and squeezing with control, spreading and cutting with a knife, snapping, buttoning and tying, stirring and mixing dry goods and wet goods without spilling.

•Look to where kids can practice these skills in their daily play--in the sandbox, with play doh, dressing and undressing stuffies, in the bathtub. Use whatever old bowls, spoons, pots, cups, etc. you have on hand. Be willing for things to get messy and be willing to sacrifice things like cups of rice, dried beans, expired pancake mix or baking soda to their exploration.  

•Look to where kids can help you--sorting the laundry, fluffing the pillows, cutting something soft, brushing teeth

•Decide on one or two tasks you'd like to focus on.  Make sure your kids have opportunities to practice these skills as part of their play.  Then start practicing the daily living task on days when you have a little more time (like the weekends or a day you don't have an early meeting).  

•When they are competent enough (not perfect), hand the task over to them as a daily responsibility.  A two year old, for example, can put his dirty clothes in the hamper or hang them on a low hook.  Yes, she will need lots of reminding, but eventually it will become habitual.  

•As your kids become automatic with one task, start introducing the next one.  The aim is to provide challenge without letting it get to the point of frustration.  

Seeing Kids as Being in Progress While Keeping the Long Term Goals in Mind

Your long term goal is to have children going through their off to school and going to bed routines independently (which should free you up to go through yours!). Most children are capable of getting there eventually if you are persistent.  It will take some longer to get the physical coordination they need; it will take some more reminders.  Some kids will need visual reminders; others will respond to a timer being set to keep them on track.  Many will just fall into the routine.  The trick is to keep your long term expectations for independence high while keeping your day-to-day expectations realistic.  

If you are struggling with getting your kids to do things on their own, I am always ready to help.  Sign up HERE for a complimentary Labor Day Strategy Session.  

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!