Yesterday I spent a fun hour with the delightful Richard Fidler on ABC Radio in Australia.
Few experiences any of us undergo are as transformative as parenting. By definition, parenting is about transformation. One of our most important jobs as parents is to witness and influence the evolution of our children from wrinkly newborns with raw nervous systems into integrated, whole humans who know who they are and how to be in the world. And parenting obviously transforms us as well. There are smaller transformations—we learn to do most things “one-handed” while carrying a baby on our hip; we begin to eat at McDonalds; we memorize the names of dinosaurs; we learn to play video games again; we even buy a mini-van (which for some is a bigger transformation than for others). And there are huge, life-changing transformations—we adjust our priorities; we make sacrifices that cost us greatly; we learn to live with worrying and “what ifs”; we forever expand our hearts.
Along the way, we become more creative than we ever knew possible. I’m not talking about the creativity of artists, song-writers, or novelists. I’m talking about the creativity that’s required for survival for anyone caring for children. I knew I’d been forever transformed by my role as a parent when, in my attempt to get through to my non-compliant little streakers, creativity sprung forth from desperation and I made up a song with a chorus that began, “No naked butts on the furniture.” (Unfortunately, it was so catchy that one day I actually Continue Reading »
Here’s an episode from my no-longer-in-existence parenting show, “The Intentional Parent.” This episode features the amazing Dr. Andre Van Rooyen. Andre, Greg, and I discuss what anxiety is, how to identify it, what different kinds exist, what can cause it, techniques to deal with it, and when/how to manage it with medication.
I know lots of loving parents who use time outs as their primary discipline technique. I’m not saying that time outs are completely unhelpful; more that I don’t think they’re the best alternative we have when it comes to discipline—the goal of which, remember, is to teach.
Reasons I’m Not a Fan of Time-Outs:
#1. What we know about the brain.
Because I know that brain connections are formed from repeated experiences, I don’t want my kids’ repeated experience to be isolation, which they may view as rejection, when they’ve made a mistake.
What I DO want them to repeatedly experience is doing things the right way. So, instead of a time out, I’ll often Continue Reading »
Discipline is a complex and complicated subject. I could write a whole book about it. In fact, I’ve already started working on one.
But when we talk about effective discipline and how parents can achieve the results they want when they interact with their kids, it can actually be it pretty simple. If it were a math formula, it would look like this:
WARMTH + AUTHORITY = EFFECTIVE DISCIPLINE
The research is really clear on this point. Kids who achieve the best outcomes in life – emotionally, educationally, and relationally – have parents who raise them with a high degree of warmth and nurturing, or what I like to call emotional responsiveness, as well as a high degree of authority, where clear boundaries are communicated and enforced. Their parents remain firm and consistent in their boundaries, while still interacting with them in a way that communicates love, respect, and compassion. Warmth and authority are the two sides of the effective-discipline coin.
The first side of the discipline coin: Warmth
When we nurture our children and attune to their internal world, we allow them to know and believe that they are seen, heard, loved, and approved of by their parents. Then they’ll interact with the world around them based on that belief, so that their brains are wired to expect that their needs will be met in intimate relationships. On the other hand, if a parent repeatedly Continue Reading »
[This is a revised version of the first article in a two-part series. Click here to see the second four mistakes.]
Because we’re always parenting our children, it takes real effort to look at our discipline strategies objectively. Good intentions can become less-than-effective habits quickly, and that can leave us operating blindly, disciplining in ways we might not if we thought much about it. Here are some parenting mistakes made by even the best-intentioned, most well-informed parents, along with practical suggestions that might come in handy the next time you find yourself in one of these situations.
Common Discipline Mistake #1: We lay down the law in an emotional moment, then realize we’ve overreacted.
Have you reacted in a way that was a bit “supersized” for the behavior you were trying to address? Maybe your child’s actions didn’t warrant such a dramatic pronoucement: “You can’t go swimming for the rest of the summer!” Or maybe the consequences even had to do with something you were counting on: “Stop calling your brother names or you can’t go to Grandma’s house today.” Of course, she again calls him “stinky-head” and calls your bluff. Your options at this point are to either miss your lunch with your friends or show your child that you don’t mean what you say.
In these moments, give yourself permission to rectify the situation. Obviously, follow-through is important once you’ve set boundaries; otherwise, you’ll lose credibility in your child’s eyes and your child will not have the security of knowing where the limits are. But there are ways to be consistent and still get out of the bind you’re in. For example, Continue Reading »
The other day a reporter asked me to respond to a few questions about spoiling, and what it means for our kids. With the holidays coming up, this seems like a pretty timely subject. Here’s how I answered the reporter’s questions about what spoiling is, and just as importantly, what it’s not.
WHAT IS SPOILING? DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH MONEY SPENT? TIME? NEVER SAYING NO? ALL OF THE ABOVE?
Let’s start with what spoiling is not: Spoiling is NOT about how much love and time and attention you give your kids. You can’t spoil your children by giving them too much of yourself. In the same way, you can’t spoil a baby by holding her too much or responding to her needs each time she expresses them.
SO HOW DO WE SPOIL OUR KIDS?
The dictionary definition is “to ruin or do harm to the character or attitude by overindulgence or excessive praise.” Spoiling can of course happen when we give our kids too much stuff or spend too much money or say yes all the time. But it’s more than that. It’s also about giving them the sense that the world and people around them will serve their whims.
Again, it’s impossible to spoil children with too much nurturing or love or attention or time. Nurturing your relationship with your child or giving them a sense that they are entitled to your love and affection (or holding them when they’re little) is exactly what we should be doing. In other words, we let them know that they can count on getting their NEEDS met.
Spoiling, on the other hand, occurs when parents (or other caregivers) create their child’s world in such a way that the child feels Continue Reading »
When your kids misbehave, your immediate reaction may be to offer consequences with both guns blazing.
You hit your sister? That’s a time out.
You broke the book shelf while climbing to reach the matches? You just lost your playdate this afternoon.
Your kids act, and you react.
If you’ve heard me speak, or if you’ve read other pieces I’ve written about discipline, you know I’m a big believer in setting and enforcing boundaries. At times, giving consequences may be the best response in order to teach lessons about appropriate behavior and observing boundaries.
But here I want to make the case for stepping in before things escalate, before you have to start thinking about consequences. I’m talking about proactive parenting, as opposed to reactive parenting.
When we parent proactively, we watch for times when we can tell that misbehavior and/or a meltdown are in our kid’s near future, and we step in and try to guide them around that potential landmine. Sometimes you can even Continue Reading »
[Two weeks from today (Oct 4), my new book with Dan Siegel, The Whole-Brain Child, comes out! Below you’ll find the third in a four-part series where I post excerpts from the book. I hope you enjoy it.]
You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.
–John Kabit Zinn
Here’s a conversation I recently had with my 7-year-old when he wasn’t at his logical best.
My son: I can’t go to sleep. I’m mad that you never leave me a note in the middle of the night.
Me: I didn’t know you wanted me to.
My son: You never do anything nice for me, you do things at night for Luke, and I’m mad because my birthday isn’t for ten more months, and I hate homework.
Sound familiar? An encounter like this can be frustrating, especially when you’re beginning to feel that your child is finally old enough to actually be reasonable and discuss things logically. All of a sudden, though, you’re interacting with a being who becomes over-the-top upset about something completely ridiculous and illogical, and it seems that absolutely no amount of reasoning on your part will help.
This is one of those times when knowing a little bit about the brain can help us parent in more effective (and more empathic) ways.
You probably already know that your brain is divided into two hemispheres. The left side of your brain is logical and verbal, while the right side is emotional and nonverbal. That means that if we were ruled only by the left side of our brain, it would be as if we were living in an emotional drought, not paying attention to our feelings at all. Or, in contrast, if we were completely “right-brained,” we’d be all about emotion and ignore the logical parts of ourselves. Instead of an emotional drought, we’d be drowning in an emotional tsunami.
Clearly, we function best when the two hemispheres of our brain work together, so that our logic and our emotions are both valued as important parts of ourselves and we are emotionally balanced. Then we can give words to our emotional experiences, and make sense of them logically.
Now, let’s apply that information to the interaction above. My son was experiencing an emotional tidal wave. When this occurs, one of the worst things I can do is jump right in trying to defend myself (“I do nice things for you!”), or to argue with him about his faulty logic (“That’s just not true, and your birthday is actually only nine months away”). My verbal, logical response hits an unreceptive brick wall and creates a gulf between us: he feels like I’m dismissing his feelings and that I don’t understand; I feel frustrated that he’s being so ridiculous and impossible. It’s a lose-lose approach.
So I have to come to an important recognition: Logic will do no good in a case like this until a child’s right brain is responded to.
How do we do that? I suggest that we use the “Connect and Redirect” method. Continue Reading »
The holidays can be such a fun time with our kids. We build memories, create rituals, focus on what’s most meaningful. Sexual abuse prevention and the nagging thought that “I really should talk to my kids about this” is rarely on our minds during the holidays. But during this season, as you spend extra time with friends and relatives, be aware that you need to be thinking about protecting your kids as well. Statistics show that children are much more likely to be sexually abused by someone they know and even trust–including older kids at various parties you attend during the holidays–than by some creepy guy in a van.
Since one-fourth of girls and one-sixth of boys are victims of sexual abuse, this isn’t something we should think we’re immune to. Now is the time to educate yourself and empower your kids so they know how to respond if they’re in an inappropriate situation. Talking to them won’t spoil the holiday spirit, and it will make you feel better knowing that you’ve begun these important conversations.
Don’t know what to say? Don’t want to scare them? I’ve got help for you. In the video below, Greg and I visit with Pattie Fitzgerald, founder of Safely Ever After, Inc., about how to not only keep our kids safe, but empower them against sexual abuse. Also, here’s an article I wrote about the subject in the past.