Disciplining children is a very personal thing with parents.
There is no one way, right way or only way for any family or child. Much like with teachers, the key to success is authenticity. Being true to yourself and demonstrating your love for your children with kindness and firmness is part of that key to success. In our last post on this subject we noted 3 steps to avoiding a power struggle.
Know what you want
Know what you will do
The very first step is about knowing what you would like to see in your children as they grow up. What does it look like, sound like and what are the morals, values and ethics that they will display? This will then break down into actual physical application. What does the going to bed routine look like? What are your expectations of the children when you are at the dinner table? All of these will evolve as they get older and more responsible – but knowing and agreeing with your partner is the first step in eliminating power struggles.
Part two is what will you do if your expectations of the child are not met? How will you handle it? Knowing ahead of time that you will pull the car over if the kids are fightingin the back seat eliminates the threats of doing so and threats of punishment. Knowing what you will do also allows you to act versus react. Sometimes our reaction is looked back on and we wished we had done something very differently.
The third part is following through. Consistency and following through even when our heart is wishing we did not need to do so is the discipline and structure needed by the child as they are growing up. When the follow through is sporadic it allows the child to believe that they can control the situation by …. (you fill in the blank) they know what pushes your buttons.
More on actual techniques for disciplining (read teaching) in later posts, but for now these 3 steps combined with smiles and hugs will go a long way in creating a positive relationship with our children.
If you do not want to go through the teenage years with your children in a hostile environment, with resentment, resistance and rebellion being the 3 R’s – then the goal now when they are young, is to build a close, safe and trusting atmosphere. If you are experiencing power struggles with young children now, as the parent you have the choice in what life will be like in the teen years. Why? How?
It takes two to create a power struggle!
Taking part in a power struggle with a child is an NO WIN situation. As the parent you will never win and even if it looks like you did (read they do what you want them to do) they will get you back. As a parent we are looking for the balance – a child who is learning self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation, problem and conflict solving skills – not an extreme approval seeking child or one that will not do anything they are asked to do without resistance.
When a child is interested in demonstrating their power, the adult should not be looking to win or just giving in because it is easier. There are other choices that will create a WIN WIN for each of you.
Know what you want
Know what you will do
In upcoming posts we will see how to make these 3 steps a part of who we are as a parent.
Is it OK for our kids to fail – to not have the success that they want? In examining the question of allowing our kids to fail there are a couple of things that come up including, why we do not want them to fail and what would the results be if they did fail.
In our society today many parents do not want their children to fail because they are afraid of what it will do to their ‘confidence’, ‘self esteem’, or view of themselves. However, many times it also has to do with wanting to keep up with our friends, not being left behind, or what others will think.
If we raise our children to be ‘failure free’ what we will end up with is a child whose expectations of the world are unrealistic, expecting everything to go their way. I don’t know about you – but that is not the way my life went. We will have children who are constantly looking for ways to sidestep the expectations, make excuses for what they do or even cheat to get what they want or feel they deserve. Finally they will be young adults who do not have the skills to take on challenges and know how to fail and get up and try again.
If we protect them from failure we will have also protected them from an opportunity to succeed due to great effort. Their muscles will not have been strengthened to persevere and overcome obstacles. We hear a lot about children and adults needing resilience. Failures teach children that they will not break, they can have failures and come back and use what they have learned to become better the next time. This is the key to resilience and strong, confident kids.
I have been quiet on the tragedy of this past week in Connecticut. Like so many of you, this event has touched me so deeply, emotionally creating havoc for any parent or teacher. The feeling of helplessness and without the ability to support this community is sometimes a feeling that is overwhelming. At the same time we must also be aware of the effects on our own children – hundreds of miles away, as they very quickly pick up on our emotions and will respond accordingly.
The following are suggestions from National Association of School Psychologists. It is unfortunate that in the past few years we have had to review these tips too many times, as our community, country and the world have faced devastating events, all of which affect the feelings of safety that our children deal with. As you review them, feel free to share them with your friends and neighbors. I would like to thank NASP for providing this information.
If there is anything that Balanced Life Skills can do for anyone in our community please call or email us and we will help or assist in finding the help you need to provide a peaceful culture and environment for you and your children.
Tips for Parents and Teachers
Whenever a national tragedy occurs, such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters, children, like many people, may be confused or frightened. Most likely they will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and school personnel can help children cope first and foremost by establishing a sense of safety and security. As more information becomes available, adults can continue to help children work through their emotions and perhaps even use the process as a learning experience.
All Adults Should:
Model calm and control. Children take their emotional cues from the significant adults in their lives. Avoid appearing anxious or frightened.
Reassure children that they are safe and (if true) so are the other important adults in their lives. Depending on the situation, point out factors that help insure their immediate safety and that of their community.
Remind them that trustworthy people are in charge. Explain that the government emergency workers, police, firefighters, doctors, and the military are helping people who are hurt and are working to ensure that no further tragedies occur.
Let children know that it is okay to feel upset. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy like this occurs. Let children talk about their feelings and help put them into perspective. Even anger is okay, but children may need help and patience from adults to assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
Observe children’s emotional state. Depending on their age, children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can also indicate a child’s level of grief, anxiety or discomfort. Children will express their emotions differently. There is no right or wrong way to feel or express grief.
Look for children at greater risk. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Be particularly observant for those who may be at risk of suicide. Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
Tell children the truth. Don’t try to pretend the event has not occurred or that it is not serious. Children are smart. They will be more worried if they think you are too afraid to tell them what is happening.
Stick to the facts. Don’t embellish or speculate about what has happened and what might happen. Don’t dwell on the scale or scope of the tragedy, particularly with young children.
Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate. Early elementary schoolchildren need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that the daily structures of their lives will not change. Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence and threats to safety in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. They will be more committed to doing something to help the victims and affected community. For all children, encourage them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. Be a good listener!
Monitor your own stress level. Don’t ignore your own feelings of anxiety, grief, and anger. Talking to friends, family members, religious leaders, and mental health counselors can help. It is okay to let your children know that you are sad, but that you believe things will get better. You will be better able to support your children if you can express your own emotions in a productive manner. Get appropriate sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
What Parents Can Do:
Focus on your children over the week following the tragedy. Tell them you love them and everything will be okay. Try to help them understand what has happened, keeping in mind their developmental level.
Make time to talk with your children. Remember if you do not talk to your children about this incident someone else will. Take some time and determine what you wish to say.
Stay close to your children. Your physical presence will reassure them and give you the opportunity to monitor their reaction. Many children will want actual physical contact. Give plenty of hugs. Let them sit close to you, and make sure to take extra time at bedtime to cuddle and to reassure them that they are loved and safe.
Limit your child’s television viewing of these events. If they must watch, watch with them for a brief time; then turn the set off. Don’t sit mesmerized re-watching the same events over and over again.
Maintain a “normal” routine. To the extent possible stick to your family’s normal routine for dinner, homework, chores, bedtime, etc., but don’t be inflexible. Children may have a hard time concentrating on schoolwork or falling asleep at night.
Spend extra time reading or playing quiet games with your children before bed. These activities are calming, foster a sense of closeness and security, and reinforce a sense of normalcy. Spend more time tucking them in. Let them sleep with a light on if they ask for it.
Safeguard your children’s physical health. Stress can take a physical toll on children as well as adults. Make sure your children get appropriate sleep, exercise, and nutrition.
Consider praying or thinking hopeful thoughts for the victims and their families. It may be a good time to take your children to your place of worship, write a poem, or draw a picture to help your child express their feelings and feel that they are somehow supporting the victims and their families.
Find out what resources your school has in place to help children cope. Most schools are likely to be open and often are a good place for children to regain a sense of normalcy. Being with their friends and teachers can help. Schools should also have a plan for making counseling available to children and adults who need it.
What Schools Can Do:
Assure children that they are safe and that schools are well prepared to take care of all children at all times.
Maintain structure and stability within the schools. It would be best, however, not to have tests or major projects within the next few days.
Have a plan for the first few days back at school. Include school psychologists, counselors, and crisis team members in planning the school’s response.
Provide teachers and parents with information about what to say and do for children in school and at home.
Have teachers provide information directly to their students, not during the public address announcements.
Have school psychologists and counselors available to talk to students and staff who may need or want extra support.
Be aware of students who may have recently experienced a personal tragedy or a have personal connection to victims or their families. Even a child who has merely visited the affected area or community may have a strong reaction. Provide these students extra support and leniency if necessary.
Know what community resources are available for children who may need extra counseling. School psychologists can be very helpful in directing families to the right community resources.
Allow time for age appropriate classroom discussion and activities. Do not expect teachers to provide all of the answers. They should ask questions and guide the discussion, but not dominate it. Other activities can include art and writing projects, play acting, and physical games.
Be careful not to stereotype people or countries that might be associated with the tragedy. Children can easily generalize negative statements and develop prejudice. Talk about tolerance and justice versus vengeance. Stop any bullying or teasing of students immediately.
Refer children who exhibit extreme anxiety, fear or anger to mental health counselors in the school. Inform their parents.
Provide an outlet for students’ desire to help. Consider making get well cards or sending letters to the families and survivors of the tragedy, or writing thank you letters to doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals as well as emergency rescue workers, firefighters and police.
Monitor or restrict viewing scenes of the event as well as the aftermath.
The P in SPARK stands for PASSION. Developing passion in our children is something that we all would like to see happen. Sometimes we see a child who seems passionate about a sport or another activity, but find out it is really about their friends being there and not really passion. On the other hand we may have a child who does not seem to be interested in anything – and isn’t that frustrating, especially if we feel like all they want to do is sit and …..(fill in the blank)
Our job as a parent is to expose our children to a variety of activities and interests. While we may find one child interested in reading or math – another child may have a passion for one particular sport or activity like horseback riding or nature. Some children will thrive with competition and teams while others would rather do something by themselves. The martial arts if taught in a manner that does not promote competition may be a perfect fit for someone who does not want to compete. If we are not sure where their head is at, we can keep trying by listening to them and paying attention to what appears to make them happy. Then you can do what you can to expose them to and promote their interest.
One word of warning though. Not all children will be interested in the same things and certainly not interested in what the parents may want them to be interested in. Trying to find what our child is passionate for calls for a certain amount of non-ownership, allowing the child to express themselves and then doing what you can to support their interest.
One small side note: One of my children, the youngest, showed an interest in books and films. He would spend hours reading and watching films. As he was exposed to that world more and more he eventually went to college for creative writing and now has a book published. I can tell you that understanding the level of that passion and watching him go to a college for writing is hard for a parent – but one that has resulted in a very happy young adult.