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Posts Tagged ‘Child rearing’

Christmas is less then a week away and I, as usual, have put off getting gifts for my grandchildren right down to the last days. I want to get them something that will teach and benefit them, not just another splashy piece of plastic in its little molded card that will hold their attention only until the next gift is opened.

It’s not easy to find a lasting gift in the newest list of plastic heroes with special powers that are the rage of the 6 to 12-year-old set. Last year Pokeman cards, lost out to Harry Potter books, toys, games, and t-shirts. But Harry Potter might not make the top ten this year. No customers are as fickle as children, so with six days left, who can predict the next best seller.

I remember very few gifts from my own childhood. One or two stand out, but most were broken, lost or in the trash after only a few months. I do remember my Aunt Emily’s card promising me a trip to the Science and Industry Museum in Chicago. She didn’t have a lot of money, so she gave “services.” We went while school was still out for the holidays, and I still remember where we had lunch. I don’t remember any other gift from that Christmas.

Memories of gifts during my teenage years are also a blur except I remember that my older cousin, Harold, picked up Aunt Emily’s idea and took me bowling one year. The next year, he took me back to his old college for a day just to show me what college was all about. I graduated from that school years later.

For our own nieces and nephews, we have taken the hint from Aunt Emily. My wife, Eileen, gave a card to our niece, Ashley, that said, “Good for one lunch and adventure trip with Aunt Eileen.” During lunch at the Smithsonian Ashley said, “This is great. I wish you would always give this kind of gift.”

But lunches, museums and other special trips are not easy gifts to give. Often they don’t make a big impression at first and they may be inconvenient, time-consuming, and costly later on. If you think a regular gift needs to be part of Christmas morning, maybe you could make a secret promise to yourself to give a special “services” gift later on.

Time is the most precious of these gifts we give our children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces. It is truly irreplaceable and the memories will last into their adult years.

So this holiday season consider a gift of your time – time to listen without jumping in with criticism or advice; time to seek out one of the many capabilities or likable characteristics of the children and let them know you found it; time to give over more responsibility so the child-rearing moves along toward adult-rearing; and time to show tolerance so that tolerance will be admired.

For the Christmas morning gift under the tree, my guess is no better than yours, but gifts of time will make the lasting memories.

Dr. McIntire is the author of Teenagers and Parents: 12 Steps to a Better Relationship and Staying Cool and In Control. Contact him through Parentsuccess.com.

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“Duncan has taken to helping in the kitchen! He’s four and yet he can really do things! He made his own scrambled egg the other morning. I told him how impressed I was, and he made one for me!”

What fun it is to impress your parents! Duncan loves to help with cooking, doing a little on his own and having his parents say how great he is. One woman counselor I know speaking at a PTA meeting said every child, teen, and adult longs to hear their parent say, “You are the fine son/daughter I always hoped for; you’re doing a great job!” There was not a dry eye in the house. Evidently many had never had the experience.

Since parental approval is such an emotional high point, it is a shame some parents often begrudge their children “too much” reward. Reward and reinforcement are terms that may sound too mechanical because the words imply a contrived influence on behavior. But the most frequent reward children receive is the admiration and appreciation expressed by parents. Parents who are generous with these “rewards” are more effective.

Yet many are still uncomfortable with the notion that selfish benefit is required to get children, or anybody else, to do the right thing. “They should do it because it’s right, shouldn’t they? They know it’s good for them! They had better be glad they have a good home and a chance to learn and get ahead!”

Isn’t this the way we all feel sometimes? It seems unbelievable that kids would pass up an opportunity for personal growth or fail to contribute to the family out of appreciation for the care they get.

It’s children we’re talking about, of course. Employees who are asked to work a little longer or teachers asked to carry a larger load deserve rewards for their extra work. And our boss who expects something for nothing just doesn’t understand our personal economic situation!

As a matter of fact, the higher you go, the more reward is expected for any effort – managers and school principals don’t feel respected unless they make more money. Corporate officers and members of Congress worry that lower salaries for them would bring in people less competent than themselves; and CEO’s demand golden parachutes of stock options so they will have the “proper incentive” to do a good job up there on top. So the higher ups commonly get more money and appreciation while both money and appreciation become scarce for the “less deserving” and, of course, for the kids.

Some parents object to the idea of rewarding children because it might spoil them. But remember a spoiled child did not get that way because too much was provided. Many children in families with small incomes are spoiled, and many children with the benefits of wealthy families are not spoiled. The parent’s routine reactions to the child’s behavior determine the habits. Parents who pay attention to the highlights in what their children do, will find plenty of opportunity to provide a deserved compliment. But if obnoxious behavior is “required” to get attention, then obnoxious behavior will be the rule.

Dr. McIntire is the author of Raising Good Kids in Tough Times and Teenagers and Parents: 12 Steps to a Better Relationship to be published on September 15, 2016.

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Excerpt from: Raising Good Kids in Tough Times

Kids starting middle school next month take a big lonely step out on their own. With the challenge of new friends, values, and temptations, it may be the biggest culture shock of their lives. Yet parent involvement both at school and at home seems to taper off in middle school – just when it’s needed most.

Most of the tragic stories of kids gone wrong at this stage begin with a surprise – a surprise to the parents that the kids even had a problem. But as the review goes on, it turns out there were signals: isolation, anger, following the lead of new friends or new models in the fantasy of TV, movies, or social media.

It’s a time when parents are tempted to view every opportunity as a chance to “get in their licks.” But the kids are thin skinned, defensive, and easily embarrassed. They don’t have the verbal abilities of adults and can’t express their ideas and feelings in words so easily.

So if parents are to keep up with how it’s going in middle school, and the kids are to stay around long enough to hear some parental advice, us parents will have to slow down. You can avoid quick parental advice by asking questions and just repeating your child’s last remark instead of always centering the talk on the quick fix:
“Boy, is that school boring!”
“Gets pretty dull sometimes, I guess.” (Instead of, “You have a bad attitude.”)
“It’s like that all the time over there.”
“What bothers you most?” (Instead of, “It can’t be bad all the time, You shouldn’t be so…”)
“Math is really tough.” (Parental patience has allowed the real topic to come up.)
“It was tough for me, too.” (Instead of, “You just need to apply yourself.”)

Body language also makes a difference. Face your conversational partner. Put down the paper and turn off the TV. It won’t help to be right in their face, but talking while keeping one eye on the TV commercials so you can turn off the mute when the program resumes will make the talk hectic and the child discouraged.

Children need confidence to take chances and tinker with ideas in their talks with you. Avoid “Why would you think that? That shows that you are (to blame, wrong, or off-base).” If the talks always center on the child’s defects the child will just want out.

Talking doesn’t make a good competitive sport. If every conversation is treated as a tennis game where each return requires yet another return until someone wins, kids will harden their defensive style early and the exploration stage will be short. Once the score card is started in a conversation, the tallies get more attention than the ideas.

As the kids encounter the new school, you may feel that you’ve lost your influence over them. The children may try to give you that impression, but as every teacher, counselor and minister knows, you have an effect, even when the kids react with, “You don’t know anything.” and “It’s not the same nowadays.”

In the everyday rush to jobs, shopping, and school buses, it’s easy to miss your chance to hear what’s going on. Watch for it and use it, it can help you keep up.

Dr. McIntire is the author of Teenagers and Parents: 12 Steps to a Better Relationship (5th revision out (9/15/16) and Raising Good Kids in Tough Times.

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Raising Good Kids in Tough Times

By Dr. Roger McIntire

When it comes to those dangerous behaviors, drugs often produce the most tragic stories, but in number of abusers, alcohol wins. Alcohol abusers are defined as persons whose drinking habits produce poor work, excessive absenteeism from work or school, and complaints from friends and family.

One quarter of our teens are alcohol abusers by the time they reach college age. And alcohol-related accidents remain one of the biggest killers of our teens until they pass college age.

What’s a parent to do? You can’t protect your kids from every temptation, but you can make sure the right messages are sent:
1. Don’t send the message that alcohol is a problem solver: “I’ve had a tough day, I need a drink.”
2. Don’t send the message that alcohol is necessary for social situations. Using alcohol for its relaxing effect only postpones learning better social skills.
3. Don’t send the message that behavior under the influence is somehow more genuine, natural, or free because it’s more emotional and less thoughtful. Just because behavior is less filtered doesn’t make it better.

Inhibitions have been learned from experience, and thoughtfulness is the most human quality. When teens depend on alcohol to break down social inhibitions, the breakdown of sexual inhibitions is the next bad habit. Intoxication is the most common explanation given for unsafe sex in surveys of teenagers.

Now, about those drugs: Watch the money. The drug business is about money. Where can an unemployed addict get $75 a day to support the habit? Recruiting a new user – your teen – is one of the best sources of money. Pay attention to the amount of money your teen has. Drug pushers look for teen buyers with extra money, so your teen should carry only the needed amount to school or stores.

Watch your model. They are always imitating. Set an example for your teen to follow in the use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs – including medications. Teens copy. Review your habits for the sake of your teen.

Watch your teen’s habits. Paying attention can keep you up to date on any temptations. In addition to the money situation, changes in sleeping and eating habits, friends or secretiveness about friends can be a sign of trouble.

One dad recently told me he made a point of regularly calling the parents of his daughter’s friends. As a single parent he liked to compare his experiences with what others were going through.

As much as you think your teen will never abuse alcohol or take drugs, you need to know the signs. Unfortunately all teens show some of these signs from time to time, and it doesn’t indicate drug use. The difference that deserves attention is a cluster of abrupt changes in these signs:

1. Unusual, unexplained need for money, or money missing from the house.
2. Changes in friends, eating habits or sleeping that don’t make sense.
3. Lack of concentration, extreme agitation.
4. “Cold symptoms” that just don’t go away -red eyes, runny nose, increased infections.
5. Changes in appetite, cravings.
6. Changes in fatigue, hyperactivity, appearance, becoming sloppy.
7. Unusual clumsiness, shortness of breath, coughing, peculiar odor to breath or clothes.

One mother’s story began: “John started going with those older kids last summer and suddenly he didn’t care how he looked; he was sloppy, always sniffing, getting up later every day, and he lost interest in everything – even soccer!”
This mother found drug paraphernalia in her son’s room the first time she looked! The cluster of changes in social habits, attitude, and self-care was enough for her to investigate.

Send your parenting questions for Dr. McIntire by e-mail to sumcross@aol.com or visit ParentSuccess.com on the net. He is the author of Raising Good Kids in Tough Times and Teenagers and Parents: 10 Steps to a Better Relationship.

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What is Child Abuse?
By Dr. Roger McIntire

Caught on tape hitting and punching her 4-year-old daughter, Mom X was charged with battery to a child, the local paper reported. Mom X’s lawyer said they would plead guilty and hope for mercy from the court. She could serve three years in prison.

Thank heavens the little girl is under age. If she were over 18, the sentence could be worse. And if she were under 2, the sentence for hurting a defenseless baby might be worse also. But between 2 and 18 there is a gray area, at least at first, before they get big enough to hit back.

Certainly the courts would not punish a parent for spanking a child unless the spanking left marks or bruises. Cuts and bleeding are out, and anything sexual is out. I guess the message is you can hurt them, but you can’t damage them.

Staying within the law, a parent hitting a child may satisfy his or her own frustration and may feel that justice has been served, but have we made any headway with the child? He or she would certainly learn how to mimic hitting and slapping. You could count on that coming back to haunt you.

We all face life’s daily stress. Mom X was shopping with an out of control 4-year-old who had run off twice. Before Mom “lost it,” what alternatives could we have suggested?

She could have called an early halt to a shopping trip that was getting worse by the minute: “I guess this was a mistake, we are going home.” I’m sure Mom wishes now she had done that. She would have to drag her balking child back to the car, possibly through a crowded mall, but at least the child wouldn’t be learning the bad habit that she could act up at will on shopping trips.

Some “Get Tough” advocates would defend Mom X’s hitting, but they are on the wrong track for several reasons. First, a child faced with physical punishment becomes afraid. Learning slows and creativity stops because it’s too risky to stick your creative neck out if you might get hit for your mistakes.

Second, the hard-line approach will be, must be, inconsistent. A parent cannot, and should not, be consistent with punishment. Without the inconsistencies of warnings, threats and postponements, the rules are too inhuman. Yet with the “verbal decorations” the inconsistencies change the focus from “What’s the problem?” to “Who will win?” The game and the power struggle begin.

Third, slapping, spanking or hitting a child is, of course, insulting. They belittle the child and lower his value of himself. That’s why adults are so insulted if you try these punishments on them. The child defends himself, attempts to escape, or tries to “win” the game. Parents can “win” the power struggle, but for every winner a loser is made. And losers eventually call in absent.

But even when they lose, children imitate. Mom and Dad set the example that physical abuse is a good (used by Mom and Dad) way to deal with people.
The adult alternatives are much better. For example, if you come to my house for dinner tonight and spill your drink at the table, you don’t expect me to say: “Hey! What do you think you’re doing? You’re so clumsy! Now pay attention to what you’re doing or I’ll send you home!”

What nerve! Treating a guest like a child! What happened to “making amends?” “The benefit of the doubt?” You expect me to belittle the problem.

“I’m sorry, do you have a towel?”

“No problem, I’ll take care of it…”

We deal with our mistakes together as a third thing, not you, not me.
Ignoring is also a better alternative, but with children, it has to be used carefully because the bad behavior has been part of a habit to get entertainment or attention from Mom and Dad. The plan can backfire when the inconsistencies creep in. If the usual amount of acting up will no longer get attention, the child may increase the volume. Parents may revert to punishment for this higher level and then return to the ignoring rule later only to go back to punishment when the volume again reaches pain threshold.

To make the ignoring plan work, you need to emphasize the positive things the child does to get legitimate attention.
When bad behavior can’t be ignored and opportunities for encouragement are not enough, time-out is a good alternative. A little cooling off on a chair or in his/her room as a kind of punishment can work well if the threats and arguments are kept to a minimum.

The trick here is to keep the time-out short. A dramatic long isolation will require too many threats and arguments. But short time-outs are no big deal, and parents are more likely to be quick and consistent.

Many parents have found the act of starting the time-out, putting the child in the chair or room, is the effective part. Ten or 15 seconds is enough for two-year-odds, and one minute is enough for older pre-schoolers. The message is sent when the prompt decision is made at the count of three (or ten if they need a little more chance to do right).

Some parents won’t like these alternatives because they will not produce instant change, but then physical punishment won’t produce magic either.

The best parental strategy will include praising the good, ignoring the tolerable, and reacting with logical, mild, and consistent reprimands to the intolerable. This plan will give the children a good model to follow as well as a way to learn and still risk the creativity we all want our children to show.

Dr. McIntire is the author of Teenagers and Parents: 10 Steps to a Better Relationship and Raising Good Kids in Tough Times.

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“Hey, don’t talk to your mother like that!” can be a high moment in a family day. It’s not a happy one but the parent on the firing line gets the message she is supported and the child needs the message that the divide and conquer strategy won’t work. Parent abuse will not be tolerated.

Kevin: I’m going to watch TV now.

Mom: How about your homework?

Kevin: Later, I’ve got plenty of time.

Mom: Didn’t you say your history paper was due tomorrow?

Kevin: Mom, you don’t know anything about how long the paper will take.

Aunt Eileen: Be careful how you talk to your mother. She’s had many years of school; I think she knows.

Kevin: I’ll do it when I’m ready.

Aunt Eileen: Well, I can’t ride you over to your practice until your mother says you’re ready.

Kevin: You didn’t even know about the history paper until Mom brought it up; what do you have to do with it, anyway?

Mom: Don’t talk to your Aunt Eileen that way; she’s concerned about you, too. Now get to that paper so you can make your soccer practice.

Your best protectors are your own relatives, friends, or spouse who come to your aid when it seems parent abuse is likely. They should provide parent protection when their best friend is being mistreated, even by a child.

Jenny: Mom, tie my shoe!

Mom: Just a minute. I’m talking.

Jenny: Do it now!

Eric: (Mom’s close friend) Take it easy, Jenny, let your Mom finish.

Two adults can be stronger than one and they can provide a model to children about how the members of the family should treat each other. Eric wouldn’t let a stranger barge in and make demands of his friend at a restaurant and he’s not going to sit by when her child does it at home either.

How does the parent abuse habit get started? Of course a child’s attitude
comes from many sources, but again the relatives, friends, spouses and extended family play a role from the beginning. They can make the effort to help, or, if they don’t, they can be part of the problem.

Eric: You can’t find your keys? I can’t believe it!

Jane: Just a minute, here they are.

Eric: I swear, you would lose your head if you didn’t have …

An adult game of “I-can’t-believe-you’re-such-a-klutz!” can be easily absorbed by the kids and it’s no help to have an adult friend or relative show the children how to abuse or show disrespect for their parent.

Eric: This car needs some work.

Jane: Why don’t you take it in Monday.

Eric: Me? You’re the one who drives it most!

Jane: I have to get to work early. You just lounge around until 8:00 anyway.

Eric: Hey, that cushy job of yours…

Jane: Wait, wait, let’s get the car fixed, OK?

You may think this argument is about car repairs and who should see that it gets done. But a child listening on the sidelines doesn’t understand – doesn’t care to understand – the details of dropping a car off for repairs. As with their own conversations, children have their “antennae out” and are more interested in what the conversations say about how the people feel about each other than in the content of the conversation. They often get it wrong.

So after a simple disagreement on the car, Eric may be surprised to hear Jenny say: “You don’t like Mommy, do you?”

“What! Of course I do, whatever gave you that idea?”

The misunderstanding can be corrected, but the temptation to imitate the attitude they heard will linger on. The impression will only be corrected by future examples from you – and from the Erics and Aunt Eileens of your child’s world.

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“Do you like me?” Children always have this unspoken question on their minds and it’s easy for parents to overlook it. The answer is crucial to both friendship and parenting. Like good listening habits, liking habits are part of the overall parental attitude the children will take to heart.

Parents send a lot of messages about liking. Every time the kids do anything, the parents react negatively or with support or indifference. What a parent likes and doesn’t like about what’s going on is constantly expressed.

What should a parent look for in a child’s or a teen’s choices of action? We parents know the bad behaviors well but we are less specific about the good.

Mom: “Leave the baby alone, Nathan”

Nathan: “I was just going to pat him.”

Now Mom has a choice. She could say, “I know what you were going to do. Now just stay away, you will wake him!” Or she could say,”I like to pat him too, but it will wake him and he’s tired.”

She has the same choice when the mistake is already done: (Nathan drops his jelly sandwich.) “You are so messy! Look what you did!” Or she could say, “Oh, look what happened! Better pick it up and get a paper towel.”

If Mom goes with her first impulse, she emphasizes Nathan, the person. You will wake him , you are messy! If she chooses her second choice, she emphasizes a situation that she and Nathan are dealing with together: It will wake him. Look what happened.

It won’t make a lot of difference to Nathan on this one occasion, but over the days and weeks, Nathan ends up with a very different message and a very different relationship with Mom.

Many of us had a good mother like Nathan’s. Very concerned, always carefully watching, correcting, often lecturing. But Nathan was frequently disagreeable and angry. When I asked Nathan’s mom for examples of Nathan’s good behavior, she had trouble getting started but finally came up with common ones such as “doing well in school” and “getting along with others.” I asked her to look for specifics of these during the next week and compliment Nathan when he showed success.

At our next meeting she reported an odd reaction after a compliment. Nathan said, “What’s the matter with you?” After another week of being on the lookout for chances to show a little liking, Nathan’s mom encountered another odd reaction:

Nathan asked, “Do you like me?”

“Nathan, I’m you Mother, I love you. Of course I like you,” Mom said.
“Wow,” said Nathan; already ten and just finding out that his mom not only loves him, she likes him!

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