Posts Tagged ‘Parenting Style’

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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Yesterday, a parent wrote and said her daughter didn’t listen. She complained she was losing control of her daughter’s behavior and also her daughter was becoming less talkative with her. She said she tried to get her to talk but it always ended in an argument.

With adults we are not so continuously personal and goal-oriented, but with our teens we don’t get many chances and we almost always have a point. If we get more than a sound byte moment for a complaint, we’re likely to go on to complaint #2. In the rushed schedule we all have these days, it’s easy to send the message, “And while I’m thinking about you, another thing I don’t like is …”

The hard fact is that it takes time to do more than list complaints and give instructions.

Here’s how to allow a two-way conversation. Adults are very good talkers. We have decades of practice translating thoughts, feelings, and reactions quickly into words. Children, even smart-mouth teenagers, are less practiced and, in fast conversation, they often lose out. So first of all, deliberately slow your pace so they can slow their’s. Moments of silence are not bad, and conversation doesn’t make a good competitive sport anyway.

Watch your signals: folding your arms, getting louder, and turning away all have their messages. Avoid the “Always the Critic” habit and make sure your “liking” shows through. Many parents have told me, “As far as my own parents are concerned, I always felt I was never quite good enough.” Let this not be said by your children.

Here are some cautions parents have taught me.

1. Children and teens look first for what the conversation says about them personally. We parents thought the subject was the important part. “He always takes things so personally.” is the common complaint. Keep the subject on a third person basis as much as possible as you would with an adult. Use “it” and “what” instead of “you.”

2.  Avoid the “quick fix” temptation, the real subject may not have come up yet. “Why don’t you…” “You should try…” “Don’t be so…” all have the potential of closing a conversation. They also indicate a superior position and may be offensive. If you tell me you had trouble getting to work, and I tell you to try another route and  start earlier, you think, “What nerve!” You just wanted to gripe a little and I turned it into a driving lesson! A real conversation stopper.

3. Use reflective statements occasionally. Often a teen’s first remarks are only an expression of feelings and will be short on facts. A reflective reaction is sympathetic and says you’re listening.

Teen: “What a crummy math teacher.” Mom: “Hard to get that stuff the first time.” Mom sides with her son by not falling into an argument (you shouldn’t talk about your teachers that way). She just agrees with the feeling, but says nothing new while waiting for more information.

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