Back To School. Going back to school brings up different feelings for different family members. The kids loathe the idea and parents tend to love the idea. Go figure. In most families , summers are not nearly as structured as school days. That’s a good thing. Everyone needs a break sometimes and kids are no exception. Obviously, the extremes don’t work either. Now at least making your kids read over the summer will likely stop their brains from going to school sleep, but, not allowing kids to be kids, is just a shame. You are only a kid once. So, here we are on the brink of a new school year. How do we get our kids psyched up? Make this a new school year. Everything starts fresh once again. It’s like a New Year and now is the time to make some resolutions with your kids. How about these. Make a list of what your child is capable doing and make them actually follow through. Get your family on a schedule. Organization is the key to success. We all know this, but actually getting organized is not as easy as it seems. Try it this time. Snack time ; free time; homework time ; dinner time; family time; alone time. Very few families actually follow a schedule. If they did, we would have an increase in functional families.
This year make sure you do not over-schedule your child. Have them be successful at whatever they do, so don’t overwhelm them. Encourage them to make some new friends. “Nice ones” like them. Feed them healthy foods. Don’t go completely crazy, but cook healthy meals for your kids. They will repeat this with their kids. Make sure they get plenty of exercise and sleep. These two factors are commonly the cause of dozens of childhood and teenager disorders. Get them a physical and be sure they are up on all of their shots.
Be empathic. Going back to school is like a Monday morning back to work. It’s just a lot harder for kids to work through disappointment than adults, so cut them some snack until the week before school starts and then enforce the code. The Parent Code. This is the one that paves their road for success. Happy paving.
Assertiveness is the capacity to comfortably communicate one’s feelings and intentions in a positive and confident manner. Once a child has established the capacity to rely on themselves age appropriately and demonstrate consideration for another, assertion has to do with how a child then communicates themselves to others.
Assertiveness is based on healthy self-esteem and an internal conviction that the child has a purpose . Such mental strengths supply the child with comfort in letting others know how they feel and what they want. Absent are frequent temper tantrums or passivity. Instead is a firm and clear expression of needs and desires.
Assertive children tend to do well in school, have many friends, and infrequently get bullied. They tend to be leaders, intelligent, and likable. Being assertive is not being selfish. Rather, it is an expression of self-love and a representation of being their own person. When assertiveness is practiced, compromise is possible. Take two children who want to both play different games. Each of them conveys their desire to the other in direct and clear ways. The outcome is the decision to take turns and play both games. Respect is then achieved for each of the players.
Parents help children learn assertiveness in two basic ways. First, the parent models being assertive with their own children by holding their child accountable for themselves and second, by validating and respecting the child’s attempts to be assertive. When 5 year-old Billy told his mom that he could tuck himself in bed at night, despite her longing for that continued ritual, she let him put himself to bed and Billy felt like a really “big” boy.
Practicing assertiveness with peers is an invaluable part of character development and assertive children are the least susceptible to peer pressure. They are comfortable saying “no”. Children who lack adequate assertiveness tend to be either too aggressive or too passive. In extreme cases, this can lead to embedded personality traits . For example, children who have impulse disorders, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder , have assertiveness failures. The either “act out” or control others as a means of getting their needs met. On the other end of the spectrum, are the “passive-dependent” children. Afraid of their own feelings and behaviors, they “give in” to others and allow themselves to be manipulated. This is the most common type of child who gets bullied.
Teaching children how to speak up for themselves is one of the most important virtues a parent can do. Work with your child on assertiveness skills. It’s well worth the effort.
Practicing Assertiveness: The Bully Game:
Take turns with you child playing a bully and a victim. Even better, team up with another family member and have two bullies and one victim. Write out 5 different bully situations such as : ” a bully comes up to you and demands you give them your lunch”. The first part of the game is feeling identification. Have each person, including the bullies, identify how they are feeling. ( Tip: Bullies feel vulnerable!). Next, collectively come up with three solutions demonstrating an assertive response to the bully. One such resolution could be “i’m sorry but that isn’t going to work for me” and walk away. Remember, assertiveness is clear ,firm , and based on strength. Practicing what I call “Bully Busting” empowers children to face their fears and resolve their plight using their parents and siblings as partners in the practice. The number of examples of practicing assertive behavior is limitless. Responding to bullies is just one of many. Design your own game based on the particular struggles your child faces in his or her own environment.
Once a child becomes comfortable with Assertiveness, he or she will then become a model to their peers about how to get one’s needs met in healthy and practical ways. For example, when peers give each other advise about how to handle something, often times that advise is used more readily than what they hear from their parents. After all, they are both the same age and also the same size and everyone knows both really matter.
“OUCH”. The connotations associated with Tough Love are commonly negative. It feels as though the approach is “mean” and “harsh”, rather than a “wake up” call that behavior needs to change. The approach does entail “love”, but the delivery is not done in a teddy bear fashion. It is direct and to the point. The behavior must change or there will be a consequence. This approach is based on Learning Theory. That negatively reinforcing a behavior reduces the repetition of the behavior in question. A child hits their sibling and they gets a time out because a parent will not allow their child to do something “wrong”. Tough love. What is the alternative? Reinforcing “positive” behavior? Positive Parenting? Nope, the research does not support this approach. This is why. Kids are not that simple. They are not dogs. If a kid thinks they can get away with something, they will. This is reality. When a child has a limit, they are forced to change. If they get a reward for being “good”, this has nothing to do with the “bad” behavior. Rewarding successful behavior is also essential, but, it’s not enough. Parents need to be the “bad” guy sometimes and it’s a tough position to take for most parents. Why? It is much easier to gratify a child than punish them. Most parents cringe when they feel as though they have made their own child cry. “Ouch”. Guilt is one of the most common pitfalls of good parenting. But remember, no pain, no gain. Limits promote growth and inhibit regression. Most successful schools in fact utilize a Tough Love approach and are the most effective in promoting appropriate behavior and have the fewest problems with both Bullies & Mean Girls. These school also produce the most students who go to College. Why? The students know that there are Standards that must be followed or there will be a price to pay. Kids can understand this and it is helpful, not harmful.
The difference between technology and human behavior are quite different. Technology does change , but human behavior does not. People behave consistently despite the changing world around them. For example, violent television and video games are proved to cause overstimulation in most kids if they are overexposed. Overstimulation is a human condition. However, the ways that we effectively deal with it is the same now as it was 100 years ago. Limits. Tough love. Dealing with behavior is well defined with research and clinical data. Kids need limits when they break the rules. Otherwise, they become entitled and self-centered. Parents have to sometimes be the “bad guys” because they love their children. In fact , the optimal role of a parent is to help their child to function in society, and not live in some sort of “special” bubble.
Kids who act out have problems. They have not internalized rules and the essence of right versus wrong. Limits, rules, laws, and adult intervention are necessary to keep kids on track but this does not happen a lot of the time. Why ? Parents fear setting limits. They fear their kids not liking them and fear they are hurting them. No. Limits are love. Kids need parents to draw the line. They are not yet capable of self-responsibility until they reach at least late adolescence ( 17 years + ).
Even Sigmund Freud in his landmark essay Civilization and its Discontents spelled out how without rules, laws, and holding people accountable, society would not exist,and he was right on this one. Parents need to set limits. They need to be tough when their kids are not towing their own ability to self-regulate according to their age. Infantilization is treating a kid as though they cannot follow a rule. This communicates to the child that they don’t have to. When they reach Adulthood, they become selfish, non empathic, and pathetic. “YUCK”.
So parents, don’t be afraid to be “tough” in the love department when your kid acts entitled or don’t tow the line of what they are able to accomplish. It’s okay to reinforce when they do something well but it is equally or more important to stop them from doing something wrong or stupid. That is love. Looking out for the best interests of a child’s complete development is the optimal role of good parenting. But, you have to be tough sometimes to show your kids that you really do love them.
Background: Debbie always thought she had a great relationship with her 2 and a half year old son Benjamin. As a full time mom during his infancy, she and Ben were close and happy as the two of them spent hours of time during the day bonding, learning, and playing. It was during his third year however, that their relationship went through a significant change. Benjamin became frequently frustrated with Debbie whenever she would say “no” to him or not gratify his numerous wishes. As he was becoming more verbal, he would let her know his dismay by telling her he “did not like her”; that she “was a bad mom” and would often pout and ignore her. For Debbie, this left her feeling both bewildered and sad. “How could he change so quickly”, and “where did I go wrong creating a rude child”. (more…)
Background: As all parents, we are familiar with our children once they begin to speak to challenge our authority as they attempt to become separate and independent from us, which is a healthy and natural process. I have never met a parent however, who enjoys when their child does not listen or follow directions even if they know this is a normal and expected part of both childhood and adolescence. Typically, a parent feels “disrespected” or “insulted” and either becomes angry or hurt when their children “act up” or “out”, especially in public places, but even at home. In fact, many children normally are respectful, listen, or follow directions everywhere but home, which again supports the normality of a child wishing to be “bigger” and “stronger” in search of more self-confidence and autonomy. Clearly, strong willed children (those with a strong in-born temperament) are more challenging than the more quiet child, and parents with such “spirited” child have to exert even more patience than the parents with easier going children. (more…)
Background: As parents, we are all familiar with those frustrating moments when our children whine or complain when they sense something inside of them does not feel right. Whining stems from two different sources: physical or emotional. From the physical side whining will emerge from as early as two and run through adolescence and is related to physical discomfort which usually is not psychosomatic but actually due to some sort of illness or pain, such as fatigue. The second, and most common cause of whining, is emotionally based and cause by frustration related to having to do something they do not wish to do. Excessive whining is common and normal in the 2 to 4 year old age group as these children are trying to break away from their mother and strive towards independence. (more…)
Background: When parents get anxious, children get anxious. It’s really that simple. That old adage of “take care of yourself, before trying to take care of others”, applies to parenting as well. After all, most invested parents will state that parenting is the most important, rewarding, yet most stressful “job” in the world, and it is! Perhaps the most common trait of any good parent is “worry”. This is a good thing, for worry equals caring and protection which are necessary to raise healthy children. But as with anything, too much or too little of something usually has shortcomings. A parent who is too anxious is going to be both stressed out and stress out their child, while a parent who is not “concerned enough”, may not be helping their child enough and the child then internalizes this experience and responds to themselves and others in the same manner. (more…)
Background: For most parents, concern about their children developing successful friendships is as important as academic dedication and solid morals and family values. But, as all adults realize, friendships are both complicated and confusing especially for children as most do not understand that friends are anything but perfect and at times can be very supportive, but at other times either overly competitive or envious. By adolescence, most boys and girls take this into stride and manage to accept ups and downs in their friendships as “normal” unless or course there is a break-up with their best friend (BF) or a boyfriend or girlfriend which can feel overwhelming. (more…)
Background: If your family is like most, your children and adolescents are still in a state of denial that school begins next week given the holiday festivities. As parents however, you are ready for the holidays to end and excited about getting them back into structure and routine. Many parents avoid the concept of talking to their children about school re-starting for fear of putting their children into bad moods and getting into a fight. On the other hand, when parents do not approach talking about getting ready for school again and looking ahead to perhaps new year’s expectations for success, the avoided conflicts tend to emerge shortly after school begins when problems may already have arisen or repeated themselves from the following term. In addition, when parents do not discuss this upcoming change, children will often go into a short term slump as they re-enter school due to not managing their feelings of disappointment. (more…)