UPR's Project Resilience Parenting Tips
Parenting can be the hardest and most rewarding thing some people will ever do. It is invigorating at times, and so often, it is just exhausting and makes us wonder about our own self-worth. These tips are to help increase our parenting resilience-- our ability to effectively keep it together when our kids are driving us nuts.
These tips are brought to you by UPR's Project Resilience. Learn more about the project here. Tips were written by Vonda Jump Norman, a social work professor at Utah State University and director of the Trauma Resilience Project at The Family Place, Alex Schiwal, a researcher with Utah State University's Center for Persons with Disabilities, and David Forbush, an educational specialist at Utah State University's Center for Persons with Disabilities.
Getting Children To Clean Up
Do your children leave things out around the home after using them? How do we help them to be responsible, to learn the importance of taking care of things and to return them to the rightful place after using them?
Here's our tip for the day: in the morning, using a fun, enthusiastic voice, announce, “No one has to put anything away for this entire day. That's right, everything has to be left out. Nothing has to be put away.” At the end of the day, walk the house together, noticing all that is left out, your stuff and theirs. Openly talk about what you see. “Oh, look, I left my shoes in the kitchen. I left my plate in the living room.” Let all family members identify what they left out.
Next, say, “I'm wondering how much more would be left out if we had the same rule tomorrow? What do you think?” Listen to their responses and have fun with this discussion.
Now say, “What have we learned today about the importance of putting things away?” Let the kids do most of the talking here. Give special attention to any items that were damaged because they were left out. Also, give attention to comments about how it felt to have things strewn about the house. Now say, “Okay, let's clean it all up. Let's help each other.”
The next morning, again, using a fun voice, announce, “Everyone has to put everything away for this entire day. That's right, everything has to be put away. Nothing is to be left out.” At the end of the day, walk the house together. Talk and decide as a family your collective expectations about putting things away.
Creating More Positive Interactions With Your Children
Do you nag your children? That is, do you feel that you wear yourself out telling them what to do, what not to do, what they should have done, could have done? If so, it's not pleasant for me to tell you that you're nagging. I know personally, I've nagged too. We know that nagging in adult relationships is corrosive. But is it corrosive in parent-child relationships?
As it turns out, it is. What's different is children can't really leave the relationship, nor do they want to. They're incredibly trusting of adults generally, and certainly their parents.
What is your ratio of catching your child doing good to catching them doing something that you disapprove of? Is it 10 positives to one negative, or 10 negatives to one positive? Unfortunately, we are far more likely to give attention to inappropriate behavior than to appropriate behavior.
Which ratio do you prefer in your adult life? We all want the 10 positives to one negative ratio. It just feels good, open, progressive, even nurturing. The opposite feels oppressive, even stifling. Our attention is incredibly powerful. What we give attention to in our children's behavior results in more of that positive behavior, or negative behavior if we give our attention to it.
So, here's a challenge: get 20 pennies and put 19 of them in your left pocket. Place the remaining penny in your shoe, it will fly around in your shoe and remind you to catch your child doing good. Each time you catch them doing something good, positively comment on what you saw and then move one penny from the left pocket to the right pocket. If you comment on them doing something that doesn't meet expectations, move two pennies back to the left pocket. Work to get all pennies into the right pocket.
Now, go on and patrol for positives in your home and say something positive about the good you see when you see it. Do this for the entire week. At the end of the week, ask yourself, “Has my relationship with my child improved? How do I feel in my role as a parent? Am I happier? Is my child happier?” Finally, “Has my child's behavior improved?”
If your experience is like mine, you will answer “Yes, our relationship is improved. I feel like I'm a better dad. I feel happier, my child seems happier, and my child's behavior has substantially improved.”
Giving Clear Instructions
Have you ever asked your child to do something and they end up doing it, but so differently than what you expected that you're surprised how they could have gotten it so wrong? I’ve personally had this experience many times. I've learned that words, though often descriptive, fall far short of all the information a child, or even an adult, needs to complete a task meeting expectations.
Here's the tip: when giving your child a task, teach them exactly what it is that you are looking for. Here's how to teach a task using the “me, we and you” strategy. I will illustrate with an exchange between Millie and her mother.
“Millie, will you please load the dishwasher for me? Okay, thank you. But first, watch me.” The “me stage.” “I will explain what I'm doing as I do it.” Mom loads one third of the dishwasher explaining what she's doing and why.
“Any questions? No. Okay. Let's do it together.” The “we stage.” Mom and Millie work together loading another one third of the dishes explaining to each other, what they're doing and why they're doing it.
“Any questions? No. Okay. You did a great job loading the dishwasher. You knew where to put the glasses, dishes and silverware. Now, I feel you're ready to do the rest alone.” The “you stage.” Mom checks Millie’s work and praises her accomplishments. “I knew you were ready. All dishes and silverware are loaded in their correct places. Beautifully done.”
This scenario set Millie up to successfully meet her mother's expectations. Millie had all of the information she needed to perform the task.
Reading As A Life Skill
You already know that being a proficient reader is a vital life skill. Unfortunately, not all kids do, nor adults for that matter. One researcher found some children, when given the choice between cleaning the room and reading, will choose to clean their room. Clearly for some, reading is not fun, nor is it a recreational activity. With reading proficiency being so important, what can you do to increase the likelihood of your reader enjoying reading?
Today's tip is to offer choices. When reading with your child, here's some questions you can ask that include choice. One example is “what's the craziest place you can think of in our home where we can read together?” My kids love this. We've read with pillows in the shower, pillows in the tub, under the bed with a flashlight and under the Christmas tree.
With books fanned out, ask “which book do you most want to read together?” Have a sample of thin and thick books. Have books with many words per page and few words per page, ones with lots of pictures and ones with fewer pictures. Finally, have books on different topics or clear differences in story titles.
To ensure that a book is neither too hard or too easy, have your reader read a page that is primarily filled with words. If they can read it with fewer than two to three mistakes, it's a good book for reading practice. Say, “I must have a snack when I read, what should we have?” Next ask, “What should we read? What time?”
Have fun and get your reader to love reading, so that they seek it out as one of many recreational activities in their current and future lives. A love of reading is a tremendous gift and it's one you can give.
Helping Your Child’s Teacher Maximize Their Learning
Schools are places of learning. That is their sole purpose for existing. With so much importance placed on learning, have you ever asked yourself, “How can I help my child's teacher maximize my child's learning?” Here are three ideas on how to begin constructing a learning alliance.
Idea number one: Genuinely recognize the knowledge and skill your teacher uses in their practice to construct your students knowledge and skill. Truly be amazed when your student demonstrates new knowledge and skill and let your teacher know you noticed. For example, “I'm amazed at all my student is learning this year, and so quickly too!”
Idea number two: Never leave anything as important as your child's future exclusively in the hands of another, even their teacher. Do your part, support the learning they're achieving in school and extend that learning in your own home. Be a teacher, the primary teacher in your home. Teach when around the dinner table, while working in the yard, when on vacation. Your teaching will convey to them the great value you place on learning. Your teacher will notice the fruits of your effort, which will strengthen your learning alliance.
Idea number three: Have strategies you can use at home that will strengthen your student's learning. Use these strategies and then report back to your teacher on how they're working. Ask your teacher if they noticed a difference in your student’s in-class performance. Your teacher will notice that you're serious about your student’s learning. This recognition will strengthen your learning alliance.
Teaching Kids Resilience Each Day
We can all develop resilience and we can help our children develop it too. Everyday parents can build their child's resilience by teaching self care, emphasizing the positive, nurturing self esteem and encouraging friendships. Parents can also establish routines that include taking time to eat together, enjoying exercise and getting enough sleep. It's also important to take time to have fun and make sure every moment of your child's life isn't scheduled with something. Leave room for downtime-- reading a book, painting, making music, taking a bath or hike or other opportunities to encourage self care. Make yourself a good example and teach your child the importance of making time to care for oneself. Learning self-care teaches children good habits for building and engaging their resilience that will last a lifetime.
Do your kids fight like cats and dogs sometimes? How do we help them to get along?
- Approach them calmly and ask to hold whatever they are fighting about.
- In a calm voice, notice that they are upset. Ask each child what happened to make them upset (just asking calmly will help them to calm down).
- Repeat what each child tells you and describe how you think they are feeling to see if you got it right.
- Then ask them what they can do to solve the problem. Let each child have a suggestion. Repeat the suggestions, and if you have another one, say, I also have an idea—and say it.
- Ask which suggestion they would like to implement. If they disagree, you can have them keep brainstorming until they come up with a compromise that they agree on.
- Later that day, talk about the issue again, and talk about what they did to each other. Ask how they can avoid hurting each other in the future—what could they do instead?
Do you have a little one with big meltdown temper tantrums? Kids need us to help them learn how to deal with big emotions, and our ability to stay calm is important. There are some strategies to help prevent tantrums, like being consistent in your rules, giving your child choices when possible, giving a warning before it is time to stop an activity, and deciding which issues you are going to make an issue about.
- To deal with a tantrum, first, approach your child calmly.
- Validate her emotions. “You are upset because you wanted to keep playing with your car. It is really fun to play cars. You can play again after dinner.”
- Reassure her; give her ideas for how to calm down. “I am here with you and will be here to help you calm down. When I’m upset, I breathe in and out slowly (and do it with her).”
- Give her ideas for how to get her feelings out—jump up and down, punch a pillow.
Defiance In Kids
What can you do when your children are defiant? First, set them up for success:
- Let them feel your unconditional love by spending quality time with them every day.
- Notice when they do what you ask them to do. A simple thank you will do.
- When possible, let them have control in decision-making—what to wear, what to do first.
- Give them reminders before changing activities.
- Instead of ordering your children to do something, ask how you would like somebody to ask you. “It’s time to pick up our toys now. Please put them in the toybox.”
These strategies help reduce defiance, but it is also normal for children to be defiant at times. How you respond is important.
- Take a deep breath and respond calmly, but firmly. “I don’t like it when you talk to me that way. Please use your respectful voice.”
- Remind your child of the rules.
- If your child continues to refuse, gently and firmly support him. “If you can’t do this by yourself, I can help you until you learn how to do it.”
- Be consistent and follow through on your rules.
Defiance In Teens
Defiance in teens is a push button for many parents, but their pull for independence is normal. There are some things to do to set them up for success.
- Spend time having fun and connecting with your teen.
- Appreciate your teen’s gifts, quirks, and just who he is.
- Make your expectations and consequences clear. Be consistent in enforcing them.
Say your teen is sassy with you when you are talking about the dance he just went to.
- Stay calm and know his defiance is about something within him, not you.
- Tell him you believe he is sending the message he does not want to talk right now, so you will give him some space.
- Be quiet. He will have time to think about how he talked to you as well as what is on his mind.
- Talk about how he could have handled it differently later, when things are calm.
- Give your teen positive outlets for anger, like exercise, writing, art.
Many parents struggle with whining. One way to prevent it is by giving your child plenty of positive attention and connection time every day. Snuggle, talk, play with her, let her know you love her.
- When she whines, stay calm (take a deep breath to center yourself if you need to).
- Matter-of-factly tell her you don’t like whining. “I don’t like whining. Use your big girl voice like this. Mom, please can I have a glass of water?”
- If she is asking for something she cannot have right now, tell her that you like how she asked, and when she will be able to have it. “Thank you for asking with a big girl voice. We can play on the playground after we go to the store.”
- If she is asking for something she is not allowed, thank her for asking nicely, and remind her she is not allowed to have this. Tell her something that she can do or have.
- Be consistent in your expectations and reward positive behavior. When she asks politely, notice it and thank her.
When Your Child Refuses To Go To Bed
Do your kids have a hard time going to bed? There are things we as parents can do to set our kids up for success.
- First, cut off screen time an hour before bed to prepare their brains for sleep. Play family games or just be together.
- Next, include a purposeful routine to begin to calm your child down gradually. You might begin with a more energetic activity like dancing, then move to a slightly calmer one like gentle stretching exercises, and then a shower/bath and brushing teeth.
- Remind them to take a last drink of water before bed.
- Finally, spend time reading them a story before bed, and talking calmly about things you appreciated during the day about each child.
- Spend a few minutes coaching them to breathe deeply and listen to the sounds they hear with their eyes closed.
- Remind them that you love them and you look forward to seeing them tomorrow.
- If a child needs assistance going to bed alone, stay for shorter and shorter periods, and move a little further away from the bed, while reminding your child you are there for them.
The Fight Against Homework
Do you struggle with getting your kids to do homework? This is a common challenge. There are some things you can do to support them.
- Greet them enthusiastically and tell them you’re happy to see them.
- Ask open-ended questions about their day. “Who did you play with at recess today?” “How did you feel about your test?”
- Give them a snack to make sure they’re not hungry and their brains can concentrate.
- Depending on your individual kids, give them a break to relax for a little while, by quietly having them close their eyes as you coach their breathing in and out while noticing the sounds they hear, or play energetic games to get out their extra energy so they can concentrate.
- Go to your quiet homework spot together (like the kitchen table).
- Review your kids’ assignments with them and remind them that when they finish, they can play outside until dinner, or whatever activity you are comfortable with.
- Check their homework to be sure it is finished. Reinforce their hard work. “You worked hard on your homework.”