Thursday, May 31, 2012

Enjoy your Memorial Day! Thank You to all who have Served.

Who gets to push the elevator button?

To a child from a small town,  elevators are giant farm dragons feeding out of the upper stories of barns, corn cribs and grain silos. Great machines that you are not allowed to touch!  When your family goes and stays at a hotel or visits a mall, elevators suddenly become a new thing.  Giant doors that open and close.  All those people crowding in and not talking. All those shiny round buttons on them. Brightly light numbers above the door. A gentle whoosh and a lurch going up and down. What fun!

One fight inevitably ensues.  Who gets to push the button to call the elevator? Who gets to push the floor button and of course if you are at the door to your hotel room, who gets to put in the card to make the door open?  Parent, this could be a fight all stay.  Kids racing up and down the hall to get to be first.  Or..., it could be a good chance to work on taking turns.  It is up to you.  And if you forget, they will probably know.  If they still end up fighting, just start over, using one of the tiebreakers from the blog on "Sour Grapes." 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sour Grapes & Tie Breakers

You've heard it before.  "Holding grudges is bad for you."  "Revenge is a punishment you dish to yourself when you serve it to someone else".  Wish I could remember who said the last quote.  Wasn't me!  I do know that it is true.  Families can hold all kinds of grudges.  Parents can blame each other for a lot of things.  It tends to start with keeping score.  Who got up with the baby last?  Who has done the most around the house?  Kids learn at a very young age how to play the score card. "I never get to do anything" or "I set the table last time."   Thank goodness for the peacemakers in every family.  They are the ones that settle differences.

My friend Bob is a peacemaker.  I learned that when we were working as camp counselors together.  At the time, I confess I  didn't understand what he was doing.  At my campsite, the kids helped themselves to seconds after everyone got firsts and 98% of the time that worked out fine.  If an issue ever came up we worked it out.  Bob though was a middle child.  He preferred not to have any conflict ever!  So when we were on a picnic with a group of kids I was shocked to see this long line of kids waiting with their "Sierra" cups in hand.  Bob had done the math and had rationed out 6 grapes a piece.  Distributed in two sets of three.  At the time I thought, that is not many grapes, whats going on?  Apparently the other bunch got damaged and dumped.  (I don't think Bob was hoarding them, though I knew counselors that did do that kind of stuff).  

The game "Scene it" is full of tiebreakers.  They are like the ways we resolved issues at camp.   Whenever there's an argument about who got done first, there is a task to resolve the argument.  I recommend making a jar of tie breakers. If an argument breaks out draw out a tie breaker and use it.  Make it random things that don't always favor the same person.  It is okay to sit down and make these up with your kids. Here are a few examples. Keep these handy they make things a lot more peaceful. 

1)Who is wearing red?
2)Who can hold their breath the longest?
3) Who is nearest the door?
4)Who can make the funniest face?
5)Who can touch their tongue on their nose?
6)Who is tiniest?
7)Who can whistle?
8)Who can stand on tiptoes the longest (no pushing)?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Camping Season & Other Ways to Say "I like You"

Memorial Day brings with it the beginning of the camping season.  It takes the kids out of the house and away from the game systems.  Our rule was they could have the portable devices in the car for traveling but once to the campsite they were left in the car  (Tell them before you leave, no surprises!).  More detail on traveling with kids later...   Camp Counseling at Sugar Creek Bible camp was the same.  The only electronics we allowed were flashlights.  (How else to play flashlight tag?). Instead, we played kickball and soccer, hiked up a great bluff to a spring or down to the creek to catch crawdads.  That's one of the great things about camping.  It doesn't take a 350$ entertainment center to create challenges to overcome and joys become simple again. And the entertainment comes from being with one another.  Yes, the bugs can make you crazy. Humidity can overwhelm, so you prepare as best you can. Take the sun lotion, the bug spray, water guns and buy lots of ice.  Its worth it because, nothing builds a child's self esteem as much as learning that you enjoy being with them. Oh it takes awhile to get past the whining and the complaining.  You have to try different things, hacky sack and flying kites and building things with rocks and telling stories and rolling in sleeping bag races.  You watch the kids and find what amuses them.  What tickles their fancy and yours.  Don't expect perfection from them and don't expect things to go perfectly for you. You'll probably leave later than you wanted and end up setting up in the dark.  Families have arguments about everything don't expect camping to be different. This is not about fixing your family. That's television hyperbole. Remember, its the things that go wrong at camp that make the best stories to tell.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Graduation Day @ Marshalltown High School.  Well done Graduates and Parents!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Grounded from What?

So you've worked to establish consistent rules with predictable outcomes so your child can make good decisions.  Only it is no longer seems as effective as it once was. Children are very adaptive and often they have a better sense of when you actually follow through versus when you say you'll follow through.  If that's the case you need to get back to following through instead of issuing so many warnings. However, this could be also be a sign that you have been very effective at setting the consequences and have become a little too predictable.

Baseball pitchers can have the best fastball in the world and still get hit.  If the batter always knows what pitch is coming and where it is coming, sooner or later someone will catch up to it. Pitchers are advised to get ahead in the count.  Work it in and out, and up and down. Changes pitches.  Mix up the pattern from inning to inning.  Keep the hitter from getting to settled into the rhythm.

With parenting, sometimes you have to mix it up. If they are always grounded to the bedroom, they may have developed a tolerance for reading or watching TV in the bedroom.  You probably don't want to take away the books. You  probably do want to get the TV out of the room (Stay tuned for a  future blog soapbox on this one). But there are alternatives to grounding to the room.

Here are some examples;

1) Grounded to a table if homework isn't done, (Again, till they show you finished homework and with appropriate drink and bathroom breaks and if the TV isn't visible for that one).

2) If they are not getting along with a sibling, ground both of them to the same table until they can be civil.

3) If they are upsetting the whole house ground them from being in the same room if there are more than 1 person in that room.

These aren't for everybody and so you have to make adjustments and experiment a bit.  Always remember basics like bathroom breaks and basic needs.  How long for groundings is difficult to set.  Too long and you can get frustration acting out.  Too short and no effect. I advise time periods from 1 day to 1 week.  If your having more trouble than that you probably need to get into counseling and get specific advice to your situation.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Turn it around

Disclaimer: this is actually about parenting but it will take me awhile to get to my point.

 I am an avid baseball fan.  Particularly those plucky Minnesota Twins. The Twins are everything that is right with the game of MLB (except for those ridiculous blackouts). Solid fundamentals, teamwork, develop talent from within, lift up and embrace players who come to the Twins to try to extend or save their careers...  Work hard.  If you make a mistake, do better tomorrow.  Pick up your teammates when they are down. That's how they  did the "worst to first" thing when they won the World Series. They are not doing so well this year, but in typical Twins fashion they are showing signs of life.  Digging deep in the organization to find quality pitching.  Sending guys down is not the end of a career.  Trust me we will see those guys again before the year is out.  They will come back and contribute. Okay we are getting to my point yet today. 

Families need to have a plan and a vision to do the same thing.  Got a kid whose not helping out? Got a kid that upsets the whole apple cart every day.  Terrible tantrums?  Yes set a plan to work on it.  But don't demolish the kid in the process.  Don't beat it out of them.  Instead, make it clear what the issue is.  Observe and predict the issue before you take action.  Step back and see when it occurs.  Try to see why it is occurring. If you can predict it then you can rehearse a better skill, a better way of approaching the problem.  Sometimes players try  to do too much.  They try to carry the team and sometimes kids want to do it "By My Self!"  All you can do is let them see it's not working.  Notice with them how it worked out.  Wonder what would happen if they tried something else?  Rehearse it with them.   That's how you do "Turn Arounds".  You make a decision that you and they can turn around those bad habits and bad days.  Then you set about it one day at a time.  Be patient.  You don't have 165 games you have 365 days.  When you're done with one problem there will be another. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Children's Store Behaviors

 If you've ever taken a kid to the store you know how bad it can be!  The looks from other parents can dismay.  When you talk with people about it they give you easy advice that's not very helpful. They say things like..."Don't take your kid to the store."   Hmm.  I agree, sort of.  If at all possible and your kids are not behaving at home try not to take them to the store. Obviously, if they are not behaving you certainly don't want to leave them at home or dump them on an inadequate caregiver so you may get stuck with them. The other advice is if they are misbehaving take them to the car.  Again, I agree sort of...,  It is better to handle discipline in the car instead of  the front of the store. There are problems and traps that make this difficult. One trap is, leaving the groceries when you were in line and almost home.  Another trap is having to shop all over again. Here's a few tips that help.

1) While you are shopping use a variety of discipline and incentive tools (positive rewards, time outs and pinky pocket time outs), before you go to check out! Stores are full of stimulating lights and candy and you don't dare head to the front with the kids completely wound up. Its the most stimulating place in the store.

2) Shop faster. Browsing with kids is trouble.  Try to know what you want before you go.  Clothes shopping should be done separately from grocery shopping. It's just too much at one time.

3) The best place for time outs in the store? Take them back to the diaper section.  Really! At the front of the store, you are susceptible to all those looks from other parents. People can still hear your kid yelling in the diaper section, but they will be much more tolerant because you are not in their space and the only ones back there are other parents.  Finally, diapers aren't very interesting so the time outs are more effective.  The child has to agree to behave to get back to the interesting stuff to see.

Again, there is more to say about store parenting and how to do time outs and rewards but keep in mind these few tips and you will find you can parent in the store instead of feeling hijacked.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Today was the graduation party for  Andrew, so no regular post. I haven't decided yet how often I should post.  I'm not too worried I will run out of things to say but  you never know. But I will try to post everyday for the first week or two.  I'm still learning how to follow other peoples blogs.

 Andrew hosted a very enjoyable party.  Well done Laura and all those who helped.   I picked up a couple of good stories on Andrew from his second grade scrapbook.  Then I forgot to ask permission to use them.  Sorry! I'll ask him next time I see him.

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Jump Stops and Side Walks"
We must have looked strange, the kids and I. But it was fun.  They were very young and we were out walking and  I..., I was full of anxiety about them running out in the street.  So, we practiced basketball skills.  Sounds crazy doesn't it.  We walked down the sidewalk and then when we got close to the corner.  We ran and jumped up in the air and came down with both feet a dead stop (Thanks Coach Hoffman!).  We always stopped at the crosswalk before we got to the yellow lines on the curb.  I had the kids in hand so they wouldn't go to far.  Then we would pivot around in a circle keeping one foot pinned in place. All this so my kids would be very conscious of the curbs and running out in the street.  My anxiety was related to hearing about a child getting hit by a dump truck because he ran out in the street.  Parenting comes with lots of anxieties.  Talking with your kids about not running into the street is good.  Add in some fun  practice exercises and games  alleviates a lot of concerns and builds confidence.  Kids learn through play. It's their language! Later we practiced with the kids crossing the streets.  Crossing the streets alone was another whole exercise.  Sadly, none of  the kids developed my great love for basketball! Ah well, such is life!

 I will talk about how to handle it if you kid does run out in the street another time. That leads to the whole discussion of spankings and ADHD and pro's and con's of medication versus kid harnesses etc.  We'll get to that stuff, later.  If you're parenting, talk with your kids and practice your jump stops, pivots and looking both ways before you cross the street. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"You deserve to feel good about your kids!" That's a big statement, isn't it?  If you follow this blog maybe, just maybe you can find some help to make it true for you. My experiences have taught me that most people need help getting a fair perspective on their parenting.  I have been working with children and adults for a long time beginning as a camp counselor at Sugar Creek Bible Camp in Wisconsin. That's where I built my skill set in being with and listening to kids. I learned how to play with kids in a way that let them tell me what they wanted and needed. As a parent I know how important it is to know that your kids are okay and happy and accepted.  I know how much you want your kids to know right from wrong and how to be successful. As a counselor, I know some ways to make the journey easier, because you deserve to feel good about your kids and your parenting.