Many of us area all about goals this time of year. As parent, we vow to be more patient, have our kids eat healthier, get more exercise, and enjoy the time we have together more.
When creating goals, one system to keep in mind is the “SMART” system. Using these tips will give you a much higher chance of success—whether the goal is yours, or for your child.
S is for specific. If you want to be more patient, what does that look like to you, specifically? Does it mean you want to yell less? Allow more time for your children to complete things? Be more encouraging? Find at least one specific thing it means to you. Then move on to the next step.
M is for measurable. This is why you need a specific goal. For the patience example, let’s say you want to allow more time for your children to complete things. A measurable goal would be to add 10 extra minutes into your transition times in the morning and before bedtime. So, you’d start the transition 10 minutes earlier, say with a 5-minute warning. “In 5 minutes, we’ll need to get our shoes/pjs/etc on. Now is the time to finish up what you’re doing so you’re ready to change tasks in 5 minutes.”
A is for attainable. It’s attainable to add 10 minutes into your schedule, but probably not to just let the kids come to their natural finishing point before transitioning. Perhaps you want to make sure you say at least 5 encouraging things each day to your child, as opposed to “never being negative again!”
R is for realistic. Never getting upset or angry is probably not realistic. Deciding to breathe deeply before talking to your kids when you’re upset is. That’s also something that is specific, measurable, and attainable.
T is for timely. Give yourself a time frame. “Be more patient” can be put off forever. But saying “I will add 10 minutes to our transitions times for one week” allows you to track what you’re doing. Is it going well? Are there adjustments you need to make, like adding in a 5-minute warning and breathing deeply? Doing something for one week is easier and more attainable than trying to “be good forever.”
And that’s it! Try this system and let me know how it goes for you. Need help getting started? Book a coaching package today, and we can set and track your SMART goals!
As the year comes to a close, families can create some rituals that help strengthen them for the coming year. Here are some ideas for you to try.
Family picture scrapbook
Taking a few minutes to review good times (and not so good times) helps create a sense of togetherness and perspective for children and adults in families. Take time to strengthen your family this season.
Last time, we were talking about Teaching Children to be Generous. Along with setting boundaries about gift-giving and receiving, you may be wondering what else you can do on a regular basis to help young people understand about being generous.
Here are some practical and doable ideas from Dr. Robin Silverman:
Teach generosity all year long, especially during NON-holiday times.
For more ideas, read 22 Ways to Teach Generosity to Children here.
Taking simple steps like these on a regular basis can help nurture the value of generosity in your children and your family. Get started today!
This time of year, many of us are faced with the "gimmie-gimmies" and the "I want the whole world or at least the whole toy catalog" syndromes in our children.
Wanting things, especially in our culture, where billions of dollars are spent annually marketing especially to children, is part of growing up. How we, as parents, handle this, is up to us.
Take a moment to think what kind of a person you want to help develop in your child. If you, like many, want a generous person to emerge, there is some work to do. It may not always be pretty or fun or easy, but it can be done.
It is important for children to realize there are limits to what they will be given, even during a holiday season as commercialized as Christmas is in our culture. It's OK for them to want the world, and it's also OK for you to let them know that there is a limit to how much they will receive
When they are younger, this may be a number of gifts. As they get older, let them know you have a budget (if you don't have one, make one!), and that if they ask for something expensive, they will not be receiving as many other presents.
I remember the year one of our sons was 12 and put this to the test. He got the expensive item he wanted, but not much else. It was not the happiest Christmas morning for him. (I found out later that the same scenario had played itself out down the street at a friend's home with her daughter).
However, we had discussed our values and clearly decided there was a limit to how much we were willing to spend on one day of the year.
That day, to my spouse and I, is about so much more than pricey gifts--it is about family, and connection, and our faith. So we held our line, in order to teach these values with more than words, and had an upset kid. And yet, valuable lessons were learned. This child is extremely thoughtful and creative as a gift-giver, generous with his time and talent, and aware of what is a "want" and what is a "need."
How do you teach generosity in a world full of materialism? Be sure to read the next article for some practical ideas you can use all year long.
This morning, I was listening to the radio on my way to yoga. The hosts were discussing gratitude and moved to a story about a hospice nurse, who was sharing her wisdom from over 25 years doing her work. She mentioned that people often die the way they live. Some people are grateful and peaceful, others are resentful and angry. You can read or listen to the story here:http://mynorthwest.com/11/2128561/Hospice-nurse-shares-list-of-five-things-you-must-say-before-you-die
What struck me, though, was her advice about five things we should say before we die. They are:
I was thinking about this in terms of parenting, and here are my thoughts. First of all, in addition to being parents, each of us is also a child. As that child, perhaps you are dealing with an aging parent. Perhaps your parents are in great health, or perhaps, they are already gone. If your parents are still with you, find a way this month to say thank you for what they have given you. Find a way to say “I love you.” Are there things you regret in your relationship that you have responsibility for? If so, say “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me.” If you do this, I can almost guarantee it will be easier for you to say goodbye when the time comes.
If your parents are already gone, you can do this as a journal exercise or as a prayer.
Now, think about your children. Are there things you would like to thank them for? Don’t wait. Thank them now, and thank them often. Find ways to say “I love you.” You may want to check out Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages (www.5lovelanguages.com) to figure out how your child likes to give and receive love.
Have you blown it lately? We all do from time to time. Say “I’m sorry.” I often have said, “I’m sorry I acted that way; however, I’m not sorry I was upset.” Feelings are all ok, but we need to be responsible for our behavior. Modeling this for our children is a priceless gift, as is asking for forgiveness.
I hope you are not in a place where you know you are going to die soon, but if you are, or if that happens in the future, be sure to take some time to say goodbye. We are not really great at this in our culture, yet it is so very important. Giving someone the gift of goodbye allows them to say hello to the next step.
These practices, as part of our daily lives, can help us create open, healthy relationships with our parents and children, and help prepare us for the inevitable. Everyone with a belly button has limited time on this earth. Make it count.
Brain research is fascinating and changing all the time. Current research shows that our brains are growing, changing, and evolving throughout our lives—which brings me to something I like to call the "silver van effect.”
Currently, I drive a sliver van. I've had it for several years. When we got it, I knew there were many silver vans in the world; however, after I began to drive one, I started to see them everywhere. In fact, there were so many that I decided to put a distinguishing antenna ball on my car so I could find it in a parking lot where anywhere from one to several silver vans were parked near mine.
Now, were there all of the sudden more silver vans around? No. What happened was that my world view changed. And my world view changed because my thoughts changed. And my thoughts changed because I was driving a silver van.
I was seeing this silver van each day when I got into it, so my brain became quickly programmed to notice other things similar to this.
The really amazing thing about this is that attention changes the brain--and it does so quickly--within seconds, in fact. So, what we pay attention to, we will see more of in our surroundings. And this changes our thoughts, which changes our world view. Read more here.
Let's take this to parenting. If you want a better relationship with your children, then start by focusing on what you love about them, what you admire about them, what you appreciate about them. The best time to do this is first thing in the morning before interacting with them, and before you go to bed, so you are thinking about those things as you fall asleep.
In workshops, I give people a handout to make a list of 5 things they love about each child, so they can post it up somewhere they'll see it each day.
When you focus on these positives (I appreciate when she puts toys away. I appreciate that he is neat. I appreciate that she loves running. I appreciate his energy), your thoughts shift, and your brain helps you focus more on these things, so you will see them more. If we focus on the negatives (Arrgh! She always leaves her shoes in the middle of the floor!), then that shifts our thoughts and focus, too, to see more of what's out of place than what is in place.
Of course, no one is perfectly positive all the time. These thoughts--whether positive or negative--create patterns that literally and physically strengthen over time in our brains. The great news is that you can change the connections by repeating a new pattern.
So, what are you waiting for? Make that list today of 5 things you love about your child. Your partner. Your self. And give thanks for all of these qualities in your life.
Research also shows that if you write down as few as five things each day for which you are grateful, and you do this for a few months, your sense of contentment with the world will increase.
Go gratefully forward this month and let me know what happens!
If your child has special needs, and is part of the special education system, then you are probably familiar with meeting with school team members at least yearly to review your child’s progress and create new goals. Advocate for your child as much as possible. Be sure to share new information from home, the pediatrician, or other professionals working with your child in order to give the educators as complete a picture as possible.
If you need help, consider contacting a parent advocacy agency, such as PAVE (in Washington State—www.wapave.org) Many states have advocacy organizations for parents of children with different disabilities. Some will even attend school meetings with you to make sure your child is getting all the services to which he or she is entitled.
Most of all, trust your intuition. If you believe your child is having trouble learning, continue talking to professionals in order to find out what might be the culprit. Here are some people to consider consulting:
You know your child, and if something is off, keep looking until you get the answers you need.
Take some time each day to debrief with your child about his or her day. Avoid saying, “So, how was your day?” if you routinely get a one word answer, like “Good” or “OK.”
Instead, try some open ended questions like these:
Be willing to answer the question yourself, too, if your child asks. You can also check into some games that are available for conversation starters. Use them in the car or at the dinner table. Give everyone a chance to participate, and watch your connections with each other grow.
Today’s children are often overscheduled, creating stress for both parents and students. It’s important for parents to discern which activities they are signing up their children for and why. With older children and teens, allowing choice is great, but helping them to understand what is a reasonable amount to take on is equally important.
With young children, remember that their work is play. Directing it too much can impinge on their creativity. Some cities are even moving to more creative playground options, where the children actually build the play structure themselves with a kit of foam blocks and other materials (see: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2007398,00.html).Providing opportunities for this type of play encourages problem-solving, cooperation, assertiveness, and creativity.
Older children and teens need down time, too. Boredom for them is often a precursor to coming up with a creative idea. Too much down time and too much boredom can lead to poor choices and poor use of impulsivity, but allowing some unstructured time for most children and teens is not a bad thing.
Important questions for parents to ask are:
• Does this activity support the values we adhere to in our family?
• Are there opportunities for growth, skills, and friendships that will benefit my child?
• Do I want my child to do this because he or she would enjoy it or grow from it, or because I am trying to look like a “great parent”?
• Does my child have the time and energy to do this activity well and participate to the level expected? Do I?
• Am I trying to do the same thing for each child, when they may have different temperaments and needs?
• What is the worse thing that could happen if we choose not to continue this activity? What’s the best thing that could happen?
If you are unsure whether your child is involved in too many activities, check out these warning signs from scholastic.com:
• Does he act grouchy, mopey, or irritable?
• Can she fall asleep at bedtime?
• Are his grades slipping? Does he finish his homework?
• Has she started overeating?
• Does he zone out in front of the TV?
• Is she complaining of stomachaches, headaches, or mysterious illnesses?
• Does he grumble about being bored?
• Is she over-anxious about getting approval from authority figures?
• When you're heading out the door, does he throw a tantrum or "lose" equipment?
• Does she pick fights with her siblings or complain you don't love her as much?
• Can he keep track of where he's supposed to be?
• Is her schedule draining you or your family members?
If your child exhibits a few or more of these on a regular basis, it may be time to consider cutting back.