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Teasing

Is your school-aged child being teased? Kids can really be mean to
each other, and when our kids hurt, we hurt, too. The older they get,
the harder it is to fix things for them. The good news is that there
are concrete, positive steps you can take to help your child handle
teasing.
Respond to this problem on two levels.

  1. First, focus on your child’s emotional needs. Don’t rush to
    problem-solving too fast. Allow your child to feel their feelings and
    vent them in a safe place with a safe person (you!) Actively listening
    (which includes eye contact, focus, repeating back, and empathetic
    noises like “uh-huh,” etc.) will actually provide a measure of relief.
    It feels good to tell your story to someone who cares and is really
    listening.
  2. Then, when your child is done venting, ask if he wants your help,
    and if so, how he wants you to help. You may discover that all they
    wanted was to talk about it. That really happens! Even kids sometimes
    just want validation, not problem-solving. Alternatively, your child
    might ask for a “fix.” Depending on your child’s age, a phone call to
    parents or teachers, etc might be appropriate. However, no one can
    really make them stop, so we’d better move on to level two.

One of the most important things we parents must do for our kids is prepare them for The Real World.
The Real World is imperfect and full of unfairness, bullies, and
cheating. Much as we might like to, we cannot shield our kids from
teasing (or other unpleasantness) for their whole lives. It will find
them, so we’d better teach them how to deal with it on their own.

Here are steps to take and lessons to teach your child in order to
better equip him to deal with teasing (or other crummy peer behavior).

  1. Overall ego-strengthening. If a child feels anxious about a
    particular aspect of themselves, they are likely to react more when
    teased. The reaction is the teaser’s reward. (This is why some people
    say to “just ignore them”). But, a child who can recognize her own
    diverse strengths will have an easier time internally rejecting the
    rude comments. If your child doesn’t feel sensitive or vulnerable to a
    comment, they won’t react. This makes it less ‘fun’ for the teaser, so
    it won’t happen as much.
  2. Humor. Nothing disarms like humor. There’s a great scene in the old Steve Martin movie “Roxanne
    where his character (who has a very large nose) makes fun of a guy who
    had made fun of his nose. Steve Martin embarrasses his teaser by
    humorously pointing out that the teasing comment was uncreative and
    common. What a way to reclaim the upper hand!
  3. Insight into the other person’s possible motivations. It helps to
    know, for example, that kids sometimes tease because they feel insecure
    themselves. This also emphasizes the important life lesson “It’s not
    about you,” which can be powerful and life-changing.
  4. Teach your child the power of not being defensive. “Yeah,
    I’ve got a big nose. And, I’m the 4th grade champion at basketball.
    Wanna play?” In this example, the child being teased acknowledges the
    truth in what the bully is focusing on (which eliminates any ‘sting’,
    and the shifts the power) then refocuses the conversation onto an
    aspect of himself where he is powerful and capable.

I hope that these ideas are helpful. For more information, or to ask
questions, leave a comment or send me an email through the website!

Kids, Food Additives, and ADD/ADHD

The February 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics has an article in it that I found to be practically earth-shaking. The journal’s editors and the article’s author, Alison Schonwald, MD, FAAP, review a very recent British study that looked for possible links between hyperactivity and food preservatives and/or artificial colorings. And the short answer is-they found it.

This study, which is described by the AAP editors as “a carefully conducted study in which the investigators went to great lengths to eliminate bias and to rigorously measure outcomes” concludes that there is a connection between hyperactive behavior and food preservatives (particularly sodium benzoate) and artificial food colorings.

Just to repeat myself a third time-this reliable, peer-reviewed, double-blind etc etc etc study found a connection between some of the foods that our kids eat (the junky, chemical-laden ones) and hyperactive behaviors. Wow.

Of course, this isn’t news to some. Parents have anecdotally found this link themselves over the years. It’s just that this is the long-awaited “scientific study” that ‘proves’ it.

Another interesting note in the AAP article-they state that they were skeptical in the past and now acknowledge that they were wrong.

Did you feel that tremor? ;^)

If you’d like to read the AAP article, or the full text of the original British study, they can be found here: http://www.feingold.org/aap.html
Please note that I have no connection with this website nor the association behind it. (But I do think their ideas are very interesting!)

Update: Here is a link to another article describing a food-ADHD connection.

Update #2:  Here are the food colorings that were connected:

• Tartrazine (E102): Yellow food coloring

• Quinoline yellow (E104): Yellow Food coloring

• Sunset yellow (E110): Orange yellow coloring

• Carmoisine (E122): Red food coloring

• Ponceau 4R (E124): Red food coloring

• Allura red (E129): Red food coloring

• Sodium benzoate (E211): Artificial preservative

Keeping the Calm

Parenting is really hard work. Some days are harder than others, and
everybody loses their temper sometimes. The parents I work with
acknowledge this truth, but also want to grow and change. They want to
lose their tempers less frequently, and when they do succumb-they want
the overall experience to be yet further muted. So how to stay calm is
an important, and common topic in my office-especially for those
parents who didn’t have role-models for calmness in their own
childhoods.

Today’s post is taken with permission from the newsletter of
Celebrate Calm, written by Kirk Martin. Kirk is a father who has
created a program to help families, schools, and churches better
respond to kids with ADHD. Here’s what he says about how to keep the
calm in your home:

Control yourself. Realize that we cannot control our
kids, nor should we want to. Our primary job as parents is to control
ourselves and model proper behavior. How many of us throw our adult
tantrums when something goes wrong, then expect our children to remain
calm?

Make a conscious choice to remain calm no matter what your child or
spouse does. Screaming, or withdrawing emotionally, only makes the
situation worse. When we are calm, we can problem solve instead of
creating more problems.

Have self-respect. We are not responsible for our children’s
behavior, attitudes and actions. If my son is in a bad mood, so be it.
I choose not to give in to or join his pity party. If your child comes
into the kitchen barking orders and being rude, you are not obligated
to respond. Walk away calmly, go about your business and let your child
know when he’s ready to talk and be polite, you’ll help him with
breakfast.

If my son refuses to do his homework, then he will suffer the
consequences at school. Our children need to learn that they are
responsible for their choices and I am responsible for mine.

Assume a calm posture. Each time I enter my teenage son’s room, I
ask myself, “Do I want to have a conversation or a confrontation?”
Instead of standing in his doorway barking orders, I sit down and put
my feet up on the ottoman. It is impossible to yell and lecture when
you assume a calm posture.

Take care of yourself first before trying to take care of others.
Exercise, walk your dog, pray, listen to music, whatever helps you be
calm. Make a decision that no matter what your child or spouse does,
you are only responsible for your actions. This liberates parents and
frees children to be responsible for their choices.

Be the calm. When your home is spinning out of control, draw others
into your calm by sitting down and coloring or reading a book. Let
everyone else know that you are in control. You’ll be surprised at how
your children (and spouse!) begin to calm down once you do.

I absolutely love the image of the father sitting down in a chair,
feet up, to have a conversation with his son. The tone and likely
outcome of the conversation will be so much better as a result of the
father’s proactive choices. And actually, this trick would be useful in
many different relationships-spouses included. Another trick in the
same category is to purposefully slow your physical movements-a lot.
This is especially true when parenting toddlers, as they absorb our
energy directly. If, for example, your toddler is misbehaving and you
need to pick her up-try doing it in slow-motion. It’s likely that she
will (a) not get even more wild in response to your response…, and (b)
hopefully absorb some calm, quiet energy instead.

One final thought of my own… while all of the above suggestions are
good, I suggest working on taking care of yourself first. When self
care is lacking, everything else is harder to handle. It’s almost
impossible, for example, to stick with a conscious choice to stay calm
if you’re stressed, hungry, and tired to begin with. So, getting
yourself back up to the ‘baseline’ is first, and then you can tackle
the other steps.

Good luck!

Turning Bratz into Teacherz

“What should I do about those Bratz dolls?”

As a parenting
coach, I hear this question from time to time. Many parents find them
offensive–whether due to their clothing, makeup, or accessories like
the party bus with a hot tub and martini glasses. It’s not just parents
that worry, either: the Bratz dolls were specifically named in a report
by the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the
Sexualization of Girls, who stated that it was “worrisome when dolls
designed specifically for 4 to 8 years olds are associated with an
objectified adult sexuality.”

So, what’s a
parent to do? Refuse to buy them? Outlaw them at home? But what about
when she goes to a friend’s house? And she wants them for her birthday!
Here are some suggestions.

Keep these thoughtz in mind:

  • Remind yourself
    that you only get to wage a certain number of battles in your parenting
    lifetime–so it’s smart to pick and choose them. Temper your response
    accordingly.
  • As offensive as
    you may find them to be, playing with Bratz doesn’t automatically do
    harm. Really! It’s not on the scale of, say, eating lead paint. Rather,
    their effect is on your daughter’s mind, her assumptions, her beliefs
    and values. And that effect, thank goodness, can be mitigated by an involved parent.
  • This is a teachable moment. Consider this an engraved invitation to talk to your daughter about at least one important belief, family value, or social construct.

Actionz to take:

  • Ask your
    daughter questions. What does she think of their clothes/makeup? How
    old does she think the dolls are? (Most kids say pre-teen or teen.)
    Does she know anyone that age who looks like that? If she saw a
    real-life person dressed in a short mini-skirt, fishnet stockings and a
    feather boa, what would she think of them? Does she think a real girl
    her age should dress like that? Why/why not?
  • Share your
    concerns. Calmly discuss your top 2 or 3 complaints with your daughter.
    Very important note: remember to present your opinions in gentle terms.
    If she identifies with the dolls, and you are overly critical of
    them–she may well experience your criticism as personal. It might be
    helpful to be prepared to throw in something positive about the dolls.
  • Compare and
    contrast how the dolls spend their time with how real pre-teens/teens
    spend their time. The Bratz motto is “Passion for Fashion”… ask your
    daughter about what she really feels passionate about. (also: where are the adults? Who bought that party bus?)

One last
thought–this is an opportunity to role-model that it’s possible for
parent and child to disagree, to discuss calmly and to still love each
other afterwards. You’re planting seeds of many varieties right
now–most importantly: (a) we can still discuss when we don’t agree, and
(b) it’s good to think critically about the messages/values we
encounter in our lives. Truly, those life lessons are some of the most
important and healthy ones we can teach our children. Let me know how
it goez.

What Kids Really Want for Christmas

In their book Unplug the Christmas Machine, authors Jo Robinson and Jean Staeheli say that kids (deep-down… sometimes way deep-down) want the following 4 things for Christmas, and I definitely agree.

  1. A relaxed and loving time with their family.
  2. Realistic expectations about gifts
  3. An evenly paced holiday season
  4. Reliable family traditions

What a list, huh!?! Surely this is a “Christmas list” that any parent would love to get!

Note: The book (Unplug the Christmas Machine) is a great
one. Click on the link below to read more or to purchase it.  FYI, the
quote above is reprinted with permission from Alternatives for Simple
Living – SimpleLiving.org – 800-821-6153.

Trim the tree…

…and the gift list and
the card list,
the menu,
the social calendar,
the travel itinerary…

Do you feel stressed during the holidays? Well, no wonder. Our jobs,
our lives, our families still require our full participation in
November and December. And yet, we generally find a way to add in an
amount of work equivalent to a part-time job on top of everything!

The best way to get the holiday you want is to focus on your values
and priorities. Chances are, not all of your holiday activities are
aligned with your values. Identify one action that neither matches your
values nor brings you joy. Start there.

Involve the kids-both by telling them that you want to shape the
holidays to better match your family’s values, and also by having them
help decide how to do that. Remind yourself that change is an
incremental process, and then… make a commitment to change! Reduce,
alternate, get creative, or just say no. I bet you’ll be glad you did
it. Let me know how it goes!

Note: I teach a class called “Simplify the Season” during the
holiday/Christmas season. It’s a fun, interactive workshop that helps
to identify your true values and priorities for the holiday season-and
helps you figure out how to celebrate in a way that is in line with
those values. For more information, visit the website at
www.simplifytheseason.com
.

What is an Askable Parent?

An askable parent is what you want to be. No matter what your family values about sex are, chances are that you want your child to share them. For your child to know your values, and to get accurate information, they need to feel comfortable talking with you about sex. That is an askable parent.

An Askable Parent does:

  • Listen actively
  • Stay on topic
  • Respond positively
  • Take the questions (and the child) seriously
  • Stay patient and keep their answers brief
  • Remain calm
  • Take advantage of “teachable moments.”

An Askable Parent does not:

  • Laugh at irrational questions (like, “Does a pregnant lady’s food fall on her baby’s head?)
  • Say, “Go ask your father/mother.” (It’s important for kids to know
    that they can talk about sexuality with either gender–that’s good role
    modeling for any future heterosexual relationships.)
  • Ask, “Why do you want to know?”
  • Widen their eyes, tighten their neck muscles, and talk for 10 minutes straight without stopping!

Believe it or not, it’s not necessary to have the perfect answer to whatever Big Question your child comes up with. Questions about sex will come up again and again, at every age and stage. That’s why the most important thing that your child can learn is that you are the person to go to with their questions. Otherwise, they are likely to seek out the information from their friends–and chances are–that information will be inaccurate or even dangerous. So take a deep breath, smile, and say “oh, good question!”