It can be such a relief to know that other people are struggling with the same challenges that you are. It can also be
comforting, in a way, to find out that there are problems out there
that you don’t have. (well, it’s true!) To that end, this post is the
first in a multi-part series about the most common parenting conflicts.
I did a small survey and have summarized the results below. (In other
words, this is neither scientific nor exhaustive.) But I think you’ll
find common ground all the same.
Typical areas of conflict between parents:
- Discipline: (strategies, thresholds, undermining vs united front.)
- Anxiety: (differing levels and differing triggers)
- Self-care: (Who gets personal time! Who is getting more! There is Never Enough!!)
- Sex: (hormones, feeling over-touched, the importance of reconnection.)
- Lifestyle issues: (diet, TV, language, work vs play)
- Balance and Sharing: (household labor, ‘owning’ the kids, reading parenting books, extended family, role modeling, competing for love.)
Steps that can help:
- Define a common problem.
- Use “I” statements. Avoid blame and ‘making wrong.’
- Active listening skills (body language, focus, “uh huh,” rephrasing, empathetic response.)
- Reach out. Ask friends, family, professionals. Ask for help. Ask
for camaraderie. Ask for distraction. Ask for advice. Both parents must
- Acceptance, compromise, communication.
- Counseling. You get the help of an ‘expert’ with training and
experience in these exact issues, plus a dedicated hour each week to
focus on growth.
In future posts, I will delve a little deeper into the different categories. First up: discipline. Come back for more!
Earlier this week I had an initial appointment with a physical therapist. Towards the end of our visit, he gave me some instructions for things to do at home. I sortof understood, but wanted clarification, so I asked a question. This is where things went downhill.
Apparently, my question was a dumb one. I know this because the PT told me so. He tilted his head, raised his eyebrows, smirked a bit, and then repeated what he’d just said, with extra emphasis. The overwhelming message was “You should not have asked that-you should have been able to figure it out. Something must be wrong with you if you had to ask that question.”
In the Beyond Birds and Bees workshop, I tell parents to first respond to their kid’s questions about sex by saying “oh, good question!” While there are many reasons to do this, the primary reason is that it reinforces to your child that you are an askable parent. I think I want this PT to take my class. ;^)
From the perspective of the well-informed, basic questions can seem a little funny. But let’s remember 2 things-1, to be “ignorant” simply means that the person hasn’t learned it yet. And 2, each of us also started out with small steps, teasing out nuance and learning how to make our own inferences. If 1 + 2 = 3, does 2 + 1
also equal 3? …that sort of thing. That equation looks laughably simple now, but it was a lot harder when you were 5.
As parents, we know that learning is a life-long process, and that no one is an expert in everything. Children who are encouraged to ask questions, who see their parents acknowledging that they don’t know everything but will work to find answers-those kids are better prepared for a successful adulthood. Kids who don’t get that-the ones
who are made fun of for asking “dumb” questions-will stop asking questions. It’s sad, too, because as the questions stop, the learning slows. At the end of the day, the people who asked questions are the people who will know more.
So this week, in whatever you do, consider responding to every question with: “oh, good question.” Because, really, they are all good questions.
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
Respond to this problem on two levels.
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
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
“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
- 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?)
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
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.
- A relaxed and loving time with their family.
- Realistic expectations about gifts
- An evenly paced holiday season
- 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.
the card list,
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
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!”