Posts Tagged ‘parent planning’

Resolving to Get What You Want

January 4, 2012

Did you make a New Year’s resolution having to do with parenting?   Or, are you like me… a resolution-avoider?  Regardless,  I heard a great quote today.  Although it was used in the terms of healthy eating, it applies to much more, including parenting.  Here it is:

Don’t trade what you want most for what you want at this moment.

There is a lot to think about in that short little statement, but what first came to my mind was discipline.  Many of our courses talk about choosing discipline techniques that make sense in terms of brain development and building skills such as self-control, empathy, cause and effect thinking, ability to let go of control and impulse control.  While we get a lot of agreement that yes, pull close parenting types of discipline do manage the child’s behavior while building those skills, we find that for many of us (ourselves included at times!) what we want right now, in that moment, sometimes gets in the way.

Take the example of a younger child who is throwing a temper tantrum.  The science of brain development tells us that the ability to regulate one’s emotions is learned through someone else helping keep your emotions regulated.  We also know that we have to be present to help the child calm and regulate that mad feeling.  And yet, there is still a temptation to do something that makes them stop crying or throwing a fit right now!!!   …even if “making it all stop” works against what you really want… a child who will ultimately be able to handle their own angry feelings appropriately.

So, take a moment and ask yourself:

What are my goals for my child?
How do I get there?  Do I know how to get there?
What do I need to get there?

Heart of the Matter Seminars

Floors, Parenting and Procrastination

June 29, 2011

I just finished one of my least favorite jobs–cleaning floors.  I don’t mind doing laundry, dishes, gardening, even cleaning toilets!  But I really hate sweeping, mopping and vacuuming.  I put it off, am grateful for our hardwood floor that hides stuff and curse the older kitchen floor that shows everything.  When I finally make myself get started and just do it, I realize that it’s really not that bad and am glad to have clean floors when it’s over.

Today as I finished the hated kitchen floor, it occurred to me that this same phenomenon happens with parenting sometimes, especially parenting kids who have needs that go beyond the typical.  Here are a few examples:

Establishing a parent as the primary caregiver.  It’s hard to shuffle work schedules, put a career on hold, change jobs or start working from home.  It’s also hard to settle into change of pace and meet the new demands (and yes, sometimes boredom) of doing the hard work of daily parenting.  But, we know it’s so worth it to be there building those important foundational pieces of brain development and accompanying skills like trust, cause and effect thinking, impulse control, empathy, the ability to self-regulate emotions, etc….   I have never met a parent yet who regretted putting in the extra time with their child, just like I’ve never met anyone who regrets having clean floors.

Starting AND MAINTAINING Time In.  I’ve talked to many parents in the 13+ yearss since we first started presenting the idea of “Time In” in our live seminars.  Once folks understand why it makes sense and that it really does establish parenting authority, competency and boundaries, they are anxious to put it into use in their homes.  It’s not much fun to get started and it takes self-discipline and a commitment to see the job through, but it’s so worth it in the end.  Much like cleaning floors, only doing Time In halfway just highlights the mess.  

Utilizing professionals when necessary.  I don’t think any of us intend to avoid using professionals to help our families anymore than we intend to live in a pigsty and yet, when we put off actually making the appointment (or pulling out the broom!) in essence, that’s what happens.  Similarly, just as it’s not enough to pull the vacuum cleaner out and then not follow through actually vacuuming, it’s not enough to visit a professional and then not follow through *all the way* with a new parenting plan, therapy or other recommendations they have, provided they make sense given the research and what you know about your individual child.   

Being proactive.  This is the first piece of the parenting plan we highlight in Because They Waited.  It is so, so important!  Picture a small sticky spot on the floor.  If not cleaned up, it gets tracked around, dirt and gunk sticks to it and before long it’s just a bigger mess!   Same goes with issues that our kids have.  Most kids don’t come home severely impacted by their early months or years in less than optimal care–they come home with mild to moderate effects.  And yet, if we procrastinate parenting to those issues in a concerted manner, those issues usually just get bigger.  The look of them may change, but it’s often the same core issue just making a bigger mess.

Heart of the Matter Seminars

Using “Think Alouds” to Model Problem Solving

May 18, 2011

Last night my dear sister was over helping my 15 year old with her algebra.    Although not a teacher professionally my sister is a natural educator.  I found myself smiling at all of the “think alouds” that came up during the homework session.   For those of you who are not teachers, and might not be familiar with this technique, a think aloud is when a teacher briefly interrupts his or her formal instruction in order to share their thought process with students. Last night it sounded like this:

“You know when I see a problem like this without the equals sign I automatically think…..”

“Oh wait a minute….I’m thinking now this one looks like…”

“So whenever I see this sign  I think about how I need to….”

“Oh….. I see where you went wrong.  It’s  right here.  You know whenever I come to that part I automatically  think…

These think alouds were very valuable to my daughter’s understanding of the problem solving process.  They took the learning beyond just getting the correct answer and on to the much more important goal of understanding the logical process of solving ANY problem.

Think alouds can be an important parenting tool as well, especially for parents working with kids who have extra challenges.    They have a way of making the invisible act of decision making visible to the child.

Here are some parenting examples of think alouds.
From a dad of  a child who has  problems with anger:   “I’m feeling really irritated with my boss right now!  I actually would like to give him a piece of my mind when he calls back in a minute but I’m thinking that could end badly.  (laugh)  I’m also thinking I need to cool off.  Excuse me for a moment, son.  I’m going out on the deck to clear my head before he calls back.”

Mom of the child who tends to hoard or gorge food:   “I’m thinking about another piece of watermelon.  It tastes sooooo good and it is almost gone.  There won’t be any tomorrow.  But you know I think I will wait.  After all we will have more watermelon next week and I don’t want a stomach ache!”

Parent of child with anxiety issues :  (while driving)  “You know it’s funny.  Merging in traffic like this always makes me feel anxious.  I’m thinking about focusing on the road and breathing.

And again after merge:  “Whew!  Breathing and focusing doesn’t take that feeling all the way away, but it sure helps!”

Think alouds are like narrating  while you model the behavior you want your child to learn.  They can also be  a chance for your child to learn while they themselves are not in a difficult or challenging situation.    So next time you find yourself modeling positive behavior, make yourself a “supermodel” and think out loud!

Heart of the Matter home page

“Pull Close Parenting” Your Teenager

December 30, 2010

Experiencing each age and stage of my three children’s lives teaches me something new each time about parenting.   It proves that parenting is not an exact science and that, at least for most of us, we are “building the ship as we sail it.”  I know I am.  Oh don’t get me wrong.   You have to have a plan.  (You know I love parenting plans!)  But part of the parenting learning curve is experiential.  During the last few months my 15 year old accidentally taught me more about pull close parenting for teenagers. (more…)

Does feeling follow behavior or behavior follow feeling?

June 27, 2010

My parenting plan often operates with the idea that feeling will follow behavior.  In other words instead of sitting around waiting for everyone to feel great about something I often encourage behavior that suggests that feeling.   Yes it is a bit of “fake it till you make it” theory but sometimes that can result in some  positives.

I woke up on Saturday with a mission in mind.  Our house was a disaster area.  Things were out of place, laundry was undone, everything needed to be vacuumed and dusted.  I knew that when I announced the plan to clean as a family my 14 year old and 11 year old would not be thrilled.  I knew my husband would agree with me but likely respond badly once the kids started complaining.  Still, I persevered.

I gathered everyone in the family room/kitchen area and announced we were going to clean as a family because we all liked it when the house was neat and tidy.  (I threw the “because” part in there since  a book I had just read on persuasion gave compelling research findings that “because” statements  improve cooperation.)  I laid only one ground rule and that was that we had to all remain in each room until it was completely done.  In this way we would all be together and helping each other.

There was mild grumbling and sighing as we got started but again I persevered.  I became the cleaning cheerleader.  I helped the 11 year old get started taking everything out of the family room that didn’t belong there.  (Sounds easy but this included everything from an unmatched flip flop to a staple gun.)  I exclaimed “Perfect!” as my 14 year old started emptying the dishwasher.  I conversed obviously with my husband who was mining for lost items in the sectional “Honey, working as a family team is so much more fun and fast!  Don’t you think?”  My wink and smile to him got him in the spirit and before you knew it we were all four cleaning and chatting away.

The family room /kitchen area hasn’t received so much attention since a remodel job a few years ago.  Cabinets and floors were polished and cleaned.  Countertops and appliances were scrubbed to a sparkling shine.  Dust and pet hair vanished and were replaced with that lemony clean smell.  It was wonderful.

But the best part happened later that day when I checked my Facebook account and found my daughter had updated her status.  Katie tells me you will all think I made this up so I’m adding a picture as proof:

Reading that was better than smelling the clean house!  All of the cheery teamwork behavior had led to cheery teamwork feelings.  Not rocket science I admit, but amazing and wonderful none the less.

My house cleaning story is really inconsequential in comparison to the effects that “fake it till you make it” can have in more important situations.  I was recently talking to a friend who adopted an older child several years ago.  The child  is now a teenager and their family is happy and thriving.  Even so, my friend reminisced with me about how hard the first year with her new son was.  She was often wracked with guilt because the difficult behaviors of her new son made it hard for her to feel the same way she did about her biological children especially in the early stages of the adoption.  When I asked her what had gotten her through she told me about a conversation that she had had with a mutual friend who is also a therapist.  The therapist’s words had helped this mom because they acknowledged for her that  a “love” feeling doesn’t always come immediately upon adopting a child.  The therapist reminded this mom that her commitment to the adoption and the process of becoming a family was most important  and that that commitment itself was a loving act.  She went on to tell the mom  that when she behaved like a loving nurturing mother it helped to move her “feelings” in the right direction.  This mom told me with teary happy eyes how true that statement really was, how much love she now feels for this child, how mutually this love is returned, and how important it had been for her to hear that important advice during that difficult time.

Give it a try.  Behave in the way you wish to feel today and encourage your family to do the same.  See if feelings really do follow behaviors for you too.

Heart of the Matter Seminars website

Step 4: The final piece of “Ease” into Parent Planning

April 17, 2010

I started this series on parent planning before the shocking news of the Hansen adoption story broke.  Although we have all been understandably distracted by this story and the tragic consequences of it, I think it is even more important than ever that we highlight parent planning.  Sadly, the Hansen family had no parenting plan and either did not reach out for help or did not get the help they needed in creating an effective one.

That being said:  Here’s Step 4 in “Ease into Parent Planning” (more…)

Setting Long and Short Term Parenting Goals: Step 3 in “EASE” into Parent Planning

April 8, 2010

Goal setting is an important and serious step.  This is where I think a lot of us struggle.  We often do a lot of talking (and worrying)  about things that might be wrong or might potentially go wrong but then fall short when it comes to actually planning for them or addressing them . (more…)

“EASE” into Parent Planning Step 2

April 6, 2010

One of the things that my husband and I did early on in our parenting experience (16 years ago) was attend a seminar put on by parents of post institutionalized children and the professional community that serves them.  We actually did it on a whim, or maybe I should say a gut feeling.

At the time, we were just becoming adjusted to life on one income instead of two.  We had just adopted our then 6 year old daughter from an orphanage in Russia, and I had just left my teaching job to stay home with her.  Flying off for a weekend stay in a hotel and paying fees to attend a seminar were not easy choices, and yet I was hungry to educate myself about how my child’s beginning in life might be affecting her. (more…)

“EASE” into Parent Planning

April 4, 2010

Many families we talk to express interest in parent planning but find it difficult to get started.  One way to EASE into parent planning is to break down the task into four steps.

  • Educate yourself
  • Analyze your child’s needs
  • Set long and short term goals
  • Evaluate your progress and plan regularly

We’ll take time to address each of these 4 steps in upcoming blog posts, but for now we are going to focus simply on education. (more…)

Confessions of a Not So Perfect Parent…

March 31, 2010

Let’s talk for a moment about the ever elusive “perfect parent.” I think that many of us (especially we adoptive parents) feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to be mistake free parents, perfect parents, super parents with a capital S on our shirts and a red cape flowing behind us!

It doesn’t surprise me that so many adoptive parents feel this way. (more…)


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