Raising Children With Mental Illness

By Melinda Cook | Oct. 05, 2018

 

My kids are all adopted from foster care. I got my girls when they were five and six, and my son came when he was seven. They all came from abusive or neglectful pasts and have struggled with their mental health since before they first stood on my doorstep. And before you ask: Yes, I had been fully prepped on their family histories before I adopted them.

My son’s official diagnosis is Disruptive and Dysregulated Mood Disorder with PTSD flashbacks. He has a family history of schizophrenia and had been severely abused by his birth family. Last year, a prank pulled on him by another boy triggered horrible memories that my son’s mind had locked away. Now, he hallucinates. He dissociates. He hears voices.

I remember sitting in a counselor’s office, staring intently at a picture on the wall as my son told the counselor about the voices he heard and the things he saw that I knew didn’t exist. My son talked about a hand that came over our car and a shadow that came out of his bedroom wall. I tried so hard to concentrate on the picture so I wouldn’t cry. It didn’t work. When the tears began to roll down my face, I was careful not to make a sound. The counselor noticed, so he spoke reassuringly to me, “A lot of things can make a person see things that are not there.”

My son explained how hard it is for him to determine that these things aren’t real, because they feel real to him. He just wanted them to stop. The counselor thanked my son for telling him about what happened and told him he believed him. We went from the counselor’s office to the psychiatrist’s office, where my son had to tell the story again. I never realized how tired you can get from just listening. I was exhausted, and nothing was even happening to me.

Sometimes, I try to imagine what my son is going through, and I wonder if I could get up the next day if I were him. I honestly don’t know. My children are the strongest people I know. They keep going, despite anything and everything that tries to stop them. And I do my very best to help as their mother.

Lessons To Follow

Raising children with mental health conditions is challenging. Patience can wear thin, because you want your child to do the things you need them to do. Frustration can leak into your communication. Walls can go up. Instead of loving each other, you feel like you’re at war.

When I really examined my frustrations, I noticed a lot of my anger came from a place of shame. I wanted my kids to act “appropriately” in public. When they didn’t, I would get frustrated. I cared more about what others thought of me than what my children thought of me—but that was getting my family nowhere. It especially wasn’t helping my children and their recovery.

If you’re a parent raising children with mental illness, I want more than anything for you not to make the same mistakes I made. So here are some of the most crucial lessons I’ve learned about supporting a child experiencing mental illness:

• A diagnosis provides a roadmap to recovery. How can you start on a journey if you don’t know your first step? Understanding your child’s diagnosis is critical. This knowledge can help you find ways to cope. For example, my son went through psychological testing after his

first suicide attempt. His symptoms had impaired his thinking so much that he lost three grade levels of reading comprehension. That was crushing to hear, since we had spent several years working to overcome his reading disability. But having him tested gave us a game plan.

• Open communication is key.  Make sure you’re not shutting off communication before you give your child a chance to explain how they feel. Don’t come to any conversation with the idea that you already know all the answers or how to fix everything. If we took all the energy we initially spend as parents trying to “fix” our children who live with mental illness and instead focused that energy on understanding them, we would get them the right help faster. It’s amazing the answers you can get and the solutions you can come up with together if you first start conversations with respect and empathy.

• Care for yourself, too.  It’s called self-care. When I first heard about it, I laughed. When do I have time for that? I’m a single parent. I work all day and then my kids need me. But what kind of “me” do they need? A healthy one, a happy one, a supportive one. So, plan time for yourself. Find an outlet. Find support. I love walking, blasting music when I drive by myself, writing, painting, gardening and anything that reminds me I am alive. I now know that the best parents are like flight attendants: If we hit rough patch and the oxygen masks drop, put your own mask on first before you help anyone else.

• A family crisis plan is crucial.  I learned in NAMI Family-to-Family that a mental health crisis plan needs to be in place before your family is in crisis. So, on a calm day, I asked each of my kids what we should we do if we have another mental health crisis. Their responses, to this day, are some of the most insightful and caring suggestions I have ever heard. My oldest daughter wanted consequences for someone not following family rules or hurting others. My middle daughter wanted us to “talk things out if things get bad.” My son’s contribution was that he wanted everyone to be kind. It’s funny; as parents, we have the answers if we just ask questions and listen.

Be The Reason Your Child Gets Help

Acceptance is the first step for a person’s mental health recovery. Self-acceptance is important, but just as important is receiving acceptance from loved ones. Accepting your child’s condition doesn’t mean that you aren’t scared. It just means that you see the problem for what it is—not the person as being the problem. We must accept and believe our loved ones to start getting them help. If we don’t, we run the risk of being the reason they don’t get help.

We can’t discount or ignore our loved ones’ thoughts, feelings and behaviors just because we don’t understand them or wish they were different. We have to do better than that. We need to seek to understand their reality. We need to truly listen to what they say. Do not listen to speak or refute, but listen to understand.

As parents, we must be open. We must be open to all there is to learn—even when something scares us. If we are open, then those living with mental illness (including our own children) have a chance. How many people are out there right now feeling alone, struggling with the fear of rejection from the ones they love because they hear voices or see hallucinations? How many are alone and feeling lost, but are more afraid of losing the ones they love than dealing with their mental anguish?

I remember thinking how simple and matter-of-fact my son’s counselor was when he said those three simple words, “I believe you.” I also remember how relieved my son seemed after he heard them. Odds are, your children won’t go to a counselor when they first feel something isn’t quite right. They’ll come to you. So please, stay open and believe them. Believe them so they don’t have to be alone. Believe them so they can get help. Believing may save their lives.

 

Melinda Cook is a 43-year-old single parent of three. Before she became a foster mother, she worked for a shelter for abused women and children. She is now a Certified Family Support Partner through the Department of Health and Welfare for The Family Resource Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho, a local counseling company. She began writing about her son’s experiences to help others and writes a blog at myfamilyunbottled.weebly.com.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/October-2018/Raising-Children-with-Mental-Illness

We Want You Here

By Laura Greenstein | Sep. 24, 2018

 

Sometimes life can feel like a burden. It can feel like each day is a challenge. As if making it to your bed at the end of the day is like reaching the finish line of a long race. It can feel as if each interaction is a struggle. As if you only have a limited amount of oxygen, and each word you speak is a drain on your supply.

For those of you who have ever thought about suicide, you know this feeling all too well.

But you should know that you are so strong.

You’re strong for still being here even when your thoughts tell you that being alive isn’t worth the pain. You are strong for carrying the weight of it all on your shoulders for so long. For carrying it by yourself even while thinking you were alone in the way you feel—even while believing that no one and nothing out there could take off some of the weight.

But you should know that you are not alone.

We are a whole community of people who understand what you’re facing. And more than anything, we want to help you. You don’t have to go through this alone. We want you to ask us for help. We want to help you carry that heavy weight because we understand what it’s like to burden it alone. We may not know exactly what you’re facing, but we understand what it’s like to feel hopeless.

But you should know that there is hope.

There are resources. There is help. There is support. There is time. Time that forces everything to change. You may not feel okay today, but that is okay. The awful way you feel is not permanent. You may feel like you can’t bear the pain any longer, you may feel like you don’t have it in you to reach out for help, but you are stronger than you know, and we believe in you.

And you should know that you are worth it.

You are worthy. You are important. Your life is important. You deserve a place on this planet, and we deserve to have you with us.

And you should know that you are an inspiration. 

You have faced more than many can fathom and yet here you stand. Your strength is a source of hope for those who feel the same as you do. Not only should you feel comfortable telling us about your darkest moments, but we want to hear it.

And you should know there is no shame in your story.

To feel shame is, unfortunately, part of our experience. But it is not fair. It is not fair to yourself. Because the way you feel is not your fault. You should never blame yourself for your darkness. Your darkness if a part of your story, and we accept you.

More than anything, you should know that we want you here.

 

Laura Greenstein is communications manager at NAMI. 

 

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/September-2018/We-Want-You-Here

The Power To Create Change Comes From Within

By Katherine Ponte, BA, JD, MBA, NYCPS-P, CPRP | Oct. 24, 2018

 

Stigma is a shield created by society, made up of misunderstanding and fear of mental illness. When we look away from someone behaving erratically or “strangely” on the street, that’s the fear society ingrains in us. Perhaps we’re scared to consider the possibility that the same could happen to us; that we might be shunned by society, too.

The shield of stigma also stops us from seeking help for our own mental health. When faced with a stressful life event or emotional challenges, we might carry the hurt or confusion inside. Perhaps we avoid facing a potential diagnosis, so our illness only grows worse. Stigma facilitates mental illness turning into the “monster” it doesn’t have to be.

Social perceptions need to change. However, stigma is so deeply rooted in societal norms that it can take a long time to eradicate. And people like me, people living with mental illness, can’t wait on society to change. We need to live now. In fact, we need to be pioneers.

Our Experience Combats Stigma

First, we need to overcome our own belief in society’s fears. This requires finding hope, and specifically recognizing the possibility of recovery. Recovery from mental illness is living a full and productive life with mental illness. With this mindset, we can take ownership of our condition and live a fulfilling life. This can be one of the most powerful forces for change.

Stories of living fully with mental illness can help reshape society’s bias. They also provide inspiration and guidance for other people living with mental illness. This is the power of peer support and sharing lived experience. It creates a cycle of more people finding recovery, and then in turn, society seeing more positive examples of people living well with mental illness. Society needs to see what life with mental illness can and should be—a life of possibility, not a life sentence.

Our Experience Inspires Others

When people share their mental health journeys, it also helps set our own expectations. Recovery is hard and there is no smooth path to get there. It’s also not a cure, it requires continuous patience, discipline and determination. There will be stumbles and uncertainties along the way. This is the reality of mental illness. That’s why relatable, real-life examples are so valuable.

Knowing that others are going through similar challenges can help us build resilience. The result is self-empowerment by the example of others. We, the mental health community, rely less on the image society projects upon us, and instead focus on the image reflected to us by our peers. This is the power from within ourselves and our community.

I believe that this type of person-driven recovery has been overlooked as a way to combat social stigma. It’s become so ingrained that not even people with mental illness think recovery is possible. Too many of us allow society’s fears to become our own. Together, we can reverse the vicious cycle of stigma and instead, power the virtuous cycle of hope and recovery.

 

Katherine Ponte is a Mental Health Advocate and Entrepreneur. She is the founder of ForLikeMinds, the first online peer-based support community dedicated to people living with or supporting someone with mental illness and is in recovery from Bipolar I Disorder. She is on the NAMI New York City Board of Directors.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/October-2018/The-Power-to-Create-Change-Comes-from-Within

The Problem With Yelling

“The problem with verbal abuse is there is no evidence,” Marta shared. She came for help with a long-standing depression.

“What do you mean, lack of evidence?” I asked her.

“When people are physically or sexually abused, it’s concrete and real. But verbal abuse is amorphous. I feel like if I told someone I was verbally abused, they’d think I was just complaining about being yelled at,” Marta explained.

“It’s much more than that,” I validated.

“The problem is no one can see my scars.” She knew intuitively that her depressionanxietyand deep-seated insecurity were wounds that stemmed from the verbal abuse she endured as a child.

“I wish I was beaten,” Marta shared on more than one occasion. “I’d feel more legitimate.”

Her statement was haunting and brought tears to my eyes.

Verbal abuse is so much more than getting scolded. Marta told me that there were many reasons her mother’s tirades were traumatizing:

  • The loud volume of her voice
  • The shrill tone of her voice
  • The dead look in her eyes
  • The critical, disdainful and scornful facial expression that made Marta feel hated
  • The long duration—sometimes her mother yelled for hours
  • The names and insults—you’re spoiled, disgusting and wretched
  • The unpredictability of that “flip of the switch” that turned her mother into someone else
  • And, perhaps worst of all, the abandonment

Being frequently yelled at changes the mind, brain and body in a multitude of ways including increasing the activity of the amygdala (the emotional brain), increasing stress hormones in the blood stream, increasing muscular tension and more. Being frequently yelled at as children changes how we think and feel about ourselves even after we become adults and leave home. That’s because the brain wires according to our experiences—we literally hear our parents’ voices yelling at us in our heads even when they’re not there.

Attachment and infant-mother research confirms what we all intuitively know: Humans do better when they feel safe and consistently loved, which means, among other things, being treated with respect. What is news to many of us is that we are born with fully matured, hard-wired, core emotions like sadness, fear and anger. And when fear, for example, is repeatedly triggered by a harsh environment, like one where there is a lot of yelling, automatic physical and emotional reactions occur that cause traumatic stress to a child. The stress in their little brains and bodies increases from anything that makes them feel attacked, including loud voices, angry voices, angry eyes, dismissive gestures and more.

Children do better when they are calm. The calmer and more connected the caregiver, the calmer and more secure the childAnd the healthier it is for the child’s brain and body. Knowing this, here are some things all parents can remember to help young brains develop well, by ensuring our children feel safe and secure.

  • Know that children have very real emotional needs that need proper tending. In general, the more these needs are met, the easier it will be for the child to be resilient in the face of life’s challenges.
  • Learning about core emotions will help your child successfully manage emotions.
  • You can affect your child’s self-esteem by being kind, compassionate and curious about their mind and world.
  • When a break in the relationship occurs, as often happens during conflicts, try to repair the emotional connection with your child as soon as possible.
  • You can help your child feel safe and secure by allowing them to separate from you and become their own person. Then welcoming them back with love and connection even when you are angry or disappointed in their behaviors.

When you’re a parent, it’s not easy to control your temper or realize when you’ve crossed the line into verbal abuse. There is a slippery slope between being a strict disciplinarian and traumatizing a young brain. A little awareness goes a long way. Being aware of one’s behavior, listening to our tone of voice and choice of words and watching our body language will keep us in check. Little children, who can act tough, defiant or even indifferent to our actions, are still vulnerable to trauma.

Our own childhood experiences—wonderful, horrible and everything in between—need to be remembered and honored. And we can all strive to help ourselves and our families evolve for the better: to increase the best, gentle experiences we received as children and reduce the painful ones. Marta, for example, worked hard to recover from her abuse. She strove to develop compassion for herself and self-soothe her distress, both necessary but challenging parts of healing.

Several years into our work together, Marta came in following a distressing weekend and shared an amazing experience. A fight with her mother had left her reeling: “I told myself, my distress will soon pass and I’ll be okay. I named, validated and felt the sadness in my body as I gave myself compassion. After I spent time with my feelings, I took a walk through the park and looked at nature. I felt better.”

Proud of the way she could now self-soothe, I said, “What a wonderful mother you were to yourself.”

 

Hilary Jacobs Hendel, LCSW, is the author of It’s Not Always Depression (Random House & Penguin UK)a book which teaches both the general public and psychotherapists about emotions and how to work with them to feel better. She received her BA in biochemistry from Wesleyan University and an MSW from Fordham University. She is a certified psychoanalyst and AEDP psychotherapist and supervisor. She has published articles in The New York Times and professional journals. Hendel was also the Mental Health Consultant on AMC’s Mad Men. She lives in New York City. For more information and free resources for mental health visit: https://www.hilaryjacobshendel.com/

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2018/The-Problem-with-Yelling

5 No-Phone Zones for Parents and Kids Alike

Places like the dinner table can be designated phone-free for the whole family.
Credit Marie D. De Jesus/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

 How can we get our kids to put down their phones when they see us on ours so often?

A 2016 survey by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit children’s advocacy and media ratings organization, asked almost 1,800 parents of children aged 8 to 18 about screen time and electronic media use by the parents. The average amount of time that parents spent with screen media of all kinds (computers, TVs, smartphones, e-readers) every day: 9 hours and 22 minutes. And on average, only an hour and 39 minutes of that was work-related; 7 hours and 43 minutes were personal.

Maybe that’s one reason you hear more and more often the recommendation that families delineate specific screen-free times and places in their lives. James P. Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media, cited the idea of “sacred spaces” advocated by Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of the 2015 book “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.”

It’s just as important to regulate our own use of devices and put them aside for screen-free periods as it is to ask our children to disconnect. And it certainly adds spice to family life if children understand that the same rules apply for all ages: that Dad will get grief for surreptitiously checking his phone under the dinner table and Mom has to park hers in the designated recharging zone for the night just as the children do.

Here are my own top five sacred spaces, but I’ll tell you frankly that they’re very much “aspirational” for me; I have a long way to go before I’m a good example.

1. In the Bed

Keeping TVs out of children’s bedrooms and bedtimes is an old pediatric recommendation from back in the day when TV was the screen we worried about most. Now we also stress keeping smartphones out of their beds, but many of us as adults also struggle with this imperative, which pretty much everyone agrees is critical for improved sleep and therefore improved health. Those of us with children out of the home, of course, tell ourselves that the phone has to come into the bedroom in case a child needs to call — but the phone can sleep on the other side of the room, not on the night stand.

2. At the Table

If the family gathers around the dinner table, basic table manners dictate no digital participants. And yes, that means parents get in trouble if they lapse, and you don’t get to use the old let-me-just-Google-this-important-and-educational-fact strategy to settle family debates and questions of history, literature, or old movie trivia, because everyone knows what else you’ll do once you take out the phone.

3. Reading a Book

I don’t read books well if I’m toggling back and forth to email. That’s O.K. for other kinds of reading, maybe, but not for books. If you made a New Year’s resolution to read more books or you’re going to try for family reading time, you can allow e-readers, but you might keep other screens at a distance.

4. In the Outdoors

It’s definitely worth picking some outdoor experiences that are going to be screen-free. One of the dangers of carrying our screens with us wherever we go is that wherever we go, the landscape is the same — it’s a conscious decision to go outside and see what there is to see, even if that means losing the chance to take a photo now and then. It may also work to put phones on airplane mode for travel and family activities, so they can be used only as cameras – or for maps or emergency calls if needed.

5. In the Car

This is a tougher one for many families, since screens in the car can be so helpful on long rides, especially with siblings in proximity. But time in the car can also be remarkably intimate family time (yes, I know, not always in a good way). Some of the most unguarded conversations of the middle school and adolescent years take place when a parent is chauffeuring, so it’s probably worth trying for some designated screenless miles. I assume that I don’t have to say that the driver should not be looking at a screen — but the parent riding shotgun in the front also has to play by the rules.

Mr. Steyer said his organization’s survey showed that parents are paying attention to the ways that their children use screen media, and that they see it as their responsibility to monitor and regulate their children’s use of technology. In fact, two-thirds of the parents felt that such monitoring was more important than respecting their children’s privacy.

Parents’ role has to include awareness and also a willingness to “use media and technology together whenever you can,” Mr. Steyer said; “it’s good for parents to watch and play and listen with their kids and experience media and technology with them and ask them questions about what they see and hear.”

In a new policy on screen media use by school-age children and adolescents released last October, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that families develop and regularly update a family media use plan, using an online tool that takes into account the individual family’s patterns and goals and lets you designate screen-free times and places. That can be helpful for screen-loving children and for their screen-loving parents as well.

How to Peacefully Teach and Set Clear Limits, Boundaries and Consequences with Your Child

Kids do all kinds of things that we don’t like, things that drive us nuts. Sometimes they do things that are dangerous, things that scare us half to death. They cross lines and test boundaries. My oldest son climbs on everything. My second son is overly aggressive with his affection, especially with his baby sister. My third son struggles with hitting, pinching or biting when he becomes angry.

This is all part of growing up. This is all part of being a parent. These little people we call our kids are trying new things and trying to figure out the world around them. In order for them to do this successfully requires that we set and help them understand limits, boundaries and consequences.

I love the way that Genevieve Simperingham explains our kids process of learning how to interact appropriately and empathetically with the world around them. She says,…

“Children mostly learn that they’ve crossed a line through the feedback of others. The image comes to mind of travelling in another country, there’s a lot of strict cultural rules about what’s okay and not okay and we only learn that we’ve been inappropriate when we get the feedback – how scary! We’d truly hope they had compassion for our lack of prior immersion into their culture and see our clumsiness as lack of awareness rather than lack of care or respect.

Children learn about empathy mostly through the direct experience of being empathized with and feeling how that helps them feel better.”(Setting Limits with Love, Genevieve Simperingham, www.peacefulparent.com )

Limits, Boundaries and Consequences, Oh My!

Limits, boundaries and consequences all work together with love and empathy to teach and help our kids perceive and interact with the world in positive ways. In this article I’ll address each concept of limits, boundaries and consequences and some practical ways to understand and utilize them in positive, peaceful ways.

Setting Limits: A limit is an imposed request or restraint on our child, and is most often coupled with stating a clear consequence. Sometimes the natural consequence is simply built into the limit itself. Some examples may include…

  • Lead with a positive, empathetic response: “You may go play as soon as your room is clean.” In this example, play is limited on conditions of the child completing his chore. The natural consequence is that he may choose when he will do the chore and thus postpone or move him toward his playtime.
  • Set limits with love and firmness: Tell them how you feel and what you don’t like as well as what you do like. Then reassure them of your unconditional love and regard for them. An example might include, “I know you’re frustrated right now. I don’t like when you hit me. I like it when you ask me for the things you need.” When your child asks to do something, for example, “Mom, can I go to Jimmy’s house?” You could respond with, “That sounds like a great idea another day. Right now we are getting ready for dinner.” If they continue to protest and ask why simply and empathetically say, “I know you really want to go. Sorry that’s not going to happen tonight.” If it still continues, just state the famous Love and Logic phrase, “I love you too much to argue.”

[Tweet “Set limits with love and firmness”]

  • Don’t limit emotions, limit behavior: Stop the behavior through direction, separation and redirection. It’s okay for your child to be upset about it, but it’s important to separate the emotions from the negative behavior we wish to limit. For instance, it is okay to be angry, but hitting is not okay. “No throwing toys, because that hurts people and the toys.” It may require that we take the toy or separate our child from the situation, but no punishment or further action is required.

Setting Boundaries: A boundary is a statement or action of personal limits. It communicates, “This is where I end and you begin. This is what I am willing to do and what I am willing to allow you to do or not do to me. Dr. Henry Cloud describes it like your own fence around your personal property that keeps the bad stuff out and your personal treasures in. This doesn’t mean we never let anyone inside our boundary, it simply means that there is a clear boundary and a gate by which you can let others come and go in a way that is comfortable and wise.

  • When kids make demands or requests of us. My kids often make demands at the dinner table. They say things like, “Dad, get me some water” or “I want a different glass or plate or utensil.” These demands are often made of my wife or me when we are busy preparing one of our small children’s food or finally sitting down to eat our own meal. Sometimes, parents respond simply by not responding. They ignore the request. Sometimes parents snap back at the kids, “Can’t you wait a minute? I’ll do it, just wait!” Sometimes parents just give in to the demand against their will. There is a better way that acknowledges the child’s request but asserts our own personal boundaries as well. We can say, “I would love to get that for you as soon as I done fixing your sister’s plate or after I am done eating. If you don’t want to wait, you are welcome to get it yourself.” If you are not willing to do the task for your child at all you can say, “Thanks for asking. I’m eating right now. If you would like water, you are welcome to get it yourself. Thanks.”
  • Use “yes” as a boundary setting tool. When a child asks you to buy something for them at the store, say “Yes, you are welcome to buy that with your own money if you would like to earn the money and bring the money with you when we come to the store.” In essence we are saying, “no, I’m not going to buy that for you with my money” but we are not putting a limit on what they can do with their own money. This can artfully place appropriate boundaries out of what we are willing to do while also teaching them and motivating them to do things for themselves.
  • When a child hits or is aggressive. We can firmly state our own personal boundaries. “I will not let you hit me.” This may include backing away to get out of arm or leg range, putting a hand out to stop hits and kicks or gently holding a child if they are receptive and need you to help them calm themselves.

Establishing Consequences: A consequence is simply the effect that follows any given action. Consequences are inevitable. They are natural and constant. There is no action that does not have a consequence. Kids sometimes struggle to see and understand the natural consequences of their actions and definitely struggle to anticipate consequences. It can be helpful for parents to teach kids about consequences and help them anticipate consequences that will arise, whether natural or imposed consequences.

  • Educate them about positive and negative consequences: Consequences are not necessarily something we have to impose upon our children. It’s not something that I do to my children but it’s just part of living. Consequences are best learned as they are woven into our limit and boundary setting. It’s important to teach our kids that consequences are not just negative things, but that all of their choices have consequences. Positive choices also provide positive consequences. I’m not referring to rewards that parents give but just regular everyday benefits of making good choices.
  • Allow natural consequences: Too often parents jump in and either overshadow the real life natural consequences of a situation by either giving a harsh punishment or unnecessary reward instead of simply letting them experience the natural consequences. If they choose not to complete their homework, poor grades or other consequences at school may follow. If they refuse to get shoes on before it is time to leave the house (when age appropriate), they get to carry their shoes with them to the car or go without shoes. When they refuse to go to sleep, they get tired. On the other hand, they feel good when they do something kind for a brother or friend and they get to move on to play time when they complete their chores. We all experience consequences in our everyday lives and we learn from them without any lectures or punishments.
  • Follow through with realistic, rational consequences: When people think of consequences, they most often think of groundings, taking privileges away, spankings, lectures and other punishments, but these are neither necessary or effective for teaching positive skills and values. The more natural, realistic to life and related to their behavior the consequence is, the more effective it is in teaching the desired lesson. When a child makes a mess, the logical consequence is that he cleans up after himself. When a child damages something, a natural consequence is that they replace it. As referred to in the limits section, the natural consequence of a child refusing to do chores is that they postpone their own play time. When we follow through with natural consequences and show empathy we take the focus off of us and allow our child to learn from the consequence. It give us opportunity to help our child learn to solve their problems rather than causing them to blame us and see us as the problem.

5 Important principles to remember when setting TRU limits, boundaries and consequences:

It can be helpful to evaluate the limits, boundaries and consequences we set and how we set them in accordance with the principles of TRU parenting. Do our limits and the way we deliver them teach our child what we want them to learn? Do they build on our relationship? And do they allow me to upgrade myself and improve my own boundaries? The following are 5 specific guidelines to help set limits, boundaries and consequences that meet the principles of TRU parenting and promote positive ongoing cycles rather than simply demanding immediate compliance only.

1. Lead with the positive and with empathy: The connection and relationship between parent and child is one of the most important elements of setting positive, clear limits, boundaries and consequences. When we approach a limit with understanding and with words that ignite positive, agreeable feelings, we find that kids are much more cooperative. My wife’s cousin recently shared the following story with me about my wife and second son. She reported…

“Eli (my 6 year old son) was teasing and upsetting Emma (my 2 year old daughter). Camille (my wife), was watching and recognized what was going on. Instead of saying “Eli stop” or “Don’t tease your sister” she kindly said “Eli, I don’t think we have hugged today come over here and give your mom a big hug” He happily jumped up and gave her a big hug for a few seconds and then magically he went about playing and NOT teasing his sister.”

I thought this was so awesome! This is such an incredible example of empathy and my wife recognizing my son’s underlying need. She set a limit by redirecting his behavior to a more appropriate avenue and left the formal teaching for a later time. The need was met and the behavior stopped, all in a way that taught positive principles, built the relationship and Upgrading my wife’s state of mind and being. I know, my wife is amazing!

2. Don’t be afraid of “NO” but don’t overuse it: Sometimes the best way to define or set a limit is with a good old fashion “no.” However, I’ve found that when “no” is overused on every nitpicky little irritation, it loses its value and creates a negative atmosphere.

3. Don’t set limits while sitting: Be actively engaged. When we sit back and bark out limits and orders from our arm chair, our limits have no power. Move toward your kids and reach out to them. Deliver limits and boundaries at their level both physically and developmentally.

4. State what you will do or not do and do or don’t do it: Try to focus on what you will do rather than on what they should do. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Be a Mom or Dad of your word. For example, if your child wants a different color cup than was placed on the table you can say, “I would love to get it when I’m done eating if you would like to wait. I’m fixing food right now and eating my dinner. You are welcome to either get it yourself or wait for me to be done with my dinner.”

5. Teach and plan during the good times: Use weekly family nights, play time or other fun and positive times to be together to teach and plan appropriate social boundaries and show them what consequences might come in different situations. Use role plays and games to help them learn limits, and cause and effect relationships. It doesn’t have to be a struggle to set clear limits. It really can be fun.

Other great resources on setting limits with our kids…

Aha Parenting: How to Set Effective Limits for Your Child

Peaceful Parenting: Setting Limits with Love

http://truparenting.net/peacefully-teach-set-clear-limits-boundaries-consequences-child/

30 Questions to Ask Your Kid Instead of “How Was Your Day?”

When I picked my son up from his first day of 4th grade, my usual (enthusiastically delivered) question of “how was your day?” was met with his usual (indifferently delivered) “fine.”

Come on! It’s the first day, for crying out loud! Give me something to work with, would you, kid?

The second day, my same question was answered, “well, no one was a jerk.”

That’s good…I guess.

I suppose the problem is my own. That question actually sucks. Far from a conversation starter, it’s uninspired, overwhelmingly open ended, and frankly, completely boring. So as an alternative, I’ve compiled a list of questions that my kid will answer with more than a single word or grunt. In fact, he debated his response to question 8 for at least half an hour over the weekend. The jury’s out until he can organize a foot race.

Questions a kid will answer at the end of a long school day:

  1. What did you eat for lunch?
  2. Did you catch anyone picking their nose?
  3. What games did you play at recess?
  4. What was the funniest thing that happened today?
  5. Did anyone do anything super nice for you?
  6. What was the nicest thing you did for someone else?
  7. Who made you smile today?
  8. Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse? Why?
  9. What new fact did you learn today?
  10. Who brought the best food in their lunch today? What was it?
  11. What challenged you today?
  12. If school were a ride at the fair, which ride would it be? Why?
  13. What would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?
  14. If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day who would you want it to be? Why?
  15. If you had the chance to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?
  16. Did anyone push your buttons today?
  17. Who do you want to make friends with but haven’t yet? Why not?
  18. What is your teacher’s most important rule?
  19. What is the most popular thing to do at recess?
  20. Does your teacher remind you of anyone else you know? How?
  21. Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
  22. If aliens came to school and beamed up 3 kids, who do you wish they would take? Why?
  23. What is one thing you did today that was helpful?
  24. When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
  25. What rule was the hardest to follow today?
  26. What is one thing you hope to learn before the school year is over?
  27. Which person in your class is your exact opposite?
  28. Which area of your school is the most fun?
  29. Which playground skill do you plan to master this year?
  30. Does anyone in your class have a hard time following the rules?

The science of spanking: What happens to some spanked kids when they grow up?

You know what the most annoying thing in the world is when you are a parent? Other people telling you what to do as if they know better.

Backseat parenting drives me crazy. Until I’m the one doing it. I have dear friends who spank their kids, and I always try to talk to them about the science of it. They always respond with, “I know what’s best for my kids, just like you know what’s best for yours.” Which is exactly what I’d say if someone told me that I was doing it wrong. Every kid is different. Every kid has their needs.

However, during those discussions, I’d say there is science that backs up doing something other than spanking. They’d always ask for specifics. I never had them. Until now. So here’s an infographic explaining what 36,000 people and 88 studies found.

The biggest takeaway for me? Even if you spank with control, discipline, and good intent, your kids are more likely to have depression and engage in aggressive behavior in adulthood.

For those of you who spank your kids, let me just declare: I am in no way attacking your parenting skills or blaming you for anything. Parenting is hard. I’ve wanted to spank my kids on numerous occasions. But learning about the science can help you in the future.

Maybe it’s what you grew up with. Maybe it’s what you have always known. But the science is hard to ignore. Take from it what you will, but just know I’m not here to judge you — I’m only here to ask you to consider an alternative.

I think we can all agree that we want what is best for our children.

http://www.upworthy.com/the-science-of-spanking-what-happens-to-some-spanked-kids-when-they-grow-up

Five phrases that are guaranteed to make your kids stop begging.

I was in the supermarket last week, listening to a multitude of beeps from scanners, when a new sound caught my ears. It was a kid, a preschooler, begging for one of those baby bottle suckers with the sugar inside. She wanted the cherry flavour.

“Mummy, can I have this?” the little girl asked.

“No, honey,” the mother smiled.

“But mum, I don’t have one.”

“We have plenty of lollies at home,” the mum reminded.

“But I don’t have this one.”

“I said no,” the mother replied, while looking through an entertainment magazine.

With having no luck breaking her mother down verbally, the little girl upped her ante. Her face turned red and words about unfairness and meanness erupted from her mouth.

And then her next strategy: crying. In between her cries and words, she delivered gasps of air, purely for effect.

“Just put it in the cart,” the mum replied. “But you can’t have it until after dinner.”

“Can I just have one bite in the car?” the little girl asked.

“We’ll talk about it when we get in the car.”

The little girl’s tears turned to smiles within less than one minute of her setting eyes on what she wanted.

Now, I’m far from a perfect parent, but I cringed knowing what this mother had just traded. Basically her soul. She traded a nasty temper tantrum for a life of bargaining between her and her little sweet pea. And the sad thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way, nor should it.

“Now, I’m far from a perfect parent, but I cringed knowing what this mother had just traded.” Image via iStock.

I wanted to hand the mum a laminated card with these five fail-proof sayings burned into the paper. They’ve worked for me for years and remind me of chocolate. Every single one of them is good and I pick which “flavour” depending on my mood.

Next time your mini cross-examiner is giving you the run-down, take charge, be a mum, and above all, be consistent.

If you say no, you better mean it. By changing your mind, your child has gained more than a lolly; they’ve gained the knowledge you can be broken down easier than a cardboard box.

Have fun practicing these phrases with your little interrogator:

1. “Asked and answered.”

This is the motherload of all chocolates. Although I use the four below, I use this one ten more times then I use anything else. Let’s replay the scenario from above.

Child: “Mummy, can I have this?”

Mother: “No, honey.”

Child: “But mum, I don’t have one.”

Mother: “Asked and answered.”

Child: “You never get me anything.”

Mother: “Asked and answered.”

If the child keeps at it, you become a robot, saying the same three most blissful words over and over and over again.

“If you say no, you better mean it.” Image via iStock.

2. “I’m done discussing this.”

Child: “Can Ashlyn spend the night?”

Mother: “No, she just spent the night here last week.”

Child: “Please?”

Mother: “I’m not discussing this again.”

Child: “But …”

Then, from the mother, all action, no words. Smile pleasantly, tilt your head to the right, give the best devil eyes you can, and then simply walk away.

3. “This conversation is over.”

Child: “Can I ride my bike?”

Mother: “No, it’s raining outside.”

Child: “But I’ll wear my rain coat and it’s only sprinkling.”

Mother: “This conversation is over.”

Child: “But pleeeasssee?”

Mother: “Asked and answered.”

Become your usual robotic self. Remember, you’re a rock.

4. “Don’t bring it up again.”

Child: “I want these shoes.”

Mother: “No, those cost too much.”

Child: “But I don’t like those.”

Mother: “You’re getting the shoes in the cart and that’s final. Don’t bring it up again.”

Child: “I need them!”

Mother: “You brought it up again. There went your dessert for tonight.”

Yes, you’re going to get more crying with that response, but remember: getting your child to understand you mean business is a marathon, not a sprint.

“Yes, you’re going to get more crying with that response…” Image via iStock.

5. “The decision has been made. If you ask again there will be a consequence.”

Child: “Can I watch the iPad?”

Mother: “No, you know you’re not allowed having technology at the table.”

Child: “I won’t get food on it.”

Mother: “The decision has been made. If you ask again there will be a consequence.”

Child: “But I promise!”

Mother: “I told you not to bring it up again. No iPad for the rest of the day.”

Prepare for a few tantrums until your child learns they’re not going to get anywhere. This is part of their normal testing stage.

Your child will eventually realise nothing changes your mind. This is how you will earn your child’s respect and set up a relationship where your child accepts your decisions the first time.

Don’t forget: their best friend, Timeout, is only a few short steps away.

Here’s a success story: After years of using these phrases with my four-year-old, I’m reaping the benefits everyday with no tears or fighting back.

Here’s the conversation I had with my daughter, Charlotte, while writing this article.

Charlotte: “Can I have a cookie?”

Me: “Yes, you may have one.”

Charlotte: “Can I have three?”

Me: “This conversation is over.”

Charlotte: “OK, I’ll just break it in half so I can have two.”

Sure, I see some passive-aggressiveness in that last comment, but I still won the battle. She happily ate her one cookie and I happily continued typing at my computer.

You can have these blissful conversations, too. Laminate a card or start memorising, but trust me, they’re almost better than chocolate.

http://www.mamamia.com.au/kids-stop-begging/?redirect=tm

Toddlers and Self-Control: A Survival Guide for Parents

Children don’t actually develop this kind of self-control until 3.5 to 4 years of age, and even then they still need a lot of help managing their emotions and impulses. You are the expert on your child. We have expertise in child development. We’re in this together. #ParentForward

Picking up the remote after you’ve told your child not to touch it five times in 10 minutes. Slapping a friend who took the last train off the table at child care—right after she agreed with you that ‘hands are not for hitting.’ Running directly into the ocean after you’ve clearly explained that he can’t go in the water without an adult. These are typical toddler moments that all come down to one thing: self-control, and the lack of it.

Why do young children have so little self-control? The part of the brain responsible for exerting control over the emotional, impulsive part of the brain is not well-developed in children under 3. This is why toddlers are much more likely to act on their desires, such as yanking a toy out of a friend’s hand, rather than saying to themselves, “I really want that toy, but it’s not right to grab, so I am going to go find myself another toy.”

In fact, Tuning In, ZERO TO THREE’s national Parent Survey, found that parents’ expectations of their toddlers often outpace what toddlers are actually able to do when it comes to self-control. When parents were asked at what age children have the ability to resist doing something that parents have forbidden:

  • 56 percent of parents said children could do this before age three (including 18 percent of parents who believed children possessed this ability by six months of age)
  • 44 percent of parents said children could do this at age three years or older

Children don’t actually develop this kind of self-control until 3.5 to 4 years of age, and even then they still need a lot of help managing their emotions and impulses.

It’s not surprising so many parents have an ‘expectation gap,’ especially with so many 2-year-olds who are so verbal and able to repeat many of the rules parents have laid out. It can be very confusing. But being able to repeat a rule or expectation is not the same as being able to follow it.

Life with your little one will be (hopefully) much less maddening when your expectations for her are in line with her abilities. It can be a relief to know that your child is acting his age; that he needs help to learn to manage his impulses, and that he is not “misbehaving,” or purposefully trying to drive you crazy, as much as it feels that way. Here are some ideas for nurturing self-control:

1. Recognize that it’s not easy being a toddler.

There are an awful lot of things toddlers need to do that they don’t want to do, like getting in the car seat, stopping play to take a nap when they are NOT tired, or sharing their treasures. Let your child know you understand: “You are really disappointed that we can’t go to the playground today.” “You are mad that I won’t let you have ice cream before dinner. I totally get that.” “You are so frustrated with that train—it is so hard to make it stay on the track.” Giving your child the words to describe his feelings is the first step toward helping him manage his emotions and develop self-control.

2. Play games that require impulse control.

Color one side of a paper plate red and the other green, and play some “stop and go” games. For example, when you are outside playing, your child runs toward you until you put up the red sign. Then she runs again when the sign is green. Play “freeze dance” with music. When the music is on, your child dances; when you stop it, she has to freeze. Read books about children who get angry or have tantrums, and talk about how to handle these big feelings. Use your child’s pretend play as an opportunity to teach self-control. When a stuffed animal gets really mad or does something it shouldn’t, problem-solve how ‘Mr. Bear’ might deal with the challenge he’s facing.

3. Make a plan for how to help your child cope with experiences that are especially hard for your child.

Some toddlers have a hard time with transitions, while others have a hard time at birthday parties or adjusting to large group experiences. Think about what situations tend to trigger challenging behavior from your child. Making small adjustments to family routines (like re-thinking taking your toddler to the toy store after a bad night’s sleep) can help to reduce challenging behaviors, with more ‘Yesses’ and fewer ‘Nos’.

4. Set appropriate limits with natural consequences.

Even though your child may not be able to follow a rule yet, it is still important to set expectations. The key is to take a teaching and guiding approach with clear and natural consequences. Stay calm and explain the rule (“No throwing toys. If you throw the truck, I will have to put it away for 5 minutes”). If your child tests the limit, which is to be expected, calmly implement the consequence. Through everyday interactions like these, children develop the brain connections they need to master the skill of self-control.

5. Take your own temperature.

As a parent, you have a lot of power. Your child is taking his cues from you when it comes to managing emotions. Learning to manage and make sense of your own feelings—and getting help when you need it (and we all do)—is the best way to help your child develop self-control. Responding thoughtfully, rather than reacting, is one important way that parents make the difference in how their young children are learning and growing

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1603-toddlers-and-self-control-a-survival-guide-for-parents