Archive for August, 2009

Kids Bedtime Plan Working Well

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Here’s the update I promised you on the bedtime plan we implemented last week.  The good news is that it seems to be working.  The good/bad news is that I see that I need to make more of these lists to take care of other problem time frames as well.

I’ll tell you that doing this has significantly lowered my blood pressure and helped me feel less frazzled about putting three young girls to bed.  That was at least half the point in doing this.  The other half was to make sure everything actually got done in a timely manner.

We have kept remarkably close to the bedtimes that I have set for them each night.  Once we got off about twenty minutes, but something unforeseen came up in the midst of bedtime.  I understand that happens from time to time and things get extended.

While it was somewhat disappointing to get things off track, it was much easier than I had thought to pick things up again and finish up.  My girls and I were able to pinpoint where they had left off when they were interrupted.  That saved a lot of time and allowed them to take over (not me).  And I knew realistically that we didn’t have too much left on the list.

The timer isn’t always set to the same amount of time depending on their bath or shower arrangement for the night.  We’re getting a little better at gauging how that will go in each situation.  And mostly, it’s a tool meant to instill a sense of urgency and continued forward motion through the list.

We’ve also had to make a few additions and corrections to the list as we’ve adapted to the routine.  I think I can finally laminate each person’s list so we can stop printing them off and killing trees.  Then they can use a dry erase marker each night and wipe it clean when we are finished for the night.

My oldest daughter has noticed that we could use a list like this to help us after school.  No real homework yet, …

Unexplained Bad or Odd Behavior From Kids

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Kids can be mysterious creatures.  And sometimes, their behavior can be an even bigger mystery.  Most of the time, we as parents can figure out what’s going on when our kids act up.  If you are an in-tune kind of parent, you are probably going to get it right most of the time.  But all parents can miss things.  Does your child have some kind of unknown medical issue?  Is something in their social life amiss?  Have you as their parent done something that has turned their life upside down?  Take a look at these three places to find answers to your questions about unexplained bad or odd behavior from kids.

Your Doctor’s Office -

How Do You Explain Kids Odd Behavior

Explaining Kids Odd Behavior

Perhaps something neurological is going wrong, or your child has pain or discomfort they can’t easily  explain.   Maybe there’s a vision, hearing, or learning disorder that hasn’t been diagnosed yet.  Perhaps they have a food or environmental allergy that needs to be treated.  I know my own kids have sometimes lived with physical discomfort or pain that they didn’t tell me about until the end of the day.

I also like to recommend following something I learned from a day care provider.  Are they hungry, hot or cold, sick, or tired?  Any one of those things can be happening and you may not first think of those reasons.  These might not be obvious if you are just responding to the behaviors in the moment.  Take a step back and think a little bit like a detective to determine if these could be a cause for problematic behavior.

Kids Social Environment -

Are other kids in their friend group having similar problems (bucking curfew, not complying with school or parents, drinking, promiscuity, etc)?  Perhaps they have been sucked into a negative social group with a strong influence or they have begun taking part in drug or drinking activities.  Maybe one of their friends has a lenient parent. They might be getting bullied at school and have been threatened not to tell.

Kids usually don’t want …

The Point Of Parenthood Is For Kids To Leave Us

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Parenting And The Empty Nest

Have you ever thought what your purpose is a parent?  I mean really thought about the very big picture of parenthood – why is it necessary?  When it comes right down to it, our whole purpose in raising our kids is for them to leave our home.  That’s right, we have them so they can grow up and leave.  Sounds weird when you say it like that, huh?

When I did in-home therapy with high-risk families a decade ago, I told them right from the start that my main job was to work myself out of a job with them.  Ultimately, I was going to help them to a point that they didn’t need me anymore.  It sounds a little paradoxical, but really it makes sense.  The ideal state for a family is to be well functioning with good social supports around them.

The family counselor is there for a temporary function.  Likewise, the intense hands-on role of a parent when a child is generally eighteen and younger is meant to be a temporary stage.  When they are of age and are equipped to step out on their own, we have done our main job.  Yes, our children still need support and advice when they are a young adult, when they have their own kids, and so on.  But it’s not the same as when they are young and still living in your home.

It’s very normal to want kids because you want the fulfilling challenging experience of being a parent for yourself. That’s Mother Nature’s way of drawing you in to the bigger plan of procreation.  And the rewards are absolutely there – hugs and kisses, the heartfelt “thank you”, seeing your kids amazed by new experiences, being their rock when they feel down, etc.  But still – even with all of those perks, parenthood is about making this little person ready to leave you.

Sigh.  That catches my heart just putting the words down.  It really isn’t about me and my feelings.  My job wasn’t truly to have kids …

Having A Plan For Kids At Bedtime

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

I don’t know about you, but bedtime has often been a sloppy affair at our house.  Maybe because I’m not naturally detail oriented, maybe because I’m getting to the end of my endurance, maybe because the girls are easily distracted at that hour.  At any rate, I am determined this year to get bedtime on automatic pilot.  I’m not saying this is genius, but I’ll share what I’ve started this week.

What you need to remember before reading on is that no plan is perfect for every family.  Each set of parents and kids needs to figure out what works est for them.  I simply resigned to the fact that I cannot be in three places across the house commanding each step of the bedtime routine in triplicate.   And I’ve tried.  Believe me, if that approach worked for me, I’d be writing about it right now.  Perhaps if I had an only child, but not with three busy girls.  So take the parts you like and discard what you think wouldn’t work for your
family.  Or, become inspired to create your own idea.

As I said before, my biggest problem is that I cannot direct each child at the same time to get their tasks done.  Everyone needs to be able to do their routine all in the same time frame and with some sense of energy and pace.  So instead of having me next to each kid, I have given them a clipboard with a list and a timer.  We’re big on timers in our house – anything from chores to when the movie will start to how long it will be when dessert is ready.  That seemed to be a natural and obvious tool for us to work with.

Also, every child is now in school all day long  That means they are getting used to receiving directions and working papers each day in a timely manner.  The teachers give instructions now and then, but the kids are also expected to work independently.  I’m basically piggybacking something they are familiar with to get our bedtime routine done.  …

Two Sides to Every Sibling Fight

Monday, August 24th, 2009

They say it’s always the guy who throws the second punch in a fight who gets caught, not the first.  Hopefully, your children aren’t actually throwing punches at each other when they argue.  The point is that in many cases, both parties have some responsibility when an argument ends badly.  Do you ask enough questions to find out what really happened?

Let’s say one of your children hit the other, and the child who got hit told on their sibling.  Well obviously, you’ll have something to say to the child who was doing the hitting.  But the real situation may be more than an innocent victim being attacked by an aggressor.  You need to take one more step.  Ask both kids what was happening the moments leading up to the hitting incident.  Be prepared for some dodging and weaving – this kind of deep specific questioning can make a kid squirm when they know they really had some part of the problem.

First, calmly ask the child who got hit the entire story of how the fight developed.  What was said, what were the emotions, what were people doing – you need to get a picture in your mind about how the aggression built up.  Keep in mind that once it reaches verbal aggression, it’s very likely to go to physical from there.  Tell the child that got hit that it is really important that you get the complete truth from everyone, and that you are going to get the story from your other child too.

Then talk to the other child that was accused of the hitting.  They already know they are in trouble and may not feel like they have much to lose by being pretty honest.  You may find that the stories match well – be sure you review it with them as they’ve said it and clarify what did or didn’t happen so you are straight.  If you find something new, then you’ll have something to go back with to the other child.  You might learn that the child who got hit was provoking …

Teaching Your Child Patience and Endurance

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Patience - A Virtue Kids Still Need

My daughter and I have one day looming in our minds.  We can both hardly think of anything as important to each of us in the next several weeks than what will be happening on that day.  I can’t wait for our moving day, and she cant’ wait until she’s finally off activity restriction from her surgery.  By chance, these to things will occur on the same exact day.

She has frequently complained of how boring it is to sit out of every physical activity at school.  She really started cranking up her complaint the other day when I offered, “And isn’t this an amazing opportunity to learn about being patient?”  She said, “Yeah….but it’s just….” and launched right back into her previous complaint.  Each time she started, I cut her off and repeated my statement until she stopped trying to say it.

I said there wasn’t one thing she could do to make the last day of restriction come any sooner.  Likewise, there wasn’t anything I could do to make our moving day come any sooner.  So, I said she could either spend that time learning to be patient by distracting herself, enjoying what she was able to do.  Or, she could spend her time getting better at complaining.  What was her choice going to be?

She got quiet for a moment, and then she said she didn’t really even like doing the complaining.  I agreed and said that it seems like complaining might make you feel better, but most of the time it doesn’t.  Instead, doing something positive or useful worked much better.  Despite her desire to keep complaining, she couldn’t really argue with that.

The reality of our culture today is that things keep getting faster and faster.  People expect things more instantaneously than ever before.  Fast food isn’t fast enough if you have to wait ten minutes.  Waiting five minutes for your computer with high speed internet to start up seems like forever.  You don’t want to save up cash for a big expense so you …

Music Develops Self Worth in Kids

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
Flickr Creative Commons Credit - annso

Music Builds Self Worth For Kids

I have grown up in a musical family and now my kids are at the age when they can be the next generation of musicians.  Regardless of my kids’ obvious abilities, my husband and I will be preparing them for a life with music by setting up lessons, teaching at home, and choosing an instrument to play.  And I encourage you to consider doing the same, even if you don’t have a huge history of music in your family.

Let me just get this out of the way first so you understand where I’m coming from.  We have people who play or have played the organ, clarinet, piano, percussiono, flute, sax, various and sundry brass instruments, string bass.  Not everyone in the family is as talented nor as dedicated as some have been.  But it’s pretty clear how important music is for connecting and expressing in our family.  Bagpipes at my grandfather’s funeral, getting my ears blasted by my college fight song, singing grace at Christmas with my uncle leading the same song we’ve sung for decades, singing the Messiah with a community chorus – all of these little moments have such importance attached to them.

Having music in my family has also brought some expectations.  We were expected to develop discipline for practicing, be patient learning difficult pieces or learning a new instrument, try new styles of music and maybe new instruments, follow directions from a band or choir teacher, and work hard with the talent you have to make the most of it.  And yes, in any quality school or community activity, a child can do some of these things.  But music also becomes very personal this way.  You get the individual accomplishments and enjoyment, and you participate as a group.

No matter how young or old you are, you can appreciate and even participate in music for your entire life.  I have told my daughters it is one thing to like listening to music.  …

Children Behave Better At School Than At Home

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

This week, I’m in a school kind of mood.  It is the first week I’ve had all my kids in school and it’s working great for everyone.  My youngest said her brain’s tired from all the thinking and paying attention and following directions.  Hmm.  Well anyway, this got me thinking about the classic parenting question.  Why do kids often behave much better for their teachers than they do at home?

Sometimes when I’ve been at a parent teacher conference, I’ve caught myself thinking, “Are we talking about the same kid here?”  Not like my kids are setting the carpet on fire or screaming in the driveway at midnight.  But still, I see all the random sibling-annoying screaming mother-ignoring fibbing nonsense that goes on during school “off hours”.

At school, the teacher might wonder why they haven’t started speaking up in class.  Or I hear that the one who always seems to rush through things at home takes too long in class because they want to finish all the details right.  Or the one who occasionally tries to get out of trouble by not admitting their involvement gets an award for honesty and integrity.  Or, the one who seems to do her best to resist my directions at home is exhausted from all the “thinking and paying attention” at school.

Is it just me?  Is my house in a child behavior vortex?  Am I just not catching the good stuff and noticing too much of the bad?  Do some teachers get a bag of pixie dust that’s not available to parents?

You know teachers know it’s true – they always tell me when they see that look on my face that says, “Really?  My kid does what?”  This is not a new phenomenon to them.  Of course, some kids have behavior problems because of other major things going on.  These behavior problems are likely to show up in school, at home, at church, and various other places.  I’m talking about a Jekyl and Hyde thing that has perplexed me as a parent.

I did a little internet research and found a …

Is Your Child Ready For Kindergarten?

Monday, August 17th, 2009
Kindergarteners Are They Ready To Go

Kindergarteners Are They Ready To Go

School starts Monday in our town and our family has a Kindergartner.  There’s no magic formula for determining whether your Kindergarten-age child is actually ready to start school.  It’s about emotional readiness to separate from parents, adjust to being busy all day, being able to cope without too many meltdowns.  You do have to watch for the age cutoff, but it’s about so much more than that.

I know girl is ready because she held her own in preschool.  She also had a pretty no-nonsense attitude about Kindergarten orientation last spring.  She seemed ready to mix with others and didn’t seem to mind that I wasn’t staying close by.  She got right down to business on the craft they had laid out and happily started working on it.  In fact, she shooed me away while I was playing paparazzi.

I know that many schools use the first few weeks as observation time, keeping their class list kind of loose for a while.  If they spot someone who doesn’t mix well with one group of kids, they might go to a different classroom for a while.  Or, if a child appears to be easily overwhelmed and highly emotional, they might recommend that the parents hold the child back a year.

Back when I was a child, holding back just wasn’t done very often.  There usually had to be a pretty significant reason for a parent to keep their child out of a kindergarten class.  I’m not saying that with professional authority, I just know that there were plenty of kids on the young end of the scale like me.  My birthday was just a month from the youngest cutoff time.

I think there might have been two other girls younger than me out of about 55 kids in my grade.  I was one of the last in my class to drive and one of the last to mature physically.  I remember finally coming into my own just the last year of high school when it seemed others had gotten …

Does Your Child Have Sleep Problems?

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Sleep is a mysterious state of consciousness that every human being needs.  No one knows exactly how sleep helps the body, but we certainly know that not getting enough is a bad thing.  Children often start having trouble getting enough sleep when they get into school.  Early mornings, after-school activities, homework, family time – they all tend to crowd in on childrens’ sleep.

What happens when your child doesn’t get enough sleep?  You’ve probably seen one of more of these symptoms – appearing sleepy during the day, appearing more wired than usual, behavior problems
(noncompliance, aggression), trouble concentrating, over-emotional or irritable, difficulty with their sleep schedule, increased chance of injuring themselves.

So obviously, a child with sleep problems is an unhappy child.  You may even miss the signs of sleep deprivation because you see it as some type of behavioral or discipline issue.  Or, you may think they are just not sleeping to get attention.  It’s easy to see the symptoms as the actual problem.  However, they are just the tip of the iceberg.  It can really pay to take a look at your child’s sleep habits.  You need to know if they are helping or interfering with your child’s sleep.

Here’s a quick list of some things to check:

Bedtime – Is the bedtime hour consistent or do you allow it to change frequently?  Is the routine consistent or does it change frequently?  Do you enforce bedtime strongly and consistently, or does your child seem
to come in and out of their room?

Room and bed arrangement – Do you have kids that share a room?  If so, do they talk a lot at night or pester each other?  Does everyone have adequate personal space to sleep?

Room conditions – Is the air flow good?  Is the temperature comfortable and on the cool side?  Is the window next to a noisy street or air conditioner, or is it fairly quiet?

Health – Does your child have a chronic health condition such as asthma, allergies, frequent pain, frequent illness?  Is your child extra sensitive to sounds, temperature, textures (like scratchy pajama tags or seams), …


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