Category Archives: Motherhood

Unlocking Parental Intelligence (Dr. Laurie Hollman)

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Dr. Laurie Hollman explains the principles and benefits of implementing Parental Intelligence in this excellent interview from our archives.

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The behavior of a child or teen sometimes can stump adults completely, leaving many more questions than answers:

Why do youngsters do what they do?

What are they thinking?

How can we better know their inner world?

Unlocking Parental Intelligence, Dr. Laurie HollmanThere’s little doubt that, on occasion, a child or teen’s behavior can frustrate and even infuriate a parent (or teacher). But, without insight, a parent’s response to the behavior often will be less than ideal. In fact, as many of us know from experience, some responses can make things even worse.

Bottom line: Behavior contains meanings, often multiple meanings. Reading these meanings effectively not only helps solve behavioral problems, it can lead to deeper, more fulfilling relationships with those we love most.

Our guest on this program, psychoanalyst and author Dr. Laurie Hollman, suggests that, when parents learn to extract the meaning from their child’s behavior and resolve problems using that insight and sensitivity, they are exercising a perspective and process she calls “Parental Intelligence.” In this program, Dr. Hollman will take us through the five steps of Parental Intelligence, sharing plenty of examples along the way.

Unlocking Parental Intelligence, Dr. Laurie Hollman

Laurie Hollman is an experienced psychoanalyst who has written extensively for many publications. She writes a popular column on Parental Intelligence for Mom’s Magazine and is a contributing blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Hollman’s faculty positions have included New York University and The Society for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. She is the author of the book we are featuring on this program, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior. (28:45)

http://www.lauriehollmanphd.com

 

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Answers to Parents’ Questions About Raising Teens (Dr. Thomas W. Phelan)

Understanding why teens behave the way they do can help parents implement better responses and interventions. Psychologist and author, Dr. Thomas W. Phelan, offers his experience and insights on raising teens. And, as usual, what he shares makes a LOT of sense.
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Answers to Parents' Questions About Raising Teens, Dr. Thomas PhelanWhat does it mean to set limits with your teenager?

To begin with, setting limits means having what we call “House Rules.” These are agreed upon (and sometimes written) rules regarding issues such as hours, use of the car, alcohol and drugs, studying and grades. Parents can also have an understanding with their teens regarding work, money management, family outings, and even dating and friends. Setting limits can also include agreements about how to handle violations of the contracts that have been made.

Why is setting limits with your teenager such a crucial thing for parents to do? Why is setting limits such an important concept these days? What happens to teenagers who don’t respect limits? What are they like as adults?

Limits are important for two reasons. First, limits and rules are a part of life. In a sense, they are also a prescription for how to live a good life. Being able to put up with reasonable restrictions and guidelines is part of what is known as “high frustration tolerance” (HFT). HFT is a critical skill for adult success no matter what one chooses to do.

Second, reasonable limits keep teens safer. Parents are acutely aware of the Big Four adolescent risks: driving, drugs and alcohol, sex and romance, and technology. Teens and adults who don’t like rules and limits have a harder time getting along with teachers, employers, friends and romantic partners. They also get hurt more often by means of traffic accidents, drug use, unwanted pregnancy and STDs, and internet predation.

What happened to teenagers simply having respect for their elders?

Good question! Part of the answer lies in human history. Adolescence—and the mistrust/dislike of adults that often accompanies it—is a relatively recent phenomenon. Just a few hundred years ago, adolescence probably did not exist. You were a child, and then, Bam!—you were an adult. There was no in between. Adolescence is largely a function of industrialized countries in which education became more and more important for job success. Education, in turn, delayed “growing up” because kids had to remain in school. In the U.S. today, the delay from onset of puberty to leaving home and hitting the job market can be 7-10 years or more. Teenagers really want to be adults, but today they have to sit around and wait for that. Can’t blame them for not liking the long and somewhat nebulous interval. In our culture, I don’t think we do a good job of helping kids make this intermediate existence meaningful.

Why do so many parents fall into the “I want to be a friend, not a parent” trap?

Good parents, research shows frequently, are both warm (friendly) as well as demanding (I expect something from you). Some of us adults, however, are better at the warm part and some are better at the demanding part. Warm-only moms and dads—sometimes known as permissive or pushover parents—are uncomfortable with the demanding role, and so they focus primarily on trying to be a friend to their kids. These children are more likely to develop “low frustration tolerance” (LFT). These kids often develop a sense of entitlement and they have trouble sticking with difficult tasks.

Why is it important for teenagers to be able to make some of their own decisions? How can parents set limits with their teens while still encouraging independent decision-making?

Like it or not, your teens ultimate goal is to get rid of you! You don’t want them living at home forever. You do want them to become competent adults who are financially independent, have their own friends, start their own families, and know how to enjoy life on a daily basis. This goal means your current strategy is to wean you children from your oversight. You want them to make more and more of their own decisions. Another way of saying this is you must avoid chronic and unnecessary parental supervision—otherwise known as overparenting.

In other words, set up your house rules, maintain a good relationship with your kids, and then get out of their way!

There is so much that parents have to guard against these days – social media, a lax culture, politics, etc. – how do parents make the tough decisions they have to enforce with teens today?

First, nail down your house rules. Keep them minimal, firm and fair. Second, stay in touch. Discuss social media, sex, lax culture, politics and drugs with your kids. This does not mean lecture them! Allow for differences of opinion and be respectful.

How do parents stay firm with their kids but not mean or angry? How do you say no to your teen and really mean it? How does a parent stay firm but fair?

Mean or angry is no way to discuss or enforce limits. Whatever comes out of a parent’s mouth during a parental temper tantrum automatically becomes silly and useless—even if the words themselves might look reasonable if they were written down on paper. Parents often feel anxious and sometimes even guilty when they explain a rule or a consequence to a disgruntled-looking adolescent. One important parenting skill is knowing when to stop talking! In many situations, the more you talk the less sure of yourself you look.

Surviving Your Adolescents, Dr. Thomas W. PhalenWhat’s your best advice to a parent who wants to raise an independent teen? What kind of practical advice and real examples do you have to offer?

When they are concerned about a possible problem, parents of teens need to think a bit before they intervene. In fact, there are four possible intervention roles moms and dads can consider. Choosing the best role depends on several things: the child’s safety, the parent/child relationship, and the goal of increasing a teen’s independence.

Role 1: Observer. In this role, a parent really does nothing other than watch what’s happening for a while. Maybe your son has a new friend you’re not sure about. Sit tight for a bit and see how the new relationship develops.

Role 2: Advisor. Your daughter who normally maintains a B average, is getting a D in science this semester. You might ask her what’s up, listen attentively, then suggest she try talking things over with her teacher. Keep in mind, though, that when you are in the Advisor role, your child does not have to accept your advice. Tell them you’ll trust them to work things out. That’s respecting independence.

Role 3: Negotiator. Something is bugging you and you do not feel your adolescent is handling it well. Your next possible intervention role is to negotiate. You first set up an appointment—spontaneous problem discussions are dangerous and volatile. You might say something like, “When’s a good time for you and me to talk about the leftover food in your room? It’s starting to smell up there.”

Role 4: Director. Your 17-year-old son broke up with his girlfriend two months ago. His grades have dropped, he’s lost weight, and he seems always crabby. You think he’s depressed, so your going to gently-but-firmly insist he see a counselor. Listen sympathetically first, then make your suggestion and ask him to think about it. But it’s not going to be negotiable.

What do you think it means to really parent today?

Parenting teens can be tough. As a mom or dad, you can often feel you are being torn into many pieces. It’s important to have a good job description. Here’s one we like:

1. Don’t take it personally. Your teens will be pulling away from you, even snubbing you at times (“How was your day?” “Fine.” “What did you do?” “Nothin’.”) This kind of interaction is normal. Nobody—neither you nor your teen—did anything wrong.

2. Manage AND let go. Respect and maintain your house rules while you increasingly allow more and more independence for your teenagers.

3. Stay in touch with the kids. Maintaining a good relationship with a teen is critical. Use business-like praise, talking about yourself, sympathetic listening, and regular one-on-one (not always family!) fun to keep in contact.

4. Take care of yourself. If you’re old enough to be a parent of a teen, you’re probably a mid-lifer! Not an easy task. Take care of yourself so you don’t take out your troubles on a sometimes irritating and distant kid.

5. Relax and enjoy the movie. Your kids only grow up once. Try to enjoy the show!

Dr. Thomas W. Phelan is an internationally renowned expert, author, and lecturer on child discipline and attention deficit disorder. For years, millions of parents from all over the world have used the award-winning 1-2-3 Magic program to help them raise happier, healthier families and put the fun back into parenting. A registered PhD clinical psychologist, Dr. Phelan appears frequently on radio and TV. He practices and works in the western suburbs of Chicago. Website: 123magic.com

Should I Talk to My Children about My Mistakes? (Dr. Richard C. Horowitz)

It can be tough talking to our children about the mistakes we made growing up, especially when a direct question deserves an honest and authentic answer. Dr. Richard Horowitz offers some excellent insights and tips on how to handle situations like these.

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Should I Talk to My Children About My Mistakes, Dr. Richard HorowitzDoes talking about the mistakes I make and have made in my life weaken me as an authority figure to my children?

This question speaks to the core issue of modeling. That is acting in a manner we wish our children to act. On one hand, as role models for children, parents want to present themselves as being pretty terrific people. When children look up to us it meets our needs for love and belonging. When children are obedient and follow parental advice the adult’s need for power is met. We associate these interactions with highly positive words like respect and admiration.

However, sometimes being on a pedestal can be a precarious place. We might want to mask our frailties in order to preserve our image of perfection. The fear that our children might lose respect for us if we admit weakness can lead to a loss of ourselves and a model that our children just might perceive as unattainable. A child who feels s/he can never equal his/her perfect parent loses self-esteem and will often give up trying. This is the downside of being the perfect role model. This is especially true for younger children who tend to aggrandize the power of adults in general and their parents in particular.

Adolescents by the very nature of this stage of development are far more prone to question the capabilities and judgment of parents. Parents with adolescents who are dealing with the “hot topics” are especially vulnerable to questions about what they did when they were teenagers. As long as it isn’t overdone, most parents find that their children enjoy hearing stories about what it was like when they grew up. Consequently, our children want to know how we handled the challenges of personal freedom, partying and dating. The challenge is to respond in a way that is authentic and validates the concern of the child without giving them the message that since their parents pushed the envelope and wound up alright, they too can indulge in these behaviors.

Below are some suggested ways to respond. However, remember that the parental response should be sincere and be the product of some adult reflection about our true beliefs and values on these topics. Teenagers have a good sense of what is “real” to them and if we sound too perfect or preachy they will shut us off.

What I did and the mistakes that I made should not be an excuse for your decision-making.

The legal consequences for some of the behaviors I indulged in were not as severe as they are today. (This is especially true for possession of controlled substances.)

A lot more is known today about the physical harm done to our bodies due to tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.

The consequences of unprotected sexual activity can be deadly.

If I knew then what I know now I would have behaved differently.

The price I paid for my excesses were ……………………….

What we really must focus on is how to get your needs for freedom and fun met with few negative consequences.

 

The other side of the coin is the parent who constantly gives voice to his/her own shortcomings. Either through blaming others and/or themselves for things not working out as planned they model a victim or helpless role. This extreme can create a sense of anxiety in a child. The message they receive from the helpless parent is that the world is a scary place with little ability to control what is happening in life.

Family Centered Parenting, Dr. Richard HorowitzThe middle ground is what we should be striving for. Our children need, for their sense of well being, to experience their parents as sufficiently masterful to create a safe place for them. Young children, as mentioned, will naturally view their parents as powerful figures so we really don’t have to stretch the issue with excessive self-praise. However, children do need to develop resiliency – the ability to bounce back from adversity. We learn how to be resilient through modeling and experience. Parents who acknowledge an error or problem then take responsibility for its solution are demonstrating resilience to their children. They have not attempted to hold the impossible standard of perfection as an indicator of self-worth but have modeled the reality that things do go wrong and mistakes happen. The key is not indulging in self-pity and, after acknowledging the fact that something has gone wrong, acting in a way to make things better.

A related issue is how we deal with our mistakes when it specifically regards an action we took with our children.

An illustration might be useful.

Martha came home from work at her usual 6:00 p.m. time only to find that her 12 year-old-son Ron was not at home. There is a standing rule in the family that if Ron is playing at a friend’s house after school he is to be home by 6:00.

 

Martha is annoyed and starting to get a bit worried about Ron. At 6:30 she starts calling Ron’s friends. On the fourth call she reaches his friend Wayne’s mother. She says that Ron is with Wayne and they are working on something in the garage and she will go get him. Martha is really angry now that her fear has subsided. She tells Ron to get home immediately and that she will deal with him when he arrives at home.

 

When Ron comes in, Martha immediately tells him that the rules in the house, which he agreed to, required him to be home at 6:00. She is quite direct and tells him, “Go to your room until dinner. After dinner we will process what went on.” Ron protests, “You are unfair, I didn’t do anything wrong.” Martha replies, “Get to your room, you are on Shut Down until after dinner.” Ron is obviously furious but complies.

 

After a rather unpleasant dinner, Martha says she is ready to talk. Ron tells his mother that two days ago he had told her about working on the school project with Wayne until 7:00. He reminds her that she was talking on the phone and he came into the room and said excuse me and asked permission to go to Wayne’s the day after tomorrow to finish a science project. He said that she nodded her approval.

 

Martha listens and does remember the incident. She was on the telephone talking to her sister about a relationship issue and was quite absorbed in the conversation. She vaguely remembers Ron saying something about a science project but she thought he said that he had to call Wayne to discuss it. Martha now has a choice. She can stonewall her son with comments like. “See what happens when you interrupt me when I am on the telephone” or she can admit that she misunderstood him and ask for his suggestions on how this type of situation can be avoided in the future.

 

Certainly the admission that an error was made and that she is sorry that she assumed that he had broken a rule instead of first asking for an explanation will serve several purposes. First, Martha models for her son that people make honest mistakes and when they realize it, they will take responsibility for correcting them. Second, the dialogue between Martha and Ron is now problem solving oriented, involves Ron in decision-making, and shows how feedback can be used to make improve a family practice or system. Martha’s admission and willingness to communicate is a good example of putting Family Centered Parenting into practice. ###

 

Dr. Richard Horowitz is better known as “Dr. H,” The Family Centered Parenting Coach. His book is entitled, Family Centered Parenting: Your Guide for Growing Great Families. [website]

 

The Silo: A Mother’s Intuition (John Starley Allen)

Author John Starley Allen shares a gripping and true story about how his mother’s intuition and the obedience of her sons to her words of caution most likely saved their lives. This story reflects the need for trust between parents and their children.

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The following is a true story about an incident from my childhood. After the story, I offer a few words of commentary.

 

The Silo: A Mother's Intuition, John Starley Allen“Hey, John, let’s run out to the silo,” my older brother, Sam, called out as he ran past me.

“Wait up!” I ran as fast as I could to catch up to Sam.

My brother and I lived on a big farm in the country with our mother and grandfather. We loved the fresh air, the open space, and the green fields that turned gold in the fall. But most of all, we loved the silo. To me, it looked like a giant soup can without the label.

As we got closer to the silo, I could see its rusty patches, dents, and cracks. I once asked Sam about them. He explained, “You know how Grandpa’s face is kind of wrinkled and how he has brown spots on his hands? It’s because he’s old. Well, that’s how it is with the silo. I bet it was shiny and smooth when it was new.”

For two boys with active imaginations, the silo represented all sorts of things. Some days it was an ancient castle. Sometimes we pretended it was a tall skyscraper or a pirate ship. I especially enjoyed standing in the center of it and yelling as loud as I could, then hearing my echo bounce off the curved walls.

When we reached the silo, Sam said, “Let’s play spaceship.” For the next twenty minutes, we pretended to soar through space and discover new planets.

We took turns climbing to the top of the steel ladder rungs welded inside and outside the silo, pretending that we were on the spaceship’s observation deck. Just as I had spotted a new planet, Mother’s voice brought both would-be space explorers back to earth.

“John! Sam! Time for supper.”

During supper, Grandpa asked us what we had been up to.

“We were playing spaceship in the silo,” Sam said.

“You boys sure enjoy that old silo, don’t you?”

“You bet,” I said. “Grandpa, can I ask you a question? Back in the old days, what was the silo used for?”

“Well, it was kind of like a big closet to store things in,” Grandpa said. “When this farm was in full swing, we needed somewhere to store all the feed for the cattle.”

My eyes grew big. “You mean you filled the whole silo with just feed? You must have had a lot of cattle!”

“We did. I remember when my papa had the silo built. I was just about your age. It was new and shiny, and one of the tallest things I’d ever seen.”

After supper, I cleared the table, and Sam helped Mother wash the dishes. When the dishes were done, Sam asked if we could go out and play.

“No,” Mother said. “I want to talk to you both. Let’s go into the front room.”

From the look on Mother’s face, we knew that she had something serious on her mind. We followed her into the front room and sat down.

“I know how much you enjoy playing in the silo,” she began, “but today I had a strong feeling. Right before I called you in for dinner, I felt that you shouldn’t play in it anymore.”

“But Mom, that’s our favorite place to play!” Sam cried.

“Yeah, Mom!” John frowned.

“I know you like playing there. But I can’t deny what I felt. I had a strong impression—call it intuition–that you shouldn’t play there anymore.”

“So that’s how you feel about the silo?” Sam asked.

“That’s right. I can’t give you any other reason except that I strongly feel you shouldn’t play there anymore.”

Later that night, when we were both in bed, I asked Sam, “Do you really believe what Mom said about the silo?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“How come?”

“I’ve never told anyone this, but do you know Bobby Morrison?”

“The tall kid with red hair?”

“That’s the one. Well, last year he and I planned how to cheat on a history test. I’m not going to tell you what the plan was, because I don’t want you trying a dumb stunt like that.”

“If it’s so dumb, why did you do it?”

“Well, I’m getting to that part. When the test started, I remembered what mom had once told me. She said, ‘You know it’s wrong to cheat.’ After that, I just couldn’t go through with it.”

“So what’s the big deal?” I asked.

“The big deal is that Bobby Morrison got caught cheating…and he got into a lot of trouble.”

I thought about what Sam had said for a moment, then asked “So you’re not even going to sneak over to the silo?”

“No.”

“Well,” I said reluctantly, “I guess I won’t either.”

The next few days were hard for us. We had to think of new games to play that didn’t involve the silo. One afternoon Sam said, “Let’s put a puzzle together.”

“Aw, who wants to do that?” I groaned.

“Do you have any better ideas?”

Since I didn’t, we set up a table on the back porch and started working on a puzzle. But I had a hard time concentrating—my eyes kept wandering in the direction of the silo. The good old silo. “Too bad we can’t play there anymore,” I thought miserably.

“Hey, stop daydreaming,” Sam said.

Before I could reply, Mother came out with a pitcher of cool lemonade.

As the three of us drank from frosty glasses, we heard a low rumble. The ground trembled, and the puzzle pieces on the table started doing a crazy dance.

“Look!” I pointed at the silo.

It wobbled and leaned to one side. The rumble grew louder while another sound filled the air—the sound of metal scraping, grinding, and ripping. A great cloud of dust rose up as the silo crashed to the ground.

Grandpa came running out of the house. “What in the world?” Then he saw the silo. “Oh! Oh, my!”

That night, I lay in bed unable to sleep. I kept thinking about my mom and the silo. And I realized my mom was a person I could trust.

Building trust is a huge part of being a parent. If you can earn your children’s trust, many other things will fall into place.

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A Splash of Kindness, John Starley AllenIn my mom’s case, she had a feeling—an intuition— that she trusted concerning the silo. And because she trusted her impression, she passed it along to my brother and myself. The fact that we abided her counsel—albeit not without some grumbling—shows that because of past experiences, we already trusted her.

She was not one who issued frivolous commands or who let her current temperament—frustrated or sanguine–dictate the kind of punishment she meted out. Her punishments were measured, consistent, and always “fit the crime.”

(On a side note, I have a friend who recalls his father regularly administering belt whippings. The father would come home after work, tired and frustrated, hear from him wife about some infraction—major or minor—committed by my friend, and a belt whipping would ensue. Even at a young age, my friend instinctively knew that something wasn’t right about regular whippings. It was more about his dad relieving frustrations than about teaching his son how to live a better life. And the sad result of this was that my friend lost any kind of trust in his dad.)

When I witnessed the silo overturn and crumble, that forever “sealed the deal” on the issue of trusting my mom.

So later on, when she would tell me of the dangers of drugs, or the pitfalls of hanging out with the wrong kind of friends, I believed her. I distinctly remember going to a particular party as a teenager.

As I was heading out the door, I think she must have had one of her impressions and realized the kind of party I was going to attend. She said to me very simply, “Don’t do anything you know I wouldn’t approve of.”

Her words rang through my head for the rest of the night. And so when I was offered a joint of marijuana, a can of beer, or a swig of vodka someone had appropriated from his father’s liquor supply, I declined. I wasn’t the life of the party, but I felt at peace knowing that I hadn’t let my mom down.

Through the years I knew that if my mom offered advice, it was heartfelt, well-thought out, and something that merited my attention.

My mom wasn’t the kind of person who constantly offered advice on any and every subject. But when she did, you knew that she honestly felt it was important for her to express her viewpoint.

And whenever she did, in my mind I would see the image of the buckling, crumbling silo… ###

 

In addition to A Splash of Kindness: The Ripple Effect of Compassion, Courage and Character, John Starley Allen is also the author of a holiday novel, Christmas Gifts, Christmas Voices, as well as a singer and songwriter. [website]

A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love (Michael Byron Smith)

Michael Byron Smith shares how his single-parent mom kept her family together through difficult times, how he managed to keep a promise and fulfill a dream, and why mentoring is so important today. We present, “A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love.”

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A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron Smith)How a child is raised has an undeniable impact on his or her success and happiness. Everyone would agree with that, but many ignore it anyway.

Occasionally, children raised in a stressful or unloving atmosphere achieve while others, raised in the same atmosphere, or even in a seemingly ideal situation, do not. However, I think most experts agree, with little doubt, that having two savvy and involved parents is a huge advantage in the mental health of a child. Children without that advantage can succeed, but they will struggle more than necessary. I lived this scenario and I’ve seen others in my family both fail and succeed, but the successes have been far fewer.

Big Job for a Ten-Year-Old

As I turned ten years of age, I was in a situation that required me to babysit my five younger siblings. My father was absent and my mother had to work to support us. She was only 27 years-old with six children to feed. My youngest brother was not even a year old. Thinking back on this is a frightening picture; back then, it was normal to me!

It wasn’t every day that I had to do this, just on occasions when nothing else would work out for my mother. My memories of these days are not totally clear. What I do know is that my father abandoned us. Where he was in the world at that time I do not know. Where and how he spent his earnings, other than on alcohol, is a mystery. But more mysterious to me is how a person could abandon his young children.

Some may think my mother should have never left us alone, but she was without alternatives. I don’t know how she got through the pressures of being a single mom with a tenth-grade education. All I do know is she did not abandon us and worked to exhaustion to raise and support her children.

Not surprisingly, a ten-year-old placed in charge of his brothers and sisters doesn’t get much respect. My eight-year-old brother would challenge me and aggravate everyone else. My five and three-year-old sisters were typical little girls getting into stuff and fighting. My two youngest brothers were a two-year-old toddler and a baby under a year old. Basically, I was there to keep them from injuring themselves or each other; I’d call Mom if someone got hurt badly.

Why am I writing this, exposing my family’s dirty laundry? It is obviously not to brag, nor am I asking anyone to feel sorry for us, but to share a story of hope. Hope, however, needs action – mostly our own action to meet our challenges head-on. It is up to each individual, but many kids don’t know what to do, or how to do it.

I don’t know where we lived when I was ten because we moved quite often, and I didn’t have many childhood friends. Because of this, I was much more comfortable around women than men. Being a shy, skinny, and often new kid, I was like shark-bait to the local bullies common in poorer neighborhoods. My self-defense plan was invisibility, staying indoors or peeking around corners before proceeding. It wasn’t even close to an ideal upbringing.

Tough Beginnings Mean Extra Work

Needless to say, this was not the best start for any young person. The difficulties my siblings and I experienced pale in comparison to the challenges too many young people suffer. But preventable struggles, like struggles caused by my father’s parental neglect, should never happen.

How did we all do coming out of this situation? Beyond the challenges all kids face as they mature, we all had extra demons to defeat, some struggling with those demons more than others. We’ve had teen mothers, a lack of a high school education, truancy, poverty and some minor drug and alcohol use, with following generations dealing with some of the same problems. Of the six of us, three extended families are doing well, while three families are still struggling to one degree or another.

Fortunately, I did not have any of the problems described above, but I did have others. The most challenging to me was a serious lack of confidence in myself. I believe my five siblings also suffered from this and other psychological issues. I broke out of this cycle of despair more successfully than my siblings because of two things: 1) a promise I made to myself and, 2) a dream.

The Power Of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithThe promise was to never be poor! Not to be rich, but not to be poor – an error I will discuss later. My dream was to be a pilot, a dream of many young boys. But in my case, it was more of a passion. I knew that I would have to do it on my own because I didn’t know how to ask for help. Mentoring was not something of which I was aware, and being shy didn’t help. Certainly, someone would have mentored me had we stayed in one place long enough. (I apologize immensely to those I have forgotten who did give me help and advice, especially my many teachers.)

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Being a mentor is a wonderful way to help anyone who could use advice or guidance! My book, The Power of Dadhood, is, in fact, a mentoring book intended to teach fathers to how to mentor their children. It may be obvious, by now, why I wrote this book.

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My dream of being a pilot seemed so distant, like a star in another galaxy, but I kept my focus. This dream supported my goal of never being poor. It is amazing what one can do when they have a dream as a goal backed up by a promise. I also had two distant people that I looked up to: Jack Buck, the announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jimmy Stewart, my favorite actor and a US Air Force pilot himself. I admired their values and personalities. Never was there a bad word said of either, not by anyone I would respect. It was to my benefit to invent my own mentors because everyone needs role models and teachers.

A Dream, a Promise, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron SmithI succeeded in my keeping my promise and achieving my dream. I have never been poor since the moment I graduated from college. I also became a US Air Force pilot and loved every part of that experience.

But it wasn’t easy! The required steps to make my dreams come true were demanding, but not really the issue. The toughest hurdles in this journey were the exaggerated and fabricated hurdles I put upon myself, thinking I was not worthy! The hurdle of self-worth will also cause one to underestimate their potential. I should have had a goal to be rich; instead, I just hoped to not be poor. I’m doing very well but what if……?

In Closing

My message here is two-fold. The first message is that anyone with a dream can overcome obstacles. That is a common theme of encouragement, but your self-imposed obstructions are the first and most important to overcome. There is no need of having a fifty-pound dead weight on your back when you’re climbing Mt. Everest. This or any other test in life has its very own challenges to conquer and that extra, unnecessary weight could cause you to fail.

The second message is the desperate need today for parents and other mentors to help young people grow. Having proper mentoring and a decent childhood atmosphere will help a child avoid unnecessary burdens. A much easier and effective way to be successful, of course, is to not have those extra burdens in the first place. Children raised in a good, nourishing home will have a head start because their lives have been streamlined, not encumbered with self-imposed friction and speed bumps. If the number one factor in a successful life is self-reliance, a very close second would be the way one is raised and mentored.

I challenge parents and all adults to be aware of the needs of the young people around them. Your help and guidance will save them from being an adversary and/or an obstacle to themselves. It just takes a kind word or a bit of attention. ###

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website]. He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

Give Your Kids the Gift of Free Play (Pam Lobley)

Author Pam Lobley shares why free play is so important for children, plus some ways to create more of it. We present, “Give Your Kids the Gift of Free Play.”

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Give Your Kids the Gift of Free Play, Pam LobleyChildren’s lives these days are often planned down to the minute. They go from school to after-care to sports or dance. They take music lessons or participate in scouting. They have homework. Even weekends (especially weekends!) can be jammed with tournaments, practices, and tutoring.

How It Used to Be

Not surprisingly, free play for school-age kids has all but disappeared. Decades ago, it was the only kind of play there was. Kids went outside and played with whatever and whomever was in their neighborhood until it was time to come home for dinner. No one worried if they were improving themselves through lessons or skill building; they were simply expected to play.

In our crazy ‘get ahead’ world, we think our kids will be better off with lots of classes, camps, sports and other types of enriching activities. But studies are now showing how important free play is for our children. It is, in fact, a key part of their healthy development and social skills. Free play teaches flexibility and problem solving. It allows children independence, and teaches them negotiation and compromise as they make up rules to their own games and then have to play by them.

Some Free Play Ideas

Why Can't We Just Play. Pam LobleyIf you children seem whiny, combative, anxious or even just tired, it could be a sign that they are burned out on activities and need to just play. Here are some free play ideas you can easily incorporate into your busy lifestyle.

Seek a daycare or camp offering free play. When you choose a daycare or camp for your children, try to pick the one with the least structure and the most recess. Make sure they have time to make up games on their own, or play in a free-form way (remember “Red Rover” or “Freeze Tag?”). They should be able to play without adults making the teams, calling the shots and deciding the rules.

Teach Them Games You Played. If they’re having trouble figuring out what to play, teach them games you played: House, Cops and Robbers, Capture the Flag, etc. They can play these at a park or in a backyard. Show them the game, but then let them play on their own with their friends or siblings. If you need to be nearby for safety reasons, fine, but don’t interfere with their games. Playing on their own is what gives them independence.

Don’t be afraid to do NOTHING! It might feel weird to have an empty Saturday afternoon, but resist the temptation to run off to the movies or a museum. Sometimes a little boredom is just what kids need to get creative and invent something, or unwind and daydream. When they race from one thing to the next, their minds never get bored enough for this.

Enforce “unplugged” time. They can’t get bored enough to daydream or invent if they are always on their phone or playing a video game. You may have to bear some loud wails of protest, but if you can establish that there are certain times of the day when screens are not allowed, they will eventually accept it and cope by thinking of something else to do.

Do not attach a value to their play. In other words, pretending to be Spiderman for an afternoon is just as good for them as batting practice. As Einstein said:

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Our children spend so many hours a day in the pursuit of knowledge – letting them cultivate imagination is a gift.

Essential to Happiness

Learning to entertain themselves, and to function in situations when things aren’t going their way, is an essential part of your child’s happiness. Free play will teach this, and they’ll have fun, too. ###

Pam Lobley is an experienced writer, having written comedy, plays, newspaper columns, blogs and books. This article features her book, Why Can’t We Just Play? It’s about the importance of free play in a child’s life, written as a sweet and funny memoir of a special summer she spent “doing nothing” with her kids. Learn more about Pam’s work at her website [link].

 

Family Talk: Creating a Synergistic Home (Guest: Christy Monson)

Radio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkAuthor and retired family therapist, Christy Monson, shares why quality communication within the family is so very important today. We present “Family Talk: Creating a Synergistic Home.”

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CMonsonphotoEveryone’s in a rush today. It seems that authentic and meaningful communication with others is a vanishing skill. Even handwritten letters have given way to quick emails, quicker texts and hasty tweets.

Few of us have enough time to spend meaningfully with others, and it probably shows.

Families Aren’t Immune

Families are not immune to this “abbreviation” of communication. In many instances, loved ones needing our presence, our time, our words and our support don’t get nearly enough. Oh, families remain intact, but without the strength and bonding that could be there. This is most realized when an emergency or difficult circumstance affects the family.

According to our guest on this program, retired therapist and author Christy Monson, families that focus on becoming synergistic, and put the work into making it happen, not only handle the tough times better, bonds within the family grow stronger and stronger.

A Family Council

Giving a Child Too Much Power, Christy MonsonOne important activity of synergism is the family meeting, or Family Council. When family meetings are scheduled, and the time and effort for having them are honored, children learn how their presence and input matters. They learn the facts of family finances and how to set and realize goals. And they learn that conflicts and problems can be resolved, because walking away is not an option. Indeed, family meetings can teach dozens of insights and skills that children can practice for a lifetime.

In this program, Christy discusses the benefits and payoffs of synergistic families, and she takes us through the steps of establishing, conducting and maintaining the Family Council. Her experience and personal examples will make it meaningful.

Christy Monson

Christy has authored many books and articles that support and strengthen individuals and families. In this program we’re featuring her book, Family Talk: How to Organize Family Meetings and Solve Problems and Strengthen Relationships. (27:48)

http://www.ChristyMonson.com

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


(START/STOP Audio)

 

Divorced Parents: Made Mistakes You Regret? It’s Not Too Late to Make It Right! (Rosalind Sedacca, CDC)

Divorced parents can make mistakes they regret. Divorce  & Parenting Coach, Rosalind Sedacca, offers insightful ways for making it right.

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Divorced Parents: Made Mistakes You Regret? It's Not Too Late To Make It Right, Rosalind SedaccaDivorce drives some people crazy. Because of that, they make many poor decisions. Their judgment, integrity and credibility are easy to question. Their decisions regarding taking responsibility for their children come under scrutiny.

Learning From Mistakes

There is much we can all learn from these mistakes. And wisdom we can take away that is important for all of us to remember: It’s never too late to get it right – when your children are at stake!

In the heat of the divorce drama, we may have settled for a decision or two that we later regretted and still feel resentful about. Or we made a child-related agreement that, in hindsight, was not in our child’s best interest – but we don’t know quite how to remedy the situation.

Perhaps we lost our tempers at an inappropriate time and watched our children painfully internalize the experience.

Maybe we referred to our ex in a rather unflattering way only to find our child get very upset and storm away in anger.

Take Action

While some legal issues can only be handled through legal resolution, there are many post-divorce relationship decisions involving our children that we can remedy! And, of course, it’s never too late to make amends.

If you have found that your children are suffering or hurting due to a decision you made when you were more motivated by anger than by positive parenting and are now having regrets – take action.

That can mean having a heart-to-heart with your children and apologizing for behavior or statements you made that created pain in their lives. Take responsibility, own those choices, and humbly explain that you made an error and now want to make some changes.

That may translate into letting them spend more time with their other parent … no longer bad-mouthing your ex in front of the kids … inviting your ex to a holiday or school event with the children … encouraging the kids to have a visit with their “other” grandparents … you get the idea.

Perhaps it means a straight-talk conversation with your ex that opens the door to better, more cooperative communication, trust and co-parenting. Or it could mean apologizing for harsh words and insults.

Sometimes Difficult, But Worth It!

Yes, this can be amazingly difficult to do from an ego perspective. But when you think about how much joy it can mean to your children when they see both of their parents getting along – it’s more than worth the swallowing of your pride. Chances are your ex will swallow some too – and be receptive to working things out in a more mature manner.

If you have nothing to “own,” and all the tension and mistakes rest solely on the shoulders of your ex, try approaching them in a different way, focusing exclusively on the emotional needs of the children, and reaching out a hand in peace.

There’s no guarantee this will work – and we all know there are some certified jerks out there of both genders! But don’t give up – ever! Times change, people can change, and change may be just what your family needs so you can create a better outcome for your children.

When you take the “high” road and model responsible, effective behavior, you are giving your children the gift of learning how to do that themselves. It’s a gift that will pay off for you and them many times in the years ahead. One day your children will thank you for making things “right.” They’ll acknowledge you for being such a model Mom or Dad, despite the challenges you faced. And believe me, you will be proud of the parent you worked so hard to become.

It’s never too late to heed this advice and start taking constructive steps that move you in the right direction – to honor the children you love. And if you need a helping hand, reach out to a professional for that support and guidance. We’re here to help you make a positive difference for everyone in the family.###

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of the internationally-acclaimed ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.

 

Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable? (Michael Byron Smith)

How do we identify and instill confidence and determination in our children? Author Michael Byron Smith offers insights into positive change. We present, “Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?”

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Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?, Michael Byron SmithIf ever there were two heavyweight fighters in the world of self-development, they would be called CONFIDENCE and DETERMINATION. Looking at these two characteristics as a parent, which would you emphasize for your child?

Certainly, anyone who has both of these characteristics will likely become whatever they choose to be. However, a child may have confidence but not determination, or vice versa. And if only one exists, which would be best to have?

Having confidence will make life and its challenges appear easier to attack, allowing one to charge ahead with little reticence. On the other hand, having determination will give one a voice shouting encouragement in their ear: “Keep going–keep going”!

Of course, we want our children to have both characteristics and to use them wisely. If they have one of these attributes, we concentrate on the other. But getting back to the question, if they are weak in both, which would you choose to emphasize–confidence or determination? Before we choose, let’s consider the traps that exist in both confidence and determination.

The Challenge of Confidence

Confidence can trick you. It can prevent one from preparing properly, or from trying hard enough. Too much confidence can defy your true abilities and displaying it can put off others a bit. Confidence is best worn on the inside showing through, not draped callously upon your personality.

I discuss confidence in my book, The Power of Dadhood:

Self-confidence can be nurtured by introducing your child to challenging experiences, such as hiking the Grand Canyon, cleaning a fish, or joining a drama club. Kids become self-confident when they get over the fear of the unknown, when they overcome an inhibition, and when they accept that they don’t have to be good at everything, because no one has ever been good at everything.

The challenge must not exceed their capacity, or their confidence could diminish. Nor should you mislead them into falsely thinking they’ve achieved a significant success when it was too easily attained. Success does build confidence, but success built on sand will not contribute to your child’s confidence in the long run. Confidence gained by easy victories can be shattered by reality.

It may not be wise to convince your children that they are great artists or athletes if they will be judged more honestly in school or by friends. A more realistic view will not set them up for a fall, a fall from which recovery could be difficult. But, of course, praise any real talent and encourage any talent that shows promise.

Confidence works both from within (how you feel about yourself), and from without (how others see you).

Determination: ‘Intend’ is a stronger word than ‘Can’

Determination is a great characteristic to possess. It can, however, be brutal on your overall happiness. Your determination can make you go off in directions for all the wrong reasons. For example, it’s not good to be determined to get even with someone. Nor is it good to go after a prize or be vindictive just because you want to prove a point. Determinism must have properly chosen goals. While misplaced confidence has the most failures, misplaced determination has the most stress.

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithOnce again, from The Power of Dadhood:

Knowing you ‘can’ makes your intentions that much easier, without all the gut-wrenching anxiety. However, many people can, or think they can, but never do. People with a can-do attitude have their wheels greased, but they have no engine if they have no intent. If we Dads and our children have both the engine (intention) and the grease (confidence), we have what we need to move forward. Not only can we get somewhere, but we can get there with little friction.

‘Determination’ is the backbone of persistence. ‘Determination’ can help you to focus and to overcome a lack of confidence.

Which is it?

So, if your child needed both confidence and determination, which would you choose to emphasize? In my experience, if you’re not confident, then at least be determined and confidence will come. If you’re not determined, your confidence is like pajamas—comfortable as you lay around. What saved me was my determination! I was not confident about becoming successful, but I was determined to be so. I was, at the very least, determined to improve my situation in life, that being the only thing about which I was confident.

Although you can nurture a child to have confidence, you can’t let them wallow in it. Again, that’s when having determination can help. Push them when you have to be on task. It’s how the military gets many of their recruits through basic training. That’s how the voice in your ear does its job, telling you to “keep going”! Mantras are voices at work, expressing through repetition what you want to achieve. When a goal is met with your determination, an increase in confidence will follow. You can ask any graduate of basic military training, any mountain climber, or any Olympic athlete.

There is no wrong answer to my question because we will always want to encourage our kids to have determination, and nurture them to have confidence. Vince Lombardi once said, “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” Confidence can be with you one day and gone the next, but with determination, one will bridge those gaps. Never stop encouraging or nurturing either characteristic. That’s what makes a mother a mom, and a father a dad!

And someday, you may hear these precious words: “Because of you Dad, I didn’t give up!

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website] He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

3 Ways to Manage Your Unruly Child (Peggy Sealfon)

3 Ways to Manage Your Unruly Child, Peggy SealfonIf your child is continuously combative and disrespectful to you, imagine that same child at the age of 17 driving off in a car. If you do not reign in behaviors from early ages, you are dooming your child’s future and you are destined for a troubled relationship. Would you let your child eat bad foods, drink poisonous substances, or play with dangerous toys? Allowing out-of-control behaviors is toxic to the family and the child.

Always Testing Limits

Children are always testing their boundaries; a parent’s job is to define those limits clearly within the family structure. As a parent, you must be confident, kind and committed to what’s acceptable regardless of a child’s emotional reaction.

Know that crying is not a death sentence, it’s a growing experience. Discipline and accountability are key elements in raising well-balanced, well-adjusted children. If you allow unruly behavior at any age, your kids will assume it’s acceptable. Remember you’re not their friend, you’re their parent and you need to mentor them.

Three Ways …

Here are a few recommendations:

1. Develop family rules and be consistent in adhering to them. For instance, children should have chores around the house appropriate to their age. They should keep their rooms tidy and help with meals, cleanup, etc. When they do these tasks, offer positive reinforcements, such as saying, “I’m so fortunate to have such a thoughtful child who did all the dinner chores tonight without even being asked…Thank you.”

On the other hand, if they fail to perform the requested activities, you need to activate consequences. Be firm without raising your voice. If they misbehave at the dinner table or with their siblings, they lose privileges such as play dates, no TV, no games, no phone. Depending on the severity of the infraction, they may be confined to their room for a period to think about what they’ve done.

Consider a young adult who got fired from his job. Did he understand what would happen when he got caught with drugs on the drug test? It is important to teach children accountability: If you do something wrong, there are penalties. It’s okay if they learn to use an excuse with their peers for avoiding bad choices such as “My Dad will kill me if I do that.”

Escape from Anxiety, Peggy Sealfon2. Teach respectfulness and kindness. Help your child recognize feelings of gratitude. With young children, reinforce positive moments. For instance, if one child shares a toy with another, say aloud how happy and grateful the receiving child appears so it becomes a teachable moment.

Create a gratitude jar. Ask your child to write one thing they are grateful for each week and put the comment in a beautifully decorated jar. At the end of the month, spend time together as a family reviewing the entries. Words and notes of thanks should also be encouraged and can help children explore feelings of gratitude further.

When your child exhibits positive behaviors, take time to give a compliment.

Make volunteering part of your life by donating family time to help a charitable organization. Use such an opportunity to bring awareness about others who are less fortunate.

When Countess Stella Andrassy was growing up in a privileged household in her native Sweden, every Christmas her parents made sure that she and her siblings visited several homeless shelters to distribute gifts before they were permitted to enjoy their own holiday gifts. “It gave me greater appreciation for all that I had,” the Countess once shared with me. There are few things comparable to the feeling one experiences by helping someone else. Selflessness and kindness are important lessons so children aren’t always thinking about just themselves. You can help them expand their awareness so they’ll learn to enjoy doing things for others.

3. Be conscientious about setting a good example. Walk the walk by exhibiting values and integrity. Let them catch you doing the right stuff. For example, a cash machine delivers $120 when you requested $100. Exemplify the behavior you want to encourage by giving back the $20 in front of your children. Hold the door open for others so that you teach them respect and awareness.

Let children witness you taking care of yourself and dealing with life’s challenges in constructive ways. Show them how to relax with what is. Instead of focusing on problems, withdraw from any immediate dramas and pause for a time out to be able to see a clearer, more productive solution.

More than likely, you have all the basics for your survival. You may want more or are improving yourself but in this very moment, you’re okay. Let your children know that they’re okay. Create a sense of safety and security for your child full of love and support. In this parental environment, children thrive and grow to be valuable adults who contribute to a better world!

Give Yourself a Break

If you’re having difficulty getting centered yourself, try my free audio at 3MinutestoDestress.com. By taking a brief mental pause, you will refresh your mind and body. It will help you think more clearly, feel more energized, function more effectively, and ultimately reduce stress so that you’ll be more present and available for your children! ###

Peggy Sealfon is a personal development coach and author of the best-selling book, Escape from Anxiety—Supercharge Your Life with Powerful Strategies from A to Z. CLICK HERE for a free consultation with Peggy, or visit her website at PeggySealfon.com.