Category Archives: 5. The Adolescent

From age 10 to age 18.

Manage Your Emotions: How to Cool Down Before You Blow Up

By Kassandra Brown, parent coach in private practice at ParentCoaching.org.

Kassandra Brown - family yogaYour baby is crying at 3 a.m. It’s not the first time tonight you’ve gotten out of bed to answer her call and offer her your comforting arms and milk. You know she needs you and get up willingly, albeit groggily. You’re confident in Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting and know you want to form a strong bond with your baby.

A few years later, you’re in the grocery store and your now preschool child is sprawled on the floor, screaming that she wants a candy bar. When you sit down beside her and try to comfort her, she screams louder and shrinks away, yelling, “Don’t touch me!” Your tools don’t seem to be working. You feel angry, embarrassed, confused and ashamed. Even worse, you notice an urge within you to slap her or yell at her to get her to stop. What went wrong?

Many parents, including me, have been in this situation. I know I had some illusions that if I just parented “right” and focused on good bonding behaviors to form secure attachments, then parenting would always be smooth sailing. I had some ideas like:

  • If I wear my baby, I can take her anywhere with me and continue my prebaby life.

  • My children won’t need to melt down, hit, scream or even cry because I’ll be so in tune with their needs.

  • My children will listen respectfully to each other and to me.

  • I will never yell.

  • Weaning will happen easily and naturally in a rhythm that works well for the whole family.

  • A secure attachment means I won’t have to set or maintain clear boundaries because my children and I will be kind and cooperative all the time.

  • Crying is a sign that I’m doing something wrong or that I’m not a good parent.

  • Attachment Parenting will make raising children easy.

Do any of these sound familiar? Yet the real world of parenting has not worked out that way for me or my clients. At first I wondered why not. Doesn’t Attachment Parenting work?

While grappling with these questions, I learned a few things about my own expectations for parenting and my emotional reactions to conflict. I’d like to share some tips that have made parenting a lot easier for me. I hope they inspire you, too.

Does AP Work?

Attachment Parenting is an overarching approach about treating children with love, compassion and respect. API’s Eight Principles of Parenting are wonderful tools that help guide parents in caring for their children. When difficult parenting moments arise, it is not a failure of the principles. AP is not a recipe for turning out angelic kids, but rather one for nurturing relationships.

When we ask the question “Does it work?” we need to define what we mean by “working.” If working means that kids and parents behave perfectly, as in the bullet points above, then no it doesn’t work–and neither does anything else in the real world. Relating to other human beings is hard, no matter what.

If working means building the strong foundations upon which loving relationships can be created, then yes it works. If working means creating an environment in which children are listened to, respected and guided with unconditional love, then yes it works.

Why Do I Lose It With My Kids?

We lose it with our kids for so many reasons: we care so much about them, we feel responsible for them, they remind us of ourselves when we were children, we fear what their attitudes and behaviors may mean for their future, we are sensitive to what other parents think about us and our children, and we are sometimes stressed or ill ourselves. Things that felt overwhelming to us as children will come up again. Children help us develop more self-awareness, compassion, tolerance and strength. Many times they do this by triggering our anger, aggression, shame, sadness, insecurity, fear and intolerance. When these emotions arise, we have two main options: repress the emotions or examine them.

How Many Beach Balls Are You Trying To Submerge?

Repressing a strong emotion can be a useful strategy, especially in emergencies. Imagine your child in a swimming pool. She’s just gotten into water over her head but doesn’t know how to swim. You don’t want to sit beside the pool talking to your friend about how you feel scared and nervous or what you think might happen. You want to put your own fear on hold while you jump in to save your child. In this instance, repressing your own fear is a useful and appropriate strategy that allows you to act now and feel later.

However, we get into trouble when we use repression as our “everyday” coping strategy. Trying to repress emotions over the long term is like trying to submerge a beach ball and keep it under water. It takes a lot of energy, balance and concentration. Then just when you think you’ve got the hang of it and let your energy shift to something else, the ball gets away from you and pops up anyway.

Like a beach ball that wants to float, emotions want to come to the surface. Even when we repress them, they often emerge when we least want them to. Multiply that by several different emotions and the different situations that trigger them, and it’s clear why suppressing emotions is a recipe for both exhaustion and failure.

Most of us want more for ourselves and our children.

Tips for Working with Anger and Other Challenging Emotions

1. Cool down. In the heat of the moment, it’s almost impossible to resist the urge to fight, flee or freeze unless you can soothe your stress response. Cooling off will help you more closely align your actions with your values.

10 Tips for Cooling Down: 

  • Take 10 deep breaths and make a wordless sound on the exhale.

  • Resist the urge to rationalize. Let yourself feel exactly what you are feeling without trying to make it better or worse and without trying to justify yourself. Admit out loud that right now you are angry, upset, sad, frustrated, incensed or whatever else you are feeling. Breathe through your feelings and let them pass. For help in identifying your needs and feelings, the Center for Nonviolent Communication offers a needs list and a feelings list.

  • Remove distractions: turn off the devices (TV, computer, music), stop multi-tasking and focus on your child. Both of you will feel better when you’re not distracted or fighting for each other’s attention.

  • If you can safely leave the room for a few minutes, let your child know when you’ll be back and take a parent time-out. (This may or may not be appropriate based on your child’s age, developmental stage and the presence of another caregiver.)

  • If you are shopping, leave the shopping cart and go outside. You can cool off together in the car, do jumping jacks on the sidewalk, or run around a grassy space.

  • Move your body. Exercise is a great way to discharge energy without hurting anyone.

  • Change the scenery. Just walking into a different room or outside can help.

  • Look through your child’s eyes. Bend down or sit at his level. Look in the direction he is looking. Notice what the world is like from this point of view.

  • Write or draw in a journal to express how you feel, what you are thinking, what you want, and any blocks you see to getting what you want. Give your child paper and markers to join you and call this an “art time-out.”

  • At a time when you are calm, make a list of ways to cool off, and post it in a visible place in your house. When stress is creeping up on you, look at your list and do something from it.

2. Listen. Every moment of upset is an opportunity to parent in alignment with your values. Listen to what your child is saying. Then put yourself in her shoes and listen to what you are saying. Your child is small, dependent and not sure of how the world works. What do you want to say to her?

Listening Tip: To support your listening skills, try this visualization exercise:

Take a quiet moment at the start of the day. Listen to your breath for 10 breaths. This will help you settle into your body and feel calm. Then imagine a situation with your child that really bothers you. Imagine how you usually respond. Then imagine how you’d like to respond. Allow this new response to become very vivid; try to connect with the love and compassion you feel for your child. Taking the quiet time in your own mind to rehearse how you want to respond makes it more likely that you will respond that way in the future.

See the Listening Exercises at the end of this article for more in-depth listening tools.

3. Stop the Blame Game. Taking ownership of your own needs and feelings allows you to stop blaming your child for why things are not going right. The situation then becomes an opportunity for self-reflection and adjustment rather than a sign of failure. Listening for needs and feelings can be like learning a new language. It takes time, but it’s worth it as a way to de-escalate conflict and establish connection. It’s worked with inner city gangs, and it can work in your family.

Communication Tip: Ask yourself–What am I feeling; what do I need right now; what was I thinking right before I got upset; are my expectations reasonable? Then you can communicate in age-appropriate ways how you feel and what you need. If you practice using “I” statements, it’s easier for others to hear you. For example: “I feel angry and sad. I want to live in a clean and peaceful home where everyone helps out. I’d like to hear what you want and how you feel. Then I’d like to brainstorm about ways we can both get our needs met.” This is more respectful and effective than saying “I’m mad at you because you didn’t wash the dishes. You never wash the dishes. You’re so ungrateful.”

4. Reframe the Conflict. This step is also a good starting point for next time. When you can examine the conflict with an open heart and the intent to learn and be changed, you set the basis for a new and more powerful way to live your life and parent your children. Conflict happens. The question is, what are you going to do with it?

4 Tips to Open Your Heart After a Conflict:

  • Assume good intent. When you choose to assume your child is doing the best he can  to meet a valid need with the tools he has, you respond differently than when you assume your child is a manipulative, ungrateful or lazy. Try it and see.

  • Tell yourself you are an awesome parent. Imagine that it’s true. It is.

  • Look for the gifts. What can you take away that will help you next time? Conflict can be a way to gain more understanding of the needs you share with your child.

  • Let the conflict be a way of creating more teamwork and shared problem solving with your child. Brainstorm about ways for both of you to have your needs met. Examples include time in nature, rest, good food and loving attention.

5. Forgive Yourself. Taking the time to work with the intense, challenging or disappointing moments is hard. Your own high expectations make it harder. Do you expect yourself to be perfect, and feel guilty or angry when you’re not? Just as punishment won’t help kids learn and grow, treating yourself harshly won’t lead to positive changes.

Forgiveness Tip: Forgive yourself for your breakdowns, tantrums and less-than-desirable behavior. When you are gentle with yourself, you model self-kindness to your children. Taking time to admit your mistakes and apologize to your children is also good modelling and a way to build connection.

What’s the Payoff?

Using conflict as an opportunity to wake up, grow and heal will change your life. Viewing conflict in terms of people clashing over different strategies for getting their needs met is very empowering. This work can offer big rewards in the quality of your parenting and your enjoyment of time with your children. The strong bonds that API’s Eight Principles of Parenting help you form make it easier. I know this has made a big difference in my life, and I hope you will find it valuable as well.

Resources

Talk to a good friend with as much honesty and vulnerability as you can.

Join a women’s or men’s group.

Join or start an API support group in your area.

Join the API Neighborhood.

See API’s resources for nurturing empathy.

Learn more about Nonviolent Communication.

Listening Exercise, Part 1

This part of the exercise can be done in a quiet moment during your day, when you know you will have at least 10 to 15 minutes alone. Get comfortable and breathe deeply for 10 breaths, just to help you settle in and be calm. Then imagine a situation involving your child that really bothers you. As an example, perhaps your child ignores you when you ask for help around the house. Remember a recent time when this happened. Think of what you were doing and saying, how you felt, what your child did and what you imagine he was thinking. You might need to pause and come back to your breath here because it takes effort not to get upset all over again while remembering. Now think about how you usually respond. Again, you might need to reconnect with your breath because it’s easy to get caught in this story.

Now try a radical shift. Imagine someone asks you to do something. But maybe you don’t really hear them or know what they mean. You don’t understand why it’s important. You don’t want to stop what you’re doing and do the thing that’s being asked or demanded of you. Allow yourself to travel back to a moment like this when someone–maybe your spouse, your boss or your own parents–asked something of you. How did you feel? How did you respond? Noticing what you felt and the validity of those feelings is a great first step towards change. Take that moment of insight and allow it to bring you into more compassion for your child.

Use your insight to imagine how you want someone to treat you in that situation. Would you like that person to be sure to get your attention? Maybe touch your arm and make eye contact rather than just throw words over her shoulder as she walked through the room? Maybe you want some context as to why the job is important? Maybe you want to be able to say you don’t think it’s important or it’s too hard or you just don’t want to do it? Maybe this job seems easy to everyone else but is hard for you, so you take on a belief that you are stupid or incapable every time you attempt the job? Allow yourself to be curious if any of these things are true for your child. Then offer him the same compassion and courtesy you’d like to be offered.

Listening Exercise, Part 2

This next part can be done with your child Suppose the task in question is something like washing the dishes after dinner. Suppose your child knows the dishes need to be done, she knows why, and she even agrees it’s important, but every night it’s a nagging, foot-dragging pain in everyone’s butt to get them done. The first step might be to uncover why it’s such a big deal. Why does your child resist, and why do you insist and nag? What are the underlying needs and feelings that are being triggered by the dishes? Is there something else your child would rather be doing? Does your child feel she has a voice in this situation? Is this a microcosm of resentment for you and a reminder of how you didn’t even want to cook dinner, let alone do all the dishes too? There could be any number of needs and feelings for both of you.

When you look at what’s going on, you’re better able to address the real causes of the behavior. Maybe after you uncover the needs and feelings about the task, you propose to your child that you both brainstorm three different solutions and then try them for one week each. At the end you will agree on one of them or try something new to make sure everyone’s needs are met. It may seem like it takes a lot of time to do this. But you don’t need to do it every night. Do it once, thoroughly. Then put a plan in place and try to stick to it.

This is just an example; both you and your child will bring your own creative genius into solving the problem once you are able to bridge the gap between you with listening and respect.

 

Emotional Eating: An Interview with Dr. Marian Tanofsky-Kraff

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family, API’s Publications Coordinator and API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska)

Photo: Miranda Laskowska
Photo: Miranda Laskowska

Feeding a child involves more than providing nutrients. From birth on, there is a very strong emotional component. This is easiest to recognize with babies and toddlers, who rely on comfort sucking as a way to cope with stress. But we continue to see it far beyond these early years, such as in how we crave a cookie or soft drink while unwinding after a hard day.

This tendency to comfort ourselves through food is called “emotional eating.” We all do it sometimes, but some people rely on emotional eating as a primary coping mechanism, and this can lead to problems such as binge eating or obesity. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are also related because those affected find a level of comfort through controlling their food intake. The common link is an unhealthy relationship with food.

Attachment Parenting International addressed this topic during Attachment Parenting Month 2009, when the theme “Full of Love” sparked discussions on how family relationships, particularly secure parent-child attachment, can promote a healthy relationship between children and food, and lower the risk of obesity and other eating disorders.

I interviewed Marian Tanofsky-Kraff, PhD, as part of the effort. The original interview can be found in the Attached Family magazine 2010 “Full of Love” issue.

Dr. Tanofsky-Kraff is an associate psychology professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, as well as an obesity researcher at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, both located in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Previously, she was a binge-eating disorders research associate at the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders in New Haven, Connecticut, USA. Her research program evaluates interpersonal psychotherapy with adolescent girls at high risk for obesity.

API: Let’s first get a good picture of what emotional eating is. Can you tell us what a healthy relationship with food looks like?

DR. TANOFSKY-KRAFF: Sometimes we all emotionally eat. To some extent, I don’t think this is a bad thing. If you want to have a cookie, that’s OK. When it becomes a problem is when you’re eating when you’re not physiologically hungry—when you’re using food to cope. A healthy relationship with food is when we eat only when we’re physiologically hungry. We can enjoy our food, but it’s unhealthy to allow it to control your life.

For some people, food is a “responsible” vice. They don’t drink alcohol, they don’t use drugs, they don’t gamble. They basically live healthy lives, except that food or certain types of food are their emotional vice. The problem is, unlike alcohol or drugs, people can’t abstain from food. They need to learn to find a balance with food. There’s nothing wrong with eating a slice of apple pie while you’re talking through what’s bothering you, but if you get into a habit of doing that, then you have an inappropriate relationship with that food item.

API: How does emotional eating develop?

DR. TANOFSKY-KRAFF: There isn’t much literature on this, so it’s all hypothetical. Some parents may have used food with their children as rewards or as a way to soothe a child when he felt badly. On the other hand, we know that some foods can actually soothe people—carbohydrates, chocolate. People who are using food to cope, and who choose chocolate, are possibly getting reinforcement.

API: So would you say that emotional eating is an addiction?

DR. TANOFSKY-KRAFF: There is a relationship between different food types and the brain and stress. For some people, yes, it can be safe to say that emotional eating can be addictive.

There is also a whole new line of science studying food addictive behavior. It’s been suggested that foods high in carbohydrates and that have been highly processed do have an addictive element—not so much as other addictions, such as to drugs, but still an addictive element. But this is a really new field of science.

API: In terms of prevention and intervention, how can parents teach their children not to emotionally eat? What if parents themselves emotionally eat?

DR. TANOFSKY-KRAFF: I always encourage parents not to use food as a reward. We have to find other ways to reward our kids. Soothe them with words and actions, as opposed to food. Bolster communication between parents and kids. Teach kids when they feel bad to work it out with words.

Keep an eye out and see if your kids are turning to food when they’re feeling down, and then teach them other ways to soothe themselves, like going to the playground. I’m a big prevention advocate because losing weight is very difficult, so if you see your child gaining weight, it’s important to do something then, rather than wait.

When parents emotionally eat, that runs into the problem of modeling. In working with kids, it’s important to have the whole family work on physical fitness and healthy eating together. This works better than singling out the obese child. Both parents need to be involved; if you have one parent who doesn’t focus on healthy eating and getting exercise, this sends a mixed message. The whole family has to be involved.

Modeling healthy eating begins when children are babies. If you expose kids when they’re young to healthy foods, they’ll grow up liking healthy foods. If you say “yum, yum, yum” with carrots, your children will grow up loving carrots.

API: It seems that every children’s activity, from sports to church, involves treats, and often these are sweets or other unhealthy foods. Parents even encounter candy being used to soothe a child after a doctor appointment. Despite the focus from television shows such as “The Biggest Loser,” our society seems to ignore the issue of obesity in children. How can parents teach their children to choose healthy food and eating habits?

DR. TANOFSKY-KRAFF: I think the only way we can change that is with big policy changes, such as a policy that schools cannot hand out sweets. For example, instead of celebrating a child’s birthday with cake, let’s play kickball. I think there need to be changes at a much broader level—it shouldn’t be just on parents.

Kids are eating so many snacks all the time that they don’t even know their hunger cues because they are virtually never hungry. Biologically, we should have a natural physiological reaction that occurs when we are hungry, and that’s when we eat.

API: How big a role do genetics play in determining a child’s risk of obesity?

DR. TANOFSKY-KRAFF: Up until age 6, the parents’ weight determines the weight of the child. So a 2-year-old with one obese parent is more likely to be of a higher weight percentile than a 2-year-old who doesn’t have an obese parent. After age 6, the child’s own weight is the best predictor of the risk of obesity. That is, even if both parents are obese but the child is not obese, his odds of becoming obese are lower.

Healthy eating is so important. I don’t think parents necessarily need to be concerned about obesity, but they should be concerned about healthy eating.

And everyone needs some physical activity every day. No, walking down to the mailbox is not enough exercise, but it’s hard to answer how much exercise is needed every day. It varies according to each person, depending on a number of factors such as your health, your physical fitness level, your age. What is consistent is that every person should have some form of aerobic [activity] every day.

API: Thank you so much for your time and insights. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

DR. TANOFSKY-KRAFF: Most of my work has been on out-of-control eating or binge eating, and what I’m finding is that out-of-control eating is often associated with emotional eating. If we focus on preventing emotional eating, eating in response to a negative affect [emotion] is less likely to occur. Parents can model how to respond to a negative affect in ways other than eating, and children will be less likely to use food to cope as they grow older.

From the Journal of Attachment Parenting: Emotional eating among children is correlated with parental responses that minimize, are punitive and are non-reasoning. These parental responses are in line with authoritarian and permissive parenting styles. Emotional eating among children is not related to parental responses that fall within authoritative parenting styles (under which Attachment Parenting falls). Learn more about this study in API’s Journal of Attachment Parenting, available online free of charge, through a free API Membership.

 

How Attachment Parenting Produces Independent Kids

By Zoe Claire, originally published on www.unnecessarywisdom.wordpress.com. Reprinted with permission.

1095865_74207826Children are in our care for a limited amount of time, generally spanning two decades. During that time, their needs change drastically yet gradually from year to year. I’ve always found it odd that the principles of Attachment Parenting are criticized as promoting dependence in children when, if you analyze the proper development of independence in childhood, the attachment style would be considered the ideal method for raising competent adults.

Attachment style parenting is based on Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting. These principles are designed to guide decision making with a focus on infancy. But the overwhelming theme of the attachment style is the sensitive responsiveness of the parent toward the child. This responsiveness is directed at meeting the child’s needs in a loving and respectful manner.

The meeting of needs is a critical concept.

The end result of meeting a child’s needs is varied yet always positive. A child whose needs are consistently met learns that his voice is heard, his communications are valued, his needs are worthy, he can rely on the world to be a safe and secure place, he can trust his parents both for comfort and guidance, and he is competent.

We are most effective leaders when we teach from a place of love and trust.

Think about a time when someone tried to change you or what you were doing. How did you feel? Now think about how you felt about that person. Did you believe the person had your best interests at heart? If you did, you probably felt positive about the experience, whether you accepted the advice or not. If you believed the person did not understand you, did not care about you, or was only trying to promote their own interests, then you probably felt bad about the experience and certainly rejected the advice. We can only create true change from a position of love and trust. This is a truth of humanity.

Why do so many people worry about Attachment Parenting leading to dependent kids?

Those who don’t understand API’s Eight Principles of Parenting can often confuse meeting a child’s needs with stifling independence. An infant is at the beginning of her experience as a human. She begins her life without the ability to help herself in any way. She is entirely dependent on her caretaker. One aspect of meeting her needs is understanding what her needs are. She has not reached the stage in her development yet where she is capable of independence or desirous of it. The securely attached parent recognizes this need and attends to her accordingly.

The result of this sensitive attendance to the child’s needs is a child who has a secure foundation to begin her journey toward independence.

How does Attachment Parenting foster independence?

The drive for independence is as natural to humans as breathing, sleeping and eating. The securely attached parent is able to recognize when the child needs and wants independence and not only allow him to stand on his own two feet, but encourage him as well.

Independence occurs gradually, throughout the two decades of childhood. We do not need to force it upon a child before she is ready and should not hold her back when she is.

Responsive parents can see when their 2-year-old is demanding to pour her own milk and allow her to so. This is meeting a need. It’s a new need, different from those in infancy, but a need nonetheless. So she is allowed to develop necessary skills as she is ready.

As soon as a child is capable of caring for himself, he should be allowed to do so.

Connected, responsive parents can observe when their child is ready for independence and are able to encourage him. He wants to dress himself? Allow him. It doesn’t matter what he wears. It matters that he is able to care for himself. If he still needs to be close to his parents when he sleeps at night, that’s okay, too. It’s about fostering the child’s desire for independence. It’s about meeting needs. His need for independence is as legitimate as his need for security. Both are met with sensitivity, predictability and love.

What the child learns as she grows is that she is capable and secure. She learns that independence is a positive experience for her, as she masters each new skill. She learns that all of her needs will be met, regardless of what they are or how someone else feels about them.

As the child progresses through childhood, her need for independence will increase while her need for physical closeness to her parents will decrease. But the confidence she has in her parents is what links the two.

What does Attachment Parenting look like in the teen years?

I’ve seen articles proclaiming that parents must detach from their children during the teen years. I believe this is a misunderstanding of what attachment is. The attachment is the relationship, the sensitivity, the unconditional willingness to meet the child’s needs. A securely attached parent is able to recognize that the child’s needs during the teen years have changed and will continue to change to adulthood.

The securely attached teenager has experienced life with his parents knowing that when he speaks, he will be heard. He knows that his ideas, thoughts, opinions, and experiences are valued by them. He knows that he is competent. He knows that he can seek independence and he will be supported in his efforts. He knows that he can go to his parents for emotional support and they will be there for him. He knows that they know him well, they always have, and their primary goal is to support him. He knows this because that has been experience since the day he was born.

Think about this teen for a moment. This is what all parents want. This is a teen who knows when she has a problem, she can trust her parents as a resource. She will talk to them about it. She doesn’t rebel. She has nothing to rebel against. Her parents are allies in her life. They always have been. Nothing magically changes because of her age. They are still watching her, listening to her, anticipating what she needs from them and responding to her with sensitivity. She will take their advice more often than not. She knows that they want the best for her. They don’t disregard her, brush her aside or bully her. They never have. Sure, she might make mistakes. Everyone does and teens are more susceptible due to their inexperience and youth. But she has parents to guide and teach her. And she is still willing to accept their love and support.

We all want the same things for our children. We them to be happy, successful, independent, competent, kind, loving, empathic, responsible adults when they leave to go out into the world. We are not always so sure how to get there. While we all have to find our own way as parents, this I do believe: you can never go wrong meeting your child’s needs, no matter what the needs may be.

 

10 Parenting Resolutions for the New Year

By Bill Corbett, author of Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids in English and in Spanish and member of the API Resource Advisory Committee, www.CooperativeKids.com.

Photo: Sarah Brucker
Photo: Sarah Brucker

Every January presents us with the opportunity for a fresh start, for doing things differently to make positive changes in our families’ lives. Here are my top 10 resolutions to help you engage in more peaceful parenting and create more joyful connection with your children this year.

1. Become aware of moments of frustration. Getting frustrated is a part of being human.  When your child is not being cooperative or your children are engaging in sibling rivalry, it is easy to let your frustration flare up and control your next words or actions. Take notice of a moment of frustration and focus on how it feels. Pause, but don’t speak or act. Relax your entire body, and allow the frustration to pass before moving forward. This is a challenging skill, so give yourself credit for each time you are able to pause and reflect before acting.

2. See your child’s resistance as a wake-up call. When your child resists your requests, you may need to examine how you make them and your level of connection. Children crave power and being heard and seen in the family. When they are frequently told what to do, even gently, they begin to resist. Use his resistance as a “check in” on the relationship. Have you been spending enough quality time with him, in which you’ve been listening more than talking? Have you been allowing him age-appropriate autonomy so he can make decisions for himself?

3. Become more proactive instead of reactive. Setting rules and limits in advance is necessary for teaching children about boundaries, respect and safety. Rules and limits work best when established respectfully in advance, and engaging your child to help you in creating them motivates her to acknowledge them and follow through. Keeping limits and boundaries in place may require posting them for all to see and reviewing them frequently, but don’t overdo it.

4. Speak respectfully of the child’s other parent. We all hope our children will grow up to become people of integrity, and they’re more likely to do so if we give them a model to learn from. Whether you’re separated, going through a divorce, or just mad at your spouse, commit to always speaking respectfully about that other parent in the presence of your child. Your child still sees your partner as his parent, regardless of the issue you may have with that other adult.

5. Make more emotional deposits than withdrawals. In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, author Stephen R. Covey urges parents to make more deposits than withdrawals in their children’s emotional bank accounts. The result will be greater cooperation and less undesirable behavior. Examples of deposits include encouraging words, acts of kindness and demonstrations of love. What deposits have you made in your children’s emotional bank accounts this past month?

6. See your child as good and not bad. Children are not “bad.” Instead, they may have “learned behaviors” that can be difficult to deal with. The behaviors can be coping skills or an attempt to meet needs. A few changes in a parent’s discipline toolbox can make all the difference in the world. Don’t be angry with your child; be patient, kind and open to learning.

7. Find ways to acknowledge and encourage your child. We’re so good at noticing and confronting misbehavior, but offering encouragement is far more powerful. Unfortunately, when our children are behaving as we’d like, we allow our attention to focus on the other stressful things we have to do in our adult life. Slow down and begin looking for opportunities to make positive observations to your children. Say to her, “It looks like you are having a lot of fun playing with your sister!” or “Thank you for helping your brother build that block tower.”

8. See if a “misbehavior” in your child is a desire to meet a need. Take a closer look at behaviors–they may actually be needs in disguise. A mother noticed that her little son was drawing on walls and other surfaces more and more. She tried every discipline technique she could, but his drawings continued. Finally, she went out and purchased a drawing easel and a colorful set of markers and crayons. The boy began to draw amazing pictures on his easel pad and no longer defaced other surfaces.

Challenging behavior may signal that your child needs more of your loving attention in the moment, especially if you’ve been busy doing your own work for a while. Taking a break from your tasks in order to spend some time with your child (one-on-one when possible) will help meet needs for attention and connection.

9. Give your child advance notices of a transition. Younger children live only in the moment and have great difficulty seeing beyond NOW. Because of that, they don’t transition well without advance warnings. Visual timers and visual schedules are incredibly effective at helping children to transition because they enable the child to see how much time is passing and the activities that are planned next.

If you don’t have a visual reminder handy in a given moment, a countdown of verbal reminders is also helpful. Be mindful of starting a countdown and then becoming distracted yourself with talking to another adult or doing another activity. A helpful long-term approach is to narrate your own thought process, since kids learn from what we model: “Oh, look at the time, we’d better start cleaning up … Ok, we should be leaving in 5 minutes, that’s time for two more trips down the slide, then we pack up the car … ”

10. Help your child move closer to his or her purpose in life. Effective parenting means more than just trying to get through each day, but also helping our children to hear the voice inside of them that guides them to find their purpose in life. Minimize the “noise” around her so she will hear and follow that voice over her lifetime.

 

Emotions, Limits and Spirited Kids: An interview with Dr. Jane Nelson

By Kelly Bartlett, author of Encouraging Words for Kids, API Leader and Certified Positive Discipline Educator, www.kellybartlett.net.

After infancy comes the age of autonomy. It’s a time when a child’s physical activity takes off, language flourishes and parents hear frequent exclamations of, “Me do it!” During this time, our kids’ personalities blossom, and we start to experience the full range of their spirit. After infancy, positive discipline can become a natural extension of Attachment Parenting, as it is about providing limits for behavior while respecting a child’s needs and natural temperament. Just as close contact strengthens the parent-child relationship in infancy, positive discipline preserves that relationship throughout childhood.

However, discipline can also challenge the parent-child relationship, especially when a child is very spirited in nature. When kids are very active or react strongly to disappointment, positive discipline tools can be difficult to put into place. Many parents get frustrated with their child’s seeming lack of response to a non-punitive discipline style and are often at a loss as to how to discipline such exuberance.

Dr_Jane_NelsenDr. Jane Nelsen is the author of Positive Discipline and founder of the Positive Discipline Association. She trains parents, teachers and caregivers all over the world to use positive discipline to strengthen parent-child relationships and to teach children how to become responsible, respectful and self-reliant. I had the opportunity to speak with Jane about her thoughts on responding to strong emotions when it comes to positive discipline and spirited kids.

KELLY: As you know, children who are described as “spirited” are typically very active, very verbal, highly emotional or some combination of all three. I’ve often heard from parents of spirited children that using positive discipline can be a challenge because their kids’ personalities are naturally so strong-willed. What do you think? Is there a place for positive discipline in families of strong-willed, “spirited” children?

JANE: I think using positive discipline is even more important with spirited children because you need to guide that strong will they have. As children grow out of infancy, they want—they need—to use their power, whether we like it or not. And they’re good at it! Celebrate that you have a spirited child and then take a lot of opportunity to guide that child into using that strong will in contributing ways.

KELLY: How do we do that with spirited kids?

JANE: One of the foundations of positive discipline is to be kind and firm at the same time. Many parents know how to be kind … until they get upset. Then they know how to be firm without being kind, and they vacillate between the two: being kind until they can’t stand their kids (who develop an entitlement attitude) and then being firm until they can’t stand themselves (feeling like tyrants).

I think we all know the mistakes made in the name of firmness without kindness: punishment. However, many do not know the mistakes made in the name of kindness without firmness: pleasing, rescuing, over-protecting, pampering (providing all “wants”), micromanaging in the name of love, overdoing choices, and making sure children never suffer.

KELLY: When you say “never suffer,” what do you mean?

JANE: I often say we should allow our kids to suffer. Not make them suffer—we should never do that. But we need to allow them to suffer such that they can have their feelings.

KELLY: You’re saying when our kids are expressing their unpleasant emotions we shouldn’t console those feelings away?

JANE: Right. Parents shouldn’t worry about not being attached if their children ever have to cry. I think it is impossible for any child who is being raised by a parent who is interested in Attachment Parenting to not be attached. It’s not possible; they’re in tune with meeting their child’s needs.

But being too focused on keeping a child happy can lead a parent to constantly (unintentionally) rescue a child from his feelings. The child then develops the belief of, “I’m not capable of dealing with these feelings.”

They should have their feelings and be allowed to work them through. And when they do—which they will eventually—they will feel a sense of. A sense of, “I am capable.” A sense of, “I am resilient.” A sense of, “I can survive.” All children need that opportunity.

KELLY: It seems hard to know when to offer comfort and ease strong feelings and when to trust kids to work through them on their own.

JANE: I think parents get confused between the needs and the wants. There’s a fine line between understanding when it’s appropriate to comfort your children and when to let them work through their feelings on their own and realize their own capabilities for handling them. I just think that’s a grey area for a lot of parents.

KELLY: So where is that balance? How do we know what is an appropriate response?

JANE: A lot of it is education. If you have the knowledge, then you go into your heart and you know. Parents need to understand that children are always making decisions based on their life experiences. They are answering for themselves, “Am I capable? Am I not capable? Can I survive the ups and downs of life, or can I not?”

If parents don’t allow their children to have those experiences of emotional upsets, they rob their children of developing the belief that he or she is capable. What we want to do is give our children experiences that help them develop healthy beliefs and a sense of trust, autonomy and initiative. Children need to develop their disappointment muscles, their capability muscles and their resiliency muscles. Wise parents allow children to do that.

KELLY: So it is possible for firmness, kindness, strong will and attachment to co-exist? No matter how spirited our children are (or their responses to discipline), we can set boundaries with kindness, let kids have their feelings about them, and still maintain a secure attachment?

JANE: Yes. And I think this is what parents of highly-spirited kids need to know. Sometimes it’s really hard to be firm without being punitive. And also, it’s easy to be permissive when your kids are strong-willed and you’re worried about maintaining attachment.

You know, I used to be permissive with my kids until I couldn’t stand them. Then I would be controlling and punitive until I couldn’t stand myself. So I’d be pampering and punitive because I didn’t know there was something in between. There’s a balance. A great example is saying, “I love you, and the answer is no.” Kind and firm. Then let kids have their feelings.

KELLY: And parents should still be there, too, “on the sidelines” so to speak?

JANE: Exactly. Children need to be able to manage their feelings when there’s a loving, supporting advocacy–that’s the benefit of Attachment Parenting. You’re providing that energy of support, that validation and foundation for allowing children to use what they’re learning.

TAF2013lovinguniquelyFor more articles about “spirited” kids, be sure to read the latest issue of Attached Family magazine, the Loving Uniquely issue, available for free download here!

 

How to Parent with Attunement and Creativity

By Brooke Campbell,  MA, Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, Registered Drama Therapist and Board Certified Trainer, founder and director of Creative Kinections LLC, www.creativekinections.com. Originally published on www.relationshipadvicecafe.com, reprinted with permission.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThis article was challenging to put into words because parenting is not easily definable. Once we accept that there are no “perfect parents” and we all are in a process of learning and discovery, we will grow alongside our children’s development.

1. Be present with your presence. Parenting is messy and involves a continual process of being present. Parenthood is an act of doing and a state of being. Being present requires us to feel our own presence. This takes courage as we navigate through the inner landscape of our strengths and shortcomings. Those challenging parts of ourselves that are difficult to accept need our full attention like a crying infant or tantrumming toddler. When we neglect or avoid doing the hard “internal” work on ourselves, areas in our home and family life suffer. If we avoid the chaos within ourselves, how can we tolerate our own child’s chaos, struggles and problems?

Our children are astute creatures and experts at reading our non-verbal cues. When we are suffering, our children empathically know and sense it. If we are not able to role model our own set of ways to peacefully problem solve and use emotional intelligence, how will they feel safe enough to show us their pain? When we are not present within our daily lives, it delivers the message to our children that we are not capable of being able to handle their struggles.

State your feelings to your child and the reasons behind the emotion in an age-appropriate way. Empathy is learned. This doesn’t mean you can emotionally burden your child or use your feelings to manipulate or victimize. Your ability to name and express feelings safely is a powerful teaching lesson for your child.

2. Do your internal homework. Children are conditioned to complete and hand in their homework for a teacher to grade. As parents, we must initiate completing our own internal homework, including asking ourselves questions like:

  • Would I want to be parented the way I parent my own child?

  • What messages (spoken or unspoken) were sent to me during childhood from my family of origin? For example, some adults I work with share that they felt neglected, not good enough, ignored, misunderstood, silenced, abused, controlled, manipulated and isolated as children.

  • How are the messages I learned from childhood shaping my role as a parent?

  • Am I parenting my child the way I was parented? If so, was this a conscious or unconscious choice?

Your responses will serve as a guide on your parenting journey.

3. Envision yourself as your child. Parenting can be frustrating. Here is one activity to use for grounding your stress. One powerful and effective drama therapy intervention I use involves “role-reversal.” When we put our agendas aside and shift our perspective by thinking and feeling as our children, we gain a powerful amount of empathy and insight. Imagining yourself as your child can provide you with specific answers about his or her worries, concerns, struggles, frustrations, needs and wants. It is then your job to tune into what makes your child tick to inform your decision-making as parents. Instead of being influenced by outside forces, such as your own parents, in-laws, neighbors, friends and parenting books, when you imagine yourself as your child you will gain confidence in knowing what is needed to shape your child’s development.

4. Practice mirroring in movement and sound to create attunement. No matter what our child’s age or stage of development, he or she will alter negative behaviors, moods and attitudes when we reflect his or her body language and speech. Consider times when we become highly in tune during conversations with people we value. We begin to model their body language, repeat similar themes and words, and we may laugh at the same time. When our gestures, thoughts and feelings are mirrored back to us, we feel validated. Our children have a deep need to be validated and witnessed by us. It’s our responsibility to do so.

5. Develop a practice of action. Our children are always in action, even when they’re still.  When we develop a practice of action, we allow moments to occur which bring our focus onto something outside of our child’s behavior and ourselves. Pass a ball, break out into song, get on the floor and play, turn the radio up, dance at home, read the book your teen is reading, play cards or your favorite board game. Even if your child’s action is slight, such as tapping a fork on the table or looking outside, take their cues so you can follow through with a seamless response.

You can also name what your child is doing and serve as a “double” for him or her. Doubling is a term that is used in the action-oriented form of psychotherapy called psychodrama, in which an individual communicates on a deeper level what the protagonist is experiencing, thus voicing the protagonist’s unspoken words. In this case, the protagonist is your child. Validate your child’s actions by naming them and the motivation behind them. Then follow up your validation by responding to the action in an intuitive way. Responding to your child’s actions could include mirroring, singing a song about the action, doing a dance inspired by the action or creating a character who would engage in your child’s same action. Be creative by taking your child’s cue to enter his or her world in order to develop a deeper sense of attunement. This shows your child you are listening, you understand him or her and you care.

6. Bring creativity and imagination to your parenting practice. Children, no matter the age or stage of development, are wired to think and behave outside of the box because of such intense levels of imagination and ability to express themselves. But they may experience periods of feeling helpless and powerless. They can’t make all decisions on their own or be fully independent. Experiences of powerlessness and helplessness have a vital need to be expressed. The expression needs a safe place to land. This may mean blowing bubbles in your house, ripping paper up to get frustrations out, or you enacting your child’s feelings in an emotionally intelligent way, such as, “I’m so mad my toy broke! Now I can’t play with it.” To foster your child’s ability to express, try enrolling yourself as a clown or a child, or gather leaves to create art. Your children will thank you because you gave them the gift of expression.

7. Break out of your patterns. Children do thrive on routine, but they also need us to break out of ours in order to witness their needs and challenges. In my ten years as a drama therapist, I have encountered parents who kept forcing their children to fit into squares when the children were clearly circles. This analogy is used to inform us that we need to break out of our patterns and ways of operating, behaving and thinking to be attuned to our children. Parenting is not about convenience. It’s about commitment to positively shaping their development. If our pattern also matches our child’s pattern of operating, then what we’re doing is working. If we are imposing our control on our child to meet our needs at the expense of our child, then we need to make some important changes and make them immediately.

8. Imagine fast-forwarding your life: Picture your children as adults. Children grow before our eyes, and I know how challenging it is to accept our child’s fast-paced development. If, for a moment, you imagine your children as adults, what kind of life do you envision them living? Do not imagine how you want them to live. Base your child’s imagined future on his or her strengths, skill set, personality and temperament. How do you picture them as adults? Do they feel competent? Are they independent? Are they happy? The information you have now about your child will guide your ability to envision your child’s potential future as an adult. If you have a strained relationship with your child now, how will that affect his or her future as an adult? You are laying the foundation for the house of your child’s life. Is your child’s foundation built on quicksand or steady ground?

9. Imagine your daughter/son wrote you a letter. If your child were to write you a letter about how he or she experiences you as a parent, what would it say? The thing is, you know the areas in the way you parent that need work–the parts that you may be ashamed of or feel out of control about. If your child wrote about your need for control, your shame, your fear, your anxiety and your rage, how would it feel to have someone know your truth? What changes would you make as a parent now to work through your parenting challenges?

10. Imagine your child becoming a parent. When your child becomes an adult, segueing into parenthood, what kind of parent will he or she become? Our children most likely will take on qualities of how we parented them, since our treatment toward our children is a learned behavior. Yes, we as humans are imperfect beings. Where can we make positive shifts in our own parenting choices to implement a strong framework for our children for when they have a family of their own?

11. Develop adaptability and accept change. One tip for parenting and for coping through life’s struggles is developing an open approach to adapting and accepting change. Parenting, like childhood, is about fluidity, flexibility and change, which also mirrors the ebb and flow of tidal waves.

Practically speaking, this means that we may need to alter our behavior, approach, communication style, actions and life choices. When children enter our lives, they metaphorically hold a mirror up to us and encourage us to change, just like they transform as they grow.

12. Take your child’s lead. Children are born innocent, curious and creative. When you accept that children have equal rights as adults, you will notice positive shifts in your parenting approach. Be curious about life, people, experiences, textures, colors, problems, seasons, etc. Activate your sense of touch, sound, sight, taste, and smell. When we jump into our child’s world of imagination and curiosity, we heal our wounded child within, and we strengthen our relationship with our child. The message here is take your child’s lead. Usually when we take our child’s lead, moments transform and negative behavior and moods shift.

 

Spotlight On: The Power of Parenting

API: Can you tell us about your book? 

The Power of Parenting is a motivational parenting book designed to help parents instill infants and children of all ages with positive beliefs, self-esteem, focus and a successful mind-set so that they can face the challenges life throws at them with confidence and a smile.power-parenting-kindle-96

For years, I have been studying motivational and self-improvement sciences. I’ve transformed my life, and through the life coaching programs I’ve developed, transformed the lives of thousands of other people around the globe, helping them to realize their potential and lead successful lives. We’ve turned our lives around, but I’ve always wondered how some young people manage to succeed so naturally and easily at an age much younger than most. I studied their cases, and after a period of deep research confirmed the idea that the building blocks for their success were instilled in their minds long before they were conscious of them. And that’s where the idea for The Power of Parenting came from. I wanted to give parents that opportunity to build strong, positive, healthy and successful beliefs in their children to give them the best possible chance of reaching their full potential and succeeding in every aspect of their lives.

API: What inspired you to write the book?

A lot of people think that self-esteem, confidence, positivity and success can’t be taught, that some people just have them and others don’t. I completely disagree. By feeding your children positive values and beliefs, you can give them the mental strength to take on any challenge life throws at them. My inspiration for this book is not just to help parents raise strong, happy, confident and successful kids, but to help the parents themselves, giving them the tools they need to turn their lives around so they and their children can grow stronger together.

API: How will this book benefit families?

What parent doesn’t dream of their children growing up to be strong, confident, happy and successful adults? I believe this book will give families the confidence to raise the kind of children who turn around and say, “Thanks, Mom and Dad, I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for you.” That’s the gift I aim to give parents.

The principles taught in The Power of Parenting are very easy to absorb because they’re written in a very fun, light and easy-to-read way. I’ve gone to great pains to explain complex techniques in the simplest possible way because I know that parents are busy, and I want them to be able to absorb and apply the information quickly and easily without having to read and reread difficult passages.

API: What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How does your book work within our mission statement?

I really admire the principles of Attachment Parenting International and believe that many of the core values expressed in my book align with those that API disseminates. I encourage positive parenting, as well as the strengthening of the parent-child relationship through shared growth and self-improvement. The Power of Parenting is primarily focused on the mental and emotional health and well-being of children, training them for success in a positive, nurturing and natural way, and in this vein aligns very closely with API’s mission statement to educate and support parents in raising secure and joyful children.

API: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A lot of what I teach in my book is quite new. I call it a revolutionary way of raising children, but really the ideas and techniques I describe have been around for centuries. If you read the works of history’s most successful people, such as Olympic athletes, billionaires and world leaders, you’ll hear them echo exactly what I teach in The Power of Parenting. With the right mind-set, positive beliefs, a strong sense of self-esteem and self-confidence, there’s no limit to what a person can achieve, so why shouldn’t we be nurturing our sons and our daughters with empowering thoughts and building them up to be the best they can be?

My aim with this book is to help parents raise confident, happy children who see possibilities where others see problems, who learn and develop talents quickly, and who grow up to face life with a winner’s mind-set.

API: Where can readers get more information about you and the book?

People can visit the website at www.bethebestparent.com.

A limited number of copies of the book are available in the API Store.

 

 

Beyond Red Ridinghood: Protecting Children From Our Pain About the World

By Tamara Brennan, Ph.D., executive director of The Sexto Sol Center for Community Action and writer at Mindful Moms Blog. Originally published on www.NationOfChange.org.

If, as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, what happens when “bad things” keep showing up to disrupt the calm in that village?  For those of us in the United States, watching the news with so many reports of war, shootings in public places, and information about policies that fly in the face of decency and fair play, well, it’s enough to ruin what inner peace we may have left despite of the hectic pace of our lives. Then it starts to rain too much in Colorado, creating yet another of the natural disasters that seem to happen all too frequently these days. As caring people, we carry an awareness of tragedy in our pockets as we go about our daily lives.    1418479_35492784

Each of these events is a part of an endless stream of bad news and tragedy. When they come out of nowhere too close to home, they shake up our sense of safety that we usually take for granted. But as we react to the news of each new shocking happening, the children in our lives are watching us, feeling our reactions and wondering what it all means about the world that they are just beginning to learn about. How we respond to their questions and fears is a test of the depth of our commitment to peacemaking.

Not everyone agrees about what information should be withheld from young children. Decades ago I was involved in informing people about the realities of the dirty wars in Central America, with their characteristic and systematic violation of human rights. On the way to a speaking engagement, I asked my speaking partner if he would consider not mentioning the details of a particularly horrendous and upsetting recent event if children were present in the audience. To my dismay he argued that the good to be gained by telling people the shocking truth about our country’s foreign policy outweighed the possible impact on a child or two.

Sure enough, there was a young girl sitting right in the front row. My partner did not censure his remarks. All I could do was watch helplessly as the child visibly recoiled with the telling. It was like witnessing desecration of holy ground. Afterwards, he and a close friend argued that children “need to know” what is really going on in the world, as if that experience somehow was ultimately for her benefit.

That is a sentiment that I have heard many times from activists, but I’ve yet to hear a compelling reason for this kind of early education about the ugly side human affairs. In a world of terrible atrocities, infuriating betrayals and devastating disasters, teaching young children about “the way things really are” goes way beyond telling them the story of Red Ridinghood and the lecherous wolf.

In order for children to develop in a healthy way, they must be allowed to have a fundamental sense that they are safe and that this is a benevolent universe. Their relative feeling of trust in the world will be the foundation on which they will build all their future experience – no small thing. The world is complicated, absolutely, but how is it beneficial to allow young children to believe that it is threatening, chaotic and loveless?

A child’s ability to comprehend the nature of life develops over nearly two decades. Being mindful that young children do not have our sophisticated ways of coping with news of tragedy, disaster, violence and danger will help us make decisions about what information we expose them to at home or while they are in school.

But let’s be honest. For politically committed and well-informed parents, there are moments when we get full to the top with feelings about the world situation. For all of us, parents or not, whenever our feelings are aroused, it takes self discipline to not blurt things out just to relieve the tension we feel or to register our outrage. If we do, the impact could hit like a careless stone hurled into the waters of the immature awareness of the children in our lives. Is that really what we want to do? After all, isn’t it for their sakes that we work for a better world?

If we are serious about creating a peaceful and sustainable world, we would not do violence to children’s precious and basic trust in life by exposing them to frightening information they can’t assimilate. It is a matter of respect then, to protect our tender children from the fear and anger we feel about the mess things are in. We would do well to face our own pain and disappointment so that we can heal the angst we have been carrying. Not only is doing so good for our families, but when we take back our power that has been trapped in fear, rage and grief, we become more effective as proactive change-makers.

Our world, more than ever, needs healthy people capable of envisioning and creating a human culture based on love and compassion. We need people who are emotionally responsive and thus able to act decisively while leading the way to higher ground with kindness.

There will be plenty of opportunity ahead for “real life” education for our children as realities become apparent to them in a more natural way without premature exposure. Our job as parents, teachers, friends and relatives is to protect them long enough to allow them to develop a healthy faith in a loving and safe world. It is their birthright to have the opportunity to develop a feeling of being empowered before the daunting challenges facing humanity make them feel overwhelmed. If we succeed in creating the conditions for their empowerment to occur, we will see them become the realization of our deepest hopes as they step into their roles as part of the shift toward a the better world we dream of.

Spotlight On: Dr. Peter Ernest Haiman

API: Tell us about how you began working with children and families.peterhaiman-small

PH: Since the early 1960s, I’ve been helping parents who have come to me with their frustrations about rearing their young children and adolescents. Although my work over the decades has primarily been with parents of infants, toddlers and preschool-age children, I started out teaching English to high school students in an inner-city school.

Most of my classes there were regular students. However, one of my English classes was made up of kids who had severe behavior problems. They were delinquents. No other teacher wanted to teach these adolescents. I wanted to do so.

In my work with them, I found that “how” they were educated made all the difference. Rather than teaching the standard English curriculum, I first found out what topics held their interest as a group. In our first class meetings, it seemed my questions to them brought out a pronounced interest in gangs and cars. I found two related paperback books. I ordered a copy for each student. During the semester, we read and discussed the content of each book in class. Skits provoked by the dilemmas in each book were enacted by groups of students in the class.

My graduate study of how young children learn best revealed that they, too, are motivated when adults first take the time to find out the individual child’s intrinsic interests and then help that child develop and elaborate their experience with that interest.

API: What does your work center around now? What services do you offer?

PH: I try to pass on to others what the research has been teaching about children and how those around them can best nourish their growth and development. For example, in my articles and work with parents I describe how research shows that behavior is usually caused by the status of underlying need states; how often it is better to educate than to teach; and how parents should learn to look through the emotional eyes of their children, not just their own.

Although parents continue to ask me for child-rearing advice, over the past twenty years parents with young children from across the country have asked for my help in divorce, child custody and visitation disputes because of several publications on the topic. Therefore, I have been an expert witness in family courts on issues that address infant and toddler attachment, brain growth and related research. I write court reports that review the empirical and clinical research on the short- and long-term effects of the above dynamics on young children. And I also help mothers become better advocates for themselves and their children during the divorce process.

API: What have parents found most useful about your work and services?

PH: The best people to answer that question are the parents who have sought my help. A few letters from them can be found in “Testimonials from Parents” on my website. In addition, I have two or three folders full of notes and letters in my file drawer that have been collected since I have been in California.

API: What are your views of Attachment Parenting and the work that API is doing?

PH: Although I am pleased that API, like other similar organizations, has an educational and support focus, I wish it would take on more of a political agenda as well. Organizations like API, if they are to have an enduring impact on our society and improve the future well-being of our young children, must join with other similar organizations like the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics, La Leche League, and other similar organizations. These organizations then, in unity, can work together to improve the way our nation treats its young children.

API: Where can people get more information about your services?

PH: People can find out more about me by reading my resume and other information on my website at www.peterhaiman.com.

Set Kids Up for Success in School

By Bill Corbett, author of the Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids book series and the founder and president of Cooperative Kids, www.CooperativeKids.com

Whether you’re reading this before your children start school or after they have started, the following guide can help you implement habits that support your child during the school year.1132275_33114655 blackboard

1. Adjust Summertime Leniencies. As school approaches or starts, set up a family meeting to discuss the rules that will change at home: bedtimes, homework, TV time, removing entertainment electronics from bedrooms, having to turn in social media devices, and friend sleepover rules  Allow your child to voice her concerns over these changes, negotiate until agreements are reached, adopt the policies, and implement them on a specified date. It’s also a good idea to document the changes and post them where all can see them as a reminder of what everyone has agreed to.

2. School Supply Shopping. Sit down with your children and determine together what supplies they are going to need for the coming school year. Take your younger children shopping and let them be in charge as they retrieve all the items on the list. Give them a set amount of money to spend to accommodate all that’s on the list. You’re the guide and the coach, so remain calm if extra items make their way into the basket. Allow your children to pay for the items at the checkout and carry the bags to the car.

3. The Work Space at Home. Collaborate with your children as to where homework will be done.  You can take turns coming up with the ideas, and if the kids suggest unreasonable locations—such as in front of the TV—allow them to be placed on the list at first. Go back through to review the list and remove any locations that are not agreeable to both of you. Collaborating with your children is a way of helping them feel respected and learn problem-solving skills, but you’re still responsible for setting healthy boundaries. Set up the space that was decided on, and help your children organize the supplies that were purchased at the store.

4. The Homework Schedule. Each child is different when it comes to doing homework, so this next exercise will require patience. Help your children individually determine when they feel that they are best able to work on homework. Some children can do it as soon as they get home, and others need a break before starting it. Coach each child into establishing his own schedule, make it clear and defined, and then document it. Your job will be to help reinforce what is decided.

5. Control of Entertainment and Distractions. If you have never previously done what I’m about to suggest, announcing it to your children could be a challenge, so remain calm and be patient. I strongly encourage you to announce a rule that any and all entertainment electronics and handheld social media devices are to remain off or be turned in to the parents during the established homework times. This new rule should be in effect on school days (Monday through Thursday), even when there is no homework, and during weekend homework time. Removing the temptation to check electronic devices during homework time can help children focus attention on the tasks at hand. I have heard many stories from parents who did not implement this rule and had their children come home after school reporting they had no homework, only to suddenly and mysteriously remember a homework assignment later that night at bedtime.

6. The Bedtime Schedule. It is not your responsibility to get your children to fall asleep. That must happen naturally, and your children are more in charge of that than you are. Your job is to create an environment and an atmosphere that is conducive to your children getting sleepy and eventually falling asleep. You can define when bedtime will occur, ensure that it happens, and remove all distractions from their bedrooms, such as video games, televisions, cell phones and computers.

7. Nutrition. Many children (and adults!) find it hard to choose broccoli over candy bars. This is where you come in as a parent. You can ensure that your children have healthy foods to eat and control and minimize the least healthy foods when possible. This means making sure that your children have healthy dinners at night and nutritious foods available to them for breakfast and in packed lunches. I have seen many families where the family dinner experience is gone and everyone fends for themselves. Even if you are not always able to eat together, you can make sure that healthy foods are available for family members to choose from.

8. Being Available. I have heard from many parents who face challenges that make it hard to implement these suggestions: single parents who work long or evening hours, families in which both parents work in another city and don’t get home before 7 p.m., families with multiple after school activities that make it hard to be home and enforce a set schedule for dinner, etc. Do the best you can to be available to ensure that agreements are upheld and, more importantly, to provide help with homework and other assistance whenever necessary. They can’t do it on their own and need you to coach and guide them.