Posts Tagged ‘children’

Like magic, the screaming toddler is quelled

February 16, 2012

By Stacey Devlin

For more than 10 months, we fought with our three-year-old son, Tige.

Arguing, cajoling, pleading, screaming, reasoning, crying, everything –  and when all that failed, spanking. Nothing worked, and I started to think, is something wrong with me, or with him?

If you’ve ever heard of the book, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, that sums up our relationship.

In fact, I got that book and tried to find the key to making things easy, but when the answer didn’t jump out at me in the first 30 pages, I put it aside. I have little time for reading with now two little guys running around, and my desperation for an answer has left me impatient with any lengthy books on child-rearing.

Tige is beautiful, spirited, loveable, but trying.

When his little brother was born, Tige’s behavior got worse, and I found myself throwing tantrums right alongside him. After many long nights, relentless battles over dinner, clothes and manners, and prolonged frustration, I lost my patience.

I felt like I was out of control, and I was spanking him knowing that it wasn’t teaching him anything.  Frustrated, I talked with other moms at our church. They too had “spirited” kids.

Even though I desperately wanted Tige to listen, and for his behavior to improve, I didn’t want to take that spirit out of him.

One mom from church told me that of the 50 plus parenting books she’d read, the only one she really ever needed was 1, 2, 3 Magic.

I immediately got it.

1, 2, 3 Magic, Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas W. Phelan revolves around the principle that children are not little adults. They can’t be reasoned with, they’re not going to see the light when you explain something time after time, and they can’t be reasonably expected to listen the first time you ask them to do something.

It’s all part of being a kid.

And so as we learn not to fight with them like they’re adults, we see that our job is to calmly help them understand that what they’re doing is wrong.

The great thing about this book is that it is quick to read. We covered it in about 45 minutes, and were soon resolved to be a 1,2,3 team.

So far, it’s been successful. When I see Tige complying with our requests using the 1,2,3 method, it makes me feel like a better parent. It’s tough not to get emotionally involved by forcing him to comply, but when I restrain myself – which is the underlying theme of the book – I feel calmer, and I see that he’s calmer too.

I’m hardly yelling anymore, and at the time of this writing, I haven’t spanked him in two weeks. I feel great and I can tell that he does too.

We move past one small obstacle at a time – but best of all, we’re happy as a mom and kid doing it together.

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The 90’s – When Hip Hop was for real.

February 4, 2012

I’ve long been a fan of hip hop from the 1990’s, before it got crazy with guns, gangs, booty, and bling bling.

There was a time when it all about the music, the rhymes, and the dance – and I’m lucky enough to have been alive when hip hop was at its best. But I’m twice as lucky now to have a couple of lil’ players in tha house that can appreciate good beats when they hear them, as you’ll see below. Peace, I’m out.

Save tomorrow, today.

October 6, 2011

I remember some years ago, I was working a PR campaign for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Because of some unimaginably high adult drowning statistic, we were tasked with trying to come up ways to get more people to wear life jackets. At some point, during these meetings, we concluded that we would just give up trying to teach adults a common sense lesson that could save their lives, despite the stats.

So, we stopped counting beans, and we started planting seeds.

We went into schools, and took our message to the kids. In turn, the kids took the message home – and in years that followed, the drowning numbers dropped. Moreover, these children will carry that message with them throughout their whole lives.

Today, as adults – for all of us seeking change – I suggest we forget trying to enlighten Congress. Let’s give up on imploring Wall Street. Instead, let’s take our message home, to our kids, and teach them what it means to be an honest, compassionate, generous and kind citizen. And let’s teach them that it’s good to plant shade trees, even under which we know we’ll never sit.

Speak softly and carry a big heart

July 2, 2011

Six months and one day ago, as we rang in the New Year, my resolution was to refrain from raising my voice at my boys.

I gave it my best effort.

I had almost forgotten about it until two days ago when my oldest son asked me, “Dad, have you ever yelled at me?”

“Of course,” I said, trying remember the last time I actually had used volume to make a point, but I came up cold.

I really don’t remember the last time.

The resolution to speak softly has become a new habit and now, having broken the old habit of shouting, here’s what I’ve discovered.

Yelling discourages dialog. It says, “I’m louder. I’m superior. I win. The end.”

Not yelling encourages listening. Now when I speak in corrective terms, my kids listen carefully. If I tell them quietly but clearly, “if you don’t go up stairs right now and clean your room, I’m going to come up with a trash bag and clean it myself,” they know I mean it.

Yelling gives us a false assumption that we’ve actually punished. After spouting off an angry pitch at our kids, so often we take no further action toward correcting their behavior. When children are little, yelling is terrifying to them. It is enough to get them moving. But as they get older, they get desensitized to it. The problem is, we keep doing it thinking it is still effective.

Yelling is knee jerk. It’s from the place of anger, the place of irrational reaction.

Not yelling is controlled. It’s from the place of caring, the place of rational response.

Personally, I feel a lot less stress when I don’t yell. When the boys do something that would otherwise make my blood boil, I find myself thinking calmly in the gap between emotion and reaction, and asking “what is the most effective way to deal with this?”

And then I apply it.

If it doesn’t work, I try something else. But I don’t get irrational.

Yelling, I have discovered, is one of those psycho-somatic things … like smiling. If you do it, the corresponding emotion soon follows.  So even if I wasn’t mad, all it took was brief shouting session to get me there.

I know many parents who are semi-to-staunchly authoritarian. Some might think that my newer softer tone makes me a push over.

Some might even say it makes me a weak father figure.

But I would offer that any action born from anger is not controlled – and that in fact, it takes a great deal of strength to restrain our actions – especially when we are angry.

Comparatively, acting on impulse seems weak.

I’m happy I broke the yelling habit. In doing so, I’m setting a better example for my boys.

Over time, they too will understand what I now do: we don’t have to use a loud voice to make a strong point.

Teach a Kid to Argue

June 18, 2011

Via figarospeech

… let’s face it: Our culture has lost the ability to usefully disagree. Most Americans seem to avoid argument.

But this has produced passive aggression and groupthink in the office, red and blue states, and families unable to discuss things as simple as what to watch on television.

Rhetoric doesn’t turn kids into back-sassers; it makes them think about other points of view …

READ MORE

‘Bath Salts’: Evil Lurking at Your Corner Store

May 30, 2011

From time.com

“I am telling you today, first as a father and then as a doctor … kids everywhere are in danger from this substance, and the threat is legal, cheap and very deadly.” – Mehmet Oz, MD

Sold under such names as Kush Blitz, Lovey Dovey, White Lightning and Euphoria, 'bath salts' are usually marked with the warning NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION, a labeling trick that's meant to sidestep government regulation. Photo: Alexander Ho for TIME

In 2010 there were 302 calls to poison-control centers nationwide about bath salts. In just the first three months of 2011, there were 784. There were also roughly 1,500 bath-salt-related visits to emergency rooms in the first quarter of this year. A common cause of death from the drug is suicide; kids who survive often endure long-term psychiatric symptoms.

READ MORE …

Reflections on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster

March 22, 2011

A Mother’s Love
by Kumi Pinneo

– English translation from a Japan Sankei News article, March 21, 2011

[ … She doesn’t raise her voice to call his name anymore.

It has been nine days after the terrible disaster for a mother looking for her 9-year-old son, in a twisted place where his elementary school once stood.

“I know he is not alive, but he must be very cold in there – I just wanna hold him in my arms and take him out of the dark and cold place,” she said.

Her son was at school when the huge earthquake shook Japan. Few if any, especially that boy’s mother, expected a giant tsunami would eat the whole town only a few minutes later.

In those moments, all the students ran to high ground to escape. But the power of nature was bigger than any could imagine. The monster tsunami swallowed 108 students in one relentless bite.

Only 24 students survived. Many bodies are still under knots of rubble, splintered schools, homes, cars and trees. Many parents still today come to this place to look for their children’s bodies … ]

ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi Pref., Japan - Small bags near the Ooakawa School, Mar. 18, 2011, where numerous children went missing after a tsunami engulfed the building. (Japan Sankei News)

As a mother of two boys, it just hurts my heart so much to read that.

How could I face the fact if I lost them? How could I face that fact if I couldn’t find their bodies in the wreckage, knowing they are in that dark and cold place? How could I control myself?

The mother above was not crying or screaming or going crazy.
She just looked and looked and looked for her beloved son.

As a mother, I strive to protect my sons from any danger and I will do whatever it takes to keep them safe. But what if their safety is out of my control?  What if we cannot protect our children from injury or death?

What would I do?

What would I feel?

I have no idea. I can’t even imagine.

I feel for that mother in Japan so much. I really feel her – as if I was her. But I think that what I am feeling for her is not even one percent of what she is feeling.

Such as it is with earthquakes and tsunami, the power of nature is strong and often human beings have no power over it and it just happens. The Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster was no one’s fault. It just happened. It happened just as spring arrives in one’s town.

Can that mother blame someone or something? No, she can not.

What is she feeling right now? I pray that we will never know.

Let’s hug and kiss our children when they leave the house each day for school.
When they leave, let’s not forget to let them know – to make them feel – that they are so loved.
Sometimes they give us a hard time whining, fussing, ignoring us, yelling and distracting.

However we do not want to regret. We do not want to look back, at the moments that we didn’t give them hugs and kisses, and wish we had.

~ With love and respect to all the mothers in Japan who lost their children, but not their hope.

Talking to Children about Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters

March 19, 2011

By David Fassler, M.D.
Via the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
(www.aacap.org)

Once again, parents and teachers are faced with the challenge of discussing a frightening natural disaster with children. Although these may be difficult conversations, they are also important.

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to talk with children about such tragic events.

Here are some suggestions you may find helpful:

1. Create an open and supportive environment where children know they can ask questions.
At the same time, it’s best not to force children to talk about things unless and until they’re ready.

2. Give children honest answers and information. Children will usually know, or eventually find out, if you’re “making things up”. It may affect their ability to trust you or your reassurances in the future.

3. Use words and concepts children can understand. Gear your explanations to the child’s age, language, and developmental level.

4. Be prepared to repeat information and explanations several times. Some information may be hard to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may also be a way for a child to ask for reassurance.

5. Acknowledge and validate the child’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let them know that you think their questions and concerns are important and appropriate.

6. Remember that children tend to personalize situations. For example, they may worry about their own safety and the safety of immediate family members. They may also worry about friends or relatives who travel or who live far away.

7. Be reassuring, but don’t make unrealistic promises. It’s fine to let children know that they are safe in their house or in their school. But you can’t promise that there won’t be another earthquake or other natural disaster.

8. Help children find ways to express themselves. Some children may not want to talk about their thoughts, feelings, or fears. They may be more comfortable drawing pictures, playing with toys, or writing stories or poems.

9. Let children know that lots of people are helping the families affected by the most recent earthquake. It’s a good opportunity to show children that when something scary happens, there are people to help.

10. Children learn from watching their parents and teachers. They will be very interested in how you respond to world events. They also learn from listening to your conversations with other adults.

11. Don’t let children watch too much television with frightening images. The repetition of such scenes can be disturbing and confusing.

12. Children who have experienced trauma or losses in the past are particularly vulnerable to prolonged or intense reactions to news or images of natural disasters. These children may need extra support and attention.

13. Monitor for physical symptoms including head aches and stomach aches. Many children express anxiety through physical aches and pains. An increase in such symptoms without apparent medical cause may be a sign that a child is feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

14. Children who are preoccupied with questions or concerns about earthquakes or other natural disasters should be evaluated by a trained and qualified mental health professional. Other signs that a child may need additional help include: ongoing sleep disturbances, intrusive thoughts or worries, recurring fears about death, leaving parents or going to school. If these behaviors persist, ask your child’s pediatrician, family physician or school counselor to help arrange an appropriate referral.

15. Although parents and teachers may follow the news and the daily events with close scrutiny, many children just want to be children. They’d rather play ball, climb trees or go sledding

Earthquakes and other natural disasters are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, many young children feel frightened and confused. As parents, teachers and caring adults, we can best help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent and supportive manner. Fortunately, most children, even those exposed to trauma, are quite resilient. However, by creating an open environment where they feel free to ask questions, we can help them cope with stressful events and experiences, and reduce the risk of lasting emotional difficulties.

David Fassler, M.D. is a child & adolescent psychiatrist practicing in Burlington, Vermont.  He is also a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont, and a member of the Consumer Issues Committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (www.aacap.org)

A Dog’s Ten Commandments

October 24, 2010

Thanks to my pal Bill –  cop, wildlife photographer and father of three – for sending this along.

We haven’t gotten our boys a puppy yet – but with each year, it gets closer and closer. And when that day comes, I’m printing the list below, and hanging it in a central place in the house where everyone can see it daily.

As we’ve all heard and have said many times before, “having a puppy is a big responsibility: you have to feed it, walk it, potty train it, etc.”

All basic rules.

But it’s the thoughts below that make all the difference.

Thanks for the reminder, Bill.

A Dog’s Ten Commandments

1. Don’t leave me alone. My life is likely to last 10-15 years. Any separation from you is likely to be painful.
2. Give me time to understand what you want of me.
3. Place your trust in me. It is crucial for my well-being.
4. Don’t be angry with me for long and don’t lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your friends, your entertainment, but I have only you.
5. Talk to me. Even if I don’t understand your words, I do understand your voice when speaking to me.
6. Be aware that however you treat me, I will never forget it.
7. Before you hit me, before you strike me, remember that I could hurt you, and yet, I choose not to bite you.
8. Before you scold me for being lazy or uncooperative, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I’m not getting the right food, I have been in the sun too long, or my heart might be getting old or weak.
9. Please take care of me when I grow old, as you too, will grow old.
10. On the ultimate difficult journey, when my time here has come to an end, go with me please. Never say you can’t bear to watch. Don’t make me face this alone. Everything is easier if you are there with me, because I love you so.

Telling the Truth

October 12, 2010

When I was twenty two years old, I decided to read an entire set of encyclopedias. I was that guy.

I wish I could say I finished, but the truth is, I had randomly hand picked about half of them to keep in my car (yeah, I was that guy, too.) So with half in my small New York apartment, and the other half in the back of my silver Ford Escort station wagon, I just never got a good reading system going to finish the collection.

One night however, back then with a bottle of Merlot and hand-rolled cigarettes, while curled up with a hard-cover copy of A-B, I came across the name, Bobadilla, and the very interesting story accompanying it.

It was one of the first times I realized that I had been lied to in grade school. You know, deliberately speaking falsely is one thing, but in some cases, I believe intentional omission of facts is akin to lying.

And so we have Bobadilla.

The Cliff Notes version is Francisco de Bobadilla was hired by Spanish King Ferdinan and Queen Isabella to take over for good ole’ Chris Columbus across the way here in the New Land. In 1500, once Bobadilla got there (or here, rather) he confirmed reports that Columbus had been a cruel and dishonorable leader in the Americas, and was thus sent back to Spain in shackles and chains.

And while I don’t imagine anyone will rush to their dusty book shelves to read the rest of the story, they might read more online about how Christopher Columbus was arrested.

It’s insightful, especially for the generations who learned in school the story of Christopher Columbus the hero, who set out bravely in search of the New World, with his three mighty ships, The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Ma- OK, you know the plot, at least as we were told it in school.

Why do we uphold the tradition of telling our kids the sanitized versions of such historic tales, and then fail to follow up with the truth, the rest of the story, when they are older? Like the Native Americans and White Man sitting down to break bread, and be at peace, and live in harmony and be BFF’s. Oh, is that how it happened? I’m not so sure that’s the whole story.

I suppose it’s gotten better to some degree. My father’s generation was taught in school that the Red Man was nothing but a savage, beast-like man who scalped the innocent. Since then, history texts have undergone major restorations, to reflect the Native American’s naturally spiritual and peaceful ways, and the greed and plunder of their paler “visitors.”

Or on Valentine’s Day, which we learn is about love and cutting pink doilies and making cards when we are little – but then we are never set down in class at an older age and told about St. Valentine, one of many martyrs killed, for right or wrong, for what he believed in. That’s an important story, and a great lesson wasted. It’s a missed opportunity for a sixteen-year old student and a crucial question not asked: What would you defend until the end?

I just think telling our kids partial truths breeds confusion.

I’m not sure if it’s gotten better since I was in school, so I asked my six year son tonight what he learned about Christopher Columbus this year, and he said, “well, he only wanted gold and spices to get rich and someone else actually discovered America anyway.”

It’s a step in the right direction, I guess.

But it’s still a half truth, which is a gross inadequacy of our American education system.

I don’t propose to have a answer. But I have a question. How can we expect our kids to grow into responsible adults who speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, when we ourselves condone, and in some case even encourage, the glossing over of crucial points of life?

It’s a gap I hope all of us parents can shorten, together as we go.