Kids Need People Who Love Them

The most important thing children need is love. Loving your kids doesn’t just make them smarter and more confident – it even makes them healthier.

Children need both affection and structure in order to develop into secure, happy adults. So try whatever parenting styles you feel you need to try.

But remember, as long as you show your kids that you believe in them, as long as you offer them love, warmth, affection, and support, your kids are going to be just fine. 

Motivating the Unmotivated Child

Over the years, many parents have asked me why their kids aren’t motivated and what they can do about it. How can you get your child to be more motivated? To do better in school? To even go to school?

The important thing to remember is this: your child is motivated. They’re just motivated to resist you and others when they do not want to do something. The key is to learn how to turn their negative motivation into a positive one.

Lack of Motivation is a Form of Resistance

When kids won’t get out of bed, won’t do their homework or school assignments, or won’t get involved in activities, it’s important for parents to realize that there is motivation in the child. But the motivation is to resist. The motivation is to do things their way, not yours. The motivation is to retain power.

When kids feel powerless, they try to feel powerful by withholding. A child or teenager who feels very powerless will stay in bed, not go to school, avoid homework, sit on the couch, and withhold overall involvement because it gives her a sense of being in control.

To the parent, the behavior looks completely out of control. But the child sees it as the only way to have control over what’s going on around him.

You’ll see it when you ask your child a question and he doesn’t answer, but you know he heard you. What’s that all about? That’s a child withholding an answer to feel powerful. When he says, “I don’t have to answer you if I don’t want to,” you see it as a lack of motivation. He sees it as a way to win control over you.

All Kids are Motivated by Something

I want to be clear about this point: everyone is motivated. The question is, motivated to do what? If a child looks like he’s not motivated, you have to look at what he’s accomplishing and assume that this is what he’s motivated to do.

So part of the solution is getting him to be motivated to do something else. To assume that the child is unmotivated is an ineffective way of looking at it. He is motivated. He’s simply motivated to do nothing. In this case, doing nothing means resisting and holding back to exercise control over you.

Kids Resist Because They Lack Problem-Solving Skills

The child who uses resistance as a form of control lacks both social skills and problem-solving skills.

They don’t have the social skills to know how to talk to other people, how to be friendly, and how to feel comfortable with themselves. Also, they don’t have the problem-solving skills to figure out what people want from them, how to deal with other people’s behavior, and how to meet expectations and demands.

These are basic skills we all have to learn in order to be successful as adults.

If continually resisting is how a child tries to solve problems, then parents will have a hard time until they teach the child how to solve problems appropriately.

The first step in teaching kids problem-solving skills is to understand that these kids are not helpless victims. Instead, they’re simply trying to solve problems in an ineffective manner.

Don’t Argue or Fight With Your Child About Motivation

Very often these kids are motivated by the power struggle. They find different ways to have that struggle with their parents. The job of the parents, therefore, is to find other ways for the child to solve the problem that’s causing the power struggle.

But if parents don’t have those other ways then the power struggle continues with no end in sight.

If you’re fighting day after day with a kid who won’t get out of bed, you’re never going to solve that problem. Because even if he gets out of bed then he won’t brush his teeth. And even if he brushes his teeth then he won’t comb his hair. Or he won’t wear clean clothes, or he won’t do his homework.

Understand that when you yell at your child for lack of motivation, you’re giving their resisting behavior power. So don’t yell. Don’t argue. Don’t give their resisting behavior power.

I understand that parents get frustrated—that’s normal. And sometimes you will lose your calm, even when you know better.

The point I want to make here is that yelling and fighting won’t solve the problem. If you’re yelling and fighting over these issues, you’re giving him more power in the struggle, and you don’t want to do that. Here’s what to do instead.

Be Clear, Calm, and Give Consequences for Your Child’s Behavior

Make the situation clear for the child. Use “I” words. Say the following:

“I want you to get up out of bed and get ready for school.”

“I want you to do your homework now.”

Then leave the bedroom. If the kid doesn’t do it, then there should be consequences. There should be accountability.

If your child says, “I don’t care about the consequences,” ignore her. She will tell you she doesn’t care just as a way to feel in control. Or, she may not care now, but as consequences get applied consistently, she will eventually see compliance as a better alternative to consequences.

Therefore, give consequences. And don’t worry if the kid doesn’t like it. You are not your child’s friend, you’re their parent.

Related content: Unmotivated Child? 6 Ways to Get Your Child Going

By the way, if your child doesn’t get out of bed, he shouldn’t be doing anything else. He shouldn’t get to play video games. He shouldn’t spend four hours in front of the TV. If he’s too sick to go to school, he shouldn’t be going out of the house. These rules should be set and enforced consistently.

Give Effective Consequences

Understanding what is and what is not an effective consequence is critical. The right consequences actually motivate your child to good behavior. They put you back in control and teach your child how to problem-solve, giving your child the skills needed to be a successful adult.

Know that effective consequences are not punishments. Indeed, I say all the time that you can’t punish your child into behaving better.

I recommend all parents to read this article on how to give kids consequences that work. And take a look at this sample video from The Complete Guide to Consequences.

Let Your Child Experience Natural Consequences

I would always tell parents in my office that you have to have the courage to let her experience the consequences of her behavior. It takes a lot of courage for a parent to step back and say:

“Okay, you’re not going to do your homework, and you’re going to get the grades that reflect that.”

But in these cases, it can help to let the child experience the natural consequences of resistance. You don’t let the kid watch TV. You say:

“Homework time is from six to eight. And if you don’t want to do your homework during that time, that’s fine. But you can’t go on the computer, you can’t play games, and you can’t watch TV. If you choose not to do your homework, that’s your choice. And if you fail, that’s your choice too.”

Remember, natural consequences are an important part of life. That’s why we have speeding tickets. A speeding ticket is a natural consequence. If you go too fast, the policeman stops you and gives you a ticket. He doesn’t follow you home to make sure you don’t speed anymore. He lets you go. It’s your job to stop and take responsibility. If you don’t, you’re going to get another ticket fifteen minutes later.

Natural consequences help people take responsibility, and they can be used to help kids take responsibility for things like going to school, participating in class, and doing homework.

Don’t Forget to Use Rewards

Along with the plan to let her experience the natural consequences of her decisions, build in rewards for success if she does make the right decision.

For example, if my son failed a test, there was no punishment. But if he passed, there was a reward. It was very simple. We rewarded A’s and B’s. We didn’t take anything away for C, we just didn’t reward it.

So my son eventually strived to have A’s all the time. So with kids who resist, it’s important to have a rewards system as well as a consequence system.

Be Patient and Persistent

Calmly and consistently using effective consequences is your fastest and best way to get your child motivated. Just be patient and persistent as consequences do their job and your child begins to learn better problem-solving skills. And know that the vast majority of kids come around and get motivated once they are held accountable in a meaningful way.

Related content: Motivating Underachievers: 9 Steps to Take When Your Child Says “I Don’t Care”

Source: Empowering Parents

What if You’re Not the Only One Having Trouble Functioning?

Yes, most people feel guilty about the way they’re coping during the pandemic.

Before reading the rest of this post, please complete the following quiz to assess your level of functioning during this pandemic. Keep track of how many times you answer “yes” to the following items.

Since the pandemic started, have you had multiple episodes in which you:

  • Planned productive activities that you haven’t been able to get yourself to start or complete?
  • Had trouble feeling motivated or energetic enough to plan productive activities?
  • Attempted to do something productive but had trouble focusing?
  • Had trouble sleeping and/or getting up in the morning? (And/or taken long naps during the day?)
  • Spent several hours passively watching TV, surfing the internet, or doing other things just to pass time?
  • Eaten more food than you’d like and/or less-healthy food than you’d like?
  • Experienced feelings of loneliness, anxiety, panic, depression, boredom, irritation, and/or numbness?
  • Felt anxious, guilty, or upset about experiencing these emotions, especially since so many people are in worse situations than you are? (Or felt guilty whenever you felt happy, since so many people are suffering?)
  • Felt anxious, guilty, and/or frustrated with yourself because you know (or at least assume) that you’re having episodes when you’re not coping as well as most people are?
  • Felt like you should be handling things better than you are?

——————————————

Thanks for taking the quiz. Now for the scoring. Give yourself one point for every “yes” answer.

If your total number of “yes” answers falls in the range of 2 to 11, that means that … you are handling this crisis much like most people are handling it. And if you answered “yes” to fewer than 2 of the questions, then…  I suspect you may be some sort of lab-altered superhuman destined to fight crime. (Sorry to break it to you in a Psychology Today post.)

I don’t mean to make light of the situation. I know that people are struggling. I’ve talked to dozens of people about their reactions to this crisis. Some have continued working (from home or otherwise), and others have lost jobs. Some are stable financially; others cannot pay rent. Some live alone; others live with families. Some are dealing with illness; others are the picture of health. However, regardless of circumstances, I’ve noticed one common factor:

Almost everyone has episodes when they feel like they should be handling things better than they are.

Of note is that some of these people have posted messages on social media about how much they have accomplished and how grateful they are for the extra time at home. Others initially responded to inquiries by saying that they were doing well… and only later admitted to having difficulty.

 

Most of us know that (newsflash!) people’s social media posts or answers in social situations don’t always reflect their full lives. And yet, we are so bombarded with positively skewed social media and conversations, as well as ubiquitous articles about how to use this time productively, that it can be easy to believe that everyone else is responding much more adaptively than we are—and then feel impatient and frustrated with ourselves as a result.

What’s more, many people also judge themselves based on what they would expect to accomplish during a standard vacation from work or break from social activities.

Newsflash #2: Your extra time at home during the pandemic is not a vacation or a break.

Nothing about this time is standard. The world has suddenly morphed into a dystopian sci-fi film, and nobody knows exactly how or when it will be resolved. Everyone is experiencing a tremendous amount of stress and other difficult emotions, and almost everyone is having at least some trouble functioning.

Expecting yourself to act as if the extra free time were a nice gift is just not realistic.

However, people tend to hold unrealistic expectations about how they should be functioning during this surreal time, and then become critical and frustrated with themselves when they don’t meet those expectations. Ironically, many people think that this self-criticism and frustration is beneficial, as they think these reactions will motivate them to “improve” their behavior.

Reality is actually the opposite.

Harsh self-criticism and judgments just lead to increased stress and additional negative emotions (such as shame, hopelessness, and despair). If a person already has trouble functioning with their current levels of stress and negative emotions, that person is going to have even more trouble functioning once the stress and negative emotions increase.

In other words, your self-critical reactions can become a vicious cycle. The more you judge yourself for not functioning up to your expectations, the more difficulty you will have functioning at all. And so on.

So what’s the solution? I’m not advocating giving up all goals and just floating through the rest of this pandemic with no effort. Instead, I encourage you to:

1. Work to modify your expectations based on these unprecedented circumstances.

a. There’s not only one “right” way to cope during this time. On some days, a realistic expectation might simply be just to survive one more day.

2. Work to be patient and compassionate with yourself when you do have trouble functioning. Remind yourself that:

a. Almost everyone is having at least some difficulty coping at the moment.

b. Criticizing and judging yourself will only increase the stress and negative emotions, which will leave you feeling less motivated and even less able to function adaptively.

c. The way you’re functioning in this unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime situation is not predictive of how you will function once the pandemic subsides.

It’s not going to be easy, and (surprise, surprise) all of your guilt and self-criticism won’t suddenly disappear. But I urge you to at least consider working on the above.

One important point: I don’t want to minimize the fact that some people’s situations are more dire than others’, often through no fault of their own. However, as unfair as that is, it still doesn’t change the facts that a) almost everyone is having at least some trouble dealing with the current crisis, and b) judging oneself based on some unrealistic ideal of the “correct” way to function will just increase the stress and impede the ability to function.

My next post will discuss potential strategies for coping during this crisis. Foreshadowing: None of the strategies are the “right” or “best” way to cope for everyone, and none will make your stress disappear. (You won’t turn into a lab-altered superhuman.)

In summary of this post: If you have difficulty letting go of your self-judgments, just ask yourself:

What is your goal during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Is your goal to be tough on yourself while increasing your stress and decreasing your perceived ability to function? Or is your goal to get through the crisis as effectively as possible, even if it means that you may experience some bumps (or mountains) along the way?

If the latter, then remember:

♦ Working to be patient and compassionate toward yourself does not mean that you need to give up all expectations or stop working toward goals.

♦ Instead, it means that you will likely be more effective—and less stressed—if you:

• remind yourself that the world is in the middle of an unprecedented event,

• remind yourself that most people are having at least some trouble functioning, and

• give yourself some leeway when you don’t achieve what you expect to achieve or feel what you expect to feel. You’re not the only one.

 

Source: Psychology today

How to help children through the COVID-19 crisis

As the world works to contain the spread of COVID-19, parents and caregivers are having to juggle the needs of children who are home from school while often working to financially support their families. This pandemic is unprecedented in its scale and reach and it is dominating the news and the dinner table as families adapt to new information and safety measures. The changes we’re experiencing can be especially stressful for the young people in our lives.

1. Be aware of common reactions to crisis

Each child is unique in how he or she responds to frightening events. Some children may become more quiet or withdrawn, while others may become irritable or act out to get more attention. Many kids will begin acting younger by sucking their thumb or clinging to parents. It’s important to remember that these are all normal reactions to times of uncertainty and to respond in a calm and caring way.

2. Be prepared to deal with fears and worries

Common childhood fears may intensify after a crisis. Kids are often more afraid of the dark and being alone. Sleep problems and physical symptoms such as stomachaches and headaches become more frequent, especially for younger children who cannot verbalize their feelings. You can help children soothe themselves by reading stories, playing gentle music, giving back rubs and serving comfort foods. They need to be reassured with both words and hugs.

3. Create a sense of safety

Because children will feel vulnerable and overwhelmed, it’s important to initially focus on being protective and offering them physical comforts — blankets, favorite foods, calming activities — to restore their sense of security. Spending extra time together as a family is a refuge to kids in times of uncertainty.

4. Limit exposure to news

Don’t rely on the news to give your child the information they’re looking for. Sounds and images from news reports are often too vivid for children and make them internalize the trauma even more. It’s important to clarify their confusion and give honest answers, but stick to the basic facts and follow up with the reassurance that their safety is the most important thing to you.

5. Take time to listen

Make sure children have the opportunity to express their feelings and concerns. Asking open-ended questions (“What news did you hear? How do you feel? Do you have any questions?”) allows them to identify their needs. Actively listen without correcting or minimizing their emotions and follow up with clear statements of reassurance.

6. Encourage writing and drawing about the experience

Some kids may not feel like talking, so provide other ways for them to express themselves. Writing and drawing pictures can help kids deal with what’s troubling them. Use these as an opportunity to remind them that it’s okay to feel the way they do; you can help by continuing to listen and accepting where they are emotionally throughout the healing process.

7. Remember to play

Play is every child’s natural form of communicating and processing events. Kids can tell stories about what they’ve heard and how they feel, even if they don’t fully comprehend it. It’s also a healthy distraction from difficult circumstances and provides an outlet to relieve pent-up energy and stress.

8. Model healthy coping skills

Your kids will look to you not only for reassurance, but how to deal with their own complicated emotions. Allow yourself enough private time to process what you’re going through so you have the resources to be there for them. But don’t feel like you need to hide signs of distress all the time — should your children see you get upset, you can be an example by telling them that you may be feeling sad right now, but you have ways to help yourself feel better soon.

9. Monitor behavior over time

While it is normal for children’s behavior to change in response to crisis, symptoms of stress can become problematic if they linger. Simply keep an eye on changes in their sleeping, eating, playing, studying and socializing; if there are no improvements over time, reach out to a professional for help.

10. Inspire a positive response

Kids need to rediscover a sense of personal empowerment and resilience after an event very much out of their control. Help them direct their feelings constructively and consider what they can do to help others. One way kids can help is through supporting local and global organizations providing relief during this crisis. . Having them write a card, or volunteer along with family not only gives them something positive to focus on, but sets the tone for giving back through anything life brings.

We hope these tips are helpful as you and your children navigate this stressful time and adapt to our new normal during the COVID-19 crisis.

What to say instead of ‘You’re Okay’

Have you ever considered how conventional parenting advice, like saying “you’re okay” or putting your kids in time-out can actually hurt your relationship with your kids?

We know babies cry. But what if, while we are trying to keep our babies from crying, we’re actually harming our relationship with them?

Here’s what we say to our kids that can start to make them feel insecure in their relationship with us: “You’re okay.”

What’s wrong with this simple statement?

They don’t know what it means. They don’t think they’re okay. We’re telling them something they don’t understand, or believe.

Are they okay? Yes, of course they are. But when we tell them that, we’re telling them how to feel in that situation — when it’s not up to us. They need to understand what’s happening with their emotions, but they can’t understand if we don’t explain it properly.

Let’s put this concept into perspective. How would you feel if you just hurt yourself and can’t control what you’re feeling right now? You’re probably scared. And then someone you depend on tells you you’re okay, when you know for a fact that you’re not okay? You might even be labeled “bad” because you’re expressing yourself. Do you feel safe with that person? Do you believe them? Do you know how to express yourself around them the next time you feel that way?

What should we do in these situations? Show them empathy by putting yourself in your kid’s shoes: “I can see you’re upset, I wouldn’t like it if I fell down either. I’ll bet it hurts. I would be scared if I fell, too.” Here’s another example: “I know you’re sad that I’m leaving right now and you don’t want me to leave you with Grandma. You’re scared because you don’t know when you’ll see me again. I’ll be back soon, and I love you.”

Your kid will likely still be upset. But as they get older and feel understood, they’ll calm down quicker. There is an energy that comes from you that they will recognize, and know that they are okay because they’ll understand that you know what they’re feeling. They’ll feel safe to express themselves with you.

When you make a habit of showing your child empathy, you’ll build trust and connection in your relationship. They’ll start to recognize that it’s safe for them to feel the way they do, and that it’s safe for them to have a range of emotions. You’re also building the foundation of trust for when they start to have tantrums or break rules. When they trust you, they’ll be much more likely to regulate their emotions, so tantrums and rule breaking won’t happen as frequently and they won’t last as long.

Have you noticed how your kid responds to empathy versus you telling them they’re okay?

What Is Reasonable To Expect From Your Child During The Summer?

There are many schools of thought on summertime learning activities for kids. What should be required, expected, or hoped for when it comes to academic learning? This all varies depending on your child’s age, level of performance relative to their grade level, desire for advancement, and I believe a very important consideration – level of stress and burn out from the school year.

Is summer learning necessary?

Most people would agree that there are certain skills that, especially when they are newly acquired or still being developed, need to be continued on a regular basis so that they are mastered – firmly placed into long-term memory. For example, a student that learned their times tables during the year will want to practice them to some degree during the summer months so they are not forgotten. Of course, with the heavy use of calculators I think all people need occasional brushing up on their math facts! Or what if your child is truly behind grade level? Here I would first request that the teacher be involved in helping you set a reasonable expectation for advancement. You don’t want to add pressure to “catch up” beyond what is realistic since the added stress will likely REDUCE the amount of learning that actually will take place.

If you are going to require your child do summer learning, I would suggest that you ask the teacher to provide you with resources and guidance so that the learning goal is S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound). Then you can decide if outside tutoring or support is necessary.

Getting your child’s “buy in”

While children are still in the early years of grade school, it is a lot easier to choose and direct what they will spend their time doing. However, as children reach the tween and teen years they are much more cognizant of what their peers are doing and the work that is “required” by school verses parents. If you are going to require that your child do summertime learning activities it is very important that they feel good about doing the work. Creating motivation is of course crucial if you want this to be a positive experience. As I have mentioned previously (Motivation – How Can We Help Kids Find it?), motivation requires AutonomyMastery and Purpose.

Regardless of your child’s age or grade, make sure they understand why they are doing the activities, what choice if any they have in crafting when and how the work will be done, and what benefit they will derive from having done the work. A solid discussion with your child where you are allow them to express their concerns, questions, and desires will go a long way if done well in advance of the actual starting date. I am not opposed to offering a small reward or treat for them to participate in added summer learning as this may take the sting away!

Great summer learning opportunities

Typing
First and foremost, if your child is NOT very proficient in his/her keyboarding skills (QWERTY ten-finger typing) summer is a great time to learn this vital skill. Many students with ADHD have poor handwriting skills, making it challenging for them to write legibly at a quick pace. Also, many benefit by being able to use a word processor to organize their thoughts and manage their written work. Most children are developmentally capable of learning to type by 2nd or 3rd grade. There are many programs that only require a few minutes a day and the skills can be mastered within a two-month time period.

Learn a graphic organizing program
For many children with ADHD and Executive Function deficits, the writing process could be quite daunting. A good graphic organizing program can help students by giving them the structure and format to outline their work that is very easy to use. Programs like Inspiration (www.Inspiration.com offers a free 30 day trial) allow students to get their thoughts down on paper and then worry about organizing spelling and grammar afterwards. Once they learn how to use this program it is also excellent to use for annotating during reading and taking notes during class.

Time Management
Even though during the summer your child may not have many tasks or assignments to manage, this is a good time to introduce an overall approach to improve their skills for when they need them. One of the best techniques I’ve ever found to help people manage their time is the Pomodoro technique. Business executives and students use this technique to make sure that they not only plan our their work more efficiently, but also deepen their focus and concentration while they are doing the work. Read What I Learned About Time Management from Running and a Tomato for a basic explanation of this method. You might start using it yourself to get through some of your tasks as well!

Multiplication Tables
Whether your child is currently learning his math facts or still struggling to remember 7 x 6, summer is a great time to nail these facts down. A great tool I like is Times Tales. This lesson booklet contains a creative, innovative mnemonic-based program that makes it fun and easy to memorize the upper multiplication facts. Each number is a character (ex. 8 is a snowman) and there are short stories with graphics that include the fact and answer, making the learning fun and multi-sensory. For those interested, I have them available for sale in my office.

Summer Reading
Most students are assigned a book or two to read over the summer. While of course having your child actually read the book cover to cover is preferable, if you have a reluctant reader you may want to help the process along a little so at least they can gain value in properly doing the accompanying assignment or participating in the discussion once school begins again. Agreeing to share in the reading is one way to bond and help your child complete the book. Another option is to get the book through a program like Learning Ally. This is a service that, for a yearly fee, has a vast catalog of audio books that are recorded by individuals (as opposed to a computer generated voice). They have novels, textbooks, and magazines. This way they can listen to some or all of the book while they are moving around – a great way to keep the mind alert for some! It’s also great for during the year if the content material is too much volume for your child to read independently even though they are academically capable of absorbing the material.