Every Child is Different

Every child is different. Children develop differently, have different personalities, possess different strengths and require different kinds of support to meet their individual needs. While their developmental pathways may differ, most pass a set of predictable milestones along the way. It is normal for children to experience developmental spurts and slow spots in different areas of their development over time. If your child is a little ahead or a little behind at a certain age – this is normal. Most of the time, given the right nurturing and stimulation, all children will catch up in the end. 

All children have different strengths and vulnerabilities. Some are good at sport, others in music. Some are very academic and others are not. Some are highly anxious and others are more relaxed. Some children are good sleepers and others wake up through the night for years. 

The task of parenting is a constantly changing one as the growing needs and abilities of our children change over time. There is no ‘one-size fits all’ way to parent. What works for one child may not work for another. What worked when children were two years old may not work when they are four. 

Adaptability and flexibility are key ingredients to parenting. 

Why Special Time is Encouraging

One of the most encouraging things parents can do for their children is to spend regular, scheduled special time with them. You may already spend lots of time with your children. However, there is a difference between have to time, casual time, and scheduled special time. 

There are several reasons why special time is so encouraging: 

  1. Children feel a sense of connection when they can count on a special time with you. They feel that they are important to you. This decreases their need to misbehave as a mistaken way to find belonging and significance.  
  1. Scheduled special time is a reminder to you about why you had children in the first place—to enjoy them.  
  1. When you are busy and your children want your attention, it is easier for them to accept that you don’t have time when you say, “Honey, I can’t right now, but I sure am looking forward to our special time at 4:30.” 
  1. Plan the special time with your children. Brainstorm a list of things you would like to do together during your special time. When first brainstorming your list, don’t evaluate or eliminate. Later you can look at your list together and categorize. If some things cost too much money, put them on a list of things to save money for. If the list contains things that take longer than the 10 to 30 minutes you have scheduled for the special time, put these items on a list that can be put on a calendar for longer family fun times. 

What Makes A Better Parent

NO ONE is born a parent; we all learn as we go. We are forever learning and adjusting. When we learn and know better, we do better. 

Here are some commitments that will make you a better parent: 

1. Commit to taking care of yourself and staying centered. 

Commit to taking care of yourself and staying centered so you can be the happy, patient, encouraging parent your child deserves.  

2. Commit to staying connected. 

Separation happens. That’s why we have to repeatedly reconnect. Remember that quality time is about connection, not teaching, so it’s mostly unstructured. Hug your child first thing every morning and when you say goodbye. When you’re reunited later in the day, spend fifteen minutes solely focused on your child.  

4. Commit to role modeling respect. 

Want to raise kids who are considerate and respectful, right through the teen years? Take a deep breath, and speak to them respectfully. Not always easy when you’re angry, so remember the cardinal rules of managing your emotions with kids: You’re the role model, don’t take it personally, and this too shall pass! 

5. Commit to looking for the needs behind your child’s behavior. 

Your kid has a reason for whatever he’s doing that displeases you. It might not be what you consider a good reason, but it’s what’s motivating his behavior. If yelling at him about his behavior was going to change it, that would have worked already. Only by addressing the underlying need do we change a person’s behavior. Parents who address kids’ need pre-emptively by noticing problem areas (“Hmm…. looks like she wants to choose her own clothes, even if they don’t match!”) are rewarded with kids who cooperate. 

6. Commit to guidance rather than punishment. 

Kids only behave to please us. When we constantly criticize and discipline, they harden their hearts to us. Parents who lead by a loving example, address needs rather than focusing on misbehavior, redirect pre-emptively rather than punish. 

7. Commit to remembering what’s important and an attitude of gratitude. 

Stay positive and choose your battles. Every negative interaction with your child uses up valuable of the relationship capital. Focus on what matters. 

Effective Ways to Teach Kids Respect

How can you teach your kids to be respectful? Both respectful to you and to other kids and adults? 
 
The answer is that YOU have to model the respect. 

You can make a few simple tweaks to the way you interact with your children that will ENCOURAGE a mutually respectful relationship. 

When you make an intentional effort to model a respectful attitude for your children, they are more likely to mimic it. The idea is that children deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. 

Here are Effective Ways to Teach Kids Respect:  

1. Stay calm and don’t overreact when you “think” your child is being disrespectful  

To teach respect, first, we need to stay calm and stay in control. Identify if this is a real “disrespect” situation, a misunderstanding or simply because the child hasn’t learned the proper response in such situation. 

2. Identify the cause for disrespect and focus on teaching problem-solving alternatives 

When genuinely being disrespected, we should pay attention to the circumstance instead of going off on the child, “You are being disrespectful!”  

Ask your child why he or she is acting that way. 

3. Model how to be respectful by respecting your kids first 

What better way to teach a behavior than modeling the behavior you want to teach? Show them how to respect by respecting them. Just treat your child as a person in the same way you treat other grownups. 

When children’s differences are accepted, they feel heard and respected. They see first-hand how to treat others who have different opinions. They learn that they should respect people despite their differences. This understanding and tolerance for differences will become especially important when the teenage years come. 

4. Use kind and firm discipline to teach, not to punish 

Discipline means to teach or to train, not to punish. It doesn’t have to be punitive. In fact, studies have shown that positive discipline is a lot more effective and longer-lasting than punitive strategies. 

If we discipline using a menacing or stern tone when our kids have done something wrong, we are showing them how to be cruel and harsh to those who make mistakes. 

5. Give respect to earn respect 

Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Parents spend so much effort, time and money to care for their little ones. Their entire lives changed and started to revolve around their children the moment they were born. It is only natural that we expect kids to respect their parents. 

But little children don’t understand all this. And to be fair, they didn’t ask us to do all this! We ourselves decided to take on these responsibilities. 

When You’re Kids Don’t Listen

Staying calm means when our kids don’t listen, we walk away before we start yelling. It means we take a breath and count to ten before responding. 
 
It means we choose not to fight fire with fire. ⁠ 
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Keeping calm cools our heads while allowing us to parent intentionally and strategically. ⁠ 
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Instead of driving ourselves nuts reminding and nagging our kids to get their work done, we can use THESE Parenting strategies 

1. Change the way you view your child’s behavior. 

The way you view your child’s behavior will influence the effect it has on you. Understanding child development can help you to see your child’s behavior in a less negative light. 

Parents often say “he’s winding me up” or “she knows how to press my buttons”. If you believe your child is deliberately seeking to upset you, then their behavior is bound to infuriate you! 

Let go of the idea that your infant or toddler is scheming about how to drive you crazy; this kind of manipulation is developmentally impossible as it requires a child to be able to understand that other people have beliefs and intentions different from his or her own – in developmental psychology this is called “theory of mind”. 

This relatively advanced type of thought process does not develop until around age three or four years. 

Try to view your toddler for what he is; a little person enjoying his new found ability to move around and explore, with huge curiosity, the fascinating world around him. Remember that the little person causing such havoc simply can’t understand that his actions affect other people, has not developed the ability for self-control so will act on impulse. He also has no sense of time, so will just not be able to wait. 

If you have an older child whom you feel is deliberately winding you up, try to look at why he or she may be behaving like this. Perhaps that child has learnt that pushing you to the edge is the only way to get what he or she wants? Make sure your child gets attention for all the positive behaviors you want to see more of. 

2. Reduce stressful moments 

If you can reduce the chances of melt-downs, tension and conflict in the first place there will be fewer chances of you reaching explosion point. Be aware that children will readily absorb the emotional climate around them; if you’re wound up they will be too. 

Use clear, brief, simple commands and keep your tone polite, calm but firm. Children will pick up on any hints of stress, wavering or anger in your voice and this may make them more agitated or more persistent. 

Avoid sarcasm (“Great, I just love clearing up your mess!”), threats (“If you don’t hurry up, I’ll go without you”), labelling (“you’re so selfish”) or criticism (“you’re taking forever, you’re always lazy”) when speaking to your child. In the short term these kinds of comments will upset and provoke your child and in the long term they may cause a damaging erosion of his or her self-esteem. 

Parents are often aware of the importance of praising good behavior, but feel resentful about dishing out compliments to the little terror who’s causing so much grief. Set yourself small goals e.g. initially aim to praise just four good things a day, then gradually increase this. The more you praise, the more good behavior you’ll see so this should be fairly easy! 

Agree on a set of house rules and consequences – write these down and post them somewhere obvious. If you have a pre-agreed plan, your children know where they stand, and you’re less likely to react hastily in the heat of the moment. 

Set aside weekly relaxation time – this is not a luxury for you but a necessity. This may be a massage, a nice walk, listening to music or just a relaxing bath. Set up a babysitting circle with a group of friends if you are struggling with childcare. 

3. How to cope if close to snapping 

Reacting in anger often leads to rash decisions and sometimes aggressive responses such as shouting, smacking or hastily imposing extreme discipline. The result is that you’re left feeling guilty and your child is left feeling upset and anxious. It’s fine to feel angry but it’s important to not let it control you. 

Tune into your body and learn to recognize early warning signs that you’re getting annoyed such as heart racing, feeling shaky or getting sweaty. 

Whenever you notice your body’s angry warning signs kicking in, stop what you are doing and try to look objectively at what has wound you up. This will help you to feel more in control. 

State your feelings, without attacking. Use ‘when…then’: “When you call me names, I get upset”. 

Now is not a good time to get into a debate. Show willingness to resolve things but just not now – “We can talk about this tomorrow over breakfast, but right now I’m feeling too wound up”. 

If your child is safe, take time out, saying “I need some time to cool down”. Remove yourself from the situation. 

Take deep breaths; in through your nose and out through your mouth, trying to slow your breath as much as possible. 

Try clenching your hands tightly as you breathe in then releasing them as you breathe out. This will turn down your body’s fight-flight response and will make you feel calmer. 

If it’s hard to leave your child, use distraction techniques (counting, reciting song lyrics or a poem in your head) to stop yourself from reacting rashly. Use positive self-talk – say to yourself “I’m doing the best I can” or “Keep calm!” 

Displace your anger by whatever means works for you – vacuuming, singing along to a favorite song, doing exercise. 

Some parents find it useful to keep a journal to jot down how they feel after angry outbursts. This is a useful way to vent your emotion and also may be helpful in revealing any recurrent patterns in you and your child’s behaviors. 

If you find you are regularly losing control of your anger and it feels like nothing is helping, you may benefit from seeking some professional support and advice. 

10 Important Life Lessons Children Teach Us

From the moment that our children come into our lives, we know that it’s our responsibility to guide and teach them. As newly formed little humans, they have a lot to discover and learn. And as their parents, we are the tour guides who help them figure out this world. 

But, as their parents, we are so busy rearing, educating, and helping them to navigate the world that we often don’t realize that they are teaching us. So, what do they teach us? 

10 Important Life Lessons Children Teach Us: 

  1. To Be Curious: Children ask questions, peek into cupboards, and push buttons. It’s important as adults to remember that being inquisitive is how we learn. And there is always more to learn. 
  1. To Find Joy in the Simple Pleasures: A perfectly timed burp. Sliding down a water slide. Children appreciate the simple pleasures because they don’t have unrealistic expectations. They understand that joy can be found anywhere. As adults, we must remember to keep seeking the simple pleasures. 
  1. To Accept: Children don’t judge. They don’t see color, faults or flaws; they see the potential for a new friend. Tolerance is a lesson none of us should forget. 
  1. To Express Our Emotions: Children scream when they’re mad. Squeal when they’re happy. Wail when they’re sad. As adults, it’s good to remember that it’s much better for our soul to let it out than to keep it bottled in. 
  1. To Live in the Moment: Children never stop playing cars because they must meet their self-imposed deadline to color. Instead little ones stay present when they feel joy. So, sip your coffee—the laundry can wait an hour. Live in the now, it makes life more enjoyable. 
  1. To Be Passionate: A craft, a car, or a dollhouse can keep a child entertained, enthralled and busy for hours or even days. When a child discovers a new activity, he or she embraces it with love and excitement. Children put their whole selves into the endeavor. As adults, we need to remember to not temper our passion but rather embrace it—it’s how greatness is achieved. 
  1. To Savor the Sweet Moments: Playing in the bath, tumbling across the floor or nestling in our arms are just a few of the sweet moments children never rush. They don’t stop or pull away to sweep, or take a call. Their pure delight living in the moment teaches us that now are the good old days. 
  1. To Not Limit Ourselves: A firefighter, the president, a space cowboy. Children believe they can be anything because they don’t limit themselves. It’s not their perceived flaws and shortcomings that dictate their dreams but rather their interests and passions. So, the next time you think you can’t, remember that you can. 
  1. To Be Fearless: Children jump, climb, and tumble. They taste, try, and run headlong into new experiences. It’s a good reminder to adults that being bold and daring makes for the best memories and a much more interesting life. 
  1. To Indulge, Savor and Enjoy: Children don’t scarf down their food. They don’t turn away dessert. They welcome and enjoy the things and moments that bring them joy. Adults should always bear in mind that indulging in and savoring the sweet things in life is what makes life sweet. 

Encourage Honesty In Your Kids

Lying isn’t always done with ulterior motives. Keeping in mind the reasons why kids lie, we can create an environment where they feel safe telling the truth.  

The following seven tips can help you make your home a more honest place. 

1. Keep calm and parent on. 

Watch how you respond to misbehavior and mistakes in your home, whether it’s spilled juice on the carpet or unfinished chores. 

If your kids worry about being yelled at or punished when they mess up, they won’t want to come to you with the truth. 

Focus on using a calm voice – yes, it can be tough, but it’s possible. That doesn’t mean kids are off the hook for lying. But instead of getting angry and assigning blame, discuss solutions to the problem with your child. 

2. Don’t set up a lie. 

If you can see piles of laundry on your daughter’s floor, don’t ask her if she’s cleaned up her room yet. 

When we ask questions to which we already know the answer, we’re giving our children the opportunity to tell a lie. Instead, emphasize ways to address the situation. If you know Evan hasn’t touched his homework, ask him, “What are your plans for finishing your homework?” 

Instead of “Where did all this mud come from?” ask, “What can we do to clean this up and make sure it doesn’t happen next time?” 

This can help head off a power struggle and allows your child to save face by focusing on a plan of action instead of fabricating an excuse. 

It also teaches a lesson of what they can do next time – sitting down with homework right after school or taking off their shoes in the mudroom instead of the living room – to avoid problems. 

3. Get the whole truth. 

While we may want to put our child on the spot when we catch them in a lie, accusing or blaming them will only make things worse. 

Getting to the root of the problem and understanding why she couldn’t be honest with you will help you encourage your child to tell the truth in the future. 

Open up a conversation gently, saying, “that sounds like a story to me. You must be worried about something and afraid to tell the truth. Let’s talk about that. What would help you be honest?” 

You can use the information you glean to help her be more truthful in the future. 

4. Celebrate honesty. 

Even if you’re upset that there’s a sea of water on the bathroom floor because your daughter tried to give her dolls a bath in the sink, commend her for coming to you and telling the truth. 

Tell her, “I really appreciate you telling me what really happened. That must have been difficult for you, but I really appreciate you telling the truth and taking responsibility.” 

5. Delight in do-overs. 

Think of mistakes as a way to learn how to make better choices. When we stay calm and avoid yelling or punishing our kids for mistakes, our kids will be more likely to admit their slip-ups in the future. 

Turn the mistake into a learning opportunity. 

Ask, “If you could have a do-over, what would you do differently?” and brainstorm different ideas. If someone else was affected – maybe he broke his sister’s scooter – ask what he can do to make it right with the other party. 

6. Show the love. 

Let your kids know you love them unconditionally, even when they make mistakes. 

Make sure they know that while you don’t like their poor behavior, you will never love them any less because of the mistakes they might make. This helps your kids feel safe opening up to you. 

7. Walk the talk. 

Remember that your kids are always looking to you and learning from your actions. 

Those little white lies we tell, whether it’s to get out of dog sitting for the neighbors or helping with the school fundraiser, aren’t harmless – they’re showing your kids that it’s okay to lie. 

What To Do When You’re Feeling Anxious

We always want what’s best for our kids. However, when dealing with children who are chronically anxious, it’s a bit more challenging. It will be absolutely disheartening to cause them even the teensiest bit of suffering, right?

Here are a few tips for helping our kiddos when they’re anxious:

🗑 HELP THEM CLEAN UP THEIR SPACE.

Rearranging spaces can help keep them occupied and feel productive.

🧍🏾‍♂️🧍🏾‍♀️TELL THEM TO STAND UP STRAIGHT.

Many of us take this for granted, but posture plays a major role in improving one’s mood and esteem. Simply standing up straight may help your kids feel better about themselves.

📝 ENCOURAGE THEM TO KEEP A JOURNAL.

This works both for your kids and for you as well. Sometimes, there’s so much going on in our heads that we can’t put them into words. Putting them in writing can help you and your kids gain control over your emotions.

🕯 LIGHT A CANDLE UP.

Just the sight of a candle flame helps us get into a meditative state. What more if the candles we use are scented? Some amazing scents to choose from that can help relax both the body and the mind are lavender, orange, lemon, peppermint, frankincense, and sandalwood. Just remember to keep it out of reach of your little ones and to blow out any candles that may be left unattended.

📱 PUT THE PHONES ASIDE AND CONNECT.

This works for both parents and children. Set your phones aside for a few minutes and TALK. It will help reduce anxiety and serve as a bonding moment as well.

🎨 Art by @justgirlproject

Do Away With Don’t

Don’t be late. Don’t run in the house! Don’t tease your sister. DON’T RUN IN THE HOUSE! 
 
If you were to keep track, how many times a day you find yourself uttering the dreaded four-letter word of childhood: DON’T? 
 
A simple change in the language, can make a BIG difference in communication with your child. 

     Let’s start by understanding 3 reasons why “don’t” often doesn’t work: 

  1. “No” and “don’t” get discouraging, fast. Imagine having someone in your life – a boss or a spouse, for example – who began the majority of their communication with you using those words. 

It wouldn’t take long to feel downright crummy about yourself, and our kids are no exception. It goes without saying that we want our kids to have a positive self-image, and we need to make sure our language reflects that. 

  1. Negative commands are confusing. Negative commands, such as “don’t” and “no” require a double mental process: our kids first must understand what not to do, and then figure out what they’re supposed to do instead. We unknowingly make things more confusing and reduce the likelihood of actually getting their cooperation. 
  1. It reinforces the negative behavior. If I were to say to you “don’t touch your face,” one of the first things you’ll think to do is, ironically, to touch your face. 

Our children are again hardwired the same way. Our well intentioned “don’t bother your brother while he’s studying” instead inspires our kids to keep their sibling from completing his homework. 

It will take some work, but make it your mission to limit the “DON’T” in your household. You’ll be surprised at how much the shift will change the dynamics in your home! 

Encouragement vs. Praise: Why The Differentiation Matters?

Parents should focus on empowering their kids, and the best tool for the job isn’t praise; it’s Encouragement. Encouragement is essential to building a child’s confidence and self-esteem. 

With Encouragement, you focus your words on the positive action, behavior, or improvement you’d like to promote, rather than on the result. 

Encouragement is a more empowering way of providing positive feedback to kids. Essentially, it helps them replicate the skills they need to achieve a similar result in the future. 

While praise isn’t a material possession like cash, a new toy, or even ice cream, it offers the same quick hit of satisfaction. Although it feels really good to receive, the effects of praise don’t necessarily last long and are even weakened over time. 

When it comes to giving our kids a pat on the back, a quick “good job” or “you’re a rockstar” just doesn’t cut it. Unlike superfluous praise, Encouragement goes much deeper. It motivates a child internally to demonstrate positive behavior and to value things like hard work, improvement, teamwork, and perseverance. 

Here are Some Words of Encouragement for Your Child’s Development:  

  1. Recognize and foster continual growth and effort. 
  1. Lessen the chance of comparisons or competition. 
  1. Foster independence with the understanding that intrinsic abilities can achieve needs and wants. 
  1. Emphasize on effort, progress, and improvement, rather than focusing on results. 
  1. Recognize contribution rather than completion, or quality over quantity. 
  1. Promote perseverance, rather than giving up, if initial results aren’t as good as expected.  
  1. Inspire self-concept, as opposed to comparisons. 
  1. Offer preparation for real-world challenges, where simply showing up won’t earn recognition. 
  1. Build determination and confidence, e.g., “I have the ability to do many things if I work hard,” as opposed to building false self-esteem, e.g., “I am so smart. I can do anything.” 
  1. Inspire self-sufficiency. 

6 Ways to Show Faith in Your Child

Have you ever wondered why it is a good idea to have faith in your children? How else will they learn to have faith in themselves? Of course, it is important to show your faith with actions. The fundamental actions to show faith in your children are avoidance actions such as avoiding over-parenting, rescuing, fixing, reminding (lecturing). 

Here are 6 ways your kids know you believe in them. 

1. Give them responsibility early and often. 

It doesn’t matter how old your child is, there’s something he or she can do to help. Not just chores to keep him or her busy, but responsibilities the family counts on and that demonstrate you believe he or she can contribute. 

2. Hold them accountable (no free pass). 

One message a consequence gives is the belief a child can do better. Not disciplining, or avoiding accountability, gives a clear signal that the parents don’t believe in the child anymore. 

3. Demonstrate trust. 

Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. If you say you believe in your daughter, let her make that decision you’re worried about. Then allow her to experience the consequence with your care and support. Trust must be offered according to age-appropriate boundaries and with respect to safety. But be generous with your trust. 

4. Avoid legalism. 

The letter of the law tends to narrow in the absence of belief. Too many nit-picky rules stifle the growth of conscience as well as squash belief. 

5. Brag on them in public. 

Don’t be shy to make sure your children know you believe in them. Don’t make stuff up, but be generous in your praise and don’t leave any room for doubt. Often the balance is tipped by the confidence we give our children…or fail to give. So don’t be guilty of being that parent who is always sucking the air out of your children’s sense of self. One of the best places to do this is at an All Pro Dad’s Day. Each month chapters of dads and kids meet at schools and one of the activities is the dads get to share publicly why they are proud of their kids. Check to see if there is a chapter in your area or look into starting one. 

6. Don’t over help. 

This is huge. Parents who swoop in to fix everything before anything can go wrong are telling kids loud and clear that they don’t believe in them to begin with. 

Believe in your children and they will climb mountains! ⛰️⛰️

Empowering Your Children

When you become a parent, a light inside is awakened, and you are charged with the responsibility of illuminating the path for your children until they are old enough to hold the light for themselves. 

We overpower children by letting them know that we know what is best for them. We empower our children by asking questions that will make them look inside themselves. 
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Asking questions such as: 
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Can you tell me more about that? 
How did that make you feel? 
What do you think we can do about this? 
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These are questions you should ask your children at least once a day. This gives them the ability to stay in touch with their inner Self. They learn how to listen to their inner voice, their inner wisdom and make choices. 

Here are some ways you can build resiliency in your kids, strengthen your relationship, and provide your children with the coping skills they need to manage their lives. 

  1. Listen without advising. When children come to you with a conflict or a problem, instead of trying to fix, advise, or counsel – listen for the pain and unmet needs. 
  1. Reflect without judgment. Instead of making excuses, solving problems, or distracting children from their feelings, reflect on what you hear without evaluation, assumption, or interpretation. 
  1. Guide without control. Once you know what children are feeling and needing, your instinct might be to direct them towards a solution, but you will be much more influential if you can shine a strong and steady light to help them develop the capacity for self-reflection. Instead of engaging as a boss or authority figure, connect with the intention to lead your children to their own solutions. 
  1. Problem-solve without contempt. It is not always easy to hold the space for solutions to emerge. It’s much easier to tell children what to do and how to do it, and then nag them until they get it right. This is parenting from fear and breeds contempt when children don’t do what you ask.