When Siblings Won’t Stop Fighting

Sibling fights seem to erupt more frequently and virulently when ADHD is in the mix. During quarantine, you can guard your family’s wellbeing and your kids’ relationship by squashing squabbles before they start and teaching emotional control, with help from this expert advice. 

All children need four things: your ear, your empathy, your acknowledgment, and special time alone with you. This is how they feel supported and valued by the family. 

In children with ADHD, hyperactivity and lack of impulse control can trigger even more annoying and problematic behaviors such as persistent interrupting, yelling, poking, badgering, and not playing fair, for example. This may be driving everyone in your household nuts at a time when you could really use a break yourself. Siblings often bear the brunt of this behavior. 

Here are some ideas for reducing conflict as a team. 

#1. Give voice to your neurotypical child. 

Giving them a voice and validating their experience can minimize bad feelings. Every day or two, check in with your neurotypical child. Ask them how they’re feeling or what’s bothering them. Attending to their discomfort and allowing them to acknowledge unpleasant feelings helps diminish their stress. It also lets them know they are cared about and noticed, even in their role as the cooperative sibling. 

It also gives you the opportunity to learn what’s hard for them and reassure the child that you love and care about them. 

Always be ready to acknowledge acts of kindness. Saying “thanks for being patient with your brother today” fuels their desire to be helpful and lets them know you are on the same team. 

#2. Avoid activities that usually lead to conflict. 

Suggest some collaborative, rather than competitive, activities they can participate in together such as baking or working on a LEGO project. Ask for their ideas about what would be fun to do together. 

If they do decide to engage in play that may be challenging, anticipate sticky moments in advance and troubleshoot resolutions with each child. You can say for example, “If you play basketball with your brother, what will lead to an argument?” 

#3. Teach kids how to express their feelings rather than become their feelings. 

Emotional regulation can be a struggle for kids with ADHD, so language is important. Ask them to assign a number to their anger (from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest). If they say it’s a 6, ask them what they can do to get their anger to a 4. You can provide solutions like time apart to cool off, a snack break, or a round or two of jumping jacks. Let them know they’ll have to go to their rooms unless they can get their anger under control. 

Create a reward system around this to incentivize the kids and encourage them to continue practicing self-control. I work with a family that puts a marble into a jar every time the child uses the thinking part of the brain to get back in charge. Once the jar is filled up, the child is rewarded with a special toy or activity. 

#4. If your child with ADHD is medicated, consider a temporary adjustment during lock down. 

Everyone’s schedules are different now and a lot of medicines — especially stimulants — are designed to last through the school day. After about 3 p.m., and without after-school activities or sports to take the edge off, sibling battles tend to escalate as the day wears on. 

We’re all starting to suffer from quarantine fatigue, but it won’t last forever. Navigating your family through rough waters requires parental leadership. Strive to anticipate the conflict and avoid it before it erupts into fighting. Also strive to hear and acknowledge difficult emotions, while teaching your child how to practice using their thinking brain to wrest control away from the anger. This is their chance to learn emotional control in a safe and rewarding environment. 

If there’s a silver lining in this pandemic, it’s that spending more time together is an opportunity to practice self-control and experience new ways to play more contentedly together. 

Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.   

More articles on www.MrMizrahi.blog 

How to Get a Hyperactive Toddler to Sleep

It’s after midnight and your hyperactive toddler isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. You close your eyes and wonder how you will ever get to sleep if he refuses to go to bed. Knowing your friends’ kids have already been asleep for hours makes it more difficult to cope. Having a hyperactive toddler can be stressful; however, knowing that you can take steps to help him get to sleep can significantly reduce your stress level. 

Designate a bedtime for your toddler. Put her to bed at the same time every night to establish a routine. 

Give your toddler a bath one hour before the appointed bedtime. This will help relax him and will signal that the bedtime routine has begun. 

Encourage your toddler to take part in quiet-time activities such as cuddling or reading a favorite book together. Make this a nightly activity that occurs right after the bath so she understands that bedtime is approaching. 

Put your toddler to bed, turn on some soft music and leave the room. Do not return unless there is an emergency. Follow the same routine every night, until he accepts it. 

Find a special song or poem that you and your toddler can recite each night just as you leave the bedroom. It will establish that the day has ended and it will provide security for your little one. 

Do not deviate from the routine until your toddler has accepted it completely. The first few nights will be rough because the routine is new. Refuse to give in, refuse to deviate from the steps, and your toddler will accept the routine and begin looking forward to the special bath and reading time she has with her parent each night before going to sleep. 

Learn How to Break the Ignore-Nag-Punish-Yell Cycle

There are good ways to discipline a child with ADHD. Nagging, yelling, and punishing are not among them. 

Parenting a child with ADHD can challenge a parent’s patience — and good judgment. Just like all kids sometimes make bad choices regarding their own behavior, parents can make bad decisions disciplining this misbehavior. Instead of using firm and compassionate approaches, parents of kids with ADHD are often driven into the ignore-nag-yell-punish cycle. Sound familiar? Try these child discipline strategies to break that cycle once and for all. 

💟 Do: Get Involved, Quickly 

Quickly move people or objects to prevent bad behavior. For example, if your children start quarreling over a toy, you might say, “Alex, sit over there. Maria, stand here. I’ll take this and put it up here.” Similarly, if your child comes in from outside for supper and refuses to wash his hands before eating, immediately take his plate off the table and silently point to his hands. 

💟 Don’t: Ignore Your Child’s Misbehavior 

You should respond to your child’s behavior, when it’s good and bad. Otherwise, your child may read your silence as “I won’t give you my attention or concern” or even “I reject you.” She might also assume that your silence means you approve of what she is doing — even when you don’t. 

💟 Do: Be Brief 

Keep your words to a minimum when disciplining. Some of the best parenting advice that can be given is summed up in the following statement: The fewer words you use to discipline your child with ADHD, the more effective (and heard) they will be. Tell your child once, very clearly, what you expect of him. Then stop talking. 

💟Don’t: Be a Chatterbox 

It’s important that you don’t go on and on about what your child is doing wrong. Words are like tires: Each time they rotate against the pavement, they lose tread, and become less efficient at starting, stopping, and steering. Eventually, they will have no “traction” at all — as tires will eventually become bald. 

💟 Do: Keep Calm 

Don’t let your own anger get the best of you. Tell yourself that you won’t open your mouth until you’re calm enough to speak at a normal volume and in a cordial tone. To calm down, spend a few minutes alone — something as simple as excusing yourself to get a glass of water may do the trick. 

💟 Don’t: Shout 

Try not to bark orders like a drill sergeant. Yelling shows a child that you, the almighty parent, have lost control. Shouting also opens up the door to your child to return the favor and to yell back. 

💟 Do: Punish Fairly 

Use appropriate punishment when responding to a misbehavior. The consequence for spilling milk might be that your child cleans up the mess, and then pours another glass and sets it in a safer place on the table. No reason to blame or yell at him, or even withhold food from him. 

💟 Don’t: Overdo It 

It’s important that you don’t go overboard with punishment. In most cases, harsh punishments, like spanking, encourage children with ADHD to become sneaky so as not to get caught next time. They may even cause your child to doubt your love for him — something you want to avoid at all costs. 

Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.   

More articles on www.MrMizrahi.blog 

Conference in Morroco

Last week, I gave a conference at @mazaganbeachresort about Executive Functions.
By popular demand, I gave a second lecture on the next day. Both lectures provided parents with the understanding of Executive Functions and its impact on our daily experience as parents. I also presented various strategies to enhance its development by using the ABC approach (Antecedent, Behavior and Consequences).

It was a pleasure to visit such a beautiful country. I want to thank @sarahtours_koshertrip for inviting me to speak.

I will give a private conference next week in Englewood, NJ.

Stay tuned for more dates. .

Improve Working Memory

Notepad...Working memory is the ability to keep things in mind while performing an activity. It helps in remembering while you are in the process of learning. It involves the maintenance of information in mind so that an individual can use it for planning, learning, reasoning, and producing a result. Working memory helps to hold a thought or long-term memory in mind so you can act more efficiently in the present moment. For example, working memory might involve shutting off a television and remembering to gather one’s coat and backpack before leaving a friend’s house. Improve working memory by following our recommendations below.

Home and School Situations Requiring Working Memory

  • Taking notes in class
  • Recalling plans made or an assignment due date
  • Remembering the rules to a game or sport while playing
  • Following multi-step directions at both school and at home
  • Doing math computations in one’s head
  • Recalling answers to reading comprehension questions
  • Remembering a list of chores, items, or tasks

Hints and Strategies to Improve Working Memory

1. Simplify directions as much as possible. Your child will be more likely to recall short, simple, and direct instructions. For example, saying, “When you finish those two math worksheets, you can watch one episode of ‘Adventure Time’,” is much more direct than saying “When you finish your homework you can watch some TV.”

2. Encourage your child to seek assistance from others. Emphasize to your child that it is acceptable to ask the teacher to repeat instructions or to ask a classmate to borrow their notes. Role-play these scenarios at home so that your child will feel comfortable when the situation arises.

3. Find a mode of technology that is helpful to your child. For example, use a tape recorder to record notes or directions, or a cell-phone to program in reminders and scheduling changes. Digital picture frames can show a sequence of activities that are easily forgotten, such as eating breakfast, putting dishes away, and washing up.

4. Practice verbal memory like rehearsal, chunking, or mnemonic devices. Help your child to rehearse by whispering directions or lists to him/herself. Also, practice chunking devices that can help your child to whittle down two-step instructions to one, such as brushing her teeth and washing her face together. Mnemonic devices can be especially helpful, such as how ROY G BIV is often used to recall the colors of the rainbow in order.

5. Practice reading comprehension. Read the same material as your child and then have a brief discussion about it. This may help to increase your child’s focus and stretch their memory as an active component of working memory skills.

6. Showcase your own working memory difficulties by dramatizing your strategies to compensate for them. Many adults report difficulties with working memory in simple tasks such as remembering what they meant to do when they went into the kitchen or leaving the house and forgetting something important. Use compensatory strategies such as making notes, using Post-its, asking someone else to give a reminder, or doing something immediately when it comes to mind. Exaggerating and dramatizing your strategies for compensating your own working memory difficulties may be helpful for a child who has similar difficulties.

7. Select video games for your child that require the use of working memory skills.Brain training games, such as “Mind Quiz” and “Brain Age 2,” require the use of working memory skills and visual memory tasks. Other longer narrative games, such as “The Legend of Zelda” series, require the player to keep in mind incidents and objects from earlier in the game in order to be successful in strategies on later levels. Most importantly, try and get your child to recognize how memory skills can help in games and encourage your child to try out different strategies. These strategies can include the following: visualizing what (s)he needs to remember, over-learning math facts so that they become automatic, and repeating things out loud. These strategies may help your child in a number of memory tasks.

Games and Activities That Can Practice Working Memory

Playing board games – Most board games require players to use working memory to recall rules, remember whose turn it is, and relate the spin or roll to the appropriate move. Asking your child to help you remember what happens next in the game will even further improve this working memory activity.

Grocery shopping trip – Ask your child to help you keep track of the next three or four items you have to find. Have your child count them as you find each one.

“Memory” – This card game challenges players to match pairs of cards by turning them over two at a time while they are face down, allowing your child to practice his working memory skills.

“I packed my suitcase” Game – Players in this game have to picture and remember an increasing list of items. One child starts by saying, “I packed my suitcase and in it I put a toothbrush.” The next player repeats that phrase and then adds another item. This game can continue for as long as the players enjoy adding more items, and remember what came before what they’re about to say next.

“Big Brain Academy” – This game requires your child to keep facts in mind in order to successfully play the game.

Source can be found here.

What are Executive Functions?

 

Executive function is like the CEO of the brain. It’s in charge of making sure things get done. When kids have issues with executive functioning, any task that requires planning, organization, memory, time management and flexible thinking becomes a challenge. The more you know about the challenges, the better you’ll be able to help your child build her executive skills and manage the difficulties.

How Can I Help My Kids Develop Better Social Skills?

Today, I wanted to share with you a great article I found on LifeHacker which talks about how you can help your kids develop better social skills:

“… Your children’s social development will be a critical part of their success and happiness as they get older—even more important than their academic skills or intelligence. (Also, no one wants to be that parent who’s raised “Mean Girls”-like bullies.) You have a chance now to greatly influence your kids’ social intelligence and teach them things even we awkward adults are still perfecting, like how to build friendships and deal with rejection. They’re important lessons we all keep learning, and the sooner we start, the better.

The Social Skills All Kids Need to Learn

It seems like some kids (or people of any age) are more naturally socially adept than others—you know, the kind of people others gravitate to and for whom making friends comes easily. Don’t worry if your children don’t fit that mold or aren’t winning any popularity contests. Like any other skill, social skills can be learned, and, besides that, “being social” or outgoing isn’t the end goal in itself.

What is important, however, is that kids are able to form meaningful bonds with others, can empathize and interact with others appropriately, and have the skills to adapt in uncomfortable situations. Unfortunately, as the University of Memphis points out:

Many students do not know how to handle interpersonal social situations that involve following directions, holding a proper conversation, listening, giving compliments, proper behavior during transition times, teasing, bullying, or just “hanging out” with friends.

Those are basic skills we want all kids to be able to have. Depending on your children’s ages, they might also need more specific social skills.

Skills for Preschool and Elementary School Kids

Vanderbilt University found the top 10 social skills kids need to succeed in school, based on surveys of 8,000 elementary teachers and two decades of classroom research, are:

  • Listen to others
  • Follow the steps
  • Follow the rules
  • Ignore distractions
  • Ask for help
  • Take turns when you talk
  • Get along with others
  • Stay calm with others
  • Be responsible for your behavior
  • Do nice things for others

These might seem like social skills promoted just to turn out “nice girls and boys” who earn the “gets along with others” check on their report cards, but they’re fundamental behaviors that help kids succeed (not just survive) in a world that emphasizes social norms. The goal isn’t just to make them cooperative, but to hone their social GPS so they can both advocate for themselves and care for others. (Heck, we probably all know a few adults who could stand to learn many of these skills too.)

Social Skills for Pre-Teens and Teens

Older kids, in middle school and high school, have more complex social skills to learn, thanks to growing peer pressure and that simply awkward period called adolescence. It’s a time when they’re becoming more independent, but everyone’s forming cliques; when they’re making big decisions about who they are and what they want to be, but also might start to care a bit too much about what others think.

  • Set personal goals
  • Identify and change self-defeating behaviors
  • Be assertive about his or her needs
  • Have feelings for others
  • Handle anger constructively
  • Resolve conflicts peacefully

It’s easy to say a toddler should learn how to follow directions or a young adult should know how to be assertive; it’s another to know how to best help them do that. So let’s look at a few strategies.

Model Social Skills

The first place we learn social skills, of course, is at home, and what we do as parents is more important than what we say. As All I Really Needed to Learn in Kindergarten author Robert Fulghum says, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

Modeling positive social skills includes showing confidence ourselves when we relate to others, being friendly to strangers, offering to help others, and also treating our kids with respect (no matter how much they might be pulling at our last straw). Dr. Laura Markham writes on Aha! Parenting:

Teach your child that people are important. All parents have to choose their battles, so put up with messiness and dawdling if you must, but teach your child consideration for others. Model it for him early on, praise it, help him brainstorm to solve peer problems, and don’t let your child intentionally or unintentionally disrespect another person. It you can’t confront it as it happens without embarrassing your child, be sure to talk about it later. As kids get older, you may need to be very explicit about insisting that they acknowledge adults in their presence, as well as other kids. Often preteens and young adolescents need to be reminded of this, and to be given coaching on how to handle interactions that feel awkward to them.

The funny thing about being a parent is it forces you out of your shell and can help you become a better person through analyzing your own behaviors and attitudes. In a great article summarizing research on children’s social skills, Auburn University professors Jacquelyn Mize and Ellen Abell write:

Parents of these socially competent children endorse interpretations of social events that encourage resilient, constructive attitudes (Mize, Pettit, Lindsey, & Laird, 1993). Rather than making a statement such as, “That’s a really mean kid!” they may say something like, “Gosh, maybe he’s having a hard day.” They make constructive attributions such as, “Sometimes kids just want to play by themselves,” rather than expressing a sentiment like, ‘They’re not very nice if they won’t let you play.” These parents avoid defeatist comments such as “Maybe they don’t like you,” and offer instead suggestions like, “Maybe they don’t want to play that, but there might be something else they think is fun.” Such positive, constructive statements encourage children to take an optimistic view of others and themselves as play partners. They reflect an upbeat, resilient attitude toward social setbacks and the belief that social situations can be improved with effort and positive behavior.

Don’t Label Shy Kids

If your kids are naturally shy or feel insecure, try not to label them as such or try to force them out of their shyness. Instead, if your child is socially anxious, Dr. Markham recommends empathy and a problem-solving approach:

Don’t label your child as shy. Instead, acknowledge his feelings and point out that he can overcome his fears. For instance, “Sometimes it takes you awhile to warm up in a new situation. Remember Billy’s birthday party, how you held my hand all through the games? But by the end, you were having lots of fun with the other kids.”

Teach your child effective strategies for dealing with shyness. The general rule of thumb is to accept the nervousness that comes up as a part of normal life that affects most people, reassure yourself that you’re ok anyway, and focus on others rather than yourself. For instance, remind your child that she doesn’t have to be interesting, just interested, and teach her to ask other kids questions and listen to their answers. Brainstorm with her how she might handle a situation that makes her nervous.

Another reason not to label young people as shy is it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I was told I was shy as a child, when really I think I was just naturally quiet and introverted. Having that label, though, led to me feeling tense and anxious during social situations—true shyness, which often starts out as a reinforced habit.

Give Plenty of Opportunities to Practice Social Behaviors

Kids learn social skills first from you, but then to a large degree from their peers. The more chances kids have to interact with others, the better.

That means supporting and encouraging kids’ friendships—even if it means you become Dad Taxi Service or have to spend playdate time, as Louis CK laments, with kids and parents you couldn’t care less about.

Kids also will learn crucial skills from simply playing with you. According to Dr. Mize and Dr. Abell, the research suggests that children whose parents frequently play with them have more advanced social skills and get along better with their peers. It’s especially true if you play with them on their level, following their lead and in a “peer-like” way:

Children benefit from this type of play for several reasons. From balanced, responsive play with a parent, children may learn many of the skills commonly displayed by the socially competent preschoolers described earlier. In addition, when parents are responsive to children’s play ideas, children may come to feel that they are good, effective play partners and thus are eager to play with peers. Finally, fun, balanced parent-child play may instill that positive outlook toward others that makes children look forward to play opportunities with people outside the family.

Parenting Science has a few social skill activities you can do with your kids (school-aged and teens) based on research—and they’re actually fun games like charades.

Relax

All that said, chances are your kids are learning positive social skills the way most of us do, simply as we go along and through trial and error. Don’t worry or try to intervene too much unless there are serious signs of social trouble (for example, if your kid’s teacher warns of discipline problems). Most kids are insensitive (or even unkind) or socially clumsy sometimes.

Here are some signs that your child might need more social coaching(from you and/or teachers):

  • Lacks at least one or two close mutual friends
  • Has trouble losing or winning gracefully
  • Doesn’t show empathy when others are hurt or rejected
  • Acts bossy or insists on own way a lot
  • Can’t seem to start or maintain a conversation
  • Uses a louder voice than most children
  • Seems constantly ignored or victimized by other children or constantly teases or annoys other children

In those cases, you’ll want to take a more active approach to helping your kids with their “interpersonal skills.” Otherwise, just keep playing with your kids, being a model of social grace, and helping them build their relationships.