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Welcome to the EP Parenting Blog


This is the place to read blog posts from our experts and from EP's team of dedicated Parent Bloggers, who write about their own experiences raising their children. Comment, ask questions, and share advice. If you're interested in blogging for us, please click here.
Nov
21

I remember so clearly the first minutes I spent alone with my newborn baby.   I was wheeled into the maternity room from delivery, exhausted and in pain, and he started to cry.  My initial thought was, “How am I supposed to know what he wants?  We just met!”

And even now that he’s older, when I’m finding his behavior hard to deal with, I still have moments of self-doubt.  Like many parents, I’ve asked myself:  “What is wrong with my child?  Why is he like this?  Why is he misbehaving? Why won’t he listen?  Why is he being so difficult?”  Basically, why do children do the things they do?

There is one simple answer:  They do it because it works.

Let me give you an example.  As adults, when we walk into a grocery store and buy a carton of milk, are we considered manipulative or demanding?  Is it “spoiling” us for the cashier to let us take it?  Or is it understood that that’s how we get our need for a gallon of milk met?  Well, our kids have needs, too.  And while they may not be as clear-cut as the need for a gallon of milk, they will act on their environment to get those needs met, just as adults do.

We all want many of the same things, regardless of age.  We want attention sometimes, a break other times.  To be able to get the things we want and need.  To do the things that make us feel good. To get relief from pain or discomfort.  And children sincerely want to please adults.  They want happy homes as much as we do.  But children still are learning; they are trying, sometimes desperately, to figure out how to get their needs met, including the need to please their parents.

Think of it this way.  Children are not manipulating; they are learning.  They aren’t  “bad,” “difficult,” or “manipulative” kids.  They are children who are finding it difficult to figure out what we want them to do.

Decades of research on the science of behavior has made clear that when someone (including a child) engages in a particular behavior, it is because of what they can gain or avoid.  No matter how problematic the behavior, there is something that compels it—a “payoff.”  So, there are no “bad,” “difficult,” or “manipulative” children.  There are only children who find it difficult to get what they need in other, more “positive” ways: children who find it difficult to please us.

It can help to look at your child’s behavior like a scientist would.  Scientists do not make random, stab-in-the-dark guesses; they do not try to read minds; they do not judge—they observe.  They do not blame, panic, or torture themselves; they simply observe.  So when your child is being “bad,” “difficult,” or “manipulative,” look at what is really going on.  What is driving their behavior?  What need are they trying to get met? Have they had the chance to learn another (more positive) way to get the “payoff” they are seeking?

After those first few moments with my son, a glimmer of common sense quickly took hold:  he had just met everyone.  I was still the one who knew him, and his needs, best.  And over the next few months, we figured it out, both of us together.  We are still figuring it out today.  It is still not perfect.  We are still learning.  But what has helped me so tremendously, and what I believe can help you too, is that “scientific” approach. I don’t guess randomly or automatically think that my child is “bad” when his behavior is “bad”; instead, I observe.  Every day.

 

Ann Beirne, M.A. BCBA is a mom of two, stepmom of two and creator of the Behaviormommy Parenting Program.  Find out more here.

Nov
19
Posted By:

As parents, we know that throughout their lives, our children will benefit in so many ways from well-developed reading skills.  That’s why we start teaching them when they are little, sitting and reading to our kids, pointing out words and pictures.  And young children typically experience joy when first learning to read.  But as they get older, many kids stop being readers.

As an elementary school teacher, I would often hear from parents that getting their child to pick up a book was a huge challenge.  My first question was always: “Do you read?” Unfortunately, more often than not, the reply was “no.”  As parents, we all know that each minute of the day is precious, and that the to-do list is endless.  And we also know that children mimic what the adults in their life do.  So, if you knew that it would help your child become a reader, would you make time to read?  For most of us, the answer of course is “yes.”  And the reality is that if the parent is reading, the child often will as well.

Ways to Encourage Independent Reading:

  • Incorporate a half-hour of reading time into the bedtime routine.  Set up a designated space and time when you are both reading.  When you’re reading, you’re modeling the enjoyment and value of this behavior for your child.  Remember to keep distractions to a minimum.  You’ll quickly find that reading time becomes something you both look forward to.

 

  • Take your child to the library.  If you do not have a library membership, look into getting one; oftentimes they are quite inexpensive or even free.  Make going to the library a weekly adventure.  The library provides access to a large selection of material with various mediums and topics.  Allow your child to select what they would like to read, and make sure you are browsing the collection as well.  Take advantage of any programs the library has for younger children, as it allows them to interact with their peers and makes going to the library fun.

 

  • Use periodic rewards to keep kids interested.  Build a chart using construction paper that can be posted in a visible spot.  Let your child put a sticker, or color a square, each time they complete a book. (EDITOR’S NOTE: You can download our free behavior charts by clicking here!) You can use various forms of rewards, depending on the age of your child.  Some suggestions are a special snack, a movie night, a little extra time at the playground, or maybe a friend over to play.

 

  • Have kids keep a reading journal.  In the journal, put a column for the date, the title and the amount of time spent reading.  At the end of each page, total the amount; you’ll both be amazed by the number of hours and books!  Children often would come to school to tell me they had read 10 hours this month, or finished 20 books.  It was a great accomplishment for them.

 

  • Let kids read a variety of formats and materials.  One myth that surrounds reading is that it must be a certain type of material to be considered reading.  I totally disagree with this!  Does it really matter if your child reads a catalogue, a magazine, or a novel?  I don’t think it does.  All formats can encourage them to read.  There is nothing that dictates that reading material must be the same for everyone (at home, that is!).  Encourage sampling a variety of formats, including magazines and audio books.

Reading skills infiltrate every part of life.  Encourage your children at a young age to be readers, and it will serve them their entire life.

 

Sandra Steiner is a published Inspirational author, blogger (www.steiner-style.com) and grandparent.  Sandra writes to encourage and inspire those around her to live life to its fullest.  She lives on beautiful Vancouver Island in Victoria, BC with her husband and fur babies.

Nov
17
Posted By:

A note from Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor: I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of the Empowering Parents community. Jennie Wallace is a mom of three and a writer whose articles on parenting, family and cultural issues have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple and other national publications. We were happy to learn that she’s been a fan of EP for some time. Read on to learn more, and look for Jennie’s blogs regularly in the weeks ahead. Welcome to the community, Jennie! We’re all looking forward to talking with you on EP.
Read more »

Nov
14
Posted By:

I recently came across a study that suggested it may be in a mother’s best interest to take some time away from Facebook. This may hold true for fathers as well. Numerous studies have been conducted in an effort to understand what effect, if any, Facebook and other social media sites have on our outlook and sense of well being. Social media, it appears, stresses mothers out because they feel the need to present a perfect life through status updates. In turn, Facebook has a negative effect on how we view ourselves.

There has actually been a word coined for one effect social media has on its users: “Facebook depression,” which is a lowered sense of well-being and life satisfaction correlated to Facebook use. The more you use Facebook and other social media sites, the worse you tend to feel about your life. As connected as Facebook allows us to be with family and friends, it can also increase our feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness.

There is some logic behind why it tends to be specific to social media sites, and not internet use in general. Our social media friends tend to be like-minded or people from our past, like high school and college classmates. Comparing ourselves to people who are similar or belong to our generation, and feeling like we are somehow lacking, is a lot more deleterious than not measuring up to celebrities we might come across on our Yahoo or MSN newsfeed. Those people are famous, so it makes sense that they have more and can do more than we can. We may feel a twinge of envy, but it is nowhere near what we might feel if it were someone who graduated with us.

I understand this phenomenon all too well. I have found myself reading status updates of friends and feeling like I need to do more or do it better than I have been. One friend in particular really does seem to have the perfect life with perfect children. Everyday, there are pictures posted of smiling kids as they receive some award or achieve some accomplishment, or vacations where everyone is smiling at the camera and gleefully engaged in some family activity. How is that kind of life even possible?

We took a trip to DC last year and every activity we did seemed to end with one of us in a snit about something. There were only four of us and it seemed impossible to find something everyone wanted to do at the same time. As happy as I am that my friend’s life has turned out well for her, I’m also a bit envious. I’m tempted to post a status update of my own, although I would have to stretch the truth to even come close to measuring up to how her life appears to be. Is it really as happy as it seems to be on the outside? On the other hand, could it be that she chooses to post only the positive aspects of her life because she too feels a need to measure up to some Facebook ideal?

I try not to let other people’s posts get me down. Instead, I try to focus on being happy that they are happy, and what is positive in my life.  Maybe we all need to take some time away from social media every once in a while.

What do you think? Should we take a break from social media every once in awhile to lessen stress and improve our outlook on our own life? Have you ever been tempted to post a less than truthful status update or felt “less than” as a parent in response to someone’s status update?

 

 Denise Rowden is a parent of two teens: a 17-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son.  She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from USM and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from ICF.

Nov
11
Posted By:

When a parent establishes a strong connection with a teacher early on, children quickly realize that both parent and teacher are on the same nurturing team: their team.  I have the pleasure of working with middle school children on a daily basis and see their joy and delight when their parents are involved in their schooling.  The fact of the matter is, when parents and teachers are united, they’ve created one of the most powerful partnerships a child could ever ask for.

In order for parents and teachers to be “tuned in to the same station” and successfully make this connection happen, they must being willing to focus on the best interests of the child and let go of judgments and the impulse to jump to conclusions. The most successful proactive approach for benefiting a child is getting to know the child. When both parents and teachers commit to this philosophy, a child feels cared for, loved, and better understood, which results in better behavior and school success.

When should I reach out to my child’s teacher?

Parents may be hesitant to meet a teacher, perhaps anticipating bad news or worried that their parenting will be questioned. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is waiting until a problem arises with their child’s academic performance or behavior at school to initiate contact with a teacher.  At that point, the child is oftentimes deeper into a problem than the parent realizes, and it’s harder to start a good parent-teacher relationship when the waters are already troubled.

While being in touch with the teacher when an issue is brought to your attention certainly is imperative, my advice is to be proactive.  Don’t wait until a problem comes up to begin a relationship with your child’s teacher.  The easiest way to start is by striking up a conversation with your child’s teacher at Parent-Teacher events, like an Open House. Whether it’s 20 minutes or two hours, setting aside time to meet your child’s teachers will be the best investment you make for your child this school year. Besides getting to hear what teachers have to say about your son or daughter, you’re laying the foundation for your parent-teacher relationship.  You are also indirectly communicating positive messages to your child: that you care, are aware of what’s going on at school, and that you’re not too busy for them. And kids tend to like it; they feel they can talk more openly to you about their teachers when you actually know who they are.

What should I ask my child’s teacher?

While speaking with a teacher, it is important to make the most of the time, no matter how much or how little it is. Parents sometimes discover interesting information about their child’s behavior and overall performance at school versus what they see happening at home.

I advise, first and foremost, before inquiring about how your child is learning, ask the all-important question, “How is my child doing socially?” “Is he being teased or teasing other children?” “Does she appear happy, withdrawn, outgoing?” While grades are important, they are not the only indicator of whether matters are okay at school.

We’ve seen the increasing amount of school violence over the past 15 years, and have come to understand that preventative factors include helping children feel accepted, valued and respected. One of the biggest reasons for low academic achievement and unhappiness at school is not feeling accepted socially or flat-out being bullied. Knowing if your child is feeling happy, is not in constant fear, and is doing okay socially is extremely important.  If this is not the case, these matters must be addressed.  Learning appropriate social skills helps develop a child’s self-confidence and forms who they will become as they get older and enter the workforce.

Once you’ve established how your child feels at school, and provided there is time to ask the teacher another question, I would recommend asking: “What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?  How can I be of help to my child at home?” A parent will gather a ton of useful information from asking this. You’ll find out not only what your child excels at, but also be tipped off to what he or she may be motivated to do in life and have a desire to pursue one day as a career. On the flip side, by recognizing a child’s weaknesses, parents can offer support at home to strengthen these areas.

How often should I be contacting my child’s teachers?

Once initial connection with the teacher has been made, be sure to learn the class policies, expectations and curriculum and get a good handle on your child’s school profile.  This, then, opens the door for back-and-forth conversations on an as-needed basis throughout the school year. I recommend that parents ask teachers which method of communication they prefer, email or telephone. Let the teachers know that you want to be kept informed about what is happening at school and if they see any sudden changes or incidents take place. Ultimately, establishing an open, regular means of parent-teacher communication—with the best interests of the child forefront in everyone’s mind—will only benefit your child in the long run.

 

Douglas Haddad, M.S., C.N., Ph.D. (aka “Dr. Doug”) is a public school teacher in Connecticut and has worked with children in a variety of capacities as a coach, mentor, tutor, nutritionist, and inspirational speaker. He is the regular columnist for About.com Learning Disabilities and the author of the child guidance book Save Your Kids…Now! and co-author of a health and wellness book Top Ten Tips For Tip Top Shape. He regularly speaks, writes, and blogs about self-empowering topics for parents and children including his Success Strategies for Regaining Control over Your Life…NOW! and his Happiness Formula for Achieving Anything. Visit his website at www.douglashaddad.com.

Nov
06
Posted By:

I became a grandmother in 2010, and the experience is as delightful as I thought it would be!  My grandson was welcomed into our family with great joy.  Initially, I spent as much time as I could with him and his parents. Often, they were at my house a week or two at a time.  My grandson would giggle when I walked in the room and reach up for me—priceless moments.
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Nov
04
Posted By:

As a parent, you always want to be there for your children—whether that’s congratulating them in their victories or consoling them in their defeats.  And while this is a natural tendency, this type of behavior can sometimes have unintended effects; it could even become harmful. Indeed, intervening too frequently throughout your child’s life could stifle his or her interest in trying new things or tackling new challenges.
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Oct
30
Posted By:

When you’re raising kids on your own, you are a downright super hero. Making sure everyone gets to where they need to be, with all of their equipment and paperwork and lunches and gym shoes, is absolutely a Herculean effort. Even an average Tuesday can rock the socks right off of you at times. Read more »