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Well, as they say, better late than never. Two columns ago, I promised to share my “fail-safe, money-back guaranteed formula for getting kids to eat everything on their plates.” Then, as if I was in my 60s or something, I forgot and wrote a column about kids who argue constantly with their parents. Consider this my mea culpa or, as the young say, “My bad.”
Yes, it is possible to get kids to eat everything on their plates — spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, you name it. Why, in the American Southeast, it is common for toddlers to eat livermush. Compared to livermush, broccoli is like ice cream (to me, anyway). Nonetheless, a kid who scarfs down livermush will refuse broccoli.
Why do so many of today’s kids have picky palates? Some people with capital letters after their names say it’s because their taste buds send weird signals to their brains when they eat certain foods. That explanation cannot be verified; therefore, it is a theory, and a bad one at that. So what if something initially tastes weird? When I was a kid, I thought spinach tasted weird. I ate it anyway and learned to love it. My parents didn’t give me a choice. That’s the real reason kids have picky palates — parents give choices.
Since the parenting revolution of the 1960s, experts have been encouraging parents to give children choices. And so today’s parents complain about children who argue with them about “everything.” They also complain that their kids won’t eat what’s put on their plates. “My child won’t eat anything but (some form of junk food).” Here’s the simple, tested, certified, three-step plan:
1. Fix the picky eater what you want him to eat for breakfast and lunch. If he does not eat it, wrap it or toss it. Do not allow him to snack between meals, even if he’s eaten nothing all day. You have to stop wanting him to eat. He will live, I assure you. My lawyer said I could tell you that.
2. Prepare the evening meal with no consideration of said picky eater’s food preferences. On his plate, put one level teaspoon of each food, as in one teaspoon of roast beef, one teaspoon of mashed potatoes with a few drops of gravy (“He loves mashed potatoes and gravy!”) and one teaspoon of broccoli. The rule then becomes: When the child has eaten everything on his plate, he may have seconds of anything, and the second helping of whatever — in this case, mashed potatoes and gravy — can be as large as his eyes are big.
3. It will take a week or so and much complaining and maybe even pitiful wailing in the interim, but he will eventually begin eating the green, weird-tasting thing. At that point, begin slowly increasing the portion size of the green thing, but do not increase the portion of the thing(s) he loves. Keep them at one teaspoon. Within a month, he will be eating a regular-size portion of foods his palate would not accept previously, upon which you can begin increasing the portion size of things he loves but not past the point where he can eat his favorite things and not be hungry.
Voila! The key to the success of this fail-safe formula — the variable that makes it fail-safe — is that the child’s parents do not sit at the table encouraging him to “just try” the food he hates. They must act completely nonchalant. If need be, they can feed him and then sit down to a pleasant meal. What a concept!
In today’s commercial society kids are bombarded with “buy me” messages. Parents, trying to live frugally, are faced with their child’s demands for expensive toys and clothes. In addition, many parents feel the pressure to keep up with other parents who buy their children everything and may even feel shame for not being able to do the same for their children. The reality is that you can give your child “wishes” even though you can’t or choose not to give them all their “wants”:
Wants List is a parenting tool that keeps a lid on children’s endless list of wants. A child’s want of a new bike, toy, or clothes item is, in itself, not wrong. Everyone has things they would like to have. But when these wants get out of control, parents need to limit their children’s excessive cravings. The demand for things often increases between the ages of 7 to 10. This is due developmentally to the cognitive changes in a child that allows them to be more aware of other circumstances that are different from their own. The result is often alot of comparisons between what one does and does not have compared to other children.
One way of dealing with these demands is to ignore them. Viewing a child’s wants as a cognitive exercise of comparisons and not feeling the need to respond to these cravings is one way that parents can cope with a child’s wants. Another way of dealing with a child’s wants is to make a family “want list.” This tool allows wants to be expressed openly without any feeling by the parent to fulfill them all. Whenever a child states that they simply “must have the hot, new computer game” or the “colorful, new doll” have the child write the thing on the want list and place it where everyone can see it, like on the refrigerator. Instead of reacting to a child’s demands, the parent can redirect the child to “Go, write it down on the want list.” Parents can put things down on the want list too. This demonstrates that parents often make do without things they want as well. Use the want list as next years birthday or Christmas list but don’t be surprised if the child no longer wants those items anymore.
Wishes are a parenting talk tool that acknowledges children’s wants without giving into their demands. Everyone has needs, wants, and desires. For example, hunger is a need, a turkey sandwich is a want, and a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings is a desire. Let’s face it, most parents cannot give their child all of their wants all of the time. Even if they could, it would probably be a bad idea. Unfortunately, children may have to settle for getting a need filled instead of a want or a desire. Using the food example, the child may have to settle for the turkey sandwich or whatever leftovers are left in the refrigerator instead of the full turkey dinner.
Wishes are unique in that they acknowledge a child’s desires as healthy and valid even when they can not have them. For example, a child who desires to have a pair of two hundred-dollar tennis shoes may have to settle for a less expensive pair. When children realize they cannot have the expensive shoes they often sulk, tantrum, or become verbally abusive to their parent who “never does anything nice for them.” To avoid this power struggle, parents can state, “Wow! Those are great looking shoes. And wouldn’t it really impress your friends when you show up at school with those shoes. I bet you could jump at least 8 feet straight up in the air with those shoes. But unfortunately I only can afford those shoes over there. Which one of those shoes would you like?” Another example would be in the situation where a parent and a child are on a trip and the child begins whining for something to drink and nothing is available for miles. The parents might use this tool to fantasize what it would be like to drink a tall, cold, thirst-quenching, sparkling, glass of soda. The parent can use humor as a parenting tool here. The actual desire can be met now in fantasy and later when they get near a store.
Let me ask, can you relate to any of these situations?
When enjoying movie night with the family you have your smart phone nearby to check for that “important email” every 5 minutes.
Soccer practice on Tuesday nights is great because it gives you a chance to finish work stuff on your laptop while “watching” from the stands.
As much as you and the kids love making dinner together, most nights there’s only time to whip up something basic without little hands slowing you down.
I bet the answer is yes. I for one certainly can. Life has a way of getting in between us and those little cuties we hold so dear. We tell ourselves -and them- that we would do ANYTHING for them. And we mean that? However, the reality is they don’t necessarily need us to do “anything” for them- they need us to engage with them. Kids want our presence, not just presents.
It just dawned on me…the ParentingToolbox.com blog has been online for 15 YEARS! It has had many faces and transformations but it has always been a labor of love. Tell a friend about it and help me celebrate.
Most of the rules you have for your child are to protect them from accidental injury and from other people. The National Crime Prevention Council advises that one of the most important ways to protect your child is to teach them to be wary of dangerous circumstances. This can include recognizing suspicious behavior from other children and adults and learning to say no if they are asked to keep a secret or disobey their parents. A common rule that most children are taught is not to talk to strangers and to run away for help from a trusted adult if they are approached.
Rules at home are typically made to help siblings and family members get along and to respect each other’s belongings. Family rules could include speaking politely, eating at the dinner table and not wearing shoes inside. They could also include your child’s responsibilities, such as making his bed, cleaning his room, helping with the dishes and finishing his homework before playing on the computer. The Raising Children Network recommends that parents should keep rules consistent among all children so that each child will know what is expected of them. Additionally, adults in the household should also follow family rules. That will help your child be respectful at home and take responsibility for his behavior.
Children learn social rules both directly and indirectly while playing with their siblings and other children. The website Childhoods Today notes that many of the social rules that guide children during play are unwritten as children learn how to have fun with their playmates. They might learn that if they do not share their toys, for instance, other children will not play with them. You might also have rules that help your child develop social skills. For example, rules such as including a younger sibling during playtime, helps your child develop patience, cooperation and compromise with others. These rules for social interactions during childhood are important for lifelong relationships.
Playing a team sport allows your child to learn and develop skills that help boost his self-esteem, leadership and time-management abilities. Sports involve rules to play the game and rules of interaction between teammates and competing teams. This includes treating coaches and players with respect, giving everyone a fair chance to play and working together as a team. The Raising Children Network notes that watching sporting events also has rules. The way you speak, cheer and show disappointment during a game teaches your child sportsmanship. These rules are important to teach respect, encouragement, discipline and cooperation in all life situations.
Time Out? Spanking? Yelling? The more popular parenting tools but usually ineffective.
Get 101 Parenting Tools from family therapist Ron Huxley and his popular ParentingToolbox.com website. This 53 page ebook gives an A-Z guide on how manage the toughest parenting problems. In addition, each tool lists the age of the child and parenting style (balance of love and limits) it is best suited for…get it and start taking back control of your home today!
By David Lewis , Ph.D. on December 27, 2013 - 3:50am
Billy, an impulsive 11-year-old, is viewed by his teachers as somewhat lazy, easily distracted and lacking in motivation.
His parents, convinced their son’s poor performance was due to a ‘mental’ problem, insisted he be as tested by the school’s psychologist. When she reported Billy was a perfectly normal little boy they refused to accept her diagnosis. They went to three further psychologists all of whom confirmed their colleague’s original findings. Still dissatisfied they sent him to a yet another specialist who finally provided the diagnosis they sought. Billy, he said, was suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Given the appropriate medication their son could well turn into a straight A student.
“We always knew it,” they told his teachers triumphantly. “Our son is not lazy - he’s sick.”
They are far from unusual in this desire to explain away behaviour which, even a decade ago, might have been viewed as a normal part of growing up as a medical condition for which a cure must be found.
In the US, ADHD is now the second most frequent long-term diagnosis made in children, beaten only narrowly by asthma. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicate it has been diagnosed in up to 15% of high school-age children and that the number of youngsters being medicated for the disorder has risen from 600,000 in 1990 to 3.5 million today. By contrast, world-wide, ADHD affects only around 5% of children, the majority boys. (1)
It is, of course, essential that children with a genuine illness are speedily diagnosed and effectively treated. Medication, in such cases, is often an essential first step on the road to recovery.
The trouble is that between obviously healthy and manifestly sick youngsters there is a grey area which is growing in size with every passing year. Since, in the absence of pathology, there are at present no tests or scans that can detect mental illness, diagnosis tends to be subjective. What one psychologist considers perfectly ‘normal’, another may view as highly abnormal.
In a recent interview with the New York Times Dr Keith Conners, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Duke University, who for more than 50 years has led the fight to legitimise the disorder, called this increase:
“A national disaster of dangerous proportions…a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.” (3)
The most widely used form of treatment is to use drugs, such as methylphenidate atomoxetine, and dexamfetamine. Unfortunately, around one in five ADHD sufferers fail to respond to drugs (4) while in many other cases the response is only partial. Furthermore, all drugs have side effects, can also be habit forming and open to abuse. Long-term follow-ups have found that when children stopped taking the drug their clinical symptoms of ADHD reappeared.
Problems such as these have led some therapists, especially in the US, to start using a form of treatment known as EEG-Neurofeedback training.
This involves teaching sufferers how to control their ‘brain waves’ by playing computer games via sensors attached to their head. (5) The results appear promising, with improvements being found in around 40 percent of cases at six month follow-up.
In a recent study in my laboratory* two teenage boys played a computer game involving a race between a red and a blue caterpillar. Thin wires ran from electrodes pasted to their scalps to a control box. This detects electrical activity in their brains and uses these ‘brain waves’ to move the caterpillars across the screen.
Mark, aged 13 has been diagnosed with ADHD his friend, 14-year-old Ryan exhibits no such symptoms. During the game, Ryan’s red caterpillar speeds quickly along the track as he reduces his output of slow moving ‘theta waves’ while simultaneously increasing faster moving ‘beta waves’. Mark’s brains produces higher levels of theta and lower levels of beta waves his blue caterpillar barely moves off the start line.
Over a period of time, however, Mark trains himself to reduce his theta and boost his beta waves. In doing so he learns to control his impulsive behaviours.
While researching for my new book, Impulse, I came across several examples of behaviour which our forefathers would have shrugged off but which present-day parents see as requiring medical intervention. Given the lifestyle of many youngsters these days this may not be so surprising.
Many youngsters are discouraged from engaging in activities, such as exploring, getting into and out of scrapes, climbing trees and falling over, that earlier generations accepted as a normal part of childhood down. Even the amount of time they have for exercise is so constrained these days, especially for urban children, by parental concerns for their safety. Some children may be exhibiting the symptoms of hyperactivity simply because they’re not getting enough physically demanding exercise!
Taking risks and learning from the consequences of their mistakes is an essential part of growing up and developing independence.
The teenage years, especially, are the most intense and exciting of a child’s life. They’ll be unhappy, do silly things, take reckless decisions and make foolish misjudgements of people and situations.
But if they behave impulsively and fall flat on their faces from time to time, this doesn’t mean they need a diagnosis or a pill. It just means they’re being kids.
* Mindlab International is purely a research laboratory and does not offer any neurofeedback training. There are, however, many practitioners in both the USA and UK
(1) Polanczyk, G., de Lima, M. S., Horta, B. L., Biederman, J., Rohde L. A., (2007) The Worldwide Prevalence of ADHD: A Systematic Review and Metaregression Analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 164(6), 942–948.
(2) Faraone, S. V., Biederman, J., Mick, E., (2006) The Age-Dependent Decline of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Studies. Psychological Medicine, 36(2), 159–165.
(3) Schwarz, A. (2013) The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder, New York Times, Dec 14
(4) Charach, A., Figueroa, M., Chen, S., Ickowicz, A., & Schachar, R. (2006) Stimulant treatment over 5 years: effects on growth. Journal of American Academic Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 45: 415–421.
(5) Lansbergen, M. M., van-Dongen-Boomsma, M., Buitelaar, J. K., Slaats-Willemse, D., (2010) ADHD and EEG-Neurofeedback: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Feasibility Study. Journal of Neural Transmission, 118(2), 275-284
Are you concerned about whether your pre-teen will need much supervision? As surprising at it may sound, most pre-teens and early adolescents behave in a responsible manner. They want to show you that they have an understanding of the rules and the common knowledge of right and wrong. On the other hand, we all know that they can also act irresponsibly. And for that reason they do need constant supervision still.
When your children are away from the home they are most often supervised. Most of the day they are at school where they are obviously watched by teachers and staff. If there are camps or afternoon organizations that they belong too then there is always adult supervision as well. Then the times when they are not supervised and out with friends are when they are most prone to getting into trouble.
Whether it is from peer pressure or the current mental state of excitement, there are times when your pre-teen will forgot the rules on a spontaneous moment. For example, my teenage son was told specifically not to leave the house when we were not home. One night we left for only an hour and came back early to find he walked 2 blocks down the road to his friends house. In another instance, my daughter was caught making a huge mess in the basement with her other 12 year old friends, touching items that her Mother and I specifically told her not to touch.
As you can, although our young pre-teens are becoming more and more independent each day that goes by, they still need supervision. The degree of supervision needed will vary, but obviously a ten year old will need more supervision than a twelve year old. A fourteen year old will need less watching over than the twelve year old, etc.
Whatever your children’s age may be, you should always know what they are doing and where they are at. It is your duty to set the rules and make sure that your child understands the guidelines of wherever they are at and whatever they are doing. Regardless if you are at home, working, socializing, or vacationing, your responsibility remains the same.
For example, if your child is having any sort of party, even with just a few friends, then you should be home, no excuses. There will be times when your pre-teen will want to go to a party outside of the house to another friends house or elsewhere. It is your responsibility to call and make sure that there will be other adults supervising them. Do not be afraid to take a strong hold with this rule. It an help maintain good order and keep your kids from getting into unnecessary trouble.
10 Ways Family Journals can heal and restore your heart…
By Ron Huxley, LMFT
Journaling has long been a tool to achieving better emotional and mental health. The need to express oneself in a safe and controlled manner is a powerful means to improving self-esteem and personal relationships. Parents can use this tool to increase their effectiveness and satisfaction with family members. Here are ten ways that a journal will help parents:
1. Tell your family story. What better way to immortalize your life than to write about it in a journal? You can create a memoir of your life growing up, describe the many branches on your family tree, or just make a scrapbook of your life. Children can benefit by learning their family history and discover whom they are in relation to past generations. Parents will find clues to family dysfunction and strengths by exploring their familial history.
2. Share yourself with family members. Most people keep their journals private but choosing a sister or child to share a journal with can close the gap on distant relationships or bring close one’s even closer. Swap separate journals for family members to read, keep a family journal that is free for all to read and write, or create a journal to express thoughts, feelings, and dreams with a particular family member.
3. Organize yourself…emotionally and spiritually. Whenever I go to the store, I make a list. If I don’t I am sure to forget something. Probably a few “something’s”. Writing things down helps me recall what I need to buy. Journaling will help you remember the emotional and spiritual items you need in your life. Some of this items you may not have known you needed and others will be one’s that you know you need but haven’t had the courage to go out there and get it. Journaling is the first step in that spiritual grocery store shopping.
4. Track your emotions, moods, and experiences over time. Monday was a high-energy day. Tuesday, I felt depressed and lethargic. Wednesday, I started to climb out of it. Thursday, I felt better but had difficulty focusing. You get the picture, right? Journals will help you map the highs and lows of your week, month, or year so that you can plan your life accordingly. What mood ring can do that for you?
5. Unburden yourself and let go of old hurts. You’ve carried that old emotional baggage for how many years now? Isn’t it time to let it go and move forward feeling a little lighter on the emotional load. You can let go of the hurts and fears you inherited from childhood that have clung to you through adulthood and affected all of your important relationships. Release them into a journal and really live life to the fullest. Because you are anonymous, this is your opportunity to say it all and unburden yourself so that you can have freer, more productive relationships with your family instead of venting it all at them.
6. Clarify and achieve your dreams, goals, and aspirations. Any successful life planner, motivational speaker, or therapist will tell you that in order to achieve a goal or dream you must write it down. Journals are a great way to realizing that goal or dream. While the path of life and relationships seems confusing and chaotic, a look back, into your journal, will reveal some very clear patterns that will help you in your future journeying.
7. Share your wisdom (life experiences) with others. I may not be an expert on life but I have had my share of successes and failures. So have you. Together we can learn and grow more than either of us could have done alone. Use journals to write down your mistakes so your children do not make the same one’s or share a few tips about life that you wish your parents had shared with you. It’s not too late.
8. Glimpse the world through the eyes of another person. Journals allow you to see life from the perspective of another’s culture, geography, beliefs, age, and gender. Take a trip around the world or through time simply by reading a family journal. Ask family members to describe you or your childhood. You may be surprise by what you learn when others look at you and your life.
9. Challenge your beliefs and enrich your life. Master therapists tell us that in order to change your life you must change your thoughts or beliefs. Doing this on your own is difficult if not impossible. Journals are a great way to analyze those thoughts that get in the way of good mental health and better family relationships.
10. Realize you are not alone! Have you had a loved one pass away? Suffered a divorce or financial loss? Had a prodigal child leave home? Anyone who has suffered a loss or felt the weight of depression knows how lonely that can be. It feels like no one could possibly understand the pain you feel. Family Journals remind you know that you are never alone and that hope is just one entry away!