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By Ron Huxley, LMFT
They know every excuse in the book: I need a drink of water. I forgot to
* Provide a “bedtime friend.” Michael refused to sleep unless his mother lay down next to him every night. At first, this was a comforting experience for both parent and child. But, over time, it took Michael longer and longer to go to sleep and he would cry whenever his mother tried to get up to go to bed herself. His mother quickly recognized that Michael needed a
Together they went and bought a stuffed animal that Michael found warm and
* Celebrate a good nights sleep. Even the most difficult sleeper has an occasional good nights sleep. Perhaps it was only due to exhaustion that a child didn’t get back up with a bedtime excuse. Celebrate it anyway! In the morning prepare the child’s favorite meal. Sing, dance, or do whatever it takes to give the child positive attention to the basic fact of having a no-excuse, sleep-filled night. Too many parents do their “song and dance routines” at night after the excuses have been given, reinforcing the very problem parents want to stop. During these stress times, ignore the irritating please for water or the annoying claims of nighttime terrors. Instead, redirect the child back to bed with a minimum amount of words or actions. This will rechannel the power struggle and increase the percentage
* Discourage scary stories or television show. Sarah complained of monsters
* Make a bedtime routine. Being a single mother and working a full time job
She arranged to have more time in the mornings before he had to go to school
* Share the workload. Getting Tasha to bed was work! Her mother did everything she could think of to get Tasha to stay in bed but after a long day her mother just didn’t have the patience of the energy for a big fight. And Tasha knew all the right buttons to push on mom to make her mad and
Getting children to go and stay in bed is no easy task. Parents face he limitless excuses and untiring energy of children who know how to maneuver around their parents with amazing ease. In order for both parties to win the pajama game, parents must use some special bedtime tactics to even the odds. But none of these things will prevail if parents are not consistent and provide positive attention to good nighttime behavior. How parents cope with the bedtime disruptions is as important (maybe more) that what they do to get their children to bed.
By Ron Huxley, LMFT
I recently picked up my copy of Tim Ferriss book “The Four-Hour Chef.” The author has been listed as one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People of 2007”, Forbes Magazine’s “Names You Need to Know in 2011,” and the wildly successful author of “The Four-Hour Work Week” and “The Four-Hour Body”. Although “The Four-Hour Chef” sounds like another cook book, it is far more than that. It spells out the recipe for how to learn any skill, regardless of your age or how hard the task. The book’s subtitle is “Learning anything, and living the good life.” Who doesn’t want more of that?
The premise behind the Four-Hour Ethos is help you have more control over your own life by doing more of what you enjoy and less of what you don’t. In the example of cooking, many of us love to cook (and eat, of course) but few of us love to shop for the food, do all the prep work or clean up after. Tim Feriss uses the metaphor of cooking to describe his step-by-step process of “meta-learning”. That’s the real recipe for parents.
His idea of meta-learning refers to the Zen concept: “before you can learn to cook, you must learn to learn.” I think this has a lot of relevance for parents who need to learn how to learn before they learn to parent. Parenting education has been around for some time. You can read attend classes, read books, search the internet, watch programs, and listen to podcasts. There is plenty of parenting information out there but still we strive for more. Or are we striving for the “recipe”? Are we looking for that secret ingredient on how to get a teen to do their homework or stop an ongoing sibling rivalry? Perhaps what really need is to first learn how to learn to be a parent.
One step toward this meta-parenting-learning skill is to ask ourselves: “What is one parenting skill I would like to master today or perhaps, one skill I have given up hope of learning with my children?” Ferriss would then suggest we deconstruct this skill to its simple components and reapplies the laws of learning to truly become its master.
Ferriss describe a deconstruction tool to help us called the 80/20 Principle. This is also known as Pareto’s principle or the law of the vital few and it states that roughly 80% of the effects of an event come from just 20% of the causes. Taking cleaning up the house: 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people, probably mom. This applies to other areas of life, such as, 80% of the sales of a business comes from 20% of the clients. Or, 80% of the world’s wealth is owned by 20% of the people.
This economic principle works well in many parenting situations and I have used it for years to describe how 80% of the parenting issues that come up in my consulting office can be answered by 20% of my parenting tools. Most parents have similar struggles: getting homework done or picking up after themselves or talking back or putting their feet on the furniture. There are typical problems that come up by developmental stages. Two year olds and teens are defiant. Five year olds have short attention spans, etc. It is the other 20% that is creates the big challenges and creative solutions. Dealing with a divorce or say, stealing items from a store. These are more serious issues really only occurs 20% of the time but make up 80% of my clientele. Who needs to see a child therapist for not picking up the dog poop or some other chore, really?
As a personal example, I have four adult children and two grandchildren and the skill I would like to master is how to maintain on-going communication with them spread out over various states. I want to do this in a way that feels warm and fuzzy despite the distance. Applying Pareto’s principle to my communication issue, I realized that regularly scheduled phone calls and text messages (20% effort) could result in my perceived sense of connection (80% effect). I also started being more diligent about traveling two hours away to my grandson’s early Saturday morning baseball games. It was a drive and there was a cost of gasoline but the level of connection and my parenting needs were met with this minimal effort once a month.
This was a useful parenting tool with my clients as well. Ten minutes of one-on-one contact in the morning before school and ten minutes on getting home from school dramatically improved many families gauge of the amount of respect and cooperation. Sibling fights and morning tantrums decreased as well. It would seem that there isn’t an extra ten minutes in the morning routine to give to a child but really, how long were those tantrums occurring? How long does it take to make a U-turn back to the house to get the forgotten lunch or homework sitting on the kitchen table? A lot longer than the ten minutes it took to have some one-on-one. And parents and children felt so much more connected all day long.
Another way of getting at this core parenting skills is to ask yourself if I only had 20 minutes to spend with my child each day – you couldn’t see or interact with them at any other time during the day – how would I best spend that time? Do more of that parenting behavior and witness the 80% effect from that minimal parenting activity. I am just guessing but that 20 minutes would be spent doing laundry or watching television together.
Parenting Action Plan:
Take a few moments and ask yourselves these questions above. Start focusing on how to better manage your time with your child this next week. Start deconstructing what makes up the core elements of your parenting day and concentrate on the main ingredients behind what really makes a good family recipe. It is different for everyone so don’t look at the neighbor parenting activities. Start with works for you. Let us know how it goes by leaving a comment or sharing on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/parentingtoolbox
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An occupational therapist friend of mine likes to ask her kids, when she greets them, how’s your engine today? What she is referring to is are they feeling/behaving fast or slow? Are they a little on the hyper side or sluggish? Manic or depressed? You get the idea…
It is a simple gauge of where she needs to go in treatment. If they say it is running fast then she engages them in activities to bring that engine down to a more resting baseline where she can do more introverted or detailed work. Every try to get a child to sit still and concentrate when thy are hyper? That’s a good way for everyone to be frustrated.
Use this at home by talking about a train engine that can run really fast or very slow. Connect it to stimulating events (fuel) that goes into their engines (mind/body/emotions) or lack of stimulation that causes them to be bored or “tired” or sluggish. Plan some interventions to bring them back to a mid-line energy level. Don’t try to do homework if they aren’t in the “zone”. You will be glad you took the time to modify their energy.
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Quick survey: What if we turned the tables on our kids for Mothers and Fathers Day and sent them a card or gave them a gift sharing our positive hopes for their lives and speak INTO them the gifting and destinies we see in them. I know, this sounds very “spiritual” and perhaps, to a few, just stupid. Perhaps it is both and I am not wanting to deny anyone their breakfast in bed or super cute hand drawn mothers/fathers day card. You still deserve those.
Over the years, however, as I look at parenting and family relationship I see the amount of entitlement we have around these days. Do they really have to be performed in the way that American culture dictates they should be on the Hallmark commercials? Can we use our parenting powers for good and take this day as an open door into our children’s hearts and characters?
What would this look like and what are some creative ways to execute this in our parent/child relationships?
Share your thoughts here by leaving a comment or post on http://www.facebook.com/parentingtoolbox
Presidential Proclamation — National Mental Health Awareness Month, 2013
NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH, 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Today, tens of millions of Americans are living with the burden of a mental health problem. They shoulder conditions like depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress and bipolar disorder — debilitating illnesses that can strain every part of a person’s life. And even though help is out there, less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive treatment. During National Mental Health Awareness Month, we shine a light on these issues, stand with men and women in need, and redouble our efforts to address mental health problems in America.
For many, getting help starts with a conversation. People who believe they may be suffering from a mental health condition should talk about it with someone they trust and consult a health care provider. As a Nation, it is up to all of us to know the signs of mental health issues and lend a hand to those who are struggling. Shame and stigma too often leave people feeling like there is no place to turn. We need to make sure they know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness — it is a sign of strength. To find treatment services nearby, call 1-800-662-HELP. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers immediate assistance for all Americans, including service members and veterans, at 1-800-273-TALK.
Our commitment cannot end there. We must ensure people have access to the care they need — which is why the Affordable Care Act will expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and Federal parity protections for 62 million Americans. For the first time, the health care law will prevent insurers from denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition. The Act already requires new health plans to cover recommended preventive services like depression screening and behavioral assessments for children at no extra cost to patients.
My Administration will keep building on those achievements. Earlier this year, I was proud to launch the BRAIN Initiative — a new partnership between government, scientists, and leaders in the private sector to invest in research that could unlock new treatments for mental illness and drive growth throughout our economy. We have made unprecedented commitments to improving mental health care for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. And we have proposed new funding for mental health programs that will help teachers and other adults recognize the signs of mental illness in children, improve mental health outcomes for young people, and train 5,000 more mental health professionals to serve our youth.
Mental health problems remain a serious public health concern, but together, our Nation is making progress. This month, I encourage all Americans to advance this important work by raising awareness about mental health and lending strength to all who need it.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2013 as National Mental Health Awareness Month. I call upon citizens, government agencies, organizations, health care providers, and research institutions to raise mental health awareness and continue helping Americans live longer, healthier lives.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
I get a lot of these type of questions from parents very distressed with the fact that their child refuses to do their homework. Many times, the children will lie about the homework’s completion, stating they turned it in when they didn’t. These lies can be very creative too :)
Most of the time, the parents REALLY are doing everything to stay on top of the situation. Teachers blame them for the child’s behavior but the parent feels helpless to do anything more to motivate the child. That’s when they come to me for answers. They don’t always like the one’s I have to give them and honestly, there are times, I really don’t know why. Fortunately, that isn’t too often.
Why do the kids act this way and how can you correct it? I can only answer this question for the foster and adoptive children that I work with and not in more general terms. Most kids will get on track with their homework and be more compliant with a little extra vigilance on the part of the parent and a couple consequences put in place for some leverage. All kids test the limits at home and school and once they realize the limits are going to be firm and all the adults in their lives are working as a team to help the child, all is well…
But not for more traumatized children with huge losses in their lives. Unfortunately, these losses become part of the child’s Internal Working Model (John Bowlby) and color how they see the world, their caregivers/parents, and themselves. Self-defeating beliefs in a persons Internal Working Model are extremely hard to change. Not impossible, but their is a lot of work involved.
The reason parents of these kids don’t like my answers is that I don’t focus on the homework at all. Remember, the issue is the child’s negative IWM, not the homework. That is just the expression of the negative belief system, not the cause. I want to address what is under the behavior and focus on the beliefs. Letting go of the need for the child to get good grades or have perfect behavior in the classroom is difficult for parents. When parents do get this concept and are willing to follow my suggestions to address the “roots” of the problem and partner with me and the child against the problem, the situation dramatically changes.
Now I will give a quick disclaimer here. In some instances, the behavior never changes but what does improve is the relationship (read: Attachment) between the parent and child when mom and dad can keep the big picture in mind. I tell parents that it is more important to win the battle for the relationship versus the battle of the homework. School will come and go but the relationship is for ever!
Of course, 80% of the behaviors will improve with a little psychoeducation on study skills, scheduling, communication with the teacher, better reinforcement systems, etc. It is the other 20% that I am focusing on in this post.
The bottom line for this 20% of children who refuse to do their homework is control. Given their negative IWM about themselves, they haven’t experienced much control in their lives and this is one area that the adults can’t force them into compliance. They might improve for a time but fall back into the same control patterns. Even more reason to work on the roots of all this, improve the relationship/attachment, build more internal strength over grade point averages.
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