Teach Don't Punish

When implementing consequences with their children, parents often fall the trap of enforcing consequences that cause a child to "do time". For instance a child may use vulgar language and lose their phone privileges that day.

 While it is important to respond to that behavior, it is far more effective in the long run to be teaching your child what the desired behavior needs to be. What that looks like then is that your child will need to exhibit the behavior you want from them for a set period of time before they can get their privileges back.

 Taking the example above a parent may say to their child, "You will need to show me that you can use appropriate language for the next 24 hours and then you can get your phone back. If you need some help figuring out how to do that I'm always here to help."

 Notice what that does. It puts the responsibility back on the child to engage in the behaviors you want your child to be exhibiting. It also allows them to practice the skill of "not swearing" when they deal with a frustrating situation over the next 24 hours.

 You will need to use your knowledge of your child to determine the most appropriate timeframe. For instance, your child may need to be appropriate for 2 hours versus 24 hours. You want the timeframe to be challenging for the child without feeling overwhelming to them.

Give this strategy a try in the next 48 hours. What do you have to gain? Perhaps, a better behaved kid.


“I don’t know how to help you!”

Since I have become a new mother, it has been present in my mind the reality that my energy direct impacts how my daughter responds to me.  For example, after attempting to soothe her, comfort her during her hour long crying sessions, my nerves are shot and my frustration level is through the roof.  I have had visions of screaming, “I don’t know what you want!  There is nothing I can do right now to help you!”  Thankfully I have never followed through with yelling at a 3 month old baby, but I have become so depleted with energy that I have thought about it!  This is the time when I turn to my support, her dad, and request a break and within five minutes of handing her over, she has quieted down and is calm!  Her father does not know any tricks I don’t, he doesn’t not have the ability to speak with an infants and ask them what is wrong and how can he help, in fact he has less experience with kids than I do!  What is it that had helped her calm down?  It is the shift in energy!  My daughter no longer has a stressed out parent who although looks calm on the outside, is envisioning screaming and breaking down on the inside.  She can feel that negative, tired energy and matches it with crying and fussing.  But, when she gets in her dad’s arms, someone who is calm, rested and ready, she can feel the shift in energy and begins to match his energy.  I have noticed it goes both ways.  When her dad is frustrated and cannot calm her, I will step in with calm energy and she can match that and calm down.  What we as parents feel, no matter what we show on the outside, out children can feel and begin to act on it. 

Not all families have two parents, but all parents can have a few ways to help them decrease their own negative, tired energy which can help their child begin to regulate their own energy.  Ask yourself, “What supports do I have and how can I best utilize them?”  Here are some ideas:

  1. Professional supports; doctors, therapist, social workers, etc can be used to gather vital information that can be helpful in parenting or they can help in developing a safety plan to follow if things get very stressful.
  2. Support groups; NAMI has a wonderful resource page with local support groups. These groups can be on general issues or specific topics (nami.org)
  3. Friends and family; call to talk or ask them to babysit so you can get a break.
  4. Take a break; It is okay to step away and take a break to gather your own thoughts, take a breath and prepare yourself to return to the situation.
  5. Crisis lines; Can be used 24/7/365 to provide support, give resources and help with safety issues if needed. Check for your local crisis line number of call Crisis Connection at 612 379 6363.
  6. Treat yourself; Use preventive measures! When things are calm, watch your favorite tv show or sports game, go out to eat, get your nails done; do something that you want (not need!) to do. 

Remember to take care of yourself so you can take care of your kids! 



Dancing on the Head of a Pin

I went to a workshop a couple weekends ago at the Adler Graduate School where the speaker, Dr. Paul Rasmussen, gave a presentation concerning his view what he called “the human condition and the law of movement.”  His main thesis was “Life is a process of movement through advancing time and changing circumstances grounded in the desire for things to go well while having to deal with the inevitable challenges that life presents.


He also asserted that as babies we come into the world with an infantile orientation characterized by “I want what I want when I want it and I don’t want what I don’t want when I don’t want it and when I don’t want it you will know it.”  As we age he said, we hopefully develop a more mature orientation that is characterized by “I understand that I can’t necessarily do everything I want and some of the things that I don’t want to do simply need to get done.


The job of parents is to help their children move from the infantile orientation to the mature orientation.  That job is made more difficult when the child struggles with developmental delays, trauma, or mental illness, but the lesson still has to be learned in order for that child to eventually function in the world when he or she reaches adulthood.  We all are aware of adults who approach the world with an infantile orientation.    These individuals continuously struggle to meet their tasks of life (e.g. social, work, intimate) and are unpleasant to be in relationship with.


Now it is perhaps not surprising to think that people generally want their lives to go well.  What was somewhat surprising was that Dr. Rasmussen shared some research that indicated that the vast majority (80%) of our lives we are dealing with the fairly mundane if not downright unpleasant details of life.  It is only a relatively small percentage (20%) of life during which we experience those moments of joy, happiness, intimacy, laughter and connection. 


So, no, it’s not just you - the 80-20 rule holds true for everyone – we all get stuck in traffic, have a kid home sick with a cold, and have bills to pay more often than our best friend calls just when we needed a laugh.  But, some people are better at accepting the 80% as an imperfect part of life they have to adapt to and recognizing the 20% as something to truly celebrate when it happens. 


Development is a challenging, mysterious process…

From the time we enter to world, we are perpetually faced with growth: in our bodies and our minds.


We experience excitement at times when we realize new abilities and capacities:

  • For an infant, crawling opens one’s world exponentially. Independence, exploration, and ability to effect the world opens.
  • A similar process ensues when a teenager attains a driver’s license, or is given the freedom to use public transportation alone.
  • Becoming a parent for the first time, or stepping into a new, more mature role introduces new possibilities.


This excitement, certainly comes packaged with infinite challenges:

  • The newly mobile baby, encounters an increasingly frequent and painful “no,” and navigates the tensions of following their desires, while sustaining a sense of security that comes along with being connected with important others.
  • The teenager strongly desires acceptance, understanding, support while simultaneously driven to establish themselves as different, separate, and unique, in ways that so often conflict.  
  • As new roles develop, the adult experiences joy and satisfaction, while also encountering the inherent limitations of one’s self and others.

Growth requires patience with oneself and others. Tapping into the support of caring others is valuable resource at any age and stage.

Make every day Valentine's Day

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, here are some ideas for ways to tell you child “I love you” without using those words. 

  1. Send a note in your child’s lunch box or backpack saying how proud you are.
  2. Take your child out for ice cream or a special snack.
  3. Develop a special handshake that quick and simple.
  4. Ask them questions! Engage them in conversation about their life.
  5. Get to know their friends. Invite your child’s friends over to your house and be actively involved in their conversation and activities.
  6. Stock up on stickers – kids love stickers. Randomly place stickers on your child’s items – their pillow, their jacket. Let them know that when they spy a sticker it’s a reminder of how much you love them.
  7. Read a book with your child. Kids love when adults read them books aloud.
  8. Come up with a special nickname.
  9. Tell your teen how proud you are of them. Teens become embarrassed by hearing “I love you,” but telling them how proud you are of them is just as important.
  10. Apologize when needed. It’s hard to admit your wrong, but it is important for kids to hear this.