Tag Archives: children

A Word on Safety and Judging Parents

I have been trying to organize my thoughts about keeping children safe since I heard the story of a boy who climbed toward, then fell into, a gorilla exhibit at a zoo. This has happened before and, sadly, could occur again. What’s done is done whether we like it or not and regardless of whom we blame and to what degree we blame them (if we blame anyone at all).  So the question remains, exactly how do we keep children safe?

There are people who complain about “helicopter parents” who do everything for kids. There are people who complain about “free range” kids who are thought to have the run of the area where they live. I suspect that most of parents fall somewhere in between these two parenting models. I have definitely met free range parents, who by the way have great kids. I have not yet met a helicopter parent, though I have worked with children and families in varying capacities for close to 20 years. I suppose they may exist or they may be parents who have children with some special needs. As long as you are not enabling harmful behaviors, I wouldn’t worry about that label anyway.

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Back to the point, how do we keep children safe? Start by recognizing your limits and your child’s limits. If your child is a runner, find ways to prevent running or allow it within a safe boundary. Think about the what ifs because, unfortunately, your “not a runner” may become a runner at any time. I have been known to scout a location before scheduling a play date to be sure there is a fence that closes with a latch that is taller than my child so I had more time to get to the gate before a kid could run. This won’t prevent an “escape”, but will buy you more time to get to the child if necessary.

I once had a student who ran quite often, if angry. (I had a few different runners, but this particular student ran due to anger.) Now, you cannot always stop someone’s feelings, but you can provide replacement behaviors that are more safe. However, this takes time, energy, and consistency. It does not happen overnight. So a runner may run even though you are implementing a (soon to be successful) solution. Sometimes they run off though you are looking right at them and some kids are faaaast.

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Most parents have more than one thing on their minds. Dishes laundry, schedules, groceries, dinner options, traffic woes, and other issues cloud my mind at any given time. Plus, having more than one child can cause even the best multi-tasker to miss a potential issue when considering a situation. Maybe you are at the park pushing a child on the swing, then, seeing that adorable smile on her face you feel like you have to take a photo. So you do, but as you go back to the swing, your precious little one falls off and gets hurt. We cannot be by a child’s side 24 hours a day. We don’t always anticipate things that may happen. We cannot protect them from everything. There are no guarantees, but we can try to minimize issues brought about because they are young and not yet ready to make big decisions.

If you have a runner, climber, or other similar normal behavior in your child, practice following directions regarding safety well before you have to be in a certain situation. Practice safe versus unsafe and remember that it may seem like it takes forever for a child to catch on. That is because they have different priorities than we do. Also, kids do not always notice the danger involved in certain decisions. Their brains are not yet completely mature which means they cannot always think about the future possibilities of current behavior choices. It is not that they don’t know it is that they can’t know the long term repercussions of some actions.

Some people leave children at home with a sitter if they must go out. Others use a toddler carrier or bring along help. The problem is that not everyone has a village of support nearby. If you see a child doing something that will injure himself, act. Call the parent, call a security guard, call 911. I hate to say you ought to pick up the child without permission, but in extreme circumstances, that might be appropriate. I would certainly prefer that you pick up my child before he jumps into shallow water, if no alternate is available, instead of letting him hurt his legs.

Parents cannot plan for every possible situation. We may not always have help. I get that. I have been there, too, on many occasions. All we can do is our best. And before we say “don’t judge”, why don’t we make an appraisal about behaviors we observe. It is not about who is a better person or parent. It is about improving ourselves based on our own previous behaviors. Maybe we should think about how we can do the same things as another parent, if it is safe, healthy and effective. If the parenting choice was not very safe, then how can we learn from it? How can we improve ourselves so we are safe, kind, and effective parents? It is my opinion that we should be thankful for the opportunity to learn from another parent’s mistakes or accidents. We should also embrace our own shortcomings and try to improve them. It may take some time to figure out, but there is often a way to minimize the chance of an unsafe scenario.

One final thought, please, let’s bring back a village of support. Let’s get to know one another and figure out how we can help so that when a parent is exhausted, there is someone safe who knows the child that can help with cooking, cleaning, childcare, and more. It seems that many mistakes happen because parents are not part of a village that helps when times are tough and parenting gets overwhelming. Let’s bring back the safety of a village.

 

Sidenote: I may change this a bit as I process my thoughts more thoroughly. <3

 

Parenting Tool: Try It Again

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A couple of years ago I began using a picture routine list with my son in order to help him transition from one part of our day to another. It helped with his meltdowns for a short time and then the schedule went to the trash can after a couple months of less than stellar results. As he grew older, he had less transition related meltdowns and I slowly forgot that we once created a schedule for him.

Fast forward to last week. Due to some changes in our lives, my son began having difficulty during our morning and evening routines. He knows the steps of getting ready for his day and getting ready to sleep, but was melting down quite often yet again. I decided to go back through the strategies we tried before in order to find one that helped.

I asked my son if he would like to help me create a new picture schedule for both our morning and evening routines. He agreed. There we sat at 9 PM looking through free photos we could download for our charts. Not only did he feel important, he also felt in charge of his routines. They are the routines I prefer, too. It was a matter of putting the routines on paper again so he could easily refer to them when needed.

Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, winnond, SOMMAI, Serge Bertasius Photography , Sira Anamwong, and foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, winnond, SOMMAI, Serge Bertasius Photography , Sira Anamwong, and foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since creating the new and improved routine lists, he has had less meltdowns, enjoys trying to read the words we chose to include with the pictures, and reminds me what he has not yet completed. We worked as a team, which means we both won.

The moral of the story is that sometimes a strategy will work for a time, not work, and then work again. Sometimes a strategy won’t work at all, then you try it again years later and it works. Never say never to a peaceful, respectful strategy.

 

What to do Instead of Punishment: He Called a Runner Fat @ss

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I recently noticed the following screenshot in my Facebook newsfeed.

(Take it with a grain of salt since anything online could be real or a lie.)

I would feel angry, vengeful, and embarrassed if my child did this.

I would feel angry, vengeful, and embarrassed if my child did this.

Many people congratulated the mother for punishing the child. I can understand this opinion. Many said it was a good strategy to make the child run with the person he bullied because he will be in the runner’s shoes. Many said it was good not to hit the child, but that he needed punishment.

Unfortunately, this type of parenting behavior often comes from shame, anger, and embarrassment rather than from evidence-based information. Punishment is either what we think we ought to do or is our way of seeking revenge against those who upset us.

My question is this. What if you prevented this type of behavior? How can you do that? How can we avoid punishments, but foster a respectful environment?

By creating a peaceful, respectful environment from birth, you get a head start in fostering positive behaviors in children. They may stray from time to time due to influences like friends, bullies, and others. However, it is easier to lead them back to kind, safe, wise decision-making if the groundwork is paved at an early age. Use strategies like discussion, modeling wise choices, talking through your choices in the child’s presence, acting out concerning situations, and practicing decision-making skills in safe environments before heading out into environments with more variables.

What if my child does what this child did? I am a peaceful parent, but that deserves punishment!

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I agree that this behavior is not appropriate. If punishment is not an option, what could a parent do? First, forced apologies really do not foster a true feeling of remorse. Instead, stop the vehicle and have a chat with the runner if at all possible. If willing to wait for a few minutes, you can get the runner’s information in case your child chooses to apologize or, perhaps, be a workout buddy later. Feel free to ask the runner to explain how it feels to be called such a thing and make sure your child is present to hear the entire exchange even if refusing to speak or address the situation.

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Then, take the time to address the social and emotional issue at hand. Why did the child yell this insult? Perhaps your child feels low self-esteem, heard a bully do this, or saw a television show that put down those who work out. If you find out why, then you are halfway to a solution.

Once the why is known, you can work as a team to come up with other ways to filter such thoughts so they are not expressed in a way which others find insulting and harmful. Sure, you can think anything, but acting on your thoughts is the issue at hand. Though I prefer that my children do not think of others in an insulting way, there are going to be times when they DO think this way. Feelings are okay. Thoughts are okay. Actions may or may not be okay.

I realize that many people think preteens and teens should behave as adults do. However, they often learn their negative behaviors from us. They also do not have fully developed brains, in most cases, which means they are more impulsive.

Remember, peaceful parenting is not permissive parenting. The issue absolutely needs to be addressed and follow up is necessary. Part of going out and experiencing the world is knowing society’s basic rules for behavior. I am not a huge conformist, but insults are not okay in any situation even for those of us who are non-conformists.

Be kind. Be safe. Be responsible.

15 Ways to Learn with Your Child

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One fabulous thing about summer is that many families have more time to learn together.

Here is a short list of ideas to help you spend quality time together while learning as a team.

Have fun!

  1. Go on a field trip

  2. Read about a new topic

  3. Watch a documentary

  4. Create an art project

  5. Create a book, magazine, or newspaper

  6. Bake using a new recipe

  7. Design a dance or exercise routine

  8. Build a woodworking project

  9. Take a class together

  10. Take a guidebook on a nature walk

  11. Visit a local beach

  12. Visit an animal sanctuary

  13. Try a new sport

  14. Visit the library

  15. Produce a short video about a new topic

 

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Check out our line of peaceful parenting gear on Spreadshirt!

The New Spreadshirt Shop is Open!

I want to take a moment to thank clients, friends, and family for their continued support.

I couldn’t run this business without your support and encouragement. Thank you!

You are the inspiration for the newest addition to Intuitive Strategies.

I have opened a Spreadshirt shop.

There are shirts, mugs, and other items available which encourage peaceful parenting.

Currently, there are two basic designs available. I will add more options soon.

Click HERE to view the Spreadshirt shop.

Than you, again, for all that you do!

peace

He Bit Me! What to Do About Biting

crying biting graphic

Biting is a common behavior among young children. When teaching in public schools I noticed that some of my students living with special needs also exhibited this behavior. Every parent, teacher, and relative seems to have advice about how to stop a child who bites in her tracks, but does the advice help? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no.

Here are some of the helpful comments, paraphrased, from friends of my Facebook page. Thank you to all who spoke up. I didn’t plan to add your information, but you had a lot of wisdom to share!

The child needs positive attention so notice when he is doing good things.

Spend time one on one together.

The child needs more autonomy and choices.

I wouldn’t react to it, but end play date or activity if it happens.

I would state expectations ahead of time.

Why is this happening? Find out why.

Pick up the biter and move her from the area. Tend to the hurt child.

Try to mediate the issue once all is calm if both parties are capable and willing.

 

Below is a list of additional strategies which may help when children bite.

Role play before issues occur and also after emotions have calmed.

Practice using replacement behaviors.

If the issue occurs because the child needs to chew or bite a certain texture, look into other things he can safely bite, for example Chewelry like these.

Have a continuous dialog with the child.

When children harm each other, separate, but do not punish. If you punish, that will encourage sneaky retaliation rather than in the open communication and problem solving.

Make sure there is an enriching environment.

Encourage peaceful communication even if it is nonverbal.

Make sure there is plenty of space for opposing priorities and personalities.

Healthy foods that are not processed tend to help lower the chances of behavior issues.

Avoiding triggers like hunger and being tired can help with behavior issues.

Stay calm. It is not because the child want to upset you.

It is because the child I feeling a large emotion.

 

Remember, it takes time and patience, but you and your child can

get past biting!

Ditch the Boredom Jar, Do this Instead

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It’s the time of the year where well-meaning parents buy into a less than stellar idea. Yes, it is the time of year when posts about boredom jars are nearly everywhere. Apparently, if a child is bored, we should punish that child by insisting they choose a chore from the boredom jar. Sadly, this does not solve the problem. Your child will still be bored. Your child may also feel put down by you. He may think you don’t care, won’t listen and empathize, or don’t want to spend time with him.

Look, I get it. I have three children and they do, at times, come to me and say “I’m bored”. It can be frustrating to hear this over and over again. The problem is that though children may think they are bored, they are more often asking for your attention. Chores won’t change that need. Using chores to urge children to leave you alone may cause an adversarial rift between you and the children.

What should we do when our children say “I’m bored”? My first suggestion is always give the child attention. Play a game, take a walk, or chat with each other. If you cannot help at that moment, then explain the situation. Make a few activity suggestions and let the child know when you will be able to spend time together. By explaining your need to complete a task, your children will learn to accept your boundaries. By coming back to spend time with the children when you say you will, they learn that you can be trusted and their needs will be met. You are teaching boundaries, respect, patience, and strengthening your bond all at one time.

Another strategy is using an Activity Jar. Sit together as a family when adding activity ideas to the jar so everyone has input. Potential Activity Jar ideas include creating an obstacle course in the backyard, reading a new book, writing a play, creating a board game, baking bread, and making a small sculpture out of clay.

Pretending

My youngest child loves to dress up, create a character, and pretend.

An Adventure Jar, similar to an Activity Jar, is another helpful tool. You definitely want the children to help fill this jar with ideas, too. Add local adventure ideas like hiking, building a fort, planting a garden, and climbing a tree. Keep in mind the ability and maturity levels of your children when deciding which activities to include and how much supervision they need in each situation. Personally, I would like to play a game of pirates in the yard more than writing a blog post. You might find me using the adventure jar more often than my children do.

field

My two older children enjoy exploring the great outdoors.

Children get bored. Children want attention. It is okay to work with our kids to find solutions that work for everyone. There is no need to punish by insisting chores be the consequence of voicing the feeling of boredom. Invest time and creativity in children and they will blossom. You might even have some fun, too. I know I will!

Parenting Tool: Wait

This blog post is an excerpt from the new ebook Expand Your Parenting Toolbox: Create a More Peaceful Home which can be purchased on Amazon.com.

 FINAL Cover

I know, this seems strange, but I’m serious.

Wait.

If no one is in immediate danger…

….wait.

Wait for your child to think, then respond.

Wake up a few minutes earlier and wait while your child dresses herself or toilets himself.

Wait.

When calling your children inside for dinner, wait. They may be wrapping up a game or saying good bye to friends.

Wait.

They wait on us quite often at the store, at appointments, while we are at work.

It’s our turn to wait.

Leave long pauses so your child can think and respond.

Leave the pauses so your children can bring up difficult topics they want to discuss.

Wait.

Sometimes we are so busy talking, rushing, or yelling that we forget that patience can help de-escalate difficult situations and help us to better understand our children.

Take a moment.

Take a few breathes.

Wait.

It’s their turn.

Wait.

Listen and wait.

Tips for Trips to Theme Parks

Going to a theme park can be a lot of fun. Some families try to go once or twice in their children’s lifetime, assuming funds are available. (Please don’t get me started on how unfair it is that so many children and families want to go, but cannot afford to go. It’s sad and the prices at some parks are beyond unreasonable.) Theme park attendance can be challenging for even the most peaceful of parents with “typical” children. (Who gets to decide what is typical anyway?!) Trips to theme parks can be more than exhausting if you attend with someone who is living with a special need. I have compiled some helpful hints that can help if you decide to go to a theme park, special needs or not. I hope they help.

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Look at and study the map in advance.

Watch Youtube videos of each ride and each area of the park in advance.

Bring a change of clothing.

Bring snacks and drinks you like. If the park won’t let you in with them, keep them in a cooler in the car.

Bring sunscreen, a hat, and/or protective clothing.

Discuss expectations and the attractions in advance.

Bring support if it all possible. You can never have too many helpers or hands.

Have important papers, modes of payment, and your phone in a plastic, or other, bag that can close.

Prepare for the noise and crowds. If a member of your group avoids these things you may be able to use headphones or other options to help, but keep in mind they may not hear you speak if you employ this type of tool. Keep the person close by you if you use headphones.

Label your kid. Seriously, use gps on the phone, label in the shirt, do something if you have a child who may wander off.

Take a picture of each child in case you get separated.

Write down or take a photo of the lot where you parked. (Bonus points if you can do this with the exact aisle.)

Be aware that most parks allow re-entry and this may be your best option for seeing everything, taking breaks, and not losing your patience. Find out the park’s rules and be sure to enjoy this option.

Be aware of water features and other hazard issues.

Be aware of food and bathroom options.

Bring baby wipes of some sort.

Bring hand cleaner of some sort.

Bring a fan if possible. It may seem cool out, but in the sun most days are still going to feel hot when at a theme park.

Be prepared to stop for food, bathroom, and to rest often.

Know when to head home. (You may not see and do it all. That is just how it goes.)

Call ahead to find out which services are available to you and your loved ones due to special needs. (Wheel chairs, allergen free menus, shorter lines, help getting to and from the parking area, and more may be offered.)

HAVE FUN!

I feel as if I am forgetting some things. Don’t be surprised if the list grows.

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Teens’ Movie Theater Behavior Goes Viral

Recently, a post from a mother regarding the suspected behavior of her children became a big internet talking point. I can understand where she is coming from. She may feel sad, worried, embarrassed, or angry due to the reports of her children’s behavior. The post didn’t sit right with me, though. After a couple days I realized why.

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The mother does not mention getting the daughters’ side of the story. She clearly doesn’t trust them, though she trusts the brother. I have no idea if the children did what they are accused of or not, but how sad that trust is not strong in this relationship. What if this is a tiff between siblings and the brother was trying to get the sisters in trouble? Hopefully he was being honest, but since the parents don’t trust the girls, why trust the boy? Maybe this behavior has occurred before in other places. In that case, why are the daughters going to a movie unsupervised?

Let’s assume the girls did what they said, the brother was honest, and this event did happen. How sad that a movie, which tends to be expensive, was ruined for those in the theater. Regardless of one’s personal situation, this is not okay.

The question then becomes, how did we get here? Why are teens acting in this way? Maybe the parents needed to spend more time modeling wise choices and supervising. The parents appear to be authoritarian (just read the post about forced apologies and punishments). The authoritarian model never works well long term. When using the authoritarian model, kids often begin making unwise choices the moment the external rule-maker is gone. It’s better to foster an inner compass so children make wise choices regardless of external pressures, not just when “the boss” may catch them.

Was the mom wrong to want to fix it? Nope, not at all. I think most people with a heart would want to help set things right. I will say that apologizing for our children’s mistakes isn’t necessary. Teaching our children through modeling, discussion, practice, and being available as they work through their mistakes is necessary in parenting. Keep in mind that being compassionate and respectful towards our children teaches them to be compassionate and respectful toward others. Punishing does the opposite. Punishing teaches that retribution is acceptable and that power is more important than being kind and thoughtful.