Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Talking to Teens about their Parents!

This link takes you to an informational new series on Yahoo hosted by Katie Couric. She provides the latest news and information on a variety of topics. This discussion between Katie, a child psychologist, and a small group of teenagers is about "the scary teenage brain"...what do they think parents should worry about, what shouldn't they be worried about.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Peace, love and understanding!

A couple days ago I saw the article about the 9 year old who wanted to peacefully respond to the Westboro Baptist Church members who were picketing at Washburn University in Topeka, KS.


I'm sure he felt safe holding up his sign with his Mom nearby and it may have been different if he was with his friends. Either way I'm glad to see his Mom support his desire to stand up for something that he felt was important. After all the things that parents are posting on their's or their child's Facebook to shame their misbehavior, this mother's posting of the indicident on her Facebook page was a nice change of pace.

How do we teach our children to be caring and empathic towards all people in an age when a lot of children are more interested in their Wii game then current events.

1. Don't be afraid to express feelings and talk about them openly within your family. Reflect what you think your child is feeling and show him that you will understand and honor his feelings even though you may not agree, "I can see that you're feeling really angry with me right now because I've told you no."

2. Discuss current events but also explain to them that there are others who have different views and it's ok to agree to disagree.

3. Model anger management especially when your child is being disrespectful. This can be very hard to do but is a gift that will help them with every conflict that occurs in the future.

4. Don't spank or use harsh judgment when disciplining your child. Everyone makes mistakes and kids need to know that they can make amends and move forward.

5. Try not to vocally express your judgment of others or their lifestyle or actions. Teach your child tolerance and that everyone has a right to live their life on their terms whether we agree with their life choice or not.

6. And last but not least consider joining a parenting or support group. Lots of parents get stuck on issues and discipline techniques from time to time and having the knowledge to consider an alternative teaches self-acceptance and a willingness to learn and grow at any age.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I'll use ridicule and embarrassment, that will teach her!

I recently read the article about the mom who wanted to punish her daughter for talking back to her and was confused about what exactly she wanted her daughter to learn.


My first thought was that she wanted to teach her daughter to manage her anger so that she would speak to her with the respect that she is due. I also assumed that she wanted her daughter to understand what respect looked like so that they could have a relationship that was loving and nurturing which would leave the door open for opportunities to teach.

I soon found that my assumption was in error:

"Denise Abbott says her daughter Ava mouthed off, so she changed her daughter’s profile picture. It shows a picture of her daughter with an “x” over her mouth and reads, “I don’t know how to keep my mouth shut.” It also encourages people to ask why she is being punished.
“We decided to do something that I know would totally impact her and that the next time she started that, she’d think, ‘I don’t want my face all over Facebook again with a red ‘x’ over my mouth,” explained Abbott."

Did Ava have respect or conflict resolution modeled for her so that she knows how to handle her anger and disagreements with her mother in the future? No, she learned revenge so she will probably repeat the behavior but just be more sneaky about it next time. That will probably keep her from getting a red 'x' over her mouth on Facebook. So...I guess Ava's mother was successful.

Respect is not forced, it's learned. And the impact of modeling respect is much greater when a parent is faced with disrespect

Friday, April 20, 2012

Addcition can happen to even loving good families, like mine!

My brother would be 53 years old if he hadn't died 11 years ago from his addiction to heroin. He might have gotten married, had children, had a career, a life!! I'll never know because he had been an addict since he was an adolescent. I feel sad when I hear other women talk about their brothers and how close they are now that they're adults because I feel like he and I were cheated out of that.

My children, who were young at the time, had lots of questions. Why does he do things like that? Why is he in jail? Why does he take drugs when he knows they're so bad? I didn't know what to tell them, and I wanted them to get the correct information so that they could understand him and understand addiction and not judge him unfairly. I was also concerned because my brother wasn't the only addict in my family. My grandfather was an alcoholic; therefore, myself and my children were five times more likely to become addicts ourselves.

My children did get their answers; they also got tools! Tools that they needed to survive their adolescents with all it's temptations and readily available drugs.
They attended CARE's Project Focus camp. It's a free, 2 week camp for children 6-15 year old who have a loved one dealing with addiction or recovery.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Shooting a laptop? I didn't see that in any of my parenting books!

I recently watched the video that went viral on YouTube of the father shooting his daughter's laptop in response to her angry diatribe on Facebook regarding her parents!!  Typical teen response, not typical parent response.

Just a little bit of brain development info here to help make this typical teen response a little more clear: teen brains are not fully hard-wired (or myelated) until they reach their mid-twenties. In a recent article on NPR by Richard Knox, Francis Jensen, a pediatric neurologist at Children's Hospital in Boston, stated that a crucial part of the teen brain — the frontal lobes — are not fully connected. "It's the part of the brain that says: 'Is this a good idea? What is the consequence of this action?' " Jensen says. "It's not that they don't have a frontal lobe and they can use it. But they're going to access it more slowly." That's because the nerve cells that connect teenagers' frontal lobes with the rest of their brains are sluggish. Teenagers don't have as much of the fatty coating called myelin, or "white matter", that adults have in this area.Think of it as insulation on an electrical wire. Nerves need myelin for nerve signals to flow freely. Spotty or thin myelin leads to inefficient communication between one part of the brain and another, says Jensen....plain and simple that's why they make so many mistakes!!!

Our reaction to their mistakes is the crucial part of parenting. What is that father who is shooting his daughter's laptop teaching her about respect and revenge?

Even though teenagers look like adults, they're not. We need to be the role model of respect and "the right thing to do". This isn't the Wild West and we're not a bunch of cowboys. We need to start thinking about what messages our actions are conveying.

When my son was 13 years old, we got into an argument about washing the dishes. The last comment he made to me was, "I'm not washing the dishes and you can't make me." As I was getting up from the couch to tear the skin off his back, my husband stopped me, put his arm around me and asked me a very profound question, "How do you want this turn out?" Very good question since both my son and I are power people. If you tell either one of us no, we have to do it anyway just to prove you wrong. This could have been an argument that went on all night. Instead I took the opportunity to take a few deep breaths, think about what I wanted my son to learn at that moment, and talk to my husband about the STEP skills we had learned.  I went into the kitchen and said to my son, "Listen, we're like a pack of dogs here...we look out for each other and help each other out. I wash your clothes, make you dinner, give you spending money, and drive you and your friends around not because I have to but because I want to. Now, I feel confused because I never speak to you that way and I need for you to show me the same respect. How can we make this work out?" We talked a little more and he ended up washing the dishes, not happily and not without grumbling and complaining, but he did it. And, I have to say, he apologized to me later. Something he had never done before. I think the turning point for him was that I maintained and modeled respect. He didn't always respond that way but what my son saw consistently from his father and I was respect, and as he aged and gained some maturity, he in turn reflected that same respect to us and others.

It's our role and, yes our duty, to be the grown up here. We have more life experience and we need to put on our parenting pants (even if they feel tight) and model what we want our children to be as adults. Sure, shooting a laptop on YouTube looks great and it's so easy...but taking the time to calm down, think about what you want to accomplish, and model it (even in the face of anger and immaturity) is a lot harder but more of an investment in your child's emotional development and, in the long run, more of an investment in your future relationship together.

If you'd like to learn more about STEP and how to deal with teenage (and children's) angst, consider taking a parenting class. You can call CARE of Southeastern Michigan at 586.541.0033 to find out dates and locations throughout Macomb County.

And don't forget to tune into the next Macomb Daily parent chat on Wednesday, April 4, 11:30 am, at http://www.macombdaily.com/ Our topic will be the signs of depression and suicide in our children and teens.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why healthy self-worth is important for children!

Self Worth – Self Worth is the value that people put on themselves and it's based on their self-concept and self-esteem. 
        “People in my life (father, mother, friends, boss, teachers) care about me.  I am valued by others, therefore, I value my self.”

Self Concept – Self Concept is the way someone thinks about him/herself.
       “I think that I am capable….I can do things for myself and accomplish important things.”

Self-Esteem – Self Esteem is the way someone feels about him/herself.
      “I feel good about myself.  I can make a mistake but it doesn’t mean that I am a bad person.”

Why should we care of our children develop a healthy self esteem?  It is important that children develop positive self worth, self concept and a healthy self esteem.  Children (and adults) who value themselves, think positive, and feel good about who they are tend to be happy, helpful children.   They take care of their bodies, and act in ways that will benefit their futures.    

A healthy (good) self esteem is based on experiences.  These experiences include the way he is talked to, the things that he learns, and the way he is accepted by others.  Parents are mostly responsible for their children’s self esteem because parents have the most contact with their children and and the most interaction with them.  Healthy (good) parenting helps to develop a healthy self esteem. The way that parents respond to their children's experiences helps them to process the experience as good or bad. Chose your words carefully. Realize that children and teens struggle to learn every day and notice their progress. Understand that brain development continues throughout the teens years till they reach their mid-twenties and be patient.

Ways NOT to build a healthy self esteem:
·         Yelling and screaming scare children.  Children who are yelled at will learn to yell themselves.
·         Hitting, yanking, or grabbing at children scares them.  Children who are hit, yanked, or grabbed learn to hit, yank, and grab. 
·         Name calling and swearing at children scares them.  Children who are called names and sworn at learn to call names and swear.

These methods scare children and they do not want to be around their parents.  When children are fearful and start to expect anger as a reaction, they stop going to their parents for help and advice and they stop using them as sounding boards for their big decisions. The people who are less scary and more accepting are their friends, so they start asking their advice and help on the big decisions...they learn their friend's values and morals instead of yours!!

Understanding that you're still ok even when you make mistakes and other's are criticizing you is huge and so helpful even when you're an adult.

Check out the CARE website at http://www.careofsem.com/ or call 586.541.0033 for our current list of parenting classes.

And don't forget to tune into our March 7 Parent Chat on Strong-willed Mothers and Daughters at 11:30 am at http://www.macombdaily.com/

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

12 Tips for talking to teens about sex!

1. Be knowledgeable and prepared. Read books, pamphlets, etc.

2. Answer questions on the spot. If that is not possible, say you will discuss it later and be sure to follow through.

3. Answer questions honestly.

4. Make answers short and to the point.

5. Just answer the question you are asked…don’t read into it.

6. Use proper terminology such as vagina, penis, sexual intercourse, etc. Explain slang terms but encourage children to use the proper names.

7. It is OK to admit to your child that you are embarrassed or that you don’t know an answer.

8. If you don’t know an answer, find it together. Go to the library, health department, call a hot line, or go online to a reliable website.

9. Be alert to situations that encourage discussions on sexual issues (pregnant classmate, movies, and/or TV shows).

10. Leave appropriate books and brochures lying around the house so that teens will find them.

11.  Talk to your child about values. Encourage them to think about what is important for their lives.

12.  Educate your child in degrees until all information is known.
Taken from YMCA Swift Program brochure.

The most important tip is to talk early and talk often. Children and teens need to hear the information more than once.

If you act uncomfortable and avoid talking about this subject, they will stop coming to you and start going to their friends!!

We discuss many issues just like this in our STEP parenting classes. If you would like to find out where to join a group, please call CARE of Southeastern Michigan at 586-541-0033. CARE offers parenting classes in many locations throughout Macomb County.

I also co-host a parenting chat the first Wednesday of each month at http://www.macombdaily.com/ If you would like to see the transcripts of some of our previous chats, search in archives for "Parent Chat".

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The first and most important STEP to stop bullying!

Great link to an article about empathy:   http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1982190,00.html

One of the skills that we discuss in our STEP Parenting classes is good communication. Reflective listening asks parents to listen and then reflect what they think their child is feeling. Children and teens then know that they are being listened to and understood...which validates their feelings.

We also discuss I-messages which are a way for parents to let their children know how their behavior affects them without shaming or blaming. 
Less defensiveness = less conflict.

Not only are children learning how to listen themselves when they see it modeled by their parents, they also learn that talking about feelings is ok,  and they learn empathy..the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

To find out about workshops and summer camps designed to teach children self-respect and personal empowerment visit http://www.girlsempowered.com

If you are interested in more information on parenting issues, CARE of Southeastern Michigan offers parenting classes throughout the year at various locations in Macomb County. You can view upcoming classes, get more information, and register online at http://www.careofsem.com/workshops.php or call CARE at 586-541-0033.

I also co-host a parenting chat at http://www.macombdaily.com/ with the Health and Lifestyle Writer, Maryanne Kocis-MacLeod, on the 1st Wednesday of the month at 11:30-12:30 pm.

Monday, February 6, 2012

How do we teach our children to ask for help?

Next Wednesday, February 15, the topic of the parent chat will be how to keep our children safe from predators. This follows on the heels of the recent news story of the third grade teacher in Los Angeles who had been molesting children between 2008 and 2010. He had been a teacher, though, for 30 years so they really don't know how many children he may have violated.

So how do we keep our children safe? How do we teach children that it's ok to ask for help? How do we get children to come to us when they are being told to do something that does not feel right to them? I'm sure those Los Angeles parents talked to their children so why didn't it help?

It made me think back to when I was a first grader. I had two hamsters, Tom and Jerry, that turned out to really be Tom and Geraldine! Two pet hamsters turned into many, many hamsters! Well one day my first grade teacher decided to call me up in front of the class, tape a red ball to my nose, and announce to the rest of the class that I was a hamster.  Everyone laughed but I was humiliated...no 6 year old likes to be the butt of a joke and have an entire classroom of her peers laughing at her.

Flash forward 20-some years to my sister, mother, and I sitting around discussing the upcoming school-wide reunion at this particular school. As we discussed the teachers that we hoped would be there, I mentioned my first-grade teacher and what had happened. We all had a few weird stories to share about this woman and my mother was horrified. She said, "Why didn't you tell me that happened? I would have called them up and complained."  I told her that I didn't know at that time that I had a choice in the matter. I was raised to be an obedient child and it wasn't in my nature to question an authority figure and say "No" to her or to complain. If an adult told me to do something, I did it without question because they knew better. Of course, she didn't do anything that would be considered abusive; but what if she did?

When I raised my children, I felt that I didn't have the luxury of raising obedient children. I wanted them to think for themselves and learn how to say no.  Problem was, they also said no to me; but I can handle that because I'm the parent. They needed to learn during the in-service workshop of home so that they could take what they learned and use it in the real world. I was very lucky and my children never had to experience the horrors that those children in Los Angeles did, but I sure would like to have had all the ammunition that I could to save them if they needed it.

Consider being a part of our chat on February 15. Our guest panelists will include a counselor who works with children and a program director who also helps children and families of abuse.  The time is 11:30-12:30 pm and the website is included in the information below.

If you are interested in more information on parenting issues, CARE of Southeastern Michigan offers parenting classes throughout the year at various locations in Macomb County. You can view upcoming classes, get more information, and register online at http://www.careofsem.com/workshops.php or call CARE at 586-541-0033.
I also co-host a parenting chat at http://www.macombdaily.com/ with the Health and Lifestyle Writer, Maryanne Kocis-MacLeod, on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month at 11:30-12:30 pm.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Clash of the Titans!

I took my first STEP class 20 years ago when my son was 3 years old. I figured that I needed help when I was arguing with him over whether the garage door should be up or down, and it was an argument that he was winning!! He had always been a handful even as an infant.  He spent the first 3 months of his life screaming and projectile vomiting. Of course that was because he had a hard time with his formula but I took it personally.

I threatened, I cajoled, I tried to break that defiant spirit numerous times but it didn't work and I was worried. What would happen in 10 years if we continue yelling and screaming at each other? Where would he go to find love and acceptance if he wasn't finding it at home? What would he use to find comfort? I had lived through addiction in my family and wasn't going to watch it happen again, especially to my kids.

So I hesitantly took a parenting class. I say hesitantly because I was skeptical and didn't want anyone to tell me how to raise my kid.  It wasn't a magic wand, it didn't work overnight; but one morning I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. His usual routine when he would wake up and find his dad had gone to work was to question where he was and then throw a fit when I told him he had gone to work. That usually sent him into a tailspin and I would end up telling him to knock it off. I would explain that his dad would be home later and he could see him all he wanted but that just made it worse. 

So one day I decided to try this new STEP skill, reflective listening, that we learned in class! It's a skill where you listen and reflect feelings which, in turn, helps the person who is talking to you feel validated. I couldn't wait to try it and then tell my parenting facilitator that it didn't work. I thought it sounded crazy and wouldn't produce any results. So, that morning, Luke comes into the room, asks where his dad is at, and I tell him. He says, "But I wanted to kiss him goodbye and now he's gone." Ok I thought this is it...."Luke", I said, "it sounds like your sad because Dad is gone and you miss him." First, he just stood there and looked at me like I had lobsters coming out of my ears; then he said, "yeah, I am." and walked away!!!  You mean that's it, that's all he wanted, I could have been getting better sleep a long time ago had I known this 3 years ago.

Since then I've obviously become a disciple. I've been doing this for 20 years and it's the best $30 investment I could have made in myself and my children. I now use this skill with everyone from my adult children to the cashier at Meijer who is having a bad day. And, knock on wood, my children are now 20 and 23 and not using drugs. I believe with all my heart that it's because of the skills I learned in my first STEP class.

Well, I also think it's that defiant spirit that I hated so much when he was 3. I asked him once when he was 18 why he hadn't fallen into the trap of drugs that were so readily available to him and his friends. "Well", he said, "my friends know that I won't do it and if I have to tell someone more than once, I'm done with them."

So, I can't tell him what to do but apparently no one else can either!

If you are interested in more information on parenting issues, CARE of Southeastern Michigan offers parenting classes throughout the year at various locations in Macomb County. You can view upcoming classes, get more information, and register online at http://www.careofsem.com/workshops.php or call CARE at 586-541-0033.
I also co-host a parenting chat at http://www.macombdaily.com/ with the Health and Lifestyle Writer, Maryanne Kocis-MacLeod, on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month at 11:30-12:30 pm.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Way or the Highway

I'm going to be doing a presentation tonight on cooperation! I know from past experience with parenting groups that what they really want to know is how do I get my kids to obey me?

"My way or the highway" works for awhile when they're little but soon looses it's power as they get older. It also seems desirable when they're small because they do what you want and they learn to please you when doing it, but it doesn't do them any good as they become older and they encounter others in their lives who aren't as "safe".  That need to please and be accepted by other people may also become important when it's their peers who want them to try drugs or participate in other unsavory activities. That need to please and be obedient may not be so desirable if they encounter someone in authority who may take advantage of their role as an authority figure.

It may sound crazy but we need to appeal to their logical side. They need to understand the importance of what they're doing and how it helps when they cooperate. They also need to understand how to say no to you and negotiate. Now I'm not advocating snotty, sarcastic remarks from children and teens, I'm talking about learning how to talk respectfully to someone when they don't agree and how to negotiate for their needs assertively.

And they're going to learn that from you. How do you act when you are in a confrontation? How do you act when the person you are confronting is out of control? The hardest thing parents hear from me is to draw your boundaries, walk away, let consequences occur, and let your teen have the last word. They think I'm nuts...but I'm asking you what you want your teen to learn. How to scream louder or how to behave in a responsible way when someone else is out of control? Besides, when you leave a conversation in that way, you always have the ability to go back later and try again.

Think about what you want them to learn at that moment. Don't always get involved with their issues.  Let them solve their own problems by asking, "What can you do in this situation?". Let them fail sometime; it builds character.  Teach them how to get up, brush themselves off, and try again. Encourage, encourage, encourage them to try again. And last, but not least, notice progress and improvement; that's how you get cooperation!

If you are interested in more information on parenting issues, CARE of Southeastern Michigan offers parenting classes throughout the year in various locations throughout Macomb County. You can view upcoming classes, get more information, and register online at http://www.careofsem.com/parenting_ed.html or call CARE at 586-541-0033.  I also co-host a parenting chat at http://www.macombdaily.com/ with the Health and Lifestyles Writer, Maryanne Kocis-MacLeod, on the first and third Wednesdays of each month from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Friday, January 20, 2012

This Is Going To Hurt Me More Than It Hurts You

This past Wednesday Maryanne and I hosted a parent chat on spanking. Most of the comments during the chat were from like-minded parents; however after reading some of the comments in the transcripts for the chat, I can see that there are a lot of parents who still believe that children are suffering from bad behavior because they are not being spanked on a regular basis. I've heard many parents throughout my 20 years of teaching parenting classes who still do not understand how detrimental corporal punishment can be to a child's development.

I would like to share a link to Chick Moorman's website and hopefully, you can subscribe to his very informative newsletter, Spirit Whisperer. Chick was a speaker at our parenting conference a few years ago, and was incredible.  I hope you will click on this link and read the #4 article  entitled, This Is Going To Hurt Me More Than It Hurts You, it gives a different perspective to the spanking issue: http://www.chickmoorman.com/newsletters/05-MayPar.html

If you are interested in more information on parenting issues, I co-host a parenting chat at http://www.macombdaily.com/ with the Health and Lifestyles Writer, Maryanne Kocis-MacLeod, on the first and third Wednesdays of each month from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.
There are also parenting classes that are offered throughout the year by CARE of Southeastern Michigan in locations throughout Macomb County. You can view upcoming classes, get more information, and register online at http://www.careofsem.com/ or call CARE at 586-541-0033.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Are Girls Learning?

My 19 year-old daughter and I were watching a segment on The Today Show about a high school senior who wanted a very provocative picture submitted in her yearbook as her official graduation picture. The school refused so her mother encouraged her to take the school to court over the issue….really? I understand where this mother was coming from. She probably wanted her daughter to fight for what she believes in and was trying to support her although one of the panel members in the discussion thought that the mom was trying to be her friend and not her parent. 
I would love to see this young woman become a future activist and stand up for what she believes in, but again I have to ask, really this is what you’ve chosen? There are so many issues taking place in our country right now that I would love to see young people get involved with like Occupy Wall Street, funding cuts to Planned Parenthood and WIC, or even volunteering at a local agency to mentor other teens learning to make good choices.  Why would this young woman need to fight the school, in court, to have a picture in the yearbook that looks like it would be more comfortable in the pages of Victoria’s Secret?
My daughter who was watching the show with me asked, “Mom, what would you say to that girl?” Actually I was ready to answer because I had been thinking about it as soon as I heard that the mother wanted to support her daughter in this cause. I told her that I would ask the high school grad why she wants herself represented this way. This is her crowning moment; a representation of her steps up from childhood into adulthood. Putting aside the fact that future employers or your future children may see it for the moment, how will you feel about it in the coming years? Do you see yourself as a sum of your body parts? Do you think that the only way to be noticed and appreciated is if you look sexy? Is that all there is to you as a woman after all your years of hard work in school?
This young woman may be a very nice person. She may be very intelligent, hard-working, compassionate, and a future go-getter; but I wouldn’t know that by looking at her senior picture. I wish that the mother of this young woman had gone with her when her graduation pictures were taken to help her to consider the poses that were suggested and help her draw some appropriate boundaries (after all mom and dad are paying for the pictures, right?). I hope this mom is talking to her daughter about how important it is to represent herself as an intelligent woman with lots of great character traits to show to the world, not body parts. I hope she is encouraging her to think about what’s really important for her future and how to fight for causes that lift women to higher levels instead of bringing them down to sexualized objects.
What are we teaching our daughters?

If you are interested in more information on parenting issues, I co-host a parenting chat at http://www.macombdaily.com/ with the Health and Lifestyles Writer, Maryanne Kocis-MacLeod, on the first and third Wednesdays of each month from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.
There are also parenting classes that are offered throughout the year by CARE of Southeastern Michigan in locations throughout Macomb County. You can view upcoming classes, get more information, and register online at http://www.careofsem.com/ or call CARE at 586-541-0033.