Archive for April 28, 2011

Correcting Other People's Children

Happy Friday to all of you!  Today, I am going to jump into a question I’ve been pondering a while.  I was asked some time ago about when it was appropriate to correct other people’s children.  This is a bit complicated but I read a blog recently with a story I’ll share.  I have some general rules but I’m not exactly opposed to breaking them as you’ll soon read.  My hope is to give you my perspective but let you decide for yourself if it’s ever appropriate.

Let me start with the easy part.  When I was at St. Josephs Children’s Home, our kids were divided into departments.  The thing was, though, none of us were territorial with the children.  We had a common purpose which was to prepare kids for adoption or foster home settings.  Therefore, kids from another department acted up, I had no problems correcting them and never received grief for doing so.  In turn, I never gave a house parent a hard time when they corrected my kids.

Therefore, the first lesson to be learned is to have a clear understanding with the parents before correcting their children.  You may be surprised to learn that few parents whom I’ve actually talked to have objected to me correcting their kids.  To be honest, I can’t think of one although there may be a situation that has slipped my mind.  This isn’t a taboo topic.  Most reasonable parents understand that as long as you have the child’s best interests, odds are that correcting their children is probably all right.  Don’t get me wrong.  Problems can still occur.  In most cases though, it should be fine.

The second part of this is a bit trickier.  What if I don’t know the parents?  In this case, I am very hesitant before correcting any child unless they that child is causing imminent danger to themselves or someone else.  Though I’ve helped a lot of kids, I can’t raise everyone’s children.  So if, for example, I see your child throwing tomatoes down aisle 6 at the grocery store, I’m likely to keep pushing my cart until I reach the next aisle.  Some parents have no control of their kids while others are confrontational.  In the end, it just cannot be worth it to me.

This leads me to the story I teased at the beginning of the blog.  A mom was fixing lunch for her child and his friend (Johnny) at their house.  Johnny asked if he could have Pepsi and mom said, “No.”  (Her own child was drinking water)  After receiving the answer, Johnny replied, “F*ck You!”  Mom was pretty shocked (understandably so) and asked Johnny if he talked like that at home.  Johnny replied, “F*ck yeah.”

The current Pepsi logo (2008-) with the

How many expletives is a Pepsi worth?

Keep in mind I don’t know how old Johnny was.  In saying that, if your kid is in my home, I expect a general sense of politeness.  If I don’t get it, your child will not be in my home for long— one way or the other.  This is a case where I would correct the child and put them on a short leash. (figuratively speaking, of course!)

I’m fully aware there are many scenario’s left unanswered in this blog.  Yet again I have chosen a topic that could be a chapter in my next book.  Regardless, I’m interested in hearing your opinions and if/where I am off base.

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Thanks for reading this and passing it along to other parents.  It is really appreciated.  I started this blog April 7th and write twice a week.  Would you believe before this was posted, the blog has garnered over 1,000 hits?  You guys are incredible!!!

Thanks as well for all of the interest in my book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed about some speaking engagements in the fall.  Click on the book cover located at the right hand side of the blog for more info.  The entire preface has also been copy/pasted at the top of my page.  The book will make you laugh, cry, and think about your parenting.  One of my readers said she’ll need to read it twice.  The first time would be for entertainment and the second time, she would need to take notes.  Feel free to check it out.

Have a terrific weekend and I’ll have another blog ready on Tuesday.

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How's That Working Out?

Hello to everyone!  Today’s post is going to attempt to separate you from the parenting pack.  Because we all have a little political correctness in us, few of us would like to acknowledge a fact about parenting.  Some of us are simply better than others.  I’ve always thought the proof of parenting skills could be found within the child.  I’d argue, for example, the parent who helped place 6 kids into Harvard did things differently than the parent who has 6 kids in prison.

The inspiration for this post came from my wife over the weekend,  She took a muscle conditioning class from Danielle at our local YMCA.  To sum up Danielle, she is ripped!  I’ve had a 300 lbs. bench press, can burn 900+ calories on an elliptical trainer in 65 minutes, and run for miles (though I’d rather not).   But I’ve never come remotely close to having the muscles Danielle has.  I don’t make excuses.  The truth is she is better than me in the art of body sculpting.  She’s more dedicated, consistent, and serious than I’ve ever been.  That why she has the muscles she has and I….. (better stick to writing)

The main key to becoming a better parent is knowledge.  A lot of us either have learned from our own parents or make it up as we go.  The truth is though there are terrific resources which help anyone become better at this very important job.  There are parenting books, magazines, and websites that are chalked full of information.

For those of us who aren’t readers (better fake it in front of your kids) there are web chats, church groups, and of course- our own friends whom we can bounce ideas.

The other part of becoming a better parent is WANTING to become a better parent.  It’s keeping an open mind.  Use the ideas that you like.  Discard the ones you don’t.  But be open to all of them!  Honestly, what makes any parent think they can’t improve?  Are any of you that pompous?  I doubt it or you wouldn’t be at this site reading right now.

Because I’m not a “do as I say- not as I do person,” here’s what I do to get a little better.   I can honestly tell you that with all my experience with kids, I still read daily.  I like to read other people’s blogs, magazines, and newspaper articles (especially the ones that discuss school related issues).  I also bounce ideas off my wife and love to reflect on the good and bad things that happened with my kids.

There are two things certain in my mind when it comes to parenting.

1.  I’m really good at it.

2.  I have a lot more to learn.

I want to be on the cutting edge while staying grounded with ideas my family instilled in me.  I want to be the guy who others look toward when problems are happening.  In the end, the only way of accomplishing the goal is to work at it like I would a career, marriage, or other endeavor in life.  I want to be the Danielle of parenting.

As I’m finishing this article, my youngest just asked, “Do you want to play ball with me?”  Time for me to leave you guys and be a better parent.

Please don’t forget to pass this along to other parents if you liked the post and I’ll see you Friday!

When Should I Let My Child Fail

Welcome to another edition of Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures. Today, I am going to take a stab at a tricky question from a parent that doesn’t seem to me as having an overly difficult answer. Sometimes, as parents, we would like to think we control a bit more than we really do.  I believe this topic falls into that category.

Unfortunately, I don’t know the background of the family or the circumstance in which this was written.  These types of questions though almost always mean there is a specific story behind the question.

For some of my consistent readers, the concept of failure may sound familiar to you.  I wrote a piece called Handling Failure (http://www.claytonpaulthomas.com/archives/50) in late January.  For my new readers, I’d strongly encourage you to check it out.  One of the ultimate forms of “failure” I’ve ever witnessed is addressed in that piece.  I decided to answer this question though because it is slightly different and it piggybacks off the prior post.

My first thought on this topic is that failure is a part of life.  Kids are going to “fall down” but as long as I can be there to pick them up if they need me, I’m OK with the falling.  I don’t want to protect my child from the feelings generated with failure necessarily because there is a lot that can learned from it.  For example, even toddlers learning to walk will “fail.”  Yet, they get up and keep trying.  Ultimately, the goal is achieved.

In my prior post, I talked about a girl not making a cheerleading team and the feeling behind it.  If I were a parent and I didn’t think my child was going to make the team, I’m sure I would still let her try. I really believe overly protective parents do more harm than good although their heart is certainly in the right place.

My second thought is that I don’t think I could have stopped my kids from failing- even if I wanted to.  But here’s the thing about kids that has always struck me as amazing.  They are resilient people.  It was especially true of my kids at St. Joseph who went through hell even before arriving to the facility (with various forms of abuse).  Therefore, if I can’t stop kids from failing and they are as resilient as I believe they are; why concentrate on the fear of their failure.

In conclusion, I believe kids are going to fail from an early age.  (Ever seen a child try to ride a bike without training wheels the first time)? It is my job as a parent to be there for them, wrap my arms around them, and help them through the struggles.  If I can accomplish that, the inevitable victories my child will be that much sweeter.

Thanks so much for reading this blog.  Please pass this along to other parents who would enjoy the piece.  I’ll write to you again Tuesday.  Have a fantastic Easter weekend!!!

Don’t Forget:

If you are interested in the book, Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures, please don’t forget to use the code Aprilmail305 to get free shipping.  The offer is good until the end of April.  I am hoping to place some reviews on my site in time.  I’m pleased to report the immediate feedback received has been very good.  The preface, in its entirety, is still located at the top of the page.

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The "T" Word

Hello to all in parenting world!  I’m pleased you’ve decided to spend a little time with me in your otherwise hectic day.  Please don’t think this ever gets lost to me.  Your time is very appreciated.  I also want to throw out a quick thanks to those who have tweeted and “liked” my posts.  (The two buttons on the right above the blog on the left)  Sharing my material is a high compliment.

Today’s post deals with a topic which may be a bit secretive.  Please understand that no matter where you live, my assertion will need to be checked because things might be different in your area.

There is a lot of talk nationally about education and kids not being able to read upon graduation.  How a kid can earn a diploma and not read on grade level is beyond me.  There is a fault to go around but there is another solution outside of parents and the schools. The solution and unspoken “T” word is……… tutoring.

To some of us, tutoring may seem like an obvious answer for children who need it academically but I’d like to share a story about a former student.  This incident occurred in a public school.  No names will be released but I stand by the facts.  By the way, if your child attends a private school, this story will not apply to your child because they operative under a separate set of procedures.

One day I was talking to an “authority figure” in my school.  I mentioned how a student of mine would catch up quicker to their peers if he/she had some tutoring help.  Upon hearing this, I was asked by this authority figure whether I had said anything to the parents.  I replied “No” but conferences were around the corner so I would probably say something then.

The reply I received from the authority figure surprised me.   I was told specifically not to say anything about tutoring.  The reason was because if I were to do that, the school in which I was employed would be forced to pay for it.

Don’t get me wrong.  I understand on a macro level why I couldn’t recommend tutoring.  If all teachers did that with students who needed it, the school would literally run out of funds.  But, there was another side to this.  I knew of a way to help a child get the boost they needed but couldn’t say a thing.  I can honestly say that to this day, the story haunts me a bit.

The point to this story is though tutoring may help a child with their educational future, you weren’t going to hear those words come out of my mouth.  That makes it all the more important that you keep your finger on the pulse of your child’s education.  In order for you to see whether what I am saying is true, it’s probably best to contact the board of education in your area.

Friday will be my next blog entry.  I hope to have you back.  Until then, please give your children a big hug, spend some quality time with them, stay on top of their education, and love them unconditionally.

Oppositional Behavior Question

Today, I want to answer a question I received from “a friend” about a child who is giving her some troubles behaviorally.  There have been books written about this topic but I hope the following will give you some concrete footing when attacking the problem.

The basic background is a mom and dad with three kids.  The oldest child is the type who hardly gives mom any trouble.  The middle can be a handful and the youngest is a baby.  I chose this topic because it’s a pretty common theme.  Although siblings may have similar genetic traits, they usually don’t have the same personality traits. (Funny how that happens)  This post is meant to address oppositional behavior and give some tips to this mom and anyone else who sees it in their home.

With the 400+ kids I’ve worked with, some of them were real stinkers (if you know what I mean).  Their m.o. would be to backtalk, fight, or be non-compliant when given a direction.  Interestingly enough, the age of the child didn’t matter.  They shared some common traits and the strategies I’m going to write about have worked with the most difficult children I have come across.

My first premise is there is a root cause to all behavior good or bad.  There’s a reason we feel the way we feel.  A good day may have been caused by a compliment we received from our spouse.  A bad day may have occurred because a co-worker was a jerk.  No matter what you are feeling right now, there is a reason.

Therefore, if a child is misbehaving, a parent would be wise to dig deep for that reason.  I’ll warn you though it isn’t always easy.  Take your time and be very patient in order to find the root cause of the problem.  This specifically means observing, talking to the child, and asking your significant other for any input.  If you don’t, any discipline action will simply not be as effective.  I will go as far as to say in some cases, it’s a waste of time.

Second, a simple concept addressed in my book deals with “buttons.”  This is a slight variation of point 1.  In essence, we all have them.  For example, if my wife pushes the right button with me, she can make me laugh.  If she pushes the wrong one, the response (shall I say) wouldn’t be the same.  I’ve heard it said we should be in control of our emotions which is true.  The thing is though we are all human and have built in positive and negative emotions that will surface in some way sooner or later.  It’s part of makes us human.

If you agree with my premise, couldn’t it be reasoned that children would have a more difficult time controlling emotions than adults?  If so, what button was pushed to set off the emotion?   Again, this has to be known for any consequence to work as effectively with a child demonstrating poor behavior.

Now that I’ve covered these two crucial points, I can tell you that I’m all for consequences when it comes to poor behavior.  Once I know what’s going on behaviorally with the child, it’s very possible a consequence is still in order.  The key with any consequence is it has to work. Don’t take this point for granted.  I realize this key sounds obvious but let me throw this question to you.  Do you know of a parent who consequences behavior by spanking; yet their child still misbehaves in the exact same manner?  Really, me too.  Let’s move on.

Proper consequences for oppositional behavior centers on really knowing your child and what buttons to push.  For some children, it’s time out or even the mere threat of it.  For others, it’s taking a toy/priveledge. Each child even under the same roof is different so choose your consequences carefully.  If your consequence doesn’t work, reassess what you did and where you went wrong.  The next time the oppositional behavior occurs (and it will) you will be better prepared to deal with it in a different manner.

Don’t forget that some children respond to consequences such as positive reinforcement.  Remember to not associate the word consequence with something negative.  For example, I’ve told kids in the “heat of the moment” that they could do better.  Would you believe I’ve instantly resolved incredible struggles while dealing with difficult children based on those words alone?  It’s not that easy with every kid but I could name each one it has worked with.  That’s because I knew the kids I’ve worked with that well.

Controlling oppositional behavior isn’t easy but it is necessary.  Although it’s possible they are “going through a phase” I wouldn’t count on it.  I’d advise to dig deep, attack the root problem, and work towards a resolution.  It’s been my experience that once you do this, you should have a happier home because you’ll be dealing with fewer and less severe struggles.   Hope this helps.

Now for some housekeeping notes:

1.  Thanks to all who have passed my blog around.  I don’t track who you are but let it be known how appreciated it is.

2.  If you look at the top of my page, you’ll find a new addition.  I have copy/pasted the entire preface to Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  I thought this would be a good way for people who didn’t know me to get a peek inside.  I would think it would be difficult to buy any book from a stranger if you couldn’t get a peek.  I think the preface will help.

3.  If you have a parenting question you would like answered, please send it to tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com. Just like today, identifying information isn’t released.

4.  I like the Tuesday/Friday blogs so I’ll see you Tuesday with another edition.  Have a terrific weekend!!!

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I'm Still That Dad (So Far)

Welcome back to another edition of my blog.  Before I get started, I want to thank everyone who has visited my blog and/or bought Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  It really means a lot.

Today’s title stems from the fact that I still do not own a Nintendo Wii or an XBox 360.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love these systems.  I had video games growing up, St. Joseph Children’s Home (where I learned most of my parenting skills) had an old Nintendo, and cost is not the central issue.  So what’s the holdup?  Everyone else has one, right?

Though I am the bad guy for this stance in my home, here’s the beef.  Today’s video gaming systems are too darn much fun.  Because of this, I have reasoned that the systems have the potential to stifle creativity.  What I am going to do is give a couple of arguments for my beliefs then guess a couple of counter arguments to address.  I hope this doesn’t sound like I am talking to myself on a computer but it just might!  It’s important for parents to consider these arguments even if they go ahead and buy a gaming system.

My Argument:  How many families (especially with boys) own a video game system; yet their children would rather read, draw, or play board games on a consistent basis?  I admit some of you probably do but the percentage would be interesting to know.  One thing cool about reading is that your mind has to be put to use to imagine what is going on in the story.  The same could be said for drawing or playing board games.  With a video game though, the brain doesn’t have to work in the same creative fashion.

Possible counter argument:  Can’t their be a balance between gaming and other creative outlets?

My Answer:  In theory, yes.  The problem is that the balance would have to be imposed by me.  Right now, I don’t force my children to use their creative outlets.  If I had a gaming system, that would be the first thing on their minds to do during down time.  In essence, I would be the bad guy for saying, “No.”  Currently, my children aren’t forced to use their creative outlets.  It happens naturally.  The dichotomy would be different though if I took away something they wanted to do (video games) and replace it with something they didn’t really want to do (read a book or go outside).

My argument:  Video games can be so much fun, they can be used as a crutch for parents to not parent.

For example, how many of you could place your kids in front of their favorite video game and leave them there for hours?  Really?  I bet I could too.  The thing is sometimes I’m lazy after a long day.  I’ll bet I could be easily tempted to let my kids play longer on their gaming systems than they should because it’s just so easy to do.  I’m not judging others but I know myself well.  On a side note, who says I wouldn’t enjoy playing the video games, thus stifling my own creativity.

Counter Argument:  Shouldn’t parents be responsible and monitor the time gaming?

My answer:  They should!  The problem is I know a lot of irresponsible parents and I’m merely passing on the temptation.

This blog could go on forever with points and counterpoints.  (Odds are I’ll write a chapter in a future book full of facts and details).  What I want you to understand though is that you may be taking an unintentional risk.  Creativity and hands on parenting are important skills.  It’s impossible to know how much they are stifled due to video games.  As a parent of a 7 and 3 year old, it’s a risk I’m not ready to take yet.

Therefore, I have decided to load my house with different things the kids find fun.  Outside, I have a swing, a 15 foot fort with a slide, basketballs, baseballs, soccer balls, etc….   Inside my home, I have books, a very messy playroom, pop-o-shot (basketball goal), a Foosball table, a crate of art supplies, board games, etc……  (I’m thinking a pool table or a bumper pool table could be next.)

We also have a YMCA that, along with a lot of great activities, has…….wait for it……… a Nintendo Wii.  Hey, I never said they didn’t play the games.  They’re just not playing them in my home.

I’ll be back on Friday with another post.  Just like with my previous blog, I am willing to answer some questions whether it is about the book, a previous blog post, or a general opinion (Dear Abby) type of question.

Video games for the people

Geez- even he is playing???

Finally, if you liked today’s topic, please share it with other parents.  I would really appreciate it!!!

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Ready or not- Here I Come

Depending on who you are, this is either a welcome back blog or thanks for being here post.  Lots has changed since my last blog in January.  The most significant thing is the completion of the parenting book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  It’s been about 16 months start to finish.  I hope those of you who purchase the book feel it’s money well spent.

Today’s topic stems from one of my favorite childhood games Hide and Go Seek.  Come on, I know you’ve played it many times.  Hide your eyes, count to ten, then go chase your friends.  I’ve been asked by many people what it’s like to write a book and oddly enough there were a lot of similarities to that game.

I had to hide my eyes and concentrate for long periods of time.  Sometimes I missed social events and my favorite sporting teams to spend time writing.  I wish I could have counted only to ten but instead it was 16 months.  That’s a lot of counting.  Finally, I have emerged and I’m ready to chase a dream.  In this case, the dream is bringing my message to as many families as possible while keeping mine in tact.  I’m certain this won’t be easy.

My simple message today is this.  If you have a dream, goal, or desire, it’s worth chasing.  I decided long ago if I never sold a book, the passion to follow and complete the dream was still important.  My kids are amazed they are on the cover of a book.  My wife is incredibly proud of me.  Pride in myself has really shot up because I knew I could this and I proved myself right.

I hope if you decide to follow your dreams, you will feel the same things as me.  I was talking to a friend last night at my son’s soccer practice who wanted to expand his computer company.  Despite the fact I am not a computer guy and I couldn’t even follow what he actually did, one thing was certain.  He was excited and had a passion for his dream.

I hope no matter where you are in life you will pursue your dreams.  I’ll bet your kids will find a new and possibly greater respect for you.  Your actions will hopefully encourage your kids to follow their dreams as well.  In the end, isn’t that what we really want as parents?

My next blog will probably be posted Tuesday.  All my best to you and those you love!!!

Clayton

Meyerheim: Three children playing

This image is a picture of hide and go seek.

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