Archive for June 28, 2011

Momentum

One night as I was about to fall asleep, I thought about things that make a child really good or really bad.  As I often do, I let my mind wander until I thought about the concept of momentum and how important it really is.

Children are always having messages sent to them rapidly.  I am arguing that over time the child takes the messages into their mind, evaluates them, and some eventually become part of their belief system.  In saying this, I also believe that there is a positive momentum built each time a parent acknowledges something good about a child.  That acknowledgement causes a child to want to continue doing the positive thing.  The momentum cycle will continue as long as the child is receiving the reinforcement needed.

Let’s look at this practically and it’s easy to see why this is so important.  When a child is constantly told they are beautiful, loved, and/or smart, they will eventually believe it.  The only time this belief may be rattled could be when an outside influence such as bullies, the media, or possibly even a teacher tells them otherwise.  As a parent, I want to build my children up as much as possible.  I want them to believe in themselves so they will have the confidence to do something they set their mind to doing.

The converse of this is when a parent either doesn’t praise their child or is even neutral.  Neutrality doesn’t build momentum.  In my opinion, a parent who doesn’t constantly praise their children for good work will impede any momentum previously gathered.

If you want a child to be more athletic, work with him/her and give praise when appropriate at every opportunity.  The same can be said for education.  In other words, be a momentum builder- not a momentum breaker.

Quality children don’t pop out of the womb.  They are molded and taught by caring and loving people.  When a child hears enough praise, they will believe it and will want to continue to do things which give them more praise.  I know you’ll find that once the momentum is truly built, you will have a very exciting child to work with!

My next post will be on Friday.  Until then, I hope you have many terrific moments with a child you love.

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The Cost of Greatness

Yesterday, I took my 7 year old to Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana.  This was something my son had been wanting and I was thankful I found a great day to do it.

Because my wife wasn’t around, I did what most dads do which is to let go of all the usual rules!  We had lunch without vegetables, ice cream before dinner, and didn’t worry about waiting 30 minutes after eating to go swimming.  In short, it was a great time.

We waited in line towards the end of the day to get on a roller coaster called The Legend one final time.  When we nearly got to the top of the four flights of stairs, he lost his flip flop and it fell straight to the ground.  I admit I wasn’t too happy but it was an accident so what else was I supposed to do but accept the situation?  We got out of line and trudged downstairs.

When we got to the bottom of the steps, I illegally jumped a fence (trust me, it was not gracious) and retrieved the flip flop.  Instead of moving on to another ride, we went to the end of the roller coaster line and waited again.  When my boy realized I not only got his flip flop but he was still going to get on his new favorite roller coaster, he turned to me and said, “Dad, you are the greatest.”

So, as I see it, here’s the cost of greatness.

1.  Two tickets to Holiday World

2.  Lunch

3.  Ice cream

4.  A pinch of patience.

The total cost of greatness is about $100 and it was worth every dime. We had a wonderful day together.

I’ll write to you again Tuesday.  In the meantime, spread this blog around if you liked it and have a terrific weekend with the kids!!!

Holiday World & Splashin' Safari

Image via Wikipedia

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How Respect is Earned

Today, I want to talk about how I typically gain the respect of the kids.  My feeling is if I can gain the respect of a child, the sky is the limit.  If I can’t earn their respect, he/she could have all the talent in the world but I wouldn’t be the one who can tap into it.  Respect is that important.

I have gained respect in various ways and it really depends on the child as to the best way to do it. True respect takes time to earn and it can be easily diminished or lost.  Because I am talking about an abstract topic, I realize it will be interpreted in different ways.  If you would like some clarification or if you would like me to be more specific on a point, leave a comment below or email me at claytonpaulthomas@yahoo.com.

1.  Sometimes with a child, I’ll use a tough- but fair approach.  Although it doesn’t always work, I’d say it works more consistently than most other methods I have tried.  Kids like to be challenged.  It’s mentally stimulating.  When I don’t challenge a child athletically or academically for example, it’s harder to be looked to as the authority figure who should be respected.

2.  Another approach I’ve used is the use of initial fear.  The only times I have used this is when a child has a reputation for not respecting authority or if a child is having a discipline issue.  This could include raising my voice or threatening a consequence if what I want isn’t accomplished.  A large drawback to this approach is if it’s used too often, kids can literally become immune to it over time.  Although there is certainly a line between fear and respect, a healthy dose of fear can be a good thing.

3.  I have also used a buddy approach to obtain respect.  By this I mean I have to walk and talk literally on a child’s level then have the ability to rise above it when it comes time to make a decision.  A parent who uses this approach would listen to a child, carefully consider what is being presented, then make co- decisions.  Parents who are good at this are respected as close confidants.

Parents who make mistakes with this approach do so usually by staying on the buddy level way too long before making a decision.  Just because I am proposing going to a child’s level, there still should be a decision made by an authority figure before respect is achieved.  Sometimes parents want to be their child’s “friend.”  In my opinion, it’s creates an odd situation for any parent to be a child’s “friend” then turn into a respected authority figure when the situation is called upon.

Whether it was at St. Joseph Children’s Home- as a teacher- or with my kids, when I earned children’s respect, I had a lot of fun developing them into fine young people to work and have fun with.  I hope you’ll find the same to be true in your home as well.

I’ll have another post ready for you Friday.  Until then, have a great week with everyone you love!  Also, if you liked this post, feel free to pass it along to some other parents or teachers.

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Parenting Stereotypes

Stereotyping people is one of those things that a lot of us are guilty of.  Most of us feel the need to compartmentalize people in some way, shape, or manner though I’m not sure why.  I’ve been guilty of it as well.  But, just about every stereotype I’ve ever had was eventually proven to be incorrect. Even in the world of parenting, some stereotypes still exist.  My contention is they are being disproved every day.

I’ll share a short story from my book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures to illustrate the point. When I contemplated leaving teaching, I really struggled internally so I decided to talk with the school counselor.   During our conversation she said (something to the effect of) what kind of role model would you be to your children if you weren’t working?

Looking back at this story years later, it really grates me.  Do I have to have a job away from my family to be a good role model?  Am I not capable of giving my kids what they need as long as I am at home?  Is there a place in this world for stay-at-home fathers?  By the way, despite the fact I am no longer in the teaching profession, I work my tail off every day- but I digress!

There was a time after I left teaching when I was upset with this counselor. Nowadays, I understand.  She most likely had a parenting stereotype about stay-at-home parents (obviously she wasn’t one) or stay-at-home fathers.

Kids need a firm hand but that doesn’t have to be from the father.  Kids need a nurturing soul but that doesn’t mean it has to be from the mother.  Parents should assess their strengths and weaknesses. That way, they can collectively use them to their advantage.

When I worked at St Joseph Children’s Home, all the adults had strengths and weaknesses. I firmly believe the reason I learned so much from so many is I didn’t have these parenting stereotypes going into the job.  I was raised by my mother so I really didn’t know “the role” of a man.  What I learned was that there is a big job to do with kids and it’s up to the adults involved to give them what they need no matter who gives it.

As a separate piece of advice, I’ll leave you with this.  If you are new to parenting, don’t stereotype your partner’s role with the child.  Instead, assess strengths and weaknesses of each other.  I think you’ll be happier in the long run.

I am leaving the blogging world for a week to recharge the proverbial batteries.  I will be writing to you again Tuesday June 21st.  If you wish, please fill in your email address in the subscription link on the top right hand side of the page.  That way, when I return, you’ll be among the first to know.

Finally, Lulu (the company I published through) has offered a 20% discount on my book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  I’m continuing to hear really inspiring comments from the people who have read it.  Thanks to all who have purchased the book.  I hope you have received some great tips on the psychology of parenting while being highly entertained!

For those who haven’t purchased it yet (what’s the holdup anyway?) click on the book at the right hand side of the page.  When you reach the checkout page, enter the code top305.  The offer is good until June 13th.  You can also go straight to www.lulu.com and “search” Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  A paperback copy is only $15.99 before the discount or you can download the book straight to your computer for $8.99 (pre discount)

Have a terrific weekend!!!

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Building a Child's Mind

When I was a teacher, I would often get some variation to the following question. How do I help my child become smarter?  There are many ways to do this but it’s my opinion that one has been overlooked in some households.  The answer is strategy games.  One reason this may have been overlooked by some families is the time placed into video gaming systems.  Another may be that families don’t spend as much time in their home as they used to.  Other ways exist, of course.

Not only are strategy games fun, they also provide a great way of spending quality time with your child.  The following is a list of games I love playing with kids.  Perhaps you’ll carve some time and play some of these again!  Over time, I believe you will see the benefits.

Tic Tac Toe– Very easy, very quick and it can be played at an early age.

Checkers– Most 4-5 year old children can grab the basic concept.

Chess– One of my favorites to this day.  Most 6-8 year old boys and girls can grasp the basic moves.  I even played this in high school before class started.

Monopoly– This is a fantastic game that can be used to teach money concepts and strategy skills.  My mother and I would play for hours, stop the game to eat meals, and then go back to playing.

Scrabble– Though I was horrible at this game as a child, I improved fortunately!  This game can help your child quite a bit with phonetic patterns and language skills.

Logic Puzzles– Found next to crossword puzzles in most bookstores.  I can’t speak to this personally but my wife used them as a child.  She scored very highly on the logic section of her G.R.E exam so I can’t help but to think they must have helped.

Helping a child become smarter doesn’t mean they have to always have their nose in a textbook.  I don’t want my children to be just the best reader, mathematician, or writer.  I want my kids to have the overall ability to think and problem solve.  And I bet you feel the same as I do.  In my opinion, these are the qualities smart children and successful adults seem to have in abundance.

If there are strategy games you have played as a child or currently play with your kids, feel free to add them to the comments section.  Thanks for reading and I’ll write to you again Friday.  Thanks for the tweets, Facebook messages, and positive encouragement you have been sending.  Have a terrific week!

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Equailty of Compliments and Consequences

I believe knowing and understanding the personality of a child is one of the most important things a parent can do.  It’s with this concept in mind that I’m going to teach how to get the most out of your child whether it be academically, athletically, socially, or emotionally.

Without getting too technical, let’s just agree that everyone responds to a stimulus in different ways.  For example, if a kid likes M&M’s, wouldn’t it be a good idea to use that as a reward when a desired behavior is achieved?  On the other hand, if the child doesn’t like strawberry ice cream, it would be ridiculous to use that as a reward. A parent would be wise to use what works.

I also think we can agree in general that compliments and consequences can and should be used to motivate a child.  But, how do you determine when to use one over the other?  For example, if a child brings home a poor grade from school, should you compliment the child? (Jimmy, you are so so smart.  I know if you try a little harder, you’ll be able to improve)  Perhaps the more prudent thing to do is to consequence him/her. (Jimmy, because you kissed your science grade goodbye, make sure to kiss your girlfriend goodbye as well because you’re grounded for a week)  Knowing your child well is the best way to determine how to handle the situation.

Unfortunately, the best answer I can give you is that trial and error is involved.  For example, with my 7 year old child, the optimum ratio of compliments and consequences is around. 50/50.  When I compliment him too much, he tends to not listen as much over time because he knows it all.  Contrarily, if I consequence him too much, he tends to lose a bit of confidence in himself over time.  I believe I know my child well enough and a proper balance has been struck.  It took time though to fully realize and implement this balance.

What’s interesting though is with my 3 year old, the ratio is very different.  With him, the optimum ratio is around 70/30.  He responds to compliments very well but struggles more with consequences.  That doesn’t mean I won’t give him consequences to get the desired behavior but I can usually get it quicker with compliments- especially in the world of academics. Again, this took time and a lot of mistakes on my part before striking the proper balance.

I haven’t done an extensive psychological study on this.  What I can tell you is that with all the kids I’ve worked with, there were plenty who responded better over time to consequences than compliments.  That could have been due to their background at home.  There’s no way for me to know.  The most extreme example of a child who fits this was probably a 30/70 ratio.

In conclusion, it’s up to every parent to find where the happy medium is between compliments and consequences.  There are a lot of cases though where the ratio isn’t 50-50.  Obviously, the way to know whether the compliment or consequence actually worked is to see if you receive the desired behavior.

I am fully aware this is a very tricky and often confusing subject.  If you have questions about this pertaining to your child, feel free to email me at tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

Thanks for reading and I’ll have another post ready on Tuesday.  For all the people who refer my blog to others, I wanted to give a special thank you. It truly means a lot!!!

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