Archive for Child

The Most Overlooked Report Card Truths

If you are like most parents with school aged children, you have either received a child’s second report card recently or will be receiving it very soon.  For some of you, this will be a time of joy and for others; a time for concern.  I have been through the highs and lows of report cards.  As a former teacher, I obviously had to give them to each student.  As a parent, the only thing that has changed is that I am on the receiving end.  Today’s post is meant to highlight what this particular report card really means and how to help your child get a jump start on the next term no matter the final grades.

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The Most Overlooked Consequence of Television on Children

The television in today’s home can mean so many things. For some, it’s a status symbol. For others, it’s instant babysitting when a parent needs a break. Most of us also wouldn’t dispute the entertainment value. But, there’s a hidden consequence not talked about often which may have you think twice before your child watches the next latest greatest show.

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Communication with Young Children

Communication with a child is one of the real keys of raising him/her in a respectful, smart, and disciplined manner.  It’s also important to start these keys while a child is young.  In this case, I am describing a young child as being between the ages of 2 and 5 years of age.  The longer ineffective communication is allowed in the home, the harder it is to reel them back in during times of trouble.  Here are some of the strategies and how they work.

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3 D's of Discipline

Have you ever noticed that parenting can be a lot like a roller coaster?  Sometimes, you are flying high after your child achieves a milestone and sometimes you feel like you’re going to “lose your lunch” based on something your child has done.  Today’s post is meant to assist parents when times are tough with a child and effective discipline is in order.

Many times, parents feel the low points when their child has misbehaved and it is time to implement some discipline.  The shock of the misbehavior may be enough for some of us.  Others though have an even harder time because it’s difficult to implement discipline in such a way as to educate versus retaliate.  It’s with this in mind that I’ve come up with three D’s you should remember when disciplining your child.

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How Far is Too Far?

Last Tuesday, I wrote a post called Sports Leagues for Children.  The article highlighted the fact that all sports leagues aren’t created equally.  Some are more competitive than others.  Depending on your child and their stage of development, non-competitive leagues have some advantages worth considering.  Here is a link to the article for more information. http://www.claytonpaulthomas.com/archives/628  That post leads me into today’s story.

Last week, a story broke out of Collier, Tennessee of a high school football coach named Shawn Abel who resigned after a profanity laced tirade (before a football game) was recorded and placed on Youtube.  For more details on the specifics of the story, here’s the link.  I will warn you though the actual clip is vulgar and children should not be around when you choose to listen to it.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/01/shawn-abel-collierville-football-rant_n_1069695.html.

After listening to the rant, my wife was convinced Coach Abel should have been fired immediately.  For those of you who agree with her, I can’t blame you.  The tirade was awful and deeply personal.  Others of you may think this is a free speech issue and the rant was in a locker room which has closed doors for a reason.  It’s hard for me to argue this point as well.

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How To Be An All Pro Dad

Today’s post is going to be a little different.  I don’t typically give plugs to organizations but I am going to make an exception today.  There is a national organization I am a part of called All Pro Dad.  This is designed for dads and their sons or daughters.  The national spokesperson is former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy.  Here is a link where you’ll find meetings in your area.  http://www.allprodad.com.

The crux of the group is for dads to spend quality time with their child.  The meetings are typically once a month to once every six weeks.  Last week’s theme was humility which is a trait that I could certainly use more work.

The meeting is a lot of fun as well.  We started it by watching this truly funny video.  I’m not really into rap music but this one made me laugh.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOKuSQIJlog

It continued with dads standing up in front of the group to announce one reason they are proud of their child.  The children really love the public praise from their fathers. I wasn’t raised with a father and my mother wasn’t a person to give a lot of praise.  I’m certain though my child loves the recognition I give him at this time.

During the meeting, I had an interesting moment.  All the fathers were asked to answer this question to their child.  Who was the most humble person we knew?  After thinking about it for a few seconds, I came to the conclusion that the answer is my wife.  I’ve always thought of her as a humble person but being put on the spot in front of my child was eye opening. These kind of moments makes All Pro Dad special.

The last thing we did before adjourning was a raffle.  The last prize was an All Pro Dad shirt in which I won.  Granted, I would have rather won the prize before the shirt which was a football signed by my favorite quarterback of all time Dan Marino.  Nevertheless, the shirt is super.  On the back, it lists 10 ways to be an All Pro Dad.  Here is the list.

1.  Love Your Wife

2.  Spend Time with Your Children

3.  Be a Role Model

4.  Understand Your Children

5.  Show Affection

6.  Enjoy Your Children

7.  Eat Together as a Family

8.  Discipline with a Gentle Spirit

9.  Pray and Worship Together

10.  Realize You’re a Father Forever

By the time the meeting was over, I felt like I worked with my boy on a great message, had fun, and took a step towards being a better person.  My child said he can’t wait to go again.  I think a lot of fathers would agree that they would like to spend more time with their child.  There’s not a doubt we will be at the next one!

My next article will be on Friday.  All my best to you and your family!

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Housekeeping Note

Over the weekend, I received my 1,000th “like” on my Facebook fan page.  It’s a great way to keep up with this blog.  Also, when I discount my book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures, it is announced there first! You can log into Facebook and find my page at claytonpaulthomas.

 

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Teaching Responsibility Isn't Easy

Teaching responsibility is one of the more difficult aspects of raising children in my opinion. Some parents are very proactive.  For example, some children are given a set of chores around the house they are expected to complete.

But, responsibility goes further than that.  Responsible children have to make choices during difficult times.  Whether or not to cheat on a test or whether to lie to a parent about where they really were on Saturday night are examples.

I don’t have a one size fits all answer when it comes to responsibility because it depends on the age of the child and the temperament of the parent.  What I do have is a story from this past weekend which illustrates how difficult teaching responsibility can be.

Sunday morning, I woke up to take my children home from a great weekend with my cousin and his family.  After I drove 3 1/2 hours to get home, I discovered water underneath my floor boards because my refrigerator had leaked while I was away. Because this is a family blog, I’ll only say my mood was general unhappiness.  I felt a lot like this man though.

My oldest child had a flag football game at 1:00pm so I rustled up the energy and off we went.  He played his best overall game of the season and made me very proud.  In the fourth quarter though, he missed a flag on fourth down and one.  The opponent went on to score a touchdown and his team lost.  Both of us knew he messed up and my heart strings just broke for him.  After the game, he cried and I felt horribly.  He asked if he could go home with my wife which was fine.  This is when the really hard part of the story begins.

After we got home, I asked him for his mouth guard but he said he didn’t have it.  It’s a requirement of the league to have a mouth guard so this was a problem.  After looking in my wife’s car and around the kitchen, he was convinced he lost it.

After having such a long and emotional day, the last thing I wanted to do was make a decision on how I was going to handle the problem.  But, that’s what I had to do.  After a deep breath, I decided going back to the ball field with my child to try to find the mouth guard was a better idea than showing my frustration to my 7 year old child.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find the mouth guard so I had another question to answer.  Who was going to pay for the $20 replacement?  I decided that since my child had lost it, he should pay for it.  That was a tough decision though because we had had a long day, all 7 year olds make mistakes, and his money is mainly from past birthdays.  Heck, I had no desire to even drive to the sporting goods store to make the purchase.  Nevertheless, we went, found the replacement, and he used his money.

By the time we returned home, I was exhausted.  I remember telling my wife that I was going to take a nap.  I told my child before I laid down that if he found his mouth guard, we would return the new one.

By the time I woke up, I was greeted with a surprise.  My child had found his mouth guard. It was in my wife’s car he swore he had already looked through.

There are a lot of lessons to be taken from this story.  The first lesson is that teaching responsibility doesn’t revolve around a parents’ convenience.  We don’t get the luxury of picking and choosing when to teach these important lessons.

The second lesson is equally if not more important. Had I not placed the responsibility on my son to find the mouth guard and pay for it, he probably wouldn’t have made the extra effort to look in the car again before it was too late.  Once the new package is opened, it cannot be returned.

Finally, going forward, my child was taught that dad is not going to bail him out with $20 when he doesn’t keep up with his belongings.  I wonder how much money that lesson will actually save me (and him) for the foreseeable future.  I guess only time will tell.

Have a terrific week and I will write to you again Friday.  Don’t forget lessons like the one you read about today are in my book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  It can be purchased through this link.  http://tinyurl.com/3fkzasp

Using the promo code tango305 at checkout will also give a 15% discount.   Best wishes!

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Why Smart Parents Do Dumb Things

If you enjoy this post, consider purchasing my book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  It’s full of insights and stories to help all parents use effective discipline strategies.  The reviews at the top of this page will tell you how much others have enjoyed it.  Using the code Tango305 at checkout will also give you a 15% discount.  Here’s the direct link to the book.  http://tiny.cc/sb265

Have you ever wondered at the end of a day why things didn’t go as planned?  Not only does it happen in our professional lives but in our personal lives as well.  Although everyone makes mistakes, I am taking this one step beyond.  Here’s a quick story from my parenting book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures to demonstrate the point.

One day, several house parents and I were going to take the children from St. Joseph Children’s Home off campus for an activity.  That morning I needed to cook breakfast.  One of my boys I’ll call “Shane” was horse playing with me a bit too much.  I needed to work though so I asked him to get an egg for me just to give him something to do and keep us on task.  As I bent over to get the pan, Shane decided to tease me a bit by holding the egg over my head.  Unfortunately, it cracked and the yolk fell into my hair and all over my nice clothes.  The reaction I had was not one of my finer moments.

I remember being so upset mainly because we were in a hurry.  I hollered, “Damnit Shane!”  He became instantly frightened of me.  I don’t remember ever cursing at another child.  As a matter of fact, I don’t raise my voice to children often so my reaction was completely out of character. Of course, we made amends but this was the dumbest way I have ever reacted to a child.

Although we, as parents, love our children, are educated, and have common sense, we don’t always react well when things do not go our way.  The dumb things we do are numerous but they may include yelling, hitting, ignoring, or frightening (in my case) a child.  Here are three reasons we do them.

1.  Lack of patience– Sometimes we get into a hurry to stay on schedule.  When this happens and our child messes up, it throws us off even more.  That’s when our patience is really tested.  For example, this could happen in the morning while you are preparing your child for school and he/she is dragging along.  Some parents may say or do something they will regret because they are feel a sense of urgency not shared by the child.

The solution, of course, is to place the child to bed earlier so he/she won’t drag along as much or wake the child up a few minutes earlier.  In the heat of the moment, keeping your cool even if the child is tardy is better than losing your composure.

2.  The pressure of others– Some parents have a hard time accepting a child for who they are.  Maybe the extended family or close friends have some overly smart or athletic children.  The parent may want to assume their child should be overly smart or athletic as well.  They may unreasonably push their child to improve but never be satisfied with the results or the hard work the child gives.

I have met so many people who never felt “good enough” for their parents and that is a shame.  Though I don’t believe feeling pressure as a parent is a bad thing, driving a child into the ground in order to achieve a narrow minded definition of success seldom works out.  The child eventually feels bitter and parents are stuck wondering why.

3.  Parents want their children to grow up too fast-This goes along with number two to an extent.  Some of us have an idea of what our children should be doing academically, athletically, or emotionally at any given moment.  But, when reality confronts our expectations, some of us don’t react as well as we should.

A good example of this is when I couldn’t understand why my older son (who was 4 at the time) was busy looking in the sky watching airplanes while he was supposed to be paying attention during his soccer games.  In my mind, I wanted him to be one of the better soccer players on the team.  The reality was that he wasn’t ready.  Nothing I could do would change that.  Over time though, he did improve.  But, I struggled throughout the season because his improvement didn’t revolve around my schedule.

There are a few things parents can do to limit future mistakes.  The first is to own up to the ones you have already made with your children.  Talking to a spouse or a person you trust can also help keep you accountable.  The most important thing though is being honest with the person you see in the mirror.

Another thing you can do is to pay for your mistakes- literally.  Set aside a jar and for each time you repeat a mistake (losing your cool for example) place a $20 bill in the jar.  The amount shouldn’t be enough to break you but it should be enough to get your attention. Sooner or later, you’ll get the message.  Eventually, you can use the cash collected for something useful like the child’s college tuition.

Now that I have told on myself, feel free to leave a comment if you are guilty of doing something dumb as well!  It can be serious or funny.  I’m certain that I am not alone on this issue. (ha ha)

Best wishes and I’ll write to you again Tuesday!

Anxious Moments or Something More

I am very excited to write to you today! I want to thank everyone who sent a parenting question.  I will be answering questions not chosen privately by email.

The question I chose from “Billy” asks if I have worked with children who had anxiety issues and what strategies I used.  I like this question because it is a bit tricky and I enjoy a challenge.

First, please understand it’s difficult for me to group children who have anxiety together. That’s because anxiety is an extremely broad topic.  Some children I worked with have shown signs of anxiety because of something that happened in school.  Depending on the circumstances, symptoms didn’t last very long.  Others though showed anxiety from severe abuse suffered long before they were in my care.  The symptoms were treated with medication and lasted for years.

I read from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America that it may be time to see a doctor if the issues last beyond a month and there are several treatment options.  I am not a medical professional but that seems like a good rule of thumb.  For the sake of this blog, I am going to pretend that the anxiety issues are less than a month old.

My first question to Billy is where does anxiety stem?  Did the child watch a scary movie?  Was there a death in the family?  Is there an upcoming test in school that has the child on edge?  Is there something on the child’s mind he/she doesn’t want to talk about but is driving them crazy? (Drugs, pregnancy)  Getting to the heart of the matter is often a good first step in anxiety relief.

My oldest child once hid a poor school note from me for two days.  The anxiety climaxed when he became physically sick while at school.  Basically, his teacher had confronted him because I had obviously not signed the note. Once I picked him up and he finally told me what happened, consequences were assessed due to the behavior but his anxiety was instantly relieved.

A second step to help a child relieve anxiety is to be a supportive listener.  When I was a child, I had a lot of anxiety issues due to not being popular and bullied at school.  My mother went with the “it will pass someday” philosophy.  Granted she was correct.  But, that “someday” turned out to be years later.  I can vividly remember examples of days when my stomach would be in knots and constant tension in my head that wouldn’t seem to go away.

Children I have subsequently worked with over the years have had the same issues I felt.  I found that being a good listener and advocating where I felt it was appropriate really assisted in anxiety relief.  When a child knows you are there for them and believes you can help, anxiety will typically be decreased.  The key though is the belief in you.  If a child doesn’t believe you can or are really willing to help, merely talking to you probably won’t be enough to relieve the anxiety.

On a side note, it is important to know a little anxiety is not a bad thing.  For example, anxiety can keep a child attentive while taking a test.  It can also give a child an extra pep in their step while on a football field.

There are a lot of things I am leaving out because this is a complex issue.  I encourage Billy and everyone who is interested to check out this website from the aforementioned Anxiety Disorders Association of America for more information.  I believe you will find the general tips helpful.  http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children-and-teens/tips-parents-and-caregivers/help-your-child-manage-traumatic-

Housekeeping note:

I want to thank the people who take the time to read my material and pass it along to others.  Some of my recent articles have received more attention on Facebook and Twitter than I have ever seen. I’m thrilled you think enough of my work to share it with the people you know and love.

Have a super weekend and I’ll write to you again Tuesday.

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Three Do's of Discipline

Housekeeping Note:

Welcome to my blog.  Thanks for the feedback on my slideshow presentation for Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  For those who haven’t seen it, click on the About the Book section located at the top of the blog.

Next Friday, I will have a question/answer blog.  Though I haven’t done this in a while, they are very popular and the parenting questions I get are thoughtful, serious, and sometimes zany (which I enjoy).  If you have a question about a real or hypothetical parenting situation, send it to tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

Too often, parents think of discipline in terms of “How to get that child back for what he/she did” or “How can I punish my child sorry for all the gray hair he/she is causing me.” Although consequences/punishment can be a form of discipline, it’s better to think of discipline in an overall behavioral context.  Discipline is simply a means of teaching right and wrong.  When a parent uses discipline effectively, they can often solve a problem before feeling like they have to pull out their hair. With that in mind here are three do’s of discipline.

1.  Make sure your supervision coincides appropriately with the child’s age. For example- If your 3 year old gets in a drawer, finds a pair of scissors, and cuts their hair to the scalp while you were busy watching The View, I would worry more about you taking it as a learning lesson in supervision versus getting on the child for the inappropriate behavior.  3 year old children shouldn’t have that type of access to scissors nor the time to do the deed.

The same principal can be said of the 11 year old who is struggling in math.  If, for example, you know your child struggles in math and you don’t help them- how can you consequence his academic behavior?  Of course, if you do help the child and he/she still struggles, there could be a deeper issue and consequences still would not be warranted.  Contrarily, if they are not giving any effort to improve their work despite your due diligence, consequences may come into play.

2.  When a child misbehaves, reflect back to assess what you could have done better. Something I’ve noticed is that children don’t always mess up on their own accord without a reason (unless we are talking about toddlers who are in their own world).  When a child talks back to their parent, fights their sibling, or misbehaves in school, there’s usually a reason.  Although consequences may still be warranted, sharp parents will dig to the root of the problem to avoid a repeat performance.  In past blogs, I have referred to this as keeping your finger on the pulse.

3.  Turn down the burner before stirring the pot. When I cook spaghetti, I turn the burner on high, boil the water, and turn the burner back down before I place the spaghetti in the pot and stir it.

This analogy is used because something similar happens when discipline is needed with children.  When a child is angry and misbehaving, the blood is already “boiling.”  At this point, I have a couple of options.  I could decide to consequence the behavior on the spot or I could wait for the child to calm down while staying close enough to keep him/her safe.  Waiting is very difficult and sometimes takes an extreme amount of patience.

If I consequence the child on the spot, it would be like never turning the burner down on the stove.  Eventually boiling water will escape the pot.  Children are not fun to work with once things have gone this far so I typically take a different approach although I have the right to use either method.

I like to turn the burner down on children.  By this I mean my own voice is under control, I will be a good listener, and I will apply consequences (if needed) based on the facts of the situation.  With smaller children, some parents may choose to use intimidation to get a child to calm down an angry child.  As a child gets older though, they are less apt to be intimidated-especially during the teenage years.  Turning down a child’s burner before stirring the pot with consequences has been a more effective way of dealing with difficult children for me.

If you’ve noticed closely, all 3 suggestions focused on us- the parents.  Don’t get me wrong, children misbehave all the time and there are times consequences have to be applied.  Regardless, the most effective parents I’ve seen and worked with have the three do’s down to an art.  The ones who didn’t were typically confused with why they were the parent of a “bad child.”

I’ll write to you again on Tuesday.  Until then, have a great weekend with your family!

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