Archive for Family

4th and Goal

The readers who have visited my blog know my passion is parenting.  I LOVE being a dad and I love to watch other parents work their magic.  Sometimes, I see things that make me cringe.  Today’s post though is going to relay a story that gives me yet another assurance that this parenting stuff really work.

Last weekend, my son and I worked together on catching passes before his flag football game.  A boy I’ll call Jack wanted to play with us.  I’ve known Jack several weeks.  He’s a nice child but is a little temperamental at times.

We played a game where my son played offense and Jack played defense on him at the two yard line and I gave each child 4 downs to score a touchdown.  My son was able to score on Jack so now it was Jack’s turn to play offense.  Jack did a great job of getting away from Cameron on 1st down but was unable to catch my pass so we moved to 2nd down.

2nd and 3rd down were a bit rougher for Jack because my child played better defense.  It didn’t help that on third down- a clown could have thrown the football better than me.  Therefore, we moved to 4th down.

On 4th down, both children worked hard.  I held the ball for a while because I really wanted Jack to score.  In the end though, my son’s defense was tough and my throw was a hair off.  The result was an incomplete pass.

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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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6 Parent/Teacher Conference Tips Not Often Heard

Parent- teacher conferences are a time where there should be a meeting of the minds.  Teachers should be able to lay out their case for the child’s progress academically, socially, and emotionally.  Parents should be able to compare what they are hearing to what is going on at home.  At that point, a plan should come together as to how to work with the child going forward. It should be the ultimate collaboration crammed into about 15 minutes.

When I was a teacher, I was meticulous about laying out my arguments about how a child was performing before a parent walked through my door.  Instead of dominating the meeting, I would lay out these arguments as quickly as possible in order to allow the parent to agree or disagree with my assessment.  Because I have been on both ends of the parent teacher conference table ( I was an elementary teacher for 7 years) perhaps these tips will guide you through a conference.

 

The first tip is for a parent to keep samples of student work just like a teacher.  This is especially helpful if there is a disputed grade in a subject.  Bring the student work to the conference and compare it with the work the teacher presents.

The second tip is to respect the knowledge of the teacher concerning your child but don’t take it as the law.  You have been around your child for years.  At this point, a teacher has had your child two months (give or take).  I’m not saying that teachers do not know what they are talking about.  What I am saying is that you know your child better than anyone.  There’s nothing wrong with trusting your instincts unless the teacher can present irrefutable evidence.

The third tip is to approach the conference as a problem solver.  The last thing a parent should want is to be lectured for 15 minutes about poor grades or behavior then sent home shamefully.  Let’s pretend there is a behavior problem in the classroom.  As a parent, you should be able to present a few effective methods you have used at home for handling discipline. If concentration is an issue, what do you do at home to help your child concentrate?

The fourth tip is for parents to understand that teachers aren’t the only professionals in the room.  All parents should be treated like professionals because when it comes to your child, you might as well have a PH. D.  If you feel like you are being talked down to or belittled by a teacher, you can choose to address it on the spot.  If you are not confrontational or if you have a situation that catches you off guard; going to the principal is always a good option.

My fifth bit of advice is to not get too excited or too depressed about the results of a parent/teacher conference.  A conference is simply a snapshot in time.  If a conference goes well, be happy for your child but understand there is still more work to do.  If a conference doesn’t go well, that’s fine in most cases.  There is  plenty of time to turn the problem around.

Finally, here’s the key once a conference has concluded.  Follow up with the teacher (in the next couple of weeks) by phone or email to make sure that the game plan from the conference is being implemented to everyone’s satisfaction.  Often, I had parents who I would not see again until the next conference 5 months later.  It’s much better for all parties (especially children) when the parent clearly demonstrates they are keeping their finger on the pulse.

I hope you liked today’s article.  Don’t forget that there are many other lessons parents can learn from my parenting book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  Feel free to read the preface located right below my picture.  I hope the lessons you will learn from the book will serve your family well.  Here’s the direct link to the book from www.lulu.com:   http://tiny.cc/8gs8o

I also wanted to announce that over this past weekend, I receive the 1,000th comment on www.claytonpaulthomas.com.  For everyone who has ever cared enough to leave a thought on my website, I truly appreciate your time and effort.

My next post will be on Tuesday.  Have a terrific weekend.

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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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Carving Time for Children

THE FOLLOWING IS PART OF AN ARTICLE WRITTEN FOR HTTP://WWW.DIVORCETTES.COM.  ALTHOUGH I AM HAPPILY MARRIED, MY HEART GOES OUT TO PEOPLE (LIKE MY MOTHER) WHO RAISE THEIR CHILDREN ALONE. IF YOU ARE DIVORCED OR RAISING YOUR CHILDREN BY YOURSELF, THE CONTENT ON THEIR SITE MAY HELP.  BEST WISHES!

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One frustration I hear from parents is that there are not enough hours in the day.  We want to give more of ourselves especially when it comes to our family.  Single parents especially feel this stress.

By the time they earn their income and fulfill obligations with children (i.e. school- extracurricular activities), time has run out.  The danger of this, of course, is children are going to bond with others no matter the degree to their which parents are in the picture.  Therefore, when a parent is not keeping their finger on the pulse with their children, they are taking a big chance in terms is where the void is being filled.

So how does one go about finding the time?  Many of us are so locked into our schedules that finding extra time seems improbable.  With these thoughts in mind, I was recently listening to a classic rock radio station while in the shower (hold the jokes please) and the song Turn Up the Radio by Autograph came on.  This got me thinking about some ideas to the time conundrum a lot of us face.  Here are three ways I thought of to increase quality time with your child.  This article is continued here: http://divorcettes.com/?p=3424

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The Psychology of Teenage Discipline

The following is a guest post I wrote for radicalparenting.com.  Their focus is on teenagers and the hardships with parents.  They contacted me and asked if I would write an article.  I was more than happy to help!

The teenage years are a time when the biggest power struggle can occur in most households.  On the one hand, there is a child who feels they should be given the keys to the Cadillac.  On the other side, there is a parent who is not ready to let their baby go.  Though most parents and teenagers are somewhere in the middle of this spectrum- I think you get the point.  Teenagers want to be free of their parents and parents have a hard time letting go.

With this in mind, the question then is how should discipline be handled?  This is a complex question but the point of this post is to give parents some insights and hopefully add to their “parenting tool belt.”

The first thing parents of teens should know is that they are not alone.  Many parents struggle with the same issues.  Just because there are problems in your household doesn’t mean you are a bad parent or you have a bad child.  As a matter of fact, I would worry a bit more if there wasn’t a clash.  Typically, a lack of clashes means one of two things.  Either a teenager doesn’t want to see beyond the walls of your home or the parent doesn’t set any boundaries and the teenager is running wild.  Both circumstances are dreadful.

With this in mind, here are a couple of thoughts to assist with the inevitable clash.

Confidence

Building confidence in a child is one of the most important things a parent can do.  In the meantime, we have to make sure that we aren’t blowing smoke where there isn’t a fire.  This post is meant to help parents understand the difference.

It’s important for children to build swagger for a myriad of reasons.  Grades are likely to be higher, bullying isn’t as likely to occur, and children are more likely to be generally happy when they feel good about themselves.

Building confidence doesn’t have to be hard for parents.  The key word is BUILDING. Therefore, the process takes time. I advise parents to identify the strengths of their child, praise them for what they can do, and encourage them to improve.  That alone, over time, builds confidence.

Now, the trick to building a completely confident child is to also work on the child’s weaknesses.  With all the children I have worked with, the same rules basically apply.  Find out where the child is in area where they are weak and determine whether it’s important to build on the problem.  If so, build from where they are with heavy doses of praise when the child improves.

Determining the importance of the problem is really important.  Let’s say, for example, your child is not confident with their basketball ability.  It may be determined that the weakness isn’t that important.  If not, perhaps it is time to search for greener pastures and work on other sports/activities.  No one is good at everything and it is not a criteria of overall success.

It could be though that the weakness is important.  Perhaps the child isn’t a strong reader. This is important because if a child cannot read very well, school only gets much harder causing the child to fall further behind.  Therefore, the proper course is to see what the child can do and build from there.  Each time a new reading skill is achieved, heap him/her with praise.  Their confidence will grow with time which will make them want to catch to peers even faster.

Now, as far as blowing smoke by parents, this happens a lot.  Perhaps parents are misguided because they don’t want to make their child unhappy or perhaps they don’t know where the bar is so they are easily impressed.

Here’s an easy example to drive home the point.  Let’s say your 3 year old writes their name by themselves for the first time.  Writing is an essential skill so I would advise you to heap an enormous amount of praise for this milestone.  Contrarily, let’s pretend your 7 year old writes their name on a spelling test correctly but misses every other word. Because most 7 year old children can write their name, I am going to focus more on how to help the child improve their study skills versus heaping praise for writing their name.

In my home, I want my children’s confidence to be sky high and I’ll use praise to enhance this at every turn.  But, my children know I am not easily impressed.  I really believe this is why the 400+ children I have worked with rigorously actively sought praise from me. Simply put- they knew it was genuine.

If you’d like more ideas on building confidence, here is an excellent link I found.  http://www.more4kids.info/497/empowering-self-confidence/

I hope you have enjoyed this post.  If you liked Confidence, you’ll love my book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures. It goes into a lot more detail on hard parenting topics and gives entertaining real life examples.  Feel free to check out the reviews above and when you are ready to buy, simply click this link.  goo.gl/d7lsh

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

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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 Don'ts of Discipline

First, let me send a note of thanks to people who have sent parenting questions they would like answered on my blog this Friday.  For anyone who would like to send a parenting question- feel free.  My mind has not been made up yet as to which one I will answer.  The email address is tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

Last Thursday, I wrote the Three Do’s of Discipline.  Please check it out at http://www.claytonpaulthomas.com/archives/550 because it leads directly into this blog. Today, I want to flip the script.  There are some things you shouldn’t do when disciplining your child at any age.  I realize that all rules have exceptions.  But, by and large, what you are about to read will save any parent from a lot of stress and headaches.

1.  Don’t discipline your child if you aren’t thinking two steps ahead.

Any chess player knows you have to outwit and outmaneuver your opponent in order to be successful.  Parenting isn’t much different.  Any parent should be able to talk to their child in such a way to get them to open up, calm down, or discipline to redirect him/her.  You never want the tail to wag the dog if you know what I mean.

What happens though is that parents get caught up in the emotion of the situation.  When this occurs, they start to lose their composure which is one of the greatest advantages any parent should have over a misbehaving child.  When a parent loses their composure, it’s much more difficult to think two steps ahead.  Mark my words.  Parents who discipline when they are not composed make mistakes.

2.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

This is a common saying where I am from.  I am using the phrase to mean to separate the overall good of the child from the bad behavior.  If parents were to chart the good versus bad things their children did, many would be surprised to find the amount of good in a child perceived as poorly behaved. Sometimes, parents get so consumed with a poor behavior that they fail to see the qualities of the whole child.  One of my strategies is to find (and file away) the good qualities of a difficult child immediately to combat the behaviors I may see down the line.

Let’s say that I see a child, who struggles controlling their anger, start to rev up.  I want to catch them before the wheels come unhinged and remind them of another time they were able to control their anger.  My theory is if they can do it once, they can do it again.  This tactic has worked countless times but it does take some quick thinking, patience, and self control on my part.

3.  Don’t allow children who struggle with discipline to stay idle.

This tactic is difficult and time consuming but is well worth it.  Children who struggle with self discipline need to stay busy as much as possible.  When they are idle, he/she is more likely to get into trouble.  Therefore, at dinner time, for example, I won’t cook alone if I have a child in the room who struggles with behavior.  The child may be helping me prepare the food, be put to a task (such as reading) or be sent outside to burn off some energy.

I can’t assume a child who struggles with discipline will magically “get it” one day.  What I can assume is that I will put in the time and training to assist as long as I am needed.  There are times, of course, when we have to let children go in order to evaluate what has been learned and what needs to be improved.  Sometimes, the child will misbehave and we have to start over from square one.  There are other times though they will do something right (help a friend, control their temper, etc).  This feeds right in with point two which is very exciting.

Here’s a final thought I’ll make about discipline.  Whether you are working with a “terrible two” or your teenager is testing his/her boundaries, discipline is essential.  Though it can be really hard work, there’s a big personal satisfaction to the parent who watches their “little hellion” start to grow up and implement the discipline that was painstakingly implemented.

I wish you well and can’t wait for Friday’s question/answer post!

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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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