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What should we “force” upon a child?

February 22, 2011

 What should we "force" upon a child?

As you are all aware, every child can be a little stubborn. How do we set boundaries for what children should be forced to do?

My youngest daughter rejected many food choices during her toddler years. The thing most befuddling was that she did the opposite of what most children do. She ate ALL her vegetables, fish, meat and fruit and rejected most foods which other kids crave like pizza, pasta, peanut butter and most processed foods. (Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining)But, should I have forced her to eat what she didn’t like or want because that is what I made or what someone offered her?

My oldest daughter had a different problem. She never wanted to play outside. To force exercise, I signed her up for gymnastics, ballet and tumbling. But, should I have forced her to play outside?

My simple answer is, as a parent, we need to learn how to pick our battles. Instead of forcing action, watch and study patterns in your child’s "choosing" behavior. In my situation, because of these observations, I decided to get my daughters tested for allergies. My youngest daughter tested positive for allergies to wheat, milk, soy, corn, peanuts and cinnamon. This explained her staunch food preferences. Likewise, my oldest daughter had allergies related to grass and trees. It now made sense why she preferred being indoors. Now I am not saying there won’t be times that it is necessary to draw a firm line in the sand across which your child should not dare cross, but in the little instances like dinner or playing outside, it is important to pick your battles wisely, acutely observe your child’s actions and be a little laid back when it comes to "forcing" behavior.

Remember, if it isn’t a matter of life and death, then it doesn’t necessarily need to be treated like one.

Comments: 2

Helping Children Develop Constructive Habits

March 01, 2011

HELPING KIDS DEVELOP CONSTRUCTIVE HABITS

Johnny knows he is supposed to pick up after himself but he always forgets. His mom is in the kitchen cooking dinner and he is playing in the living room. A cartoon comes on TV and his attention is now divided between playing with blocks and watching TV. His dad walks in the front door and everyone is called to the dinner table. After a pleasant dinner everyone moves to the living room for some family time. The mess that Johnny has left in the living room appalls Johnny’s parents. "How many times do we have to tell you to pick up after yourself?" Johnny once again feels ashamed because he has forgotten to pick-up after himself…just like yesterday.

It is true that on several occasions Johnny’s parents have told him that he needs to pick up after he is done playing. What does it take to get a child to prompt himself to pick up? Children may know to do something but that does not mean they will actually remember to do it on their own. Should parents criticize during these habit forming stages? Is it damaging to point out failure before the habit is formed? YES…

It is damaging and often counter-productive to the child’s habit forming skills (and don’t kid yourself, developing useful, positive habits is a skill that even some adults have not been able to master). Pointing out a failure for which a child has no control over gives that child a feeling of incompetence. Johnny is thinking that he knows how to "pick up" but he is easily distracted and forgets. He doesn't know why he fails; only that he does fail. Knowing to do something is completely different than actually doing it. It is our job to help children develop habits by repetition in instruction. After many months of reinforcing instructions, and only after a child has developed the habit, are we allowed to discipline over failure?

Developing constructive and useful habits is a tedious process that starts with us, the parents.

Here are some tips to help kids develop these habits:

  • Post a note to serve as a reminder. Luckily my kids learned to read Pre-K so I was able to post a note near the toilet paper that read, "Flush the Toilet". It really worked!
  • Keep track of all the times children perform the wanted task by using tally marks. Post this in plain view of the child as a reminder of success.
  • Establish routines. Routines are a great way to incorporate new activities into an old schedule. The routine acts as the prompt, reminding the child of the proper procedures.
  • Reward children for small successes. Start out rewarding frequently then gradually reward less and less until the habit is formed and rewards are no longer necessary.
  • Set mini goals for children. For example, see if you can get your child to hang-up his coat for five days in a row. Once the small goal is accomplished, add on a few days to make it a bigger goal.
  • If all else fails, use the old classic of tying a string around your child’s finger to remind them they are supposed to be doing something…the trick is to get them to remember what that something is.
Tags: Habits
Comments: 7

Children Picking Up Bad Habits: Funny or Embarrassing?

April 11, 2011

Children Picking Up Bad Habits: Funny or Embarrassing?

Think about how much time and energy we invest in teaching our children manners. It is always (or at least always should be) on our minds. As we live our daily lives we are constantly reminding our children to say please & thank you, use a napkin, chew with your mouth closed, leave the room when passing gas and if you accidentally show bad manners at least say excuse me. We say it over and over and over again like an annoying broken record. But this is what it takes to engrain good behaviors.

I am reminded of something my niece would do when she was seven. She picked up this strange habit and I can still visualize her acting it out. Every time a person passed gas, she put her thumb on her forehead, opened her hands wide and wiggled her fingers. It was hilarious at first but then when she did it in public, I would shrink with embarrassment. My whole family worked to break the habit which took way too long to undo. Who taught her this awful habit? How could her good manners be undone so quickly?

 

Moral of the story: Be careful who influences your children. It can be hard to undo the damage.  

Think about how much time and energy we invest in teaching our children manners. It is always (or at least always should be) on our minds. As we live our daily lives we are constantly reminding our children to say please & thank you, use a napkin, chew with your mouth closed, leave the room when passing gas and if you accidentally show bad manners at least say excuse me. We say it over and over and over again like an annoying broken record. But this is what it takes to engrain good behaviors.

I am reminded of something my niece would do when she was seven. She picked up this strange habit and I can still visualize her acting it out. Every time a person passed gas, she put her thumb on her forehead, opened her hands wide and wiggled her fingers. It was hilarious at first but then when she did it in public, I would shrink with embarrassment. My whole family worked to break the habit which took way too long to undo. Who taught her this awful habit? How could her good manners be undone so quickly?

Moral of the story: Be careful who influences your children. It can be hard to undo the damage.  

Comments: 7

Teaching Responsibility Made Me Look Irresponsible

April 21, 2011

  My most recent goal was to teach my daughters a new level of responsibility by adding very small duties to their expected list of chores. One of these tasks was to have them bring in their bags containing lunch box and folder  from the car upon arrival home from school. They put their lunch boxes on the kitchen counter, folders on the dining room table and bags in the designated corner of the room. It felt good to set-up this routine and I was feeling great about my parenting skills.

I try to keep a close eye on my children's learning and stay involved in their schooling. As Grade Parent of my oldest daughter's class, I was in charge of getting the teacher gift. No problem! I love helping, especially when it comes to shopping and giving presents.

We get home from a long day and as usual I remind the girls to grab their bags, put their lunches on the counter, folders on table and bags in corner. I run out to the car to get the rest of my stuff, which never makes it in the house in one trip. All over the garage floor I see envelopes, checks and money scattered everywhere. Whose stuff is this? I don't remember having this cash. Whose checks are these? Then is hits me.  They must have put the money for the teacher gift in my daughters folder!  She must have had her bag unzipped and dumped the folder while she was getting out of the car. Oh no, what if something got lost? Thank goodness this happened in our garage and not in some random parking lot.

My immediate reaction was to get angry, but then I realized this was a perfect parenting opportunity. How could I get angry at my daughter when she was doing exactly as I instructed her to do? Obviously the routine was working, but I knew I had to take it to the next level. I had to teach her that simply bringing in her stuff from the car wasn’t enough. She had to be careful not to forget or drop anything. She was now old enough to understand the details—the finer points if you will—of the task at hand.

Oh, and for those of you who are keeping score, the lesson my daughter taught me was as far as envelopes of money go, I handle those exclusively now.  

Tags: Habits

Training Children To Form Productive Habits

June 20, 2011

 

My daughters finish their breakfast and run off to play in the living room.  I can feel my pulse rate increasing.  "Why didn't they put their bowls in the sink when they were finished eating? I think to myself,  "How many times do I have to tell them to pick up after themselves?" 

Then I stop and remember my own advice.  I don't want them to feel ashamed because they forgot. I am still in the training stage and not the punishing stage.  During the school year, we are rushed to get ready for the day.  The girls eat breakfast, run to dress and brush their teeth.  I pick up their plates for them because we are in a hurry. This inconsistency will prolong my training.

What does it take to get children to prompt themselves to pick up? Children may know to do something but that does not mean they will actually remember to do it on their own. Should parents criticize during these habit forming stages? Is it damaging to point out failure before the habit is formed? YES…

It is damaging and often counter-productive to children's habit forming skills. Pointing out a failure for which children have no control over gives these children a feeling of incompetence. My children know how to put their bowls in the sink but they forget. They don't know why they fail; only that they do. Knowing to do something is completely different than actually doing it. It is our job to help children develop habits by repetition in instruction. After many months of reinforcing instructions, and only after children have developed the habit, are we allowed to discipline over failure.

Developing constructive and useful habits is a tedious process that starts with us, the parents.

Here are some tips to help kids develop these habits:

  • Post a note to serve as a reminder. Luckily my kids learned to read in the Pre-K  years so I was able to post a note near the toilet paper that read, "Flush the Toilet". It really worked!  If your children can't read then post a picture.
  • Keep track of all the times children perform the wanted task by using tally marks. Post this in plain view of children as a reminder of success.
  • Establish routines. Routines are a great way to incorporate new activities into an old schedule. The routine acts as the prompt, reminding the child of the proper procedures.
  • Reward children for small successes. Start out rewarding frequently then gradually reward less and less often until the habit is formed and rewards are no longer necessary.
  • Set mini goals for children. For example, see if you can get your child to hang-up his coat for five days in a row. Once the small goal is accomplished, add on a few days to make it a bigger goal.
  •  If all else fails, use the old classic of tying a string around your child’s finger to remind them they are supposed to be doing something…the trick is to get them to remember what that something is.

Oh, and for the record, this list is included in another blog post but can be applied in many situations.  I reposted the list because "repetition is the mother of learning".

Comments: 2

Education Games

July 26, 2011

I often find myself playing educational games with my children; games which are not so educational that they are tedious but rather just enjoyable learning.  Activities such as “Go Fish”, “Concentration”, or any matching games really help my kids with memorizational skills. When I was a teacher, I’d use these games with my students and they proved so effective, easy, and fun that they’ve become part of regular play at home. These games, by their very nature, are repetitive. Memorization comes from repetition in seeing and thinking about an association.

Today, instead of using a regular deck of Poker cards, I decided to switch it up a bit to provide variation. I made my own “deck” out of index cards (construction paper or cardboard would work as well), and wrote matching words on them. I thought that showing pairs in words may be more age appropriate for my girls. We played “Go Fish” with these word cards just as we would have with regular cards and the kids caught on instantly. Depending on the age of your children, numbers, words and/or pictures may be great choices.  

Below are some examples of potential categories.

If anyone has any other creative ideas for matching games, I’d love for you to share! 

Topic

A Card

Its Match

Habit

Go to the potty

Wipe, Flush, Wash

Color

Red

Strawberry

Habit

Leave a room

Turn off the light

Math Addition

3 + 5 or 2 x 4

8

Language – Rhyme words

Rock

Sock, knock, dock, flock, lock…etc

History

George Washington

Lost all his teeth

History

Abraham Lincoln

On the penny

Math

Quarter

25 cents

Nutrition

Apple

Fruit

  

Comments: 7
 
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