Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Self-centered Children

No parent has to be reminded that young children are self-centered. Very self-centered! Toddlers and preschoolers (and many early elementary-age children) cannot yet understand how others feel. In reality, how other people feel is not important to them. The fact that they think only of themselves is a developmental behavior and it’s completely normal and appropriate.

Young children are still in the process of learning about self-concept and grasping what it means to be an individual “self” that differentiates them from the rest of the people in the world around them. They want everything they see, they have a difficult time sharing without being told to share, and they have a hard time controlling their emotions when things don’t go their way.

Until about the age of 6 or 7, most children continue to be self-centered. However, they can learn about other people’s feelings with practice. Parents can help by talking about feelings – whether good or bad. “When you hit your brother, it hurts him and makes him feel sad. Do not hit your brother.” Or “I like the way you picked up your toys. That makes me happy.”

Talk about feelings, but don’t punish them for their feelings. Be consistent in how you react to their feelings and be very consistent in how you discipline them for their behavior.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Helping Children Learn About Expectations

There are important jobs a parent must do to help a children learn what is expected and set limits to guide their behavior. This is especially important as children spend more time out of the home with their friends and youth groups. These things are a part of the job:

Parental monitoring – knowing where your child is and who he or she is spending time with. Set a reasonable curfew time or check-in time.

Be there for your child - physically and emotionally. Parents who are distant, uninvolved and inconsistent confuse the child and make him or her feel like they are wandering without a connection. Children need a family connection to endure the tough times.

Expectations and family rules should be clear. Explain the rules and consequences well. Ask yourself what limits are important and then talk to children during calm times to be sure they are clear to your children.

Remember to include plenty of talks about substance abuse, too. Set rules and expectations for “absolutely no” alcohol and drug use.

Children need to have a close bond or attachment with at least one person. Emotional support from a trusted adult should always be available. When children have a sense of connectedness, they are more likely to make wise decisions about their behavior.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

By Grace Cornell Tall

Clasp the hands,
Bow the head,
Ask the Lord
To Bless the bread.

Pull the chair
Up to the table,
Eat no more
Than you are able.

Keep your elbows
Off the mats;
Save the leavings
For the cats.

(Ruff, who goes
From chair to chair,
Is getting much more
Than his share!)

Pass the dishes,
Help your mother,
Be sweet and good
To one another.

Then for this day,
Serene, unprankful,
We, your parents,
Will be thankful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holidays: Family history or family hassle?

The Iowa State University Cooperative Extension offers a few tips on family holiday gatherings for grandparents:

Grandparents play a role in determining whether holidays make family history or family hassles.
Holidays can establish traditions, strengthen family ties, and set milestones in the passage of time. But holidays also contribute to family stress. Routines change, expectations soar, and long-term problems of loneliness, family conflicts or economic stress can seem worse.

Grandparents may find themselves squarely in the middle of family hassles at holiday time.

Keeping your holiday simple doesn't mean ignoring your family's traditions. Instead, you may discover and strengthen what is most important about your family history.

As a grandparent, you might feel the pull of wanting to preserve old routines and traditions (we've always met at our house on Christmas Eve), even while realizing that new patterns would be better for you and your family (gathering the week before at your daughter's would mean less meal preparation for you and less travel with toddlers for her).

Grandparents may have changes in their economic or health status, and may need a quieter holiday celebration. Changes may conflict with family expectations of visits with every child, extensive gift giving, or elaborate celebrations.

Letting go and making changes can be difficult. To manage the hassle and strengthen family ties, consider these ideas.

Talk about feelings. Many families don't really talk about their feelings; they only suppose they know what the other party must be thinking. Have a family discussion by phone, mail or in person to decide what's important in your holiday traditions. Talk about why some traditions are especially important to each of you.

Support your children's feelings and ask for their support to say "no." Maybe you really can't cope with 16 people for five days at your house and maybe your family can't face another cross-country trip with preschoolers.

Cooperate. Consider new ways to keep the traditions that mean the most to everyone. A newly married couple may love having a chance to entertain the family at a holiday dinner. Teenagers might organize a family gift exchange drawing.

Pass on a special tradition as a gift. One father made copies of all the stories, poems and songs that were part of his family's holiday history. Now each child uses them in a new home.

Create new ways to share old traditions. Consider visits at a new time. Your family could look forward to a January visit rather than one during the most stressful holiday period. A grandchild might enjoy your pre-holiday visit to attend a special performance.

Use family history in your gift giving. Write stories about your childhood or your children's growing up years. Give a small heirloom with a written history as a gift. Choose a few old photos and accompany them with a story about the events and people shown.

Give the gift of caring; it keeps on giving year round. To have a caring family holiday, consider the changing needs of family members. Keep the best of the old while you build new family history.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vacation - A Learning Experience

To Grandmother's house we go . . .
Children learn from all the experiences you provide for them outside of school. The more positive and constructive learning experiences children have outside of school, the better they do in school.

There is probably no better time for you and your children to learn than when you're on vacation. Everyone is together, everyone is ready for an adventure, and, in many cases, everything is new.

Children can help you plan the trip. Check out library books or the Internet to gather information about what you will visit. Each child can investigate one aspect of the trip and report on it during the trip to the rest of the family. Or, for younger children, a parent can read about the area or site while riding in the car. They can help with other parts of planning-by figuring out a route or by making a list of things to pack.

Once you're on the trip, your children can serve as navigators and keep a trip log. Or try car games like "I spy with my little eye, something that starts with the letter . . ." To teach financial responsibility, you might want to give them an allowance for souvenirs, or gifts to bring to others.

Of course, you'll want to see, and talk about, some objects of interest like museums and zoos. Remember to plan some down time. Bring some books for rainy afternoons or break times. Have children buy postcards, so they can write to their friends or family back home.

Once you're back home, have the family put together a trip scrapbook. The trip may be over. But learning is just beginning.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

10 Reasons to Read Aloud to your Children

1. When you hold children and give them attention, they know you love them.

2. Reading to children will encourage them to become readers.

3. Children’s books today are so good, they’re fun for adults, too.

4. Illustrations in children’s books rank with the best, giving children a life long feeling for good art.

5. Books are one way of passing on your values.

6. Book will enable a child’s imagination to soar.

7. Until children learn to read themselves. They will think you create magic.

8. Reading together helps develop a child’s attention span.

9. When you give children this gift, you create special memories that last a lifetime.

Source: “Relatives As Parents Program” - Orange County Extension.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Teenagers are the Greatest!

“Teenagers are the greatest people,” was the title of an article written many years ago by Phillip Wylie. He wrote, “The finest people on earth, the finest there ever were, are America’s minor citizen, our kids, teenagers included. They have better health, are taller and more attractive, are better educated, have traveled more and read more, are more candid and direct with their relations with each other, and are more willing to fight for the ideals we adults only pay lip service.”

In thinking about Wylie’s positive words about teens, some of his phrases are right on. However, if you are raising a teen, you may often be frustrated and concerned about them. What can help?

Be honest with teens because they can be severe critics of adults they think are hypocritical or two-faced. Most teens see through dishonesty or pretension in adults. Before you make hasty decision, look at both sides.

Be open. Teens want and need to talk about things with their parents and with other adults. They also need to be allowed some privacy and independence. Therefore, adult-teen conversations cannot be one-sided, with the teen baring his soul and the adult listening and offering advice. Teens need to know that some of the same concerns they struggle with are concerns of adults, too.

Set clear and consistent limits. Teens are more likely to want to know why a particular rule has been made. Adults should respect this need for explanation and allow for some negotiation regarding rules for behavior, such as curfews. Parents should also not hesitate to say what they believe is absolutely essential and is not open to negotiation. I call these “pen” or “pencil” rules. Teens should be able to negotiate about pencil rules.

Remember that growing up means becoming independent. Effective parents accept young people making choices that they, the parent, may not have made. That is what independence means.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Teething - Baby's First Tooth

A child's first tooth is a big developmental milestone. Parents are excited about their child's first tooth, but may worry about what to expect and amount of pain the child may experience. The process of teething can be painful for both the child and the parent.

Every child is born with all 20 of their baby teeth hidden beneath the surface of their gums. For most children, the first tooth emerges at 5–7 months, although it can occur earlier or later depending on factors such as race and nutrition:

There are some common symptoms that are experienced by most babies, including drooling, chewing, swollen gums, irritability, waking at night, slight rise in temperature and diarrhea.

Remedies for teething discomfort can include: teething rings, rubbing the gums, distraction, cool damp washcloth, cold food, teething toys, frozen pacifier, and teething gel.

It is important to comfort your child while addressing their physical pain. Also, never leave a child unsupervised with any food, teething ring or cubes or similar as these can be choking hazards. Keep in mind the size and weight of the object in relation to the child. Experiment with different textures and temperatures to see what is most soothing for your teething child.

Overall, teething can cause varying levels of discomfort for a child, but it is a process he or she probably won't remember. It is important to keep a baby's gums and first teeth healthy for they set the foundation for healthy adult teeth. Parents should wipe their child's gums and tongue with damp gauze/soft cloth after feedings; and with emergence of that first tooth, begin brushing teeth twice a day until the child has learned to do so on his or her own.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Negative Discipline is Harmful

Negative discipline uses shame or hurt to tell a child he has done something wrong. With negative discipline, control comes from the parent, not from within the child.

Here are some examples: Sarcastic or belittling looks and remarks, sometimes in the form of teasing, unrealistic expectations about your child’s behavior, such as expecting him to sit still for a long time, name calling, threats of abandonment, depriving a child of basic needs such as food, water, or sleep, shaking a baby or toddler when you are frustrated or angry, long time-outs away from other people, slapping fingers or spanking parts of the body with the palm of your hand, a belt, or another object, and believing and acting as though your child is “out to get you”.

Negative discipline may temporarily stop a child’s misbehavior, but it seldom helps a child learn why her behavior was wrong. It does not show her how she can help herself behave in a better way. A child may instead learn from her parent’s behavior to be secretive, belittle other people or call them names, or threaten.

She may try to see what she can get away with. She will learn that screaming and hitting are ways to get what she wants. Negative looks and remarks, sometimes passed off as teasing or joking, are likely to damage a child’s view of herself. Young children are usually not able to understand this kind of adult humor.

Negative discipline may damage a child’s trust in her parents. It also may leave the child with feelings of powerlessness, fear, hurt, anger, or hopelessness. The result may be resentment and bitter memories that will last a long time.

Negative discipline can cause physical injuries such as bruises, pulled muscles, and broken bones. Never shake a baby! Severely shaking babies may result in neck whiplash, back and other bone injuries, paralysis, permanent brain damage, and sometimes death.

Recent research tells us that high stress brought about by frequent negative discipline can harm the brain development of babies and toddlers. This harm can cause learning and behavior problems for the child. Remember, keep discipline positive.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Examine Attitudes About Your Teen's Sports Participation

Consider the many high school games and sports events occurring with the start of the school year. Do you think they truly meet the definition of the word “game”?

Colleen Gengler, of University of Minnesota Extension suggest we take a look at a quick definition and be reminded of what organized sports can be. The word “game” is defined as “activity engaged in for diversion or amusement.”Are your teen’s sports events diversion or amusement? What ways does your teen benefit from participating in sports?

Sports can encourage positive character traits and life values. Sports participation can teach the importance of teamwork, cooperation and hard work. Youth can learn important fundamentals such as ethics, following rules, respecting authority figures, winning and losing with grace, coping with success and failure, and goal setting.

Look at why youth participate in sports. Among the reasons common to both boys and girls are: to improve skills, stay in shape and get exercise, learn new skills, and to do something at which they may already excel. Some youth enjoy competition but there must be a healthy balance between competition, cooperation and having fun. The sport itself should not be completely focused on an “I win, you lose” philosophy. Learning new things, helping each other improve and having fun while doing so all contribute to a healthy sports environment.

To further healthy experiences around organized sports, parents need to examine their own attitudes. Sometimes parents want to live vicariously through their teen’s efforts. Red flags for parental behavior might include: sharing credit for a victory or personal best, coaching from the sidelines, making mental notes to talk about with their teen after the event, or becoming disrespectful of officials. If parents find themselves behaving these ways, it’s time to take a step back.

What can parents do if their teen is involved in high school sports? First, try to be realistic about your teen’s abilities. Few teens go on to college sports, fewer yet make it all the way to their senior year, and very few young adults eventually become professionals. According to a DePauw University website, out of approximately one million high school varsity football players in the country, approximately 150 will make an NFL roster. That’s odds of 6,000 to one.

Whenever possible encourage the positive outcomes from sports mentioned earlier. You can help do that—and keep sports fun—by supporting a balance of competitive sports and involvement in other activities, as well as family time in the life of your teen. You can also serve as a good role model by applauding and cheering for all team members, being respectful of opponents and officials, talking with the families of other team members, and focusing on the positives!