Articles by Nathalie
Stay in Touch with your Kids after School Starts
Summer’s almost over and kids are headed back to school. How can you stay in touch with your kids when they’re at school all day? Mealtime and bedtime are key times of the day to touch base with them.
Life and schedules are hectic with sports and extracurricular activities, but if at all possible, try to have meals together as a family, at least 3 times per week, with the TV off. Eating and conversation go hand in hand, as long as the TV and radio are not offering distractions.
It may be impossible to get your family together for dinner during the week, but don’t forget weekends. How about Saturday morning breakfast together? Sunday morning brunch? Or a big Sunday meal at lunchtime? How about a special bedtime snack on Wednesday evenings? Be creative. Think about the times when everyone is home, even if they aren’t conventional mealtimes.
If your family isn’t used to having meals together, you may need to think up some conversation starters. Go around the table and have everyone tell what the best part of their day was; or the worst part; or the funniest thing that happened. If your children are older, you can bring up a current event and ask what they know about it, or think about it.
“What have you heard about yesterday’s earthquake?”
“What do you think about the proposed new law regarding ______?”
“What did you think about the movie you watched last night? Do you think something like that could really happen?” Ask questions that can’t be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.”
Bedtime can also be a good time to connect with your children and find out what is on their hearts and minds. Some children arrive home from their day, tired (just as adults do), and will only give one-word answers to questions when they first come in the door. But later, like at bedtime, they feel like talking. Figure out what your kids’ best time of day is, and capitalize on it.
My kids liked to talk after I tucked them in at night. I tucked them in a little early, so that we would have time to talk. And since I’m a morning person and can hardly stay vertical at night, I would lie on the bed next to them. Although I was tired to the bone, I would always be glad that I spent those extra minutes learning what was going on their minds.
I continued to tuck my kids in at night, even after they were old enough that they didn’t need me to. It paid off when I continued to hear about what they were thinking and doing, even during their teen years. But, best of all, it helped us develop and maintain a close relationship, which is priceless!
DO YOUR CHILDREN WHINE?
Is your children’s whining driving you crazy? Why do they do that?! Because they’ve learned that it gets them what they want. (You’ve inadvertently taught them that.) To get them to change their behavior, you will have to change yours: you will have to respond differently.
If you’re like most parents, you’ve fallen into the trap of giving your children what they want when they whine, just to get them to quiet down. You are probably not even aware that you are doing it. Unfortunately, that is teaching them that whining is an effective way to get their way. There’s a simple solution, but as in much of parenting, it’s hard to carry out. It will take a conscious effort on your part, to get them to stop whining.
First, you have to start listening for the whining, instead of trying to tune it out. Then, when you catch your child whining, you will need to react differently. There are a couple of different methods that you can try.
You can teach your child in a straightforward manner, how he should be speaking, by modeling it for him. If your child comes to you, demanding, “I want a drink! I want a drink!” say to the child, “Do you mean, ‘May I please have a drink, Mom?’” Wait until the child repeats that in a pleasant voice before you give in.
After you’ve used this method several times, start playing a new game. When your child demands or whines to go outside, for instance, tell him, “I can’t understand you when you talk in that tone of voice. Would you please use your big boy voice? (or your nice voice?)” You can do this in a calm voice, yourself. Do it right away, before you get angry or frustrated. If the child will not repeat himself in a pleasant tone, walk away, saying, “I’m sorry, but I can’t hear what you are saying.” If he follows you around the house, whining, tell him to go to his room until he is ready to come out and talk in his big boy voice.” If he won’t go, gently take him by the hand, and calmly lead him to the room. “I wish I could help you, but I just can’t understand what you want when you use that tone of voice.” Preschoolers are much brighter than we sometimes give them credit for. They know what is going on! They just need to choose to cooperate.
The key is in catching it when they whine, and changing your reaction. Go for it! You can do it!
DO YOUR KIDS HAVE AN EXCUSE FOR EVERYTHING?
Do your kids have an excuse or an argument for everything? For why they didn’t do their homework or turn it in, why they got into a fight, why they grabbed that toy from their peer, why they came in late, why they didn’t call, why they didn’t finish their chores, etc., etc., etc.? Is it always someone else’s fault?
The opposite of responsibility is excusing and blaming. If we want our children to grow into responsible adults, we need to refuse to accept their excuses and blaming. We need to hold them accountable for their actions, choices, and words. If a child argues in the morning when you suggest that he take his snow pants to school for recess that day, don’t rescue him by bringing him his snow pants when he calls you later. If your child, when in a grumpy mood tells you that he didn’t want to go to that birthday party anyway, hold him to his word, even when he calms down and changes his mind. If your child blames someone else by saying, “He started it,” teach him accountability for his actions by giving him negative consequences for responding in kind. If your child gives a lame excuse for not doing his homework, like “I forgot my book,” give him consequences for his irresponsible behavior: remove all his privileges for the evening - TV, computer, music, video games, bike, phone, etc.
If you don’t provide negative consequences, he will learn that by being irresponsible, he gets out of work, and gets to play instead. Show him that irresponsibility brings discomfort. It does so in adult life. Irresponsibility can bring the loss of a job and an income, or the loss of a valued relationship.
It is crucial that children learn to take responsibility for their actions. If they don’t learn it from us during their childhood, they will learn it from their employer or the legal system when they become adults. This is a lesson much easier learned in childhood than in adulthood. The repercussions are much less serious. Do your children a favor: if you threatened consequences, keep your word and follow through.
DON'T TRY TO HAVE A PERFECT HOUSE
I’m in my last year of home schooling. My oldest son graduated 10 years ago. My middle son left for college 3 years ago, and my youngest son is starting his senior year in high school.
My house is finally clean! I’m caught up with the dishes and the laundry! But, oh, how I miss that mess of Legos and matchbox cars on the living room floor! I would give anything to step on a Lego in the middle of the night as I did when I took my preschooler to the bathroom!
Moms, don’t worry about the books and art projects on the table. Dads, don’t worry about the toys in the livingroom. There will be a time to have a clean house, but it’s not now. Now is the time to have busy, happy children. And busy, happy people create messes. It’s OK if people stop by and see a messy house. It’s more important that they see a warm, active household. A loving, healthy family means people talking, laughing, and doing. Make the most of your brief years with your children by playing together and experiencing life together. Let your children help bake cookies, even though it means flour and sugar all over the counter and floor. Let them use crayons, glue, and glitter, even though you know what will happen to the floor. You can have a spotless house later!