Tag: Parent-child

Parenting Wrap-Up: 5 things to remember during the holiday season

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Posted on by Dawn Young (QK Staff)

Parenting Wrap up - tips about parenting from Quirky Kid

At it’s best, parenting can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling jobs in the world. When children get dressed happily in the morning, express gratitude for their dinner, or get on with their homework without a fuss, parents can feel on cloud nine. Too often though children’s demanding, fussy, and oppositional behaviour can lead to arguments, tears and shouting on both sides.

It goes without saying that a calm, consistent approach where clear expectations regarding behaviour are communicated, and where encouragement is provided, works best.  However, this can often be easier said than done. Whilst this work is in progress, don’t forget these other valuable strategies for promoting positive behaviour in your child:

Connect with your Child

The word ‘connect’ has become a catch cry in recent years. More and more research evidence points to the importance of feeling connected with others and associated behavioural and emotional wellbeing (Eime,Young, Harvey, Charity, & Payne, 2013; Seppala, Rossomando, & Doty, 2013; Whitlock, Wyman, & Moore, 2014).

Life, for many families, consists of the daily juggle to get out the door on time, get kids to and from activities/sports, and navigate homework demands whilst simultaneously providing balanced, healthy meals. Under this pressure, it’s easy to fall into the habit of simply getting through the day. However, finding time to truly connect with your child can be wonderfully rewarding for you both and can help to strengthen the parent-child bond.

Driving your child to activities, helping them with homework, or standing on the sidelines at sport are all important elements of being a supportive, involved parent. However, remembering to go that little bit extra can do wonders for a parent-child relationship. Setting aside some one-to-one time to connect, away from other family members, can be enormously bonding.

  • For preschool children, simply sitting down at their level and observing out loud what they are doing is a great way for you both to connect. It’s as simple as providing a running commentary about what they are doing. For example,“you are putting the blue block on top of the yellow one. Now you are making the tower taller by putting a green block on”. It may seem simplistic but most children will enjoy your presence, feel noticed and will respond positively to this interaction.
  • For primary school aged children, connecting can be as simple as playing a game of UNO, kicking a ball, or making paper planes together. It could also include cooking together, going for a bike ride, or even going away overnight.
  • As children become teenagers, they show increasingly greater interest in their peers and it’s easy for parents to feel that their opinions no longer matter. This change in parent-child relationship dynamics is not a negative sign, but a developmental progression and research show that adolescents continue to value their parents’ views over their peers, particularly when making serious decisions (Ackard, Neumark-Sztainer, Story & Perry, 2006; Brown & Bakken, 2011).

Here are some suggestions on connecting with your child:

  • Step 1: Decide on something you might both enjoy. Where children are old enough, agreeing on a plan is a great start.
  • Step 2: Put your phone/iPad/computer away. This demonstrates to your child that she/he is your number one priority. It also helps you to be mentally present.
  • Step 3: Make sure you join in with whatever activity you both choose (i.e., if you choose swimming, you ideally need to be prepared to get in the pool).
  • Step 4: Try to avoid too much ‘instruction-giving’ and do not use this one-to-one time as a chance to lecture about behaviour or past misdemeanours.

The only goal is to have fun together and to finish the activity on a positive note. It’s better to be brief but successful than go on for too long and end in an argument. Give it a try. You might be surprised by how much you learn about your child and how much fun you both have together!

Model How to Behave in Times of Stress

As a parent, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. Whilst you instil in them a rich factual knowledge of the world, it’s easy to forget how much they learn from watching you. Children are astute observers of behaviour and learn much about emotional expression and self-regulation by keenly observing your behaviour (Gerull & Rapee, 2002, Chambers, Craig & Bennett, 2002). We are often unaware of just how much they take in until we hear our children parrot something they have heard us say to them.

When we shout at children, lose our temper in frustration, or perhaps smack them, we are teaching them that this is the way to behave in times of frustration. Don’t be surprised if you then witness your child engage in similar behaviours. Similarly, if you have a tendency to become anxious or panicked in certain situations, don’t be too surprised if you start to see signs of anxiety in your child (Fisak & Grills-Taquechel, 2007).

By spending a few moments reflecting on your behaviour during times of intense stress (e.g. getting out the door in the mornings), you can take steps to try to regulate your own emotions.  Often, the first step is to identify trigger points when you are likely to lose your cool. Don’t be afraid to change the family routine to find a better approach. You can include the children in finding alternative solutions.  In doing so, you are demonstrating the skills of problem-solving for your child. Where frustration takes over, try to calm yourself by taking deep breaths or taking a few minutes away from your child to regain your self-control.

This is so much easier said than done, but where you are able to remain calm you are effectively modelling an adaptive way of coping in times of frustration. Don’t be afraid to seek support if you feel that your own anger, worries, or mood are negatively impacting on your parenting style.

As parents, we’ve heard the phrase ‘look after yourself’ on many occasions but the evidence is really there. Children of depressed and/or anxious parents or those living in an environment of constant conflict are more likely to experience emotional difficulties (Elgar, Mills, McGrath, Waschbusch & Brownridge, 2007; Kahn, Brandt & Whittaker, 2004). Find ways to gain social support from those around you or seek help from an experienced Psychologist at Quirky Kid or other qualified psychologists via www.psychology.org.au.

Be Emotionally Responsive

Emotional responsiveness is sometimes referred to as emotion coaching and involves empathically responding to another’s emotions. Put simply, it means giving a name to the emotion that you are seeing in your child. There is evidence to suggest that by labelling emotions, parents help to increase their child’s emotional language skills and, that by accepting and addressing negative feelings in children, parents can promote emotional regulation skills (Gottman, Katz & Hoover, 1997; Whittingham, 2015)

If your child is crying about homework, for example, you might say

“I can see that having to do this homework is upsetting/annoying you”, or “it’s really frustrating when you have to stop playing and and do homework, isn’t it?”.

It is as simple as putting yourself in your child’s shoes and seeing problems from their perspective. It is essential to avoid immediately suggesting solutions to the problem, and to avoid using phrases, such as,

“if you had done it when I told you to do it, you wouldn’t be feeling this way”.

Instead, continue to calmly report back to your child how you think they might be feeling.

As most parents will attest, getting annoyed with your child at such times or telling them to “just get on with it” simply fuels the fire, and everyone can end up angry and upset. By expressing empathy and putting yourself in your child’s shoes, you are helping your child to feel understood and you are promoting positive communication skills in your child. Often children express how they feel through their behavioural outbursts, but ideally, we want them to learn to express their feelings verbally. An emotionally responsive approach can often defuse the situation and help your child feel understood. Sometimes this simple technique is enough to calm the situation. It can also provide a springboard for helping your child to find a more appropriate solution to the problem.

Embrace Mistakes

Setting high standards for behaviour can be very beneficial for children. In doing so, however, it is vital to be accommodating of the fact that all children make mistakes and errors of judgement.  Making mistakes is part of human nature, and it is one of the myriad of ways in which people learn. As parents, our instinct is to protect or prevent our children from making mistakes, or to be disappointed by some of our children’s mistakes when they occur.

There is concern among researchers that perfectionism in children is increasing (Marano, 2008). Perfectionism is characterised by a fear of making mistakes. Such fear can lead to rigidity of behaviour that stifles creativity and playfulness and can lead to excessive anxiety and avoidance. Marano (2008, p.82) surmises that part of the reason that perfectionism in children is becoming more of an issue is that some parents ‘seek much of their status from the performance of their kids and, as a result, are placing much more pressure on children to achieve than previously’.

As parents, it is important to embrace children’s mistakes, ask the child to reflect on where they went wrong, and then help the child to learn from that experience. Sometimes children are unaware that they have even done anything wrong. In such cases, it is often appropriate to explain the error and together think about how to behave differently next time. The point at which a firmer stance needs to be taken is where the child puts themselves or someone else in danger, or is engaging in a behaviour that may not have an immediate or logical consequence (e.g. bullying).

It helps if parents too can acknowledge their own mistakes (where appropriate) and take responsibility for them, model a calm approach, and verbalise how they will learn from that experience. For example,

“I got up too late this morning and I had to rush everyone out of the door. I apologise for getting angry, and tomorrow I will try not to make that mistake again by getting up earlier”.

Where children repeatedly make the same mistake, it’s important to consider why that is happening. From there, try to find ways to help them learn more appropriate behaviour effectively.

Engage in Positive Self-Talk

Self-talk is the internal voice in your head and, as parents, we have a constant and busy internal dialogue. Much of our self-talk is not done consciously, but from time to time we notice it when we are are trying to motivate ourselves, or perhaps when we are angry about something. Self-talk can be helpful or unhelpful, and it can have a significant impact on how people view themselves and how they cope in challenging situations. Children learn a lot of their self-talk from others around them. If children hear parents say negative things, such as “I’m hopeless at maths so I can’t help you with your homework’, they too can start to self-talk in similar ways. As parents, we need to model positive self-talk, for example,

“I had a really big project at work today. It was hard but I learned a lot from doing it” or “this lego model was hard, but we managed to do such a good job together. It reminds me that we are such good problem solvers!”.

If, as parents, we show our children that we believe in ourselves, then they too will start to behave in similar ways.

References:

Ackard, D., Neumark-Szatainer., Story, M and Perry, C. (2006). Parent-child connectedness and behavioural and emotional health among adolescents. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 30(1), 59-66. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2005.09.013

Brown, B. B. and Bakken, J. P. (2011). Parenting and Peer Relationships: Reinvigorating Research on Family–Peer Linkages in Adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21:153–165. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00720.x

Chambers, C., Craig, K.D. and Bennett, S.M. (2002). The Impact of Maternal Behavior on Children’s Pain Experiences: An Experimental Analysis. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 27(3), 293–301. doi:10.1093/jpepsy/27.3.293

Elgar, F. J., Mills, R. S., McGrath, P. J., Waschbusch, D. A., & Brownridge, D. A. (2007). Maternal and paternal depressive symptoms and child maladjustment: The mediating role of parental behavior. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 35(6), 943-955. doi: 10.1007/s10802-007-9145-0

Eime, R. M., Young, J. A., Harvey, J. T., Charity, M. J., & Payne, W. R. (2013). A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents: informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10(1), 98. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-10-98

Fisak, B., & Grills-Taquechel, A. E. (2007). Parental modeling, reinforcement, and information transfer: risk factors in the development of child anxiety? Clinical child and family psychology review, 10(3), 213-231. doi: 10.1007/s10567-007-0020-x

Gerull, F. C., & Rapee, R. M. (2002). Mother knows best: effects of maternal modelling on the acquisition of fear and avoidance behaviour in toddlers. Behaviour research and therapy, 40(3), 279-287. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967(01)00013-4

Marano, H. (2008). The making of a perfectionist. Psychology Today, 41(2), 80-87. Retrieved from: http://www.flowjunkie.com/PitfallsOfPerfectionism.pdf

Seppala, E., Rossomando, T., & Doty, J. (2013). Social Connection and Compassion: Important Predictors of Health and Well-Being. Social Research, 80(2), 411-430. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24385608

Whitlock, J., Wyman, P. A. and Moore, S. R. (2014). Connectedness and Suicide Prevention in Adolescents: Pathways and Implications. Suicide Life Threat Behaviour, 44: 246–272. doi:10.1111/sltb.12071

Whittingham, K. (2015). Connect and shape: A parenting meta-strategy. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 4, 103-106. doi: 10.1016/j.jcbs.2015.03.002.

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Understanding and Accepting Your Child

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Understanding and Accepting Your Child

Have there ever been times when you have looked at your child and just felt so different from them? Have you ever been left wondering what tree did they did in fact fall from?

Writer, activist and Psychiatrist, Andrew Solomon has recognised the commonality of these feelings amongst parents and families in his book ‘Far From The Tree’ and discusses how negotiating difference within families is a universal phenomenon.

While the diversity and uniqueness of all humans provides the rich tapestry of the world we live in, feeling very different to our own children can be a challenge to embrace and can cause friction in families. Common challenges include negotiating routines and family structures, finding things all family members enjoy doing together and questioning your parenting abilities and capabilities. Often parents at the Clinic stress that it is not the love for their child that is lacking but the ability to accept their child and enjoy their uniqueness that poses the challenge.

Acceptance in parenting can be conceptualised as being able to see and acknowledge the uniqueness in your child, without pressing for this to change, as Andrew Solomon states, it is “finding the light in your child and seeing it there” (Solomon, 2014). This doesn’t mean that we don’t strive to shape our children’s behaviour, educational outcomes, sporting ability etc, but rather, we accept and validate with warmth their unique personality, we love them for being them. Studies consistently tell us that children who feel accepted by their parents have a better more secure relationship with their parents, a heightened sense of family connectedness, higher self esteem and fewer psychosocial challenges, such as anxiety and depression (Ansari & Qureshi, 2013; Dwairy, 2010). The heartening news is that acceptance is something which can be learnt and developed over time. At the Quirky Kid Clinic, we use some practical strategies to facilitate acceptance within families.

Assess your own expectations

One of the biggest blocks to being able to accept your child is holding onto unrealistic expectations of your child and yourself. Some common expectations include “my child should be academic”, “to be successful my child must focus and work hard”, “it is not normal to be so fussy”, “I am a bad parent if I don’t like spending time with my child”.  Statements that include “should”, “must”, “meant”, “not normal”, “bad parent” will invoke stress, anxiety and often anger, and typically do not reflect the true reality of the situation. Most parents can agree that having a happy child that achieves within their capabilities, academically, socially, physically and emotionally, is their hope and dream. Just because your child is not like you doesn’t mean that they are not valuable and certainly doesn’t mean that you have failed in your role as a parent in any way. Replace these statements with more helpful and realistic statements, like “my child may not be academic but they have other skills”, “being successful is finding a happy balance”, “most children can be fussy”, “all people are unique and so is my child” and “I am a normal parent experiencing common thoughts among parents”. Most parents don’t have mini-clones of themselves and most experience the challenges of raising unique children at some stage.

Become a child- scientist

Acceptance is fostered through understanding and knowing. Get to know what makes your child tick, what they love doing, what interests them, who they feel close to, what they want you to be doing with them. A helpful way to elicit this information is to discuss these questions during parallel communication times (ie. when you’re talking but not face to face) such as in the car, taking a walk, playing a game or at bedtime). For younger children, drawing can be helpful. A lovely activity to do together is draw a world and put all the people that are in their world onto the picture (you can write or draw). Using stickers, you can then identify people who love them (heart stickers), people who are good to talk to (dot stickers), people who are good to have fun with (star stickers) and people who help them (triangle stickers) (Lowenstein, 1999). Use this information to develop and strengthen your child’s support network.

Take turns in doing things together that you and your child enjoy and make time in your schedules to have fun together. Make space in your house to cater for your child, whether it be a spot for lego, music, games or special interest books. It can also be helpful to have a family friend whom you can enlist as a support person for your child and who can also take an interest in your child’s life.

Become a mindful parent

Mindful parenting focuses on developing awareness around interactions with your child through focusing your attention on your child’s needs in a particular moment whilst regulating your own emotions (Duncan, Coatsworth, D & Greenberg, M., 2009).  Being in tune with your child is likely to help your child feel accepted and valued.  While mindful parenting sounds difficult to achieve, there are some steps you can take to help develop your skills in this area.

  1. Listen with your full attention: focus on what your child is communicating to you, what words are they using? what facial expressions do they have? look them in the eye, down at their level and show them that you can hear them. Active listening helps parents understand the needs and meaning behind behaviour.
  2. Communicate: reflect back to the child what you hear them saying. Try and not make judgements here, just reflect what you can see and hear. For example, “you are feeling very angry because your brother used your special cup”. This can help your child build awareness of their own behaviours and acknowledge you are listening and hearing them.
  3. Help your child label their emotions: it is important for children to be aware of the emotions they are feeling as it can really help them make conscious choices about how to respond to them. For example, parents may say “ it looks like you are angry because I can see your fists tensing up, your face looking red and you are shouting”.
  4. Demonstrate self regulation and compassion: Pausing before your own reaction and teaching your child to do the same (eg. count to 10 before reacting or blowing out 3 breaths to blow off the anger) can help to limit unplanned and heated arguments or words that can impact negatively on children and parents. Showing empathetic concern towards your child shows them that you love them despite the situation and demonstrates your acceptance despite the behaviour. Following on from this process, behaviour can then be addressed through using calming strategies, timeout and removal of privileges in a calm and planned manner.

Warmth and Praise

Feeling accepted comes from feeling validated as a person. Warmly validating your child on a daily basis can improve relationships, behaviour and family connectedness. Some helpful ways to validate your child include:

  1. making a photo wall of all the things you like about them and what they do. For example, taking photos of them hugging their sister, playing their lego and of family outings can help your child know that you notice and feel happy about special things they do or may be interested in. You can write in captions and put the date on the photos to elicit more meaningful memories of the special time/ activity/ quality.
  2. use plenty of specific praise: tell your child you love them and praise specifically every day. For example, “I loved how you noticed when mummy felt unwell and thought to get her some tissues”. This tells the child exactly what things you have noticed and loved about them.
  3. make a Brag Book (Lowenstein, 1999): at the end of every day, write one praise point in your child’s book that you can read together before bed. Again, make the praise specific. This book can be a concrete reminder to your child that you love and accept them.

References

Ansari, B. & Qureshi, S. (2013). Parental Acceptance and Rejection in Relation with Self Esteem in Adolescents. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 4 (11), 552-557.

Duncan, L. Coatsworth, J. & Greenberg, M. (2009). A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent-Child Relationships and Prevention Research. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 12 (3), 255-70.

Dwairy, M. (2010). Parental Acceptance-Rejection: a Fourth Cross-Cultural Research on Parenting and Psychological Adjustment with Children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19 (1), 30-35.

Lowenstein, L. (1999). Creative Interventions for Troubled Children and Youth. Higell Book Printing.

Soloman, A. (2014). Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. Scribner.

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