take a deep breath…

Everyone tends to get frustrated at times. Our family is no exception. Whenever that happens, we remind each other, regardless of age, to take a deep breath.

Taking a deep breath helps to calm us. The physical act of deeply filling one’s lungs and exhaling reduces stress. When stressed, we breathe in short, shallow breaths; deep breaths help to relax us. Breathing deeply also releases endorphins which help us to better deal with stress. It helps us to clear and focus our minds.

The time it takes to take a deep breath also breaks the current cycle of reactive thought. We can once again focus on finding a solution rather than expending all of our thought and energy on our frustration.

positive direction…

Photo by dktrpepr (flickr)

Everyone likes to feel that they have a purpose in life. Generally speaking, people want to be helpful, needed, and a contributing member of society (or a family). Sometimes knowing how to go about that is difficult. It can be even more so when you are small and have seemingly little to offer. When this need to help is not being met, it can manifest itself in less than desirable behaviors.

My three year old is going through a phase right now. He is aware and proud of his independence but still needs help with many things. He wants to contribute to our family but doesn’t always know how. Sometimes this presents as him following a family member around, most notably an older sibling or his father, and acting in ways they don’t appreciate. Asking him to stop doesn’t help with his needs. Instead, it is times like these that he seems to need some positive direction.

Positive direction differs from redirection; positive direction directs the person to an idea or outlet that meets their unmet need. When my son begins bothering someone in our family, I’ve found it very beneficial to help him with some positive direction. Simply put, I ask him if he would like to help me with something. That one simple question, regardless of what it is, is enough to meet his need to help out. It doesn’t matter if he helps me make cookies, wash walls, or pick up toys. He is a contributing member of our family and happy to be so. Of course, there is also the added benefit of some special time with a parent.

cooperation is a survival skill…

Cooperation has long been a survival skill. Tribal communities have utilized cooperation in order to meet everyone’s needs for millenia. With the advent of nuclear families, the focus on such cooperation took a back seat. Once again, with the increasingly interconnectedness of our society, it is once again becoming readily apparent that cooperation, along with communication, are vitally important to our species. Cooperation begins at home.

10 tips for toddler carseat woes…

Photo by are you my rik (flickr)

My three year old has been the hardest of all my children to get in his carseat, preferring to take extra time to get in his seat. After making certain that the seat is comfortable, I have a few things that have helped us with the dilemma.

1. Planning extra time. Starting somewhere after age 1, I planned in an extra five minutes to account for him taking his time to get in the seat. Around age 2 1/2, that got bumped to 10 minutes for a while but luckily we worked through that pretty quickly.

2. Going over our plans before we get in the van. “I’d like you to get in your seat right away. We don’t have a lot of time and we need to leave now in order to get to our underwater basket weaving class.”

3. Making a game out of it. “Where are we headed today? To the moon? To Mars? To chase dinosaurs? Etc.”

4. Deep breath. I take a deep breath and remind myself that they are only little for so long, and I should enjoy it. When I am stressed about leaving, it just seems to take even more time for him to get in his seat.

5. Food. Even now, my son will often ask for a mint when we get out to the van. I tell him I will get the mint while he gets in his seat. It’s not used as a bribe. The mint or snack isn’t dependent on his compliance. However, I know it’s harder to concentrate if you are hungry. Dividing tasks also helps him to understand that we are in this together.

6. Making certain we have enough home days. My son is a homebody. If we have been going places a lot, he will drag getting into his seat even more. He needs time at home.

7. When he was younger, playfully scooping him up, kissing him, and putting him in his seat (rather than having him climb up himself) prevented a lot of it. That doesn’t work now because he wants to climb up on his own.

8. Go fast. This summer I’ve mentioned that the faster we get buckled, the faster we get the air conditioner on, and the faster we get home to a nice drink with ice in it.

9. Something to do. Giving him a toy or activity to do in his carseat helps. Luckily he is still RFing, so it kind of keeps stuff in his carseat rather than the stuff falling down.

10. Making certain he has other times to explore the van. It’s pretty exciting, I have to admit. The idea of (pretend) driving somewhere or looking at buttons is appealing. If he has time to do that when we aren’t in a hurry – prime times are when cleaning out the van or when we are sitting in the van while I nurse the baby – he is less likely to want to do it when we are on our way.

the no-lose method…

The no-lose method of conflict resolution allows everyone to work together in order to find mutually agreed upon solutions which work for everyone.

First, you must set the stage for how the no-lose method will work:

  1. Begin by telling your child clearly and concisely that there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
  2. Make it understood that you wish to work with your child in order to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone.
  3. Agree on a time to work on the problem when there won’t be distractions.

There are six steps to the no-lose method:

  1. Identify and define the problem. During this time, the needs of everyone should be stated. Many times the true problem is different from what we originally perceive it to be. Parents should be conscious not to give solutions instead of defining needs. You should tell your child clearly and as strongly as you feel exactly what feelings you have and what needs of yours are not being met or what is bothering you. I-messages are useful in order to avoid put down messages or blame.  Active listening is a useful tool for distinguishing between needs and possible solutions and to make certain you understand your child’s needs. State the conflict or problem so that everyone agrees what the true issue is.
  2. Generate possible alternative solutions.  This is where brainstorming comes in. Everyone is welcome to offer possible solutions. In fact, parents should encourage their children to offer soultions first. Children are very insightful and may offer solutions that parents had not even considered. Avoid evaluating and showing preference for any solution. At this point in time, you are only brainstorming possibilities.
  3. Evaluate alternative solutions. Figure out what each person is willing to do. Narrow down solutions to one or two best possibilities. Be honest with one another about how you feel regarding each possible solution.
  4. Decide on best acceptable solution. By this point in the process, one solution may clearly stand out from all of the others and be accepted by all involved parties. If not, verbally test out some of the other solutions and see if they would work for everyone. remember that solutions are not final. Life isn’t static. If the tried solution doesn’t work for everyone, reevaluate and change. Multi-part solutions may need to be written down in order to help everyone remember. It should be clear to everyone that they are making a commitment to try the solution.
  5. Work out ways to implement the solution. Discuss the details needed in order to implement the solution and gather any necessary tools.
  6. Follow up to evaluate if the solution worked. Don’t forget to check back with everyone to see if the solution is working. If not, reeveluate and find something that works better for all those involved.

conflict: the no-lose method (part4)…

The no-lose method of conflict resolution allows parents to discover what is really going on with the child. When you use your power to enforce your own solutions, you don’t unveil the true underlying feelings and needs. In order to deal with an issue, you have to know what the real problem is first. Once you have worked with your child to discover the cause of conflict, solutions generally become apparent.

Aspects of the no-lose method of conflict resolution:

  • Both parties possess equal or near equal power. Neither holds power over the other.
  • The solution must be acceptable to both parties. This is  method for finding solutions which work for everyone. This may look completely different in different families or with different individuals.
  • Involves the principle of participation. Individuals are more motivated to carry out decisions when they are involved in the decision making process. Less enforcement is required in order to implement the proposed plan because all parties are vested in the plan and the outcome.
  • Encourages and requires each involved party to think.
  • Results in less hostility from everyone because both parties are agreeing on a mutually acceptable solution. Both parties leave the situation feeling good because the conflict has been taken cre of and no party has lost, ultimately bringing them closer together. 
  • Eliminates the need for power. Both parties are working together toward a solution. There is no need to grapple for power and no need for coping mechanisms to deal with another person’s power. Allows each party to respect themself and the other person, allowing everyone to win.

The no-lose approach to conflict resolution treats children like people. Parents are able to communicate to their children that the children’s needs are important and that the children can also be trusted to be considerate of the parent’s needs.

conflict: parent 0, child 1 (part 3)…

The other win/lose method of conflict resolution involves the child winning while the parent loses, as seen in permissive parenting. In an effort not to be authoritarian, the parent does not enforce his/her own personal boundaries or talk to the child about behavior.

 These children are often wild, uncontrolled (self-control), and impulsive. Lacking the opportunity to think through conflict resolution, they disregard the needs of others, placing their needs above everyone else’s. They lack self-control and have a tendency to become  self-centered, selfish, and demanding. They have a difficult time relating to others and lack respect for other people’s property or feelings. At the same time, their parents’ lack of genuine expression of thoughts and feelings leads these children to doubt their parents’ professed love and become insecure.

Parents in this situation tend to become resentful of their child. Irritation and anger build. At that point, parents following this method will often resort to authoritarian parenting.

conflict: parent 1, child 0 (part 2)…

There are three methods of conflict resolution. The first method, and the one employed by most parents, involves the parent winning the conflict while the child loses.

Relationships are symbiotic. When one half loses, the entire relationship loses. Parents may have won the fight, but they are losing in both the short and long-term.

When a person has no choice or voice in a matter, resentment builds. It’s difficult to have empathy and understanding for someone who continually uses their age or strength to bully you into doing something. While these feelings may build over a period of time, damaging the relationship in the long-term, other effects will be readily visible right away.

When a person is not involved in the process of conflict resolution, they have little motivation in following through with the decided plan. This makes enforcement of the plan rather difficult. Parents who employ the I win, you lose method are likely to find themselves spending a lot of time trying to get their children to do what they want in the form of reminders, threats, punishments, or rewards. Cooperation is not fostered by forcing someone into compliance. Parents ultimately make life harder on themselves by making life full of battles.

conflict (part 1)…

Conflict is a matter of life. However, conflict is not by definition negative. Conflict can be a catalyst for much needed change. It can bring about learning. It can bring us closer together. Conflict, in and of itself, is unavoidable. How we handle conflict is what matters.

punitive discipline…

The problem with punitive discipline is that while it may appear to stop specific behaviors, it does not address the underlying cause of the behavior and therefore does not resolve the true conflict. Working with your child to address the true cause of the conflict and come up with possible solutions allows your child to delve deeper into the conflict in order to understand it and work on conflict resolution and problem solving, which then leads to self-discipline.