Some Food for Thought about Meltdowns
Often we, as parents, get overwhelmed with the daily responsibilities we face. Short staffed at work as companies try to cut down on costs and maximize profits. Companies are still making up from the losses incurred during shutdowns. Supply chains are still disrupted, increases in fuel prices are making everyone spend more on anything that has to be transported for sale.
As a result of our feelings of frustration and being overwhelmed, often we forget that our kids need our time, too. Ask yourself – as a parent, what is the most important job I have? Most of us will admit that it is to raise a competent human being, fit to enter and contribute to society.
But when we are overwhelmed ourselves, sometimes we just don’t know what to say. Here’s a few suggestions:
How do you respond to your child when there is a disappointment, a failure, a heartbreak?
Face it, those are rather cruel things to say to a person. Would you say those things to a friend or co-worker? Probably not. Why? Why do you say them to your child? For most of us, it is because our parents said those things to us. It’s a bit embarrassing to open your mouth and hear your mother come out.
So what can you do to change what you say?
First thing is to recognize that those old things just don’t produce the type of child you want to send out into the world.
Second is to practice. Think about situations where your child came to you, you responded, and your child shut down. Then re-imagine how the conversation might go if you said something different. Something that conveyed respect for your child’s feelings. Something that reinforced your child’s sense of dignity?
Like what? What do I say?
Instead of dismissing your child’s feelings as unimportant or unrealistic, IDENTIFY THE CHILD’S FEELINGS.
If you aren’t sure what to say,
Sometimes, when feelings are just too jumbled up for your child to understand they may respond with the classic “I don’t know”. Or “I forgot”. Most of the time this is your child’s way of saying they just can’t put words to how they feel. Trot out a few words that might fit
You could say “hmmm. If I were in that situation I might feel….
Listen and see what your child grasps onto. Sometimes they won’t really say anything out loud, so you may have to pay attention to the body language. Do they slump at a particular word? Do they roll their eyes? Do they turn away. Many times body language cues you in on how they feel, even when they don’t have the words to describe the feelings.
Remember, what may seem like not such a big deal to you can be quite a big deal for your child. Reflect, help them identify emotions, and don’t try to solve the problem until they ask you for help. How to help? Check back for the next blog.
Kids seem to follow a pattern. In their early years we worry that they won’t talk enough, or soon enough. Then they start talking, but the string of nonsense that spews forth makes us want to ask for just a few minutes of peace and quiet. Then, in the teen years we long for them to tell us ANYTHING about what they are doing, feeling, thinking, as they draw away from us and merge with peers. Need some help navigating this?
Let’s talk about the toddler part first.
In the toddler years, your child’s language starts to ‘explode’, although your child has been learning about words, sounds and back-and-forth conversations since birth.
At 12-18 months, your toddler will probably:
By the time your toddler is TWO you will likely hear things like:
Somewhere around THREE you will see the following changes:
Talking can be frustrating for toddlers – they can have so much to tell you but can’t quite get the words out. Sometimes the frustration comes out in meltdowns (see “meltdowns” blog). Don’t worry. Many kids do eventually learn to talk.
Toddlers respond best to encouragement and interest. So when you’re helping your child express themselves, focus on having fun together. Try to avoid teasing or correcting your toddler’s mistakes too often. Teasing or excessive correcting most often results in negative self talk. Huh? It’s a nonverbal toddler? Yep, teasing, overcorrecting, scolding, all these things result in negative feelings. Your toddler may not be able to label these feelings with words such as “I’m stupid” or “I’m bad”, but they are certainly feeling those things.
There is a time to correct and a time to let go. Pick your battles. This is not the time to excessively correct a beginning speaker.
Instead, play with your toddler
The more words you expose your child to, the more words they’ll learn. Here are some play ideas to encourage toddler talking:
Screen time and toddler talking
We all use that handy dandy tablet when we need peace and a break from incessant toddler demands. However, excessive screen time for kids under two years of age can delay cognitive development and result in speech/language and social skills deficits. After two years, your child can have some screen time, but it’s important to use age-appropriate, quality content.
It’s also important to balance screen time with other activities like physical play, reading, creative play and social time with family and friends.
So, what if your child is not in line with developmental milestones?
If your toddler is not doing these things by 18 months, it is a good idea to check with your pediatrician.
If at three years old your child is still not doing these things, you may want to get an evaluation by a professional to determine how to proceed.
There are many competent professionals who can evaluate your child to determine whether or not you need to get special help. Check with your pediatrician to get a referral to someone they know and trust.
Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS)
What is PBIS? It is an easy-to-use system that helps you and your child succeed. It incorporates structure, clear expectations, and concrete rewards to make your life easier by reducing anxiety.
Most of us perform better and have less anxiety when we have routines and structure. Jobs and schools help us set specific routines, thus giving us structure that we need to feel safe and in control. With schools out of session and many of us working from home, we likely have fewer routines. This increases anxiety, and often results in your child behaving in a manner you find quite challenging.
Below are some suggestions for you and your family that may help you keep some form of routine. The times given are only suggestions. You will need to look at your own family rhythms to choose times that work for you.
6:00 am Mom and Dad, up and at ‘em. Getting up before your child gets out of bed gives you a chance to clear your mind and get yourself ready for the day. Take these precious moments to shower, dress, perhaps start coffee or breakfast and get your supplies ready for your day.
6:30 am Kids, up and at ‘em. Give your child time to gradually get awake and out of bed. A few of us have children that are ready to “rise and shine”, but most of us have kids who want to stay in bed those few extra minutes. An easy way to make sure your child gets out of bed without having to go in and continue to wake them is to supply an alarm clock. Does your child do better waking to music, to a sound, to a voice reading a story? Does your teen have a cell phone that you can set progressive alarms on? For younger children, setting a radio alarm that is far enough from the bed that it can’t be reached and easily reset helps. Set it for 10-15 minutes before you want your child out of bed. That gives time to wake gradually and ease into morning. Teens can set progressive alarms on the cell phone that continue to go off. Provide rewards for getting up on time. Perhaps you can reward your child with a few minutes of television, reading or social media time before leaving the house as a reward for getting morning tasks done on time.
6:45 am Breakfast, dressing, self care. Part of the morning routine involves getting dressed, brushing teeth, perhaps showering, eating breakfast and getting out of the house on time. Unless you are home schooling, which then means getting the daily routine started.
For smaller children, the term “get ready” can be overwhelming. As adults, we do not remember learning how many steps are involved in getting ready. How many times have you fussed at your child because they did not remember to brush their teeth, or forgot a backpack? If you are like most of us, lots of times. So, how do we get around this?
Let’s break down “get ready” in kidspeak.
1. Wake up to an alarm, music or mom/dad calling
2. Get out of bed – which involves throwing back covers, sitting up, yawning, putting feet on the floor and actually standing up.
3. Go to the bathroom (usually a pressing urge and not often forgotten)
4. Washing hands and face
5. Take off pj’s and put them in laundry hamper
6. Get out clean underwear and clothes for the day (lots of folks lay this out in the evening to help speed the process)
7. Put on underwear, pants/shirt/dress/shorts, socks
8. Go to kitchen or dining area
9. Sit down and eat breakfast, or for the child who wants to choose – choosing food and perhaps helping to prepare it (which is even more steps)
10. Put dishes in sink or dishwasher
11. Brush teeth
12. Brush hair
13. Round up items to go in backpack
14. Check that homework, etc is done
15. Go over the plan for the day – what will happen after school, etc.
16. Take any vitamins or medications
17. Make sure any after-school activity gear is packed (sports clothes and equipment, musical equipment, etc)
18. Check that lunch is packed, or if they buy lunch that they know what is on the menu
19. Put on shoes
20. Get backpack, sports gear, instruments, or other things needed for the day
21. Get out the door
22. Get in the car/bus
23. Fasten seatbelt
24. Breathe deep on the way to school
25. Get out of the car/bus
26. Get into the school building
27. Socialize with friends
28. Go to classroom
29. Unload backpack and other items into storage/locker
30. Sit down
Bet you didn’t realize how many things had to be remembered in order to get ready, huh? Think about it, perhaps make a chore chart that includes each step until your child has mastered remembering them. Then you can begin to talk in shorthand about “getting ready”.
Check back for more morning routine suggestions.
Happy Reading – the TROT staff
Teen years are not too different from those “terrible twos” you have already lived through. Teens are doing new things, pushing boundaries, and often throwing tantrums, just like they did when they were toddlers. It is a time when kids begin to pull away from parents and develop their own identities. They do this by talking more to peers, and less to parents. And that can be very scary,
Especially because teens are making decisions about things that have real consequences now. Decisions about school, friends, jobs, texting while driving, substance use and sex. But because the part of the brain that can evaluate and predict consequences isn’t operating yet, they often make risky and impulsive decisions.
As parents we want to have a trusting relationship with our teens. But it isn’t easy. Teens are prone to seeing “parental concern” as “parental interference”. They talk constantly to peers, use social media to share intimate details, but when asked by parents what they did that day they often behave as if you were behaving like Attila the Hun.
If this sounds familiar, breathe and remind yourself that your child is going through their terrible teens. It is a phase that will pass, and your job as parent is still important.
Think about the following tips when you are trying to talk with your teen:
1. Listen to what your teen says. Asking direct questions typically prompts a shut down. But if you just listen to what they say without judging, criticizing or evaluating, they are more likely to talk.
2. Don’t solve their problems for them or downplay the seriousness of their feelings. Instead of saying something like “oh well, that really wasn’t right for you” which dismisses how they feel, say something like “hmmm. That does sound hard”.
3. Trust your teen. Ask them for favors to show them they are valuable. Insist they pull their weight with family responsibilities to let them know they are important members of making the household run smoothly. Let them make decisions about what to wear and where to go as much as possible.
4. Encourage independence. You still set rules of the house but be ready to explain and sometimes negotiate. Hearing your reasoning helps them learn to make better decisions. Allowing them to make some decisions of their own and experience the consequences while living in the safety net of your home helps them learn.
5. Praise them. Your teen may act like it is “uncool” to accept praise from mom and pop, but they really do want your approval. Look for opportunities to congratulate them on good work, good decisions, good grades.
6. Practice emotional control. It is sooo easy to bark back at your teen when they are rude. But if you respond in kind, you are lowering yourself to the teen emotional level. That doesn’t teach your teen anything. YOU ARE THE ADULT. ACT LIKE ONE. If you are both too upset to talk, take a time out and come back to the conversation when you have control over your emotions.
7. Keep doing things together. It was easy when they were little. But now as teens they would rather spend time with friends. But make time to do things together. Prepare meals together, take a walk, engage in a hobby or sport. Simply being there with your teen will do so much to encourage them to talk to you. Kids find it easier to talk when they are actively doing something. So make that happen.
8. Try to share meals. Its difficult these days with sports, band, lessons and social media, but dinner conversations are a great way for every member of the family to talk about everyday things like sports, or tv, or planned activities. Kids who feel comfortable talking to parents about everyday things are more likely to talk when harder subjects come up.
Come back for more tips, and keep those lines of communication open. - the TROT staff.
Many kids go through a phase where they simply don't do their homework, forget to turn in assignments, and otherwise seem to be trying to fail at school. Often parents do not even realize this is going on until the report card comes home and the list of failing grades tips you off.
So why is homework time so difficult? Several reasons. Read on to try to identify your kid and your situation.
1. Sometimes it's hard for the kiddo to stay focused on schoolwork when they are at home. The classroom is structured, distractions are minimized, and they are aware that the job is to pay attention.
Kids, like us adults, view home as a place we can relax, have a snack, listen to music, and play video games. Kids simply don’t view the home as the place to do schoolwork. Setting the stage by having "homework time" and a special place where they do homework will go a long way toward getting the homework done. There are some suggestions below on how to do this.
2. You and your kid may be having some power struggles in general, and homework is only one of the battlegrounds. Other articles in our blog section talk about strategies you can use to minimize the control struggles and get your kiddo to want to cooperate in the smooth running of the household.
After all, we are raising them to be competent adults, and that means they need to learn to calculate risks, anticipate consequences, and make informed decisions. Sometimes they believe they can take on decisions that you know they are not ready to make, and this can set up a conflict. We address these topics in other
3. Some kids have a hard time getting assignments started. They may be overwhelmed or unsure where to begin. Or the work may seem too difficult. they may need help getting started.
A large part of getting your child to do their homework is establishing structure to make homework just another part of home life.
People usually thrive on checklists. Do you try to remember everything you have to do each day? Not likely, We make lists. We use time planners. We have reminders that we have obligations to fulfil.
Your kids will do better with these reminders, too. We like to send home a "Responsibility Chart" with our families. Mornings, after school times and evenings are set apart and responsibilities that need to be attended to are listed in each section. It works best if you post it on the refrigerator or in some central location in the house. Kids need to know that there is a time to eat, a time to do homework, and also that there is free time. And remember, free time starts after homework is done.
For example, on a chart you could list
1. Hang up coat and backpack
2. unpack your lunch box, throw away trash and put containers in sick or dishwasher.
3. get a snack, No TV or screen time, just a quiet snack for 15 minutes
4. get your homework assignments, go to your desk and work on them until done.
5. free time to play, watch TV, or read
Homework time should be a quiet time in your whole house. Siblings shouldn’t be in the next room watching TV or playing video games. The whole idea is to eliminate distractions. The message to your child is, “You’re not going to do anything anyway, so you might as well do your homework.”
Even if your kiddo does not yet have homework, it is good to set up a time when there is no phone, no electronics, no distractions. Time to read a book and wind down or do the chores that he/she is responsible for. This will help set the stage when for when your child does begin to get regular homework assignments. Responsibilities before playtime creates a lifelong work ethic that will go a long way to ensuring success.
The place where homework is done is important. Some kids can do homework at a desk in their room, for other kids, being in their room is simply a distraction - toys, games and other things are there begging to be played with.
For these kids, doing homework at a desk or table in the common living area helps. Some kids need parents there to help them stay focused and get the work done.
Wherever you choose to set up your homework station, make sure it is consistent. Having a special place where the only thing done is homework makes it easier for kids to get in the mindset of doing homework when they are at that place. If they do other activities at that place, it will be harder for them to slip into the homework mindset.
Don't forget they are tired when they come home. Just like you are tired after working and want to relax, so do your kids. So give them a little break after school. Get a snack, go walk outside. Research shows kids can attend for no more than 30 minutes at a time. Set your homework schedule so that they study for a half hour, then get a 10 minute break before getting back at it.
But don’t allow electronics during the break—electronics are just too distracting.
Monitor the break and ensure that your child gets back to work promptly.
Be sure to encourage your child when they’re discouraged. It’s okay to say things like:
"I know homework is boring. But if you go ahead and get it over with then you have the rest of the evening to play."
If you kiddo is having trouble getting started on an assignment it may be because they don't understand the directions, or the volume of work may seem overwhelming. Do the first couple of questions or math problems with them, then reassure them that they can manage the rest. "You've got this. I'll check with you later to see if you get stuck again".
Make a clear distinction between weekend nights and school nights. Frankly, a helpful way to structure this is that Friday and Saturday are weekend nights. Sunday through Thursday are school nights. So, if all the school work is done they can get Friday and Saturday night off. This clearly labels the night before having to get up and go to school as a "school night". And they get to have a weekend off, just like adults do.
However, if homework is not done, then Friday night is a homework night. Responsibilities before play.
Kids are involved in a lot of after school activities these days. I understand that. But “homework comes first.”
In my opinion, if the homework isn’t done on Monday, then your child shouldn’t go to football on Tuesday. It’s fine if he misses a practice or two. You can say:
“Here’s the deal. We’re not going to football today. You need to get your work done first.”
If your child says, “Well, if I miss a practice, I’m going to get thrown off the team,” You can say:
“Well, then make sure your work is complete. Otherwise, you’re not going to practice. That’s all there is to it.”
After all, unless your kid is a sports prodigy, the academic part of school will be far more important in creating a successful life than the sports aspect.
Bribes versus rewards. Lots of kids take personal pleasure in good grades, but sometimes it is important to realize that we are also teaching them about the token economy that we function within.
Rewards for good grades can be a great incentive. Some kids want money, some toys or prizes or privileges'. Work with your kiddo to see what rewards are valued.
"Wait!" you say. "Isn't that bribery"? We wouldn't go to work and perform for free. How can we expect our kids to do that? Plus, there is a distinct difference between a reward and bribery. A reward is something that is given after an achievement. A bribe is something you give your child after negotiating with them over something that is already a responsibility.
Rewards teach consequences and use of a token economy. Bribes teach irresponsibility and manipulation. Be careful to be sure that any incentives you give come AFTER the goal is reached.
Sometimes there have to be consequences for poor choices, such as not doing homework or turning in assignments. Be sure that when you choose a consequence it is an effective one. How do you know it is effective? If it changes your child's behavior.
Another trick of consequences is to allow choice. Allow your child to make the choice and then experience the consequence. Taking the choice away simply sets a battle ground. You may tell your child that if the homework is not done during homework time that the child will lose access to electronics for the night. The child may choose to play and not do homework, but then it is your responsibility to follow through and take away the electronics. Your child learns that there are unpleasant consequences to that choice.
Some parents complain that there just aren't any consequences that work. Nope. There are. You just haven't found the right one yet. One of the ones that seems to work well is to write sentences. It's an old fashioned consequence, but believe me, it works. Writing 50 or 100 times
"I will do my homework at the assigned homework time" works remarkably well. But the child has to write the whole sentence each time. If the child makes a list of 50 'I" followed by a list of 50 "will", etc, it doesn't work. The mantra does not get encoded. Penmanship is important. The sentences must be legible and correct - or the child has to start over.
Failure is another powerful teaching consequence. Sometimes you just have to let your child fail. It's painful for us parents, but failing teaches many things. It teaches how to evaluate behaviors and predict consequences. It teaches your child how to cope with not reaching goals and learn to set different ones. It teaches your child to cope with disappointment. Parents who shield their children from failure and disappointment are setting kids up for a very unhappy and frustrating future.
Stay calm. You are the adult, and it is your job to set the emotional tone for homework time. If you can’t stay calm when helping your child, or if you find that your help is making the situation worse, then it’s better not to help at all. Find someone else or talk to the teacher about how your child can get the help they need. And try not to blame your child for the frustration that you feel.
It is your child's homework. Not yours. You can suggest things, but overall, this is the job of the teacher to teach and the child to learn. Doing homework for your child or stealing ownership of the ideas and work from your child will backfire in a really ugly way. You can always make suggestions, but ultimately it’s your child’s job to do their assignments. And it’s the teacher’s job to grade them.
It's a good idea to meet teachers at the first of the year and have a clear line of communication with them. Many schools have chat or text options, some send out daily or weekly homework bulletins. Check out what is available at your child's school.
If you think your child has a learning disability or some other reason for ongoing academic challenges, seek professional help to determine the causes of the problems. You are responsible for creating a human who can successfully take your place in the world. It's a big job. But you can do it!
Come back for more tips, and keep those lines of communication open. - the TROT staff.