THE PEOPLE SOLUTIONS NEWSLETTER
VOLUME #3, FOCUSING ON:
COACHING FOR BETTER PARENTS AND STRONGER KIDS
© Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney
Originally printed 1996 - reissued 2003, All Rights Reserved
1. IN THE NEWS
2. BETTER PARENTS
3. STRONGER KIDS
4. COACH CORNER
5. MEDICAL FRONT
7. COACHING TIP
IN THE NEWS:
Every time I open the paper or a magazine or watch TV (which is less and less these
days) I learn about the latest bit of trouble that kids are getting into. I learn about the
problems that parents are having controlling their kids and how the school systems
must institute more rules to make it worth it to the kids to follow the rules that were
set up in the first place.
I recently read about a number of high school students, many who are involved in extracurricular activities, who were engaging in completely unacceptable and in some cases illegal behavior (hazing, alcohol, sexual assault). Some of the students were arrested by the police, others were reprimanded by the school as well as the legal authorities.
At one school a set of kids was limited in playing sports but reinstated after one game. One question is whether the discipline fit the crime or whether this was merely a slap on the wrist in order to get past the incident and have the team back to playing whole again. This seems so similar to what is learned from professional sports figures who are often in flagrant violation of moral if not legal codes of conduct yet are easily understood if not forgiven because they are so important to the team. Is winning the trophy enough to jeopardize the development of responsible social conduct?
What do you think about the 6 year old boy in No. Carolina who was sent to In School Suspension because of a sexual harassment violation when he kissed a girl (who he said is his friend) on the cheek at recess when she asked him to. I think that sexual harassment guidelines in schools are important as I have interacted with too many girls (and guys) who are embarrassed daily by the remarks and gestures made to them. Do you think that ISS for this 6 year old is an overreaction or do you think it is a necessary step to ensure that children are properly educated?
On a lighter note, there was a story from Kansas about a Mom who was overwhelmed last year by the number of gifts her son received on his 6th birthday. Instead of having a rerun of last year's gift-giving each of the guests coming to her son's party this year was asked to bring school supplies to be donated to the children of migrant farm workers. The party was about preparing the packages for dispersal and having fun with cake, games and ice cream.
We become better parents when we know who we are, what our values are, what our responsibilities to and for our children are and then behave in a way that is in accordance with these. The more thought out the answers to these questions and the more opportunity we take to make decisions consistent with our values, the more confident we will be about leaving problems for our kids to solve and owning those which are ours.
Not My Kid? Have you ever read about someone who is in trouble and parents saying, "he would never do that - he wouldn't have done that unless so and so egged him on. Stop picking on him (or her)."
I remember a number of years ago when a neighbor of mine called to tell me that her kid couldn't play with my kids anymore. The situation was that her son, who was the older of two children, had come home from school with words that were not spoken in her house. By this time I had 3 boys (oldest was probably 11) and most of my initial parenting expectations had become more aligned with reality as I had experienced first hand that even the nicest kids at times hear and then decide to use, on their own, lousy language.
This mom's complaint was that my children were contaminating her son's mind. I was surprised that I stayed cool rather than starting a defense or lecture but 1 guess that day I realized that sometimes only experience will teach parents that kids learn at recess, in the bus, sometimes at the church picnic and that at some point they have to decide for themselves what they are going to do.
Maybe as "better parents" it isn't even as necessary to find out the source of the "unacceptable" behavior or information as it is to encourage our kids to act according to a standard that we want to have for our own families. Many kids I have met do not even know that they are responsible for taking the drink or driving fast or having sex.
I will ask, why were you drinking and they say, it was offered to me.
Any time our kids have an opportunity to solve problems that are theirs to own, they can learn more about how the world operates and how they can relate to that world. Initially their world is small, just the family, then it expands to include friends, school, work opportunities and eventually their own families. As parents we have to remember that even if we are angry or dumbfounded by what they have done, we must support our kids in their learning process until they have developed the skill to a point of handling stuff on their own.
You just have to stay with them as they learn.
As a mother of 3 grown sons and having had a counseling center for over 1Q years I have plenty of stories about mistakes kids have made. Some can't get in on time, others drive too fast, some talk back to their mother or fathers, others are caught cheating at school. There are many consequences for these behaviors but I don't think much is learned until the kids can state to the parent why what they did was a problem and what they would do next time.
I clearly remember a mom telling me about driving down her street one afternoon seeing a very empty driveway as she got to her house. She was dazed for a few minutes trying to figure out who would want a 1980, Mazda station wagon with about 100,000 miles on it. Then it hit - the boy who lived in the house, her son, who didn't have a license would certainly love to drive that car. And sure enough, upon going up to the high school parking lot she found the car!
She felt fortunate that she had some time to think about what to do so that her first response was not one that put any one in danger. This was resolved civilly and with some real learning as this young man had a great opportunity to write out what it was that he did wrong, why it was a problem, what he would do next time and what he thought a suitable consequence would be. He was not able to continue his driving ed classes until there was a clear understanding of his responsibility. No excuses.
This format helps to put the responsibility and learning in the court of the one who has something to learn.
Q. I am seeking alternative disciplining solutions when my 4 year old son refuses to get dressed in the morning for school. Spanking is not something I want to do and time out is ineffective. He suggests I "ignore him" but that doesn't accomplish what I am asking him to do. Suggestions please. J.M.
This is a great question and a common situation that is often very easy to resolve. Most of us who have kids over the age of 2 have probably been in the situation of hearing, "no, I won't" and then wondering what to do.
Most of the worry about this situation can be eased when you look at what to reasonably expect from a 4 year old. To find that out (I don't try to remember) I checked my instruction manual on what to expect from kids at various ages. I have used the Gesell Institute series on Child Development since 1970.
I found that the words "out of bounds" and "revolts and delights in the revolution" are used to describe the otherwise wonderfulness of the 4 year old. As parents, once you know that talking back is typical for this age, you can immediately start breathing again and remind yourself that his ''no"" does not mean you have already ruined him for life. Now that you can think rather than react from fear and panic, you can plan what to do.
Next question - who owns what part of the problem? I want to immediately acknowledge this mom who has an appropriate expectation that her 4 year old can dress himself. Her son owns the part of getting dressed on his own, and mom and/or dad own providing clean clothes for him to wear and the opportunity for him to complete an age appropriate task.
One possible error in thinking for parents and child is that he needs to be dressed before he leaves the house. Once the thinking is adjusted, many more options for problem solving come up.
Possible new thinking is "he just needs to get to school so I can get to work and I like getting to work unhassled and well dressed and I would like him to learn about that from me." When he says "no" to getting dressed mom can say "That's okay, if you won't get dressed now, I'll just put your stuff in this bag and you can get dressed anytime you want. Let's go." Having him take care of his responsibility is not about shaming and saying something like "Well, if you won't get dressed when I want you to, which is now, you can spend the day at school in your pajamas, see how you like that!"
Be supportive as your kids learn to take care of themselves and set them up for as much success as possible. You can spring a new expectation on him one morning when he says no, but I prefer that you set it up by telling him, when you are ready to follow through, that "starting tomorrow I will be leaving on time and it is up to you to decide whether you want to be dressed your school clothes or not." He may say you can't leave if he's not dressed, but you know you can - and will. You do not have to convince him, just inform him and then be ready to follow through. When you follow through, be ready for him to complain, but be quiet and then be firm in your own actions.
Be aware that there are guidelines for kids and backpacks. Many children are now
wearing backpacks for carrying lunch or books or both. I heard a warning that the weight of the backpacks should not exceed 10% of the child's weight in order not to damage growing bones. For specific information check with your family physician.
TaWng Time Off
by Colin Hall and Ron Lieber (Noon Press, $12.00, available through your bookstore)
Many parents are stunned and scared when their senior year kids tell them they are not ready to go onto college. This was the case for several of my friends. Taking Time Off is a collection of stories by generation x kids who put time between high school and college and then returned to complete their college careers. This is worthwhile reading for teens who are making decisions and parents who are waiting to hear what they decide to do.
The Miracle of Mindfulness - A Manual on Meditation
by Thich Nhat Hanh Beacon Press, 10.00, ISBN 0-8070-1201-7
This is one of my favorite books and provides exercises and gentle reminders about being present in the moment, of mindfulness, of being awake and fully aware. This is a book I often recommend to parents who are hassled, and often worrying so much about the bills or the next soccer game that they can forget to be aware of the reasons they are doing all of this stuff in the first place.
One of the most effective tools to have in the parenting tool-kit is a role of masking tape - to be used by parents on their own lips when they feel a lecture coming on or when their own heat is rising and the next step is a verbal tirade. Words are impossible to retrieve and have been known to leave deep wounds. Also, parents often complain that their kids never talk to them. Little wonder when many kids would have to interrupt to get a word in edgewise.
You may think I'm kidding about using the tape, but I'm not. Just try it for a few hours - you will be amazed at what you learn.
That's all for this month. Keep the comments and questions coming and send the newsletter on to friends you think might want or need the information.
One more thing - I am working on a project that requires input from grandparents. I would appreciate hearing from you or from grandparents you could refer to me to respond to a brief questionnaire. This can be done by e-mail or telephone.
That’s it for this month. Keep the comments and questions coming and send the newsletter on to friends you think might want or need the information. Peace.
To subscribe, simply:
Or you may write Dr. Gaffney at Carol@DrGaffney.com and she will will gladly see to it your receive the newsletter.
BACK ISSUES and OTHER GAFFNEY RESOURCES
You may access back issues through my website (http://www.DrGaffney.com) which also has content and ordering information about the Coaching Guide for Parents and the Coaching Guide for Relaxation and Meditation. Please e-mail for details on weekly telechats as well as on-line chats that I host.
COPYRIGHT & DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS
This information is copyrighted by Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney, people SOLUTIONS, and DrGaffney.com and may be only forwarded if done so in its entirety and as long as no changes or edits are made. Also, it must include subscription instructions. Please contact Dr. Gaffney for permission for excerpting and general distribution.
Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney
32 Cole Street, Suite 5
Warren, RI 02885