Monday, June 5, 2017

Calm down!

Oh, the dreaded meltdown. Don’t we love those screaming fits where a child has become so involved in crying he doesn't even realize what the problem is. These are the kinds of crying fits where even if you give in - the crying won't stop. The world is just too much and too unfair.

Why does this happen? Children are in the process of developing self-regulation. In this case self-regulation is the ability to get control of strong emotions. For young children they are learning to prevent an emotional nuclear meltdown.

Some emotional meltdowns are way out of proportion to the event. Once they take hold a child has great difficulty in calming down. The meltdown seems to take on a life of its own.

One trick to help a child calm down is to move the experience to a different part of the brain. Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson explain this process with the terms “upstairs brain” and “downstairs brain.” The upstairs brain is the problem-solving part of the brain. The downstairs brain is the survival skills part of the brain that can get us caught in a fight or flight response. When children are tired, frustrated, or in the middle of any kind of growth spurt that temporarily turns their brains upside down, they can fall victim to getting stuck in their downstairs brain, resulting in a fit that won’t quit.

The more you try to comfort them, or ask them to explain, or threaten them, distract them, or even ignore them, the longer the fit will continue. In order to calm them down you have to move them to the upstairs brain. The upstairs brain is happiest when it is solving a problem. In fact, solving a problem can take precedence over an emotional reaction.

The solution is to find an intriguing task that is not too hard, but not too easy. Once the child is engaged in the task the brain shifts to problem solving and the fit is forgotten. When your child is calm you can discuss the previous episode and problem solve how to prevent it. 

Check out these ideas to help you design the right task for your child. This can work for older children, too. You just need to find the game that has the right amount of challenge and irresistibility. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Response for Growth

Some days it seems like the only job of a parent is to say “no, don’t, or you need to listen.” We are charged with keeping our children safe and teaching them how to be happy healthy members of their communities, yet it seems that children of any age find more ways to travel the wrong path than the right one.

None of us wants to be a drill sergeant barking at our children all day, but if we do nothing but wait to praise the right behavior we are not likely to succeed in keeping our children safe. Not only that, but nothing-but-praise won’t work any better than nothing-but-nagging. And while I know there are experts who have devised ratios of words of praise for each correction, a mixture of the two is also insufficient.

The problem is that nagging and praise are two branches of the same tree. They are both law because they let your child know how they have measured up to your standards. 

Children need more than law; they need grace, too.

Grace is what we do for our children simply because we loved them. We can’t show the same Grace that our Heavenly Father expresses, but grace needs to be part of our discipline equation.

This chart gives great examples of connecting words that provide a blend of law and grace. These comments not only show a child what is expected, or what behavior needs to be changed, they also express love in a way that encourages children to think about the behavior and to learn why it happens. Most importantly these connecting words remind children that their parents stand ready to help them make a change.

We can’t always use connecting words. Some situations simply call for a loud, quick “NO!” However, whenever  we can use these phrases we will give our children so much more than a simple direction.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103: 8

Monday, May 15, 2017

Can You See Me Now?

Summer vacation is just a month or so away and now is a great time to think about any checkups your children might need. Along with well-child checkups, vaccination checks, and sports physicals think about making an appointment with an optometrist.   

The clip above shows what happens to learners who have visual struggles not detected by a typical vision screening performed at the Pediatrician’s office or at school.

Issues such as trouble switching back and forth between near and far vision interfere with learning, can cause headaches, and encourage behavior issues. A relatively inexpensive eye doctor visit can make a huge difference for a learner.

Don’t count on a simple screening to tell you what is going on with your child’s vision and don’t count on your child to tell you either! Vision changes slowly and children are often not aware that they cannot see as well as before, or as well as they need to in order to learn. A child having difficulties is more likely to think she is not as smart as other children. Other students develop anxieties that contribute to behaviors that mimic ADHD. 

It is also not wise to assume that because glasses are not widespread in your family that you don’t need to take your child to an optometrist. Children spend much more time with screens close to their faces and this will impact vision development.

Give your children every advantage in school. Introduce them to an optometrist this summer.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Cheers to Chores!

To chore or not to chore, that is the question. When my children were little I would set up elaborate chore schedule in an effort to bring organization to our house. Even my husband and I were included on the chart to show the children that a clean house and a nice yard need many hands to make them happen.

Chores do many good things for children. They help to develop a family community that assumes each person will work to serve the others. This translates easily to service outside the family and prevents the development of an attitude of entitlement while promoting good self-esteem. Chores also help children to develop self-regulation as they keep track of what needs to be done and what has been completed.

My challenge with job charts was accountability. It quickly became easier to do the work myself. One mistake I made was waiting until my children were older to start them on chores. That is what I like about the chart above. Each age group has several job possibilities. 

Bless your children with a chore or two. Let them know they are an important part of the family.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Five Things your Child Should Know About Being Good.

Short episodes of this Canadian Broadcast Company kids show, called Small Talk, have found their way to my Facebook news feed. It is a well-produced show and I don’t have a problem recommending it.

However, I want to use this short clip as an example of why we need to keep faith issues first and foremost when talking with our children. 

This is a good show, and a good topic, but it is not presented from Christian values. In fact, it is a good way to see just how different the secular idea of “goodness” is from the Christian idea.

These children are young and their answers reflect their moral development. They see goodness as being a characteristic rather than a behavior and frame it as obedience. The only problem with the show is that a viewer is left with the impression that goodness is what we create on our own

So what is the problem with this? Shouldn’t we want our children to try to do good things? Absolutely! But they need to know the truth about how that is done. 

Thinking we are in charge of our own goodness leads some to manipulate “goodness” for their own gain, or leaves others sorting people into “good” and “bad” categories as if we are one or the other. (Need evidence of this? Just spend some time reading social media politics.)

This is why the Christian truth about goodness is so important for children to understand. Here are five Christian truths about goodness that will give your child a proper perspective on the subject:

We cannot be good on our own.  At first glance this seems like a mean thing to tell a child. But it is important to understand this truth and it comes with good news - God created us, saved us, and works in our hearts.

We are, at the same time, both good and bad. We are sinners who are justified by Jesus’ death and resurrection. We continue to sin and God continues to forgive. We don't fit into one category or the other. We are not all good or all bad. We are God's children and He wants what is best for us.

We want to do good in order to respond to God’s love for us. We don't earn God's blessing by being good. We do good because we respond to the love of God that is in our hearts.

We need to do good to spread the love of God in His world. When God helps us to do good things we can share His love with others and make our sinful world a little bit more livable.

We can only do good through the help of the Holy Spirit. Nothing we do on our own is good, but we can participate in the goodness of God. 

It is good for children, and adults, to understand that we are all sinners in a sinful world and can only be made good through God. Armed with these truths about goodness your child will better understand that goodness is a response not a responsibility. That makes a huge difference in how goodness can become a treasured value for your child.