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  1. until
    Toddlerhood is notoriously known as a time of conflict and stress, but it doesn’t have to be. Many parents sometimes struggle to know how to manage their toddlers’ behaviors and emotional outbursts. Unfortunately, many parenting approaches out there inadvertently strengthen the emotions that drive the tantrum behaviors, perpetuating a vicious cycle of bigger and bigger tantrums. But if parents can learn a different way to respond to their toddlers when emotions begin to get out of control – they can see a dramatic change. With time and a heavy dose of patience, parents can turn the tantrum tide. RSVP required. Please go here to register. This is an external partner event. Please contact the organization directly with any questions or concerns: amber.guenther@smartlovefamily.org
  2. Event

    Executive Function Coaching

    until
    Beyond BookSmart empowers young people and adults to manage themselves effectively by providing tools, strategies and mentoring that lead to a lifetime of success, allowing them to clarify and achieve what is important to them, be more fulfilled, and contribute to a better world. Join Beyond Book Smart for a live session to learn how executive function coaching can help your child succeed in school and beyond. RSVP here: https://bit.ly/2VMPVgC. Questions? Contact Angela Molloy at amolloy@beyondbooksmart.com. This is an external partner event.
  3. Article

    Raising British kids in the States

    I often find myself pondering the cultural differences between Britain and the United States, and how to negotiate these with my kids. While I fully embrace my American citizenship, I also want my children to know and appreciate their heritage. While it may seem like there are many similarities, it’s the little things that require consideration. Language Most people are aware of the language differences. Early on in my parenting journey, I decided to stick with American-purchased books, avoiding spelling confusion. That was an easy decision. But as for pronunciation…I find it hard to ensure that a zee-bra is never a zeb-ra, to the amusement of my family and co-workers. [Related: Take the time to learn how to pronounce 'difficult' names] Toys For a while, I held out against Barbie (like my sister successfully did with her daughter), and sought out traditional, European toys that I remembered from childhood. But my little ones hankered after shiny objects with robotic American accents — and I’ve found myself drawn to the innovative, modern creations too. The verdict? If they provide some level of education or creative play, they’re considered for purchase. Mealtimes Mealtimes, however, are more problematic. Starting with a fork in the right hand was a no-brainer, but introducing a knife caused confusion. For me, the fork should (almost always) be in the left hand, so the knife naturally goes into the right hand. No thinking required. And where does the napkin sit? There is a level of complexity I did not anticipate, so for now, we’re learning together at our weekly “etiquette” lessons — a sight to behold! Food Food is also the subject of discussion in our house. Kid-friendly meals in England consisted of bangers and-mash, bubble and squeak, and Welsh rarebit, which all sound alien to kids born and raised in Chicago. While my eldest loves to try new foods (“these snails are delicious!”), my middle child is very suspicious of “yukky” food with unfamiliar names. By making her my sous chef I’m hoping she’ll embrace new recipes and flavors. Holidays For the most part, we layer British holidays on top of the American ones observed at school. Boxing Day (December 26th) is a bonus day. Likewise, my youngsters get to double dip with British Mother’s Day (observed in March), while St. George’s Day (the English St. Patrick), St. David’s Day (their cousins are Welsh), and Hogmanay (Scottish word for "New Year") all add another dimension to our yearly calendar. Bedtimes When it comes to bedtime, I struggle to align with some of my local counterparts. We start our routine at an “absurdly early” hour. Although like many, I veto electronic toys in the bedroom, opting for books and soft toys that provide comfort and encourage sleep. After the long nights with our first newborn, I am unashamed of my relentless quest for "grown-ups only" evenings. And while we sometimes break our early-to-bed rule for special occasions, we try to keep a schedule even during the summer months. Sharing my traditions, and showing respect for differing customs, is something I can offer to my children. This is as important to me as building new traditions that embrace our changing world. In tandem, I hope these approaches will allow them to become the empathetic and respectful citizens I aspire for them to be. Photo: King's Church International on Unsplash
  4. The relationship a parent has with their child’s teacher plays a big role in their child’s academic success. When a child has a developmental difference, a positive parent-teacher relationship is even more important — as the stakes are significantly higher. To learn more about cultivating a good parent-teacher relationship, we sat down with Jennifer Rosinia, a developmental differences expert at the Erikson Institute. Why is a good relationship with my child’s teacher so important? A good relationship between parents and teachers has been shown to improve a child’s academic achievement, social competencies and emotional wellbeing. And, as it turns out, parents and teachers benefit from a good relationship, too! [Related: How to advocate for your special-needs child in CPS] When parents have a good relationship with their child’s teacher, they develop a greater appreciation for the important role they play in their child’s education, learn more about the school’s academic programs and how they can incorporate them into their home routines. For teachers, a positive parent relationship enables them to focus more on teaching and meeting students’ needs. What can a parent do to foster an effective parent/teacher partnership for a child with developmental differences? Dr. Susan Sheridan of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers three “Cs” for good relationships: communication, consistency, and collaboration. Communication with your child’s teacher should begin with the school year and continue throughout. Introduce yourself and let them know that you want to partner with them. Find out their preferred way of communicating, and then make sure communication is timely, and clear and open. Stay informed about what’s going on in school. Remember: The best communication in a partnership is two-way. Consistency might also be called “being on the same page.” An effective parent-teacher partnership sends a clear and consistent message to the child that they are working together to support their success. Collaboration between parents and teachers identifies and provides strategies to help your child achieve their optimal developmental and learning capacity. Share successes and concerns. Strategize ways to enhance and modify home and school environments. Collaboration means problem solving together, not blaming the other. [Related: Your child received a diagnosis. Now what?] My child has developmental differences. What is the first step I should take to ensure they will receive the support they need in the classroom? Forming an effective partnership with their child’s teacher should be the first step parents take to ensure their child will receive the support they need in the classroom. If a child has significant or complex support needs, parents might also want to seek testing to identify them. Schools are required to address needs revealed through academic testing.   How should I approach conflicts I might have with my child’s teacher about services my child needs? If parents have established an effective partnership with their child’s teacher, approaching conflicts should be relatively easy. The following suggestions might be helpful: ● Begin by talking with your child’s teacher. Starting with, “Can you help me with this?” can sometimes reduce the risk of a misunderstanding. Ask teachers for their perspective, opinion and suggestions, and try to avoid accusations. ● Remind yourself to listen. If you are focused too much on what you want to say, you might miss important information that could help resolve your concern. ● Schedule an observation. Spending time in your child’s classroom watching and listening could give you helpful insights about your child's relationships, activities and services. ● Seek creative solutions together. If you and your child’s teacher have established a good relationship and partnership, you are one step closer to working together to come up with a creative solution. Do not forget to include your child if they are old enough to participate. ● Respect boundaries. When in conflict, it’s easy to cross boundaries. Remember to schedule time to talk. If for some reason you dislike your child’s teacher, take care not to let your child know. You don’t want to disrespect the teacher’s authority. ● Still stuck? Speak with the principal. The principal will serve as a neutral party. They will listen to your concerns, gather information from the teacher, and then help resolve the conflict. If a child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that their parents are afforded a legitimate, authentic opportunity to participate in the decision-making process for their child, and should be encouraged to be active participants in their child’s educational plan. What other steps should I be taking with my public school district to ensure my child is getting the care they deserve/accessing all the available resources? At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. Get to know your teachers and administrative team. If you can, be active and involved: attend school board meetings, join the PTA, or spend time volunteering in your child’s classroom. Additionally, if your child has a developmental difference, know your rights under the law. To learn more, visiting the Illinois State Board of Education is a good place to start. Jennifer Rosinia is an occupational therapist and child development specialist. She is currently on faculty at the Erikson Institute as a senior instructor. She holds a master’s degree in early childhood education and a doctorate in child development from Loyola University and Erikson Institute in Chicago. Photo by Natasha Hall on Unsplash
  5. Article
    As we begin to talk about the “s” word again ("school"), you may be weighing some options for your kids coming into the fall. If you have a toddler at home, you may also be entertaining the idea of preschool to help get your little one reintroduced to the world, interacting with peers — as well as adults other than your immediate family — and just beginning to develop social skills again as we emerge from our homes. [Related: What to look for in a therapeutic preschool] While preschool is not a requirement or necessary for later success in school, experts agree it provides an environment for children to explore, play with peers, build self-confidence, and strengthen their social and emotional development, all while having fun and learning routines. If you’re ready to send them off for more of these social experiences, you’ve likely fallen into a lot of options in Chicago for early learning. One factor to also consider in your search is whether your child would be appropriate for a “standard” preschool or a “therapeutic” preschool. It's a good idea to explore some differences in choosing a preschool or a therapeutic preschool for your youngster, as there are several distinctions that separate these two early learning options. Ratios In Illinois, preschools and daycares are mandated to follow predetermined adult-to-child ratio guidelines. Most stick to these minimum recommendations, which is a great question to inquire about when doing your research! These ratios are as follows: • For 2-year-olds a 1:8 ratio, with a maximum group size of 16 • For 3- to 5-year-olds, 1:10 ratio, with a maximum group size of 20 • For children 5 and above, 1:20, with a maximum group size of 30 In a therapeutic preschool setting, most classrooms are much smaller than the recommended maximums. Ratios are also much lower. A typical therapeutic preschool has a class size of 6-8 children, with ratios of adult support anywhere from 1:1 to 1:3. [Related: Preschool vs pre-k: What's the difference?] Therapy If your child receives speech, feeding, occupational, physical and/or behavioral therapy, a therapeutic preschool might be the way to go. This environment has these specialized therapists guiding interventions, providing individual therapy sessions, and helping to generalize different skills among peers. For example, a speech therapist may work individually with a child on answering questions or forming multiple word responses, and then bring the child back to the classroom to practice this new skill with their friends. Naps Here’s where therapeutic preschools may fall short. Therapeutic preschools are very therapy driven and most do not allow for a 2-hour mid-day nap, as a preschool or daycare set up would offer. If your little one is a power napper, a full day program at a therapeutic preschool may not be the best option for them. Diapers Some Early Learning programs require enrolled children to be fully toilet trained. This can be a real limitation for some families who feel their children are ready for the social and emotional benefits of preschool, but are not quite ready to spend the day in undies. At a therapeutic preschool, there are potty training programs implemented with each child, as this is a skill most are able to work on because of the low teacher to student ratios they maintain. Communication Both a preschool and a therapeutic preschool likely offer a lot of great communication options between the teachers and families. Notes going home, apps to receive updates, and face to face interactions help parents feel in touch and in the know about the day to day events with their children. However, if your child’s communication seems to be behind their age-matched peers, this can be a high frustration level for many toddlers who have a good understanding of what’s being discussed, but aren’t quite able to get their thoughts and feelings out effectively yet. A preschool classroom can be a frustrating experience when there are challenges expressing your wants and needs, or advocating for yourself. Important questions to consider: Is my child easy to understand? Can they ask for help when they need it? Are they able to speak up to advocate for themselves? Am I the only one who can understand my child? Reflecting on some of these questions may help lead you to the proper enrollment for your child. Enrollment Every child can be assessed and receive an IEP (individualized educational plan) at age three in order to have recommendations for placement at a CPS preschool. But did you know that your IEP is good for three years, and you are not required to join a CPS preschool at that time? Students in Illinois are not even required by law to attend kindergarten; however, they must be enrolled in either a home schooling program or a school district by age 6. Therefore, many families opt to pause enrollment from CPS to join a therapeutic preschool and reap the benefits of intensive therapeutic intervention, low student to teacher ratios, and engaging social and peer interactions. But don’t worry: Whether they graduate from preschool or therapeutic preschool, they can still join their peers in either a kindergarten or first grade classroom when they are ready! Making a Switch There are a handful of preschools in Chicago that enroll in the fall for the entirety of the year. Some have more strict guidelines on classroom placement based on birth date and ability level. However, many allow for enrollment throughout the school year, depending on birth date, availability and current ratios in their classrooms. Most therapeutic preschools enroll throughout the entire school year, and base these enrollments on the needs of the children and their families. So, if you are on the fence about what is most appropriate for your child, ask about enrollment commitments or cancellation fees, should you opt to enroll in a more therapeutic setting later in the year. Having this option may make enrollment in either program an easier commitment. Regardless of what you choose for your child, you want this early learning experience to be positive for everyone involved. Ask lots of questions, explore every option, and don’t limit yourself to only your neighborhood school. There may be a better fit for your child and their developmental needs that can get them well prepared to be independent little learners! Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
  6. Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash They aren’t usually learned from a textbook, but social and emotional learning skills (SEL) are still critical to your child’s fulfillment and success. To learn more about SEL and how parents support their children’s development of these skills, we talked to Amanda Moreno, an SEL expert and associate professor at Erikson Institute. What is social and emotional learning when it comes to children?  What skills does it help children develop? There are several ways of defining SEL but in short, it covers non-academic skills that are needed to live a productive, fulfilling life connected to other people. SEL includes skills like emotional regulation, collaboration, social problem solving, kindness, and resilience. [RELATED: Why kids lie, and why it's okay] Why is SEL important? How does it benefit young children, both in the short and long term? SEL skills used to be referred to as “soft skills." That term is being used less, however, because it makes them sound "touchy-feely” when they are actually the foundation for academic skills. Just imagine how hard it would be to successfully engage in school, work and relationships without SEL skills. Parents usually understand that their children need both book and people smarts, but some SEL skills are less obvious than others. One example is that of a growth mindset. When someone with a growth mindset encounters a task that’s difficult for them, they assume that they just need to learn more and keep trying. They also recognize that everyone feels that tasks are too hard for them sometimes. In contrast, someone without a growth mindset will assume that they are incapable of completing the task, and always will be — and thus give up. Through SEL, parents can cultivate their child’s growth mindset by focusing more on process than outcome, and complimenting their efforts rather than static traits such as “smart.” For example, instead of waiting for your child to complete a puzzle or sand castle and then saying “good job,” you can say something like, “Wow, I notice how you keep turning the pieces in different ways,” or, “I see, when the walls of the castle cave in, you dig deeper for more wet sand to keep it in place.” What strategies can I use to increase my child’s SEL in everyday activities, especially now as life begins to return to normal? I am not someone who believes that children have dramatically lost skills in quarantine. Sure, they may be a bit rusty when it comes to interacting in larger groups (aren’t we all?), but it will just take some practice and confidence to get comfortable again. For children to regain their confidence in social interactions, they mostly need trust from their parents. Children use “social referencing” in challenging situations: If they look at you during their baseball game and you look nervous, they’ll be nervous, too. We need to find ways to manage our own anxiety and model resiliency. Doing so will help our children build their own. [RELATED: 10 tips to move your child from fear and anxiety to bravery] As my child grows, what behaviors signify developmentally on-track SEL skills? I love this question, because I think that due to our natural tendency to focus on the negative, it can be hard for parents to recognize growth in SEL skills. For example, we might think that after seeing gains in our child’s frustration tolerance, one big tantrum means all was lost. Instead of focusing on the tantrum, focus on the small wins. Sure, he had a tantrum, but has the amount of time between tantrums increased? Has the length of them decreased? Have certain things that used to be a trigger become easier? SEL development is not a smooth upward path, so be sure to notice the baby steps even when there are bumps in the road. Are there any resources in the community or classroom that I can access to help my child with SEL? Most schools do some form of SEL programming nowadays, and it is a good idea to find out what your child’s school is doing and get involved. Most programs have parent resources associated with them, which can help with consistent messaging across school and home. There are also many great resources online such as Zero to Three, CASEL, and Edutopia. Amanda Moreno, Ph.D. is an associate professor at Erikson Institute where she conducts research, designs and teaches graduate programs, and delivers professional development training on the intersection between emotions and learning.
  7. For most people, this past year has caused a lot of anxiety and stress - and children are no exception. As life begins the slow process of normalizing, it’s important to address the impact of the year on your child’s mental health. To learn more about how to approach this critical, yet sensitive, subject with kids, we sat down with Sara Anderson, LCSW, Associate Director of Erikson Institute’s Center for Children and Families. After a year of remote learning, what kind of impacts are we seeing on young children’s mental health? We’re seeing several impacts. Some children have felt increased anxiety and depression because of the disruption of structure, routines and rituals, increased parental stress, worries about the pandemic and social issues, and lack of typical social-emotional experiences with peers and play. [Related: Reintroducing play dates in a post-pandemic world] How do these impacts manifest in young children’s behavior? What kind of behavior signifies that my child is anxious or stressed? Behaviors signaling stress vary, but typically, you’ll see changes in their appetite, sleep and toileting behavior. You might also see changes in a young children’s emotional outbursts, or an increase in their clinginess or separation anxiety. Another way that’s often missed is when a child becomes less emotive, more independent, and sends confusing messages to their caregivers about their needs and wants. Are there ways to mitigate some of the negative impacts this year has had on my child’s mental health? What can I do to help them at home and as they go back to school? The most effective way is for caregivers to be consistent and attuned to their child’s needs and emotions. Children need to know that you’ve got this, you are in charge and they can turn to you to get their needs met and help manage their feelings. Some strategies at home might include: ● Maintaining predictability and structure to the day ● Providing transitional warnings between tasks, or forecasting what is coming next (“We are going to play with the blocks and then get ready for lunch.”) ● Being available to help young children manage their big feelings through coregulation, helping them make sense and organize their feelings by naming them and helping them through [Related: Let go of your screen time guilt] At what point should a parent seek professional help for their child’s stress and anxiety? If there are changes in your child’s behavior (like the ones mentioned above) that persist over several weeks and don’t get better after using recommended strategies, parents should seek professional help. They should also seek help if children exhibit severe behaviors like head banging, hair pulling or biting and scratching atypical of their child’s age. Where can parents find the appropriate professional support in Chicago? What kind of mental health services are available for young children here, and in CPS? I’d first recommend parents to reach out to their pediatrician, but there are many options. For children 0 to 3 years, caregivers can access support through the Early Intervention system by locating a Child and Family Connection office in their area or calling 1-800-843-6154. For children older than 3, parents should reach out to their school district. For Chicago Public Schools, they can call the Office of Diverse Learner Support and Services (ODLSS) at 773-553-1800 to ask about support. At Erikson Institute, our Center for Children and Families works with caregivers and their children (ages 0-8) to help them understand the meaning behind their child’s behavior and how to best support them. To learn more, call 312-709-0508 for English, and 312-934-6446 for Spanish. Sara Anderson, LCSW, is the associate director of Erikson’s Center for Children and Families, where she trains, consults and counsels families and students on a wide range of child development issues. Sara holds a Master’s in clinical social work from the University of Chicago, and a certificate in infant mental health from Erikson Institute.
  8. NPN and RUSH Kids Pediatric Therapy teamed up for a small group panel discussion on the developmental milestones your child should be reaching during their first year ages 0-12 months. This webinar covers: Infant milestones from 0-12 months What skills children are expected to achieve at each month of development Ideas of how to use tools that parents already have in the home to assist their children in achieving the milestones Suggestions for how to elicit skills (e.g., tummy time or rolling) What can make reaching milestones tricky for kids A Q&A portion will follow, and the presenters will provide resources for parents to use to encourage basic skill acquisition.
  9. As the new school year approaches amid the Covid pandemic, we all find ourselves approaching it with a heightened sense of apprehension with a new normal of social interaction. The previous school year concluded with distance learning and parents temporarily thrust into educator roles and many are anxiously wondering what will happen this fall. It’s impossible to know what the future holds, and with no clear roadmap, parents who have been managing anxiety are now struggling. The coronavirus has caused significant disruptions to everyone’s daily life, and children are particularly feeling all of these changes as the new “normal” continues to shift. These changes come with a mix of new emotions as the new school year quickly approaches. Some may be hopeful with the excitement of in-person while others may be fearful of returning to the social stressors. Regardless, it is our job as caregivers to support our children in exploring their many feelings while providing a sense of calm to ease anxiety. But how can we do that in a time like this? [Related: 4 tips for managing your kids' coronavirus anxiety] We often try to soothe our children’s anxieties by having “all” the answers, and you may feel exhausted by trying to force things to be certain. In this situation, it is important to let go of control as nobody is sure of what the future of school looks like. Become a safe space for your child by bringing awareness to the uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty that we are all experiencing. This will be tough but worth it, as figuring out how to manage anxiety and tolerate the uneasy feeling are essential skills for everyone these days. Here are some tips on how to navigate conversations about the upcoming school year with your child. Empathize and validate. Encourage your child to express any fear or anxiety while letting them know that what they are feeling is normal. Use curiosity. Children may have fears revolving around bullying, e-learning, conflicts with friends, or being separated from you. Ask open questions and actively listen while talking through strategies to help your child improve problem-solving skills and feel empowered. Emphasize what is predictable. With the uncertainties of the method of schooling these days, focus on what a child can expect—learning new things, interacting with a teacher, etc. Continue practicing. Have the family wear a face mask at home in a variety of situations. This can be playing a board game, coloring, or watching a family movie. Doing this will help with not only the potential to return to classrooms but going to places like the grocery store. Shift back into a routine. Routines promote feelings of safety and can give a child a sense of control. Create an expected school routine by following bedtimes, getting ready in the morning, etc. [Related: Will my relationship survive this virus?] Provide reassurance. Revisit the safety measures in place to help keep children and teachers safe. This can ease anxiety about their safety in public spaces. Be honest. It’s okay not to have all the answers! We cannot solve all of our children’s problems, but sometimes they don’t need solutions—just to feel understood and supported. Admit that you wish you knew what the future of school looked like, but the reality is that you don’t. You are unable to make all the decisions now, but you will when you have the information you need. With honesty, you are sure not to make promises you can’t keep. Acknowledge the uneasiness. It is difficult to sit in the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety as we tend to avoid or resist it. Begin to notice and gently observe what is happening in your body to increase your ability to handle it. By doing this with your children, it will model that it is okay to feel this way—even grownups do! Focus on what you can control. It’s easy to get caught up in the unknown and “what ifs?” Notice when this is happening and gently shift to focusing on what is within your control to stay in the present moment. Be kind to yourself. Being a parent in the best of times is already the hardest job in the world. It is impossible to avoid anxiety right now but doing the best you can is all you can do!.
  10. According to statistics reported by StopBullying.gov, between one in four and one in three students will face bullying at school this year. As a parent, this is a statistic that I do not want my child to be a part of—from either side of the fence. And as a Montessori school administrator, this is a topic that I navigate with families at least once every year. I believe that this statistic can change if we focus on empathy and community. Our daughter is almost 5 and has attended Montessori school her entire life, and we have a 10-month-old who is following his sister’s footsteps. Prior to having children and prior to becoming head of school, I was the lead teacher in a Children’s House classroom, which gave me ample experience in conflict resolution the Montessori way. Montessori schools are no exception to bullying behavior, of course, but the Montessori approach to dealing with these issues helps children develop respect and empathy from the moment they begin interacting with the world. [Related: Protecting Your Child From Bullying (member-only video)] Transferring this practice to our home environment is a continuing process! Their father and I are both Type A personalities and maintaining a home environment that clearly reflects the values our child is learning at school takes mindful practice on our part. Our daughter will often remind us to be more empathetic and clearer in our communication. We celebrate the kind confidence she conducts herself within such moments. As a parent, these are my key takeaways for how to create and support a culture of community in my home — to help combat bullying before it begins. Celebrate differences Most Montessori schools are extremely diverse — whether culturally, physically, or cognitively. Playgrounds and group classes (music, dance, etc.) are also great avenues for finding a diverse group of people to connect with. Grace and courtesy The Montessori curriculum includes building social skills and confidence, which at home translates into having an expectation of clear, respectful communication. Conflict resolution At our daughter’s school, the teacher will take the students who are having a conflict somewhere private and guide them to use problem-solving skills they’ve learned, such as using “I” statements. In my experience, the way a caregiver handles a conflict is key to providing a healthy example of how to deal with such interactions on their own in the future. [Related: 3 steps to make your child bully-proof] Frank, honest conversations about behavior happen regularly in our family — whether it is while we are “debriefing” our day over dinner or during bath time. We also have a clearly stated expectation that our child will treat everyone with kindness, use grace and courtesy, and use the skills she has acquired in conflict resolution. Additionally, it is important to us that she not only conduct herself with kindness, but that she stands up for her peers. In these small ways, through developing empathy and community, we hope to contribute towards a change where every child has the opportunity to learn joyfully and safely.
  11. So your child is about to begin this huge stage of independent self-care and you have a million questions. Are they ready? Is it going to be a complete disaster? Will they cry? Will you? On the flip side, there’s the glory of no more diapers. Ever. Think of all the saved money you can stash away in that college fund. Not to mention, you really need a break. Plus, most preschools won’t let you drop off a kid who isn’t fully potty trained. Clearly, this has to happen. You survey your friends about what they did and then read a couple of potty training books you don’t have time to read. And yet, it still seems confusing and like a huge drag you’d rather put off till another day, month, year...perhaps forever. But what about preschool? This has to happen. When getting ready to potty train my own son, I had a crazy thought: Was there any way to make this fun? Not only for myself, but because I still vividly remembered a graduate psychology course in which we learned about Erikson’s second stage of development: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. Usually completed between 18 months and three years old, it’s the period when children first encounter shame — the message of “You are bad” instead of “You made a bad choice.” Without even realizing it, parents and caregivers often use shame in potty training, not understanding how it can affect their littles. [Related: Potty Training for All Abilities (members-only video)] Knowing this, I was determined to make potty training a shame-free and fun experience. Pictured is the exact behavior chart I used. The result? A fully potty trained kid in no time. Quick note: I also had a second chart just for potty training when out and about. Because children have different things they struggle with — one might fear pooping in general, while another won’t go to the bathroom at school — feel free to get creative and make a chart that fits your child’s needs. 1. Get out all of your craft supplies and involve your child in the process. 2. Draw a fun shape like a circle or star and section it off into however many days you choose. 3. Write a reward in each box. I tried to create as many non-food rewards as possible and added special “bigger” rewards along the way; for example, making slime was a big hit, as was “phone” time. 4. This is the most important step: Buy or gather all of the rewards and place them in one spot in your home. Make sure your child can see everything. The idea behind this is that they will not have to wait to get their reward. When my son saw everything lined up on top of the hutch, he immediately bought into the program and said, “I’m going to get everything on my chart.” [Related: Best Chicago playgrounds for the potty-training toddler] A few things to keep in mind: No time like the present Summer is a great season to start this adventure because your kiddos can be naked without freezing. Less clothing to fuss with in and out of the bathroom is a win for everyone. If you can, take a couple of days off or a long weekend to potty train. Stay close to home, play board games, go to the park, and enjoy time with your little one outdoors. (Added bonus if you’ve got a boy: they can always pee on a tree in a pinch.) That said, always consider... Timing The best potty training advice ever given to me came from my pediatrician, who said to wait for the child to show interest. I took my son shopping for undies and then asked him every day for almost a month if he wanted to wear a diaper or undies. After Day 26, he finally said “undies” and I had them on him so fast he never had time to look back. Patience This is not always a quick process. Try not to get discouraged or frustrated. I quickly learned that if I got upset so would my son. Children feed off of our feelings. I began to act like it was no big deal and with the pressure off, there was room for fun. Phrases to have ready “I would never ask you to do something I didn’t think you could do.” “We all make mistakes; it’s part of learning.” “You’ve got this potty training thing down.” Humor Dance parties were the biggest part of our success. Every time he went to the bathroom, we would celebrate. He even had his own potty touchdown move. Take your time with the process so you can appreciate the joy of watching your little one accomplish this huge milestone.
  12. Video
    Not sure if you and your child are ready to kiss and go? Check out this 30-minute webinar presented by Michelle Lee of Fussy Babies Network, a project at the Erikson Institute. Lee gives a thorough overview of the causes behind separation anxiety as well as ways to calm you and your child's fears on the first day of school, including: * How to help children prepare for and cope with the transition to school * Strategies and tools you can use to prepare your child for school and to help them adjust to new routines * Identify and address forms of separation anxiety your child may be experiencing * How parents can manage their own feelings about this big step in their child’s life
  13. While nighttime control often occurs years later, mastering daytime bladder and bowel control is a process which takes, on average, six months for a child to complete. Urine and stool accidents are common during those months and should be expected. Toilet training regression, however, is defined as loss of these daytime skills long after the process is complete. It is understandably frustrating and concerning for parents when their child, several months diaper-free, suddenly refuses to use the toilet, begins having frequent accidents during the day, or develops some other unusual elimination behaviors. [Related: Best Chicago playgrounds for the potty-training toddler] If these daytime skills were truly mastered before the onset of regression, the first step is to rule out medical causes by meeting with your pediatrician. If the doctor determines there is no physical cause for the regression, emotionally stressful changes in your child’s life should be considered. Some common examples include: Fears (monsters, loud flushing noise, falling into the toilet, being sucked down the toilet) Illness of the child or a family member Pregnancy or birth of a new sibling Change in childcare environment Moving to a new home Parents’ marriage ending In such situations, it is important to remember that rather than lashing out physically with violence or tantrums, your child has found a relatively healthy way to cope with this stress. Using the following approach, however, you can help your child find even better ways to manage. Tell them you’ve noticed the change Do this with as much ambivalence in your voice as possible. Shame and guilt will likely be your child’s first reaction to learning their behavior has not gone unnoticed. It is therefore important you remove any hint of judgement from your tone and choice of words. Talk to them First, explain you aren’t mad at them, and it isn’t their fault. Next, ask if they know why this is happening. Depending on the verbal skills of your child, you may not be in the habit of asking their opinion yet. Even if they don’t have the words to explain what they are feeling, hearing you are interested in what they think is empowering. If they do offer any type of meaningful response, listen carefully to what they say, thank them for telling you, and sympathize with them as much as possible. Tell them you are proud of the good work they have done up to this point and that you know they will do better next time. [Related: How to make potty training your toddler fun. Yes, fun.] Brainstorm creative solutions alone as parents and also with your child Any practical steps to solving the problem are worth trying. Removing fear by making the toileting fun with songs or games. Spend special time together with your child separately from the new baby. Explore the childcare facility bathroom with your child and separately discuss the issues you’re having with their childcare or caregivers. Surround the potty with familiar objects or toys. Positively reinforce successes with sticker charts or other reward systems. If your child contributes any ideas, be certain to try them as well. Consider taking a break If your creative solutions don’t seem to be working (or, worse: creating stress and anxiety surrounding toileting), consider taking a break and returning to pullups for a few weeks. Sometimes taking a backseat for a bit allows your child to recognize they are responsible for learning this important skill. Encouraging this independence can be liberating for your child and lead to lasting success.
  14. Video

    Parenting An Anxious Child

    Dr. Debra Kissen sheds light on practical, easy-to-implement tips and tools to assist your child in moving past their fears. Watch the video below. If you have asked yourself any of the following questions, this webinar may be helpful to you: “Is my child’s behavior normal? Is it developmentally appropriate for my child to have these fears? How can I help my child meet her full potential? When is it time to get help?” This webinar will answer these questions and more, and give you the tools to help your child overcome anxiety.
  15. Anyone who is a parent knows that the job is tough. Really tough. If we moms and dads were really honest with ourselves, we'd have to admit that we had almost no idea what we were getting into when we brought that first baby home. The old saying about kids not coming with a training manual is true. And the problem of "What do I do with this kid?" is intensified for parents in our contemporary rush-rush, worry-worry world. The problem is that when parents don't quite know what they're doing and they're too busy to find out, they tend to shoot from the hip. Shooting from the hip can lead to two opposite, out-of-control parenting styles, neither of which is good for children. Let's call these two styles "Underdog" parenting and "Big Dog" parenting. The Underdog parent is a pushover. The children run the house and mom and dad tend to take a back seat. Where Big Dog parents are involved, however, it's the adults who intimidate and it's the kids who stay out of the way. Big Dog parents are T-Rexes in disguise. Underdog parents' behavior with their children is motivated primarily by anxiety and guilt. "Don't want to do anything to offend the children" and "If the kids are mad at me I must have done something wrong" are the overriding thoughts. Big Dog parents' behavior with their children, on the other hand, is dominated primarily by irritation and anger. "Because I said so!" and "Do what I tell you or else!" are the predominant themes. Underdog parents whimper, while Big Dog parents bite. Underdoggers plead with their kids like this: "Come on now, honey, don't you think it's time for bed? Why can't you just do this one little thing for me?" Translation (in other words, what does the youngster really hear?): "Even though you're my child, you're too strong and powerful for me. I haven't the slightest idea how to control you other than begging." Whimpering tells the children that they—the kids—are really running the show and that their parent is basically weak and helpless. Big Dog parents bite. They can bite emotionally as well as physically. Here's an emotional "sound bite": "What the hell's the matter with you!? You better start listening to me or else! How many times do I have to tell you?" Translation (in other words, what does the youngster really hear?): "You're no good, kid, and you never will be. If it weren't for me, you'd be in even more hot water." The Big Dog parent may throw in a spanking after the lecture to make sure the point is driven home. Big Dog parents bite. Not surprisingly, these two opposite forms of out-of-control parenting produce two different results. Kids from Underdog parents tend to become adults with a robust sense of entitlement. They think the world owes them a living and they try to push other people around. When life doesn't treat them like they think it should (which is inevitable), they blame everyone else for their misery. Our children from the T-Rex moms and dads, though, will become adults with a deep sense of insecurity and unworthiness. They'll think everyone else is better than they are and they'll tend to withdraw. Even if they do succeed at certain things, they won't be able to give themselves credit for what they've done. How can we interrupt this tragic cycle? Well, there is a book with an odd title, called 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12. In this book, parents will understand that their parenting job consists of three things: 1) controlling obnoxious behavior, 2) encouraging good behavior and 3) strengthening relationships with the children. And yes, specific, effective, tried-and-true and fairly simple strategies are provided in 1-2-3 Magic for accomplishing these three parenting tasks. The program is evidence-based—it works. But something stands between Underdog parents and their ability to adopt new strategies like 1-2-3 Magic. The same thing, in different form, stands in the way of the Big Doggers. It's their attitude. It's their view of parenting itself. Both of these kinds of impulsive, out-of-control parents need a major attitude adjustment before they can learn to become decent parents. Yes, useful advice for managing children is out there, but the Underdog folks and the Big Dog folks have to learn how to think differently before they can use these helpful suggestions. The attitude adjustments required here fall into three main categories: 1) appreciating the "rights" of family members, 2) understanding the effects of different parenting styles, and 3) accepting the need to switch to deliberate, thoughtful parenting strategies. Let's look at each of these. Rights. Underdog moms and dads need to understand that not only do they have a right to be a parent, but it is in everyone's best interests if they—the adults—do set limits. Kids not liking limits is normal. It is not a tragedy and it is not due to parental error. Big Doggers, on the other hand, need to appreciate that their children have rights. The kids have a right not to fear physical or emotional abuse from their own parents. Big Doggers need to consider the possibility that a home should not always revolve around the whims of the largest mongrel in the joint Effects of parenting style. Underdoggers need to realize that repeated parental whimpering creates Entitled Super Brats. Big Doggers need to realize that repeated biting eliminates kids' sense of self-worth. Deliberate parenting. Both types of parents, Big Dog and Underdog, need to accept the necessity of switching from an automatic/impulsive to a more deliberate/thoughtful approach to parenting. It's not that hard. "Parenting" primarily out of irritation and anger is not really parenting. Neither is "parenting" primarily out of anxiety or guilt. Both Big Doggers and Underdoggers need to see that simply engaging in emotional self-indulgence is bad for everyone in the family—including themselves. Good parenting advice is already out there. 1-2-3 Magic offers a ton of good suggestions. But for many moms and dads, the main thing that stands in the way of their becoming decent parents is a straightforward—though not easy—attitude adjustment.
  16. All of us who live in Chicago pride ourselves on our ability to “hunker down” when it becomes unbearably cold out. What better way to deal with the Chicago Arctic than to sit around in PJs, drinking hot coffee and curled up with a good book, letting errands wait and leaving icy roads for someone else? Then come kids and their exasperation with being stuck inside when the threat of hypothermia is all too real. Telling my 6-year-old to read a book and enjoy some downtime while the outside freezes over would garner a similar reaction to my suggesting that Pokemon is passe: utter ridiculousness. Throw his 4-year-old sister into the mix, and I’ve gone from wearing a referee cap to donning full body armor. The fighting when there’s no place to go gets fierce. While parenting is challenging, it’s all the more real when weather conditions compromise our kids’ ability to get space from one another. While I am no means an overly creative parent, I have found that some proactive planning and expectation management can make a world of difference when the weather doesn’t quite allow for the breathing room our sunnier days permit. Make winter resolutions Why focus on a single day for your kids to set goals? When the winter is at its worst, I have challenged my children to come up with a few things they want to do prior to the return of spring. The goals don’t have to be significant—maybe read a few more books each week, finish a puzzle, learn the words to their favorite song—just enough to keep the focus on themselves and not competing with their sibling. Plan “You and Me” days Although an elementary concept, I try to plan one day a month for myself and my husband to spend a few hours one-on-one with each of our children, without their sibling. A movie, an art class, bowling—it’s usually something outside the home so that the attention is on one another, rather than someone competing for my attention. Not only is it good for my son or daughter to be alone from their sometimes nemesis, it refocuses me and makes me realize how I love those darn-adorable, quirky kids. Let ’em be Rather than try to intercept, one of the most valuable things I have learned is that they can generally work out their differences. While “figure it out” can lead to catastrophe, I’m often amazed to have sent my two bickering kids down to the basement, only to hear giggles and shrieks of laughter erupt as they have moved past their differences and on to trying to make each other crack up. While I am never sure how long the serenity will last, I will lap up those brief moments of affection like that hot cup of coffee I’m missing on the couch. Because we all deserve a little serenity now and then, don’t we?
  17. Parenting an anxious child comes with the constant question: “How do I push my child and be comforting and supportive?” Unfortunately, there is not yet a perfect science to parenting or treating anxiety. But helping your child face the world with bravery over succumbing to the worry monster can be achieved with consistent and compassionate coaching. As a clinical psychologist, I am always looking for the best and most effective ways for parents to assist their child in developing healthy coping, and not encouraging anxious and avoidant behaviors. These 10 simple tips will help you and your child get through to the light at the end of the tunnel, a life where worry doesn’t win. 1. Validate your child’s emotional pain and discomfort. It may seem like your child is freaking out about "nothing" when, for example, she enters full tantrum mode to avoid being dropped off at a birthday party. But to your child, this is a tremendous deal. Think how bad it has felt in your own life when you were upset about something and someone responded to you and your pain with a sentiment such as “it is not such a big deal…you are fine.” How did you feel in that moment? We have all experienced the one-two punch of experiencing emotional pain and then beating ourselves up for having that pain. Give your child the gift of learning to recognize and acknowledge when she is experiencing emotional distress. Explaining an occurrence is not the same thing as “making an excuse.” Nonjudgmentally acknowledging when we are experiencing emotional distress is the first step in learning how to move through the unavoidable moments of suffering that are built into the human experience. 2. Educate yourself about "the body on anxiety." The discomfort children experience when they are in “anxiety mode” is real. Their brain’s fear response system (otherwise known as fight, flight, freeze) has been triggered and are now experiencing all of the physiological changes to their body that would occur in a true emergency. Their heart rate and breathing are increasing; blood flow is moving from their small muscles to their big muscles that are associated with fleeing, such as their arms and legs; and their pupils are dilating to allow them to see all potential dangers more clearly. All of these physiological changes would be quite helpful if they were in a real emergency. Thankfully, they are not in a true emergency when experiencing the false alarm of anxiety, but it feels to them like they are. 3. You can validate your child’s discomfort without buying into the “doom and gloom” predictions made by their anxious brain. Along with the physiological changes that occur when the “anxiety switch” has been flipped comes a change in thinking patterns. The world shifts from seeming predictable and safe to unpredictable and dangerous. Opportunities for failure, death and other unfortunate outcomes seem ever-present. Just because your child believes that terrible things are likely to occur does not make it true. Access your “wise mind” when your child is unable to access his. 4. Believe in the strength of your child. She cannot break. Anxiety is not dangerous and cannot hurt her, but avoiding life and age-appropriate experiences can.You don't need to shield her from life's challenges. 5. Model vulnerability. It is not only okay but powerfully healing to share with your child when you are struggling and scared. Struggling and fear are part of the human experience and she will learn it is all okay. 6. Create a family culture that nurtures taking chances and learning from mistakes over perfectionism. As an exercise, you can go around the dinner table and each take turns sharing one way you took a chance today. By highlighting meeting challenges head on you are reinforcing bravery over avoidance behaviors. This family exercise emphasizes how it is the journey of learning and experiencing life that truly matters, not the outcome of achieving or winning. 7. Teach your child how to identify when the "worry monster" has surfaced and is attempting to call the shots. It is incredibly helpful to come up with kid-friendly language to help your child make sense of his anxiety. In our first few sessions with children struggling with anxiety, we name and draw a picture of their “worry monster.” Some names my wonderful, brave little clients have come up with are: worry bully, “It,” Bob," and "Mr. Annoying," to name just a few. The function of this exercise is to assist your child in more objectively viewing her worries and fears vs. seeing the world through anxieties and fears. Once we learn how to identify when the “worry monster” has surfaced, we can next learn how to talk back and disengage from its taunts and negative predictions. 8. Pick your battles. You can't work on everything at one time. Determine the fear-based behaviors that are most negatively impacting your child and your family and create specific plans on how to address these behaviors. By trying to address everything, you will end up addressing nothing. 9. Learn to identify when your own “worry monster” has surfaced. Don't believe your own fears and worries that try to predict how much suffering your child will go through when they experience moments of anxiety. Although you may have experienced anxiety in your own life, it is no real indication of how it will go for your child. Kids are incredibly adaptable; they learn quickly that the best way past anxiety is through it. By facing one fear at a time, your child will quickly learn how brave, strong, and confident he truly is. 10. It is okay to get anxiety coaching from the sidelines. Therapy does not have to be a long-term, complicated endeavor. There is effective, empirically supported, short-term therapy available to assist your child and family when stuck and overwhelmed.
  18. Article
    “Rachel did it,” I insisted, at three years old, when my parents asked why there was blue ink on our ecru walls and white couch. I was informing them that my sister, their devious daughter, was to blame. After a booming count to three (my father’s timeframe to “come clean”), I was punished for vandalism—and lying. As a child psychologist, I ask parents to list the concerns they have about their child. Although they may report behaviors such as yelling, hitting, or throwing tantrums, they often end with, “…but what bothers us the most is the lying.” Although parents may view their child’s lying as a personal affront, psychologists take a different perspective on the matter. In fact, there are two key reasons why I love lying. Reason #1: Lying is normal Lying is a normal stage in development and a sign of cognitive growth. Research shows us that, even by age two, children start to lie to their parents. The onset of lying coincides with—and likely requires—the development of (a) perspective-taking skills, or putting oneself in another’s shoes, what psychologists refer to as “Theory of Mind,” and (b) executive functioning skills, such as impulse control, flexible thinking, and the ability to hold information in mind when working through problems (working memory). Neurobiologically, all of these skills develop as the front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, matures. Although my three-year-old brain was developed enough to know that lying was a good way to avoid punishment, I didn’t understand that blaming my six-week-old sister, who couldn’t hold a crayon, was essentially self-incrimination. I lied, but I was bad at it. Just as children learn to crawl before they learn to walk, their lying becomes more sophisticated over time. As you might guess, children become better liars as their perspective-taking, executive functioning, and prefrontal cortex develop further. Reason #2: Lying is a clue for parents Lying serves a purpose for the child, that is, to solve a problem. For example, when children have a problem (e.g., “I did something that will get me punished”), lying is one strategy to solve it (e.g., “If I lie, I won’t get punished”). Whether a child kicks, screams, cries, or lies, these behaviors have functions, and when parents tell me that their child lied to them, my goal is to identify the function of the lying. When we can understand the function of a child’s behavior, we can identify the problem that the child was trying to solve and, ultimately, teach the child more appropriate ways to solve problems (e.g., by telling the truth). What can parents do when their child lies? Despite my love of lying, it’s not a behavior we want to perpetuate and not one that parents want to reinforce. Therefore, to conclude, here are three tips for parents for when your child’s pants are on fire: 1. Along the lines of reason #2 above, reserve judgment about the lying, investigate the function of the behavior, identify the problem that your child was trying to solve, and teach your child more appropriate ways to solve problems. Collaborative and Proactive Solutions, an approach developed by Ross Greene, Ph.D., is an effective technique for parents to address their children’s challenging behaviors, including lying (see livesinthebalance.org). 2. Ask your child to promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Recent research shows that, when children promise to tell the truth, they are more likely to do so, even after committing a transgression. 3. Take a realistic, nuanced approach when talking with your child about lying. Not all lying is socially unacceptable. How many times have your parents said, “When you open Aunt Goldie’s present, be nice. Smile and tell her how much you like it.” Lying can be acceptable depending on the context. Learning to distinguish appropriate from inappropriate lying can be challenging for children.
  19. Now that it's fall, the days are getting shorter and the honeymoon period for your child’s return to school has ended. Maybe you've begun to receive calls and e-mails from teachers and school administrators that your child is not following directions, is being disruptive in class, or is struggling generally. The school district may also be mentioning possible disciplinary action toward your child. You know that your child needs help, but what can you ask for and what are your child’s rights? The answers to these questions often turn on whether your child has been or should be identified as having a disability. Children with identified disabilities: Children with identified disabilities in public schools may be entitled to receive services and accommodations through an IEP (Individualized Education Program) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) or through a Section 504 Plan under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. There are many accommodations, related services, and supplementary aids and supports that can (and should) be implemented in the regular education environment for a child with behavioral/emotional challenges. In addition, the IDEA requires the consideration of a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) for students who are unsuccessful with typical behavior supports. The FBA and BIP are formal ways for parents, teachers and other school professionals to work collaboratively to determine the best way to help a student who is exhibiting behavioral difficulties. Children with IEPs or Section 504 Plans are also entitled to protections and procedural safeguards should their behaviors invoke significant disciplinary action such as a suspension or expulsion. As a general rule, the suspension or expulsion of students with disabilities has been treated similarly under both the IDEA and Section 504. The Office of Civil Rights has stated that the same protections available to students classified as students with disabilities under the IDEA are available to students classified as students with disabilities under Section 504, except for students who have a disability solely by virtue of alcoholism or drug addiction. Children “not yet identified” with disabilities: If you believe that your child may be entitled to accommodations and/or services for emotional or behavioral challenges under the IDEA, you have a right to contact your school and request a case study evaluation (CSE). In Illinois, a school district is required to respond to a parent’s request for a CSE within 14 school days of that request. If the school district determines that an evaluation is not warranted, it must provide its reason for denying the request in writing. Similarly, if you believe your child may be entitled to services under a Section 504 Plan, you have the right to contact your school and request an initial evaluation in order to determine whether your child is eligible to receive supports and services under Section 504. In addition, under certain circumstances, a student who has not yet been identified as eligible for special education may still be entitled to claim the procedural protections afforded to individuals under the IDEA. A previously unidentified student with a disability facing disciplinary action such as suspension, expulsion or a change in placement to an interim alternative educational setting may, nonetheless, claim the procedural safeguards of the IDEA if the district had knowledge that the student was a child with a disability "before the behavior that precipitated the disciplinary action occurred." Children without disabilities: Unlike the discipline of students with disabilities, the discipline of general education students is not governed by the IDEA or Section 504 procedural safeguards, but rather by state laws and regulations. Recently, Illinois enacted Public Act 099-0456 (commonly referred to as Senate Bill 100), which went into effect at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. This new law includes a broad list of school climate and student-behavior measures, but its central purpose is to make suspensions and expulsions a disciplinary option of last resort. The goal is to keep children in school receiving an education. Under Public Act 099-0456, suspensions of three days or fewer will be allowed only if a student's presence at school poses a threat to others or "substantially disrupts, impedes, or interferes with the operation of the school." The law leaves those terms open to the discretion of local school boards. Suspensions longer than three days, expulsions, or disciplinary transfers to alternative schools may only be used if a student poses a threat or significant disruption to the learning environment and other options, such as restorative practices, have been exhausted. Lara Cleary is a partner with the law firm of Hansen & Cleary, LLC. Hansen & Cleary is a boutique law practice focusing on the representation of children and families, individuals with disabilities, medical and mental health practitioners, private schools, and other non-profit agencies in the greater Chicagoland area and throughout the State of Illinois. If your child is struggling in school and is exhibiting emotional/behavioral difficulties, your child may have protections and rights under federal and State law. Please contact us at 847-715-2801 or through our website, hansencleary.com, with any questions.
  20. Article
    As parents, we want our children to be happy. We want them to have friends. We want them to feel part of the group. The last thing we want is for our children to feel like they are on the outside looking in or, worse yet, being the victim of a bully. Why are some children the target of negative attention in the form of bullying or exclusion from peers, while others seem to escape this experience? After working with hundreds of families, I’ve observed that on some level, children who suffer negative attention feel unworthy and lack self-acceptance. Essentially, they feel like a victim. Feeling like a victim is feeling powerless. It’s holding a belief that life is happening to you, rather than something you can have an active role in shaping. What does this have to do with bullying? In the case of bullying, if your child feels powerless in her life, she is more susceptible to having this experience. This is not to say that the victim is responsible, or that the bullying behavior is condoned because someone is projecting a “victim” quality. The person who bullies is in every way fully responsible for their actions. But people who carry around victim energy are more likely to be the target of negative attention. [Related: Protecting Your Child From Bullying (member-only video)] The sad thing is that children who project this victim energy often don't realize what they are doing and, without this awareness, they are powerless to change. Feeling like a victim is a learned response to life's circumstances. The good news is that this habitual, learned response can be unlearned by practicing some new emotional skills. Here are 3 steps you can take right now to bully-proof your child with positive emotional skills: Stop speaking like a victim. Saying things like "she made me feel sad" or "he's making me mad" is "victim-speak." It gives all of the power to the other person. No one can "make" us feel a certain way unless we give them permission to do so. If you catch your child (or yourself) speaking like this, turn the statement around. Instead of "he's making me mad," encourage your child to say "I feel mad" or "I choose to feel mad in this situation." This shift in speech is subtle, but it puts ownership for your child's feelings with him. Practicing this more empowering way of speaking will, over time, give your child a feeling of power over his situation. “As within, so without.” [Related: Why I follow the Montessori method to combat bullying] Know that a higher power is always there to help. It doesn't matter what this higher power is to your family, but just the knowledge that there is something greater than us can give your child a great deal of confidence in his ability to stand strong in the face of challenges. If he feels he will always be okay, that energy will emanate from him. Bullies don't want to struggle. If they feel this strong, powerful energy coming from your child (and they will feel it!), they will move on to someone else. Find things to feel good about, and think about them often.There is always something to feel good about, if you think about it. The more you look for what is good in your life, the more you get into the "feelings" that these good thoughts evoke, and then the more good you will draw to you. When your child learns to shift her thoughts from things she fears to things she feels grateful for, everything around her will change for the better. Your child can learn simple ways to take control of her thoughts and emotions, and when she does, her confidence will skyrocket and her tendency toward thinking like a victim will diminish. You can download Jill’s audio training, “7 Secrets to Building a Foundation of Confidence and Self-Esteem in Kids," FREE for a limited time here: http://bullyproofstrategies.com/.
  21. Article
    It was Father’s Day morning, so I took our 13-month-old to the park for a little father-son bonding. It was early, so I was surprised to see a few families already camped out near our favorite pieces of equipment. What I wasn’t surprised to see was one mom with a phone pressed against her ear and paying little to no attention to her young son. If you’ve read my blog, you know one of my pet peeves is parents focusing on their phones instead of their children, so the sight of this woman on her cell while this young boy kept asking if he could play with us really annoyed me. I felt bad for this little boy—who doesn’t want attention?—but I just wanted a little uninterrupted father-son time on Father’s Day. Well, that didn’t quite happen. Using a stick he picked up off the ground, my son was doing his best drum solo effort on this small rope swing when the little boy came over. Again. He took the stick from my son and after fiddling with it for a second, he turned it toward my son and hit him in the middle of his chest. Thankfully my son wasn’t hurt, although he had that why-did-you-just-do-that look on his face. Clearly, this other boy had no malicious intent, but if I (a first-time dad) see someone do something that could possibly injure my son, and especially if this person should have been supervised closer, the quiet and reserved part of me that most people know will quickly disappear. I can’t remember the exact words I used toward this boy after checking to see if my son was okay, but it was to the effect of, “We don’t do that. It’s not nice to hit other people.” The boy’s mom had pried her phone off of her ear long enough to hear me speaking to her son, and the gloves were off. Her defense was that she saw my son throwing wood chips before her 3-year-old hit him with the stick, so therefore my boy wasn’t innocent either. My response? I told her that her child was older and should know not to hit people with sticks. Beyond that—and I knew this was my chance to stick it to her—this all could have been avoided if she wasn’t so focused on her phone. “You’re an a&*%$#@,” she told me as she grabbed her son and left. Thankfully I’ve avoided further conflicts with parents since this episode, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before my son or someone else’s child will do something in a public place that will put me and another parent in what Catherine Main, Senior Lecturer and Program Coordinator at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Education, refers to as “incredibly awkward and uncomfortable” situations for parents. Main offers tips that could make these situations a little easier for everyone: Keep your cool. “The key to the situation is for everyone to keep level heads,” Main said. “A 3-year-old does poke others with sticks. It doesn’t mean they’re bad children. It also doesn’t mean their parents are bad people. It’s part of their developmental process. What happens if I poke this little guy with a stick? … There’s no malice involved. They’re just experimenting. The frustrating part is probably that this parent is on the phone and not guiding her son’s exploration and experimentation.” Safety first. “As a general rule, I think parents should be very cautious about (disciplining other children),” said Main, who has a 22-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter. "But always err on the side to make sure everyone is safe. You could have just picked your son up and moved him away from the situation that wasn’t safe. That would have been modeling for the other child.” Support other parents. “It’s really important that parents have a lot of empathy for one another—and try to be supportive of one another,” Main said. "This is not easy. There are not right and right wrong ways all the time. You also have to be able to forgive yourself, because you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. And that’s okay. Your kids will forgive you.” Walk the walk. Main added: “The key thing is always keeping in mind I want my child to realize that 1) I am a safe adult and always will be that safe adult and consistent and calm, and 2) remember, they’re watching you and that’s really where they learn. You can think you’re telling them something, but they learn from watching you.” It seems like both me and the mom I got into the confrontation with on Father’s Day have some room for improvement. Make no mistake, there will be plenty of opportunity for that.

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