Learning To Handle A Bully

young girl being bullied at school
Part of being a kid and growing up is to tease your friends and being teased by them. Your friends know your secrets, they know your mistakes, and they like to razz you about them. However, friends also know not to push the teasing so far that it hurts you or causes you real distress; and that’s the difference between getting teased by your friends and getting picked on by a bully.

Who is a bully?

Bullies find a person’s weakness and will take every chance to exploit it.  They will bring it to the attention of others and humiliate that person. Some bullies can guise themselves as a “friend” and make you do things you don’t want to do, or things you are uncomfortable with; calling you uncool if you don’t, or threatening not to be your friend if you don’t do what they tell you to do.

Or even worse, some bullies are physical and will trip, push or fight others for a laugh or to prove their “dominance.” Unfortunately, bullies are a part of school and life, and short of locking our kids away from society, we can’t fully bully-proof our kids. However, we can give them powerful weapons—confidence, compassion, and integrity.

Despite the old saying, words can hurt, and if a child is continually being called a freak, fat, ugly, stupid, etc. they may begin to believe it.

But as parents, we can instill confidence in our children, praising them for all the good things about themselves, taking interest and supporting their hobbies, and always accepting them for who they are and who they want to be.

Instilling confidence in your kids to rise above a bully.

Let your children know that everyone is interesting in their own way. Our differences are something to be celebrated, not ashamed of. A deep-seated feeling of self-confidence can act as a suit of armor against the critical words of others.  This confidence will help give your children the strength to stand up for themselves.

Compassion and integrity go hand in hand, and should be taught to every child anyway.  This is especially true when dealing with a bully situation. Bullies are often unhappy or hurting from something in their own lives.  Something is bothering them that they cannot control, so they lash out at others.  This doesn’t give them free reign to be jerks, but it can shed some perspective into who they are.  Before stooping to a bully’s level, have your child try to get to know more about the bully.  Maybe the bully just needs a friend.

You want your child to be strong, yet compassionate, and confident in their voice. Make sure you talk to your children about the importance of being able to stick up for themselves, and their willingness to stick up for others who may not have the strength to do so themselves.

When confidence isn’t enough.

Sometimes a bully is just too relentless, or things begin to escalate.  This is when it is time for you, a teacher, or the school to intervene.  Before bullying even happens, you should work to build an open and honest line of communication with your children.  Once the lines are open, your child will be able to feel safe in coming to you with their problems.  Especially when dealing with a bully problem, you should never brush your child off, or discredit their feelings.  It is in these moments that your child needs your support and understanding.

First, try to get all of the information: who said what, what was your child’s reaction, were other people around, how did they react.  Then try to talk your child through a better way to handle or difuse the situation.  Remind your child of their strengths and the importance of confidence.  And if all else fails, tell your child to report it to a teacher, councelor or principal, and act yourself if it isn’t addressed.

Get in touch if you’d like some help learning the most effective ways to help your child avoid bullying.

Transitioning Back to School

download (5)The kids will be back in school before you know it, and it can be a stressful time for families. Most of the stress comes from changing schedules and getting into a new routine. Whether your summer was very open and relaxed, or packed with activities, the transition back into a school routine always seems to be a big challenge. However, there are ways to help make it easier on your whole family.

Make a plan

Your family is your team, and everyone has a part to do to help things run smoothly. So make a plan and make sure that everyone knows their part. Your kids’ responsibilities each morning might include getting dressed, brushing their teeth, packing up their backpacks, eating breakfast and getting out the door on time to catch the bus. Chore charts or accountability organizers can help your kids stay on track with everything that needs to be done, and with such a visual reminder, there is less pressure on you to keep nagging. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your family will be, and the more smoothly mornings will go. Below are some links to some chore chart and accountability organizer ideas.

Practice the Week Before

Just like everything in life, it’s always easier said than done, so you and your family will need practice. About a week or so before school starts, you should start your family on their school schedules. Start waking up early, hammer out morning shower times, get the kids out the door (to do something, anything) on time, and start going to bed earlier. After a week’s worth of practice, you and your family should be right back into the school schedule groove just in time for school to actually start!

After School Needs a Plan

While makeing your plan, don’t forget to include how the after school hours will pan out. When are your kids required to do their homework? When can they play? What time is dinner? When to they need to go to bed? You can practice homework time by setting aside an hour or so of quiet reading time each afternoon during your practice week. If you have younger kids, read with them; it’s not only great practice for when school starts, but it’s also some special time for the two of you to be together.

If your kids are going to be in after school sports or activities, then you have a whole new scheduling ballgame, and you will need a calendar. Make sure every activity is on the calendar, where and when, so the whole family can see what their days and weeks will be like. Knowing this ahead of time allows you and your spouse to plan out who is dropping off and picking up which kids throughout the week. And once again, having a plan can help to relieve stress from your family.

Easy Dinners

With all this activity going on, who has time to think of a healthy dinner? You do. Family dinners are an important part of the daily routine. Dinners are a time to talk, laugh and connect with your family. Values and manners are taught and shared at the dinner table; problems are discussed and worked out over healthy meals. But back to school time is a busy time for the whole family, and you may not think you have time to cook a healthy meal every day.

Try prepping several crockpot meals on Sunday and putting them into the freezer. Then, in the morning, just empty you prepped meal into the crockpot and let it cook all day. By the time you and your family get home from a busy day of school, work and activities, dinner will be ready for you. There are links below to several recipes that can go from the freezer right into the crockpot. The transition from summer back into a school routine can be tough on the whole family, but with a little planning and family teamwork, you just might make it.

Helpful Links

Chore Charts & Accountability Organizers:

http://www.smartschoolhouse.com/back-to-school/organization#_a5y_p=2183234

http://www.ishouldbemoppingthefloor.com/2014/01/free-printable-chore-charts.html

http://indulgy.com/post/JMSeMluMF1/chore-chart-diy-with-cookie-sheets-and-chalkboar

Freezer to Crockpot Recipes:

http://www.lifewith4boys.com/2012/10/25-meals-in-4-12-hours-freezer-to.html

http://www.thelittleredbutton.ca/2013/03/03/tpc-freezer-meals/

http://kojo-designs.com/2012/08/freezer-crockpot-cooking-round-2-more-recipes-more-organization/

 

Giving Thanks and Praise

imagesCAIPBXZMChildren crave attention from their parents; whether it be good or bad, they want to be noticed. So if you’re not paying attention to all the good things your child is doing, he may start acting out as a way to get you to notice him. If you want the bad behavior to stop, start giving thanks and praise for the good behaviors.

Thank You for Listening

Phrases like: “Thank you for listening,” “That was good direction following,” or “I like when you follow directions,” are great ways to ensure that your children will do what you ask time and time again. Young children are people pleasers. Add this to their need for attention and you have a little person who is a sucker for thanks and praise. Need a little helper around the house? “It makes me so happy when you help me,” “What a good helper,” and “Thank you! You’re a big help,” are great ways to encourage your little one to keep finding ways to help you out.

Also try catching them doing something good when they don’t think you’re watching; if you call them out for something good they have done, they will be surprised and happy. “Bobby, I saw how you shared with your sister! That made her very happy, and I’m proud of you. Good job!” These sweet phrases may seem like overkill to an adult, but to a child they are great for giving positive reinforcement and for boosting self-esteem and confidence.

You can also give thanks and praise to your children before bedtime. Thank them again for helping you, or list all the things they did that day that you liked or appreciated. Nice thoughts and good feelings are a great way to end a day. Plus, reminding them of all the things they did right might help to relieve them of any stress they may have about what went wrong during the day; this, in turn, will make them more calm, peaceful, and ready for sleep. Words are powerful, and what you say will determine how your children think of themselves; so use positive words and phrases to help shape your little ones.

For a more indepth look into how you can incorporate thanks and praise (aka: words of affirmation) into your parenting, please check out our books!

Summer Activites

sports__largeSummer is in full swing, and that probably means that your family’s schedule is filled with activities for your kids. Summer activities can be great as long as your kids are having fun. But what if they just want to quit? The August 2014 issue of Parents magazine has a great little article, written by Renée Bacher, about “How to know when it’s okay to let your child drop an activity— and when it’s best to make her stick it out.” Bacher discusses what to do when your kid wants to quit or not even go to an activity; urging you to get to the underlying reason. Is your child actually afraid or uninterested, or is she just nervous about trying something new? It’s great to expose your kids to new experiences, but if they are truly unhappy, then it’s not right to force them.

Choosing the right activities

So how can you try to avoid your child wanting to quit in the first place? Bacher recommends that you allow your child to help you choose the activity they want to participate in. If your child doesn’t really have a strong opinion, try choosing a sample class. Sign your childup for an “All Star Sports Class;” each week they learn and play a new sport. This way they get a little taste of each sport , they begin to develop interest, and you can be more selective next year.

If your child isn’t into sports, maybe a theater or craft club would be more appropriate activity for the summer, but Bacher recommends that you make sure you engage your child in some sort of physical activity. Whether it’s a nightly walk or a bike ride with the family, your child should be participating in physical activity always.

I agree; kids need to move and expend their energy on a daily basis. Bacher also feels strongly about making swim lessons a summer priority because knowing how to swim can save your child’s life. Bottom line is that summers are always filled with activities, but just make sure that you have your priorities straight and your child’s feelings in consideration.

Pets, or No Pets?

photo-9Classroom pets are a fun part of any classroom; some give kids something to pet and play with, while others are just for observation, but all of them give the kids an opportunity to take care of something and to learn more about an animal. Teachable moments present themselves often in a classroom with a pet.

Kids learn all about a specific animal, what they eat, how they bathe, how often they need to have their cages cleaned, and how to properly approach them. Classroom pets also provide an opportunity to have another job in the classroom, aiding in teaching responsibility, and it can help kids slowly get over fear that they may have for a certain animal.  Pets in the home can provide the same learning opportunities as well as an additional playmate.

Considering Classroom Pets

However, before choosing a classroom pet, a teacher must think long and hard, that is if the school even allows it. Many schools won’t allow classroom pets due to allergies, or sicknesses that can be passed from animals to people, especially with reptiles and amphibians, but kids can get animals sick too. Before deciding to add a pet to the classroom, a teacher must take the following into consideration:

-How “high maintenance” is this pet going to be?

-What is the age of the students, and what level of responsibility for this pet can they handle?

-Do the students have any allergies?

-Should the class have a permanent pet, or one that visits for a few weeks?

-What is going to be the cost of general pet upkeep?

-Are you willing to take the pet home to care for it over the Summer?

A few years ago…

I taught at a preschool for a few years, and one year our class was given a chinchilla. The kids loved it! They named it, they took care of it, we had a job for someone to help clean the cage twice a week, and I even made a book to teach the children all about chinchillas and how to care for them and handle them. He was pretty self-sufficient, so as long as his cage was clean and his food and water were full, he could stay at the school for the weekend with no problem, but for longer breaks we had to make arrangements for someone (me) to take him home.

Then, the years changed and new kids came into our room and one little girl was allergic to our chinchilla. The poor girl could hardly breathe without sneezing, and her eyes were constantly itchy, so we had to find our chinchilla a new home and we got a fish. The fish was even less maintenance than the chinchilla, so it allowed our class to host other visitor pets as well. We hatched eggs and had chicks in the class for a few weeks, and we watched as caterpillars made cocoons and turned into butterflies, plus the owner of the school would often bring her dog to work (which was pretty stressful for the chinchilla).

Personally, I preferred the visitor pets in our classroom because it kept things interesting, kept things moving; no one got bored of the animals before they had to leave, and there was always something new to learn about. And, the best part about the visitor pets was that I never had to take them home with me over summer break.

Considering Pets at Home

The considerations you must take into account before getting a pet for your home are not so different than those of a teacher thinking about a class pet:

-Do your children want this pet?

-How “high maintenance” is this pet going to be?

-Who will be taking the responsibility for caring for this pet?

-How much will the upkeep costs be for the life of this pet?

-Do you, your children or spouse have any allergies?

Choice Time

If you are unsure about any of the considerations about getting a pet, the best thing to do is to either, not get one, or take it slow.  First start off with smaller, low-maintenance animals with short life spans.  Starter pets such as gold fish or even small hampsters are good.  If you are wanting to jump right into a larget pet, like a dog or a cat, maybe offer your home to sit for family’s/friend’s pets when they go on vacation.  This will allow you to have a trial of sorts in taking care of an animal in your home.  Remember, pets are great for a child’s development and learning, but the pet you choose needs to be a good fit for your family.

Terrible Twos vs. Tantrums Threes

group of happy kidsThe “Terrible Twos” is a well-known umbrella name for the difficult time in a child’s development where they are stubborn, argumentative, demanding, whiney, and down-right defiant; where tantrums are plentiful. However, the title “Terrible Twos” is severely misleading; frankly, it’s a flat-out lie.

Moms, dads, grandparents, babysitters, teachers and caregivers agree (at least all the ones I know) that 2 year olds are easy, 3 year olds are the ones to look out for (although year 1 and year 4 aren’t always a picnic either).

2 Year Old’s vs. 3 Year Old’s

At 2, you may hear a lot of the word “no” from your child. It’s easy to say, and it expresses the child’s dislike of something or some activity. But at three, a child’s vocabulary becomes extensive, and they become very particular about the clothes they want to wear, the food they want to eat, or the crayon they must draw with.

Add those together and a simple “no” turns into, “No, I don’t like that,” “No, I want this,” all spoken to you in the whiniest of voices. But these words are only coming out of their tiny, defiant mouths after the initial screaming and crying have subsided because at three, while they are capable of putting thoughts into coherent sentences, their emotions run wildly out of their control and everything is a crisis.

3 year old having a temper tantrum

Simply asking for help is near impossible when you can’t fit your Batman into the door of his Bat Cave; to a 3 year old, that situation obviously warrants a scream of frustration immediately followed by franticly yelling, “Help! Help! Help!”

You see your sweet two year old turn into a defiant child who seems to have an argument for everything you have to say. They test their boundaries, they push the rules to see what they can get away with, and they test you to see if you will actually follow through with any of the consequences you threaten.

Parents, there is good news, there are ways to make it through these “Tantrum Threes” (as I feel they should be renamed). These three steps will not magically make everything better, but they can help you keep a little bit of your sanity.

Dealing With Tantrums

  1. Be patient and calm. Remember that it is their crisis, not yours, so calmly help them get through it. Yelling will only make everyone more upset.
  2. Be consistent. Make sure your three year old knows the daily schedule, the rules he is expected to follow, and the consequences he must face if he doesn’t follow the rules. This will help keep the surprise and daily drama to a minimum, and if you are consistent every time he tests you, eventually he will learn.
  3. Make and enjoy quiet time. Whether you have a go-to book to read, a hot bath to draw, a glass of wine to drink, or a yoga class to attend, make sure you get a daily dose of quiet time for yourself, because at the end of the day, you and your nerves will need it.

Vacation Time

FamilyBeachFunOne of my favorite quotes from Modern Family comes from an episode when the whole family takes a trip to Hawaii. Phil says to his wife, “Relax, Claire, we’re on vacation.” To which Claire aptly replies, “I’m a mom traveling with her kids. It’s not a vacation, it’s a business trip.”

It’s just one of those things that is so true, and yet you never realize it until you are shuffling your kids through the airport, or are entering hour three of a fourteen-hour road trip. Just because the family is going on vacation doesn’t mean that Mom gets to relax much, if at all.

The kids still need to be looked after, fed, kept occupied so they don’t annoy anyone else on the plane, kept occupied so they don’t kill each other in the back seat, and unless you are traveling with a babysitter, the kids’ bedtime means you are confined to “home base” as well.

Travel has been made easier with all the tablets available; you can download educational games, music, e-books, and even movies to keep your kids entertained. But if you don’t want them glued to a screen the whole trip, make sure you prepare some travel packs for each child. I recommend packing a small backpack for each child, that way they can carry their own items. Each pack should include a variety of games and activities, such as, but not limited to the following:

  • crayons and activity books
  • Mad Libs
  • Rubik’s Cube (or other one-piece puzzles)
  • road games like car BINGO
  • flash cards
  • books
  • I Spy games
  • a disposable camera
  • Silly Puddy (less messy than Play Doh but just as fun)
  • snacks
  • one or two special toys your child chooses to bring

If you want more ideas for travel activities, check out the link below. Now, these travel packs aren’t going to relieve you of all your Mom duties, but hopefully they will keep your kids quiet enough for you to relax a little. After all, you are on vacation.

Road Trip Activities for Kids

http://spoonful.com/family-fun/road-trip-activities-for-kids?cmp=SMC%7Cspoon%7Csoc%7CFB%7CSpoonful%7CInHouse%7C070513%7CRoadTripActivities%7CLink%7CfamM%7CSocial&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=SMC%7Cspoon%7Csoc%7CFB%7CSpoonful%7CInHouse%7C070513%7CRoadTripActivities%7CLink%7CfamM%7CSocial

The Lasting Power of Words

Old Way, New WayHave you ever said something out loud and immediately thought, “Oh my god. I just sounded like my mother,”? Instantly the horror of becoming old, and becoming your mother, washes over you, and you try to shake it off. But, you know, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When your mother’s words escape from your mouth, it is a sign that your mother, for good or bad, has made a memorable and lasting impression on your life and the person you have become. If you’re lucky enough to have had a mom who cared deeply about your safety and your emotional stability, then this is definitely a good thing.

The Words of Your Inner Voice

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” –Peggy O’Mara

If that’s not true, I don’t know what is. When you constantly yell at, or around, your children, they will learn that yelling is an appropriate way to communicate their thoughts and feelings. If you are overly critical of your child’s performance in school, sports, or whatever, then they will grow up with that negativity in their minds. These aren’t the messages you want to send your kids. To teach a child to be calm when faced with opposition, YOU must be calm; even when they make you so mad. If you want them to succeed in life and build their confidence you need to constantly encourage them to try their best, to never give up, and to let them know it’s ok to fail sometimes.

The words, and the way you say them, will stick with your children for the rest of their lives. So you need to decide what your ultimate message will be. Over the course of their childhood and adolescence, your words and lessons will engrave themselves into your children’s brains; and then one day, when they are grown, your words will escape from their mouths. And a wave of horror will wash over them.

Parenting: You Think You Know, But You Have No Idea

images (1)When you are pregnant with your first kid, you are headed into the unknown. You’re excited, but also nervous. Nervous about if you will know what to do, about if you will be a good parent. You wonder how you will ever manage. So you stock up on all the latest and greatest “must have” parenting products, and anxiously read about what to expect.  All the while your mind runs wild imagining what life will be like.

You Become a Parenting Pro

But after your baby arrives, you soon become an old pro. A baby can be fed while catching up on your emails. You have mastered cute and quick up-do’s because you have little time to blow dry your hair. You’re able to change a diaper so fast that your baby doesn’t have time to pee on himself or cry about being naked. You become a baby whisperer; able to decipher your baby’s exact needs just by the pitch of her cry. As time goes on, you and your toddler are masters of your daily schedule.  Now you never miss an opportunity for a fun activity or outing. You’ve got it so good that you think, “Hey, let’s bring on number two!”

So you bust out your old baby items, and get rid of all those “must have” products you got for your first but never opened. Your confidence runs high because you’ve done this before, no sweat, you’ve mastered this parenting thing. You remember all your old tricks, like the old bounce-pat-shhh, and you’re prepared to use them. You think you have it all figured out, but you have no idea.

Number 2 Brings Throws a Curve Ball

Soon after number two arrives, you realize you are playing a whole new ballgame. The thought failed to cross your mind that this was going to be a different human being, with different needs and wants, with different cries and a different personality. But, you soon re-master your old feeding and diapering skills; this time with the added challenge of a toddler hanging from your leg or trying to jump on your lap.

You’ve also developed the art of the layered look, because, unlike your first, this one projectile pukes. If you hold him a certain way after he eats, and you don’t have time to change your entire outfit twelve times a day. Multitasking has taken to a whole new level when you have a crying baby, a toddler with underwear on her head and you have to get out the door to be on time for pre-school. Your life has become so busy you hardly have time to think about what’s for dinner, let alone imagine what the future holds. But amongst all the chaos, you do know that you wouldn’t trade it for the world. And maybe, in a few years, you’ll have such a good handle on things that you can bring on number three!

Television and Kids

well-behaved toddler watching tv
When it comes to children, especially young children, the less television they watch, the better. The obvious reason being that kids who watch too much T.V., or play too many video games, don’t spend enough time being active and getting the exercise they need, and therefore have a higher chance of being overweight.

Sex, Alcohol and Violence on Television

But being at risk of being overweight is not the only negative aspect of too much T.V. Television programs, video games, and even commercials can expose your kids to adult behaviors such as violence, sex, and alcohol, tobacco and drug use. These adult behaviors may not seem to phase your child as they watch, but it takes its toll in the long run.

When T.V. shows and commercials depict sex and alcohol they usually focus on the fun, attractiveness, and all around coolness of participation, but they rarely touch upon on the consequences, health risks, or dangers. In turn, kids can walk away with the idea that if they want to be cool, attractive, successful adults, they should act more sexually and drink with their peers.

When it comes to violence, research has shown that watching a lot of violence on T.V. can lead to hostility, fear, anxiety, and sleep problems in children.

What you can do as a parent.

son and father arguing over television
Obviously not all T.V. shows and video games are going to be detrimental to your child’s physical and mental health, but you need to do your job to make sure that your kids are watching appropriate material.

Before your kids even get to the couch, you need to do your research and make a decision about what shows and games they can watch and play. Watch the shows yourself, play the games, and make sure they are educational, or at least have a positive message.

After you have chosen the shows that you feel are appropriate, makes sure your kids know what the limits are. If your child can’t work the remote yet, this part is easy because they can only watch what you turn on.

If they are older, you may have to use some of the parental control locks on your T.V. to help block unwanted material from being viewed.

Limits and watching together

Along with choosing which programs to watch, it is recommended that you also limit your child’s screen time to one to two hours per day. Having this limit is a great way to make sure your kids are still being active.

Lastly, whenever possible, you should be watching T.V. with your kids so you can discuss what they are seeing. You can reiterate lessons learned from the programs, discuss why a certain behavior or phrase was unacceptable, or even help to diffuse a scary or tense situation.

The bottom line is that you and your family should be the most important influences in your child’s life, and T.V. should just be for entertainment. You can only make this happen if you are involved and in control of your child’s T.V. time.