Category: Dear Kerry

Dear Kerry: “Sick of Sweets”

 

Dear Kerry:
One of my 4 year old twins is sugar-obsessed. He goes throughout the day waiting for and thinking about his next chance to eat something sweet. He ends up begging and negotiating for it all day long which I can’t stand. Any tips?

Thanks,
Sick of Sweets

 

Dear Sick of Sweets:

I have a client who had the same problem. She implemented “Sunday Fun Day” which is when the kids can have more sugar than usual.

The family plans and makes special desserts on Sunday Fun Day. They enjoy their sweets and all the “fight” for sugar melts away. Then, when her kids fuss for sweets on the other days, she reminds them that “Sunday Fun Day” is coming soon and they’ll get plenty of sugar that day. They seem to go for it and it and stop with the hassling. I’d love to know how it works out for you!

Warm regards,
Kerry

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2017 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Dear Kerry: Dealing with Other Parents’ Parenting

HHP_OtherParentsParentingDear Kerry,

I sometimes take my 2 year old daughter to a local park to play. When we’re there, we often encounter kids whose behavior is questionable. Grabbing, pushing, saying “Mine!” etc. The parents often smile at me as if to say “Oh, you know how kids can be!” rather than addressing and correcting the situation. What can I do?

Dealing with Other Parents’ Parenting

Dear Dealing,

Consider dealing with those children like you would when you take your daughter to a petting zoo. At a petting zoo, you don’t know if the goat is going to chew on the hood of her coat or if the goose is going to flap its wings and scare her.  So what do you do there?  The younger she is, the closer you stick… ready to shoo away a pushy animal or pick her up to keep her safe.  It might be a lot of effort but animals are animals, after all, so it’s hard to predict how they’ll act and which ones are safe.  Same with other peoples’ kids. Same with other parents. Sure, you might want to give those inattentive or overly tolerant parents a schooling but the last time I checked, not many people go to playgrounds to gather parenting wisdom and advice from strangers in the park.

One strategy I’ve found useful is to treat other kids like you might if you were supervising a group of children on a field trip.

That means speaking up to the kids about manners and behavior in a polite, respectful way.  I think it’s important to talk to them as kindly and respectfully as you would want a stranger to speak to your child.  This approach goes with the notion of “It Takes a Village” to raise a child and that all adults have a responsibility to help guide and teach the children around us.  If we take this approach, it means we interact warmly and positively during good behavior and bad toward the toddlers playing around us.  It gives us a chance to model good manners in front of our own children if we are saying, “Please” and “Thank You” and letting others go first.

Lastly, if you absolutely feel like you need to address a situation with another parent, try to remember these three tips:

  1. Introduce yourself like you would to a new friend.
  2. Say something positive, whether it’s about their child, the day, a compliment, etc.
  3. Be curious.  It might sound like, “I’m wondering if you saw your daughter push my daughter and it really upset her. I’m wondering if it would be ok with you for me to say something to her about it.”  Or even, “If your daughter was pushing another little girl on the playground, would you want to know about it?”

If you assume that the parent is basically a good human who wants his/her daughter to treat others well, you’re more likely to get a positive response than if you take the stance that this is a negligent, lazy parent who doesn’t care.  If you are dealing with someone with a chip on their shoulder, no amount of politeness or kindness is likely to make a difference so don’t take their lack of caring personally.  Who knows what they might be struggling with today?
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Dear Kerry: “My 13-year old Can’t Stand Me”

Dear Kerry,

I am in a really hard corner of parenting – my 13 year old daughter, who I have loved and adored since the day she was born – cannot stand me. Everything I say is met with eye rolls, every request I make is countered with a snarky “Why don’t you do it?” All she seems to care about is her phone/iPad and her friends. How can I get her to connect with me – we used to have such a great time together!

Mom of a 13-Year Old Who Can’t Stand Her

Dealing with a TeenDear Mom Whose 13-Year Old Can’t Stand Her,

You are in great company with a lot of other good, loving parents whose young teens can’t stand them. It is a young teen’s developmental task to start the process of becoming independent.  Think of them like little birds: if the little bird doesn’t decide that the nest is intolerably crowded and scratchy and smelly, it would never be able to leave the safety and comfort of its family and take that leap. And we ARE raising them to eventually be independent and go out on their own, right?  Right.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not terribly painful for us as parents.

Limits need to be put on nasty behavior.

If you focus on the disrespect and give it a lot of attention while you try to stamp it out, then you are just putting emotion and intensity exactly where you DON’T want it, which is on her misbehavior. One big risk of this is getting pulled into your teenage self where the two of you might end up sounding like two teenagers bickering with each other. Something to try instead is to focus on what you DO want.  If your daughter makes a reasonable request in a polite way,  answer “yes” when possible.  If she is snarky or demanding, the best thing to do is be unavailable to provide services until you are treated with respect.

Staying calm is essential.

It might sound like this: “Sorry, sweetie but I don’t think it sounds like fun to take you to the mall when you are treating me this way. Maybe another day when I like how you’re speaking to me.”  And now here is the tricky part…. stick with it!  Think of yourself as simply hanging up a “closed” sign on a shop door. No drama; just hang up the sign.

This is when you get to teach her three important things:

  1. When she’s nasty to people, life is not sweet.
  2. You respect yourself enough to set limits when she doesn’t treat you well.
  3. You are modeling for her to do the same with people who are disrespectful of her.

The cool part about this strategy is that you are actually setting tough limits on her nasty behavior even though it doesn’t sound like you’re punishing her.  Basically, she was snotty to you and because of it, you are delivering a tough consequence of not taking her somewhere.  This is parenting in a way that is simultaneously strong and kind.

A couple more examples of being “unavailable to provide services when she is disrespectful”:

  • “I love you too much to buy you that skirt until you’ve made amends for how you just spoke to me.”
  • “I’ll be happy to return your phone to you after you’ve been polite and pleasant to everyone in the family for an entire meal.”
  • “I make school lunches for girls who show appreciation.”

How to get her to connect with you.

First, you are entering into a chapter of parenthood where sometimes our job as parents is to learn to tolerate a little more space and independence from our beloved, aggravating, precious children into whom we have poured so much of ourselves.  It doesn’t feel natural and it’s not easy… but that might be what she needs for now.  Focus on having a 10:1 ratio in your communications with her: a minimum of 10 positive comments for every 1 negative comment or nag, reminder or command.  Watch for those moments when she wanders in and starts chatting with you.  Drop what you are doing and be present for those sweet moments that come on her terms, when she is open and willing to connect. 

Just listen.  Be curious.

Learn about how she makes sense of things. Silently repeat these three words during those times: LISTEN, LEARN, CURIOUS.  Don’t teach unless she’s asking for your opinion.  Look at her.  Smile at her. When she is done talking, let her be done. You are teaching her that you are OK to come to you in times of need, no matter what she tells you.  This is crucial for keeping the door open as she gets older and even more independent.

Lastly, invite her to spend one-on-one time together doing things you both enjoy. Put thought and effort into offering fun times together. If she opts out, let her… but make sure she knows that you are available for her. If she opts in, remember the 10:1 rule.

I’m heading into the adolescence of #5 out of 6 of my kids and stepkids and I wish this chapter was easier.  It’s just not. But if you practice the 10:1 ratio and don’t take her behavior personally, this too should pass.  Having a parent coach and good therapist has been a sanity-saver for me as I’ve navigated the teenage years with a herd of boys.  Remember that the best thing you can do as a mom is to keep yourself in balance.  Putting in the time and effort to be in a good state of mind so that you can be warm and open, able to laugh, able to cry, able to set healthy limits and be at peace is a worthy investment.  Whatever your state of mind is around your family … it’s contagious.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Dear Kerry: “Sick of all the Whining”

DearKerry_12yoWhiningDear Kerry,

My 12 year old son whines constantly and it drives me absolutely crazy. It’s almost like it’s his default way of speaking. I don’t want to constantly berate him – but I am not sure how to curb the whining?

Sick of All the Whining

Dear Sick,

For better or worse, this seems to be rather common for kids this age. I know that doesn’t make it any less aggravating for you to live with, but hopefully you at least know you are in good company with a lot of other parents.

If you focus on putting an end to the whining, you will end up putting your attention on what you DON’T want.

Focus instead on what you DO want; for example, calm voice, doing what you ask the first time, respectful words, pleasant tone. I call this “Parenting the Invisible” because it’s hard for us to notice when our kids do it.  We tend to take the good, quiet, cooperative behavior for granted.  Our brains are wired to hone in on the undesirable behaviors.  If you pay attention, however, to the little, quiet, good behaviors and nice way of speaking, you’re likely to see that they actually do exist even when it seems like they don’t.  If you can reward those in some way, you are helping your son grow the good behaviors.  Rewards can be small and simple like a smile or nice word or affectionate touch and thanks.  Even better, you can set up a plan for your son to earn something worth earning by having a point system and earning a point with every good behavior.  Dr. Kazdin outlines a specific strategy for this in his book, The Everyday Parenting Toolkit.

I think the only way to really make “Parenting the Invisible” work is to set timers.  When I’m really working it with my 12 year old son, I have to set a timer to go off every 20-30 minutes to remind me that I’m watching for the invisible.  If I don’t set a timer, I forget.  I like to give myself a certain chunk of an evening that I’m focused on being diligent about  parenting this way and during which he can earn points.  It’s not realistic to expect ourselves to do it perfectly all the time, especially if we have other kids and other distractions.

It’s easy to say, “I shouldn’t have to reward this; he should just do it because it’s the right way to act.”

Often times we parents have to give our kids external reasons to do the right things until they develop an internal compass that guides them.

This internal compass kicks in for different kids at different ages depending on their temperament and life stressors, among other things.

Another idea is to stay as calm as possible and simply make an enforceable statement: “I will help you when I hear you ask in a respectful way.” Then go quiet and do not argue or engage with his whining.  If we parents respond and argue and engage when our kids are nasty to us, we teach them that this is an OK way to talk to people.  It’s better for us to let them know that we will be available to provide services, help, time, etc, when they treat us respectfully.  Think “FUTURE SPOUSE.” If you don’t want your son to grow up treating his spouse the way he’s treating you, then do not reward the nasty tone.  Stay calm, go quiet, and be available when you are treated well.

One more idea for you is the Love & Logic® notion of putting an end to whining and arguing by going “Brain Dead” and using a “One-Liner.”  Check out these videos to learn more:



Good luck and please let me know how it goes!

With love and laughter,
Kerry
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Dear Kerry: “Toddler Full of Pasta”

Dear Kerry: My Toddler Won't Eat Anything But PastaDear Kerry,
My daughter is 2.5 years old and refuses to eat anything but the following: cheese, pasta, cheerios, milk, and bread. I have tried everything – being encouraging, being stern, offering “dessert”, talking, early bedtimes – nothing works! When I put something other than pasta in front of her, she screams “I no like it!!” – what else can I do?

Mom of A Toddler Full of Pasta

Dear Mom of a Toddler Full of Pasta,

You and so many other parents are going nuts with toddlers who want to live on dough and dairy. Think about how many common, well-liked kids’ foods are nothing more than white flour dough and dairy: pizza, grilled cheese, cereal, mac and cheese, noodles and butter, nachos, quesadillas. Getting kids to be adventuresome eaters who love healthy food is learned behavior, made from a lifetime of positive associations with tasting, trying and experimenting. Here are 10 great tips and tricks to help you along the way: Read more

Dear Kerry: “Pregnant and Full of Tears”

Dear Kerry,
I am on my second pregnancy, and I am finding myself so much more emotional this time around. Perhaps it is the sleeplessness or raging hormones – but I can (and do!) cry at the drop of a hat! It’s not because I a moment is especially sad or happy – it just pours out either way! Do you have any advice for what I could do to help me through this emotional roller coaster?

Full of Tears

Dear Kerry: Pregnant and Full of TearsDear Full of Tears,

Oh, I feel for you!  It’s incredible how powerful hormones can be.  I sorta liked it when I was pregnant because I felt like the filter was off and I felt everything fully.  But then I was always sorta relieved when the filter was put back on and I wasn’t crying randomly so many times each day and week.  I remember holding my little second baby in my arms when my sister-in-law was talking about how her 3-year old quadruplets wouldn’t always kiss her back when she wanted them to.  I burst into tears, hardly able to imagine the pain of my baby being a 3-year old who wouldn’t kiss me back!

My personal work of late has been to really get it that “This is my life right now.  I can’t wait, won’t wait…. to start living fully.”  I’ve discussed this with so many of my friends whose kids are in the high school and college age range.  We all relate to that notion of thinking that “just as soon as……” (the babies are out of diapers, the kids are in school, school’s out, kids are back in school, the holidays are over, the kids are out of this stage, our husbands change jobs, we get a divorce, we get to sleep through the night)……  THEN we will will be calm and relaxed and “in the groove” with life.  What we all have found is that that day never really comes.  

It’s one thing after another.  One challenge after another.  One thing keeping us busy or disorganized or stressed out or tired or not at our best.  And then the next thing we know, our kids are launching off to college and we are standing there wondering what the heck happened.  So my new mantra is THIS IS MY LIFE.  RIGHT NOW. I might not get tomorrow.  What if this is the best it ever is? Even with the craziness or the pain or the imperfection, this moment is all we get.

My wish for you is to be fully present in this very moment with all that it holds: happy and painful, hard and easy, clean and messy, fun and drudgery, fat and skinny, rich and poor …. everything.

Warm Regards,
Kerry



Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.