Tag: parenting

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: “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.

Rowdy at Dinner

I frequently receive letters and emails from my readers sharing their successes and failures as parents. While I prefer reading the success stories, I also find value in parenting failures because it gives me an opportunity to reach out and offer advice on a topic that I’m passionate about, Love and Logic® parenting. I look for opportunities to encourage parents to reward good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior. My advice seemed to pay off for this mother and in the following letter, she shares her success.
Boy has mouth full of pasta in kitchen

Dinnertime Dilemma

Dear Kerri,
I just had to share my recent success story and offer a big “Thank You”. I’m a fan of your work and a big believer in the reward system you teach so I decided to give it a try. Suffice it to say, I was thrilled with the results. I have a 5-year old son who is a non-stop little ball of energy. Although this energy is wonderful to watch, there are times that I wish he would sit still and mind his manners.
That said; dinnertime has always been a challenge. This should be a time for our family to come together and share the events of our day, express our thanks for food and family and enjoy each other’s company. Lately, it’s turned into a time that my husband and I dread. The delight has been drained from our family time due to the poor manners and temper tantrums of our 5-year old. It’s a constant struggle to get him to eat, sit still, use his napkin and clear his plate. I was so tired of being frustrated that I decided to change my method of parenting and enlist your reward system.

Instead of focusing on his bad behavior, I offered a tangible (and immediate) reward for his good behavior. Every time he responded to a request, he would receive a token. When he was asked to come to the table, sit still, eat his dinner and clear his plate, he was given a token. I also made sure to tell him how proud I was of his good manners. I saw an immediate change in his behavior.
Every now and then I would allow a “bad manners night” to let him enjoy dinner without feeling like he’s constantly under a microscope. On these nights we would make dinnertime fun and not worry so much about table manners. Within a short amount of time he was responding to all my requests and using table manners that any mother would be proud of.

Since starting your reward system I’ve noticed a positive change in my son’s attitude. He looks forward to acting like a well-mannered little gentleman and really likes the positive reinforcement (and tokens) that accompany his good manners. He’s anxious to please me and he knows that, when he exhibits good manners at the table, there’s an immediate reward for his good behavior.
Thank you for your parenting advice; it’s worked wonders for our son!

Sincerely,
Lillian H.
Boise, ID



Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents


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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, 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.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Happy Starts to Preschool

Dear Kerry,
I’m a stay at home mom of twin boys and I knew that starting preschool would be difficult for them to deal with. New places, new faces, a new routine and the absence of mom would be a lot for them to digest so; I decided that instead of dreading this wonderful event in the lives of my boys, I would embrace it with Love and Logic® parenting. Following are some of the ideas that were a success for me and my boys; I hope your readers find them useful.

Loads of Love

Before we head to class, I gave each of them plenty of hugs and kisses. Not just a few, I overloaded them with lots of love, snuggles, hugs and kisses while asking them if they had gotten enough to last until pick up time. I also asked if I could give one more kiss on their nose, forehead, cheek, chin, etc. just to make sure that they were covered from head to toe in love. When they decided that they had received enough loving to make it through the day, I would take them into class.

Practice Makes Perfect

In order to get my boys accustomed to a new experience, I decided to practice the preschool routine in an effort to turn their jitters to joy. I held preschool practice sessions on days when my boys didn’t have to go to school. From walking out the door with backpacks in hand, to walking into the classroom and saying goodbye, my boys became familiar with the process and what to expect. I made sure to document this process with lots of pictures in order to remember our practice routine and show my boys how to successfully arrive at preschool with zero anxiety and fuss.

Preschool Platter

Another great idea that worked well for my boys was a menu board. The board showed pictures ranging from a crying and screaming child that’s holding his mother’s leg to a happy and hopping child that’s glad to be going to school. There was enough variety on the board that my boys were able to plan out their week of going to school, which allowed them to decide how they wanted to arrive at school. If either boy started to fuss on day one, I would offer a reminder that we’re “happy and hopping into class today” and that “crying and fussing” isn’t on the menu until Wednesday. This was a perfect way to create a positive experience while having fun.

Lastly, I found the following books to be helpful; “The Kissing Hand”, “The Invisible String” and “I Love You All Day Long”. They were great tools that prepared my boys for preschool while helping them to understand and enjoy the experience. I hope these ideas are helpful!
Thanks,
Jan
Auburn, CA
Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, 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.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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How To Turn Your Words from Garbage to Gold

Little boy with shoes on

TWIN TERRORS CAN CAUSE DOUBLE TROUBLE

Every parent knows how exhausting it can be to raise a child, especially toddlers. For parents of twins, that exhaustion is enough to make you see double, literally. What do you do when faced with temper tantrum throwing twin terrors at dinnertime and how do you elicit a positive response from one or both when they seem to feed off each other? It’s not easy but, with a little Love and Logic®, this mom turned her misbehaving minions into terrific toddlers.

DINNERTIME DISASTER DUO

The day was winding down and, as the sun sank low in the sky, mom thought it would be a perfect fall evening for a dinner on the patio. The only problem was her defiant 3 year old that refused to put his shoes on before joining them. While mom sat patiently at the dinner table, this twin toddler put up quite a fight. Refusing to put his shoes on and causing quite a scene was enough to send this mom over the edge. Luckily, her toddler’s tantrum didn’t throw his twin into the same tizzy. As they both sat waiting for the storm to calm, mom had an idea. She decided to try an enforceable statement in hopes of turning his tantrum into a lesson of love and patience.

With a calm voice and a steady gaze, mom simply said “anybody who has their shoes on gets dinner” and turned her defiant son’s seat away from the table. While mom and the rest of the family began to enjoy their supper, her surprised son decided that he wanted to join them for dinner and, if it meant he had to put his shoes on to do it that was OK. As mom watched, what had become a customary dinnertime meltdown, turned into an easy fix. Her son put on his shoes and joined his brother and mom at the table. Mom couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride for the actions of her baby boy.

ENFORCEABLE STATEMENTS THAT STICK

When mom decided to use an enforceable statement, she sent a message to her son that his actions or inactions would warrant a response. This type of enforceable statement can reinforce to the child that what they’re doing is unacceptable and that there is a repercussion for their behavior. Additionally, using enforceable statements can also let the child feel that they are in control of the situation. By forcing the child to claim control of his actions mom allowed him to make the decision to put his shoes on and join in dinner, while letting him know that his actions would not be tolerated. Enforceable statements are a great way to elicit the response you want without all the fuss. This mom took care of business without losing her cool.



Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents


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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, 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.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Getting Kids to School On Time

Young girl refusing to get ready for school

DAD’S DILEMMA

After a busy morning of diapering, feeding, bathing and dressing his 7 and 3-year olds and tending to the needs of the baby (with a few temper tantrums thrown in here and there), dad was hoping for a little help from his toddler and oldest son. Little did he know that they had other plans. After posing the request to “get in the car”, dad returned to find the 7 and 3 year old sitting in front of the TV. Not only were they in the same spot where he left them but, the 3 year old had removed his pants, ensuring that dad would have one more thing to do before leaving the house for school.

If you’re a parent you know how hectic mornings can be, especially when you’re attempting to get somewhere on time. When this dad was dealt a healthy dose of groundhog parenting, he managed to keep his cool and teach his children a valuable lesson about personal accountability and getting them to listen.

GROUNDHOG PARENTING AND HOW IT CAN MAKE YOUR ALREADY BUSY DAY SEEM ENDLESS

Dad uses the term “groundhog parenting” to describe what seems like a never-ending cycle of asking for something specific (“clean up your mess”, “get in the car”, etc.) with zero results. This type of cycle makes simple tasks seem endless, repetitive, and…like Groundhog Day, over and over and over again.
This type of parenting is not only ineffective; it’s the perfect recipe for a frustrated parent. Instead of continually repeating the same request with little to no response dad tried the new method of Love and Logic® parenting in hopes of eliciting a different response.

DAD TO THE RESCUE

Since Dad’s request to “get in the car” was ignored, he decided to employ a new technique. His new strategy will make cents…probably from his son’s piggy bank. After Dad asks his sons to get in the car, he’ll make his way to the car and charge the 7 year old .25 cents per minute that he has to wait. Hopefully, this strategy will encourage his son to listen to Dad’s request and respond the first time. However, dad also wants to make sure he’s rewarding positive behavior and not simply punishing bad behavior so, dad will also offer the 7 year old .25 cents per minute for every minute that they’re early arriving to school.

With a positive reinforcement in place, dad is ready to tackle getting to school on time with minimal hassle. More importantly, the 7 year old will feel a sense of reward when he’s given positive reinforcement for his positive actions; it’s a win/win situation and Dad is the hero of the game!



Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents


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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, 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.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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How Do I Get My Kids to Stop Whining and Arguing?

Do our kids need limits? Yes!  Do they thank us when we set them? No!

Parenting a Child - Get Kids to Stop Whining and ArguingWhat do they do instead? They whine and argue. They negotiate and beg.  They apologize and promise they won’t do it again.
Parents who give in, engage, or try to reason with the child will lose the battle. Let’s instead, take a step back and learn a new approach to setting and enforcing loving limits.

How do parents set limits? 
Successful parents set the limit once and use a strong dose of empathy to deliver the consequence.  For example, if the limit is no hitting, and your child hits his sibling or playmate with a toy, your response would be, “This is so sad (empathy), looks like you won’t be playing with that toy today (consequence.)”

How does every strong willed child respond to that? 
“It’s unfair.” “I won’t do it again.” “You don’t take toys away from my sister.” And so on.

How to parents respond to the whining and arguing?
Go “Brain Dead.”  Parents pick a one-line phrase that they repeat over and over again.  It almost becomes a mantra to help parents stay calm and not engage.  It could be a one line phrase like “I know,” or “Probably so,” or even “Love you to much to argue.” Parents should use a soft, calm, sing-songy voice so it comes across empathetically and not sarcastically.  Let’s see how this would work.

Child: It’s unfair
Parent: I know
Child: But I really like the toy
Parent: I know
Child: But I won’t do it again
Parent: I know
Child: I won’t be your friend anymore
Parent: Nice try

How long can parents keep this up?
Who is using the energy in this exchange? While this child may throw an escalated fit to test Mom or Dad’s new skill in the short term, it won’t take long for him or her to learn that arguing with Mom or Dad will bring no results.

What do parents experience after going “Brain Dead?”
Parents find it easier to stay calm, and keep firm limits. They also find they have more energy because they aren’t using it all up arguing with their kids.

What do kids experience?
Kids are frustrated in the short term because their old techniques of arguing, whining, and negotiating to get their parents to react, to lecture, and eventually get them to change their minds are no longer working.  In the long term, they will learn that their parent’s words are gold. Their parents can enforce the loving limits without breaking a sweat and that sends this message, “My parents are strong enough to keep me safe.”


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, 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.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Life in a Pinball Machine

I am standing in the kitchen getting breakfast ready for my family…

Parenting Help - Love and Logic ParentingPalmer (6) is banging on the counter with an action figure while he asks for a drink. Landon (2) is playing on the floor at my feet with his new and very noisy digger, saying “Play, mommy!” Keaton (9) is downstairs hollering at me to come down and build his new Lego set with him.

Our houseguest, Mike, is wondering aloud if I am REALLY not cooking a full, hot breakfast for him this morning. My husband is sitting on the couch reading an interesting new book and wanting to share tidbits of it with me.

On the outside, I look calm and composed, but inside, I am thinking (quite loudly) “HELLO, has anyone noticed that there is only ONE of me in this house right now? Are there only five of you who want my attention and help right now? Only five?” Well, come to think of it, the two birds need their medicine, and the fish needs food…if it’s not already too late.

So there, that totals eight male beings who want and need me at this very moment. I feel like I live in a pinball machine and I am the ball!

These are the times when I can either blow up and go off on all of my loved ones at once, or I can stop and figure out when and how I can get some time for my own sanity preservation. There is no point in being angry at my children for having so many needs, because that is the nature of children. I can long for someone else to insist that I take time to relax and take care of myself, and that would be ever so lovely. But ultimately, I am the only one who knows what I need, and it is my responsibility to make that happen.

So I tell myself to hang in there and do what I can. Then I plan ways to “re-fuel” during the day. In the van on the way to church, I’ll leave the phone turned off and listen to soothing music. I’ll sit and watch a movie with my boys this afternoon. I’ll let the house be messy until my cup is re-filled. I’ll try to go to bed early enough to read before I fall asleep.

Whatever it takes, I, and all the moms and dads out there, have got to find ways to keep our cups full. Kids, and life in general, require so much of us, and if we let ourselves get drained, we are depleted and have nothing left to give. It is not selfish to take care of ourselves; rather, it is a gift to give our children parents who are available and can cherish their innocence and beauty.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, 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.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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