Tag: problem solving

Dear Kerry: “Unwinding After School”

Dear Kerry,

My first grader really needs some “down time” when he gets home from school or else he falls apart if we do any other activities. I’ve started letting him have half an hour to curl up and watch a show. It seems to be helping. Any reason that I shouldn’t be letting him do this?

Regards,
Karen

 

Dear Karen,

I’m glad that you can recognize that your son does best when he has some down time after school! That’s great. What I would suggest is that you expand the ways that you encourage him to “unwind.” If you always let him watch TV, then it’ll likely become a pattern that could stick with him into adulthood. The downside of watching a show to unwind is that when we watch, we turn off our brains. We get to stop feeling and thinking. That’s why we like it! But that is so limiting.

I’d rather see your son have an “Unwind Box” with options he can choose from. Imagine if each day, he picked a different way to unwind after school. Here are some possibilities:

  • Write “TV” on a tennis ball
  • Music: put in an iPod or something for him to listen to and possibly sing along with, music.
  • Art: put in various art supplies such as playdough, stuff for drawing or painting.
  • Sports: how about a few balls that he can throw outside, throw in his room, a ball to shoot baskets, a photo of the trampoline to go jump?
  • Cooking: For an older kid, you could put a measuring cup in which gives permission for him to bake or cook for pleasure.
  • A stuffed animal to represent that you will snuggle with him that day.
  • Books
  • Puzzles
  • Mazes
  • Building toys
  • Figures for imaginary play

If he gets to (or has to) select from all these options for how he unwinds, you will be raising a kid who can feel relaxed and happy doing a wide variety of activities. He will be much less likely to be addicted to watching screens or playing video games as his way to tune out and shut out the world.

 

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: “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.

“Mr. Fisty”: Part 2

This is Part 2; to read Part 1 of “Mr. Fisty,” please click here.

After an exasperated parent coaching client of mine found some relief with his brilliant five-step “Mr. Fisty” process, new developments emerged (as they always do with kids) that caused him to use his creativity to come up with even more strategies for dealing with his 4-year old son who hit.

Recap: Putting Mr. Fisty into Time Out

As you learned in “Mr. Fisty Part 1,” Walker was empowered and taught that he was in control of his actions. This meant that when his fist, AKA “Mr. Fisty” had the urge to hit someone, the child talked to Mr. Fisty and talked him out of hitting. Sometimes this meant that Walker stuffed his fist into his pocket to help himself remember who was in charge. This externalized the offender and gave the little boy power to make a good choice rather than acting impulsively and getting in trouble.

After three weeks, however, putting Mr. Fisty in his pocket didn’t seem to work anymore. One day Mr. Fisty escaped and punched a kid at school.

Uh oh.

Mr. Fisty Strikes Again – A New Response

Walker’s dad’s response was to draw a hand on a whiteboard and say to his son, “It looks like you don’t have very good control of Mr. Fisty so here are five consequences for hitting, one for each of the next five days.” This caused the child to have to re-explain to Mr. Fisty why it is really important for him to listen and that is unacceptable to hit other kids.

The Five Consequences of Mr. Fisty

Dad reported that each morning, Walker would walk down the kitchen and look at the whiteboard to see what his consequence was for that day. When he saw “no dessert,” for the first day he whined, “Ah, dad, I love dessert!” Dad got to respond empathetically, saying how sad it was to miss dessert that day. Dad also got to ask Walker if he thought Mr. Fisty was learning how important it is to not hit.

Each subsequent day brought with it another consequence outlined on the whiteboard.

Externalize the Problem and Practice Positive Behaviors

This technique is called “externalization of the problem.” Dad externalized the aggressive, impulsive part of Walker and made it a separate character named Mr. Fisty. Next, dad built up the strong, resourceful part of Walker by putting him in charge of ornery Mr. Fisty. This gave Walker the chance to practice positive behaviors. When the effect wore off and Walker hit again, Dad decided that this was the time and place for a consequence. He was still able to empower Walker by talking about the consequence as something brought on by Mr. Fisty.

Address the Bad Behavior – and Don’t Forget to Celebrate the Good!

We parents always get to decide if we are going to punish bad behavior or focus on rewarding good behavior. I think there is room in healthy parenting for both…. as long as it is all delivered with as much love and compassion as we can manage on any given day and that it is done with the intention of teaching our children skills to be successful adults.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2016 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.

“Mr.Fisty”: A Proven New Way to Stop the Pre-Schooler Who Hits

Hbanner_MrFistyNov2015An exasperated parent coaching client plopped onto the couch in my office recently and sighed, “How do I get my 4-year-old son to stop hitting?” At the slightest provocation, his son was hauling off and punching other kids at preschool. Needless to say, this did not go over well with teachers or classmates. The dad racked his brain to come up with a good “consequence,” a.k.a. “punishment” to get his son to stop.

Together, we came up with a completely different approach… what I like to call a “180 approach” and dad left, ready to give it a try.

Find humor and compassion instead of harshness and shame

Dad went home and talked to Walker about how hard it must be to keep his hands to himself, especially when he’s mad. With compassion, dad held Walker’s hand and folded it into a fist and said, “This little Mr. Fisty just loves to hit, doesn’t he? He must be trying so hard to protect you when you get stressed. Look how strong he is. He doesn’t mean to get you in trouble, but every time he punches someone, who gets in trouble at school?” Walker was listening intently, thinking about his rascal of a fist, and said, “I’m the one who gets in trouble, not Mr. Fisty!”

Empower the child to make choices and be in control

Together, father and son talked about how Walker was going to talk to Mr. Fisty and try to keep him from punching anyone. If Mr. Fisty got tempted, Walker was going to treat Mr. Fisty kindly, explaining to him how he had to stay in Walker’s pocket and that Walker would handle the situation.

Externalize the offender

This approach externalized the offender… rather than Walker being naughty, it was “Mr. Fisty” who was being ornery and Walker was the big boy in charge of things. Instead of Walker being punished and feeling bad about himself (which fuels more misbehavior), he became the big guy in charge of his fist. He felt empowered.

The plan worked brilliantly. Dad was thrilled. Walker maintained Mr. Fisty’s good behavior for a solid three weeks. This was a first for Walker to go three weeks without a single incident. Dad was so happy that he sent me a picture of Mr. Fisty.

Keep in mind, setbacks are inevitable

The story doesn’t stop here, however. Mr. Fisty did misbehave again. Dad’s response to the latest offense was even more ingenious than the first.

Stay tuned to read part two of the Mr. Fisty saga.

Insight on Managing Misbehavior

I call this a “180 approach” because it is often helpful to try an approach that is the complete opposite of what we think of automatically when it comes to handling misbehavior. The more a kid acts up, the more parents think they should come down hard on their kids. However, when we go for effective, powerful kindness in lieu of punitive discipline, we can meet our kids’ needs, fill them up, and change their behavior for the long-term. In this case, Dad had the chance to show compassion for Walker and teach him the essential skill of impulse control.
 
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.

No More Hassles Over Picking Up Dirty Socks

No-More-Hassles-Over-Picking-Up-Dirty-Socks

Dirty Sock Dilemma

After a long and tedious day I finally started to wind down, hours after I had hoped to.  I started to head to bed only to find a heaping pile of filthy clothes, shoes and socks, right in the middle of the family room. I wanted to scream. I wanted to pull my sleeping barbarians from their beds and give them the scolding of a lifetime. I wanted to know why my children hadn’t cleaned up after themselves…they weren’t being raised by wolves. They are very capable of cleaning up after themselves, they just choose not to.

Instead of nose-diving into complete frustration, I decided to try a little trick I learned in a recent Love & Logic® class I attended. I picked up all of the shoes, socks and dirty clothes, hid them in my closet and went straight to bed.  There was no need to get mad or create drama at the end of my long, tiring day. Tomorrow would be a new day and I was ready to try out this technique on my children. They had no clue they were about to be my personal guinea pigs and I was hopeful the experiment would work.

A Penny for Your Socks

As morning broke, the house was full of its customary commotion and, as the kids were almost ready to leave for school, I mentioned that I had picked up their dirty clothes and shoes the night before. Normally they wouldn’t care that I had cleaned up after them, however; when I mentioned I would be willing to sell their items for $.50 each, a look of curious disbelief came over their faces. After all, they needed their shoes for school which put me in complete control. With a wonderful sense of calm and a renewed appreciation for my general awesomeness, I calmly traded shoes, socks and jackets for money. They protested slightly before relenting and pulling out the money I was owed. With little to no fighting or arguing, I was able to teach them a lesson they won’t soon forget and save my sanity in the process.

Underpaid and Overworked: Welcome to Parenthood

Let’s face it, parenting is a thankless job. You’re constantly pulled in multiple directions and expected to take care of everyone else’s needs without considering your own. You cook, clean, bathe, clean, shuttle, console, clean, did I say clean? It’s a never-ending battle of maneuvering the same mess from one location to another. It’s the constant struggle of picking up the same toy 37 times a day, only to step on it 5 minutes later. When you consider all the annoyances of daily life as a parent, it’s no wonder we lose our cool from time to time.

With a little practice, though, it’s possible to stay cool and teach our kids a lesson at the same time.
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 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.

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.

Standing Up to Teen Defiance

How to deal with teen defiance, love and logic, parenting classes, denver, co

Big Problems with Teen Defiance

Siblings and rivalry go hand-in-hand so it’s no surprise that 14 year-old Preston taunts and pesters his younger brother, Kyle. Recently, Preston refused to stop pestering his brother and was provoking him by throwing things, hassling him and doing anything he could to elicit a response from his brother just for entertainment. This was much more interesting to him than sitting down and doing homework.  As mom listened to the bickering, name-calling and yelling, she wondered how she would diffuse the situation without aggravating her defiant, strong-willed adolescent even further.

Parenting was so much simpler when the boys were little but now as a single mother of 3 boys, parenting was often aggravating and left mom wondering what to do. After all, two of her three sons were teenagers and had outgrown the parenting strategies that had worked long ago. She wondered how it was possible to reprimand her sons when they became defiant without putting herself in harm’s way.

Taking a Stand Against a Big Kid

When Preston refused to leave the room even when mom demanded it, it was apparent that he had his own agenda. Finally, he left the room but only to return minutes later exhibiting the same behavior that got him in trouble the first time. At that point Preston was worked up and mom was frustrated at her son’s unwillingness to cooperate. Nothing was resolved and mom felt miserable with the state of her family, but it was time for bed. There was no way that this mom was going to try and reprimand her strong-willed teen when he was clearly fired up. She knew better.

Get Out of the Red Zone

Stepping away and allowing her son a chance to cool down elicited a much different response the next morning. After a good night’s sleep, mom decided to tackle her son’s growing defiance when the situation was no longer in the red zone. That morning, she took her son’s phone away for the defiance he had exhibited the night before. Although he was unhappy with his mom’s decision, he was no longer fired up and he begrudgingly handed over his phone.

Be Persistent

After surviving a day without his cell phone and then getting it back, Preston was back to his old tricks. He was taunting his little brother and pestering him for no reason.  This time, however, mom set boundaries immediately for his unwanted behavior and stuck to them. A quick glance from mom along with a calmly executed, “This looks like defiance” was all it took for him to stop. Preston had figured out that his mom was not willing to let his poor behavior be left unchecked..

This was a big wake-up call for her son and a feeling of accomplishment for mom.

She had busted through the fear of angering her teen and was able to take control of the situation with minimal struggle.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 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.

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.

“I Want What’s On TV!”

 
IWantThatonTVMy 4 year old son wants everything he sees on TV so the other day when he said “Mom, I want that!”  I used my “brain dead skills” and replied, “I know.”   He finally stopped asking after 4-5 times of me saying “I know.”

Then Daddy came home from work and my son looked at his daddy and said “Daddy, I want that on TV!”

My husband replied “I know, buddy.”

My son looked at him with wide eyes and said “Daddy, you can’t use the same words Mommy uses!!”

I guess he’s figuring out that limits are getting firm around our house with both Mom and Dad!  It felt good to set the limit in a loving way and I didn’t have to hear him whine about it!

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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My 1.5 Year Old Hates the Car Seat

assorted sweets in a square box
My 1.5 year old son didn’t want to get in his car seat.  He wasn’t responding to the choices I was giving him and instead was fighting me.  I finally got him buckled in and wondered what  Love and Logic skills I could use for a consequence for his sad decision. 

He is too young for a delayed consequence, so I used an enforceable statement.

I had a bag of M&M’s that I opened up and shared with his 3 year old brother saying  “ I only give treats to boys who get in their carseats for their Mommy.”   Yes, of course he started crying and screaming.  But I know that it worked because later that day when I needed him to get in the car seat, he jumped right in!    It felt good to have some skills to use.

–Margaret

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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Success Story: I Didn’t Say “Good Work”

Didn'tSayGoodWorkMy 3 year old son was struggling with a Buzz Lightyear puzzle.  It was one that didn’t stay together well and putting in one piece would dislodge another.  He’d get frustrated, but I had just read a Love and Logic article about the gift of giving our kids a chance to struggle.

I said “Keep at it.”

He worked for several more minutes and succeeded.

“Mom,” he proudly said, “I did it!

Instead of saying my normal, “good work,”  I used what Love and Logic suggested and asked him “Why do you think you did so well?”

He looked at me confused and I said, “Well, did you work hard, keep practicing, or keep trying?”

He said, “I kept trying and I did it!”

–Jeni

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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