Tag: siblings

Ask Your Misbehaving Son: “What Kind of Man Do You Want to Grow Up to Be?”

Raising Boys, Raising a Teenage Boy, How to deal with a misbehaving teen

While on vacation recently at the beach, a family of five found themselves having a less than ideal time together.

Lying on the beach and doing absolutely NOTHING sounded perfect for the over-worked parents, but the two older boys, James and Liam, wanted ACTION and their little sister Mattie wanted to join in the fun.

The water-fight that started out as fun quickly turned into James and Liam ganging up against Mattie – taunting, teasing, and leaving her feeling hurt and unwanted. She just wanted to play with her brothers! Her protests were met with a “You can’t play with us!” blasted at her by James. Mattie burst into tears.  This got mom’s attention.

The family vacation that was supposed to be fun and relaxing had somehow devolved into an exhibition on the beach of wet, upset kids that really wanted to have fun but couldn’t quite figure out how to make that happen. Mom thought fast.

“James, what kind of guy do you want to grow up to be?”

James: “A nice guy!”
Mom: “That’s wonderful to hear. Now, what do you think a nice guy would do right now?”

James’ face fell. He knew the answer.

Fascinated, Mom watched him go through the mental gymnastics:

“I don’t want to let Mattie play and I don’t feel like it and I’m not going to. So there! But I want to grow up to be a nice guy and a nice guy would let her play. So I guess I have to shift out of my “mean-boy” mode and into my “nice-guy mode…”

Sometimes kids feel ornery or stubborn or righteous and it is our job to ask questions to help them shift into a more civilized state of mind.

One of my favorite series of questions which help accomplish this are:

  • 1. “Who do you respect and admire?”
  • 2. “Would you act this way if he was watching you?”
  • 3. “Would he treat others this way?”
  • Besides stopping kids in their tracks to think about their behavior, these questions open the door for a conversation about integrity which calls for them to treat people well, whether or not anyone else knows about it.

    Siblings provide countless opportunities for teaching children how to treat all of the people around them. The next time your children are bickering/ fighting/ becoming increasingly aggressive towards each other – thank the universe for giving you such a great real-time, perfectly chaotic moment on which to build important life lessons!



    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.

    Desperate Situations Require Desperate Measures

    Give Kids Candy for Dinner!

    A dad I work with had to take his three young sons to a long, boring meeting in an attorney’s office. He was sweating it because his boys were likely to act up.

    To inspire them to great behavior, he offered the reward of “Candy for dinner and movies till you fall asleep!”

    Now THAT was motivation to these three! (Not to mention a desperate parent.) On the way there, he upped the odds of their success by playing “What If” and asking what things might keep them from earning their reward. The oldest brother speculated that the middle brother might “make me mad.” They talked through how the oldest could manage that. They went through a variety of scenarios so that the boys would know how to handle themselves.

    Once in the office, he broke the hour and half into six chunks of 15 minutes each. For each 15 minutes that they went with good behavior, they earned a point. Four points earned them the dinner of their dreams… candy. Those boys may not have been able to get through 90 minutes perfectly, but they were angels for almost every one of those 15-minute chunks and they got their reward. Don’t worry, dad had to pay the next day with grumpy, tired boys… but he got through the meeting intact.


    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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    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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    Didn’t I Tell You What I Don’t Want?


    Imagine this: you’re sitting in a restaurant and when the waitress asks for your friend’s order, your friend goes through the whole menu of what she DOESN’T want…

    “I don’t want the burrito and I don’t want the tacos and I don’t want the chimichanga.” How likely is she to end up getting what she was hoping to have for dinner? Not very.

    But don’t we do that to our kids on a regular basis when they are squabbling?

    Do you ever get frustrated, dare I say, even yell at your kids, over sibling bickering? It’s no fun to admit, but many of us get annoyed at their bickering and say (or yell), “Stop arguing!” Or, “Don’t do that to your brother!” I wish it was effective parenting, because it sure does flow out of my mouth easily and frequently.

    Perhaps…. instead of telling our kids what we DON’T want, maybe we can be more effective by telling them what we DO want…

    with something more along the lines of, “I’d like you to keep your hands to yourself and use kind words.” It’s like saying to the waitress, “I’d like the enchiladas, please.”

    On long summer days with all the kids around more than usual, some parents have found it helpful to be proactive instead of reactive with sibling bickering. They set a timer and tell the kids that if they can play together nicely until the timer rings, they get a _______ (fill in the blank here…. a check mark on a chart, a star, a quarter in the jar). After several rounds of success, the parents will then offer a fun activity as a treat for playing well together …. a trip for ice cream, game night, a special treat.

    What’s cool about this strategy is that parents are creating more of what they do want (kids getting along with each other) instead of punishing kids for doing what the parents don’t want (fighting).

    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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    Want to Stop Yelling at Your Kids?

    Bless my kids and their cranky days.

    If my 3 boys were perfect and delightful all the time, I’d have no credibility as a parenting instructor. Lucky for me, I don’t have that problem!

    Just the other morning, I was tempted to yell. I came right to the brink when two of them were participating in their well-loved sport that I call “Combat Brothering.” I was so annoyed.

    It started with little snide comments….under the breath criticisms about how the other breathes or chews or feeds the dog or blows his nose. Then it ramped up to yelling and tattling. That day’s round involved throwing gumdrops at each other and leaving them wherever they fell, mostly on the carpet where I almost smashed one into my newly cleaned rug. Irritating. After screaming at me about his spelling words, one son got himself sent to his room to “get sweet.” He came back down too soon, still slinging word-darts at me. By this time, I was fed up. I felt the irritation rising. I know my pattern and I could tell I was on the road to yelling at my kid.

    I knew that I had to head this off then and there, before I raised my voice and sentenced myself to a day of mommy-guilt. I remembered my friend’s technique for getting kids to cool down and I told one son to go run around the block. Ya, right. He said, “You come with me!” I looked down and saw that I still had on running shoes and workout clothes, so I said, “Fine!”

    As we both ran outside on a beautiful spring morning, I realized something: If we parents want to stop yelling at our kids, the most important thing to focus on is preventing the escalation. When we’re not yet at “the edge,” our brain functions better and is more resourceful. When we are calm we can remember to use the parenting strategies we already know. But once we reach that explosive point, it’s really, really hard to rein it in, kind of like the BP oil spill. Once the pressure got to a certain point, there was no stopping it until it had spread sludge everywhere and coated everything with muck. Isn’t our parental yelling pretty much the same?

    It takes a lot of work for some of us to stop yelling. One technique that can help is going “brain dead” (a Love and Logic™ idea) when our kids argue and yell. The trick is to keep ourselves from getting engaged in the fight. After all, as Hal Runkel says in Screamfree Parenting, “parenting is about parents, not kids.”


    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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    Summertime Can Mean Bright Days but Parenting Blues!

    Here are some ideas to manage the sibling bickering that can wear us down during long summer days.

    Bicker Jar

    When my kids bicker, they each have to draw a slip of paper from the “Bicker Jar.” The slips have various forms of distraction written on them, from chores (you should see how clean my baseboards are!) to time spent together (“push your little brother on the swing 100 times”) to replacing your energy (“write a letter or draw a picture about what you like about your family”). The variety of items on the slips keeps the kids’ interest, wondering if they are going to be scrubbing the toilet or playing Chutes & Ladders with their little brother. If you would like a list of ideas for the slips (for kids ages 5-14), send me an email at kerry@headandheartparents.com and I’ll send it to you.

    Back to Back

    I know a mom who put bickering siblings back to back until they came up with the same story about what had happened, each one taking responsibility for their contribution. This would never work with my rough-and-tumble boys, but for her mild-mannered son and daughter, it worked like a charm.

    Amends

    I am a big fan of teaching kids to make amends. So yah, they mess up and offend their siblings … that happens sometimes. But when it happens, they have caused damage to the relationship and can learn to do something to make it “right” again. Kind of like cleaning up spilled milk. After a time-out or cool down, consider asking your kids what they can do to reconnect with their sibling, or to repair the damage they’ve done to the relationship. This can be helping out with a chore, drawing a nice picture, playing a favorite game of their sibling’s, etc. Imagine what the state of marriage would be like if all of us grown-ups did that for each other!

    Zero Tolerance

    If there is a certain behavior of your child’s that is driving you nuts, set it as a zero tolerance item in your family. A few common ones are physical violence, name-calling and swearing. Make that a zero-tolerance item that always, always gets a strong consequence, no matter where you are or what you are doing. Figure out what consequence speaks to your child and implement that every time. Just pick one behavior at time for this and focus on following through with the consequence every single time. Be fearless in your follow through.

    No More Purple Elephants

    When a waitress comes to us in a restaurant and asks what we’d like, we don’t say, “Well, I don’t want this or that.” We ask for what we DO want. I think it’s helpful to do the same with our kids. Instead of saying, “No more fighting,” how about specifying what behaviors we DO want…. keeping hands to self, using words that are kind, taking turns, etc. Then you can set a timer and for every chunk of time they make it through with those good behaviors, put something in a jar or a star on a chart for them to earn a fun activity or reward. This way you are helping them get positive attention for positive behavior.

    Talk It Out

    Easier said than done, isn’t it? There are lots of ways to do this, and remember that it is art, not science to teach children to reconcile their differences. If we want them to be able to “own” their mistakes, we have to start by modeling it. Make it a point to talk about your own goofs on a daily basis and mention how everyone makes mistakes. Then, when you are coaching kids through a conflict, try to address some of the following:

    Have each one practice listening and let the other one say, “When you ___________, I felt ___________.” Then ask the listener if there is anything they might be able to apologize for. Don’t push this issue too hard…. forced apologies don’t do a lot to create genuine remorse.

    You can help them work on taking ownership by having them say, “What I could have done better (or differently) is ___________.”

    You can also help them learn to ask for what they need or how they’d like to be treated by saying, “Next time, would you please ___________?”

    [text_box]When you get to the end of your rope, tie and knot and get support! While summertime parenting can be lots of fun, it can also be especially intense and challenging. When you need fresh ideas or to vent to someone, pick up the phone. Whether it’s your mate, a friend, a therapist or family member, I hope you reach out for support and ideas. You can always contact me for a reality check and advice… that is my passion and my expertise, and I find great joy in helping create happy families. [/text_box]


    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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