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Get Started NowPreface:

Greetings. I want to welcome you to a new series of articles, focused first on explaining the fundamentals of  Terrific Parenting.  These are the principles that allow you to build responsibility, nurture optimism and teach your children to enjoy the self-fulfilling rewards of right effort.

After laying out these principles over the weeks ahead, I will then dig into making those principles practical:  In other words, how do we apply these in daily life so that you can build the healthy habits of success in your home.

For those of you who have followed Terrific Parenting, you may have noticed a pause in my writing.  This was due primarily to health related challenges.  I have been humbled , and have a much greater daily appreciation for the gift of vitality, energy and just simply … feeling good!  I aspire to add more  tools for building appreciation, happiness and optimism into my writings, and will create a separate series later this spring on these topics.

As my health is now back on track, I begin this series by outlining the first of 12 principles to be revealed in the weeks ahead.  These posts will expand upon the content I am creating for The Saratogian.

Terrific Parenting:  New Beginnings

 I am pleased to be writing again.  In honor of this somewhat new beginning, I will start with a series of articles that cover the fundamental principles that build optimism, responsibility and success in your home.  These principles stand at the core of how we have influence and build healthy habits in our home.  Let’s begin:

Principle 1:  Parenting Clarity Is Parenting Power.

This principle is about the importance of having a clear, undiluted focus for your family and for your parenting approach.  Too often in today’s world, we can become bombarded with different messages of how to parent, what to think about and what to focus on.  Included in these various messages are often the opinions of those with relatively little exposure outside their own home or family.  With the world of blogging and Facebook, everyone has a voice.  Individual expression and creativity are allowed to prosper in this model, and the future is exciting.

However, not every voice that offers guidance should be valued equally.  Too many voices causes confusion.  Too many ideas means that you keep changing direction, and trying new things…before the more proven, data-based approaches have been exhausted.

As I begin this series, I will encourage what we might call a “consolidation” of parenting ideas and strategies.  By this I simply mean, that the wide majority of the behavioral research on parenting, as well as most parenting books can be boiled down to about twelve basic ideas that you need to know.

Of these basic ideas, many are made more complex than they need be.  My goal here is to keep it simple, and to keep it real.

So, what do I suggest you do with all those books?  Those Parenting magazines?  The good advice others, like me, promote on the Internet.

I suggest something profoundly simple:  TEST.

TEST IT.  Be willing to honestly put the idea or strategy to the test.  If it works, great.  If not, discard it.

How long do you test?  Weeks, not months…if the strategy is built on proven principles.

If you are reading or practicing a set of proven parenting principles, you shouldn’t have to keep fighting or struggling over and over with your kids.  You shouldn’t have to make things more and more complex, feeling like you are constantly adjusting to a new a set of conditions.  This is a sign that you are off track.  If you are using the tools that make parenting work more easily, then three major things should happen quickly:

1.  You should feel relief, NOT confusion. 

If you have confusion, you have too many ideas floating around in your head 🙂  Okay, honestly…that’s true for most of us.  But when it comes to parenting…too many ideas will result in a failure to take action… RIGHT when you need to take action.

You get overwhelmed, and then hesitate.  When you hesitate, your children see this.  They see your uncertainty…your not knowing what to do next.    This means…

2.  You should know how to respond to your kids, immediately….regardless of what they throw at you.

Okay, not 100% of the time… but 98% of the time… a good game plan should eliminate your confusion.  You know what to do, and you do it without pause.  This then lets you see…

3.  Changes should happened quickly, when you have the right parenting tools.

Rather than months or years, change should happen in days or weeks (for most parenting struggles).  Contrary to much of what you read, children are remarkably resilient and they respond with remarkable adaptability to a clear and consistent game plan.  They will learn to drop bad habits quickly, and adopt healthy habits rapidly…once you have clarity.

In a few days, I will cover principle two.  Can you guess what single factor most quickly destroys the best parenting practice, and actually lays the seed for bigger failure.  Perhaps you already guessed it.  If not, I will cover this Wednesday.

For now, consider making life simpler.  Put most of those books in the closet for now.  Take a break.

And turn to those principles that actually have proven that they work.  BY proven, I mean that there is a noticeable movement toward positive, productive and responsible behavior.  Your child has learned to handle their emotions better.  You are working less…and they are working more… at their happiness.  These would all be pointers to successful strategies worth keeping.

If you want more immediate guidance, I always encourage you to check out more information on www.TerrificParenting.com.

For now, take care…

and Be Well…
Randy Cale, PhD

 

Here’s  a recent question one of my coaching clients presented:  “My son is 7 and still keeps asking for me to get everything for him.  Why doesn’t he learn?  I keep telling him to get it himself, over and over and over again.  But he never seems to get it.  He comes back the next day, and just does it again.”

So, the problem is not that her son is dull, or disabled, or even struggling with Attention Deficit Disorder.  It’s none of that.

For many of you, you may have noticed this remarkable rise in children who seem to be almost incapable of growing into more independence.   For some of you, you are staring at them …perhaps this very moment 🙂

So…if there is no medical or psychological reason for this pattern, what is it?

It’s really about words.  Too many words.  Spoken too many times.  Repeated over and over.

And…the problem is easily corrected by understanding the difference between words and action.  Here’s the bottom line:  Lots of words…means the words get diluted.  They lose value…as it relates to changing behavior.

The tendency is to think that words change behavior.  Let’s be real about this…if words worked…I (and all other Psychologist) would be out of business…

(Any by the way , within a week of changing her strategy of continuing to answer her son, he dropped the relentless, helpless-like requests that were driving her crazy!)

If words are constantly flowing out of your mouth…you will find several things unfolding over the years.  These will be….

  • You have to use more and more words to get things done
  • Your words seem to have less impact
  • You feel like you can never just ask once…and get it done
  • You have to raise your voice, and end up threatening to get the kids to listen
  • Your kids use words to AVOID taking the ACTIONS you would like them to take

Thus, all of these are signals that words MUST FOLLOW your actions…not your actions (i.e., what you model…and the consequences you implement) following lots of words.

When you can really grasp the power of this, it puts you on an entirely different level of respect with your children.  I know of no single concept which, when mastered, brings you more return for your investment.

It requires that you remain impeccable in your own actions…and that you ensure that you walk your talk.  We then must model the very actions we seek from our children.  Next, we must learn to focus on the events (consequences) that follow their actions…and understand that such actions will teach much better than our words.

If we walk our talk and live in that space…we see our children actually “get it.”  And, they get it with much less drama, significantly less words, and they find their way much more quickly.  Test it…and see what happens!

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Children and Divorce:  The Role Of Having Both Parents Nearby, and Involved.

In my coaching and therapy practice, I frequently consult with parents who are separating or going through a divorce.  Children and divorce, when heard in the same sentence, if often words that strike fear into the hearts of parents.

When children and divorce combine with parents seeking to relocate, divorce often becomes very, very messy.  In some situations, parents seek to relocate hours away from their ex partner. The courts, when evaluating children and divorce issues, often turn to mental health professionals to offer their opinion.  Frequently, mental health experts have supported such relocations based upon the presumptive value of a stable custodial parent, and assume that there will be more happiness and support with an extended family or perhaps a new partner or new employment.

This can be a touchy topic for parents going through divorce. And yet, it is difficult if not impossible, to accurately claim that we know for certain a particular choice is in the “best interest” of a child.

Children and Divorce:  Highly Dysfunctional Relationships.

There are times when parents divorce, and it is clear that their relationship is highly dysfunctional and having both parents involved causes harm to children. This is an extremely rare situation, and applies to those parents where there is violence, or extreme personality disorders, or perhaps there is a psychotic or substance abuse parent. Again, these are relatively rare situations, and are best evaluated by an independent expert.

This is not the norm for parents who are going through a fairly typical divorce, and are angry and unhappy with each other. This is not the norm for most couples. In most situations, having both parents involved is good for children.

In the past, mental health professionals frequently supported the overwhelming importance of the primary caretaker. In other words, we have valued that role in a way that minimized the importance of the parent who may be the breadwinner for the family (often, but not always, dad). Yet, most of us are able to recognize that this doesn’t make sense for the modern family where both parents play a very active role in the children’s lives. Now, recent data supports what most of us intuitively understand:

Children Going Through Divorce Thrive More Often With Both Parents Involved!

Some fascinating data has emerged in the last decade, and this research strongly supports the value of having both parents involved (in the majority of situations—not all).

Within four years of separation and divorce, about one fourth of mothers with custody move to a new location. Many fathers obviously disagree with this move, and this poses a dilemma for the courts. In essence, the court struggles with a custodial parent’s desire to create better circumstances for themselves versus the interest of the non-custodial parent’s desire to maintain frequent contact with their children.

In the past, the laws have treated this in an unpredictable manner. Judges have been free to interpret the law in a way that leads to inconsistent decisions.

While the legal issues here are considerably complex, new evidence emerges when we focus the effect upon children. By 1998, there was not a single study that had examined this.

However, in a 2003 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers looked at the affect of relocation, as reported by college students who had experienced a divorce.

The data in this study are quite compelling, and worthy for parents to consider.

Researchers found eleven variables that demonstrated significant effects for college students. For children whose parent’s relocated more than an hour away, they were disadvantaged on the following variables:

• Less financial support for college expenses.
• More worry about college expenses.
• Decrease personal and emotional adjustment.
• Decrease general life satisfaction.
• Larger degree of hostility.
• Greater internal turmoil and distress.
• More impairment in rapport with parents.
• Less respect for parents as role models.
• Parental relationship between each other significantly impaired.
• Global health reduced (primarily for girls)

These results point to a common sense conclusion supported by most parents who remain together: “the kids need both parents.” There was no data to support this general conclusion until recently. However, these results are quite compelling.

In my program, Terrific Parenting Through Divorce, I discuss the importance of careful thought to children and effects of divorce, as well as the kinds of critical decisions parents can make to buffer their children from the impact of divorce.   You may want to check out my manual for children and divorce.

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May
19

Cyber-bullying and Teens

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I just wrote an article for a local publication, and thought you might be interested. It’s about the disturbing trend toward cyber-bullying. It’s especially prevalent with the 12-15 year old teenage girls.

Teens More Frequently Bullied Online

When socializing on the Internet, many teens are exposed to “cyber-bullies.” Cyber bullying occurs when highly negative or abusive language is used, or there are threats of violence or assault. Over the past five years, researchers have seen a 50% increase in the amount of cyber bullying that teenagers experience.

Surveys of teens Internet behavior reveal some disturbing trends.

Typically, cyber-bullies represent no real threat. In the wide majority of circumstances, this takes the form of ugly comments about looks or friendships or boyfriends. For most, this has relatively little consequence. However, some teenagers are deeply bothered by the conversations they experience.

Teen discussions online often use harsh language.

If you allow your teenager to chat freely on the Internet, without monitoring their conversations, it is likely that you are missing a very disturbing trend. Absent any parental limitations, teenagers often end up using harsh, and profane language. In my parent coaching practice, I see more and more examples of teenagers whose parents do not model such language, and the adolescent does not use such language at home. However, on the Internet, they become “one of the crowd” and ultimately end up using very abusive and ugly language.

Internet chat rooms become very personalized.

Another growing trend is for chat and instant messaging (IM) sessions to take on a highly personalized quality. As if no one is watching, teens (and particularly teenage girls) will open up and share the most intimate thoughts and feelings. In doing so however, they then open themselves up for ridicule and attack. These can get very ugly. Many parents are appalled when they discover the true nature of the dialogue that goes on in their homes!

The teenagers who are most vulnerable are the newbies, who are not particularly Internet savvy.

When new to the Internet chat world, adolescents are often not prepared for the harsh language they experience. Many feel traumatized, and deeply hurt, by how quickly conversations deteriorate into personal attacks.

Those who are quite savvy, and who use the Internet frequently for socializing, express fewer incidents of cyber-bullying behavior. This appears to be the result of learning not to take the conversations personally. However, very few parents would view these discussions as healthy.

What can parents do?

1.) Use parental controls on your browser. Then monitor. Monitor. Monitor.

Most parents will affirm that they do monitor their child’s activities. However, your teenager is likely much more savvy than you are. It is not enough to occasionally walk by and look over their shoulder. You need to make sure the parental controls are always activated. You don’t need to know more about computers, but you must know more about monitoring the computer than they do!
2.) Purchase “ghostware” to know what your teenager is doing when you aren’t looking.

It is relatively easy to install software on your computer that will allow you to monitor what your teenager is doing. Unfortunately, you may be able to trust your teenager, but you can’t trust everyone that they are meeting online. It is essential to carefully monitor communications, to ensure that your teenager is following guidelines that you can support. This also gives you a tool for keeping track of their language, and the quality of the exchanges. You can see every keystroke made when they are online, or writing an email.

They won’t like it…but…the Internet is the gateway to the entire world…the good and the bad. In my opinion, it is fair game to warn your teenager that this is not a confidential form of communication, and that you will be watching over their shoulders. They don’t need to know exactly how you are doing this. You just need to keep an eye on things, and have integrity by letting them know you will be watching.

3.) Keep the computer in a central area of the home.

There is a growing trend for teenagers to have a computer in their bedroom. With several teenagers in the home, this makes monitoring computer usage difficult.

It is much easier if you establish a ground rule that requires the computer to be within eyesight. In this way, your presence serves as a significant deterrent to behavior and conversations that you would not approve of.

4.) Establish clear consequences for violating your guidelines.

Establish guidelines about the kind of language that you approve of. Also, make it clear that your teenager is not to have their profile on websites such as Myspace.com or Facebook.com. Furthermore, make it clear what types of websites are off limits for them, such as sights containing adult language and content.

Once you have established these guidelines, then make sure that your teenager understands that there will be a consequence for violating the guidelines. If you make clear that they’ll lose the computer for a week, and then follow through with that consequence, your teenager will learn to honor the guidelines that you put into place.

If you follow these simple principles, I think that you’ll find that you can keep a handle on your teenager, and make sure that they are not a victim of cyber-bullies, or other negative influences online.

Jul
07

Tantrum Downs Airplane

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Two weeks ago, a 5 year old tantruming about apple juice forced an emergency landing of a flight headed for North Carolina out of NYC.   See details here:

» http://www.nbc10.com/news/13575254/detail.html

Okay, this is where I have both compassion, and shock. 

It is likely that this child was so far out of control…that no one felt that they knew what to do.  I have been there…and see kids turning white and parents afraid they will pass out.  You and I have both seen embarrassed parents who just don’t know how to handle their tantruming child! 

The good news is that this was the “Grand Performance” that occurred after many dress rehearsals. 

In other words, this child has tantrumed many, many times before and mom and dad just haven’t handled it well.   The “dress rehearsals” have happened at home, at the grocery store, the park, and maybe even at pre-school. 

 When behavior is extreme, it can be scary…but it doesn’t change the approach.  Some of you have worked through such difficult challenges with your children by using solid approaches that really work.  It would be great to share with other parents the sense of optimism (AND RELIEF) that comes from discovering that things do get better with a change in strategy!

Randy Cale, PhD
 

About Dr Cale

During the past 23 years, in working with hundreds of families, I began to realize that many parents, just like you, were showing up in my office well-educated—but getting poor results. They had been to therapy, they had read the books and even attended other training programs—yet their children were still not listening, not doing homework and not cooperating.

I discovered that many of these parents were parenting with false ideas about how to predictable and reliably shape and change their children’s behavior. As a result, I began to develop ideas about the core behavior change principles…and how to turn each of these into specific parenting solutions. As long as I was able to stay true to these principles, the most challenging problems quickly faded away.

My purpose with this program is to give you access to the strategies that come from these core principles. By practicing and following through with the techniques in this program, you will be able to transform any set of negative behavior patterns in your home. Your kids will be happier and more responsible. They will quickly learn to be respectful, cooperative and helpful around the house. Tantrums, whining, complaining and negativity will be a thing of the past.