Thursday, June 24, 2010

Who's in Charge at Your House?

During the many years of work with students, I have often observed parents being both afraid of disciplining their children and taking charge in their homes. This month I am going to venture away from an educational topic and onto one that can affect your home environment, which will eventually affect your children’s academics.

Are you afraid you are going to make your children angry with you if you discipline them? Are you worried you may cause them emotional harm? Who is in charge in your house? If your answers are yes and your children are in charge at home, please continue reading. Following are some principles to put into practice at home in order to take charge.

1) Practice calm, conscious, confident parenting.

2) Practice the self discipline necessary to remain emotionally balanced in response to your children’s behavior.

3) Change things in small degrees because you can only improve your responses to your children’s behavior a little at a time.

4) Take note of your children’s misbehavior without immediately reacting, unless an immediate real danger exists.

5) Take a good look at your parenting anger and parenting fears because these emotional states indicate there is work you need to do on your own self.

6) Learn how to be firm without being emotional.

7) Communicate your children’s appropriate boundaries by consistently demonstrating respectful, responsible self discipline yourself, clearly communicating exactly the behavior you expect and you disallow, and follow through with consequences when patience and words do not work.

8) Be observant and learn how to talk to your children so they will listen.

9) Do not use harsh, angry criticism towards your children because this does not work. It lowers their expectations of themselves, lowers their self-confidence, and it fuels their fears, rebellion, and defensiveness, all resulting in an even worse behaviors and attitudes.

10) Do not fight with your children. Fighting does not work because when you engage in a frustrating power struggle with them, you will lose your own power and authority.

11) Do not do too much for your children to protect them from life’s challenges. Sometimes children learn more by dealing with events without your help and by you remaining uninvolved.

12) Remember children learn to behave in the ways that get them what they want. If you give them what they desire when they have been bossy and demanding, you have taught them that these traits satisfy their desires and they will disrespect others.

13) Remember that when children’s bad behavior goes without consequences, it causes them to feel confused about what is expected of them and they may even doubt that they are truly cared about and interpret your leniency as apathy.

14) Develop emotional strength by remaining patient and composed when our children express hurt and angry feelings. You cannot teach your children self control when you are losing your own.

The minister of a local church, Dr. Bill Blanchard, presented five important points on parenting in his sermon on Father’s Day. He taught that when parents demonstrate affirmation, acceptance, appreciation, availability, and affection towards their children, it fosters in them a sense of authenticity, security, significance, importance, and lovability; respectively. He also taught that when parents have only rules in their homes and no relationship with their children, this could lead to rebellion.

Take charge in your homes as parents, while at the same time developing a relationship with your children. Set an example they can model of responsible, respectful, and accountable behavior, which will enable them to develop these same positive traits and become more confident and successful as students in the classroom. Your children will then also likely carry these same positive character qualities into their adult lives!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Outdoor Play: A Lost and Forgotten Adventure

When I was a young girl, the majority of free time after school and in the summer was time spent outdoors. Kick ball, dodge ball, crack the whip, tag football, shooting hoops, making mud pies, exploring the creek for tadpoles and frogs, digging to the center of the earth, swimming, tennis, scavenger hunts, swaying on the tire swing, talks in the tree house, and walks to the nearby Woolworth’s to buy a coke and French fries were all activities I participated in with the kids who lived in my neighborhood. I remember leaving the house at 10 am and not coming back home until 9 pm, and the sound of my mother’s voice yelling, “Carol, it’s time to come home!” Wow, those were good days. Then I grew up and became a mother and the obsessive worry about the safety of my daughter caused me to rarely let her play outdoors unless I or another responsible adult was right there with her to supervise. How times have changed, but children innately have not changed!

The pleasures of the outdoors are among the deepest and most memorable events of childhood. Unfortunately, however, because of the increasing demands on parents working outside of the home and the growing concern for children’s safety, more and more children spend time behind locked doors watching television and playing video and computer games. Some other children have a schedule so full of structured activities such as music lessons, dance, drama, karate, and sports activities, that they do not get to enjoy the pleasure of free, imaginative, and unstructured play time outdoors. Compounding the dilemma, many elementary schools have eliminated recess, which for some children is the only time during the week they are able to have carefree play.

It is widely believed that unstructured physical play is a developmentally appropriate outlet for children to reduce stress and restlessness and to increase their attentiveness. In fact, children learn best through free play and discovery as it involves the whole child: gross motor, fine motor, senses, emotion, intellect, and social interaction! Outdoor play also helps prevent obesity in children, which is currently reaching epidemic proportions in the United States! Having unstructured play time outdoors provides children the opportunity to be creative, use their imaginations, and learn to play cooperatively with others.

So, what can we do as parents to make sure our children have outdoor play time? A few suggestions follow:

1) Get with other responsible parents and take turns supervising the children’s outdoor activities so you can know your child is safe and the outdoor time consists of quality activities.

2) Create a backyard play area that consists of soil, sand, water, long grasses, trees, flowers, bushes, animals, pond creatures, places to sit in, on, or under, places that provide shelter and shade, different levels of nooks and crannies, and places that offer privacy and views. Plants appeal to all of the senses, and when combined with a mix of sun, shade, color, texture, fragrance, and softness, they encourage a sense of peacefulness. Natural areas allow for investigation and discovery by children with different learning styles. Some people refer to an environment like this as a discovery play garden.

3) Buy or build toys, games, or other activities which are conducive to outdoor play, such as a kite, Frisbee, football, jump rope, kickball, bug house, bird house, spider web trellis, water games, tree house, in lieu of computer software or the latest video or technical gadget.

4) If your elementary school has eliminated recess, talk to other parents and, as a group, appeal to your school’s decision maker to reinstate it.

Let’s make changes and provide to our children more free time outdoors to play. The benefits to the child will be well worth it, not to mention the memories created and sense of safety and belonging to the world God created that they will experience!