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Archive for Gentle Discipline

Helping Kids Cope with “Failure”

children failure

Every child faces the disappointment of not doing as well as they hoped on a test or not placing in a competition. Some kids bounce back from these “failures” and even seem to learn something from them, while other kids become so down on themselves that they want to give up. How can help our own kids build resilience in the face of life’s little setbacks?

Coping with Failure and Stress by Ray Williams. This article looks at the research on which coping strategies are the most effective for dealing with failure. What’s NOT effective: venting, self-distraction, self-blame, and denial. (I found this interesting as I tend to vent! I’ll remember that next time I experience a failure.) What is MOST effective: reframing our failures, laughing about them, and accepting the failure rather than denying it.  So, we can help our kids reframe their failures by pointing out to them what they did accomplish and what they learned. We can help them not take things too seriously, and, by all means, we can avoid the pitfall of pretending that our child’s failure was somebody else’s fault.

Keeping Failure in Perspective on Aha Parenting. In this list of ways to build your child’s self-esteem, #3 is “empower your child by helping her keep her failures in perspective.” As in the above article, this blogger recommends “reframing”: help your child see that “any given setback is temporary AND she has some control over whether things will work out next time. . . Then, give your child as much support as necessary so that she can be successful — which is very different than doing it for her. Seeing that their actions have a big impact on their success helps kids try harder next time, instead of giving up on themselves.” I agree: rigging our child’s world so that she never experiences failure is so very tempting! But it will backfire in the long run. I think perspective is important because frequently kids lack perspective on what their failure means. Getting a mediocre grade on a test does not mean their lives are over. Getting 4th place in a gymnastics competition doesn’t mean they are a bad gymnast. And let’s not forget: tests and gymnastics are not as important as the quality of our child’s character and the depth of her faith. We can remind her of that.

Failure IS an Option by Aviva Patz. Failure can actually benefit kids! “Learning to deal with setbacks helps them develop key characteristics they’ll need to succeed, such as coping skills, emotional resilience, creative thinking, and the ability to collaborate.” The author recommends that parents 1) be a guide, not a savior (help him problem solve) 2) don’t over-praise your child and 3) encourage your child to try new things – not just things they’re good at.

Helping Kids Overcome a Fear of Failure by Vicky Zakrzewski is an article written for teachers, but it’s also useful information for parents. When it comes to failure, kids fall into four categories.

  • Success-oriented kids “love learning for the sake of learning and see failure as a way to improve their ability rather than a slight on their value as a human being.” This a very healthy response to failure.
  • Over-strivers are closet achievers. They “avoid failure by succeeding—but only with herculean effort motivated solely by the fear that even one failure will confirm their greatest fear: that they’re not perfect.” These kids tend to underplay the effort they’re putting into things. They tell their friends they didn’t study for a test or they never practice their instrument even though they prepare and practice a great deal – more than could be reasonably expected.
  • Failure-avoiders don’t try to succeed at all. They refuse to participate, make excuses or lie about not doing their homework, or they take on clearly impossible tasks that they will never finish. Deep down they fear they are incapable of doing well so they save face by not doing anything.
  • Failure-accepters believe deeply that they are unskilled, dumb, or incompetent. Any failure confirms their belief. Even when they do well, they will tend to attribute their success to somebody else.

Kids in the last two categories will tend to focus on areas they are very good at and avoid anything that is difficult, while success-oriented kids are willing to try things outside their comfort zone.  Parents in the last two categories tend to punish their kids for failure while the parents of success-oriented kids tend to praise success but don’t punish failure.

As Catholic parents, let’s remember, too, the grace of failure. When I look back on my own failures, I can see the hand of God at work. Failures help us look at ourselves honestly and help us accept our human limitations. Even when I’ve followed the will of God, I have sometimes failed. This might make me wonder why God would want me to try something if I was going to be hurt in the process. I’ve learned that God calls us to try, not necessarily succeed. But when we have been motivated by love for God and neighbor, we will always learn something from failure – about ourselves, the world, and our relationships.

Intentional Links: The Anxious Child

the anxious child

An increasing number of children and teens are being diagnosed with anxiety issues. What is the reason for this trend and what can do we do to protect our kids from it?

How Big a Problem Is Anxiety by Robert Leahy over at Psychology Today.  “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s. We are getting more anxious every decade.” Note the possible reasons he offers for this increase in anxiety: a decrease in “social connectedness — we tend to move more, change jobs, participate less in civic organizations, and we are less likely to participate in religious communities. People are far less likely to get married, more likely to delay getting married, and more likely to live alone. All of these factors can contribute to worry, uncertainty, anxiety and depression.”

Normal Anxiety on WorryWiseKids.org.  This website is a great source of information and tips. This article link explains clearly what normal anxiety looks like at each developmental stage of childhood. It points out that anxiety is actually a necessary part of growing up. Kids just need our support in confronting the source of the anxiety and learning to make sense of it. The article then distinguishes symptoms of problem anxiety: if your child is constantly “keyed up,” experiences physical suffering because of her anxiety (headaches, upset stomach, insomnia), or avoids stressful situations, then she may be experiencing a toxic level of anxiety.

Are We Modeling Anxiety?  “Children learn how to act and react significantly based on the “models” in their world (parents, teachers, peers, siblings, etc). Research has shown that some parents of anxious children, especially if they are anxious themselves, have an anxious interpretation of the world, or view it as frightening. When parents hold this view of the world as threatening, they likely will suggest that their children avoid situations rather than approach them. . . Many parents want to protect their child from anxiety, but then kids don’t have opportunities to learn new skills or practice them.”

Understanding Anxious AttachmentOne of the greatest sources of protection against chronic anxiety that we can give to our child is a secure attachment to us. The scientific literature shows a clear correlation between a weak parent-child attachment and increased anxiety. In particular, children who develop an anxious attachment style to their primary caregiver will tend to experience heightened social anxiety (fear of negative evaluation,  people pleasing, distress in new social situations). 

Intentional Links: How Do Kids Develop Self-Esteem?

self-esteem

What is self-esteem?  This article is a good introduction to the concept of self-esteem. Self-esteem is “a person’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value.” I like the definition in this article for high self-esteem: It’s a positive but realistic view of the self. Ideally when our child reaches adulthood, he will be aware of his limitations but also feel good about himself.

Too much self-esteem . . . ? Narcissism is real psychological disorder. I love how Dr. Laura Markham explains it clearly here, but cautions parents against an adolescent diagnosis of true narcissism. Basically all teens are a little narcissistic!

What contributes to low self-esteem: A good overview of common contribution factors to low self-esteem. In a nutshell: overly critical caregivers, uninvolved/preoccupied caregivers, parents fighting, bullying when parents aren’t helpful, parents not helping with academic challenges, when parents don’t help, belief systems that make you feel guilty or like you’re sinning all the time, unrealistic images in the media.

12 Ways to Raise a Confident Child by Dr. Sears. A GREAT list of reminders! I also love Dr. Sears’ book The Successful Child.  The book redefines success.

Image credit: tcj2020 (freedigitalphotos.com)

WEDNESDAY LINKS: Dealing with Disobedience

obedience

[Note from Kim: I apologize to my subscribers who are only today getting this post which was published on Wednesday, Aug. 19! I transitioned to a new RSS delivery service this week and we’ve been ironing out some wrinkles.  New posts should arrive in your email in-box with no problems in the future.]

The topic of obedience has come up recently in so many conversations I’ve had with friends that I decided to a Wednesday Links about it!  Most gentle parenting advocates focus on the quality of the connection between parent and child when addressing issues of obedience.  Yes, it’s very frustrating and not okay when your child is defiant.  Just remember: when your child says NO to you now when he’s little, he may have the power to say NO when he is a teen when somebody pressures him to do something immoral or illegal. Here are a few links to get you thinking about solutions:

Obedience as an Act of Love by Laurel at MuffinBlog.  LOVE THIS. It’s by a gentle Catholic mom who appreciates Dr. Greg and the Theology of the Body.  “The goal isn’t to instill obedience out of fear – of what might happen if they don’t obey, but rather instill obedience out of love – and what might happen if they DO. . . As parents (and in any other capacity where we expect obedience from others), we must first give example through loving service. We must give of ourselves in order to inspire others to do so in return. ”  YES!!

Obedience isn’t the goal; cooperation is from the Aha Parenting blog.  “Most parents feel embarrassed when their child doesn’t obey them. When we say jump, they’re supposed to jump, right? If they don’t, isn’t that evidence that we’re lousy parents? Actually, no. It would certainly be more convenient if our children would respond to our raised eyebrow by jumping to it. But it may even be dangerous to raise a child who obeys without question, who swallows his objections and does what he’s told.  Here’s why. Obedient children grow into obedient adults. They’re less likely to stand up for themselves, more likely to be taken advantage of. They’re also capable of simply following orders without question, without taking responsibility for their actions.” (Emphasis added.)

Are You Damaging Your Child by Demanding Obedience? by Ariadne Brill  “In our current culture, parents are praised when their children are obedient – it’s a mark of good parenting. The quieter and the more obedient the child, the better.  In truth, parents are doing a disservice to their children and to society when they demand that their children do exactly as they are told, no questions asked.  In other words, expecting children to dutifully comply with their parents commands, right away, is not such a great idea in the long run.”  The blogger gives 6 reasons demanding obedience is damaging.

But then she offers practical advice in another article: If Not Obedience, Then What? Ariadne suggests 5 ways we can use cooperation and mutual respect to ensure our children follow through on their responsibilities and other expectations.

Wednesday Links: Strength-Based Parenting

Here’s a good one.  Intentional Catholic parents may be interested in this recent study (published in Psychology) about the benefits of “strength-based parenting”:

“Children are more likely to use their strengths to effectively cope with minor stress in their life if they have parents who adopt a strength-based approach to parenting.  Strength-based parenting is an approach where parents deliberately identify and cultivate positive states, processes and qualities in their children. . . This style of parenting adds a ‘positive filter’ to the way a child reacts to stress. It also limits the likelihood of children using avoidance or aggressive coping responses.” 

What is meant by a positive filter? I believe it’s a parent’s loving verbal intervention when a child is in the early stages of distress or confronted with a demand on their time, abilities, or emotions — a demand that stretches them in some way.  If the child is upset or worried, we can coach our child in responding in a healthy way to their concern, in a manner that draws on their strengths.

This approach contrasts with a parent’s inclination to “fix” their child as if he’s broken or defective, and sending that message to our child even if we don’t intend to do so.

If you’re interested in identifying your child’s strengths more clearly, perhaps you’d enjoy this book by Jenifer Fox: Your Child’s Strengths.  I don’t usually recommend books that I have not read myself, but this seems to be a useful and engaging book about how to think about our children’s strengths.

TENDER TIDINGS Summer 2015 Now Available!

The summer issue of our free parenting magazine is now available!

Click on flipbook to explore:

In this issue:

  • Natural Family Planning:  In Real Life
  • Navigating family road trips
  • Gentle discipline: the real root of misbehavior
  • Create a sacramental memory book
  • picnic recipes
  • AND MORE!

WEDNESDAY LINKS

LOVE

Breastfeeding reduces risk of childhood leukemia.  A study from the JAMA Pediatrics concluded that breastfeeding for 6 months or longer reduces a child’s risk of leukemia by nearly 20 percent.  “The authors suggest several biological mechanisms of breast milk may explain their results, including that breast milk contains many immunologically active components and anti-inflammatory defense mechanisms that influence the development of an infant’s immune system.”

Raising Competent Children with Grit by Laura Markham.  12 tips for giving kids confidence and perseverance in the face of obstacles.

GENTLE DISCIPLINE

Free on-line parenting class.  The Center for Parenting Education is offering a free class on “The Right Attitude for Discipline that Works”.  June 16 8:30-9:30 p.m. EST.  “Yes!  It is possible to maintain a strong relationship with your children and build their self-esteem even as you discipline them.  Learn specific techniques and attitudes that will allow you to remain calm, clear and confident.”

WEDNESDAY LINKS: Kids & Chores!

In this edition of Wednesday links, here are some links that offer tips on getting kids to do their chores and that explain why doing chores is very good for our kids.

MY TOP PICK:  Here is a very clear 3-Part Series on chores from The Center for Parenting Education

Kids Who Do Chores Flourish by Temma Ehrenfeld.   “Studies indicate that kids who do chores also do better socially and in school through their teen years—and become happier adults.” Some interesting and important points & tips, including calling your child a helper rather than asking her to help.

How to Get Kids on Board with Chores from Parenting without Punishment.  “Children who refuse to do their chores or who drag their feet or do their chores incompletely are sending us a message in the only way they know how. Our job as parents is to decipher that message and help our children feel empowered, encouraged and motivated to contribute to the care of the family and family home. There are a number of ways to change the way we elicit our children’s help around the house.”

Chores and Children: Getting Kids to Help with Housework by Eileen Kennedy-Moore.  Clearly outlines how doing chores benefits our kids.  Several good tips on getting kids to help with chores in a positive way.  She makes the important point that scaring or threatening kids into helping is counter-productive:  “It’s easy to slide into thinking that when our children don’t pick up, it means they don’t love us or they don’t respect us.  We may feel angry, resentful, or dejected.  We may wonder how we ended up in the role of household drudge to our royal children! . . . Harsh scolding from a frustrated parent certainly won’t get children to embrace their role as valuable contributors to a smoothly running household. No healthy child is going to accept the message, ‘I’m suffering, so you should, too!’ “

Wednesday Links

Love

7 Research-Based Ways to Increase Your Joy by Dr. Greg Popcak.   “People have a lot of ideas about what it takes to be happy, but these research-based ideas reveal the truth about how we were made to live.  As our Christian tradition teaches, happiness doesn’t come merely from the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of conflict.  It comes from pursuing a meaningful, intimate, and virtuous life that identified by a generous spirit, and open mind, and a grateful heart.”  Dr. Greg is so right!

I think in our culture people think happiness = doing whatever you want.  I have not found this to be true.  I have experienced the deepest most abiding joy in my life in my mothering, which comes with many duties, sleepless nights, doubts, and fears.  Joy, to me, comes from knowing I’m right where I need to be this particular day.  Even during struggles, illness, and other stresses that life will bring our way, if I am firm in my resolve to follow Christ and to ascent to his call on my life in whatever circumstance I am in, I will have an inexplicable joy and peace.

Gentle Discipline

Do Your Kids Have Selective Hearing?  From Parenting Beyond Punishment: “Do you ever feel like your questions and requests are ignored? You ask your kids if they have homework or to put their shoes away and you get no response. But you’re certain they can hear you because as soon as you even whisper ‘ice cream’ everyone looks up and says, ‘yes’!  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!”

Pope Francis:  “Where there is no mercy, there is no justice.”  In his Monday homily, the Pope noted the hypocrisy of those (even within the Church) “who judge and condemn others . . .  With such rigidity one cannot breathe”.  The Pope remarked that when we are sorry for our sins, there are those who want to condemn us rather than allow us to have hope.  Never punish penitent sinners for the very sins you conceal within yourselves, he says.  This applies to the parent-child relationship just as it applies to every human relationship.  When our children make a mistake because they lack patience, kindness, or maturity, let’s remember that we too at times lack these same virtues.

I would add to the Pope’s comment that where there is not justice, there is no mercy.  Justice without mercy leads to tyranny, but mercy without justice leads to chaos.  For children, this chaos is emotional and developmental.  Mercy doesn’t require that we overlook our child’s errors, but that we understand situations from our child’s perspective, that we guide them in finding ways to handle similar situations better in the future.

Radiant Faith

An Angel and a Maiden by Sarah Reinhard.  On the Feast of the Annunciation, a mother recognizes that she often says yes too quickly without discerning whether it’s God’s voice she hears calling or her own voice.  I can relate!  “It is no accident that I tend to approach saying Yes in one of two over-the-top ways: I say Yes without thinking and discerning, thus putting myself in a position to back out later or I don’t say Yes because I’m quite sure I can’t do it.”

A Strong Marriage

Premarital Sex Decreases Marital Satisfaction.  Dr. Greg comments on a recent study that found that “couples who partook in hooking up, premarital cohabitation, or even engaging in multiple sexual encounters with different people over the course of their lives would have a less likely chance of remaining in a happy marriage – if they even got married at all.”

Wednesday Links

Some new links and resources for your intentional Catholic parenting journey!

BREASTFEEDING

Extended breastfeeding linked to higher adult i.q. and earning ability.  A 30 year study following 3500 newborns found that “longer duration of breastfeeding is linked with increased intelligence in adulthood, longer schooling, and higher adult earnings, a study following a group of almost 3,500 newborns for 30 years.”

SLEEP ISSUES:

Bedtime problems in children: solutions for science-minded parents.  Gwen Dewar, PhD, updated this page with new resources for parents looking for answers to their child’s sleep issues.  Tons of tips.  Understand your child’s sleep problems, separation anxiety and nighttime fears, the wrong or irregular bedtimes, allergies, poor-timed naps, plus more.

Darcy Narvaez at Psychology Today offers parents this informative series on toddler sleep:

Why Your Toddler Isn’t Sleeping

The Signs of Tiredness in Your Toddler

Helping Your Toddler Prepare for Sleep

DISCIPLINE

Parental warmth does not remove anxiety following corporal punishment.   From Duke University, research reveals that “a loving mom can’t overcome the anxiety and aggression caused by corporal punishment, and her otherwise warm demeanor may make it worse . . . It’s far more effective and less risky to use nonphysical discipline . . . Discipline means ‘to teach,’ not ‘punishment.’ “