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Archive for Love

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.

Tips for Parenting with Unconditional Love (Intentional Links)

toddler

Loving our children unconditionally is a lot easier when our day is going smoothly, our child is happy, and our head is set firmly on our shoulders. But what about bad days? How do we love our child unconditionally then?

5 Secrets to Love Your Child Unconditionally from Dr. Laura Markham. “Unconditional love isn’t just what we feel. It’s what the object of our love feels: love without strings attached. That means our child doesn’t have to be, or do, anything in particular to earn our love. We love her exactly as she is. A tall order, since most of us have a little list of things we want ‘fixed’ in our child.” She makes several great points, including: 1) often our child’s weaknesses are just the underside of his strengths, 2) a child’s misbehavior is an SOS; we are more likely to feel compassion for her when we try to see things from her perspective, and 3) you can accept a child’s anger without endorsing the way he handles his anger.

Unconditional Love Is a Muscle from Aha Parenting. 6 practical tips for treating others with compassion even when it’s very hard, including putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. I would prayer as the 7th and most important tip!

Unconditional Parental Love from The Catholic Spirit. This article is concerned about the problem of parents rejecting imperfect children by aborting them, but the points he makes are very powerful and relevant for every parent. Because every child is imperfect, and those imperfections force us to confront our own assumptions about what we “deserve”. “For many [parents], it has become merely quaint to think of each child as a unique gift of God; children are more like planned acquisitions in our culture, acquisitions which should fit into our expectations about how our lives should go, about the ease and enjoyments that should characterize our lifestyle.”

Intentional Links: I Remember When . . . Sharing Your Family History with Your Kids

fireplaceDo your kids love to hear you talk about your childhood? Do they ask you to repeat the tale of the moment you met your spouse? Here are a few links that explain why!

What Kids Learn from Family Stories:  Great points about why kids benefit from well-told detailed family stories: children actually learn to tell their own story, they understand other people’s thoughts and emotions better, and teenagers who know a lot about their family history have a “more robust identity.” Links to research.

What Kids Should Know about Their Family History: Consider this list of things every kid should know about their family history. Do your kids know where you and your spouse met? Where you were married? Any illnesses or injuries when you were little?

Moms and Personal Story Telling:  Compared to dad, this study finds that mom tells better, more emotional stories about her life and this helps kids develop their own emotional skills.

Traditions: A Pleasant Tie that Binds: This is an essay over on CAPC written by a mom who is very serious about recording family history for future generations. She focuses here on explaining to kids why we have the traditions we have in our families! With Thanksgiving next week, this might be a great time to share with your children where some family recipes came from or why we do certain things every year.

Intentional Links: infant crying and fussing: what parents need to know

crying babyI’m renaming my recurring links posts “intentional links” rather than “Wednesday links” so I can bless you with great links on any ol’ day. 🙂

In this edition: infant crying and fussing. Here I’m selecting links that help us understand unexplained crying (rather than cry-it-out sleep methods).

The Frenzied Cry: How to Calm Your Baby. A couple of interesting suggestions for reducing colicky crying when the usual stuff doesn’t work: eliminating foremilk in breastfeeding and adding pro-biotics to baby’s diet even when breastfed.

Infant Crying, Fussing, and Colic: A Thinking Parents Guide from Gwen Dewar has a great deal of insight about why babies cry and what you can do to calm them. She says babies are soothed by feeding (Shaw et al 2007), skin-to-skin contact (Gray et al 2000), and gentle touches that are combined with other forms of communication, like talk or eye contact (White-Traut et al 2009). Fascinating: in a study of 3 groups that included London parents, Copenhagen parents, and a group that practiced “proximal care” — holding baby 80 percent of the time, responding quickly to baby’s cries, and feeding frequently, “the London parents had the least amount of physical contact with their babies—50% less compared with the parents practicing proximal care. These parents also had the babies who cried the most.”

Simple Ways to Calm a Crying Baby by Darcia Narvaez.  This piece focuses on babies who fuss and cry a lot at night. Dr. Narvaez’s key points: 1) A parent’s presence helps to calm babies who awaken in an upset state, 2)  Calming infants helps infants learn to calm themselves.  She offers a list of methods for calming baby back to sleep including recreating the womb, relying on familiar sounds, and skin-to-skin contact.

Why Infant Carrying Soothes a Baby When Nothing Else Will from Dr. Greg.  Do you have a baby who fusses unless you are carrying him?  “It turns out that carrying an infant triggers a three-way mechanism in the brain that suppresses involuntary muscle movements & struggling while also dramatically reducing the infant’s heart rate.  These changes happen almost immediately.  In fact, this process is such an automatic response to being carried that it could almost be considered a previously undiscovered reflex.”

Image credit: Phaen Din (freedigitalphotos.com)

Wednesday Links: Girls and Body Image

Today I have some great links for your about girls and the development of poor body image.

Tips to Encourage a Positive Body Image in Girls.  Body image shifts dramatically in early elementary school.  The author suggests that what moms say about their own bodies influences their daughters’ attitudes.

The Media and Body Image from WebMD. We all know the media perpetuates the “thin is beautiful” message. This article says we don’t have ban media, but suggests practical ways we can help our daughters look critically at media messages. The article, like the previous one, points out the impact on a daughter of her mother’s attitude toward her own body. This article also warns fathers about how they talk about women in front of girls.

Improving Your Body Image Through Catholic Teaching by Dr. John Acquiva.  A theology of the body approach to improving our perception of our bodies. This book might give parents some tools for talking to a daughter about poor body image.

Exercise Improves Body Image for Fit and Unfit Alike.  Research suggesting that regular exercise, and not the actual level of fitness, improves body image. This article is focused on adults, but it gives us yet another reason to put together a family-centered fitness routine.  AHA! That’s the topic of the Fall 2015 issue of Tender Tidings!

Image Credit: Eugene Seergev (dreamstime.com)

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.

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

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

A few links to articles that can help us love more intentionally with our children!

Love

10 Signs of Love by Darcia Narvaez.  An exquisite but brief exploration into the nature of real love.  “Love is … not a choice, or a dream, or a romantic novel. It’s a fact: an empirical fact about our biological existence. We are born into relationships with people and with places. We are born with the ability to create new relationships and tend to them. And we are born with a powerful longing for these relations. That complex connectedness nourishes and shapes us and gives us joy and purpose.”

Balance

Does Pregnancy Make You More Stupider?  Yup, it seems we lose some cognitive ability when pregnant and that our brains might actually . . . shrink!  Aaagh!  In this article, Gwen Dewar tries to explain why that may be the case and she offers some suggestions for boosting brain power during pregnancy.  Take care of yourselves, mommies!

Radiant Faith

Should Catholics Celebrate Halloween?  Here’s a great, balanced article on Halloween. “Every year, a debate rages among Catholics and other Christians: Is Halloween a satanic holiday or merely a secular one? Should Catholic children dress up like ghosts and goblins? Is it good for children to be scared? Lost in the debate is the history of Halloween, which, far from being a pagan religious event, is actually a Christian celebration that’s almost 1,300 years old.”

All Hallows Eve by Mary Reed Newland.  This is an excerpt from Newland’s classic family faith book The Year and Our Children.  “One of the nicest surprises of living around the year with the Church is to find that Halloween is part of it.  Not that the Mass of the day has mention of black cats, or the Divine Office of witches, but for so long Halloween meant nothing but parties and vandalism that when someone first proposed that it came out of the liturgy, I asked: ‘Are you sure?'”

All Saints Day Scavenger Hunt:  Jessica over at Shower of Roses has a fun All Saints scavenger hunt!

Wednesday Links

It’s been too long since I offered Wednesday Links!  Here are some great links for encouraging us to live with generous love in our families:

Love:

Raising a Baby Well Is Like Climbing Mount Everest:  Just like mountain climbing, wise parenting takes preparation, focus, and practice.

Tiger Moms and Her Critics Are Both Right:  Fascinating.  This article looks at research which suggests that whether or not “tiger mothering” (pushing, pressuring, even nagging a child in order to get her to succeed) is beneficial is dependent upon the child’s culture.  Children raised in an Asian culture where community-identity is valued do okay while Western kids where individuality is valued do poorly.  Note:  in neither Asian nor Western cultures did children do well in critical, authoritarian households.

Empathy:

Play Ball:  A young mother questions her own inclination to sign up her son for sports.  “While most of us engage in activities with an end goal in mind (a competition, a recital, a game), my son and my niece wanted to engage in something for the sheer love of doing it.  After that realization, I began to look at this rush to put our kids in organized activities in a whole new light. I wondered if, perhaps, we as parents might do our children a disservice by taking them out of the yard and putting them on the field too soon. Or by placing them in organized activities where they interact with peers and other adults instead of nurturing their love for an activity with us, their parents, the people they really want to share their love with the most.”

Gentle Discipline:

Raising a Moral Child:  If you want to raise a kind, helpful, compassionate child, this NY Times article argues that a parent should 1) avoid making the child feel like a bad person through shaming and 2) focus on the child’s good character rather than her actions.

Kids with Strong Bond to Parents Make Better Friends:  When kids enjoy a warm, loving relationship with their parents, they are more responsive and caring in their childhood friendships.

Play:

Outdoor Play More Important than Indoor Play for a Child’s Development:  In this article, Darcia Narvaez looks at research which suggests that outdoor play is imperative to a child’s mental and physical well-being — even more critical than indoor play.  I would be cautious about the suggestion that indoor play is “detrimental” for children.  Indoor play is very different from outdoor play.  The article cites the dangers of video games on a child’s development, but there are so many more ways our kids play inside.  Indoors a child can build wooden block castles, make forts with his siblings, and play board games with his parents.  This are wonderful play experiences. It’s the balance of these experiences that matter:  kids need both outdoor play and indoor play; they need both self-directed free play, and family play which might be more organized.

Why Play with Your Child?:  A superb overview of the benefits of parent-child shared play.

Radiant Faith

How to Be a Prayer Warrior While Fighting the Battle of Parenthood:  Great practical tips from Charisse Tierney for getting into a habit of daily prayer no  matter how busy you are with parenting little ones.

A Strong Marriage

The Spirituality of Sex:  A great article from Dr. Greg Popcak about the true Catholic view of sexuality.