Reflective Parenting Helps When Your Best Intentions Backfire

Here is a common scenario that occurs in many families. Parents to try to have a discussion with their child about a topic that they assume will be helpful for the child. But the child balks at engaging in the discussion. The parents, feeling armed with good intentions try even harder to have the discussion, because as they say, “We are only trying to be helpful”. The parents end up being frustrated when the child continues to refuse to talk or listen. The topic differs in each family, but the underlying issue remains the same.

Here is an example of how this situation played out in one family. Let’s reflect on why the child refuses to engage and what the parents might do about.

The parents of a middle school girl with a Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD) ask me for help. They want to teach their daughter about her condition but don’t know how. People with NLD are impaired in their ability to read and interpret non-verbal communication, such as facial expression and body language. This makes it very difficult for them in social situations. They don’t’ ‘get it’ when people are joking or being sarcastic. They can’t sense if a person is signaling discomfort or a friendliness. In this girl’s case, it made it especially hard with peers. She did well in school and had hobbies but had no friends. Read More

Social Emotional Learning is the natural way for children to succeed

Social skills are what children need to succeed. That’s because social skills contain all the necessary elements that children require in order to regulate their behavior, have emotional well-being, achieve in school, and use later on to do well in the workplace. In a sense, social skills can be thought of as an ‘all-purpose’ learning tool. This idea is catching on in schools, in the form of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs.

People often confuse having good social skills as meaning a person is gregarious or has lots of friends. This is not the case at all.  It simply means having the ability to see the perspective of other people and to be able to conform one’s own behavior in order to get along with other people. In fact, you can be shy or introverted and have good social skills. On the other hand, you can be gregarious and have relatively poor socials skills.

SEL teaches the kind of ‘character building’ and stick-to-it-iveness’, parents and teachers wish more children had. Growing numbers of colleges and employers complain too many high schoolers are lacking in these skills, and thus will be less likely to perform as well in adult life.

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Chores are so good for children, it’s worth all the effort parents have to make to get their child to do them.

I realize the issue of chores for children is controversial. Some parents are in favor and some parents believe kids have more important things to do, such as homework and extracurricular activities. I come down on side of childhood chores because a growing body of research indicates just how beneficial they are for children. In fact, these benefits are exactly what Reflective Parenting aims to help parents provide for their child.

  • Having chores as a child leads to children who have greater success and better life skills in the long run
  • Children develop a healthy balance between achievement and caring about others
  • By being a part of the task of taking care of the household a child becomes aware of the needs of others
  • When children see themselves as necessary to the family, it fills that deep desire we all have to feel needed
  • Children who help with family chores have a greater sense of obligation and connectedness to their parents
  • This connection to parents enables them to deal better with life’s stressful moments

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Children need more time to play. That means parents need to schedule them less.

Play is a natural way that children learn critical thinking, resilience, and social skills. Play also enhances creativity, problem solving and cooperation. The play can be with other children or with you the parent. But it must be ‘free’ play, meaning it is play where children have the chance to make things up as they go, and adults are not telling them what to do. There are so many different kinds of play: including rough and tumble physical play, outdoor running around play, playing with toys, such as blocks or pretend play. Any type will provide benefits, as long as the children are free to choose on their own what they want to do.According to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “play is not frivolous.” Play teaches children the kinds of life skills we want them to have as adults: collaboration, negotiation, conflict resolution, self-advocacy, decision-making, and leadership. Play even reduces stress and can help protect kids from growing up with toxic levels of stress due to poverty and other sources of childhood adversity. Read More

Teen Brain Growth Surges Can Help Explain Adolescent Behavior

Wondering why your teen is so emotional and risk-taking?
Your teenager is neither crazy nor stupid. No matter how emotional they are; No matter how much they seem to be making poor choices, there is a very good reason why teens are the way they are. It is not their fault or yours. It’s biology. Adolescence brings about a surge in brain growth. But the dilemma is that different brain areas grow at different rates. The novelty and fear region (Amygdala) and the reward region (Nucleus Accumbens), in the adolescent brain, mature earlier than the region involved in calming and self-control (Prefrontal cortex). Eventually, the Prefrontal Cortex does come on board, but it is a slowly occurring process that continues on into your child’s 20’s.

Teens can get really anxious as a result of their overactive amygdala
It is perfectly normal when in a new situation to have a bit of a fear response. That’s because the Amygdala gives a spurt of adrenaline when we are in unfamiliar circumstances; such as meeting a group of new people or going to a new place. Read More

Family Meals Promote Healthy Child Development

Parents and kids are super busy these days, making it particularly hard to have the time to eat meals together. However, evidence now shows that it is really worth putting in the effort to have more family meals. According to researchers at the University of Montreal, children who routinely eat their meals together with their family are more likely to experience long-term benefits, physically, emotionally and socially. The family meal serves as a relationship-based learning environment for children. This research supports Reflective Parenting’s emphasis on the importance of the parent-child relationship.

I am very enthusiastic about family meals. However, I want to reassure you. Family meals are good. But family meals are not a should.  Reflective Parenting always emphasizes that there is never just one right way.  So, if family meals are simply not possible for you and your children, don’t panic. Read More

Teens, Cellphones and ADHD

Is your teen glued to their cellphone? A recent piece by NPR journalist Rhitu Chatterjee should boost your confidence to set limits on cell phone use. She discussed a new research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showing an association between the development of ADHD symptoms and high cell phone use in teens.

What’s a parent to do?
KEEP THE RELATIONSHIP STRONG:
In my previous blog post, I talked about the association between too much cell phone use and symptoms of depression and anxiety in teens (July 22, 2018) and the fact that simply reducing cell phone use, does not fully protect kids from developing problems. That’s because it is life’s current dangers that are troubling teens more than anything else. Fortunately, your relationship can be a buffer against their fears and worries.  Read More

Cellphones: Cause or Symptom of Teen Anxiety? What You Can Do About It.

We know there is a rise in teen anxiety and suicide. Many blame an addiction to cell phone use as the cause. They cite that too much exposure to social media can cause a teen to feel envious, and inadequate; to feel rejected and left out, and even to suffer from cyber-bullying. While apps are now available that can help reduce cell phone use, this will not fully solve teen’s vulnerability to anxiety. That is because the reason teens are so anxious these days is that their lives are filled with fear and uncertainty. The excellent article by Tracy A. Dennis-Tiwary is a good resource for any parent of a teenager. Another good resource is The film Eight Grade written and directed by Bo Burnham. It illustrates what being a reflective parent of a teenager can look like. In the film, the father gives his daughter just the kind of relationship backup that every child needs. Read More

It is Normal and Healthy for Siblings to Fight

Finally, someone is emphasizing that it is normal and healthy for siblings to fight! This article should be a relief for all those parents who think something is wrong whenever their kids don’t get along. It turns out that sibling fighting gives your child a leg up on dealing with the realities of life. For one thing, it teaches your child that they are not the center of the universe and that not everyone will always love everything about them. While your role as a parent is to treat your child in the most loving caring way possible, to keep your hostile feelings well contained, and to build a sense of safety and trust for your child- a sibling’s role is different. Siblings are the perfect people to teach each other ‘the ropes’, so to speak when it comes to having successful social relationships outside the family. Let’s face it not everyone is going to treat your child as kindly as you do. Read More

Children Can Delay Gratification More Than We Think

The ability to delay gratification in childhood is associated with better developmental outcomes. Today’s parents tend to think they were better at delaying gratification as children than their own kids are. According to this article, research indicates just the opposite. Today’s young children are better at it than were their parents and their grandparents. This should help with two things.
One, it should help parents feel more positive toward their kids. Being positive towards a child is associated with better developmental outcomes. Two, it suggests that preschool has long-term benefits. Preschools emphasize such things as sharing, not interrupting, and waiting your turn. Improvements in delaying gratification may be the result of more kids going to preschool these days than did their parents and grandparents.
Caveat: As the article points out, the research was done only with white children from more affluent and educated families. We have to also do these studies on a more diverse population.
Written by Regina Pally, Co-Director, CRC