But I Don’t FEEL Special

May 30, 2012

Have you heard this from your child and wondered what else you could do to help him FEEL special?

Children certainly need to hear that they are special, but they must also have tangible reminders. Here are some tips that might be effective in helping your child FEEL special. Not all will apply, but perhaps you can try a few of them:

1.     Your child will learn more by watching how you live than by listening to what you say – but never underestimate the power of your words. Be mindful of the negative comments you make about yourself. When you say disrespectful things about yourself, your child assumes that she should feel that way about herself.

2.     Words matter. Tell your child every day that his feelings are very important to you. Though sometimes your words seem to fall deaf ears, don’t ever stop saying them.

3.     Create a wall of honor in your home. Every child is good at something and should have a place where evidence of her achievements is displayed—trophies, certificates, medals, pictures of recitals, etc.  Start your child’s wall early and involve her in creating the space and in adding new items. Periodically revisit the wall with her to celebrate her successes.

4.     Spend time alone with each of your children. Having your undivided attention is critical to building your child’s feelings of self-worth. Routinely plan activities like playing in the backyard or doing an art project together, as well as simple experiences such as a trip to the park or the ice cream shop. These moments are a worthwhile investment that will reap huge rewards for both of you.

5.     Make sure your child’s friends build her self-esteem. Provide social opportunities for her and her peers in your home where you can monitor them, as well as provide guidance and support as needed. If her friends do not build her self-esteem, help her find new ones.

6.     Give your child responsibilities and ask for her help. She feels special when she helps you, so find tasks that fit her personality and then praise her appropriately and often. Ask for her help in areas where she shows a natural interest so that something she truly enjoys becomes her job in the family. If she loves being outdoors, buy her a special broom and ask her to help you keep the patio clean. If she loves organizing, ask her to help you put away the silverware when unloading the dishwasher. Avoid tasks that might be uncomfortable for her. For example, if she is afraid of loud noises, don’t start with asking her to vacuum.

7.     Watch for what works for your child. Ask him what makes him feel special and listen carefully. We sometimes tend to do what WE like instead of observing and listening to what he really desires from us.

8.     Keep in tune with each of your children’s needs. This does not mean that you favor one child over another. It simply confirms that you are in tune with what each child needs from you. Children don’t always know how to ask for what they need—just because your child doesn’t ask for a hug doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be hugged. It is your job to read all his signals, not just listen to his words.

I recommend this fantastic website for more information on this subject:
http://www.self-esteem-health.com/building-child-self-esteem.html

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

 


Perspective

May 23, 2012

a child's perspectiveLast weekend, I had the privilege of riding in a van with members of my family who are not typically together in one vehicle. My mom was in the front seat, my daughter was in the middle row, and I was in a third row seat with my six-year-old granddaughter, Ava. As Ava and I discussed the role of a mother—how my mother took care of me, then I took care of her mother, and now her mother takes care of her—I decided to seize the teachable moment and explain that one day the roles would reverse again.

I told Ava that I will take great care of my mother when she gets older. When I get older, she and her mother will take care of me. With a stunned look on her face, she replied, “But Dee Dee, I thought you were already old.” She is very clever and quickly recovered with, “You don’t LOOK old, but I thought you were old.” Of course, we all had a good laugh. This is what I love about children—they call it just as they see it.

Her comment made me realize that we see the world through our own lens. Perhaps things are not exactly as they appear to us but are just a little skewed due to our perception. To a six-year-old child, I am old. To most people, I still have some of my best days ahead. It’s all about perspective.

When you encounter a difficulty with your child, ask yourself: “Should I question my perspective? Should I step back and look at this situation from another point of view?” So often we look at a problem or our child’s challenging behavior through one lens, and we truly miss a very important point.

I highly recommend a great read by Andy Andrews entitled The Noticer: Sometimes, All a Person Needs Is a Little Perspective. Andrews says, “Most people think it takes a long time to change. It doesn’t. Change is immediate! Instantaneous! It may take a long time to decide to change … but change happens in a heartbeat!” If you see something inside yourself that needs to change, you can do it!

Parenting is both challenging and rewarding. Keep pushing yourself to grow. Keep an open mind to the fact that changing your perspective on a matter probably won’t alter the facts, but it might help you see things in a way that will empower you to succeed.

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.


Healthy Fear vs. Unhealthy Fear

May 16, 2012

I was reading The Noticer by Andy Andrews this past week, and the author wrote that worry and fear are just a misuse of the creative imagination that has been placed in each of us. He said that because we are smart and creative, we imagine all the things that could happen. I must admit that I find myself worrying entirely too much about everything but especially about my children and grandchildren.

I researched what parents worry about and found it very interesting that almost all the research agrees, which is rare. We spend way too much time worrying about things that will most likely never happen to our children, and we don’t focus nearly enough on what could make a difference for our little ones. We, as parents, are simply worrying about the wrong things.

“These worries that we have are so rare,” says Christie Barnes, author of The Paranoid Parents Guide and mother of four. Based on surveys that Barnes collected, here are the top five dangers that parents worry about:

1.     Kidnapping

2.     School snipers

3.     Terrorists

4.     Dangerous strangers

5.     Drugs

The top five things that parents SHOULD worry about are:

1.     Automobile accidents

2.     Homicide (typically committed by someone who knows the child, not a stranger)

3.     Abuse

4.     Suicide

5.     Drowning

So, what’s a worried parent to do? Barnes has a simple prescription: helmets and seatbelts. Yes, that’s right: helmets and seatbelts. She says, “I know it sounds boring; but according to my research, making kids wear protective gear and buckle up in the car cuts their chances of death by 90 percent and their chances of serious injury by 78 percent.”

So, use your fear in a healthy way. Enroll your child in swimming lessons. Be diligent when children are swimming and don’t take your eyes off the water for a second. Don’t allow a child to ride even one mile without proper restraints. Know who knows your child. Follow your gut instinct and don’t hesitate to end a relationship that doesn’t seem beneficial to your child. Take your child’s word if she discloses something. Spend enough time with your child to know if he is in distress.

Barnes maintains that focusing on rare dangers distracts us from focusing on the dangers that matter. Healthy fear protects … and that is the intent of a loving parent.

 

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.


“Happy Mother’s Day!” to Me! …Yes, to ME!

May 9, 2012

I have grown children, and I have learned the hard way that Jill Churchill’s quote is true:

“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”

With Mother’s Day approaching, I began to think about ways to honor my amazing mom and started down the familiar path of personal reflection that typically results in grading my own report card as a mother and grandmother. I’m a perfectionist, and I tend to linger on my mistakes. When my children hit bumps in the road, I immediately feel tremendous guilt over my imperfections as a mom. Then again, I sometimes marvel at how amazing they turned out in spite of my shortcomings.

I am very hard on me … I know that. And I suspect that there are many of you who are the same way. My challenge for each mom reading this blog is that you would lay aside any guilt, regret, or barrier that prevents you from just enjoying the good that you have accomplished with each of your children. Take the time to celebrate all the joys and every sweet moment and memory.

William Shakespeare said, “Joy delights in Joy.” Being joyful brings you more joy. Celebrate the things you have done and are doing well as a mom. You deserve it. If you have very young children, learn now to forgive yourself and be joyful. It is the greatest gift that you can extend to yourself. Yes, you need to be diligent. Yes, you need to take your role seriously. Yes, you need knowledge and wisdom. However, once you have done all that you can to prepare and you have poured your heart and soul into being the best mom that you can be, learn to celebrate the things that you do well and keep working on the areas where you want to improve. And while you will never be a perfect mom, you will find your own unique way to be a good one.

Happy Mother’s Day!” to all the incredible moms, grandmothers, and caregivers who give of themselves every day for America’s children. We celebrate YOU!


I Can Never Build Another You

May 2, 2012

Grammy award-winning country music artist, Larry Gatlin, was recently featured on Fox News because he had written a song for the tornado victims in Woodward, Oklahoma. He was lying in bed watching the news one night when he saw a young woman standing in the debris of her home. Pointing to her husband and tearfully looking into the camera, she said, “I can build another house, but I cannot build another him.” Larry climbed out of bed. When his wife asked where he was going, he said, “You know where.” And a touching song was born.

Shortly thereafter, Larry performed the song at a benefit in Woodward, Oklahoma. The lyrics are very moving and true, and I encourage you to check it out on YouTube. The young lady who inspired the song held the handwritten words as Larry sang, and the community came together to raise close to $200,000 for the victims. It’s a great story of compassion.

 

As I listened, I thought about how applicable this song is to parenting. We will have several opportunities in our lives to build houses, careers, and dreams … yet we have but one chance to build our children. Each child has only one childhood, and what we do every single day really matters as her brain connections form. Look into your child’s eyes and make note: the emotional connection she needs today is significant to the woman she will become.

No matter what stage of life—rocking him gently to sleep, helping her with her homework, getting her ready for prom, watching him learn to be a man—remember that each child deserves our very best. What we do every day molds them into who they become … forever. Think about that as you make choices in life so that you can reflect on your choices with pride. Build your child with honor … with confidence … and with knowledge.

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.