parenting

Teaching Kids Respect–for Themselves and Others

Kids sitting happily in classroom, showing respect to teacherKids sitting happily in classroom, showing respect to teacher

Kids sitting happily in classroom, showing respect to teacher

“Kids today are SO disrespectful,” you’ve probably heard (or even muttered, amongst other statements). 

It’s true that parent-child relationships are evolving. Many kids today behave differently, communicate differently, and have different goals and expectations than a mere generation ago. 

They are growing up in a different world. 

Still, teaching respect is as important now as when Aretha first sang about it.

Some children today are granted more leeway and left ample room to question and challenge our guidance. This can feel and appear disrespectful. 

Alternatively, kids taught to blindly follow authority can lack confidence, problem-solving skills, and have an unhealthy fear of failure. They don’t necessarily learn to trust or respect themselves.

Respect is twofold: we must remain courteous to others while also standing up for ourselves. 

The conundrum is, when does letting our kids speak for themselves border on disrespect? And, at what point do our actions as parents fail to respect our kids? (Learn how to stop all the yelling with our FREE online class.) 

According to author Don Miguel Ruiz, “Respect is one of the greatest expressions of love.” 

If this is the case, it has the power to change the world–we just have to get it right. 

What Is The Difference Between Respectful and Disrespectful Behavior?

Respect is a balance of knowledge, intention, care, and reflection.

Only when we’ve taught and self-modeled respect towards others can we expect our children to know what it looks like, understand its value, and act respectfully themselves. 

When kids do know what’s expected and are blatantly unkind, it can be considered disrespect. They know how they should act, but they don’t care. Or, they have ulterior motives. 

First, consider whether your home environment allows your kids to make some decisions and voice their opinions. If so, a bit of questioning and complaining isn’t necessarily disrespectful.

Also, remember that kids are always gaining more independence; and sometimes, that means challenging their parents. 

Next, consider your child’s age when determining respect versus disrespect. A three-year-old isn’t going to immediately understand that it isn’t nice to point out a stranger as “fat” or an old lady as “more wrinkly than Grandma.” But with time and calm instruction on what (or not) to say, kids will learn.

Caveat: Children with neurological differences may have a medical reason for adverse actions. If you are concerned with your child’s behavior, please consult a counselor or physician. 

Disrespect quote Amy McCready

Do Respect and Good Manners Go Hand-in-Hand?

Charming phrases like “Yes Sir” and “Yes, Ma’am,” are falling further from children’s vocabulary. Backtalk seems to be bursting out instead. 

Parents can still train kids when and how to use social conventions at age-appropriate times for each individual child. Saying “please,” “thank you,” holding doors for people, complimenting a meal, and offering to pay gas money, are all types of respect and kindness. 

Kids want to do the right thing. And, they feel more confident in a variety of social situations when they know how to act. 

“Yes Sir” does indeed sound nice. But a child who doesn’t use formalities–even when trained–isn’t necessarily less respectful. 

Cordial behavior isn’t everything. And, it doesn’t mean much if it’s just surface-level. Caring about others is what makes a difference.

Some shy children rarely say “hi,” for instance, and it may seem rude. Before assuming that shyness has ill intent, we can offer strategies to make them more comfortable with greetings.  

Then, we can focus on how our young one helped fold laundry that day, or how our teenager listened to a friend in need. This proves that beyond greetings, there are alternative ways to show kindness. 

Respect and manners are also nuanced. Showing Grandma respect might look different from showing friends or even teachers respect. Kids greatly benefit from learning these societal/generational differences! 

Entitlement and Disrespect

Teaching respect means fighting against entitlement. Because entitlement doesn’t show respect for people’s time, money, or efforts. 

Along with an evolving social structure where kids have more input, there has also been a shift towards giving our kids more of everything else, too. More material possessions, more technology…and greater freedoms with fewer responsibilities. 

It’s understandable that we want our kids to have generous, carefree childhoods. We want to make life easier and more enjoyable for them. 

But in doing so–even when the intention is noble–parents are losing sight of the big picture. If we don’t expect kids to contribute in meaningful ways, we aren’t teaching respect (or receiving it)! 

The war against entitlement happens a little every day, like when we encourage our kids to do their Family Contributions (a helpful euphemism for chores!). Or, when we remind them to give, not just expect, appreciation for family, friends, and teachers. 

And lastly, we must stop rewarding our children for basic, expected tasks. When we offer candy for folding the laundry or a dollar for every completed homework assignment, we aren’t teaching them the intrinsic value of helping others–or themselves. 

Though we’re enticing them to get things done, we’re actually robbing them of essential lessons in generosity and self-respect.

Building a Respectful Environment At Home

If we build an environment where our children feel valued and their opinions are heard, we are already building the foundation of respect. 

We can solidify this intention by showing that respect in everyday situations. 

This starts by:

Using Discipline, Not Punishment

The distinction between punishment and discipline is often lost, but it is critical. 

Punishment intentionally blames, hurts, and embarrasses kids when they misbehave or make a poor choice. It’s meant to teach them not to repeat that action, but instead, it makes them feel worse about themselves–it teaches only fear

That’s not what respect is about! 

Discipline differs greatly from punishment, because it offers a positive, proactive approach; it essentially allows kids to feel the effects of their choices without being chastised for them! It also teaches right versus wrong more effectively, because the lesson isn’t lost in reproach and resentment. 

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Involving Children in Decisions

Imagine parenthood as a system of government. A generation or more ago, kids were raised in a more autocratic-type system. Parents made the rules, and kids followed them–or else!

Fast-forward to the present day, and you might compare contemporary parenthood to a democracy of sorts. Kids get to have an opinion! They may not hold executive office, but they are certainly representatives in congress.

Kids’ thoughts, feelings, and grievances have a right to be aired. They matter

Society has been slowly peeling away from more autocratic parenting towards this system of democracy. But, it doesn’t mean kids can’t learn or focus on respect! 

In fact, like respectful discipline, kids learn better by being a part of decisions. It even increases their ability to work with, and mitigate, the wishes of others!

There are two simple Positive Parenting Solutions tools you can employ to give kids the freedom of voice and choice–both of which personify respect!

Creating a Decision-Rich Environment

According to renowned psychologist Alfred Adler, all humans–including children!–long for power, belonging, and significance. It drives their every move.

So, kids aren’t being rude or less respectful for wanting attention, validation, a voice, a chance to air grievances, and a little more control.

When children are granted age-appropriate choices in their lives, these desires are quickly met: they’re given the power to make each choice, they know their opinions matter, and they immediately feel valued. 

Allowing kids to make decisions, and not dictating everything they do, awards them this basic respect.

A Decision-Rich Environment empowers a four-year-old to choose between two or three outfits to wear each day. Or, it encourages a teenager to choose Friday’s dinner menu each week.

Age and proven responsibility can allow additional, increasingly important choices–and this permits kids to improve their decision-making skills and shape their own lives! 

Using the Ask, Don’t Tell Tool

Another positive discipline tool is Ask, Don’t Tell. Designed by counselor/psychologist Lynn Lott, it represents freedom to a “T.” 

No one likes being bossed around in the first place. And believe it or not, kids might be more willing to help us, or do what we’re requesting, when we ask nicely!

This might sound like, “Any chance you’d be able to give me a hand getting the living room ready for our friends to come over?” instead of, “You need to get your things out of the living room.”

Kids need our guidance and direction, and sometimes, that takes some spurring. But asking respectfully not only sets a good example of how to treat someone, it also eliminates backtalk and power struggles

The key is, you DO have to ask–and you have to do this only when you are able to accept a “no” for an answer. But by doing so, you’re actually more likely to get a cheerful, “Sure!” in the long run. 

Because respect isn’t taking power from our kids. It’s giving it to them. 

Positive Parenting Solutions Members: For more strategies to gain cooperation from your kids, revisit Steps 3 and 4 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System

Amy McCready quote about respect

Taking Time for Training

Kids deserve the chance to learn our expectations. 

In other words, our kids are not mind-readers!

We can’t say they’re acting disrespectfully if they haven’t been taught what respect looks like! 

Kids need training with everything from unloading the dishwasher for the first time to hanging up their clothes. 

When this is the case for everyday actions, they definitely require time to observe and practice the art of respect

In a scenario where a young kiddo unwittingly does something rude, like grab and lick his brother’s ice cream, it’s the perfect opportunity to do some training and role play how to ask for something you want in lieu of grabbing someone else’s food (or toys, or anything!). 

But you can’t expect kids to know what is rude before they’ve encountered that scenario. They also deserve a decent explanation as to why it’s disrespectful and sufficient training on an alternative behavior.

Modeling Respect Towards Others

No matter how respectfully we speak to our kids, we also have to prove with every action that we appreciate other people. Friends, strangers, everyone

Leading by example can never be overestimated. Otherwise, we’re hypocrites! 

If we tell our kids it’s rude to say mean words to acquaintances, they’ll be confused when they watch us berate the slow cashier or waitress. 

And, they’ll take great notice when we’re disrespectful to a spouse. 

Modeling respect also means monitoring what our kids are exposed to. Tweens and teens, for instance, can be naturally indignant, but watching unkind and disrespectful actions on social media often makes things worse.

While we can’t control everything our kids witness, we can minimize bad examples (establish those parental tech controls and set limits!) until they can successfully demonstrate the difference between respect and a lack of it. 

Teaching Empathy

If respect is about loving one another, then empathy is an integral piece of the puzzle. Kids can’t learn respect without it! 

Empathy is the ability to put oneself in another’s position. And kids have an amazing capacity to sympathize with others! They just have to be reminded that not everything is about them. 

Your six-year-old may be aggravated when his older sister refuses to share her toys. But instead of letting him dwell on how it makes him feel slighted, you can say, “How do you think your sister feels when you constantly grab her toys?”

Empathy can also be taught through small acts of volunteering or by giving back in some way: planting trees, writing thank you cards, or donating $2.00 of an allowance to someone in need. 

Communicating with One Another

Communication is taught

It starts with our own willingness to open up with our kids. Kids learn that a wide range of feelings, even from adults, is normal. They learn to listen and sympathize. And, they understand that expressing emotions is not only therapeutic, but essential for problem-solving. 

Successful communication works both ways. During a typical whirlwind week, it’s easy to ignore a four-year-old asking why the grass is green…for the fiftieth time. Or, when we’re absorbed in work and texts on our phones, it’s easy to zone out and forget to listen. 

Showing our kids respect by listening to them–even when we have to hear who their friend’s brother’s cousin has a crush on!–proves that respect. 

Holding Routine Family Meetings

Family Meetings are like a power session in communication. Everyone in the family attends and takes turns talking about the upcoming week’s schedule and expectations. Kids and adults take turns as mediators and meeting leaders. 

These meetings go far beyond logistics. They give each and every family member a chance to talk about problems, concerns, and possible solutions. Family members take turns listening to one another speak–even the littlest ones have a say!–and work together to problem-solve. 

Routine family meetings epitomize cooperation. And cooperation can’t occur without granting others our time and attention (a.k.a. respect). 

Kids Must Learn to Respect Themselves, Too!

When kids believe in their abilities, they have the tools to respect (LOVE) themselves. 

Kids need to know they have an opinion, a voice, and power. They need to understand their significance. And, they must be aware they belong in this world. 

Kids that know how to respect themselves will naturally understand how they should be treated. But, they’ll also understand that selflessness can benefit others. 

Self-respecting kids also have a greater understanding of emotional and physical boundaries. They’re more apt to acknowledge the signs and symptoms of bullying and be aware when someone, or something, crosses a line.

Thankfully, modeling respectful practices, training kids to show respect in a variety of situations, and battling entitlement are all strategies to teach self-respect and help kids thrive. 

Final Thoughts

Respect is a way of life. It’s a deep, meaningful consideration of others and a feeling of belonging and significance–not only for one’s self, but for the people around us. 

This isn’t something that’s taught overnight! It’s a lifelong process. Don’t worry if your kids are still in the thick of it. You now know what you can focus on.  

But, imagine. If all children grow into adults who respect themselves and one another, the world will be a vastly better place.

Teach Your Children How to Try New Foods

teach your children to try new photos phototeach your children to try new photos photo

teach your children to try new photos photo

Guest post from sociologist and feeding expert, Dina Rose, PhD

I bet you know what your children ought to eat. It’s no secret that kids should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and lots of variety, and that no one–not even the pickiest person–should subsist on crackers alone.

Yes, carrots trump candy. But how do you get a child, whose loyalty to pasta knows no bounds, to even consider eating anything else?

That’s the kind of question that trips parents up all the time (alongside questions about power struggles and challenging behaviors that the free Positive Parenting Solutions webinar can fill you in on today. Sign up for a time that works for your schedule!)

The answer, you may be surprised to learn, is to stop thinking so much about nutrition. Nutrition puts your focus squarely on the food, and that’s not where the problem lies.

You also have to stop looking for the perfect recipe. Trust me, it doesn’t exist. Because even if you could find something your kids would love to eat today, there’s no guarantee that they’ll love–or even eat–it tomorrow. Kids are fickle that way, and that’s the problem.

Picky eating isn’t really about food. It can be about control, a reluctance to try new things, sensory sensitivity, a chewing and/or swallowing problem, or some other issue. And that’s good news! It means you can teach your way to healthy eating.

So how do you teach your way to healthy eating? Start by answering this question: What does your child need to learn in order to eat differently? For most kids, the answer is some combination of the following lessons.

How to:

  • Feel safe tasting new foods
  • Enjoy new flavors
  • Cope with challenging textures
  • Value the goal of eating new foods
  • Develop the habit of eating different foods on different days

If you’ve never thought about teaching your children these lessons before, don’t worry. Most parents haven’t. Take heart, though. Once you make the mind shift, the path to success becomes much clearer.

Here are six steps to get you started:

1. Talk to Your Children About Your Goal

It’s crucial to tell your kids the game plan. Otherwise, how will they get on board? You don’t need an elaborate explanation, however. Say something simple, like: “I know you don’t like to eat new foods, but I think this is something that is important for you to learn. Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask you to eat anything new. For now, we’re just going to learn how to taste new foods.”

2. Implement the Rotation Rule (Using Foods Your Children Already Enjoy)

The Rotation Rule is straightforward: Don’t serve any food (except milk) two days in a row. By mixing up the foods your children already eat, you are teaching them the habit of eating different foods on different days. This habit lays the foundation for introducing new foods.

3. Lower Your Expectations

Like most parents, you probably tell your children that all you want is for them to taste the chili you prepared for dinner, but deep down, you’re secretly hoping they’ll do more; you’re hoping that they’ll actually eat the chili.

That’s a lot of pressure. Celebrate a single, solitary taste.Positive Parenting Solutions free webinar banner CTA

4. Take the Surprise Out of New Foods

No one wants to try a food completely blind, without any reliable cues as to what it will taste like. Yet, this is what parents ask their children to do all the time! Practice giving your children lots of information before they taste something new. Say, “This is crunchy.” Or, “This tastes a little like the chicken you ate yesterday, because it has the same teriyaki sauce.” Or, “This is squishy, like apple sauce.”

5. Make Tastings Easy for Your Children

It’s tempting to steer clear of challenging tastes and textures, but that keeps kids stuck in their rut. Make an effort to introduce changes slowly. Start by using an accepted flavor or texture as a bridge to new foods. For instance, if your children like chicken nuggets because they’re crunchy, offer a taste of a crunchy fish stick. If they enjoy blueberry yogurt, offer a taste of blueberry vanilla yogurt. If textures are a sticking point, gradually introduce foods that are lumpier and bumpier.

6. Offer an Alternative to, “I don’t like it”

It’s helpful to remember that young children don’t have what researchers call stable taste preferences. When it comes to liking different foods, their taste preferences are all over the board.

Just as importantly, though, “I don’t like it” boxes kids into an opinion that is hard to change. Resist the urge to ask your kids if they like what they’ve tasted. Ask them to describe what they’ve eaten instead in terms of taste, texture, aroma, appearance and/or temperature, instead.

I know it’s hard to believe that your children will ever like new foods, but it happens! As they grow less fearful of trying new foods, they end up trying even more new foods. And once your kids are used to tasting new foods, you can start showing them how to eat new foods, too.

Final Thoughts From Amy

Picky eating is one of the most common–and difficult–aspects of parenting. And when it comes to something as important as nutrition, I’m thankful for Dina’s food for thought. For more on picky eating, join Positive Parenting Solutions today. Course members have access to our battle-tested blueprint, Raising Adventurous Eaters, and much, much more!

dina rose

Dina Rose, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator, and feeding expert. She is the author of It’s Not About the Broccoli: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating (Perigee). In addition to writing her blog, It’s Not About Nutrition, Dina also writes for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

5 Tips for Sibling Harmony

three siblings whisperingthree siblings whispering

three siblings whispering

It’s 7 AM, and you’re sitting in absolute silence, enjoying a steaming hot cup of coffee before diving into the usual morning madness. 

You let out a deep sigh of enjoyment. These are the mornings you live for. Nothing but perfect peace until you hear…

SLAM! 

“Mom!” 

“Dad!” 

“He won’t leave me alone!”

“She’s not letting me use the bathroom!”

“I was here first!”

Ah, yes, the morning routine has begun. And once again, your kids are at each other’s throats. 

That hot coffee and silence were nice while they lasted, you think. But now the real day begins.

Sound familiar?

Let’s face it – sibling spats are a part of life.  

In fact, sibling rivalry is not only inevitable; it’s a healthy way for kids to learn how to compromise and navigate relationships.

But on the downside, the constant bickering can also wreak havoc on daily life, not to mention Mom’s and Dad’s nerves. 

Our goal is to achieve at least some measure of sibling harmony, right?

Right! In fact, this idea of “sibling harmony” is so desired among parents that we’ve dedicated an entire masterclass to the topic as part of our Household Harmony Trifecta Series.

Enroll in the Sibling Harmony Masterclass today and put an end to those frustrating battles tomorrow!

All parents want their kids to get along. But few feel confident in their ability to bring that harmony home.

But I can promise you, sibling harmony is possible! 

It may sound like an impossible dream, but it’s absolutely do-able with these 5 Tips for Sibling Harmony:

Tip #1: Don’t Compare or Label Your Kids

One of the easiest mistakes for parents to make is labeling and comparing our kids. I get it!

Perhaps you’ve found yourself saying something like, “He’s my shy little guy,” or “She’s always been the studious one in the family.”

Sounds innocent enough, but even subtle labels fuel sibling rivalry. It can also unintentionally lead to a feeling of competition between them. 

Think about it from their perspective…

If Mom refers to my sibling as the “studious one” by default, I assume that I’m not particularly studious. If she affectionately refers to me as “her wild one” or “her handful,” most likely, my sibling will feel rather superior as the “well-behaved” one.  

Knowing how you may unintentionally label your kids and fuel competition is a great first step in banishing the bickering in your house.

Tip #2: Spend One-on-One Time Daily with Each Child

The most important strategy to minimize sibling rivalry is to deliberate about daily one-on-one time with each child and build connections. We like to refer to this time as MIND, BODY AND SOUL TIME® togetherness.

That’s simply ten to fifteen minutes per day when your child has YOU to herself. This short time will go a long way toward reducing sibling competition for your attention.

It’s no secret that well-behaved kids are often ignored, while misbehaving kids get attention.  

Beat them to the punch by proactively filling their attention baskets, and you’ll find that their attention-seeing behaviors, such as squabbling, will decrease.

household harmony class

Tip #3: Be a Mediator, Not a Referee

At this point in parenthood, you may feel as though you should always carry a whistle and invest in a fully-stocked wardrobe of black-and-white striped shirts.

While you may feel like a referee, that is not your job! In fact, when parents referee sibling scuffles and choose sides, rivalry naturally escalates.  

As parents, our job is to mediate, not play judge and jury. Bring the parties together and help them devise a solution they can feel good about. That way, there are no winners or losers, and they’ll learn valuable skills they’ll use in future conflicts.

Yes, sometimes we really can all win.

amy mccready sibling harmony quote

Tip #4: Don’t Force Kids to Share

Learning to share is important, and so are boundaries.

When kids are forced to turn something over to a sibling (especially when it’s a new gift), it sends them a very clear message: Sharing feels bad, and I don’t want to do it again. 

Instead of forcing your child to “give your sister a turn,” you can say, “That’s Megan’s new toy, and she’ll let you have a turn when she’s ready.” 

This creates a feeling of safety for Megan. Over time, she’ll feel less territorial and be willing to share on her own.

Helpful Hint: Heather Schumacher offers great advice on this topic, including the words to say, in her book, It’s OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids

Tip #5: Tolerate the Tantrums

Kids continue behaviors that work for them. 

When parents give in to a sibling’s tantrum and say, “Oh, just give her a turn!” it fuels sibling rivalry and reinforces that the best tactic to get what you want is to pitch a fit.  

Make sure the tantrum “doesn’t work” by letting it run its course. (I know it’s hard!) 

In the midst of the tantrum, you can empathize with your child. This may sound something like…

“It’s hard to wait, isn’t it? Would you like to play with something else now?”

While letting the tantrum run its course may feel particularly painful while it’s happening, over time, you’ll see your persistence and refusal to give in pay dividends on how your kids behave together.

Final Thoughts

Imagine a household where sibling rivalry and fights are a rare occurrence.

It may seem like a pipe dream, but I promise it isn’t! 

If you stay armed with these 5 tips and you’ll not only help your kids navigate sibling relationships–they may even achieve sibling harmony

If, after testing the waters with these 5 tips, you still need more sibling rivalry solutions — don’t worry. Enroll in our Sibling Rivalry Solutions Masterclass and put an end to these exhausting power struggles.

Here’s wishing you and your children the best, most harmonious household ever!

When Grandparents Interfere With Positive Parenting

Grandparent scolding childGrandparent scolding child

Grandparent scolding granddaughter

“That technology is rotting her brain,” your father urges while your daughter is enjoying her one-hour-a-day screen time.

“I would have washed your mouth out with soap,” your mother’s voice warns when your son talks back to you.

Parenting is hard enough, let alone when our parents–now grandparents–offer unsolicited advice.

The reality is, parents don’t cease to be parents when their kids grow up: not least when they graduate to grandparents.

Grandparents generally have legitimate, hard-earned experiences they want to share with us. Having already raised a child or more themselves, their opinions are nothing to belittle.

But, just because our parents and in-laws care about their grandkids and want to remain involved in our lives does not mean they have the right to interfere with the way we raise our children.

Unfortunately, telling them as much is a sticky situation. (The topic is a minefield of emotions!)

The amazing news is that there are ways to positively communicate the different approaches you and your child’s grandparents have towards parenting. These conversations will help everyone argue less and enjoy each other’s company more!

When grandparents’ criticism and meddling are doing more harm than good, here are six ways to frame a productive discussion:

1. Express Your Goals of Parenting

People in any relationship risk miscommunication when they don’t get to the heart of their intentions. That’s why having a genuine conversation with grandparents about our parenting strategies is crucial.

Grandparents might consider positive parenting at odds with the way they were raised (or the way they raised us). But part of that comes from misunderstanding it.

Maybe your parents or in-laws don’t realize you’ve intentionally given your eight-year-old the choice to wear a coat on a 40-degree day or face the natural consequence of being chilly at the bus stop. They just see a child unwilling to put on another layer and your lack of an ultimatum.

They may not recognize that your goal is to raise kids that are independently motivated by their own choices–and that you disagree that resorting to power struggles or relying on traditional forms of punishment, like spanking, will encourage better behavior.

Encourage Grandparents to Study Positive Parenting

Depending on your relationship with your parents or in-laws, a sit-down or phone discussion can be intimidating. It helps to find a quiet time to talk about all of this–when we aren’t frazzled by our kids or daily activities.

Consider beginning the discussion with a segue like:

“Hey Mom and Dad, while you’re here (or while we’re on the phone/FaceTime), I would love to talk to you about some parenting strategies I’ve been using.

I’ve noticed we’ve been contradicting one another with discipline techniques, and I believe it will be beneficial to everyone if we share the same strategies.”

Just as it helps to have a spouse on board with parenting strategies, it is equally helpful to have grandparents aware of our daily and long-term parenting plans, especially when they spend a lot of time with their grandkids or act as full-time/part-time caregivers.

If they seem interested, encourage them to study positive parenting directly. Whether they sign up for the 7-Step Parenting Success System, attend our FREE online webinar, or choose a different online source, an overview will give them insight into your parenting world and tactics.

If they don’t seem interested, consider briefing them on the science behind positive parenting. This might include references to psychologists Alfred Adler and Jane Nelsen, Ed.D., both of whom established the foundations of positive parenting and identified a child’s two inborn emotional needs: a sense of belonging and a sense of significance.

You can then explain that your techniques are designed to fulfill these hardwired emotional needs. AND, if these needs are filled, most behavior dramatically improves!

In the instances it doesn’t, you practice the multitude of positive, helpful, tools in your positive parenting toolbox.

Distinguish Between Consequences and Punishment

Consequences differ from more traditional parenting strategies, like punishment. In positive parenting, consequences are a type of discipline that lets life be the teacher. They use effective methods to teach a child how to make positive choices and learn from their mistakes in a helpful and supportive way.

What’s wrong with punishment? Plenty–and that’s why it’s not very effective in getting the behavior we want from our kids.

While discipline is proactive, punishment is reactive. Punishment aims to make kids suffer from their mistakes or poor choices–with the hope that they won’t make those same choices in the future. However, science suggests that these tactics, like spanking and time-outs, only put the child on the defensive.

However, natural and logical consequences, when used correctly, empower kids to make positive decisions and/or handle the results of negative ones.

Natural and logical consequences, when they follow the 5 Rs of effective consequences, are designed to teach cause and effect without extra, unnecessary punishments; especially because punishment instigates grudges against parents and fuels power struggles.

free parenting class

Pro Tip: For Positive Parenting Solutions members, please review consequence tools in Step 3 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System.

2. Remind Grandparents That Parenting is Not One-Size-Fits-All

Grandparents who feel obliged to interfere with parenting know that the world looks different today. In fact, it can concern and intimidate them.

But, it’s because the world is different that parenting tactics have been forced to evolve. Technology, media, and less authoritarian parenting have become dominant in children’s lives. They define our culture and, therefore, our parental responses.

So, while grandparents may feel the need to double down on the tactics they grew up with, it’s helpful to point out that many of those approaches are now null and void. If you really washed your child’s mouth out with soap, you might get a visit from Child Protective Services!

New diagnoses are also coming to light, which are helping identify and treat various learning, attention, and sensory differences. Many of these differences went unrecognized in previous generations; or, they were brushed aside. Helping children through these challenges requires awareness and adjustments in both parenting and grandparenting.

Parenting also looks different from family to family. We all have to use strategies that work for our kids, and no two kids–even siblings–are the same!

While you can argue there are some timeless parenting strategies, most parenting must remain flexible and fluid.

3. Consider the Grandparent’s Perspective

Having a conversation works both ways. If we’re explaining our side of the parenting story, we should be ready for the grandparents’ responses.

Before you get defensive, put yourself in their shoes. One day, fate willing, you’ll be sitting in their seats. Your kids, whom you love more than anything, will be grown and gone and have children of their own. You’ll want to help them just as much as your parents want to help you now!

Lend an ear here and there to grandparents’ concerns, and try not to take anything personally. They may have good ideas, and at the very least, they present a different perspective. Keeping an open mind is essential to parenting.

But, if grandparents become overbearing and continually disregard your parenting goals, feel free to take their advice with a grain of salt. You are the parent, and you make the final decisions!

In reality, your parenting has nothing to do with your parents. This isn’t out of disrespect; the point of parenting isn’t to embrace or reject the way your parents raised you. It’s just figuring out the best way to raise your child.

Regardless, your parents can’t change who they are. It is unfair to ask them to do so. But, they can learn to step back and follow your lead.

amy mccready quote

4. Be Grateful for Your Parent’s Involvement, But Say, “I’ve Got This”

If your parents are involved in your family, it means they care.

Still, parents have to gradually let go of controlling their children’s lives if they want to maintain a successful, healthy relationship with us–including well into adulthood and parenthood.

Granted, we all make mistakes as parents. We don’t always know what we’re doing. It’s okay to admit that openly!

But, we know our children better than anyone and are raising them in the way we think is best. Nothing more can be expected.

And, to be sure, you can’t raise your children the exact way your parents raised you. Not only has society changed, but you are an entirely different person.

When faced with a grandparent’s criticism, you can say:

“Thank you for loving the kids and me so much and wanting the best for us. I just have to parent them my way. It will help tremendously if you can trust me. The best way to support me and stay involved is as my back-up.”

5. Use Guidelines When Grandparents Babysit

The joys of grandparenting are legendary, and kids adore their grandparents. But when grandparents visit or babysit, expectations can be unmet or miscommunicated–or both.

Grandparents, for example, may wonder:

Why don’t the kids routinely play outside?
Is that really the way kids talk to their parents these days?
Why can’t I offer cookies as a lunchtime treat?

While leniency with relatives and house guests is always helpful, grandparents may have habits that throw a wrench in our discipline tactics or schedules. So, just as it’s helpful to discuss our overall parenting philosophies with grandparents, it’s also beneficial to go over detailed family logistics.

This is especially helpful when grandparents don’t live nearby and visit only occasionally. They will be further estranged from our daily lives and expectations.

When grandparents babysit, guidelines are incredibly useful: especially those that follow a routine.

With a well-oiled routine, grandparents can slip in and easily plan ahead. They know when kids will get up, what they like to eat for breakfast, when they go to school, take naps, and so on. A lot less can go awry and be left to chance with a great plan in place.

Alternatively, when grandparents are left scrambling, and kids aren’t sure how to react, behavior can quickly unravel.

Regardless, when grandparents are in the role of regular caregivers, it may require them to follow through on discipline. If you want your parents to employ consequences related to positive parenting, you’ll have to explain exactly how to do so and what those entail. It helps to have already had a detailed discussion with them or to make time for the conversation before you leave.

Things can get especially tricky when you are visiting the grandparents at their house. While your overall parenting style always applies, kids will have to be more respectful of Grandma and Grandpa’s house rules. This can be challenging, especially for younger kids.

Maybe your toddlers are allowed to jump on their beds at home. But at Grandma’s house, think again!

Ask Grandparents to Help “Control the Environment”

One way to avoid all-out confrontation over these rules is to ask grandparents to help control the environment at their house before you arrive.

Control the Environment is a tool we use at Positive Parenting Solutions to help kids stay out of trouble–literally.

When visiting grandparents with little ones in tow, it could mean asking them to store breakables and locking the doors to certain rooms. For junk-food-loving teenagers, it could mean removing chips and cookies from the pantry.

Grandparents can’t be expected to rearrange their entire house, of course, because that would be a lot of work and wouldn’t teach grandkids to be respectful of a different environment. But kindly encouraging them to remove basic trigger items–or allowing you to do so upon arrival–could mean the difference between an easy visit with Grandma and Grandpa and a strained one.

6. Promote the Irreplaceable Grandparent/Child Relationship

Your parents have a special role to play as grandparents. But grandparents that continually overstep boundaries pose the risk of alienating everyone.

Grandparenting can involve discipline at times, especially when grandparents are acting as current or primary caregivers.

But in addition to backing-up mom and dad, grandparents are also in a position to impart softer guidance. This means they have the freedom to maintain less complex relationships with their grandkids while still loving them, and being loved, unconditionally.

Through our open conversations, we can help grandparents embrace the unique and rewarding freedom their status can bring.

And by staying calm and graceful, we can present these ideas without making grandparents feel unwanted or unwelcome.

Final Thoughts

Despite a heart-to-heart that would make any counselor swoon, you and your parents/in-laws still may not see eye-to-eye. If so, it’s okay to feel disappointed and frustrated. But try not to be discouraged! Politely, keep your resolve.

As you stay committed to positive parenting, you will begin to see your child’s behaviors improve, and grandparents will see it too. They may even be the first to notice and applaud your methods.

But if not, just remember: families can lovingly agree to disagree.

You’ve got this!

Tips for Talking to Your Kids About the Birds & the Bees

Mom and daughter chatting on couchMom and daughter chatting on couch

Amy Lang Birds and Bees Cover Image

A guest post from sexual health educator Amy Lang

No matter how open, informed, or confident you may be, talking to kids about sex can be tough! It can feel awkward and uncomfortable for everyone to have these conversations, but don’t let these feelings deter you–because there is good news! 

Over and over again, when teens are surveyed, they say the people who have the most influence over their sexual decision-making are their parents and primary caregivers!

We are powerful, we have influence, and they want and need to hear from us.

Sex education at school is in no way enough. Their peers, pornography, and media are the last places kids should go to for information, so that means it’s up to YOU. 

Just like every other parent, you are probably pretty clueless as to how and when these conversations should start, let alone what kids should know at each age and stage. But like every other hard part of parenting, this is something you can learn to do with confidence. 

These conversations are about physical and emotional health and safety and preparing kids for one of the biggest and most important parts of life. The sooner you start (age five isn’t too young) the better, because they’ll come to expect these conversations and learn you are their go-to birds and bees source. 

Another important fact is that kids who have open communication with their parents about sexuality are offered some protection from sexual abuse. 

You can do this! You probably want your kids to make better decisions than you did about this part of life and to be more prepared for it as well. Using your teen-confirmed power and influence is the way to make this happen. 

Here are 10 tips to help you with the birds and bees talks: 

  1. The very first thing you need to do is clarify your values about sexuality, love, and relationships. Start the conversations early, and remember, it’s NEVER too late to start. Always say “this is not for kids, and for when you’re older” when you talk about sexual behaviors.
  2. “When they’re ready to know about sex, they’ll ask,” is not a thing. When you wait for them to ask, you make them responsible for their own sex education.
  3. These are a series of short and sweet conversations throughout childhood and adolescence; it’s not one big “talk” that traumatizes you both.
  4. Talk to your kids in the car, text them, email them, or write them notes. You don’t have to do this face-to-face all the time.
  5. Look for teachable moments – while watching movies or TV, or even from observing their friends’ lives.
  6. Get age-appropriate books for them to read with or without you. Include books about puberty and adolescence.
  7. Acknowledge their discomfort and your own, and then dive in. They need this information to make great choices.
  8. Make sure they know they are in charge of their bodies and have the right to say NO if anyone touches them in a way that feels uncomfortable.
  9. Sexuality is core to nearly every aspect of healthy development, and your kids deserve to be as smart about this as they are about what they learn at school. Hardly anyone uses what they learned in calculus in their everyday life.
  10. Sex is about responsibility and joy; pleasure and trust; health and safety; communication and information.*

There is more information to help you become your kids’ go-to birds and bees expert on my website, podcast and in my Birds & Bees Solutions center, where you’ll find 95% of what you need to rock the talks. You’ve got this! 

*Author Peggy Orenstein said “responsibility and joy; pleasure and trust.” I added “health and safety; communication and information,” because they are integral to comprehensive sexuality education.

About the Author

Amy Lang

Amy Lang, MA teaches parents of all beliefs how to talk to kids about sex through consultations, workshops, videos, teleclasses, and talks. She is a three-time Mom’s Choice Award® winner for her products and books. A sexual health educator for over 20 years, Amy also has an MA in Applied Behavioral Science.

Follow Amy on Twitter @BirdsAndBees, where she Tweets funny things kids say about sex ,or be her Fan on Facebook!

Guide for Starting Solids: Tips for Feeding Babies & Toddlers Using PPS

Toddler playing with sibling and Dad and drinking bottle of milkToddler playing with sibling and Dad and drinking bottle of milk

Toddler playing with sibling and Dad and drinking bottle of milk

Guest post from food writer and owner of The Picky Eater, Anjali Shah

Has your baby reached the stage when they are ready to start solids? Do you want to begin this journey with them in a nurturing and positive way? 

This guide will help you and your child through this transition and will set them up for success in the future to embrace healthy foods and avoid becoming a picky eater. 

We’ll give you tips and tricks using the principles of Positive Parenting Solutions so that you don’t end up with any power struggles at mealtime!

Introducing solid foods to your baby is an exciting milestone! However, it can also be a step in your parenting journey that causes some trepidation. 

There are many different brands of foods marketed to parents to feed their babies at this stage. Then, there is the option of making homemade baby food.  

You may also be wondering if using the baby-led weaning approach to feeding is best, and how to ensure you raise a child that embraces fruits and vegetables. 

As you begin to introduce solids, you will find the approach that works best for you and your baby, which is likely to include some combination of homemade purees, store-bought baby food pouches, formula, breast milk, and finger foods.

While there are many different ways to approach starting solids with your baby, I have found that using the foundations taught in the Positive Parenting Solutions (PPS) course helps make the transition easy and seamless. 

In this post, I will review how to know when your baby is ready for solids, how to introduce different foods, and how to use the principles of PPS to introduce your baby to solids when they are ready.

I’ll also take a look at how to use PPS to avoid mealtime battles with toddlers, and encourage your picky eaters to give new foods a try!

What is Positive Parenting Solutions?

Positive Parenting Solutions is an online parenting course aimed at helping parents end power struggles, stop yelling and nagging, and let go of guilt. It’s a step-by-step process to become the best parent you always wanted to be! 

How do I know when my baby is ready to start solids?

Babies are typically ready to start trying solid foods when they reach the age of five or six months. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends six months as a good age to start introducing solids, but for some babies, it will be slightly earlier or later than this. Four months really is the minimum age, though. 

You’ll know when your baby is ready for solids when…

  • He or she is able to sit in a high chair and can hold his or her head up. 
  • Your baby begins to put objects in their mouths, including their hands and toys. 
  • Your baby has put on enough weight to be approximately double his or her birth weight. 

Once you’ve noticed your baby has reached these milestones, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to be sure your baby is ready to start eating solids.

Using the Principles of PPS to Start Solids with Your Baby

How do you use the principles of PPS to start solids with your baby and avoid mealtime drama?

Create a Conducive Environment for Mealtime

Prepare for mealtime by creating a happy and comfortable environment. 

Provide your baby with a secure high chair that they can easily sit in and manipulate their food, and give them a spoon to hold onto while you’re feeding them. This helps them to develop the fine motor skills to use a spoon later and gives them a sense of independence. 

By using the tools in Step 3 from the 7-Step Parenting Success System, parents can create a conducive environment for mealtime that helps your baby know what to expect. It also creates some boundaries around mealtime. 

When your baby knows that sitting in their high chair means it’s time to eat, and you provide them with the expected tools to eat, they will approach the situation with more ease and confidence.

"Prepare for mealtime by creating a happy and comfortable environment."

Start Introducing New Foods

Your baby is naturally used to the taste of sweet and starchy foods because that is what breastmilk and formula taste like. 

In order to encourage them to try other flavors, start with foods that are bitter, pungent, and savory. This means trying vegetable purees, such as a vegetable puree with spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower, or a zucchini puree

I recommend starting with vegetable purees before giving your baby cereal, because cereal is starchy and sweet. Avoid sweet fruit purees at the start, and don’t introduce those until later when your baby has become accustomed to other flavors. 

Foods to start with…

  • Avocado, carrots, green beans, sweet potato, butternut squash, pears, apples, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower.
  • Then, add other fruits and vegetables that you like, and start introducing meats and fish. 

When you start giving purees to your baby, make sure to avoid anything that has added sugar or salt. It’s a good idea to introduce one food at a time and then wait a few days before trying something new, in order to ensure that your baby doesn’t develop a negative reaction such as diarrhea, vomiting, or rash. 

Once you’ve made sure your baby will tolerate different foods, you can combine them in your purees.

Step 4 of the PPS 7-Step Parenting Success System gives power to the child while allowing you as the parent to set boundaries. When mealtime rolls around, you decide what is offered, when it is served, and where eating happens. 

However, your child has some power as well. They decide how much of what is offered they eat. Allow your child to stop eating when they are done, and if they don’t like something you have offered, don’t try to force-feed them. This will create a positive environment for mealtime, and avoid mealtime battles.

FAQs About Feeding Methods

What if my baby doesn’t like purees?

If your baby doesn’t like the puree you introduce, don’t worry! It’s to be expected that your baby will not like everything you give him or her. Just give it some time and try again in a few days or a week. However, don’t try to force your baby to eat something they reject. 

What is baby-led weaning (BLW)?

The goal of baby-led weaning (BLW) is for babies to become more independent, better at regulating portion size, and more interested in trying new foods. 

Rather than spoon-feeding infants with purees, parents wait until their baby is old enough to handle small finger foods, usually around the age of six months. 

During baby-led weaning, infants can still eat purees, but they aren’t spoon-fed, so they learn to feed themselves with their fingers or by holding a baby spoon.

Which is better, feeding your baby purees or following BLW?

There is no right or wrong way when it comes to feeding your baby purees or following the BLW system. Not every baby and every family are the same. 

You need to choose what works best for you and your child, but you don’t need to choose between one or the other. You can do a combination of both! 

How to Manage Picky Eaters 

As your baby gets older and grows into a toddler, different problems may present themselves around mealtime. If your toddler is a picky eater, this doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong! Some children are simply pickier than others. 

When you have a picky eater, as a parent, one of the biggest worries you have is whether your child is eating enough to grow sufficiently, and whether they are getting a balanced diet to ensure they have all the vitamins and nutrients they need for growth and development.

As a result, mealtime can become a stressful experience–when it should be a time to sit and reconnect with your family.

These 11 tips will help avoid power struggles at mealtime, and help your toddler eat a balanced diet you feel good about!

1. Listen to Your Child’s Appetite

Your child knows when they are hungry and when they are full. As a result, respect their appetite and allow them to listen to their body’s signals. Don’t force meals or snacks on your child or beg them to try bites. This creates a power struggle. 

This doesn’t mean you allow them to eat whenever they want to, but instead during mealtime, allow them to eat what they want to. That might be all of their meal, or only a portion of their meal. 

Serve small portions to your toddler. They do not need to eat as much as adults. This will also help them feel less overwhelmed when they see the food on their plate. 

Allow them the opportunity to ask for more if they are still hungry. 

2. Create a Mealtime Routine

As mentioned above with introducing solids, create a mealtime routine. 

Offer your child three meals a day, plus two opportunities for a snack. If they don’t want to eat during one of their mealtimes, they can have their meal during one of their snack times. 

Instead of offering your toddler snacks throughout the day, which will likely cause them to not be hungry during mealtime, offer them a snack at specific times (which could be just finishing what they didn’t eat in the prior meal), and provide them with water to drink between meals so that they don’t fill up on other foods or drinks between meals. 

3. Be Patient with the Introduction of New Foods, Keep Trying, Be Consistent!

New foods are exciting for kids, but also they may not be sure how to react to them. The first time it is offered, they may only try a small bit. Reintroducing new foods as repeated exposure will encourage them to give them a try. 

It may take up to 100 tries before your child accepts a new food! 

"It may take up to 100 tries before your child accepts a new food!"

Instead of talking about how a new food tastes, talk to them about the color, shape, texture, and smell. Continue to serve your child nutritious foods until they become accustomed to it — they may even start to prefer it. 

4. Don’t Offer a Child an Alternative Meal

While your child may turn up their nose at the meal put in front of them, do not offer to make them something else. This reinforces the idea that if they say they don’t like something, you’ll give them a preferred food. 

5. Don’t Keep “Junk” In The House

For the same reason as above, you also don’t want to keep snacks and “junk food” in the house for easy access! 

If it’s not in your house, your child pretty much won’t be able to eat it, and it won’t be tempting. 

So if your child asks for ice cream instead of their dinner, and you don’t have any ice cream, it becomes pretty easy to gently say no and remind them what their dinner is!

6. Allow them to Choose Fruits and Vegetables to Try

Kids of all ages need some choices in their lives. 

Imagine that every single minute is decided for you, and you’re constantly being told what to do. It’s normal for kids to want to take control, but it’s your job to set boundaries and limit choices. 

It’s ok to give your child two choices for a meal (but don’t give them 10 choices)! You can say, “Do you want a peanut butter sandwich or a cheese sandwich for lunch” for example. 

You can also take your child to the grocery store or farmer’s market with you and ask for their help in choosing fruits and vegetables. This will help them feel in control and excited about trying the foods they choose. 

7. Don’t Compare Kids

If you have more than one kid, and one child happens to be pickier, don’t compare them to their siblings! That’s going to have the opposite effect you want and will be discouraging for your child to try new foods. 

8. Limit Distractions

It’s not always possible to sit down as a family and eat together with everyone’s different schedules these days, but do your best to make mealtime special and limit distractions. Turn off the TV, take away toys and other distractions, so that your child can focus on their food. 

9. Don’t Offer Dessert as a Reward

When you offer dessert as a reward for finishing their meal, it sends the message that dessert is the best type of food to eat. This encourages your child to have a stronger desire for sweets. It also doesn’t provide any intrinsic motivation to eat well during mealtime. 

Instead of offering dessert after every meal, offer it as an option a few nights a week, or make dessert something like fruit or another healthy choice served with the meal.

10. Don’t Label Behavior or Foods!

I would avoid saying things like “you’re such a picky eater” or “don’t be a picky eater” to or around your child. This is because kids will adopt the labels we give them, and it’ll just reinforce picky eating behavior! 

Instead, don’t give a lot of attention to when they’re being picky, and just say something like “it seems like you don’t want to eat right now, that’s ok, your meal will be here when you are ready.” 

I would also avoid giving too much praise for “healthy eating” since your child may only end up eating healthy when you’re around to receive that praise, but it won’t build the long-term tools they’ll need for healthy eating throughout their life.

11. Make Mealtime Fun! 

Eat together as a family; make mealtime “together time”. Talk to each other about your day and allow your kids to ask questions and be curious at the dinner table. Serve a variety of colors and textures, cut their foods into fun shapes, and serve veggies with a dipping sauce you know they like!

Final Thoughts

Introducing your child to solids, and encouraging them to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet as they grow into the toddler stage is both exciting and challenging. By using the Positive Parenting Solutions approach, you can avoid mealtime battles, while encouraging your child to try new foods and allowing them to feel control over their food choices. 

About the Author

Photo of author Anjali ShahAnjali Shah is a food writer, published author, board-certified health coach, nutritionist, mom of two, and owner of The Picky Eater, a healthy food and lifestyle blog. Her work has garnered nationwide attention as she has been featured on Oprah.com, Women’s Health, Cooking Light, Reader’s Digest, CNN, Food Network, SELF, Glamour, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, Whole Foods, SHAPE, and at Kaiser Permanente. Anjali grew up a “whole wheat” girl but married a “white bread” kind of guy. Hoping to prove that nutritious food could in fact be delicious and desirable, she taught herself how to cook and successfully transformed her husband’s eating habits from a diet of frozen pizzas and Taco Bell to her healthy, yet flavorful recipes made with simple, wholesome ingredients. Anjali’s programs are focused on teaching individuals and families how to make healthy choices and pick the right foods at the grocery store for overall wellness and maintenance. After becoming a mom, Anjali expanded her programs to include strategies and techniques to combat picky eating in kids of all ages. Anjali started The Picky Eater in 2011 to make healthy food accessible, tasty, easy to make at home, and picky-eater-proof. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

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