parenting

Talking to Kids About Tragedy: Tips for Hard Conversations

mom kissing tween daughter on foreheadmom kissing tween daughter on forehead

mom kissing tween daughter on forehead

We want to make the world a better place for our children, but it’s not always possible.

If only we could ignore that painful fact.

Instead, we have to broach tough topics like chaos, sadness, and uncertainty–things we’re often confused by ourselves. 

We see a pandemic that still hasn’t fully subsided. We are witnessing the deaths of loved ones. And we’re burdened by grief. 

We see politics growing in dissonance and families with varying beliefs torn apart.

And the news is always negative, darkened with mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters.

Things are…hard. They always have been, and they always will be. But if there’s one thing parents are designed to do, it’s to help kids survive a sometimes unforgiving world. 

In hopes of assisting, I’ve compiled a few ways to navigate the topic of tragedy with our kids in all its various forms. 

Having a Difficult Conversation With Kids

Let me start by saying that it’s good to have difficult discussions.

You may be grasping for the right words or feel like crying–or cringing–at the sight of an innocent face asking for real, raw answers. But from tragedy to the birds and the bees, tough conversations are crucial. 

Maybe you’re a biracial family trying to explain to your children the intricacies of racism. Or, you’re a parent trying to ease a daughter’s grief over her grandmother’s death. 

It could be making sense of a next-door neighbor’s house robbery or a pet run over by a car. 

In all of these scenarios, kids need honesty. How deep we delve just depends on their ages and level of understanding

“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents, teachers, child care providers, and others who work closely with children to filter information about the event and present it in a way that their child can understand, adjust to, and cope with.” — HealthyChildren.org

The same article also gives examples of how to talk to children of various ages about tragedy. It states, “…no matter what age the child is, it’s best to keep the dialogue straightforward and direct.”​

If your response is followed by an endless stream of why questions, it’s also okay to say, “I don’t know.” 

Then, be inspired by Mr. Rogers, who said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You always find people who are helping.'” 

Focusing on the people who are working to ease suffering will not only help your child focus on the good, but also empower them to make a difference.

Alternatively, an older teenager that understands the deeper implications of a school shooting might need more explanation.

“Some people really struggle with mental illness and don’t get the help they need. Psychologists are still trying to understand why they decide to hurt others.” And, “While schools try their best to stay safe, they can’t always be protected against this type of violent attack.” 

It’s important to have these conversations in a safe, quiet place. It can be in the comfort of your home or on a long car ride, but somewhere familiar enough to provide a structured, loving environment. 

It’s also important to balance two distinct strategies: staying calm and modeling real feelings.

Staying Calm

Tragedy can feel overwhelming. But simply using a soft verbal tone can counteract any unease and intensity to help kids feel grounded.

One of the tools we teach in our 7-Step Parenting Success System is the Calm Voice. It’s applicable at any time, but is especially useful in emotionally-charged situations. 

It can be as simple as speaking softly and slowly, but you’ll find it takes everyone’s feelings of fight or flight down a notch. From a screaming toddler tantrum to overwhelming feelings of grief, it paves the way for discussion and healing through subtle confidence and strength. 

Pro Tip: For Positive Parenting Solutions members, please review Step 2 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System. 

Staying calm doesn’t mean we’re unfeeling robots. We aren’t ignoring our emotions or the issues. It just means we’re ready to discuss/process our feelings with more control. 

Because it’s not only important to discuss the circumstances of tragedy; it’s equally important to discuss the emotions surrounding them. 

Modeling and Managing Real Feelings

While we don’t want to completely let loose our own feelings of anger, sadness, or despair, it is okay to express negative emotions. After all, we want kids to know these feelings are normal. 

Shoving dark feelings down deep isn’t going to help us or our kids in the long run. That’s why having difficult discussions through open communication–and modeling the realm of emotions they’ll face in life–is so important. 

Maybe you’re prone to getting worked up when you hear bad news from friends or family. You’ve slammed a few doors and said a curse word or two.

Instead, try working on your reactions by taking deep breaths and counting out loud from one to ten. You can explain to your kids that this helps you calm down.

And don’t be afraid to cry when you really need to. This is a normal and healthy way to release emotion! Crying in front of your kids shows them it’s okay to let those tears flow, but, it also helps to accompany it with an explanation. According to this article, you can “Let your kids know you’re crying because you’re sad, happy, angry, frustrated or touched.”

Crying can also be followed by thoughts and words of encouragement–either for yourself or your children.

You’re still acknowledging that strong feelings affect you, but you’re also offering solutions for dealing with them.

nelson mandela quote

Or maybe you’re seething from a sudden job loss and wondering how you’ll pay the bills. So, after a few months of job applications and zero interviews, you join a neighborhood kickboxing club to release your frustration. It’s a healthy and proactive outlet for your feelings.

Your teenage daughter observes your frustration, as well as the actions you take to manage it. You also explain the reason for your actions, to make sure she understands you’re managing your worry and stress. 

“As you know, I’ve been feeling and acting a little overwhelmed these past few months while looking for a new job. That’s why I’ve decided to join this kickboxing class! It makes me feel better and stronger and keeps my stress levels down.”

Less than a year later, in a moment of extreme anger over a friend’s recent suicide, she contemplates punching the wall. Instead, she reconsiders. She decides to join you at your weekly kickboxing club. 

She saves the wall (and her hand) in exchange for a punching bag. And it was all thanks to your example. 

Turning an Imperfect World into a Learning Opportunity 

As much as it hurts, exposure to tragic events imparts emotional intelligence and prepares kids for a future full of challenges. 

So, while it’s natural to censor our kids from more tragedy than necessary, allowing them that glimpse of harsher reality is beneficial. 

Here are 3 distinct ways to pivot your tragedy conversation towards meaningful, powerful life lessons: 

1. Resilience Through Imperfection and Failure

Tragedy teaches us that life isn’t a perfect, utopian fantasy. It’s so imperfect, in fact, that bad things happen to good people ALL THE TIME. 

The earlier kids learn things won’t be perfect in their lives, the more adaptable they’ll become. They may still feel sideswiped by their mishaps or uncontrollable tragedies, but they’ll be prepared to make adjustments. 

Their setbacks will make them stronger.

Some of life’s biggest disappointments occur as perceived failures. High school students bomb their SATs and get rejected from the college of their dreams. Injured ballet dancers miss the big performance they worked for years to earn a place in. Brilliant inventions fail to garner investments.

Younger kids might break an arm or a finger at the playground and learn their bodily limits. They may even fail in less impactful ways, like falling off their bikes 30 times before mastering how to ride. Even these small mishaps can teach the beginnings of resiliency. 

Kids fear failure much less when we shatter the unfortunate idea of perfection. From playing the piano to flawless social media posts, kids face personal and peer pressure to do everything well. 

But failure isn’t bad. It’s how we improve.

kids fear failure quote

This lesson can be especially valuable for more entitled kids. They expect things to always go well and might be unfamiliar with hardship. But while we want our children to live happy lives, we don’t serve them well without teaching them to bounce back from misfortune. 

So, whether it’s a mass shooting, a terrorist attack, or a natural disaster, let your kids experience a small portion of the emotions it generates. They will understand that what seems incomprehensible and unbearable really isn’t–and that we must move on from each obstacle.

2. Tragedy Enhances Empathy and Gratitude

In an instant, tragedy gives a whole new perspective. 

The fire destroyed their house–but not just their house. It destroyed their beds, their toys, their photo albums full of memories…

BUT, you know what? As devastating as that is, we can take comfort in knowing their lives were saved. That’s all that matters.”

With any tragedy, it’s important to take a few moments for reflection. 

We can start with compassion and extend feelings of sorrow to those impacted by the tragedy. This way, kids learn to feel and show empathy from even the earliest of ages.

Next, we can use a tragedy to be grateful for what we have. Unlike the family stricken by fire, we still have our warm and cozy beds, toys, and most importantly, a roof over our heads. We won’t have to live in a hotel or with friends while waiting to see if insurance will pay for a new house. And we don’t have to try to replace what’s been lost. 

Finally, we can focus on what good–if any–has come out of the tragedy. In the scenario above, it was the family’s survival. In other tragedies, it could be an extended family coming together, or an entire community gathering to support one another. 

Sometimes, it can be a stretch to find that silver lining–but it’s SO important. 

It could be the thread that keeps us hanging on. 

3. Now Is the Time to Encourage Action 

Once kids learn that not all tragedies can be prevented, they can move on to what they can control–their own actions.

Making a difference starts with helping. It could be making a family donation for recent hurricane victims, or writing a condolence letter to a friend that lost a family member. 

Maybe there was a mass shooting in a local city or nearby state. You can show support for the affected families by attending the candlelight vigil. 

You don’t have to wait until tragedy strikes, either. 

Ask your kids of any age how they’d like to improve the world. A 4-year-old might suggest “free candy for all,” while a tween might suggest a (more practical) food drive. But the key is to introduce them to the idea of being thoughtful and proactive in their communities and their own lives. 

It can be as simple as showing kindness: maybe towards the new kid in school who just moved after his parents’ divorce, or to the newly widowed next-door neighbor who needs help shoveling her driveway.   

It’s then thinking about bigger issues, like how to repurpose plastic water bottles or removing litter from the beach to help the troubled environment. It’s giving grocery store gift cards to the curbside homeless woman or helping you organize a local fundraiser for the children’s hospital. 

Because when it comes down to it, making the world a little less sad takes one small action at a time. 

Final Thoughts

The inability to thwart tragedy means learning to live with it. But we can also learn from it.

So, talk to your kids about the tough things. Then, make a pact not to let those obstacles keep you from living full, intentional lives. 

Let’s not let the pain and suffering pass by in vain.

5 Tips for Parenting The Strong-Willed Child

strong willed childstrong willed child

strong willed child

Bossy. Controlling. Inflexible. Argumentative. Stubborn.

You may have heard these words thrown around a time or two (okay, maybe a few hundred times) to describe your child. Because from the moment she entered this world, she’s had a spark that simply would not die down. In her eyes, authority is meant to be challenged, and rules are made to be broken. 

You love her tenacious little spirit. Still, you’re not afraid to admit, parenting that spirit is genuinely exhausting. 

Because when you go left, she sways right. When you say sit, she stands. Every decision you make, there she is, ready to challenge it.

There’s no doubt about it. You have a strong-willed child. . .

If that phrase sounds nothing short of horrifying, don’t worry, you’re not alone! Many parents of boys and girls, toddlers and teens fear raising strong-willed children because of the negative stigma that seems to be attached. 

After all, aren’t we supposed to raise kids that aren’t bossy, controlling, and stubborn? Isn’t that the opposite of well-behaved? 

Actually, it’s not. 

Countless parents have taken our FREE WEBINAR, read our blogs, and become students of our 7-Step Parenting Success System, all looking to answer the same question.

How do I raise a well-behaved child?

Guess what? The parenting techniques are no different for those raising strong-willed children! 

Having a strong-willed child does not automatically mean you have an ill-behaved child. But you may have to adjust your parenting to accommodate their unshakeable spirit.

I’d like to give you five tips to help you positively parent your strong-willed child. But first, let’s go over some benefits of having a child with an iron will.

It may not feel great at the moment, but I promise, your strong-willed child is a force to be reckoned with. And that is certainly not a bad thing.

Benefits of Having a Strong-Willed Child

Believe it or not, your child’s unyielding temperament may be an indicator of future success.

A recently completed 40-year longitudinal study found that children who were labeled as “rule-breakers” or “defiant” were more likely to become over-achieving and financially successful adults.

When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. I mean, I can’t think of many Fortune 500 CEOs without a strong sense of determination. 

While the everyday battle with your toddler about putting her blocks away may feel discouraging, take heart! Because the same unbending attitude that drives you insane at home should give you a little peace of mind when thinking of the future. After all, if she won’t cave into your pressure as a parent, she’ll likely have that same attitude when interacting with her peers down the road. 

The thing is, strong-willed children are often misunderstood. Though it may come across as disrespectful, their sturdy spirit is actually a gift to be harnessed. These kids have the ability to focus on what they want and the drive to push forward.

What you see as demanding, someone else may see as decisive. Where you see a rebel, others may see a nonconformist. 

Will they challenge you as a parent? Absolutely.

But the most extraordinary ventures often come at a heavy price. I promise, once you begin to see the fruits of a stubborn spirit, you’ll understand the tremendous benefits that come with parenting a strong-willed child.

Now, let’s talk about how you can parent your spirited child without losing your parenting joy…

Tip #1: Identify Your Child’s Most Common Power Struggles 

Power struggles can be sneaky–especially with a strong-willed child.

At some point, every parent will enter into a battle for power with their child. This can be anything from toddler tantrums to teenage backtalk and everything in between. 

But, as parents, we must learn to identify our child’s typical power struggles (which can be different for every kid!) and what triggers set them in motion.

Let’s say one minute you’re helping your daughter get ready for preschool, and the next she’s stubbornly stomping around the room in her underwear because she doesn’t want to wear the outfit you picked out for her.

“I hate those pants! They feel funny! And I don’t like that shirt!” 

Like an auctioneer, you start the negotiations.

“Just put them on, we need to get out the door. And I’ll let you watch an extra show later.”

“No!”

“Fine. Just the pants and we’ll find a different shirt.”

“No!”

“Please, just TRY!”

Does she put on the clothes? No. Does anything come from you begging and pleading with her? You bet. A power struggle! 

If getting dressed in the morning is a trigger that brings out your daughter’s stubbornness, try allowing her to have more control over the outfit she wears every day. 

Instead of forcing her into one choice, you can let her choose from a list of pre-approved options, or even let her sleep in her outfit the night before. (Don’t worry if her clothes are wrinkled. Power struggle-free mornings are worth the trade off!) 

Or, for a little extra fun, try letting her have mismatched days when you turn a blind eye to the mixed-patterns ensemble she’s chosen.

You want her to get dressed at a reasonable time; she wants to feel like she has some control over what she puts on her body. Meet her in the middle and see what a difference it can make.

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members, be sure to check out our Managing Morning Mania Ultimate Survival Guide to learn more about why kids battle us in the mornings, and how that can change.

This same idea applies to strong-willed kids of all ages.

For instance, does asking your teenager to do his homework as soon as he gets home always lead to an argument? If so, identify the power struggle in advance, then shift your approach by giving him a little more autonomy over his schedule. 

“I understand you may not feel like doing your homework right after school. Would you rather do it before or after dinner once you’ve had some time to rest and eat?”

Some power struggles pop up out of nowhere, but if you think about it, I’m sure you can identify a few that are constantly prevalent with your strong-willed child. Figure out what they are, then take the proper steps to avoid them.

Helpful Hint: Positive Parenting Solutions Members, looking for even more problem-solving strategies for strong-willed kids? Check out The Explosive Child advanced module in the 7-Step Parenting Success System course.  

Tip #2: Give Them Some Power and Control

Now that you’ve identified what common power struggles your strong-willed child faces, let’s talk about how you can hand some control over (while still maintaining your peace of mind).

From the examples above, you saw how putting your child in charge of little decisions–like what to wear and when to do homework–can make a significant impact on whether or not they give you pushback. 

You know what pushes your strong-willed child into a fight, so the next step is to make a list of areas where you’re willing to loosen the reins and hand off some control.

For example…

You don’t need to pick out your 3-year-old daughter’s place setting; she can. Sure, she may pick all the cheap plastic dishes but it also gives her a huge hit of positive power (which leads to better behavior).

Your 10-year-old can pack his lunch for school. If you’re worried he’ll eat nothing but Fruit Roll-Ups and potato chips, simply use a little tool we like to call Control the Environment by ensuring you only shop for healthy options you don’t mind him packing each day.

If your headstrong 16-year-old is unrelenting in her desire to stay out later with her friends, invite her to sit down for a civilized conversation about why her curfew should be extended. She may have some very valid reasons you wouldn’t have thought of had you not allowed her to state her case. 

Handing off control to your child may sound terrifying, especially if you have a controlling parenting personality. But once you see the fruits of your labor, you’ll understand why this is so important. 

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members, check out Step 1 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System to take the Parent Personality Assessment and learn more about your specific parenting style and why it matters.

When you start giving your child options for control over their lives, you’re creating what we call a Decision-Rich Environment. A Decision-Rich Environment gives kids a boost of positive power while also helping to develop a strong sense of internal motivation.

“If Mom thinks I’m capable enough to pack my own lunch each day, I must be!” 

Creating a household environment filled with little decisions your kids can make for themselves will surely cut down on those insignificant power struggles you’re used to. Your child can be as headstrong as they come, and you’ll still see a difference in their misbehavior and attitude.free parenting class

Tip #3: Show Some Empathy and Respect

Parenting a strong-willed child can feel a little like playing an endless game of tug-of-war…only nobody wins.

We make demands, and they openly defy everything we say. Then we wonder why we experience an endless stream of meltdowns and temper tantrums (on both our parts).

The thing is, our kids house the same emotions we do, just in much smaller containers. 

We don’t like having orders barked at us or being told what to do and how to do it every second of every day, so why would our children be any different? Add a firm will to the mix, and the fight becomes even more challenging.

Instead of shaking your fist the next time your daughter engages you in a battle of wills, try putting on a more empathetic hat. Step into her shoes and take on her worldview.

Start by physically getting on her level, eye-to-eye, and offering an understanding statement that labels and validates her big feelings

“I understand you are frustrated we have to leave the playground. It’s never fun to leave such a fun place! How about we pick a day next week to come back?”

Don’t forget, there’s also a level of respect that should always accompany any conversation you have with your child. Start with yourself and set the example. Because when you model respect toward your kid, you’re more likely to receive the same in return. 

As parents, we all want to raise respectful kids who will remain so into adulthood. But sometimes we make the mistake of focusing so much on their respectful attitudes that we completely disregard our own.

So how can we show our kids respect? Many ways, but here are a few important ones…

Avoid talking down to them. Your 6-year-old can understand some pretty complex things, so it doesn’t work speaking to them as you would a toddler. The same goes for your teens and tweens, who will be entering the adult world sooner than you’d like. Speak to them the way you’d like to be spoken to. 

Also, avoid doing tasks for them they are perfectly capable of doing on their own. Allow them to answer questions for themselves. And respect their wants and desires.

When you show your child respect, you’re sending them a very important message.

You’re saying, “I know you are a strong, intelligent, and capable human being.” 

Wow! Talk about a boost of power. 

Tip #4: Find a Routine That Works

Here at Positive Parenting Solutions, we love our routines. Why? Because they work!

Whether it’s for bedtime, bath time, mealtime–whatever! I cannot stress enough the importance of incorporating daily routines into the areas of life where you and your child most struggle.

In truth, all kids thrive on healthy routines, but they can be especially beneficial for strong-willed kids. 

There’s something about the predictability of knowing exactly what to expect that sets their minds at ease, while also avoiding your most common power struggles. 

For instance, let’s say the mere thought of putting your child to bed exhausts you completely. You know that no matter how wonderful your day has been, come the bedtime hour, you’ll step into their bedroom like a boxer entering the ring–ready for a fight.

“I don’t WANT to brush my teeth!” “I won’t wear the striped pajamas! I want the ones I wore yesterday.” “Pleeeeese, I need another story!” “But I’m not tired!” 

This is when you know it’s time to get strict with your child’s bedtime routine.

When it comes to routines, consistency is key. It’s important to do the same thing over and over so your child can get an idea of what to expect. This is true for any child! But with a strong-willed child? Inconsistency to the routine can be so detrimental.

If you’re trying to establish a good bedtime routine, start by picking a set time to be in bed and sticking to it. Now’s not the time to allow “just one more episode” or “five more minutes playing with toys.”  This only opens up the road to night-after-night negotiations and the end of a firm bedtime. 

Stay strong and let the routine be the boss (so you don’t have to be!).

Also, it’s important to make sure the events leading up to that bedtime are just as consistent.

“At 8:00, we will put on pajamas and brush our teeth. At 8:15, let’s pick out a few stories and snuggle up in bed to read. At 8:30, it’s lights out.”

Helpful hint: Instead of setting a timer on your phone or microwave, use a visual timer (like the Time Timer) to help your younger kids conceptualize the passing of time. 

Should you receive any pushback, simply ask, “What does the routine say we have to do now?” 

If, after consistently implementing your routine, you’re still facing an iron will from your child, use what we call the When-Then Routine. 

It’s simple, straightforward, and works like magic. Here’s how it goes…

“Henry, WHEN you brush your teeth, THEN we get to read books!”

“Maddy, WHEN you’ve packed up all your books, THEN we can head to the library!”

See what happened there? 

By placing the least desirable task as a precursor to the more desirable one, you create a simple, easy-to-follow routine. This is fantastic because it still leaves the control in the child’s hands, but now they want to do what is required to get to the fun stuff later.

No sassing, pushback, or power struggles are required.

Simply put, routines are the guardrails that help keep your strong-willed child from going off the tracks. And they make all the difference! 

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members, be sure to read Step-3 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System for more ways to implement When-Then Routines.

strong willed child quote

Tip #5: Focus on Problem-Solving, NOT Punishment

Strong-willed children have such a powerful sense of independence, but it can often be mistaken for defiance and misbehavior. A clever disguise if there ever was one.

Unfortunately, what do most frustrated and exhausted parents tend to do when their child is misbehaving? Look for a punishment.

And in the world of positive parenting, punishment and discipline do not go hand-in-hand. Honestly, they aren’t even in the same ballpark.

Now, I understand how this becomes the go-to solution for most parents. Perhaps they’re tired, embarrassed by their child’s behavior, or just feel as though they’re out of options. But punishment comes with a lot of emotional baggage. And trust me, you don’t want to unpack it. 

First, for the sake of clarity, please know that we define punishment as any action by an adult that causes the child to experience blame, shame, or pain (physical or emotional). Source: Jane Nelsen, EdD, and Positive Discipline founder.

Let’s say you spank your daughter anytime she gets frustrated and smacks her younger sister. Does this form of punishment stop her from hitting?

Perhaps it does in the moment. But in the long run? Nope! 

I’d be willing to argue that she will just get better at hiding the misbehavior in the future. Because not only are you telling her not to hit by hitting–which is so confusing–but you’ve done nothing to address the bigger issue…why she’s hitting in the first place. 

Instead, focus on solving the bigger problem.

If your daughter is hitting her sister out of frustration, try getting to the heart of why she’s so frustrated, and help her work through those big emotions. (Hint: A Feelings Wheel is a great place to start!) Talk about what changes she’d make next time, and how she can make things right with her sister. 

And if your son is defiant every day after school, put on your detective hat to figure out why. 

Is he hungry because he’s trading his sandwich for cookies every day? Is he having trouble in a subject or two? Problems with friends? Or simply weary after sitting still so long? 

Whatever it is, get to the bottom of it, and figure out some solutions to try. He’ll be much more likely to work with you if he understands you’re with him, and not against him.

I know it can be challenging to stifle that automatic desire to jump straight to punishment, but the more you practice implementing a problem-solving approach with your strong-willed child, the easier it will become.

Final Thoughts

If your life feels like a constant battle of tug-of-war with your child, now is the time to end the game. When they pull, resist the urge to pull back even harder.

Instead, loosen your grip and remember these five tips. Because parenting a strong-willed child does not have to be so exhausting.I promise, with a bit of time, patience, and the right tools, you can even learn to enjoy that fighting spirit. You’ve got this, and I’ve got you!

3 Communication Tips to Avoid Power Struggles

young african american family holding hands

Just imagine…

You’re 4-years-old, walking to the park with your mom and dad. The sun is shining, there’s a soft breeze in the air, and the twirly slide is calling your name. You can’t wait to get there. 

Just as you step onto the sidewalk, your mom shouts, “Don’t go in the street!” 

You hadn’t planned on walking in the street. At least not until this very moment. You stare at the smooth black pavement glistening in the sunlight. It’s just begging for you to run across it!

Why, oh, why did your mom even mention the street? Had she said, “Please walk with us on the sidewalk,” you probably wouldn’t have even noticed it. 

Now, it’s all your little mind can think about.

As parents, we can give commands to our children positively or negatively. Both, essentially, are asking the same thing, but the delivery–and the impression it leaves– can be exponentially different.

And in a world where the average child hears 432 negative comments or words per day versus 32 positive ones (Source: K. Kvols, Redirecting Children’s Behavior), it’s safe to say which style we typically rely on.

Don’t be late! Stop talking with your mouth full! Don’t touch your sister! No more fighting!

I’m sure a few of these sound familiar. But you see, when most of the language we use with our kids is negative (don’t, stop, no more, etc.) we create problems for both them and us.

Negative language is confusing, demeaning, and comes off as harsh. Kids don’t want to feel talked down to any more than adults do. 

Not to mention, it invites All. The. Power. Struggles.

Fortunately, the fix is as simple as swapping out those negative phrases for more positive ones. Trust me; this will do wonders for your child’s misbehavior!

Why? Because positive language empowers kids! It tells them that they can make good choices, and we value what they have to say. It’s a massive boost to their self-esteem.

Here’s the not-so-fortunate part. It may be simple, but simple doesn’t always mean easy. Making these changes isn’t going to happen overnight, especially if you’ve been using negative commands for years–it’s just second nature at this point! 

But with a bit of time, practice, and intentional effort, I’m confident you’ll get there. 

To get you started, here are 3 tips to avoid power struggles by using positive language.

Tip #1: Practice Using “Do” Commands

Don’t run in the street! Don’t talk with food in your mouth! Don’t forget to brush your teeth!

Do any of these sound familiar?

To put an end to the power struggles, try to rephrase these statements using “Do” commands….

Please walk on the sidewalk. Keep your lips together when chewing food, please. When your teeth are brushed, we’ll be ready for storytime!

Why “Do” Commands Lead to More Cooperation

As parents, we probably say the word “don’t” more times than we can count in one day. And with good reason! We want to keep our children safe, healthy, and happy. Naturally, we have to tell them what they shouldn’t do. 

Right?

The problem isn’t so much what we’re asking but rather how we’re asking it. You see, when we use “don’t” commands, our kids automatically have to “double-process” what we’re telling them.

They think, What does Mom NOT want me to do? AND, What does she want me to DO instead?

Not only is this discouraging, but it’s also incredibly confusing–especially for young children. “Don’t” reinforces the negative behavior and brings it to their full attention (remember the street scenario above?).

You say, “Don’t run in the street!” and they think, “Gee, running in the street sounds really fun right about now.”

You say, “Don’t play on your iPad,” and they think, “iPad, iPad, iPad! I REALLY want my iPad!”

Instead, try switching up your phrasing by stating what you do want instead of what you don’t. (Bonus points if you ask politely.)

For example, if you want to say “DO walk on the sidewalk,” try, “Please walk on the sidewalk. It’s so nice knowing we are being safe.”

Or, if you’re going for “DO stay away from the iPad,” try, “Let’s play outside while the weather is nice and save your screen time for when we’re in the car later.”

Doesn’t that sound much better?

Right off the bat, this eliminates the need to “double-process” the command. Your child knows exactly what you’re asking and feels especially significant because you asked in such a polite and respectful way.

It also does away with any looming frustration that tends to go hand-in-hand with negative comments. You’ll take their thinking from, Why can’t I? to Yes, I can! 

And with that boost of empowerment in your daily lives, you’ll be sure to see less misbehavior.

free parenting class

Tip #2: Find Opportunities to Say “Yes!”

One of the best ways to reduce power struggles is to shift our “no’s” into something that — to a child — feels more like a “yes.”

For example, just imagine…

It’s Saturday afternoon, and you and your 10-year-old son are perusing the aisles of your local pet store. All you need is a bag of dog food, but you’re making it an outing because you both enjoy peeking in on the new puppies and kittens.

You’re deeply enthralled with an adorable little furball when, all of a sudden, you hear your son call to you from across the store. 

“Mom, come check out this baby alligator! Can we buy him?”

Ummm, say what now? 

Sure, there are many amazing parents out there that would love to bring a pet alligator home. But you are NOT one of them. Of course, now you feel backed into a corner. Up until now, you’ve been a positive language rockstar! But that ends today.  

You have to say no.

And you know what? That’s fine! 

Parents can’t (and shouldn’t) give their children every single thing they ask for. If they did, I’m pretty sure the world would be run by entitled kids fueled solely on dino nuggets and candy.

So let’s set the record straight right now. “No” isn’t the problem. How we present the “no” can be.

Let’s say your immediate reaction is:

“No. We are absolutely NOT getting a pet alligator today, tomorrow, or ever!”

Can you see how something so negatively charged may be discouraging to your 10-year-old? He was only asking a question, but your answer leaves him frustrated, disheartened, and ready to push back.

So what can you do when the answer is “no,” but you want to maintain that positive language? 

Try shifting that power struggle paradigm by finding a way to turn that “no” answer into something that more resembles a “yes.” 

You could try:

“We can’t buy an alligator to take home, but let’s pick a day when we can come back and visit it in the store. Would you rather come back Sunday afternoon or Monday evening?”

This way, you aren’t driving home with a reptilian creature in the backseat, but you also don’t have to say no.

It’s a win-win. 

While this may seem tricky at first, I’m willing to bet that you’re actually much better at disguising no’s for yes’s than you think.

Maybe it’s your toddler, asking for the hundredth time if she can wear her purple polka dot snowsuit to the swimming pool because it’s her “favorite color in the whole wide world!”

“You can absolutely wear your snowsuit inside the house with the A/C on high! But let’s stick to wearing your purple swimsuit at the pool. Snowsuits are hard to splash in.”

Or perhaps your fresh-from-the-DMV teen really wants to learn how to drive in your classic (and newly restored) ’65 Mustang.

“Buddy, you’d look so awesome driving that car, but it can be really hard to learn the rules of the road in a manual transmission. Why don’t we start in an automatic until you’re more confident behind the wheel?”

See? Even when the answer is “no” you can always squeeze a refreshingly positive “yes” in there somewhere.

Try a Yes Day!

positive language quote

Another way to find more opportunities to say “yes” throughout the day is quite simple. Just say “yes!”

A popular trend in recent years has been for families to institute a “Yes Day” with their kiddos. Typically, this is one full day when parents say yes to any request (with ground rules and within reason) their kids ask.

Breakfast for dinner? Yes! 

Mini golf followed by a movie? Absolutely! 

Wear pajamas to the candy store? Um, if you say so!

The intention behind the idea of a Yes Day is to give your children something all Positive Parenting Solutions parents know they desire–a strong feeling of belonging and significance!

Saying “yes” to their requests tells them that you’re interested in what they have to say and what they want to do. They’re an essential part of the family, and you recognize all of their contributions.

Yes is powerful! 

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members, review Step 1 Lesson 2 of The 7-Step Parenting Success System to understand more about your child’s desire for belonging and significance.

Tip #3: Whenever Possible, Smile When You Speak

You may be thinking, Okay, Amy, what’s with you? This is getting a little weird. 

Trust me. I get it. 

But, believe it or not, lots of research shows that smiling when we speak has a significantly positive impact on both us and those we’re talking to! It may seem a bit out there, but I promise you’ll soon see just how helpful it can be when trying to switch from negative to positive language. 

Because the truth is, it’s really hard to say anything negative when you’ve got a smile on your face.

Let’s give it a try…

With your brightest smile, repeat after me: “Don’t ride your bike without a helmet on. It’s really dangerous, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

I’m willing to bet that felt pretty awkward (and possibly looked a little terrifying). Why? Because the emotion on your face didn’t match what you were saying. 

Now, let’s try it again. Only this time, let’s also rephrase the sentence using what we learned in the first two tips.

Again, be sure to show off those pearly whites: “Please wear your helmet when you’re on your bike. I love knowing that you’re being safe.”

Ahhh, I bet that felt much better! And the funny thing is, you were still getting the same point across…just in a more positive way.

Final Thoughts

As the saying goes, old habits die hard! And, unfortunately, for most parents, using negative language is a very old habit.

Right now, it may seem an impossible feat. You ask, repeat, remind, and yell, only to feel nothing but guilt a few moments later. “No,” “don’t,” and “can’t” are a few of your most-used vocabulary words, yet the power struggles remain.

But that’s the very reason why Positive Parenting Solutions came about in the first place! I wanted to meet parents right where they are–in the hardest of places–and give them hope for a brighter, more positive way to parent. 

Yes, you can empower your children with positive language! You can reduce the amount of misbehavior you see every day. And you absolutely can be the positive parent you’ve always dreamed of becoming.

We’re happy to help you every step of the way!

What Age Should Kids Get a Phone? 4 Questions to Consider

young african girl holding smartphoneyoung african girl holding smartphone

young african girl holding smartphone

Buying a phone is a high-dive plunge, and the risks must be weighed before we determine whether our children should jump.

It’s a bit of a Catch-22–we don’t want screen time inhibiting our kids’ social, emotional, and intellectual growth, but there are circumstances when they may actually need a phone.

There’s already plenty of evidence that phones (and more specifically, smartphones) negatively affect mental health. Still, our daily lives are built increasingly around them. 

We also have to keep track of our kids–literally–and we want to give them the ability to call and text us (you know, all the time, even on dates, when they’re in college–forever). 

Paving communication channels between parent and child begins by allowing kids (some) freedom of movement and choice. In fact, my FREE WEBINAR is all about recognizing our children’s desire for power and autonomy and accommodating these innate needs in a safe and effective way. 

Giving a child a phone is one increasingly common way of allowing kids autonomy, whether it’s through conversations with friends or the freedom to watch funny videos. But as much as they may enjoy these privileges (and as much as we enjoy the ability to always text, call, and pinpoint their whereabouts), phones can be equally detrimental.

So, the questions abound: Should we be buying our kids phones? If so, what type, when, at what literal cost, and within what boundaries?

To answer these questions, let’s start at the very beginning. 

You remember the scene…when your daughter walked in the door and exclaimed:

“Bridget got a phone when she was nine, and I’m almost 11! Why can’t I have one?” 

Should Kids Get a Phone? 

Keeping up with the Joneses–even intentionally not keeping up with them–is a constant struggle in life and parenting. 

You may want that BMW and that Louis Vuitton. You may be jealous of the neighbor’s vacation to Greece. But you know your 6-year-old son doesn’t need an iPhone 12…or 67…or whatever it is now.   

It’s easy to give kids what they want when it makes them happy. Even if it just silences the begging, pleading, and negotiating, it can feel well worth a pretty penny. 

But as fun or as tempting as it may be, buying phones based on the status quo ignores whether our children are actually ready for one. 

Growing up, you may have heard, “This is the way we do it in our house, regardless of what your friends’ parents do.”

And now you’re regurgitating the same phrase and sounding just like your parents.

But the influence of peer pressure and the importance of keeping our kids up-to-date with their contemporaries is nothing to scoff at, either. 

Many kids use cell phones and other technologies almost exclusively to keep in touch with their peers. They can’t even schedule outings without texting first. 

Now, with virtual learning a commonality, kids are often required to go face to face through a digital lens. 

Regardless of our technological wishes or preferences, it’s essential we consider how much our kids need phones just to function in the world around them. 

Your friend might need her 6-year-old to have a phone because she spends every other weekend at her co-parent‘s house. But you might not see a need for your kids to have a phone until high school.

Determining if–and when–kids are ready for phones is completely family and kid dependent–especially when it comes to smartphones.

What Type of Phone Should My Kids Get?

Kids Should Start With a Basic Phone

The tech industry has realized that one size does not fit all. This means we can find a phone option that suits our family’s unique needs while also keeping our kiddos safe.

Even with basic phones, we can keep track of kids and start to build trust. These simpler phones still allow them to text family, friends, and make important, or emergency, calls. 

And for the youngest kids, a simple watch that allows your kindergartener to call and tell you he missed the school bus–but that also restricts his access to games, social media, and the internet–may be the perfect fit. 

Smartphones (and tablets and computers) can also be used on a very basic level. They don’t need all of those apps to work. We can cut out any unnecessary internet access and social media we deem necessary while adding plenty of restrictions (we love OurPact). 

We also love Gabb Phones because they…

  1. Look like a smartphone and ward off any negative peer pressure, and… 
  2. They have all the text & call capabilities WITHOUT an app store, social media, or games that distract kids.

There are many resources to guide you through the safest possible smartphone set-up for your kids. 

And don’t worry–early access to a basic phone isn’t a gateway phone to the dark net. Safe protocols lead to safe results. 

So, how can you know your child is ready to navigate even more of the world at their fingertips with a smartphone?

The Minimum Age for Smartphone Usage 

When determining smartphone eligibility, it ultimately comes down to a child’s level of maturity and responsibility. So, kids wanting to use–and not abuse–smartphone privileges should prove a few things first. 

Here are 4 signs they’re up for the challenge:

1. They’re Well Aware of Smartphone Dangers 

Kids shouldn’t have mobile devices at their fingertips unless they’re well-versed in the power they contain.

Discussing, in-depth, the risks of cyberbullying, online predators, sexting, and even how to call 911 (or what to do when accidentally calling 911) should all preface the purchase of a smartphone. 

Phone safety is a crucial, non-negotiable conversation we must have with our children. It’s not unlike discussing stranger danger before sending our kids on solo walks to school or broaching the less-than-comfortable birds and bees talk.

smartphone safety quote

Smartphones are literally a gateway to the entire world; kids need to be prepared for what they’re going to see and familiar with what is–and isn’t–okay. 

If children can rattle off how sharing sensitive, personal information in a text is a bad idea, explain proper online etiquette, and understand that social media is based on appearances more than reality, they may be prepared to navigate the perils, and not just the technical aspects, of a smartphone.

2. They Exhibit Self-Control with Other Technologies

Kids have a lot of different technologies to distract them. Most likely, it’s already a huge part of their lives and will remain so. 

To test their self-restraint, try setting daily time limits on the hours or minutes they can use each type of tech. If they complain profusely when their 30 minutes of TV shows are up, they are not ready to demonstrate the self-control that’s required to use a phone. 

If they’d rather stay inside and play video games than join the friendly neighborhood kids in a game of kickball, they might need encouragement to re-balance the amount of screen time they enjoy. 

Kids should also be setting aside technology while they’re studying, eating meals, and at least 2 hours before heading to bed

If you’re on the struggle-bus demanding screen breaks and controlling time limits already, it’s best to delay the purchase of a smartphone until they can better self-monitor and control their usage. 

Pro Tip: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members; please review the ADVANCED training session–Technology Survival Plan–for signs of technology addiction and a plan to turn it around. 

3. They Prioritize School and Family Contributions

Kids can–and should–have age-appropriate responsibilities. It gives them a sense of power. It creates confidence. And it encourages them to keep up the good work. 

But smartphones are such a gloriously fun distraction from it all.

Ideally, our kids are helping out around the house daily. Whether it’s our 7-year-old folding and putting away his laundry or our 16-year-old cleaning his bathroom, these family contributions should occur (without constant reminders) before any technology time.

Additionally, kids also need to be regularly keeping up with their schooling (whether virtual or in-person) and homework before you consider buying a smartphone.

You might think that smartphones can help kids learn. It’s true–many great educational resources are available as phone apps, and you can even limit a child’s phone usage to education only. However, before our kids are ready to dig into these educational resources on their devices, they must demonstrate responsibility in learning the old-school way! 

4. They Are Open in Their Communication

At some point, kids stop telling us everything. Depending on the subject, that’s okay! 

Your teen son doesn’t want to tell you which girls he’s secretly crushing on. And your tween daughter may want to keep a few of her BFF’s secrets, well, secret. As long as they’re appropriate, there are some things we simply don’t need to know.

But we do still need our kids–at any age–to come to us when something is wrong. It’s important they feel comfortable confiding in us and know we offer a safe refuge for them to talk and ask questions. 

If we don’t have a solid rapport with our kids, they’re less likely to come to us with problems. 

With smartphones a part of their everyday lives, online bullying, dangerous activities–even suicidal friends–might all be things our children encounter. Even if our kids do something wrong, we need them to confide in us.

free parenting class

Therefore, it’s crucial to establish and maintain open communication before unleashing a smartphone. 

This is doubly true if you’ll be allowing your kids access to social media. Healthy communication  translates to healthy usage. And healthy usage means that no social media accounts can be kept private from you. 

Dishonesty and concealment are giant, waving red flags. Kids that either struggle with lying or tend to be deceptive need to understand that the truth alone will earn your trust–and their smartphone privileges. 

Should Kids Help Pay for Their Phones?

They’ll probably beg to differ, but kids don’t deserve every toy they ever want. Nor do they deserve a dog just because they like animals or a new car just for passing driver’s ed. 

The same is true for phones.

Phones can be earned–or purchased–through legitimate work and hard-earned money. 

If we don’t want our kids feeling entitled, they’re best served understanding the monetary value of a family phone plan and the hefty cost of a phone itself. 

If you provide your kids an allowance, encourage them to set aside a percentage each month to help pay for their phones/smartphones.

Alternatively, they can accomplish special jobs around the house or even pocket money through babysitting or other work to contribute to the cost. 

In a way, it’s easy to understand why so many kids feel entitled to a phone when everyone else has one. But kids that don’t work for their privileges tend not to feel gratitude–or even respect–for what they have. 

Our job as parents is to combat that feeling of expectation by insisting they earn it through due diligence and monetary contribution/awareness. 

What Boundaries Should Be in Place for Smartphone Use?

So, you’ve decided your kids have earned and are ready for a smartphone!  

Regardless, you may still feel like you’ve opened Pandora’s box. Your kids now have potential access to endless information–both helpful and harmful. And despite their maturity, you may foresee problems with enhanced screen-time addiction. This is when a family technology contract can encourage kids to respect–and not abuse–their newfound privilege.  

To begin with, a technology contract is upfront and doesn’t involve secretly “spying” on kids. It can detail restrictions, like the parental controls you’ll be implementing and the apps you’ll rely on to monitor their usage and time limits. It can be transparent about blocked websites and the prohibition of secret social media accounts.

Like any business contract, family technology contracts require an upfront understanding of the parameters. Kids can study the contract, agree to the terms, and even acknowledge their awareness by signing it. 

What’s more, the contract mirrors the terms of a logical consequence.

Logical consequences require that children understand in advance what will happen if they break the rules. And, if they break the rules, they will face consequences related to that offense.

Therefore, the contract can go on to say what will happen if terms aren’t upheld. A breach in contract could lead to losing smartphone privileges for a day, a week–even longer. It could mean loss of access to the internet, social media, or YouTube.

You can create a family technology contract that is the right fit for you. But remember–the contract is set in stone. And as much as possible, the same terms should apply to you, too.

logical consequences quote

Pro Tip: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members; please review the ADVANCED training session–Technology Survival Plan–for a sample Family Technology Contract.

Setting a Good Example

If anyone can understand the constant draw to technology and addictive qualities, it’s us. Raise your hand if you’re trying to find where you left your iPhone at least five times a day and feel naked accidentally leaving the house without it. 

We use our smartphones to find take-out, navigate ourselves to the dentist office, keep in touch with friends and relatives, and read the latest news. 

To a large extent, we have to use smartphones way more than our kids. We have work, bills to pay, appointments to schedule, communication to maintain…and it can all happen on our small devices.

But if we expect our kids to set aside their phones at dinnertime and play games or watch videos an hour or less each day, we need to hold ourselves to the same standards. Our own addiction to technology–or lack of–can be the most powerful example of all. 

I get it though…it’s also one of the hardest to uphold! 

Just remember that any terms our children agree to will feel more balanced and fair the more all family members are onboard. 

Final Thoughts

Whether the latest parenting style is helicopter, Tiger Mom, or free-range, determining if and when our kids can have a phone is a serious question–one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

But with proper precautions, preparedness, and boundaries, kids can use phones of any kind much more safely and at your discretion. And with continual, hard-earned trust, additional access and privileges across all devices may follow. 

As influential as it is, technology doesn’t determine the rules in your family–YOU do!

With oversight and guidance, you can safely guide your kids towards exciting and responsible technological futures.

6 Tips for Raising Patient Kids

little boy waiting patiently for cookieslittle boy waiting patiently for cookies

little boy waiting patiently for cookies

Patience is a virtue.

Raise your hand if you’ve heard that once or twice (or 500 times) in your life. And for good reason–patience is a virtue! It’s an admirable quality that we strive to master, even when it feels like we often fail.

Because the truth is, being patient is hard work. 

We’ve all been there… 

Standing in line at the grocery store while the world’s most sloth-like checker rings up the person ahead of us. Or stuck in rush hour traffic with a full bladder and absolutely no break in sight. 

Patience is hard.

Then, when you throw kids into the mix? Being patient is even more challenging

You know how it goes:

First, you ask your son to do something. James, would you put your shoes away, please? 

No response. 

Then, you demand it. James put your shoes away right now.

Crickets.

Finally, you yell. “James, I said you need to put your shoes away this instant! I’m not going to ask again!”

Suddenly, you’ve lost your cool, and any ounce of patience you once had is nothing but an afterthought. Try not to feel too bad. It happens to the best of us. Just ask any parent who has ever taken my FREE class.

Simply put, being patient with kids is no easy feat. 

But if fostering patience is difficult for us as adults, can you imagine how tough it must be for our kids?

The Importance of Patience in Children

Not only is patience an excellent quality for any child to develop, it’s also a strong indicator of their future successes. In fact, the famous Stanford Marshmallow Experiment revealed that 4-year-olds who exercised patience, later had SAT scores that were 210 points higher than their peers who did not.

How amazing is that?!

Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, instant gratification is lurking around every corner. 

We stream and binge our favorite shows the moment they become available. We heat delicious meals in a matter of minutes. We can even access an entire encyclopedia’s worth of information by merely asking our smartphones a question.

When we see something we want, we want it (and often get it) right away!

Is this all convenient? Sure it is. But it doesn’t make waiting any easier. For us or our kids. 

Fortunately, we’re here to help. Check out these 6 tips for raising patient kids! 

6 Tips for Raising Patient Kids

Tip #1: Don’t Drop Everything to Help

Our children are just as human as we are, which means, like us, they also struggle with craving instant gratification. Just like we’d like to hit every green light on the way to work, they’d like to have a snack the moment they ask for one. 

But life doesn’t work like that, right? Sometimes, we have to wait. And when we wait, it’s easy to become frustrated! 

But here’s the beautiful thing about the wait. That’s where patience is learned.

As long as safety isn’t a concern, there’s no need to drop everything and help your child the second they cry your name. Allow them to wait.

You know the routine…

“Mom, can you get me a glass of milk?”

“Dad, I can’t tie my shoes!”

As parents, we know a thing or two about how it feels to be at our children’s beck and call. From the moment they’re born, it seems like we’re always dropping what we’re doing and hurrying to their aid. 

Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As parents, we should help our children, especially in those early years. We just want to be careful we aren’t crossing the line from helping to enabling.

quote about patience

So instead of jumping immediately when your child asks, try a When-Then approach:

“WHEN I’m finished folding laundry, THEN I’ll grab you a glass of milk.” 

“WHEN I’ve finished my conference call, THEN I’ll help you learn to tie your shoes.”

This is also a fantastic opportunity for you to try out a tool known as Control the Environment.

Let me start by asking you a question…

If no adults lived in your household, how would you arrange the environment so your children could operate entirely independently?

Maybe you could put a step stool in the kitchen so your daughter can grab her glass when she’s thirsty. Or perhaps you lay a pair of easy-to-slip-on shoes outside her bedroom door.

Instead of dropping everything and running to her aid, you’ve now rearranged her physical environment so she can do everything for herself.

Which leads me to my next tip…

Take Time for Training!

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members, be sure to check out Step 3 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System for more information on how you can Control the Environment using When-Then routines. 

Tip #2: Take Time for Training

Your children weren’t born with the ability to wait patiently. (Remember those newborn days?) And just like brushing their teeth or learning proper bedtime routines, patience is a learned skill that takes time, practice, and training. 

Take Time for Training is a powerful tool that any parent can (and should!) use. 

To start, make a list of all the things your children typically ask you to help them with. Now, look at the list and narrow it down to what you know they can do themselves.

(Remember, be realistic! You wouldn’t expect your 2-year-old to know how to tie his shoes. But your 7-year-old can do it!) 

Now ask yourself, which of these tasks can I train my child to do now so they won’t be forced to wait for my help?

This could be pouring their cereal in the morning or picking out their outfit. Whatever it may be, move forward with training them on how they can do it for themselves. 

Just keep in mind, this will take time, as no child gets it perfect right out of the gate. But soon, you’ll start to notice the constant demands for help and whines of impatience becoming less frequent.

Now, what about the other portion of the list? The items your children aren’t yet capable of doing themselves?

I’m glad you asked! Because this is where you train them on HOW to wait patiently. 

Let’s say your son is too young to make his own lunch, but you’re busy feeding the baby and can’t prepare his meal right away. This is an excellent chance for you to turn his waiting into a learning opportunity.

For example, when he says, “Mommy, I’m so hungry! I want lunch.”

You can reply, “I’m sorry, Sweetie, I’m busy at the moment. Why don’t you sing the When You Wait song or play with your toys until I can make your lunch?” 

Not only did you give him a few ideas on what he can do while he waits, you also handed him the opportunity to practice waiting patiently. 

And whether he succeeds for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, heap on some positive encouragement afterward. Try something like, “Thank you for waiting so patiently, you were so quiet I could really focus on finishing up!” or, “I know it was hard to wait patiently, but you made it look fun the way you set up all your blocks like a castle!”

Tip #3: Engage in Slow-Paced Activities

If the idea of playing a round of Monopoly with your kids has you cringing, I get it! That game can go on forever.

But when it comes to fostering patience, I promise you, playing slow-paced games together will be greatly beneficial. 

Sure, at the end of a long day, it’s easy to hand your child a smartphone or send them off to play a video game. Unfortunately, these types of games are often so fast-paced they actually make it more difficult for your child to develop a healthy understanding of patience.

However, when you throw in games that are both fun and slow, you’re able to teach patience without making it dull.

So pull out that dusty old Monopoly box, play the Silent Game on your next road trip, or teach your kids one of your favorite card games. The sky’s the limit!  

These activities don’t even have to be games (though those are always a great option!). 

Perhaps you and your son have your sights set on finishing a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle for your Mind, Body, and Soul Time? Or maybe your daughter wants to try learning the art of origami? What about baking a cake? Painting pottery?

Whatever the activity may be, look for options that require at least a small amount of waiting. Aim for time spans that are long enough to encourage patience, but short enough your kids won’t lose sight of the reward at the end of the wait.

Not only will they start to develop a healthy understanding of what it takes to be patient, but you’ll also be filling their need for positive attention by spending time together. With this, you’ll start to see a reduction in the number of power struggles they throw your way.

What a win!

free parenting class

Tip #4: Have a Visible Schedule

More often than not, our children retain information much better when presented in a visual format. So, if you’re trying to teach patience, creating a schedule or calendar you can display in your home can be incredibly helpful.

Not only will this help them understand precisely when something is going to happen, but it will also give you a tool to reference anytime they come asking questions.

Your 4-year-old may ask, “Mommy, when are we getting on a plane to go visit Nana?”

“It’s written on the calendar. Why don’t you go count how many days you have left to wait?”

See? So simple!

Ensure that the schedule is displayed in a prominent place in your household, like the kitchen or living room. You can also dress it up and make it fun or colorful–especially if you have younger kids! 

Make sure that both the start and end dates are clearly labeled. Then, add a sticker, move a magnet, or X-out each day between now and the big event. It may also help younger children if you detail out everything you plan on doing until then.

On Monday, we do our laundry. On Tuesday, we pack our bags. On Wednesday, we head to the airport. On Thursday, we see Nana!

You can review your family’s schedule at your weekly Family Meeting so everyone gets a feel for the rhythm of the week–and learns that the all-important trip, birthday, playdate, or whatever will happen eventually.

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members, be sure to check out Step 6 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System to learn more about running an efficient, informative, and FUN Family Meeting.

Having a visible schedule is also incredibly handy on road trips. After all, what parent hasn’t fallen victim to the ever-dreadful question:

“Are we there yet?”

Consider making one of these cute and straightforward road maps to show how far you’ve gone and how far you have left to go. 

As the schedule starts to become a standard reference in your children’s lives, you’ll begin to notice their impatience waning. 

Tip #5: Use a Timer 

Much like the schedule, using a timer is another tangible way to help your child better understand time moving forward. When he can see the end in sight, waiting patiently is much easier. 

One of my favorite timers on the market is the Time Timer. This helpful little gadget will show your child the passage of time in a way that’s easy to comprehend. An hourglass sand timer is another excellent alternative for shorter periods, like brushing teeth or washing hands.

Note: Avoid countdown timers, as kids have a hard time processing this type of information.

Here’s how using a visual timer could play out in your home…

After a long day of working from home, you only have a few more tasks to complete today’s work. It shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes. But virtual school has already let out, and your 5-year-old is now begging for his special time with you.  

First off, don’t drop everything and cater to him (remember Tip #1?). Why?

Because this is an excellent opportunity for a little lesson in patience! Of course, you can always help him out a little by letting him experience the wait along with something to show the passage of time. 

Simply say, “I can’t wait for our special time, either. I have two more things to do for work, and then we can be together. To help you out, I’m going to set a timer for 10 minutes so you know when I’ll be ready.”

By acknowledging your child’s anxious enthusiasm AND providing a tool to help them cope, you are no longer the “keeper of the time.” The timer is the boss! 

Tip #6: Demonstrate Patience 

I know, I know. This may be the hardest one of all, but also the most important. 

Because, even when we are at our worst, our kids are always watching and learning from us. If we want them to be patient little humans, we can’t talk the talk unless we walk the walk, too.

That means personally exercising and demonstrating patience every single day.

You may feel the need to honk your horn and swear at the car in front of you in a feeble attempt to make traffic move faster, but don’t forget the little ears listening from the backseat. 

Instead, fight the urge to give in to impatience. Come up with a fun car game to pass the time or crank up the tunes to enjoy a rush-hour jam session.

Or, instead of getting angry at the grocery store clerk for moving too slowly, try offering up an understanding sentiment about why the wait may be taking so long. 

“Maybe he’s had a tough day, or perhaps the computer is running slowly.”

Demonstrating patience in your daily life is a great way to lead by example. But don’t forget, you must also show patience with your children as well.

That means curbing the urge to yell or scream when you find them wrestling in the living room or using a Calm Voice even in the midst of a toddler temper tantrum.

I get it. Sometimes it feels like no one can push our buttons quite like our own children. Show them some grace and be patient with them anyway. After all, we’re the ones with years of experience under our belts.

Our kids are just now learning. Teach them patience by being patient with them.

I promise, you won’t regret it.

Final Thoughts

Our children are little mirrors of our own selves. If we want to teach them to wait without agitation, we can’t do it if we don’t have a handle on the skill ourselves. 

Using these 6 tips is a wonderful start–but it’s just the first step! In fact, it’s best if you think of this path as more of a lifelong journey; one we must walk alongside our little ones.

Parenting is a learning process, one I happen to know a lot about. So, please, read our blogs, try our FREE WEBINAR, and sign up for the proven 7-Step Parenting Success System.

We’re here to help in any way we can!

5 Ways to Raise Socially Responsible Kids

boy picking up trashIt’s Friday–the BEST day of the week–and 12-year-old Sam is walking to school. 

A piece of trash blows across his path before getting stuck in the chain-link fence. Along with school essays, sandwich wrappers, and crushed soda cans, it’s now part of a collage of debris, hopelessly clinging to the metal barrier as the wind blows through. 

How disgusting, he thinks. Something has to be done.

The following day, Sam wakes up early and heads back to school. He wishes he could have slept in, had a big breakfast, maybe played some video games with his friends. But he couldn’t get that fence off his mind.

Armed with a picking stick and an extra-large trash bag, Sam spends his morning clearing the fence of all the trash. It’s not a glamorous job by any stretch of the imagination, but he beams with pride when the task is complete.

He discards the trash and heads home, ready for the weekend fun to begin.

Suppose this scenario leaves you thinking, What an awesome kid! His parents should be so proud. If so, you are certainly not alone. 

But more likely than not, you’ve got something else on your mind. You may be wondering: 

What did Sam’s parents do to raise such a socially responsible boy? And how can I do the same?

Fortunately, I have excellent news for you. You can raise socially responsible kids just like Sam! 

In my years as a positive parenting educator, I’ve had the pleasure of helping over 100,000 families across the world learn how to bring joy back into their parenting journeys. Whether through my FREE WEBINAR, following along on social media, or remaining full members of the Positive Parenting Solutions family–they all have one thing in common…

The desire to raise kind, compassionate, and well-behaved children.

Let’s get started! But first…

What Does it Mean to Be Socially Responsible?

The term “social responsibility” is thrown around a lot, particularly in the corporate world. We often relate philanthropic or charitable ventures to large companies and their commitment to their communities.

But social responsibility isn’t only intended for Fortune 500 companies. It can be boiled down to the most basic, individual level. 

Simply put, social responsibility is the ethical idea that as humans, we have a greater responsibility to work with others for society’s good. Our actions have consequences, and we should work to ensure that our impact on others and the world is positive.

So now that you know what it means to be socially responsible, here are 5 ways you can raise socially responsible kids.

#1: Model Generosity and Accountability

quote about generosity

Generosity is a two-way street. You get what you give.

This reciprocal relationship is precisely the reason why you should model generosity for your children–because they will eventually send it right back at you!

It’s so easy to let our love for our children spill out in obvious ways. We give them hugs, have one-on-one time with them, leave little notes in their lunchboxes–the sky’s the limit when it comes to showing them how much we care.

So be generous with your caring attitude. They’re always watching and will likely reflect that out onto the world.

But don’t stop there! It’s equally important to make a point of being generous to other people as well. I’m talking about friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers.

Grab an extra coffee on a chilly morning for your son’s school crossing guard. Wait five more seconds to hold the door for the person behind you. Grab that stray shopping cart and put it away as you walk into the grocery store.

Having an outwardly generous attitude is such a simple way to make a significant impact on your children.

The same goes for accountability! 

One of the best ways to do this is to be upfront about taking responsibility for your actions. When you’re wrong, admit your mistake and ask for forgiveness when necessary. 

“I’m sorry I lost my temper and yelled at you this morning. Can you forgive me?”

It’s also very important to own up to your obligations.

“I brought this picnic lunch with me to the park today, so it’s MY responsibility to throw away the trash before leaving.”

If you intend to raise children with good values, you must actively exercise those values in front of them every single day. Trust me, after a while, it’ll feel like second nature to you, and they’ll catch on to those important lessons.

#2: Pick a Volunteer Project

If simply uttering the word “project” scares you away, I completely understand. After all, no one wants one more thing added to their already endless to-do list.

But I promise this type of project isn’t meant to be another chore for you or your kids to tackle. In fact, you may even find it, dare I say…enjoyable!

Volunteering is a beautiful way for your children to understand what it means to help others. It opens their eyes to the world around them while also instilling a sense of accomplishment and pride. 

Because many kids learn best through hands-on, interactive environments, choosing volunteer opportunities that keep them active and engaged significantly increases the lesson payoff. So, keep an eye out for options that fit that bill.

Let’s get you started with a few ideas the whole family can participate in–from toddlers to grandparents!

  • Participate in or organize a park cleanup.
  • Donate toys, food, or clothing to a local shelter.
  • Participate in a 5K Fun Run for a good cause. 
  • Explore your artistic side by making art for residents at a local assisted living or nursing facility.
  • Recycle used goods from around the house.

If you’re looking for ideas for your older children to take part in, here are a few options:

  • Volunteer at a food pantry.
  • Rake leaves, mow the lawn, or shovel snow for an elderly neighbor.
  • Make no-sew fleece blankets for a children’s hospital. 
  • Help out at an animal rescue, or make and deliver dog toys to shelters.
  • Tutor younger students.
  • Volunteer at a blood drive.
  • Organize a group to adopt a highway.

free parenting class

#3: Focus on Empowerment

As parents, it can be hard to loosen the reins and allow our kids to grow independently

We do things like pack their lunches, clean up their rooms, and remember their homework, even when they’re old enough to do it themselves. Why? Maybe because it’s easier, or we simply don’t feel like dealing with the whining when we ask them to do it themselves.

But the truth of the matter is, when we do everything for them, we fail to empower them to do it on their own.

And if there is one thing all children–both girls and boys–need, it’s to feel empowered! 

And in case you didn’t see it coming, this absolutely applies to making socially responsible decisions.

While it’s easy to ask your 3-year-old to put away the toys another child left out, you’d want your older child to do it on his own. Not because he was asked to do the right thing, but because he knew he could because you empowered him to believe in himself.

You might say, “You are a competent and capable young man. I have confidence you know when to do the right thing.”

You’d also expect your teenage daughter not to stick her gum underneath the desk or leave her empty soda can on the steps outside of school. 

“I’m so glad you understand how important it is to leave a space as clean as you found it.” 

Just be sure to keep your comments on the encouraging side rather than doling out the flowery praise.

Pro Tip: Learn how to shift your language from praising to encouraging with these 27 Encouraging Phrases, free and in your inbox within minutes!

So you may be wondering, What does empowerment have to do with raising socially responsible kids?

The answer is simple. Empowered children empower others. Not just with their words, but with their actions as well.

Children who feel capable and confident to make decisions that better the world around them will ultimately serve as the catalyst for more positive change. These kids don’t just want to make the world a better place. They go out and do it!

quote about empowered children

#4: Have a “We” Mentality, Not a “Me” Mentality

As adults, we know the world is a huge place, filled with billions of people and trillions of problems. But for our kids, it can be hard to see past their own small bubbles. 

They have a mentality that shouts, “Me, me, me!” But if you want to get them less focused on themselves and more focused on others (the very heart of social responsibility!), you need to help them shift that thinking to “We, we, we!”

Picture this…

You pull up to the school pick-up line only to find your 10-year-old daughter standing there red-faced and fuming. 

When you ask what’s made her so upset, she tells you right away.

“Allison asked Samantha to be her partner on the history project, even though she KNOWS Samantha is MY best friend! She should be MY partner, not Allison’s.”

You feel for your daughter and don’t want to see her upset, but a part of you is also left wondering: What’s the big deal?

The thing is, the problem may seem minor to you. But to your daughter, it is a big deal (even if it’s selfish).

So how can you get her to shift her mindset from a “me” mentality to a “we” mentality??

As mentioned earlier, one great option is to get them more involved in the community through volunteer efforts. Don’t aim to raise kids who volunteer simply for the sake of image or college admissions. Instead, help ignite their hearts with a desire to create real, positive change by helping those around them.

Encouraging their participation in team sports, band, or choir is another fantastic opportunity to help guide them out of that self-focused state. Not only will they have to learn to rely on others for the good of the whole, but they’ll also gain valuable insight into working as one cohesive unit.

Holding regular Family Meetings is a powerful way to get your family solving problems and making decisions as a team. With the hands-on practice they’ll get every week, they’ll learn how to respectfully bring up their concerns and find solutions for everyone, from the oldest person at the table to the very youngest.

Finally, if you have multiple children, make sure you’re allowing them the opportunity to work together to accomplish household contributions and volunteer efforts. Justin can wash the dishes, Erica can dry, and Kate gets to put them away! 

Solo work is great, but what better way to get them out of that “me” mindset than by working closely with their own siblings? And as a nice little bonus, this one-on-one sibling time may even lead to less fighting and rivalry.

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members can find 10 Tips for Sibling Harmony in Step 5 of The 7-Step Parenting Success System.

#5: Assign Family Contributions

Can I tell you something very important that many families overlook? 

Every single member of the family (no matter how young or how much they complain) must contribute for the family to function successfully.

That’s right, from toddler to grandparent, everyone brings something of value to the table! Mom and Dad may go to work and provide for the family, but we all know it takes a lot more than that to keep a household running smoothly. 

There are meals to be made, schedules to keep, chores to do–the list goes on and on. Fortunately, kids can help! And the great thing is, they want to feel essential to the family because it provides them with a hefty dose of belonging and significance.

Because your kids want to feel needed and important to your family, you can capitalize on that desire by allowing them to contribute in meaningful ways. Make their efforts even more socially relevant by labeling them as Family Contributions.

Kids are often way more capable than parents give them credit for, so it’s important to sit down and figure out which jobs (contributions) they can do around the house regularly.

If you have toddlers, try asking them to help you by turning off the lights while being carried, carrying in the mail, or refilling the pet food bowls. Trust me, they’ll love it!

Older children can help clean the bathrooms, rake leaves, take the dog for a walk–there are so many choices! And don’t forget, your driving teens can help cart their younger siblings around or go on a quick grocery run.

No matter what the job is, they’ll benefit greatly–especially when they see what positive impact their contributions have on the family unit. 

Helpful Hint: Need more ideas for chores for every age? Download my FREE and instant Chores for Kids Bundle!

Final Thoughts

Your children don’t need their sights set on saving the rainforest or significant social change to make a difference in the world. Social responsibility can happen on the micro-level. In fact, it’s often in those small areas of generosity and good conscience that those seeds are best sown.

By putting a little extra effort into broadening their horizons and helping them think outside themselves, you’ll be well on your way to raising kind and compassionate social citizens.

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