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I’m going to be honest, this isn’t your average parenting product review post. While you can scour the Internet to find the elusive spill-proof sippy cup that actually works, or spend hours finding the best deal on educational video games for your teens, I’m here to tell you about products that will enhance your parenting skills and help bring peace into your home.
These are products I find myself recommending over and over again to parents during coaching calls or in our private members-only Facebook group. These tools help make your routines run more smoothly, improve cooperation from your kiddos, and most importantly, make YOUR life easier!
At Positive Parenting Solutions, we’ve made it our mission to equip parents with the tools they need to raise empowered, capable, and resilient kids. We want every parent to feel confident in their abilities and walk away knowing they’re rocking this whole parenting thing. (Want a glimpse of these parenting tools and strategies? Try our FREE PARENTING CLASS today!)
And while we have helped transform thousands of families, this does not diminish the fact that there are many great resources on the market to assist parents in their positive parenting journey.
All of these products are “Amy approved” and come with my biggest stamp of approval.
Here’s my Top 11 List of Positive Parenting Products:Read More →
It’s the moment parents know all too well: the moment when the energy in your house totally shifts.
All was calm until you handed breakfast to your toddler on the ever-so-controversial blue plate. You know, the one he liked YESTERDAY. Somehow overnight, everything you thought you knew about your child was suddenly wrong – “I want my sandwich in triangles, not rectangles!” or “I want the green cup, not the red one!” or “I hate those socks!!”
What happened to my sweet child, you wonder.
As the energy in the house escalates, and it appears your child is willing to fall on his sword over every little request, you lose it. After all, his requests make no sense to an adult, and because they don’t make logical sense, your only response is rage – “STOP YELLING!” you scream.
“JUST EAT OFF THE BLUE PLATE!” you yell.
“IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT SHAPE YOUR SANDWICH IS IN!” you exclaim.
And then in a moment of clarity, it hits you – you yelled at your child to stop yelling. The phrase Do as I say, not as I do, has never held so much weight.
Oh, friend. I’ve been there and I know those feelings all too well.
As a former yeller, I remember going to bed hoarse and defeated many nights until I decided there MUST be a better way. After years of studying Positive Parenting and Adlerian Psychology, I created a toolbox of strategies that completely transformed my family. (Get a sneak peek with our FREE PARENTING CLASS!)
The list of techniques below will help you see misbehavior in a different light. There is a full Toolbox of strategies that go along with these techniques, but this list will give you a great start to begin seeing a remarkable difference in your home.
1. Get to the Root of the Behavior
Positive parenting experts worldwide can agree on this: there is always something motivating a child’s negative or disruptive behavior.
So thattantrum over the blue plate? It wasn’t a random display of poor judgment – it was motivated by something intrinsically in your child. Whether that was a lack of skills in managing his big feelings, a desire to get your attention, or a power play to assert his free will – there’s always a reason for the behavior. (Even if he doesn’t realize it – and most times he doesn’t!)
The thing to remember is the behavior itself is simply the symptom. Our challenge as parents is figuring out what’s really underneath that frustrating behavior.
It would make things MUCH easier if your child could simply say, “Mommy, I would really like some one-on-one attention with you when I have you all to myself. Is there a time we can do that this evening?” But we all know this is an absurd expectation. So instead, children push our buttons as a way to gain our attention, albeit negatively. Because the truth is, if a child doesn’t receive our attention in positive ways, (when they don’t have to beg for or demand it) they will find ways to get any attention they can, even if it’s negative.
Picture yourself as a detective. When a child begins to act out, ask yourself “What is this child trying to accomplish through his actions?” If he had the verbal skills and emotional awareness, “What would he be trying to tell me with this behavior?”
Once you identify the root cause of the issue, you can become a more PROACTIVE parent andpreempt the outbursts from happening in the first place.
For example, imagine you have to take an important call, but while you’re on the phone, your children decide it’s a great time to start a wrestling match. While still trying to sound engaged in the phone conversation, you give your kids the “if you don’t stop this right now I’m going to lose it when I’m done” look – but to no avail. You continue with the non-verbal shushing as you run from one room to the next searching for quiet, but the wrestling match seems to follow you. It’s exhausting. And by the end of the phone call, you feel like you just ran 5 miles.
The goal behind that wrestling match – that just happened to start the minute you got on the phone – was most likely intended to get your attention and push your buttons. They knew you were trapped on the phone and unable to intervene, so it became the perfect time to act up, getting your attention in negative ways. Use this as a learning experience and now PROACTIVELY PREPARE for the next time you need to take a call.
20 minutes before your phone call, say to your kiddos, “Hey guys, mommy has to get on the phone in 20 minutes. Before I do that, I would LOVE to play a game with you all!”
During those 20 minutes leading up to the call, give your children undivided attention. You can give them reminders leading up to the call like “Wow! I love playing games with you. Once mommy is finished with her call, I’d love to play again!”
When it comes time for the call, give your children a choice – “Mommy needs to get on her call now. Would you like to watch a show or play quietly with your legos while I’m on the phone?”
Also, give them a way to “tell you something” if something they view as urgent comes up while you’re on the call. Leave a pad of paper nearby so they can write or draw whatever they want to tell you as soon as your call is finished.
Chances are that if you fill their attention buckets ahead of time and lay out clear expectations, your children will be better behaved the next time you take a call.
While parents intellectually understand the importance of consistency, the truth is, life happens – school is canceled, plans change, and last-minute additions are made to the calendar. While we can’t always control life happening, it’s best to maintain consistent routines, schedules, and expectations in your home the majority of the time.
How is your morning routine? If your children are expected to make their beds, brush their teeth, and get dressed before eating breakfast, then maintain this routine every day.
PRO TIP: Maintain the SAME schedule on weekends and holidays. That way, you won’t have to experience the backslide that comes on Monday morning!
Do you maintain firm technology “policies?”What happens if your kids don’t respect your family rules for technology? To be the positive parent you strive to be, it’s essential that technology rules are clearly communicated and that kids know the consequence if those rules are broken. If kids refuse or “forget” to turn off the video game when time is up, follow through each and every time with the previously discussed consequence. When parents are consistent with the rules and consequences, kids are much less likely to push the limits.
Note:For Positive Parenting Solutions course members, refer to Session 3, Lessons 25 & 26 for everything you need to know about implementing effective consequences in your home. Also review the Ultimate Survival Guide module included in your enrollment: The Technology Survival Plan.
3. Say No to Rewards
Parents who are unfamiliar with positive parenting techniques are often surprised when I discourage them from using rewards. After all, rewards sound positive, but the truth is they do more harm than good and can lead to a major dose of entitlement down the road.
Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. When making discipline decisions for your kids, it’s important to keep your long-term goals in mind. Rewards are ineffective because they only offer short-term gain.
Think about it..maybe today you rewarded your child with a cookie for behaving well in the grocery store, but what will she expect next time? At least one cookie, right? Maybe even two?Will a similar reward be expected during the next doctor’s office visit or trip to the mall?
Or perhaps you bribed your picky eater to eat their vegetables by offering ice cream for dessert? Now that he knows vegetables can be sold for the price of ice cream, it only makes sense he would hold out on eating his greens until he’s offered ice cream or another equally appealing sweet reward.
Using rewards as a bargaining chip for the desired behavior is a slippery slope to an attitude of entitlement.
Oh my friends, this one is tough, especially in the heat of the moment. But, if you remember that there’s always a REASON for the behavior AND your children have free will, then you can begin to respond appropriately.
After all, there is a level of emotional freedom that is found when parents realize “I can’t always control my kids, but I can control my responses.”
Sure, some parents might be able to scare their kids into behaving properly or threaten punishment to achieve a short-sighted goal, but at the end of the day – each child will grow into an adult who has full control over their life decisions.
So instead of overpowering children, or bribing, or shaming them into making good decisions, I encourage parents to reframe their perception of the child. Instead of thinking of him as a misbehaving child, view him as a little person who simply hasn’t been equipped with the right tools to behave appropriately in a given situation. By doing this, parents will be better prepared to handle the misbehaviors.
One way we can control our responses is to decide what we’re willing to do AHEAD OF TIME. This works great for getting kids to take on responsibilities they’re perfectly capable of or we nag them about, but they normally just don’t do – emptying backpacks or lunchboxes, putting laundry in the hamper, cleaning up toys, etc.
Let’s use lunchboxes as an example.
Start by deciding what you’re willing to do, and what age-appropriate responsibility needs to be on your kids’ shoulders.
In a calm moment, reveal in advance, “I’m happy to make you a lunch every morning for school, as long as your lunchbox has been emptied out, and it’s on the shelf in the pantry or on the counter. If the lunchboxes are clean and in their place, I’m happy to make your lunch. If it’s not cleaned out or not in its place, it’ll be up to you to make your own lunch.”
Then ask, “Is there anything you’d like to do to help yourself remember to unload your lunchbox and put it in the pantry?” (He might want to make a sign in pictures or words to remind himself since you will not be reminding him.)
And of course – make sure everyone has a clear understanding: “Just so we’re on the same page, can you repeat back to me your responsibility for lunchboxes and what I’ve decided I will do about making lunches?”
At this point, you’ve trained and empowered your child, you’ve revealed what could happen, and you’ve told your child what you are willing to do.
The next step is to follow through. This part will be hard – but please don’t remind them or nag them – otherwise, this becomes YOUR problem again. If the lunchbox is clean and on the shelf – great, you’ll make the lunch. If not, it will make a wonderful learning opportunity next time.
When you can proactively PREPARE your responses to potentially sticky situations and clearly COMMUNICATE your expectations beforehand, you’ll find yourself having to react to situations in the heat of the moment less frequently.
5. Discipline, Don’t Punish
One of the biggest differentiators between positive parenting techniques and other parenting methods is the focus on discipline over punishment.
Discipline means “to train by instruction and exercise” while punish means “to inflict a penalty for (an offense, fault, etc.)” or “to handle severely or roughly.”
By teaching our children the appropriate ways to behave without using blame, shame, and pain forms of punishment, we equip and empower them to be competent and capable young adults.
When you are considering a response to an offense – just like with rewards – think long-term.
In both examples, I’d argue the answer is “no.” Sure, time-out and spanking may seem effective in the short term, but if kids aren’t taught (a.k.a. disciplined) how to behave appropriately, parents inadvertently put a band-aid on a long-term problem.
“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.
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 indeedsound 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
“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 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.
Pro Tip: For Positive Parenting Solutions® members, please review consequence tools in Step 3 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System® course.
2. Remind Grandparents That Parenting is Not One-Size-Fits-All
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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