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FAMILY TIME…WHAT TIME?

“I don’t have enough time!” It’s the common complaint of almost every parent I know! I think all parents WANT to spend more quality one-on-one time with their children and they WANT to spend quality family time together. Unfortunately, the craziness of our lives makes that a true challenge for most families.

I’ve enlisted the help of Certified Professional Organizer and Time Expert, Cyndy Ratcliffe, to help us better organize our lives so we can carve out time for what matters most.

Cyndy Ratcliffe

Ask any parent about priorities and most will tell you that family is number one. And yet, somehow family members in all their business can’t seem to “find time” to spend together. Parents know that family time is missing, but they don’t know why and they don’t know how to create it.

Often parents feel like each day is a game of passing the baton and not dropping it! Mom takes daughter here and then Dad picks her up and swings by to get the son who needs to be at a sporting event. After that drop off, he takes his daughter back to her mother so that she can get her to ballet in 30 minutes!

Most families struggle to create family time. The families are so caught up in running every day that it often takes an outsider looking in to help the family see how to stop and evaluate where they are missing time to spend as a family. As a Time Expert on “Time Makeover” on the Fine Living Network, as well as in my one-on-one work with families in this situation, I have discovered similar challenges:

Challenge One – Are you Ready?
Like making any change, the members involved must have a reason to want to change. In establishing family time all family members must be on board one hundred percent.
Solution – Get a commitment from each member. Sharing ideas for how you will spend family time can be a great motivator. One family I worked with decided that their children will take turns determining the activity for their family time each week. Consequently the activities have ranged from game night to sporting events to miniature golf. Once you have been able to share fun family time, the motivation will build.

Challenge Two – Communication
Often times all family members are not aware of the activities planned for the day, week or month. Parents often don’t even know each others’ schedules! This creates last-minute scheduling surprises that can cause resentment, panic, and lateness.
Solution – A family calendar posted in a high traffic area is essential for any family. Along with the calendar, a weekly family meeting is required of all family members. Sit down, communicate and note activities, needs and schedules on the calendar.

Communication also falls short regarding who is responsible for what home maintenance responsibilities. Most tasks, if not determined up front, fall to one or the other parent and that parent finds that he or she is so caught up with all these responsibilities that they have no time for anything else; he or she resents the fact that other family members are not on board with helping. All family members need individual responsibilities in order for a home to be happy and well maintained.
Solution – Create a list of home maintenance activities and at a family meeting determine who will be responsible for what. Let family members, mom and dad included, take turns choosing so that there is more ownership in the decisions. One client I worked with said that she was glad not to have to make the bed in the morning. Her husband had selected this task as his activity and if it wasn’t done she did not feel obligated to do it anymore.

Challenge Three – Making Decisions
Often making family time is about choosing it over other activities or events. We fall into a comfortable pattern and make commitments to others, making it hard to change.
Solution – Establishing family time requires us to take a look at how the family members currently spend their time. Creating family time will require each family member to make decisions on what changes need to be made. You have three options in changing the activities you currently are committed to in order to create family time.

1. Eliminate the activity – Schedules are full of time stealers. Many parents and children are overcommitted to outside activities. We feel the need as a society to stay busy and keep up with everyone else. Often the inability to say no has caused them to say yes to things that waste valuable time. Take a fresh look at these activities. Do they reflect your priorities now? Determine what you can let go of to keep your life focused on your priorities.

2. Delegate the activity – There are many folks looking to help you in activities that could easily give you back large chunks of time. A cleaning service every couple of weeks can cut the time your family spends on cleaning in half. “Wash, dry, fold” services abound; some even pick up and deliver! Imagine the time you can reclaim if laundry was off your activity list! Take advantage of dry cleaning services that pick up and deliver. You can even order your groceries on-line and for a minimal fee of $5 to $10 just sweep by and have them load the chosen groceries in your car! Heck, I’d spend a lot more than $10.00 on impulse items if I did the shopping myself!

3. Shorten the activity – Can you find a way to commit less time to an activity, consequently getting more time back for your family? Examples of this might be repositioning yourself as a member instead of a leader for an organization or choosing the church league that plays once a week over the city league that requires two weekday evenings and your Saturdays.

These choices may seem difficult at first, but change, even change for the good, can cause discomfort. Keep your focus on the results, additional time you will have to enjoy and learn more about your family.

Challenge Four – Scheduling Priorities
So many of us are prone to what I call the Puppet Syndrome. We create our schedule based on responding to the call of others when they “pull our strings.” Boundaries are missing. We react instead of act.
Solution – It is up to us to create time on our calendar. Draw a block around the time you want for family time and label it. Other activities quickly fill up your schedule unless you block out the time first. With this method you have made an appointment with your family and that comes first. When others ask you for that time (pull your strings), you simply state that you “are unavailable at that time.” Saying yes to family means saying no to other activities that try to steal that time from you.

The steps are simple; accomplishing them is not. Don’t let another day go by that you have once again missed time with the family. So slow down, set down that baton and gather your family to discuss the possibilities of finding time for each other.

Cyndy Ratcliffe is the Founder of Organizing Solutions, Inc., based in Wake Forest, NC. Organizing Solutions, Inc. has been assisting individuals to reduce their stress, boost their image and be more productive since their establishment in February 2002. Cyndy is one of only 6 Certified Professional Organizers® in North Carolina. She appeared as the Time Management Expert in three episodes of Time Makeover on the Fine Living Network where she assisted families to find time for what matters most. Contact Cyndy directly at 919.612.3953 or email her at cyndy@organizingsolutions.biz.

Parenting Blogs

I GET To Drive My Kids

Raise your hand if you feel like a taxi service. Running children from one activity to the next in our over scheduled lives gets to be quite hectic and frustrating at times. But, I now have a new approach to the Yellow Cab part of my life and it has changed my outlook completly.

I used to say…. “I HAVE to drive my kids to soccer practice.” Note the emphasis on “I have to”.

Now I say the same thing but I change one word: “I GET to drive my kids to soccer practice.” “I GET to drive carpool this morning.”

Changing one simple word changes my attitude completely.

It reminds me that picking up kids, shuttling them around to school and various activities is really a GIFT. I GET to spend uninterrupted time with them. I don’t have to compete with the TV, their friends or other distractions. They’re a captive audience and it gives me a chance to get into the “Child Ego State” and joke around, watch them cringe as I belt-out my 80’s tunes in the car and just have fun. We can talk about their day or whatever they want to share.

Sometimes it’s only one of my kids in the car and we have great discussions that wouldn’t happen with a sibling or a second parent around.

All parents get tired of the daily shuttle, but I encourage you to say the words OUT LOUD… “I GET to drive you to practice today.” It reminds you and your kids that these moments are a GIFT. Before we know it, they’ll be asking US for the keys to the car so they can drive themselves. Let’s enjoy it now!

From one busy parent to another – I wish you the best in your parenting journey!

Webinar Questions Answered from 2-18-2010

Thanks to everyone who attended the “Get Kids to Listen without Nagging, Reminding and Yelling” webinar last night.

Listed below are a few topics and questions I didn’t have time to fully cover during our session.

Birth Order: There was a lot of interest in Birth Order. One question that I didn’t answer was about how the first-born’s sense of significance is impacted when a new sibling arrives fairly soon – within 18 months or so. The first-born will generally still have a high sense of significance because even after the sibling arrives, he’s still the “first”, “the oldest” and is usually given more responsibility, etc.

However, the first born frequently feels “dethroned” when the new baby arrives (regardless of how many years in between) and his sense of “belonging” may be negatively affected. Very often older children revert back to baby-like behaviors because she sees that the baby gets a lot of attention for crying, fussing, messing the diaper, etc. It makes perfect “sense” from the child’s perspective: Baby gets a lot of attention when she whines and fusses, I’ll try that too!” This is also the birth of a good sibling rivalry.

There’s so much to cover regarding Birth Order, which can’t adequately be addressed in a 1-hour introductory session. This topic and how to ensure that all of your children have a high sense of belonging and significance (regardless of birth order) is covered in great detail in the online course.

boy playing the violin

Consequence for not practicing musical instrument: This was raised from several people. The first step in problem solving is asking “Who owns this problem?” If the parent is reminding, coaxing and pleading with the child to do (x) – then the parent owns the problem. The only way the behavior will change is if the child owns the problem.

One way to allow the child to “own the problem” is to structure a when-then routine. “When you are finished with 15 minutes of piano practice, then you can have your outside time/ TV time / call your friends, etc. The undesirable task must be done before a regularly occurring privilege.

This is another topic that we can’t adequately cover in one hour. We go into great detail on consequences, when-then, and how to allow the child to own the problem in Sessions 3 and 4 in the online course. The When-Then is just ONE tool in the Tool Box.

More on ConsequencesQ: I know that the first time a misbehavior happens, it’s a learning opportunity and parents should do training and reveal the consequence in advance for next time – but what if the misbehavior caused damage to property? (Dish soap “drawing” all over the floor?)

A: TRY to stay calm with your “budding artist”. Use it as an opportunity to do training – but also recognize it as an opportunity to “control the environment” by keeping the dish soap out of reach – or other things that could make a big mess!

When that happened the first time, you can still get his help to clean up the mess. That’s not “punishment” which inflicts blame, shame and pain – it’s just him helping to “make it right.” The difference is in your tone of voice and attitude. If you demand that he “help you clean it up right now” – then you’re in a power struggle and you’re the bad guy. Instead, use it as a training opportunity, get his help to clean up the mess and control the environment for the future.

If this situation was young curiosity and a desire to be creative – not a big deal. However, if it’s symptomatic of ongoing power struggles, it’s an indication that he is exerting his power in negative ways and you will want to focus on strategies that foster his POSITIVE personal power and sense of significance.

Thanks again to everyone for joining us last night!

Time Out is a Waste of Time: Your Webinar Questions Answered

Thanks to everyone who attended our “Time Out is a Waste of Time” webinars this week. In reviewing the text chat from the Wednesday and Thursday night webinars, there were a few questions I didn’t have time to answer. My responses are below…

Question: REWARDS:…I give my 2 and 4 year old girls rewards if they stay in bed during a nap. What can I do instead because I have a newborn at home and we all need to nap?

Answer: The girls know that napping is VERY important to you. (Understandably!) The problem with using rewards for napping is that it sets the precedent that any behavior that “is really important to mom/dad” deserves a reward. This is a very slippery slope that you don’t want to go down.

The other concern is that it establishes “sleep” as a “performance issue” versus something we all need because it keeps our bodies going. When we say…”you were a good sleeper or a bad sleeper” – it becomes a performance or behavior issue and can quickly become a power struggle waiting to happen.

There are much more effective strategies and tools that you can use to get the girls to nap. There’s too much to explain in this blog post but I’ll be covering all of the sleep issues in detail at the Bedtime Blues webinar on Tuesday night. For parents enrolled in our online course – it’s free of charge. Otherwise, there is a small fee – but totally worth it. I promise! :) (It’s also totally refundable if you aren’t satisfied.)

Question: MEALTIME DAWDLING…My son takes over an hour to finish dinner. Even then, I have to help him eat. Why is that?

Answer: In the webinar, we discussed the hard-wired need for attention and power. If we don’t fill their attention baskets in positive ways and give them legitimate (positive) power, they will use negative behaviors to get the attention and power they need.

Remember that kids believe WE hold all the power. However, younger children have real power in three areas: eating, sleeping and pottying. Those are also the areas where they tend to demand our attention and exert their negative power.

Taking over an hour to finish dinner is the child’s way to keep your attention. (Remember the “payoff” we talked about?) When he doesn’t eat, you may coax, encourage, urge him to “just take a few more bites.” What a payoff of attention and power!

Instead. remove the payoff! Let HIM decide what he eats and how much. He won’t starve. “Control the environment” by providing healthy foods – include at least one healthy item that you know he’ll eat and then don’t say a word. If he eats – fine. If not – that’s fine to. (Assuming he’s not diagnosed with “failure to thrive” – but I suspect that’s not the case.)

Be sure to let him know in advance that the kitchen closes at 6:00 – or whatever time is reasonable to you. The more you make eating a priority for YOU – the more appealing it is for him as a power struggle opportunity.

If he doesn’t eat dinner – no snacks before bedtime. He will certainly survive until morning! Believe me…this will only happen one night!

The bottom line is this…you are in the throws of a power struggle. The tools in the Positive Parenting Solutions Tool Box will teach you how to give attention and power positive ways and how to remove the payoff for his negative behaviors.

PRESENTATION IS EVERYTHING…

How do these statements “feel” to you…

“You can’t watch TV until after the dishwasher is unloaded.”
or
“When the dishwasher is unloaded, then you can have your TV time.”

Presenting the choice as a “when-then” is much more empowering to the parent and to the child. It feels more positive. It conveys…I have complete faith you’ll get this done.

It still delays the (regularly occurring) privilege until the job is done – but, it doesn’t make you the bad guy and the child can follow through without “losing face.”

I encourage you to go back to your webinar notes and review the Ground Rules for When-Then. Don’t forget to disengage!! That ensures that you won’t get sucked into a power struggle.

Parents consistently say it works like magic – give it a try!

Webinar Questions Answered from 2-4-10

Paula Bisacre

Positive attention is great in one home, but what if the other parent (the ex) doesn’t practice likewise in her/his home?

Your Webinar Questions Answered…

Thanks to the parents and stepparents who attended the “Consequences That Everyone Can Agree On” webinar last night sponsored by Paula Bisacre and reMarriagemag.com.

Listed below are answers to the questions I didn’t have time to cover…

Question: My 8 year old stepdaughter is having major behavioral issues because she is so discouraged by her biomom who hasn’t seen her in 4 years. I think she wants to have a sense of belonging to her bio mom and doesn’t have that. She’s transferring the pain to us.

Answer: The important thing is that you realize that there is hurt behind her behavior. Very often, misbehavior will progress from attention-seeking (whining, helplessness), to power struggles (backtalk, tantrums, attitude), to revenge. She may be at the stage where she covers her hurt by trying to hurt back at you. Unfortunately, you can’t control the actions of her bio mom. But you CAN control what happens in your house. Be sure to give her plenty of positive attention and positive power so her feelings of belonging and significance in your family increase.

At the same time, don’t allow her to behave in inappropriate or disrespectful ways with you. She is likely acting out in part because she wants and needs structure and positive discipline. It’s okay to acknowledge and understand her pain, but you can still create limits in your family using the 5 R’s of an effective consequence that we discussed last night.

Last thing…I encourage you to consider enrolling in the course, so you and your husband can be on the same page to do everything you can to help her. Further, if her discouragement deepens, I encourage you to seek professional resources for family counseling.

Paula Bisacre Q and A

Question: What if a child is habitually lying even in an environment where there is no punishment?

Answer: Remember the reasons that kids like: they feel trapped, are afraid of punishment or rejection, feel threatened, or think that lying will make things easier. (The same reasons adults lie, by the way!)

With that said, the child may also be lying as a revenge strategy. He knows it’s upsetting to you and if the child’s discouragement is deep enough, he may use lying as a revenge tool.

Most often, situations with lying are an indication that the child is discouraged – does not feel a strong sense of belonging and/or significance. It also tells us that we have some work to do on building closeness and trust in the relationship.

Instead of focusing so much on the behavior (the lying), try to understand WHY it’s happening and focus on correcting the WHY.

Create a safe environment for the truth by focusing on solutions to solve the problem versus punishment.

A few tips for when you “catch” the child in a lie:

  • Don’t “accuse” him of lying
  • If you are pretty darn sure he/she is lying… say, “You know, that doesn’t sound like the truth to me. Most of us don’t tell the truth if we’re feeling trapped, scared, or threatened in some way. Why don’t we take a break and talk about this when you are calmed down. I want to help you work on solutions so I hope you’ll feel comfortable sharing what’s really going on. I’m here for you when ever you’re ready.”
  • Then, deal with the problem – without blame, shame, pain or criticism. (That’s probably what he expects.) Focus on solutions and what your child needs to do to “make it right” – not on what “punishment” is in order.

Question: How can I show my boyfriend that his daughter’s behavior is inappropriate? He thinks she does nothing wrong?

Answer: There were a number of questions in the Text Chat regarding a boyfriend who was not willing to see his bio daughter’s behavior in an objective light. My very strong suggestion is to get on the same page regarding parenting styles and discipline before you agree to make the relationship any more permanent.

I’ve worked with SO many families over the years in which parents disagree over parenting strategies. It is extremely difficult in bio families – it’s exponentially more difficult in a remarried/step-family situation. Please, please, please – enroll with your partner in the Positive Parenting Solutions Online course or find some local counseling resource to help your family through this situation. As long as you’re in “different camps” regarding discipline, your relationship as a couple suffers and most importantly, the relationship with the child suffers.

Question: How do you deal with a child threatening to go live with the other parent when a consequence is laid out.

Answer: This can be scary for the custodial parent – but in most cases, it is an empty threat. The child is likely using words to hurt you or to exert negative power. My recommendation is to reveal the consequence in advance (when everyone is calm and rational) using the 5 R’s we discussed last night – including having her repeat back the rule and the consequence. If she threatens to live with the other parent – just ignore it – don’t say a word. She is “picking a fight” and trying to engage you in a power struggle. She expects that you’ll respond with attention or power. Instead – work on her feelings of belonging and significance at other times – so she knows she is loved unconditionally and that rules and consequences are just part of how families operate and how kids learn for the future.

Thank you again for participating in the webinar. Thanks to Paula Bisacre and www.reMarriagemag.com for serving as host and Text Chat moderator! I hope to work with you again soon.

Annie Fox On How Parents Cope with Tween/Teen Changes

Annie Fox

I’m thrilled to have Annie Fox contribute to the Positive Parenting Solutions blog. I’ve shared Annie’s website several times on our Facebook page because she is a fabulous resource for issues facing tweens and teens.

Annie Fox is a respected educator, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser. Her life’s work is helping teens become more self-aware, self-confident and better able to make choices that reflect who they really are. She does it through Q&A on her site for teens, parents and teachers and books like her Middle School Confidential™ series.

Read what Annie Fox has to say about the feelings YOU may be experiencing as your child moves into the tween/teen years…

Times are a changin’ so hang on and enjoy the ride!
 

Steady in the winds of change

No way is it 2010 already! Didn’t we just do the Y2K thing? Is it just me or does 24 hours just not last as long as it used to? And what about our kids? They’re growing up at warp speed. Probably a blessing we’re all too busy to notice them morphing into young adults before our eyes, otherwise how scary would that be? Of course, when it comes to other people’s kids you can’t miss the changes, but with your own… most of us have a terminal case of blind spots. Unfortunately, turning a blind eye to reality isn’t the most effective way to parent.

Life is all about change and our ability to deal with it. Our bodies, our feelings, our kids, our relationships, our life situation… all constantly changing. (So are all the molecules on your kitchen table, but we can save that for another time.) The more I meditate and breathe and read and write and think and teach the clearer the changing nature of life becomes. The more I twist my torso into improbable positions (Hey, it’s not painful! It’s yoga.) the more I learn how flexibility is the best tool I’ve got going for me.

“Steady in the winds of change,” my yoga teacher says. Steady as she goes. Steady, strong, centered. Those are the keystones to effective parenting. But steady doesn’t mean stuck and true strength requires insight into what’s needed right now.

Suppose you’ve always had a close relationship with your 12-year-old daughter. She’s been a kid who’s always told you everything she thinks and feels. You’ve prided yourself on the closeness you two share and how it reflects so positively on your parenting skills. Then one day you walk past her room and the door’s closed. You go in. She’s listening to music and reading. “Hi Dad,” she grins, not removing her headphones.

You sit on the bed. “Hi, sweetheart. So tell me, what’s new with you?”

“Nothing.”

An awkward silence follows.

“You want something, Dad?”

You shake your head and slowly walk toward the door. “Dad,” your daughter says sweetly. “Next time could you please knock?”

“Sure, honey,” your smile belies the ice pick skewering your heart. In the hallway your mind reels. Why should I have to knock at my own child’s door?! We’ve never had closed doors between us! She must be hiding something. I’m going back in there and demand that she tell me what’s going on. I couldn’t talk to my father about anything important, but I’m going to make damn sure that my daughter…

WAIT!

What’s going on here? Is this about your 12-year-old’s normal desire for some privacy and respect or is it about your own fear that your relationship with your child is changing into… who knows what?

Should you zig or zag? If you zig only because it’s how you’ve typically reacted when you’re hurt then you’re not paying attention to your child’s needs. Nor are you awake to the parenting challenge in front of you. An unwillingness to change in spite of changes happening all around is a sure-fire formula for unhappiness. The result will be internal struggles and plenty of ongoing conflicts with your ever-changing tween or teen.

What to do? How about going for a walk? An actual walk is great if you can swing it, but any conscious choice to take a head-clearing break will help. While you’re in the self-imposed time out ask yourself:

What does my child need from me now? It’s an essential question whenever you feel stuck in your parenting mission. Children’s behavior at any time, any age, broadcasts a need. Your job is to identify their need as accurately as possible then offer your help. Of course, there’s no formula that will always work because their needs constantly change. One moment she’ll need a hug and an encouraging word. Another moment he’ll need a sympathetic ear and no words from you at all. One time they’ll need you to set clear limits with unambiguous consequences for noncompliance. Another time they’ll need you to respect the meaning of a closed door without taking it personally.

Where do your needs as a parent come in? That depends. You’re absolutely within your rights to have your role, your values, your rules and your property respected. Those are valid needs. But when you need to be needed by your child or you need to use your child to look good in the eyes of others, that’s unhealthy. Always be an adult and take care of your own changing needs as best as you can. Your kids have a big enough job growing up and learning to take care of themselves without having to take care of you too.

Change is our constant companion on this journey we call life. Our kids are the clearest evidence of that. They’re rapidly developing into independent young adults. As parents we’re privileged to have an essential role in their unfolding. If we pay close attention we get to witness parts of the process. We also have the honor of helping them become who they are. Part of the reward is an opportunity to learn and grow along with them.

It’s a new year. A new decade. Change is the air we breathe. The best we can do for ourselves and our family is to remain as steady as possible. It also helps to keep your eyes, your mind, and your heart open. That’s what our kids need most from us.

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