We Just Had A New Baby And Our First Born Is Behaving Badly

I recently had a mom of a seven year old girl tell me she was having a lot of problems with her daughter.  She wasn’t doing the things she was asked to do, she was arguing a lot, and generally challenging her mother with virtually everything.  I also had a mom of a five year old girl tell me she was suddenly having problems with her daughter not wanting to go to school.  She too was acting out a lot.  Both these little girls have something in common.  The mom of the seven year old also has a two year old and a new baby.  The mom of the five year old has a new baby as well.  When I suggested the new arrivals might be the cause of the misbehavior, and helped them to see life from their daughters’ perspective, they agreed competing with a new baby was probably a big contributing factor.

Babies require constant care and attention.  They’re totally dependent on an adult caregiver, which usually is the mother.  Older children, who were once the center of attention and were used to their parents always being there for them are going through a major transition when a new baby comes along.  They all of a sudden have to hear a lot of “You’re a big boy/girl now.  You can do that by yourself” and “I can’t come right now.  I’m busy with the baby”.  Their interpretation of that is often “The baby is more important than you.”  Of course we know that not to be true, but in the mind of a young child,  it feels very real.  They will do whatever it takes to gain back the attention they’ve lost.  Sometimes that means acting like a baby.  Sometimes it means becoming rude and hostile towards their parent or parents.  Sometimes it means acting out on the baby.  We will for sure give a young child undivided attention if they act out in a way that demands we stop everything and talk to them.  Even if it’s negative, it’s better than nothing.

One thing I often suggest to parents who have recently had a second or third child, is to try and arrange one on one time with their older child where they don’t have to always compete for time and attention with the new baby.  If one parent can stay home with the baby, take the older one with you to do an errand or go for a bike ride or spend an hour together in the park. Do something that sends the message:  “You’re the most important person to me right now.”  They’re less likely to seek the attention they want, in inappropriate ways.

What Do Kids REALLY Want From Their Parents?

I’m going to make the assumption that all of you reading this have said at one time: “I just want the best for my child”. Have you ever stopped to consider what you really mean by “the best”? Do you feel everything you own that’s associated with parenting, should be “the best”? Do you feel they should be attending “the best” preschool or “the best” private school? Do you feel you should be living in “the best” neighborhood? Do you think they should always be having “the best” teachers?

We all know parents who spend thousands and thousands of dollars on clothes, gadgets, lessons, toys, equipment, and electronics. Maybe you’re one of them. If they were to be asked why they’re spending so much money on all these things, the answer is likely to be “We just want the best for him/her”. I truly believe they do want the best and their intentions are nothing but honorable. Often times parents will consciously provide things their parents couldn’t afford so they make an effort to ensure their own children don’t “go without”.

One of the things parents hear all the time is “I WANT”. When we take our kids to the store they want candy, a toy they’ve seen on TV, or something one of their friend’s maybe has. It’s either “I want” or “Can I have….?”. We’re put in a position of either saying no or giving in to their pleas. Kids are very good at making us believe they should have whatever it is their asking for because “Everyone has one” or they tell you they “really, really want it”. Or, often you’ll hear “You never buy me anything!” We don’t want our kids to be left out nor do we want them to think they’re neglected in any way. Let’s face it, we often give in because we love to see the smile on their faces and experience their feeling of joy.

Many parents I’ve worked with admit to buying far more than their kids possibly need but often they do it out of guilt. They’re away from them for long periods of time and buying them something they like, eases the guilt; temporarily. As well, it’s much easier to give in to a whining child when you’re tired and have put in a long day. You simply don’t have the energy to negotiate or listen to persistent begging and whining. It’s just too much work.

Parents who enroll their kids in multiple activities at once will say they want to expose them to a variety of things so they can choose later on what they really like. They want to provide them with enrichment and opportunities that could potentially advance them in life. Some have told me they feel pressured to have their kids in a number of different activities because they feel judged if they don’t.

When it comes right down to it, do kids REALLY want all these things and experiences? Do they feel happier and more loved and cared for? It is our responsibility to create an environment for them that is stimulating, with toys and games that are age appropriate and conducive to social, intellectual and emotional development. Beyond that though, what they REALLY want is our presence. They want us to be engaged, to listen to them, to respond to their questions and comments; notice what they’re doing, and be there to hold them and touch them. They want our support and encouragement.  They want us to be present. I’ve often suggested to parents that one of the nicest things you can do for your child is just sit with her/him on the couch and cuddle up in front of the TV together or play a game together. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or extravagant. They love it when we spend time with them at the end of the day before they go to sleep. Think back to when you were a child. What are your fondest memories? Very often your best memories were around just doing very simple things with one or both parents. You remember the connection and how much it meant to you. Seldom do our fondest childhood memories revolve around things or time spent under the guidance or direction of someone else, unless it was a grandparent or favorite relative. We owe it to our kids to put aside a little bit of time everyday when they get the clear message that nothing else matters to us right now, but them.

Parenting: Finding Time For Creativity

Like most people, the arrival of the New Year moves me to do some reflection of the previous year and have thoughts around my intentions for 2011.  I like to document my successes rather than my “failures” or what didn’t go well.  For me, every new client who gained some valuable insights from me that they can easily put into action, was a success.  Programs I led that went smoothly and were a positive experience for me as well as the participants, were a success.  Maintaining my exercise regime throughout the year, was a success.  There were many things.

I was recently reminded of the value of creativity and how participating in something creative, nurtures my soul.  I love to scrapbook, especially cards, and I’m becoming more and more interested in playing around with photogrpahy.  I also love to decorate.  There is something tremendously satisfying when you give yourself a chance to unleash your ideas and implement them.  It’s freeing.  There are no rules or restrictions. The great thing is, there are many, many ways to express ourselves creatively.

As a parenting coach, when a parent comes to me with problems they’re having with their kids, I like to approach it holistically.  Offering alternative ways to discipline is only one dimension of the whole picture.  Very often as we get further along in the coaching process, I sense there’s something going on in the parents’ lives.  It might be with just one parent, or it could be with both.  Often I sense there’s something missing in their lives and they feel unfulfilled.  The feeling of lack of fulfillment leads them to lash out at their kids because they’re frustrated.  Usually kids are just being kids which means messes, tantrums, loud noises, fighting between siblings, lack of compliance and so on.  If we have a general feeling that something in our lives is missing, our tolerance for a lot of the normal chaos that goes along with family life, is very low.  When I take the time to address that part of a parent’s life that might be calling for attention, virtually every single time, we discover they have given up a hobby or not pursued something they’ve always wanted to try.  Most of the time what’s missing, is some form of creative expression.  Yes, having kids means our time is no longer our own.  We simply can’t absorb ourselves in our own passions when we have young children to care for.  Once we realize though, that choosing not to put time aside to do the things we love, is having a negative impact on our parenting, we make adjustments.  We find the time.  Any gift we give to ourselves, we also give to our family.  We are simply able to present our best to the people who matter the most.  This year, take time to figure out what’s missing in your life and find a way you can fit it in.  Make time to express yourself creatively.

A Special Christmas For Us

Where does the time go?  Here we are on the day before Christmas, 2010.  I’m hosting Christmas Eve dinner tonight for my family and then Christmas dinner will just be the immediate family; being my husband and I, our four adult children and our seven year old grandson.  I usually have everyone for Christmas dinner but I realized breaking it up will be much more comfortable for everyone.  There will be room at the table for us all to sit comfortably instead of some eating at the coffee table in the living room.  I’m making a seafood casserole for tonight and tomorrow will be the usual turkey.

This is a very special Christmas for us this year.  My step-son will be with us for the first time in many years.  He’s been struggling with addictions for the last ten years and we weren’t sure if we’d ever see him back in Vancouver.  It’s been very, very difficult for my husband as well as for the other kids in the family; especially his twin brother.  We’ve been reminded that miracles do happen.  Adrian has been home since July and has been clean and sober for almost six months.  He lives in a recovery home and is completely committed to regaining his physical and mental health.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it is for us to have him back.  He has a piece of paper on the wall in his bedroom that says:  “I will never ever take my family for granted again.  I am truely blessed.”  He wrote that soon after he returned to Vancouver in the summer.  We couldn’t be more proud of him and we too feel blessed.

Thank you to all of you who follow my blog.  I appreciate you a lot and extend warm holiday wishes to you and your families.

Dr. Oz Busts Some Common Myths

Tomorrow on the Dr. Oz Show, we’ll learn that many of the things we were told growing up, were actually wrong.

“Myths Exposed! Everything Your Mother Told You Was Wrong”

Does mother really know best? Dr. Oz busts the most common wellness myths.

He is joined by the guy who makes science fun, special guest, Science Bob.

Myth 1: Eating too much sugar makes you hyper.

Using a chemical experiment with a vegetable and a gummy bear, Dr. Oz and Science Bob show that even though the sugary treat gives off more energy than the vegetable, it does not directly affect the hyperactivity in people. Dr. Oz says that hyperactivity, especially in children is more commonly caused by the environment in which they are in. More often than not, children consume more sugar at birthday parties or on special occasions, where the environment calls for them to be hyper regardless.

Myth 2: Sucking in Helium kills brain cells and causes brain damage.

Dr. Oz and Science Bob say that the reason Helium makes your voice higher is because it is seven times lighter than oxygen, so it goes through the vocal cords faster, suppressing the low sounds and releasing the high sounds, which makes your voice sound funny. Another chemical, Sulfur Hexafluoride is heavier than air and has the opposite effect of Helium, making the voice sound deeper. Dr. Oz says the amount you take in from sucking on a balloon is not nearly enough to cut off circulation of oxygen to the brain, and therefore, you do not kill brain cells or cause brain damage with this small amount.

Myth 3: You can catch a cold from being cold. Better bundle up outside!

Viruses and bacteria are airborne and can get under mucus membranes when you are exposed regardless of the temperature. So whether you bundle up outside, or not, you are likely to be exposed the same amount as if you were sitting inside. Dr. Oz says that you are actually more susceptible being inside because you come in closer contact with others and there are more surfaces for germs to live on.

Myth 4: Applying Hydrogen Peroxide to cuts prevents infection.

The body releases a chemical that neutralizes hydrogen peroxide before it is able to get in a cut and burns to water and oxygen (which is why it fizzes up like that!). Dr. Oz says that surgeons use hydrogen peroxide in big open wounds and infected sores to clean, but on an everyday cut it kills bacteria along with healthy cells, which is not beneficial. Dr. Oz says his rule of thumb is “If you can’t put it in your eye, don’t put it on a wound.”

Is Your Child Living Your Dream?

The other day I had a fascinating conversation with a young mom that led to her sharing parts of her childhood.  Without going into the details, the essence of her story was that much of her young life was spent living her mother’s dream.  The result produced some complicated outcomes for her as an adult.

We’re all born with a certain temperament and personality type that is simply part of our DNA.  Parenting has nothing to do with how we naturally respond to situations or if we’re outgoing or quiet.  Some children will naturally lean towards the arts and others towards science.  Some will be thinkers and others will be doers.  We can’t change a naturally athletic child into an artist if that’s not what they’re meant to be.

Parenting does though have a profound impact on the view we have of ourselves.  We tend to do better in life if we know we were loved unconditionally and accepted for who we were.  We’re more likely to take risks if we grew up knowing that it was OK to make mistakes and if we got a clear message of “I believe in you.”  If we were supported for the things we loved to do, we’re more likely to succeed in those things.

Some of us grew up having a dream that was never realized because our parents couldn’t afford whatever it took to support that dream or we were steered in another direction because someone thought they knew what was best for us.  After many years coaching parents privately and learning about their own childhood, I’ve heard several stories of people who are still trying to please their parents or continue to carry around messages they heard growing up that continue to prevent them from doing what they really want to do.  Some of those messages center around their incompetence or weaknesses so they don’t believe in themselves or trust they can do a good job.  No parent of course ever raises a child with the intent of destroying their confidence or seeing them enter a career that doesn’t suit them.  We all have what we think is our child’s best interest at heart.  If the direction we’re steering our kids is really to suit us, we may not even be conscious of it.

Our kids are not given to us to mold into someone we want them to be.  We’re meant to support and nurture them into the person they’re meant to be.

Effortlessly manifest money – My Story

A few years ago through a social networking site I met Marilyn Jenett, a prosperity mentor who teaches people how to manifest money by changing the way they think and talk about money.  I read testimonials from people who had taken her programs and did indeed manifest money where at times it seemed to appear from out of the blue.  There were people who were swimming in credit card debt, people who had lost their jobs, people who were just barely making it and people who wanted to change careers but didn’t know how.

I signed up for Marilyn’s Lesson One of her Feel Free To Prosper Program and within five days money was appearing, and all from unexpected places.  She promised it would include things like major discounts, someone paying a bill for you, and unexpected money arriving in the mail.  During the first week on the program, my husband and I were shopping for a toaster oven.  We had a gift certificate for the store we were shopping in so decided to look at some of the high end brands.  We really liked the KRUPS but of all the ones we looked at it was the most expensive.  For some reason though the box on top of the stack was priced much lower than the other ones.  We inquired and the sales clerk didn’t know why that was but she was obliged to sell it to us for that amount which we applied our coupon to.  We ended up getting it for $65, instead of the original price of over $200.  About two days after that, I came home  and my daughter greeted me with “Guess what! Dad just called and he got a $10,000 raise!”.    That same week I remember buying gas but for some reason I didn’t have to pay for it.  There was a whole series of little unexpected bonuses that kept appearing from “out of the blue.”

I knew for my mind to start thinking about money differently, I had to do exactly what the lesson asked me to do so I followed it to the letter.  I’ve gone back to it a couple of times as a reminder of how to change my thinking and what words to avoid when talking about money.

If you act fast, you can register for Marilyn’s Lesson One program yourself for her special Halloween offer of $47.  I promise you, you will manifest much more than $47 if you follow the lesson exactly.  Here is the link. The deadline is midnight TONIGHT.

Group Coaching for parents of preschoolers

A couple of times a year I  lead a group of parents in a series of parenting classes.   The groups are small; usually just 6 to 8 people.  Because I’m a coach, they end up being group coaching because I try to meet the individual needs of each parent and use much the same kind of language and offer the same kind of support as I do with private coaching. The group also supports each other.  We end up talking about all aspects of family life and I help them to see how it all ties in with parenting.  We discuss things like personal boundaries, problems with in-laws, self-care, routines and relationship issues.  We also get into things like setting goals for yourself and I often give parents an assignment for the next week and ask them to report back to the group.  It might be something like taking the first step towards a class they’ve always wanted to take or a group they’ve always wanted to join. We of course talk about discipline as well.  We talk about the alternatives to yelling, nagging and spanking.

The feedback for the series is always very, very positive.  Parents usually wish they were longer.  They always feel supported and go away with new skills and more confidence in their parenting.  I love leading them because every group is different and I love the energy.  There’s always a feeling of “We’re all in this together”.  Other parents come up with suggestions that have worked for them and often offer resources I’m not familiar with.  It’s wonderful.

I have decided to offer the same kind of program, but over the telephone, so parents who don’t have access to programs like these, can benefit.  I’m going to begin by offering this only for parents of preschoolers. I’ve decided to limit the group to 8 so each person gets plenty of opportunity to talk and I can address specific issues.  I promise you, participating in a group like this, is something you will never regret.  Your whole family will benefit.  I have all the details on my website.  I would love you to join me.

Are Our Expectations Always Reasonable?

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted so let me first apologize to my regular blog readers for the big gap between my  last post and now.  I’m back on track. 

Last week in the parenting group I’m leading we got into a discussion about expectations.  Trying to get kids to “listen” is a challenge that comes up all the time.  I’m always interested in the big picture.  I think it’s always more effective getting to the root of something rather than just treating the symptom.  Lack of co-operation or bad behavior comes from somewhere.  One thing to look at is expectations.  Are our expectations always reasonable?  Do you find yourself constantly frustrated because your three or four year old won’t clean up her/his room?  Are you yelling all the time because your preschooler isn’t getting dressed fast enough?  Conversely, are you over-functioning for your ten year old?  Are you doing things for her she she’s very capable of doing herself?  Both situations have long term consequences. 

One way to learn what is reasonable to expect from any age group is to educate yourself around “ages and stages”.  Is it reasonable to expect a four year old to clean his room with no guidance?  Is it reasonable to give a series of tasks to a six year old and expect her to remember them all and perform them to your satisfaction?  Is it reasonable to be walking a twelve your old to school?  Is it reasonable for a seven year old to make her own breakfast?  When we made adjustments to our expectations, we can often ease a lot of tension and nagging.  Sometimes we need to expect less and sometimes we need to expect more. 

I’ve worked with a lot of parents who come to me for help in getting their kids to contribute more around the house.  They report that nothing seems to work despite their constant nagging and threatening.  I often want to know specifically what their expectations are and often I find they’re beyond what is reasonable for the age of their children.  Does it mean we shouldn’t expect our kids to do anything?  Of course not.  Often though, it requires more guidance on our part.  If we have an expectation that our child should be cleaning his room every week, it helps if we can break down the task.  You might start out by asking that she just take off the dirty sheets and put them in the laundry.  Then go on to something else.  It works the same when asking a young child to clean up his toys.  Start by just asking that he pick up all the blocks.  Better still, ask if he’d like to pick up the blocks or the action figures.  When given a choice kids feel they have some power so they’re more likely to co-operate. 

Often with older kids we don’t expect enough and we send a message that they’re not capable.  All kids are capable of picking up their dirty clothes and putting them into a hamper.  They’re capable of taking their dirty dishes to the sink or putting them in the dishwasher.  They’re capable of feeding a pet and setting the table.  If we want our kids to become independent we have to encourage it and provide an environment where it’s nurtured. 

Take a hard look at your expectations.  Are you expecting too much from a very young child or not enough from your school-aged child?  What would change if you made adjustments to your expectations?  How would letting go make you feel?  How would your child feel in the long term, by you expecting more?

Assessing Our Boundaries

In the world of coaching, the topic of boundaries comes up frequently.  The majority of my clientele are parents so I often pose the question:  “Do you think this is a boundary issue?”  Sometimes I’m referring to communication they’re describing between themself and their spouse and sometimes it’s between parent and child.  Other times it’s among the kids.  I can almost guarantee it’s going to come up at some point during the time we have together. 

Why is it that so many of us have weak boundaries?  Is it because many of us grew up fearing our parents so we complied without ever questioning?  Is it because we’ve never learned how to protect our own personal space?  Is it a reflection of the value we put on ourselves?  Is it a fear of disapproval?  Are we terrified of confrontation?  It may be a combination of all those things. 

Once we become aware that some of the problems we’re facing are due to our lack of boundaries we start learning to say “no” and communicating clearly to people who cross our boundaries, that they’ve gone too far.  It’s like a muscle that has to be flexed.  It takes practice and likely once we start, we’ll fall back to our old patterns but as I often tell clients “Everyday presents a new opportunity to try again”.  For change to become permanent we have to move in baby steps until we develop a new normal.  For awhile, it’s a forward and backwards movement.  We do well for awhile and then find ourselves responding in the old way.  That’s normal. 

Once we learn to protect our sacred space, as some people call it, it feels great.  We might experience a disappointed or disapproving response but it’s temporary.  People soon get over it and start to learn they’ve gone too far.  In other words, once we learn to value and respect ourselves, people in turn value and respect us back. 

When we have children, everything we do as parents is teaching our children to do the same.  That of course includes the way we set boundaries.  Our kids have a much better chance of setting clear boundaries when they’ve witnessed their parents doing the same.  They are also more likely to protect their personal space when they value who they are.  When they encounter someone who is crossing the line, they know how to respectfully assert themselves.  I think this is one of the greatest life skills we can teach our kids.  It starts with us.