It is my great pleasure today to be the host on Day 6 of the Virtual Book Tour for the E-Book Parenting Responsively for Connection. Written by 10 of ACPI Parenting Coaches for parents to deal with the some difficult tasks of building and maintaining connection with kids.
The Virtual Book Tour started on June 6th, and the first host blog was: Heartwiseparent.com/blog . It is planned to continue our tour till the end of this month. Each blog posts different excerpts from the book and gives valuable information. The next stop will be tomorrow Metaphysical Mom (and Dad).
Today please enjoy this book excerpt written by Lesa Day and for those who’d like the Kindle version here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/3kf4vcp
Influencing Character Through Connection
© 2011 by Lesa Day
How Positive Discipline and Good Leadership Develops Character
Everyday your child is being molded into the person they will become. This molding is a result of the influences around them and the actions, habits and behaviors that are being reinforced in your home.
Think about it for a moment? When you walk into a room and the people radiate warmth and enthusiasm, what affect does this have on you? For most emotionally healthy individuals, it would have a positive one. Now consider you walk into your child's room. What kind of influence are you having on your child? What types of behavior do you show him is acceptable? What habits are you reinforcing for him to be successful?
Break the question down even further and ask yourself:
How am I helping to build my child's social skills?
Am I conveying to my child education is important?
Am I modeling how to appropriately respond to difficult situations?
What role am I playing in molding my child into the person he'll become?
The answer to these questions is important.
Children gauge their emotional responses to situations based on how you respond. The first time you leave your child with a babysitter, for example, if you convey to your child that you trust the caregiver, that the situation is safe and that you are completely comfortable, chances are your child will feel the same way. Why? Your child has learned to trust and relate to your responses. Based on your history together, he's figured out that when you're calm, things are okay and when you're not, something just isn't right.
Children also learn how to respond to situations based on how they see your respond to similar ones. From simple things like saying "God bless you" when someone sneezes, to more complex situations, like using your words, rather than your hands when you're angry, your child has learned, by watching you, appropriate responses to everyday situations.
Not surprisingly, children even learn their value system based on what you value. They learn what's important by watching how you spend your time. Do you spend time reading? If so, your child will learn that spending time with your nose in a book, is a good thing to do.
Consider the kind of character you want your child to have as an adult and ask yourself, what am I doing today to help develop this through my daily interactions with my son or daughter?
The Power of Your Influence
Honestly, I promise you it's true and had it not happen to me personally. I would only think it happens on television (like on America’s Funniest Home Videos) or in movies to bring laughter to the audience. Can you picture it? Walking to the library, hand in hand with a two year old child, and kerplunk, amazed by the happenings in the parking lot construction area, she loses her focus, steps over the coned off barrier directly into wet cement. Yes, we are both covered in cement. While in the moment, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, I did know that how I responded would significantly affect how my child responded.
My immediate response was, "Whoops a daisy" followed by "Hmm, sweetheart I think we’ll need to wait to go into the library. We'll go back home and clean up a bit and then come back".
Waiting to see her response, I wasn't surprised that she too was completely calm and amazed at what had happened. But she was also curious, and lifted up her hand to take a closer look at the cement. When I could see she was eager and ready to taste it, I responded with a calm "no, babe we don’t eat that, it’s all sorts of dirt and we need to clean it off," and was able to redirect her focus to going home to get cleaned up.
We headed back to the car, prepared to take off her coat and pants to avoid making a mess of her car seat. At this point, I was laughing so hard and half in shock about what had happened, I couldn't stop. In between hysterics, I gently explained step by step, what I was about to do (because of course she's never been in the car sans pants!) and you know what? While she wasn't laughing, she was okay with it.
While some children may have responded in tears, upset that they had to leave the library and distressed over being covered in dirty, gloppy cement, she was okay with it. Why? Because she knew I was okay.
Now, I could have responded differently. In fact, inside, I probably wanted to. If I had I freaked out and responded in an upset and excitable manner, the situation would have got worse and become a situation much bigger than it had to be. Fortunately, because I was aware that my reaction would impact her reaction, I was able to keep it light hearted, matter of fact and as a result, was able to prevent a bad situation from getting worse.
In times of unexpected situations or stressful times, how do you react? What example are you setting for your child based on your reaction? Can you find humor when things go wrong? Are you calm in the midst of it all?
Each and every time you find yourself in a less than ideal situation, you have the opportunity to build good character in your child simply based on your response.
Influence Lasts a Lifetime
Through the influence of others, your child is bombarded with ideas about how to act, speak, dress and treat others. As a parent, it's important that you consider who has influence over your child and the type of influence they have.
Have you ever thought about?
Who your child considers a role model?
If the people your child spends time with are positive influences?
How powerful influence can be?
Recently I had a wonderful opportunity to visit New England and watch a boys’ baseball team play a big game. The children on the team ranged in ages between 9-12 years old. What a phenomenal example of unity and enthusiasm I saw amongst these young players. You would have thought you were at the World Series the way these kids were cheering each other on from the bench. One team member would holler, "let's get fired up!" and the rest of the team with follow through with the chant. You couldn't help but catch the enthusiasm and chant along with them from the stands. During this game there no negative talk - amongst or between teams. The parents and family members watching were equally encouraging towards all of the players. Watching these kids, my spirit was lifted immensely, as I have traveled all over this country and never had I seen such displays of unity and enthusiasm within a team of boys that young.
While the team ended the first half of the season undefeated, the second game of the second half, they lost by a few runs. Naturally, the boys were discouraged by their first loss of the season. In their moment of discouragement, the kids suggested they switch things up and play in different positions for the next game. They egged the coach on to play in the positions they wanted to play in, rather than in the ones the coach assigned them. As the players started their next game, I immediately noticed that the coach had indeed allowed the players to pick their own positions. It became quickly (and painfully) obvious that most of the younger players were out on the field and the older ones were on the bench cheering them on.
Now I don't have to tell you that the older boys were better players, if for no other reason than they have more experience. By the end of the 4th inning (out of 6), the team was behind 11-4 and they were not happy. The coach decided to put the players back into their proper positions so that the kids could see what happens when the right players are in the best positions. The team came back, only to lose by one run.
After the game I listened closely as the coach led the postgame discussion. It went something like this: "Boys, you played a great game today. Most of the younger ones played and there were only a few errors. Not bad, but I want you to understand something about the team. A good team is like a well-oiled machine. It has parts that make it function at its best and you can't move those parts around or the machine won't work properly. The same thing happens here when we're playing this game. Each of you has a position on the team where you play your best. When you play your best, it allows the team to function at its best. When you start changing it all around. We lose the best performance of the team. I let you pick your positions today because I wanted you to see what happens to the team when you don't have a plan or a strategy for the game. You need to trust your coach who has his eyes on the whole team and knows what's best for everybody."
We can all agree that this coach was a positive influence in the lives of these boys. He wasn't as concerned about winning, as much as he was with teaching those kids life lessons. In a few short innings, he instilled into these children the importance of teamwork, doing your best and looking at the big picture. What a great influence he had on his team!
Parents, teachers, mentors and coaches have the opportunity to positively influence our children and instill good character. Don't miss out on your opportunity. If you notice someone isn't having a positive influence on your child. Take action. Influence lasts a lifetime.
What is Your Child's Motivational Switch?
One of the key factors in influencing children to take responsibility for their behaviors is to find their motivational switch. A child's motivational switch is what stops them from making wrong choices and motives them to do the right thing. Like with the flip of the switch on a train track, a motivational switch determines what direction your child will go on any given path.
Consider what the key motivators are for your son doing his homework and striving for A's in his classes? Perhaps he gets a special reward if he makes honor roll or loses a privilege if he doesn't.
Think about why your child does the chores you assigned her. Maybe she does it because she wants her allowance or she does it because she doesn't want to lose her TV time.
Depending on the child, and sometimes even the specific situation at hand, it could be a positive or negative reinforcement that launches your child into action. For example, one child may do his homework without any reminders because he truly wants to do well in school and be a straight A student. Another child may be disciplined to do his homework to avoid being grounded.
A few years ago, I was working with a 6-year-old boy and there was no doubt about it that saving money was his motivational switch. This 6 year old walked around like Donald Trump. He would flash all the bills in his wallet, but when you asked him how he wanted to spend it, he went silent. This child didn't want to spend his money. Wise beyond his years, he seemed to know that saving money was a good thing.
One spring day, we were playing in the puddle in the driveway, splashing around and having a grand old time. This was until he, we will call him John, decided to get creative and make a bad choice.
John decided there wasn't enough water in the puddle he was playing in, so in he goes to the garage to get two bottles of spring water. Yes, you guessed it. Off went the tops and he poured them into the puddle (or so it seemed from the empty bottles sitting next to his scooter). Now John understands that this isn't acceptable behavior. He's 6 years old, doing second grade math and knows from previous conversations that bottled water costs money.
When I asked John about the empty water bottles next to his scooter, he played innocent and didn't confess to what he'd done. Fortunately his big sister was there and gladly provided a playback of what's she'd just seen.
I had John come in from outside and asked him where his wallet was. He told me it was upstairs, so off I went to get it. When I returned, I handed him his wallet and asked him to give me $2.00 for the bottles of water that he wasted. I explained that the money would go towards reimbursing his parents for the cost of the water bottles. He passed me the money and I told him that if he wasted water like that again, the cost of the water would go up. Never did he waste water again.
When you know what drives your child, you're able to influence him to succeed and to make good choices by flipping on his motivational switch. And with it on, you'll find cooperation and doing the right thing, comes a little easier.
Sports and Character Building: What Kind of Teamwork is Your Child Learning?
Consider some of the tough situations you've encountered with your child. Maybe your daughter got kicked off the cheerleading squad or your son didn't make the JV baseball team.
There are times as parents that we see our children fall down, strike out, or lose a friend. These times are not easy to witness, but they are essential for our children to mature and become people of great character.
While it can be tempting to sweep these kinds of situations under the rug, don't. How you react towards these tough situations will influence how your child reacts.
With each tough situation, comes a learning opportunity that you don't want to miss. When your son doesn't make the cut, you have the opportunity to teach him how to handle bad news gracefully, to focus on the journey rather than the destination and to reinforce how much you love him and that you're his number one fan, regardless of if his name appears on a roster. These are lessons that he's going to hold on to for a lifetime.
When you see a group of kids working together to reach a common goal, does it excited you? It does me! There's something to be said when kids value teamwork. So many of the lessons kids glean from sports are deeper than the mechanics of the game.
Some of these are that:
Kids learn to take risks, like when a child steals third base in hopes of scoring the winning run.
They learn the power of shrugging it off and getting back into the game, when things don't look good.
They learn the art of good sportsmanship- how to win and lose gracefully.
They learn the power of persistence and the important of practice.
They learn to be a good encourager.
They learn to work with people who are different than them.
They learn to strive towards group goals.
They learn how to be coached and molded into the best they can be.
And how are these lessons learned? By the influence of their coach, parents and teammates, a child learns to take risks when a coach encourages him to do so. A child learns to shake hands with the winning team, when the coach sets the example and goes first. A child learns to try again, when he sees that his parents don't give up.
It's never easy for a parent to see their child on the "losing" team. But consider the life lessons your child learns when he is. Consider how your influence affects how he will handle tough situations in the future.
Do Your Children See Contentment in You?
As I travel around the country, it seems that I see contentment most often in our young children and in our elders. I see it in children who are simply running and playing in yard for hours and in the elderly who are simply sitting and swinging on a porch swing. While young kids and the elderly have decades between them, they share a very important similarity. Neither is in a rush to do anything but enjoy the moment they're in. For those of us in those in between years, I think we’re missing out on that. Perhaps it's because we're caught up in our busy world, chasing achievement in our careers, equality with the Joneses and a sense of belonging amongst our peers.
While there's nothing wrong with looking towards tomorrow and striving to reach our goals, in doing so have we lost appreciation for where we are at that moment. How many of us "inbetweeners" pause for a minute or two to be grateful for what we’ve already accomplished, today, last week or last year? How many of us can simply stop and enjoy the moment we're in. When the last time you've felt content with where you are now?
On a recent summer trip to Maine, it clicked with me why people who live in large cities buy summer and retirement homes there. Maine is a quiet place, full of mountains, fresh water streams, brooks, and lakes, land that’s not inhabited by people. People are very laid back, yet have to work very hard for their money. As people rose at sunrise to voyage out on their boats for their daily catch, I couldn't help but notice that people seemed content.
Can you picture in your mind the mist on the mountains? Where all is quiet and it’s just you and your child enjoying each other's company. Can you put aside what happened yesterday or what you have to do tomorrow or next week, and simply experience the warmth of the sun? What types of activities are you doing with your child to ensure that they learn to stop and smell the roses? How are you influencing your children to enjoy the moment they're in. Sharing a sunset, going on a nature walk or even kicking around the ball in the backyard can be activities that force you to enjoy the here and now.
In Maine, it's not uncommon for younger boys to accompany the older men on their fishing trips. This was the case for one boy, who was heading out on a trip for his 14th birthday. As I watched him sit and listen intently to his elders, I saw that he was enjoying the moment and appreciative of the time he was spending with his grandfather and uncle.
Some of my greatest childhood memories are of spending time with my grandfather fishing in rivers and brooks for trout. Because of my grandfather's influence, I learned to stop and enjoy life. That's a lasting life lesson that still today, I am grateful for.
What Does Integrity Really Mean?
Does your child understand the meaning of integrity? Have you taken the time to sit down and talk with integrity about it? How do you influence your child to be a person of integrity? While your child may be able to define integrity as if it were a vocabulary word, can she explain it as part of her everyday life? Does she see integrity in you?
I recently received a phone call from a parent who started to see things spiral downward with her two preteen boys. The parents had strong convictions about raising independent children and they stressed the importance of responsibility based on maturity. Chores were delegated, an allowance was given, and the boys were expected to be honor roll students.
The downward spiral started when the boys became no longer accountable to their parents for completing their chores or earning good grades. In reality, the boy's parents were tired and got lazy about reinforcing consequences for chores not done and grades not achieved. This of course influenced the boys to become even lazier themselves. The frustration built and reached its boiling point. The boys could no longer be trusted and the parents reached out for help.
A person with integrity simply does what they say they are going to do. They have a moral code and ethical principles they adhere to. Their words and their actions don't conflict. They aren't two faced or two sided. They're transparent.
I think we'd all agree, integrity is something we'd all like our children to possess. We help our children develop their integrity by holding them accountable. If your child says she'll clean the litter box, we can influence her to follow through when she has trouble doing so on her own. Our help can come in the way of establishing manmade consequences, like the loss of a privilege, or by allowing her to experience natural consequences, like having the scent of a nasty, overflowing litter box penetrate her room (while her friends are over, of course).
When it comes to integrity, we set the example for our children. If our children see us following through, successfully managing our responsibilities and being truthful, by our influence, they'll end up being the same.
Connecting By Reinforcing Good Character
With many people being affected by the down economy, I have often pondered the impact it's having on our children. In many ways, a poor economy may be influencing households to return back to simplicity. Parents who are out of a job may have more quality time to spend with their children, families may be forced to stop spending on entertainment and to enjoy what nature has to offer in their own backyards, and most importantly, perhaps both grownup and kids alike will come to appreciate the things that money can't buy.
Many times due to busy work schedules it takes extreme situations to force us to find the free time to invest in our kids daily lives. As I hung out with a middle school boy recently, my heart was touched. We shared a conversation that started while we were in the kitchen making cookies. As we were pulling out the ingredients, we weren't sure if we had enough brown sugar to make our special treat. So as we were packing it into the measuring cup, we began to make bets. You know how it goes, "I'll bet you a dollar we do have enough" or" I'll bet you two we have to go to the store." As we were waging our bets, Peter suddenly said, "I don't care if I win any money. I'm not even going to tell Papa how many A's I got because I don't want to take his money."
I froze for a moment to internalize what he just said. I asked him why he wouldn't be willing to take money from his Papa, knowing full well his grandfather gives all the grandchildren money for each A they earn in school.
Peter responded, "because I know that he's been spending time going to the doctor for his elbow injury and he's going to be having surgery and that's what the money should be used for."
I just wanted to give this young man a great big hug for his tender heart. Instead I paused for a moment as I looked at him and said, “That's a great example of why I call you "the man." He smiled widely.
We finished making cookies, then played a few games, but I just couldn't stop thinking about our conversation.
The next day while we were out shooting some hoops, I asked some follow up questions like how he came up with the idea of not telling his Papa about his grades and if he had mentioned his plans to his parents. He confirmed that he came up with his plan on his own and hadn't spoken to anyone about it. He went on to say that he did tell his parents that if they needed money, they could take it out of his piggy bank, because he didn't have a use for it.
As my heart melted, I praised Peter for his compassion and commented at how kind and wise beyond his years he was.
When our children present to us the unexpected, how we respond can truly influence how they feel about themselves. While brushing off uncomfortable comments or jokingly making fun of a child's unorthodox ideas is something we may all do, perhaps we shouldn't. The power of our influence is strong. Strong influence builds strong kids.