Support, Don’t Hover, to Raise Independent Kids

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Sometimes it feels like parenting is a no-win situation these days. If you stick too close, you’re a helicopter. If you hang too far back, you’re not engaged. If you let your kids ride their bikes alone, you might even be reported for neglect. Okay, maybe that last one is a little bit extreme, but you get the point.

Parents are constantly under a microscope today. Parents read articles and books on parenting to gather information and perhaps solve a few parenting mysteries (we all have them from time to time). That’s a good thing. The flip side is that input is everywhere…even when you’re not looking for it. That’s not such a good thing. That can damage the self-esteem of the parent. That can cause parents to question their instincts. That can cause arguments and frustration.

New research, for instance, shows that “helicopter parenting” is detrimental to kids no matter how loving the parents are. This particular study shows that children raised by controlling parents are actually less engaged in the classroom. While the researchers thought they might find that love and support neutralized the controlling behavior, they didn’t.

The quick takeaway, of course, is that helicopter parenting is no good. But what does that actually mean?

For purposes of the study, the researchers defined “helicopter parenting” as engaging in over-involved habits such as solving problems for kids or making decisions for them.

The term “helicopter parent” first appeared in a book in 1969, referring to a parent of a teen who hovers too close. It gained steam in the 2000’s as college deans reported such behaviors as parents looking to get grades changed and calling to wake college kids for classes. I’m not sure my parents even knew when my classes were when I was in college – I can’t imagine a daily wake-up call.

Somewhere along the line, “helicopter parenting” trickled down to parents with younger children. Today, if you stay too close, according to the judgment of another, you’re a helicopter. I get tons of questions from confused parents – they want to do their best to love and support their kids, but they don’t want to hang too close and cause problems by “hovering”. Sigh.

Young children need parental support. They need help and guidance along the way. Do they need you to solve every problem? Of course not! Do they sometimes need help brainstorming problem solving strategies? Absolutely.

The best advice I can give on this one is to strike the term “helicopter parenting” from your vocabulary. It’s overused and often misused, and that’s a problem.

Beyond that, try this:

Trust your instincts.

You know your family better than anyone else. Some kids need close supervision at the park, while others need room to spread their wings and fly. I know, for instance, that my daughter can climb super high and never fall but if my son follows her I need to trail him – he often catches up to her only to realize that he doesn’t love heights. I also know that my kids have potentially fatal food allergies, so all parties require close supervision.

Trust your parental instincts. You know what your kids need and how to fulfill those needs. If you worry about what others think, you might not make the best choices for your family. Stay focused on your own family and tune out the white noise.

Talk about feelings.

Kids need to be able to experience and cope with frustration, anger, sadness, and every other feeling that comes up throughout the day. Too often parents jump in to solve a problem so that kids don’t have to experience big emotions.

Emotions are good and all feelings matter. Talk about the feelings that occur when something is hard or just out of reach. Let your child cry and express her emotions as she sees fit. Then label those feelings, talk about what caused them, and discuss ways to feel calm.

Problem solve together.

Solving every problem for your child leads to learned helplessness. Solving problems with your child provides guidance and support while empowering your child to become a problem solver.

Brainstorm together. Ask leading questions, but don’t provide the answers. We all have moments when we need sometime to listen and provide support, right? Kids feel the same way. Sometimes they need someone to sit close and listen while they try to find a solution.

Listen.

Listen for the sake of listening, not for the sake of crafting the perfect response. Too often we get caught up in partial listening – we listen to respond. The best listeners, however, need time to respond. They need time process what was said and respond when they have something thoughtful to add to the conversation. The best listeners…listen.

Listen to what your kids say. Let the feelings and emotions hang in the air for a moment. Sit with them. Experience them. Take the time to empathize before you problem solve. When your children learn that they won’t break every time they experience big emotions, they will be better equipped to cope with the hard stuff along the way.

Make time for play.

Kids learn a lot from free play. They learn to solve problems. They learn to resolve conflict. They learn to cope with emotions. Play is the business of childhood – make time for it.

For more on the importance of free play, check out these articles:

Parents, Are Your Kids Getting Enough Free Play Time?

5 Ways Even Working Parents Can Factor in More Free Play

Why Free Play Is Important During the Summer

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder

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Many parents have concerns when it comes to sensory processing issues and toddlers.  The truth is that toddlers are all over the place.  Developmental milestones are great for understanding child development in a broad sense, but kids develop at their own pace.  And some are highly sensitive to their environments, while others are not sensitive at all.  Most fall somewhere in the middle.  It’s a continuum.  And it will change over time.

That said, it’s perfectly normal to wonder about sensory processing.  If a toddler screams every time he gets dressed, it might be more than just a sensitivity.  If sensory processing becomes the main focus of your day…you probably want to check in with your pediatrician.

I get a lot of questions about Sensory Processing Disorder.  Head on over to EverydayFamily to learn how to spot sensory processing disorder and what to do to help your child.

On Empowering Our Girls…

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Friendships can be hard…even when you’re an adult.  When you think about the things kids go through – shifting alliances, balancing acts, secrets and stories, laughter and tears – is really that different from the ebb and flow of adult friendships?  If we look at our own experiences, can we see the similarities?

The difference, of course, is that adults (many adults, anyway) have coping skills.  We might not like it when a friendship takes a turn that we didn’t see coming, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm us.  It doesn’t have to stop us in our tracks and make us feel like we are less in some way because of it.

I’ve been there.  I know that overwhelming disappointment that can accompany friendship loss.  I know what it feels like to dissect every interaction to try to pinpoint the moment when things shifted.  I know what it feels like to be left behind and wonder if I wasn’t enough.  But I also know how to cope with all of that.  Whether or not I want to encounter those feelings and deal with those losses, I do know how to work through them.

Most kids don’t.  Friendships shift and change.  Sometimes kids fall into maladaptive patterns because they don’t know how to connect.  They try new strategies in an effort to connect and establish bonds.  Sometimes those strategies are good and lead to new and interesting friendships, but sometimes those strategies are misguided and unintentionally hurtful to others.

The good news is that we all have the opportunity to empower our girls.  We can teach them adaptive strategies to make and keep friends.  When they make mistakes, which they will (they are kids, after all), we can use those teachable moments to help them find new and better strategies.  We can guide them and build them up.  We can empower them to make positive choices.

We can make a difference.  In a world where mean girls seem scary and powerful, we can choose to raise nice girls, instead.

Please join me over at Everyday Family for some good tips on an important topic, because nice girls really do finish first.

Teach kindness, my friends.  Kindness always wins.

Parenting Articles Worth Checking Out…

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If I haven’t been here much, it’s because I’ve been in other places!  Below are a few recent articles that you might want to check out…

On Scary Mommy:

How Can I Make My Kid Less Stressed?

On allParenting:

New Breakthrough for Peanut Allergies

Aftermath:  How to Help Bullying Victims

And on Everyday Family:

How to Balance Work and Family

4 Ways to Help Older Siblings Adjust to a New Baby

3 Tips for Coping with a Fear of Animals

Perfectionism Versus Anxiety: How to Spot the Difference

Hope some of those come in handy, and please leave a comment if you have a topic you would like me to cover!

When Your Child Bullies…

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Nobody wants to get that phone call…

As parents, we talk a lot about bully prevention and helping kids cope with bullying, but we can’t leave out the other part.  Every bully has parents, and it’s important for parents to know what to do if that phone call does come home from school.

Kids bully for a variety of reasons, and the best first step is to identify the trigger.  There always a reason behind a behavior, even if it takes time, counseling, and a lot of patience to find it.

Teaching empathy is crucial.  Ideally, all parents teach empathy from the beginning.  But it’s never too late to start.

Modeling kindness and appropriate conflict resolution skills is essential.  Kids learn from us.  They see and hear what we do and they internalize it.  That might feel like a lot of pressure, but it’s true.  So we have to be aware of our actions, voice tone, body language, and words.

Books are always useful for young children.  Check these out:

How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath & Mary Reckmeyer

One and Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

Help!  A Story of Friendship by Holly Keller

That should get you started…

And please stop by Everyday Family to read more about what to do when your child is the bully.

On raising awareness…

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October is a month of many causes, and one of them is bullying.  I can write another post citing statistics.  I can talk about prevention, coping, and taking responsibility.  And I can beg you take cyberbullying seriously…but the truth is that bullying is a community problem – a national problem, really – that requires far more discussion and action than I can provide right here, right now.

That doesn’t mean that I’m burying my head in the sand.  I’m not.  I’m working with my daughter’s school, because sometimes you have to start small.  There is no true bullying prevention strategy in place at this time.  There never has been.  So I’m starting the conversation and getting other parents involved.  Because you have to start somewhere.

I’m talking with other writers and professionals about cyberbullying, the downsides of technology, and the dangers of texting.  And I’m not referring to distracted driving.

And I’m doing my best to raise awareness about the best ways to help kids cope when they do face bullying.  Because childhood and suicide are two words that do not belong in the same sentence.

Do bullying prevention programs work?  At the moment, the results are mixed.  But there are a few things that do work:

Teaching kindness

Teaching empathy

Strong family bonds

and…

Active parenting

With that in mind, I have a few articles for you to read this week.

Childhood depression is on the rise, and it is essential to understand the signs and symptoms and to know how to help.  Head over to Everyday Family for more on Understanding Childhood Depression.

Bullying happens.  We can talk prevention programs until we’re blue in the face, but we have to deal with what is happening right now.

Head over to Everyday Family for What to Do if Your Child is Bullied.

And over on allParenting this week, 5 Bully Busters.  There you will find symptoms of bullying and strategies to help your child.

Keep talking.  The moment we become complacent is the moment that we truly begin to fail our kids.

Be proactive.  Talk to your kids.  Talk to other parents.  Get involved with the school.  Do your part to help zero tolerance become a reality.

 

 

Coping with Childhood Anxiety

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The first two months of a new school year are full of transition.  New teacher.  New classroom. New friends in the classroom.  New schedule.  New expectations.

For kids who love routine, all of this new stuff can really shake things up.

Kids who are prone to anxiety tend to struggle with big transitions, and a new school year is BIG.

That said, I have a couple of articles for you that relate to childhood anxiety:

For those of you wondering why your older children are struggling with separation anxiety at school and just how long it might last, please head over to Everyday Family and check out 5 Tips for Helping Kids Cope with Separation Anxiety.

And for those of you concerned about social anxiety and wondering how to help your kids with the discomfort that accompanies it, please stop by allParenting and check out “What is social anxiety in kids?

I hope these articles help with your little worries.  Please feel free to send topics my way by stopping by my Facebook Page!

The Importance of Sleep

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Kids need sleep.  A lot of it.  Toddlers and preschoolers need 12-14 hours of total sleep (nighttime sleep plus naps) and 5-12 year olds need 10-11.

Adequate sleep keeps kids healthy, improves social/emotional well-being, and is essential for brain development.  You know that feeling you get when you’re running on empty and you just can’t seem to remember anything?  Kids lacking adequate sleep experience that same feeling, and then some.

Some recent studies on children and sleep shed some light on both the necessity of adequate sleep and the importance of consistent bedtimes.  More on that over at Everyday Family – check it out.

On that note, I’m off to bed!

 

 

Kindergarten Redshirting?

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Once upon a time, redshirting was reserved for college athletes and occasionally you started Kindergarten a little late because you just weren’t ready.  I would know.  As an October baby, I was held out a year.  To hear my mom tell it, I was too “quiet and small”.  I’m sure that’s a fairly accurate description.  Having the extra year gave me the confidence to enter into Kindergarten ready to learn.  Also?  Kindergarten was a lot more fun in those days!

With changing cut-off dates and large classes that sometimes include both four year olds and six year olds, Kindergarten has changed.  Many parents currently struggle with the idea of redshirting their kids (holding them out until age 6) versus moving forward as planned (or deemed appropriate according to dates).

To be honest, the research is mixed.  This makes the decision even more complicated for many parents.  At the end of the day, the decision should be in the best interest of the child.

I shared some information over at Everyday Family this week to help make the decision a little less complicated.

On Coping with Anger and Sleeping Away from Home

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On Everyday Family this week…

Being away from home can be tough.  While a sleepover at a grandparent’s house can be a great way to increase that bond and ease the transition to sleepovers, it can also require some preparation for kids.  Tips for ensuring a great sleepover here.

Anger is a very normal emotion.  From toddler temper tantrums to, well, adult temper tantrums, people experience anger for a number of reasons.  Teaching our kids to cope with feelings of anger is essential.

Hope you are having a fun and relaxing weekend.

Until next time!