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Parenting Tip: Structure Via Rules & Routine

RulesIt may come as no surprise, but kids can thrive with a bit of structure that gives them a sense of routine and with rules that inform them of how they are expected to behave. Structure is an overarching concept that includes a consistent routine and well defined, individualized rules. Routines help children know what to expect and rules help them understand what is expected of them. I have put together a list of recommendations to keep in mind when developing a structure and rules for your family.

Suggestions for structure:

  • The key to creating a structure is to be as consistent as possible, knowing that you will have to be flexible once in a while.
  • Keep in mind that the younger the child the more “transition” time they will need. For example, if you want your 4 year old to go to sleep at 8, then plan on starting the wind down process about 45-60 before.
  • Teens also need some transition time and so don’t expect them to stop what they are doing the second you ask. Instead, remind them that they have 5 minutes so that they have some time to wrap things up before moving on to the next thing.
  • Try not to over schedule yourself and your kids. For example, enrolling your child in a sport can be a wonderful activity but it can also strain your family time and “rest time” because you’ll end up spending lots of time commuting.
  • Remember to schedule in family fun time so that spending time together becomes part of your routine. If you want to learn more about scheduling family time, read our previous blog on that topic.

Suggestions for rules:

  • When creating rules, keep in mind that family rules are not just rules for the children. In other words, if behaving respectfully is a rule, then the rules are more likely to be followed and successful if the parents model respectful behavior. Read our blog about modeling and its importance.
  • Be inclusive and ask your kids for feedback on the rules you are planning on setting up. Ultimately, the parents have the final say but rules are more successful if the kids have taken part in their creation.
  • Create rules for all your children not just one otherwise that may create family dynamics of unfairness, entitlement, resentment, etc.
  • Lastly, age-appropriate monitoring and loving guidance complete the learning loop by providing children with structure that is consistent with family values.

Subscribe to our wellness blog for more tips (see the far right column of this page or the bottom of the page if you’re using your mobile phone) or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in working with families overcoming challenging patterns. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by Yoendry Torres, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Image credit: Yoendry Torres

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Parenting Tip: Actively Listen

1024px-Ruído_Noise_041113GFDLYouth I work with often share with me that their parents “don’t listen” and/or “don’t understand.” Listening to children is about communicating to them that you truly heard them by validating their feelings and expressing empathy. This type of listening is called active listening and it can help create a stronger bond and trust between parents and children and help resolve conflicts.

Here are a few tips about active listening:

 

  1. Active listening is being in a conversation without a preconceived notion of what should be said or defensiveness to what the other person said. Instead listen with curiosity.
  2. Active listening is about hearing the content but focusing on the underlying feelings of what was said. Listen and look for clues as to what they are feeling. For example, if a teen rolls their eyes they are probably annoyed or frustrated. Reflect on the feeling by saying something like “You seem really annoyed with me right now.”
  3. The key to active listening is to repeat back or summarize what the other person said in order to check if you understood them correctly. Simply paraphrase what they just said in your own words to check if you got it all. If not, ask for clarification and keep asking questions to learn more about what they are thinking and/or feeling.
  4. When practicing active listening, remember it is about expressing curiosity of what the other is sharing and not about defending or rationalizing your own behavior. For example, when your child says that they’re upset about you arriving late from work, ask more about how that makes your child feel rather than going into an explanation about why you were late.

I hope you found these listening tips useful! I plan to write about other tips in the near future so stay tuned. You can subscribe to our wellness blog (see the far right column of this page or the bottom of the page if you’re using your mobile phone) or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in working with families overcoming challenging patterns. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by Yoendry Torres, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Image credit: “Ruído Noise 041113GFDL” by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (Lmbuga Commons)(Lmbuga Galipedia)Publicada por/Publish by: Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ru%C3%ADdo_Noise_041113GFDL.JPG#/media/File:Ru%C3%ADdo_Noise_041113GFDL.JPG

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Creating a Behavior Chart that Works!

Behavior ChartI’ve worked with lots of teachers, school staff, kids and families who have either given up on behavior charts altogether or who seem to be losing their confidence in them. Many of my clients support teams have described a disappointing scenario— “She never really took to it” or “He seems to respond wonderfully at first and then loses interest” or even “We had good intentions, but it was really hard to keep it updated.” I’m not suggesting that  a behavior chart is the answer for everything, but I will say that they can be pretty helpful for some kids. And here’s the best part— they can be EASY and FUN! So whether you’re ready to give it another shot or if you’re developing your first behavior chart, here’s our freebie (and a bonus) to you: 5 Tips for Creating Successful Behavior Charts AND Ideas for Rewarding Preferred Behavior

BHchartScreen Shot

For more free printables, advice and amusing musings, subscribe to our blog (see the far right column of this page or, if you’re on your cell, try scrolling to the bottom of this page) or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who are experts in working with families and schools on challenging behavioral issues. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

 

 

Written by Brandy Baker, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Image courtesy of twobee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Parenting Tip: Modeling

1024px-Vlečení_kolaMahatma Gandhi once said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” One way that I interpret this inspiring quote is to act the way you want others to act. I work with many families and I believe this mantra often applies when there is conflict between parents and children.

Parents usually want their child to stop disrespecting, yelling, acting aggressively, etc. I work collaboratively with the parents on how they can model the behavior they want to see in their children. We work toward enhancing parenting skills that help bring peace and joy back to their home.

Here are a few tips that usually help parents achieve this goal.

Parenting Tips:

  • Schedule play. Make time in your schedule to play with your family. It is important for families to have fun and bond through positive experiences. Schedule a game night or a hike or time together at a park. It is far too easy to get so bogged down with today’s hectic lifestyle that we fail to engage and enjoy our loved ones despite our best intentions. Making time for your child teaches him or her the important values of having fun with your family and communicates to him or her where your priorities lie.
  • Be present. How many times have you seen parents and children on their cell phones while sitting at a restaurant? Pretty often is my experience. Unfortunately, not much bonding is happening when everyone’s eyes are focused on the screens. Instead, put down the phones or any other distractions and be present with your children. Listen to what they are saying and reflect back on the feelings underneath their comments. This will go a long way toward creating a strong bond where your child feels listened to and understood.
  • And lastly, be the change you wish to see in your children. Parents are typically the main role models for young children so consider what you want your kids to learn from you next time you get angry. For example, it is often helpful to request space from each other and go into another room and later, once calm, discuss the situation with your child. When your children observe you engaging in a healthy coping skill to calm down when you feel angry, they will be more likely to do the same.

These are just a few of the frequent topics that I find myself discussing with families. I plan to write about other tips in the near future so stay tuned. You can subscribe to our wellness blog (see the far right column of this page) or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in working with families overcoming challenging patterns. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by Yoendry Torres, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Image credit: “Vlečení kola” by cs:ŠJů – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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Couples Gridlock – 8 Tips to Improve Communication

Couples Gridlock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite often problematic communication styles are the primary contributors to dysfunction in couples and families, leading to misunderstanding, resentment, and anger towards each other, not to mention gridlock. There are several common problematic communication styles that can be disastrous to any relationship. Here are a few common problematic communication styles that have been found to be detrimental to relationships by renowned couples therapists and researchers, Drs. John and Julie Gottman:

  • Harsh startup – Arguments starting with attacks using, for example, criticism or sarcasm rather than hearing out the partners options, thoughts, and feelings about a matter.
  • Criticism – Direct attacks to a partner’s character often using disrespectful and offensive words to describe their faults.
  • Contempt – Demeaning one’s partner using sarcasm and cynicism, often time expressing disgust by eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, or hostile humor.
  • Stonewalling – Withdrawing from the conversation in an attempt to avoid the conflict or tune out the partner, for example by turning away.
  • Defensiveness – Denying responsibility for any part of the conflict and instead blaming one’s partner or finding excuses.

Mental Health Implications

According to the U.S. Census Bureau divorce rates have risen from 15.1 million (from a total of 112.6 million married) in 1990 to 23.2 million (from a total of 130.3 million married) in 2009. Besides the higher likelihood of relationship dissatisfaction, separation, or divorce, children are also affected by their parents’ difficulty in resolving conflicts. There is a wealth of research indicating that children’s mental health is negatively impacted by parental discord affecting their psychological health in adulthood. For example, in a Report from the Department of Health and Human Services (2009), it was noted that “marital conflict has been found to elicit negative, aggressive behaviors in children, in both boys and girls” and that “the ability of parents to resolve their conflicts successfully was associated with self-reported levels of anxiety in children (Kerig, 1996). That is, parents who more constructively resolved their conflicts had children who reported lower levels of anxiety.” Moreover, children exposed to parental discord may experience symptoms of anxiety such as racing thoughts, poor concentration, feeling nervous, and sleep problems. Such symptoms may contribute to diminished academic functioning or problematic behavior. The impact on children alone is a compelling reason to improve one’s ability to communicate effectively.

8 Communication Tips

  1. Respect each other – Harsh startups using criticism or contempt will just make your partner more defensive and angry. Instead, set ground rules for arguing; for example, no name calling or sarcasm.
  2. Truly listen and reflect – Listening includes the ability to reflect back and summarize what you heard. So try not to be defensive or think of a counter-argument while listening to the other person speak, instead check in with them to make sure you understood their side correctly.
  3. Be honest – Integrity, or owning up to one’s mistakes or shortcomings, is critical in order to move passed gridlock.
  4. Body language – One’s true intent and emotion is communicated through one’s body language. Just as yelling does not communicate love or understanding, watching TV or talking on the phone while a partner attempts to communicate with you suggests that you are disinterested.
  5. Take a break – When one becomes angry, a number of physiological reactions occurs, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, making it difficult to think clearly or rationally. Take an hour or more to calm down before attempting to repair things again.
  6. Provide solutions – When discussing a problem with your partner don’t just complain about what they are doing wrong, rather come up with what you would like them to do, which would help improve the situation.
  7. Be a team – Many times couples begin to lose sight of their common goal and begin to see each other as rivals. Instead, view each other as team members, refocus goals, and work towards them together.
  8. Seek professional help – It is difficult to see one’s problems objectively from within and seeking outside professional help may allow you to learn and practice healthier communication styles in a safe, confidential setting.

The American Psychological Association has more communication tips specifically geared toward improving communication with one’s children.

Author: Dr. Yoendry Torres, Clinical Psychologist

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