Breakthrough

Parenting by Trial and Error?

By | September 4th, 2017|Tags: , , |

I wanted to be a parent longer than I can remember. I was the little girl that stuffed a pillow under her shirt and gave birth to her baby dolls on a daily basis. The obsession was replaced with sports for a spell, but when I went to college and started dating more seriously, I wasn’t worried when I couldn’t focus on a major. Being a wife and mother does not require a  college degree.

It took me four years to find Mr. Right. It took us another fifteen years to have our first child. It was a long road of arguments, disappointments, doctors, fertility treatments, and finally in-vitro.  Less than two years later we had babies number two and three (twins). 

I remember bringing our first baby home and learning the first lesson of being a mom. It was two of us learning from each other from the start. I read books and spoke with family and friends. It was trial and error to be sure. After three days of not sleeping I  thought how lucky I was that I loved my job! I couldn’t wait till morning when I got to start the routine all over again. What other type of job lets you say that? Even when my back went out and I was crawling on the floor like Ursula (the sea witch from the Little Mermaid) in order to get my son out of his crib, I never regretted what I had signed up for.

Then I had the twins. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said, “boy, you have your hands full!” I’m going to let you in a little secret. When you have twins, they keep each other company! They don’t require all of your attention, all of the time. When you are changing a diaper, you already have all of the stuff out, you might as well change two. When you get to the stage when they are chasing each other around in walkers, don’t forget to break out your smartphone or camera. It is hysterical. Grocery shopping is more difficult because it’s hard to find places to put your groceries, but somehow you manage.

I’m realizing as they get older how events occurred and decisions were made and how they have affected their lives. It’s terrifying. In 2011 the twins stuffed their Halloween candy in the toaster and pushed down the lever. What I’ve learned years later is that they saw the toaster burst into flames, got scared and went to bed. Sometime later the fire alarm woke me, I called 911, and my family marched out of the house. We had to stay in a hotel for thee months before we found new housing. This was my childhood home. I spent a lot of time on the phone dealing with my own trauma thinking the boys hadn’t seen anything. They overheard a lot and carried a lot of guilt before they told me the truth years later.

During this time their father and I were separated. We called it the fight that lasted a year. It was a stressful time and once again I ask myself how did this impact their lives? A separation, a fire, living in a hotel. We turned it into an adventure and the boys received enormous support from their school and family…but a mother’s worry never ends.

In 2013 it happened again. My husband and I both got phone calls at our place of work explaining that our house was on fire. This time there was not  a clear explanation as to how the fire started. When I got there the house was in flames and the ceiling had collapsed. Thank Goodness there was no loss of life. Our new kittens were safe, our old dog was still in the back yard and the kids were safely at school. Despite the rise in anxiety and a feeling of helplessness I got the message laud and clear about what was important.

It seemed so easy when they were lying under their arch of toys swatting at the little rainbow in the center. As I look back on it my biggest problem was when I gave birth to the twins and got to introduce their big brother for the first time. He took one look at them and high tailed it out of that room so fast. Not sure what his plan was, but I can tell you it didn’t include either of them!  Fortunately one of his aunts were nearby and raced down the hall to collect him. I look back at parenting then and now and realize that I’m not getting more than I can handle, and that we still learn by trial and error.

This summer my oldest son got to go on an adventure with his grandparents. I felt the most vulnerable I have ever felt in my life. I bought him a special watch so I could watch him with GPS and call him whenever I needed to. He had the time of his life. He came home with so many stories. Whats more, my parents reported that he was well behaved helpful, fun spirited, and a joy to have around the entire trip. They said I was doing a good job!

Lets let that sink in for a while…I am doing a good job. When my kids are with others, they know what to do, they do it, and it reflects back positively on our family. Now that is a good feeling.

Every morning when I take my boys to school I watch them as they run to the sidewalk that takes them to their classrooms, backpacks knocking against their butts and I think how much I love my job, how lucky I am to have them and sometimes I get a lump in my throat.

Why Does Vlinder Work? Behavior Management

By | September 2nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Good question! Something that I, as the creator, should be able to explain to you.

For those that have never read my blogs…Vlinder is a behavior management game or program that uses positive reinforcement to reward clearly set expectations. For more information visit the website.

This is not about how to play or even how it works…this is about WHY it works. The ABC’s of behavior management rests on three aspects: antecedents, behaviors and consequences. Antecedents are events that occur before behaviors present themselves. If a child doesn’t have a good meal, didn’t get enough sleep, and got news that they weren’t going to their friends house then those are the antecedents to the temper tantrum that followed. The tantrum is the behavior that you are trying to discourage. Parents generally have a built in consequence for poor behaviors which can be anything from avoidance to a time-out or even worse.

Taking this example and using Vlinder means that you set the expectations before the antecedents have a chance to impact behavior. Clearly the child is in no shape for a play date. Expectations are set for what is reasonable for them to achieve the goal either later in that day or the next day. What can they do to earn this time? Have a rest or eat more breakfast? Complete some of their morning responsibilities. Note that in this example they are not losing their playdate…they are working towards it. You have gotten the same result without a tantrum.

That is the simple explanation of why Vlinder works. We looked at the ABC’s of behavior management and we took control at “A” (antecedents).

There are times of the day that are typically more stressful than others. If you use Vlinder to structure time you will be amazed at how much smoother time will play out. Not only will you have more cooperation but you will have more time for yourself as your players know what they have to do…as their expectations have already been laid out for them.

As with any behavior management program, results will vary. I am the first to admit that the first couple of times that you try this new approach it can be confusing for your child and a tantrum may still follow. Habits are hard to break. As they come to see that you follow through with your promises they will begin to work hard. Stay positive as you see them trying. When they question just acknowledge that this is not earning their “stamps” (part of the game) to go to their play date.

For more parenting tips or information on using positive reinforcement visit my website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com!

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My Kid is a Liar

By | July 4th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , |

I can still remember the look on my child’s face when he got caught in his first lie. It was the perfect mixture of defiance and embarrassment with neither behavior wanting to make an appearance. He wasn’t sure how to face the disappointment he had caused yet desperately wanted to find a loophole out of the situation. It was a hard lesson that day and it wasn’t the last. The fact is kids start “lying” for a variety of reasons and it isn’t until they are older that it starts to become deliberate and something that needs an intentional intervention.

There is no question that lying is a learned and even accepted behavior when growing up. I expect preschoolers enjoy believing their favorite Disney character lives somewhere in their world. I also expect they enjoy sharing their make believe adventures. Even as our kiddos get older and blame their make believe friends for spilled milk, somehow the sweetness of the story allows us to give the lesson to the friend, letting our kiddo off the hook.

I’m not saying that any of this is wrong! It is just important to understand that your kid is not inherently bad because they started lying about things that are suddenly more important in your eyes. Now it is time for your kiddo to start learning the value of telling the truth. This lesson deserves the same consistency that their previous lessons in lying received.

It is important to understand what your motivation is. In this case it is for your child to tell the truth. If your motivation is for your child to stop lying then you will be looking for and expecting poor behavior. It is not as powerful a message. Trust me…look for the positive, you and your child will be happier.

Next you want to set up a reward system. What are some of the behaviors that will show that they are telling the truth? The most obvious is a daily honesty reward. This would be on the honor system. Another could be what I call an ownership reward. There isn’t a day that goes by that my kids can’t take ownership of starting an argument, leaving clothing, etc. Finally I love creating a leadership reward. This reward is earned by showing leadership skills around the house and family.

The rewards are recognition stamps or stickers for a job well done. Its up to you to decide how many need to be earned to earn a larger reward. It is important for your child to work for something they want. If you have weekly goals and rewards then make them smaller. If you want to work towards a friend movie party, let him work at it for a while.

If you have more questions about setting up a reward system visit my website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. You can also reach out to me at jenn@ourbreakthroughs.com 

This is a good blog to help you understand the difference between a bribe and a reward.

Angry in a Flash

By | June 4th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

There is more in a moment of anger than we credit; many different internal and external factors are at play. We have little control over some, but, we always have control over our reactions. We need to remember that when it comes to our children. Everyone has experienced when spilled milk one day is just an accident and the next day it is clumsiness and cause for a stern talking to.  It’s confusing to be a child.

Anger is the result of three things, something happening, how we experience it and ultimately how we react. The parent who experienced the spilled milk and was angry one day but wasn’t the day before had other internal and external things that affected their response. Lets take a closer look at the difference between internal and external factors and how they affect a person’s anger.

As we progress through life events go through our experience filter. It’s this filter that helps us decode how we feel about everything based on past experience, culture, upbringing, gender, race, or religion. Those feelings ultimately direct our reactions, impacts how we respond, even to something as simple as a glass of spilled milk. How would a glass of spilled milk impact you? If it makes a laud noise? If it breaks something? If you are embarrassed in front of friends or family? These are all examples of internal things that provoke anger because it is how we respond to external stimuli. These events alone are not a common trigger. Even though the events are external they are going through your experience filter and your internal belief structure that is impacting how you are relate to an incident.

Other internal factors that are easier to relate to are fatigue, pressure, conflict and insecurity. These have direct impact on how we choose to respond to an event.

When thinking about external factors one must think about the events that he or she experienced and the circumstances under which they occurred. For example think about the things in your life that caused you stress. Did you come up with any frustrations, annoyances, abuses, injustices, harassments, hurts, disappointments, or threats? These are all stimuli that activate your anger. It is clear that not all of us react the same way. A bully might see an insult as humorous from someone smaller; however, if threatened his response would be quite different. External factors are different from internal in that they alone can cause anger. They don’t need to go through your experience filter to stimulate a reaction.

It is understandable that people have different reactions to the same event. No two days are the same and our experiences throughout the day have an impact on how we treat those who cross our path. Understanding the factors that go into anger gives you a tool set to make different choices. Knowing that you are walking into a situation when you are tired and feeling vulnerable should warn you to go easy or to schedule a better time to have important conversations. If your child spills a glass of milk and you feel your temperature rise ask yourself some very important questions.

    1. Where is my stress gauge?
    2. Do I already feel anger about another incident?

These questions might help you from making saying and doing things that you will regret later.

If you have any questions or you would like to look up more information on behavior management, please visit our website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. Vlinder is a behavior management game created to encourage communication, cooperation and connection in the family. To learn more visit us here.

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Summer is Here Now What?

By | May 29th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

School is almost over and families everywhere are planning for summer. The last thing you want is to have kids hanging around playing video games. We no longer live in an age where one can say, “Be back before dark”. Where are the days when summer meant lazing around the pool with friends! The good news is that caregivers everywhere can add event coordinator to their resume. I was amazed to find out what that involved.

I’ve done some research on the web and I’m exhausted looking at what parents do nowadays to keep their children entertained. Making daily plans, setting summer goals, finding daycare, camps, daily journals, playdates, outings, daily and weekly activities just to name a few. Alone they don’t seem daunting but none of the websites I found had just one of them…they had all of them. Think about how much this costs. It’s unreasonable in this economy. Many families can’t keep up. Lets not forget about families where both parents work. How do they find the time?  Keeping up with the Joneses is no longer about a white picket fence…

I decided to brainstorm and come up with some ideas of my own.

  1. Mom clubs Plan with other moms to trade off. Your kids will be out of the house a day or two a week depending on how you structure your club.
  2. Hire a babysitter Someone who will be your helper. You can train and learn how to work together the best. You probably won’t be paying them as but as they learn and progress you can pay them more. Perhaps you will feel more comfortable letting your kids have more freedom around the neighbor hood or on adventures, your choice. In the meantime you are helping another kiddo get some valuable skills.
  3. Have a structured behavior chart Explain to your kiddos what you want them to do and reward them when they accomplish it. (www.ourbreakthroughs.com)
  4. Phone Numbers Put up a list of friend’s phone numbers next to the family telephone so that they can call friends during the summer to stay in touch.
  5. Reading Club Start a reading club where kids can meet and talk about the latest books. This would be particularly helpful for the working parent that needs to have their groups held later in the day to stay involved.

I am overwhelmed with the expectations that are put on parents these days. I think when you take one or two of the examples above like playdates and daily journal and put them together for a day that is more than enough.

For the parents that have older kids I would issue a word of caution. Allow your child to be in charge of their own social calendar. Learning how to find friends is an important skill. Finding playdates for your child ends. If they aren’t asking to make phone calls or have people over it may be a sign for problems that you will want to address.

Kids do not have to be occupied every second of the day. If they are having a slow day they still should keep the electronic devices turned off, slow it down and read a book. I’m now sure if our children know how to manage boredom. They are constantly entertained by cellphones and video games. This need for constant stimulation can be damaging, but that is another blog!

Contact me at my website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. I would love to hear your comments. Share your ideas. If there is something that you would like to write about then let me know. We can discuss your audience!

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Barriers to Communication

By | May 11th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , |

We go through life doing our best to be understood. But lets face it, it can be difficult. So many people coming from so many different walks of life. Each person having their own experience filter which has the ability to distort a message. The best we can do is be aware of the challenges of effective communication and do our part. As parents we do a little more by teaching our kids.

Communication is a skill. Spoken communication relies on three personal factors. First, self-concept, which impacts how you organize your world, which in turn affects how you communicate. Second, the ability to give information clearly and finally being able to listen effectively. Without understanding a message communication cannot take place.

These eight barriers to communication impact all three of the above personal factors. As you read through the list think about how often you are the donor or the recipient. Later you can think about how you can do it differently.

1. Perception and interpretation  It is not possible for two people to experience the same thing the same way. We all come from different genetics, backgrounds, education, experience, etc which all impact the way we take and interpret information.

2. Generalizations and bias  We are used to seeing things a certain way and it takes effort to open our minds.

3. Jumping to conclusions  We often get to the outcome before we have been given all of the facts.

4. Assumptions  The idea that perceptions are unique is all but ignored when someone presumes that others thoughts are like their own.

5. Multiple meanings  All messages can have different meanings when viewed from different angles or different perspectives.

6. Dilution  A message loses its intended meaning the more interpretations or people it passes through.

7. Message sent, but not received  This is a selective listener, picking and choosing parts of the message that they want to hear but filtering out the rest.

8. Physical barriers   These are all of the physical and verbal barriers around you every day; noise, delays in transmissions, length of message, restrictions in asking questions, and/or the attractiveness of the message.

We have just touched on some basic difficulties in communication. Look forward to more blogs on communication in the near future. For now take these common barriers and see what you can do differently in your own style to make a difference in the way you hold a conversation with others. In particular the way you speak with your kids. I know I perceive things differently then they do and I certainly jump to conclusions when I hear something crash!

For more information please visit www.ourbreakthroughs.com. I would love to hear your comments.

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Enough is Enough

By | April 23rd, 2017|Tags: , , , , |

How can you tell if you are overindulging your children? That is a tough question. For some, giving what you didn’t have as a child is overindulgence. It doesn’t really matter who is right. I think parents generally are pretty intelligent people and know when they are going overboard. What matters is a pattern of overindulgence can be harmful for your child. Not being able to recognize negative consequences leads to poor coping strategies.

What we do instead is offer reasonable solutions to our children when confronted with negative consequences. Allow them to learn from their mistakes and build strategies to become stronger, wiser and independent young adults. Here are some tips that parents and kids can work on together…

  1. Be grateful for what you have.
  2. Make sure to set and follow through with consequences.
  3. Share how it feels when your kindness is taken for granted.
  4. Work on communication skills between parent and child.
  5. Accept that patterns of over-indulgence can harm a child’s ability to function in life.
  6. Provide a lesson teaching the difference between needs and wants.
  7. Learn how to set boundaries and stay firm.

I believe that we all have the best interest of our children in mind. When we vowed not to make the same mistakes as our parents or that our kids would never “go without” we did not mean harm. But in some cases that is exactly what is happening and it is time to take a look at our parenting plan and rethink some strategies. Patterns that have set over a period of time can be difficult to identify and change. Using the steps above are a step in the right direction. Creating new patterns which don’t include overindulging your children is another!

I encourage conversation on my Facebook support group, Parenting With Intention…I also welcome your comments. For more parenting advice or to learn more about behavior modification visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com.

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Is Your Child Really Sick? Are They Trying to Tell You Something?

By | March 22nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Does your child fake being sick to get out of going to school? Recently I have been confronted with this challenge. I wish if they are going to get sick they would get a good old dose of the flu, it takes the decision making out of the equation. A fever means staying home quietly with a good book. It’s more concerning to me when my child delivers a performance, feigning illness to avoid the classroom. What is he really saying?

Perhaps nothing is going on. Perhaps your child is in the middle of a good book and can’t wait to finish it. But inventing stories to avoid school could also be a shout out for help. This is a good opportunity for you to ask if there is anything going on with friends or schoolmates. Perhaps he needs help with some homework. It may also be a larger problem such as bullying.

Children worry about life at home. If your child is feeling an unnecessary stressor due to events in the home they may feel like they need to stay close by.  This may be an important time for you to do an inventory on your own home life and reassure your child that they are safe.

As busy parents we often run on auto-pilot and it is good to slow down and look for the meaning behind our children’s actions. Patterns are created because the action works over time. If your child continues to create stories to get out of going to school, better to nip this in the bud early. Discover the reason and solve the problem before it turns into a behavior.

I encourage conversation on my Facebook support group, Parenting With Intention…I also welcome your comments. For more parenting advice or to learn more about behavior modification visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com.

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Finders Keepers – A Mother’s Search for Reasonable Rewards

By | March 16th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

Kids are given so many “things” nowadays. It seems as though when it comes to Birthdays and Christmas I’ve run out of gift ideas because of all the giving that I’ve already done. I know I’m not the only one. So when it came to creating my behavior modification program it was important to me to find rewards around the house that involved time spent with family, friends, and other social ingredients. Knowing how hard it was going to be to find enough rewards to make up my program I wondered if all of them would hold enough value to motivate.

It proved no easy task. I sat on my couch for hours, with eyes closed, mentally roaming my home, pretending to be my kids and thinking of things they like to do. Different times of day. Different people to associate with. Different animals to play with. I would use all of my senses to imagine what they could earn as a reward that would motivate them to want to earn it again.

The funny thing is a lot of the things I came up with, I would let them do regardless. I decided to do a test run. I was curious how they would respond to rewards like “play with a pet” compared to “30 minutes of electronics on a school night”. Would one reward hold more value and make them work harder than another?

The answer was they all worked the same. Initially I wondered if it was the newness of working with Vlinder, the name of the program. Families that were part of a pilot project reported similar findings, however. Although some rewards held, what were considered a higher pay value, they did not make the kiddos work any harder during the day then cards that had a lesser pay value. Kids reported enjoying the process. They liked understanding what was expected of them (which is part of their task sheets), they liked picking out of a bin, not knowing what reward they were going to get, even if it was a bummer card. They enjoyed carrying out the reward or having the anticipating of being able to carry out the reward. Overall it is a win-win.

Vlinder found the kids motivation to complete any tasks that were put before them on a task sheet. The added bonus is the amount of valued family time that comes with the rewards. I was pleasantly surprised that my kids often choose cuddle time as their reward. I always love it when they get to pick the meal, not only do they pick but they often help with the meal as well. Daddy loves it when they pick Daddy Day as their special Weekly reward. Again we would gladly do it without the game, but with the game we make sure to set aside the time to do it in a timely fashion. The kids have a strong feeling of accomplishment and pride.

It continues to be important for me to bring up to participants and friends that one of the largest learning experiences for me has been that no matter the pay-value of the reward, kids want the recognition. One of the things that Vlinder does an excellent job of is explains to kids what they need to do to get that same recognition. The rewards make it fun, the game pieces make it fun.

If you would like to learn more about Vlinder, Behavior Modification and other parenting advice please come and visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. You can also call us at (707) 773-7654.

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Good Bye Legos

By | March 5th, 2017|Tags: , , , |

When is it time to say good bye to legos? My sons haven’t played with them in years, they are gathering dust on their shelf and they desperately need the space…and yet I find myself asking again when do we box them up and put them away? I’ve been researching this topic for some time. Projects to do with old lego sets. Revamping old lego sets. Setting your lego set. Restoring your lego sets, donating, storing…, etc.  In all of this time I realize that I’m putting forth this effort  because I’m having a difficult time letting go of a “phase” my children went through.  Plus…it has been replaced by the video game phase…and I see no end in sight.

The lego phase was fun and creative. It was interactive and required patience and thought. At the end there was pride in a job well done. There is a large difference between that and now that they have discovered video games. Video games are isolating and often thoughtless. Progress is achieved with skill that is acquired over time. Time that is spent away from friends and family. Although I limit my children’s video time, I compare it with lego time and miss it greatly. Because video time has to be controlled it often involves arguments and tears. Lego time was endless hours on the floor putting together battleships, dragons, superhero space stations, etc.  The only tears were of frustration when tiny pieces couldn’t be found. 

This is more then saying good-bye to legos and re-structuring family life to involve some independent play time.  There have been a lot of phases that I have not given the same thought. Kids grow up so fast. I’ve heard that phrase a lot but today it holds new meaning. Although I don’t find it necessary to eliminate all electronic use in our home, I do have a call for action. I call for more time playing games on the floor, at the table, in the garage…wherever there is space!  There is no use just crying about the end of a phase if you aren’t going to do something about it!  Replace it with something equally fulfilling.  I’m missing time spent with my children.  Done!  And as far as my initial question…I guess I’m going to box them up today.

Some simple steps:

  1. Don’t forget to ask your child – Believe it or not I started the process of deciding when to store their legos months before asking them.  I finally built up the courage and was surprised when my oldest was already on board.   
  2. Have a plan in mind if your child is resistant.  For my younger two we are planning on keeping two or three of their favorites.
  3. Decide how to store and stay consistent. Keep them in their sets or color code. Either way make sure that you keep them in air tight containers. If you are going to go through the process to store them make sure they are usable after you open them again. 
  4. There are plenty of projects to do with mix-matched sets. Research books, websites, etc for ideas if you are not ready to store your legos.

Come visit me on my website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com

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