Parenting

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!

Take 5

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

Today I’m here to help you be more mindful the next time you are angry with your child and trying to give a lesson in the moment. The problem is that we are tunnel visioned when we are angry and less rational. Why is that a problem? Your child is learning more then one lesson from you during this interaction.

First they are learning how to communicate. They may not yell at you, but they may start yelling at their siblings to express their anger. They may point their finger, ignore whats being said, shake their head, any number of mannerisms that you portray. Kids model what they see. If you want to raise a child who is respectful to loved ones, even during argument, best to cool down before preceding with the lesson. 

Second they are learning about respect. My husband tells our sons they have to respect him because he is their father. In the same conversation we teach them that respect is earned. It is a confusing message. I make every effort not to correct my husband in front of our children, so the only way that I can make sure that I am earning their respect in my conversations with them is to be sure that I am heard and then listen back.

Finally they are learning about consistency. If you allow yourself the time to think about your course of action then you are allowing yourself time to be consistent with your parenting.

It’s easy to fly off the hook when you get angry and yell at your child for something they’ve done. Im just asking for you to stop and think for a moment.  You’re providing more than one lesson in the moments following an event than you may think. It’s worth a five minute breather, to collect your thoughts, get a sip of water and then tackle the problem.

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

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.

A Child’s First Pet

By | June 10th, 2017|Tags: , , , |

Parents reach a point in their child’s lives when they start thinking about pet ownership. It is a wonderful way to teach responsibility and empathy. It is not a decision to be taken lightly. Far to many pets are left abandoned as a result of a fun family endeavor. Here are some considerations to review before a trip to the pet store.

How old is your child? The age of your child can dictate what type of pet you should get, or if you should get one at all. If you have a baby wait to get a family pet. Your baby will get the lions share of the attention, and rightly so. This will make it more difficult for your pet to connect with your family. Younger children do well with pets confined to cages. That makes it easier to monitor their play and gives the pet a break from eager hands. As your children age so does their ability to accept more responsibility. Remember that if you are getting a teenager a pet that eventually that pet will likely become your responsibility. 

How aggressive is your child? Children learn a lot about empathy by owning a pet, they don’t come by it naturally. The more aggressive your child the more you may want to think about starting the lesson by buying a fish. Remember the safety of the animal as well as the safety of the child. Animals will follow their instincts and defend themselves, which can be a ticket to the pound.

How responsible is your child? The newness of owning a pet can be thrilling and the list of chores that are added to your child’s daily routine seem minute compared to the fun to be had; however, when the newness wears off are you prepared to be consistent in your discipline? Responsibility has to be learned and won’t be if you takeover care of the pet.

Is your child prepared for a new pet? Kids come up with all sorts of reasons for wanting a pet, but are they prepared? With the internet at our fingertips, there is no excuse for them not to know what they are getting into. You can learn about the tendencies of a breed, what they eat, what type of habitat they thrive in and how to train them. You can also learn what specific behaviors mean. For example, a dog wagging his tail may mean he is happy, but it could also mean that they are anxious.

How serious is your child about pet ownership?  Does your child have a lot of good ideas but poor follow through? If that is the case, think about getting a pet with a short life span or one that is up there in years. It is a lot better than having to take over care and allow your child to learn that it is ok to give up on a responsibility. It would be even worse to abandon a pet because you weren’t prepared to care for it yourself.

Pets are a lot of fun and a lot of work. With the right game plan everybody can win in this exciting time. Whatever your decision, remember to spay or neuter your pet.

For more please come visit my website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com.

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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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Self-fulfilling Prophecy and Parenting

By | May 10th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

Have you ever thought of how self-fulfilling prophecy affects your parenting? First we have to define self-fulfilling prophecy, because I have a suspicion that not too many parents have stopped to think about it. Which is too bad because it could change the outcome of many negative experiences for the better.

Self-fulfilling prophecy is a concept that suggests that you project the outcome of an event before it occurs, and then make it happen. Have you ever presumed that somebody didn’t like you so you put up a wall to make sure you wouldn’t get hurt. That wall put off the person who then had no choice but not to like you because you weren’t approachable. It’s not that you weren’t a nice person or that you didn’t have things in common.

Take the same scenario and challenge yourself to greet people you don’t know with openness and kindness. Now you are approachable and now you recognize that you have something in common with this person and can make the choice to strike up a conversation or not.

Another example is thinking I’m going to be so mad when I get home and see… You are projecting an outcome prior to the event happening and in the meantime you are planning your course of action which includes feeling the emotion of anger, which is a difficult emotion to let go of. When you get home it isn’t as bad as you thought…but you are already angry and overreact.

You are driving home to the same scenario. This time work on keeping an open mind, remembering this too shall pass, and how you can make this a learning situation. You aren’t starting angry. You can assess whats happened with a clear head. It changes the outcome of the event.

Self-fulfilling prophecy is a cycle  which in our two examples started with, you have beliefs that influence our actions toward others, which impacts other beliefs about us, which causes others actions toward us, which reinforces our beliefs about ourselves.

Now that we have defined self-fulfilling prophecy do you see how it can affect your parenting?

How can you use this concept in your favor? Have you ever used an affirmation? An affirmation can be a belief which affects how we treat others, which impacts others beliefs in us, which causes other actions toward us, which then reinforces our belief or affirmation. Now you know that affirmations can work, you just have to believe in them!

For more information please visit www.ourbreakthroughs.com. I welcome your comments.

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Out With the Old

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

One of the great things about any good behavior modification system is that you can watch the undesirable behavior slowly correct itself. With games like Vlinder you often see change occur quickly. Please note that it takes time for it to have a lasting affect. Poor habits do not form over night, nor do the remedies. Once you choose negative behaviors that you want to focus on, it is important not to overstimulate or overburden the child. Pick one at a time that you can slowly integrate into your plan.

With Vlinder there is a list of responsibilities or expectations that your child has already set to accomplish each morning. By using the two-three extra spaces at bottom of the Task Sheet you can add your positive goals. 

As an example, if your child is hitting their siblings at home, two replacement behaviors may be, not hitting their siblings and showing acts of leadership. Generally you have one behavior that is the exact opposite and then one behavior that is doing an act to replace their time in a positive fashion.

Another example is if your child is still wetting the bed. The first replacement would be not wetting the bed and the second could be keeping their bed made.

A behavior modification system works because of the positive and negative reinforcers that are in play. A driving force in a game like Vlinder is the idea of earning stamps, thus earning the reward cards. For those who have played the game, you know that there is as much value in the stamp as there is in the reward itself. It is something that is earned. The tears never come from not earning the right reward, but they do come from not earning a stamp. Find your motivators and you have found the leverage to help you turn any negative behavior into the good behavior that you are looking for.

Breakthrough, LLC is the proud distributor of Vlinder. Please visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com for more information at behavior modification, our game Vlinder or other parenting information.

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