Parenting

What is Self-Awareness and Why is it Important in Counseling

By | March 3rd, 2019|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

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What is Self-Awareness and Why is it Important in Counseling

Self-awareness is the ability to be cognizant of one’s lived experiences, thoughts, and abilities. While self-awareness is something that most humans have the capacity for (and is sometimes considered a major distinction between humans and other animals), self-awareness can be used specifically in counseling sessions to help both the therapist and client.

This article will cover what self-awareness is, how it can be beneficial instead of hurtful in a therapy session, and how one can cultivate it.

Self-awareness has been defined as:

“an accurate appraisal of a given aspect of one’s situation, functioning, or performance, or of the resulting implications” (Clare et al., 2008).

Self-awareness has also been defined as:

“a mental state in which the contents of one’s consciousness refers to a given aspect of knowledge about oneself” (Tacikowski et al., 2017). Self-awareness is also thought of as a “hallmark of the human mind”.

To put it simply, we can say that self-awareness is an awareness of the self, with the self-being what makes one’s identity unique, including thoughts, experiences, and abilities. One example of self-awareness would be the ability to self-reflect on our identities or our personalities, such as knowing what makes our experience different from someone else’s experience. Recognizing this difference is a key part of self-awareness, as it can be used in an empathetic manner.

What are the Benefits of Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness is important because “accurate self-awareness is essential for optimal daily life activities, as it allows adapting individual behavior to different situations according to one’s actual abilities. Accurate self-awareness thus prevents risky or withdrawal behavior” (Chavoix & Insausti, 2017). In other words, self-awareness allows us to know what our limitations are and allows us to make choices based on our capabilities.

What are the Benefits of Self-Awareness?

An investigation by Sutton (2016) examined the component parts of self-awareness and their benefits. This study found that the self-reflection, insight, and mindfulness aspects of self-awareness can lead to benefits such as becoming a more accepting person, while the rumination and mindfulness aspects can lead to emotional burdens. Mindfulness, interestingly, led to both benefits and costs, indicating that more psychological research should be done regarding mindfulness. As for self-awareness, it seems to be important to self-reflect without brooding about one’s negative memories and traits.

Why is Self-Awareness Important in Counseling?

Self-awareness is crucial for psychotherapists because “therapists need to be aware of their own biases, values, stereotypical beliefs, and assumptions in order to appropriately serve culturally diverse clients” (Oden et al., 2009). Self-awareness has also been called a “precursor to multicultural competence” (Buckley & Foldy, 2010). In other words, self-awareness allows counselors to understand the differences between their lived experiences and their client’s lived experiences. This can help counselors be more nonjudgmental towards their clients and help them better understand their clients.

Self-awareness in a counselor can also help a therapy session be more effective. For example, therapists who rated themselves as more self-aware during a session felt more positive emotion towards their clients, and their clients felt that their sessions were more helpful as well (Williams & Fauth, 2005). The researchers suggested that the therapists’ abilities to manage their self-awareness are specifically what helped the session. This is important because self-awareness can have negative consequences in a therapy session.

Downsides of Self-Awareness

While self-awareness is a crucial part of counseling, it is important to bring some nuance into the situation. “Momentary” states of self-awareness in which therapists suddenly become more self-aware can actually be distracting to counseling patients and harmful to the session (Wiliams & Fauth, 2005; Williams, 2003). That is if a counselor is not self-aware for most of the session but suddenly makes a connection to themselves (perhaps by discussing their own feelings seemingly out of nowhere), this can hinder the therapy session. A possible explanation for the fact that some research shows counselor self-awareness is bad while other research shows self-awareness is good is the difference between self-awareness and “self-focused attention”.

Self-Awareness vs Self-Focused Attention

For our purposes, let us say that self-awareness consists of being mindful of our identities and lived experiences (and how they relate to those of other people), while self-focused attention consists of simply thinking about ourselves. For example, self-focused attention might mean that a counselor thinks about how anxious they are about the therapy session, which leads to the client feeling that the counselor is not paying attention to them. Self-awareness, on the other hand, would mean that the counselor realizes that the fact that they are anxious about the session may indicate that the client is anxious about the session, and uses this to try to help the client’s anxiety as well as their own.

In other words, “self-awareness might be [a tool] to decrease the negative impact of hindering self-focused attention on counseling self-efficacy” (Wei et al., 2017). That is, being self-aware about all aspects of one’s thoughts is crucial, rather than simply being aware of the current emotion one is feeling. Some of the strategies that therapists can use to stop self-awareness from being distracting (by simply being self-focused attention) include remembering to focus on the client, their needs, and the goals of the counseling session (Wei et al., 2017). Another strategy is using self-awareness as a way to better understand the client, rather than only being self-aware of one’s thoughts and appearing distracted.

How to Cultivate Self-Awareness

One study interested in training self-awareness in counseling students actually had the students attend at least ten counseling sessions for themselves (Oden et al., 2009). This succeeded in raising self-awareness and led some participants to claim it also helped them understand the role of a counselor more. This is similar to a study showing that medical students can increase their empathy by roleplaying a visit to the doctor as a patient (Kelm et al., 2014). These two studies show that empathy is an important part of self-awareness, and can lead to an increased understanding of one’s role.

The Kelm (2014) findings also indicate that practicing aspects of self-awareness such as self-reflection and insight are actually themselves ways to increase self-awareness. Indeed, a study examining the use of

How to Cultivate Self-Awareness

the Birkman Method in pharmaceutical students confirmed this (Maxwell et al., 2016). The Birkman Method is a psychological self-assessment that was shown to increase levels of self-awareness in pharmaceutical students.

Mindfulness has also been proposed as a way to train counseling students to be more self-aware, but more research needs to be done to see if it is an effective training option or not (Stella, 2016). That said, mindfulness is sometimes considered an aspect of self-awareness in psychology research (Sutton, 2016). This indicates that it is certainly worth exploring a connection between the two.

 A Take Home Message

Self-awareness is an important human trait that can benefit oneself and their social relations. Self-awareness is particularly important in a counseling setting, as therapist self-awareness can make a therapy session more effective. There is not as much research on the importance of client self-awareness in counseling, and since some mental health issues and brain diseases can affect self-awareness this seems to be an important point to investigate (Steward et al., 2017; Vannini et al., 2017)

At the end of the day, if you are a therapist, it is important to cultivate self-awareness to maximize the effectiveness of your sessions. If you are not a therapist, however, the prosocial benefits of self-awareness show the importance of everyone being self-aware. Whether you want to be more accepting of yourself or more accepting of others, cultivating self-awareness is a good place to start.

About the Author

Joaquín is a writer who was first introduced to psychology through behavioral neuroscience research. This research experience was focused on addiction with the hopes of ultimately helping people change their habits. Joaquín was born in Nicaragua, now lives in the United States, and believes positive psychology teachings can improve people’s lives in both countries.

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Help is Around the Corner For Your Teen and Their Social Media Addiction

By | February 16th, 2019|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Generally speaking, I like to write my own blogs, it’s what makes me a blogger, right? But sometimes, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. When I came upon this article in Psychology Today I realized I’m tired of reading the same thing with a few words jumbled around. Susan did a great job offering some tools for parents to use with their children. In fact, my thoughts of rewarding with more time with family…already used! So today I’m giving credit to a well-written article. For my readers, if you would like help implementing some of the ideas that you read today in a behavior plan you know how to reach me! www.ourbreakthroughs.com.

13 Parent Assists to Help Children Become Tech-Savvy Users

From phone addiction to Fortnite, how to protect kids from digital missteps.

Posted Feb 06, 2019

Like many lately, my friend Alice’s son is addicted to Fortnite, the video game of the moment. Unsure of what to do, Alice offered her 12-year-old several hundred dollars to abandon Fortnite for a month. He refused without hesitation. So a few weeks later, when I asked a young man in his 20s to explain the sensation to me, he instantly likened Fortnite to “crack.”

For many parents, who might already have to nag their children to put down their phones or log off social media to do homework, this kind of tech dependence—where parents must pry their seemingly bewitched children away—is at a new level of alarming.

In a The Wall Street Journal article about Fortnite, calling it an “unwinnable war,” Betsy Morris wrote: “The last-man-standing video game has grabbed onto American boyhood, pushing aside other pastimes and hobbies and transforming family dynamics.” Even for parents who concede that technology can be powerful learning tools for children, the family conflicts arising from the Fortnite phenomenon or incessant texting are frustrating reminders of what technology has become for users of all ages: a mind-numbing distraction and time suck. Is it possible for families to achieve balance—between raising their children to be savvy and tech literate, but not face developmental harm?

Mountains of research reveal all the ways technology influences children’s and teens’ language skills, their brain development, their social interactions, their sleep and more. Common Sense Media found that 50 percent of teens feel “addicted” to their phones. The Pew Research Center discovered that 59 percent of US teens have been bullied or harassed online. Negative reports make it tricky for parents to find a happy medium and accept technology as beneficial especially when trying to protect their children or simply get their attention.

A Look on the Bright Side

As parents, we are so worried about our children’s addiction to their devices and the negative effects of technology that we overlook the positives. A study in American Psychologist, “The Benefits of Playing Video Games,” concludes that the skills learned while playing video games translate into positive social behavior with friends and family members.

The Family Institute at Northwestern University also shines a brighter light. In a review of numerous findings on digital effects, it found encouraging news for parents: “Several studies have suggested that digital forms of communication do not dictate the quality of interaction and relationships [for children and teenagers]. Rather, the quality of the pre-established relationships often determines what effect using digital forms communication will have.”

Be it developing social skills, fine-tuning time management, or simply learning to use technology wisely, parents have an important role.

Enter Parents

Tech is ubiquitous and a teaching tool used increasingly in schools and for homework assignments. Similarly, texting, Facebook, Instagram and the like are not going away. In spite of excessive hours spent on technology, parents can teach children and teens to strive for balance, to harness technology so they are not harmed by it.

An important caveat: Beginning at very young ages, taking devices away or using screen time as a reward is likely to increase time spent on screens by 20 minutes a day for children age 5 and younger, according to a study in BMC Obesity. The same probably holds true for older children and teens.

Approached with acceptance and understanding, parents can encourage children to be sensible technology “users” in all its forms. Diana Graber, the founder of CyberWise and an International Digital Literacy Advocate, has an approach that will help parents relax. Although technology is relatively new to many parents, kids, on the other hand, have grown up with it, but Graber is confident that we can help our children “build a healthy relationship with technology.”

13 Parent Assists to Help Children Become Tech Savvy

Graber makes these useful suggestions to help build social skills:

  • Teach children and teens to look people in the eye when talking to them.
  • Have consistent, unplugged family time.
  • Set up an email account for younger children and practice writing emails with subject lines, greetings and sign-offs.
  • Engage in kindness online with them: review a book or rate a restaurant you liked; “like” someone’s photo or Facebook post.

Early on, be sure you and your children understand the scope of media and how information can spread far more widely than intended. Graber believes it’s vital for both parents and children to know the meanings of:

  • Social media site
  • Tagging
  • Screenshot
  • Upload
  • Post
  • Drive home the fact that what they put online is very difficult to erase.
  • Be sure they understand who will look at their social media in the future: college admissions personnel; potential employers; prospective dates.
  • Guard your present and future digital reputation by being selective in what you share.
  • Share community service, involvement in a cause, commitment to a project or idea you created.

 

Given the many potholes to avoid, with a small time investment, parents can turn their children into savvy digital users. While the jury is still out and studies on many aspects of kids and technology often produce conflicting results on privacy, time spent on devices, games, and computers, no one can disagree: technology puts knowledge at everyone’s fingertips. Following Diana Graber’s lead goes a long way in calming parents’ many worries.

For more, see Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology.  

Copyright @2019 by Susan Newman

In other words, “for children and teenagers who already have well-developed social skills, using digital media to interact does not harm their relationships or social development. In contrast, if a child or teenager does not have strong social skills or an in-person social network, that child or teenager should be encouraged to continue exploring ways to build these skills and to balance time towards that goal with their screen time.”An essential lesson to get across is the importance of the digital footprint a child may have left online that will affect her in the future. Graber recommends these reputation-saving lessons: In her book, Raising Humans in a Digital World, she explains the role parents play to assure kids have the skills they need to act responsibly. Parents can guide their children to think critically about how they use technology and what they put out in the world.

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Hero-worship: what a bunch of

By | December 16th, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , , |

I always say I’m a girl of the ’80s. I remember things like moon boots, leg warmers, pegging pants, the jerry curl. It was a generation where the more color you wore, the better. Actually, “more” was better in almost everything. More bracelets, more lace, more volume! Thinking back to that time I remember how much I idolized my rock stars. Prince, Michael Jackson, George Michael, Whitney Houston, David Bowie and I could go on…they were all larger than life in my book. I wonder how “more” played a role in their lives. I was living my simple life with absolutely no clue what it was like to live in their shoes. But I dreamed of meeting them and was sure I could convince them I was cool enough to be their confidant. I could hang!

Now due to their lifestyles, they are arguably gone earlier than they should have been. (With the exception of one.) The lifestyle at one point I dreamed of being a part of. When you are honest about how you feel about your favorite singer as a teenager it is not unlike being in puppy love times 10.  Because you don’t jump up and down, cry, and lose your ever-loving mind over your first love. Oh, right you could hang! Easier to keep a kernel from popping in a popcorn popper.

I was driving my kids to school while I was listing to one of these epic songs. One after the other that is. Suddenly it hit me that my 12-year-old and twin 10-year-olds were getting into that phase of idol worship. When they start to compare themselves with their what are now commonly called “you-tubers” as well as singers. They are beginning to create these personas that are like a fact-based drama. It is important for me to remind you that at 10 and 12 our children are still very active in looking to their parents for affirmation. So, when my 10-year-old casually asked me to watch something funny from his favorite you-tuber the next time, you better bet I was right by his side. I wasn’t there to judge what he thought was funny. I was there as a spectator for what was going on around the game. Asking questions. I wonder what he does when he isn’t playing games.  Do you think he likes to play ice hockey? (my son’s favorite sport.) I just wanted to humanize this kid who played a game on you-tube. He isn’t so different.

When I’m wrong, I’m wrong and I will admit it. So here is my pride and I’m throwing it out the window as I admit that I have ignored my kids on countless occasions when they have told me about their adventures on you-tube. It bores me to tears. I limit their time not just because I don’t think it’s a good use of their time, but then it limits the amount of time that I have to smile and pretend I’m listening. Those days are over for good! As my children are building their self-worth and identity, I want them to know that the people they look up to for their success are just people. They have their challenges and faults. Enjoy them for what they offer you in the way of entertainment, but do not use them as a guide for values and self-worth.

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Understand the Background of Immediate Reward Now

By | October 14th, 2018|Tags: , , , , |

Today I want to talk about the importance of rewarding positive behavior in a timely manner when utilizing a positive reinforcement model. There are many reasons why this is important. The first being to understand the effort that you and your family are putting forth is worth seeing through to completion. A positive reinforcement model includes laying clear boundaries, recognizing progress and rewarding good behaviors. In our busy lives, it is understandable to feel relief when things are running smoothly, but the fact is if you want to see them running smoothly for the long term then that behavior deserves and needs to be rewarded.

Another reason to reward as soon as possible is that you want to make sure that your child associates the reward with the positive behavior that he or she performed. If too much time goes by then the impact is not as great and they may not feel the fulfillment of a job well done. Imagine getting a paycheck late or receiving gratitude for a labor-intensive meal long after it was eaten. You accept the payment and the appreciation but the immediate recognition of your hard work either in a job or at home is much more fulfilling.

How many times have you promised something to your kids only to let time get the better of you and either forget or procrastinate? It happens to the best of us but it is one of the worst things you can do when utilizing a positive reinforcement model. One way that kids will not respond to rewards is by learning that they are empty incentives. Why put forth the effort to support a household that does not follow through with a promise after a job is well done. It teaches indifference and supports poor motivation.

Think about why positive reinforcement is such a powerful tool. Children constantly want attention or prizes that are before them. You are giving them the opportunity to earn them. Keep that positive energy going in the right direction! Reward, acknowledge, and celebrate your children’s positive behavior and you can trust that it will be repeated.

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9 Life Changing Tips for Your Child to Express Their Emotions

By | October 4th, 2018|Tags: , , , , , |

Feelings are typically difficult for a child to understand. When you ask a child how they feel they will often refer to the event that caused the stir of emotions. Rather than say, “I’m angry” a child will exclaim, ”Johnny won’t let me have a turn.”   It is important to identify one’s emotions. All the more reason for parents to make sure that they are allowing their child to have and to experience their emotions as they occur.   

As parents, we often work as problem solvers for our children making sure that they keep the status quo.   That usually means that we like to see them happy. So when our child comes home from school angry with his teacher, we make him feel better by talking about how smart he is. Perhaps they feel sad about a lost relationship so we remind them about their other relationships. The problem is that we are stifling his ability to experience his own emotions and problem solve his own life experiences. What can result is a child that looks to others for their emotional needs to be met.   

There are a few things that you can do as a parent to help your children experience his feelings.   

  1. Be prepared with a list of emotions with explanations or drawings that describe what the feeling means. This isn’t just for the little guys. When we have strong emotions it can be difficult to associate a specific emotion to the event. Especially when there are feelings of sadness and anger combined.
  2. Come up with a sentence that you can use as a family. An example is…I feel angry when Johnny won’t give me a turn because I love to jump rope.  The sentence states the emotion, briefly describes the event and explains why it caused the emotion.
  3. Allow your child to have their own emotions. Your child needs to experience the feeling that he identifies and how to identify them. 
  4. Don’t pass judgment on your child’s emotion no matter how difficult that may seem at the time. Feelings are natural and the ability to express them appropriately is a gift.
  5. Set appropriate boundaries. Remind your child that you will not judge his feelings but his behavior is a different matter. It is ok to be angry, but the actions that are a result of that anger may not be.   
  6. Don’t be afraid of your child’s feelings. Help them to explore what the emotions do to both emotionally and physically.
  7. Ask probing questions to help your children understand their experience.
  8. Help your child to brainstorm ways to manage their emotions and be there to support them as they follow through with their plan. Give them the space to learn.
  9. Lead by example. Remember that your child learns the most by watching you.

Take a moment to explore your own experience with emotions and remember what a confusing time it is for your child. I, for one, don’t know if we ever quite master them. But, if you follow the guidelines above you will be on the road to allowing your child to have the kind of emotional maturity that will serve him well as he continues to age.

For more helpful information please come and visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. We offer parenting support, a behavior modification program as well as other much more. 

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Breakthrough’s Vlinder: Reward Programs that Work

By | October 2nd, 2018|Tags: , , , , , |

Vlinder is a set of tools that help parents create structure and modify behavior in a game-like kit.

Game pieces include: a personalized task sheet, over 100 reward cards, and a stamp pen

Game pieces include: a personalized task sheet, over 100 reward cards, and a stamp pen

Vlinder provides you with all of the “game pieces” you need to set up a positive reinforcement system with your children. It encourages responsibility by tracking your child’s tasks to completion and offers them the opportunity to earn rewards by “drawing cards” when they reach certain goals.

Responsibilities are not limited to chores around the house, but also include nurturing relationships in the household and community. It also fosters family team-building and communication.

Each child gets Task Sheets to track their responsibility progress. Task Sheets include: 1) morning responsibilities,2) a space for goal setting and tallying daily rewards, 3) a full description of each responsibility and how to earn rewards, and 4) blank spaces to personalize the tasks.

Task sheets can also be completely personalized online using a fun, innovative, and interactive tool on the Vlinder website.

By completing tasks your children will earn stamps, helping make their way toward drawing Reward Cards!

Reward Cards provide the incentive and motivation for your child to follow through with the responsibilities.

When your kids earn enough stamps, they can “cash them in” by drawing Reward Cards. In the game, there are Reward Cards provided for smaller rewards, larger rewards, money rewards, and Bummer Cards.

Bummer Cards provide extra incentive to motivate your kiddos to complete tasks so they can earn more opportunities to draw cards!

Parents, you will find that Vlinder improves communication in your families by encouraging your children to participate actively with you and each other throughout the game.

Kids will be proud of the progress they make and the independence that comes with it! You will be delighted when their behavior improves and more teamwork is happening in your home!

Breakthrough’s Vlinder can be found at www.ourbreakthroughs.com/shop/

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Some Effective Tricks to Say Good Bye to Legos

By | September 8th, 2018|Tags: , , , , , |

When is it time to say goodbye 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 up your lego set. Restoring your lego sets, donating, and storing. In 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. In 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 a skill that is acquired over time. The 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, and superhero space stations. The only tears were of frustration when tiny pieces couldn’t be found
 
This is more than saying goodbye 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 crying about the end of a phase if you aren’t going to do something about it! Replace it with something fulfilling. I’m missing the 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.
 
  1. 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.
 
  1. Decide how to store and stay consistent. Keep them in their sets or color code. Either way, make sure that you keep them in airtight containers. If you are going to go through the process to store them make sure they are usable after you open them again. 
 
  1. 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.
 
Breakthrough is a path to many useful parenting tips. Come to visit our website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com
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5 Mind Numbing Steps for Kids Craving Structure

By | September 2nd, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Children crave structure. They appreciate knowing the rules and how far they can push. It is one of the reasons for learning how to set rules is important. Learning how to set boundaries can be difficult which is especially true when it comes to children; we want them to have more than we did. A parent told me “our generation has ruined it”. We get our kids what they want when they want it. When it comes time to give a gift there is little from which to choose. It is time to set some boundaries! Let’s look at five steps for setting boundaries:

  1. Discover why you are setting a boundary. It is important to have a good understanding of the problem before trying to brainstorm solutions. You may miss your target altogether. 
  2. Explore and identify different solutions to the problem. Depending on your need, come up with as many solutions as possible and generate a list. There are no dumb ideas. Sometimes the whackiest idea (or ideas in combination) make a fun and appropriate solution.
  3. Choose the idea you will use. Don’t be afraid to combine lots of different ideas in setting your boundary. If your “problem” is that your child pesters you for treats at the grocery store, then some ideas might be: avoid taking your child to the store or allow them to accompany you but have them choose to spend their own money.  This combination of options easily becomes: don’t take your child to the store unless he is willing to spend his own money.  Important: Don’t throw away the list just yet. You will probably want to revisit some of your ideas later!
  4. Implement your solution. Using the example above, take your child shopping.  This may appear easier than it is. Make sure to be prepared to allow him to spend his own money. Allow him time to pick the one thing that he can afford. Stick to your guns. Consistency is key.
  5. Evaluate. If your child has stopped pestering you in the store, it appears that your job is done! Congratulations! If, however, they pick their item and begin pestering for more, then make sure you have allowed enough time to implement your solution.  You may need another trip to the store.  If that doesn’t work, then it is time to start from square one and make sure you have identified the right problem. Revisit your solutions and put another one into effect. This can be a long process. The important thing is being consistent once you set a boundary so that you can see what works and what doesn’t.

You may find that you have to go through the steps several times before you get the result that you want. The point to remember is that your child will be better for understanding the boundaries that you are setting.  The time you have together to visit, plan and perhaps the dream will be priceless. 

  For more helpful tips on positive reinforcement and tools to help implement them in your home please visit our website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com

Behavior management games are a fun way to get started. Check out Vlinder on our website. It’s quick and the kids love it!

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How to Discipline Your Child – Punishment isn’t the Way

By | February 23rd, 2018|Tags: , , , , |

by Amy Mc Creedy

original article can be located on http://bit.ly/positiveparentingsolutions

We want our children to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. So the natural thought is to send them to the “time out” corner or up to their room to “think about what they’ve done.” Except they don’t. And they’re likely to keep up the same behaviors despite the punishment. So, how do you know how to discipline your child?

Often, we equate the term “discipline” with punishment. But the word “discipline” comes from the Latin word “disciplina,” which means “teaching, learning.” That’s the key to correcting our kids’ behaviors – giving them the tools they need to learn a better behavior. When we discipline in a way meant only to punish and have the child “pay” for their mistake, it doesn’t help our child learn how to make the right choice next time. No one likes being ordered around – punishment can lead to power struggles, and because our kids know this poor behavior gets them attention, they’ll keep doing it.

When it comes to knowing how to discipline your child, we can focus on three key areas: giving them the positive attention they need and crave, taking time for training, and setting limits and sticking to them.

1. Fill the Attention Basket

Kids need attention, plain and simple. If we don’t keep that “attention basket” full of positive attention, kids will seek out any attention they can get – even negative attention. They’ll push our buttons with negative behaviors because to a kid, even negative attention is better than no attention at all. This doesn’t mean you have to be at your child’s side 24-7 – just taking a few minutes a day to spend one-on-one with your child, distraction-free and doing something they want to do, will reap immense rewards in their behavior.

Take 10 minutes once or twice a day with each child playing a game they’ve picked or reading their favorite book. Let the phone ring. Stick the cell phone in the closet. When you fill your children’s attention baskets positively and proactively, your kids will become more cooperative and less likely to seek out attention in negative ways. Life is busy for everyone, and finding extra time in the day may be daunting at first, but think of this as an investment in your relationship with your children and in improving their behavior. When it comes to knowing how to discipline your child, giving them what they need to avoid poor behaviors in the first place can have a great impact.

2. Take Time for Training

As you think about how to discipline your child, it’s important to remember that the word discipline is rooted in meanings of learning and teaching. The best way to discipline your child is to help her make better choices. You can role play the behaviors, using a calm voice. “I’d really like to play with that tractor when you’re done.” “I’d like a snack, please.” Switch roles and pretend you’re the child, and let your little one direct you through making better choices. Be encouraging when they do make the right choices. “I see you worked hard to clean up the playroom all on your own! That’s such a big help. I really appreciate it.” “Thank you for sharing the book with your brother. How kind!”

3. Set Limits and Stick to Them

Kids thrive when they have structure and know their boundaries. Don’t go overboard with hundreds of rules, but focus on what’s most important for your family. Be clear about the ground rules and what happens when someone breaks the rules – make sure that everyone understands the consequences ahead of time and that the discipline is related to the misbehavior. If they forget to put away their dishes after dinner, they have to load and unload the dishwasher. Cleaning their room because they didn’t do their homework isn’t related. Most importantly, be consistent. Follow through every time with the agreed-upon consequence when kids push the rules.

Overall, remember that knowing how to discipline your child is rooted in helping them learn how to make the right choice, not punishment. Be firm and give them the attention, rules, and boundaries they need.

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Helpful Hints of Healing

By | February 9th, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

We all haven’t faced the easiest of lives. Unfortunately along for the ride are our little ones. As much as we try to protect them, their experience is undeniably different from that of their friends. It isn’t your fault. You might be able to look back and see things you could have done better, but isn’t that true of everyone? You do the best you can with the hand you’re dealt. As a result, your child may start to display some poor coping strategies and behaviors. There are positive methods that you can do that support your child.

The first step is Acceptance. Accept the idea that your child is acting out because they are getting attention. This is true for many if not most people. During times of trauma, it is easy to overlook everyday events. Traumatic experiences take precedence and events like growing up get overlooked. The need for attention is a result. For some people, this may only go on for a short time and long-term behaviors never emerge. For the child who experienced traumatic events over a longer period of time, they may have started to accept the role that is assigned by adults and peers, i.e., troublemaker, class clown, bully…, etc. 

The second step is to be Available. Now its time for the parent(s) to be available and figure out what activities to do together. It could be something as simple as a card game or making dinner together. Don’t just try to be part of their lives…let them be part of yours. I’m not under any assumption that life has changed for you so dramatically that your calendar has opened up. As your child ages, they are more interested in what you do with your time. Things that you wouldn’t think of might appeal to them, i.e., the gym, your friends, your work. The trip to the grocery store could include a quick stop at the ice cream parlor. A long wait at the DMV could be a chance for them to show you their favorite YouTube video. The point is you have to make time even if it overlaps with your busy day.

The third step is Identity. You can’t shake a role assignment that your child has taken on, it is now part of their identity. However, you can add extracurricular activities to their agenda to help them discover different facets of who they are. Provide them with different groups to support a different role opportunity. Leave leaflets around the house and see which one sparks their interest. No point in pressuring them. Try to make it their idea. Some ideas are art, photography, sports, volunteering, coding, dance…, etc. Your child shouldn’t get the idea that you don’t like their identity or that you want to change them.  Remember these steps are taking care to help your relationship and grow as parent and child. Change is inevitable. 

The fourth step is Reward. Communicate with your child and discover some trouble areas. Identify them and write down positive alternatives to replace negative behaviors. Reward when they are completed. Best to identify the poor coping strategies that have been used such as yelling, hitting, ignoring, slamming, lying…, etc. If your child has experienced a lot of trauma it is best for them to experience reward on a more frequent basis until there is a level of trust. (Using a game like Vlinder, www.ourbreakthroughs.com is helpful in having some consistency and structure in your reward system.)

The fifth step is Celebrate. Look back at all you have accomplished. Go out to dinner and celebrate that you are working on your relationship and that you have made it all the way through the five steps! Think about how far you have come. Before you started you hadn’t accepted that your child needed attention and you weren’t looking at being available in a way that involved you both opening up your lives to one another. By recognizing your child’s assigned identity you opened up avenues for your child to re-invent themselves. Finally by talking about your child’s problem area’s and rewarding positive behaviors you have reinforced your expectations.

These steps should not take the place of counseling or medical attention if needed. There are different levels of trauma and we all experience them differently. I advocate for families that want to work on their family relationships and provide many tools to help them do so including Vlinder and Consultations. www.ourbreakthroughs.com

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