Social Skills

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.

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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Why Writing Thank You Notes Teaches Good Manners

By | January 21st, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , , |

You may or may not advocate handwritten thank you notes in your home; no doubt, you have your reasons either way. Some folks believe the practice is outdated and the idea shouldn’t be forced on unwilling kids. Others were taught when they were young that writing letters of thanks after receiving presents was a polite measure and want their kids to do the same. Perhaps no one is right or wrong, but kids can benefit from expressing their gratitude by writing thank you notes; here’s how.

Appreciation
The act of writing thank you notes make kids think about the thought and care that goes into buying and wrapping the toys and gadgets they receive. The gifts themselves are super-exciting, of course. However, realizing friends and relatives care enough to be thoughtful adds a positive emotional dimension to receiving presents.

Gratitude
There’s more to gratitude than the recognition presents come from someone rather than appearing out of the blue. Studies show the art of being grateful makes people happy; it’s a well-being tool. Once kids tune into gratitude they can use it in all areas of life to boost happiness.

Writing for well-being
Many kids use computers instead of writing words on paper. Nonetheless, research reveals there’s a connection between expressing feelings in written form and well-being. Kids who get used to writing about what’s on their minds, whether to say thanks for gifts or share how they feel about events in a journal, can reduce stress.  If your child finds this type of writing, he or she might continue to write, not only to express gratitude but also for enjoyment and anxiety reduction later in life.

Good manners
Teach your kids good manners and they will thank you somewhere down the road of life. Etiquette is a useful social tool that makes people stand out from the crowd: it helps them forge friendships and make a terrific impression. The habit of being polite gained from writing thank you notes will give them the edge as they mature.

Handwritten thank you notes are just one way your kids can show appreciation for gifts. Nevertheless, putting gratitude down on paper rather than using another method is beneficial since doing so teaches them life lessons you won’t want them to miss.

Original Post can be found on Child Development Institute

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The Safety Parent

By | January 3rd, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , |

A long time ago I had a scary conversation about child predators and how to keep our children safe. The talk progressed sharing fear-based stories heard on the news, internet and via word of mouth. We naturally helped each other as each tale got more difficult to fathom. It followed with good parenting advice on how to prepare children for such a potentially horrible world. What hit me later is that I don’t want my kids to grow up fearful. I want to instill confidence.

At the time my own fears were getting in the way. The avoidance method was in full effect. Around the same time, my oldest son had an interaction with two separate men at the grocery store. One made him very uncomfortable so he stayed clear. Another was a homeless man and they shared a special interaction. One that I would have robbed him of had I been around. I’m proud of him and I don’t have advice on how to make it safer. It was time to review how I parent, the rules of safety, and make decisions that have long-term benefits for my children.

When I think of what I want my children to be I think of words like outgoing, adventuresome, kind, brave, intelligent, and confident. I don’t think of weary or even aware. There is a question that looms over my assertion. How do you keep your children safe?

The best I can do is feed their intelligence by watching the news and discussing stories as needed. As a family, we work on confidence and self-esteem with self-defense or martial arts. We inspire adventure with travel, imagination, and books. I have had to come to peace with the fact that as ready as I think I am, there is always the unknown that I am not prepared for.

There are many strategies that can be used to nurture a personality trait. As the parent, you decide which actions you take, even when if it is no action there are outcomes. If you read my blogs, you know that I am a proponent of parenting with intention. I proffer that after reading this you look at what you want for your kids with regard to their safety and decide if your actions are helping or hurting them get where they need to be.

The biggest lesson in this part of the journey was learning that I have to continue to work on my own fears. Fear is a strong emotion and impacts the decision-making process in a profound way. Children look to us for our strength and guidance. Making sure that I have enough energy saved up to offer what is needed is my goal, my mission, my work.

Thank you for reading. There is more available at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. Come visit to learn more about what Breakthrough, LLC has to offer. We invite feedback. This is a great place to start a conversation.

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Where Are All the Grandparenting Books?

By | December 7th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

(This article was originally posted by the New York Times on Dec. 6, 2017. Written by Paula Span)

It was, let me acknowledge, an old-school response. A major life cycle event was underway — becoming a grandmother or, to use the Yiddish name I’ve chosen, becoming Bubbe. So I began looking for a helpful book.

Others might prefer a website like The Grandparent Effect, where the writer Olivia Gentile passes along news, interviews and studies.

But I wanted a book I could underline and dog-ear and stick Post-its on. I had in mind an authoritative user’s manual, a later-life counterpart to the Penelope Leach baby and child guide I’d relied on as a parent. I also hoped to find more empathic, personal volumes that explored the emotional side of the experience.

Publishers would be eagerly targeting this vast market of 70 million American grandparents, I figured, so I would find dozens of worthy contenders in both categories.

Well, no.

You can indeed find scores of grandparenting books. But when you weed out journals and keepsake albums, books for specialized audiences (often religious ones, like “Biblical Grandparenting: Exploring God’s Design, Culture’s Messages, and Disciple-Making Methods to Pass Faith to Future Generations”), self-published books (without gatekeepers, it’s hard to gauge quality), books that label their reader a “complete idiot,” and those out of print except for digital versions, there’s not much left of substance.

But here’s the good news: You can find scads of wonderful children’s books about grandparents, even if there aren’t a lot of great adult books for them.

Why the disparity? Maybe the industry thinks we’ve been parents already, so we don’t need or want books about grandparenting, even though these are very different roles.

Or perhaps potential readers don’t exactly want to acknowledge being old enough to be grandparents, though you can achieve that status long before Medicare eligibility.

When I asked people in publishing about the gap, they couldn’t quite explain it.

“They’re conspicuous by their absence,” the literary agent Andrew Blauner said of good grandparenting books.

“There should be a big book by someone we’ve all heard of and want to hear from,” said Marnie Cochran, executive editor at Ballantine Bantam Dell, who has published family and parenting books for 25 years. “Like Nora Ephron, God rest her soul.”

So why isn’t there? Ms. Cochran’s sense is that grandparents who want the kind of guidance offered by a Penelope Leach are reading … Penelope Leach.

Still, here are my picks. I’ll be interested in yours.

When it comes to instruction manuals, I’ve found no contemporary expert with the status and clout of a Spock, a Brazelton or a Leach. But a California child psychiatrist, Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, came close. He researched grandparenting extensively, published half a dozen books and many articles in the 1980s and ’90s, became a TV fixture. Tom Brokaw called him “the Dr. Spock of grandparenting.”

Now 85 and still practicing, he has self-published an updated version of his encyclopedic “The Grandparent Guide,” first released in 2002. Like many self-published books, it suffers from poor layout and design, with lots of typos; it’s not an aesthetically pleasing object.

But so what? Here’s a guy who has thought about every aspect of grandparenting, cosmic and pragmatic, and covers subjects ranging from favoritism and spending to L.G.B.T. families and visitation laws. He writes authoritatively, citing others’ research and his own; he combines compassion with sound advice. Like a Spock or a Brazelton, he earns your trust.

And he may have a rival come March. The trade publication Publishers Weekly just warmly reviewed “Unconditional Love: A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today” by Jane Isay, a longtime editor and author of several books on family relationships.

In writing about grandmotherhood (grandfathers are even more underrepresented on bookstore shelves), they’ve taken a collective deep breath and proceeded with unexpected honesty.

You’ll read heartening stories, but also chilling ones. The authors confess to competitiveness and perfectionism. They sometimes triumph as magical, memory-making grandmoms and sometimes screw up. They keen over grandchildren they’re no longer permitted to see. (Note to my daughter and son-in-law: Don’t ever do this, ever.) It’s a compelling collection.

A few runners-up in this category: The relentlessly droll Judith Viorst’s account of a briefly multigenerational household, “Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days.” The more recent “Becoming Grandma,” from the veteran television journalist Lesley Stahl. And, depending on how resonant you find her spiritual labors, Anne Lamott’s “Some Assembly Required.”

You’ll find the true riches, though, among the children’s books. Here, I turned to a friend, Marjorie Ingall, author of “Mamaleh Knows Best,” who reviews children’s books for the Times Book Review.

Among picture books for the youngest, she gave a thumbs-up to Todd Parr, who has created dozens of Technicolorful books on an array of subjects. I add my thumbs-up for his producing both “The Grandma Bookand “The Grandpa Book.” “For very, very little kids, these books are crack,” Marjorie said. “And if the goal is to enjoy cuddle time with your grandkid and make reading feel intimate and pleasurable, mission accomplished.”

She also applauded Lauren Castillo’s “Nana in the City,” a Caldecott Honor picture book for ages 4 through 7. “The grandma is bold, vigorous and energetic and wears snazzy Berkeley therapist-esque clothes,” she said. “I have a hard time thinking of other picture books with lively, out-in-the-world, non-soup-making grandmas.”

She’s also fond of another Caldecott Honor picture book, by the revered Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis. “Coming on Home Soon,” meant for 5- to 8-year-olds, is set during World War II, when a mother must go off to work in far-off Chicago, leaving her daughter behind with her grandmother. “It’s an intimate portrayal of the little girl and grandma’s life together,” Marjorie says.

Other friends have tipped me to “Tom,” the wonderful illustrator Tomie dePaola’s idiosyncratic tribute to his own grandfather. And to Vera B. Williams’s much-loved “A Chair for My Mother.” And to “What Grandmas Do Best” by Laura Numeroff, of giving-cookies-to-mice fame. Flipped over, it becomes “What Grandpas Do Best,” and in egalitarian fashion, the text is the same for both.

All these children’s books were new to me, and they’re all marvels. So my granddaughter will come out ahead in this investigation, apparently.

The bookshelves in her small bedroom are already crammed, because while we were awaiting her birth, good friends hosted what they called Bubbe’s Book Shower.

The guests all brought favorite children’s books, a wonderful idea. Nobody had to worry about proper sizes or whether her parents would appreciate princess-themed onesies. (Answer: No.) People just brought copies of “The Story of Ferdinand” and “The Runaway Bunny.”

But I’m going to wedge in these new titles, too. This is the kind of reading about grandparents I’ll probably be doing for a while.

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Vlinder Reward Cards

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

Happy Holidays,

November was the month of gratitude. Now December is our chance to give back! Our gift to you is a set of Vlinder Reward Cards. All you have to pay is shipping.

    • What if I own Vlinder? You can have a second set for yourself or share with a friend!
    • What will I do with cards if I don’t have a game? There are two things you can do!
          1. Purchase the Vlinder Task Sheets. We will make sure you get a set of instructions!
          2. Gain access to the Interactive Task Sheet app. This makes your Vlinder experience 100% customizable! Plus you never have to worry about where to get your refills!
    • Can I transfer my gift to a friend? Just tell us where to send the cards and we will make sure that they get there.

However you choose to use the Reward Cards, they are yours free of charge

Our goal at Breakthrough is to make a difference in the homes of families just like yours. 

To qualify for your Vlinder Reward Cards all you have to do is sign up for the newsletter by the end of December. The instructions will follow.

Happy Holidays!

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Confidence is Key

By | November 28th, 2017|Tags: , |

I was recently asked what parents should do to encourage leadership skills. Coming from a family of leaders I think back to see which text book answers apply. What I found is that it is rare to find a tip that is not equally good for a “leader” and a “follower,” or “chiefs” and “Indians” like we used to say. I would like to remind my audience that both play an important role in life situations. Society would dictate that leaders are superior. But since I know that every good team needs different strengths I suggest that confidence plays a stronger part.

Society has a way of stratifying and labeling kids. It can come with a negative connotation. Sometimes they change their appearance, friends, or social activities and successfully alter how they are seen, but more often than not they get stuck. The jock, the nerd, the preppy…

I go back to the question of how to build a leader. Again the idea of building confidence resonates with me. The parent who originally asked the question wasn’t necessarily asking because she wanted her daughter to run for student counsel. The conversation that preceded the question was about friends and peer pressure. There was an element of fear that she wouldn’t be there to help her daughter make the right choices. Leaders make wrong choices every day. Simply being a strong leader won’t be the deciding factor as to which path a child will take. A person with a strong set of values and confidence, leaders and followers alike, have my vote.

So, how do you build confidence in a child? Self-worth is the corner stone in your child’s existence. It begins when they are infants. As they grow older they gain independence and responsibility. The more they get, the more confidence they build. Good communication, positive reinforcement and a positive role model will show what is expected of them. One of my favorite quotes is by Hain Ginott. He says “If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others!” What a confidence boost! 

Whether your child is a leader or a follower, understand the importance of their role. Society can’t complete tasks without both of them! If your child wants some leadership training, ask why. Perhaps it is to become the next President of Student Council. But if it is to build their self-esteem then you are barking up the wrong tree!

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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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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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