What to do when your child is fearless!

My childhood friend Joel was fearless.

When he was about six, Joel’s parents installed a balcony on the back of their pole home. For some reason, the builder couldn’t install the safety railing straight away. The fall from the balcony to the ground was at least 6 metres.

Joel would ride his bike full tilt along the balcony, then execute a perfect skid. His mission? Get as close to the edge as possible. He never did go over, though his bike did at least once!

Some kids are thrill-seekers. While their friends stay away from heights, roads, stovetops, and other dangers, the Joels of the world get a buzz out of risky business. Maybe you have that two-year-old that tries to ‘fly’ off the back of the couch, the three-year-old who cleverly picks the childproof lock on the cupboard of poisonous cleaning supplies or the four-year-old who lets himself out the front door to take the dog for a walk.

These kids are independent, spirited, goal-oriented and resourceful – but parenting a fearless child can be a daunting and stressful task.

Between the ages of about one and five, your child develops new abilities and starts to crave independence. This is healthy. Independence contributes to feelings of wellbeing, a sense of identity and helps promote self-esteem.

In some ways our young children are similar to teenagers. In both stages our kids are in the process of ‘individuation’ – they are learning about difference, separation and self-assertion, and they have an absolutely unshakeable belief in their own invincibility. But unlike a teen, your young child can’t foresee the consequences of his actions. (Some of us would recognise that even teens struggle with this skill at times too.)

So, there are dangers inherent in having a risk-taking child. A fearless, intense, highly motivated child can be difficult to keep safe. Our job as parents is to find a way to keep our fearless kids safe while still allowing them to explore the world.

What do we do?
First, try a reframe of the situation.

There are benefits to having a fearless child. You might change your language from ‘stubborn’ to ‘persistent’, or ‘reckless’ to ‘goal-oriented’. Perhaps your child is ‘optimistic’! This reframe emphasises your child’s strengths. Our children internalise our language about them. And so do we. Choose positive words to describe your child’s spirited ways.

Next, modify the environment for safety.

Sometimes things are just not going to be safe, and you’ll need to find an innovative solution. I know one family whose two-year-old was intent on climbing the cable railing on their deck. They installed pieces of Perspex to stop him. Another mother learned to keep her car keys hung from a nail high up on the wall.

Remember however, that kids have been navigating risks for millennia. They don’t need to be bubble-wrapped.

And finally…

Encourage them to take risks in ways you can feel good about. Bike slides beside a rail-free balcony may be a bit much, and we want to minimise true danger, but giving kids freedom to explore and take risks is good for them. Evidence shows they become wiser when we allow them to engage in risky play.

Joel survived. So did the kid who let himself out the front door to walk the dog and the child who learned to fly from the back of the couch. They all survived.

Of course we need to keep our fearless kids safe, but what a shame it would be if in doing so we also kept all the adventure from their lives (and ours)! Embrace their intense spirits, their clever problem solving and their focused goal-setting… just be sure to keep the car keys out of reach.

 

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How to tell your friend what their teen is doing on Instagram

Dear Dr Justin,

My husband and I have some family friends. Their daughter is friends with our daughter. I recently heard their daughter telling my daughter about her ‘private’ Instagram account. My daughter has told me that her friend is sharing sexual images, and images with alcohol and cigarettes on that account. Her parents (my friends) would be mortified. Do I tell them?

Telling your friends their daughter is making unwise, unhealthy, unsafe decisions – and probably lying to them – is awkward. It’s almost certain that they’ll feel hurt. And telling them what you have discovered will probably cause conflict in their home too if they confront their daughter.

What should you say? Or is it better to stay quiet and let them find out in their own time?

My primary advice is this:

ALWAYS share if there is ANY risk to the teen.

If you have information that makes you worried for the teen’s safety in ANY way, contact the parents immediately. Things like suicide, self-injury, bullying or eating disorders are too serious to even debate the issue. Tell them. Now. Their daughter’s safety matters more than judgment, embarrassment, or reputations. In fact, it matters even more than your relationship with them.

What constitutes risk?

Perhaps the real challenge is knowing whether something is unsafe or unhealthy. As an example, in spite of the dangers, alcohol is still the most widely consumed drug for Aussie teens. Does drinking put a 14 year-old at risk when so many teens are doing it? After all, everyone else is doing it.

There are countless nude (or suggestive) images sent around the Internet every hour. Does posting these kinds of images put a teenager at risk when so many others are doing it?

Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s safe, healthy, or positive.

So tell the parents! If they don’t see it as a big deal, at least you’ve told them. It’s up to them to decide what to do next.

If she is not at risk, consider the factors…

You’ve indicated you’re worried about some of her decisions. But let’s just say she wasn’t actually doing anything unsafe or unhealthy. She was just ‘posing’ with the alcohol, for example, and the biggest issue is that she’s lying to her parents about having the secret account.

Here are some additional factors to consider:

  • What is she doing in the images on the account?
  • What do you know about the family and their values?
  • Would you want to know if it was your child?
  • Does it feel right to pass that information on?
  • Will telling the parents help?

Sometimes telling people about this kind of thing can make it worse rather than better. And issues around sex and morality are especially tricky. Things such as modesty (wearing little/no clothing), alcohol or tobacco use will be different for different families. You mightn’t think a teen should post a photo of herself nursing a beer, but her parents might not think it’s a big deal. Use your best judgement in these situations.

The reality is that a huge amount of teens have fake accounts. In my own recent research with close to 400 Aussie teens, a significant percentage admitted they have extra accounts which they hide from their parents. Again, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s safe. Teens hide things because they know they’re wrong – or at least against the parent’s wishes. I still maintain that a quiet word with the parents is probably in order in most circumstances.

 

For more information on parenting teens, visit the Happy Families Online Shop

 

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What To Do When Your Child Lies To You

You enter the kitchen. Your child looks at you like she’s hiding something. You see cake crumbs on the counter and the tips of her fingers.
‘Did you eat the chocolate cake?’
Your child smiles up at you, chocolate stuck in her teeth, and innocently replies, ‘No.’
You know your child is lying. The evidence is everywhere! And in that moment it makes you mad. How could they lie to you? And so blatantly!
So, what do you do?

Lying is normal

First of all, let’s recognise that lying is a normal part of growing up. Studies show that beginning at about the age of three, kids begin lying to conceal things they have done wrong. From the age of four, the majority of kids (even up to 80%) will readily lie to avoid punishment.
Let me highlight that last statement. Kids lie to avoid punishment. They’ve done something we disagree with, and they want to cover it up.
Lying, therefore, is logical and tactical… and it’s also a sign of intelligence.
But lying is also a sign that our kids are afraid of us. Let’s tackle these issues briefly.

Lying is a sign of intelligence

Studies show that lying is a sign of intelligence in children. In fact, in one study kids who lied about peeking at a toy had a higher verbal I.Q. (by almost 10 points) than the kids who didn’t lie. This is because lying takes more mental acuity and cognitive development than truth-telling.
But don’t go celebrating how smart your child is because they’re lying! We still want to teach our kids to be honest. So, what should we do when our kids lie to us?
If we get this right, we can reduce the likelihood that our children will be afraid.

5 Strategies to deal with lying

1. Remember, it’s normal. Catching your child in a lie can be frustrating but remembering that it’s a normal part of growing up can help us keep calm. We aren’t raising sociopaths! Just little ones whose motivation is to avoid punishment.

2. Don’t ask questions that you already know the answer to. If your son is smeared in chocolate cake, don’t say, ‘did you eat the chocolate cake?’ Of course he’ll lie! Instead say, ‘I can see you ate some chocolate cake. You must have been hungry huh?’ Then pause and ask, ‘Do you think I’m pleased or upset? Why? What should we do next time?’

3. Celebrate honesty. When your child is honest, even if they’ve done something wrong, acknowledge their truthfulness. Say, ‘I really appreciate that you’ve told me about what has gone wrong.’ Help them fix it and then talk about how to do better in the future. And don’t punish them or threaten to punish them for lying. Research shows this will cause more lying in the future. They’ll be afraid of you.

4. Extract a simple promise. Studies show that children are less likely to lie once they have promised to tell the truth. But be gentle. If they tell you the truth, and then you punish them severely, they will be less likely to tell the truth in the future, promise or not.

5. Model good behaviour. As adults we are all guilty of social ‘white’ lies. Telling a friend that you have an appointment when you simply don’t want to go to their get together, for example. Our kids are looking to us to learn how to behave. Little white lies show them it’s okay to bend the truth.

Honesty takes time and maturity to learn, especially in the face of the clearly tactical advantages of lying. As parents, nurture honesty in kids by celebrating and rewarding it. And remember, our kids are pretty smart – they’ll get it eventually. In the meantime, hide the chocolate cake!

 

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What To Do When Your Child Lashes Out

Dear Dr Justin,
My 9-year-old son lashes out at his younger siblings when they bother him and often ends up hurting them. He feels terrible afterwards, but he can’t seem to get his anger or his reactions under control. What should I do?

Lashing out in anger is something that can easily turn into a habit for our children – and for us as adults. Anger, however, is not a “primary” emotion. Anger is usually based on a strong sense of fear or sadness.
What’s really happening when a child is lashing out in anger is that their emotional brain becomes overwhelmed, takes control, and reacts to the big emotions it’s processing.
This can be distressing for us, for them, and for the sibling or friend affected by their outburst. First, we need to work on managing the aggressive behaviour. Then we need to find its root cause. Finally, our focus should be on shifting the habit.

Avoid the situation where possible

Our first step is to try to stop a recurrence of the violent behaviour. You can do this by watching out for, and avoiding when you can, triggering situations. If you see that your son is becoming overwhelmed or upset, or if everyone is overtired or hungry, separate your kids or find something else for the others to do. It won’t fix everything, but avoidance and distraction can be handy strategies at times.

Tend to your hurt child

If your son lashes out again and hurts another child, your immediate attention should be on the hurt child. Let the aggressor know you’ll chat with him soon and encourage him to find some space to cool down.
This will be hard! You will want to express your righteous anger! You will want to set your kid straight! But just like our kids need to learn to control their reactions, we do too.

Emotions up, intelligence down

When we are angry our thought processes aren’t so clear. Kids catch our cranky. But they’ll also catch our calm. To diffuse anger in someone else, we have to be calm ourselves. It helps to remember that something has happened inside of our child to stop him from being able to regulate his emotions. There is a root cause to his aggression. And without a doubt, he is in distress. He needs your help too. You can only do that when you are calm.

Respond to your angry child

So, what do we do? Time out? Loss of screen time? Spanking? No, no and (definitely) no. Punishments after the fact don’t work. When a child becomes enraged, his brain stops working. He literally cannot remember any punishments (or lessons from those punishments). Punishing him may make us feel better, but it won’t help him learn to control his aggression.
Aggression is a red flag. It tells you that your child is hurting. The best way to help your son is to dig down to the root cause of that anger. Look him in the eye, and say, ‘You hurt your little brother. He is really scared. You must be feeling really bad to hurt your brother like that. What is going on?’
Studies show that empathy from parents leads to reduced risk for aggression in their kids. Stay compassionate while you work through the issues. Give cuddles and comfort.
And when your child is calm, help him brainstorm better ways to respond (calling out for help, walking away, speaking firmly). Help him practice those responses so that they become easy to implement before he loses control.

Show him you love him.

Finally, show him love – kids need to know that their parent’s love for them is unconditional even when they’ve misbehaved. There’s no need to worry that you are somehow reinforcing his bad behaviour by showing love. The reality is, you’re giving a hurting child exactly what he needs.

Lashing out or acting up are not attention-seeking behaviours. They’re connection-seeking behaviours.

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Helping Our Kids Feel Good By Doing Good

We all want our kids to feel good. Ice cream. Cake. Beach days. Playdates. These are all great for bringing joy. But typically, these good feelings don’t last. Once the ice cream is gone, or the playdate is over, our kids often lose the zest and pep they were feeling.

So, how do make and keep the feel-good feelings?

Feeling Good versus Doing Good

Ice cream, cake, beach days and playdates all ‘feel good’ but they don’t help us to have lasting happiness. Instead, feel-good pursuits give us an immediate rush of euphoria, but leave us craving for more.

And this can lead to an addictive cycle known as ‘the hedonic treadmill’. In that case, one cookie won’t be enough to give us good feelings, we’ll need two. And maybe the next week, we’ll need three. (Until we have so many that we feel bad. Really bad!)

Doing good, however, is the key to living a more meaningful and happier existence. The ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle knew it was true, and modern research bears it out – altruistic behaviours are associated with greater wellbeing, health and longevity. In short, we feel good when we do good.

And interestingly, people who feel good are more creative, more open to learning, have better psychological and physical resilience, less stress, anger, anxiety and depression, and more gratitude, empathy and compassion. It might sound trite and cheesy, but the happiness that comes from doing good for others seems to last longer and feel deeper.

Kind Kids

Every parent wants happy kids. It’s the most common answer I receive to the question, “What do you want most for your children?”

But how many of us knew that if you want kids to be happy, you should teach them to be kind?

Moreover, studies highlight that our kids actually want to be kind. They know it makes them happy! Research shows that from as young as 14 months old, kids consistently want to help others achieve individual goals and cooperate with others to achieve shared goals. This desire to help is something they’re born with – even that child of yours who doesn’t seem to want to help anyone!

In fact, a recent landmark study shows even very young kids find helpful and kind acts to be intrinsically rewarding. In this study, toddlers under the age of two exhibited greater happiness when they gave treats to others, compared to when they received treats themselves.

In other words, they want to help because they feel good when they do.

Teaching Our Kids to Do Good

Bottom line, kids want to help, and it makes them feel great. So, it’s our job to help fulfill this natural inclination by guiding them to age-appropriate opportunities to do so.

Here are 5 ways to do just that:

  1. Be a good role model. Kids learn to be helpful and kind from you.
  2. Perform small acts of kindness. You don’t have to run out and paint someone’s house or mow their lawn for a year – although you can. Being kind, saying something nice, helping tidy up; these small acts are just as powerful and effective.
  3. Make helping a family project. Get your kids involved when you take a meal to a family who have just had a new baby or visit a sick friend in the hospital.
  4. Be a good neighbour. In other words, help your kids learn to keep an eye on others, whether it really is your neighbour, or a boy on the soccer team. Teaching your kids to notice what’s going on in the lives of people in their community teaches awareness and empathy.
  5. Be grateful. Expressing gratitude is one of the best ways to do good. In fact, nothing can improve your life (and the life of others) like gratitude.
The Takeaway

Doing good is what makes us human. It lifts the burdens from others and lifts us by activating the joyful part of the brain. And teaching our kids to do good is the best way to help them have lasting ‘feel good’ feelings. Of course, you should eat cake too. But sharing it with a friend is even better.

 

 

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The Case Against Boredom

Recently there has been a groundswell of popular opinion extolling the value of letting our kids be bored. A recent New York Times article argued, ‘Boredom teaches us that life isn’t a parade of amusements. More important, it spawns creativity and self-sufficiency.’

The “experts” say: kids are over-scheduled these days; life is too busy; it’s not your job to entertain your children, so let them be bored. It’s good for them.

It’s tempting to jump on the boredom bandwagon and encourage everyone to stop stimulating their kids with so many opportunities, gizmos and classes.  But I can’t. It’s bad advice, and the research bears that out.

 

Boredom Makes Us Feel Bad

While these self-proclaimed experts claim that being bored will teach our kids to figure out how to amuse themselves and be creative, there isn’t any actual evidence to support that idea. In fact, I haven’t found a single study where boredom in our kids was studied at all.

Wherever these experts are getting their data from, it doesn’t seem to be science.

What limited data does exist comes from adult or young adult studies. And they support the opposite conclusion – that boredom is unpleasant, unsatisfying and leaves those suffering it with a craving for relief.

In fact, boredom is so powerful that in one study participants who were forced to spend time alone only with their thoughts chose to self-administer electric shocks rather than deal with being bored. Pain was preferable to boredom.

Boredom is Associated with Negative Outcomes

Boredom is also associated with negative outcomes and wellbeing, and can lead to unhealthy and unsafe choices.

Research indicates that students who are bored perform poorly at school, put in less effort, and have an increased likelihood of quitting school altogether.

Teens who are often bored are also 50% more likely than their peers to take up smoking, drinking and illegal drugs. And it’s a frequent trigger for binge eating. It also leads to an increased risk of depression and anxiety, and a diminished sense of life satisfaction and purpose.

Being bored is NOT good for our health.

The Argument: Boredom leads to Creativity

Some limited research does show how boredom can lead to creativity. And anecdotally parents know this is true. Think about a bored five-year-old who fancies a mohawk on his little sister or a bored 15-year-old who thinks he could probably manage to drive the car down the driveway.

Being bored leads to creative outcomes. But while people with high levels of self-control may motivate themselves to find positive, safe and healthy creative outlets for their boredom, not everyone responds to boredom wisely. I got up to more mischief as a teen when I was bored than I ever did when I was occupied.

Should We Let Them Be Bored?

It seems that whenever we have an issue, opinions become polarised. On one side are the ‘uber-parents’ that over-stimulate and over-schedule their kids. On the other side are those that believe children need to be bored.

I suggest a more moderate approach. Evidence supports providing enriching activities for our children. They offer opportunities to explore and expand interests and relationships and build confidence and competence.

And parents should be encouraging ‘down-time’, where activities are not scheduled and device usage is reduced. This is not boredom but a time when children can autonomously choose how to re-create themselves. We can help by having play dates, setting up a table for painting or providing a smorgasbord of books.

This gives them the space, time and opportunity to develop the emotional and cognitive resources that will enable them to pursue their own creative interests in a safe and beneficial way.

Let’s stop pushing our kids too hard or giving them something to swipe or stare at every time they complain that they lack stimulation. But let’s also stop encouraging boredom. There’s no evidence to support it. And what evidence does exist suggests it’s harmful.

 

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Making Pocket Money Easier

My 9-year-old was carrying $48 in her wallet. Cash. She’s been saving well for some time, and the cash has accumulated. Her plan was to walk to the shops with her big sister to buy a treat.

Me:     I’d prefer that you didn’t take all that money in your wallet. I’d hate for you to lose it.

Her:    But dad if I leave my money here someone might take it (she was referring to her little sister who, aged 5, has a history of pinching cash when she finds it) or I might forget where I put it!

Me:     But if you take it to the shops you could lose it all if you put your wallet down…

And around and around we went.

I don’t like my kids carrying cash. And they don’t like leaving cash laying around in their room (or anywhere in the house).

A few days later (it was school holiday time) my 12-year-old tells me she wants to go to the movies and

Her:    Can I please have some money?

Me:     I don’t have any cash. (After checking with wife and realising we’re all empty…) You’ll have to take my credit card.

Her:    (Eyes light up) Oh, ok. How much can I spend?

Me:     Just tap it. And no more than (and then I think I mumbled some random amount that I hoped would be enough)

I hate giving my kids my credit card but when there’s no cash, sometimes there’s no other option. (One of my friends gave her daughter the credit card for the movies and it cost them over $100! That’s a lot of popcorn and ice-cream!!)

Three days later I received an email about ZAAP.

“The Universe” provided the solution.

In a nutshell, ZAAP is Australia’s first pre-paid Mastercard for kids. And no – it’s not a credit card. It’s literally a card (or wristband) that your kids can use instead of cash. And they can only spend the money that you’ve loaded onto the card via an app. It’s easy. It’s safe. It has literally solved my pocket-money problems.

Here’s how it works:

First, I went to zaap.com.au and ordered our ZAAP cards and bands (the kids can choose from over 50 designs or design their own). Time taken: about two minutes.

A few days later when the ZAAP package arrived, I downloaded the ZAAP app and followed the instructions to activate their ZAAP account set up an automatic transfer from my parent wallet (facility within the ZAAP app) to happen every Sunday night without me thinking about it, and that’s about it. Time taken: about 5 minutes.

It’s that simple. I kid you not.

Now each Monday morning when they wake up, their pocket money is on their card and all set to go. Pocket money paid, and no issues trying to find cash to give them or worrying that they’ll lose their money. Oh, and I’m not handing over my credit card when they need cash and no one has any.

And it’s brilliant.

If I’d had ZAAP my 9-year-old wouldn’t have any cash concerns on her trip to Woolies for a treat. The wristband has “tap” functionality which means the kids don’t even have to carry their card in their wallet, so my 12-year-old could have tapped her wristband at the cinema with cash I’d instantly transferred from my account on the spot.

The kids’ eyes lit up when their cards and wristbands arrived in the mail. They felt so grown up. And our first trip to the shops (so they could buy a treat by tapping their wristband) was gorgeous. They walked like they were 3 metres tall.

We’ve only been using ZAAP for a short while, but here’s what we love:

  • Mostly, we love the convenience. Pocket money is automatically set up to transfer. The kids don’t need to hassle us for money.
  • We love that the kids don’t have to carry (and lose) cash but they still have access to funds
  • It’s a relief to not get stuck handing over our credit card when we have no cash spare
  • The ZAAP app has a spending and saving component which has allowed us to have some really important money conversations, and since the kids can log into the app too, they’re excited to see their savings grow. The financial literacy component of ZAAP is something we really like
  • The kids feel so independent
  • A couple of times the kids have needed some cash and we’ve been able to do an instant top up in the ZAAP app. One daughter called from a friend’s house wanting $10 to grab lunch unexpectedly. I opened the app, did the transfer and she had money available on her card and wristband within about 10 seconds.

There’s the added bonus that for parents who want to know exactly what their kids are up to, the app shows you where your kids are spending their hard-earned pocket money (and how much they’re spending). The ZAAP app gives you peace of mind, or it highlights important conversations to have with your kids when you notice their spending habits aren’t wise.

Is ZAAP something you need?

Of course not. There are loads of ways to help the kids out financially without ZAAP. In our family, we’ve done them all.

But the reality is, we haven’t liked some of the ways we’ve had to deal with money and kids in the past. We’ve wondered what they’re spending. We’ve seen them lose cash – sometimes significant amounts. We’ve worried someone was going to steal their wallet. And we’ve handed the credit card over more times than we’d like to admit.

So, even though this is a sponsored post, we have felt that ZAAP is logical, convenient, and safe. It’s a simple idea that gives parents a little more control, kids a little more freedom, offers security, and makes transferring money to the kids (and their access to it) friction free.

Check out ZAAP at www.zaap.com.au.

 

* This is a sponsored post. Dr Justin Coulson is a paid spokesman for ZAAP.

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8 Quick + Powerful Videos That Will Make You an Even Better Parent

Inside: Here are the best, most inspirational positive parenting videos that will make you a better parent, especially on the days when you lose your cool.

Every parent I know would love to stay calm, cool, and collected no matter what their kid throws at them.

But when your toddler unspools a roll of toilet paper into the toilet bowl and flushes, and overflowing musty wastewater all over your hardwood floors?

It’s human nature. Your emotions are bound to get the better of you. While you clean up the mess, you might huff, stomp, or raise your voice in frustration.

So much for being a calm and loving parent no matter what.

The Secret to Being a Calm Parent Isn’t What You Think

I used to think that if I could just figure out the secret for becoming a “zen mama,” positive parenting would come naturally to me every moment of the day.

But then I had an epiphany that changed my whole outlook on positive parenting.

Here’s the important thing I realized: Many people want to have a happy life. But happiness isn’t something you achieve one day and check off your list.

Being a calm parent is the same way. It’s not something you check off your list and never have to think of again. It’s a temporary state.

In other words, nobody can be perfectly happy all the time, just like nobody can be a perfectly calm parent all the time.

When you're struggling to be a calm parent, try these positive parenting videos

Here’s What You Can Do: Quick Positive Parenting Videos

In order to exist in that calm parenting mode as much as possible, we need to continually inspire ourselves to be better, more chill parents.

But if we’re being honest with ourselves?

As busy parents, we don’t always have the time or mental…freshness to read long think-pieces about parenting in the New York Times.

Sure, we need to keep reminding ourselves of our positive parenting goals, but how are we supposed to focus long enough to read a parenting book or inspirational article?

My favorite quick fix is to watch one of a few powerful positive parenting videos I’ve curated over the years.

Related: 24 Best YouTube Videos for Kids to Change How They See The World

8 Positive Parenting Videos That Will Make You a Better Parent

Below, you’ll find a list of the best, most inspirational parenting videos I’ve discovered over the years.

Not only that, they’re short – perfect for when you need a quick dose of inspiration to reclaim your zen parent status.

When you’re struggling to keep your cool because your kid Facetimed your boss while you were in the shower, watch one of these quick positive parenting videos and you’ll get back on track.

Go ahead and bookmark this page, and come back to it when you need to.

Also, I know firsthand that a houseful of loud kids can make it impossible to watch even a short video. So where possible, I’ve also included snippets of quotes from the videos so you can quickly scan for inspiration.

1. Does Your Face Light Up?

When Toni Morrison made an appearance on Oprah to talk about her books, she just so happened to drop one of the most powerful pearls of parenting wisdom I’ve ever heard.

“When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. And so, you think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them.

It’s not.

When they see you, they see the critical face. ‘What’s wrong now?’

But then if you let your…face speak what’s in your heart? When they walked in the room, I was glad to see them. It’s just as small as that.” – Toni Morrison

2. Which Wolf Will Win the Fight?

This is a powerful analogy about two wolves fighting in your heart. When I watch this, I think of the red wolf as the anger and frustration I feel as a parent – and everything clicks.

“There is a story, usually attributed to the Native American tradition, which illuminates different ways of paying attention.

An elder, talking to a child, says, ‘I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is fearful, vengeful, envious, resentful, and deceitful. The other wolf is compassionate, loving, generous, truthful, and peaceful.’

The child asks, ‘Which wolf will win the fight?’

The elder responds, ‘The one I feed.’

…That doesn’t mean we try to deny or hurt or kill the angry wolf. If we did that, we’d end up in a long battle, all the while somehow making that wolf more powerful through our hostility and fear.”

3. Things We Should Say More Often

This is just one of many gems from Kid President. Too often, we forget that our kids deserve the same courtesy and kindness that we would extend to one of our adult friends. Out of all these powerful + positive parenting videos, this one is most likely to put a big smile on your face!

Here’s a sample of the list…

20. Thank you. (And not just on Thanksgiving, everyday!)
19. Excuse me.
18. Here’s a surprise corn dog that I bought you because you’re my friend. (There’ll be more corn dogs and more happy people. This is a good idea!)
17. I’m sorry.
16. I forgive you.
15. You can do it!

4. Love the Kid You Have

This short film has no dialogue but always reminds me of this quote:

“Parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have. It’s about understanding your child is exactly the person they are supposed to be. And if you’re lucky, they might be the teacher who turns you into the person you’re supposed to be.” – The Water Giver

To read more about this short film, check out How Society Kills Your Creativity – In An Award Winning Pixar-Esque Short Film.

5. The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

This clip is from an appearance on Oprah with Dr. Brené Brown, who is a researcher, professor, and author. Dr. Brown is also a parent, and Oprah asked her to share her Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto.

Here’s a taste for you:

“Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable.

You will learn this from my words and my actions, the lessons on love, and how I treat you and how I treat myself.

I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness.

You will learn that you are worthy of love belonging in joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.

We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability.

We’ll share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both…” – Dr. Brené Brown

6. The Way We Talk to Kids Matters

This video is a little different than the other positive parenting videos in the list because it’s targeted to people who work in schools. Still, this one always makes me reflect on my own tone as a parent.

And when the school administrator talks to the teacher about her students’ behavior, I cringe because I have definitely done the same when telling my husband about our kids’ behavior…in front of the kids.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. Everyone we meet throughout our day can make a difference. All the difference.

Talk with us, not at us.

Teach us what we need to know. That’s how we get smarter.

And when you talk with us and teach us, give us bigger and bigger words. Words that we can use to read and understand. And that will take us places we could never reach without you.”

7. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen to You

Josh Shipp is a parent, author, and advocate for youth. He has a few great positive parenting videos, but this one’s my favorite.

“When you ask a kid a question, you are inviting and evoking critical thinking. And ultimately as parents, that’s what we want. A fully functioning teenage human being who – without us there, in our absence – can analyze a situation and know in that moment what the wise choice is.

Focus on questions [and] get them to come to those conclusions so they will own those conclusions for life.” – Josh Shipp

8. Your Normal May Be Their Magic

This sweet video shows a normal day from both the mother’s and the child’s perspectives. Never forget that your “normal” may be their magic.

Download my FREE cheat sheet as a bonus for joining my newsletter: 16 Miracle Phrases to Help You Reconnect With Your Child

Your Turn

What are your favorite positive parenting videos? Share in a comment below!

8 Best Positive Parenting Videos to Make You a Better Parent

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Kelly

I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.

The post 8 Quick + Powerful Videos That Will Make You an Even Better Parent appeared first on Happy You, Happy Family.

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Dads: How To Stay Connected With Your Kids

Even When You Don’t Live Together

Research is unequivocal. Dad matters. As long as he is safe towards his family,  the more a dad is present and involved in his children’s lives in a positive way, the better the outcomes for everyone. Fathers make unique and direct contributions to their children’s wellbeing, from better physical health to more prosperity. Children with involved dads have higher IQs, and tend to be more prosperous. They also have a better sense of self-esteem, and grow up with more self-control, confidence and self-worth.

That’s why we celebrate fathers on the first Sunday of September each year. Father’s Day is supposed to be a day of joy, belonging and love and a recognition of the important role dad plays in the lives of his children. For many families the day is exactly that – joyful. But it can also be a day of difficulty for some dads and their daughters or sons.

In certain challenging circumstances dads don’t live with their children. And in other situations, there may be dads who are working or away from the family for other reasons. (Father’s Day can also be tough for single mums, or for kids who can’t see their dad at all. Unfortunately, that’s an article for another day.)

How can Dads who aren’t around their family on Father’s Day make it a positive day for themselves and their children?

How to be present when you’re not present?

It can be tricky being present while not actually being physically with someone. But some interesting recent research indicates that it is not the actual amount of time that is spent with your kids that matters (although we all know it is important). Instead, it is the subjective experience of time that matters. Kids need to experience ‘fluid, meaningful time with each parent’ – the kind of time that allows for deep and natural connection.

In short, our children understand that we cannot always be with them. But their experience of time while we are with them is what matters. Do they feel like we’re part of their lives?

Here’s how to do that. These ideas won’t work for every dad in every situation. But they’re helpful thought-starters that might give you a gentle assist if you’re struggling.

Make time for everyday things.

To the extent you can, make time to do the tasks and activities that are part of your child’s everyday life. Do some school drop offs and help them with their homework. Drive them to rugby training or piano practice. Play in the garden and have breakfast together. More than big exciting events, these everyday things build a naturally close relationship with your child – even if you can’t do them every day.

For a FIFO worker, be involved when you are home. For a divorced/separated dad, do more than just fun weekends. Be involved in the nitty gritty when custody decisions allow.

Have some one-on-one time.

When time is short, it is easy to try to maximise your efforts. When you have more than one child, this might take the form of spending your available time with all of your kids all the time. And if you are a remarried parent, you may also have a new partner and step-kids thrown into the mix.

As much as you are able, it is great to be able to spend one-on-one time with each of your kids. Even if it’s just 20 minutes – time alone with your child gives them a chance to talk to you about worries or concerns or just things that are going on in their lives, without other distractions. Kids adore having dad’s full attention.

Make contact easy.

With today’s technology, distance is barely a barrier. Phone calls, emails, text messages and FaceTime, mean that you can reach out to your kids in many different ways, many times a day. But more importantly, it means your kids can reach out to you.

Make sure they know how to contact you. And then make sure they know that they can contact you whenever they need to.

Importantly, make contact regularly. Too many kids have told me “My dad never texts or calls. We only talk when he has to be in touch.”

Create new family traditions

When you aren’t around all the time, for whatever reason, it is easy to feel out of the loop when it comes to family traditions. Yet family traditions are an important way to stay engaged with your kids.

If you’re a dad that works long distance, you can create traditions that you can do whenever you are in town. It doesn’t matter whether it’s pancakes for breakfast the first day home or kicking a ball in the garden in the afternoons. It’s just important that it’s something that you and your kids enjoy doing together.

If you’re a dad who’s living away from his kids for a portion of the time due to separation or divorce, you can create new ‘family’ traditions with the kids. Again, they don’t have to be big or expensive things – bike rides on the weekends, or pizza nights are great. Again, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact.

I recently spoke with a dad who was separated from his children by the court. He had been investigated (and subsequently found not guilty) of something that meant he could only see his children for one hour each weekend with court-ordered supervision. He made every effort. He went to every appointment. He did whatever it took.

At times his children didn’t want him to show up. At times they refused to speak to him. But his consistency, willingness, and effort paid off. Over a couple of years they learned to talk together, play games together, and develop a relationship that has fortified him and his children. Even in the most trying circumstances, when there’s a will, there’s a way.

Research shows that kids need to have meaningful time with each parent. That means you, Dad.

So, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who are trying their best every day, even when it’s not easy!

 

Did you miss the Fathers Don’t Mother webinar? Purchase the recording here

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Screen Time and Our Teens’ Mental Health Crisis

In a 2018 survey half of the parents questioned believed that smart phone usage negatively affected their child’s mental health. And nearly half thought their child was actually addicted to the device.

The parents are right. Study after study points to screen time as a significant predictor of decreased mental health in young people. And parents instinctively know this: something isn’t right with too much screen time. Our kids aren’t themselves – they might get despondent, irritable or aggressive. It’s concerning, but sometimes we wonder what can we do about it? It’s the way of the future after all.

It shouldn’t be. Here’s why.

The Research

From the early 1960s to the early 2000s, measures of wellbeing have consistently risen, particularly for our teens. This data measures things like self-esteem, life satisfaction, happiness, job satisfaction and friendships. However, from 2012 the trend has started to reverse. Rather than data showing wellbeing generally increasing, it is now steadily decreasing.

2012 is also the year that smart phone ownership tipped over to the majority of mobile phone users. It’s the year that their use became widespread among teenagers. And, it’s the year where data shows a surge in depression, anxiety and suicide amongst our teens.

A new study shows that this is not just coincidence. Over 1.1 million young people answered questions about their wellbeing and their screen time use. The data showed that that too much screen time is toxic to our kids. Teens who spend more time on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy. They are more likely to be lonely, depressed, anxious and even suicidal. In fact, nearly half of teens who spent five or more hours a day on a device had contemplated, planned or attempted suicide at least once.

Our teens are in the midst of a mental health crisis, and screens are a big part of the problem. To be clear, screens are not the problem, nor are they the only problem. But they are a genuine contributor to the mental health problem.

The Goldilocks Zone

But it’s not all bad news.

In the story of Goldilocks and the Three Little Bears, Goldilocks is always looking for the ‘perfect’ thing – porridge that is neither to hot nor too cold, a chair that is neither too big nor too small and bed that isn’t too hard or too soft. Each of these things she wanted just right.

This has led scientists and researchers to adopt the idea of a Goldilocks Zone, or the place where all things intersect to make the perfect combination. And now, the University of Oxford has applied the phrase to screen time.

Researchers have discovered there is a point between low and high use of technology that is ‘just right’ for our teens. This is the magical intersection where digital connection can increase creativity, communication and development, and where wellbeing is boosted rather than harmed. This is the Goldilocks Zone.

But where is the Goldilocks Zone? What is the right amount of screen time for our teens? Unfortunately there is no hard and fast answer to those questions. It varies, depending on the child and the device, and whether it’s a weekday or a weekend, and depending on what other activities your child is missing out on in favour of screen time.

As parents it’s our job to help our teens use screens in a way and in an amount that boosts their wellbeing. The below guidelines can help us do just that.

Screen Time Guidelines

  1. Use your common sense. As parents, you know your children best. Trust yourself. Use your common sense, be discerning and exercise your own good judgment when it comes to screen time use.
  2. Consider content and context in determining limits. While some people get caught up on “how much” screen time is ok, my preference is to focus on “what type” of screen time is best. If their screen diet is junk, then keep it short, just like you limit the amount of sugar they eat. If they’re doing valuable and legitimate learning or truly useful social things, be more flexible. Content matters. So does context. It’s not ok to have screens in rooms or at the table. You may have other rules too. The context should determine whether kids are ok to be on screens. Friends over? No screens! Chores done, homework done, and reading done? Sure, have some fun on screens. When considering all the things our kids are missing out on when they are on screens – time to develop and deepen relationships, to be creative and to engage in physical activity – we want to be intentional about how and when screens are used.
  3. Encourage other activities. When your kids ask to play videogames or use the tablet have a list of things ready to suggest instead. Things like:
    • Have you played outside?
    • Have you spent time with a friend?
    • Have you read a book?
    • Have you tidied your room?

What you suggest, and how firmly you suggest it, is up to you. But by engaging in these types of activities, children will do much more for their brains, their bodies and their wellbeing, then sitting in front of a screen. (I’ve written additional suggestions here.)

  1. Make sure Goldilocks Screen Time is Healthy Screen Time. Even when the kids are using screens, make sure that they are having positive screen and media experiences. Even better if these are shared as a family.

Active, positive use of screens should be encouraged, but as parents we know when enough is enough. And certainly our teens have had enough. If we can get them to put down the game controller and head out on the oval, or set aside the iPad and get their nose in a book, we’re going to have happier and healthier kids.

If you have younger kids, I’ve written about guidelines for screen time for our little ones, here.

 

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