Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why won't my child give hugs to our family?

I’ve seen the story many times – and experienced it almost as much.  You just arrived at a family event with your daughter.  The moment you arrive, your normally socially outgoing child suddenly turns into a scared little girl wanting to have nothing to do with anyone.  You try hard to draw her out of the shell she has abruptly put herself in but you can’t understand why she is so afraid. She knows these people, has spent time with them and normally loves to be with them.  What could be wrong?
So often our extended family members LIVE for time with the little ones in their family.  Most of the time hugs and kisses are required etiquette for family functions.  Your child may be socially outgoing but when a group of people suddenly want something from her – a hug – she may not be ready to give it.  In truth requiring her to give out hugs and kisses when she does not want to is a violation of her body.  You are making her do something with her body that she does not feel comfortable doing.  

So first of all, stick up for your child and do not demand that she give hugs and kisses or even handshakes to people when she is not ready to.  Believe me, there will come a time you want your child – boy and girl - to have that sense of who can and cannot be trusted when dealing with others.  By respecting the boundaries she is setting, you are instilling self-worth in her.  You are showing her that she gets to choose what she does with her body and who she chooses to express love to, with it. 

Very often family members live for these visits with our children.  They look forward to it as a way to feel loved themselves.  However, it is not your child’s responsibility to make you or any family member feel loved so it may be necessary to have a conversation with these family members.  The truth is that they simply want to express their love for your child.  Perhaps you can suggest that your family members wait a little while when they first see her.  Then after a little while they could come up and ask your child for a hug instead of grabbing her and giving it.  

In order to encourage your child to physically show love, there are a few things that you CAN do.  The first is to make sure that YOU are giving out hugs and kisses to the family.  Sometimes we expect our children to “give Aunt Erma a kiss” because it is something we are not comfortable doing ourselves. This is a mistake because children tend to follow our lead on these things.  They want to be like us and if we walk in the door and immediately give aunt Erma a hug and kiss, it does a two things. 1 – It takes a little pressure off our child by giving Aunt Erma some of the attention and love she needs and 2 – It models for our children that it is safe and loving to give hugs and kisses to Aunt Erma. 

The other thing you can do is to talk with your child before you get to these kinds of events.  You can remind her that there are going to be a lot of people that love her and may want to show their love with a hug and kiss.  Ask your child if she is okay with that.  If she is not, ask her if there is a way that she would like to show her love for them.  Suggest a handshake, fist bump or maybe she would like to make a card for everyone.  When you get to the event, quickly remind your family and friends that your daughter may not be ready to give out hugs but that she might be later.  However she has made a card to show that she does love everyone.  It is vitally important that you sick up for your child in this experiences. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How can I ensure my child feels loved?

Every human gives and receives love in different ways.  The same is true of children.   Gary Chapman wrote a book entitled The Five Love Languages of Children.  In it he describes 5 different languages or ways we humans can give and receive love.  Quality time, physical touch, acts of service, giving/receiving gifts and words of encouragement.   It is very common for a parent to try to communicate love to a child in a way that the child can’t understand just as I would understand very little if you spoke to me in German. 

If you as a mom express love to your family by keeping the house clean and you wonder why your 14 year old son does not appreciate it, consider it might be because it is not a way he CAN feel love.  If he feels loved through words of encouragement rather than acts of service, the efforts you make to show love though cleaning will not be “heard.”  Instead try telling him how proud you are of the things he is accomplishing and make an effort to show you care through your words.  

 If you are the type of father that really takes the time to explain why you think your daughter is amazing but she never seems to respond perhaps it is because her love language is quality time instead of words of encouragement.  What she really needs is for you to spend 30 minutes a day with her where she has your full attention. 

To find your child’s “love language” all you really need to do is think about the way he or she responds when you give a hug, a complement, a gift, spend time one on one or do something for him or her.  If your child loves to be given comforting back rubs, there is a good chance physical touch is one of her love languages.  If your child enthusiastically receives a gift from you and then spends every moment for the next week with that gift, he probably feels loved through receiving gifts. 

Remember that a person can have a very different way of giving love than receiving love.  If your child loves making you gifts, that may not be the way he or she receives love.  Young children are still developing their “love language.”  If you want your child to grow to be an adult who is able to receive love in many different ways, the best thing to do is to show him or her your love in all 5 of the languages.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why does parenting seem harder than it used to be?

Parenting was never meant to be a one or two person job.  If you look at the history of parenting you will see that it used to be done by the whole community.  The old proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” really is true. 

Parents need support in order to stay sane and not feel tired and neglected.  It seems like in the last 100 years or so the support has dwindled more and more.  We started with the support from the community or “village” then moved to it being a family matter.  That family included included aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.  The next stage of parenting was the nuclear family – which some are still lucky enough to have.  This means that you have one parent that works full time and one that is home full time.  Today’s families are very different.  Most families are either single parent homes or both parents work full time with extended family living far away and community at a distance. 

This is not a commentary on what kind of family you have and I am by no means suggesting that you should quit your job to stay home or move closer to your family so they can help.  I am just saying that as parents we need to recognize that our children’s needs are important but they are not more important than OUR own needs.  At times our children’s needs might be more immediate but we must stop neglecting our own need for community, support and relaxation. 

Here are a few things anyone can do to begin to build up the support you need.
  • Make a list of people that you can call on for support 
  • Make a list of people that you could begin to build relationships with.  Then talk to them. 
o   Maybe it’s another family that has similar parenting styles as you.  You could swap nights out with them.  You take their kids once a month and they take your kids.
o   Maybe there is a 10 year old down the street that would make a great mommy or daddy helper.  You could pay them a little to come and “play” with your kids while you rest and relax in your own home for a few hours. 
o   Maybe you have a friend that loves kids but does not have any of their own and would like to make some kind of swap with them so you can get away for a few hours. 

The important thing is to recognize that you need some time to yourself and as a couple so that you are at your best for your children.  Constantly running on empty will not help your child in any way.  Find something that refresh and rejuvenates you and remember that when our own needs are screaming at us it is very hard to hear our children’s needs. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My child is so bossy. What can I do?

I have never met an older child that did not in some ways boss around his or her younger siblings.  It is a natural and in some ways healthy activity for older children to do.  Your older child is trying his or her best to understand and relate to the world around as well has younger siblings.  Bossiness often is a result of that.  

However, when you have a child that is constantly barking orders at and demanding that brothers and sisters do what they are told, it is important to teach your child how to treat others.  The first place you look at is yourself.  

Children ALWAYS mimic and imitate what they see adults doing.  If your child has experienced a lot of “bossiness” from mom, dad or other caregivers, it is likely that he or she is going to pick up these habits.  Children are amazing mirrors to our own bad habits and issues.  If you examine yourself and find that you often times give too many orders to your children, begin to change the way you talk with them. 

This is much easier to say than to do.  Once you are aware of this you will begin to catch yourself giving commands and orders.  Do your best in those moments to stop and rephrase what you have just said.  “Pick up your shoes!” becomes “Allie, could you please pick up your shoes?”  After a while of consistently stopping yourself after you blurt out the command, you will begin to hear yourself mid sentence.  Then you will begin to stop yourself just as you are giving the order. Eventually you will naturally ask in a kind way. 

There are going to be times as a parent that asking a question is not appropriate, because asking a questions means that your child’s answer can be NO.  When this is the case use one of the two following phrases.  “Let’s pick up your shoes together.”  This is obviously when there is an activity you will be doing together.  You can also use the phrase “I need you to pick up your shoes.”  Use of the word “I” shows that you understand that picking up the shoes is not something your child has a need to do but is something you, the parent or caregiver needs. 

If you have examined yourself and find that you already ask your child to do things and you do not “boss” her around, there are a few other things to look at.  She might be picking up on you talking to other people in that manner or even talking to pets that way.  Children see the world very different than us and it is important to look at it from their perspective. 

Older children are often given more responsibilities in and around the house.  This is often times a necessity, and it can be beneficial for both you and your child.  It allows you to have a little help and it gives your child new experiences and self-esteem.  However, in your child’s mind that elevated responsibility needs to come with more control.  So if you are giving your child extra responsibilities around the house, he or she also need to have more control over what happens in life.  If your child is not given more control, he or she will begin to take it.  One way that happens is through bossing younger siblings.