Investing in Relationships With Your Children

January 22, 2013 by · 11 Comments 

Last week I gave a talk to a group of elementary school parents about ways to decrease nagging their children.  The talk packed in the information from three or four parent coaching sessions.  It was full of specific suggestions for behaviors for parents to try.  I know that this approach works because I have used it on many occasions with all sorts of parents.

When you sum up the steps it really comes down to cultivating a better relationship.  In fact, it works with anyone in your life.  You try to communicate clearly with others in ways that they can understand.  And you appreciate whatever people do that pleases you or helps you out.

People are most likely to be cooperative in a family or a business when they feel appreciated.  In a family we all need to feel cared for.  This really comes before looking for cooperation, and it is an aspect that can be lost in very busy lives.

I like to give people specific recommendations, so one suggestion I often give parents is to spend some time each day (maybe only fifteen minutes) with your recalcitrant child.  In those minutes you do with your child whatever she would like (within the bounds of behavior in your home).  So, if your child wants to watch a TV show with you, that’s what you do.  If your child wants help with a new lego set, that’s what you do.  Parents are often surprised to see the results of this simple change.  The hard parts of it are being regular, and resisting the temptation to use the time to pursue your goals.  This is a way you cultivate the relationship so that you can be more successful in eliciting cooperation later.

There is a second way to cultivate a relationship in which your children will be more cooperative.  That is to offer empathy when your child is frustrated or upset. Here’s a lovely blog post on that topic. Let’s face it—we all like to feel understood.  It is a gift we can give our children and family members.  When we feel understood, we are more likely to want to work together.

I am not saying this is easy.  It isn’t.  But these steps are investments in relationship that pay back very well.  Furthermore, these investments cost no money.  They have nothing to do with material gifts.  They have to do with the gift of your presence and your understanding—the most valuable gift.


Click here to sign up for my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report, “Living With and Loving Your Disorganized, Impulsive, Forgetful, Yet Delightful, Funny Child.”


Photo credit:  dgcohen23 on Flickr

Things are Going Well—Now What?

January 15, 2013 by · 10 Comments 

Maybe you have been through a rough patch with one of your children.  Perhaps she was not doing her homework.  Or perhaps another child was always late in the morning.  Or maybe your child was arguing with his siblings a lot.  Or whatever else you can think of.  You’ve been there.

Now, say you have worked hard with this child to improve her behavior.  You’ve talked with her and found out that she needed more help with math.  Or you worked out a good schedule for the morning and used some incentives to get your child moving better in the morning.  Say you found ways to spend special time with each child and you also praised them both any time they were playing well together.

Your efforts have paid off.  Things are better.

When I am working with a family and we get to this point, I usually ask, “What could mess this up?”  That’s right, after spending a little time enjoying the success, I start anticipating problems.  Just like a psychologist, right?

Well, I find that people can avoid problems if they can anticipate them.  It is likely that in the process of working through the last bump in the road that you learned something important about this child and how she copes in the world.

Perhaps she gets discouraged easily by new topics in school.  This is good to know.  You can anticipate with her that there will be more new material that might seem overwhelming, and you can talk with her about asking for help.  This would be so much easier than fighting about homework.

Perhaps you have learned that your child doesn’t do very well at stringing together a long series of tasks to be done (that’s what a morning routine is, after all).  You’ve found that she benefits from a checklist.  Some people also benefit from a visual—a photo that shows the child all ready for desired activity, such as school, soccer practice or a sleepover.  You can anticipate that there will be difficulties when setting up new routines or series of behaviors.

Lastly, perhaps you’ve learned that your children can play together very well in some situations, but not in others.  You might learn that it is best if both have a friend over at once to decrease the competition.  Or you might have learned that each needs some one-on-one time with you regularly.

Asking yourself what could go wrong gets you to go back to notice what caused the last problem and what you learned by solving it.  In this way you can anticipate the bumps in the road and smooth some of them out before you get there.

Good luck!


Click here to sign up for my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report, “Living With and Loving Your Disorganized, Impulsive, Forgetful, Yet Delightful, Funny Child.”


Are you resolving to get your children to listen? 

Watch for my upcoming webinar that tells you how to stop nagging!


Photo credit:  Simply CVR on Flickr


How to Make Your Resolutions Work

January 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Learning from the Past

Last week I encouraged people to look back to see how far you and your children have come in the past year.  And just as important I recommended that you consider how you made the progress that you did.  The first step was to encourage you by noticing that you have made some progress.  If nothing else, child development is often on your side as your child grows in cognitive ability and ability to manage feelings.  The next step was to help you notice what works in your family.

Resolutions Usually Don’t Work

Now you are ready to set some goals for the coming year, in other words, New Year’s resolutions.  New Year’s resolutions are notoriously unsuccessful.  I just did some quick research on Google and found that while 45% of Americans make resolutions, only 8% are successful in their resolutions.  Another piece of research says that 88% of people who make resolutions fail, though 52% are confident that they can achieve their goals at the start.  That is discouraging news.

What Does Work?

Yet there is good news.  Researchers have found that people are more successful in making changes when they set small, manageable goals.  They are also more successful when they share their goals with others.

Setting Small Goals in Your Family

What does this mean for your family?  What would a reasonable goal be?  Say you want your children to “listen.”  When parents say this, they mean, do as I say when I say it.  If you are reminding and reminding with no success, there is no way to wave a magic wand and get your children to comply today or this week.  You could break it down by situations.  For instance, you could work on getting your child to get up in the morning on her own.  When you get that problem solved, move on to the next—maybe getting dressed in a timely manner.  Slow, yes, but more effective.

Another way to think about setting goals is to ask yourself, “What can I do differently today?”  If you want your child to do better in math this term, you can’t wait for report cards to help him with that.  You can begin by talking to his teacher and to him.  You can find out whether he needs help with homework. And if homework is a struggle, you can work on reducing the conflict about it.

Get Everyone On Board

The good thing about family goals is that in the best of all worlds they are shared.  If you are in a two parent family, you will definitely have better success if both parents agree that the goal is important.  If you can engage your child in the goal, you will really be on your way.  Most children would agree that they would like to have fewer fights in the morning, less struggle around homework, or better grades.

Good Luck!

Good luck to you in setting your goals.  When you meet the first one, you can set the next.   And please, let me know what your goals are and how you do with them!

New Year’s Resolution Statistics.  Journal of Clinical Psychology, 12/13.12
Blame It on the Brain: The latest neuroscience research suggests spreading resolutions out over time is the best approach.  Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2009
Ra, Frank.  A Course in Happiness. 2011.
Photo credit:  John Brennan on Flickr


Click here to sign up for my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report, “Living With and Loving Your Disorganized, Impulsive, Forgetful, Yet Delightful, Funny Child.”


Are you resolving to get your children to listen? 

Watch for my upcoming webinar that tells you how to stop nagging!


How Did You Get To 2013?

January 3, 2013 by · 4 Comments 

It’s that time of year again.  It seems quite natural to survey one’s life at the beginning of the New Year to consider what needs changing.  Many of us look at the way things are and see only those places we would like to change or improve, hence, New Year’s resolutions.  I would like to turn that idea on its head today.  If you look back on the past year, what can you say has gotten better?  How is life better in your family than it was one year ago?  How did it change?

Now I realize that some people will have to say that things are really worse—like people who lost their homes to Hurricane Sandy, or people who have been afflicted by terrible diseases.  Yet just before Christmas I met a woman whose home had been flooded by the hurricane who said with honesty that the outpouring of support she felt from friends and strangers had enriched her life.  Pretty neat.  I think that ability to find something for which you can be honesty grateful, even in the midst of disaster, allows people to go on.

What were your challenges?

First, consider what hurdles your family had to confront in the past year and consider how things have turned out.  Chances are you can see that there are some challenges that you met and got past.  Can you call that a success or are you considering the fact that you had to face a hurdle a failure.  Every family faces challenges.  A child comes to a new stage of development and his needs change and often we as parents are unprepared for the transition.  This can happen with the first homework, with the first request for a cell phone or with the introduction of a new electronic device.

Congratulate Yourself!

All of these bring unforeseen challenges in my experience.  Did you get through it?  Did you find a new way to manage new responsibilities for your children?  Then congratulate yourself!

What Worked?

Now, think about how you got past those hurdles because that will help you plan for the year ahead.  Did the disorder get to a point that you were really angry and unhappy?  OK, that probably means that you should be more proactive in the future.

Did you eventually come to some agreement with your partner about how to handle an issue, say bedtime, screen time, whatever?  OK, put that one down.  It always helps to present a united front.

Did you involve your child’s concerns in the solution?  With older children you probably had to.  If it worked, put it down.

Did you consult with an outside helper like a parent coach or child psychologist?  And was that helpful?  Great.  Remember that.

Resolutions, Maybe

Now you might move on to resolutions if you wish, but you have actually already set out an action plan because you have found what worked in the past.  More about planning for the year ahead next time.


Click here to sign up for my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report, “Living With and Loving Your Disorganized, Impulsive, Forgetful, Yet Delightful, Funny Child.”


Photo credit:  Jeff Moser/ on Flickr