So much of parenting revolves around watching your children learn new things. There is nothing more wonderful than seeing that little click in their eyes as they understand a new concept or seeing the joy on their faces as they master a new skill. We encourage them, praise them, coach them, and commiserate with them when they struggle. But with all this praise and encouragement, could we be unintentionally teaching them that they must earn our love?
There are lots of good reasons parents enroll children in sports and dance classes: perseverance, teamwork, good sportsmanship, healthy activity, etc. But very often, we lose sight of that and focus too much on winning or making our child into a star athlete. As Tim Elmore of Growing Leadersattests, the problem of overly involved parents can continue even as the child reaches college. It is completely understandable for a parent to still be concerned with a child’s success (after all, they are always our babies!), but at what cost? If the student-athletes are making complaints like, “I love my mom, but when she does this, I get the feeling she doesn’t trust me” or “I feel like I’m never quite good enough; I can never fully please my parents.”, how is the parent helping either the student’s performance on the field or the parent-child relationship?
So what can a parent do before it reaches this stage? How can parents continue to support and encourage their children without becoming yet another person the child has to perform for? Six simple words that mean much, much more than “Good job!” or “Great work!” Instead, simply say, “I love to watch you play.” And isn’t it true? Watching your child play—whether it’s soccer or piano—is a source of such intense joy that often goes unspoken.
So let the coach be the coach. You be the parent and tell your child how much joy they bring you. They don’t need to earn your love by running a 6 minute mile or hitting a home run. You love them for who they are, not what they do.
For more encouraging words to say before and after sports, check out this article from the Fuller Youth Institute.
Have you experienced unwanted competitiveness or frustration while watching your kids play sports? Tell us about it on Facebook and Twitter!
This week’s blog is contributed by a TOG team member and mom, Elizabeth Y.
In our house, we sing a very silly little song while our daughters (4 years and 21 months) brush their teeth before bed. We started when our oldest daughter got her first teeth and have continued since then. It’s an integral part of our bedtime routine and, by now, happens without conscious thought.
This simple little act means that a) the girls’ teeth get thoroughly brushed with a minimum of fuss (they have literally run into the bathroom when I’ve said “it’s time to brush teeth” before) and b) power struggles and emotional meltdowns related to bedtime are minimized. This silly little song is much more powerful than one would think. It is so much a part of our routine that it is, at this point, a ritual. Getting the girls ready for bed without it is as unthinkable as not brushing my own teeth before bed.
But how can something so small be so effective? How are routines helpful for children? According to Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting, “routines give them a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline.” Routines create a structure in which the child knows some of what the future holds. By the very nature of growing older, a child’s life is constantly changing. Routines give a child a sense of what to expect and remove some of that fearful unknown that can be so prevalent in a child’s world.
Routines have benefits for parents as well. Even if they are as simple as always putting your shoes in the same spot, routines lessen some of the struggles that can frustrate both children and parents. If a child knows that his backpack goes on a special hook or that the morning routine goes breakfast-clothes-bathroom-school, the parent has to do less nagging, less scolding, and less repeating himself. All of those modes of communication cause exasperation and frustration, negatively affecting the parent-child relationship. Again in Dr. Markham’s words, “when our focus is on moving kids through the schedule to get them to bed, we miss out on opportunities to connect.”
What’s even more exciting is that the routines themselves can become opportunities to connect. By eliminating the stress of making sure your child does xyz, routines allow you as parent to relax into the task. And being there with your child fully, even if it’s just singing a silly song while your child brushes her teeth, is an incredible tool to strengthen your relationship on a daily basis.
We’ve previously talked why emotional intelligence is so incredibly important as a parenting tool and how it can be used in the home to minimize everyday struggles. But what if emotional intelligence is also the key to academic success?
One of the most cherished dreams of a parent, whether the child is 16 years old, starting kindergarten, or yet to be born, is seeing that child succeed academically. We all want our children to be intelligent, to love learning, to enter college, and to flourish in whatever field they choose. There are industries dedicated to this desire, preschools that are as competitive as the Ivy League, and programs that promise your two-year-old will read. We worry about which teacher they’ll have, whether they’re keeping up in class, and why they’ve become disinterested in school. But what if none of this mattered as much as being in touch with and productively managing your emotions?
In 2007, Education Week reported an analysis of 207 separate studies by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. The studies, which included over 233,000 children ages 5 to 18, focused on anti-bullying, character improvement, and other topics. CASEL found that, in most cases, the programs worked as they intended and the students “were better behaved, more positive, and less anxious than their control-group peers.” The focus on emotional intelligence had removed the classroom gloom. But additionally and amazingly, those students in the emotional and social programs “had also, apparently, gotten smarter, as measured by their grades and test scores.”
Another nationwide survey of school staff and students found that when “school connections measures go up” testing results and academic achievement also improve. Strong connections and emotional intelligence are not just a way to improve your parent-child relationship, they are a very valuable tool your child can use in school. And unlike simply memorizing the order of U.S. presidents or the names of the longest river on each continent, these are skills that will stay with and support your children through their entire lives.
Dealing With the Feeling allows your child to minimize the overwhelming urgency of strong feelings, whether it’s anxiety, fear, or anger. It can give the child a chance to step back and feel the feeling, then move back into his or her academic work, constructively.
Happy Heart Day!! Today is Valentine’s Day! It’s usually dedicated to romantic love, but familial love is worthy of a day too. The dictionary definition of a life partner is “a person with whom one is in a long term relationship.” And our relationship with our children is certainly life long, don’t you think? We are with them for better or worse, in sickness and in health, through richer and poorer. We are forever their parents and they are forever our children. Our life partners certainly deserve celebration. Whether you make valentines together, share some heart shaped cookies, or just say “Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart! I love you”, show your children how happy you are to love them. Love is, after all, the force that brought them to life. Happy Heart Day from Tools of Growth!!
To begin with, I’d like to give credit where it is deserved. The tool that I’m about to introduce you to is the simplified version of the great work of the pioneers in EI, Drs. Daniel Goleman and John Gottman. The efforts and years that went into their EI research needs to reach all parents so that they may help their kids reap the benefits like academic success, social skill building, boosting self esteem, and increasting self confidence. So here it is, one tool with three simple and easy-to-remember steps:
Dealing with the Feeling
1. Spot it : In your mind, spot the feeling - “My child is angry/sad/hurt/tired…”
2. Say it : Say it out loud - “Are you angry with your brother?” or “Are you sad that you lost your favorite toy?”
This step builds a child’s emotional vocabulary. It helps the child identify their feelings and express them in words. In order to build emotional vocabulary and get the child comfortable with putting his or her feelings into words, you will have to start by saying it out loud to your son or daughter. And before you know it, when you ask what is wrong or what feelings are going on, your child will easily share the feeling independently.
3. OK it: With a tiny nod, tell your child that it’s OK to feel this way. Validate or OK the feelings by saying, “I understand” or “I would be sad/angry/frustrated/ too.”
Feelings are neither right or wrong. They just are. When feelings are acknowledged and validated, the energy of the emotion weakens and will start to lose steam, which is exactly what we want. Imagine if you were angry and if someone, anyone, responded with an, “I understand.” Would that not make you feel less angry?
Here’s what my talented editor, Amy M., had to say when she put Dealing with the Feeling to test with her 3 year-old son, Lughan:
I have been doing “It seems like you’re feeling XXXX … I understand … I would feel XXXX too” with our three-year-old, and it is becoming a natural response. I can see it working even in the midst of some of our bugaboo moments; several times it’s left me thinking, “I didn’t expect THAT to go so well!”
I just fully realized that I have been doing this for several days now and should really let you know … and THANK YOU!
That’s what we want! We want to turn down the volume of the emotions and make way for effective communication. And effective communication is a confidence booster for both parents and children. So every chance you get, respond by Dealing with the Feeling and Spot it, Say it, OK it and you’ll be well on your way to building EI: yours and your children’s.
As parents, we go through our day-to-day lives working toward a solid future for our children. We want them to be good students with good character, morals and values. We want them to be loving, caring, compassionate and empathetic. For their own good, we want them to do good. And for the most part, they keep up with the direction in which we lead them. We are spending all our time today for a better tomorrow. Without this guidance, our children would not be able to develop the skills that are necessary to cope with the world around them.
However, life is going to happen. They are going to faced with challenges and they will stumble and fall before they learn how to stand tall. And when they do, the only skill that will carry them through is understanding their inner selves.
We have all kinds of toys and technology that focus on the alphabet, phonics, reading, comprehension, math, science, geography. These products and services are available to facilitate the understanding of our children’s outside world. However, that is surely not the case when it comes to supplementing the navigation of their inner world: their thoughts, their feelings. That education of self-understanding comes primarily from parents.
Yes, there are therapists and experts that can guide us through the tough challenges, but surely they are not in our home. And yes, through the great work of the CASEL forum, social and emotional intelligence (SEL) programs and trainings are slowly making their way into the school systems. But the progress of this program and its implementation will take time. If you are a parent of 0-3 year-old, you could get lucky enough to see SEL education implemented in your child’s school, maybe by the time they get to middle school. For the rest of you, unless your children are already in the few schools nationwide that are implementing this program, chances are they will not know anything about SEL or its heart, Emotional Intelligence (EI) probably until middle school! And even though it’s never too late, it would be much more immediately beneficial to your children if parents took on that task from the beginning.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “No way! Another parental task?” But I’m going to help you make it unbelievably easy! I’m not going to give you a complicated SEL training. All I will hand over to you is a simple tool to get the Emotional Intelligence (EI) wheels spinning in your home. If you’re up for this ONE easy tool which has scientifically proven academic and life benefits for your child, as indicated by this study at NYU’s child study center, be sure to tune in next week!
This simple, yet breakthrough tool is also advocated in my upcoming book, The “Perfect” Parent, 5 Tools for Using Your Inner Perfection to Connect with Your Kids. You’ll also see a really cute testimonial from my current editor (also a parent) of her experience when she decided to test out the tools that she was editing, with her three-year-old!
Be sure to check in next week for Part 2 on Emotional Intelligence: HOW Can Parents Take the Lead with ONE Simple Tool?
As we sat around the fireplace on January 1st, my young adult children started up a conversation about New Year’s resolutions.
My son, Navin, age 22, started out with his resolutions and my husband joined in. Before I could get a word in, my 25-year-old daughter, Nitasha, said something that totally silenced all of us!
"I’m not really going to do the "resolution" thing this year. I’m going to commit to an "evolution."
We all listened with ears and eyes wide open.
"I want to commit to something that makes me evolve as a person; something that makes me a better person. My ‘evolution’ is to try to be comment-less when I get the urge to pass a negative or snide comment. For example, when Amy was talking smack about a common friend, over a holiday situation this past weekend, I held back on passing any comments even though I totally agreed with what she was saying."
My daughter explained that filler words like “Oh,” and “Uh huh,” and “I see,” felt more natural than staying silent, but also helped Amy feel like she had a listening ear and a calming presence in Nitasha.
Quite a brilliant communication habit, don’t you think? Staying on neutral ground or practicing to choose to be “comment-less” really helps keep the volume of emotions in check, which, in the long run, helps both the talker and the listener. It helps us respond instead of react and definitely keeps from adding fuel to the fire. Evolution at its best, for sure!
I’ve dedicated a whole section on this effective communication habit (being RESPONSE-able (responsible) in my upcoming parenting book, due to hit the store shelves this September. I offer tools that help parents respond instead of react and scientific information on how that helps us build lasting communication habits with our children.
Make your own New Year’s ‘evolution’ this year and encourage your children to do the same. What a great TOG to start the year off with!
We are in the home stretch! FIVE days until Christmas and the count down begins! Some of us parents are looking forward to the big day and some of us can’t wait for it to be over! Giving material gifts definitely does not come easy, thanks to busy malls, packed parking lots, crazy traffic, kids out of school, family flying in, prepping for Holiday meals, and wrapping a gazillion presents. As we all know, it can all get daunting and exhausting!
So here’s a quick, easy tip that costs nothing, doesn’t even require you to leave your house, and serves as a stress-reliever, mood-lifter, and happiness booster: The gift of appreciation!
On each of the gifts that you are giving your children, add one — just one —phrase or sentence of appreciation: “Thank you for helping me pick Grandma’s gift,” or “Your smile makes it all better,” or simply, “I’m blessed to have the gift of YOU.” These quick notes will put a smile on your kids’ faces and also on their hearts! But the bigger gift is the one you will give back to yourself instantly! You will fill your own heart with warmth and put a smile on your own face, too!
Appreciation truly has a boomerang effect; the feeling that you give out comes right back to fill your own heart as well! What a great way to put the brakes on the busy-ness of the season, salvage the spirit of the holidays, and genuinely feel the gifts of life that really matter!
Happy holidays to all TOG fans and their families! We really appreciate all the love and support that you have given us this year. And yes, by appreciating you, I’m feeling good right now too :)
The world was heartbroken this week from the loss of the ever respected and honored legend, ‘Tata” Nelson Mandela. The odes and dedications paid to this great man through both traditional and new-age media have been awe-inspiring and deserving.
While I watched and read all the footage on his exemplary life, what caught my attention was that ‘Tata’ and ‘Nelson’ are not his only names! I even heard his South African fellowman refer to him as ‘Madiba’. I couldn’t help but remember what my Mom had said when we were brainstorming with names for my first born, “Pick thoughtfully for our names hold the virtues of our lives.”
Yes, Nelson Mandela’s many names sure held the virtues of his life:
Rolihlahla— The name given to him by his father at birth. It literally means “pulling the branch of a tree”and figuratively means “troublemaker”! Clearly, he was a “troublemaker” to the British, for opposing the pro-apartheid government, which is why he spent 27 years in prison!
Nelson— The name given to him by his teacher in primary school. It was quite common then to give simple English names to children to make it easier for the British Colonist to pronounce. ‘Nelson’ means ‘Son of the Champion”. And truly, he was the biggest advocate of the championed cause of freedom for his fellow countrymen of South Africa!
Madiba- A term of ‘endearment and respect’ glorifying the Thembu tribe that he originated from. And surely he was both endeared and respected, not just by his countrymen, but also by the entire world.
Tata- The South African (Xhosa) word for ‘father’. Like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela was most defintely the ‘Father of His Nation’.
Albert Pike once said, “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” The loving names that the world has given this legend are the living and lasting testimonials of Nelson Mandela’s legacy and immortality.
Inspire your children towards greatness by sharing his story. I personally love how his legend is told through BBC’s version. Better yet, let your children learn through the voices of other children, as each describe this legend in one word in this touching piece— ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE NELSON MANDELA.
Tools of Growth honors your legacy, Madiba. Rest in Peace.
"A person with whom you have an immediate connection the moment you meet — a connection so strong that you are drawn to them in a way you have never experienced before." CHECK! Thats the two of you.
"As this connection develops over time, you experience a love so deep, strong and complex, that you begin to doubt that you have ever truly loved anyone prior." CHECK! I can vouch for that.
"Your soulmate understands and connects with you in every way and on every level, which brings a sense of peace, calmness and happiness when you are around them." CHECK! You both know me just as much as I know you. My favorite time is time I spend with both of you.
"And when you are not around them, you are all that much more aware of the harshness of life, and how bonding with another person in this way is the most significant and satisfying thing you will experience in your lifetime. You are also all that much aware of the beauty in life, because you have been given a great gift and will always be thankful." CHECK! I am grateful for both of you and all the blessings that you have brought into my life.