Children

  • Sticks and Stones

    #affirmation #bully #bullying #verbal #emotional #abuse

    Sticks and stones will break my bones

    but words will never hurt me.  

    That is an absolute lie.  Words do hurt. They not only hurt, but they can also have a sting that forever lives in one’s inner core.  As parents, we oftentimes feel what our children feel. When they hurt, we hurt; albeit an illness or emotional harm.   If you’re a parent of a child who has low self-esteem or has been the victim of bullying, then you probably understand this better than most.  

    Children with low self-esteem are likely to internalize what is said to them which may lead to ruminating thoughts.  Rumination is when one dwells on negative thoughts, focusing on what they’ve done wrong and what they should’ve or could’ve done differently.  These circling thoughts may lead to a negative self-image.

    According to the official government website, stopbullying.gov, “The most common types of bullying are verbal and social.”  Some studies suggest as many as ⅓  of US school children report that they have been bullied.  All of these statistics are alarming but when they hit home, they hit a little differently.

    We send them out into the world and hope that they’ll be okay but sometimes we can’t be there to shield them.  Since building a fort and never letting them leave isn’t a healthy option, how do we help protect our children from harsh words?  

    As infantile as it may seem, providing your child with positive affirmations before, during and after incidents or periods of verbal abuse may in some ways, safeguard children from being as affected. Let’s be clear, positive praise isn’t a substitute for therapy. Therapy is always strategic and usually long-term. Therapists teach clients essential coping skills and techniques to unpack emotional baggage in a safe environment.  In addition to seeking professional treatment, parents and educators can pump great energy by way of positive affirmation into children which, in turn, combats some of the negativity that may be thrust upon them. Just as “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” rings in song in most of our heads as we repeat it, positive affirmations work the same way.    

     

     

    Hopefully this visual can illustrate the effectiveness of positive words.  Do you see the one phrase that doesn’t fit?  It’s enveloped amongst positivity.  It’s difficult to spot. It’s not isolated. It doesn’t really stand a chance amongst the warm insulation of what surrounds it.  

     

    When one of my daughters was in the second grade, she began to feel isolated and ultimately bullied by some of the girls in her grade.  She attended a small school with less than thirty children per grade, so it was very easy to feel isolated.  I heard her crying to herself one evening long after she was supposed to be asleep.  When I inconspicuously asked her about what was bothering her over morning breakfast, she revealed that some of the girls were saying mean things and talking in front of her as if she were invisible.  I’ll be honest, the initial wave of anger had to dissipate before I could think with a completely sound mind.  I realized I need to do something to cure her wound that was, for the first time in her young life, not physically visible.

    Since my girls were born, I made a conscientious effort to greet them every single morning with a cheerful “Good morning!”  I just believe that children should wake up knowing that someone is happy to see them and is looking forward to speaking to them.  I’ve also taught them to greet me the same way.  I don’t give much care to the whole, I’m not a morning person thing.  One of my girls is a complete morning person like me, the other is the complete opposite.  My rule is that we don’t have to have long drawn out morning conversations until you’re ready but we will acknowledge our appreciation for seeing each other wake to experience another day by greeting one another upon first glance.  It’s now a natural occurrence and unbeknownst to them, I’ve also taught them that they are worthy of acknowledgment by not only myself but by others around them.

    Once this incident happened, I began pumping them with morning affirmations.  One of my favorite things to do was crawl into bed to steal a few morning minutes with my little ones.  While there I’d whisper:

    You are kind. You are smart.  You are beautiful.  You are an amazing person.   Today is going to be a great day.  

    She resisted me at first but that too became the norm.  After she got used to me saying it daily, I had her repeat it with me.  When other instances of bullying occurred, I’d remind her of her greatness and put in perspective that what her peers said didn’t matter.   Positive thoughts and phrases are easily incorporated into the school day, administrators can share them during morning meetings or over the intercom for daily announcements.  Teachers can start off or end classes with words of encouragement.  Kids thrive when they know they have a sound support team.

    More and more, great schools are incorporating positive affirmations into their school day.  Parents and instructional leaders must be partners in the educational process every step of the way.  This partnership must include a process that eradicates bullying as something that just happens, particularly in middle schools.  Long gone are the days where we dismiss the cruel effects of verbal harassment and physical violence with “boys will be boys” or they’re just “mean girls”.  As a society, we now know better, so it’s important for adults to do better by understanding and emphasizing the importance of speaking positivity into existence.  When speaking to children, think back to the key principle that we all learned in kindergarten, use your words. Just remember to use them wisely because words do hurt and what we say matters.

     

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  • My Child Says Mean Things to Me, What Should I Do?

     

    I’ve recently become more active in parenting facebook groups, lending advice to expecting and new parents. This morning, I stumbled upon a post and had to do a double take, where I couldn’t help but lend my expertise because the poster said she was only venting but seemed almost desperate in their post to the group. The post stated the mom’s feelings were hurt because her three-year-old son told her that he doesn’t like her and he would prefer to reside with his estranged father. She also revealed that she had a one-month-old newborn.  One commenter reply was that the kid is three and the mom should just get over it.  I thought to myself, this mom is reaching out to a group of strangers seeking advice on how to get your kids to stop saying they don’t like you.  It really resonated with me I felt like she was sincerely asking for help in what she hoped was a safe space.

    The crazy thing about having a background in child development is you just can’t turn it off.  So, I couldn’t help myself, I just had to comment.  I said,

    Since your son lives with you full-time, you provide him with the love and structure he needs.  Kids need structure but don’t always like it. He’s just trying to “escape” to where he thinks won’t be as structured.  Try not to take it personally because, at 3, he can’t differentiate between love and like, structure and chaos.  Just keep telling him that you love him and like him. Try not to react if he says he doesn’t like you.”

    My Child Says Mean Things to Me,

    What Should I Do?


    4 Ways to Get Your Child to Stop Saying They Don’t Like You.


    1. Try not to take it personally.

    I’m typically not an overly-emotional person. Insert anything involving my children and cue the waterworks. I’m sure the mom’s feelings were hurt when her son said that he didn’t like her.  I won’t imagine pretending to be able to comprehend the depth of that hurt, so I personally don’t think it is fair to tell her to just get over it, particularly when she is one-month postpartum. However, I think it is important to understand that young children oftentimes say things they don’t understand. They may repeat what they’ve heard without understanding context.

    Realizing that your child may be mimicking and not expressing their true feelings, it is important to keep things in perspective and turn the incident into a teachable moment for your family.

    2. Identify when the behavior occurs.

    The Facebook user mentioned that she also has a newborn. If the three-year-old tends to say that he doesn’t like mom mostly when she is busy with the baby and mom stops taking care of the newborn to interact with the older child, he may have learned that hurting mom’s feelings will make her stop paying so much attention to the new baby.  Have you ever heard of negative reinforcement?  Negative reinforcement occurs when something is removed as a result of a person’s behavior. Said behavior increases in the future because it leads to a favorable outcome.  In this case, the following occurs:

    • The three-year-old doesn’t like that mom is busy with the baby; (what happens before)
    • He tells mom that he doesn’t like her and wants to live with dad (this is the behavior);
    • Mom gets upset, stops taking care of baby and lectures the older child.  In other words, haha!  Mommy isn’t paying attention to the new kid. (favorable outcome)
    • The child learns that I can make Mommy pay attention to me. (negative behavior is reinforced)
    • Three-year-old keeps saying that he doesn’t like mom so she can stop interacting with baby and engage with him. (future behavior increases)

    Taking a step back from the situation in order to assess what occurs before, during and after the child says he/she doesn’t like mom or dad allows for a clearer path to identify potential triggers.

    3. Don’t immediately react or engage.

    Hearing your child say they hate you or don’t like you has got to feel like nothing short of a swift kick in the gut. I don’t care how many children you have, how educated you are, what your professional title might be or how many parenting magazines you’ve read.  Nothing prepares a parent, especially one who envelops their child with love, to hear those words from their little one. The initial reaction is likely for one to be taken back. And, that’s okay. We parents are humans. We have feelings and the ones we love most, even our children may sometimes hurt our feelings.

    The key to turning this whole thing around is how we respond to their words and/or actions. If you need a moment to collect yourself, take one.  Do not immediately react to what they’ve said.  Your initial reaction may be to show that you’re upset or respond to the child. Chances are, they are either waiting for your reaction or they have no clue what they have said, and how hurtful it may be until they see your reaction.  Regardless of what their mouth says, they look up to you, like you and love you.  Accordingly, they will feed off of your response. It’s up to the parent to take control of the situation by calmly responding in order to correct the behavior; thereby minimizing and ultimately eradicating future behavior. For example, the parent might diffuse the situation by sitting with the child at his/her eye level and:

    • Calmly and firmly state the issue – What you said was not very nice and it hurt my feelings.
    • Explain how their words affect When someone says something that is not nice they can hurt another person’s feelings.
    • Ask why – Find out what their intentions were and learn if they know what they did was wrong.  Do you know what it means not to like someone?  If they do know what it means, ask if they meant to hurt your feelings. Did you say that you didn’t like me so that you could make me feel sad? Continue the conversation at an age-appropriate level allowing the child to speak freely.
    • Teach them how to remedy – Explain that if they hurt someone’s feelings and are truly sorry, they may be able to help the person feel better by letting them know that they didn’t mean to hurt them and apologizing for their behavior.  This important step teaches the child that they’re not doomed if they make a mistake. You hurt my feelings. If you’re really sorry, then you need to tell me that you’re sorry and that you will try not to do it again.
    • Accept their apology I accept your apology.  
    • Reiterate the issue and state future consequences – What you said hurt my feelings. Thank you for making me feel better by saying I’m sorry. Now that you know that saying that you don’t like me isn’t a nice thing to say, if you do it again then you will have to sit in time out to think about what you’ve said.

    4.  Model Unconditional Love

    Now that you’ve taught your child the consequences of undesirable behavior, he/she may now think you don’t like him/her since they did something you don’t like.  This is your opportunity to make sure that your son/daughter feels your unconditional love.  After the situation has blown over, you can turn what he/she has learned from you as a vehicle to strengthen your bond. Saying something like, “I not only love you with all of my heart, I like you with all of my heart too.”  Your sweet child will likely be beaming from ear to ear from knowing you’ve not only forgiven him/her but also be assured that you like him/her.

    When excitedly planning gender reveals and baby showers, parents don’t ever think their may be a time when their child may intentionally direct hurtful words their way. Your child saying that he/she doesn’t like you may be a power move on his/her part to teach you a lesson. Instead of playing into your own hurt feelings or the child’s potential attempt to get you to engage with them, there are positive ways to change their behavior.

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  • The Key to Making Good Parenting Decisions

    A few years into this parenting thing and most of have a moment, or a few, where we have a complete meltdown.   Like the ugly cry in the car type of meltdown. Hopefully, that car cry doesn’t take place in the carline while waiting for the kids to get out of school but it is bound to happen. As a parent, it is so hard to know if you’re making the “right” decisions for your children.

    The hope is that we will be perfect parents but the harsh reality is that there are no perfect parents.  I encourage you to stop torturing yourself by trying to be the parent you saw on television. Claire Huxtable and June Cleaver and were both great moms but I’m willing to bet that even their real-life parent life didn’t parallel that of their fictional characters.  

    Grab a cup of coffee or tea as we explore how we can make good parenting decisions.

    1. Every Child is Not the Same

    If you have more than one child then you may have already realized that siblings, heck even twins, can behave like polar opposites.  My daughters, two years apart, are similar in many ways but couldn’t be more different in other ways.

     

    If you think that you’ll be able to take a parenting guide, follow each outlined step in order and be able to parent each of your children in the same manner, please close the “manual” and walk away slowly because you’re in for a long ride.  What works for one child may not, and probably won’t, work for the other children in your family. As individuals, we each respond differently to stimuli. Accordingly, it’s important to keep that in mind as we attempt to make good parenting decisions.  

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  • The Reality of Parenting

    Everywhere you turn there are resources to help expecting parents plan for their soon-to-be bundle of joy.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love being a mom. Hands down, bringing two lives into this world have been my biggest accomplishments.  H O W E V E R, there are some things that I wasn’t prepared for that I wish I knew beforehand. 

     

    There will be no sugar coating here.  So, grab your favorite notepad because I’m sharing the raw and uncut version of what to really expect from parenthood. (more…)

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