Children Learn What They Live #3

~ by Dorothy Law Nolte ~


Our children learn how to deal with their fears by observing how we deal with ours. They are the best "copycats," so let's give them a constructive example of acknowledging our concerns and findings creative solutions.

Kids don't always tell us when they're having problems. We need to take the time to ask our children how they're getting along with the other kids at school and in the neighborhood.

Fear undermines the supportive environment a child needs in order to grow, explore, and learn, leaving him with a general feeling of apprehension. We need to do what we can to bolster our children's confidence.

Find ways to help our child build confidence and certainty, and then watch her flower!

Our kids get more than enough exposure to frightening things from watching TV or movies. Monitor their viewing to minimize the development of unnecessary fears.

Vague, generalized fears are the hardest to deal with. Help your child explore how he might react in certain specific situations by having him imagine what he could do.

When fear is in the air, hug your child and let him know you are there for him. Warmth and closeness are part of feeling safe.

A fearful child needs patience and love, not a reprimand. This is true for both boys and girls.

Stay close to a fearful child, and evaluate the situation. How realistic is this fear? What approach will be the best one to guide and help her through it? Doing so not only gets her through this situation, it shows her how to calmly face other situations in the future.

One of the biggest fears children have is about losing a parent. In times of serious illness or marital separation, children need plenty of extra reassurance. Stay close and be ready to offer comfort.

Fear produces hesitancy and uncertainty - not a good recipe for being confident. Teach your children how to overcome their natural fears, and turn potentially bad experiences into good ones.

A steady diet of fearfulness leads to a hesitancy to try new things. Give your child the support she needs to be open to learning something new.

When a child is fearful, see if you can help him explore creative ways to deal with the situation. A flashlight in his bed if he's afraid of the dark or a favorite toy in his pocket when he goes off to preschool can help a lot.

Finding out whether your child's fear is realistic or imagined is one way of becoming closer to her. You may be surprised at what you learn when you ask her open-ended questions ("What is it about ___ that scare you?")

Fear does have a purpose - to protect. Help your child learn how to examine and understand her fears - and find a way to use them constructively.

Realistic fear is not to be avoided. Rather, it's an opportunity to gather resources and mobilize courage.

We want our children to be careful, not fearful. Don't use scary movies to warn them of possible dangers. Instead, give them clear instructions about how they can handle threatening situations.

In a new situation, a warm hug can pave the way for a more relaxed approach. Sometimes just knowing we understand how hard it is for them can help our children overcome hurdles.

Let your child know it's okay to feel afraid and that you're there to help him work through his fears. Your confidence that his fears can be overcome helps him find the strength he needs to do so.

When a child conquers fear, he deserves to be congratulated. Don't minimize his accomplishment, or take it for granted.

Children Learn What They Live #2

~ by Dorothy Law Nolte ~


It's important to show our children that anger is not an enemy to resist, but an energy to take charge of creatively.

Build your kids us - every chance you get - rather than putting them down. They'll fell better about themselves, and so will you.

Hostility pits children on the defensive. Instead of yelling at them, help them to relax and take a second look at what happened.

If we see our child being too rough with siblings or other kids, we need to make a special effort to understand the situation. Try asking what's going on instead of only prohibiting the unacceptable behavior.

Don't let anger build. Take care of small aggravations before they grow into something big.

If you notice your child having an automatic response of anger, talk it over and ask him if he can find three other ways to feel about the person or situation at hand.

Anger is only one response on our emotional menu. A steady diet of getting angry limits us, creating high levels of tension and blocking communications within the family.

Learning to recognize when we are becoming upset is very important. Anger and hostility build from small irritations and frustrations that are pushed aside or ignored.

Take the time to visualize how you want to see your children relating to one another. Then help them do so by paying attention to what is going on and guiding them through the inevitable ups and downs of each day.

Anger is not a problem solver. It's a problem generator.

We need to accept the fact that our children have the right to feel all their feelings, including anger. It's our job as parents to help them learn how to handle these feelings.

Rather than giving in to our anger, we can listen to our children and try to understand their points of view. It's important to remember we're on the same side - their side!

As we learn how to direct our own emotional responses, it becomes easier to remain in charge of hostile feelings. This is the model we want to present to our children.

In a tense situation, asking ourselves, "How else could I handle this?" before responding or reacting helps to open up a wider range of options.

Our children are likely to face some hostility or aggression in their schools or neighborhoods. We want them to learn how to handle such situations without escalating them.

There will be times when our children will get really angry with us. We need to listen to them carefully and, if needed, apologize for any mistakes we've made.

Remember that our children are watching the way we handle disagreements and disappointments in our relationships. We want to give them an example of effective communication and resolution of our differences.

Frustration builds more easily when parents and children are tired and hungry. Plan meals and nap times carefully, and try to maintain them as best you can.

Our children can teach us a lot about how to forgive and let go of anger and hurt. Often they get over arguments more quickly than we do.

When hostility takes over, our reactions can easily escalate beyond what we originally intended. Sometimes parents need a "time-out" too - a few minutes to calm down and pull themselves together.

Children Learn What They Live #1

~ by Dorothy Law Nolte ~


For the most part, our children want to please us. We can make it easier for them to do so by saying clearly what we expect from them at the outset. This may take more time, but it will help us avoid criticizing them later.

Our children are continually learning from us, whether or not we realize we are teaching them. Let's make sure the lessons they are getting from us are positive ones.

Often when we criticize our children, our purpose is to encourage them to do better. Unfortunately, they may find it difficult to understand that it's their behavior that is unacceptable, not themselves.

If we are thoughtful about how we say things, there is always a way to tell our children that we don't like what they're doing without diminishing their sense of self.

When your child, full of fear and discouragement, confides in you, "I really goofed," be sure to respond with understanding and encouragement. ("Let's see what we can do to make things right.")

Giving your child an active voice in everyday decisions helps her build a positive self-image as a competent person. This can start with small things, such as allowing your preschooler to choose her own outfits, no matter how mismatched they may be.

Nagging is a form of criticism. It's a way of saying that we don't trust our children to be responsible. It is better to set an encouraging tone.

Just as our children are continually learning from us, we can continually learn from them. Let's allow them to teach us new ways of seeing the world. This does not necessarily come naturally. We need to make a conscious effort to let go of our own ideas and to make room for theirs.

Sharing control over small issues builds trust for future negotiations over bigger issue as our children become teenagers. Hopefully, if there is mutual trust, they will be more willing to talk with us and work together to resolve problems.

Criticism is a form of rejection. Acknowledge what has been done right, and make constructive suggestions about the rest.

Try letting your children know what you want them to do or how they can make amends - and leave out the criticism.

We can let our children know what we want them to do without criticizing them. "Can you think of a nicer way to say that?" is better than "Don't be rude!" and gives the child a chance to succeed rather than fail.

The younger the child, the more we need to stand by to see how she's doing and spot the potential problems. Help your child get off to a good start by giving her support and positive suggestions as she ventures into the world. A couple of extra minutes spend reading or playing with her before you leave her at the day-care center can mean a lot to her.

Being criticized doesn't feel good. Let's help our kids feel good about themselves even when they've done something wrong, by expressing our confidence that they can do better.

Few of us learn from criticism. Find constructive ways to help your children learn from their mistakes. Offering a paper towel to a child who has spilled something teaches him important practical skills while preserving his dignity.

Rather than being critical, be generous and positive with your suggestions. ("Let's try this..." "You might want to..." "Have you thought of...?" "Why not wait awhile and then try starting over?")

Most children will take criticism to heart unless we make it clear to them that they are okay, but what they're doing is not. Giving them suggestions for more acceptable behavior can help keep this message clear.

Before rushing in with criticism, try to see the whole picture from your child's point of view. She may have an entirely different way of looking at it. Give her the chance to explain it to you.

When things go wrong, our first, automatic reaction may be to criticize, but we have the power to pause and decide how we can respond more constructively.

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