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How the Heck Did I End Up Here?

Have you ever had one of those moments as a parent? You know, the head in your hands, come to Jesus moments when you feel so dang helpless? I am a good person, I am smart, I am a good parent, so why is this happening?

I clearly remember some of my moments. The moment I KNEW my daughter had a seizure disorder. The moment I had to leave for work as she lay on the floor, struggling against the vertigo that had stolen her balance. The moment my first grade son asked me if he was dumb. The list goes on and on. The moment your daughter bites her daycare friend for the TENTH time and breaks skin, AGAIN….. Smaller moments when they are little, bigger moments as they grow older and the cost of a mistake is so much higher. The list goes on and on, doesn’t it?

How do I know this? Because my list of moments is very, very long. And, to tell you the truth, I thought I was going to ROCK this parenting gig! I love kids! I am great with kids! I can get kids I work with to do amazing things! I am a school psychologist. Need I say more? When I actually became a parent, I quickly realized my foolishness and folly.

In a recent moment, I found myself asking the question, how the heck did I end up HERE? The professional who works with children for a living, who has all the information in the world about how to do this thing. This is what I found. I share it with you because I am quite certain if I feel this way, some of you do too.

It is a lonely feeling, isn’t it? When something goes “wrong.” Your child is so anxious they can’t sleep at night. Your child is getting in trouble everyday at school and nothing you do seems to impact it. Your teenager comes home drunk as a skunk. Your child suffers from panic and does not want to leave the house. Whatever the moment is. There isn’t a lot of talk about those moments. Those are private, shameful moments. Those are the moments that don’t make your Instagram Story.

My hope is to be a place where educators and parents can come for the REAL DEAL. Where do you go when you are scared and feel like you might be messing it up? There aren’t many places to go when you have those moments. When you think, how the heck did I end up here?

So let me just answer the question as I see it….how did you end up here? In that moment where the little voice inside of you is shamefully pondering, am I a bad parent? You ended up here because there is not a recipe for parenting. You could have all of the knowledge, skill, and love in the world and still have hard stuff happen. You ended up here because you are a human being doing the courageous job of raising another human being! This stuff is going to be messy. You are here because it is in these moments that you realize that your child is parenting you as much as you are parenting them. What you will learn about yourself and how you will grow from the hard stuff, will blow your mind. You won’t stay there, but when you find yourself in a moment, recognize it for what it is, embrace it and let it be.

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Be a Container, not a Director

Containers hold things. Containers have boundaries. Containers are strong, predictable, and comforting.

From a mom who spent lots of years trying to fix and direct, this shift has been most transformational.

– TRICIA THOMPSON

How do parents help their children develop that strong sense of self?

One way is to shift from being a director or fixer to being a container.

Containers hold things. As a parent you can be a safe place for your child to share and explore their feelings. Listen, reflect and repeat what you hear back to them. Instead of jumping in with solutions or your point of view. Just be a container.

Containers have boundaries. They hold things and they keep things safely inside firm boundaries. So instead of lectures, solutions, deal making, arguing, nagging learn how to set a boundary. “If you are going to scream, you’ll have to do that in your room.” “If you don’t get a 3.0 on your report card, I’ll be unable to pay your car insurance.” Set the boundary and stick to it.

Containers are strong, predictable, and comforting. Kids learn to be okay with their feelings. They learn that uncomfortable feelings are part of life and they can tolerate them. They learn that you trust them to handle uncomfortable things. Kids build belief in themselves and an inner strength that has nothing to do with pleasing others. It has to do with being themselves.

From a mom who spent lots of years trying to fix and direct, this shift has been transformational.

Why Can’t You Just Sit Still?

To fidget or not to fidget? That is the question I’ve been getting a lot! You watch your child on their zoom. They’ve turned their video off and they’re pacing the room. They are doodling while the teacher talks. They are hopping around on zoom looking at their classmates faces. This doesn’t look right. Right?

First, take a deep breathe and pause. What may appear to be off task behavior to you, may just be your child self regulating.

Research tells us that physical activity, even those as tiny as foot tapping or eating a crunchy snack, increases the release of dopamine and norepinephrine. Two neurotransmitters that control focus and attention!

For kids with ADHD, doing two things at once can help their brain focus. Deliberate fidgeting can actually help focus.

So, what is deliberate fidgeting? First, it must be a mindless activity, one that is automatic and does not require deliberate thought. Second, the child should be using a sense OTHER than the one required by the task. Walking while talking, for example.

Here are some ideas.

  1. Pacing or walking the room while listening to zoom.
  2. Doodling letters or numbers on paper while listening.
  3. Using multicolored or scented markers while reading to underline or highlight.
  4. Moving your hands with a bracelet. Paper clip of other object.
  5. Squeezing a nerf ball while answering questions.
  6. Chewing gum during a quiz.
  7. Eating a crunchy snack during silent reading.

These are great examples of how fidgeting May be a very adaptive way to increase focus and attention. The more familiar, repetitive or long the task, the more your child may benefit from this.

So when your radar goes up that something doesn’t look right, maybe they’re self selecting a fidget. You can reinforce this by noticing, “cool you found a way to stay focused, zoom calls are tough right?” If they have not found an adaptive fidget, you could try introducing one from above.🙌🏻

First Seek To Understand

First seek to understand. One of the biggest mistakes we make when addressing problem behavior in kids is charging ahead before we even understand the behavior. First, before we lecture, consequence, setup a plan, or reward, we must seek to understand the behavior.

Why? Because behavior is far more than just a simple stimulus and response. When our child is demonstrating a PATTERN of behavior that is problematic, in conflict with our values or disruptive to the setting we are in. There is more to it.

When we UNDERSTAND their behavior, a couple of things happen:

1. Understanding creates empathy. We may not AGREE with or LIKE the behavior, but we get it. We understand why, in the child’s position, that behavior makes perfect sense.

2. Understanding enhances our relationship with them! One of the most damaging forces in behavior management is that it damages our relationship with the child. We get into an “us vs them” mentality. For the child, this is rejection, abadonment, loneliness. Behavior typically does not improve under these conditions. Rather, it picks up speed and rolls like a snowball downhill.

3. Understanding communicates to the child that they are OK, nothing is wrong with them. When we first understand the behavior and have empathy for the child, we demonstrate to them that they are not wrong, bad, naughty or broken in some way. They are just human, like the rest of us. 

Behavior problems typically come from a child being “in over their head” in some way. They are being asked to perform skills they have not yet acquired. They are communicating feelings, hurts or traumas. They are expressing their self-doubt and fear. They have a need that is not being met. When we can tinker around, investigate, ask questions and listen to the answers we have a chance to understand the behavior and then intervene in a meaningful way. 

Real change happens when we get to the root of this unmet need and dig it out. I have several tools that I have used over the years to understand problem behavior in children. They have been invaluable to me in creating lasting change for children, their teachers and their families.

So when you are tempted to charge ahead with your parenting tools or behavior management tools, press pause and make sure you have taken the time to understand. If you need help in this process, that is what I am here for!

The Day the Lights Went Out

Photo by Inzmam Khan on Pexels.com

I don’t remember THE DAY the lights went out. I only know that one day I looked up and they were gone. In his eyes, instead of curiosity I saw fear and self doubt. Instead of wonder I saw dread. My son was smart, creative, a natural learner. Walking through the woods behind our house, he could name every plant. He built robots out of trash in the garage and made himself costumes out of cardboard boxes. And yet, this talented and creative kid believed he was dumb, a disappointment, not good enough.

This, sadly, is the experience for many kids with ADHD. The lights go out as their world turns from the joy and wonder of exploring, noticing and creating to being a student. A job description that isn’t a great fit for most kids with ADHD. The statistics don’t lie. There is a reason our kids with ADHD don’t fare as well. Higher dropout rates. Higher rates of self harm. Higher rates of depression. Higher rates of substance abuse. There is something built into the fabric of being a student that teaches our kids with ADHD that something is WRONG. They talk too much. They move too much. They interrupt too much. They ask too much, they require TOO MUCH! And as all kids do, they look to themselves. Something is wrong here. I am the cause of this.

When I watch my son move about in the world. As he climbs mountains, as he powers up the hill on a mountain bike. As he builds ladders out of limbs in the forest for his tree house, I marvel at his strength and his power. I often think, if he were a young man in the 1800s, on a farm, valued for strength and the ability to do hard, physical work. He would be a super star. But move him to a classroom and all of the things that would be so valuable in another time and place just aren’t. What it must be like to have this standard that you are always struggling to meet. To always feel a day late and a dollar short. I guess this experience year after year is what causes so many of the teens I consult with to seem so lifeless, so resigned, so detached.

The boy in the high school class with his hood up, his ear buds in, not even present. The girl who is so angry, every word and action appears to be motivated by the need to punish and separate herself from anyone in authority. The young man who is on a safety plan, who wants to die. When I go back in their files, I see this same story over and over again. They had ADHD. They were once imaginative, curious little kids. But over time, the lights went out. They were the dreamers, the creators, the players. They were smart too, but perhaps inefficient or unable to demonstrate their smarts in a traditional way. This has an impact.

For my son, in Kindergarten, there were still legos and class pets. Meal worms and cockroaches to tend to. Imagination and wonder were still prized qualities. In first grade, things began to change and the lights started to dim. My son came home from school and asked me, “Mom how do all the kids know what to do?” When I asked what he meant he said, “Well, the teacher talks to us and passes out work to do and everyone gets started. How do they know what to do?” He brought his homework to me with zero idea how to proceed. He was not growing in his reading skills. Then, the questions began to get more concerning. “Mom am I not smart?” The problem is, there is no Mom answer that makes the sting of this thought go away. This is when we swoop in with reassurance and lists of all the millions of ways they ARE smart. But, they know better…..They know the truth….smart kids don’t struggle in school.

So what are we to do? As parents as teachers. What are we to do to STOP this from happening to our kids with ADHD? Because I have found that once this seed has been planted, it takes root and it grows. Once the lights go out, it is extremely challenging to bring them back. I have also found that loving parents and amazing teachers aren’t enough to combat this systemic difficulty. My son has had amazing and caring teachers who DO value him, who DO value all kids. And yet, the difficulty persists.

I don’t know the exact day the lights went out nor do I have all of the answers. But I know this is a conversation worth having. In my career and in my own home, I have seen too many eyes of amazing children darkened with self doubt and fear. I DO believe we have the power to change this. I DO believe we can do better for our students with ADHD.

Touchstones- What I Know For Sure

The past few weeks have been tough. Bedtime anxiety, tears over missing friends, refusing school work, an emotional and frustrated mom trying to work and teach. Can anybody relate? There have been beautiful moments too. Family basketball. Daily lunch together, all five of us sitting at a table laughing. But sometimes I veer off course and the negative emotions get the best of me.

Being a school psychologist, I have worked with hundreds of students and found some tried and true touchstones. These touchstones are the things I know for sure about working with kids. But why can it seem so much harder to remember this about my OWN kids? The touchstones don’t make me the perfect parent, or prevent me from losing my temper or being unfair. But when I lose my way, they work, and they bring me back. I hope they work for you.

1. Start with your child’s strengths.

What is their gift?

What is their superpower?

What do they live to do?

Sports, art, words, nature, dance, music? Sometimes this “super power” can even be the very thing that drives everyone nuts! Their energy. Their sensitivity.

So if they won’t do a worksheet, maybe they are talented at creating videos. Maybe they will create an art piece on the topic. Maybe they won’t do fractions, but they will cook.

When we work in weaknesses, the best we can hope for is average. When we work in strengths, THAT is where people soar! So much of ADHD intervention is aimed at shoring up weaknesses. Fixing, solving problems, troubleshooting. While we want to improve challenging areas, this model causes our children to view themselves as broken. A shift to strengths is so powerful for that reason.

2. Make it fun! For goodness sake make it fun!!!!

If everyone leaves your school table in tears, do something else and make it fun! During this time of stress and newness, being home all of the time, completing every assignment as assigned is NOT a hill I would die on.

The dysregulated brain does not learn. Does not hear you. Does not problem solve, respond to consequences or lectures. So stop!!! How can you tell if a child’s brain is dysregulated? Fight, flight or freeze. Tears, yelling, storming off, crumpled papers, refusal. These are the symptoms. If you witness this, stop.

Take a break.

Do something fun.

Ditch the reading and dig for worms.

Read aloud from Harry Potter while in costume.

Stand on your head and make them laugh.

3. Meet them where they are!

If your child won’t read the book assigned, will they look at a comic? Will they listen to a book on tape? Will they listen to you read aloud? Find their entry point for literacy. The thing they WILL do. The thing they CAN they do. Start there. Happily. Easily.

Once they are routinely engaging in that activity, you can add a little challenge. Turn up the heat a little. But first you have to get your foot in the door. We do this by accepting where they ARE and meeting them there. Kids with ADHD are constantly having to form to the mold of everyone else. It is a gift to for once, to take a walk on THEIR path, listen to THEIR drum. I have found that the more willing I am to meet a child on their path, the more willing they are to visit mine.

4. Create rituals and routines…

Family lunch. Reading time. First math workbook, then basketball. Lights out at eight.

Routines and rituals are MUSTS for all kids, especially those with ADHD. Routines lower the cognitive load. They make actions habitual, so things that once took effort and decision making are now automatic. For brains that struggle with efficiency and processing, the more routines we have, the more brain power is left for the important stuff. So find your routines and stick to them!

5. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break!

If you start one routine and it’s an epic fail, ok!! You can adjust.

If you mess up. Lose your mind. Lose your temper. Ok!

This is where our kids get self esteem. THIS is where they learn to be human! By watching us they learn to own themselves, warts and all. They see that humans are imperfect. We are good AND bad. Smart AND dumb. Right AND wrong. Give your kids the blessing of witnessing this!

You are providing your child with a front row seat to some of the most powerful learning of their lives right now.

What is to be human.

To make a mess and clean it up.
To be overwhelmed and persevere.
To be blessed and troubled.

All at the same time.

Setting Boundaries

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Do you want the truth? I am good at a lot of things. I am empathetic with my kids. I am understanding. I am flexible. Nobody works harder than I do to make sure my kids have the proper conditions to thrive and flourish. What I am NOT so good at? Setting boundaries.

Cognitively, I understand the value of setting boundaries. I understand that kids with ADHD need and require structure. I know that this eases anxiety, creates clear expectations and, in the end, requires LESS work on the parent’s part. I am a school psychologist. This is what I DO FOR A LIVING for goodness sake! But, somehow, as a mom, I am kind of a softy. This translates into failing to USE or IMPLEMENT all of the great skills that I have. So I write this as a reminder to myself, as much as a tutorial to all of you!

Here are five signs that you, too, may need some work on setting boundaries.

  1. You often feel taken advantage of. For example, your kids leave their stuff all around the house, assuming you will pick it up. You feel angry, but pickup the stuff anyway because if you don’t do it, who will?
  2. You repeat yourself over and over.
  3. You frequently feel resentful. You have the “must be nice” outlook. Oh, it “must be nice” to get to work all day uninterrupted. It “must be nice” to have someone picking up after you.
  4. You don’t follow through. You set a limit only to find that it was broken and you did not do what you said you would. Or you make threats that you have no intention of following through with. “If you don’t start doing your work, I’ll have to take back some of your Christmas presents.”
  5. You rescue others from the consequence of their actions. For example, your son waits until the last minute to do his book report. At bedtime he remembers and you stay up all night with him, helping him to finish in time.

Some of these sound hauntingly familiar, don’t they? Chances are, what you THINK is setting boundaries, may in fact, be something else entirely.

Setting boundaries IS NOT….Lecturing, Bribing, Encouraging, Punishing, Nagging, or Micro-Managing! So if these are not boundary setting super powers, let’s talk about what a healthy boundary DOES look like!

One of my favorite resources on setting boundaries is Dr. Brad Reedy of Evoke Therapy. He makes the distinction that setting boundaries is not about getting the other person to do what you want. Boundaries are not used to bribe or intimidate others into change.

A boundary is simply your communication about what is and is not okay with you. It is just how YOU FEEL. When you set a boundary it is not debatable, it is how you feel! You may be wrong. They might be right. If this occurs, you will simply take responsibility and adjust your boundary.

You don’t have to be right.

You don’t have to justify or explain.

The other person doesn’t even have to understand OR agree!

Dr. Brad Reedy uses some great language around setting boundaries. Here are some examples.

“I may be wrong, that’s just how I feel….”

“I may be old fashioned, but that’s just what I’m comfortable with…’

“I might be wrong but….”

“I may be crazy, that’s just how I roll…..”

You may also choose to use If/Then language. “If you miss your curfew, you will no longer have access to the car.” or “If you are finished with your work, then you can play your video games.”

Setting boundaries may seem like a lot of hard work! But, I have found that the hard work up front paves the road for less work in the future. People don’t argue with gravity. There is NO POINT!! Once a pattern of predictable, healthy boundaries is established, it creates a more calm and peaceful environment.

So the next time my son leaves his room a mess and I’m in there picking up clothes, muttering to myself….”I don’t know how many times I have to say, pick up your room before you leave…..” THAT, my friends, is on me. If I require that a room be clean before leaving for the day, I better be clear about what that boundary is. The work is not in fixing my son’s behavior but in presenting and following through with the boundaries I set in my home.

After all, “I might be uptight, that’s just how I roll…..”

Little Miss Fix It- Put Your Tools Away!

What have you learned the most from in your life?  Your failures or your successes? Your struggles or your achievements?  If you are like me, I have learned far more from my failures and struggles than my successes and triumphs. Guess what? The same goes for our kids.  

As parents, one of the most difficult things to grapple with is our instinct to protect.  When we see our child in pain, we want to fix it NOW! It is uncomfortable in a visceral way.  We want to call the teacher, problem solve, get tutors and make the problem go away. But, are we robbing our kids of vital learning when we do this?

The kind of learning we receive from tackling pain and failure is transformational and it is the magic of life. This kind of magic appears when we fail, make mistakes or find ourselves in a circumstance that is painful and out of our control.  When our back is against the wall and we are left with the choice to rise up or to sink. These are the moments that leave us changed. So why do so many of us rob our children of this type of magic by going into fix it mode?

When my daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy,  I was so used to being in control. If any of my children were in pain, I could make it better.  I could kiss it away, explain it away, comfort it away. I could fix it. But, there are things in life that are hard and cannot be loved away or fixed.

After a long, difficult struggle with myself,  I realized I could not love away epilepsy. It was bigger than me.  I was forced to accept it and soldier forward, or to fall. The lesson for both my daughter and myself was simple, there are some things in life that we do not get to control.  I learned the lesson at thirty eight, my daughter learned it at eight. She was diagnosed with epilepsy in August and whooping cough in November. She rarely complained. She never said “Why me?” She somehow knew that life circumstances do not determine our destiny or our happiness. That happiness comes from someplace deeper, somewhere within. 

This is the thing with struggle and failure.  This type of learning, the type that is deep, that is transformational and creates inner strength, is typically not learned in the celebrations, achievements and accolades.  It is not learned in the celebratory high five after a touchdown. It is not learned during the final bow of the curtain call. It is learned in the trenches of some of the terrible things that befall us and some of the massive mistakes we make.  It is learned in the moment your teacher humiliates you for forgetting your work, in the moment you lose your temper and yell at someone you love. It is learned in the moment you don’t make the team, the suspension you receive or the instagram post your child makes without thinking. It is learned in the hard stuff.

So let us allow our children to find the lessons in these moments.  Let’s hate the pain and unfairness AND welcome the opportunity for growth and learning.  
Every one of us will have a time in our life where we will be called to wrestle the hard stuff.  So let’s prepare our kids for THAT!

When we allow our kids their struggles.  When we resist the urge to go into clean up and fix it mode, some beautiful things happen. 

1)  Kids learn that you believe in their ability to fail and bounce back.  If you are rescuing, fixing and intervening before your child has the chance to fail or struggle, it communicates your belief that they are not strong enough to manage and persevere through hardship.  It communicates that you believe they are fragile and must be saved.

2)  Kids learn they are capable of managing painful, uncomfortable emotions like fear, doubt, sadness, anger, frustration, and loneliness. They learn that these feelings are a normal part of life and that feelings come and go.  They don’t need to fix them or be afraid of them. 

3)  It takes away the pressure.  Failure is the goal because our mistakes pave the way to our successes! Too often, we focus on the goal and the outcome.  But success comes on the heels of the many times we do it wrong!  

This is simply a shift in mindset.  It does not mean a laissez-faire approach to parenting where we stand back and say “whatever happens, happens.”  NO!! There must be nurturing and connection. There must be boundaries, teaching and expectations. AND our children must be allowed to face struggles, make mistakes and feel the consequences with you right there, ready to support and guide them when they fall. 

It’s going to be HARD,

but you can handle it,

you are stronger than you think!

Defying Gravity-How to Set Limits Like a Pro

Did you know there are some limit setting imposters? Parenting behaviors that look like limit setting, but are not. Things like lecturing, warning, deal making, encouraging, reminding. Any of these make an appearance at your house? I found that most of the time when I thought I was setting a limit, I was actually not. For the love, how many times do I need to remind someone that they have ONE HOUR a day on the XBOX!!!! I needed help so I decided to do some research on how to set limits in a way that wouldn’t leave me exhausted, angry and resentful.

Here are some clues that you may need some work on your limit setting.

  1. You leave the conversation feeling frustrated, manipulated or ignored.
  2. You repeat yourself over, and over AND OVER!!!!! but nothing ever changes.
  3. You obsess about their bad behavior.

If this is how you feel after setting a limit, then you probably did not SET a limit.

I found an analogy that has taken my limit setting skills to the NEXT LEVEL!! Here it is: the rules in your house should be like GRAVITY. Gravity is steady, impersonal, unwavering, it JUST IS. There is nothing to explain, argue, or justify. When your children get out of bed and their feet are planted firmly on the ground, they don’t look at you incredulously and say, “MOM!!” If they trip and fall, they don’t get mad at gravity. Gravity JUST IS.

The household rules and limits can be like the Law of Gravity. Here’s what we can learn from gravity:

Gravity is predictable. Do you warn your kids about gravity? Do you repeat yourself for fear they might forget? “Kids, remember, if you trip, gravity will cause you to fall.” Our limits need to be the law, like gravity. Predictable limits don’t require reminders, they JUST ARE. The phone goes in the charging station before bed. This is the limit. If the phone is not in the charging station at bedtime, the law goes into effect and the phone is gone for the next day. Talking about losing the phone does not bring about the same results as actually losing the phone!

Gravity is not a reaction. It does not change because you have ADHD. It doesn’t feel sorry for you because you’re tired. Gravity happens for everyone, all of the time. Limits are not a reaction, they are the rules you set forth for your household ahead of time. What are your limits on the phone, bedtime, clothing choices, video games? These things should be setup and consistently enforced with a simple If/Then. IF you keep your phone in your room at night, THEN I will collect your phone from you. IF you leave your room messy, THEN your xbox will be turned off until your room is clean. IF you fight over the tv with your sister, THEN the tv is turned off. Reactive limit setting sounds more like, “I’m tired of arguing with you, I’ll take your phone now.” “Your room is a pigsty, no XBOX the rest of the week!”

YOU DO NOT FIGHT GRAVITY. When children trip and fall, they expect it. Proper limit setting leads to kids taking responsibility for their own mistakes. When a limit is enforced like gravity, kids resist it less. It’s just part of the fabric of their life. It’s not something to be fought, it JUST IS.

Gravity is consistent. Gravity doesn’t happen 1 out of 4 times. It is there all the time, steady and predictable. So should our limits be. When the girls argue over the tv and I feel the urge to provide a warning, I STOP. Recognize this for what it is. Ineffective. Lazy. I pull myself up by the bootstraps and follow through. I Imagine that I AM GRAVITY. The same way, EVERY SINGLE TIME. Otherwise you are creating an intermittent reinforcement schedule, like a slot machine, your warning is their payout. Even if you don’t payout again for the next 5, 6, 7 times, the behavior will persist because of that ONE TIME you let it go. So follow up, like clockwork, every single time.

So when your kids question your limits, expect a short period of unrest and uprising. They will complain, they will ask you why, they will argue. For awhile. My favorite response, “I might be crazy, that’s just what works for me.” or “I choose to have phones away after 7 PM because I choose to have phones away after 7 PM.” (This one really boggles their mind). You don’t have to prove it. You don’t have to explain it. The kids don’t have to agree with it. Like gravity, IT JUST IS.

Are Parents Creating “PRAISE JUNKIES”?

Are you creating a praise junkie? I think I might be….

“According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart.”

Studies out of Columbia University suggest that the TYPE of praise parents provide may be the key. Students who were praised for their performance were less likely to challenge themselves on more difficult puzzles than students who were praised for their efforts.

Example of praise for performance. “You rocked that. You must be really smart.”

Example of praise for effort. “You really tried a lot of different options before you got it right. You stuck to it l!”

Another finding, one incidence of failure caused performance based students to perform 30% WORSE on their next task. One experience of failure destroyed their confidence.

Students who were praised on effort INCREASED their scores by 20% after a failure. They trusted in their ability to overcome, failure caused them to work harder.

We see our children as absolutely amazing and talented beings, as we should. It is easy to praise them for their talents and performance. And, let’s be honest, when our kids kick a goal or get an honor or award, it makes us feel good!

But these are some of dangers of too much performance based praise:

  • Kids may be less likely to take risks and try more difficult challenges.
  • Kids may begin to develop a self based on pleasing and gaining approval from others, hello peer pressure?
  • Failures impact their future performance. They do not cope with failure well.
  • Frequently praised children become
    more competitive and more likely to tear others down.

We praise to connect with our children and communicate our unconditional love and admiration for who they are. I do it all of
the time! And yet, there may be ways to build grit and allow our kids figure out for themselves, just how great they are. Some will even figure this out doing some stuff that IS NOT very praise worthy. Right?

The highest form of praise might be just stepping back and trusting kids to figure it out in the safety of the boundaries and love we provide.❤️

The book, Nurture Shock contains fascinating research on how many of our modern, accepted modes of parenting are backfiring and actually don’t work. Check it out.👍🏻

How to Support Children with School Anxiety

Sunday is a day of dread for many parents and kids this time of year. Coming off the weekend, headed into another school week, anxieties amplify. Kids cry, can’t fall asleep, develop nausea and make threats like they’re never going back to school. Parents feel sick, angry and nervous themselves.

In my opinion, there is nothing more futile than trying to make an anxious or scared person NOT be anxious or scared.

But there are some things that seem to help.

  • Technology tends to disrupt the ability to fall asleep. For teens, it can become an addictive way to escape and medicate anxiety. So have a tech off time about an hour before bed. Also figure out your family technology policy.
  • Have consistent bedtime routines and times.
  • Listen. Use reflective listening and allow your child to talk about what they are feeling. DON’T try to correct, fix or talk them out of their feelings. Just ask open ended questions and repeat what you hear. Feelings tend to pass more quickly when they are expressed.
  • Show healthy detachment. Your child’s feelings are not your feelings. Anxiety, fear is just a feeling. By itself, the feeling is not dangerous. It can’t hurt them. Be empathetic but avoid falling apart yourself!
  • If they are school avoidant, don’t let them stay home! The work to get them back to school will often be much more difficult than just keeping them in. Let them know your boundary “School is not optional. I’m only comfortable with you staying home if you have a fever or you’re vomiting.”
  • You can also let them know they can be scared AND go to school. You can have a negative feeling but still behave in the expected manner.

Like everything I share, these are things that I find helpful. They may not fit every child or every family. So just take what fits for you, leave the rest.

I want to encourage all parents to know that you should do what feels comfortable for you in your home with your kids. So if you read lists like this and start to feel guilty, DON’T! If you allow a free reign in technology because that’s what you have to do to get through the week,

You ARE NOT alone! If you don’t have a good bedtime routine, guess what, so do lots of other people. If you let your anxious child stay home, guess what, so have I! Even knowing it’s not “best practice” some days circumstances require something different.

So if you’re struggling and don’t know where to start, try these! If you know these things and you need to do better, ok, great!

If your child’s anxiety seems dangerous, causes symptoms of panic, is constant instead of situational, seeking professional help is a great next step.