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6 Parenting Behaviors That Hurt Kids: How to Recognize & Fix Them

THE REALITY CHECK: 

  • Referees giving parents lollipops at youth hockey games to stop them from yelling at their kids.
  • Teachers taking out insurance policies to defend themselves against parental lawsuits (“She gave my kid a B+ and ruined his Harvard chance!”)
  • Moms socially engineering kid “cliques to feature only the ‘best’ and leaving out other Moms.”

No kidding! These are the stories I’ve been collecting and have shared on the TODAY show. And these are real issues that are affecting our children’s character. Here’s what to do. ENOUGH!

Parents behaving badly is a timeless problem, but there’s a modern-day category of ill-behaving Moms and Dads who could easily earn membership in the Parents Wall of Shame. Their actions are insensitive, manipulative and callous, but also impact kids. Make no mistake, uncivil adult behaviors affect children’s moral development. After all, kids learn values like compassion, honesty, sportsmanship, civility, and respect from example. And oh how today’s kids desperately need good role models! But grownup insensitivity also affects other parents who should be around supportive, civil-minded adults! Here are six bad parenting behaviors that are affecting our kids’ character …and solutions.

#1. The Braggart

New Child and Parent Motto: “Share and take turns.”

Whether it’s bragging about our kid’s grades, talent, or athletic feats, parents love to boast! One survey found that the average mom posts a whooping 1,000 photos of their child online before he turns five. Of course we are proud of our kids, but always bragging, constantly comparing, or continually dismissing other children’s accomplishments also lower the other parent’s confidence. Parental boasting and bragging may be one reason today’s teen narcissism increased 58 percent in 30 years. Watch out! Kids copy what they see and hear and it’s not always pretty and polite.

Solution: Parental pride is natural, so when a parent who rarely boasts finally does, she deserves our sincere “Congrats.” If bragging is usually one-sided and rarely considers your child’s accolades, try: “Isn’t it wonderful how well our kids are doing? Mine just…” (and then describe your pride).

But what if the parent continues her exclusive “My kid is so special” routine and you want to maintain your relationship? Speak up and explain your side: “You always brag about your child and never ask about mine. I feel you don’t care about my family.” If that doesn’t work, find another friend! Pride about our kids should always be a two-way club.  

#2. The Bad Sport

New Child and Parent Motto: “Be a good sport or you can’t play.”

A Reuters News poll found that 60 percent of American adults who’d been to youth sporting events said they’d witnessed parents “become verbally or physically abusive towards the coaches or officials.” But there’s also parents screaming at their kids’ performance and booing the opposing team. No wonder nearly 75 percent of kids who play organized sports quit by age 13!

Yes, parents make huge investments in sports in hopes of scholarships and college entries, but bad behavior teaches poor sportsmanship and also undermine kids’ love for the game. Enough!

Solution: Unacceptable adult behavior can’t be ignored, but …

Confronting offensive parents can be a potential fireball. Better to move your seat, and approach cooled-down troublemakers later to share your concerns. Beware!

Many leagues and schools require parents to sign pre-season sportsmanship pledges and attend mandatory “ethics” courses or their kids can’t play. Spectators can then report inappropriate parental behavior to officials who can notify the offenders that uncivil behavior can mean banishment from games.

Meanwhile can we please be positive and remember to cheer the whole team, entire class, the other kid, not just our child? Please!

#3. The Gossip

New Child and Parent Motto: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it!”

Think Queen Bees were confined to the middle school hive? Many adults never outgrew their mean childhood antics and now gossip about other parents. Those sordid details also show up on social media with no way for parents to defend themselves. While gossiping can be a way to connect with others and find reassurance about your parenting, cattiness is toxic. It’s easy to get caught in the gossip mill and spread hurtful rumors. Beware: kids pick up our behavior and mimic us. It’s a big reason the Mean Girl Tween Scene is flourishing.

Solution: Make a vow not to gossip. If you do hear cattiness, speak up: ‘It isn’t fair to talk about her when she isn’t here to defend herself.” And never give out information that a catty parent can use against you or others or assume that she won’t spread untruths about you. Meanwhile, find like-minded parents and join forces. Together, you can change norms.

#4. The Excluder

New Child and Parent Motto: “How would you feel if that happened to you?”

Deliberately leaving others out is called social exclusion, and is a form of bullying that causes deep distress. It peaks in middle school, but the tactic is all-too common with moms these days (“She’s cool and can join us.” “Don’t let Shelley come!”) But the excluded aren’t only women, but also their kids. One report described one mom who saved eight bus seats for 11-year girls. (She literally jumped on the bus and roped off the seats!) When a new girl asked if she could join “those girls,” the child was told “Sorry, but those seats are reserved.” Adults who socially engineering the “in” and “out” cliques for  kids, are being plain cruel.

Solution:

Just plain refuse to join grownup Queen Bees. The best way to cultivate empathy is for parents to demand that kids treat others with dignity, and then show that you are inclusive.

To other Moms: “Let’s invite her! She just moved here.” Do the same with your child: “Invite all the boys: you don’t leave one out.” “Ask Abby to come!” How would you feel as a new kid?”

You might not be BFFs with every mom, but you will set a great example for your child. And that’s what matters!

#5. The Non-Disciplinarian

New Child and Parent Motto: “Be nice, or you can’t play.”

“I don’t discipline because I don’t want to damage my child’s self-esteem,” I hear from countless parents. While wanting to be a “Pal Not a Parent” is a hot trend, correcting misbehavior is part of raising good people. So how do you discipline when a misbehaving child is in your care?

Solution: While you don’t want to counter a parent’s child-rearing philosophy, if behavior is dangerous, harmful to others (like hitting, biting, bullying) or counters your values, you can’t ignore it.

You can review your rules: “In our house we don’t swear,” and separate kids from each other, but spanking, grounding, or yelling the “other child” are off-limits.

If the parent is present, disciplining their child is also a no-no. If misbehavior continues, call the parent: “I’m sure you would want to know so this is what our kids were up to.” Her child will give his interpretation, so better it come from you. Just don’t expect the parent to take your side. Do beware parental litigations are rising. Manhattan play groups ask parents to sign four-page waivers so they won’t be sued when supervising the other parents’ kids! It’s a very different world to raise kids!

#6. The Bully

New Child and Parent Motto: “Expect respect!”

Bullying is hurtful whatever the age, and it is always intentional-delivered cruelty. Nightmare stories continually surface about parents verbally abusing other moms and dads-both online and off. Bullying is learned and can be unlearned. The sooner we show kids how to stand up for themselves, the less likely they’ll be targeted.

Solution: Use my CALM Strategy for handling a bully of any age.

C – Stay calm. (Bullies love reactions).

A – Assert yourself with a strong (never insulting) comeback back: “Cut it out.” Or: “Stop it!”

L – Look bully in the eye.

M – Mean it! Deliver the line with a firm, confident, serious voice.

Practicing CALM with your child will help reduce peer cruelty.

Raising good people starts with adults modeling good character, and many grown-ups are in need of serious behavior makeovers.

Meanwhile, let’s take our own Reality Check and ask ourselves: “If my kid watched only my behavior, what would he have caught today?” That answer will say volumes about your child’s character development.

What are your worst nightmare stories that involve parents? How did you handle them?

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UnSelfie 140x210Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—along with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, it hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy. The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured.  UnSelfie is a blueprint for parents and educators who want activate our children’s hearts and shift their focus from I, me, and mine… to we, us, and ours.  It’s time to include “empathy” in our parenting and teaching!  UnSelfie is AVAILABLE NOW at amazon.com.

Want to Deprogram A Materialistic Kid? Here are 8 Proven Ways

Am I Spoiling ThemOkay. You admit you have a materialistic little critter on your hands. Take comfort. There are proven ways to deprogram a materialistic kid. It will take time and commitment, but the benefits are profound for your child and your family. Kids who are less materialistic are more “we” oriented, than “me.” They are more concerned about others, and less worried about how they look and what they own. Their self-esteem is more authentic. But perhaps most important, research clearly shows that these children are more empathetic, caring, collaborate, compassionate and morally courageous.

Here are a few of the best parenting solutions from my latest book, UnSelfie to help you succeed:

1. Watch those TV commercials!

Research shows that the fewer commercials kids see, the less materialistic they become. When kids’ TV viewing was cut by one-third; they were 70 percent less likely than their peers to ask parents for a toy the next week.

Solution: Hit the mute button on your television remote and talk whenever those commercials are on. Turn your child toward more commercial-free television shows or even TVO his “have-to-see” favorite so he can cut out the commercials all together.

2. Spend more time than money on your kids

Materialistic kids go on far more shopping outings with their parents. So be honest: How many outings stress non-material values?

Make a conscious effort to spend time together doing things that don’t cost a dime: Go to the park and the museum, talk, take bike rides, build forts, bake cookies, watch the clouds, and play Monopoly. Show your kid the “other” side of life.

3. Rotate “stuff”

Instead of letting your child view his stockpile of matchbox cars, action figures, CDs or whatever, store some away in a closet for a week or month.

Your new rule is when stowed, items are returned, while new ones are stored in their place.

The simple solution of rotating stuff makes bedroom cleanups easier, and helps kids learn they don’t need so much to have a good time. Best yet, the returned items are more appreciated and treated like new.

My girlfriend was master at this. She figured out quite early that her kids didn’t need all those toys and so she would simply “store” items her kids didn’t play with as often in a closet. Then a month later she’d rotate the toys – taking out the stored items and putting away toys that weren’t so popular for a later day. Most amazing – her kids were elated to find the “new” toys!

Try it!

4. Curb those $$$$$ rewards

I’ll do it if you’ll buy me those jeans.”    “How much will you give me?”  “But I wanted the X-Box!”

If you’ve heard those words from your kid chances are he’s been reward with monetary prizes and material possessions for behaving, working or just plain breathing. And materialistic kids keep upping the ante, they want more. From this moment on your new response is to just expect your child to do the job or behave without compensation.

Instead put away your wallet, and give praise, hugs and pats on the back whenever they are earned.

5. Stop hoarding

Materialistic kids tend to be pack rats and the more stuff the better. So take a Reality Check. Might your child be the next poster kid for the reality show, “Hoarders?” If so, it’s time for serious action.

To break your child’s hoarding habit provide three boxes labeled with one of these words: “Trash” (for ripped, torn, or broken items; “Memories,” (items with special meaning); and “Charity” (gently used toys, accessories or clothing that other kids may appreciate). Then encourage him to go through his drawers, closets, and shelves.

Explain that he should keep what he really needs, uses and wears, and put the rest into the specified box. Make sure that he helps you take the “Charity” box to an organization such as Goodwill or Red Cross to help him realize that not everyone is so fortunate.

6. Teach “Needs” vs. “Wants” 

Materialistic kids often want things “N.O.W.” and don’t stop to consider if the item is even necessary.

Solution: Whenever your kid pleads for some nonessential thing he just “must have” ask: “Is it something you really need or just want?”  Consistency is crucial…don’t back down!

Then outlaw nonessential, “have to have it” NOW spending.

7. Teach the habit of “giving” not “getting”

“Hands on” giving helps counter materialism more powerfully than almost anything else. So take your kids with you to bring dinner to a sick neighbor or to volunteer in a soup kitchen together.

Require your kids give part of a weekly allowance to needy kids. To stretch empathy, have your child shut his eyes and visualize the recipients’ reactions to the child’s gift.

Choose a cause as a family: adopting an orphan through Save the Children; befriending the lonely neighbor. Let your kid feel the power of giving.

8. Model restraint

Research shows that parents who are materialistic raise the most materialistic kids. You’re the best role model for helping your child cope with our complicated material world, so what kind of example are you setting for your kid?

Or just use the simplest parenting solution: the next time your kid says “I want….” say, “Honey, I want to boost your self-esteem and decrease your chance for depression, so NO!”

On this note, research is clear: money does not buy happiness. In fact, the wealthier are exactly less happier. Don’t think you’re doing your child any favor by buying to think it will create a more content critter. Instead, help your child learn constraint and to monitor “impulsiveness” by not spending ASAP. And focus your efforts on boosting your child’s “inside” qualities. Who she is on the inside, matters far more for self-esteem and happiness than the brand she wears.

For more solutions, signs of materialism, the latest research on how to curb it, or dozens more practical and proven parenting tips on 101 hot-button topics see The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries

Meanwhile, what are you doing to help raise a less materialistic kid in a materialistic world? If you have  ideas you’d like to pass on, please post your best tip! I’d love to hear from you.

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UnSelfie 140x210Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—along with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, it hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy. The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured.  UnSelfie is a blueprint for parents and educators who want activate our children’s hearts and shift their focus from I, me, and mine… to we, us, and ours.  It’s time to include “empathy” in our parenting and teaching!  UnSelfie is AVAILABLE NOW at amazon.com.

Are Thumb-sucking and Pacifiers Bad For My Child’s Teeth?

Japanese baby girl sucking on a pacifier (0 year old)Thumb-sucking and pacifiers have both been a natural source of comfort for children for decades. It’s an instinctual habit; sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects often help babies relax, boosting their moods and leading to soothing sleeping patterns.

However, as comforting as thumb-sucking may be, these habits can be detrimental to your child’s oral health. The intensity of the sucking, or how aggressive your child is sucking on an object, is the determining factor between a harmless practice and a damaging dental issue. For children who passively rest their thumbs in their mouths, dental damage is rare. On the other hand, for kids who vigorously suck on their thumbs several hours a day, there’s a high risk of developmental problems in baby teeth, proper growth of the mouth, alignment of the teeth and changes in the roof of the mouth.

Pacifiers can affect your child’s teeth in the same ways, but it is usually an easier habit to break compared to thumb-sucking. Children should stop sucking on objects and fingers around the age of two, or by the time the permanent front teeth begin to erupt through the gums.

If your child is a vigorous thumb-sucker, try the following:

  • Reward or praise your child when they are not sucking.
  • Thumb-sucking is often a subconscious solution to feelings of insecurity or boredom. Focus on solving the source of the thumb-sucking, rather than breaking the habit itself.
  • For an older child, involve him or her in the decision to stop sucking. Explain why it is harmful to their teeth, as well as their overall health, due to the intake of unnecessary germs.
  • Bandage the fingers or thumb.
  • Coat the fingers or thumb in a safe, bitter-tasting coating.
  • Ask your dentist about a mouth appliance.

If you have any other questions regarding thumb-sucking or pacifier use, please do not hesitate to contact your dentist, or leave us a comment below!

Your Child is Hitting!! …3 Steps You Can Take to Stop This

Boys are brother punch and fightingOur children hit to express themselves and get their needs met. If they had another way to manage their feelings and relationships, they would do so. Most children and adults do the best they can, in the moment, with the skills they have. The reasons for hitting vary for each child, you may wish to consider whether the child is experiencing anger, upset, frustration, boredom, disappointment, loneliness or other related emotions.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  Here is a video along with three steps you can take to help modify this destructive behavior:

      1. Manage the moment. In the moment of the intensity we focus not on speaking but on calming. The emotional brain responds to limbic strategies not lots of words and instruction.  

        First ~ You are your children’s best teacher. How you manage their hitting impacts their developing skills. So quietly step close to them and express confusion over what is happening. “Boys, I am confused about the fighting.” This engages the “Thinker” the frontal lobes in their brains. Then provide a solution. “It’s a good time for us to go play outside.”  When you use Bloom, eventually, you will have an entire list of strategies, words and actions to use Cope - bloom graphicwhen the moment is intense, for now, the very first time, it is helpful to change their setting. Next time, you will better manage their space as they play.

        Second ~ Then, when the children are calm and safe, we circle back to prepare and prevent future mishaps by developing strategies including “Calming Cues” and “Anger Toolkits” so that the children are empowered to choose another behavior next time.

      2. Create a culture of kindness.When the children are calm, circle back to teach them that we live in a family where we respect one another with our words and our bodies. We are kind to one another. The first three chapters of The Family Coach Method can REALLY help you here.

 

    1. Focus on feeding the children whole real organic food.There is ample research that what we eat impacts how we feel and behave. If we are not feeding our bodies quality proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates, the body and brain cannot do their best. We love 100dayofrealfood, you might as well.

Few children hit when they are happy. Hitting is a way of saying, “This really is not working for me right now.” “My feelings are TOO BIG.” “I do not have the skills to work this out in a more cooperative way.” A child who is hitting is asking you to help them!

The magic is in using the mantras to help you calm the children now and then Managing The Moment to help everyone find a new way to manage their feelings when an impulse to be aggressive appears again.

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bloom cover - 140x208Written for real parents with anxious, angry and over-the-top kids, Bloom is a brain-based approach to parenting all children. Taking its lead from neuroscience and best practices in early childhood mental health, it offers parents, teachers and care providers the words, thoughts and actions to raise calm, confident children, while reducing the need for consequences and punishment. The first book of its kind, it provides pages full of printable mantras you can carry with you, hang on your fridge or use in your classroom to raise emotionally competent kids. Stop second-guessing the way you handle misbehaviors, and learn why they occur in the first place. Bloom is available at amazon.com

Why Does Your Child Bite …And What Can You Do?

Zwei Mädchen streiten auf dem SpielplatzWhile it’s shocking and probably embarrassing when your child bites, it’s not unusual behavior for young kids. When children are overcome with feelings such as anger, fear, frustration or disappointment, for example, because another child has possession of a toy they want, they don’t have the language to express it.

IN A NUTSHELL: 5 of the 10 reasons in Bloom – WHY KIDS BITE.

  1. They do not have the language, words or ability to express what they need to say.
  2. They are frustrated, upset or irritated, and biting seems to be the quickest way for them to communicate this.
  3. The child is overwhelmed by sensory input when several other children are present.
  4. Even though the child “knows” biting hurts on a cognitive level, he may not have developed the emotional maturity to control this urge when frustrated.
  5. At a young age, biting is normal and needs to be redirected.

YOU HELP THE CHILD by stating how he might feel and providing him with the solutions (new words, thoughts and behaviors) the child cannot find on his own. It’s important to help the child figure out, what thought, feeling or perception caused their escalation because awareness provides the opportunity to make a different choice next time.

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bloom cover - 140x208Written for real parents with anxious, angry and over-the-top kids, Bloom is a brain-based approach to parenting all children. Taking its lead from neuroscience and best practices in early childhood mental health, it offers parents, teachers and care providers the words, thoughts and actions to raise calm, confident children, while reducing the need for consequences and punishment. The first book of its kind, it provides pages full of printable mantras you can carry with you, hang on your fridge or use in your classroom to raise emotionally competent kids. Stop second-guessing the way you handle misbehaviors, and learn why they occur in the first place. Bloom is available at amazon.com

A Simple Mommy Secret: 4 Steps to Stop Your Little Biter

Toddlers fight then biteDo you have a biter on your hands? Biting is among the most bothersome and embarrassing kid behaviors. I remember the horror the first time I saw one child in our playgroup bite – I quickly learned that biting is usually temporary, and much more common than I had thought. The other moms and I read up on biting behavior, and shared what we’d learned with one another. We learned that infants and toddlers often bite to relieve teething or gum soreness, or think it’s just a game. Preschoolers typically bite because they haven’t yet developed the coping skills to deal with stress appropriately or the verbal skills to express their needs. Whatever the reason, we knew that this behavior is clearly upsetting to all involved. And has been known to continue as kids get older if not dealt with. Our job was to nip this behavior before it becomes a habit.

Here are a few steps you can take to help you handle this annoying (but common) behavior:

Step 1. Confront the Biter A.S.A.P.
Step in the very minute your child bites and call it what it is: “That’s biting!” Then in a very stern voice say: “You may not bite people!” Firmly express your disapproval, and quickly remove your child from the situation. Remember Mom: No matter what you hear from other parents, do not bite your kid back! It is not helpful, and in fact, you’re only sending him the messages that kids can’t bite, but adults can.

If your kid has developed a history of biting, you’ll need to take emergency action. Arrange a private meeting amongst your child and other caregivers (such as his teacher, coach, daycare worker, babysitter) with whom he’s displaying the behavior. Create a consequence everyone understands: this could be the loss of a privilege, time out, or going home. You’ll want to all be on the same page and consistently enforced whatever consequence you all agreed upon. All the moms in our playground, for instance, decided to get on the same page together. Because we all responded the same way (yes, there was one mom who was a bit too laid-back, but we knew we couldn’t change her behavior), we were more successful in stopping our four-year-old Vampire Wannabees.

Step 2. Comfort the Victim and Boost Empathy
Kids always need to know that biting hurts! So in the presence of your kid focus your concern on the victim. “I’m so sorry! That must hurt. What can I do to help?” Doing so shows your child not only that his action caused pain but also how to convey sympathy. If possible, find a way to help your child to make amends. He might offer the victim a Kleenex or band-aid, draw a picture to apologize, say he’s sorry, or give the other child a toy. Do also apologize to the child’s parents on the spot or with a phone call. (Word to the wise: I learned the hard way that it is far better that I make the call then having the parent hear the story from someone else).

Step 3. Teach a New Behavior to Replace the Biting
If your toddler is teething, she’s probably biting because of sore gums. In that case, offer something appropriate to bite on: such as a frozen juice bar, a hard plastic teething ring, or toy to relieve the discomfort.

Kids often bite because they haven’t developed the verbal skills to communicate their needs or frustrations. Identify what skill your child lacks, and then teach a more appropriate way to respond that will replace the urge to bite. Practice the new skill together, until he can successfully use it on his own. One youngster bit because he didn’t know how to say he wanted a turn. Once his dad recognized the problem, he taught his son to say: “It’s your turn, then it’s my turn.” The biting quickly stopped. If your child has trouble verbalizing feelings or needs, teach him to say: “I’m getting mad.” Or: “I want to play.” Remember to let him know how proud you are when he uses good control.

Step 4. Anticipate Biting Behavior as the Best Prevention
If your child has developed a pattern of biting, then supervise those play times closely. You can then immediately step in and stop your biter before it happens. Put your hand gently over his mouth firmly saying: “You may not bite. Use your words to tell what you need.” Then show how: “I want a turn.” Sometimes you can distract your child from the situation: “Would you like to play with the clay or blocks?” You may have step in a few times before the biting is stopped, so watch closely then intervene pronto.

The most important part of this Mommy Secret to learn is that kids usually bite because they lack the ability to handle their frustrations. It’s up to us to help find better ways to get their point across.

Photo credit: Sabine 75CC license

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Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com

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