Thank You, Taylor Swift, for the Parenting Advice

I’m a big Taylor fan and not just for her toons. Mostly because “Shake It Off” has become the most awesomest parenting tool.

Her popular song has helped me reinforce some key messages with my kids. Stuff parents have said throughout the ages – but somehow now, with the Taylor seal of approval, now the kids are listening.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” still rings true but telling a kid to “shake it off” when other kids say mean stuff seems to resonate more.

And yes, accidents happen, but if you can “shake it off”, child, then we can all learn and move on.

And so on.

I put Taylor’s words of wisdom to work recently with my daughter. We were selecting boxes of Valentine’s cards for her classmates. Now my kid’s a tomboy (and I love it) and in the past, she’s rushed to pick out Transformers or Star Wars-themed cards. But this year, she hesitated and instead, picked out a Hello Kitty box. Because, she claimed that her classmates don’t think it’s cool that she “likes boy stuff.”

Well, this made me mad. And so it begins, the peer pressure that makes kids feel they have to fit in rather than stand out. I get it, I really do. At their age, non-conformance is abhorrent. But I want my kids to be true to themselves and their passions. To stand up for their beliefs, have conviction. Even if that belief is that Transformers are cool. (They are.)

But how to instill in them that it’s OK to follow their hearts and be different? The kid and I had a serious chat. With tears welling in her eyes, she explained that she was embarrassed when the other girls told her it wasn’t cool to like boy’s stuff.

I looked her in the eye and asked, what would Taylor Swift do?

Shake it off, she responded, knowingly, her head held a little higher.

Thank you, Taylor.

 

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A New Way for Parents to Problem-Solve: Are You a Rock, a Cotton Ball or a Rubber Band?

Guest post by Rebecca Bell

I recently attended a fascinating parenting seminar entitled, “You’re not the boss of me! Help your child be a flexible thinker (by being a flexible thinking parent).” The presenter was Donna Shea, who runs the Peter Pan Center in Ayer, which provides social, emotional and behavior coaching for children. She acknowledged that the following collaborative problem-solving framework came from Ross Greene’s book, “The Explosive Child” (a misleading title, in Donna’s opinion, because it implies you need a “problem kid” to benefit from these strategies, which is not the case.)

  • Plan A – adult (meltdown causing) – Rock
  • Plan B – Both (problem solving) – Rubber Band
  • Plan C – child (meltdown prevention) – Cotton ball

Plan A is to be used sparingly, mostly in matters pertaining to safety. Some things are non-negotiable. On these matters you are an unyielding rock. You do not debate these things with small children.

“No, you may not ride your bike without a helmet.”

“You must hold my hand in the parking lot.”

When you really need to use plan A, be firm but not angry – try not to yell. We lose ~30 IQ points when we’re angry, so the goal is to avoid full on screaming meltdown mode. You do not have to attend every argument you are invited to. Pick your battles, but then don’t negotiate. If your kid continues to pester, you can reply, “You already asked and I already answered.” Use Plan A in moderation, but be firm when you do.

One of the big revelations I had during the evening was when the presenter said, “Remember, if your child is complaining but still complying, you won – tune it out.” I know I have a tendency to keep cajoling when my kids are whining while completing a task, because I would rather have them perform it willingly and happily. But sometimes I simply need to settle for begrudging compliance and stop talking!

Plan C involves saying “Yes” to your child whenever you can, when the answer is of little consequence and you can truly not be resentful of the outcome. This may take work on your part!

“Yes, you may wear the tutu and the green striped leggings to the grocery store.”

“Yes, you can spend your allowance on another stuffed animal.”

Saying “Yes’ to kids is fun – do it whenever you can, instead of your default response being, “No.” It can be easy for me to get in a rut of assuming that everything my kids want is unreasonable, when in fact that is not the case.

Plan B involves 3 key steps:

1) Verbally express empathy for your child’s perspective. Repeat/reflect their words back to them.

2) State the position from your perspective. It’s important that this comes second, after you’ve expressed empathy. If you do step 2 first, you’re on Plan A. I know my natural inclination is to assert my parental authority first, and I need to work on being empathetic to my child’s perspective before stating my own piece.

3) Invite your child to a problem-solving party. This can take place immediately if you have time, or at a later time when the problem is not currently happening and everyone is calmer.

Don’t waste time in a prolonged yelling match when you could be using that time to teach negotiation, flexibility and compromise. Recognize that skill teaching is hard work, messy and time-consuming. But once it becomes second nature, it will get quicker and easier. Be a problem-solving detective and look for solutions that make everyone reasonably happy.

Finally, don’t compare your strategies to other parents. The real question is not, “Is this right or wrong?” but, “Is this working for us?” If it’s not, then it might be time to change something.

Useful links:

http://peterpancenter.com/

http://www.amazon.com/The-Explosive-Child-Understanding-Chronically/dp/0061906190#

 

Rebecca is a world traveler, a singer, a Scrabble addict, and a mom to two children. She’s a Brit who now lives outside Boston, MA.

Rebecca Bell

Four Great Parenting Tips That Work For Me

Advice about parenting is everywhere. From the grandmotherly types who tell you your baby is not dressed warmly enough while you are waiting in line at the grocery store, to whichever Tiger or French Mom book is the parenting manual du jour. Or maybe you actively seek out advice via blogs, magazines or from other Mom at groups, schools or the playground. I know my circle of Mom friends have been utterly indispensable, helping me navigate through and survive the poop, teething, tears, bed-wetting, picky eating and tantrums over the years. Sharing our stories, offering a shoulder to cry on and a good belly laugh, ideally over alcoholic beverages, have helped a load too.

Sometimes, just when you think you’ve really nailed this Mom thing, along comes the front cover of TIME magazine asking are you “Mom enough?” Thanks so much TIME for making us even more insecure than we already were. (And by the way, if ever doubt your “Mom-enough-ness,” I recommend you read this great post by blogger Sharon DeVellis over at YummyMummyClub.)

For me, there have been parenting tips that have worked and some that have bombed. There are those that sound great in principle but just don’t fit my kids, our lifestyle or my threshold for yelling. I also find that the hardest part is remembering to actually use these tips, especially in the midst of a meltdown in Target or Friendly’s.

The following are four parenting tips that have worked for me — when I’ve remembered to use them. Some came from friends, some from my own Mom, some from parenting articles and blogs. They may or may not work for you. That’s your call. To each their own.

  • “When … then …”: Example: “when you finish [insert chore/request/food item] then you can [insert reward/positive outcome]. It’s essentially a form of tit for tat. You do for me, I’ll do for you. Works like a treat with my daughter. Especially if I offer to do a silly dance as the reward.
  • Pick your battles: An oldie but a goodie. Knowing when it’s worth digging in with your kid to make a point, or just letting it go for the sake of peace. Case in point when my three-year old once threw a wobbly over the T-shirt I had selected for her one day. I decided to stand my ground. That T-shirt or no T-shirt. She opted for the latter and so I sent her to preschool topless. Was I mean? Maybe. Did she learn who the boss was? Damn right. Does she still challenge me? Every day! Ah well.
  • Get on down: I can often be found yelling down the stairs, issuing commands from another room, negotiating peace treaties. But nothing works better I’ve found than getting down to your kid’s level, making eye contact, talking with and listening to them. It must be so much nicer for them than being shrieked at from a distance. It also helps you appreciate the view from their perspective, quite literally.
  • Collaborative consequences: This is a new one for me, but my seven-year old has bought into it (so far). When a recent infringement was discovered, I asked him what he thought the proper consequence should be. He proposed a thoughtful and reasonable “punishment” which resonated with him. I tweaked it a little and we were good to go.

What parenting tips have saved your sanity and kept everyone happy, nurtured and safe? You’re more than welcome to borrow mine, if you think they could help you and your family. Just keep paying it forward so that the Mom species survives.

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