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Tom Stevens recently made a guest appearance on the Great Day Houston show. He was interviewed by local celebrity TV host Deborah Duncan, and asked about the pressures facing todays youth when they participate in sports and competition. Tom also gives advice to parents so they can keep life healthy while their children play sports.
What to do when your child says “NO”
by Tom Stevens, LPC-S, RPT-S
Every parent has been there…those times when you just want your child to do what they’ve been told, without talking back. The hardest times are when it happens in public, or when it’s the end of the day and you are on your last nerve. Whether it’s bedtime, mealtime, leaving a birthday party, not wanting to leave a play date, not wanting to leave the store without a toy, or any other example, if you’ve ever experienced any of these you know how exhausting it can be. I feel like children can seek out and attack any hidden weakness in their parents, and they can even store up a huge amount of memory to remember those weaknesses for later in life. The old saying “children should be seen and not heard” has gone out the window, and we are in an era where children feel more confident about speaking out and resisting than ever before.
The truth of the matter is that children are constantly seeking boundaries, and will often push up against those boundaries until the adult (parent, teacher, caregiver, etc) follows through and holds them accountable for their choices. So many parents don’t like to “have to” set boundaries, or develop consistent routines because it requires effort and follow through. Let’s face it, how many of us WANT TO go on a diet and stay on one? It is a challenge to live responsibly and in a healthy way, and it is a challenge for many children to live responsibly because they are constantly seeing new and exciting things in the world. What is most important to remember is that children NEED consistent routines and boundaries, and it NEEDS to be up to the parent or caregiver to put those boundaries into action. If it is bedtime, mealtime, getting a piece of cake for breakfast, or letting kids have a toy at the store, parents need to be intentional with what they are teaching their children about responsibility, self care and healthy living.
Believe it or not, there are several ways to handle times of stress and strain in dealing with your resistant child, and I will give you a few quick tips to getting you back on track right now.
(1)Try to make bedtime, mealtime, and other daily routines as consistent as possible – Knowing that every day can’t be the same, try to have a steady routine of eating, sleeping, etc so your children can have something to count on.
(2)Know how you are going to handle discipline situation “before it happens” – Try not to wait and decide what you are going to do, have consequences and alternative plans ready to put into play (even if it means leaving the party or restaurant, or going to bed hungry)
(3)Model the same behavior you want your children to show – When it comes to self care, your children are watching how you eat, sleep, live, pray, and treat others. Many times they only show us the behaviors that we are showing them.
Tom Stevens, LPC-S, RPT-S
Listen to the show: Surviving Summer: What Parents Can Do To Make Summer Great
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Listen to the show: Top 5 Fears of a Parent: And What You Can Do About Them
Every parent has them, and they are all real, but the question is…”what can you do about them?” Of course I am talking about FEARS that parents have regarding raising their children. Parenting is hard enough as it is, but once a child is born into this world, there is at least one and probably two parents that become scared out of their mind. Scared about whether this child will “make it” in this world, will they fit in, be cool enough or have what it takes, and parents have to sit back and watch a lot of it unfold…helplessly. Will your child still love you when they become a teenager, will you be able to provide the kind of life for them that you feel like they deserve, will you still have a life as an adult, will you know how to handle it when your child is hurt, depressed, and lost without a friend? All of these questions, and many more, float through the heads of parents nightly and many times will consume the parent. The biggest thing to remember is that worrying about it all gets you nowhere as a parent. I know that doesn’t offer much comfort, but there are some things that you CAN do to get though the tough and stressful times. You can:
*Remind yourself that there’s only so much that you can do
*Write down what you DO have control over and concentrate on that
*Have regular conversations with your spouse or a loved one to voice the fears and “let them go”
*Give yourself a timeframe to worry (“I will worry for 3 hours and then let it go”)
*Pray…it never hurts to let God have some of the fears and worries
*Seek professional help (sometimes an expert can tell you what you can do to make the fear go away
Once again, having fears as a parent is normal, but letting them take you over is not. Try to remember what you have control over and work to do your best as a parent. Follow the advice you would give your child….”to do your best, and forget the rest”
Tom Stevens, LPC-S, RPT-S
Listen to the show: Grief and Loss: Healing In a Whole New Way
Grief and Illness is hard for anyone to cope with, and even more difficult for children. Children under 10 years of age process information differently than adults, which means we need to talk with them on their emotional level. Children do not only grieve when someone or something dies, they can grieve over an illness or even a perceived loss (something they see on TV or pain they feel for someone else). Since children are feeling based, rather than adults who are thought based, they tend to act and react depending on how they feel in the moment. When it comes to grief in loved ones, whether it is death or a prolonged illness, remember the 5 main stages of grief that they can and will go through (Kubler-Ross &Kessler):
Denial – “This isn’t really happening”
Anger – “I’m so angry this had to happen to me”
Bargaining – “God, I won’t don’t…or…if you just heal them or bring them back”
Depression – “This really is happening and I don’t think I can deal with it”
Acceptance – “I realize this has happened, I don’t like it, but life goes on and I will survive”
These stages are processed across various lengths of time and in a different order at times. Children even go back and forth between stages often, depending on how intense the grief is for them. Here are some quick tips to help you talk with, and help your child deal with the grief they may be facing:
*Talk less and listen more (what’s important is how they feel about the event, not their knowledge of it)
*Explain things with examples they can relate to (like characters they know, and things they play with)
*Follow up with them regularly (don’t just make it a “one time event”)
*Keep them in the present tense (children tend to take things to the extreme)
*Always be open for questions (they may come back later and ask them)
The key to remember is children need to be heard and understood, not just given a logical explanation for what is happening and why. Give them time to talk, and take the time to notice their feelings. Grief and illness (especially long term illness) is a process, and there is no guaranteed path for how any of us deal with it. Younger children can benefit from “playing out” their feelings with dolls, puppets, or stuffed animals. You can help them by being the voice for their feelings and play. DON’T ask questions, just talk about the play you are observing and the feelings you see them having. Don’t hesitate to consult a professional, watch for signs of regression, notice mood swings, and be proactive at dealing with the issue before it becomes a chronic concern.