Can I Ask You A Question? 

We were super excited to be taking our kids to a special event for Halloween.  My wife and I were talking about it all week, and all week we were prepping our son about how to behave. I took the lead of course, being the “Positive Parenting Coach”.   I knew exactly what I was going to tell him, and how I was going to prepare him way ahead, and how I wanted him to behave, because I, I, I.  Well,  here it is, Friday, the day of The Rise of The Pumpkins! We put George and the baby in the car, headed over to Westbury,  and we’re all set.  I figured I would give George some reminders about all “we” talked about throughout the week. So I started, “George, we have to stay close because there will be a lot of people here, and you can’t  yell, or run here… Oh, and you can’t” “Mom, Dad, can I ask you a question?! “interrupts George.” “Of course”, I replied. “Can we breathe here? Are we allowed to breathe? ” My wife and I stopped cold, and looked at one another like, did our kid just say that? We looked at him and burst out laughing. I picked George up and hugged him, flying him around, and ending with a tickle. “Too many rules?”, as I looked at him and his little old soul looked back being his big brown eyes.  George eloquently replied, “ah… yeah!” Finally, we ended up telling him that we felt worried because we didnt want him to get lost, and wanted to make sure he knew what to do. We ended asking him if he had ideas of how he could keep from getting lost in the dark, to which he answered as if it was quite obvious to everyone but us, the dum dum parents, “I know, I know, stay close to the carotsi (stroller) “. And that is exactly what he did. A couple of times, George walked ahead, but always in sight, and always looking back.  I realized that by interrupting our DO AND DO NOT LIST, George was letting us know that he needed some ownership in the plan. By backing off the commands, it gave him the opportunity to own his own behavior. We have a very limited ability to control our kids (or anyone for that matter) , and an incredible power to influence them. George reminded us that he was the one responsible for his own behavior.  My wife and I also learned to be mindful of all the telling we do. 

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The Grump I Love

When I was a child, my parents would drive us to our cousin’s house in Jersey. It was my favorite place to go.  The anticipation would start building in me the very second that my dad would let us know that we were going, and by the time the day of the road trip would arrive,  my brother and I would be chomping at the bit to just get there. Those trips are some of my fondest and happiest memories as a child, and now as an adult and parent. Well, my older son is just as excited when we tell him that we’re going to Jersey to see our cousins as well. It’s no surprise, that after spending a couple of memory making beautiful days together, that George was really upset about leaving, and if my Georgee is being himself, he’s going to let you know it! Sure, he cried a little bit when we were leaving, but then things quieted down soon enough when we began driving back, and he fell asleep pretty quickly once we got on the road. When we got home, George woke up asking if we were still at the cousin’s house.  When he realized we were home, he was happy to see Yiayia (his grandmother). He enthusiastically began to tell her all about the weekend, which he vividly described. All was going well right? “We’re in the clear” , or so I thought. But George was really angry at me. He didn’t even want to speak to me, and the stiff-arm I was getting from him could rival Lebron James.  He was in a rotten mood, and unwilling to communicate anything besides “no, I don’t want to!” I tried talking, and not talking, hugging (hugging was out of the question). I asked for help with a project which he seemed interested in, until he began to “smash, smash, smash”. I went outside, and he followed close behind. It was funny really, because here he was, where nothing could please him, clearly discouraged, with no acceptable way to convey his dismay in sight. I told him that I noticed that he was angry, and sad, and asked if that had anything to do with coming home.  His answer was, “I don’t want to talk to you anymore because you’re a bad daddy, and I don’t like you”. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, so what are you following me around for? It was like a moth attracted to a flame. I’ve noticed that when George is scared, sad, embarrassed, or hurt, he just gets mad. He reminds me of a grumpy old man. You try to speak with him and you get, Mr. Morris, an old man who lived next door to us when I was a little boy living in Bayside.  Mr. Morris would grump, and huff all sorts of mean things to us just for saying hi. The interesting thing was that as much as Mr. Morris seemed to hate everything and everyone, he always spent his time outside in front of his house, just waiting to growl at someone, anyone. It’s funny how much we seek connection when we appear most unwilling to relate. I figured, that sooner or later, George would open up and the best thing I could do, was be around and say as little as possible to give my boy the space he needed to communicate when he was ready to do so. It took some time though. George didn’t budge the whole day. Finally, that night, while he was laying in bed telling me how much he didn’t want to talk to me, and to get out, that he said, “you know why I’m upset?…because you woke us up and we left New Jersey, and I wanted to say goodbye, that’s why!!” I asked him if I could tell him the reason for leaving so early, and if he remembered that he said goodbye the night before? He sat up and said, “tell me”. (just for the sake of putting a little perspective to this, George is four). I asked if George remembered that the last time that we drove home from Jersey, we sat in a ton of traffic, taking us a really long time to get home. He remembered asking when we were going to be home over and over. “You have a great memory George. You can easily remember so many things. Well, did you want to do that again?” “No way dude “, said George. I went on to explain that my reason for leaving so early was so that we could get home, and have a whole day to hang out together, without having to sit in a bunch of traffic again. I told him that i could imagine how disappointed it was for him to leave when he was having such a great time, and that’s exactly how I felt when I was his age. He layed back down.  I mentioned that it is actually great that he felt this way, because that is how we feel when we have to leave people we love, and that we could plan for the next trip out to see our Jerseyan cousins. As we sat there planning, George fell asleep. As I walked out of his room having kissed his head, I heard “dad”, “yes? “, I responded.” I love you, dad”. “I love you Georgee… good night.” 

My Cup Runeth Over

Here we were, on the floor,  playing with cars once again. I know the important thing here was connecting with my boy, and yet rolling the cards back and forth on the carpet screaming “beeeeeeeep!”, had somehow lost its luster after the hundredth time.  I told George in that moment, that I loved spending special time with him everyday, and that I was feeling a little tired of playing car chase because we played that everyday, and I wished that we could do other things too. There was instant silence.  After a minute or so (a really long minute, looking down at the cars, sustaining the game) to my surprise, George said,  “me too!”.  I asked him if he had ever thought of any ideas about other ways to spend time together, and if he wanted me to write out a few of those ideas on paper to choose from for our next special time. He came up with:make a tent, play hot-potato (a personalized version of the game, that in no, even remote way, resembles the game with which you may be familiar), dance party, fix “stuff”, build Legos airplanes to fly around the house,  cook together, and play “bear” (a game where George climbs on my back, and I walk on all fours, “looking for honey”.  If the bear gets really hungry, his claws get you with tickles and hugs!!). It’s important to mention that throughout this process, my comments were limited to “oh, yeah! “, “anything else? “,”uh-huh”. I sat quietly and listened.  It was tough to just be quiet. Naturally, I wanted to chime in,  but this was George’s  chance to shine, and jumping in uninvited (meaning that he didn’t ask me), could have upstaged him and left him feeling discouraged rather than confident and empowered. It would have cut the connection instead of facilitating one.  We decided to build a tent after brainstorming, and we had a super time.  By the time we were done, George was asking me what I wanted to pick for tomorrow’s One to One time. 

I complimented George on how he used his creativity in coming up with such great ideas. George replied, “oh, it’s ok Dad, no big deal”. I got choked up.  “This kid is growing up so fast”, I thought. I felt so blessed to be his dad. One to One time doesn’t just fill our kid’s need for love – connection (A. K. A. – belonging), and significance, our cup will overflow as well. 

Do Our Eyes Light Up?

My son made me think back to when I would see my dad come home.   It was a very exciting time of day.   I remember wanting to show him anything I accomplished,  or did that day. There was a big hug greeting me, and it was something I looked forward to.  Our kids are drawn to us, needing us to be more than a caregiver.   They need our spirit,  our connection, our essence.   They long for it.   

Sometimes we can forget just how much this means in our kids’ world.  We’re tired, we’re stressed, we’re overwhelmed, we’re any number of things. And yet, connecting with our kids by being present can take that all away in an instant.  All it takes is for us to put our adult part,  the mature refined, serious,  emotionally neutral, part to sleep at the office, on the train, or in the car. Let’s do a quick exercise. Like with all exercise, the more you practice, the better it will be.  Ok, here goes. Name that part of you. Give the work character (orpart)  a name and imagine everything it takes to literally put that part of you to bed for the night.   Get a picture of that part of you going to bed, sleeping soundly for the night.  Imagine yourself getting into bed as that adult part (name),  and see it through your own eyes.  See everything this part needs to do to go to bed.  Feel and hear all the sounds ;the yawn, slipping under the sheets, the weight of the blanket,  your head on the pillow, the slowing of your breath, the closing of your eyes.  After they are asleep leave that character there and come back here with me.  Are you with me?  

Ok, let’s take another short trip together.  Think of the night before Christmas, or a party you were going to go to, or somebody you were totally and completely super excited to see when you were a kid. For me, the night before Christmas works!  Get a picture of that.   When you have a picture see all that you saw, hear all you heard, feel everything you felt. Now make the picture bigger and brighter and closer. Add movement and add clarity and color.  Where in your body  do you house the excitement? In your chest or head, belly, or shoulders?  Locate the center of that feeling in your body.  Notice where the sounds are coming from; in front, behind, all around? Notice now the volume of the sounds and the clarity of voices, or the  environment,  music perhaps. Are there any smells associated with this picture? I can remember fresh baked Greek cookies at Christmas time, and the Christmas tree who’s sweet scent spread throughout the warm house.   My room was always the coolest in the house, so my nose was always cold.   Have you brought the picture to life with all these qualities? Become part of that picture.   Great! Feels amazing doesn’t it? Place your hand over your heart and stay in this place for a moment, until you feel an emotional “peak” in your response.   Breathe it in and bring it into your heart.  Now, think of a picture of your kids, no matter what their age, of when you are just walking in the door, just getting home.   Do you have a picture?  Super. Now freeze the picture. Make sure you are looking at the picture through your own eyes, like you’re actually there.  Add color to the picture, HD,  and make the picture brighter, seeing the image through your eyes all around you.   See your kids’ faces clearly, and begin adding movement slowly. Begin only as soon as you comfortably want to now to bring in qualities from the picture you had before of when you were really, totally, excited.  Bring in the qualities of the picture, the sounds, and the feelings you had when you were totally and completely excited.   If you heard the sounds in front of you, bring the sounds in front of you in the picture you have of coming home.   If you have the feeling welling up in your chest, bring that same feeling back in your chest for the picture you are in with your kids.   If there was a smell associated with the previous picture, smell those smells as you come home.   Allow it all to play around you and once again take the same hand and place it over your heart.  Stay with it as the wave of the experience washes over you.   How was that? Well, now you have a powerful tool to use the next time you’re on the way home,  to make sure that your eyes light up when you walk through the door and see your family.   This will help you communicate differently, and remember that communication is only as effective as the response you get. This tool will give you a resourceful state from which to communicate love, affection, compassion, excitement, and connection. Just place your hand over your heart again now and think of a time in the future when you are coming home. What has changed about your state? Notice how this resourceful state affects all those around you. It’s much better is it not?  This would be a great time to schedule One to One time (See blog) with the child who needs it most.  We generalize our experiences into our daily events all day long unconsciously.   Those generalizations are ours by way of our subconscious. Our subconscious uses emotions to remind us of those generalizations.   We can also choose to use these wilfully to give ourselves the emotional resources we need when we need them.  Emotions are what let us know we are getting our human needs in an emotionally encouraging, or discouraging way.  Emotions are what tell us we are feeling connected and loved or disconnected and rejected.   Use the exercise we went through above to switch states to be all you can be for a very excited kid just waiting for you to get home. Best to you and your family. 

5 Ways To Get Your Kids To Tune You Back In 

By

Dimitrios Giouzepis CPDPE 

Whether we have toddlers,  tweens,  or teens,  we are all probably familiar with being tuned-out.   There we are talking, nagging,  even yelling, “Hello,  Earth calling,  come in”,  and nothing.   This can be super frustrating to say the least and here are some helpful ideas to get you back on the same frequency. 

1. There’s a few ways that commonly contribute to getting tuned out by our kids.  The most common is when we talk (or scream) from a distance.   It’s a lot harder to ignore someone when they are closer in proximity,  than when they are far away.   Walk over, use a nice calm voice,  then talk.   Another helpful thing to do is to put your hand on their shoulder before saying a word.   Also remember that kids are more likely to listen when they feel listened to. (Jane Nelson) Ask questions and be curious like “I noticed the neighbors have their garbage cans out tonight. What’s your plan for that?”

2. Repeating yourself over and over again is another way to get tuned out.   Say what you will do,  and  follow through (more about this later).  Instead of repeating yourself,  use one word,  or nonverbal cues like gestures,  cue cards,  or timers.   Routines are a great way to establish a series of behaviors without having to nag your kids through them. After coming up with the routines,  role play a couple of dry runs for practice. Kids get to feel ownership over their responsibilities because they take part in organizing,  designing, and structuring routines.  If things need to be discussed, the family meeting is a great way to do so that gets the family to brainstorm, discuss,  and agree on solutions that are respectful and  reasonable for everyone, related and helpful to resolving the challenge,  and agreed upon in advance, so no reminding needed. Kids learn to take responsibility for their part of the agreement when you take responsibility by following through on your end. Also, be quick to disconnect afterwards. Don’t stick around to get sucked into a power struggle. Children can try this to keep the show going by getting you to say “I told you so”. Disconnecting is a great way to avoid that.  

3. When we reach a solution,  or tell our kids what we are going to do and then we fail to honor that by following through, or thinking there’s a double standard (ie. he  can’t eat in the living room,  but I can), then we give mixed,  inconsistent messages that cannot, and will not,  be trusted.   Remember,  we  can’t make our kids do anything,  but we can tell them in advance what we are going to do,  and follow through accordingly when the time comes to do so without any warning,  threat,  or reminding.   “Shut up and  act “Rudolf Dreikurs.   No need to  threaten anything.   Kids will know you say what you mean, and mean what you say when you just follow through. Be neutral, unemotional and nonchalant.   It’s important though to tell them in advance how you are going to behave because that is respectful and gives them the opportunity to respond appropriately.   Otherwise, reacting in the moment, or establishing a new rule when you’re (or your kids)angry,  will be perceived unfair,  and as a punishment, and the anger will be thrown at you.   What’s worse is, it will become a power point rather than a lesson so you’ll find yourself diving right into that annoying nagging,  or yelling all over again. Oof! 

4. We as parents are notorious for telling our children that something is their responsibility from now on,  and then,  we end up doing it for them.   That is rescuing and it says “I don’t believe you can or will handle it “. I think that a possible reason we do this is because we are so aware of the natural consequences that will follow.   We know the discomfort that will come from following through,  or not getting involved (depending on the situation).   Natural consequences can also be challenging because we don’t want to have to deal with the consequences ourselves.   It’s important to remember that mistakes are excellent opportunities to learn.   We don’t help by rescuing,  but by being available to brainstorm solutions, and trusting that our kids can handle discomfort or disappointment.   This builds possibilities thinking,  problem solving, decision making,  and resilience; some pretty crucial life skills, right?  

5. By modeling our own consistency with spouses, family members, and friends, we exhibit the behaviors we expect our kids to acquire.   By  modeling procrastination, excuse making, “lying”, or sneaking, we  do the same.   Kids learn a lot from what we do, especially when our words don’t back up or actions. Lead by example by modeling the behaviors you want them to learn 

Remember that our kids aren’t looking for someone to win over them, but to lead them.  Keep your word with everyone.  Exemplify, trust,  responsibility, and self regulation for kids to follow in your footsteps confidently. 

For more useful information,  questions or comments, please contact Dimitrios Giouzepis at positiveparentingadvantage@gmail.com or check out more blogs on other topics at positiveparentingadvantage.com. 

The Family’s Business

As I was walking down a wooded trail at a local park on a gorgeous sunny Sunday morning with my wife and son, a large family walked by us and stopped at a “workout” station.  Many parks have these along the walking path for people to do pull-ups, step-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, and “here ups” and “there ups”.  What really impressed me was that the family was doing each exercise along the way, together.  They took turns completing each exercise as they arrived at station after station while walking around the lake and cheering and congratulating each other for the effort.  It was awesome!  The youngest member of the family had to be four or five, and included grandparents!  I thought, “what a great, family fun activity to do following a weekly Family Meeting. “.  Family Meetings are a very powerful tool for parents to use to resolve challenges in the family, plan everything from activities to meals, and give children a platform to voice ideas, and to focus on solutions, together.  Family meetings teach kids about communication, collaboration, cooperation, planning, problem-solving, decision-making, appreciation, and more.  They help reduce power struggles by giving children the opportunity to voice desires, needs, challenges, opinions, and ideas.  Family Meetings always begin with compliments or appreciations (to set a proper positive atmosphere).  This helps family members look for the good in each other, which reduces sibling fighting during the week.  Next, address agenda items, which include evaluation and brainstorming as a family to find solutions to challenges, include planning for the week and future family events, and can even include allowance.  The Family Meeting should always end with a “family fun activity”.  This can be anything from a game, to dessert, to an awesome park walk and workout.  Family meetings really provide a super source of significance and belonging for our children.  The Family Meeting is excellent for building and practicing developing crucial life skills.  If the family’s business were to produce successful, responsible, resilient, resourceful, considerate, social, communicative, well-established children, the Family Meeting is an extremely valuable tool to help parents accomplish that.  Begin your family’s week by starting the ritual of the family meeting, and experience the many advantages it has to offer.

Learning from Mistakes vs. Saying Your “Sorry”

There’s an old saying I grew up with; “When ‘I’m sorry’ was invented, consideration was lost”.  At least, that’s as close as I can get to the Greek version.  My father used to tell us not to say sorry until we knew what it meant.  So it begins here:

Events have no meaning aside from the one we attach to them according to our perceptions.  And our perceptions are unique to us.  Our perception is ours and ours alone (no matter how close someone else’s is to ours). Those events go through different filters in our minds before becoming perceptions.  Perceptions become our beliefs and those beliefs cause us to behave in certain ways.  If we form limiting or mistaken beliefs, then our behaviors and actions will be limited and mistaken.  This is all a subconscious process we are usually unaware of. Children are unaware of the goal behind their misbehaviors.  By following the four steps to R.A.A.P., we can consciously bring a mistaken belief to light to learn from it by becoming aware, recognizing how our decisions affect others around us, resolve conflicts, plan differently, and take action to mend the mistake.  Often, this can be a useful way to begin the transition process from a previous way of parenting to a new encouraging way.  True, your child may or may not look at you like “what’s going on here?”, and that would be a good thing.  Either way they will get the message that you are choosing to do things differently from now on.  Your actions will be all the proof they will need to be convinced.  The RAAP process is mutually respectful and beneficial.

  1. Recognize: Recognize that your actions have been mistaken. Realize that mistakes are an excellent opportunity to learn.  Understand that there is no “failure”, there is only feedback, and that recognizing is the first step in the learning process.  When we teach our children to learn from their mistakes, they are less likely to repeat them.  What if you approach this step with gratitude?  “I get to learn a better way of behaving, and I get to help someone else by becoming a better person in the process”.
  2. Admit: Admitting our mistake is the first step in the next step.  Admitting is when we not only open ourselves to others to say that we have made a mistake, but that we recognize that our mistake has affected someone else.  Admitting our mistakes in front of our children lets them know that it is okay for us to make mistakes.  It also is an example and demonstration of consideration and respect to those we have affected.  Last but not least, it is the first step in opening a line of communication to others who may feel discouraged because of our actions (or lack of action).  It is important to detail our missteps when we admit them. Not blame, facts.
  3. Apologize: It is here that we say “SORRY”. BUT for “sorry” to mean anything, anything at all, it has to come with a promise!  The apology is when that promise is made.  The promise is that having recognized and admitted that we’ve made a mistake, knowing the details where we went wrong…we promise not to do it again.  BUT this is usually when people shake hands, hug, or smile and walk away.  As sincere as a promise may be, it is ineffective without a plan.  It is the plan that replaces the mistake.  Can you guess the next step?
  4. Plan: The plan is the part of the recovery that describes the behaviors that you will implement to replace the behaviors that led you to the mistake in the first place. Our actions must be different.  We cannot expect to achieve different results by doing the same thing.  Put a plan in place that replaces the behaviors that led you astray. The plan should be respectful for everyone involved, related to the circumstances, agreed upon before trying, reasonably achievable, and helpful.  Okay?  This is a good time for a hug.