When Children Say Horrifying Things

Question: During a play date, my friend’s seven-year-old daughter announced: “I’m fat! Look at my tummy! Why does it stick out?”

We were all horrified, especially because she is tiny—maybe even underweight. I think she was just saying it to see our reaction. What should our reaction have been?

Answer: Here is a great mantra to remember when children say something concerning:

Stay calm. Be curious.

Stay calm because sometimes the adult’s reaction is much, much worse than the problem, and it gives the child too much attention for something that might not need attention. Beyond that, responding in horror to issues of body size or looks—either through gasps or words—communicates to the child that you believe being “fat” (or “ugly” or whatever the word might be) is something to be terribly upset by—and this can cause a cascade of problems down the line.


What if the child later struggles with weight?...

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Talking to Your Teen About Self-Esteem

self-esteem Sep 08, 2020

Most parents try to combat teenage insecurities by telling their children that they are lovable and perfect just the way they are. This doesn't work. The truth is that we all have to earn our own self-worth, and parents need to teach children the skills to do this.

When our teenagers feel awkward, we tell them that who they are is enough. We tell them that they should love themselves exactly as they are. We tell them they are perfect.

And, yet, they don’t believe us. They feel like outcasts. They worry that they are not enough. They wonder what is wrong that they do not love themselves. They even feel guilty for not loving themselves.

And here is why: The truth is that we all have to earn our own self-worth. If your teenagers want to feel worthy and lovable, they have to believe that they are living up to their own standards of worthiness and lovability. They have to earn their own love. Believing that they should love themselves is not enough. They must decide what...

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When Parents Fight

As much as we might wish to avoid it, arguing with our spouses in front of our children happens. 

This does not mean we are bad parents. In fact, if we can remain calm and respectful during a disagreement, it can even be healthy for children to witness us work through a touchy subject—especially when there is a resolution on the other side. 

When couples have healthy rules of engagement for conflicts, children are able to form healthy conflict resolution models for themselves. 

 

Healthy conflict involves: 

  • Active listening
  • Validation
  • Speaking about your experience (using "I statements") while avoiding blame. 
  • Striving for both people to get their needs met, and 
  • Apologizing when that is warranted.

If you can achieve some (or sometimes all) of this, you are a conflict resolution rock star. 

But what happens when parents get into a fight they wish their children hadn't seen? 

Our thought is this ...

First, it happens.

...

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Replace "We Can't Afford It"

beliefs money self-efficacy Sep 01, 2020

Here is a tip for helping your children build healthy, resilience-based paradigms about money:

Replace "We can't afford it." 

This phrase, and the belief it expresses, sets up a paradigm of being powerless with regard to money. But if you frame your spending decisions as a choice, you take your power back. 

Instead of saying, "We can't afford it," try, "I am not going to choose to spend my money on that today." 

Sometimes, you actually can afford it; you simply don't want to spend your hard-earned money on the trivial or useless thing your children is asking you to buy.

If you say, "We can't afford it," you are wasting an opportunity to say something that proactively builds a better paradigm about the relationship between values and money. More on that in a bit ... 

Even if you truly cannot afford it, saying that over and over to your children build a disempowered model in their heads of your family relationship with money. It communicates that you are never...

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Labeling Kids, and the Imposter Syndrome

At some point or another, someone has assigned you a positive attribute, and you secretly, shamefully, believed that you fell short.

One of my son's friends is known for being outgoing. When he went away to college, though, he felt shy and insecure.

People used to say things to him like, “It’s so easy for you to make friends!”  

Inside, he felt like he was struggling to find a social group. He thought that maybe he was a fraud—that he didn’t really have this great friend-making attribute that everyone had assigned to him.

When you tell your children that they are something—whether that is a positive or negative thing—you risk simultaneously and inadvertently telling them that they cannot be something else. 

This comes at a risk. A child who is told that she is smart will freak out a little bit (or a lot) on the inside when she cannot tackle a problem, or when she makes an error. 

I hope no one finds out my secret, ...

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Here Is a Strategy for Getting Your Kids to Confide in You

We all hope that our children confide in us. But sometimes, they might feel afraid to tell us what is really going on.

Or, they might feel embarrassed. 

Here's a great way to keep the lines of communication open.

Let your kids pick out a journal they love. Tell them that if they ever feel afraid to tell you something, they can write it in the journal and leave it under your pillow.

Promise them that you will do your best to write your response on the next page of the journal and leave it under your child's pillow.

Of course, there may be times when your children disclose something that requires a one-on-one, in-person conversation.

But often, you can save your children a little embarrassment or anxiety by simply letting the conversations occur in a journal. It will help your children open up and continue to confide in you as their lives become more and more complex.

If you like this tool, check out Resilience-Based Parenting, where we provide 52 tools for raising...

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What to Say When Your Kids Are Having a Hard Time Learning Something

Psychologist Carol Dweck coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset,” which describe the beliefs people have about learning and intelligence.

A simplified explanation of these terms is this: Those with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is fixed. A person is smart or not smart. A person is good at math or bad at math.

Those with a growth mindset believe that they can get smarter or better at math.

The latter belief—the growth mindset belief—encourages people to put in extra time and effort.

Those with a growth mindset understand that they can learn and achieve more.

Adopting a growth mindset is important for children because it allows them to move past their current challenges and grow. It shows them that they are not stuck in a box, but rather can put in time and effort to achieve something that is important to them.

We can help children believe in their ability to learn and grow by asking them to share stories about things they have...

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What to Do When You Wish Your Kids Were a Little More Independent

Are your kids pushing your buttons because they ask you to do so much for them? If so, you aren’t alone. In fact, at one point or another, most parents think: This isn’t fun. I don’t enjoy this. I’m irritated a lot.

We love our kids so much that it hurts. But sometimes, we’d rather not spend so much time doing things for them. And this is even more compounded now, when families are staying home, in close quarters, and spending all of their time together.

Here is a strategy for establishing some boundaries in your household and reducing some of the tension by encouraging your children to be more independent. The strategy is called “Rights, Responsibilities, and Privileges,” and it’s based on the belief that households function better when children understand that their privileges are directly tied to their responsibilities. Beyond that, you can raise more resilient children by teaching them self-efficacy.

Have a conversation with your...

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What to Say When Your Kids Are Unkind to Their Siblings

Oftentimes, when children are failing in some area, they do not see the long-term repercussions. They are unkind to their siblings because they do not see that the years of taunting will turn into a long-term failed relationship.They fail at school because they cannot connect the dots between homework, getting into college, and getting a dream job.

As parents, we often want to lecture them: "You have to do your homework! Be nice to your little brother!"

But if we can take a step back and genuinely, curiously, ask them to explain their plans, we transfer responsibility to them, and we begin the process of empowering them to make choices and live with the outcomes of these choices.

So we might ask: "What's your plan with respect to your relationship with your little brother? I don't think he's going to like you very much if you keep this up, so tell me what you see happening. When you are adults, and we plan a family vacation, what does that look like? Is it fun? Or is your brother...

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What to Say When Kids Roll Their Eyes

Uncategorized Aug 18, 2020

Kids have every right to get irritated. After all, there are things we do—like barging into their rooms without knocking, interrupting them when they are busy, and barking orders at them—that are legitimately irritating.

But when they roll their eyes or use snarky tones of voices, they are handling their irritations in a way that isn’t productive.

These types of communication are passive aggressive and they fail to communicate exactly why the person is upset. More importantly, they fail to communicate what the person needs in order to feel better.

So instead of allowing your children to wallow in self-righteous victimhood and make you the enemy, teach them to wrap words around their emotions and identify what they need.

Teaching our kids to calmly and politely use words to express their frustrations and identify their needs is one of our most important jobs as parents.

What can we say when kids are rude? Try this …

“You just rolled your eyes at me, so...

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