05 Dec

The best gift you can give your child this holiday season

The best gift you can give your children this holiday season is . . .


You can’t wrap it up, and they won’t be asking for it.  But they need it more than anything, and it doesn’t cost a dime.

“A child needs encouragement like a plant needs water.”   – Rudolf Dreikurs

Think of someone in your life who was encouraging.  What did they do?  What did they say?  How did they see you?

When I ask this question in parenting classes, the responses look something like this:

  • they noticed my strengths
  • they spent time with me
  • they believed in me
  • they loved me unconditionally
  • they helped me learn new skills
  • they really listened to me

And yet, when our kids are messing up or misbehaving, it’s so easy to slip into responses that are just the opposite of encouraging:

  • “What’s wrong with you?!”
  • “I have told you a thousand times!”
  • “You are so mean to your sister!”
  • “Why are you so difficult?”

As Dr. Jane Nelsen of “Positive Discipline” says, “Where did we get the crazy idea that in order to make kids do well, we have to first make them feel bad?”  The opposite is true:  “Kids do better when they feel better.”  When kids feel connected, respected, empowered, encouraged, and safe, they do better.  We all do.

So here are three wonderful ways to give the gift of encouragement to your kids this holiday season:

Descriptive Encouragement:   “I noticed . . .

. . . you got dressed all by yourself.”

. . . you took out the garbage without being asked.”

. . . you stuck with it even though your homework was hard tonight.”

Appreciative Encouragement:  “I appreciate . . . or Thank you for . . .

. . . clearing the table.”

. . . offering to share your cookie with me.”

. . . following through with our agreement about screen time.”

Empowering Encouragement:  “I trust / I believe / I have faith . . .

. . . that you can fall asleep tonight all by yourself.”

. . . that you can figure out a solution to this problem.”

. . . that you will make a good decision.”

Unlike praise, you can give encouragement any time at all, even when your child is failing, and that is precisely when they need it most.

Try it out!  Encouragement is the gift that keeps on giving!

Subscribe to the WorkingParenting monthly newsletter here.

The concepts and tools presented in this article are from “Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way” by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott and co-authors.

05 Dec

What sweat up my nose and parenting have in common (for me, anyway)

Click below for the audio version of this message.  

Let me start by saying that yes, a drop of sweat dripping up my nose during Bikram Yoga is a metaphor for parenting. Let me explain . . .
Bikram Yoga is the hot, sweaty, often smelly kind of yoga that can make you feel dizzy and nauseous or strong and alive and often all of the above.  It’s an intense 90-minute workout and meditation that has taught me so many things about myself and my parenting.
discomfort zoneOne thing I learned from Bikram Yoga is that in life, I would do just about anything to avoid discomfort:  both physical and emotional.  If it was chilly, I would turn the heat up.  If my child started to cry, I would try to stop it.  Or if, while in an inverted pose, a drop of sweat started to run into my nose, I would wipe it away.  Makes sense, right?

One day during yoga class, as I bent my head over in an uncomfortable inverted forehead-to-knee pose, I felt a drop of sweat begin to roll from my upper lip toward my nostril.  Oh, it’s an uncomfortable feeling!  In the past, I had always wiped that sweat away, knowing that water in my nose was definitely something to avoid.  Water takes the place of air.  I wouldn’t be able to breathe.  It would taste bad.  At minimum it would be irritating.  It was enough to wipe that drop away.
On this particular day, however, I felt the sweaty drop getting closer and closer to my vulnerable nostril, and I just let it go.  Right in there.  I did nothing.  And do you know what happened??
Not much.  No catastrophe.  No gasping for air. I sniffed it up and it was gone.  Poof!
Ok you may be wondering where I’m going with this story. I’ll get to the point now (thanks for hanging in there!)
The drop of sweat represents discomfort.  My kids are also capable of making me very uncomfortable.  Like when they cry incessantly over stupid little things.  Or when they get a “C” when I know they’re capable of better.  Or when their friend says something unkind to them.  My instinct is to wipe it away — to do something to remove the discomfort — both theirs and (maybe mostly) mine.
But I have learned something by tolerating the discomfort and allowing it to just be there:  It’s almost never as bad as I think it will be.  The tears eventually stop.   The natural consequences teach lessons that would otherwise go unlearned.  The hurt feelings dissipate.  My kids learn coping skills — they bounce back.  And so do I!
I’m not saying that as parents, we should never step in and do something.  Not at all!  In many cases we should step in.  But many times I think we step in too quickly, robbing both ourselves and our kids of the lesson that whatever it is, isn’t as bad as we thought it was, and that we are both stronger than we think.
Can you think of a time when you didn’t (or did) step in and “wipe away” your child’s discomfort?  What did you/your child learn?  Please share your thoughts!