The Countdown Begins!

I’ve been teaching/coaching parents for more than 30 years. Yet when the countdown begins for my next workshops my heart still bubbles with joy and anticipation. I look forward to meeting everyone, new faces and old. Even more so, I look forward to sharing the research, information, and resources that have  helped so many amazing parents to be the parent they dreamed of being — calmly managing the most difficult situations.

Knowing that we all want the best for our kids, I teach skills that will help you to stop yelling and shaming. We all know the intense pain of being shamed as a small child, feeling like we are flawed and unlovable.young girl trying to block out sound of parents arguing When we shame our kids we promote behaviours like lying because many kids would rather lie than feel the pain of being shamed.

Children are people too.

The primary difference between healthier families and controlling or permissive families is that parents in healthier families allow children to grow up as persons in their own right.

“If you bungle raising your children, nothing else matters much in life.”

—Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

I enjoy giving parents up-to-date tools that work. I relish parents’ comments afterwards, like “I did that, Win, and I was amazed — it really worked.” These simple tools do work, and perhaps more importantly, they leave your child’s self-esteem intact too. I love to use the analogy that just as you would never use a typewriter again — once you’ve used a computer — you won’t want to  use outdated parenting tools again either, once you learn about these effective, time-efficient tools that truly make parenting easier and more enjoyable!

canstockphoto-2It’s just amazing how — if you make what seem to be small changes — you can change your relationship with your child forever. It will be calmer and more peaceful. And your child will want to co-operate, and listen to you because your child will trust you more. These skills and resources will hold you steady right through the adolescent years.

 


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Parent Alert: The Choking Game

canstockphoto10584317

Stay connected to your teenagers.

When Amanda Bryant of Alberta found her nine year-old-son, Kalib, in his bedroom with a belt around his neck eleven days before Christmas, it changed her life and the lives of her family forever. Kalib’s death was initially ruled a suicide. Amanda found it hard to believe that her outgoing, happy child would commit suicide. She began a search for answers

That search led her to another mother whose son had died in an eerily similar way. In California, Sarah Pacatte’s 13-year-old son Gabriel was found by his twin, Samuel on May 6, 2005.

“I saw Gabe with the rope around his neck and a math book on his lap. He was just sitting on the ground. And so I thought he was just joking and so I said Gabe, knock it off, or like quit messing around…I looked over at him and he hadn’t moved. I said his name a couple of times.”

Gabriel was rushed to hospital where he died 15 hours later. He had died playing “the choking game”. Sam remembers playing the game with his brother.                        www.cbc.ca/fifth/chokinggame/

The choking game is voluntary suffocation, to the point of unconsciousness, for the purpose of obtaining a ‘rush’ or light-headed sensation. Pressure is used to cut off the blood and oxygen supply to the brain. When the choking pressure is released, blood rushes back into the brain causing a euphoric rush, a momentary physical thrill.

Initially one kid will do it for another, sometimes at a party, and then the kid will seek the sensation again, alone.

Many names are used for this game such as Pass Out, Gasp, Space monkey, Hyperventilating, the Elevator Game, the Funky Chicken, and the American Dream Game.

 “At this point, there is a need for public education,” says Angela Boak, Research Coordinator and Analyst at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. After studying this phenomenon, she believes “parents, physicians and educators should be aware of this game.”

-cited byTawnya Pancharavski, AboutKidsHealth

This is an alert to all parents. Many parents don’t even know the choking game exists and many didn’t suspect their child was doing it until it was too late.

The kids think the choking game is challenging,and  thrilling — without realizing it is dangerous and can be deadly. Typically, they are 9 – 16 years old and are well behaved, good kids. It’s done at school and it’s done at home. Did you know that they can get specific directions on the internet? They do it for fun, to see if they can succeed at it, and to get a high. This behaviour can be addicting.

Every time someone plays this game, their brain cells die. Anytime the brain is deprived of blood and/or oxygen, cells begin to die. Brain cells cannot regenerate. Those brain cells are dead forever. Death of brain cells is actually the least serious effect of this “game”. Broken bones and fractured skulls from falling, blindness, and coma are a few of the consequences. Worse still, unfortunately, some kids who do the choking game have one thing in common – death.

Studies show that 45% of kids knew someone who tried it. 40% of kids perceived no risk. They think it’s just like fainting. They are wrong. It will kill as long as our kids are uneducated — and consider this a game.

Prevention:

Parents need to be alert and vigilant, to be educated about the risks of the choking game,  and to talk to their kids about it. This is an opportunity for closeness and teaching. Just as you talk to your kids about alcohol and drugs, incorporate this topic into those conversations. This is your job. Don’t leave it to anyone else. You could save a life — maybe your own child’s. Even if you didn’t know about this, kids do know. You can initiate the conversation by asking them about it.  Ask them if they tried it or know someone who has.

Warning signs:

  • blood shot eyes
  • marks on the neck
  • wearing high-necked shirts, even in warm weather
  • frequent or severe headaches
  • long periods of time spent alone in the bedroom
  • disorientation after spending time alone
  • ropes, dog leashes, scarves, or belts, tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor.
  • acute vision changes or vision loss

Even as your children get older they still need to experience connection and closeness with you. They still need your counsel and your supervision. Monitor the sites they visit on their computer.

As well, encourage your school to teach parents and students about the risks of this game and the irreversible damage this game can cause.


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How to Make Shopping With Young Children Easier

Little Girl Shopping

Children need help to get their needs met.

Remember those spur-of-the-moment, leisurely shopping trips before you had kids? That was then. Now your opportunities to shop are fewer, time allowances are shorter, and rarely is shopping  an “adult only” event.

On a recent shopping trip, I was standing in line, waiting for the next available cashier, and behind me were a mother and her daughter who looked to be about 3 years old. I had met them earlier in the store, when the little girl was trying on a new pair of shoes. Greeting the mom once again, I noticed the little girl taking a bottle of water from a nearby upright cooler. (The cooler had been so strategically placed by the merchant! It was noon. Feeling thirsty and hungry, I too considered buying a cool drink while waiting.) When she asked her mother if she could have it, her mother said, “No, your water is in the car.” When her daughter said, “I want this one,” I heard her mom tell her, “There are things in this water that are bad for you.” Then the child returned the bottle to the cooler and fetched another bottle of water with a different colored label. I thought, “How smart is she! She probably thinks that this one won’t have bad things in it.” When she asked her mother if she could have that one, her mother, sounding irritated, said “You can’t have that water either. I am not buying any water for you, so don’t think that I am! Put it back!” Her daughter looked sad and confused.

I wondered why the mother was mad. This little girl wasn’t doing anything wrong. She just wanted some water and needed her mother’s help. Small children need help from adults to get their needs met. (I wonder if the mother would have responded differently if she had been with an adult friend who was thirsty, and wanted a bottle of water.) Considering that they had been shopping for some time and it was noon, it’s possible that both the mom and her daughter were thirsty, perhaps hungry, and tired from shopping.

Of course, it was the mother’s right to set limits, but this situation was more complicated than simply setting a limit.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Reflection, preparation, and planning make shopping with children more enjoyable. As well, the practices of prioritizing and protecting your child’s schedule for meals, sleep, and playtime make parenting easier, and children happier and more cooperative. For example, this situation may have been prevented if the mother had planned to stop shopping before the child’s lunchtime. Children who are hydrated, fed and rested make happier shopping companions.

Of course, there are some circumstances when parents decide that more flexibility is needed so the child’s routine is set aside. But when parents let go of the child’s routine, the outcomes are more unpredictable. Therefore, more time is needed for preparation and planning for possible outcomes. Parents need to prepare for extending the time for shopping by packing drinks and snacks that will be available when needed. Grown ups are able to wait, children find waiting more difficult. It is age-appropriate for children to feel stressed and irritable when they are thirsty and hungry.

When this kind of preparation and planning doesn’t occur, a shopping trip can, as my girlfriend put it, “turn ugly”. But there are still things that parents can do that may help their children to cope with unmet needs like hunger, thirst, and fatigue — for a short period of time.

  1. Be self-aware. Are you hungry? Tired? Do you feel like blaming your child? Stop immediately and take a deep breath and another one, until you feel calm. The beauty of being the grown up is that you don’t have to be the victim of your feelings. Getting mad at, and blaming, your child for your upset makes everything worse.
  2. Remember that: all children have good intentions and — just because they are children — they all have difficulty waiting, and delaying gratification.
  3. Keep your options open. Reflect and decide if a limit is needed. This is an important decision, but there is no urgency. If you choose to set a limit, then, before voicing the limit, think about how you will support and help your child to cope with the limit. For example, with a positive demeanor you can recognize the child’s wish: “I know you are thirsty and you wish you had some water right now. When we get to our car you will have a refreshing drink of water. You will feel better. Right now, will you please help me and carry your shoes?”
  4. Or, you may decide — just as you already decided to make an exception regarding the child’s schedule — to make another exception and share a bottle of water, relieving stress for you both.
  5. In all situations, let the most important parenting principle be your guide: connection. Look into your child’s eyes, show empathy and stay connected to your child.


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The Elf on the Shelf Tradition Is No ‘Quick Fix’ for Raising Children

Elf on the Shelf logoI know discussions about the Elf on the Shelf can really trigger some parents’ intense emotions.1 Amy, of the Funny Is Family blog, reports that fans “swear by the magical properties that turn their kids into well behaved angels from Thanksgiving to Christmas.” She represents a small minority of parents who don’t understand why someone would add to the holiday stress by taking on the work involved in keeping up the holiday hoax, and also protests that this Elf on the Shelf is just one more addition to our bully culture:

We can’t say anything because you’re in Santa’s inner circle? Sounds to me like we’ve brought a bully in the house. Hey kids, it’s okay to let someone treat you badly if they are important. Or if they know someone important.2

In an article in the Atlantic, that I highly recommend for your reading, You’re a Creepy One, Elf on the Shelf, Kate Tuttle writes:

 An object that disappears and reappears is wonderfully fun—but it doesn’t have to be something from a store or someone else’s imagination, much less a committee’s. If you have an Elf, make up your own story about what he’s doing in your house—the weirder the better. Do not like him on Facebook. Do not use him to bully your child into thinking that good behavior equals gifts.3

Continue reading


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First Things First

If we want our children to experience their full potential as unique people, I believe that they need to feel connected to us, their parents, so that they can develop a deep connection to themselves.A loving mother holding and smiling at her child

When I was a young mother I sometimes wanted to disconnect from them, especially when my child would “push my buttons”. I began to realize that if I was to be the mother that I wanted to be, I had to deal with “my buttons”. They were mine, after all.

I began therapy and realized my issues were rooted in my childhood. My mother was the dominant figure in my childhood and domineering she was. She demanded obedience at any cost. Her message was that she was in control of me and that I, her child, must meet her needs, including her need  to never be embarrassed in public. I learned that my needs were not important and that I was too demanding. When she was very reactive, she showed no self-control. I felt so afraid of her when she was angry. When things were not going her way she blamed me and was determined to make me suffer.

By the time I was  five years old  I had learned to be a “good” girl — to repress my needs in order to meet the needs of others, to always please others, to be very careful not to make mistakes, never to ask for help, never to question authority, and never, never to say “no”.

At first, I felt angry, but now I don’t blame my parents in any way. Now I know, in my heart, that they did the best they could. And I will always be grateful to my children. Because of them I began my journey of recovery from my childhood.

I also began to study. When my children were in bed, and later in school, I immersed myself in  books like Alice Miller’s “For Your Own Good, the Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence”, and Dr. Susan Forward’s ”Toxic Parents, Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life”.

I began to understand what I needed to change. It became clear why, as a young mother, I was feeling so much pain and confusion and was doing what I didn’t want to do, like seeking the approval of people I didn’t even know — onlookers in parking lots or neighbours, or whoever might show disapproval. If my child had a temper tantrum in public, I felt shame. It was as if people were shouting at me, “Can’t you control your kid?” I was determined not to repeat my mother’s behaviour, but it was becoming like a painful tug of war inside me.

I wanted my children to grow up in a world where they could feel unconditional love, where they would always feel safe, no matter what. I wanted my beautiful, innocent children to flourish. I wanted them to know that they were OK at every age — 1 yr., 2 yr., 4 yr., 14 yr.  I didn’t want to be reactive when “my buttons” were pushed. I wanted them to learn — from my role-modelling — the skills of self-control, self-composure, and empathy. I wanted them to experience the value of treating all with dignity and respect, no matter what. I wanted my children to feel free to be themselves, not who I wanted them to be. I wanted a heart to heart connection with them.

But first I had to clear out my baggage because my issues — not taking care of my own needs, my drive to please, and the pressure to control my children — were stopping me from being the mother that I wanted to be.


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