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5 Tips For Raising Kind Children

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As parents one of the qualities that we want most for our children is for them to be kind. As our babies grow into toddlers, many of us are looking for ways to minimise the hitting, and maximise the sharing. And as they grow older we hope they’ll grow into kind, caring adults that make friends easily and get on well in life.

But children can be pretty mean to each other at times. How do we deal with behaviour that appears selfish, unkind, and the opposite of everything we’ve hoped and dreamed for our children?

Hand in Hand Parenting is based on the principle that our children are all naturally good, it’s just sometimes their feelings get in the way. Here’s 5 tips based on the Hand in Hand Parenting approach to see your child’s natural kindness shining through.

1.Model kindness – Children are born imitators. Learning through observation and imitation is how they make sense of their world. Modelling kindness towards our children and to others, is one of the most effective ways to ‘teach’ them.

This can be tricky when our child’s behaviour is really pushing our buttons,                         when we are stressed and running on empty, so this is where the Hand in                             Hand parenting tool of listening time comes in handy, When we have                                     somewhere to vent our feelings, to say all those unkind, angry and frustrated                       thoughts then we clear space in our heads to think clearly, and let our own                           natural kindness shine through.

2. Set gentle, firm, limits on off-track behaviour – There are plenty of instances                  where children do things that have not been modelled to them. Toddlers who                      grow up in peaceful, connected households still act out aggressively, or snatch                    toys off others when this is something their parents have never done to them!                      Children are born with a fully developed limbic system (the emotional part of                      their brain), whereas the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for                impulse control is not fully formed till adulthood. So when big feelings get                            trigged a child may act them out in aggression, unkindness or other off-track                        behaviour.

Moving in close, to set firm, but gentle limits, gives children the connection they                  need chance to release any feelings of upset that have been bubbling up. When                  we set limits on behaviour, but allow all feelings, this prevents the likelihood off                -track behaviour happening in the future. You can read more about the Hand in                  Hand Parenting approach to setting limits by downloading a free e-book here.

3. Allow your child to cry for as long as they need to – When children cry we can often get in the track of treating crying as a behavioural issue that we need to fix. We might do this in the gentlest possible way, by getting a child to talk through their problems, or by trying to come up with solutions that will stop the tears.

Crying is a healing process, a natural way for releasing the stress and tension that can come out in unkind words and actions. So when we allow our child to cry or tantrum for as long as they need, they are literally releasing the feelings that get in the way of them being their natural, good, kind, selves. Listening with hugs, and connection, is ‘investment’ parenting, we are helping children with their feelings, so we will deal with less behavioural challenges in the future. That’s always good to keep in the back of our mind, when are dealing with a twenty minute tantrum!

4. Let the giggles flow (without the tickling) Laughter is a wonderful way to build connection, and when children feel well-connected they can more often access their natural, inner kind self. So make a conscious effort to bring more laughter into your family life, through playful roughhousing or general all-round silliness. With my Giggle Parenting approach to behaviour challenges, you can also build co-operation at the same time as having fun with your kids!

When human beings feel good, they are kinder, happier and find it easier to get on with others, so when a child is struggling with stuck, angry feelings, laughter goes a long way to heal the hurt.

5. Spend time doing what your child loves. Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and do some special time with your child. Tell them they can choose to do whatever they like, whether it’s playing Lego, or having a pillow fight. This gift of our time and complete attention, is one of the kindest things we can do for our kids, and we will see that kindness mirrored outwards.

When we parent like this on regular basis, using tools to help our children with their feelings, then they grow up feeling well-connected. As they go out into the world their ’emotional backpack’ will be light, without the heavy weight of unheard feelings. This allows them to be in touch with their natural joy and kindness. It’s the greatest gift we can give our children.

Do you need more help? Check out these Hand in Hand Parenting online self-study courses, Setting Limits and Building Cooperation, and Helping Your Child With Aggression 

When Will My Son Grow Out Of Tantrums?

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Dear Kate,

My son is six years old and he still has huge tantrums, often over really minor things like losing at a board game, or when we’ve run out of his favourite breakfast cereal. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I know that crying is a healing process for children, and it’s important that we can all express our emotions in a healthy way, but I’m wondering if there is an age when they grow out of tantrums. I wasn’t expecting my son to be still having full-on meltdowns at the age of 6!

My husband is also putting pressure on me, to stop encouraging his behaviour, as he feels like it isn’t helping him to learn when and where to express his emotions in a way that society finds acceptable. I also admit I am feeling uncomfortable with this too as he recently had a huge tantrum in the supermarket recently when I didn’t buy a toy that he wanted.

Can you help?, From ‘T’

Dear T,

thanks for your question. It resonated with me a lot as my whole journey to being a Hand in Hand Parenting started when I was babysitting a five-year old boy, and I was wondering what to do about his tantrums. I can also remember feeling like this was too old to have tantrums and that he should have grown out of this phase by now.

As our children get older it becomes easier for children to regulate their emotions, and so they may tantrum less. But something else is going on here. The more years children spend on this planet, the more they begin to get the message loud and clear that emotions aren’t tolerated everywhere. They begin to absorb patterns of repressing their emotions, because they sense that the adults around them don’t want to listen. This happens frequently with school-age children, who ‘save-up’ their meltdowns for their nearest and dearest, while keeping it together at school.

Many children will grow out of tantrums, as they sense that the adults around them are increasingly unaccepting of their feelings, but if your child is still tantrumming freely that’s actually a good thing.

Emotions are a healthy release for children whatever the age. When children cry with a loving adult it can help them release the feelings that often come out in their behaviour, so it’s always good to listen, and allow feelings. This is my article 10 Reasons Why A Toddler’s Tantrum Is Good For Them and all the reasons actually apply for older children too.

When children cry about small things, it’s helpful to remember that there’s often a deeper reason under the surface, this can help us have more empathy and understanding for the tears. So if your son cries a lot about losing at board games, it could be that deeper feelings are being triggered about competition or being good enough. Perhaps he’s also processing grief about a new sibling coming along, or an experience at school where he lost at something, and didn’t have an understanding adult to listen to him. These are just examples. We don’t need to know the deeper reason. We just need to be there to listen to the tears.

When it comes to emotional regulation, we often think we need to teach our children to know when it’s appropriate to show their feelings, but they actually do have a radar for when to express themselves.

Feelings do sometimes spill out in public, but if we take time to listen to feelings at home, and allow our children to cry as long as they need to, then this can reduce the likelihood of this happening. You can read more tips in Five Ways To Prevent Public Meltdowns.

The other thing that’s really important with Hand in Hand Parenting, is to find support for yourself. Often when we start questioning whether our child expressing feelings is healthy it can be because our own feelings from our childhood are coming up. Because our tears weren’t always met with connection and empathy, it can often be hard to do this heavy, emotional work with our children.

Starting a listening partnership, and finding a way to share what you learn with your partner can all help listening to tears be a little easier.

Have you got a question that you’d like a Hand in Hand Parenting answer to? Leave me a comment or contact me via facebook and your challenge could be the subject of my next blog post! 

For more information about how to handle children’s big emotions, and off-track behaviour, check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children.  

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Why I let my daughter cheat at cards

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I let my daughter cheat at cards. Now at first glance I expect you’re wondering why on earth I would do that. Do I want her to grow up unable to deal with the competitive world we are living in? Am I raising a spoilt brat who is unable to get along with others? How on earth will she get on in life if she expects to get everything handed to her on a plate?

Now I must admit, that at first the idea of cheating in games triggered me. I never cheated as a child, whereas my husband told me stories of his own angry strops and cheating. One day I was playing a game of snakes and ladders with my daughter and my husband and they launched into full on cheating tactics, ganging up on me, going up ladders whenever they wanted, and moving me onto snakes. I was shocked at what he’d been teaching her!

At first I was thinking of all those nightmare scenarios I describe in my first paragraph, and then I suddenly realised something. Here was a prime opportunity for some Giggle Parenting; for my daughter to delight in watching me lose.

After all I didn’t need to get all sensible and tell her that we would only play if we played by the rules. I’m the adult. It doesn’t matter to me if I win and lose. I began to see that there was something going on that was much more important than playing the game. It was an opportunity to connect and an opportunity to heal.

All the laughter she has as she cheats is a great way to release stress and tension, and to bring us closer together. This is much more connecting, than having a serious, card game.

When my daughter cheats at cards, I do all sorts of things to get the giggles flowing. I exaggerate my shock and horror when she picks the best cards for her hand, or takes the best cards out of mine. I exclaim ”oh no!” as if I am completely powerless to stop her, when she doesn’t let me put down the card I need to win, or changes her mind about which card she wants to put down. I act completely surprised, in a playful way when I discover she’s been hiding cards, and I put up a pretend struggle when she tries to see my cards, but always let her see in the end.

Far from never teaching her about winning and losing, this gives her the chance to release tension about competitiveness. With a chance to be powerful and strong, a child feels more able to allow their natural co-operative nature to shine through. This actually means that next time your child plays with other children, they’ll be more relaxed about considering other children’s feelings and playing by the rules.

Far from teaching children to just grab what they want whenever they want to, letting them cheat at cards, shows that in this competitive world you are on their side, you are willing to make connection, and flexibility the first priority, rather than trying to ‘teach’ them. They will use this as a model, so they can go out into the world willing to consider others feelings, and be flexible too.

Children have a sense of justice and fairness. They can distinguish between having silly games with parents whose job is to help them with feelings. as opposed having sensible games with other children who also care deeply about winning.

Sometimes big feelings may still get in the way when a child is playing with other children. In this instance it’s good to set a limit about sticking to the rules. You can emphasise and offer hugs, if they feel sad and frustrated, while holding the limit, and staylistening to any feelings that come up. This process of letting a child to cry until they are ready to stop allows them to release the feelings that get in the way of play co-operatively, so that next time they’ll be more relaxed about winning and losing. For more information about staylistening, check out my article here, 10 Reasons Why Your Toddlers Tantrum is Good For Them

Then when you are alone with a single child, you can have a silly game. Or, if you’d like to try a silly game with multiple children, you can put them in a team together, so they get to gang up on you in a way that allows them to cheat without exacerbating sibling rivalry. I talk more about this idea in my 15 Playful Ways to Solve Sibling Rivalry.

Letting your child cheat at cards, with the accompanying giggles is actually a perfect way release stress and tension, and build closer connection between you, so relax the rules, and enjoy the fun!

For more Giggle Parenting solutions to your family challenges, check out my archives, or sign up to follow my blog in the top right hand corner of this page. And if you’ve got a parenting issue you’d like a solution too, send me a pm via my facebook page, and your challenge could be the subject of my next blog post! 

Sign Up For The Positive Parenting Conference!

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I was so excited and honoured to be invited to take part in A Fine Parent’s  online Positive Parenting Conference.  Myself and 15 other parenting experts will be giving talks to help you learn the tools you need to be a more gentle and connected parent.

As parents, especially when our children are young it’s often hard to even get out of the house, let alone attend a conference, so this free event allows you to take part from the comfort of your own home. And if your kids aren’t asleep in time for you to enjoy the talks you can catch up with free replays.

As Sumitha Bhandarker from A Fine Parent says; ”we’re doing the hardest job in the world – raising human beings – with little or no prior training, some hearsay knowledge and a lot of ‘gut feeling’! Can you imagine a doctor or plumber trying to do their job this way? No wonder most of us default so often to nagging and yelling all the time. And end up with so many power struggles. And feel so lost and adrift. And unsure in our own knowledge of what to do when faced with difficult situations.”

My own talk ‘How To Respond To Tears To Raise Strong Kids’ will be all about listening to tears, and how our reaction to our child’s emotions is key in helping them to grow up strong and resilient.

What each speaker has in common is that we’ve all published parenting books, so follow the link to sign up, check us all out and see which talks and books appeal to you!

 

How Listening Helps You Discover Your True Feelings (and heal from them)

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Listening time, one of the Hand in Hand Parenting tools is where two parents get together to take turns talking and listening about how parenting and their lives in general are going. It takes parenting to a whole new level, because, guess what? Our feelings are often what gets in the way of us being the parents we want to be.

Yesterday a letter came home from my daughter’s Kindergarten to say that her teacher would be leaving at the end of the year, so she would have a different teacher for her second year. My daughter burst into tears, and I felt like crying too. Her teacher had been lovely and my daughter had always felt completely safe and comfortable going to Kindergarten.

After crying briefly, I knew my daughter was still upset, but the feelings were stuck. When I talked about it again, she got angry with me and wanted me to stop. This was my signal to change tack. I made jokes about how her teacher must be going to planet Zog to teach aliens, or that I was going to be the new teacher. My husband joined in at dinner time, and asked if our daughter was going to be the new teacher. She laughed a lot at these silly suggestions, and I knew that this laughter, (what I call Giggle Parenting) would help her release some of her feelings, so that she could process what was going to happen.

This morning I had some listening time, and I found myself bursting into tears when I talked about the Kindergarten teacher leaving. Now as an adult, it may seem silly to cry about something as small as the teacher changing. It wasn’t even my teacher! But as I talked more I began to unravel that my feelings were not just about that. They were about my sadness about the Kindergarten years flying by. That soon my daughter would be starting school, something I have huge amounts of anxiety about. I like the Kindergarten with it’s free play and lack of reading and writing. But, having learnt about  unschooling and how children can naturally learn to read and write without going to school, I find it hard to think about putting my daughter into the school system. Yet I also know my daughter is looking forward to school that I have to honour her choice too.

My upset is an example of what is known as the ‘broken cookie phenomenon.’ Psychologist Aletha Solter coined the term to refer to how children often get upset about something small when there’s a deeper reason behind the upset. As parents we may often learn tips about helping to teach children to ’emotionally regulate,’ but our children’s emotional responses to small and ‘petty’ things are actually completely normal, and are best ‘managed’ by allowing feelings as often as we can.

We become socialised into feeling embarrassed or ashamed of our feelings, so we squash them down and try to get on with things. But when we have the space and safety to express our feelings we tend to get upset about small things too. Listening time gives you the space to get upset about anything you want, no matter how silly or small.  You can learn more about what triggered the upset and figure out the deeper reason behind it. This is how we make our own stories coherent, an important element in making sense of our own lives, so that we can think more clearly about supporting our children.

You can learn more about the Broken Cookie phenomenon, and how listening helps our parenting in my book Tears Heal.

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Giggle Parenting: For Food Fears

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Giggle Parenting is all about reversing the roles, and giving your child the power, so they get to build their confidence, feel good, and better connected.

When your child is afraid of trying new foods, or refuses food they used to like a simple role reversal can help.

Take the food they are afraid of and pretend that it’s afraid of them! Have it shriek, before hiding back in the fridge, or jumping into the cupboard. Talk to the food, and try to persuade it that it’s safe to come out, that it’s really okay to be eaten. As you slowly bring the food out have it jump and hide away in another place.

Have the food jump into really silly places that it really doesn’t belong like the cutlery drawer, or dishwasher. For extreme giggles, you could have it try to run into the bathroom or out the front door. Act all exasperated and keep telling the food, ”no that’s not right, you don’t belong there!” Repeat as long as the giggles flow.

This Giggle game may not result in your child instantly eating up the food, but it will help them feel closer connected and more confident about trying new things. For more tips on picky eating check out my article, How Connection Helps Picky Eaters. And for more fun suggestions to laugh away picky eating check out 20 Playful Ways To Help Picky Eaters.

Giggle Parenting: For Getting Your Children To Pick Their Stuff Of The Floor!

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Do you ever feel frustrated when you ask your child to pick something off the floor and they just flat out refuse? When children feel disconnected or are dealing with upset feelings, they often can’t think clearly to process our requests, let alone actually do as we tell them! Asking indirectly through connection is often much more effective.

When my daughter leaves stuff on the floor, or when I’m tidying up and I’d like her to help. I do something called  ‘the Trip Test.’  I say in a playful way as if I’m totally unsure, ”hmm, I wonder if that should be on the floor, let me do a test and see.” Then I walk towards it and do an exaggerated trip, and conclude that it has failed the Trip Test.

These kind of mini ‘giggle parenting’ moments may not always result in instant co-operation, but each shared moment of laughter and connection is all part of building co-operation between us.

So have a look around your home, and try out the Trip Test. I’d love to hear how it goes!

For more information about how to use connection to help your kids tidy up check out How To Spring Clean With Kids, 25 Fun Ways To Get Your Children To Tidy Up, or this podcast episode about listening for co-operation