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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Focus on the Family and Dr. Kevin Leman: Parenting Tips

I am blessed to have heard Dr. Kevin Leman speak 3 times total this last Sunday and Monday at our church. He gave phenomenal parenting advice that I've started implementing, and am happy to say I can already see a difference! I haven't read any of his books yet, but I've now got a big long list of one's I'm planning to read (including his Have a New (____) by Friday books) ! 

Out of all the different books/articles I've read, advice I've heard, and methods I've tried regarding parenting, Dr. Leman's recommendations are the only ones that get a 5-star rating! I'm excited how the dynamics of our family are already changing! 

Here are just some quick tips Dr. Leman teaches, written by Shana Schutte through Focus on the Family.  There are 4 articles focusing on common parenting challenges for children ranging from ages 0-18.

Behaviors and Strategies for 0-3 Year-Olds
Trying to come up with a potty plan for your little one? Or maybe you'd just like to make it through a meal without any high chair high jinks? Parents of toddlers, read on for expert advice from Dr. Kevin Leman.
There are two things that every person on the planet does: eat and go potty. These can also be two challenging areas for parents. If you are the parent of a small child, you may wonder how you can get your child on the potty and make them stay in the high chair during meal times. Here are some ideas from Dr. Kevin Leman, author, speaker and child psychologist, from his book Have a New Kid by Friday.
Potty Plans
In America, we celebrate a lot of things: football victories, marriages, birthdays, and even potty training victories. Potty training? You got it. One afternoon as I watched television, a popular psychologist coached a couple to praise and cheer for their child, which resulted in the little guy becoming potty-trained in less than 24 hours.
Amazed? Envious? Wish you could have this kind of success with your child? No worries; keep the faith! If you're ready for your bundle of joy to ditch the diaper days and start using the potty, here are some ideas to help. Granted, you may not get results in 24 hours, but you will get results that will make both you and your little one happy.
Dr. Leman offers these simple suggestions for putting a "Potty Plan" in place:
  • Look for signs that suggest your child is ready for potty training. If your child asks questions about the potty and mimics you when you go, these are solid signs of readiness. And readiness is very important. Dr. Leman warns that parents who try to push potty training on a child who isn't ready will end up fighting a losing battle.
  • Ramp up rewards to encourage your child, such as buying some "Big Girl" or "Big Boy" underwear.
  • Get a small potty that sits close to the ground. Then, when your child asks about the toilet, Dr. Leman says you can casually mention that this is one they can use.
  • Encourage your child by saying that he can do it all by himself. If you are the parent of a two-year-old, you know how important this can be; independence is a big deal at this age.
  • Don't ask your child every five minutes if he "has to go." This will help create a sense of responsibility and confidence in your child to help him be responsible for his own urges.
  • Use verbal affirmation and praise. When a child goes to the potty, Dr. Leman suggests parents say something like, "Wow! Look at what you did all by yourself. That's great!" However, he says not to make too big of a deal out of it because everyone on the planet is responsible for their own bladder.
  • Remember that it's OK if your child doesn't immediately respond to your potty plan. If this happens, Dr. Leman says to simply put the potty away and bring it out a week or two later. Maybe by then your child will be ready.
  • Keep in mind that not every child is ready for potty training at the same age, but between 2 and 2-1/2 years is typically a good time to begin.
  • Discipline the lazy child. If your child gets busy playing outside, doesn't want to take the time to come in and go to the bathroom, then wets his pants and says he "forgot to go," stick to Dr. Leman's rule that "everyone only gets to use one pair of underwear per day." That means your child won't be able to play any more outside for the day. Then, the next time he'll remember to listen to his bladder.
High Chair High Jinks
I recently walked by a billboard that showed a baby in his high chair, his face smeared with something gooey, sticky and red. He looked like the proverbial cat that ate the mouse: completely delighted and satisfied.
For the parent who faces meal-time dilemmas with their "high-chair child," it can be anything but delightful and satisfactory. In fact, it may make you want to pull your hair out.
Here are some suggestions on dealing with "high chair high jinks" from Dr. Leman:
  • Remember that your child will typically take a very short time to eat. If you are already feeding your child from a high chair, no doubt you have learned that when your child is done eating, she is done. And when she is done, she will want down right away. Therefore, she may try to get down on her own, or start throwing food or her dishes. Be patient, Moms and Dads. Dr. Leman says that she's not trying to be naughty; she's just learned that when she does these things, you'll come running. Therefore, the key to stopping this behavior is to watch your child and take note when she is done eating. Then, immediately take her down before her High Jinks start.
  • Teach your child that once he is down from the chair, the meal is over. This means you don't give in if she wants something else to eat right away. No snacks. Nothing extra. Make meal time a routine and she'll eat.
  • Don't expect too much from your child. Remember that your child has a very short attention span and that it's difficult for children (especially toddlers) to sit for long periods of time. This means that if you and your mate are planning to go out for a long, leisurely meal at one of your favorite restaurants, you might think about hiring a sitter or changing your plans.
  • Don't try to placate your child. Dr. Leman says that some parents try to keep their kids quiet in their high chair before dinner so that they can prepare dinner for everyone else. The problem is that by the time dinner is ready, your child is already too full to eat anything else. The answer is to feed your child what you'll be eating whenever possible.
These suggestions for eating and potty training may seem simple, but take it from expert Dr. Leman, they work!
Copyright © 2008 Shana Schutte.   

Behaviors and Strategies for 4-7 Year-Olds
Independence blossoms in the 4-7 age range, and sometimes that means special challenges for parents. Dr. Kevin Leman offers help for handling picky eaters and sibling rivalry.
If you are the parent of a child between the ages of 4 and 7, no doubt you have discovered that your little angel came with a built-in sense of independence that makes him want to do things his way. And if you are like most parents, you've seen this independence show up in many areas, including those having to do with food and family. Here are some ideas from Dr. Kevin Leman and his popular book Have a New Kid by Friday to help you deal with these difficult parenting challenges.
Picky Eaters
My mother, whom I have affectionately named the "Queen of Phrases," always told my sister and me when we were growing up that we would eat what she had prepared. "If you don't like it, you can lump it," she said. I quickly learned what that phrase really meant: "If you don't like it and you refuse to eat, you will go hungry." Now, as a well-adjusted eater, I am thankful for my mom and her tough, "No picky eaters allowed" philosophy because I like just about all foods — with the exception of anchovies, pigs feet and anything that includes animal intestines.
If you are the parent of a picky eater, here is Dr. Leman's advice.
  • Give your kids food that God made. I once watched as a mother gave her four-year-old a choice of breakfast from a breakfast bar. There were many yummy things including fruit and eggs but the little girl chose French toast. OK, there is nothing wrong with French toast. I love it myself. But according to Dr. Leman, if you want to grow a child who is not a picky eater, don't overexpose them to sugary foods and snacks. Why? It creates a habit for "bad-for-you" foods that will encourage your child to be a picky eater. So instead of loading your kitchen cupboards with junk food, load up on fruits, vegetables and things that God made.
  • Don't make a mountain out of a molehill. According to Dr. Leman, "Many studies have been done that show that children, if not pushed by their parents, will eat what their bodies crave. For example, children who are in a growth phase might require a lot more protein. Who cares if a child eats a lot of fish one week, and feasts on veggies the next week because that's what she craves? She's still getting an overall balanced diet."

    What this boils down to is not making too big of a deal about eating. Just bring home healthy food and don't push your kid to eat all of her veggies or try to bribe her with a candy bar to eat all of her peas. This kind of reasoning not only doesn't work, but it's detrimental to kids. They'll eat when they're hungry if you don't make a mountain out of a molehill.
  • Remember that your kids will eat how much they need when they are hungry. Kids don't typically have hang-ups about food like adults. Unlike many grown-ups, they eat when they are hungry and they stop when they are full. Dr. Leman suggests not pushing your kids to finish everything that's on their plate. "Studies have shown that your child can eat in one sitting only the amount of food that is the size of his fist. If parents push children to eat more than they are comfortable with, it can lead to struggles with overeating later on."
Sibling Rivalry
Sibling rivalry has been an issue since Cain and Abel had it out with each other. Of course, there are other, more productive ways to deal with fighting, bickering and bullying between your kids.
  • Let them duke it out. When I was a girl and my sister and I were fighting, my mother had often, as she said "Had it up to here!" Because she wanted peace, she let us duke it out. "Go outside and fight out there!" she'd shout. Or, if outside wouldn't do, she'd put us in a room together and let us go at it. Strangely, something happened when mom did this; it was no longer fun and our fighting stopped. Dr. Leman would have been proud of my mom because she didn't get into the middle of our argument, which according to him is like getting in the "middle of a battle."
  • Drive back home. But sometimes bickering happens in the car. What about those times?

    When my sister and I fought in the car my mom always said, "Stop fighting or you can get out and walk home." I remember only one occasion when I was forced to hoof it back to the house. But Mom only had to kick me out of the car once and I never disobeyed this way again.

    But perhaps you're thinking, "It's not safe to kick your kids out of the car anymore." True. So, Dr. Leman suggests that if your angels won't stop bickering to turn the car around and go back home. This will have the same effect that it had on me when my mom made me walk. Dr. Leman says, "…your smart kids will figure out that it doesn't make sense to do things that don't get rewarded."
Copyright © 2008 Shana Schutte.  

8-12 Year Olds: Wardrobe Troubles, Tattling Woes and Undereating
The preteen years can be a time of special behavior challenges as children face new insecurities. Dr. Kevin Leman weighs in.
By Shana Schutte
The preteen years can be challenging. Your child may be dealing with how she looks and how she fits in with others. Both of these concerns are often evidenced in wardrobe problems, insecurities about body image and even tattling. Here are some suggestions on how you can deal with each of these issues and help your child adjust to the preteen years.
Wardrobe Troubles: A Little Duct Tape Will Do
When I once attended a retreat, the speaker told a funny story. His wife, a junior high teacher, had grown tired of a student who was coming to school wearing his pants so low that his hind end was showing. She warned him, "Do not come to school wearing your pants that way again. If you do, I am going to fix them myself."
The next day, the student came to school with his pants still riding low. True to her word, the teacher said, "I told you not to wear your pants that way to school again. Now, I'm going to fix them." With that, she reached into her desk and pulled out a roll of duct tape, grabbed the student's pants, hiked them up and duct taped them around his middle into the proper position. Not surprisingly, the student never wore his pants that way again.
This funny story illustrates an important principle: when it comes to dressing and wardrobe issues with your kids, it's critical to decide what constitutes a true problem, and what doesn't. For this teacher, the young man's pants were a true problem. As a parent, you'll need to decipher which wardrobe issues are true problems because they affect your child's character or are the result of a character problem, and which ones aren't a big deal because they are only a sign of poor fashion taste.

  • It's OK when things don't match. Not a true problem.

    When I was young, my aunt complained that my younger cousin, who was learning to dress herself, had come up with some rather interesting clothing combinations that were, in my aunt's opinion, less than satisfactory. Striped socks with polka dot pants weren't the ideal look. Thankfully, my aunt was able to chuckle her way through my cousin's awkward stage.

    As your kids express themselves through their clothing, it's often not one of those battles worth fighting. As they grow, they'll figure out what looks good and what doesn't. In his book
    Have a New Kid by Friday Dr. Leman says, "… you don't have to wear the clothes, so why not let your child be a little creative and learn from the experience?"
  • It's not OK when dress is an outward sign of an inward problem. This is a true problem. Just as punk rock dressing was popular when I was in college, Goth fashion is popular now. Goth is worn by teens who belong to the Goth subculture, which is characterized as dark and morbid. This type of dressing is more of a problem than non-matching stripes and dots because it is an outward expression of something deeper that is going on inside the wearer.

    According to Dr. Leman, "… if all of a sudden your child is dressing only in all black, wearing Goth makeup and leather, then clothing is becoming a mountain [not a molehill]. Why? Because with that clothing, your child is trying on a persona that could take her into dangerous territory."
Tattling: Don't Tell Me!
When I was a young public school teacher, I just about went crazy dealing with tattling among my 6th graders. One student in particular always seemed to have an inside scoop on everything her peers were doing. Sadly, I suffered mostly silently while I listened to whining complaints from this girl for an entire school year. I wish I would have known Dr. Leman at the time.
  • Set a hard line for what you'll listen to.
    Leman's solution is simple — just tell the tattle that you don't want to hear it. "If you have a problem with your brother, go talk to him. If there's something that he did, then he should be the one to tell me, not you." Granted, I was in a classroom setting and not dealing with my own kids, but the same principle could have worked.
  • Pay attention to what's behind the tattling.
    Leman says this will be like taking the wind out a sail because the tattler has a motivation behind all of her tattling — and that's to make herself look better or to make her parent think that she is better than her siblings.
Undereating: A Perfect Body Is Not the Goal
More than 20 years ago when I was in junior high, the thought of "getting fat" plagued me almost every day. These concerns still exist, and perhaps even more so for today's young women because of the way the media idolize beauty above character. So while your twelve-year-old boy is stuffing his face after school with mint-chocolate-chip ice cream, your daughter is counting how many calories are in a pile of grapes. According to Dr. Leman, this can be a problem if your daughter becomes preoccupied with how she looks.
  • Keep an eye out for anorexia. If you suspect that your daughter has been lured into the lies that fuel anorexia or bulimia, it's important to immediately get professional help for your child. Both of these health problems can not only affect her in the present, but also in the future. Many long-term bulimics and anorexics experience problems with their teeth, hair, organs and overall health.
  • Share your own imperfections. In his book, Dr. Leman jokes that he likes to pull his sweater up and show people a side view of his gut. "… now there's perfection!" he teases. This kind of lighthearted approach to imperfection is important as you deal with teens who are especially hard on themselves about how they look. "Children love to hear stories about you and how you fell short. It gives them freedom to also be imperfect … Let your imperfection show," says Leman.

    This means you can and should tell your children things about yourself that you have sometimes disliked, or the parts of you that may seem unattractive. If you can make light of it, you will teach your children that it's OK to be imperfect, because we are lovable and acceptable anyway.
Copyright © 2008 Shana Schutte.

Dealing with Put-Downs, Rolling Eyes and Smoking — 13-18 Year-Olds
Practical advice from child psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman to help parents overcome obstacles and lead their teens into responsible, successful adulthood.
By Shana Schutte
The teen years can be a wonderful season, but also a time of unique challenges for both parents and kids. Some of the challenges for parents include dealing with teen put-downs, rolling eyes, and destructive behavior such as smoking. Here are some suggestions on how to overcome these obstacles and help your teen develop into a responsible, loving adult.
Dealing with Put-downs
When I was a school teacher, I transferred from elementary to junior high. Thankfully, I found many things that I loved about junior high students. But there were a few things I didn't love, including the way students often put each other down. Unfortunately, this behavior doesn't just happen in the classroom, but also in homes. If you parent kids between the ages of 13 and 18, you may have experienced this and, like me, know the frustration this behavior brings.
In his book Have a New Kid by Friday, Dr. Leman gives great advice on how to deal with put-downs and regain your sanity.
Remember that kids are like little adults.
Sometimes parents scratch their heads because they wonder what could make their otherwise angelic children put each other down. Not surprisingly, it's the same motivation that adults have when they engage in the same behavior — usually pride or insecurity. No matter the age, people put one another down to make themselves look good, and according to Dr. Leman, kids may also put one another down to get their parents' attention.
So if you're tired of listening to your teens bicker, Dr. Leman suggests sending your teens into a room and telling them that neither of them is coming out until things are worked out to your satisfaction. This, says Leman, will teach your kids that you are not going to do their fighting for them, that they are responsible for their own actions, and that you live by a "no put-down policy."
This policy is important, not only because it fulfills Christ's command to love one another, but because it will also encourage family unity. Dr. Leman said it sends the message, "In this family, we're not going to tolerate put-downs or name calling. We're a family. That means we support each other … When you put each other down, that hurts everyone. And it breaks down our family."
Rolling Eyes
I recently heard that 70 percent of what you communicate to others is non-verbal. There are plenty of negative non-verbal cues that kids send to one another and to their parents, and one of these is rolling eyes.
Dr. Leman says, "[Preteens and teens are] masters at the rolling-eye syndrome. It's their non-verbal way of saying, 'Please, not again!' 'Dad, you're embarrassing me. I can't believe you did that!'"
Eye rolling is a molehill, not a mountain.
One of the things that make parents effective is remembering what's a big deal and what isn't. Dr. Leman says that while talking back and being a smark-aleck is a big deal, rolling the eyes isn't. This means that, yes, you should correct it, but no, you shouldn't act like it's a mountain when it's only a molehill.
A lighthearted approach works best.
Dr. Leman says, "Parents, this is not an issue to go to war on. So why not have a little fun with it? The next time you see the eye roll, say, 'Oh, that was great. Would you do it again? In slow motion?'"
When one of my good friends was in high school in the 60s, some things just weren't cool, and smoking was one of them. Now, smoking is accepted among teens. While you hope that your voice of reason will speak loudly when it comes to lighting up, there is no guarantee. So what do you do if you discover that your teen has taken up smoking or is dabbling in it?
Remember that smoking is dangerous and it's stupid.
In his book, Dr. Leman says that it's stupid to smoke because of the health damage it causes. In fact, Leman says there are numerous studies that show both first-hand and second-hand smoke are harmful. This is important to remember because if you allow your child to smoke, you are not only allowing them to ruin their health, but hurt others around them too, and that may include you.
Help your children educate themselves about the stupidity of smoking.
If you discover your child is smoking, Dr. Leman suggests that you have your child do a 5-page report on the ills of smoking and that the paper has to be handed in to you before his life goes on — or before he can do anything else. That means that if he has plans to go to the movie, the paper has to be done first; if he had plans to play football, too bad; he'd better get busy writing.
Take action.
If you suspect that your child is smoking marijuana, take her to do the doctor to request a urinalysis. If you find that your child has indeed been smoking pot, Dr. Leman says it's important to take action. Form an intervention group and remove any privileges your child has, such as driving the family car or receiving an allowance. "A wise parent will take a hard-line approach to get the behavior stopped immediately. There is far too much at stake."
One of the main things to remember as you teach your teens to become responsible adults is not to worry too much about being a friend. Sometimes it's important to take a harder approach to get your teen's attention.
Copyright © 2008 Shana Schutte.

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