Parent-Child Communication, The Happy Student Podcast

The Happy Student #84: Sharing Experiences is More Effective than Giving Advice

The way we give advice matters. People often get annoyed when others try to give them advice. People don’t like for other people to tell them what to do. Kids also do not like for their parents to tell them what to do. When parents give advice, kids often think, “They just don’t understand my situation.” And then they don’t follow that advice. One of the best ways to get around this problem with your kid, and to give advice without it feeling like advice, is to tell the other person about a shared experience you had and talk about how it worked out for you.

Sharing Experiences is More Effective than Giving Advice

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

  • The way we give advice matters. People often get annoyed when others try to give them advice, kind of like I do now that I’m a mom and everyone feels like they have important information to tell me. Their intentions I’m sure are most of the time good. But the way they communicate that information matters.
  • The way we give our kids advice matters too!
  • People don’t like for other people to tell them what to do. It creates a power imbalance in the relationship, where one person knows the right thing to do and the other person is expected to follow the advice – kind of like a parent-child relationship. This threatens the person’s autonomy. And we love our autonomy. So we naturally dislike it when someone else threatens our autonomy, so we naturally do not like being given unsolicited advice.
  • Kids also love their autonomy. They crave independence. Unfortunately for them, they are currently in the parent-child relationship so they are going to get some advice and they will be expected to take it.
    • But sometimes kids don’t take their parents’ advice. They actually often do have control over what they do and sometimes they behave in ways they shouldn’t even after you’ve given them advice (and maybe even some warnings and consequences).
  • One of the best ways to give advice without it feeling like advice is to tell the other person about a shared experience you had and talk about how it worked out for you.
    • By sharing an experience and connecting it to what’s happening in your kid’s life right now, you show them that you really do understand. You also give them the opportunity to learn from your experiences so they can make better decisions faster, instead of having to learn everything for themselves.
    • When you tell your kid a story, they go along with you for the ride and are therefore more likely to learn from that experience. So it’s easier to learn from shared experiences than it is to learn from advice.
  • Now you can’t always share an experience. Sometimes advice is the only option you have. But if you can share an experience, it’s more likely to be effective.
  • The homework this week is to tell us what your kids are struggling with, what experience you shared with them, and how it helped them to make a good decision. Send your homework along with any other comments or questions to info@fireborninstitute.org or message us on Instagram and Facebook at Fireborn Institute or tweet at us at SisuFireborn. Also, let us know if you are in need of some more shared experience examples and we’d be happy to do a follow up with some examples based on what you need!

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode. How do you help your children study and get ready for exams?

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

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How Telling Your Kid to CALM DOWN Can Have Negative Effects!
Discipline, Parent-Child Communication

How Telling Your Kid to CALM DOWN Can Have Negative Effects!

We have talked about this – growing up I had a pretty serious temper. My dad called me the “Tiger Kat”. Mainly my temper reared its ugly head when plans changed. If I was planning on watching TV and my mom asked me to do the dishes, it flared. But it would also flare when I was planning on doing my homework and my mom asked if I wanted to be a little adventurous and see a movie that evening. I know that sounds crazy, but the stress of needing to finish my homework and not knowing when it would get done if I went to the movies, coupled with the desire to not miss out on the fun, were too much for my young, strong emotions to handle.

I have since learned to control my emotions and my stress – thank goodness. However, there is still one phrase that always ignites my temper: “Calm down.”

Usually when someone says “Calm down” it is with the best intentions and is sincere advice. However, the result is typically the exact opposite (Shellenbarger, 2016).

Why does this happen? Because when you tell someone to calm down, you are not acknowledging their feelings as valid. If I am stressed because I just got back from vacation and work has piled up, my house is a mess, I do not have time to work out or meditate, and I have to take my car in for service unexpectedly and the bill is enormous, it is not a good time to tell me to calm down!

The stress that I feel is real. What I need is empathy. After many discussions, my husband has learned to stop trying to solve my problem (starting with not saying “Calm down”), and to instead say, “Wow. That is a lot of stuff going on. That stinks. I’m sorry honey.” (And maybe he even has time to offer his help!)

And that is what your children need too.

Their stressors may not seem big to you given your years of experience and vantage point, but they still feel like big deals to your child. The stress they feel is real. So what they really need from you is not advice on how to move forward, but rather some comfort. They need to hear that what they are feeling is natural. Once they receive that validation, they will be much more open to suggestions from you on how they can move forward productively. Eventually, they will learn to calm down in these situations without being told to do so.


References:

Shellenbarger, S. (2016). Why you should never tell someone to relax. The Wall Street Journal. 

Parent-Child Communication, The Happy Student Podcast

#83 Family Mottos Part 2: What if Your Kid Isn’t Kind?

Family mottos can be a great way to help kids develop a sense of self and promote good decision making. It’s nice to have a family motto like, “We are kind,” and then just have your kids act kind. But what if your kid isn’t acting kind? Maybe actually your kid is turning into the class bully or the mean girl. In this episode, we talk about how you can still use a family motto to help your kid establish a new, kind identity.

Family Mottos Part 2: What if Your Kid Isn’t Kind

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

  • Family mottos can be a great way to help kids develop a sense of self and promote good decision making. It’s nice to have a family motto like, “We are kind,” and then just have your kids act kind. But what if your kid isn’t acting kind?
  • Kids are learning how to behave and how to be friends with other kids. They test out saying a lot of different things and often those things can be hurtful. Children don’t necessarily know that saying, “That shirt is ugly” is going to hurt someone’s feelings, so what happens after they say “That shirt is ugly” is important.
    • If other kids and adults react by saying something to the effect of “That was a mean thing to say. You are mean.” Kids are going to start to think that they are, in fact, mean. Then, they’ll continue to say mean things because that is who they think they are.
      • They aren’t mean. What they said was mean. There’s a big difference there. Their action was wrong, but not their identity. And it’s much easier to change your actions than your identity.
    • Instead, if the people around them react by saying, “That was a mean thing to say. Look at how that hurt your friend’s feelings. I know that you didn’t mean to hurt your friend because you are a kind friend. What do you think you could do to make your friend feel better?” Then the lesson is that they made a mistake and acted out of character and they have an opportunity now to go back to being that kind person.

How can family mottos help?

  • Talk with your child about the importance of being kind. Start the conversation with a story of your own.
  • Finish your story with an emphasis on how important it is to be kind to others and how you value kindness.
    • If they can’t think of anything, say, “Well, it’s super important to be kind. So it’s okay that you can’t think of anything right now. How do you think you could show that you are kind tomorrow?”
  • Then, each day after school ask, “So what did you do today that was kind?”
    • Don’t let them off the hook! They will come up with something to get you off their case. And if they still can’t think of anything, give them a few ideas of things they may have done throughout the day.
  • While you are working on those steps, be on the lookout for ways that your child is being kind and praise them for it.

By following these steps, your child will realize that they are in fact kind sometimes. And that will start to shift their identity.

  • Then, when they aren’t kind, instead of scolding them for being mean, have a discussion with them about what happened.
  • Even if your child did mean to hurt their friend’s feelings, they probably aren’t going to admit it. They want to think the best of themselves and they want you to think the best of them too. And you clearly think that being kind is important, so they aren’t going to correct you. So, they will figure out what to do to make their friend feel better. They will start to act in ways that are kind – in ways that confirm your perception of them.
    • If your child does say, “Yeah, I did want to hurt their feelings.” Then you have a deeper discussion. There are so many reasons your child might say that, so you need to get at the motivations. Maybe that person had hurt their feelings – so that might lead to a conversation about what happened and how to resolve it effectively. But that’s really an aside.

Your family motto is what is important to you. You’ve been showing the importance of being kind. Now is the time to have an explicit conversation about your family values and come up with that “We are kind” motto (or something similar to it, like we are inclusive, generous, giving… You don’t want to force the motto to be one thing, just guide the conversation towards kind and see what mottos your kids come up with.). Once you have that motto, you can then really reinforce that identity explicitly during conversations when you say, “We are kind! What did you do today that was kind?” as well as during the conversations when your kid has trouble remembering to be kind.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Do you have a family motto?

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Making Good Decisions through Family Mottos
Parent-Child Communication, The Happy Student Podcast

#82: Making Good Decisions through Family Mottos

Teaching your kids to make good decisions can be really hard. Developing a family motto can make that a lot easier. Family mottos, such as “We are kind” or “We are inclusive” help kids develop a sense of self. Then, they naturally want to behave in ways that confirm that they are indeed kind or inclusive. When faced with a tough decision, parents can refer their kids to the family motto to then help them make a good decision.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

Family mottos help kids develop a sense of identity and that sense of identity helps them figure out how they want to behave when someone is getting bullied or they are having difficulty with their homework. So family mottos, the stories we tell about ourselves and our families, can be a really powerful parenting tool.

Some examples of family mottos are:

“We are inclusive.”

“We are curious.”

“We keep trying.”

“We are generous.”

“We are brave.”

“We are honest.”

“We are loyal.”

“We work hard.”

“We are funny.”

“We are kind.”

Some of the family mottos I had growing up were: “We are kind.” “We look for the good things in life.” “We are modest.”

    • “We are kind” came through in discussions about looking out for people who were less fortunate than us.
    • “We look for the good things in life” because every evening at dinner my dad forced us to tell him “the goods”, which were one good thing we did for someone else that day, one good thing someone else did that day, and just one good thing that happened that day.
    • “We are modest” – we don’t brag, especially because that could hurt other people’s feelings and we are kind, so we don’t do that.
  • They weren’t necessarily made explicit in that we did not specifically say, “We are kind,” but they were our family mottos because that is what my parents highlighted during their conversations with us and it was clear that was what they valued and since they started talking with us about those things from a young age, it became what we valued too. And what you value, like being kind, affects how you behave.

How can you make family mottos explicit according to Dr. Michele Borba’s book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.?

Sit down with your family and have a conversation about what your family values and come up all together with your family mottos. 

  • Ask your kids, Who are we? What do we stand for? If your family decides that “We are inclusive,” or “We are kind,” or “We are brave,” then talk about what those things mean. So if we are inclusive, how do each of you show that you are inclusive? If your kids have difficulty coming up with a way to show that they are inclusive, try giving an example of how you are inclusive first.

Start to bring the family motto up at dinner.

  • Ask, “In what way were you inclusive today?” Try to make it a habit to show that the motto is important. They will start to really take this motto to heart and they will naturally want to behave in ways that align with the motto and their sense of self.

We make decisions and act based on what we value. So family mottos help us understand who we are, give us a sense of identity, and guide our decisions and behaviors. You can get your children to do the right thing, even if your motto isn’t necessarily “We are kind”. So when your child is trying to make a decision, it’s helpful to have a motto to refer them to that will help them make a good decision.

This is another way to reinforce those good decisions: using family mottos to help your children develop a sense of identity. Then when they make good decisions, those choices are reinforced because they align with their sense of self-established by that motto. And you can tell them what a great job they did being kind, brave, inclusive, or whatever your motto is.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Do you have a family motto?

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Make Your Kid Feel Special with Some One-on-One Time
Parent Tips, Parent-Child Communication

Make Your Kid Feel Special with Some One-on-One Time

In June, before my baby arrived, and her due date had passed, and I needed to walk my dog around town, my mom decided she would come visit me each day while my husband was at work to make sure that the baby and I were safe. She spent two weeks Monday through Friday driving three hours round trip to see me – until the baby was finally born. I had already finished preparing for my maternity leave, so I didn’t have much work to do. So Mom and I spent the days walking Lily, eating lunch together, going to the grocery store, and just sitting in the living room chatting. She even walked me to my yoga classes and met me outside the studio when it was finished so that I was never alone – just in case.

I’m an adult and I still appreciate alone time with my parents. This special one-on-one time with my mom still made me feel special, loved, and protected. If it’s so meaningful to a grown adult, imagine how it would make an actual child feel.

Parents want to make their kids feel special. But in the daily rush, finding the time to do that can be an impossible task.

And it probably is impossible to make each of your kids feel special every day because a lot of the time, parents are in survival mode. Getting everyone to their own activities, dinner on the table, ensuring homework is complete and that everyone gets to bed at some point seems like a pretty great way to show how much you care about your kids. But of course, kids need more.

One way to give them a bit more is to schedule some one-on-one time. Sure you can’t give it to them every day. That’s okay. It’s still special, memorable, and effective as long as you find time to do it sometime.

[bctt tweet=”Finding ways to give your child some time for just the two of you boosts your child’s self-esteem and it can decrease misbehavior. Plus it feels good as a parent to connect with your child. #parenttips” username=”@SisuFireborn”]

I am one of five kids. So life was pretty hectic at my house. It’s hard to get attention when there are so many other kids vying for your parents’ attention. So that made my alone time with my parents that much more special. So what did my parents do?

My dad played catch with me while I practiced to make the lacrosse team. We also went running together in the park.

My mom took me to get frappuccinos when she picked me up from exams in middle and high school.

My dad took me to North Dakota, which was a super weird trip (the state was cool – the trip was weird). The Red River Valley was just mud and we went to a super strange art gallery and wound up interrupting a bingo event in the middle of the day as we tried to find lunch.

These are some of my strongest memories from growing up – that is how meaningful one-on-one time with your parents can be. And things like catch and getting frappuccinos only takes 30 minutes once in a while. That’s a pretty big bang for your parenting buck.

Also, spending one-on-one time with your little sweetheart helps increase your empathy for them. It gives you an opportunity to figure out what is going on with your little one – how are they feeling? What have they been up to recently? What have they been thinking about? Worrying about? What are they excited about?

Checking in with your kid about these things refreshes your relationship with them and helps parents to have a better understanding of why their children might be behaving certain ways. Maybe your child has been irritable lately. Spending some one-on-one time with them might reveal that they are fighting with their best friend. When you know the backstory, it’s so much easier to respond to a tantrum with understanding and empathy.

If your kid has been acting out recently, it could indicate that they need more of your attention. Often kids misbehave because they know it will get their parents’ attention. If you find times to predictably give your child attention before they act out, they will be less likely to misbehave in the future.

So finding ways to give your child some time for just the two of you boosts your child’s self-esteem and it can decrease misbehavior. Plus it just feels good to connect with your child.

What do you do with your kids one-on-one? We’d love to hear your ideas!

The Happy Student Podcast #81: Shock Your Teens with Radical Calmness
Parent-Child Communication, The Happy Student Podcast

The Happy Student Podcast #81: Shock Your Teens with Radical Calmness

Teens often do crazy things. Sometimes they even tell you about it beforehand, and despite your explanation of why it’s a terrible idea, they go ahead and do it anyway! One way you can get your teens to listen to you is to use radical calmness. When you use radical calmness, you stay calm when your kids say something crazy (instead of launching into why it’s a bad idea), which can shock your children into listening to you and hopefully help them decide to do something less crazy.

The Happy Student Podcast #81: Shock Your Teens with Radical Calmness

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

  • Radical calmness is when you shock your children into listening to you by staying calm when they say something crazy to you.
  • So teens love to get a rise out of their parents – they’ll say crazy stuff to get a big reaction from you, tell you that you are crazy, and then they may go do that crazy thing even though you’ve told them exactly why they shouldn’t do that.

When your teen comes to you saying something totally ridiculous, practice radical calmness:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Respond with something innocuous like, “Okay. Tell me about why you are choosing to do that.”
    1. Tone is important here. Stay away from judgmental and really lean into sincere curiosity.
    2. This information-seeking response is not the reaction your teen was expecting. The scenario they have been playing out in their head is thrown off track. They cannot just blow off what you said and go and do what they want to do because you haven’t said anything.
  3. Ask open-ended follow up questions to get your teen to really think through their decisions.
    1. For example, you may say, “So how do you think she’ll respond to you doing that?” and “What do you think she’ll do then? Do you think she’ll just be sad or do you think she might want to get back at you? How might she go about getting back at you?”
  4. Once they get to the conclusion that you had already reached in your head given your years of practice making decisions brainstorm together alternative ways to respond to the situation.
  5. Finally, tell them how proud you are of them and acknowledge how difficult making that decision and acting upon it is.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Tips on What to do When Kids Start Valuing Friends’ Opinions Over Their Parents’
Parent Tips, Parent-Child Communication

Tips on What to do When Kids Start Valuing Friends’ Opinions Over Their Parents’

Your kids will naturally start to prioritize their friends’ opinions over yours. It’s a natural way for them to start exhibiting their independence from you – to figure out who they are separate from you. This can be a difficult time for parents because since your baby was born, you have been the center of that baby’s world. And now your baby isn’t listening to you and potentially making really bad decisions.

There is some letting go that parents need to do. Kids are going to make a few bad decisions – we can’t keep them from doing it. It’s kind of a rite of passage. When kids make those poor decisions, it’s important for parents to support them and guide them to making better decisions in the future (and maybe some discipline is also needed). So, you can be helpful once your child has made a bad decision. That’s nice. You’re not completely irrelevant.

But even before your child has listened to that bad advice from their peers, you can still be relevant by utilizing positive, effective communication.

Tips on Establishing Effective Communication

  1. Start the conversation. Getting your kids just to talk to you in the first place can be hard. Start the conversation by asking more interesting questions than “How was your day?” (Motherly has a list of better questions to ask when your kid comes home from school). Another way to start an effective communication habit is to have your kids tell you “The Goods” every day.
  2. If your child tells you (or you notice) that they are struggling with something, share a similar experience you had as a child and how you dealt with the problem. Sharing your experiences with your child makes them feel like you are treating them as an adult. It also doesn’t feel the same as advice, which they may ignore because they don’t want to do things just because you tell them to. But if you just share your experience, they may think about it and actually learn from it instead of making the same mistake you did.
  3. Start young. The more you communicate with your children from a young age, the more that communication becomes a habit. Habits are hard to break, so even though your child will be valuing their peers’ opinions over yours, you will still have the opportunity to talk with them about what is going on in their lives. Staying in the conversation is essential.
  4. Give them their privacy. When you respect your kid’s privacy, you are communicating to them that you trust them, so they are less likely to hide stuff from you and more likely to come to you when they are facing a challenge.
  5. When they come to you with an issue they are facing, or if they have already made a mistake, your tone really matters. Try to use as nonjudgmental a tone of voice as possible. Your kid already knows that they are potentially about to make a mistake or that they are currently in a sticky situation. Coming to you takes guts. If they feel judged by you, they are more likely to avoid talking to you because it just makes them feel worse. But if they don’t perceive that judgment and they feel like you were helpful and supportive, they are more likely to keep coming to you for help (and maybe even straight-out advice one day). This keeps you relevant and in the conversation for next time.
  6. Avoid trying to solve their problems for them directly (unless they specifically ask). They are getting older and are figuring out how to make decisions on their own and they may recoil from your advice. You can still be helpful. Ask information-seeking questions to gently guide them to a good solution (The Happy Student #81: Shock Your Teens with Radical Calmness coming out tonight goes through how to do this effectively).
  7. Work on maintaining your relationship through your parenting style. When your child messes up and needs discipline, use it as an opportunity to teach them how to do better next time instead of focusing on the punishment. After you have finished talking through the incident and what to do next time, move on and do something to remind your child that your relationship is still wonderful even though your child’s behavior in this instance wasn’t. This helps them feel safe coming to you next time they are trying to make a decision.

Parents don’t just stop being influential entirely. Your kids still value your opinion of them, even if they act like they don’t. They are just trying to figure out who they are. The more you can help guide them, instead of tell them, the more they will let you be a part of their life.