DREAMING OF HELPING A CHILD STAR? DON’T

TOPIC: Better to STAR in life or in the Olympics?  Some manage to do both, but few people have the talent, the drive, the backing, and the luck needed to win Olympic Gold.

When I face that reality, I think of Michelle Kwan and her four attempts to win the Gold and the four times luck was against her.  She is a Olympic star in every sense of the word, but is mostly remembered for her failure to win an Olympic Gold Medal despite being acknowledged for years as the best of the best among female figure skaters.

She stopped skating to pursue a career promoting world peace as a public ambassador.  She didn’t win the gold, but she definitely stars in my heart, and I give her an Olympic Gold rating in knowing what matters.

What prompted this post was a business leadership post.  Parents are power leaders, and I find much of what is said in managment trainings applies to parents. Here is the post by the Leadership Freak that set me on this path: When Talent Defeats « Leadership Freak.

It is a quick read, but here is a quote that sums it up: “It’s easy to find yourself starry-eyed with talented super stars and high potentials. Beware, you need more than talent; you need talented team players.”

Parents are starry eyed about their children’s abilities.  Watch Dance Moms or Toddlers and Tiaras for proof.  Both shows also prove how eagerly children pursue parental dreams.  A toddler doesn’t know a tiara from a tadpole, but they know what makes Mom and Dad happy.

Watching  reality talent show auditions makes it clear that too many across the nation pursue the wrong dream.  American Idol auditions are full of people who shouldn’t sing outside the shower. True, some enter as a joke, but far too many are there with high hopes and families and friends supporting them.

Not everyone can achieve media stardom.  One of my rants is against the idea that your dreams will come true if only you dream hard enough.  Many gurus preaching this idea also say you have to work hard. Very few point out that you also need a great deal of luck.

I preach that anyone can STAR in their life.  Such a STAR:

S = Stops 
T = Thinks about what matters
A = Acts kindly
R = Reaps goodness

Each step represents a skill, not a talent; skills are learned behaviors.  The fact that a great many adults act before thinking, or think and still act in ways that harm or hurt self or others, shows stopping to think is not an easy skill to learn.

WHAT IS A PARENT TO DO

Parents do a lot of telling their child “Stop and think.”  Parents also spend a lot of time pulling out their hair because children don’t stop to think.  Here are tips that will help.

First tip: As always think age and stage.   A baby is totally feeling driven. A toddler is learning what hurts him and what upsets grownups.

Shame enters at about age two, but is only the first step in learning to control the urge to hurt someone who twarts you.  Without grownups around the strongest or boldest child will probably bully the others in order to get his or her own way.

Only seven or eight year olds are in enough control to play and mostly control the urge to bully or hurt one another.  This is the age when some cultures know a child can care for a herd of animals or a younger sibling without an adult keeping an eye on what is happening.  There is a big if … parents must have been clear about what matters.

When  adolescence approaches, life will be doing most of the teaching.  Many kids drop out of sports at this point, or give up other dreams.  Then parents need to double their support.  This is also the time to use the reflective listening skills put forth by Parent Effectiveness Training and the other communication gurus.  At the same time, hold to your rules.

Tip two: When teaching rules, teach the ones that matter most. These? Safety and kindness to self and others; not destroying property is the next; and not breaking major laws comes into play during the pre-teen and teen years.  When a toddler accidentally hurts a pet, “No hurting” will do. Teach boundaries as your child grows. Again simple words will do. “No, not safe.”  “No hurting others.” “No breaking things.” As the child grows not much more needs to be said, although teens might want to be engaged in thinking more deeply about the why of rules and laws.

Tip three: Start early to teach self-soothing exercises.  In order to stop and think clearly the body has to be soothed.  Feelings rev you up and want you to act and act quickly.

Calming breathe followed by breath counting are the first skills to teach.

  1. You take a calming breath by slowly breathing in, some say to a count of five.
  2. Then you hold your breath until some tension builds, again a count of five is suggested.
  3. You breathe out slowly.
  4. You end with a soft  smile and go on to just breathing normally and counting each breath as you exhale.

At some point adding a calming slogan increases the power of both of these exercises.

Tip four: Teach rating scales or feeling thermometers.  Rating scales not only focus you on what matters, but as you stop to take a rating, you slow down the push to act without thinking.  Here is a link to creating a personal feeling thermometer that I started on Wiki How.

Start teaching rating with a three point scale for children before they can read.  The best, okay, and the baddest. In time you can add numbers and post a general feeling thermometer on your refrigerator.

The purpose of rating feelings is to alert you to the need to self-sooth and possibly to take a timeout if it looks like you are going to do something foolish.

A good tactic is to shift the purpose of timeouts from a punishment to thinking time.  We started this when the kids were ten. Then timeouts were in your room for at least ten minutes and after the ten minutes you needed to be able to make a sincere apology.

Tip five: Teach saying apologizing, making amends, asking for and giving forgiveness.  This begins by modeling your ability to forgive and to ask to be forgiven.   If you do not need your child’s forgiveness, most likely someone else is raising your child.

When you realize you have over reacted or in some other way hurt your child, say “I’m sorry” and then add a few words explaining what you did wrong. “I’m sorry I yelled, forgive me.”  “I’m sorry , I forgot my promise.”  “I’m sorry I was late.” Then add “Forgive me.”  Notice you do not explain why you did wrong,  you just acknowledge it, ask for forgiveness and go on.

Up until the age of seven or eight a hug is usually an amends.  Thereafter, talk about making an amends particularly if the child hurt someone or broke something.

Tip six:  When adolescence approaches, life will be doing most of the teaching.  Many kids drop out of sports at this point, or give up other dreams.  Then you mainly need to be supportive and to use the reflective listening skills put forth by Parent Effectiveness Training and the other communication gurus.

If your pre-teen or teen does something that offends you, however, don’t ignore it.  “I am disappointed” is powerful; at the same time assure the child the thing is to learn from the experience, and know you are disappointed.

“I am upset, but part of life is trying stuff out on your own.  I can’t control all you do, I do hope you will stay safe, not hurt others, and remember what matters.”

PRACTICE KINDNESS

Be kind to me.  Like this post, comment or share.  You will be helping me stay strong and maybe others as well.  Click here for my free Ebook: The 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Training Exercises.

Katherine

IMAGE BY: Dawson room o2

 

 

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