Special guest: Michele Borba, Ed.D: This podcast focuses on how to help kids thrive in an uncertain world. Have you ever noticed that even when all the odds are stacked against some kids, somehow certain kids rise above and thrive? These kids are the thrivers! They have skills, traits and practices that allow them to shine while others struggle. What are their secrets? We discuss them in today’s podcast with author, Dr. Michele Borba.
How about THIS for a new spin on lying? A new study suggests that kids with a good memory also happen to be good liars!
We all know that lying is pervasive in childhood. So perhaps it’s good for parents to know a marker for good liars is having good working memories—in particular, good verbal memories, which makes sense because they need to remember what they said and who they said it to so they can keep all their lies straight.
The new study in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology shows that when the researchers from the University of Sheffield gathered more than 100 children, ages six and seven, and told them not to peek at the answers on the back of a card detailing a fictitious cartoon character, the best liars were revealed. Then researchers questioned the children, spotted the liars, and evaluated their ability to lie in the face of two questions that would catch them red-handed. The “best” liars told a whammy each time, while poor liars did it only once or not at all.
It takes mental effort to keep all the stories straight—so the researchers conclude that the liars may have better working memories and may even be “smarter.”
We explored a few key questions this morning on Good Morning America.
So many parents would say they didn’t teach their children to lie, but rather that it seems like an innate behavior. So, where are they learning it and why do they do it?
Research has told us that 1 in 5 interactions are lies! Adults and children do it. Some people lie because it gets them out of trouble while others lie Read more
If you stopped me on the street and challenged me to come up with the top rule in my household, I would likely say; “Kind thoughts, kind words, kind actions.” Having a 4 ½ year old boy and an almost 6 year old girl, just 16 months apart and often wildly competitive with one another, necessitates having to repeat these words often.
As a child development specialist and professional speaker, of course I am supposed to live these words daily. And I try. I believe that my friends and family would say that I am kind-hearted and loving. But there are moments that I disappoint myself, as many mothers and fathers would likely admit, if not in public at least in the privacy of their own heads.
Have I upheld my top value? Have I been truly kind today?
We all lose our cool. Children whine and push our buttons. They fight and ignite frustration in us as we are trying to cook dinner, clean up and simultaneously give baths and kiss our spouses hello. Or try to kiss our spouses hello. Or honestly, maybe just think about acknowledging our spouses as they enter the home. Or maybe we can’t even do that.
For me, the frustration is cumulative. I have days when I give myself a pat on the back for taking a breath, centering myself and responding to my children as they jump on the couch one more time, push their sibling once again or talk rudely for the umpteenth time with a calm, kind, encouraging prompt; “try again, my sweet.”
But there are other days, usually after a nice long string of commendable ones, where I just crack in half like a twig and all that I’ve held together, all I’ve been praising myself for, comes oozing out in a toxic stream of yelling, or worse, grabbing my child and yelling; “No!” (and likely more words than that) in a tone that would likely put my own children in time out.
Now don’t get me wrong. Discipline is vital. And I will not tolerate hitting, hurting and overall disrespect or meanness within our family. But how can you stop a tantrum when you are having one yourself? While strong, definitive words are a must, control is also necessary. When we “lost it” with our children, control goes out the window. And believe me, I say this to myself as a parent as much as I say it as an “expert.” It’s hard. And sometimes, we just have to scream.
So I’ve been finding ways to wring out the frustration even while the frustration is happening and perhaps they’ll work for you too. And maybe, just maybe, if we talk about this topic, frankly taboo at a time when social media dictates saving face, smiles and sharing the “perfect life,” we can all grow from it. Or perhaps just not feel so alone in it.
- Discuss it with a close friend: You know that friend who looks like s/he has it all together? Don’t be fooled. While everything may look flawless, every parent has challenges. Talk about your own frustrations and get it out of your system. It’s cathartic. But also listen. When friends share their parenting issues, you won’t feel so alone and you’ll be helpful them out too—which feels good. You may also pick up an idea or two that can help.
- Take a shower, a bath or a walk: When things get really heated, make sure your children are in a safe place and go cool off in a hot shower. There have been times when I needed to put my child in his room to calm himself down while I jumped into the shower to do the same. There’s something about the sound of rushing water (especially when it’s drowning out a tantrum) that can recalibrate you. You are welcome to scream in there too. Or mumble expletives to your heart’s content. You can also repeat a mantra like “calm down” or “It’s OK” if that helps. When you emerge, you will likely be composed and able to talk to your child with kindness even during a stern or serious conversation. Of course, if a bath or shower aren’t possible, take a walk, exercise, clean or take a moment to stomp your feet in the closet. Whatever works. No judgment.
- Remember they are still learning: This has been a transformative thought for me. These little beings have only been here on Earth for a short time. Their synapses are still connecting and working hard on firing away, yes. But while they grow and learn each day, they have not yet mastered the skills to always speak with tact, respond with poise and control their every action. Heck, adults are often still working on this too. So when I see behavior that seems off kilter, out-of-control or flat-out rude, I try to remember this incredibly important fact. They are still learning. That implies, we must teach them. Our babies. They deserve that from us even when they behave in a way that makes us crazy.
- Use your ABCs: In this case, Actively Be Calm. Why? Because calm begets calm. I know; that sucks. And while you might be cursing this tip (and I mumble under my breath at it myself sometimes), as I mentioned above, you can’t tame a tantrum while having a tantrum yourself. I say “actively” be calm because it takes work and I don’t assume it’s easy. It’s not easy. It takes self control and focus that I don’t always feel I have access to in the heat of the moment. But there it is. Calm begets calm. Sucky but true.
- Freak out only when necessary: Notice above that I didn’t say “Always Be Calm.” That’s because sometimes we need to make a point. When our child pushes another child on the stairs, throws a rock at your head or runs away from you into a busy street, you are welcome to have a freak-out session that tells yours child; this is serious. But here’s the problem—and I know you know this already but I’ll say it here. If you scream about everything, they will hear nothing. They won’t know when the issue is really serious when you provide the same response when your child calls her brother a “dingbat” and when she hits him in the head with a helicopter.
I could go on but I think that’s enough for now, don’t you? If I were to leave you with one other thought it would be “you can do this.” You are doing it. I’m doing it. Let’s not be so hard on ourselves (or other parents) given that we, too, are still learning. We were not born with the knowledge of how to be perfect parents and we will never be perfect Mommies and Daddies. Let’s simply try to be the best parents we can be. The best, perfectly imperfect, incredibly flawed but beautifully loveable parents we can be. And on days when we lose it, don’t worry. There’s always tomorrow.
Try again, my sweet.
Girls rock. Put a bunch together and it can be a great deal of fun, laughs and heart to heart conversations. Except when it isn’t.
Sometimes groups of girls have problems getting along. They fight, gossip and hurt each other’s feelings. At times it feels like a uphill battle while at the same time a downhill freight train with no intention of stopping.
I’ve been working personally with specific staff members and girls this year from a variety of schools and camps. And even though I’ve been doing group coaching for a long time, I always find it an eye-opening study of girls culture, friendship and positive mentorship. Most recently, the leaders of an organization had asked me about one group of girls, in particular, who seemed to be in an endless fight. This daily argument not only was causing internal havoc in the group but was also exhausting the staff and leaving them with questions, concerns and a whole lot of frustration.
After a meeting with the girls personally, I realized that the problem was not, in fact, day to day fighting. Rather, it was a much larger cultural problem that had festered like a toxic wound at the heart of the group.
Does this sound familiar to you? It can be exhausting to deal with the day to day issues that emerge in such a group because there never seems to be an end. That’s because the daily problems are a symptom—not the cause. The question becomes; are you dealing with the root of cultural turmoil or are you trying to band-aid the daily indicators of that turmoil?
Here is a way to determine if you have a deeper problem than the standard daily grind:
- Same thing, different day: The girls always seem to be fighting about something. Complaining, arguing and gossiping are typical. Someone always feels left out, picked on, stepped over or disregarded.
- Similar themes keep emerging: Not only are the girls fighting all the time but they are fighting about the same things. What kinds of themes emerge? Being left out. Cliquiness. Looks. Attention. Boys. Material goods. Meanness. In the case with this one set of girls, they were arguing about 2 things– “bragging and ‘top this’ behavior” as well as the flippant way the girls dealt with each other’s feelings. Upon sitting down for our meeting, girls talked about feeling frustrated, awkward and depressed when others talked about money, clothes and trips they got to go on each year. They also divulged that they felt horrible when other girls said something “mean” and then called them “sensitive” when feelings got hurt.
- The problem never feels solved: Staff are arduously attending to day to day spats and fall out but feel like they are on a proverbial hamster wheel. You hear from staff that “this is a particularly tough group,” they “can’t get through to them,” and they’ve “tried everything” but aren’t getting anywhere. As you can imagine, it there is a larger, cultural issue, dealing with individual daily fights doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.
- The staff, teachers or counselors are fed up, deflated & defeated: Not only are the staff articulating frustration, they are starting to check out. When arguing ensues, they step out, turn away, or try to check it off as quickly as possible so they can move on. Follow up feels fruitless or “inviting more of the same” so it doesn’t happen. This is not out of laziness but rather lack of knowing what to do differently to get a better result. You hear from them that the girls “don’t respect them,” “don’t listen,” and “apologize but don’t mean it.”
- Every girl feels hurt: Even though some girls are more popular than others, in a group where cultural breakdown has taken place, there are a great deal of hurt feelings. Most girls, at some point, feel left out, gossiped about or disregarded. In a young teen group I recently had the pleasure to work with, a group dynamics exercise was the perfect catalyst for an honest discussion about how they felt when a part of the group and when ostracized or alone. And when they really got honest, they were able to admit that they both felt this way and were the cause of others feeling this way. These were awesome girls but their best was being squelched by negative, recurring behavior that became an part of the group culture.
When working with groups in which cultural breakdown has clearly occurred, honest discussion is necessary. Only then can we identify the hidden problems, isolate the instigators, set ground rules for respectful behavior and allow the girls an opportunity to authentically apologize and be accountable for their actions going forward. Such honest discussion can’t be a one-time thing but rather done periodically with frequent follow up with a trusted, well-regarded mentor.
And one final thought—when you manage negative behavior, it’s also helpful to encourage positive behavior to take its place. Instead of focusing on faults and failures, what strengths does this group have? What individual assets can the girls highlight in one another? How can they have a hand in developing a positive and powerful group of girls in which everyone feels respected?
While problems are still going to occur—as this is not a utopia—we must provide the girls with the skills to deal with them. How can we encourage them to be inclusive rather than exclusive? How can we support them in speaking up while still being kind and open-minded? It takes more time and more effort but in the long run, teaching these life skills and following up on their effectiveness can transform the culture of the group and in turn, the girls themselves. And when the girls are transformed—the culture of the groups they are part of in the future will be better for it.
We have all heard the horrific news by now. At 9:40 this morning, a masked gunman named Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook elementary school and fired a gun around 100 times. He killed 26 people, 6 adults and 20 children under the age of 8 before killing himself.
Since then it’s been hard to concentrate on anything else but this story. As a parent of young children, it’s the unimaginable. You send your children off to school hoping that they will be happy but knowing that they will be safe. Typical worries of a friend not being so friendly or a teacher giving a bad grade may cross our minds. But not this.
There is no making sense of this tragedy but we do need to be ready for questions. What do we do for and say to our children about this senseless shooting?
(1) Limit media exposure: Conversation and information about this tragedy should come from you, not the TV. You know your children best and can limit details as necessary. Information on the news is for you and is not age-appropriate for a child.
(2) Underscore safety: Ensure your children that the authorities and people in charge at their schools are doing everything possible to keep everyone safe. Help them to understand that a school shooting in one location does not mean that there will be another one in a different location. These incidents are thankfully very rare and your children and their friends are not at risk because this has happened. In this case, as the gunman is also dead, there is a finality to this devastating rampage.
(3) Remain calm and levelheaded: While it is natural to be upset and infuriated about the shooting, it’s important that we don’t overwhelm children with our emotions. They need to know that we are strong and reliable if they have questions—and that we are there for them if they need to talk. If YOU need to talk about it, call a friend or speak to a loved one.
(4) Expect some unusual behavior or feelings: Sometimes news of this sort can make the children act in different ways. Some will become withdrawn and quiet while others may become hyper or clingy. Ask them how they are feeling and if they would like to talk. Assure your child that they are OK and give them space to feel anyway that they do—validating their feelings as normal and natural. Help them to expend nervous energy in productive ways without pushing them.
(5) Discuss fears: Whether you sit with them and have a conversation or use art, role playing or dolls, allow children to express their fears. What will help them feel safer and more secure? Fears are nothing to be embarrassed about– today or any day. Sometimes just listening and being their can assuage their fears.
(6) Do not dismiss or avoid: It’s a tough topic. But if your children are asking about it, talk to them in an age-appropriate way. You don’t need to go into details and if you don’t know an answer, just say you don’t know! Assure them each time that they are OK and the people in charge are working hard to keep everyone safe. Remember, if you aren’t talking about it and they want to hear an answer, they will go to another source. YOU need to be the source.
(7) Hug them tight: Nothing says safety and security like being tucked into your parents’ arms. Tell them that you love them and that you and everyone who loves and cares for them are doing everything you can to ensure their safety.
The hug, of course, is also for you. At times, having children can feel like a really big, tough and even frustrating job. Everyone has their moments. But today, take time to hold your children and tell them how grateful you are to have them. That your life is enriched by them. That they fill your heart with the most delicious happiness and you thank goodness everyday that they are yours.
Do it. Again and again. You’ll be glad you did.
My Facebook page is hopping today after I posted about the little girl, Brittney Baxter, age 7, who fought her way out of getting kidnapped from Walmart yesterday, when a man grabbed her, covered her mouth and tried to subdue her. The girl is safe and the alleged kidnapper in custody, but these stories of attempted child abduction always leave a trail of fear, frustration, concern, and questions from parents and educators.
Several parents and concerned citizens have gotten in touch because they are unsure about how they can protect the children in their lives from a similar situation. I wanted to reach out to you to provide some tips. Please feel free to pass it on and repost the link as this is an issue on many people’s minds today.
In terms of “stranger danger,” what are we supposed to tell our young kids?
(1) People are mostly kind…but some aren’t: For the most part, people are good, kind and helpful. But not everyone. “Most people are very kind. When we go to the store, there are many kind people who are there to help you, right? Most people want everyone to be safe and happy. But some people are not kind. Some people do not make safe and kind choices. We don’t always know who the kind and unkind people are because there are no superhero or villain masks in real life.”
(2) Stay by the person who brought you: Your school age children should be told to stay by you or the person who brought them. “When we go out, please stay where I can see you and you can see me. Please don’t wander into the next aisle alone because I won’t be able to see you. Wandering off is an unsafe choice. Staying by me is a safe choice.”
(3) State what you want in the positive as well as in the negative: Wedon’t want to just say “don’t wander off” or “don’t leave the store” but also “please stay where I can see you” and “stay in the store.” Children respond well with what “to do” rather than just telling them what not to do.
(4) Yell as loud as you can: This is not the time for inside voices. “If someone grabs you, yell: “This is not my mom/dad! This is not my mom/dad! Help me! This is not my Mom/Dad!” Make sure they understand that they should not just yell “no” or “leave me alone” because some patrons might simply think that your child is throwing a tantrum with his parent.
(5) Get physical: We always tell our children to keep their hands to themselves. In this “stranger danger” situation, they need permission to get physical. That means kicking, hitting, biting, or whatever they need to do to stay safe. Tell your child to move their legs like they are riding a bicycle as this makes them hard to hold. If someone puts their hand over their mouth, continue to kick—and bite the person’s hand.
(6) Stay aware: It’s easy to get distracted by the toys and games in a big store. Brittney was looking at toys when the kidnapper tried to restrain her. Being aware can give your child time as well as vital information. Say; “keep your eyes and ears open. Know who is around you and what’s going on.”
(7) Don’t go anywhere with a stranger: Educate your child about some tactics to lure young children. Gifts, promises of puppies, toys, or even lies like “Your Mom told me to get you” or “Your Dad is hurt…come with me” might be used. “When you are in a store, you are to stay in the store unless we leave together. Never leave the store without the person you came in with unless Mom/Dad tells you that you can personally.”
(8) If you’re lost…here’s where to go: We don’t want our children to panic if they can’t find us. Tell them to look for someone in the store uniform, go to the service desk, find a cashier, or, it’s often a safe bet to approach a mom with children. “Ask that person for help. Tell them your name and who you are looking for. Tell them that you are lost and you need to find us right away.”
(9) Stand with confidence: Body awareness can be one of the first lines of defense. Think about it; two children—one standing with confidence, head held high, walking as if he knows where he is going and what he is doing vs one who has his shoulders rolled, head and eyes down, unaware of his surroundings. For additional body awareness and self defense, enroll your child is a top notch martial arts academy that teaches children more than just kicking and punching. If you need a recommendation, please ask me—our Powerful Words Member Schools and Personal Development Centers are all over the world.
(10) Trust your gut: This is really a message about all choices. “If your tummy feels weird or you have a little voice inside you that tells you ‘this doesn’t feel right’ or ‘run’ or ‘get closer to Dad/Mom’ then listen to it. That’s your gut speaking. Your gut—that little voice inside you that tells you when something is right or wrong– is very smart.”
The last thing I would tell you is to allow your children to practice. Have them practice yelling, kicking, screaming, punching a pillow, and moving their legs. Have them practice talking to a store clerk and bring them to a store and encourage them to speak to those in uniform so that they get comfortable doing it. My hope is that the children in your life will never need to use many of these tips—better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them.
To the wellness and safety of you and yours-
Huffington Post article about the kidnapping.