Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Dealing with Explosiveness

Dealing with Explosiveness

How do you handle a child’s explosive outburst?

Here are some ideas:

1. Rather than asking what’s going on with the child, first ask yourself: what’s going on in the house? What’s the tone? What happened preceding the outburst?

2. Ask: When did I last connect to this child? (As in, loving attention, kind interaction, mutual regard) Have I listened to him tell a story? Have I made eye contact with her or given a hug or shoulder squeeze (if the child responds positively to those gestures)?

3. Challenge yourself to reframe the behavior through the positive. Rather than calling it an angry, disrespectful outburst, can you describe the explosion in terms that are less judgmental:

  • he feels out of control,
  • she feels bereft,
  • he is looking for an ally,
  • he is frightened,
  • she is discovering her personal power to say NO to what she really really really does not like or want (all women need this power, by the way).

4. In the moment, can you respond in the opposite spirit? Go gentle when he goes harsh, go kind when she goes rude, go firm and clear when he is scattered and coming apart. To be kind and firm is supportive—”I’m right here. I feel your anger. I’ve got a bottle of bubbles. Want to show me how angry you are by blowing these bubbles?”

5. Or join with him: “That’s some powerful anger!” Then scream along side at full volume.

See if you can get the 360º aerial view, rather than taking it personally.

Q-TIP: Quit taking it personally.


Read More:

You Want Them to Disagree with You

Partnering with Your Child in Writing

How to be your child's partner in writing

In school, a teacher usually has somewhere between 20-30 children whose writing she has to evaluate. She’s not partnering with the child. She is expecting that child to show his or her level of competence so she can evaluate the child and only the child. She worries that if the parent gets involved in that writing process, somehow she won’t be evaluating a child; she’ll be evaluating an adult showing up in the child’s writing.

Now, I get that. She doesn’t have conversations, one-on-one, all day long with 20 or 30 kids. She isn’t sitting next to the child while he’s struggling with his pen to write at home. All she sees is the final result of effort.

I want to share with you a story from my own childhood, because I think it’s illustrative of the failure of this system of requiring children to write without help.

My mother is a freelance author, she has written 85 books, she has been in professional publishing her entire adult life, and she has taught writing to professionals for her whole adult life.

So, when I was coming up through the ranks as a child, my mom was very interested in my writing. She provided me with all kinds of tools. I have an All About Me book and I wrote my very first story, in cursive, in that book. She bought me little journals; she jotted down things I said. My mom loved literature. We went to the library every single week. She read aloud to us and I read to myself.

This was the early rich language life.

She took us to plays, to movies; she was very interested in us having a great literature and language experience.

Partnering with Your Child in Writing

As I got into school over the years, I was assigned writing projects. I remember distinctly, in 4th grade, being told that I needed to produce this report with no help. Now, I had this massive resource in my mother, but I took what the teacher said seriously and I told my mother, “You can’t help me with this report.”

I wrote a report on Queen Elizabeth. I had a red file folder. I decided to make it beautiful, so I used a blank sheet of white paper, no lines. I wrote it in very light pencil first, I went through and corrected all my mistakes, and then I traced over it in better pen so that it would be perfect. I used our World Book Encyclopedias for my research. And I finished it without any help from my mother.

I can’t tell you how proud I was of this paper. I turned in my report with all the other 4th graders. Do you know what’s coming?

I got a C on my independently produced report. Do you know what I saw in the stack of reports? Reports written by students who had help from their parents. There were typewritten reports. There were reports that were clearly handwritten perfectly and that had lots of detail.

I just sat down with all the information I knew and I just wrote it out. I didn’t know how to structure it. I didn’t even really know how to paragraph yet. I was in 4th grade! And that C crushed me, and my mom was not pleased. I put in all this heart and effort. She saw me do the research, she saw me be painstaking in my handwriting, but I got a C because other kids had help and the teacher couldn’t tell the difference.

Here’s what you have at home that my 4th grade teacher didn’t have:

A front row seat to your children’s development. You can tell what they’re doing. You can see when you add a sentence or help them think of a vocabulary word. You know what was their effort and what was your combined efforts.

Not only that, when you combine efforts your are mentoring your children into the writing experience.

Want to learn more about partnering with your kids?
Watch the full video on YouTube!


Partnership Writing

Reframe Their Resistance

Reframe their resistance

by Stephanie Hoffman Elms

The age old dilemma. Should we or should we not “give in” when we get a lot of resistance from our kids, especially in regards to school work? After all, if we don’t “make” them continue when they start complaining, then won’t we be rewarding them for that behavior? And if we “reward” the behavior, then won’t it just encourage it? Plus, don’t they have to learn that sometimes you just need to do things even if they don’t want to?

I will admit that when my kids were that age, I definitely erred on the side of “giving in” and now that they are 17 and 20, I am happy to say that the leap of faith paid off.

Here is what I found. Giving in did not mean throwing up my hands and giving up and letting them decide everything. What it did mean was that I recognized that resistance was their way of communicating that something was not working for them and that it was up to me, as the adult in the relationship, to try to better understand what that was. Yes, whining and complaining is a very immature form of communicating, but then again, kids are by definition immature!

Sometimes “giving in” took the form of just recognizing that an 8-year-old’s priorities and my priorities were naturally going to be different. Is it really that strange that an 8-year-old might not want to do all the school work that I deem is important? 😉

Reframing their resistance from them being stubborn or difficult or lazy to them being a typical 8-year-old little boy can open up lots of options that I might not have seen before…

  • can I shift around when we do things,
  • can I let something that is causing a lot of head butting go for right now (for both our sakes),
  • can I “add brownies” and find a way to make it more acceptable,
  • can I troubleshoot with him and see if he has any suggestions for making it work better?

The tricky thing with this approach is that it is one that takes a long-term view and does not always produce quick results. By focusing on our relationship, it turns things into an ongoing conversation and a series of experiments which might take awhile to hit on a workable solution. But it also makes life with my kids easier on the whole and more enjoyable (I just don’t have it in me to be the enforcer all the time!)

Contrary to worries that I had about reinforcing the resistance, the more that I demonstrated that I was willing to work with them, the more they became willing to work with me. I often shared that I really was not sure of what was the best thing to do…that I could understand where they were coming from, but still had my own concerns (which I shared with them) and we would go from there…sometimes giving what they wanted to do a try, sometimes me realizing that nope, I felt strongly enough about this to not want to give in this time.

Where this paid off was in the teen years. I joke that Jason listened to me way more as a teen than he ever did at 8 years old and that is the truth! Because I did my best to “give in” when I could when was younger, he did not get into the habit of pushing back against me. So as he got older and more mature, he started wanting and valuing my advice…he had learned to trust that I truly wanted to let him do what he wanted to do, so when I had concerns, he was more willing to listen.

It can feel like a huge leap of faith, though! Hoping my experience helps. I really worried about “creating a monster” (especially with Jason, my more intense, head strong kid) and there seems to be little support in much of the parenting advice out there in our society at large, so this is a topic I like talking about. I also wrote about this more on my blog: On Giving in to Our Children.


Stephanie Elms has homeschooled her two boys for ten+ years and is a coach for Brave Writer’s The Homeschool Alliance. She blogs at Throwing Marshmallows.

Your Voice is Precious to Your Children

Your Voice is Precious to Your Children

Today’s digital opportunities for education are unparalleled and we are all so grateful for the gazillion ways we can ease the load of education by including technology into our homeschools.

We use DVDs, apps on phones and iPads/tablets, YouTube, Netflix, teaching videos from a variety of curriculum companies, Spotify, music CDs, Audible for read alouds, online classes that are video and live broadcast style, and more. These have enormous value which is why they are catching on so rapidly.

In our hunger to be up to date with technology and because of the promise of a little relief (freedom from the pressure to be ALL things to ALL kids ALL the days of their young lives), we dive right into their use with joy! And we should.

Here comes my own tiny caveat that I hope you’ll remember, though.

There is something about your voice (particularly the mother’s voice) in the educational life of your children that is unparalleled in giving them the soothing calming effect that lays the groundwork for learning. Your actual, literal, voice.

For instance, you could play a lullaby CD at bedtime. And that would be gorgeous. But your slightly tone deaf rendition, sung in the presence of your children, filled with heart, emphasizing the words that feel like love to you, will stay with your children forever. You don’t even have to sing every night. Singing to them a few nights a month creates a melody of love in their hearts that they will never forget. Your voice does all of that.

Actors who read classic works of fiction for Audible and books on CD are entertaining and wonderful, of course. Yet their voices will not catch and break the way yours will over the same passages. They will not gasp and respond in choked tenderness the way you will. They will not interpret the story through the lens of your family’s experience the way you can. They will not sound like you to your children.

And that is a loss in reading aloud. Reading aloud is more than getting through the chapters to the end. It’s more than entertainment or a show. It’s a chance for your children to experience you—your values, your priorities, your heartfelt connection to life itself. When you read, your children hear the lift in tone, the pain, the tenderness, and your mother’s love familiarity that warms and soothes them.

Teaching math may appear more effective coming through Kahn Academy or some other text book DVD program at first blush. It may well be that you ought to use that tool so that you, too, understand the methods being taught.

Still, it’s also important for your voice, your kindness, your natural vocabulary to expand and enhance what is given on the screen. Your children are wired to listen to you (even though I’m sure it doesn’t always seem that way!). They retain your words better than anyone else’s. When you share, and are giving and supportive, the tone of your voice (the timbre, the inflection, the accent, the melody of it) literally imprints in a way no other voice can or does! Paired with gentle contact (a hug, a smile, a stroke on the arm), your children have the greatest chance to be soothed and returned to calm (the right physiological space for learning).

My primary point is this: Mothers can create a much more profound learning and loving environment when they USE the beautiful voices their children already adore IN their educations. We are wired to listen to our mothers.

Give them what they need: your loving voice.

This study describes the research to back up this assertion.

The Homeschool Alliance

You Want Them to Disagree with You

You Want Your Kids to Disagree with You

Trust me on this.

When you get that inevitable push back to your great ideas from one of your kids, the initial energy surge is, well, about like this:

“Wait, what? Why are you not cooperating with my genius plan for your life? If you simply do as I say, we will all be happier.”

Your “genius plan” includes a whole slew of practices and beliefs that wind up in disputes with your kids. You ask them to:

  • Wear shoes rather than slippers to the store
  • Hang up coats before they sit to watch TV
  • Agree that brushing teeth prevents cavities
  • Choose to go to bed before 3:00 am without nagging
  • Realize that the family can’t add two ferrets to the pet menagerie
  • Accept the family budget limits; no big dreams
  • Enjoy G rated films rather than PG and R films
  • Support the family politics and religious viewpoint
  • Date the right people
  • Eat the food the parent prepares even if the child doesn’t like it
  • Help around the house without ever being asked
  • Finish every book, even if the child loses interest
  • Complete assigned schoolwork without ever complaining
  • Suck it up when having a bad day
  • Reserve silliness for the “appropriate” times
  • Put on a jacket because it’s cold
  • Never argue with a sibling
  • Always show gratitude properly to everyone
  • Be polite, kind, and generous no matter what

… you can think of more.

These seem like perfectly reasonable requests of a child—until you see them in a list… And then, don’t they feel like a straight jacket of good manners and expectations rather than the organic growth of a human soul? Is it possible to be kind, polite, cooperative, and helpful all the time, every day, no matter what? Yet this is what we ask!

Kids know (intuitively) that they grow when they challenge authority, when they ask big questions, when they resist what doesn’t feel right to them. They push back not to make a parent’s life miserable. They push back to explore the boundaries of the ideas that inform the request.

For instance, why is it better to hang up a coat when you first get home rather than an hour later after watching TV? Is one choice morally superior? Is one action more necessary? According to whom?

If we pause and consider why a child resists our plan, we discover that a whole different calculus is at work. The child has different priorities—and these priorities make a natural, personally-arrived-at-sense for the child. The choice to “civilize” a child into the family standards can be experienced as stifling, as nonsensical, as irritating.

You want them to disagree with you

When kids have had too many commands in a day, sometimes the child simply picks the latest one to resist, “But why? Why does it matter when I hang up my coat?” This question feels like disrespect when in fact it is the self standing up and asking to be noticed.

We respond, “Don’t try to get out of it.”

We say, “Coats need to be hung up immediately or you will never do it and then I get stuck with the task.”

We chide: “I’m tired of your stubbornness.”

We give up: “Fine. Leave it out. See if I care.” (Except that we do.)

What’s needed is engagement! Think instead: Aha! There’s a child thinking, processing, wondering.

“Good question! I like it when we hang up coats because it keeps the house a little neater for me and I am a nicer mother when my field of vision isn’t cluttered with stuff. How do you see it?”

If we share our truth and then invite comment, we give our children a chance to witness our own priorities and how we came to them. We allow them to mull over their own. It’s so tempting to play parent rather than to connect!

When your child challenges the plan, pause and remember: This brilliant child of mine is using her mind, is exercising his will and choices. Draw them out—”Tell me more about why you believe tooth-brushing is a waste of time and doesn’t prevent cavities. I want to hear more about where you learned that and why you believe it.” Then really listen!

Big debates on topics of moral importance to your family go much better if you’ve cultivated a habit of listening to your child’s pushback in the early years over things like bedtimes, jacket wearing, and what to eat for dinner.

Children and teens become self-regulating when they are allowed to challenge parental regulation. Boom Right? How are they self regulating if we tell them what to do ALL the time? The only way they learn how to form their own priorities is if we take them seriously when they tell us what those are!

If a child isn’t polite or doesn’t say thank you? What happens? What does that child experience? Sometimes they need to find out through action, not blame and shame.

A child who wants to stay up until 3:00 am to play an online game with a friend in another time zone is creating a new life habit—going to bed later, sleeping in. Is it worth it to find out if this is a boon to that child’s happiness and thus life before considering it from a parent’s point of view? We’re so quick to say, “You’ll be too tired tomorrow. So no.”

Your kids grow in direct proportion to how well you allow them
to explore their own understanding of why they do what they do.

The more children get to expose and articulate their own thinking, the more power they have to create meaningful lives. They may not always side with your interpretation of what creates a great life, but they will be better able to negotiate with you when they know that you respect their efforts to communicate their own vision.

Next time one of your kids argues with you, stop and think: “This is great! I see a mind at work. I must be doing it right.”

Then enter into the conversation with curiosity and love.

Image by Catherine Murray / Fotolia


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