Raising well-behaved children

We usually wait until something annoys us before we pay attention.

It’s the “Squeaky Wheel” syndrome.

For example, if we sailed through all green lights this morning to work, we probably didn’t give it much thought or paid attention to our amazing luck and good timing.

But if we hit EVERY red light, we are super annoyed. The universe is against us! We notice more when things go wrong.

It’s the same with children. They may sit behind you in the car quietly, but the minute they kick the back of your seat…BAM! You suddenly come to life in the form of Cruela de Vil.

Remember that a basic human need is to be recognized.  If children don’t receive a healthy dose of positive reinforcement (8:1) per day, they will resort to any kind of recognition, even negative, or give up.

This is a sign of a discouraged child.

Rather than wait until they misbehave, “catch” your child being good. It’s the difference between raging at red lights or being grateful for the greens.  It takes more effort because you have to pay attention to the good and put energy into recognizing what is going right. But it pays off in the long run with well behaved children.

It’s a universal law: we get more of what we focus on. And it’s universally practiced in raising good kids and kids who want to be good.

To catch your children being good, I’ve listed the first letter of the word in an acronym.

Call kids by their name (and I mean by good names!). Not their full name you use when they’re in trouble: “Andrew Scott McFarland!” but use their name to recognize who they are. I love to use endearing pet names. “Muffin Cakes” “Tiger” or “Lovey Dovey” can turn a child to putty in your hands. What pet nicknames did your parents use that made you feel loved?

Ask questions about what they are doing/feeling. Open ended questions that invite longer conversations. Don’t give up if your child just mumbles. Ask at different times of day and in different ways. “What was your best and worst part of today?” “If your day was a movie, what would the title be?” My kids tend to clam up right after school but right as I tuck them into bed, they are bubbling with information. But don’t force or interrogate. If they don’t want to talk, respect that.

Thank them. Thank them for what they have done, are doing, or will do. In other words, “Thank you for picking up your socks,” you might note, and if they haven’t done so yet, say the same thing.  They might respond, “I didn’t pick them up.” And you get to smile and say with delight, “But I know you were going to so I wanted to thank you in advance.” This really works. It’s shaping behavior through what you expect with positives. People respond much better with positives and the potential you see in them.

Compliment them. In private and in public. In most cases, children swell with pride to hear adults sing their praises in public. Compliment what they have done, but also who they are…the lasting characteristics. And compliment what they are working towards, not just accomplished. This uses encouragement and praise, the dynamic duo.

Help. Offer to give them support when they are floundering. But don’t do it all for them. Show your confidence in their ability. Just support or scaffold what they need help with and let them do what they can.

So catch your child being good at least 8 times for every 1 correction. Start counting today to see how much you notice the good over the bad. The more you focus on the good, you’ll be amazed at how many green lights you and your child will sail through in life.

12 Mistakes We Make at Christmas

One of the favorite Nelson children Christmas traditions is to lay the bed mattresses on the basement family room floor and have a sleepover on Christmas Eve. They lay side-by-side, eat who-knows-what-kinds of sugary junk and watch Christmas movies until sugar plums dance in their heads. Their favorite movies are “Elf,” “Home Alone,” and “Christmas With the Kranks.” 

If you haven’t seen “Christmas With the Kranks,” it’s one of Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen’s more endearing movies. It’s about family, and what extreme, half-brained ordeals we’ll endure for our kids, especially around the holidays. Go watch it if you haven’t yet.

This year, we are known as the “Kranks,” not the Nelsons. We were inspired by this movie, based on John Grisham’s book, “Skipping Christmas” and decided to not celebrate Christmas in the traditional way for the first time ever. The week before Christmas Day, our family will be going to California. While my husband and I, along with the other Nelson siblings and spouses, celebrate with my in-laws on their 60th wedding anniversary on a Baja Cruise, our kids will spend the week at amusement parks. It’s our Christmas present to them.

In anticipation of being gone, I did the unthinkable. The most anti-holiday thing ever. Call my Grinch (or Mrs. Krank), but I didn’t put up a tree, a decoration, or lights. Not having to buy and wrap a single present, decorate with a single ornament, or hang a single stocking gives me a tingle of relief for the first Christmas ever. I want to break out in a Holly Jolly cheer.

I’ve driven around town filled with peppermint glee as I pass by cars filling the mall parking lot and lines of people at the stores.  I don’t have to join the throngs and fight the crowds. Suckers! It’s been the most stress-free holiday ever. Shopping is a major cause of stress followed by the post-holidays blues of overspending. I’d like to share some of the major mistakes parents make over the holidays. It’s easier to see from my perch on Mount Crumpit.

  1. Shopping without a budget. Before you make any purchases, figure out how much you can afford to spend, stick to your budget and track your spending. Don’t make purchases you haven’t budgeted for.
  2. Not sharing the cost of entertaining. While it is tempting to just cover all of the costs yourself, share your entertaining costs by assigning such things as food and game supplies with guests.
  3. Shopping at the last minute. Buying “little” gifts for too many people. In fact, consider an alternative to gift exchanges, neighbor gifts, and expensive stocking stuffers. Stocking stuffers used to be things like candy, nuts and oranges (or in our case, flavored dental floss and nail clippers, yes we are THAT practical). Now they have to be season tickets to Lagoon and expensive non-essential toys. Rather than friend gifts, perhaps ask if they’d like to donate money or service to charity and share with them what you did.  Buying last minute is a problem because everything is picked over, the crowds will suck the cheer out of the merriest of persons, and you end up buying more than you planned on.
  4. Buying new decorations and clothes every year. Besides, that ugly Christmas sweater just keeps on getting better with every new year. Use a black dress and accessorize with something less expensive to buy, or get one new tie to go with a suit or sweater.
  5. Not taking advantage of free activities. We overspend going to way too many holiday activities that have a large fee, and when we take kids, the costs increase.
  6. Not shopping a year in advance, which is where you get the best deals. If you haven’t already, learn how to shop after-holiday sales instead of before-holiday rip offs.
  7. Buying overpriced wrapping paper and greeting cards just to make your gifts look extra special. The kids are going to rip them open anyway to get to the present inside and throw away the paper. They get the gift nonetheless but your wrapping may add dollars to the total price of that gift. Instead of fancy store-bought cards, consider going to e-cards or buy on clearance. I bought mine for 50 cents a box at the ReStore last year. Score!
  8. Splurging on meals away from home. You don’t need to eat out to celebrate the Christ child’s birth. Also, see #2.
  9. Paying for warranties on appliances and electronics. Odds are that you won’t need the extra coverage because most major appliances don’t break down during the extended-warranty period. Or you might already be covered. The four major credit card networks — Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express — provide up to a year of extended warranty protection for some cardholders, according to credit card comparison site cardhub.com.
  10. Not clearly planning your charitable contributions. We all want to help out those in need during the holidays, but we usually either go overboard, don’t plan a set amount or get carried away with everyone who approaches your help. This can add up quickly
  11. Going overboard for your kids. It is an easy thing to do, out of desire to make the season magical and a desire to grant their every wish, but be careful. Stay the course on your predetermined amount of money available for gifts, and live within the reality of your budget. Tell them the budget you have and the price point. We do that with the car salesman, why not with kids?
  12. Buying for yourself. I had a friend post on facebook last week, “How many times have I started a sentence with: As an early Christmas present to myself…”? Unless that early Christmas present to yourself means taking a nap, reading a good book, or playing a board game with your kids, you should be wise how you justify buying things. While you may be worth it, no matter how good the deal, pass it up.  On average we spend about $130 on ourselves during the holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. So be careful…that is a lot of money.

Remember that “Christ” should be at the center of “Christmas” and that the spirit of the season can’t be bought from a store. Dr. Seuss got it right after all.

 

These ideas are taken from an article written by Teresa Hunsaker in Live Well Utah.

A Tale of a Tree

When we bought our house, it came with a beautiful, old cherry tree that had been left over from an orchard. It was a connection to the “good old days” of farming, before suburban sprawl took over. I loved it.

It stood in the middle of our backyard, in front of our big picture window, and was a centerpiece for 20+ years of backyard family activities.

tree

(Emily in 1997)

My children climbed the tree in summers and we checked yearly for the robin who would lay her eggs in the nest perched on the same favorable branch.

nest

A toddler swing gave my 5 children, and other children, hours of delight.The tree was a harbinger of spring with its early pink blossoms and the cherries that grew later in the year were abundant. A wind chime let the tree sing music.

Sadly, the old cherry tree became diseased a few years ago and my husband began hinting that it needed to go. I always resisted because I couldn’t bear to let so many memories get chopped down and disappear. Finally, my new son-in-law picked a Saturday that he and my husband would take it down.

cherry-tree1

I couldn’t watch (My daughter took these photos. I was hiding behind the couch).

cherry-tree2

It was like having a child die.

cherry-tree3

The lawn felt barren and alone when they were done.

And then…the new sod was laid and I ventured out. Yes, it was different. But my first impression was, “Wow. Our yard looks so big now! It’s like breathing new air for the first time. There’s so much room. And look! There’s a view of the mountains I never knew existed because the tree had blocked our view.”

I was stunned at this panorama that opened up to me.

mountain

I finally rejoiced in the change.

The tree represents so many things in my life that I have a hard time letting go of. Pride, guilt, control, the need to prove I’m right (and of course, you’re wrong!), sins and misdeeds, bad habits. These are all diseases that corrupt the tree.

Every day I go outside in the backyard, I am reminded of the old tree and how fiercely I held on, way after it was no good. I was suffocated by its presence even as I fought to breathe. Old things, dying things we don’t let go of will block our view.

When I now look at the glorious view of the mountains I never knew I had all those years, I wonder what else I’m missing because I won’t let go of things that are no good for me. What vistas are blocked? What panoramas are unknown? What fresh air am I not breathing? How am I limiting my view?

C.S. Lewis, in “Mere Christianity,” said it this way:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Cutting down the tree hurt.

I had to let go.

I finally recognized it was time.

It’s time for me to let go and possibly even rebuild many things in my life, with God’s help. The roots may be deep and the trunk and branches are hardened by years.

But it’s time to start digging.

 

 

The Power of Smells

This interview was really fun and interesting.

The sense of smell is the sense most tied to emotion and memory.
What memory or emotion do these smells evoke for you?

Freshly baked bread
Roses
Popcorn
Bacon
Campfire
Pinecones
Coffee
Gasoline
Horse Manure

On the Matt Townsend Show (BYU Radio) we discuss how smells literally change behavior. Depending on the ambient smells, we can influence employee behavior, public behavior, or behavior in our children to be kinder, more fair and ethical, more charitable, less deviant, and harder working.

Here is the link to the program.

https://www.byuradio.org/episode/c7c6b830-9a4f-45fb-a47b-2db8f35dd5f5/the-matt-townsend-show-the-making-of-donald-trump-how-to-get-stuff-done-power-of-smells?playhead=6786&autoplay=true

World’s Awaiting radio interview

I was interviewed for over an hour on BYU radio’s new program called “World’s Awaiting” about Children’s Books, Reading, and cultivating a Culture of Literacy in our Families. It will be airing this Saturday, September 10 at 11:30am Mountain / 1:30pm Eastern. You can hear it on BYU Radio at SiriusXM Channel 143, on the tunein app, and at http://www.byuradio.org.

You can listen to the audio of the interview on our website at 12:00 noon MST / 2:00pm EST after the show airs at http://www.byuradio.org/show/afc8b335-4272-4bf4-a192-9f850d0fe390/worlds-awaiting.

Bringing the Arts Home

I contributed to the Matt Townsend show on BYU radio about how the arts enrich home life. I give research about how the arts make your child smarts and practical ideas for creativity in the home.

https://www.byuradio.org/episode/99ef58c5-9885-446c-9521-3f52ab57fad5/the-matt-townsend-show-political-social-media-why-diets-make-us-fat-art-and-kids?playhead=6346&autoplay=true

School Success: BYU radio interview

School started today. *Sigh* It’s a bittersweet time.

Bitter:
No more relaxed, sunny days by the pool.
No more PBJ picnics.
No more late night star gazing and movie watching.
No more spontaneous UNO card games.
No more vacation from homework, alarm clocks, carpooling, and science fair projects.
No more shorts, T-shirts, flipflops and bedhead worn every day.

Sweet:
Adult alone time!
One word: schedules!
Mushy brains turn into learning brains again.
Not hearing “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom” 868 times a day.
As my neighbor sang in a lilted, Christmas-y tone yesterday: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

But the transition from summer to school can seem abrupt at best and often very difficult. It’s like living on planet Earth all summer and then being shipped to Mars. How can we help kids adjust easier and outfit them to thrive in that harsh climate? Here’s the BYU radio program I was interviewed for about preparing kids for school success.
https://www.byuradio.org/episode/bef82490-c5ad-4fa2-8453-0340424735f6/the-matt-townsend-show-public-space-crisis-smartphones-and-adhd-back-to-school?playhead=6518&autoplay=true

Father’s Day Trivia

How are your facts about fathers? Here are 20 trivia questions about fathers to celebrate with the special men in your life on Father’s Day.(Try not to peek at the answers at the end until you have tried them all). It would be a good game to play on Father’s Day to honor men who nurture, provide, and love children.

When you are done, consider asking more questions, but personal ones to your dads to learn more about them, their likes/dislikes, fears, funnies, history, favorite memories, and dreams for the future.

Questions:

1. Who do the “Founding Fathers” of our country refer to?

2. Who is known as the current “Holy Father” according to the Roman Catholic Church?

3. Roses are the official flower for Father’s Day. A red rose is worn in the lapel if your father is living, and this color rose if he is deceased.

4. Who is known to have initiated the Father’s Day celebrations, or who is called “The Mother of Father’s Day”?

5. In the USA, Father’s Day is celebrated on this day.

6. Who is the “Father” of our country?

7. Father’s Day the fourth-largest card-sending occasion with this many cards given out last year.

a. 80 million

b. 60 million

c. 95 million

d. 150 million

8. “Father Time” is also known by this name.

9. In Greek Mythology, this King of Thebes killed his father and married his mother. His name has become synonymous for this hidden desire to do the same to one’s parents.

10. The myth of “Father Christmas” has been taken from this country.

a. Denmark

b. Sweden

c. The Netherlands

d. Germany

11. Name the top 5 gifts for Father’s Day (besides a card).

12. This 1950’s TV show about fatherhood starred actor Robert Young.

a. “Father Knows Best”

b. “Father Does Best”

c. “Father Loves Best”

d. “Father Laughs Best”

13. Which actor voiced the famous movie line, “Luke, I am your father”?

14. According to Greek mythology, who was the father of gods and mortals?

15. Who was the famous literary father of the young girl nicknamed “Scout”?

16. Who was the father of Disney’s Arial, the Little Mermaid?

17. Which President signed into law that Father’s Day would be nationally recognized?

a. Woodrow Wilson

b. Richard Nixon

c. Theodore Roosevelt

d. John F. Kennedy

18. What is the word for “father” in these languages?

Afrikaans

Arabic

French

Hungarian

Italian

Polish

Spanish

Welsh

19. This 1991 movie called “Father of the Bride” starred this comedian.

20. What famous evangelist said this: “A good father is one of the most unsung, upraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”

Answers:

1. Those at the 1776 Philadelphia convention who signed the Declaration of Independence.

2. Pope Francis

3. White

4. Sonara Smart Dodd, daughter of a Civil War veteran, who wanted to honor her father.

5. The Third Sunday of June

6. George Washington

7. c. 95 million

8. The Grim Reaper

9. Oedipus Complex

10. c. The Netherlands

11. Necktie/clothing, tools, sporting goods, electronics, candy

12. a. “Father Knows Best”

13. James Earl Jones

14. Zeus

15. Atticus Finch

16. King Triton

17. b. Richard Nixon

18. Afrikaans : vader

Arabic : babba

French : papa

Hungarian : apa

Italian : babbo

Polish : tata

Spanish : papá

Welsh : tad

19. Steve Martin

20. Billy Graham

Back to Basics

Being raised with a small farm and a big work ethic, I have always appreciated how a back-to-basics approach to parenting is the answer to what ills many families today.

Simplifying our over-complicated, over-stimulated lives is what children need.

They need to count the stars, find shapes in clouds, run their hands through shifting mud, make shapes in the sand, listen to birds calling their young, and count their footsteps through pastures and fields.

Children with very little are rarely poor; it is those with too much who are creatively poor, who lack imagination and are short on grit.

Watch this insightful video that beautifully contrasts “The Poorness in our Wealth.”