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50 Things You Can Do To Make Your Kids Street Smart

50 Things You Can Do To  Make Your Kids Street Smart - Main PosterAre your children equipped to manage and make decisions when you aren’t present?

When my son was 4-years-old last year and we had a small fire in the kitchen, I wondered the same thing.

I was at home with him of course but when his dad was busy trying to put the fire out and I was anxious to remove my son from the house, he froze and didn’t know what to do.

At first he ran back to his room to turn the television off!

Then he just looked confused and scared when I asked him repeatedly to put his coat and shoes on and step outside.

When I finally got him outside and to safety, we put the fire out and I suddenly felt like a horrible parent. We never even practiced fire drills at home, I thought to myself. If we had, maybe he would’ve known not to run back into his room and turn things off; he would have just ran for the door, I chastised myself.

But I don’t think we’re very different from other parents. Like most parents I know, I spent most of my time helping my preschooler learn the alphabet and how to spell his name. On a good day when everything was fine, practicing fire drills at home doesn’t normally cross your mind.

Yet, teaching them some of these “other” things is important.

As parents, we won’t be by our child’s side 24/7 – so, it is is crucial that we teach them how to be street smart. It’s just as important to teach them how to behave and interact with the world around them as it is to teach them how to excel academically.

Why Making Kids Street Smart is a Smart Choice for Parents

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10 “Behavioral Issues” That Are Actually Good For Your Kids

10 "Behavioral Issues" That Are Actually Good For Your Kids - Main PosterKids are cute. But boy, can they press our buttons.

Aren’t you sometimes awed by how easily your little angels can push you to the edge?

I know I am!

51% of my time as a parent is filled with joy. The other 49% is spent managing my own internal turmoil from interacting with a growing, curious being learning her way to function in the world with nary a trace of concern for the havoc she wreaks in me.

So, it is with a smile on my face (and the mantra “this too shall pass” playing in a loop in my head) that I present to you this list of “behavioral issues” in children that have driven me mad as a mother and an ex-teacher… but I am learning to cope with, because of how instrumental they are in helping a child learn, grow and develop.

#1 Throwing Tantrums

I want sweets now.

I’m in the middle of cooking dinner. I’ve had a busy day. I’m tired. My spider senses are starting to tingle with the premonition that I’m going to be part of a train wreck. I muster up the last of my calm control and respond, “In this family, we only have sweets after dinner.

The incessant demand for sweets soon turns to screaming that has me boiling like the soup I was brewing for the family.

Why do they behave like this?

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5 Easy Ways to Teach Kids Self-Control and Delayed Gratification

Delayed Gratification: Main PosterLet’s be honest: children sometimes suck at being patient.

I know mine do.

Unfortunately, their lack of patience and self-control can become contagious to us adults, too. I admit that I’m prone to snapping, “Just wait a minute!” when my kids are screaming because I take too long to cut their grapes.

And before I know it, it becomes this vicious cycle—my children’s impatience makes me impatient, which in turn makes them more impatient, until it spirals out of control.

I know I can’t indulge them when they whine instead of waiting quietly – like all parents, I do believe in teaching kids about self-control and delayed gratification.

But, the way I sometimes go about it isn’t quite right.

Instead of expecting 2- and 3-year-olds to magically acquire self-control skills overnight (that would be cool though, wouldn’t it?), I need to model and teach these skills to them.

Marshmallow Test: The Famous Study in Self-Control and Delayed Gratification

Psychologists have studied why some kids seem to excel at demonstrating self-control and delaying gratification, while others struggle for long time now. Have you heard of the famous “marshmallow test” conducted by Walter Mischel and a team of researchers at Stanford University in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s?

One by one, 4-year-old children were presented with a marshmallow and informed that they could either eat a marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes and receive two marshmallows. Some children gobbled the marshmallow immediately, while others managed to wait the full 15 minutes and receive the reward of a second marshmallow.

[Note from Sumitha: Here is a video of the marshmallow test in action. It’s not from the original study, but captures the kids reactions sooooo well.]

The researchers continued to follow up with the children for the next several decades. They found that the 4-year-olds who had successfully waited for 15 minutes differed in significant ways from the children who couldn’t wait. Over the years, the children who had “passed” the marshmallow test developed the following characteristics:

So, is the lesson that some people are born with better self-control, and that this trait determines their entire life trajectory?

Far from it.

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How to Make Sure You Are Raising Kids With a Healthy Self-Esteem

Healthy Self-Esteem: Main Title ImageHow can I protect my child from life’s hurts?

Will my child be bullied?

Will my child stand up to peer pressure?

How can I prepare my child for the challenges in the world?

If you’re like me, these are the nagging questions that seem to always be present. Some days these questions are quiet and just sit idle in the back of our minds. Like white noise that we are able to drown out with hugs and snuggles. Other days these worries are front and center in our minds screaming at us for answers, solutions, and comfort.

As a parent I have realized that I CANNOT protect my children from everything, but I CAN equip my children with the tools to protect themselves. Over the past 10-years as a licensed mental health therapist working with children, adults, and families I have learned that the best thing we can do for our kids is to build in them a healthy self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem is the greatest protection against life’s uncertainties. Fredrick Douglas once said; It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” A child that is taught how to nurture their self-esteem is then equipped with the most powerful tools to overcome all of life’s challenges.

What is Healthy Self-Esteem?

Before we can build healthy self-esteem in our children we have to understand the true definition of healthy self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem is when a person knows that they are worthy simply because they exist. You are worthy of love, respect, appreciation, and joy. Your worth as a human being is not defined by others or by externals such as money, status, etc.

Healthy self-esteem is knowing that you are enough. It is also knowing that everyone else is enough. No person is more OR less worthy than another. We are all equally worthy.

Having a foundation of healthy self-esteem is knowing that even though you may not be the best at something, it does not make you less worthy. It does not make you less of a person. Just as being the best at something does not make you better than others and does not make you more worthy.

We all have gifts, talents, and strengths we are born with. It is acknowledging and accepting your strengths AND your weaknesses and being at peace with who you are and knowing that your worth as a human being is not dependent on any outside factors.

Right about now you might be thinking; “Wait, so this chick is telling me that my worth as a person is not based on being nice, smart, giving, pretty, etc. That I don’t have to make good choices, wear trendy clothes, or get the big promotion at work in order to increase my self-esteem.”

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Active Listening: How to Master the Skill That Will Make You a More Effective Parent

Active Listening: Title Poster“YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!!!!” 

The scream echoes through the house. As does the slam of the bedroom door.

Have you been there?

It’s an all too familiar family scene. It’s after dinner, homework isn’t even close to being done, and a mild reminder about finishing up a book report has turned into WWIII.

My husband and I look at each other. I have steam coming out of my ears. He looks as if he’s witnessed a car crash.

“I just wish he’d listen to me!” I fume as we straighten the pictures on the walls sent rocking by the shockwaves.

Meanwhile my son sulks in his room. “I just wish you guys would listen to me!” he vents.

But I AM listening!

Then again, am I really? 

While I was in grad school where I was getting my Master’s degree in organization development, I learned that not all listening is created equal. As an organization development (OD) consultant we practice something called “active listening” as a means to help clients analyze their issues and brainstorm solutions.

I never suspected it then, but I was also learning how to be a more effective parent.

Active listening is a way of fully hearing what the other person is saying. Not just assuming we know what they’re going to say after hearing the first two words and then spending the rest of the time they are talking preparing a perfect response. Instead, active listening focuses on dropping assumptions and working to understand the feelings, motives, and views of the other person.

We don’t quite realize it, but a lot of the time, we as a parents, don’t listen actively at all.

How often have you just heard a few words from your kids and jumped in to correct them or offer solutions? How often have you lost patience while kids fumbled to put their complex thoughts and emotions into coherent sentences? How often do you just take a look at the situation and know what needs to be done, without even giving your kids a chance to explain?

Yeah, when I viewed my conversation with my son that evening through the lens of what my professor had told me about active listening, I was quite ashamed.

It was time to try something different.

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