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Hacking Parenthood Series: Starter Tips

In my career at Google, I attended thousands of presentations by industry experts and motivational speakers. Many were filled with exciting ideas and new developments. I would often leaveBlinkbuggy Parenting them feeling inspired, but also helpless, because the presenter didn’t provide any idea what to do next. Everyone needs a first step.

My favorite speakers were the ones who left the audience with at least one thing they could go back to their desks and do right away. That’s my goal for the parenting hacks series – each post should leave you with one thing (or more) you can easily do today. A lot has been written on the topic of mindfulness and mindful parenting. A key component of this approach is the idea that encouraging gratitude and giving in our children can actually help them feel happier. Kindness makes us happier and altruism is intrinsically rewarding. Therefore, the question becomes, how do we help our children learn to be thankful for what they have and develop the skill of kindness and giving to others?

I’ve enjoyed reading in this area over the last few years, and I’ve collected a number of actionable tips. Here are two small things you can do that will make a big difference.

Toddler: Create for someone else.

It’s so simple, it’s beautiful! When your toddler is coloring or making an art project, suggest that he / she create another work for someone else. Ask who he/she would like to make one for, and then write that person’s name and your child’s name on the drawing or project. Why add the names? It makes it personal and helps even small children feel that they are making a difference. My children always smile when they see their name on the paper and they almost always want to do another one from someone else.

School-age child: Change the question.

It’s so simple, it’s genius! This one is my favorite. What do we ask our kids every day when they come home from school? “How was school today?” And the response is invariably limited and vague. Then we get smarter and we ask, “What was your favorite thing you did at school today?” We get a slightly more detailed response and learn a little more.

But how about asking, “What’s something nice someone did today at school?” Wow! This one is a game changer. When I first read this suggestion, I thought it sounded so simple and smart but questioned whether my five-year-old daughter would really understand the question and be able to respond with any depth. The results were amazing and ranged from heartfelt to hilarious. Here are two responses that come to mind.

  1. She recounted a time when a child in her class had just returned after being away for some time early in the school year. When the teacher called for meeting time, the little girl could not remember or find her designated spot on the rug. Another child got up, took her hand to lead her to her spot. This was the first story she told me and I was so pleasantly surprised by the response – this was truly an act of kindness and my daughter recognized that. She went on to tell me that, while motivated by kindness, the second little girl couldn’t really help because she couldn’t remember where the spot was either!
  2. My daughter and a friend were using the computer in the classroom and gearing up to play a game on it. They both wanted to go first and were fighting over that. Then the friend stopped and let my daughter go first. Okay, not quite as heartwarming as the first example, but again, the recognition of someone else’s kind act and of the feeling of appreciation is what mattered.

This simple question has opened a window into her understanding and interpretation of kindness that I didn’t previously have. Not only is it fascinating to me as a parent and someone who is interested in brain development, but on a practical level it gives me a baseline from which to build and helps me to ask age- appropriate follow-up questions. It opens the door to conversation on this topic.

I’m grateful for the suggestion!

I hope you can make use of these two “first-step” ideas. And here are some additional resources, if you want to learn more about the benefits of gratitude:

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/being_kind_makes_kids_happy

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/raising_happiness/post/five_ways_to_raise_kind_children

Emma Weisberg

Founder & CEO, Blinkbuggy

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Guest Post by Lisa Stern – Listen/Observe: Advice from a Seasoned Pediatrician

We always love to hear different perspectives and approaches to raising children. It’s easy to forget that “your way” is not the “only” way – we won’t tell the kids! – and that, as hard as it is, it’s sometimes more helpful to let our kids go on their own than it is to step in and lead the way. In fact, in this guest post by Lisa Stern, it’s doctor’s orders.  Lisa is a board certified pediatrician in Santa Monica, CA who spends her days with kids.  We’re thrilled to have her share her perspective on the Blinkbuggy Blog!


Listen/Observe: Advice from a Seasoned Pediatrician

I’m a parent. I suspect you’re a parent too.

And like many people ( parents or otherwise), I usually have an agenda. Whether I’m at work, at home, or with my daughters I frequently go through life with a check list.  I use my over scheduled life as an excuse. We all need to get things done, right? And while it’s useful to have an overall game plan, it’s not always necessary to have an endpoint. Sometimes it’s really great just to observe and listen to our children and not to instruct or micromanage their every move. It’s difficult not to play the role of coach and teacher. Parents often cross the line; it’s hard not to.

My personal and professional experience has taught me that being a good parent means to step back, observe and listen. This advice may go against your instincts. It went against mine.  I see a lot of parents who are tryinLisaStern_1g to make their kids better, faster, more.  We live in a competitive world and parents want their children to have every advantage possible. But the longer I am in the business of working with children and their parents, the more I realize that one of the best parenting skills is to do nothing and simply watch. Watch your toddler play with a toy, watch your child complete her homework (or not), watch your teen struggle with middle-school friend drama.  Watch, and avoid the impulse to fix things. Children develop self-esteem by doing things on their own and solving problems. Trial and error teaches children perseverance. Frustration, and learning how to cope with it, is one of the more important life skills to let your child learn. Think about your adult life. What makes you feel good? All your accomplishments are nice but do they make you feel good about yourself? Being good at something doesn’t mean you have good self-esteem. Remember that the next time you are coaching your child to throw the best curve ball.

It’s a gift to be able to stand back and watch your child’s process.  Take the time to see where your daughters and sons own development leads them.  It will be refreshing and liberating to cast aside your agenda. Let your little ones be themselves, feel comfortable in their own skin and not feel like there is always an endpoint. They will be better off in the long run and therefore, so will you.

LisaStern_2

Lisa Stern, MD
Pediatrician, Tenth Street Pediatrics
Santa Monica, CA

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Facing Your Fears: A lesson from my 5 year old daughter

As a parent, I like to think I have some things of value to teach my kids. If my childhood reactions serve as any indicator, some of those lessons will be accepted with thanks while others will be rebelled against under the inarguable fact that they know better (read: teenager). In the end, I can only hope that the “life” lessons my wife and I try to teach our kids will be heard, if not listened to, and absorbed to come to their aid and guide them when they need them. Continue reading