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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

5 Ways to Tell if Your Child is Ready to Stay Home Alone

You long for the day when you can leave the house without children or hiring a babysitter. Will it ever come? When? How will you know if he's ready to stay home by himself? Here are a few guidelines to consider:

1. Does he follow your rules? If your child generally follows your rules without complaining about them, he may be ready to try a short time alone at home. A child who regularly butts heads with you should be told that by increasing responsible behavior and decreasing complaining, he'll get closer to achieving that goal.

2. Does he feel ready to stay home alone? Some children are not comfortable staying alone even in high school while others are perfectly content to try it in fourth or fifth grade. Never leave a child alone who doesn't want to be left, nor hint that there's anything wrong with him if he doesn't. Everyone matures in their own time.

3. Does he know what to do in an emergency? Unless a child has the maturity and presence of mind to remember to call 9-1-1, run to a neighbor's house for help, or follow other emergency procedures, he shouldn't be left alone.

4. Does he know how to use the telephone effectively? Children who don't know how to use the phone or avoid using it because they're not comfortable with it aren't ready to go solo.

5. Has he proven his responsibility? You know your child's responsibility level better than anyone else. If he takes initiative to do things he should without always being pushed, he may be trustworthy enough to handle the responsibility of being home alone. You are the best judge of that.

If you feel your child meets the above criteria, I'd start with a short trial in the daytime. Maybe a quick run to the grocery store. Try to keep it to a half hour or less. Then assess how he did, what he did while you were gone, and how he felt about being home alone. If all was well, you can start increasing the time little by little.
Note: Always write your contact information down for your child in case he needs to get in touch with you. Assure him he can call you for any reason, even if he just feels scared.

Some children like their parents to pray with them before they leave. This gives the reassurance that they're not truly home alone since God will be there with them every moment.

It's exciting to see your children grow into a responsible people. Let them know how proud you are of them!

At what age did you start leaving your children home alone? How did it go? 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Disciplining Children With Nonverbal Cues

Ever feel like you're talking to a brick wall when it comes to disciplining your kids? Seem like nothing you say is heard or obeyed? Maybe it's time to come up with a different discipline strategy. If you're tired of talking and having to say the same things repeatedly, why not try silent discipline?

Start disciplining with nonverbal cues. Sit down with your children and talk honestly with them. Tell them you aren't happy with how the disciplining has been going. Own up to the fact that you may not have been as respectful to them as you should have been, if that's the case. Never mind that they may have been disrespectful to you, too. Apologize and ask their forgiveness. Tell them you're willing to try a different way of discipline if they'll be responsive to it. Explain that you'll use nonverbal cues when you need them to do something differently. Let them help you decide what the cues will be. Here are a few suggestions:

Nonverbal Cue                                                    Translation
Hand on child's arm                                               You're talking back, please stop
Shaking head                                                         No. That's unacceptable.
Index finger pointing up.                                         Please wait. I'll be right with you.
Hand on heart.                                                       I love you.
Thumbs up                                                            You're doing great!
Hand up                                                                 Stop
Index finger to lips                                                  Quiet

It may be that your child might like to have some nonverbal cues to use for you, too, such as:

Hand on your arm when you're talking to someone     I need to say something.
Finger twirling in the air                                               I have to go to the bathroom.
Tug on his ear                                                             I'm bored/I'm ready to go.
Hand cupped behind ear                                             I didn't hear you.

Of course, many parents use standard American Sign Language with their children, too, and find it to be useful, especially for nonverbal children. Using cues ratchets down tension. It keeps parents and kids from yelling at each other and it bonds you because you have a secret code no one else knows. There's power in a loving touch. It conveys so much more than spoken words. Nonverbal cues work beautifully with some, but not all, children. So if you're frustrated with verbal communication with your kids, try it! Even a slight diversion from the norm is a nice break for everyone and it may make your usual form of communication easier to hear if you return to it.

Do you use nonverbal communication or discipline with your children? What are your cues and how do they work?


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

10 Free Ways to Be a Fun Parent

I know, I know. You're thinking If it were easy to be a fun parent, we'd all do it. True. But what's not to love about something that's free and fun? You've gotta try these. Really. You'll feel better.

  1. Play with your child. This could be a board game, Barbies, video games, on the playground, in the backyard, wherever. Join in the fun rather than stand on the sidelines. You'll definitely move up a few notches on your child's most admired list. Don't worry about looking silly. Kids think it's funny when parents play at their level.
  2. Skip. That's right, skip. When's the last time you did? Take hold of your child's hand and take off together. Skip as high as you can. It's exhilarating!
  3. Sing. Can't carry a tune in a bucket? All the better. It'll just add to the fun. Sing to your child. Sing together. Let him sing to you. As your child grows, so will their groans when you sing. But then again, so will the memories you're making together. Don't forget to laugh at yourself and never criticize your child's singing.
  4. Teach them cool tricks like whistling or clapping with one hand.Is there a weird skill you learned as a child? Can you draw something in a special way? Can you still do a cartwheel? Can you speak in a funny voice? Show it off to your kids and teach them to do it too. They may have some freakish skill they can do, too. Let them teach you in return!
  5. Laugh and smile. As often as you can, at the very least daily. If you're not much of a laugher, start by smiling more often. Smile at your child, your spouse, anything you find amusing or appealing. This will ease you into laughing out loud. Laughing eases tension and raises the fun factor incredibly. It also makes you more approachable, which is critical to your child's security. As a reminder, tape a smiling face to your bathroom mirror.
  6. Be silly. There are plenty of ways to do this. Here are a few. Make silly rules like you have to whisper all day. Wear wacky clothes. Make up holidays. 
  7. Surprise them. Say yes when they expect a no. The delight on their faces is totally worth it. For example: Can I have dessert before supper? Yes! Better yet, offer it before they ask. Or how about when you see them sitting around doing nothing you say, "What are you doing just sitting there? Why don't you go jump on the bed a while?" A couple jumps isn't going to kill anyone or anything and a surprise statement like that scatters boredom like nobody's business.
  8. Love their friends. Invite them over. Make them snacks. Converse with them. Take an interest in what they're interested in. This will score big points with your kids.
  9. Be childlike yourself. Don't be so concerned about being a responsible adult. Be willing to be undignified for a while. Get dirty. Use your imagination. Be creative. You may enjoy it!
  10. Encourage and praise them every chance you get. Above all, do this one. Let them try things their own way, even if it doesn't turn out as well as your way. The unspoken message here is "I trust your judgment." Praise them for their efforts, not the results. Point out their positive character traits (i.e. kindness, perseverance, honesty) rather than their achievements. Encourage them to keep trying at things that are tough. Always, always cover necessary criticism or discipline with love, as if this one mistake was just an aberration of their usual great behavior and judgment. 
None of these suggestions cost you a cent. As a matter of fact, I bet you'll find you're paid back in spades (or giggles and hugs) if you do just some of them some of the time. Your tension may decrease and your fun factor increase in the process! Go for it!

How do you have fun with your kids?


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Forgiving When Children Disappoint

No matter how great your kids are, they will probably disappoint you. I'm not talking about small disappointments like forgetting to pick up their toys or clean their room when you ask. I mean deep disappointments that hurt your heart and make you wonder what their future holds.

When they lie to you about where they've been, announce they're pregnant, experiment with drugs, or consistently break curfew, how do you forgive them and keep loving them? Obviously, there are no easy answers. But here are ten things you may want to consider.

  1. Remember your child is trying to find his way in the world. He will make mistakes. Just because he's using bad judgment now doesn't mean he always will. 
  2. Look for any positive quality in your child and focus on it.Let him know you appreciate that quality. For instance, "I love how you're so tender with your girlfriend. You'll make someone a wonderful husband someday." You act as a mirror to your child. Hold up a positive image of him so he can live up to it.
  3. Catch him doing something right and either thank him for it or comment on it. If he picks up his dirty dish and carries it to the sink, thank him. Or say, "You're getting really good at picking up after yourself." Show him you notice the good in him and not just the bad.
  4. Hold him accountable. Let natural consequences be his greatest teacher. If your child won't get up to go to his summer job, let him sleep. Eventually, he'll get written up or fired. Great! This will teach him he must be responsible with his job if he wants to have the money he wants or needs.
  5. Don't make his problem your problem. You can advise, pray, and possibly help, but if he wants to make a bad decision, he will, and there's not much you can do about it. Talk to him about it and decide what the consequences will be.
  6. Speaking of consequences, set them and stick to them. Or better yet, let your child decide what he thinks his consequences should be.Often, they're harder on themselves than you would be.
  7. Pray for your child and let her know you're praying for her. Even if she seems to resent it, I believe deep down, she appreciates it and even expects it.
  8. Keep showing affection. It doesn't have to be hugs and kisses, but a pat on the back, a hand on the shoulder or a smile from across the room convey that you're happy they're your child no matter what you're all going through.
  9. Keep a sense of humor. What would happen if you laughed instead of got mad? How much tension would that eliminate from your home atmosphere? Try it. You'll love the result.
  10. Offer grace. Your child blew it in some way. He expects a punishment of some kind, but seems to be genuinely sorry for what he did. Surprise him by wiping the slate clean. No punishment this time. It's what God did for us when he let Jesus die in our place. We were forgiven when we didn't deserve it and you can give your child the same experience. It sends him a powerful message of how deeply you love him.
When children disappoint us it feels like the end of the world, but it's really not. Keep in mind that most parents disappoint their children, too, so we're all on level ground. Keep loving, laughing, and praying for your child. God has them right where he wants them and is teaching them things an easier path may not have. And don't miss the lessons he's teaching you on this journey. It's all good when it's in God's hands.

How have you coped when your child disappointed you? How have you handled it when you disappointed your child?