Monthly Archives: September 2015

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a woman who wanted to help kids at risk. That was –almost 20 years ago.  It was me.  I was a foster mom to a group of really young sisters and they taught me so much. In fact it was from that experience that I decided I wanted to pursue a career in parent education. 

One of the most important lessons I learned was about “love”. Very early in my time with my charges, one of them (the four year-old) told me “I love you”–out of the blue! I was stunned because we hardly knew each other. And I wondered what might have happened in this little girl’s life that she needed to tell me this very expansive statement. 

As time passed and I began to know her better, I discovered that “I love you” was her method of getting out of trouble (sometimes). At other times, she used it to press me to do something that she wanted. And, perhaps, sometimes she said it just because she wanted to say something…and “I love you” is what came out. 

Have you ever wondered what a child imagines “love” is? We use it to describe our favorite TV show; we use it to affirm our appreciation for chocolate; we use it to stimulate a response of “I love you, too” from someone-else. But to a child, what does “I love you” mean?

In response to her words, I made a conscious decision–I decided that it wasn’t appropriate for a child who hardly knew me (and was going to leave me eventually) to envision what she felt for me as “love”. She had already experienced loss and heartbreak (that I was sure her parents associated with “love”. And I didn’t want to become another adult who would vanish. Instead, I believed that it was my job to promote her sense of independence, help her develop a strong self-esteem and provide a vocabulary that was genuine and relationship-building.

Toward that end, I encouraged her to change her wording. Instead of saying “I love you” (which she didn’t really understand anyway), I asked her to say “I want you to be happy”. I didn’t want to shut her down; I wanted her to learn a new way to think about extended people in her life and a practical and truthful statement to make at moments when she felt especially connected. My thinking was that she would be able to verbalize those moments when she felt good about “us” (she and I) and wanted to express her feelings. 

Now years later, I’ve gained more insight into the usefulness of “love”. “I love you” is often an automatic rote statement and many of us (and our kids) don’t really think about what we are saying. I don’t want to nix the concept of telling someone how you feel about him/her–but I don’t think it serves any of us to get into the habit of saying something “just because”.

So what can we do to avoid habit of “I love you”?–Mix it up. When you feel a special connection with someone (an adult, a partner, or your kids), share an appreciation about him/her. 

“I feel really good when you help me do the dishes”
“I’m so proud when I see you work at your homework even though it’s difficult”
“You remembered my birthday, Wow!”
“When I looked at your drawing I could see you really used your imagination!”

These examples of “Appreciation” do several things: 1) they create a good feeling of connection that we all want from the people we love, 2) they use language to describe our feelings about our loved ones; 3) they offer a new way to demonstrate a special bond and relationship.

It takes a little imagination but next time–

when you drop your kids off at school tell them “I can’t wait to see you later”, “I’ll miss you today”,
or when your romantic partner says “I love you”, resist a reactive habit and say instead: “Ooh, yummy!”, or “I’m really glad”, or “Ditto”.
or when you tuck your kids into bed tell them “Sweet Dreams”, or “I really enjoyed being with you today”, or “You’re the best”.

Making the statement “I love you” special and meaningful requires keeping it special…not a habit or a manipulation. Get creative; look inside and express what you feel with new and unique words; encourage your kids to do the same. 

For more ways to connect with your children, visit Looking for new and refreshing and genuine ways of communicating with your kids is always a good thing.

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Research suggests that parental involvement is a key ingredient to support success in school. But lots of parents don’t feel qualified to tackle the responsibility of teaching and wonder what they can do to help.  Following are some things you can do and talk about to help your kids succeed–and feel good about it.

1) Make learning relevant–Make sure your child sees what he’s learning reflected in the “real” world. Ask questions. Find out what interested him/her during school lessons…then find examples related to those topics of interest and expand your conversation. Look for real world stories on the internet, at the library or in the newspaper or magazines. By supplementing their at-school learning experience at home, you’re expanding their vision and promoting the idea that more info can be fun–and that what they learn is relevant. 

2) Be cautious about how you talk about “learning” and “education” with your kids and around them. Kids inherit your attitudes and ideas about everything–they listen, they watch and they accept your beliefs as truth. It is important to avoid negative statements (i.e. how you had “difficulty in school” and that “teachers are unfair”). Instead, share your positive experiences in learning (i.e. how something you learned was useful or remembering your favorite teacher or an inspiring experience in school).

3) Model goal-setting behaviors. Kids are usually pretty “immediate”. They live in the moment and can’t always see the value of long-term goals–and sometimes they lose patience. When you talk about your own goals and how long-term planning helped you achieve your goals (and how much better off you are as a result), you’re demonstrating a pattern of behavior and thinking. If you talk without lecturing, kids will hear your stories and (without effort) assume your attitude as “the way we do things in our family”.

4) Demonstrate your commitment to your child’s success. Be sure you’ve supplied the “tools” for success: purchase a calendar or to-do list notebook to help him/her keep on schedule; dedicate a quiet, comfortable and well-lit space for home-work;  maintain (and re-supply as necessary) a handy assortment of school/study supplies (paper, pencils, etc).

5) Organize your living space to reserve a special area for your child’s school papers. Dedicate a shelf or table top for books, backpack, school communications, lunch money, etc. When school materials are blatantly kept in a prominent area (rather than stashed away), you’re providing a constant visual reminder of the value of being prepared for school–And, important items are less likely to get lost or forgotten. 

6) Be a “Coach”–actively support your child with encouraging words and confidence-building praise. It isn’t your job to teach your child when you’re helping with homework–teaching is the teacher’s role. Teachers assign homework to give students an opportunity to review what was learned in school and practice skills that were taught and exercise independent responsibility. Kids will be more willing to buckle down with their homework (and actually learn) when they feel positive support from you rather than reacting to nagging, teasing or threats of punishment. Coaches get more “work” out of their team with “you-can-do-it” type statements than they would with “do-it-or-else” threats. So, one more time:  be a “Coach” for your kids to support their school success.

When kids struggle in school, it’s hard to know how to turn the tide toward success. For more ideas about how to help your children learn useful methods of achieving school success, you’re invited to visit:

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A Voice for Mothers

Covering the history of the Plunket Society from 1907 to the present day, this book is organized around three dominant themes that contribute both to international historiography and to the social history of New Zealand. These themes are the mixed economy of welfare, maternal and infant health, and motherhood and parenting. Discussed in detail is how together these three strands form an important contribution to New Zealand’s social history. In particular, the public role of women as welfare providers, maternal and child health provision, and parenting roles and practices are examined. An in-depth study of the voluntary welfare system, this book will be of interest to welfare historians, women’s studies historians, social historians of medicine, and government policy makers.

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