One of my main roles as a parent is safety. Our children come to us completely dependent on us for all of their basic needs. We baby proof our homes, check the temperature of the bath water, cut food into the tiniest of pieces. Our danger monitor goes on high alert and we are scanning for safety. It’s natural to want to keep our children from harm. So why do kids need to take risks? Too much “risk management” and our kids can miss out on emotional and physical learning. 

In this video, Hannah shares more about why kids need to take risks.

How to Teach Teens to Make Decisions
 

A teen’s life is full of both small and big decisions. From deciding what to do after high school, studying for a test or playing video games, to standing up for what they believe in, our teens are learning one of life’s important skills. One of the greatest tools we can give our teens is teaching our teens how to make a decision. Before my kids leave my house, I want to equip them with strategies and skills to face the many different problems and situations they will encounter. Here are some key tools for how to teach teens how to make a decision.

Identify the Problem

Sometimes one of the biggest struggles for kids is simply identifying the problem. Things feel overwhelming or hard and they don’t know why.

Start by asking questions. “Wow, it seems like you are really overwhelmed with school right now, what’s going on? Or “It looks like you are stuck on that paper, tell me what you are writing about.”

Listen to your child and reflect back what you are hearing them say, sometimes they just need help putting words to the issue.

Solutions

My natural tendency is to want to step in and tell my child how they can fix their problem. But fixing it doesn’t help them learn how to do it for themselves. They just learn to rely on me. 

Start by helping brainstorm different solutions. You might ask: “What do you think you think the next step is in fixing the problem?” “Do you need my help with anything?”

Encourage them to come up with a few ideas before you jump in. 

Pros/Cons

Before choosing a solution,  encourage your child to look at the pro’s and cons for each idea. Help them think about the short and long term impacts of each solution.

Help them think through if they need to take a break and step away for a bit before solving the problem.  Sometimes they need a snack or a hug before making a decision. Encourage them to make the decision for themselves. You might say something like, “I trust you to make this decision. It sounds like you know what you need to do.”  

Here’s a printable worksheet you can use to help your teen think through making a decision. 

It can be hard watching our children run into small and big hurdles in life. Take the time to encourage them to think about why the hurdle is there, how they can get over it or around, and cheer them along the way!

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Follow Action Parenting on Facebook or Instagram for more helpful tools on teaching problem-solving skills. And check out our online parenting classes where you can get more knowledge and tools to help bring more peace to your family. 

How to Teach Teens to Make Decisions

Good problem-solving skills are not just for doing well on a math assignment. Every day we encounter big and small challenges that need to be solved. From negotiating a toy-conflict, deciding how to respond to someone’s unkind words, to managing disappointment when things change. Developing our children’s problem-solving skills can help them manage their own life more effectively. 

Why Teach Kids Problem-Solving Skills?

Life is not always easy. Part of parenting is helping to equip our kids with the skills that help them keep going when they encounter a challenge. Children who have not learned how to approach a problem successfully can experience increased feelings of anxiety, impulsive behavior, and struggle to maintain healthy relationships. Instead of giving-up, getting frustrated, or avoiding challenges, kids with problem solving skills can better manage their emotions, think creatively, and persist through difficulty.

How to Teach Kids Problem-Solving Kids

How to Teach Kids Problem-Solving Skills

Teaching problem solving skills isn’t a one time thing, it starts when kids are very young and continues to grow as kids get older. Here are some basic strategies to keep in mind for all ages.

1 – Wait! Don’t Solve the Problem for Them

A natural response when our child encounters a problem is to solve it for them. It comes from a healthy need to protect our children. However, we can step in too quickly and our children learn to depend on us whenever something feels hard or challenging. Ask yourself these questions to  know when to step in and when to wait:

  • Is my child in immediate danger?  
  • Is someone or something else in immediate danger?

If the answer to both questions is “no,” then it’s a great time to practice problem-solving skills.

2 – Acknowledge, Validate, and Process Emotions

Before we can address a problem from a rational, thinking mind, we must first acknowledge the emotions. Challenges can often trigger feelings of fight/flight/freeze. Start by naming and validating the emotions your child is feeling whether they are 2, 12, or 22 years old. 

Then guide them to process the emotion. Do they need to find a calming space? Take three deep breaths? Punch a pillow? This step helps kids learn that emotions are not good or bad, they are our body’s response and we can listen to what our body is telling us. 

3 – Ask, Don’t Tell

Helping kids learn to solve problems involves a lot of asking open ended questions. As adults, we easily see a solution to the problem. However kids are still learning. The best way to teach is to guide them through the process. Below are some question prompts you might use:

  • What’s the problem?
  • Why is that a problem?
  • What are the solutions?
  • Can you think of something that could help make it right?
  • What do you need?
  • What would happen if…? 
  • Is the solution safe and fair?
  • How will it make others feel?
  • How will it make you feel?
  • Is there another solution?
  • Which one will you try?

4 – Reflect on the Experience

After kids have made their decision and experienced the result, check-in. Whether it was positive or negative, talking about the process and the result is a great way to strengthen their skills. If it went well, talking about it highlights what worked. If it didn’t work, use it as a growth experience. Reflect on what they learned and consider what they might do differently. Here are some reflection questions:

  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • What can you do differently next time?

 

Want more parenting tools and help? 

Follow Action Parenting on Facebook or Instagram for more helpful tools on teaching problem-solving skills. And check out our online parenting classes where you can get more knowledge and tools to help bring more peace to your family. 

If you have a child between the ages of 5-18, chances they are interacting and are influenced by people outside the home. Most often this is in some type of school environment. As their parents, we see needs, challenges, and strengths that are important for teachers and staff to know. Positive communication tools can help parents  advocate for our children and support their teachers at the same time.

Positive Communication Tools for Parents and Teachers

Open the lines of communication

Just like us, teachers don’t want to hear from parents only when things are not going well. Start by letting them know when something is working. Email a note about  a success your child have in school. Send a note thanking them for a lesson your child really enjoyed.

Be mindful of  communicating anything that might help your child succeed. This can be such things as life changes that are taking place at home, worries, or special learning needs. 

Pause and Collect Information

When a challenge comes up, pause before responding. Take time to collect your thoughts. Ask questions to understand what is working and not working before communicating with the teacher. Often I have an emotional reaction when my kid is not ok. Rather than communicate out of fear, frustration, or anger, I have learned to pause. I collect information first. With more information and calmer emotions, I can better communicate in positive ways.  

Be on the Same Team

Educating your child is a team effort. And most likely everyone on that team wants to see your child succeed. When you facing a behavioral or academic challenge, consider the team perspective. Approach the  school staff with openness and curiosity to their experience and perspective. Ask good questions, show respect, and take responsibility for your part in the solution. Nobody is perfect and sometimes it takes multiple approaches  before a solution is reached. 

Positive communication between teachers and parents is not always an easy thing, but it can be a game changer for the success of your child!

 

Want more? Check out our online parenting classes for knowledge and tools to bring more peace to your home. And make sure to join our Facebook Group for more conversation around positive communication and other parenting tools. 

Positive communication with children is foundational in both social and emotional development. Words hold power. As parents and educators, the words we use with our children become the words and voices they hear in their heads. The words help formulate the story from which they interpret the world and view themselves. 

Angry and frustrated words can create a story that life is full of challenge and strife. Positive and patient words can create a story of safety and belonging. By being conscious of the words we are using, we can more intentionally create stories of safety and belonging. Using positive communication helps in other areas. It lays the foundation for better social and academic skills, improved relationships with peers and adults, and helps strengthen emotional regulation.

Positive Communication with Children

What is Positive Communication?

Positive communication with children is focusing on communicating emotions, needs, wants, and boundaries in positive ways. This does not mean that we don’t have feelings of frustration, aggravation, or annoyance but that we can communicate those feelings in positive ways. Positive communication focuses on the relationship and maintaining connection with the child. The emphasis is less on the result/behavior and more focused on the motivation and relationship. 

Why is Positive Communication Important?

Children learn through modelling. They are watching and taking in not only our communication patterns and styles with them, but also how we communicate with our partner, family members, friends, co-workers, and even strangers. They internalize this and begin to model their own behavior after our behavior. 

Positive communication is also important because it is more effective. Kids actually hear what we are saying. And they are most likely tuned into the last words.  If I say “Don’t run!” A child hears: run! Instead, state what you want them to do. In this case the command “walk” communicates exactly what you want the child to do. 

How do I know if my communication is positive?

A great place to start is with a check-in. Use the following statements to evaluate how communication is going in your relationships.

  1. When we finish a conversation/interaction, I feel good about myself.
  2. When we finish a conversation/interaction, my child feels good about themselves.
  3. Most of the time I feel connected and confident in our relationship. 
  4. Most of the time I feel heard the first time I communicate with my child. 

If you answered yes to these questions, you most likely are using a lot of positive communication patterns already. If you answered no, you are taking the first step towards more positive communication. The first step is recognizing the unhealthy communication patterns. 

For the next week, notice when you feel frustrated or unheard as you communicate with your child. Watch for patterns or notice phrases you are using. Becoming aware of the unhealthy patterns helps you identify the places to start. 

Once you have identified the unhealthy patterns, pick one and consider more positive alternatives. A helpful hint is to consider saying exactly what you want your child to do rather than what you want them to stop doing. 

 

Want more? Our online parenting class “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” has important learning about the brain and emotions as well as helpful tips and tools for parents to bring more peace and calm to their homes. 

Stay connected and get more tools and tips around positive communication on our Facebook Group

Offering choices is a parenting tool we can use no matter if we are parenting toddlers, high schoolers, or any age in between. Every day we are faced with big and little choices and teaching our children how to make choices before they leave is an important skill. Teaching kids how to make choices starts when they are young. Here are some helpful parenting tips for offering choices to little and big kids.

Parenting Tips for Offering Choices

Little Kids

Offering choices to little kids helps them develop a sense of autonomy and self. Many power struggles and tantrums are a result of learning that I have a will and desires that are different from other people. Using choices helps our little kids feel a sense of choice while keeping them safe. Helpful parenting tips to keep in mind when offering choices to little kids:

1 – Offer two options. More than two choices becomes overwhelming and makes it even harder to choose!

2 – Provide positive choices. The choice is not between doing the thing or getting punished. Rather focus on what you want accomplished and two options of doing that choice. Here are some examples:

      • You can choose five veggies or six veggies to try. How many do you want to eat?
      • You can ride your scooter or walk. Which would you like to do?
      • You can carry your lunch box or put your lunch box in your backpack.

3 – Get Creative. You can use choices in a lot of situations. When you face opposition or push back ask yourself, “How can I offer my child a choice in this situation?” Oftentimes offering the choice helps eliminate the opposition.

Big Kids

It’s easy to see the ways of offering choices to a preschooler. It can be a little bit harder as they grow. Sometimes the choices they make and the consequences that follow are more difficult to watch. How do we as parents of kids who are growing up continue to give them choices and stay sane on the other side?  Here are parenting tips for offering choices to older kids.  

1 – Boundaries. Making choices uses the rational/thinking part of our brain. Did you know that this part (the prefrontal cortex) isn’t fully developed until age 25? One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is the ability to practice making choices within boundaries. As they grow older, we can offer the boundary and let them make all the decisions within this boundary.

For instance, a boundary in our household is screen time. Our kids have so much time each day. It is up to them to decide when and how they want to use that time. But when it’s gone, it’s gone.

2 – Be a Safe Place for them to Process Decisions. As kids grow and are faced with new challenges and decisions. Make a safe space for them to process some of their choices with you. Ask questions, brainstorm different opinions together, and talk through the possible outcomes of each option they have. Giving our children choices also means guiding them as they make the decisions. 

3 – Let them Make the Wrong Choice Sometimes. As a mom of older kids, one of the hardest parts for me as a mom is watching my kids make poor choices and not always stopping them. However, it’s important to me that they understand the consequences to their decisions.

I want them to learn how our choices impact us. If they chose not to study for a big test and as a result can’t play in the next basketball game due to their grades, it can be devastating for both them and us as their parents. However, I want them to learn from their good and bad choices. Sometimes that means letting them experience the hard stuff that comes from their choice.  

Want more parenting help? Check out our online parenting classes. Our course “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” gives you knowledge on the brain and emotions as well as practical tools you can start using in your home today.

How Do I Give My Kids Choices? 

Just like adults, children have a need to feel ownership and control. Feeling out of control can lead to big emotions both in adults and children. Offering choices helps provide kids with a feeling of control. However, offering choices to kids can be challenging! A common question I hear from parents is “How do I give my kids choices?”

How do i give my kids choices

Why Offer Choices

Before we answer “How do I give my kids choices?,” let’s talk about why offering choices is important. Many years ago I was feeling overwhelmed when choosing where to go to college. I remember my mom telling me, “I know you will make a good choice. We’ve been teaching you how to make choices for a long time.” 

Her comment stuck with me, especially when I started parenting my own children. We don’t automatically arrive at adulthood knowing how to make good choices. Learning how to make choices starts when we are young. 

Providing children opportunity to choose helps build respect, develops problem solving skills, and teaches making decisions skills. These skills are important both now and in the future. 

How to Give Kids Choices

I often hear “I do offer my kids choices!!! It doesn’t work.” How we give kids choices is just as important as why we give choices. Here are 4 tips for  success when offering kids choices.

1 – Offer choices within the boundaries.

Offering kids choices does not mean they get the power to choose whatever, whenever they want. Kids will naturally push against the boundaries we provide to test how firm and secure the boundary is. Let’s look at some examples: 

Boundary: Eating fruit is important for helping your body grow.

Choice: You may choose to have an apple or an orange with lunch. Which one would you like?

Boundary: Limiting the hours of screen use is important for physical and mental health.

Choice: You have 1 hour of screen time today. You may choose to use it now or after dinner. Which one works for you?

2 – Keep the choices simple and positive.

When offering choice as a parenting tool, it is not “do what I say or be punished.” Rather, we are providing two options that work towards the goal. Think about what you want and then offer two choices that meet that goal. Offering only two choices helps to keep everyone from being overwhelmed by too many options.

3 – Stick to the choices you have offered.  

Sometimes children will push back on the choices we have offered. It can be tempting to accept their option however, this can create its own problem. When we accept an outside option, we communicate that they don’t have to pick within the boundaries. If they offer a reasonable option, you can respond: “That’s a great idea. We can try that another time. Today your choice is to ride your scooter or your bike.” 

4 – Create routines around choices

Creating routines around offering choices  gives kids a feeling of control and lots of time to practice making decisions. Maybe they get to pick waffles or pancakes for Saturday morning breakfast or the movie of Friday family movie night. It might be a choice of brushing teeth before or after bath time or picking what cookies you are making. 

In our family, we take turns picking which game we will play together. Knowing that each person will get a choice has made it easier to play a game we might not like as much. 

Want more tools for parenting? Our online parenting class, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” will give you practical knowledge of the brain and emotions as well as simple tools you can start using today to experience more peace in your home. And follow us on Instagram or join our Facebook Group from daily encouragement and tips.

Resilience is the ability to move through the hard thing and not get stuck. Life will always throw difficult curve balls. Resilience helps us recover from setbacks and adapt to challenging circumstances. Research tells us that some people seem to come by resilience naturally, but resilient behaviors can also be learned and improved.  It is a skill that we can not only teach our children but one we can continue to grow in ourselves! Learn how to build resilience as an adult with these simple tips.

How to build resilience

Keep Moving

When faced with a difficult situation many of us just freeze or wait for the struggle to pass. Instead of getting stuck, make small attainable goals. Develop realistic goals with simple actions steps you can take to move towards your goal. Having a sense of purpose during a crisis can help move you forward. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking yourself “what is my next right thing” and then just doing that next right thing. 

Encourage Connection

Just like kids, resilience grows in adults through connection. Finding a space where you can share life’s difficulties and feel supported is important. Connecting with others who understand the struggles you face lets you know you are not alone. The caring and supportive people around you acts as a protective factor during times of crisis.

Flexibility

An essential part of resilience is the ability to be flexible and accepting of change. By learning and practicing flexibility you will be ready to adapt to changing and shifting situations.  When life doesn’t go exactly as planned, take the opportunities to make changes, learn new things, and potentially head in a new direction. 

Take Care of Yourself

Another important part of building resilience is taking care of yourself. When we are going through rough times it’s easy to try and ignore what our body needs in order to power through. Rather than working against your body, figure out  a way to work with it. Get sleep, move your body, talk to a therapist, have a good cry, do whatever you and your body needs to have the energy to bounce back. This is also a great area to involve your community in. Work with your community (partner, family, friends) to help carve out time to take care of yourself. What can they do to support you? 

What Resilience Isn’t

Being resilient doesn’t mean life won’t knock you down sometimes, that just isn’t realistic. Resilience isn’t a personality trait, instead it involves behaviors, habits, connections, and actions. Just like building a muscle, increasing your own resilience takes time, effort, and focus but as it grows it will serve you well in the end! 

Resilience is our ability to bounce back from hard or challenging situations. Many different factors play into our ability to bounce back. The great news is that resilience can be developed, no matter our age. In the short video below, Jessi offers Tips for building resilience in older kids. 

Want more tips for building resilience in older kids? Check out our online parenting class, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do.” In this self-paced class, you will learn about the brain and emotions as well as practical tips for helping our families learn to feel their emotions in healthy ways.

Resilience is our ability to bounce back when we encounter hard or challenging situations. As much as we would like to protect our children from anything bad happening to them, the reality is, that is impossible. Our ability to bounce back is both influenced by our biology as well as our experiences. During the foundational early years of life, there are lots of simple things that we can do to help grow our children’s ability to bounce back from the hard and challenging situations they will encounter today and in the years to come. Here are six tips for building resilience in young children. 

Tip #1 – Relationship is Primary

Stable and secure relationships are a basic need of all humans. We are not meant to do life alone and this is especially true in young children. Babies are completely dependent on their caregivers to meet all of their needs. As children grow, they start to go off and explore the world around them but need a safe, secure person to come back to. Watch your preschooler and you will notice how they will go off and explore but circle back to check-in with you. Knowing that you are there gives them the confidence to go out into the world.

Tips for Building Resilience

Tip #2 – Be Present not Perfect

Raising and caring for a human is one of the most challenging things most of us will do. I don’t know about you, but there are many times I feel incompetent and know that I didn’t make the best decision or react in the optimal way to my child. However, parenting is not about perfection. In fact, continuing to show-up for our kids, even when things aren’t going well or going back and repairing our relationship when we have overreacted helps to build resilience. When we do this, we are helping our kids learn that showing up is more important than always getting it right.

Tip # 3 – Rhythms and Routines

At Action Parenting, we talk a lot about being intentional with developing healthy rhythms for your family. Rhythms and routines provide structure and stability and they also help our children build their executive functioning skills. Executive functioning is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. Developing strong memory, flexible thinking, and self-control skills help us manage our feelings and responses when we encounter hard or stressful situations. 

Tip # 4 – It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Independence is often seen as a sign of strength and in many situations it is. We want our kids to learn how to dress themselves, clean-up their rooms, and go to school on their own! However, we also want to know how to ask for help when they encounter something they don’t know. Life is full of new experiences and learning how to ask for what we need to move through the new experience is important. 

Tip # 5 – Build the “I can do hard things” Muscle 

Keeping with the theme of asking for help, building the “I can do hard things” muscle helps build resilience too. With preschool age children, you can do this by highlighting characters in books or shows that do hard things, recognizing their efforts to try hard things, and maybe even make-up a song or frequently repeat the phrase “I can do hard things!” Make it fun to tackle the hard stuff!

Tip # 6 – Practice Reframing

It’s easy to see what’s going wrong or what is not working. Help your preschooler learn to see both the hard and the positive in a situation. You might say “It’s really hard when we don’t get to play with the toy we want and we can be patient and wait our turn.” By doing this, you are helping build internal dialogue that will help them navigate all of the challenges life brings.

 

Want more tools for building resilience in your family? Our FREE online course, “Parenting in a Pandemic: Secrets for Survival” has practical tips for not just surviving but thriving in times of adversity.