In our ongoing endeavour to establish healthy boundaries that nurture the mental and emotional well-being of our children, there are three challenges that often come up to test our efforts:
1. Desire to be liked: You may worry your children won’t like you when enforcing boundaries and consequences. While it isn’t pleasant to hear your child yelling, ‘I don’t like you’, it doesn’t mean they don’t. What they are really saying is, ‘I don’t like your boundaries. I don’t like your consequences.’ Understanding this, helps you respond with the intent of encouraging growth rather than reacting solely from the emotions you may be triggered to feel, like anger or guilt.
2. Remembering when you were a kid: You may find yourself thinking, ‘I know what it’s like to feel disappointment and I don’t want that for my child.’ Attempting to protect them from disappointment is not in their best interest. We want kids to grow into adults that know how to manage emotions like disappointment rather than avoiding them.
3. Wanting them to make their own choices: While it’s important to encourage independence and decision-making skills, many parents make the mistake of thinking their child has the logic and reasoning of an adult and will naturally make the responsible choices (I have had those moments). Unfortunately, our children don’t have the life experiences to pull from, nor the maturity to know what might be in their best interest.
Strategies to Establish Healthy Boundaries
1. Clarity on your boundaries: Knowing what boundaries and consequences work best for your child ahead of time will stop you from making a decision in the heat of the moment – one you may later regret. Plus, letting your child know the expectation ahead of time gives them clarity and awareness.
2. Be their parent: Growing up, when I would push back on my mom’s boundaries, she would say, ‘I’m your parent and I have a job to do.’ This mindset allowed her to enforce the structure that I needed, even when I didn’t know that’s what I needed. She didn’t allow my disappointment to become her guilt. Remain sturdy. Remember you are arming your child with important life skills.
3. Stay consistent: Children thrive on consistency, and it helps them understand the boundaries that are in place. Of course, there will be times when you will fall off track, but be honest with your kids by saying, ‘I haven’t followed through with what we talked about and that’s on me. Moving forward my expectations are…(fill in the blank)’. Your kids will appreciate your honesty.
4. Preventing entitlement: Establishing clear boundaries helps prevent a sense of entitlement. When kids understand that there are limits to their wants and behaviours, they learn the valuable lesson that the world doesn’t always cater to their every wish. This realization fosters a more realistic and appreciative perspective, reducing the likelihood of entitlement.
This is What I Know: When your child pushes back – that’s their job – your role is to maintain a healthy boundary. By staying steadfast, they will learn to cope with disappointment, frustration and setbacks, essential for bouncing back from life’s challenges.
Until next time,
25 Oct 2023
Tired Child: Building a Bridge of Understanding
The other evening, my son was really having a hard time listening. I don’t know about you, but when my child isn’t listening, it can trigger lots of different emotions, such as frustration, annoyance and even anger. In these moments, since it’s easy to interpret his lack of listening as a form of disrespect, I consciously work on being mindful of how I am perceiving his behaviour.
If I view it from the perspective of him being intentionally disrespectful and choosing not to listen to me, it’s very easy to react from my anger. However, if I step back and become an observer, I notice something completely different – I notice that he’s tired.
When kids have a tired brain their ability to listen and respond is significantly diminished. They don’t have the capacity to engage with us the way they would when they’re well-rested.
It’s important to recognize this because children, mine included, won’t say, “I’m really tired, and I can’t listen properly because my brain is exhausted.” If I even suggest he might be tired, he will vehemently deny that his words and actions have anything to do with being exhausted.
Instead of interpreting his lack of listening as disrespect, which would cause me to react, I choose to view it as exhaustion. I know that his tired brain is hindering any possibility of a rational discussion. My focus becomes staying calm and avoid taking his words personally, so I can help him achieve a relaxed state.
If there are issues that need addressing, I save those conversations for the morning. After a good night’s sleep, he wakes up transformed, like a totally different person!
This is what I know: Tired brains can’t rationalize. They are reactive, lack emotional regulation and aren’t open to listening and learning. Remembering this will help you approach their behaviour with empathy and patience, allowing you to support them in the best way possible.
Until next time…
12 Oct 2023
How to Handle Kids’ Disappointments and Strengthen Bonds
Life is a series of ups and downs and it’s natural for children to face disappointment along the way.
When my son confides in me about a disappointment, my natural instinct is to think of solutions and ways to fix it, especially if he is feeling sad and dejected.
Disappointments are valuable life lessons that help develop skills like perseverance, empathy, resilience and problem-solving. If you try to protect them from disappointment, it will stop them from developing these essential skills. Without a healthy approach to disappointments, a young person can feel like a failure, causing them to give up or quit.
Below are four strategies to help you and the child in your life effectively deal with disappointment:
1. Acknowledge Emotions
Let them know that it’s okay to feel disappointed and that it’s an emotion that everyone encounters at various times in their life. Remember to acknowledge your own emotions when you see a child experiencing disappointment. Being able to feel your own discomfort is an important part of teaching them to lean into uncomfortable emotions.
2. Validate Emotions
Refrain from dismissing their emotions. Avoid phrases like “It’s not a big deal” or “You’re overreacting.” Such statements invalidate their emotions and can make them feel unheard or misunderstood. Instead, validate their emotions by saying, ‘I understand you’re feeling really disappointed right now’ or ‘That must have been really tough for you.’
3. Teach Emotional Management Strategies
Help them identify healthy ways to release their emotions that bring them comfort and calmness when they are upset, such as deep breathing, counting to ten, or finding an activity that relaxes them.
4. Encourage a Problem-Solving Mindset
Together brainstorm potential solutions or strategies to improve the situation. This approach gives them a plan to better prepare them for handling future disappointments.
Providing a supportive and understanding environment goes a long way to helping a child not only navigate disappointment, but also develop resilience.
Until next time…
28 Sep 2023
Building Emotional Connection, One ‘Refresh’ at a Time
Emotions run high. Meltdowns occur. Tantrums happen.
You can’t have conflict resolution without first facing conflict.
You can’t have redirection without first creating connection.
When you have moments of despair, they need repair.
One effective strategy for enhancing conflict resolution, fostering connection, and facilitating repair is to incorporate ‘refresh’ into your resource toolbox, much like refreshing a computer when it’s bogged down and not functioning properly.
To illustrate the effectiveness of using ‘refresh’, let me share a recent circumstance involving my 11-year-old son.
The other day he experienced a really tough moment as we were about to leave the house. He wasn’t getting something he wanted within the timeframe he was hoping for. While this wouldn’t typically bother him, on that particular day it triggered an emotional storm! I should also add that he had some late nights that had obviously caught up to him, although suggesting that to him wasn’t an option.
I needed to remain calm and steady in his emotional storm – not an easy task, especially when I was frustrated, realizing we needed to leave and I wasn’t even ready! Nothing I said was helpful or comforting. I took a deep breath and stepped away, giving him the space to feel what he was feeling.
After a few minutes, I bent down to his level, knowing this wasn’t the time to question his behaviour or engage in a conversation about it. Instead, I recognized that he needed to hit the ‘refresh button’.
I looked at him and said, “I understand you’re upset that things aren’t going the way you wanted them to. I’m feeling the same way.” (this validates the emotions felt and adds connection)
I presented two options:
1. Continue with our back-and-forth.
2. Take a deep breath and ‘refresh, starting over.
He chose to ‘refresh’, and we did just that without the need to have a further conversation. We hugged and both felt a weight lifted. (this is our way of creating repair)
Despite a bumpy start, we had a wonderful day.
14 Jun 2023
Parenting for the Future Child
Being a parent is a tough job! It’s also a rewarding job!
We don’t instantly see the fruits of our labour which is difficult, as we live in a world where instant and convenience is served to us constantly…Uber Eats, Curbside Pickup, Online Banking, Same Day Deliveries. We have come to expect speedy results.
Modelling and teaching our children the essential skills of confidence, emotional resilience, healthy relationships, character values and perseverance, takes lots of patience, loads of effort, consistency and time you sometimes feel you don’t have.
The time you put into your child today is not just for them now, it’s for the future them. As parents we are in the business of planting seeds and watering them, not knowing when those seeds will take root. We want our kids to grow into adults who are confident, have strong mental well-being and can navigate their emotions in healthy ways.
On the hard days, remember that with consistency, nurturing and modelling, your efforts will pay off.
Until next time,
28 Sep 2022
It Hurts to be Bullied
Being bullied happens too often, and it can make kids feel scared, sick, embarrassed, anxious, depressed and sad. Bullying can make them feel alone with nowhere and no one to turn to.
That’s why Paul Davis (internet safety expert) & I decided to invite Emily, who is 18 years old, to join our podcast to share her bullying story that began in grade 3.
Words from Emily: ‘In grade 3 no one liked me & I don’t know why. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t fit in. I was the one who got picked last in gym class. I kept saying grade 4 will be better. It did get better for a while until the day our teacher asked us to mark each other’s spelling test. When mine was returned to me I saw messages written on it, “You’re not smart! You’re dumb!”
You feel so hopeless. You believe you will never get out of being bullied. You have no reason to go to school – you hate it there. My principal tried to help and for a while it was fine until it wasn’t. When you’re 9 years old you are just starting to figure out life and when the adults have no hope of fixing the situation you feel alone.’
Paul Davis reminds us that we need kids to know if they speak out about any type of bullying, they will be supported.
Once Emily entered high school, she had an idea…click here to watch or here to listen to the full podcast where Emily shares her idea.
One piece of advice to adults from Emily: ‘The most helpful thing an adult can do for a child that is being bullied is to take the time to listen & to let the child talk about how they are feeling & then help work through their emotions together, so it isn’t just on the child’s shoulders.’
Until next time…
14 Sep 2022
Strengthen a Child’s Resilience
As kids get older they start to rely more on the relationships with their friends, and less on their parents.
This can be problematic if they believe their friends are the only people they need in their village. Without the benefit of life experiences, friends usually can’t give the support and advice a young person needs to responsibly navigate to adulthood.
Even though I had wonderful friends, they didn’t have the guidance I needed when I shared my sadness and confusion around my parent’s divorce, the lack of relationship with my dad after the divorce and the boy in my class who made fun of me most days.
My mum could see I was struggling and recognized I needed more than she could give me. She realized she needed to expand my village. She started sending me to character development courses, support groups and leadership camps.
As a preteen and teen I wasn’t the least bit interested in going. Getting really angry telling her I didn’t want to go and telling her I didn’t like her, got me nowhere. My Mum would simply reply, ‘You don’t have a choice.’
How does expanding a child’s village help?
I couldn’t see any benefit in my mum’s decision at the time – all I could see was that her choices were taking away time from me hanging out with my friends. Now in reflection, I can clearly see that by expanding my village to include mentors, coaches, teachers, new experiences and wisdom taught me to be confident, responsible and resilient.
Teaching your child the importance of learning from different mentors and role models will not only enrich and expand “their village”, it will also help develop their mental, emotional and physical well-being
Your child will probably not thank you for expanding their village. However, one day they will look back as I did…
Until next time…
10 Mar 2022
There is so much going on in the world! You may feel a lack of control which affects your mood, your daily routine and your interactions with your children. So many kids are also feeling the same stressors.
We all need a break! We need to focus on the things we can control.
Being intentional about spending time together is something you can control. Time together supports kids in feeling secure, loved and less anxious.
Here are a few things my son Kai and I enjoy doing together:
Reading stories before bed – I like to use fun voices as I read – this gets both Kai and I laughing!
Preparing a meal together helps us build connection and creates a sense of accomplishment.
Hiking or walking/bicycling in a park or the woods. Leaving life’s distractions and busyness for the calm of nature, improves our ability to relax and let go.
Choosing an activity or game your child/family enjoys. Kai always chooses mini sticks – not one of my favourites – but hey 🙂
Writing in a journal that has written prompts inspires him to write and reflect. To get your children started, download the UPower mini journal. It has a story, quotes, posters & questions. They can do it independently or you can do it together.
This is what I know: Focusing on the areas of your life you can control gives you the mental and emotional boost you need to keep moving forward.
25 Feb 2022
Mindsets of a Resilient Child
Children aren’t born resilient. Seeing challenges, mistakes and changes as a learning experience is an essential part of building a resilient child. The good news is that resilience is a skill that can be learned and strengthened with practice and support.
Here are 3 mindsets that can help you on the journey to building a resilient child.
1. A CHALLENGE IS A CHAPTER OF YOUR LIFE NOT YOUR WHOLE STORY
If a challenge is seen as an opportunity for growth, children are better able to deal with it, bounce back, adapt and learn from it. If it is seen as hopeless, it is easy for them to feel like giving up. Changing perspective changes their internal dialogue about an event or circumstance to a more positive, less emotional viewpoint.
Ask kids to take a challenge they are experiencing and answer the following questions:
What’s something that’s hard for you right now?
What have you learned about yourself from this challenge?
How would you face this challenge the next time?
2. SEEING MISTAKES AS AN OPPORTUNITY
The fear of making a mistake and feeling embarrassed can be a huge deterrent to young people trying something new. What if we taught children to see making a mistake as an opportunity to grow and learn? And that when they feel the awkward emotion of embarrassment – that’s ok – it’s part of the journey.
What if we taught them that ‘the butterflies’ or nervousness they are feeling is a good thing and that it’s natural to feel that way? Perhaps then, they would be excited to try something new instead of fearing ‘what if I make a mistake?’
Ask kids to do the following exercise:
Write about a time you allowed your fear of making a mistake stop you from saying or doing something.
What do you wish you would have said or done?
What did you learn from this experience?
The next time you feel nervous, what could you do? Examples: breathe deeply, repeat ‘it’s ok to feel nervous’, ‘I am brave’…
3. LIFE IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING
Children who understand that life is like a roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs, will be able to bounce back and accept change with more ease. Studies show that viewing change as a challenge that they can tackle instead of a threat, equips young people with the ability to better deal with adversity. It allows them to find creative solutions to new challenges, to face adversity with calmness and confidence and to have a sense of mastery over life circumstances
Ask kids to complete the following exercise:
Write about a time you did something you thought you couldn’t do.
What did you learn about yourself from that experience?
List 3 new things you could try.
Resilient kids become resilient adults, able to not only survive, but thrive in the face of challenges, mistakes & changes.
The support we give our kids today will positively impact their future!
Until next time…
23 Nov 2021
Are You as Courageous as This Kid?
My friend Jenn wrote a post on Facebook which really resonated with me. I think it will do the same for you, your kids and students.
‘Today, I was inspired by someone I love. A key member of their team was unable to be present for an important moment. He stepped up to fill a role he hasn’t played, and the rest of his team stepped up to ensure success. He stepped out of his comfort zone.
This person is my 10-year-old son and his team is their hockey team. John is a defender, but tonight he played goalie for his team. And his team stepped up to defend him.
Yeah, it’s just a game. But they taught me tonight. The whole team inspired me. And that’s parenting – we teach them, they teach us. Comfort zones are boundaries we create, and that we can break.
So proud of this kid and his courage!
And yes, they won – as a team.’
This is what I know: Stepping outside your comfort zone isn’t easy, especially if it’s accompanied with the fear of ‘what if I can’t do this’ or ‘what if I make a mistake’. Choosing to make courage greater than your fear will not only feel incredible, but also open the door to so many possibilities.