Kids and tough friendship decisions

 

As a school counselor for twenty years, one of the most common problems that I talked to kids about was friendship.

What do you do when a friend wants to do something that is unkind, thoughtless, or involves breaking the rules?

What do you do when a friend is bossy, self-centered and treats you unkindly?

Peer pressure and friendship decisions are a tough concept for us all. Relationships are messy for both children and adults.

Children and Self-Worth

One of the key concepts that all children need to learn and internalize is a feeling of worth and value that is inherent in their authentic self rather than based on another’s opinion. Learning to be our authentic selves is hard. We all try to avoid this difficult work.  It’s not just children that spend time trying to look and act like someone they are not. Just look at the trends on social media or television.  How can we help children with this tough work?

Being a Best Friend

I love books that combine a good story with a good lesson. It’s even better if the lesson can be summed up in one memorable sentence. The book Hunter’s Best Friend at School does all of the above and more. Written by Laura Malone Elliott, it is the tale of two raccoons who are best friends and want to do everything together and just alike. This doesn’t normally create problems, but when Stripe shows up at school in a mischief-making mood, Hunter is faced with the choice of whether or not to follow along. He soon discovers that making the wrong choice not only means they are both in trouble, but also that he is not even happy with himself. When his mother discovers his dilemma, she teaches him a great life lesson when she says, “Sometimes being a best friend means you have to help your friend be his best self.” Couldn’t we all benefit from her wisdom?

Three Tips to Help Children Be Their Best Selves

How can we as parents and educators help children recognize that they are “enough” just as they are?  How can we encourage them to be their best selves? How can we teach them to interact in a positive way with friends, even when friends are challenging?  Here are some tips:

  • Recognize the part that you play as a role model.  Children imitate what they see around them and if you do not stand firm in your own values, if you are constantly trying to measure up to someone else’s standard, children will follow the same path.
  • Recognize and encourage children in their areas of strength.  Too often we focus on areas that need improvement and while this is necessary, make sure the balance of your interaction is supportive and empowering.
  • Teach children through example and practice how to interact with peers in ways that encourage others to be their “best selves”.  Establish core values and talk about them often.Use books, movies or television examples to spark discussion. Look for teachable moments in every day life to demonstrate good decision making skills.

Related Posts:

Friendship Troubles

Kids and Decision Making

Helping kids find their voice

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend.  Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners

 

Kids and anger

Do you have a student who has a low frustration tolerance?  Even the slightest thing sets him off?

Do you have a child that loses control and throws temper tantrums?  Are you walking on eggshells trying to keep her on an even keel?

What can you do to teach more emotional control?  In the past, we taught kids lots of simple anger techniques;  take a deep breath and count to ten, take a break, ask for help. These are all worthwhile and often effective.  However, when a child has frequent anger outbursts, these techniques alone don’t really get to the root of the problem.  What if instead of teaching children what to do after they get angry, we also taught them how to understand and manage their feelings?  What if we challenged their thinking that lead them to be angry in the first place?

Here is the technique:

  1. Teach children that all feelings come from our own thoughts, not from our circumstances.  This is good news.  It means that we are each responsible for our own feelings and consequently our own behavior.  No one else and no situation makes us happy or mad.  It is how we see or perceive the situation.  Circumstances are those things that happen that are outside of our control. Here are some examples of circumstances:
    1. Sally took the toy I was playing with.
    2. George said I couldn’t play on his team.
  2. Help children identify the thought that creates the feeling.  This is the hardest part of the technique but even young children can learn to identify, often in reviewing the circumstance in hindsight, what the thought was that preceded the feeling.  Here are some examples:
    1. Sally was mean to me.  She should wait her turn.
    2. George should include me on his team.
  3. Help children determine the feeling as well as the body sensations that go along with the feeling. This involves teaching children body language as well as the words that describe feelings.
    1. I feel mad.  My body is tense and I am clenching my fists.
    2. I feel left out.  I am tearing up and about to cry.
  4. Help children change the thought in order to change and control the feeling. This is the teaching moment where you may  need to help children think of more positive and productive thoughts.   Here are some examples:
    1. Sally didn’t share or ask nicely for the toy but I know a better way to play with others. Sally is learning how to share too and she is younger than I am.
    2. Everyone can’t be on the same team.  It is okay if I am on a different team.
  5. Identify the new behavior that follows:
    1. I will play with a different toy or I will ask the teacher to help.
    2. I will ask if I can join a different team.

This is obviously a technique that requires practice and understanding.  It is not meant to replace other behavior management techniques that calm and redirect children in the midst of difficult feelings.  Instead it is a means of educating children and teaching appropriate behavior. It is a technique to prevent problems before they start.  It also helps to prepare kids to handle difficult situations that they encounter later in life.

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Stressed out?

 

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

Teach Kids Teamwork

One of the key characteristics that employers look for today is the ability to work with a team.  It is also a quality that will enhance family and classroom dynamics.  Sometimes we think that it is something that a child is just born with, but in actuality we can teach skills that develop this leadership quality.

Here’s how to teach teamwork:

  1.  Lead by example– This is a key strategy.  As the adult it is necessary to not only model teamwork but to teach teamwork as well.  This means taking advantage of teachable moments by pointing out the options and clearly indicating which ones will best serve everyone involved.  It also means demonstrating how you as an adult are a team player.  “Students, we are going to work together as a team to put away the math games.  Let’s all look for ways that we can help each other.”
  2.  Use language that children understand– Make sure that when you ask a child to do something they understand what you want and expect.  “Class, let’s work together as a team” may mean different things to different children.  “Let’s all get ready for parent night by cleaning out our desks,” will get better results.
  3. Allow choices– Children just like adults want to feel they have some control over their actions and giving choices is one way to do that.  “Today we will be choosing partners to share our work with.  How can you make sure everyone feels a part of the team?”
  4. Catch them being good-Let a student know that you notice when he cooperates and point out the advantages of teamwork.  “Thanks for playing with the new student during recess and including her in your game.  I know that made her feel welcome.”
  5. Let them lead— Encourage children to take initiate:  “Today we need to finish our projects and begin to present them to the class. I bet you know the best way to make it happen in record time.  What should we do first?  Who should do what?”

Developing the ability to work well as part of a community is a process that is continually evolving but it will serve students well as an adult in many diverse settings.

Related Posts:

Kids and Decision Making

Helping Kids Get Better at Getting Along

Surprising research about praise

 

New!!  

Wyatt the Wonder Dog

Learns about Teamwork

Camping with his Boy Scout Troop is exciting and fun… until Max takes a serious fall while hiking.  When Wyatt and the rest of the Scouts use their emergency training to get Max safely out of the woods, they learn the value of teamwork and the power of community to achieve big goals.

Wyatt Learns about Teamwork

Lesson Plan and Activities to Complement Wyatt and Teamwork

 

 

Help Kids Set Goals that Motivate

Do you sometimes wish that you could swap your personality for another?

Do you wish you could swap a child’s personality for another, at least long enough to get them to finish their homework or do their chores?

If you are reserved, do you wish that you could be more outgoing?

If you are a detail person, do you wish that you could be  more sensitive to people and their feelings?

We all have aspects of our personality that we sometimes wish we could change.

The Four Basic Personality Styles

Understanding and speaking the same language is important isn’t it?  Speaking a child’s personality language is helpful in parenting as well.   This is especially true if you want to help a child set goals that motivate them.  As a quick reminder the four main personality types are:

D wired=dominant, decisive, determined, doer

I wired=interactive, inspiring, influential, initiator

S wired=stable, sweet, shy, likes status quo

C wired=conscientious, careful, cautious, careful

Personality Style and Motivation

If you have a D wired child, then you will want to help them chose a goal that is very specific and has a deadline.  D personalities are highly motivated and competitive, so setting a goal to give their energy some direction will be very successful.

I wired children are great starters but not such great finishers.  They thrive on social interaction and recognition, so setting a goal that involves a social network to support and encourage them to achieve it is best.  Add in an element of fun and the I wired child will be hooked.

S wired children are great finishers but have difficulty starting tasks.  They are tuned in to the needs of others and will work to accomplish a goal as much to please you as to please themselves.  Select a goal that they can commit to with your support or the support of a close friend to motivate them.

Finally, C wired children love to develop and research a goal.  When they are committed to a goal, they are conscientious and  will work hard to accomplish the task.  Help them see the big picture so that they don’t get lost in the details and you will have a winning combination.

Learning to set and accomplish goals is an important skill to learn and by speaking a child’s personality language, you can ensure that they are successful.

Related Posts:

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Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

 

 

Stress Free Morning Routines for Kids

Mom, where’s my lunch money?

I can’t find my backpack!

What happened to my homework?  If the dog didn’t eat it who did?

Get in the car… Get.  in.  the.  CAR!

Did the school bus just go by?

It’s back to school here in Georgia.

Have you established a morning routine with your crew?  Or are you back to dreading the early morning rush and late night homework sessions?  One of the most stressful times of the day for many parents and children is the early morning rush of getting to school on time.

Although back to school start dates may vary around the country, one thing that doesn’t vary is the manic morning rush to get everyone out of the house and off to school/ work on time. To change manic mornings to  tranquil transitions create a morning schedule that is congruent with your family’s style.  Not every personality style reacts well to a timed schedule and a stop watch mentality but you can create a school morning scenario that matches your family’s unique preferences.  Here’s how:

 

Four tips for creating a stress free morning

  1. Begin by discussing as a family the goals that everyone has for the morning.  Be at school and work on time?  Eat a healthy breakfast?  Have a positive mindset? Have all the supplies you need for the day? Get everyone’s input to make sure everyone is clear on what is expected.
  2. Plan ahead by getting things ready the night before–  I’m a big fan of this approach. When my children were little we got clothes out and backpacks ready the night before.  Even now I prepare the night before for my next day.
  3. Leave yourself enough margin  to arrive on time—  The idea of margin is a good one. Plan for the necessary amount of time with some extra time added in for unforeseen difficulties.  Teach children to create a schedule by working backward from the time they need to arrive at school.  Then follow through.
  4. Spend some quiet time in gratitude. This is a definite part of my morning and a great start for families as well.  Share a devotion with the family as you eat breakfast.  This is so different from the rushing-out-the-door, pop-tart-in-hand approach that often characterizes the morning routine.
  5. Share a positive affirmation that sets the tone for the day–  Make the affirmation a question to get the biggest mental impact. One example is: “How can you make it a great day for someone?”  Sharing a positive thought at the last good bye can create a positive mindset that lasts all day.

 

Related Posts:

Personality Style and Motivation

Begin School with Intention

Create a Growth Mindset

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

It’s time to catch the school bus and Wyatt can’t find anything.  Where is his backpack?  his lunch money? Wyatt is about to learn a valuable lesson about the importance of being organized and the benefits of planning ahead.  This adorable story offers simple helpful ideas that kids and parents can use to make life less stressful and more fun.

Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Front_Covr-Organized[1]
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Being Organized

 

 

Doubtbusters for kids

I can’t

I’m a loser

Everyone else does it better

I’m afraid I might fail

I’m afraid I might succeed

Do you know a kid who is riddled with doubt?  Do you find that no matter how much you praise him, he still lacks self-confidence?  Is it frustrating to see her not living up to her potential because of doubts and fears?

Certainly we all have a lack of confidence and courage at times.  But when we know someone who is chronically plagued with doubt, it is often distressing to see their self esteem plummet and their self concept weaken.  What can you do to be the doubt-buster that they need in their life?

Three ways to increase kids’ self-confidence

Focus on action, not feelings–Teach kids that many times our feelings trick us into believing things that just aren’t true.  Just because we feel nervous about trying something challenging is not a sign that we should avoid it.  In fact many times feeling nervous is a good thing because it is an indication that we are stepping outside our comfort zone and taking on a challenge.

Focus on positive self talk, not negative self talk— Our brains are like Velcro for negativity and Teflon for the positive so its important that we learn ways to take charge of our thinking.  One way to do this is to teach kids to pay attention to the messages that they are telling themselves, to evaluate those messages and change it to a more realistic and positive one if necessary.

Focus on measuring personal progress, not comparison to others–The comparison trap will always lead to doubt and criticism.  We can always find someone who is better than we are.  By the same token we can always find someone who is weaker as well.  Neither is beneficial for shoring up self esteem.  Instead, teach kids to measure personal progress based on goals and personal accomplishment.

Related posts:

Developing self-esteem in kids

How to raise a resilient child

Kids and anxiety

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

Self-esteem Group Curriculum for School Counselors