Building Resilience in Children

Building Resilience in Children

In this week’s article, I am going to discuss building resilience and why resilience is important.

Building Resilience in children

Sometimes the hardest part of parenting topics are the ones that you never thought about. I know this through many years of life coaching teenagers. We all talk about sleep issues, toilet training, teenagers and sex or drugs. Yes, of course, I am not saying any of those things are easy. Far away from it. However, we already have myriads of sources of information on those. We all have friends who tell you “just get ready for the sleepless nights” or “wait until your daughter becomes a teenager”.

I respect people giving their best advice and aiming to help. However, prophesying about everything that will go wrong in the future is rarely helpful.

Anyway, (if you have read some of my articles you will know by now that I do ramble a bit) for good or for bad, we have time to think about those situations, and we can even start planning for those. However, in all honesty, we rarely do notwithstanding that building resilience is a very important skill for children and parents alike.

Guidance through a small crisis can help a child to build resilience.

There is a range of parenting topics that nobody tells us about. Fortunately, through life coaching teenagers, I see this lapse all the time. Here are a few examples: How do I react when my child is pushed in the playground?  Or when he/she falls face flat and has a bleeding nose? How do I help when their best friend is not their best friend anymore and they feel rejected and isolated? Or when they feel the teacher is not listening to them? What about when, most likely in secondary school, they struggle to fit in or make friends? These are some of the instances when it is priceless to have good parenting skills.

I know most of us will have mix feelings about those situations. Some will think: it is hardly the end of the world (“come on, stand up and go to play again), others will opt for sympathy (“oh, dear me, are you ok, come here with mum/dad”), others will become very directive (“what you have to do is…” or “next time you tell him/her…”).

It is not my role or my intention to challenge any of those approaches. I believe every parent is doing the best they can every day towards building resilience in their children. Successful parenting often requires that you approach every situation from a different angle.

My intention is to help you think from a different perspective. Think about your reactions and the underlying message that you are sending. Does it help your child in building resilience or not? Once we understand that underlying message, we can assess if it is the long term idea we want them to learn.

Here are two examples. In this case, I am using my own experience with my daughters.

Daughter number 1 is around 18months old. We are spending a beautiful day in the playground. She is understandably excited and pacing around. At a certain point, she falls. Nothing serious but enough to get a good fright (her and I) and a very loud cry. Here is a tip I learned in my first aid course with Red Cross ages ago; the louder a victim cries, the less priority is it to you. Well, don’t ask me why, but as I calmly walked the few meters distance to her I was considering what the heck to do.

So, I came up with an idea. I put her up and said a few soothing words, I cleaned her hands and chest of sand and then I said: this a naughty floor, isn’t it! I think we have to tell him he is naughty. Now, picture a 35 years old dad talking with a floor and telling him off. I just had no idea what to do or how to stop my daughter crying.

After I repeated “naughty floor” a few times and smacked it (careful here. In my enthusiasm, I overdid it and hurt my hand), to my surprise my daughter joined in. A few seconds later, we were both telling off the floor for being naughty and asking “it” not to do it again. Did this little drama teach you something about practical parenting and building resilience in children?

In between jokes, this became part of our family tradition. We told off the floor, the steps, the corners when we hit them, the tree, etc. I have been thinking a lot about what I did and how it impacted my daughter. Through life coaching teenagers, I have been able to change the orientation of children so fast that their parents start wondering the source of my magic. I am not going to claim that the response with my daughter is perfect neither is it one of the must-have good parenting skills. But it did two things;

1) deflected the attention from the pain

2) rather than playing the victim culture, it empowered her and helped her build resilience.

We are all human, and sometimes we get it wrong.

Building Resileince in children

As I write, I am thinking, maybe I should have changed the order in which I told this story. I am going from “success” to “not-successful”. Anyways, something tells me to tell it this way. It is a good thing to go from the known to the unknown, right?

Fast forward to a few months, or years—I wish I could be more exact—and my daughter is around 3 or 4 years old. One Sunday morning we go to the supermarket to buy a full English Breakfast for ourselves and visitors. The first thing we do is to get one of those large bottles of milk (the four pints, or 2.2lt). As we walk in, my daughter, eager to help says, “Daddy, can I help? Can I carry it?” I was conscious it was a bit on the heavy side, but who am I to stop her from feeling helpful? We spent a bit of time in the supermarket.

Every now and again I asked her if she was OK, “Yes daddy, I can do it”, she said, and we continued. As we approach the cashier we see two people ahead of us. The shop is almost deserted, and I am planning for a quick return home and a nice breakfast. Suddenly…. a massive splash and milk everywhere. I am not sure what I said or did. However, after checking she was fine, the shock, embarrassment, and confusion kicked in.

Building Resilience in kids is important from a young age

She said, “Daddy, it was an accident”.

Me, looking lovingly at her and finally having an idea of what to say and do, said, “Of course, honey. It was an accident”.

I wasn’t going to be hard on a well-intentioned 3 or 4 years old girl, was I?

Well, let me tell you. I think this was one of my biggest mistakes.

The moment she blamed the event on an accident (definition: an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury), she was not to blame. That was her one step slip from building resilience. Growing through life coaching teenagers I now realize that one thing parents battle with is finding the balance between love and discipline. Now, I am not in the blaming game, but the side effect of this is that she didn’t take responsibility. Therefore, it obviously wasn’t a learning moment. At that instance, my daughter was disempowered. Maybe I am being a bit strict, but that’s how I see it. Much about practical parenting is about looking beyond the immediate action. Successful parenting pictures the future impact of our decisions on the child.

Funny enough, for the following years—I am not making a causation point here, just a correlation—she was very clumsy. There was an accident in the kitchen with the glass of water when dropping my phone or when leaving the crayons on the carpet, etc.

So, what is that I learned? That to resolve something, we have to take ownership. If I am permitted to rate good parenting skills, this will be my top pick. The moment we do this, we are responsible and learn from what we did (not some vague accident). Each time we shift blame away from ourselves, we miss the opportunity to learn from that mistake. Most importantly, through learning, we create the magic word we hear so much: resilience.

And linking to the first example above: the moment we empower our kids to resolve an issue, we empower their confidence and help them in building resilience.

I can imagine some of you saying: he is taking it too far. Taking every single situation as a learning moment or making a big fuss of small things seems way over the top and tiring for the kids and for me.

And if you are thinking this, you are partly right, at least in my opinion. It can be tiring, and it can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be great fun too. Everything depends on how you do it and how much fun you want to have from those events.

How can we help young children in building resilience?

As with every parenting topic I write, I want to give you a few ideas on what to look for and what you can do. I am not assuming these ideas will work for everybody, but, through life coaching teenagers, I can tell that maybe one of them will work for you. Who knows, as you read you could come up with other practical parenting ideas that will work for you.

Now, I want us to picture a few good parenting skills and how you can adapt your style to help your kids in building resilience. Please take this as suggestions and always modify these ideas to;

1) your taste and how you feel about them

2) your child and what you feel they can accept at each point in time.

These are the most frequent advice I share with parents and teachers. I have heard loads of positive feedback about how it has helped their successful parenting drive. I hope they also help you.

Here we go: Building resilience in children

Resileince in kids is a superpower
  • Physical distance. It is normal for young kids to want to be on you or glued to your leg. As they grow, encourage them to extend the distance from you, allow them to go to the next aisle in the supermarket while shopping, to ramble in the park playground. Allow them to develop that feeling of looking out for themselves while being reassured of their safety by your presence. This could be a good excuse to have a night out with your partner while they are cared for by a trusted person. This sounds like nothing you have seen in courses on parenting topics, right? While it is important to teach our kids to be mindful of strangers, let’s do it from the point of caution rather than fear.
  • “Can you help me?” This is a great telltale. When surrounded by adults, Children will aim to avoid mistakes and a lot of time, they will ask for help. This could be opening a jar or doing homework. Successful parenting, in this case, is about teaching them how to do it. Subsequently, you let them do it. Ideally, they will be successful sometimes. It is important to remember that simply because they do things once, it doesn’t mean they feel equipped to do it again. This is what I call “how many times till”. What it means is: how many times do my child need to do something, reasonably successfully, before they feel comfortable to do it by themselves. Observe your child and make some assumptions. This is one of the good parenting skills you need to develop; being observant. Of course, there will be things they only need one or a few repetitions (most likely because it is easy or they’ve done the job/repetitions before). Other times, they will aim to avoid doing the thing. At such instances, successful repetition is critical for them to gain confidence and success. Be sure to guide them, but not doing it for them (or mostly doing it for them).
  • Silences. This is probably one of the most frustrating actions for parents. The child hides behind them and doesn’t talk to her auntie or her friend. It is also one of the, in my practical parenting opinion, hardest to overcome. At this point, it is crucially important to dedicate yourself to help him or her out of the habit. I am not saying we all have to be extroverts. I respect introverts and thank goodness they are here (I am not one of them). For me, the goal is determining if the child is happy with that behaviour or unhappy for the lack of connection. If the child is unhappy, we can do loads of things—which you will find in most parenting topics—to help them out. Encourage new activities, play days, bring new people (cousins, neighbours, kids, or classmates) home. Think about how to help them socialise in safe groups and slowly increase the changes. It is likely going to take a long time. However, you will see how eventually they adopt those new behaviours.
  • Obsession with winning. For good or for bad, our society is obsessively geared towards a winning or losing mentality. Let’s be honest, what is the most frequently asked question after your child’s Sunday football? “Did you win?” followed closely by “Did you score?” I understand these are important. However, what if we were to ask: did you enjoy it? What do you think you did well? How do you feel you played? See how these questions take away the pressure of winning or losing. The situation is that a lot of children feel they need to be at the top (score, class or whatever) to please their parents. On many occasions, the parents are not consciously promoting this idea, but the children still feel they need to do it. I don’t suggest you ignore the outcome all together (at the end of the day, we want them to achieve good marks). Nevertheless, balance the focus on outcome vs the ability they used to achieve it (concentration, creativity, determination, etc.). I am planning to write a detailed successful parenting article on this point. Look forward to it.
  • Playground, friends or school interfering. This is a similar approach to “can you help me?” when relating to third parties. This is especially critical when they are having friendship issues or struggle with a particular teacher. I am aware it is a delicate topic and, as with everything above, please, use your common sense and do what you feel is right. I am aware many young children will avoid conflict, and it is not the same as a sporadic argument with a friend that is consistently bullying them. However, here is a simple technique I took from one of my daughter’s school. Think TAG. T: tell them you don’t like it. A: ask them to stop G: get an adult. By using those three steps, we are encouraging children to take the first two steps in resolving conflict. Consequently, we are giving them an exit strategy (safety net) if it doesn’t work by involving an adult. But more importantly, we are allowing them to build resilience and confidence through their own accomplishments.

These are the most frequent advice I share with parents and teachers looking for practical parenting skills. I have heard loads of positive feedback and I hope they also help you.

Helping our kids to grow up into confident, happy and resilient adults is an everyday job. Some days we’ll get it wrong. That’s fine. We just have to use our own resilience and say, how will I do it next time? Other times we’ll get it right and feel really proud of our achievement. Those days we tell everybody! Just kidding. 

Suggested reading

How To Teach Children Responsibility Through The Medium Of Tidying Up

How To Teach Children Responsibility Through The Medium Of Tidying Up

Hello again in this week’s article about good parenting skills we are going to tackle the unthinkable: Teaching children responsibility through tidying up.

After 10 years working as a life coach for kids and parent coaching expert, and 14 years since my first daughter was born, I have noticed something obvious. There are a handful of crunch points in our daily routine with our children that trigger us. Simple things that we do every day and yet, we manage to get them wrong pretty much every time. Ok, maybe not every time. However, getting it right is the exception rather than the norm.

I am talking about morning school run, eating habits, homework, bedtime and the topic for this article: tidying up.

I am aware the standards change from home to home. However, in my peculiar case, it happens that my wife is tremendously tidy. She is a Tetris master of the universe in placing things in the kitchen cupboard. Her drawers seem to be organized with a ruler, and her jumper folding skills could pass an SAS Sargent inspection with flying colours.

helping kids tidy up

I am not so organized, but I do like a clean room, bath towels hanging up rather than on the floor, and shoes, if not in the shoe cupboard, at least paired up nicely rather than all in pile at the entrance of the house (I just hope my mum is not reading this because she will be laughing out loud as this has been a late development for me).

While the children are young, understandably, we do most the tidying up for them. However, as they start becoming more independent and have a lot more stuff, things start getting out of control. This is exacerbated if you have several kids. In my case, I have two daughters, and I have all the respect for those that have more. Even with two daughters and the advantage of being a life coach for kids, I sometimes think I need to attend parenting classes too. Hats off to you guys, you deserve a statue in Trafalgar Square.

Teaching children responsibility prevents arguments and strengthens family bonds.  

For the last 14 years, I have been acutely aware of the home routines around tidying up. You may also find this article on tidying up interesting. I also grow very discontent with the arguments that this can trigger (“how many times I told you …..”), the last-minute rush (“have you seen my trainers, I left them here, and I can’t find them” “where is my maths book. I left it on my desk”) or those calls from school in the middle of the morning, most likely when you are in a meeting or about to get on the bus/underground/car, saying how they forgot their sports kit or homework and if I can bring them to school. I won’t stop emphasizing that coaching kids is a tough job. Also, being a life coach for kids expert doesn’t make it easier for me.

teaching kids responcibility

As you can tell, the whole point of this article is much broader than tidying up. It is about teaching children responsibility, to own their actions and be conscious that failing to do them has some consequences. Let’s assume we are having parenting classes. I will be using tidying up to illustrate all those points.

In my many conversations with parents during parent coaching sessions we often talk about their routines. When casually talking about their home routine, I notice a pattern. The parents take on all those responsibilities from early on and through the years, take on more and more stuff, while the children take on less and less. Most parents think “the little ones already have homework and school to deal with” or “it is faster if I do it” or “they don’t know how to do it”. There are a million more reasons I get in parenting classes which all end in parents doing everything. Consequently, the little ones binge on their favourite tv program comfortably laying on the sofa and asking us not to make too much noise because they can’t hear.

However, as the kids get into more stuff (football on Tuesdays, chess or Wednesday, play day on Thursday, karate on Fridays and swimming on Saturdays) this becomes unbearable for the parents. If you multiply these tasks by the number of kids you have, I can tell you it is going to burn you very quickly. You will explode. It is not a question or “if” but “when”.

Start teaching children responsibility early.

The main problem with coaching kids is that we often begin late. By the time we want to change it, it is now way out of control, or mum/dad can’t do it anymore, it is almost too late. We have taken on responsibilities for so long that the concept of owning those back is totally alien to the children.

During these series of articles, I will be writing about responsibilities, how to help them become independent, good home routines, etc. There are loads of great information out there. I particularly like searching online for “age relevant tasks for children”. I admit some of them seem a bit ambitious, but overall there is a lot of great advice which I always share on this blog or during parent coaching sessions.

teaching kids responcibility

You can also read the “good homework routine” “or the school run” article to get further ideas from my site.

Since the title of this article is about teaching children responsibility through tidying up. Let’s get into it

Firstly, as a life coach for kids, I want to mention that what you are about to read is not my invention. In fact, I struggled with the issue of tidying up for years. However, with time, there was learning in every place and in every person.

In a casual parent coaching conversation with my friend Beatriz Marquez, the topic came up. I almost dropped my coffee when she said, “I sorted it out ages ago, but not only that, my 21 years step-son just moved with us, and he has got it sorted in three weeks. His room is immaculate”.

The kids coaching strategy she developed was so simple and powerful that I almost felt silly to not have thought of it.

Before you continue reading, here is the disclaimer: this technique of coaching kids is not for those light-hearted parents. This technique is simple, yet requires you to take necessary action and stick to it. You won’t get the guts for this technique from parenting classes. The approach is a one-hit home run. Do it well the first time and reap the benefits for life. Do it halfway, and you’ll blow it. It will not work, and you will struggle to implement it later.

I have to admit that we toyed with the idea for a few weeks. We saw the value and potential of it but were not brave enough to do it. Yet, when we did it, it transformed the routine.

Ok, enough rambling.

Here goes the strategy: “whatever is on the floor is rubbish.”

This is your mantra, your truth, your Ten Commandments all in one.

And here is the in-depth explanation.

When is it appropriate to start coaching kids do this? I think at a very young age. Your child as young as three can help out in tidying up. Therefore, our role as parents is to help them learn (honey, can you put your toy in the box?”). This will also give them a sense of realization and will feel connected to you as you are doing something together and, most likely, he/she will get nice praise from you. In this case, I suggest establishing the rule around the 8 or 9 years mark but, as my friend Beatriz did, you can start at any age.

What do you need to do to teach children responsibility?

First, have a grown-up conversation with them. As a professional life coach for kids, I don’t fail to mention to parents in parenting classes that communication is everything. Choose a time in which everyone is calm for the conversation to happen. Ensure all the kids are there. Simply tell them briefly (please don’t talk too much, they will switch off) that keeping their things and rooms tidy is their responsibility. The overall cleanliness of the house is your responsibility. Here is my speech:

“As you know, we tend to get into silly arguments because things are on the floor or your room is a mess or your cupboards are impossible to open. You are old enough now to look after your own things. Also, I am confused and tired. I don’t have time to tidy up everybody’s stuff. So, from now on, there is a simple rule that applies to everybody: if I see one thing on the floor, I will assume it is rubbish, and I will throw it away. This applies especially to your room, but also to the things around the house”

They will probably be amused and confused about this approach. You might want to do a walk around the house and point at all the things that are out of place and can go to the rubbish bin.

This part is setting up the agreement. It is not a discussion, it is not flexible, it’s what it is and what it will be from now on. Take time to explain it, but ensure there is no concession. Open their cupboards and, if things are piled up, explain that you will put them on the floor and if they are not hung or folded when you return, you’ll assume it is rubbish. Therefore, it can be thrown away.

A critical part of this kids coaching approach is to ensure you separate responsibilities. It is their responsibility to tidy up. Not yours. If they leave something on the floor, they are making a choice, therefore, own the responsibility of that choice. You’ll understand in a couple of paragraphs why this is so important.

What can you expect from them? In all honesty, very little. They will be amused, but most likely they won’t believe you.

Now that the rule has been established, we go into action. In our case, we reminded them a few days of the rule with some but very little success. Eventually, we said: from tomorrow morning the rule start. If you are struggling with taking decisions, I do parent coaching too. So, yeah, you are welcome to join my parenting classes.

The next day, we did the morning routine as usual. We didn’t make any comment about the tidying up, and they didn’t mention it.

When we were home alone, we went to their room and took everything that was on the floor. All went to a black bag which we left by the door.

According to my friend Beatriz, not throwing it away was a mistake. I agree with her, but I guess she is more strong-willed than me. However, we did manage to correct it.

When the girls came from school, they ignored the bag (to be fair, they didn’t know what was in there). Only when they went to bed and missed their toy, did the conversation start:

Daughter N2: “Mum/dad, I can’t find Robin. Have you seen it?”

Daughter N1: “I can’t find Thomas either. I am sure I left it here this morning.”

Me (with my heart pumping): hmmmm don’t know. Was it on the floor?

Daughters gave me a mixed look of confusion, panic, and begging. “No, I don’t think it was on the floor.”

Me: well, if it wasn’t on the floor, it will be there. If it was on the floor, I assume it is rubbish.

Daughters: No!!! You haven’t thrown it away!! (Now the confusion and begging part left their looks, and I could tell it was more panic).

Important note: the next line is probably the most critical part of it all. I copied literally from my friend, and I can swear by it.

Me (calm and casual): no, I didn’t throw it away. You did throw it away as you chose to leave it on the floor. It is your responsibility, not mine. You know the rule, you made your choice.

At this point, I pointed I hadn’t had time to go to the dump, but that tomorrow I would take the black bag there to throw away.

Well, I have never seen them go downstairs so fast and agile. They suddenly became Olympic athletes jumping steps down.

They opened the bag, saw their “precious” possessions that had been ignored the whole afternoon and evening, and pulled most of them out, took them to their room and left them in a nice tidy way. Took their stuffed toys and, calming themselves down, went to bed.

We had a bit of a chat, and I reminded them about the rule.

The next day, during the morning routine, I did remind them of the rule, and the room was perfect. This continued, in a good pattern for a few days. However, as my friend Beatriz predicted, the standard slowly decreased.

One day, we repeated the exercise. I have to be honest and mention that I moved the stuffed toy to the top of their desk. Everything else was in a black bin bag, and I dumped it in the rubbish bin.

A small explanation: in Spain, the rubbish is thrown into skippers that are collected every day. Where we live in London, we have Wheelie bins that are collected every week.

A few days later, on Saturday, my daughter N2 was looking for her favourite jacket. She only needed a second after asking her mum (“mum, have you seen my leather jacket”) to go into a panic. However, the clever rat ran to the wheelie bin and found it. In any case, the effect was almost as good as expected.

Since then, their room tidiness has improved massively. I am not going to lie, it is not to the standards of my wife, but hers is a tough standard to have. However, they are more responsible and organized.

During this kids coaching technique, I am sure we will have a few runs to the bins every now and then and, eventually, they will lose something precious. Remember, it is their responsibility, not yours as a parent.

My youngest daughter has just read the article and made a valid point. They were seriously annoyed at us. Of course, they would be, but it passed, and they learned. As they take responsibility for their actions, so do we.

And that’s it. Simple, isn’t it?

As a life coach for kids, I will advise, if you have kids of very different ages, you will need to adapt it slightly making small concessions for the very young. However, if the kids are all over 6, I suggest the approach applies to everybody.

As I mentioned above, the core of this article is a lot bigger than tidying up. It is about coaching kids to learn responsibility, being independent and being considerate of their own things and the request of their parents. Failing that? You may want to look at our article on unruly teens

I hope you enjoyed it.
Am I A Good Parent? How To Be Successful In Parenting

Am I A Good Parent? How To Be Successful In Parenting

“Am I a good parent?”

A question every parent has asked themselves at one time or another. Even though I am a successful child life coach and a parent, I find myself asking this question too. There is no denying the truth, successful parenting is tough! So, I want to start by stating the obvious. I know it’s strange to hear since you and I have not formally met, and I am sure you have heard it before, but you probably didn’t believe it when your partner, friend or your mum said it.

Here it goes: you are doing a great job as a parent!

Yes, you are. And you should be proud of it.

But, if you’re reading this, it is because you are finding some difficulty dealing with a situation and having a moment of doubt. Maybe your kid is not responding well to your instructions, or your daughter is struggling with friends. Perhaps your son is not sleeping well, or they are experiencing some anxiety. Let me guess, you are looking for good parenting skills or parenting topics to help you to overcome these challenges, right?

As a parent of two and child life coach, I can fully understand how that can make you feel. But the point I want to make is that you have the right intention, and, by and large, you are doing a cracking job already. Having the right intention is a good first sign of successful parenting. 

Let’s face it, how many of you wake up every morning thinking: Today, I am going to make my kid’s life miserable? Well, none that I have heard of.

Here is another quick question, how many of you go through the day saying, ‘it’s their problem, I dealt with my stuff, I don’t care what they are going through. It’s their time to toughen up now’? Let me guess, not many of you either. Obviously, there might be some. But, I don’t think they will be reading this. Only those who want to become better parents will care to read parenting topics. A few of you might have gone through online parent courses or considering one. Well, I am here to offer parenting skills that will help.

What skills do you need to be a good parent?

 Leelanau Children’s Center has a list of 10 skills of practical parenting. It says;

“Love and affection, You support and accept the child, are physically affectionate and spend quality one-on-one time with each other.”

Speaking from years of experience as child life coach, it all starts with one single line;

 I am trying to do my absolute best for my children. I admit I get things wrong, but my intention is always full of love.

Now, let’s complement this line with another that, maybe, we are not using as much:

I am trying to do my absolute best for my children. I admit I get things wrong, but my intention is always full of love. When I get things wrong, I try to learn and make them better next time. I might not get it right, but I will continue to learn and try to improve. Sounds like a paragraph off online parent courses, right?

It’s the ability to acknowledge our flaws and continue to build upon them every day that moves you from good parents to successful parents. 

Writing this, I imagine some of you saying; what does he know? He doesn’t know me! Doesn’t he know how hard this is for me? I suck at practical parenting but it is not entirely my fault. I am a single mum, or I have four kids that don’t listen, or the older one is continuously shouting, and the youngest one still sleeps with me most times.

Good Parenting

Well, you are right again. I don’t know you, and I would never generalise. But in my journey as child life coach, I have worked with thousands of children and parents, and I see some reoccurring patterns. 

One pattern I see often is parents losing faith in themselves. When this happens their attitude or reaction to problems becomes fight, freeze, or flight. Since we cannot “flight” from our responsibilities, they go into fighting or freezing mode. The truth is, neither of them are good parenting skills. They just don’t work.

When we freeze, we pretend the problems are not there. It is a phase, it is hormonal. You may say your child is having a bit of pressure now due to exams. However, deep down the bottom of your heart, what we really mean is “I don’t know how to deal with this. I am going to see if it goes away.”

That is the bad part. The big question now is, 

What are the signs of good parenting skills?

When we go into fighting mode, well, I think you know what happens;

Arguments, bad energy around the house, moody teenagers and partners, and a repetitive loop of action-reaction. You don’t need online parent courses to show you these. They will be so obvious that you can only pretend not to notice. I highlighted some of these in one of my previous posts about children tantrums and bad behaviour.

So if those strategies don’t work—and, let’s face it, they don’t—what should we do? The alternative is to start praising ourselves a bit more. Take stock of our work, dedication, and love for them. To embrace our ability to learn and get things better. Finally, to learn to adapt to the situations and grow with our children.

This is the reason why, after almost 10 years working as child life coach, I have created Helping Kids Parents Academy. With this project, I want to share with you all the experience, techniques and information I have collected and still collect in my day to day work that can help you in your quest for successful parenting.

I will share client cases, their stories, the emotions driving the behaviour, the approaches we used, and how it was resolved.

I know that not everything I do will work for everybody in the same way. This is because practical parenting is not a one-cap-fits-all. However, I know that you will find something that works for you. I also know that many of you will rev up your creativity, and with time, come up with even better ideas.

Sucessfull Parenting

I want to create a space in which practical parenting becomes successful parenting. Nonetheless, it will not be because you are doing the things I tell you to do, but because you embrace yourself as a loving, caring and resilient parent who is the best example for his children.

While writing this article, I did a lot of research and thinking on my own experience as a parent, and on the hundreds of conversations I had coaching children and parents. It is not an exaggeration to say that virtually all the advice you can find in online parent courses is about what we, as parents, must do or say to our children. Which words to use, how to praise them, what to do when they have tantrums or suffer from anxiety. However, little is said about how the parents can appreciate themselves and their efforts.

In my mind and experience, there are only a handful of key ideas that make up the qualities of a good parent:

1) Love from day one. Despite moments of despair and difficulties, the love of a parent for their kid is constant.

2) Respect for their children’s uniqueness. Each child is an individual and should be addressed as such.

3) Support the children in their learning, struggles, ambitions and whatever it is that they are experiencing or want to experience.

4) Educate them on the core values that are fundamental to us. It doesn’t mean our children will take on those values. However, it means you made a conscious attempt to share something really important—and will appreciate it someday.

5) Evolve and adapt our role to the changing needs of our children. Evolve from doing everything for them to letting them make their own choices. Changing from being their source of learning to learning with them to learning from them.

I must admit I was aiming to come up with 10 ideas. However, after reading these five over and over again, I think it’s more than enough. With these five points, anyone can write an entire book on good parenting skills.

Now, make a list of these five qualities of a good parent. Spend a few seconds, or more if you want, and tell me if you don’t have them.

I bet you do have them, and you display them regularly. However, because of self-doubt, you might be thinking that you are lacking all the basic ingredients on parenting topics. I hope the realisation of how good you are already hit you now.

So, going back to my initial point: you are doing a cracking job. It can only get better from here!

In summary, let’s answer the two most common questions in practical parenting.

– How can I improve my good parenting skills?

This is an exercise I do regularly for different areas of my life. I’m kind to myself, I take time out and treat myself to calm and a nice coffee. I highly recommend taking some time to be quiet and reflect.

Good Parenting Skills

 Once you are relaxed, take a pen and paper and think of the last few days and come up with five things you have done well. It is crucial to think about what you did, and not on the effect it had or the result you achieved. This is a crucial exercise that is often left out in parenting topics. For instance, you might have kept a calm temper even if your child didn’t talk to you for an hour. Aim to make them as different as possible. Of course, it may be tricky at first as we are not used to giving ourselves positive feedback, but persevere and believe you are worth it. Your quest for successful parenting skills depends on this.

Once you have the list, keep it in a place close to you (wallet, purse, your desk). Every day pick up one of those qualities and focus your energy on doing it as well as you can. Only one! No more. After the first five days, do the exercise again. You are allowed to keep two and come up with three new ones. After four rounds, you come up with a list of what makes you good. At this point, embrace the things you are doing well, there will be time to learn others.

Further reading on parenting topics that I liked and hope you enjoy as well are found below. My approach focuses on what you have to do towards yourself. As you will notice, all further reading, as well as most online parent courses, focus on what you have to do towards your kid. You need to master that too. Therefore, they will make a good read and starting point for building your parenting skills. Enjoy!


Goal Setting: How Bad Goal Setting Defines The Road To Failing

Goal Setting: How Bad Goal Setting Defines The Road To Failing

One question comes up the most during parenting classes, “Why is goal setting so important when we talk with our children?” Read this real life conversation:

Me: “What is that you want to achieve?”
Boy: “ I want to play football and score 5 goals in the next game” (excited and thrilled)
Me: “Wow, that sounds like a lot”
Boy: “Yes, but that’s what I really want”
Me: “How many goals do you score normally in a game?”
Boy: … Silence
Me: … Silence
Boy: “Not many. In most games I don’t get to score a goal at all”

This script is a real situation from my kids coaching session with an 8 years old boy a few months ago. Goal setting is in every part of our lives, yet we struggle to do it properly.

From very early on we set goals for ourselves, we want to achieve something good, we want to validate ourselves. As parents, we also set goals to push our childrento do better and enjoy more.

However, what we don’t realise is the effects a bad goal might have on us or them. Over ambitious goals are as bad as too low goals or no goals at all. We all seem to know that. In the corporate world everybody talks about SMART goal setting and things like that, yet, only few people do it themselves. The situation is not different in parenting classes.

Finding the right goal and defining it in the right terms will be the difference between failure and success. Here are two simple techniques I use when coaching kids to set their goals

The excitement scale. How excited are you about your goal? Really excited? Thrilled? Then, change it as chances are that you won’t achieve it.

In our kid coaching sessions, I ask children to create their excitement scale. We represent it on a 1-10 scale in which 1 is boredom and falling asleep and 10 is hyperactive excitement. Then, I ask them to fill the gaps in between with whatever representation comes to their mind (ie. 8 is fireworks going off, 5 is a clock, precise and constant).

I ask them, “What level do you think you need to be to achieve the goal?” The normal answer is 7 or 8, sometimes they even want to be 10. We then rehearse through the journey to achieve their goal. Through games and talk they quickly realise that the more excited they are the worse they perform. Working as a life coach for kids I have realized that too much excitement can be counterproductive. The excitement can wear out with the slightest difficulty.

Eventually, they tell me things like “I think that I need to be at a 5 or maximum 6. If I go higher I get excited and with that I get nervous”

Then we work on defining the goal itself.

In that goal you set for yourself, what is under your control? What factors are mostly under your area of control?

The goal is to separate the part that he or she can really do, from the outcome. The effort and work that they have to put towards something vs the outcome. Most likely the outcome will be affected by a lot of other things that they can’t control or even know. During kids coaching session I help them to figure this out.

I can’t control who wins the race but I control how I prepare for it.
Its not under my control to achieve 25/30 right answers in my speed test, but I can control how I train and practice for it.
I can’t make that girl to be my friend. But I control how I talk to her or what I say.

In my last corporate job before I took to life coach for kids I used to tell my team, “You don’t control whether the client will sign the contract. However, you control how you prepare for the meeting, the communication you send, how you answer their questions”.

By focussing the energy on the things that we have more control over, we gain strength and confidence and perform our best. Also, we just have to wait for the results to come.

This is my kids coaching session conversation with the boy I mentioned at the beginning. This is how the conversation ended after a few other talks.

Boy: “I scored a goal today!”
Me: “That’s great, well done. what else happened?”
Boy: “I had a great time, I was in a good mood because I had gone to practice every week.”
Me: “Well done. Anything else?”
Boy: “Not really. I was just having fun and enjoying playing with my friends.”

And here is me thinking: “Just having fun and enjoying playing”.

Giving Praise To Children

Giving Praise To Children

I admit it, my desk and fridge at some point, were filled with my daughters’ drawings that I had no idea what they were. For some of them, I felt my daughters hadn’t made enough effort. The same happened with a number of “achievements”. Subsequently, I began to think of the best approach towards giving praise to children.  As a professional life coach for kids, I want to encourage them, not pushing or openly lying to them.

Eventually something clicked and I learnt the basics for giving praise to children as well as positive reinforcement. I have used them a lot with my daughters and during my kids coaching sessions.

Let’s start from the beginning. Praise and positive reinforcement, when done incorrectly or overused, can result to confusion or a false sense of achievement. Most children know when their work is worth it. Over praising (ie. praising anything they do) can lead the children into either not believing what we are saying or into a comfort zone from which the children will not want to leave. This can reduce their confidence to attempt new things in the fear that they might not receive the praise.

Praise and positive reinforcement when done correctly and at the right time, can have a tremendous effect in creating confident and innovative kids.

How can you find the balance?

There are two parts. First part is to focus on the effort made, second part is how to give them feedback. In my parenting classes, I help parents to know the importance of these two parts.

When giving praise to children, focus on the effort and the work completed rather than the outcome. The picture might be nice (or not) but spending 30 minutes concentrating and working on something is priceless learning.

The outcome, (the drawing, the music played on the piano, etc.) is almost secondary. It is a result of the skills applied (creativeness, focus, concentration, persistence, desire, etc). During my kids coaching sessions, I pay more attention to efforts.

The second part is about giving them feedback on the specific work. I recommend the “3 diamond and 1 star” approach.

After praising the effort and skills applied (whichever it was), ask your child to think of 3 things he/she has done that deserves a Diamond and what 1 thing deserves a Star. Diamonds are the things they are most proud of in their work. The star is for something they like but know they could do better. Finally ask them, “how will you make your Star a Diamond next time?”.

Three important tips; firstly, remember the ratio 3:1 to generate motivation. Secondly, ensure they always talk about their Diamonds first. Finally, let them come up with the solutions but feel free to suggest others that complement what they say whilst respecting their ideas. As a life coach for kids, I know this is not as easy as it sounds. However, I know it is not impossible.

Final tip, remind and tell them their resolutions next time before they go onto doing something new.

I was doing some research recently and found this wonderful resource. Check it out HERE.

Morning Routine With Children

Over the last few weeks I have seen a lot of posts on Facebook asking “How do I get my kid to follow a morning routine that will get them out of home on time so I am not late for work?” As a professional life coach for kids, I have to admit that I have seen a great amount of advice—and a lot of them are really wise.

However, in this article I just want to highlight my experience as a kids coaching expert and a dad of two (10 and 8 years) who has gone through the same.

Morning routines are important tools for sucessful parenting

Let’s start with the basics. Getting out of bed and out of home is annoying for a lot of us. It doesn’t matter if we are kids or adults. My wife moans every day that she doesn’t want to go to the office.

Another important bit to consider is that the morning routine, especially when we have very young children/toddlers, is our routine not theirs. In all fairness, they can’t be bothered if we are late for work or if they are 5 minutes late for nursery.

A third point to consider is that children want to spend time with their parents. If that time is spent in laughter and playfulness, even better. However, if the choice is between not having mum/dad and having them grumpy they will always choose to have grumpy parents.

Finally, as a kids coaching expert, I will like to bring your attention to what I said in 3 paragraphs above; children will mirror a lot of our behaviour and emotions. That’s probably why my youngest daughter says “I don’t feel like going to school today”, some days. Perhaps, it is because her mom do it sometimes.

Let me sumarize all we have said so far as if I was a 2-3 years old kid:

They asking me to get ready quickly for something I don’t care much and that means I won’t see them today, also mum doesn’t like it…. why should I do it?

Result: We get stressed, probably raise our voice or tone (don’t think for a second that those “honey” “sweet heart” or “champion” said under duress trick them) and the rest, well you know all of that.

In Setting Morning Routines we have to lead by example

The solution: Change the game by starting to enjoy yourself in the morning. First and foremost, make it interesting and fun for yourself. If you are having fun, chances are they will have fun as well and play along.

Using my professional kids coaching senses, I can hear some of you saying, “Yeah right, easily said than done”. However, the fact is that it all starts with you, your moods and emotions. The tips below apply to you as much as to your children.

1. Give yourself time:

Sacrificing 15 minutes of sleep can make a massive difference when looking for the other shoe under the bed. A successful morning routine requires that everyone needs to make some sort of sacrifice.

2. Plan it in advance and with them:

Pack the bags, prepare the clothes, and let them make small decisions (“which socks do you want to wear?”). Let them be part of it (“can you please bring that bag so it’s ready for tomorrow?”). Also, let them figure out what’s missing in a playful way.

3. In the morning, make preparation playful and relaxed:

Through life coaching for children sessions, I have discovered that competitions work well for a limited amount of times. Subsequently, you may need to find other forms of motivation.

4. Rewards can also motivate children to participate in morning routines:

Ensure you reward (with words and gestures) good behaviours and ignore (or do your best to ignore) bad behaviours.

5. Add some novelty to the day, maybe stop in a shop or get them an unrequested treat:

Let them make decisions (“do we go right or wrong”). Enjoy the journey and make a mini adventure of it (“have you seen those daffodils?”), where did we see the yellow car yesterday? Can we find it again?

I personally loved the car journeys to school. My daughter has a great talent for dj’ing with Spotify. Thus, she would even choose the happy songs if she is in a bad mood.

As you can imagine, there will be better days than others. As a professional life coach for kids and parent, I have seen it all. Just stay with it, mainly because you enjoy it. Secondly, because you will be passing your mood and abilities to them.

Going forward:

Think on what parts of the routine they can start doing on their own. Can they pack their own bags? Prepare their snacks? When do you think they are ready to make their own beds? Consequently, they will accept responsibilities and thrive with them if they are handed down properly and constructively.

And if you were to remember only 3 things from this article here are my suggestions: 1) Make morning routine fun and enjoy it yourself 2) Reward positive behaviours 3) They can and want to do a lot more than we think.

I found other great stuff that you can do to kick start your morning routine. You can check them out HERE.
Have a lovely day

Javier orti

Javier Orti is an International Life Coach specialised in working with Parents and Children.