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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Do You Know What Goes On In The Mind Of A Bully?

The Secret Life of Bullies: Why They Do It—and How to Stop Them

The Secret Life of Bullies: Why They Do It—and How to Stop ThemWhy do some kids turn to bullying? The answer is simple: it solves their social problems. After all, it's easier to bully somebody than to work things out, manage your emotions, and learn to solve problems. Bullying is the proverbial “easy way out,” and sadly, some kids take it.

Look at men who beat or intimidate their wives and scream at their kids. They’ve never learned to be effective spouses or parents. Instead, they're really bullies. And the other people in those families live in fear—fear that they're going to be yelled at, called names, or hit. Nothing has to be worked out, because the bully always gets his way. The chain of command has been established by force, and the whole mindset becomes, “If you'd only do what I say, there'd be peace around here.” So the bully's attitude is, “Give me my way or face my aggression.”

Aggression can either take the forms of violence or emotional abuse. I've seen many families that operate this way. I’m not just talking about the adults in the family, either—there are countless children who throw tantrums for the same reason: they’re saying, “Give me my way or face my behavior.” And if you as a parent don't start dealing with those tantrums early, your child may develop larger behavior problems as they grow older.

Ask yourself this question: How many passive bullies do you know? They usually control others through verbal abuse and insults and by making people feel small. They're very negative, critical people. The threat is always in the background that they're going to break something or call somebody names or hit someone if they are disagreed with. Realize that the behavior doesn't start when someone is in their teens—it usually begins when a child is five or six.

Portrait of a Bully

Bullying itself can come from a variety of sources. One source, as I mentioned, is bullying at home—maybe there are older siblings, extended family members or parents who use aggression or intimidation to get their way. I also think part of the development of bullying can stem from some type of undiagnosed or diagnosed learning disability which inhibits the child's ability to learn both social and problem-solving skills.

Make no mistake, kids use bullying primarily to replace the social skills they’re supposed to develop in grade school, middle school and high school. As children go through their developmental stages, they should be finding ways of working problems out and getting along with other people. This includes learning how to read social situations, make friends, and understand their social environment.

Bullies use aggression, and some use violence and verbal abuse, to supplant those skills. So in effect, they don't have to learn problem solving, because they just threaten the other kids. They don't have to learn how to work things out because they just push their classmates or call them names. They don't have to learn how to get along with other people—they just control them. The way they’re solving problems is through brute force and intimidation. So by the time that child reaches ten, bullying is pretty ingrained—it has become their natural response to any situation where they feel socially awkward, insecure, frightened, bored or embarrassed.

Here is what an aggressive bully often looks like: He doesn't know how to get along with other kids, so he's usually not trying to play with them. When you look out on the playground at recess, he's probably alone. He's not playing soccer or kickball with the other children; he’s roaming around the perimeter of all the interactions that take place at school on a daily basis. And whenever he's confronted with a problem or feels insecure, he takes that out on somebody else. He does this by putting somebody else down verbally or physically. A child who bullies might also throw or break things in order to feel better and more powerful about himself. When the bully feels powerless and afraid, he's much more likely to be aggressive, because that makes him feel powerful and in control. That’s a very seductive kind of thing for kids; it’s very hard for them to let go of that power.

Adolescents and Gang Mentality

When we talk about adolescent bullying, we're entering into another phenomenon altogether. The reality is that many adolescents in high school today are very abusive to each other. There are peer groups that will attack other kids verbally and emotionally, similar to a gang mentality. When these kids start calling other students rude names and questioning their sexuality, it is all done to dominate and bully them. If a teen or pre-teen doesn't want to be a victim, they have to join a group. The kids who don't socialize very well—the shy or passive types—often become the targets. And the threat of violence is always behind it. This trend in high school is prevalent today, and I think very destructive. In my opinion, parents and school administrators who ignore the way kids abuse each other in high school are kidding themselves. This behavior is hurtful and harmful, and there needs to be a lot more accountability.

Make no bones about it, bullying is traumatizing for kids who are the targets. In fact, I think children should be taught about bullying throughout grade school. They need to learn what it means, how to resolve it, and how to deal with a bully. If this is not taught, kids who are targets will think there's something wrong with them, and this vicious cycle—because that is truly what this is—perpetuates itself. Kids should also be learning how to handle their impulses and control themselves when they want to hit, hurt or intimidate others. Unless there's a concerted effort to deal with bullying and bullies in school, nothing will change. It's a challenge, but I firmly believe it can be done.

1. Teach Your Children about Bullying from an Early Age

I think from a very early age, you have to teach your child what a bully is. You can tell them the following (or even post these words in your house somewhere):

A bully is somebody who forces other people to do things they don't want to do.

A bully is somebody who hits other people.

A bully is someone who takes or breaks other people's property.

A bully is someone who calls other people names.

Then you have to set a standard that says, “We don't do that in our house.” Start that culture of accountability early. Teach them what the word means, and say, “You're accountable for that kind of behavior in our house.”

I think it’s also important that you talk about how to treat others. Ask your child, “How should you treat others?” And the answer is, “You treat others with respect ; if they don't respect you back, walk away. Treating someone with respect means not calling them names, threatening them, or hitting them.” You can also say, “You listen to others. You accept others. If they don't want to play with your toys or they don't want to share their things, you have to learn how to accept that.” This is not easy for kids, but they will learn. I really think children need to have the concept of bullying explained to them numerous times. That way, when any kind of bullying is going on, they can identify it and stop the behavior, both in themselves and others.

2. Create a Culture of Accountability in Your Home

I think the most important thing for every family is to have a Culture of Accountability in your home. This means your child is accountable to you: how he talks to you, how he talks to his siblings, how he treats his family members. When he’s bullying his siblings, don’t get sucked into his excuses; just because he had a bad day at school does not give him the right to mistreat anyone in your family, for example. Let me say it again: Your child is accountable to you.

When a bully feels powerless and afraid, he's much more likely to be aggressive, because that makes him feel powerful and in control.

Don't forget, bullies often have cognitive distortions—they see the world in a certain way that justifies their bullying. So you’ll frequently hear them blaming others and making excuses for their behavior. Most of the time, they really believe that stuff: they believe what they think, and that's what you've got to challenge. You can say directly, “It sounds like you’re blaming Jesse for the fact that you punched him. It is not Jesse’s fault that you hit him.”

Schools should also have a culture of accountability, and I think that many try. That's what detentions, suspensions and expulsions are all about—if your child breaks the rules, he should be held accountable, and it’s very important that you let him deal with the natural consequences and not try to shield him.

3. The Skills Your Child Needs to Learn

Plain and simple, a child who bullies needs to learn how to solve social problems and deal with their emotions without acting out behaviorally. Have conversations with your child where you ask, “What happens when other kids don't want to play your games? What do you do? What do you do when other kids have things you want and they won't give them to you? How do you handle that? How do you handle it when you think you're right and they're wrong and there's nothing you can do about it?”

Your child has to learn how to resolve conflicts and manage his emotions. He needs to learn the skills of compromise, how to sacrifice, how to share and how to deal with injustice. He should also learn how to check things out, and to ask himself, “Is what I'm seeing really happening? Does Jonathon really hate me, or is he just in a bad mood today?”

Kids have got to learn how to manage their impulses. If their impulse is to hit or to hurt or call someone names, they have to learn to deal with that in an appropriate way. Many children and adolescents have the impulse to hurt others—they have impulses to do all kinds of things. But they need to learn to handle them, and kids who bully are no exception.

4. What to Do If Your Child is Bullying Others in School

Kids who are bullying others should be held accountable at home—they should absolutely be given consequences for their behavior. And the consequences should go like this: your child should be deprived of doing something he or she likes. So, no TV or computer games or cell phone, for example. And they also should have to do a task: they should write an essay or letter on what they're going to do next time they're in the same situation or feel the same way—instead of bullying. It’s critical that they start thinking of other ways they can solve this problem. Understand that they may not have any ideas, and that’s where you have to interact with them and coach them as a parent. In the Total Transformation Program, there's an interview process I outline where parents learn to talk with their children to solve problems, rather than explore emotions and listen to excuses. If your child is hurting or bullying others, he needs to have conversations that solve problems. He does not need or benefit from conversations that explore emotions. Bullies tend to see themselves as victims, so the conversation has to focus on them taking responsibility for their behavior.

I think your child's teachers should handle the process of having your child make amends for his behavior at school. But remember that bullies don't stop bullying when they get home—they often target younger or weaker siblings. You have to be very clear if your child is bullying—be very black and white; leave no gray areas. Don't forget, your child is bullying because solving problems— talking to people and working things out—is very hard for him. Again, your child is taking the easy way out. We all go through the growing pains of learning how to negotiate in social situations—in fact, we may work on this skill our whole lives. There should be no exceptions for anyone in your family when it comes to these skills. For a child who is using bullying as a shortcut instead of developing these skills, you have to work even harder as a parent to coach them on what to do.

When Bullies Grow Up

Make no mistake, if a child bullies, that tendency can stay with them their whole lives. Fortunately, some bullies do mature after they leave school. You'll see them get into their early twenties and go their own way; they get married, they go to college, they start a career, and they stop their bullying behavior.

But sadly, you will also see young child bullies who become teenage bullies and then adult bullies. How does this behavior and lack of social skills affect them? These are the people who abuse their wives and kids emotionally and sometimes physically. These are the people who call their spouses and kids names if they don't do things the way they want them to. Bullies may also become criminals. Look at it this way: a bully is somebody who is willing to use aggression, verbal abuse, property destruction or even violence to get his way. An anti-social personality disorder (which is how criminals are classified) refers to somebody who is willing to use aggression and violence to get his way. The criminal population is literally full of bullies who, among other things, never learned how to resolve conflicts and behave appropriately in social situations.

If you think your child is bullying others, it’s very important to start working with him now. This behavior is already hurting his life—and will continue to do so if it’s left to fester. If you expect your child to “outgrow” bullying once he reaches adulthood, realize that you’re also taking the risk that he may not—and that choice may negatively affect him for the rest of his life.

The Secret Life of Bullies: Why They Do It—and How to Stop Them reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

James Lehman is a behavioral therapist and the creator of The Total Transformation Program for parents. He has worked with troubled teens and children for three decades. James holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University. For more information, visit

Child Behavior

Giveaway of Bath & Body Giftset

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Livi.Lu.Lu knows everything a girl wants and packs it all in a grab bag affixed to a large, plush, cuddle-worthy angelic kitty. Sparkling Fab and Fruity Lotion teamed up with Shimmering Shower Gel makes a girl's skin happy. 
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Home By Choice Book Review

Home by Choice: Raising Emotionally Secure Children in an Insecure World as the title suggests, is a book about the importance the mother-child bond plays in the healthy development of a child. According to Dr. Hunt the best way to ensure your child's optimal emotional, physical and emotional development is to stay home and make parenting your children your primary responsibility.

Dr. Hunt speaks from her own experience and candidly shared the mistakes she made raising her own children. She offers hope and advice to all mothers of young children. Drawing on both her own experience and the latest research Dr. Hunt shows mothers how to form a strong and lasting bond of attachment with their children even though you may not have had that as a child. She also explains why a child needs to bond with his mother (not caregivers or grandparents) - There are hidden implications that you may never have even considered.

She then goes on to explain why daycare research done by female psychologists may not always be accurate and how they are sometimes very unfairly biased. Everything I read made sense, especially when I thought of my husband. He was raised by a cold, unloving and emotionally unavailable woman and is still suffering because of it.

The many negative side effects of daycare that Dr. Hunt describes in Home By Choice are also clearly visible in my nephew who is the product of a broken home and was in daycare from the time he was 3 years old.

Unlike other books on the importance of being a stay at home mom, Dr. Hunt acknowledges that many moms have no choice but to work. She provides a few alternatives to full-time employment outside the home, such as part-time employment or working from home. She says "Part-time employment allows a woman to maintain her skills and still go grocery shopping, attend Little League games, volunteer at school and at Church, and have something left in her emotional bank for her children and husband on a daily basis."

And if you think that only younger children need you to be home, then you're wrong. An entire chapter in "Home By Choice" is dedicated to why teenagers need their moms as much as younger kids.

And if you've been influenced by the work of ardent feminists such as Gloria Steinhem, Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer, then Dr. Hunt reveals the surprising link between these women's viewpoints and their troubled childhoods.

The chapter on "Why Kids Kill" Dr. Hunt says that the absence of healthy attachment to parents is the reason that some kids turn into cold-blooded killers.

"Home by Choice" also has advice on how to create a life that nourishes mother and child, how to develop your talents as a stay at home mom, dealing with your own painful childhood, and with husbands who want you to work rather than stay home and care for your kids.

All in all "Home by Choice" is a fantastic read, and I feel that it should be required reading for all moms. The copy that I reviewed was borrowed from the local library.

If Home By Choice sounds like a book that you would want to read, then perhaps these books might be of interest to you, too.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thrill Your Child This Easter With A Personalized Letter From The Easter Bunny

"5 Simple Ways To Make The Easter Holiday More Delightful For Children And Adults”

For most people, young and old alike, Easter is one of the most meaningful holidays celebrated, and as such, we give the holiday a lot of attention and preparation. Not only do we plan family events and get togethers, but we also decorate and shop for special gifts and treats. This is especially important for anyone that has special children in their lives.

Let’s face it, most adults agree that the joy and delight experienced by kids on Easter is what puts fun in the holiday. The truth is that most adults have wonderful memories of childhood Easters. These are cherished memories that usually center around The Easter Bunny and the fun things related to him. And adults always want the children they love to enjoy life in every way possible. Therefore, it just makes sense that adults want to continue and share well-loved traditions. These are ways that adults can help children capture the magical essence of Easter.

While the holiday has a very religious basis it also symbolizes new beginnings and hope. And of course, this aspect of Easter is important, but for kids everywhere it is The Easter Bunny that makes the holiday special. With that in mind, it’s not surprising then that adults strive to keep children believing in The Easter Bunny for as long as possible. The truth is that adults enjoy the idea of magic and miracles as much as kids do, and when a child no longer believes in The Easter Bunny the Easter holiday seems to lose some of its glitter.

Even though every family is unique and thus, will observe some traditions that are distinctively their own, there are still some holiday basics that are somewhat universal. And fortunately, there are some simple steps that can be taken to help keep children believing in The Easter Bunny for a long, long time. Check out the ideas below – you’re sure to find at least a couple that you can add to your Easter holiday plans. Both you and the kids will have a great time!

1) Plan a special time for writing letters to The Easter Bunny. Whether we know it or not, most kids write Easter Bunny letters every year. It’s true that this is sometimes done secretly – usually because the child feels unsupported in the act of believing in The Easter Bunny. The reality is that kids love it when adults encourage and support such fun activities. Show enthusiasm and encourage your child to write about favorite candy and treats as well as his or her behavior. After all, The Easter Bunny keeps track of which little boys and girls have been good. They’re the ones that get special treats, right? You can also add to the fun by prompting the children to decorate the letters and envelops in a special way for The Easter Bunny.

2) Don’t forget that your children will be hoping to receive a Letter From The Easter Bunny. Of course, you can try to write a letter that will look convincing enough to make your child believe it came from The Easter Bunny. The letter should include at least a bit of personalized information in order to make it more believable. Be sure to include your child’s name and maybe even the name of a friend. Adding the child’s town will help provide assurance that The Easter Bunny knows where to find him or her. Believe it or not, a Letter from The Easter Bunny can make a huge difference in how long a child believes in the idea that Peter Cotton Tail will be delivering goodies on Easter.

Be sure to use nice paper that gives an authentic appearance. It’s a good idea to add a letterhead that depicts The Easter Bunny. That will add to the genuine look. You can create this effect yourself or you can purchase special stationery that will work really well.

3) Encourage your child to leave a special snack out for The Easter Bunny. It’s up to you what sort of snack you leave out – it could be a carrot, a cookie, or just about anything at all. You see, if you participate in this process it will show your child that you believe as much as he or she does. The idea is to use this time as an opportunity to spend quality time with your child. These are the building blocks of cherished memories.

Along with the snack you can also leave a little note for The Easter Bunny. This note can include any final requests for a special treat or goodie as well as a special message to The Easter Bunny that will let him know that the treat was made especially for him.

Don’t forget to make it look like The Easter Bunny actually ate the snack. You can leave some pieces or even scribble a quick ‘Thank You’ note from The Easter Bunny. Another quick idea is to make some large ‘rabbit footprints’ in your house. That is proof that The Easter Bunny visited.

4) About a month after Easter you can send your children a postcard from The Easter Bunny. This will help keep your children believing and it will let them know that The Easter Bunny thinks about them year round. This helps to establish the fact that The Easter Bunny lives and loves all the time, not only at Easter. And if your child wonders about what The Easter Bunny does at other times during the year this will help provide some easy answers.

5) Let The Easter Bunny send your child a birthday message. This technique works hand in hand with the postcard idea. Once again a greeting from the Easter Bunny at a time other than Easter will help make him more real to children. It proves that he is there all the time, not just during Easter, and that adds to the magical power of the holiday hero. Your child will love knowing that The Easter Bunny knows and remembers his or her birthday.

These are the things that cherished memories are made of – this is how to create a childhood that will always be remembered fondly. Writing letters to The Easter Bunny and receiving a personalized letter from The Easter Bunny adds time for families to connect in a positive way. The Easter holiday becomes even more meaningful to everyone involved as the entire family enjoys a stronger bond. And when your child becomes an adult you can trust that he or she will want the same ideals for his/her own family. The favorite traditions will be passed on through the generations and The Easter Bunny will continue to live in our hearts forever!

These tips brought to you by The Easter Bunny! Get a Personalized Letter from The Easter Bunny today at:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Does Your Child Think He's The Boss?

"My Child Thinks He's the Boss!"
How to Get Back Control of Your Home

My Child Thinks Hes the Boss!How to Get Back Control of Your HomeWhy do some kids try to become the so-called “alpha dogs” of their families? The answer lies in an old saying: Nature abhors a vacuum. And in my experience, if there's a vacuum of power in a family, somebody's going to try to fill it.

Understand that some mature, older kids do gain some authority in their families, and that’s natural. In fact, it works well when you have a very responsible, “adultified” child. Often, the oldest child in a family will take on a leadership role among his siblings. And when that child has a pretty good balance of behavior, he will try to follow through on house rules; his behavior usually won’t pose a problem.

“But if your child does something inappropriate and you don't give him any consequences, you're really going to look powerless.”

But if a child doesn't have that balance or maturity, or if the parents aren’t clearly in control of the family structure, it’s another story altogether. Some kids will start to compete with their parents for power from an early age. Instead of following through on the adults’ wishes, they’ll be more interested in controlling their siblings and calling all the shots in the house. In other words, they will start filling that vacuum.

Sometimes the vacuum in parental authority exists because of work and school schedules. In families today where both parents often work, there are frequently times when kids are left under the care of older siblings. A gap is then created which a certain kind of child will fill. And if the child has his own negative intentions, he’ll have plenty of time without adult supervision to intimidate and manipulate the other kids in the family. He will use this time to go against his parents’ wishes and play the big shot. He might give his younger siblings ice cream after school, for example, even though it’s against the rules. Or he may intimidate them when it’s their turn to go on the computer, so he can stay on as long as he wants. And when you get home, if his younger siblings tattle on this child, he’ll get them back the next day. This means that for the other children in your family, there is no safety. It becomes very easy for your dominant child to control the family from here on out.

Parents are often initially afraid to stand up to a child who’s bossing everyone around. This might be because there’s been a parenting gap all the while, or because they depend on this child to supervise the other kids when they’re gone. But if they avoid talking to their dominant child about this, they will soon see a shift in the balance of power. At some point, their younger kids will surmise that the adults cannot protect them from their “bossy” sibling. Once the younger kids believe they aren’t safe, then they have to make their own separate deals with that sibling. And that deal usually involves giving in to him and following his lead.

When this happens, you’ll see all kinds of inappropriate behavior begin to blossom and thrive. Sometimes these “alpha dog” kids are funny, so they become clowns and make unkind jokes at their parents’ expense. By the way, I'm not talking about a child who makes a harmless joke, I'm talking about one who will put his parents down and make demeaning comments about them. His siblings laugh at those jokes because they're more afraid of his power than they are of their parents’ authority. And why shouldn’t they be? When this dynamic is controlling a family, the dominant child is much more powerful and has a greater impact on their lives than the parents do.

As things build to a head, the parents feel less and less in control and more and more perplexed and overwhelmed by what’s happening. Often, they are not really sure what to do. A family in this situation has really hit a level where they aren’t functioning in a healthy way anymore.

If I had the parents of this kind of bossy or dominant child in my office, I would say, “Maybe you can help what’s happening right now and maybe you can't, but let's get one thing clear: your child’s goal is to have power and control. And because of the makeup of his personality, he’s using that power and control to be negative. He’s using it to undermine you, to intimidate his siblings, and to be disrespectful toward you. He has an opportunity, and he's using it to make himself feel better and stronger.”

I would then sit down with them and come up with a plan to help them take the power out of their child’s hands and put it back into theirs—where it belongs in any healthy family structure.

How to Take Back Power from a Child Who Thinks He’s the Boss

Have Clear Expectations of Your Child and Hold Him Accountable

You have to set limits on any child who is trying to run the family and hold him accountable. Parents are afraid that if they say, “Go to your room,” their dominant child will say, “Screw you!” So those parents might think they’ll look powerless in front of their other kids when this child refuses to comply.

But here’s the rub: If your other kids see you direct your child to his room and he refuses, they know that their brother has the problem. Conversely, if your child does something inappropriate and you don't give him any consequences, you're really going to look powerless. In other words, if you tell him to go to his room and he says “No, I'm not going—and you can't make me,” you actually look powerful to your other kids. Your acting-out child looks primitive and wrong when he defies you. The other kids know where he's supposed to go, and even if he refuses, they still see you being the parent.

If you try to avoid a scene because you're afraid you're going to lose face, what tends to happen is that your child will slowly gain more and more power, and that will be confusing to your younger kids. I’ve found that the gut reactions of many parents in this situation are often wrong. They might think, “We'll let him slide this time; we'll just negotiate with him later.” But they're negotiating with the wrong person, because what this child wants more than anything is to maintain power and control—and unfortunately, his parents are handing it to him on a platter.

Make no mistake, if your child is using power to solve relational, social or functional problems, he will never be able to get enough. This is because he’s being driven by insecurities and fears. There's just not enough that you as a parent can ever give him—so your child will simply continue to challenge you more and more.

To Get Back Parental Authority, Get Control of Your Bossy Child First

If you want to get control back over all your children, you have to first get control of your dominant child. Even though your other kids may be acting out as well, your “alpha dog” kid is causing the imbalance in authority; consequently, he is the one you have to manage. While naturally you have to hold your other children accountable for their actions too, your priority right now is to address the behavior of your dominant child. That means that you have to give him consequences that he can't undermine--and then you need to be firm and follow through on them.

I also want to make a very important point here: when your younger kids act out, don't make excuses for their behavior. Don’t let them off the hook by saying “Oh, they're under a bad influence.” It's easy for parents to see the younger kids in the family as victims. But don't forget, just because you're a victim doesn't mean you get to break the law. You have to hold your other kids accountable for their behavior, too. If they protest and say, “But Michael's doing it,” you can reply, “We're dealing with Michael. But know that when you break the rules, there are going to be consequences.”

Change the Routine

If your alpha dog child uses after school time to take over the house, change the routine. That might mean he’ll go to somebody else's house when school gets out, where he will be supervised by an adult—or it might mean that your other kids will go elsewhere. The point is, if his controlling, bossy behavior is occurring around a certain time of day or in certain situations, work to break out of the pattern by changing things up. Limits have to be set, and this is often a good place to start if you can manage to do so.

Don’t Over-negotiate with Your Child

If you over-negotiate with a child who’s trying to be the boss, you're giving him the message that he's your equal. In my opinion, that's not a good message for a child or adolescent to have who is already acting out. Soon he’ll start bargaining with you in order to behave appropriately. And believe me, there's a big difference between motivating kids with a reward system versus bargaining with them. I think when you’re bargaining with your child, he’s often wearing you down until you give in. You end up saying, “Okay, as long as you behave, you can have your way.” In contrast, when you're rewarding someone, it's clear that you're the one with the authority giving out the reward. Bargaining with your child isn’t effective because you’re still not in control in the way that you need to be with him.

Write up a Contract with Your Child

I don’t believe contracts are magic wands. But I do believe that if everybody understands what the game is and what the rules are, the chances of your child following those rules increase. In my experience working with kids, I’ve also found that if something is written down on paper, it becomes more real to them.

So sit down and draw up a contract with your child that clearly defines what he has to do in certain key areas. It should state that if he complies with the contract, he will be rewarded—and it should specifically outline what those rewards will be. It should also be very clear what the consequences will be for competing with you as a parent.

Here’s how that would play out. If your child is disrespectful and he's told go to his room, as long as he complies, the matter is settled. The protocol once he gets to his room might be that he needs to stay there ten minutes, calm down, and talk to you about what he's going to do differently next time. But if he refuses anywhere along the line, that's when the consequences set in. If he starts to act out, you can say, “This is in our contract, and you agreed to it. Now hand me your iPod.” Remember, as kids get older, they want more sophisticated privileges and rewards. Going to school dances, going to parties, or driving the car are some examples. Use these for leverage.

Expect Some Pushback

You should expect your child to react really strongly to the new structure you impose as soon as you establish it. Adolescents do not give up power easily. Your family may even go through some chaos for a time as your child fights against you. But you have to make that value judgment. Ask yourself, “Is it worth living like this, or is it worth going through some chaos for awhile to correct the situation?” Personally, I think parents have a responsibility to protect all their kids. And they need to protect them from everybody, including from each other—and from themselves.

Appeal to Your Child’s Sense of Maturity in a Positive Way

I think it’s good to reward positive behavior in your child whenever you see it. Use that hypodermic affection by saying, “Hey, I noticed you talking nicely to your little brother today. Good job.” You can build in some incentives by saying, “We know you want to feel like an older brother. So if you follow this plan, you can stay up an hour later than the other kids. You can watch TV and have the computer to yourself during that hour, but this is the way you have to act.” Use the carrot and the stick. There is nothing wrong with rewarding appropriate behavior.

Parents Need to Get on the Same Page

I think it's important for parents to come up with a game plan that outlines how they’ll deal with their children. It should be a plan they're both comfortable with. Parents have to meet and get clear about their message before presenting it to their kids. So if one parent tends to say things like, “Look, Will can't help it, he has ADHD,” but the other parent says, “No, he's responsible for his behavior just like the other kids are,” they'd better get that settled behind closed doors—or at least, they should know where they stand.

Two parents who can't get on the same page about how to hold their kids accountable can easily create that vacuum in power which their acting-out child will only be too happy to fill.

Advice for Single Moms and Dads

If you're a single parent, I think it’s important for you to keep the expectations for appropriate behavior very clear. In my opinion, all the kids should do more in a single parent family. They should have more responsibilities in general, and they should pitch in and help out. Often, there is an older child who has more responsibility, and I think in any family system, those who have more responsibility should have more rewards.

But if you’re a single parent and one of your children begins getting into power struggles with you, you have to set limits very clearly on their behavior. Talk with your child very frankly about it. You can say, “You're a big help to me, but you're not my co-parent. And because you're a big help, I try to let you do some things on your own. I’m trying to be flexible with you. But remember, I'm the parent—and you're the child.”

"My Child Thinks He's the Boss!"
How to Get Back Control of Your Home
reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

James Lehman is a behavioral therapist and the creator of The Total Transformation Program for parents. He has worked with troubled teens and children for three decades. James holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University. For more information, visit

Child Behavior Problems

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Easter Gift Ideas For Under $30

Easter is a wonderful time to spoil the little kids you love. But you don't have to spend a fortune to do that. Here are some ideas that are all under $30. In fact some gifts are under $10!

What would Easter be without candy. A gift basket filled with Easter Candy will always be welcome and put a smile on the face of that special child.

Stuffed-bunny soft toy rabbits are another popular choice for young children.

For kids, who love reading books you can always give them a good book as an Easter present. Keep an Easter theme

Older kids might like a personalized Easter Mug, like the one below.

An ever popular choice with young children is a letter from the Easter Bunny.
Personalized Letters From The Easter Bunny

The Value of 15 Minutes

If you're like most stay home moms, you probably have to leave several things undone each day simply because you don't have the time. Or perhaps you are waiting for a large chunk of uninterrupted time to tackle a big task.

A few years ago, I learned about the value of using small fragments of time productively, rather than just letting them slip away. Instead of thinking in larger time slots of an hour or more, I began focusing on 15 minute time slots. Although 15 minutes may not seem like much, you'll be surprised at how quickly it can all add up.

Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of your 15 minute time fragments.

1. If you're always late getting out of the door in the mornings, set the alarm 15 minutes earlier to give you more time to get ready and to eat breakfast. You'll be amazed at what a difference 15 minutes can make to your day.

2. Is your house cluttered and you don't know where to start? De-clutter in 15 minute segments. Set the timer and sort/organize the top of a desk, drawer or shelf. Use 15 minutes between other appointments or other tasks to de-clutter and organize your home. After a few days or weeks of de-cluttering in 15 minute segments, you'll be surprised at how much better your home looks.

3. Take 15 minutes to plan your menus for the week. Then take another 15 minutes to create your grocery list. This will reduce the amount of trips you have to make to the grocery store and you won't open the freezer at 4:30pm wondering what on earth you can make for supper tonight.

4. Spend 15 minutes each morning or evening creating a to-do list and prioritizing it in order of importance. The during the day, take a few minutes more to check your to-do list and cross off tasks that have been completed and adjust or add other tasks if necessary.

Three Steps to Time Management for the Single Mom workbook (1-2-3 ... Get Organized series)

5. Spend 15 minutes tidying up at night before you go to bed. It's so much more pleasant to wake up to a tidy home instead of one looking as if it's been hit by a bomb-shell.
Three Steps to Time Management for the Working Mom workbook (1-2-3 ... Get Organized series)

So there you have it. 5 tips for making the most of 15 minute segments that pop up during your day. Put them into practice and your friends will soon be asking you how you manage to get it all done.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Are You A Compulsive Shopper?

Are you a compulsive shopaholic? Do you get a thrill when you just hear the word sale? Does buying new things make you feel good? Do you shop when you feel sad, disappointed and depressed? Do you buy items because they are on sale, even if you don’t need them and will never use them?

Then chances are that you are a shopaholic. You have an addiction that is as serious as an alcoholic. And just like an alcoholic’s addiction can lead him down the path to ruin and destruction, so can yours.

So what can you do to curb your impulsive spending and save yourself from financial ruin?

The first (and most important) thing to do is to change your mindset. – We’re all conditioned by the media to be a buyers. Most of us get a buzz just from buying something new, whether we need it or not. In fact, many people even feel grateful to the seller just for letting them buy their product!

Jerry McColl in his excellent e-book Cash Stretching 101 says that you need to realize that

“ YOU:
• Are a person who deserves the best value in return for the money you give to other people.
• Have options – there are almost always alternative products of equal or even better value.
• Don’t have to buy that particular item.
• Don’t have to buy from that supplier.
• Don’t have to buy now.
• Don’t have to buy anything.

………………. it’s your money and your choice.”

He also goes on to say that you don't have to rush in to any buy something just because your friends or colleagues have that item. It’s important to first decide whether you can afford the item, whether you really need it (or just want it) and if it is good value for you.

Jerry is the author of Cash Stretching 101 . “This book is designed to help you live leaner, lighter and better.
Cash Stretching 101 is filled with dozens of practical, painless, and quick tactics to get you better value when you have to spend money, and to help you save more money without affecting your lifestyle.

If you’d like to find out how to live a rich, comfortable and happy life regardless of the size of your paycheck please visit
Free money stretching tips delivered straight to your inbox.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Creating A Culture of Accountability In Your Home

How to Create a Culture of Accountability in Your Home

How to Create a Culture of Accountability in Your HomeThe father's voice on the other end of the Parental Support Line sounded exhausted and overwhelmed when he said, "I know you told me that I have to hold my child accountable, but what exactly does that mean?”

It’s an excellent question, and one that we receive often on the Support Line. You’ve probably noticed that we talk a lot about “accountability” in Empowering Parents, as well. But have you ever wondered what it really means to hold your child accountable?

It's never too early—and it's never too late—to start a Culture of Accountability in your home.

I think it’s often helpful for parents to break big concepts down into bite-sized pieces in order to fully understand them. The word “accountable” itself means responsible, or taking responsibility for one’s actions. So when we’re talking about our kids, the question becomes, how will you make sure your child accounts for his or her actions? In other words, how will your child take responsibility for their behavior after the fact? And how can we help them think about that responsibility before they behave inappropriately?

Remember, we want to promote a system of responsibility and accountability for actions in our home. James Lehman calls it a “Culture of Accountability,”and it means that each member of the family is responsible for their own actions and behaviors, each person is responsible for following rules and expectations, and each is responsible for how they respond to stressful or frustrating situations. The simple truth is that most kids, and even some grown-ups, don’t take responsibility for their actions. Without accountability in place, kids blame others for their actions, refuse to follow rules they find unfair, and find ways to justify their behavior. For example, if your child breaks the house rules by calling his siblings rude names or being physically aggressive with them, he may be in the habit of blaming his brother or sister for his verbal abuse. You’ll hear things like “She wouldn’t get off the computer and I wanted to use it!” or “He wouldn’t move, so I pushed him.”

Understand this: when you have created a Culture of Accountability in your home, your child will know that no matter who started it or what happened first, everyone is responsible for their own behavior, and everyone has to follow the rules. Just because he was using the computer doesn’t mean he can call his sister foul names because blaming someone else doesn’t change the rules. As James says, “there is no excuse for abuse, period.”

Giving consequences and sticking to them is another important piece of the accountability puzzle: your child should know that if he chooses to break the rules, there will be a consequence for that choice. The bottom line is that no one in the family should get away with changing the rules to fit their needs or feelings.

Let me use an example from the work world. Let’s say it’s your job to make sure that a shipment of light bulbs arrives safely at their destination, but you were preoccupied and did not check the shipping boxes, and many of the light bulbs arrived damaged and broken. Your boss will likely hold you accountable for the breakage. You may not like it, but it is your job to meet those expectations—and if you don’t meet them, you won’t get paid. You can’t blame it on someone else, as it was your responsibility to check the boxes. Since your job’s Culture of Accountability says that you’re in charge of the light bulbs, you understand that you need to take responsibility for what happened. You may have to discuss what went wrong, and explain how you will make sure to do it differently next time—and you will probably have to work a little longer that day to fix the problem. That’s the heart of what it means to be responsible.

This is similar to what James is talking about when he says you need to hold your children accountable. You have rules and expectations for your child, and they are responsible for following those rules. If they don’t follow them, they do not get “paid” with the privileges and rewards they value. Again, blaming others or acting inappropriately does not relieve them of their responsibility to meet the expectations of the family.

You might be thinking “I know my child is responsible for meeting our expectations and following our rules, but how do I hold him accountable when he doesn’t want to be?” Remember, as James often says, you can’t get your child to want to do something he doesn’t want to do. You can, however, use effective parenting strategies in combination with rewards and consequences to get hold child accountable.

How to Be Clear about Expectations and Set Clear Limits

If you have a rule in your home of no name calling, here’s how you can set clear expectations and limits around it. Let your child know the following: “In this house, we don’t call people names. It doesn’t matter if someone makes you really angry, or if they started it. Each person is responsible for following the rules. If you call someone else names—remember, it doesn’t matter who started it—you will lose some of your game time today.”

Kids will often try to shift the focus to someone else. If this happens, you can say, “It sounds like you’re blaming your brother for the fact that you called him names.” Be sure all members of the family know that putting the blame on someone else will no longer be acceptable. In a Culture of Accountability, each person is responsible for their own actions, and for following the rules, no matter what someone else does. Be clear about the rules, and what each person can expect to see happen if they choose not to follow those rules.

Talk to Your Child and Help Them Figure out How They Will Follow the Rules

It isn’t enough to simply say “don’t do that;” kids often need to know what they can do, not just what they can’t do. Help them problem solve. Ask your acting-out child, “What can you do to help meet our rules and expectations?” Remember, it doesn’t matter if they think the expectations are fair or not; they simply need to take responsibility for meeting them. Remind your child: “It’s your responsibility to control your temper. Just because your brother is bothering you does not mean you can push him. If your brother is annoying you, and you’re tempted to call him names, what can you do instead?” You might have your child write down a list of the things they can do to help themselves follow the rules when they are tempted to break them.

Use Cueing

Once your children have come up with ways they will help themselves follow the rules, you can use what James calls “cueing” – giving a reminder of what is expected. When you hear your child start to get annoyed, you might say, “Remember what we’ve been talking about. You are responsible for following the rules. Why don’t you go check your list of things that you’re going to do when you’re having trouble following the rules?” To help create that Culture of Accountability for everyone, you might also consider posting the family rules in a public area in your home, like the refrigerator door.

Use Consequences to Hold Your Child Accountable

Once you have clarified the rules and helped your child come up with some ideas on how he might behave, let him know what he can expect to see happen if he still chooses to break the rules. Remember, tie the consequences to your child’s behavior, and keep them short-term. For example, let your child know, “If you choose to call your brother names, you will lose access to your electronics until you can speak appropriately for two hours.” Be sure to follow through with the consequences you set; remember, without clear consequences, there is no real incentive for your child to become accountable.

The good news is that creating a Culture of Accountability is a very reachable goal for parents. In fact, effective parenting helps your child learn to be accountable—to both accept responsibility for meeting the expectations of your family, and to develop the skills they need to meet those expectations. And when all the members of your family start becoming accountable to each other, your kids will have a clear understanding of the rules and will be much more motivated to uphold them. You will even see your kids trying to follow the rules when they don’t want to do so, because they will know that they will be held responsible for their choices, no matter how they feel or what excuses they give you.

Realize that when you first try to put the Culture of Accountability into place in your home, your kids may fail to meet their responsibilities, even with clear limits and good problem solving techniques. It will take practice to help them understand that they will be held accountable for their actions. But as James says, “parents are the solution, not the problem.” You can teach your children the skills they need to take responsibility in their lives now, and for their future. With consistency and practice, your kids will learn that they are responsible for their actions and behaviors. It’s never too early—and it’s never too late—to start a Culture of Accountability in your home.

How to Create a Culture of Accountability in Your Home reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

Megan Devine is a Parental Support Line Specialist and writer. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Goddard College. She has a children’s career book in pre-publication, and has several other books in the works.

Defiant Child Behavior problems

Thursday, March 4, 2010

More Ideas For Family Fun

In the previous article Family Fun Time At The Library I showed you 5 ways to use your local library to find ideas for fun family activities. In this article I'm going to expand beyond the library to help you come up with even more ideas for fun family-friendly activities.

1. The Internet.
The Information Super Highway is a treasure trove of information on anything and everything. You can use it to look for places you'd like to visit or for hobbies or activities that your family would like to pursue, for example stamp collecting or hang gliding.

2. Bookstores.
Bookstores are also a wealth of ideas and information. It's best to focus on the travel books and the regional publications. Buy 2 or 3 books that appeal to you. Consider them an investment in your family's future. Not only will these books give you great ideas, they will also provide you with the background/historical information on the places that you visit. This adds a richness and a depth to the visit and makes for a more culturally enriching and educational experience.

An added benefit is that your child will learn the value of books and some research skills through your example. These are gifts that will last a lifetime.

3. Local Magazines Newspapers.
Local publications are another great source of information on things to do and places to see right in your area. Weekend papers, usually the Sunday paper, have a magazine that lists all the local activities that are happening that week. The travel section of the newspaper has information about events in your city - everything from chess club to dog shows and garage sales.

4. Yellow Pages
Look under "Travel Agent" or "Travel and Tours" for people who are willing and able to help no matter what your needs are. Simply pick up the phone and you may just discover a whole new world to explore right in your home town.

5. And last, but not least, ask family and friends for recommendations. It's best to choose people who have kids in similar age groups and with similar interests as your family. Those who stay home each week and watch TV are not likely to have many good ideas.