Archives

Disaster Preparation and Safety

We are happy to have Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Family Finance Specialist and guest blogger Barb Wollan to share information related to safety and preparation during times of disaster.
September is Disaster Preparedness Month. Recent news about hurricane damage provides a sobering reminder of the importance of being prepared. Here in the Midwest, hurricanes are not part of our reality, but we are at risk for other types of disasters, many of which strike suddenly with little or no warning.

In a disaster, safety is first priority. We need to be prepared to quickly evacuate from a fire or seek shelter in a tornado, for example, and have a way to stay warm if a winter storm causes an extended power outage.

There is a second aspect of preparedness that also deserves our attention: we need to be prepared for recovery and preparing for recovery includes:
1. Having insurance coverage that meets our needs, and reviewing it every couple of years to make sure it is keeping up with changes in our situation;
2. Creating and updating a household inventory (typically via photos or video) to assist in filing insurance claims;
3. Keeping irreplaceable documents (birth certificates, military records, property titles, and more) in a safe deposit box;
4. Having copies of key documents and information stored away from our home – perhaps with a friend or family member in another community, or in secure cloud storage. This includes insurance policies (or at least policy numbers and contact information), financial account information, most recent tax return, along with key medical information (including vaccination records) and contact information for both professional and personal contacts. Pet vaccination records matter too.

The list above is NOT all-inclusive, but it’s a good starting point. Check out this “Your Disaster Checklist,” from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

https://pueblo.gpo.gov/CFPBPubs/CFPBPubs.php?PubID=13036

In addition, check out our resources related to managing stress.

All About Stress

Helping Children Manage Stress

 

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

More Posts

Follow Me:
Twitter

Back to School – Start the Conversation

It’s officially August! That means that back-to-school sales are in full swing and are serving as an ever-present reminder that summer is ending soon. Maybe for some of you this is a relief as you’re ready to get back to a regular routine, but maybe for others you are dreading your kiddos heading back-to-school. Either way, the reality is that it is coming (and probably sooner than we think).

So as if the back-to-school sales and the new AUGUST calendar page aren’t reminder enough, we here at the Science of Parenting blog wanted to get your wheels turning on it too! We have one simple reminder or suggestion for you to consider in order to make the back-to-school transition go a little smoother– start communicating about how things will be different when school starts, BEFORE school starts J

Growing up in my family we usually had these conversations over a “family meeting” where everyone was present and knew we would be having the conversation. Find a way that works for you family to have these important conversations. Here’s a few things you may want to consider discussing around the back-to-school transition:

  1. Logistics, especially things like…
    • What kinds of activities will any of your kids be doing beyond attending school (soccer, theater, chess club, etc.),
    • What time kids need to be at school or any extra activities,
    • Plans are for transportation,
    • Daily routines (who gets up first, who showers in the evening vs morning, bedtimes, etc.)
  2. Family plans and goals
    • Is there anything your family wants to do together during the school year? Maybe you’re looking at preparing more meals in advance, or finding time every week to have an hour where everyone is together, or maybe trying out a new hobby as family.
  3. Give your child a chance to ask questions
    • Having conversations ahead of time gives your child several opportunities to ask any questions they may have. Maybe your school age child needs some clarification on where they go after school? Or maybe your teenager wants to talk to you about a some new privileges this year? Either way, having a time when you kids get the chance to ask their questions in a positive environment can help everyone get in the right mindset.

Consider starting the back-to-school conversation soon to make the transition for your family a smooth one!

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

More Posts

Follow Me:
Twitter

Meal Planning on Vacation

Summer time meal planning, especially while on vacation is important, if you want to keep costs down and nutritional value high! My family recently returned from a long-distance vacation, and our goal was to enjoy fresh foods all while enjoying the opportunity to be together as a family.

We each took turns helping to prepare the meals. We took turns with set up and clean up too. Meals don’t just happen on vacation, we learned early on, that we could save money, and reduce our food waste by communicating meal plans ahead of time!

We also learned that leaving meal time to chance, was dangerous because we usually consumed too many calories if we ate most of our meals away from home! We discovered how lazy we usually felt following consuming big meals that had large portion sizes. We knew our time was better spent organizing our meals ahead of time, so that we could enjoy the company of family members who traveled near and far to vacation together!

Children too, can help decide food menus! They know the type of foods they like, and will eat, if offered. Eating together offers an opportunity to practice social skills, including table manners and conversation, as well as basic food preparation skills.

Because we had a table full of aunts, uncles, and cousins at meal time, we tried to eliminate distractions by turning off the TV, and putting our mobile phones in a basket on the counter! The conversations were rich with stories of card games played; swimming basketball scores and plans for upcoming hikes to the nearby falls!

Children do better when they have a routine to their lives; and that includes mealtime, even while on vacation. Explore ways individual schedules can be adjusted to allow mealtime together. For more help with recipes, check out the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Spend Smart Eat Smart website!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

More Posts

Follow Me:
Twitter

Family Vacations- Memories in the Making!

A few weeks ago we got to hear our friend, Barb Dunn-Swanson, featured on Iowa Public Radio talking about family vacations. We learned a lot about “family leisure”, and we heard that some of the value of family vacation comes from quality family time – whether home or away! As I think back on my family vacations growing up, I have positive memories of visiting new places, relaxing in the sun, and laughing while playing family games. But if I really think about it, I can also remember the stress my mom experienced trying to spend money wisely, to navigate in a new city, or to get my siblings and I to stop fighting after so much time together. Now as a parent myself, I am in the process of planning a family vacation, and I’m finding the stress holds true for me too.

Luckily, when it comes to family vacation, our kids are likely going to remember the good stuff. Similar to the stories we heard from callers on the radio show, nearly all of them were sharing fond memories of family vacations. So let’s stop here for a moment, take a breath. Remember that the time, energy, and money you are allocating toward a family vacation (or stay-cation!) is likely going to result in positive family memories down the road!

For me, I think of one vacation in particular where my family went on an out-of-state trip. I look back on that time together and I remember binge-watching (before that was even cool!) a TV show we all liked. I remember playing tennis for one of the first times – a sport which I grew to love and eventually qualified for the state tournament in high school. I remember going on rides at an amusement park. I remember that my sister and I shared a bed on one family vacation and my sister kept me awake by TALKING in her sleep, something I still like to bring up from time to time.

So as you examine tourism brochures, scour the internet for the best travel deals, or are exploring information about local parks, remember the outcome you are working toward. Remember that while you may be stressing to plan a “perfect vacation”, you are creating a prime opportunity for family memories that will be talked about for years to come. In short, cut yourself some slack (whether in emotional energy or in dollars), and look forward to the fun that lies ahead!

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

More Posts

Follow Me:
Twitter

Helping picky eaters appreciate the food process

I TRY my hardest to keep up wellness information and eat healthy but I need great resources to keep reminding me! Read our throwback blog that Barb wrote from last summer and check out the Words on Wellness Newsletter for July!

You can also find more newsletters here!

Helping picky eaters appreciate the food process.

Each new day, provides the opportunity for family mealtime! Whether it is breakfast, lunch, or supper, offering foods that are both nutritious and pleasing to your family is an important goal. Often younger children have different tastes in foods than their parents. What sounds like a good menu to an adult may be greeted with groans by children. Described often as “picky eaters”, children can slowly learn to appreciate a variety of foods given time, and an opportunity to try them in small amounts.

Taking children to the grocery store and letting them help select fruits and vegetables may be the first step in introducing a new food. Maybe your family has a garden, letting children help plant the seeds, and water the garden, will make them curious about the growing season and filled with excitement about the harvest.

Summer time is a great time to work together alongside your child in the kitchen with meal time preparation. Children, depending on their age and ability, can wash vegetables under water, can help chop simple vegetables, and can help arrange food for the evening meal.

Don’t worry about your picky eater, find a way to engage them in the kitchen and enjoy the experiences you are making together.

Written by Barb Dunn-Swanson. June 2016

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

More Posts

Tips for Family Vacations from the Talk of Iowa

Listen to our very own Barb Dunn-Swanson share with Iowa Public Radio’s Charity Nebbe some Tips for Family Vacations.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

More Posts

Follow Me:
Twitter

New Blogger, Mackenzie Johnson, shares research and reality

Hello hello! I’m Mackenzie, and I’m so excited to be joining the Science of Parenting blog team! A little about me – I have an infant daughter, I enjoy cooking from scratch, and I’m a total geek for research on the interaction of parents and children (even studied it in college)! These three facts about me actually all roll together into one of my biggest passions – learning about the phenomenon of how parents get the opportunity to help raise new adults “from scratch”!

In my education, I’ve learned a lot about parenting styles, stages of child development, strategies for guidance and discipline, etc. So when I thought about becoming a parent, I had big plans. Oh boy, I had all kinds of plans! I said things to myself like “I will do things this way” and “I would never do that” … Then I held my tiny infant in my arms, and suddenly everything changed. She came into the world with her own temperament, her own challenges, her own quirks. I found out that my plans weren’t panning out how I thought- no matter how much effort I put into them! “What now?”, I asked myself, “I know that research suggests this is the best way to do this, but my plans aren’t working!”

Over a few months, I’ve been able to get some clarity on what I like to refer to as “balancing research and reality”. The research suggested that _______ is the most successful strategy, but I had to balance that information with what my reality was. With certain things, the research-suggested strategy just wasn’t working for us… But Instead of feeling terribly guilty about it, I’ve come to find a level of acceptance. I realized that I wasn’t a failure, but rather a parent who made an educated decision about what was best for my family. In certain circumstances, it was better for my family to change the way we were doing things than to continue on a path that wasn’t working for us. And because I had learned about the research, I was able to make an INFORMED decision for MY FAMILY.

That’s the perspective I hope to bring with me to the blog: understanding that research is here to empower us to be able to make informed decisions about what is in the best interest of our families. So no parent-shaming here. No condescending words to belittle anyone’s parenting. No telling you that there is only one way to do it. Instead, we will work to give you access to information so that you can decide what is best for your family.

So yes, I’m truly excited to be joining the Science of Parenting team, because I just can’t think of a better parent-empowering movement to get behind.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

More Posts

Follow Me:
Twitter

Is it Magic? Or is it Music?

So do you ever wonder why when you tell a 3 year old to “clean up”, they completely ignore you, but once you start singing that oh so popular “Clean Up Song”, that same 3 year old happily and energetically starts cleaning up? Is it magic or is it music? That’s the question we asked guest blogger Elizabeth Stegemöller, PhD and Board Certified Music Therapist from the ISU Kinesology Department.

Join in on our conversation with Elizabeth below.

..”Well, of course it is the music. Believe it or not being involved with music, be it music listening, instrumental playing, singing, or dancing has many benefits for a child’s physical, mental, emotional, and social development. Children learn to coordinate fine motor movements of the hands when learning an instrument. In fact most instruments require you to do completely opposite actions with each hand. Yeah, you remember how hard it was to get that left hand to do anything productive on the piano. Dancing includes the coordination of larger muscle groups of the whole body. Then there is the mental/cognitive aspects that include reading and pairing symbols with letters and meanings, leaning a whole new language (I mean what does forte really mean, how about adagio), and then somehow translate all of this into a motor command for your fingers or voice. Now, what about the emotional responses to music. Music is a mechanism to appropriately express feelings. I mean give a teenager some headphones and if you dare a drum set, and watch out! Finally, making music together teaches children how to work together to produce a final masterpiece. Really, there is no part of the human brain that isn’t involved with music.”

But what is it specifically about music that holds this power over human behavior? How can music encourage a toddler to clean up or help them learn their ABCs and why does this even matter?

“Interestingly, it starts with the rhythmic and harmonic structure of music and how the brain processes this signal. First, by nature music is a “cleaner” signal. There is less noise in a music signal than in a speech signal. And the brain likes a “clean” signal, especially a developing brain. Second, precise temporal stimulation of neural structures leads to plasticity (making new connections in the brain). Basically, if the brain (neurons) fires together, it wires together. Music is a highly organized rhythmic structure that allows for synchronization of multiple brain areas. Most importantly, music listening increases dopamine in the brain. Guess what, in order to learn anything, you need dopamine! So, stimulating the brain with a clear and synchronized signal along with the increase in dopamine is precisely what is needed for neural plasticity (i.e. learning).”

Now, back to that 3 year old cleaning up. Why did music work?

“Well, singing was a clear signal that was easier for the child to process and make the neural connection and or association that the signal meant to “clean up” regardless if they processed the meaning of the actual words or just the musical tune. But what about the ABC’s? Well, music synchronized neural activity along with increased dopamine and established new connections for alphabet order. Now just imagine how many neural connections are being made by playing an instrument, dancing, and making music as a group! Music is magic – brain magic!”

Share with us how you have used music in a way that seemed magical!

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

More Posts

Stop. Breathe. Talk. in Action

I wanted to share this comment I received from a reader. Thank you Mackenzie for allowing me to share your thoughts with our readers.

“I’m a parent of a mostly happy seven month old daughter. I’m also an adult educator who helps parents understand the important difference between reacting (when we let our immediate emotions decide how to react to a child’s behavior) and responding (when take a moment to stop and think about how we actually want to respond to our child’s behavior). One simple way to remember this difference is to tell yourself to “Stop. Breathe. Talk.” It sounds so simple, right? And most people assume I must get it right every time, but that is NOT true… In my head I know that my daughter feels things intensely (like her momma does) and responds with the same intensity because she doesn’t have the skills to cope appropriately yet. And still, in the heat of an overwhelming moment, I definitely have to take that second to think to myself, “Stop. Breathe. Talk”.

“Like last night, my teething daughter was up for the second time in the middle of night (a phase I thought we had finally made it through). I picked her up from her crib and tried to soothe her back to sleep for a few minutes. When she calmed down, I set her back into the crib and headed back to bed. Seconds after I get back under the covers, I hear the crying start again. It’s the middle of the night, I’m tired. I start to huff back to her crib irritated. As I walk I’m saying to myself, “Just sleep! Why won’t you sleep? I’m so sick of this!” I walk up to her crib… “Wait,” I think to myself. “She isn’t doing this to you. She is having a hard time and needs her momma to help her through this.” So I stop. I walk into the hallway. I take a deep breath. I walk back up to her crib. In a calm voice I say, “I know, sweet girl. Getting teeth is hard work. Mommy is here.” I pick her up and rub her back. Her body relaxes and after a few minutes, I set her down in her crib, totally asleep.”

“Even as someone who teaches these skills to fellow parents, I know I don’t get it right every time. But in the moments where I remind myself to “Stop. Breathe. Talk”, I do better. That extra second gives me the chance to consider my emotions and reaction, and change it into the kind of response I want to have. ”

 

Consider one of the last frustrating interacting you had with your child. Would it have ended differently if you had chosen to Stop. Breathe. Talk.? Comment and tell us about a time when this strategy has worked for you! We’d love to hear from you!”

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

More Posts

Stop. Breathe. Talk



Research shows that physical punishment and yelling is harmful.

So what can we do instead?

Stop.

Breathe.

Talk.

As we wind down our conversations on guidance & discipline it becomes important to just step back and focus on 3 simple steps. At any age and in any situation we can help ourselves by remembering to take a moment to stop, take a breath and use a calm voice as we talk to our child about our expectations.

No matter what age our children are, we can stop, breathe and talk. Even a crying infant can be comforted by our slowed breathing and calm reassuring voice. Toddlers can see our calm demeanor and notice our quieter voice. The elementary and middle school child notices that we are role-modeling actions for them to mirror.

Talk doesn’t mean lecture. It can be as simple as, “I hear you” or “I see that you are upset right now”.  Allowing children a safe place to express their strong feelings while we model a calm, cool and collected approach, is the best kind of guidance and discipline we can give our child.

 

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

More Posts

First a ‘Thank-You’ and then Our January 2017 Topic Punishment vs Discipline

Welcome to January 2017.

Our Science of Parenting team wanted to take just a moment to say ‘thank-you’. Thank-you for continuing to spend time with us here on our blog. Thank-you for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us and thank-you for supporting our efforts to provide research based information for parents. We appreciate the messages you have sent us throughout the year and we look forward to sharing more time together with you in 2017.

We decided to start 2017 off with a topic that several of our faculty are currently researching. Punishment vs Discipline.

What’s the difference you might be asking? Great question.

When it comes to raising children, we often find parents confused on what do to when it comes to punishment or discipline. In looking at the definitions, we see a stark contrast in the two words. Punishment-to inflict injury on versus discipline-training that corrects.

This month at the Science of Parenting we are going to dive into those two words and review the research that has been done by faculty and students right here at Iowa State.

We look forward to sharing with you!

January 2017 Podcast Script

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

More Posts

Three Presents

I received a wonderful message from a reader of our blog. I asked the writer for permission to share.   I love when our readers let us know that something has touched them personally. 

Beautiful little girl child with shopping colorful paper bags in

Listen in on Laura’s thoughts….and thank you Laura for being willing to share.

When I was growing up, each of us seven kids in my family received three Christmas presents from Mom and Dad, under the guise of Santa Claus: a toy present, a clothes present, and a book present. There may have been discrepancies in the total cost of each kid’s gifts, but that didn’t matter to us. We each had three packages to open. It was fair.

This system also helped Mom and Dad administer their Christmas budget. They were not the type to go into debt; if they couldn’t pay for it, they didn’t buy it. But they could plan ahead – quite necessary when dealing with 21 presents (seven kids times three)!

In addition, they taught us kids a lesson about finances. They told us that parents would leave money on the kitchen table for Santa – to pay him for the presents. They said some parents could leave more money for Santa than they could, while other parents couldn’t leave as much. Santa then considered each family’s Christmas list against the money and provided accordingly. That made sense to us and was a simple way to explain why some of our friends might get more, or fewer, presents than we did.

But most important, my parents were sharing their values. We learned we couldn’t have everything we wanted – we had to make choices. Sure we may have wanted three toys, but we also needed socks or a new pair of pants – we learned to understand limits. We also grew to enjoy and value reading.

I took my parents’ three present system to heart, and my husband and I followed it with our own children.

I can’t quote the exact research that supports my parents’ – and my – approach to holiday gift giving. But it seems to be in line with the concepts the specialists’ teach: treat children fairly, practice love and limits, promote literacy, and stick to your budget.

Laura Sternweis

Laura is a communications specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She has a B.S. in communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point and an MS in rural sociology from Iowa State. She’s a former farm kid and the parent of two young adult children.

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

More Posts

Consider Giving Kids Less Stuff, More Time during Holidays

father helps son with woodworking projectWelcome guest blogger, Mackenzie Johnson, Human Sciences Specialist Family Life.

Although the holidays can be a season of giving, sometimes the focus shifts to a season of getting, or so it may seem from a child’s perspective. It’s OK to give gifts to our children. We all want to see our children happy, and as parents we give from the goodness of our hearts. However, it’s easy to overdo it, especially around the holidays. This can become a pattern, and before we know it, we’re overindulging our children – giving them too much, too soon and for too long.

Research shows that overindulging children puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes, including a need for immediate gratification, an overblown sense of entitlement and a materialistic mindset and goals. Children who are overindulged may have poor self-control, as well as a more difficult time developing adult life skills.  Giving children too much stuff is just one form of overindulgence. Other forms include soft structure, meaning a lack of rules and responsibilities, and over-nurturing – doing things for children that they should be doing themselves.

So how can parents know whether they are crossing the line into overindulging their children?

Researchers Jean Illsley Clarke, David J. Bredehoft and Connie Dawson started the Overindulgence Project – Overindulgence.info – in 1996, studying the relationship between childhood overindulgence and subsequent adult problems and parenting practices. To date, they have completed 10 studies investigating overindulgence involving more than 3,500 participants.

The researchers suggest parents ask themselves four questions:

  • Do these gifts use a disproportionate amount of family resources?
  • Does what I am doing harm others, society or the planet?
  • Does this meet my needs (as the adult) more than the needs of my child?
  • Does it hinder my child from learning developmental tasks?

If parents answer yes to one or more of these questions, they probably are overindulging their children. However, there are some simple ways to get back on the right track.

  • First of all, if you have been overindulgent, take responsibility. Being in denial about it means that you can’t change anything.
  • Second, forgive yourself. If you’ve gone overboard in the past, don’t beat yourself up about it. Look at how you can move forward, do things differently and learn from your previous experience.
  • Next, work on one problem area at a time. Don’t try to suddenly change everything about your parenting style at once, as that will likely be too overwhelming. Maybe you start by deciding not to give your children so much stuff – toys, electronics, etc. – this holiday season, but consider giving them the gift of your time. For example, parents could create a “gift certificate” for a parent and child lunch date, or plan for an afternoon playing board games or having a baking day together. Or start even smaller and decide you won’t give in to your child’s next temper tantrum at the grocery store.

Just because you’ve overindulged your children in the past, doesn’t mean your children have been damaged forever. You can get back on track and raise your children to become responsible adults who show respect for others.
Share with us how you have takes steps to work on overindulging your children. Your ideas may help others!

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

More Posts

Grandparents, Gifts and Giving

Children benefit from relationships with grandparents, aunts and uncles and other extended family members. These relatives express love in many ways, including gift giving which some parents say can be excessive and difficult to manage.  Finding ways to set limits and preserve relationships can be accomplished with clear, respectful, assertive communication skills. Assertive communication can work wonders in channeling well-meaning generosity for your child’s benefit.

Avoid Blame  Using “I messages” is a communication tool that reduces the chances that grandparents will become defensive, increases the likelihood of problem solving and preserves relationships.   You own your feelings and do not blame the other.  Notice the difference between these two statements. Which feels blaming?

  1. “You are always giving the children junk. What were you thinking?”
  2. “I am concerned that the children have too many toys.”

The ‘A’ statements are examples of “you messages.” “You messages” blame and provoke arguments.  The ‘B’ statement is an example of an “I message.”  “I messages” allow the speaker to claim his/her own perspective without blaming the receiver.  “I messages” often start with the words “I feel, I want, or I need . . .”

Notice the use of ‘I messages’ in this conversation opener:

“I would like to talk to you about something that is very important to me.  I value our relationship and appreciate your generosity towards my children. I am concerned that the children have too many toys. I need your help to find ways to manage the amount of things my kids receive.”

Stay Calm Tone of voice, body language and choice of words all have an impact on the outcome of a conversation.  When emotions rise in us, and in others, it is a signal that something important is being discussed.  It is a good time to find common ground through a technique called “AIKIDO” communication.  This 4-step tool helps restore harmony and begin solution seeking with overly generous grandparents and other relatives. Notice the “I messages” used in each step. Start with a deep breath to calm your body and collect your thoughts.

Step 1 Alignment – As a parent, put yourself in the grandparents’ shoes and see the situation from their perspective.

“I would want to feel special to my grandchildren.”

“I can see how fun it is for you to see joy in your grandchildren’s eyes.”

Step 2 Agree – Find common ground.

“I agree that we both love the children deeply and want the best for them.”

Step 3 Redirect – Move the conversation forward.

“I value our relationship and want to work this out together. Let’s find a time before the next holiday to talk about this.”

Step 4 Resolve – Begin the solution seeking with a suggested action step.

“I am confident we can find gift ideas for the children that will strengthen your bond with them and be manageable for our family.  Let’s make a list of ideas and see what feels right for you and me.”

These 4 steps may smooth the way for some great problem solving.

Be Clear If emotions are still running high or aggressive communication or behavior continues, allow time for everyone to calm down.  Then you can use the following technique to be clear, respectful and assertive without compromising your needs.

The DESC communication technique helps to set clear expectations and reduce defensiveness. DESC is an acronym for Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences. Pick one option from each step below or modify it to fit your situation.  Then, follow the steps in order to maximize the results. Don’t try to tackle all the issues at once.  Deliver your “speech” on one issue as if you are giving a report. Use an even tone of voice, calm facial expression, and be patiently persistent. Writing out what you want to say or practicing with a trusted friend before you talk to the grandparent can be helpful.

Step 1 – Describe the situation, stating your observations using ‘I messages’:

“I know you love my kids and want them to see you as their special (grandmother/aunt).  I noticed that the gifts the children received for the holiday are (broken, ignored, not appropriate for their age/abilities, too many for our home).”

Step 2 – Express your feelings:

“I am concerned that (pick one of the following):

  • The toys go the landfill quickly.
  • The children are overwhelmed and will not be able to use/appreciate these gifts.
  • The child is not old enough yet.
  • We do not have space to store/play with them.”

OR

“I want my children to learn the value of (education, saving, working toward what they need, appreciating what they have, family relationships, etc.)”

Step 3 – Specify your needs:

“For future gift giving, I want the children to receive more gifts of time/experience/savings like:

  • special activity with the child
  • family pass to zoo/pool/park/museum
  • dance/music lessons, camp registration
  • money (investment for college, savings bond, etc.)
  • story-telling about your childhood”
  • Choose more ideas at ReclaimYourHolidays.org

OR

“I prefer that the children receive tangible gifts such as:

  • Practical items such as clothing, grocery/farmer’s market cards/coupons
  • Needs or wants from a list created by the child
  • Gifts that can stay at Grandma’s house to be enjoyed at sleep-overs, etc.
  • Money (1/3 for saving, 1/3 for charity, 1/3 for spending)
  • Open-ended toys that encourage thinking, imagination, movement. (See extension.iastate.edu for “Understanding Children; Toys” for age-appropriate toys.)
  • A family heirloom and story.”

Step 4 – Consequences result when what is specified (in step 3 above) occurs or does NOT occur.

“When the children receive gifts of time/experience/savings, then they:

  • Create a special bond with you.
  • Enjoy the gift and are not overwhelmed.
  • Learn important values of (education, saving, work, appreciation, family relationships, etc.)
  • Will remember your generosity when they get older (you will provide a legacy).”

OR

“When the children receive too many toys or things they cannot use, I will return or donate them.”

If at first you don’t succeed at getting your family’s needs met around gift giving practices, keep trying to communicate as positively as possible.  Your child needs her extended family for support throughout her lifetime.  Avoid communication that feels blaming and destroys relationships. Commit to assertive communication to preserve relationships and find positive solutions.

 

References:

Anthony Bower, Sharon. The Assertive Advantage, A Guide to Healthy and Positive Communications.  National Press Publications, 1994.

Bodnar, Janet. Raising Money Smart Kids: What They Need to Know about Money and How to Tell Them. Kaplan Publishing, 2005.

Rosenberg, Marshall B. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Chicago: Puddledancer Press, 2003. See also www.nonviolentcommunication.com.

 

Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

More Posts

One More Throwback – Kindness

camp2If you look on the left hand side of the blog website you can see the ‘tags’ of some of the issues we’ve covered over the years.

I decided to pull another topic and added a few of our resources to go with it.  Please browse the topics – I have enjoyed re-reading and listening to some of our throwbacks.

Kindness is Learned by ‘Feeling’ Kindness

 

 

Below are downloadable resources in both English and Spanish to support a home and school connection.   Dare to Excel Resources

Service Learning Spanish

Service Learning English

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

More Posts