Keeping things golden for the holidays

By Karen DeBolt | 22nd Nov 2010 | Filed under Parenting, Relationships, Techniques

With the holidays fast approaching, I thought it might be helpful to give you all a new tool to use to help your child to avoid getting in trouble, having anxiety attacks, and even melt downs. I developed this idea with my husband and we call it the Golden Triangle of good behavior. The Golden Triangle is a tool that you can use to evaluate what is going on with your child before trouble starts and then make changes that will hopefully help your child to feel better and so behave better as well.

In order for a child or adult for that matter, to feel good and therefore behave at their best, there needs to be a good balance of two areas. When these are in balance, then your child is inside the Golden Triangle.

  1. Basic needs: hunger, thirst, sleep, safe, warm, free of discomfort
  2. A good balance of stimulation – not too much and not too little

These two areas interact to create either a focused, happy, well behaved child or a perfect storm of trouble! The key is to get the needs met to the degree possible so that the child is within the Golden Triangle and avoid being in the outside areas of unmet needs. Let’s talk more about each area and what happens when they are not in balance.

Feed me now!

When a person’s basic needs are not met, they are uncomfortable or even in pain. No one is at their best under those circumstances. Your child might also have the added difficulty of being unable to identify which of these things or combination of things are needed. I think that lack of sleep is one of the biggest problems and can cause a child to be hyperactive (trying to stay alert) have difficulty focusing on any one thing, and of course may become extremely grumpy. Yet, he’s not sleepy when its time for bed again because he is coping with that feeling by excessively moving around.

Hunger is another one that can cause big problems if it is not caught quickly enough. When my son is overly hungry, he will often become very demanding and grouchy, but sometimes he is not able to say “I’m hungry,” much less go into the kitchen and get a snack or make a sandwich especially when he is way over hungry. When he is mildly hungry these things are a possibility, but when he’s too far gone his communication skills go out the window.

“I’m Bored”

Under stimulation is another area that can cause children to get into trouble quick. When a child is not effectively engaged, trouble will often follow. This may be in the form of impulsive behavior either due to seeking stimulation or seeking trouble which will also have a consequence of a negative reaction– yelling and punishment give a lot of stimulation even if it is the negative kind! You may see hyperactivity in an effort to stimulate the brain. You might experience that glorious state called whining where your child will say “I’m bored.” in that grating whiny tone that all parents love so much (NOT)

In other words, being under stimulated is likely to cause trouble with a capital “T” and that is no fun for anybody.

Stop the world I want to get off!

By the same token, over stimulation leads to overwhelm, anxiety, and defiance. When there is too much stimulation, a child’s nervous system begins to send a signal to slow things down. This will often result in a child who says “No!” to any request or will perseverate about a particular detail in an effort to feel more in control. Too much over stimulation can lead to other problems like depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, and oppositional defiant disorder.

So what do I do?

If your child is out of balance in one or more area either with a basic need or with his level of stimulation, then it is time to make a shift that will put your child back into balance. The tricky part is often figuring out the problem. So this is a good time to put on your detective hat and start asking some questions. Are you hungry? Did you sleep well last night? Are you feeling lonely? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you bored right now?

These types of questions will help to get down to the basic needs and to the stimulation factors. Another way is to make it very open ended and just say, “I notice that you are (insert annoying behavior here.) What’s up with that?” This leaves it wide open for your child to talk about anything that is going on for him or her in the moment.

Once you have an idea about what the need is, then the real work begins—problem solving to get the need met. Sometimes you will only be able to take the edge off due to time constraints or other obstacles, but that may be enough to nudge your child back into the Golden Triangle where he or she is able to behave well again.

Here is a Golden Triangle worksheet in PDF format that will guide you to better understand what needs your child has right now.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes on the blog!

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

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Lessons from Whiz Kid Club

By Karen DeBolt | 7th Nov 2010 | Filed under Social Skills

I have to say that I am probably enjoying Whiz Kid Club even more than the kids and from what I hear from parents the kids are having a blast! We did a check in one day recently where each child talked about the best thing and the worst thing about their day and one child said, “Coming here!” for his best thing about today. So, my plan to make it fun while still helping them to learn some great skills seems to be working so far. Yeah!

Social Skills: Building teamwork

We got out a bunch of Marbleworks pieces (specially shaped tubes to build marble tracks) and split the group into pairs. Each pair was given the same number of pieces to build with and told to work together without any other instruction. One team immediately began to work together and started building very quickly while the other team complained to me that they want to build their own thing. I pointed out how far ahead of them the other team was already. They were galvanized. “Hey, we better work together!” one said and then they were off building very quickly also. We leaders made a big deal about how fast and well they were all working as a team. Next thing I know, the children decided to put their projects together all on their own without any adult prompting! “Let’s made a GIANT ONE!” they said.

The key to making this activity work was using specific praise as well as their own natural competitiveness to reinforce teamwork as being very desirable.

You can do a similar activity at home using toys that you already have. The key is to encourage your family to work as a team to build something even better than what you could build separately. Your specific praise will guide and reward the whole process. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Whiz Kid Club – new groups forming in January

If you are interested in getting your child some extra help with social skills, this program might be just what you are looking for. The group is for boys in second grade through sixth grade and will be meeting for an hour and a half on Wednesday from 4 pm to 5:30 pm. starting in January. If there is enough interest, I will begin a new section on another day of the week. All the details are on the website. Check it out and see if this would be a good fit for your family.

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Organizing for better grades

By Karen DeBolt | 7th Nov 2010 | Filed under School help

School is in full swing now. The honeymoon is long over, and by now you are starting to get reports from your child’s teacher that homework is not turned in or his backpack looks like a bomb went off in it or maybe that big project or paper was not completed because you didn’t know about it until 10 minutes before bedtime the night before it was due. To top it all off, he has lost two jackets, a lunchbox, and who knows how many take home papers. Sound familiar?

Organization is not something that comes naturally to everyone. Kids who are chronically disorganized may be getting lower grades that are not because they are not smart or don’t know the material, but because they never turned in the homework or waited until that last second to slam something together.

Some ideas that I have come up with lately for coaching clients:

To help children with their routine at the end of their school day, create a luggage tag with a listing of all the items that your child needs to bring home and put it on the backpack. For example, the list might say Jacket, Lunchbox, and library books. You could also have different versions that remind the child about where to go if his schedule changes from day to day. So you could have a tag that says “Bus Day” or “Meet Grandpa at the curb” or “Go to after school care” A visual reminder like this means that your child only has to remember one thing: look at the tag. For some kids this will be challenging enough! Notice each time that he or she remembers to check the tag, then at the end of the week earn a fun activity with you or a prize from your prize box.

If take home papers are not making it home or signed papers are not making it to school, then it is time to create a new system. Two ideas might be a clear sleeve in the binder for each subject which would hold homework or signed papers home and would also hold papers to come home. Open the binder and there’s the clear sleeve to remind your child to do something with whatever is inside. Alternatively, a folder with two pockets—one side for home and one side for school which is used for all subjects.

For even more ideas, I highly recommend the book Organizing the disorganized child: Simple strategies to succeed in school by Martin L. Kutscher and Marcella Moran. They have a quiz where you can learn your child’s organizational style, and then they give ideas for working with each style. So you know which is the best backpack, binder, planner, etc for your child’s particular organizing style. Its a quick read and very worthwhile. Check it out here

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