Tools For Learning

Inspiration for Parents & Educators

Let Kids Be Kids!

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If Kids Aren’t Who You Expect Them To Be

It’s so very natural to want your kids to take after you: fun loving, responsible, balanced, organized, or outgoing. It’s difficult for any parent to see their own kids having problems of any kind: trouble making and keeping friends, failing grades, being shy in social situations, or exhibiting inappropriate behaviors. Wanting them to be exactly like you is narcissistic! Attempting to make your children clones is just to stoke your ego or fulfill unresolved ambitions of your own childhood.

Expecting to live your life vicariously through your kids, or presuming that they will make your life whole, isn’t fair to them or to you. It’s totally your responsibility to discover the resources within your own wonderful, unique self to make you happy, and not rely on your kids to do so. Recognize your ego at work when you believe that your children’s likes or dislikes reflect poorly on you. Accept their own uniqueness and cherish them for who they are and not what you want them to be. Realize that they are their own persons and let go of the things you think they’re not.

When you catch yourself wishing that your kids were different: “Why is she so obnoxious and loud?”, “Why is he struggling to keep friends?”, “Why aren’t they on the honor roll?”, try to see things from your kids” point of view. How would you feel if someone was always hovering over you and telling you to do this and that, this way and that way? And be honest with yourself, are you being so hard on your children because you couldn’t accomplish things you desired when you were young, because you didn’t have the capabilities or the opportunities?

Letting your kids be kids, and just be themselves, helps you get a better perspective of what a great parent you really are and how extraordinaryly OK your young ones are! It also rids you of any guilt that your kids are not measuring up to an arbitrary standard of yours. Without all the negativity to get in the way of a positive relationship with them, you can focus on getting to know each of your “one-of-a-kind” kids even better.

When you identify with living vicariously through your kids, you may try to manipulate them into filling the sense of lack in your own life. It is manifested when you say things like, “I want you to achieve what I never did.”, “I want you to excel in all your studies so that you will be accepted into an ivy league university so I can be proud of you.”, “Don’t diappoint me.”, “I want you to play baseball and be a star pitcher.” The ego’s dysfunction comes to light with statements like these.

Opposition from your kids in similar situations gives you, sadly, a renewed force to continue this inappropriate behavior. The relationship foundation that you give and maintain with them sets the tone for all other relationships throughout their lives. It is also important in your positive communication efforts with them to consider your partner in redirecting your children’s behavior. There are many and varied reasons why moms and dads disagree about their parenting methods. Sometimes getting and staying on the “same page” with the other parent can be quite challenging to say the least, but it is truly worth it to do so for your kids’ sake. Experiment with tried and true strategies for working with and not against the other parent at all cost.

Easy and most workable tips and strategies will be the topic of discussion in my next blog post. Stay tuned!

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When Kids Are Disrespectful!

wpid-My001.jpg“Dr. Smialek you gotta help me. My son called me a bitch at the bus stop this morning, and I’m so frustrated, I don’t know what to do! Please help me!”

She continued: “I think Paul learned it from his older brother and father. I don’t know what to do, so I called you, sorry to interupt your class but I just couldn’t wait. I’m so upset and hurt! I don’t know where that little bastard gets off calling me a bitch!”

This is a sad but true instance of teaching by bad example. Paul’s mom was not even consciously aware of her bad example of calling her son names. If she had been aware of her role in this akward situation, she could have used an “I message” to convey to him how she felt in this situation. It would have been quite effective for her to say: : “When you call me names, I feel sad. It seems like you don’t love or respect me. I’m sorry for calling you names. Let’s make a promise right now to never call each other names ever again.” Another shorter but just as powerful is the strong statement: “I think you are really mad at me now for some reason. Let’s talk about it. I’m ready to listen.”

Even though you establish the fact that you are the adult and need to be respected at all times with no exceptions, you still need to let your kids know you love them, and are very much interested in their well being. Emphasize that you will be flexible, and will listen to all they have to say without interupting or judging. A great thing to remember is to stay calm, and above all else be logical in your discussions with your kids. End your conversations with an action plan for the desired behavior from now on. On occasion it is extremely helpful to have kids sign a written contract to “seal the deal”. Use your discretion.

Another impotant consdiration is to avoid reacting defensively in a shared decision-making and problem solving discussion. Avoid the mistake of trying to force young ones to understand or convince them that you are being “fair”. It’s a waste of time! Parents and educators who attempt long expanations simply lose their kids’ attention. Young ones are just not mature enough to fully appreciate what you are trying to say or do. Often, they can’t even imagine that the actions you suggest and take are in their best interests.

Find effective rewards that will work to shape the particular behaviors that are desired. When you can recognize and control these rewards, your dealings with your kids will improve dramatically over time. You know your kids better than anyone. You know in your heart what rewards will be the most successful in a specific situation. Use them wisely!

Some Things To Try When Kids Are Disrespectful:

Calm down before you respond. Give kids time to “cool off” too.

Say:” It hurts me when you speak to me that way. Let’s talk things over. Let me know when you’re ready.”

Really listen to what kids have to say. Be open to their ideas, and by all means explain yours.

Look for underlying causes of the inappropriate behavior. Get to the root of the problem by asking the right questions.

Be generous with an approving glance, kinds words, and hugs. Tell them you want things to change.

In no uncertain terms let them know you care about them but don’t like their actions.

Share an action plan. Discussing alternative behaviors is a very important step in preventing relapses in the future.

Ask kids to consider: ” How can we solve this problem together?” How do we keep from upsetting one another from now on?”

Lay out some ground rules. And yes, discuss consequences if the rules are broken. Avoid consequences that you are not ready to follow through on!

If you need some support with a particular behavior or situation comment on this post, or contact me at

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Boost Self-Esteem

Be a Positive Role Model

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Boost Self Esteem


What does self-esteem really mean to kids? It is how they think and feel about themselves. The more they like themselves, the higher their self-esteem.

Youngsters with high self-esteem tell themselves things like: “People like me.” I’m smart.” “I always to my best.” Young ones with low self-esteem put themselves down. The good news is that you can influence your kids to change their negative thoughts into more positive ones. Assist them to build their self-respect by helping them to think of things that they are proud of: a special talent, a great sense of humor, times when they were kind or helped someone.

Every Child is Unique!
When you see kids feeling down, encourage them to tell themselves things like: “Things will get better.” “My piano recital was perfect.” “No mistakes on my spelling test this week.” “I practiced long for my test and it paid off.” Assist your children to set goals for themselves. This is probably one of the best ways to boost their self-esteem.

First, set some goals with your kids that can be reached fairly soon:
try out for a sports team, join a club, pass a math chapter test. get passing grades on their report card. Also, set some long term goals: pass third grade, learn to play the drums for the band, finish high school.

Next, help your kids to create a mantra that will remind them of their uniqueness: “I always try hard and I will be successful.” “I will keep my eyes on the ball and hit a run.” “I can do anything I put my mind to.” Remind them to repeat it often. Great advice to pass on to your kids is; “Be Yourself.” “Don’t worry about being better or worse than anyone else.” “Remember, no one is perfect.” You are special!” “You can do it!”

As children get older. impress on them that they can be strong and still belong to a group. Stress to them that it’s OK to want to be liked by others but not when it means giving into peer pressure. It’s never worth doing things that could jeopardize them or someone else. True friends will accept their choices and will like them for who they are. Share with them that so called friends who don’t accept them are not worth having and calling them friends. Real friends don’t pressure each other…this is a very important lesson for your kids to learn… the sooner the better.

Self-esteem is also about giving and getting respect in their relationships with their friends. Offer these tips to your kids:
Live up to your word. Do what you say you’re going to do.
Treat others with respect. You’ll get respect in return.
Talk things over with someone you trust. Be truthful about your feelings.
Remember that you are special and unique.
Encourage yourself whenever you think you need to. Remember to repeat your mantra often.
Praise yourself when you deserve it.
Trust your own feelings and good judgement.

Everyone could do with a confidence boost sometimes, even parents and educators. Even the most confident people have doubtful moments. The key is that BUILDING SELF-ESTEEM IS NOT JUST ABOUT THINKING WELL OF YOURSELF. IT’S ABOUT NOT THINKING BADLY OF YOURSELF FOR ANY REASON! The good news is that it’s a skill you can learn and share with your kids.

These are the ways my kids are unique:

When I consider my kids’ unique abilities, this is what I say and do:

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Be A Positive Role Model

Kids make mistakes. Let them! Making mistakes is part of the process of problem-solving. Not making a big issue of these errors leaves you more time for more important things like guiding your children to discover how they are special and unique.

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Self-Esteem Survey For Kids

True self-esteem is realizing one’s own real power. Often, remind your kids or grandchildren to think positively about themselves. Do they take your good advice? Do they really have a healthy dose of self-esteem? How can you be sure? A great way to gain insight into their self-esteem strategies suggest they take the short Self-Esteem Survey for Kids.

Self-Esteem Survey for Kids

If your answer is yes put a checkmark on the line. If your answer is no leave the line blank.

1. _____ I accept constructive criticism from others.
2. _____ I am at ease when I meet people.
3. _____ I am honest about my feelings.
4. _____ I have a few close friends.
5. _____ I usually learn from my mistakes.
6. _____ I take responsibility for my actions.
7. _____ I like new experiences and challenges.
8. _____ I am accepting of my physical appearance.
9. _____ I give my self credit for my achievements.
10. _____ I am happy for others when they succeed.

If you answered yes to most of the statements, you most likely have a healthy opinion about yourself. Whatever your self-esteem level is now, you can take positive steps to improve it with a little help. Your parents and teachers are there for you with all the strategies you need to feel better about yourself. Ask them for help. You’ll be glad you did.

Parents and Grandparents if you need some easy and workable self-esteem strategies for the kids in your life be sure to check out my next blog post: Great Self-Esteem Stategies for Kids. They really work!

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