Parenting Exercises Designed to Complement Your Child’s All Stars Camp Curriculum
Your child is likely starting to think and talk about what he or she wants to be or do when they grow up. Young people who have goals and dreams for their futures do better in school and are more likely to stay out of trouble. Sometimes their dreams may seem pretty unrealistic, and it’s tempting to point this out (e.g., “What’s the likelihood of your becoming a professional baseball player?”). This can feel discouraging and can undermine their motivation to take action toward achieving their goals. We want our children to believe they can get ahead in life and pursue their dreams.
Try to help them see what they may need to do to reach their goals. Ask:
- What skills will you need?
- Where can you learn these skills? Are there special classes, books, or other resources you can explore to learn more about this?
- Will you need to go to college? To study what?
- Is there someone you can talk to who could give you more information?
- Could you volunteer somewhere to find out if you really like it or not?
If you’re not sure about your child’s goals or dreams, use today’s homework activity as an opportunity to begin a conversation about their future. Ask questions:
- What kind of family do you want when you grow up?
- Tell me about what kind of job you would like.
- What could you do now to help reach this goal?
- What do you want to do in your free time?
Remember that supporting goals and dreams at this stage of development requires listening and encouragement more than realism. Helping them explore the possibilities communicates to them that you believe they are competent and capable of achieving success in life. It takes action to move forward in the pursuit of one’s dreams, and your encouragement of this kind of exploration reinforces one of the most important skills your child will need to achieve the future they want for themselves.
Today at camp, your child created a “crest” or personal shield that incorporates the ideal futures they selected for themselves during yesterday’s All Stars session. Their shield is a symbolic reminder of their values and beliefs, which will help them achieve the future they want for themselves. Campers also explored how they get reputations and worked with other campers, giving and receiving advice about how to get the reputations they want and avoid the reputations they don’t want. They affirmed that they will each need support and encouragement – from you and from each other to accomplish the goals they have set for themselves.
Having clear rules and consequences for breaking them are an important part of a solid parenting strategy. Young people need to have rules and limits, and they do better when they know exactly what to expect.
But have you ever found yourself frustrated with having to constantly nag to get your child to comply with basic routines? Sometimes we fall into a pattern of focusing exclusively on the behaviors that irritate us, and the more we nag the more frustrated we get, and nothing seems to change. It can be even more irritating when the behavior in question is one of those that has us thinking or responding, “You know better than this. I shouldn’t have to remind you.” We take it for granted that certain rules and expectations are understood and that certain behaviors are unacceptable. We are annoyed when we have to state the obvious.
Can you remember a time when you were on the receiving end of such a rant? How did it make you feel? Did it effectively motivate you to want to change your behavior?
People of all ages learn best when others tell them what they’re doing right!
In the words of area psychologist Randy Cale, “THEIR ENERGY FLOWS WHERE YOUR ATTENTION CONSISTENTLY GOES!” In other words, make sure that the bulk of your energy and attention flows to the behaviors that you want and value. If you are concerned about a behavior or pattern of behavior, try these suggestions:
- Clearly describe the behavior of concern. (e.g., not making bed)
- Restate the behavior in clear terms of what you would like to see instead, and what consequence will follow if it doesn’t happen (e.g., “I expect your bed to be made before you leave the house for school/camp in the morning. If it is not made you will not be able to go out after school/camp until it is made and you have completed one other chore I will assign you at the time.”
- Let your child know your concern. Be clear with them about what you would like to see and what the consequences will be if they don’t comply. Let them know there will be no nagging or arguing. If it’s done, great. If not, consequence.
- To the best of your ability, ignore the undesirable behavior when it occurs. Let the consequence happen, if applicable, and actively watch for and acknowledge the desirable behavior when it occurs.
- Give compliments often, especially for those behaviors you are trying to promote. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for giving compliments:
- Do be specific. State exactly what the behavior was that you liked or appreciated. (“You did a great job clearing the table.”)
- DON’T use the compliment as the start for a lecture. (“Thanks for emptying the dishwasher. If you only did it more of the time.”) OUCH!
Today your child played the Opinion Poll Game with the other All Stars Camp campers. In playing the game, they learned that they share many values and attitudes with their peers that are counter to popular perceptions that “cool” kids engage in risky or negative behaviors. In fact, the campers uniformly viewed using drugs, getting drunk, gambling, and fighting as VERY uncool. In the afternoon All Stars session they explored what it means to be a good citizen – in their community, their school, and in their family. They also discovered that they judge others, and will be judged by others based on their actions. This reinforces the idea that their reputations will determine how they are treated, including the kinds of privileges and freedoms they might or might not enjoy as they go through adolescence.
Good communication is one of the most important things in a family. When your teen or any family member comes to you, whether it’s with a problem, to share a proud moment, or just to relate how their day went (good, bad, or in-between), really listening is the very best way to let him/her know you care. Learning to listen to problems is especially important, because we want our kids coming to us when it really counts. We want them to talk to us so we know what’s going on and so we can help them.
But sometimes our desire to help can get in the way of doing what is actually most helpful (that’s right, just LISTENING). Our knee-jerk responses that involve giving reassurance when our child expresses doubt, or giving advice when that isn’t what’s being asked for, can in the long run make it less likely our child will come to us in the future.
Try to tune into the emotion your child is expressing in addition to the content of what they’re saying. Check with them for understanding by saying things like, “Sounds like you’re feeling _______ because of __________.” Ask what they want. “Is there some way I can help you? I’m happy to just listen if that’s what you want.” Encourage them to brainstorm solutions. “Do you have any ideas about how you might handle the situation?”