Past Articles from Sandy McDaniel's column
Published every Sunday in the Accent section of the
Orange County Register


For more help, visit Sandy's ParentingSOS.com web site

OC Register - January 5, 2003
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

Six Steps to Becoming a Human Being
When I became a parent, one of my primary concerns was that I would pass my negative "stuff" down to my children. I read voraciously, became a workshop junkie and went to my share of therapy sessions. Today's column is my choice for six steps towards becoming a more loving human being, thus a better parent in the year ahead.

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

#1 LIVE IN THE MOMENT

I've worked with people for over forty years. One way to stay stuck in the past is to keep dragging the past with you. If you have a story you like to tell about some sort of physical or emotional abuse "done to you" in the past, chances are that story is an anchor in your life. Learn from your mistakes and forgive all others in your past; it is your ticket to freedom.

Another way to immobilize yourself is to live in the "what ifs" of the future. Terrorists feed off of this type of consciousness. The only reality is this moment; live it fully and the "what ifs" won't have room to invade or destroy your life.

The past is a cancelled check. The future is a promissory note. Now is all that exists; spend this moment wisely.

#2 EMBRACE HONESTY

We teach our children to lie when we model lying. We also teach them to lie when the consequences of telling the truth are too severe. If parents want love to live in their home, the truth must live there as well.

Pay attention for one week to how many times you don't tell the truth. Before I chose to be a person who tells the truth, I did this simple exercise. The results were scary! Some people in your life will freak out if you start telling the truth; that is their problem, not yours.

In terms of general honesty, there are several moments in almost every day when you have the opportunity to "cheat a little," or to choose not to compromise. I believe you reap what you sow. On a logical note, if everyone cheats, steals from, compromises on their honesty how will we ever create a world where love can thrive?

#3 COMMUNICATE

Words left unspoken are not kind. People need feedback. How you say whatever you have to say needs to be kind. Letting thoughts and feelings go underground is one of the quickest ways to kill a relationship.

#4 TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR CHOICES

There a few things more maddening than being in a relationship where the other person refuses to take responsibility for his/her choices.

A problem is never about him or her. No part of the problem is his or hers to claim. We were taught as children to have a "what cookie?" mentality when someone is confronting us. It simply doesn't work to blame others for your choices.

#5 APPROPRIATELY VENT AND EXPRESS YOUR ANGER

I believe that stored, unexpressed anger is the basal cause of much disease, most relationship problems and most of the violence that exists right now. Whether you learn to run off your venom, wring a towel, write in a journal or to clearly communicate your feelings, it is essential that you learn to diffuse your anger on a regular basis.

Children need to be taught to appropriately release their anger.

#6 BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND KIND TO OTHERS

As those of you know who follow my column, I suggest two rules in your home: (1) If you hit, you sit and (2) We are kind to each other.

Being kind to yourself includes not considering mistakes as catastrophic, taking even a few minutes of time for yourself each day and accepting yourself the way you are right now.

There is nothing you need to accomplish or communicate that cannot be done with kindness. If we were to be kind to each other -each of us -can you see how much the world would change? You are not in charge of how other people live; you are in charge of how you live.

And... as I've said a bazillion times, the way you walk in the world is the primary teacher for your precious children. You teach most by what you model.

Happy New Year!

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OC Register - January 12, 2003
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

The Key Ingredient to Every Successful Relationship is...
A key ingredient to every successful relationship (especially the relationship with yourself) is trust.

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

A parent's job is to teach their child to trust him/herself. Someone with self-trust makes wiser choices, builds sounder relationships and tends to be more loving. A person who has self-trust is less dependent upon other people to validate him/herself. Self-trust is the hallmark of good self-esteem.

When a child is born, that child has an empty database. The child does not know how to be a human being, how to live in the world. The child is dependent upon its parents to feel safe and to teach him/her how to be a successful human being.

Parents, who were not taught to trust themselves, have a difficult time creating a home where self-trust is created and honored. Sometimes, it is important for a parent to look at behaviors that have been passed down from generation to generation that need to stop.

Here are some typical parental strategies that teach a child to misuse power and harm the child's sense of self-trust:

  1. A parent who makes promises and does not keep them. Whether it is a bribe to behave or a promise to do something, the child soon learns to distrust a person who makes empty promises.

    Because the child is small, he/she is unable to evaluate the problem and realize that the problem belongs to that parent. Instead, the child will try to manipulate the parent into keeping a promise. The child learns to manipulate other people to get what he/she wants or needs. Manipulating people is a misuse of power.
     
  2. A parent constantly teases or makes fun of the child. Adults have a problem handling teasing or someone being unkind to them. Children have no defense for such actions. The child's sense of self is damaged. A parent who thinks that this sort of treatment teaches the child to be tough and thus not vulnerable to the outside world, doesn't understand how different the role of the parent is from any other outside person.

    It is the child's natural instinct to trust his/her parents. When a parent keeps pulling the carpet out from under the child's feet (which is what happens when a parent is not kind to a child,) the child's trust is broken. Once again, the child will try to change who he/she really is to please the unkind parent.

    Don't do to a child that which you dislike being done to you. There is no message you need to give, no lesson you need to teach that cannot be delivered through the hands of love and kindness.
     
  3. A parent is inconsistent, angry and unfair in his/her discipline strategies. One of the primary questions an infant asks is, "What is power and how do I use it?" When a parent misuses power (screams, spanks or is unfair), the child gets mixed messages about power. Equally important, the child's trust in that parent begins to dissolve.

    One reason it is imperative that parents provide a fair, consistent discipline structure is that doing so teaches the child not to misuse power. It also builds trust as the child knows where the boundaries are and what the consequence is for challenging a rule.
     
  4. Doing for a child that which he/she needs to learn how to do for self. An impatient parent ties a child's shoe. An angry parent remakes a child's bed. A tired parent does the child's homework project for the child. These are the choices a parent makes that dissolve a child's sense of self-trust.

There is nothing you as a parent are doing that is more important than being the architect of your child's self-esteem. Surviving life these days seems to be a matter of priorities. Think about what I have said and make your number one priority to spend the time, energy and love to help your child build a strong sense of self-trust. Don't look back and say, "I wish I had..." Invest your heart and soul in your child, now.

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OC Register - January 19, 2003
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

Teach Children to Value Kindness
As those of you who follow my column know, I advocate two rules for creating a parenting discipline structure: (1) If you hit you sit, and (2) We are kind to each other.

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

It is imperative, if we are to change the amount of violence in our society, that we teach children it is not acceptable to hit someone in order to express a feeling or solve a problem. This rule is difficult to apply if the parents choose to spank their children.

The "we are kind to each other" umbrella is huge; any behavior that is not acceptable comes under this category.

A child calls his/her brother a name. This strategy has existed for decades, and is extremely harmful to a individual child's self-esteem. Calling someone a name does not give information, it is unkind, unnecessary and harmful.

"I have a problem with... and I want you to..."

"I am very angry that... and I want you to..."

Expressing your feelings and what you want gives the other person feedback and does no harm.

If one child calls another child a negative name (or even a teasing name), take the name-caller aside, "It is not acceptable to call names. I want you to (think about/sit-and-write) three qualities you like in your brother/sister. In five minutes, you will tell your brother/sister what is on your list."

To name call is to judge. It is unkind. When children need to come up with three positive qualities for every negative comment made, those children will think before they speak.

A child argues with the mother about having a snack before dinner.

The mother has given the reason for her decision, and need not engage in further conversation about it. The child who continues to argue or moves into melt-down, is sent to the Penalty Box. (See parentingSOS.com, OCRegister columns for information on the penalty box.)

Two children are yelling at each other. A primal fear each of us has is fear of a sudden loud noise. When someone screams at a child, that child cannot hear what is being said. Yelling does not communicate and it is not kind.

When two children have a different version of "what just happened," give each of them a piece of paper. Ask them to write down their version of what happened. When the two stories match, they are done writing. Read their answers silently and say, "These stories do not match, write down what happened and bring it back to me."

One child is on the couch watching TV. Another child comes into the room so the "couch child" stretches out, taking up all the room. The parent is to put the "couch child" on the Minute Drill immediately. (www.parentingSOS.com)

One child is playing with the blocks, the second child wants to play. The "block child" refuses. Sometimes, it is appropriate for a child to play by him /herself. If it is time to share, put the "block child" on the Minute Drill. Another problem occurs when a child shares selectively; "A" will share with "B" but will not share with "C". Use the Minute Drill to invite a child to share equally.

"A" is playing with a toy. "B" comes up, wrestles the toy away and walks out of the room. Stealing a toy is not acceptable, even if it is "B's" toy. Children need to learn to use their words to work out problems.

It is a simple rule, "We are kind to each other." When a child breaks the kindness rule the parent says, "Yelling at your brother is not acceptable because it is not kind. " When the child is given a fair, consistent consequence for this behavior the child gets the message that such behavior is not acceptable.

Making an impression on your child that kindness is valued, assists that child to be kind, to be more loving. Can you imagine how much our world could change if we raised all of our children to value kindness?

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OC Register - January 26, 2003
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

Non-violence is Learned in Our Homes
One of my two rules for parents is a sentence I learned from Barbara Coloroso, an author/parent educator, "If you hit, you sit!" It is vital that we teach our children to solve problems non-violently.

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

One child hits another child. The child who did the hitting is sent to the Penalty Box for as many minutes as he/she is old. "If you hit you sit. Hitting is not acceptable," is the information that child needs to hear.

Teaching children how to work out their problems is a process. Here are some ideas that might assist you:

Instant Replay: Your son comes into the kitchen screaming and yelling. His sister has the box of cereal on the couch and won't let anyone else eat any of it. Give him the "T" (time out) sign with your two hands. Say, "Instant replay! Take a breath. Slow down and use your words without yelling." The child is to calm down and tell the parent the problem without anger.

If the child continues to yell, put up the "T" sign again, "I have the funniest ears. They cannot hear when someone is yelling. You need to take a breath, calm down and tell me your version of the problem."

What you said is boring, so the child will not want to invite you to repeat the whole thing over again. The child will talk instead of yelling because there is a consequence for yelling.

Matching answers: Two children come into the room angry with each other. They have two different stories about what just happened. Send each child to a separate room. Give both children a piece of paper and pen or pencil, "You write down what just happened and bring it to me. When the two stories match, you are finished writing."

When a story is given to you that does not match the other story simply say, "They don't match. Write about it again. When the stories match, you are done."

PRS: Have a piece of paper with the words "problem, rule, solution" written on it with a space between each word. Two children get into a fight. Put each child in a separate room with a PRS paper and pen or pencil. "You will answer each of these questions. For 'problem' you can only write what you did. You cannot mention what the other person did. You will start what you write with the word 'I.' For 'rule' you will write out which rule you have broken. For 'solution,' you will write out a different way you will handle this problem the next time it happens."

Regardless of what someone else does, you are always at choice as to how you respond to any situation. It is important to teach children to take responsibility for their choices. If the child is not aware of the rules in your home, that child cannot learn them. When a child thinks of another way to handle a situation, that child is able to make a different choice when the same problem arises again.

Do not reward fighting! If your children are fighting over the television, turn it off for ten minutes. Doing so invites the children to negotiate their problems rather than to fight about them.

Matt is stretched out on the couch. Maggie comes and pulls the child's feet down or jumps up, landing on the relaxed child's legs. 

Stop! Maggie needs to learn to use her words to negotiate change. She is told to find another place to sit. In ten minutes, Maggie can once again try to get a place on the couch, this time by using her words.

A boy ran up to this mother crying. His brother had hit him. The mother said, "Ok, you gets two free hits on your brother." I hope the problem with this strategy is obvious. We must teach our children non-violent ways of working with their siblings. We must do it to create peace in your home and to create peace in our world.

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OC Register - February 2, 2003
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

Teach Children How to Function Successfully
In schools and in our homes, we need to teach children how to function successfully in the world.

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

Children who are not given chores fail to learn that it takes time and effort to maintain a home. Children who are on the "free lunch" program do not feel as if they are a part of the bonding which is the strength of a family unit.

Starting from age 4, each child will have a minimum of one chore a week. The choice of this chore needs to be age-appropriate. A child may: (1) take out the trash, (2) care for a pet, (3) dust, (4) clear off the table, (5) empty the dishwasher, (6) vacuum, (7) wash and vacuum a car, (8) help put away groceries and (9) go to the market with mom, to learn about how much food costs.

Although it is appropriate to have a list of extra chores that a child may do to earn money, I do not associate chores with money. 

Chores are done for the right to live in our home. Allowance is given to teach a child to manage money.

As I've stated before, I think every child from age 9 through the teens needs to wash, fold/iron and put away their own clothes.

I bought my eldest child, Kathleen, an ironing board that sat close to the floor. She taught both boys to iron. There was a family understanding that they would outgrow a piece of clothing before I would iron it!

A child who forgets to do one chore has just volunteered to do two chores. When the consequence for forgetting is put on their time (at the first of a favorite TV show,) you will have the child's attention. Chores will not be forgotten again.

I received an email from a parent, Harry Brand, who suggests I encourage parents to teach their children how to cook. The following is a combination of his suggestions and my thoughts:

Sit down with your children and make a list of dinner menus that include the main course, salad, side dish and dessert. Using 3X5 cards, put each idea on the top of a card. All cards go into a file box. Put the cards into the four categories, (main course, etc.)

Every week, new cards are added to the file box. Each child gets to pick one meal a week that the family will eat.

That same child will (1) Help the parent fill out the recipe to be used on the 3X5 card. The recipe goes on one side of the card, the ingredients on the reverse side of the card. (2) The shopping list needs to include the items for the child's meal that are not already in the house. The shopping list must be completed two days ahead of need.

In the beginning, a child may help the parent cook their meal. From age 12 up, each child will cook one meal a week for the family. Their choice of meal cannot be repeated for one month.

If the adult who cooks writes each choice (spaghetti, green beans and jello) down on 3X5 cards, for the meals he/she cooks that week, the choice file increases from week to week.

When a teenager leaves the home, that child will know how to cook a large selection of meals. The advantages outweigh the struggles to achieve this goal. Children who know how to cook are less likely to eat junk food when they are out on their own.

Here's a starter recipe: TURKEY LOAF:

  • Mix together two pounds of ground turkey and one package of turkey sausage.
  • Add one large hand-full of uncooked oatmeal; add one egg and mix.
  • Make into a loaf, cover with the whole bottle of Bar-B-Q sauce (Masterpiece Original).
  • Cook at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Works equally well (and is not as healthy) with ground beef and regular sausage.

It is not a responsible choice to send your children out into the world unable to take care of themselves. Give your children chores to do and teach them how to cook!

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OC Register - February 9, 2003
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

Consistently be Consistent
In my parenting talks, weekly column and private communications with parents the most frequent words spoken are, " be consistent." Although these words are supported by logic, many parents do not understand why it is so important to be consistent.

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

A child is an "empty computer data base." The child does not know how to live in the world. Therefore, the child looks to the people around him/her to learn how to live here successfully.

Shortly after birth, a baby begins to realize that he/she has power. For the duration of that child's childhood, he/she will be continually asking, "What is power and how do I use it?" Whenever a child pushes a boundary, the question behind the action is, "Is this how I use power?" The child needs feedback to each question asked.

Consistently enforced boundaries give a child feedback as to what is and is not acceptable.

Consistent: Constantly adhering to the same principles or course. Not self-contradictory. Congruent. (Webster's Dictionary.)

When a parent is inconsistent, the child will repeat a negative behavior. The feedback the child receives is that such behavior is not ok some days and is ok on other days. The child will continue to push each boundary, believing the parent will give-in, eventually.

Children need to know where the boundaries are in order to feel safe in your home.

Inconsistent parenting breeds fear. A child is walking through your home hoping not to step on a land mine -to set off your anger towards him or her. A fearful child will withdraw to be safe. A fearful child will lie to try to keep the parent's anger away from him/her. A fearful child may turn to rage from the frustration of never knowing where the boundaries are in the home.

Today's parents are busier than parents were in any previous generation. In many families both parents work. Many families have suffered through divorce and are living with the children ping-ponging back and forth between the father's and the mother's separate homes. Do I realize how difficult it is to be consistent with all the deadlines and multifaceted activities within your family structure?

No. I don't know your specific story. What I do know is how children function, what creates a stable child with good self-esteem and what children need. Parenting is a matter of priorities. You are the architect of a human being's life, and being consistent is the key to raising a child who feels safe in his/her own life.

A child who has more power than his/her parent learns to misuse power. A "power monger" is not a trait most people choose for someone on their friend list. A child who misuses power becomes more and more of a nightmare in your home because the degree of power being improperly used constantly increases. If you have a three year old that has more power than you do, can you imagine the nightmare that child will be when he/she is a teenager?

A parent who is consistently angry, serves consequences that are not fair and who takes his/her love away to control the child's behavior will not raise emotionally sound children.

Find a discipline system that is fair. I love the use of boredom, the Penalty Box and Minute Drill (see parentingSOS.com). Serve the consequences consistently and without anger. Your child will learn which behavior is acceptable and which behavior is not acceptable.

Then your child will relax inside of him/herself and as a result, is likely to be more fun and much more loving.

Fair. Consistent. No anger. The two "bookends" are useless unless you as a parent are consistent, consistent, consistent.

To find out where Sandy will be speaking next, go to www.parentingSOS.com and sign up for her weekly newsletter. Speaking information is at the bottom of each newsletter.

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OC Register - February 16, 2003
by Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

Teach Children to Communicate
In an ideal world, parents and children would communicate with other to solve problems and there would be no need for the Penalty Box or Minute Drill to get a child to co-operate.

REMEMBERYou care so you remind yourself to be:

* Consistent

* Always listening

* Reasonable

* Encouraging

I see a parent riding in a car with children who are glazed watching television or listening in their headset. Too many children do not eat dinner with their parents. Family members are busy living independent lives.

Children learn how to communicate from their parents. Basic social skills are practiced at mealtime. Parents teach how to communicate anger most by what they model.

Raising a child is an enormous investment of a parent's life. More than money, a child needs time with each parent. The child needs to feel valued and capable. A child who feels ignored, or is last on the totem pole of priorities isn't able to realize that the lack of personal attention is not about a lack in him/her.

Often a child who is grossly misbehaving is trying to get the attention of the adults around him/her. Sometimes, it is about a misuse of power resulting from a lack of consistency on the parent's part. Either way, the primary antidote is for the parent to make that child priority #1.

A child who is asked, "How was school today?" will answer, "Fine," with no details. Ask a child, "What was the best part of today?" and "What part of today did you like the least?" If the child answers, "I don't know," ask, "What would you say if you did know." If you give a lecture when the child answers you, that child will learn not to share feelings again.

Instead of asking, "Why did you hit your brother?" change the words to, "What was going on for you when you chose to hit your brother?"

When you are in the car, have the children look for something specific (a Volkswagen), a specific letter on a license plate, or sing a song with a cassette tape. These activities (and a million more like them), keep the child's brain activated. The camaraderie of such activities assists the child in feeling connected to the family unit.

When a child does not get his/her way and moves into melt-down, that is a misuse of power. The child needs to be stopped and invited to communicate his/her feelings.

The word "you" rarely has words attached to it that are positive: "You are lazy," or "You never..." or "You blankety-blank!" Teach your child to begin with the word "I". "I don't like it when you..." or "I feel angry when you say no to me," or "I have a problem with the backpack being tossed by the front door -and-I want you to put it into your room right now."

Most important, communicate clearly and often that you love your child. Loving or positive words are often attached to a behavior. Love your child every single minute of each and every day, regardless of his/her behavior.

I put little love notes on my children's napkins that went into their lunchboxes. When Scott went off to camp for the first time, I put love notes in all of his clothes. I gave a child a "high five" for walking into the room. I could have parented my children better, and there is no doubt in their minds that I cherish them every moment of their lives.

We are lonely on an over-crowded planet. The way to break the cycle of living individual lives is to connect with other human beings. It is important that the choice to connect begins in your home. When a family member responds to your question, "How are you today?" with "Oh, I'm OK," ask, "How could you be better?" Then the key to success is to stop what you are doing and listen. Break the silence and communicate.

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Email: sandy@sandymcdaniel.com
Copyright (C) Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel, 2002