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Why Parents May Need Both a “Good” and “Bad” Kid

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We may (subconsciously) encourage the very chaos we want to end.

Here’s what commonly happens among Brain Highways participants.

Parents who have multiple children often enroll just the one they view as problematic. To be clear: These parents definitely love that child.

But the Brain Highways participant is the one they’ve identified as being difficult and challenging. Some of those parents even go as far as to say their child is aggressive, disruptive, manipulative, controlling, and more.

However, once that child starts organizing his or her brain and begins to apply the create-a-positive brain approaches included in the course, suddenly . . . there’s a major shift in the home.

That problematic child now becomes the “good” one, while the sibling who was not enrolled starts acting up and becomes the “bad” one. The siblings have just switched roles.

Of course, there’s still chaos in the home. After all, the only change has been the source of the turmoil.

Can’t even count how many times parents have shared that scenario happened once they started the program.

So, what’s going on here? Well, first we have to ask this question: Why might a parent (subconsciously) want one “bad” and one “good” child? It’s a fair question since that crazy shift more than infers the child is not the variable.

To start answering that question, we need to first remember that the brain doesn’t participate in anything, again and again, if it doesn’t perceive some benefit. Since that’s true, then what might be the upside of having a “bad” kid? I know that sounds strange, but (trust me) a parent’s brain is experiencing some benefit if kids in the home just keep shifting back-and-forth in terms of who is good and who is bad.

Here’s a possibility. When kids create chaos in the home, there’s now a distraction.

And then, when we’re distracted by all that mayhem, we can’t possibly have time to reflect on, let alone do, whatever we may need to address in our own lives, right?

For example, maybe we’re subconsciously worried that our spouse is not as connected to us as when we were first married. Or, maybe we’ve been putting off quitting our job or re-entering the work force we left so many years ago.

It doesn’t matter “what” we’re avoiding. The common thread is . . . there’s some kind of fear attached to whatever we’re avoiding—and that fear is then greater than our desire for peace in the home.

Ouch. But that’s why fear does often disrupt our lives in so many ways.

To note: More times than not, we probably have no conscious awareness that we’re avoiding something. But again, that’s the beauty of keeping a distraction in our home, right?

From a brain’s perspective, living in chaos means that we’re hardly ever in our cortex—which then ensures that we have little or no time to ponder and reflect on whatever we are avoiding.

And since living in chaos requires that we expend lots of extra time and energy, here’s the next question: What could we be doing with that time if the chaos was suddenly gone from our lives? Believe it or not, many of our prior participants could not even envision a life without chaos when they first started the program.

Okay, so then why do we also need a “good” kid? Wouldn’t double or triple the amount of “bad” kids create even more chaos? And then, if the subconscious goal is to avoid focusing on something we don’t want to face, wouldn’t even more chaos be better?

True, but we probably also fear that people judge us. If so, then we’ll still need a “good” kid to validate our parenting skills and to deflect the spotlight from shining right on us. In other words, see? It’s not us. Right here is also our “good” child, and he can (fill in the blank) without any problem, and he never (fill in the blank).

That’s why it doesn’t matter which kid is good and which is not. The avoidance set-up works, regardless.

Now, I acknowledge that some parents may think I’m way off here. They may even be angry with me for suggesting there’s a subconscious message that actually invites siblings in a family to step into the role of “bad” kid.

But here’s what I know and have experienced. When parents ponder and then address whatever they are avoiding, the good kid/bad kid set-up goes away.

I also know this. At Brain Highways, there are never “good” or “bad” kids in any of our classes.

I’m not just saying that. When parents first broach the subject of how their “other” child is now causing problems, I always ask, “Are any of the kids in our classes perceived as better than others?”

And they’re always quick to say, “No.”

To which I agree. Even when siblings are enrolled in the same class, there’s no notable difference in their behavior, no matter if one is perceived “good” and the other “bad” when at home.

That’s because there’s only one role for kids in our classes—and that’s the role of “champion.”

Simply put: If kids are given the role of a champion wherever they go—with zero openings for any other role to fill—then only champions will show up.

 

Why Acting Goofy is Great

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It doesn't take a whole lot to be a little goofy.

When interviewing prospective Brain Highways staff, here’s the first question I ask: On a 1 to 10 scale, how goofy can you get?

So, how would you rate yourself in terms of being goofy? And . . . would that number differ from how others rate you?

Here’s why I think acting goofy at times—clearly, this is not the preferred default mode—is important.

1. When we’re goofy, we’re definitely in our cortex. In other words, it’s pretty much impossible to be goofy while we’re in the primitive, survival parts of our brain.

2. If we welcome being goofy, we probably don’t take ourselves so seriously all the time. That then reminds us and others that no one is perfect.

3. When we’re goofy, it usually prompts others to laugh and smile—and that triggers positive mirror neurons in everyone around us.

4. If we’re goofy in front of others, we probably aren’t real self-conscious or care what others may think.

So, as parents, how can we include more goofiness in our homes?  Here are some favorite ways we had fun being silly when my girls were young.

Backwards Evening

We declared one night our “backwards evening.” After we figured out our names spelled backwards, that’s how we addressed each other (e.g. Jim became Mij). Each family member wore their clothes backwards to dinner, where we (of course) ate dessert first. After dinner, we re-wrote song lyrics so that they were now backwards (last word of the line became the first and so on) and tried singing them that way. We wrapped up the evening by reading the nighttime story from the last page to the first.

House Dress Up

We gathered items, such as shirts, pants, socks, shoes, scarves, hats, headbands, and jewelry to dress the furniture in a room (e.g. socks and shoes were placed on chair legs, hats were placed on top of lampshades, and so on).

Amazing Dog

We promoted a new, fantastic dog show, and then we (as the parents) became “the dogs” while the girls (our owners) taught us new tricks. (Yes, we were down on our hands and knees—and even barked here and there—as we learned to roll over, and more.)

Fifi from France

Oddly, a woman who looked a lot like me—but who had (if truth be known) a terrible French accent and was named Fifi—seemed to show up when the girls had friends over for lunch. Of course, Fifi loved to serve people their food as she told them of her days in France. (She was so popular that my girls’ friends often inquired if Fifi would be serving them when they came over.)

Human Christmas Tree and Presents

First, the kids made homemade wrapping paper from long pieces of butcher paper. We also made a large green paper pancho-like tarp that we put over my husband, who was designated to be the human tree.

Next, we wrapped the part of his legs that were still showing in brown paper. Combining both homemade and store-bought ornaments, we decorated our novel tree, complete with lights and an angel on top of his head.

After that, we wrapped the human presents (the kids and their friends) in the paper they had created so that just their heads and feet showed.  We placed the human presents under the human tree, and turned off the lights, pretending it was Christmas Eve. After a few minutes, we turned the lights back on, declared it was Christmas morning, and the human presents burst out of their paper!  Oh, and by the way, we did this in . . . July (just adds more to the goofiness).

Okay, so can you picture yourself doing any or all of the above?  If not (and you’d like to bring a little more goofiness into your home), you may have been raised in a house where acting silly and goofy was frowned upon. Without realizing it, you may have now inadvertently passed on that subconscious message to your own kids.

But that’s hardly etched in stone.  Any family can have a backwards evening, dress up furniture, teach (parent) dogs new tricks, be served by a foreigner with an accent, and create a crazy Christmas in the middle of summer.

And that’s just the beginning. The list of potential ways to be goofy and fun is endless.  In fact, you may be surprised to discover that you have a lot of dormant goofiness— just waiting for a chance to surface.

 

Family Recess

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Research has proven that playing is good for the brain.

I often ask kids what they like best about school. Hands down, the most common answer is . . . recess.  Intuitively, kids know what science has now proven—both kids and adults need time to engage in pointless fun.

We used to call that “playing.” Yet in our current, overzealous, gotta-make-sure-our-kids-get-ahead-world, allocating time to play is often relegated to a back burner.

However, research on play shows that it makes us more adaptable, and it actually improves how our brain functions. For example, when we combine physical energy with a sense of joyfulness (i.e. when we play), we reinforce neurohormones.  And when we engage in activities that free us from having a set outcome, there’s a positive effect on our mood and perceptions of time.

In fact, according to researcher Dr. Stuart Brown, we need play in our lives as much as we need sleep.

So what is Brown’s definition of play? He says real play has no purpose. We do it for its own sake. It’s voluntary. We may even lose track of time or temporarily forget who we are in real life.

What’s the purest form of play? That’s when we improvise, where we make up whatever we’re doing as we go along.

So back to recess . . . where activities have little or no structure, where nothing is measured or ranked, where kids are free to be loud and move as quickly or slowly as they choose. Is there any surprise that kids fly out the classroom door as soon at that recess bell rings?

But then, that bring us to this question: Since playing has a natural appeal and is now proven to enhance the brain, why not create family recess time in our very own homes?

Yes, why not have the whole family take a break from household chores or homework or paying the

bills. . .  to now play together?

Note this is not just time for our kids to play. The idea of family recess is for us to play with them.

And guess what happens when we do? We discover that even though we’re adults, we never really lost our zest for play.

We prove that all the time at the Brain Highways Center. Here, parents enthusiastically engage in playful activities with their kids as part of our curriculum.  In fact, it’s sometimes difficult to decide who’s having more fun when observing, for example, a beanbag “fight” between a father and daughter.

So for my proposal of family recess, any unscripted, joyful movement works. Here are some ideas to get you started, but be sure to ask your kids for their input, too!

  1. Have pillow fights.
  2. Arm wrestle.
  3. Engage in (human) wheelbarrow races.
  4. Build a fort.
  5. Play tug-of-war.
  6. Create and run through an obstacle course.
  7. Climb a tree (yes, moms and dads can do this, too).
  8. Play freeze (or other) tag.
  9. Jump rope.
  10. Jump (barefoot) on bubblewrap.
  11. Jump on the bed (why not?).
  12. Wear a blindfold, and then try to squirt each other with plant sprayers.
  13. Toss water balloons, where one person takes a step back after each time the balloon is caught.
  14. Roll down a hill.
  15. Make a puddle of water, and see who can make the biggest splash.
  16. Build a mud structure.
  17. Play hide-go-seek (inside or outside).
  18. Play a variation of hide-go-seek: Only one person hides somewhere in the house while everyone else shuts their eyes. Then everyone tries to find that person. When a person discovers the hiding place, he or she now quietly hides there, too. As the game goes on, fewer and fewer people are left searching for where everyone else is hiding. (It adds to the fun when everyone tries to remain quiet as more and more people squeeze into the hiding place.)

Note that family recess time is not viewed as procrastination, where everyone is just putting off what needs to be done.  Rather, the mindset is one that suggests less work and more play is truly productive.

In the twenty-first century, that kind of thinking may be viewed as radical and revolutionary. But in our home, we can make such perspective a way of life.

Safe Haven for Kids

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Kids need some space and freedom to learn about the world and themselves.

When I watch kids at the beach, I always find myself smiling. It may be one of the few places where kids can be loud and dirty and run here and there—without adults telling them to lower their voice, wash their hands, and sit still.

So I’ve come to think of the beach as a safe haven for kids, a place where they can just naturally be their age without conforming to adult perceptions as to what is “proper.”

Camping in the woods also comes to mind as another safe haven for kids.  Once again, in this environment, adults seem to “let go” of their need for quiet voices, cleanliness, and being still.

But not everyone has access to the beach or woods or, if so, there probably isn’t time to go there every day.

Yet, that doesn’t change kids’ need for daily downtime in a place where they truly can be themselves without adult restraints.

No, I’m not talking about allowing kids to run amok or do something harmful.  I’m just advocating that we allow kids time each day where they go with their own flow, move at their own pace, and engage in activities that naturally appeal to them.

With that mindset, we can be creative and ensure our kids engage in daily safe haven time.  So, how might we do this within our already hectic schedules?

First, we need to list our possible safe haven environments. On such a list, we may write: the park, the backyard, the bedroom, the beach.

Note that some of those possibilities include places within the confines of our own home. That then makes it easier to implement daily, rather than weekly, safe haven time. In other words, if we don’t have to do more than open a door (to go to the backyard) or close a door (to go in a bedroom) on our part, then scheduling daily safe haven time won’t be that challenging.

So, what might be some guidelines for safe haven time? Here are some suggestions:

  • We don’t comment on how our child chooses to spend this time. This includes positive feedback. Why? Well, if we “praise” how he spent the time on Monday—but then say nothing on how he spent the time on Tuesday—our child is likely going to get the message there’s a “right” way to do safe haven time.
  • We let go of adult-like perceptions of what’s proper during this time, remembering and honoring that this time is for our child, not us. We also don’t even think judgmental thoughts since kids’ radar for picking up subconscious messages are pretty accurate.
  • We establish safety perimeters (which are different than proper perimeters) to be clear that safe haven time is just that . . . safe and nurturing.
  • We actually schedule this time each day, and post that somewhere where our child can see. That way, he knows with certainty when this is going to happen.
  • We don’t offer a single suggestion as how to spend the safe haven time.

If we do the last suggestion, we may (initially) experience that our child has no clue what to do. So, he turns to us for some ideas.  If so, we say no more than, “Just go with your intuition. What sounds fun or interesting to explore?”

In such case, we may also ponder: Is our child’s life so programmed that he has lost his natural spontaneity? If so, then asking for help with safe haven time can be viewed as feedback to ensure that we implement this daily.

But more than likely, you’ll get a different response. Watch your child’s facial expression when you tell him he’s now going to have daily safe haven time, where no adults are going to be on him to do this or that.  You’ll probably see a look of sheer joy.

And that expression and feeling is what we want to make sure is part of our child’s life—each and every day.

How Do Your Kids Describe Their Life?

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I was cleaning through an old cupboard when I came across a half-piece of paper written by my then seven-year-old daughter.

The paper said:

A paragraph about life!

Life is a wonderful thing.  You can dance. You can play. You can jump. You can write. You can live. Use your life!

Written by,

Callan Green

There’s a simple joy in this paragraph on life . . . that some of us may have forgotten.

She’s now 26, and guess what?

She still dances (she is always enrolled in some kind of dance class). She has a high-level position—that she loves—at a prestigious company that requires her to use her writing skills daily. And yes, she makes time to play.

So how do we keep that child-spirit alive in our kids so that it stays with them as adults?

I’d like to say I had it figured out back then, with a set plan in place. But that wouldn’t be the case. So, I’ve pondered what (by chance) created such a lasting free spirit.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • We ensured downtime so she could have time to just play.
  • We encouraged creativity and ways to express imagination, ingenuity, and originality.
  • We emphasized being curious over searching for the one “right” answer.
  • We engaged in conversations that asked her opinion on daily and world matters.
  • We honored what she already liked to do.

Those are pretty easy “doables” for any parent to adopt.

So, here’s a challenge. Ask your kids: What would you say in a paragraph about life?

If your children’s answers reflect joy and a carefree spirit . . . smile, and know they’ll take that mindset with them when they leave home.

But what if you get a different kind of answer?  Well, maybe that’s an invitation to try one or more of the above. After all, any paragraph on life can be rewritten.

 

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