Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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My child is mean and disrespectful to me. How can I change his behavior?

April 25, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A boy angrily faces the camera.

Question: When my son gets angry about something, he takes it out on me by calling me vulgar names and insulting my life choices. He does this in public and at home. How can I help him change his behavior and see how inappropriately he is behaving?

Answer: This is a very difficult situation for any parent to deal with. It can be emotionally difficult and potentially embarrassing when it happens in public. Start with these suggestions to change your son’s behavior.

  • Establish boundaries. As soon as you notice this negative behavior repeating, set limits with your child. Calmly tell him that you will not respond to that behavior and you will wait until he calms down. The sooner you establish these boundaries, the sooner your son has the opportunity to change his behavior.
  • Stay consistent. Enforce your rules regularly, especially when it comes to punishments. Your child is more likely to repeat negative behaviors if he can get away with them on occasion. Don’t give in just because he’s causing a scene—hold your ground.
  • Explain your stance. Once your son calms down, you can talk to him about why his behavior was inappropriate. Try putting it in perspective by asking him how he would feel if someone called him those names. Ask him why he was so angry. These conversations may provide insight into why he is behaving that way.

These suggestions are good places to start with your son. However, the behavior you describe could be a symptom of a bigger issue. Speak to his physician about the behavior. He or she may refer you to a child therapist who can assist your efforts with your son and determine if another diagnosis is necessary.

For more information on establishing boundaries and consistent discipline, see pages 56 and 75 in Through Elementary and Middle School, one of the books in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher 3-book set.

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Do I have to teach my kids about Santa and the Easter Bunny?

April 18, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

Santa holds a lot of wrapped Christmas gifts on the left side of the image, while on the right side, a bunny sits beside an Easter basket filled with eggs on the grass

Question: I think that Christmas and Easter should be about the religion and reason for the holiday, not about presents and candy for kids. Am I a bad mom if I don’t teach my kids about Santa and the Easter Bunny?

Answer: You’re not a bad mom if you don’t teach your kids about Santa and the Easter Bunny. Your concern is valid. In our culture, religious holidays sometimes lose their original messages and transition to being about eggs, candy, and/or presents.

The most important thing that you can do during these holidays is to teach your children about their historical and religious purposes. Make these lessons part of your holiday traditions so that you remind your children every year what the holiday is really for.

But don’t forget that the other traditions can be fun, too, especially for your children. Hunting for Easter eggs and waking up to presents on Christmas morning is exciting and magical for children. As adults, we too often forget those feelings of wonder and pure joy, but our children still have those feelings and it’s a great thing to be able to (secretly) deliver it to them through these traditions.

Instead of forgoing those traditions altogether, we suggest a compromise. Limit the amount of gifts that come from Santa, so there is less of an emphasis on gifts from a magical man. Let your children focus more on the spirit of giving between your family members and to charity.

At Easter, the children can hunt for Easter eggs filled with loose change, messages of love, and IOUs for their favorite activities. This way, they still experience the fun of finding hidden objects but the rewards are more meaningful than candy.

Of course, with these compromises you should still spend time talking and learning about the true meaning of the holidays. With this approach, everybody wins!

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Is it too late or can I become more engaged with my teen now?

April 11, 2014

By YOU Parent Facilitator

A mother enthusiastically plays a video game with her teenage son.

Question: I have not been a very engaged parent with my teenager, but now I understand why it’s so important. Is it too late or can I become more engaged with my teen now?

Answer: As parents, we can’t always make up for missed opportunities or fix mistakes. However, we can improve our approach going forward. It’s not too late for you to practice more engaged parenting techniques with your teenager.

Now is an excellent opportunity to foster your teen’s growing independence, which will prepare him or her for adulthood. Teenagers usually start to distance themselves from their parents as they become more independent, so try to slowly integrate these engagement techniques into your parenting style so your teen isn’t overwhelmed.

  • Show interest in school. Ask your teen about his or her favorite and least favorite classes. Look at the report cards. Praise your teen’s accomplishments and discuss issues if he or she is struggling in a class.
  • Support his or her physical needs. You already know that a well-nourished and well-rested child is more likely to perform better at school. If you haven’t already, start modeling positive habits by making dinners more balanced and nutritious and by ensuring your child receives at least eight hours of sleep a night. Share those meals together for engaged and quality family time.
  • Share his or her interests. Pay attention to the types of pop culture your teen enjoys. If you have similar musical tastes, share new and old favorites. If he or she is reading a book for school, buy or rent a copy and keep up with your teen’s reading schedule so you can talk about it. Sit and watch one of your teen’s favorite television shows with him or her. These bonding opportunities will help you both find a common ground and relate to each other.

These are just three examples of small ways to practice parental engagement with your teen. Remember that during the teenage years, your child will learn to become more independent to prepare for adulthood, so your engagement techniques should support that preparation.

To learn more about parental engagement and supporting your child through high school and beyond, see Through High School and Beyond in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series.

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How can I correct my parents’ mistakes without overcompensating?

April 4, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A mother and teenage daughter sit on the couch chatting.

Question: I disagree with some things my parents did when raising me. I want to parent differently, but don’t want to go too far in the opposite direction. How can I correct my parents’ mistakes without overcompensating too much?

Answer: Many individuals are afraid of becoming their parents. Even though we love our parents, as we mature and foster our own lifestyles we develop different values and priorities. Few things make us question priorities like becoming a parent.

You can still offer your child important guidance without going overboard. The important thing is to engage with your child early on and continue that engagement throughout his or her life.

As an engaged parent, you will learn to find a balance between what you want for your child and what he or she needs. Regardless of the parenting style you use, start practicing these techniques with your young child, which you can continue as he or she becomes an adult.

  • Talk with your child. The conversations will change through the years, but having daily chats as your child grows will not only keep you up-to-date on his or her life, but will also help you bond.
  • Listen to your child. By listening to what your child has to say, you communicate respect to him or her, regardless of age. Respect builds trust, which in turn will help your child listen to you when you express concerns or enforce rules.
  • Encourage independence. As a parent, part of your job is to prepare your child to become an independent adult who is financially responsible, physically and mentally healthy, and a contributing member to society. By encouraging your child to think independently and question his or her actions and beliefs, you can help your child become a responsible adult.

Fundamentally, we all want the best for our children. Even if you disagree with your parents’ techniques, they also wanted the best for you. It is important to remember that you can give your child the tools to become an independent, caring, and moral adult, but you can’t force him or her to become a specific person.

For more information on parental engagement, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series by Sunny P. Chico.

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