Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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How to help your teen build confidence

September 26, 2017

By Jessica Vician

How to help your teen build confidence

Building confidence isn't easy—even as adults we must to pick ourselves up and remember why we're awesome. Sometimes it takes a reminder from a friend, other times it's the perspective of what we've accomplished that gives us confidence.

That perspective isn't as accessible for a teenager, who has just started figuring a little bit of life out, but it's important that they start to build confidence to help them succeed in their next life adventure—college.

When your child goes to college, they won't have you or their high school friends to prop them up. They'll be alone, for maybe the first time ever, and need to learn how to harness motivation to go to class and study and summon confidence to make new friends and make good decisions.

How can you help them build this confidence now, while they're in high school? Extracurricular activities are a great first step for three reasons.

  1. Social
    Your teenager will meet people they might not otherwise interact with through these activities. By finding an activity that they're interested in, they will make new friends who share the same interests. That skill will accompany them to college when it's time to make new friends and try new activities.
  2. Academic
    YDuring meetings or activities, your teen will build skills that they might not build in the classroom. From teamwork to finding an outlet for creativity to developing leadership skills, your child can become a better student because of the skills they develop in extracurricular activities.
  3. Prepare for College
    Colleges and universities seek well-rounded students who have demonstrated a strong academic record and participate in extracurricular activities. The extra work shows a dedication outside of school and that the student can still earn good grades while doing something outside of the classroom.

If your teenager is initially hesitant to join clubs or other extracurricular activities, remind them how important they are for college applications. If they are looking forward to going away to school, the motivation to boost their chances of getting into their school of choice should encourage them to join one or two organizations. As your teen participates more frequently, they will build those skills and in turn, build confidence.

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Prevent Bullying in 7 Steps

August 22, 2017

By Noralba Martinez

Prevent Bullying in 7 Steps

Why do kids become bullies? They're almost always looking for control and attention and therefore act out in negative and destructive ways. As an early childhood intervention specialist, I've seen children become bullies, but I've also seen how to prevent kids from becoming bullies. By equipping your child with the confidence and assurance they need, you can stop your child from becoming a bully.

You can boost your child's self-esteem with these methods:

  1. Praise your child’s efforts, accomplishments, and desired behavior.
    Acknowledge the wonderful things your child does every day. A simple "you are so smart" can go a long way. When praised frequently, your child will believe in themself and feel confident to face challenges. As you focus on your child’s good behavior, their need for negative attention will decrease. 
  2. Empower your child.
    Give them control over things that are appropriate. Let them pick out clothing to wear, choose an afternoon snack, or select paint colors for an arts and crafts project.

    As your child matures, giving him or her more control over other things can continue to foster confidence and independence. Confidence helps a child feel successful and eliminates the need to degrade or bully someone else.
  3. Role-play different social scenarios with your child and work out possible solutions together. 
  4. Talk to your child about their self-worth and unique strengths. 
  5. Help your child understand that they are in control of the outcome of any situation they face.
  6. Give your child positive attention every time they do something that you want them to repeat. 
  7. Encourage positive social-emotional development by being a role model of respect and consideration towards others. 

Start using these tips today to help your child be compassionate and empathetic. These small steps will build your child’s confidence so that they don't feel the need to make others feel bad and bully them.

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How to Guide Your Toddler’s Emotional Development

April 11, 2017

By Jessica Vician

How to Guide Your Toddler’s Emotional Development | The ultimate goal in raising a child is independence, and that goal is the same in guiding your toddler’s emotional development. | Two toddlers play with their mother in the sand.

As your baby enters the toddler phase, he or she will go through many emotional highs and lows—which may put you through the same emotional rollercoaster. Guiding a child through emotional development can be taxing on the parents since the emotions and behavior can change quickly and finding the right rules and approach to managing the behavior can be trial and error.

The ultimate goal in raising a child is independence, and that goal is the same in guiding your toddler’s emotional development. Each tantrum you manage and victory you celebrate gets you closer to the goal: an independent person who behaves appropriately for the situation.

That means teaching your toddler when to be quiet and sit still (at church or in the pediatrician’s waiting room) and when it’s okay to scream with joy and run around (on the playground). Your toddler will test limits, which might drive you crazy when he or she does so at inappropriate times, but that’s when you have the opportunity to teach him or her the proper behavior.

According to Healthy Children, toddlers act out more around their parents than others because they trust their parents to protect them. Your toddler will test the limits—let’s say by going toward the street when playing outside. When you set and enforce those limits, he might react by crying, screaming, or huffing and puffing. In this example, your child might cry out of anger when you grab him before stepping into the street and telling him firmly to stay in the yard. Depending on your toddler’s age, you might want to explain the limit—playing is only allowed in the yard, not the street, because there are cars in the street that can hurt him if they hit him.

Toddlers also become more independent as they learn to live without their parents for short periods of time. That’s right—it’s good for your child to get a babysitter and have a few hours to yourself! Your toddler might become quiet and withdrawn or even cry in anticipation of you leaving, but reassure her that you will be back in a few hours and playtime with the babysitter will be fun. I recommend trying a few babysitting sessions while your child is awake so that she witnesses you coming home. Praise her for being good while you were away. After a few times with the babysitter, she might feel more comfortable with a nighttime session, feeling safe and familiar enough with the routine to go to bed while you’re away.

In this case, both you and your toddler are testing limits. She is learning how to let you leave and enjoy time without you, and you are learning how she deals with the separation.

Zero to Three offers an activity you can do with your toddler to see how she feels when you are gone. When your toddler is role-playing with friends or toys, see how he or she behaves as Mommy or Daddy. Some kids will pretend to be the parent and wave goodbye. If you’re playing with your child, remind him or her that while the doll or action figure misses Mommy or Daddy, it knows they will be back. Your child might even instruct a friend or doll to “be sad” or “have fun” once “Mommy” or “Daddy” leaves. That will give you great insight into how your child feels when you leave, and give you the opportunity to address those feelings.

These are just a couple of examples of how your toddler may test limits on his or her quest for independence. He or she is learning the rules, how to behave, and how he or she feels about being given limits. As you guide your toddler’s emotional development, it’s normal for tears, screaming, and tantrums—sometimes from both of you.

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Fame-seeking on Social Media

March 28, 2017

By Sunny Chico and Jessica Vician

Teenage Fame-seeking on Social Media | As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

There are many reasons we need to pay attention to our teenagers on social media, and a prominent one is bullying. There have been multiple times when criminals have aired their crimes on Facebook Live, like the recent rape of a 15-year-old girl and a the torture of a special needs 18-year-old man.

What made these people—some of whom are teenagers—want to broadcast it for friends and strangers to see? 

Social and Emotional Development
Social media plays a strong role in teenage social and emotional development.

Unlike television, where you just sit and watch, social media is an active medium. Teens are chatting, sharing, liking, commenting, etc. They're having unsupervised conversations with each other, which can have a lasting effect on their development.

Knowing what teens are doing on social media, we have to ask, "What could motivate these kids to broadcast rape and torture of teenagers?"

Fame
The answer? The need for fame.

I read a great article that talked about teenagers and the value of fame. The researcher noted that in the past 50 years, popular television shows have promoted friendship, family, and community. Think about Friends, Happy Days, and The Cosby Show.

But in the past 10 years, television has changed. Now popular television promotes fame. It's reality TV—American Idol, The Voice, Real Housewives, the Kardashian's. Even Hannah Montana, which your kids might have watched when they were younger, is a normal teenager by day but a pop star by night.

The value of fame is everywhere for our teens, so it's only natural that they seek it in a place that is very public and yet very private—social media.

Internet fame is the most accessible fame that teens have access to. A well-hashtagged Instagram post, a YouTube video or tutorial that goes viral, even a smart, witty tweet might get retweeted by someone famous.

It feels great to have someone—let alone hundreds, thousands, even millions—recognize and appreciate you, what you said, or what you did. And in some cases, just getting noticed is enough—like in the example of the teens and 20-something who broadcast the torture of their 18-year-old peer on Facebook Live.

Those kids were noticed for doing something horrible. But they were noticed, which might be all that mattered to them. For kids who aren't getting enough attention from their parents, often times negative attention is better than no attention at all.

How to help
So how do we prevent our kids from seeking negative attention or seeking fame online?

We don't need to keep them off of social media. After all, when used well, it's a great communication outlet for them and a way to connect outside of school with peers they might not spend time with in school.

But we do need to nurture our kids offline—in real life—to make sure they are receiving the attention, the understanding, the love, and the pride from us that they need so they don't go seeking it online, and especially in a negative way.

Share affection
You can start by showing your kids love. If your daughter plays basketball, go to the games and give her a specific compliment afterward, like, "You did a great job finding teammates who were open and passing to them. I'm really proud of you—you're a great team player."

If your son is on student council, ask about the meetings and if he is on a committee. Compliment him on his leadership skills and being brave enough to speak up to help shape the school.

Even if your kids aren't involved in extracurriculars, compliment them on what you love most about them. Maybe it's their compassion for their peers, or how they help you clean up after dinner. Specific compliments, aside from "I love you," go a long way to help them feel loved and truly noticed.

Our kids learn from us. They learn to speak, smile, even frown from watching us at a young age, and that continues as they get older.

Be respectful
Treat your friends with respect, and avoid talking poorly about others, especially around your kids.

Refrain from engaging in negative posting on your social pages as well, as you want to continue to model positive behavior.

Watch better TV
Watch television shows that promote friends, family, and community—not fame. If you must watch shows that promote fame, watch them together and talk about what the people are doing. If it's The Voice, focus on the talent instead of criticizing. If it's the Kardashian's, focus on their familial bond, or talk about why negative behavior is good for TV but not for real life. 

Talk to the school
If you're worried that your teen is spending too much time on social media, is being a bully online or is being bullied, think about what you can do to help. For example, if your teen is spending too much time on social media, find a school sport or club that your teen would like and encourage them to join. Reroute their need for socialization to offline activities.

If your teen is being bullied, talk to the school about how to address the bullying. Teachers and counselors can help you take action.

It starts with you
Remember, you are your child's first teacher. Just as you taught them how to talk, you can teach them how to find confidence and pride in themselves in the real world. By nurturing their emotional needs, they won't be as likely to hurt others in social settings—whether that's in person or online.

And while everyone seeks a little bit of fame, if you show them your love and pride for them, they might be less likely to seek it online from strangers. All it takes is a little extra love. 

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How to Discipline Kids of All Ages

March 21, 2017

By Jessica Vician

How to Discipline Kids of All Ages | Effective non-physical discipline is possible with these tips.

When discussing punishment in our YOU Program workshops, many parents tear up as they share pain and fear from when they were physically disciplined as a child. It's a pain they never want their children to feel, but sometimes don't know how to discipline their children otherwise.

Disciplining a child isn't easy. It’s normal to feel frustrated and mad. If you grew up with physical punishment, take a time-out before disciplining your child to ensure you're cool-headed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child and discourages any form of physical punishment. Effective non-physical discipline is possible. Here’s how:

Set and enforce rules.
Make it clear to your children what you expect from them. Talk about the house rules frequently, when everyone is calm and things are going well. If the rules are clear and easy to understand, your kids will have an easier time following them.

Be consistent.
Ensure every person who cares for your children—babysitters, grandparents, daycare providers—knows the rules and knows how to enforce them.

Children model behavior and may not follow the rules if you or other caregivers don’t follow them, too.

Be supportive.
When identifying your child's unacceptable behavior, be clear that while you are disappointed with the behavior, you will always love and support him or her.

Use age-appropriate disciplinary techniques.
The disciplinary method you use with your children should depend on their ages. With toddlers, use brief verbal explanations about the bad behavior, then redirect them to another activity. With teenagers, explain what they did and the consequences of their actions.

It is possible to effectively discipline your children with love and without using physical actions. There's no need to repeat the mistakes of the past when parenting in the present and future.

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