How to Encourage Your Kids to Adopt Your Valued Behaviors

I recently ran my first 5K. It was really fun! My goal was to be ahead of the parents with strollers. I finished and felt strong with a sense of accomplishment! For the next run, my goal is to beat my time from this run – not a bad goal…

As I stood waiting to run, I saw so many families preparing together. Some of the kids were not running, but were there supporting their parent. I heard one 4-5 year old tell her mom, “You can do it! I am proud of you!” I thought to myself, “I wonder where she heard that before?”

As I ran, I heard parents talking with their children about how to run, how to pace themselves, how proud they were of their child, and how close they were getting to the finish line. There were two preteen girls, who I passed toward the end of the race that were talking as tweens will talk (Did you get that? I passed them…OK they later passed me. Anyhoo…).

One said to the other, “Did you want to do this or were you forced?”

With peer pressure hesitancy, the other girl seemed to be conflicted about what the “cool” response might be. After a pause, she responded, “Wellllll, I wanted to do it, it is kind of fun, my brother also runs and my parents.”

The first girl quickly replied, “Me too. My family runs!” That is when they broke from their walk and ran passed me.

It was so great to see the power of what their parents had modeled for their children. Even in the face of peer pressure, both girls clung to their family values.

Important: Parents’ Valued Behaviors Cannot Be Forced

The comment about being forced to run was interesting to me. The difference between feeling like you are forced or enticed and following a model is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from the inside of a person. They do what they do because it feels good and right to them. They want to do the behavior out of their own free will. That is our goal as parents. We want our kids to do well in behaviors we value because it feels good to them and it is their own desire.

3 Tips for Encouraging the Behaviors that You Value

Here are a few tips to help develop your child’s natural desire to do the behaviors that you value:

1. Make sure it is fun!

2. Be sure that you model the same behavior in a positive way.

3. After a child has engaged in the behavior you want to develop, ask “How did that feel?” Linking feelings with behavior reinforces the behavior in a powerful way.

Parents Can Be Their Child’s Emotion Coach

I just attended an Emotion Coaching workshop given by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute in Seattle. The tools I learned are a great addition to my parent coaching toolbox, and I was impressed by number of parents in attendance considering that it was an eighty degree day in Seattle (rare)!

What is Emotion Coaching?

According to Dr. John Gottman Emotion Coaching is “a parent’s ability to recognize a child’s expression of emotion as an opportunity for intimacy, in other words, close connection with that child.”

What does an Emotion Coach do?

Here are a few things:

  1. Encourage the expression of emotion;
  2. Helps the child explore why he or she is feeling that emotion and what to do about it;
  3. Set limits on behavior but not on feelings or wishes.

How do You Emotion Coach?

  1. Become aware of your child’s emotions so your child doesn’t escalate: “It seems like you are angry”. Read More at GottmanBlog
  2. Recognize your child’s emotional expression and the opportunity for intimacy and teaching. Slow down, be in the emotion with them. Read More at GottmanBlog
  3. Help your child to verbally label his or her emotions. Read More at GottmanBlog
  4. Validate your child’s emotion by using empathy and understanding. Read More at GottmanBlog
  5. After empathy, take action by setting limits if there is misbehavior, or by helping your child to problem solve. Read More at GottmanBlog

The key factor I see in being your child’s emotion coach is being present and aware of emotions instead of just the child’s behavior. I remember when our daughters were pre-teens and teenagers. At least one would come from school with an emotional response to a situation. I learned to ask the question “Do you need me to listen or problem solve with you?” Most of the time they would say, “listen”.

Emotion Coaching can be done with Infants on to Adulthood.

The Gottman Institute has many resources to help parents be their child’s emotion coach.

In case you are interested, the seminar I attended will also be held again in October; they’ll be taping it so that a DVD formatted curriculum will be available early next year.

Do you think following these steps can help you have a better relationship with your child?

Parents Must Have Regular Self Care

Parents need time to themselves. You will be a better parent if you do.

Video: Parents, be sure to “fill your cup” regularly.

Video Transcription


Today we’re going to talk about self-care. You know, what fills your cup?
What do you need to fill yourself up so that you have what it takes to fill your kids up? To make it through the day. To have that energy that, that energy that, you know, you’re not going from a dry empty place.

For me, it’s going for a walk, well, with my girlfriend usually. Sometimes it’s with my husband. But going for a walk with someone else always fills my cup. And it gives me that internal balance so that I’m able to give out to those in my life. And when I was, when I had young children, I wasn’t, I just didn’t have that ability or maybe that wisdom to know that I needed every single day to pause and do something that was really filling to me.

And I can remember some really tough days with my, you know, three, two-
ish, and one-year-old. Yeah, we had kids pretty close together. It… I remember one day thinking “I have only eaten graham crackers today.” And that happened day after day after day. It just wasn’t very healthy and I wasn’t taking any time for myself.

So I really encourage you make sure, mom in particular but, dads, you need it too, step back and think to yourself, “What do I need to fill my cup? Do I need to go play some golf? Read? Take a bath?” It doesn’t have to be long, just whatever’s going to fill your cup so that you have something to give from. And take really good care of yourself. Eat well. Take the vitamins. Take the break and you will be far better parent than if you don’t do good self-care.

In Parenting, Perfect is the Enemy of Good

Dear Mom & Dad,Your Family, your kids, your parenting – will NEVER be “perfect”. Just let “Good” be good enough.

Video: Perfect is the Enemy of Good

What can you do this week, to let go of an expectation of perfection?

Video Transcription


Today we’re going to talk about the difference between perfect and good. You know, I like to do things really, really well. In fact, I hold myself to a pretty high standard. And, you know, I got some great advice from one of my co-workers the other day. She’s also a parent-child interaction training coach. Really great gal, she is from Chile. And she has an… her father is like 80 years old and I just imagine him being this really wise, gentle man.

And she shared with me a phrase that he has taught her and that’s “Perfect is the enemy of good.” And I really appreciate that phrase because, you know, there’s no perfect family. And I work with a lot of parents that, they’re really striving to have that perfect child or have a perfect relationship with their – between themselves and their children. And there is no such thing. We’re human beings. And it’s so important for us to just remember that good is good enough.

You’re never going to have a household that isn’t, that doesn’t have some sibling rivalry in it. You’re never going to be able to have this moment that you say, “Johnny, we’re going to Safeway. Please put on your shoes,”
and he jumps up and he says, “Sure, mother, I’m happy to please you.” In fact, if that happened, you’d probably, like, one, be weirded out. Or two, say, “What do you want?” Because in the family, in our family systems, that’s our safest place. That’s where we work on relationships. We work on practicing good communication skills. The only way we can practice is by failing sometimes.

So give yourself a break, mom. You don’t have to be perfect. In fact, it would be really stressful to be perfect, to be that perfect mom. Working full-time, making sure the house is perfect, making sure your children are perfectly happy, that they’re perfect in their sports. Let go of it. Good is good enough.

So I really encourage you just relax. Enjoy your children. Enjoy the imperfections because that’s really where life is at. We want to help our kids, just be good because good is good enough.

How to Use Chores to Raise a Responsible Adult

Chores are such a great tool to build character and raise responsible kids. Here are some quick tips for parents.

Video: Using Chores for Kids of All Ages

More on Chores

Video Transcription


Today, we’re going to be talking about chores and how there are three stages for developing and using chores in your child’s life.

The first stage is in early childhood, under five, six years of age. You need to be with your child. You need to have fun doing the chore with your child. So the child has you, fun, and the chore, under age five. That’s the first stage, and it’s so important that that happens.

If you have a child who’s under five years of age, don’t be expecting them to clean their room on their own or pick up the toys by themselves. The child needs you, fun, and the chore. The fun comes in the form of, “I wonder how many toys we can pick up. I can pick five. How many can you pick up?” Blinking the lights. How many preschool teachers blink the lights and sing a song about when it’s time to pick up?

The child has you, the chore, and fun. Make sure you really lean into that, because your next stage is in those middle years, between ages 6 and 15 or so. Maybe a little younger, but around 15. The child has the chore and fun. Why? Because they remember, in early childhood, that you had fun with them.

It’s not difficult to get your kids to clean up and dust and do the things that you train them and you had fun with them in early childhood. The child remembers that experience. In fact, they actually feel that memory. In those middle years, the child has the chore and fun. You’re out of the mix. Isn’t that beautiful?

The last stage of chores is in those teen years, 15 and up. As odd as it is, Foster Cline talks about this in a great CD called Allowing Your Kids to Succeed, he shares that when your child, around 15 years of age, is responsible, that’s the key, if they’re responsible. They’re doing well in school, they’re maybe volunteering, maybe holding down a part-time job or babysitting. You have responsibility already established in them. That’s the time to back off chores.

I know it sounds odd. In fact, with my kids, I upped them. Not such a good idea, because they were so busy that it took the fun, the joy out of it. In that later stage, in their teen years, you’re backing off the chores, because chores have already done their job. Chores is the number one way to teach character and responsibility in kids.

Early childhood; you, fun, and the chore. Middle years; just the chore and the child. Later, in those teen years, back off if they’re responsible. If they’re not responsible, keep those chores coming. Enjoy.