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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Forget 'attachment parenting'... It's called 'improvement parenting' ...

Trendy or not, like many others I have called myself an "attached parent". I'm not one for labels, as I have expressed before, but as my children grow and our family multiplies, I have done my best to stay abreast (no pun intended) of the issues, and continue to read blogs, articles, and books on parenting.

My hope is that in doing so, I will hopefully spare my children many many years of therapy! ha ha ;) One of our children is particularly "spirited". At times it is hard to tell what is ages/stages and what is more of a permanent personality trait. In hopes to shed some light on the situation, I took to the book Answering the 8 Cries of the Spirited Child . Each paragraph is like it has been written about my child- it almost puts me in a fog when I read it; like, really???! I'm not the only parent experiencing this and feeling like I'm doing something wrong??

We have instituted some of the suggestions already in our home in hopes that all of our children will benefit. Hopefully you find some inspiration here as well :)

Disclaimer: I will re iterate that these are ideas recommended by the Arps, the author of the above book. Additionally, I express them as things that are thus far working in our home and I hope you will find something that works for you. "Spirited" children do fall on a continuum like anything else, and these suggestions are not a replacement for professional intervention where necessary. Our child does also, in combination with what we try at home, see a therapist which we feel is an integral part of helping him feel comfortable in his own skin as he continues to enter in different social groups and the community at large. 


Our child has particular issue dealing with and/or expressing anger and frustration. An idea that was spawned in combination from recommendations in this book, as well as some items seen on Pinterest, we came up with an "Angry Box"

our angry box, centrally located on the kitchen counter
 In lieu of some of the other behaviors we were experiencing, ie; growling, hitting ourselves, pushing, throwing things, etc. Our children (particularly the "spirited one") choose a card when they are unsure how to channel the feelings of being upset/angry/frustrated.

Step 1. Identify your feeling.
Upset, angry, frustrated, depressed, etc. 

Step 2. Choose a card from the Angry Box

these are some of the cards located in the angry box. they are folded inside and the kids choose with their eyes closed. 

Step 3. Do whatever is on the card you choose.

The book also has other recommendations for what comes next if your child is still angry, but we have yet to get to that point :) So far, the box has worked every time. They get almost distracted by the act of the box and choosing a card, etc. and it's enough to make them forget about what upset them in the first place.

Flip Side

One thing that we are instituting starting this week given the success of the Angry Box, is the "Caught you being good jar" or as our younger kids call it: The Happy Box :)

There will be two boxes, because our kids are so far apart in age (15, 5, 2, and 4 months). Sissy's box will contain (based on her recommendations) $5 gift cards to places like Dunkin Donuts, Target, Aroma Joes, etc. When she consistently helps during the week, above and beyond the normal expectation of chores, etc. she will get to pick from her box.

The smaller kids box will contain fruit snacks, squinkies, and other little treats without being all about candy lol. They will get to pick from their jar when they help around the house, feed the dog, or have a great day listening/cooperating, etc.

Everyone is looking forward to the Happy Box <3

How did we come up with these ideas?

What goes in the Happy Box? How is the Angry Box going? How is our family doing as a whole? Where is the disconnect when it comes to the lack of listening and cooperation? How do we get each child, and each member of the family for that matter, to feel loved and appreciated and included given the age differences?

We instituted a Family Appreciation Night.

Given that I am home and my husband works, we have little time for the suggested just-you-and-me time where one parent picks a time to have one on one time with each child. That is ideal, but just not possible for our family at this time. So next best thing? Get everyone together for an hour a month (yes, just an hour) and express how you feel about one another and what everyone can do to improve the family. 

Step 1. Pick a night. We chose a Friday night from 6 30 - 7 30pm. Send out an e vite, post it on your family calendar, etc. 
Don't make it more than an hour. Little kids won't last longer than that anyways and older kids will dread having to spend a "whole night" with the family lol. Let it end on a good note :) 

Step 2. Prep by getting a special snack or drinks for the night. Make it special. 

Step 3. The night is here! 

Here is what we did: 
* We had each of our kids write down (or verbalize) one thing they're thankful for or appreciate about our family, and one thing they would like us to improve. 

I was undecided as to whether our kids would even participate in such an activity! Shockingly, our kids came up with the following (I'll admit, brilliant) insights; 

They were thankful that: they have siblings, that we have good relationships with each other, and that each member helps around the house. 

They wanted to improve: that we hug more, that we do more things as a whole family, and that we listen more attentively to one another. 

Step 4. Create action items for the improvement items. 
We came up with agreeing to be more cognisant of hugging each and every family member a MINIMUM of once a day, everyday. 

We developed some ideas (based on the kids recommendations) of some things they would LIKE to do as a family. They wanted to go out to dinner, watch a movie, go somewhere- like the museum or the zoo, etc. We furthered the action item by agreeing to do this family activity once every other week. 

Note: It may not sound like a lot (once a week), but with a teenager, and two kids who are on shared custody schedules... it is a time frame that was realistic for us. If we do more- Great! but this way, it can be a schedule we guarantee we stick too, instead of feeling like everyone is disappointed when we have to keep "rescheduling" or canceling. 
Step 5. What do they want to see at the next meeting? 
We left out a notebook that the kids could either write in or leave notes in throughout the month, with suggestions for the next meeting. Are there specific snacks they would like? Or items they want to address? or things they know they DON'T want to do at the next one? 

* I also made sure everyone felt appreciated by giving each family member a little gift (the smaller kids each got a coloring book, and older sis and dad got cards with heartfelt messages), and an award. I handmade the awards just on construction paper for each child that indicated why we were proud of them ( a specific, recent item) and one area where we were going to work with them to improve (ex/ my son needs to work on his handwriting, etc) throughout the next month. 
This leaves accountability on BOTH sides for working on those items. Hubby and I's hope is that the appreciation items help them see that we DO also pay attention to what they are doing GREAT <3 

I hope this helps you on your "Improvement Parenting" journey :) After all, who wouldn't want to be a better parent??? 

1 comment:

  1. Super article and very informative!
    Something else to think about... Children live by the ideals we practice. As a parent, self-improvement does not only transform you as a person. It has a direct effect on your family. Children respect a parent who is sincere and truly seeks to grow. They are more willing to accept rebuke and improve when they notice that the parent is also striving to better herself. They even end up emulating the parent’s example and striving to attain more in their own way.