All posts by Brian Orr

A Message To Grandparents

As a pediatrician it is not unusual for me to hear from grandparents about parents today. “They spoil their kids so much. I can’t believe what I see. Back when I was  raising my kids if they spoke to me the way that kids speak to their parents today, I’d  give them a good pat on their bottom. Boy when I was growing up I would never speak  to my father or mother that way. We were a lot stricter back then.” Those grandparents  are absolutely correct. But you must understand the cultural context – Parenting is harder today.

Today most families need both parents working to make ends meet. There are  also more single parent families then ever before largely due to the pressures of family  living. There is a constant barrage from TV and the internet telling families what they  need to have. Much of the force of this barrage is directed toward children. Advertising  to children has reached epidemic levels. There are more products made for kids then  ever before. Meanwhile, due to work lives, families spend less time together and kids  spend more time watching TV or surfing the net. Not all of this is under the parents’  control! So what can grandparents do?

Grandparents, today, play an important supportive role for the families of their  children and grandchildren. As our world has changed, so has the role for grandparents.  Traditionally grandparents were the ones who had the right to spoil their grandchildren.  But today, I can guarantee you your grandkids can be spoiled very well without you!  Grandparents should aim to simplify their spoiling of their grandchildren. Emphasize  spending time playing with your grandchildren. My grandfather played checkers with  me every time he came over. What game will your grandchildren remember playing with  you? Have games at your house that they like to play.

Encourage a simple life at your house. Cut out the TV. Go for walks, cook, or do  projects they like. A real treat for grandchildren is to have the grandparent’s house  different from their house.

Decrease the treats at your house. Cook and eat healthy meals. One of the  biggest ways kids are spoiled today is with food. Food advertising has had the biggest  influence on children and their diets. The traditional role of spoiling grandkids with ice  cream and treats needs to be modified in this era of childhood obesity. I remember going  to my aunt and uncle’s house where they always had ripe bananas – and that was my  “treat”.

One of the biggest areas where grandparents can help their children parent is with  discipline. Discipline today is different and kids are suffering due to the lack of it.  Today parents cannot threaten or use corporal punishment. The issue of abuse has  changed our society permanently (and that is good). As a result parents are at a loss  today. If you had an authoritative style when you raised your kids, you may have to learn  a new style to help your children parent your grandkids. No matter what, support your  children’s parenting styles. Help your kids to say “no” to their kids. Don’t undermine  them by saying “yes” behind their backs. Without corporal punishment, isolation and  ignoring children needs to be done at times. Support your kids in using techniques such  as “Time Out”.

Extended family is a value to families today. Grandparents provide daycare,  meals, experience and family history to their grandchildren. But today’s parents are in  crisis. “Two popular shows, Nanny 911 and Supernanny, demonstrate the general need  for parenting advice. You, grandparents, have a history of parenting. Yet, you, too, have  to learn to adjust your style of parenting and grandparenting to today’s world. There are  new challenges that you didn’t need to face. The overall challenge to parents and  grandparents is to learn how to raise kids who are generous, healthy, and educated  instead of what society is promoting – self-centeredness, poor physical health, and  constant entertainment.

A Display Of Emotion May Be Just A Behavior

Sensitive and attentive parents do not want to dismiss their child’s emotions. But that sensitivity may cause other  problems for a parent. Kids often demonstrate an emotion with a  behavior. When children are denied things they want, some  children cry. Others get angry and yell back at their parents.  Others can have full-blown fits over not getting a toy at the  store, or being denied a play date. Though as parents today we  want to pay attention to the emotions that our children display, we do not want to be controlled by the behavior their emotions bring with them. In other words, our children cannot learn to  get things from their behavior brought on over an emotion. If  they get something for their behavior in these situations, the  behavior may become a means to an end in and of itself. The  emotion becomes a secondary issue for the child. It becomes a  vehicle to bring on a behavior that may win for them some  consolation from their parent. This is something children back  into depending on their parents response to them. Children  don’t maliciously plan this out. It happens by accident for  parents and children alike. Over time we realize that when our  children get emotional they act like “a sobbing rag doll” or “a  screaming banshee” or “a tantruming two year old”.

It is important for parents to be able to separate the  emotion from the behavior around the emotion. The emotion may  be disappointment, or sadness or anger. The behavior is the  yelling, crying or tantruming. Kids need to understand the  emotion they are experiencing. They also need to know  appropriate ways of expressing their emotion. These are things  parents need to explain to children. “I can see that my  decision disappoints (or fill in another emotion word here) you.

By going through your child’s outbursts with a system like  this, you express empathy and understanding while instructing  your child about their behavior. This can be effective in  dealing with behaviors that start due to your child’s emotional  response. This way you are separating the emotion and the  behavior and may get away from responses that perpetuate the  behaviors. And your child can learn to handle emotions more  appropriately.

4 Kindnesses Everyday

Families need to teach values. I am not talking the “family values” that politicians speak about but don’t carry out  themselves. I am talking about values that families show by how  they live. How we carry ourselves and act in our daily life  demonstrates the true values we have. If you aren’t showing  enough value in your life, this is a call to action. We teach  values by how we live so I have a suggestion for families.

Imagine if all family members tried to reach a goal of four  kindnesses a day. I believe we would make great changes in our  culture if all families strived for this. Our culture pushes  self-centered individualism. Events in our world necessitate a  change in this attitude in America. We can change this attitude  just by changing actions in our homes.

So let’s talk about the four kindnesses. We can start with  ourselves. We can start each day with a kindness to ourselves.  I don’t want to foster more self-centeredness. But I do think  it is important to do something positive for oneself everyday.  Do something healthy. Ten minutes more exercise. Eat an extra  piece of fruit. Don’t spoil yourself in a negative way. But  show yourself some kindness. By showing our kids respect for  self we teach them that we value our bodies and souls.

The second kindness gets us out of oneself but stays in the  family. Do an act of kindness for a family member. This does  not mean you need to be cruel to other family members. “I can  only be kind to one family member today and today isn’t your day  so get outta my face.” This is not the right spirit. Our  kindness theme should spread and not be limited. But for  starters, do something kind for a sibling, your mother, your  daughter, son or husband. They don’t even have to know it.  Perhaps they don’t see it or acknowledge it. But you know you  did something nice.

Next, move outside the family. Complement a friend. Talk  to the cashier at the supermarket. Somehow, someway brighten  the day of someone you see. Again, don’t look for appreciation  or acknowledgement. Just do it. People might think you’re  crazy. But my hope is we all turn crazy in this way. Finally, do something positive for the world community.  Walk more, drive less. Pick up some litter. Donate some  clothes. Write a letter to an orphan in a third world country.  (Check out www.NPHHonduras.org) Support a process of change in  politics. Join a campaign!

I wish the world were better. And so do you. And this  will help. Four kindnesses a day – self, family, neighbor,  world. Imagine. We can all do this. It really isn’t asking a  lot. Spread the word. Clip this article and send it along.  Copy it for everyone at work. I promise some extra smiles and  more joy in your life. Start today! (By the way, what do you  think your kids will learn from this?)