Thursday, March 29, 2012

Successful Transitions: Harnessing the Power of Example

One of the easiest ways to help children learn responsibility, make good choices about their bodies, and pave the way to a successful transition/transfer is using the power of example. Kids learn far more from the examples we set than from the words and lectures we give them. The concept of example is so simple yet so powerful once we know how to use it properly. 

Children learn how to behave by watching and copying us just like we learned from our parents. Kids will do what we do, not what we say. So, as parents, we need to take good care of ourselves. This includes taking some time for ourselves, taking good care of our bodies, and making sure we are getting our own needs met. It’s not selfish to take good care of ourselves; it’s healthy and necessary. 

Along similar lines: if we want respectful, responsible kids who are pleasant to be around, then that’s how we need to be. We can never ask more of our kids than what we are willing to give of ourselves. 

This includes not only how we treat them but also how we allow them to treat us. So if we allow our kids to be disrespectful to us, then they are learning by our example to allow others to treat them badly. And they are not learning- from our example- how to set healthy boundaries with others. 

Many loving parents spend a lot of time concerned with: “How can I make my child happy? How can I make sure my child has a high self-image? How can I do more for my child?” Such parents often live in a child- centered universe where the atmosphere in the home becomes polluted by the entitled little kings and queens of the estate.  

Entitled children are often unpleasant to be around. Well, aren’t we all at times?! Yes, but we should certainly be pleasant most of the time and we have a right to expect that from others including our children. And when children are routinely unpleasant, many parents wonder what they can do to make their children more pleasant… how can they “happy the kid up?”

When children are unpleasant to be around, many parents resort to demands focused on the child’s behavior. So what comes out of the parents’ mouth is something like, “Stop it” or “Quit that” or “Shape up” or whatever. If only it were that simple but you know better. Here’s where setting an example comes in.

Setting the example means that in a loving way we take good care of ourselves. We talk about ourselves (not how bad the child is behaving) and we focus on what’s good for us.  We show that we feel good for our children when they succeed and make wise decisions. And we respond lovingly but firmly when they make bad decisions. Our message is always: “Sweetheart, I love you no matter what but I won’t allow you to treat me badly.” When we set that type of example, the child grows and, in a healthy way, focuses on what’s good for him or her. They become more immune to peer pressure and less likely to tolerate unwise relationships.

Here's an example: If things aren’t going well, after a brief exploration of the situation (keeping in mind that all children have a right to protest until it slides into downright obnoxiousness), a fed-up parent might say, “Stop it!”  

But it’s so much more effective to set the example and take good care of yourself by lovingly saying something like: “Honey, I’m not feeling very good about the way you’re behaving right now. I can understand why you’re frustrated but your whining and complaining about checking your glucose level is hurting my ears. Why don't you go hang out in your bedroom for a little while. Feel free to come back as soon as you can talk nicely.”

You might be thinking: “What?! Are you saying that I should dismiss my children from my area simply because they are not being pleasant to be around?!!!”

We are. And so will your child’s first spouse if that behavior doesn’t change. Isn’t it better for children to learn that life lesson from loving parents?

Foster W. Cline, MD is a child psychiatrist and co-founder of Love and Logic®. Lisa C. Greene is a parenting educator and mom of two children with cystic fibrosis. Together they have written the award-winning book “Parenting Children with Health issues."  For free audio, articles and other resources, visit

Parenting Children with Health Issues Book

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Successful Transitions: Building Hope and Resilience with Encouragement

In our last couple of blogs in our transition series, we have talked about how to respond to children with medical issues when they make mistakes or poor choices. This week, we’ll talk about how to respond to children when they make good choices and decisions particularly where their bodies are concerned. 

When children do something well, most adults respond with praise: “Good job!” or “Good girl (or boy)!” While this sounds fine on the surface, praise like this can cause problems. 

The challenge is that praise is really an external judgment of the child’s performance and can backfire if a child is resistant, doesn’t feel like being judged, or doesn’t particularly like the parent (or praiser) at the moment. And, of course, false praise almost always leads to disrespect. Children tend to catch on pretty quickly when adults are giving undeserved praise or trying to manipulate with praise or flattery.

So use encouragement instead! Be specific and positive with encouraging phrases when you speak to children. Encourage them to evaluate and think about their choices and the consequences of their actions. Encourage them with questions so that they are proud of themselves for making good choices.  This motivates them to continue to take good care of themselves.
Don’t say, "I'm glad you listened to me and didn't go camping with a cold." Or “Good job staying home and taking care of yourself!”
Do say: "Do you feel good about your decision to stay home and take care of yourself?" or “How do you feel about your decision to stay home?”
Don’t say: "I am proud of you for remembering to take your medication on time.”
Do say, "Wow! You must be proud of yourself for remembering to take your medication." Or “How do you manage to remember to take your medication on time?”
Of course, a big part of encouragement is having a positive “You can do it!” attitude ourselves, as parents. Remember the importance of example or modeling. 

Are we saying that you should never use praise? Of course not! Praise can be effective with young children who are learning a new task or good habits. However, don’t overdo praise or you risk turning a child into a praise junkie! 

Effectively showing encouragement will help your children better cope with their health issues, make good choices and build hope. Your children will feel good about themselves from the inside out rather than needing your approval to feel successful. 

Foster W. Cline, MD is a child psychiatrist and co-founder of Love and Logic®. Lisa C. Greene is a parenting educator and mom of two children with cystic fibrosis. Together they have written the award-winning book “Parenting Children with Health issues."  For free audio, articles and other resources, visit

To learn more about encouragement, see the book "Parenting Children with Health Issues" on pages 88-93

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Successful Transitions: How Do You Raise Wise Children?

All parents want to raise wise kids. But where does wisdom really come from? 

Intelligence is not the same as wisdom. Our children may have good information about their medical conditions. However, even when they have enough education and intelligence to drive good decisions, that does not always translate into the wisdom needed to take good care of themselves especially with an illness like cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, or diabetes where the results of poor care may be decades away.

So where does wisdom come from? Don’t we hear that “Wisdom comes from trial and error?” There are plenty of sayings: “Wisdom comes from experience” or “Wisdom comes from the school of hard knocks,” etc.

Unfortunately, wisdom only comes with trial and error if the error is accompanied by negative consequences that can be correlated. The correct way of stating that, as unpopular as it may be in modern-day America, is: “People have to suffer the consequences of their mistakes and poor choices.”

This means that when our children make a mistake, we don’t just automatically always rescue them.  Instead, we respond by loving them, talking it over with them, and providing ideas about how they might get themselves out of a challenging situation.

Parents who raise children without wisdom usually do it by making two common mistakes. First, they try to make sure their children don’t make mistakes. Secondly, when their children do make mistakes, the parents try to fix it. They do something outside the child’s skin to make it better.

Wise parents who raise wisdom-filled children respond to the situation by talking it over with the child so he or she learns from the mistake. They put all their energy into what’s going on inside their child’s skin.

When children are ill, this is a difficult concept because parents of ill children are normally overprotective. They have to be in the early years. But as the child grows older, it is essential for the parents to back off, put less energy into making sure the environment responds correctly to their child, and spend more energy into ensuring their child can cope with all environments.

In other words, parents put less energy into fixing things outside the skin and more energy into growing a child with the wisdom to handle what the environment throws at him or her.
So, instead of trying to prevent or fix mistakes, allow children to experience the natural consequences of their choices (as long as they don’t result in serious or irreversible harm). It’s better for a child to learn about safe driving by crashing a tricycle on the lawn and skinning up knees than cracking up the family car at age seventeen!

There’s no better teacher than the school of hard knocks. Start early; when the price tag for mistakes is much lower.
Foster W. Cline, MD is a child psychiatrist and co-founder of Love and Logic®. Lisa C. Greene is a parenting educator and mom of two children with cystic fibrosis. Together they have written the award-winning book “Parenting Children with Health issues."  For free audio, articles and other resources, visit  

For more tips about how to use consequences to raise wise kids, check out the book “Parenting Children with Health Issues”.  

© Copyright by Foster Cline, MD and Lisa Greene. All rights reserved. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Successful Transitions: What Do You Do When Your Kids Make Mistakes?

Photo by Photostock

One of the big challenges that we face as parents of children with special medical needs is dealing with the extra stress and frustration that comes with the territory. When our kids make mistakes, especially around their medical care, it’s so easy to fall into a pattern of nagging, lecturing, yelling or punishing. Brain research shows that these are not effective responses. Think about it. How would you feel if you made a mistake at work and your boss yelled at you? You’d be polishing up your resume to find a new job. Our kids are no different except they don’t have the luxury of finding new parents!

When we start giving our children some of the responsibility to handle their health care requirements, then we need to be prepared for mistakes and poor choices. Kids are human. They will forget to take their medications. There will be times that they choose not to do medical treatments for a variety of reasons. However, our children will either learn or not learn from these mistakes and poor choices depending on the way we respond to them. 

So instead of getting mad when your child makes a mistake or a poor choice, be sad for them. Responding with empathy, or sorrow, prior to imposing consequences is more effective than anger, punishment, nagging, lecturing and "pushing." Anger and punishment cause fight or flight responses; its fear and guilt based. Lectures and nagging cause children to become annoyed or tune out. Pushing a kid a kid to do it right causes increased resistance. Empathy and consequences teach children to think and are more likely to result in a learning experience. Plus, you up the odds that you will have a good relationship with your children over the years.

There have been times when Lisa's children decided to put off their breathing treatments until later in the day. Then they forgot altogether. Mom and Dad's response has been along the lines of, “Oh sweetie, what a bummer. We won’t be going out to dinner (at your favorite restaurant) now because we won’t have enough time to do both.”

This type of response makes a much bigger impact than lecturing, nagging, yelling, or threatening. For success in parenting, use few words and meaningful action instead.

Foster W. Cline, MD is a child psychiatrist and co-founder of Love and Logic®. Lisa C. Greene is a parenting educator and mom of two children with cystic fibrosis. Together they have written the award-winning book “Parenting Children with Health issues."  For free audio, articles and other resources, visit  

For more tips about how to use empathy, check out the condensed version of “Parenting Children with Health Issues”.   

©Copyright by Foster Cline, MD and Lisa Greene. All rights reserved