I Mix Up Your Name Because I Love You

Finally, scientific studies show that moms—like me!—who can’t seem to spit out their own child’s name have a really good reason: we love our kids.

My mom used to call me Vicki or Shawn, my two older sisters, often when I was growing up. Trouble was, because of the large age gap between them and me, Vicki and Shawn had grown and moved out of the house by the time I was in grade school. To this day, she’ll call me one of my sister’s names (thank goodness, not my brothers’!). So why did my mom constantly get my name wrong?

Of course, I thought it was simply something my mom did—drove me crazy sometimes, but hey, she’s, er, older than I am, so it makes certain sense. Then I had a daughter, then another, and all of a sudden, I’m calling “Leaomi” when I mean to say Leah or Naomi. My two boys have names that don’t roll together so easily, but I still call Micah by his brother’s name, Silas, and vice versa. Sometimes, I can’t even get any name out even though I’m staring right at the kid.

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What a relief to know there’s a scientific reason for this! Yep, we massacre our kids’ names because, well, we love them.

A recent Babble article looked at a 2016 review of five studies of more than 1,700 participants on the problem of misnaming (the report was published in Memory and Cognition). Most often, it was the mothers who called the respondents by the wrong name, but those naming mistakes happened in nearly all family members and friends. While sometimes the misnomers were found to be because of similar sounding names, more often, the wrong names were said because of love.

“Overall, the misnaming of familiar individuals is driven by the relationship between the misnamer, misnamed, and named,” the study stated. That means, the closer we are to someone, the more probable we’ll mix up his or her name.

Because our brain organizes material into the semantic network (like a mental filing system—think Inside Out), we group similar information together. Hence, the propensity for moms to mix-up their children’s names or run through the entire list before landing on the right one.

So kids, it’s just because I love you so much that I can’t get your names right.

Tackling the Small Stuff

Q: My wife and I are discussing smaller issues in our household in which we want to train our children. Examples of these issues are leaving lights on when leaving a room, shutting door during rest time, putting jackets and shoes away when coming home or putting clothes in the hamper. When we talked about what consequence we would give for these minor violations, we discussed giving extra chores. What advice do you have for us in this?

A: This is a great questions, because it’s the little things that can drive us crazy, right? The shoes left yet again in the middle of the living room floor instead of being put away in the shoe basket. The coat draped over the chair every day after school instead of being hung up in the closet. The stack of collectors cards left on the floor each evening in a high traffic area.

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Some of these minor infractions are labeled as such because it bothers us. Some are wasteful (lights left on in rooms with no one present, for example). The reason you want something done isn’t as important as how you present the task and how you motivate their cooperation.

A few years ago, my four kids couldn’t “remember” to turn out a light when leaving an empty room to save their lives. Only when I hit upon the solution of putting the miscreant to bed 10 minutes early did their ability to turn out lights improve drastically. So there is hope, but I wouldn’t have a consequence be extra chores necessarily, unless it’s more of a natural consequence, i.e., the consequence for not putting dirty clothes in the hamper was doing everyone’s laundry that week.

However, since you have quite a list of minor offensives, I would pick one to start with and focus only on that one, such as turning out lights, for a few weeks. Once the kids have mastered that, move on to the next item on your list. (You can order them according to how much they bother you and work on what drives you the craziest first). Don’t try to get all of them at once, or you’ll be policing your kids all the time and they will feel like they can’t do anything right.

As for consequences, think outside the chore box—you’ll want to shake things up a bit to keep the kids on their toes. If you want to have some fun, write down a list of consequences and pick one at random for violations. You could even have a minor violations consequences jar with slips of paper listing punishments. Remember that the punishment does NOT have to equal the crime. Sometimes, you’ll go with natural consequences (doing everyone’s laundry when leaving dirty clothes on the floor), sometimes with outrageous ones (as in you gather all the dirty clothes up and put them in a box for a month, including any favorite pieces of clothing).

Whatever you decide, keep in mind that it’s not so much for the sake of the task (turning off lights) as much as it is to increase a child’s awareness of his surroundings. A child who constantly leaves his bookbag in the middle of the living room floor for everyone to walk around is a child who’s not paying attention to his family. He’s willing to inconvenience everyone else because he can’t be bothered to put his bookbag in its proper place. Think of this as helping a child create more awareness of others (and exhibit less selfish behavior) than as addressing your particular pet peeves.

Just Because It’s the Right Thing

Q: I have a soon to be 15-year-old son in ninth grade. He is in a scholar program at a private school, and he has earned a partial scholarship based on his academic abilities. He also is in his third year of a gifted math program at a local college. His grades have begun to fluctuate. He is not earning good scores in the math program. He seems to only care about playing his computer, the shooting games popular with his age group. He has only been allowed to play on weekends if his grades are up to par (above a 90%).

He is capable of these grades. So now I have taken all technology away for this upcoming quarter. He says that he doesn’t care anymore if he loses everything. He is not going to improve his grades. I am worried that I am being too excessive. Is the consequence appropriate?

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A: The short answer is yes, taking away technology for the quarter in order to motivate your son to improve his grades is appropriate. However, what your worry indicates is that you assumed that would “make” him change his tune about his grades/schoolwork. He’s doing what any teenager does—testing to see if you’re really serious by saying “he doesn’t care” about the consequence.

You’ve run into the paradox that is parenting: A parent can do the right thing and the child can still do the wrong thing, but that doesn’t mean the parent stops doing the right thing.

You are doing the right thing by taking away his electronics. Now he has a choice—he can continue to thumb his nose at schoolwork and fail even more or he can buckle down and get back to business. He might *say* he doesn’t care, but stick to the plan and he might come around on his accord. Fold now, and he’ll know that you don’t mean what you say or say what you mean. That will cause many more problems in the future than a few dismal grades in the present.

And be prepared that he might flame out entirely. But at 15, he’s old enough to face the academic consequences of that choice. Yes, those consequences could be far-reaching at this stage in his academic career but again, that’s on him, not you. It’s his life and his choice to do the best he can with what God has given him—or to waste it all by not applying himself.

I know this is tough for you to watch, but you’ve done the right thing. Now it’s up to your son.

Sensory or Stubbornness?

Q: My 11-year-old daughter needs to start wearing a bra but is refusing.  She has always had sensory issues with clothes, such as socks, tight-fitting clothes like jeans, shoes even—very particular about the clothes she wears. She tried a bra on once but has said it was too uncomfortable. How do I get her to start wearing one?

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A: All too often we discount a child’s sensory issues when it comes to clothing, ignoring their discomfort or dismissing their concerns as childish behavior. I remember hating to wear scratchy sweaters, which was basically anything that was acrylic and sometimes wool. It always made me feel hot and itchy. I never broke out in hives or anything, but to this day, I stay away from anything but cotton when it comes to sweaters and other heavy garments. I also tend to stick with all natural fibers to avoid the experience of synthetics against my skin, which often makes me feel, well, funny in a way.

Since your daughter is already particular about what goes next to her skin, I’m not surprised that bras are on her “do not wear” list. Plus, this can be a difficult transition for girls, especially as bras are not the most comfortable things to wear and most have underwire that can constrict and pinch. I’m assuming at this age, she probably doesn’t need a lot of coverage, so you can get away with some alternatives for now.

Try cotton camisoles with or without built-in “bra” shelves or those little “halters” that are kind of like the top of a two-piece bathing suit that are less bra-like as well that might work too. Those might make the transition time work better. Girls can even wear some of the “boy” tank top undershirts, which are nearly always cotton or cotton blend. Have her do some sleuthing of her own to find out what fabrics she can tolerate and which she can’t—a good project for an 11 year old to do.

Then when she really needs to wear a bra, spend some time researching fabrics and involve her in the process to find a brand and style that work well for her. I’m guessing she probably put on the one you bought, it pinched or felt funny, and she was done. Use the interim items, talk to her about why it’s important to wear a bra or bra-like undergarment, and let her choose the model to wear. There are many different styles of bras out there, so finding the right brand and style that work for her will take some time, but it’s time well spent, given that you’re helping her figure out one of the most important garments a girl will ever wear.

5 Easy Ways to Overcome Misbehavior

It takes more effort to misbehave than it does to behave, and the negative emotions that go along with doing the wrong thing take a toll as well, adding unnecessary stress and angst to the overall family dynamic. The good news is that children and teens don’t really want to behave badly—it’s often a habit that has gotten out of control and they are, in a sense, helpless to stop.

Here’s where the parent comes in, either with consequences to motivate the child to turn things around or with by appealing to the child’s conscience to do the right thing. But all too often, the mom or dad tries to tackle all the misdeeds in one fell swoop and creates a maelstrom of despair and new fights because no one can make wholesale changes all at once and succeed. It’s akin to multitasking—we think we can do three things at once, but we end up doing three things half way or very badly instead of one thing well, then moving on to the second item, and so on.

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It’s the same principle for changing the bad habits of misbehavior—the more on the list, the more likely for failure and more anxiety and misbehavior. So what’s a parent to do? Try this approach instead.

  1. Make a list of all the misbehaviors that need correcting. Just write down everything!
  2. Rank the items in terms of how much they bother you and your spouse. Don’t rank them as major or minor misbehaviors—that doesn’t matter as much as what bothers you (or what you can see bothers your child) the most.
  3. Circle the top two misbehaviors. Those are the only ones you’ll focus on for the next few weeks. You will ignore all the others. Yes, I know it will be difficult to not say something about the other misdeeds, but you and your child will have more success if you only tackle two at a time.
  4. Write down at least 10 things you love about that child. Then for each item, write down at least three ways you can show that child your love. For example, you might love your child’s enthusiasm for learning. One way you could show that is to take just him to a special dinosaur science exhibit. Or you keep an eye out for articles about birds to share with your budding ornithologist.
  5. Tell your child at least once a day that you love him. Frequently communicate that through hugs and other touches. Kids need to feel that emotional connection with their parent. If you let this slip because you’re concentrating so much on correcting the problems, you will have a harder time making progress.

If you follow this “formula,” you will have a new kid—and a new relationship with that child to build upon in the future.

Until next time,

The Kids Are Watching

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, we will elect our next president of the United States. No matter who you support, I think we can all agree that we haven’t been our best during this election cycle. Name calling, lurid details of various misbehaviors, and basic lack of decency and respect have colored our political landscape and sharply divided our country.

And the children are watching. The kids watched grownups act like toddlers. The kids watched adults sling insults and trash talk opponents and their supports. The kids watched a brawl of unprecedented ugliness between two political opponents who many times choose to focus not on issues, but on the personal.

The children are still watching, waiting to see how we adults will react to the decision make at the poll today. Will the winning side gloat and preen? Will the losing side sulk and refuse to concede?

We used to display better sportsmanship after elections, even contentious ones that were hard fought on both sides. Because it isn’t only about winning—it’s also about losing gracefully, accepting the outcome and moving on toward reconciliation.

Because we badly need to come together as a nation. I shudder to think what will happen if we don’t stop this spiral downward into the muck of our own attitudes and actions.

I hope for the sake of our children that we will find a way forward together.

It all starts in your own family, how you react to this election. Will you lord it over the losers? Will you be gracious in defeat? Will you strive to put aside the inflammatory rhetoric? Will you seek a way forward together as one country, not as fractured halves?

I encourage you to think about your reaction as much as you have thought about who to cast your ballot for. Because the children are watching. And they are learning from your behavior what’s right and what’s wrong.

Until next time,

Fun Ways to Grow the Fruit of the Spirit in Children

By Karen Whiting

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control— we want to see this fruit in our children. We can nurture the growth of the Fruit of the Spirit through hands-on activities that also help us bridge to talking about the fruit.

Obstacle courses
Challenges of going under, over and around objects can be fun. Chat about choosing how to get past each obstacle, and that it takes longer than just running straight from start to finish without roadblocks. Connect that to problems in life and the challenge of figuring out solutions. Patience and self-control increase as a child overcomes obstacles and gains confidence.

Spiritual Treasure Boxes
When my oldest child was preschool age, we decorated a box to hold treasures that reminded her of God and Bible stories. Inside she placed feathers as reminders of God caring for the birds and her, a lock of hair because he numbers every hair on her head, toy animals for Noah’s ark, cotton balls for sheep because she is God’s little lamb an he is her shepherd, and little pebbles for David winning over the bully Goliath. She loved to add items and show them to friends. She told others about Jesus with this box. She added items that reminded her of prayers God answered. It also increased her faithfulness.

Measuring Pole
Children love being measured as they grow. Next to the pole, it’s great to add a note of how they grew in character, did a good deed, or a fruit they exhibited. It helps them focus on more than physical growth, like goodness.

Strong but Fragile Eggs
Eggs-actly fun. Wrap your hand around an egg and squeeze. It doesn’t break. Tap it on the side of a bowl and break it open. Let a child stand on a carton of eggs and discover the eggs don’t break. It’s a lesson in how we are strong, yet fragile. God gave us strong hearts, yet they can be hurt and feel broken. It’s a lesson in gentleness and having compassion and growing in kindness.

Check out how to walk on eggs: http://www.kidspot.com.au/things-to-do/activities/walking-on-eggs-science-experiment

Board Games
A simple game like Candy Land can be fun or end in tears and fights. Focus on fun by rejoicing when someone moves ahead and laughing when you move backwards. Continue playing until everyone reaches the finish. Clap and hug each one completing the race. It helps everyone learn patience of waiting for a turn, persistence in finishing, and peace in getting along while playing. End with a praise parade to share joy of being together and how love is more important than winning.RYMDPrincess_FinalCover_022316

About Karen Whiting
Karen Whiting (www.karenwhiting.com) is an international speaker, author of twenty-two books, and a former television host. These activities come from her new book Raising a Young Modern Day Princess: Growing the Fruit of the Spirit in Your Little Girl (Focus on the Family/Tyndale Publishers).

A Terrible Loser

Q: Our 6-year-old son is a terrible loser. It can be a card game, a sport, how many fish have been caught—anything and everything. If it happens to be with a group of kids and he doesn’t win the prize or game, he will tuck his head and walk off to pout or even get upset and cry. It’s one thing when it happens at home, but in a play group or with a team is even worse.

I’ve obviously tried talking to him and he knows it’s not acceptable behavior. I understand his getting upset if there is a prize to be won and he is not the winner, but it’s how he acts that I don’t think is okay. He’s been sent to his room, for example, after losing a board game and getting mad. Should I start disciplining for each time it is done?

Image courtesy of Kittisak/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Kittisak/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: First of all, this is pretty typical behavior for this age! Some kids really take it to heart when they lose, even if there’s no formal “competition” going on. One of my kids was a very sore loser, tears, crying, anger, temper tantrums—the works. You’re right to help him overcome this tendency because life is full of missed shots and last places (or even second, third, fourth…).

Couple that with poor impulse control and you have a recipe for an explosion when things don’t go his way. Six-year-olds are still working on mastering their emotions and actions. In the excitement of a game, whether a board game or team sport, they have less control over themselves. That’s why it’s important to help them realize their actions are wrong and to help them replace those actions with better behavior. They will still have those feelings of disappointment at a loss, but they’re response should be tempered into a more appropriate outward behavior.

So what can you do? Role play works well with this age. Tell him that you’ve noticed he’s not being a good player when he throws a fit when he loses (or his team loses). He can be disappointed, but he shouldn’t lose his temper. Let him pretend he’s won a game and lost a game. Have him act out each scenario with gusto—overacting winning and losing. Then play a few hands of a card game (Old Maid is great) and practice his responses. Do this regularly and he should get better at losing (and winning).

If he does this on the field during a team sport, take him immediately home and put him in his room for the rest of the and to bed directly after supper, lights out. Consistent application of these methods should help him regain control of himself in these situation most of the time—he will occasionally still be a sore loser, but that’s because he’s six and none of us are perfect!

Neighborhood Tussle

Q: Our boys (ages 8, 7 and 5) play outside both in our yard and in neighbors’ yards who have kids they play with. They love being outside and I love not having to sit out there and monitor their play. However, my neighbors don’t feel the same way. The adults are almost always outside micromanaging the kids. We have held strong and not given in to the pressure to be out there “monitoring.” Our kids know that what the adults say, goes, and they are pretty good kids.

Then we started having trouble with one set of neighbor kids. The boys in that house have no rules, don’t respect adults, ruin property, and are pretty aggressive and physical. One gets mad very easily and lashes out physically. Our kids seem to work out their problems with all the other neighbor kids on their own, but with that family, we always have to get involved. We feel like our kids are at their worst when around him and his siblings.

Our kids are not perfect and they push buttons, but we don’t like his behavior or our kids’ behavior when they are together. We told our kids they can’t play with them anymore. They still have to be polite and kind but no more playing.

But those parents got upset and said our kids are leaving their kids out. Their solution? For us to be out more “monitoring” the play. We said no. I refuse to helicopter my kids. I also don’t want them to behave poorly when around other kids. Did I do the right thing? Should we be out more when the kids are outside?

Image courtesy of chrisroll/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of chrisroll/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: On the one hand, it’s great that your kids have so many playmates in the neighborhood! On the other hand, it’s a shame that other parents can’t leave the kids alone. It’s hard when you’re the parent who doesn’t want to get involved in the squabbles and play of children, but do know that while you might feel alone on your block, there are other parents out there (waving hello from Northern Virginia!) who parent the same way.

We’ve had our troubles with neighborhood kids, too. One summer, my second child couldn’t seem to get along with a neighbor girl her age, so I merely separated them for the rest of the summer by telling my daughter she needed to take a break from playing with this friend for a while. I told the other mom, who had expressed concern about some things my daughter had said to the friend, that she would not be playing with the friend for X amount of time. That allowed my daughter to mature some, and now they are best friends and play nicely together.

Another time, when my two boys (one third grader, one second grader) used a very bad word, I discovered that a neighborhood boy had used language very inappropriate for a third grader. After discerning that the boy didn’t talk like that on the bus, I deduced he knew better and had a chat with the boy when he came to ask my sons to play. I gently but firmly told him that he knew better than to use those bad words, and if he continued to talk like that around my sons, my kids wouldn’t be able to play with him. Thankfully, that took care of the problem.

So what to do your situation? I would say to the parents that you’ve noticed your kids and their kids aren’t getting along, and therefore, your kids will be taking the summer off from playing with their kids. You say that you hope during that time your kids will mature enough to be able to play nicely with their kids. You can also say that while you appreciate their suggestion of adult monitoring, that type of interaction will not work for your family. Don’t explain, just smile and keep it simple but with a future chance for interactions again.

When the summer is over, have your kids invite the other kids over to your house to play. Before they start playing, though, I’d simply say to all the kids that you expect them to get along, to respect your property and to treat one another with kindness. If you hear that’s not happening—in other words, if they are loud enough in their disagreements to call attention to themselves when you are in the house—then you’ll ask the other kids to go home.

I’ve found that most of the time, kids will rise to the level of expectations given by adults. As to the other parents, invite them to a barbecue, get to know them socially and show them through your actions and the way you parent that there’s a better way to raise kids that doesn’t mean more parental involvement.