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Inside: Unsure about how to help a child focus in the classroom? Help your child focus and learn to concentrate better using these five core strategies at home.

I often hear from concerned parents that their child’s teacher has shared something with them, and it sounds something like…

My child is difficult for the teacher to manage.

They take too long to do the task at hand from the teacher.

She doesn’t follow directions in school.

My child has trouble focusing in the classroom.

This puts you in a really tough position as a parent because you can’t exactly control what’s happening in the classroom. The teacher is also in a tough position, needing to manage the competing demands of a large classroom of children.

It’s hard no matter how you look at it.

Here’s where you and the teacher hold common ground: You both want the child to not only be successful in school, but in life! And of course, you want to work together in cooperation.

Which begs the question…

How to Help a Child Focus in the Classroom?

As a mom, I can wholeheartedly attest to struggles in getting my kids to focus. There was a time when I could barely get them to sit at the dinner table for five minutes – literally. Waiting in line at the post office with kids was a joke. And grocery shopping involved a lot of bribery.

We’ve come a long way since then.

Most articles you read on helping kids with lack of focus in school will recommend things like seat kids away from distractions, make learning fun, vary teaching methods, set up routines, etc.

5 fresh ideas to improve focus in kids.

All those are great strategies to use in the classroom, but what they don’t address is how you can start to help your child build focus, self-control and attention span at home.

You can’t control what happens in the classroom. You can, however, work with your child at home using five core strategies.

1. Play board games for concentration.

Board games are one of the best ways to help your child build executive function, which is the cognitive or “mind” part of self-regulation. When kids need help focusing, what you’re actually wanting to help your child do is build better self-regulation skills.

The Center for the Developing Child defines executive functions and self-regulation skills as:

the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.

The more you can help your child practice attention skills at home, the sooner they will be able to apply those skills and concentrate in school.

Here are some of my favorite board games to play with kids:

For more board games to help build executive functioning in kids check out these best board games for 5 to 7 year olds and best games for self-regulation in 3 to 5 year olds.

You can also help your child learn to concentrate by using other self-control games like these:
How to Play "Red Light Green Light" - YouTube
2. Practice waiting – A LOT – to improve attention span.

Practice waiting with your kids as many times as you can fit into the day. In the doctor’s office, at the grocery store, at the dinner table and during play at home are all places that are great for practicing self-regulation.

Instead of reaching for your phone or electronic device to distract your child, practice playing games with your child while waiting. These are creative hand games or mind games to play with your child to improve focus and attention. They only require your body sitting in a chair and nothing else.

Here are some examples:
  • While waiting in the doctor’s office we may play “the thinking game” where my son will describe something and I have to guess what it is.
  • While at the grocery store, play “I spy” where you describe something you see and your child has to guess it.
  • Have your child place his hands out palms facing up. Place your hands hovering over his, except with your palms facing down. The goal is for your child to try and slap the top of your hands. Then switch roles.

In addition to waiting in different scenarios out and about, practice waiting at home for a toy that a sibling has, a special treat like a cookie, or a toy they want to buy at the store.

If waiting is met with tears, sadness or a temper tantrum, be sure to acknowledge thoughts and feelings and validate how hard this must be for your child. Building self-control takes a lot of work – especially for kids! Knowing that you are on their side and that you understand their point of view will make a huge difference in your child’s mental health!

Related: How to Respond When Your Child Feels Rejected or Sad

Finally, have your child practice sitting at the dinner table until everyone is finished. Getting them used to sitting for about 30 minutes can help kids stay focused once they transition into the classroom.

3. Focus immensely on vestibular and proprioceptive input.

In order for kids to listenfocus and learn to sit still for a period of time, they must develop both proprioception and vestibular sense. The most critical time to develop a child’s proprioception and vestibular sense is before age six.

Proprioception is what tells you where your body parts are without having to look at them. This is the sense that helps you make sense of gravity. It’s the reason you can switch from the gas pedal to the brake without looking at your feet, or bring popcorn to your mouth without taking your eyes off the movie screen.

Without properly developed proprioception, kids can push too hard during tag, fall out their seat at the dinner table or trip while walking up stairs.

Vestibular sense provides information about where the body is in relation to its surroundings. This is the sense that helps you understand balance, and it connects with all the other senses.

Without a strong vestibular sense, kids will have no choice but to fidget, get frustrated, experience more falls and aggression, get too close to people when talking, and struggle with focusing and listening. Because they literally cannot help it.

You can read more about a series of activities you can do with your child to support vestibular and proprioceptive development in my post here:

The Most Overlooked Reason Why Kids Won’t Listen, Focus or Sit Still

There’s a free printable worksheet at the bottom of that post with the exercises too.

4. Cut back on screens – WAY back.

Study after study shows that kids who have more screen-time (or video games) have lower attention spans and lose focus. Without realizing it, screen-time can really add up fast.

While some past studies recommend kids use a screen device less than two hours a day, new research is recommending that children only have zero to 30 minutes per day.

Some experts even recommend a “screen fast” where electronics are completely removed for several weeks to allow your child’s neurological system to reset.

If done correctly, this intervention can produce deeper sleep, a brighter and more even mood, better focus and organization, and an increase in physical activity. The ability to tolerate stress improves, so meltdowns diminish in both frequency and severity. The child begins to enjoy the things they used to, is more drawn to nature, and imaginary or creative play returns.

5. Encourage role-play at home.

According to the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, “It takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain – unless it is done with play – in which case, it takes between 10-20 repetitions.”

Talking to your kids about what they could say or do instead when they are fidgety or bored in the classroom is always an option. However, the most efficient way to help your child problem-solve solutions, and actually have them remember in the moment, is to have them role-play with you at home.

Practice with your child using role-play in a variety of ways. One that I love is, of course, role-reversal games.

In the example of helping your child focus, your child would play the teacher (that’s them reversing into the teacher role) and you would play the fumbling child who always gets distracted, dawdles and can’t concentrate in school.

The more exaggerated you get with your inability to focus, the more fun it will be for your child. This creates a deep connection and a safe space for you and your child to work through this challenge.

Once your child asks to play the role of the student again, you’ll know he or she is opening up to your guidance and solutions will start showing up in play.

Play out potential strategies your child could use to pay attention in class and focus. The funnier they are, the more memorable they will be when the moment strikes in real life.

Recommended reads on using play in parenting:

Here’s to getting kids to sit at the dinner table for 30 minutes, wait in line at the post office without a fuss, seamless grocery store trips and working with your child’s teacher in collaboration to build focus, concentration and attention span.

Want more on parenting?

The post How to Help a Child Focus in the Classroom appeared first on The Military Wife and Mom.

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You know how the summer schedule for kids goes right?

In the beginning, you’re all Mary Poppins coming up with fun and exciting ways to entertain the kids while keeping firm boundaries. By the end, you’ve got a serious eye twitch and back-to-school couldn’t come fast enough!

This summer will be the first summer in a couple of years that my kids will be home with me full-time for three months. Since this ain’t my first rodeo (annnnd I’m guessing it’s not yours either since you’re here vs. winging it), I hatched a plan to keep us all sane and happy.

Note: This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means if you make a purchase I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

My best tricks for a daily summer schedule for kids.

I’ll walk you through our summer morning and bedtime routines and then show you the overall daily summer schedule for the kids. Plus, I created a a summer routine printable template for you to grab at the end. Yay!

1. Summer morning routine ideas for kids.

First off, we are starting to help the kids stay in their rooms until a certain time each morning. If you’re a stay-at-home mom this summer, then nothing robs your morning free-time like the kids poking you in the eye at 5 am.

We are grabbing one of these toddler alarm clocks for each of our kids this summer. Having them practice now is a great way to help them be ready to put this skill into action by the time school is done in late May or June.

And as always, our kids are proud owners of black out curtains. There is nothing worse than having kids see the first spec of light at 4:30 am and thinking it’s time to wake up for the day.

Our kids are allowed to play or read quietly in their rooms until the clock goes off at 7 am. This gives me a chance to get up each morning (when I’m feeling ambitious, I get up at 5 am) and do something just for me like exercise, read a book, diffuse some oils, and shower.

THEN…summer morning routine activities.

While the kids are waiting for breakfast, we start the day off with a “breakfast invitation.” This is a crazy simple activity that the kids can do, and it helps them easily transition into free play.

Using this one simple strategy, I’ve been able to save our screen-time until the afternoons and keep our mornings screen-free. When the kids are fresh and rested in the morning, they are so much better at sibling play.

My favorite places to follow to get simple activity ideas are Days With Grey, Busy Toddler and Hands On As We Grow on Instagram.

Here’s a general rundown of our morning routine:
  • Kids wake up. Play in their room until 7 am when alarm clock lets them know it’s okay to come out.
  • Get dressed. They pick their clothes out for the week on Sundays and put it in this handy file organizer. They have this clothing organizer on Amazon and they are cute, but the file organizer holds up way better over time. Our morning rule is they need to get dressed before breakfast, and it’s cut way down on the getting dressed battles.
  • “Breakfast invitation” while waiting for breakfast.
  • Eat breakfast, go into free-play when finished.
  • After about an hour, we head out to do something fun!
2. Summer bedtime routines for kids.

During the school year, we tend to rock a really early bedtime for the kids. However, during the summertime, we will let the kids stay up until around 8 pm OR sometimes as late as 9 pm if we are getting together with friends and family.

The sun sets a lot later in the summer, so again…blackout curtains. Starting at about 7 pm, I’ll start closing all the blinds and drapes in the house to help the kids wind down.

This is typically when the kids start following their routine cards.

If the kids are taking a bath or a shower at night, I’ll use these unique and creative bath toys for toddlers (they work great for older kids too). Since we only use them during bath time, the kids easily transition into creative free-play.

We also spend a lot of time reading in the summer during the day. So if I find myself short on time during the bedtime routine, I will skip reading at night and play with them instead using SAY WHAT YOU SEE®.

This is a really simple technique where you describe what the child is doing, thinking, feeling and saying without questions, fixing or judgement. This can help nourish your child’s need to connect and cut way down on the bedtime battles (i.e. child keeps getting out of bed 357 times).

If you’re looking for bedtime books for kids, I love this books about kindness list and this kindergarten summer reading list.

Another quick thing that we do is use essential oils for sleep. Super easy and works!

Here’s a rundown of our summer bedtime routine.
  • Close curtains to help kids wind down. Encourage kids to start following their routine cards.
  • 2-3x per week the kids will take a bath or shower.
  • Put on pajamas.
  • Bedtime snack. My kids are on the lanky side and a bedtime snack definitely helps keep full tummies until the morning.
  • Reading OR SAY WHAT YOU SEE® while they play to build connection.
  • Roll-on essential oils up and down the spine. Set up diffuser with oils. The kids love to help with this. I honestly don’t know how anyone survives without these!
  • Brush teeth, potty, bedtime.
  • Kids are allowed to read or play quietly with dim lights for 30 mins-ish. If they are still awake, I will let them know it’s time for lights out.
3. Quick summer daily schedule.

I know some stay-at-home moms love more structured times for a schedule rather than a general summer routine. So on days that we aren’t traveling, here is a loose example of times I follow:

  • 7:00 am – kids wake up, get dressed, come down stairs, start breakfast invitation / activity
  • 7:30 am – breakfast.
  • 8:00 am – free-play. Check out open-ended toys if your kids need help.
  • 9:00 am – head outside to the park, pool or adventure of the day.
  • 11:00 am – back home, make lunch.
  • 11:30 am – lunch.
  • 12:00 pm – read to the kids + 10 mins of silent reading time on their own. Sometimes I will read for as long as an hour! But 30 mins is the goal, and sometimes that’s all we do.
  • 12:40 pm – independent play in their rooms. They do this for about 20 minutes while they wait for screen-time.
  • 1:00 pm – screen-time. During the school year, we limit scree-time to only the weekends. During the summer, I do 1 hour of screen-time per day. The kids each have their own Amazon free time account on their kid’s kindle. This allows you to limit everything to your child’s age and time allowed. It literally stops working after the time is up. If your child breaks it, Amazon will replace it. Another thing I love is that it allows the kids to decide if they want to play a game, read a book or watch a cartoon.
  • 2:00 pm – snack.
  • 2:30 pm – run errands, do an outdoor activity, meet up with friends, head to the park, etc.
  • 4:00 pm – chores and prep dinner. The kids have a little job bag they pick from and do 2-3 jobs each day. We use these chore cards for kids (No charts! Yay!) They also pick up the toys around this time and we avoid the bedtime toy battle altogether. Check out setting limits for your strong willed child for more on this. If dinner prep has simple things the kids can do, they help cook the food alongside me. I’ll also put out veggies to stave off the hangry howls.
  • 5:30 pm – family dinner at the table. If you having trouble keeping your kids at the dinner table, check out these conversation starters here.
  • 6:00 pm – clean up dinner – the kids help, then kids free-play
  • 6:45 / 7:00 pm – bath time (possibly), pajamas, bedtime snack, reading or play with the kids.
  • 8:00 pm – bedtime. Kids are allowed to play in their room quietly. Our only rule is that they need to stay in their rooms.
  • 8:30 pm – lights out.
4. Summer schedule printable template.

These are the printable schedule cards for kids we use during both the school year and the summer. It also comes with an editable template so you can make your own custom routine for the kids.

The nice part about the cards is you can change up your routines based on the day (vs. a one sheet PDF). I will move the cards around depending on the day to help the kids know exactly what they need to do before bedtime and in the morning time.

A final word on free play – if you’re struggling to keep your kids busy during free play, do a quick check to make sure you have enough open-ended toys for kids. I’m a firm believer in toy minimalism, but not having enough open-ended toys can crush creative play. It’s made a world of difference in our home!

Here’s to enjoying summer with the kids and avoiding the eye-twitch come August!

>>> Grab your printable summer schedule here <<<

Want more on parenting?

The post How to Create a Rockstar Summer Schedule for Kids appeared first on The Military Wife and Mom.

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Two words: Curve balls.

Military life throws lots of curve balls.

And I learned to be a slugger early on in my hubby’s career. I’m talking about handling it like I hit a walk-off home run!

YES! Honey YES! I’ve got this.

Well, that was until our last PCS.

Leading up to the bombshell, we were living it up during our three-year orders in Hawaii. We were enjoying life and just passed our 1.5-year mark.

Our friends and family visited us – we loved that. Everything felt perfect. Almost too perfect. The beautiful weather year-round, the kids enjoyed school, hubby loved his job and I felt like I could breathe.

I appreciated the chance to just be random.

Right up until the day everything changed.

As I sat in my office doing some work, I noticed my husband’s car pull into the driveway. Not a big deal, just a little weird. He rarely came home for lunch, and when he did, he always called to see if I wanted something to eat or to ensure I didn’t have a house full of women laughing.

He entered the house with a Wendy’s bag and asked if I had time to join him for lunch.

MmmmHmmm…ok, weird, but ok.

A junior bacon cheeseburger, fries, and strawberry lemonade. Hmmm…he had the order correct.

BUT here’s the kicker, the giveaway: Ketchup packets.

He NEVER remembered ketchup packets, even when I would tell him fifty times to get them. His argument is we have ketchup at home.

(And just so I can say it to the world: It’s not the same. Ketchup at home is for fries cooked at home. I need ketchup packets from the fast food restaurant. It just tastes different. End random rant.)

Then came the “what-if” scenarios.

I knew something was going on but wasn’t expecting the words he was about to say.

What is going on? Just give it to me! Tell me what’s going on.

“Baby, we have to go.”

Not fully grasping what was about to happen, I responded. “Ok, yeah in 1.5 years, so let’s go ahead and look at options for our next duty station.”

“No, we have to leave now. As in, soon now. Not 1.5 years now. We are going to Pennsylvania, and I’m going to school at The Army War College.”

All the slugger techniques I learned early on in my hubby’s career escaped my brain.

There was no walk-off home run.

There was no I’ve got this.

The curveball launched directly into my stomach and the only thing left to do was deal with the aftershocks that jolted into my head.

I fell out of my chair, screaming, rolling around the floor like a maniac. I looked like toddler who was told it was time to leave the playground.

I wasn’t ready for this PCS.

We had things to do: A concert at the end of the year, Christmas in Maui, more visits from friends and family. Our kids were in their groove of life in Hawaii.

There are some duty stations I would’ve left after the first three months…

But, not this. Not Hawaii.

Things started moving supersonic.

Within days, we told the girls. The kids explained that they knew something was going on because I was “a little bratty” these last few days.

Part of me was about to get them.

And another part of me knew it was true.

The curveball left me with painful bruises. My wincing was too noticeable to hide. I was so wrapped up in my own grief that I missed the second curveball pitch.

In fact, I never saw the second curveball coming.

We went rapid-fire preparing for our move to Pennsylvania: Orders cut, household goods scheduled, submitted for student housing at the War College, contacted the high school to get information and course offerings for our rising freshman because classes were already being selected, stables contacted to continue riding lessons for our middle daughter, Facebook groups joined for me to make connections.

Ok, we’re all good. Let’s do this.

I pinched my eyes shut, smiled and clasped my hands together, shaking them to the right and left of my head. A small victory cheer of sorts.

Then, the second pitch came.

You know…the curve ball.

The phone rang, and as if I was about to have a normal conversation with my husband, I answered.

He announced, “Baby, what are you doing?”

{insert long pause}

“What if I said we could go to D.C.?”

I only managed to respond with four words. “Are you kidding me?!!!!!!!!!”

The slugger techniques…still absent.

There was no walk-off home run.

There was no I’ve got this.

Emotions. Ran. High.

Grumbling, I got back on the phone to make changes, trying to find housing, a new school, facebook groups, a riding stable, and change our household goods shipment.

I wondered if there was any point, knowing that it could all change again quickly.

But before new plans had time to develop, the day came for us to leave the island.

We said our goodbyes.

It’s what happened next at the airport that completely changed my outlook on the move.

A dear non-military friend offered to give my family a ride to the airport.

I remember chatting with a young man at Los Angeles airport (LAX) as we waited to board our flight. My family was tired, and I was emotionally drained. I didn’t want to go to D.C.

This young man’s name is Caleb.

I know his name because as we got off the flight in TX, he ran toward us saying, “Hey FAM with amazing smiles!”

He handed me a note and off he went.

His note was such a blessing and truly helped me see the brighter side of this unexpected and sudden move. I still have the note in my office, and I look at it from time to time to remind me of our purpose as a military family.

His words….

“I’m believing the BEST is yet to come for your fam. Lives will be forever changed because of your courageous decision to say YES! You can’t miss all God has for you, so walk boldly knowing you will be taken care of, and it’s gonna be AMAZING!”

PCSing is two words: Curve balls.

Leaving people and a location you enjoy can inflict some painful bruises to the stomach heart, jolts to the head and deep emotions that run high.

But remember that when you feel like you’re about to strike out, there’s always another pitch coming for you to snag your walk-off home run.

You are AMAZING.

Your strength, light, courage and lessons learned are the exact things that will help another spouse know how to slug those never-ending and elusive curve balls.

Want more on military life?

The post The Reality of Surviving a Surprise PCS Move appeared first on The Military Wife and Mom.

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When I married my Marine, I never attended another service member’s wedding. But he had already been in the military for seven years, so he heard a lot about military wedding traditions. He was very proud of his uniform, his service, and his country, so his only requests for the wedding planning were that we incorporate some military traditions.

To be honest, I kind of love his dress blues uniform. Knowing that he wanted to wear it and that his fellow Marine guests would wear theirs too built in a rich layer of finesse to the celebration.

I already chose blue (my favorite color) to be a central part of the wedding theme.

A military wedding tradition that was meant-to-be.

Nearly all our families and guests were civilians. They were thrilled by the fun military traditions we added. Looking back, I can’t tell you how many guests shared how much they loved the unique photo opportunities with Marines.

If you are marrying a service member (or you are a service member getting married!) then here are some classic military wedding traditions you may want to include in your special day.

1. Uniforms.

A service member has the option to wear a dress uniform to their own wedding. Some people love their uniforms and are proud to wear it.

Others, however, find them uncomfortable and want to wear something else on their wedding day. The service member can choose to wear a civilian tuxedo or wedding dress. It is not an official military event, so a uniform is optional.

Just remember that the dry cleaning and preparing all those medals can be just as costly as renting a tuxedo! Military guests have the option to come in uniform or appropriate civilian clothes. If the service member getting married wants the military guests in uniform, they should tell them the uniform of the day. There are several varieties of military dress uniforms, so it is the service member’s option to choose how formal they want the event to be.

Related: What Are the Military Marriage Laws and Rules?

2. The Arch of Swords or Arch of Sabers.

This tradition is more common at officer weddings, where the service members used to earn their swords or sabers. However, enlisted service members may also use this tradition and borrow swords from a training school. Remember to have the service member choose their sword detail in advance because they will want to practice together and drill to get the timing right.

After the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom will exit the chapel, then walk through two rows of service members in uniform. These fellow veterans will each hold a ceremonial sword raised over the couple to form an arch. As the newlyweds near the end, the last two swords are lowered to block the path.

A service member will call out to the bride, “Give this man a kiss!” When she does, the swords will be raised. Then someone will call out, “Welcome to the (branch name)!”

In the Marine Corps, the final swordsman will lightly tap his sword on the bride’s behind and call out “Welcome to the Marine Corps, ma’am!” It’s a rite of passage for military brides, and a moment I will always remember!

Related: What You Need to Know About Marrying Into the Military

3. Cutting the cake with a sword.

What’s a wedding without cake? When it’s a military wedding, you can cut the cake in style—with a ceremonial sword or sabre!

The bride and groom use the sword to cut the first slice of cake together and serve it to each other.

If the service member doesn’t own one (military swords cost about $700) then they can ask to sign one out from the supply office of their unit.

4. Military Chapels.

You can choose to have your wedding at any venue or location you like, but a service member is allowed to use base chapels for their ceremony. Some bases have much nicer chapels than others, particularly at the service academies, so during popular wedding seasons there is a waiting list.

The base chapel may be an affordable option, but make sure you consider the logistics of getting base access for any of your civilian guests.

5. Branch colors and emblems.

Depending on you and your fiancé’s tastes, you may want to incorporate the colors or symbols of the military branchinto your wedding. This is completely optional, but can add a patriotic touch to invitations, place settings, and even the cake!

Talk to your photographer about any custom military touches you have added, and be sure to plan out lots of photos capturing the military elements of your special day.

A military wedding can be as casual or as formal as you wish! If you are marrying a service member, or you’re a service member planning your own wedding, then consider adding any or all of these unique military wedding traditions to your wedding day.

Want more on military life?

The post 5 Military Wedding Traditions That Will Make Your Celebration Unforgettable appeared first on The Military Wife and Mom.

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Inside: Explore 7 common challenges with a 4 year old not listening. Learn simple solutions and resources to deal with 4 year old behavior.

I sat curled up in the oversized yellow chair. A blanket separated my legs from the cool surface of my laptop. The kids were asleep – finally.

And after the wildly chaotic day filled with rapid fire behavior challenges, all I could do was get curious about what was happening beneath the surface of my 4 year-old not listening.

There’s always a reason why a 4 year-old doesn’t listen.

Learning about kids’ brain development is fascinating, and more often than not, it gives a fresh perspective to separate your own emotions from your child’s behavior.

Inside the 4 year-old brain.

“The neurological processing in the 4 year old’s brain is twice as busy as that of a college student, and perhaps three times busier than an adult’s.

A preschooler has 100 billion brain cells (neurons), with 77 percent in the cerebral cortex — the territory that handles language, math, memory, attention, and complex problem solving. The neurons are forming connections via their dendrites, skinny octopus arms that slither out to receive information from up to potentially 15,000 other cells, and axons — which transmit information from neurons to other cells. The connections between neurons — called synapses — eventually total up between 1,000 trillion.” (source)

The daily result is massive mental exertion.

It’s not surprising that behavior challenges pop up around age four.

They are bombarded with explosions of information from every direction – all while working to develop important life skills like how to manage anger, self-control, manners and communication skills.

On top of that, behavior habits you don’t like that much are building from the toddlers years.

Think: 2 year old not listening, 3 year old not listening…it all can compound if unheard upsets build over time. Anything unresolved for both you and your child are now ever present in your day-to-day interactions.

4 year old not listening? 7 challenge points with real solutions.

Your child isn’t so little anymore and things like back talk, defiance, anger, sibling issues, school anxiety, screen time and overall testing of boundaries show up robustly.

The good ole’ distraction technique rarely works, and most of the time intensifies the situation. Timeouts, threats and bribes never bring the cooperation you truly want. You are constantly exhausted.

When your 4 year old isn’t listening, here are 7 out of the box solutions to try.

1. Helping your child listen at preschool or daycare.

What happens at daycare or school is SO hard to deal with because you can’t exactly control what happens there. It can leave you feeling powerless as a parent. Especially when teachers and providers share with you that your child is aggressive, disrespectful or flat out not listening all day long.

While you can get a lot of information about what is happening from the teacher, and that is an important piece, there is one other thing I typically recommend to parents:

Role play at home to see what your child reveals to you.

How kids act during role play is often how they perceive the situation – whether it’s true or not – it is their reality and you can take them at their word.

Now you have something to work with and can start problem-solving solutions. Check out the posts below to learn how to get started.

Role play and school resources: 2. Gaining cooperation at bedtime.

Bedtime lends itself toward lots of chaos kids – whether it’s dealing with the onset of separation anxiety, or bad dreams, thoughts about their day or the difficulty of having to be self-controlled when they still have lots of energy.

You want bedtime to be calming and nurturing without the chaos.

This is one of those opportunities where it can really help to check in with YOURSELF, and get clear with what your boundaries are. That is, what you like and dislike about getting the kids to bed. What are you ok with and not ok with.

Getting clear on boundaries >>> The Big Reason Why Setting Limits With Your Strong Willed Child Isn’t Working.

Because…here’s the thing:

It’s really hard to help kids deal with their chaos when we’ve got our own. Knowing ahead of time what thoughts are swirling around at the back of your head in regards to bedtime (your own pressure to get them to sleep because it’s what’s “right” or the desperate thought of just needing your “me” time) will put you in the right place with the kids at bedtime.

You’ll be able to get to a place where you can achieve that nurturing calm, while holding your boundaries without nagging and truly enjoy your time together so you can all get a good sleep.

Bedtime resources and support: 3. Ending the dinnertime battles.

Food is one of those things kids quickly learn that you cannot control. They are so clever in that way! As much as you want the broccoli in their stomachs, you can’t make them. Only the child can make it happen.

Anytime consistent food challenges show up, there are usually two things happening:

  1. Kids are feeling powerless, desire control and want to prove to that you cannot control this.
  2. Kids are wanting to connect with you, yearning to feel heard and understood from their point of view.
So what can you do?

The step of connection is so important. Without it, our guidance becomes white noise to kids and things escalate. Noticing what kids like and don’t like, especially at the dinner table, is a huge first step towards connection. 

When comes to the table and looks disgusted, SAY WHAT YOU SEE® might sound something like…

“You don’t like the look of that. You’re frowning.”

And the child may come back and say, “Yeah, I don’t like the beans.”
Now you have something to work with and you can say, “You don’t like those beans at all! Sounds like you’re okay with the salad and chicken.” 

Since being allowed to say what she doesn’t like prevents the need to act it out or prove it, that could be all it takes for her to move into cooperation about the rest of the meal. She might even tell you what she wished she could eat like, “I wish we were having spaghetti,” to which you would respond, “Of course you do. You love spaghetti, and this is what we have. Rats! It’s not what you want.”

Validating what she likes instead of taking it personally would allow her to come back with, “It’s okay. Chicken and salad are okay, too,” and skip off, happy to have been heard. Honestly, that’s how kids work!

Worst case scenario…

The child may come back and say, “No, I don’t like the salad or the chicken. It’s all YUCK.” That would tell you that the child is still fighting old battles and expecting no one to care what she wants, or worse, expecting that she will be made to eat things she doesn’t want.

Carrying on and on about foods she doesn’t like, proving that she’s right not to like it, even after you validate her, simply means she needs to be validated even more to feel heard. That might sound like, “Oh, no! It’s all yucky, and that’s what we have. This is not the dinner you want at all! Push the plate toward the middle of the table so it’s not so close to you.”

The good news is this is not a personal assault on your cooking ability! It’s your child practicing and learning what she likes and doesn’t like and hoping that someone will hear her.

More resources to create a peaceful dinnertime: 4. Navigating sibling rivalry and sibling jealousy.

No matter the reason siblings say they “don’t like each other” there is always something deeper beneath those words. In the simplest terms, siblings not liking each other often boils down to two things: having to share their world with a sibling…and favoritism.

Kids are absolutely positively sure that everything that was once theirs is now ruined by their sibling. They may also believe that you love and favor their sibling more than them. This is very real for kids.

And that’s not even the worst part.

What’s worse is when you try to tell a child, “Of course you love your sister,” or “It’s not okay to say you don’t like someone,” or “You don’t hate your brother. I know that’s not true,” the disconnect widens.

Kids will dig their heels in even more and try to prove you wrong. They’ll try to prove to you that their feelings are very real. That they really, really, really never wanted a sister. Or that you really, really, really do love their sibling more than them.

Staying neutral with your kids and sportscasting between them – taking the kids at their word – can be a great first step into resolution.

Check out these sibling rivalry resources: 5. Helping your 4 year old with back talk and defiance.

There are times when kids feel “trapped in a cage,” and there is seemingly no path out. In their deep desire to feel heard, kids who feel trapped will act out using the only power tools they know – the ones they learn from adults: They scream, yell, argue, boss or punish.

Acting out is the child’s way of communicating. A child who is doing those things is actually trying to get you to understand that he is right to feel the way he does and wishes you could see past his actions to the person he is underneath.

If you only hear, see and react to the disrespectful behavior (symptoms of an underlying problem) instead of the message – “I want you to understand who I really am!” – the child will have no choice but to escalate his message or disconnect from you completely.

If you’re able to get to the bottom of kids’ communications, they will feel very understood and accepted. This allows kids to move out of the “trapped in a cage” feeling, away from the back talk and disrespect, and into a place of cooperation. When kids trust and feel safe, they will start to grow and surprise you in the most amazing ways.

Resources to help you end back talk and disrespect: 6. Not listening with overall testing of boundaries.

Strong-willed kids are often seen as defiant or rebellious because grown ups say one thing and the kids do the complete opposite or they seem to struggle immensely with boundaries.

If you’re able to see strong-willed kids in a completely different light, what you actually have on your hands is a child who is very self-directed and a child who has been trying to create his own boundaries for a long time. This can lead to a lot of chaos and missed communications.

Strong willed kids are typically fine with boundaries (how a grown up likes or doesn’t like things), and what they are actually struggling with is the rule (one of the million different ways to help the child bounce from our preferences / boundaries and find a way to meet their own needs of power, experience and connection). 

Resources to help your child cope with boundaries: 7. When anger and aggression show up.

Everything children say and do is a communication. They absolutely must continue to communicate until heard. This is human nature; so if kids don’t get to express themselves, they will either escalate their actions now or store it up for later.

When unheard upsets build, kids will turn to aggressive and challenging behaviors to show you instead.

These behaviors can be seen as a cry for help.

Things can escalate quickly if missed communications build over time. When parents or caregivers try to stop or scare kids out of angry and aggressive behavior, kids may try to prove that their upsets are very real by further intensifying their behaviors.

Angry kids are experiencing a whole lot of hurt and anguish and the simplest way to help them calm down is to help them feel heard and understood. (Remember: Understanding your child’s point of view is not the same as agreeing with it or condoning a behavior.)

Step-by-step guides for dealing with anger and aggression in kids: There’s more.

Hey there! I’m Lauren, a Language of Listening® parent coach, and I help parents just like you take simple steps to help your kids want to listen AND become the amazing grown-ups they are meant to be. To get more insightful parenting ideas and posts using Language of Listening – the 3-part framework I teach to parents – click the button below to get started.

Want more on parenting?

The post 4 Year Old Not Listening? How to Ditch Defiance and Nurture Cooperation appeared first on The Military Wife and Mom.

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Moving from overseas back to the US, we knew we were in for more than just reverse culture shock.

For the better part of ten years – the entire time we knew each other – my husband and I were apart about fifty percent of the time.

It something military couples and families know all too well.

Whether it be TAD assignments or work ups or deployments, he was gone a lot. It was our “normal” and I lovingly referred to it as functionally dysfunctional.

In the course of our constant and dizzying cycles of separation and reintegration, we found a way to adapt and stay the course in our marriage and family life.

But it wasn’t the “normal” we wanted.

As we moved back to the US, my husband prepared to start working a regular nine to fiver in a non-deployable unit. Work wouldn’t spill into the evenings or weekends like it did in the past. He wouldn’t deploy or travel much for work. He’d be home.

I’m not exactly sure how often most civilian families are separated, but I’m knew…

We were in for the shock of our relationship.

Through the funny, weird and totally unexpected things that came our way when we started spending a whole LOT more time together, we learned some life lessons.

1. Popping home for lunch becomes a thing.

And…it’ll throw off your whole routine.

I almost got scared a couple of times that a stranger had walked into the house uninvited. Nope. Just my husband popping home for lunch. Never in ten years had he come home for lunch.

This threw the kids for a huge tailspin.

They were so excited that dad was home for work, followed by disappointment when he had to return to work. After the kids were in school and the kitchen was my office, he’d come home for lunch and start cooking bacon.

What. Is. Happening.

2. You’ll start to fight about things you never fought about before.

We never fought about dishes sitting in the sink EVER for 10 years. Now suddenly we were fighting over little things. It’s incredible how everyday life sways you into fighting over little things.

I am surprised to say this, but deployment gives you an appreciation and respect for togetherness that we often skipped the small fights knowing they weren’t important.

After enough time together, you’ll find any little thing to pick at.

3. Everything feels lighter and less stressful.

Even fights over the dishes.

Running a household with two grown-ups around all the time – what’s that?! You start to tag team kids and dishes and laundry and vacation planning. Your partner is around all the time and you’re actually functioning as a team. This. Is. Amazing.

You talk about stuff when it comes up, rather than waiting for that next phone call, Skype or email. Thing don’t fester like they did before. Hallelujah.

4. You fall into routines.

Then weird stuff starts happening like you plan on drinking coffee for three hours together on a Saturday morning, and when it doesn’t happen, the world is on tilt.

You start watching TV shows together, and without even asking, you know what show you’re watching Monday night. You cook, he cleans up. You take the car for an oil change, he picks up dry-cleaning. It’s this weird flow that starts to show up without saying a word to one another.

5. Short separations start to throw you for a loop.

The sting of deployment fades, and you get used to being around each other all the time. Even short separations bring anxiety, when in the past you’d tuck that away for something bigger. Or maybe you were just numb back then without realizing it.

6. You’ll get a little worried thinking about the next time he’ll leave.

It’s almost like forgetting to exercise a separation muscle. You’re together a good amount of time, and a long future separation that looms in the future – it stings already.

Your family is used to this idea of taking vacations together, spending Friday nights out to dinner and holidays – eat your heart out. It’s so good! Your heart drops into your stomach thinking about how hard it will be next time he leaves.

7. You realize how bad you were just “holding it together” in the past.

Functionally dysfunctional – that’s what it was. A beautiful functionally dysfunctional mess, and now that you have a second to breathe, you realize you weren’t as happy as you thought you were.

You’re happier now.

The contrast — it’s palpable.

Want more on military life?

The post 7 Weird Things That Happen When Your Service Member Stops Deploying appeared first on The Military Wife and Mom.

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Military families don’t always get to plan their vacation around school breaks or their work schedule. Sometimes, vacations must be squeezed in before deployment, after deployment, or during a PCS move.

But that doesn’t mean your vacation options are limited!

5 Best Ways to Discover Military Vacation Deals

Military families can find affordable destinations all over the world, thanks to a variety of military travel discounts. Use these ideas to get inspiration for your next trip.

Military vacation deals for an international trip.

If you dream of an overseas adventure, and have some flexibility in your travel plans, then a Space A flight might be an affordable way for you to get a memorable vacation!

Space A stands for “Space Available” on military flights from military base airports. These don’t operate like civilian airlines. You cannot purchase tickets in advance. Instead, extra seats are announced on the day of a flight, and they are available in a priority order that goes first to service members traveling on orders, and last to dependents traveling on vacation.

That means you may not get the flight you want on your first try, so it’s important to do your research and know several possibilities before trying to fly Space A. But when it works, it is essentially a free flight to any U.S. military base in the world!

Choosing from locations like Germany, Italy, Japan, Guam, and Hawaii means you have many exotic possibilities.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Space-Available Military Travel

Military vacation deals for a local staycation.

The beauty of moving so often is that military families almost always have more to explore in their new hometown. Even if you have been stationed there a few years, have you allowed yourself a week to play tourist and enjoy local attractions?

A staycation is great for young families who want to sleep in their own beds and plan activities around nap time. You’ll save a ton of money too!

Check out your base ITT (Information, Tickets, and Travel) office for ideas on local activities and exclusive military discounts not advertised online.

Related: 5 Genius Tips That Make Traveling With Military Kids Easy

The best military hotel deals.

Did you know the Department of Defense operates five luxury resorts that are only open to military families?

These locations around the world have all the amenities and dining options you would expect at a quality resort, but the rates are based on the service member’s rank.

The locations in the States are Fields of Green Resort in Orlando Florida (at Disney World) or Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Overseas, you can stay at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, Germany, The New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo, Japan, or the Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul, Korea.

These rooms fill quickly, so make reservations far in advance.

Affordable luxury vacations for military families.

If you’re planning a cruise or vacation to a traditional tourist destination, consider searching the deals on the Armed Forces Vacation Club. They offer a free membership to service members. Once activated, membership offers you special discounts on hotels, cruises, and vacation rentals around the country and the world.

Their signature deal is $350 total for a 7-night stay, based on dates and room availability. You can also check with your base ITT office for military discounts on cruises and vacation packages.

Remember that some military bases are located in luxury locations, so you can always reserve a room at the Navy or Marine Corps Lodge for much cheaper than a civilian hotel in town.

On-base inns in Monterrey or Coronado, California, as well as Hawaii (several different bases) are great choices for beautiful and affordable accommodations.

Military vacation deals for visiting relatives.

I know, I know, visiting your family may not be high on your list of luxury vacation destinations. But let’s be honest—many military families use their “vacation time” to visit relatives when they are stationed far away.

It can be a wise choice, since you never know when the military will station you even farther away and make it even more difficult (and expensive) to get back home.

If you’re driving, consider turning it into a road trip by visiting the Blue Star Museums that are free to military families all summer long. You can also get free admission to Sea World or Busch Gardens once per year through the Waves of Honor program.

If you are flying, check out the airline discounts on the brand new travel website for military families: American Forces Travel.

They have teamed up with Priceline to offer discounts on airfare, rental cars, cruises, and vacation packages. These discounts are available to active duty, retired military, and dependent family members. That can add a lot of savings—and a lot more fun—into your trip to visit family.

No matter how or when you plan to take a vacation, military families can always find great deals. Use these ideas as inspiration to plan something fun and affordable for your family this year!

Want more on military life?

The post The Beginners Guide to Epic Military Vacation Deals appeared first on The Military Wife and Mom.

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Inside: How to get clear on setting limits with your strong-willed child without feeling overwhelmed and defeated. Plus, the biggest misconception I see in working with parents of strong-willed kids.

I sat at the kitchen table with my laptop firmly resting beneath the pads of my fingertips. What I typed next was something I shared all too often with parents wanting to set limits with strong-willed kids:

“I can tell you’re really trying to understand your son and help him feel successful in SO MANY ways. You can see this especially when you try to stay present with him as he continues expanding on what he was telling you, despite your boundary being a certain amount of time prior. You’re using the chore chart because you want him to be responsible, and it seems like a reasonable framework to help him achieve success. I can even hear the concern in your voice over what is happening at preschool with his meltdowns. You’re worried, and more than anything, you want him to enjoy a peace and calmness in his heart.”

Wait. Let me back up.

You’re probably wondering what the parent asked about in the first place.

(more on that in a second)

But without knowing the question, I know you can feel a touch of familiarity in the words.

You’re trying to help your strong-willed child feel successful.

You’re working to teach him the life lessons he needs to survive in this world.

You’re creating the structure and the framework she needs at home.

You’re giving it all you’ve got with this kid.

And yet, the battles continue.

You ask yourself, “Why at the end of the day is this so stinkin’ hard?”

Deep down, you’re genuinely concerned because today it’s incessant fights over dinner and bedtime. In five or ten years, it’s fights over curfews, social media, drugs and any rabbit hole you’re willing to let your mind travel down.

It’s overwhelming – dealing with a strong-willed child.

This is something no one really talks about, but in order to parent a strong-willed child, you have to get to the heart of the issue.

You have to understand what’s really going on beneath the surface. From there, the answers become so. much. clearer.

Setting limits with your strong-willed child starts here.

Strong-willed kids are often seen as defiant or rebellious because grown ups say one thing and the kids do the complete opposite or they seem to struggle immensely with boundaries.

If you’re able to see strong-willed kids in a completely different light, what you actually have on your hands is a child who is very self-directed and a child who has been trying to create his own boundaries for a long time. This can lead to a lot of chaos and missed communications.

Related: 10 Highly Effective Phrases for Raising a Strong-Willed Child

Strong willed kids are typically fine with boundaries (how a grown up likes or doesn’t like things), and what they are actually struggling with is the rule (one of the million different ways to help the child bounce from our preferences / boundaries and find a way to meet their own needs of power, experience and connection). 

Since boundaries are a crucial part of parenting strong-willed kids, let’s go deeper here:

Boundary – what you or the teacher or another grown up likes or doesn’t like, wants or doesn’t want for the child. Getting more clear on the boundary can help you enforce it without feeling like you have to move a mountain in a day.

For example, if you want your child to help feed the pets, clean up toys, clear plate after meals, brush teeth and show respect, it sounds like your REAL boundaries are three things:

1). Raise a responsible kid
2). Raise a kid who takes care of things (another layer of responsibility)
3). Raise a kid who treats others well. 

Rules – These are all the different ways you can help a child accept a boundary and meet their needs within a boundary. For example, feeding the pets is just ONE possible way to help a child learn responsibility, caring for things and treating others well. If this rule isn’t working so well, you can change it or create a new way to help a child learn responsibility.

Understanding the difference between rules and boundaries is the foundation for bringing more clarity to the whole situation – so you can help strong-willed kids shift into cooperation.

Related: 3 Things Every Parent of a Strong-Willed Toddler Should Know

Now here’s the nitty gritty of what’s really happening.

With strong-willed or self-directed kids, they will have a very high need for power and control. They will attempt over and over to set their own boundaries – it’s why it’s so important that we get clear on our own boundaries, but flex on the rules the child needs to accept the boundary.

It makes so much sense why strong-willed kids don’t respond to “punishments” and why they continue to fail over and over again with charts and more control.

One of the biggest misconceptions out there in the world is that kids learn best by failure, when the truth is kids learn best by success. Disappointment and mistakes are all part of life. There’s no doubt about that. But as parents, we can help our kids find possibilities for success even when they mess up. That’s the problem-solving skill that will serve them well for life!

Related: How to Stop a Whining Child – Immediately

Helping strong-willed kids want to cooperate.

A few simple ideas to help strong-willed kids want to cooperate with you.

1. Get clear on your REAL boundaries.

Often times in parenting, we accidentally back ourselves into a corner saying things like, “You have to pick up the toys now.” Now, you’re pegged and have to somehow make them pick up the toys or “else” you start to lose your authority.

Instead of thinking of your boundary as “picking up the toys right now”, your REAL boundary might be that you want to raise tidy and responsible kids. And your preference is to keep a tidy home. Well, there’s a million ways to do that. Cleaning up the toys at this exact moment in time is only one possibility.

2. Help strong-willed children find success using rules.

Think of all the ways a strong-willed child can learn to accept your boundary using the infinite possibilities that come with rules.

Using the tidy or clean up example, look for options where your child is most cooperative and start there. Kids learn best by success, so each time your child is successful, be sure to name that as a STRENGTH. This helps tie the STRENGTH (what the child did well) to a behavior or action. And here’s the important part: The child’s future actions are based out of STRENGTHs.

Here are some ways that even young children can show strengths of tidiness and responsibility:

  • Put away folded laundry into drawers.
  • Clears plate from table.
  • Does self-care for oneself (i.e. teeth brushing, combing hair, getting dressed)
  • Use a handheld vacuum or broom and dustpan to clean small messes.
  • Grab a towel and clean up a spill.
  • Put away toys.
  • Pull weeds.
  • Make bed.

Before making a rule, look for times of day when your child is most successful. Waiting until bedtime to clean up toys can sometimes be more like gas on a fire than a peaceful singing of kumbaya.

3. When rules aren’t working, change them.

It’s up to us as parents to help our kids find success with life skills that are important. When things aren’t going so hot, it’s up to us – the parents – to shift the structure and the framework we provide for kids to help them find success. Kids can even participate in problem-solving what rules might work better.

Related: 13 Habits That Raise Well-Adjusted Kids

So for example, instead of cleaning up toys before bedtime, you and the child can shift into problem-solving a different rule that might work better.

It might sound something like this:

“The toys need to get picked up at some point today. There must be something you can do to remember to pick up the toys. Maybe there is a time you like to clean up. Maybe there is a fun game you like to play while you clean up. Maybe there’s a different job you want to do to help out around the house, and we can remove some of the toys so there isn’t so much mess. Lots of options! Let’s make a plan together.”

If your child is consistently struggling with a rule like cleaning up the toys, you can help your child experience success by helping them “back up.”

This is where you’d, for example, reduce the amount of toys in the house so there are only small messes to clean up vs. big messes that only leave us, as parents, feeling triggered, angry and resentful when kids can’t or won’t do it.

Each time your child is more successful with small messes, you can start to move onto bigger messes. Start with success, not failure.

“My child has been strong willed since birth.”

“He knows what he wants—so much so that a lot of ‘punishments’ don’t phase him. He will just keep on doing his own thing and doing what he wants. What is challenging with him seems to change daily and there has yet to be a day in his life that he hasn’t cried. He really is a sweet kid and there are some days that are really good and there are a lot of days that are super frustrating for everyone.” – Concerned mom of a strong-willed kiddo

These are common words that I hear from concerned parents all the time. If you hear these words in your head too, then you need to know this…

You’re trying to help your strong-willed child feel successful.

You’re working to teach him the life lessons he needs to survive in this world.

You’re creating the structure and the framework she needs at home.

You’re giving it all you’ve got with this kid.

These are life long skills that are built slowly over time with strong-willed kids. There’s a million ways to help them grow into happy, healthy and thriving adults.

Hold your boundaries – they desperately need it.

Flex on the rules – they desperately want it.

Hey there! I’m Lauren, a Language of Listening® parent coach, and I help parents just like you take simple steps to help your kids want to listen AND become the amazing grown-ups they are meant to be. To get more awesome and insightful parenting ideas using Language of Listening, click the button below to get started.

Want more on parenting?

The post The Big Reason Why Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child Isn’t Working appeared first on The Military Wife and Mom.

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