What To Do When You Think There Is More To The Story

By Marcia Hall

Understanding why children react the way they do can be as problematic as understanding the mysteries of the universe at times. One moment your child is engrossed and pleased with a particular activity, the next she hates it and acts like she’s being tortured the minute you try to get her involved.

Children change their minds at the drop of a hat and have meltdowns due to a number of different reasons. However, if your child has suddenly stopped liking something that she previously has loved, there might be more to the story. Getting to the bottom of it might take time and there will likely be a lot of frustration. Here are the “Do’s and Don’ts” of helping your child process her feelings and understanding her behavior.

Don’t assume you know the story. There is always more to the story than it seems on the surface. It is very easy to look at a situation your child is faced with and come to your own conclusion. Try to control your urge to make a judgment call until you hear the entire story.

Don’t accuse or blame your child of doing something wrong. Even if you believe your child has some fault in the situation, blaming her for the situation is counterproductive. If she was at fault, she will learn more from the situation if she comes to this conclusion on her own. Never shame your child, especially in front of others.

Don’t assume your child is innocent in the situation. While you don’t want to openly blame your child for a wrongdoing, you also don’t want to ignore her actions when they are misguided. Sometimes it is difficult for a parent or close caregiver to accept that the child they have raised would do something hurtful to others. However, even the most well behaved and kind child can suffer from lapses in judgment.

Don’t step in to “fix” the problem. After the root issue is discovered you will likely know how best to solve the problem. Work to control this impulse. It might be simple for you to step in and solve this seemingly simple problem, however your child will learn nothing if you do.

Do allow the child to be upset. When you love your child, you don’t want to see her upset. It can be very hard to sit by and watch someone you love hurt. However, crying and being angry are a necessary part of the healing process. Stay close and remain calm while your child is upset, but don’t try to stop the emotion from surfacing.

Do really listen. Seems simple enough, right? Real listening involves more than just your ears. It involves what you see, the past experiences you have with the child and all the compassion you can find. In order to really listen to your child, you need to give her your time and be focused on her.

Do ask questions in a non-judgmental way. Once your child is done talking, this is your chance to ask questions to clarify the experience. These questions should not suggest anything; they should be simple and open ended. What happened then? How did you respond? What did he say? How did that make you feel? How do you think he felt?

Do help her resolve the problem with as little interference as possible. As your child discusses the issue, and you ask clarifying questions, there will likely be an obvious resolution. Avoid telling her what she should do or doing it for her by talking to the other child or the child’s parents. Instead, help your child come up with several possible solutions to the dilemma. The more you do for her, the less she learns from the experience for the next she’s time faced with a similar situation. For younger children, it might be a good idea to alert teachers or other caregivers to the situation if you feel the topic might come up.

Helping your child through a difficult situation can take time, but it is well worth the effort. When children are not allowed to release the frustration and the emotional pain they feel, other problems will begin to surface. Dealing with those behaviors will always take longer than helping your child work through her problems.

How to Survive the Holidays when Traveling with Kids

By Marcia Hall

Traveling during the holidays is stressful on its own. When you add a car filled with small children, you have a recipe for the longest day of your life. Fortunately, there are a few ways to make the experience not just tolerable, but fun, in the family adventure kind of way. How?

Plan in advance.  It is always important to start with a plan. It’s likely the plan will change, so flexibility is key, but if you start with a plan in place it will be much easier to adjust as you go. Starting with a plan does not mean that you are stuck with the plan, but rather that you have some idea of when you will start, what route you will take, where you hope to take your breaks and when you want to eat.

Pack light.  Wherever you are going, there will likely be a store you can stop at if you don’t have what you need. No one in the family needs seven different outfits for three days at your mother’s. Decide what is needed, bring one extra outfit and be done with it. If you have an infant, it can be tempting to bring every piece of baby equipment you have at home. DON’T. You will be with family. Everyone will want to hold the baby anyway, and you probably won’t even use the equipment you bring.

Avoid a lot of liquids. There is something about traveling that makes some children thirsty. Try to limit how much your child drinks on the trip because liquids will go right though her. Though you are going to expect frequent stops, inevitably your child will not have to go when given the chance, then need to go 15 minutes after you leave the gas station. For children who have recently been potty trained, you might want to consider using a pull-up for the trip. Doing so can save you from accidents when it is just not possible to stop right away.

Have healthy snacks available. When children eat junk food on trips, especially if they are not used to eating it, their bodies tend to overreact to it. It is best to stick with snacks that are healthy and that your child is used to eating. Use sturdy containers that close well and a thermal bag for packing favorites. Bring napkins and wipes to clean up messes.

Bring activities. There is only so much time a child can relax and stare out a window. DVD’s can be helpful when children get bored, and parents should not feel guilty about having children watch a little TV during the holidays. Perhaps use holiday DVD’s and make viewing them a special treat. You should also bring crafts, games and books that are travel friendly. However, be aware that some children get carsick if they use these. Try books on tape or have the adult passenger read aloud, if possible.

Make up games. Verbal games not only help your child pass the time, they also help engage her brain. If your child is learning the alphabet, search road signs for letters. Grab an empty tissue box, put an object in it and have the kids guess what it is without looking. Let them feel, shake and smell it to see if they can guess what it is. Play a few rounds of I Spy. Get creative and you’ll find that the kids will even make up games to play.

Sing songs. If your kids are young, they will love singing together. If they are older pick songs they love and hope for the best. If they are teen’s, they may roll their eyes and put in their ear buds, but they’ll still remember your time together.

When things go wrong – and they will – take a deep breath and realize that despite the travel issues, whether big or small, your child will have fond memories of the trip if you respond with patience and a smile.

6 Steps to Fostering Remorse in Children

By Marcia Hall

Arguments and fights on the playground or with other children are an inevitable part of childhood, however, that doesn’t make it any easier for parents or caregivers to know how to respond when their child comes home from school with stories of disagreements. It can be even harder when you find out that your child is often the one doing some of the hurting. Here are some steps you can use to help when that happens.

  • Remember that children are frequently testing what effect their words have on others during the school years. It is common for your child to say things to friends that she has heard you or others say. She also will likely get frustrated from time to time and say what is on her mind without thinking of how it might sound. Believe it or not, your child uses these conversations as tools to learn empathy. Empathy is not really learned until at least the age of eight and is not mastered until much later.
  • Avoid accusing your child of being mean. Telling her this, or even that what she did was mean, can have a negative effect on her self-image. Instead, ask her to think about why the other child might have responded the way he did. You can help her understand that the words she said or actions she performed might have hurt the other person. By helping her work through the problem in her mind, you are creating a memory of it. When she has a memory of this discovery, she will be more likely to recall the event when faced with the same feelings and emotions.
  • Ask questions instead of making statements. When discussing the situation with your child, it is best to not assume anything or make statements about those assumptions. It is much more effective to ask your child what happened with open-ended questions. “What is it that Sally said to you?” “Did you say anything to her first?” “Why do you think she would be angry enough to do that to you?” “How did you respond when she did that?” Give your child time to answer the questions. It is also best to find a time your child is not hungry, overtired or frustrated about something else to have this chat. If at all possible, pick a moment when you both are relaxed.
  • Encourage the child to mend the relationship instead of simply telling the person she’s sorry. A sincere apology is a good thing. It can make a bad situation much better. However, sometimes, especially with children, saying that you are sorry is not enough. There are often extra steps that need to be taken before the relationship is healed. This is true of most relationships. So, instead of telling your child to go say she is sorry, tell her that she should fix the damaged relationship. If she broke the toy the other child was playing with, ask her how she could repair or replace it. If she said something unkind to him, ask her what she can say that might make him feel better. It’s likely that she’ll tell you she should say she is sorry, which is fine as long as it comes from her heart.
  • Don’t require your child to make the relationship better or punish her if she does not do it. This tactic not only takes the control out of her hands, but it also means that she may not really be sorry about it. It might even mean that you are asking her to lie about being sorry to get out of punishment for herself. A truly sincere apology cannot be forced or coerced; it must come from the child’s brain and heart. Instead, you can remind her that in the future she might want that relationship to be healthy. There might be a time that she wants to play with the other child and she definitely wants the other child to be nice to her. You can explain to her that the other child might feel so hurt that he feels the need to be mean to her.
  • Encourage your child when she makes an effort to mend the relationship, even if it is not accepted by the other child immediately. Your child’s apology or amends to the person she has wronged may not immediately be received with open arms. It is possible that the other child will continue to be upset for some time. Regardless, it is important for you to tell your child how proud you are that she took steps to heal the relationship and remind her that sometimes it takes time for her to feel better after someone has hurt her, too. It might take a few extra kind words or actions for the child to come around.

When all is said and done, the best way to teach remorse is to show it yourself. Your child is constantly watching you and desperately wants to be like you. If you are frequently apologetic when you hurt her or other people, then she will follow suit and quickly learn to do the same.

3 Effective Uses of an Allowance

By Marcia Hall

For many families, using an allowance to encourage children to do chores is an effective means of both teaching responsibility and money management. For other families, linking chores to an allowance means that the children only learn to help out around the house in exchange for payment. It is important for parents to sit down and talk about what they hope their children learn from the experience of getting an allowance. Here are three common methods you may wish to consider implementing:

The “You’re Part of the Family” Strategy

This strategy will work well for a family that considers all members equal partners in making the family work. You start by pointing out that each adult member of the family plays a very important role in creating harmony in the family dynamic. Every adult has a job, and the same is true for children. In order to keep the household organized and effective in all that is done, everyone has certain jobs to do, so everyone also receives a certain amount of money that they can use at their discretion. This strategy hinges on a few things: adult family members must always set a good example when it comes to their own chores, and the chores given to a child must bring him closer to the whole family. Family work days are effective ways of making this strategy work. The downfall of this strategy is that it can often be harder to track what, when and how well a child completes his given tasks.

The “Must Work for Your Pay” Technique

This technique links each separate job with an amount of pay. The benefit of this style is that it can make keeping track of completed tasks much easier. To make this work, very clear expectations must be set both with a timetable and in regards to how to correctly carry out each task. The downside is that since the children link a task to a certain amount of money, they may decide the amount is not worth the work required to complete the task. This can cause friction and frustration with parents and children.

The “Request as Needed” Method

This method involves you allowing your child to make requests to you for the things he wants, which can allow you to help your child verbalize why what he wants is important to him. It also builds his ability to negotiate and be persuasive. The downside of this method, however, is that you will constantly be having your child ask for and negotiate for what he wants. With this method you can decide if you will link a chore to the money requested or if you will simply ask the child to do work based on being part of the family.

Whatever method you use, there are some universal tips for every allowance strategy:

  • Help your child learn to give and save by encouraging her to put 1/3 in a savings jar, 1/3 in a giving jar where she chooses where that money will go every so often, and 1/3 in a spending jar that she can use whenever she wants.
  • Begin early. Most experts suggest beginning to help children work with their own money around the time they enter Kindergarten.
  • You will need to clearly define that allowance money goes to what your child wants and not what she needs.
  • Raises should be given at birthdays and can also be linked to an increase in responsibilities.
  • Keep good track of responsibilities completed so that confusion and arguments do not occur over the job being completed.
  • As a child grows, it is OK to give extra money for larger jobs completed, like bigger seasonal work around the house.

Learning to work with money is an important childhood milestone. Giving an allowance can be a positive event that brings the family together instead of creating arguments.

The Tax Man Will Come: Celeb News Nannies and Nanny Employers Should Follow

There are always salacious stories detailing the trials and tribulations that come from nanny/employer relationships gone sour, such as the he said/she said accusations of impropriety that are later thrown out, with close sources suggesting the whole thing grew from a nanny feeling she was owed money and uncompensated for overtime.

Then there are the famous new parents that are so concerned about their newborns they insist on nanny care throughout the night, with nary a personal rest or meal break allowed during the 12-hour shift and no concerns (or perhaps knowledge) of labor laws that are being broken. Some say practices like confining a caretaker to a baby’s room for 12 hours, seven days a week is something more employers ought to know is wrong (and now in California, illegal without satisfactory overtime pay of time-and-a-half).

After all, no office manager or shop owner would ever consider such a thing.

“The biggest misconception is that employers do not believe their nannies are employees because they work in a home, not an office, and therefore do not need to be paid legally or have taxes withheld from their pay. This is far from true,” says Guy Maddalone, Founder/CEO of GTM Payroll Services.

Not only do parents mistakenly think labor rules don’t apply within their homes, but many forget to keep things official when it comes to paying taxes.

“According to the IRS, any household employee who earns $1,800 (2013) or more in a calendar year must be paid legally, or as an employee, and the employer must withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes regardless of whether they work on a part-time or full-time basis,” says Maddalone. “This includes nannies, housekeepers, senior care workers, drivers, and anyone else who may provide a service in the home. Employers are not required to withhold Federal and State income taxes unless agreed upon by both parties, however if an employer pays cash wages of $1,000 (2013) or more per quarter to a household employee they must pay federal unemployment tax.”

But who really keeps track of hours, notes when a parent asks a nanny to stay late for an occasional business dinner, or records when the nanny hangs out for an extra half hour here and there because the parents are running late from a meeting or conference call? Nannies should track these extra hours to protect themselves and back up any future claims for owed wages, although by law it is an employers’ duty to do so.

“The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to keep records on wages, hours, and other items as specified by the Federal Department of Labor. If a household employer fails to comply with any of these regulations and requirements, they risk being investigated by the IRS, which could result in hefty fines and penalties. They will also be responsible for paying all employment back taxes, interest, and penalties and will not be eligible for the Dependent Care Assistance Program (DCAP) tax break or the Child Tax Credit associated with employing someone in the home. “

Ignorance of the law is not considered a defense for disregarding regulations. If a nanny is paid a salary, the salary must be translated into an hourly rate to de­termine whether or not the nanny’s wages comply with the Fair Labor Standard Act. To determine whether the wages comply, divide the weekly salary by the number of hours worked to calculate the base hourly wage. If the employee works 40 or more hours in a seven day period, overtime must be included at a rate of 1.5 times the base hourly wage. The base hourly wage must be equal to or greater than federal minimum wage.

“It is important that employers understand state and federal laws so that they can become compliant and avoid these risks and hassles.”

Prospective employers can consult IRS Publication 926 Cat. No. 64286A Household Employer’s Tax Guide or contact GTM at 800.929.9213 for help understanding the federal and state requirements and/or setting up payroll for your nanny, housekeeper, senior care worker or other household employee.