Posts By: Alyson Schafer

7 Tips for Successful Birthday Parties

1. Do not make kids’ birthday parties too long. Kids only have a limited amount of energy and attention span before they start to misbehave and things start to fall apart.
2. Be very clear in the invitation as to whether this is a ‘drop-off’ or a ‘parents-stay-behind’ party. If you aren’t prepared to host 7 or 8 extra adults for the duration of the party, be clear up front.
3. Make sure you have enough eyeballs on hand to help you supervise the party. Extra support can come from your partner or a couple of your friends, but you will need help – especially with younger children.
4. Plan some activities. Don’t over-plan and be disappointed when kids aren’t following all of the instructions. Kids need some freedom and free-play. On the same hand, don’t under-plan and give them too much free time where they can get bored.
5. It won’t go perfectly. Just remember, it’s not so much about the game at hand, it is about everyone being together, smiling and having a fun time. So if they don’t want to play Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey or they decide the magician is boring – move it along and go with the energy of the children.
6. Decide in advance if you are going to open presents in front of everyone or if they are going to be put on a table and opened after the guests leave. If you opt to open presents, be sure your child takes the time to personally thank each guest for the gift. If you have decided to open the gifts later, it is important for your child to call or send a thank you note after to acknowledge the gift that they received.

7. For the uninitiated, you might find it easier to host a party outside the home such as at the movie theatre, a gymnastics club or bowling alley. You won’t have to worry about the clean-up and there are extra staff members on hand that are accustomed to the noise and activity level.

Happy Birthday!

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com

Birthday Budget Learning Opportunities

Contextual learning is the new buzz word for education. Children learn concepts best when taught in context. So what better time than hosting a birthday party to teach some financial literacy skills to your children.

When my daughter described how she envisioned her 8th birthday party, she told me she wanted to invite all of her friends, have a big birthday cake with a princess on it, matching plates and streamers and to go to a movie. Rather than just flatly saying “no we can’t afford it”, and creating upset, I explained to her that we had to work within a birthday budget.

So I gave her an amount to work with and we priced out everything together. I had her see the numbers and choose for herself. Instead of me saying “you can only have 6 friends” – I said it doesn’t matter to me so long as you come in with a plan for a birthday party on a budget.

She compared the cost of bowling to movie tickets to games at home and how that price was impacted by the number of people invited.

She could buy the matching plates / cups / table clothes with the Disney characters, or get plain coloured ones from the dollar store to make the place look festive at half the price.

We compared a slab cake from the grocery store with a Disney princess to the cost of making one from a box and icing it ourselves. That would free up more money to invite more people bowling. Turns out – the grocery story bakery cake was very important to her and worth the sacrifice. Her party, her choices, her values – my budget. We were both happy. Had I made the decisions unilaterally, I would have been seen as the ‘meany’. Instead, I was a hero – she learned a lot and really took ownership of her party.

You might be surprised at just how creative and amazingly co-operative kids can be when they have a budget to work within!

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com

Tips for Dealing with Siblings Fighting

 

Conflict between siblings is inevitable.  In fact, all of life is full of dealings with others who have different priorities, styles, values and methods. So really, conflict is a natural part of life.  Conflict is something to learn to manage well rather than something to feel badly about or avoid.

Don’t measure your parenting competency by how much your children fight, but rather by how you respond to their fighting.  The first step always in my parenting approach is to help parents understand the dynamics that are sustaining a behavior.   Here are some facts about siblings:

1) Fighting is Cooperative.  It takes two to fight.  Both play a role in the conflict.  Both have the ability to choose behaviors that will either escalate or de-escalate conflict.  If they choose escalation, it’s because they agreed to go that direction.  (See? And just when you thought they didn’t agree on anything!)

2) Behavior is Goal-Oriented.  Behavior is movement away from a perceived position of inferiority to a position of security or “felt plus.”  The usefulness of fighting is usually found in the parent’s response:

  • Fighting results in parental attention.  Albeit negative, negative attention is still better than no attention at all.  Let’s face it, children who behave well get ignored and those who act up get parents engaged.  It’s a no-brainer, really.
  • One child acts in the role of the “victim” and finds a benefit in acting weak and incapable, so that they learn by being helpless, a parent will step in and fight their battles and punish their siblings–making them feel they are favored over their sibling.
  • One child acts in the role of the “aggressor” and may already feel they are treated unfairly in the family.  They arrange life to prove their belief that they are treated unfairly.  Two kids kerfuffle and yet they are the only one to be sent to their room?  ”SO UNFAIR!  SEE, I TOLD YOU…. YOU HATE ME AND LOVE HER!”

Solutions:

1) Ignore – When your siblings are fighting, don’t referee.  No matter how “fair and objective” you think you are, someone is going to think you are taking sides.  Trust me, you can’t win this one.  Instead, honor that they are the caretakers of their own relationship with each other and leave them to deal with one another. “I don’t enjoy being with you two when you are choosing not to get along.  Call me when you feel like getting along.” Then LEAVE….  (Notice in the language I am explaining to them that it’s their CHOICE to get along or not? That is not conscious to them so it’s good to spell it out.)

2) Put Them in the Same Boat - Just like the expression goes: imagine your two siblings in a canoe both trying to paddle to different shores. Eventually, left on their own with the reality of the situation, they will discover that if they cooperate they can paddle to both shores, and without cooperation, they can get nowhere!  If you feel ignoring the fighting is not an option, put them in the same boat such that, whatever consequence befalls one, befalls the other. For example:

“Seems the computer is causing conflict.  I’m going to turn it off until you two have a plan worked out for sharing it cooperatively.”

or

“It seems you two are having a hard time playing together without hurting each other–you both need to take five minutes in our rooms to chill out.  Let see if you can play safely again after that.”

3) Family Meeting – If one child always acquiesces to another, and it seems unfair to you, don’t get sucked into fighting for one child’s rights.  Instead, put the issue you feel is unfair on the family meeting agenda and discuss it outside the time of conflict.

You’ll be very surprised how cooperative your children become when you step out of your traditional role!

I know it’s hard to believe this will work, so here is a testimonial:

I have to say Alyson’s advice to do with siblings and fostering sibling harmony have been some of the best tools we have put into practice in our home. And funny enough at first it felt the most un-intuitive to NOT micromanage how our kids were getting along! Our kids are now 5 and 3 and yes of course, they have the odd squabble, but we do our best to stay out. And they have an amazing ability to reconcile, compromise, share and most of all, are empathetic to each other, all on their own. We see this positive behaviour reflected in how they treat their friends too. It’s incredibly rewarding. Thanks Alyson, for all your encouragement along the way and for your very sage advice. We are expecting the arrival of our third child so I am off to re-read the sibling chapters for a refresher!”  - Mya Kraft  ( Alyson’s Parenting Bootcamp alumni from Winnipeg)

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com

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