Friday, July 11, 2008

iPhone 2.0 Activation Fix. Get Through Server Overload

Here is the fix that finally got me through after hours of hitting the okay button on the -4 iTunes error message:

1) When the error message comes up hit okay, but Do Not Disconnect your iPhone.
2) Quit iTunes
3) Relaunch iTunes
4) Voila. If you had the same luck I did, you're likely breathing easier now just like me.

Hope this helps.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shared Control: The Art of Offering Choices Within Limits

At some level we are all aware that sharing control with children is essential. As I mentioned in my last post, kids get bossed around all day. Others decide what they can eat, what they should watch on television, who they can play with, etc. I'm not suggesting that this shouldn't be the case. The adult should be making a lot of these decisions. But think about this from your child's perspective for a minute. It would drive us nuts if our boss, for instance, had that much control over our lives.

So the idea of sharing control with kids is to do it both consciously and wisely. One of the most widely used and time tested ways to share control with kids is to offer choices within limits.

Many parents have heard that it is good to offer choices, and have tried it. There are lots of places to go wrong though. The one I see frequently go awry is offering a child two choices intending that he will pick one of them. So the first tip is to make sure to only offer choices where you'd be fine with the child going for either option. You know deep down that if you have one you really are wanting him to go with, he's going for the other. We forget this fact in the heat of the moment though.

Offer most choices when things are going smoothly. Sure choices can, and should be used to set limits as well. In fact, lots of choice both share control and set limits. But choices work best when they are mostly offered on things that really don't matter much to the adult. Jim Fay often quips that there are two places to share control: 1) where we don't really need it, and 2) where we never had it to begin with. I love the second of these two because there are often things that we waste all sorts of our energy trying to control when there is about as much chance of us pulling it off as the family dog does of finally catching his tail.

Now when you offer choices like these inevitably our cherubs will occasionally pick a third option that is not on the list. Sometimes when things aren't going smoothly in the home, kids will do this most of the time. This can drive a parent to the brink pretty quickly. "I'm trying to give him some choices, and he NEVER cooperates." See my next post on choices for how to handle this twist on shared control.

The photo above was taken by Alatriste of his nephew. You can see more of his creative, clever shots on Flickr.

If you enjoyed this article please vote for it on Digg, above, or Netscape or one of the other options below. You can also bookmark the site to the right. I appreciate your support.

Four Ways to Effectively Handle Arguing

It can be really aggravating when you ask a child to do something reasonable and you get arguing in response. There are a wide array of ways that this can be handled effectively. One thing to keep in mind is that an important and often overlooked part of the mission is that you as the adult model ways to take good care of yourself.

Communicate some empathy. No matter what the circumstances, starting off with some empathy can never hurt. “Looks like you’re not to happy about TV being over for the day” “You really wish I’d let you go over to Ian’s house. I can understand you being frustrated with me.” What is counterintuitive, but very powerful is being empathetic, but still maintaining the reasonable limit. You can be pleasant to be around as a parent and still set reasonable boundaries and limits.

Use an enforceable statement. “I’ll be happy to talk about this when your voice is calm like mine.” We’ve covered enforceable statements before. The essence is that in a positive tone you describe what you are willing to do, provide or allow, and under what circumstances.

Walk away. This is especially powerful and helpful if 1) you have already made an enforceable statement, repeated it once calmly, and the child continues with the arguing; or 2) in some circumstances when the child is being especially obnoxious, you can pair the enforceable statement with immediately walking away. This is one of many examples of how to enhance your credibility as a parent. As they say at the Love and Logic Institute you “Say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you say you’ll do.”

Circle back around at a calmer time. One very easy error to slide into as parents is trying to work things out in the heat of the moment. If you’ve implemented one of the above suggestions, it can help strengthen your connection with your child to check back in later when things are calm. At that calmer time you can note the child’s frustration and 1) simply acknowledge it without doing anything else, 2) invite them to talk about the situation, or 3) invite them to go back to the drawing board with you and collaboratively work on exploring other ways to look at, and work with the situation that the arguing was about. Looking more closely at collaborative problem solving certainly deserves its own set of posts. When you circle back like this fairly regularly, it makes it easier for your child to cooperate since they have some say and won't tend to feel pushed around. When you stop to think about it, kids do have to put up with a lot of adults making the decisions. By circling back and acknowledging how they feel, it makes this more tolerable. As the late Haim Ginott, the wonderful child psychologist, put it. The child should either have "voice or choice". In other words if they can't have some say in the matter, they should at least be able to protest, especially if done reasonably.

Whatever you do with arguing, the one thing to avoid is arguing back in the heat of the moment. Losing your composure ratchets down your parenting credibility quotient, and it never seems to help resolve the issue at hand. For maximum effectiveness jot these tips down and put them somewhere you can refer back to. Post its, as always are your best friend.

What age are your kids and what sorts of things do they tend to argue about? Have you had any successes trying out any of these four principles, or some related one?

If you enjoyed this article please vote for it on Digg, above, or Netscape or one of the other options below. You can also bookmark the site to the right. I appreciate your support.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Using Children's Books for Difficult Topics

I am a big fan of using books with young kids for discussing difficult topics. Though we may have the best of intentions, with young children, it is just not a good developmental fit to sit across from them and simply talk about a difficult topic as we might with a friend or much older child. Of course it's not that conversations aren't appropriate at all. Though there are some tricks as far as timing and context that can help, which I'll cover in a separate post. Picture books are wonderful though for topics ranging from grief, to moving, to divorce and blended families. Kids naturally just enjoy picture books and being read to. During challenging times when your child might need one of these books they need cuddling more than usual. Reading with them invites to satisfy that healthy need in a context that feels natural doesn't make them feel awkward.

During these difficult times, kids also very much benefit from repetition. The repetition of coming back to a book is in and of itself soothing. By listening to a book read to them or looking at books on their own, they can continue to approach a difficult topic, like divorce or death or even a first visit to the dentist, again and again as they settle into adjusting to the difficult issue in their lives. Prior to a bladder surgery when my daughter was in Kindergarten, she began adjusting to this big life event by coming back to the book several times about staying the night in the hospital.

Books like this have another huge valuable affect. That is that it is much easier to talk about a book or a character in a book than it is to talk directly about their own feelings. It is much less threatening and allows them a bit of emotional distance that can make the topic more approachable. Older kids often benefit in a similar way from books that are just text.

There are a wide array of books on topics like these. For me a great place to start if you're stumped on books for the biggies is with Marc Brown, the author of the well known Arthur books. His style of illustration is soothing, and often familiar. He hits all the specifics of the difficult topic in a very straightforward, understandable way.

As a side note, these aren't just for kids. As adults, especially with the death of a loved one, it hits us hard in a tender very child-like place. I've heard lots of adults talk about benefitting from reading books that were meant for their children. The one I've most often heard about this with is Tear Soup. You can even see in the reviews some adults talking about being touched by this "children's book" when they lost a spouse. So if you have a child in your life that is struggling with one of life's big topics from the death of a pet or family member, to having a medical procedure done, to a divorce or separation, consider a book on the topic.

If you enjoyed this article please vote for it on Digg, above, or Netscape or one of the other options below. You can also bookmark the site to the right. I appreciate your support.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Prozac Goose Chase. Why Prozac Probably Works Differently Than We Thought

The Boston Globe reports on a theory that I'd heard about a while back that seems to be gaining traction, amassing evidence to support it, Head Fake: How Prozac Sent the Science of Depression in the Wrong Direction. The idea is that rather than depression being due to a shortage of some neurotransmitter or other, that it is actually due to neurons (brain cells) shrinking and dying in much the same way as they do in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The only difference being that with depression the damage appears to be reversible. This new theory also might account for the phenomenon known as the "Prozac lag" where despite the serotonin levels increasing in patients hours after taking the drug, the decrease in depression takes weeks. This points to the serotonin explanation just not explaining what is going on. Fascinating stuff. It will be interesting to see how things shake out with the evidence over time.

Seven Inside Tips for Mastering New Skills

  1. Be patient with yourself. This is the most important one. People often have unrealistic expectations for how quickly they are going to master a new behavior. This unrealistic expectation sets up for early discouragement.
  2. Pick one or two new skills to focus on. Don't try to change everything at once. Just as it makes sense to help your kids to work on only one or two new skills at a time, you should do the same with yourself. As number 3 below will explain, you need to give your brain time to change. It is not an instantaneous process. Accepting that fact and working with it vastly increases the odds of your success.
  3. Don't confuse understanding with mastery. Lots of times when parents hear about a new skill, like enforceable statements for instance, and have an exciting moment of insight into how it would help and why, and some become disappointed when they go home and end up doing the same thing they did before they learned about the new skill. The insight was important, very important, but the way the brain works dictates that it take some time and repetition for a new habit to form. Your brain is actually altering physical neural connections and is forming new ones. It doesn't happen all at once, as nice as that would be.
  4. Understand how your brain works. In the heat of the moment our brains very automatically shift into what psychologists call over-learned skills, that is skills that we've practiced over and over and over. So if we usually get upset and yell at our kids, in a moment of stress, our brain will tend to powerfully veer toward that old way of doing things. This is not your fault. It is just how the brain works.
  5. Use visual cues. The veering to overlearned skills is the reason why when you have a new skill you want to master you need to get it to the forefront of your mind, over and over. Post its are your best friend for acquiring new skills. Slap them on the bathroom mirror, on the door jamb of your closet. If you have young kids, stick them on the fridge (they can't read yet). These not only might remind you in the heat of the moment of the skill you could use, they also function to create repetition. Every time you see the post it reminding you of the skill, it reinforces those newly forming connections, which neurology textbooks explain, will make them stronger.
  6. Create a learning loop. Make a habit of reviewing regularly, maybe before bed or at breakfast, how you did on the one or two new skills you're working on. Without judgment review how things went. How did you handle the situation? If you yelled or phrased what you said to your child in an unhelpful way, picture how you would say it according to the new skill. Picture the scenario and visualize your calmly doing what you hope to be able to do in the future. The key is to do with with number 1 in mind.
  7. Count awareness as progress. Parents who give themselves credit for at least realizing after the fact that they could have done something differently are the same ones who go on to make changes in their relationships with their kids that make life more enjoyable for everyone involved. Those who don't usually get discouraged and give up on the new skill before it has a chance to take root. This is one of many reasons why awareness is half of the name of this blog.
Now you're ready to select one or, at most, two skills and make them yours. With patience and realistic expectations about how your brain makes changes, you can make them happen. I see who are equipped with this knowledge do it all the time.

Also this article I did over at GTDtimes looks a bit more in-depth at the dance we do with the unconscious, automatic parts of our mind every time we try to take on a complex new skill, which includes any interpersonal skills, and especially parenting. The idea is essential for understanding why we often commit to ourselves to do something and then are puzzled when we just don't follow through. I think you'll enjoy it.

If you enjoyed this article please vote for it on Digg, above, or Netscape or one of the other options below. You also bookmark the site to the right. I appreciate your support.