Friday, December 3, 2010

What I did to get my PhD (and why you should be sensitive with your kids)

Did I ever tell you the story of my dissertation? Well gather ‘round, Jamie’s going tell you a story. A story about kids and parents, and kids growing up to be…teenagers. (‘Oooooohhhh. What are teenagers?’) Well, teenagers are kind of like kids. They still live at home with a mommy and a daddy, but they’re kind of like monsters, too. They come out at night and sometimes they’re really mean.

Just kidding. Kind of.

For my dissertation, which is the ridiculously long and painful sophisticated original research paper you write before you get your PhD, I studied how moms help their young children develop into teenagers who can 1. Communicate effectively with them and 2. Display independence in the relationship.

I know what you’re thinking. No, I did not follow kids from the time they were preschoolers until they were teenagers. Not for the sole purpose of finishing my PhD. I jumped into the project when the kids were 15, then I used some of the data from when they were younger.

Here’s an interesting little tidbit- guess how we measured how the teens were communicating and displaying independence with their moms? We had them talk about a disagreement. Yep. We did. And it was fascinating / colorful / entertaining / every other adjective you can think of.

So, want to know what I found? Want to know what YOU, as a parent, can do to support your child now so that she will (hopefully) communicate well with you when she’s a teenager?

Moms who were more sensitive with their kids as youngsters (in my project, ages 15 months - grade 5) had teenagers who were better able to communicate about disagreements when they were teenagers.

What do I mean by sensitive? Here’s what a sensitive mom looked like in my research:

  • Being aware of your child’s interests, needs, and moods – Can you tell when your child is feeling excited, frustrated, bored, or angry?
  • Letting your child take the lead on tasks
  • Acknowledging your child’s efforts and abilities –  For example, ‘You are working really hard!’
  • Responding to and expanding upon what your child says – Not just responding with a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but taking what your child says and expanding upon it to keep the conversation going
  • Being ‘in sync’ with your child when playing – Can you tell when your kiddo is over excited and needs to slow down? Can you tell when he’s getting a little bored and needs something more exciting or engaging?
  • Providing appropriate support – Are you able to help your child with a task or game without being too pushy (insisting on doing it your way instead of theirs)? In contrast, are you paying enough attention to notice when she needs help without her having to ask?

How do you do ‘sensitive’ with your child? Does it make a difference? How can you tell?


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