Blog Entries

Kids Coming Home from School?

Five Tips for a Seamless Summer

School is almost out and for many parents that means rearranging schedules and daycare options or babysitters, shifting work schedules, signing up for summer camps and whether or not to keep all the routines and systems for continuity and sanity sake or toss them out for a few months. Much has been written on the subject in an attempt to help parents make the most of summer vacations – for themselves and for their kids. Read more

But what about parents who have college students headed their way? Students that are home for the summer before they return to campus life and those who are recently graduated and find themselves in that “tweener” spot of not really having that big job with the great advancement opportunities in one of the most dynamic cities in the world with their closest and most trusted friends as roommates. What about them and more importantly what about their parents?

TeensAs a mother who saw my own five college kids come and go, I knew that in order for all of us to survive a short summer stay (or as some of my friends were experiencing, a longer transition of sorts) it was in order to establish and then follow some basic guidelines. The guidelines ensure that everyone is treated with respect and that everyone takes responsibility for what is theirs. That includes words, attitude and actions, not just “stuff”. Clear boundaries limit opportunities for misunderstanding or power struggles.

The truth is I spent years cultivating a strong, healthy relationship with my kids and I didn’t want that demolished because an 18 or 22-year-old landed on my doorstep with very different ideas about life at home than the ones they grew up with, while living under my roof. So here are my five, tried and true tips on how to maintain a healthy, respectful and fun summer with your newly young adult kids.

  • Set the Tone with Appreciations: As soon as your beloved children arrive home, call the family together and dole out rich, deep and meaningful appreciations*. If you start by saying something like “I appreciate, that coming home for the summer or during this transition, isn’t the perfect situation for you and yet, you are willing to be flexible and mature enough to know that for now, it’s the wisest choice.” Or, “I appreciate how difficult it was to turn down that summer job in the city and come home so you could 1) concentrate on earning enough money to live off campus next year; 2) take a summer class so you can graduate on time; 3) help out the family …..By the time you finish delivering these appreciations, your kids will be ready to share an appreciation for you. Imagine how this is going to set the tone for the rest of your time together. Continue sharing appreciations formally at least once a week and I recommend putting up a large sheet of paper with the word APPRECIATIONS at the top and using it every day so that you all remember what is most important. Your relationship.
  • Get their ideas first: It’s easy to jump into parent mode with the kids, but I have found that life is much smoother when I took the time to ask them what their vision of our summer together would look like before I shared my vision. Each time I learned something new about my kids, how they had changed, what their expectations were and more importantly, what they were worried about. Because the truth is, our kids are as worried as we are when they step back into mom and dad’s domain. Keep asking gentle questions and get as much detail as you can. Then, show appreciation for how much thought they have put into their current situation.
  • Find something to agree on: After you have heard their ideas, identify one that coincides with one of your ideas and begin to build your shared vision from there. Work with your kids as if they are colleagues and not snarky 13-year-olds. They will appreciate the respect you are showing them and will return it in kind. We started with “clean up”. My kids initially agreed that if they made a mess, they would clean it up. I knew they meant well, but I also knew that they would get busy and forget and that there would be times when they just didn’t want to clean up. In order to be clear we talked about what “clean up” meant to all of us, how we would handle a messy kitchen without yelling or scolding, and so on. Just flushing these things out before they become issues saves everyone time, energy and misunderstandings. And a word of caution here, if you don’t want to do their laundry every week, don’t do it even once. Set a healthy precedent from the get-go and you will save yourself oodles of frustration later.
  • Keep it simple: The more “rules” you have, the more trouble you are likely to get into. Decide what your two or three non-negotiables are and make an agreement with the kids about those. Explain your position and ask them to explain theirs so that you both understand the other person. The kids have had a taste of independence and they have had to work with a roommate so they know how to compromise and cooperate. It will be up to you to allow that side of them to emerge. That is possible only when you control your parenting default setting and remember that this is not the same moody 13-year-old you once had to strong arm to help out, but a budding adult who needs support and patience.
  • Remain firm and flexible. Stay firm on the non-negotiables and be prepared to follow through with whatever you agreed to. That might mean that they find someplace else to live if they insist on staying out all night without calling by the agreed upon time to let you know. Only then will you be treating them like adults and if you do, they will most certainly rise to the occasion. If you don’t, you will likely return to nagging, reminding and then lecturing them on how selfish, rude and disrespectful they are which will only cause things to deteriorate quickly. Stay flexible with things like picking up the kitchen (unless that is your non-negotiable) and continue to talk with the kids about how to make life work for everyone concerned.

It is important that you remember, as hard as that may be at times, to treat the kids like colleagues or trusted friends. They might not be as mature as we hoped they would by 18, 19 or 22-years-old, but they deserve our respect and a chance to rise to their highest selves. That can only happen when we provide the space for them to do it.

Each time I dropped the kids off at college or off into the adventure we call adult life, I was gifted with a huge hug, a heartfelt thank you and tears which indicated to me that the time we spent together was as meaningful and special to them as it was to me. Don’t waste an entire summer bickering with a child who will soon enough be out on their own and will have the choice whether to call you or not, whether to come and visit or not and whether to share the most intimate and important parts of their life with you or not. These are crucial moments in our kid’s lives. Let’s be on our best behavior for each one of them.

Vicki Hoefle has been teaching parent education classes for over 25 years. Hoefle is the mother of five adult children and the author of Duct Tape Parenting, A Less is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, & Resilient Kids and The Straight Talk on Parenting, A No-nonsense Guide on How to Grow a Grownup. She is an in demand national speaker and parent coach and is available to speak at your school or organization on numerous parenting topics or work individually with your family. Please contact us for additional information.

*Learn more about Appreciations and Family Meetings and enroll in our online course today!

End of the Praise-Junkie

praise v encourage

What’s a Praise-Junkie?
A Praise Junkie is a child who depends on his/her parents to give constant feedback on what a “Great job she is doing” and “How proud they are of him?” It’s the child who asks “Do you like it?”, “Did I do a good job?”, “Are you proud of me?”, “Did I do it right?” kinds of questions.

A Praise Junkie is a child who looks to the outside world for approval instead of looking inside and using an internal compass to answer the question – do I approve of what I am doing and who I am becoming.

A Praise Junkie is a child who is so use to being judged on the end result, that the joy, the mystery and the excitement of being completely immersed in the Process has lost it’s meaning.

A Praise-Junkie is a child who is at risk of being manipulated by someone – out there – who will gladly give the approval and the applause that this child has become addicted to at the hands of well meaning parents.

When I first started studying Adlerian Psychology and began reading about the dangers of Praise, I, like most people I know, felt completely shocked by what I was learning.

“Praise – the feel good strategy of choice, not good for our kids? How could that be?”
I spent years talking with professionals, reading about the effects of Praise, observing how my own children responded to Encouragement instead of Praise and was soon convinced that Adler presented a good argument for closing the door on Praise and keeping it closed.

Read one Mom’s account of her daughter’s experience when her sister said, “I’m so proud of you!” You will see that when kids are raised with Encouragement from their parents instead of Praise, when someone says to them, “I’m proud of you,” it feels awful. It feels as if you weren’t able to do whatever it was that the parent was proud of, the parent would be disappointed. As parents you may think you are helping your child to feel good, but it has the opposite long-term effect.

So if I was going to give one piece of advice to parents it would be this, “Stop praising and telling your children you are proud of them.”

Even today, with all the research available to parents, I still hear – “How can that be? How can saying, ‘Good job’ or ‘I’m proud of you’ be bad? It makes my child happy, it makes me feel good and it’s easy!”

I admit, it can be a hard habit to break and the fact that it “feels good” (to us) only increases our resistance to giving it up.

So what is my alternative to praising? Encouragement of course.

Encouragement is an observation that can be given at any time, to anyone, in any situation. It is an observation, an acknowledgment, a statement that focuses on effort, improvement or choice, and it helps to promote self-esteem and a sense of self-worth in our children. Encouragement implies faith in and respect for the child as he/she is.

Encouragement is when you look at a drawing your child made and instead of just merely saying, “Good job!” you say, “You chose yellow. What about yellow do you like? Why that shade? What were you thinking about when you drew this? Would you do anything different next time?”

If you use encouragement on a regular basis with your children, it will teach your children to:

  1. Create an internal framework for themselves in which to self-assess their own lives, their preferences, and their progress:
  2. Figure out what is important to them;
  3. Spend less time asking the outside world what they think of who they are as people.

More than any other tool, strategy, concept or skill I use, encouragement has been and continues to be my strategy of choice. In fact, I consider encouragement “a way of being” more than a strategy I use. I believe that if parents developed and mastered the art of encouragement, they would experience dramatic and lasting changes in both their children’s behavior and the quality of the parent/child relationship.

If you’d like to learn more about Encouragement, I discuss the strategy in detail in my books Duct Tape Parenting, A Less is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible and Resilient Kids and The Straight Talk on Parenting, A No Nonsense Guide to Growing a Grownup.

If They Can Walk, They Can Work!

work

Old enough to walk, old enough to work!

A) You’re not alone

B) Now’s the time to do something about changing roles, and

C) Believe it or not, both you AND the kids will be glad you did now, and for years to come.

I realized at an early stage in my pregnancy with my first child that I could either be the maid or be emotionally available to my children, but I could not do both. Since there’s a far greater payoff to being emotionally available, I decided to train my children early on to help with the household chores.

Now, if you’re at all put off by the word train, here are a few other verbs straight out of my thesaurus: teach, coach, educate, instruct, guide, prepare, tutor… and you’ve got to love this one… school.

I use the word train because that’s what it is. And let’s face it, training is useful – it makes us all better at what we do. And knowing how to learn from our training is a skill in and of itself. A skill, I might add, that will serve your children well as they go off to school, into the workplace… but that’s another topic for another day. Back to making everyone’s life easier and more pleasant by taking off that maid’s outfit and giving your children a chance to be part of the family fun.

Is there an optimal time for training?

The quick answer is YES! Over the years I developed a very simple answer for parents when they would ask me how young they could start training their children to help around the house. My answer is, “If they can walk, they can work.” That’s right moms and dads, it’s never too early.

There are two good reasons to start training your children in what is essentially the fine art of cooperation and contribution, as soon as possible.

1. The first reason is that, if children have been invited to participate in family chores from a young age, contributions will be a normal and routine part of their daily lives by the time they hit the pre-adolescent, “I am not interested” age. So, it’s actually less painful for both you and your kids if you start ‘em young.

Consider this. When our children are very small, they come to us asking to help and we are quick to reply with, “No, too hot; too heavy; too dangerous; too sharp; too fast; you are too little; too slow; too short.” And then we send them out of the kitchen and into the other room to play with the plastic kitchens and plastic food and say, “Now go play and have fun.”

We continue to do this, over and over, for years, until one day, about the time that same child turns 10, WE decide it’s time for them to be responsible for their stuff and we start in with, “Hey, pick up your back pack; unpack your backpack; put your dishes away; clear the table; pick up your room; do your laundry…” Sorry ladies and gents, but by then, it’s too late! We have missed the most opportune time for training.

You see, when children are very, very interested in just about everything around them – including mimicking mom and dad, you, as a responsible, pro-active parent, can use that natural curiosity to everybody’s advantage and get everyone involved in doing their part around the house.

2. The second reason to start training your children early to contribute to the household chores is a very practical one – kids need years of practice to become good at doing “stuff” around the house.

Just take a second and look around your home. I’m sure you’d agree that tasks which truly contribute to running even the simplest of households require some pretty complex skills, and developing any skill takes practice, more practice, and even more practice. The sooner you start practicing a skill, the sooner that skill develops.

So, just how should I go about training my toddler to contribute to the household chores?

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • An immaculate house is NOT the primary goal. If you want it clean to your standards, wait until the kids are in bed and clean it yourself – but for goodness sakes, don’t get caught!
  • Set reasonable expectations based on the child’s age.
  • Notice what your child is doing, and talk about it.
  • Train in small time increments.
  • Start with something relatively easy, like putting back toys, then move on to more advanced tasks like picking up trash and helping with the dishes.

The following checklists should help you get started with your first attempt:

Planning Basics

  • What two jobs can my toddler attempt successfully?
  • When am I going to train him or her? (Pick a time in the day that works for you and your child.)
  • What are my expectations?

When Your Child Says, “No”

  • Smile and walk away.
  • Go do something more interesting like read your book, listen to music, paint…

It’s also good to keep in mind that training in the art of cooperation and contribution doesn’t have to be explicitly planned during the early stages of training. As long as you’re ready when the opportunity presents itself, you can instill this spirit at a moment’s notice.

When Your Little One Tugs On Your Pant Leg to Play

  • Say “Yes, I would LOVE to play with you, as soon as we use bubbles to wash the dishes!”
  • Ask another question like “Would you like to learn how to squeeze the dish soap or turn on the dishwasher?”

Above all, DON’T GIVE UP — the ability to cooperate and contribute is a life skill that takes practice. And, whether you know it or not, your little ones will notice that you never give up on them, and that means the world.

If you have stories about how life has changed, now that you have handed in your feather duster and started training your kids, please share your comments below!

For more information on HOW to stay patient, set reasonable expectations, teach in small increments, and encourage your child (& yourself) along the way, purchase our Home Program and join the forum — Today!

How To End Tantrums (in 4 Words)

4-words-tantrum

These FOUR words end tantrums.

No Joke

  • No, you are not going to “give in” to them!
  • No, you are not going to “naughty chair” them. No, you are not going to “talk about it”.
  • What you ARE going to do, is add three of the most POWERFUL words on the planet to the word YES and turn temper tantrum -ing toddlers (or teens for that matter) into patient, cooperative thoughtful family members.

Don’t believe me? Well here is a true story that demonstrates just how effective these 4 words are, when used correctly.

I was walking with my good friend and her two children ages 1 and 2, whom I absolutely adore, and the family dogs. The goal was to get some exercise and reconnect with each other while getting the kids out of the house for some much needed fresh air and sunshine. Unfortunately, once we started walking, the kids started in with some classic demands and, well, here is what happened…

It started out with a “Waaaa” from the one-year-old and several whiny “I waaaant toooo waaaalk” from the two-year-old. Like most parents, my friend eventually gave in and let the two-year-old walk, and, as you know, if you let one out, you have to let the other one out, right?

I was immediately impressed with my friend’s circus-like talent. She started by holding the one-year-old in her arms, trying all the while to push the stroller while keeping the other child on the sidewalk. Soon enough, she was juggling two kids, a stroller, and the dogs in beautiful, chaotic synchronization. Amazed… if not utterly stunned by what she had taken on, I remained quiet and observed. And yes, of course, I eventually offered to help.

No doubt some of you recognize this story and are smiling, nodding, or even shaking your head with that blank, shell-shocked look on your face. Well, keep reading because there IS relief to this timeless riddle.

Alas, the girls did not want to walk OR be held OR do anything else for very long. And, it soon became clear that changing their position up, down, over, around and through, wasn’t even their GOAL. What they really wanted was to keep their mommy busy with them, at the expense of everything else – including visiting with me.

Very quickly, neither my friend nor I were having any fun. I had lost interest in the endless circus act, and we were not able to talk and connect with these two ruckus munchkins demanding all of the attention. So, we soon retreated home and the walk was officially over.

The next day when my friend and I had a quiet moment, we discussed the events that had unfolded the day before. We talked about how quickly the walk had degenerated from a time for two adult friends to connect, into a circus routine with the children in the center ring, running the show.

As you probably know, this is a situation parents find themselves in quite often. If you’re just now expecting your first child, or are thinking about having children, all you have to do is look around the next time you are in the grocery store. You’ll see moms carrying the baby, cajoling the toddler, or bouncing the baby while trying to make it through at least putting the essentials in the cart.

And then there are fathers, gallantly trying to avoid a public tantrum by giving in to their little one’s pleading cries for gum, candy or treats. And, as in my dear friend’s case, there are constant accommodations in response to pleas for freedom from or return to the stroller. This is called The Slippery Slope – that place where parents find themselves when they know at any minute things could go from good to bad, or from bad to really bad!

So, what’s a well-meaning, law-abiding parent to do?

It’s all about training. We can either train our kids to believe that life is all about them, and that it is their job to keep us busy with them, OR we can train our kids in the fine arts of patience, respect, flexibility, cooperation, and manners – arts that are also valuable life skills that will pay dividends faster than you can say “play date!”

OK, I get it. But just HOW does one do teach these fine arts?

Start small by creating opportunities from everyday life, and for those moments that catch you off guard try this simple strategy I call, “Yes, As soon as…” Quick, easy, and highly adaptable, using this strategy results in simple, but effective exchanges like this:

Child: “Can I walk?”
Parent: “Yes, as soon as we get to our road.”
Child: “Can I watch TV?”
Parent: “Yes, as soon as you finish your homework.”
Child: “Can I have a cookie?”
Parent: “Yes, as soon as you eat something healthy.”

The tantrums and the whining usually begin when we tell our children, “No.” And, it ends when we either give in or get mad. Neither one breaks the cycle or teaches our children anything useful. So, say “Yes,” instead, AND… make sure that “Yes” is part of an agreement between you and your child. You agree to let your child do something or have something they want, when they prove to you that they can handle the privilege.

If you have trouble getting started, remember this.

It may not work the first time, and is not intended to stand alone, so you should also:

  • Have faith in your kids – they can handle both the disappointments and privileges.
  • Have your kids help you find solutions to problems if you are stuck.
  • And always, always, take the time to make a plan.

Now, just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine what it will be like if, after 6 months, your family was tantrum-free. It’s all worth considering isn’t it?

Five Ways we Limit Kids’ Growth (and how to meet Kids’ True Needs)

Heather-Shumaker-author-portraitWhen I first connected with Heather a few years ago I fell to my knees in gratitude. Finally, a book I could recommend to parents that would address some of the most baffling, confusing and perplexing parenting issues in a straight forward, common sense way that parents with kids of almost any age could embrace. It is with great pleasure that I share this post by Heather as she introduces us to her second book, It’s OK to Go Up the Slide. Her new book is filled with wisdom, humor and smashes through old myths that influence our approach to parenting.


Five Ways we Limit Kids’ Growth (and how to meet Kids’ True Needs)

Vicki and I crossed paths when our first books were being released and discovered we were kindred spirits. Now it’s exciting to share second books – Vicki’s Straight Talk on Parenting and my new title It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, coming out today.

rule31_final PlaygroundA reader summed up my first book by saying: “If you like respectful parenting, but are baffled by your child’s intense emotions and behavior when she hits the preschool years, It’s OK Not to Share, is the answer.” Now we’re moving into an area of life that’s tricky for most families: the time when children hit elementary school and encounter a whole gamut of new rules – some of which go against your family parenting philosophy. What to do? How can we stand up for our kids and our families when there are so many other partners involved?
It’s easy to fall into habits, and sometimes you’ll find yourself in other people’s habits. Here are some common ways we limit kids’ growth without knowing it.

1. Signing Homework Papers

It might be the spelling list, reading chart or math worksheet. More and more, parents are asked to verify that a child has done an assignment by signing or initialing on the line. Requiring a parent signature steals trust and responsibility from a child. School assignments are a child’s job. It’s one thing to share with the family, it’s another thing to make the parent the Homework Monitor. Restore partnerships of trust and if you must have a signature – let the child sign her own name. (And, as you’ll see below, wait until middle school before welcoming homework.)

2. Giving Homework At All

What’s more galling than signatures is this: comprehensive analysis of 180 peer-reviewed research studies found that homework has no evidence of academic benefit in elementary school. Extraordinary. All those nightly battles between overtired children and anguished parents are for naught. What research shows is that academic benefits are highly age-dependent. It helps for high schoolers (but only if limited to 2 hours or less per night) and shows a very small gain for middle schoolers, but for elementary kids? Nothing. The time young children spend doing homework can be freed up to focus on other vital activities – running around outside, following their own play ideas, helping with family life and getting good, long sleep.

3. Thinking ‘Safety First’

One of the chapters in my book is called “Safety Second.” That’s because our Safety First culture really has forgotten that safety is not the goal of life. Life is about change and growth. We can’t live a worthwhile life – and neither can our kids – if safety is always top priority. Healthy risk is an essential part of natural development. We limit our children’s access to healthy risk in so many ways, whether it’s physical risk (running fast, cutting with a knife), emotional risk (possibly feeling bad) or social risk (possibly being rejected). Even if safety is king, some of our age-old safety lessons, ex: Don’t Talk to Strangers, are actually wrong.

4. Using Recess as a Disciplinary Tool

Get in trouble and you miss recess. Don’t complete your math assignment and you miss recess. Every day, millions of school children live under the threat of recess being taken away. It’s time to stop using recess as a tool against kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that recess should never be taken away as a punishment – either for behavior or academic reasons. This makes sense when you consider why recess is there in the first place: to meet kids’ needs so they can learn. When we deprive a child of recess, and face it, it’s usually the most squirmy, restless ones who get it taken away, we are stunting their learning. Kids learn academics best when their brains are fresh. We all need breaks, and research shows that the more recess the better when it comes to memory, focus, problem-solving and behavior, too.

5. Being Scared of “I’m bored”

Families offer so much to their children, but they are not meant to function as entertainment centers. Young children can play on their own. We do not have to stack blocks for hours to be a good parent, or feel we need to fix something when a child announces, “I’m bored.” Have confidence in kids. Their brains are naturally wired to play, and if they can’t find something to settle on immediately, have faith they will soon. If your kids struggle with free time, it could be a sign they are overscheduled, overentertained and not getting enough free time to be themselves.

If any of these topics sound interesting, you’ll find more in the book It’s OK to Go Up the Slide. There’s help for making sure elementary school is child and family friendly, including sample scripts and ideas for approaching teachers about homework, plus chapters for two-ten-year-olds on technology, princess play, mistakes, “that’s not fair!” sad stories, teasing, group calendar time, what to do about kindergarten, and why it’s good to talk to strangers.

Special offer this week: if you buy It’s OK to Go Up the Slide this week, you’ll get free gifts (special one-hour podcast taking you behind the scenes in the book, plus a set of designed quotes for your fridge).
Simply

  • 1) buy the book from any bookstore before March 13, 2016 and
  • 2) send an email to slide@heathershumaker.com telling me where you bought it.

About Heather

Heather Shumaker is a national speaker on early childhood topics and the author of two books, It’s OK Not to Share and It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, both published by Tarcher/ Penguin. Learn more about Heather, her podcasts, books, blog and infamous “why we ban homework” blog post at www.heathershumaker.com

Bicycles and Helmets – Arming your Kids for Success

Young Children With Bikes And Scooters In ParkThe Setting and Scene:
Six families are headed out for a bike ride with the kids. Their kids range from three to twelve-years-old. They arrive at the destination ready to begin their adventure. People start preparing and then a child of eight squeals “OH NO! I forgot my helmet!” The action stops. There is awkward silence and families begin to busy themselves getting ready for the ride and waiting to hear how this will be resolved.

We’ve all been here. We’ve made it clear to our kids that if they forget their lunch, they will have to figure out how to get enough food to tide them over till they get home. If they forget the mouth guard, they will have to sit out the game, in this case, if you forget the helmet, you stay behind while the others enjoy the ride.

But what usually happens is this; the parent, feeling the pressure, begins to lecture their child on his irresponsible behavior that led to his forgetting the helmet. The parent exclaims, “Now someone will have to stay behind and “babysit” you.” The shame the parent feels for inconveniencing the group is now passed to the child. They both feel shame. The child says, loudly enough for everyone to hear, “It’s YOUR fault I don’t have my helmet. You always pack it for me or remind me to bring it.”

Shifting the Perspective
This is a golden ‘aha” moment. If the parent were open and willing to see this as an opportunity and a blessing rather than a catastrophe, he would have recognized his error, apologized to the child and figured out how to move forward in a respectful and dignified way. As it was, he felt embarrassed that his child was “being disrespectful and sassy” and the power struggle escalated.

As a way to resolve the situation quickly and respectfully, I offered to stay back with the child and find something else to do, but the parents decided that they would allow the child to ride WITHOUT the helmet as long as he agreed to….and they proceeded to list off at least a dozen things the child could and could not do on the ride.

Time to Reflect
Later that day, the parent and I had a chance to ride together and he asked me what I would have done in this situation. Being a mother who raised five kids to adulthood, I was in his situation more than once. I explained, “You have to decide what is most important to you. Teaching responsibility and allowing your child to develop it over time or ensuring your child is happy today and doesn’t feel that they have missed out on a once in a lifetime experience.” (I said this last bit as a way to inject a bit of levity in the situation rather than taking a rigid and judgmental stand. We both knew that this bike ride would be one of thousands this child took in his life.)

How many of us as parents and teachers, say that what we want are children who become responsible adults and how many of us ignore the very opportunities that would allow this to happen naturally? What we really want is to raise responsible kids without doing the grueling work it takes to ensure this outcome. What we want are kids who learn responsibility without ever giving them any. This is impossible. Experience is the best and only teacher.

Consider the Message
Several weeks later I was with this group again. The parent of the eight-year-old loudly proclaims to all as he holds up his son’s helmet, “He brought his helmet today. I made sure he was looking at me when I told him to bring the helmet or he really would be sitting on the sidelines this time.”

This loving and kind dad thought this was a success, but for the rest of us, the message was clear. Unfortunately, this delightful child is learning that it is his parents’ responsibility to ensure he has what he needs, so that he can enjoy his life.

Foundational Choices
As parents, we tend to look at these situation in isolation rather than looking at them as the foundational experiences that inform our children. Each choice we make, points the child in a certain direction. As tough as parenting is, it doesn’t necessarily get easier the older our children get. We have the opportunity to lay the foundation for our kids when they are young, when the stakes are low, when they rebound quickly and when they are most open to learning in a gentle and consistent environment. This ensures we are preparing our children for adulthood in a slow and thoughtful way.

The next time you find yourself in one of these situation, ask yourself, Is the choice I am making in this moment pointing my child in a direction that will ensure he becomes a responsible or cooperative, or empathetic, or open-minded, or flexible, or forgiving adult? If not, hit the pause button and reconsider your choice.

Spit, Soup, & Love

HannahVickiLast week I posted this picture and described the week I had with my daughter, celebrating our time together and the woman she is. A reader wondered whether or not this declaration would offend or isolate any of my other children. As I was contemplating her question and forming my reply, I received a text from Hannah’s sister remembering and acknowledging the unconditional love we all have for each other. That’s it. That was the answer. I had created a purposeful and intentional plan as a parent to cultivate a climate of unconditional love rather than “special love” with very different children (some biological, some adopted) and so the answer was no, the celebration of one did not take away from the other. Since this is not a condition that lives in all families, I was inspired to share my strategies.

Spit in their Soup
The first tool (that I continue to use in all aspects of my life) is Adler’s famous “spit in their soup” technique. Gross isn’t it? Well, that is exactly why it is such a powerful tool for exposing all kinds of mischief when it comes to kids and wanting the “special” love from a parent. In this case, it was the “you love him more than me” song and dance. Instead of trying to convince this child that I did indeed love him (and not his brother more than him) and naming all the ways I attempt to show him and all the reasons I love him, I avoided the trap all together by agreeing that I did indeed love his brother more. I said it in a matter-of-fact kind of way. I said it seriously with just a hint of mischief behind my eyes. The child was stunned, and then he was forced to tell me the truth, “noooooo you don’t.” And I agreed, “No, I don’t.”

Favorite in the Moment
Vicki with ZoeThe second technique was applied whenever I was connecting with one of my munchkins. I would look into their eyes and say, “You are my most favorite child and I love you more than all the others — in this moment.” What I didn’t have to say was, and when your sibling walks in and I am talking directly to him, he will be my most favorite child and I will love him more than all the others, in that moment. Over the course of many years my children came to understand that they each owned a part of my heart that could never be compromised or diminished and that in-fact love is limitless.

Having a limited amount of love is an idea that springs from the idea of “special love”, or different love for different people. I don’t happen to subscribe to that notion, quite frankly it is too complicated and cumbersome. The goal for me is to love. Just love. I can’t be bothered with different kinds of love. There is love and there is not love.

Love is
Now, don’t confuse this with the different kinds of relationships I have with my kids, my spouse or my friends. Those are different, but love – love is. My kids heard these words from me from the time they were infants, and they knew that my love is endless and unconditional. It is not based on their behavior, my mood, which child was most like me and which one the most mysterious. Love is a fact. Because of this environment, each child developed a deep sense of self-worth and “lovability.”

dave-amy-2This deep sense of self-worth provides the people I had the pleasure of parenting, an enormous capacity to love. They are not stingy with their love. They are not jealous of love. They do not fear that there is only so much love to go around.

I encourage parents to avoid the “you love him more than me trap” by stepping right into it and spitting, rather than trying to explain to a young child with limited reasoning skills all the nuances of love. They are clever these kids and they will make lifelong decisions based on your ideas about love.

No doubt someone will challenge that my kids worried I DIDN’T love them if they weren’t right in front of me, but that is an adult fear, not a child’s. A child quickly figures out that the love is there, always, at 100 percent whether they are in front of you or not, and that was my goal.

What’s your goal when it comes to teaching your kids about love?

I Am Because We Are

trustAs I sit on the beaches of Fiji, I experience seven children between the ages of five and nine playing on the beach. The tide is going out. One of the youngest children reaches down, picks up a heaping handful of sand, looks around for an unsuspecting target and pitches the sand at an older child standing just a few feet away. Boom. Direct hit. Dirt covers the boy’s shoulders and back. The action stops. Not one parent moves. Instead, they wait. And as they do, an extraordinary thing happens, play resumes. The older child takes a small handful of sand and throws it back at the younger child. The action stops – again. No movement from the sidelines and then – giggles and as the giggles get louder you see sand being thrown by all of the kids at each other. One child finally picks up a stick and begins chasing one of the older kids who deftly runs into the water and dives away from danger. He comes up laughing and taunting the stick wielder. Soon several other kids pick up what can only be described as primitive weapons as they chase each other in and out of the water and throw heaping piles of sand at passing targets. The laughter continues until one child takes it a bit to far and screams in frustration. The action stops. No one moves and then the older kids circle around their frustrated younger friend, check to be sure he is okay, give him hugs until he is laughing again and the play resumes.

This went on for over an hour. Each time a child reached their emotional or physical threshold, the entire group would attend to the child until all was well. Not once was it necessary for a parent to step in and help the children learn to play nicely with each other. They already knew how to do that. What is more impressive is that within minutes they had established the “rules of engagement” and whether anyone else could see what was happening, those amazing and clever kids came to an understanding about how they would play together. Somewhere deep down inside of them were the skills necessary to play together successfully without any outside assistance.

Now pan down the beach about 200 yards and there you will find 15 kids (boys and girls) between the ages of 12 and 20 who are doing exactly the same things as their younger counter parts – only they have added a rugby ball to legitimize their horsing around. The rules of engagement seem to mimic exactly the younger kids rules and once again I see the same deep understanding they all have on how to play, interact, co-exist, call it what you want, without any outside assistance.

What is most remarkable about this scene to me is that I saw it played out over and over again during my time in Fiji. I pondered what it would be like on playgrounds in my own town, if parents trusted more, if kids were given a chance to work things out and establish a common understanding of what playing together meant.

I asked myself what if:

  • parents trusted that they had modeled to their kids respectful “rules of engagement” at home and knew that with just a bit of practice their kids would quickly apply these rules out in their world with their peers.
  • as parents, we trusted that other parents were teaching their kids respectful “rules of engagement”, so that the majority of the kids who spent time in the same classroom and on the same playground, all came with some experience of how to “play” together.
  • And as parents, we trusted our kids to figure out how to adapt the “rules of engagement” when they were with their peers, whether or not those peers were taught similar lessons.

Rooted in Trust
It occurred to me that so much of what I saw was grounded in trust. Trusting yourself as a parent, trusting your kids, and trusting your community.

I promised myself that when I got home, I would do everything I could to Practice Trust First and allow nature, instincts, and the collective wisdom of centuries to lead the way when it comes to kids and play.

Are you inadvertently raising a jerk?

playdate-awryA few years back I asked a parent in one of my classes what his deep desires were for his children. He paused for a moment and then said, “It’s simple. I don’t want to raise ass-holes. That’s all. I don’t want to live with an ass-hole and I don’t want to send one out into the world.”

Voila! One of the most popular topics in my “At Home with Vicki” series was launched and last Wednesday night a parent with a two-month old, parents raising kids deep into their teens and parents of children every age in between sat in my home discussing this very topic.

Many kids begin to display jerky qualities at around 7, 8 and 9-years and over time end up as full-fledged jerks by the time they are teens. And so the conversation commences on how NOT to raise an ass.

Here is the big take-away – Competitive household environments breed jerks.

The big surprise here is that the role-models for these competitive, winner take all, I’m better than you relationships are between the partners raising these children. The dynamics can be subtle or overt, and are present even in loving relationships.

Read through these examples and see if any of them sound familiar.

    Partner 1: “I really struggled in school and decided not to go to college”
    Partner 2: “I’m the one with the education in the family. I have a Masters Degree.”

    Partner 1: “I love to cook and I tried to follow my grandmother’s recipe as I remember it.”
    Partner 2: “ Try is the operative word here.”

    Partner 1: “It was the trip of a lifetime. I think we left in April and stayed nearly 3 weeks.”
    Partner 2: “It wasn’t April, it was May and we stayed 16 days. Hardly 3 weeks.”

    Partner 1: “It’s not her fault that she loses her temper. She had a really tough childhood and some times she can’t control herself.”

    Partner 1: “Daddy didn’t mean it. He just isn’t as patient as I am about these things.”

    Partner 1: “I know it’s REALLY important that I put the vacuum back in just the right way. Luckily, I don’t care about inconsequential things like that.”

Do you hear yourself or your life-partner in any of the phrases above? Have you heard your spouse say something similar and just felt uneasy or the hair bristle on the back of your neck, but not fully understood why? Now before you finish reading this and jump all over your partner for being the jerk, stop and think about your own words, attitudes and actions. It’s far more important that we develop Awareness before we spring into action.

Awareness allows you to facilitate change and to remedy the situation by moving from the competitive one-upmanship-environment and work toward establishing a cooperative environment, in which Adler’s ideas of Social Interest are fostered each and every day.

Social Interest is not the same as social action. Social Interest as defined by Alfred Adler is “a feeling of community as opposed to focusing on one’s private interests or concerns.” It has been said that someone without social interest is concerned only with one’s self.

Here is an exercise to flush out your role in creating a competitive environment.

Write down all the words you would use to describe a jerk. Now compare it to the competitive interaction you might be having with your significant other. Do you embody these words at times? Think about what you could do differently the next time.

Now write down all the words you would use to describe people who made you feel “at ease” when you were in their company. People who make you feel as though you are good enough, and that they were interested in you and your ideas.

Now ask yourself how you demonstrate these qualities with your significant other. Is it possible to move from the “jerk” list to the “at ease” list in each scenario? How could you respond differently?

I know it is shocking. Shocking to think that our daily interactions with our life-partner, the love of our lives influences whether or not our children grow up to be jerks. Think of it as the oxygen your kids are breathing every day. They are watching, listening, and making decisions about themselves, their siblings, and the ways men and women, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters interact. The good news is the solution is right in front of you and available to you every day.

So the next time you are tempted to be jerky to your jerky child, when he is acting like a total ass – STOP – Take responsibility for your part in the competitive nature of the relationship and decide to do something else. Yes, it is that simple and that difficult. Remember that you are the change agent in your home and if you want to raise kids that – dare I say it – make you proud – than be the parent your kids can be proud of.

The Gifts of Grit and Gratitude

gifts

As the Holiday Season nears, there are two very special gifts that last, which parents can give their children long after the decorations come down and the parties come to a halt.

These gifts don’t fit under the tree or in a tiny box with a bow. These gifts cannot be exchanged or left in a closet to be forgotten until next year.

These gifts, which will last well into adult-hood, require no money, no hoopla, and no stress.

These gifts are the gifts of grit and gratitude.

Grit.

The gift of grit is given – not as a tangible item – but as an intentional space in which your child builds resiliency and adaptability, flexibility and independence. Grit manifests itself whenever you, the parent, choose to step outside of the situation and allows your child to make decisions, mistakes, guesses, efforts, messes and reach milestones that you have not interfered with or influenced.

When you choose to let go and allow your children to step into their lives and make the decisions and experience the consequences, realities and sometimes, uncomfortable responses to their actions and behaviors, then you, mom and dad, are giving the quality, long-lasting gift of grit, which they say, is the key to success. The temporary gifts of comfort, luxury, fixing and saving are the cheap gifts that break in ten minutes.

Don’t invest in those short-term solutions. Invest in the long lasting, feel good gift of grit. Why? Because nothing feels better than watching your child overcome a fear, surpass his own expectations or discover he can handle the problems life throws his way.

Gratitude.

This is the second gift we can all give our children. It’s a simple gesture that presents itself as a smile when our child walks in the room, an “I appreciate you for…” or an “I’m sorry for acting like…” whenever life gets busy or bustled. It’s a decision we make to notice our children as who they are TODAY instead of pushing them to be someone in the future. It’s the love we have for them when they are at their worst and the quick forgiveness we show because we appreciate them in our lives – warts and all.

Gratitude will bloom and the bouquet will decorate our children’s lives even after they have moved out of the house. They will go on to appreciate those around them and will notice the small things others do for them. In turn, they will continue to bring out smiles and to be there for those who need them. Gratitude says, thank you for being who you are — even when you’re whining. Gratitude is a choice to focus on the good things about your children because you’re glad they are here. Gratitude is the message that says, you bring a lot to this house and you’re a valuable part of this family and I don’t know what I’d do without you and all your brilliance around here.

So, remember these gifts during and after this holiday season, as both are gifts you can bust out EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Have a wonderful season of celebration with your families!
Vicki

Your Kids WILL See Porn

I receive so many great questions from parents each week and now, with their permission, I will be sharing them with our parenting community along with my thoughts on the subjects. I think it’s important that we leverage our collective experiences and as the Adlerian community would say, you can solve problems one at a time or you can solve the problem one time. Here is to making life simpler for everyone in our community.

trust child

I received an email from a distraught and frightened mom the other day who discovered her 11-year-old son had searched “sex” and “naked girls” on his computer and had ultimately seen pornographic images and videos. This is not the first time I have heard from a parent in this situation, and it won’t be the last. So hold on to your hats, as most of you know, I don’t hold back.

Sex and porn

Two topics I mention many times in classes, blogs, presentations, and my books because this is the
world our kids live in and the world we must parent from. If you have kids ages 11 and older they have most likely seen porn. They might be looking at it right now up in their room on their laptop. Did you hear me? YOUR KID IS LOOKING AT PORN. Don’t fool yourself by thinking that your sweet little 11-year-old son would NEVER, doesn’t even know it exists, and is satisfied with the birds and the bees talk that you had two years ago. He has seen porn. She has seen porn. Yes, this applies to our daughters as well. Children are curious about sex. They are curious about body parts. They hear about oral sex and might even have some friends who have experienced it.

Overcome your fears and release the judgement

This is normal. This is natural. This is the world our kids live in. The question is will you be part of this world or not? It is time to be honest with yourself, muster up the courage to face reality head on, and be involved in this stage of your child’s development. You (and more importantly your child) will be more prepared to face the reality in which we live. Are you going to sit back and hope they don’t come across porn or are you going to assume they will (or already have) seen it and face that reality with a clear head and open heart?

Identify the part that trips you up. Identify the fear that keeps you in denial. Identify the belief that paralyzes you. Identify, embrace and solve that problem, so you can support your child as he/she develops and matures.

Get Educated

Remember, knowledge is power. As a parent, you want knowledge on the subject so you feel confident talking about it with your kids and you want your kids to have knowledge so they can make informed decisions. This applies to every area of life with kids – sex, porn, technology, drugs, cheating, stealing, relationships, and so on.

Specifically when it comes to talking to your kids about porn Amy Lang has a great article, How to Talk to Kids about Pornography on her blog, Birds and Bees and Kids.
https://birdsandbeesandkids.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-pornography-2/

Also check out Laci Green on youtube. She doesn’t hold back and is in touch with the world today and the issues our kids are facing.
https://www.youtube.com/user/lacigreen/videos

Talk to friends and create a support system

If you are still feeling a bit sheepish, reach out to your friends. I usually tell you the opposite- Don’t bother asking friends and neighbors “advice” about your kids because your kids are different than your friends kids and you are a different parent. Two kids could be displaying the same behavior, but for completely different reasons, so what works for Suzy and her kid won’t work for you and yours. However, with a topic like sex/porn, all parents will walk through this in a similar fashion. Most parents are nervous, unsure, terrified, unclear on how to talk to their kids about this and tend to just start lecturing and putting stricter “rules” alongside the technology usage. So in this case, it can be a great thing to talk to your friends. You’ll find you are not alone and you might learn a thing or two, yourself. It’s also important that while you don’t shame your kids during this phase, that you also don’t shame yourself. The mother who reached out to me most recently expressed feelings of shame, failure, embarrassment, and was just defeated. She didn’t talk to anyone about it because she felt like it reflected so badly on her and that her friends would think less of her for being a mom who “let that happen on her watch.” Get over it parents – Be real with eachother. Stop judging others and they will stop judging you. Your kids are their own separate entity – not always a direct reflection of you. And again, the fact of the matter is, your friends kids have probably seen porn too and they just don’t know it. Stick together on this journey. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It IS something to be educated on and prepared to handle with your children.

Jump in and try it

When I tell parents to “talk to your kids about sex/porn,” I don’t mean just once. I mean constantly – like every other day. Talk to them about it so much and so casually, that the topic is just as normal to talk about as what they ate for lunch or how they’re doing on their science project. Ask questions about what he knows. Offer information before she asks for it. I’m not suggesting you drill your kids with questions and accusations. I’m suggesting the opposite. You’re at the counter chopping carrots with your daughter and you might say, “so, who’s having sex in the 7th grade?” Or you’re in the car with your son and you have the chance to say, “Let’s talk oral sex.” He knows that it’s out there and he’s heard about it. Ask him about that. Keep talking and keep asking questions, until your kid is so over the topic that when a friend suggests they look at naked pictures online your kid says, “no thanks, I’m all set with that. My mom talks about it every single day.” And then chat about it some more. It’s not a sit down, eye to eye, serious and scary conversation. It’s just a reality – it’s sex, it’s hormones, it’s puberty, it’s masturbating, it’s porn. It’s also love, and relationships, and intimacy and pleasure and boundaries and body awareness and communication.

Remember, our kids are growing and changing and investigating. If we want to receive an invitation into their lives and stay connected as a trusted ally, so that we can be the source of their sexual education, it takes work. Work on our parts to stay open and non-judgmental, to parent from a place of confidence and poise, create a support system and keep practicing. You won’t get it right the first time (or maybe even the second or third), but keep at it. I trust you would rather be honest with yourself and take steps to connect with your sons and daughters about what their reality is, instead of hiding under your covers pretending that it won’t happen again or didn’t happen at all.

#growingagrownup

I’d love to hear from more of you. If you have a question or an area that is challenging you, please go to our contact form and send it in. We’ll do our best to answer it via email and we’d love it if you’d give us permission to post on our blog to help others.

Kids in the House: Changing A Child’s Set Role in the Family

 

Children start to define their role in the family between the ages of zero and five. And it happens very quietly and without us knowing as parents that it’s going on. If you have a child who is very quiet and easy, you start to define that child. “Oh, she’s the quiet one.” And then you have a busy little one who’s wiggling all the time then you start to use words, “Oh, this one can’t sit still” or “this one’s always moving.” And suddenly, the children start to grow into those labels that we’ve created, and problems arise. Pretty soon you have a 3-5-7 year old who’s wiggly who’s now getting up from the table, can’t sit still in school and you can’t bring them to church and there’s all kinds of trouble. And a parent will say “wait-wait-wait, there’s more to this child than that. But how do I let him know that there’s more to him than just being the wiggly disruptive kid?” And it really comes down to finding the language and what I call shining a spotlight on those times when your child is something other than the wiggly disruptive kid. And there are a million times a day when that child is being something other than that. But we’ve focused in on the thing that drives us crazy, and that’s all we’ve noticed. So as parents, when we’ve decided that a role a child has adopted might not be good for them, it’s our job to look deeper and say, “what else do I know about this kid? What other strengths and talents does this kid have that I’ve overlooked because I’ve been focused on something negative?” And through the course of a day, you very quietly start to shine the spotlight on those moments when he’s behaving like a responsible, cooperative, focused, compassionate, understanding, hilarious kid, and suddenly he has a new role in the family.

For more information on parenting visit KidsInTheHouse.com

Cracking the Sexting Code

Social Media and kids’ virtual connection with each other dropped into my life the day before my 49th birthday when my children were between the ages of 11 and 17. When it arrived, it brought with it harried, unorganized, fear-based conversations with our kids about the dangers lurking in this new uncharted territory we knew nothing about; social media. We did our best to understand this new internet based meeting-ground for people – for our kids, but the truth is, we were fudging our way through it. It was clear that our kids were five steps ahead of us and we were being left in the dust.

As parents, we knew we had two choices,

1. Make the inevitable parenting decisions out of fear and forbid our kids access to social media, restrict their phone use, lay down rigid rules, (that they would most certainly figure a way around) and pretend they wouldn’t set up their own accounts without our knowledge and guidance.

2. Or become educated by asking our kids to help us understand this new medium so we could make the journey together.

Now fast forward a few years and cell phone use and sexting is now of major concern for parents raising kids in the 21st century. If we thought social media was difficult to navigate, sexting is a landmine of misunderstanding, fear, anxiety, consequence, and judgment.

Thankfully this infographic ‘Cracking the sexting code’ arrived in my inbox a month ago from Amy Williams, a freelance journalist and mother of two teenagers, who is part of a parent advocacy group in southern California that helps parents struggling with raising troubled teenagers.

This offers a simple way for parents to learn more about this new phenomenon. The number one nugget of advice I can offer you – parent to parent – is to get educated. Education is what helps people make informed, thoughtful decisions instead of reactive decisions based on fear and worst case scenarios, because I am here to tell you, that all teens who have access to technology have the opportunity to “sext” and not all will. Please don’t decide that you will make sure that your child is not part of these statistics and create an environment of control and shame. As a parent, you will be more effective if you have your wits about you and you know the facts about sexting. Trying to talk to your kids about sexting without all the facts and a large dose of confidence is going to back fire.

In addition to understanding how technology plays a part in your children’s social development, there are other steps you can take to offer supportive guidance through this time of growth and discovery for your kids.

Tip 1: It’s more important that you stay connected to your kids during this time of mystery and confusion than it is for you to lay down some rigid rule about sexting that you will never be able to respectfully enforce and may drive your kids away from you and shut down the lines of communication. Kids who are talking with their parents are less at risk than kids who are so disconnected from their parents that they are forced to navigate this tricky territory on their own or with a friend who knows the same or less than they do about sexting. Kids are being pressured to sext, so watch that your conversations are open and non-judgmental. Listen and you will learn valuable information about how your child is assessing this adolescent transition with a wireless device.

Tip 2: Set up policies and guidelines that respect everyone involved. In other words, you may have to move just right of the center line and your kids might have to move just left of the center line. If you don’t set up guidelines together, it’s a sure bet that you will be excluded from their exploration, their thoughts and their decisions.

Tip 3: Start the conversation when they are young (and I mean really young.) Sexting is a part of the culture and I assure you that whether you want to believe it or not a first grader who has an older brother or sister is going to start hearing about sexting long before they understand the significance of it. By bringing sexting out into the light, making it a family conversation and making it safe for your kids to share long before they are introduced to sexting, you stand a far better chance of empowering your kids with solid, factual information and the confidence that they
can come to you with questions or concerns.

Tip 4: Keep the conversation going. Talking about sexuality, relationships, intimacy and sexting is a conversation best had as routinely as you talk about the weather or what you are eating for dinner. The more often you talk about this sensitive subject, the more confidence you will have talking about it openly and honestly and the more confidence your kids will have asking questions, challenging ideas and sharing. If your child “sexts” and has regret or experiences negative consequences, you want your child to turn to you for support. You don’t want your child to decide he/she knows how you feel and doesn’t want to disappoint you or be shamed for his/her mistake. This leads to lying and living with feelings that can perpetuate a negative self-image.

So, before you listen to your friends, read the science. Well-meaning friends are just that, well-meaning, but they aren’t raising your kids. Do your homework (you want your kids to do theirs right?) and stay updated with the latest research (not the scare tactics of an alarmist parent) and grow with the times. I guarantee that within a year or two, there will be another potentially dangerous application that our kids will be required to navigate and if you have already established yourself as a reliable and reasonable resource, your kids are bound to include you in the conversation and together you can establish guidelines for chartering the stormy waters.

Many Thanks

I receive many heartfelt and thoughtful thank you’s each week from parents whom I have worked with, or who have taken my class or read one of my books. The thank you’s come in all shapes and sizes and I love and appreciate each and every one of them. Being a parent is the most important thing in my life and helping others learn to parent from their best and foster deep connections with their children is what I am incredibly passionate about. So to hear that parents are having success with their journey, or that they have landed in a place of confidence, faith and connection with their children, means the world. Thank YOU for the thank you’s. xo V

Angelou

Vicki,

The conversations we have had have been such a blessing for me. I’d like to share some thoughts in hopes that my realizations and reflections might be helpful to another parent out there.

I’m at a point now in my parenting, where I can look back over past situations and mistakes that I have made with a much clearer understanding. Rather that dwell on guilt or shame around past parenting mistakes, I’m choosing to use it all as a learning experience so I can continue growing with each experience and be the best parent that I can be for my children. Yes, I’ve made mistakes, but recently I have had many more successes.

Through working with you and learning about your methods and philosophies, I am at a completely different place in my relationship with my children. I am now able to trust my gut. Trust myself. Trust my abilities and my judgement. And most importantly, trust my kids. There was a point where I made all the decisions for them, never asked for their input, didn’t consider their preferences or choices. Now, I trust their choices. Everything we do begins with a conversation so that everyone is heard and feels valuable to the group. No rules are set with out their input. I have a new found faith in my children that I don’t think I had before. I realize that the process is more important than the outcome  so rather than focusing on them doing something “right” or “just so” or how I would do it…I focus on their process, what they are learning, how they are growing, and sending them the message that I am right there with them and see them growing right before my eyes. Some small but powerful changes in my parenting have created a shift in our relationship that feels so much more connected, respectful, meaningful and long lasting.

I think these days I send the message to my kids that, we’re all in this together. You make mistakes, I make mistakes. As long as we have faith and willingness to own our mistakes and learn from them so we can try a different way next time. We’re a team now, and I can’t thank you enough for your support and help in getting us to this point.

Thoughts On “Mental Health of Affluent Teens; The Challenge of Prosperity.”

Recently a colleague sent me this wonderful infographic titled “Mental Health of Affluent Teens; The Challenge of Prosperity” brought to you by Counseling@Northwestern’s Online Masters in Counseling and I was inspired to share it with our community of parents along with my thoughts on HOW we might put into practice the high structure and high warmth parenting practices suggested below and enhance the relationship we have with our tweens and teens.

It should come as no surprise that there are benefits associated with affluence that can have a positive effect on our children when they are young. They include better physical health and the development of stronger language and social skills, which leads to higher academic achievement in elementary school. Then something remarkable happens. Instead of affluence benefiting our kids as they enter the teen years, affluence becomes a liability. It’s fascinating to consider this turn of events and to ponder what changes we can make in our parenting to keep things moving in a positive direction. Here are my thoughts based on the information provided in this deliciously simple and easy to understand graphic.

Challenge-of-Prosperity-FINAL

Teens

Too much house for the number of people who reside in it means it’s easier for family members to “hide” from each other. In the adolescent world this means disconnecting from your family is as simple as entering your bedroom and shutting the door.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the increase in pressure we put on our teens to “perform”. High, unreasonable expectations along with a hovering parenting style don’t inspire, they discourage and that leads to more alienation and disconnection between parents and their kids.

 

What Parents Can Do

    • Consider creating a “shared space” that your teens help you create and decorate. All too often it’s mom and dad who design the home for their liking which only increases the odds that their teens will find refuge in a room designed by them, for them. Unless you are entertaining royalty, this shouldn’t be a hardship, but rather an opportunity to create more shared space that is reflective of everyone in the family. Beyond that, a shared space implies shared responsibility for keeping it clean and tidy so everyone can enjoy it. This is a chance for your teens to become contributing members of the family who have daily household responsibilities that contribute to a healthy home life. And, you are preparing them for life beyond your threshold.

 

    • Time spent together is at a premium and yet, we spend 50% less time together than we did a mere 30 years ago. Anything that brings the family together so they can reconnect is a necessity in today’s fast paced world. Beyond getting everyone together is the bigger issue of “what to talk about” when you are together. Unfortunately far too many parents are still using the “How was school? Do you have homework? Do you have your gear for soccer? When is your science project due?” format of questioning to not only connect with their kids, but stay abreast of what’s happening in their world.

 

    • Family Meetings are a great way to not only gather once a week, for a limited amount of time (15 to 20 minutes), but also as a way to show appreciation for each other which demonstrates to our teens on a regular basis that they are loved and appreciated by their family; divide the family work equitably among all family members which helps teens feel like contributing members of their family and keeps them grounded in the “real world” rather than an illusion that all their needs will be met by someone else; a place for teens to help create family policy and balance between their desire for more independence and a parents desire to ensure their child is safe; and a place for kids to learn financial responsibility. Learn more about Family Meetings.

 

    • Another way for families to stay connected is to choose a social service activity at the beginning of each year which will ensure the family spends quality time together on a regular basis and as a bonus, the kids are learning life lesson in investing their time and energy in something other than themselves.

 

    • Most teens I know need to eat and unfortunately regular family meals have become a thing of the past. Invite your teens to participate in meal planning, meal preparation, meal service and meal clean up. That doesn’t mean demanding they suddenly start making meals for the entire family and then cleaning the kitchen while you sit down and enjoy a glass of wine. It means that you consciously begin to invite your teens into the entire process so they feel a sense of ownership around the meal.If you have a teen who comes home late from practice or eats at other crazy times, decide you will eat with them at least once a week. This means adjusting your schedule to accommodate theirs. Imagine the message you are sending!

 

    • Decide where in your schedule you can make time for your kids. It might be time in the car or walking the dog. Think quality, not quantity here. Being present without outside distractions is the key. Once you have the time, deepen the experience with a new kind of conversation. Life at school is no more exciting than life at your office. For the most part it’s the same old, same old. Try expanding your repertoire of questions and live dangerously. One friend of mine throws random questions out that are meant to provoke robust conversations. For instance, “So, are you having sex yet?” or “My friend got drunk last night at an office function and made a fool of herself, what do you think I should do?” or “I’m thinking of taking a vow of silence for 2 months, what do you think?” If our time is limited, then we have to make the most of it and thought provoking questions can help bring family members closer together and bridge the gap between parents and their teens.

 

  • Many parents are nurturing demanding careers, in part because it allows them to provide more opportunities for their kids. However, I never met a kid who would substitute an interested, engaged parent for some future opportunity. Our kids are learning about living a balanced life from us, they are learning about healthy relationships from us and they are learning about parental roles from us. If we take a few minutes to consider everything that is at stake when we allow careers to sap us of energy and focus, we are in a better position to create a more balanced life where the needs of our teens are at the top of that list. The good news is, they don’t need the same amount of time or energy from you that they needed as toddlers. Quality over quantity will do a lot to keep you connected to your kids and teach them about balance, prioritizing and healthy relationships.

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In my new book, The Straight Talk On Parenting, I explain in great detail my method, laying it all out for parents so that they can find an approach to parenting that supports their family thought all of the growing pains, developmental phases, life changes, and surprise events that greet anyone raising children in the twenty-first century.

As a mom who raised five children into adulthood, I’d like to share the two most important aspects of my parenting.

  1. Create structures for my family that supported each of us individually and all of us collectively. That meant designing mornings that worked for my morning lark and my night owl, homework routines that took into account a child who needed complete quiet and one that walked around and stood to write. These structures allowed my children to relax, and when they were relaxed and at peace it was easier for us to connect as a family.
  2. Show faith and confidence in my kids’ abilities, so that they would learn to have faith in themselves and confidence in their ability to navigate their world.

Our kids need to know that we accept them for who they are right now, even if the “right now” is messy. When we communicate unconditional love and acceptance, we foster emotional health and strong parent child relationships. 

Daily Routine Samples

A huge part of setting up routines is knowing what the heck kids could be doing on their own! Often we don’t even realize we’re doing things that the kids are perfectly capable of doing. Many parent find a sample routine helpful. Here are three basic routines that a child can follow. Of course you can adapt it to meet your child’s ability but all of these are reasonable, and believe it or not, possible (just ask our community of parents).

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Morning Routine – The mornings can be nightmares for many parents. Kids running late, breakfast on the run, backpacks left behind, missing clothes, power struggles and yelling. It’s not what we want, but it’s often what we get. As parents, we understand that the morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day, so it is important to start on the right foot. So what’s the secret to smooth mornings, take offs that are timely and kids who are ready and excited about their day?

EXAMPLE:

Mom and Dad have two kids, ages 4 and 8. They don’t all follow the same exact schedule together as a team, but they get through the morning on their individual agendas. And they do it daily. And it works because everyone knows what they are supposed to do from the moment they wake up!

 

Anna /Mom – 45 years

6:00 wake up

6:10 Coffee with husband

6:30 Shower and dressed

7:00 Checks email and organizes day

7:15 Helps Rachel check the weather

7:20 Breakfast

7:35 Helps Rachel unload the Dishwasher

7:45 Goes back to bedroom and stays out of the way

7:55 Turns on music so Rachel knows its time to leave in 5 minutes

8:00 Goes out to car and leaves – whether kids are in the car or not.

8:05 Henry & Anna have agreed that on the ride to school, they will not listen to the radio – they will

visit. Mom supports Henry’s natural rhythm and “allows” him to sleep in and Henry agrees not to listen

to the radio and chat with his mom.

 Rachel – 4 years

7:00 Rise and Shine to Tinkerbell Alarm Clock

7:15 Down the stairs – checks the weather

7:25 Breakfast

7:35 Helps mom unload the dishwasher from the night before

7:40 Pack Backpack & snack for preschool

7:45 Brush teeth – before getting dressed because sometimes she dribbles on her shirt when she spits

7:50 Back upstairs to get dressed and relaxes

Rachel is particularly organized and created a routine that allows her to read quietly in her room for 5 to

10 minutes. She and her mom have agreed upon a signal that it is 5 minutes to take off and Rachel

comes down the steps – puts on her coat and boots/shoes/sandals and heads to the bus/to the car.

Henry – 8 years

7:45 Bolts out of bed

7:50 Down stairs fully dressed

7:55 Grabs a piece of fruit or poptart for breakfast

8:00 Packs backpack complete with travel toothbrush and toothpaste and Listerine breath strips

8:05 Runs out the door putting shoes on and carrying family garbage to the garage

If you are wondering why mom is not more involved in the morning routine its because the children have been trained. Mom understands that if a child can do it, she deserves the space to do it. If you would like more information on training children, please check out Chapter 3 of the PonT home program.

Classmate pupils running outside.

Afternoon Routine – So the kids get off the bus or you pick them up from day care. Maybe you are in the kitchen waiting to greet them with warm tollhouse cookies and maybe you are strapping them into car seats and seat belts for another long car ride. In any case, the afternoon can be stressful for everyone in the family. Taking the time to create an easy, uncomplicated afternoon routine that helps everyone transition from an individual focus to a family focus is crucial.

School Routine – Along with buying new pencils and notebooks, “back to school” also means a return to routines, alarm clocks, and the responsibilities that many of our children left behind with the last bell in June. There are all kinds of systems families can use, and Parenting On Track is about progress, change, and the long-term goal of encouraging independence and self-reliance in our children.

EXAMPLES:

This single Mom of 3 kids, ages 6, 8 and 10, began following the program when her oldest was three. Notice how much the children do on their own and how much quality time is worked into the routine!

Valerie – 48 years

(3 days a week the kids ride the bus home and 2 days a week she picks the kids up and drops the oldest at a local skate park where he is part of a program that mentors younger kids.)

When the kids ride the bus home: 3:00 – Connect with kids when they get off the bus or pick up afterschool to deliver to extracurricular activities – (3 kids 10 minutes each listen and download)

Hillary – 6 years – Comes home and makes snack

Jared – 8 years – Jumps on bike and does round up with kids in the neighborhood for an hour of tree climbing

Elliot – 10 years – Gets ready for neighborhood carpool to skateboard park

When mom picks the kids up

Hillary – Has packed a snack that she put in the car before she left for school

Jared – Needs a chance to unwind and has agreed to play a video game in the car as long as he turns it off when they arrive home.

Elliot – Spends time talking with mom since he will be gone for another 2 hours.

At Home

Hillary – finishes up snack and completes afternoon contribution – helps mom prep for dinner and gets ready to do her nightly reading

Jared – comes in from playing with friends – cleans up for dinner

Elliot – comes home from skateboard park in time for dinner

After Dinner

Hillary – does nightly reading

Jared – does contribution and homework

Elliot – does contribution – this guy does his homework in the am before school.

End of Day

Bedtime Routine – Most parents I have worked with over the years spend anywhere from 20 to 2 hours with their kids saying goodnight and the majority of the parents tell me they hate it. They also tell me they feel guilty for feeling this way. They tell me how they imagined bedtime would be when their children were infants, but how frustrated they are that that image never materialized. You know the scenario – a last cuddle, prayers, maybe a book, a kiss, I love you, and out the door the parent goes. But that isn’t the reality.

The reality is that most parents and kids have created routines that actually divides them rather than bringing them closer. We all want our last moment with a child to be a special and deep connection. So how do you get that?

EXAMPLE:

Jan and Bill – 3 Kids – Ages 3, 6, 11

Aidan – 3

Bedtime routine begins at 7:00

Aidan decides who will go upstairs while he gets ready for bed which includes:

o Reading a book downstairs with mom and dad

o The other kids are in their rooms so that Aidan has a chance to connect with mom and dad and begin to relax before bed. They learned the hard way that if the other kids were flying around the house, Aidan resisted saying goodnight.

o Washing teeth

o Taking a bath

o Pajamas on

When he is in bed, 7:30 – 7:45, he calls to the other parent to come up for kisses. Both parents share one appreciation with Aidan and often times he returns with an appreciation of his own. They have maintained the one sentence rule so that Aidan doesn’t turn this into a 30 minute ordeal. Early on, they decided they would leave the room quietly if Aidan started making mischief with the appreciations. They reported that within 3 days, they had established one of the nicest bedtime routines. Final kisses and lights out by 7:45. Jan and Bill decided they needed 15 minutes to themselves to regroup after putting Aidan to bed and found this a time to start their wind down for the night.

Megan – 6. Megan is a night owl and comes alive just after dinner. Her parents have figured out that she doesn’t require as much sleep as most kids and can maintain a great attitude with as little as 6 hours of sleep.

7:00 – 8:00 is when Megan gets herself ready for the following day. The house is quiet and she has agreed to leave mom and dad alone with Aidan. She also does her contribution during this time (unless it involves vacuuming).

8:00 – 8:30 is for reading with mom and dad. Megan doesn’t have homework yet, so this is still a time to connect alone with her parents.

8:30 – 9:00 she is ready for downtime and has a room full of options. The family has agreed to tv on weekends, but not during the week. Downtime includes legos, crafts, and any other interests that might capture Megan’s attention.

9:00 – Call mom and dad up for final kisses. Megan isn’t in bed yet. But she is ready to say goodnight. Mom and dad gave up fighting with her about lights out when they realized that she could self regulate her sleeping.

Josh – 10. Josh is a meticulous kid who like order and consistency.

7:00 – 8:00 – Homework

8:00 – 9:00 – Gets ready for following day: includes making his lunch, unpacking and repacking his backpack

9:00 – 9:30 – Connect with the folks before turning in. They have begun chatting at the dining room table giving their conversations a more serious tone. This allows Josh the full attention of his parents and for them to talk in private and venture into adult topics.

9:30 – Upstairs for a shower and bed.

Mom and Dad have from 9:30 on every evening to connect and then to end the evening as they see fit.

What routines have you put in place for your family and how are they working for all of you?

Intelligent Design: Routines Don’t Just Appear with a Big “Bang

Revamping your family’s routines can be a strategic challenge – a chess game of cause and effect. Ultimately, you must observe your kids and then “design” a household environment that will lead to effortless routines. You’re probably thinking,”Please, that’s gonna be hard!” But actually, it’s kind of fun because once you’ve figured it out, it’s almost as if by magic, your kid begins to sail through the day. Trust us, you’ll feel pretty savvy once you’ve decided to redesign your deal!

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1. Observe your kids for a day or two and look for what I call their “natural rhythm”. You may have to employ the “duct tape” technique (a technique developed by me to assist in keeping my mouth shut because I lacked the necessary discipline to do it without assistance) in order to get “accurate” information about how your kids are currently handling their morning. Don’t worry if you are late for a day or two, or homework gets left undone, or if bedtime is a bit frazzled. You are investing in the emotional health of your family, so a small disruption in the family might be necessary.

2. Identify where you get stuck (example: We can’t get bedtime right. We’ve tried everything). List observations about why you get stuck (Bedtime is messy because they share a room and one reads quietly before bed while the other jumps around).

3. Identify where the day flows well (after school, the kids get home and put their backpacks in the mudroom).

4. Tell your kids that you have been trying to set up the routines in the family the way you like them and you realize that you made a mistake.

5. Invite them to sit down with you and lay out how they would set up each routine. Here is how I started it – “In a perfect world, on a perfect day, what would the morning look like to you?” And then I listened. Really listened to what they were telling me.

6. Identify the goal of having a Morning, Afternoon and Bedtime routine.

EXAMPLES

  • To get out of the house on time, every day, with all our stuff, a good breakfast in the belly with everyone smiling and excited about the day.
  • To have a calm afternoon that helps the family reconnect and prepare for the 2nd half of the day.
  • To say goodnight, feeling connected, loving and peaceful.

Great, then you play with variables and options. Try them! You don’t have to stick with what’s not working.

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SMART TIP FOR ROUTINE REDESIGN

1. Know what you believe about HOW morning, afternoons and bedtimes “should” be. Once you know your preferences and what the perfect routine would consist of – for you – put it on a shelf and pull it out when the kids leave home at 18.

2. Decide that you will give, whatever routine you set up, time to work. We tend to jump from one routine to another if we don’t get immediate results. My recommendation, wait at least 2 weeks before you start making any significant tweaks to any routine or system to try and implement into daily life with the kids.

3. Keep it within reach! If you want your child to pack a lunch easily and enthusiastically, store the food where they can reach it. The same goes for nontoxic cleaners and clothing. Many routine hiccups can be addressed by physically moving materials kids are expected to handle down to their level.

Have fun! Practice makes progress!

16 Going on…Grown-Up

I have said it a million times…I have the BEST job on the planet. It’s such a gift to get to know you all and your children. I appreciate that you trust me with your questions, worries, and successes. I love meeting each of you in class, by phone, on line, or in your home. Your kids are wonderful and complicated and challenging and brilliant. Thank you to this mom for sharing her thoughts on where they were “then” and “now” as a family.  Love you all!

trust

I would like to share a story with Vicki…but first, thank you for making a difference in the life of my children. I took your 6 week class about 8 years ago  after being prompted by the guidance counselor. It made me think I must be a “bad” parent if the guidance counselor is suggesting I needed a parenting class. She assured me you were worth the time, so I attended. After week one, I was ready to quit. Some of it seemed over the top and extreme and it definitely was going to be a lot of work. Your introduction and humor kept me coming back on those cold nights when I just wanted to stay home in my warm house. You talked about raising resilient, independent adults. I hoped to be able to implement enough to have “good” adult children knowing I could not likely have a kids that liked me as much as yours! My kids are now 13 and 16, I attended a book talk recently for a quick refresher. Over the years, I have not woken up my kids (I did have to wake up my nephew once who needed to catch a flight – it was against my better judgement but he didn’t have parents who taught him differently so I caved so he wasn’t on my couch for a month!), I have left without my kids when I said I was going (although it was very hard), we still have family meetings every week. I haven’t bought their friends’ birthday presents in all these years and I spend less time cleaning my house while my children assist with contributions. The thing I am most thankful for happened this week. I remember a story about one of your daughters buying her sister a plane ticket. I wished at that moment my kids would be so kind and generous some day.

This is my story.

My recently turned 16 year old was at work (one of her 4 jobs.) It was the weekend before spring break and when she asked her also 16 year old co-worker what he was doing next week he said going to build houses with habitat for humanity in WV. Last year she went to Paris for a week with a school trip (she paid for half). The co-worker told her there was a need for more people and she should go. She had committed to babysitting 3 days, working this seasonal job one more week and taking care of the neighbor’s cat. Opportunities to make several hundred dollars. She asked him to text her the information anyway. On the way home we talked about it and she became increasingly interested. Once she had the information she evaluated the possibility of making it happen. Monday morning she was home ill with a stomach virus. Tuesday she shared the details with us (her parents). We thought it was great she wanted to go but given she had commitments and she wasn’t feeling perfect along with the unexpected cost we thought it was best to try to find a similar experience closer to home or do this in the future. She had offered to assist with a portion (about 20%) of the expense. She left the discussion to return about 45 minutes later. She said she tried to talk herself out of this and it wasn’t working. She’d pay 80% of the trip, she could try to borrow items she needed from a friend, she would explain the situation to the family she was supposed to babysit for offering them some names of friends who could help if they would like, her sister would take care of the neighbors cat, and work her shift at her job. She wanted to go because it was out of her comfort zone and she felt she needed to do it. She admitted she was terrified in some ways and did not know anyone other than this co-worker who she only knew from working together for the past month. She had missed the pre-trip meetings, she had made contact with the organizers of the trip for details and paperwork and she wanted to do what it would take to make it happen. She also thought she’d come back with a greater appreciation for what she has. I had heard of this group going and knew of a few parents whose kids had gone so we were comfortable with the organization.

Our only option was to say, “okay, start packing for your trip.” I dropped her off last night to board a bus with strangers we have never meet, to drive all night to arrive this morning to start building houses. We are not worried, because we know that she will have an amazing week growing closer to being the grown-up we will be very proud of. I am betting she’s the only one on the bus who paid for most of her trip. I heard parents telling their son, “don’t worry if something happens to your LAX sticks you let your brother borrow, I’ll buy you new one.” I couldn’t stop myself, I said “What? You mean your son will buy his brother a new one, right?” The parent assured me his son (age 17) had no job or money and Dad would replace his 13 year old’s stick if it’s lost, stolen, or broken! Yikes…Some parents still have a lot to learn to have respectful, responsible and resilient “kids” who turn into grown ups.

Thank you Vicki for all you do and have done for families.

Use the Force: Follow a Child’s Natural Rhythm and Preference

Anyone with kids has probably noticed the 5:00 hour is somehow a portal to the dark side. There’s no getting around it. It’s been called “the bewitching hour”, “arsenic hour” and reversely, “happy hour” by parents who choose to check out while the chaos ensues.

Gilmans

Joking aside, this is the perfect example of how to use natural forces to your advantage. Maybe, asking the kids to sit down and crack the books at 5:00 is asking for a meltdown—one that could be avoided by simply going with the flow of natural productivity. Homework at 3:00? Possibly. Homework at 6:00? Doable. But homework at 5:00? Probably not. The point is, it’s important to notice your child’s natural rhythms and preference and then leverage them to create seamless routines that support an instinctual nature. If your child is squirrely at 5pm, that might be a good time to invite him into the kitchen and have him make his lunch for the following day. Perhaps your child is a morning person. Invite them to make lunches before the bus. Got a late sleeper? Develop a routine that will have them prep their stuff before they go to bed so they get up and follow the same process right out the door.

There are some influences that can’t be changed, but there are many small adjustments that will lead to a much smoother flow throughout the day. And remember: expect hotspots around the am and bedtime routines, transitions to leave the house and getting “stuff” together for sports and activities. No matter what your rhythms and preferences are, understanding them and working with them will make each and every day more enjoyable for you and everyone around you.

Finding the right rhythm may take some time. Here are some ideas to get you going.

  • Identify the night owls and the morning larks.
  • Identify the rabbits and the turtles.
  • If a conflict ensues regarding an activity at a certain time of day – this is your key.
  • Have faith. Try it out. Give it time. And TRUST.

Getting The Kids Involved

Getting the Kids Involved Means Letting them Participate 

work is worthIt sounds super obvious to most parents that if you want kids to follow a daily routine, they have to help create it and then feel supported as they practice mastering the routine on their own. Well, that’s not always how things play out. We often “let” the kids participate when it’s convenient for us or when they are doing things “right” but as soon as they fall behind, or don’t do things exactly the way we want them, we step in and muddle everything up. Creating, executing and mastering routines takes time and while the kids are practicing, life happens. But if we can shift our thinking, if we can let the routine lead the day, we’ll find that children can take on more responsibility, become less dependent on us for everything and we can all enjoy that time between activities vs. rushing and hurrying things along.

What does this mean? It means, if your child is supposed to pack a backpack for school, you wont jump in and do it as the clock starts ticking louder and louder. And so, yes, you’ll be late. Yes, your kid will wear PJ’s to school. Yes, they won’t have a lunch if they don’t feel like making one. Once you learn to let go, the child will know you trust they can do it and that’s when the magic happens. Obviously, allowing a kid to go to school hungry because they forgot their lunch or left their homework behind, is a hard lesson to learn! Most parents think they just can’t let that happen. But they soon find out they can and it only happens once or twice.

IMG_6573Over time, once your children realize you’re going about the routine and that you trust them to manage on their own, they begin to master tasks that lead to confidence and capability. After the peaceful, relaxed and orderly routine is established, you’ll never look back!

Are you ready for a routine?

Kids CAN Do So Much! With a solid routine and less interference, kids of all ages CAN and WILL:

  • get dressed
  • make lunches
  • bring a backpack
  • get ready for bed quickly
  • wake up for school on time
  • finish homework
  • brush their teeth
  • feed the pets
  • and so much more!

Head’s Up! It’ll be bumpy for just a short while. Once you master the routine, it’ll get smoother and sweeter. In the beginning, you’ll have to focus on these few things:

kid workPatience. Don’t step in, even if you’re late.

Correcting. If a kid packs three granola bars for his lunch, hey it’s a start. It’ll get better- don’t get caught up in the little stuff.

Let go. You’ll just have to sacrifice a few events (like bball practice or dinner out) in order to learn the routine.

Once it’s in place, it’ll be just fine.
Trust the kids. Just trust them. They will find a way if you’re not there doing everything for them.