Blog Entries

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.

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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!

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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.

Routines 101

Routines Rule The Roost (Sorry parents!)

kids need

Two of the most common issues families face are a lack of cooperation and crappy time management skills. These two biggies affect every part of the family’s day, from the minute the alarm clock rings to the final light’s out, there is often struggle and frustration with the flow of daily activities, chores and expectations.

Any family can get through the day by winging it as it comes. What happens though, is we have no idea how the day will really unfold! Mornings can unpredictably rock or end in a full- blown temper tantrum, bedtimes might fluctuate, and responsibilities shift according to mood and patience level. Often we’re just going along, from one task to another, hanging on to sanity by a thread. Then after a marathon of chaotic sprints, we fold, plunking down in a chair, fully exhausted and ready to check out with a dose of reality TV. We hate to admit it, but we sometimes dread the following day simply because it’ll start all over again, ending right in the same LazyBoy with little to no energy for what’s to come.

Without a solid routine, families meet all kinds of interesting and tiresome issues include meltdowns, tears, fighting, breakfast in the car, mismatched socks, stinky breath, homework undone, and so forth.

You want to enjoy the morning with your munchkins. You want them to take care of their business. You want the stress level low and you want to get out of the house on time!

Don’t we all?

Ben Franklin

So what’s the solution? Routines! Routines that rock, actually. And here is how it works.

WHAT SUPPORTS ROUTINES THAT ROCK?

  •  Identify what you would like the morning, after school and evening routines to look and feel like in your home.
  •  Identify what you do now that works, and what isn’t working.
  •  Identify what your kids can do for themselves and what you would like them to be able to do.
  •  Develop a plan for your routine that takes into account your child’s needs, leaves room for their growth, as well as a little flexibility for the  unexpected and try it out.

Practice makes progress parents! I’ll be back with Part 2 in a few days.

Parenting Land Mine

As anyone who knows me can attest, I was a free range parent long before the words helicopter parenting, tiger mom or free range were part of the parenting landscape.

I parented with 2 things in mind.

1. keep the relationship with my kids strong, healthy, honest and robust

2. foster their independence in every moment

challenge

Yes, I received dirty looks from shop-keepers and store-clerks when my kids were allowed to roam inside their establishments unsupervised while I stood outside and waited for them. The scowls turned to smiles as my kids navigated the aisles without breaking anything “fragile” and then opened their purses and paid with their own money for the little treasures they found in these stores. Fostering independence comes with scowls and skepticism. That’s okay. It didn’t stop us.

I got phone calls from coaches who informed me that I needed to make sure my kids had all their “gear” and were at practice 15 minutes before practice – huh? I politely declined their invitation and let them know that I was committed to raising independent kids who could figure out how to manage something as simple as a pair of cleats, shin guards and a water bottle. As far as getting to practice on-time, I
suggested that perhaps they might also like to foster a bit of independence in the kids they were coaching and ask the kids to make sure they were to practice when they were expected to be there.

As the kids got a bit older, I supported their innate desire to wander further from home (and truth be told, I was a bit nervous the first 42 times they suggested it). But with training, some guidelines and practice, I knew it was the right thing to do if I was really going to stand behind my (here it is again) value to raise independent kids who would one day become adults.

Did I take unnecessary risks? Hell no, but I would bet Danielle Meitiv didn’t think she was taking unnecessary risks either time she supported her kids in walking the short distance home from school.

vicki-training kids blog

I find it remarkable that there is a conversation suggesting that these parents be bullied into changing their parenting style because of the fear that CPS will get involved. I wonder where the world would be today if the woman suffrages ran home because they were scared of a little controversy and backlash from the powers that be. If I was inclined, I could probably think of a dozen or more instances in history where people stood up for their rights at the risk of imprisonment, but maybe parenting is different. Maybe in fact, more of us should parent according to what our neighbors think is appropriate or at the very least, parent according to popular culture norms and our biggest fears, which at present seem to be that an organization established to ensure the safety of children might threaten you with taking your children if they disagree with your parenting style.

Am I the only one that sees the intrinsic danger in where this is going? Fortunately for me, my kids are grown. Unfortunately, in the next ten years they will begin their own parenting journey and it is my great hope that as a society we find the balance needed in order to raise a generation of people who can make informed decisions, are invested in their communities and take personal responsibility for their words, attitudes and actions. But maybe that is asking too much as well. Maybe, along with raising independent children, we should abandon these other traits and be satisfied raising compliant children who do what they are told by people who are not their parents.

What is happening to the Meitivs is another example of how extreme and out of balance parenting has become. At one time, there was a code of conduct among parents that read something like: Do not judge, lest you be judged and help out when you can. Simple. Now it’s judge everything, especially if you know nothing about the people or the situation, share your opinions and judgments openly and often with as many people as you can find and turn your back on a parent who in any way parents in a style you deem unacceptable. It’s a minefield out in the parenting world and anyone who claims that parents stick together is living under a rock. Yes, of course there are wonderful tribes to be had, but more often then not, parents are finding themselves alone, judged and changing the way they parent in order to, in the case of the Maryland parents, keep their kids at home where
they are most certainly safer than they would be in Child Protective Services or Foster Care.

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I don’t believe this is happening to this family because of who they are or what they are doing necessarily. I think that the spotlight is on them in order for us to begin a
dialogue about the new age of parenting and how we must all adapt, work together and support each other if we are to raise children who flourish as adults.

With all that has been written about the hazards of over-parenting, helicopter parenting, micro-managing kids, the real crime is crippling children by parenting from a place of fear, guilt, and shame.

The P word.

This is the time of year, as high school seniors receive letters from colleges, as our elementary school athletes finish up their winter sports seasons and begin training for the spring festivities, or our students win recognition in the form of scholarships and awards. When our kids accomplish something, it can be easy to tell them how proud we are of them or share with our friends how proud we are of our children’s latest achievements. I know this makes sense to us. Our kids do great things and we want them to know how we feel, and how happy we are for them. In some cases we want our neighbors or relatives to know how great our children are (in turn) how great we are as parents and that we have raised such marvelous wonders.

The reason we boast and praise our children is not nearly as important as the answer to this question. What do you say to your child when she misses the mark? What do you say when he falls a bit short? What do you say when she fails or gets rejected?

“Oh, that’s ok, honey, you were accepted to the other two colleges.” Or you may say, “Don’t cry, I know you tried.” Do you ever tell your child, “You dropped the ball in center-field, I am so proud of you.” No.

Children interpret this attempt to make them feel better, as a lack of pride in them, as they are right now (warts, mistakes, foul-ups, rejections and all.) And since you are not proud of them, they can often interpret this as disappointment.

Vicki with Zoe

Here is an example and a conversation to illustrate.

On Friday, my daughter received her acceptance letter from Columbia University in New York. After hours and hours of research to find a program in her field of interest, she applied to graduate school a few months earlier. She was elated and couldn’t wait to share the news with us. My husband and I were on the phone with her when she opened the letter. Zoe and my husband screamed and shouted and hooted and hollered. When everyone settled down, the following conversation ensued:

Zoe: So mom, are you proud of me?

Me: Zoe, I am so happy that you got into the program you wanted and I am impressed with how hard you worked for 4 years to make this dream come true. I
am inspired to work hard for my own dreams and I am thrilled that you will be living in New York.

Zoe: Mom, come on, say it – say you are proud of me.

Iain: I am proud of you Zoe.

Zoe: I know, but I want to hear Mom say it. She never uses the “P” word. She is the only mom I know who is more comfortable dropping the “f” bomb than using the “P” word.

Me: I’m sorry Zoe, but if I tell you I am proud of you now, the next time something like this happens and say you don’t get in, you might think I am disappointed in you, and that just wouldn’t be true. See, the thing is, if a parent says they are proud, then that leaves room for a parent to be disappointed and I can assure you Zoe, that I am never, ever, disappointed in you. The best I can give you my darling is this – perhaps on my death bed, as I am saying goodbye, I will look at you and say – I am proud to be your mother.

She fell silent. I heard her take a big gulp of air and she closed our conversation.

Zoe: I love you and I am proud of me and I couldn’t have done it without all the faith and support and love that I got from you and pops.
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Consider your words carefully and consider the message those words carry with them when delivered on young ears with impressionable minds.

Siblings Part 3: Tips To Bring More Joy

stop the fighting

Watching your kids play nicely together, hearing a shared giggle, watching a potential fight averted, because of some savvy negotiating between your 6 and 8 year old is just about every parent’s idea of a dream come true. But raising kids who truly enjoy each other is a process that takes years. It’s important that parents recognize that building on small moments, bringing a child’s awareness to the moments that “work” with a sometimes pesky sibling, providing situations in which kids can practice solving problems around play, will go a long way in creating sibling relationships that will stay strong and loving for years to come.

Personally, I made the decision when my kids were young, that if I could choose between kids who got along between 2 – 18 and kids who were close from 18 to 80, my choice would be the later. One of the major trip ups for parents around kids getting along when they are young, is the belief that we parents are responsible for those relationships. Maybe if we did more of one thing or less of another, we could guarantee our kids would be each other’s best friends for life – pinky swear. But nothing could be further from the truth. Take a page from your adult experience and trust that by following these easy but powerful 10 tips, you will indeed raise kids who truly enjoy each other’s company more with each passing year. And yes, you will witness this before they leave home.

appreciate

1. Appreciations: Just like suggesting to someone who has a head ache that they drink water, before they run to the doctor for an MRI, using appreciations as a way to combat sibling squabbles is often overlooked because of it’s simplicity. But as a mom who raised 5 kids in a blended family dynamic, this was the key to my kids not only enjoying life together under one roof, but the reason the 5 of them are still as thick as thieves as young adults.

2. Adler’s Golden Rule: “ I use Adler’s “see with their eyes, hear with their ears and feel with their heart” to help my children understand a sibling they are struggling with. Inevitably, there is a moment of empathy and awareness, which translates into a more relaxed and accepting dynamic. This has become the foundation for conversations when one sibling is struggling with another’s choice of behavior.” Mother of 4 children, ages 7 – 16.

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

3. No Blood – No Break – No Foul: “I stay out of every single squabble that doesn’t include blood or break. And yes, it’s tough. Especially in public. It’s easy for parents to get pulled into the tussle and as soon as I’m there, I can see the entire dynamic change. It’s no longer an opportunity for my kids to work together to solve the problem, it’s about me trying to decide who needs to change or do something different and the relationship between the kids takes a psychic hit. I would say, that at this point, my kids spend less than 10% of their time squabbling for more than just a few minutes. They have strategies that work for almost every occasion, including walking away, writing it on the problem board, negotiating and sometimes, just throwing themselves down on the ground and hoping for a sympathetic sibling to concede the toy.” Mother of 3 children, under the age of 5

4. Use Reality as your Guide: “I had kids who were very physical and it really concerned me. I thought that the fighting defined the relationship and it scared me. Over time, as I learned to watch the kids in other situations, I realized that they had a high degree of respect for each other and often times worked together in ways that I overlooked. I think it’s important for parents to really challenge their beliefs about what it means for kids to enjoy each other because truly, I think it can sometimes be a bit Polly-Anna. And today, my kids are as close as any siblings I know.” Mother of 3 children, ages 25 – 19

5. Get an accurate idea of how often your kids get along and how they “do” getting along. Most parents admit that when challenged to do this, they recognize that the kids get along more then they give them credit for. So take a deep breath and relax. Remember to acknowledge when the kids are working together or enjoying each other and be specific so they can use this information again and again.

6. Give them a break from each other. Even kids can get sick and tired of hanging with the same folks for too long. Sometimes it’s that simple. Allow them time alone, with other friends, with parents one-on-one and don’t get caught up in the “it’s not fair” song and dance.

7. If you have friends with older kids (like young teens) leverage them. They can teach your kids the importance of getting along with their siblings in a way that we, the parents, can’t. Hearing a story from a 10, 13 or 16 year old about how awesome they think their sibling is, or a time when their sibling came to their rescue, can go along way in helping shift your child’s perspective towards their pesky sibling.

8. Stop fretting. Most kids do enjoy each other. They might not show it the way you want them too, but they are young, they are doing the best they can. Allow the relationship to grow over time, slowly and naturally. Watch that you aren’t comparing or judging and that your expectations are in line with reality.

9. Keep your own childhood out of the picture. You aren’t raising yourself and over compensating for a lousy relationship with your sister will only guarantee that your kids struggle to create meaningful relationships with each other. If you model for your kids what a healthy relationship looks like, sounds like and feels like, they have a much better chance of establishing a healthy one with their siblings. Trying to force kids to get along usually back fires and causes more fractures not less.

10. Take pictures of the times people are enjoying each other and post them around the house. When kids start to squabble, bring them over to a picture and ask them to remind you of what was happening in the action. Along with this, make sure appreciations during Family Meetings includes when kids are rockin it out together. Remember, whatever you pay attention too – you get more of.

jens kids

Remember to pace yourself. It’s not nearly as important to have young children who have developed the skills which makes it possible for us to get along with people day in and day out for years, as it is to help them build a strong foundation that will grow with them over time and solidify the relationship they have with their brothers and sisters.

Siblings Fighting? Making Small Tweaks Can Change the Game

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

Here are the 3 simple tweaks (the first step) you can make to break the cycle of fighting in your home and create a little more peace, harmony and enjoyment from all that I promised you.

1. If YOU are still trying to GET your children to get along, the solution is simple: STOP. (In the next post I’ll share the most powerful strategy there is for eliminating the majority of the fighting in your home.) But first, I want you to stop getting involved and observe.

2. Because kids fight for their parents, the solution is to just watch what happens when you act like you don’t notice and walk out of the room or act like you found something more interesting to pay attention to. That doesn’t mean you ignore a situation where you think someone is in serious jeopardy of being hurt, but it does mean you learn to ignore the fighting that is designed to engage YOU. I walked around with headphones on and pretended to listen to music. This drove my kids nuts, but within a few short minutes, they were either dancing with me, or laughing at my taste in music. In either case, the fighting stopped and we could move on with our day.

mail.google.com

3. If you are doing things for your children that they could do for themselves, the solution is to: Invite, Train, Encourage and Support your children as they begin to engage in navigating the hills and valleys of their own lives. By inviting, training, encouraging and supporting your children, you will begin to notice that EVERYONE is in a new relationship with each other and that no one seems all that interested in fighting with anyone else.

If you just realized that you do too much for your children, I invite you to learn more about how to implement the Timeline for Training Strategy.

Young Adults Leave The Nest, But Not For Long.

 

 

I came up with a motto, a slogan to help me parent. And it was this: It is my job to make sure that when my children turn 18, I have trained them in everything that they need to learn so that they can open the doors, walk over the threshold, and enter young adulthood with confidence and enthusiasm. I have 18 years to prepare them. It is my job to teach them how to run their life so they don’t need me any longer. But so many kids leave home at 18, young adults, and find themselves at college and don’t know how to manage their lives, how to navigate their lives, how to make simple decisions, how to organize. And they’re forced back home. And I can’t think of anything worse for those kids to admit that they couldn’t make it on their own, or for their parents who have to say “come back home,” knowing that in some way it was their fault. If you find a child who has to come home because they couldn’t make it, this is a chance to start fresh. Look back and ask yourself what areas of this child’s life did you do for them because you thought it would be too hard or they would make a mistake or they would make a mistake and it was just easier if you did it for them. And teach them. It’s not going to be fun, because they see themselves as adults, but they already know that they’re missing some of the life skills that they need to be successful. Sit down, have a heart-to-heart, make a list start at the top, and teach them everything they need to now. Set a timeline that says, 6 months or a year from now we’re going to try it again. This is not the worst thing that will happen to you. Together we’re going to figure this out. We’re going to get you ready to go this time. And you’re going to give it another shot.

PRE-ORDER your copy of The Straight Talk On Parenting HERE

Tweens, Technology and…..Sexting

Sexting. Some parents have difficulty just saying the word, never mind admitting that their child might – just might – be participating in it.  Our sweet, innocent 3rd and 4th graders have suddenly become tweens and teens and they are growing up in a world very different than the one most of us grew up in – a world surrounded by technology. Many children will not remember a time when they didn’t have instant access to a friend living half way around the world or the ability to see their grandparents each week via skype. These kiddos can receive an immediate and accurate answer to a question about pre-historic dinosaurs and link classrooms and share poems with students in Ghana and Kansas. This invaluable technology has also introduced our children to texting, social media, youtube, cyberbullying and yes, even sexting.  With the awesome comes the not so awesome.

As parents we can stay in denial and try to convince ourselves that we have the ability to protect and shield our kids from internet dangers like sexting, or we can get educated, grab our courage and meet our kids where they already are – cell phone in hand deciding in a split second whether or not to send a racy picture or post a decidedly inappropriate picture on social media. Contrary to popular belief, technology is NOT the problem. 

The problem is our lack of preparation around this issue, it’s the lack of intelligent conversation we have with our kids that is the problem and it is our fear of the unknown that is the biggest roadblock. Remember our job as parents is to teach, prepare and work along side our kids as they learn to navigate the world of technology filled with all the pluses and minuses.

Parents come to me confused on how to handle the issues surrounding their tween/teen and technology. This subject often either leads to power struggles between parents and their kids that negatively impact the relationship and the entire topic of responsible technology use gets lost in the mix of fighting and battling or it leads to a “if you can’t beat them, give up and let them” attitude with no structure, conversation or boundaries in place. It’s not unusual for me to ask a room full of concerned parents this question as a jumping off point: “What do you know about your child to ensure that you have set up a structure that will work for her?” Silence. “Uh, structure?” Often the story is, “My son turned 13 and all he wanted was a phone. All of his friends have them and he was dying for his own so he could text and stay connected.  Now, just a few months later, it’s a mess. The phone bill is sky high, he’s on the screen all the time, he’s neglecting homework and family. It’s a nightmare.”

Okay. Let’s back this bus up a bit and see if an analogy will make it clear where we get tripped up.

Before handing someone the keys to a car, that person has

  1. Reached a certain age.
  2. Passed drivers education.
  3. Practiced driving for hours with an experienced driver.
  4. Proven they can handle the responsibility of paying for a car or gas.

Right? And even if parents are scared to death that their son or daughter will get behind the wheel of a car and be in a serious accident, we can’t stop them.  We know this and so we accept it. We prepare our kids and we prepare ourselves for the inevitable.  We don’t fight against it – we work with it.  And that is what makes the difference.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to preparing our kids to handle technology. In many cases, parents skip those steps and go right to the “car” – then realize that their child may not have the necessary skills to adequately navigate the tricky terrain of internet use.  When parents can reframe the idea of technology and create a plan for preparing themselves and their kids for its inevitable arrival, everyone wins.

With a specific concern like sexting, the situation becomes a bit more serious and as a result, a parent’s fear factor increases. The idea of talking openly and frequently with kids about sex is tough enough, now we are forced to combine sex and technology in the same conversation. No wonder parents are sidelining these conversations until they can no longer avoid them.  Here’s the thing, no matter what you do to prevent it, there is a strong likelihood that your child will either sext someone or receive a sext from someone. The goal is to come to terms with this and do what you need to do as a parent to prepare yourself so you can discuss the situation openly and honestly with your child and prevention, danger, recovery, restitution and healing from a humiliating experience.

Include technology in the conversations you have with your children about healthy and unhealthy relationships – sexual and not sexual. If you aren’t comfortable talking about the topic, how do you expect your child to open up and talk to you about it?  Our kids need to know we have the confidence to tackle any difficult conversation with love, respect and understanding.

Here are a few tips to make the process easier.

  1. First, do what it takes to find the courage, to talk with your tween/teen about the various scenarios that might come up and how she/he might handle them.
  2. Ask questions. Find out about your teen’s cyber IQ. How tech savvy is she? Does she realize once something gets out there in cyberspace you cannot get it back? Or does she really think that once the image disappears from Snapchat it is gone for good?
  3. Work in other areas of life with your child to ensure that he has the tools to navigate tricky subjects. Does he accept responsibility? Does he value himself and others? Does he practice empathy and respect? Does he crave attention and long to fit in?
  4. Come to fair and reasonable guidelines with your child around technology use and include sexting in the conversation. Have a plan and stick to it. Remember your kids need to know they can trust you. Following through on an agreement demonstrates this. They may be mad at first, but the bigger message is – you do what you say, which means you can be trusted.
  5. Respect your child’s privacy. Have faith in your child’s ability to keep the agreements. This doesn’t mean turn a blind eye to what is going on, but it does mean that you don’t have an app that sends all your children’s texts to your phone, too. Finding out what is on your teen’s cell phone is about trust and respect. If you focus on those aspects of the relationship, your teen will invite you in – on her terms.
  6. Demonstrate your understanding that being a teen is hard enough; Let your child know that you understand and that the added element of technology, social media and sexting is one that you didn’t have to figure out when you were 12, 14, and 17-years-old. It’s more than just saying that you’re there if they need you. If your child does get in trouble, it is what you do next that matters most.

Does your tween/teen have the courage make their own choices and not succumb to peer pressure when it comes to sexting? What can you as the parent do to support your child’s independence in this area?

 

Believe It Or Not, Your Kids Want To Contribute!

 

For

more information on elementary education visit KidsInTheHouse.com

 

Self-esteem is based on two things: Your ability to take care of yourself in totality and your ability to contribute to a group that you’re a part of.

When you’re talking about young children, the first jobs, the first tasks, the first skills that you teach them are self skills. How to take care of themselves, pick out their own clothes, get dressed, make a bed, brush their teeth, take a shower, wash their hair, make toast, pack a backpack, make lunch. Those are all valuable skills that kids are hungry to learn. It also feeds their self-esteem. By the time they’re 3 and 4, they’re looking for opportunities to help their parents in real life situations. They don’t want plastic kitchens, they want to be in the kitchen. They want to unload dishwashers and set tables. They want to help sort laundry and put the soap in. They want to help run the vacuum and get the dust buster.

For some reason, parents think that good parents delegate their children to the sidelines while they do all the work and the kids play alone. But what we know is where children want to be and what their natural drive is is to help out around the house.

All a parent has to do is make a list, extend an invitation, do a little bit of training, and they will have a child who believes that contributing to the health of their family includes helping out around the house.

Focus on the Relationship


For more information on parenting visit KidsInTheHouse.com

Oftentimes when I’m working with a parent and they are describing life with their kids, it’s as if they’re looking through a very small lens down on the ground. “I have to get my kids up, and then pick out their clothes, and then get them to the table, make sure they eat a healthy breakfast before they go to school.” And what they’re talking about are things – the minutiae of day to day life. But what’s happening is their kids are in the home with them. There are relationships that are either being built or fractured.

When I work with parents I talk about lifting your head up. Forget the minutiae for a minute. Do an inventory of what life is like in your home during the morning routine. Are people making connections? Are people talking to each other? Are people eating meals together? Are children engaged in their own life? Are they taking care of themselves? Getting dressed? Talking to mom and dad? Interacting with siblings? And oftentimes parents report that there’s very little of that going on. So instead we want to focus on what’s happening between the relationships with everyone in the home. We want to emphasize that this is what really makes for a healthy family, that taking care of the day-to-day minutiae of life isn’t really what creates a healthy, happy, sustainable family.

Now the good news is that once you shift your focus to the relationships that you have with the people in your home, the day to day stuff starts to take care of itself. You start to delegate jobs to people. Folks start to be more cooperative together. Kids start to take responsibility for their backpacks, and their lunches, and their homework so that Mom and Dad have more time to check in with their kids about how friendships are going or how the relationship with their teacher is. So it’s really just a shift in what you’re noticing. Then both of those things, the day to day life with kids and the relationship, start to work in balance with each other.

Allowing Children To Develop Their Voice

 

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Have you ever met a really sassy, confident, great leader and you thought “man that guy’s really got it going?” Or “that gal is really a sharp leader?” If we went back in time and we talked to their parents, they would say, “Oh! This two year old was horrible! Bossed everybody around. Lined the bears up and told them what they’re going to do.” When we’re talking about allowing children to develop their voice, to share their opinion with their family members, to help create family policy, they are not going to be neat and tidy. Their job is to start to learn how to grow into an amazing leader, an amazing communicator who can communicate respectfully. I think parents are tougher than they give themselves credit for. I don’t really think we will wilt if we have a 7 year old who puts her hands on her hips and says, “I am not wearing that to school today!” If we just stop and think, what has been the evolutionary trajectory of this kid? From a 2 year old who said no all the time, to a 5 year old who was a little bit more cooperative, to a 7 year old who is demanding some equal rights, to a 13 year old who is now using a respectful tone, to a 16 year old who can negotiate respectfully and well, to a 22 year old who can fight for her own rights. So if parents understand that this is a natural maturation process, it can take a little bit of the edge off, and it won’t be used against them. That this is exactly what kids are supposed to be doing – growing and learning and changing while they’re in the home with mom and dad.

Does Duct Tape Stick to Homework?

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Over the last several months, as Duct Tape Parenting continues to make its way into the homes of parents across the country I’ve started to hear from moms and dads who are homeschooling their kids and wondering if there are different strategies that might apply to their unique situation.

The most common concern these parents have is this:
Because our children don’t attend a traditional school, the lessons they could learn from leaving a lunch, a coat or a homework assignment behind or sleeping through an alarm clock because there is no bus to catch are lost. Are there other ways to address these issues that would lead to more organized and responsible kids.

And, from almost every homeschooling parent I heard from they shared this concern – since we are both teacher and parent, the homework issue can be tricky. Any thoughts on how to motivate kids to get it done without fracturing the relationship?

It’s true that homeschooling can present a unique set of challenges, but considering them in a different light is the key to finding the just right strategy for you and your family.

Homework:
There are enough studies that suggest that homework may not be as useful to students as we first thought. Educating yourself on the newest evidence based research will make it easier for most homeschooling parents to address this issue in new and liberating ways. If the goal is to help your children develop a love of learning, an excitement to jump into a new topic or area of study, to commit a certain number of hours each day to developing their intellect, it may be that homework has no place in that equation.

Design your day with both independent study (which would directly replace the homework for more traditionally educated kids) and one-on-one teaching. It’s hard for most kids to stay on task for very long and remaining flexible in your thinking will be the difference between success and increased power struggles. Some kids do best walking around, writing a few sentences or answering a few math problems and then walking around again. What might look like a lack of focus could actually be their brain recovering from a difficult problem solving session of 3, 4 or 5 minutes. They need time to reboot. Nagging the child to sit down and focus is defeating the purpose, which is, for the child to learn how to best work with the brain they were born with and develop it in a natural and healthy way. Talk to the kids on a regular basis about your intention for supporting independent work.

They won’t immediately understand the long term benefits, but an ongoing conversation will lay the foundation for strong study skills when it really matters. And of course, there is always the “As soon as” option which works nicely to help the kids learn to stay on task, and complete those tasks before they move on to “free time” or “choice time”. No, you can’t force them to learn, or force them to care or for that matter force them to pick up the pencil and do the work, so decide before you begin, what your ultimate goal is so you can avoid unnecessary power struggles and maintain both the relationship with your child and cultivate their love of learning.

Life Lessons:
There are other opportunities for kids to learn life lessons that come from leaving a coat, homework or lunch on the counter as they run off to school even if they don’t attend a traditional school In fact, one could argue that there are even more opportunities.

Allowing kids to help create morning routines before “school” will give them some ownership of their morning. For instance, deciding as a family that the kitchen is closed at 8:00 am would encourage kids to organize their morning in order to fill their tummies. Many families include “non-negotiables” in their routines including – everyone is dressed before they arrive at the table for breakfast, etc. In talking with Homeschooling Parents I have found that their is a lack of consistency in their routines. Because they don’t have to get kids to school at a given hour, they allow kids to stay in pj’s, or succumb to whining because the kids are hungry shortly after the kitchen has been cleaned. So it’s the parents responsibility to help create routines that can be supported no matter how upset the child might be that they missed the breakfast timeline.

Many parents admit that they spend a good deal of time reminding their kids to bring coats as they had out to the library, reminding them to bring their snack, a snack by the way, that the kids could be packing for themselves, when they go out for a field trip, etc. So in some cases, it’s as much the parents who are interfering with the child’s ability to become independent, responsible and organized as it is that the kids are resistant to the idea.

1. Design a healthy routine that you, the parent can both live with and enforce, no matter how much push back you get from the kids.
2. Sit down with the kids and allow them to create a routine that will work for them.
3. Without disclosing your design, combine the two to create a routine that supports everyone.
4. Practice for 7 to 14 days and ask the kids to assess. What worked, what didn’t, what made life easier in the morning, what made it more stressful.
5. Commit to the kids that YOU will not be nagging, reminding, etc, but instead you will focus on supporting the routine that you all agreed to.
6. Allow the kids to miss the meal, forget the coat or cancel the field trip if they dilly dally too long.

Life with kids, whether they attend traditional school or not, is an exercise in creativity, trial and error and what often helps parents find that sweet spot of parenting is deciding first hand what they are willing to do and what they aren’t and creating a clear, attainable goal to work towards.

Your Picky Eater


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This is my wisdom bomb when it comes to picky eaters and small children. Feed them at home. Feed them something good before you go to the party, the event, Disneyland, or wherever it is you’re going. And then don’t worry about it. Let them eat what they want. Say yes as much as possible. Just don’t worry about it, because the truth is one day, one week, even two weeks of eating lousy is not a make or break deal. It’s far more important that you make a positive memory with your child and relinquish all the craziness about the eating. Remember, it’s about the relationship. The relationship drives everything. If you focus on that, you won’t mind so much that the kids are eating too many cookies.