Have you ever noticed that once school starts and issues like morning routines, homework, bedtimes and whose driving kids to and from social and sporting engagements, seem to create a bit of discord between parents? If so, check out my parenting partnership tip sheet and ensure that you and your parenting partner are both on the same page.
I am honored to introduce to you MultiplicationNation.com. This is an online learning tool that supports kids as they learn their multiplication tables and yes, it was developed by my dear friend, Alex.
If you are looking for a way to empower your kids and engage them in the learning process (without sitting down and forcing them to practice their flashcards and nagging and fighting and…because we know that doesn’t work and also fractures your relationship,) I suggest you check this out!
Don’t just take my word for it. Alex was kind enough to write a bit about his inspiration for creating this tool (see below) and if you go to the website, you can see his credentials! WOW!
Or if you’ve heard enough and you are ready to get started –
Visit www.MultiplicationNation.com, and use coupon code VICKI30 to receive a 30% discount today!
Rethinking My Thinking,
What happens when one of the country’s top teachers fails as a parent
Guest post by Alex Kajitani
I’d been a successful, award-winning math teacher for 10 years—lauded for my innovative approach, I’d even been featured on the national news. So when it came time for our daughter to learn her times tables, all I could think was: I got this.
My daughter was going to be the one who could recite any math fact on demand. No way my daughter would be the kid struggling in class, or sitting in the back avoiding being called on.
We sat down at the kitchen table. I gave her my best “here’s what-made-me-the-Teacher-of-the-Year and has worked for so many kids before you” lecture. Ten minutes in, I looked up from my own brilliance and saw my daughter. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. Then she yelled, “I don’t understand this!” and stormed out of the room.
And there I sat. In silence. With all my fancy teaching awards and clever math knowledge—and an empty chair beside me. My wife, who had observed from the other room, just gave me that look. What a disaster.
It turns out that what makes you a Teacher of the Year at school doesn’t even earn you “Parent of the Afternoon” at the kitchen table. I knew, in that moment, that this was testing my parenting skills along with my teaching abilities.
As Vicki Hoefle teaches us in her book Duct Tape Parenting, “If you’re not willing to rethink your thinking, then it won’t matter how many strategies you employ.”
It was clearly time to rethink my thinking. Instead of envisioning my daughter as an ideal student who would absorb information on demand, I needed to see her as the complex human being she is. Smart, clever and open to learning, yet vulnerable and intimidated, especially when it comes to new skills.
I forced myself to come up with creative ways to explain the times tables to her, to help her memorize and retain them. Drawing on her ability to learn through music, movement, a few bad jokes and, yes, rote memorization at times, I worked with her just a little bit each evening. Her tears were eventually replaced with smiles (and only a few eye rolls). She mastered her times tables in an engaging way, at a pace she felt comfortable with. Whew.
The biggest epiphany I had from this experience was this: If I, an experienced math teacher, was struggling with helping my own child master her times tables, then this was something parents were struggling with at kitchen tables everywhere.
My mission became clear. I wanted to create something that would help EVERY kid master their times tables, and help EVERY parent avoid the tear-stained disaster I’d experienced. I knew the methods that I used to help my daughter should be accessible for any parent, anywhere.
Mastering the times tables in math is like learning to read in language arts—it’s the foundational skill that makes all the difference. Kids who know their times tables have a much greater chance of succeeding in math going forward; kids who don’t know them, continue to struggle. I’d seen this in my own students, and I decided it was my new job to help as many students as possible gain this crucial skill—without the stress.
So, I created MultiplicationNation.com, the first-of-its-kind, interactive, online times table teaching program. I searched far and wide for the best technology platform available to allow me to teach other kids their times tables just as I taught my daughter, from any device, anywhere, and actually have fun doing it.
I’ve watched my daughter become more confident in math now that she knows her times tables, and I see that confidence transferring to other parts of her life as well. I’m now committed to partnering with other parents and teachers, through MultiplicationNation.com, to help all kids gain confidence in math, and in life. (And I really do mean all kids—for every ten memberships purchased, we donate one to a student in need.)
As parents, we never know what situation will leave us, or our children, in tears. But I do know that sometimes we all need a little help. And, as Vicki says, sometimes we just need to be willing to rethink our thinking.
To help your child master their times tables, visit www.MultiplicationNation.com, and use coupon code VICKI30 to receive a 30% discount.
Alex Kajitani is the 2009 California Teacher of the Year, Top-4 Finalist for National Teacher of the Year, and a nationally renowned speaker, and author. He is still striving to be named “Parent of the Afternoon.”
Once in a while, a book comes along, written so well, that you wish you had been the one to write it. Such is the case with “What Great Parents Do: 75 Simple Strategies for Raising Kids Who Thrive.” by Erica Reischer, PhD. This new book offers you a way to improve your skills over time, it engages you in a way that a slick, try it, it will work strategy can’t. If you have ever worked with me or attended one of my presentations, you know that all change happens, over time when we focus our attention on one thing until we have mastered it.
Okay, here is a short list of what makes this book great.
- You can start anywhere and improve your parenting.
- It’s not really about changing your kids, but more about improving your skill set when it comes to parenting.
- She includes research, common sense and years in the field to compile a thoughtful, well organized and relevant guide any parent can use if they want to improve their parenting skills and the relationship they have with their children.
- You could take each chapter and work on refining your parenting skills or approach over the course of a week or a month.
- Instead of jumping around trying to address bedtimes, sass, technology and so on, she offers parents insights into their mindsets, their responses and how making small changes can bring about big results.
- The book helps parents understand children in new and clearer ways and breaks down old myths concerning kids and their behavior.
- She uses science to back up her assertions so that parents don’t have to do all the heavy leg work themselves and can instead access what’s available and put it to good use immediately.
- It is uplifting, realistic, full of possibility and inspiring.
Here’s the thing. I am a firm believer that we are all doing the best we can with the information we have. Sometimes we just need new information. I believe that we really all can be great parents and it doesn’t mean – we have to be turned into someone else. It just means we have a choice. Do we apply the new information or not?
This is a must for every new parent and for anyone already in the trenches with kids. So we are offering another giveaway. Comment below by midnight on Friday 8/26 and we’ll add your name in a drawing for a free book. Enjoy the end of your summer!
Thank you for your books. After reading Duct Tape Parenting, the only thing I am still struggling with is allowing them to work out their arguments because my little one is still quite young (2 in July) so I worry about her being bullied or hurt, but I have let go quite a bit compared to before.
In terms of the fighting, they are young and they do not have the skills to respectfully work things out. Put your effort into helping them learn how to negotiate life with a sibling. Here are a few quick and easy steps.
1. Acknowledge when someone is mad or hurt or angry or doesn’t want to share. This immediately quiets and centers kids and lets them know they are heard and their feelings validated. It also reestablished a connection with us.
2. Take a big deep breath while you look at one or both of them and ask them to do the same. Doesn’t matter if they do it, you are creating a habit. This will help you keep a calm voice and attitude and will teach them that they can move pass a tense moment using their own body for help.
3. Ask them if they have any ideas for how to solve the problem. There is no need to point out that hitting, biting, yelling or calling someone stupid won’t work. Focus on finding a solution even if the solution is to climb up in your lap for a bit of love.
Make sure kids know that it is find if they chose to take some time alone. Often times we just need a break to regroup before we are ready to come back and begin playing with a sibling.
Remember, it doesn’t matter if they understand. What you are doing is modeling for them that you understand, to take a breath and then to find a solution. You don’t have to talk about being nice, or kind or not hitting, just help them learn these 3 steps and it will go a long way in helping them deal with all the times they experience a negative emotion, and there will be plenty.
Before long they will be able to say to you – I am mad because [insert whatever it is.] I am going to take a deep breath and then pick up my dolls and go play in my bedroom. I promise with practice, it really does happen this way.
When 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.
A 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).
- 1) buy the book from any bookstore before March 13, 2016 and
- 2) send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org telling me where you bought it.
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
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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?
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
7:35 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
7:35 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.
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.
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.
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
Hillary – does nightly reading
Jared – does contribution and homework
Elliot – does contribution – this guy does his homework in the am before school.
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?
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?
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!
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.
- 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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 Means Letting them Participate
It 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.
Over 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:
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 Rule The Roost (Sorry parents!)
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?
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.
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.
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.
Consider your words carefully and consider the message those words carry with them when delivered on young ears with impressionable minds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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
- Reached a certain age.
- Passed drivers education.
- Practiced driving for hours with an experienced driver.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?