All posts in Independence, Character Traits & Values

Hope. Gratitude. Giving Back.

Treating Human BeingsWhen I entered the office I was greeted as always by a polite and friendly receptionist. “Are you teaching any parenting classes” she asked. quietly. “Yes I am as a matter of fact. I’m teaching at the college on Mondays and in a nearby town on Tuesdays.” She was quiet. So I asked. “Is there something I can do for you”. She hesitated for only a moment and then said, ”I have a daughter with some special physical needs and she is struggling with her 4 year old. I thought maybe one of your classes might help her.” I nodded in agreement. “Is it possible for her to make one of the classes?” She nodded her head no and replied, “she is too far away”. I filled out the paperwork and before I passed it to her I said, “here is my phone number and my email address. I would be happy to drive to her, sit with her and chat and see if I can lend some help. Parenting is hard and we need all the support and encouragement we can get.” She teared up, said thank you and took the small piece of paper with my information in it.

The woman next to her, half our age looked up and said, “you are the woman who wrote the book Duct Tape Parenting.” I nodded yes. She said “a friend of mine gave it to me a year ago. At first I was insulted, but then I understood. I had been complaining about my two kids for months. She offered suggestions and I kept ignoring her. Finally, she just gave me the book and said, “read it if you ever want to talk to me about your kids again. So I did, and within the first few pages I knew what she was talking about. Thank you.” I nodded my head and smiled and went to sit and wait for my appointment.

Over the years I have taught a parenting class to everyone in this office. The doctors, their nurses and their administrative staff. Each time I go in for a checkup, it feels like I am visiting with old friends. We give each other updates about our kids, we share a giggle about the exploits of one of our college bounds kids, we roll our eyes at some nonsense one of them pulled and then we get back to the task at hand. It is a lovely feeling being so connected to all these wonderful people.

When the doctor came to get me, he paused and said, “can I tell you something personal?” I said “sure.” “One of my nurses had been coming into work and complaining about her kids for a few months. My wife and I shared some of our experiences with her, but she was having none of it. You know how that goes, right. They ask, you offer and then they tell you, before they have even tried anything that it won’t work.” I nodded, I certainly did. He continued, “She was going on vacation and as a going away gift, we gave her our edition of your book. Notes and all, and I can tell you it wasn’t an easy thing to do.” I giggled a bit imagining how insulted this woman might have been when she opened her gift. He said he didn’t have any hopes that she would read the book, but that she would understand that her stories about her children were disrupting and upsetting the rest of the staff and at the very least she might stop talking about her kids in such disparaging ways. He continued, “I got a call from her three days later on her vacation in sunny Florida. She opened the book on the plane, read the first few pages intending to put the book down and finished it by the time she closed her eyes on the 2nd night. She told me how grateful she was that I had reached out and taken a chance. That I wasn’t afraid of offending her and had shared a book that had meant so much to me and my wife.”

My eyes teared up. It is these moments that make me so grateful to be doing what I love. We finished the exam and before I left his wife came in to say a quick hello. We hugged and caught up bit. She said, “I’ve been meaning to send you an email for several months.” “Oh,” I said “About?” “Well, as you know, our oldest daughter is in her second year volunteering abroad and that never would have happened had we not taken a parenting class from you when she was a mere seven-years-old.” I rolled my eyes as I often do and said, “I had nothing to do with that, you raised that remarkable young woman.” “No its not true,” she said. “Because of you we were able to support her desire to travel half way around the world when what my instincts told me was to keep her close by, to limit her options, to keep her safe. But I heard your voice over and over and it helped me find the courage to support this young woman, my daughter, as she followed her dreams. Now our youngest is pushing me to let her grow more, to stretch more as she talks about traveling to Turkey for a semester abroad. I feel a pit in the center of my stomach and everything in me wants to keep her home where she will be safe, but I know I can’t do that, because it is much more likely that I will lose her if I try and stop her than I would lose her to Turkey.”

We shared a quiet moment, both of us understanding what it’s like to live with courageous, fearless, adventurous, engaged children and then hugged goodbye. I walked to the car and sat for a moment. My heart full. Full of hope and full of gratitude. For so many things.

Raising Kids who will Break the Cycle of Violence

light.loveIn light of the recent tragedies, the number of coaching inquiries has spiked. I am honored to help more families, but from a humanitarian perspective this is heart breaking. Parents are reaching out to those they trust for guidance on how to ensure their children remain the loving, open, accepting, nonjudgmental people they are today.

I wish there was a way to guarantee our children’s continued innocence, but there is not. As they mature, as they become more involved in the world around them, as they are exposed to influences that are not always designed to bring out the best in them, they will have to choose who they want to be. As parents, what we can do is saturate our children’s lives with love, with acceptance, with tolerance, with forgiveness, with humanity. We can talk with our children about what it takes to be a kind, patient, loving, generous person in the face of circumstances that might bring out the worst in us. We can remind our children of their worth and the worth of every other child and person sharing our planet. Like everyone else, I am saddened each time I hear about another violent act, but I also accept that in this time and place, this is a part of our reality.

Until we see each other as true brothers and sisters and fight to keep ourselves and each other safe from harm, physical, emotional or spiritual, there are simple things you can do in your home with your children to cultivate a feeling of love, safety, and acceptance.

I have generated a list of ideas for you, in response to the Stanford case (which unbelievably has been replaced by another devastating tragedy in the headlines) that I hope will help you turn your rage into action. Here are some things you can do to support your children as they grow.

1. Teach girls that strength and honesty are more important than being nice. Nice is overrated. Strength and a sense of personal power and the honesty to claim yourself for yourself is what is required. Let them be rude, let them be sassy, let them be tough. Enough nice. Enough polite.

2. Do not foster romantic relationships in young children. You warp their entire idea of what a healthy, adult relationship is. Five-year-olds do not have boyfriends and girlfriends, so knock it off with this language. It’s a lie and it damages both our boys and our girls. Why are we trying to hook little children up? Check your own self-esteem here, it most likely has something to do with the fact that you want your kindergartner to have a love interest.

3. Stop calling little girls “flirts” and then telling them that they will “get into trouble when they get older”. Instead, explain the power and the responsibility that goes along when we try and illicit the attention of other people. Remember that our kids are being bombarded with sexual messages from the media. You have to work hard to undue those harmful and limiting messages so work hard. Work harder than the advertisers.

4. Stop telling girls that boys must like them when they are cruel, rude, and disrespectful to them. Teach them to stand up to these boys and be straight with them. “Hey, if you want to play at recess with me, then be nice to me, otherwise – get lost.” Why is that so tough to teach our kids? It would go a long way in helping our sons break out of the stereotyping we heap on their small, tender shoulders.

5. Teach your boys that girls, females enjoy the company of boys, men, who are kind, sensitive, funny, interesting, smart, creative, and 100 other things, but certainly NOT boys who are mean, cruel, tease, hit, pinch, kick, or anything else cruel. Cultivate their humanness and not just their maleness. They are more than that. Let them be all of what is there for them to be.

6. Encourage your sons to share their feelings when they are small and as they grow. Teach them to share often and make a safe place for this sharing, to help them become confident. Introduce them to other men who share openly and freely. Let them practice when they are young and validate that this is what real men are like. Everything else is fake. The toughness, the “I don’t care” attitudes, the “I’m tougher than you,” attitudes are crap. Be gentle and be kind, with your young sons so they grow up to be gentle and kind to themselves and to those around them.

7. Do not, under any conditions make your kids talk to people they don’t want to talk to, sit on the lap of someone they don’t want to get close to, cuddle with someone who makes them uneasy, kiss someone who sets off alarm bells in their heads. Each time you do, you teach your kids not to listen to that internal voice that is warning them of danger. This voice, if cultivated and honored will keep them safe when they are older. Over time, we want them to l learn to trust this voice allowing them to move among others with more confidence. This is their natural safety alarm. Teach them to use it.

Please feel free to send in any questions or contact us if you would like to discuss anything in more detail. I am miles away, but I am with you all as we navigate and do our best in this journey called life.

Be Patient. Your Child is Remarkable.

This is a personal story and for those of you who know or have been following me, you know that I don’t share much outside of the classroom, and can appreciate that this is a rare occurrence. However, I think sometimes those of us with older kids, can share a bit of our experience to help younger parents along the parenting path. I know how much I cherished hearing about the ups and downs from the parents I respected who had older kids.

So Here Goes

Brady SlidingOur youngest son has always marched to his own drum. He is a maverick of sorts. He does not care in the least if people are mad at him, he isn’t easily influenced by the normal social pressures. He trusts himself more than anyone else, he never complains, blames, or makes excuses. He owns his mistakes and his successes. He is nearly impossible to read, but has a gentle and giving heart that is easily broken by injustice. I was one of those parents who thought it would be super cool to have a kid like Brady, until I actually got one and then I was like “what the hell do I do now?’ because none of the rules, none of the guidelines, none of the strategies work to influence this kid.  So, I did what I always do – I put all my eggs in two baskets. The first was on maintaining and cultivating a healthy, respectful relationship with him and the second was to foster his independence in any way I could and that meant backing off – which (if you know me, you know) isn’t easy for me.

Determined Resolve

Before I get to the punch line, here is a little background. School came easily to Brady. He figured out by the 5th or 6th grade that he could just listen in class, or read the assignment without ever doing the homework and pull an A on his tests. He determined early on that if he could understand the material and prove that by acing the tests and contributing to class discussion, it didn’t make sense for him to do the homework, so he didn’t. Of course this caused chaos at school. We were told that he HAD to do the homework, that his grades were based on the completion of homework. We argued, but in the end, we lost that battle. We tried to convince Brady to play the game as it wouldn’t take him long to knock off the homework, but he wouldn’t budge. In the end we backed him up and told his teachers they would have to find a way to work with Brady. They could ether find a way to motivate him, punish him for his decision or decide that understanding the material was more important than passing in homework.

We had hoped that by early high school he would change his attitude and decide that it was worth doing the homework if it meant getting in to a reputable college and qualifying for some serious scholarship money. In fact, in some of our dreams we imagined him going on to get his Masters and then a PhD and then perhaps teaching at a prestigious college. By the end of his sophomore year, we were living firmly in reality and in senior year he announced that he was done with his formal education and would be leaving school. GULP. He talked and we listened and we knew that his decision was made. We were not going to fight with him and so we agreed that if he was willing to get his GED and take the SATs on the off chance that one day he might want to go to college, he would have our support. And so he did and at 17-years-old he left for a four-month trek in Nepal. (Read more about this experience – here.)

Nepal to California

He relished his time in Nepal and on returning he promptly packed a suitcase and announced that he was moving from our small town in Vermont to Berkley, CA to live with his older brother. Wow. We were shocked, and a bit disheartened that he hadn’t changed his mind about college and yet, just a wee bit hopeful that when he got to Berkley and was surrounded by all those intellectuals, that his passion for learning would kick in and he would announce that he was applying to a University. Nope. He wasn’t interested in anything other than working and playing, but mostly working – in kitchens. Any kitchen. He started off at Subway because that is all he could get and he wasn’t even 18-years-old. He moved from there to a little diner that served mediocre diner food. He picked up a second job and began working between 60 and 80 hours a week. He didn’t have a car so he hoofed it, rode a bike, got a taxi or took the BART. No college, but industrious as hell. Other than getting mugged a few times he didn’t ask us for anything. He managed his finances, his friends, his family, his leisure time, his hours and his work schedule.

At about 20-years-old he hit the wall. He was tired, discouraged and well, confused. We talked and he pitched the idea of going to culinary school. Why YES, yes indeed, what a great idea. And so we jumped through hoops, he enrolled and just when it was time to send in the tuition check, he let us know that he wasn’t going. He let us know that he had pulled himself out of his funk and had found a new job he was excited about and that would be his culinary education, in the trenches like so many other chefs before him. We were deflated but not defeated. This kid is resilient. No, he is more than that, he is everything a person can be who can get up off the floor, battered and bruised and move himself into a new and exciting adventure with not a single look back. Remarkable to behold.

My Parenting Goal

I have said for years, that when I was parenting I had one goal in mind. That goal was to ensure I did everything I could to enhance the relationship I had with my kids so that when they were adults, and they had the choice to call and share big news with me, they would call because they wanted to, not because they felt obliged to.

Brady is now 22-years-old and a few days ago he called with big news. He had just left an interview for a sous-chef position with a four-star restaurant in the Bay area and he wanted to share his excitement with me. He was on the BART traveling home and so we texted back and forth. Me with my questions and he with his excitement at the possibility of working in a stellar restaurant with a more than decent salary and the potential to become a head chef by the time he was 25-years-old. I cried as I typed. I thanked every force out in the Universe that helped me stay true to parenting Brady in the only way that made sense for him. I thanked all those parents with older kids who kept encouraging me to trust him, to let him pave the way and for me to follow quietly behind. It wasn’t always easy. In fact, he challenged me in a way none of my other kids did. I am surely a better parent and person because of him.

Be their Champion

So here’s the punch – you, parent out there, reading this crazy blog, you are living with children, who are remarkable. Right now, just as they are. Whether they are making you crazy or pushing you to your limits and making you shake your head because you cannot figure them out. Trust me when I say, your kids know what they are doing. It may not look like it to you and me, but these kids know and if we can stand behind them and be their champion, they will surely share this adventure with us and it will make all the uncertainty and confusion and chaos worth it.

Take a look at the munchkins living in your home and ask yourself, what are you willing to do today to ensure you get the phone call with the big news? Because if you don’t start preparing for that day today, you will surely miss it.

Kids Coming Home from School?

Five Tips for a Seamless Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of the Praise-Junkie

praise v encourage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If They Can Walk, They Can Work!

work

Old enough to walk, old enough to work!

A) You’re not alone

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

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

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

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

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

Is there an optimal time for training?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

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

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

Planning Basics

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

When Your Child Says, “No”

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

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

When Your Little One Tugs On Your Pant Leg to Play

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

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

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

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

Bicycles and Helmets – Arming your Kids for Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Am Because We Are

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

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

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

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

I asked myself what if:

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

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

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

The Gifts of Grit and Gratitude

gifts

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

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

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

These gifts are the gifts of grit and gratitude.

Grit.

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

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

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

Gratitude.

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

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

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

Have a wonderful season of celebration with your families!
Vicki

Your Kids WILL See Porn

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

trust child

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

Sex and porn

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

Overcome your fears and release the judgement

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

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

Get Educated

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

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

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

Talk to friends and create a support system

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

Jump in and try it

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

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

#growingagrownup

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

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.

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!

trev

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.

give-family-meetings

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!

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.

11026039_622756794491006_7446104788824298387_n

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.
10291714_10203790904037523_2821260946850135142_n

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