All posts in Independence, Character Traits & Values

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.

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Tweens, Technology and…..Sexting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few tips to make the process easier.

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

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

 

Believe It Or Not, Your Kids Want To Contribute!

 

For

more information on elementary education visit KidsInTheHouse.com

 

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

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

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

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

Focus on the Relationship


For more information on parenting visit KidsInTheHouse.com

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

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

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

Allowing Children To Develop Their Voice

 

For

more information on parenting visit KidsInTheHouse.com

 

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

Does Duct Tape Stick to Homework?

social interest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self Control. Who has it?

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If I ask 100 people about their thoughts on control, 99.5 will whisper “I am a control freak”, as if this is a bad thing. Personally, I embrace and celebrate my “control freakish” nature. Why? Because the truth is, being a control freak is not the problem.

The problem comes from trying to control the external world instead of developing control of your internal world, which really means – demonstrating consistent self-control.

Of those same 100 people, 99.5 of them will readily admit that they spend the majority of their time trying to control everything outside of themselves. Why? Because it’s easier to try and control someone else or something else (ha) then it is to control your own thoughts, words and actions and to a certain extent, I agree.

I agree that it’s easier to “try” and control other people and situations than it is to develop the discipline necessary to control yourself. But the truth is, and we all know it, is that we can’t control ANYTHING beyond our own thoughts, words and actions.

Now when we think about the many ways, we well-meaning parents try and control our kids, it’s important that we also look at the consequences of our decision to try and control them.

Subtle Control– Subtle control can best be described as a friendly dictate from a well-meaning parent. You know? A parent who has their child’s best interest in mind. A parent who only wants their kids to experience the brighter side of life. A parent who KNOWS that if the child would just do what they say, the way they say to do, the child will most certainly turn out to be a happy, well adjusted, never sent to the principal’s office kind of kid. But alas, the child who is subjected to subtle control soon loses their voice and as the voice goes, so does the mental muscle to navigate their way through the world with any sense of confidence and enthusiasm. In other words, we create kids who will follow along with little resistance but who in essence are sitting on the sidelines of their life, while their parents do it for them.

Overt Control – Overt control can best be described as the bossy, dictatorial, I-said-so kind of control. These parents don’t care to disguise their decision to control their kids and their kids’ lives. And surprisingly enough, their motivation to control is much like the subtle parents reasons. To ensure the kids make few or no mistakes, cruise through life with ease, and make their parents lives as easy as possible.

There are some inherent problems in this kind of parenting, not the least of which is that the kids begin to “push back” under all this heavy handed controlling. They quickly learn that controlling other people is a primary goal in life. After all, they are learning from the most important people in their life. Is it any wonder the kids begin to assert their own kind of control of their parents. But the other problem, and one far more concerning to me as a parent, is the fracture it leads to between parent and child. In an overtly controlling dynamic, constant jockeying for position replaces other, healthier ways of connecting.

If you wish to model for your children the benefit of developing and maintaining self-control, start with these simple exercises:

• Start paying attention  to what you are thinking. Seriously. So often, a parent’s mouth will start moving before they have paused long enough to “THINK” about what it is they are going to say next and if it will enhance or interfere with the relationship they have with their child.

Teach yourself to pause and to change what you are thinking. Learn to spin the thought on its axis until you have sniffed out any desire you might have to control the wee little one in front of you. As you begin to develop mental muscle, your ability to actually decide on your thoughts will become easier and easier. And if we are to believe that what comes out of our mouths is based on what we are thinking, then controlling the words we use will be infinitely easier. The words we choose will be in line with our thinking and our thinking is to demonstrate self-control and enhance the relationship with our child. Fabulous.

Remember, your body works for your thoughts.  As your thinking and speaking shifts from directing and reactive to thoughtful and intentional responses, your actions will follow. Imagine actions that are kind, patient, intentional, supportive, forgiving, loving, kind and understanding. Picture yourself influencing your child’s life from this perspective and you can quickly see the distinct advantages of practicing self-control rather than wasting time and energy trying to control the external world.

• Have fun.

Problems with Potty Training? Give up

potty-training

Your attempt to have all the power.

When parents ask me,

How do I GET my kids to use the toilet?
How do I GET my kids to eat dinner?
How do I GET my kids to go to sleep at night?

My first thought is “how the heck should I know?” I’m not in the business of teaching parents more ways to control their kids.

Never in my 25 years of motherhood have I ever been able to GET my kids to do something they didn’t want to do. More specifically when it comes to potty training, eating and sleeping challenges, there is typically a deeper issue at hand.

Think about this for a minute. How do you make a child go the bathroom? How do you make a child eat something he refuses to eat? How do you make a child fall asleep? When it comes to these three areas,  the child is clearly in control.

Now don’t get me wrong, bribing, coaxing, and rewarding may provide the desired result in the short-term, but the downside is that you can find yourself right back at it only moments later. With these problems the quick fix method does nothing to facilitate independence in your children over the long term or solve the problem in the short term.

Any attempt to try and “get the kids” to do what you want only reinforces for the child that, “you can’t make him” and here he asserts his own personal power. So if you are experiencing trouble in any of these areas, take a moment and think about your relationship with your child.

Are there areas of his life where you could offer him more control? Is he picking out his clothes? Is he able to decide on certain foods he will eat? Have you incorporated some of his ideas into the bedtime routine? Does he have free time to do what he thinks is fun? Are you inviting him to help out with the real jobs around the house or are you sending him to play with his toys?

Most of the behaviors we experience with our kids are symptoms of an underlying problem. As parents we tend to hone in on changing the symptom and miss the real problem all together. The next time you are tempted to ask, “How do I get…” think about a different question, “What will it take for my child to…” This will help you look at situation(s) from a different perspective, identify what might be missing for your child and what you can do to help him move forward.

Remember, you are the best parent for your children. It’s not an easy road, but it’s a road worth traveling.

-Vicki

Guest Post: I Bully My Daughter.

The blog post was republished with permission from the author, Millie Shaw. Her courage and honesty continue to inspire.

I bully my daughter.

Oh, and I humiliate her in public, too.

I didn’t realize that was what I was doing. I thought what I was doing was called “parenting.” It wasn’t until I had a difficult coaching session with Vicki that I figured it out. Well, actually, I didn’t figure it out until she told me that’s what I was doing.
Why it was so hard to see that behavior that I would consider to be abominable if it was directed toward any other person in the world, I viewed as perfectly acceptable when it was directed toward my own children, I do not know. I only know that now that I’m aware of what I’ve been doing to my daughter, I am ashamed of myself.
It all started so innocently — as it always does!

You can finish reading the original post here.

What’s the Trouble with Kids Swearing?


In one day, I saw two posts on the topic of kids growing up in homes where it was okay for them to swear. The most recent on the website of Michelle Icard (who just authored a fantastic book for any parent who will ever be living with a kid in middle school. – Middle School Makeover (Bibliomotion 2014) 

I was inspired to share my thoughts on this topic.

excited-kidw explative

As a mom who raised 5 kids – all young adults living on their own  now with their own unique relationship with swearing,  I appreciate this dad’s ability to change some of his core beliefs about swearing and land squarely on what is most important to him, his relationship with his daughter.  

I felt the same way with my kids. I was good about keeping the swearing out of the house when they were young, but once I found myself living with three young kids, on twenty uncleared acres and three temperamental horses, whose stalls needed to be cleaned daily and their frozen water buckets emptied and refilled, I resumed my relationship with swearing and started letting the bombs fly.

I heard my first swear come out of my two-and-a-half-year-old son’s mouth one morning when he was trying to drag a hay bale across a three foot sheet of ice.

“What the f… is up with all this d.. snow and ice?”

His two older sisters and I stopped dead in our tracks.  Not because of the swear, but because he sounded exactly like his mother.  Uh Oh. The girls giggled and I gave them the, this is NOT funny look, but they knew that inside I was busting a gut.

Over the course of the next two years, I became more relaxed with my swearing and the kids began to pick up bits and pieces of it.  The story continues this way for years and it never really occurred to me to address the ease in which they integrated a few swear words into their everyday conversations at home until an acquaintance stopped by and she was appalled at what she heard.

Like the father in the article above, I began to question my own beliefs about swearing, the correlation between swearing and respect and my beliefs around the idea that I would raise truck-stop-swearing kids who would never be able to hold down a job because every other word out of their mouth would be an expletive.

But that’s not what happened.  My kids, having learned swearing from their mother, also learned when to use it and when to keep it tucked away out of sight.  They navigated this tricky landscape with ease and confidence.  They swore with their friends, and they swore at home. But rarely did they swear anywhere else.

 I know now, looking back, that my kids also felt my unwavering support for them as growing, maturing, learning human beings and that my goal in life was to continue to receive invitations into their lives.  Because swearing wasn’t something we fought about, they were able to share openly and honestly about really difficult topics.

Every parent, at some point, must wrestle with the beliefs we have about things like swearing, dating, drinking, lying, smoking, cheating, and so on and decide not only how we want to address these challenges, but what, at the end of the day we want most in terms of our relationships with our kids.  The answer won’t be the same for any two parents, but I have learned, that swearing is not a good indicator of what kind of human being I was raising.
 

Vicki’s Golden Nugget of Parenting Advice


For more information on parenting visit KidsInTheHouse.com

Imagine that your child comes home at 25-years-old with her best friend. Everyone is sitting at the table and your child’s best friend ask your child to describe you in one word.

    What would your child say? What word would she use?
    What do you as a parent want that word to be?
    Are you the person you want your child to describe?
    How are you demonstrating this value every day?
    What actions do you take in relationship with your child that support who you want to be?

The golden nugget of parenting advice? Decide. Decide who you want to be and take the time and make a plan to be that person and practice. Run every decision through this value and practice every day.

If you think I am a competent young adult, stop treating me like an immature child

Growing into competent young adultsSitting in the doctor’s office last week, I overheard a mother and her sixteen-year-old daughter chatting. How do I know she was sixteen-years-old? Because she was talking about the rules that go along with being a new driver, mainly, that she is not allowed to drive anyone under 22-years-old for 6 months. Totally lame in her words.

The topic of their conversation suddenly shifted and before I knew what was happening, their exchange went from casual disdain, to blatant hostility, to full on, clenched teeth verbal warfare about whether or not mom would be going into the exam room with the same sixteen-year-old young woman who was just moments before talking about driving a vehicle.

Question: What might this mom believe about the relationship she has with her daughter that makes it possible for her to see her as a competent adult ready to get behind the wheel of a car, but not mature enough to go into the exam room on her own?

Question: Is this a common phenomenon? Accepting our kids are growing up and becoming competent young adults in some ways – dating, cars, college – and yet refusing to accept that they are growing up in other ways – exam rooms, using manners, choosing friends.

Question: Is needing to be needed as a parent making it difficult to identify these “markers” in our teens’ lives and if so, does that explain the “pushback” we feel as they become more competent young adults?

Question: Does a sixteen-year-old who is old enough to drive and probably date, have the right to decide whether her mother joins her in the exam room?

Question: Do we, as parents who changed diapers, wiped tears away, giggled under covers get confused because our kids will always remain MY child, but not always be A child?

This is just one example of how as parents, in our desire to stay connected to our kids, inadvertently enter into power struggles that push our children further from us. Take a moment and consider all the ways your pre-teen may be showing you that she is ready to be treated more like a competent young adult, than a school-aged-child.

Consider that by letting go just a bit more each day, you are sending the message to your child that you trust her and have faith in her ability to handle her life. Kids who know their parents have faith in their ability to handle the ups and downs of life along with making the daily decisions that go along with being an adult, feel more connected to them. While kids who have hovering parents who continue to hound them with questions, offering opinions and advice, want to run as far away from their parents as possible.

Let’s keep our kids close, by giving them space and supporting their march towards independence.

Noticing Strengths

Meet my friend Millie. Millie is a mom I met several months ago after she read Duct Tape Parenting, found herself slightly perplexed, & decided to contact us to get some clarity around my “less is more” approach to parenting.

Millie is open, honest, aware and truly committed to gathering new information, letting go of some old parenting habits, creating some new ones and investing in the relationships she has with her kids.

We’ve had many conversations since the first one (and are in the process of recording some to publish as podcasts.) Millie even decided to start a blog  and here is one of her posts. She touches my heart daily and my hope is she will inspire someone else out there to be the parent they dreamed of being. Take it away Millie.

I adore my daughter.

pink-umbrellaI do. And so many of the things I adore about her are the things that also drive me bonkers.

I adore that she is so incredibly certain of herself and what she wants. As an adult who struggles with indecision and immediate buyers’ remorse, I marvel at her ability to make decisions and stick with them even in the face of intense pushback (often from me).

I adore that she is an early riser and is always eagerly ready to greet the day, usually with a song.

I adore that conventional songs cannot adequately express her thoughts and emotions, so she finds it necessary to make up her own, sometimes very lengthy songs. She also relies on made up words to convey her (very strong) ideas. I adore her made up words so much that many of them are now my passwords for my most secure sign-on information. Although they are random combinations of sounds that mean nothing to anyone else, they mean a lot to me.

I adore her tenacity. I despise her tenacity. I adore her tenacity. I have to tenaciously cling to my adoration for this quality because it often makes my life very difficult. She has no problem deflecting my (sometimes brilliant) efforts at redirection and distraction. When Olive sets her mind to something – She. Will. Have. It. At the same time that I’m wishing for a more compliant child, I’m also kind of pleased to think that she might have gotten a little of that tenacity from my side of the gene pool. My husband and I both have been known to sacrifice a great deal to achieve some goal we want to accomplish.

I adore her ravenous appetite for life. I could do without her ravenous appetite for cheese and ice cream and I often worry that she inherited my own garbage disposal approach to eating. But, Olive eats life up. It seems like she can’t get enough. Can’t get enough songs, shows, days at school, pink pairs of pants, playdates, ice cream . . .

I adore her never ending efforts to always skew the situation in her favor. She is “always closing.” (In sales, so my husband tells me, one of the mottos is: ABC: Always Be Closing. Olive would be great at sales.) This is a quality she certainly did not get from me and one I definitely have to work not to take personally. Closely related to her tenacity, this inborn instinct means that she literally never takes no for an answer. Her motto could be, “It never hurts to ask at least three times.”

One of the things that scares me the most about parenting is the fear that all Olive will see from me is my frustration and irritation because that is what shows up on my face most often. When she grows up and looks back on her childhood, I want her to remember my face as open and loving and adoring. I don’t want her to remember my frustrated, angry face. Of course, for that to happen, I need to spend a lot more time showing her my adoration, not just feeling it after she goes to bed and writing about it on my blog.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to adore my daughter.

We’ll be featuring Millie’s blog posts from time to time. To read more of Millie’s work, visit www.confessionsofanauthoritarianparent.com

Social Interest – A guide for choosing your kids over your image

social interestAdler said, the healthiest human beings are those with the highest social interest. If we want to ensure our children are emotionally healthy, we must ensure that we raise them in a home where their parents are demonstrating social interest as a way of life.

Social Interest is not the same as social action. Social Interest is defined as “Meeting the needs of the situation.”

Here is how a parent would demonstrate high Social Interest in daily life with kids.

Situation: Your toddler has been fighting you all morning and demanding that she goes to Day Care in her pajamas.

Self Interest: What will the Day Care Providers think of me as a mother if I allowed my child to arrive in their PJ’s? With that thought you begin to muscle the child out of the PJ’s and into what you consider appropriate clothing for the occasion – whether she likes it or not.

Social Interest: The needs of the situation require that I support my child’s budding independence and interest in making choices, that I am not overly concerned with what other people think of me as a mother, remember that I am raising a thinking child and at times it can be messy and that I believe that mistakes are opportunities to learn. I believe tomorrow I will offer two choices that are reasonable for the weather and see if we can’t work more cooperatively together.

Situation: Your 5th grader has left his science project till the last minute and he wants you to run out to buy supplies at 9:00 pm so he can finish up and turn it in on time.

Self Interest: What will the teachers think of me as a mother if my son goes to school without his science project? With that thought you begin to lecture about time management and procrastination and being better organized. Eventually, you head to the store to pick up the supplies and then continue with the lecture while the child tries frantically to finish the project. In the morning you are still resentful and may throw in a few more lectures – but at least no one at school will judge you for sending your child to school unprepared.

Social Interest: The needs of the situation require that I allow my child to learn a valuable lesson about time management, following through, the discipline it takes to turn off the television and get down to work and allow him to go to school unprepared and face the consequences. In doing so I am helping him build the courage to accept his mistakes, to learn from them and the ability to make another choice next time he is in a similar situation. I will talk with my son about how confident he feels in setting deadlines and managing his time and if he needs my support we will think of a solution together.

Situation: Your teenage daughter arrives home from school and begins picking on a sibling, refusing to answer your requests that she help with dinner, and then turns the music on to the point that no one can hear themselves think let alone carry on a conversation.

Self Interest: I don’t have to put up with this nonsense. I am the adult, I am the parent and I will put an end to this and let my daughter know just who is in charge.

Social Interest: The needs of the situation require that I assess what is really going on with my daughter who is normally good-natured, polite and loving. It requires that I not take what is happening personally and remember that she is struggling with something and needs some encouragement. I will walk away until I am calm, and look for a moment to make a connection, and find out what is behind all this disruptive behavior.

When we teach ourselves so slow down and answer this one question – “the needs of the situation require that I do what?”, we tend to make thoughtful, respectful and wise parenting decision. Try it and see if life doesn’t improve for both you and your kids.

Five Ways to Preserve your Teen’s Freedom (and the Relationship)

Be a ChampionI am teaching an Adolescent Class this month, and reminded again how difficult it can be for parents to give their teens the freedom they so desperately yearn for. In the teens’ attempt to break free from their parents and create some autonomy, their parents experience increased stress and as a result, begin tugging at the little freedom their teens do have in an attempt to recreate the closeness they once felt when their teen was a toddler.

If you are the parent of a younger child, the time to start is now. Spend some time learning how you can start supporting your child’s independence in small ways over the course of many years so that when they finally reach the teen years and your instinct is to pull back the reins – you will have experience that tells you – your child can handle this exciting and exhilarating time of life.

Timeline

At infancy, we are connected to our children – body, mind and soul – in a way that will never be duplicated again during their lifetime. We teach ourselves how to listen for small subtle changes in the babies’ cries, we spend hours holding, feeding, changing and just staring at these small wonders. At no other time will we be as connected to a human being as we are to our child during early infancy.

As they become toddlers, we are still close at hand, ready to swoop in at a moment’s notice if necessary. Imagine a rubber band tethered to both you and your toddler. They may travel as far as five feet away from you at any given time, but the truth is, you are close enough to scoop in, pick them up football style and remove them from any impending danger. And yet, they are beginning to experience the first thrill of freedom and independence. They are exploring, learning, and experiencing the world with just a bit of autonomy.

As they reach school age they enter what I call “The Grace Period”. They are old enough to understand certain dangers and how to avoid them, so we allow them to stretch the rubber band — and we even add a bit of extra slack, conveying to the kids that we trust them. Because we are more relaxed, and because the kids feel this loose line between themselves and their parents, they tend to check in regularly. No need to stay far away because they are certain that after a quick check in with mom or dad they will be allowed to travel back into the world and explore.

And then our kids reach the tween years and suddenly parents are acutely aware of how dangerous the world is and how one bad decision could lead to a ruined life, so they pull that rubber band in as close as they had it during the toddler years.

Because we are unable to articulate our fear in a sensible and respectful way and because our kids have no idea why we suddenly stop trusting them and begin hovering around them as if they were two-years-old, tensions rise.

Soon power struggles ensue. Our teens want parents who extend more freedom not less with even more slack so they can continue their march toward independence. What they get are parents who begin tugging and pulling on the metaphorical rubber band and with each tug the child becomes more determined NOT to turn and reconnect with their parents.
All for fear that if they dare to come close, to look for guidance from a parent, to feel a connection that reminds them they are loved and safe, their freedom will be taken from them and they will be forced to fight their way back to the independence they so desperately need.

After a few rounds of this, teens soon learn to stay away and parents. In the haste to be a part of their teens’ life, parents begin snooping, interfering, prying, and they stop honoring privacy. The relationship continues to suffer.

Here are 5 tips that will help you lengthen the cord, trust your teen and preserve your relationship.

1. Accept when your children are infants (or whatever age they are at the time you read this) that they are going to leave you and that you are charged with ensuring that when they leave they are ready to fly on their own.

2. Begin backing out of your job as your child’s “manager” the minute they arrive on the planet and by the time they are 18, you will both be ready for more physical distance without feeling emotionally distant from each other.

3. Be honest with your kids about any trepidation you have about their increased freedom. Ask them to help you be more reasonable and to accept that they can handle more responsibility for their world. If you do, you will inevitably create a bond that makes both of you feel closer and more connected to each other.

4. Make sure that you are talking with moms who have kids 3, 5 and 7 years older than your kids and ask for their perspective, their tips and what life is like when you accept that your children will move away from you and how to bridge that gap with grace and dignity.

5. Trust your kids. They love you. They want you in their lives. They do not want to be smothered or worried about or babied or saved. They want to prove to you, that they are strong, wise, and resilient. They want to prove that they can handle the next phase of life, so be their champion not their babysitter.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Disclaimer: This post isn’t going to be for everyone, but because I am teaching an adolescent class and because the topic of sex, sexuality, intimacy, body image, and gender roles along with plain old “So how DO you talk to kids about all of this?” comes up during every class, I wanted to provide a quick tip list that will help parents address these sensitive subjects in a reasonable, rational and respectful way.

sex-talk1. Start early. The sooner you start talking to your kids about sex, intimacy, pleasure, body image, and gender identification, the better chance you have of raising a thoughtful, well informed educated teenager who understands all of these subjects and feels comfortable talking about them – openly and honestly. Take into consideration your child’s age, and take into consideration the level of curiosity your children display. Use their questions as a way to gauge how much information to share. If they seem satisfied with your answer, stop. If they ask more, keep answering. Parents wait too long to talk to their kids about sex, intimacy, pleasure, responsibility and healthy relationships and miss the opportunity to establish honest conversation when kids are in the curious stage of life.

Most children are exposed to pornography by the age of 9. The sooner you start the education process, the better informed your kids will be which means they will make smarter, safer decisions when it comes time to decide whether they are ready for sex or not and with whom they want to have a sexual relationship with.

2. Use real language, not pretend words for real body parts. If you are uncomfortable using the word penis or vagina, intercourse, homosexuality, and so on there is no way you are going to be able to talk to your kids about sex and their sexuality. One of the ways you can determine whether your children are ready to explore their sexuality is by how comfortable they are talking about their bodies and how they work. After all, if they can’t say the word penis or vagina, they probably aren’t ready.

Using made up, immature names only confuses kids and lets them know that you are uncomfortable with the entire subject. This means they will rely on other people for information and their education.

3. Get educated. Chances are your parents were not a wealth of information and you grew up with some questions and faulty beliefs of your own around the subject of sexuality and sex. Blow these limiting beliefs open and do the work necessary to be a viable resource for your kids. It is our responsibility to talk to our kids about difficult subjects. Particularly subjects that will affect them their entire lives. Find experts who resonate with you. Practice talking about things that make you uncomfortable and nervous. You want your kids to come to YOU, not the other 9 year-old on the bus, with questions. Be honest and provide accurate information. Don’t confuse education with values. Being educated often makes it easier for kids to live into the value of delayed sexual intimacy.

4. Make it a regular conversation, not a conversation that happens once a year. Sex and intimacy, gender identification and body image are a big part of life as an adult. There are many aspects to a healthy sex life with a life partner. It will take dozens and dozens of conversations, some light, some serious in order to educate our children on relationships, intimacy, sexuality, pleasure, monogamy, and so on. Put it on your calendar and take advantage of every opportunity to talk about sex.

5. Education breeds confidence. Children who are confident about what constitutes a healthy sexual relationship (and that starts with the relationship they have with themselves), are better able to navigate healthy relationships when that becomes an integral part of their lives.

6. Encourage your kids to develop a healthy relationship with their own body. Yes, I know this is awkward, but studies show that people who are comfortable in their own skin, who understand their own bodies and can communicate openly about their own wants, needs and desires, are more likely to enter into healthy relationships. If you can’t bring yourself to talk to your kids, find someone you trust who feels comfortable and make that personal available to your child.

We are sexual beings. Whether you like it or not, it is your responsibility to teach your children about sexuality, sex, intimacy, healthy relationships and the time to start is when they are young and you have time to cover every aspect of what it means to be in a physical relationship with another human being.

Be Brave. Be Courageous. And have FUN.

Encourage instead of Save

Emcouragement

Question: My 5 year old son has recently started having great difficulty handling things that don’t go his way with his peers that he feels really passionately about. For example, he’s really into soccer right now and if he is playing with others and they decide to stop playing, he immediately melts down, crying and looking to me to change the situation. I try to explain that sometimes this happens and I try to encourage him to play what they want for a while and maybe try again later, but he really struggles with this. What can I do to help him not feel so threatened and hurt when this happens? He is definitely an attention seeking kind of kid (and an only) and makes me feel as if the more attention I give him the more he seems to need.

Answer: It’s tough for little folks to be excited about a new sport or hobby or interest or vacation or toy and not have everyone on the planet just as excited, but that’s life.  Maybe these will help in the future:

  1. Show empathy and compassion without getting sucked into the drama.

  2. Understand that this will happen a million times in his life and as much as you want your wisdom to float from your head to his, it isn’t going to happen.  He is going to have to EXPERIENCE this in order to learn to deal with it in a healthy way.

  3. Resist the urge to make things better.  You can’t.  Only the person who is feeling the frustration or discomfort can make things better.  You can stay close at hand, but in the end, he will have to decide to move along.

  4. It can be hard for only children to connect with their classmates.  They think their peers will treat them the same way their mom and dad do.  So from time to time, try being too busy to listen and be less then completely enthusiastic about whatever it is he is passionate about.  This will help him develop skills that will assist him with his friends.

Saying Thank You to Our Children

Thank you Happy Thanksgiving!

Let us look around and say thank you to our children.

  • Thank you for being who you are.
  • Thank you for trusting me as your parent.

Our thank yous can be simple and silly, because all those tiny, acknowledged efforts are the ones that bring us together.

So kiddos:

  • Thank you for helping me change the TV station (you know that remote drives me bonkers).
  • Thank you for being funny yesterday when I was grouchy because we ran out of coffee.
  • Thank you for playing along even though you don’t like yahtzee.
  • Thank you for finding my keys when I nearly short circuited.
  • Thank you for telling me to calm down when I got upset over the broken dish my neighbor had lent me.
  • Thank you for saying, “there’s nothing embarrassing about you mom” even if I know I can be kind of dorky.
  • Thank you for listening to the song I like on repeat without changing the station.
  • Thank you for caring about me. I am lucky to have you in my life.

Love you all!

Here’s a POEM I share every year.

Enjoy.

To Bribe or Not to Bribe? No Question.

Treating Human BeingsIt took me three separate visits to the article in the New York Times Opinion Page, posted on October 28, 2013 in order to finish reading the article. At the end of each section, I hit the delete button and swore I wouldn’t read any more. But then I wondered – maybe there is an a-ha moment later in the article, and so I went back to read more. There was no a-ha moment, just an unabashedly boastful proclamation about one author’s use of bribes and rewards to manipulate her children.

I can’t really describe how upsetting and confusing this article is for me. Don’t get me wrong, I understand this kind of article creates a real buzz out there in the world, just look at all the comments. But to paint such a disparaging picture of your own children and then share it with the world to what – boost subscriber-ship or ignite a fire storm of controversy? I have to be honest, I just do not get it. Here is what I find so distasteful about this article.

1. I am a mother who has raised 5 children. I can not for the life of me understand how a mother could show such little faith in her children’s innate desire to learn, master their environment, and contribute to the world in positive ways

Oh sure, I know kids have long moments of apathy, disinterest and being less than cooperative, but for the most part, when a supportive parent provides a nurturing environment, kids get about the business of learning, mastery and contribution with very little coaxing from anyone.

And I wonder, when her children are older, what they will think of this article and the lack of faith their mom had in them. Maybe they will understand and accept that it was her job or that she didn’t really mean what she wrote, but I have found, that you never know how a child is going to interpret a parent’s intention and I am not sure I would be willing to risk what is at stake here.

2. Does she really believe there will be a moment when her children no longer depend on bribes and rewards to do the unpleasant tasks we are all required to do as adults? Or are we, the unsuspecting public going to have to pay for her unwillingness to help her kids learn that sometimes, whether you like it or not, things need to be done and most people don’t care whether you do them with a smile or a pout on your face. That choice is entirely up to you.

It seems her kids are missing out on a few critical skills that would make their adult lives far more rewarding, fulfilling and satisfying. But again, maybe teaching those skills is someone else’s job.

3. And finally, I shudder to think how many other parents will be influenced by her position and subscribe to the idea that bribing and rewarding children in order to manipulate them and make their lives easier is a reasonable proposition, and forget, that these kids are the future leaders of the free world. Maybe she doesn’t hold high hopes that her kids will have the grit, mental muscle or interest in becoming leaders who lead by example.

I’m not really sure what the purpose of this article was – except maybe to piss a lot of us off, in which case, I think it worked brilliantly. But beyond that, I can’t see that it offers any real value to a parenting conversation that supports any of us in our effort to raise more thoughtful, resilient, responsible and respectful human beings.

Choose to Focus on Positives

Q&A With Vicki Hoefle

focusQuestion:  How can I shift my attention away from negative behaviors and focus on positives?

Since subscribing to the Duct Tape Parenting  “do nothing, say nothing” philosophy (which for the most part has improved our lives), we have noticed an increase in the amount that our 8-year-old physically (hard pinching) and psychologically (hate-words galore) bullies our 5-year-old (both are girls).

Together (as a family) we wrote out a list of behaviors that we mutually deem unacceptable and posted it on the fridge, and if one of those behaviors happens, then play-date privileges for that day are revoked. This has worked to a degree, but has increased the amount of tattling, and does not work well if I am not witness to the offending behavior. I also worry that this approach falls too much into the punitive/corrective category of parenting, which we are trying in earnest to avoid. Any thoughts/suggestions will be much appreciated.

Answer:

You have two things working against you here.

The first is that you are focusing on the unacceptable behavior we ensures you will see no progress at all. Switch your attention and choose to focus on positives-  all those character traits you want to see more of. For instance:

We are a family that values: Mutual Respect, Forgiveness and Being Helpful. We live these values by: Talking to each other instead of yelling, accepting that people make mistakes and forgiving them when they apologize and help each other out by taking care of ourselves and working together around the house. Then, when you “catch” each other actually living these values, you can celebrate them. By focusing on what you want, you are sure to more of it.

Second, when you instituted the: If you mess up you loose your privileges for the day, you activated a competitive dynamic. Of course the kids are going to try and catch their siblings screwing up and then tattling on them. If your instincts tell you that the strategy you have implemented is punitive – LISTEN TO IT. That’s we have instincts and gut responses.

When you choose to focus on positives, it will  end the competitive dynamic will go along way in rebooting the family and bringing out the best in everyone.

QUESTION: Do you spend more time and energy on the negatives or the positives?