All posts tagged agreements

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?

 

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.

Give Family Meetings a Fresh Start

give-family-meetings

Now that we are full into school mode (and for many there is a tiny lull between fall and winter sports,) it’s time to get back to routines and schedules. Dare I say, it’s time to renew our commitment to the Family Meeting before the Holiday Season rolls around!

On the surface, the purpose of the Family Meeting may sound simple and straightforward…

 

  • Show appreciation
  • Distribute household work
  • Express concerns, identify problems and teach problem solving skills
  • Distribute allowance

…but when we look deeper, the benefits of holding a regular Family Meeting are anything but simple. The Family Meeting can almost be referred to as the engine that keeps families moving in a purposeful and positive direction. Without that forward momentum, many families find themselves stuck with problems and situations that just won’t go away.

So, here are some of the deeper reasons you may want to make Family Meetings part of your family routine, if you haven’t already:

  • Family Meetings allow you to experience your family’s growth, improvement and progress on a weekly basis.
  • It is the vehicle with which you can support your children’s growing independence.
  • The various components of the meeting teach your children how to communicate using mutually respectful dialogue – something that will pay dividends within your family at school, at work, and in their future relationships.
  • It provides a place for your children to recognize that they have a voice and responsibility within the family.
  • Your children will experience their family as the number one value because, each and every week, there is time allotted and dedicated to the health of the family.

Make time in your schedule every week to meet as a family. Only 15 minutes a week could get you past seemingly immovable roadblocks in a healthy and mutually respectful way, while giving you endless hours of enjoying each other’s company.

Ready to implement Family Meetings into your weekly routine? Sign up for our online course, today.

Still trying to decide if this strategy will make a difference for your family? Listen to our FREE Podcast.

Rude & Disrespectful Behavior? How Does Your Child Say Hello?

misbehavingQuestion: I have a nine-year-old who is so rude to people when they come over that they are completely taken aback. I, of course am embarrassed and angry that after 9 years this child still refuses to say hello when we have guests and goes out of her way to spew as much snark as she can. We have talked about this over and over again and she doesn’t see that she is doing anything wrong. Even people who ignore the snarky attitude and try to be polite, or ask her questions about school or show an interest in her are shot down. What is going on with her?

Answer: Adler’s teaching suggest that you meet a child’s kick with a kick and a smile with a smile, since that is how the child is saying, hello. Initially, it was difficult for me to “meet the child” where he was, but after many failed attempts at winning children over who were so clearly uninterested in me, I gave up and tried his approach. Here is a story to illustrate.

Recently I visited a friend I hadn’t seen in years. I was visiting and we were so excited to spend time together. Her children are 13, 9 and 4. When I arrived I was greeted at the door by her 9 year old.

“Who are you?” she asked.
“I’m Vicki. I am a friend of your moms. She is expecting me. May I come in?”

She looked at me and said “No, wait here and I will see if you really are a friend and if my mom wants to see you.”

Alrighty then. So there I stood till my friend opened the door and started apologizing. I gave her a hug and told her to relax. Everything would be fine. Nine-year-olds don’t scare me. She cautioned me that it would be like this for our entire visit and I assured her it would not.

Here is the thing, when a child says hello by kicking you, the only respectful thing to do is to meet her where she is and kick back (metaphorically speaking of course, not literally.) Not hard, but enough for the child to know you understand the rules of the game and you are willing to play.

The bantering began. Back and forth we went with snarky comments that just missed being downright rude and qualifying as disrespectful behavior. I didn’t try and win her over. I didn’t show any real interest in making conversation. I answered her questions with disinterested shortness and waited.

Here is what I know about kids, if you give them what they think they want, they will generally change their minds and in changing their minds will change the way they interact with you.

At one point she looked at me and said, “you are sort of mean.” I said, “I am not the least bit mean, you started the game so I am playing along. If you don’t like it, then change the game.”
She looked at me. I said it again. “Listen, this is how you like to get to know people and that’s fine with me. But it’s not my game, it’s yours. If you want to play a new game, start a new one.” She thought about this for quite some time and then asked me, from the other room, if I wanted to come in and look at her….whatever it was. Contact. A new connection. Start the game over.

I said, “sure, I’d love to. I’ll be there as soon as I finish this conversation with your mom. About five minutes. Can you wait that long?” She said, “sure.”

And so, we said hello again.

As parents, we tend to jump on our kids if they say “hello” in anything other than Emily Post politeness. I have lived by the following motto for the last 25 years and it has served me well. Try it and see if making contact with kids of any age doesn’t become more interesting and rewarding.

I do not care if a child says hello to me upon meeting me. I care that when I leave they consider me a friend and give me a hug goodbye. It is not the child’s job to reach out and make contact. It is my job to ensure in the child’s mind that it is safe to connect to me and that I might just be a fun person to hang out with. The job is mine. Not the child’s.

Happy Holidays: Lower Your Expectations and Relax!

holiday travel with kidsHappy Holidays to You and Yours

For some of us, just the thought of the Holiday hustle and bustle can cause anxiety. For most of us, Holiday related stress or anxiety kicks in when it’s time to pile into the car, take that long drive or pack our bags for the airport. We begin to worry, asking and wondering questions like:

  • “Will the kids behave?”
  • “How do we discipline them in front of our friends/relatives?”
  • “What do we do if they can’t sit still for the long car, train or plane ride?”

Search the web and you’ll find plenty of advice on what to bring, how to pack and all that “practical” jazz. What you won’t find are quality tips for handling the hair-raising moments while you’re IN THE MOMENT. You know these moments when:

  • Your child is running up and down the aisles or screaming non-stop on a crowded airplane (and everyone is giving you the hairy eyeball); or
  • When your child is melting down at Grandma’s house because it just isn’t the right cheese and cracker; or when
  • Your child takes the present from Uncle Joe and instead of saying thank you, says “Is that all I’m getting?” or “I don’t like it.”

Moments like these are going to happen because, frankly, our children aren’t perfect. And it’s time that we stop expecting them to perform perfectly during the holiday season, when we are more stressed than usual, kids are tired and excited all at the same time, and we are pushing the limits of their coping skills with all of the shopping, traveling and visiting we’re doing.

What matters most is not if our children behave perfectly, it’s how we respond to them when they don’t.

It is often overlooked that our response to our children’s behavior is so often the thing that makes it either go away or causes us to slide further down that slippery slope into the rabbit hole. If we give in to the whining, try to yell or bribe them back to good behavior, or embarrass them with a forced thank you, it will surely backfire either then and there or at some later point. So what is a parent to do?

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Lower your expectations. It’s ok if the children aren’t perfect. Give yourself some space to relax.
  • Have conversations ahead of time about what it means to behave well at a party, on a plane, or wherever you will be. Ask the kids to help generate a list of expectations for their behavior.
  • Give them examples of kindness and gratitude every day with appreciations—you’ll be surprised at how much they learn by modeling, and it’s never too late to start.
  • Take your cues from the kids: Are they tired? Then leave the party early. Are they bored? Then find out how they would like to spend the hour layover in the airport.
  • When you find yourself in one of those “moments,” confronted with a child who is acting other than you would like, try distraction. Do whatever it takes to move them away from the moment or the thing they are melting down about, and worry about what caused it later.
  • Invite children to decorate, pick “fancy outfits” or dresses, frost cookies and so forth. Get them invested in the Holiday events! But remember, if they don’t want to be, don’t force it. It’s not the end of the world if your child isn’t willing to pose with the cat for a Holiday card.

If you invite your children into the process of deciding for themselves how they want to behave, how they would like to spend the long hours in the car, or what it means to be grateful for something, then you will find that those tough moments become fewer and farther between. Similarly, when you show respect whenever it’s clear they’ve hit their limits, they will calm down and reel it in much faster. So, when you are in the moment—do your best to relax and try to get out of the situation with distraction and re-direction, so that you can enjoy yourself and leave the 2013 holiday season with good memories.

Top 10 Parenting Complaints

After 20 years as a parent educator – there’s nothing I haven’t heard and very little that surprises me. What interests and inspires me is how much we parents have in common with each other. And as a mom who raised 5, highly independent and self-sufficient kids and as a parent educator who has talked with hundreds of thousands of parents about life with their kids, I feel qualified to share this fun list of what I consider the “Top 10 Parenting Complaints” Enjoy.

  • 10. Kids who push, hit, throw, kick and bite.

    What the heck? Don’t they know what “use your words” means? Oh wait….

  • 9. Kids who say things like, stupid, shut up, idiot, dummy, butt-head.

    Yep, those would be the words.

  • 8. Kids who can not, will not, and do not cooperate.

    To complicate matters, parents also expect the kids to cooperate willingly and with smiles on their faces.

  • 7. Kids who ignore their parents.

    How dare those little munchkins completely ignore, walk away from, cover their ears or start to sing when we have something really, really, REALLY important to tell them again, and again, and again.

  • 6. Kids who noodle, stall, get distracted and act like they don’t have to be somewhere important.

    Like, yesterday.

  • 5. Kids who think they no longer need naps.

    Can someone PLEASE explain to me why little kids won’t sleep and teenagers will only sleep?

  • 4. Kids who want to stay in the PJ’s all day or wear the ballet costume to school for a week or refuse to wash their favorite pair of wind pants – ever.

    First impressions are important right? Even when they are 3 – right? After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression – right?

  • 3. Kids who refuse to go along with your plans and try and keep you trapped at home all day long.

    Come on already. Look how damn nice it is outside. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!

  • 2. Kids who yell, manhandle, annoy, bother or wake up the new baby.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah. We want them involved with their new sibling, but what don’t they understand about – BACK OFF?
  • 1. Kids who refuse to eat what we put in front of them, sleep when we want them to sleep or potty train when we are ready for them to be done with the diapering.

    Damn kids anyway.

When you boil it all down, this is the list of the most common parenting challenges. Just for fun, for the next 24 hours, when you are considering taking one of these small annoyances and turning it into a serious problem, that needs immediate attention, instead – take a breath, look into the eyes of your beloved child and ask yourself – is it really such a big challenge? And if the answer is no, then let it go. Just this once, let it go.

And, if you are looking for a solution to these 10 common parenting challenges, with the hope that they will someday disappear from daily life with kids, you have come to the right place, Parenting On Track™ — we’ve got what you want!

The Courage to Push

A good and trusted friend sent me a video the other day that made her think of me. I am sharing it with you, because it so accurately and poignantly shares the dilemma that all parents face when it comes to “pushing” their kids out of the nest. Enjoy!

Click here to watch video.

What was so interesting to me as I watched the video is that the eagle has no real option other than to kick the kids out of the nest and over the cliff. Her choice is easy – let them die in the safety of her nest or trust everything within her that kicking her beloved children out of safety, is in fact, the only thing a truly loving mother would do.

I so wish, and I suspect other parents wish, that kicking our own kids out of the proverbial nest was as clean cut for us as it is for the eagles. But alas, it is not.

Instead, we mortal parents are faced with obstacles that include questions like:

  • Are they too young?
  • Will it damage them for life?
  • Wouldn’t it be easier when they get a bit older?
  • What will people think after the screaming starts and before the miracle arrives?
  • Do other parents struggle with this same question?
  • How many times do we have to kick them out, push them over, or drop them from above?
  • Does it get any easier?

I’m sure there are a dozen more questions I haven’t asked, but these are the questions I hear the most.

Summer is here, and it occurred to me, that this might be a great time for parents to practice kicking the kids out of the nest in small ways, in order to prepare for the harder kicks that will inevitably come. But kicking a kid out, at any age, requires a bit of preparation. So I will take a minute and answer these “most asked questions”.

  • They are never too young. In fact, the younger you start, the better time of it everyone will have. The longer you wait ….well, that typically doesn’t go well for anyone involved.


  • No, it will not damage them for life unless you are kicking a 3 year old onto the streets to fend for themselves. Most kids face more emotional damage from a “lack” of opportunities to spread their wings. If you have any question about whether you are being reasonable, ask a trusted friend. Do not, under any circumstances, believe a child who has no experience in the matter. They will of course, try to convince you it is an idiotic idea and you might just believe them.


  • No, it does not get easier as they get older. The stakes get higher, kids have less confidence in their ability and YOU have less confidence in yourself AND your kids. It’s a recipe for disaster. So start young. Kids are resilient. They bounce back from anything and everything. Yes, I have experience in this area as two of my children lost their mother to cancer at very young ages and they have bounced back.


  • People will have lots to say about what you are doing. Ignore them. They don’t know crap. If they did, they would be holding your hand, telling you to breathe and creating a network of trusted women who would be there for THEM when it came time for them to kick their kids out. Forget the outside world. Any mom worth her weight, knows that kicking kids out is a responsibility and also recognizes that it’s tough enough without a bunch of judgmental feather weights watching and editorializing.


  • Yes. Every single parent I have ever talked to asks this same question. We all have to do it. And instead of banding together in solidarity, we criticize each other. Listen, every child is different, every parent is different, every situation is unique. When we create “healthy tribes” (thanks again Kathy) we recognize that we are all in this together. We come to understand that kicking kids out of the next repeatedly, makes for resilient, confident, courageous, thinking, brave kids who will in short order, become tomorrow’s leaders.


  • Push as many times as it takes. Some kids learn on the first fall. Other kids experience difficulty many times before the master the sensation of riding the wind. It doesn’t matter. We do what we have to do for our kids. So let’s all be good to ourselves and the kids and NOT compare. It leaves everyone feeling discouraged.


  • Yes. Yes it does get easier. I know this because I not only have personal experience, but I have the experience of a thousand other parents who agree with me. Yes, of course it gets easier. Do you know why? Because we believe. Because we have faith. Because we know. Because we have experience that says, YES THEY CAN!


  • I have said for years, that if we do not have faith in our kids before they have faith in themselves, they will never develop it. Well, it starts here. Finding the courage to kick that cutie out of the nest, while the nest is low to the ground, and creating a lifetime of experiences so that when finally, that big day comes, and her solo journey begins, it begins on the wings of glory, not crouched behind an ever protective parent.

So here is to pushing! Contact me if you need a little support. I’m here.

Check out our Home Program to learn more about how we at Parenting On Track™ encourage parents to have faith in their children and faith in themselves and to find the courage to push a little bit every day!

It’s Just A Pink Cake…Right?

Have you ever – in your life – seen such a cool birthday cake? Doesn’t it just make you smile from ear to ear? If not, imagine a cool super hero with a cape and mask.

Okay, I admit it – if someone had suggested that I buy MY daughter a Pink Barbie Birthday Cake when she was 6, I would have been insulted and indignant. I would have protested that the very fabric of feminism was in jeopardy and that I would not be a part of it.

I didn’t know then, what I know now. As the mom of 3 daughters who are now all young women, I know that one Pink Barbie Birthday Cake does not have the power to influence their ideas about being female as much as I might have believed. In fact, over the years, I have come to realize that there are other factors which influence the way our children view themselves in terms of gender identification that are more powerful and influential than media images and peer pressure.

1. Honest Conversation – Frankly, it can be difficult to talk with kids about gender identification in a world that spends billions of dollars a year trying to define it for us. That’s why it’s important to start the conversation with kids about the world around them when they are still young and before gender has any real meaning to them. Starting the conversation when they are young, will make it easier to navigate through the more difficult discussions that are bound to come up. Tackling issues like discrimination, exploitation, and sexism is essential if our children are to process the information being thrown at them through music, media and pop culture with some level of discernment. Allowing children to express their views, preferences and desires (without editorializing) allows our kids an opportunity to explore, accept, or discard what they are being exposed too.

Without honest conversation, children are left with either the media or their peers to help them navigate this tricky aspect of growing up. Make sure that the conversations have a “curious” tone to them. This will encourage kids to share more deeply what they think, how they feel, and how they make decisions.

2. Exposure – I believe that education and exposure go hand in hand in this area. When kids are educated about what they are being exposed too, they tend to make better decisions than when they are merely exposed to an idea or point of view and then left to interpret that information without guidance. And let’s face it, you might not bring home the Barbie Birthday Cake, but just turn on the TV or radio and your kids will be exposed to the media’s ideas of gender. Education in this area is key to keeping an open and honest conversation going for years.

Exposing kids to “real” people who may break the stereotypical molds helps give our kids a broader perspective of what it means to be male or female. As a mom, I made sure that for every lousy ad on TV depicting women or men in one kind of role, I introduced my children to “real” men and women who could offer another perspective on life. These relationships turned out to be some of the most important and influential in my kids’ lives. These individuals brought credibility and could challenge the media perspective with an authority that I didn’t necessarily have. In other words, leverage the people in your life who have challenge gender stereotyping.

3. Encouragement – We say we want our children to be their “authentic” selves and yet we limit their ability to choose because we are afraid of what they might choose. Encouraging our children to listen to their internal voice and honoring what they like and don’t like, is far more important than keeping “pink and blue” out of the equation. Encouraging self discovery allows our children to talk to us openly about how they view themselves, what their preferences are and how they want to express themselves to the outside world. Encouraging our children to decide for themselves who they are and how they choose to express that means taking a step back and trusting that our kids have the ability to wade through the crap and find essence of who they are.

4. Flexibility – As parents, staying flexible is a pre-requisite for raising children. We know that our kids will change their minds thousands of times in the course of their life. At one point your daughter wants pink, pink and more pink and a year later, she wants soccer balls and lax sticks lining the room. Your son wants baseballs, bats and helmets and two years later he is asking for oil paints and a canvas. Staying flexible and supporting our children as they discover for themselves who they are, is a sure way to support an independent, thoughtful, grounded young person who isn’t likely to be as influenced by the media or their peer group as a child who has been sheltered from all the options available to them.

The next time your son or daughter asks for a pink birthday cake, or a super hero outfit, try to look past the stereotyping and create an environment rich in opportunities for your children to discover for themselves who they choose to be.

Summertime: Easy Living?

In just a few short weeks, kids across the country will throw open the doors to their classrooms and walk out of school for the last time and into – (insert screams of delight from thousands of school kids here) summer vacation (more screams of delight).

  • Later bedtimes and lazy mornings
  • A slower pace and time to “chill
  • More spontaneity and less structure
  • Endless possibilities and oodles of time to explore
  • Forts and food fights, pool time and sunburns, crafts and bug collecting, sleep overs and camp outs
  • Time with friends and more time with friends
  • A family vacation or two or maybe even three

Sounds delicious doesn’t it?

I agree. So I was surprised to hear, over a cup of tea with a few close friends (who shall remain anonymous) what summer vacation means on the other side of the fence.

  • Bedtime battles and stalled out mornings
  • Late, late and more late – to everything
  • Too many choices and too much negotiating
  • No chores, no contributions, chaos and fighting
  • Bad food, late bedtimes, cranky kids, dirty clothes, emergency room visits
  • No time for adult “stuff” until it’s too late to enjoy adult “stuff”
  • OMG – ANOTHER bad family vacation followed by another one and maybe even another one

After we shared a few giggles, we started to talk seriously about the upcoming summer season. We realized that we were painting the worst case scenario – a scenario that none of these savvy moms would ever experience. This particular group of moms has worked hard at this parenting thing (and I have been lucky enough to watch from the sidelines as they continue to develop wonderful relationships with their kids), so the summer will indeed provide opportunities for fun, family and friends.

But for many other moms and dads out there, what could be a season of delight and memory making – will most likely be a season of stress, frustration and a countdown to September.

So here are a few tips on how to make this summer a season full of delightful memories.

  • Write down your expectations for summer and have your kids do the same thing. Do it individually so that no one is influenced by anyone else.

  • Exchange lists without commenting. This is a chance for everyone to see another perspective. This is important.
  • Together, talk about setting realistic expectations that can be met by everyone in the family.

  • Here is an example:

    Mom wants everyone to continue with their daily contributions which are to be done by 7:30 am and 5:30 pm. The kids think they should only have to do them once a week. Setting a realistic expectation about daily contributions will alleviate fights, frustration, confusion and chaos. Remember to be flexible.

  • With this information, create a Summer 2010 Road Map. First, decide as a family what you want to SAY about the summer when it’s over. In other words, create a vision for your summer before it starts. And then use your Road Map to plot a course to getting there. This may take several days or several weeks to create.
  • Post the Summer 2010 Road Map somewhere you can see it. You will use this to inspire, redirect, and remind everyone in the family what summer is all about – according to you anyway.
  • Plan a series of Family Meetings that focus on the areas of the summer that might trip you up. For instance, family vacations, how many sleep overs per week, bedtimes and morning wake-ups, technology use, etc. Create a clear set of agreements and post these as well.

This might seem like a bit of work, but think about how you prepare for any important trip you are about to take. Do you just throw some “stuff” in a bag and hope you get to the airport on time? Of course not. So don’t leave your summer up to chance. Invest a little time up front this year and enjoy each and every day of summer vacation.

The Big Talk!

embarrassed.teenAttention – Calling all moms, dads, aunties, nannies and anyone else you consider part of the “village” that helps you raise your kids. Here’s a post based on several, recent, conversations I had and overheard while milling around my life (minding my own business thank you very much) on the subject of…..sex. AHHHH! No, not that. YES – that.

You do realize, that without “it” – sex – you wouldn’t be parents – right?

And you are also aware that you will never feel the thrill of holding your brand new grand child if at some point YOUR kids don’t have sex. So, lets keep this conversation in perspective. If you are easily offended, I am sure there are lots of other posts on the internet of interest. For those brave souls who want to know my 2 cents on the subject – read on.

More and more I hear from families who have middle-school, “tweeners” asking me- when I suggest they sit down and have “the talk” with the kids? You know- “the big sex-talk?”

Here is my concern:

What in the world have you been waiting for? By the time your kids are 12 or 13, they are way-way-WAY behind. Now, they know lots of stuff about sex. They learned some in school and some at church and some from you. But the majority of what they learned, they learned from other kids who don’t know any more than yours do. It’s crazy. One of the scariest aspects of a parent’s life is thinking about their kids having sex and they think a reasonable solution is to IGNORE IT! Wake up people. We have some education to do.

Now, I sum up sex ed in two categories.

The first are the nuts and bolts. You know, the questions the kids ask when they are small and they want to know where babies come from and all that. This leads into all the “technical” stuff the kids learn at school or at home about how, when, who, why and don’t, wait, safety, etc.

But there is another category that doesn’t often get any air time at all and I think in some ways this is the most important conversation NOT being had by parents and their kids. And that conversation is about intimacy and sensuality and passion and connection and communication. Now, I have NO idea why parents aren’t talking to their kids about this stuff, but they aren’t.

Parent’s often ask me when I had “the talk” and ya know, the truth is, I never did it in one talk. I never sat my kids down and said, “Listen honey, it’s time for me to tell you about intercourse or the birds and the bees” … or whatever it is that parents use to bring the topic up, nowadays. It was always just part of the ongoing conversation in my home with 5 very different people.

I will tell you, that not once did we use names like po-po or may-may or wee-wee. It makes the whole “body beautiful” thing completely bogus. I wanted my children to feel confident when they discussed their bodies so that meant taking the plunge and calling things what they are – Penis. Vagina. Clitoris. Erection. There you have it.

I know, I know for many of you- the conversation is not flowing and it takes some thoughtful consideration, because you as parents are not even comfortable discussing the subject. And for you, I say its time to get off it- get over it and get moving, your children are counting on you.

Here is a great resource to support you to start your own journey.

Birds and Bees and Kids

Be enlightened and get going. Its too important to wait. Your kids will get the information somewhere and even if Jane is your child’s middle-school sex-ed teacher, its up to you, the parents. Your kids are counting on you, don’t leave them in the dark.

This is a beautiful and magical and mysterious and serious part of life.

Let’s talk as much about sex and love and intimacy and commitment as we do about their damn cell phones.

Big Love everyone.

The Rubber Band Effect

I have been using the “Rubber Band” analogy for years to explain the “letting go” process AND the idea of teenage rebellion. It seems fitting to wrap this whole “letting go” conversation up with this.

Imagine if you will, a rubber band that exists between you and your child. When they are infants, the rubber band is tight. They move to far away and in you “swoop” to pick them up and move them safely back to you.

In other words, they are never more than arm distance away. As it should be. We all know how quickly babies can encounter danger. It’s a lot of hard work and at times it’s downright exhausting. We ask ourselves, will there ever come a day when I can just sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee without worrying about the stairs, the stove, the dogs, the…whatever.

And then it happens. The “Grace Years”. It’s usually between 1st and 5th grade. The years when you can sit down and read a book, or start a conversation with a friend, because you know the kids will be alright on their own for a while. The constant worry is behind you. You can relax. They made it through infancy and toddler-hood.

The best part of the “Grace Years” is these same kids still snuggle with you and say they love you and ask for your advice and you, me, we are lulled into thinking it will always be like this. And because you are secure in your position in their life, you extend them a little leeway. You treat them a bit more like an adult than a baby. You afford them a few extra privileges and you loosen the reigns on them. You start asking for their opinions and inviting them into some of the decision making. They are easy and fun and they share stuff with you and you come to believe that all is well. To use the rubber band analogy, you have provided them with LOTS of slack. You are comfy and they are comfy. All is right with the world.

But not so fast – Just as everyone is getting comfy with the extended rubber band, your child is suddenly ready to step into adulthood through the doors of adolescence and at that moment every fear you ever feared becomes real and you YANK that kid right back in and SLAM, you are suddenly nose to nose with a kid who is looking at you like – “Hey – What do you think you are doing?”

And your brilliant response might sound something like “Hey – Don’t think you are going anywhere young lady or young man. I’m not ready for all this. Stay close so I can keep you safe. There are dangers, real dangers out there in the big wide world. Stay right here where I can keep my eye on you.” HMMM, where have we heard THAT before. Oh, right, the last time you uttered those words, your child was 8 months old and crawling.”

No wonder kids rebel. If they didn’t have the “rubberband” snapped back at them, maybe they wouldn’t have to pull so hard against it.

As the mother of 5 teens, I know, yes I KNOW just how scary the world can be for kids who are UNPREPARED for it. But our kids ARE prepared. As a parent, you can ensure that YOUR kids are ready to cope with real life situations. When you take the time to do that, you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that they will navigate their way with clear heads and a strong connection to you. Keep the rubber band loose. Show your faith in their abilities. Yes, they will continue to make mistakes, but not nearly as many as you think they might and not all of them will end badly.

Keeping your kids close, too close, is a sure way to drive them away. Try extending the rubber band just a bit every day and before you yank them back, take a second and remember, you prepared them.

If you would like more information on how to prepare your children for adolescence, check out the Parenting On Track™ Home Program.

Celebrate Together

Your kids are changing. You know they are, but does the teacher? Sure, they can see the subtle changes that happen within the classroom, but sometimes they miss the big changes that happen at home.

For instance, a child who refused to get up without 10 nudges from mom in the morning is now rising with an alarm clock. Or a child who could noodle away 20 minutes chasing a moth in the house is now redirecting himself, staying on task and leaving the house with a smile on his face.

Here is what one teacher said about the changes happening at home:

“Parents are excited about the changes they see in their children. As a teacher, it would be great to celebrate these growth changes and encourage further growth, or look for ways to use this new information to encourage growth within the classroom. Sometimes it feels like a one way mirror. A quick note to let me know what is happening in the life of a child at home would mean so much to me and help me teach in a much more personal way. After all, we all want the same thing for the child.”

Learn more about effectively communicating your parenting plan to your child’s teachers in the Parenting On Track™Home Program. For more details and video samples visit www.parentingontrack.com/program/details

Ready to Give your Notice?

featured I quit

Quit your job as the maid!

There are many things in life that are black and white. Parenting isn’t one of them. Not all of the strategies we talk about here at Parenting On Track™ work the same way for every child, or every family, and everyone’s kids are at a different place when it comes to training. That’s why, when it comes to training our children to participate more fully in their own lives, we recommend creating, maintaining and USING a timeline.

By creating a timeline, individualized for your children, you can:

  • Track where your child is today in terms of skill development
  • Identify what areas require additional training
  • Relax with the confidence that your children are becoming capable, cooperative, responsible and respectful

Many of you started your timelines with the first week of class when you spent a good deal of time just watching your children to see what they were already capable of. From there you had the information you needed to identify areas that required additional training. For the next couple of weeks we are going to use the feature article to explore what a timeline for training means for each specific age group of children.

This week however, is a time for you to stop – look – listen. So take some time this week and update your assumptions about what kids can and will do and then get ready for a powerful series that will walk you through the training process for each of the significant stages of your child’s development.

For more information on creating a timeline for training and inviting your children to participate, purchase our Home Program. View video samples here.

The Morning Routine

overparentingThe morning routine has long been one of the “challenging” times in the life of a family. We’ve all had those mornings when kids don’t want to get out of bed, they find their clothes “just aren’t right”, or maybe their breakfast lacks appeal and all these moments add up to power struggles, stress and a bumpy start to the day. As parents, we understand that the morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day, so it is important to start on the right foot.

Parenting On Track™ offers families access to proactive, sustainable, age-independent strategies to help you parent from your best – which, inevitably, brings out the best in your child. Grounded in teaching “long-term-sustainable-solutions,” the program teaches parents how to support children as they implement and practice life skills that will help them maneuver their way from childhood through adolescence into young adulthood with confidence and enthusiasm. The fundamental principles of Parenting On Track™ focus on training and the understanding that parenting is a journey and there are no quick fixes.

However, there are things we, as parents, can do right away that have a significant impact on the attitudes of our children as they start their days, face daily challenges and navigate their lives, regardless of whether those challenges are deciding what to have for breakfast, standardized state tests, or a fight with their BFF.

Here are a few simple tips that will remind your kids that you believe in them and love them – this, of course, translates into a relaxed, confident and enthusiastic kid. You know, a kid with a “can do” attitude, the one who enters school with a smile, a swagger and a “bring it on” look in his or her eyes.

1. Appreciation:

Identify specific character traits in your child that you admire and make an observation about one every morning.

Imagine being greeted each morning by someone who clearly knows you and appreciates you.

These appreciations might sound something like:

  • You always wake up in a good mood.
  • You are such a curious kid.
  • You can make your mom and I smile even when we are upset about something.
  • You are incredibly patient with your siblings.

2. Participation:

Invite your children to do more for themselves.

Imagine being treated like a capable, competent person by the people most important to you – your parents.

Try some or all of these suggestions:

  • If you have been getting them up, ask them if they want to get an alarm clock and get up on their own.
  • If you have been making their breakfast, ask them if they want to make pancakes with you this morning.
  • If you nag them to get ready, try being quiet and see what happens.

3. Connection:

  • Create a final connection with your kids in the evening.
  • Have faith in your children and show them that no matter what happens – you love them.
  • Ask questions that are relaxed and open ended (and not about the upcoming test.)
  • Sit quietly at the bottom of the bed and tell them you just want to hang out with them for a few more minutes.
  • Do something unexpected (like paint toenails, or give a back scratch.)
  • Create a positive affirmation together.

By utilizing these three strategies – Appreciation, Participation and Connection – on a regular basis with your children, you can eliminate some the current challenges you face each morning and replace them with a smooth routine that will have all of you out the door on time and ready to face the day.

For more information on inviting your children into the process of orchestrating a smooth morning routine, see our Parenting On Track™Home Program details.

New Thoughts on Habits

fresh-perspectiveSunny mornings on the deck, lazy afternoons by the pool, fresh veggies from the garden … does it get any better than summer? There are a few weeks left before we all have to get back to reality and start our lives of school, activities and all that comes with having busy lives and busy children.

I have spent this summer enjoying a full house with all five of my children here. It has been, at times, chaotic and busy but mostly it has been a wonderful summer full of laughter, fun and memorable times spent together. The house was full of friends and music and the smell of great food on the grill. I don’t know when I will ever have all my children under one roof for an entire summer, so I am savoring every last minute of it.

It’s now, before the summer ends and the school year begins, that I take a few hours and reflect back on where is it we’ve been as individuals and as a family and where it is we may be going in the coming year. It is a chance for me to revisit the milestones we set for ourselves and acknowledge the progress and improvement we have made in the areas we identified for ourselves as “challenging”. I wonder what new goals we will set for ourselves when we gather for what we have dubbed the “The Dinner of the Roadmap”. It is a site to behold. Food everywhere, poster board, paints, markers, magazines, glue and scissors, pens and pencils. Mostly though, there is conversation. Deep, rich, questioning, encouraging, challenging, loving conversation. We are a passionate bunch and the gathering is no exception. Fears are shared, dreams are ignited, plans are made and as a result each of us feel a deep connection that defines who we are as a family.

What started out as a Parenting Roadmap quickly changed to not only a Family Roadmap, but Kid Roadmaps as well. Iain and I have been encouraging our kids for many years now, to approach their Roadmaps with a fresh perspective. to dream big, to hold themselves accountable and to go for it – what ever “it” is.

Throughout the years I found it helpful for me and for other parents to talk with each other about the triumphs and tribulations that we have had recently to keep us focused on what goals and milestones were attainable or realistic. I’d love to hear from all of you in the Comments section about how your summers were, the moments that became memories. Your experiences help all of us see that we are not alone in parenting struggles and we can all congratulate each other on our parenting successes.

Hope your summer was a good one, and I look forward to hearing from you.

For more information on the Roadmap, see Ch. 5 of the Parenting On Track™ Home Program or our blog, “Parenting Is a Journey? I Think I Need Directions!” May 13, 2009

Back to School Routines

back-to-schoolAlong with buying new pencils and notebooks, “back to school” also means a return to routines, alarm clocks, and the responsibilities that many of our children left behind with the last bell in June. I have developed a “top 10” list for making the transition from frog collecting to number crunching a smooth one, for kids and parents alike.

With these pointers in mind, you’ll help your children begin the school year on the right foot.

1. Ask yourself, “What will it take for my children to manage their schedules independently?” Make a list of everything that needs to happen in order for your kids to be ready for the school day.  Access what they can do already, where they need some training, and what they need to learn from scratch. Set aside time each week to practice these life skills, and be sure to acknowledge growth and progress.

2. Allow your kids to establish a routine that works for them, even if they flounder for a week or two.  This means not reminding them to pack their homework or asking if they remembered their soccer gear.  Having to sit out a game or miss recess is a far more effective way for youngsters to learn to be responsible than parents constantly reminding.

3. Have faith that your children can handle the natural consequences of their decisions. If your daughter refuses to do her homework, let her work it out with the teacher, even if her grades suffer. Whereas the grades will come and go over the years, the self-reliance and sense of accountability that she’ll learn by solving her own problems will serve her well for the rest of her life.

4. Show empathy and help your children work through any problems that arise, but don’t be their savior.  School offers a perfect testing ground for kids to learn how to be responsible for themselves and acquire the skills they’ll need in the “real world” after graduation.

5. Set parameters about acceptable dress for school that you and your kids can agree on, and then bite your tongue.  Many schools have rules about attire (such as no midriffs or undergarments showing) that can help you frame this discussion.  You may not love the outfits that your children choose to wear, but showing them that you respect their choices and believe in their ability to select their own clothing is far more important in the long run.

6. Establish a framework for discussing the ups and downs that your kids are sure to encounter as the school year progresses. You want your children to know that you’re on their side, no matter what.  If your son brings home an “A” or scores the lead role in the school play, encourage him by asking questions about the experience. How did he prepare? What did that accomplishment feel like?  Did he need to work hard to reach his goal, or did it come easily to him?  Likewise, if your daughter comes home with a “D” or doesn’t make the hockey team, you can ask her about that experience. How did she prepare for that moment? How does she feel about her grade? Was this important to her? What could she do differently next time?

7. Create a roadmap with your children to help them set goals for the year and begin thinking about what it will take to achieve those goals. Your kids will feel a sense of empowerment as they define and take ownership over their plans for the coming year.

8. Set up a time every week to connect as a family. This could be a dinner, a family outing, or a scheduled family meeting. The gathering does not have to take place at the same time every week, but be sure that it’s on everyone’s calendar so that it doesn’t fall through the cracks.

9. Figure out what you, as a parent, can let go of to encourage your children’s independence. Deciding not to “remind” or “do for” your kids may be hard at first, but in doing so, you are demonstrating to your children that you have faith in their abilities.

10. Go slow. Encourage progress and recognize growth, and remember that you are the best parent for your child.

For another example of getting back into the school routine check out an article we found on the greatergood berkeley site.

For more information on creating Roadmaps and Timelines for Training check out our program details.

Money Management

moneyWe talk a lot about money. We dream about it, we sing about and, yes, we fight about it. But do we talk to our kids enough about money? That is a question that bloggers and magazines from The New York Times to Better Homes and Gardens have been raising lately, and we think the topic deserves some further discussion.

So here is the question: Is there a “best” way to talk to our kids about money?

At Parenting On Track™, we like the saying, “Don’t listen to the mouth, watch the feet.” When it comes to money, don’t waste your time talking or lecturing your kids about it; let them learn about money themselves by giving them some of their own. This is an opportunity for your kids to develop their own relationship with money, outside of anyone’s influence, and for us, as their parents, to support the growing independence of our children.

Here are a few simple guidelines for “how”:

  • At the youngest age possible, give them an allowance, and let them spend it any way they want. No discussion needed!
  • Since they get allowance, you no longer have to buy them anything beyond their basic needs. So when you go into a store and they beg for that great little something they have always wanted, you get to say, “YES! Did you bring your money?”
  • When they are old enough to be interested in a bank account, open one for them. Give them practice depositing and withdrawing money. Let them have a debit card, so they learn that the money coming out of an ATM isn’t free.
  • Have them help you pay bills and balance the household account, so that they can get a sense of how much “life” really costs.
  • Talk to your kids about giving money away. Tell them what charities you give to, how much you give, and why.

No child is too young to begin to form a healthy relationship with money. One Parenting On Track™ mom told me a story about her three-year-old son who went into a store with his friend and his friend’s mom. The young friend, upon seeing some shiny “gotta have” object, began to whine and beg her mother for it, at which point the Parenting On Track™ mom’s son looked at his friend and said, “but you didn’t bring any money.” End of story.

Money will be a part of our children’s lives every day; we have an opportunity, as parents, to introduce them to money and help them create a healthy relationship with it, so that when they are on their own, they will have the confidence and the experience to manage their money well, to put it to good use, and to avoid the difficulties that so many families face today in this country.

For more information on your kids and money, go to the Parenting On Track™ MP3 on Money Management.

Thanks to Timothy Evans, Ph.D., for “Don’t listen to the mouth, watch the feet.”

Play Date Gone Awry

“How do you tell a mother that her kid is more than a handful and that you’d rather HALT all future play dates?!” (NYC Moms Blog).

playdate-gone-awryIt’s part of the parenting landscape, a dilemma most moms and dads face at some point in their parenting life. Play dates that turn into a nightmare. Sometimes that nightmare is the result of your child’s behavior, often times it’s the other child’s behavior, either way it ends badly. Parents feel stressed and frustrated. What’s worse is that sometimes a perfectly good friendship ends because – (HMMM, so why does a perfectly good friendship end?)

First of all, who ever heard of kids under the age of five knowing the first thing about play dates, the purpose of play dates, the rules of play dates, the expectations of play dates or anything else having to do with play dates. I have talked to enough parents after the fact to know that what most moms and dads wanted, was either

  • Time with another adult so that they kept their vocabulary at a 12th grade level (they are still paying off college loans that paid for that impressive vocabulary and no 2 year old is gonna steal it)
  • Time away from their kids so they can…..you name it. Life with small children is exhausting – emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually. It’s smart to make time for yourself if you plan to go the distance from 0 to 18.

Now, it would be easy to blame the demise of a perfectly good friendship on the standard – “the kids just didn’t mesh”, but we all know there is more to it than that. What we do tend to do is start looking for advice AFTER the play-date for answers to, “Should I talk to my friend about their child?” or “How many times can I apologize before they stop inviting my child over to play?” or “What discipline strategy should I use to solve the problem the next time the child comes over?”

It seems to me, that this whole mess could be avoided if parents took the time to implement a few simple, proactive steps BEFORE the play date was even arranged.
For instance:

  • Identify the GOAL of the play date:

    Is it for adult company, or that much needed break?

    Or Is it to help teach kids how to interact socially and to adequately represent to the kids what they can expect from the outside world when they choose to hit, bite, scratch, pout, cry, scream, etc?

    Or is it to establish that play dates can be a great training ground for the next generation of community members and leaders?

  • Set clear expectations for reaching that GOAL.
  • Identify how you “discipline” each other’s kids and still respect each other’s different parenting styles.
  • Identify what you will you do to solve a problem between the children once it happens.
  • Identify what you will do if either of you decides that play dates just aren’t working

By having a conversation, creating a clear set of goals, and then coming to an agreement about how to handle potential landmines, you and your friend(s) are much more likely to avoid disaster all together. Instead, you will quickly create a community of support, acceptance and you can watch as your children navigate the often treterious slopes of social interaction.

The choice is up to you – take your chances, or be pro-active and ensure a better play date for you and your kids.

For more information on The Parenting On Track™ program and Proactive Parenting.

Turn No! Into Yes…

yes

  • No, you may NOT watch another TV show…
  • No, you may not touch that; you are too young…
  • No, you may not go to Johnnie’s house…
  • No, because I just don’t want you to…
  • No, you may not have something to eat 30 minutes before dinner…
  • No, no, no (can you picture the finger wagging here?)…

Do you ever feel like all you do all day is say “No” to your children? Did you ever wonder what all of that negative “No you can’t do it” does to your children’s sense of self and self-worth? The short answer is, more than you may think.

“No” is one of the quickest ways to stifle your child’s budding sense of independence and self-fortitude. I know that none of you wants to do that, so here’s an easy way to change the negative into a positive and say “Yes…”, without giving complete control of the house over to the kids.

Your job as a parent is to say “Yes” as often as you can and to as many things as you can. Do I mean say “yes” to everything and turn your children into pampered, indulged children? Of course not! While it is your job to say yes, it is your child’s job to convince you, by showing you, that you can say yes to his/her request. This balance is what helps set up a healthy, mutually respectful relationship, where children are given an opportunity to prove that they are “growing into” responsible adults. It will also help parents navigate the balance between giving too much, too soon or withholding too much for too long.

It looks like this: The child would like a “privilege” and you as the parent help them decide what responsibilities they must prove they can handle BEFORE they are allowed to have the privilege.

Here’s an example:

Privilege: Eating Out (at a restaurant, or a friend’s house, etc …)

  • Remember table manners
  • Eat what you order
  • Sit still in your seat
  • Engage in conversation
  • Make eye contact
  • Use “please” and “thank you”
  • Maintain a respectful tone of voice

I recommend that when you have identified what the privilege is, you sit down with your children and together make up the list of responsibilities. They will be more inclined to go along with it. Now you might be wondering how long they are required to maintain these newfound skills in order to gain this new privilege—once, for a week, for a year? Really, it’s up to you, but here’s what I suggest: One week for children five and under; 15 to 20 days for children ages five through fifteen; one month for children over age 15. This time frame will provide a way for your children to turn those responsibilities into habits.

The Privileges and Responsibilities strategy is one my favorites, as I have used it over and over with all of my children, from the time that they were very young to the time that the privilege was driving the car. I also like it because it is an easy way to get away from saying “No” all of the time, and instead say, “Yes… show me.”

For more information on Privileges and Responsibilities, see Ch. 8 of the Parenting On Track™ Program.

This Connection is a Little Fuzzy

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I’m not sure when small children became something that needed fixing. Personally, I don’t believe that any child is broken. Their behavior might be problematic and their intentions with their behavior might be mistaken—but they certainly aren’t broken. Not only that, but I think most parents I know want to get away from (or avoid altogether) reacting to problems as they arise and move to avoiding them in the first place.

If I just described you, you aren’t alone—and I have some good news. You can avoid problematic behavior in your house, and you can do it today. I could list for you a whole host of things that you can do today to steer your family clear of problems, but instead I am going to give you just one—an easy one. Connect with your kids over the positive things they do.

Sounds easy, right? It might be easier said than done, and here’s what I mean by that. Watch yourself for a few days, and try to notice how often you connect with your kids over the negative or problematic things they do and how many times you connect over the positive things they do. I think you will find that you, like so many busy parents today, are quicker to point out what they are doing wrong than what they are doing right. You do this because you think that by pointing it out, you will get rid of the behavior. Guess what? Just the opposite happens.

Most children just want attention and to connect with their parents. When we give them attention over mistaken behavior, we are giving them what they want, and they will do more of it to get our attention. So I am asking you to turn that around and start to give more of your attention to the positive things they do. Shower them with it!

Here are some examples:

  • Thanks for making your bed today—it is so helpful to me when you contribute to keeping the house clean.
  • I see you are playing with your brother—I really appreciate it when you two spend time together doing something you both enjoy.
  • I really enjoy going to the market with you.
  • You got a high mark on that homework assignment—your hard work certainly seems to have paid off.
  • Would you join me in ________________ (you fill in the blank); I could really use your help.

Connecting with our kids over the positive things they do and the way we feel about them is one of the easiest (and most rewarding) things you can start doing today. I guarantee positive results!

For additional information check out the Parenting On Track™ Home Program.