All posts tagged helicopter parenting

Parenting Land Mine

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

I parented with 2 things in mind.

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

2. foster their independence in every moment

challenge

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

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

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

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

vicki-training kids blog

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

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

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

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

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

Average Kids Kick Ass

kickass1Because they freakin’ do!

I’ve been taking a lot of heat lately for suggesting that for the most part, we are all raising “average” kids.  That it is unlikely there will be 100’s of Vermont kids (or kids from any other state) that go on to live exceptional lives doing exceptionally satisfying work that is sure to impact the world in some significant way.  It is far more likely, that the vast majority of kids will grow up to be average, everyday individuals who construct lives that they either find satisfying or lives that leave them feeling resentful that they aren’t satisfied with the life they were expecting to live.

I know what parents are thinking when I tell them they will probably raise average kids — “She doesn’t know MY child.  MY child is, in fact, exceptional, special, better than….”.  Maybe, but I doubt it.

After I ruffle feathers, I go on to ask “So what’s wrong with average?  When did being average become a bad thing?”  I’m average, my kids are average, most of my friends are average, most of my family members are average.  And we seem to be doing okay.

I’ll go on record now as saying that when I was pregnant with Hannah, 25 years ago, I prayed for an average child.  Not too cute, not too smart, not too athletic.  Just average.  Do you know why?  Because I think average kids have a better shot at creating a meaningful life for themselves.  After all, no one is paying attention to them.  No one has unrealistic expectations for them.  I think kids who really are exceptional in some way, may have challenges that few of us recognize, because, well, we are average.

I believe that average people, who work their fannies off, and accept that life is full of ups and down and believe that the universe is conspiring for (ALL of) our happiness, have a leg up on those who think they are exceptional.  Imagine the pressure to maintain your exceptional status.  Yikers.

Maybe besides being average, we are simple.  The truth is, I am happy a good portion of my life.  Even when things suck, I can be happy. My kids are happy. Believe me there have been times in their lives when things sucked.  But in spite of that, they were happy growing up and still are happy as twenty-somethings out there navigating the world on their own.

Happiness, connection to self and others, a strong work ethic, enjoyment in the simple things is far more important to me then being exceptional, special or as a my friend Cindy Pierce says “precious”.  I want average kids who kick ass.

My grandfather used to say, “Work harder than everyone else for less pay.”

I like that.  It fits with my idea of life.  I taught my kids this value.  From the time they applied for their first jobs, most of them at age 10 and certainly when they hit the job market at 14-years-old, they were taught to work harder than anyone else and never to expect anything more than the guy working beside them. When they got older I included these pearls of wisdom “from 18-years-old to 28-years-old you will, in all likelihood be eating Top Ramen, living in ratty apartments, shared with people who are complete slobs, commuting for 90 minutes one way, to jobs that are less than fulfilling.  This is the path you must travel so at 29-years-old you have the skills and experience, wisdom and patience, tenacity and insight to actually create a life that has meaning to you and for you in a job you find exciting, stimulating and satisfying.  It isn’t going to happen any other way, kids.  So buckle up and get ready for the ride.”

And all five of them will tell you that this is the truth.  And yet, for all that “tough love” talk, they are thriving and truly enjoying this rough part of the journey.  As they say, it builds character.

So when I got the 35th email with the link to this article sent to me, I decided maybe it was the universe suggesting I write about it and share a few of my thoughts. I don’t care so much about special or exceptional.

  •  I care that my kids love their lives as young adults when so many other young adults are really struggling to make sense of the world.
  • I love that my kids love each other, take care of each other and include each other in their lives.
  • I love that my kids call, text, skype, IM me when there is something exciting to share both good and bad.
  • I have a front row seat to their lives, because I can be counted on to sit quietly until I am asked to become an active participant.

So I guess what I am saying is this: I will take average any day of the week.  Anybody else out there feeling okay about average?

20 Back to School Myths

educationAs the back to school energy (fueled by crisp notebook paper and the scent of freshly sharpened pencils) starts to drop off into a more wrinkled routine, there are 20 Back to School Myths that you must not let creep into your mind.

These school myths are lies.

They do not reflect who you are or how good a parent you are. Incidentally, these are not true for others, just in case you want to raise an eyebrow at someone else’s messy little munchkin. 🙂

  1. Kids will pack Twix bars and Twizzlers EVERY. SINGLE. DAY if left to their own decision-making.
  2. It’s not only okay to be the human alarm clock, the maid and the unpaid chauffeur, it’s also okay if I never here a “thanks mom, thanks pop”.
  3. Socks must match. Shirts must go on right side out. Shoes must be on the right feet. Kids need styling assistance.
  4. The backpack is yours to stuff, unstuff, pack, unpack, hang up, repeat.
  5. Homework police exist, and you’re the sheriff.
  6. A forgotten lunch causes a lifetime of trauma and life-threatening hunger pangs.
  7. Forgotten boots? Frostbite.
  8. Zombie kids are “good” kids (because they do as they are told and follow all directions appropriately and without questioning).
  9. Prompting a “please” or “thank you” to impress onlookers is always necessary.
  10. Only SLACKER parents do not log into their child’s online grade portal.
  11. Daylight hours are meant to be booked solid.
  12. Kids have to play fair and share or else you must interfere because it is the adult’s job to make it right!
  13. The principal’s office is a bad place for pad kids. (link to post)
  14. That science project had better look amazing – and you should see to it.
  15. Kids who make messes have sloppy, unattentive moms and dads.
  16. Invite everyone! It’s worth spending an arm and a leg on that bday party to preserve hurting feelings.
  17. Mistakes are to be avoided and screw ups are to be punished.
  18. Kids will grow out of their “annoying’ or pesky behaviors.
  19. There is plenty of time LATER to train the kids.
  20. My reputation matters.

Do you have any other false beliefs you’re trying to let go of? Share!

How to Raise Independent Children

thinking-kids-messyParents are so immersed in the day-to-day challenge of juggling work, family and kids – they can (often unknowingly) find themselves doing great disservice to their children in an honest attempt to simply make things easier and more efficient – for everyone. While this might be easier in the moment, it is undeniably detrimental to the emotional health of our children – not to mention the relationship we are building with them.

If we want to raise independent children – thinking kids- who are resilient decision-makers, we must:

  • provide them with abundant opportunities to practice making decisions
  • allow them to make mistakes
  • step back and let them solve problems
  • recognize progress, celebrate success

If we want to raise independent children – thinking kids- who have a strong sense of belonging within the family and a deep sense of self worth out in the world, we must:

  • maintain an environment that is respectful and inclusive
  • trust children as they learn how to manage their lives
  • invite them to be part of the entire process- from planning to practice to celebration to discovery

If we want to raise independent children – thinking kids- who learn through challenges- then we cannot:

  • micro-manage every aspect of their life – after all, kids learn by experience
  • decide what’s best for them all the time
  • save them from all heartache, discomfort and embarrassment
  • force, steer, beg and coerce them into compliance
  • tie our value (as parents) to the decisions our children make (in otherwords, we cannot make parenting decisions that are rooted in how we look and have nothing to do with our children at all! Example: If he doesn’t do the homework, the teacher thinks I don’t care. Therefore, I nag, remind, lecture and put it in his backpack for him.)

Share your thinking kid stories on our facebook wall!

Research Says Knock It Off…

Every now and then, it helps to get a little confirmation that we’re parenting in the best interest of our children.

We’ve pulled together some research and credible headlines that confirm we do not have to meddle in the affairs of our offspring nearly as much as we may THINK we do. Take it from the experts- interfering is ineffective. Many of you are recovering from Helicopter tendencies (we all have at one point or another!).

This post is to inform you and inspire a boost in motivation to continue down the Duct Tape Parenting Road.

In Short Knock it Off and Don’t Be:

The Dictator

Futurity.org: Children are less engaged when moms tell them how to play, according to a study that finds kids have more negative feelings toward “directive” moms.  Read the post, here.

What does this mean for you? It means you can butt out when kids are playing. You can let them argue, disagree, play something you don’t really like, lose at the game and so forth and NOT FEEL BAD ABOUT IT. In fact, throw some Duct Tape on your ears (if it’s annoying to you) and go put your feet up and enjoy the freedom to stay out! Heck, have an adult conversation. Go for it.

The Homework NAG

“The practice of forcing children to begin working what amounts to a second shift after they get home from a full day of school has absolutely no proven benefits before high school, and there are increasing reasons to doubt its value even in high school.[6]  What kids need, therefore, are parents willing to question the conventional wisdom and to organize others to challenge school practices when that seems necessary.  What kids don’t need is the kind of parental involvement that consists of pestering them to make sure they do their homework –  whether or not it’s worth doing.” – Alfie Kohn

Click HERE to read the entire Washington Post Article, Is parent involvement in school really useful?

What does this mean for you? This means if your life is all about getting things done, checking work off the list, giving up free and creative time, and making sure kids are on it, on it, on it all the time, then you can let go and NOT FEEL GUILTY about it. You can challenge the fact that this might not be the right way to spend your time with your child (and know it won’t screw up his entire future if you choose say, reading or creative or quiet time over the daily nag festival). [hr]

The Helicopter Parent

Overparenting is characterized in the study as parents’ “misguided attempt to improve their child’s current and future personal and academic success.”

From: Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail: A new study explores what happens to students who aren’t allowed to suffer through setbacks.

“Year after year, my “best” students — the ones who are happiest and successful in their lives — are the students who were allowed to fail, held responsible for missteps, and challenged to be the best people they could be in the face of their mistakes.” – Jessica Lahey – Read the entire ATLANTIC article, here.

What Does this mean for you? It means go for it, step back. Let that kid go to school in PJs. Allow the child to forget a lunch. Oops, he forgot a mitten? Great! Think of all the little lessons your child will learn when you refrain – even if you REALLY WANT to swoop in and fix, save, help, and avoid discomfort. Let ’em ride and DON’T FEEL GUILTY about it. It’s good for these kids to fall and bounce. We call these “Duct Tape Moments” – write yours down and tell us about it.

The Power Tripper

“Assume that children naturally want to be authorities, that they want challenges (even if it hurts), that they want to take responsibility, make decisions, make mistakes, and learn from consequences—just like the rest of us. (Actually kids tend to be better at all this than adults.)” – Rick Ackerly, Author of The Genius in Every Child.

What does this mean for you? This means that you can toss the idea that power struggles must be won at all costs. You can challenge the notion that kids who don’t listen the first time are “bad” or that because you are the “adult” you must always win. Allow the kid some space to choose NOT to obey or make his own agenda, like: making his lunch, choosing the clothes he likes and so forth. It’s natural for kids to want to try things and even fail. So, again, no feeling bad if you let your child have some slack (and he screws up) or you lose a battle (keep the ego in check!). No biggie. Keep it moving. [hr]

The Punisher

Alfie Kohn: Why Punishment Doesn’t Work

“What punishments—even if they’re euphemistically called “consequences” (so we can feel better about making a child feel bad)—really do is make the child angry, teach him that you get your way in life by using your power over those who are weaker, and make it less likely that he’ll focus on how his actions affect others.”

“Kohn’s view is consistent with the perspective of restorative practices, which seeks to develop good habits in students not only when someone is watching, but more importantly when no one is looking. That means that children (and also adults) have to find their own intrinsic motivation and take responsibility for their own behavioral choices.” – Read the EdWeek article here.

What does this mean for you? It essentially says that punishment is really about power, not teaching the child a lesson- so you can ease up on the “punishment” reflex (if this is one of your parenting tripups)! He indicates having a “fixed” list of punishments for “offenses” (vs. having a flexible, case by case response) is not really in the interest of the child. He mentions when we get all rigid and don’t allow for context (zero tolerance style), it’s just a  “doing to” approach and not a “working with” approach. Children will learn so many lessons without parental interference (mom and dad driving home a superimposed lesson to prove they were right or the child was wrong) that it’s unnecessary and unhealthy for the relationship if we abandon the “working with” response. Bottom line, working with a child who makes mistakes is more effective than punishment by “doing to.” [hr]

Article via the Washington Post: Life skills all teens should have before graduating from high school– By Mari-Jane Williams

The DOER OF EVERYTHING

“We do all of these protective things when they are in high school, and then a lot of them end up partying more and forgetting to do laundry, forgetting to study, especially because they’re not in the habit of doing these things and no one is telling them to do it. None of these things are particularly earth-shattering, but they do add up.”

What does this mean for you? It means slowing down to realize all the ordinary (to us, not them) ways  teens can practice creating their own personal structure systems for: schedules, accounts, communication, studying, and more. This  means spending an afternoon explaining ATM deposits and withdrawals and letting him or her practice IS a good way to spend a Saturday. It means letting their laundry become their responsibility, even if they don’t get it done. It means taking the time to train them to use a calendar- or other organizational tools. It means powering off so they can practice real world conversations, planning, cooking and so forth.  The key takeaway is that kids only have a few years to practice this kind of “real life stuff”- and there’s a lot of it! If parents don’t realize the importance of this process, the kids will be out the door with an iffy sense of how to navigate the world. So, go for it- slow it down. Let the teens do all that stuff we don’t like either. It’s good practice. 🙂

Note: Start the training early so by this time, they’re ready to move on to bigger things than laundry!

 

 

Do Not Feed the Weed

do not feed weedThere’s an amazing phenomenon that happens when parents decide,That’s it! It’s time for our child to stop this pesky / bad/ annoying behavior!

As soon as they get out their lazers and try to zap it and watch it shrivel away forever, they inadvertently (and unknowingly) begin to do do the opposite. Instead of killing it off, they begin to tend to this behavior.  And water it. And give it light. Play music for it. And feed it fertilizer. And suddenly, what started as a well-intentioned “nip it in the bud” effort becomes an overgrown situation, and like a weed, it grows quickly and heartily.

What Are Common Parenting Weeds?

Common parenting “weeds” are all those behaviors parents feel the need to “do something” about- the whining, crying, babytalking, not eating dinner, fussing, complaining, acting out, talking back, cheating, lying, stealing, noodling, etc. These behaviors range from absolutely harmless to fully problematic if given a chance to grow. Key word: grow…Kids don’t grow out of, they grow into.

Why Does this Happen?

When mom and dad say repeatedly, “I don’t like how you do this, (but I’m always focused on it)” it sends a very basic message “this is who I really think you are and I don’t trust that you have what it takes to try another behavior.” So, guess who shows up every time? The whiner, noodler, complainer, babytalker, and so forth.

The truth is, when kids find their place in the family, they aim to please! They are wired to feel safe in their social space — they know what behaviors get which reactions. They know that while mom might not like it when I ______________ she sure pays attention.

And finally, bottom line, if this gets mom and dad to interact, well, then, fine. It works. Kids are far MORE interested in having a relationship (in any form) than they are in not getting in trouble, grounded, etc. From day one, their relationship with mom and dad is number 1- even if it means they aren’t having much fun along the way

Why is it a Bad Idea?

With each, more focused attempt to “get rid of” (often by way of convincing, tricking, steering, pushing, pulling, bribing- you name it) a child out of using any and all pesky behaviors, the more these unwanted behaviors take root. Why? Because all that attention is just like food, water and sunshine – it feeds the weed, planting the behaviors that will define your child within the context of the family.  Over time, both parent and child will begin to believe this as pure truth. And from there…well, kids don’t grow out of they grow into, right?

Also, whenever parents feed the weeds vs. watering something else, it sticks a label on the child. Once labeled as the whiner, noodler, etc. she’ll know who she is in every context and commit. If mom introduces her or sets teachers up with a “she’s a complainer” statement, well then she may decide “offer accepted” and take you up on your offer to always deliver what mom thinks of her.

Bottom Line

Even the most well-meaning parents unknowingly care for the very weed they cannot stand. Do not feed that weed!

 

Spoiled Child? Quit as the Maid

Today’s parents are not just “helicopter parents…They are a jet-powered turbo attack model.-Hara Estroff Marano- Author, Nation of Wimps

By now, you’ve probably heard of “helicopter parenting” and all its over-protective qualities like: hovering, correcting,doing-for, helping, etc.

For the sake of this post, let’s not end the list there- let’s be thorough and include a lot of chopper noise, see the pic below!

The classic ‘helicopter parent’ is far more than a hoverer – a helicopter parent is the maid, the chef, the chauffeur, the agent, the coach — all of it wrapped in the guise of one overprotective, loving parent.

 

The Good News: We Know it’s a Problem and We’re Looking for Change

Luckily, there IS good news: slowly and steadily, we are recognizing this is not turning out well for our kids OR the future of our society. In the recent article, Spoiled Rotten Why do kids rule the roost? by Elizabeth Kolbert, Kolbert looks at several books, authors and research that support this point: kids who aren’t contributing to their own lives, let alone the community, are turning out ill prepared for the real world (and in short:spoiled). Translation to well meaning parents everywhere: you’re NOT really doing anything for your child when you literally “do everything” for your child!

I Get the Problem, What is the Solution?

Those of us who are stepping back see this problem written in in bright lights across the sky. What’s not so easy to see? The solution! Parents may know with every ounce of reason that they SHOULD not raise a spoiled child but they run into this:

So then what? What do I do? How DO I let go? Where do I start? Or what might I already be doing that I want to keep doing to increase my child’s independence?

Once the wheels start spinning, it’s often, to the frustration of the parent, nowhere fast.

Start Here: QUIT YOUR JOB AS THE MAID.

Yep, that’s it. Just quit. But before you toss the apron on the ground, you have to mentally be ready:

  1. to see messes,
  2. to watch the kids meltdown w/ new routine
  3. to stay patient and
  4. to teach them how to do their own stuff.

Once you’re ready mentally, then you can totally and completely quit being the maid. Instead, you’ll be one of many “contributors” to the family vs. the one running around keeping everything together, neat, orderly and within reach.

As you get started, remember:

  • Start early (ideally)
  • Invite vs. demand
  • Take time for training
  • Be consistent!

(Stay tuned for more HOW TO and WHY BOTHER resources to keep it moving forward.)

If It’s That Easy, Why Am I STILL EMPLOYED?

Ha! There are two things that keep even the most well-intentioned parents wearing that perfect little apron:

ONE: We make little excuses, which are really just myths (we’ll get deep into this habit in Duct Tape Parenting)

TWO: We don’t take the time. It’s not a quick fix so yes, it takes a bit of time to get into the groove. But nobody really says, gee, it’s worth it. So, I’m telling you now: GEEEEE, it’s worth it!

Vicki Hoefle on WCAX, BTV — Quit your job as the maid!

Sold, So What Will IT Look Like?

Once you quit being the maid- the one who cleans, preps, sweeps, stuffs, packs, checks on, and keeps the house moving (think Alice from the Brady Bunch!), you’ll be able to do this:

  • have coffee in bed while the kids get themselves out the door, leaving you more mental space for what matters
  • chat casually (and stay emotionally available) while your six year old unloads the dishes
  • not sweat when guests come over because the kids know what to do (if they haven’t done it yet, you won’t feel guilty!)
  • encourage the kids to find solutions vs. YOU finding all the solutions (and running in circles to keep people happy)
  • celebrate the progress as your kids gain independence and confidence with each task
  • see connections to the contributions IN the family to their success OUTSIDE the family
  • notice resiliency, respect and responsibility grow as you remain consistent, calm and cool about quitting!

Remind Me Why I Should Do This Again

Happily. Here’s the situation: parents who over protect and pad their children from hard work, consequences, the judgement of others, and physical bumps and bruises are ultimately interfering with their child’s independence. I’m not making this up: the books, articles and research on this fact is astounding– and it’s everywhere. We have to…HAVE TO get “new thinking” about what it means to raise our children as a society!

If these children are to be future leaders, sheep howdy, they should learn to wash their socks, clean their own toilets and own their own messes. If they don’t get the gift of trial and error, oopsies and what ifs while they are young, the real world – you know the one WE live in– will not be a very welcoming place. It will be a harsh reality check, and quite frankly, any child who has not developed resiliency, independence and personal judgment, will not enjoy the experience very much. Our job is to get them prepared for the world, not protect them from the world until the day we throw them into it!

How to End Overparenting

overparentingI recently read somewhere that today’s parents are, on the whole, guilty of hovering and acting obsessive, neurotic and all-consuming when it comes to their jobs as parents. I think that about sums it up.

The term used to describe this is “Overparenting,” and I think many parents would agree that they are guilty of this. When did it become popular for parenting to be a constant vigil of scrutinizing every detail of their children’s lives? It’s just crazy, if you ask me. So, what could one do if, say, he or she were guilty of this overparenting thing?

It’s easy: just back away. Ok, I think it’s easy, but I know that when you’ve inadvertently made your job as a parent stressful and demanding, it can be hard to just turn away. So, here is one place and one thing you can do to start the process of turning your children’s lives back over to them: Introduce—Problem Solving.

For those of you familiar with the Parenting On Track™ Program, you know all about Problem Solving and its place at the weekly Family Meeting. For those of you who don’t, here is a quick and dirty lesson (the long version can be found in Ch. 9 of the Parenting On Track™ Home Program).

Problem Solving is meant to be a tool for your children to use in learning how to become competent problem solvers, thus removing you (or your spouse) as a participant in their daily quarrels. If used regularly, Problem Solving will encourage your children to look for solutions, instead of fighting, and find the courage to follow through on agreements, instead of tattling or getting mad.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Children have a problem; they write it on the board. (Key here is that they describe the problem in one sentence—no-name, no-blame. That one skill, in and of itself, is worth a six-figure income.)
  2. At the meeting, one problem is picked and discussed, and then a solution agreed upon—by consensus. No majority rule here.
  3. The solution is tried for one week, with a discussion on how it went at the following Family Meeting.

Easy! All that matters is that you are no longer the referee of your children’s fights. The children discuss all aspects of their problem; all the children help come up with solutions, participate in choosing one to try, and then agree to use it during the week. In the end, you will have given your children power over their lives and allowed them to figure out what works best for them.

It’s not too late. Start today by adding Problem Solving to your weekly Family Meeting, and you can let go of some of the stress and control you’ve felt you needed to exercise over your children’s lives. Won’t it feel great to know that as you let go of controlling your children, your children are learning self-control? That sounds like heaven to me!

Homework Hell-p

home work police, helpIn regards to Homework Hell-p!

I read a blog post not long ago by the mother of a 2nd grader who needed some guidance on how to help her child with homework. Without rehashing the entire blog post, here’s the gist of it. Her daughter had an assignment to do, and twiddled her thumbs for hours until mom started breathing down her neck; mom is now afraid that the child will flunk out of college and never learn a thing unless she continues to be the homework police, and, well, forget about dinner!

At the end of her article, this mom still didn’t have a strategy for how to deal with the homework issue. What she did have was a gut feeling that if she didn’t come up with a strategy for both her and her daughter, it could be a long 10 years.

First off, if this mom is anything like the parents who show up at a class I teach, she just might have a belief that children who dawdle while doing their homework will fail in school, won’t get into college, won’t get a good job and will lead a less than successful life. I know, it’s a little over the top, but these “beliefs” that we have can wreak havoc on us and on our kids’ lives.

If you are one of these parents who have strong beliefs about homework, take a step back and remember that this child (or yours) is in second grade and working on the first big homework assignment of her life. Of course she is dawdling—she doesn’t really know what is expected of her yet!

Second, if mom wants to become the homework police—and stay the homework police for the remainder of this child’s academic career—then she did the right thing by breathing down her neck. And she better get good at it because she has at least another eleven years of poking and prodding to do.

Ah, you hadn’t considered this, had you? That’s one of the pickles parents get themselves into. They create a habit, or a short-term solution to a long-term challenge, and find themselves doing things for years that started out as a “one time only” proposition.

What could she (or you) do if she doesn’t want to be the homework police and has better things to do than micromanage her daughter’s life? She could do—are you ready?—nothing. Yup, that’s right—nothing. At least for a while. At least until she begins to understand more about how her daughter views homework.

This little second grader is never going to learn how to manage her time or how she best gets things done without figuring that out herself. Our kids don’t learn time management because we tell them which assignment to do, when to do it and how it should be done. They learn by not turning in an assignment, dealing with the aftermath and then coming up with a plan so that it never happens again. (Okay, if it never happens again at 45, you can consider yourself a success.)

My recommendation to this mom? Relax! Your daughter is only in second grade and has a long time to figure out how to manage her time to get everything done. Let her dawdle and doodle, and let her get a C or an F on the assignment. You can be sure that learning is taking place and, after all, isn’t that what school is for? Instead of standing over her shoulder, you will be free to… do what you like, including having the resources to be happy, friendly and available for your children if they happen to experience disappointment as they learn.