All posts tagged Keep It In Perspective

Your Kids WILL See Porn

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

trust child

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

Sex and porn

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

Overcome your fears and release the judgement

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

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

Get Educated

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

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

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

Talk to friends and create a support system

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

Jump in and try it

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

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

#growingagrownup

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

For Auld Lang Syne

SnowflakesI hear those sleigh bells ringing… It’s that time of year again and everyone here would like to extend to all of you our best wishes for a happy holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, this month is sure to be filled with parties, excitement, presents and, truth be told, stress!

During these trying times, It’s easy to overlook the very thing that we are supposed to be celebrating – our relationships with family. It’s easy to be short-tempered when your To-Do List requires more hours in the day than you have or your kids are bouncing off the walls from excitement or sugar.

Whatever the case try to remember a few simple tips:

  • Be easy on yourself and your kids.
  • Don’t worry if each moment isn’t picture perfect.
  • Don’t worry if those cookies didn’t get made because you preferred to listen quietly by the fire to the snow falling with your little one (or big one) curled up next to you.

So whether you’re riding in a wonderland of snow, or drinking a cup of kindness, we hope you all enjoy this holiday season and wish you all the best in the New Year.

~Vicki

What’s the Trouble with Kids Swearing?


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

I was inspired to share my thoughts on this topic.

excited-kidw explative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Think, Look, Plan- Then DO

A parent wrote in the following scenario:

Vicki HoefleDuring a casual dinner, a neighbor’s daughter got up from the table and my friend said, “sit down we are not finished yet.” The little girl proceeded to walk away and come back with a yogurt smoothie and my girl friend said, “Do not drink that or you will be in trouble.” The little girl proceeded to turn the smoothie over and dump it on the floor. (She is almost 4.) My friend then grabbed her and put her in a time out. I thought, HMMM…I know that didn’t seem to go well –what would YOU DO?

-Perplexed Spectator Parent

Vicki Hoefle: Hi, Great question! As a Duct Tape Parent, I follow a LOGICAL, SOLVE-ALL PROCESS (one you can too!) that leads me to this answer:

I always: think, look, plan- then DO.

THINK

It’s important to stop and think: parenting problems are not really problems, they are SYMPTOMS of either a fractured relationship or a lack of training or both.

 

So, in this case these are the symptoms: girl shows complete disregard for mom by walking away, dumps yogurt, doesn’t listen to mom, won’t stay in her seat and shows a lack of respect for both herself and her mom.

Then, I’d walk through a couple questions- what is my reaction? What is the goal of the behavior?

In this case, mom gets pissed, and asserts her power by saying NO. She tries to win. Her clever and powerful daughter pushes back and eventually mom takes the child to time out. She may have quick fixed it with a “bandaid” but it sure didn’t heal the underlying “bulletwound” – which is a combination of relationship and training problems.

Hint: because mom is emotionally charged and angry, there is evidence of relationship stress and because the child carelessly makes a mess and is physically moving around, there is evidence of a training problem.

LOOK

Look at the relationship. How close am I to my 4 year old right now? I’ve been annoyed at her lately and  a little checked out.
Look at the training. She didn’t understand the proper way to stay seated or clean up a mess.
Look at the behavior. Ok, she’s engaging me in a power struggle so the goal of her behavior is power – not to take mine- but have her own. For more on identifying the Mistaken Goals of Behavior, click here.

PLAN

Once the entire situation has been put into perspective, I’d plan to work on the relationship and training the child.

Relationship Plan– (Mom and daughter are definitely in a classic power struggle so here are my recommendations)

  • Invite the child to participate vs. shutting her down and making more conflict.
  • Invite her to make decisions with me- which drinks do you think are ok to have at dinner? Peach smoothie or milk?
  •  I’d also increase the respect I show toward her preferences, since her pure disrespect is reflecting something important: the mutual respect is running low- on both ends.

Training Plan: (Obviously, if the child knew what a pain it is to clean the smoothie, she wouldn’t have thought it was a good idea to chuck it on the ground.)

  • Before showing her how to CLEAN the mess up, show her how to master some simple kitchen tasks. The more included she feels and the more confidence she will have around cooking and cleaning.
  • Begin to train her in self skills, picking out her own clothes, getting dressed, setting the table, etc. When children feel competent, they work WITH their parents, not against them.
  • Plan to do the training when you and your child are both relaxed and in a cooperative mood.

DO

After I’ve thought about the relationship / training problem, looked at the realities, and made a plan, I’d DO THIS:

  • Refrain from quick-fix responses to her behavior. (No bandaids on bulletwounds)
  • Take time to implement the relationship plan. (Invest in the relationship)
  • Practice dinner routines, but NOT during dinner. (Take time for training)
  • Be patient and celebrate success. (Focus on what I want more of)
  • Train to clean up her own spills. (Quit being the maid)
  • Encourage her to participate authentically in family dinner. (Prepare her for departure)

So, there you have it folks- as you can see, this process can work with any behavior challenge you face! Duct Tape Parents refrain- they think, look, plan and then DO. They have learned to stop before slapping a bandaid on a bulletwound or disciplining a kid who hasn’t been trained properly. Duct Tape Parents put the relationship first (fix that, worry about spilled smoothie second). YOU have this in your mind so have courage to think this way when it starts to slide into the rabbit hole. 🙂

 

Laughter is the Best Medicine

The transition between summer and school is almost complete.

The rhythms and routines that help define an organized, pleasant and stress free morning are nearly in place.

The afternoon drive to and from practice with the appropriate snacks and gear is feeling less rushed and frenzied.

Papers from school find their way from the backpack to the kitchen counter and homework is becoming a nightly ritual that will last through the year.

Bedtimes are being sorted out and kids are climbing under cool covers with heavy eyes and happy hearts.

For those of you who haven’t yet arrived at this seeming paradise, perhaps the video below (click on the link) will help bring a smile to your face until you do, finally, exit the summer to school transitional hell.

Laughter

Life Happens. Keep on Trucking!

This blog post was re-posted with the permission of the author…an amazing, sassy, courageous, incredible, beautiful mom of…3 boys.

She sums up her Parenting On Track™ experience below. If you enjoy this post, I encourage you to go to her blog and read about her journey.

Her stories are hilarious (and inspiring)!! I had to stop reading, lest I get no work accomplished today. If you don’t have time to read, just look at the pictures and watch the youtube videos…sure to brighten your day!

Here Goes!

I recently read a great blog post that said trust your intuition because kids don’t come with parenting manuals. I agree, there’s no instructional booklet, insurance or map that show the “best” way get from A to B (by A to B, I mean baby to 18!). That’s why, normally, I would feel a bit more distressed about how life with kids is currently unfolding. I won’t go into details but you can imagine the issues EVERYONE is facing- one way or another. From financial stress to swine flu fears, parents can easily become derailed and overwhelmed with nostalgia for their fleeting “golden age” of parenting (or the “well-laid plans” before life took over).

I speak for myself when I say, dang, I started off on a MUCH more focused, purposeful path . Then, after three kids, two houses and another big move, I felt everything I identified with as a parent sort of slipped and I just kind of began existing. I went from proactive to reactive, without even noticing. I’m sure you’ve had that feeling when it hits you like, “huh, I sure didn’t plan for this.” My kids calling me butthead, was one of those moments.

Just a few months ago, I was looking at an early midlife crisis, a mombod and three unruly boys. Thankfully, now, despite the slip-ups, I understand more about MY family and I see those three rowdy fellows quite differently than three months ago (the mombod? not so much).

However, as I wrap the Parenting On Track™ Home Program , I’ll admit three things:

1. I watched EVERY DVD, and literally, LOL’d, alot.

2. I fell off the wagon a couple times (including missing a couple family meetings because I couldn’t get to the ATM-oops)

3. I truly learned some VALUABLE knowledge about raising kids, MY KIDS.

Truth be told, it took me 14 weeks to get through due to vacation week and unexpected suburban drama. So here I am, looking back at where I started, at do nothing say nothing. I took the time to reflect and make small changes.

Am I perfect? No, (hell no, is more like it), but I realize that the tools I need to raise the kids I want DO exist within ME. Did I really commit to the values I laid out 8 weeks ago? Yes, and NO- because you can’t just overhaul everything at once. So, now I can go back and revisit what I’ve learned and focus on the GOALS I set for my family. The best part- they like the goals! It IS NOT like, (as Vicki says in one of the lessons) “Ok kids, there’s a new sheriff in town!” It’s more like, “hey guess what guys, I like you and you like it when things run smoother around here.” And they do!

The best part is that the course is a framework for reference forever. I see this as being one of the best chances that I can get my family into positive changes when things have gotten, well, shitty. ☺ (NOTE: that’s just mud but it did the trick didn’t it?)

It literally is a roadmap for success. I am going to use it. I will tell any parent anywhere that not only is the program stellar, but the community driving the philosophy—from the founder, Vicki Hoefle (who I have gotten to know over the past few weeks) to the team of parents coordinating workshops and conferences, classes and everything. I’m SO glad I found the Parenting on Track experience.

NOTE TO SELF: I think I realized that I don’t care if my kids call me butthead. If I REACT like I care, well, then, it simply feeds a weed I don’t care to water. Next…

Passing up Personal Prestige

This blog post is reprinted with permission from the author, an amazing, committed, passionate, flexible, creative mother, wife, sister and friend.

For more inspirational posts, visit http://flockmother.wordpress.com/


Some people will think I’m a bad mom.

There it is. That jagged little pill. I still haven’t completely choked it down. It gives me that little pit in my stomach when I force myself to do what’s best for my kids … even in public.

“Does she have a backpack?” asked the driver of the van that Charlotte takes to camp each morning.

I knew it was still in our car that was parked about 10 yards away.

“Yes. In the car,” I said. He stared at me.

“Is she going to have it by the time I drive away?” he asked, eyebrows raised.

“I don’t know,” I said as we watched Charlotte settle in to the back seat without her backpack. I smiled uncomfortably and said, “We like to say, ‘If you don’t want to do it forever, don’t do it once!’”

“Okaaay….” he said, eyebrows still raised in disbelief.

My stomach tightened slightly as we stood in silence. Ten seconds passed and then we watched as Charlotte calmly unfastened her seat belt, hopped out of the van, and ran to the car to get her backpack.

Yes, some people will think I’m a bad mom. But what’s more important, what they think? Or this:

Read some comments below:

    Great one! Thank you for including the quote, “If you don’t want to do if forever, don’t do it once.”

    Hey, we’re all getting more comfortable with sitting in uncomfortable spots with this stuff…and somehow it always pays off. Kudos to you for this one, love the idea that your trust in your kids and their ability to handle things is not willing to be rocked by other people’s preconceptions.

    Reply from Flockmother: Yes, each time it gets a little easier to ignore the skeptics. Sometimes I still have to consciously control the self-talk in my head. This time it was, “Either she’ll remember on her own, or she’ll find a way to get through her day without it. Either way, I trust that she’ll be fine, and what this guy here thinks of that just … doesn’t … matter.”

    That and shoving my hands in my pockets and pursing my lips shut helps too.

Celebrate your Mistakes!

Is there a moment that defines the power and necessity of celebrating “a willingness to participate in life” vs. a positive outcome? Yes. there is.

Shopping Trip to Hell

The day before school started, in the heat of the day, I took 5 children to the grocery store; 4 biological kids and a friend’s child who was staying with us for the day.

At the end of the trip, the youngest (6) pulled out her money and picked out a candy bar to purchase. Her older sister (9) noticed the sign that said buy one, get 2 free. Hmmm? The 9 year old did a quick calculation- that’s 3 candy bars for the price of one – and quickly & earnestly suggested that she and her older sister (age 12) be the recipients of the 2 additional candy bars. But wait — the 9 year old suddenly realizes that there weren’t enough free candy bars for the friend. Not to worry, it’s just a problem that needs a solution – right? So, she asks the 6 year old to buy another candy bar, after all they are just a buck and her sister appears loaded with ones – thus making sure everyone got a candy bar with 2 left over for good measure.

I Don’t Think So…

Unfortunately, the 6 year old didn’t see it quite this way. Instead of agreeing, she took a stand … nope, not gonna’ happen, really only wanted to spend money on one candy bar for herself. Her sisters getting candy was just a side benefit…she dug in her heels and innocently inquired why the friend did not have his own money to buy his own candy bar?

“C’mon! Please!” and the begging began. The 9 year old was even willing to PAY the $1 for the extra candy bar when we got home… but the 6 year old was not budging and proceeded through the line to buy her 3 candy bars. The 9 year old continued with the pleading and begging, which only served to inflame her younger sister until finally, the 6 year old reverted to – wait for it – punching and scratching the 9 year old. Lovely right?

Stop Looking at Me, I’ll Handle it!

At this point, people began to stare and look a bit concerned. And then it happened – I was stung; stung by the bug called, personal prestige. The transaction at the register was completed, I walked outside and in an emotionally charged state…took the candy from the child who was hitting and threw all 3 candy bars in the trash. Done. End of story. I know, very mature of me.

In my irrational and embarrassed state – I justified my actions by convincing myself in the moment, that

“A child who hits to solve a problem, does not deserve candy.”

The Fight for Justice Ensues!

As soon as the candy was confiscated and tossed, the 9 year old – recipient of the punching, defender of fairness and sharing – turned to me and protested whole-heartedly that I “could not do that because the candy did not belong to me. I did not buy that candy and did not have the right to throw it out” and the screaming fit ensued.

I kept walking until we reached the car. I climbed in and let the older 2 kids unload the grocery bags. I managed to keep my mouth shut, although I was seething inside, not so much about the hitting, as that wasn’t directed at me, but at the dressing down I had taken, in public by my 9 year old, and drove home in silence. I shudder to think of all the nasty thoughts I had during the ride home.

Celebrate the Dragon Lady?

Yes, I screwed up. Because of the Parenting On Track™ program I knew it. Because of the program, I knew not to look for a discipline strategy right in that moment.

Because of the program I knew I had “mistaken beliefs” and they had been activated. Because of the program, I had the self-restraint to keep my mouth shut on the drive home.

Because of the program, I knew how to apologize to my children. Because of the program, in the 15 minutes it took to get home, I had a genuine, sincere, heart-felt appreciation for the 9 year old whose tantrum received the brunt of my negative thoughts, feelings and energy.

A Miraculous Perspective

“E, I am sorry. I am sorry for getting involved. I am sorry that I did not show you that I trusted the two of you to handle things. I am sorry that I did not keep my focus on your younger sister and encourage the rest of you to leave the store and go to the car.”

“Do you want to know what I KNOW to be true about who you are on the planet? I know that you are the most loyal sister in the world. I know that no matter what, you will stand up for your sister until the end. I know that you are concerned with justice and fairness and no matter what it takes you will do what it takes to fight for what you believe is right. Thank you.”

Yes, I said all of that and I meant every word of it. And all it took was a mere 15 minutes to shift from blame, anger and revenge, to respect, appreciation and love – for myself and for my children.

The trip to the grocery store ended in a big fat hug and a greater awareness of myself and my daughter. A reason to celebrate – ABSOLUTELY!

What? You let her GET AWAY with it?

“Now what?” “Isn’t there a consequence for hitting?” “How does your daughter know it’s not ok to throw a temper tantrum in the store?” “You just can’t let her get away with that.” “You are the parent. YOU are in control.” “Some things are just not OK.” “Why didn’t you just loan her the money?”

I know the questions. I know the statements. I have heard them all and even have my own set of voices yelling at me from inside my head.

Be – Do – Have

I will follow up with all of my children when I am not vibrating with emotion, and I can trust myself to be reasonable, respectful and loving.

I will focus on what I can do differently the next time, and answer the question:

“What will it take for E(9) and J(6) to find their voices AND treat others with compassion, empathy, and respect?”

This question will not be answered in a trip to the grocery store, in a response to hitting that demonstrates (adult) power- over another human (child). It will be answered in small steps, individual moments every day that invite my children into the process of living, making decisions, experiencing the outcomes and moving forward.

We will have 25 more episodes in the grocery store, I am sure of that. And if every time I commit to working toward enhancing the relationship I have with my children, encouraging their budding independence and maintaining self-respect, I have reason to celebrate.

From Frog Collecting to Number Crunching

Along with buying new pencils and notebooks, “back to school” also means a return to routines, alarm clocks, and the responsibilities that many of our children left behind with the last bell in June. There are all kinds of systems families can use, and Parenting On Track is about progress, change, and the long-term goal of encouraging independence and self-reliance in our children.

Here is my “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?” Work with your kids to 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 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 childrens’ 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.

Navigating Summer Expectations

expectSummer is when we have to step into new thinking and challenge ourselves to create realistic expectations that take into account our own unique style, as well as our children’s.

We train ourselves not to “compare”, but instead to view our children as individuals who have a particular temperament and rhythm, that when tapped into, makes parenting much more enjoyable.

Summer seems to be a particularly difficult time for many parents, and here is where a strong sense of what’s reasonable and what isn’t helps us navigate our way through some tough decisions.

    • Can you reasonably expect your child to mimic that amazing behavior they demonstrate at home when they are on vacation for a week?
    • Can you reasonably expect your child to mimic the same structure and routine found during the school year, during the lazy days of summer?
    • Can you reasonably expect your child to continue with their daily contributions when the morning runs into the afternoon with no distinction between the two?
    • Can you reasonably expect mealtimes to occur on a regular basis, attended by all family members?
    • Can you reasonably monitor how much time your kids spend plugged into some form of technology (including the cell phone)?
    • Can you reasonably expect your child to “get busy” on their summer reading list as if the assignment was due on Friday when in fact it isn’t due for 2 months?
    • Can you reasonably expect your child to sleep at your home 6 nights out of 7 when saying “it’s a school night” isn’t an option?
    • Is it reasonable to expect your child to talk as openly and as often with you as they did last year?
    • Is it reasonable for a child to “just hang this summer” before they get a job, even if they are already 16?
  • Is it reasonable for a new college graduate to know exactly what they will be doing with their life simply because they received another diploma?

The truth is, we all have expectations. And most of our expectations are built on the dreams we have of what life “could” look like, if our kids followed the well thought out plans of their parents. But as we all come to realize (some earlier than others) is, that kids are “creating” their lives as they go along. For them, there is no grand scheme of things. There is today. And sometimes the expectations they have for themselves and of the world, are more relevant and realistic than their parents.

This summer, take some time to re-establish a clear set of expectations for yourself. Leave your kids alone for a few weeks or months and concentrate instead on you. Challenge some basic assumptions you have about kids, the world, work, love, technology, education, faith, friendship, sexuality. Challenge the idea that all you want is “what’s best for your kids” and how that seemingly simple line can wreak havoc on a budding and fragile adolescent personality. Challenge yourself to decide for yourself what expectations need a bit of updating, which ones need a solid kick out the door, and which ones support both a beautiful relationship with your child and their ability to grow into confident and independent people.

Here is my one, over arching expectation for myself, which as it turns out, has been communicated clearly enough to my kids, that the think it’s the same for them – which maybe isn’t such a bad thing

My expectation is this:

That I show up in my own life with a willingness to do whatever it takes to make the most out of each encounter and each opportunity presented to me, so that at the end of the day, I can safely say – this was a day well lived.

Mind Blowing Reflections

Graduation season is behind us. Maybe you attended Kindergarten Step-Up Day or a college graduation or maybe something in-between.

We had our own graduation celebration here in East Middlebury this past weekend. My middle child graduated from High School and will head out on her own come September. Graduation is always a time for me to reflect on the child who will soon be flying solo.

Here are a few reflections as they pertain to the Parenting On Track™ Program (because as I mentioned in the last post – YES, I do use the program and here’s how:)

1. Do Nothing – Say Nothing: This remains my secret weapon of choice. Here’s why. My kids change. They change all the damn time. I tend to change less often as I get older, so it is up to me to find ways to change along with my kids. The only sure fire way I know to do that – is to shut-up and watch for 7 days. I do this on a regular basis. In fact, I do it at least 2 times each year, sometimes more, if I know a particular child is going through a major growth spurt. As a result of shutting-up, observing and learning, I am able to parent each child in a way that supports their unique personality and perspective. This in turn, builds a deep and lasting relationship that can stand the ups and down that every relationship is bound to experience. In this particular child’s case, I have learned: she is extremely loyal, independent, funny, easily embarrassed, hates making mistakes, loves children and people over the age of 92. This is helpful information if I am to stay close to her as she ventures further and further from home.

2. Buttons: As I have said repeatedly, this one strategy alone is like holding the key to a locked door that hides treasures more valuable than gold. Whenever I start acting crazy, I know my kids have accidentally stumbled upon one of my activating events, a mistaken belief, a “BUTTON!” Listen, I can not begin to calculate how many hours of misunderstanding, fights and power struggles I have avoided because of this one simple, easy to use concept along with a strategy that literally takes 5 minutes to put into place.

3. Timeline for Training: You can’t raise kids who have the ability at 18 to make all the necessary arrangements for living abroad for another year, defer from college for a year AND maintain their scholarship money, if you don’t start by asking them to unload the dishwasher every single day before they leave for school and every evening before they jump on the computer. It just won’t happen folks.

You can’t raise kids who trust themselves, feel confident making decisions, are willing to take chances, rebound from blunders without missing a step, and have a realistic view of themselves and the world they live in, if you haven’t invited them to participate in their own lives EVEN when it was easier to manage their lives for them.

The Timeline for Training is a concept, when understood and used regularly, empowers the entire family and creates a kind of kinship and comradery that translates well beyond daily contributions.

4. 4 Mistaken Goals of Behavior: Here is what I know: our kids have a certain solution that they adopted around the age of 3, 4 or 5. This solution has now become their biggest and most reliable problem. The good news is, once you know what that problem is, you can provide a support system to your kids that is free from judgment and disappointment. It is liberating.

It is not uncommon for me to pour myself a cup of tea and wait patiently for my child to hit up against the same obstacle she has been hitting up against for 12 years. I am ready, with kindness, compassion and empathy. I am in no rush to give her the answer or try to make life easier for her. On the contrary, I am there to provide a sounding board for her, because I know, there will be a moment in her life, when she realizes that the problem she faced when she was 7, is the problem she is facing at 27 and suddenly, the answer is there, waiting for her. And at that moment, my kid will realize that I was there, beside her, trusting her to figure it out when she was ready and she will know how deep my love and respect is for her.

5. All of the “Invest in the Best” strategies have provided me years of pleasure as a mom. They are the tools I use to build strong, healthy, loving, accepting, respectful relationship with not only my kids, but anyone else who is important to me in my life. When the relationship we have with our kids is solid, there is little need for discipline strategies. I don’t care what anyone else tells you, come talk to my five kids and they will tell you that “punishments and consequences” just weren’t part of their childhood experience – and yet, there was order in our lives and there were clear expectations and there was restitution and there were thousands of solutions.

My husband I decided to invest heavily on the relationship we were building with each child, knowing that it would take years for us to experience the payoffs. And let me say right now, that having kids who truly like, care and respect you as a parent and a person is a payoff worth waiting for.

6. The “Tools of Necessity” became my teeny, tiny, secret weapon. I became a master at utilizing these tools when I felt us sliding down the Slippery Slope towards the Rabbit Hole. These common sense strategies saved my ass more times than I care to share AND the best part is my kids began using them as a way to support the family when we all seemed to be stuck or struggling. It is truly amazing to listen to teenagers who care so deeply about their family’s emotional health, that they will use the “distraction” strategy to break the tension even if it means looking like a complete idiot in the process.

7. Over the years, we have found ways to celebrate our lives together as a family that can only describe as “mind blowing”. From simple gatherings around lit candles where appreciations we given and received, to major trips anchoring a storm weathered that brought every member of the family closer together.

As my oldest daughter likes to say –

“We have a “way” of being together that draws people towards us. We have a “way” of being together that tells a special story about who we are to each other.

And she is right, we do. And that is because we worked at it.

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.

Kids Have Perfect Solutions

Okay, so here is a perfect example of how smart and quick kids are.

Kathy takes her 3 kids to the kiddie pool during her recent stay in Florida. Zack, a new walker, tries to follow his sisters into the center of the pool.

Unfortunately for Zack, he has only been on his feet for a few short weeks (still wobbly), the bottom of his little shoes are slippery and the kiddie pool has a decidedly deceptive slope “down” to the center.

Zack enters the pool to follow said sisters. His feet come out from under him and SMASH. Down on his ass he goes knocking his head on the bottom of the pool.

Mom walks over to the child on his ass. She didn’t run. She didn’t scream. She didn’t grab him up. Why? Because she knows her kid. The other parents in attendance jumped up to “assist” Zack, but Kathy used non-verbal tools to get all the busy bodies to sit down and mind their own business.

She holds Zack by the hand, lifts him up, puts him on his feet at the edge of the pool and sits back down.

Zack takes a few steps towards the center of the pool and SMACK. Down he goes again.

This happens approximately 6 times. No tears. Frustration to be sure, but Kathy is quickly by his side, Quick hug, quick smooch and off he goes again.

Until suddenly, left on his own to figure this problem out, this smart, clever, creative, determined young 14 month old figures out that he has to sit on his ass and scoot towards the center of the kiddie pool.

For the next 2 weeks, remembering what he learned all on his own, Zack enjoys the pool. In fact, he practiced every time they went to the pool and inevitably, some parent would approach Kathy and comment on how clever Zack was for scooting into the pool and asked her “so how long did it take you to teach him that?” To which she promptly broke out in gut busting laughter.

I asked her why the gut busting laughter – her reply “Can you just see me sitting MY ass down in the pee filled kiddie pool and teaching my kid to scoot down to the center? No way that was gonna happen.”

Here is what she knows, what I know and what the parents of the Parenting On Track family know:

Kids are their own best teachers and when parents provide opportunities to practice, well, kids find their own perfect solutions.

Way to go Zack!

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.

Applauding Praise? Consider the Danger!

The emails started coming in as soon as the article hit the internet. Along with the link came personal messages ranging from mild frustration to complete outrage.

It took me several hours to finally get to the article in the Burlington Free Press. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t that surprised by most of what I read. Oh, I was upset to be sure, but not surprised. I’ve read 1000’s of articles just like this one in the 20 years I have been teaching.

I did do a bit of research on PBS and I suspect that there is more to this program than what was reported in this article.

The part of this article I found profoundly disturbing was this –

“The approach is succeeding for many reasons, starting perhaps, with human nature. “I think children really in their hearts want to please adults,” Knopf said. “They want to know that they are doing a good job, they want to be recognized when they are doing a good job.”

I could not imagine why an entire school would institute a program that left children at greater risk of being manipulated and exploited by predators all for the sake of “less discipline problems”.

As the mother of 5, I can not imagine anything more dangerous than for an entire school to be training children how to “please adults”. I don’t know any child who can distinguish the adults who have the child’s best interest at heart and the adults who view children as prey.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • If this system works for the teachers in the classroom, would it not work equally as well for the predators within the school?
  • What will happen to these kids who have been indoctrinated with this system when they step into the real world?
  • Does the school think that at some point the kids will understand that no one else will praise, compliment or reward them for doing what is expected of them and that really this was a trick, to “get” kids to behave?
  • Will these kids be trained to demand rewards each time they do as they are told, or follow the rules? At what point is this school going to adequately prepare these children for the real world – or isn’t that their job?

I shudder to think of all the ramifications of this program. In light of all the research based studies suggesting that praise is a danger to children on so many levels, it seems irresponsible, at best, for this school to be instituting something that is clearly a “quick-fix” strategy and is motivated, so it seems, by numbers instead of real lives.

In my Parenting On Track™ program we outline the dangers of Praise and offer a more substantial, long-term, fulfilling way to acknowledge children’s strengths and character traits. Encouragement helps children develop self-confidence, self-esteem and a clear understanding of who they are in the world and what choices they can make to support who they “be”, not who someone wants them to “be”.

Watch Video Sample from Chapter 7 of my Parenting On Track™ program.

For more information about the dangers of praise:

How Not to Talk to Your Kids, By Po Bronson

Punished By Rewards, Alfie Kohn

Five Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job, Alfie Kohn

For more information about my Parenting On Track™ program that teaches you how to help your child develop a strong sense of self and supports you as you identify what it will take for YOUR child to be encouraged and to participate in life, visit: http://www.parentingontrack.com/program/details.

End the Day Your Way!

End of DaySo why is it that some parts of the day seem to go fine, while other times just fall apart? And they don’t just fall apart once – they fall apart day after day after day. If this sounds familiar, chances are there is a routine in your day that requires a bit of tweaking.

Many of us overlook the fact that each separate part of our daily lives requires its own routine. If you think about it, it makes sense. Each part of the day has its own rhythms and activities – afternoons are for sports, activities, homework and dinner preparation; meanwhile, after dinner is a time for homework, relaxing, and preparing for bed.

In order to make these routines as efficient as possible, it is most effective to design them around your children’s natural rhythms. All children have their own unique rhythm, and they will thrive when their day is focused on order, regularity and rhythms that keep in time with them.

Finding the right rhythm may take some time. Here are some ideas to get you going,

  • Identify what you want your after school and evening routines to look and feel like.
  • Identify what you do now that works, and what isn’t working.
  • Identify what your kids can do for themselves and what you would like them to be able to do.
  • Develop a plan for your routine that takes into account your child’s needs, leaves room for their growth, as well as a little flexibility for the unexpected and try it out.

You won’t know if a routine will work for your family until you try it out. Worst case, it isn’t quite right and you have some tweaking to do. The best case is a calm, connected family that navigates sports, activities, homework, dinner and bedtime with ease.

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