All posts tagged New Perspectives

End of the Praise-Junkie

praise v encourage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The P word.

This is the time of year, as high school seniors receive letters from colleges, as our elementary school athletes finish up their winter sports seasons and begin training for the spring festivities, or our students win recognition in the form of scholarships and awards. When our kids accomplish something, it can be easy to tell them how proud we are of them or share with our friends how proud we are of our children’s latest achievements. I know this makes sense to us. Our kids do great things and we want them to know how we feel, and how happy we are for them. In some cases we want our neighbors or relatives to know how great our children are (in turn) how great we are as parents and that we have raised such marvelous wonders.

The reason we boast and praise our children is not nearly as important as the answer to this question. What do you say to your child when she misses the mark? What do you say when he falls a bit short? What do you say when she fails or gets rejected?

“Oh, that’s ok, honey, you were accepted to the other two colleges.” Or you may say, “Don’t cry, I know you tried.” Do you ever tell your child, “You dropped the ball in center-field, I am so proud of you.” No.

Children interpret this attempt to make them feel better, as a lack of pride in them, as they are right now (warts, mistakes, foul-ups, rejections and all.) And since you are not proud of them, they can often interpret this as disappointment.

Vicki with Zoe

Here is an example and a conversation to illustrate.

On Friday, my daughter received her acceptance letter from Columbia University in New York. After hours and hours of research to find a program in her field of interest, she applied to graduate school a few months earlier. She was elated and couldn’t wait to share the news with us. My husband and I were on the phone with her when she opened the letter. Zoe and my husband screamed and shouted and hooted and hollered. When everyone settled down, the following conversation ensued:

Zoe: So mom, are you proud of me?

Me: Zoe, I am so happy that you got into the program you wanted and I am impressed with how hard you worked for 4 years to make this dream come true. I
am inspired to work hard for my own dreams and I am thrilled that you will be living in New York.

Zoe: Mom, come on, say it – say you are proud of me.

Iain: I am proud of you Zoe.

Zoe: I know, but I want to hear Mom say it. She never uses the “P” word. She is the only mom I know who is more comfortable dropping the “f” bomb than using the “P” word.

Me: I’m sorry Zoe, but if I tell you I am proud of you now, the next time something like this happens and say you don’t get in, you might think I am disappointed in you, and that just wouldn’t be true. See, the thing is, if a parent says they are proud, then that leaves room for a parent to be disappointed and I can assure you Zoe, that I am never, ever, disappointed in you. The best I can give you my darling is this – perhaps on my death bed, as I am saying goodbye, I will look at you and say – I am proud to be your mother.

She fell silent. I heard her take a big gulp of air and she closed our conversation.

Zoe: I love you and I am proud of me and I couldn’t have done it without all the faith and support and love that I got from you and pops.
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Consider your words carefully and consider the message those words carry with them when delivered on young ears with impressionable minds.

Siblings Part 3: Tips To Bring More Joy

stop the fighting

Watching your kids play nicely together, hearing a shared giggle, watching a potential fight averted, because of some savvy negotiating between your 6 and 8 year old is just about every parent’s idea of a dream come true. But raising kids who truly enjoy each other is a process that takes years. It’s important that parents recognize that building on small moments, bringing a child’s awareness to the moments that “work” with a sometimes pesky sibling, providing situations in which kids can practice solving problems around play, will go a long way in creating sibling relationships that will stay strong and loving for years to come.

Personally, I made the decision when my kids were young, that if I could choose between kids who got along between 2 – 18 and kids who were close from 18 to 80, my choice would be the later. One of the major trip ups for parents around kids getting along when they are young, is the belief that we parents are responsible for those relationships. Maybe if we did more of one thing or less of another, we could guarantee our kids would be each other’s best friends for life – pinky swear. But nothing could be further from the truth. Take a page from your adult experience and trust that by following these easy but powerful 10 tips, you will indeed raise kids who truly enjoy each other’s company more with each passing year. And yes, you will witness this before they leave home.

appreciate

1. Appreciations: Just like suggesting to someone who has a head ache that they drink water, before they run to the doctor for an MRI, using appreciations as a way to combat sibling squabbles is often overlooked because of it’s simplicity. But as a mom who raised 5 kids in a blended family dynamic, this was the key to my kids not only enjoying life together under one roof, but the reason the 5 of them are still as thick as thieves as young adults.

2. Adler’s Golden Rule: “ I use Adler’s “see with their eyes, hear with their ears and feel with their heart” to help my children understand a sibling they are struggling with. Inevitably, there is a moment of empathy and awareness, which translates into a more relaxed and accepting dynamic. This has become the foundation for conversations when one sibling is struggling with another’s choice of behavior.” Mother of 4 children, ages 7 – 16.

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

3. No Blood – No Break – No Foul: “I stay out of every single squabble that doesn’t include blood or break. And yes, it’s tough. Especially in public. It’s easy for parents to get pulled into the tussle and as soon as I’m there, I can see the entire dynamic change. It’s no longer an opportunity for my kids to work together to solve the problem, it’s about me trying to decide who needs to change or do something different and the relationship between the kids takes a psychic hit. I would say, that at this point, my kids spend less than 10% of their time squabbling for more than just a few minutes. They have strategies that work for almost every occasion, including walking away, writing it on the problem board, negotiating and sometimes, just throwing themselves down on the ground and hoping for a sympathetic sibling to concede the toy.” Mother of 3 children, under the age of 5

4. Use Reality as your Guide: “I had kids who were very physical and it really concerned me. I thought that the fighting defined the relationship and it scared me. Over time, as I learned to watch the kids in other situations, I realized that they had a high degree of respect for each other and often times worked together in ways that I overlooked. I think it’s important for parents to really challenge their beliefs about what it means for kids to enjoy each other because truly, I think it can sometimes be a bit Polly-Anna. And today, my kids are as close as any siblings I know.” Mother of 3 children, ages 25 – 19

5. Get an accurate idea of how often your kids get along and how they “do” getting along. Most parents admit that when challenged to do this, they recognize that the kids get along more then they give them credit for. So take a deep breath and relax. Remember to acknowledge when the kids are working together or enjoying each other and be specific so they can use this information again and again.

6. Give them a break from each other. Even kids can get sick and tired of hanging with the same folks for too long. Sometimes it’s that simple. Allow them time alone, with other friends, with parents one-on-one and don’t get caught up in the “it’s not fair” song and dance.

7. If you have friends with older kids (like young teens) leverage them. They can teach your kids the importance of getting along with their siblings in a way that we, the parents, can’t. Hearing a story from a 10, 13 or 16 year old about how awesome they think their sibling is, or a time when their sibling came to their rescue, can go along way in helping shift your child’s perspective towards their pesky sibling.

8. Stop fretting. Most kids do enjoy each other. They might not show it the way you want them too, but they are young, they are doing the best they can. Allow the relationship to grow over time, slowly and naturally. Watch that you aren’t comparing or judging and that your expectations are in line with reality.

9. Keep your own childhood out of the picture. You aren’t raising yourself and over compensating for a lousy relationship with your sister will only guarantee that your kids struggle to create meaningful relationships with each other. If you model for your kids what a healthy relationship looks like, sounds like and feels like, they have a much better chance of establishing a healthy one with their siblings. Trying to force kids to get along usually back fires and causes more fractures not less.

10. Take pictures of the times people are enjoying each other and post them around the house. When kids start to squabble, bring them over to a picture and ask them to remind you of what was happening in the action. Along with this, make sure appreciations during Family Meetings includes when kids are rockin it out together. Remember, whatever you pay attention too – you get more of.

jens kids

Remember to pace yourself. It’s not nearly as important to have young children who have developed the skills which makes it possible for us to get along with people day in and day out for years, as it is to help them build a strong foundation that will grow with them over time and solidify the relationship they have with their brothers and sisters.

Young Adults Leave The Nest, But Not For Long.

 

 

I came up with a motto, a slogan to help me parent. And it was this: It is my job to make sure that when my children turn 18, I have trained them in everything that they need to learn so that they can open the doors, walk over the threshold, and enter young adulthood with confidence and enthusiasm. I have 18 years to prepare them. It is my job to teach them how to run their life so they don’t need me any longer. But so many kids leave home at 18, young adults, and find themselves at college and don’t know how to manage their lives, how to navigate their lives, how to make simple decisions, how to organize. And they’re forced back home. And I can’t think of anything worse for those kids to admit that they couldn’t make it on their own, or for their parents who have to say “come back home,” knowing that in some way it was their fault. If you find a child who has to come home because they couldn’t make it, this is a chance to start fresh. Look back and ask yourself what areas of this child’s life did you do for them because you thought it would be too hard or they would make a mistake or they would make a mistake and it was just easier if you did it for them. And teach them. It’s not going to be fun, because they see themselves as adults, but they already know that they’re missing some of the life skills that they need to be successful. Sit down, have a heart-to-heart, make a list start at the top, and teach them everything they need to now. Set a timeline that says, 6 months or a year from now we’re going to try it again. This is not the worst thing that will happen to you. Together we’re going to figure this out. We’re going to get you ready to go this time. And you’re going to give it another shot.

PRE-ORDER your copy of The Straight Talk On Parenting HERE

Tweens, Technology and…..Sexting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few tips to make the process easier.

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

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

 

When we change, the kids change. It’s that simple.


For more information on parenting visit KidsInTheHouse.com

It’s important for parents to recognize that it doesn’t matter if their children have been exhibiting pesky negative behaviors for two years, five years, seven years, or twenty years. It’s possible for change. It may take a little longer depending on the age of the child, but it’s possible. And it’s really very simple once you create a new plan in your own head as the parent. So if your connection with this child has been through power struggles, and that’s the relationship all of the time, what changes it is my response to that invitation to the power struggle. So if it’s cold out, and my child says, “I’m wearing shorts”, and what he expects is for me to say, “no you’re not”, I can say, “okay, wear shorts.” And let it go. And watch in that moment as suddenly there’s a new look on his face as he realizes something different is happening. If you did that over the course of a couple of weeks, your child would have to change because your responses to him were changing. That’s the power of this approach to parenting. We’re back in the driver’s seat as parents. When we change, the kids have to change. It’s that simple.

What is Your Child Thinking?

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Are you living with a child who is constantly challenging your rules, your ideas, the outfits you choose, the lunch you pack, the bedtime you set, or the morning routine you created step-by-step? Do you feel as though this wonderful child is all-of-a-sudden challenging your authority? I get it, you’ve lived for years on this planet, you know your child very well, and you know what he needs to function at his best. It makes sense that you put it all into play. You may often ask yourself, Why is he so defiant? What is he thinking?

And then you go to the grocery store and there is the child, the child you wish was yours just for this moment. You know, that do-as-you’re-told fellow with textbook manners, neat clothing, exquisite restraint, sticky sweet personality and the cherub-like smile that appears just at the most opportune time.

You wonder what is that parent doing, you compare yourself and clamp down further on your own child. Only to receive more push-back and more lip. Before you drive yourself crazy, take a moment and think about what is “motivating” this child to “behave.”

For a Moment, Consider This

Sure, he’s compliant, he’ll follow orders, and never talk back, but do you ever stop and wonder why? Is he afraid of punishment or to disappoint? Is he being bribed and working toward a reward? Or is he praised to the point that he is afraid of making a mistake? None of these thoughts are healthy when they appear in adult relationships, so why are we using strategies that create these thoughts when our kids are little?

One thing we do know is that that child is definitely not learning to challenge the world around him. Of course, it’s not his fault, he’s been trained to be a “great” kid (and yes, we all want great kids,) but there’s something missing in this child’s life: the ability to think, to choose and to do for himself.

Your defiant, obstinate, bossy, pain-in-the-neck child is telling you that he wants to develop his voice, figure out what works best for him, and practice making mistakes and revising his plan. Your job is to support him through this process, because it could get messy.

Thinking kids are Messy

Why encourage your child to think for himself when you already know what’s best and can avoid all that mess? Here’s why: Because, eventually, your child will have to either make his own choices, or go along with the crowd (because you’ve trained him to do this) and although this may not be concerning when you’re living with a 2, 5, or 7 year old, it can be damn alarming when you’re living with a 13 or 16 year old.

Raising thinking children takes effort, however when you consider the alternative, it’s worth it. I encourage you to allow your children time to practice navigating their own lives according to their values, their preferences and their interests, while they are living at home with you. In other words kids who practices making choices when they are little, will be strong enough to make smart, thoughtful, and skillful choices later – when the stakes are higher. They will also know how to take responsibility for those choices, good, bad, or indifferent. And when amends are in order they’ll be willing to make them.

So, the next time your child is willing to make a choice around clothing, shoes, bedtime, food, baseball, piano lessons, ballet, or anything else for that matter, stop and ask yourself, “Is this a chance for me to let my child choose?” Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure is worth a moment of reflection.

Interested in learning more about raising thinking children? Learn how with Vicki’s Tools for Success. Take the time to develop confidence in your parenting decisions and to trust your child to make his or her own choices. (Italicize the paragraph) and linke Vicki’s Tools for Success to the link below.

www.vickihoefle.com/tools-success

Resources on Sex and Kids

With so much information out there, it can be difficult to approach the topic of sex with your children.  I’ve read my share of books on the subject, and today’s blog post highlights two authors whose expertise is helpful to parents of boys and girls of all ages.

About Michael Thompson

An expert in child and family psychology, Dr. Thompson is the author of nine books and has consulted with hundreds of schools. In his thirty-five years as a clinical psychologist, he has developed incredible insight into the emotional and social development of boys in particular. Read more about Michael Thompson here.

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of  Boys (with Dan Kindlon, Ph.D)

Discussing a nation of boys that is “emotionally illiterate”, Kindlon and Thompson set out to answer the question: “what do boys need that they’re not getting?”
Learn more

It’s a Boy!: Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18 (with Teresa Barker)

In exploring the developmental, psychological, social, emotional, and academic life of boys, Thompson and journalist coauthor Teresa Barker identify key transitions in psychological and emotional growth, and the many ways in which boys attempt to define themselves.
Learn more

Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children (with Cathe O’Neill-Grace and Lawrence J Cohen)

Thompson and Grace demonstrate that children’s friendships are alternately intimate and intense, and cruel.  These two experts use a combination of research and their own experience in schools to give parents a deeper understanding of the motives and meanings of children’s social behavior.
Learn more

About Leonard Sax

Dr. Sax is a longtime psychologist and family physician, and has worked with hundreds of schools and spoke on child and adolescent development in eleven countries.  He uses scientific research and his own experience as a parent and a doctor to gain insight into the unique challenges our kids face today.

Boys Adrift

Dr. Sax argues that a combination of social and biological factors is creating an environment that is literally toxic to boys. Outside forces such as overemphasis on reading and math as early as kindergarten, too much time spent playing video games, and overlooked endocrine disturbances are actually causing damage to boys’ brains.  The result is a generation of men who are less resilient and less ambitious than their older peers. However, Dr. Sax tempers his argument with simple remedies and action plans that parents can begin to implement right away – and includes inspiring stories of success.
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Girls On the Edge

Young women are at risk today. In Girls on the Edge, Dr. Leonard Sax shares stories of girls who look confident and strong on the outside but are fragile within. Sax provides parents with tools to help girls become confident women, along with practical tips on helping your daughter choose a sport, nurturing her spirit through female-centered activities, and more.
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Resources for 2014

Oh those lazy days of summer…or maybe not. Regardless of how you are able to spend your summer days, here is a recommended reading list for all of you. There a many experts in the field of parenting and many who have specific expertise. Bookmark this blog and when you have the time you can peck away at this list of my absolute favorites. Next week I’ll post my top resources on Kids and Sex.

Protecting The Gift
by Gavin de Becker

In Protecting the Gift, Gavin de Becker shares with readers his remarkable insight into human behavior, providing them with a fascinating look at how human predators work and how they select their targets and most important, how parents can protect their children. He offers the comforting knowledge that, like every creature on earth, human beings can predict violent behavior. In fact, he says, parents are hardwired to do just that.
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Mindset
by Carol Dweck

Every so often a truly groundbreaking idea comes along. This is one. Mindset explains:
Why brains and talent don’t bring success
How they can stand in the way of it
Why praising brains and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment, but jeopardizes them
How teaching a simple idea about the brain raises grades and productivity
What all great CEOs, parents, teachers, athletes know
Mindset is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in decades of research on achievement and success—a simple idea that makes all the difference.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.
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Children the Challenge
by Rudolf Dreikurs

Children: The Challenge gives the key to parents who seek to build trust and love in their families, and raise happier, healthier, and better behaved children. Based on a lifetime of experience with children–their problems, their delights, their challenges–Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs, one of America’s foremost child psychiatrists presents an easy to follow program that teaches parents how to cope with the common childhood problems that occur from toddler through preteen years. This warm and reassuring reference helps parents to understand their children’s actions better, giving them the guidance necessary to discipline lovingly and effectively.
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Nurture Shock
by Po Bronson

What if we told you…
that dishonesty in children is a positive trait
that arguing in front of your kids can make you a good role model
and that if you praise your children you risk making them fail
…and it was all true?

Using a cutting-edge combination of behavioural psychology and neuroscience, award-winning journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman have produced an innovative, counter-intuitive read that will change the way we interact with our children forever.

They demonstrate that for years our best intentions with children have been our worst ideas, using break-through scientific studies to prove that our instincts and received wisdom are all wrong. Nurtureshock is the Freakonomics of childhood and adolescence, exploring logic-defying insights into child development that have far-reaching relevance for us all.
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Queen Bees and Wannabees
by Rosalind Wiseman

When Rosalind Wiseman first published Queen Bees & Wannabes, it fundamentally changed the way that adults looked at girls’ friendships and conflicts. From how they choose their best friends, how they express their anger, their boundaries with boys, and their relationships with parents—Wiseman showed how girls of every background are profoundly influenced by their interactions with each other.
Now, Wiseman has revised and updated her groundbreaking book for a new generation of girls, and explores:
How girls’ experiences before adolescence impact their teen years, future relationships, and overall success
The different roles girls play in and outside of cliques as Queen Bees, Targets, and Bystanders, and how this defines how they and others are treated
Girls’ power plays—from fake apologies to fights over IM and text message
Where boys fit into the equation of girl conflicts and how you can help your daughter better hold her own with the opposite sex
Checking your baggage—recognizing how your experiences impact the way you parent, and how to be sanely involved in your daughter’s difficult, yet common social conflicts
Packed with insights on technology’s impact on Girl World and enlivened with the experiences of girls, boys, and parents, the book that inspired the hit movie Mean Girls offers concrete strategies to help you empower your daughter to be socially competent and treat herself with dignity.
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Masterminds and Wingmen
by Rosalind Wiseman

In 2002, Rosalind Wiseman wrote Queen Bees and Wannabes and established a new way to understand girls’ social dynamics. Now Wiseman has done the same for boys. Wiseman’s new book, Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World, shows what’s really happening in boys’ lives. It creates a new language and analytical framework to understand the power of boys’ social hierarchies and how these influence their decision-making and emotional well-being. Wiseman’s hard-hitting challenge to parents and educators establishes a road map to reach boys and help them to grow into the best brothers, friends, students, athletes, boyfriends, and sons they can be.
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The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence
by Rachel Simmons

In The Curse of the Good Girl, Rachel Simmons argues that girls are pressured to embrace a version of selfhood that sharply curtails their power and potential. Unerringly nice, polite, modest, and selfless, the Good Girl is an identity so narrowly defined that it’s unachievable. When girls fail to live up to these empty expectations—experiencing conflicts with peers, making mistakes in the classroom or on the playing field—they become paralyzed by self-criticism, stunting the growth of vital skills and habits. Simmons traces the poisonous impact of Good Girl pressure on development and provides a strategy to reverse the tide. At once illuminating and prescriptive, The Curse of the Good Girl is an essential guide to contemporary girl culture and a call to arms from a new front in female empowerment.
Looking to the stories shared by the women and girls who attend her workshops, Simmons shows that pressure from parents, teachers, coaches, media, and peers erects a psychological glass ceiling that begins to enforce its confines in girlhood and extends across the female lifespan. The curse erodes girls’ ability to know, express, and manage a complete range of feelings. It expects girls to be selfless, limiting the expression of their needs. It requires modesty, depriving them of permission to articulate their strengths and goals. It diminishes assertive body language, quiets voices and weakens handshakes. It touches all areas of girls’ lives and follows many into adulthood, limiting their personal and professional potential.
We have long lamented the loss of self-esteem in adolescent girls, recognizing that while the doors of opportunity are open to twenty-first-century American girls, many lack the confidence to walk through them. In The Curse of the Good Girl, Simmons provides the first comprehensive action plan to silence the curse and bolster the self. Her inspiring message: that the most critical freedom we can win for our daughters is the liberty not only to listen to their inner voice, but to act on it.
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It’s Okay Not To Share
by Heather Shumaker

Although it flips convention on its head, It’s OK Not to Share… is based on child development and emerging neuroscience research. Discover concrete skills to help your child prevent bullying, channel active energy, express feelings appropriately and much more. It’s designed to make you rethink what you thought you knew about parenting and give you saner days.
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Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years
by Michelle Icard

 

Middle School Makeover is a guide for parents and educators to help the tweens in their lives navigate the socially fraught hallways, gyms, and cafeterias of middle school. The book helps parents, teachers, and other adults in middle school settings to understand the social dilemmas and other issues that kids today face. Author Michelle Icard covers a large range of topics, beginning with helping us understand what is happening in the brains of tweens and how these neurological development affects decision-making and questions around identity. She also addresses social media, dating, and peer exclusion. Using both recent research and her personal, extensive experience working with middle-school-aged kids and their parents, Icard offers readers concrete and practical advice for guiding children through this chaotic developmental stage while also building their confidence.
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Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain
by Daniel J. Siegel

In this groundbreaking book, the bestselling author of Parenting from the Inside Out and The Whole-Brain Child shows parents how to turn one of the most challenging developmental periods in their children’s lives into one of the most rewarding. Between the ages of 12 and 24, the brain changes in important and often maddening ways. It’s no wonder that many parents approach their child’s adolescence with fear and trepidation. According to renowned neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel, however, if parents and teens can work together to form a deeper understanding of the brain science behind all the tumult, they will be able to turn conflict into connection and form a deeper understanding of one another. In Brainstorm, Siegel illuminates how brain development affects teenagers’ behaviour and relationships. Drawing on important new research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, he explores exciting ways in which understanding how the teenage brain functions can help parents make what is in fact an incredibly positive period of growth, change, and experimentation in their children’s lives less lonely and distressing on both sides of the generational divide.
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Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children
By Michael G. Thompson, Ph.D. and Catherine O’Neill Grace with Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D.

 

Friends broaden our children’s horizons, share their joys and secrets, and accompany them on their journeys into ever wider worlds. But friends can also gossip and betray, tease and exclude. Children can cause untold suffering, not only for their peers but for parents as well. In this wise and insightful book, psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph.D., and children’s book author Catherine O’Neill Grace, illuminate the crucial and often hidden role that friendship plays in the lives of children from birth through adolescence.
Drawing on fascinating new research as well as their own extensive experience in schools, Thompson and Grace demonstrate that children’s friendships begin early–in infancy–and run exceptionally deep in intensity and loyalty. As children grow, their friendships become more complex and layered but also more emotionally fraught, marked by both extraordinary intimacy and bewildering cruelty. As parents, we watch, and often live through vicariously, the tumult that our children experience as they encounter the “cool” crowd, shifting alliances, bullies, and disloyal best friends.
Best Friends, Worst Enemies brings to life the drama of childhood relationships, guiding parents to a deeper understanding of the motives and meanings of social behavior. Here you will find penetrating discussions of the difference between friendship and popularity, how boys and girls deal in unique ways with intimacy and commitment, whether all kids need a best friend, why cliques form and what you can do about them.
Filled with anecdotes that ring amazingly true to life, Best Friends, Worst Enemies probes the magic and the heartbreak that all children experience with their friends. Parents, teachers, counselors–indeed anyone who cares about children–will find this an eye-opening and wonderfully affirming book.
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Stuck in a Parenting Rut? Don’t move the Deck Chairs

Over coffee this morning with a friend who recently had her second child, the conversation turned to parenting ruts.

 Parenting Rut“It’s funny, when we had our first child we talked about how we would co-parent and distribute the jobs of child-rearing equitably. We committed to supporting each others’ unique ways of bonding with our child and we thought we really had our s… together.  But fast forward six years and the birth of our second child and it is crystal clear to both of us that we are in some deep parenting ruts that are not healthy. Not for our kids, not for us personally, not for us as a couple and not for us as a family.  I don’t know how the hell this happened but what is scarier is that I have no idea what to do about it.”

 I knew what she was talking about, as I recognized after the birth of my second child that I was living in some pretty nasty parenting ruts myself.  But I wanted to know more about her experience.

 “What has you concerned most?” I asked.

 She thought for a while and said, “I want to change those ruts, but when I think of all the areas I need to make the changes, it seems completely overwhelming.  We both work, we are raising two kids with a six year age gap and I just don’t have any idea where to start.”

 I sat quietly and waited.

 “I have this feeling in my gut, or maybe in my heart, that I am going about this wrong, but I can’t tell you why I feel that way.”

 I asked, “Is it a little bit like you are trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic but you already know the Titanic is going down?”  Her eyes lit up.

 Bingo. The sweet spot of “knowing” on some deep intuitive level that this is exactly what is going on and knowing that the solution is to change the course of the Titanic not rearrange the deck chairs.

 “Okay, smarty” she said, “I know what the deck chairs represent – the ruts we are in – but what does the Titanic represent?”

 “Your thinking.” I said, “When people, parents, give themselves time to pause, to rest, to contemplate, to examine without rushing to “do” anything, they create a space that supports a change in thinking. This change in thinking is usually dramatic, dynamic, and directional.  As our thinking changes so do our actions. As our actions change to support the new thinking, our thinking becomes more aligned with our true goals. With this new clarity our confidence builds, we commit more deeply to this new thinking and change continues. It can be several months before a parent notices for the first time that the changes taking place in her life, the ruts are being replaced with paved roads of clarity and direction and it is happening with no struggle, no push, no exertion of energy. This is often described as a graceful process which happens naturally and effortlessly.”

 We talked for a while longer, she rolling the possibilities through her mind and me holding the space of that earlier “aha” moment. As I drove home, I was reminded that we are a culture that believes that when we feel stuck, changing our circumstances, our location or our relationships will bring about a feeling of wholeness, of completion, but because our thinking hasn’t changed, it isn’t long before the aching returns, new ruts emerge and we are once again rearranging the deckchairs of our life.

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.

Attitude is Everything

One of the reasons I so enjoy this video is because this young man is addressing High School kids. Most people I know feel awkward and nervous when addressing teenagers.

They are so accustomed to the idea that teens are

  • Hard to reach
  • Disrespectful
  • Self Centered
  • Uninterested
  • Cold-Hearted
  • Cruel
  • Disconnected
  • Immature
  • Sassy

This limiting belief in turn, limits the amount of interaction and conversation whenever possible.

In this video, it is clear, that this young man is connecting deeply with these kids. He isn’t afraid of them. He can’t afford to be afraid! If he was, he would still be in bed wondering why he was born with no arms and no legs.

Instead, he invites these young people into his life. He uses his sense of humor and the confidence he has developed over a lifetime of dealing with daily challenges, to connect to a group of individuals who will do more for creating a culture of acceptance and inclusion, than an audience of middle aged, teary-eyed, soft-hearted adults (who, will forget all about this kid in an hour when their lives take center stage again).

It’s not just this young man’s story that is inspiring, but his willingness to “invest”, yes invest, in the younger generation. I suspect, that this one assembly will leave a deeper imprint in the lives of the teenagers, than anything else they attended during their high school experience.

And I suspect that all the “talk” about acceptance, inclusion, tolerance, kindness, respect – that they have been hearing from adults for 15 years means nothing in comparison to these few moments, with a real individual, who openly and honestly shares his story.

This video isn’t just a reminder to us to be grateful for all we have, but a reminder to me, that young people, when given a chance, can become ambassadors for a kinder, more accepting future.

For more about this amazing young man and his story visit http://www.attitudeisaltitude.com/

The Road of Love!

The Longest Mile

Not sure exactly what prompted her to start screaming. Could have been a number of things and truth-be-told, the “trigger” isn’t what’s important.  The event itself isn’t even all that important.  What’s important is the learning. What’s important is what I am going to do the next time this happens and what I am going to do in all the moments in-between that make up my daily life with this extraordinary child.  What’s important is that I found the courage to look at my 9 year old daughter with love, compassion, respect and admiration, while she was screaming at me (at the top of her lungs) as we walked down our quiet back road and out onto the main road during our morning walk to school.

The Courage to Love

I had to rally every ounce of courage and strength inside me in order to look at this 9 year old, nostrils flaring, fists clenched, teeth baring and lips snarled, walking backwards in front of me screaming, as the neighbors walked from their homes to their cars and drove by us, afraid to make eye-contact.

I had to muster up bucket loads of self-restraint not to retaliate when she hit my elbow and my morning cup of coffee spilled out onto my leg and her arm, which precipitated a blood curdling scream from her and a claim that I poured my HOT coffee onto her, just as one neighbor was getting into her car.

Every creative cell that inhabits my body was called into action when it came time to remember her as the peaceful, beautiful, loving baby that was born unto this earth.  And to repeat this quote from Rudolf Dreikurs in my mind, with each step,

“In order to be able to exert a constructive influence on your child you must learn to observe her objectively. This you can do only if you take her misbehavior less seriously. You must stop regarding her faults as a moral issue. The child who misbehaves is not a “bad” child. She is only unhappy, misguided and discouraged, and has not found the right answer to the social problems which confront her. Every misbehavior indicates an error of judgment in her efforts to find her place within the family and to meet the demands and pressures to which she is subjected.” -Rudolf Dreikurs, MD, “Coping with Children’s Misbehavior: A Parent’s Guide.”

No, for those of you asking,  I did not remember that quote word for word – however I have read it enough times and embraced the concepts in the Parenting On Track™ program founded on these principles, that I could access the essence of this in my heart, my body, and my mind.

Inspired to Give In

After 1.2 miles the screaming stopped, a soft, gentle, small hand reached up and grabbed mine. That small hand held on so tightly and so completely that I immediately gave thanks to the Universe for keeping me safe and strong, and keeping me from behaving in a manner that would cause fracture to this delicate and yet solid relationship.  With a voice hoarse from screaming and full of genuine sorrow and integrity – my daughter apologized.

Now What?

We proceeded to walk the rest of the .5 miles to school and created some connections about the road, the leaves, our strong leg muscles and full bellies to fuel us through the day.

On the walk home, I reflected. Reflected on what just happened, what I learned, and what I would do the next time my discouraged child joined us for our morning walk to school or trip to the grocery store or…

New Information

1.    I believe in this circumstance, using the adage “move your feet” actually fueled the fire.

I believe if I had found a rock or a tree stump along the way and chose to sit down, the yelling would have stopped. I know in my heart, she would have found it completely distasteful to yell at someone who was trapped, open and vulnerable. She probably would have jumped into my arms for a heart-felt hug.

Instead, my walking just offered energy to the situation and her determination to wrangle me in.  I could be wrong, but at least I have a plan for the next time.

2.    Connection – That is what she craves. Give it to her. Give it to her as often as I can in all the moments in between. I have nothing else to do with her (as she manages her life quite nicely and could actually manage a Fortune 500 Company or a Country for that matter), so spend time with her connecting.  What does that look like you ask?

  • Make eye contact and don’t break it for anything.
  • Listen to her like there is nobody else in the room.
  • Ask her opinion on everything.
  • Ask her for help solving my problems.
  • Take heed to her advice, when she has a better idea.
  • Hug her. Hug her like there is no tomorrow.
  • Smile when I see her coming, even if she is mad at me.

Energizing Perspective

On my walk home, I also spent a great deal of time re-framing my perspective and finding the “good” in the morning.

1. I live with one feisty, stubborn, tenacious young woman and she is NOT afraid to say NO. May she have the courage to access those qualities when someone who does not have her best interest at heart, tries to influence her.

2. She knows what she believes in and is not afraid to stand up for it. She is still working on the best way to communicate her beliefs, but by-golly she knows what she knows to be true and is NOT AFRAID to let you know it.

Courage is not always tidy.

My daughter is courageous.  That is who she BE!  She stands up for herself. She stands up to bullies. She stands up for those she loves (and those she doesn’t). She stands up to ME. I love her and I am committed to matching her courageous nature with my own.  I commit to doing whatever it takes to BE the Mom she deserves.

Lizzy, I love you!

No Boundaries

The Permissive Style of parenting also contributes to the bullying cycle. A lack of structure in the day-to-day life of the family, unclear boundaries and expectations, a lack of consistency and follow-through along with a tendency to “save” children from the frustrations and challenges of life, create an environment that is often times chaotic, frightening, unstable and is full of mixed messages.

When children are confused by the words, behavior and action of their parents, when inconsistency is the norm, it becomes increasingly more difficult for children to make sense of the world beyond their front door. Reading cues from school mates, keeping themselves safe, voicing their opinions, needs and desires, is impaired and kids become part of the bullying cycle.

When follow-through is missing in a child’s life at home, it seems reasonable to them, that a bully just might get away with his behavior on the playground. These kids often end up being bullied, but they can also try to avoid the bully by hiding out OR to volunteer another likely candidate for the role of the bullied in order to stay safe on the schoolyard.

Often spoiled in the permissive household, children learn to avoid responsibility, to blame others and to look for the easy way out. Not surprising, these kids make up each of the central characters Barbara identifies in her book, The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander.

These kids can find themselves watching as the bullying cycle takes place before their eyes and feel powerless to do anything about it. But they can also decide to taunt the bully and later claim “I didn’t do anything” and finally, they take up the roll of bullying because they are experts at avoiding responsibility and diverting blame to others.

In other cases, children raised in permissive households become the tyrant in the house that everyone works to appease and this same attitude is brought to the schoolyard. A belief that the rules don’t apply to them, that they are entitled to whatever they want and will gladly take what they deem “theirs” along with an eerie disconnection from how their behavior impacts others.

No matter how you slice it, a Permissive Style of parenting isn’t helping our children develop the skills they need in order to know as Barbara Coloroso states in her book, What to do, How to do it and the Willingness to do it when it comes to breaking the bullying cycle of violence.

This week, take some time and determine if you are a permissive parent. If you are, don’t waste your time beating yourself up over it. Instead, take this next week to challenge some of the assumptions you have made about parenting. Notice how your choices and actions are influencing your kids.

Next week we will talk about the Democratic Style of parenting and how to create a truly Democratic household.

Preschool graduation?


Ok, so we know it is far past graduation season, however the awareness this mom gained during a recent preschool graduation event is — timeless.

This post is re-printed with permission of the author, who has the uncanny ability to move me to tears, with each post. If you want to read about dedication, commitment, progress, set-backs, and real-life with Parenting On Track™, read this blog.

Really? I thought as I sat down.

I had arrived early for Talula’s last day of school as we had been asked by the teachers thinking we were having a BBQ, not realizing there was going to be some kind of ceremony for a bunch of 3 year olds. I sat down beside my husband wanting to say “are you freaking kidding me? they are having a graduation ceremony for these little goof-balls?”. But I couldn’t, I was surrounded by other adoring parents who may have been a tad offended by my comment, so I kept my mouth shut and grinned and bared it. Thankfully, they didn’t come out wearing cap & gown (as my mother asked when I told her about the whole event); but I did come away having been grateful that I just witnessed the whole thing. Who knew?

The children all proceeded into the end of the gymnasium that they had blocked off for this event in pairs waving “flags” that they had made. And there was Talula waving that flag high and proud like it was the most important thing in the world to her. All the kids were in two’s – except Talula, she was marching to the beat of her own drum, not being unruly, just doing her own thing and lovin’ it. She was so utterly confident, so utterly at ease in front of a bunch of people, so utterly content with life. And then I thought “I need to nurture this, I can’t let this belief she has about the way she approaches life fade away”.

AND THEN I thought about where Talula and I would be if I hadn’t become so consumed by the concepts behind Parenting On Track™. We’d be fighting. All the time. I’m an authoritarian, there is absolutely nothing permissive about me. Talula is my power child and WHOO BOY would we be butting our heads together like a bunch of stubborn male rams in heat if I hadn’t been blessed with the knowledge that I have been given by Parenting On Track™. Seriously. Thor is my attention child, and probably would have fallen in line with my authoritarian ways but eventually would have come out the other side as an adult that didn’t have any respect for me. But Talula and I ~wow ~ our relationship, at her tender age of 3, would have already been explosive and ugly.

In the last few days I’ve started to have the realization that as an authoritarian, I have attached myself to the “discipline” (and I use that term for the lack of a better word – it’s not discipline in the normal sense) strategies of Parenting On Track™ fairly successfully. I give them the choices, I let them feel the consequences of their choices, I ask them what the responsibilities are that go with the privilege they are asking for, I say “yes, as soon as….”. All those, “you’re going to go with the flow of the family” or else (?) things. Not that there is an “or else”; but it’s suddenly how I’ve been feeling. And then I realized why. I have been using all these strategies for making our life smoother, but have not been giving enough attention to one crucial thing: our relationship with each other. I have been thinking, I think, that just parenting this way was enough to make that connection with my kids. I think I believed that just by not being the nag, not being the enforcer, not being loosy-goosy, not being the yeller etc etc was all I needed to do to build a solid relationship with my children. Not so. And it took a ridiculous pre-school graduation to let me see that.

So here is my goal for the summer: build the relationship stuff. Keeping going with all the other stuff, but focus on the love of my children.

Oh, and I have one more goal for the summer: teach Talula that in’s and out’s of why we wear underwear.

Parenting like a Brick-Wall

successful parentingBy now, you probably have a good idea of how well you are “talking the talk and walking the walk”.
For many parents, it’s an eye opener to realize how much bossing, dictating, lecturing, and controlling there is going on in the house.

Many parents adapt an Authoritarian Parenting Style in an attempt to

  • Minimize mistakes their children make
  • Keep the family operating efficiently
  • Instill the values that are important to the parents
  • Make sure children recognize when their behavior is unacceptable

What many parents don’t realize is that this style of parenting, what Coloroso calls the “brick-wall family”, can create both bullies, bullied kids and even by-standers. See Barbara Coloroso’s Book, The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander.

Generally speaking, kids raised in an Authoritarian environment or controlled, and made to “do what their parent’s tell them to do”. Their feelings are often overlooked, minimized or completely ignored. They have little, if any say, in decision making and are often relegated to the sidelines of their own lives.

As a result, common characteristics children of Authoritarian Parenting exhibit include:

  • Delay in developing their own “voice”
  • NO confidence in using their “voice”
  • Feeling powerless in situations
  • Feeling powerless in relationships where there is a clear “boss”
  • More comfortable following what others do
  • Have no sense of what is right or wrong if it isn’t told to you
  • Not willing to risk “getting” in trouble so stand quietly by
  • Love and acceptance are conditional

Juxtapose this with a child who develops characteristics, which include:

  • A desire to control those they perceive as weaker
  • A willingness to manipulate others to do their bidding
  • Exploiting those who are weaker
  • Blaming others and avoid taking responsibility for actions
  • A lack of empathy and compassion for others
  • A belief that the rules do not apply to them
  • Able to justify their bullying tendencies

Go back and take a look. Are you Authoritarian? Does your children’s behavior fall in one of these lists?
Next week we will look at the Jelly-fish (spineless) family.

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…

Bullying: A Parent’s Influence

In order to break the cycle of bullying, a clear understanding of the family dynamic is required.

Starting Point

If the family unit is built on a sense of community, mutual respect, acceptance of individual uniqueness, love and care, it is reasonable to think children will embody these traits in the world beyond our threshold.

If children are raised with a strong sense that they “belong” and play an important role in the family, they will develop the necessary skills to

• Connect with classmates
• Create and maintain a health classroom culture
• Participate in solving classroom problems
• Impact the climate of an entire school.

On page 76 of The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, Barbara Coloroso states that, “A kid must want to be the kind of person who acts courageously – or kindly, or fairly, or justly – must know how to do it, and must be willing to do it.”

Coloroso suggests that kids raised in a family that “talks the talk and walks the walk” are not only more prepared to deal with bullying, but that in fact they are the solution to the bullying phenomenon.

This week, I encourage you to take some time to consider your “talk and your walk”, and what messages they are sending your children.

Raising children in a family where the What, How and the Willingness to act courageously is cultivated and encouraged is the responsibility of every parent raising children in the 21st century.

The question becomes HOW to do that as well as identify the roadblocks that stop us from parenting from this perspective.

Exploring the 3 unique Parenting Styles available to parents will make our course of action abundantly clear, and when that vital clarity is provided, we will know what steps to take to ensure that our children when put in a compromising position will indeed know What to do, How to do it and the create the Willingness to do it.

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.