All posts tagged parent education

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.

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?

 

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.
Learn more

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.
Learn more

Tips: Rounding the Corner to Fall

We’ve said ‘adieu’ to the lazy days of July, a month that marks the middle of summer.Barbecues, days at the beach, road trips, summer camps, late nights and even later mornings.

Many of us let routines and schedules slip away and allow for a more spontaneous, “go with the flow” groove to emerge and define the early days of summer. But as we welcome in August, a month that traditionally gets our engines revving as we consciously or unconsciously begin to prepare for school, a summer of mindful memories can be lost with the shift in focus.

It’s not unusual for me to experience an increase of inquires from parents wondering how to maintain a gentle summer flow with kids through August and avoid the stress that’s already permeating their minds.

Unlike our children who have the ability to remain in the moment, right up until the first ring of the alarm clock marking the first day of school, we parents are entering the planning phase of summer and with that comes additional, but unnecessary stress.

When my own children were young, I made it a practice to surround myself with friends who had older kids. Why? So I could leverage their wisdom, common sense and advise. Now that my munchkins are off to college, I want to share a few tips for keeping the energy high and the stress low as we round into August and the upcoming school year

First, make a list of what “fuels” you. For instance,

        Slow, mindful breakfast with the kids
        Sleepy babies cuddling on my lap in the morning light
        Baby, toddler, school age or teenage morning breath
        Giggles over chocolate chip pancakes and milk mustaches
        Fresh berries picked the day before
        Birds at the window
        A new flower budding in the garden
        The sound of the lake just beyond view

The smell of the ocean

Obviously, the list is endless – these are just a few I thought of that take place before teeth are even brushed. In August, it’s easy to lose site of what “fuels” us and keeps us grounded in the here and now, something our children are experts at, as our minds drift toward the upcoming school year. Continue making a list for yourself and tack it onto your fridge or make a large poster (with the help of the kids of course) to anchor you in the here and now, and get the most out of every remaining day.

What’s equally helpful is to write a list of what “depletes” you.

I doubt you need any suggestions from me and I don’t want to give this list any energy, but if you take just a few minutes and write down 3, 4 or even 5 things that could potentially interfere with you enjoying the last remaining, gloriously abundant, days of summer, do it now.

Ask yourself if you can let some of these go. Really challenge yourself and listen to your internal dialogue, which might be trying to convince you that it’s time to jump into gear and be proactive. If it feels right, rip the list up and toss it. Or keep it as a reminder of the things that take you away from what you want most from the summer – time to connect with kids and the memories that will make up the fabric of your lives together.

I can tell you, that even if you wait till 7 days before the first school bell rings, all the major retailers will still have plenty of shoes, backpacks, notebooks, pens and anything else you think necessary for your child’s upcoming school year.

Look for more in the following weeks to help you transition easily into the new year and keep your kids in the forefront of the process.

Here’s to another jump in the pool, round of backgammon on the deck, or walk in the woods.

Cheers.

5 Essential Parenting Questions

With the sea of information out there. I thought it would be helpful to narrow it down a bit and identify the top 5 questions parents can ask themselves.

1. Who am I doing this for?

    Believe it or not, when you train your brain to stop and ask “Who am I doing this for?” you can suddenly find yourself faced with a truth that will alter your course of action quickly and decisively. How many times have you made a parenting decision based on someone other than your child?

    • Maybe you started nagging the kids because your spouse can’t stand a messy family room when she comes home from a late Board Meeting.
    • Maybe you choose the kids clothes and slick back their hair because your mother is critical of how they are “groomed” and thinks this is an indication of a persons worth.
    • Maybe you give in to the kids at the check out line so they won’t pitch a fit (even after you gave them a hefty lecture in the car that brought them to tears about how you would NOT buy them anything) just so the 20 year old check out clerk wouldn’t give you the hairy eyeball.
    • Maybe you drove all the way home to get the soccer pads because you didn’t want the coach thinking your kid wasn’t committed to playing on the “elite” squad in his second year of the sport.


2. What is my purpose in doing this?

    Asking ourselves what the “purpose” in doing something is, helps clear the crap and provide an illuminated path towards our true purpose.

    • Is my purpose to look good in front of these parents, or to show my child that I will support their personal style?
    • Is my purpose to have a child who gets straight A’s, or a child who learns to invest in her own education?
    • Is my purpose to get the kids to school so I don’t get another note from the teacher about their tardiness, or to allow them to create a morning routine that works for them?
    • Is my purpose to get the house picked up because neat houses mean neat families or to help my kids learn how important their cooperation is to the health of the family?
    • Is my purpose to show my friends what good manners my kids have or to model to my children how to show respect for others?

3. What message does what I am about to do send to my child?

    As parents, it’s easy to forget that a child’s interpretation of our actions is more important than our intention.

    • You suggest your child change his clothes for school.
    • Your intention is to lower the chance of teasing from classmates.
    • His interpretation is that you don’t approve of his taste in clothes (hair, music, friends, food, etc.)
    • You insist on making lunches and packing backpacks.
    • Your intention is to ensure a healthy lunch and proper supplies for school.
    • Her interpretation is that you have no faith in her ability to make a lunch or pack a backpack.
    • You clean up his room even though he has asked you to stay out.
    • Your intention is to provide an aesthetically pleasing environment for him (and clear out the moldy food before the ants arrive.)
    • His interpretation is that you have no respect for his wishes or his privacy.

    If you get a reaction from your child that is unexpected or negative, there is a good chance that the message you were trying to send missed its mark. Take a few minutes and talk with your child about your intentions and see if you can bring some clarity to the situation. In the long run, it will help you and your child develop a stronger and more honest relationship.

4. What am I willing to do differently?

    So often times, the focus is on what we want our kids to do differently. But the truth is, when we change what we do, we influence the family. In essence, we are in control of the ship. So instead of putting your time and energy into forcing the kids to change, try asking yourself what YOU are willing to do differently and then do it. It doesn’t have to be a big shift, just a sincere one that will benefit everyone in the situation. Before long, you will find it easy to course correct, take a new tact and experience the kind of change that brings joy and exuberance back into parenting. Remember, change IS power. So parent with power!

5. Am I asking more from my child than I am asking from myself?

    This may be my all time favorite question, because the answer is almost always YES, of course I expect more from my kid than I expect from myself.

    • I expect my child to show me the respect I have earned, but I will show my child respect only when it suits me.
    • I expect my child to pick up their stuff without being asked because they know it’s what I want, but I will allow myself to toss my junk if I am feeling tired or stressed or just plain grouchy.
    • I expect my kids to eat healthy, all of the time, and if they veer off course I will be sure to correct them, but I will eat what I like, as much as I like because – well, I can.
    • I expect my children to be nice to each other no matter what, but I will yell, threaten, overpower and belittle if someone doesn’t do things my way.

Is this list a little over the top? Maybe. But my 23 years of experience tells me that this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to raise respectful, responsible, cooperative, flexible, compassionate, patient, inclusive, open and honest kids you will have to model these traits for them. And by model, I don’t mean on occasion when the stars align. I mean model even when you’d rather let your childish side take the reins.

So do yourself and your kids a favor. Cut everyone some slack. Cut your kids even more than that and before long you will have established a more balanced family dynamic.

Post these 5 questions where you can see them until they permeate your thinking and influence what comes out of your mouth next. It isn’t asking too much if what you truly want is to establish a relationship with your kids that has the entire neighborhood wanting what you have.

Playground Plan – Rules of Engagement

There is a lot of talk right now about bullying and bystanding and questions from parents about how to handle dicey situations between kids on the playground, the schoolyard, during play dates and any other time kids are thrown together. In fact, last week we rounded up over a dozen blogs on this topic alone, and although parents (and a few experts) had lots to say on the subject, there didn’t seem to be a lot of solutions to the problem.

One mom wrote about watching her own child get picked on at the playground and felt caught between feeling shocked, wanting to sooth hurt feelings, confused about overstepping boundaries and questioning whether she “should” be saving her child from the real world experience. These thoughts can consume any parent and leave them feeling more confused, not less, about what to do in this situation.

I don’t have all the answers to this dilemma, but I did raise five children and I also had a childhood of my own that included a neighborhood full of kids ranging in age from 2 to 12 who were required to interact on a regular basis. So here are some of the tactics we employed to help our kids navigate the sometimes slippery slope.

HAVE A PLAYGROUND PLAN

First: Create a plan for any interaction between kids before you actually throw the kids together. Yes, a plan. With a plan, you know ahead of time what you are going to do if you witness bullying, harassment, picking on, ignoring or any other socially intolerable action.

Second: Know what you are willing to “do” in these situations. Some parents feel more comfortable leaving, some want to stand their ground and confront the child and/or parent, some are willing to step in and assist the kids, and others want their kids to figure things out on their own. There is no right or wrong. There is only what best supports you and your family’s core values.

Third and most important – Invite kids to make the rules of engagement. Here is what it sounds like:

Do you kids have a plan for playing safely on the playground?” Because without one, that means that we, your parents, will have to step in and make the rules, and tell you who gets to go first and frankly, I don’t think any of you will have too much fun. So, how would you kids like to come up with a plan for playing safely together?

At this point, most kids step up and embrace the idea of creating their own Rules of Engagement which include things like – no hitting, no going up the slide backwards, no calling each other names, and so on. Believe it or not, most kids can and will come up with a common sense plan to playing together and each time they do this, it reinforces for them that it is possible to create a fun and safe place for kids of all ages and all styles to play together. When the kids create a plan, they agree, and that makes it easier to deal with someone who tries to disrupt their rules. It helps kids who feel like victims learn to stand up for themselves and it helps kids who have been labeled the bully to adhere to the rules. All you do is help them learn how to do that until they master it themselves.

Fourth: Teach your kids about the equitable distribution of power within your home and allow them to become confident problem solvers and strong communicators. If you have kids who take order from you, it’s going to be hard for them to step into a leadership role on the playground. If your kids get in trouble for challenging you, they will have trouble challenging their peers. And if your kids are pampered and saved from life’s little disappointments and frustrations, they won’t have the resources necessary to deal with world beyond your threshold.

It’s important that we have faith in our kids and that we work with them to create a strong sense of skills to deal with the challenges that await them. Take some time and think about creating your own plan and then talk to your kids about the idea of creating a set of Rules of Engagement that they can use whenever they have a chance to play with other kids.

Thanks to efforts by celebs and the documentary BULLY, our sense of awareness as a culture is increasing, but question still remains “what does this mean for me?”

Quit your Job

You’re Not the Maid Again, Are You? Just Checking!

Hey folks. I know, spring fever is upon us. Vacations. Traveling. Cabin Fever. Messy Houses. This can make us all feel like we are literally going stir crazy. I remember being inside with five children during many Vermont winters. It takes every ounce of energy to keep things moving and not get hung up on squabbles and the biggest of these springtime stresses – the messy house. There are boots everywhere, jackets, toys from the days off, mud, dog hair, three different coats for each kid, because the weather keeps changing and more mud.

If you can remember what matters and keep your mantra to stay out of that maid uniform and focus on quality time together, you will all benefit in the end.

Let that bathroom get toothpaste coated and let your kids hear a friend say, “wow, your sink is grungy” because then they will realize people notice. If you march up there and say, “well friends are coming, I’ll just do it for them.” Then you’ve just roped yourself into their business and now it becomes yours.

Expect your kids to do the jobs they pick at Family Meeting, EVEN if it takes longer or they have no laundry in their drawers. Kids are brilliant and they will figure something out if they want to go play next door.

Don’t think you can let it go? The biggest trick to NOT being the maid is to give yourself permission to step out. It’s okay to say, “not my problem” and step back and give your kids room to figure it out in their own. Of course you can help if they need something, but you have to be willing to detach your identity as a good mother from the state of your house. It’s just not the case.

In fact, think of some of the most inspiring people you’ve ever been around. Did they have spotless houses or creative messes because they were out being a part of the world? Maybe you don’t even know what their homes looked like and so what does that tell you? It does not matter. No, it doesn’t.

Yes, organization is nice and shiny floors look good, but if the kids are checked out, there’s no value to the system. So, in short, stick with it and again, give yourself permission to let the house go and take that time with your kids to learn on their own. It gives your room to stay emotionally available, rested, relaxed and on top of your game.

How do you want your kids to remember you? As the best director, reminder, nagger, picker-up-afterer on the block or their biggest champion and teacher?

Hang up that apron and get a cup of coffee, would ya??

All Aboard!

We’ve spent the last three blogs cracking open what it looks like when we’re tripped up as parents and seemingly headed in the opposite direction of our goals. We identified what trips us up, what it looks like and ultimately where we’d hope this train leads in the end for our families and our children.

If you take your chart (CLICK HERE to get caught up) and look at it for a minute, you’ll probably recognize that #3, the reason or goal of the situation, is generally immediate. We’re parenting on the wrong track in the wrong direction, because we slip out of big picture mode. We lose track of the final stop on the line (see column #4).

Look at the columns, side by side and see if the goal or the reason why you’re parenting from the wrong track is in line with what you ultimately want for your child down the road. Do they work together or do they run in opposite directions?

For example, if you are a control freak (like I once was, so I get it) and you’re constantly nagging and micromanaging, is it in line with a goal in column #4? If there are words like independent, observant, resilient, thinking kid, leader, and so on, you’ll see that every time you parent for the immediate solution, (by overriding their ability to make decisions, stopping a mess up, or preventing them from forgetting things) then you’re not supporting the end goal. Over time, you can see that while you want to be headed toward all those long-term goals, you’re not really on the right train.

So, get off at the next stop. Double check your map. Decide which end platform you’d like your child to set foot on at age 18.

Use this information to then think before you flip the switch to travel in the wrong direction. If you can think of it like this, it may help: as a parent EVERY action (not just the big ones, all the little ones) you take either MOVE YOU TOWARD or AWAY FROM that end goal.

Knowing this, each time you opt NOT to yell or correct or save the kids becomes easier and clearer. Practice will give you the mental muscle to make a conscious choice to stay off that tripped up track (even if it gets messy on the RIGHT track) and in the end, get you to a place you and your child can enjoy.

5 Tips: Kids Packing Lunch

5tips

As we said before, packing a lunch is a very useful and “real life” habit that will help your child develop responsibility, time management and confidence. It’s also a nice way to send the message that you trust your child with decisions that affect her life.

Here are 5 ways to help you make this process smooth and simple so that you can walk out of the kitchen and trust they can handle it.

1. EASY REACH: USE LOW STORAGE FOR SUPPLIES

The kitchen is where we keep all the necessities for packing lunches and making meals. Unfortunately, we often keep the clingwrap, napkins, bread and other essentials up high. Open your cabinets and open the low drawers- can your children use these items for making lunches? Or, is it stuff that can be put up high until it’s needed. You can even bring your dishes, bowls and cups to a lower height to make this easier for meals at home. In order to help your child’s independence, put anything and everything your child might need like straws, napkins, lunchbags, and so on. within easy reach.

2. GET YOUR LIDS & BOXES TOGETHER

Nothing says frustration like searching for containers and lids that don’t match. Stock one drawer, bin or cabinet and make sure that they can find matching lids and containers without needing you to “help” by digging through three buckets of plastic for them—it’s a pain. Set them up for success with matching storage containers / jars, etc. This includes drink bottles and screw tops as well!

3. PLAN AHEAD AND STOCK UP

If you have to, spend Sunday nights stocking the kitchen so the mornings are smooth and hands off. Stock one bottom drawer in the fridge with a week’s worth of juiceboxes, or other choices they can grab and pack themselves. Fill the other drawer with fruit or “healthy” options like yogurts, cheese, apple slices, premade “pbj” circle sandwiches, or applesauce, and so on. Stock the pantry or lower cabinet/drawer with a variety of snack, they can be crackers, graham crackers, or chips depending on what you’re committed to. Then tell the kids to choose one snack, one fruit and one dairy and they can choose the rest, or whatever your guildelines are. The most important part is to let THEM CHOOSE. If you’ve stocked it, it’s fair game!

4. MAKE THE SNACKS WIN-WIN

Yes, they will want cookies and junk over healthy stuff but you can set the tone for a healthy lunch by offering “treats” you can live with. This will get them excited to pack their lunches – even if you HATE those fruit rolly things they ask for every time—if they agree to pack and eat other healthy options as well, let them have some sort of “exciting” lunch food they’ve been asking for – just choose something you can live with, vs. something that will eventually make you step in and say no. Kids are willing to balance their own lunches if they can have some say in what goes in there! So, again, stock a space and set a limit (there are five days, five roll ups, and if they eat them all by Tuesday, well, then, they’re out and they’ll have to choose something else). But, if they want one everyday, they’ll have to pace themselves. The point is, your kids are practicing real life skills. You can’t expect a 13 year old to make skillful choices if they haven’t been making them for 10 years. So provide opportunities for the kids to learn.

5. AIM FOR 3 of 5 DAYS TO START

Don’t set out on this change in habit without setting some realistic goals. The first week might go great, but then everyone will fall off. Just know this will happen (it might not, but plan for it). Then, once you’ve gotten an idea of how you’d like to see the mornings go, aim for three days of the five. If you only hit two, well, it’s better than nothing. Keep going until your children trust you’re not even thinking about their lunches anymore! It takes time and it’ll never be perfect. Remember to invite them into the kitchen when you are preparing meals, this will help them feel more comfortable and practice outside of a morning or bedtime routine. Let yourself have a little room to make mistakes and it’ll be much easier to stick with it. [hr]

Kiddo, Pack Your Own Darn Lunch!

darn lunch

There’s something more delicious than a PBJ or bagel with cream cheese in your child’s lunch—something sweeter than a fresh baked cookie or chocolate milk. It’s CONFIDENCE. 100% pure confidence and responsibility…that is, if your daughter packs her own lunch, all by herself without any interference from you.

Maybe your child is already doing this and that’s terrific. But, perhaps she doesn’t – and you’re the one up early every morning, folding and zipping balanced foods into a Spongebob shaped lunchbox. If you are, the good news is you don’t have to do this and you don’t have to feel bad about quitting the job! Here’s the deal: by doing this task everyday for your child, you’re forfeiting a PERFECT opportunity to give your child some choice and real world decision making experience.

It may sound like no big deal, but a kid who packs his lunch is making decisions, testing his judgment (I can’t tell you how many times a kid has over packed or under packed, only to come home and admit they need to adjust the portions). They are practicing time management- everyday, before they leave they have to be sure they have food for the day. If they fall behind or forget, they have to figure something else out (like get the emergency lunch offered at the lunch line). When a child packs her own lunch, she realizes that she’s in charge of her decisions and is more willing to eat what she puts in there.

The biggest benefit to handing off this “chore” is that you’re saying to your kid, sure, I trust you to make a decision and stick to it. I also trust that you can do it.

Again, if packing lunch seems too simple a task to teach this valuable life lesson, I urge you to think about why you are hesitant to even consider the idea. You’ll be late. They’ll make bad choices! You don’t want to deal with the mess, and so forth. All the reasons why you “just take care of it” are the exact reasons, this is an awesome habit that will give your child some real world responsibility.

Yes, this effort will take some time and some planning, but don’t write it off, even if you fail a few days or weeks in. Try again and you’ll see that once you commit to giving it over to your child, your child will commit to taking care of it.

Start the New Year with NEW Thinking 


It’s that time of year again when everyone is ready to start fresh, clean the slate and feel passionately inspired to change their lives. People everywhere, big and small & young and old, are determined to “get it right” and lose the weight, find the time, stop the madness, make amends, be kinder, and so on. Folks are ready to conquer their fears, live their bliss and identify what keeps tripping them up in life, so they can find a new way that leads to happiness.

Usually this fire in the belly attitude is nothing more than a fresh motivation pumped into previous perception. There’s 100% genuine intent – people are committed, no doubt. But then, just as inevitably as the resolutions are made, they start to crumble. I’m not saying resolutions don’t happen – that change doesn’t come to those who try, but when change does happen, there’s something far more powerful than motivation, inspiration and drive leading the way—the change is fueled by NEW THINKING.

This year, try changing your thinking first and watch as your actions follow you in a new direction. Here is how I do it. In order for me to experience significant change (I am not going to yell at the kids any more!), I first have to identify what I’m doing that isn’t working (yelling doesn’t really work all that well or for all that long) and accept that I did the best I could (no beating myself up) and then challenge myself to look at my actions in a new way. First I identify what trips me up: I yell when I am at my wits end and I don’t think anyone is listening to me and well – in all honesty – my feelings are hurt. Yes, under all the manufactured anger, I feel hurt. Then, if I had any doubts at all, I would look at whether my yelling actually worked. It doesn’t. It never did and it never will. Oh sure, I can get my kids to hop to it when I reach 10 decibles, but that’s not the same as saying “yelling works”. It doesn’t. So if I want to change, and I know the yelling isn’t working – what’s tripping me up? Why can’t I just “let it go”?

Because somewhere in my feeble little mind, I still believe that
• I have the right to yell when I want to
• That if I keep yelling, one day it will work
• That my kids are deaf and I must yell
• That things will get worse if I start talking to them like I talk to…

Hey, wait a minute. What would happen if I started to talk to my kids the way I talk to my friends and my co-workers? What if I absolutely could not, under any circumstances start screeching at my kids any more than I could at my co-workers?

Bingo – I have begun the journey to a new way of thinking. If I spend another 24 hours thinking about this, I find that I like the idea. I’m drawn to it. It provides an improvement in my life. I haven’t done anything yet. I’ve just let my brain absorb this new way of thinking. I kick it around to make sure it can stand the test. I try out scenarios and I notice that I am open to the possibility that this might actually work. After all, I would be more inclined to cooperate with people who spoke to me respectfully, than those that yelled at me. Maybe the same is true for my kids (I know this of course, but I am letting the new thinking grab hold and sniff out anything that might get in way when I put it into action).

Can you see that what I am doing is deconstructing the way I looked at the yelling? Nothing complicated. After 24 hours, I am ready to “try” it – just once, to see how I feel when I do it. I’m not basing my decision on how the kids respond, but on how I feel about myself when I choose NOT to yell. Oh, I like this. It means that I am in control. I like control. So I pick a time or a situation, where I am usually reduced to yelling. I am aware. I have my brain on and I’m not parenting from auto-pilot. And just this small shift changes everything. Because I am thinking, because I know that I am in control, because I have allowed the thinking a chance to grow small roots in my otherwise barren brain, I am excited about doing something different. And so I do. I do something different.

What I do isn’t nearly as important as what happened before the doing. Most parents find themselves spending too much time on the “doing” and not enough time on the “change my thinking”. If you know me, you know that I am, by nature, lazy. And I do not like to waste my time on crap that doesn’t work. If this didn’t work, do you think I would be using it? Fat chance. I would continue to yell and screech.

So this year, let your thinking be your guide. Don’t like where you are headed, cop a squat, breathe a bit, and then challenge your thinking. By the time you stand up, you’ll have a new path to travel and you just might find your bliss on the road to “screech free parenting”.

Happy New Year!

10 to Ignore Your Child’s Misbehavior


Ignorance is not bliss, but to ignore your child can be divine.

-Vicki Hoefle

Ignoring your child is a conscious, intentional, proactive, effective and respectful strategy. If used properly that is. Ignoring a screaming child is not nearly as easy as it sounds, so let’s do a quick refresher on what ignoring your child actually looks and feels like.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever consciously decided to ignore your child’s pesky behavior. How did it go? No really, how did it go?

I’m guessing, not so well if any of the following were ALSO happening at the same time you were “ignoring” the bickering, whining, fighting, noodling, sassing, and so on.

    1. Your glaring eyes were burning holes into the back of the 4-year old screaming for you to “help me” or the 9 year old who was ramming the vacuum cleaner into the couch as he finished up his “contri-stupid-bution”.

    2. Dishes were loudly being placed in the dishwasher after you walked away with your arms in the air.

    3 You actually said, “I’m ig-nor-ing you right now!”

    4. You took the last verbal jab (albeit under your breath) on your way through the living room on your way to the bathroom—> something like, “you are so annoying and you will be lucky to have even one friend if you keep acting like this.”

    5. You started crying (quietly of course) and went up to YOUR room.

    6. You physically left the room but kept your silly self close within earshot of the bickering and could feel your blood pressure shoot through the ceiling until you just COULDN’T ignore one more minute.

    7. You pretended to be doing something else, but the look of disgust on your face made it clear to the kids that you were appalled, disappointed, angry, frustrated, embarrassed by their behavior.

    8. You swiftly walked away at the fist sign of discord, but then proceeded to yell “knock it off” from down the hall (over and over and over).

    9. You “ignored them” by keeping your mouth shut, but during the entire episode you were just squirming to come in there and give them the lecture of their lives.

    10. You quietly slipped out…waited till things had settled down and then promptly walked back into the room and brought the entire situation back up again. Oh yes you did.

And yes, these are common- I don’t know a parent who didn’t try at one point or another to remove themselves entirely only to be reeled right back in. So here’s the trick.

(Remember ignoring is a conscious, strategic parenting technique that when used correctly will nip those pesky behaviors in the bud. After all, if you’re not paying attention, then they really have no chance at thriving for very long!)

Tips for a success I.G.N.O.R.E

    I – It never happened. (Even though it clearly just did). Stay cool as a cucumber – act like you truly didn’t see, hear, smell or feel it. And do not, whatever you do, let your face give you away. A smile (as if you had a recent botox injection) is the only appropriate facial expression.

    G – Gather information. This is a chance for you to watch the action, and gather information that will help you choose an effective parenting technique that will net you better results than getting involved when you are upset and invested in the outcome.

    N – Never get involved in the spat (unless it’s morally or physically dangerous). Go away and stay away. Do something – anything else and when you return, whatever you do, don’t bring up the subject AND don’t let your emotions get the best of you. I know you want to but it’s ok to say, nope, not my problem.

    O- Opt out and stay out until the situation changes course. Then continue on as if it never happened. This leaves the kids scratching their heads in bewilderment and what parent doesn’t enjoy pulling one over on the kids from time to time?

    R – Random distraction. Use a clever change of subject to steer out of a potentially dangerous situation. It isn’t hard to do if you are willing to make a fool out of yourself for the health and wellbeing of your family.

    E – Encourage the behaviors, attitudes and actions you WANT to see, and watch as the pesky ones will diminish. I promise.

I know it’s hard to ignore the kids. I know that your friends are still trying to convince you that you have to “do something”, even when that something is just going to make things worse. I know getting the hairy eyeball makes it hard to ignore the mischief making bandits, but hang in there. Ignoring will help you recognize bigger issues within your family and the clarity necessary to really influence positive and lasting change. If a problem persists, it means that more focus and planning are required. And isn’t that what parenting is about? Using every minute of the 18 years the kids are with us to keep tweaking our approach and making steady headway in raising engaged, thinking, cool kids?

Kids and Sports (and Parents)

This is a great article. One of the best I have read when it comes to using common sense when talking about kids and sports. Because nowadays kids and sports isn’t really about those two things. It’s about the parents getting involved and we all knows it looks bad from that vantage point.

This article points out 5 Ways to Keep Youth Sports Fun and I found it refreshing, as well as, enlightening to read what Declan Connolly had to say.

Point One – Let the kids keep score and teach the coaches how to build fundamentals with a focus on skill development.

    Brilliant. I for one am not against good old fashion competition. As long as the rules are clear and it’s a level playing field, I say – go for it. Connolly informs parents that kids will indeed keep score and that’s okay. As long as the adults are focusing on the bigger picture, everything will balance out in the end.

Point Two – Keep “Play” Front and Center.

    Amen to that. My battle cry to parents who INSIST that their 7 year old shows real talent for pitching, blocking, jumping, throwing, back flips, etc. is this – the odds that your child will still be interested in this sport in 5 years in less than 20%. Let them enjoy the experience and be ready to purchase all new equipment for the next sport they find interesting. This article drives home the point using stats that will have every parent rethinking their position on pushing kids to compete before they are ready.

Point Three – Don’t Review Your Kids Performance On The Ride Home.

    Nothing much to add to this except – PUT THE DAMN DUCT TAPE IN YOUR GLOVE COMPARTMENT BOX AND SHOW YOUR KIDS WHERE YOU KEEP IT.

Point Four – Encourage Variety.

    Like life, this is another example of introducing balance into a child’s world. A thoughtful parent who is raising a “whole” child will understand the power of this idea. A narrow field of vision, whether it’s sports, academics, social or financial, limits our child’s ability to develop “mental muscle”. My motto – once they get good at something, change it up so that dealing with frustration and disappointment is as easy as changing from soccer to track shoes.

Point Five – Resist the Temptation to Coach Your Kid.

    How about you coach yourself or coach your friends. Try talking to yourself in the mirror and tell me how much YOU like being coached by you. More than one parent told me that this technique put a quick stop to their “good intentions” and “years of experience” that prompted them to coach the kids.

Bottom line – like everything else having to do with kids, sports is just another opportunity to turn over the reins to them, learn to listen instead of talk, follow their lead which builds confidence and stay flexible which will keep you young and supple for years to come.