All posts tagged parenting progress

Your Kids WILL See Porn

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

trust child

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

Sex and porn

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

Overcome your fears and release the judgement

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

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

Get Educated

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

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

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

Talk to friends and create a support system

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

Jump in and try it

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

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

#growingagrownup

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

Getting The Kids Involved

Getting the Kids Involved Means Letting them Participate 

work is worthIt sounds super obvious to most parents that if you want kids to follow a daily routine, they have to help create it and then feel supported as they practice mastering the routine on their own. Well, that’s not always how things play out. We often “let” the kids participate when it’s convenient for us or when they are doing things “right” but as soon as they fall behind, or don’t do things exactly the way we want them, we step in and muddle everything up. Creating, executing and mastering routines takes time and while the kids are practicing, life happens. But if we can shift our thinking, if we can let the routine lead the day, we’ll find that children can take on more responsibility, become less dependent on us for everything and we can all enjoy that time between activities vs. rushing and hurrying things along.

What does this mean? It means, if your child is supposed to pack a backpack for school, you wont jump in and do it as the clock starts ticking louder and louder. And so, yes, you’ll be late. Yes, your kid will wear PJ’s to school. Yes, they won’t have a lunch if they don’t feel like making one. Once you learn to let go, the child will know you trust they can do it and that’s when the magic happens. Obviously, allowing a kid to go to school hungry because they forgot their lunch or left their homework behind, is a hard lesson to learn! Most parents think they just can’t let that happen. But they soon find out they can and it only happens once or twice.

IMG_6573Over time, once your children realize you’re going about the routine and that you trust them to manage on their own, they begin to master tasks that lead to confidence and capability. After the peaceful, relaxed and orderly routine is established, you’ll never look back!

Are you ready for a routine?

Kids CAN Do So Much! With a solid routine and less interference, kids of all ages CAN and WILL:

  • get dressed
  • make lunches
  • bring a backpack
  • get ready for bed quickly
  • wake up for school on time
  • finish homework
  • brush their teeth
  • feed the pets
  • and so much more!

Head’s Up! It’ll be bumpy for just a short while. Once you master the routine, it’ll get smoother and sweeter. In the beginning, you’ll have to focus on these few things:

kid workPatience. Don’t step in, even if you’re late.

Correcting. If a kid packs three granola bars for his lunch, hey it’s a start. It’ll get better- don’t get caught up in the little stuff.

Let go. You’ll just have to sacrifice a few events (like bball practice or dinner out) in order to learn the routine.

Once it’s in place, it’ll be just fine.
Trust the kids. Just trust them. They will find a way if you’re not there doing everything for them.

Noticing Strengths

Meet my friend Millie. Millie is a mom I met several months ago after she read Duct Tape Parenting, found herself slightly perplexed, & decided to contact us to get some clarity around my “less is more” approach to parenting.

Millie is open, honest, aware and truly committed to gathering new information, letting go of some old parenting habits, creating some new ones and investing in the relationships she has with her kids.

We’ve had many conversations since the first one (and are in the process of recording some to publish as podcasts.) Millie even decided to start a blog  and here is one of her posts. She touches my heart daily and my hope is she will inspire someone else out there to be the parent they dreamed of being. Take it away Millie.

I adore my daughter.

pink-umbrellaI do. And so many of the things I adore about her are the things that also drive me bonkers.

I adore that she is so incredibly certain of herself and what she wants. As an adult who struggles with indecision and immediate buyers’ remorse, I marvel at her ability to make decisions and stick with them even in the face of intense pushback (often from me).

I adore that she is an early riser and is always eagerly ready to greet the day, usually with a song.

I adore that conventional songs cannot adequately express her thoughts and emotions, so she finds it necessary to make up her own, sometimes very lengthy songs. She also relies on made up words to convey her (very strong) ideas. I adore her made up words so much that many of them are now my passwords for my most secure sign-on information. Although they are random combinations of sounds that mean nothing to anyone else, they mean a lot to me.

I adore her tenacity. I despise her tenacity. I adore her tenacity. I have to tenaciously cling to my adoration for this quality because it often makes my life very difficult. She has no problem deflecting my (sometimes brilliant) efforts at redirection and distraction. When Olive sets her mind to something – She. Will. Have. It. At the same time that I’m wishing for a more compliant child, I’m also kind of pleased to think that she might have gotten a little of that tenacity from my side of the gene pool. My husband and I both have been known to sacrifice a great deal to achieve some goal we want to accomplish.

I adore her ravenous appetite for life. I could do without her ravenous appetite for cheese and ice cream and I often worry that she inherited my own garbage disposal approach to eating. But, Olive eats life up. It seems like she can’t get enough. Can’t get enough songs, shows, days at school, pink pairs of pants, playdates, ice cream . . .

I adore her never ending efforts to always skew the situation in her favor. She is “always closing.” (In sales, so my husband tells me, one of the mottos is: ABC: Always Be Closing. Olive would be great at sales.) This is a quality she certainly did not get from me and one I definitely have to work not to take personally. Closely related to her tenacity, this inborn instinct means that she literally never takes no for an answer. Her motto could be, “It never hurts to ask at least three times.”

One of the things that scares me the most about parenting is the fear that all Olive will see from me is my frustration and irritation because that is what shows up on my face most often. When she grows up and looks back on her childhood, I want her to remember my face as open and loving and adoring. I don’t want her to remember my frustrated, angry face. Of course, for that to happen, I need to spend a lot more time showing her my adoration, not just feeling it after she goes to bed and writing about it on my blog.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to adore my daughter.

We’ll be featuring Millie’s blog posts from time to time. To read more of Millie’s work, visit www.confessionsofanauthoritarianparent.com

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.

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.

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.

From Frog Collecting to Number Crunching

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

Here is my “top 10” list for making the transition from frog collecting to number crunching a smooth one, for kids and parents alike. With these pointers in mind, you’ll help your children begin the school year on the right foot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Interest and Healthy Families

Simply put, we are a culture preoccupied with our own Self Interest which, unfortunately is reinforced on a daily basis.

Two prevailing attitudes which emerge with regularity are:

  • What’s in it for me? OR What will I get?
  • What will people think of me?

Here are a number of questions children ask themselves every day which can be influenced by the What’s in it for me/What will I get attitude.

What will I get, if I…

  • Use the potty?
  • Sleep in my own bed?
  • Sit still for a hair cut?
  • Let the doctor give me a check up?
  • Say I am sorry?
  • Help with daily contributions?
  • Stop fighting with my siblings?
  • Apply myself at school?
  • Agree to come home on time?
  • Stop calling my family names?
  • Drop the attitude?

Scary, isn’t it? You begin to get a sense of how that attitude might affect your kids as employees, spouses and parents.

The second attitude – What will people think of me is more commonly seen in adults. It sounds something like.

What will people think of me, if…

  • My kids aren’t properly clothed, fed, washed, groomed?
  • My kids are disrespectful, rude, display bad manners, are sassy to me?
  • My kids do poorly in school or are not star athletes?
  • I can’t afford to have my kids do all the things their friends do and have what their friends have?
  • I can’t control my kids?

This attitude is disastrous for parents and children alike. As parents, it is difficult enough to make responsible and respectful decisions regarding our children. To compound the problem by adding the – What will people think of me, significantly limits our ability to parent from our best. The decisions we make about and for our children can no longer be influenced by what others will think of us.

Tips for Success

If you, as the parent, ever wonder about HOW you are making decisions, take a few seconds and answer this one question:

The needs of the situation require that I do what?

Here is what Adler had to say on the subject of Social Interest:

    “A healthy person is concerned for other people and has a sincere desire to contribute to society. So, Never do anything for a child that a child can do for herself.”

    “The first step in teaching social interest is to teach self-reliance.
    So, Never rob your children of opportunities to feel capable.”

Here are 3 examples that illustrate the power of Social Interest:

1. Imagine your child arrives at school properly trained in Social Interest. He may look around the room and say, “The needs of the situation require that I…”

  • Choose a place to sit.
  • Have a pencil to write with and all the other supplies I will need for the day.
  • Raise my hand when I have a question.
  • Do my homework as is expected of me.
  • Allow other children to speak.
  • Follow through with the agreements I make with the teacher.

Imagine a school room with students who are ALL asking themselves this same set of questions. Powerful stuff.

2. Now imagine your children at home and asking themselves internally, “The needs of the situation require that I…”

  • Help my brother out with homework because he is struggling and math is easy for me.
  • Say no to friends who ask me out and I know they will be drinking.
  • Practice my instrument, because I made an agreement with my parents and music teacher.
  • Miss my soccer game so I can go to an important family function.
  • Do my contributions, even though I was up late, because everyone else is expected to do theirs.

Yes, I know it seems too good to be true, but consider this for a minute, we are always in the process of choosing. That includes how we interpret situations. So either our kids are asking themselves, what will I get out of this, or they are asking themselves the needs of the situation require that I do what. Why is it so hard for parents to believe, that children, when given a chance, will act from the position of the highest social interest?

Okay, lastly –

3. Imagine yourself, as a parent who asks on a regular basis, “The needs of the situation require that I…”

  • Allow my children to experience frustration, so they can learn more about themselves.
  • Stay cool and put this on the agenda for Family Meeting.
  • Apologize when I make a mistake.
  • Remain flexible as my children learn to navigate their way around an ever changing world.
  • Model empathy, compassion and forgiveness if I expect my children to develop these attributes.
  • Avoid comparing my children with anyone else – ever.
  • Allow my child to make a choice, even though I know it may end poorly.
  • Respect the natural consequence my child is going to experience with faith and confidence.
  • Explain to the teacher why my child is coming to school with no lunch and no homework.
  • Refrain from telling stories about my child in social situations where everyone else is complaining.

Again, you see the power this one question has in influencing every decision we make. So this week, anchor the power of developing Social Interest in yourself, your children and your family.

The Parenting On Track™ Family

Alright, so on the flip side of my last post;

You know you are a Parenting On Track™ family when….

10. Your 6 year old daughter wears her best high heel shoes in a snowstorm – and you have the confidence that she will learn a valuable lesson, as you wait patiently and support her learning.

9. You lock yourself in the bathroom during a temper tantrum – because you know all about feeding the weed and you are not about to feed this one.

8. You get a call from your child’s teacher, because he forgot his lunch for the past 3 days – and instead of apologizing, you confidently explain that you are raising a thinking child and trust that any day now, he will figure out a valuable lesson and the problem will be solved once and for all.

7. Your child goes to school in her pajamas at least twice a week – and you have long ago given up your mistaken belief that “good” mommies make sure their children are color-coordinated, because this morning, like every other morning, your child gave you a big fat kiss, a super-duper squeeze and said I love you, before heading off to school – and that means more than a matching outfit.

6. You do nothing and say nothing unless its physically or morally dangerous – because you know that 90% of the time, if not more, doing or saying anything will only make things worse and there really isn’t any reason to make things worse with a 4 year old who is doing his best at figuring out the world.

5. Your whites are pink – and you don’t care because in another 4 weeks, you will have another person in your house, who is capable of sorting, washing, drying, folding and putting away clothes without whining, griping, or complaining.

4. Your 17 year old child, makes a point of coming over during a basketball game with friends, hugs you and tells you he loves you – and the crazy thing is, this is perfectly normal because it happens on a regular basis.

3. Your kid makes a mistake, and it actually brings your family closer, instead of pushing everyone apart – family meetings, which are a staple of your lives, has given rise to amazing problem solvers who appreciate everyone in the family and understand that mistakes are indeed opportunities to learn.

2. Your children honestly believe that without them, the family would not function, and you, the parent, would not be able to manage your life effectively – and you bask in this knowledge even as you listen to other parents brag about how much their children need and depend on them.

1. You extend the invitation to your children to participate in life, they accept and when it’s time for them to go out on their own, they step out with confidence and enthusiasm and look back at you and say, “Thanks!” Ah – the thrill of victory.

To all the thousands of parents, who invested their time and energy and a few bucks in creating a family that is sometimes impossible to describe to someone who isn’t living it, thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories and your struggles. Thank you for believing in yourselves and your kids and in a program that promises to deliver what most of us dreamed about when we held our first child in our arms.

Top 10: Duct Tape Parenting

This summer, as word spreads about the amazing, almost hard to describe results parents who are using the Parenting On Track™ program are experiencing, more and more folks are contacting us asking us one simple question

How do I know if Parenting On Track™ is right for me and my family? To make things simple, here is my list of the Top 10 Reasons to “PonTify” your family.

    10. You are still helping your 5 year old get dressed in the morning, and that includes throwing his clothes in the dryer, so he will get dressed without throwing a tantrum or laying them out for her in the morning.

    9.
    You make 3 different meals at dinner, because your children are picky, picky, picky.

    8.
    You pack extra….yes, extra everything! Just in case.

    7.
    You snap, point and stomp. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the “hairy eyeball” face to get your kids to listen to you.

    6. You keep telling your kids they have to be nice to each other and stop fighting. You tell them repeatedly – “The Morgans Do Not Fight!!!” And still they bicker and pick and fight every single day.

    5. You run to your three-year old when she cries (and she cries about everything), because if you don’t run to make things better, she will make you pay for the rest of your day!

    4. You say “Good Job!” at least once every day.

    3. When your child says, “I’m bored”, you think it’s your problem.

    2. You have never considered that a 13 year old absolutely, will not, under any conditions, sit in the naughty chair. If you had, you wouldn’t be sending your three-year old to the naughty chair.

    1.
    You spend more time doing laundry, picking up toys, packing lunches, emptying back packs, checking homework, monitoring the computer, shutting down cell phones, checking on whereabouts, returning late library books…..than visiting with your children.

If you said “yup, that’s me” to any or all of the above, then maybe it’s time for you to consider a new way of parenting. After all, parenting is supposed to be about raising the next generation of leaders and less about getting through another disastrous morning.

And really when you dreamed of having children, was your dream filled with micro-managing their lives or was the dream about the strong bond, the deep connection, and the richness parent/child relationship would bring to your life?

The Power of Doing Something Different

Taking the time to notice the patterns that exist in our lives with kids and responding to the patterns in new ways, in other words, doing something different, is often times the easiest and most effective solution.

Why? Because any time we switch it up with our kids, something happens for both the parent and child. Our brains go from automatic pilot to fully engaged.

In the parent’s case, this is the difference between using ineffective, unhealthy and negative parenting strategies and replacing them with intentional, enhancing and powerful parenting strategies that work over time to completely change the family environment.

In the child’s case, this means they “wake up”. The recognize there is something new happening and old responses are no longer working to engage parents. It means they are required to use their creative process to interpret what is happening and to come up with new strategies and to question whether these new strategies are effective when it comes to engaging their parents.

Here is a recap of a conversation I had recently with a parent about the power of ignoring:

“I noticed that although I thought I was ignoring tantrums, I really wasn’t. I was somehow still engaged. Now, I take a minute and decide – really decide, that I am going to go on with what I am doing and you know what – it makes all the difference. Now I am actually ignoring what they are doing and when I do, the mischief making stops.”

There you go. Ignoring the shenanigans was the “doing something different”.

Here is how it works:

  • Kids are going to make mischief.

  • They depend on you to be consistent in your parenting strategies. If these include nagging, lecturing, yelling and punishing, this is what the child is accustomed to and they know how to respond.
    When you decide to ignore, the game changes.

  • Typically, a child will escalate their antics, hoping to get the response they are use to getting from their folks. In their mind, they are thinking “Hey! You! Parent! What’s up? Look at me. I am being “naughty”. Do something. Do what you do.

  • When this doesn’t happen, when you continue to ignore, the kids begin to push back even harder. The mischief making intensifies again, in the hopes that parents will “go back to the old way”.

  • Finally, when they are worn out and convinced, that mom or dad aren’t going back to their old ways, they are required to “think”. Hence my constant reminder to parents that we are indeed trying to RAISE thinking children.

  • When we decide, when we are intentional in our decision making process, ignoring shifts from a passive, giving in act – to a powerful, respectful, intentional dynamic act. That’s a big difference. From passive to active. Ignoring behavior now becomes a powerful pro-active parenting strategy.

Ignoring is only the beginning. The Parenting On Track™ program is designed to help parents discover what isn’t working and to replace that with strategies that focus on enhancing both the relationship parents have with their kids and their child’s ability to grow into an independent and confident person.

Shifting Perspectives

A few months ago I came across a post written by Maya Frost introducing her book “The New Global Student”. I ordered her book immediately, read it, and then invited everyone else in the family to read it. They did, much to my delight, and as a result, the way we look at “education” completely shifted.

Today, I received an email from Maya who is changing course. Instead of focusing on “studying abroad, saving on college costs, avoiding student debt and getting a personalized international education”, she is moving in another direction. She is growing along with her life and taking her own advice. To live outside of the box.

She sums up in her post, what I try to communicate on a daily basis over the last 20 years as a parent educator.

1)“Fear causes paralysis.” You cannot parent effectively from a place of fear. Get informed. Gather new information. Practice. Take risks. Make mistakes. And find strength in my confidence and belief that YOU can do this and YOU are the best parent for your child, until you have developed your own confidence.

2) “I can inform, cajole and cheer (and I continue to do so, with active members in the forum) but in the end, the decision to overcome fear in order to soar is not mine to make.” My business partner and I talk about our lives with our families, the deep connections we have with each of our children (9 between the two of us), the joy we feel when we are in their company and we marvel at how fortunate we are. The feelings we have are indescribable. We arrived in this place because we pushed through our fears and we work tirelessly in our job as parents.

3) “Exhaustion limits perspective.” I say this all the time in my program. In order to remain emotionally available to your children, you must quit your jobs as the maid, the bottle washer, the chauffeur, the head-chef, and personal assistant. When you are exhausted from managing your children’s lives (plus your own) you have no reserves left when your kids really need you. We have a choice. We can choose to remain emotionally available, so we are there for our kids when they truly need us to be present and accessible, or we can fill our lives up waiting on perfectly capable kids, performing useless tasks, so we can openly complain about how much we DO for our kids and how lucky they are to have us.

4) “It’s easier to ignore than to innovate.” In the case of Parenting On Track™, one of my favorite and most powerful strategies is to indeed ignore. The difference is that we are intentionally ignoring what it is you do not want. We do this so that we do not find ourselves behaving worse than our children. We do this so we do not fuel the fire or feed the weed, as I like to say. We do this so we have creative energy to develop a roadmap for success, a plan, a pro-active strategy that will move our entire family closer to what it is they want. When we ignore what we do not want and we focus on what we want, we step into the innovative process. We take chances, we learn to trust ourselves and we share this with our children.

5) “The world is changing, and ultimately, it is up to each of us to decide if, when, and how we will change along with it.” The strategies our parents used are no longer valid. We must adapt our parenting styles with the ever-changing world we live in.

6) “Life goes on.” In the end all that matters is the relationship you have with your kids. We are not perfect. Our children are not perfect. Do your children know, believe, feel like you are their biggest champion? If that is true for them, that’s all you need.

In tribute to Maya and so she knows that people are taking advantage of all she offers, here is a recap of what’s happening at my house.

Colin is pursuing an education that is completely “hands on”, out of the ordinary, and is absolutely suited to his unique personality and nature. As a result of his positive experience in taking risks and following his passion, he has applied to Peace Corp and fully expects to begin his 2 year volunteer service in 2011. Talk about a non-traditional education that holds up against ……

Zoe, who graduated this year, was accepted to Whittier College, but decided to travel abroad for a year spending 26 -40 weeks volunteering in an early education program in Argentina. Her love of children, travel and Spanish inspired her to “think outside of the box” and to jump into life, before she committed to a classroom setting. Her confidence and willingness to do this, was in part, the result of her reading Maya’s book.

Kiera and Brady are still in the process of examining all of their options and oh what fun it is. Instead of SAT tutoring, financial aid paperwork, and pulling hair out about application deadlines, student aid and writing entrance essays they are enjoying this summer and engaging in conversations about possibilities post high school. It is pushing all of us in the family into re-examining our lives in general.

Click here to learn more about Maya Frost.

If you want to raise confident, cooperative, capable, respectful and responsible children in the 21st Century, I created a 12 Chapter multi-media program that walks you through step by step and shows you how to do this. Click here to learn more.

If you are considering purchasing the Parenting On Track™ program or contemplating when or if to dive into the Do Nothing Say Nothing week of the program. I invite you to read Maya’s latest blog post.

Are you raising a bully? Part II

If you liked last week’s post from Annie Fox and were looking for some follow up solutions, check out Annie Fox’s second blog post My Child? A Bully? Part II. You will find 6 suggestions for addressing the bullying behavior.

Among them are a few of my recommendations as well.

At the top of the list is the Family Meeting. As the mother of 5 and part of a blended family with kids who have very strong personalities and a mother who is not opposed to using “power” to get her own way, our Family Meetings were a venue that held each and every one of us accountable for our behavior. My husband and I experienced the same consequences the kids did when we resorted to any bullying tactics to get our own way.

For those of you who know me, you will know that this didn’t happen often, but even I can be pushed into behaving in despicable ways. Luckily, we created a powerful tool for supporting each of us as we grew into our most respectful selves.

My second recommendation for addressing bullying behavior is to work with an outside source. Whether you see a parent coach, a traditional therapist or a member of the clergy, getting an outside perspective, having an impartial ear and a voice of reason will go a long way at “rebooting” your family and giving every member the skills they need to stay respectful and thoughtful with each other as well as everyone else in their lives.

“The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander” by Barbara Coloroso is still my hands down favorite book for truly learning about, understanding and then addressing the issue of bullying.

Over the years I have been asked repeatedly to address the subject of bullying and I have declined each and every time. Instead, I choose to focus on the task of teaching families how to create an atmosphere that is pro-active and provides opportunities for building strong relationships.

All of us at Parenting On Track™ encourage you to start creating this atmosphere of mutual respect, encouragement, contribution and cooperation right away. Don’t wait until you see the signs of bullying in your child. Don’t wait until you experience yourself (not parenting from your best) in your child’s behavior to do something differently. Build healthy relationships today and offer your children another way to “be” in relationship with themselves, their siblings, their friends, and the community at large. Click here and learn more about our multi-media home program now.

Are you raising a bully?

Annie Fox’s blog this week titled “My Child? A Bully?” reminds us all that bullying is present and pervasive. It is troubling to consider that any one of us could be raising, fostering, or housing a bully, in spite of everything we do to raise caring, respectful, compassionate human beings.

Although this is a difficult conversation to have, and an even more difficult idea to consider, it’s worth braving the murky waters of bullying to better understand how we can influence our children in positive ways.

Annie shares a quick bullet list that provides insight and challenges us to look deeper into ourselves and our family dynamics.

Here is the list taken directly from the article.

Hints that your child may be a bully:

  • You or your partner is a bully.
  • Your child is bossy at home.
  • Your child’s closest friends are not the nicest people.
  • Your child makes rude comments about other people.

Click on the link below and read the entire article. It’s worth it, even if you are certain, you are not living with a bully.

My Child? A Bully? by Annie Fox

Look for part II on Tuesday, July 20th!

Navigating Summer Expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My expectation is this:

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

Mind Blowing Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As my oldest daughter likes to say –

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

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

It’s Just A Pink Cake…Right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kids Have Perfect Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Way to go Zack!

A Silent Companion

“To me it appears that every child, indeed every human being, for some reason, is continually striving to answer questions, to overcome difficulties, to solve riddles, and to develop himself in some degree towards a self-satisfying completion, the full achievement of his life purpose. No matter what may be the age of an individual, you will find tendencies which have their beginnings—if one may venture to use the phrase—in the dawn of life, and which, by their persistence, ever demand a development to a higher level.” (From “The Cause and Prevention of Neuroses,” IZIP, Vol 5, 1927.)

This idea – “The purpose of life, is a life of purpose”, has been a major theme in my life for as long as I can remember.So when I read Adler’s eloquent suggestion that every individual is in the process of identifying and then aligning themselves with a “purpose” it was enough to hook me on his entire philosophy.As a mother, Adler’s ideas served as my inspiration. This one quote was a constant companion when my children were still in their infancy.

Striving to answer questions

Instead of doing a survey of friends, books or experts, each time I hit a snag with one of my kids, I learned to trust myself – to quiet down before I began a frantic search for the right answer. Digging deep inside and challenging my assumptions about parenthood and kids and the world served me well. It still does. And it has provided me with the knowledge that indeed, within each of us is the answer to every question we will ever ask about our roles as parents.

To overcome difficulties

Learning to move beyond the momentary blip or temper tantrum or all out rage of the moment and trusting that, in fact, with time, and with patience, a way around or through or over the difficulty is presented. Making the space for this truth allowed me to “wait” to remember “this too shall pass” and to create a set of resources for myself that I would use over and over again in my life as a mother.

To solve riddles

Learning to ask inquisitive questions that led me in a new direction and looking at my child’s peculiar behavior as a puzzle instead of taking it personally, allowed me to step away from the drama, to activate my creative thinking process to tap into otherwise dormant quadrants of my brain and miraculously “see” the riddle, the puzzle and it’s solution.

These are just 3 examples of how I used Adler’s work and how, because of them, I was able to parent with a keen sense of confidence, enthusiasm, joy, and in some cases fearless abandon. As I reflect on my early years as a parent, I see that these ideas were responsible for my ability to develop clarity, wisdom, flexibility and compassion as a mother.

Being a mother requires courage.

Lately, I am hearing from a whole new group of parents wondering how I did it. How I raised kids the “Adlerian” way in such a successful and joyous manner. We all know that sometimes parenting from this perspective can be damn difficult. And instead of blathering on for weeks about ALL of Adler’s really cool concepts, I whittled it down to this one.

Today, I find myself awe struck, speechless, touched, tearful and joyous as I witness from the sidelines, as children everywhere, including mine, engage in the incredible journey towards a self-satisfying completion.

I was inspired each day to not only live MY purpose, but to support each of my children as they find theirs. I found the courage to turn away from popular culture and trust myself first until I tapped into this unyielding confidence in – me, my children and the world-at-large.

And now that I have opened up the topic of Adler, I will be posting regularly on all the delightful ways this amazing theory has acted as my silent partner in raising myself and my children to enjoy the magical and mysterious life we live.

It is not a Secret!

Over the holiday vacation I had the distinct pleasure of watching Kathy and Steve’s kids. Just in case you don’t know this magnificent family, Tela is 5, Sadie is 4 (they are 11 months apart) and Zach is 11 months old. The entire day was glorious (pure joy), however one specific moment struck me and when I shared it with Vicki, she encouraged me to share my story with the other parents who read our blog.

Here it is:

We were getting dressed to go outside and play in the snow and Tela and Sadie wanted the same thing. I don’t remember exactly what it was maybe a pair of skates or a hat or mittens, it really does not matter, what transpired is the important part.

Tela said, “I want that.”
And Sadie said, “I want that.”

It was quiet for a few seconds, all 8 of us sitting, waiting to see what would happen next. We have had enough cousins and kids in our house that all of us knew the atmosphere could shift from peaceful to unpleasant in one short second.

Finally,Sadie says, “Ok Tela, you can have it and then I’ll use it when you are done.”
Tela replies, ”I love you Sadie”
And Sadie says, “I love you too, Tela.”

Fast forward these Parenting On Track™ kids 9 years and look at some other Parenting On Track™ kids I know.

We are at a Christmas celebration with my husband’s extended family.

Jack (14) and Amy (12) are sharing a recliner and Liz (8) and Jess (5) are snuggled in the couch so closely together, it’s difficult to discern how many people are in that clump of arms and legs. They are all intently hanging on every word their Uncle, who just flew in from CA, is saying.

My husband’s cousin points to the older two and says,

”Don’t you know brothers and sisters that age don’t sit in the same room with each other, let alone the same chair?” He points to the younger two and says, “Girls that age are usually fighting with each other, they look like best friends. How do you do it?”

I shrug my shoulders and give the standard reply that I had nothing at all to do with it. He smiled and said, “Wish we all knew the secret. You are doing something.”

As I sat watching Kathy’s kids interact with each other, I realized, yes, we (parents) do have something to do with it and it starts at a very early age. If we are mindful and intentional parents when kids are 2, 3, 4, and 5, we start preparing them.

Over the years, I have experienced many a rolling eye, because I ignored the snarled hair or the mismatched shoes. I have felt many judgmental sideways glances when I decided to walk away from a tantrum instead of sending the crying child to timeout. I have heard not-so-subtle scoffs when I share that I do not sit down with my children every night and make them do their homework.

It took a while, but I am finally able to relax in the confidence that I am preparing myself and my children for departure- for life from 18-80. While my kids are young and living with me, my parenting choices have a purpose.

After spending time with Kathy’s kids, I know what connects the two of us. We are both committed to raising independent, thinking children. We trust this will give them a distinct advantage in managing their young adult lives with confidence and enthusiasm. Yes, it can be inconvenient at times, but after being in the room with a 3 and 4 year old who know how to solve problems, appreciate each other, move the action forward and show gratitude for a fun day spent at my house (without being prompted by their parents), I know what I know. This program delivers a powerful punch.

I know this does not happen by accident; these kids are being trained and are given the opportunity to practice over and over and over again.

Want to know the best news? It’s not a secret!

The Parenting On Track™ program exists to show every parent how. All it takes is a decision. A decision to invite kids to participate in their lives at the earliest of ages. The results are worth every cavity, every missed bus, every broken dish, every lost mitten, and every choice made-no matter the immediate outcome.

So thanks Kathy, thanks for sharing your beautiful, wonderful, capable, confident, resilient, thoughtful, joyous, flexible little babes with me- I so look forward to the next time.

If you are interested in learning more about the Parenting On Track™ program please visit our samples page at http://www.parentingontrack.com.