All posts tagged practice

End of the Praise-Junkie

praise v encourage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Routine Samples

A huge part of setting up routines is knowing what the heck kids could be doing on their own! Often we don’t even realize we’re doing things that the kids are perfectly capable of doing. Many parent find a sample routine helpful. Here are three basic routines that a child can follow. Of course you can adapt it to meet your child’s ability but all of these are reasonable, and believe it or not, possible (just ask our community of parents).

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Morning Routine – The mornings can be nightmares for many parents. Kids running late, breakfast on the run, backpacks left behind, missing clothes, power struggles and yelling. It’s not what we want, but it’s often what we get. As parents, we understand that the morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day, so it is important to start on the right foot. So what’s the secret to smooth mornings, take offs that are timely and kids who are ready and excited about their day?

EXAMPLE:

Mom and Dad have two kids, ages 4 and 8. They don’t all follow the same exact schedule together as a team, but they get through the morning on their individual agendas. And they do it daily. And it works because everyone knows what they are supposed to do from the moment they wake up!

 

Anna /Mom – 45 years

6:00 wake up

6:10 Coffee with husband

6:30 Shower and dressed

7:00 Checks email and organizes day

7:15 Helps Rachel check the weather

7:20 Breakfast

7:35 Helps Rachel unload the Dishwasher

7:45 Goes back to bedroom and stays out of the way

7:55 Turns on music so Rachel knows its time to leave in 5 minutes

8:00 Goes out to car and leaves – whether kids are in the car or not.

8:05 Henry & Anna have agreed that on the ride to school, they will not listen to the radio – they will

visit. Mom supports Henry’s natural rhythm and “allows” him to sleep in and Henry agrees not to listen

to the radio and chat with his mom.

 Rachel – 4 years

7:00 Rise and Shine to Tinkerbell Alarm Clock

7:15 Down the stairs – checks the weather

7:25 Breakfast

7:35 Helps mom unload the dishwasher from the night before

7:40 Pack Backpack & snack for preschool

7:45 Brush teeth – before getting dressed because sometimes she dribbles on her shirt when she spits

7:50 Back upstairs to get dressed and relaxes

Rachel is particularly organized and created a routine that allows her to read quietly in her room for 5 to

10 minutes. She and her mom have agreed upon a signal that it is 5 minutes to take off and Rachel

comes down the steps – puts on her coat and boots/shoes/sandals and heads to the bus/to the car.

Henry – 8 years

7:45 Bolts out of bed

7:50 Down stairs fully dressed

7:55 Grabs a piece of fruit or poptart for breakfast

8:00 Packs backpack complete with travel toothbrush and toothpaste and Listerine breath strips

8:05 Runs out the door putting shoes on and carrying family garbage to the garage

If you are wondering why mom is not more involved in the morning routine its because the children have been trained. Mom understands that if a child can do it, she deserves the space to do it. If you would like more information on training children, please check out Chapter 3 of the PonT home program.

Classmate pupils running outside.

Afternoon Routine – So the kids get off the bus or you pick them up from day care. Maybe you are in the kitchen waiting to greet them with warm tollhouse cookies and maybe you are strapping them into car seats and seat belts for another long car ride. In any case, the afternoon can be stressful for everyone in the family. Taking the time to create an easy, uncomplicated afternoon routine that helps everyone transition from an individual focus to a family focus is crucial.

School Routine – 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.

EXAMPLES:

This single Mom of 3 kids, ages 6, 8 and 10, began following the program when her oldest was three. Notice how much the children do on their own and how much quality time is worked into the routine!

Valerie – 48 years

(3 days a week the kids ride the bus home and 2 days a week she picks the kids up and drops the oldest at a local skate park where he is part of a program that mentors younger kids.)

When the kids ride the bus home: 3:00 – Connect with kids when they get off the bus or pick up afterschool to deliver to extracurricular activities – (3 kids 10 minutes each listen and download)

Hillary – 6 years – Comes home and makes snack

Jared – 8 years – Jumps on bike and does round up with kids in the neighborhood for an hour of tree climbing

Elliot – 10 years – Gets ready for neighborhood carpool to skateboard park

When mom picks the kids up

Hillary – Has packed a snack that she put in the car before she left for school

Jared – Needs a chance to unwind and has agreed to play a video game in the car as long as he turns it off when they arrive home.

Elliot – Spends time talking with mom since he will be gone for another 2 hours.

At Home

Hillary – finishes up snack and completes afternoon contribution – helps mom prep for dinner and gets ready to do her nightly reading

Jared – comes in from playing with friends – cleans up for dinner

Elliot – comes home from skateboard park in time for dinner

After Dinner

Hillary – does nightly reading

Jared – does contribution and homework

Elliot – does contribution – this guy does his homework in the am before school.

End of Day

Bedtime Routine – Most parents I have worked with over the years spend anywhere from 20 to 2 hours with their kids saying goodnight and the majority of the parents tell me they hate it. They also tell me they feel guilty for feeling this way. They tell me how they imagined bedtime would be when their children were infants, but how frustrated they are that that image never materialized. You know the scenario – a last cuddle, prayers, maybe a book, a kiss, I love you, and out the door the parent goes. But that isn’t the reality.

The reality is that most parents and kids have created routines that actually divides them rather than bringing them closer. We all want our last moment with a child to be a special and deep connection. So how do you get that?

EXAMPLE:

Jan and Bill – 3 Kids – Ages 3, 6, 11

Aidan – 3

Bedtime routine begins at 7:00

Aidan decides who will go upstairs while he gets ready for bed which includes:

o Reading a book downstairs with mom and dad

o The other kids are in their rooms so that Aidan has a chance to connect with mom and dad and begin to relax before bed. They learned the hard way that if the other kids were flying around the house, Aidan resisted saying goodnight.

o Washing teeth

o Taking a bath

o Pajamas on

When he is in bed, 7:30 – 7:45, he calls to the other parent to come up for kisses. Both parents share one appreciation with Aidan and often times he returns with an appreciation of his own. They have maintained the one sentence rule so that Aidan doesn’t turn this into a 30 minute ordeal. Early on, they decided they would leave the room quietly if Aidan started making mischief with the appreciations. They reported that within 3 days, they had established one of the nicest bedtime routines. Final kisses and lights out by 7:45. Jan and Bill decided they needed 15 minutes to themselves to regroup after putting Aidan to bed and found this a time to start their wind down for the night.

Megan – 6. Megan is a night owl and comes alive just after dinner. Her parents have figured out that she doesn’t require as much sleep as most kids and can maintain a great attitude with as little as 6 hours of sleep.

7:00 – 8:00 is when Megan gets herself ready for the following day. The house is quiet and she has agreed to leave mom and dad alone with Aidan. She also does her contribution during this time (unless it involves vacuuming).

8:00 – 8:30 is for reading with mom and dad. Megan doesn’t have homework yet, so this is still a time to connect alone with her parents.

8:30 – 9:00 she is ready for downtime and has a room full of options. The family has agreed to tv on weekends, but not during the week. Downtime includes legos, crafts, and any other interests that might capture Megan’s attention.

9:00 – Call mom and dad up for final kisses. Megan isn’t in bed yet. But she is ready to say goodnight. Mom and dad gave up fighting with her about lights out when they realized that she could self regulate her sleeping.

Josh – 10. Josh is a meticulous kid who like order and consistency.

7:00 – 8:00 – Homework

8:00 – 9:00 – Gets ready for following day: includes making his lunch, unpacking and repacking his backpack

9:00 – 9:30 – Connect with the folks before turning in. They have begun chatting at the dining room table giving their conversations a more serious tone. This allows Josh the full attention of his parents and for them to talk in private and venture into adult topics.

9:30 – Upstairs for a shower and bed.

Mom and Dad have from 9:30 on every evening to connect and then to end the evening as they see fit.

What routines have you put in place for your family and how are they working for all of you?

Intelligent Design: Routines Don’t Just Appear with a Big “Bang

Revamping your family’s routines can be a strategic challenge – a chess game of cause and effect. Ultimately, you must observe your kids and then “design” a household environment that will lead to effortless routines. You’re probably thinking,”Please, that’s gonna be hard!” But actually, it’s kind of fun because once you’ve figured it out, it’s almost as if by magic, your kid begins to sail through the day. Trust us, you’ll feel pretty savvy once you’ve decided to redesign your deal!

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1. Observe your kids for a day or two and look for what I call their “natural rhythm”. You may have to employ the “duct tape” technique (a technique developed by me to assist in keeping my mouth shut because I lacked the necessary discipline to do it without assistance) in order to get “accurate” information about how your kids are currently handling their morning. Don’t worry if you are late for a day or two, or homework gets left undone, or if bedtime is a bit frazzled. You are investing in the emotional health of your family, so a small disruption in the family might be necessary.

2. Identify where you get stuck (example: We can’t get bedtime right. We’ve tried everything). List observations about why you get stuck (Bedtime is messy because they share a room and one reads quietly before bed while the other jumps around).

3. Identify where the day flows well (after school, the kids get home and put their backpacks in the mudroom).

4. Tell your kids that you have been trying to set up the routines in the family the way you like them and you realize that you made a mistake.

5. Invite them to sit down with you and lay out how they would set up each routine. Here is how I started it – “In a perfect world, on a perfect day, what would the morning look like to you?” And then I listened. Really listened to what they were telling me.

6. Identify the goal of having a Morning, Afternoon and Bedtime routine.

EXAMPLES

  • To get out of the house on time, every day, with all our stuff, a good breakfast in the belly with everyone smiling and excited about the day.
  • To have a calm afternoon that helps the family reconnect and prepare for the 2nd half of the day.
  • To say goodnight, feeling connected, loving and peaceful.

Great, then you play with variables and options. Try them! You don’t have to stick with what’s not working.

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SMART TIP FOR ROUTINE REDESIGN

1. Know what you believe about HOW morning, afternoons and bedtimes “should” be. Once you know your preferences and what the perfect routine would consist of – for you – put it on a shelf and pull it out when the kids leave home at 18.

2. Decide that you will give, whatever routine you set up, time to work. We tend to jump from one routine to another if we don’t get immediate results. My recommendation, wait at least 2 weeks before you start making any significant tweaks to any routine or system to try and implement into daily life with the kids.

3. Keep it within reach! If you want your child to pack a lunch easily and enthusiastically, store the food where they can reach it. The same goes for nontoxic cleaners and clothing. Many routine hiccups can be addressed by physically moving materials kids are expected to handle down to their level.

Have fun! Practice makes progress!

Young Adults Leave The Nest, But Not For Long.

 

 

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

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

Tweens, Technology and…..Sexting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few tips to make the process easier.

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

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

 

25 Skills to Practice Today

SkillsSummer is a great time to help our children practice their self skills and life skills.

The more our children feel connected, encouraged and capable, the more independent and confident they will be in their tweens and teens (and eventually as adults). So, this summer, when the opportunity arises or whenever you can carve out some time for training, encourage your children to practice and master:

  1. Getting up on their own
  2. Making their own beds
  3. Brushing teeth
  4. Taking showers / baths
  5. Washing hair
  6. Getting dressed
  7. Choosing clothing
  8. Making breakfast
  9. Packing backpacks
  10. Watering plants / yard
  11. Organizing homework
  12. Organizing time
  13. Setting the table
  14. Unloading the dishwasher
  15. Cleaning the kitchen
  16. Doing the laundry
  17. Stacking wood
  18. Making / packing lunch
  19. Sweeping floors
  20. Vacuuming
  21. Cleaning bathrooms
  22. Making grocery lists
  23. Learning to cook
  24. Planning menus
  25. Answering / talking on the phone

Which skill will your child practice today?

 

 

 

Passing up Personal Prestige

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

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


Some people will think I’m a bad mom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read some comments below:

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

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

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

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

Celebrate your Mistakes!

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

Shopping Trip to Hell

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

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

I Don’t Think So…

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

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

Stop Looking at Me, I’ll Handle it!

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

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

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

The Fight for Justice Ensues!

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

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

Celebrate the Dragon Lady?

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

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

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

A Miraculous Perspective

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

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

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

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

What? You let her GET AWAY with it?

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

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

Be – Do – Have

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Parenting Complaints

After 20 years as a parent educator – there’s nothing I haven’t heard and very little that surprises me. What interests and inspires me is how much we parents have in common with each other. And as a mom who raised 5, highly independent and self-sufficient kids and as a parent educator who has talked with hundreds of thousands of parents about life with their kids, I feel qualified to share this fun list of what I consider the “Top 10 Parenting Complaints” Enjoy.

  • 10. Kids who push, hit, throw, kick and bite.

    What the heck? Don’t they know what “use your words” means? Oh wait….

  • 9. Kids who say things like, stupid, shut up, idiot, dummy, butt-head.

    Yep, those would be the words.

  • 8. Kids who can not, will not, and do not cooperate.

    To complicate matters, parents also expect the kids to cooperate willingly and with smiles on their faces.

  • 7. Kids who ignore their parents.

    How dare those little munchkins completely ignore, walk away from, cover their ears or start to sing when we have something really, really, REALLY important to tell them again, and again, and again.

  • 6. Kids who noodle, stall, get distracted and act like they don’t have to be somewhere important.

    Like, yesterday.

  • 5. Kids who think they no longer need naps.

    Can someone PLEASE explain to me why little kids won’t sleep and teenagers will only sleep?

  • 4. Kids who want to stay in the PJ’s all day or wear the ballet costume to school for a week or refuse to wash their favorite pair of wind pants – ever.

    First impressions are important right? Even when they are 3 – right? After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression – right?

  • 3. Kids who refuse to go along with your plans and try and keep you trapped at home all day long.

    Come on already. Look how damn nice it is outside. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!

  • 2. Kids who yell, manhandle, annoy, bother or wake up the new baby.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah. We want them involved with their new sibling, but what don’t they understand about – BACK OFF?
  • 1. Kids who refuse to eat what we put in front of them, sleep when we want them to sleep or potty train when we are ready for them to be done with the diapering.

    Damn kids anyway.

When you boil it all down, this is the list of the most common parenting challenges. Just for fun, for the next 24 hours, when you are considering taking one of these small annoyances and turning it into a serious problem, that needs immediate attention, instead – take a breath, look into the eyes of your beloved child and ask yourself – is it really such a big challenge? And if the answer is no, then let it go. Just this once, let it go.

And, if you are looking for a solution to these 10 common parenting challenges, with the hope that they will someday disappear from daily life with kids, you have come to the right place, Parenting On Track™ — we’ve got what you want!

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.

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!

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.

Applauding Praise? Consider the Danger!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few points to consider:

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

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

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

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

For more information about the dangers of praise:

How Not to Talk to Your Kids, By Po Bronson

Punished By Rewards, Alfie Kohn

Five Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job, Alfie Kohn

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

Life with Tweeners

I love tweeners. Always have. There is something about this awkward, geeky, confusing, overwhelming, mysterious time that both excites and scares me at the same time. As the mother of 5, who has successfully negotiated her way through the tweener stage, I am appreciative of those still in it.

When we take the time to invite our children into their lives from the earliest possible days, we provide an environment rich in support, encouragement and faith.

As a result, we have kids who enter the world of tweenerdom who exhibit a sort of swagger and confidence that comes from KNOWING that they can handle what comes their way. They are more deeply embedded in their lives and as a result, are happy with themselves and with those around them.

So if you are experiencing the first pangs of what I call “push back” from your tweeners, it could be that they aren’t feeling as confident about their lives as they might.

Enjoy this video and remember, rebellion IS NOT the natural state of these amazing tweeners.

When do you start training?

  • Are you a parent who thinks kids can’t do much?

  • Do you think kids have to be 13 before you can begin teaching them how to take care of themselves?

  • Do you think kids might be resistant to doing things for themselves, after they have had a bit of training?

  • Did it ever occur to you that four-year-olds can make a decent peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

We’ve got news for you – they can – they do and this one DID. Check it out.

If you are hesitant to start training, I encourage you to rethink your ideas on training kids for independence and self sufficiency. Or then again, you could be packing lunch for an ungrateful 13 year old. Its up to you- you choose.

The Morning Routine

overparentingThe morning routine has long been one of the “challenging” times in the life of a family. We’ve all had those mornings when kids don’t want to get out of bed, they find their clothes “just aren’t right”, or maybe their breakfast lacks appeal and all these moments add up to power struggles, stress and a bumpy start to the day. As parents, we understand that the morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day, so it is important to start on the right foot.

Parenting On Track™ offers families access to proactive, sustainable, age-independent strategies to help you parent from your best – which, inevitably, brings out the best in your child. Grounded in teaching “long-term-sustainable-solutions,” the program teaches parents how to support children as they implement and practice life skills that will help them maneuver their way from childhood through adolescence into young adulthood with confidence and enthusiasm. The fundamental principles of Parenting On Track™ focus on training and the understanding that parenting is a journey and there are no quick fixes.

However, there are things we, as parents, can do right away that have a significant impact on the attitudes of our children as they start their days, face daily challenges and navigate their lives, regardless of whether those challenges are deciding what to have for breakfast, standardized state tests, or a fight with their BFF.

Here are a few simple tips that will remind your kids that you believe in them and love them – this, of course, translates into a relaxed, confident and enthusiastic kid. You know, a kid with a “can do” attitude, the one who enters school with a smile, a swagger and a “bring it on” look in his or her eyes.

1. Appreciation:

Identify specific character traits in your child that you admire and make an observation about one every morning.

Imagine being greeted each morning by someone who clearly knows you and appreciates you.

These appreciations might sound something like:

  • You always wake up in a good mood.
  • You are such a curious kid.
  • You can make your mom and I smile even when we are upset about something.
  • You are incredibly patient with your siblings.

2. Participation:

Invite your children to do more for themselves.

Imagine being treated like a capable, competent person by the people most important to you – your parents.

Try some or all of these suggestions:

  • If you have been getting them up, ask them if they want to get an alarm clock and get up on their own.
  • If you have been making their breakfast, ask them if they want to make pancakes with you this morning.
  • If you nag them to get ready, try being quiet and see what happens.

3. Connection:

  • Create a final connection with your kids in the evening.
  • Have faith in your children and show them that no matter what happens – you love them.
  • Ask questions that are relaxed and open ended (and not about the upcoming test.)
  • Sit quietly at the bottom of the bed and tell them you just want to hang out with them for a few more minutes.
  • Do something unexpected (like paint toenails, or give a back scratch.)
  • Create a positive affirmation together.

By utilizing these three strategies – Appreciation, Participation and Connection – on a regular basis with your children, you can eliminate some the current challenges you face each morning and replace them with a smooth routine that will have all of you out the door on time and ready to face the day.

For more information on inviting your children into the process of orchestrating a smooth morning routine, see our Parenting On Track™Home Program details.

No More Lunch Lady

lunch-ladyWe are always trying to find ways to simplify our lives. There are entire books, magazines and TV shows dedicated to this very subject. One of those times in almost all of our lives that could use a little simplifying is the morning routine. Last week we touched on some of the broad, universal things you could incorporate into your daily lives to make the morning routine a little smoother. This week, we decided to team up again with Porter Hospital Dietitian, Amy Rice, to talk about how to train your children to make their own school lunches.

I know, right now you are thinking, “What? Are they crazy?! If little Johnny makes his own lunch he’ll end up eating Cheetos and Ring Dings everyday!” And, while this might be true, we have some guidelines for an easy way to train your children how to make a healthy lunch and hopefully avoid the excessive processed food and sugar intake you fear.

Here’s what Amy has to say:

The strategy that I usually suggest to my clients and that I have instituted with my own 3 year old and 5 year old is the Protein/Vegetable/Fruit lunch. When packing their lunch, teach your child to choose a vegetable, a fruit, and then a protein-rich food. Depending upon their choices, at this point, an item from the breads/grains group may be added. For example, your child first picks from the vegetable he’d like in his lunch. He chooses baby carrots. Then he makes his fruit choice, a banana. Now for his protein-rich food, he chooses hummus and packs this as a dip to use with his carrots. Perhaps he wants to add a few crackers or pretzels to dip in the hummus as well. Lunch is done.

Why start with the fruit, vegetable, and protein-rich food? Many children’s daily intakes of fruits and vegetables do not meet the recommended amount of at least five a day and protein is an important nutrient for growth and development. Choosing from these three categories first stresses their important while moving the focus away from the starches that typically flourish in a child’s diet beyond recommended levels.

Training your child to pack their own lunch will help teach some basic principles in nutrition, meal planning, and independence. With this method, you will be creating a healthy lunch structure within which your child has the freedom to make their own food choices. Even if some of their food combinations sound strange, remember it is their lunch and their culinary exploration. Who knows, maybe a new family favorite may be happened upon from your six year old’s palate!

Take some time, today, to talk with and train your children about what a healthy lunch is and let them do the work. You will not only be freeing up some of your time each morning, but you will be instilling healthy eating habits that will last them a lifetime.

For more information on training your children, inviting participation and encouraging independence, view the Parenting On Track™ Home Program details page, Chapter 3, Timeline for Training.

Working and Having Fun

  • Have doubts about what kids can REALLY do?
  • Wonder if a 3 year old is capable of doing anything other then making messes?
  • Cautious about asking your kids to help out on a regular basis?

Well check out this video of my favorite 3 and 4 year old and see for yourself what young kids who have been encouraged to help because their mother took me seriously when I said “If they can walk, they can work” can do for themselves.

Doesn’t training look fun?

So no more stories about how kids: Won’t Work – Can’t Work – Don’t Work

Take a page from K’s book and invite your kids into the process of helping around the house. You could send one of these video’s to all your friends or better yet, have children who have had so much time to practice life, that they enter into adolescence with confidence and enthusiasm!

New Thoughts on Habits

fresh-perspectiveSunny mornings on the deck, lazy afternoons by the pool, fresh veggies from the garden … does it get any better than summer? There are a few weeks left before we all have to get back to reality and start our lives of school, activities and all that comes with having busy lives and busy children.

I have spent this summer enjoying a full house with all five of my children here. It has been, at times, chaotic and busy but mostly it has been a wonderful summer full of laughter, fun and memorable times spent together. The house was full of friends and music and the smell of great food on the grill. I don’t know when I will ever have all my children under one roof for an entire summer, so I am savoring every last minute of it.

It’s now, before the summer ends and the school year begins, that I take a few hours and reflect back on where is it we’ve been as individuals and as a family and where it is we may be going in the coming year. It is a chance for me to revisit the milestones we set for ourselves and acknowledge the progress and improvement we have made in the areas we identified for ourselves as “challenging”. I wonder what new goals we will set for ourselves when we gather for what we have dubbed the “The Dinner of the Roadmap”. It is a site to behold. Food everywhere, poster board, paints, markers, magazines, glue and scissors, pens and pencils. Mostly though, there is conversation. Deep, rich, questioning, encouraging, challenging, loving conversation. We are a passionate bunch and the gathering is no exception. Fears are shared, dreams are ignited, plans are made and as a result each of us feel a deep connection that defines who we are as a family.

What started out as a Parenting Roadmap quickly changed to not only a Family Roadmap, but Kid Roadmaps as well. Iain and I have been encouraging our kids for many years now, to approach their Roadmaps with a fresh perspective. to dream big, to hold themselves accountable and to go for it – what ever “it” is.

Throughout the years I found it helpful for me and for other parents to talk with each other about the triumphs and tribulations that we have had recently to keep us focused on what goals and milestones were attainable or realistic. I’d love to hear from all of you in the Comments section about how your summers were, the moments that became memories. Your experiences help all of us see that we are not alone in parenting struggles and we can all congratulate each other on our parenting successes.

Hope your summer was a good one, and I look forward to hearing from you.

For more information on the Roadmap, see Ch. 5 of the Parenting On Track™ Home Program or our blog, “Parenting Is a Journey? I Think I Need Directions!” May 13, 2009

Play Date Gone Awry

“How do you tell a mother that her kid is more than a handful and that you’d rather HALT all future play dates?!” (NYC Moms Blog).

playdate-gone-awryIt’s part of the parenting landscape, a dilemma most moms and dads face at some point in their parenting life. Play dates that turn into a nightmare. Sometimes that nightmare is the result of your child’s behavior, often times it’s the other child’s behavior, either way it ends badly. Parents feel stressed and frustrated. What’s worse is that sometimes a perfectly good friendship ends because – (HMMM, so why does a perfectly good friendship end?)

First of all, who ever heard of kids under the age of five knowing the first thing about play dates, the purpose of play dates, the rules of play dates, the expectations of play dates or anything else having to do with play dates. I have talked to enough parents after the fact to know that what most moms and dads wanted, was either

  • Time with another adult so that they kept their vocabulary at a 12th grade level (they are still paying off college loans that paid for that impressive vocabulary and no 2 year old is gonna steal it)
  • Time away from their kids so they can…..you name it. Life with small children is exhausting – emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually. It’s smart to make time for yourself if you plan to go the distance from 0 to 18.

Now, it would be easy to blame the demise of a perfectly good friendship on the standard – “the kids just didn’t mesh”, but we all know there is more to it than that. What we do tend to do is start looking for advice AFTER the play-date for answers to, “Should I talk to my friend about their child?” or “How many times can I apologize before they stop inviting my child over to play?” or “What discipline strategy should I use to solve the problem the next time the child comes over?”

It seems to me, that this whole mess could be avoided if parents took the time to implement a few simple, proactive steps BEFORE the play date was even arranged.
For instance:

  • Identify the GOAL of the play date:

    Is it for adult company, or that much needed break?

    Or Is it to help teach kids how to interact socially and to adequately represent to the kids what they can expect from the outside world when they choose to hit, bite, scratch, pout, cry, scream, etc?

    Or is it to establish that play dates can be a great training ground for the next generation of community members and leaders?

  • Set clear expectations for reaching that GOAL.
  • Identify how you “discipline” each other’s kids and still respect each other’s different parenting styles.
  • Identify what you will you do to solve a problem between the children once it happens.
  • Identify what you will do if either of you decides that play dates just aren’t working

By having a conversation, creating a clear set of goals, and then coming to an agreement about how to handle potential landmines, you and your friend(s) are much more likely to avoid disaster all together. Instead, you will quickly create a community of support, acceptance and you can watch as your children navigate the often treterious slopes of social interaction.

The choice is up to you – take your chances, or be pro-active and ensure a better play date for you and your kids.

For more information on The Parenting On Track™ program and Proactive Parenting.