All posts tagged privileges and responsibilities

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?


Podcast: Privileges & Responsibilities

Would you like to say yes to your kids? Would you like to raise kids who take care of their things, manage their time, and treat their siblings with respect? By implementing, a simple strategy, Privileges and Responsibilities in your family, you can with confidence.

Listen to this podcast below and learn more. Let us know what you think or if you have any questions.

Fasten Your Seatbelts and Prepare for Departure

prepare-f-departureWhat’s the point of training our children to get themselves up in the morning, or unload the dishwasher, or organize their time? Is it because it will make our lives easier? Well no, that is an added benefit, but that’s not the real reason. The reason we train our children is to prepare them for departure.

One day our children will leave our houses; it doesn’t matter how much we make them the center of our universe—they will leave someday, and it is our job to make sure they are ready. By the time our kids turn 16 through 18, there is a lot of growth happening. They are learning to drive, opening bank accounts (if they haven’t already), applying for college or for jobs, dating, and possibly doing lots of other things like drinking, drugs…sends shivers up the spine just thinking about it.

Our children are getting ready for their lives because they know they are leaving, and they need all the support we can muster to help them jump into their lives and “out of the nest.” Last spring I heard a lot about parents of high school seniors who were having a hard time letting go. This was causing all sorts of havoc in the family and between the parents and children. Being the parent of a three- and five-year-old, I can’t say that I completely understand how those parents were feeling. But, I vividly remember the ache in my heart and stomach as I watched my “baby” walk down the hall for the first time to her kindergarten classroom, and I can only imagine what it will be like to watch her walk across the stage at 18 to receive her diploma.

So, what is a parent to do? How can we support our children as they ready themselves to depart, while we feel like falling apart? Here are a few things you can do:

  • Support them with any additional training they might need in real-world skills.
  • Loosen the boundaries around them a little without letting go; it will do wonders for your relationship.
  • Trust them.
  • Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Unfortunately, from the moment they arrive, our children are preparing to depart and live their own lives. So it is our job to give them a “map,” by training them in self and life skills, and then fasten our seatbelts, enjoy the ride, and know when to let go.

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!

Turn No! Into Yes…


  • No, you may NOT watch another TV show…
  • No, you may not touch that; you are too young…
  • No, you may not go to Johnnie’s house…
  • No, because I just don’t want you to…
  • No, you may not have something to eat 30 minutes before dinner…
  • No, no, no (can you picture the finger wagging here?)…

Do you ever feel like all you do all day is say “No” to your children? Did you ever wonder what all of that negative “No you can’t do it” does to your children’s sense of self and self-worth? The short answer is, more than you may think.

“No” is one of the quickest ways to stifle your child’s budding sense of independence and self-fortitude. I know that none of you wants to do that, so here’s an easy way to change the negative into a positive and say “Yes…”, without giving complete control of the house over to the kids.

Your job as a parent is to say “Yes” as often as you can and to as many things as you can. Do I mean say “yes” to everything and turn your children into pampered, indulged children? Of course not! While it is your job to say yes, it is your child’s job to convince you, by showing you, that you can say yes to his/her request. This balance is what helps set up a healthy, mutually respectful relationship, where children are given an opportunity to prove that they are “growing into” responsible adults. It will also help parents navigate the balance between giving too much, too soon or withholding too much for too long.

It looks like this: The child would like a “privilege” and you as the parent help them decide what responsibilities they must prove they can handle BEFORE they are allowed to have the privilege.

Here’s an example:

Privilege: Eating Out (at a restaurant, or a friend’s house, etc …)

  • Remember table manners
  • Eat what you order
  • Sit still in your seat
  • Engage in conversation
  • Make eye contact
  • Use “please” and “thank you”
  • Maintain a respectful tone of voice

I recommend that when you have identified what the privilege is, you sit down with your children and together make up the list of responsibilities. They will be more inclined to go along with it. Now you might be wondering how long they are required to maintain these newfound skills in order to gain this new privilege—once, for a week, for a year? Really, it’s up to you, but here’s what I suggest: One week for children five and under; 15 to 20 days for children ages five through fifteen; one month for children over age 15. This time frame will provide a way for your children to turn those responsibilities into habits.

The Privileges and Responsibilities strategy is one my favorites, as I have used it over and over with all of my children, from the time that they were very young to the time that the privilege was driving the car. I also like it because it is an easy way to get away from saying “No” all of the time, and instead say, “Yes… show me.”

For more information on Privileges and Responsibilities, see Ch. 8 of the Parenting On Track™ Program.

Relax? Yes, Please!

relax-postI wanted to round out this month of Wellness tips with an article on relaxation. I know that I definitely feel like I can parent from my best when I feel relaxed, so I figured you probably would too.

While looking for ideas on this subject, I Googled “Relaxation and Family”, and you know what I found? 17 million ideas on just about everything under the sun. It seems that relaxation means a lot of different things to different people. It can mean anything from going on a fun vacation or a fishing adventure to therapy and meditation. And it is almost guaranteed that at least one, but probably not all, of those things sound relaxing to you.

This got me thinking that the subject of relaxation is a lot like the Parenting On Track™ Program. It can also mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

The great thing about relaxation is that only you know how best to relax, and the benefits of relaxation are enormous for everyone. The same can be said about the Parenting On Track™ Program. Once you learn the program and the strategies, you can personalize it for your family, because only you know what’s best for your family and, again, the benefits of using the Program are enormous for everyone.

If this is clear as mud, let me give some examples. Suzy has small children and finds that a trip to the spa is very relaxing. Suzy also has the Parenting On Track™ Home Program and wonders how she ever lived without understanding Encouragement.

Now let’s look at Bob. He wouldn’t be caught dead on a massage table, but the thought of a quiet babbling brook and tackle box full of flies instantly lowers his blood pressure. Bob also has the Parenting On Track™ Home Program, but finds that the Roadmap to Success and Privileges and Responsibilities strategies have helped his older children to navigate smoothly through their daily lives.

The bottom line is—I really don’t have any tips on how you can find relaxation in your life. Only you know what is best for you. But I do know that the Parenting On Track™ Program is right for you and your family, because you have the ability to make it your own. The program has strategies that will work with you and your unique family because it is not a quick fix or a “how to” manual, but rather a way of being together as a family of individuals.

So, get out there and find some ways to relax during this month of wellness and taking care of ourselves. But also check out the Parenting On Track™ Home Program and start taking care of your family as well.

Show Me The Money!

The economy is bad. We all know it, and we are all worried about it. We are a nation of consumers, and the credit card companies and mortgage lenders have convinced us to feel good about spending money we don’t really have. And so here we are in 2009, in one of the worst economic crises since the Great Depression.

What’s a parent to do about all of this? Start training your kids about money NOW.

Don’t wait! Your children are never too young to learn the value of money and, more importantly, to begin to develop a healthy relationship with money.

You cannot teach your children how to manage money by just talking to them about it, or by lecturing them about it, or by sharing your own wisdom with them (nice as that would be). Kids have to practice. Yes, practice how to handle money from the youngest of ages.

Think about it: wouldn’t you rather have your child, at age five, practice spending and saving money for the first time with the small amount of allowance they get, than have your child, at age 18, practice for the first time with his or her brand new credit card?

At Parenting On Track™, we believe that learning how to spend, save and give away money is a life skill that takes many years to acquire. You, as parents, have the opportunity to give your children the chance to practice this skill as soon as they are old enough not to put the money into their mouths. You do this by giving them an allowance at the weekly Family Meeting and, well, that’s it.

Once you have given your children their allowance, you no longer have any say over what they do with it. Take a deep breath; there’s more. On the other hand, you aren’t required to buy anything for them beyond their basic needs. So, this means that

  • When they ask, in the grocery store, for that piece of candy, you get to say, YES. “Did you bring your money?”
  • And when they want that designer jacket that all their friends have, you say, YES. “Do you have enough money saved to buy it?”
  • And finally, when they ask for their own cell phone, you can say, YES. “Will your allowance and part-time job cover the monthly bill?”

The best way to teach your children the value of money is to allow them to learn it for themselves. For more information on allowance, money management and helping your children create a healthy relationship with money, check out the MP3 on Money Management on our website. It’s never too early or too late to invest in promoting a healthy relationship between your children and money.

Traveling with Toddlers

Traveling as a Litmus Test

I just returned from Flagstaff, where I visited our oldest child at school. It was a glorious experience, but that’s not what I am writing about today.

Having traveled, coast to coast, numerous times with all five of my children when they were young, I consider myself to be tolerant, patient and accepting of how difficult it can be to travel in a confined area with wiggly toddlers.

But when three out of the four stewardesses suggest that Benadryl might be in order, you know it’s bad.

As it turns out, it wasn’t just one very rowdy, loud three-year-old—it was twins.
I could tell you all about their antics, but you either have a child that has left you breathless, exhausted and at times mortified at his/her behavior or you have witnessed such a performance firsthand, so the details of the story really aren’t what’s important.

What’s important is, if you think for one minute that your little terrors will magically turn into darlings because you brought them out in public, do yourself a favor and

  1. Face the fact that you have been indulging your children at home and they will expect the same when you travel with them—and more.
  2. You have been controlling them and they are smart enough, even at three, to figure out that you can’t and you won’t control them while you are in public, so this is their chance to exact revenge on you.
  3. They will continue to do MORE of what they do at home, with more intensity, perseverance and volume than even you can imagine.

At one point, I looked around and watched a few of the other passengers and realized that most of them were giving the “hairy eyeball” to the boys. If anyone deserves the “hairy eyeball,” it’s the parents.
So, who cares right? Here is my point:

  • Imagine these three-year-old boys as nine-year-olds and you begin to wonder: Will anyone, including their peers, tolerate their selfish, demanding, uncooperative behavior?
  • Parents may get by on these road trips by giving in and bribing, but at the end of the day, it is the kids who really pay the price.
  • Kids don’t grow out of, they grow into—confirmed to me by a 13-year-old on the same plane who was behaving just as badly as these twin three-year-olds.

The bottom line—choose not to be those parents on the plane. Have the courage to find out what your children need to learn in order to travel calmly, agreeably and respectfully towards other passengers. And then, train them.

You can start by taking a two-hour ride on a bus, a train or a plane and find out firsthand how much training you still have to do in order to feel confident, excited and relaxed about traveling longer distances with your children. This “research trip” will give you a starting place on which to base your training.

Once you have a starting place you can:

  • Begin to build a Parenting Roadmap. (Not familiar with this concept? Check out Chapter Five, in the Parenting On Track™ Home Program.) This Parenting Roadmap will allow you to clearly
  1. Identify a starting place;
  2. Identify a destination; and
  3. Plan for the distance in between.
  • By following your Parenting Roadmap, you will be able to track your progress, keep things in perspective, and enjoy the process of training (rather than worrying about it.)
  • By taking the time to train (further discussed in Chapter three, in the Parenting On Track™ Home Program), you will be able to recognize and celebrate small victories on your way to your final destination.

Check out these and other strategies, so that you can look forward to having those cute children that everyone smiles at (and continues to smile at) during your travels.