All posts tagged relationships

Your Kids WILL See Porn

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

trust child

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

Sex and porn

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

Overcome your fears and release the judgement

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

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

Get Educated

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

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

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

Talk to friends and create a support system

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

Jump in and try it

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

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

#growingagrownup

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

Parenting Land Mine

As anyone who knows me can attest, I was a free range parent long before the words helicopter parenting, tiger mom or free range were part of the parenting landscape.

I parented with 2 things in mind.

1. keep the relationship with my kids strong, healthy, honest and robust

2. foster their independence in every moment

challenge

Yes, I received dirty looks from shop-keepers and store-clerks when my kids were allowed to roam inside their establishments unsupervised while I stood outside and waited for them. The scowls turned to smiles as my kids navigated the aisles without breaking anything “fragile” and then opened their purses and paid with their own money for the little treasures they found in these stores. Fostering independence comes with scowls and skepticism. That’s okay. It didn’t stop us.

I got phone calls from coaches who informed me that I needed to make sure my kids had all their “gear” and were at practice 15 minutes before practice – huh? I politely declined their invitation and let them know that I was committed to raising independent kids who could figure out how to manage something as simple as a pair of cleats, shin guards and a water bottle. As far as getting to practice on-time, I
suggested that perhaps they might also like to foster a bit of independence in the kids they were coaching and ask the kids to make sure they were to practice when they were expected to be there.

As the kids got a bit older, I supported their innate desire to wander further from home (and truth be told, I was a bit nervous the first 42 times they suggested it). But with training, some guidelines and practice, I knew it was the right thing to do if I was really going to stand behind my (here it is again) value to raise independent kids who would one day become adults.

Did I take unnecessary risks? Hell no, but I would bet Danielle Meitiv didn’t think she was taking unnecessary risks either time she supported her kids in walking the short distance home from school.

vicki-training kids blog

I find it remarkable that there is a conversation suggesting that these parents be bullied into changing their parenting style because of the fear that CPS will get involved. I wonder where the world would be today if the woman suffrages ran home because they were scared of a little controversy and backlash from the powers that be. If I was inclined, I could probably think of a dozen or more instances in history where people stood up for their rights at the risk of imprisonment, but maybe parenting is different. Maybe in fact, more of us should parent according to what our neighbors think is appropriate or at the very least, parent according to popular culture norms and our biggest fears, which at present seem to be that an organization established to ensure the safety of children might threaten you with taking your children if they disagree with your parenting style.

Am I the only one that sees the intrinsic danger in where this is going? Fortunately for me, my kids are grown. Unfortunately, in the next ten years they will begin their own parenting journey and it is my great hope that as a society we find the balance needed in order to raise a generation of people who can make informed decisions, are invested in their communities and take personal responsibility for their words, attitudes and actions. But maybe that is asking too much as well. Maybe, along with raising independent children, we should abandon these other traits and be satisfied raising compliant children who do what they are told by people who are not their parents.

What is happening to the Meitivs is another example of how extreme and out of balance parenting has become. At one time, there was a code of conduct among parents that read something like: Do not judge, lest you be judged and help out when you can. Simple. Now it’s judge everything, especially if you know nothing about the people or the situation, share your opinions and judgments openly and often with as many people as you can find and turn your back on a parent who in any way parents in a style you deem unacceptable. It’s a minefield out in the parenting world and anyone who claims that parents stick together is living under a rock. Yes, of course there are wonderful tribes to be had, but more often then not, parents are finding themselves alone, judged and changing the way they parent in order to, in the case of the Maryland parents, keep their kids at home where
they are most certainly safer than they would be in Child Protective Services or Foster Care.

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I don’t believe this is happening to this family because of who they are or what they are doing necessarily. I think that the spotlight is on them in order for us to begin a
dialogue about the new age of parenting and how we must all adapt, work together and support each other if we are to raise children who flourish as adults.

With all that has been written about the hazards of over-parenting, helicopter parenting, micro-managing kids, the real crime is crippling children by parenting from a place of fear, guilt, and shame.

The P word.

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

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

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

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

Vicki with Zoe

Here is an example and a conversation to illustrate.

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

Zoe: So mom, are you proud of me?

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

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

Iain: I am proud of you Zoe.

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

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

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

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

Siblings Part 3: Tips To Bring More Joy

stop the fighting

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

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

appreciate

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

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

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jens kids

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

Siblings Fighting? Making Small Tweaks Can Change the Game

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

Here are the 3 simple tweaks (the first step) you can make to break the cycle of fighting in your home and create a little more peace, harmony and enjoyment from all that I promised you.

1. If YOU are still trying to GET your children to get along, the solution is simple: STOP. (In the next post I’ll share the most powerful strategy there is for eliminating the majority of the fighting in your home.) But first, I want you to stop getting involved and observe.

2. Because kids fight for their parents, the solution is to just watch what happens when you act like you don’t notice and walk out of the room or act like you found something more interesting to pay attention to. That doesn’t mean you ignore a situation where you think someone is in serious jeopardy of being hurt, but it does mean you learn to ignore the fighting that is designed to engage YOU. I walked around with headphones on and pretended to listen to music. This drove my kids nuts, but within a few short minutes, they were either dancing with me, or laughing at my taste in music. In either case, the fighting stopped and we could move on with our day.

mail.google.com

3. If you are doing things for your children that they could do for themselves, the solution is to: Invite, Train, Encourage and Support your children as they begin to engage in navigating the hills and valleys of their own lives. By inviting, training, encouraging and supporting your children, you will begin to notice that EVERYONE is in a new relationship with each other and that no one seems all that interested in fighting with anyone else.

If you just realized that you do too much for your children, I invite you to learn more about how to implement the Timeline for Training Strategy.

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?

 

Focus on the Relationship


For more information on parenting visit KidsInTheHouse.com

Oftentimes when I’m working with a parent and they are describing life with their kids, it’s as if they’re looking through a very small lens down on the ground. “I have to get my kids up, and then pick out their clothes, and then get them to the table, make sure they eat a healthy breakfast before they go to school.” And what they’re talking about are things – the minutiae of day to day life. But what’s happening is their kids are in the home with them. There are relationships that are either being built or fractured.

When I work with parents I talk about lifting your head up. Forget the minutiae for a minute. Do an inventory of what life is like in your home during the morning routine. Are people making connections? Are people talking to each other? Are people eating meals together? Are children engaged in their own life? Are they taking care of themselves? Getting dressed? Talking to mom and dad? Interacting with siblings? And oftentimes parents report that there’s very little of that going on. So instead we want to focus on what’s happening between the relationships with everyone in the home. We want to emphasize that this is what really makes for a healthy family, that taking care of the day-to-day minutiae of life isn’t really what creates a healthy, happy, sustainable family.

Now the good news is that once you shift your focus to the relationships that you have with the people in your home, the day to day stuff starts to take care of itself. You start to delegate jobs to people. Folks start to be more cooperative together. Kids start to take responsibility for their backpacks, and their lunches, and their homework so that Mom and Dad have more time to check in with their kids about how friendships are going or how the relationship with their teacher is. So it’s really just a shift in what you’re noticing. Then both of those things, the day to day life with kids and the relationship, start to work in balance with each other.

Your Picky Eater


For more information on toddlers visit KidsInTheHouse.com

This is my wisdom bomb when it comes to picky eaters and small children. Feed them at home. Feed them something good before you go to the party, the event, Disneyland, or wherever it is you’re going. And then don’t worry about it. Let them eat what they want. Say yes as much as possible. Just don’t worry about it, because the truth is one day, one week, even two weeks of eating lousy is not a make or break deal. It’s far more important that you make a positive memory with your child and relinquish all the craziness about the eating. Remember, it’s about the relationship. The relationship drives everything. If you focus on that, you won’t mind so much that the kids are eating too many cookies.

The Gift of Duct Tape

Ok, wait! Before that thought goes anywhere it shouldn’t, I’m going to get you thinking about what ONE roll of duct tape can do for your parenting experience.

First, let’s take a second to think about you and your kids. I (probably) don’t know your children, but you do so go ahead, think about them in action. Now think about you in action as a parent. What seems to go smoothly (bedtime routine?) and what seems to fall apart every single time (morning routine?). Now, think about your favorite parenting strategy. Do you have one? I bet you do but you might not even know it. You might think, well, I don’t use anything consistently – but remember yelling, nagging, reminding, lecturing, and so on (and all those reactive habits) are strategies. Now, here’s where the duct tape is handy.

Imagine (and some of you have actually done this. I have.) taking a piece of duct tape and putting it right over your mouth. What would happen? You physically would not be able to remind them what to be doing, thinking, or saying all day long. Now sit in a chair. Imagine you’re duct taped there – guess what? You cannot run into the living room with every little spat. You can’t carry every backpack, or bring shoes for kids who left them at home. You can’t clean the entire house. In fact, all you can do is learn to sit there and accept what’s happening around you.

This, my friends, is the best gift you can give yourself, and it’s the gift that you can give your children. For 2015, I challenge you to learn to “duct tape” yourself out of all the nonsense that goes along with raising children. With this one gift of duct tape, you can give them the golden experience of independence, problem solving, failure, forgetting, learning, asking, remembering, discovering, unfolding, realizing, trying something new and creating a life that is their own. In one year, imagine the difference.

So parents, get out the roll of duct tape and have a Joyous Holiday and start thinking about next year right now!

For instructions on how to use the duct tape, grab a copy of Vicki’s book here. 

Helicopter Parents Crippling the Next Generation

enthusiasm1It seems that Helicopter Parenting is alive and well and that in spite of all the research that suggests this is a dangerous direction in parenting with negative implications for our kids, families, our communities and our country, there are no signs that this trend is being replaced by a more common sense approach to parenting.  In fact, we seem to be a culture who has accepted that it is here to stay and there is nothing we can do about it.  And this style of intrusive parenting is infiltrating the life of kids over 18 years old, whose parents are still talking to them a dozen times a day, calling college professors, going to job interviews, organizing their lives, making recommendations on food, clothing and the friends they should be spending time with.

As a woman over 50-years-old it is disheartening to think about my future as an over 75-year-old retiree who will be at the mercy of “leaders” who still rely on mom and dad for help in making simple decisions let alone complex, multi-layered decisions with far reaching implications.

Am I supposed to feel secure with the idea that the same individuals who can not seem to manage their way out of a paper bag without their parents direction and guidance and in some cases advocacy, are going to be the same individuals who will be making decisions for us, for ME, when I am old, incontinent and have no teeth?  The world is becoming more complicated, not less which will require future leaders who are smart and thoughtful decision makers, who cultivate relationships of cooperation and collaboration, who can view issues from many sides, who can stand strong in the face of criticism and defend their positions with respect and clarity.

Are you Helicopter Parents asking me to believe that the same kid who needs his or her parents to advocate in a job interview is the kind of leader who can restore a crumbling automotive industry, revamp an entire education system, broker peace talks, put an end to hunger and disease, commit resources to projects that are environmentally sound, and fight for policies that are controversial and forward thinking.  SERIOUSLY?

Maybe instead of a Vice President, a new position will be created in which the advisers are mom and dad who will continue to advocate for their kids, lest they feel unprepared to do it for themselves.  Or perhaps the new press secretary will be a steadfast parent who tells the news hungry journalistic community with their probing questions that the president elect is feeling a little picked on today and could everyone be just a wee bit kinder to said President Elect.

For the life of me, I can’t imagine that anyone in their right mind thinks that continuing this kind of parenting is good for anyone.  I for one am NOT accepting this more intrusive form of parenting as the “norm”, nor will I sit by as more and more parents insinuate themselves into areas they have no business even commenting on, let alone controlling.

Instead of throwing up my hands in frustration and resigning myself to the situation, I WILL CONTINUE to do what I can to offer parents another approach to parenting which will prepare children for the challenges that await them, armed with the skills necessary to navigate a complicated world with grace and dignity.

 

Do you Interfere with or Enhance your Relationships?

interfering with or enhancing the relationshipSometimes we forget WHY we had children in the first place. Our lives get busy, our resources get tapped, the parenting techniques passed down from our own parents and learned from all the expert books we’ve read aren’t working and we find ourselves screaming at – or giving in to our children, just so we can get through the moment and onto the next thing.

  • Long gone are the promises we made to be patience and understanding – no matter what.
  • Long gone are the dreams of smooth mornings and calm nights
  • Long gone are the visions of siblings who played together peacefully and with nothing but joy on their faces.
  • Long gone is the belief that our child would love school and relish homework.

These dreams and promises have been replaced with reality and that reality includes tired, grouchy children who throw endless temper tantrums or make unreasonable demands and fight with their siblings until everyone is in tears and the reality of parenting, the truth of what it means to live with children day in and day out, brings us to our knees in frustration and exhaustion.  We resort to bribing, begging, screaming and finally punishing or giving up.  And the reasons we first decided to have children slip further from our minds.

It Doesn’t Have to be Like that

Okay, so maybe that was a bit melodramatic.  In truth, only occasionally, do most of us feel completely defeated in our role as parents. The rest of the time we find a way to put on our big girl panties and do the best we can. At times a genuine smile from a child whose arms are wrapped tightly around our neck is enough to restore our passion and enthusiasm for parenting.

One thing about this parenting journey that is true and I believe is worth remembering is this

“In every moment we are either interfering with or enhancing the relationship we have with our kids.”

Everything we do, every parenting decision we make is either interfering with or enhancing the relationship we have with our children, but we rarely take the time to evaluate which of these we are doing – interfering or enhancing.

It’s clear that most of us want to spend the majority of our time enhancing the relationship we have with our kids.  After all, it’s when we start interfering on a regular basis that things get really ugly and we find ourselves wondering why we thought having kids was a good idea in the first place.

Here are three of my tried and true tips for enhancing the relationship with our kids.

  • Superimpose the face of your best friend on your child.  Now, talk to your best friend and if you wouldn’t say it to her, don’t say it to your child. ( I am not suggesting you be your child’s best friend, this is a great test to keep the way you treat your children in check.)
  • Imagine you overhear your child describing you to his or her best friend.  What word would best capture you? Is it the word you hope your child will use to describe you?  If not, change what you are doing and act accordingly.
  • Decide that being right is overrated and you would rather be wrong if it means that you and your child maintain a healthy, happy and satisfying relationship for years to come.

And finally, as the infamous Mr. Rogers said:

“I doubt that we can ever successfully impose values or attitudes or behavior on our children…certainly not by threat, guilt or punishment.  But I do believe that they can be induced through relationships where parents and children are growing together.  Such relationships are, I believe, built on trust, example, talk and caring.”

Tending the Relationship (Spouse)

Vicki_Iain

Vicki Hoefle and her Husband, Iain

Take a deep breath here if you need too. None of us means to be short, snappy, critical or disrespectful, to our spouse, but it can happen.

My husband and I work on our relationship each and every day, not only for ourselves, but for our children as well.

We want them to have strong, loving relationships with their spouses and they are learning from us what that looks like and sounds like.

I can see my kids watching us, storing information for a later date and in fact, I am beginning to witness the first signs of how they interact and communicate with the opposite sex as they enter the dating world. It is clear that they already have strong ideas about male/female relationships and it is a pleasure to hear some of the words, tones and attitudes my husband and I use with each other come from the mouths of our children.

It is a clear and present reminder to both of us that we are always teaching something, so we best be mindful of what we are teaching.

Here are a few Tips for you:

1. Listen to yourself for the next few days. Find the courage to do a true and honest evaluation of your daily communication style with your spouse.

2. Commit to using a more “appreciative communication style” for the next 21 days and then take the time to “notice” for yourself, what changes are occurring.

3. Using appreciations, especially when they are unexpected is a powerful tool in creating a kind, compassionate, understanding and accepting family dynamic.

4. Make sure that your appreciations are sincere and spontaneous. For instance:

      • In the middle of a TV show, blurt something kind out so that everyone looks at you in a slightly questioning way
      • Shout across the room – Hey, ya know what I love about you……
      • Or walk out of the kitchen and whisper something sweet into your spouses ear. The smile on their face will convey to the kids that whatever you said, made the other person feel good inside.

Be creative and if you tend to be uncomfortable showing emotion, take a small step out of your comfort zone and extend your heart to those you love. 

hubby

Instructions for Happiness with Our Kids

Instructions for Life

As we start the year, here’s a little list by the Dalai Lama to copy, paste and print off. Put a flyer in your bathroom and one in the kids. (If you have any graphic skills, you could snazz it up a bit). Notice numbers 12, 19 and 20. A loving atmosphere is the foundation to your life, not a judging, nagging, reminding, checklisting, yelling and zero patience atmosphere. Just love – even for the kids who act at times like brats, whiners, noodlers or angry, grouchy, dramatic and complicated offspring. Remember, if you stop and show love for a child who’s “pushing your buttons” and is about to send you into a tizzy, it will build the foundation for a better future.

Similarly, if you want those around you, including you, your spouse and your children, to be happy, you must practice compassion. We cannot expect behaviors we don’t model for our children. We cannot demand they do things our way and we cannot overlook the very real factors that influence their lives, even if they’re “just kids”. We have to show up, take risks and move it forward. Otherwise, we just might end up feeling frustrated, angry and disconnected. These life lessons can be applied and shared within our families, for a happy and satisfying experience with our kiddos. Muah!

Instructions for Life by The Dalai Lama

1 . Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

3. Follow the three R’s: – Respect for self, – Respect for others and – Responsibility for all your actions.

4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.

7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

8. Spend some time alone every day.

9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.

14. Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.

15. Be gentle with the earth.

16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

19. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

20. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

Holidays with Tweens

It’s the tweener week here at the Hoefenways, that’s blended for Hoefle & Hemenway, a name the kids came up with years ago when Iain and I met. Christmas is behind us. The presents are put away. The decorations are down. Three kids are home, one is due in on the 4th from Spain and another one arrives on the 6th from San Francisco.

I am holding steady as they say. This is the week that defines the holidays for us. It’s a time to celebrate life with children, who are more adult than anything else. It’s my time to dive into each of them and to re-establish contact in a new and meaningful way. Let’s face it, they aren’t the same people they were last year at this time.

I marvel at how smart, how funny, and how mercurial they are. I am awestruck at their humor, their insight, and their commitment to “showing up in their lives.” I am touched by their comments to me which include “you look hot in those jeans mom” by my 17-year-old daughter and “every kid should have a mom like you” whispered in my ear by my 15 year old, six-foot-tall son.

So here’s to the teens and the tweeners in our lives. These wonders of light and love.To my own children I say thank you. Thank you for inviting me into your world, and sharing your thoughts, your aspirations, your fears and your dreams. Thank you for sitting on my lap, for letting me braid your hair, and sharing a quiet moment of reflection. Thank you for sticking with me through all my painful parenting faux pas.

Thank you for teaching me the Wii and encouraging me as I learn to hit a ball and almost wet my pants doing it. Thank you for giggling with me and not at me, as I learn that you don’t have to actually “play” tennis, in order to “play Wii” tennis.

Thank you for loading my iPod up with all new songs and for making me my own Taylor Swift CD. Thank you for trying on the dorky pants I bought you and not calling me “stupid head” because I got the wrong style, size and color.

Thank you for loving each other. For cuddling up together during The Grinch and letting me get a glimpse of you as small children, even if just for a moment. Thank you for fixing each other french toast and eating together around the table, something that happens less and less these days, as kids grow and some move out.

Most of all, thank you for choosing me as your parent.

For all you parents out there, who wonder what the world is like with five teens in the house – there is only one word to describe it – MIRACULOUS!

Do not waste a single moment with these magical beings. Before you know it, they will have moved on and you may find yourself trying to carve a spot in their new and exciting lives. Take a few moments, and look beyond the external expression of who they are and look into the hearts, the minds and the spirits of these young people.

There is much joy to be found in those sparkling eyes.

Happy Holidays!

Vicki
2009

5 Simple Steps to Happiness

We found a great article this week posted on Real Zest.com5 Simple Ways to Get More out of Life

It was posted for women and men everywhere, and we felt that it applied perfectly to moms and dads, too – especially those of you who use your kids as an excuse NOT to take care of yourselves. Enjoy!

1. Be more selfish about your time.

“When you take time for yourself you recharge all the things that make you wonderful. When you’re all charged up and your best self, oh how easy it is to adore you!”

To do starting this week: Identify what your kids can do for themselves, and then get out of the way and let them do it. Then, each week, identify one thing your kids can’t do, and teach them how to do it. Keep adding each week, until finally, the morning has become your coffee break and all you do is hug and kiss your kids before they head out the door.

2. Belittle more imperfections.

“If you’re like other fabulous people I know, you’re very, very good at belittling your (and other’s) finer points. Maybe the things that feel like imperfections are actually things that set you (and others!) apart from the crowd. Make a point to belittle the things that deserve belittling. The paltry, annoying, meaningless idiocies we all encounter but spend too much time on. You know what I’m talking about.”

To do starting now: Start replacing mean thoughts with nicer ones. It’s a bit like singing when your sad just to turn things around inside. Now, take a look at your kids. Is what you are getting all hot under the collar about going to make a difference in the long run. Really? Start looking at those little imperfections as strengths that your kids can develop over time.

3. Be more present whenever possible.

“We love you, we need you, we adore you, we’d like to spend more time with you! But it doesn’t feel like you’re actually with us much of the time. You’ll get more out of conversations with friends if you’re not checking on your digital posse quite so often.”

To do starting this evening: Shut your smartphone down and keep it in your purse whenever you’re with your kids. We say our kids are the most important people in the world, but damn how can that be if they come second to your facebook friends and your smart phone.

4. Be more available for friends (and family.)

“Real-life friends are a lot like Farmville in that you only gain points with lots of time and careful tending! If you make a point to add just a few more touches per week, you’ll see the love pour back in greater volume than you dished it out.”

To do starting this week: Ask your kids specific questions about their day and listen without judgment or comment. We all ask, “How was your day?” and most of the time are met with, “Fine.” This happens for two reasons, 1. Your kid knows you are not really listening OR 2. If she gives you any information, you are going to offer your unsolicited opinion. Try asking these questions instead. “What did you study today? What was one thing you learned that you did not know before? Did you make someone laugh? Did anyone make you laugh? If you could do one thing tomorrow, exactly the same as you did today, what would that be? If you could do one thing differently…?”

5. Be more willing to say not right now

“Saying no to people is never fun. It sucks to disappoint others, particularly when you really care about them. But we both know you’ll crash and burn and be of no use to anyone if you try to do too much.”

To do starting today: When your kids ask you for help, ask your kids what specifically is tripping them up. Let them show you how much they CAN do and then teach them or help them with the one aspect they are stuck on. This will lead to more confidence for them and less requests for help from you.

“Do you have any additional points to add? Share this post with a friend and let them know what you’re doing each day to be more alive!”

And go back and read the real zest post and if you have tips and pointers that apply to your life outside of your kids, post on their site, I am sure they would appreciate it.

What’s Really Going On?

This weekend, several people (my daughter from college in CA included) sent me a link to a story that made me stop and reality check what’s going on out there in the world, for our kids (and as a society, which is totally conflicted if you read through the comments). 14 year old Jonah Mowry puts this video up as a message “I’M NOT GOING TO KILL MYSELF. I JUST NEED TO GET THIS OUT HERE”.

As you watch:

1- Get a tissue. I wondered if his mom knew what he was doing, supported his way of expressing himself and was standing by to hold him when he finished making the video and posting it, or if she was absolutely clueless to this child’s struggle.

2- Ask yourself – if your child was to make a video of their life, right now, without any concern for how it would be received (by you or anyone else), what would they say?

3- If you don’t know, or you think you might now or even if you are absolutely positively sure that you know, find out anyway. My experience, not only with my own 5, but with another thousand or so parents, is that we rarely know what’s really going on in the lives of our kids.

It shouldn’t take a heartbreaking clip like this for us to recognize that we need to be emotionally available for our children- and their friends if they’re heading down this road. Let’s pay more attention. All of us.

His twitter handle:
@JonahMowryReal

It is NOT a Discipline Problem

I’m a junky when it comes to compelling video of individuals who are smarter, sassier, more inquisitive and more insightful than I am. Here is an example of another one of those videos – provided by our friends at TED staring Dr. Clifford Stoll, who looks like your typical “crazy professor”, until he delivers a short, but compelling message that hit home in a big way.

This is the passage that stuck with me.

    “I am supposed to talk about the future. And my feeling is, asking me to talk about the future is – bizarre. It’s silly for me to talk about the future.

    I think that if you really want to know what the future is going to be like – you don’t ask a technologist, scientist, physicist. No! Don’t ask someone who is writing code. No! If you want to know what society is going to be like in 20 years, ask a Kindergarten teacher. They know. In fact don’t ask just any Kindergarten teacher ask an experienced one. They are the ones who know what society is going to be like in another generation. I don’t. Nor I suspect do other people who are talking about what the future will bring. Certainly all of us can imagine all the cool new “things”. But to me things are not the future.

    What I ask myself is – what is society going to be like…… when kids today are phenomenally good at texting and … screen time, but have never gone bowling together. Change is happening.” –Dr. Clifford Stoll

It is important to me that I make a difference in the world, in whatever way that I can. And hearing what Dr. Stoll said lit a fire in me.

I believe this is why Parenting On Track™ is so important at this time in our history. And I truly believe that raising thinking children who have strong relationship skills is the very thing that will change our world for the better.

This is why, parents must educate themselves on how to ENHANCE the relationship with their children while PREPARING them for an unknown future. This is why we must ACKNOWLEDGE our children’s demands to remain connected to us, their parents, and ENCOURAGE them to become a powerful force in the family dynamic. We must find the COURAGE, as parents, to raise our thinking children to voice their opinions, contribute to family policies, to help solve family challenges. We must make the time and find the energy to engage in robust conversation on topics ranging from playground fights, teacher favorites, peer pressure, politics, intimacy, substance abuse, domestic violence, financial responsibility, and more. We must talk about the things that make us nervous and unsure, if we are to have any chance at preparing our kids for a rapidly changing, interconnected world, that seems to be moving faster and faster each year.

In a world that will provide more and more ways for kids to “technologically connect to vast amounts of information”, we must provide them with, at the very least, 18 years to hone their relationship skills through communication opportunities.

Dr. Stoll suggests that a generation of children, more tech savvy, then relationship savvy, could be problematic. And I couldn’t agree more.

So, if you are a parent who has a child

  • Who has “unplugged” from the family
  • Who still demands that you take care of their “stuff” because they see you as more maid than mom
  • Who hasn’t connected the dots that helping out around the house is what they will be doing from 18 to 80 (unless they can afford a full time housekeeper)
  • Who struggle to communicate in ways other than demands, whines, sass or contempt
  • Who can’t manage their screen time, phone time, chat time without a thousand reminders from you
  • Who has decided that school “sucks”, or church is “stupid”, or family gatherings are “lame”

Let me assure you, that you are NOT faced with a discipline problem. You are faced with a RELATIONSHIP problem. And this relationship problem you have with your child is not just yours – its society’s.

Parents it’s time we educate ourselves about what we can do today, to better prepare our kids for the challenges that await them in the 21st century. And although we have no idea ourselves, what technology will make possible, we can guess, with some accuracy, that what will NOT change, is that life is about the relationships we have with our self and with others.

Take a moment, take a day, or take a week, and ask yourself what you are doing to prepare your children for their future.

Top 10 ways to use it or lose it!

Mental Muscle — that is, and by the way, how’s yours? Feeling a little flabby? Looking for ways to beef it up? Here are the top 10 ways, parenting expert, Vicki Hoefle suggests working out your mental muscle, so when your kids need you – you are strong enough to parent from your best.

1. Stop worrying about how your children express themselves in terms of their personal style (this includes their wardrobe, accessories, hair and makeup). Learn to notice character traits that define your child as a unique human being.

2. Ignore strangers in the grocery store who give you the hairy eye-ball when your child throws a temper tantrum. Learn to wait quietly as your child finds his/her own solution for dealing with disappointment or frustration (or just being too tired to shop).

3. Don’t interfere if your child decides to go to school in jammies, wear sandals in the snow, or watch tv instead of doing homework. Nature is the best teacher. Celebrate your child’s courage to make a choice and listen as he/she shares the experience without judgment or criticism.

4. Ignore mistakes, big and small, and remember that mistakes are opportunities to learn.

5. Resist the urge to say “I told you so”, “What were you thinking?” , and “If you had listened to me in the first place, you could have avoided the whole mess.” Imagine yourself in your child’s shoes and then respond accordingly.

6. Leave the mess. When your child is 35 how do you want her to remember you? As the best damn, nagging housekeeper in the neighborhood or as her ally, champion and teacher?

7. Never ever, ever, ever, ask your neighbor how she parents. You wouldn’t take your car to an accountant for an oil change would you? Consider yourself the expert in your child’s life.

8. When you don’t know what to do – do nothing.

9. Challenge every belief you have about what “good” parents do and don’t do and replace it with accurate, factual information that will help you parent from your best.

10. Don’t make the mistake of believing that your children ARE their mischief making. Mischief making is your clue that you are living with a discouraged child. The only solution is to encourage and encourage again.

At Parenting On Track™we are constantly supporting parents to help their kids develop mental muscle. We all know it can take a lot of mental muscle to thrive as an adult. Remember you cannot give to your kids, what you do not have yourself. So work this week, this month, this year on building up and staying strong, so you can parent from your best!

What Family Meetings Mean to Me

family-meetingsThere aren’t any strategies in the Parenting On Track™ Program that I don’t use with my own family. One strategy that has played a particularly important role in the evolution of my family has been Family Meetings.

When my children were very young, Family Meetings helped us define, at the very core, what kind of family we wanted to “be”.  The result of that early work is seen in the individuals, family members and community members we have become.

Initially, Family Meetings were a way for us to come together each week and invest in the health of our family. It was the place that taught my kids about kindness through appreciations and that their contribution to family work made the whole family run more smoothly.  They learned about money and, instead of fighting when we shopped together, we looked forward to this shared experience. It was only later that I realized the impact that allowance had played in my children’s healthy relationship with money.

As life got more challenging, Family Meetings became a safe place for us to bring both individual and family problems. Because everyone in the family was invested in finding a solution, there was little or no time spent on blaming or sabotage. Instead, my children became proficient at identifying problems and coming up with solutions that worked for everyone.

The older the kids got, the more Family Meetings began to change. Because there were fewer and fewer problems to work on, it left time to talk about vacations, community service, college, travel and other interests in our kids’ lives. Because all five of the kids got along so well (weekly appreciations will do that to a family), they looked for ways to appreciate other people in their lives that might otherwise go unnoticed. Because contributions were a way of “being” and not just doing, they spread their wings and began working outside of the home to bring in money and gain experience that would be useful when they could get “real” jobs at 14.

Without Family Meetings, we might have done what so many other families end up doing—trying to deal with daily life as it comes toward you like a crashing wave. Sometimes you can ride those waves, but sometimes those waves can crush a family of seven. We never had to worry about that with Family Meetings. In a way, Family Meetings became the lifeboat that we traveled in together, navigating both the rough waters and calm seas. The key part was that we did it together, every week at the same time and place, as a family.

Because I think Family Meetings play such an important role in the nurturing of a healthy family, I decided to take the month of March to put out a series of articles about the components of Family Meetings and the role each of those components can play in promoting healthy relationships within your family. So, stayed tuned; next week we’ll talk about Appreciations.

Learn more about Parenting On Track.