All posts tagged responsibility

Bicycles and Helmets – Arming your Kids for Success

Young Children With Bikes And Scooters In ParkThe Setting and Scene:
Six families are headed out for a bike ride with the kids. Their kids range from three to twelve-years-old. They arrive at the destination ready to begin their adventure. People start preparing and then a child of eight squeals “OH NO! I forgot my helmet!” The action stops. There is awkward silence and families begin to busy themselves getting ready for the ride and waiting to hear how this will be resolved.

We’ve all been here. We’ve made it clear to our kids that if they forget their lunch, they will have to figure out how to get enough food to tide them over till they get home. If they forget the mouth guard, they will have to sit out the game, in this case, if you forget the helmet, you stay behind while the others enjoy the ride.

But what usually happens is this; the parent, feeling the pressure, begins to lecture their child on his irresponsible behavior that led to his forgetting the helmet. The parent exclaims, “Now someone will have to stay behind and “babysit” you.” The shame the parent feels for inconveniencing the group is now passed to the child. They both feel shame. The child says, loudly enough for everyone to hear, “It’s YOUR fault I don’t have my helmet. You always pack it for me or remind me to bring it.”

Shifting the Perspective
This is a golden ‘aha” moment. If the parent were open and willing to see this as an opportunity and a blessing rather than a catastrophe, he would have recognized his error, apologized to the child and figured out how to move forward in a respectful and dignified way. As it was, he felt embarrassed that his child was “being disrespectful and sassy” and the power struggle escalated.

As a way to resolve the situation quickly and respectfully, I offered to stay back with the child and find something else to do, but the parents decided that they would allow the child to ride WITHOUT the helmet as long as he agreed to….and they proceeded to list off at least a dozen things the child could and could not do on the ride.

Time to Reflect
Later that day, the parent and I had a chance to ride together and he asked me what I would have done in this situation. Being a mother who raised five kids to adulthood, I was in his situation more than once. I explained, “You have to decide what is most important to you. Teaching responsibility and allowing your child to develop it over time or ensuring your child is happy today and doesn’t feel that they have missed out on a once in a lifetime experience.” (I said this last bit as a way to inject a bit of levity in the situation rather than taking a rigid and judgmental stand. We both knew that this bike ride would be one of thousands this child took in his life.)

How many of us as parents and teachers, say that what we want are children who become responsible adults and how many of us ignore the very opportunities that would allow this to happen naturally? What we really want is to raise responsible kids without doing the grueling work it takes to ensure this outcome. What we want are kids who learn responsibility without ever giving them any. This is impossible. Experience is the best and only teacher.

Consider the Message
Several weeks later I was with this group again. The parent of the eight-year-old loudly proclaims to all as he holds up his son’s helmet, “He brought his helmet today. I made sure he was looking at me when I told him to bring the helmet or he really would be sitting on the sidelines this time.”

This loving and kind dad thought this was a success, but for the rest of us, the message was clear. Unfortunately, this delightful child is learning that it is his parents’ responsibility to ensure he has what he needs, so that he can enjoy his life.

Foundational Choices
As parents, we tend to look at these situation in isolation rather than looking at them as the foundational experiences that inform our children. Each choice we make, points the child in a certain direction. As tough as parenting is, it doesn’t necessarily get easier the older our children get. We have the opportunity to lay the foundation for our kids when they are young, when the stakes are low, when they rebound quickly and when they are most open to learning in a gentle and consistent environment. This ensures we are preparing our children for adulthood in a slow and thoughtful way.

The next time you find yourself in one of these situation, ask yourself, Is the choice I am making in this moment pointing my child in a direction that will ensure he becomes a responsible or cooperative, or empathetic, or open-minded, or flexible, or forgiving adult? If not, hit the pause button and reconsider your choice.

Kiddo, Pack Your Own Darn Lunch!

darn lunch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is Alfred Adler?

On the eve of the Parenting On Track™ Weekend Retreat, I wanted to pay homage to Alfred Adler and the impact his work has on my life.

It is because of him, that I enjoy a deep connection with each one of my children, my husband and those who make up my “healthy tribe”. His work has been the catalyst for the majority of insights that have facilitated clarity, healing and comfort for me in my life.

He continues to inspire me to look deeper, to trust, to take risks, to forgive often and quickly, and to love unconditionally. I have spent the last few days preparing for the upcoming weekend, and so I offer this extraordinary interview of Henry Stein, a noted Adlerian Expert, and his thoughts on Adler and his work.

Please, if you are looking to enrich your life in any way, take 10 minutes, just 10 minutes and read this illuminating article, Was ist “das Ich”? An Interview with Henry Stein on Alfred Adler, by Susan Bridle.

I have included an excerpt below, that for me, is the most powerful statement in all of Adler’s work.

    WIE: If you approach it in this way, it can be a lifelong project to straighten all this out.

    Henry Stein: Yes. Adler says, “Wait a minute. If in fact there is a single goal and this single goal is causing the symptoms and problems and is, in a sense, orchestrating everything, you don’t work on the fifty-two different subcategories of symptoms, you work on the goal.” When you change the goal, everything else begins to shift, the symptoms begin to vanish. People get goose bumps when they come to the realization that they can change their life so dramatically and that it isn’t an overwhelming, laborious, lifelong task. That’s the good news. There’s bad news: The bad news is that you now have responsibility. And that’s a trade-off. When people are willing to accept this responsibility, they almost have a sense of being reborn, and the sense of freedom and empowerment is wonderful. And then they accept the responsibility very willingly; it’s not a burden. But other people—who don’t want the responsibility—will back off, and what they’ll do is they will either forget the insight or they will argue with it or sabotage it.

Read the entire article and enjoy!

The Shocking Truth About Praise

Do you believe that good parents praise their children?

When your child wins a game, draws a picture, or comes home with an A on her report card, what do you say? What are you thinking?

Are you like so many other parents who are in the habit of responding with words like “Good job,” “Nice work,” or “I am so proud of you” without considering how these words will impact your child’s developing self-esteem and self-confidence?

A Different Perspective

A several ago, there was an article in New York Magazine by Po Bronson titled “How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise” that raised some interesting points. Consider this:

  • Did you know that telling your children how smart they are and offering praise often leads to under achievement?
  • Did you ever make the connection between rewarding your child too frequently and his or her level of persistence when rewards are not present?
  • How about the notion that persistence is also an unconscious response in the brain that intervenes when there is no immediate reward?

Now that you know

  • How will you change your response?
  • What will it take for you to become more creative in your use of language?
  • How will you ask questions that encourage your children to self-evaluate?
  • What observations could you make that would support your child as he learns new skills and faces new challenges?
  • How much discipline will it take for you to resist giving your opinion?
  • Armed with this new information, what choices will you make for you and your children?

Read the article and tell us what you think!