Friday, November 30, 2012

Crazy Parenting Top Ten List

Photo: Milwaukee Art Museum, Glass Work by Dale Chihuli


I work with parents a lot.  I speak to all kinds of parents.  There are a lot of mixed up parents out there that don't understand how profoundly their actions affect their children.  I have compiled a list of some of the crazy parenting ideas I have come across recently:

  • Parents who pay a personal trainer to exercise their elementary school age child, because the child only likes to play video games and never ventures outside.

  • Parents who pay their children for grades.

  • Parents who leave teenage children alone for weekends away, thinking that everything will be fine.

  • Parents who struggle financially, but equip their children with I-Phones, designer jeans, expensive footwear and anything else that the child feels the need to request.

  • Parents who fail to teach their children the first thing about how to clean a bathroom, empty trash, fill the dishwasher or perform any other domestic duty.

  • Married parents who make no attempt to keep the "spark" alive in their marriage because they are too consumed with everything to do with their kids.  Note to these parents: the children will grow up and leave and you will be left with a withered relationship.

  • Parents who forget to teach their children any manners.  Please and thank you are not out dated, and a child who constantly interrupts adult conversation is annoying.

  • Parents who sign their child up for multiple traveling sports playing in the same season.  This is not fair to the child, the teammates of the child, or to your family-- and results in exhaustion and frustration.

  • Parents who give unfettered access to media because they are too lazy to monitor their children.  It usually starts innocently with a TV in the bedroom for a toddler, but somehow the day never comes to remove the TV and the child is able to watch whatever he or she wants in the formative years of development.

  • Parents who still use physical violence to control their children.  Hitting, punching, slapping a child in anger is never okay.  It is using your physical domination to control the child, and consequently teaches the child that violence is the way to control others.  I know many parents who defend spanking and that is not what I mean here.  But I don't agree with spanking either.  That will have to wait for another post on another day.

Parenting is a difficult and exhausting job.  I know that it can take a lot of energy to make changes and become a better parent.  No parent is perfect, but a parent who is willing to try to improve is doing a great thing for their child, as better parenting will contribute the future success of your child.  And that is a very valuable outcome!  If you see yourself reflected in any of the craziness above, take some time to reflect on what you can do to carve a better path.  And just take one small step at a time on the road to becoming a better parent.

I welcome your comments and additions to the crazy list!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Isn't Cool

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the USA.  It began as a day that we were to celebrate with our fellow Americans and remember to be thankful for our fruitful land, the harvest, the end of World Wars.  A day set aside for family, food, togetherness and remembrance of our blessings.  But somewhere along the way, Thanksgiving has been hijacked in to the prequel of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa--the holiday gift giving and Olympic shopping season.

For weeks already we have been seeing Holiday commercials on TV, Holiday lights going up in our neighborhoods, Holiday songs being played on our radios.  Also, we have been assaulted by the endless chatter about BLACK Friday shopping hours and Cyber Monday deals, and retailers deciding to move hours up and open on Thanksgiving night.--even McDonalds is open on Thanksgiving.

The only thing I can conclude from all of this madness is that being Thankful isn't cool anymore.  Cool is racing out to the mall to buy more stuff that you don't need and can't afford.  Cool is fighting the crowds at the 8PM Doorbuster Sale to buy another sweater or TV that you just can't live without.  Cool is going out for Thanksgiving dinner so you don't have to deal with the mess of dishes and you can get out shopping sooner.  Who cares that the people at the restaurant can't celebrate a quiet, simple Thanksgiving with their families.  That doesn't matter anyway.  And we might get hungry while on our way to the mall, so thank God we can grab a Big Mac if we need one!

I know I am sounding preachy, but I simply can't help myself.  I am pleading with all of you.  Enjoy your families on Thanksgiving.  Cook a meal at home and sit down and eat it together.  Don't stress that it is too hard to do.  Keep it simple.  Do what you can.  Invite people over to help you and share the day.  Be thankful for the people in your life that love you.  Be thankful for the food you prepare.  Give thanks for your children.  Play with them.  Take a walk. Watch a movie.  Tell stories. Look at old photos.  How can you expect your children to understand gratitude if you don't display it?  Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to illustrate to children how important it is to focus on the simple things in life and to be grateful.  At a minimum Thanksgiving encourages "glass half full" thinking--or best case "cup runneth over!".

To me, Thanksgiving is the best of all of the holidays.  It emphasizes things we already have, family, friends, food, fun.  Don't let the media mongers twist your focus to the next holiday.  Simply enjoy this one.  Let's all stand up and make Thanksgiving cool once again!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reading Is Not Obsolete!

Tree Bookshelf: Designer Shawn Soh was inspired by childhood memories of sticking letters on tree branches.
from Bookshelf by Alex Johnson via Pinterest

 Now that my children are older, I can reflect on some of the best of times when they were small.  Make no mistake, I still remember the hectic daily grind and the never ending lists of chores, which have lessened quite drastically now that one of my children is living and working in the "real world" and another is away at college.  With only two children left at home, who actively help with chores, and are out of the house at school and activities more than at home, things are much quieter and calmer around here.  Hence the time for reflection.  And one of my conclusions has been that the time I spent reading with my children resulted in some of the happiest moments of motherhood.

I really miss the feeling of little warm bodies, cuddling close and listening with rapt attention to a storybook.  I miss holding little hands as we marched into our local library, and the excitement in their eyes as they chose a stack of book to borrow and take home.  Reading time meant we could often share a giggle, or learn something new.  It meant we could experience new books together and decide if they were worth reading a second, third or fourth time.  I know our reading time shaped them as well, because one of their favorite traditions is on Christmas Eve, when we all are at home, we come together to read a few favorite stories from their childhood.  They are grown now, but it wouldn't be Christmas Eve without our books.

Our modern lives are so hectic and busy and stressful.  We have increasingly become dependent on electronic devices for reading.  But I am urging parents to not lose sight of this simple pleasure.  Visit your local library.  Get yourself a library card.  Spend time with your child, enjoying books together.  In the future, you will be so glad that you did.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Inspire Our Future Voters

When election day finally rolls around, do you take your children to the polls?  Do you discuss the ads you have been watching endlessly on TV?  Do you share any of this process with your children?  Did you discuss the campaign with them at all?  If you did, be sure to let them know the results and how you feel about them.

I know that there are some of you who didn't even get out and vote yourselves.  Can't you respect the process enough to take the time to vote?  I heard on the radio today that if you didn't vote you can't true!  Shame on you.

The freedom that our country gives us is a gift that should be appreciated.  Many people living in other parts of the world, dream about the freedoms that our citizens take for granted.  And the only way for our nation to remain strong, is to have educated and involved citizens.  Our children are the future this nation, and they need to be taught to appreciate the freedom we enjoy and taught to value our right to choose our leaders.  The nonviolent transfer of power is an amazing accomplishment that we have been able to rely on for the last 238 plus years.  Please spend a little time talking to your children about this unique and wonderful country we live in; and the important responsibility we all have in using our vote and our voice to keep it strong now and in the future.

If you don't know how to start this conversation, try a book from your library like "Duck for President" by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin or "If I Ran For President" by Catherine Stier and Lynne Avril.  This is important.  Please be the parent who cares enough to teach these lessons.