Tuesday, March 31, 2015

High School Seniors Don't Belong in Mexico...without you!

Writing a parenting blog affords me the opportunity to voice my opinions--whether popular or not.  And my opinion on this topic will not be popular with many but...it is my firm belief that High School Seniors have not earned some type of automatic privilege to celebrate their Spring Break with an unchaperoned trip to Mexico.

I am fully aware of all of the excuses parents make in order to justify sending an 18 year old on holiday with their friends to Mexico.  The prices are affordable.  They are of legal drinking age in Mexico.  Parenting from guilt makes you feel as if they deserve it because they have endured the college application process.  They are most likely heading to college in the fall, and you won't be controlling their decisions or even be aware of them when they are living on campus and not with you.  Parenting from exhaustion makes you give in because your teen wants to go and is making your life miserable unless you say yes.  Or you fall into the "all the other kids are going" trap.  Reach out to the other parents and confirm what your teen is telling you.  Then, perhaps some of the parents can agree to go and chaperone.  To me, this sounds painfully awkward...but it is more responsible than sending them on their own.

The reality is 18 year olds are still painfully immature.  There are truckloads of research confirming that their brains have not fully matured.  And the part of the brain that remains immature is the impulse decision making area.  Therefore, they are physically incapable of making good decisions 100% of the time.  And much more likely to make poor ones in an uncontrolled, unsupervised environment.  Poor choices that in some cases may lead to alcohol poisoning, drug use, and date rape.    Does it make any sense to send them to a foreign country that has a lower drinking age as well as other safety issues?  You have just dedicated 18 years of your life raising this child.  Do you really want to risk this precious investment?  The risks are enough to keep me and my husband saying "No!" and planning a family trip instead.  They will have plenty of time to drink alcohol and experience the partying lifestyle in the years to come if that is what they are seeking.  It is not your parental duty to serve that up to them on a silver (all expense paid) platter.

Seniors can be very persuasive.  I get that.  But stay strong, parents.  And safely launch them onto a college campus in the fall rather than a Mexican nightclub this spring.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Ideal Father is...

Imagine a loving father who is encouraging and supportive.  One who actively participates in his children's lives.  A father who takes the time get to know his children.  Spends time with them.  Plays with them.  Listens to them.  Counsels them.  Laughs with them.  Imagine a father who's face lights up at the sight of each of his children, equally.  

Think of a father who doesn't raise a hand to them in anger, but patiently sets limits and teaches his children self control.  Imagine a father who respects the personality, likes and quirks of each of his children.  Imagine a father who models strength and comfort and protection.  Imagine a father who loves the mother of his children and one who is proud of his children.  Imagine a father who's words   carry weight and meaning.  A father who uses his words to build his children up.  A father who teaches his children to trust in his words...no matter what.  

Imagine a father who is the ideal father.  The one who instructs his children about life and love and happiness.  Imagine a father who encourages his children to dream and helps them learn to accomplish those dreams.  A father who has high expectations of his children, and helps his children learn to work hard, set goals and achieve success.  Imagine a father who lives his life in such a manner that his children want to grow up to be just like him.  Imagine a father who is a hero to his children.

Now be that father.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

5 Do's and Don'ts of Parenting

Parents are the gardeners of their children's lives.  Do you grow an over tended bonsai child?  Do you pick and prune incessantly?  Do you overwater your child?  Too much attention, too much stepping in to his/her life, too much anxiety, too much everything resulting in a child who feels weak and

Or are you a naturalist?  Do you free range your child? Let him/her go and do and drift and float where he/she  chooses.  Don't concern yourself with the media messages he/she is picking up.  Don't worry about the friends he/she hangs with.  Let him/her decide what choices work, what limits to self impose. What boundaries to keep or cross.  He/She will grow into the person that he/she is meant to become without your input.  Without your guidance.  Without your wisdom.

Neither of these methods will result in a happy, self sufficient and well adjusted child.  And isn't that what you are trying to accomplish?  So what is a parent to do?

Here are the do's and don'ts:

1.  Don't over manage your child's life--Do allow him/her to make decisions (simple ones at tender ages and larger ones at older ages) and require him/her to stick with the consequences.  But also have faith in him/her.  Hold high expectations.

2.  Don't constantly criticize your children--Do let them know that your love for them is unconditional and support them in growing into the people they were meant to be, not what you WANT them to be!

3.  Don't give them everything they ask for--Do help them appreciate things by making them work and earn privileges and material possessions.

4.  Don't allow your children to do whatever they want--Do set boundaries and have rules.  Young people raised without any boundaries or limits will continue to push the limits of behavior in an effort to find where their parent(s) will finally draw the line.  Young people interpret a lack of boundaries as a clear message that they are not cared about or loved.

5.  Don't ignore your child's friendships but don't engineer them--Do get to know their friends and help them understand what makes a true friend and a valuable friendship.  This area is a tricky one, as sometimes children need your support and guidance when it comes to friendships, but also you can become too involved and should strive for the role of coach on the sidelines not referee in the middle of the action.

Growing a child to adulthood is exhausting, exhilarating, damn hard work!  Keep in mind that an unattended garden results in weeds choking back the true beauty and essence of a flower, and an overwatered garden becomes soft and weak.  Balance is the key to both gardening and parenting!
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Self Assess Your Parenting

The beauty of a rainbow reminds us of the power of reflection!  Take a moment to reflect on your parenting.

 Being a good parent requires some thought.  We all fall into patterns or habits that work when our children are a certain age, but good parenting requires change and adaptation.  If we stick to what worked before and never look at if it is working now, we are doing a disservice to both our children and ourselves.  Good parents evolve as your children grow and develop.

Often when I am giving my parenting workshops, I can see that as parents begin to reflect on the job they are doing, they discover some areas that need "tweaking".  They may come to realize that it is time to try a new strategy or idea in order to help their child grow.  So I have put together a simple assessment that can help you decide where your parenting might need a little attention and/or a fresh approach.

1.  What are your goals as a parent?  Do your children know these goals?

2.  Do your children know the rules in your home?  Do you have any rules?

3.  Is yelling your most frequent method to get your children to do what you want?

4.  Do your children have age appropriate chores?

5.  Do you treat your children with respect?  And do they respect you?

6.  Are you proud of your children?

7.  If you have a spouse or someone who co-parents with you, do you both have a common understanding of discipline and expectations?

8.  Do you use effective consequences when your children misbehave?

9.  Have you taught your children morals and values?

10.  Do you often feel love and affection towards your children?

By honestly answering these ten questions, you can begin to see areas that might need some attention.  If you are at a loss as to where to start, read some of my earlier posts on chores or positive discipline.  Those can be found here:

Teaching manners
5 Tips to better parenting

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How to End Whining...Forever!

I love to study young children and I have learned a few things over many years of being a teacher and a mom.  Young children use what works for them.  If they realize that whining adds drama to their speech, and mom and dad respond more quickly to dramatic speech patterns than to normal, conversational speech tones--you can bet your next lotto ticket that they will use whining voices to get what they want more quickly.  Young children are SO MUCH SMARTER than we adults give them credit for.

Often times these behavior patterns are so established that mom and dad don't even realize that their children use whining to get what they want.  But Grandma and Grandpa do!  And preschool teachers do, too!  So what can a parent do to curb the whining?  I have a fail proof and light hearted solution. First, have a simple conversation with your child about what whining sounds like to your ears.  Pick a time when you and your child are calm and alert...not during an argument or before bedtime.  When you have the right moment, it is time for the whining discussion and role playing to happen.  Speak in a normal tone and then speak in the "Whining Voice" and let your children hear the difference.  Have them mimic both the normal voice and the "Whining Voice" back to you, so you can be sure that they understand.

Now for the lighthearted part.  Help your children give the "Whining Voice" a name.  Our family always used "Wendy and Wayne" but any name that your children want to assign to this character will work.  Then, whenever you hear your children slipping into the dreaded "Whining Voice", calmly ask them to restate their request because you cannot understand "Wendy Whiner" or whomever they have named their "Whining Voice".  If you consistently refuse to acknowledge them during their whining and playfully use comments to remind them that you cannot hear or understand them when they are whining...I promise you it will not take long for this behavior to extinguish itself.
Case closed--in a fun, simple and hugely effective manner.  Try this and let me know how it works for you!