Archive for February 2010

Get a life, mom and dad

February 25, 2010
When will parents learn to behave themselves at youth sports games? Coaches of a YMCA league in Southbridge have banned parents from attending playoffs because the parents yell at referees and one another. Parents do not know how to conduct themselves.

Parents: remember the operative word is "play" in playing basketball. Photo courtesy of

The Boston Globe reported that parents of a Southbridge YMCA youth basketball league were banned from the playoff games because too many parents yell at referees and each other.

The players are between fifth and eight grade. The parents are unable to show sportsmanship, another word for civil behavior around a game, which is meant to play for fun and enjoyment.

When I coached soccer in the 1990s, most parents in our suburban league acted appropriately, except for a few extreme incidents.

It’s the extremes that make the news, like the hockey father in Reading, Mass., who went to jail for manslaughter after killing another hockey dad in the locker room.

Parents are disconnected from the sport and blinded by a strong  need for their children to win.

One of my fellow soccer coaches made the parents of her players scrimmage on the first day of practice. The parents experienced how difficult it was to do what they had been admonishing their children to do!

The Southbridge parents might benefit from some court time. If they had their own fun, they wouldn’t have to ruin the fun of the children.

I’ve seen young soccer referees get harassed by parents when the ref gaining field time by refereeing micro players — all 5 years old. Some parents are way too over-involved and over-competitive, and deserve to be banned.

Why do parents care so much about youth sports leagues?

  • They view their children as possessions whose purpose in life is to make the parents look good.

  • They’re not healthy enough to play basketball so they live through their children.

  • They have no idea of sportsmanship.

What do you think is going on in the minds of these crazed parents?

The payoff of chores

February 15, 2010
This young man is learning his contribution to the household counts. He is developing self esteem because he can feel good about himself helping his family. He is learning self discipline and how to wash dishes. Childhood chores teach individual skills and benefit the family. They are part of a positive parenting plan.

What he's learning from washing dishes will last a lifetime. Credit: Manchester Evening News, UK

Childhood chores are making a renaissance. We started the century using children as vital contributors to farms, factories and cottage industries. We finished the century treating children like consumer and performers.

The boy at left doing dishes is learning more than just how to do dishes. Life-lessons are being absorbed, such as: his contribution is important; his family depends upon him; he needs to show up whether he feels like it or not [AKA self-discipline]; he’s small and mighty — what else is he capable of doing?

Many children live an entitled life of activity-mania  their main role is to  perform and make their parents proud.

Personally, doing dishes is a lot more beneficial than earning trophies for participation on travel soccer. A few activities are acceptable, but many families are constantly on the go, with no time for chores or the other traditional family centering habit of family dinner.

A survey of 564 people from ages 11-90 I took showed that a remarkable 87 percent had or have childhood chores. They reported that family dinner and family chores often go together. I would add a third leg to that chair: family meetings.

Democratic family meetings are useful to make decisions, divide up the housework, plan the week’s schedule, compliment each other, enjoy a healthy snack and have some simple fun together at the end. Family meetings offer children a voice and a choice. Family dinner is the glue that holds a family together. And chores are an integral part to both because children can be involved in the preparation and clean up of family dinners.

The Boston Globe West published a story on chores and cited many children today who do laundry, help care for siblings and mow the lawn and more — without getting paid by the chore. The story cited the research of Wellesley College Professor Markella Rutherford who researched chores. Rutherford found that in the last 15 years chores have made a comeback. Hurray!

The article cited my upcoming book, “Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable confident young people.” It’s being edited and will be out soon. It offers many ideas on how to have a more harmonious home and get children involved in doing their parts.

Michelle Obama picked a good cause: childhood obesity

February 12, 2010
Michelle Obama has taken on childhood . one in three american chidlren is overweight or obese and such children face higher risks of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other illnesses. Public health crisis. prevent childhood obesity. a positive parenting plan to fight obesity. eat less and move more

Michelle Obama is a vegetable advocate. Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

One in three American children are overweight or obese. That means one-third of our children are at higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

It’s good Michelle is calling attention to it from her powerful position and making it her signature cause.
 Because myriad factors have created the problem, it’s complex. But we have to start.
So many society factors are to blame for the childhood obesity epidemic. High fructose corn syrup, sedentary activities , being driven everywhere for fear of stranger danger, and parents.
Our current crop of parents — Baby boomers and Gen-Xers — are afraid to say NO to children and set limits. I don’t know if it’s because the children are raised by day care and nannies or if parents are afraid to say no because their parents said no too much, or parents are chasing the perfectly pampered childhood.
We’re turning out chubby, entitled, video game experts who don’t like to read or work. Not only does this translate to unprecedented rates of childhood diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, it horrendous for mental health as well.
Parents do not expect children to eat vegetables, walk places, contribute around the house, unplug and think original thoughts, or make mistakes.
This is a grave mistake that’s growing exponentially like the national debt. The price tag will escalate as the iGeneration enters the workforce. They’re going to be sicker, lazier and less productive when we need them to compete in a global market and pay for our social security.
So what’s the solution?
Parents can influence children’s behavior without being a dictator. Read my book, “Raising Able: how childhood chores counteract entitlement,” which is about to be published. It lays out a positive parenting plan to involve children in housework  while teaching responsibility and self-discipline.
The book trains the trainers. It teaches parents how to set limits, involve children in making decisions and allow children to experience life . It’s common sense. It will establish a new dynamic in your home and empower your children to make good decisions — about food and life.
My next book is tentatively titled, “Growing children to eat vegetables.” However, it’s best if parents start with “Raising Able” to get the hang of a new parenting approach before using the strategies on eating habits.
Parents can also set an example because 60 percent of adults are overweight. A child with one obese parent has a 50 percent chance of being overweight. With two obese parents, the child has an 80 percent likelihood of being overweight. That’s scary.
There’s hope. Parents have the power. Parents can advocate for vegetables. Parents can start by getting children to move more, eat less. It’s a simple formula.

The Yin-Yang of winter break with 20-somethings

February 1, 2010
The yin-yang of adult children coming home for semester breaks can be an emotional roller coaster for families.

Happy to see them come, happy to see them go.

In the past 11 years I’ve ridden the see-saw of my four “children” going back and forth to college every few months. Practice does not make perfect, in this case. There is no perfect. The house is deadly quiet without them and chaotic with them.

They arrive with dirty laundry, random leftover foods, and an expectation that they’re adults. They depart with clean laundry, a few bags of groceries from my pantry, and the reminder that we can still fall into old habits.

“Kristen, would you please remove the hair from the bathtub drain?” her older brother Ian asked politely when  went into shower after her.

At the kitchen sink, I call out, “Ian, would you please remove your breakfast dishes from the sink?” Or, they sour in the bottom of the sink all day, and drain my attention.

It feels normal and wonderful to have them home. We make food, music, and fun together. Their visits re-open the daily domain of motherhood that has been periodically dormant since our youngest graduated from high school in 2006.

Empty nest is almost as good as having them home. I look forward to the start of the semester when I don’t have to cook for four or more, when Bob and I can be a selfish couple, and catch up on what was a very short phase in our relationship before they were all born within seven years.

“Do you need help?” I said to Ian as he packed to move to North Carolina.

“No. I think I have it covered,” Ian said.

“It’s hard to believe you can manage life without me,” I said, half-jokingly. The mother in me genuinely wonders how he survives each day without me. The adult in me enjoys having him off my radar, the constant blip, blip, blip of his daily existence fading out of my sight and hearing. A month was a long winter break.

I’m consoled by their independence, survival skills and financial acumen. They left home well-equipped to deal with people, school, work, money and life. I guess I did my job well enough that they don’t need me.

It hurts to think that!

And it’s a relief.

That’s the yin-yang of growing up and leaving home. Yippee and ow. Hurray and I miss you.