Archive for April 2010

Schedule a marriage tuneup

April 29, 2010
invest in marriage, marriage tuneup, postive parenting plan to  preserve the marriage, take care of your marriage, stay married for the  sake of the kids, long-term marriage, starter marriage.

Tune up your marriage regularly without the children. It can be as simple as playing Banana Grams together on a friend's porch.

Once a week I fill the tank of my car with gas.

Once a month it seems to need something bigger like an oil change, tire rotation or inspection. A few times a year it needs something really big like a brake job, tuneup or new tires.

I regularly spend time and money on preventative car maintenance because I depend on it.

What if I treated my life partner the same way?  Call it preventative maintenance to keep everything lubricated and running smoothly. Don’t wait until it breaks down on the New Jersey Turnpike at midnight.

Half of all children will experience a divorce by the time they graduate from high school. At my youngest daughter’s college orientation she was advised to be prepared for the possibility that our marriage might break up.

Even though divorce is an acceptable rite-of-passage in our culture, I’m still with my “starter” husband of nearly 30 years. We started very young and stuck with it out of stubbornness and necessity. Two adults have a better chance against four children than one-versus-four.

We needed each other. We maintained our relationship like we took care of our cars and our children — frequently and carefully.

What if every week when you filled up your car you gave your mate a compliment or did something for him/her without being asked.

What if every month when the car needed something bigger, you set a date and went out without the children? It could be as simple as taking a walk, going to a coffee shop or shopping for underwear. Hmmm, that has possibilities.

At least once a  year, take the extra time and effort to go away alone together. There are all kinds of ways to have frugal fun and trade child care with friends. The key point is to go away for one night or more alone.

Rekindle the spark and change the spark plugs to get 300,000 miles on that marriage. It’s the best investment in your family.

Sedating children on airplanes

April 22, 2010

Is this becoming a trend — to knock out young travellers with over-the-counter drugs during air travel?

Resorting to drugs on long trips shows a lack of imagination and home training by parents. If your youngster is so restless that she or he cannot be contained for a few hours, I recommend taking time for training and setting limits well before the trip.

Children need like we need guard rails on a bridge. Imagine the biggest bridge you can think of. Now imagine there are no guard rails. When was the last time you hit a guard rail on a bridge?

Guard rails give children a feeling of security. It’s up to parents to set limits with consistency, kindness and firmness. If your child is not used to hearing the word, “NO” to a wish, demand or request, they are not suitable travelers. Leave them home with a babysitter or relative or take time for training at home.

The younger the child the faster they will learn parents mean business. Parents must give one warning, then take action. For example, “You either stay in your car seat quietly or I will pull the car over and wait for you to stop crying.” “If you choose to get down from dinner before the meal is over or choose not to eat dinner, the next time you can eat will be at breakfast.

These are reasonable limits that children can abide by. They are fast learners. Children feel safer and will live up to expectations when parents set limits, talk about them at family meetings and encourage them. Such as, “I see you are enjoying looking out the window during our car trip to visit grandma. Good job. It’s much quieter in the car.” “You stayed at the table with us until dessert. Would you like an orange or some pineapple for dessert?”

We all live within limits, whether we like them or not. I avoid speeding because I don’t want a ticket. I pay taxes because I don’t want the IRS hounding me. I eat in moderation because I don’t want to be overweight.

Start setting reasonable limits now, before summer vacation and those long trips with children. It is possible to travel with children who are not doped.

Why not retire from being the house servant?

April 21, 2010
"Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable confident young people.

Read the book and retire from being the house servant, while empowering your children.

My book is hot off the presses and available for purchase.

It’s a guide to retire from being the house servant while empowering children to take responsibility and develop competence, which leads to genuine self-esteem.

I wrote the book because I watched my four children [now in their 20s] benefit from being counted on by having regular chores. The chores gave them a place to belong and feel important.

The chores were simple and age appropriate, and started as soon as they could walk. They got the idea that they mattered and they were expected to contribute to the greater good of our family, without pay or praise. They did receive allowances starting at 6 years old.

Chores teach children how to manage the details of their lives. They learn self-discipline and project management skills by being responsible for emptying the dishwasher, cleaning a bathroom, vacuuming, mowing the lawn, cooking dinner and more.

Chores counteract entitlement because it’s impossible to feel entitled when you’re responsible to clean toilets, scooping dog poop and take out the trash.

This book shows how to start them early, work beside them and use the democratic process of family meetings to plan how to work together as a team to run the house. The stories and strategies in the book are family-tested and backed up by Adlerian psychological theory and practice.

Parents will retire from being the  house servant by setting  a new tone where everyone works together for the common good, without paying children for contributing, either, except through weekly allowances.

What to do with Tammy tantrum?

April 19, 2010

Temper tantrums can be controlled when parents control their emotions. Parents can take time for training, set reasonable limits and take action when the child is out of control.Temper tantrums can be a nightmare, especially in public. Here are some suggestions to change your response and the child will eventually change their behavior.

Analyze what tantrums achieve for Timmy Temper and Tammy Tantrum. Do parents give in as a result of the tantrum? If they are effective, Timmy and Tammy will tantrum whether they’re at home or on vacation.

Timmy Temper and Tammy Tantrum love an audience because they enhance the performance.

Notice how you feel when Timmy’s temper flares.  Does he object to a limit you’ve set? Notice if you give in or not.  Set limits in advance and enforce them with kindness and firmness.  Take this time for training at least a month before the trip. Plan to take a different response to a tantrum.

1. Treat the tantrum like a dead tennis ball. Ignore it or remove Tammy Tantrum from situation. If in public, take Tammy to the car or a restroom. This is called taking time for training.

If at home, give Tammy a choice: “Either quiet down or go to your room until you settle down.” If Tammy is pre-verbal, put her in a playpen. If Tammy doesn’t choose, make the decision for her and separate her.

Empower Timmy Temper with choices: either sit by the window or the middle of the back seat. You can have vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Go to bed and stay there or I will shut the door and keep it shut until you’re asleep. When Timmy has choices, he feels more in control.

Ensure you are giving Tammy sufficient positive attention at neutral times so she does not resort to temper tantrums to be noticed by you. Spend at least 10-20 minutes a day of slow, uninterrupted one-on-one time with Tammy with your iPhone and Crackberry turned off.

Use the same strategies during the vacation. Take time for training. Give Timmy Temper choices: either stop the tantrum or we will leave the situation and go back to the hotel room/boat cabin/rental car, no matter how inconvenient for the parent.

Giving in to the tantrum will only prove to Timmy Temper that tantrums are a good strategy worth repeating. Be kind & firm. Don’t let Timmy get over-tired and resort to a temper tantrum. Hire sitters or take frequent rests to respect the child’s schedule.

Parents can train themselves to respond differently to tantrums and make them history. Timmy Temper and Tammy Tantrum can be trained.

A way to belong through El Sistema

April 16, 2010
belonging, children want to belong, gangs provide a place to belong, the importance of belonging to a group, alfred adler + belonging, we all want to belong. Belonging is one of our fundamental human needs. To belong is to be. Without belonging, we're log. Gustavo Dudamel found a place to belong as a poor kid in VEnezuela

Gustavo Dudamel is one of the most charasmatic conductors of the 21st century. He learned to play violin through El Sistema to reach poor children on the streets and train them in classical music.

“Exclusion is the problem of our society. When you give a child an instrument, you are including them immediately,” said superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel,  in the Boston Globe of April 16, 2010.

Dudamel discovered the violin and classical music through a 30-year old program, El Sistema, which provides an alternative to poor children in Venezuela. Some 70 percent of the 400,000 young musicians come from families with below-poverty incomes.

For a few hours a week, they leave poverty behind and belong to something bigger and more beautiful than the environment from which they came.

The young musicians in the Venezuelan youth symphonies start playing in groups immediately so when they play in groups of 300 or more, the music has an ensemble feel to it, according to the Globe. These children know how to belong and be a part of something bigger and more beautiful than they could ever achieve alone.

The need to belong is crucial to our human nature according to psychologist Alfred Adler, M.D. We want to belong so badly that we make great sacrifices and sometimes bad decisions to ensure membership in a group. Our whole society is set up on the “in group” mentality, reinforced by status symbols.

We demonstrate status by the groups we belong to, by buying certain cars, houses and  clothes. We talk a certain way to demonstrate allegiance to our social class and group.

Our children yearn to belong somewhere in life. The family is the first and most fundamental place for them to belong. When parents count on children to do chores, it says, “you’re important. We need you. You belong.” Insist on their presence at family dinner, especially for teens, because it reinforces YOU BELONG HERE.

Think about how you feel as a newcomer to a group versus when you have been accepted. You have a place. You’re appreciated by others who care if you show up or not. Other people witness and greet you.

Children want to feel that sense of belonging in a family. Family dinners-chores-&-meetings, encouragement, witnessing them and setting boundaries all reinforce the sense of belonging.

Gustavo Dudamel conducts with charisma and enthusiasm that is beyond compare.

Why start the day yelling?

April 15, 2010

A common woe from parents in my workshops is “I have to yell at my children every morning to get them out the door.” The child can be from 2 to 22.

Here’s a three-step plan to set a positive morning routine for Dawdling Danny and Still-snoring-Samantha.

1. PLAN. Have a family meeting. Put on the agenda “Morning Routine – Mom.” It’s usually Mom who cares about getting the children out the door in a certain condition. Ask the children for ideas for a smoother morning routine.

Implement their suggestions and add yours, such as create a check list with times: “Meg gets first shower at 6 am;” “Breakfast done by 7:55;” and “Can play or use computer ONLY when you’re ready.” Give every child an alarm clock, teach them how to use it.

They are more likely to comply when they’re involved in the planning and are expected to conform.

2. IMPLEMENT. Commit to following the new routine for three weeks. Work together to empower them to take responsibility for getting ready.  Control your emotions.  Take action:  decide to let go of the problem or leave the area. A mother of a teenager goes for a walk at 6 am for a walk to avoid morning hassles with her daughter.

It is the CHILD’S problem to get out the door dressed, with homework, lunch money/lunch, backpack, instrument, scout uniform, diorama, PE clothes, permission slips. Don’t take it on.

3. DO NOT INTERFERE. This takes restraint. One mom said when she implemented the new regime, “My son didn’t take a shower for a week because he didn’t get up on time. They forgot their lunch money and homework. It only took a week for them to learn.” Her children are 13, 9 and 6 years old.

Remember, as Jedi master Yoda [thanks to my nephew Eric for the correct identification of Yoda] said, “Do or not. There is no try.” Children can see through insincerity. This strategy works. Your family will be happier with a calm start to the day.