Archive for June 2010

Provide structure for teens and tweens this summer

June 28, 2010

A few weeks before the end of my oldest daughter’s sophomore year of high school, I realized, We’re going to drive each other crazy if we’re both home together. I said, “Casey, how about if you get a job this summer? I’ll drive you up to Four Corners and you can fill out some applications.”

After two fights — one at home and one outside of the grocery store — she slammed the car door behind her. “I’ll pick you up here in an hour,” I said. She didn’t answer. “Did you hear me?” Casey nodded and stomped off. She applied at four stores and avoided Papa Gino’s. “I just couldn’t go in there. They looked too weird,” Casey reported. The next week, Casey started working at Boston Market. The job opened up all kinds of opportunities for her and her two younger brothers who followed in her footsteps. I had to use the power of expectation, encouragement and demand to get her to take the first step.

Teens and tweens need structure – some activities or work around which to structure their summer. It could be a combination of camp, contributing to the family, paid jobs and/or volunteer work. It needs to be something besides texting, sleeping until noon, and surfing the web. Start by having a family meeting and ask your children of all ages what their goals, plans and hopes for the summer. Make a list. Set a budget for special activities.

Talk about how they could contribute to the family for the summer , such as cooking dinner once a week, making dessert or salads a few times a week, caring for or driving younger siblings,  cleaning, yard work, car care, house painting, painting their bedroom, a building, sewing or craft project, reading, writing, learning an instrument, computer repair, pet care and training. If they want to start a business or provide a service, help them with publicity by making a flyer and distributing it and putting up a website.

Negotiate what they’ll do for the family by what date, and hold them to it. Do not pay them unless they pay you for everything you do for them. Doing something for money is the lowest form of motivation. Appreciate their efforts loudly and often by saying, “The lawn looks great. Thanks.” “Dinner was delicious. I really appreciate coming home to a home-cooked meal at the end of the day.” “Do you need more thread for that project? I can pick it up for you on the way home tomorrow.”

Build on interests that they can do at home, online or outside the home. Teens will need help connecting to volunteer work, jobs working for neighbors and finding paid work. Call your network of friends, neighbors and co-workers to inquire about volunteer and paid work. Even two to four hours a week gives them a focus.  Lookup telephone numbers for them. Assist them in filling out applications and rehearsing for interviews. Encourage them – which means, to give courage, especially as they are starting something new. “You can do it” are four of the most powerful words in the English language.

When my son Ian graduated from high school he had no summer job lined up. I was furious that he expected to loaf all summer before going to college. I opened up the phone book to “Moving companies” and began calling them until I got him a telephone interview with the owner of a small company who gave Ian a chance. He got some fantastic experience and built his confidence. By midsummer, Ian found another job working as a carpenter, through a friend-of-a-friend. It was easier work than moving. Ian had responded to my expectation and encouragement to work during the summer. It paid off in more ways than one.

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Who sleeps with who and where over summer break?

June 24, 2010

I’ve experienced the revolving door of college students for 11 years as my four children have gone to college – and returned. As soon as they’re gone and we’ve gotten used to the new equilibrium, they come back for some vacation of some length, and they need money, medical attention, glasses and shoes 

To pave the way for a peaceful summer, have a family meeting. Talk about your expectations on the three Cs: communication, contributions and compromise.

1. Let parents know if you’ll be home for dinner or not a day in advance
2. Communicate about using a shared car a few days in advance. Leave the car clean and with the same amount of gas or more.
3. What contributions will the student make over the vacation? What areas of the house will they clean regularly? What night of the week will they cook dinner? Go grocery shopping? Change the oil on the car?
Keeping them involved in the operation of the house is critical. They are not guests. They are contributing members of the family.
4. Let parents know when to expect them back. Don’t stay out all night without communicating that. Let parents know if they’ll be away over the weekend and when to expect you back.
5. Talk about alcohol consumption in the house and sober driving if you haven’t already. Will they be drinking your booze? What about moderation?
6. Have a few more family meetings as the summer progresses to ensure you’re staying on track. They must remember they are NOT at school, they are NOT independent adults. They are young adults living at their family home, which requires communication, contributions and compromise
7. Have an agreement in advance about the condition they will leave their room. Plan to help them as the day draws near to sort out the clutter they may leave behind. One son left his room like a messy closet for six months while he was away. The next visit home, we planned to clear it out  before he left, and did it.
8. Get clear on their departure date. Empty nest has its advantages.

You may need to have a private talk with the student about overnight visitors and boyfriends/girlfriends. Don’t assume anything about sleeping arrangements. Remind them it’s your house. Make your values clear.

We set the expectation that the young people involved to be in a committed, long-term relationship in order to share a bed in our home, and presumably use birth control. I do not want casual sex happening in our home. If they’re already having sex regularly with a partner at school, it is kind of redundant to prohibit it at your house.

If the young adult is a college graduate and has a job, charge rent. This will solve many conflicts and motivate them to move out and get their own place. Empty nest is wonderful, trust me 

I’ve lived with the Yin-Yang of four young people coming and going for more than a decade. It’s wonderful to have them come – and wonderful to say good-bye again. It’s time for them to fly the coop. It’s good for them.

Here’s to Dad.

June 19, 2010

Dad- thanks for everything. I still miss you, five years later.

Messy bedrooms are not fatal. They’re just messy.

June 15, 2010

The condition of my daughter’s bedroom is shocking. I have mastered the arts of tolerance, shutting the door, and minding my own business.

There are greater battles to fight. We have an agreement that when she goes back to school for the semester she will leave it very neat.

Karate Kid, Take 2

June 14, 2010

Can’t wait to see the remake of Karate Kid.

Loved the first one and WAX ON, WAX OFF inspired a chapter in my book, “Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable young people.”

I hope that’s part of the new one. Has anyone seen it yet?

In case you forgot, Mr. Miyagi gave Daniel a series of chores — waxing his car, painting the fence and sanding a deck. Each motion embedded a karate move into Daniel’s psyche and taught him self-discipline.

When children and teens contribute to the work of their household, they learn self-discipline, teamwork, skills, and self-value because their actions impact others.

Self discipline is the act of doing something you might not feel like — and you do it anyway because you have made a commitment to someone else and/or yourself. Self-discipline is the foundation to a successful life.

Daniel didn’t understand the reason Mr. Miyagi gave him the onerous tasks. Children won’t consciously understand the value of chores. Their psyches “get” that they are needed and appreciated for actions as simple as doing the family’s recycling and setting the table. The older the child, the more challenging the chore should be.

Look at what Daniel achieved in the original Karate Kid.

What do your children do around the house?

A bedtime routine that works magic

June 10, 2010
This child looks relaxed, which is the purpose of a nightly bedtime routine. Parents must set aside the time to put children to bed each night. Be present, don't rush, no phone calls. Bedtime routines are very soothing for parents and the whole family.

Ah, peace at last. We all need our rest. Children need to get to bed at an early hour. Photo credit to Mitikusa on Flickr.

Here’s an age-old problem from a young mother I coach: “I can’t get my 6-year-old daughter to bed on time.”

My answer follows.

You must be committed to getting her to bed on time. If her kid-o-radar senses wavering, she will move in and exploit it. If you’re not committed, stop reading.

Start by talking to her about bedtime at a family meeting and agree on a reasonable bedtime.

Use the clock as a neutral guide. Set up a routine – bath-book-bed, and a song if there’s time. DO IT EVERY NIGHT. Turn off the phone, TV and radio.

Start the bath 30-45 minutes before bedtime. Don’t wash her hair every night. The goal is to calmed her down. My mother used to say mental hospitals use water therapy to calm  patients. Warm water play plus open-ended time is very calming, even with three children in the tub.

You can read a book or come in and out of the bathroom within hearing range. Floss and brush your teeth. File your nails. Trim your toenails. Clean the toilet and sink. Hang out.

Do not hurry, and keep to the schedule. After a 10-20 minute bath, get into PJs and brush teeth. Even though she is an only child, this formula works for three or four children in a family. We herded our gang of four to bed like this for a good decade.

Read for at least 15 minutes while lying on her bed and relax your body. You have nowhere to go but that present moment. Sing. Talk. Pray. Quietly. This is not the time for daddy-rough-housing. Tell a story from your imagination or childhood.

Breathe deeply and restfully. Try not to fall asleep yourself.

If she’s still not ready for sleep, allow her to keep her light on and “read” in bed or look at pictures until she’s ready to shut off the light. It will happen soon.

Say goodnight and find something quiet to do. You’ve satiated her with attention and relaxation, an investment in her staying in bed.

If she doesn’t stay in bed after this routine and you’re worn out, give her a choice: either stay in bed or you  lock it or hold the knob until she falls asleep. This sounds harsh and it’s a limit the child is unable to set herself.

We are motivated by fear and desire. If she has no desire to stay in bed, so use fear.
You’re afraid of disintegrating into a less-than-ideal parent if you don’t get a break. Give one warning, framed positively: “If you stay in bed, I’ll leave the door open.” She hears, “Stay in bed, leave door open,” the behavior you want to reinforce.

This option is that it only takes one or two nights of setting the  limit. It’s reasonable, respectful and related to her choice. (Thanks Jane Nelsen, Ph.D. for the “Three Rs”) .

Let me know how it goes. Does anyone else have this problem?

The Yin-Yang of college students home for the summer

June 9, 2010

It’s always wonderful to welcome home college students and new graduates for the summer. Sometimes the wonder wears off when they leave dirty pans in the sink for the weekend and forget to tell mom and dad that they’re not coming home that night.

I’m not a big worrier, especially of college students who are used to being on their own. Bob and I give them a long leash and expect them make good independent decisions and follow the three Cs of a successful summer: communication, collaboration and consideration.

One Sunday morning I hadn’t heard a peep from my son, then 22 years old. I kept thinking, “He’ll wake up soon.” Finally by 2 pm, I went upstairs and found his bed hadn’t been slept in.

I called him to make sure he was okay and he picked up. When he finally came home, had a chat about communication and consideration. The courtesy of a note or a text message is appreciated.

It’s also important to re-incorporate temporary college-age residents in family routines. See the video for more. By the way, do not pay them for doing any chores, unless they’d like to take it as a credit for their college bills, or if they pay you for what you do for them.

By the time you adapt to them being there, they’re gone. Welcome to the Yin-Yang of college life.