Archive for August 2010

Calling photos of children — even you — doing chores. Win $50.

August 31, 2010

Little kids ADORE chores. This is me at age 4 or 5 ironing. I couldn't wait until I got a pillowcase or handkerchief to iron. Chore make children feel good about themselves. Chores nurture self esteem. Chores teach responsibility.

That's me ironing at age 5 in about 1963. I eagerly waited for handerchiefs, dresser scarves and pillowcases to iron.

This photo says so much about how my parents raised their nine children. We all had chores and those chores taught us self-discipline and nurtured our self-esteem because we contributed to the family. Today, most of us are in business for ourselves. We’re very self-directed and I attribute that to doing dishes regularly.

Do you have a photo of YOU doing chores? Or of your children doing chores? Post it on my Raise Able Young People Facebook page. While you’re there, vote (LIKE) for your favorite photo of a little person working. The winner – to be determined by Sept. 7, 2010, will win a $50 gift card.

Chores are the anti-brat remedy. It’s impossible to be entitled when you take out the trash, scoop dog poop and sweep floors. Chores teach children about life. Sometimes we have to do things whether we want to or not.

Some of my best memories growing up are doing dishes with my brothers and sisters. It was fun to rake leaves, clean out the garage and paint the house together. I felt important.

I loved when I was old enough to paint a radiator while my older brothers painted the walls. They carefully instructed me, “Watch out for drips!” I didn’t know that painting radiators was boring and time-consuming. I relished being part of the action. Painting the radiator was challenging. Instead of bugging them or tagging along with them, I was helping.

By the way, today I don’t iron very much. I got into the Zen of Ironing then. The skill has transferred to other areas of my life 🙂

Drive a Volvo over a cliff

August 30, 2010
college costs for young people mean parents drive old cars. The decals on our car windows tell all. Every college sticker on the window means thousands of dollars committed to a young person.

I'm waiting for a sticker from Alfred University.

Look carefully at the top of the photo and you’ll see three college stickers. They explain where thousands of dollars have gone in the past dozen years.

A friend who also has four children explains college tuition: “Evey year when I pay the college bill, it’s like driving a brand new Volvo over a cliff.”

His children went to private colleges. We drove used Volvo’s over the cliff because we’re patrons of state schools.

College is a good investment. I’m not complaining, only noticing and explaining the connection between old cars with college stickers.

The 2001 Camry pictured above passed 200,000 miles this summer. I figure every minute I drive it I’m saving money — for more college expenses.

Although this year we have a reprieve. Kristen is in graduate school, with tuition included in her fellowship, and a grant for living expense. She’s almost across the finish line. We’re still supplementing, and I’m happy to be able to do it.

I see my peers on the road, driving old cars, plastered with college stickers on the back window. They should read, “My child goes to this college and all I got is a lousy windshield sticker.”

The best things in life are not things

August 27, 2010

The New York Times says money can’t buy happiness, and money is better spent on buying experiences. The reporter interviews several people and psychologists about how money impacts happiness — or not.

After people have enough money to meet basic needs, money doesn’t buy happiness, experiences do.

Which is why I’m glad I made the sacrifice to stay home with our four children. We had less money and more time. I don’t think my marriage could have survived the stress of two high-profile careers — and hiring a nanny to make it work.

Other people would have raised my children. I’d have missed the bulk of the most rewarding — and most challenging 🙂 — experience of my life. Paid jobs will always be there. Babies and children won’t.

Young mothers struggling to meet the social expectation to be employed have fatigue in their voices and faces. I wonder how they find me-time and deal with the stress of chasing a shrinking pool of time and money.

Children can be taught to value going to the mall, Disneyland and Chuckie Cheese. Children can also be taught to savor a good yard sale, homemade pizza and a family hike in the woods.

One of our traditions was Friday night pizza and a family movie. We made the pizza from scratch together — an experience in itself. When I ask my 20-somethings “What do you want me to cook for your birthday?” Their answer is often, “Pizza.”

My mother had a bumper sticker – “The best things in life are not things.” Embracing the truth of that statement makes my life simpler and richer, in ways money can’t buy.

Gonzo’s door trick

August 25, 2010

I’m a dog owner by default. Two dogs ago, I yielded to the urgent wishes of my four children and husband to add a dog into our cacophony, confusion and camaraderie.

Our three dogs have brought more gifts, laughter, wisdom and family unity than I could ever have imagined. They have been well-worth the investment and energy.

Gonzo’s door trick never fails to get a laugh from visitors on our porch. Usually she comes and goes through the screen door with little fanfare while we’re eating or kibitzing on the porch.

When a guest catches sight of her opening the door, they interrupt the conversation and exclaim, “Did the dog just open the door?!” Translated, “Did I just see what I thought I saw?”

Gonzo figured out how to open the door out of necessity. We didn’t interrupt what we were doing when she wanted to come in to let her in. We gave her the time and space to figure it out for herself. When she did, we congratulated her.

After the house is buckled closed for eight months of cold weather and we re-open the porch, Gonzo needs a few days to remember she knows how to get in and out of the door independently.

We have empowered our dog.

More young people could benefit from such an opportunity to think for themselves, solve problems, do homework [or not] and experience the natural and logical consequences of their decisions.

Set a nag-less routine

August 23, 2010

The secret to smooth morning routines is empowerment. When children and teens are given the opportunity to manage their time and affairs, parents can relax.

When allowed to make decisions and experience the consequences of say, sleeping late, forgetting lunch money, missing the bus, young people will make better decisions. The goal of parenting is to nurture independence so when children become teens they will make good decisions when 60 miles away, going 60 miles an hour.

Start by teaching morning self-management in kindergarten forward. It will eliminate a huge source of family conflict and nagging. The key is to coach them, give them the tools and then treat getting out the door as their problem, not yours.

Download my tip sheet on how to create a nag-free morning experience. Start with a family meeting and providing each child with an alarm clock. Be patient for three weeks and encourage them to meet your new expectations. Either say something encouraging or keep quiet. If necessary, go to another room!

Be willing to let them fail if they don’t plan properly — without breakfast because they didn’t allow enough time or without homework because they couldn’t find it. Parents can offer neutral statements such as, “The bus will be here in five minutes. Do you need help?” Give enough rope to burn but not enough to hang.

Remember — it’s their challenge to learn to manage getting up to an alarm clock and allowing time to get ready for school. Practice the double E — encouragement and expectation. Notice what they have done: “I see you packed your lunch last night. Good idea,” or “You have one shoe, do you know where the other shoe is?”

When parents change their behavior, children will respond. You can do it — have a plan and stick to it. It will transform your morning routines and give your children skills for life.

She’s gone away

August 19, 2010
She's gone away. My youngest daughter is off to college, again and finally. She's the fourth and final and it feels to final to have our house empty again. Empty nest is a cruel reality.

Kristen at a crossroad of her life.

Kristen  left on Monday for her first semester of graduate school. Her car full, the house empty. I feel the familiar yin-yang of college students coming and going of the past 11 years.

This time is different. Nothing could have prepared for the day when the youngest left, never to return for more than a visit.

I moved a few orphaned belongings to the attic, feeling like an orphan parent. I donated a bag of clothing , scaled down food purchases, and expect her to turn up in the morning, at dinner time.

I can’t believe she fit everything into her little Celica and how orderly she left her room. My soul is disorderly and crammed with conflicting emotions. I detoured my life and put the four of them first, ahead of my own needs, career and life.

Empty nest was expected, anticipated and prepared for. I gave them skills to live independently — based on the ability to make good decisions. Now I now coach other parents to teach children and teens the art of independent decision-making.

I’ve done my job well. I’m as obsolete as her empty bedroom. My relationship with my four grown children is optional, and hopefully out of desire, not obligation. We’re establishing new traditions and reasons to get together. How often is often enough? How many calls and visits are intrusive? At what point does an adult child’s extended visit imply he should pay room and board?

There’s always new ground to cover in parenting, which is why children invading our lives enriches, challenges, frustrates, entertains and gives us a purpose.

It has been worth every sacrifice. My husband, dog and I mourn over the end of an era. The dog tried to stow away in Kristen’s already-crammed car. Bob and I had a good long wet hug when she didn’t show up for dinner.

It’s been a good run.

The new era of picky eaters

August 13, 2010
making pizza together is a wonderful family activity. everyone can customize their own pizzas. The family works together as a team to create something delicious. Family dinner is an essential part of family life. Family dinner prevents drug abuse. Family dinner connects parents with children. Family dinner is essential for teenagers.

The pizza was delicious and fun to make together. Everyone could customize their own pizzas.

Homemade pizza is one of my favorite meals to fix with my children. It’s easier than you think, especially by using store-bought dough, jarred sauce, a bag of shredded cheese and scavenging leftover bits of vegetables and meat from the fridge.

I’m always surprised by the dietary restrictions of Millennials. Here are some NO’s I’ve heard from visiting 20-somethings. NO dairy, wheat, meat, pork, onions, mushrooms and more. Some have double-prohibitions, like no meat or dairy, essentially a vegan diet.

I can justify the allergies. And it’s good for the planet to avoid meat. Pizza is a wonderful easy way to satisfy everyone’s palates.

However, many families create a cafeteria-style dinner every night to satisfy each person’s dietary restrictions and preferences. It’s feasible for a small family. With four children, such a nightly quest would wear me out and encourage high-maintenance picky eaters.

Nurturing high-maintenance picky eaters is more work for parents. It teaches children to expect special treatment. Children and young adults miss out on the adventure of trying new food and expanding their repertoire of possibilities.

We’re lucky to have such abundance that children have the luxury of enforcing restrictions on what they will and will not eat.

Do you have picky eaters? What strategies to you use to encourage adventuresome eaters?