Archive for September 2010

We’re raising a generation of nincompoops

September 29, 2010

Chores can teach the Millennials how to survive. Chores get them off their computers and hold them accountable to someone. Chores teach children self-discipline, self-respect & self esteem.

Stock photo by Getty Images

Read this article about how we’re raising a generation of nincompoops who can’t even make ice from a plastic ice cube tray or use a can opener.

Then have a family meeting and get them going on chores. Retire from being the house servant TODAY. You’re doing your children — or their future bosses — no favors by doing everything for them.

Praise as sickly-sweet candy

September 27, 2010
praise is like candy, encouragement like apples. Encouragement is one of the best ways to see the positive in children and other people. Encouragement is the best way to teach - discipline - children. Children respond to encouragement. Praise is extrinsic motivation. encouragement is used by savvy parents. Parents who know how to relate to people use encouragement. encouragement gives courage.

Photo by Bill Longshaw

When I had four children in seven years, this is how I kept my sanity.

1. Help — from hubby, house cleaners, preschool, teen sitters, family and parenting groups. I didn’t need a play group. I had my own!

2. One consistent approach to child rearing that I learned at parenting groups. This is what I now teach and speak on.

3. ENCOURAGEMENT. More than anything else, learning the art of encouragement empowered me to better manage my tribe of little people.

Encouragement is recognizing effort made, noticing the positive, taking baby steps towards a goal, noting specific attributes. It’s low key.

Encouragement is like an apple — full of fiber and vitamins, sweet juicy and crisp but not too sweet, satisfying, versatile, provides long-term benefits.

The evil twin of encouragement is praise — which many parents use to communicate & motivate children.

Praise is like candy — provides a HIGH followed by a low and craving for more. It will rot your teeth and brain and put on the pounds.  It’s a sweet and addictive high-energy drug. Praise feels good temporarily and is not sustainable.

The biggest problems with praise are as follows.

1. It’s addictive, just like candy.

2. Praise can only be given AFTER success — versus encouragement, which can be given after failure.

A parent can never says “I’m so proud of you for coming in last place in the race.” An encouraging parent can say, “It took a lot of courage for you to keep going and finish the race. That’s an accomplishment.”

3. It’s extrinsic motivation. Children work for praise and external reward. Encouragement provides internal — intrinsic — motivation.

Encouragement requires more thought and involvement in the effort or achievement. Encouragement is about the deed, not the doer. Encouragement is NOT about how it makes the parent look and feel.

Parenting skills workshops taught me the art of managing people by using encouragement, natural and logical consequences and family meetings. By far, the most powerful technique is encouragement. See my tip sheet at right on encouragement for more ideas.

Give me a bushel of apples any day over a bag of candy.

apples are sustainable and healthy unlike candy. Apples- encouragement, candy- praise. Disciplining children is TEACHing children. Discipline is the art of management.

Photo by Paul.

Encouragement and the next Venus Williams

September 24, 2010
Encouragement is one of the most powerful ways to influence children. Encouragement is so much better than praise. Encouragement can change your relationship with your child.

Photo by Steven Pike.

I saw an incredible example of encouragement last night at the community tennis courts.

Just before dark, a father pulled up with a basket of balls and his daughter, about 7 years old. She skipped out to the court with a racket. Dad began gently hitting balls to her, which she began swinging and mostly missing.

This is what dad said — these are direct quotes:

  • Good!
  • That was your best swing! (after she had swung and missed)
  • Yup.
  • Keep your eye on the ball.
  • Wow! That was a good shot! (after the ball careened out-of-bounds)
  • Keep your head up.
  • Nice.
  • That was your best swing.
  • That was too close to your body, nice swing, though.

I could feel the tenderness with which he hit the ball to her. His patience and encouragement — noting effort made — captivated me.

She said, “Dad, can you do a high one now?”

Dad immediately complied with five lobs,which she either hit into the net or out-of-bounds. Dad offered a correction, “Turn your body sideways.” When she slammed a ball down, he growled and said, “That’s nasty.”

Dad kept his voice calm and even as she swung and missed until darkness descended 20 minutes later.

Dad walked around the court and picked up the balls while daughter bounced a ball on a racket — which is good practice.

Saint Dad is dedicated to his daughter learning to play tennis. I would have involved daughter in picking up the balls, of course. He made it fun for her. I was jealous of the time and attention daughter had with dad.

No matter what role tennis will play in the daughter’s life, they are setting up a fun activity they can do together for a long time.

I want to be there the day daughter beats dad! That’s always a triumph.

I remember playing backyard volleyball with my father and our big family. I treasure those memories — and it gave me a skill and can-do attitude for life towards sports.

What sports did you do with your family?

Top 10 worst fears for teens

September 23, 2010
teens don't always make the best decisions. Teenagers need a solid foundation to make good decisions. Teens need to avoid risk. They need to feel self-confident and have high self esteem, make good friends and avoid substance addiction

Walking on stilts is a harmless avocation. Notice what's in their hands at this party.

Tonight [Sept. 23]I’m giving a workshop at Roudenbush Community Center in Westford, Mass.,  “How to Make Peace with Your Spirited Child.”

I often open with a discussion of the greatest fears for our children — what can happen when youngsters are motivated by fear instead of desire.

Using fear, praise, reward and punishment to discipline children can result in the Three Rs — rebellion, revenge and resentment and lead to a breakdown in parent-teen relationship and teens making decisions [like the ones below]  influenced by rebellion, revenge and resentment against parents.

The root of “discipline” is “disciple” which means “follower of a teacher.” We parents teach our children.

My goal is to teach youngsters how to make good decisions so when they become teenagers they’ll choose wisely when they’re 60 miles away going 60 miles an hour. I call it the 60/60 theory.

Young people can make so many bad decisions. Below is my short list of greatest fears.

I broke down my big list into seven categories — the body, sex [the biggest list!], the mind, technology, legal, social and school/career.

I most worried about drug addiction because it’s so pervasive, long-term and difficult to cure.  My teens and young adults brushed against a few of these top 10 worries and walked away. I felt scared, angry and out-of-control and compassionate for them.

  1. Substance addiction
  2. Anorexia/obesity
  3. STDs — Sexually transmitted diseases
  4. Low self-esteem – depression – suicide [can go hand-in-hand]
  5. Feel isolated from family and school [THE greatest danger to teens according to extensive research]
  6. Be a victim or bully — sexually, socially or online
  7. Break the law and go to jail for a long time
  8. Develop a long-term disease, injury or disability from poor choices
  9. Connect with friends who crave risky behavior
  10. Fall in love with someone with bad character

What’s on your top 10 greatest fears for your children?

Special time

September 22, 2010

Mother-daughter time is so important. How much time and attention do children and adult children need? Spending time together is the foundation of a relationship.

Casey, my firstborn, preparing red peppers to grill and serve with goat cheese, a family favorite.

Casey and I spent some “special time” together a few weeks ago. We went to the Brimfield Antique Fair for a day, came home and fixed dinner together, and she spent the night.

I wrestle with how much time together with adult children is the right amount. I’m lucky that she lives nearby, which means we must be intentional about inviting each other to do things.

For the last 14 years of my mother’s life, she lived 350 miles away. I assumed the invitation for her to visit was always open.

However, my mother said, “Invite me.” I took her advice and sought out events that would pique her interest and be the catalyst for a visit. Then she didn’t have to feel like she was intruding.

I enjoyed the special time with Casey. We both took a day off work to be with each other, uninterrupted, for a whole day. It was marvelous.

When my children were growing up we feebly attempted to schedule special time with all four of them. Stephen Covey scheduled special time each month with each of his nine children, why couldn’t I schedule special time with only four? Obviously I was not effective enough! It’s challenging when teenagers want to push parents away, not spend more time together.

No matter what the age of your “child” ensure that you set aside time each day, week or month to be together, with no agenda. If they’re under age 5, 15 to 30 minutes a day of time together is an excellent investment because it will satiate them.

For ages 6-11, 15 minutes a day along with family dinner is good.

Ages 12 and up, insist they eat family dinner with you. Ignore their resistance. It’s the best investment you can make in their mental and physical well-being according to research.

For teens and tweens, find an activity you both like to do and schedule it at least once a month — or more.  You are laying a foundation for a lifelong relationship and nurturing an individual you want to spend time with.

Chores are the anti-spoiler

September 20, 2010
Chores are the anti-spoiler. It's impossible to be entitled if you clean toilets, sweep the floor and do dishes. Chores are good for the child and family because the family works as a team. The parents can retire as the house servants. Children feel like they belong and they gain self-esteem, skill and confidence.

Bree stretches to set the table. It's good for kids to stretch to do complex and high chores.

Some 94 percent of children are spoiled reports Richard Bromfield, a psychologist who works at Harvard Medical School and author of a new book, “How to unspoil your child” written up in the Boston Globe yesterday.

Here’s my favorite quote in the article: Q: “What’s one simple strategy to unspoil a child?” A: “Give and do less. Only by sometimes not getting does a child learn gratitude. Only by waiting does a child learn patience.”

That is a wonderful concise simple concept.

When parents give and do less, children have to give and do more, which means they can start setting the table before they can reach the table, like Bree. They can do the dishes every night, empty the dishwasher, cooking and doing yard work as a family, light housekeeping and as the children mature, take on bigger family projects together.

The daily ritual and responsibility of doing dishes every night is a way for children to do more. It benefits them and their family because children will feel connected to their families, and family connection is critical according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

One of the key ways to insure healthy teens is for them to feel connected to family and school, according to that  long-term comprehensive study of 15,000 students in the wake of the Columbine massacre.

Parents flex what I call the TripleEe — empowerment, expectation and encouragement — when children do chores. Chores empower children by giving them self-confidence, self-discipline and responsibility. Expecting and encouraging children to do chores is the most effective and peaceful way to involve children in family housework.

To get your family going on chores start with a family meeting. See my free Tip Sheets on family meetings and “Give me a job.” Parents have the added benefit of being able to retire as the house servant when they unspoil and empower children with chores.

It’s fun to work together and many hands make light work, even if the hands are little and it takes extra time to include them. It’s well worth the investment.

A really good reason to have a dog

September 16, 2010
Gonzo is stretching beside Cindy. Having pets is a wonderful way to bond with children. Pets and families go together. Good parenting means spending time with children and animals and slowing down to their time.

Gonzo decided to stretch beside Cindy.

The only reason I’m a dog owner is because my children wanted a dog.

What would you say when your daughter, 14, calls you at work, where you’re working under a regular weekly deadline as the editor of a newspaper. Your second dog has just died after nine years with the family — if only she could have hung on three more years.

Your daughter’s three older siblings have left home. Your daughter is home along after school. Your daughter asks in a very small voice, (very unlike other voices she uses with her mother), softly, with vulnerability, like she’s 7 years old again, “Dad says if you say “yes” we can get another dog.”

If you’re a good mother and not a dog lover, just a dog tolerator, what’s your answer?

Gonzo came to live with us eight years ago. The daughter left home four years ago. So you know who takes care of the dog. Dad! I’m her stepmother. I do what looks good and feels good and what I feel like doing because she belongs to dad and daughter.

One really good reason to have a dog is because of the cute, funny and stupid things they do. Even when my children were spitting mad at me, I could always change the atmosphere by saying, “Do you know what Boomer/Sophie/Gonzo did today?”

Even now that they’ve moved out and onto a better place, my “children” love to hear what Gonzo did today.

When Cindy started stretching, Gonzo plunked herself right between Cindy’s legs. Gonzo and Cindy adore each other. Cindy — my excellent friend and massage therapist — even gave Gonzo a massage.

Even dogs like a good massage. Gonzo is not my best friend, but my children ADORED dogs and bonded with our three family dogs. Dogs go along with having a family. Children can do plenty of chores connected to dogs.

Gonzo gets an expert massage. Cindy is really good at finding tight muscles on mammals and kneading out the tension.