Archive for March 2011

Money and kids

March 31, 2011
This flyer reflects how much initiative children can take to earn money. In my talk last night at the Cup and Top on "Adlerian Psychology" and "childhood chores" how to earn money was a hot topic. I had to explain that "allowances" are essential, and that allowances NOT be tied to chores. Chores develop self-discipline, "self-esteem" and teamwork. "Family meetings"  "family dinner" and "Family chores" are part of the three-legged stool that plants roots deep for the family

This flyer is posted every week at the Cup and Top Cafe in Florence, Mass. It's wonderful example that if children want to earn money they can get very creative and learn marketing skills, customer relations and initiative.

LOVE this poster from the bulletin board at the Cup and Top Cafe in Florence, Mass. [just west of Northampton, next to the famous Look Park that has a zoo and mini-railroad]. The Hilltown Parents sponsored me. What a fabulous friendly group. At least 25 moms and dads came out to hear about my favorite subject — CHORES!  We covered everything, starting with the holy trinity of family meeting – family dinner & family chores. These three activities form a lifelong bond for a family. Topped off with encouragement and allowing the child to discover the rules of the world and make mistakes without shaming or blaming, it’s a pretty good guide for parents.

Of course there was plenty of discussion about how to handle money. I realized that when kids are eager to earn money, they manipulate parents into paying them to do chores. Once the kids have earned the money, the interest in pitching in disappears, and the kids will always expect to be paid for doing those tasks.

My philosophy: if the kids want me to pay them for working around the house, they’ll have to pay me.

This scene happened in our house.

Mom: Noah, time to empty the dishwasher before dinner!

Noah, age 8: Mom, would you pay me to empty the dishwasher?

Mom: Sure, Noah. I’ll pay you $3. But dinner is $5.

There are other problems with paying kids for chores. It teaches them you can use money to manipulate people. Money is THE lowest motivator to do ANYTHING. In fact, many research studies have proven that rewarding kids is the fastest way to insure they lose interest in a task.

In the famous magic marker study, the kids who were rewarded for drawing with magic markers quickly lost interest. Those in the control group kept using the markers and getting more creative.

Sadly, we live in a world structured around reward, punishment and praise. Changing paradigms is tough. It can be done at home.

And YES – doing housework yourself is always easier, faster and better. And YES – doing it all yourself makes you the house servant and denies your child a valuable opportunity to learn self-discipline and experience teamwork, connection to family and self-esteem.

The holy trinity of family meetings-dinner-chores plants deep roots that provide the foundation for a long-lasting and beautiful family tree.

“Do I have to?” How chores empower families tonight in Florence

March 30, 2011

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, 2, stretches to set the table while Dad fixes dinner. It's good for kids to stretch to do complex chores.

Hilltown Families in Florence, Mass. is hosting me tonight for a free talk — “Do I Have To?” How chores empower families.North Main St. Florence, MA at the Cup and Top Cafe.

I’m looking forward to spending a few hours in Northampton before the workshop. I miss going out to “Cambridge West” since my “kids” graduated from UMass.

Here’s what you’ll hear about chores tonight:

1. Use family meetings to connect with each other and volunteer for chores.

2. Doing a few simple regular chores nurture self-esteem, self-discipline, family connection, responsibility and more.

3. The chores MUST be for the common good, not just “clearing my dish,” “cleaning my room.”

4. Kids DO NOT get paid for doing chores unless kids pay parents for doing things for them. This is a complex explanation — come to the talk to hear more. The bottom line: give them an allowance unrelated to chores and DO NOT pay by the chore.

5. It IS easier to do it yourself — in the short run. In the long run, if you do everything, you’re denying your children opportunities to learn self-discipline, one of the most valuable characteristics in life.

Research says: Get out of the way when babies explore

March 28, 2011
exploration, children, toddlers, babies, natural exploration, natural and logical consequences, helicopter parenting, learning, education, allow them to find their own way, according to the latest research. Babies & children can benefit from parents getting off their backs!

Look dad, here's my piecrust! I can do it.

It’s official: researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology say that babies who are allowed to discover on their own learn better and show more curiosity, as reported in the Boston Globe this morning.

I agree. Give them freedom to explore. When parents mind their own business, babies, children, tweens and teens are allowed to experience the world firsthand, they practice making decisions and living with the outcome of their choices.

This teaches young people good decision-making skills, which will serve them well when they become teenagers and they’re much more independent — and they are 60 miles away, going 60 miles an hour.

Take a step back the next time you want to interfere and share your vast knowledge and experience. Let your child develop her own warehouse of knowledge and experience through trial and error. The learning will translate to internal motivation and desire that will carry her further than you ever could by nagging, reminding and telling him how to do it better.

Practice encouragement. Use the four most powerful words in the English language: You Can Do It. See my free tip sheet on encouragement.

Make peace with your mini-tyrant

March 23, 2011

If you’re in a constant power struggle with your mini-tyrant, learn some positive parenting strategies tonight at Arlington Community Ed, 7-9 pm at Arlington High School, 869 Mass. Ave. $20, walkins welcome.

Firm friendly follow-through

March 21, 2011
Kids having fun in the snow, playing, learning natural and logical consequences, how to make good decisions, going 60 miles away, 60 miles an hour. Parenting: about. How to parent, Teenagers, tweens, toddlers, school age, how to parent, parenting teenagers, setting boundaries. related, respectful, reasonable, "Dr. JAne Nelsen, Ph.D. " "Dr. Alfred Adler" "Dr. Rudolf Driekurs" Learning to make good decisions is really important. Parent/child relationship, "tough love" starts early. playing in snow is fun.

Teach kids NOT to skate on thin ice!

On Saturday a scout leader at the Polar Bear Derby (rescheduled from January) told me that he had repeatedly warned his son and the other kids to stay away from the half-melted pond.

Alas, his child got wet.

“I had to take him home for dry clothes and bring him back,” the scout leader said, shaking his head with disappointment.

How wonderful to know Dad will bail out Junior no matter what.  

Or is it wonderful?

Kids who never experience the related outcome of their decisions do not learn to take responsibility for their actions.

Junior learned:

  1. He doesn’t have to listen to Dad — even when his safety is at hand;
  2. Dad will bail him out and he still gets to participate , despite his poor choice.
  3. He can continue to make bad decisions because good ol’ Dad will bail him out.

I’m interested in the big picture and what precedent Dad set. Tough Love is a group of parents of young adults who have realized they constantly enable their child to make bad decisions. The parents must learn  to say No, I won’t bail you out again from the poor choices you made, which often involve substance abuse and addiction.

It’s hard for parents to say “NO” or to deny Junior the Polar Bear Derby.

Dad could have let Junior experience being wet and cold. Junior could have asked to be taken home or gone inside the lodge to warm up.

Ideally, Dad could teach Junior to listen at home, BEFORE the Polar Bear Derby. It takes time, patience and consistency to teach children to listen and make good decisions. Investing the time, patience and consistency in making small decisions may someday save your child’s life.

The goal is for children to become teens who will make good decisions when they become teenagers and they’re 60 miles away, going 60 miles an hour.

Will the young person who is 60 miles away, going 60 miles an hour:

  • Be driving the speed limit?
  • Wearing a seatbelt?
  • Be with friends you know and like?
  • Sober and focused on driving?
  • Have told you the truth about where they are and what they’re doing?
  • Made good choices around sexuality?

Start now to teach good decision-making by giving children enough rope to burn but not enough to hang. Let them experience small repercussions, like being cold and wet during the Polar Bear Derby, forgetting homework or mittens, not being able to find their sporting equipment because they didn’t put it away.

It will pay off in the long run.

A first family meeting success story

March 14, 2011

The two most useful habits for positive parenting are family meetings and encouragement (instead of praise, reward & punishment). Family meetings are a powerful way to stay connected to your children and teens, which protects them from bullying by connecting them to your family, nurtures their self-esteem, practices mutual respect, builds their confidence and teaches them teamwork. Family meetings reinforce every positive parenting strategy and everything you want your child to become.

The first week’s assignment in my online parenting class was to hold a family meeting. The mother who posted the report below has four children between ages 4 and 8. She took the assignment seriously, involved the children in picking out a special treat and had a very successful meeting. If your family could have a meeting that was half as good as hers, it would be a success.

One tweak is that I would have invited the children to set up the ground rules. The “three strikes” will hopefully prove unnecessary. Be happy they show up for the meetings, especially as they get older. Another suggestion is to have one of the children prepare a blank agenda template on the computer. The more the children are involved, the more they are empowered.

I hope her family meeting will inspire you to have a family meeting. See my book or tip sheet for more information. The first step is to post an empty agenda on your fridge and announce the time of the meeting to your family. Good luck and tell me what happens.

We held our first family meeting tonight, 3/4/11, and happy to report my kids were so excited to do it! I made a big deal out of it by taking them to the grocery store after school, and letting them each pick out a pint of their favorite ice-cream, which would be their special treat after the meeting (they didn’t eat the whole pint each, just a serving ;o-).

I used the Family Meeting agenda document. For this first meeting, I led the discussion and opened with discussing the Ground Rules of our meeting:

1. Discussing one topic at a time
2. Not moving to another topic until everyone agrees to do so
3. Taking turns while speaking
4. No putting other people down
5. No fighting or arguing

We agreed that if anyone should break a rule during the meeting they would get 1 strike. If a person got to 3 strikes then they would not get to have the treat that followed.

After we had the ground rules established, we moved on to Compliments. My children and I really enjoyed this part of the meeting and said some really sweet things to their siblings, none of which I think I’ve EVER heard them say before and nearly brought tears to my eyes. They also had some sweet things to say about my husband and myself.

When it was my turn to compliment, I was sure to mention how much I appreciated their help over this past week, and how it makes it easier for me when everyone pitches in to help. ***I honestly can report I was AMAZED at how willing my children are to help, especially when it comes to cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. Each and every one of them were on board with a job I asked them to do, right down to my 4-year-old washing a pan!

 In addition to complimenting my kids, it felt really good to compliment my husband. We are guilty of not taking the time to do this. I mentioned to him how much I appreciate that he makes it possible for me to exercise, and I meant it 100%!

From compliments, we moved into discussing what Respect means (my 8-year-old did a fantastic job explaining to his siblings ). I brought up that I feel like we as a family could do better at showing each other respect, and brainstormed about ways we could change. They had some great ideas, and felt like it definitely clicked =)

We then had everyone go around the table to answer the following questions:

1. What made you feel good this week?
2. What made you feel bad this week?
3. What do you want to accomplish next week?

Asking these questions lead into some great family discussion, i.e. My daughter expressed that she felt great cheering on her friends in her gym class when they were struggling with an exercise. My husband said, “The Family Meeting was the highlight of his week” which, of course, THRILLED me!

Finally we discussed our upcoming events\schedule. One of the items on this list was my daughter’s Powderpuff Derby race (the equivalent to the Boy Scout Pinewood Derby) The opportunity to build another car out of wood was met with much enthusiasm by all of my kids, and lead to brainstorming what we will do differently to make my daughter’s car faster, etc. We also discussed we will be getting a visit from Grammy & Grandpa next weekend, and I would need some extra help around the house to get it in tip-top shape for their visit.

Finally we closed with activities that each of us would like to do as a family, i.e. Go Bowling, Play Lazer Tag, once spring arrives we are going to make it our goal to walk on every trail in our town.

We closed the evening by making ice cream sundaes and watching a family movie together =) It was a great night, and so pleased with the outcome. My kids said they can’t wait until next week, and our next family meeting. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to print off a blank agenda and write down topics to discuss as they come up.

Bully-proof parenting — for life.

March 7, 2011

The trouble with positive parenting is it takes longer than the quick-and-dirty methods of reward and punishment, manipulating, bribery and praise. These are mild to extreme forms of bullying a child into doing what we want.

And do we really want to raise automatons who will work for money and avoid punishment? Or do we want to learn how to motivate children from the inside out?

More patience, finesse and planning are required to use family meetings, encouragement, family dinner and chores, and natural and logical consequences to allow toddlers, school-age, tweens and teenagers to learn to make good decisions.

Parenting is THE most difficult, challenging and rewarding task most of us will do in our lifetime, with the longest lasting consequences. It requires time and more patience than I ever thought I’d have. Parents are establishing the foundation for a person,  and a relationship with that person, for life.

And look how many of us do it — by being too strict or too lenient, and through manipulation that is unrelated to what’s going on.

If you constantly use time-out, withholding electronic/gaming time, financial incentives, and grounding, you are using your power, size and strength to quickly manipulate your child/teen into behaving as you want him to. This will bankrupt your relationship in the long run and demonstrate to your child that bullying works.

When I learned positive parenting skills, I was sceptical that encouragement, family meetings and natural and logical consequences would get my kids to do what I wanted.

Those strategies didn’t always get the kids to do what I wanted.

However, they provided the oil to make our family machine hum with positive energy, love, humor, teamwork and patience. It laid the groundwork to nurture their self-confidence, self-esteem and develop independent people who make good decisions and with whom I have a good relationship with now that they’re in their 20s. Giving up reward and punishment and praise changed our relationship for life.

Our relationship is not perfect. I was not the perfect parent. If such things exist, please contact me!

Meanwhile, go to my free tip sheets on encouragement and family meetings. Buy my book , read it. Get your spouse to read it and start using the techniques. Learn and use the Three Rs of natural and logical consequences from Jane Nelsen, Ph.D. — Related, Respectful and Reasonable.

This is bully preventing, non-violent parenting. It takes time and planning. You can do it.