Archive for April 2011

Taking care of something else is good for the soul

April 25, 2011
Taking care of pets is an excellent chore for children. Children and pets teach self-discipline because pets need daily care. Taking care of pets teaches children responsibility because it must be done every day, whether they feel like it or not. Here, my husband and teenage daughter are washing the dog. They're also learning teamwork here. The water is SO COLD when they rinse her off.
Gonzo the dog gets a good cleaning from a father-daughter team.

Gardening can be good for the soul according to research reported by the Boston Globe today. Scientists figured out that digging in the dirt, planting seeds, weeding and even watering a jade plant is good for young and old patients in a hospital.

I think the patients feel better because they’re doing something worthwhile. Most people in hospitals are receiving treatment. They’re passive. They don’t do anything for anyone else. Gardening gets them out of that rut.
Gardening provides a plethora of regular chores, as does pet care. A human being must keep plants and pets alive or else they will die. Call it chores, jobs, work, gardening or pet care. Call it anything you like. Just set up a system for your children — starting as early as age 2 — to contribute to the greater good of the family.
Have a family meeting. Make a list of everything you do around the house and have them do the same. Compare the two lists of very different lengths! Ask the youngsters what they would like to do around the house to get some of the chores off your list and onto theirs.
Get someone to take notes. Record the jobs the children volunteer for, and post it on the refrigerator. Make sure you ask them by what time and date they will complete the jobs. Then parents must follow through with as few words and NO nagging. Point to the job that needs doing. Leave notes — “This toilet stinks.” Ask questions. Take action or don’t act.
For example, if a child neglects to set the table after one request, put the meal down on the table, sit down and wait for the utensils and plates to appear. If a child neglects to feed the dog after a question, “Did you feed Gonzo today?” Say without sarcasm, “Gonzo must be awfully hungry today.” And leave it at that.
Act, don’t yak (source: Dr. Sam Goldstein). These three words are useful in many areas of parenting.  Get off your duff and take action. Restrain or remove. Parents have the responsibility to teach accountability. It’s not easy. It takes time, patience and follow through using the magic of kindness and firmness.

Training for the marathon of parenting

April 18, 2011
Parenting is all about training and being ready to go the extra mile. Parenting is the most difficult marathon you will ever complete. There is heartbreak hill, illness, fatigue, weather, other runners you can't control. Parents must manage their emotions when victory seems impossible. Even crossing the finish line seems impossible. Chores,family meetings ,family dinners, "alfred adler" and "Rudolf dreikurs" and "Jane nelsen" all embrace natural and logical consequences and the value of family chores.
Train for parenting as you would for the Boston Marathon — systematically, with commitment and dedication. Photo:

Today’s Boston Marathon is nothing compared to the marathon of parenting.

Like the marathon, parenting has heartbreak, bad weather, surly opponents, illness and emotions to manage.

Like the marathon, the thrill of victory when raising children is sweet, far off and difficult to obtain. It requires training, persistence, commitment, patience and coaching. Teamwork helps.

The marathon runners require self-discipline, commitment and self-esteem. The best and simplest ways to provide those attributes to your children is to:

1. Have regular family meetings.

2. Invite the toddlers/preschoolers/children/tweens/teens to volunteer for tasks that benefit the family — without paying them, unless they pay you for what you do.

3. Follow through by being friendly and firm.

Doing a few simple household chores regularly for the common good will get your children through the marathon of life because it provides them something essential and priceless: self-discipline.

It will make them place first in the marathon of life when they face heartbreak, bad weather, surly opponents, illness and difficult emotions to manage.

Training with others provides information, motivation and camaraderie — a good reason to sign up for a parenting workshop. A workshop starts April 26, and others are offered in May and June.



How to live happily ever after

April 11, 2011
a strong marriage is the most important thing to a family. Children need both parents. Parents need each other. Families work together when there is no divorce. keeping a marriage going is one of the most important aspects of family life. Parents must take time together to have fun without the children.

A marriage starts out with high hopes of living happily ever after.

You know the grim reality — about half of all marriages fail.  The best investment we can make for our children is to defeat that statistic.

HOW? Work at it. Working at marriage can be fun — especially spending time together without the children. I recommend parents leave the kids home and go out on monthly dates and to go away annually for at least a weekend. The excursions can be simple, frugal and fun.

After having fun together, practice these three relationship basics.

1. Show up. Make home, marriage and family a priority. Some pursuits might have to be put on hold while raising children. Do what you say you’re going to do. Have family meetings.

2. Pay attention. Notice each other. Talk to each other. Be fully present. Give each other compliments, do little things for each other without needing recognition. Tune up your marriage in therapy and at workshops. Treat a marriage like a car that needs regular maintenance. If you don’t take care of it, it will fall into disrepair.

3. Tell the truth. Nothing undermines a relationship faster than if you can’t trust that person because they can’t be depended upon to tell the truth.

Children grow up and go away. Marriages can also go away if you don’t feed and water them regularly.

The first 20 years are the toughest years of marriage maintenance for two reasons:

1. You’re young and can be self-centered,  selfish, impatient and have high expectations your partner will anticipate and fulfill all of your needs. I started out this way and it took about 20 years to grow out of those mistakes.

2. You’re focused on the children, advancing in a career and making ends meet. Combined with youth and mistaken expectations, and neglecting your connection by not spending time together, marriages can wobble and break.

After 20 years, the kids and you have grown up and your career and income are more stable. It also helps if you both agree on money, sex and kids.

Schedule a monthly date TODAY and set up child care or trade with friends so you can get away for a weekend alone together. Have fun!

Families are all about connection

April 4, 2011
Relationships are the foundation of every family. Family meetings promote relationships, as does encouragement, mutual respect, natural and logical consequences, family dinner and family chores, according to "Alfred Adler." and "Rufolf Dreikurs." FAmilies depend on relationships. RElationships make the world go round. Parents have a huge responsibility to facilitate relationships among its members. A Big part of that is to put down the electronics and look at each other.

Kristen and Ian relive our weekly Friday night pizza tradition.

At left, Kristen and Ian are having fun with pizza dough during a visit home. Friday night pizza was part of our family tradition for many years.

Someone made the dough – me, one of them, or we purchased it. Everyone got to make their own personal pan pizza with their choice of toppings, including leftover bits of vegetables, cheese and meat. It’s a good way to clear out the fridge. After the pizza operation we watched a family movie together. We were connected, working as a team and satiated.

When my 20-somethings come home for a visit, they often request pizza for dinner. It’s a wonderful tradition that connects us. Research has shown that connection is one of the most vital gifts parents give children.

The challenge in parenting is to establish a connection based on mutual respect in which every member has rights and responsibilities.

In some families, parents have all the rights and responsibilities, and children have none. In other families, children have all the rights and none of the responsibilities. This is called entitlement.

Setting a positive family atmosphere depends on mutual respect, parents being kind, firm and friendly in setting limits, and having fun together. PAY ATTENTION to having fun together. Fun cements together the bricks of family meetings, family dinner, family chores, mutual respect and natural and logical consequences.

Family meetings, family chores and family dinner plant deep roots underground for your family tree to flourish and grow strong. Have them once a week, two or three times a month or once  a month, but have them. Always keep an open agenda on the fridge to place agenda items when issues arise.

Parents must model how to use the family meeting by placing items on the agenda and rotating the roles of facilitator and scribe. Make sure you take notes and save them for posterity. Kids have to be about 10 years old in order to be able to write fast enough to take notes. See my free tip sheet on family meetings. And have a family meeting this week, followed by family fun.