Archive for August 2011

Back to School 1: shopping

August 22, 2011
girls who love to dress up can be encouraged to do it without moms and dads interference. Girls can learn to make good fashion choices. Stay out of their way. Teach them self-discipline and good decision making in Boston, Mass. through chores. Chores will teach them how to make good choices. Clothing and back to school shopping can be done without arguments.
My oldest daughter Casey chose black patent leather Mary Janes as her school shoes in first grade.

One of the most difficult parenting lessons I had to learn was to allow my kids free choice. I wanted them to do what I WANTED! When I started taking parenting workshops, the leader, a savvy mom of five kids advised, “If your daughter wants to choose black patent leather Mary Janes as her school shoes, let her.”

I hated this advice, but I knew that like most of what I learned in the workshops, I was wrong for wanting Casey to choose sensible school shoes for first grade. It helped to know other parents faced the same dilemma and allowed their daughter to make their own decisions so they could learn self-trust, and the natural consequences of their choices.
Casey wore those black patent leather shoes daily  with a dress, which she loved, along with Barbies. No, I was not the kind of parent to prohibit Barbies or guns. Moderation is better than creating forbidden fruits.
Childhood is all about learning to making good decisions, establishing self-trust, confidence and nurturing a child’s self-esteem. Allowing them to choose their own clothing as much as possible is empowering. We might not always agree, but parents have enough bigger issues than clothing to worry about. Clothing is costume. Character  counts.

I had many arguments over back-to-school shopping with my two daughters until I realized how to avoid it. I put “school shopping” on the family meeting agenda [see free tip sheet] in August. We negotiated a reasonable budget for clothes and what type I’d pay for. They planned to bring “their own money” to supplement. It’s fun to see what they’re willing to spend their money on.

I’ve wasted many dollars convincing them to buy something I liked, only to see it in the give-away bag later. Sigh. I eventually learned to respect their opinions, especially when it came to clothes. Like all lessons worth learning, I paid the price.

Today, I love to go shopping at a thrift store with my daughters. We find some wonderful fun bargains along with clothes I would never pay full-price for. We have fun. They give me honest feedback on what looks good and what doesn’t. They could have more tact in this area.  If your kids love clothes, money can stretch a long way at thrift stores.

The second part of back-to-school shopping is school supplies. I swear by L.L. Bean backpacks from the return department with botched custom embroidery. These backpacks wear like iron for multiple years.

We argued over school supplies because the kids always wanted to buy everything new. After school starts, review the lists of supplies sent home by teachers and have a family meetings. Figure out what supplies you already have or can be purchased second-hand, like the T-111 calculator for high school math that costs $80+. After scrounging around the house,  agree on another budget and shop the sales together.

Learning to set a budget and live within your means is a valuable lesson. My four kids are 23-30 years old, have NO credit card debt and live within their income. The ones who earn more spend more. The ones who earn less spend less. They have money for what’s important, like Mary Janes.

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“I’m Bored”

August 15, 2011
Kids who can't entertain themselves need to learn how by parents offering positive attention at neutral times then expecting kids to find things to do. Good parenting is about setting expectations and boundaries. Discipline is kind and firm and consistent. Parenting tots, tweens, school age and teens is all about cultivating a good relationship, using positive language and encouragement.

They eventually found a huge source of entertainment at the edge of pond, even though it's wet, sandy and damp.

Parents often react to a kid saying, “I’m bored” the same as to “I’m hungry.” Except the first is the kid’s problem, the second is a parent’s. Tweens and teens can solve both with minimal parental consultation.

Kids under age 11 probably need help getting food. If they have gotten sufficient positive attention at neutral times, they ought to be able to solve their own boredom.

I dipped back into parenting over the weekend while taking care of three kids, 6, 4 and 14 months. They were reluctant to explore our pond and played inside for quite a while on Sunday.

I resisted allowing them to watch more than one 60-minute video on a summer day and declined invitations to build something “really big with all of the Duplos.” I already fed them every two hours, picked up their constant trail, got them to bed, etc. I was not interested in being chief playmate and entertainer.

“Can we please watch another video?” they pleaded. After reading them four books they finally ventured towards the pond in light rain and started doing what kids are made to do. Get lost in the world of play, pretend and fun. Bounce off each other. Learn about relationships to each other, sand, water and light with minimum of parental interference.

It was fun to watch and care for them.We had “parallel play” — Bob and I weeded while they explored the pond. Two or more kids are always easier than a solitary child, who can self-entertain and invite friends over.

If your kids rely on you to solve boredom, changing the expectation will take a few weeks, protests, long sighs and even sitting with, gasp! nothing to do. Be patient. Creativity emerges from stillness. You will be amazed at the non-electronic entertainment they discover. Allow them to make a mess in the kitchen, yard, family room or bedroom. Creativity is always messy. Take time to notice their efforts and allow time to clean up with them.

Saying, “I know you can find something to do” is encouraging. As soon as a kid can utter, “I’m bored,” he is old enough for this solution: cleaning. Say, “Let’s clean your closet out today. The living room needs vacuuming. Put on these special cleaning socks and slide over the hardwood floors. Let’s crank up the stereo, put on dust mitts and dust the whole house.”

You can bet they’ll find something to do. Fast. Or maybe they’ll clean with you. Chores are one of THE best ways to develop self-discipline. That’s another post.

 

Addicting games and your kids

August 8, 2011

video game addiction, addictinggames, addictinggames.com, video game violence, video game, violence in video games, kids and video game addiction, is my kid addicted to video games?Ryan G. Van Cleave Ph.D. describes his journey to hell and back over addicting  games.

The August doldrums have set in, the glow of summer has dulled. Parents will do anything to keep the kids entertained and not squabbling, including what I call “sugared screen time.”

My biggest fear for our 4 children (now 23-30) was addiction — like drugs, alcohol, anorexia, bulimia, gambling, and video games.
I just read, “Unplugged: My Journey into the Dark World of Video Game addiction” by Ryan G. Van Cleave Ph. D. Wow. Powerful. I love first-person stories told with disarming honesty.
His brutal page-turning honesty has phrases like: “I didn’t get help until I’d sunken so far into a virtual existence that there was damn near nothing left for me to return to in real life, which is why this book begins with me on a bridge at the end of my life.”
That’s powerful self-disclosure about the destruction of the havoc World of Warcraft wreaked on his life. Most video game consumers are like Ryan — 20- or 30-something. He says little about how video games can desensitize humans to violence. Ryan’s focus is addiction and the difficulty of kicking the virtual habit.
I love to give books like this to tweens and teens so they can read a compelling true first-person account of addiction. “A Million Little Pieces” By James Frey, true or not, offers the same first-person horror that I hope instills fear and good decision. Warning: Ryan describes sexual exploits so preview the book. It might be too much for middle-schoolers.
My 60/60 parenting theory goes like this. Invest the first 12 years in loving them unconditionally, having family meetings to set reasonable boundaries together that are enforced by firm, friendly and consistent parents, avoid reward and punishment, capitalize on the trio of family dinner, family chores and family meetings, and use natural and logical consequences that are related, respectful and reasonable.
This style of “discipline” will make a difference in your family life. Children learn mutual respect, responsibility, self-discipline, self-esteem and how to make good decisions. S/he will use that good decision-making ability to choose well as teenagers when they’re 60 miles away, going 60 miles an hour, most likely in your car. That day is inevitable unless your child escapes to Mars from age 13 to 19.
The goal is to get them to choose wisely when you’re not around. This requires a positive relationship based on mutual respect. Plant those seeds from birth to 12.

For the gamers, have a family meeting to negotiate a reasonable amount of screen time per day and how to monitor it. Remove screens from bedrooms. Kids need adults for guidance. Enforce agreements in a kind, firm and consistent manner. When kids are involved in setting limits they are more likely to abide by them. Use video game time judiciously as video gaming has replaced TV as the preferred in-home babysitter.

Teach them the valuable life skill of moderation so they don’t end up addicted to World of Warcraft like Ryan Van Cleeve.

Everything starts at home

August 1, 2011
kids on vacation, related, reasonable, respectful, discipline, children and discipline, how to teach kids discipline, disciplining tweens teens and family. kids on vacation, how to have fun on vacation

The young man in the front in the khaki shorts and his parents behind are enjoying a whale watch. Notice what's in his hand, ready for transmission. Like many kids his age, he has a constant electronic companion. He can be commended for knowing how to sit quietly, a good skill to have when on a boat, in a car, airplane or at church.

Parents quickly show their family management skills on vacation, when there’s an audience, new situations and the pressure to have fun because it’s vacation.

Good parenting starts at home when there’s no audience, familiar surroundings and nowhere special to go. That’s called choosing a good time for “training,” an old-fashioned word to teach the child about the rules of the world.

Here are some of the rules of the world:

  1. You can’t always have your way.
  2. If you behave recklessly, you can get hurt, hurt others, or even die.
  3. Sometimes you need to be able to sit down, be quiet and wait.
  4. Life is easier when you can get along with other people.
  5. When you’re tired, rest. When you’re hungry, eat.

When I started coaching one of my clients, call her Jenn, with six children in a blended family, she couldn’t take her gang out in public. When she started practicing positive discipline on a consistent basis at home, things changed. She learned a few simple habits.

  • Act, don’t yak (Dr. Sam Goldstein) — which means take action before you get mad.
  • Let kids work things out as much as possible so they can learn to get along with each other.
  • Allow natural consequences to happen — such as you have to swim in your shorts if you forget your swimsuit.
  • Make logical consequences for misbehavior related, reasonable and respectful (Dr. Jane Nelsen’s 3 Rs) That means if they won’t put away their iPhone during the whale watch like you agreed upon in advance at the family meeting, it will be taken away for a week. It doesn’t mean that if you won’t clean up your room, your iPhone will be taken away for a week.

Can you see how the first is related, respectful and reasonable and the second is not?

Kids feel safe with boundaries. When Jenn goes out in public with her gang now she immediately sets boundaries before the kids push for them. Good parenting is about constantly and consistently setting boundaries. It requires self-discipline!

Kids like regular food and rest, which can be compromised by vacation. They and you won’t be at your best when you push too hard and do too much. Kids are easily pleased. It’s adults who feel guilty and restless when they can’t provide trips to Disney, Hawaii and Aspen. Kids can be thrilled to spend an afternoon fishing at the local pond with Dad or Mom showing them how to bait the line, sit still, enjoy the great outdoors and be with each other.