Archive for September 2011

Expectation is the most powerful APP

September 26, 2011

Laura, mother of Zia, 3, alerted me that there’s an APP  for kids to do chores. It’s basically an electronic reward system. I’m against all reward systems and paying kids for chores, unless you want to guarantee:

1. You will go bankrupt, unless you get them to pay for what you do for them;
2. They will always have to be paid/rewarded for anything they do;
3. They only work for extrinsic motivation and do not develop authentic intrinsic motivation;
4. They work for the lowest motivation for humans of all ages: money; and
5. Get more hooked on electronics running their lives.

The company’s goal is to sell more APPS. They get a star for creativity. Like all reward and praise systems, I guarantee this one will lose its shine over time.
The best way to motivate children to contribute around the house is to expect them to do so, do it with them, and enjoy the time and effort spent together. I have many happy memories of doing dishes with my siblings and my four children: raking leaves, cleaning the garage and more. Yes, they were chores. We had teamwork. I learned self-discipline, a characteristic that I use every day when working, eating, exercising and living.

Here’s what Laura says about her daughter and chores with my comments in brackets. Laura read my book.

She loves to do them and does not think of them as ‘chores’ [What’s wrong with calling it what it is?] She helps clean the table for dinner ever night and helps mommy with the shopping with her own little list made by me. She also helps me make parts of the meals by dumping and pouring. [Fantastic way to engage little kids in cooking, keep them busy while waiting for dinner and avoid screen time. Every family can benefit from this practice.] She helps set the table with a place mat I made for her. She helps with cat-care and loves to brush my very gentle cat and it’s her job to do it on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She helps feed the cats by putting out their bowls after dinner time.”

I congratulate Laura for expecting Zia to do chores. This is the most powerful way to get kids to do anything. Laura also has:
1. Started early. Research shows when kids start chores by age 4, they do better at age 24 when compared to non-chore doing peers.
2. Included Zia in the family work and doing it together. This makes it fun for the child, teaches skills and self-discipline, and nurtures her self-esteem because her contributions count.
3. Connected with Zia through chores. A strong parent-child connection is the best way to prevent entitlement, keep kids off drugs & alcohol, and encourage them to make good decisions as they mature, so when they become teens and they’re 60 miles away, going 60 miles an hour – in your car, they will make good decisions. They will be wearing a seatbelt, going the speed limit, sober, where they said they’d be with friends you know and like, making good decisions about sexuality with a condom in their pocket, with you installed in their conscience.

Chores are worth the investment of time and energy, even though less than 20 percent of kids have to do them. Take the time to have a family meeting today and ask your kids what they want to do, then help them do it regularly.

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Back-to-school 2: Empowerment through responsibility

September 12, 2011
First day of school polish and shine. How to get kids to succeed in school is complex and starts with chores in massachusetts and boston. Children who have chores learn self-discipline. Children with chores know how to manage time and succeed in school. Homework is a child's problem and responsibility. It allows them to learn how to manage their time and duties. Don't take it on as your problem. Allow natural and logical consequences to happen. Children can learn from failure. Encourage them. Use family meetings.  "Alfred Adler" would approve.
Ah, the polish of the first day of school.

One day in the supermarket, Eric’s mother asked me, “How’s Noah’s diorama coming?” My truthful answer was, “I have no idea.” Noah and Eric were in fifth grade. Noah’s diorama was his homework, not mine.

By third grade, most typical kids can handle their own homework. The more parents can step back and allow children to take responsibility and experience success AND failure, the more children learn about time management.

I’m the ultimate free-range parent and could have probably been a tad bit more involved. But I can’t argue with success. My “kids,” now 23 to 30 years old, can manage jobs, school, time and money. They live independently and call home, but rarely for money. We have a good adult-to-adult relationship.
It started at home, with family meetings, family dinner, family chores and encouragement. Doing a few simple regular chores at home gives kids an introduction to self-discipline — which is doing things whether we feel like it or not.
Kids will never complete chores and homework up to our high standards. Do you anyone who has lived up to his/her full potential?
Our job is to encourage children, tweens and teens to take baby steps towards taking on the responsibility for their lives — including homework.
Use a family meeting to talk about homework and the morning routine. Set out the expectation that typical kids age 9 and up can manage their school responsibilities with your help as needed. Give every school-age student their own alarm clock [or two if more noise is needed] so they can rouse themselves in the morning.
Here’s the kicker. Allow them to fail. Yes. I repeat, allow failure. Think about how many times you have learned from success, and how much failure it took to get to that success. You had to develop the courage [the root of encouragement] to try again until you succeeded.
Schools have systems in place to deal with students who don’t complete homework. Allowing children, tweens and teens to experience the consequences at school of failing to do homework. Small stumbles at school. even failing a high school course, will never show up on their resume. Yet failure teaches children how to take responsibility and do what they’re supposed to do without nagging, begging, bribery, threats or punishment, which will make them a star on the job.
Letting them handle schoolwork will build mutual respect and enhance the parent-child connection because you trust and encourage them, eliminate nagging, and only interfere when they show they need help.

Jeltzers — Juice and Seltzer

September 8, 2011
the obesity epidemic for children is a huge issue in America. Overweight kids are growing in girth and number. One way to cut calories is through beverages. I invented a drink --seltzer with 10 or 15 percent pure juice. Together, it's a good family drink and way to cut calories with kids while satisfying the sweet tooth, You have to keep kids off the juice habit.
The ingredients for a jeltzer — 10 percent pure fruit juice and 90 percent seltzer. I borrowed the name from the Moosewood Cafe in Ithaca, NY when I visited there last week.

At school this week, kids will find fewer sweetened beverages in the cafeteria. Outside of school, they will still be offered soda pop — with a whopping 19 teaspoons per 12 ounce can. Parents have to depend on kids to make good decisions on food and drink.

Most of the time, sugar wins.
If you can train kids from an early age to drink water, it helps to avoid the juice trap.
If you can kick your soda habit, it helps to set a good example.
I often have a jeltzer — fruit juice cut with seltzer. I’ve been drinking jeltzers for years because they are high flavor and low-calorie, as well as frugal. The same type of beverage — a can of “natural soda” costs a $1-$2 a can  My homemade jeltzers cost 40 or 50  cents each, depending on the juice. I also cut ginger beer with half-seltzer.
One of the most challenging aspects of motherhood for me was whenever I put something in  my mouth, my kids looked at me with a hungry dog expression of, “Where’s mine?”
Use this impulse to influence them to make better choices. When mom shares her drink, it makes it special.  One of the rules of our crazy world is that scarcity makes a commodity more valuable.
Behavior management is about getting people to do what you want. To get kids to make healthy choices, make your jeltzer something special. Allow them little sips. Make a big deal of mixing them up a jeltzer with a wedge of lime. Feeling celebratory? Add a straw or little umbrella. Kids love embellishments. Voila, you have started them on a new habit and are training their taste buds to enjoy a less-sweet, more healthful beverage.
If your kids are hooked on soda and 100 percent juice, have a family meeting and put “Soda, sports drinks and juice” on the agenda. Spend some time reading labels together and analyzing the caloric counts. To hide the truth, many bottles say they have two servings, and list the calories in one servings even though most people drink both servings.
At the family meeting, talk about ways to change habits. Ask for their ideas. Serve some jeltzers.  Get in the water habit. You’re in control of grocery spending. Make different decisions and manage the kids to follow your lead.