Archive for February 2012

The long-term benefits of family meetings

February 20, 2012
Here Ian is shovelling snow, an excellent activity for a 20-something who lives at home. Adults who live at home can be expected to pitch in. Use family meetings to stay in contact, set expectations and encourage each other. Mutual respect is key to discipline for teens, tweens, school age and toddlers

Ian shovels snow -- when we had some last winter -- during a long visit. Family meetings are key to setting expectations and open communication with "kids" of all ages.

My son Ian, 27, left, has no health insurance. We’ve had several discussions about the merits of health insurance.

During his last visit home, he said calmly, “Mom, I don’t want to talk about health insurance any more. I have decided to pay later instead of paying before.”

I listened. I didn’t like it. I heeded his boundary, set respectfully. I was grateful that he told me, instead of calling his girlfriend and complaining, “My mother won’t get off my case about health insurance! I can’t wait to leave.”

I credit our tradition of family meetings for Ian’s ability to respectfully communicate his feelings to me.

When I ask parents to list the attributes they want their children to develop, the list usually looks like this. Happy. Have good friends. Good social skills. Have a good job. Good relationship with me. Confident, capable. Don’t abuse substances. Find work they enjoy. Good self-esteem. Live independently and not in my basement.

I guarantee that family meetings will provide the foundation for every one of those attributes. Family meetings are the most effective discipline method  for toddlers, school-age, tweens, teens and young adults.

Notice I didn’t say “speediest” or “easiest.” Discipline means to teach. Family  meetings teach children the skills, attitudes and attributes we want them to absorb and use for life.

Read the attached notes from a first Family meeting held by a single parent and her two daughters, ages 13 and 10. Their agenda is on the second page. They held the meeting at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning, the time the 13-year-old agreed to in advance.

Here’s what worked about their first family meeting.

  • Mom asked what time they wanted to hold the family meeting, and then followed through even though the 13-year-old was lying on the couch during the meeting. (Teens can’t been seen as too cooperative.)
  • Mom posted the agenda in advance, which gave the kids time to post items, such as “Star Wars symposium outfit for Johanna.”
  • Johanna also posted, “Spend more activities together.”
  • Mom didn’t overload the agenda with problems and demands. She started small.
  • Mom followed the format. Someone took notes to keep for posterity, (humor later on), and to record their agreements. They had a snack and family fun.

Two big wins: Johanna posted two items; the 13-year-old showed up. It’s easier to set up the habit of family meetings when kids are 3 to 12 years old.

Kids will want to come to the meetings when they have a turn to run the meetings, there’s a snack, and family fun. Fun is like a magnet for kids, and long-term family glue.

You can do it. Family meetings reap huge rewards forever. They are worth the time and effort. See my tip sheet on how to get started and read about them in my book “Raising Able.”

The anti-drug abuse: Family connection

February 13, 2012
Drug abuse is the biggest fears for parents who want to do the best for teens, tweens, adolescents, teenagers and young people. Good parenting is all about connection and setting up a positive parent-child relationship from early childhood on. Drug addition for teens and tweens and teenagers is one of the most dreaded outcomes of childhood. Discipline doesn't always work nor does punishment. Family dinner, family meetings, encouragement, mutual respect and cause and effect are the best ways for children to learn to mature and develop good judgment.

The cause of death for Whitney Houston is unknown. Drug abuse and addiction were among her demons, a tragic by-product of success and fame.

Did Whitney Houston feel like anyone loved her for being HER? Would they still love her if she was penniless and unknown? Who could she turn to for unconditional love, when she felt alone, scared and inadequate?

Drug abuse and suicide ranked high on my list of fears for my children. Kids with depression sometimes self-medicate with drug and alcohol abuse. Some carry the burden of depression alone, weighed down in shame, loneliness and lack of connection to an adult.

The best defense against drug/alcohol abuse is a good offense: Prevention. This takes time and attention over decades. YES decades. Parenting is not for the weak or faint-hearted. We hold a vision for what we want our kids to become for a long time. We must follow up with diligence and vigilance.

The actions to stay connected to kids are simple, and you probably already know them. They bear repeating because parenting is about repetition, day after day.

  • TIME. Do you spend time regularly with your kids, one-on-one and as a family? Having fun together will connect your family forever. Fun can be as simple as playing Candyland, ping-pong or Wii followed by a dish of ice cream from your freezer. Or a candy bar. Simple, cheap, readily available fun.
  • LOVE. This means accepting your children as they are. For example, my daughter Kristen is an art major. “Mom, you’re a good art parent because you don’t ask I’m going to get a real major to make money,” she says. I accept her vision for her life, even if I disagree.
  • LIMITS. We are the guard rails on our kids’ bridge of life. The guard rails have to be reasonable, related and respectful (Three Rs-Jane Nelsen, Ph.D.). If a child acts up in a restaurant, instead of “No video games for a week!” (totally unrelated), offer a quiet warning, “Your actions are showing you might not be able to stay in the restaurant. It’s up to you. We can leave now if that’s what you need.” The second might “punish” parents who have to open a can of soup at home. Do it anyway because such a response is respectful, related and reasonable. The kids will either straighten up or choose to behave better next time.

Parents can regularly dispense time, love and limits like a good habit. Family meetings, family dinner, family chores and the language of encouragement provide structure to connect positively with your children.

Studies show that regular family meals and family connection are the best prevention to drug/alcohol abuse and to promote good judgment. Use the first decade to establish a strong connection and maintain it through adolescence, even under protest.

If you have tweens and teens, you can set up structures to spend time together. Start with a family meeting and ask them how and when they want to spend time together as a family and one-on-one. Make sure kids have a turn at conducting the family meeting. See my

If the Patriots can bounce back, so can our kids

February 6, 2012
how kids learn from failure is really important. what do you say to your kids after a loss? How do you encourage them after failure ? we most need encouragement after a loss and failure. Encouragement- you can do it- is the most powerful motivator on the planet. We all need more encouragement. good parenting is all about encouragement, how to experience loss and keep going, no matter what.

Even Tom Brady has bad days.

A radio DJ is asking listeners this morning, “What was good about yesterday’s game?” even though the New England Patriots, our home team, lost yesterday.

Parents can use this kind of question after a child has competed and lost dvd duplication. Parents can use encouragement, one of my favorite ways to  nurture self-confidence and self-esteem and improve a parent-child relationship.

The root of encouragement is courage.

We most need courage after failure, when facing a new or difficult challenge, when we feel insecure. Parents often want to protect kids from failure. It’s much more valuable to encourage kids to be resilient by facing failure and learning from it.

What was true for the Patriots can also be true for your kids. Here are some post-competition statements parents can say to kids, by noticing effort and what was good.  “You didn’t give up until time ran out.” “You gave it your all.” “You showed a lot of teamwork.” “You made many good passes.” “You had some assists.” “Your time was faster.” “Your stroke/swing/stride looked stronger since last time.” “You and your team showed good sportsmanship.”

Post-competition questions are also useful to kid and the Patriots. “What would you do differently next time?” “What did you learn?” “Did you have fun?” “How do you feel?”

I guarantee that mentoring your child to fail and still maintain hope and courage is a hundred times better than an easy victory. We always learn more from failure than victory. When we finally achieve victory is it all the sweeter.