Archive for June 2012

Allow transition time to summer vacation

June 25, 2012
college students are like lame ducks. They've experienced the freedom of college and now have to spend summer with mom and dad. Parents need to communicate with college students about expectations.

Close the door if you can’t stand the mess and let kids of all ages keep their rooms how they choose. You have bigger concerns on which to pour parental energy.

Most kids despise transitions. They like routines, the safety of knowing what’s coming next.

Give them at least two weeks to settle down into the new summer schedule, whether it’s more time at home, with relatives or at camp or summer school. Until they settle down, cut them extra slack when they are quick to anger, resist doing chores and squabble with you and siblings more often.

Expect less and show more patience during the two weeks of transition. You’ll be calmer by adjusting  expectations and having a plan.

If you have the revolving door of college students, have a family meeting or at least a chat about how you expect them to contribute, keep track of their belongings and communicate about their whereabouts.

The start of summer is a good reason to have a family meeting with kids of all ages to set up summer plans for fun, chores, routines and agreements on screen time. Figure out a way that they will self-monitor screen time so you’re not the cop.

Family meetings pay off in the long run because they engender every positive characteristic you want kids to develop. They especially promote the priceless gift of connection that eventually keeps tweens and teens making good independent decisions.

Whatever you do with your toddlers, school age, tweens and teens this summer, make sure it involves some outdoor time reveling in the woods.  Allow them to feel boredom without plugging into a screen. They will discover resource and creativity through boredom. It is a problem they can solve without plugging in. Remember the four most powerful words in the English language: You can do it.

How do you handle the big transitions around the school calendar? Do your kids act out?

The helicopter parent has landed!

June 22, 2012

Why Failure is Good for Your Kids.

BookWormMama and I collaborated on this post. Nic loves reading and has a 17 month old baby. When she kindly reviewed my book, “Raising Able:,”  Nic was intrigued by the chapter  “Beware of Helicopters.”

We co-wrote this post and are publishing it simultaneously today (Thanks Nic — this was fun and you wrote most of it 🙂 so readers can understand how failure can benefit children. Crazy, but we all need to learn from our mistakes or continue to repeat them.

Helicopter parenting explained. Many confuse helicopter parenting with being an involved, concerned parent. In reality, textbook helicopter parents are involved in and concerned about their children’s lives to the extreme. These are some of the characteristics of helicopter parents:

· They avoid use of the word “No”

· They intervene to ensure their child’s success

· They overly protect their child from experiencing pain or disappointment

· They prevent their child from experiencing negative consequences of the child’s actions

· They do not give their child the chance to solve their own problems

The issue with helicopter parenting. Experiencing the consequences of their actions in situations where they are not in danger allows children to develop confidence, self reliance, and good decision making.

Take a child who regularly forgets to take lunch money to school. Parents might leave work to take money, nag and remind the child each day, ask the school to run a lunch tab, and a whole host of tactics so that the child does not experience the natural consequence of their own poor planning. It might seem cruel, even criminal, to allow your child to miss a day of chicken Tetrazzini. But the child won’t suffer much from one missed lunch and the “ordeal” will likely sting enough to teach the lesson. It’s a good example of how to give a child enough rope to burn but not enough to hang.

Think you might be a helicopter parent? When your kids have play dates, do you give them space to work out their disagreements? Or do you swoop in with mother hen wings flapping? “We can’t let them hurt themselves,” you argue.

Giving children room to resolve disputes does not mean you stand by while they duke it out. One simple solution is to offer, “If you can’t figure out how to take turns with the truck, I can take it for a while.”

You’ve taken action before the situation escalates and before you got mad.

Choices empower kids to feel the result of their actions and takes you out of the role of judge, jury and executioner.

How to avoid helicopter parenting. Perhaps at this point you have assessed yourself as a helicopter parent, or just want steps for giving your child some space to grow.

Pema Chodron, a Buddist nun, says, recognize, refrain, relax, resolve. To that, add “Revise” and create a plan to be prepared the next time your child engages in a predictable situation. YOU are the one who has to change and give them the gift of space and opportunities to learn.

Think about your greatest lessons in life. They likely came from failure. If we deny our kids the opportunity to fail, feel pain and disappointment, they never learn resilience; how to keep going when things don’t go the way they planned. It takes great courage to start over after failure, and it’s the only way to insure success in work, play and relationships. Kids need failure!

Note from the BookWormMama: I know it will be a challenge for me to watch my daughter as she gets older and experiences pain and disappointment. I’ll have to try to manage my “mother hen wings” so that she grows into a capable young woman.

Do you find it hard to let your kids fail? What life lessons have you learned from failure?

Toilet training is similar to driver training

June 18, 2012
training a teen driver is about positive parenting. driver training is like potty training. The teen is in control like the toddler is in control.

Spend the first decade building a relationship based on mutual respect so the teen years will be easier.

In reply to a listener inquiry [proving I respond to reader queries. Bring them on!] here’s my take on potty training. It should really be called “parent training.” I failed and felt frustrated by the lack of control.Ah ha! That’s the lesson. They are in charge, not us.My first three kids potty trained by around age 3. Nowadays kids who speak in paragraphs keep parents scooping their poop until age 4. Ugh!

My fourth child decided to use the toilet by 19 months. Why? Because I had learned how to motivate a toddler through encouragement, to avoid power struggles and convince her it was her idea. She sensed I didn’t care too much about potty training. I knew how to share power with her.

Here are some guidelines.Toilet training is about establishing a positive parenting relationship between toddler and parent. Toilet training can be easy when parents let kids take the lead

1. The more emotion a parent shows around potty training, the more power the child can seize and use to manipulate parents. We all need power. Rudolph Dreikurs in “Children, the Challenge” calls urine and tears “water power.” Tears and pee are effective ways to get what you want, get revenge and demonstrate power.

2. Parents need to learn to share power. I hated this fact because I wanted all the power. I wanted them to do it my way. It’s a great way to fuel rebellion, and set the stage for sour teen years.

3. Parents are not in control. Toilet training is the initiation of independence. Parents can learn how to shine the light on the path without forcing them; to finesse a child to believe that toilet training is her idea.

To parents of older children, tweens and teens, do these guidelines sound familiar?

Let’s apply the principles of toilet training to driver training.

1. Mom wants to guide a teen to drive safely because Mom cannot force Junior to drive safely when Mom is not in the car.

2. A suave Dad will accept criticism about his driving from Junior and let Junior believe that  safe driving is his idea and he is a near expert on it.

3. By adolescence, parents have been forced to accept that we are not in control of a young person’s behavior. Teens must learn to show good judgement when they are 60 miles away, going 60 miles an hour.

Toilet training is a primer for the rest of childhood. Force will backfire. The toddler will prove SHE is in control of bladder and bowels. So back off. As an overachiever who succeeded by trying too hard, backing off did not come naturally. I bought a lot more diapers for the first three kids and more pretty panties for the fourth.

Some parents resort to bribery. Beware if bribery is your main method of behavior control because it will backfire. Some experts say to save bribery for the “big guns.” Toilet training could be considered a “big gun.” Potty training is about attitude, about using the first 10 to 12 years to set up a positive relationship based on mutual respect so the teen years will be smooth.

What worked for you when potty training? What did you learn about parenting through toilet training?

It takes a team to raise a child

June 15, 2012
Father's  Day is to honor fathers and the chores they do for us. the commitment they make for us. this is the father of my children, who is willing to be silly

The best father I know, Reliable Bob at the annual Country Fair selling trash and treasures.

Jane, the lead female character in “Lie Down with Lions,” a 1986 Ken Follet book,  is torn between two men. In a dramatic chase scene through the Afghan mountains with one of the men and her baby, Jane is contemplates who to choose: the good man or the evil spy. She has only two diapers for the baby for the arduous journey.

At the end of the day of the man she camped out with in the mountains washed out the diaper at the end of the day. This simple gesture, when she was mentally and physically exhausted, meant a lot to her.That scene illustrates the demands of parenthood, how one person can’t fulfill a child’s every need, and the value of partnership. I loved that scene because his willingness to wash out the diaper said something about his character and commitment.

It’s always easier to face a challenge together. I remember one night when Bob and I had one of our famous “in-house dates.” I fed the four kids early with one of their favorites — chicken nuggets, and put them in front of a movie while we shared a special dinner with candlelight and wine. Then we put the kids to bed and watched an adult movie. Voila, dinner and movie, without going out.

When we went upstairs at 11 pm to check on the kids, both boys had vomited in their beds. The only thing worse than one boy vomiting in their bed is two boys vomiting in their beds. It was disgusting. We cleaned up two beds and bathed two boys when all we wanted to do was to fall into bed. Teamwork made it tolerable, and a shared memory that strengthened our long-term bond.

Happy Fathers Day to all you guys out there. Plant the seeds of your love to grow as the tree commitment, to stay rooted when the hurricanes and tornadoes threaten to uproot a marriage.

Kids fighting: Let them work it out

June 11, 2012
Sibling rivalry is a time honored tradition and challenge for parents. When kids fight they are learning so much. Letting kids fight and sibling rivarly roar is the best way to let kids learn how to get along. Sibling rivalry is right with lessons. My kids fighting taught them valuable lessons.

Sometimes my kids needed a boxing ring to work out the challenges.

Kids fighting is a common complaints from parents. Here’s a story from a reader who solved it by letting her two kids work it out. Their ages are irrelevant. What matters is Mom’s calm encouraging approach.”Cora needed new clothes, and Joe didn’t want to go shopping. We had a day off (from school), so it was convenient. We went to to three shops, and Joe ate the chocolate bars I had in my bag, drank the water and was super-patient.

“Afterwards, Cora wanted to go to the shoe shop, but Joe was fed up. I told her that she would have to convince him to go herself. They had a private tete-a-tete, and the next minute they both started walking towards the shoe shop.

“I asked them how that happened, and they told me that they agreed that he could look in the toy shop as long as he liked after we went to the shoe shop.

“We went home happy with three bags of clothes, sensible shoes and no fights. What more could a parent ask? They have learned to see the other guy’s point of view and to work on the individual they need to change. They both seem to have twigged (British slang for understand) that I never wanted to be the big boss, I just go along and advise and drive the car and don’t want to be the referee all the time.

“When we got home it turned out that Cora also said to Joe ‘If you go to the shoe shop, I’ll tell you where the switch is on the router.’ This has irked Joe for ages.”

What worked: Mom encouraged, expected and empowered them to work it out. Mom respected Joe’s tolerance. Brother and sister will be closer and get along better now and in the future. Having a sibling includes rivalry and learning to work it out. By solving their problems, they become resilient, creative, confident, capable and develop “people skills.”

Email me your challenging situations — that you’ve solved or would like an a Raising Able /Adlerian suggestion for. I love to solve parenting challenges! Tell me what is driving you crazy — susan [at] susantordella [dot] net.

A private parenting workshop in a book

June 8, 2012

Image of "raising able" a book on how chores empower children, toddlers, tweens and teens to be more responsible and develop self-discipline. This adlerian-based approach to good parenting will help parents of children of all ages. Good parenting is all about good habits. Family meetings and encouragement along with family dinner and family chores are the holy trinity of good parenting of all ages of children.If you haven’t read “Raising Able” yet, this review by Bookworm Mama might persuade you to pick it up, read highlights to your spouse, and create a positive parenting plan for summer.

If you’ve read it already, re-reading it will remind you of parenting habits that need attention.

When I learned new parenting skills, it took years and re-learning. “Oh yeah,” I’d say after a parenting workshop or re-reading a good parenting book. “I need to work on encouragement. Oops, we haven’t had a family meeting in a while.” It’s easy to slide. Parenting requires diligence.

Bookworm Mama said she wanted more examples from raising my four kids. I didn’t want to brag too much in the book. My best examples are my failures and wisdom gleaned. That’s what parents enjoy hearing when I speak at workshops and conferences, because it reminds us all how difficult parenting is, and no one is perfect. It’s too big a job to fail at.

I have my share of regret and guilt — even more so with four kids. Learning parenting skills changed MY habits and taught me positive ways to steer kids in the right direction, without begging, bribery, sarcasm, criticism, praise, reward or punishment. It took more time and creativity to use family meetings, encouragement, mutual respect and natural and logical consequences.

Today I have the long view and can realize what really matters — family dinner, family chores, family meetings, family walks in the woods with the dog, playing Spud in the yard, cooking together. Simple pleasures.

I gauge success by adult-to-adult relationship with my grown kids, ages 24-31, and with their partners — a new challenge!  They call home regularly, but not for money, and live independent lives. They are following their own paths, not one I dictated for them. What more can I ask for?

chores made our family connected. family chores were a daily part of growing up. Chores taught my kids self-discipline and nurtured their self-confidence and self discipline. Positive parenting gave my kids a sense of mutual respect.

Chores developed self-discipline in my kids. Working together gave them a sense of teamwork, taught them skills and gave us greater family connectivity — the name of the game to get kids to make good independent decisions as they mature.

Let kids feel the impact of their decisions at the mall

June 4, 2012
Tweens and teens love to go to the mall and hang out. A mall is an ideal hangout place for tweens and teens- mingle, mix, shop, eat, laugh, see and be seen. Tweens and teens live for the mall. Allow them that freedom and to learn to spend and shop within limits and their budget. Tweens and teens can learn the natural and logical consequences of their spending decisions.

Tweens and teens love to go to the mall independently. It’s a fairly safe venue to practice independence, spend wisely and have fun with their friends.

“Owen called from the mall and said, ‘Dad, would you bring me money?'” said a friend at a party, when parents kibbitz about our favorite subject — kids.”I had dropped him off at a friend’s house and didn’t know he was going to the mall. Now he wanted one of us to drive 20 miles each way to deliver the money. I said, ‘Hit your friends up for a loan.'”

Hurray to Dad for setting a boundary and encouraging his only child, age 13, to solve his problem and learn better planning. With an only child, it’s easy to fall into the trap of indulgence because you have the time and money, and want to avoid guilt, the parental poison.

It’s okay to say “No” and allow him to learn from poor planning. It falls under “natural consequences,” also known as “giving him enough rope to burn but not enough to hang.”

The little “burns” of an empty pocket and asking for a loan, teach tweens and teens to take responsibility and better manage their affairs.

Avoid undermining the lesson by saying, “I told you so.” Asking questions or I-messages will preserve the relationship. “I was surprised you were going to the mall. Did you know that was the plan?” Or, “My Dad taught me to always leave home with money in my pocket, just in case.”

Teens can revel in the the freedom of independence and the responsibility that goes with those first mall expeditions. It’s an excellent opportunity to make spending decisions, and find out which friends can be counted on to share their resources.

A true “natural consequence” means that parents do not have to interfere with one of the most powerful teaching tools. If needed, encourage kids by saying, “I bet you can solve that problem,” or  “Do you have any ideas?” or “Ask someone for a few bucks.”

You can do it. So can your kids.