Archive for the ‘How chores empower children’ category

The helicopter parent has landed!

June 22, 2012

Why Failure is Good for Your Kids.

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

路 They avoid use of the word “No”

路 They intervene to ensure their child’s success

路 They overly protect their child from experiencing pain or disappointment

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

路 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聽Chodron, a Buddist聽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?

Missing Mom

May 7, 2012
Mothers of large families with five or more children have a special place in the world. There were many big catholic families in the 1950s and 1960s. Not so much anymore. Now mormons have the corner on big families. My mother was an incredible woman. I honor her on Mother's Day.

Our family in 1962. I’m sitting on my father’s lap in this annual holiday photo tradition.

No matter what your relationship with your mother, you will miss her when she dies.The ache is doubled if your mother was like mine, with whom I felt connected, accepted and respected. Mildred has been gone for six years now. I still want to call her when I feel up or down.Motherhood for Mildred was not聽about if her children made her look good or feel good. I never remember her saying, “I’m proud of you.” Her objective was not how she felt/thought/looked about us, but how we felt/thought/looked.

Mother's Day is a day to remember our mothers- what they did for us, what they didn't do for us, and how they loved us. Mother's Day will not feel the same this year without my mother, who influenced me so much. I still mis her. Mildred was a remarkable woman.

Mildred Mary Margaret Theresa Rees Tordella, 1921- 2005. Mother of nine, grandmother to 25, great-grandmother to 11 and counting, and friend to countless.

Parental pride/praise sends the silent virulent message of, “I love you best when you make me look good and feel good. Don’t let me down.” Praise and pride can motivate children to achieve for parents. One unfortunate outcome of parental pride is for a young person to choose a career parents want, which eventually lands them in the psychiatrist’s office, miserable.

Without the risk of “letting Mom down,” it freed me聽to call her when I had been fired from a job, yelled at my kids or fought with my spouse. She held me in failure and celebrated my joys. I long to call or visit her one more time, to bask in that kind of connection, acceptance and mutual respect.

Mother's Day is a special day for parents and children, especially mothers and daughters. I really miss my mother, who inspired so many of us to be independent and loving. She believed in chores and self-discipline and cultivating responsibility. She showed me encouragement and mutual respect. On Mother's Day, I still miss her. If only mothers could be perfect, but we can't so we have to accept them the way they are. and forgive them for not being perfect.

Mom in her early 20s.

My parents never referred to their聽posse of聽grown children as “the kids,” a common practice, often聽justified because “You’re younger than us.”聽Yuck — what a barrier that sentiment聽erects.聽One of the most difficult aspects of motherhood is knowing and seeing we are setting up lifelong habits and forming personalities. Ugh! What a responsibility — and opportunity.

My mother mastered the art of encouragement. She stayed out of our way and let us find our own way. Five of us have聽our own businesses. We all have high degrees of internal motivation, thanks to the chores we were expected to do, that taught us self-discipline.

Mildred specialized in聽listening with an open heart聽and asking questions. Questions pointed my needle in the right direction.”What do you think? How did that happen? What are you going to do next?”聽 I trusted her to listen聽objectively, not make me wrong, or risk disappointing her. When whining about my marriage [what marriage is perfect?] she inevitably sided with Bob, much to my annoyance. She was usually right, too, because I had failed to manage my emotions around whatever petty annoyances.

Even though her parents had been dead for years, Mildred often said, “My parents are with me every day.” I scoffed at that sentiment when she was still alive, and like much of her wisdom, I’ve come find out she was right.

Mom, you’re with me every day. Thanks for everything. I love you and miss you.


Make friends with money from the start

October 10, 2011
Children doing chores is an important part of growing up. Children should NOT be paid for doing chores unless they pay parents for doing chores. Children can learn to manage money by being given an allowance and learning how it feels to run out of money. Children, tweens and teens can learn to budget money, plan for special occasions and trips, and spend money carefully. They can learn by having an allowance, but not tied to chores
My daughter Kristen, then about age 6, is painting聽the basement playroom. Kristen did not get cash for doing this. Her rewards were much more valuable: being connected to our family (the BEST聽substance abuse prevention)聽teamwork, learning a work ethic,聽developing a skill, nurturing self-esteem, self-discipline and competence. Today, Kristen is earning a Masters in Fine Arts in sculpture.

Money. Can’t live without it. Seems like there’s never enough. Many a marriage has failed over money. The challenge is how to teach children the golden rule: spend less than you earn.

You can convey this to children so they grow up to have successful relationships with money, and their life partners.

DO聽NOT pay children to contribute around the house, also known as chores. Do not pay children to work for money at home unless you want to:

1. Guarantee that you will always have to pay them to do that task, earn that grade, or practice that instrument;

2. Teach them that money can be used to manipulate others; or

3. Teach them that work ought only be done for money. Research shows聽that money is the聽LOWEST motivation to do anything.

Parents must be creative, have a plan and work together to make teamwork fun to motivate kids without money, fear or punishment.

This takes time. Pay, praise and reward and punishment are quick and dirty. Creating an environment where contributions are encouraged and appreciated takes time and patience — like most aspects of good parenting.

Start with a family meeting.聽 This is where to reinforce positive parenting and mold your child into the adult you envision. Or at least to manage their behavior to live peacefully until they leave home 馃檪

Make a list of everything parents do around the house. Ask every child, tween and teen to make a list of what s/he does. Self-chores do not count,聽such as, “make my bed, clear my dish, put my toys away.” We’re looking for contributions for the common good: emptying the wastebaskets, setting the table, making the salad or dessert for dinner, mowing the lawn, painting a room. Notice how those chores increased in complexity, as they do as a child gets older.

Ask them what responsibilities they’d like to take on. Write them down. Expect them to do the job in the coming week, month and year. Encourage and appreciate their efforts. Hold them聽to their agreements by being kind, firm and consistent. This is how they develop the precious gift of self-discipline — doing something we don’t feel like doing at that moment.

Do not pay them by the chore. Do not withhold allowance if they don’t do聽them.聽DO give them an allowance that is NOT tied to money. They contribute to the common good, they enjoy the rewards of being in a family. Don’t you have bad days/weeks at work where your performance was lacking?

Here’s a true story about how to handle requests for payment of chores.

Me: (Fixing dinner.) Noah, it’s time to empty the dishwasher. (Notice I didn’t ask聽him. He agreed to do to the job at a family meeting.)

Noah (age 8): Mom, will you pay me for emptying the dishwasher?

Me: (Pause. Thinking quickly.) Sure, Noah. I’ll pay you $3 for emptying the dishwasher.

Noah: (eyes light up.)

Me: But dinner is $5.

Next post: How to use allowances to teach children how to manage their money.

Plant seeds, have hope

July 11, 2011

exploration, children, toddlers, babies, natural exploration, natural and logical consequences, helicopter parenting, learning, education, allow them to find their own way, according to the latest research. Babies & children can benefit from parents getting off their backs!Look dad, here’s my piecrust!

Summer can be an ideal time for kids to do chores regularly without the interruption of school and other activities.

Make time for regular family meetings and ask them what jobs they want to do. Allow them to stretch. It’s fun to let them cook and enjoy the results. My motto is “It’s hard to hurt homemade food.”
My friend Carol, who is like an aunt to our four children, remembers Kristen’s first attempts at making pies. Carol told me, “Her pies weren’t that good, but you said, ‘Mmm,Kristen, this is good!'” An expert pie maker, Carol kept quiet and ate the pie. Kristen eventually mastered pie crust and makes fabulous pies today. Mastering the art of pie crust gives young cooks the idea, “If I can make a pie crust, I can cook anything.”
Kristen is spending the summer as an intern at Franconia Sculpture Park north of Minneapolis, Minn. In addition to helping resident sculptors and doing her own sculptures, Kristen takes turns cooking dinner for 13 to 15 people.

She has called home for a few recipes and said, “Thanks Mom for teaching me how to cook. I’m one of the better cooks and I can time everything to be done all together.”

I smiled and remembered how I taught Kristen to cook.

At 4:30 or 5 pm, I’d call up to her bedroom where she would be sequestered reading. “Kristen, come help me fix dinner.”

Long silence. “Kristen?”

“Do I have to?”

“Yes. I need your help.” I still hate to cook alone.

making pie from scratch is a way for kids, tweens and teens to learn how to cook. summer vacation is an excellent opportunity to slow down and cook with kids and allow them the independence to cook whatever they want. Allow them to make cookies and other goodies. It will teach them how to cook with confidence. Encourage their cooking efforts. Parenting is about building confidence.
These strawberry rhubarb pies were really delicious.

“I’ll be down in a few minutes.”

Ten minutes later I’d call up again. “Kristen! You said you’d be down in a few minutes!”

Five minutes later she wandered down reluctantly. This is how Kristen learned to cook — reluctantly.

It’s an example of how tweens and teens can resist being included in family time, but they still show up. They like to be invited, to be wanted and included, BUT they can’t show too much enthusiasm because of their age and hormones.

What are your kids doing this summer now that they might have some extra time? If they want to stretch and learn new skills, like making pie crust, appreciate and encourage their efforts. Have patience and hope. You’re planting seeds that will blossom in ways you can’t imagine now.

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聽they’re聽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聽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.聽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.聽 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.

A first family meeting success story

March 14, 2011

The two most useful habits for positive parenting are family meetings and encouragement (instead of praise, reward & punishment). Family meetings are a powerful way to stay connected to your children and teens, which protects them from bullying by connecting them to your family, nurtures their self-esteem, practices mutual respect, builds their confidence and teaches them teamwork. Family meetings reinforce every positive parenting strategy and everything you want your child to become.

The first week’s assignment in my online parenting class was to hold a family meeting. The mother who posted the report below has four children between ages 4 and 8. She took the assignment seriously, involved the children in picking out a special treat and had a very successful meeting. If your family could have a meeting that was聽half as good as hers, it would be a success.

One tweak is that I would have聽invited the children聽to set up the ground rules. The “three strikes” will hopefully prove unnecessary.聽Be happy they show up for the meetings, especially as they get older. Another suggestion is to have one of the children prepare a blank agenda template on the computer. The more the children聽are involved, the more they are empowered.

I hope her family聽meeting聽will inspire you to have聽a family meeting. See my book or tip sheet for more information. The first step is to post an empty agenda on your fridge and announce the time of the meeting to your family. Good luck and tell me what happens.

We held our first family meeting tonight, 3/4/11, and happy to report my kids were so excited to do it! I made a big deal out of it by taking them to the grocery store after school, and letting them each pick out a pint of their favorite ice-cream, which would be their special treat after the meeting (they didn’t eat the whole pint each, just a serving ;o-).

I used the Family Meeting agenda document. For this first meeting, I led the discussion and opened with discussing the Ground Rules of our meeting:

1. Discussing one topic at a time
2. Not moving to another topic until everyone agrees to do so
3. Taking turns while speaking
4. No putting other people down
5. No fighting or arguing

We agreed that if anyone should break a rule during the meeting they would get 1 strike. If a person got to 3 strikes then they would not get to have the treat that followed.

After we had the ground rules established, we moved on to Compliments. My children and I really enjoyed this part of the meeting and said some really sweet things to their siblings, none of which I think I’ve EVER heard them say before and nearly brought tears to my eyes. They also had some sweet things to say about my husband and myself.

When it was my turn to compliment, I was sure to mention how much I appreciated their help over this past week, and how it makes it easier for me when everyone pitches in to help. ***I honestly can report I was AMAZED at how willing my children are to help, especially when it comes to cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. Each and every one of聽them were on board with a job I asked them to do, right down to my 4-year-old washing a pan!

In addition to complimenting my kids, it felt really good to compliment my husband. We are guilty of not taking the time to do this. I mentioned to him how much I appreciate that he makes it possible for me to exercise, and I meant it 100%!

From compliments, we moved into discussing what Respect means (my 8-year-old did a fantastic job explaining to his siblings ). I brought up that I feel like we as a family could do better at showing each other respect, and brainstormed about ways we could change. They had some great ideas, and felt like it definitely clicked =)

We then had everyone go around the table to answer the following questions:

1. What made you feel good this week?
2. What made you feel bad this week?
3. What do you want to accomplish next week?

Asking these questions lead into some great family discussion, i.e. My daughter expressed that she felt great cheering on her friends in her gym class when they were struggling with an exercise. My husband said, “The Family Meeting was the highlight of his week” which, of course, THRILLED me!

Finally we discussed our upcoming events\schedule. One of the items on this list was my daughter’s Powderpuff聽Derby race (the equivalent to the Boy Scout Pinewood Derby) The opportunity to build another car out of wood was met with much enthusiasm by all of my kids, and lead to brainstorming what we will do differently to make my daughter’s car faster, etc. We also discussed we will be getting a visit from Grammy & Grandpa next weekend, and I would need some extra help around the house to get it in tip-top shape for their visit.

Finally we closed with activities that each of us would like to do as a family, i.e. Go Bowling, Play Lazer Tag, once spring arrives we are going to make it our goal to walk on every trail in our town.

We closed the evening by making ice cream sundaes and watching a family movie together =) It was a great night, and so pleased with the outcome. My kids said they can’t wait until next week, and our next family meeting. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to print off a blank agenda and write down topics to discuss as they come up.

Chores are the anti-spoiler

September 20, 2010
Chores are the anti-spoiler. It's impossible to be entitled if you clean toilets, sweep the floor and do dishes. Chores are good for the child and family because the family works as a team. The parents can retire as the house servants. Children feel like they belong and they gain self-esteem, skill and confidence.

Bree stretches to set the table. It's good for kids to stretch to do complex and high chores.

Some 94 percent of children are spoiled reports Richard Bromfield, a psychologist who works at Harvard Medical School and author of a new book, “How to unspoil your child” written up in the Boston Globe yesterday.

Here’s my favorite quote in the article: Q: “What’s one simple strategy to unspoil a child?” A: “Give and do less. Only by sometimes not getting does a child learn gratitude. Only by waiting does a child learn patience.”

That is a wonderful concise simple concept.

When parents give and do less, children have to give and do more, which means they can start setting the table before they can reach the table, like Bree. They can do the dishes every night, empty the dishwasher, cooking and doing yard work as a family, light housekeeping and as the children mature, take on bigger family projects together.

The daily ritual and responsibility of doing dishes every night is a way for children to do more. It benefits them and their family because children will feel connected to their families, and family connection is critical according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

One of the key ways to insure healthy teens is for them to feel connected to family and school, according to that聽 long-term comprehensive study of 15,000 students in the wake of the Columbine massacre.

Parents flex what I call the TripleEe — empowerment, expectation and encouragement — when children do chores. Chores empower children by giving them self-confidence, self-discipline and responsibility. Expecting and encouraging children to do chores is the most effective and peaceful way to involve children in family housework.

To get your family going on chores start with a family meeting. See my free Tip Sheets on family meetings and “Give me a job.” Parents have the added benefit of being able to retire as the house servant when they unspoil and empower children with chores.

It’s fun to work together and many hands make light work, even if the hands are little and it takes extra time to include them. It’s well worth the investment.