Archive for the ‘prepare’ category

Thanksgiving: The ultimate family dinner

November 14, 2011
Manners are a big part of family dinner. Children tweens and teens can learn to behave at family dinner table at Thanksgiving. Good manners start at home. Make it a game. Make it fun. Thanksgiving can be a relaxing time for families. Manners are a good chore to have in Mass., CT, MA , NH, RI and VT.
Children can live up — or down — to our expectations.

Just looking at the table pictured above would have given me a stomach ache if I had to bring my four kids there.

The best way to prepare for such a situation is to practice. If you’re worried about Thanksgiving at the home of a friend, relative or to a restaurant with your kids, start with a rehearsal.
Have a family meeting. Ask the kids for ideas on how to behave at a fancy meal. Write down every idea, however ridiculous, and take the best ones seriously. Then announce you’re going to have a rehearsal for Thanksgiving, using their suggestions. Would they help? Set a date and plan a simple meal, maybe a roast chicken.

Enlist their aid in getting out a nice tablecloth, the best china, silverware and glassware. Remember, a broken spirit is more permanent than a broken goblet. Let them drink from a special glass and use cloth napkins for the evening. Propose some toasts. Exaggerate. Go overboard on the manners. Use an English accent. Make it fun. Kids love fun. Whenever you can make something fun, you will have them eating out of your hand.

Parenting is all about setting reasonable expectations and managing people’s behavior — getting them to do what you want, when you want, just like at work. The best managers are kind, firm, clearly spell out what they expect, and if necessary, train you on how to do it.

Clearly spell out what you expect from your kids on Thanksgiving at Aunt Sue’s. Then practice it. Encourage the behavior you like by saying what they did. “What a nice way to ask for the mashed potatoes, Megan! Of course I’ll pass them to you. Where did you learn such lovely manners?”

They won’t be perfect, and you always remind them on Thanksgiving when they slip, “Remember how we practiced? How can you ask nicely for the mashed potatoes?”

A dress rehearsal combined with realistic expectations from parents will make the day go more smoothly.

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 the basement playroom. Kristen did not get cash for doing this. Her rewards were much more valuable: being connected to our family (the BEST substance abuse prevention) teamwork, learning a work ethic, 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 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 that money is the 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.  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 🙂

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, 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 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 them. 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 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.

Holiday happiness

November 18, 2010
Family time is thanksgiving. Discipline, etiquette, holiday manners, children's behavior, stress, holiday stress, fun, parenting: about. parenting education, families, holiday expectations
We had 27 people for this Thanksgiving celebration from ages 2 to 85. The ping pong table was set up in the garage to give the four teenage boys somewhere to go, “something” to do.

It’s that time of year when families will be convening together in closed spaces and everyone wants children to behave well.

 
Did you know that recess is one of THE BEST cures for classroom misbehavior? Take a cue and take your children outside to play touch football, take a walk to the park, or play basketball in the driveway. Make sure it’s for at least an hour. Spend time with them. This is an investment in a happy holiday.
 
After exercise, they will be in a better frame of body and spirit to live up to reasonable expectations of behavior.
 
Parents, start now by holding family meetings and talk about manners — ask, “What will it look like on Thanksgiving to have good etiquette?” Hear their suggestions and encourage them  to practice during family dinner at home.  Compliment them when they say, “Please pass the salt,” use a napkin instead of their pants. Teach them to say, “This is delicious,” and “No thank you,” to foods they don’t like.
 
Manners are basically consideration of other people. Yelling out, “That’s disgusting,” or announcing, “Mikey doesn’t eat onions,” or “Can you cook some special pasta for Megan – that’s all she’ll eat,” fall under “lack of consideration” for others.
 
Manners start at home and by parents modeling good manners at family dinners and constantly reinforcing them. My four “children” are now in their 20s, and even as teens, they despised peers who chewed with their mouths open, made rude comments about food, slurped, didn’t use napkins, and stood up to reach for the salt instead of saying, “Please pass the salt.”
 
Manners are a lifetime gift you can give to your children — in small doses. If you’re just starting now for next week, you’re a bit late. Take baby steps.
 
On the big day, be willing to give one warning to younger children then take action by removing them from the situation. Use the outdoors or your car if needed. If they have a meltdown or are out-of-control, consider leaving the family gathering. It might just be too much for them. Go home and have canned beans and carrot sticks. It could be a memorable teaching moment.
 
Ideally, take time for training BEFORE the big day so children feel confident about the expectations and have boundaries established around reasonable behavior. “Training” includes giving one warning, taking action and possibly allowing the child to go hungry to remind them that sitting at a table is a privilege and certain behavior is expected.
 
Going hungry for a few hours will show the child you mean business. It takes three days to die of thirst and three days to die of starvation. Missing one meal could serve as a powerful teacher, if you’re willing — or desperate.
Remember to involve them in cooking, setting up for the meal and cleanup. It’s a wonderful time for teamwork and family togetherness.
 
Happy Thanksgiving!  Above all, have fun!
 
 

We’re raising a generation of nincompoops

September 29, 2010

Chores can teach the Millennials how to survive. Chores get them off their computers and hold them accountable to someone. Chores teach children self-discipline, self-respect & self esteem.

Stock photo by Getty Images

Read this article about how we’re raising a generation of nincompoops who can’t even make ice from a plastic ice cube tray or use a can opener.

Then have a family meeting and get them going on chores. Retire from being the house servant TODAY. You’re doing your children — or their future bosses — no favors by doing everything for them.

Top 10 worst fears for teens

September 23, 2010
teens don't always make the best decisions. Teenagers need a solid foundation to make good decisions. Teens need to avoid risk. They need to feel self-confident and have high self esteem, make good friends and avoid substance addiction

Walking on stilts is a harmless avocation. Notice what's in their hands at this party.

Tonight [Sept. 23]I’m giving a workshop at Roudenbush Community Center in Westford, Mass.,  “How to Make Peace with Your Spirited Child.”

I often open with a discussion of the greatest fears for our children — what can happen when youngsters are motivated by fear instead of desire.

Using fear, praise, reward and punishment to discipline children can result in the Three Rs — rebellion, revenge and resentment and lead to a breakdown in parent-teen relationship and teens making decisions [like the ones below]  influenced by rebellion, revenge and resentment against parents.

The root of “discipline” is “disciple” which means “follower of a teacher.” We parents teach our children.

My goal is to teach youngsters how to make good decisions so when they become teenagers they’ll choose wisely when they’re 60 miles away going 60 miles an hour. I call it the 60/60 theory.

Young people can make so many bad decisions. Below is my short list of greatest fears.

I broke down my big list into seven categories — the body, sex [the biggest list!], the mind, technology, legal, social and school/career.

I most worried about drug addiction because it’s so pervasive, long-term and difficult to cure.  My teens and young adults brushed against a few of these top 10 worries and walked away. I felt scared, angry and out-of-control and compassionate for them.

  1. Substance addiction
  2. Anorexia/obesity
  3. STDs — Sexually transmitted diseases
  4. Low self-esteem – depression – suicide [can go hand-in-hand]
  5. Feel isolated from family and school [THE greatest danger to teens according to extensive research]
  6. Be a victim or bully — sexually, socially or online
  7. Break the law and go to jail for a long time
  8. Develop a long-term disease, injury or disability from poor choices
  9. Connect with friends who crave risky behavior
  10. Fall in love with someone with bad character

What’s on your top 10 greatest fears for your children?

Empty nest isn’t so empty

September 1, 2010
Empty nest comes and goes. Empty nest is an opportunity to re-discover couple hood. Empty nest is hardly and empty feeling. This is a shot of our full nest, with four chidren. Raising children is one of life's greatest challenges. Raising children together meant a lot of good parenting and sacrifice of our couple-hood.

The gang. It feels so normal when they're home, and equally as normal when it rebounds back to the two of us.

“Be prepared for the possibility of your parents divorcing during your freshman year,” read the letter from my daughter’s college in 2006. I, too, wondered if our marriage of 26 years would survive.

Our youngest had prepared us for empty nest during high school with a universal strategy.

  1. Avoid parents.
  2. Get involved with a job, friends and school activities.
  3. Interact with enough courtesy to access the car and money.
  4. Be out when parents are home, and home when they’re out.
  5. Claim, “I can’t eat dinner with you tonight, I have to work.”

When Saturday soccer abruptly ended during her freshman year, it opened up possibilities I had forgotten existed. When she quit Sunday afternoon soccer, whole weekends arrived with no demand for our witnessing, wallet or chaffering.

Even weeknights brimmed with possibilities — no need to whip up dinner, wolf it down and drive someone somewhere.

Her senior year of high school launched us into unfamiliar turf: home alone together often. It was like visiting a foreign country I hadn’t been to in ages, with an old friend, who I hadn’t had time for in a while.

At first, our couple-rebirth was awkward and unfamiliar. Then it blossomed into glorious, fun and eventually, normal.

With our new life for two, we moved into a house in need of total renovation, a distraction for our first two years of empty nest. We’ve always shined under a full-court press.

Next, we took some trips together and rekindled an old interest, duplicate bridge. We play with gusto at least twice a week. It’s a partnership game that’s a lot like staying married. The best teams succeed under duress, don’t berate each other too much for mistakes, and celebrate victory.

The college schedule brought them home with astonishing regularity for a dozen years. As soon as we got used to them being home, filling the fridge with food, sharing cars and TVs, they departed. Silence and stillness descend, until another holiday.

The final curtain has fallen with youngest settled in graduate school. We’ve rehearsed during the renovation project, across the bridge table, and in the quiet of the dinner table set for two.

I fell in love with him. Again. It’s hardly an empty feeling.

She’s gone away

August 19, 2010
She's gone away. My youngest daughter is off to college, again and finally. She's the fourth and final and it feels to final to have our house empty again. Empty nest is a cruel reality.

Kristen at a crossroad of her life.

Kristen  left on Monday for her first semester of graduate school. Her car full, the house empty. I feel the familiar yin-yang of college students coming and going of the past 11 years.

This time is different. Nothing could have prepared for the day when the youngest left, never to return for more than a visit.

I moved a few orphaned belongings to the attic, feeling like an orphan parent. I donated a bag of clothing , scaled down food purchases, and expect her to turn up in the morning, at dinner time.

I can’t believe she fit everything into her little Celica and how orderly she left her room. My soul is disorderly and crammed with conflicting emotions. I detoured my life and put the four of them first, ahead of my own needs, career and life.

Empty nest was expected, anticipated and prepared for. I gave them skills to live independently — based on the ability to make good decisions. Now I now coach other parents to teach children and teens the art of independent decision-making.

I’ve done my job well. I’m as obsolete as her empty bedroom. My relationship with my four grown children is optional, and hopefully out of desire, not obligation. We’re establishing new traditions and reasons to get together. How often is often enough? How many calls and visits are intrusive? At what point does an adult child’s extended visit imply he should pay room and board?

There’s always new ground to cover in parenting, which is why children invading our lives enriches, challenges, frustrates, entertains and gives us a purpose.

It has been worth every sacrifice. My husband, dog and I mourn over the end of an era. The dog tried to stow away in Kristen’s already-crammed car. Bob and I had a good long wet hug when she didn’t show up for dinner.

It’s been a good run.