Archive for the ‘self esteem’ category

Family dinners are the mother lode

August 28, 2012

I’ve just finished going over the manuscript for “Raising Able: How chores empower families” for about the 25th time to prepare to publish it on Amazon’s Create Space, where it’s available on Kindle and print-on-demand.

It has caused me to re-read the book, published more than two years ago. There are some great stories and examples to prove that family chores, family dinner and family meetings provide a solid foundation for your crew, for life.

YES it takes time to plan dinner and make it. Get them involved. See this blog post for ideas on how to make it easier. This photo of my gang on the blog along with ideas to make family dinner easier, especially as school starts and schedules start to collide.

Family dinner is one of the most important and powerful traditions. Here's the author of

The lure of family dinner never wears off. This was taken at our daughter’s apartment where she had cooked us dinner.

My tips to make family dinner easier:

1. Plan dinner in the morning or the night before if you work outside of the home. Make use of a crock pot, time bake and kids at home after school to put on the potatoes and make pizza dough.

2. Involve tots-to-teens in every step of planning, preparation and cleanup. Use family meetings to plan menus and volunteer to cook and cleanup.

3. Eat family-friendly meals and encourage and expect them to try new foods, within reason.

4. Encourage them to start cooking independently as soon as possible. Buy ingredients they need, experiment and have fun. Don’t complain about the mess! Compliment the chef. Eat their food with gusto. You’ll be developing confidence and a lifetime skill and avocation.

5. Learn to stock your pantry, freezer and fridge so you can cook from what’s on hand. Learning to cook from what’s on hand is an art, too.

Bon appetite!

Power-sharing can defuse conflict in families

March 26, 2012
tweens, teens, school age, toddlers and preschoolers all need the experience of feeling powerful. Parents must learn to share power through "family meetings" "encouragement' and "mutual respect" as well as natural and  logical consequences. Power balance is important. Use chores for positive power. Avoid power struggles. there are no winners or losers, only competetitors.

Giving kids a little leeway can go a long way to make peace at home. Instead of scolding my kids for being on top of our van, I got out the camera. Children develop personal power when they can take risks, have fun and occasionally break the rules in life.

Here are some excerpts from a letter from a mother in Ireland who read my book and implemented many of the practices and an attitude of mutual respect. I added emphasis.

“Eating was a particular problem for my daughter. She is 9 years old and tiny. I, too, was a small child. Some days she did not eat enough and was hungry and angry. This was a huge worry because she is really into fashion and her paternal grandmother is depressed.

“I realize now that I was bullying my daughter and not eating my food was the only way she had of showing me her power. …She is enjoying her food without need for any further intervention. …

“I asked her early on after reading your book “Which is better, to be loved, or to be loved and needed?”

“She answered that it is better to be loved and needed. She enjoys the chores and we have bonded in a new way while cleaning the bathroom. I do the toilet and she does the bath and sink. I admire her work and she enjoys working with me.

“If I had been thinking about it until doomsday, it would never have occurred to me that this is how my daughter wanted to spend time with me. Your book gave me the idea of helping and my husband has used this stunt since then to get the kids working. They have clean bath and sink on their chore list from the meeting and when we work with them it makes it into a prestige job.

“I don’t know why it works, but it does. Prestige jobs and doing something unique to you are some of the best points in your book, I think.”

This letter blew me away because it connects the lack of personal power — a core issue around anorexia, and how to create personal power through chores. We are such flock animals, that we seek prestige any way possible, including by cleaning the toilet.

I hated sharing power with my kids. I wanted to do it MY WAY!  I didn’t like backing down from power struggles and feeling like I lost. I learned to quit showing up on the battlefield and occasionally let kids climb on the van with the hose. Some parents go to the opposite extreme and kids live on top of the van with the hose. This is too much power.

Find a happy medium to share power through mutual respect, trust a child to make decisions, listen to them during family meetings, do family chores together, and use encouragement.

Investing the time and attention in this will bring results. Parenting is not cheap or easy. It is worth the effort because it’s good for everyone.

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.

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.

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.

This could happen anywhere

June 20, 2011
when there are few resources, it can cause sibling rivalry. Brothers and sisters can learn so much from being allowed to interact with each other and work out their own problems. Raising children and discipline is all about allowing children to learn how to get along, that fighting hurts, that sibling rivalry is part of life. Sibling rivalry might drive parents nuts, so WE parents must change our behavior and manage our emotions so our children have the opportunities to discover how to make good decisions in life.
Scarce resources make for interesting family times.

Enrique, 10, says, “Dad, can I have some ice cream?

Dad says, “There’s a little left. You can have it.”

Maria, 8, pipes up, “I want some.”

Enrique agrees to share with Maria. Dad is flabbergasted because Enrique has Asperger Syndrome and sharing is rare. Elated, dad goes back to reading his book.

Maria takes more than her fair share and eats it. Enrique discovers a piddling amount left and crows about the injustice for 15 minutes.

Dad tolerates Enrique’s complaints. He doesn’t rush out to the store. When Mom comes home, Dad reports the incident, which re-ignites Enrique’s whining, much to Dad’s annoyance.

This could happen in any family because there are always scarce resources, sibling rivalry, people who will share, and people who will take advantage of their generosity.

Dad asked our parenting workshop, “What to do?”

1. Appreciate that Enrique and Maria have each other to learn from. Sibling offer some of life’s richest lessons.

2. Put the issue on the family meeting agenda — always posted on the fridge, ready to diffuse tense situations and provide a calm forum later. Mom and Dad can ask the kids for ideas on how to handle such a situation in the future, such as “You cut, I pick.”

Write down viable suggestions and agree on which ones to follow, even if parents do not fully support them. Give kids’ suggestions a full trial, which will nurture your child’s self-esteem, connect them to the family, give them faith in the family meeting system and confidence that they will be treated with mutual respect.

During “compliments” Dad can recognize Enrique for sharing, even though sharing doesn’t alway work out. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share again.

This is why I advocate family meetings. They are valuable forums to work out problems, connect to the family and nurture a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

3. Allowing Enrique and Maria to work it out allows them to learn how to manage emotions and behavior. Usually these lessons are painful. Welcome to life – for typical people and those with special needs.

4. Dad can report to Mom out of earshot of Enrique. This would have eliminated the nuisance of chapter two of the complaining.

5. Dad and Mom can privately agree to NOT intervene in the sibling rivalry and announce the new policy at the family meeting. They must follow through by leaving the area, putting on headphones or earmuffs, asking the kids to take it outside, putting the issue on the family meeting, and encouraging the children by saying, “I know you two can work it out.” This is having a plan. Things may get worse before they get better because the kids will test the parents’ new behavior.

YAY Dad for not running out to buy more ice cream, which may create entitlement.

What I love about this scenario is that it exemplifies family life. Having a plan ready, knowing that sibling rivalry is normal and allowing them to work it out allows parents and kids to manage their emotions and behavior.