Archive for the ‘summer vacation’ category

Free kids from technology this summer

July 9, 2012
Kids can learn to go without technology during summer and any time. Give them opportunities to think , read and daydream

A group art project from where the slogan is, “Kids making things happen.”


“We have a rule when our grandsons visit. No technology,” said my friend Carolyn about when the boys, ages 7 and 9, visit their grandmothers’ pond-side home. “They put the video games away for the week and find other things to do.”

The boys’ older sister and a friend came also came to visit the two grandmothers, Carolyn and her wife Carole. The teens were allowed to communicate by cell phone with friends back home, 200 miles away.

“The cell phone is such a big part of teenagers’ social connections,” said Carole. That’s a decent compromise, especially because the teens agreed to visit to grandmas’ house.

All four kids enjoyed old-fashioned pass times, like playing hide-and-go-seek with kids in the neighborhood, playing board games and splashing around in the pond.

The boys are normally glued to gaming consoles.

Some camps have a similar ban on video games, cell phones and portable devices. Technology is prohibited at  Beam Summer Camp in Strafford, NH, just east of Concord. The remote location and lack of plugs make technology use nearly impossible.

“I couldn’t get cell phone reception,” said my daughter Kristen, 24, who led two afternoon “domains” at the camp where students choose what project to work on every afternoon. Beam Summer Camp oozes creativity — without technology.

Some families have technology-free Sundays. What would happen at your home if everyone — parents included — took a break from technology for a set time each week?

How do you manage technology use in your family? Have you brought up the issue at family meetings and asked for input? Are TVs and computers in common areas of the home and not sequestered in bedrooms? Do your kids self-monitor agreements made or are you judge, jury and police officer?

When you shut down technology, be prepared to allow boredom, from which creativity emerges. Daydreaming, reading, and staring at a spider’s web calm the soul.


Kids have more time for chores in summer

July 2, 2012
Kids and chore are important, especially during summer when they have more time for chores. Get children and teens to choose their own chores at home during a family meeting to help out. Use encouragement, not praise.

Borrowed this wonderful photo from

Kids like structure. Kids like to feel connected and competent. Summer disrupts those opportunities at school, so parents have to work a bit harder to compensate.

Summer is a great time to teach kids good habits and life skills by involving them in what you’re doing — laundry, yard work, cooking, dishes, fixing things, or anything else around the house. The earlier you start including them in chores, the more natural it will seem. The younger they are, the more they love to help out. Ironically, the older they get and more skilled, the less likely they are to contribute.

We raised our four kids frugally — probably to a fault. However, they learned how to manage  money and avoid the debt epidemic. We didn’t hang-dry laundry when they were growing up. It’s an excellent kid-chore because the youngest kids can do it.

I created a hang-dry system near our washing machine to give up the dryer. It took some time to install and some help from Reliable Bob.  I saw instant savings in my electric bills since we’ve started hang-drying most laundry. I like coarse air-dried towels — they’re like a spa, and soften up after a few uses. Sheets dried outside have a wonderful smell. Usually I’m too lazy to go further than our little dry furnace room right next to the washing machine to dry sheets.

Here I am creating a new energy saving system that the kids got used to to hang dry laundry and save money. it's an excellent chore for kids to hang up laundry, be frugal and save the planet. Using less energy is what we all need to do.

I’m attaching a thick cable to the wall to install a strong indoor clothesline.

Take some time to set up energy-efficient systems this summer.  A work ethic, frugality and knowing how to fix things can take your kids a long way in life. Take the time this summer to set up green systems. Let your kids take apart some old appliances and electronics to see how they work and challenge them to put them back together.  See if they can fix things. Find appliance parts at PartSelect if needed.

Let them make a mess. Encourage them to experience trial and error by taking apart appliances, tinkering with old computers, cooking, growing seeds, sewing or whatever interests them. Investing in messes and chores plant seeds that will grow for a lifetime.

“I’m Bored”

August 15, 2011
Kids who can't entertain themselves need to learn how by parents offering positive attention at neutral times then expecting kids to find things to do. Good parenting is about setting expectations and boundaries. Discipline is kind and firm and consistent. Parenting tots, tweens, school age and teens is all about cultivating a good relationship, using positive language and encouragement.

They eventually found a huge source of entertainment at the edge of pond, even though it's wet, sandy and damp.

Parents often react to a kid saying, “I’m bored” the same as to “I’m hungry.” Except the first is the kid’s problem, the second is a parent’s. Tweens and teens can solve both with minimal parental consultation.

Kids under age 11 probably need help getting food. If they have gotten sufficient positive attention at neutral times, they ought to be able to solve their own boredom.

I dipped back into parenting over the weekend while taking care of three kids, 6, 4 and 14 months. They were reluctant to explore our pond and played inside for quite a while on Sunday.

I resisted allowing them to watch more than one 60-minute video on a summer day and declined invitations to build something “really big with all of the Duplos.” I already fed them every two hours, picked up their constant trail, got them to bed, etc. I was not interested in being chief playmate and entertainer.

“Can we please watch another video?” they pleaded. After reading them four books they finally ventured towards the pond in light rain and started doing what kids are made to do. Get lost in the world of play, pretend and fun. Bounce off each other. Learn about relationships to each other, sand, water and light with minimum of parental interference.

It was fun to watch and care for them.We had “parallel play” — Bob and I weeded while they explored the pond. Two or more kids are always easier than a solitary child, who can self-entertain and invite friends over.

If your kids rely on you to solve boredom, changing the expectation will take a few weeks, protests, long sighs and even sitting with, gasp! nothing to do. Be patient. Creativity emerges from stillness. You will be amazed at the non-electronic entertainment they discover. Allow them to make a mess in the kitchen, yard, family room or bedroom. Creativity is always messy. Take time to notice their efforts and allow time to clean up with them.

Saying, “I know you can find something to do” is encouraging. As soon as a kid can utter, “I’m bored,” he is old enough for this solution: cleaning. Say, “Let’s clean your closet out today. The living room needs vacuuming. Put on these special cleaning socks and slide over the hardwood floors. Let’s crank up the stereo, put on dust mitts and dust the whole house.”

You can bet they’ll find something to do. Fast. Or maybe they’ll clean with you. Chores are one of THE best ways to develop self-discipline. That’s another post.


Addicting games and your kids

August 8, 2011

video game addiction, addictinggames,, video game violence, video game, violence in video games, kids and video game addiction, is my kid addicted to video games?Ryan G. Van Cleave Ph.D. describes his journey to hell and back over addicting  games.

The August doldrums have set in, the glow of summer has dulled. Parents will do anything to keep the kids entertained and not squabbling, including what I call “sugared screen time.”

My biggest fear for our 4 children (now 23-30) was addiction — like drugs, alcohol, anorexia, bulimia, gambling, and video games.
I just read, “Unplugged: My Journey into the Dark World of Video Game addiction” by Ryan G. Van Cleave Ph. D. Wow. Powerful. I love first-person stories told with disarming honesty.
His brutal page-turning honesty has phrases like: “I didn’t get help until I’d sunken so far into a virtual existence that there was damn near nothing left for me to return to in real life, which is why this book begins with me on a bridge at the end of my life.”
That’s powerful self-disclosure about the destruction of the havoc World of Warcraft wreaked on his life. Most video game consumers are like Ryan — 20- or 30-something. He says little about how video games can desensitize humans to violence. Ryan’s focus is addiction and the difficulty of kicking the virtual habit.
I love to give books like this to tweens and teens so they can read a compelling true first-person account of addiction. “A Million Little Pieces” By James Frey, true or not, offers the same first-person horror that I hope instills fear and good decision. Warning: Ryan describes sexual exploits so preview the book. It might be too much for middle-schoolers.
My 60/60 parenting theory goes like this. Invest the first 12 years in loving them unconditionally, having family meetings to set reasonable boundaries together that are enforced by firm, friendly and consistent parents, avoid reward and punishment, capitalize on the trio of family dinner, family chores and family meetings, and use natural and logical consequences that are related, respectful and reasonable.
This style of “discipline” will make a difference in your family life. Children learn mutual respect, responsibility, self-discipline, self-esteem and how to make good decisions. S/he will use that good decision-making ability to choose well as teenagers when they’re 60 miles away, going 60 miles an hour, most likely in your car. That day is inevitable unless your child escapes to Mars from age 13 to 19.
The goal is to get them to choose wisely when you’re not around. This requires a positive relationship based on mutual respect. Plant those seeds from birth to 12.

For the gamers, have a family meeting to negotiate a reasonable amount of screen time per day and how to monitor it. Remove screens from bedrooms. Kids need adults for guidance. Enforce agreements in a kind, firm and consistent manner. When kids are involved in setting limits they are more likely to abide by them. Use video game time judiciously as video gaming has replaced TV as the preferred in-home babysitter.

Teach them the valuable life skill of moderation so they don’t end up addicted to World of Warcraft like Ryan Van Cleeve.

Everything starts at home

August 1, 2011
kids on vacation, related, reasonable, respectful, discipline, children and discipline, how to teach kids discipline, disciplining tweens teens and family. kids on vacation, how to have fun on vacation

The young man in the front in the khaki shorts and his parents behind are enjoying a whale watch. Notice what's in his hand, ready for transmission. Like many kids his age, he has a constant electronic companion. He can be commended for knowing how to sit quietly, a good skill to have when on a boat, in a car, airplane or at church.

Parents quickly show their family management skills on vacation, when there’s an audience, new situations and the pressure to have fun because it’s vacation.

Good parenting starts at home when there’s no audience, familiar surroundings and nowhere special to go. That’s called choosing a good time for “training,” an old-fashioned word to teach the child about the rules of the world.

Here are some of the rules of the world:

  1. You can’t always have your way.
  2. If you behave recklessly, you can get hurt, hurt others, or even die.
  3. Sometimes you need to be able to sit down, be quiet and wait.
  4. Life is easier when you can get along with other people.
  5. When you’re tired, rest. When you’re hungry, eat.

When I started coaching one of my clients, call her Jenn, with six children in a blended family, she couldn’t take her gang out in public. When she started practicing positive discipline on a consistent basis at home, things changed. She learned a few simple habits.

  • Act, don’t yak (Dr. Sam Goldstein) — which means take action before you get mad.
  • Let kids work things out as much as possible so they can learn to get along with each other.
  • Allow natural consequences to happen — such as you have to swim in your shorts if you forget your swimsuit.
  • Make logical consequences for misbehavior related, reasonable and respectful (Dr. Jane Nelsen’s 3 Rs) That means if they won’t put away their iPhone during the whale watch like you agreed upon in advance at the family meeting, it will be taken away for a week. It doesn’t mean that if you won’t clean up your room, your iPhone will be taken away for a week.

Can you see how the first is related, respectful and reasonable and the second is not?

Kids feel safe with boundaries. When Jenn goes out in public with her gang now she immediately sets boundaries before the kids push for them. Good parenting is about constantly and consistently setting boundaries. It requires self-discipline!

Kids like regular food and rest, which can be compromised by vacation. They and you won’t be at your best when you push too hard and do too much. Kids are easily pleased. It’s adults who feel guilty and restless when they can’t provide trips to Disney, Hawaii and Aspen. Kids can be thrilled to spend an afternoon fishing at the local pond with Dad or Mom showing them how to bait the line, sit still, enjoy the great outdoors and be with each other.

The great outdoors is fun, frugal and local

July 18, 2011
Family fun can come in all sizes and shapes. Family connection is one of the most important aspects of summer vacation. Fun Frugal family times can be found in nature. Nature and kids seem to go together.

That's me, about to take a swing on the rope swing.

I want to jump back into this picture when we found this rope swing while on vacation with another family on Bustin’s Island in Maine. It was better than an amusement park, closer and cheaper, too. We made our own fun together. Bustin’s Island is an 80-acre island off the coast of Freeport, Maine — no cars allowed. Everything must be hand-carried or put into one of the few pickup trucks that meets the small ferry and taken to rustic cottages. When we went there in the 1990s, most cottages had outhouses, gas lights and gas refrigerators. It was one step above camping and we loved it. The kids and dog could roam free. We found non-electronic things to do like this rope swing, canoeing, playing volleyball, picking blackberries and biking.   Getting outside and playing together is one of the best methods for family connection and a mental health remedy.

It can be as simple as  slowing down for backyard fun, a walk in the neighborhood park, taking a day trip, or going camping. Nature is therapeutic according to multiple studies. Nature is a conduit for family connection — one of the best ways to protect your kids against making bad decisions as they become tweens and teens.

A strong parent-child/tween/teen connection is the BEST insurance that they stay away from the bad list — you know that list of parental angst that only grows as they grow up. Find some time to get in your backyard, bike around the block or plant a few seeds. Your kids will remember these activities for a long time. It’s an investment in positive parenting because you can act like a kid and have fun with them.

Have a family meeting and make a list of simple outdoor activities your kids want to do this summer. Let loose and take a turn on the rope swing. Bring the camera.  Time passes fast.

Biking together is a great way to get eveyone in the family on the same page. Good parenting is all about Family connection. The easiest way to connect is to have fun together and act like a kid with your kids, tweens, and teens. Use summer vacation to find fun frugal cheap family adventures. You don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun together.

Dad on the tandem with Ian and Kristen in the last century.

Me and we time

June 27, 2011
For parents, the most valuable investment in your family is your marriage. Take time to spend together because parenting is all about family. The stronger your family, the happier and better-adjusted your children will be. You are the role model for how to take care of yourselves and sustain a marriage.
“We time” is an essential investment in a family’s well-being and preservation.

I remember my last few hours of “me time” in June: the baby was down for her morning nap, the boys were at their last day of preschool and my oldest was in first grade. I thought, “What should I do with this time, probably my last uninterrupted moment until September?”

I got myself a snack that I didn’t have to share, sat in the recliner and treated myself to an hour of reading a book. It was my last uninterrupted daytime moment until September. My daughter calls this “me time.” Mothers and fathers — especially full-time mom/dads — need
“me time” to be better parents. Me time makes us more patient, loving and kind.

Couples need “we time” to stay connected, to forgive each other for being imperfect and to have fun together — one of the best ways to preserve marriage.

Bob and I created “we time” at least one weekend a year, and week-long vacations alone together every few years. We hoodwinked relatives (usually my mother), asked single friends to come for the weekend, hired nannies, and traded childcare with other families to re-connect and have childless fun. We also went out on dates at least once a month.

I recommend a regime of “we time” to all parents. Kids grow up and leave home. Marriages can erode and leave home without regular nourishment.

“We time” was money in the marriage bank. If both parents are employed, “we time” is just as essential as it is for domo-gurus (stay-at-home moms/dads).

I worried for our marriage when our nest emptied after 25 continuous years of parenting. Regular doses of “we time” along with frequent tune-ups (marriage therapy and marriage encounters) and intensive workshops helped our marriage survive and thrive.

The first 20 years of marriage and raising little children creates the most stress on time, money and your relationship. Hang in there. Schedule “we time” and “me time” this summer. It’s an enjoyable investment.