Posted tagged ‘mutual respect’

Homework hassles, headaches and happiness

February 18, 2013

Homework is the source of great angst between parents and children. Take the example of John, 8, and Mom (names changed to protect the real people).

John, 8, is highly intelligent with many behavioral issues and learning disabilities. “When he wants to, John can do his homework in a snap,” says Mom. “When he’s at school, under supervision, he can do it in a snap.”

Well, then, what happens at home? We parents get snared in the complex web of parent-child emotions, power sharing, and time management.

Here are suggestions to give your children the opportunity to learn responsibility through trial and error, free parents from this onerous task, and free up time and energy for positive parent-child time.

Q: Whose problem is homework?

A: The child is responsible for homework. The hare-brained schools that assign homework to children younger than third grade assign parents homework, setting up the bad habit of making homework a parent’s problem.

Unfortunately, until your child is in third grade, parents must share the responsibility. From third grade and up, schools have excellent structures in place for miscreants and parents can step back.

Q: How do parents encourage children to do homework?

A: Put “homework” on a family meeting agenda. At a quiet, neutral time when everyone is in the problem-solving mode, say, “Let’s talk about homework. When is the best time for you to do homework? Where would you like to do homework? What role do you want mom/dad to take in homework? I will expect you to ask for help if needed.”

You get the idea. Talk about it. LISTEN to their suggestions. Decide on a plan. Implement the plan for at least a week, to show you respect them, take them seriously and expect them to take on homework as their problem. Expect three weeks to learn the new habit.

At the family meeting, say, “I’m going to let you [kids] take on this responsibility. I will support you however you need it. Let’s follow your suggestions for this week and we’ll meet again to talk about how things are going.”

You are now promoted to “consultant,” not a parent, homework cop or nag.

Q: How to follow through?

A: You must allow time for children to learn new habits, for them to realize that you are serious, not just “trying” something new.

YOU MUST BE PREPARED to allow them to fail. To ignore their decisions that might cause them to miss a homework assignment. 

Schools have built-in structures for students who do not complete homework assignments. Allow your child to make decisions about when and where to do homework, or not, and allow him/her to feel the cause and effect of his/her decisions.

Q: How can I allow my child to fail to turn in homework?

A: Perhaps you’re reading this blog in desperation, exhausted from struggling with homework every day. Let it go. Think of the valuable lessons you have learned through mistakes and failure. Do not deny your child this opportunity to learn cause and effect.

Keep reading, unless you want to continue to go crazy by forcing kids to do homework on your terms.

Q: How do I motivate my children to do homework, without nagging?

A: Daniel Pink, author of “Drive: the surprising truth behind what motivates us,” says humans are motivated by three things: Mastery, autonomy and purpose. Notice what’s not in the top three: money, recess, good grades, or pleasing parents. Money, according to Pink, is the lowest form of motivation.

Mastery means to feel good about doing something. Autonomy translates to freedom. Purpose means that there’s a reason to do something, which could be to avoid punishment. True motivation comes from within. It’s your job to nurture it through mastery, autonomy and purpose.

Q: What will other parents and teachers think and feel about me?

A: Most other parents will be jealous that you’re no longer going crazy over homework every day, and that you can use the time and energy to connect with your child in a positive way. Teachers will understand, especially if you privately mention your new stance. Ask him/her for support for a few weeks until your child learns the new habit of taking responsibility and choosing when and where to do homework.

Teachers and parents can recognize school projects completed by parents, not children. Your kids’ efforts will be more realistic and rough around the edges. They can feel the mastery, autonomy and purpose from doing projects independently.

Q: Am I totally absolved from my kids’ homework?

A: No. You are a consultant. You will ask questions, provide encouragement, and guide them to make good decisions. If your child does not complete a homework assignment and gets punished at school, do not inflict additional punishment at home. Let him/her handle school, where experts know what children are capable of.

I like to share with parents a list of famous high school dropouts. School isn’t for everyone. There are alternatives, like the General Equivalency Diploma, home schooling, charter schools and community college for older teens. Academic success is a child’s choice, not a parents’ demand. Unless you want them to work for your praise.

Remember that childhood is a process of letting go, of transferring power and responsibility from your side of the seesaw, when you do everything, to the child’s side of the seesaw, when they take over responsibility and power for their lives. Homework is an excellent example of a safe place they can experiment with power, success, failure, mastery, autonomy and purpose. They can take on this responsibility.

See more in my book, “Raising Able: How chores empower families”  [available on Amazon in print and Kindle] on family meetings and encouragement, the most potent ways to foster everything you want your child to do and become in life, and establish a positive lifelong connection.

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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?

How chores & family meetings have changed everything

May 14, 2012
This young girl is showing the value of family chores. She is washing windows. This task gives her connection to family, self esteem and self-discpline, all of which cannot be bought at K-Mart or Wal-Mart. Yes, it takes more time for mom to involve the kids. Yes, the kids won't do as good as a job. Yes, it requires family meetings and encouragement. it's worth the investment in your family.

Love the action in this photo as well as the reflection in the windows. Appearances can deceive. This 9-year-old is gaining self-confidence, skill, self-discipline, self-esteem and connection to her family.

This post is from a mom in Ireland who read “Raising Able: How Chores Empower Families” and began applying the practices with her two kids. 

Somebody tell Hallmark that we already had mother’s day. It was a few weeks back.

We started family meetings in January. We have had a weekly family meeting for three months. As a family, we have cleaned out the shed, scrubbed the carpet, and had a stall at a carboot sale [flea market]. The children have cleaned the bathroom, washed windows, hoovered, worked a huge amount on the dishwasher, washed the dogs, brushed the dogs, cooked frozen sausage rolls with no help, lit the fire, made firelighters, and swept the floor: All since we began chores.

This young man is hanging out damp laundry to dry. He is doing a green chore, which is common in Ireland. Such a simple chore for a child that brings complex benefits, such as self-esteem, self-confidence, skill, connection to family and self-discipline. These are priceless. All through family meetings, family chores and encouragement. Mom does the chores with the kids. that helps enormously.

Hanging out the laundry instead of hanging out with his friends brings priceless self-discipline and counteracts entitlement.

We have gone bowling, had lunch in various venues, made trips to the playground, played cute family games of hide and seek, become expert at Connect 4, and even camped for one night in April in Ireland.The children have learned to work together and to enjoy their jobs. It was a joy to see my son busy with the hoover [vacuum cleaner] and singing a song. He seems to particularly enjoy telling the boy next door that he can’t  come out now because he has his jobs to do!

My daughter is 9, and she had never really done chores before. I explained to her that I needed her help, and that she had to work for our family the same way as the rest of us do. She likes when I work with her. She now tells me more about her feelings and her life. She seems so much happier since we put her to work. She likes to tell me that other girls are princesses. We are not princesses, we are women who are useful and the dad in our house likes us just the way we are.

As a parent, family meetings are hard work. It is totally worth the trouble. We are so much more together as a family, and I wouldn’t have missed that game of hide and seek or seeing that baby lamb at the campsite, for all the tea in China. “Raising Able” has given me the ideas and skills to make memories my family will always cherish. Thank you Susan.

This little guy is making scones. His mother is allowing him to make a mess in the kitchen. This is how children learn to cook - by making a mess. Cooking is not a chore. Cooking is a fun exploration by combining ingredients. Let kids discover the joy and excitement and satisfaction of cooking for famil members. Start them cooking early and often. Do not baniish kids from the kitchen.

This little guy proves that cooking is not a chore. Combining ingredients and transforming them into something delicious is an adventure that brings pleasure to family members. It will require parents to allow kids to make a mess in the kitchen. Go with the flow!

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.

How long can the cocoon last?

March 5, 2012
empowering children, when to have a knife? how safe is safe. Keeping kids safe. Chores, discipline, how to decide, using family meetings and encouragement for toddlers, tweens, teens and school age

Bree is cutting cantaloupe with a very sharp knife. At what age should children be given knives to use?

This picture caused a stir among the workshop room full of parents, day care providers and child-health professionals at a conference I presented at in February in Rhode Island.Comments included: “Just looking at that knife makes me nervous!”

“I’d never let my preschooler have a sharp knife.”

“Is she standing on a stool?

Later, I called my nephew Sean, father of knife-wielding-3-year-old-Bree and reported the women’s response. The audience was female except for one man, who didn’t object. Sean chuckled and said, “Some of my friends’ kids live in a safety cocoon. They never touch knives, scissors or fire.”

Wow. Why deprive children learning about the power of knives, scissors and fire under a parent’s guiding hand? They must live in a sterile bubble where parents hover, ensuring Junior never encounters danger, challenge or failure.

One of the best things we can do for our children is to let them play with knives, scissors and fire — talking about and taking safety measures, teaching how to use knives and matches safely, and how to operate kitchen appliances and basement tools.

I remember the intense heat of a huge campfire my brother Danny built on a camping trip when he was 17 years old and I was 12. The four of us kids compared all subsequent campfires to that glorious blaze, created with our parents nearby, silently watching. Danny, Mary, Brian and I worked as a team to gather wood, stoke it up and make a bed of coals that lasted until morning.

When another nephew and niece visited our home a few years ago at age 16 and 11, they lamented the ban on fires at the summer community on the Chesapeake Bay. I gave them permission to build a fire on our waterfront, and they were thrilled. Fire, knives and scissor have power.

Kids need practice at living life. Practice includes risk and sharp objects and gaining confidence and competence that “I can do it.” When we make too many decisions for our children, protect them from all things lethal, and intervene when hazards lurk, how will they learn what it feels like to hold a knife and use it responsibly?

What do you think? Are your kids allowed to build a fire in the backyard, cut cantaloupe with a knife, and play with matches and candles while you’re around? How do you handle danger?

Source: www.bestautolenders.com

The long-term benefits of family meetings

February 20, 2012
Here Ian is shovelling snow, an excellent activity for a 20-something who lives at home. Adults who live at home can be expected to pitch in. Use family meetings to stay in contact, set expectations and encourage each other. Mutual respect is key to discipline for teens, tweens, school age and toddlers

Ian shovels snow -- when we had some last winter -- during a long visit. Family meetings are key to setting expectations and open communication with "kids" of all ages.

My son Ian, 27, left, has no health insurance. We’ve had several discussions about the merits of health insurance.

During his last visit home, he said calmly, “Mom, I don’t want to talk about health insurance any more. I have decided to pay later instead of paying before.”

I listened. I didn’t like it. I heeded his boundary, set respectfully. I was grateful that he told me, instead of calling his girlfriend and complaining, “My mother won’t get off my case about health insurance! I can’t wait to leave.”

I credit our tradition of family meetings for Ian’s ability to respectfully communicate his feelings to me.

When I ask parents to list the attributes they want their children to develop, the list usually looks like this. Happy. Have good friends. Good social skills. Have a good job. Good relationship with me. Confident, capable. Don’t abuse substances. Find work they enjoy. Good self-esteem. Live independently and not in my basement.

I guarantee that family meetings will provide the foundation for every one of those attributes. Family meetings are the most effective discipline method  for toddlers, school-age, tweens, teens and young adults.

Notice I didn’t say “speediest” or “easiest.” Discipline means to teach. Family  meetings teach children the skills, attitudes and attributes we want them to absorb and use for life.

Read the attached notes from a first Family meeting held by a single parent and her two daughters, ages 13 and 10. Their agenda is on the second page. They held the meeting at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning, the time the 13-year-old agreed to in advance.

Here’s what worked about their first family meeting.

  • Mom asked what time they wanted to hold the family meeting, and then followed through even though the 13-year-old was lying on the couch during the meeting. (Teens can’t been seen as too cooperative.)
  • Mom posted the agenda in advance, which gave the kids time to post items, such as “Star Wars symposium outfit for Johanna.”
  • Johanna also posted, “Spend more activities together.”
  • Mom didn’t overload the agenda with problems and demands. She started small.
  • Mom followed the format. Someone took notes to keep for posterity, (humor later on), and to record their agreements. They had a snack and family fun.

Two big wins: Johanna posted two items; the 13-year-old showed up. It’s easier to set up the habit of family meetings when kids are 3 to 12 years old.

Kids will want to come to the meetings when they have a turn to run the meetings, there’s a snack, and family fun. Fun is like a magnet for kids, and long-term family glue.

You can do it. Family meetings reap huge rewards forever. They are worth the time and effort. See my tip sheet on how to get started and read about them in my book “Raising Able.”

5 positive parenting resolutions for 2012

January 2, 2012
Act Don't Yak from "Dr. Sam Goldstein" is a fundamental principle for happy families. If you have a behavior problem with your toddler, preschooler, school age, tween , teen, teenager or adolescent, acting not yakking is a positive parenting resolution for 2012. You can do it. start with baby steps.
Act Don’t Yak is an easy-to-follow 2012 resolution.

NOTE: Join us at a Positive Parenting Seminar, “Act Don’t Yak” on Monday Jan. 9, 2012, 7-9 pm in Littleton. Click here for info.

“It’s so hard to make new habits,” parents say in my parenting seminars and private practice. It’s true — ANY new habit is challenging to establish and maintain.

Think of a habit as a groove on a record — yes, an old-fashioned LP. When you are stuck in a groove, the record keeps getting deeper as it replays itself. Parents sound like a broken record when they threaten, punish, praise, reward and spank. These negative parenting practices do NOT develop long-term good decision making, and they erode a parent-child relationship.

Take the lead from your kids and start with small steps. Rotate practicing one of the habits each week for three months. Write them out on index cards or 8 x 11 sheets as in the photo at left, and post them on your bathroom mirror as a reminder. They are deceptive simple, extremely effective and will bring results for tots-to-teens.

1. Have regular family meetings to connect, communicate, share the load of housework, empower children, and practice mutual respect. Set the goal of having them weekly, every-other-week or monthly. They create the foundation for everything you want your family and child to be.

2. Act don’t yak [Dr. Sam Goldstein]. This one habit can transform your family communication from horrendous to harmonious. Stop threatening, yelling and repeating. Say it ONCE and then take action. This applies to kids of all ages. Otherwise kids tune parents out and become mother-dear and father-deaf.

3. Be kind, firm and consistent. No one is perfect in this department. However, you can learn new language. “I’m sorry Brittany. I know you’d like to me to give you money to buy that XYZ. Remember at the family meeting we agreed that you would use your allowance to buy such things? I’m sure you can save up for it.”

4. Learn the art of encouragement, also known as constructive praise. GIVE UP using “I’m so proud of you,” which creates external motivation and can only be used after success. Start saying, “Well done! How do you feel about it?” “Look at what you did. Tell me about it.” Encouragement can be given after failure. Ask, “What did you learn?” “What would you differently next time?” Give them courage to try again and cultivate intrinsitic motivation.

5. Use natural and logical consequences that follow the three Rs-   Related, Reasonable and Respectful [Dr. Jane Nelsen]. Otherwise your kids will resort to the negative three Rs– Resentment, Rebellion and Revenge. These get uglier and more dangerous as children mature into teens and have more freedom.

See free tip sheets on encouragement, natural and logical consequences and family meetings, or order the book for reinforcement.

These positive parenting practices are built on a foundation of mutual respect — where everyone has rights and responsibilities and is treated with dignity. Mistakes are looked upon as opportunities to grow and learn NOT as reasons to punish. Accomplishments, pride and new skills belong to a young person — NOT to parents.

You can do it. Start small. Encourage yourself by noticing progress. Any progress is improvement. Comments always welcomed.