Sunday, June 29, 2014

Prepare or Protect? (Summer Homework for Parents)

Let's face it, if we could make childhood, adolescence, and those dreaded teenage years absolute bliss for our kids, we would.  Free from harm, hurt, and harassment.  Full of joy, surrounded by friends, and academic success.  However, this is not the way the life works.  Working in the field of education, I have come across many families who work hard to make the world their children live in pretty amazing.  They have written some excellent (and not so excellent) research papers for their children, made some healthy lunches for them daily, picked out what to wear for them each and every day, ensured that they would never be placed in the same class with the rumored school 'bully', and always fought to be placed in the class with the teacher that they knew was a 'better fit' for their child.

But what happens when those children reach an adult age and aren't protected by his/her parents anymore?Are skills in place for good decision making?  When life gets difficult, will he or she be able to cope?  I do believe that we have a large population of overprotected young adults that are not prepared, and this is why we have an increase in violence with young adults.  Independence, responsibility, and learning to handle the circumstances that we are given (at all ages) prepares children for the future.  It's ok for your child to have to make his lunch everyday beginning at a young age.  It's ok for your child to have to do her own homework, and then get the grade earned, even it it is a C.  It's ok for your child to have the teacher that is rumored to be challenging...there is a lot to be learned and overcome when presented with challenges.  When we are faced with challenges, we learn to get through them, and there is a great feeling of pride and accomplishment when we have.  Let's start this early with our kids.

I challenge parents to do some summer homework and reflect on some general practices.  Are you preparing or overprotecting?  What can you do to get them even more ready for college and beyond?

I've included a very short article from Time Magazine below, it may help with your homework.  Check it out.

Time Article

Keep it simple...but do your homework!  ♥D

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

World Cup of Parenting

The competition has started.  US vs. Germany.  Maybe you love soccer.  Maybe you haven't watched a day of it in your life until this week.  Whatever it is...the competition and thrill of the game extends around the globe for the sport this month and it's exciting!  I started out rooting for team Italy and my daughter was team Spain, and we're always a team USA household.  We're slowly getting knocked out of this year's cup.  

Do you sometimes feel that way as a parent?  Do you wake up as team Family United and within minutes turn into Family Divided?  It certainly doesn't take much for that sweet morning to take a turn.  A look the wrong way, a busy bathroom, an unclean shirt, overdue name it.  What is important to remember is that family is not a competition.  Struggles within a family should not be competitive.  There is no 'winner', between parent and child.  So try not to win, but know that your children will.  

If you must, you can redefine what winning looks like.  I would view family 'winning' as making sure that my children can function as responsible, independent adults, who can make good choices for themselves.

So, when a field battle is about to begin over what to wear to school, curfew times, eating the 'green stuff on the plate'...try to decide if that struggle is worth it. Give them alternatives.  I have Italy or the US.  Let your child pick something from the closet and you pick something.  Offer 2 curfew choices (they will pick the later one, of course).  Give 2 or 3 healthy food choices before cooking, and involve them in the process.  Or you can say, you have to eat the you want them on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday?  And...use common sense, kids do not need to have a choice in everything.  You are the parent, BE the parent.

We, as adults like to have choices.  Kids do too.  Empower them, let them feel important.  But remember, you are the coach, manager, and owner.  ;)

Keep it simple...Now Is Our Time (see Team USA below)  ♥D

Friday, June 20, 2014

Stalking Your Teens...You Should Only Have To Do It Once (that they know about)

As the summer continues to roll on, I'm sure the fun is just starting for your teenagers.  I'm certain that I drive my own crazy with the questions I ask.  This does not bother me.  Every nutty question I ask them is, (1) for their safety, and (2) for my sanity.  It may be selfish of me to request a bit of sanity, but we have been through a lot, and after all this time together, an attempt at sanity while they are out driving cars and possibly engaging in even more risky behaviors is the least they can do for me. can you let them know that you are still in charge for just a couple of more years, until they reach that precious age of adulthood?

Let them know you mean business when you ask those questions.  Where are you going?  Who are you with?  I find the most important one is...what's the address of where you will be?  I love the text messaging capability now because there's no excuse for lack of communication.  I always have them 'text me the address' of their destination.  Now, think back...were you always where you said you'd be?  This is where parenting teens can get fun, a little scary, and creative!

Get in your car, load that address into the GPS and go!  What if they are not there?  Get creative (make sure you have gas), and think like your teen...go where you think he/she is.  Do not warn them, or text them yet...just drive around and look for their car (really, when have you had a night out and an adventure like this lately, anyway)?  When you find the car, and I hope you do, I suggest the following:

FASES (Face Saving Exit Strategies) for your teen:

1.  Park your car and stay in it.
2.  Text your teen and ask...'where are you again'...this will give them one more chance at the truth.
3.  If he/she tells you the truth.  Go home.  Adventure over.  ;)
4.  If he/she is dishonest...I recommend a gentle text that says...'I am parked outside.  You have 3 minutes to get out of that house and into my car.  I do not care what you say to your friends.  But you have 3 minutes.  Good luck'.
5.  Do not let them drive the car home from that house...leave it there for the night. Or, if you have a helper/spouse/co-parent...have them drive the other vehicle home.
6.  Always remain calm.
7.  If your children think you will check on them and follow-through...they will be where they say they are going.  You should only have to stalk them once.

I'm sure you will offer consequences for dishonesty.  If you don't this will likely repeat.  As my children got older and began to work, I started to 'fine' them.  Hitting them in the wallet seemed to work.  No one likes that.  The money went right back into feeding them anyway.  ;)

Remember Home Improvement?  Here's a cute episode about raising teens...I enjoyed re-watching it.
Keep it simple...consistent, and follow-through!  ♥D

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Breakfast

I sit and type this Sunday morning thinking about Father's Day was the last one I spent with my dad.  It was a gorgeous Sunday, similar to what today looks to be, and he really enjoyed the day with my two young children (they were 4 and 3).  He ran around outside squirting them with squirt guns and played in the kiddie pool.  It really was a great day.  As we pulled away from the house to head home, I knew that was my last father's day with him.  I'm pretty sure he did too, that's why he made the most of it.

What is important to take away from that day is that it wasn't stressful.  It was simple, spontaneous fun yet I can vividly remember most moments from that precious day.  It was full of play and joy.  Had my kids been a bit older, I'm sure they would remember the day as I do.  So I ask you, what are you doing today?

I was also thinking about the children who are missing that person in their life with the label of father/dad/daddy.  Try to keep today positive.  Let children honor mom again.  Celebrate grandpa, an uncle, or cousin who may act as an adult male role model in your child's life.  If your children are lucky, they are surrounded by positive influences shaping them into their future selves.  Let the children celebrate them in some way.  This will help them realize that they do have people in their lives that really care.

Enjoy today. Keep it simple...and check out this video of some things dads can't do.  Who knew?  ♥D

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Angels Among Athletes...Sideline Parent Support or Not?

My daughter's high school soccer journey ended last night with a team banquet.  I'm quiet on the sidelines, but I chose the elegant banquet setting to finally shout out loud my 'soccer mom' sentiments.  I am always proud of her, but I chose that setting for a few reasons.

1.  I was overwhelmed with pride in her accomplishments.
2.  She could hear me.
3.  She wasn't playing, and I wouldn't effect her game.

She heard me (as did everyone else), she made eye contact, and smiled.

Do you have an athlete?  A dancer?  Are you a stage parent?  What kind of sideline support are you?  I watch kids on the field, rink, and court (all 3 of my children are amazing athletes) and I will see a child look to the side for approval, coaching advice, or maybe just to see if anyone is watching.  I often hear a variety of choice words from parents for players, coaches, and referees.  Are you supporting the efforts of the team and/or coach with your actions?  Think about the following:

1.  Children want to do their best usually.  I'm sure they are in most moments.  A coach once said to me...they (children) do not wake up and say "I want to go on the field, and play horrible and really disappoint my parents and coach today".  I'm sure that is true.  I have a hunch coaches and referees want to limit their negative encounters with parents as well.

2.  Imagine if you had a mirror in front of your face during a game.  How would it look? Pleasant?  Overly critical?  Crazy competitive?  I hope it is simply full of joy.

3.  Let your child play the game that is his/her game.  Not the one that YOU played or wish you had played.

4.  Let your child play the game that his/her coach wants to play.  Even if you disagree with the coach.  Demonstrate respect for differing opinions.

5.  Cheer.  Be positive.  And allow for your child to hear directions from his/her coach/teacher/leader.  So much side line commentary can be confusing.

6.  Children are  hard enough on themselves when a performance lacks.  Offer support by asking questions, when ready.  "I see you are upset about today's game.  Can I help?"  This will give them  an opportunity to open up a discussion about their game.

Let them play.  Such a key word there.  PLAY.  Here's a link to the Positive Coaching Alliance with some wonderful tools for parents.  Make sports fun not only for your children, but for you as well!  And...if you get caught by 'that' parent...pick up your chair and move. :)

Positive Coaching Alliance - Tools for Parents

Keep it and enjoy the game!  ♥D

Friday, June 6, 2014

If You're Given A Few Months...Or Even Ten Minutes

Not too long ago I was given what I now call a gift of a few months to do with what I wanted.  I didn't take full advantage of that time.  I spent much of it worrying, stressed, and yes, eating (oh no!). They say hindsight is 20/20.  That is certainly true.  If I had that time back, I would had made some different choices. 

Sometimes, it's just out of our control.

Worry is natural, but try not to let it overwhelm.  Many times life just doesn't make any sense.  There is an excellent quote from Corrie ten Boom that she has in Clippings From My Notebook..."Worry does not empty tomorrow of it's sorrow, it empties today of its strength."  Worry does not make us stronger and is not the example we want to set for our children.  We want them to be strong and resilient, yet empathetic.  It is okay to share with them that today is a hard day for mom/dad (building on their empathy) but that we are going to be alright.  Give them an example they can relate to such as, 'remember the day you took that tough math test and worried about it?  I'm having that kind of day, but all is well now that you're home!'  Then move on with your children to something fun.  You do not want to burden them with your worry.  Kids are very intuitive.  Here's 5 ideas I recommend when given the gift of time:

1.  Exercise...with your kids!
2.  Open the recipe book and learn to cook something new (and healthy!)
3.  Read more books for yourself and with your children...what are they reading?
4.  Play 'old fashioned' games...Monopoly, Sorry!, Rummy, War, Old Maid, Go Fish 
     with them.
5.  You may find yourself cleaning up the house a little more...don't get upset if your 
     family comes home and 'lives' in it.  Let them continue to enjoy their home.  They
     have enough rules to follow at school and work.

Finally, I've included a video from the adorable Kid President.  He made it for moms.  I'd like to add that this is for dads too!  We need both of you.  Kids need both of you.  Keep it simple not worry about the things we cannot control.  ♥D

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dear Principal, One last thing, before we break for summer...I've heard that teacher really doesn't like kids...

As the school year winds down, many of you should be getting ready to head off to the joys of summer.  I know that the teachers are!  The countdown began about mid-April.  Unfortunately for some, instead of relaxing, anxiety for the new school year has already started.  How many of you have requested a meeting with your child's current teacher and/or school administration to "suggest" or come right out and ask for a specific teacher?

Why did you do it?  Was it because of a previous experience with your other children?  Or was it because of (and please don't say it is so) rumors from the mill (ie, school parking lot) that the teacher doesn't really like the kids? Or is a terrible teacher? Whatever your reason is I ask you to consider the following philosophy that will be discussed here often:

"Prepare your child for the road, not the road for your child"

We learn from all experiences.  Most teachers are not in this field if they do not like children.  Schools and districts are held accountable to a set of standards that must be met.  They want quality teachers.  It is unfair to pre-judge anyone, in any circumstance.  And yes, every now and again, there is a teacher that needs development and work.  That is the true in every field.  But remember, they are professionals in their field.  They are degreed.  They have to continually update their certifications to keep them current. Continually.  There are usually protocols in place for conversations when and if concerns come up.  A structured classroom is not indicative of an uncaring, unkind classroom.  That is a room where kids know what to expect.  

I absolutely encourage you to meet the teacher, ask good questions and directly address rumors with the administration.  They have probably heard them.   Hopefully your mind can be put at ease. 

I challenge you to give 'that' teacher a chance.  You just might be pleasantly surprised.  If you have concerns after the school year begins, then follow the protocols in place for effective, cooperative communication.

See below for a little comic relief.  :)  Keep it simple...have faith in your school!  ♥D

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Red 'Oh-No' Cup...For Prom & Graduation Season

You can't stop the inevitable.   Especially at this time of year.   Prom season. Grad parties.  Pool parties.  Bonfires.  Your teenager will undoubtedly be invited to these and will be begging to go.  They have been waiting for summer freedom to arrive.

Red Solo Cup... this is your favorite time of year too!  As parents,  we are terrified of any photo with our children holding you close in hand.   But they may be put there.  Twittered.   Snapchatted.   Instagrammed.   You may think that ignorance is truly bliss.   But when it comes to your teen drinking,  knowledge is life saving.

Look at this Buzzfeed article and the images other countries have of American parties...

So how can we realistically help our kids?   I truly believe we have to offer our kids FASES (FAce Saving Exit Strategies).  I will offer these often,  for every age and many situations.   We all want to get out of challenging situation with grace, especially teenagers.  Here are my thoughts:

  1. Have them say, NO-I don't drink.  However, think back, how often did YOU do this?  Were you successful?
  2. Have them offer a medical excuse, "I'm taking medicine for an illness right now and cannot have alcohol".   Nope, it is not ok to lie...but if they find they are not strong enough to just say no, allow this one.
  3. Tell them to fill up the cup, but DO NOT DRINK from it.  Pour it out slowly.  Dump it in the sink. Pretend to drink, and then just don't!  Go to the bathroom and rid of the drink.  However, if a party is broken up with law enforcement, it is never a good idea to have the cup in hand anyway.
  4. Have them exit the situation.  Call you.  Text you.  Make it ok for them to get a hold of you for a rescue and then blame you for the exit.  It's ok for you to be the bad guy, if they stay safe, and remain in good standing with their peer group.

FASES are critical for all ages, even adults.  Do you have any to share for this issue?  Please do.

Finally, if you've got a little song in your you go (and this is Glee's version because this is what our kids are watching).  Keep it simple...everyday!  ♥D