What does parenting have in common with Newton’s Laws of Motion and Tzu’s “The Art of War”

In a recent post, we discussed a key principle of Newton’s 3rd law of motion which can be applied to how we approach our children.

Newton’s third law: “When a first body exerts a force F1 on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force F2 = −F1 on the first body. This means that F1 and F2 are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.” Your kids can certainly exert force enough to match your biggest push.

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So how do we discipline our children, teach them life lessons, and try to get them to do stuff around the house? Strategy. And, this is why a review of some battle tactics outlined in the “Art of War” can be very helpful. Basically, we want to get our kids to do homework, chores, etc. while not overtly exerting our will (F1), because our kids (F2) will resist in equal measure.

Please allow for some liberal interpretation…

Tzu said, “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame.”  We need to make sure our kids really understand what they must do and how they must do it.

“He who relies solely on warlike measures shall be exterminated; he who relies solely on peaceful measures shall perish.”  A couple of themes come to mind here.  ‘All bark-no bite,’ and ‘all carrot-no stick,’ for example.  As parents, we can not go ballistic on all transgressions, both big and small.  The intended effect will become diluted.  Also, threats and aggressive tone without promise of reward will increasingly become futile over time.

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In a way, I think Tzu was so effective because he was flexible in his strategy.  “…when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believer we are near.”

I am not advocating waging mental warfare on our children, and I am not implying that our kids are the enemy.  However, the results we want can be obtained by playing our ‘hand’ differently than predicted.  In fact, the mere fact that we can be unpredictable will give an advantage in procuring desired results.

“Feign disorder, and crush [him].”  Well, we don’t want to crush anybody.  We just want teeth brushed, clothes picked up, back-packs packed, homework done on time, dinner plates cleared, etc.

In my opinion, the key to successful behavior modification lies in the risk-reward trade-off.  As Tzu aptly observed hundreds of years ago, “Rewards are necessary in order to make the soldiers see the advantage of beating the enemy…”  For them, the enemy is chores, homework, going to bed at a reasonable hour, and (of course) constantly being told what to do by general mom or dad…

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Let it flow and let it go when dealing with your kids…count to 10 or go punch a hole in the wall

I have read and reread “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and It’s All Small Stuff) by Dr. Wayne Dyer several times.  It is a nonsensical, zen-like approach to dealing with stress.

In “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” Dr. Dyer spends a lot of time trying to instruct the reader how to put things into perspective. Some of my favorite concepts from the book are the following:

“We overreact, blow things out of proportion, hold on too tightly, and focus on the negative aspects of life.” This raises an interesting question for parents. Do we spend more time praising or admonishing your children?

“When you don’t sweat the small stuff, your life won’t be perfect, but you will learn to accept what life has to offer with far less resistance.” Over time, taking a less-overbearing approach with our children will not only reduce friction, but we may find your kids surprising less inert when it comes to behaving in a manner that is more to our liking.

Our kids are always going to misbehave, disappoint, and do things that will meet with our disapproval. It is the way in which we respond to our children that will effect the outcome.

not like this guy...

not like this guy…

When taking the angry-scary parental approach, we exhaust ourselves, upset our children, and create a negative environment in the household. We are better off counting to ten and choosing what we say very carefully in a steady, no-nonsense tone.

I sometimes just stare at my kids for a couple of seconds. This can be much more disturbing to them. After all, they usually know they’ve done something wrong, and they are waiting to see how we will react.

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Now, I’m not into mind games or mental warfare with my children. The take-away is not what you say. Rather, it is how you react to your child’s latest transgression. As parents, we must pick our battles carefully, or we dull the effect on our children the next time around.

 

 

Happy New Year! Have a rebuttle from the kids…resolutions they’d like to see their dad make…

1. Stop telling us to do stuff

2. Get a job

3. Relax

4. Don’t make us do homework

5. Install flat screen TV’s in our bedrooms.

Best wishes to everyone for the New Year

New Years resolutions I’d like my kids to make

1. I won’t leave my clothes scattered on the floor throughout the house.

2. I will put my dirty clothes in the hamper and put my clean clothes where they belong (ie. I won’t leave them in the laundry basket until you do it).

3. I will clear my place after meals without being asked.

4. I will turn off any electronic device (TV, iPhone, I touch, computer, Xbox, Weii, etc) when YOU TELL ME THE FIRST TIME.

5. I will not wait until the last minute to start my homework.

OK, I know I’m dreaming.. But, there’s always next year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

The importance of routine

As the crazy schedule of the holidays come to an end, we are ready to back to “normal.” Chances are your kids have been up late at night and cranky during the day.

Many people will complain that their kids are unruly and do not want to go to bed on time. Their bedtime “routine” involves telling their kids to go to bed. It then escalates into screaming at their kids to go to bed to threatening their kids with punishment if they do not go to bed.

The entire “go to bed” issue can be avoided if the parents simply set a bedtime routine. Milk and cookies. A bedtime story and being tucked in. Every night. The children know what to expect and actually end up looking forward to bedtime. This gives children an added sense of security, something that they really need in their lives.

We adults need to ease back into our routines as well. The return to work and school will bring back harmony to our lives, no matter how reluctant we are to go back.

“Chore Wars” I’m reposting this link as it’s directly related to my last post…

http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=111458

“Mental health day” for you child

I borrowed this idea from another mom in our school.  My daughter is soooo stressed-out about the homework load, she actually worked herself into getting physically sick last night (sour stomach, headache, and emotional fireworks, etc.).

Ironically, two years ago our school played the movie “Road to Nowhere” for all the students to watch.  The school then had a separate showing for the parents followed by a Q&A.

If you have not checked out Road to Nowhere, it’s a fantastic movie about the increasingly pressure-cooker environment in which we are raising our kids.  Heavy homework loads and after-school activities almost every night make it difficult for kids to just be “kids.”

Down-time = creativity.  Time for social interaction and varied activities are crucial for well-rounded and well-adjusted kids.

Putting kid’s in a pressure-cooker enviornment to “prepare” them for matriculation into a ‘top’ high school or ‘top’ college may backfire.

Anyone reading my posts knows I’m not into pampering kids.  But, we all have to remember they are kids.  They should be allowed the opportunity to find themselves and slowly prepare for the ‘real’ world.

Sometimes, we all need to stop and think about what’s really important…a child’s happiness and healthy development846-02796994.

Getting off the soap box now…

Yours truly, mistermomblog

 

Why women are generally more thoughtful (but not necessarily better) parents than men…

It was a miserable, cold, and drizzly morning, and my daughter had a field trip into New York City. Despite having told her to wear a rain jacket and/or bring an umbrella, she cruised out of the house in her typical wardrobe; Uggs, sweat pants and a fleece hoodie.

When my wife figured this out, she tried to guilt me into rushing to school with my daughter’s rain gear before the field trip.

I had just settled into my home office with a hot cup of coffee. I was all set to cruise job sites and make some networking calls. I thought to myself, “If she’s wet, cold and miserable, she will learn her lesson.  She won’t forget to bring her raincoat next time…”

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One learns life’s most important lessons through making mistakes, right? I think that’s just a more common philosophy among men.  And, a useful one at that. The thought goes; if you pamper your kids, they will never learn how to cope with life’s curve-balls…

As I sat at my desk, I couldn’t get my mind off of my wife’s text, “please bring her coat to school…”

I finally gave in and brought her rain gear to school.  After all, I really don’t want my daughter to be wet, cold and miserable.

What happened to my manhood?  Next time she forgets, she’s on her own.  Until then…

 

The Top 5 Reasons Why we keep having drooling infants that crap on themselves, and do it again…

#5…They’re cute.

#4…They give purpose and meaning to life.

#3…When you and your spouse are out on the town because you have a babysitter, you really appreciate that dinner-and-a-movie night so much more!!

#2…We want to share our moments (good and bad) with those most special and dear to uys…And, it’s hard to top your own kids in that department.

And, the #1 reason (as cited my palliative nurse Bonnie Ware in her book “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying”**),

#1…We don’t want to end up wishing we had spent more time with our kids when we get old. Depressing, but also uplifting (in a way) .

Sadly, Steve Jobs said the same thing. Also, Steve said one of the main reasons he commissioned his biography for now-adult children; so that they could to get to ‘know’ him better…:((

Just another reason why you should leave your fast-paced, lucrative career to hang with the kids!!

**Bonnie’s book was kind of cool; will share an expert in another post…

 

Who knew washing dishes and folding laundering could be so therapeutic??

Just kidding…I just tossed a heap of clothes (clean) in my kids’ bedroom, and I haven’t seen the bottom of our kitchen sink for 4 days now. I think there’s something swimming around with the dirty dishes.

Hey, all of you caregivers without the means to keep domestic help to do all this stuff: how do you keep your sanity???

I’ve heard answers ranging from pinot noir to a six-pack of pabst blue ribbon. I figure there’s got to be some other outlet besides imbibing.

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The “DO IT NOW” Syndrome…

When you ask your child to do something (“clear your plate, brush your teeth, take out the garbage”), chance are these tasks will not get done unless you make them stop what they’re doing and get to it immediately.

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This is probability one of the most frustrating aspects of parenting for me, and I think a lot of other parents would agree.

Although it seems like an obvious point, do not under-estimate your kid’s stubbornness and your own fatigue-factor. It’s taken me a while to figure out the simple notion –  “stop, drop, and do what I’m asking right now…

We’ve all been worn down over time, and it certainly seems easier to do things yourself and avoid the constant show-down. Heck, after doing it for 10 years like my wife did, I would probably be a doormat by now. Sometimes, getting your kids to do simple tasks like clearing their plate after dinner becomes an exercise in self-induced torture.

Even if your kid has good intentions, they will inevitably forget to do whatever it was that you told them to do 5 minutes ago.

Just remember one word…NOW.

Yikes! A segment on the “Today Show” really hit close to home…

Yes, I’m ashamed to say I was watching the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hora the other day. But, there was a really good segment about the rampant sense of entitlement our kids have today.  Check it out…

Stop the Entitlement Train

The Today Show segment, “Stop The Entitlement Train,” raised lot’s of issues, but the main point is that many parents try to promote too much praise for what can be very small achievements. Of course we strive to help our kid’s develop good self-esteem and confidence. However, when parents do this artificially, the result is over-confidence, unrealistic expectations, and, in some cases, a ‘sense’ of entitlement.

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In essence, some kids may not know how to fail. Challenges and failures are crucial life experiences that teach persistence and courage to try again.

This dovetails with my prior post about chores. In my opinion, to help our children be well-rounded and have the tools to be successful in life, we may have to give a nudge to push a little harder and step back and let our kids try to succeed on their own, install a bit of responsibility and self-reliance along the way.

 

Our kids’ need to figure out things for themselves…

How dangerously high does your blood pressure get in the morning when you’re trying to rush the kids and yourself out the door to be somewhere on time?

It’s a familiar scene; the kids can’t find a pair of socks, underwear, a clean shirt, etc. You find yourself expending a lot of energy badgering them through the routine; brush your teeth, get dressed, get off the floor, find a hair brush, get your own #$#@! bowl of cereal.

I’ve read that kids need boundaries set my their parents, even though they resist your will with every ounce of strength they have. I have a slightly different take on the matter; your kids want you to badger them so they have an opportunity to argue, complain and whine. They want you to know you are not the absolute boss of them.

I think I’ve found a solution. If you disappear towards the end of the morning rush nonsense, your kids won’t know what to do with themselves. They are lost without the adult-imposed boundaries, and they will actually get ready on their own (really!).

I stumbled on this solution quite by accident. I got caught up reading my email in the bathroom while on the throne. I must have lost track of time, because both of my kids were pounding on the door. They were asking me what they should do to get ready!! As if they didn’t know…

Left to themselves, your kids will get their books and papers in the backpack, put on clothes, eat something, and make it out the door.

Chores: why do a lot of parents withhold this instructive ‘right of passage’ from their children?!?

Before Dr. Spock, it seems that kids were pretty much beaten into submission (generally speaking). Dr. Spock introduced the radical notion that parents should be more flexible and affectionate with their children.

My dad was a bit of a pre-Dr. Spock father, typically employing ominous threats of severe punishment to get us working around the house. I remember waking up Saturday mornings and racing to the TV to catch Scooby Doo and Justice League (you know, the one with the Wonder Twins and the weird monkey). Well, I’d be greeted by my dad holding a long list of chores for me to do.

Let’s define chores. For the purpose of this discussion, I am not talking about a child clearing his/her ‘place’ after dinner or cleaning his/her bedroom. I am referring to the day-to-day household chores and weekend projects where some help. Emptying the dishwasher, taking out trash, helping to rake leaves; these are the kind of chores I’m talking about.

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As parents in today’s society, we seem to have over-done the Dr. Spock approach. Perhaps some of us are compensating because of a childhood full of grueling chores? However, one must draw a line if you want to have self-sufficient kids instead of spoiled or overly sensitive kids, in my opinion.

Out of both my kids’ classes, only 2 or 3 other parents make their kids do chores?!? I just don’t get it. At the risk of offending parents, why don’t you have your kids do chores?

It seems to be there are about six explanations for this. Like most things in life, it’s probably not just one but a combination of reasons from the list below:

  1. You are too busy to notice your kids are complete free-loaders.
  2. You have a LOT of free time and enjoy picking up after your kids in addition to all of the other stuff you have to do.
  3. You believe it’s a cruel and unusual punishment to make a child do chores
  4. Your child is a nightmare, and the mere thought of trying to make them do chores is both exhausting and dreadful.
  5. You are wealthy, so you have have plenty of domestic help to clean up after your children.

When did it become ‘politically incorrect’ to make your kids do chores?!?

There has been a lot of discussion and debate lately on this subject in articles, blogs, and tweets. Tomorrow, I will endeavor to share some thoughts and anecdotes on raising self-sufficient children.**

**a really excellent book lent to me by a friend. More on that later…

 

 

 

“Back to School” Morning Gospel…continued

Now, on the morning routine, which I think we will all agree is the worst thing since XBox live…

A follow-up from yesterday’s post, we now go through steps 3-6 of the morning routine I have found very helpful:

3. SETTING THE ALARM CLOCK:

I figure the average kid will take at least 30 minutes from the time the alarm goes off to the time they actually get their feet firmly planted on the floor. I also figure it take the average kid about an hour to get ready. This is a surprisingly conservative time estimate given they only have to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush hair & teeth, get their backpacks, and walk out the door.

My kids have to be out the door by 8am (school starts @ 8:30am), so I set their alarm for 6:30am (no snooze). I go in into their bedrooms around 6:45am, and they are still snoring even with music blaring in the background. I shake them a bit and tell them (nicely) that it’s time to get up. About 15 minutes later (7am), I go back into their rooms and more forcefully tell them they have to get up…NOW.

This is a two-step process for me to avoid the inevitable whining, complaining, and confrontation that accompanies a forceful wake-up call the first time. I find they feel a bit guilty and have a greater sense of urgency when I come back a second time.

4. DO NOT ALLOW YOUR KIDS TO EAT BREAKFAST BEFORE THEY ARE DRESSED:

This is asking for trouble, in my opinion. They are going to be slow, cranky, and unfocused in the morning. Why prolong the pain by letting them eat first? I’ve noticed it takes them significantly longer to get ready doing it this way.

5. DO NOT HAVE THE TV ON OR LET THEM TURN IT ON UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES:

Your morning routine might involve watching CNN, The Today Show, etc. while making your kids lunch in the morning. Even if you are watching something that should have no interest for them (like Bloomberg TV), they will still turn into ‘TV zombies.” My kids can’t function with the TV on. It could be a commercial for life insurance and they will watch it in the same zombie-like trance as if it was an episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants…

If putting on Nickelodeon in the morning was part of your morning routine to keep your kids out of your hair, it’s time to break the habit. It will be painful on all of you at first, but you should ultimately experience less stress in the morning. Ironically, a fair amount of friends/parents I know have more trouble letting go of TV in the morning than their kids.

6. THE REWARD INCENTIVE

Because I’ve found that following these steps has actually resulted in my kids being ready early (I’m not making this up), I tell them they can do whatever they want as long as they are out the door by 8am. My daughter loves the Disney Channel, and my son lives to spend every extra waking moment playing computer games (Minecraft in particular). This added incentive has positively reinforced the ‘time efficiency’ in the always-crazy morning routine.

Try it, and let me know. If you are already doing some of this stuff, let me know. If you strongly disagree, let me know.

And, good luck…

 

 

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The Morning Gospel of Child Preparedness

Now that we’re several weeks into school (elementary, middle or high school; doesn’t matter), both you and your kids are probably out of whack. That is to say, the morning routine is hectic, full of stress and shouting, and almost every time something gets left behind (homework, briefcase, lunch box, etc.).

We all have our methods for dealing with this daily crisis of preparedness. To have a smooth process in the morning, the process really needs to start the night before. I have tried to relay some of the essential steps here in The Morning Gospel of Child Preparedness

As always, FEEDBACK is welcome.

  1. PACK SCHOOL BAG THE NIGHT BEFORE: Yes, it’s painful to remind and badger them at first. But, getting your kids in the habit of making sure all homework, text books, and other crap get put in their bags/back-packs helps avoid a lot of mishaps and last-minute scrambling. NOTE: have them put their bags by the front door.
  2. LAY OUT CLOTHES THE NIGHT BEFORE: We have all read or heard about this, but kids can where you down. To address almost certain procrastination and/or whining, make it into a game with a reward. For example, first child who’s done with steps 1. and 2. Or, depending on your parenting style, you can warn of impending punishment for non-compliance.

Steps 3-5 have to do with the morning and will be discussed in the next post…

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Why are women such better shoppers than men?

In this case, I’m referring to grocery shopping. But, the premise transcends to all type of shopping (clothing, jewelry, cars, etc.). Sorry, this might sound a tad sexist…

At first, I thought I was missing crucial DNA; some shopping chromosome passed along only if you’re XX. Than, I realized the simple truth. Shopping is honed by repetition and memorization. Just like homework, tests, or trading, the familiarity derived from doing a task over and over sharpens one’s skills.

At first, shopping seems like a challenge to me. Once mastered to a level of basic competency, however, it becomes a chore like anything else.

For example, put me in any Trader Joe’s, and I can map out exactly what I need. I hit the produce section, and I know exactly where to find broccoli, green beans, apples, and ice-berg lettuce. As I fly by the dairy section, I pick up milk, yogurt and cheese.

Now, put me in an A&P or another ‘super market’ I’m unfamiliar with, and I become completely disoriented and confused. I lose track of what I’m supposed to get when I don’t know where the heck to find it.

After spending a lot of time honing this skill, women are simply better grocery shoppers in my opinion. It’s the caveman in most of us men; the underdeveloped frontal lobe that prevents men from repeating this task to perfection. We just don’t have the concentration and attention span to do it.

So, when a working stiff says they’re putting the food on the table, just remind them that they have no clue were to find it. It is the caregiver, the stay-at-home guardian, that keeps the family well fed.

 

 

Give your kids enough rope to hang themselves..just don’t let them snap their necks.

How dangerously high does your blood pressure get in the morning when you’re trying to rush the kids and yourself out the door to be somewhere on time?

It’s a familiar scene; the kids can’t find a pair of socks, underwear, a clean shirt, etc. You find yourself expending a lot of energy badgering them through the routine; brush your teeth, get dressed, get off the floor, find a hair brush, get your own #$#@! bowl of cereal.

I’ve read that kids need boundaries set my their parents, even though they resist your will with every ounce of strength they have. I have a slightly different take on the matter; your kids want you to badger them so they have an opportunity to argue, complain and whine. They want you to know you are not the absolute boss of them.

I think I’ve found a solution. If you disappear towards the end of the morning rush nonsense, your kids won’t know what to do with themselves. They are lost without the adult-imposed boundaries, and they will actually get ready on their own (really!).

I stumbled on this solution quite by accident. I got caught up reading my email in the bathroom while on the throne. I must have lost track of time, because both of my kids were pounding on the door. They were asking me what they should do to get ready!! As if they didn’t know…

Left to themselves, your kids will get their books and papers in the backpack, put on clothes, eat something, and make it out the door.