Some parents need to “parent up”

Like any decent post, this diatribe will likely resonate with some parents and anger others.  I feel compelled to point out that a whole new generation of “push-over” parents are raising a new generation of brats with an over-the-top sense of entitlement.  There seems to be an emerging trend of parents who want to be friends with their kids.  I want to have a good relationship with my kids, but one has to draw the line at some point.

Parents know that parenting can often be a real drag.  Continually displining your kids and setting boundaries can be exhausting and unpleasant.  But, as discussed in other posts, I think kids need and want boundaries no matter how much they protest.  Obviously, parents have to pick battles selectively.  However, what happens when parents don’t pick battles at all?

Obnoxious brats.

kid-yelling-at-mom-e1311649360391 shutterstock_103529144__1376054441_74.134.205.46 zzsnotty1

 

This becomes an issue for other parents because 1) it can rub off on your own kids if they spend enough time with these darlings, and 2) it makes social situations with multiple families unpleasant and awkward.  Who wants to listen to another parent’s kid argue, berate, or entirely ignore that parent?

We need to find a happy middle ground between Dr. Spock (the pediatrician, not the  pointy-eared guy) and our own parents’ old-school tough parenting.

 

Image Problems for Girls Introduced At A Very Young Age (Great YouTube Video At The End)

Another factoid from the Girls Leadership Institute: Girls are exposed to hundreds of images a day suggesting what they should look like.  These images are impossible to filter out, and girls are inundated by them from every form of media out there (TV, magazines, commercials, toy stores, etc.).

Here are some disturbing examples, and then a list of some tom-boy and girl power movies/shows to watch together to remind girls they don’t have to look perfect or, worse, like a bimbo…

640px-Bratz-bratz-dolls-23272890-1352-803 113609_max 428093_390701994292259_1418724410_n liv-dolls-300x300 monsterhigh-300x286

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, for some good wholesome suggestions for your girl to remind her that she doesn’t have to be: really skinny, show lots of leg, have lips the size of balloons, wear lots of make up, and have a “come-hither” expression on her face at all times.

  1. Bad News Bears: Jodie Foster kicks butt.
  2. Harry Potter Books & Movies: Hermoine Granger shows girls can be smart and non-conforming to beauty stereotypes.
  3. Malala: MalalaYousafzai’s story is inspirational and focused on the inner person.
  4. Hunger Games: Books more than movies, because Katniss comes off more as a tomboy in the books.

And, check out this incredible video from a would-be beauty queen who choses to be her natural, pretty self.

America the Sexy: A look at beauty standards

 

 

 

Can Kids Be Self-Sufficient These Days?!?

We justify doing a LOT for our kids during the school year.  After all, they have more homework than we ever had.  Kids also participate in a wide range of time-sucking activities.

But, we are in the dog days of summer now.  I find myself questioning whether my ‘tween and ‘teen could manage on their own for a couple of days.  I fear the house would be littered with half-eaten and rotting food.  I can’t imagine the milk being put back in the fridge.

To highlight my concerns, we recently asked our kids to clean their shared bathroom.  We keep the door closed because the view is too similar to a restroom in Grand Central Station.

To our surprise, there were no less than eight empty bottles of shampoo and conditioner in the bath tub.  At least ten depleted toilet paper rolls littered the floor.  Two empty tubes of toothpaste were stuck to the sink.

I’m continually asked for lunch options when the answer is in the fridge.  They can’t seem to be able to find anything in the kitchen or their rooms.  My kids also ask me what to wear in the morning.  They both have iPhones and have the same weather app I use.

The effort to look for anything themselves is too taxing.  These are the same kids that will spend furtive hours searching for game apps or popular YouTube videos.

to do list

I believe the answer to fostering some semblance of self-sufficiency with kids begins with refusal.  Refusal to help look for food, clothing, and misplaced items in ALL circumstances.  This means, at times, they will be late for camp or a playdate.  They will plead with tears of frustration in their eyes.

Life’s most valuable lessons are learned by making mistakes and facing the consequences.  The drama factor alone can propel any parent to just do it themselves.  It’s tempting to go with the path of least resistance in many situations when our children (feign) helplessness.

I have to continually remind myself of the quote, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

 

 

 

Play-date? Anyone? Gotta get my kids out of the house… #parenting #mrmom #summer

The inevitable summer doldrums are setting in.  Kids look forward to summer with much anticipation, only to realize how boring life can be outside of the carefully structured school-year.

After all, kids get to see their friends, play at the park, and eat lunch together during school.  Now, friends are at summer camps, on vacation, or at their parent’s beach houses.  That is, the lucky ones…

How does a parent keep their children entertained, especially when they themselves are busy throughout the day?

Nowadays, it seems that kids will not spontaneously wander around the neighborhood looking for a pick-up game or for other equally bored kids to play with.  In fact, the entertainment default seems to be powering up the Xbox or going off to a remote corner of the house with an iPad or iPhone in hand.

We have some relief now that our kids’ summer camps are starting at the end of the month.  Whatever your situation, here are some ideas I’ve put into play during the limbo..

  • Make a schedule for each day: I like starting the day out with homework and some light chores.  If they knock that part out, then they’re free for the rest of the day.  This is particularly helpful when trying to keep kids on top of their summer homework.
  • Set a fixed routine for the start of the day and bedtime: Kids have a way of pushing the envelope at bedtime and sleeping in as late as possible.  They can do that in college…
  • Arrange play-dates days or weeks in advance: If you can put up with screaming kids running around your house, nothing beats the doldrums like have some pals over.
  • Sleep-overs: Same as above.  But, sleep-overs come a major downside – late nights for both adults and kids, and cranky kids the next day.  So, I keep these to a minimum – say, once or twice a week.  And, I usually make it an award for doing the bigger chores/projects.
  • Big chores/projects: Kids can never be too young to learn some hard work and responsibility.  The chores have to be age-appropriate, of course.  Since the concept of what is age appropriate varies and can be a subject of intense debate, I would recommend both mom & dad are on board with the projects (I had to learn this the hard way…).  Some examples – shredding stacks of bills/bank statements, basic landscaping, throwing out 25 unused items cluttering the basement or their bedrooms, grocery shopping, etc.
  • Ice Cream breaks: I try to do this pretty much as often as possible, particularly when the kids complete a respectable amount of chores and/or homework on a given day.
  • Day-trips: When the week is getting painfully monotonous, a day trip to the beach, hiking trail, movies, or the dreaded theme park can provide a welcome reprieve from incessant complaining.  If such trips are put on the schedule at the beginning of the week, you are providing an incentive to get kids cracking on the homework and chores earlier in the week.

This is all basic and obvious stuff.  But, somehow putting it all on paper as a schedule seems to have struck a positive chord with my kids.  Without some kind of structure, I think  kids morph into malcontent blobs.

bored kid

 

 

Doll-faced girls teetering in 8-inch wedges; watch out!!

After attending a couple of  high school graduations this Spring, I’ve now had time to reflect on the popular style sported by many girls.  And, I have to ask the question – what were their parents thinking?

I’m sure we all remember the crushing angst of high school and the burning desire to ‘fit in.’  Fashions change over the year.  Girls will always want to wear an obscene amount of make-up.  I saw girls with enough mascara to even make Ozzy Osbourne feel out-done.

But, the most alarming fashion item this year, aside from the preponderance of skin tight dresses barely covering little bottoms, were the ‘platform wedges.’

wedges

These things don’t look like they were designed for walking.  I was on the edge of my seat as I watched girls precariously strutting up to the podium to receive their diplomas.  An apt analogy would be watching NASCAR – you don’t want to see a horrible wreck, but it seems as if one is always on the verge of happening.

So it goes for the teenager with little to no practice walking in high heels.  Yet, it seemed some girls were really trying to out-do each other with the height of their wedges.  I was reminded of the band KISS strutting out in crazy platform boots from outer space.

As parents, we just want our kids to be happy.  We want them to fit in.  Maybe, by the time they’re ready to graduate from high school, we’re just sick and tired of trying to talk sense into them.  Of course, falling flat on your face during a graduation ceremony would be much more traumatic than wearing flats to your graduation and after-parties.

Yes, as I guy, I had it easy – and still do.  Dress shoes with a blazer and khakis is the perennial favorite (thank goodness!).  But, I have a daughter.  As such, I have a vested interest in spotting fashion trends.

However, there were plenty of confident, self-assured and height-challenged girls wearing flats or something with heels 2 inches or less.  They looked lovely – in many ways much more so than the girls trying to be fashionable.  It gave me hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ‘real’ importance of educational growth in this new Age

A quote from Tony Wagner, an educational specialist at Harvard, sums it up perfectly…

“Today, because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic .”

What if we could turn back the clock on intrusive technology?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a huge fan of tech.  Maybe I’m too much of a fan…

old phoneBut, there are times when you want your kids to be in the ‘now.’  You want them to pay attention, listen, and interact with you.

Dinnertime is traditionally the sacred time where no interruptions are tolerated.  Why do I often have to spy the phone concealed under the table while my kids try to covertly text their friends?

“Dad, it’s so unfair,” my kids say.  “All of my friends are allowed to have their phones at dinner.”  Yeah, and monkeys can fly.  I’m sure parents out there have heard similar accusations that “you” are the only parent setting limits.

Theoretically, we could take the cordless phones, smart phones, cell phones, tablets, etc. and lock them in a closet.  We actually have an old land-line phone in the basement for emergencies (i.e. power outages).  It’s the only reason why we haven’t jettisoned the home phone – a growing trend with younger generations who don’t see the purpose of a land-line phone (or have never seen one!).

Imagine only having a land-line phone in the house.  No voicemail or caller ID.  How would your kids deal with this situation?  I think my kids would go through the common stages of mourning – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and more anger.  I don’t think they’d ever reach the stage of acceptance.

How could they?  We can’t go back in tech-time, nor do we want to go back.  But, our senses are continually assaulted by text chimes, ringing phones, flashing icons, and devices vibrating incessantly.

The point of the exercise would be meaningless.  We would hope our kids realize that it’s OK to let that one text message wait until the end of dinner let that one call go into voicemail.

Until we adults can overcome these urges, how we can’t expect our kids to do the same? Good luck with that…

 

Try this…”If you don’t do your chores, than I don’t make your lunch for school, sweetie.”

thumbnail of children doing chores-thumb-200x200-72896Kid’s are wonderful, and we love them.  However, kids can be self-centered monsters.  This is actually normal.  It’s just where their minds are developmentally.

Keeping the attitude in check AND getting kids to do what they’re told are two entirely different matters, however.  As parents, it’s amazing how much we do for our kids on a daily basis.  And, most of our efforts go unnoticed or can be taken for granted.  That’s just how things work, and we’re o.k. with it because we love our children.

But, when the clutter in the bedroom gets to be knee-high, the dishes aren’t put away after meals, and you start finding dirty socks in every corner of the house, it’s time to get serious…

Try harmless retaliation through delgation of certain tasks.  For example, tell your kids they have to get up early and make their own lunch for school.  Remind your children why you are withholding this service:

You help me, and I’ll help you…

So, your kid wants or needs new sneakers?  But, they haven’t taken out the garbage or cleaned their room in over a week?  Make a list of neglected chores that require attention, and the sneaker shopping will happen when the list is completed.

I’m amazed at how much time I’ve spent asking my children to perform certain basic tasks (repeatedly).  The time and energy spent making sure these tasks get done inevitably drives me to complete them myself.

We have so many weapons in our arsenal; play dates, transportation, lunch preparation, etc.  Why not simply use this as leverage?

Going deep here…Book recommendation

Obviously, we have a lot of influence on our kids.  Man, I’ve acted like a jerk sometimes.  But, consistently acting as a functional role model is all that matters…

A boy observes how his dad resolves conflicts, cooperates, and works as a partner in marriage and family, in the community, and at work.  In all arenas of his life, a father’s actions speak more loudly than his words, and a boy is listening carefully to both.  If a father can be emotionally honest, candid, thoughtful, and flexible in his responses, then a son’s respect will follow.  A man who idealizes his strengths and accomplishments distances himself from the reality his son inhabits – a world of more varied emotions and experience.

Ok, a bit long-winded.  But, I really like the message.

raising cain2

 

“You need to wear a helmet!”…”but none of the other kids do,” says my son. What the what?!

skateboarder

This is Shaun White, by the way.  He gets paid to be a lunatic, and even HE wears a helmet.

All of the tween/teen boys in the neighborhood are officially skateboard lemmings.  They ride their boards everywhere.  They try do out-do each other with fancy tricks.  One kid wears homemade gloves with steel spikes so he can make sparks as he cruises.

Leave it to the moms to introduce some safety into the equation.  All of the moms made a pact to enforce helmet-wearing while skateboarding.  Moms acting together are a powerful force and not to be trifled with…

When my wife informed my son he had to wear a helmet, he quickly replied that none of his friends did.  Of course, she was armed with several examples of (a few) kids in our neighborhood who actually wear helmets.

His reply, “You’ve always told me not to do what other kids are doing.”  Priceless…

And, yes, he is now wearing a helmet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOOs8MaR1YM

Does the word “sorry” have any meaning with kids?

sorry

I had asked my daughter to clean her room the other day.  The instructions were simple – put dirty clothes in the hamper (not on the floor), and put away the piles of clean, folded laundry that had been stacking up throughout the week.

About an half-hour later, I walk into her room and it’s still a mess.  I locate my daughter and ask, “what the what?”  “Sorry,” she says.  I lead her back to her room.

Again, an half-hour later, no daughter in her room and only a slightly smaller mess.  “Sorry,” she says again when I find her in the kitchen.  I tell her not to use the word sorry unless she means it.  “Sorry,” she says…this time with a hint of annoyance and sarcasm…

“Why do I have to empty the garbage?!” my son asks…

I’m stepping up the chore delegation, and this is the response I received.  When I explained that someone has to do it, I was told that I’m more than capable!

Well, so are you my children.  “But, I have homework, after-school activities and ‘stuff’…”

When I went through the litany of ‘stuff’ I do for them, I almost won them over.  Allowance did the rest, of course.

Signs of smart phone addiction (kids and adults)

Drum roll, please…

letterman

10.  A full battery charge barely lasts the day.

My kids have ingeniously procured these nifty battery pack/cases.  They are a protective case and double the battery life.  Pretty cool, right?  Not when you find them under the covers at 1am still ‘gaming.’

9.  You download apps just for the fun of it.

My kids easily have over 200 apps, and counting.  Unfortunately, I think the latest roll-out of Apple’s iOS (with folder function) theoretically allows the user to downloand something like 2,800+ apps.  Why?  Because they say it’s fun to download them.

8.  You actually use more than 10 apps on a regular basis.

Some apps are necessary and useful (contacts, calendar, online banking, maps, etc.)  Other apps have become a part of our lives (Facebook, Twitter, Kindle, iTunes, etc.).  Do you really need and use all of the apps you have?  My kids literally have more than 10 different game versions (apps) of ‘Tomb Raider.’

7.  Realizing you forgot to bring your phone with is a panic-inducing.

On a recent trip to do some day-hiking, my son left is iPhone at home.  Close to tears, he wanted us to turn the car around when we were almost at our destination (about 30 minutes drive).  When she forgets her iTouch, my daughter has been known to just stare at my son’s iPhone while he plays it.

6.  You’re on your smart phone even when hanging out with friends.

When my kids hang out with your friends, say at the park or at the house, I’ve noticed times when everyone is on their smart phone.  Sometimes they can play the same game online – the “virtual play date.”

5.  You take your phone to the bathroom.

My kids’ bathroom visits have lengthened considerably since they started taking their devices in with them.

4.  You “dress up” your smart phone.

Simply put, you own more than one smart phone case and change them regularly just to mix things up.

3. You feel the need to respond immediately.

When that chime goes off or the phone rings, my kids immediately rush for their phones.  When this behavior interrupted dinner, I initiated the basket rule (they need permission to take out their devices).

 2. You feel restless and/or bored when your phone is not in your hands.

If you experience intense curiosity or even anxiety when you can’t check your texts, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever, you are hooked.

And, the number one reason you know your kid (or you) are a smart phone addict –

1. You are oblivious to where you are and who you are with.

When I had to start repeating everything 3 or 4 times, I knew distraction-prone smart phones had to go.  When I noticed my kids (and myself) unintentionally ignoring or neglecting family members and friends, I realized we all had a problem…

 

inspiration for signs of addiction from: Huff Post article by Carolyn Gregoire, iMore.com, allgrownup.com (all of these signs were aimed at adults…until now)

Good quote from the writer on allgrownup.com  “Is what I’m looking at my phone for more important than what I’m choosing to look away from?”

 

 

Anybody know a good rehab center for child iPhone addiciton?!

In any elevator or line at Starbucks, almost every adult is in the smartphone prayer position; head tilted down, elbows bent at a 90 degree angle, reverently holding their smartphone talisman.

people-using-their-smartphones

We were out to dinner as a family Saturday night, and the young couple sitting next to us spent the majority of their dining experience on their iPhones.  I was turning to my wife to attempt a witty comment, when I noticed my own kids were bent over their iPhones and iTouch, madly swiping away with manic concentration.

That’s when it hit me – my kids were i-Addicts…We all know of the epidemic, and we are complacently allowing our children to get hooked.

Children using smartphones

drI thought my solution to the problem was straight-forward.  I put a basket on the kitchen counter and told the kids that, from now on, all devices go in the basket.   I told my kids they need permission from a parent to take a device out of the basket.

An onslaught of tears, outright insubordination, and claims of unconstitutional parenting ensued.  A family meeting (intervention) did not help the situation.  Their reaction is likely not dissimilar from taking drugs away from an addict…almost.

I looked up a couple of articles that deal with smart phone addiction.  Interestingly, I also exhibit many signs of an smart phone addict.  I guess the first step in solving the problem is leading by example.

In a follow-up post, the symptoms of an iPhone, Crackberry, or Android addict will be summarized.  Just watch where you’re driving…my posts aren’t that important.

drive text

 

 

 

The decandent, chinese-food eating wonder twins are back…

Moms and dads, do not try this at home…please…
chinese food kidsA previous post about poor eating habits we pass along to our children showed the wonder twins relaxing in between courses, if you recall…

fat kids 4 This has been a public service announcement brought to you by your local Chinese food restaurant.

“All of the other kids in my class have an iPhone…And, lots have iPads, too.”

Morning roll call…Get their keisters in gear

If you haven’t already, try some of these ideas for the morning routine:

Be the secondary alarm clock.

I figure the average kid will take at least 30 minutes from the time their alarm goes off to the time they actually get their feet firmly planted on the floor. I also figure it takes an average kid about an hour to get ready. So, in total, I budget 90 minutes before they absolutely have to be out the door to make school on time.

After the alarm goes off, I first tell the kids somewhat gently that it’s time to get up. Because they will go back to sleep as soon as I walk out the door, I come back in 15 minutes, turn up the lights and do my best drill sergeant impersonation to get them fully awake. I won’t leave the room until they actually get out of bed.

drill sergeant

“I am Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, your senior drill instructor. From now on you will speak only when spoken to, and the first and last words out of your filthy sewers will be “Sir”. Do you maggots understand that?”

Sometimes, I have to repeat that part of the process more than once!

Do not allow your kids to eat breakfast before they get dressed.

Some parents may already do this as a rule, but often there is so much whining and complaining in the morning that kids are given time to ‘wake up,’ get some breakfast and watch TV to get them to shut their traps.  But, they will soon learn to get dressed quickly if they are hungry.

Since I cut out TV in the morning, my kids litterally get ready in about half the time.

My kids turn into TV zombies and watch life insurance commercials with the same vigor as an episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants…

The pay-off/reward incentive.

It’s simple. The quicker they get ready, the more time they will have before they go to school.  I let them do whatever they want as long as they are 100% ready to go.  

Tell your kids to get ‘pumped,’ not ‘stumped.’ Why some kids flip out while others can handle stress…

Some useful take-aways from a really longgg article in the New York Times titled “Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart?” If you want to read the whole thing: NYT article on kid stress

How ‘elite’ athletes view stress/pressure: “There are many psychological and physiological reasons that long-term stress is harmful, but the science of elite performance has drawn a different conclusion about short-term stress. Studies that compare professionals with amateur competitors — whether concert pianists, male rugby or female volleyball players — show that professionals feel just as much anxiety as amateurs. The difference is in how they interpret their anxiety. The amateurs view it as detrimental, while the professionals tend to view stress as energizing. It gets them to focus.”

Also, about 65% of students who were told anxiety/stress would actually make them perform better on the test did better than those who hadn’t been introduced to this notion. This reinforces the idea that how stress is viewed (positively or negatively) is key to performance.

The doctor conducting this studying is quoted as saying, “When people say, ‘I’m stressed out,’ it means, ‘I’m not doing well.’ It doesn’t mean, ‘I’m excited.”

Tell your kids to get ‘pumped,’ not ‘stumped.’

 

Who really manages the household when both parents work?!?

In this post-recession period (if it’s really over), money is tight, job security is a thing of the past, and both men and women are working longer hours.  What hasn’t changed?  In dual-income families, women still perform a disproportionate amount of child-raising and household tasks regardless of which spouse works longer hours or has a higher income.

overworked mom2

That’s not to say fathers don’t contribute.  But, the mother will typically take the lead when it comes to arranging play dates, signing up for activities, managing babysitters and nannies, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, and the list goes on…

Changing years of traditional gender-specific parenting roles is not easy.  However, dads are participating in child-raising duties more than at any other stage of our evolution.  The age of coming home, kicking back, and catching up on the news is a thing of the past…

lazy dad

Many dads cook, clean the kitchen, and even (shudder) fold laundry.  Dads read bedtime stories and tuck the kids in for the night.  But, when it comes to meeting with teachers, organizing activities, and working out car pool logistics, moms usually still take the lead.

But, now this is all changing with the emergence of competent & confident stay-at-home dads.  Kid of sucks for the traditional couch potato.

To be continued…