Shame: coping with the emotional roller coaster ride that can be high school

This blog was inspired by this week’s New York Magazine cover article, “High School is a Sadistic Institution” (January 28, 2013).”

Shame is an all-too familiar by-product of the high school experience. The self-conscious emotions of guilt, embarrassment, and insecurity can transcend the high school experience and stay with a person throughout their life.


Unfortunately, our minds in high school contain the most vivid and longest-lasting memories, according to Brené Brown, PhD, and a professor of research at University of Houston. Says Brown, “…And this incredibly painful feeling that you’re not lovable or worthy of belonging? You’re navigating that feeling every day in high school.”

So, how does a parent help their child navigate the high school experience? If your child is encountering rejection, torment at the hands of a bully, or difficulty making friends, it is important to remind them you suffered through the same experiences and survived.

Empathy and listening skills are your key tools to help your child during this chapter of their life.

Be careful to keep your own feelings under control. In the article, Brown remarks how many parents of teenagers experience “secondary trauma.” According to Brown, a child’s experience with rejection can evoke familiar and painful memories for a parent.

You’re kids might just end up being way cooler than you ever were in high school…

nerd is cool



‘Chore Monster’ rocks!! You have to check this out…

This iPhone app came to my attention while listening to Bloomberg Radio, of all things!

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I had been mulling over today’s ‘Art of War’ inspired battle strategy with the kids, when I heard a segment about this app that helps you get your kids to help out around the house.

In the past, I had tried many of my own hastily concocted systems to get the kids to do basic chores and to help out around the house.  All of them were futile.  I had spent  hours putting together spreadsheets with title like “complete these items and get a star;  five stars equals one dollar.”  Out of desperation, I even tried a much different approach with, “You do [this] bad thing and you get a red ‘X.’  Five red X’s means you owe me five dollars…”

Pathetic, really.

But, someone with a lot of time and creativity has finely honed a more engaging and entertaining system of tracking chores and doling out rewards.   I think the concept works so well because of its simplicity, fun graphics, and its transparency.

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To begin, I prioritized the chores that were most important to us.  Picking up ‘stuff’ around the house was a top priority.  Books, clothes, toys and various electronic devices had taken over our floors and kitchen counters.

The key in assigning chores is to keep it short and simple, in my opinion.  We tried to keep the list from being overwhelming.  In a stroke of genius (if I can say that about myself), I assigned the largest allocation of points to a bedtime of 9pm.  Walking the dog once per day, 5 points.  Picking up clothes and dirty underwear off of the bathroom floor, 10 points.

You can set frequency, due dates, and make special notes for each chore.  If a given chores exceeds the due date, the icon becomes enveloped in bright flames.  When your child submits a chore as completed, you have control to verify and approve the taks’s completion.

Now the key part: REWARDS.  We wanted to be creative with the rewards to keep our children  enthusiastic.  It was also important to fairly allocates enough points to a given chore so that our kids could reap the benefits.  When you accept the chore as completed, your kids get a very satisfying “good job done” graphic on their end.  Then, the child is prompted to select from the available awards.

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We offered up 30 minutes of ‘screen time’ (Xbox -ughh, TV, computer games,etc) for 25 points.  The beauty here is that you can control how many ‘screen-time’ awards are available.


Other reward offerings include ice cream, sleep-overs, and choosing the family movie of the week.  If you give this app a test run, you will see that the goal-oriented enthusiasm is contagious.

To really make it a race to the top, we set a bonus of $20 for 500 points in a given week.  Not quite a bribe, this goal-oriented economic incentive has made all the difference in the world for us.

We now give fewer ultimatums, engage in less browbeating, and have more time to relax…with the kids!

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The only drawback: your entire family needs to be in possession of Apple-based devices.  Which, quite frankly, means your kids are already spoiled and in need of some serious chore-doing anyway.  An Android version is coming soon.  But, you will not get the immediate, real-time point accumulation and resultant reward endorphin rush unless your kids have iPhones or iTouches.


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.



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…





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.


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.



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.


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.

“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…”


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…


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.


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.


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.