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.

 

 

 

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

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?”

 

 

Hey porky! The new kids of America…

The following article gives good insight on how today’s food conglomerates mirror the addictive additive techniques and shameless youth-targeted advertising of the infamous tobacco industry: The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.  

Because a picture is worth “a thousand words…”

fat kid 1 fat kid 2 fat kid 3 fat kids 4

Please be offended unless you’re raising your kids to be Sumo Wrestlers…

kid sumo

What ever happened to boys like the Beavers…

thin beavers

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.  

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.

loser

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!

CM logo

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.

cm 2

 

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.

cm 3

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!

cm 4

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.

250px-Skaters_showing_newtons_third_law.svg (1)

 

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.

sun-tzu-the-art-of-war

 

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…

paris-hilton-reading-the-art-of-war-by-sun-tzu

 

 

 

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.

shocked_expression_858531_45466427

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.

 

 

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.

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.

beuller

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.