Thursday, May 12, 2016

I am sometimes surprised and shocked by what teens and young adults believe they are entitled to have.  From cell phones to cars to college degrees there are a lot of kids who have grown up thinking that the world owes them something.  It has become a big shock to a lot of them when they realize that the world, in fact, owes them nothing and they will have to work for it like the rest of us.  Or their poor parents who raised them will have them living and mooching off of them until they are 30.
How do we raise kids who work hard, have character and integrity, and who do not feel they are entitled? 

The problem starts in early childhood with a parenting style that sets no limits.  Kids need limits on things that are not good for them, tv, internet, junk food, and much more.  When parents refuse to set limits in early childhood, older kids become even more demanding and things become much more expensive.

When you give in to giving your child a cell phone at 12 years old because everyone else has one, you are giving your child the idea that they deserve one.  If you really want your child to have a phone, which I think is a mistake before high school for many reasons, at least make them earn it. 
Our oldest 6 kids have all had to earn straight A’s for a full year before they can get one.  A lot of my friends think I am over the top mean.  However, all 6 of them have achieved it.  So, it seems to me that if you want something bad enough you will really work for it.  And that is the key.  The lesson is in working for something that you want or it means nothing to you.

If you want to raise kids who are hard-working, responsible adults, then start requiring that in early childhood.

Have your child earn privileges.  You can have them do chores to earn money for things they want or to earn time on video games or tv.  If they want a car, make them get a job.  

The number of kids who have wrecked the free car they got for doing nothing is significantly higher than the kids who worked 3 years to earn the money for one.   If your child is working his way through college, you can be sure he won’t fail a class because it is his own money he will waste.

We all want our kids to have better lives than us and to be happy.  But, giving them everything they want does not achieve that.  We only wind up with young adults who see themselves as victims and who are dependent on us.

Let’s raise a generation of responsible, accountable, hardworking, happy people who feel the joy in life because what they have, they earned!

Stop the fighting

There is little that is more annoying than your children fighting with one another.  We end up yelling and fighting with them as well just to try and get them to stop.  How can we diffuse fighting without losing our cool?

One effective approach for dealing with fighting children is to use the energy drain method. 
When the fighting begins, first speak with empathy saying, “Oh boy, you guys must be really tired or really frustrated to be fighting with one another like this.   I am so tired myself now that you guys have drained all my energy.”

At this point, calmly let them know that they need to lie down and rest for a little while so you can have some quiet.  When they are able to come back out, follow up and have them do something to give you your energy back.  Some things that give me energy are having kids mop my floors, clean a bathroom, pay me some of their allowance, etc. 

Don’t explain your decision to them; let them figure it out how they got that consequence.  The important thing with love and logic is not to waste your time with meaningless words.  Calmly and simply state what is going to happen and most importantly, follow through!

Empty threats and lectures do not teach children, but calm consequence does!

Cleaning up toys.

Around preschool age 4-5 is when picking up a child’s own toys moves from a community project to your child’s responsibility.  I teach preschool so I spend my days playing with kids and then cleaning up with them.  I have some very good clean uppers and some not so good clean uppers.

Invariably, when I ask a child who is less than enthusiastic about cleaning up, who cleans up his toys at home, he tells me his mom does.  Well, there you go.

If you are tired of toys lying all over the bedroom or worse your living room, here is an effective way to get your child to learn to clean up after himself.

Simply say to your child that there are a lot of toys on the floor.  Would he like to clean them up or would he like you to clean them up.  When he answers that he thinks you should, say “The advantage of you picking them up is that you get to keep them.  If I pick them up, I am going to keep them.  I will let you think on it for a minute.  If by lunchtime it is all still out, I will know your decision.”

The thing with love and logic is that you have to give choices you are willing to live with yourself.  If you don’t follow through with keeping his toys, then all you did was waste your breath and your child learned nothing.  Be sure that you can stick to your word.  And then let him feel the consequence.   If you want him to earn things back then the next time say “If you pick up all your toys today, you will earn back one that you lost yesterday.”

We want to put the problem on the child.  When their problem becomes our problem, we are not teaching responsibility.

Raising responsible kids.

As a teacher and a mom of a large family, I am often asked how to teach kids to be responsible.  I talk to many parents who are frustrated with their child's lack of skill in keeping track of things, remembering homework, and being accountable for their actions.  I think the most important aspect to look at first is what ways are you inadvertently contributing to your child's irresponsibility.   Too often we want our child to succeed and so we rescue them from learning opportunities.  

For instance, you know your child forgot his school project or his football cleats and he is going to suffer the consequences from his teacher or coach.  We don't want our child to get in trouble so we rescue them.  We run back and forth delivering forgotten items and making sure that our child doesn't fail. We call teachers to fix grades, we call coaches and complain about lack of playing time, we complain about unfairness when our child is not choosing for a team or group.  

This last week our school hosted a traveling theatre group and held auditions.  I had one child get a part and one child who didn't.  Whose fault was that?  I heard that many parents were complaining about the unfairness of it.  Who said anything in life was going to be fair.  

I know for a fact that my child learned more from not getting a part than from getting one.  She was probably goofing around and being silly.  

How would it have benefitted her or taught her anything about if I had gone to the director or school and complained?  Instead she learned that maybe she was the reason and it was her own actions that led to the consequence. 

She also learned at 10 years old that life isn't fair and you don't always get what you want.  It is a lot less painful at 10 than it will be at 19 when they are at college and you aren't there to rescue them or help them deal with feelings.

How are they to learn to be responsible if we constantly take the responsibility for them?  How are they to learn about life if we don't let them experience it?

Parents who try to ensure their child's success by rescuing them often end up with irresponsible kids. 

Responsibility has to be taught, and sometimes it is a little painful.  For example, your child forgets his practice uniform or his homework and he is not allowed to play in the game that week or receives a lower grade.  

Here is a significant learning opportunity for your child; you forget your stuff, you suffer the consequence.  

If you bring it to them, all you have taught is that you are responsible for your child's things.  It is not fun to watch your child struggle or suffer a consequence but so much better to experience consequences for actions when they pay out is relatively small.  

If you raise an irresponsible child who is not accountable for his own actions, the size of the consequence increases.  It is so much easier on parent and child to teach accountability when they are young.

Let your child learn about navigating friendships, school, teams, commitment and responsibility at a young age.  Don't rescue them from natural consequences of their actions.  Consult them on how they could have avoided suffering that consequence, but don't take away the consequence!

They learn so much from doing things themselves than they do with you stepping in a fixing things and making decisions for them.  When they are teens the cost of not learning these lessons earlier goes up significantly.  Now they are driving your car, dating someone else's child, making decisions about alcohol and drugs.  

Ensure that they are good decision makers by giving them practice as younger children.  

Let's raise responsible kids who succeed!

How to get kids to do chores

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Chores are one of the best learning experiences for our kids.  Kids who do chores feel like they are contributing to the success of the family and they learn to take care of things and to be accountable.  When children are young they love to do chores.  They want to help us do dishes and sweep floors and wash windows but as they grow, their love of chores diminishes and then the fight begins.  How can we enforce chores and avoid a battle over them every day?

Love and logic is all about gaining control through choices.  The fine line is letting kids have control on our terms.  We set the limits with our kids but they choose how to operate within those limits.  This gives children a sense of responsibility and independence as well as letting them practice their decision making skills.

Choices also allow us to avoid unnecessary battles over control.  

My favorite choice is allowing a child to pay me for chores they are unwilling to do.  I always give a time-frame by which chores must be done so then my child has the choice to do it now, do it later or pay me to do it for them (with either money or consequence).

When my oldest son was in high school, he had the choice to mop the floors anytime before Sunday.  He could do it now, do it Sunday night or I could turn his phone off.  Every week would find him mopping my floors at 11:30 pm....but, my floors were done.  When he chose not to, I did not speak of it, I just logged into t-mobile and shut off his service for the week.  The consequences spoke for themselves.  No battle, no fight.  He chose his own path.

Is your child's room perpetually a mess no matter how much you nag?  Attach a choice to that.  He can do it now, do it before the appointed time or he can pay you $5.00 to do it for him.  Another tactic is to attach it to something he places value on, for instance, when he wants to do something say "sure as soon as your room is clean to my standards."  And then be quiet.  Chores will miraculously be done. 

Making bedtime easy.

Bedtime is one of those things that causes parents the most stress.  It is evening, you have had a long day at work or a long day with young children, you just want your little darlings to climb in to bed and go to sleep.  Instead you get tears, requests for snacks and drinks, bathroom visits, complaining, children coming out of their bedrooms endlessly for an hour or two every night.

Most of us would love a couple of hours of peace and quiet and then uninterrupted sleep for 7 hours but when kids are fighting with you about sleep for the two hours before they actually do go to sleep, there goes all your quiet and downtime.

So, how do we get children to go to bed and stop bothering and coming out of their rooms?

Bedtime is all about control.  Who holds it and who wants it.  Children just want some control and sleep is one of the areas that they can control.  But, parents also want control and mostly, they want quiet.

So, first we are going to give our child a small piece of control.  Which bedtime do they want?  8:00 or 8:30?  They get to choose.  Next, they get to choose whether they sleep or not.  We just do not want to see or hear them.  They can sleep on the floor, they can play all night, as long as they do not disturb our sleep.

When your little sweetheart is a grouch the next day, the grouchiness gets the consequence.

He will be grumpy if he chose poorly about whether to sleep or not the night before.  When he does act grumpy, let him know that he will have to spend time in his room because his grumpiness is a problem for you.  Maybe a quick talk about how lack of sleep makes us grumpy and the lesson will start to become clear to him.

With smaller children, I set up a chair in the hallway so I can quietly and quickly send a child immediately back to bed.  The less you talk, the better it works.

Kids are smart.  Give them a choice you can live with and then let the consequences of that choice do the work for you.

5 Ways to Find Balance

Sunday, November 22, 2015

5 Ways to Find Balance

There are times when your life gets completely nuts and you just can't get it together.  Too much going on, too many commitments, little emergencies, illness, etc., can all make you feel like you are in survival mode all the time and just reacting to things as they are thrown to you.  Here are 5 ways to get your life back in balance!

1)  Spend some quiet time alone with your thoughts.  Even if you can't leave your house, close your door and just spend some time writing down your thoughts or just thinking without distraction.

2)  Make a list of your priorities.  You can't do it all.  Many of us suffer for the disease to please and we say yes to everything that is asked of us.  Is there too much on your plate?  Are you doing things that are not a priority to you?  Write it down.

3)  Cut it out.  If something is at the bottom of your priority list, but you are spending time doing it to the detriment of something at the top, then it needs to go.  Do not feel guilty about this.  Cut out the things that are causing stress and not adding to your quality of life.

4)  Get healthy.  Are you out of shape?  Are you overweight?  These things contribute to the unbalanced feeling you have.  Your health is a priority.  Better food means more energy.  Less weight means you feel better.  Get fit, get strong and feel better about your life.  Make yourself a priority!

5)  Family matters.  Move your spouse to the top of your priority list.  Put your children next.  Spend time together.  Family dinners have an enormous impact in children's future happiness and achievement.  Turn off phones, tvs, computers and spend quality time reading, hiking, playing games, cooking, laughing.  

If you do these 5 things, you will gain more time in your day to do the things you actually want to do and enjoy doing.  Move yourself and your relationships to the top of your priority list, your life will start moving to a more balanced state.  Cut out all activities that are not adding value to your life and start doing the things you really want or need to do.  It is craziness to continue doing an activity that we dread every week and that takes time away from meaningful pursuits.  Your children will still be successful if you take a season off of traveling soccer.  I promise.   Stop rushing from one thing to the next and instead have time to peacefully do the things you really want to do!  This is your only life, you owe it to yourself to at least enjoy it!
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