Friday, November 15, 2013

The Doctor Comes to the Rescue

A young family has a very big problem.  Their 5, 3 and 1 year old children are very noisy.

Now stop laughing!  The situation is that they live in an upstairs apartment and the downstairs neighbors are complaining loudly and often – to the point where these folks are facing eviction.  And moving at this time is not an option.

The issue is similar to families where Mom or Dad works nights and needs to sleep in the daytime.  Or a family who has a frail relative living with them who requires quiet.

My suggestion requires some firm parental leadership that is conveyed through significant consequences.
This approach is one of John Rosemond’s most famous ideas – “the doctor”.  It will apply to the 3 and 5 year old; the 1 year old is too young.  But when the older kids quiet down, the little one may follow along too.

First of all, try to schedule as much outdoor time as you reasonably can.  Try to give your kids time at the park or in the yard and encourage all the running, jumping and noisy playtime you can.  It is harder as we move into the cold months, but do the absolute best you can.

Now later today at a reasonably calm moment, sit the kids down and have a brief conversation that goes something like this.  “I had a talk with your doctor today about how noisy you are in the house.  He told me that when kids can’t play quietly in the house, it is because they aren’t getting enough sleep.  So from now on, he told me to tell you once each day that playtime in the house needs to be quiet.  If even once you get too noisy, I will know that means you need more sleep.  So you will go to bed directly after supper that night.  I am sorry I didn’t know this before and am glad the doctor gave us some help!”

Be light hearted, be upbeat, be clear and be concise.  No long explanations about the neighbor’s complaints, the terrible worry that would come with eviction, the outrageous behavior of children who don’t obey – this is too much information and is unlikely to motivate your kids.

Change is only going to happen when their standard of living is seriously affected – and early bedtime is a horrible consequence from your kids’ viewpoint!

Now be absolutely consistent about following the doctor’s instructions.  Tell them about quiet play once each day.  Then no reminders, threats or second chances.  If play becomes noisy, just announce that bedtime is right after supper tonight.

A few days of implementing early bedtime should get their attention and help them get the rest they need to play quietly in the house.  Expect some improvement, some worsening, some improvement and then another test or two to see if the rule is still in place.  But stay the course and hang in there.

This approach works because it is objective, calm and authoritative.  It can help a child get over a hump in his life and for this family, a very significant “hump” for all of them.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Frustration in 3 Year Olds!

As in every second of every day, right?  It is simply the nature of a 3 year old. Until now he has been at the absolute center of everyone’s attention – a place he LIKES and believes he is entitled to.  Suddenly he is being gently moved out of that super special circle.  Whether he is off to preschool or day care or there is a new baby in the house or his family is beginning to teach him some rules, life has become confusing. He also knows more about what he wants.  When he wants something, he wants it RIGHT NOW. 

There are plenty of reasons for a 3 year old to be frustrated.  And furthermore, he was not born with any tools for dealing with frustration so his response is often to hit or scream or bite or throw a tantrum.

What is a parent to do???  Well the first thing he should NOT do is try to talk and reason.  A 3 year old is not a little adult, he is a child.  He does not have the understanding or experience or patience to listen to mom and dad’s lessons about being kind, treating others fairly, taking his turn or waiting patiently.  So please, please save your breath.

When your little one acts out; he hits his little brother, he screams at the grocery store, or he fights you about putting his shoes on, understand that his frustration is natural and it is necessary that he experience it.  You cannot always make things better for him and he NEEDS to learn to handle frustration – from this point on there is going to be some frustration in his life, just like for the rest of us!

So frustration is a good and natural thing.

Yup, it is good and natural.

So back to what to do?

 1 – stop talking!!!!!  It is not going to do any good so STOP!

 2 – When he does something like hit, bite, push, grab other’s toys, pick him up immediately, say “NO – we don’t’ hit” and put him in time out.  Time out doesn’t always work but if it does, it is a good first step.

 3 – if time out doesn’t work for your little one you will still need to stop the behavior by removing him.  Later, when he is calm and the incident is over you should levy a big consequence.  Perhaps he won’t get dessert tonight, or a bedtime story or a favorite tv show.  You will calmly say “because you hit your brother this morning, you are not having dessert tonight”.  “Because you refused to put your coat and shoes on this morning, you are going to bed early tonight”.

 4 – be consistent, stay calm and don’t try to solve whatever the problem seems to be.  Mainly because hitting, biting, screaming is wrong – no matter what the reason was.   Accept that these lessons are going to take some time so just keep on doing what you are supposed to do!

When you consistently deal with his acts of frustration, he will begin to learn 2 essential things. First,  better behavior!  But most importantly the more he learns to solve his problems and deal with his frustration  – the happier he will be!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

John Rosemond Coming to Elma Primary School

John Rosemond is speaking at the Elma Primary School on Tues Oct 8th at 7PM. Cost is $10 per person. I plan to be there!  John is a very entertaining speaker and makes it easy to hear his parenting message.

For more info

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fall Workshops

New fall workshops are scheduled as follows:

Basic Principles of Leadership Parenting:Wednesday October 9th; 6:30-8:30 PM; Be Healthy Institute, Hamburg, NY; $20 per person. Contact them at for more information/registration

Parenting Your "Tween": a 2 part series on Thursdays October 17 and 24; 6:30-8:30 PM; Clarence Youth Bureau, 10510 Main St, Clarence, NY; $30 per family (couple or single); I will discuss these important transition years as parents navigate their 11-14 year old's current issues while laying the foundation for the coming teen years based on the Rosemond principles of leadership parenting.  Register at

Parenting Your Teenager: a 2 part series on Thursdays November 7 and 14; 6:30-8:30 PM; Clarence Youth Bureau, 10510 Main St, Clarence, NY; $30 per family (couple or single); I will discuss the 6 "c"s of the teen years (15-17): cash, curfews, cohorts, conflict, consequences and cars based on the Rosemond principles of leadership parenting. Register at

Questions? Give me a call at 634-6232 or email at

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Leadership Parents Handle Misbehavior

Parents ask me for solutions to various behavior problems all the time.  They generally want a quick tool that they can use to immediately, automatically get their child to behave - right now.

I can’t give them that.

Getting your children to choose to behave takes parental leadership.  It is more a state of being than a single action.  Once parents have mastered the state of being, THEN they can implement various tools.  And when parents are practicing leadership parenting effectively, they only need the tools ocassionally!

The quick fixes only work for well-established leadership parents.  Sometimes all you need is a caustic “really?” or “the look” or “you already know the answer to that” or “you are going to your room for the rest of the day”.  But don’t expect any of those to solve major, ongoing misbehavior.

Leadership parents know that they have to be strategic in their parenting.  They know that they are not going to get car misbehavior under control by saying “stop that”.  Nor is their suddenly obnoxious 6 year old going to turn delightful because you take his Kindle away for a night.  Nor is their wildly disobedient child going to turn around because you send him to his room after supper tonight.

The very first thing leadership parents do is ACT LIKE LEADERS.  They talk quietly, assuredly, calmly.  They give directions clearly and concisely.  They don’t give too many directions.  They don’t threaten, bargain or give second chances.

Above all, they don’t talk too much.

One of the most useless actions I see is trying to talk your child into good behavior.  Things like: “oh sweetie, it isn’t nice to hurt your brother, I just know you didn’t mean to hurt him, don’t you want your brother to like you, how would you feel if someone hit you, oh I am so disappointed in you, don’t you want Mommy to be proud of her little man”.  Trust me, your child is not listening to all that AND he is a child so what he does hear will not mean any of the things YOU think it means.

Please, please save your breath!!!!

When you want obedience, give your directions in clear terms.  Whenever possible, predict misbehavior and give your directions BEFORE it happens.  “While we are in the car, you are not to hit or tease your brother.”  If the misbehavior happens, then have a plan on what you will do about it.  (You could stop the car and wait until all misbehavior stops, you could turn around and go home immediately, you could send him to bed immediately after supper).  But above all, don’t explain yourself and don’t talk, talk, talk about the incident.  Call the foul, assess the penalty and move on with life!

Misbehavior handled this way very often begins to decline quickly.  Calm, consistent leadership will tell your child that one way or the other, his parents will respond to misbehavior in ways he doesn’t like. 

It is true that for serious, imbedded and constant misbehavior, leadership parenting alone may not work.  Those are the times we need to develop tools and behavior management plans.  And they will work, but ONLY when put in place by Leadership Parents!

Monday, July 15, 2013

5 Steps to a Defiant Teen

1. They are only young once and you are striving to be the perfect parent, so make sure that your kids have no responsibilities whatsoever.  They after all, did not ask to be born, so you really have no right to give them regular chores.  You decided to live in this house with these kids so be prepared to do 100% of the work that needs doing.

If you should, on rare occasions, ask them to help, for example to bring in the groceries from the car, understand that they might tell you they don’t have time, were just leaving, it isn't their job, or that you should ask their sibling to do it.  Be understanding and gently explain that it is nice to do things for others, but you see this isn't a good time, so maybe they could help another time.

2. Money – they need a lot of it.  Don't ever add up all that you give them in a month’s time.  Just listen to each request and if it is reasonable, give it to them.  They are much too young to learn how to budget.  Besides you do not want to make them feel bad that they are completely dependent on you so just cheerfully, hand over the money requested.  After all, if you can afford it, there is simply no reason to say no.

3. Make sure you are completely, instantly available to them whenever they ask you to be.  When they want a ride, provide it.  When they want a snack, drop everything and make it for them.  When they want to have a friend over, always say “yes” even if you have plans.  Don’t make too many plans with your spouse or other adults for fear they will get in the way of being available to your child when they want you.

4. Entertainment – take an active interest in assuring that your child always has some fun things to do.  Make plans, buy the tickets, and invite other kids to join you.  Enroll them in soccer, music and dance lessons, art classes, theater classes and 6 week summer camps. When nothing special is planned, make sure you suggest activities or offer to play a game with them so they won’t get bored.  It is important to make sure that every waking moment is filled with positive experiences so that they won’t go off and get into trouble.

5. Above all, micromanage them every minute of every day to assure that they are safe.  Call them on their cell phone whenever you haven’t seen them for more than 1 hour.  Do it in the name of building a good relationship with them to show them you are interested in what they are doing and who they are doing it with.  Assume that if you have been out of touch for more than an hour they can be up to no good.

If you laughed and said “no way” to these suggestions, you are in the minority.  Too many parents are doing all of the above without ever realizing they are.  But somewhere between age 13 and 16, they suddenly see their child’s grades slip, undesirable friends and evidence of illegal substances.  It is SO late to deal with at this point (not impossible but really hard).  So if you see yourself in the above, step back, evaluate where your child is headed and make some strategic changes to your parenting style!  In a few more years, your child will thank you!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mommy, I Earned Playtime!!!

Parents are beginning to look for ways to keep children’s behavior under reasonable control over the summer months.  One Mom, who hates coming home to a messy house, came up with a rather clever approach.  She will put up a chart on the wall that lists the basic chores and behaviors she wants.  When the kids comply they will earn stars which can be turned in for favorite outdoor activities.  If there aren't enough stars, they can’t have that activity.

This Mom’s plan has a few things going for it.  She is acting like a leader, telling the kids clearly what she expects and assuming her legitimate authority as the head of the household.  She is not explaining away their misbehavior (because they are tired, because they are bored, because, because, because….).

But I do find a few problems that we should explore. 

Basically, rewards do not work over the long haul (and summer vacation is most definitely the long haul!!!).  What happens on rainy days when they can’t play outside anyway?  Or when they aren't going to be home to play outside (family plans, ball games etc.)?  Or when the named activities are no longer the favorites?  Or when they just plain don’t care about outside play? 

Rewards also imply that there must be something in it for me before a child is required to comply with good behavior.  And surely THAT is not what parents mean!!!!

Also, rewards suggest the parent is willing to negotiate good behavior.  “Well, Jonathan, if that reward isn't what you want, what would make you follow the directions?”  Pretty soon you will be up to ice cream trips, then an amusement park trip, a new bike, an IPod and……. Well you get the picture!!!!

So here is my thought.  I love the list on the wall.  Keep it short and simple!!!  It might include:
·         Make your bed in the morning
·         Pick up toys by 4PM
·         Kitchen clean and neat by 4PM
·         Your babysitter or caregiver reports you have been respectful

But that’s it.  No rewards for good behavior.  Just clear, concise expectations.  You tell them about the chart the night before it goes up by saying: “I am putting up your summer behavior chart tonight and I expect you to succeed every day.  No one is going to nag you or remind you to do these things.  We just expect it.”

The next day the chart goes up. Mom kisses her kids good bye with a cheerful “Have a great day” and no more discussion of expected behavior.

Likely outcomes to this approach include:
·         Improved behavior for a few days and then gradual deterioration
·         No improvement at all
·         Worsening behavior!!

In all instances, when Mom gets home if the expectation hasn't been met, she calmly (totally in charge) announces a significant consequence. “Because you didn't succeed with your chart today, you are losing your scooter and pool time for tomorrow”.  (If it is going to be a rainy day, pick something else!!!) 

That’s it – when your kids have earned the negative consequences a few times, they will begin to realize that their freedom and privileges are all based on the choices THEY make.  While they are learning this you must be calm – no threats, no second chances, no yelling, no “When are you going to start listening to me”, no “I am so angry – I can’t believe you would treat me like this”, etc.

Give them the time they need to learn the new approach.  It really should not take too long.  Expect a little backsliding – because learning takes time and because they will need to test you to see if you still mean it!

And on a good day, there is nothing wrong with taking everyone out for ice cream.  Not as a reward for the good behavior, but just because it is a beautiful summer evening and all is well with the world!!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mom, I Need Money!

Mindy at age 10 is always asking for money.  Her parents listen to each request and finding most of them reasonable, usually give her the cash.  She wants ice cream, dance school t-shirts, pens and pencils for school, a new jacket that is cooler than the one she has, a toy while they are at the toy store, a mall trip with her friend’s family, music for her ipod, a new book……

I asked them how much money they were giving her each month.  Neither one knew but looking somewhat sheepish, predicted it might be about $100.  I asked them to give it some thought, writing down everything they could remember for the last month.  When they returned, they reported it was $210. Wow, $50 a week for 100% discretionary funding.  I know many adults who don’t have that kind of free money.

Mindy does not get an allowance so the only way she can access money is to ask for it.  Her parents know this and assume that as good parents, they should fund all reasonable requests. 

My biggest concern with this approach is that Mindy is not going to have an eternal fountain of cash available to her all her life.  And she is not learning how to cope when that bountiful geyser dries up.  She will have no skills with budgeting or delayed gratification.  How will she decide whether to save for groceries or go to the movies?  What will she do when she doesn't have the rent money? How angry will she be when her entry level salary gives her almost NO discretionary cash? 

Doesn't she deserve better than that?

Allowance isn't just about having money to spend.  It is about learning to be RESPONSIBLE for budgeting it carefully, to be RESOURCEFUL when you want more money than you have and to become gradually INDEPENDENT in money matters so you can be an adult when the time comes.

So here is the magical allowance plan I suggested for Mindy’s parents.  Give her an allowance of $25 per week and let her know that is all the money you are going to give her for discretionary spending.  That cuts her current standard of living in half, but it is STILL more money than a lot of adults have.

Tell her allowance comes at a specific time each week and you will not advance it.

Tell her that sometimes you have to save for things you want and it may take a few weeks to get them.
If she wants more money for a particular purpose, brainstorm with her about how she might get it.  If there is a BIG job at your home that isn't a part of routine home operations (such as painting the fence), you might offer to pay her for it.  Maybe she can ask for the item for her birthday or for Christmas.

As she gets older, I would add more money to the weekly allowance, but I would also add more things that she is responsible for purchasing herself (i.e. school supplies, clothes beyond the basics, school lunches, dues/registrations for any organizations she is in). 

Many parents of 10 year olds are not able to give them $25 each week in allowance and I am not suggesting they should.  For Mindy, we just needed to get her back on track in learning how to handle money.  The dramatic decrease gave her the wakeup call she needed to learn that most things in life are not free.

The point here is to help your child learn to handle money responsibly using whatever amount of allowance you can afford and believe in. 

So….. “Mom, I need money” becomes “Mom, I need a bigger allowance”.  To which you may cheerfully reply, “Yeah, me too!” 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Oh, the Things Parents COULD Say!

If parents could learn to laugh at childish things, most homes would be a lot calmer.  But parents  respond with gravity – as if their child had a PhD in the subject at hand and deserved an academic discussion!

American parents are very good at taking their children seriously – way too seriously.   A Mom recently announced that from now on the children would be doing regular chores (GOOD leadership!).  But one of the kids shot back, dripping with sarcasm; “So what are YOU going to be doing while we do ALL the work.”  Mom lost it, yelled that she does all the cooking and cleaning and shopping and laundry and picking up and chauffeuring, and she is sick and tired of being talked to like this….. kids didn’t listen to one word!

A better response?  “Oh yes while you do the work, I am going to be on the sofa, eating chocolates and watching TV.”  After which, Mom would smile and walk away.

Not every comment deserves a serious answer!

Parents often get caught off guard when their kids throw a zinger. That is one reason why I recommend taking 2 or 3 steps backward and giving yourself a chance to think about what is going on and what your response ought to be.

Here are some useful stock phrases that can either be your final word on a non-negotiable subject or buy you some time to come back with your final answer.
  • ·         Child doesn’t like your direction and is screaming at you.  “Well when I was your age, I probably wouldn’t have liked this either”.
  • ·         Child asks for something to which you say no and she starts begging and hammering with WHY to everything you say.  Good leadership responses are “Because I said so” or “Because I am the grown up”.
  • ·         Child is defiant and refusing to go along with your directions.  “Well, Brian, you make your decisions and I will make mine”.  At a later, calm point you implement a consequence that presents itself and tell him it is because he didn't follow your earlier directions.  This suggestion is hard to do because you are angry at the defiance, but it defuses the moment and you remain completely in charge.
  • ·         Similar statements are “I guess you will just have to paddle your own canoe”; “Well I think I am just going to let you stew in your own juices on this one”; and “Life isn’t always fair”.  After which you must calmly walk away.
  • ·         Child interrupts you whenever he wants something.  A calm “Really?” combined with “THE LOOK” is a great response.
Most of these replies do not resolve the issue.  They just end the discussion and give the child the chance to let your message sink in.  Sometimes that is all they need!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Walk Away - When You Want Your Child to Obey!

Helicopter parents!  Micromanaging parents! Why do they do it?  To keep their kids safe?  To make sure their instructions are followed? To be seen as a good parent?

Probably a lot of reasons.  But it is a habit that is sure to backfire because whatever they achieve in the short run, is often lost in the long run.  Why?  Because micromanaged kids don’t learn how to assume responsibility for themselves!  If you are following and reminding when your child is 5, unless you teach him some independence, you will be still be reminding when he is 16 or 18 or 25!!!!

Besides, most children just don’t like being micromanaged!  While parents think watchful attention is necessary for safety and obedience, kids often rebel and you get the opposite effect.  And even if the kids do obey this time, there is no guarantee they will the next time! 

The Rosemond leadership parent gives instructions once – clearly and concisely.  There are no threats or bribes in the instructions.  The parent, having issued instructions that he expects to be obeyed, simply walks away.  When parents consistently, reliably give direction in this manner, they are definitively more likely to be obeyed.

But if their child chooses to ignore them or misbehave, they don’t obsess over it.  They simply wait for a strategic moment to issue a consequence that will capture their child’s attention.  And the next time a clear instruction is issued, the child’s likelihood of obeying has suddenly increased tenfold!  In the process, he learns responsibility.

Parents tell me they want their children to obey immediately.  If they announce it is time to pick up the toys, they stand there and wait for the child to start.  If their child isn't fast enough, thorough enough or mutters under his breath, the parent pounces on him.  All red faced, he yells “Did you hear me, I mean NOW”  “What is that you are saying?”  “I don’t appreciate that attitude, young lady”.

Yet if the parent had walked away and checked back in 10 or 15 minutes, he would never know how the child went about following the instructions.  If you come back and the job is done, all is as it should be –if he muttered a lot or slammed a few things around; you don’t know it and no worries!

Parents say they encourage self-expression, but they really mean POSITIVE self-expression!  Allow your child the privacy and freedom to deal with his feelings and opinions and don’t let them become a battleground! SOME things, you are surely better off not knowing!

In addition, at some point, you are not going to be able to micromanage – your child will go to a birthday party or as a teenager, will be going out alone with friends.  If your child only obeys when micromanaged, he won’t be able to self-govern and he will not internalize your values.

He must experience the positive and negative aspects of his actions.  Give him a long rope and a lot of leeway – if he messes up, your calm consequences will teach him more than words or hovering attention ever can.  And the lessons will last!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dear Child - Go To Sleep!!!!

After a busy Mother’s Day, 4 year old Jenny was as wound up as she could be.  When 8PM bedtime arrived, Mom did an extra special job of trying to calm her down.  First a warm bath with a few quiet tub toys; then a soothing story and finally hugs and kisses.

But… within 5 minutes the real nighttime routine began.  Jenny appeared and asked for water.  Then 10 minutes later, she was back asking for another hug.  2 minutes later, she announced she was scared of the monster under her bed.  And on and on it went for the next 2 hours.

Now if this was just one night as a result of being overtired, I would suggest Mom and Dad muddle through knowing that this too, shall pass.  But for Jenny, it was the same routine she pulled every night.

Mom and Dad reasoned, pleaded, bribed and threatened.  Eventually Jenny went to sleep every night but not until Mom and Dad went to bed.  They had no adult time for themselves!

So what is wrong with this picture?  4 year old Jenny has Mom and Dad exactly where she wants them – catering to her while she pretty much runs the household.  The problem is Jenny does not belong at the head of the house – that is her parent’s role.  It is not healthy for Jenny and is actually a little scary.  Children feel far more secure when there are reasonable rules that are enforced clearly and consistently.

So assuming Jenny’s parents decide to establish themselves as the center of the family unit around which their children will orbit from now on, how can they solve this bedtime battle?

A simple but powerful strategy is built on one single ribbon! After supper tonight, Mom and Dad tell Jenny that at bedtime, they will tie a ribbon on her bedroom door knob.  If she wants to get up after bedtime, she can bring them the ribbon and they will fill her request happily.  But if she gets up with another request, they won’t fill the request and tomorrow night she will go to bed 1 hour early (or directly after supper).

So as long as she has a ribbon, she can get up.  Not having a ribbon won’t prevent her from getting up, but if she chooses to, the consequence is early bedtime tomorrow.  Parents remain completely calm and in charge with absolutely no yelling, reminders or explanations.

This is a really good time of year to start this particular tool because it severely limits outside play time after supper.  Kids don’t like that limit very much when the weather is getting so nice!

I have seen many young children view this as a game and improvement comes quickly. Most other kids start to improve within a week or so.  Sometimes they backslide a bit to see if the parents really mean it.  But when parents remain calm and in charge, governed solely by the availability of one simple ribbon, the problem is solved!

You can keep the ribbon on the door for months or years – it is easy enough and a powerful reminder of a negative consequence most kids don’t want to have! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Chores and Money Make Strange Bedfellows!

Children and money.  To give or not to give.  If to give, how much?  And what can parents expect in exchange for the money given?

I think this is 2 issues.  Chores should be every family member’s responsibility.  Our family loves us, provides for us, and is the securest place we will likely ever know.  Citizens have responsibility to contribute to the public good and our very first citizenship experience is in our families.

So what can kids contribute?  Chores!!!

Children over age 4 should have regular chores.  The 4 year old can set the table.  The 5 and 6 year old can make their beds and clear the table.  The 7 and 8 year old can do the dishes and clean the bathroom.  The 9 and 10 year old can vacuum and mop the floor.  Whatever you assign, don’t make the mistake of rotating chores among the kids.  First of all, they will blame the other person in the rotation if it doesn’t get done (“I thought it was his turn”).  Secondly, they won’t have the pride of ownership.  If you want to rotate jobs so that everyone learns how the house operates, then do it every 6 months or so.  By regular chores, I don’t mean occasionally setting the table.  I mean it is their responsibility every night – no one else does it (sure family pitches in if someone is sick, but you get the picture).

And how much should you pay them for these chores? 

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.
Chores are THEIR contribution for the privilege of living in their loving, secure and safe family.  It is what they can do to assure that their family continues to be the best it can be for all members.

Allowance is another topic altogether.  Allowance is a key way to learn about money.  How to count it, what its value is, how to save it, how to budget it.  It amazes me that parents expect children to reach age 18 equipped to handle money when they have never done it.  It takes practice, folks!!!!!  When I volunteer in our local 2nd grade, I see many kids who have no idea what a dime, nickel, quarter or half dollar are – they shouldn’t have to learn this in school!  So regular allowance is a necessity!  And as the point is to learn the HUGE life lesson of handling money, it should not be tied to behavior (unless of course, you find your teen using allowance to buy pot, but that is another story!)

Start your kids at about age 5 with a regular allowance.  As they get older, increase it and by age 8 begin to make them cover some of their expenses from it.  As teens, they should have a large enough allowance to cover more and more of their expenses (school supplies, entertainment, clothes) – this will give them experiential learning in budgeting and money management.

I know it is tempting to tie allowance to good behavior.  But there are so many other ways to manage behavior and the money lessons are too important.  You will be SO glad you gave your kids this learning opportunity when at 19 or 20 year they can handle their own money issues!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Kids are Always Late - Part 2

Ouch!  Got some negative comments on my last blog about kids who are always late!  I had suggested teaching them to safely walk to school.  Then if they miss the bus, have them walk even though they might be late. 

Okay, okay; of course I get that some neighborhoods are not walkable and some people live much more than 6 blocks from school!!!! 

But the point of the article was that if you want your kids to choose a different behavior, MAKE THEM AN OFFER THEY CAN’T REFUSE.  If consequences are imposed at school for being late, so be it – don’t bail them out.  If you get notes from school about being late, take away all weekend privileges. If you are calmly consistent about your new rules, most kids will CHOOSE to start being on time instead of CHOOSING the consequences.  If you put the responsibility on their shoulders instead of yours, they will figure out that the solution lies in their hands.

We could discuss why they are late.  Feeling grumpy, didn’t sleep well, tv is more interesting, want to play with their doll, are slow starters….  But whatever it is, the parent probably can’t solve it.  If this is a pattern, then it is time to act.  The bonus is that your kids will become more responsible in the process;  a characteristic they NEED throughout life!

There are a zillion ways to make your point.  Be creative – based on your realities.  But just to help you out!!!  When my daughter was 5, we lived 10 miles from school.  I was not going to teach her to walk 10 miles if she missed the bus! 

But…. She was always late.  I would nag, remind and yell.  Then I would chase the bus with the car to catch it at the next stop!

EVERY morning was chaotic craziness!  So, I asked my day care mom if my daughter could spend the day with her if she missed the bus again.  I then told my daughter she needed to be ready at 8:10AM.  I would no longer remind or yell.  If she missed the bus she would go to her daycare mom’s for the day.

Things improved for a few days but then she started slowing down and soon missed the bus.  We got in the car, but instead of chasing buses we drove to daycare.  Our daycare Mom was great!  She made the day absolutely boring. There were only toddler toys, toddler lunch choices and everyone took naps.  Oh and she charged a quarter for lunch (exact amount of her allowance!)

That was all it took – my daughter never missed the bus again!  For some kids, it will take 3 or 4 times but if you are consistent and very calm this method works.

And yes, I know that this was not a legal absence and the school probably wouldn't approve of my choice.  But I am the parent and a few days of missed kindergarten in exchange for morning peace and a more responsible child was well worth my brief encounter with civil disobedience!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Kids Are Always Late - HELP!

I run most mornings.  Neighborhoods are busy at that hour!!  Last week an elementary age boy flew from his house, jacket flying akimbo, backpack loosely in his grip and yelling “Noooooooooooooo” as he unsuccessfully chased the bus…..

Today I saw his Dad pulling into the driveway in an apparent hurry – slammed the car door and flew into the house.  I can only assume that little guy again missed the bus and Dad picked up the pieces by driving him the 4 blocks to school.

Yesterday, I saw a van zooming into a driveway, and ejecting a girl who ran inside.  Within seconds she emerged, jumped into the van and it flew back the way it came - towards the school 6 blocks away.  I wonder what she forgot!

Morning Drama!!!

So, what did these kids learn about responsibility and solving their own problems?  I would suggest, absolutely nothing! 

My thoughts?  Teach these 3rd and 4th graders to safely walk to school.  We live in a very walkable, safe neighborhood.  I would walk with them a few times, pointing out safety rules, neighbors we know and what to do in an emergency.  Then I would let them walk by themselves.  Maybe I would walk or drive behind them a few times.  Maybe I would let my friends know that they are walking. Maybe I would talk to some other Moms and get several kids walking together.  Of course, I want them to be safe.

But kids who are never allowed to be independent are robbed of precious opportunities to learn to think and solve life’s problems. Many parents are so frightened by our world that they don’t ever teach their kids to cope with it.  Think long and hard about that; they are going to be living in this world a long time.

Kids usually want more freedom so the idea of walking by themselves may be very appealing.  If it isn’t, they can always take the bus!!

After I am comfortable with their safety, I would announce that getting to school on time is from this day forward, completely their responsibility. They can walk, they can take the bus.  If they miss the bus, I will expect them to walk.  If they forget something, they can go without it or come back to get it.   Unplanned walking may make them late to school.  If there are school consequences for being late, so be it.  However, if being late should result in a call or note from school, I will ground them from all outside activities for that weekend. Oh, and I will not nag or threaten as they get themselves out the door.

Now the problem is on their shoulders, not mine.  They are likely going to make a few mistakes, but they will learn!  And in learning they will become more responsible and independent – all characteristics they are going to need to navigate the teen years and later, to become successful adults.

In the meantime, parents, enjoy a second cup of coffee - reminding yourself that parenting should NOT be the hardest thing you have ever done!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Workshop at Clarence Center Elementary

There are still some slots open for my workshop series on April 17th and 24th (6:30-8:30PM).  Call Christine or Michele at 407-9150 to register.  Funded by Still in One Peace Crisis Services, there is no cost to participants.

This is an interactive, often humorous workshop that presents the basic Rosemond parenting principles and then helps parents apply them to their own parenting concerns.

Typical topics range from defiance to bedtime hassles, from lying to homework problems.  This is a wonderful opportunity to understand John Rosemond's traditional, common sense parenting framework while developing real solutions to specific problems.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Your Child at Age 30!

I often invite parents to describe the adult they hope their child will be at age 30.  In response, they say things like kind, caring, humble, respectful, responsible, a good citizen and a good neighbor.

No one has ever said: rich, famous, a snob or self-important.

Yet many parenting approaches put the focus exactly there.  We put kids into every activity we can - dance lessons, music lessons and sports teams.  Then we find ways to give them repeated, over the top praise.   If they get a bad grade or in trouble at school, we tell them it is the teacher or another student’s fault.   If they complain about how hard their homework is, we sit at their side to help, believing that frustration will make them feel they are a failure.

In the name of “protecting their self-esteem” we take away the gift of accomplishing what they can on their own.  We tell them they are successful, even when they aren't.  They become self-centered kids who believe they are entitled to a life of ease, praise and instant success.

We rob them of the opportunity to develop confidence and real life skills.  Sadly, I have seen lots of kids who believed they were supremely talented, wonderful and rightfully at the center of everyone else’s universe.  When they went off to college or work, many fell flat on their face as they began to experience some of life’s harsh realities.   They simply had no experience in figuring things out for themselves or humbly understanding that life is not ever perfect.

A young lady I know recently went on a mission trip to Peru.  While it says a lot that she would give up spring break to go to an impoverished country to live in dirt and squalor, I was perhaps most impressed by her blog title:

“Little Jessica, Big World”

Great  statement! She knows she is a small cog on the great big wheel we live in.  She had the courage to go far from home, give up her comfort and fun in order to serve others.  She knows there is a larger picture than a self-absorbed life.

Don’t worry too much about your child’s self-esteem.  Give them lots of opportunities to explore their world, to learn how they can impact on it and to be successful in their own small ways.   Small successes breed self-confidence and give children the will to try harder things.  Self-confident people don’t need others to build their self-esteem – it comes from within them.

Give your children responsibilities in the home and in the community.  Expect them to fight most of their own battles – your belief in them will build far more confidence than solving problems for them!

Let your children know that they are simply small parts of a great big world that they share with millions of other equally important, equally talented and equally valuable people.  Give them the experiences they need in order to grow into the adult you hope they will be at age 30!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lessons on the Soccer Field

In a recent conversation, I mentioned that my son is adopted from Korea.  A mom asked if we ever experienced prejudice.  The happy answer is there were only a couple incidents. By and large he was welcomed by schools, kids, parents and church.  But she asked how I handled the things that did happen.

The answer is simple: I took 2 steps backwards.  I often recommend this method when disciplining children but also any time you are going to react emotionally; step back, calm down and wait for a good response.

One lovely summer evening, our travel soccer team played a new opponent.  My son, Kevin, loved soccer and was very fast.  Along with his teammates, we were routing the other team.  Soon I started hearing things like: “there goes the Chink”, “Hey Chink boy”, “oh aren’t we all scared by the Chink”.  It went on and on.  No coach stopped it. This had never happened before and I was appalled and angry.

But I just sat there.  I wanted to jump up and stop the game but I knew that “interfering soccer moms” are rarely listened to and seen only as a pain in the neck.  My friends were watching me – I knew they thought I should react. But I continued to sit there.

After the game, Kevin and his teammates ran over and asked if I heard the slurs. I said yes but that the opponent team “was close, but no cigar”.  When they all looked at me puzzled, I explained that “Chink” was a derogatory word for a Chinese person, but Kevin was Korean so they got it all wrong.  The kids started laughing and in a move, I will never forget, they started dancing around Kevin, chanting a kind of rap: “Close, but no cigar; close, but no cigar”.  The tension was immediately over.

Two weeks later we played the same team.  Before the game I approached our coach and told him that if the same thing happened, I would not sit still, but would stop the game and remove Kevin from the field.  Our coach talked to their coach and whatever else they did; there were no more racial slurs.

Everyone learned so much.  Kevin continued to own and be proud of being Korean.  His friends learned that prejudice is often ignorant, mindless and just not true.  The coaches learned to take action (maybe late, but they would have learned nothing if I had embarrassed them by stopping the first game).  And I learned that supporting my son can sometimes best be done by looking at the whole picture – taking 2 steps backward and giving myself the gift of thinking.

The 2 steps backward rule works well in discipline too.  Wait until you are calm and have a plan.  Only then should you impose a consequence – I promise your children will remember what you are talking about and you will look much more like a leader to be listened to!!!!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nature's Power In Raising Kids

During an early morning visit to see manatees on Florida’s Orange River, I heard a childish voice ring out across the stillness.  She was about 10 and was kayaking with her mother among these gentle, almost prehistoric sea animals.  “Look over here, look over there, oh my gosh, there are some more”; her innocent enthusiasm and delight left many of the park visitors smiling.

I also noted that she was completely comfortable with the kayak and handled it as a contributing member of the 2 person team.  She looked like a child that spent a lot of time outdoors.

It seems to me that children who experience nature and the outdoors on a regular basis develop many benefits.  It connects them with the great circle of life, the many mysteries of the world.  It dwarfs them in the larger scheme of things and teaches them that they are not the most important part of the universe.  They learn to respect nature and take their place in stewarding its gifts.  They learn how they can contribute to important ecological issues (saving the endangered manatees, for example).

They learn independence and resourcefulness as they master the skills needed to be strong and safe.  They face problems that need to be solved right now.  My brother once saved our cousin from drowning when the cousin fell off a rock at a very remote Northern Canada lake.  At the same lake, my friend and I struggled for 20 minutes to get back into a rowboat we had been swimming from.  The adults watched us from shore and would have come out to help us if we needed them, but they let us figure it out.  How proud and important my brother was when he became the family hero.  How much self confidence my friend and I gained when we got back into that boat.

Of course, there were many other factors in our growing up, but it is not surprising to me that my brother, friend and I all grew up to be confident, resourceful and independent people.  And we all continue to love the outdoors and nature.

My advice to parents is to get your kids outside as much as possible.  Expect them to entertain themselves in the yard.  Help them develop the skills and independence needed to ride their bikes safely so they can explore their neighborhood on their own.  Take them to parks and beaches and set them free to find the fun of building sand castles or playing in the waves.  Plan family hikes and visits to zoos and public gardens.

Call a time out from the addictions of the digital world – a world that is taking up much too much of our children’s time.  The digital world of tablets, ipods, tv, video games and computers is passive entertainment; the natural world is active entertainment.  Out of interactive, experiential activity, children learn responsibility, resourcefulness and respect.  Which by the way, are the main characteristics parents ask me to help them achieve with their children!