Archive for the ‘Parenting/Teen’ Category

You Lost the Game for Us!

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Teenage years. Or almost teen years. That time in life you are  so painfully embarrassed that you exist and someone might notice.  The coach says ‘good job’ and everybody looks at you.  You miss the shot and peek under your lashes hoping no one is looking. Self-consciousness.  Everything is centered around you.

It takes a lot of years before you realize it really isn’t all about you. That  time you struck out? It really wasn’t you who lost the game for everyone. It was a team effort. Everyone helped get to that spot where you stood determined not to fail.  The fact that you struck out did not lose the game.  It was merely the last thing a team member did that caused the team to lose.  To win or lose takes a whole team.

You’re a parent now and you think you’re over that self-centeredness.  You know that it takes a team to get anything done (or not done).  But do you really?

So your kid is failing at school, hanging around with losers, being a total loser himself.  Maybe even doing drugs, or hanging out at Juvenile Hall at the request of the courts.  And you look at yourself and wonder ‘where did I go wrong? What parenting job did I fail to do? How did I lose the game for my family?’
May I suggest that there were times you struck out. Yes, there where a few balls you didn’t catch. But you did not, singlehandedly, lose the game. I’m not saying you shouldn’t look at yourself and find ways to improve. I’m not saying that getting counseling and working to make yourself a better parent isn’t a good idea.  I am saying that, unless that child has lived in a bubble with only you, there were other team members making themselves known. Other things, other people, other situations beside home impacted where your child stands today.  And most importantly, your  child has made choices that affected the game.

Additionally, let me just say to those of you who are judging your friends because their children are so awful – YOU KNOW THAT CHILD.  You’re a part of the game. Try not to be a part of the reason that game is lost.

So – mom’s and dad’s – get over that self-conscious, ‘it’s all about me’ attitude.  Look at your child and recognize he’s making poor choices.  Look at yourself and see if you have given him reason for those choices.  Look see if he picked up those choices somewhere else.  Focus on teaching him to change those choices in a positive way.  Get help from others.  Build your team. Don’t try going it alone.  You didn’t do it alone and you can’t win this game alone.  Your child is the star of the team.  You are the coach. Be sure you’re giving him all the tools and training he needs so that the crowd can cheer.

Connections to the Heart

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

The little one got a new MP3 player for her birthday.  She is 7 and thinks she’s all grown up now. Her headphones are firmly planted in her ears most of the day.  She dances around the house to music only she can hear. We are breathing sighs of relief.  Sometimes, the constant noise of television, radio, CD players, etc can be overwhelming to us old people. We like silence.

She came to me yesterday with a comment that made me pause and think. She said ‘sometimes my songs connect to my heart.’ It occurs to me that it might be a good idea to stop and listen with her to the music she loves.

What ‘connects to her heart’ is going to shape her attitude and behavior.

As parents and grandparents, it’s important that we know what they listen to and connect with. We need to instill in our children the love of good music. The kind that lifts them up spiritually, that improves their attitudes, and teaches them to build bridges of love with their family and friends.  There is too much music in this world that can turn them away from what is good.  I want to be careful about what she sings.  I want to know the songs she loves and hear from her what the songs are saying to her when they connect to her heart.  I hope you’re listening to your little ones as well.


Cooking with Preschoolers

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Q: Anyone have any fun food recipes that would be good for a 2 yr old

A: Cooking with 2 year olds can be a challenge. They love to help! But we also have to keep them safe. There are the obvious cooking choices – learning to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and learning to make popsicles. Finding new and exciting things to do with the little ones isn’t always easy. There are all kinds of recipes for school-age children but not so many for the preschooler. I did find a couple of sites that had some interesting things to cook with your little one. They are:

If any of my readers have any good suggestions, let us know.

Getting Out of Trouble is Harder than Staying Out

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Our teenagers are trying to learn something that we, as adults, have yet to master. That is the ability to deal with peer pressure. As adults, we know that some people are likable but not desirable. We know how to appreciate their finer points without making them our best friend.     We have a nice little treasure chest of excuses that we pull out when we need to avoid a potentially sticky situation. Sometimes, we can’t really pinpoint what it is about a person or situation that makes us uncomfortable but we’ve learned to trust our instincts. We’ve learned that getting ourselves out of trouble is a lot harder than just staying out to begin with.

If you have teenagers, can I suggest that giving them a list of ‘red flags’ to watch out for can help them combat peer pressure? We parents have a tendency to concede defeat with our teenagers when it comes to drinking, smoking, drug use, inappropriate language and sexual experimentation. We decide they’re all going to do it so why fight. The answer to that question is obvious. These are our children. They are worth more than anything else we have in our lives so taking a stand for them and with them is worth every negative they can throw at us when we do. Let your children know the things you see as possible problems. Tongue rings, nose rings, tattoos, suggestive clothing, the lovely (not) aroma of cigarette smoke, cocky attitudes, disrespect toward authority figures – all of these things can be seen as ‘red flags’. Let your child know that others who display these banners of rebellion are not people you will tolerate in their lives. Once they walk out that door, you can’t be certain they will follow your directions but you will, at least, have given them tools to help them choose friends wisely.

Then, take that one additional step of showing them that they can politely smile at anyone. They can treat anyone with courtesy. They just don’t have to hang out with them. Help them start their own, personal treasure chest of excuses. Give them the first excuse they can use. The one that says ‘my parents don’t allow me to __________ (fill in the blank).’ If their friends (or should we say acquaintances) taunt them about the desire to obey, teach them to point out that the parents are the ones with the cash and the car keys and we don’t share with our children who don’t obey. Teach your children that there are consequences to giving in to peer pressure. The consequences from parents who love them is significantly less painful and of shorter duration than the consequences life can hand them.

Our teenagers are not always as loving to us as we would like them to be but they’re still OUR teenagers and we still love them. We also still hurt for them when they hurt. To help them avoid hurt, teach them to recognize people and situations that are problematic. Make sure they have the tools to avoid those things. They might not decide to use them but, then again, they might!

Are You Missing It?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Last night the little one excitedly jumped into our bed to watch movies with me. Now, this wasn’t something she had never done before. Friday’s are her usual movie nights with Grandma and Grandpa but last night wasn’t a Friday. It was spring break from school. A week night and she got to fall asleep in Grandma and Grandpa’s bed while watching movies. So exciting! She explained to me that this was her ‘very first spring break!’. It was a little thing. But a moment I am so glad I didn’t miss!

A couple of years ago, the whole family got to be entertained by my niece who wandered around the house making comments like, “this is the first time in 2010 I walked down the stairs. This is the first time in 2010 I hugged my dad. This is the first time in 2010 I said that”. There were a lot of things she did for the first time in 2010.

Every day, every child in the world can walk around saying “this is the first time…….”. “This is my first …..” Our children are growing up and, too often, we are missing it. There is so much in our adult world that seems important – the meeting at work we don’t think we should miss, the paperwork we brought home from the office to do this evening, the laundry that needs done, the dishes that need washed. All those things are important. I don’t argue that. I’m wondering, though, about priorities. When the little one is making her very first basket in a basketball game, where are we? Is it possible we could have worked our schedule not to miss that game? Working mothers daily feel the pain of having the sitter see the first steps of their child, hear the first words and many other firsts. Economic needs must be met. Some things can’t be put aside. The question is – Are we trading our children’s childhoods for a nicer house or a nicer car? If we are, maybe we should rethink our priorities.

It’s not just the big things that can be evaluated. Sometimes all it takes to be at your child’s next first is a little rescheduling. Mom doesn’t need to stay home to do the dishes while Dad takes the little one to the game. Mom and Dad can both participate in their child’s life. The dishes can wait until the little one is in bed. Dad, the lawn won’t grow ten feet in one night. It’ll wait until the next day – when there isn’t an important event – to be mowed. You probably won’t get a fine from the neighborhood association over one day.

We have this day, this moment, with our little ones. No one can love them as we do. No one can have as important an impact on their lives. No one will enjoy their laughter as you do. Be there! Just be there. They’re growing up and experiencing life. To them it is so exciting. Don’t miss it.

Aesop’s Dog and Wolf Fable As I See It

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

When you home school your children, you have the fun of re-learning all kinds of interesting things you learned as a child. I admit that, as a child, I never really thought Aesop’s Fables were all that interesting. Sometimes I thought the characters were downright dumb. Re-reading them with my granddaughter, I’m seeing a little wisdom here and there that I might have missed when I was younger.

The dog and wolf fable tells of a wolf who finds himself in the middle of a tough winter with little food and no shelter. One day a nicely fed and happy dog comes by to talk with him. The dog assures him he has plenty of food and warmth and plenty of work to do for his master. The wolf wants those things and so begins to go with the dog until he notices that the dog has a collar. When the dog explains that the collar is to tie him up at night, the wolf decides against going with the dog.

When I was a child, the moral of the story was always at the end but in today’s 1st grade worksheets, they leave that part out so we get to make our own moral. For me, the moral would be that too many of us want the good life but we aren’t willing to pay the price to get it. We want the nicer things in life but, in order to get them, we have to go to school to train to get the better paying jobs. Then we have to work the hours necessary in those jobs in order to afford the good life. In almost everything that is worthwhile in life, there is a catch. In order to have the stability and security of a good marriage, you have to give up the right to play the field. Of course, if you want to play the field, you give up the stability and security of a good marriage. In order to know the joy of having children, you must give up the personal freedom you had prior to their birth. You also give up a great deal of financial freedom. You can keep the personal freedom and the money but you lose the truly wonderful experience of being a parent.

You get my point. The old physics truth that for every force there is an equal and opposite force seems to apply here. The trick is in deciding what is important for you. The wolf wanted plenty of food and the warm bed at night but he wasn’t willing to give up that freedom to howl at the moon each night. For me, he lost a lot to gain a little. How about you? Are you losing a lot to gain a little? Should you be changing something in your life but you’re not willing to give up that little to get the potential gain? Something to think about.

Parenthood Has It’s Drawbacks

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Parenthood has it’s drawbacks. This is something that you will start noticing almost immediately upon conception. For mom, it’s morning sickness and mood swings. For dad, it’s mom’s mood swings and her cravings. Everyone assures you that this will pass the moment that little bundle of joy is placed in your arms. They tell you the little one will be worth it all. You live for that moment. You live through the back aches, the Lamaze classes, the sleep deprivation caused by a kicking ball in your stomach (that incidentally, you thought was so cute the first time you felt it.) You live through the 4 a.m. dash to the hospital followed by several hours of contractions until the final moment the little one is placed in your arms. For some, this moment is pure joy. For others, it is a combination of wonder and fear – maybe even panic – as you realize that you are responsible for this little thing in your arms and you wonder what on earth you have done.

So you bring the little one home. You realize that you aren’t going to be sleeping the night for quite some time but everyone assures you that this sweet bundle will be worth every moment. Once home, you realize that people have glossed over the wet and dirty diapers and the smell in the house from the wet and dirty diapers. No one mentioned that you would spend the next six months to a year with spit-up on every outfit you have been wearing for more than 10 minutes. They’ve also failed to mention the panic you feel when the little one cries and you don’t know what’s wrong! You’re the parent. You should instinctively know, right? Not so. You don’t always know.

You stumble on through parenthood. As the toddler years approach, you dash around inserting child guards on electrical outlets, child locks on cupboard doors (which smash your fingers every third time you try to open the darn thing). The terrible twos arrive. As the little bundle of joy throws himself screaming and kicking on the floor, you feel the natural pull to join him. Most parents do manage to control themselves and maintain a mature demeanor, especially if others are around. Three-year-olds scream ‘I hate you!’ at least twice a day, four-year-olds are fairly human, five-year-olds know everything because their kindergarten teacher told them (You aren’t their teacher. You will never reach that lofty height.) Children continue through life causing all kinds of chaos as they go. You – the parent – have to maintain self-control while properly training this less-than-perfect human being you have brought into the world.

So, if parenthood has all these drawbacks, why on earth do we do this to ourselves? The answer is simple. Every now and then some magic occurs; the baby smiles at you for the first time, you watch them sleep and realize how beautiful they are, the little one laughs in pure delight at a new discovery, they sleepily crawl into your lap and say “I love you Mommy”. It’s at these points that you realize that others may have glossed over the downside of parenting but they were right about one thing. This little one is worth it all

Childhood Tenacity Can Cause Parental Insanity

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Tenacity was something my mother tried to drill into my head throughout my childhood. She used to say things like ‘you can do anything you want to do if you just try hard enough’ (nice thought but not necessarily true). Another one of her favorites was the one about the drop of water that just wouldn’t stop dripping until it made it’s impression in the rock. I don’t need to use those phrases to teach our little one tenacity. Grandpa and I are doing our teaching in a little different (not exactly better) way. We teach her in the way we respond to requests she makes.

She dearly loves riding her bike but she’s only 6-years-old so she’s not allowed to do it without supervision. The rest of the neighborhood children range in age from 5 to 10 years old and are allowed outside without an adult present. It annoys her that Grandma and Grandpa are old fuddy-duddies who insist on safety. We don’t have sidewalks in our neighborhood so the kids have to ride bikes in the street. It’s not a busy street. We live in a nice quiet neighborhood but we do get our fair share of traffic. Someone has to be outside with them to yell ‘car!’ every time one goes by since the kids don’t seem to feel the need to get to the side of the road unless they hear that warning. So how does this involve teaching her tenacity? Let me explain how the bike riding discussion usually goes.

Normally the little one will go to Grandpa first. Mostly because Grandpa will say “no” to the first request. The second request will come about two minutes later and Grandpa will say, “give me a few minutes.” The third request will come less than five minutes later and Grandpa will say again (less patiently), “Just give me a few minutes.” The fourth or fifth or sixth request will follow closely on the heals of the previous request until Grandpa gives up with a sigh and says, “All right. We’ll go.” Grandpa has taught her persistence in the face of failure. I wouldn’t recommend this way of teaching. Now she understands that all she has to do is keep asking and asking and asking and asking until finally he gets sick of hearing it and gives it to her whether it’s good for her or not.

If she comes to Grandma, the conversation is a little different.

Little One: Can I ride my bike?
Me:      No
Little One: Can I ride my bike?
Me:     I said no
Little One: Can I ride my bike?
Me:    What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?
Little One: Can I ride my bike?
Me:    How many times to I have to say ‘no’?
Little One: Can I ride my bike?

At this point I will usually lose my temper. This involves either (1) sending her to her room; or (2) me shouting “Fine! Ride your bike! Do whatever you want just stop bugging me!”

My response is really no better than Grandpa’s. You see, children are gamblers at heart so they will continue inserting quarters in the parental slot machine until they get the pay-off they desire. If they never get the pay-off they desire, they will finally learn to accept the rules and live by them. But if they get the pay-off they want even one time out of ten, that’s good enough for them. They’ll be back for more next time! We have taught her tenacity but at the expense of our sanity.

There is a saying that if you can’t be an example, be a warning. I’m being a warning. Parents, decide what is important and stick to your guns when dealing with your children. Let your ‘yay be yay and your nay nay’. Doing so will bring harmony to your home. Not doing so will cause you to need therapy. Trust me on this!

Smile and Say Nice Things!

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Smile a lot and say nice things! It might be a good way to make a friend out of that grouchy person in the office who can’t see any good in you. It might even turn an enemy into a friend. Recently our granddaughter was having some issues with another little one on her team. I don’t know the family but I’m guessing the little one is an only child. I’m guessing that because she acts a lot like our granddaughter who functions as an only child at our house. She’s a cute little girl with an attitude that says she’s entitle to love and affection from everyone just as any queen should be. Needless to say, two little girls with that attitude on the same team might tend to clash. I had tried conflict resolution suggestions with our sweetheart but it was just not a concept she could embrace. So we decided to work with her on making friends. She agreed to try. Her first try was to tell the little girl she liked her pony tail. She ran to the stands to inform us that it hadn’t worked. The girl still didn’t like her. We urged her to try again so her next compliment was on how nice the little girl’s shoes looked. Again she returned to the stand to inform us that this hadn’t worked either. I pointed out the usual, old-fashioned mother statement “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. This particular saying annoys her (mostly because she hears it so often) but she made another attempt. This time she complimented the little girl on the pretty t-shirt under her jersey. Failure! On her return to the stands, grandpa suggested complimenting her on her hair. I started to explain that she had tried that idea with the pony tail compliment but the little one was already on her way back to the team. She came speeding back to the stands to report, “I think it’s working! She smiled!”

I’m thinking it would work for adults as well. As females, most of us still carry a little bit of that “I am a princess and should be treated as such” attitude. So let’s use it to our advantage with the other females we deal with daily. That supervisor who nitpicks every little thing you do would certainly have a softening of her attitude if you thanked her for helping you improve your work performance. You may not feel thankful but fake it! If you feel your mother never stops criticizing you, send a few compliments her way. Maybe she’ll improve her attitude towards you once she feels more appreciated. And don’t give up after the first try. Behaviors that have been ingrained in people will take some time to change. Families are especially good at building up walls. Breaking them down may take time but it can be done. Working at building congenial relationships with those around us will lower stress levels which will improve our environments and may even have some health benefits as well. Start right now. Turn to the person next to you, smile and say something nice.

Conflict Resolution

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

We are almost halfway through basketball season. Three cheers!  I couldn’t be happier. The basketball league which our little girl attends has just 4 teams of 6 to 7 year-old-girls. Since the girls at this age only play half-court, all the games are played at the same time. Every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. Did you know that there are some parents who actually think this is okay? Writing until 2 a.m. is my normal schedule so mornings are an unfamiliar scene for me. Especially mornings before 10 a.m. I arrive every Saturday morning with whatever caffeinated drink I have chosen and watch bleary-eyed as the other parents happily chat with one another. My brother and sister (the most committed aunt and uncle of all time) arrive as well with noise-makers! The combination of cowbells and caffeine usually keep me awake through the game but I spend the rest of the day walking around in a haze. The end of the season is coming! I can see it out there. I can hardly wait.

Another reason for the excitement is the fact that our little team of girls are doing an excellent job and proving to be the winning little girls we knew they were. You would think that this would be a reason for me not to want the season to end. You would be wrong. You see, little girls live in a world of perpetual competition. And, being little girls, they tend to be a little bit uppity about things when they discover that they are better than the others. In doing this, they fall short of the ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’ that I like to see in my little one. Practices have become an exercise in restraint for me. I am not the coach. I can not go out there and insist on appropriate behavior or hand out a few time-outs to a few not-so-sweet little things – one of whom is my granddaughter. I have to admire the coach. He just ignores all the little squabbling and moves on to the game of basketball which usually de-fuses the current argument started because someone made a snide comment about someone not being able to hit the basket which escalated to comments about who was prettier, who had nicer hair, whose shoes were the nicest and who didn’t have a hair band to match their jersey. Eventually all this competition degenerates into name calling and tears. On the trips home, I spend our time together patiently trying to explain tips on conflict resolution to a hyperactive 6-year-old. None of those discussions have been successful in any way.

I realized tonight that my whole approach has been wrong. I can’t teach my granddaughter enough conflict resolution techniques to ever stop the conflict. From now until forever she is a girl and girls will always be competing for something. Who does their make-up best, who accessorizes their clothing best, who has the most desirable boyfriend – these competitions will always be with us. What I really need to do is teach her how to make friends. I’m not saying that girls who are friends won’t be competing with one another. They will but the competition will be less intense. So I am grateful to Gretchen Rubin who wrote an article for Huffpost Healthy Living called Balanced Life – 8 Tips for Making Friends. The tips she gave were directed towards adults but I found a couple of little gems that will be wonderful for every age. Simply stated they are ‘Say nice things about others and smile a lot‘. Love it! What a great plan. Walk in the door with a smile for everyone and say nice things to each of them. Can something that simple work to lower the competitive level? I think it could! I’m going to suggest the little one give it a try at her next practice. I’ll let you know if it works. If so, you can use it for the conflicts in your life as well. And thanks to you Gretchen Rubin for the great ideas.