Archive for the ‘Parenting/Teen’ Category

Video Games Can Be a Positive Thing!

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Video games have gotten a bad rap lately and for good reason. Kids sit around staring at a computer screen like a bunch of overweight business executives who are under exercised and going blind. The overweight business executives are making money destroying their bodies but the kids aren’t. We – the parents – object! So we should start banning computer games for anyone under the age of 18. Right? Wrong!!! That would be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Computer games have a truly redeeming quality for our children. Children will sit for hours grimly determined to march through every level of that game until they win. Nothing (short of a parental order) will convince them to quit. Kids are learning from these games to keep persevering in the face of all obstacles. Now, granted, a lot of our children are having meltdowns when the levels just seem to be un-win-able but that’s okay, too because we parents can then impose a time-out from the game. Doing so teaches our little ones that sometimes we need to step back from a problem for a while to get a fresh perspective. Once they‘ve gained control, they can come back and try again.

This learning to keep on trying even when things are difficult is an important lesson that all children must learn if they are to become successful adults. It concerns me whenever I see parents allowing their children to quit sports teams in the middle of the season. Most parents feel they allowed their grade-school child to join Little League or soccer or basketball to learn sportsmanship, teamwork and to have fun. When their child says, “this isn’t fun like I thought”, they let their child quit. I understand and sympathize. We want our children to enjoy their childhoods. But sports teams for this young age only last a few weeks so insisting that they finish what they started isn’t going to destroy their childhood. It is going to teach them that quitting without a valid reason isn’t acceptable.

In numerous ways every day, we can teach our kids to be winners just by insisting that they not quit when the going gets tough. Homework is hard? Homework is also boring? Too bad! Work can be hard and boring too but it’s better than unemployment. You hate having to practice the piano? Oh, well. You said you wanted to take lessons so you’ll just have to finish out the school year. You don’t want to go to baseball practice because you’d rather play with your friend? Sorry! You said you wanted to play baseball so the team needs you to practice with them. All of these little things will teach our kids the value of commitment and perseverance. If they can learn this as children, chances are they will be successful adults. And, of course, keep the video games. It’s probably the only place where you aren’t going to have to demand that they keep on trying until they get it.

Pets Can Help Us Determine if We Are Ready to Be a Parent

Friday, November 11th, 2011

1) Did you have to return the puppy to the shelter because you simply couldn’t get him to housebreak after 3 months of trying? You cried all day because you loved that little guy but your carpets we’re being destroyed. You’re not ready! There are not shelters for you to drop off your two-year-old when he refuses to potty train. Furthermore, he will refuse to learn to dress himself but undressing is another matter. He will happily remove his diaper when it is soiled (especially the worst kind of soiling) and will drop it wherever he chooses. If you have expressed your displeasure loudly enough, he may hide it when he removes it assuming you won’t notice that he is no longer wearing a diaper. Fishing a bowel-filled diaper from under the couch is not fun. It’s also not fun shampooing the underside of a couch.

2) Did you throw your cat out the door to fend for himself because he jumped on the counter and ate your dinner one too many times? You’re not ready! As soon as your child is old enough to shove a chair against the cupboards, he/she will put little fingers into anything edible they can find. They don’t outgrow this tendency. It only gets worse with age. After a while, even the top of the fridge isn’t safe. By the time your child has reached teen years, the entire dessert can disappear out the door before you even sit down for a meal.

3) Okay. The cat’s food pilfering isn’t enough to make you get rid of it. But that kitty litter box is! You’ve tried every kitty litter on the market and the smell still is too strong for you. You might be able to put the box in the laundry to make the daily smell tolerable but cleaning the thing still makes you gag. The cat has got to go! Sorry. You’re still not ready. No matter what the advertisements say, there is not a diaper pail made that can totally rid your home of the lovely aroma of diaper. The diaper pail, combined with some Febreze and some disinfectant can mask the odor but everyone knows why you have all those cleaning supplies smelling up the house. Furthermore, if you think a kitty litter box makes you gag to clean, just wait until you empty a diaper pail. But – you argue – the diaper stage will pass. It certainly will. Only to be followed by stinky socks and gym shorts.

4) You feel pets are too much trouble to keep. The dogs track in dirt every time they’ve been outside and the cats bring you gifts of small mice and birds. You’re not ready! Any kid worth his salt will be tracking in mud and dirt from your yard, your neighbors yard, the street, the park and the sandbox! Pets are nicer. They can’t bring home their friends to help with the tracking. Furthermore, every boy alive will be bringing in bugs, snakes, butterflies, worms, you name it, to keep as pets. All the little girls of the world will be ’saving’ every cat, dog, rabbit and furry creature they can find.

5) Having a pet is simply too time consuming. You are soooooooo NOT READY! You will only learn the true meaning of the phrase ‘time consuming’ when you have a child. If you think dropping off your child at the daycare on the way to work is only going to take a couple of extra minutes, THINK AGAIN. You will use up those couple of extra minutes just getting the little one bundled up and out the door. You’ll use up a couple more extra minutes getting baby into the car seat. When you arrive at daycare, there is the waiting your turn to hand him over to the caregiver who is talking to some other parent right now. Then there’s the screaming, yelling tantrums because he doesn’t feel like going today and he refuses to let go of you! With sighs of relief, you pull out of the daycare parking lot only to do a u-turn at the end of the block because the diaper bag is still sitting on the seat next to you. Children consume your time from the second they are conceived until the day you become too senile to remember who they are!

6) You don’t have pets because you can’t afford the vet bills and the pet food? Whatever you do, DON’T have a child! You are NOT ready. That one doesn’t even need discussed.

There are probably 50,000 other ways a pet can help you determine whether or not you’re ready to be a parent. If you know of any you think I should have mentioned, please feel free to let us know about them in our comment section.

Heretic, Rebel (Teenager?)

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

He drew a circle that shut me out. Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win; We drew a circle that took him in.–Edwin Markham

When that 6’4” rebel was just 3’ tall, it was so much easier to draw the circle that brought him in. You told him ‘no’. He couldn’t play out front without adult supervision. He crossed his little arms and stood glaring at you, letting you know how angry he was. All you needed to do was take a couple of steps forward and find that ticklish spot on his tummy. Laughter replaced the defiance. He was your sweet lovable little guy again. But time has passed. He’s grown not only in height and strength but in stubbornness as well. He has a sense of himself now and he is determined to make his own decisions. Unfortunately, his growth hasn’t yet extended to wisdom. Some choices he makes are ones you are going to have to oppose. So he crosses his arms and glares at you. He’s outgrown the desire to stand there and wait for you to make it right. And, frankly, tickling his tummy isn’t going to work anyway. He marches into his room and slams that door with a firmness that lets you know you aren’t welcome to follow him. If he lives at my house, he isn’t going to be allowed to lock you out. But the better part of wisdom keeps you from following him. You know this son of yours is playing the part of the heretic. He’s drawn a circle to shut you out. If you follow him blindly without a plan, he’s going to keep that barrier up no matter what you do or say. (Of course, you might get lucky and stumble across the key to breaking the barrier but it’s not likely.) You need a plan.

First, decide to love him. Right now he’s not all that lovable and you don’t have any discernible warm and fuzzy feeling towards him. You may have to get firm with yourself but make that conscious decision to love him. Second, choose not to give up on him. Having a rebellious teenager can give you urges to make some really bad parental decisions. There’s the ‘Fine! Go hang out with your drug dealing buddies. You’ll learn when somebody OD’s!’ When you’re angry, you might be tempted to blurt that out. Bite your tongue! Another common way to give up is to send him to live with his father (or grandparent, or uncle or anyone. Just get him out of my house!) Don’t!!!! The decision to move him out should not be made in anger. Third, formulate the plan. The plan has to involve some way to draw him in lovingly while still keeping him ‘on the straight and narrow’ (as my mother used to say).

You have the option to modify his plan so that it becomes acceptable to you. Or you have the option of offering him an alternative plan. If you can use either of those options, go to his door and knock gently. Let him know you would like to talk to him. In a non-confrontational way say “I know that you want to __________. I’m not comfortable with that because ________. I would be okay with your plan if you would ________. “ (or ’I would prefer that you do _______ instead”). The fact that you are seeing his side and trying to compromise will help release the anger he feels much like tickling his tummy used to do. Things get a little more complicated if your child’s plan actually involves hanging out with drug dealers or doing something else that puts him in harms way. There simply is no way to compromise or modify plans of this kind. You still need to let your son know that you understand how he feels. Everyone needs friends. It’s those particular friends you can’t approve of. Everyone needs to have a fun time out once in a while. It’s just that particular activity you can’t allow. Drawing the circle that brings him in requires his participation so ask him what he thinks he can do. Does he have other friends? If not, are there activities that he likes that would get him involved with other teens his age. For instance, local sports of some kind or church related activities or 4H groups or maybe even getting a part time job. Ask him if one of those options would appeal to him. If it’s the activity he wants to be involved in, it’s time to have him think of other activities he enjoys that can replace the dangerous ones. In any case, letting him know you understand and will work with him will help release his anger and rebellion. He may need to sleep on your suggestions. A follow up conversation the next day may be required. Keep working to tear down that barrier he thinks he wants to build. A loving relationship with you is his best defense against an unforgiving world.

Draw that circle!

Discipline for the ‘tween’ years

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

I have noticed that many parents drop the ball just as their children reach an age when they most need them. That age right around 11, 12, or 13 when the child has almost reached full adult height but not full adulthood. Parents want their children to be responsible so they tell them to clean their rooms, do their chores, get their homework done, don’t hang around with certain neighborhood kids but the offspring just don’t do what they‘re told. Yelling a lot seems to be the extent of the discipline that can be imposed. The kids tune out the yelling and go about their lives as if what parents want from them is optional. Mom and Dad know that adulthood requires that you get the work done and you clean up after yourself. They also know that hanging out with the local ‘bad kid’ will get them a reputation. In adulthood, that can cause serious problems for them. Unfortunately, the usual arsenal of disciplines don’t seem to fit anymore. Time out isn’t age specific for them. Writing sentences is more of a younger child thing. Grounding them is useless since they leave anyway. This is the point at which most parents say ‘he’ll find out when he’s older’ and give up. Bad idea! Time to get creative with the discipline.

When children reach this age, responsibility for their behavior needs to fall in their court. Our disciplines need to be designed to get them to realize that irresponsible behavior brings unwanted results. As parents, realizing that you have the cash and you have the car keys is a huge advantage when dealing with this age group. So the bedroom wasn’t clean? I guess you won’t be driving them to the movie they wanted to see. If the bedroom gets clean before the movie starts, no problem. But responsibilities must be met before playtime. The homework isn’t done yet? Guess soccer practice will have to wait. If you can get it done before practice is over, okay. You will drive them. Education is more important than sports. (I realize there will be some parents who argue this with me. I agree that making them skip a game lets down the entire team but making them skip a practice or two isn’t going to be catastrophic and won’t happen more than once or twice if your child really loves the game.) Your child was told to be home at a certain time but he just couldn’t be bothered? Or he was told not to go out with the neighborhood ‘problem child’ but he went anyway? For every 15 minutes that he’s gone, something will disappear out of his room never to be returned or replaced by you. (Goodwill will be more than glad to accept the donation of their things.) I wouldn’t recommend starting with the big stuff. Let’s face it. Taking his favorite x-box game gives you plenty of room for more things to disappear before the x-box itself. Some of this may cause you a little pain because you know how much you paid for this. You even know how much they enjoy having these things. You just have to remind yourself that learning to be on time is a crucial adult skill if they intend to hold a job later in life. Being an accessory to a crime because you’re hanging out with the kid who is shoplifting will also have some severe negative consequences the older you child gets. They must see from someone who loves them that consequences are unpleasant. If you want your child to be a successful, contributing member of society, you need to be that someone.

These suggestions may not be ones that will work for you but you must find ones that will. Your child’s future depends on it. And your child is worth it.

Hostile When Thwarted

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Parenthood has it drawbacks. I know this because I’ve been a parent for a lot of years. Now, I’m not saying the drawbacks are severe enough to make me want to quit parenting. I love my children. I love my family, my grandkids, the dogs and my life. But the drawbacks can cause me moments of stress. Particularly when they highlight for me what my flaws are. I like to think that certain things are self-evident. For instance, clothing – still on hangers – has probably not been worn and doesn’t belong in the dirty clothes hamper. If you spill a bowl of cereal on the floor, it shouldn’t be left there for me to clean up. If you’re staying up late to watch movies, you shouldn’t leave empty popcorn bowls, crumpled up chip bags, and half finished soda cans all over the family room. I am not your personal slave. Clean up your own mess! Put your clothes away! Don’t throw them on your bedroom floor! I’m starting to use a lot of punctuation marks. I’m not that far away from capital letters. My frustration level thinking of these things is rising. I learned years ago that I am a Type A personality which means I get hostile when thwarted. I mention this merely because I know that there are hundreds – maybe even thousands – of mothers who come home from work everyday to the same scenario I do. You walk in the door and hostility kicks in. Hostility is not good for either you or your children. You are going to give yourself high blood pressure and heart problems way too soon in life and your children are going to be hiding from the ’mommy monster’ which will definitely effect your relationship with them. So, is there a solution to this particular drawback? I think there is.

First, we need to recognize that children are people in training and we are the trainers. Training them with consequences for their behavior needs to occur in order to teach them but volcanic explosions of anger are overkill. There are a couple of ways I have learned to do this. First, try to find a little humor. For instance, I had a note posted on the laundry room door for a while that said ‘clothing found on hangers in the laundry will get their owners flogged with said hanger.’ Now, obviously, no one was actually going to be flogged but I was able to vent a little while reminding them that, if they took the clothes off the rack and decided not to wear them, they should put them back ON the rack and NOT the floor. Secondly, recognize that they are not doing these things as a personal attack on you. They are doing them because they are children and need to be trained. And, finally, try to recognize the actual importance of these misbehaviors. An easy way to help you do this while teaching your children better habits is to establish a system of ‘fines’. Simply forgetting to pick up after themselves is worth a quarter from their allowance. Spilling food on the floor and leaving it there is a little more serious. Someone might slip and fall. A $1.00 might be a good fine for that. Forgetting to shut and lock the front door when they head off for school is even more serious. A $5.00 fine is in order. The highest fine (maybe $10.00) should be given if serious injury could occur because of their sloppiness. An example might be dropping a butcher knife on the floor where the baby is crawling and leaving it there.

Hopefully, these suggestions will help drop your homecoming mood from ‘hostile’ to just ‘frustrated’. You can remember you love your children and they can learn that part of your love for them includes consequences. With perseverance (and luck) they will start improving their behavior and your homecoming will become more enjoyable.

Toddlers Sleeping in Mommy’s Bed

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Q: I have a soon to be 3yr. old daughter and ever since she was about 3mos old she has been sleeping in my bed with me. I just bought her a toddler bed and finished up her new room. Now I have no idea how to get her to want to sleep in her own bed and not mine. I need some advice on how to get my little one out of my bed and into her own!!

A: New things are always terrifying to little ones, especially after dark. What looks really nice to an adult, in the mind of a toddler could have any number of monsters hidden in it. I personally don’t object to young children sleeping with their parents. I think it provides security and increases the bonding between parents and their children. However, should a child reach school age without gaining the independence to sleep in his/her own room, problems may surface.  Your little one is only 3 so you have plenty of time to work with her. Take a gradual approach with her. Hopefully she has a bedtime considerably earlier than yours. Tell her she needs to sleep in her own new pretty bed until you come to bed. She has her bed and you have yours. You will gladly share but she must wait for you to come. She may desperately try to stay awake for a few nights until you come to bed but eventually, exhaustion will get her and she will start falling asleep in her own bed. Let her know the night light is on and your door is unlocked if she needs to come in. Once she has slept in her own bed a few nights, she’ll be fairly sure no monsters got in with the new bed. Then it’s just a matter of making new habits and helping her gain independence. Gradually let her know that tonight you want to sleep alone. Then week-nights you want to sleep alone. Until you’ve reached a point where sleeping with Mom is a special occasion for popcorn and movies and late nights on the sleeping bag in Mom’s room.

New Baby

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Q: Thank you so much. This was really helpful. I’m about to be a first time mom do you have any more advice?

A: Congratulations! I think the most important advice I can give you as a first time mom is “relax!” You are going to be working hard at being the perfect mom for this perfect little bundle of joy. And your perfect bundle of joy will occasionally cry anyway. He or she will sometimes get diaper rash, ear infections, etc. Other people will cough around him. The dog will lick his face. All kinds of things will be less than perfect and your little one will live through it anyway. So relax! There are two advantages to spending time relaxing. 1: You will be less stressed out. 2: You will have more time to enjoy the baby while it is still little. Did you know your infant will double his birth weight by six months? Little doesn’t last long. Enjoy it while you can. Part of your relaxing means giving yourself permission to sleep during the day when the baby is napping. It may not seem like you are up that much during the night. After all, feeding the baby only takes 20 minutes or so. Total, you might be up for an hour so why do you need all that extra sleep during the day? Because interrupted sleep is not as restful as uninterrupted sleep – that’s why! If a clean house is a high priority for you, I would suggest you pick one room to keep clean. Preferably the room you rock the baby in. That way, you can relax, enjoy your little one and still be in a clean room. There will be times when the rest of the house is a shambles but at least you’ll have one spot to enjoy. If you have to go back to work right away, this will be even more important. You will be exhausted at night. You will have missed your little one all day and your little one will have missed you. Take some time for the two of you to retreat to your favorite – and only – clean room in the house for some quality time. Time will pass and the little one will become more independent. That will be the time you can start catching up on all those things that have gotten behind. Enjoy your new baby. And, again, congratulations!

Dog or No Dog?

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Q: My children have been asking for a dog. Now that they’ve seen the news reports of Obama getting a dog for his girls, their nagging has gotten even worse. Everyone says a dog will teach them responsibility but I’m afraid it’ll just end up being another chore for me. I work full time and just don’t think I have time for anything else. What do you think?

A: Just because Obama got a dog doesn’t mean your children need one. I’ll go with the old adage ‘if your friends all jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?’ Probably not. Also, it isn’t the dog that will be teaching your children responsibility. It will be you using the dog as a tool to teach them responsibility. You will be the one having to insist that the children get up early enough to walk the dog and to feed and water the dog before school. You will be the one having to insist that they let the dog out after school and that they recheck his food and water supply. You will be the one having to say ‘brush the dog, take the dog out before you go to bed’, etc. And, of course, there is the added time involved in taking the dog to the vet and keeping dog food and supplies on hand. Not to mention the job of housebreaking the dog if you get a puppy. So the question is not whether or not the children should get a dog. The question is whether or not you are ready to take on this added responsibility. It doesn’t sound to me like you are. So, while having a pet can be a wonderful learning tool for a child, I think you should wait until you’re ready to teach them that lesson.

Should I Check My Child’s Cell Phone Numbers?

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Q: My 13-year-old daughter is a very responsible, reliable teenager but she had an out-of-state phone number on her cell phone bill.  I got worried and called the number to check it out.  It turned out to be nothing but now my daughter is furious with me for checking on her.  She says I have proven I don’t trust her.  How can I repair the damage to our relationship?

A:  Trust your instincts.  You did the right thing.  Regardless of how wonderful your 13-year-old is, there are several things you can be sure of.  At 13, your daughter is probably naive and/or gullible. She believes she is far more mature than she is and, she is quite self-centered.  All of this makes her extremely vulnerable to internet predators.  The new Facebook accounts on cell phones have also increased the odds that your child will have an encounter with a less-than-desirable individual.  Checking a questionable phone number does not show a lack of trust.  It shows admirable parental protection.  Your daughter is going to need your protection for several years yet.  She’s probably going to object to many things you require of her and that you ask her.  (Who are you going to the party with?  Will there be adults present?  What time will you be home?, etc).  But keep on asking anyway.  That’s what responsible parents do to guide their children safely into adulthood.  As for repairing your relationship – all you can do is let her know it had nothing to do with a lack of trust and everything to do with your love for her and concern for her welfare.  It may be a few years before she truly understands what you’re saying but, when she does, she’ll be thankful for the wonderful parenting she received.

Barbershop Tantrums

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Q: Hi,  Every time I bring my son to the barber he screams.  The barber won’t cut his hair.  I’m doing it myself and it looks terrible.  Got any good ideas?

A:   You don’t give me a lot of information.   How old is your son?  If you’ve just started bringing him to the barber and he is between the ages of 18 months and three years, he could be having a problem with stranger anxiety.  Another reason he could be giving you trouble is a lack of contact with males.  If you are a single mom, he probably goes to daycare.  Most of his life is being spent around women.  Men with scissors could be scary.  Both of these problems can be solved by having him go to the barber at the same time his male cousins (or grandpa or uncles) go.  Have him watch them get their haircuts.  Be sure they have a really good time!  If you are married and it is a stranger anxiety issue, another option would be to have daddy take him to the barber.  Have him sit on daddy’s lap while daddy gets a haircut and then let him remain on daddy’s lap while he gets his haircut. It’s always best to know why children are upset about things.  I asked my 3 year old grandson why he cried at the barber.  He said ”cause I don’t want to get my head chopped off”.   That was a surprise.  I hadn’t realized that was an issue for him.  When you’re only 3, reality is defined by cartoons, television and an active imagination.  This man he doesn’t know is putting an apron around his neck at just the right height for a head chopping experience.  So if your child is old enough to ask – ASK!  Work through his issues with him.   A few months of bad haircuts are a lot better for him then forcing him into a situation that is, for him, terrifying.