How to Raise Successful, Happy Kids

 

 

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What I neglected to teach my kids, they learned from swimming.

Yesterday, while driving to the mountains to escape the summer heat of the desert with a friend, we talked about how different our childhoods were and how our parents were much less hands-on than we have been with our kids. It was fun to reminisce about the good old days. It’s also kind of sad to think about how sheltered our kids are today and that they didn’t get the chance to ride their bikes for miles and miles and play in the street with neighborhood kids.

For example, we both recalled our first day of kindergarten when our mothers took us to school. The second day, we were walking on our own! Our kids were chauffeured everywhere, every single day by good ol’ mom.

Here’s an interesting article that gives nine somewhat scientific steps to raising successful kids. There are some good tips in it and I agree strongly with several–like kids need to play outdoors more and have chores. Here’s tip number three from “Want to Raise Successful Kids? Science Says Do These 9 Things:”

 

“3. Send them outside to play
This research applied specifically to boys, but it’s common sensical for girls as well. In short, smart parents will advocate for their kids to get a significant amount of unstructured recess time during the school day–and never to have recess withheld as punishment.

Unfortunately, researchers say we’re more likely to do the opposite in schools now: overprotecting kids, trying to keep them safe from all physical dangers, and ultimately inhibiting their academic growth, because lack of physical activity makes it harder for them to concentrate.”

I had a ton of chores growing up. I’d cringe coming home from school or on weekends to my mom’s difficult-to-read handwriting filling every line on a legal yellow pad with chores to do before “we played” or “watched TV.” We had to weed the garden, sweep the steps, vacuum the entire house, cook dinner, clean the game closet, etc.

I wasn’t as good as my mom at making my kids do chores. They were so busy with school and the pool that I felt they didn’t have the time for more work. I know that was a mistake. I had attempted having them do the dishes every night, but that turned into more trouble than if I did it myself. Also, my daughter developed a unique allergy to dishes. Her legs and arms would break out in blotches whenever it was her turn. I couldn’t let her off the hook while making my son wash dishes, right?

Another thing that’s not on the list but should be is letting my kids fail and suffer the consequences. It’s a nice reminder to let kids fail while they’re young and you’re not paying $30k for a year of college. Consequences are what make them steady, reliable adults. I should have let my kids fail when they were younger so they could learn the consequences. I took way too many trips to school with forgotten homework or lunches.

All in all, despite me, they’re happy and hard working. I think that swimming taught them about hard work since I failed in the chore department. Also, swimming taught them how to turn a missed goal or failed swim into motivation to try harder. So, despite my not being a perfect mother, letting them experience life with the swim team taught them life lessons that I neglected to teach them.

How do you parent differently than your parents?

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Ribbons and medals received for hard work from her coach.

 

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Do Latch-Key Kids Become Helicopter Parents—and What About the Lawnmowers?

 

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The park where my kids grew up playing outdoors.

 

I find the headlines of parenting articles to be pretty funny these days. I’ve heard about helicopter parents who hover endlessly over their kids and interfere at the workplace and summer camp. But, I’ve never heard about lawnmower parents before. Have you?

When I was growing up, a lot of kids went home after school to empty houses. More women were working, plus there were a lot more single-parent homes than in previous decades. There was a popular phrase back then called “latch-key kids.”

In “Finding a balance between latch-key and helicopter parenting,” I found some interesting ideas:

“Latch-key kids surged from the 1970s to the early 1990s due to economic changes requiring two incomes to get by, and societal changes where an increased divorce rate created single-parent homes.

‘Now the generation of latch-key kids are parents themselves. Many generation X’ers over-compensate for their latch-key upbringing by being a helicopter parent,’ Janice Emery, 4-H youth development specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, said.

A helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to their child’s experiences and problems. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead.

As parents, it is important to find the middle ground between these parenting styles and balance protecting children, and making sure they grow into responsible adults,” Emery said. “Parents have to keep in mind parenting success is not measured by how much a parent does for their child, but rather how much they teach them to do on their own.”

The second article I read today explains the difference between helicopter and lawnmower parents. In my humble opinion, I don’t see that much difference between the two of them. Both won’t allow their kids to fail and learn from their mistakes. I do agree we need to do less for our kids so they can grow up to be competent, well-balanced adults.

Helicopter of Lawnmower? Modern Parenting Styles Can Get in the Way of Raising Well-Balanced Children

“Helicopter parents, as the name suggests, spend a lot of time hovering. They always stay close to their children, ready to swoop in and direct, help or protect (usually before it is needed). Lawnmower parents are one step ahead of their children, smoothing their path and making sure nothing gets in their way. Common tactics of both include interfering significantly with their grown-up children’s lives, such as complaining to employers when their children don’t get a job.

As with anything, there is a middle ground. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that providing children with opportunities and support helps them to gain experiences, confidence and networks that they wouldn’t be offered in more adverse settings. But there is an important line between supporting children and wrapping them in gold-plated cotton wool.

Allowing children freedom to take appropriate risks through outdoor play is essential for their development. Risky play does not mean placing children in grave danger, but instead allowing them to be children – climbing, jumping from heights and hanging upside down are good examples. Risky play allows children to test limits and solve problems. And, yes, this includes learning what happens when they overstretch themselves and fall.”

 

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A view from my home town where I was a latch-key kid.

When I was growing up, we could ride bikes throughout the countryside. We told our parents where we were going—it could be to a friend’s house who lived five miles away—and our parents never worried. Even our golden retriever Pepi lived a free-range life.

For some of my childhood, I was a latch-key kid and the scary thing about it was going home to an empty house. If my brother, who was two years older, had golf or tennis practice, then I was riding the school bus alone and being dropped off at a bus stop, a quarter mile from my house. It was lonely and quiet, but I survived. The bad days were when Thelma, our bus driver, dropped me off at my doorstep and announced that a prisoner had escaped from the Monroe Penitentiary, which was a couple miles away. She’d wait until I was safely inside my empty house. Those were worst days as a latch-key kid.

 

I wonder if spending some years as a latch-key kid influenced my involvement with my children every step of their way to becoming adults?

Did you grow up as a latch-key kid and do you think it affects how you parent? Or do you think we’re living in different times and we cannot allow our kids the same amount of freedom we had?

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The pool and swim team that allowed my kids space in a safe environment without me helicoptering–too much.

 

Helicopter Parents Crash Summer Camp

 

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When my kids went to summer camp.

I’ve written about how helicopter parents are showing up in the workplace with their millennials here. Now, I’ve learned that parents are finding ways to hover over their kids’ summer camp experience, too.

In an NPR article called “Are Helicopter Parents Ruining Summer Camp?” by
Anya Kamanetz, I learned that helicopter parents often ignore summer camps “no cell phone” rules by hiding their kids’ phones when they pack for them.

“Barry Garst says thanks to mobile devices, parents today are conditioned to hour-by-hour check-ins. ‘The No. 1 concern is the separation that parents feel, and the difficulty in accepting a different type of communication with their child when their child is at camp.’ Garst studies youth development at Clemson University, with a focus on out-of-school learning.

Hence, the phones buried in luggage, mailed to campers, or even, he says, stitched into a stuffed animal.

The research on overparenting, says Garst, shows that when parents behave this way, children’s developing independence can be stunted. The parents are telegraphing that they don’t think kids can get through tough moments on their own, and kids pick up on that attitude. ‘Children are not really learning how to problem-solve.’

Leslie Conrad and Dan Mathews agree. (Conrad is the director of Clemson Outdoor Lab in Pendleton,  S.C., and Mathews is the head of Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, Ga.) Both say their young adult staff members have helicopter parents as well, who also expect to be in constant contact. Last year, Mathews says, he got four or five phone calls from parents of staff members: ‘I can’t reach my child, they haven’t texted yet to say that they’re safe, they don’t like their cabin assignment, another staff member isn’t pulling their weight …’ One parent complained about the poor cellphone reception in the Georgia woods.

Summer vacation is a time of growth and change. Understanding the relationship between tech overdependence and parent-child interdependence may be key to untangling it, so kids can fly free.”

I remember when my kids went away to their first camp. There was a “no cell phone rule,” too at swim camp at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. They didn’t own a cell phones then, so it was not an issue. I did want to check up on them, and the camp instructions said we could send them with a prepaid phone card that they could use at the pay phone outside the dorms. Unfortunately for me, my kids never used the cards. “I didn’t know how to use it,” one child said. The other told me, ”I didn’t want to stand outside in the dark where the pay phones are and I only had time to call at night.”

We all survived one week without talking on the phone. I don’t know if we would today. My kids call quite a bit and I do the same. We’re much more dependent upon cell phones now. I was actually finding myself getting annoyed with so many calls yesterday from my kids. My husband and I were trying to watch a movie and we got two calls from one child. Then as soon as we hung up and started the movie, the second child called. Those weren’t the only calls from them that day–I had lost track of the previous calls. I honestly don’t think my kids realize that I sometimes have things to do or can have fun without them.

Here’s a tip from a website called Common Sense that addresses kids and the media and technology:

“Dear Mom, Don’t Pack My Phone for Camp” By Regan McMahon
“Let’s be honest: sending kids to camp with a cell phone is probably more for you than them. Here’s how to cut your cord.

“When your kid’s summer camp tells you to just pack the essentials — swim suit, sunscreen, sleeping bag — a cell phone is usually not on the list. In fact, it’s generally on the “What Not to Bring” list. But for parents, staying in touch with our kids feels essential, and some find it’s not so easy to break the habit.

“If the kids can unplug, why can’t we? Since we can all admit the cell phone is more for us than for them (kids aren’t the only ones with camp jitters), here are some tried and tested tips from recovering camp moms. You will get through it.”

Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. We empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.

When your kids go to summer camp, how do you communicate with them? Or, do you let them experience camp without talking to you daily?

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My kids today.

 

 

Mom Regrets: When Women Want Their Old Life Back

 

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No regrets.

 

Mom regrets. That’s a term I’ve never heard before. Apparently, some women who have children miss their “before kids life” so much that they regret having them. That’s probably one of the most taboo things a mom could admit to, but they must feel it deeply or they’d stay quiet. I hope for their kids’ sake that their kids won’t read their posts about mommy regrets ten years from now.

The moms expressing regret find parenting less stimulating than working. They say it’s tiring, there’s too much housework and playing with kids can be downright boring. Who can argue with that? I’ll admit there are some tough days when you’ve got little kids who are dependent on you for their very survival. The first couple of months are beyond exhausting and although you may sleep through the night again, it doesn’t lighten up for several years.

I found an interesting article called “Parenting: it’s all about attitude,” by Narelle Henson in STUFF from the Waikato Times. (I had to look that one up! I had no clue where or what a Waikato is! It’s in New Zealand by the way.)

Here’s a quote from the story:

“OPINION: I’m not made to be a mum. I know it is a little late to come to this conclusion, but just hear me out.

Over the past few months, a vast number of “mum regret” articles seem to have swept beneath my (tired mum) eyes. There was the woman just this week with a child the same age as mine who wrote that childcare is mind-numbingly boring.

Last month, there was an article on three women who “just want to go back to being me”.

Before that, there was an article on “parent regret” and in between there were plenty of articles about how non-parent couples are happier. Underlying them all was the basic idea that having kids is hard; so hard, that it might not be worth it. These articles weren’t talking about post-natal depression or psychosis. They were talking about pure simple regret.

The symptoms, by the way, of parenting regret seemed to boil down to endless fantasies about your pre-child life, extreme irritation at childish games and conversation, revulsion at your restricted social life or resentment at the unrestricted amounts of housework. “

Here’s another article with several links to other mom regret articles called “Love and regret: mothers who wish they’d never had children,” from The Guardian There are several contrasting points of view in this article but I found Toni Morrison’s viewpoint ring a bit of truth with me:

“Motherhood is no longer an all-encompassing role for women now, it can be a secondary role, or you don’t have to choose it,” says Toni Morrison in Andrea O’Reilly’s “Motherhood: A Politics of the Heart.”

But, she adds, “It was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me.” For Morrison and countless others, “the children’s demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do. To be a good manager. To have a sense of humour. To deliver something that somebody could use. And they were not interested in all the things that other people were interested in, like what I was wearing or if I were sensual. If you listen to [your children], somehow you are able to free yourself from baggage and vanity and all sorts of things, and deliver a better self, one that you like.”

I believe that having kids does make you become a better person. At least, it makes you try to be better, more patient, less self-centered, and better tempered. You’re the role model of new human beings. You’re not going to display all your worst parts of your personality—hopefully—for them to copy.

I have no regrets about being a mom. Because my husband and I were married for eight years before we had our first child, I think I was so thrilled to finally have kids that there’s no way I’d have felt regret. Yes, some days were hard when the kids were little. When the kids get older, it doesn’t get necessarily get better, it just gets different. The problems come in bigger sizes. Like a smashed up car rather than a broken doll. Or, a letter that you child has been expelled college rather than a trip to the principal’s office.

But like the author Narelle Henson said in her article, life is about attitude:

“The only difference that I can see is in attitude.

I know that is almost blasphemy in this day and age. After all, my generation was forged from the heady idea that a human’s highest end is happiness. Anything that gets in our way is not worth the trouble.

Unfortunately, we missed the memo about happiness sometimes being hard work. It can sometimes involve discipline, repetition and playing the long game. It can sometimes involve grim determination.

When hard happiness is unavoidable, the only thing for it is to change our attitude. We can sit brooding over an old life like an out-of-date athlete, or we can count the very real blessings in front of us and find new delights.

Nowhere is that more obvious than when it comes to parenting regret. Once we have had a child, there is no going back – it doesn’t matter how much we regret it.

That means the only option available to us is which attitude we will choose. Will we choose to fill our minds with endless lists of reasons why life is less pleasant now? Or will we choose to fill our minds with the moments of delight, of laughter, and of happiness sprinkled however sporadically across the day?”

I agree. In all aspects of our lives, our work, relationships, family, hobbies, sports—the only thing in our control is our attitude.

Have you ever had regrets as a parent? Is there anything you wish you could do differently?

 

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I regret I didn’t listen to my kids and allow them to more freedom. My daughter regrets that I made her take piano lessons, while my son wishes he could have spent more time with his music.

 

Is it time to take a break from youth sports?

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My daughter racing a few years ago.

If you have an athletic, active kid, chances are your lives revolve around youth sports—whether it’s tennis, gymnastics, swimming, basketball, baseball, soccer or another organized sports program. There are so many amazing reasons for our kids to enjoy, learn and have fun with teammates, but out of the 45 million who play organized games, 80% will quit by age 15. Not only that, but record numbers of young girls and boys are facing injuries and surgeries.

When is it time to put on the brakes and take a break?

According to a news report from FOX Q13 Seattle, “Should your kids take a break from playing sports?”

“This summer at Q13 News in a series called ‘Safe Summer’ we tackle the question — should your kids take a break from playing sports?

“Kids are more overscheduled, they’re focusing on a sport,” said UW Sports Medicine Physician Dr. Brian Krabak.

More practices, more games and matches, and more injuries is something UW Sports Medicine Physician Dr. Brian Krabak sees it firsthand.

“If you’re a soccer player we’re concerned about ACL types of injuries. If you’re a swimmer you’re more likely to get shoulder or lower back pain. If you’re a basketball player we’re more concerned with ankle or knee injuries,” said Dr. Krabak.

And it’s those injuries he sees in more kids now than ever before. Dr. Krabak says focusing on one sport or specializing instead of kids playing different sports limits their ability to develop naturally.”

I read in a USA Today publication,“Top orthopedic surgeon urges parents not to push young athletes too hard:”

“As spring turns into summer, most kids are given a break from the daily routine of sitting in the structured setting of a school classroom. For young athletes, however, summer can simply mean two more months of intense training, scrimmages, and over-passionate parents and coaches alike.

According to top New York orthopedic surgeon Armin M. Tehrany, who has been named one of New York City’s best doctors several times by New York Magazine, kids who play youth sports today have seen their risk of injury increase dramatically. Among the most common injuries, he says, are dislocated shoulders, concussions and tears of the ACL and meniscus. Believing that coaches and parents contribute greatly to the problem by pushing kids too hard, he urges them to understand the limitations of a young athlete.

“Competitive parents can often put a lot of pressure on their children to succeed in sports,” Tehrany said. “That has led to 70 percent of children choosing not to continue sports by age 13.”

“It’s important that parents and coaches voice the importance of never ignoring an injury or any type of pain,” he said. “Playing through the pain is dangerous, and can worsen an injury and increase risk or chance for surgery.”

As parents, we need to step in if our kids are playing injured. They may want to keep competing, but we are the grown-ups here, right? We want them to be able to enjoy being active in the long-term and may have to put their sports career in perspective. Yes, they may want to be at the Junior Olympics they’ve been training for, but missing a meet at 12, 13 or 14, won’t be the end of their careers.

My own daughter took a break from competing this summer. She took two weeks away from the pool and found out there were other activities like spin class, yoga and running. She believes that her break will allow her to come back and compete refreshed and stronger.

Here’s a great video with kids talking about how they feel about their parents watching their sports. It’s a good reminder for all of us sports parents. After all, we don’t want our kids to be among the 80 percent that quit sports, correct?

Have your kids taken a break from competing in sports? If so, for how long and was it helpful?

9 Reasons To Visit the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

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One of the best things we do each summer is buy summer passes for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Palm Springs may sound like a wonderful place to live, but it does have its drawbacks—the main one being heat. I don’t want to hear “Yes, but it’s a dry heat.” Actually, it’s not always a dry heat. The Gulf of Mexico is below us and storms come through during the summer bringing humidity, thunder and lightening. Besides, even if it’s a perfectly dry day with blue skies and sunshine it’s too hot when the thermometer reaches 115 to 126 degrees.

Living in an air conditioned world feels claustrophobic. I find myself staying inside staring out the window, not wanting to leave the comfort of my home. When I do, I turn on the car and get the AC cranking before I buckle up.

I have a few strategies to deal with the constant heat. One is walking early in the morning—by 7 a.m. it’s too hot. The other is swimming at the Palm Springs Aquatic Center with Piranha Swim Team’s Masters.  The pool is cooled and feels so good—completely refreshing compared to our own pool that’s hot as a bath. Plus, I get pushed by my friends and coach and end up accomplishing so much more than if I swim laps on my own.

The third is the tram. Here’s a description from the tram website:

“The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway—the world’s largest rotating tram car—travels over two-and-one-half miles along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting riders to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park. During your approximately ten-minute journey, tram cars rotate slowly, offering picturesque and spectacular vistas of the valley floor below. Once you reach the Mountain Station—elevation 8,516 feet—enjoy two restaurants, observation decks, natural history museum, two documentary theaters, gift shop and over 50 miles of hiking trails.”

Here are my nine top reasons to visit the tram:

ONE
Architecture.
From the mid-century architecture of the Valley Station to the Mountain Station, the beauty is striking. Pay close attention to the details of how the architects made the most out of breathtaking views. “Both tramway stations were designed by notable mid-century modern architects. The Valley Station, finished in 1963, was designed by Albert Frey and Robson C. Chambers. The Mountain Station, built in 1961, was designed by architect E. Stewart Williams. Additionally, the distinctive Tramway Gas Station at the foot of Tramway Road was designed by Frey and Chambers.” —Wikipedia

TWO
Hiking Trails.
A quick fix to feeling cooped up in the summer means a short drive to Tramway Road and a 10-minute ride up the mountain. We start the season off with small walks—either on the Long Valley Discovery Trail or the Desert View Trail to get used to the elevation. Once summer is well under way, we advance to more challenging hikes among the more than 50 miles of hiking trails. My favorite is Round Valley Loop which is described as a “moderately strenuous 4-mile hike,” but manageable for after a day of work. It’s a really good work out.

 

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Round Valley Loop view.

THREE
Fresh Air.
Did I mention it’s hot in Palm Springs during the summer? The first thing you notice riding up the tram car is fresh air. The windows are open and on the 10-minute ride up the mountain, you feel a cool breeze. At the mountain station, the air is about 30-degrees cooler than on the valley floor—and it’s cool and fresh. What a relief from air conditioning!

FOUR
Fragrance.
I’m hit by the delicious aroma of pine trees and especially the Jeffrey Pine’s butterscotch smell. Not only is the air fresh and cool, the aroma of the forest is enticing. It lifts my spirit.

FIVE
Breathtaking views. Everywhere you look, whether it’s the panoramic view of the Coachella Valley or a view of the Mountain Station from the Round Valley Loop, it’s amazing. A babbling brook or a stately pine are awe inspiring.

 

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A stop along the Desert View Trail.

SIX
Wildlife.
“The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a major gateway to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument traversing the southerly side of the Coachella Valley – officially designated a treasured natural and cultural resource.” There’s plenty of squirrels and lizards and I’ve heard there’s raccoons, foxes and big horn sheep. I notice the birds most of all. I must bring binoculars and a bird book next time.

SEVEN
Bring Your Children.
You’ll hear the excited voices of children ringing as they chase lizards, pick up pine cones and enjoy the outdoors. Many families visit the tram to let their kids explore nature. What a great way to escape the heat with your children and let them burn up energy.

EIGHT
Elevation Training for Athletes.
When my daughter was in high school, she used to run a few miles dryland training for her swimming. She and I would buy summer passes and she’d run at least two days a week at elevation. We often saw other athletes running the Round Valley trail, too.

NINE
The ride.
Some people buy their ticket for the tram for the ride alone. The views are spectacular and it’s a unique experience all its own. We, however, enjoy the tram for the world it transports us to. Ten minutes above the valley, we get to experience a slice of heaven and it makes the summer doable in Palm Springs.

 

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Granite views from the tram window with the other tram approcahing in the distance.

 

You can see why the summer pass is such a great deal!

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How do you stay active during hot summer months?