Don’t Be Afraid to Let Your Children Fail

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My kids trying out their superpowers.

There’s something to be said for failure. I look back on my younger parenting days and realized I was interfering too much day to day. I wouldn’t let my kids face consequences or fail. I would rush to school with forgotten homework or swim suits. I talked to teachers about tests scores and homework grades that were less than perfect. What a pain in the butt I must have been–although I thought I had good relationships with teachers and coaches.

Without the chance to fail, we are robbing our kids the chance to learn from their mistakes. My son would sleep through his alarm and I’d wake him up for school on a daily basis. My dad advised me to let him be late for school and he’d learn. I wasn’t sure he would learn, so I always woke him up and got him going.

In an article on the NBC Tulsa 2 website called The Effect of ‘Snow Plow’ Parenting by Travis Guillory, I learned some statistics that show the negative effects of rescuing our kids from failure.

TULSA — We’re taking a look at a new trend in parenting styles called “Snow Plow” parenting, where these parents make a clear path for their kids with no obstacles.

Experts say it could be setting them up to fail.

So we’re showing you the impacts of being a “Snow Plow” parent and why taking a step back, may be your best move.

You may have heard the term helicopter parenting, even lawnmower parenting, now we have “Snow Plow” parenting.

Child Development Expert Katey McPherson says, “It’s a newer term, snow plow parenting where they are just plowing through everything for them.”

6th Grade English Teacher Jordan Madura says she sees it constantly.

Madura says, I’ve definitely had times when I’ve spoke to a parent and the parent is like I don’t understand why this test has to be this way, like isn’t there a way that you can postpone because of x,y, and z? Asking for more things that I would expect that the kid could ask for.”

McPherson says whether it’s helicopter, lawnmower or snowplowing parents, all of it based out of fear.

“We really are afraid of the world, this is an unsafe place, so I’m going to hunker down, I’m going to protect my babies. I’m going to carefully engineer play dates, club soccer schedules, junior high, high school path to college etc.,” says McPherson.

And how exactly does it affect our kids, take a look at the numbers:

  • 30 percent of 18 to 34-year-old men are living at home with mom and dad
  • Getting a driver’s license and driving is not a priority
  • And many times after their first year of college, they come back home, for good.

“They don’t have the life skills to deal with a mean roommate or a mean professor,” says McPherson.

Educators and experts say the same thing: Failure is and will always have to be part of success.

There’s an interesting book called “Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success” by John C. Maxwell that is helpful in this area. Failure and mistakes are certainties in life. It’s how we react to failure that counts. Successful people move on and learn from mistakes. We should look at failure in our children’s lives the same way. Everything and anything can be a learning experience. Let our children learn and grow. Perfectionism can be stifling to growth.

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Now I’m trying to let go of my adult children and allowing them room to fail.

What types of failures have your children experienced and grown from? 

Looking Back on My First PAC-12 Meet

 

Olympic swimmers competing at the PAC 12s.

Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin competing at the PAC 12s.

Five years ago in February, my daughter swam in her first of four PAC-12 Championship meets. It’s fun to look at my thoughts and remember the excitement of the experience.

1.  I couldn’t believe the conference meet was here already. What happened to my daughter’s first year of college swimming?

2.  I was surprised by how easy it was to find a seat. Coming from age group meets that are crawling with kids and parents and you have to squeeze to get a seat, it was a pleasant change. However, it did get more packed as the days passed and always at finals.

The crowd at the PAC 12s.

The stands at the PAC 12s.

3.  I still get nervous before Kat swims. Maybe it’s even worse than before. Especially at prelims. I thought I’d get over that queasy feeling, hand-shaking, palm-sweating attack. But, no I did not.

4.  I wanted to spend a little time with Kat. But, she’s on the deck with her team, and we’re up in the stands with the parents.

That's me up in the stands looking down on my daughter.

That’s me up in the stands looking down on my daughter.

5.  I have met some great swim parents on our new team. Don’t get me wrong, there are great families on our club team that I’m life long friends with. I’m thrilled to meet parents on the college team that are friendly and fun, too. I guess that’s what swimming parents are like.

6.  It’s fun to cheer at the PAC-12 conference, hold up signs, and wave pom poms. Kat would have killed me if I behaved that way at an age group meet!

7.  Now that it’s the last day of PAC-12s, I’m shocked at how fast the days went by. Do I really have to wait an entire year to experience this again?

8.  Looking down from the bleachers at my daughter, I’m amazed at how much she’s matured this year. She’s happy and comfortable with her new family, her college team. She has grown independent from us and she’s doing really, really well. I’m happy and proud, but I’m wiping a few tears from eyes, too.photo 2 (1)

Why I Like to Stay in Houses vs. Hotels

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The Colorado Airbnb.

This past weekend, we traveled to Colorado for a wedding. The bride was one of my children’s age group swimming teammates who played a big part in their swim and school lives. We’ve stayed close friends with her parents after bonding over years of volunteering for the team and going to meets. (Isn’t the swim world great?) They were one of the families I looked up to, who taught me the ropes about swim parenting. Not to brag, but their daughter swam in the Olympics–Beijing in high school and London in college, representing Singapore.

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The house we stayed at in the summer at the beach.

My kids insisted they were going to the wedding, which I was kind of hedging about. I mean, I wanted to go, but Colorado in the winter? They were going to go with or without us, so I finally agreed to go, too. I’m in Palm Springs, thank you very much, and I was stressed about flying in the snow, driving in the snow, and yes, even walking in the snow! We did have a six-hour delay flying due to a severe snow storm, so I had reason to worry.

Lately, when we travel with our adult kids, we look for rentals on Airbnb or VRBO. In the past years, we took a trip to Summerland, Calif., a few blocks from the beach where our kids joined us. We went to Park City, Utah, too. The kids were supposed to join us there but couldn’t take time off work. I like houses better because it’s nice to stretch out on the sofa, have a kitchen for snacks and meals and a full-sized living room. It’s so much better with family to have an entire house than staying in hotels where you have a bed and a coffee maker. I also believe it’s much more affordable.

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The claw-footed tub. One of two perfect bathrooms.

The house in Colorado this past weekend was really cute and fit us perfectly–in spite of the snow. We could walk (with our boots, parkas and gloves on) three blocks to downtown and some great restaurants. In Park City and Summerland, we also had great locations within a few blocks of the shops and main streets.

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Back in high school: The bride and my son in their Physics class cardboard boat competition.

If it’s just my husband and me, or me traveling alone, a hotel is best. But, for a family, you cannot beat a home. FYI, the wedding was wonderful and the bride especially beautiful. It made me treasure our swim team days even more and reminded me of all the time our kids spent together for years and years.

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At the wedding with the bride and groom.

Here’s my review of this past weekend’s Airbnb:

This spotless, bright and airy home has every convenience you’ll need including a fully updated kitchen and plenty of outlets everywhere. It’s located three blocks to downtown. We loved the beautiful decor. Everywhere we looked there are unique touches, from a claw-footed tub, stained glass windows above a bedroom door to an antique door handle collection. In every room you’ll discover something special. The beds and bedding are comfy, too.

Which do you like better for vacations? Houses or hotels and why?

 

What’s the Big Difference Between College and Age Group Champs?

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Teammates and coaches cheering my daughter on during the mile.

I enjoyed talking with one of my children’s former coaches this morning about championship meets. My question was what can parents do — or not do — to help their kids at the big meets. Coach Tim Hill, now of the SHARKS Swim Club in the Houston area, asked me what it was like at the PAC 12 championship meets sitting in the stands, compared to the big meets during our club years. He’s clever that way to get me to think about it myself rather than telling me the answers.

The big difference was rooting as a team with the other parents at the college championships. The scoreboard has our teams listed in order of points and you can’t avoid it. We were competitive not with the top teams on the scoreboard, but the ones right above and below us. The parents of each college dress up in school colors, have props like light-up necklaces and pompoms and create team cheers. We’d have a pre-finals function with drinks and snacks in the hotel lobby. When our kids walked through the lobby to get on their buses or vans, we’d perform our team cheer and make a tunnel for them to go through. It was fun and filled with laughter embarrassing the heck out of our kids.

We cheered for each other’s kids, felt disappointment when someone didn’t have a good swim together as a team. Up in the stands, we watched our kids cheer for each other, on their feet on deck or at the blocks, rooting and caring sincerely how their teammates swam. Yes, we wanted our kids to get best times and make it to A finals, but there was less focus on that than being part of a team.

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With my fellow swim moms at the PAC 12 Championships.

At USA Swimming meets, the focus was on individual swims and the team score wasn’t as important or often didn’t exist. We definitely cheered for each other’s kids, but it wasn’t as intensely a team experience as the college meets. The focus was on our own children. We wanted them to get personal bests, improve and get that cut.

At age group meets, Tim explained that parents have a lot of expectations because they’ve got “blood and money” invested. “It’s your baby and your money.” Often meets are away and you’re paying for hotels, plus the suits and entry fees. It adds up, not to mention the family’s time commitment, and if our children aren’t improving, we want to know why.

Tim also explained that swimming is a lot like real life and there are a lot of variables. The stock market doesn’t go straight up, for example. We aren’t 100% every day in our jobs or relationships — and our children aren’t going to get best times at every meet. Our children may be tired from homework, not feeling well or not on their game. He discovered that Tuesday afternoon duel meets for high school, kids may swim better than at USA meets on a weekend. They’re fresher for one thing. By the weekend, the kids may be tired after a week of school, practices and homework. Also, it’s a race with winners and losers. There’s immediate feedback. They may go to a USA meet and be seeded 80th and wonder if they even want to swim because they know they don’t have a shot at finals.

Parents need to be supportive and not start questioning in the stands if the taper was right, if another kid is getting more attention from the coach or why their child isn’t improving. If we are questioning the coach in front of our kids, they will start to lose confidence. So much of swimming is feeling confident, Tim said.  If we focus too much on performance and don’t realize it’s a process with ups and downs, we may put too much pressure on our kids. When the meet is over and we still have questions about “why” then go directly to the source. Ask the coach questions at the right time.

Tim mentioned that there’s a lot more opportunity for kids to improve during daily practice than at a monthly meet. When asked by a swimmer if Tim thought he could break 50 seconds in the 100 free, Tim asked him, “What have you been doing in practice to get there?”

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Cheering for teammates.

What differences do you see between college and age group meets?

 

 

How to Raise Fragile and Entitled Kids

robert

If only I knew then what I know today.

There’s always a new article about how helicopter parents are failing their kids. I read one today that not only pointed out how badly our kids will do when we do too much for them — including higher occurrences of anxiety and depression — but it turns out parents suffer from our own helicopter parenting, too. Yes, I’m guilty and I’m suffering, too.

When we are helicopter parents, we tend to worry more and also experience higher levels of stress and anxiety. The key is to let our kids fail and learn how to handle disappointment and difficult situations. When we solve everything for them, we rob them of the ability to learn from mistakes and practice problem solving.

Here’s an article I read today by Ana Aznar, who is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Winchester, called How Over-Parenting Harms Your Kids by Making Them Fragile and Entitled. Click here to read the entire article.

I liked this paragraph and felt is really summed it up:

Life inevitably brings problems and disappointment. It is better to teach children how to face these issues rather than to solve all their problems for them. By doing so, parents will help children to develop resilience and the ability to deal with frustration – tools that will allow them to thrive once they leave the parental home.

When I watch one of my kids struggle with problems at work, friends or roommates, I want to kick myself. Did I rob them of the ability to handle these issues that inevitably are going to happen? By trying to make life perfect for them, I didn’t help them in the long run.

Here are a few more excerpts from the article:

During the last couple of decades, new types of parents have emerged. From the anxiously involved helicopter parents to the pushy tiger mums, these differing styles all have one thing in common: they tend to involve over-parenting. This is where parents micromanage their children’s lives – giving them little autonomy, putting too much pressure on them to achieve academic and personal success, while allowing few chances for their children to experience failure and frustration.

These are the parents who run back to school when their children forget their sports kit, do their homework, and ask others in the parent WhatsApp chat for the homework when their child does not bring it home. These parents believe their children are always right. They will confront teachers if the child feels they have been unfairly treated, or will confront other parents if, say, their child is not invited to a party.

Most of the research on over-parenting has focused on how it has affected university students. But the link between over-involved parents and negative consequences is found when examining children of all ages. Indeed, pre-school and primary school children of over-involved parents tend to experience high levels of shyness, anxiety and poor peer relations.When examining adolescents and university students, these negative consequences continue.

For example, 16 to 28 year-old students who reported having helicopter parents were more likely to have low levels of self-efficacy – the trust that people have in their own abilities and skills – and poor relationships with their peers.In similar research, young people who reported having over-involved parents experienced higher levels of depression and stress, less satisfaction with life, as well as less ability to regulate their emotions. They also reported a higher sense of entitlement, and increased drug use than young people with less involved parents.

Here are a few of the problems over-parenting can cause us:

Bad for parents too

Over-parenting does not only have negative consequences for the children, though. Parents who over-parent are more likely to experience high levels of anxiety, stress and regret. This in turn has negative consequences for their children, who may pick up on their parents’ anxiety and make it their own.

This may be one of the reasons why the number of university students struggling with anxiety and depression is at an all-time high. Indeed, a recent poll concluded that one in five university students in the UK suffers from high anxiety levels.

So, should all parents back off and not get involved in their children’s lives? Not quite. Because to make matters more complicated, research clearly shows that children who have involved parents tend to do better at school, have higher levels of self-esteem, and better peer relations than children whose parents are not as involved.

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If you were guilty of being a helicopter parent, have your kids experienced problems because of over-parenting?

Who Benefits the Most from Volunteering?

33944149_10156550450214612_1114497597600432128_oI gave up part of my day to volunteer at the Piranhas Masters meet. I was too chicken to sign up to swim. I haven’t done a meet since pre-knee and eye surgery.

I took on a new writing job for trade magazines in the last few months that has me chasing deadlines and sources — even through the weekends. Maybe I shouldn’t have been there and should have stayed home and worked.

But, I went and feel so good about helping out, cheering on my teammates and friends.

Two things that stood out today:

The first heat I timed, my lane had a 98-year-old woman, who needed help to get on the blocks, who dove in and swam a 200 free. I said to my teammate and friend sitting next to me, “What was my excuse again for not swimming?”

Then there was the 20-something-old autistic young man who doesn’t function well in day-to-day life. I watched as he got up on the blocks, dove in, swam amazing underwaters, gorgeous strokes and won events with personal bests. His friend and coach told me he’s part of the US Paralympic Team. Although he doesn’t function in the “real world” he gets the pool. It was beautiful to watch. The support he got from his competitors was amazing, too. Everyone was on his team.

Volunteering was exactly the medicine I needed to feel fulfilled, connect with my community and get away from the stress of deadlines.

I recently read about the benefits of volunteering from several articles. Here’s one I read called “Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits” from a website called Help Guide: Your Trusted Guide to Mental Health & Wellness. Here’s the link and an excerpt:

Volunteering can help you make friends, learn new skills, advance your career, and even feel happier and healthier. Learn how to find the right fit.

Why volunteer?

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you to find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career.

Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.

Benefits of volunteering: 4 ways to feel healthier and happier

  1. Volunteering connects you to others

  2. Volunteering is good for your mind and body

  3. Volunteering can advance your career

  4. Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life

    16387450_10155016389794612_6785187209915237532_nWhere do you volunteer in your community and what do you enjoy most about it?

Is Low Self Esteem Caused by Helicopter Parents?

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Practicing to be superheroes.

Helicopter parents are all around the world these days. I thought of it as a United States phenomenon, but after reading this article from the Times of Oman (which is between Yemen and Saudia Arabia—I looked it up) I realized helicopter parents are everywhere.

Written by Farzeen Ashik, author of the prize-winning novel ‘Rainbow Dorm Diaries-The Yellow Dorm’ “The Hard Truth About Helicopter Parenting” spells it out simply and effectively:

The hard truth about helicopter parenting

Have you heard about helicopter parenting? As parents, we want the best for our kids. It almost seems like we keep wanting to raise the bar, so we turn into Supermoms and Superdads. But in the process, do we end up becoming a bit over-protective, aggressive, pushy, or overconcerned? Don’t think so? Let’s take a quick, hard look then. Are you the one finishing your child’s homework and school projects? Is it ultimately your responsibility to ensure that your child’s deadlines are met and work is submitted on time or even that the school bag has the right books for the lessons the next day? Do you take it as a personal affront if your child gets a low grade and get an immediate itch to send an email to the teacher about it? Do you pack your teen’s lunch box and iron his/her uniform? Does your child look at you when someone asks him/her about what he/she wants to do when he/she is older? A whole lot of parents will nod reluctantly. Let’s face the fact that we are a generation of helicopter parents. So, what is helicopter parenting? The term “helicopter parent” was first used in Dr Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Between Parent and Teenager, by teens, who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter. The term became popular enough to become a dictionary entry in 2011. There might be a whole section of readers who strongly believe that they are doing nothing but their duty as good parents to be so involved in the lives of their children. The fact that there could be such a thing as over-involvement does not even occur to them. But as parents, don’t we also have a responsibility to make sure our kids grow up making their own little mistakes and facing their challenges and fears? Here are some reasons why you should stop hovering over your children.

Low self-esteem

If you are constantly around then your children will get used to turning to mommy or daddy for all the answers. Not only that, they will start losing confidence in themselves and their instincts. Every time they make a decision, they will feel the need to run to you and check whether they are right. That’s because your constant presence sends out the signal that you don’t trust their judgement.

Lower adaptability

Kids today will be adults tomorrow and before you know it, they will be out there battling it on their own. They have to graduate, get jobs, find partners, and finally raise their own children. Looking at your gawky teenagers now and imagining them doing all that will certainly seem remote to you but you have to start envisioning them doing things by themselves. Give them opportunities to adapt to different scenarios and challenges. Else, they will be misfits in the real world.

I know I did too much for my kids. I was trying my best, but I wanted to make sure they didn’t fail. I was constantly in their classrooms talking to teachers about assignments and tests. I emailed coaches or met to let them know if my child wasn’t being treated fairly. I helped with homework. I found new teaching methods when I didn’t think their teacher was up to snuff. Today, when I hear my son give himself horrible self-talk, I wonder if I am the cause of it? Was it because I pampered him? I reread the part of the article about low self-esteem, and I did trust my kids’ judgment. I wonder if they knew that? Did I make it clear? I have enough self-doubt on my own that maybe it can be spread like a cold and they caught it from me. 

In any case, my daughter made the comment that negative self-talk is very common. I listened to a webinar by David Benzel, a sports parenting expert, focus on self-talk. He said we can stop our kids when we hear negative self-talk and help them rewire what they say to themselves. I think it’s worth getting out his parenting book “From Chump to Champ” and rereading the chapter on self-talk.

robkatwaterWhat do you think the pitfalls of helicopter parenting are?