Yes. Crazy helicopter parents actually did this…

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I think my daughter was telling me to chill at SMOC a few years ago.

I was reading an article from the New York Times where they asked readers to send in their crazy helicopter parenting experiences. The title of the article was ‘Bizarre and Unusual’: Readers Respond to Helicopter Parenting.

They listed a few letters that I found unbelievable. In one, a young physician was on an all-day interview at a hospital and his dad spent the day with him!  In another, a mom called a hospital to find out and clarify the benefits her young doctor son was getting.  I wonder if there’s any coincidence that a few of them were stories about doctors? It’s very competitive and grueling to get into and through med school and I wonder if mommy supervised the entire way?

Here’s one of the stories from the article:

“My boyfriend’s mom definitely has helicopter tendencies. It is very bizarre to me — we are both 29 but I was raised to be very independent. We both went to medical school and are now in residency. My favorite story is that she apparently somehow got ahold of the information about the benefits offered by his hospital and was concerned about them or had questions about them. So without asking him about it decided to call the hospital herself and ask. The staff found this to be pretty amusing and apparently made an announcement over the intercom in the operating room saying something to the effect of “Dr. X — your mommy just called.”

The article talks about LaVar Ball, the father of the U.C.L.A. basketball star Lonzo Ball who was the second draft pick and plays for the Lakers. I will admit I was out of the loop on this story, but after hearing discussions about him and being clueless—I’ve learned that he is the big daddy of all helicopter parents. He’s the dad of three promising basketball players who has interfered with their coaches, programs and careers their entire lives. Here’s a list from USA Today of the 10 most outrageous things he’s said.

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Back when it was okay to hover and over-parent.

The helicopter parenting stories I’ve witnessed pale in comparison. I remember parents insisting that their kids be moved up in swimming or arguing with teachers about grades. One story involves me. I took my son for swim lessons when he was four years old and insisted that he be moved up a few levels. A few summers later, a swim instructor told me about the crazy parents she encountered and said, “One year we had this mom insist her four-year-old be moved up two groups, and he physically wasn’t able at that age to be in that group!” I smiled to myself. Wow, I made it to someone’s most crazy helicopter mom list! I don’t think that’s a great honor, do you?

 

What are some of the crazy stories you’ve heard about helicopter parents?

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Old school vs. new school parenting

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Me and my big brother.

Which is best? The way we were raised, back when parents weren’t involved and we roamed free all over the countryside? Or, how parents are doing it today, attending every sports and piano practice, totally focused on our children’s every move?

According to Deon Price in an article in the Daily Republic called “This Youth Generation: Is ‘old school’ or ‘new school’ parenting best for raising a child?” he compares the two styles and it’s kind of funny to look at how different they are.

For example, many adults remember when it was okay for teachers to paddle kids at school. (I remember the boys were the ones getting paddled. I don’t really remember that technique used on girls except for one teacher who liked to showboat.) Parents were allowed to do that too, and some used a belt rather than a paddle. Today, I think “Alexa” or a neighbor would call the cops on a parent that whipped a child. My parents weren’t into punishment or maybe my brother and I were just pretty darn good kids.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Speaking with parents, youth and anyone raising children, I pose the question: Does “old school” or “new school” parenting work best for the proper upbringing of a child?

This discussion often gets even deeper when it begins to penetrate the surface into different cultural and socio-economic environments. Parenting styles quite often drastically differ, depending on the generation. What is considered strict old-school “tough love” would be considered excessive or maybe even abusive to some. What some modern parents call nurturing and bonding may be considered babying.

What is obvious is that our environment has changed, which has inevitably affected the way parents deal with their children.

Here are just a few examples:

Having an opinion vs. talking back: New-school parenting supports the gesture of “allowing a child to voice his or her opinion.” Old-school parenting says, “You better know when to hold your tongue or you may lose it.” Or, “Don’t let your mouth write a check that your behind can’t cash.” I believe in a healthy balance between the two. At least explain the reason for your parenting decision and ask if your children have any questions so that there are no misunderstandings.

Butt whipping vs. time-out: Time-out is what new-school parents use to deal with inappropriate behavior by a child. Old-school parents use butt-whipping – and as one parent put it, “You also got a lecture during that whipping.” There is a strong opposition against any physical discipline of a child. Some are simply calling it violence and abuse regardless. That in my personal and professional experience is ridiculous. When progressive discipline is in place, the child’s response will determine the level of discipline that should be applied. As a balanced, responsible parent, it’s good to remember to discipline with love and not anger. Never discipline a child while you are angry. Maybe it’s a good idea for the parent to take a time-out before they decide on a butt-whipping.

“Yes sir” vs. “What”: According to one old-school parent, “Children respond back to their parent(s) and/or elders by saying ‘what?’ In my day, if my dad called one of us and we answered with ‘what?,’ we were in for it.” The new-school style has gotten a little soft when it comes to expecting respect from children. “Yes sir” or “Yes ma’am” when responding to an elder person was mandatory. It’s rare to hear the words sir or ma’am from today’s generation of children.

I remember being outside most of the time as a child. Do you remember that, too? We hiked through the woods hacking a trail with machetes or rode for miles on our bikes to visit friends. Evenings were spent playing a softball game called workup where the older kids dominated and I stayed in the outfield forever. It was boring, but it was the place to be under the street lights. Doing all of this was usually without our parents knowing or caring where we were. We came back to the house when we were hungry.

Whether you prefer old school, new school or a combination, there is no black-and-white, clear right or wrong way of parenting. However, it is wise to discerned how we perform the duties of the most critical role on the planet. Please share your thoughts.

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My kids in a more structured life centered around swimming.

What are your thoughts about old school vs. new school parenting? What style do you most closely follow? 

Too much parenting isn’t helping

robert bunnyIn an article in Fatherly  called “Science Suggests Parents Are Taking Parenting Too Far” by Patrick A. Coleman, Parents who want to give their kids every advantage are spending more and more time and money on kids, but science is finding that it’s better to step back and find balance.”

I figured this out for myself. The more I did for my kids, the more I crippled them. Sometimes it doesn’t show up for years, but the damage is done.

Here are some interesting excerpts from the article:

According to a recent study by Cornell University, a majority of parents see world-consuming hyper-engagement as the best method of child-rearing. Going all in on kids has become a cultural best practice, begging this simple question: Does it work? Ask a scientist and they’ll likely tell you no.

Parents who really want a kid to get a head start will often push their child to hit developmental milestones early. The problem is that hitting a developmental milestone early does nothing to improve a kid’s outcomes. Also, pushing them to develop early might actually be detrimental, according to a recently published study by infant attachment expert Dr. Susan Woodhouse of the Leigh University CARE lab.

“We were trying to understand what parents are doing that really matters for children to become securely attached by 12 months,” Woodhouse says. In other words, she was looking into parental behaviors that help babies orient to their parent in a developmentally appropriate and secure way. “What our data showed is that when a baby really needs you and is crying, if you responded at least half the time, the baby would be securely attached.”

Woodhouse calls this the “secure base provision” which simply means parents are responding correctly to a baby’s cues enough times that attachment can form. Importantly, in order to reach the secure base provision, parents don’t need to respond to their child’s cues correctly 100 percent of the time, or even 80 or 70 percent of the time. They simply need to respond correctly 50 percent of the time, which Woodhouse likes to call “good enough” parenting. The clear virtue of this approach is that it allows parents to behave less mechanically, lowering levels of stress, and shielding kids from the potentially deleterious second-hand effects of anxiety and parental busyness.

kat chairThe article explains why we shouldn’t be interrupting and hovering over our kids all the time. They need time to figure out how the world works without us interfering:

But that’s not the whole story. Responding to a child is one thing, but so is letting them explore independently. “When the baby is not in distress, learning about the way the world works and exploring, parents get the job done by not interrupting the baby and making them cry,” Woodhouse explains. “When a cry shuts down the exploratory system and gets the attachment system activated. The exploration stops. The baby isn’t doing their job anymore and that creates insecurity.”

That reminds me when my kids were young and they were playing at the park. My husband and I were sitting on a blanket a few yards away. Our toddler girl fell off the swing, face planting into the sand. My gut reaction was to run to her and see if she was alright! My husband held my hand and said “Shhh!”

We watched as she picked herself up, dusted off some sand and hopped back on the swing. What would have happened if I had my way? I’m sure I would have been carrying home a sobbing child.

But insecure attachment in babies isn’t the only risk of being over-involved. According to a 2012 study, published in the journal PLOS One, kindergarten-age children’s risk for anxiety disorders later in life might be correlated to maternal anxiety or excessive maternal involvement. After tracking 200 children into their elementary years, researchers found that children were more likely to have diagnosable anxiety if mothers had responded positively to survey questions like “I determine who my child will play with” or “I dress my child even if he/she can do it alone.”

The fact is that parenting is stressful enough. But when parents take burdens, either social or educational, off their children’s shoulders, kids do not learn the crucial coping and organizational skills necessary to become functional adults.  

Schiffrin’s most-cited study looked into a child’s self-determination — essentially the ability to make decisions for oneself, feelings of autonomy and having relationships. A child who has strong feelings of self-determination generally also has a sense of well-being and happiness. Schiffrin wondered if helicopter parenting, defined as a developmentally inappropriate level of involvement, affected a child’s self-determination. And … yes. Very much so.

The point of the scientists quoted in this article is for us parents to stop helicoptering, quit snowplowing and find some balance. Good enough parenting is being there when our kids need us, but allowing them room to grow and thrive to become self-sufficient.

kat and rob beachWhat are your thoughts about doing too much for our kids?

How to write and live: advice from Ray Bradbury

In honor of the great Ray Bradbury, I’m posting this story from five years ago.
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I was looking through my book shelves for summer reading. I picked up
Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing: Release the Creative Genius Within You. It’s a small paperback book that has sat on my shelf, unread. I opened the cover and on page one the autograph of the author and the date May 1996 stared me in the face.

imgresThat’s the first time I heard Ray Bradbury speak — and the first time I asked him to sign a book. My daughter, who graduated high school last week, was three months old, and my son, a junior in college, was three years old. That’s a lot of years to have this book sitting on my bookshelf.

Yes, I’m now reading this collection of essays and remembering how inspiring his talk was. Earlier that same day in May 1996, I recognized Ray Bradbury at Las Casuelas the Original, a small Mexican restaurant a few blocks away from the Riviera Hotel, where he was speaking later. I introduced myself to him, as he ate alone, and I said I couldn’t wait to hear his talk.images-1

It was one of the first writer’s conferences I had attended, and I was kind of in a fog, having a newborn child and little sleep.

Ray Bradbury was amazing. He reminded me of a young child, finding wonder in the world. He had the ability to stay young at heart and observe the world as though seeing little things for the first time. I loved his story of how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the UCLA library at a rental typewriter for 10 cents for a half hour. He said he was literally a “dime novelist.” It gave me courage and the belief that we can do anything — if you want it badly enough.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” he said. He advised us to turn off the TV. Don’t watch the news. He said they were selling soap and there was little or no good news and it would rot our minds. Instead, “Read the Bible, a poem and an essay every day.”

How I’d wish I’d listened more carefully and followed that advice 18 years ago. How different would my life be today? The good news is, it’s not too late to start. And I’m proud to say, I started down that path yesterday.images-3

My all time favorite Ray Bradbury book is Fahrenheit 451. My son Robert loves this book, too. I took my son to meet Ray Bradbury during another local speaking engagement years later. Robert has a signed copy of Farenheit 451 that he treasures. Ray Bradbury was a very accessible and kind man, willing to share with all of us enjoying his gift and genius — and striving to be 1/100th the writer that he was. images-4

“What do you love most in the world? The big and little things, I mean. A trolley car, a pair of tennis shoes? These, at one time when we were children, were invested with magic for us.” — Zen and the Art of Writing

Parenting Styles Can Affect Children’s DNA

threeI found an article called “Crappy parenting can damage your kid’s DNA: report” by Hannah Sparks  to be eye-opening. Parents today are scrambling for parenting advice from coaches, books, neighbors, friends and complete strangers online.  I don’t remember so much drama and concern over parenting styles and methods when I was young, or when I was a new mom. The big controversy back then was whether to put your child on a strict nap schedule or let them sleep whenever they were tired.

But here’s a new scary reason to think about your parenting skills. Not only have we learned that how we parent can lead to depression and anxiety in our children — now it’s been discovered that bad parenting can change our children’s DNA — and not in a good way. Here’s an excerpt:

Blame your parents for all your problems? Science supports that.

A new report by researchers at Loma Linda University suggests that aloof and unsupportive parenting damages their children’s health on a genetic level, potentially leading to disease and early death in adulthood.

“The way someone is raised seems to tell a story that is intertwined with their genetics,” says lead study author Dr. Raymond Knutsen, public health professor at Loma Linda University.

Telomeres are the protective tips at the ends of DNA strands that shield our chromosomes from damage and decay. When are DNA isn’t properly protected, our cells age quicker and we become more susceptible to illness and disease.

Of the 200 subjects tracked for this study, which will run in the July edition of Biological Psychology, researchers found that those who reported growing up with a “cold” mother had telomeres that were an average of 25 percent smaller than those with “warm” mothers.

“As early life stress increases, telomeres shorten and the risk of a host of diseases increases, as well as premature death,” says Knutsen.

I did a lot of things badly with my two kids. There are definite moments I’d love to forget or be given a “do over.” One thing that’s positive — I was not a “cold” mother, but was a “warm” mom. Thank goodness.

merobkatWhat are your thoughts about how parents can affect our kids’ DNA?

 

About those 10,000 steps…

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The Tram Road.

I’ve upped my game in my favorite part of my day — my morning walk. I walk seven days a week every morning, without fail. This is a big accomplishment for me, since I fell skiing in 2018 and had knee surgery. My typical morning walk has been a lap around Ruth Hardy Park and back home winding through the neighborhood going about two miles.

After visiting my son two months ago in the Bay Area where we walked all over the place, I realized I was averaging more than 10,000 steps a day — closer to five miles. I decided there’s no reason why I couldn’t continue this trend at home.

I read a book called Flourish by Martin E. P. Seligman. Seligman talks about his own walking and he categorized people as active or inactive. To be active, he said you have to walk 10,000 steps.

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Mt. San Jacinto view from Ruth Hardy Park.

So be it. The last few weeks, I’ve achieved that goal! Plus, I added more stress to the walk. Rather than lapping my park a few times, my husband and I advanced to the Tram Road which has a steep grade of 10%. It’s starting to heat up, so we had been going early.

Now that it’s too hot outside and early no longer cuts it, we bought our summer passes for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and we hiked at an altitude of about 8,000 feet in the San Jacinto Wilderness yesterday.

So I’m feeling pretty good about myself, despite my sore legs. Then I read this:

10,000 steps a day: Is it necessary for better health?

A recently published paper in the highly respected Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that 4,400 steps a day was strongly related to lower mortality rates when compared to 2,700 steps. As the steps increased, risk of dying decreased, until about 7,500 steps a day, when the risk benefit started to level off.

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Yesterday’s hike in the San Jacinto Wilderness.

The authors are talking about mortality rates, and say there are benefits to walking 10,000 steps a day:

“With this recent finding, it is now appropriate to question the merits of the 10,000-steps-a-day goal. Besides the obviously arbitrary number, there still is value to achieving the goal. If people take more steps, it means they are spending less time being sedentary. A growing body of research is finding that sitting is the new smoking, contributing to metabolic disorders, cancers and heart disease. If getting more steps can potentially prevent many common disorders and diseases, it is a simple and inexpensive way to reduce leading causes of death every year.”

 

I’ve decided that I’ll shoot for 10,000 steps a day, but won’t freak out if I don’t make it. I’m walking, hiking, swimming and getting in better shape. That’s the main goal after all, not 10,000 arbitrary steps.

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View of Palm Springs from the Tram Road.

What are your thoughts about walking 10,000 a day?

 

Summer Before Senior Year: Write the College Essay!

I’m seeing all the high school graduation notices and pictures posted on Facebook and Instagram. It’s an exciting time for families. Here’s one bit of advice to help those families with kids who haven’t graduated high school yet, but will next year.


imgresHere’s a tip for parents of incoming high school seniors that I wish we would have followed: get that college essay done, now.

I mean it!

I’ll never forget the agony my son went through trying to write his essays close to the deadline. He suffered from so much anxiety and went through days of writer’s block. He said the essays were the most important thing he had to write in his life.

My son and friend at high school graduation. My son and friend at high school graduation.

By procrastinating and putting it off until the end–into a busy time when he also had a half dozen AP classes and swim practice to worry about–“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I’VE WRITTEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE” was too big a burden to deal with!

My son told me—during the summer when I suggested he get started—that the questions weren’t out yet. That’s what he said.

I have good news to share with you. The essay prompts for the Common App ARE out in the summer. You can take a look at them, and get some guidance here.  

images-1If you can “suggest,” “encourage” or “force” your high school senior to get started on writing essays for their college apps, it may be the best thing you do for them all year. Tell them to get a rough draft done. Put it away for a week or two, dust it off and have them do a rewrite. Repeat this process during the summer. Then put it away until it’s time to fill out the college applications.

You should take a look at it, too. If they let you. If not, have them find a teacher or adult friend to review it. My son wouldn’t let me review his essays. Not that as a writer with a degree in editorial journalism and a 20-plus-year career in writing could I have offered him a bit of help. But, no. He had to do it the hard way. He did get one of his English Lit teachers to review his work, though.

At this very second, he has three papers to finish for his college classes. Due today….

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Maybe your kids will take your advice and get the writing started early. They’ll also practice good habits which will serve them well when they are in college!

Writing the essays and taking time for revisions over the summer will definitely lift
a lot of senior pressure in the fall.

What advice do you have for parents of incoming high school seniors?