Top Parenting Tip: Don’t help too much!

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I saw this tweet first thing this morning and it stuck with me all day. My kids are in their early 20s and if I had a do-over, I’d do less for them, not more. I love being a mom and my kids survived my over-parenting and have flourished. But I failed them over and over by doing too much along the way. When they are experiencing pain or a rough patch now, I look back and wish I hadn’t been such a helicopter or lawn mower parent and they’d have experienced more difficulties in their earlier years.

What drives parents to do everything for their kids? Here are six reasons why we do too much for our kids–taken from my own experience and observing other parents:

ONE
We want to shield our kids from pain and hurt.

TWO
We want our kids to have the brightest futures possible — and only we can guarantee that by our constant hovering and interference.

THREE
We’re afraid to let our kids fail. This is the exact opposite of what we need to do. Let them fail while they’re young, when the consequences aren’t so big.

FOUR
Peer pressure. We want to be a super parent, like those we see around us at school or in their sports.

FIVE
We do all the work around the house because their schedules are so busy. (Like ours aren’t?)

SIX
We make every decision for them, allowing them to miss the development of good decision-making skills as they grow.

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What reasons do you see for parents doing too much for their kids?

 

 

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Beautiful Boy: a Must See Movie for Parents

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The official movie poster for Beautiful Boy.

Last night, my daughter and I went to see Beautiful Boy, a film about a family dealing with their son’s meth addiction. Based on a real-life father/son story, the script is a melding of two memoirs: Beautiful Boy by writer and columnist David Sheff, played by Steve Carell, and Tweak by the addicted son, Nic (Timothée Chalamet).

Beautiful Boy is an emotionally difficult movie for any parent to see. Although I haven’t gone through anything nearly as hellacious or dramatic, I related to the parents’ anguish. I realized how strongly I want to make everything okay for my kids when they’re experiencing pain. As hard as we want to control situations and can see what the best choices are, in the end, it’s all up to them. We can’t live their lives for them.

What I found especially poignant, was Carell’s flashbacks to his young innocent son and the many memories he had of their close relationship, interspersed with gritty scenes of finding Nic soaking wet and high in a San Francisco alley or overdosed in a hospital.

Directed by Belgian director and co-writer, Oscar nominated Felix van Groeningen, I loved the acting by Carell, Chalamet, Amy Ryan as the first wife and mom, and Maura Tierney as the current wife and mother of two younger kids. The soundtrack and cinematography were integral to the experience, which will haunt me for years. I cried when I heard Sunrise Sunset, a song from Fiddler on the Roof performed by Perry Como, which I played on the piano as a young child. The soundtrack includes artists Neil Young, John Lennon, David Bowie and Nirvana.

There are uncomfortable scenes of drug use, near deaths, and the horror experienced by Nic’s parents. It’s an important movie because drug addiction is epidemic throughout our country, regardless of money, race or gender. Overdose is the number one cause of death in our country for those under age 50.

Here’s an excerpt from the Hollywood Reporter with interviews with Carell and Chalamet:

At the U.S. premiere of Beautiful Boy at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Carell said his most challenging scene was a more tender one, in which David receives a desperate call from Nic but chooses not to help him get sober again. Whether from lack of hope or lack of strength, David tells Nic that he’s on his own.

“I think that goes against every fiber of every parent’s being,” Carell told The Hollywood Reporter of the scene that has the character crying on a couch at home. Carell said having two teenagers “absolutely” shaped the way he viewed the script, saying, “I don’t think you ever stop worrying about them until the day you die.” Through his performance, he realized having no ability to keep your kids safe and healthy has to be “the scariest thing of all.”

Chalamet likes that Beautiful Boy isn’t a tragic story, nor a glorious story. The addiction tale is told from a “total perspective,” based on the best-selling memoirs of father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy and Tweak, respectively.

“That encompassed addiction in a contemporary sense, in a way that I just hadn’t ever read anything like that,” Chalamet told THR. “Movies or books that I’d been privy to prior that dealt with the subject matter felt like they lean into the tragedy of it or into the glory of it somehow.”

Here’s link to John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy” written for his son Sean. 

Lyrics to Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) by John Lennon:

Close your eyes
Have no fear
The monster’s gone
He’s on the run and your daddy’s here

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Before you go to sleep
Say a little prayer
Every day in every way, it’s getting better and better

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Out on the ocean sailing away
I can hardly wait
To see you come of age
But I guess we’ll both just have to be patient
‘Cause it’s a long way to go
A hard row to hoe
Yes, it’s a long way to go

But in the meantime
Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Before you go to sleep
Say a little prayer
Every day in every way, it’s getting better and better

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Darling, darling, darling
Darling Sean

Songwriters: John Lennon

Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing

Today, Take Time to Be Grateful!

I received an amazing email from one of our former Piranha head coaches, Tim Hill, who is now coaching in Texas. He has some great words of wisdom that in our heated political midterm elections, I think are important for all of us to read–regardless which “team” you’re rooting or fighting for. He’ll be sharing his thoughts–and a SwimSwam article of mine–with his team. I think his thoughts about gratitude and our common goals are worth posting for more people to read, too.

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I’m grateful to swim in a beautiful pool with my team.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Family & Friends,

Last night I stayed awake (probably because I hadn’t worked out physically in three to four days, which is never good for me) thinking about all that is going on in our world/country, and my daily environment of working with a great cross-section of people, and most importantly our young people. Coming back from a 2.5 hour Senior meet where each of the swimmers did something well, I realized it wasn’t perfect, but I saw progress of young people engaged and challenging themselves. (I went with a small group of five before our hosted Shark meet of 600 swimmers & many parents/volunteers.) I walked away feeling good and that we’re all making progress in our daily lives of living and getting better.

Then after a conversation with some neighbor friends on values and our political system struggles, I read this short piece below from a former swim parent/board person that got me thinking along with watching a Train Ugly video on how our brains can change and how we can continue to learn to have a “Growth Mindset” (I’ll post more next week about it). So, I want to share some thoughts, which are at times difficult for me to put in writing, but I thought it can‘t hurt. Then read “5 Ways Parents (people) Can Handle Conflicts” and see how it might fit into our daily living exchanges.

Here are my thoughts:

Think how grateful we can be every day for so much good in our lives. We are truly blessed with so much that’s good that comes our way.

First, I’m grateful for many things in my lifetime journey so far, most importantly my lovely partner for 41+ years, Shayla—whose strong faith and belief in all mankind being equal is so inspiring. Second, our families/siblings who bring so much laughter, love and joy to our lives, even when we don’t always agree on some issues. Also, I’ve had the good fortune to travel the world in my coaching career, experiencing many different people/cultures, plus working/sharing with some great staff, parent groups and yes—young people of all ages. The one common theme is there are more caring, wonderful people in this world and a great deal of positive things going on that happen every day. Our constant news cycle doesn’t seem to cover that as much, but rather the power struggles that are front page news based on he/she said that it make it appear things are horrific (which as history has shown has always existed before our 24-hour news cycle brought it to the forefront daily.)

Yes, we all face different challenges, some that don’t work out the way we’d like or believe in. We have to decide how we’ll respond to these occurrences. As I like to share/believe – “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.” Keep in mind we all come on to this wonderful planet the same way and are made of basically the same substance. At the end of each day, can we realize that we have a lot in common, want peace, security and the love of our family and some friends while sharing our earth and it’s beautiful creatures and resources?

We are truly blessed with so much that good that comes our way and we should take a minute every day to say and share what are we grateful for.

5 Ways Parents (earthlings) Can Help Handle Conflicts
Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham from SwimSwam

One thing I’ve learned through experience is that when there is an issue that involves our children—and I feel like they’ve been wronged—I need to take a deep breath. And, I let a few days pass. I ask how our kids can settle an issue themselves before getting involved. I’m not talking about something serious where they could be in danger, but other issues like being signed up for events they don’t like or not making it into a higher level group.

Here are five tips to use at the pool and in other areas of your life with coaches, teachers and other parents:

ONE
Listen to your kids but do some research. It is possible that there are two sides to the story. If you only listen to your child, you may not have the whole picture. Investigate and find out the other point of view. Then you’ll be in a better position to evaluate if you need to get involved. Often, our kids vent to us but may not want our help.

TWO
Take some deep breaths, let time go by and walk or exercise before making a phone call or writing that email. Sometimes things that seem so urgent at the moment won’t be so worrisome after a few days. In many cases, a new issue will take its place.

THREE
Don’t lose your temper or you’ve lost. Having an issue about our kids can turn a mild-mannered person into a mama or papa grizzly. Staying calm if you do get involved, will help you get the results you’re seeking.

FOUR
Have a solution in mind. What is the outcome you want? I had a boss once say that anyone can point out problems—it’s the people with solutions who are rare. I learned from serving on our team’s board that people can complain a lot. After every decision our board made, we got complaints from someone. Sometimes, just listening made the person feel better because people like to be heard.

FIVE
Understand that you can make the situation worse. This is a sad truth that with our best intentions, we can escalate a small incident into something bigger. Also, by problem solving for our children, we are taking away opportunities for them to learn and grow into independent adults.

What is your best advice for parents when kids are facing a problem?

 

I’m grateful to for time with family and friends.

 

What Happens to Our Kids Raised on Selfies? :)

I wrote this article on Halloween 2015. The question I ask is still bugging me. I think we are getting more and more research that our kids raised on selfies and Facebook are NOT doing better than earlier generations.

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The first Halloween for my kids together.

I have a question for you. This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. What do will be the long-term effects on our kids for us posting everything they do on Facebook? I’m not pointing fingers, because yes, I’m guilty of this myself.

 Do you remember when once a year your relatives and close family friends would come over and the slide projector and screen would come out? Or, when you sat with a bowl of popcorn on the carpet with the cousins at your grandparents house, bored watching old slides or home movies of your parents? I took a lot of photos of my kids when they were babies and toddlers. I took less and less as they got older until our phones got combined with our iPhones. Now, I’m guilty of taking photos whenever I get the chance. And posting them on FB.

I didn’t have FB when my kids were young. We barely had internet. We had a modem that I used to send files to a printer. There was no way to share every minute detail and selfie of our day. Instead, I took my film downtown to the photo shop and got double prints made. Then I wrote a card or letter by hand to my mom or dad and inserted the photos and mailed them the old fashioned way. 

My fear is that we are raising kids who think they are more self-important than they really are. Their every move is recorded and shared with the world. Maybe they’ll be confused and want to share as much about their lives as a Kardashian. As they grow older and have their own Instagram, Snapchat, etc. will they try harder and harder to get noticed? Will the photos get more outrageous and provocative? Look at me???? I’ve seen plenty examples of that outcome with my kids’ friends.

I’ve been reading articles about this phenomenon. Here’s a related article I wrote on whether or not our kids get too much glory. Following are some excerpts and links from CNN and US News. Some report skyrocketing anxiety and depression as a result of too much social media.

“The 2014 National College Health Assessment, a survey of nearly 80,000 college students throughout the United States, found that 54% of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in the past 12 months and that 32.6% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” during the same period. The study also found that 6.4% had “intentionally, cut, burned, bruised or otherwise injured” themselves, that 8.1% had seriously considered suicide and that 1.3% had attempted suicide.

Ease up on the pressure. Do we really have to be noticed all the time? Does every second have to be a beauty contest? Our kids need to stop feeling that they have to outperform their peers every minute of every day. They need to know that they don’t have to market themselves constantly, and that social media can be a mechanism for fostering collaborative relationships — not a medium for fueling competition, aggression and irresponsible behavior that contributes to anxiety and depression.” More from CNN here.

Here’s another article with an interesting point of view on selfies and a teen’s self worth. Read more from US News here.

“Social media use can turn into a problem when a teen’s sense of self worth relies on peer approval, Proost says. Whether they’re posting from the football game bleachers or on a family vacation, teens can access social media anywhere and at all times. And because of the constant connection, it can be dangerous for young people overly concerned with others’ opinions. They may feel like they can never escape the social environment and are constantly faced with peer pressure.

“The mental health outcomes that we’re starting to look at now are things like body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety,” Proost says. “We are starting to see those things creep up and be related conditions to excessive [social media] use.”

If we know an overuse of social media can be fun, but also have consequences that negatively impact our children—why are we leading and feeding them down this road? 

Don’t get me wrong. I love FB and Instagram. I LOVE that I’ve reconnected with friends and family and get to share in their lives. I say to keep an eye out for when it gets out of hand.

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Our first Halloween in our home.

What are your thoughts on a generation of kids whose every move has been recorded and shared? What do you think the negative consequences will be?

What’s the Difference Between a Helicopter and Lawnmower Parent?

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My almost grown-up kiddos.

In “How to tell if you’re a Lawnmower Parent and what to do about it,” Sarah Cottrell explains the difference between Helicopter Parents and Lawnmowers. Unlike the hovering helicopters, lawnmowers remove all the obstacles of life thrown in front of their kids. Their kids don’t have to suffer hurt feelings, hard effort or any of life’s disappointments—at least that’s the goal of Lawnmower parents.

I am guilty of being both at different times. I didn’t let my kids fail. I complained to teachers when they got grades that I felt were unfair. I rescued them both with forgotten swim bags, lunches and homework assignments. I’m looking at these things now and wish I could have a “do over” because it’s painful to watch them struggle into “adulting.”

I do believe the one place my kids had to figure things out on their own was in the pool. Their effort was directly related with how well they did. Or, in the case of my son, who had chronic sinus infections and asthma—he learned that sometimes life was not fair. They both learned that you can work really, really hard and you get sick. Or injured. Things in life don’t goes as planned. We really need to let our kids experience life with the highs and lows, success and failures, so they can be competent adults able to fend for themselves.

Here are excerpts from the article written by Cottrell:

Helicopter Parents have reigned supreme in the media these last few years but they’re being replaced by a hyper-concentrated version of themselves with a new moniker: Lawnmower Parents. If you’ve never heard of lawnmower parents, take a seat now because you’re about to have some strong feelings.

Lawnmowers don’t just hover over their kids to make sure that they are safe, they obliterate any whiff of a struggle for their kids by curating every aspect of their childhoods. These parents tend to do extreme things, such as choose their child’s friends, practice “redshirting” to ensure their child’s early academic ease and success, and even jump into arguments on their child’s behalf to prevent their kid from having hurt feelings. 

In 2015, a Harris Poll for The JED Foundation, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and The Jordan Porco Foundation surveyed 1,502 first year college students and found that a staggering 60% of them reported feeling emotionally underprepared for the real world.

“When parents try to remove all obstacles for kids, they are doing them a great disservice,” Samantha Rodman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, and author of How to Talk to Your Kids About Your Divorce tells Mashable. “Kids need to learn that they are competent and have agency in the world. If their parents pave the way for them to have an effortless life, then what will they do when an effort is required in adulthood?”

In some ways, I can’t blame parents for feeling compelled to turn to extreme measures. Where keyboard warriors may see arrogance, I see parents who live in pressure cookers to get parenting not just right, but better than everyone else. As a mother of three, I can understand the impulse to create a soft landing for my children when it comes to school, friends, and the world at large, but often that parental impulse blows up in our faces anyway. 

“This is all about fear, and worry, and wanting to do our best by our families,” Says KJ Dell’Antonia, author of How to Be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life and Loving (Almost) Every Minute and former lead writer and editor for the Motherlode blog at TheNew York Times. “I’d never call it vanity. I think we’re just afraid that if we do less than the next person, our kids will end up living under a highway somewhere because all the clear paths we used to see to success have been muddied by change, technology, and the economy. Scary times, scared parents.”

She’s right. At a time when technology is moving at warp speed, the kinds of jobs that my kids will soon be training for don’t even exist yet as I type these words. How can I imagine future stability for my kids when I can’t even comprehend the social or economic demands that will be made on them?

Amy Joyce, editor, and writer for the Washington Post’s On Parenting section tells Mashable that the best way for parents to prevent themselves from becoming lawnmower parents is to get out and connect with their communities.   

“I love to ask parents of older kids or grown kids what they did in whatever situation it is I’m facing at the moment. I seek out advice and find that helps me bond with people,” Joyce tells Mashable. “The best thing my neighbor with three grown kids has told me is that my kids are going to be okay. No matter the issue, they are who they are and we’ll guide them, but we can’t do everything for them. Hearing that and telling myself that allows me to back off a bit.”

Raising children is tough, but it doesn’t have to be a pressure-cooker of stress to get every aspect just right. While I may secretly want my kid to be the strongest, smartest, kindest, best one out there, the fact is that he won’t understand how he fits in this world if I am interfering. So if you need me, I’ll be standing by and wincing with a knot in my stomach while my kids screw up left and right.

It’s painful to stand by and watch your kids fail. But, let them fail when the stakes aren’t so high. If my son failed a class or two for not getting out of bed on time, or forgetting to turn in homework, I feared he’d never get into college. So what did I do? I woke him up, made sure he had his homework done, etc. He was hugely successful and won all the awards from grade school through high school. But when he did go to college, he failed his freshman year of college at a cost of $30,000. That’s because I failed him as a parent. He wasn’t prepared for the responsibility. It was overwhelming to be in charge of food, transportation, laundry, etc. and school. He looks back on it and believes he wasn’t ready for college. He wasn’t and that was my fault.

What consequences have you let your kids experience while they’re young? Do you fear that by not being perfect they won’t get into the college of their dreams? Do you believe that is one reason why parents resort to becoming Helicopter and Lawnmower parents?

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Do as I say, not as I do

kiddosTalk about hypocrites. I read the strangest story about parents who live in the Silicon Valley and refuse to let their kids see or touch iPhones or any screens of any nature. These are parents who work in the high tech world and themselves use the devices. While they are at work, they hire nannies to shield their kids from the heinous devices they work to create.

Then to even go further, they make nannies sign contracts that they will keep them away from screens. They also hire spies to snoop on their nannies at parks to make sure they don’t cheat and check their phones. When these parents get home, they are locked onto their phones. Maybe it’s because they understand how miserable the phones are making their lives, that they want to keep their kids’ lives free from tech.

Here are a few excerpts from the article I read in sfgate called Silicon Valley Nannies are Phone Police for Kids:

SAN FRANCISCO — Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens. Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure.

But it’s very hard for a working adult in the 21st century to live at home without looking at a phone. And so, as with many aspirations and ideals, it’s easier to hire someone to do this.

Enter the Silicon Valley nanny, who each day returns to the time before screens.

“Usually a day consists of me being allowed to take them to the park, introduce them to card games,” Jordin Altmann, 24, a nanny in San Jose, said of her charges. “Board games are huge.”

“Almost every parent I work for is very strong about the child not having any technical experience at all,” Altmann said. “In the last two years, it’s become a very big deal.”

From Cupertino to San Francisco, a growing consensus has emerged that screen time is bad for kids. It follows that these parents are now asking nannies to keep phones, tablets, computers and TVs off and hidden at all times. Some are even producing no-phone contracts, which guarantee zero unauthorized screen exposure, for their nannies to sign.

The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley. Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children. Which is to say, the very people building these glowing hyper-stimulating portals have become increasingly terrified of them. And it has put their nannies in a strange position.

“In the last year everything has changed,” said Shannon Zimmerman, a nanny in San Jose who works for families that ban screen time. “Parents are now much more aware of the tech they’re giving their kids. Now it’s like, ‘Oh no, reel it back, reel it back.’ Now the parents will say ‘No screen time at all.’”

The bright side is these parents do care about their kids. They want what is best for them. In my humble opinion, why are they hiring someone else to raise them? I worked when my son was born and soon discovered I was jealous of the nanny. I wanted to raise my own child, not be an observer in the process.

rkcowboysDo the parents realize that their kids will model their behavior and learn most from what they do, not what they say?

A Sadness Like No Other

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I can’t stop thinking about the mom who was talking to her daughter on the phone while she was walking to her car on campus the other night. I can’t come to grips with how awful it would be to relive that moment over and over. According to the mom, she heard her daughter yell, “No! No! No!” and that was it. She was afraid her daughter was in a car accident.

Jill McCluskey, mother of Lauren McCluskey and economics professor at Washington State University, shared this statement on Twitter:

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My daughter was friends with Lauren. They knew each other from athletics at the University of Utah, because it’s a close-knit community. This was such a tragedy for the entire campus, community and the family. My daughter said that Lauren was so nice! Once Waffles had run away and it was Lauren who found him and brought him back to her. My heart goes out to the McCluskey family. When we send our kids off to school, its with dreams and stars in our eyes for their great futures. We don’t expect anything like this.

Here’s a Go Fund Me campaign started by a fellow student at the University of Utah.  Please think about supporting Lauren’s family.