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When should parents not say a word?

 

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My daughter swimming on her own during vacation.

I read a great article, “The first rule of sports (and all) parenting: Don’t speak,” in the Washington Post by Nancy Star:

Your child doesn’t have to play in the Super Bowl for you to know the feeling. Their team was supposed to win and then they didn’t. What do you do? Being the mother of two girls who played soccer and ran track, I thought I knew the answer: Talk it through. Tell them you love them. Say it’s just a game. Remind them there’s always a next time. Isn’t that what good parenting is all about? Keeping channels of communication open even in tough moments?

Turns out the answer is no. I learned this when I had a “don’t speak” moment.

I understand this all too well. After my kids would have a disappointing swim, I’d try to reassure them. I wanted to take away their hurt and make them feel better. Most often after I’d say, “That wasn’t so bad,” or “You have another swim ahead,” I’d be met with negativity and a statement like “I sucked!”

I’d get a barrage of negativity that would take me by surprise. I never figured out that by trying to protect them from their upset feelings, I wasn’t making it better for my kids, but was making them feel worse. They weren’t ready to talk about a bad swim with me and “hash and rehash,” as my daughter would say. I read in a David Benzel sports parenting book, “From Chump to Champ,” that we should wait for our kids to talk to us. We need to be there and listen. But, if we start the conversation first, even with the best intentions, they’ll probably pull away and stay quiet. They want to please us so much and may take any little thing we say personally, as though they’ve let us down. It’s best to be quiet and listen. They may surprise us and open up more than ever if we let them take the lead.

Here’s more from the Washington Post article with the mom watching her daughter’s varsity soccer team lose their final meet. She received advice from a dad, Peter, who had more experience with soccer parenting and she followed it.

“Their lead slipped to a tie toward the end of the second half. In the last minute of play there was a stumble, scrambling and a goal for the other team.

Parents supplied transportation for home games, so we waited while our daughters gave sullen high-fives to the winners and then huddled with their coach, listening as he shared his disappointment. When he was done they separated and, backpacks slung over shoulders, trudged across the field toward where we stood.

Watching their grim faces approach I wished a meteorologist were present to confirm my suspicion that 22 high school girls who’ve just lost a chance at a state title can change the atmosphere, collectively sucking the light out of the sky. Their fury was frightening.

But Peter had been through this before. “Don’t speak,” he said. As I started to turn my head he added, “Don’t look. Just walk. Go to your car. She’ll find you.”

I tried not to move my lips as I objected. “All I want to say is I’m sorry.”

“Don’t,” he advised. “Don’t speak. Not until she talks to you.”

Because he had been through this before, I listened and walked to my car alone. I felt her before I saw her, walking silently beside me. Reassuring phrases immediately formed in my brain but, channeling Peter, I said nothing.

A moment later I noticed her teammates walking with their parents, mothers mostly, who offered words of consolation. “Are you okay?” and “You played well,” and “There’s always next time.” To me the words sounded gentle and kind.

The girls did not agree. “No,” they snapped, and “I sucked,” and “There won’t be a next time.”

By the time we reached the car, every daughter except mine was crying and the moms were, understandably, annoyed and lashing back. “Why are you yelling at me?” and “Being upset is no excuse for being rude.”

We were silent on the ride home, silent as I turned on to our street. It was when I pulled into the driveway that my daughter finally spoke. “That was such a bad game.”

I nodded.”

How do you handle your children’s athletic or academic disappointment?

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Cheering on a teammate at the PAC 12 Champs.

 

 

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This simple exercise can be better than medication to fight depression

“Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”

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What other exercises do you find effective to fight anxiety and depression?

Encouraging Kids to Be Creative Part 2

What comes to mind when you hear the word creative? Maybe you imagine a beautiful painting, or maybe you think about telling the story of our Founding Fathers with ambitious rap and hip-hop driven music as they did in the hit musical “Hamilton.”

You wouldn’t be wrong, though creativity is more than artistic expression. It is finding new solutions to problems and creating a message that will stick in the minds of the listeners. It is connecting to remote groups and bringing hope to the hopeless.

Creativity is what is needed to bring lasting change to our world. In fact, we would go as far as to say that creativity is the new intelligence.

Let’s take Steve Jobs, for example. His genius was in his ability to see things differently than everyone else around him. According to Rick Tetzeli, executive editor of Fast Company and the magazine’s resident Jobs expert, “Everyone else in the industry insisted on selling computers by their specs — by how fast it was, by how powerful it was and how cheap it was — and Apple always understood that that wasn’t the way to sell.”

Steve Jobs wasn’t the technological genius behind Apple; he was the visionary. Jobs could see the future through the eyes of the average Joe. “He got power into the hands of people, and people can do amazing things with these tools,” Tetzeli said.

Creativity is imagination, and imagination is the secret ingredient of any kind of achievement. “If a thing cannot be imagined first — a cake, a relationship, a cure for AIDS — it cannot be. Life is bound by what we can envision,” said author Nancy Blakey.

Creativity and imagination are the keys to the future. They will solve our energy crisis. They will continue to make our lives and work more powerful.

The article goes on to talk about how so many things in the Jetson’s cartoon have become true. Without imagining things, we can’t create. You can read the rest of the article here.

Parents work to boost our kids’ test scores by hiring tutors or enrolling them in special classes. We also can go a little nuts to give our kids a leg up in their sports by paying for private lessons and coaching. It’s important to look at creativity, not as an innate personality trait, but as something that can be encouraged, too. Yesterday, I wrote about tips to grow our children’s creative spirit. You can read that here.

I was talking with my son about how fortunate they were to grow up without much screen time. We had an iMac but it was before everyone was on the internet and iPhones didn’t exist. We had several disks with kid friendly programs and most often the computer was used to watch DVDs. My son said he was grateful to be born prior to iPhones. He said he thinks kids today never get the same connection to their parents because there’s always a screen in between them. I was more worried about parents posting every second of their children’s lives on social media and how that affects kids today. Children may view every moment as a posed event and they get quite good at posing. But my son’s comment made me look at how my life has changed since I’ve had an iPhone. I can barely remember a time without it or when it’s not within reach.

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I wish I knew what they were pretending with all their friends.

Maybe it’s time to cut down on my screen time to work on my own creative spirit.

What suggestions do you have to boost creativity in our lives?

 

 

Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman are the pioneers of the homeschooling method “Cradle to Calling Education.” They travel the U.S. and Canada speaking to parents and homeschoolers. For more information, go to fromcradletocalling.com, visit the Cradle2Calling Facebook page or follow them on Instagram @cradle_2_calling.

How to encourage creativity in our kids

christmas 2I’ve been reading about creativity in children and it made me reflect on how I raised my kids.  I’ve always considered creativity to be an innate talent, but according to science it’s a skill that can be fostered. As parents, we can promote the creative spirit by allowing space and time for creativity. That means allowing messes, free time–and getting out of the way.
I’d let my kids have a tub of large chalk and draw all over our patio. It drove my husband crazy to come home from work and see our kids and their friends drawing all over our back yard. It hosed off, though. Also, I’d buy a roll of butcher paper and let them paint or draw across the patio, hoping they’d keep it on the paper.
At the beach, they’d build villages with drip castles and loved to play chef at a restaurant. I’d patiently taste each creation (pile of wet sand) and tell them how delicious it was.
I remember taking my kids to a photographer for Christmas pictures. I had them all dressed up in their matching red and green Gymboree outfits. My daughter was a baby and my son three. My son moved all the chairs and benches into two rows all facing forward. We asked him what he was doing and he explained he was building an airplane (the two lines of furniture were the seats and aisle.) The photographer was extremely patient as I tried to put everything back in it’s place.
My mom was big on creativity and she allowed us to destroy our living room with forts of card tables and sheets, dig to China and build a pond for polliwogs. I remember making dozens of puppets with Woolite bottles as the heads and swatches of fabric for the clothing. Mom did get annoyed with me for chopping out a chunk of fabric from the center of all the yardage of fabric in her sewing room!
What exactly is creativity? Here’s a definition:
noun
  1. the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
    “firms are keen to encourage creativity”
Here’s an excerpt from Greater Good Magazine 7 Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Kids by Christine Carter:

Many people assume that creativity is an inborn talent that their kids either do or do not have: just as all children are not equally intelligent, all children are not equally creative. But actually, creativity is more skill than inborn talent, and it is a skill parents can help their kids develop.

Because it is a key to success in nearly everything we do, creativity is a key component of health and happiness and a core skill to practice with kids. Creativity is not limited to artistic and musical expression—it is also essential for science, math, and even social and emotional intelligence. Creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers, which makes them more able to adapt to technological advances and deal with change—as well as take advantage of new opportunities.

Many researchers believe we have fundamentally changed the experience of childhood in such a way that impairs creative development. Toy and entertainment companies feed kids an endless stream of prefab characters, images, props and plot-lines that allow children to put their imaginations to rest. Children no longer need to imagine a stick is a sword in a game or story they’ve imagined: they can play Star Wars with a specific light-saber in costumes designed for the specific role they are playing.

Carter has a bunch of tips of things we can do to promote creativity that includes giving  kids space and resources for creative play. Also she says it’s important to allow our kids to make mistakes and fail. If they’re afraid of failure their creativity will be stifled. Limiting screen and TV time will give kids a chance for art and reading. Another bit of advice is to not tell our kids what to do. For example, I made my daughter take piano lessons for years against her will. She would have been much better off following her own passions like making mosaics and painting. For years she made gifts for her friends by getting a few supplies from Michaels and using her creativity. For a complete list of her tips, read the article here

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5 Things to Know When Your Kids Leave for College

IMG_0609Five years ago, I went to orientation with my daughter at the University of Utah.  I had gone to college orientation with my son at UC Santa Barbara a few years earlier, I didn’t expect to learn much because I didn’t think orientation was that helpful the first time around. Looking back, I may not have been that open to the information they were sharing.

I spent two days in the pristine mountainside beauty of Salt Lake City with clear blue skies and intense sunshine. Parents attended most meetings without their kids, who were similarly engaged with topics angled for teenage consumption.

Having been to college orientation three years prior with my firstborn, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. However, in “Supporting your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development, I wished I’d heard her advice before I sent my first child to college.

“I think she’s met my son — the one who’s going to be a senior in college,” I whispered to a mom next to me. (He’s also the son who tried to give away the cat on FB.)

She answered, “No, I’m sure she’s talking about my oldest daughter!”

What did Dr. Ellingson have to say that we wished we heard the first time around?First…

Children go through changes. But, if it’s your first child going to college, or your last, you will be going through changes, too. We are in the process of changing our relationship from parent to child to adult to adult. We go through transitions, pushing them away and holding them close.

Second…
A student who works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus, or doesn’t work at all. Students working on campus are making connections with the campus, student, and staff. They are completing their identity as a student first.

Students born from 1980 to 2000 are known as millennials. They don’t like to suffer —  they love nice things — and they don’t mind working for them. Unfortunately, this can interfere with their education. So, if they want spending money, suggest a job on campus.

IMG_8977 2Third…
Cell phones according to Dr. Ellingson, are “the world’s longest umbilical cords.” Some students call home 5, 6, 7 times a day. In our day, we waited in line for the phone down the hall on Sundays — when long distance was cheaper — and horror of all horrors — there wasn’t such a thing as a cell phone!

Don’t let your child’s crisis become your crisis. Let them problem solve. Ellingson’s example was a daughter who called her mom and said, “I flunked my midterm. The professor hates me…” After consoling her crying daughter, the mother called back later with more advice. The daughter was like, “Huh? What are you talking about? Everything’s fine.”

Fourth …
They are learning to become themselves. Making new friends. They will be grieving and letting go of high school friendships, but will build new and deeper ones. A main developmental issue is finding their identity. Their core stays the same, which has been developing over the past 18 years. But, how they express themselves changes.

They may try on new identities by copying new friends to see how it fits or feels. You may say to yourself, and hopefully not to your child, “Who the hell is this?” Then you meet their new friend, and say to yourself, “Oh, now I see who this is!”

Intellectually they are still developing. They see things differently than before. They love to debate. They will try out their debating skills, or how to express themselves by choosing opinions contrary to yours, even if it isn’t what they truly believe.

And Fifth…
Dr. Ellingson talked about independence: “Their first steps as a toddler are towards you. Every step after that is running away from you.”

They need to discover how to be on their own — and this is one of their fears. Delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28. They will say to you “Leave me alone!” Then, “bail me out!” This is normal. The pendulum will swing back and forth.

Just remember to love them, guide them, but let them figure it out. The more we solve their problems, the more we delay their growth into independent, responsible adults.

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And one more thing…”GO, UTES!!!”


What advice do you have for parents of new college students?

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The Struggle Is Real — Insta-Parenting

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With my great-grandmother way before FB.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I am sooooooo happy that Instagram and Facebook did not exist when my kids were babies. Not only do moms struggle today with their choices of staying home or having a career — they need to have perfect Instagram pics to show off their children — on birthdays, first day of school, lost tooth, ice cream cones — you name it.

I looked back on my FB history and I joined 11 years ago. My kids would have been 12 and 15. I missed the annual first day of school pics for quite a few years. My big struggle was the annual Christmas card photo and the birthday blowing out the candle picks. Yes, I have them in print. But, I put them in albums and they were for me — not the entire world to view.

Moms today have pressure to look good on Instagram, have their kids be clean and adorable, and often worry about if their best friends didn’t “like” a photo. Too much pressure and no thank you! I read about his new phenomenon at Refinerty29 in Insta-Parenting: Why We Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Sharing Pics Of Our Kids by Kathleen Newman-Bremang. What I found interesting about this article was the numbers. They did a survey and it’s amazing how many moms get caught in this web.

According to a Refinery29 survey, Canadian moms are doing it for the ’gram. But what happens when being a parent becomes wrapped up in likes and follows?

It’s the first day of Grade 5 for Samantha Kemp-Jackson’s 10-year-old twin boys and there’s a lot going on in her house — the rush of the early-morning wakeup, the re-acquaintance with packing lunches, the boys’ nervous energy and the inevitable back-to-school blues. But all Kemp-Jackson is thinking about is getting a good photo of her sons. “Every year I’ve had to bribe and cajole my boys into some semblance of a smile because I know I need those pictures,” says the mother of four. “I’m trying to get the shot, not only for myself, but for all of my friends and family who have come to expect the requisite ‘first day of school’ posts.”

It’s no longer enough to get your kid off to school with two shoes on minimal tears, today’s parents face the pressure of immortalizing the first-day-of-school rite-of-passage (and countless others like it) online — and with the perfect filter. According to a Refinery29 survey of 500 Canadian women, 95% of mothers post photos of their children on social media, and one in four upload new images of their kids every single day. Find a social-media feed of a woman in her late 20s, 30s, and 40s, and chances are, her timeline will be dominated by pictures of birthdays and lost first teeth and trips to the zoo. Our bios shout out proudly that we’re “Aidan’s mama” or “a mom of three” of “wife, mother, lawyer” — 80% of moms we surveyed identified themselves as moms in their profiles online, and 41% of moms said they share pics of their kids because “it’s an important part of their identity.” In 2019, if you don’t Instagram photos of your babies, are you even a mom?

University of Waterloo professor of women’s health Diana Parry sees this desire to share these images on social as a new way of self-branding. “We put a social value on motherhood that’s connected to identity for women that is not there for men,” she says. Social media has exacerbated that relationship. “Motherhood has ‘come out of the closet’ so to speak,” says Kemp-Jackson, a parenting expert, podcast host, and creator of the blog Multiple Mayhem Mamma. “Before the digital age, mothers and their work were not as appreciated or recognized by larger society.” Women, adds Natasha Sharma, a Toronto-based relationship and parenting expert and creator of The Kindness Journal, are now choosing motherhood to be a part of their identity as much as they would their job or hobbies. “It’s a huge lifestyle choice just like your career is,” Sharma says. “If you’re going to put in your profile what you do for a living, it makes sense to also say, ‘I take a lot of pride in being a mom,’ too.” 

While it’s well and good to post because “it’s an easy way to keep friends and family updated” (according to 59% of our survey respondents) and “because my kids are so damn cute” (41%), there’s an inevitable downside to all this content. Most women seem to be happy sharing the lives of their children online while simultaneously struggling with unhealthy comparisons and shame on the very same medium: 82% of women in our poll say they compare themselves to other moms on social media and 35% admit they always or often have any insecurities around being a mom that stem from social media. Some of the reasons social media makes mom feel bad, according to our survey results: feeling like other families have more fun (38%), that their bodies aren’t as good as other moms’ (39%), that the meals they eat as a family aren’t as “healthy and yummy looking” (30%), and that they don’t feel as happy as other parents seem to be (24%). Online, there’s always someone doing it better than you.

It doesn’t help that there’s an overflow of moms with public profiles — it used to be you’d only compare yourself the moms on the playground, now there are millions to stack yourself up to. “I had a friend who posted, ‘Up at 3 a.m. with my kid and we made muffins!'” recalls Parry, who in addition to being a professor, is a mom of two. “When I’m up at 3 a.m., the last thing I’m doing is making muffins with my kid. I’m thinking, ‘How am I getting my kid back to sleep?’ When you’re exhausted, it’s easy to think: ‘I’m not making muffins so I’m a bad mom, or I’m a bad woman, or I’m failing at this.'”

Parry may not have liked the way her friend’s post made her feel about her own parenting, but she still hit the like button. Liking parents’ posts on social media may now be a friendship necessity. In fact, our survey found that most women under 35 notice when their BFFs don’t like their pics of their children. The problem with this, according to our experts, is many women — you guessed it — internalize this as criticism and feel bad about themselves. “We post to garner a lot of likes and comments. And when we don’t get it, when there is radio silence, we wonder, ‘What’s wrong with us? Are we doing it wrong? Is there something wrong with my kids? Are they not cute enough?'” says Kemp-Jackson.

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Before digital cameras and Facebook when the pics went in a photo album.

I’ve questioned what good will come of posting every moment of your child’s life. You can read a post about it here.

The End of the Intruder Story — I Hope

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Sunset from the back yard.

Last week I wrote about how I was minding my own business at home waiting for eye surgery and discovered on our Google Nest security feed that we had an intruder trespassing on our property nightly. We started locking the big wooden gates that open onto the street. We also have a garage door and an archway gate that are locked. On the camera feed, I saw the stranger rattling our gates, peering in through our bedroom windows, climbing over the wall into the backyard — and taking an object to smash the lock on our archway gate. I was terrified. Then I went for my morning walk on Thursday like any normal day:

I went for my morning walk today as usual. I almost skipped it because I didn’t want to leave our house with the big wooden gates open (they lock from the inside.) During my walk, I constantly checked the Nest app on my iPhone for activity. When I was a block from home, I looked at the app and the guy was there! He had returned!

I couldn’t stop shaking and when I got home, the gate was closed! I yelled and said I was calling the cops so get out! I checked my app again. The intruder had left three minutes before I arrived home. I called the cops and waited, not stepping foot on our property, but feeling safer in the middle of the street. The policeman came right away and said he’d look for the guy, he was probably close-by. He also suggested we get a lock for the outside of our big wooden gates or hire a security firm. I’m thinking Rottie. We had one before and this never happened.

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A present to myself from our beach vacation. The wind chimes are soothing and help me relax

Friday morning the nightmare continued. I woke up at 5 a.m. to my husband yelling from outside the house to call the cops! I grabbed my glasses, my phone and my hands shook as I tried to dial 911. My husband kept the guy at bay on our steps while we waited for the police to arrive. The 911 operator kept me on the phone and asked me to narrate what was going on.

A few minutes later which felt like an eternity, a half dozen police arrived. They said, “Marco! What are you doing here?” to our intruder.

Marco answered, “I live here. I bought this house.”

“No you don’t. You said that about the house down the street,” a policeman answered.

They handcuffed the intruder and drove him away. Both my husband and I were shaking with fear, anger and tried to lower our adrenaline levels to have a normal day. It didn’t happen. We both struggled.

I find myself waking up in the night, looking at my Nest app, listening for any little noise. I’m hoping each day it gets a little better. This person turns out to be well-known, a Palm Springs native and harmless. Of course, we had no idea of that with his erratic behavior and his trespassing from Saturday night through Friday morning. It brings our homeless problem right in my yard, not some abstract issue I read about in the newspaper.

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Olive is more relaxed now that the intruder has been arrested.

Have you had an intruder at your home? What happened and did you get over your fear?

 

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