When in doubt, throw it out!

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My daughter’s first-grade class. I cannot throw this out.

While my daughter was home for a few days after our summer vacation—before she returned to college out of state—she helped me organize our lives.

She got me started, which according to her is the “worst part.” I’m now ripping through stacks of papers and throwing things out without fear.

After she cleaned out our “junk drawer” and purchased a drawer organizer at Target, she focused on me. She’d pick up a piece of paper and ask, “Shred or recycle?” We did that for a couple hours and I sort of got the hang of it. Before, I was overwhelmed with making decisions on every little thing. It seemed like way too much work. I’ve broken through some barrier and can toss out old papers with the best of them.

 

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From the mouth of babes 🙂

I’m tackling the four-drawer metal file cabinet in my office which has tax returns and bank statements going back into the early 90s. It finally dawned on me that I don’t have to keep my returns pre-2010. Or bank statements, nor all the paperwork to close escrow on our first home—which was several decades ago—and no we don’t own the house anymore.

Why do we hold on to every important piece of paper—or the question is why do I? I have to say that on two instances, my large file cabinet has saved the day with much-needed slips of paper.

 

I’ll confess I’m having trouble throwing out my kids stories they wrote from Pre-K through middle school. Their paintings, Iowa tests and report cards will retain a place in the file cabinet. I don’t know why, but I’m not ready to let those things go—yet.

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A first-grade story by my son.  I think it’s a keeper.

 

When the project is done, I’ll feel 20 pounds lighter in spirit.

How do you keep yourself organized with the volume of paper in our lives? Do you keep all your kids art projects, papers and report cards, too?

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The End Result of Helicopter Parenting–Ruining Your Kids’ Lives

 

Angus and Kids

I tried not to helicopter my kids or Angus.

Millennials are having trouble “adulting” because of us—their helicopter parents. My daughter scolded me this morning, “You are totally a helicopter parent, you do realize that?”

I corrected her and explained that in some ways I was—and I meant that in the past tense. I’ve worked hard to NOT helicopter. I’m well aware of the mistakes I’ve made and I’ve tried to let go of my bad helicopter tendencies. The stakes are too high if you want to raise independent adults.

There are several articles today about what happens when parents helicopter over their children’s every move—from unruly kids in the classroom to anxious, young adults who lack “adulting” skills, have messy apartments and have trouble at work.

In 11 Signs You Had Helicopter Parents & It’s Still Affecting You Today you’ll read about 11 problems helicopter parents have inflicted on their kids.

“While it’s totally possible to escape from a less-than-ideal parenting situation unscathed, the way you were raised almost always affects, to some degree, how you feel and act as an adult. This is especially true if you grew up with helicopter parents. You know, the kind who were way too hands on. If yours “hovered” and coddled you 24/7, it may be showing up in the form of self-esteem issues and stunted “adulting” skills, among other things.

“Now, I’m not saying your parents didn’t have the best of intentions. Or that they should have let you do whatever you wanted. But that doesn’t mean their approach didn’t hold you back from becoming a bonafide adult. “A helicopter parent is a parent who is overly involved in the basic day-to-day aspects of their children’s lives,” Dr. Sanam Hafeed, PsyD, a NYC-based licensed clinical neuropsychologist, tells Bustle. “This may hurt kids as they grow up because they may not trust their intuition when meeting others … They [also] often have arrested development and lower emotional consciousness.”

In a separate article that’s being published widely about “JUST SAY NO,” an expert warns that “parents who pander to their kids are damaging them for real life.”

The “wild and unruly” children that primary school teachers have to deal with are often the progeny of their parents, according to Dr. Amanda Gummer.

The “wild and unruly” children that primary school teachers have to deal with are often the progeny of their parents, according to Dr. Amanda Gummer, a research psychologist specialising in child development.

Writing for the Daily Mail she said: “Wild, unruly children are increasingly likely to be the progeny of so-called ‘helicopter’ parents.

“They are ruthlessly ambitious for their child’s future — failing to realise how badly their mollycoddling is preparing them for the compromises of real life.”

It seems that overbearing parents who try to save their kids from any unhappiness or failure are instead guaranteeing the opposite–their kids are destined to feel like failures throughout their adulthood. With our best intentions to keep our kids happy and have them succeed we are hindering their self-reliance and ability to deal with the ups and downs in this thing called life.

Do you know any helicopter parents? What specific examples can you describe of their helicoptering behavior?

 

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We can learn from dogs on how to raise our kids.

 

Parents influence how kids perform in school–in a good way!

images-7There’s some bright news in the parenting world. Low-income kids are catching up to middle and higher economic level children at school. Is it because of greater access to preschool? According to the article, “Parenting, not preschool, has the greatest effect on school readiness” by Jane Waldfogel, you can probably guess the answer from the title.

“Here’s a trick question: what’s the biggest influence on a child’s readiness for school? Preschool education, replies a confident chorus of policy wonks. But maybe you got the answer right: it’s parenting. Research evidence has long established that reading with young children, taking them to the library and having books at home are more important predictors of school readiness than preschool education.

Policy makers and practitioners sometimes forget this. Perhaps they despair of changing parenting in a fundamental way. Some imagine that stressed, often poorly educated parents are stuck in a rut, making the same old mistakes as their own mom and dad.

Well, the evidence suggests that these parents have been underestimated. While child development policy in the United States has largely focused on extending access to preschool, low-income parents have been busy transforming their practice. That’s making a real difference to their children’s learning skills and prospects. Intriguingly, they’ve made these strides at a time when income inequality has grown worse.”

It appears that parents from all economic levels value education. Lower income parents are reading to their kids more, taking them to the library, and have more access to books. According to research, low-income parents are acting more like those in higher economic levels. They’ve been told by educators that reading to kids is important for them to be ready for school. Guess what? They are taking that parenting advice to heart. I also wonder how much has changed with the whole world available on the internet and smartphones?

“Children are getting more of what the political scientist Robert Putnam calls “‘Goodnight Moon’ time”. Interestingly, this change has occurred during a period of rising economic inequality: among families with school-age children, income inequality between the rich and poor grew by roughly 10 percent from 1998 to 2010. Segregation based on income also grew by 20 percent among households with children.”

In the news, we hear about overbearing, helicopter parents who follow their children’s every step through preschool to college and into the workplace. This story gave a bit of positive news in the parenting world that sometimes it’s good to be involved. I read to my kids all the time and kept my favorite childhood books for them to read. My kids read many classics that unfortunately their schools no longer require. I’m thrilled to say my kids love to read today as young adults.

Isn’t it nice for a change to hear that parents are doing something right? Here are a few of my favorite books I read when I was young. I don’t think many kids read these today. What were your favorite books? Can you list your top books for middle grade and young adults? What books do your kids like?

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If you’re a helicopter parent, there’s an app for that

 

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When it was okay to hover.

 

I’ve heard about all the apps and devices helicopter parents use to track their children’s every move—built-in devices in cars, fit bit-like bracelets and of course a host of apps.

When my kids were new to driving, we didn’t track them. I trusted my kids to be where they were supposed to be. I remember sitting at an intersection as my son raced by with a girl as his passenger—and he wasn’t headed in the right direction. Later I told him that I’d seen him and he explained that his friend asked him for a ride home. It wasn’t a big deal, but if I’d had an app or the built in car monitoring system, I’d have known and watched where he was going all the time. I don’t think that would have been healthy for either of us.

In the story “Chevrolet will let parents creep on their teens for free” by Andrew Krok, all the functions of the OnStar Family Link are explained:

Are you a frugal helicopter parent who absolutely must keep track of your freshly licensed teen? If you’ve got a Chevrolet equipped with OnStar, you can be all Big Brother without spending any cash.

Chevrolet will offer owners three months of OnStar Family Link for free. All that’s required is a 2012-or-newer Chevrolet with an active OnStar subscription. The Family Link system is free for three months, but after that, it’s just $3.99 per month plus tax.

OnStar Family Link gives you a variety of location functions, letting you keep an eye on teens who might be a flight risk. Parents can monitor a vehicle’s location, or set up email and text alerts if the vehicle leaves a defined area. It can also notify parents when a teen has reached or left a destination.

This is a bit less capable than Chevrolet’s pride-and-joy child monitoring tech, Teen Driver. Teen Driver lets parents set radio volume limits, speed warnings and even limit the overall top speed. It can mute the radio if the kids aren’t buckled, and it won’t let teens turn off systems such as stability control. It also provides parents with reports that cover distance driven, maximum speed and, if available, safety system engagements.

Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids blog and World’s Worst Mom TV show fame wrote
“Verizon’s “Hum” Allows Parents to Track their Teen Drivers: Why This Stinks”

The commercial below makes my heart sink, and not because I am so thrilled when my son goes driving off.

It shows a teen girl driving like a maniac, playing hooky to go to the beach in a bikini, and sitting on the couch alone with her boyfriend about to…whatever. Then it shows how Verizon’s “Hum,” an electronic device you plug into your car that alerts you when the teen goes too fast, or beyond the boundaries that you get to set, or isn’t where she is supposed to be. You get the tracking info, you get to set the maximum speed. It does everything but put you back in the drivers seat of your child’s life.

Hum. Hmm. As a person terrified of cars in general and my boys driving in particular, road time is a minefield of worry.

But the idea that once we trust our kids to drive we do not trust them to go where they say they’re going, drive the way they tell us they’re driving, or stay where they agreed to stay means a basic bond of trust is gone. We are treating them like toddlers who need direct oversight, even though we make this happen electronically.

The device assumes parents should and must always be in control, even when we’re not there to make informed decisions. For instance, allowing parents to cap the maximum speed: What about when the kids are fleeing a volcano? Or axe murderer? Won’t we feel bad about that 50 MPH limit then? And it alerting us when our kids drive beyond the edge of the boundaries we’ve set. Is exploring always too risky? Do we want kids who never do anything spontaneous or adventurous? More profoundly: Don’t we want the locus of their moral development to be inside them…rather than inside us?

At the same time, look at the message the kids themselves are getting. First off, that even the most basic adulthood is too adult for them. And second, that as parents we are willing to give them all the freedom of a prisoner with an ankle monitor. He can go to and from work, same as our kids are allowed to go to and from school.

Although most of the articles I’ve read are against using these devices, there’s obviously a market for them. In many instances, I think they’d make parents feel more secure knowing where their kids are–so long as parents don’t go overboard.

Here’s an article called “The GizmoPal is a helicopter parent’s dream” about a device for young kids by Katherine Martinko.

LG’s new two-way communication device is designed for kids too young for cellphones so parents can keep tabs on them at all times.

There is yet another gadget on the market that makes it harder than ever for helicopter parents to teach their kids independence. LG has just introduced the GizmoPal, which provides two-way communication between parents and kids who are too young to manage their own cellphone.

It has a single button that kids can press in order to call a parent, as well as the ability to receive calls from two additional pre-approved contacts. Parents can manage their kid’s GizmoPal from their own smartphones and track it using GPS technology.

Most seriously of all, think of the psychological impact on a child of being in constant communication with a parent. How is a child supposed to learn emotional independence, deal with separation anxiety, make decisions on their own, and combat boredom if, at the touch of a button, they can talk to Mommy?

 

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Where college orientation was held for my daughter.

When I went to college orientation with my youngest child, I listened to some great advice by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development at the University of Utah. I wished I’d heard her advice before I sent my first child to college. She touched on cell phones and how times have changed since we were kids.

 

I wrote about her advice in “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before The Kids Went to College.”

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.”

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.

Do you track your kids’ whereabouts with apps, phones, or car devices? What are your feelings about knowing every movement of your children?

 

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I can hover from the stands at meets and not be noticed.

 

How parenting is like being an athlete

Letting my kids play and be kids.

I read a post on Facebook on our swim team’s site that had some great advice for swimmers but I believe it extends to success in other aspects of our lives as well, including parenting.

Here’s what I read on the Piranha Swim Team’s FB page:
“The path you take to get to the next level is a unique experience and may be longer or bumpier a ride at times than others. Common denominators of athletes with long term success: aiming high but with realistic steps, not reaching a goal results in more determination, focusing on your own progress compared to you and not others, and believing in your support system, training and team. Patience and perseverance will be rewarded at sometime when you do these things.”

How do those points apply to parenting? Substitute being a parent for the athlete.

We can aim high but with realistic steps. As a parent, my objective is to raise kids who become independent, successful, happy and kind adults. For example, to raise a person who is independent doesn’t mean throwing a 10-year-old out into the world to fend for themselves, but to allow them room to fail and learn from their mistakes. It means teaching them the skills they need to function on their own, like cooking, cleaning, living within a budget, etc.

Yes, we want to aim high and we have great expectations for our kids. But we need to keep in mind that any goal is the result of small steps along the way. My husband once told me, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

IMG_7214Not reaching a goal results in more determination. That was true for both my kids. I think swimming helped them develop this trait which can be called “grit.” My daughter would get frustrated when she missed a cut for the next level, like junior nationals, and somehow she’d turn that into motivation to try harder the next time. In parenting, we can have days where nothing seems to go right. It’s knowing that the next day will be full of promise and new opportunities that keep us slugging along.

Focusing on your own progress and not others. When my kids were young they were in a small private school and the parents were competitive, as were the kids. It’s natural to compare how your child is doing grade-wise or in sports to other kids—even how well liked they are. I remember Valentine’s Day in my son’s fourth-grade class when boys and girls came in with elaborate gifts. It was painful for me to see presents stack up on a couple kids’ desks, while several kids had nothing, including my son. Finally, a present or two arrived from his friends.

Believe me, nothing good comes from a parent comparing their kids with others whether it’s their grades, test scores or athletic ability. It puts pressure on your own child and can encourage feelings of jealousy or disappointment in themselves.

Believing in the support system, training, and team. Our families and friends are our support system and my husband and me with our kids make up the team. I trust in our day-to-day “training” to reach our goal of parenting happy, successful and kind adults. Together we’ll get there. Mine are well on their way. Remember to have patience and persevere when things are less than perfect or downright difficult. Also, everyone’s path is different and some people’s journey to the next level may be bumpy while others are smooth.

How do you view the journey of parenting?

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Mom and dad need to be on the same parenting page

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Parents on the same page–or boat.

When you look at your parenting styles, do you and your spouse work together? Or, is one of you the enforcer while the other one gets to be the “fun mom” like Amy Poehler in “Mean Girls?” In “Keep it consistent when parenting,” Jodi Fuson wrote for the Lincoln Journal Star:

 

“Back and forth, up and down. Parenting can be like a roller coaster if you and your spouse are not on the same page.

Consistency in parenting is crucial for keeping peace in the home, according to Licensed Mental Health Practitioner Rebecca Dacus.

‘If one parent is (consistent), and you aren’t, you’re setting yourself up for behavioral problems of some kind,’ she said.”

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom while my husband worked in an office away from home. I feel that situation made me more hands on and I dealt with all the small disciplining stuff daily. He was free to come home and jump in the pool with the kids, carting them around on his back and being a fun guy.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t the only the enforcer in our family. When there was a larger issue where discipline was needed, he’d step in. We did have very different childhoods and I think that can cause friction and parenting problems. In any case, it’s best to work out parenting strategies earlier rather than later, the article emphasizes:

“Families that seem to be able to stay on the same page tend to eat meals together and do things together that promote communication, said Dacus, who employs Systematic Training for Effective Parenting to help parents she works with in her practice.

Dr. Nick Stevens warns that if parents aren’t on the same page, a sense of unity, integrity and security can be lacking. So why is it so hard to find unity in parenting? Stevens said it has to do with how we were raised and the roles of our own parents. Also, parenting isn’t something that comes naturally.

“You have to constantly pursue it,” he said.

First, parents should discuss their own upbringing, what they liked and didn’t like, and what they see other people do. “It can give couples a vision of what they want their parenting to be like,” she said.

Next, they should list behaviors from least to worst and potential consequences/rewards for the children.

“They need to figure out what are the definite no’s of things happening in their home versus things that aren’t as serious,” Tapley said.

Parents need to take turns dishing out rewards and consequences so that one parent is not always the “enforcer” and the other the good cop, Tapley said.

“You want to make sure that both of you are doing that — giving out rewards and consequences,” she said.”

I think this article provides sound advice—and I wish I’d read it about two dozen years ago! All in all, I think my husband and I were on the same page, most of the time. It’s good food for thought though, consistency in parenting. I think consistency between spouses is important, but also be consistent with your kids. I’m talking about bedtimes, treats, discipline—all that stuff. It can be tiring and sometimes it’s easier to give in. If you find yourself giving in often, maybe it’s time to rethink some of your family’s rules.

Do you parent differently than your spouse? Are consistent with your kids?

randk

A quiet moment at the beach–no sand was being thrown and I could relax.

Yet Another Type of Parent—the Lighthouse?

lighthouse-at-nightWe all have heard about helicopter parents. They are the parents who drive teachers and coaches crazy. They show up at school to argue about grades. They go on job interviews with their kids–and they’ve been known to sew cell phones into stuffed animals to work around the summer camp’s “no cell phone rules.”

There’s the lawnmower parent who smoothes the way and removes all obstacles from their children’s lives. I’ve also read about free-range parents, who let their kids raise themselves. Their kids choose their meals, bedtimes and they don’t go to school. They aren’t homeschooled, in the traditional sense because they learn on their own without guidance or help. What do you these parents do all day?

I was surprised to read a couple articles about lighthouse parents. It’s a label that’s a cross between free-range and helicopter—which makes me believe it’s a mixture and probably what most of us are doing.

Dina Leygerman wrote “7 Signs That You’re Actually A Lighthouse Parent” that explains the parenting style:

“In his book, Raising Kids To Thrive, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, a developmental psychologist, professor of pediatrics, and author, claims that “parents should be lighthouses for their children, visible from the shoreline as a stable light or beacon.” Dr. Ginsburg continues to explain that lighthouse parents “make sure their children don’t crash against the rocks, yet allow them to ride the waves even if they get a little choppy sometimes.”

Here are five tips about lighthouse parenting by Richard Rende, Ph.D. in his article called “Lighthouse Parenting: 5 Ways to Strike the Right Balance Parents:”

Love without conditions: Provide unconditional love, but not unconditional approval; set boundaries for what is acceptable and what is not; disapprove behaviors, not the child.

Set the right kind of high expectations: Set realistic goals that can be met, emphasizing stretching for that next level; focus on effort, not performance; embrace the ups and downs, which are both necessary steps when pursuing success.

Be protective, not overprotective: Cultivate trust, which serves to protect, but don’t smother; allow mistakes to be made but within your protective gaze to balance risk and safety (take off the training wheels but be there just in case).

Nurture coping skills: Offer a “lap and and a listening ear” to encourage your child to talk about feelings and problems; help children identify problems, and think about ways of taking on the issue; teach good self-regulation skills including ways to reduce stress like breathing exercises (e.g., blowing bubbles can teach kids about how to use breathing to relax).

Cultivate communication: Maintain calmness when listening (too much emotion can shut kids down), and don’t rush to judge (which can undermine the sense of unconditional love); when talking to your child avoid the overuse of “you” (e.g., “You did this … you did that”) which can sound like blame, rather use “I” (e.g., “I was worried because …) which promotes empathy.

What style of parent are you? Perhaps we’re combinations in different circumstances and times of our children’s lives.

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