Don’t Be Afraid to Let Your Children Fail

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My kids trying out their superpowers.

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

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

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

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

Experts say it could be setting them up to fail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Like to Stay in Houses vs. Hotels

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The Colorado Airbnb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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At the wedding with the bride and groom.

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

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

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

 

How to Raise Fragile and Entitled Kids

robert

If only I knew then what I know today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few more excerpts from the article:

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

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

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

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

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

Bad for parents too

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

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

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

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

Is Low Self Esteem Caused by Helicopter Parents?

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Practicing to be superheroes.

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

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

The hard truth about helicopter parenting

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

Low self-esteem

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

Lower adaptability

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

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

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

robkatwaterWhat do you think the pitfalls of helicopter parenting are?

Parenting Kids Over 18:The Stakes Are Higher

randk

When parenting was more tiring, but easier.

I really enjoyed reading an article about parenting kids from age 18 to their mid-20s from the NBC News Think website. I’m sure it’s because it hit home to me. It’s a whole different type of parenting from when they were toddlers. I’m treading water trying to figure out how to be there for my kids, offer support, but not take over. From the time they left for college, I felt like the stakes were so much higher and I had less control than ever. I’m trying to relax and let them live their lives and just listen without jumping in to solve problems or tell them what to do.

In Parenting kids over 18 is still parenting. You just get less control and the stakes are higher, by Meagan Francis, she echoed my worries and concerns.

I once looked forward to my kids’ legal adulthood as a kind of finish line, but I now I know how delusional that vision was.

When my five kids were small, I naively saw the age of 18 as the light at the end of the tunnel. During that sleepless stretch in which my life felt like an endless blur of night feedings, diapers, bandaging boo-boos and navigating piles of sippy-cups and sippy-cup lids that never seemed to match, I looked forward to my kids’ legal adulthood as a kind of finish line. Once they’d crossed it, I figured, I could relax and celebrate having gotten past the hardest parts of parenting.

Now, with two of my children well past voting age and their three other siblings hurtling ever-faster toward that benchmark, I can look back at my former self and say with the benefit of hindsight: Hahahaha!

Instead, I often feel like I’m learning “how it works” all over again. Parenting older kids is still very much parenting — only you get even less say, the results are more public, and the stakes are higher. The lines between appropriate helping, spoiling and enabling are often difficult to define and the concept of parenting “to the child” rather than following a one-size-fits-all plan starts to feel less conceptual and more necessary.

It’s true that my two eldest sons, ages 20 and 22, are less dependent on me now. When they were young, my entire existence seemed to revolve around stopping them from doing certain things while compelling them to do others. Today I no longer need to teach them basic life skills, like how to cross the street without being annihilated by a garbage truck or why showering every day is a good idea — though, let’s be clear, there are days I ponder reviewing that particular lesson — and I have neither the responsibility nor opportunity to monitor their schedule minute-by-minute.

But that doesn’t mean it’s any easier. Nor that my duties are behind me. Despite all the bold statements I made when they were 8 about tossing them unceremoniously out of the nest the moment they turned 18, I have since realized my smug error in thinking they would be fully formed adults ready to be thrown out into the world without repercussions.

That’s largely because, while the government may tell us that once you’re 18, you’re an adult, neuroscientists now know better. Emerging research on brain development shows that a young adult’s brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25.

Developmental psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett calls this period — the seven years between the day a kid legally becomes an adult, and the day they have the reasoning power and impulse control of an actual adult — “emerging adulthood.” And navigating it can be tricky for both children and their caregivers.

“Parents are often glad their kids are more mature and can do more things for themselves,” he notes, “but at the same time you often realize they’re making decisions that aren’t wise, or that they aren’t ready to make.”

This can be particularly difficult because those decisions often carry larger weight. Arnett compares it to the damage done if a toddler takes a spill while learning to walk versus when an adult falls. “Questions like whether to move in with a girlfriend or boyfriend, drop out of college, choose a major — those choices have big, long-term implications,” he says. “Naturally, you have ideas about this — and not unreasonably, they also feel like it’s their life to live.”

That’s why it’s important to listen as much as instruct, according to Lisa Heffernan, co-author of “Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults.”

“Since our ability as parents to mandate and control our kids’ decisions is lessened, it’s time to switch to listening and modeling adult behavior,” she says, suggesting acting like a “sounding board” for them. “Getting kids through this stage is all about showing them what adulthood feels like and sounds like and looks like — literally walking them through your decisions and explaining, ‘This is why I did it this way; here’s what happens now.’”

Taking cues from my kids, I am trying to be a better listener. When they call and complain about a co-worker or roommate, they are not necessarily asking for my advice. They want to vent and explain to someone who loves them what is on their minds. When they want advice or my opinion, they always ask for it.

I tend to be a worrier. When I don’t hear from them, they are most likely okay, but I worry. When they tell me their problems, I worry more. With an attitude like this, it’s amazing they tell me what’s going on in their lives at all!

What do you find easier, raising young children or young adults?

 

How Wealthy Parents Are Cheating Their Kids

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My adult kids.

Did you work part-time when you were in high school? We all did when I was growing up. My brother bagged groceries at Safeway. I worked after school and summers in my dad’s dental office. My friends picked strawberries, worked for their family businesses or at fast food places. We all worked.

Now, in contrast, how many of your children’s friends have jobs — especially if they come from families who aren’t worried about money? In an article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Tim Grant wrote about the fact kids aren’t working because of sports, SAT prep classes, homework and other activities and how it’s affecting kids entering adulthood.

From helicopters to bulldozers, wealthy parents clear their children’s path

Many of the high net worth clients that Pittsburgh wealth manager Matt Helfrich has worked with over the years can trace their strong work ethics back to summer jobs and after school work they did in high school and college.

Yet the opposite may be true for their own children.

Mr. Helfrich said that over the last decade of advising rich clients on their financial affairs, he has come to recognize a definite trend: their school-age children don’t work. 

“More and more, we are seeing kids not doing high school jobs,” said Mr. Helfrich, president of Bridgeville-based Waldron Private Wealth, which manages $2.4 billion in assets for 220 clients.

Instead of punching a time clock in their free time, he said most — if not all — of his clients’ children are preoccupied with sports, test preparation, volunteer assignments or high school study abroad programs.

Not that those activities don’t have merit. 

But they don’t provide young people with life lessons about the value of a dollar or skills that come with budgeting their own hard-earned money. Mr. Helfrich said he believes when children don’t take any responsibility for their own financial outcomes, it gives way to a phenomenon called the “bulldozer parent.”

“Bulldozer parents flatten all obstacles in their child’s way,” he said, explaining that bulldozer parents keep their wallets ready to foot the bill for major purchases like college, cars and housing so that their children need not worry.

By directing these bills away from their children, parents are robbing them of the opportunity to learn about budgeting, making financial choices and building their own credit.

“We’ve had adult children  of our clients try to get a mortgage or even a credit card, and they can’t get one because they’ve never had credit in their name before,” Mr. Helfrich said.

I am proud to say my kids worked in school. My son tutored, he worked as a swim coach and he was paid to design and maintain a website. In middle school, he was an assistant lifeguard and would be sweeping the pool or washing down the deck. My daughter was swimming all the time and didn’t have time for work outside of coaching and swim clinics. But her swimming turned into a job that paid for her college education and she now has a career in the swim industry.

In college, my son worked retail, maybe more hours than he should have. My daughter worked as a lifeguard, swim coach and swim camp counselor. I never even thought it was odd that they would work while at school. After all, that’s what we all did back in the day. I would find it strange if they weren’t working.

“About once or twice a year I will meet with a family who has the issue of an adult child who has become ‘infantilized,’” he said. “And over two decades, that’s a lot.”

“This approach to parenting, at best, fosters learned helplessness,” he said. “Typically, it fosters entitlement. And at worse, the child becomes so dysfunctional that they depend on and drain everyone they know.

“They try to turn everybody into their parents and expect everyone to behave like that. That’s not life.”

In worst-case scenarios, Mr. Chaney said he has seen children grow up with parents doting on them, then when the parents died, the child’s life spiraled out of control to the point of draining their trust fund.

The college years, he said, can be a defining period. Children from wealthy families often don’t need to work and get a monthly stipend.

The article goes on to give good advice to parents on how to help them build credit, make financial decisions and learn budgeting. You can read the parent tips and more of the article here.

What is your experience with kids working in high school and college?

Why is my daughter so annoyed with me?

My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

I wrote this in 2015 and it gets read more than any of my other posts. Our kids do find us annoying at times, just for being moms and dads and doing our best as parents.

I understand how she feels. After all, I was once 19 years old. I remember it very clearly.

Everything my mom did, I found unbelievably annoying.

I’ll never forget sitting with her in the car, getting ready to shop at Bellevue Square. She had parked the car. She was fumbling through her purse, making sure she had what she needed. She reapplied her lipstick. Dug through her purse for her wallet to look through credit cards. Searched several times to check where she placed the keys.

Mom and me in the early 90s.

Mom and me in the early 90s.

Would we never leave the car? Would I be stuck all day? I must have said something to her quite snippy, or flat out mean. A few tears rolled down her cheeks. Which made me more upset with her.

Isn’t it a sad feeling, transitioning from a mom who could do no wrong—from changing diapers to cooking their favorite spaghetti to taping treasured colorings on the fridge that were made just for you—to being the person of their abject disdain?

It’s a tough new role. Let me tell you.

But, having gone through these feelings myself, I understand. I’m visiting my mom this week in her assisted living center. I talked about it with her, what I’m going through now, and what I felt like when I was 19. Fortunately, she doesn’t remember me ever being a snarky 19-year-old.

For some reason, I’ve gained more patience throughout my life and that has been a blessing. I’ve also learned forgiveness.

Something else, I’ve learned through the years of parenting: this too shall pass.

It’s called independence and freedom. We want our children to grow and become separate human beings that can stand on their own. Sometimes they need to separate from us. A good time to do that is during their senior year of high school, or their freshman year of college. It’s a good thing. I keep telling myself that.

However, we also want to be treated with respect, and once again—someday—to be cherished.

A beach day with my daughter.

A beach day with my daughter.

I wrote more about separating from our kids and the experiences we go through when they leave for college here.

What do your kids find annoying about you? How did your mother annoy you when you were young?