Three strategies for parents of boys

katrob 3

My son and daughter.

I have never thought that raising a boy was much different than raising a girl. Since I’m the parent of one of each, it never occurred to me to think of needing different strategies to raise them because of their gender. They were entirely different human beings on so many levels. They had some common interests and a wide range of different ones, too. Their personalities were different from babyhood into adulthood, which in my opinion as the mom had nothing to do with their sex.

So, with all that in mind, when my husband told me about an article called “The New Strategies for Raising a Boy” from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by Elizabeth Bernstein, I was skeptical.

She writes about a new book that “offers a road map for parents of sons at a time when boys face struggles at school and increasing pressures on social medal.” I had no idea how hard it is to be a boy today. None at all. The article was eye-opening and some of the struggles I had with my son his senior year of high school make more sense with a new perspective.

Here is an excerpt:

The New Strategies for Raising a Boy

It’s a challenging time to parent a boy. Moms and dads worry about everything from hypermasculine cultural stereotypes to how to talk about sex in the #MeToo era.

A new book, “How to Raise a Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men,” suggests there’s good reason for concern. Author Michael C. Reichert cites research showing that boys seek help from health care or school staff at rates nearly twice those of girls; they lag behind girls in social and behavioral skills; and they are the primary recipients of disciplinary sanctions and medication prescriptions.

Dr. Reichert, the founding director of the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives at the University of Pennsylvania, aims to provide a road map for parents of sons. A clinical and research psychologist specializing in boys and men for more than 30 years, Dr. Reichert has worked both in the juvenile justice system and with boys in some of the most affluent communities in the country.

Here is an excerpt of a conversation with him:

Are there unique challenges for this generation of boys?

Yes. Media images of boys have exaggerated body types. Studies show that this exaggeration of the male figure in videogames and movies—the Adonis complex—is a relatively new phenomenon. We also see it in the ways that younger males are presenting images of themselves on social media. Boys are aware of the broad audience of spectators on social media viewing them and their relationships. And they are becoming more self-conscious.

Hookup culture is another challenge. Research shows that 62% of young men say they have regrets after a hookup. They wish they had more opportunity for intimacy and romance. But they feel a prohibition to “catching feelings.”

There is also a concern about the danger of addiction to technology. Boys put in more hours playing videogames and watching pornography than girls do. And these industries are becoming very adept at creating dependency.

What do we need to change?

It is the role of the adult—the parents, teacher, coach or mentor—to not buy the mask that boys may have adopted, the cool pose or bravado posture. The boy has put that on as a matter of his survival in his peer culture, the brotherhood. Underneath that is a fully beating heart and human desire for connection. We need to reprioritize this need.

Human minds are wired to connect, so this is important for both boys and girls. But it is important to remember that we are influenced, consciously and unconsciously, by stereotypes of boys. Because of this we have socialized them in a way that leaves them on their own. We need to reinforce for ourselves that they need connection.

How can parents improve their connections with their sons?

I suggest three tools. The first is the tool of deep listening, a form of listening in which parents maintain their focus of attention on their son, and not let themselves get distracted by their immediate concerns or the life lesson they want to teach their boy.

What is the second tool parents can use?

The next is “special time”—carving out a block of time in which you are going to go be with your son one-on-one. This is intuitive but not easy. You are going to pay attention to him and follow his lead and do what he wants to do, whatever that is. Often it starts out with lots of videogames, or shooting baskets, or watching TV shows. We are giving them the freedom to direct the time or play. And that outweighs any concerns about technology or gaming or TV viewing.

What’s the third tool?

It is a way to set limits, premised on the notion that boys who get cut off from their emotions often act their emotions out. A boy who is angry or scared or disappointed or who has experienced some setback acts his emotions out by becoming mean to his sister or disconnected from his family or shut down, angry or surly.

It’s the parents’ job to intervene and help the boy work through the painful emotion. I call this the “listen, limit, listen” model. The first step is to notice the boy is off-course.

Next, the parent steps in and says: “I am not going to let you do this—let you isolate from your family or not do homework or be mean to your sister.” You tell him firmly but not forcefully. A limit set accurately is not about domination or forcing compliance.

IMG_0386

What are your thoughts about the differences in raising boys and girls? What strategies do you use, or do you raise each individual as that — an individual?

Advertisements

Reflections from a new sports parent

robert 1

My son during the age of tee-ball.

Reading an article in the Wall Street Journal called “A Rookie Sports Parent’s Guide to Sports Parenting” by Jason Gay, brought back fond and crazy memories from years ago. When we were first sports parents, our son tried tee-ball. We had some hilarious moments of funny things the kids did, but also not so funny ways that parents acted–including ourselves.

My son never seemed to get into the game. But he loved sitting in the dirt building castles and daydreaming, without noticing or caring that a ball flew or rolled past him. Once, an athletic youngster hit the ball and charged straight out to the field getting to his ball before anyone else could to bring it back. All the parents laughed at that.

It was all going okay, since we didn’t mind our son’s fascination with anything in the field except the ball, until the day one of the coach dads asked my husband to help out. I knew it wasn’t a good idea. My husband is the type of overly enthusiastic guy who can go overboard easily. So when my son was laying in the dirt as short stop, crafting a castle from the red clay and a ball was headed his way, my husband grabbed our son by the back of the shirt, pick him up, and the two raced after the ball together! That was one of the not so good memories. After that day, my husband at least had enough sense to be embarrassed and refused to help out as a tee-ball coach ever again.

We made it through the first season of tee-ball and the season ended with a pool party at our house, complete with the required trophies for everyone–including our son the dirt castle builder. One good thing we did for him–we never signed him up for a season of tee-ball again. We recognized it wasn’t his thing.

Here’s an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal:

“A columnist enters the magical world of practices, game days, and cheese sticks. So far, so good—but it’s early…”

I’ve recently become a bona fide sports parent. I think it’s going fine. I’ve yet to get arrested for sumo-wrestling another parent in the parking lot. Of course, there’s plenty of season left, so who knows.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

• The college scholarship offers…I don’t know what your experience was, but I’ll be honest: They haven’t exactly come rushing in. My son is two games into his spring season, and we haven’t had a single nibble from a college coach.

• I should mention my son is 6 years old, and he just started playing Pee Wee baseball. But still, college coaches: Make us an offer! Even a half scholarship will do. Wisconsin: Where are you?

• I’m giving my son two more weeks to get a scholarship offer before I start photoshopping his head atop the bodies of high-school rowers. Is this illegal? Please let me know.

• Ah that’s right: Wisconsin hasn’t had a baseball team for ages. This seems bizarre. The Badgers have a varsity bratwurst team.

• The parents around my son’s team are kind, encouraging and seem uninterested in being bad sports parents—you know, the sports parents that end up on the 11 p.m. local news, swinging folding chairs at each other. To be sure, it’s easier being a good sports parent when it’s just 6-year-olds. I’m sure the sports parenting gets a lot more intense when the games mean something, and the kids are older, like 7.

• So far, we’re staying local. This keeps it sane. Every sports parent I know with older sports children says the happiest days of their lives are when their children are born—and the saddest days are when their children make travel teams.

• It’s kids—not adults—who have the correct perspective on sports. My son likes playing baseball, but if, on the way to the game, I told him we were going to skip baseball and go look for hermit crabs, he’d be perfectly fine with that, too.

• Last week my son asked me: “Do we have that thing on Saturday…What’s that thing I play?” It was adorable, and yet I also thought: Here’s a golden opportunity to prank him into thinking he’s on a badminton team.

There is a lot more good stuff in Jason Gay’s article. I suggest you click on the link above and read it. Having been through the years of sports parenting and being a sports parenting writer — I’m kind of jealous. He’s got all these years ahead of him to enjoy.

kat and rob beach

The best of times were letting the kids play for hours on end at the beach.

What are some of the funny or crazy moments you remember as a sports parent — or that your parents did?

At what age should kids do chores?

robert

My son.

Although I wasn’t strict about giving my kids chores and following up to see that they were done — my mom sure was. Maybe that’s why I was lax with my children. My brother and I would come home to an empty house after school and we’d spy the dreaded list. It was on a yellow legal pad, single spaced, filled up the entire page and part of the back. I HATED those lists. My mom’s writing was a terrible sprawl and it took work to make out all the stuff she’d written. From sweeping the sidewalk, vacuuming the living room to cleaning the bathroom and weeding the garden, she found plenty for us to do.

I read an informative article on WLNS.com called, “PARENTING CONNECTION: Chores Help Kids Build Worth and Responsibility” by Jorma Duran. I learned all the benefits to assigning chores to kids and there was even a helpful list of what kids could do at certain ages. I wish I’d been stricter with my kids and chores. But, they seemed so busy with swim practice, piano and mountains of homework. It was easier to get things done myself rather than have them find time. This article would have been helpful back then.

Child experts say, study after study shows kids who are given household duties are more responsible, can deal with frustration better, and have higher self-esteem. These three qualities can help kids in both school and in society. That being said — suddenly presenting chores for kids who haven’t done them before will likely go over poorly, so strategies to get them interested include: 

*Impress upon them you feel they’re responsible enough to help the family by doing certain tasks
*Make the requests simple, but important
*Offer up options

Child development expert Claire Vallotton with MSU says, introducing household chores can start when toddlers began responding to direction. 

“Not only are they building life skills, like doing your own laundry or cooking, that is really important when you are on your own — but they are also learning the values of being part of a family and contributing to that. Little ones are so anxious to actually be part of the family and do the work of adults it’s not a challenge to get them to do it — it’s just a challenge to help them do it.” 

Here’s a short list of chores matching the skill level for certain ages:

**Ages 2 – 3
*Pick up playthings with supervision
*Take their dirty laundry to the laundry basket

**Ages 4 – 5
*Make their bed with minimal help
*Pick up their toys

**Ages 6 – 7
*Choose the day’s outfit and get dressed
*Be responsible for a pet’s food, water, and exercise

**Ages 8 – 11
*Learn to use the washer and dryer
*Take the trash can to the curb for pick-up

**Ages 12 – 13
*Vacuum the house
*Mow the lawn with supervision

kat underWhat is your experience with chores as a child? What chores do you give your children?

 

Another Eggless Easter

Here are my thoughts on our first Easter without children at home. It was a trend that has continued. Happy GOOD FRIDAY and EASTER everyone! Enjoy the time to celebrate together with friends and family.

My friend's Easter Cupcakes

My friend Linda’s Easter Cupcakes

There won’t be an egg hunt at my house this year. That’s because my husband doesn’t want to dye eggs with me. Add that to my dislike of eating egg salad all week, I’ll have to get over the no Easter egg sadness.

It’s the first year that we haven’t had a child home for Easter. Last year, I forced my 18-year-old to hunt for eggs. She grudgingly dyed the eggs I boiled after I nagged her a few times. Easter morning, I hid them outside around our patio.  I think she really did enjoy looking for them. At least, she went through the paces.

Kat at the Fireman's Annual Egg Hunt.

Kat at the Fireman’s Annual Egg Hunt.

This year, I’ll skip it. Somehow I can’t imagine my husband hunting for them. Or me. After I’ve hidden them. Yes, that would be sad.

Instead, we’ll walk over to O’Donnell golf course for sunrise service. It should be a gorgeous morning up against the mountain with spectacular views.  I’m thinking the last time we did that was before we had kids. We went with our good friends and sat on the dewy grass on a plaid wool blanket.

Funny thing. I see a pattern where we are returning to activities that we haven’t had time to enjoy in years.

egghunt 1

My kids and friends at the annual egg hunt.

My husband just said, “Let’s go to the beach.” We used to pick up our stuff and jump in the car on a few minutes notice and have a beach day. That was before swimming and school activities took over our lives. I think I can get used to this.

Happy Good Friday, everyone!

My son hunting for Easter Eggs. One said "God Has Risen!" His answer? "Did you hear that? Wow!"

My son hunting for Easter Eggs. One said “Jesus Has Risen!” He said, “Did you hear that? Wow!”

Are Baby Boomers More Involved With Their Adult Kids?

IMG_5296.jpg

Sutro baths on the Pacific. photo by Robert Wickham

As a baby boomer who loves hanging out with my adult kids, I found this article in the Wall Street Journal called “Baby Boomers and the Art of Parenting Adult Kids” by Clare Ansberry to be right up my alley. “More involved with grown children than previous generations, many boomers struggle with letting them go” was the tag line to the story. Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Am I struggling to let my kids go? Or, do I simply like hanging out with them?

I had a trip to Nor Cal to hang out for a few days with my son and his girlfriend, and I treasured the trip. I don’t go up to San Francisco very often, mostly because it’s too far and it costs a lot. My son treated me to some great sightseeing including hiking up to Indian Rock to see the sunset, a trip to SF MOMA and the Sutro baths. We had some incredible meals including Belotti and a Chinese restaurant where I watched them roll out fresh noodles in the window called Shan Dong.

ACS_0002

The view from Indian Rock Park. photo by Robert Wickham

On my trip, I visited a swim team in Roseville, California Capital Aquatics, and talked about things swim parents need to know so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. That was a blast, and having my son take time off work and drive me there, gave me a boost of confidence. He seemed to enjoy what I had to say and was encouraging.

The following weekend, we were off to Arizona to spend the weekend with our daughter. We are exploring where we want to “downsize” to, which I wrote about yesterday. Presently, Arizona is at the top of our list. Plus, my daughter is there. Enough about me and my time hanging out with my kids. Here are some excerpts from the article about baby boomers and their adult kids:

Linda Hoskins would like to believe her adult son considers her a friend.

She’s a baby boomer and boomers tend to think they’re cooler than their own parents were, she says.

“Therefore why wouldn’t our kids want to hang out with us all the time. We’re their friends, right?” the 69-year-old executive director of the American Pie Council asks half-jokingly.

Her son sees it a little differently. “She’s my mom,” says Rick, 44. While very close—seeing each other several times a week until she recently moved and texting in between—his mom isn’t on the same level as his friends, nor would he want her to be.

Baby boomers are far more immersed with their own grown children than their parents were with them, says Karen Fingerman, a professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas, Austin. She found that parents in the early 2000s offered about twice as much counsel and practical support (which could be anything from babysitting grandkids, running their grown kids’ errands or reviewing their résumés) as parents did in the 1980s. Such deep ties can make it hard to let kids go or accept that they will likely love their children more deeply than their kids can love them.

FAMILY MATTERS

Tips for boomer parents dealing with their adult kids

  • Don’t give unsolicited advice. If they want your opinion or need your help, they will ask.
  • Let your kids make mistakes. You did and learned from them.
  • Make a life of your own, so your children don’t feel guilty as they move on with their own life.
  • Manage your own expectations. The fewer expectations, the less likely you are going to be disappointed when they don’t call or visit as often as you would like.
  • Keep in touch in ways that are meaningful to them, whether that’s texting, FaceTime, or phone calls.
  • Set limits. If you can’t or don’t want to babysit all the time, let them know.

Boomers are also the first group of parents in the psychological era, when therapy became more commonplace and relationships were closely examined, says William Doherty, a professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Their own parents were concerned about a child being safe, getting a job, and getting married. “They didn’t obsess about how they were feeling about you,” he says, adding that there are far more elements of friendship in boomers’ relationships with kids. “In many ways, that’s good. But then you have to deal with disappointment if kids are not as close as you would hope for.”

That’s what Linda Stroh found when she and a fellow author surveyed nearly 1,000 baby boomers for their book, “Getting Real about Getting Older.”

“My kids use language like ‘my family’ and ‘our family’ and they don’t mean us,” one man commented. “I’m at the mercy of their whims. We see them when they want, not when we want,” said another. “I miss my kids. I want to be around them more,” one woman said.

It’s not that grown kids don’t want to be part of a parent’s life, but that they are really busy, says Dr. Stroh, herself a boomer and mother of two children, who are very involved with their careers. “If I get a call, I’m thrilled and flattered,” says Dr. Stroh, who teaches human development at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Pittsburgh resident Art DeConciliis, 58, remembers when he and his wife, Mary Pat, got married. “It was sink or swim,” he says, their parents offering little help or support. Today, his three adult children, all married and living near their Pittsburgh home, frequently call for advice about work, buying a house and starting a family. He’s happy to offer it.

“My self-identity is very closely tied to my relationship with my children. I don’t think that was the case with my dad. His was wrapped up in his business,” he says. While he sometimes wonders if too much advice-seeking and advice-giving is a good thing, he also felt a little disappointed that his youngest daughter didn’t involve him when she and her husband bought a house.

That daughter, Samantha DeConciliis-Davin, 26, says that while close to her parents, she has always been independent. Buying a house without their input wasn’t a slight as much as it was an affirmation of their lifelong guidance. “I still depend on them for advice,” she says. They are the first ones she calls if something happens at work.

Kathy McCoy, a psychotherapist specializing in family dynamics, says some distance can be a good thing. Kids should refrain from telling their parents everything and parents should refrain from trying to direct their adult child or grandchild’s life. “That distance can lead to a new kind of closeness,” says Dr. McCoy, who wrote “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” about estrangement between parents and their adult children.

IMG_2973

My adult son at SF MOMA.

If you’re the parent of adult kids, do you think you’re struggling to let your kids go, or like me, do you like to spend time with them? 

How do you know it’s time to downsize?

img_2505

The view from my back door.

We are thinking about selling our empty nest — the home we moved into 27 years ago — before kids. We started off just the two of us, plus a dog and cat. Now we’re thinking about leaving.

When my husband first brought this concept up, I burst into tears. “But my babies! I had my babies, here!” I blubbered with tears running down my cheeks. Actually, I had my two children in the hospital, down the street, but you understand. Our family was raised in this house. It’s filled with memories of them in a basinet, crib, bunk beds, to the big beds standing empty now in their rooms. Kids coming over. Christmases, birthday parties, swim friends hanging out. Senior prom pictures and all.

kat tub

My daughter using the tub to stand.

robertbaby 1

My son in his bedroom.

We went looking and found some gorgeous new places to live. It’s kind of exciting, but overwhelming to think about leaving. Cleaning out the house is a project I’m not looking forward to, either. My dear friend Cindy left her giant home and downsized ahead of me. She said “Once you start purging, it grows on you.”

IMG_2387

My view writing on my laptop.

My son is fighting us tooth and nail. According to him, we’re never supposed to sell California real estate. The property is by all rights his and his sister’s — they’ve laid claim to it. Interesting, I never looked at it like that. I’m wondering if they can afford the AC, the pool man, the gardeners, all that stuff we’ll be hoping to get rid of in retirement. I never thought I’d want to sell, but maybe it’s time?

What are your thoughts about selling the family home and down-sizing? When is the right time?

the pool

My back yard 27 years ago.

No one-size-fits-all approach works in parenting

three

Me and my two kiddos.

In an article in The Boston Globe, different parenting styles are discussed, from helicopter parents to the new buzz about snowplows—plus those lawbreakers who crossed the line with cheating on college admissions. According to Rebecca Pacheco in “Forget the buzzwords about parenting styles, let’s just be present.” she makes good points about how important is to be there and be present in the moment, regardless of your “style.”

Every generation has a fresh take on parenting, its own personal stamp on how children should be raised. Lately, though, it seems we hear of a new style every few weeks. First there were attachment parents and helicopter parents, and now come the snowplow parents.

This last group is particularly infuriating because it means just what one might expect: to remove all obstacles in the path of a child. In other words, instead of preparing the child for the road ahead, the parent prepares the road itself. They plow it and pave it and block traffic. Sometimes, as in the case of the parents in the college admissions scandal, they even commit fraud.

As far as parenting styles named for heavy machinery are concerned, it seems that snowplows deserve more ire than helicopter parents — characterized as those who hover too close — because snowplows do more than hover. They do the work, sometimes even the dirty work, for the child.

Of course there’s a big difference between over-parenting and engaging in criminal activity. Either way, I’m curious if there’s anything positive to glean from the revelation of how far some parents go to shelter their children from the travails of growing up. How did we get here, by the way? And what can parents of more modest means (and probably stronger ethics) do instead to better prepare their children to succeed in the world?

She goes on to say, let kids experience failure. Failure is good for our kids and especially when the stakes aren’t too high. For example, if they fail at a test in high school, it’s not as important as in college when classes cost a ton of money. Failure needs to be looked at as an opportunity to learn. If we swoop in each time to save the day, our children won’t learn the lessons they need to move onto the next phase of their lives. Their days “adulting” will be filled with anxiety and stress, because we robbed them of necessary experiences. Just saying, from my own experiences.

Here’s what the writer from the Globe said about it:

First, let’s remember: Failure is good. Not all the time, not as a way of being or way of life. But failure teaches kids resilience, creativity, and prioritization. Through failure, we learn what matters enough that we are willing to work relentlessly toward it no matter how many times we fail; or we learn to adapt and recognize new opportunities when something doesn’t work out.

Jessica Lahey, New York Times best-selling author of the book, “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed” and a longtime educator, puts it this way: “Kids need to have a positive, adaptive response to failures in order to learn from them, so every time we swoop in and save kids from a consequence, that’s a learning opportunity lost.”

The best thing she said, in my opinion, was “Be present.”

When it comes to parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each kid is different. The strengths and resources of parents vary greatly. And yet, one technique stands out for me, which can be summed up in two words: Be present.

Practically speaking, babies and toddlers do not exist anywhere other than the present moment. When they are hungry, hunger is all that exists. When they are in pain, pain is all-encompassing. Older children understand the concept of time, but their needs are only slightly less immediate. You can reason that you’ll go to the playground not today but tomorrow or request that no one wake you before 7 a.m. on Saturdays, but a child of any age still often needs a response in the moment.

When it comes to parenting, the most important question might not be which style we choose, but how we show up for our children in a given moment. One moment after the other. Every day. Year layered upon year, like tiers of birthday cake or bricks. Granted, no one is perfect, never distracted, or immune to a bad mood or short fuse, but before we can be “good” parents, we must first be present ones. We can borrow wisdom from all kinds of parenting styles: from Montessori or Tiger Mamas, attachment or anything goes, but it all seems secondary to the question of whether our faces light up when they enter a room. Do we take the time to be attentive in their presence?

We teach kids to stop and look both ways before crossing the street. It’s a crucial safety precaution, but it can also serve as mindfulness inspiration as parents. How often do we take pause, stopping to consider what is happening as it’s happening, rather than merely reacting? As parents, do we have a stop-and-look equivalent as the moment is unfolding?

Being in the present is important when you have adult kids, too. It’s also something to remember when you’re with your spouse. Are you preoccupied on your phone while they are talking to you? Are you nodding your head in agreement without listening? Most people are distracted because of our phones. When our adult children call, get off the computer or whatever else we’re doing and pay attention. If we’re distracted all the time and not really “there” we may find ourselves in a day and time when nobody is calling anymore.

Stop. Breathe. Be here, in this moment, with yourself, with your kid whom you love. That’s the job. Leave the plowing of snow and hovering at 460 rotations per minute to the heavy machinery.

What are your thoughts about being in the moment with the people you love?

meandrbeach