A Word of Advice for Sports Parents: “Chill”

 

 

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Our gorgeous Palm Springs pool.

I volunteered a couple hours at my swim team’s big November meet. It’s been three years since I’ve had a swimmer at that meet and the distance of time allows me to look at parents and swimmers through a different lens.

Wow. Do parents ever get worked up watching their kids swim! I observed some parents running around the pool deck, yelling and visibly shaking. I was worried a few would have heart attacks. I acted exactly the same way years ago and I still get nervous and worked up. But I don’t show it as much, anymore. I believe it’s newer parents who are the most anxious because it’s all new to them and confusing. Give them a few years, and they’ll probably relax a bit.

One woman frantically came to the admin tent and said in a panicked voice—bordering on hysteria—“I can’t find my son! I don’t know where he is! Help me find my son!”

My friend, who was running things for the parent volunteers under the tent, asked in a very calm voice, “Please, tell me how old is your son?”

“Twelve.”

“Twelve,” my friend repeated. We managed to keep straight faces. If it was a child of say five or six, there might be a reason for a mom to panic. Well, not a real reason to panic, but the anxiety would be more understandable.

“Do you know where he is supposed to be?” my friend, who is also a psychologist, asked. Her calm approach led me to believe she faces many hyped-up parents in her practice. The frantic mom said he was swimming the 200 fly and she couldn’t find him with her coach or warming up. She asked us to have him paged to report to the admin tent.

“Do you want to give him a little time? If we announce for him to come to the admin tent to meet his mother, he’s going to be embarrassed,” she told her.

“Really? Why would he be embarrassed?” the mom asked.

We didn’t have an answer to that. We had a deck marshal assist the mom walking around the pool deck and into the men’s bathroom to help find her son. I never heard a word after that, so I’m assuming her son made it to his event and back to her side.

Another thing I noticed this past weekend was that the space behind the blocks can get really hectic. That sign that says “Swimmers Only” means just that. It doesn’t mean “Swimmers Only and Me the Swimmer’s Parent Because I’m an Exception to the Rule.” It’s amazing how many parents ignore the sign, have to be told to leave the “Swimmers Only” area and a few want to argue about it. Once again, it’s interesting to look at this from a distance, when a few years ago, I was the one trying to stand behind the blocks with a water bottle and towel for my kids.

I’m reminded of advice I received from Ref Paul on more than one occasion, “Relax, have fun. It’s just a swim meet.”

 

 

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The pool deck during a meet with the “Swimmers Only” area behind the blocks.

 

Why do you think we get so worked up over our children’s athletic performances?

 

 

 

 

 

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The not-so-funny truth about helicopter parents

 

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The goal is to raise happy, healthy kids who experience failure at times so they can also experience success.

 

I often joke that I’m a recovering helicopter parent. But, it’s not that funny after all. It’s important to raise kids who can handle the curve balls life throws at them. By not allowing our kids to fail, we’re robbing them of the ability to learn, grow, and understand hard work. Not only that, but studies show that kids with helicopter parents suffer more from anxiety and depression.

In an article in USA Today by Katy Piotrowski, M.Ed. called “How to help your adult children find success,” it appears success comes most often after failure. So, if we’re not allowing our kids the chance to fail, how will they be successful later in life?

Here are a few tips from the article:

“In a study reported in Psychology Today, the majority of children with helicopter parents have higher anxiety and view life’s challenges as being more daunting than those with more hands-off moms and dads. So what can we do, as parents, to truly support career success in our children? Psychiatrist Joel Young, M.D., suggests these strategies:

“Rather than sharing your goals and wishes for your child, listen to theirs. This builds their skills in independent thought and critical thinking, and sidesteps imposing your values on them.

“When your child receives a consequence, such as not getting hired for a job you think they’d excel in, don’t try to intervene to change the outcome.

“Avoid being your adult child’s keeper and don’t remind them of deadlines. By middle school, they should have learned to stay on top of their to-do lists.

“Instead of offering your solutions to their career challenges, encourage your child to come up with remedies on their own.”

Honestly, is there anything worse than watching your kids suffer, feel hurt or experience failure? We want to make life easy for them. But, while they are young, let them flunk a few tests, or oversleep for school. These are minor things that they can self-correct. They can learn from their mistakes. If we’ve helped our kids every step of the way from kindergarten through their senior year in high school, and they’ve never experienced failure, they may feel overwhelmed when they get a lousy grade on a college paper or fail an exam. They also may feel they aren’t worthy and are incapable on their own without their helicopter parent at their side to save them.

It reminds me of a book I learned about at a writer’s conference more than a decade ago called “Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones” by John C. Maxwell. It was recommended for writers to read this book because in this tough profession we face rejection after rejection and the key is to keep going and fail forward, rather than failing backward. I believe it’s an important read for parents, too, so that we allow our kids the growth experience that only failure provides.

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Before my kids experienced anxiety, stress or failure. Those were the days!

What other sad side-effects do you think helicopter parents may inflict upon their children–with the best intentions? Do you know any helicopter parents? What have you seen them do that you would never do yourself?

 

Supporting your kids’ entrepreneurial spirit

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I believe these kids can do anything if they work hard and believe.

In an article by Melody Hahm from Yahoo Finance called “Parents want their teens to be entrepreneurs — but teens don’t want to” a majority of parents are ready to support their kids’ starting their own businesses. With our own kids, my husband and I express the same view. We encouraged our kids’ entrepreneurial spirit at a young age. Our son had interesting ideas and although he didn’t come up with a multi-million dollar start-up or app in high school like we’d hoped so he could buy us a beach house, he did work through high school as a tutor and website developer.

During a recent weekend together, we were brainstorming with him about start-ups. We had an enjoyable time playing “shark-tank” during a drive up to the mountains, coming up with a dozen practical as well as ridiculous ideas. I’m doubtful he’ll be starting a business anytime soon, but we hope someday he might.

We’re also encouraging our daughter to consider starting up a business after she’s gained some work experience. She’s creative and creates handmade gifts for her friends and family like mosaic picture frames, hand-painted gift boxes and wall hangings. 

She reminds me of a friend, who’s a fellow parent and introduced our kids to mosaics during their elementary school years. This friend has a business called Hippy Sister Soap Company, LLC and her gorgeous products can be found in catalogues, on line and in stores across the country.

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Gorgeous soaps from the Happy Sister Soap Company, LLC website.

 

Here are some interesting facts from the Yahoo Finance article with a survey from Junior Achievement:

Eighty-eight percent of parents would be extremely or very likely to support their teens becoming entrepreneurs when they grow up. In contrast, a mere 30% of teens say they want to start a business, according to a new survey by Junior Achievement (JA) and EY.

They surveyed 1,007 parents of children ages 13-17 and 1,005 13- to 17-year-olds. 

“Parents are seeing entrepreneurship as an exciting opportunity, especially because it’s embraced by society. While kids aren’t showing as much interest, this may change as parents encourage them to take risks,” said Ed Grocholski, Senior Vice President, Junior Achievement.

In 2013, startup activity was at its lowest point in the last 20 years. It has gone up for three consecutive years, nearly reaching the peak before the drop during the Great Recession, according to the 2017 Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship.

Plus, hit shows like “Silicon Valley” and “Shark Tank” make the idea of starting a company accessible and entertaining, at least for parents. And young founders like Facebook’s (FB) Mark Zuckerberg and Snap’s (SNAP) Evan Spiegel have hatched small ideas into publicly traded companies.

Thirty-one percent of teens said their primary concern is that starting a business is “too risky.” Twenty-one percent said that there’s “not enough money in it.” Only 16 percent of teens indicate they have no concerns about trying.

Conversely, 53% of parents have no concerns about their teen starting a business as an adult.

“I do think there’s something to be said about being a risk taker and trying new things. Employers hire people with entrepreneurial mindsets. It’s not just about starting a business,” said Grocholski.

JA is trying to help young students make smart economic choices and realize the breadth of opportunities they have. The nonprofit reaches nearly 5 million students every year in 109 markets across the US. Grocholski said it’s his mission to support teens and continue to encourage parents to take the road less traveled.

We as parents see the world as wide open and believe that our kids can do anything. However, if we’ve been helicopter parents and made a practice of doing too much for our kids, they may lack the interest or belief in themselves as a consequence of our actions.

Also, there are so many studies and stories out there that the millennial generation is not doing the adventurous and often risk-taking things we did as kids. It will be interesting to see where they end up.

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We’ll support our kids in whatever they decide to do.

Why do you think that kids today aren’t interested in being an entrepreneur?

 

Watch out college students, helicopter parents are coming, too!

 

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I was a helicopter parent when they were young.

I enjoy reading and posting stories about helicopter parents because the outrageous, over-the-top behavior of the few mentioned makes me feel like I’ve done a decent job parenting my two young adults.

In “Crazy Parents Are Calling Up Colleges Pretending to Be Their Kids” by Kristen Fleming in the New York Post, I wonder exactly who are these parents and what are they thinking?

A friend told me about someone they knew whose only child was going to start at the University of Redlands which is about 40 miles away. My friend was surprised to hear that the mom got a hotel room and stayed the first week so she could be close to her son. The parents didn’t want him to be alone. When he got a poor grade on a paper, the dad called the University president to complain! Yes, this is a true story. I can only imagine how the student’s four years went—or if he made it that long.

 

Here are two examples from the article:

“I think the wackiest example was when a mother called and asked for permission to do her daughter’s internship for her because [the girl] had too much anxiety. I said, ‘It sounds to me that this would be a fun and interesting experience for you but I don’t think your daughter is going to get any credit for it,’ ” recalled Jonathan Gibralter, president of Wells College in upstate New York.

An administrator at a liberal arts college in the Northeast, who asked to remain anonymous for professional reasons, has trouble keeping up with the parental texts and e-mails that flood her phone.

“Over the last two or three years it’s become unbearable,” she said. “I’ve had parents calling up and impersonating their children, asking questions that could have been easily asked by their kids. One lady didn’t even bother to disguise her Long Island soccer-mom voice.”

I learned that technology is partially to blame and that the cell phone is the world’s longest umbilical cord at my daughter’s orientation for students and parents at the University of Utah. We were told to not jump every time the cell phone rang or we received a text. Let our kids learn to problem solve was the advice. Usually, they’re just venting and the problem will solve itself or be no big deal after a day.

In the New York Post article, technology is pointed out to be an issue and one main cause of helicopter parenting:

Harlan Cohen, who wrote the book “The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College” is in demand at schools as an instructional speaker.

“I’ve heard all of the horror stories,” said Cohen, who recently led a seminar for parents at Purdue University in Indiana. “I’ve heard stories of parents wanting to come along for job interviews, coming unannounced to resident halls and reaching out to the president for every little situation.”

Still, he said, “I’m sympathetic to both sides.”

He blames technology for the seismic shift in academic life. Previous generations had to rely on landlines and phone cards to call home, limiting contact and allowing kids to feel their way through challenges. Now, armed with smartphones, students are apt to sound off with a text or social-media post after a frustrating encounter with a professor or roommate — raising the alarm back at home.

I have a relative who stayed up several nights to finish projects for her son and she also would rewrite his papers. She was very upset when he (she?) got a bad grade and made an appointment to speak to the teacher about it. She had the good sense to laugh about it and said it was hard not to say “Why did you give me this bad grade?” — rather than her son. It dawned on her that she might be doing too much for him.

Why do you think parents are so overly involved in their high school and college-aged kids lives?

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I think they’ve had enough of my posing them for pictures!

Why kids want instant gratifcation and how helicopter parents make it worse

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Here’s a story I wrote two years ago about why kids today have more trouble facing challenges their first year away from home than previous generations. As parents, is it our fault?

The numbers don’t lie. ACT states that 50% of kids do not return to college for their second year, and then only 25% of those graduate in five years. US News and World Report, which ranks colleges annually, changed one of its measurements from a graduation rate of five years to six years! I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know the percentage of kids that get out in four!

Letting my kids play and be kids.

Letting my kids be kids.

I’ve given my two cents worth in Four Reasons Why Kids Fail Their Freshman Year. This time around, I asked Nicolle Walters, RN, PhD, Clinical Psychologist for her expertise. In addition to being a practicing therapist, she’s the mother of two kids about the same ages as mine.

Why do our kids have such a hard time once they’re away from us? They’ve worked so hard to fill their resumes with high grades, SAT scores, leadership, community service, sports, or music. Yet, these kids who look perfect on paper can’t handle the daily demands of life on their own. How much of the failure is our fault? 

According to Dr. Walters, our kids aren’t prepared for college. She said, “Part of the reason is our instant gratification society. They want everything right now—and get it with technology like streaming, etc. They don’t learn self-discipline. They don’t have to wait for things like we did.”

She said, “I know it sounds contrary or strange, but kids who come from dysfunctional families and had to take care of themselves are more equipped to deal with everyday problems, compared to kids who had parents who did everything for them.”

“Also, A lot of kids don’t learn how to work hard. If you’re smart, you don’t need to work hard in high school, and they aren’t prepared for college. Our kids need skills like planning ahead and self-discipline.”

Here’s another thought she had, “College is totally different. Class time is switched and it’s the opposite of what they are used to. They are used to spending eight hours in class and studying a smaller amount of hours at night. In college, it’s two or three hours a day of class, but they need to study for six to eight,” Dr. Walters said.

Today on TV, I heard a Stanford expert, Julie Lythcott-Haims, talk about her book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” She says we are literally ruining a generation of kids. She said it’s not just at Stanford, but in colleges throughout the country. You can read more here.

This week on SwimSwam I list the things we do for our kids that we need to stop doing. Like today.

We are smothering our kids and crippling their self-development. I know this because I’m guilty of a ton of it. I’m looking back at how concerned I was with performance, how busy my kids’ lives were, and because of those two factors I jumped in and did too much for them.

My kids being kids. They're okay despite my hovering.

The kids are okay despite my hovering.

Here’re are links to a couple other stories I’ve written about getting our kids ready and self-sufficient for college:

My Confessions as a Helicopter Mom 

10 Things Our Kids Need to Know Before College

If we as parents are over parenting like the experts claim, then what should we do to help our kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

Parents Beware: Coaches Are Watching You, Too

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Signing day.

It’s college recruiting season for swimming and articles are tweeted and posted hourly of recruits signing with universities. I ran across an interesting article from USA Today about parents and recruiting called “How college coaches evaluate parents” by Fred Bastie, owner and founder of playced.com, a college recruiting company.

In the article, Bastie interviewed Pat Fitzgerald, the football coach at Northwestern University who said, “An increasingly larger part of the evaluation of the prospect, for us, is evaluating the parents. It’s a big part of the evaluation.”

He breaks down the troublesome parents into five categories:

The Helicopter Parent
The Sideline Coach Parent
The Scouting Director Parent
The Sports Agent Parent
The Lawnmower Parent

I remember my daughter’s college recruiting experience and I’m pleased to say that we did not do the things listed in this article that wave red flags in front of college coaches.

Isn’t it sad that some parents, who are honestly trying to help their children, could be the reason their child misses a chance at a scholarship or a spot on a team? I remember when my kids were younger, like 13 or 14, and at a swim meet with college teams and coaches. I was at the end of the lane, enthusiastically cheering for my kids and their teammates. One mom with two kids around the same age, pulled me aside and said, “Don’t you know that the coaches won’t want your kids because of you standing at the end of the lane cheering?”

At the time, I thought she was crazy. My kids were too young to be thinking about college and surely no coach cared what I did. I went on cheering. I do not think being enthusiastic is a red flag to a coach. And I was probably right that no coaches were looking at a 13-year-old who barely made it into the meet.

When I interviewed coaches for an article for SwimSwam magazine, many of them expressed concern about helicopter parents, but several coaches had another take. They looked at how the athletes treated their parents. One coach passed over a child for being rude and obnoxious to her mother. In that case, it wasn’t the parent who ruined the opportunity, but a kid who acted like a rude, spoiled brat. Of course, you have to consider someone raised that ungracious child in the first place.

In my opinion, it’s not the parent who coaches want to avoid dealing with, but it’s how well the children of overbearing parents will adapt to being away from home for the first time. It’s how well they’ll handle adversity and be productive, giving teammates. In the article, it states something our own club coach has said, “There are only two people the college coach wants to talk to: 1. the athlete, 2. the athlete’s coach.”

That said, what role do you think parents have in the college recruiting process?

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My daughter and friend on a recruiting trip.

 

 

Why are kids taking longer to grow up?

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Senior prom–the kids got together in person.

Several articles published today are referencing a study by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge. She studied millions of kids to come up with the fact that millennials are taking longer to grow up than in previous generations. Twenge doesn’t make a judgment on whether that’s good or bad, she just states it as a fact.

In a talk I attended a few years ago for my daughter’s college, in one of the sessions led by an Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, Psychologist Kari Ellingson said the same thing. She said when we were young, kids matured into adults at age 19, 20 and 21. Today, those numbers are delayed to 26, 27 and 28.

In an article from the New York Times, called “The curse of the helicopter parent” Twenge and her study are cited:

New York – Parents may still marvel at how fast their children grow up, but a new study finds that US teenagers are maturing more slowly than past generations.

In some ways, the trend appears positive: high school children today are less likely to be drinking or having sex compared with their counterparts in the 1980s and 1990s.

But they are also less likely to go on dates, have a part-time job or drive – traditional milestones along the path to adulthood.

So is that slower development “good” or “bad”? It may depend on how you look at it, the researchers say.

The findings, published online in the journal Child Development this week, are based on surveys done between 1976 and 2016.

Together, they involved more than 8 million US children in the 13-19 age group.

Over those years, the study found, teenagers gradually became less likely to try “adult” activities – including drinking, having sex, working, driving, dating and simply going out (with or without their parents).

By the 2010s, only 55% of high school seniors had ever worked for pay – versus roughly three-quarters of their counterparts in the late 1970s to the 1990s.

Similarly, only 63% had ever been on a date. That compared with 81% to 87% of high school seniors in the 1970s through 1990s.

In the San Diego Tribune, contact reporter Bradley J. Fikes wrote: “Teens are growing up more slowly — and they seem OK with it.”

Mid- to -late teens are delaying the classic milestones of adulthood, namely working, going out without their parents, driving, dating, having sex, and drinking alcohol, according to four decades of surveys reviewed for the study, led by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge.

Today’s 18-year-olds exhibit similar milestone behaviors as did 15-year-olds in the late 1970s, Twenge said. Moreover, they’re mostly doing this voluntarily — parents aren’t imposing this delayed independence.

The spread of smartphones, which allow teens to socialize from the safety of their homes, is part of the explanation, said Twenge. The author of “Generation Me,” she has released a new book on the generation born after 1995 called “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

When I look back on my teenage years compared to my kids, we had a whole lot more freedom. We were out all the time and our parents didn’t seem to care where we were. In fact, my parents were enjoying weekends on our boat or at the cabin and would leave my brother and me alone when we were teens. The same was true for a lot of my friends’ parents, as well. They didn’t keep track of us on a minute by minute basis. They also didn’t track us on “find my iPhone.” There weren’t any cell phones to call home and they just said to be home by a certain time.

I wonder how much influence our technology has today over our kids not growing up so fast? They aren’t getting together with friends to interact in person. They can do that from the comfort of their own bedrooms. Plus, they have all the entertainment they can consume, right on their iPhones. We helicopter parents keep a close eye on our kids and we know where they are at all times. By contrast, our parents told us to get outside and not come back until dinner. Between us and iPhones, our kids aren’t getting real-world experiences.

Everyone I knew growing up had some sort of part-time job in high school–even if it was working for their family’s business. I worked in my dad’s dental office and my brother bagged groceries at the local Safeway. Today, I know of very few kids with part-time jobs. My own son worked several jobs, but he was one of the few. He was an assistant lifeguard, then a coach for our team. He tutored in math and was paid to maintain a website. Very few of my kids’ friends had jobs after school. Teens today must not need to earn money because we are providing for all their needs and wants.

On the bright side, it’s good our kids aren’t running around at night unsupervised, drinking and having sex as teens. Also, they actually like hanging out with their parents!

What are your thoughts about why kids are not growing up as fast as we did?

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Hanging out together this summer.

Here’s a recent story I wrote that included psychologist Jean M. Twenge.