Too much stuff and too much help makes adulting tough for our kids

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Back when I was young with my big brother.

 

I found an interesting article on a website called Moneyish, which by the way is filled with interesting articles by a group of writers who happen to be women with backgrounds writing for the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Media Group and other major publications like the New York Daily News and Seventeen magazine. The article I read today was called, “Overindulging kids makes their adulthoods harder, research shows” by Erica Pearson. She interviewed an overindulgence expert, Jean Illsley Clarke, age 93, who grew up as a “Post World War II Depression Kid” and had a very different childhood than kids today.

Here’s are a few excerpts and I think it’s worth reading the whole article here:

Overindulgence expert Jean Illsley Clarke tells Moneyish how teaching kids to fend for themselves makes them successful adults.

Too much stuff, too much help, too little structure — it’s a trap that leads well-intentioned parents into making life as a grownup hard for their kids.

Jean Illsley Clarke, the country’s foremost expert on childhood overindulgence — and its pitfalls — has a fresh, vested interest in helping millennial parents rein things in as they start families of their own: a brand new great-grandson, the first great-grandbaby in her family.

“I haven’t intruded anything yet. But I will!” she admitted, sitting down to talk to Moneyish in her mid-century modern Minnesota home a few weeks before her 93rd birthday.

Millennials, known for their overscheduled childhoods overseen by helicopter parents, may be the most overindulged generation yet — but there’s still hope that they won’t repeat their parents’ mistakes, Clarke believes.

“When people finally get it, how damaging this is, they’ll take action,” she said.

Her research shows that being overindulged as a kid has been linked to an inability to delay gratification, a lack of gratitude and self-control, and an increase in materialistic values as an adult. “Too many things results in lack of respect for things and people. Doing things for our children that they should be doing themselves results in helplessness and lack of competence. Lack of structure results in irresponsibility,” she said. “What we found in our big study was that nobody said ‘thank you’ to their parents, but the word ‘resent’ came up often.”

Clarke still thinks about a woman who told her that she didn’t do chores as a child and had never done laundry when she got to college. “She went to her roommates and said, ‘Which is the washer, and which is the dryer’? And they ridiculed her. And she made a very unfortunate decision. She decided she would never ask for help again. So her college years were not happy ones,” she said.

A self-described “World War II, Depression kid,” Clarke felt that she didn’t know much about overindulgence, just that it hadn’t been her own experience. She couldn’t find any research studies that adequately tackled the subject, so teamed up with fellow parenting expert Connie Dawson and David Bredehoft, a now-retired Concordia University professor, to study it on their own.

Eventually, parents started coming up to her during workshops to ask, “I want to know if I’m doing it.”

Through their research, Clarke and her collaborators discovered that overindulgence of some sort was happening at all income levels, and that it has serious consequences — serious enough that she grew to consider it a form of neglect.

They also found that “spoiling” is about much more than just stuff — while too many clothes or toys isn’t a good thing, it isn’t as damaging as doing too many things for kids that they should be doing for themselves.

 

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My mom and dad grew up with one of these to wring out clothes.

 

I think about the childhood my parents had compared to mine, and then again versus our kids’ generation. My parents began life before every household had a washing machine and dryer, or refrigerators. Mom told me about the ice man who delivered ice for the “icebox.” Clothing was washed on a washing board, and then there was some strange contraption that you’d run through the clothes to wring them out before they were hung out on the lines to dry. Mind you, these aren’t my memories, but my mother’s. Because nothing was automated like it is today, their lives as kids involved a whole lot more work around the house.

I do remember we would hang the wash out in the backyard, too. We had a pole in a cement circle that had arms extending with lines going around in a circle like a big spider web. I remember the wooden clothes pins I’d play with while my mom spun the clothesline around to hang up our laundry. We did have a washer and dryer, but she preferred to hang clothes outside in the spring and summer. 

 

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This is what the clothesline looked like in our backyard.

In comparison to my kids’ generation, I had less homework than they did in middle school and high school. Also, I had a ton of chores, which my kids didn’t have.  My mom was a firm believer that busy kids stayed out of trouble. But if the chores were done, most of my time away from school was unstructured. I had a lot of hours to read, sit outside and watch the clouds pass by. My childhood was very different than my kids, who grew up on a competitive swim team with practices six days a week, and hours and hours of homework each night. I didn’t burden them with chores and perhaps I should have.

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At the time, I thought my kids were too busy with swimming and homework to have many chores.

What do you think of the advice from “overindulgence expert” Jean Illsley Clarke? Is doing too much for our kids just as bad as giving them too much?

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No Parents Allowed!


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This week, while I am recovering from surgery, I am reposting some of my earliest blog posts. Enjoy! I’ll try to make it back to work next week.

I was sitting outside a roped off area with a sign posted “No Parents Allowed” at a three-day swim meet in LA with close to 1,400 swimmers.

“But, I HAVE to get my son this bottle of water,” a mom begged the volunteer parent wearing a neon orange vest, who was in charge of guarding the entrance to the “swimmer’s only” area.

“ARE YOU PROMISING TO GET MY SALLY TO HER EVENT ON TIME? I’M HOLDING YOU ACCOUNTABLE!” another mother yelled with her finger wagging in the face of the orange-vested volunteer. The mom was shaking in frustration and anger.

I sat calmly by — watching, observing, and remembering  —  that was me. Not the yeller, but the one pleading. My daughter is 18 and going off to college next fall. She’s been a swimmer since age five.

Helicopter after helicopter mom argued and pleaded with the volunteers, who are swim parents themselves, on how they’d just be a second to find their child, bring them water, lunch, or make sure they made it to their event.

I wanted to tell them “RELAX!” If their swimmers had made it this far, to the season’s championship meet, they’re going to be okay. Calm down, let them hang out with their friends and teammates. They’ll be fine and will survive. After all, I had just made it through watching my daughter swim the mile. I didn’t get up once and scream, “GO!” which I have done at every flip turn for the past 15 years. If I can calm down and let go — you other moms can too!

And — if they don’t drink enough water, or miss their event — they might actually learn from it.

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Here are 10 great things to remember as a parent of children in any sport. It’s from USA Swimming.

10 COMMANDMENTS FOR SWIM PARENTS

I. Thou shall not impose thy ambitions on thy child.

II. Thou shall be supportive no matter what.

III. Thou shall not coach thy child.

IV. Thou shall only have positive things to say at a competition.

V. Thou shall acknowledge thy child’s fears.

VI. Thou shall not criticize the officials.

VII. Thou shall honor thy child’s coach.

VIII. Thou shall be loyal and supportive of thy team.

IX. Thy child shall have goals besides winning.

X. Thou shall not expect thy child to become an Olympian.

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More handy tips can be found at USA Swimming’s page for parents.

FYI, the top photo of my daughter’s relay team was taken by a 12-year-old teammate, who obviously can make it to her events, stay hydrated, swim fast, and take great pics! The second photo is my daughter 12 years ago. The last photo was taken from the “parents only” section of the East LA College pool.

Video of my daughter’s 400 free relay from TAKEITLIVETV from Feb. 17.

The difference between “needs” and “wants”

 

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My writing expert a few years ago.

When my kids were in Catholic elementary school, a teacher explained the difference between needs and wants to them. I remember being impressed with how the teacher brought this lesson down to their age level and it was something that I hadn’t thought about explaining to my kids. Yet, it’s such a crucial life lesson. When you’re raising kids, they often have a lot of things they “need.” They want to fit in with their peers and when one friend gets the latest whatever, they feel they need it, too.

When my kids told me they “needed” a colorful iPod mini or a deck of Pokemon cards I could answer smugly, “Is this something you need—or something you want?”

I pretty much think they still believed it was something they needed.

I had a conversation with my son yesterday about needs and wants. I was telling him how I’ve been struggling with a rewrite of a mid-grade novel but was beginning to have a break-through. I hired an editor to review my manuscript and the main thread of advice was to add depth to my main characters. I have a “good” protagonist and an “evil” antagonist. It’s a book about friendships and growth in character, yet my characters are pretty shallow and flimsy. My son—brilliant person that he is—suggested I look at their “needs” and “wants.”

Seriously? The child who “needed” so many material things is now lecturing me on “needs and wants?” Yes, he is and in literature, he explained, needs and wants take on a subtle but different meaning. I found a good article “What your character wants versus what they need” from the Novel Factory. Here’s an excerpt:

What your character wants
We all want something. Some of us crave power, others long for heaps of cash, others want five minutes of fame. Some of us dream of having a baby, or a picture perfect wedding. Then of course there are more specific goals, like to win Countdown, to meet David Attenborough or to bake the perfect flan.

At the outset of your novel, you need to establish what it is your character wants – what it is that they are pursuing? What do they believe will give them a feeling of satisfaction?

What your character needs
However, there is something else under the surface, and that is what your character needs.

There are very few things human beings actually need, in order to be happy, and most of the things we fixate on wanting only obscure the really important things.

The things we need can usually be distilled to one thing: love.

This bit of advice from my son was eye-opening. I truly love my kids and his interest and expertise as a Lit major have helped with the struggle I’ve faced for the past month or two.

 

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Back when needs and wants were simple.

Have you explained to your kids about needs and wants? If you’re a writer, how do you use needs and wants to enrich your characters?

 

Parent tips for the roller coaster ride of raising teens

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We’re past the roller coaster ride of the teen years. Onward to the quarter-life crisis.

Has any parent not witnessed the eye rolls, backtalk or even a door slam? Most of the time my kids were wonderful. But we had our moments. I especially remember a tough period with my son where I said things I would love to take back. I didn’t mean those words but I was frustrated beyond belief with his behavior. That’s not an excuse, but it’s a pretty accurate assessment that I felt out of control. I heard from one friend that when our kids get ready to leave the nest they work on pushing us away.

Today I read “3 Myths About Your Teen’s Bad Attitude” in Time Magazine by Alan Kazdin and learned that our kids are not acting out on purpose. “Alan Kazdin is Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University and director of the Yale Parenting Center; he is a former President of the American Psychological Association and teaches a course open to the public on Coursera: Everyday Parenting: The ABCs of Child Rearing.”

According to Kazdin, our young adults are going through development changes and are not in control of how they treat us. Of course, we’d all prefer civility and want our child back, but give it time and space and they will once again be the people we love to be around. In the article, he gives a few tips on how to make the situation better not worse. He says to focus on the positive things and don’t be heavy-handed with punishment. If we rely too much on punishment, our kids may resort to worse actions to escape punishment or pull further away from us. His third tip is to compromise. Find something that you previously said “absolutely not” to and give in. Kazdin also makes the point that the developmental changes take place at different ages with adolescents.

His tips may seem contrary to what you’d like to do, but he says they are effective. Our goal is to change the annoying and troubling behavior of our teens and bring them closer to us, not make it worse.

Here are some excerpts about three myths Kazdin brings up about our adolescents:

3 Myths about Teenage Attitude

1. Your teenager’s behavior is deliberate.

It may be of little consolation, but your teenage daughter has little control over the bad attitude. She is not manipulating you on purpose or spending all that time in her room scheming about new ways to annoy you. In fact, she too is a victim — of all sorts of biological and psychological changes over which she has little control. She is going through a rollercoaster of adolescence, and you are on the ride with her.

As an important example of what is going on, the brain changes are extensive: more rapid development of the brain areas and functions that increase impulsivity, risk-taking and being influenced by peers. Those areas of the brain structure and functioning that we wish would be well established, such as self-control, restraining oneself and making decisions rationally, are coming online more slowly and will not be more fully developed until later adolescence.

2. Reasoning with the teenager will help.

Reason rarely persuades anybody to do things we know we should do — such as exercising or avoiding fast foods. It is even less likely to work with your teenager, considering all those developmental changes.

However, it is wonderful to be reasonable with your teen. It demonstrates for them a way of thinking, handling conflict and solving problems, and it can have longer-lasting effects on how your eventual adult approaches life.

3. Punishment will change the behaviors and attitudes you want to get rid of.

Teenagers may simply isolate themselves even more and have even less time with the family and in the presence of a parent. That will decrease the chances of a positive influence.

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Hiking with my son this past summer. 

How do you handle it when your young adult is rude and no longer wants to hang out with the family?

Who is the worst sports parent ever?

 

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College sports include cheering for teammates.

Have you been keeping up with the real-life drama of the Ball brothers and their outrageous dad LaVar? Noted to be one of the worst sports parents ever, LaVar Ball dad of basketball players has been in and out of the news. That’s probably his goal since he runs a reality show on his FaceBook page. But seriously, what is this guy teaching his kids? If you haven’t heard of LaVar Ball here’s the scoop: his kids are Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo; LiAngelo, who was enrolled at UCLA briefly with a basketball scholarship; and LaMelo, who he pulled out of Chino Hills High School recently.

I’m not a basketball fan, nor a fan of the NFL, but I can’t escape hearing about LaVar Ball. I ran across a snippet on Fox Sports 1 with Cris Carter who asked after hearing that LaVar was pulling his son out of UCLA because he isn’t being allowed to play. Carter, a former NFL star, commented that UCLA receives more applications than any other university in the country and why would he want to take away that opportunity from his son? He said, even if his middle son LiAngelo plays for the NBA, and starts at age 20, he’ll most likely be done with his career by 28 or 29. “What’s he supposed to do with the rest of his life?” Carter asked.

 

You can watch the video from FS1 here on ‘Cris Carter responds to LaVar Ball pulling LiAngelo out of UCLA: ‘What kind of parenting is this?’

In case you haven’t heard, the reason the middle Ball son was suspended by the Bruins basketball team was because he shoplifted in China and wound up in a China jail along with two of his teammates. It took the POTUS to get him out of jail and returned to the United States. LaVar didn’t think shoplifting was any big deal and didn’t condemn his son’s actions. Now LaVar isn’t letting him take the punishment that UCLA decided on, but instead will take LiAngelo away from facing consequences and completing his college education at UCLA. Why was he shoplifting in the first place? Was it a game? Was it for thrills? I have heard this adult-aged kid drives a Ferrari, so it certainly wasn’t because he didn’t have the money.

“Tipsheet: LaVar Ball is the worst basketball dad ever” written by Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has some quotes from LaVar Ball that show his arrogance and inability to acknowledge the wrongdoing by his son.

“We learned today of LiAngelo Ball’s intention to withdraw from UCLA,” Bruins coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We respect the decision he and his family have made, and we wish him all the best in the future.”

(And the unstated P.S. was “Good riddance!”)

As Donald Trump correctly noted, shoplifting in China can be a really big problem. The President had the back of Ball and teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill and helped get them home after their arrest.

But LaVar has steadfastly downplayed his son’s crime and whined about his punishment. “I’m not sitting back and waiting,” he told ESPN. “He wasn’t punished this bad in China.”

And . . .

“We get back over here and the consequences were even stiffer than China. So basically they’re in jail here.”

And . . .

“I’m going to make him way better for the draft than UCLA ever could have. He’s not transferring to another school. The plan is now to get Gelo ready for the NBA draft.”

That will be a heavy lift. “He’s not on any of our scouting lists — even the extended lists,” one NBA general manager told ESPN.

So this withdrawal is no great loss for UCLA.

Younger brother LaMelo could become a NBA player like big brother Lonzo. But his personal sneaker deal and his dad’s antics make it unlikely LaMelo will play at UCLA or anywhere else on his way to the pros.

Here are more details about the crazy Ball family in an article called “UCLA basketball got exactly what it wanted out of the Ball family” by Mike Rutherford for SB Nation.

 

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LaVar Ball in a photo from SB Nation.

 

“The relationship between the Ball family and UCLA basketball appears to have reached a premature end. One side came out as the clear winner.
After one exhibition game appearance and one international incident, it appears the LiAngelo Ball era at UCLA has come to an abrupt close.

In various interviews with a number of national outlets Monday, LaVar Ball revealed he was pulling his middle son off the UCLA basketball team and withdrawing him from the university. LiAngelo Ball had been indefinitely suspended since he and two freshman teammates were caught shoplifting during UCLA’s trip to China last month. The incident made international headlines and resulted in a public war of words between the patriarch of the Ball family and the President of the United States.

This marked the second time in 2017 that LaVar Ball has abruptly pulled one of his sons out of school.

In October, LaVar announced that his youngest son, 16-year-old LaMelo Ball, was being pulled out of Chino Hills High School and would be home-schooled. LaVar reportedly had issues with first-year Chino Hills boys basketball coach Dennis Latimore, who had yet to coach his first official practice at the school. It was also revealed that LaMelo, one of the top players in the class of 2019, was being given his own signature shoe via LaVar’s “Big Baller Brand,” making him the first 16-year-old ever to own such a distinction.

On Monday night, Yahoo reported options were being explored to send both LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball overseas to begin their professional careers. Essentially, the turbulent relationship between the Ball family and UCLA has come to an end years before the pair had originally intended.

That’s probably just fine with everyone in Westwood.
The relationship between the Balls and UCLA, which officially took effect in January 2014, was always primarily about Lonzo Ball. The five-star virtuoso point guard was bound for greatness regardless of where he played in college and regardless of how preposterously one of his legal guardians chose to behave. He was the type of player who could transform UCLA basketball, even if he was only a Bruin for one season.

LaVar Ball was always going to be a distraction, but he was a manageable one for UCLA when Lonzo was the son in question. With LiAngelo, things were bound to be more difficult. Play the kid too much, and it might cost you team chemistry or even a couple of wins. Don’t play him enough, and get ready to see his dad’s criticism as the top story on your ESPN scream-at-each-other show of choice the next morning. It would be hard to blame Alford, and anyone else caught up in the situation, for looking to find a way out.

Now they don’t have to.

As a sports parent myself, I am sorry for these young men and that their dad isn’t allowing them to learn the life lessons that sports can teach. I guess the family’s goal wasn’t to be the best they could be, learning good sportsmanship, time management, perseverance and the ability to pick themselves up after defeat. No, I think the lessons LaVar Ball is teaching his sons include that they are better than everyone else and the rules don’t apply to them. Also, that money is their almighty savior.

 

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My daughter learning about being part of a team.

 

What lessons do you think LaVar Ball is teaching his kids and those who may look up to them?

 

 

 

“LESS IS MORE”

 

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My son at the beach.

My husband said that under his breath last night. He was talking about a client who tries to time the market, buying and selling stocks and bonds–and make decisions that are too complicated. It made me think about our upcoming weekend plans where we’ve promised to clean out our closets and throw away stuff. It was 25 years ago we moved into our house! Yes, it’s time to clear out junk and go with the mantra “less is more.”

“Less is more” was first credited to a poem, Andrea del Sarto, by Robert Browning in 1855.

“Who strive – you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) – so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia.”

Later, a German-American architect Mies van der Rohe used “less is more” describe a stripped-down style of building design.

While researching “less is more” I ran into an article about a “less is more” Christmas plans for young kids in the Washington Post in “Trying to tame holiday gift excess? Here are 4 alternatives to a mountain of toys” by Lindsey M. Roberts:

When family life counselor Kim John Payne published “Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids” in 2009, he was warning us about how our supersize lives were affecting our kids. He was seeing kids who were unable to play by themselves in rooms full of toys, throwing frequent tantrums caused by overscheduling, and being diagnosed with behavioral disorders they didn’t have. He knew something needed to change.

“The too much, too soon, too sexy, too young — it’s become ubiquitous,” he says.

It turns out he was onto something with that “less is more” approach, particularly when it comes to holiday toys. Each year, as minimalism grows in popularity, Payne sees more parents embracing the call for less stuff and more time together.

The article interviews four people from a blogger to a book author about how they have pared down Christmas giving with their kids.

I remember our first Christmas with our baby boy. We had a Christmas tree that almost touched the ceiling and presents stacked almost as high. It was ridiculous and decadent. I also remember our son being fascinated with a bow and playing with it for hours on end. He completely ignored the Little Tikes blue car, the Playmobil table and chairs, and other creative brain-enhancing toys we purchased for him. It was an eyeopening experience and after that, we dialed it back. I also asked the grandparents to not overdo the gifts—and if they’d prefer—they could contribute to the college fund we had set up.

In Embracing “Less Is More” For Better Health, in the Idaho Senior Independent, an article by Carrie Stensrud talks about how “less is more” is important for those on a later end of the life spectrum, too.

From “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:”

“Minimalism is a style of extreme spareness and simplicity. Originally demonstrated in expressions of music or art, minimalism has gained momentum as a lifestyle, inspiring folks to keep only a minimum amount of belongings and sell or donate the rest. Some have taken the idea so far as to leave their homes and move into “tiny homes,” downsizing from a traditional house to spaces as small as 400 square feet.

“Despite varying degrees along the minimalist spectrum, the bottom line remains: ‘Less is more’ is better for your physical and mental health.

“To compound the problem, general disorganization results in not being able to find things when you need them. The risk of falling increases with rushing, worrying, and losing focus.

“Clutter around the home also creates places for bacteria, dust, and mold to collect. Exposure to increased levels of environmental hazards can aggravate allergies and other respiratory conditions, cause generalized inflammation, and even lead to chronic illness.”

I’m convinced. “Less is more” and I’m tackling my closet tomorrow.

 

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The blue car and Sherman the cat.

What are your thoughts about “less is more?”

 

When should we jump in to defend our kids?

When they were young.

I was always a stickler for what was right or wrong and I never shied away from addressing any issue. I would go to bat for my kids whenever I felt they were being slighted. Looking back, I see that is a trait of helicopter parenting and I might have done more good for my kids by letting them fight their own battles.

Here are a few battles I took on when I thought my kids weren’t being treated right:

I wrote an email to my son’s AP History teacher to complain about his grade. He was .05 off an A and I felt the teacher should round it up. I got a note back explaining that if he were to round up my son’s grade, he’d have to go back and do the same thing for every other student in his grade book who was a fraction off the next higher grade. (Not a bad idea, I thought!) My son was being passed over for his school’s nomination for the coveted National Merit Scholarship award because of the B, but he lived through it.

When I felt a coach was picking on my son, I made an appointment to complain about it, only to find out that he had earned the “coach’s award” for best attitude and effort. That surprised me and I’m embarrassed about that meeting to this day.

When my daughter was given five days of after-school detention for forgetting to bring the photocopy of Christmas song lyrics to music class, I complained that the punishment was over the top. In fact, other kids were given two nights detention, so there was a definite crossing the line by the music teacher—in my humble opinion.

There are countless other incidents where I went to battle for my kids. I do believe I taught them the difference between right and wrong and that they should stand up for themselves. At least that’s what I told myself at the time.

I couldn’t understand why other parents would stand by and let bad things happen to their kids. I do now. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and shrug your shoulders. I’ve found that some of the things that would have bugged me to no end, will soon disappear on their own within a few days or weeks. By making an issue out of little things, they can turn into big ones and burn a lot of energy and create angst.

My daughter complained to me last night that during a meeting with students on a group project, the guys were complaining that all the women coming forward about sexual harassment were “just looking for attention.” That infuriated my daughter to no end. I asked her if she was going to put up with it or wanted to go to the professor or counselor and complain. She decided to let it go. She’s a week from being done with the class and just wants to get through it. I told her I would stand by whatever she decided.

When my son received a letter telling him he was kicked out of school during the summer after his freshman year for bad grades, I was horrified. But, then I stood by and watched him research his options online. He wrote a letter to contest the decision and got hospital and doctor records to substantiate his unfortunate circumstances of an injury and surgery which caused too many missed classes. He was let back in without me doing a thing. After that, he earned As.

Me and my boy.

One thing I know about parenting is all we can do is try our best. It’s been my goal to raise kids who know the difference between right and wrong and will try their best as well.

What do you think about parents fighting battles for their kids? Are they helping or hurting them by getting involved?