Have you heard about the anti-bullying law in New York?

34614_1556248269939_5116013_n

I never saw bullying on our swim team. The pool was a safe place to be.

In a story on ABC News, called “Parents in New York town could face jail, fine under new anti-bullying law” a controversy over the law is being debated across the nation.

According to the story:

Parents in a New York town could end up in jail if their children are found to have bullied others, thanks to a new law.

Victoria Crago began advocating for the law in North Tonawanda, New York, after she said her eighth-grade son was attacked by a classmate right in front of her.

Parents could be fined $250 and sentenced to 15 days in jail, according to North Tonawanda City Attorney Luke Brown. Parents could face punishment if their child violates the city’s curfew or any city law, including bullying, twice over the course of 90 days.

“In reality, what we’re looking for is to engage the parents in the process and try and work on a solution,” Brown said.

The new law is modeled after a similar push in Wisconsin to hold parents accountable, according to Brown. The law went into effect in North Tonawanda   Oct. 1.

USA Today asks in an article, “Is your kid a bully? You could end up behind bars in this New York community.”

The law also targets parents who host parties with illegal activities or whose kids break curfew, per the Buffalo News. It comes after a wave teenage terror in the city, largely led this year by a pack of middle school boys, a juvenile aid officer told the newspaper.

After a classmates attacked her son in June, Victoria Crago teamed up with other parents to form a Facebook group called “North Tonawanda Coalition for Safe Schools and Streets.” The bullies are too young to face jail time, she told WIVB 4, and that’s part of the problem.

Inspiration for the law came from four towns in Wisconsin that passed similar rules. That was four years ago, the News reported, and it appears no parents have been charged under the laws since.

Police Chief Daniel Ault of Plover, Wis., said public education on the law proved key in his community.

“If you just roll it out, you get, ‘It’s government regulation, government telling you how to raise your children,'” he told the News. “

It’s not us telling you how to raise your children. It’s us telling you, ‘Please raise your children.’”

NBC’s Channel 2 WGRZ.com ran a story called “Questions linger over anti-bullying law in NT” 

Tracy and Tim Rodemeyer, whose son Jamey died of suicide in 2011 after being bullied, said they have mixed feelings about the new law. On one hand, they believe North Tonawanda has made a good-faith effort to prevent bullying in their schools and their neighborhoods. They believe the threat of jail time or a fine may force some parents to intervene in cases of severe bullying or harassment.

However, they also have some concerns about punishing parents, who may not always be able to control their children’s behavior at every hour of the day.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but I don’t know if it’s the right step,” Tracy Rodemeyer said. “I think it’s still pushing a lot of the responsibility away from the kids that are actually doing the wrong stuff here.”

I think a lot of bullying today is amplified because of technology. Kids never get any downtime from their peers and the bullying follows them home on their computers and smartphones. Studies show that most bullying occurs in middle school. The kids doing the bullying aren’t suffering consequences for their behavior, or they would stop. They’re also too young to be arrested so this town in New York decided to punish the parents.

What do you think of making parents responsible for their kids’ actions by threatening a $250 fine or jail time? The controversy is that some parents think the threat of jail time is too much. Is it government overreach? Or is it a wake-up call to end bullying, which seems to be a severe problem in their community?

16265230_10212368415589292_2041607070826671774_n

My solution is to put the kids on a swim team. Keep them busy and too tired to get into trouble.

 

Advertisements

How to Raise Successful, Happy Kids

 

 

10400458_1163243325061_5149557_n

What I neglected to teach my kids, they learned from swimming.

Yesterday, while driving to the mountains to escape the summer heat of the desert with a friend, we talked about how different our childhoods were and how our parents were much less hands-on than we have been with our kids. It was fun to reminisce about the good old days. It’s also kind of sad to think about how sheltered our kids are today and that they didn’t get the chance to ride their bikes for miles and miles and play in the street with neighborhood kids.

For example, we both recalled our first day of kindergarten when our mothers took us to school. The second day, we were walking on our own! Our kids were chauffeured everywhere, every single day by good ol’ mom.

Here’s an interesting article that gives nine somewhat scientific steps to raising successful kids. There are some good tips in it and I agree strongly with several–like kids need to play outdoors more and have chores. Here’s tip number three from “Want to Raise Successful Kids? Science Says Do These 9 Things:”

 

“3. Send them outside to play
This research applied specifically to boys, but it’s common sensical for girls as well. In short, smart parents will advocate for their kids to get a significant amount of unstructured recess time during the school day–and never to have recess withheld as punishment.

Unfortunately, researchers say we’re more likely to do the opposite in schools now: overprotecting kids, trying to keep them safe from all physical dangers, and ultimately inhibiting their academic growth, because lack of physical activity makes it harder for them to concentrate.”

I had a ton of chores growing up. I’d cringe coming home from school or on weekends to my mom’s difficult-to-read handwriting filling every line on a legal yellow pad with chores to do before “we played” or “watched TV.” We had to weed the garden, sweep the steps, vacuum the entire house, cook dinner, clean the game closet, etc.

I wasn’t as good as my mom at making my kids do chores. They were so busy with school and the pool that I felt they didn’t have the time for more work. I know that was a mistake. I had attempted having them do the dishes every night, but that turned into more trouble than if I did it myself. Also, my daughter developed a unique allergy to dishes. Her legs and arms would break out in blotches whenever it was her turn. I couldn’t let her off the hook while making my son wash dishes, right?

Another thing that’s not on the list but should be is letting my kids fail and suffer the consequences. It’s a nice reminder to let kids fail while they’re young and you’re not paying $30k for a year of college. Consequences are what make them steady, reliable adults. I should have let my kids fail when they were younger so they could learn the consequences. I took way too many trips to school with forgotten homework or lunches.

All in all, despite me, they’re happy and hard working. I think that swimming taught them about hard work since I failed in the chore department. Also, swimming taught them how to turn a missed goal or failed swim into motivation to try harder. So, despite my not being a perfect mother, letting them experience life with the swim team taught them life lessons that I neglected to teach them.

How do you parent differently than your parents?

38050_1556243309815_8302301_n

Ribbons and medals received for hard work from her coach.

 

A Conversation With Legendary Swimmer and Swim Mom Sippy Woodhead

 

IMG_0339

Sippy Woodhead in Russia during her first U.S. National Team trip at age 13.

I had a great conversation yesterday with Cynthia “Sippy” Woodhead, a phenomenal swimmer who began breaking world records at the age of 14 and still holds a number of records for Southern California Swimming. She’s the mother of twins and enjoys being on deck in her role as a swim parent.

 

She has great advice for swim parents and works to ensure her kids enjoy the same carefree experience she enjoyed before the days of hovering and helicoptering parents. Sippy grew up a block from a pool and her summers were spent “waiting outside the gates for the pool to open at 10 a.m. and playing sharks and minnows and chasing lizards until it closed at 6 p.m.”

When she was a swimmer, she said meets were like “playdates” and she knew her parents were on deck, but she never saw them. To read more about Sippy and her accomplishments as a swimmer and her ideas on parenting click here.

As a swim family, we have great memories from meets at the Sippy Woodhead Pool. I’ll never forget that it was one of my daughter’s first long course meets and her age group coach wasn’t at the meet. It was the head coach instead and my daughter was a little nervous. When she swam her 50 free as she passed him, she lifted her head up high, paused mid-stroke and gave him a huge smile!

What a neat thing to get to talk to Sippy and understand the person behind the pool bearing her name. Her former swim team, Riverside Aquatics Association has a great story called “Who is Sippy?” on their website. Click here to read it.

 

 

5 Tips for Parents to Get Their Kids to Put Their Phones Down

 

12772078_10209107415826336_7380957681734142916_o

One thing about swimming: your kids can’t swim and text.

Every day there are articles about social media and how it affects our children. I see the issue when kids sit next to each other, not talking, but texting or posting. My own daughter got in trouble with her coach for inappropriate texts when she was in high school. I feel like social media can be a landmine for our children. What can we do as parents to help them avoid the problems and pitfalls?

 

In the Washington Post’s article “5 ways parents can help kids balance social media with the real world,” the author Adrienne Wichard-Edds, gives practical advice on what to do about the constant presence and temptation of smartphones and kids.

“According to a 2015 report from Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of nine hours a day consuming online entertainment.

“In search of advice on how to parent teens whose social lives hinge on a click, I turned to Ana Homayoun, a Silicon Valley-based expert on teen behavior. Her book Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World comes out next month.

“We’re having the wrong conversations with our kids around social media,” she says. “When we focus on fear and judgment — when we say ‘don’t do that because you’ll get in trouble,’ or ‘if you do that, you won’t get into college’ — kids will just go underground and find other ways to hide their online interactions.”

We all want our kids to be in the real world and spend less time online. But, what can we do about it? I’ve heard people argue that social media is fine and it’s a new way of communicating. My parents were annoyed with my brother and me who talked on the phone with our best friends for hours. My parents said more than once, “Why don’t you go over to their house, or have them over?” Kids no longer are attached to a long cord hooked to the wall but are posting and texting instead.

Here are five tips discussed in the article:

ONE
“Check your kid’s phone. “Particularly in middle school but also in high school, kids should know that parents can ask for their phones at any point and be allowed full access,” Homayoun says.

TWO
“Be app-savvy. “If your kid is on it, you should be, too,” Homayoun says of apps and social media platforms. “You don’t have to have an account, but at least try it out so you can have informed conversations about it. If your kids know that you understand the social media they’re using, they’re more likely to come to you to talk about issues that pop up.”

THREE
“Help kids understand their “why.” Inspire kids to act out of internal motivation instead of fear, Homayoun says, by helping them build their own filter. “Encourage your kids to ask themselves ‘Why am I picking up my phone? Am I bored, am I lonely, am I sad? Am I just uncomfortable because I’m in a room where I don’t know anyone?’

FOUR
“Set clear ground rules. Talk to your kids about appropriate social media use before you give them a phone or allow them to download a new app, says Homayoun.

FIVE
“Create opportunities for digital detox. “Give kids a budget to plan their own screen-free adventures — don’t just say, ‘Okay, kids, get offline and come do some chores,’ ” Homayoun says. She also points out that kids need to learn how to be okay with being offline.”

I’m curious about how other families deal with social media. My kids are older and I was the mom who said “no” to MySpace, Facebook etc. My kids had prepaid flip phones and their big thrill was to get one with a camera. Also, very few kids back then had access to smartphones. It was a big discussion with fellow parents about what age kids should have them. Now, they are part of our daily lives and I bet more kids have them than not.

What are your strategies for dealing with social media and younger kids?

 

images

I had a pink phone like this in my bedroom and talked to my friends for hours.

 

Are You a Good Parent Or a Bad Parent?

 

car 1

A happy moment at the beach.

 

The Huffington Post published an article where the author Jane Dimyan Ehrenfeld makes a point that parenting doesn’t necessarily divide up into good parents and bad parents. Her article called The Secret to Good Parenting: “Divine Dissatisfaction” makes a comparison between parents and teachers—that good ones continue to learn and grow to get better at it.

While she quotes a lot of parenting experts and books, which I’m sure are very helpful, I’ve found that learning from other parents and from my own mistakes that I’ve evolved into a better parent. At my baby shower for my first born, every other present was a book on how to be a parent, like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” etc. It was as if my co-workers and friends, who were mostly moms themselves, thought I had absolutely no clue about parenting and they were worried about my skill level or interest in motherhood. So, they all thought I needed instruction manuals.

 

13047745_10209625833066443_4654999307554339854_o

The gang hanging out at the beach with one of my mom friends I’ve learned from.

I do think there are good parents and bad parents. I have observed many of them. I remember a mom who was driving for a field trip for our middle school kids and she knocked back a couple tumblers of vodka at lunch! And she was supposed to drive the kids back to school. Yikes. That’s what I called a bad mom. A good mom who impressed me, let the kids draw with chalk on the backyard patio, build forts from boxes, sheets and tables in the living room, and encouraged creativity. A good mom, in my opinion—even if her house wasn’t perfect.

 

I love being a mom and I think that is the driving force. Yes, there have been rough patches between me and both my kids. Yes, I wish I could do some things over, but I wouldn’t trade a single day. The years and phases go by quickly. What I used to worry about no longer is important and there are bigger more pressing issues to stress over and help with as they become adults. “It never gets easier,” a friend told me when my kids were toddlers, “It just gets different.”

Here’s a quote from The Secret to Good Parenting: “Divine Dissatisfaction”

As a mom, I am highly attuned to the narrative of good parent/bad parent that pervades our popular discourse (more frequently it’s good mom/bad mom, but I’ll stick with parent for the sake of encouraging the important message that dads are –and should be – equals in the work of parenting). A non-exhaustive list of the ways in which this can pop up includes: You are a good parent if your kids breastfeed/you are a bad parent if they drink formula. You are a good parent if your kids are sleep trained/you are a bad parent if they don’t sleep through the night in their beds. Or, conversely, you are a good parent if your child co-sleeps/you’re a bad parent if you sleep train. You are a good parent if your kids eat organic foods/you are a bad parents if your kids eat refined sugar. You are a good parent (mom!) if you stay home with your kids/ You are a bad parent (mom!) if you work outside the home. You are a good parent/bad parent at many different levels of screen time. You are a good parent/bad parent if your kids go to public school, private school, charter school, or are homeschooled. And on and on.

But here’s the thing: it’s all ridiculous. Unless your unvaccinated kid is living in her own apartment, mainlining Mountain Dew and shrugging off school in favor of spending 24 hours a day playing Minecraft, you’re probably fine.

What do you think makes a good parent versus a bad parent?

momandme

The best mom ever and me in the 1990s.

What Happens When Parents Do Too Much for Their Kids?

kidpsp

My young Piranhas. They are never too young to learn responsibility for their actions.

I read an interesting article that a friend posted on FB called “8 Things Kids Need to Do By Themselves Before They’re 13” by Amy Carney. Carney is the mother of triplet teen boys and two other younger children and she’s got parenting down.

Her article listed things that parents need to stop doing or we won’t have independent well-functioning kids. I thought it made some really good points, and I wish I would have heard about this list before my kids were in middle school. I have been known to bail my kids out, rushing to school with their forgotten homework or lunches. Their lack of planning on big projects became my emergencies and stress. I wasn’t helping them at all by picking up the pieces. In truth, I bailed out one child more than the other, and that child almost failed out of college his freshman year. He was not ready to go because I was doing everything for him, including waking him up in the morning.

Here are four of the eight things on her list. To read her complete list click here.

1. Waking them up in the morning
2. Making their breakfast and packing their lunch
3. Filling out their paperwork
4. Delivering their forgotten items

Monday morning we pulled out of the driveway and screeched around the corner of the house when daughter dear realized she forgot her phone. “We have to go back, Mom!” Another exclaimed that he forgot his freshly washed PE uniform folded in the laundry room. I braked in hesitation as I contemplated turning around. Nope. Off we go, as the vision surfaced of both of them playing around on their phones before it was time to leave.

Parents don’t miss opportunities to provide natural consequences for your teens. Forget something? Feel the pain of that. Kids also get to see, that you can make it through the day without a mistake consuming you.

We also have a rule that Mom and Dad are not to get pleading texts from school asking for forgotten items. It still happens, but we have the right to just shoot back “that’s a bummer.”

What happens when we do too much for our kids? In my opinion, they aren’t allowed to grow up. They have no consequences for their actions or lack of action. They don’t know how to plan, be responsible or own up to their mistakes. If you’re a parent who is continually jumping in to save your child, stop. You can’t move into the college dorm with them and by then it’s too late.

 

13072720_10209723459387040_1622431987689681423_o

When they were young and at the beach. 

Both of my kids swam from elementary school through high school and one continued in college. I liked having my kids in year-round swimming because it taught them there was a direct correlation between their actions (how hard they tried) and outcomes (getting faster.) Also, practice every day, six days a week with a few doubles thrown in, taught them time management. They were responsible for their own equipment, too. There are tons of life lessons in the pool. But, because of how busy and dedicated they were, I overcompensated in other areas of their lives.

 

Here are a couple of SwimSwam articles I wrote on the subject:

In 11 Tips for Parents on What Our Kids Need to Know Before College, I have created a list of life skills that we should check off before the kids move out.
In 12 Hints You Might Be a Hovering Helicopter Swim Parent, I write about the little things we do for our kids without a second thought, that will put them at a disadvantage when they move away.
What are your thoughts about getting kids ready for the real world? Are we helping or hurting our kids by doing too much for them?