What do you think of the Four Agreements?

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The view of Mt. San Jacinto during my morning walk.

I was listening to a webinar on my morning walk and when I got home, I had to jot down a few notes. The talk was from one of my favorite sports parenting experts, David Benzel, from Growing Champions for Life. The topic was “Teaching Kids to Manage Their Thoughts.” It had great information to help your kids manage negative self talk and to get them on the right path when they beat themselves up. Benzel said he got most of the information for this webinar from a book called Managing Thought by Mary Lore.

It also had a lot of great stuff for adults, too. Adults and children alike can get bogged down with negative thoughts about themselves. How often have you told yourself, “I’m not good enough,” or something else similar? If we can recognize that our brain is creating 55,000 thoughts per day and we can separate ourselves from them, they will lose their power. When a negative thought pops up, we can say “Where did that come from?” or “Is that useful for me to accomplish my goal?”

Benzel also said that negative thoughts spread like a disease and once you have one, more and more will pop up. Also, our thoughts are a choice. We can choose instead to rephrase a negative thought into a a positive one. If our child says “I don’t want to fail the math test,” instead they can say, “I will finish my homework and ask for help.”  Benzel made the point when we focus on what we don’t want, the more we focus on it, the more likely it will happen.

Now to the part where I was so impressed that I had to write it down: “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you do these four things, you’ll be happier, more positive and your relationships with others will improve.

ONE

Be impeccable with your word.

TWO

Don’t take anything personally.

THREE

Make no assumptions.

FOUR

Always do your best.

Those seem so simple, but aren’t they valuable? For example, if someone says something you feel is hurtful, don’t take it personally. It’s not you. It’s more of a reflection of what that person is going through. We shouldn’t make assumptions about people’s motives or intent. Instead we should investigate and ask questions. Try to learn where the person is coming from. As far as always doing your best, your best may change from day to day. Do the best you can on that particular day.

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Views from my morning walk.

What do you think of the “Four Agreements?”

 

Top New Year’s Resolutions for Parents

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Quality time with kids.

With the new decade here, it’s a perfect time to think about what we want to change in our lives. As parents, we can reflect on what is working with our families and what we’d like to change. I am one of those people who like New Year’s Resolutions and one of my  tricks in sticking with them is to make doable goals. Like my husband says, “the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” If I make resolutions that are too huge, I’ll let them go after a few weeks.

I read through several articles about parenting New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 and found some common themes. First, is to spend quality time with your kids. Be there in the moment–and put your phone down.

Here an excerpt of an article on CNN.com by David G. Allan, called, 8 resolutions for better parenting in the New Year. Click here for the entire article.

(CNN) If you’re looking to improve your parenting, you’re not alone. In my opinion, it’s an essential area of course correction, up there with weight loss, better eating and better spending, arguably more essential.

What’s beautiful about parenting resolutions is that your kids benefit too, and likely your spouse and any potential future grandkids. You get a lot of bang for your resolution buck.

As with any resolution, honestly examine areas where you feel you could be doing better or want to improve. Below are eight parenting resolution thought-starters in categories we all probably need to give more attention in the coming year.

Being there

There’s a lot of talk, many articles and a long shelf of books on mindful parenting. But it all boils down to this: When you’re with your kids, give them full, curious and happy attention.

Listen to them, respond, don’t let yourself be distracted by your phone, or future-thinking or your own agenda. Be fully there for them, giving what they need the most: your attention, combined with an openness that encourages them to share whatever is on their mind or what’s happening with them at that moment.

The dividends of this effort are deep and long-long lasting — from fewer tantrums to stronger bonds. If you only pick one resolution, make it this one

Don’t drive under the influence of your phone

Here comes your PSA: More than 40,000 people died on US roads in 2016, according to National Safety Council estimates. Many roadway fatalities involve drunken driving, speeding and not wearing seat belts (so don’t do any of those things, clearly), but increasingly, accidents are being caused by people texting or talking while driving.

Fifty-one percent of teens reported seeing their parents checking and/or using their mobile devices while driving, according to a Common Sense Media poll last year. And when you repeatedly model a behavior in front of your kids, that’s called teaching.

Once they have a license, do you want your kids texting or talking while they drive? Do you want other drivers texting or talking while driving anywhere near your children? Me neither. When you stop doing it yourself, you are immediately modeling the behavior you want from them when it’s their time to be behind the wheel. And help spread this gospel to friends and family. The lives we save may be our own.

Yell less, breathe more

There are many other great and valuable tips discussed including treating yourself, slowing down and limiting screen time. Here’s how to keep track of your progress:

How to track and succeed

One of the major tenets of resolution and habit success is tracking. And while “better parenting” is difficult to measure, more specific action is easy to. Just give yourself a grade on your resolution at the end of every day on a piece of paper. Research suggests that the average time it takes for an action to become automatic and habitualized is just over two months, if you stick with it daily.

Another useful device is accountability. Tell your spouse or your family, and even your kids, what you’re working to improve. They will remind and support you because they want you to succeed and the family to thrive.

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In 6 Parenting Resolutions You Can Keep in 2020 from Positive Parenting Solutions there are more tips to think about trying:

1. Rethink the Way You Spend Time With Your Kids

“Wait, what?” you might be asking. “I spend 10 HOURS with my kids every day! What is there to rethink?!

I hear you, friend, but consider your day-in-day-out time with the kids. How often are you multitasking with dinner or laundry or the bazillion other things on your list?

While we’re physically WITH our kids, we’re not always fully present in mind, body and soul. (Myself included.)  

Because of that, we pay a price. If kids don’t get some “fully present and engaged” time with us during the day, they will have their attention baskets filled one way or another – whining, clinging, interrupting, fighting with siblings. Do any of those sound familiar?

All of these behaviors get your attention – albeit negative attention. I know that may seem silly to think a child would seek out negative attention if they didn’t get positive attention. But the truth is, kids simply want their baskets filled.

However, you can turn those behaviors around by making a small tweak to the time you already spend with your kids. I’m talking kid-centered, intentional, and directly labeled time.

I’m suggesting you spend 10 INTENTIONAL minutes each day one-on-one with each of your kids. Here at Positive Parenting Solutions, we call this Mind, Body and Soul time because it has incredible effects on the health of your child’s mind, body, and soul.

By kid-centered, I mean your child is in control of the 10 minutes—they call the shots. A tea party? Lego building? Dressing up daddy? A tickle fight? Listening to their favorite music with your teen? Whatever the kid chooses, you oblige. (As long as it’s an activity that can reasonably be accomplished in 10-15 minutes.) By giving your child the power during this time, you help fill their power buckets in incredible ways.

By intentional, I mean no distractions—put down your phone, don’t answer that email, turn off the show you’re watching. Your child is the center of your universe for these 10 minutes and it’s critical you are fully-present for your time with her.

Lastly, be sure to label Mind, Body and Soul Time at the outset (you can call it whatever you want) and when it’s finished, say, “I sure enjoyed our special time today! I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow!” Your child will benefit from knowing you’re committed to your time, plus you’ll get credit in his mind for time well spent.

Note: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, revisit Session 1 to learn more about Mind, Body and Soul Time and check out the advanced module “The Busy Parents Guide to Mind, Body & Soul Time” for extra help.


2. Ensure Your Child Gets Enough Sleep

Sleep matters…a lot. Kids would never admit it, but they need regular bedtimes and plenty of sleep to be at their best. These key components to a healthy, calm lifestyle, however, are sometimes the first things we abandon as we celebrate the holiday season—and they’re the most daunting piece to restore in January.

So how do we back up bedtime from the late hours we’ve grown used to keeping?

The most effective way to get your kids more sleep is to keep bedtimes early and consistent throughout the week, without much more than a 15-minute difference on the weekends. If you give in to a late bedtime once, kids will think the hour on the clock is always up for negotiation.

IMG_0283Now that the New Year is here, what are your resolutions? Do you have any tips to help stick with them?

Great Tips for Kids in Sports–and Parents

IMG_3931I read some great tips for sports parents on a website called Chicago Health. In an article called Healthy Sports Parenting Starts with These Tips, author Jeanette Hurt offered helpful information that I wish I had known when my kids were young–especially the tips about overuse injuries and health. As a parent, I thought swimming and exercise is healthy and I didn’t anticipate there could be a downside to athletics.

From the article:

Coach and author Sharkie Zartman remembers coaching at a youth volleyball tournament and observing a match between two very good teams of 10-year-olds when the parents started behaving badly.

“It was just a battle, going back and forth,” she says. “After it was over, the parents were still yelling at the coaches, officials and other parents. Meanwhile, the kids from both teams went outside to play some kind of circle game, and they were all laughing and having fun. I was thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, who are the grownups, and who are the kids?’”

As numerous memes on social media suggest, badly behaving sports parents are not uncommon. In an effort to foster healthier sports parenting, Zartman teamed up with Robert Weil, DPM, a sports podiatrist based in Aurora, to write #HeySportsParents: An Essential Guide for any Parent with a Child in Sports.

It’s important for parents to stay calm and be supportive while helping their kids navigate the perks and pitfalls of youth sports, the authors say.

Zartman says many parents look at sports with a competitive mindset, while their kids just want to enjoy themselves. “Kids play sports because they’re fun, and they want to be with their friends,” she says. “But what do most parents focus on? Winning, getting the trophies or dreaming of scholarships.”

I have the Zartman and Weil book on my shelf and it’s definitely worth a read. They each write a section from their perspectives and then have sports parents share their stories as well.

kat groupThere is a lot more to learn in the article including what happens when parents bribe their kids for performance and abusive coaches. Following is the list of tips I found so helpful. You can read the rest of the article here.

Tips for sports parents

Follow these tips for a healthier approach to sports for parents and their children.

  • Check safe sport guidelines. Guidelines should be available through the individual sport’s governing body or through the U.S. Center for SafeSport. Parents can also look to uscenterforsafesport.org to report concerns and to find more information.

  • Avoid overuse injuries. Too much pressure from year-round training can lead to physical harm, such as overuse injuries. Plus, sports carry the risk of concussions. Practice safely.

  • Keep an eye out for burnout. Many kids drop out of sports by age 13, Conviser says. “They leave if there’s injury or too much stress and strain on their bodies, their families, their well-being or finances. The more hours per week a sport requires usually means that there’s a greater likelihood of early burnout.”

  • Watch for signs of disordered eating. Some sports, especially gymnastics and wrestling, put children at risk for eating disorders. “Parents need to be aware of the pressures facing their kids, whether it’s peer pressure or pressure from their coaches,” Breslow says.

  • If injured, see a doctor. If the injury doesn’t respond to rest, ice and over-the-counter medicine, it should be checked out, especially if there is continued pain, excessive swelling or other persistent symptoms, Breslow says. “If you miss an injury early on, sometimes a simple situation becomes very complex,” he warns.

  • Consider going to an orthopedic clinic. If parents suspect that their child has an orthopedic injury to the bones or joints, Breslow recommends taking them to a walk-in orthopedic clinic, where they can be immediately evaluated by a specialist and get the right type of imaging, bracing or other therapy.

  • Be prepared. Parents should make sure their children wear the right footwear, get enough sleep and consume a balanced diet.

  • Stay hydrated. “A lot of times, kids aren’t drinking enough, especially in [cool] weather, because they don’t know they’re sweating as much,” Breslow says.

  • Learn to stretch well. Many athletes emphasize strength instead of flexibility, Breslow says. But stretching warm-ups are important. “A significant number of injuries occur because of a lack of flexibility,” he says.

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What other tips do you have for sports parents and student-athletes?

What my kids learned in the water

From time to time, I receive emails from swim parents asking me for advice. I am always surprised  and flattered when that happens — they obviously care about being a helpful parent — and they think I might have something useful to say. One parent wanted to know how to help their child handle disappointment after missing a cut for a big meet. This is something I know all too well. I talked to my daughter and son about it and they definitely remembered those days, too. My son said, “That was my life!” Here’s a link to the SwimSwam.com article “Ask Swim Mom” I wrote about it. It also reminded me of this post I wrote six years ago!


Palm Springs Pool

One of the most important things they learned is perseverance. That stick-with-it never give up attitude that is ingrained in their brains after years of trying for swim goals and just missing them. Then trying and trying again and again until they make them. The very nature of swimming 50 weeks a year, six days a week, makes kids tough.

I’ll never forget my daughter’s frustration of missing her junior national cut by fractions of a second for two years. She didn’t give up. She worked hard. She would still miss.

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“Are you kidding me!” She said looking at the scoreboard to see her missing the coveted junior national cut by mere tenths of a second after dropping three full seconds on an 800 meter freestyle race.

The next race, she said, “I’m so done with this!”  She dove in with more determination than ever, and yes, she made her cut, dropping seconds on her 200 meter free and coming in second place to one of the fastest girls in the country.

So, what does all this have to do with life?  Take her hardest class, AP Stats.  She knows that she can do it. She just has to put in the work and time. That may mean getting up and into the classroom at 6 a.m. for extra help, rather than staying warm tucked into her bed. But, she does it — all on her own — without me suggesting it. Her teacher told me, “I know that she will do whatever it takes to be successful, so I am not worried about where her grade is today.”

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My son also swam. He worked so hard for every goal, trying to qualify for meets through ten years of year-round swimming. I’ll never forget his determination as an 8th grader. I was a chaperone for his Washington DC trip with his class. He knew he’d be missing too much swimming, so he would run up and down through the Mall, up and down the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, while everyone else strolled. At night in the hotel, he ran the gray cement staircases, up and down the five flights.

When he returned to the pool, he did it! He made his first Junior Olympic time.

Now he’s in college and he knows how to persevere. He wanted to work at the campus radio station. He put in his application as a freshman and was declined. As a junior he has been assigned a time slot on the FM station, moving up from his prior show on the AM.

He wanted to be in the College of Creative Studies, “a graduate school for undergraduates.” He applied and was devastated when he was declined. I told him to move on, it was okay, get a ‘normal’ degree. But, he didn’t give up. The next year he applied again and was accepted. Learn more about the UCSB CCS program here. Just click.

I’ve had friends ask why my kids spend so much time in the pool, aren’t they missing out?

I beg to differ.  Spending most of their lives in the water has served them well. Being mostly wet has given them skills for life.

Find a local swim club here on the USA Swimming website.

 

Photo credits: The Palm Springs, CA Pool — one of the most beautiful views while swimming ever. My daughter diving wearing the yellow cap. Yellow-capped swimmers sometime at some club meet. And a great meme for a distance swimmer.

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6 ways to annoy your kid’s coach without really trying

IMG_5008My kids had 14 coaches throughout their age group swimming years! Yes, 14 at last count. There may be a few more who we don’t remember, but the reason we had so many is that kids grow and move up in groups—and naturally get new coaches. Also, it was tough for us to keep assistant age group coaches. They weren’t paid enough and the hours were too short for them to make a living. You have to love kids and swimming to interrupt your day and stand on the pool deck for a couple hours for $8 an hour (which was what we were paying way back when.)

Then we lost our longtime head coach, who left the swimming world forever to become a pilot. It did take us a few head coaches to get one that would become permanent. Hence, the 14 or so coaches my kids had.

We learned a lot about being helpful swim parents from our longtime head coach. He was patient beyond belief and worked with parents to help educate them about swimming and swim parenting.

Here are some of the things we did and what we’ve seen other parents do to annoy the heck out of coaches:

ONE

Showing up late to practice.

I’m not talking about being stuck in traffic or having an orthodontist appointment. I’m talking about parents who bring their kids to practice late all the time.

TWO

Talking smack on the pool deck.

Having spent an enormous part of my child-rearing years watching swim practice and going to swim meets, I heard a lot of negative talk. Parents talked badly about coaches, other parents, swimmers, teams and just about everything else. Negatively spreads like wildfire and it ALWAYS gets back to the coach. If you hear someone talking bad stuff behind other people’s backs, tell them to stop or walk away. 

THREE

Coaching your kids.

This is so confusing to kids and annoys coaches immensely. Coaches are working with our children and may be focusing on a specific skill or technique to get our kids to the next level. Since we can’t read our coach’s mind, we may not know what they’re trying to do. I watched one dad constantly coach his daughter during meets and giving contradictory instructions to what the coach wanted.

FOUR

Ask to have your child moved up.

Generally, coaches know when a child should be moved up into the next group. However, there are a few parents who think their kids need to be moved up before they are ready. They email the coach or ask in person several times. Often, coaches will acquiesce to appease the parent. I watched this over and over and the next thing that happened was the swimmer quits. They would end up in a group that was too fast. They couldn’t keep up with the intervals. Instead of being at the top of the their group, they were last, slowest and never got a chance to rest.

FIVE

Interrupting the coach during practice.

For lots of teams, this is something that couldn’t happen because only swimmers are allowed on deck. But on our team, which is outside in sunny southern California, parents are allowed to sit on the pool deck. Often, parents, including me and my husband, would ask a quick question of the coach. We weren’t trying to interrupt, but when you get a half dozen parents doing the same thing, we were taking our coach’s eyes off the kids and not allowing the coach to work.

SIX

Taking vacations at the wrong times.

When kids are little, in my opinion, it’s okay to take family vacations whenever your want. But, when kids are older and they are serious about swimming, you have to take vacations at the right times. You can’t have your child out of the water for a week before their upcoming target meet. Christmas break was a big week for our kids with doubles and lots of work. The coach would be annoyed if kids left during that week and didn’t get the workouts he wanted.

img_4129There are a ton of other things that parents can do to annoy their kids coaches. What have you seen parents do in your children’s sports?

Sports Parents: Support, Don’t Criticize

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Age Group swim meet.

In a post on Popsugar called “One Sports Mom’s Reminder About the Importance of Supporting Kids Rather Than Criticizing Them Is Gold” by Murphy Maroney, she talks about a Facebook post that went viral:

 

Valli Gideons, a mom and blogger, is giving sports parents some food for thought, but hers is a reminder that we could all use. In a poignant Facebook post, Valli explains that parents should consider dialing back the need to go over every detail of a game, or worse yet, criticize their child’s performance. And as a life-long sports-obsessed tomboy and former Division I athlete, I couldn’t agree more.

“Parents. Stop the madness. The lectures. The play-by-plays. The analysis. The should’ve, could’ve,” she wrote. “Look around and you will see it on every court, field, ball park. All the talk. Think about it. As an adult, how would you feel if you came out of a huge presentation at work and had someone immediately going over every sentence? How would it feel for someone to criticize your every word or move, in your ear, going on and on?”

I used to ask about every detail with my kids on the drive home from a swim meet. My daughter said I would “hash and rehash.” And she was right. I wanted to know what was going on inside their brains when they dove off the blocks, made a slow flip turn or came from behind to touch out their competitors. No detail was too fine for me to hash and rehash and hash again some more. I drove them nuts.

I can tell you one sure-fire way to shut them up is to ask a host of questions about their swims. They’d tune me out, put on headphones or get out Gameboys and focus on Pokemon. Better yet, try criticizing their technique, their dive, their drive or any other detail of their performance.

And Valli makes an important point. When did it become OK for parents to obsess over every last detail or play of a game that’s meant to simply be fun? And at the end of the day, is it really helping? The short answer is no. Now, she’s suggesting that parents go about their post-competition conversations a little more casually.

“What would happen, instead, if after a game we gave kids room to breath[e]?” she asked. “If we let them marinate in knowing we simply enjoyed watching them play, rather than giving them a lecture? What would happen if we instead gave them permission to take it all in and have fun? What if we simply praised them for their effort? Even when they didn’t score. Even when they didn’t win. Even if they turned over the ball, flubbed up, or missed the catch. What if we just listened quietly?”

Best advice I’ve learned as a “recovering sports parent” is this: Tell your kids six little words — “I love to watch you play.” Then say nothing. It’s amazing what may happen.

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PAC-12 Championships

What advice do you have for parents on the car ride home?

 

 

Do your relatives correct your kids during the holidays?

13458580_10210124717898252_3301505966351515302_oIn a New York Times parenting article called “Is it Ever O.K. for a Relative to Discipline Your Kid?” Christina Caron explains that holidays together can lead to people overstepping their boundaries. Here’s how to deal:

The holidays are a ripe time of year for this type of interference. Everyone is mingling in a confined space, interacting for the first time in months or even years, while trying to cook, clean and coexist.

When someone else scolds our children, it’s often viewed as a criticism of our own parenting, said Angelle Richardson, a family therapist and assistant professor of community and trauma counseling at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

The perceived judgment can lead to feelings that “you don’t think that I’m being a good parent, or you don’t think that I know how to handle this or you think you know how to do it better than I do,” Dr. Richardson added.

[Learn how to deal with interfering grandparents.]

But there are ways to navigate these choppy waters without fracturing our adult relationships. 

Here are a three tips that Caron offers to make holiday weekends better for everyone:

One: Define Discipline

Two: Set Boundaries

Three: Prepare Your Child Ahead of Time

In other words, in defining discipline, we aren’t talking about punishing a kid for misbehaving, but using the moment a time for growth and to teach acceptable behavior. Setting boundaries may be letting the interfering relative know that if you’re there, you are the one to discipline your child. Let the relatives know to come to you, not to your child. Third, by letting your kids know what to expect in advance, you can prepare them for the holiday. If they are tired and cranky, let them nap and don’t force them to participate in a family activity or meal.

I remember when my kids were young, well-meaning relatives and friends would step in to correct my kids — or tell me what I was doing wrong as a parent. Either way, I felt like it was an attack on my parenting skills or on my child. What they didn’t realize was at a holiday weekend, young children are going to be off their schedules, over-stimulated and may not behave perfectly.

If you’re the person who feels the need to discipline someone’s else’s child because you’re feeling irritated, take a step back and a deep breath. This too shall pass. Most of all we don’t want to damage our existing relationships. Being critical of other people’s kids is one sure way to make that happen.randk

What are your thoughts about getting together with relatives and friends for the holidays with kids? Do you have any stories to share when your kids were disciplined by well-meaning relatives or friends?