Parent Tip: Follow Your Own Advice

I wrote this during my daughter’s freshman year at college. I was transitioning from age group/high school swim mom to college swim mom. I loved all my swim mom years, but the freshman year was super exciting because of all the “firsts.”
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I’ve written several articles about not focusing on your swimmer’s times.

I have a confession to make: I have been so worried about my daughter’s times this year. She was adding 30 seconds to her 1,000 and mile. And more than 15 seconds on her 500. I believe she was swimming times she had as a 13-14 year old and she’s a freshman in college!

Open Water Nats at Lake Castaic, July 2014. Photo by Anne Lepesant.

Open Water Nats at Lake Castaic, July 2014. Photo by Anne Lepesant.

Trust the coach. I have written that more than a few times. My husband and I tried to relax and not worry. But, why was she swimming so slow? I’ll admit it. I was freaking out.

The freshman year is a big adjustment. She not only had to get used to living away from home for the first time, i.e. taking care of the daily aspects of her life and school. She also had a major change in her workouts, was training at altitude, and started weight training.

At one of her last dual meets of the season, the head coach told us that Kat was doing very well. That the coaches could see the progress she was making in practice. That was reassuring to us. After all, we never watched her in practice. We only saw her in dual meets. And saw those times…

Two weeks later we were at her conference meet. It was shaved and tapered time. She got a best time in the 500 by two seconds. This was the first drop she had in that event in almost two years. Then she swam the mile and dropped a whopping 16 seconds.

But, who’s focusing on times? It’s more important that my daughter loves her teammates, her coaches, her classes and is having fun. Right?

Like I said before. Trust the coach. Don’t focus on the times.

Practice at the home pool.

Practice at the home pool.

Have you ever not followed the advice you give to other parents? 

Lifeguards Warn Parents to Put the Phones Down

I read an article posted by FINIS, Inc. called Parents distracted by smartphones can lead to kids drowning, lifeguards warn, written by Scott Stump for Today.com. (FINIS, Inc. is a swim technology and equipment company whose mission is: “OUR VISION IS TO HELP EVERY PERSON IN THE WORLD ENJOY THE WATER.”

Think about how scary it is to be a distracted parent, supposedly supervising children in the water. Take your eyes off your children at the pool for a moment and they could be gone. Forever.

Once again, I’m thankful for the lack of technology in the 1990s when my kids were little. I watched them like a hawk at the pool and beach. I loved to sit and read outside, one of my favorite pleasures, but when the kids were on duty, I was on guard.

I get so distracted by phone now, I can’t imagine what would happen if I had young kids. I drop everything and my fingers and face go to my phone when my blog blings or I hear a text’s tri-tone. (What’s a tri-tone you ask? You know the sound. It’s the sound you hear when a text comes in. Here’s the the story behind it.) In any case, we can all get distracted by our phones and when kid are in the water, we need to turn off our phones or leave them in our bags. That’s for their safety, which is more important than any call, text FB post or tweet we are driven to look at.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The world’s largest lifeguard association has issued a warning that parents engrossed in their cellphones while kids are swimming can be a deadly mix.

The German Lifeguard Association is claiming that parents absorbed in their cellphones is a growing problem that has contributed to children drownings. Germany had 279 drownings in the first seven months of 2018, according to the association.

“Too few parents and grandparents are heeding the advice: When your children and grandchildren are in the water, put your smartphone away,” German Lifeguard Association spokesman Achim Wiese told The Guardian.

Drownings are the second-leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Parents distracted by texting or social media present a growing problem when it comes to keeping kids safe while swimming.

“A lot of parents don’t realize that it only takes seconds for a child to submerge and potentially drown,” Mary Beth Moran, director for the Center for Healthier Communities at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, told TODAY’s Stephanie Gosk.

“It can take seconds and you’re not necessarily looking for them, and all of a sudden they’re at the bottom of the pool.”

With warmer weather ahead of us, take this warning to heart. There is a suggestion in the article to share the watching responsibilities with other adults. It’s a lot to ask one parent to be on duty the entire time. If you get a call or text and need to reply or answer, ask another parent to watch your child while you get out your phone. Also, take turns with another parent or friend to be the parent on watch for a limited amount of time each, say half an hour or so.

Children love being in the water and we can’t rely completely on lifeguards to keep them safe. Our kids are our first priority and responsibility. kat and rob beach

What advice do you have to keep our children safe in the water?

True Grit and Sports Specialization: What’s the Connection?

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It takes grit to become an elite-level athlete. Not every athlete has it. And it can’t be developed without internal motivation.

Both of my kids began swimming at a young age. My daughter began swimming with a year-round team at age five, while my son began swimming at age eight. (He’s three years older).

They did do other activities for a few years before they decided to specialize. And that is the key: they decided. My son was running between t-ball, tennis, karate and swimming and felt like he wasn’t making progress in any of them. He got the swimming bug and wanted to compete. So, we dropped the other sports.

My daughter was being shuttled between the ballet studio and the pool. She honestly thought that ballet was some weird form of punishment — especially putting on pink tights and a black leotard in the 110-degree heat — while her brother got to dive into the pool!

 

 

I listened to a podcast by Ritter Sports Performance on early sports specialization and the main thing I took away was that an athlete has to be internally motivated. They can’t be putting in the hours and training to please their parents or their coach.  If they have the passion and are hardwired to compete at their sport, then they will reach the elite level regardless when they start.

In swimming, two examples are Rowdy Gaines and Ed Moses, who both started late in high school. They did a lot of other sports before they found the pool. Once they started swimming they excelled and loved it.

So, why do we insist on sports specialization a young age? It’s because some sports like swimming take a lot of time to develop technique. Parents naturally want their kids to have a head start.

Then there’s the 10,000 rule from Outliers: The Story of Success that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be good at something.  But, an interesting theory is that it’s not the quantity, but the quality of practice. You can’t be looking at the clock waiting for practice to be over. You have to be in the moment giving it your all.

There are certain guidelines that kids should do a lot of different activities before they specialize, but that by the time they turn 12 or 13 years old they need to focus on one sport. There are always exceptions to the rule. For example, one my of daughter’s childhood teammates was an amazing swimmer. In high school, she stopped the club team and played water polo, ran cross country and swam for the high school team. Her athleticism continued to grow and she walked on as a swimmer at the D1 university and became their fastest sprinter.

I say, follow your kids’ lead. They will know what sport ignites their passion. By allowing them to follow their passion, they can develop the grit it takes to be successful.

What sports are your children in and at what age did they specialize?

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Tips on better ways to discipline your kids

randk 11When I look back at my parenting days when the kids were young, I honestly can’t remember many times when I had to discipline them. They will say I was strict — more strict than their friends’ parents — so you’d think I was heavy-handed with discipline, right? Maybe I’ve just gotten old and have forgotten why or when I had to discipline my kids.

One thing I do remember clearly was them fighting over sand at the beach — throwing sand in each other’s faces and knocking down sandcastles. How did I handle them fighting? Mostly with time-outs. What didn’t work at the beach was to make them pack up and return to the house. I tried that and discovered that I liked being at the beach and I was the one who lost out! They were perfectly happy to be back in the house in front of the T.V.

In the Santa Maria Times there is a great article by Claire McCarthy, M.D. Harvard Health Blog, called Discipline of children: How to avoid long-term negative effects.

The article talks about the negative consequences of yelling or spanking your kids. Dr. McCarthy said studies show it doesn’t work and may cause aggressive behavior, mental health issues and substance abuse. It also hurts the relationship between the parent and child. In addition to discussing negative consequences of aversive parenting, she gives tips for positive discipline techniques. I highly recommend reading the entire article. Following are Dr. McCarthy’s tips for disciplining your children:

An alternative approach to discipline is in a loving, proactive way. Teach the rules ahead of time rather than waiting for your child to break them and reacting then — and be as positive and empowering as you can. Here are some tips:

  • Have realistic expectations. Babies are going to cry, toddlers are going to get into things they shouldn’t, school-age kids sometimes lie to avoid trouble, and teenagers — well, they do all sorts of things as they assert their independence. Not that you have to ignore or condone these behaviors (well, you might have to just deal with a baby crying; that’s not misbehaving), but it’s important to understand the stage your child is going through as you discipline. At each checkup with your pediatrician, talk about what to expect next in your child’s development.
  • Set clear limits. No should mean no, and there should be house and family rules for kind, safe behavior. Each family will have slightly different rules, but they should be clearly stated and known to everyone. Not only that, but when it comes to rules you need to:
  • Be consistent. If something isn’t allowed, it’s not allowed. If you give in sometimes out of sheer exhaustion or because you weren’t super-committed to that rule, kids will pick up on that immediately. Which means that you need to choose your rules carefully (meaning: Pick your battles).
  • Have predictable and clear consequences for breaking rules. Giving kids a heads-up is helpful (“I am going to count to three, and I need that to stop, or we will have a consequence”). The consequence should be something they don’t like — sending them to their room where they play with toys may not do the trick. “Timeout” is one option, where you put the child in a boring place for a minute for each year of age and don’t interact with them. You can also take toys or privileges away.
  • Reinforce good behavior. Say things like, “I love it when you … ” or “That was so nice that you did that!” or “Because you behaved so well today, let’s read an extra story tonight.” Children like praise and may be more likely to behave well when they see that it’s worth their while.
  • Be mindful of your own needs and reactions. Parenthood is hard. Sometimes parents need a timeout themselves. If you feel yourself getting really upset, make sure your child is somewhere safe, and then take some time to calm down.

What methods of discipline do you use for your kids and how well does it work?

Generation A: New Challenges for Parents

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Before the internet was a thing.

I am so thankful my kids were born in the late 90s and not today. Do you know why? Because we didn’t have to worry so much about screen time. We had one of those big box TVs and a VCR in the back bedroom. My biggest worry wasn’t how much time they were looking at screens, but what my son was going to “feed” it — a small toy or a peanut butter sandwich? Yes. He did that.

We allowed our kids to use the computer and they had DVDs that had educational activities that fascinated them. And they watched movies on the DVDs, too. But we didn’t have the internet back then. I didn’t have anywhere, like Facebook or Instagram, to post hundreds of pictures of them until much later! I’m sure they are thankful they were born in the 1990s for that very reason, too!

An article called Challenges of parenting “Generation A” from CBS affiliate KWCH12 in Wichita, Kansas, explains some of the fears parents have today and offer a few tips on how to deal with the challenges:

Generation A

It’s a new term to describe children who were born after 2010. They are the children of millennials. And they live in a world where smartphones and the internet have always existed.

Experts say that’s important because all the technology brings challenges for parents, including a risk of addiction.

Kids born after 2010 have phones in their faces almost immediately after they’re born. Their parents are taking pictures to post on Instagram and Facebook.

Experts warn, if you aren’t careful, that could grow into a technology addiction that makes it difficult for kids to interact with other kids.

“There is a certain type of addictive piece to playing a game, getting rewards, passing certain levels, and it’s just more fun than real life,” said Kalee Beal, who works with kids in the autism community at Heartspring.

She says now, even kids who don’t have autism are facing some of the same developmental challenges because of the technology in front of them.

I watched my toddler son become mesmerized whenever that giant purple dinosaur Barney would appear on TV. That was the only thing he seemed to be obsessed with on the screen. We also watched a ton of VCRs I’d check out from the library for free. I remember my Aunt Linda was so surprised during one of her visits. My son asked if she wanted to watch a movie with him. She was sure it would be a Disney cartoon. She was pleasantly surprised when he turned on “Meet Me in St. Louis.” After years of watching every musical the library had, my son asked me, “Mom, do they make any movies where they aren’t singing and dancing all the time?”

Here are some tips from the article about Generation A:

Beal offered some tips for parents.

First, she says technology is a great positive behavior enforcer, as long as you set limits. And, when time is up, take the device away.

She says games requiring problem-solving and strategy can be good for development, but parents should download the game and play it themselves before handing the tablet over to their children.

Parents should know if kids can chat with others through the game, which could expose them to danger.

Beal says kids are very tech savvy, and if you set up parental controls, they may find a way to disable or work around them.

She recommends looking through devices often to make sure your child didn’t tamper with safety settings.

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Back when my son would “feed” the VCR.

What do you recommend to parents of Generation A to limit screen time? Do you think too much screen time is a concern?

How Wealthy Parents Are Cheating Their Kids

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My adult kids.

Did you work part-time when you were in high school? We all did when I was growing up. My brother bagged groceries at Safeway. I worked after school and summers in my dad’s dental office. My friends picked strawberries, worked for their family businesses or at fast food places. We all worked.

Now, in contrast, how many of your children’s friends have jobs — especially if they come from families who aren’t worried about money? In an article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Tim Grant wrote about the fact kids aren’t working because of sports, SAT prep classes, homework and other activities and how it’s affecting kids entering adulthood.

From helicopters to bulldozers, wealthy parents clear their children’s path

Many of the high net worth clients that Pittsburgh wealth manager Matt Helfrich has worked with over the years can trace their strong work ethics back to summer jobs and after school work they did in high school and college.

Yet the opposite may be true for their own children.

Mr. Helfrich said that over the last decade of advising rich clients on their financial affairs, he has come to recognize a definite trend: their school-age children don’t work. 

“More and more, we are seeing kids not doing high school jobs,” said Mr. Helfrich, president of Bridgeville-based Waldron Private Wealth, which manages $2.4 billion in assets for 220 clients.

Instead of punching a time clock in their free time, he said most — if not all — of his clients’ children are preoccupied with sports, test preparation, volunteer assignments or high school study abroad programs.

Not that those activities don’t have merit. 

But they don’t provide young people with life lessons about the value of a dollar or skills that come with budgeting their own hard-earned money. Mr. Helfrich said he believes when children don’t take any responsibility for their own financial outcomes, it gives way to a phenomenon called the “bulldozer parent.”

“Bulldozer parents flatten all obstacles in their child’s way,” he said, explaining that bulldozer parents keep their wallets ready to foot the bill for major purchases like college, cars and housing so that their children need not worry.

By directing these bills away from their children, parents are robbing them of the opportunity to learn about budgeting, making financial choices and building their own credit.

“We’ve had adult children  of our clients try to get a mortgage or even a credit card, and they can’t get one because they’ve never had credit in their name before,” Mr. Helfrich said.

I am proud to say my kids worked in school. My son tutored, he worked as a swim coach and he was paid to design and maintain a website. In middle school, he was an assistant lifeguard and would be sweeping the pool or washing down the deck. My daughter was swimming all the time and didn’t have time for work outside of coaching and swim clinics. But her swimming turned into a job that paid for her college education and she now has a career in the swim industry.

In college, my son worked retail, maybe more hours than he should have. My daughter worked as a lifeguard, swim coach and swim camp counselor. I never even thought it was odd that they would work while at school. After all, that’s what we all did back in the day. I would find it strange if they weren’t working.

“About once or twice a year I will meet with a family who has the issue of an adult child who has become ‘infantilized,’” he said. “And over two decades, that’s a lot.”

“This approach to parenting, at best, fosters learned helplessness,” he said. “Typically, it fosters entitlement. And at worse, the child becomes so dysfunctional that they depend on and drain everyone they know.

“They try to turn everybody into their parents and expect everyone to behave like that. That’s not life.”

In worst-case scenarios, Mr. Chaney said he has seen children grow up with parents doting on them, then when the parents died, the child’s life spiraled out of control to the point of draining their trust fund.

The college years, he said, can be a defining period. Children from wealthy families often don’t need to work and get a monthly stipend.

The article goes on to give good advice to parents on how to help them build credit, make financial decisions and learn budgeting. You can read the parent tips and more of the article here.

What is your experience with kids working in high school and college?

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?”