What’s the Golden Rule of Parenting?

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My first grade class. I’m in the bottom row.

When I was a first grader at Emerson Elementary in Snohomish, WA, our teacher said, “Please, raise your hand if you know the Golden Rule.”

I wasn’t sure what she meant by the “Golden Rule.” She pronounced each word with such emphasis and finality it made me wiggle in my seat because I wasn’t sure what it was — and it sure must be important. I looked around me and everyone’s hand had shot straight up. So, I shyly raised my hand, too. I thought hard and hoped she wouldn’t call on me. My mind raced through all the Bible versus our Mom spouted off at a fast clip each morning. The best I could come up with was from Matthew 5:39, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

After a sigh of relief when the teacher called on someone else, I learned that The Golden Rule was to “treat others how you wished to be treated yourself.” After that revelation, the teacher pulled down the white screen over the green chalkboard, turned off the lights and started up the projector to show us a black and white, approved for school circa 1950s, short film on “The Golden Rule.”

This memory came back to me after reading an article in Psychology Today by Suzanne Gelb Ph.D., J.D. called Good Parenting—It’s Not Complicated: Learning to be the type of parent that your child deserves.

It seems her parenting advice is kind of a Golden Rule itself. Be the parent you would want to have as a parent Here’s an excerpt, but be sure to click on the link above to read it in full detail. It’s worth it and it’s not that long. She gives a list of things we can do to improve.

I just searched for the term “Parenting” in the Books section on a major online platform.

Do you know what I found?

Over 50,000 titles!

This makes me happy… and frustrated. 

Happy, because if you’ve got valuable insights to share—on any topic—writing a book is a beautiful way to do it. (I’ve written 15 books

, myself.)

Frustrated, because… hmm. How do I put this elegantly? 

Let’s try this:

Good parenting is not rocket science—and it shouldn’t require 50,000 books to help parents understand what is required. 

As a parent, your job can be quite simple. 

To care for your child, as you would care for yourself.

The problem is that many grown-ups don’t actually care for themselves in all of the ways that matter. They know how to care for themselves in the basic and fundamental ways—like brushing teeth, washing hair—but not always in the deeper ways, like maintaining emotional health or prioritizing self-respect and self-worth (which invariably translates into making positive choices.) Yes, making positive choices is a form of self-care.

The problem is that many grown-ups never learned how to truly be well-adjusted grown-ups, in large part because their parents or caregivers weren’t equipped to teach them everything they needed to know. So they tend to pass along that “shakiness” to their children, perpetuating the cycle of inadequate parenting and shaky life skills. 

It is heartbreaking, but true. 

This is a problem that 50,000 books are trying to help resolve. 

This is a problem that I have devoted much of my 30-plus-year career in the counseling field to solving, too.

A lot of my early classroom memories are of teachers reading to us after recess, putting our heads down on desks to play a game called “Seven Up” — at  least that is what I think it was called. And those black and white films the school would order. I’d love to see them now. I bet they’d make me laugh with how corny and contrived they were. They did then.

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High school friends.We were all in the Yearbook staff together.

What do you think about the golden rule suggestion in parenting? Do you use it and try to parent differently than your mom and dad?

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Can we teach good sportsmanship?

 

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Open Water Nats–being good sports after a close 5k race.

 

Nobody likes a sore loser and I think it’s even worse to have a gloating winner. In an article on CNN called “If I Were a Parent: Teaching kids to be good sports” by Kelly Wallace, the number one way to teach good sportsmanship is through role modeling.

“Losing is not easy for many kids, and being a graceful winner can in some ways be even harder, so the question becomes: what can parents do to teach their children good sportsmanship?

“Rule No. 1 seems simple enough but is too often overlooked by helicopter parents who are living vicariously through their children. Parents should model the behavior they want to see in their kids, said John O’Sullivan, author of “Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids.”

“Kids are not very good at listening, but they are fantastic at imitating,” said O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing the Game Project, which says it seeks to “put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’ “

“And so if you want your kids to display good sportsmanship, you should. If you don’t want your kids to yell at referees, you shouldn’t yell at referees.”

The article goes on to talk about the flip side, lousy winners:

“And as for teaching your child how to win and win gracefully, remind them how it felt when they were on the losing side. “The biggest thing that I always say to my team when you’re winning by a lot is, ‘you know what, you’ve been on the other side of it where you’ve lost by a lot. Do you remember how that felt? So don’t do anything that’s going to make your opponent feel any worse right now,’ ” O’Sullivan said.

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Cheering on a teammate.

What do we mean when we talk about being a good sport? It’s easy to point out kids and parents who aren’t. They are mean, rude, usually loud and they do not care about how they affect those around them. Parents who are bad sports are causing fights these days with coaches and landing in jail! With social media catching every incident of bad parent behavior, it seems like it’s happening more frequently, but I haven’t seen any stats to know if that true or not.

Being a good sport is simple. It’s treating others with respect. It’s not talking badly about others behind their backs or throwing your equipment down. I remember when my brother was on the golf team in high school, there was a player who broke their golf clubs more than once when he lost. Staying composed and not getting too caught up in the moment helps us be better role models. In our kids’ sports, the process is just as important–or more so–than winning.

I think another important element in teaching good sportsmanship, besides being good role models, is to compliment our kids when you see them being a good sport. In swimming after races, you often see swimmers reaching over lane lines to hug the winner or you see the winner reaching out to competitors to shake hands. When you see your child being a good sport, point it out and say you’re proud of them. If you see other kids showing good sportsmanship, be sure to tell your child how much you admire them for their actions.

 

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My daughter showing good sportsmanship.

How do you teach your children good sportsmanship?

 

Top Reasons Why Freshman Fail

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My son’s high school grad speech.

I wonder why so many kids fail college? I was shocked to read a statistic from ACT that 50% of freshman students do not return for their second year. Then, 30% of those remaining, do not graduate within five years!

Why? What can we do to better prepare our kids for college? There is so much pressure on our kids to get into great schools.You’d think with the great expense, and all their work to get in, it would be a breeze once they are there. But, it’s not.

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

Here’s my list of why I think kids fail their freshman year:

ONE

Too many kids go to college. I do not think everyone should go. When I was in high school the majority of students did not continue their education past high school. They were able to get jobs, support themselves and their families without a college education. Today, a college degree has become the norm and standard. There are many kids who would be better served to work for a few years, and then decide if they want to go to college. By having everyone go, and not everyone is equipped to go, some kids are set up for failure. There are many careers that don’t require a college degree and provide a more than decent living like electricians, plumbers, hair dressers, etc.


TWO

High school doesn’t prepare kids for college. The work is often spoon-fed by teachers in little lumps of daily assignments and reading. Having a syllabus with a couple dates on it and no day-to-day requirements is more what college is like. It takes discipline, motivation and self-determination to not procrastinate, but to work and study in advance of deadlines. Our kids leave high school without the training for a college schedule.

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A gorgeous location. UCSB.

THREE

We do too much. As helicopter, hovering parents, we are afraid to let our kids fail. We don’t let our kids learn from their mistakes. They need to have more chores, part-time jobs or something to do besides homework. Some of the crazy, heavy AP schedules don’t allow for real life experiences. Plus, we cater to our kids’ every needs—even to the point of helping them complete projects or assignments. My conversation with four-time Olympian and former University of Texas head coach Jill Sterkel included some great advice that you can read on SwimSwam here. She believes in letting kids work out their problems in a less high-stakes environment. We need to give them room to do this.

FOUR

Millennials mature later, according to Kari Ellingson, Vice President at the University of Utah. I attended a talk by her at orientation with my daughter. I wrote more about her talk here. According to Ellingson, “It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28.” It’s no wonder they can’t handle the many demands of laundry, getting their own food, studying, etc. Maybe our kids are not mature enough to handle the responsibilities of college at age 18?

What can we do to help our kids be prepared for success in college? What do you think are the reasons why so many kids fail in college? I’d love to get your feedback.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

Why September is really the start of the new year

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The end of August with the season changing.

Most people think about New Year’s as the time make changes and list their resolutions. But after years of being a parent–and a swim mom–I believe the true new year begins at the end of summer and start of the new school year.

It’s a motivating time to look back on the relaxing fun summer and how we can transition back into our busy schedules. What worked last year–and what didn’t? Even with the kids out of the house, I still feel a sense of urgency coming into September. What am I going to do differently? What can I do to be better? What projects am I ready to undertake?

In swimming, September was that time when the kids started fresh. They talked about goal setting with their coaches. They worked on stroke technique. They got back into the water after having a few weeks off.

I wrote a few tips for swim parents for SwimSwam about how to make the most out of the new season. I think the tips can be used for us in our busy lives and our kids’ academics, too. There’s lots that works in the pool that can be applied to life.

With a new season approaching, it’s a great time to reflect as a swim parent on how the last season went and what we’d like to change. Was the schedule too hectic for your family? Do you need to cut out a few activities? Or, start a car pool or ask other parents to help?  Maybe the last season was perfect and you’re looking forward to another one just like it.

Here are a few tips to have a great swim season:

ONE
Let our kids take ownership of swimming. Ask what their goals are and make sure they are swimming because they want to. The season won’t be a good one if they are swimming to please us. This applies outside the swimming world, too. By doing things they truly enjoy they will develop their own interests to pursue the rest of their lives.

TWO

Listen more and speak less. On the drive home after a meet, let our children speak first. If we start talking and going over how they swam, they will most likely resent it. They may interpret our helpfulness and critiquing as though they’ve disappointed us.

THREE

What can you do to help the team? Ask the board or coach if there’s an area where they need help. Coaches and boards hear mostly complaints. What a welcome change to have someone offer to help.

FOUR

Be in the moment. How many times have you heard a parent say they can’t stand sitting around at a meet to watch their child swim for a few minutes? It’s all about attitude. Be grateful for those moments—before you know it they’ll be gone.

FIVE

Enjoy the community. Are there new parents you can help at meets? They may feel intimidated and a friendly smile and chat can go a long way to making them feel welcome.

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Time to get back into the water.

What are your thoughts about how to start off the new season?

How to Say Good-bye to Your College Student

Here’s a blast from the past — the year my daughter moved from home to start her college days. It seems like yesterday.

 

Last week I wrote about 7 tips for parents on Move-In Day. At the end I wrote: “I made it through the day without tears–mostly. It was a long, busy and tiring day. When my husband and I stopped for lunch — alone — and I realized that we were truly alone — the tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them off and prepared myself for battle for the next stop at Target. When, it’s time to say good-bye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes another time.”

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

So, how did it go when we said good-bye?

We had planned to stay until Sunday. Move-In day had been Thursday. We wanted to be around for a few days in case she needed us. She wanted us there on Thursday, but by Friday — not so much. It began to make sense for us to leave a day early. We didn’t want to hang out and wait to see if she wanted us around. It didn’t make us feel good and we weren’t enjoying ourselves exploring the city that much. We had a long 11-hour drive ahead of us, too. So we went out for an early morning walk Saturday and talked about how we’d let her know that we felt it was time to leave.

She texted us at 7 a.m. Saturday. 

text from Kat

text from Kat

Okie dokie.

It was time to say good-bye. We walked on over to her dorm. I took a deep breath. I said a prayer to be strong.

“Do not cry. I can do this,” I repeated in my head.

She opened the door, I wanted to say something profound and loving. Something she’d remember — but I said nothing. My husband said a few things and I nodded my head.

I opened my mouth, my voice cracked and wavered. At this point I cannot remember what I was trying to say.

“Mom! Mom! Stop it!” she said. “Don’t!”

She held my face in her hands, like I was the child. “It’s going to be okay.”

A view  during our walk on campus

A view during our walk on campus

Tip 1:  Make it short and quick.

Bill and I walked out of her room into the bright cool air that is Utah. We walked all over campus for two hours, tears running down my cheeks. During the walk, I began to feel better — amazed at what a strong beautiful woman we had raised.

Sage Point dorms at U of U

Sage Point dorms at U of U, the athlete housing for Winter Olympics 2002.

Here’s an update:

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Tips to Press the Pause Button as a Parent

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Just breathe!

One of my kids’ principals from elementary school talked about the “mother bear” syndrome. It’s that creature that comes out of our skin when we think our child is being harmed. The mother bear may come out when our child is being bullied, or comes home upset about something their teacher or coach said.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with that gut-wrenching feeling when we want to protect our child. It starts with a burst of adrenaline and may result into marching into the principal’s office or picking up the phone to chew out a parent about their kid being mean.

In a parenting article, ‘To make sound decisions, employ the power of the pause,” in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman offer tips that will help us as parents as well as in the rest of our lives. Here’s an excerpt:

The pause is the space you intentionally create in your mind to pull back from circumstances and retreat into a quiet corner of your psyche — a place where you can calm your nerves, think about the end result that you want to achieve and plan the steps you will take to reach it.

The pause can mean the difference between reacting out of raw emotion and responding out of rational choices. Often, it can mean the difference between strengthening and ruining relationships.

Few things spark an explosion in our emotional state like a conflict can. But when we pause, sometimes even excusing ourselves from the room, we can take slow, deep breaths to calm our bodies and regulate the fight or flight hormones that are coursing through our veins. We can pray or meditate for a few minutes, and then we can ask ourselves a few critical questions:

– What emotions am I feeling?

– What triggered these emotions?

– What is the root problem here?

– What is my role in fixing the problem?

– What is the best outcome in this situation?

– What is the best way to reach that outcome?

Instead of reacting to a situation from the intense emotions sparked by the conflict, the pause gives you the advantage of responding thoughtfully, carefully and calmly.

I used to be an emotional parent who would react at the slightest wrong-doing I perceived. Through the years, I learned to wait at least 24 hours before taking action. Action to me meant sending an email, making a phone call or showing up in person for a face-to-face meeting. Often, after I slept on it, I had clarity. In most cases, the problem went away on its own. Then a new one would pop up. Can you imagine how much energy and outrage it would take if I reacted to every uncomfortable moment my kids’ encountered?

Now, I use the pause in my own life if there’s something I need to deal with. I weigh the pros and cons, decide what outcome I want–and if it’s worth the energy to pursue at all. It makes life run smoother in the long run. I’ve written about this here.

My kids call and ask for advice on how to handle a situation at work or with a roommate. I offer the same advice of taking a pause. Wait a day or two before making a decision. When we’re flooded with emotion, it’s hard to make the right one.

From the article:

As parents, we can also coach our kids through this process. When we see emotions begin to spike, we can gently pull the child aside, help them calm down and then walk them through the same problem solving questions that we would ask ourselves.

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Walking outside and enjoying nature can put things in perspective.

Do you have any other tips to offer for making rational decisions when we get upset? Please share below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Could I have a Do-Over, Please?

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My young Piranhas.

If I could go back in time, say 15 or so years, I’d do things differently as a parent and a swim mom. I’ve loved every minute of being a swim parent and truly believe that signing my kids up for our local club, the Piranha Swim Team, was the single best thing we’ve done for them. Sticking with the team through ups and downs was a plus, too. Not only did my kids become crazily physically fit and skilled swimmers, they learned to never give up through tough times—whether it was an illness, a plateau or learning what a new coach expects.

So what would I do differently? Here’s my list:

One
Not focus on performance.

Sometimes, I get way too caught up in big meets and best times. I wish I could kick back, relax and enjoy the little moments more.

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Medals at a meet.

Two
Not get involved in parent drama.

Like most sports today, where you find a bunch of enthusiastic and involved parents, there’s bound to be some drama. If I could do it over, I’d never take sides or get involved. At times, I didn’t have a choice because of being on the board. But, the drama and problems we lived through don’t amount to beans, anymore.

Three
Realize everybody is different.

Not every swimmer has the same drive or goals. Not every family is going to focus their lives around the pool. It’s okay for some kids to skip practice and have other interests besides school and swimming. I’d be less judgmental if I got a do over!

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Signing day.

Four
Not compare my kids to others.

When my kids were young and new to swimming, it was common for us to compare their progress to other swimmers. That led to upset feelings all around. Looking back on it, things that seemed so big at the moment, were only a fleeting moment in time.

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My son learning to dive with the swim team.

Five
Enjoy every moment of the process.

The years go by so quickly. The friends made with other parents, coaches and officials are ones to treasure. Enjoy it all.

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Back when my daughter liked her green fuzzy robe better than the team parka.

 

What would you do differently as a parent?