Top Parenting Tip: Don’t help too much!

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I saw this tweet first thing this morning and it stuck with me all day. My kids are in their early 20s and if I had a do-over, I’d do less for them, not more. I love being a mom and my kids survived my over-parenting and have flourished. But I failed them over and over by doing too much along the way. When they are experiencing pain or a rough patch now, I look back and wish I hadn’t been such a helicopter or lawn mower parent and they’d have experienced more difficulties in their earlier years.

What drives parents to do everything for their kids? Here are six reasons why we do too much for our kids–taken from my own experience and observing other parents:

ONE
We want to shield our kids from pain and hurt.

TWO
We want our kids to have the brightest futures possible — and only we can guarantee that by our constant hovering and interference.

THREE
We’re afraid to let our kids fail. This is the exact opposite of what we need to do. Let them fail while they’re young, when the consequences aren’t so big.

FOUR
Peer pressure. We want to be a super parent, like those we see around us at school or in their sports.

FIVE
We do all the work around the house because their schedules are so busy. (Like ours aren’t?)

SIX
We make every decision for them, allowing them to miss the development of good decision-making skills as they grow.

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What reasons do you see for parents doing too much for their kids?

 

 

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Beautiful Boy: a Must See Movie for Parents

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The official movie poster for Beautiful Boy.

Last night, my daughter and I went to see Beautiful Boy, a film about a family dealing with their son’s meth addiction. Based on a real-life father/son story, the script is a melding of two memoirs: Beautiful Boy by writer and columnist David Sheff, played by Steve Carell, and Tweak by the addicted son, Nic (Timothée Chalamet).

Beautiful Boy is an emotionally difficult movie for any parent to see. Although I haven’t gone through anything nearly as hellacious or dramatic, I related to the parents’ anguish. I realized how strongly I want to make everything okay for my kids when they’re experiencing pain. As hard as we want to control situations and can see what the best choices are, in the end, it’s all up to them. We can’t live their lives for them.

What I found especially poignant, was Carell’s flashbacks to his young innocent son and the many memories he had of their close relationship, interspersed with gritty scenes of finding Nic soaking wet and high in a San Francisco alley or overdosed in a hospital.

Directed by Belgian director and co-writer, Oscar nominated Felix van Groeningen, I loved the acting by Carell, Chalamet, Amy Ryan as the first wife and mom, and Maura Tierney as the current wife and mother of two younger kids. The soundtrack and cinematography were integral to the experience, which will haunt me for years. I cried when I heard Sunrise Sunset, a song from Fiddler on the Roof performed by Perry Como, which I played on the piano as a young child. The soundtrack includes artists Neil Young, John Lennon, David Bowie and Nirvana.

There are uncomfortable scenes of drug use, near deaths, and the horror experienced by Nic’s parents. It’s an important movie because drug addiction is epidemic throughout our country, regardless of money, race or gender. Overdose is the number one cause of death in our country for those under age 50.

Here’s an excerpt from the Hollywood Reporter with interviews with Carell and Chalamet:

At the U.S. premiere of Beautiful Boy at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Carell said his most challenging scene was a more tender one, in which David receives a desperate call from Nic but chooses not to help him get sober again. Whether from lack of hope or lack of strength, David tells Nic that he’s on his own.

“I think that goes against every fiber of every parent’s being,” Carell told The Hollywood Reporter of the scene that has the character crying on a couch at home. Carell said having two teenagers “absolutely” shaped the way he viewed the script, saying, “I don’t think you ever stop worrying about them until the day you die.” Through his performance, he realized having no ability to keep your kids safe and healthy has to be “the scariest thing of all.”

Chalamet likes that Beautiful Boy isn’t a tragic story, nor a glorious story. The addiction tale is told from a “total perspective,” based on the best-selling memoirs of father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy and Tweak, respectively.

“That encompassed addiction in a contemporary sense, in a way that I just hadn’t ever read anything like that,” Chalamet told THR. “Movies or books that I’d been privy to prior that dealt with the subject matter felt like they lean into the tragedy of it or into the glory of it somehow.”

Here’s link to John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy” written for his son Sean. 

Lyrics to Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) by John Lennon:

Close your eyes
Have no fear
The monster’s gone
He’s on the run and your daddy’s here

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Before you go to sleep
Say a little prayer
Every day in every way, it’s getting better and better

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Out on the ocean sailing away
I can hardly wait
To see you come of age
But I guess we’ll both just have to be patient
‘Cause it’s a long way to go
A hard row to hoe
Yes, it’s a long way to go

But in the meantime
Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Before you go to sleep
Say a little prayer
Every day in every way, it’s getting better and better

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Darling, darling, darling
Darling Sean

Songwriters: John Lennon

Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing

What Happens to Our Kids Raised on Selfies? :)

I wrote this article on Halloween 2015. The question I ask is still bugging me. I think we are getting more and more research that our kids raised on selfies and Facebook are NOT doing better than earlier generations.

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The first Halloween for my kids together.

I have a question for you. This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. What do will be the long-term effects on our kids for us posting everything they do on Facebook? I’m not pointing fingers, because yes, I’m guilty of this myself.

 Do you remember when once a year your relatives and close family friends would come over and the slide projector and screen would come out? Or, when you sat with a bowl of popcorn on the carpet with the cousins at your grandparents house, bored watching old slides or home movies of your parents? I took a lot of photos of my kids when they were babies and toddlers. I took less and less as they got older until our phones got combined with our iPhones. Now, I’m guilty of taking photos whenever I get the chance. And posting them on FB.

I didn’t have FB when my kids were young. We barely had internet. We had a modem that I used to send files to a printer. There was no way to share every minute detail and selfie of our day. Instead, I took my film downtown to the photo shop and got double prints made. Then I wrote a card or letter by hand to my mom or dad and inserted the photos and mailed them the old fashioned way. 

My fear is that we are raising kids who think they are more self-important than they really are. Their every move is recorded and shared with the world. Maybe they’ll be confused and want to share as much about their lives as a Kardashian. As they grow older and have their own Instagram, Snapchat, etc. will they try harder and harder to get noticed? Will the photos get more outrageous and provocative? Look at me???? I’ve seen plenty examples of that outcome with my kids’ friends.

I’ve been reading articles about this phenomenon. Here’s a related article I wrote on whether or not our kids get too much glory. Following are some excerpts and links from CNN and US News. Some report skyrocketing anxiety and depression as a result of too much social media.

“The 2014 National College Health Assessment, a survey of nearly 80,000 college students throughout the United States, found that 54% of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in the past 12 months and that 32.6% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” during the same period. The study also found that 6.4% had “intentionally, cut, burned, bruised or otherwise injured” themselves, that 8.1% had seriously considered suicide and that 1.3% had attempted suicide.

Ease up on the pressure. Do we really have to be noticed all the time? Does every second have to be a beauty contest? Our kids need to stop feeling that they have to outperform their peers every minute of every day. They need to know that they don’t have to market themselves constantly, and that social media can be a mechanism for fostering collaborative relationships — not a medium for fueling competition, aggression and irresponsible behavior that contributes to anxiety and depression.” More from CNN here.

Here’s another article with an interesting point of view on selfies and a teen’s self worth. Read more from US News here.

“Social media use can turn into a problem when a teen’s sense of self worth relies on peer approval, Proost says. Whether they’re posting from the football game bleachers or on a family vacation, teens can access social media anywhere and at all times. And because of the constant connection, it can be dangerous for young people overly concerned with others’ opinions. They may feel like they can never escape the social environment and are constantly faced with peer pressure.

“The mental health outcomes that we’re starting to look at now are things like body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety,” Proost says. “We are starting to see those things creep up and be related conditions to excessive [social media] use.”

If we know an overuse of social media can be fun, but also have consequences that negatively impact our children—why are we leading and feeding them down this road? 

Don’t get me wrong. I love FB and Instagram. I LOVE that I’ve reconnected with friends and family and get to share in their lives. I say to keep an eye out for when it gets out of hand.

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Our first Halloween in our home.

What are your thoughts on a generation of kids whose every move has been recorded and shared? What do you think the negative consequences will be?

What’s the Difference Between a Helicopter and Lawnmower Parent?

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My almost grown-up kiddos.

In “How to tell if you’re a Lawnmower Parent and what to do about it,” Sarah Cottrell explains the difference between Helicopter Parents and Lawnmowers. Unlike the hovering helicopters, lawnmowers remove all the obstacles of life thrown in front of their kids. Their kids don’t have to suffer hurt feelings, hard effort or any of life’s disappointments—at least that’s the goal of Lawnmower parents.

I am guilty of being both at different times. I didn’t let my kids fail. I complained to teachers when they got grades that I felt were unfair. I rescued them both with forgotten swim bags, lunches and homework assignments. I’m looking at these things now and wish I could have a “do over” because it’s painful to watch them struggle into “adulting.”

I do believe the one place my kids had to figure things out on their own was in the pool. Their effort was directly related with how well they did. Or, in the case of my son, who had chronic sinus infections and asthma—he learned that sometimes life was not fair. They both learned that you can work really, really hard and you get sick. Or injured. Things in life don’t goes as planned. We really need to let our kids experience life with the highs and lows, success and failures, so they can be competent adults able to fend for themselves.

Here are excerpts from the article written by Cottrell:

Helicopter Parents have reigned supreme in the media these last few years but they’re being replaced by a hyper-concentrated version of themselves with a new moniker: Lawnmower Parents. If you’ve never heard of lawnmower parents, take a seat now because you’re about to have some strong feelings.

Lawnmowers don’t just hover over their kids to make sure that they are safe, they obliterate any whiff of a struggle for their kids by curating every aspect of their childhoods. These parents tend to do extreme things, such as choose their child’s friends, practice “redshirting” to ensure their child’s early academic ease and success, and even jump into arguments on their child’s behalf to prevent their kid from having hurt feelings. 

In 2015, a Harris Poll for The JED Foundation, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and The Jordan Porco Foundation surveyed 1,502 first year college students and found that a staggering 60% of them reported feeling emotionally underprepared for the real world.

“When parents try to remove all obstacles for kids, they are doing them a great disservice,” Samantha Rodman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, and author of How to Talk to Your Kids About Your Divorce tells Mashable. “Kids need to learn that they are competent and have agency in the world. If their parents pave the way for them to have an effortless life, then what will they do when an effort is required in adulthood?”

In some ways, I can’t blame parents for feeling compelled to turn to extreme measures. Where keyboard warriors may see arrogance, I see parents who live in pressure cookers to get parenting not just right, but better than everyone else. As a mother of three, I can understand the impulse to create a soft landing for my children when it comes to school, friends, and the world at large, but often that parental impulse blows up in our faces anyway. 

“This is all about fear, and worry, and wanting to do our best by our families,” Says KJ Dell’Antonia, author of How to Be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life and Loving (Almost) Every Minute and former lead writer and editor for the Motherlode blog at TheNew York Times. “I’d never call it vanity. I think we’re just afraid that if we do less than the next person, our kids will end up living under a highway somewhere because all the clear paths we used to see to success have been muddied by change, technology, and the economy. Scary times, scared parents.”

She’s right. At a time when technology is moving at warp speed, the kinds of jobs that my kids will soon be training for don’t even exist yet as I type these words. How can I imagine future stability for my kids when I can’t even comprehend the social or economic demands that will be made on them?

Amy Joyce, editor, and writer for the Washington Post’s On Parenting section tells Mashable that the best way for parents to prevent themselves from becoming lawnmower parents is to get out and connect with their communities.   

“I love to ask parents of older kids or grown kids what they did in whatever situation it is I’m facing at the moment. I seek out advice and find that helps me bond with people,” Joyce tells Mashable. “The best thing my neighbor with three grown kids has told me is that my kids are going to be okay. No matter the issue, they are who they are and we’ll guide them, but we can’t do everything for them. Hearing that and telling myself that allows me to back off a bit.”

Raising children is tough, but it doesn’t have to be a pressure-cooker of stress to get every aspect just right. While I may secretly want my kid to be the strongest, smartest, kindest, best one out there, the fact is that he won’t understand how he fits in this world if I am interfering. So if you need me, I’ll be standing by and wincing with a knot in my stomach while my kids screw up left and right.

It’s painful to stand by and watch your kids fail. But, let them fail when the stakes aren’t so high. If my son failed a class or two for not getting out of bed on time, or forgetting to turn in homework, I feared he’d never get into college. So what did I do? I woke him up, made sure he had his homework done, etc. He was hugely successful and won all the awards from grade school through high school. But when he did go to college, he failed his freshman year of college at a cost of $30,000. That’s because I failed him as a parent. He wasn’t prepared for the responsibility. It was overwhelming to be in charge of food, transportation, laundry, etc. and school. He looks back on it and believes he wasn’t ready for college. He wasn’t and that was my fault.

What consequences have you let your kids experience while they’re young? Do you fear that by not being perfect they won’t get into the college of their dreams? Do you believe that is one reason why parents resort to becoming Helicopter and Lawnmower parents?

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Do as I say, not as I do

kiddosTalk about hypocrites. I read the strangest story about parents who live in the Silicon Valley and refuse to let their kids see or touch iPhones or any screens of any nature. These are parents who work in the high tech world and themselves use the devices. While they are at work, they hire nannies to shield their kids from the heinous devices they work to create.

Then to even go further, they make nannies sign contracts that they will keep them away from screens. They also hire spies to snoop on their nannies at parks to make sure they don’t cheat and check their phones. When these parents get home, they are locked onto their phones. Maybe it’s because they understand how miserable the phones are making their lives, that they want to keep their kids’ lives free from tech.

Here are a few excerpts from the article I read in sfgate called Silicon Valley Nannies are Phone Police for Kids:

SAN FRANCISCO — Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens. Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure.

But it’s very hard for a working adult in the 21st century to live at home without looking at a phone. And so, as with many aspirations and ideals, it’s easier to hire someone to do this.

Enter the Silicon Valley nanny, who each day returns to the time before screens.

“Usually a day consists of me being allowed to take them to the park, introduce them to card games,” Jordin Altmann, 24, a nanny in San Jose, said of her charges. “Board games are huge.”

“Almost every parent I work for is very strong about the child not having any technical experience at all,” Altmann said. “In the last two years, it’s become a very big deal.”

From Cupertino to San Francisco, a growing consensus has emerged that screen time is bad for kids. It follows that these parents are now asking nannies to keep phones, tablets, computers and TVs off and hidden at all times. Some are even producing no-phone contracts, which guarantee zero unauthorized screen exposure, for their nannies to sign.

The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley. Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children. Which is to say, the very people building these glowing hyper-stimulating portals have become increasingly terrified of them. And it has put their nannies in a strange position.

“In the last year everything has changed,” said Shannon Zimmerman, a nanny in San Jose who works for families that ban screen time. “Parents are now much more aware of the tech they’re giving their kids. Now it’s like, ‘Oh no, reel it back, reel it back.’ Now the parents will say ‘No screen time at all.’”

The bright side is these parents do care about their kids. They want what is best for them. In my humble opinion, why are they hiring someone else to raise them? I worked when my son was born and soon discovered I was jealous of the nanny. I wanted to raise my own child, not be an observer in the process.

rkcowboysDo the parents realize that their kids will model their behavior and learn most from what they do, not what they say?

Views from my morning walks

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Beauty.

I’ve been lousy about going to the pool lately. Mainly because of two reasons. First, I went to visit my daughter in Arizona for several days. Second, I got a nasty cold and I felt weak, congested and couldn’t breathe. Those are two absolutely acceptable reasons to skip Masters swimming, don’t you think?

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The Wellness Park in Palm Springs.

One thing that I haven’t missed, despite going out of town and feeling less than stellar, are my morning walks. In Arizona, I got to walk Waffles. Here, at home, the weather finally changed for the better. It feels perfect and the views are gorgeous. It’s the best I feel all day, being out in nature for an hour, soaking up the sun and radiant desert plants and mountain views.

I also treasured the days I had hanging out with Waffles, plus working on my laptop catching up on work. He’s a good companion, but not nearly as good as my daughter. We did the usual things we enjoy as a mother-daughter team. We went for a pedicure, she cooked me dinner, we shopped and we sat together and talked. All in all, the time together made me once again appreciate the small special things in life. Like having a daughter who wants me to come stay with her from time to time.

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Waffles

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Waffles and my daughter at Tempe Beach Park.

What are your favorite parts of the day? Do you find that they are spent outside or with family, too?

 

When did “playing” turn into “performing?”

My daughter diving in a competition with her club team at the East LA City College pool.

My daughter in the yellow cap.

Back in the ancient days when I was growing up, all our neighborhood kids gathered in the evenings on our dead-end street playing work-up softball. I was one of the younger kids at five or six years old while the kids controlling the game were in junior high and high school. I stood for countless hours in the outfield and never once made it up to bat. The big kids were at the pitcher’s mound, catcher, short stop, first base and swinging the bat, of course. It did bother me that I never left the outfield before our moms would stick their heads out their kitchen doors and call us in for supper. But, I was happy to be included with the big kids. We were playing a game. And guess what? There were no coaches, no officials, no parent volunteers and not a single parent watching!

Fast forward to today and you don’t see kids playing pick up games around the neighborhoods. They aren’t playing football, softball, basketball or any games at all. Instead, moms and dads drive their kids to ball fields, swimming pools, gyms, etc. to practice with other kids on organized teams. These teams have coaches, referees, uniforms, fees and parents. Yes, parents are all over the place — watching, volunteering, providing snacks — and in some sports, coaching.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing in itself. I just miss the days when kids played outside. Of course, kids in my day and age were on teams, too — but they also had time to play without adult supervision just for the fun of it with their friends.

What happens when kids aren’t out playing with their friends, but instead are playing in front of an audience of overly involved adults? Playing becomes performing. Parents are sitting watching their kids’ practices and more than ready to give them the full low down critique on the drive home. At meets and games, parents fill the stands and are yelling, cheering, pacing and showing their displeasure at officials’ calls, other kids that are competing and even their own kids. They are also ecstatic when their kids do well. I should know since I went through the gamut of emotions myself with my two kids.

I didn’t realize that kids aren’t out playing on their own these until I read a book called “Why LESS is MORE for WOSPs* — *Well-Intentioned, Overinvolved Sports Parents” by John M. Tauer, Ph.D. Because my kids were swimmers and we have to take them to the pool for their sport, I didn’t notice the lack of kids playing in the park. Dr. Tauer, a psychologist and college basketball coach, talks about how kids he coached in a summer basketball camp would rather sit on the bench than play in a game without adult officials. He had five groups of kids rotating in four games with officials. He gave the kids a choice to sit out the fifth game or else play the fifth game on their own. All of the kids chose to sit it out, mainly because they had no experience just “playing” without adults supervising.

From the book:

“One of the consequences of parental involvement is that parents watch many of the games their kids play. That means many parents know if Billy has been in a hitting slump, if Jenny has been struggling with her shooting, or if Tommy made a mistake that allowed the winning goal. Thus, children may feel their performance is being evaluated and monitored not just by teachers and their parents, as with school, but also by their peers and other parents. Instead of playing, children are performing, which can undermine one of the major goals of sports. This shift from playing to performing affects both children and parents negatively. Most children don’t take math exams with dozens of parents watching, cheering, hollering, encouraging, yelling, or even criticizing the performance. Imagine how odd it would be to see parents show up for exams at school and then spend hours dissecting their child’s performance at home. Why then, do we accept those same behaviors as normal for WOSP’s at sporting events?”

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My son in front wearing the yellow cap.

Some interesting things to think about: Why do you think we’ve shifted in our society to no longer letting kids play to having them perform? Have children changed so drastically through the years, or is it our parenting? I’d like to hear your opinions, so please share your thoughts.