Parent tips for the roller coaster ride of raising teens

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We’re past the roller coaster ride of the teen years. Onward to the quarter-life crisis.

Has any parent not witnessed the eye rolls, backtalk or even a door slam? Most of the time my kids were wonderful. But we had our moments. I especially remember a tough period with my son where I said things I would love to take back. I didn’t mean those words but I was frustrated beyond belief with his behavior. That’s not an excuse, but it’s a pretty accurate assessment that I felt out of control. I heard from one friend that when our kids get ready to leave the nest they work on pushing us away.

Today I read “3 Myths About Your Teen’s Bad Attitude” in Time Magazine by Alan Kazdin and learned that our kids are not acting out on purpose. “Alan Kazdin is Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University and director of the Yale Parenting Center; he is a former President of the American Psychological Association and teaches a course open to the public on Coursera: Everyday Parenting: The ABCs of Child Rearing.”

According to Kazdin, our young adults are going through development changes and are not in control of how they treat us. Of course, we’d all prefer civility and want our child back, but give it time and space and they will once again be the people we love to be around. In the article, he gives a few tips on how to make the situation better not worse. He says to focus on the positive things and don’t be heavy-handed with punishment. If we rely too much on punishment, our kids may resort to worse actions to escape punishment or pull further away from us. His third tip is to compromise. Find something that you previously said “absolutely not” to and give in. Kazdin also makes the point that the developmental changes take place at different ages with adolescents.

His tips may seem contrary to what you’d like to do, but he says they are effective. Our goal is to change the annoying and troubling behavior of our teens and bring them closer to us, not make it worse.

Here are some excerpts about three myths Kazdin brings up about our adolescents:

3 Myths about Teenage Attitude

1. Your teenager’s behavior is deliberate.

It may be of little consolation, but your teenage daughter has little control over the bad attitude. She is not manipulating you on purpose or spending all that time in her room scheming about new ways to annoy you. In fact, she too is a victim — of all sorts of biological and psychological changes over which she has little control. She is going through a rollercoaster of adolescence, and you are on the ride with her.

As an important example of what is going on, the brain changes are extensive: more rapid development of the brain areas and functions that increase impulsivity, risk-taking and being influenced by peers. Those areas of the brain structure and functioning that we wish would be well established, such as self-control, restraining oneself and making decisions rationally, are coming online more slowly and will not be more fully developed until later adolescence.

2. Reasoning with the teenager will help.

Reason rarely persuades anybody to do things we know we should do — such as exercising or avoiding fast foods. It is even less likely to work with your teenager, considering all those developmental changes.

However, it is wonderful to be reasonable with your teen. It demonstrates for them a way of thinking, handling conflict and solving problems, and it can have longer-lasting effects on how your eventual adult approaches life.

3. Punishment will change the behaviors and attitudes you want to get rid of.

Teenagers may simply isolate themselves even more and have even less time with the family and in the presence of a parent. That will decrease the chances of a positive influence.

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Hiking with my son this past summer. 

How do you handle it when your young adult is rude and no longer wants to hang out with the family?

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About that unsolicited advice…

 

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Views from our local park. Oh and yeah. It’s December!

 

 

Walking around our park last night, a little puppy snuck up behind me and licked my leg! I was startled and watched as the puppy tore across the park with the owner, a young woman, trying to catch the pup. The puppy then raced back to where the owner’s boyfriend was and I watched the guy throw himself on the ground trying to capture the quick puppy.

I told the woman she should put her puppy on a leash and he’d be easier to catch. She was a little defensive and said that it was her boyfriend that took off the leash and she’d prefer to keep the puppy safe from running into the streets or getting away if it was up to her.

“We let our puppy run free with the leash attached, so I can stop him by stepping on the leash,” I explained. “He’s easier to catch that way.”

“Thanks, that’s a great idea,” she said with a smile.

But, then I thought, was any of that my business? What is it with the need to give unsolicited advice? Maybe I’m just a busybody and give my two cents worth where it doesn’t belong. I’ve been reading numerous articles about how everyone these days is giving unsolicited parenting advice. And most of it isn’t welcome. It’s kind of ironic considering I write weekly parenting advice articles for SwimSwam.com.

Here’s an excerpt from an “unsolicited parenting advice” article that’s interesting:

“No, I don’t want your unsolicited parenting advice” by Carla Naumburg

“Have you tried cooking with her?”

“This is the question I usually get whenever I describe my eight-year-old daughter’s selective eating.

“For years I’ve responded to such unsolicited advice by describing all of the different tricks and tactics I’ve tried, including, yes, cooking with her. Halfway through yet another conversation last week about her food habits, I suddenly realized something.

“I was being momsplained.

“We are all now familiar with the term mansplaining, in which a man tells another person (usually a woman) how to improve a situation or solve a problem, regardless of whether he has any idea what he’s talking about, or even a decent grasp of the entire situation. Well-intentioned or not, it’s rarely helpful.

“We moms do it to each other all the time, too.

Here’s how it usually goes down. You bemoan your latest parenting challenge—perhaps your child isn’t sleeping or refuses to practice piano, or maybe you’re at the end of your rope with the constant meltdowns or mouthing off. Inevitably, another mom jumps in with a story about How She Solved the Problem. She then dives into the details of the star chart, parenting guru, or Pinterest-worthy solution that had her kid on time for school, every single morning.

“Momsplaining happens on the playgrounds and soccer fields, in Mommy and Me classes, and anywhere moms congregate and chat between sips of coffee. I’ve been momsplained so frequently in response to my online parenting rants—when I’m really looking for empathy—that I now either come to expect it or I explicitly note that I’m not asking for advice. I almost always receive a litany of suggestions anyway, most of which I’ve already tried or aren’t relevant.”

In a dad’s perspective, Clint Edwards writes “6 Pieces of Unwanted Parenting Advice And How I’d Like To Respond.” It’s well worth reading and here are two of his responses:

My wife and I have three kids (6 months, 5 and 7). People regularly give me unsolicited advice on parenting, both in person and online. And you know what, I get it. You think you’ve figured something out and you want to share your great revelation. Or perhaps you don’t have kids, so that makes you an outside observer with a fresh prospective. But really… I’d rather you just shut the hell up. Below are a few examples of unsolicited advice I’ve been given and how I would like to respond… if I wasn’t such a nice guy.

1. Shouldn’t he be wearing a jacket? Yup, he probably should be wearing a jacket. And you know what, I don’t know when he last changed his underwear or socks, either. But here’s the deal. I told him to put on a jacket, but he’s seven and he listens about as good as a goldfish. Once an evening I wrestle him into the bathtub. I don’t have energy for much more, so I’m letting him figure out a few things the hard way, through goose bumps and rashes. Can you live with that? Because I can.

6. Keeping your children from throwing fits in public begins in the home. I’m going to assume that when you raised children it was socially okay to beat them. Because here is the thing, I work really hard to teach my kids how to act appropriately in public. But then we get out there, and they turn into screaming, needing, wanting, maniacs. It’s like showing a werewolf the moon. And honestly, most of the time they are fine. Most of the time they are sweet and wonderful. So please realize that the fit you witnessed is not the norm. But what I can say is taking my kids out into public, telling them no, letting them throw a fit, and then telling them no again, really is the only way they are going to figure out how to be a quiet and reserved person. You know… an understanding person. The kind of person who doesn’t give unsolicited advice in a grocery store.

This one really cracked me up: “Totally Appropriate Responses to Unsolicited Parenting Advice” By Marissa Maciel.

Actually, this is my twelfth child.

Oh, I’m not her mother; I just walk her and make sure she poops, then take her home.

She has to fly on the plane with us, sorry. It’s in her contract.

Listen, I’ve read the books, subscribed to the newsletters, and bought the recommended sippy cup. Come back when you’re president of my kid’s Montessori co-op.

Her doctor said that thumb-sucking is the e-cigarette for babies weaning off of the breast, so we’re fine with it.

You know, I tried that once and the very next day some blogger wrote a hot take about it — no thanks.

We did consider leaving her at home instead of bringing her to the restaurant, but the last time we did that she locked us out and ordered thirty pizzas on my credit card. BABIES, right??

Yes, we tried feeding her. The crying didn’t stop and we also forgot to make a sign that said “we already tried feeding her.” Thanks, though.

Actually, this is my twentieth child.

 

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The park where I was startled by a friendly pup.

What are your thoughts about unsolicited advice—whether it’s for children or puppies?

 

Help your adult child by closing your wallet

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My son 24 years ago.

 

I read a series of articles today about how we are threatening our own retirement by “helping” our kids with their expenses. I was reminded of a conversation I had with my best friend from college. She told me that she was cutting off the money flow with her grown kids and although it was painful, she said, “the less you help them, the better off they are.”

On a website called Benefits Pro, an article called “How to keep grown kids from ruining your future retirement” by Marlene Y. Satter caught my attention.

“A BMO Wealth Institute survey, the report says, found that two-thirds of parents give money to their grown kids on a “when needed” basis, checkbook out in hand almost before they’re asked.

“But if instead you budget—and make Junior budget—for a specific amount at regular intervals, with a firm end date to such support, he’ll learn to budget better and you’ll have a light at the end of the tunnel so that you can get back to saving for retirement.

“Or, for that matter, enjoying retirement without that constant drain looming over your activities.

“Last but not least, you need to lay your cards on the table about the end of the financial support so that the kids know just how much all that parental help is costing you.

“They won’t be blindsided, you won’t feel resentful about the endless outflow of money if they’re working toward resolving their own situation—whether finding a job, finishing a degree or finding cheaper living quarters—and you’ll both be better off for knowing each others’ true financial states.

“After all, the Merrill Lynch research points out, 28 percent of parents are worried that they themselves might have to ask their kids for financial help some day.

“One way to avoid that—or at least postpone it—is to make sure that your kids learn financial independence by example.

“Set one.”

In a Market Watch article called “This is how much money parents lose supporting their adult children” by Kari Paul, she talks about how we can lose a quarter million dollars of our retirement funds by supporting our kids after they become adults.

“Leaving the nest doesn’t always mean entering financial independence for kids these days, and parents are paying a high price for it.

“Some 80% of parents are covering or have covered basic expenses for their children after they turn 18, which could cost parents $227,000 in lost savings over the course of retirement, a new study from personal finance website NerdWallet found.

“It calculated the impact on savings if costs of adult children had been put into a retirement savings account such as a 401(k) or IRA instead.

“ ‘As parents, we tend to want to do everything we can to help our children succeed. But sometimes we focus on the present at the expense of the future,” said Andrea Coombes, NerdWallet’s investing expert.

“Student debt, which has surpassed $1.4 billion, has also played a role in increasing reliance of young people on parents. Some 28% of parents have paid for part or all of their adult children’s tuition or loans. The average parent now takes out $21,000 in loans for a college education for their child.

“They are also paying for many basic, day-to-day costs for their adult children, including groceries (56%), health insurance (40%) and rent or housing outside the family home (21%). Some parents are also covering or have covered their adult child’s cellphone bill (39%) and car insurance (34%).”

Business Insider writer Elena Holodny quotes the same numbers in “Baby boomers could end up $227,000 richer if they stop bankrolling their adult children:”

“The two most expensive costs are living expenses and college tuition. And parents’ retirement savings could be $227,000 higher if they chose to save that money instead of spending it on their children’ living or schooling expenses, NerdWallet found.

“Andrea Coombes, a retirement and investing specialist at NerdWallet, said parents should run the numbers to figure out whether they can actually afford to help their children with their expenses.

“ ‘Parents who need to ramp up their savings rate should have a conversation with their children,” Coombes said. “Parents can let their children know they’re at risk of financial insecurity later in life and they don’t want to be a burden to their children.

“And parents should ask their adult children to start pitching in on some of these expenses. It’ll be good for the parents’ retirement, plus it models to the children the importance of budgeting, saving, and planning for the future.”

With my oldest child turning 25 next year, this topic is close to home. He is mostly independent financially and has been out of college for a little more than a year. We are there when he needs help—like something major. Like many of the parents in the articles above, we have him on our cell phone plan and pay his car insurance. He lives in the Bay area and it’s really expensive to live there. We keep telling him he doesn’t have to live in the most expensive city in the country and he’s come to realize that fact on his own. I think this New Year will be an ideal time to have a talk about when we’ll wean him off the cell phone plan and car insurance. I know for a fact he can’t afford more immediately, but he could plan for it. Plus, he’s in the process of making decisions about whether or not he’s going to return to school or move to a more affordable area.

My husband gets upset with me when I give our son money. It makes me feel good to be able to do so, but in my husband’s words, “You’re crippling him!”robertazpark

What are your thoughts about funding adult children after they graduate from college?

Who is the worst sports parent ever?

 

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College sports include cheering for teammates.

Have you been keeping up with the real-life drama of the Ball brothers and their outrageous dad LaVar? Noted to be one of the worst sports parents ever, LaVar Ball dad of basketball players has been in and out of the news. That’s probably his goal since he runs a reality show on his FaceBook page. But seriously, what is this guy teaching his kids? If you haven’t heard of LaVar Ball here’s the scoop: his kids are Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo; LiAngelo, who was enrolled at UCLA briefly with a basketball scholarship; and LaMelo, who he pulled out of Chino Hills High School recently.

I’m not a basketball fan, nor a fan of the NFL, but I can’t escape hearing about LaVar Ball. I ran across a snippet on Fox Sports 1 with Cris Carter who asked after hearing that LaVar was pulling his son out of UCLA because he isn’t being allowed to play. Carter, a former NFL star, commented that UCLA receives more applications than any other university in the country and why would he want to take away that opportunity from his son? He said, even if his middle son LiAngelo plays for the NBA, and starts at age 20, he’ll most likely be done with his career by 28 or 29. “What’s he supposed to do with the rest of his life?” Carter asked.

 

You can watch the video from FS1 here on ‘Cris Carter responds to LaVar Ball pulling LiAngelo out of UCLA: ‘What kind of parenting is this?’

In case you haven’t heard, the reason the middle Ball son was suspended by the Bruins basketball team was because he shoplifted in China and wound up in a China jail along with two of his teammates. It took the POTUS to get him out of jail and returned to the United States. LaVar didn’t think shoplifting was any big deal and didn’t condemn his son’s actions. Now LaVar isn’t letting him take the punishment that UCLA decided on, but instead will take LiAngelo away from facing consequences and completing his college education at UCLA. Why was he shoplifting in the first place? Was it a game? Was it for thrills? I have heard this adult-aged kid drives a Ferrari, so it certainly wasn’t because he didn’t have the money.

“Tipsheet: LaVar Ball is the worst basketball dad ever” written by Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has some quotes from LaVar Ball that show his arrogance and inability to acknowledge the wrongdoing by his son.

“We learned today of LiAngelo Ball’s intention to withdraw from UCLA,” Bruins coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We respect the decision he and his family have made, and we wish him all the best in the future.”

(And the unstated P.S. was “Good riddance!”)

As Donald Trump correctly noted, shoplifting in China can be a really big problem. The President had the back of Ball and teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill and helped get them home after their arrest.

But LaVar has steadfastly downplayed his son’s crime and whined about his punishment. “I’m not sitting back and waiting,” he told ESPN. “He wasn’t punished this bad in China.”

And . . .

“We get back over here and the consequences were even stiffer than China. So basically they’re in jail here.”

And . . .

“I’m going to make him way better for the draft than UCLA ever could have. He’s not transferring to another school. The plan is now to get Gelo ready for the NBA draft.”

That will be a heavy lift. “He’s not on any of our scouting lists — even the extended lists,” one NBA general manager told ESPN.

So this withdrawal is no great loss for UCLA.

Younger brother LaMelo could become a NBA player like big brother Lonzo. But his personal sneaker deal and his dad’s antics make it unlikely LaMelo will play at UCLA or anywhere else on his way to the pros.

Here are more details about the crazy Ball family in an article called “UCLA basketball got exactly what it wanted out of the Ball family” by Mike Rutherford for SB Nation.

 

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LaVar Ball in a photo from SB Nation.

 

“The relationship between the Ball family and UCLA basketball appears to have reached a premature end. One side came out as the clear winner.
After one exhibition game appearance and one international incident, it appears the LiAngelo Ball era at UCLA has come to an abrupt close.

In various interviews with a number of national outlets Monday, LaVar Ball revealed he was pulling his middle son off the UCLA basketball team and withdrawing him from the university. LiAngelo Ball had been indefinitely suspended since he and two freshman teammates were caught shoplifting during UCLA’s trip to China last month. The incident made international headlines and resulted in a public war of words between the patriarch of the Ball family and the President of the United States.

This marked the second time in 2017 that LaVar Ball has abruptly pulled one of his sons out of school.

In October, LaVar announced that his youngest son, 16-year-old LaMelo Ball, was being pulled out of Chino Hills High School and would be home-schooled. LaVar reportedly had issues with first-year Chino Hills boys basketball coach Dennis Latimore, who had yet to coach his first official practice at the school. It was also revealed that LaMelo, one of the top players in the class of 2019, was being given his own signature shoe via LaVar’s “Big Baller Brand,” making him the first 16-year-old ever to own such a distinction.

On Monday night, Yahoo reported options were being explored to send both LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball overseas to begin their professional careers. Essentially, the turbulent relationship between the Ball family and UCLA has come to an end years before the pair had originally intended.

That’s probably just fine with everyone in Westwood.
The relationship between the Balls and UCLA, which officially took effect in January 2014, was always primarily about Lonzo Ball. The five-star virtuoso point guard was bound for greatness regardless of where he played in college and regardless of how preposterously one of his legal guardians chose to behave. He was the type of player who could transform UCLA basketball, even if he was only a Bruin for one season.

LaVar Ball was always going to be a distraction, but he was a manageable one for UCLA when Lonzo was the son in question. With LiAngelo, things were bound to be more difficult. Play the kid too much, and it might cost you team chemistry or even a couple of wins. Don’t play him enough, and get ready to see his dad’s criticism as the top story on your ESPN scream-at-each-other show of choice the next morning. It would be hard to blame Alford, and anyone else caught up in the situation, for looking to find a way out.

Now they don’t have to.

As a sports parent myself, I am sorry for these young men and that their dad isn’t allowing them to learn the life lessons that sports can teach. I guess the family’s goal wasn’t to be the best they could be, learning good sportsmanship, time management, perseverance and the ability to pick themselves up after defeat. No, I think the lessons LaVar Ball is teaching his sons include that they are better than everyone else and the rules don’t apply to them. Also, that money is their almighty savior.

 

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My daughter learning about being part of a team.

 

What lessons do you think LaVar Ball is teaching his kids and those who may look up to them?

 

 

 

When should we jump in to defend our kids?

When they were young.

I was always a stickler for what was right or wrong and I never shied away from addressing any issue. I would go to bat for my kids whenever I felt they were being slighted. Looking back, I see that is a trait of helicopter parenting and I might have done more good for my kids by letting them fight their own battles.

Here are a few battles I took on when I thought my kids weren’t being treated right:

I wrote an email to my son’s AP History teacher to complain about his grade. He was .05 off an A and I felt the teacher should round it up. I got a note back explaining that if he were to round up my son’s grade, he’d have to go back and do the same thing for every other student in his grade book who was a fraction off the next higher grade. (Not a bad idea, I thought!) My son was being passed over for his school’s nomination for the coveted National Merit Scholarship award because of the B, but he lived through it.

When I felt a coach was picking on my son, I made an appointment to complain about it, only to find out that he had earned the “coach’s award” for best attitude and effort. That surprised me and I’m embarrassed about that meeting to this day.

When my daughter was given five days of after-school detention for forgetting to bring the photocopy of Christmas song lyrics to music class, I complained that the punishment was over the top. In fact, other kids were given two nights detention, so there was a definite crossing the line by the music teacher—in my humble opinion.

There are countless other incidents where I went to battle for my kids. I do believe I taught them the difference between right and wrong and that they should stand up for themselves. At least that’s what I told myself at the time.

I couldn’t understand why other parents would stand by and let bad things happen to their kids. I do now. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and shrug your shoulders. I’ve found that some of the things that would have bugged me to no end, will soon disappear on their own within a few days or weeks. By making an issue out of little things, they can turn into big ones and burn a lot of energy and create angst.

My daughter complained to me last night that during a meeting with students on a group project, the guys were complaining that all the women coming forward about sexual harassment were “just looking for attention.” That infuriated my daughter to no end. I asked her if she was going to put up with it or wanted to go to the professor or counselor and complain. She decided to let it go. She’s a week from being done with the class and just wants to get through it. I told her I would stand by whatever she decided.

When my son received a letter telling him he was kicked out of school during the summer after his freshman year for bad grades, I was horrified. But, then I stood by and watched him research his options online. He wrote a letter to contest the decision and got hospital and doctor records to substantiate his unfortunate circumstances of an injury and surgery which caused too many missed classes. He was let back in without me doing a thing. After that, he earned As.

Me and my boy.

One thing I know about parenting is all we can do is try our best. It’s been my goal to raise kids who know the difference between right and wrong and will try their best as well.

What do you think about parents fighting battles for their kids? Are they helping or hurting them by getting involved?

Warning: No Cartwheels Allowed!

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My son getting ready to jump on a mini trampoline.

When I was a kid, we cartwheeled all over the place. At my children’s elementary school, girls were cartwheeling around the playground daily. Their second-grade teacher cartwheeled in the classroom much to the amazement of her students. Yes, we all wore shorts under our skirts, so there was nothing unseemly about it. I find it fascinating that all the cartwheeling was being done by girls. I wonder why boys don’t find it as much fun? I used to try to string a bunch of cartwheels together and keep in a straight line across the grass. Recently, I tried to cartwheel on the beach, but alas, it’s a skill I no longer have–and it hurts!

Now, I read that a principal in a Canadian school has outlawed the cartwheel. That’s right, cartwheels are not allowed on the school grounds. The main reason? Because they are fearful of lawsuits if a cartwheeler were to get injured or injure someone else. Not that there has ever been a single report of a broken bone or sprain due to cartwheels.

Here are some excerpts from articles about the new cartwheel ban:

From CBC news:

‘Let them cartwheel’: northern Ontario mom speaks up about proposed ban

A mom in Callander, south of North Bay, Ont., says she is outraged that her daughter’s school is considering banning cartwheels on school property.

Stephanie Balen says M. T. Davidson Public School has the rule listed in its draft-form student handbooks. That document will be voted on by the student advisory council in early October.

Balen’s nine-year-old daughter Grace goes to the school and wants to be able to do cartwheels on the school grounds during recess.

Balen says it’s important to stop the ripple effect before it gets out of hand.

“What if they try to do something else? What if they say you know, you’re not allowed to run, you’re not allowed to breathe, you’re not allowed to laugh,” she said.

Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles wrote for The Nugget:

Cartwheels banned from school playground

Cartwheels have been banned at M.T. Davidson Public School in Callander.

Cartwheels are not permitted on school property in the playground rules section of the school’s draft handbook for 2017-18. The rule came into effect this school year even though injuries have not been reported, principal Todd Gribbon admitted.

“The activity can cause concussions, and neck and wrist injuries,” he said.

Gribbon said the school handbook is in draft form and the safe school advisory committee will meet Oct. 2. to review the document.

However, the 14-page document doesn’t offer an opportunity for feedback. But parents and students are required to sign the code of conduct sheet and return it to the school.

The Nugget checked a few other North Bay schools’ code of conduct and didn’t find cartwheels banned elsewhere. They are, however, not permitted at some schools in Britain and Australia.

A Toronto school made news recently when it banned all balls from its premises after a parent who was hit by a ball suffered a concussion. A few schools in the U.S. have banned footballs, soccer balls, baseballs and lacrosse balls.

imagesLenore Skenazy of free-range parenting fame wrote on Reason.com:

Canadian School Bans Cartwheeling, Because We Can’t Be Too Careful

Risks? What about the risk of never taking a risk?

True—any activity, including a cartwheel, can cause injury. Walking down the stairs can cause falls resulting in concussions, neck, and wrist injuries. Walking outside can get you hit by a car. Swimmers can drown. Bakers can catch their hair on fire. Those brave enough to consume solid food can choke. Students sitting still too long can get embolisms.

The precautionary principle—why do something that could cause harm?—seems prudent until you realize it often doesn’t distinguish between a calculated risk and what if something terrible happens? Recall that just the other day, a New York Times reporter said it was a bad idea for a kid to mow a lawn, even if it’s the White House lawn, because there could be an accident. Really, we are idiots when it comes to risk. We think that there’s risk vs. no risk—so why would any ever choose the former?

In the real world, it’s always risk vs. other risk. The risk of walking to school seems too great to many people, who forget there’s a risk in being driven. There’s a risk in doing cartwheels that is offset by the risk of not doing cartwheels. Kids playing, loving the outside, running around, being active, learning balance—all aspects of cartwheeling—may heighten their risk of wrist injuries while lowering their risk of obesity, heart disease, and school-hating-syndrome. The risk of learning to take a risk decreases the crippling fear of risks. The crippling fear of risks (also known as “insurance brain”) leads to faulty risk assessments.

Which leads to no cartwheels.

In “Time to remove the bubble wrap” by Brynna Leslie of Ottawa West News:

“The activity can cause concussions, and neck and wrist injuries,” principal Todd Gibbon told media outlets. He confirmed, however, the rules were not being implemented in response to an actual event. In other words, no one had ever been harmed during a cartwheel on the schoolyard.

It’s the latest in a slew of ridiculous rules imposed by organizations to prevent kids from taking risks of any kind.

Dr. Mark Tremblay, director of healthy active living and obesity research at CHEO, says he was disappointed but not surprised when he read the news about the cartwheel ban.

“This fear of litigation and the sterilization of play that has permeated our society, I’m not sure anything would surprise me anymore,” says Tremblay.

He notes, however, that despite best intentions from school authorities, community organizations and parents around “keeping kids safe,” we are doing more harm than good by restricting children’s access to free, outdoor play.

“In any other aspect of our lives — take finances for example — we would do a cost-benefit analysis before making any decisions,” says Tremblay. “But when it comes to something like banning cartwheels, we only look at one side of the equation, which is the potential risk, without balancing the positive.

“What good might come out of kids doing cartwheels?  Maybe they’ll have fun, maybe they’ll have an opportunity to develop better motor skills, maybe they’ll get stronger.”

Tremblay notes that in our efforts to keep kids safe by keeping them indoors, we are inadvertently having a negative impact on their physical, social and emotional health.

“The physical health impact is extraordinary,” he says. “First, and intuitive to most people, if kids aren’t moving as much, their hearts, muscles and bones aren’t as strong.”

Tremblay notes that while organized sport has emerged to take the place of free play, far more injuries occur within structured activities, yet without the holistic health benefits of free outdoor play.

By keeping kids indoors, always structured, often on screens, we are conditioning them to be risk-averse or paranoid of the basic things in life, he notes. As screen time displaces social time, we’re also severely limiting interactions with other humans. By restricting kids’ opportunities to find and solve challenges, we are raising generations of adults who have difficulty managing emotions, are prone to anxiety and other mental disorders and are often incapable of problem-solving.

“The more we restrict and confine what people can do in the outdoors, the more we restrict the possible learning that can be done, the experiences children can have, the tools they can add to the tool box to be creative, problem-solving adults,” says Tremblay.

 

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An old-fashioned merry-go-round.

The question I need to ask is have we gone too far with this cartwheel ban? I think so! I remember when my kids were really little and we had all this fun, but “dangerous” equipment at the park. There was a stagecoach that I climbed in with my kids to pretend we were getting away from the bad guys. There was an old-fashioned merry-go-round made out of metal and a tall scary slide, that made me more than nervous when my three-year-old son climbed to the top–out of my reach. The city replaced all the equipment with the new modern plastic stuff on a spongy surface–and my kids lost interest in the playground once and for all.

As for cartwheels, my girlfriends and I practiced them for hours–along with the impossible flip. I never could master that one. And you know what? None of us got hurt one tiny bit.

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My daughter at age two with her first swim instructor jumping off the diving board.

What do you think about banning cartwheels and what does it have to say about our society today?

 

 

How much is too much for young kids?

 

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Ballet recital for my daughter in royal blue before swimming took over their lives.

I read a question from a mom wondering what to do because her eight-year-old doesn’t love swim practice as much as the other activities she’s doing. She wondered if anyone else had experienced this and what she should do. She also mentioned that her daughter is really good at swimming, wins ribbons, and also has tons of other activities.

 

How many activities are too much for a child? From CNN several years ago I read “Overscheduled kids, anxious parents” by Josh Levs:

“Parents need to teach their kids to balance human doing with human being,” said clinical psychologist Paula Bloom.
Kids need to know they’re not defined by what they do, she said. They need time to play, experiment, rest and figure out who they are.
“As parents, we’ve got to get over our anxiety that we’re not doing enough. Creating a sense of safety, helping kids have confidence to try certain things, those are the things that matter.”
As kids get older, they’ll show you more and more what they’re interested in, Bloom notes.
And, yes, we all make mistakes.
“As adults, your kids are going to tell their therapists, ‘Oh my parents never let me play piano,’ or some other activity. It’s going to happen. Being able to tolerate that is really important.”

When my kids were little, I kept them really busy. We didn’t have a neighborhood where they could go out the door and play. We had to schedule playdates. Then we got into signing them up with their friends for countless activities like tennis, golf, ballet and swimming lessons. One mom would say she heard about an activity and wanted to sign her child up if mine did, too. Pretty soon, my kids didn’t have a night after school without a scheduled activity.

When I was a kid, I’d go home after school and after 30 minutes to an hour of homework, I didn’t have too much to do. I think a lot of downtime allowed me to be creative, reflective and of course, hit that list of chores that Mom always left us to do.

What did we do without structured activities? Sometimes, my brother and I would fight. But mostly we made forts in the woods, whacked out trails with machetes through blackberry brambles, and rode bikes around a three-mile loop. We were pretty active and unsupervised with our imaginations running wild.

Advice for the mom of the eight-year-old? I think eight years old is pretty young to be committed to one sport—especially if she’s not wildly passionate about it and wants to do something else. Let her experience a variety of activities. Maybe swim seasonally or take a break and go back to it. We can’t want it more than our kids.

There’s plenty of time at eight-years-old for a child to be a child. There’s plenty of time for a year-round commitment in the years ahead. And maybe it won’t be in swimming.

Here’s a list from Kidspot from Bron Maxabella from an article called “How many extra-curricular activities should kids do?”

Signs the kids have too much on:

However, there are signs that are madly flashing to say we’ve overstretched ourselves. They may even be saying that we’re heading for a giant crash. Here are some of them:

  • The kids have started digging in about not going to the classes I want them to go to (still happy to go to their choices though!).
  • Each week feels like I’m on the rat wheel, driving from one place to another and arranging one child to go in that direction and another to go over there. The logistics are making my head spin.
  • The kids are doing a lot of things, but not many of them at their full potential.
  • There is only one school night a week (Friday) when no one has anything on.
  • There is hardly any time to just hang out together or have a mate over after school – this is probably the worst thing of all.
  • We don’t have enough time in the week to get homework done satisfactorily.
  • The kids are getting emotional and naughty because they’re tired, so everyone is crying and yelling far more than they should be.
  • It is getting harder and harder for the kids to unwind at night and even harder for them to get up in the morning.

Basically, by mid-term everyone is exhausted and by end-of-term we’re in a bit of a mess! The kids are tired, I’m tired, the whole routine is tired. We need a proper time out!

 

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My kids did have time to play super heroes.

How many days a week should kids have activities and how do you determine what is too much?