Parents influence how kids perform in school–in a good way!

images-7There’s some bright news in the parenting world. Low-income kids are catching up to middle and higher economic level children at school. Is it because of greater access to preschool? According to the article, “Parenting, not preschool, has the greatest effect on school readiness” by Jane Waldfogel, you can probably guess the answer from the title.

“Here’s a trick question: what’s the biggest influence on a child’s readiness for school? Preschool education, replies a confident chorus of policy wonks. But maybe you got the answer right: it’s parenting. Research evidence has long established that reading with young children, taking them to the library and having books at home are more important predictors of school readiness than preschool education.

Policy makers and practitioners sometimes forget this. Perhaps they despair of changing parenting in a fundamental way. Some imagine that stressed, often poorly educated parents are stuck in a rut, making the same old mistakes as their own mom and dad.

Well, the evidence suggests that these parents have been underestimated. While child development policy in the United States has largely focused on extending access to preschool, low-income parents have been busy transforming their practice. That’s making a real difference to their children’s learning skills and prospects. Intriguingly, they’ve made these strides at a time when income inequality has grown worse.”

It appears that parents from all economic levels value education. Lower income parents are reading to their kids more, taking them to the library, and have more access to books. According to research, low-income parents are acting more like those in higher economic levels. They’ve been told by educators that reading to kids is important for them to be ready for school. Guess what? They are taking that parenting advice to heart. I also wonder how much has changed with the whole world available on the internet and smartphones?

“Children are getting more of what the political scientist Robert Putnam calls “‘Goodnight Moon’ time”. Interestingly, this change has occurred during a period of rising economic inequality: among families with school-age children, income inequality between the rich and poor grew by roughly 10 percent from 1998 to 2010. Segregation based on income also grew by 20 percent among households with children.”

In the news, we hear about overbearing, helicopter parents who follow their children’s every step through preschool to college and into the workplace. This story gave a bit of positive news in the parenting world that sometimes it’s good to be involved. I read to my kids all the time and kept my favorite childhood books for them to read. My kids read many classics that unfortunately their schools no longer require. I’m thrilled to say my kids love to read today as young adults.

Isn’t it nice for a change to hear that parents are doing something right? Here are a few of my favorite books I read when I was young. I don’t think many kids read these today. What were your favorite books? Can you list your top books for middle grade and young adults? What books do your kids like?

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How parenting is like being an athlete

Letting my kids play and be kids.

I read a post on Facebook on our swim team’s site that had some great advice for swimmers but I believe it extends to success in other aspects of our lives as well, including parenting.

Here’s what I read on the Piranha Swim Team’s FB page:
“The path you take to get to the next level is a unique experience and may be longer or bumpier a ride at times than others. Common denominators of athletes with long term success: aiming high but with realistic steps, not reaching a goal results in more determination, focusing on your own progress compared to you and not others, and believing in your support system, training and team. Patience and perseverance will be rewarded at sometime when you do these things.”

How do those points apply to parenting? Substitute being a parent for the athlete.

We can aim high but with realistic steps. As a parent, my objective is to raise kids who become independent, successful, happy and kind adults. For example, to raise a person who is independent doesn’t mean throwing a 10-year-old out into the world to fend for themselves, but to allow them room to fail and learn from their mistakes. It means teaching them the skills they need to function on their own, like cooking, cleaning, living within a budget, etc.

Yes, we want to aim high and we have great expectations for our kids. But we need to keep in mind that any goal is the result of small steps along the way. My husband once told me, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

IMG_7214Not reaching a goal results in more determination. That was true for both my kids. I think swimming helped them develop this trait which can be called “grit.” My daughter would get frustrated when she missed a cut for the next level, like junior nationals, and somehow she’d turn that into motivation to try harder the next time. In parenting, we can have days where nothing seems to go right. It’s knowing that the next day will be full of promise and new opportunities that keep us slugging along.

Focusing on your own progress and not others. When my kids were young they were in a small private school and the parents were competitive, as were the kids. It’s natural to compare how your child is doing grade-wise or in sports to other kids—even how well liked they are. I remember Valentine’s Day in my son’s fourth-grade class when boys and girls came in with elaborate gifts. It was painful for me to see presents stack up on a couple kids’ desks, while several kids had nothing, including my son. Finally, a present or two arrived from his friends.

Believe me, nothing good comes from a parent comparing their kids with others whether it’s their grades, test scores or athletic ability. It puts pressure on your own child and can encourage feelings of jealousy or disappointment in themselves.

Believing in the support system, training, and team. Our families and friends are our support system and my husband and me with our kids make up the team. I trust in our day-to-day “training” to reach our goal of parenting happy, successful and kind adults. Together we’ll get there. Mine are well on their way. Remember to have patience and persevere when things are less than perfect or downright difficult. Also, everyone’s path is different and some people’s journey to the next level may be bumpy while others are smooth.

How do you view the journey of parenting?

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Do Latch-Key Kids Become Helicopter Parents—and What About the Lawnmowers?

 

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The park where my kids grew up playing outdoors.

 

I find the headlines of parenting articles to be pretty funny these days. I’ve heard about helicopter parents who hover endlessly over their kids and interfere at the workplace and summer camp. But, I’ve never heard about lawnmower parents before. Have you?

When I was growing up, a lot of kids went home after school to empty houses. More women were working, plus there were a lot more single-parent homes than in previous decades. There was a popular phrase back then called “latch-key kids.”

In “Finding a balance between latch-key and helicopter parenting,” I found some interesting ideas:

“Latch-key kids surged from the 1970s to the early 1990s due to economic changes requiring two incomes to get by, and societal changes where an increased divorce rate created single-parent homes.

‘Now the generation of latch-key kids are parents themselves. Many generation X’ers over-compensate for their latch-key upbringing by being a helicopter parent,’ Janice Emery, 4-H youth development specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, said.

A helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to their child’s experiences and problems. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead.

As parents, it is important to find the middle ground between these parenting styles and balance protecting children, and making sure they grow into responsible adults,” Emery said. “Parents have to keep in mind parenting success is not measured by how much a parent does for their child, but rather how much they teach them to do on their own.”

The second article I read today explains the difference between helicopter and lawnmower parents. In my humble opinion, I don’t see that much difference between the two of them. Both won’t allow their kids to fail and learn from their mistakes. I do agree we need to do less for our kids so they can grow up to be competent, well-balanced adults.

Helicopter of Lawnmower? Modern Parenting Styles Can Get in the Way of Raising Well-Balanced Children

“Helicopter parents, as the name suggests, spend a lot of time hovering. They always stay close to their children, ready to swoop in and direct, help or protect (usually before it is needed). Lawnmower parents are one step ahead of their children, smoothing their path and making sure nothing gets in their way. Common tactics of both include interfering significantly with their grown-up children’s lives, such as complaining to employers when their children don’t get a job.

As with anything, there is a middle ground. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that providing children with opportunities and support helps them to gain experiences, confidence and networks that they wouldn’t be offered in more adverse settings. But there is an important line between supporting children and wrapping them in gold-plated cotton wool.

Allowing children freedom to take appropriate risks through outdoor play is essential for their development. Risky play does not mean placing children in grave danger, but instead allowing them to be children – climbing, jumping from heights and hanging upside down are good examples. Risky play allows children to test limits and solve problems. And, yes, this includes learning what happens when they overstretch themselves and fall.”

 

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A view from my home town where I was a latch-key kid.

When I was growing up, we could ride bikes throughout the countryside. We told our parents where we were going—it could be to a friend’s house who lived five miles away—and our parents never worried. Even our golden retriever Pepi lived a free-range life.

For some of my childhood, I was a latch-key kid and the scary thing about it was going home to an empty house. If my brother, who was two years older, had golf or tennis practice, then I was riding the school bus alone and being dropped off at a bus stop, a quarter mile from my house. It was lonely and quiet, but I survived. The bad days were when Thelma, our bus driver, dropped me off at my doorstep and announced that a prisoner had escaped from the Monroe Penitentiary, which was a couple miles away. She’d wait until I was safely inside my empty house. Those were worst days as a latch-key kid.

 

I wonder if spending some years as a latch-key kid influenced my involvement with my children every step of their way to becoming adults?

Did you grow up as a latch-key kid and do you think it affects how you parent? Or do you think we’re living in different times and we cannot allow our kids the same amount of freedom we had?

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The pool and swim team that allowed my kids space in a safe environment without me helicoptering–too much.

 

Mom Regrets: When Women Want Their Old Life Back

 

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No regrets.

 

Mom regrets. That’s a term I’ve never heard before. Apparently, some women who have children miss their “before kids life” so much that they regret having them. That’s probably one of the most taboo things a mom could admit to, but they must feel it deeply or they’d stay quiet. I hope for their kids’ sake that their kids won’t read their posts about mommy regrets ten years from now.

The moms expressing regret find parenting less stimulating than working. They say it’s tiring, there’s too much housework and playing with kids can be downright boring. Who can argue with that? I’ll admit there are some tough days when you’ve got little kids who are dependent on you for their very survival. The first couple of months are beyond exhausting and although you may sleep through the night again, it doesn’t lighten up for several years.

I found an interesting article called “Parenting: it’s all about attitude,” by Narelle Henson in STUFF from the Waikato Times. (I had to look that one up! I had no clue where or what a Waikato is! It’s in New Zealand by the way.)

Here’s a quote from the story:

“OPINION: I’m not made to be a mum. I know it is a little late to come to this conclusion, but just hear me out.

Over the past few months, a vast number of “mum regret” articles seem to have swept beneath my (tired mum) eyes. There was the woman just this week with a child the same age as mine who wrote that childcare is mind-numbingly boring.

Last month, there was an article on three women who “just want to go back to being me”.

Before that, there was an article on “parent regret” and in between there were plenty of articles about how non-parent couples are happier. Underlying them all was the basic idea that having kids is hard; so hard, that it might not be worth it. These articles weren’t talking about post-natal depression or psychosis. They were talking about pure simple regret.

The symptoms, by the way, of parenting regret seemed to boil down to endless fantasies about your pre-child life, extreme irritation at childish games and conversation, revulsion at your restricted social life or resentment at the unrestricted amounts of housework. “

Here’s another article with several links to other mom regret articles called “Love and regret: mothers who wish they’d never had children,” from The Guardian There are several contrasting points of view in this article but I found Toni Morrison’s viewpoint ring a bit of truth with me:

“Motherhood is no longer an all-encompassing role for women now, it can be a secondary role, or you don’t have to choose it,” says Toni Morrison in Andrea O’Reilly’s “Motherhood: A Politics of the Heart.”

But, she adds, “It was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me.” For Morrison and countless others, “the children’s demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do. To be a good manager. To have a sense of humour. To deliver something that somebody could use. And they were not interested in all the things that other people were interested in, like what I was wearing or if I were sensual. If you listen to [your children], somehow you are able to free yourself from baggage and vanity and all sorts of things, and deliver a better self, one that you like.”

I believe that having kids does make you become a better person. At least, it makes you try to be better, more patient, less self-centered, and better tempered. You’re the role model of new human beings. You’re not going to display all your worst parts of your personality—hopefully—for them to copy.

I have no regrets about being a mom. Because my husband and I were married for eight years before we had our first child, I think I was so thrilled to finally have kids that there’s no way I’d have felt regret. Yes, some days were hard when the kids were little. When the kids get older, it doesn’t get necessarily get better, it just gets different. The problems come in bigger sizes. Like a smashed up car rather than a broken doll. Or, a letter that you child has been expelled college rather than a trip to the principal’s office.

But like the author Narelle Henson said in her article, life is about attitude:

“The only difference that I can see is in attitude.

I know that is almost blasphemy in this day and age. After all, my generation was forged from the heady idea that a human’s highest end is happiness. Anything that gets in our way is not worth the trouble.

Unfortunately, we missed the memo about happiness sometimes being hard work. It can sometimes involve discipline, repetition and playing the long game. It can sometimes involve grim determination.

When hard happiness is unavoidable, the only thing for it is to change our attitude. We can sit brooding over an old life like an out-of-date athlete, or we can count the very real blessings in front of us and find new delights.

Nowhere is that more obvious than when it comes to parenting regret. Once we have had a child, there is no going back – it doesn’t matter how much we regret it.

That means the only option available to us is which attitude we will choose. Will we choose to fill our minds with endless lists of reasons why life is less pleasant now? Or will we choose to fill our minds with the moments of delight, of laughter, and of happiness sprinkled however sporadically across the day?”

I agree. In all aspects of our lives, our work, relationships, family, hobbies, sports—the only thing in our control is our attitude.

Have you ever had regrets as a parent? Is there anything you wish you could do differently?

 

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I regret I didn’t listen to my kids and allow them to more freedom. My daughter regrets that I made her take piano lessons, while my son wishes he could have spent more time with his music.

 

When Helicopter Parents Hover Over Their Children’s Careers

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When it’s the appropriate time and place to hover and helicopter.

My son is now in the workplace and although I encouraged him to apply to certain companies, and yes, I scoured indeed.com, looking for jobs for him, I didn’t show up at his interviews, nor did I call the HR Department!

Of course not, right? Well, wrong. According to “Over-Parenting Reported By One Out Of Four Companies” by Steve Milne, human resource managers say they’re hearing more and more of this.

“The trend is known as “helicopter parenting.” Human Resource managers say they’re hearing more and more from the parents of employees or prospective employees. Rick Reed conducted the survey for Pacific Staffing. He says 25 percent of all companies reported having this experience recently.

“It was looked at as an intrusion in the workplace,” says Reed. “So it’s not a phenomenon that’s welcome among HR people. But it may be a result many people living with their parents these days, and the parents are just trying to help.

Some of the comments were very positive: “Thank you for hiring my child.”

Others sounded like this: “Well, why did you fire my child? You just don’t understand them.”

The New York Times has published several articles about this phenomenon lately including “When Helicopter Parents Hover Even at Work” by Noam Scheiber.

“As millennials grow into their working years, with many of them coming of age in the daunting job market that followed the Great Recession, parents are more likely to feel a proprietary stake in their children’s careers, said Ryan Webb, a recruiter and former human resources director at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. The hovering is abetted by a full complement of real-time communications options — from texting to Skype and social media — and fueled by the desire to see a return on investment for sending children to college in an age of escalating tuition.

“Mom and Dad footed the college bill, made sacrifices to get that extra thing on their résumé, so they felt part of the process,” said Mr. Webb, who said that texting one’s parents was frequently the first reflex for the millennials in his charge after a run-in with a manager.

Brandi Britton, a recruiter with OfficeTeam, a division of the firm Robert Half, said she never saw or heard from parents when she entered the business nearly two decades ago but has increasingly felt their influence. She recalled a father calling her in the past two years in an attempt to get his son an accounting job. The father sent in his son’s résumé, scheduled the interview and, to her surprise, turned up with him in person. ‘He was shepherding that thing,’ she said.”

This sounds like nuts to me. I’ve heard of parents who call the University President when their child fails a class. I know parents who write emails to coaches and teachers when they don’t agree with something that was said, done, a grade, etc. But, to follow your kids into the workplace?

I read somewhere that one way companies are dealing with this generation of millennials, who received participation trophies and ribbons for showing up, is to hold more frequent reviews. When I was a young 20-something, joining the workforce, I was lucky to receive an annual review. Now they are being held weekly! I’m sure there’s a lot of positive feedback going on, too.

But, what does the Human Resources department or manager do with parents who show up for job interviews? Or, call or text after a promotion or raise doesn’t materialize? What the heck do these parents think they are doing? Aren’t they slightly embarrassed? When are they going to allow their kids to take over their own lives?

I can understand making a call to a friend or acquaintance to help open a door for your child. But, when do you think parents cross the line? Have you heard of any parents interfering in the workplace?

 

 

 

 

 

Did Your Parents Have a Favorite Child?

 

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Me and my big brother.

 

Last week in the Wall Street Journal, an article written by Jennifer Breheny Wallace stated that parents do have a favorite child and offered some suggestions to keep a healthy balance in the family. Her article was called, “That childhood hunch that your parents had a favorite was probably right.”

Here are the first few paragraphs. To read the rest click here.

“In a study published last year in the Journal of Marriage and Family, 75% of mothers admitted to being closer to one adult child. Researchers of a 2005 study observed that 70% of fathers and 74% of mothers demonstrated preferential treatment to one of their children.

Favoritism is as widespread as it is taboo, says Washington, D.C., psychologist Ellen Weber Libby, author of “The Favorite Child.” “Parents need to know that favoritism is normal,” she says, and it exists to some degree in every family. Some parents may prefer a child who is more like them. The favorite can also change over time; a parent may prefer a child in a particular stage, such as an infant or a teenager.”

Parents always deny having a favorite because, in our society, it’s taboo. No one admits to having a favorite child, even if they do.

Growing up, I felt like my mom’s favorite was her son. I don’t know if it was true or not, but he seemed to be the “golden child.” He could do no wrong. Except, I was a better speller. When he was in first grade he missed one spelling word the entire year, “pencil.” My grandma taught me—at age four—to spell P E N C I L out loud and often. Nothing like sibling rivalry egged on by the grown-ups, right?

Now on to my kids. I don’t believe I have a favorite child, but at times in their lives, I was closer to one over the other. The article states that is common and that favoritism is natural. Not good. But it does happen.

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My kids with Angus.

 

I know when my daughter was an infant and had colic—she was not my favorite. As soon as my husband came home from work, I passed her off to him, desperately needing a moment of quiet from the constant cries. He lasted about 20 minutes and passed her back to me and would say, “I can’t take this! I need to get out of here!” Fortunately, the colic ended the day of her baptism and she was easy and fun to be with from that time on. I look back on that day as nothing short of a miracle.

My kids have very different personalities and talents. Like the article said, when my daughter was the swimming star over the weekend, it was then my son’s turn to shine during the week in the classroom. They both got plenty of attention and honors for their accomplishments, although they were unnecessarily jealous and competitive over each other’s strengths. I believe that’s been put aside as they’ve gotten older.

I love both my kids equally. That’s what my mom always told me when I’d ask her who her favorite was. My daughter always says she’s the favorite child.

Do you have a closer relationship with one child over another? Do you believe that your parents had a favorite child?

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How could anyone have a favorite child?

 

Did a Helicopter Parent Really Do This?

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I think my daughter was telling me to chill.

 

I was reading an article from the New York Times where they asked readers to send in their crazy helicopter parenting experiences. The title of the article was ‘Bizarre and Unusual’: Readers Respond to Helicopter Parenting.

They listed a few letters that I found unbelievable. In one, a young physician was on an all-day interview at a hospital and his dad spent the day with him!  In another, a mom called a hospital to find out and clarify the benefits her young doctor son was getting.  I wonder if there’s any coincidence that a few of them were stories about doctors? It’s very competitive and grueling to get into and through med school and I wonder if mommy supervised the entire way?

Here’s one of the stories from the article:

“My boyfriend’s mom definitely has helicopter tendencies. It is very bizarre to me — we are both 29 but I was raised to be very independent. We both went to medical school and are now in residency. My favorite story is that she apparently somehow got ahold of the information about the benefits offered by his hospital and was concerned about them or had questions about them. So without asking him about it decided to call the hospital herself and ask. The staff found this to be pretty amusing and apparently made an announcement over the intercom in the operating room saying something to the effect of “Dr. X — your mommy just called.”

The article was based on LaVar Ball, the father of the U.C.L.A. basketball star Lonzo Ball who was the second draft pick this week and will play for the Lakers. I will admit I was out of the loop on this story, but after hearing discussions about him and being clueless—I’ve learned that he is the big daddy of all helicopter parents. He’s the dad of three promising basketball players who has interfered with their coaches, programs and careers their entire lives. Here’s a list from USA Today of the 10 most outrageous things he’s said.

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Back when it was okay to hover and over-parent.

The helicopter parenting stories I’ve witnessed pale in comparison. I remember parents insisting that their kids be moved up in swimming or arguing with teachers about grades. One story involves me. I took my son for swim lessons when he was four years old and insisted that he be moved up a few levels. A few summers later, a swim instructor told me about the crazy parents she encountered and said, “One year we had this mom insist her four-year-old be moved up two groups, and he physically wasn’t able at that age to be in that group!” I smiled to myself. Wow, I made it to someone’s most crazy helicopter mom list! I don’t think that’s a great honor, do you?

 

What are some of the crazy stories you’ve heard about helicopter parents?