How to sift through parenting advice

kiddos

Superpowers!

With all the parenting advice out there, what’s the best way to approach it? According to one dad, Neil MacFarlane, whose article appeared in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, he says: “Advice on parenting advice — don’t listen to any of it!”

I’m one to talk, right? I write weekly advice articles for SwimSwam.com and I love to tell parents how to do a better job. My thoughts come mostly from my own mistakes–or my husband’s. Once in awhile, I see parents making the same mistakes and I think if only they knew what I know. So I share it.

However, in public, I wouldn’t think of walking up to someone and tell them what they should do with their kids. It has happened to me a few times. A relative or a complete stranger would tell me to my face what I was doing wrong or what was wrong with my children. You have to love these folks, right? They may have no idea what is going on in your life, if your child missed their nap, is sick, or that sometimes it’s wise to pick your battles.

I did find the “don’t follow the advice” pretty funny and well written. Here’s an excerpt:

When people heard I traded in my joysticks and pen a parenting column these days, the first thing a lot of them asked was, “So, do you have any advice for me as a parent?”

As it happens, I do: don’t listen to anyone’s advice about parenting.

I know there are people who fancy themselves as parenting experts, many of whom are respected and have forged entire careers on the subject.

I’m sure there are wonderful articles adjacent to this very column that fit this profile; I wish their authors nothing but success and happiness.

But the fact is, any parent who thinks they are an expert on any child that is not their own is delirious.

Sure, we can all agree on some broad stroke parenting tips: Feed your kids. Occasionally bathe them. Make them brush their teeth. Send them to school. Don’t let them play with kerosene. And so on.

But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty stuff like lifestyle choices, discipline methods and ways to engage and encourage your kids, it baffles me that some stranger thinks they’ve got my kids all figured out. Hell, I barely have my own kids figured out and I live with these maniacs.

For example, I know some parents who’ve adopted a strict “no screen time” policy with their young children. No iPads, no video games, no TV. Nada.

Like communism, this sounds good on paper, but I think this is madness, personally.

You’re basically setting your kids up to be like Brendan Fraser when he emerges from that fallout shelter in Blast From the Past the moment they have to go to school and realize they’ve been living in the dark ages their whole life. They’ll basically want to spend all their free time at their friends’ places and you’ll wonder where you went wrong.

But that’s just me and how I feel. I’d never chew out a parent who thought that was the best course of action for their kids. Maybe their kids have attention issues I don’t know about. Perhaps they have found ways outside of technology to stimulate and engage with their kids that work for them. It’s not my place to judge.

robkatrockWhat do you think about people who stop you in public to judge you or your kids?

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Should Your Kids Be Selfie Stars?

Last year, I spent this week with my daughter in Salt Lake City. What a wonderful time we had together shopping, hiking, and visiting Park City and Deer Valley–and just hanging out together. This is one of the stories I wrote while staying with her.

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Experiencing the beach.

My daughter and I walked into an elevator yesterday at Nordstrom’s with a mom pushing a Thule baby stroller, snapping pics of her infant and tapping away on her phone to post the pics. My daughter whispered to me, “Thank God they didn’t have iPhones when I was a kid!”

I told her I was thankful that their early childhood was before the era of smartphones, too.

Later, I asked her why she was glad we didn’t have iPhones. Her answer surprised me. “Because you would have been taking photos constantly and posting every moment of my life on FaceBook,” she said.

Psychologists warn about kids spending too much time in front of screens and not enough of their time outdoors in an article in the DailyMail.com called “Why children should not be selfie stars:”

In advice to parents, Dr. Godsi said: ‘Leave technology at home. When you go out as a family leave mobile devices switched off and have a rule that says no mobile phones during family meal times.’

The author added: ‘In my opinion selfies should not be encouraged.

‘I think there is a place for taking a few photos, as a way to help families remember or look back and to share memories but the constant pressure to post on social media means there’s a risk that they (children) don’t experience anything except through a lens.’

My daughter said that once I got my first iPhone and was learning how to use it, “You relentlessly posted ugly, fat pictures of me on FaceBook.”

I view those photos not as ugly, but on a scale of cute to adorable to gorgeous.

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Learning about the ocean in Junior Lifeguards.

I explained that I was so glad she and her brother weren’t posing for pictures constantly, weren’t worried about what other kids were doing at the moment, but went outside to play. That’s why I’m glad the iPhone wasn’t a thing in their early years.

When we had kids over, they weren’t sitting side by side texting each other. No, they were running around the backyard and house playing a reverse hide-and-seek game called sardines—for hours on end.

When we were at the beach, they were jumping in the waves, body surfing, building drip castles, digging holes and yes—occasionally fighting and throwing sand. As annoying and painful as throwing sand was–especially dealing with sand in the eyes–it sure beats constantly posing for pictures.

My daughter says there is room for both. When she goes to the beach with friends, they now get a few pics, then toss the phones in a beach bag and dive under the waves.

Here are a few frightening stats from the article in the UK Mail:

Dr. Godsi spoke out after a survey of 2,000 parents by outdoor education provider, Kingswood, found that the biggest source of quality time among families is spent watching TV together. Sixty-eight percent cited this as their main activity shared with children, followed by going to the cinema (35 per cent) and playing computer games (24 per cent).

The average age of the parents’ children was ten, while 445 were seven.

Asked to look back to when all their youngsters were seven, 85 percent of families said their sons or daughters had never gone camping.

Sixty-five percent said they had never played pooh sticks or climbed a tree (51 percent).

Forty-one per cent admitted their children had never been on a bike ride, paddled in the sea (43 percent) or played in a park (31 percent).

It’s very easy to get sedentary. It’s also easy not to talk to each other when we’re buried and focused on our screens. I’m lucky to spend this week with my daughter just hanging out and being with each other.

What are your thoughts about selfies, kids and family time? Do your kids spend enough time without their phones experiencing outdoors?

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On the lookout for dolphins and whales.

 

One Tip to Raise Your Kids to Become Independent Adults

 

18 years ago.

My daughter at a few months old.

I dream that my kids grow up to be successful in their chosen careers. I want them to have long-lasting relationships with the special person they love. I want them to have families and homes and lives they enjoy and are proud to lead. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

It’s up to us to teach our kids the skills they need to take on this enormous task called life. We want our kids to grow up ready to take on life’s challenges. I read an article today with a great tip—teach your kids to problem solve.

In “Here Are The Keys To Raising Problem-Solving Children” Michelle Kinder wrote:

“It’s hard being a kid. It’s harder still being a parent and watching your kids navigate waters that seem a thousand times more complex than when we were growing up. Most of us spend a fair amount of time thinking about how to inoculate our children from some of the shocking difficulties that so many kids seem to face before their 18th birthday.

“Our daughters are 15 and 10 and we have one strategy that continues to go the distance. It’s a Jedi mind trick that requires consistency but no herculean effort. It all hinges on a simple sentence: We are problem solvers.

“We started saying it when my daughters were pre-verbal and they have heard it so many times that it cues the requisite eye-roll a fair amount of the time. We are problem solvers.

“That’s it. Anytime we have any sort of challenge, we say, ‘We are problem solvers.’

“My daughter can’t find her shoes and we’re running late for her game ― ‘I don’t know where your shoes are. But I know we are problem solvers. And we’ve solved way bigger problems ― where should we start?’ “

How are you helping your kids become independent and resourceful?

 

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My daughter today.

 

What are 14 things helicopter parents do?

 

 

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My kids had long days of unstructured playtime at the beach.

 

I found three interesting articles about helicopter parents today. The first from the HuffPost is called “Do You Recognize the 3 Warning Signs of a Helicopter Parent?”
The author David Wygant goes into more detail that you can read here, but the bullet points are below:

#1: Their kids can’t really leave or go anywhere without them
#2: Vacations basically don’t exist without the kids
#3: No sleepovers allowed

I can add to this list, from my own mistakes and from watching other helicopter parents. I like to think of myself as a reformed helicopter parent—or at least one who’s been grounded. Here are my warning signs to add to the previous three points:

#4: You walk your kids into their classroom and “help” them put their things away.
#5: You chat with the teacher daily about your child’s progress and what they can work on to get ahead.
#6: You never turn down an opportunity to volunteer at your children’s school.
#7: You’ve been room mom every year.
#8: You arrange playdates with kids you would like your children to become friends with.
#9: After school, you empty your child’s backpack or book bag and go through all their graded work and homework assignments without them.
#10: You supervise homework sitting down at their side.
#11: You go to every swim practice and talk to the coach every day after practice to ask how your child is doing.
#12: You have nothing to talk about with your friends except how exceptional your children are.
#13: You have a tough time listening to anyone else and often interrupt or walk away while someone else is talking.
#14: Your children don’t have any downtime in their lives and you’re always involved in everything they do.

Like I said, I honestly did not do these things. Well, at least not all of them. Here is the second parenting article I read today called “Time To Ditch the Helicopter, Parents” written by Kevin Thomas:

During orientation programs, when students and parents split into separate groups, there are often talks to Mom and Dad about letting go and the dangers of the helicopter parent. These are nice ways of saying it’s not about you.

The helicopter parent, for those new to the term, is the one who can never stay out of the kid’s life, interfering, making the most the routine choices or performing the smallest chores for the child (who is no longer a child).

When my previous offspring prepared to attend a military academy, we read posts on a parents’ Facebook page, asking how to pack for their child. These young people were going off to college to learn how to become military leaders in battle, and they couldn’t pack their own duffle bag?

Love is not coddling. It about knowing when to let go.

The last parenting article is from 2015 and reposted recently. It includes an excerpt from Julie Lythcott-Haims in her book “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” You can read more here.

Former Stanford Dean Says Overparenting Leads To Kids Being Unprepared For College

Around the country, students are moving into college dorms for the first time. As former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, Julie Lythcott-Haims observed parents becoming increasingly involved in their children’s lives. Consequently, their kids arrived at college without some basic living skills. In response, Lythcott-Haims published the 2015 book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.”

Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti’s revisits a conversation from August 2015 with Lythcott-Haims (@DeanJulie) about the book.

3 Parenting Tips From Julie Lythcott-Haims

Stop staying “we.” In conversation about your children, don’t refer to their work or achievements by using “we.” “We” are not on the soccer team, “we’re” not doing the science project, and “we’re” not applying to college.
Stop arguing with the adults in your children’s lives. Kids need to learn to advocate for themselves with their teachers, coaches or other school staff. They should have these conversations themselves.
Stop doing your children’s homework. The only way kids will learn is by doing their work themselves.

Have you seen parents doing things on my list? Can you add to it?

 

Letting my kids play and be kids.

I supervised from a distance, of course.