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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We can teach our kids to be good sports

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cheering on a teammate.

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

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

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

How do you teach your children good sportsmanship?

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My daughter showing good sportsmanship.

 

Are you a “wimpy” parent?

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I was fascinated with the sound of “wimpy parenting.” I wondered, did I fit the bill? I looked through the list of bullet points and no, for once I didn’t do all of these things. Therefore I’m not a wimp! That’s the good news.

The bad news is I did plenty of them. I had no issue with saying “No!” and set plenty of limits for my kids, but I never liked to see them fail. I often protected them from their choices and tried to fix their problems.

In the article “Dr. Randy Cale’s Terrific Parenting: Wimpy parenting makes for wimpy kids” from The Saratogian Lifestyle, here are his traits that make a parent a wimp:

Many parents today seem to have graduate degrees in wimpy parenting. What are the characteristics of the wimpy parent?

• Can’t seem to set limits for children

• Protect them from the consequences of poor choices

• Respond to almost every request or demand from child

• Try to fix every problem their child encounters

• Constant work harder at their child’s life…than the child does

• Cringe at the thought of their son or daughter being upset at them

• Incessantly negotiate to keep child happy

• Becomes personal chauffeur on demand

• Let’s child decide what good for them (i.e., food, video games, phone time, apps, etc.)

• Changes plans in an instant when child requests something

•  Can hardly stand the thought of just saying ‘no’ to their child

How many on the list have you done? I did four of them a lot, so a little less than half. I was so good at saying no to my kids that when we’d go to Disneyland and we were corraled into a gift shop after “It’s a Small World,” my kids wouldn’t ask for a toy! I had them trained to not ask by saying “no” so often. What dreary little lives they led, right? Hardly, but I didn’t want to be the dad who bought his daughter an ice cream cone while we were waiting for our table at a restaurant with friends. I also didn’t want to be the mom who caves and buys their kids something to make them stop a temper tantrum in a store. No, I was the one who let them have a hissy fit and tried to ignore it.

Here’s what the consequences are to being a wimpy parent according to Cale:

SO, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? I GO EASY ON MY KIDS

It’s not a big deal. If you have space for your children in your home when they are 35, and have a trust fund set up for them to live on. In other words, they should be just fine, if you are prepared to care for them forever. They will not be happy or satisfied, but they should be okay.

WHY SO BLEAK A FUTURE FOR THESE CHILDREN OF WIMPY PARENTS?

Everything about wimpy parentings puts children on the wrong path to excel or find happiness in life. It creates a set of expectations that is not in line with reality. The wimpy parent is teaching their child that they can get everything that they want, with virtually no effort. In what world is this true?

These children grow up expecting everything while giving very little. This ‘entitled’ attitude not only fails in relationships, it fails in the work place. What happens is that these young adults end up ‘entitled’ to a room in the basement, and ‘entitled’ to dad’s paycheck.

They also grow up expecting few limits on their behaviors or actions. Having felt few consequences for their choices, they believe they can get by with just about anything. In fact, often they do not believe that consequences apply to them!

Who is Cale? According to The Saratogian Lifestyle: Dr. Randy Cale, a Clifton Park-based parenting expert, author, speaker and licensed psychologist, offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. His website, http://www.TerrificParenting.com, offers free parenting guidance and an email newsletter. Readers can learn more by reviewing past articles found on the websites of The Saratogian, The Record and The Community News. Submit questions to DrRandyCale@gmail.com.

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One of my favorite pics taken in Laguna. Look at the love–pinches and squeezes, too.

What are your thoughts about wimpy parents? Are you one and how have you changed?

Stirring the pot without trying

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An article I wrote yesterday, which I viewed as non-controversial, got some people stirred up. I wonder if people actually read my words, or if my writing was so far off that I failed to get my intended message to readers.

In any case, I guess it’s good to get comments, although several took me by surprise. I tried to express that we as parents are all different. In my early years as a swim parent and board member, I had expected everyone to be as enthusiastic as I was about being a swim parent and our team. Obviously, there are all sorts of parents and flavors and degrees of interest kids and families have. A few comments I heard from other swim parents years ago took me by surprise. I hadn’t realized how these friends viewed swimming much differently than me.

Throughout the years, we’ve had several head coaches. Some relied heavily on parents involvement and others liked to handle things without parents chipping in. Neither approach is right or wrong. And as parents, we had to figure out what level of our involvement was desired. As the kids got older, we helped out less and less. Yes, we fulfilled our obligations but being a board member or running swim meets no longer was required or desired. We weren’t on deck for every practice anymore but went for long walks during the kids’ practices. Talking to my son, he said he liked it when we were involved. That made me feel appreciated and good about the years we volunteered.

In any case, it was a pleasure and joy to be a swim parent, through the ups and downs. I don’t regret any days of it. I developed so many great friendships that will continue long after our swim parenting days are over.

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My daughter, best swim buddy and early coach.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to the article that stirred up so many comments: The Swim Parents I Couldn’t Understand. I’d like to get your feedback on it. too.

When Should Kids Specialize in Sports?

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Here’s an article I wrote several years ago about sports specialization. I still get asked at what age should kids do one sport exclusively. There’s no right or wrong answer, although research suggests that there’s no advantage to early sports specialization.

There’s been a few conversations on the pool deck about when and if kids should swim exclusively. It’s a fact that our country’s sports have changed dramatically since we were kids. Sports were mostly free and school-based. Plus, kids didn’t do just one sport, but many.

Today, there’s a trend around the world for kids to specialize at an early age in one sport. If you “google” sports specialization, you’ll find tons of articles with research telling you why this is such an awful thing.

The drawbacks, according to research, come down to several things:
social isolation, burn-out and repetitive use injuries. Also, the research cited states there’s no clear advantage to starting in a single sport, year-round at an early age.

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As the parent of two swimmers, I’ve sat on the pool deck for close to 15 years. My son started swimming at age 7, my daughter at 5. They began with a number of other activities, but loved swimming more. Their specialization was self-directed, not parent-coerced. They soon grew weary of rushing from practice to practice, or as I remember it, “If this is Tuesday it must be Karate.”
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I have an opinion on sports specialization that relies on mom-based research — observing, listening and talking to hundreds of kids, parents, and dozens of coaches for years — however, it’s limited to the sport of swimming.

First, I have to disagree with this statement: “Being on a select team often requires a year-round or near year-round commitment and extensive travel. If you allow your child to participate she can end up socially isolated from her family, peers, and the larger community.[3]” from momsteam.

Isolation? Not hardly.

The swim team for my kids was social. Friendships blossomed with kids they’d otherwise never meet. Vacations through the years meant jumping in as a visitor with local teams and meeting more kids. At first my children were wary and out of their comfort zone, but their self-confidence and world grew exponentially.

Swim meets meant playing cards, “Catchphrase” and charades for hours under the tent with teammates — and racing for a minute or two. My daughter didn’t have time to hang out at the mall, but she did travel to Puerto Vallarta with kids from throughout So Cal to meet up with kids from the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Mexico and Canada.

The coaches from the Puerto Vallarta trip witnessed an eye-opening swim meet for our swimmers. Our kids experienced another culture, interacted with local kids, and learned to appreciate small things they took for granted in Southern California.

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I’d love to hear what you have to say about this topic, too! When did your kids begin organized sports? Did they participate in more than one? At what age did they specialize?

 

About Those New Year’s Resolutions…

 

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How can I be a better parent to these two this year?

January is a great time to think about how we can be better—whether it’s nutrition, working out, cleaning closets, quitting bad habits, or getting more work done. It’s also an ideal time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not. I try to set realistic goals for the New Year and not something too huge or unrealistic. It amazes me how the time flies by and stuff I was sure to get done by summer managed to get by me—again!

I ran into a slew of parenting tips to start the New Year. If you browse through daily newspapers and blogs, all sorts of parents will tell you how to be a better parent in 2018. In The Herald-Tribune from Florida, two moms with nine kids between them, Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, wrote “PARENTING: The goal of the elementary years is independence.” Although their article focuses on the elementary years, it’s something I can still work on with my kids. They are in transition points in their life, becoming adults. Independence is something they crave, yet they still want to be pampered and taken care of by mom and dad. Here’s some of the advice from Jenni and Jody:

 

“Most people embrace the idea of goal setting just before the new year, especially when it comes to personal, professional and financial growth. But how about setting goals for our children’s growth?

If you have an elementary aged child, this is the perfect time to set some goals for your child’s independence.

For starters, the elementary years are the training ground for learning to take care of themselves and their things. It’s the season when they develop habits of brushing their teeth, washing their hands, making their beds and keeping their space clean and organized.

Life is busy and often it’s easier to pick up the toys or do the dishes ourselves. But if we start the new year with the goal of helping our kids become independent, it can prevent us from doing things for our children that they should be learning to do for themselves.

This means taking the time to carefully teach them these skills and then coach them along as they become more and more proficient. In the end, it will save time as we nurture and cultivate independent kids who can take care of themselves and contribute to the household.

The elementary years are also the time to begin teaching our kids to become academically independent, to take responsibility for their education. It starts by giving them systems and tools that will help them become more mature students.

For example, we can create a checklist for our kids and then help them end each day by cleaning out their backpacks, making sure they have everything they need for the next day and writing down questions to ask their teachers about things they didn’t understand in their homework.

We can also set goals during the elementary years to help our kids learn to advocate for themselves. Of course we always want our children to know they are supported and that, in their homes, they are part of a family (a community) that operates as a team, where everyone is loyal to one another and committed to each other’s success. But that doesn’t mean that we fight our kids’ battles for them. No, our job is to help our kids become independent and learn to effectively stand up for themselves.”

I read “8 resolutions for better parenting in the New Year” By David G. Allan on CNN’s website. He had some good practical advice that starts with being in the moment. I get admonished by my daughter for not paying attention. It’s usually because of my iPhone. I confess that I get busy looking at texts or emails. My son will text me while I’m with my daughter, and she’ll say “I’m here with you now!” A good goal for me in 2018 is to put my phone down! It reminds me of a video by “Smog and Fog” called “Put Your Phone Down.” 

Here are the first three tips out of eight from Allan:

“If you’re looking to improve your parenting, you’re not alone. In my opinion, it’s an essential area of course correction, up there with weight loss, better eating and better spending, arguably more essential.

What’s beautiful about parenting resolutions is that your kids benefit too, and likely your spouse and any potential future grandkids. You get a lot of bang for your resolution buck.
As with any resolution, honestly examine areas where you feel you could be doing better or want to improve. Below are eight parenting resolution thought-starters in categories we all probably need to give more attention in the coming year.

Being there
There’s a lot of talk, many articles and a long shelf of books on mindful parenting. But it all boils down to this: When you’re with your kids, give them full, curious and happy attention.

Be more laissez-faire about some things
You may be burdening yourself with milestones and cultural expectations that really don’t matter if you pause to think about them. Here are some developmental achievements you don’t really need to waste time, energy and anxiety pushing. Rest assured these will almost always work themselves out in due time.

Don’t drive under the influence of your phone
Here comes your PSA: More than 40,000 people died on US roads in 2016, according to National Safety Council estimates. Many roadway fatalities involve drunken driving, speeding and not wearing seat belts (so don’t do any of those things, clearly), but increasingly, accidents are being caused by people texting or talking while driving.

DWD: Driving While Distracted
Fifty-one percent of teens reported seeing their parents checking and/or using their mobile devices while driving, according to a Common Sense Media poll last year. And when you repeatedly model a behavior in front of your kids, that’s called teaching.”

 

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Me and my son in San Francisco.

What are your goals for the New Year? Did you make a list of New Year’s Resolutions?

 

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?