Archive | Encouragement

Kids and Chores: Why Giving Up (and Giving In) Hurts Everyone

Let’s face it. Most kids today  s–l—i—-d—–e  when it comes to contributing.

You go through the motions of assigning chores, but most of us find that it’s just easier to do them ourselves. Especially if the alternative is to beg, cajole and demand that they take out the recycling, take out the recyclingtake out the recycling!

Who can blame you? Why bother? It’s painful all the way around.

Here’s what I learned during supper with my Granny. From my vantage point, she’s not your average centenarian.

Sure, it’s the middle of summer and she’s wearing her blue wool sweater. But she’s got ALL her wits. — Only her hearing and sight are diminished.

granny photo with Sonja

Granny reading with my daughter

At 103, she’s a beauty with a blunt white bob, light blue eyes and a genuine interest in others that permeates every conversation.

She loves to ask about details. And she’s interested in mine.

On this occasion I made a conscious effort to ask her the questions… at least one.

Dinner with Granny

Due to her hearing loss, a snippet of our conversation (in a dining room full of people) went like this…

GRANNY, I’M STILL TEACHING PARENTING CLASSES.

Won-der-ful! (her pronunciation deliberate and bright)

I’M CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A MOM. AFTER 78 YEARS OF PARENTING, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON? 

I really don’t recall (she waves her hand and shakes her head as if that’s too far back to remember)… but mother and father (she’s referring to her parents) did a marvelous job.

WHAT DID THEY DO THAT WAS SO MARVELOUS? 

(She pauses for a few moments to consider before answering) I was allowed to help with a lot of things. We didn’t have any help so we were the help.

She grew up in a modest, hard working immigrant family in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Her mother from Denmark, her father from Norway and she the youngest, by far, of 3 and the only girl to boot. She said her brothers always teased her saying she was favored.

So when she says she was allowed to help, she means it – she felt special sitting beside her mother making and mending clothes, weaving rugs, cooking meals, planting vegetables in the garden, etc.

Granny is a practical woman. Learning useful skills that enabled her to contribute to the wellbeing of her family was deeply satisfying.

Our conversation went on, she acknowledged how proud I must be of my growing children – my voice echoing throughout the dining room.

It’s that simple.

I’m struck by the power of a sense of usefulness to withstand the test of time. With love and caring as a cornerstone, Granny’s sense of being a useful member of the family is paramount in her childhood memories.

I know I struggle to get my kids involved in day to day housework. You and I both know, it’s so much easier to just do it ourselves!

Over dinner last summer Granny reminded me of just how worthwhile that effort is.

My story

Yesterday I had laundry that needed to be unloaded, carried, sorted and put away. Seven year-old S. was in a bit of a snit after-school and I knew asking her to help with this relatively light task could easily back fire and become an unpleasant battle.

Here’s what happened:

Me: I’m going to get the laundry – you can come give me a hand or meet me to fold it in my room.

She didn’t say anything but scurried along beside me (things are looking good!)

I took towels out of the drier.

Me: How many can you carry?

She got silly.

S: Mommy, put them all on my head, I CAN DO IT!

I played along for a bit and then just grabbed a few towels so that she could see as she walked, covered in towels, to our room.

In my bedroom she watched as I began folding clothes and towels and stacking them on my bed.

Me: How about you take alike things and put them away in your drawers – like this stack of pants?

S: Okay. (Miraculously she purposefully takes a few trips, arms fully loaded, and then decides it would be interesting to switch with me and be the folder)

We went on like this until the task was complete – all clothes and towels folded and put away. This is a minor miracle – usually things get put away over the course of a day or two – often clothes take the most direct route – basket to body).

Here are four fundamentals to keep in mind to increase your odds of success when encouraging kids to pitch in:

  1. Do house work WITH your kids – side by side if they are 7 and under. When they’re young they still love doing most every task with you so use that to your advantage while you still can!
  2. Shift your focus from getting the job done perfectly to seeing it as an opportunity to be together teaching your child life lessons/skills.
  3. Take time for training. With younger kids this means methodically doing a task together, with older children it means using a specific list of ”to do’s”, rather than a vague “clean up the playroom.”
  4. Hold the jobs lightly. While follow through is extremely important, you’ll win more cooperation by saying “I notice the dog looks hungry,” rather than demanding, “Rachel, feed the dog right now!”

Let’s brainstorm specific jobs kids can help with around the house. I hope this list encourages you in this challenging and wildly worthwhile parenting responsibility.

Here’s a list by age:

My daughter cleaning up a spill

My daughter cleaning up a spill

2 to 3

  • put toys away
  • feed pets
  • wipe up spills
  • put dirty clothes in hamper

4 to 6
the list from above plus

  • unload clean flatware from dishwasher
  • weed
  • water plants
  • set house alarm
  • bring in mail 
  • help prepare meals
  • scramble eggs

    My niece preparing apples for crisp

    My niece preparing apples for crisp

7 to 10

the lists from about plus

  • vacuum
  • help make and pack lunch
  • help do laundry
  • help load/unload dishwasher
  • help grocery shop
  • help make dinner (apple pie)
  • take pet for walk
  • make toast

10 to 13

the lists from above plus

  • fold and put away laundry
  • wash car
  • wash windows
  • babysit younger siblings
  • take out garbage & recycling
  • garden tasks
  • run walkable/bikeable errands

14 and up

I’m helping Granny make her famous apple pie crust!

the list from above plus

  • grocery shopping
  • cooking full meals for family
  • extended sibling sitting
  • transporting siblings and running errands in car

Being allowed to contribute has an impact that lasts a life-time.

I’ve only scratched the surface with these ideas. Please share yours in the comment section below and help grow these lists…and in doing so – help us all have more satisfied families!

If you haven’t already done so, join me on this journey!

Wanna talk? Schedule a time here.

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4 Ways to Fix “If you’re not in the car in 1 minute I’m leaving without you!”

It’s a typical morning, nothing out of the ordinary.

The boys haven’t brushed their teeth and I’m yelling, BRUSH! And then Get your rears in the car NOW.

It feels like we do this every. Single. Day.

When I get in the car, I feel like a real heel – this isn’t how I want my boys to get off to school in the morning. Yelling let’s go, let’s go, let’s gooooo! – Probably isn’t the most inspirational start to their day.

traffic-sign-6756_640Sound familiar? Are bells ringing? Would you prefer mornings with your kids be fueled by calm cooperation instead of high-volume threats, pleas and crazy-making?

I promise, it IS possible. Read on!

Introducing… the Conversation Guides Series – the first of which – Morning Departure Guide: Practice scripts for parents, so that getting out of the house is a wee-bit easier – is available starting today! And it’s my gift to you 🙂

Quick story about how I got the idea for scripts. In a recent parenting class I was role-playing a conversation, between a parent and teen, using Positive Discipline tools. The teenager, played by a parent volunteer, was forgetting to take out the garbage. (Been there?)

As our demo came to an end, an observing parent vigorously raised her hand, “You were going really fast just then and I’m not sure what happened but it sounded awesome. Could you go through it again but this time slowly so I can understand?”

I’ve fashioned these scripts to support you – they’re like training wheels to get you over that bumpy patch in the road. At first, they may feel a little stiff or clunky – just like training wheels – but it’s worth giving them a try. Especially if you leave the house in the morning shaking your head (or crying), wondering why parenting is so darn hard.

The Conversation Guide slows down the parent child interaction. Think of it as parenting in slow motion, word by word, so you can rewind at any time.

It’s true, there are many ways to parent that fit with the Positive Discipline principles. My hope is that the four approaches I’ve offered here give you confidence to find your own genuine parenting voice. One that’s both kind and firm – respectful of your child and yourself.

Okay, back to my morning with the boys… what could I have done differently? Let’s see what happens when I ask a question instead of yelling demands at them.

“Guys, what do you need to do before you get in the car for school?” They actually mumble “brush our teeth…”

“Yes, great, I’ll meet you in the car when you’re done.”

Does that sound too easy? With enough repetition, time and the resulting trust, it works.

And if you get zero response to your question – or just eye-rolling – you can calmly let them know you’ve decided to wait in the car until they’re ready (take a good book so you’re doing something pleasurable while you serenely wait).

I know what you’re thinking, if I’m not yelling at them, they’ll never come and then we’ll all be late!  Believe me, when you leave the house, the wind will leave their sails.

The two keys are:

  1. You follow through with what you say you’re going to do – this builds trust
  2. You remain calm, cool and collected – trust x 100

CONSIDERSHAREACT

What get’s in your way of having that calm morning you so desire?

What’s worked for you?

What gets in the way of you practicing these scripts? Share in a comment below so we can learn from each other.

If you haven’t already done so, join me on this journey!

Wanna talk? Schedule a time here.

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One EASY way to get your kid to butter her own toast!

ToastOne of my favorite sayings in Positive Discipline is “Don’t do anything for your child they can do for themselves.” All of this “doing for” prevents our kids from learning and growing.

Yesterday morning I had a simple, accidental revelation with my dexterous 7-year old daughter. Short on time, she decided to have a piece of toast for breakfast. Knowing I’m the best toast-butterer in the world, S. said, “Mom I need butter on my toast – please butter it for me.”

My hands, immersed in sudsy, warm dishwater, scrubbing away at the long-neglected dishes, were not fit to butter toast. The wheels in my mind slowed,  I sensed the opportunity at hand and replied empathetically, “Oh honey, my hands are all soapy, I don’t want to ruin your toast.”

Disappointed, S. tried again. “But mom…I’m not good at buttering toast and you’re really good at it!”

“Darn… sorry about that, Sweetie. Just look at these sudsy creatures!” I lifted my hands to show the yucky soapy mess that would envelop her toast.

Suddenly resolute, S. asked, “Okay Mom, where’s the butter?” A minute later with quiet pride she said, “Look Mom, I did it all by myself!”

Sometimes I have to be creative, play a bit silly, a bit incompetent or just plain unavailable, to get my kids to step up and take the initiative on a task well within their grasp or even one that seems a bit out of reach.

CONSIDERSHAREACT

Have you had a similar experience? Share it or plan your “incompetence” ahead of time and let us know how you imagine it could encourage your child.

Your comments inform and empower other parents! Examples with kids of all ages encouraged!

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New Year’s Resolution Redux

IMG_2156Note:  I first published this post one year ago and re-reading on the first day of 2015, I find it still speaks to the heart of a parenting dilemma. How can we expect to become better parents when we’re so busy being hard on ourselves? I wanted to share it with you again and encourage you to take time to make the list I prescribe and share it with a friend!

What if this year you did something totally different with the whole New Year’s resolution thing?

Instead of setting the usual intentions for becoming a better version of yourself, you made a list of all the things you already do smashingly WELL, as a parent!

Don’t you feel guilty just thinking about it?

I do. It feels odd and unnatural.

For me it would be much easier to spend the next 500 words describing my shortcomings as a mom and all that I could do better.  (Read: more family dinners, more trips to the library, more game nights, more patience, more follow through on kid jobs, more communication with my 18 year old… more, more, more…you get the picture.)

Not going there.

This year I’m doing something RADICAL. I’m going to share with you a challenging exercise that I LOVE, inspired by Kelly Bartletts’s blog Parenting from Scratch.  It’s about turning away all of that “I’m not good enough” parenting stuff and welcoming the good that’s already there.

I’m asking you to acknowledge what you do well and linger in the good. I assure you, this is not a silly exercise in self-aggrandizement.

When we do this, our brains literally re-wire for positivity and well-being. It’s what Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness and Buddha’s Brain, calls taking in the good. Hanson says that putting attention on good experiences helps build new connections in our brains  –

 It’s part of the growing body of research around Neuroplasticity. We have the ability to change our brains!!

So, what does Neuroplasticity have to do with parenting? When we put our minds to it, we can become happier, better parents. And now here’s what I’m asking you to do:

  1. Make your own parenting infomercial (i.e., I’m great and here’s how:)
  2. Stick with your list – share it – savor it
  3. Be on your own side – be aware of that sabotaging voice but don’t feed it

This was a tough exercise for me. I noticed my loud, qualifying gremlin voice saying things like “but you don’t do X enough” and “you’re a parenting educator, your list should be much longer!” etc.

What’s important is that I made the list anyway, noticed that critical voice along the way and kept going. Here’s my list: (and before you read it, promise me you’ll try making your own.)

Lisa’s “Things I Do Well as a Parent” List

  1. I make yummy soups
  2. My “from scratch” dessert traditions kick-butt
  3. I read stories aloud to my youngest before bed
  4. I pull out my goofy, silly side on a weekly basis, for everyone to see
  5. I exercise and eat well (modeling what I want for my children)
  6. I love reading great books for myself (ditto)
  7. I am a room parent for one of my kids’ classes
  8. I got those weekly family meetings going on
  9. I regularly snuggle with my seven and fourteen year-olds
  10. I take the time to pause and breathe before I react to my child’s fall, F on their report card, the blatant lie, and of course – the periodic tantrum.
  11. I’ve gotten very good at biting my tongue and boy is it an effective parenting tool! (Listen more, too)

There you have it.

Now, I insist that you do this exercise for yourself.

Remember, when we recognize our own strengths, we nurture our minds and our whole being.

Really let it sink in after you’ve made your list – take it one step further by sharing your list with a friend.  Then notice the visible and invisible ways your relationship with yourself and your children unfolds for the better.

Peace and Happy New Year!

CONSIDER⇔SHARE⇔ACT 

Consider your list, the mundane and extraordinary ways you parent. When you share what you’ve come up with below you  inspire us and remind us of things we’ve forgotten.

Some of you have told me you feel too shy to share in this forum – in that case email me your list. I’d love to cheer you on!

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