How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk – Dealing with Feelings

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“I was a wonderful parent before I had children,” write Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.  As many of you know, living with children is entirely different than the fantasies we script in our heads.  Therefore, Faber and Mazlish offer a solution to make your relationships with your children less stressful and more rewarding.

According to Faber and Mazlish, parents try to “help” their children in one of the following ways:

  • Denial of Feelings, such as “There’s no reason to be upset.”
  • The Philosophical Response, such as “Life is like that.”
  • Advice, such as “You know what I think you should do…”
  • Questions, such as “Didn’t you realize this would happen?”
  • Defense of the Other Person, such as “I can understand your friend’s reaction.”
  • Pity, such as “I feel so sorry for you.”
  • Amateur Psychoanalysis, such as “Has it ever occurred to you that the real reason you’re upset is…”

But these responses don’t acknowledge your child’s pain or give her a chance to talk more about it.  How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk argues that “the language of empathy does not come naturally to us” because most of us grew up having our feelings denied.

To Help with Feelings

  • Listen with full attention
  • Acknowledge their feelings with a word, such as “Oh” or “I see.”
  • Give their feelings a name.
  • Give them their wishes in fantasy.

Now, I’ve tried to use this last one a lot, but I must say it rarely plays out as planned.  I remember this one time I told my younger daughter how I wished I had a magic power to make more Ritz Bitz appear and she replied, “Well, sissy has a magic hat.  I’m going to go see if she can help me.”

The biggest mistake I make as a parent is giving advice.  When my kids announce they are tired, I tell them to rest.  When they claim to be hungry, I tell them to eat.  And when they insist that they’re not, I tell them to eat anyway.  But as Faber and Mazlish point out, parents must “resist the temptation to ‘make better’ instantly.

As a middle school teacher, I was always extremely aware of this.  I often had sixth grade students, who were incapable of solving any problems on their own.  There was this boy, in particular, who bombarded me with questions, fearful of mistakes, convinced he didn’t know the ‘right’ answer.  The irony, of course, was that he was one of the smartest children in the class, but he’d been robbed of any sense of self-confidence by parents who were always trying to ‘help.’  I swore I would never do this to my kids but of course I do.

Not long ago, my four-year-old yelled, “You’re making me angrier than a lion who hasn’t had lunch” and then she roared.  While I marveled at her use of metaphor, I thought the roar a bit much, but she found it such a great way to release her frustration that she’s taken to roaring, the way a teapot whistles whenever it’s about to blow it’s top.  Imagine my surprise, when I read at the end of chapter one in How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, physical activities, such as roaring, can be extremely effective.It’s amazing what you can learn from your kids if you stop talking long enough to listen.

Unplug the Christmas Machine – The Homecoming

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“I wouldn’t mind spending Christmas with my family – if only they’d behave.”  Robinson and Staeheli, the authors of Unplug the Christmas Machine, claim this remark echoes “the secret thoughts of a lot of people…Instead of relaxing into a warm family celebration, they find themselves feeling judgmental or aloof, or nursing hurt feelings.”

Granted, physical logistics often plays a role in family gatherings.  Sometimes, it’s the host who prepares that feels unappreciated, the guests who overcrowd the house that feel uncomfortable, or the family who travels to multiple destinations that feel overwhelmed, but often in an attempt to please everyone, people miss out on a meaningful experience.  According to Robinson and Staeheli, under such circumstances, family dynamics are inevitably highlighted, making it more difficult to attain the perfect family setting we desire.

“People who have a long and intimate history together invariably have complex reactions to each other.  Freud could have filled a notebook sitting on a couch at a single Christmas reunion.  Unless people give up their fantasy of an ideal family and emotionally prepare themselves for a household of relatives with all their strengths and weaknesses standing out in bold relief, they’re going to be disappointed,” argue Robinson and Staeheli.

Want to fix the Perfect Family Syndrome?  Here’s what Unplug the Christmas Machine recommends:

  1. Write down the names of family members that you have complicated or mixed feelings about.
  2. After each name, write down something that troubles or disappoints you about that person.
  3. If you have little reason to believe that people are going to change, tell yourself, “I accept the fact that this person will probably —–.”
  4. Now think of one thing that you especially like about each of the people on your list and write those desirable qualities down by their name.

Robinson and Staeheli maintain, “When people are able to focus on their family strengths and not dwell on their weaknesses throughout the holiday season, they find that Christmas is many times more enjoyable.”

I’ve taken this task a step further.  Reuniting with family became less stressful once I considered how I might be perceived by my family.  In other words, what about how I acted would end up on this list if they were to complete the Perfect Family Syndrome exercise?

Doing so helped me take control of the situation – whether it’s planning activities so we wouldn’t feel cooped up in someone else’s house, offering to cook a meal my kids are guaranteed to eat, or arriving late so I won’t feel cheated out of quality time with my own family.  As a result, I’m counting down to Christmas, the way I always did as a child, and while there won’t be a gift from Santa for me under the tree, it won’t matter.  I’ll already have gotten what I wanted – a season filled with love and joy.

 

 

Don’t forget to like Parenting by the Book on Facebook for updates on blog posts.

Also, check out Victoria Winterhalter’s blog, Befriending Forty, and find out what happens when the person you thought you’d be meets the person you actually became.

Unplug the Christmas Machine – The Gift of Joy

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Do you go through the holiday season without a deep sense of joy?  Then, authors Robinson and Staeheli believe it’s necessary to reevaluate the celebration so you can feel more whole and happy.

“When (people) look around them, they see that others seem to have all the joy that eludes them, and they often feel alone in their disappointment;” however, according to Unplug the Christmas Machine, “The real problem with Christmas isn’t that (people) are spiritually bankrupt or that Christmas is devoid of meaning.  It’s simply that they haven’t taken the time to define for themselves what’s most important to them about Christmas.”  As a result, Robinson and Staeheli argue, these larger issues interfere with the dozens of smaller decisions you have to make during December.

Unplug the Christmas Machine suggests you consider the following value statements, keeping in mind there are no ‘right’ answers.  According to authors, Robinson and Staeheli, this values-clarification exercise should simply help you decide which parts of Christmas are most deserving of your time and effort.

What Are You Celebrating?

  • Christmas is a time to be a peacemaker, within my family and the world at large.
  • Christmas is a time to enjoy being with my immediate family.
  • Christmas is a time to create a beautiful home environment.
  • Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ.
  • Christmas is a time to exchange gifts with my family and friends.
  • Christmas is a time for parties, entertaining, and visits with friends.
  • Christmas is a time to help those who are less fortunate.
  • Christmas is a time to strengthen bonds with my relatives.
  • Christmas is a time to strengthen my church community.
  • Christmas is a time to be relaxed and renewed.

As a parent, I always steer away from talk of the naughty list because I think it’s an empty threat.  After a year or two, children quickly figure out presents are pretty much inevitable.  Instead, I try to reinforce the concept of “Goodwill to All” by gathering old toys and donating canned items to our local food bank.

This year, I’m trying a new spin on the 12 Days of Christmas, which I recently read about in Family Fun Magazine.  Children fill a container with acts of kindness and select one each morning.  Then, whether it’s holding the door open for others or helping a sibling pick up their toys, they focus on doing their good deed throughout the day, placing their slip of paper, once complete, into a gift box.  By Christmas Eve, they’ll have a present full of ‘proof’ of their niceness to leave under the tree for Santa.

My hope is that it will provide them with one more opportunity to learn every day can be Christmas.What better reason to celebrate than that?

 

Unplug the Christmas Machine – Four Things Children Really Want for the Holidays

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According to Robinson and Staeheli, while parents desire a rich, family-centered celebration, they are often at a loss as to how to make it happen.  Unplug the Christmas Machine believes you only need four things to give your children what they want for the holidays.

  • A relaxed and loving time with the family
  • Realistic expectations about gifts
  • An evenly paced holiday season
  • Reliable family traditions

“What children really want at Christmas – just like at any time of the year but more so during the holiday season – is time with their parents,” Dr. Patricia Love, director of the Austin Family Institute argues.  “A parent’s relaxed, freely given attention conveys a simple but profound message ‘You are a priority in my life.’”

Of course, Unplug the Christmas Machine explains that many parents find it more difficult to spend relaxed time with their children this month.  Whether it’s from holiday obligations or the overscheduling of “fun” family events, most parents end up too exhausted to “just plain hang-out” together.  Robinson and Staeheli suggest you make long-range plans, refusing some social invitations in favor of quality time at home.

Next, help your children set realistic expectations about gifts.  “No matter how little money people have, they will always find a way to buy toys for their children.  And advertisers learned long ago that it is more effective to target their toy commercials at children than at the parents who ultimately do the buying.”  How can you protect your children from this commercialism?  Robinson and Staeheli believe an effective way to do so is to watch an hour of television with them, requiring the youngest to point out the commercial when it comes on the screen and the older to count the number throughout a program.  Then, talk with your kids about what is being advertised and how the product is made to seem inviting.  “Children need the security of knowing that the family, not Madison Avenue, is in control.”

As far as Unplug the Christmas Machine is concerned, it’s easier than most parents think to give their children a more natural holiday season.  “All they have to do is hold off on their important family traditions until a few weeks before Christmas, and then reserve a few favorite ones to add joy and meaning to the remaining days of Christmas vacation.”  Otherwise, the holiday can become a bit of a let-down.  One seven-year-old told the authors, “I have to wait two billion years for Christmas.  When it comes, it only lasts a second.  Then the whole world is plain again.”

Lastly, children need a celebration full of family traditions.  “Many parents underestimate how important traditions are to their children and how many valuable purposes they serve.  First of all, traditions give children something to look forward to year after year…Second, traditions enrich each holiday with the memory of all the Christmases that have gone before…Finally, traditions give children great comfort.  When many other routines are disrupted by the holiday season, children like to cling to well-defined rituals which give them a welcome sense of order and the security of knowing exactly how the season will unfold.”

Just after Thanksgiving, I’ve started asking my daughters what their favorite present was from the previous Christmas.  Usually, they can’t remember what they got, even though there was a pile of presents under the tree.  But what they can tell me all about is the fun they had decorating the house, baking cookies, and singing carols.  Hearing them say this helps me keep the holidays in perspective so why not give it a try.  It might just make it easier to keep your kids from being what Robinson and Staeheil consider passive recipients of your labors to active participants in the gift of joy.

 

Don’t forget to like Parenting by the Book on Facebook for updates on blog posts.

 

Also, check out Victoria Winterhalter’s blog, Befriending Forty (http://befriendingforty.blogspot.com), and find out what happens when the person you thought you’d be meets the person you actually became.

Unplug the Christmas Machine

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With so many people feeling like the holiday season has become impersonal, frantic, costly, and devoid of meaning, this month, I’ll be blogging about Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season.  It’s a great resource for combatting commercialism and creating simple celebrations to draw families close together.  While authors Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli begin by presenting an interesting overview of Christmas history, their analysis and practical advice in the chapters “Women: the Christmas Magicians” and “Men: the Christmas Stagehands” provide the first step to reclaiming the holidays.

“Women have always played this central role in the celebration, Christmas is not only a religious holiday but a celebration of hearth and home, and it makes sense that women should take the lead.  But in this century, Christmas has become more elaborate, and women’s lives have become more complex,” explain Robinson and Staeheli.  Add all of the separate tasks as well as the invisible details and getting ready for Christmas feels like a part-time job so it’s no wonder many women have mixed feelings about it.

Examine your present holiday role and explore some possible changes.  Unplug the Christmas Machine suggests you start with a life-style inventory.

  • Assess how much “free time” you have to devote to the responsibilities of Christmas.
  • List your typical holiday tasks.
  • Spend some time remembering how you felt last Christmas as you were doing each of the tasks.
  • Highlight the tasks you actually enjoyed.
  • Describe the reason your dissatisfaction with the rest, such as not enough time, not enough money, not enough support.
  • Adjust your plans for this holiday season accordingly.

But before you do so, it may be necessary to account for Men: the Christmas Stagehands.  Although most women want their husbands to help out during the holiday season, what they want even more than that, according to Robinson and Staeheli, was for the “husbands to be enthusiastic about Christmas and to be more emotionally involved in the family holiday activities.”  In order to generate excitement, your spouse may need to do some assessing of his own.

  • Think back to your childhood Christmas.  Which traditions, activities, or occasions were particularly pleasurable for you?
  • Of these important childhood memories, which are reflected in your current celebration?
  • What changes would you like to make in the coming celebration?

Despite her best efforts otherwise, my mother often ends up feeling overwhelmed in December.  Trying to avoid this holiday tradition, a few years ago, my husband and I began planning our holidays during the drive home from our Thanksgiving trip to visit family.  This prevented me from running nonstop until New Year’s and provided my husband with his favorite gift – relaxing, quality family time.

So if trying to be a Christmas Magician leaves you feeling inadequate and acting as the Christmas Stagehand leaves you unfulfilled, try assessing the physical and emotional demands of holiday roles, and, like Robinson and Staeheli said, “see more clearly how joy in the celebration can be diluted by stressful feelings” so you can reclaim Christmas.

 

Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me – Siblings

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“Most parents would readily admit that they always envisioned their children not only getting along but considering each other to be their best and closest friends,” claims Michele Borba.  “So it’s a rude awakening when your children’s tears, battles, friction, and jealousies replace your image of a lifetime of love, friendship, and adoration.”

Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me argues that there’s no point in trying to make things equal because it’s impossible; however, Borba believes there are things you can do to minimize jealousies, conflicts, and bickering so your kids will appreciate one another.

Here are a few causes of sibling battles, resentment, and animosity:

 

  • Do you expect more of your oldest child?
  • Do you pamper your youngest?
  • Do you compare your kids in front of each other?
  • Do your eyes light up with the same intensity when you see each of your kids?
  • Do you provide opportunities for each child to nurture her special talents?
  • Do you distribute chores, rewards, and opportunities fairly among your kids?
  • Do you expect your kids to share their friends?
  • Are they always together when their friends come over?
  • Is it causing resentment because there’s no ‘alone’ time with friends?

 

Of course, once you’ve identified why your children aren’t better friends, you not only need to change your behavior accordingly, but if the goal is to solve problems without an adult, then you need to remove yourself as mediator, negotiator, or problem solver.

Instead, Borba suggests you try teaching your kids to do the following:

 

  • Calm down.
  • Figure out the real problem.
  • Focus on the problem, not the sibling.  In other words, no blaming, no name-calling, and no put-downs.
  • Use an ‘I message’ to say what’s bothering you, such as “I get really upset when you take my stuff.”
  • Agree to a fair solution without a parent.

 

According to Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me, one of the biggest obstacles to siblings being friends is them getting so caught up in feeling they’re being treated unfairly that they don’t stop to think how the other person might be feeling.  “Studies show that preschool- and kindergarten-age kids are just beginning to develop the ability to think about how other people feel; they’ll need help and constant reminders to think about how (a sibling) might feel.”

What should you do?  Borba suggests, “You write a list of what you like most and what you like least about each child.  If your list is more slanted to one side or the other, it may signal you have a potential problem.”  So do some honest reflecting and make a commitment to change your behavior.  Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how many parenting books, articles, or blogs you read.  You might be condemning yourself to a life of arguments, tears, and hurt feelings.

 

Don’t forget to like Parenting by the Book on Facebook for updates on blog posts.

Also, check out Victoria Winterhalter’s blog, Befriending Forty, and find out what happens when the person you thought you’d be meets the person you actually became.

Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me – Peer Pressure

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No parent ever wants to hear “I knew you’d be mad but I wanted the girls to like me” or “I tried to say no, but Jake wouldn’t listen.”  But unfortunately, eventually we hear them nonetheless.

We have all fallen victim to peer pressure at some time or another so why should our kids be any different?  Because most parents want to believe our children will be better than us.  Still, following the crowd, failing to stand up to peers, and being submissive are realities many adults face so author Michele Borba argues we need to equip our children with the skills to combat peer pressure.

According to Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me, “A survey of 991 kids ages nine to fourteen revealed that 36 percent feel pressure from peers to smoke marijuana, 40 percent feel pressure from peers to have sex, 36 percent feel pressure to shoplift, and 40 percent feel pressure to drink.”  Luckily, Borba believes assertiveness skills can be taught to kids so if your child has difficulty speaking up or letting her opinions be known there is hope.

According to Borba, here’s what you should do:

 

  • Bring the issue into the open.  For example, “I noticed during playgroup today that Johnny told you to throw sand in the sink, and you did it.  You know better.  So let’s talk about why you went along.
  • Share your beliefs.  Such as, “In our family we don’t watch violent movies so tell your friends you can’t go.
  • Refrain from labeling.  The more you say your child is shy the more likely she will become it.
  • Stop rescuing.  “If your role has been apologizing, explaining, or basically ‘doing’ for your child, then stop.  Your child will never learn how to stand up for himself.
  • Model assertiveness.  “If you want your kids to be confident…make sure you display that behavior.  Kids mimic what they see.
  • Teach them about strong models.  Like Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, Rosa Parks.
  • Don’t tolerate excuses.

 

While we’re all still pretty much guaranteed to say at least once in our lives, “What were you thinking?”  Borba believes if you teach your children to say no from a very young age you can avoid them becoming victims of peer pressure.

If you do nothing else, help your child learn to look assertive.  “Pushover kids usually stand with heads down, shoulders slumped, arms and knees quivering, and eyes downcast.  Even if he says no to his friends, his body sends a far different message, and his words will have little credibility.  So it’s crucial to teach your child assertive body posture: to hold his head high with shoulders slightly back, look his friend in the eye, and use a confident, firm tone of voice.”

Otherwise, no quickly becomes yes.

Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me – Cliques

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According to Michele Borba, “The word clique strikes terror in the heart of every parent.”  This tight group of friends, reluctant to welcome newcomers, can be tough to break into so Borba examines the friendship skills for needed to fit in.  If your child is always the outsider, never included in the group, seemingly on the fringe, then read on.

Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me explains that researchers followed third- through sixth- grade students for eight years and discovered that they divided themselves into four social categories:

  • The Popular Clique – The coolest kids equal 35%.
  • The Fringe – The wannabe cool kids comprise 10%.
  • Middle Friendship Circles – Unique interests, like skaters and musicians, are 45%.
  • The Loners – 10% represents kids without a group membership.

Borba reminds parents that “this isn’t about trying to make your child Miss or Mister Popularity – this is about helping your child avoid a diet of put-downs and humiliation that can be disastrous to her self-esteem and instead learn essential skills for a life of getting along, forming alliances, becoming trustworthy, and learning to become close to a broad variety of friends.”  I realize in some ways it might sound like you’re preparing your child for a future role on Survivor but some of Borba’s suggestions really make sense.

My favorite offers parents a clever way to find out the facts.  Borba shares how the authors of Cliques, Charlene C. Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese, interviewed hundreds of middle schoolers and found that one of the best ways for kids to open up about the problems of cliques at their school is to have them draw a map of where everyone sits in the cafeteria.  Borba explains, “This map will help you see where your child fits in and give you a sense of the social dynamic at her school.”

Then, what should you do?  Talk to teachers, identify one ally, and dress the part.  This last suggestion to notice how the group looks so you can fashion yourself accordingly gives me pause.  I mean the last thing I’m going to tell my daughters is to alter their appearances through a hairdo or clothes, yet having spent so much time in schools as a teacher, I did see how a disheveled or outdated appearance made it harder for kids to blend in so I understand where she’s coming from.  But from my experience, those were extreme cases, not your typical clique drama.

Still, I think giving your child time to bond with someone else is the best advice she offers.  Let’s be realistic.  Unlike on Facebook, where you can befriend a ton of people all at once, friendships take work.  So resist the quick fix of signing your child up for an organized group, like Scouting.  According to Borba, research reveals that children who regularly experience peer rejection in school usually don’t find success in such generic settings.  They tend to thrive, instead, in more focused groups, like a chess club or music ensemble.  Or you can just carve out an afternoon in your child’s busy schedule for an old-fashioned “playdate” and let your child invite another with similar interests over.   It really doesn’t matter what they do so long as you remember friendships are made one fun, shared experience at a time.

 

Don’t forget to “like” Parenting by the Book on Facebook for updates on blog posts.

Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me – 10 Reasons Our Kids are Having Trouble with Friends

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If you’re looking for ways to help your kids survive the social jungle, then you might want to check out Michele Borba’s book, Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me:  The Top 25 Friendship Problems and How to Solve Them.  This is a great resource to help boost your child’s social competence.

The first thing Borba does is look at why kids are having a friendship crisis.  She says, “There’s not just one new development that has changed things overnight, but a gradual erosion of friendship-building conditions and skills.”  Borba highlights some of the signs of the decline.

 

  • Who’s got the time?  Our kids are too hurried and harried to nurture friendships.
  • It’s everyone for himself.  Cooperating and looking out for the underdog is out.
  • Recess will be cancelled today.  Academic achievement now takes precedence over unstructured times when our kids could learn valuable friendship skills.
  • All I need is batteries.  Electronic distractions have isolated children.
  • Double-bolt that door.  Although the FBI says that the number of child kidnappings actually has not risen, we teach our kids to fear people automatically.
  • How long is your buddy list?  Texting and emailing have come to replace face-to-face interaction.
  • Didn’t you hear the whistle?  Supervised play means there’s no opportunity for kids to have fun without pleasing their parents.
  • Pack your bags.  With 46 percent of Americans moving at least once this makes it hard for kids to form lasting friendships.
  • People suck.  Sitcoms celebrate the put-down.
  • Who needs manners?  Living in this age of incivility, our kids are poorly prepared to develop intimate and empathetic relationships.

 

Then, Borba identifies the ten WORST things parents can do for their children’s social lives:

 

  • Set a terrible example.  Don’t expect your kids to be a good friend unless you are.
  • Be a pushy parent.  Don’t think you can muscle your kids into friendships that only you care about.
  • Act like a micromanaging drill sergeant.  Don’t hyper-parent or children won’t feel free to play around you.
  • Make your home as sterile as an operating room.  Don’t value cleanliness over comfort or kids won’t want to play at your house.
  • Act like a brontosaurus.  Don’t refuse to change with the times.
  • Put on the robe and pick up the gavel.  Don’t be so critical as your child acquires friendship skills that you discourage your child from making new friends.
  • Stick that nose in the air.  Don’t dismiss your child’s friends before appreciating what your child values in them.
  • Be your kid’s “bestest” buddy.  Don’t worry so much about your kid’s popularity that you lower your standards, making your house the permissive spot in the neighborhood.
  • Chuck in that towel.  Don’t assume that your child can do it without some guidance from you.
  • Live in a little house of horrors.  Don’t expect your children to bring friends home to an unhappy place.

 

 

So if you’re at a loss when it comes to teasing, bullying, rejection, cliques, breakups, or peer pressure, then let my blogs on Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me be your guide.  This month, with Michele Borba’s help, I’ll tackle what’s wrong, why it’s happening, what you can say, and what you can do.  For a friend, as Ralph Waldo Emerson defines it, is a person with whom you can think aloud, and your child needs this sincerity matter more than you may realize.

The Blessing of a B Minus – The Real Lessons of Homework, Chores, and Jobs

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When our kids were young, we had to do everything for them.  For this reason, taking care of toddlers is often easier than letting go of teenagers.  But Wendy Mogel believes that as our children age it’s important to give them responsibilities; otherwise, our overprotectiveness inadvertently prevents them from becoming the contributing members of society we hope they’ll be.

“If you absolve your teen from routine responsibilities like laundry, you will teach him that there are two types of work: exalted and menial.  In this distorted view, exalted work includes studying, practicing a sport, rehearsing a musical instrument, or tutoring children in a third world country.”  In comparison, ordinary tasks, like changing the toilet paper roll, are beneath them, which is problematic because “a large portion of life is maintenance and repair.”

 

Mogel argues, “When parents let their teens believe they are too special to do ordinary work, they raise ‘handicapped royalty’ – young people who study brilliantly and are full of conviction but don’t know how clothes get clean or how to read a credit card bill.”  The reality is that in order to be successful in life one needs to be able to balance the mundane with the marvelous.

The Blessing of a B Minus maintains “The purpose of homework is not to bring glory to the family in the form of perfect grades” rather to teach children “planning, prioritizing, delay of gratification, and tolerance of frustration.”  This is why it’s important that parents allow for natural consequences, like points off for lateness or a lower grade for sloppy work.  In addition, if you keep coming to their rescue, their teachers will be deprived of the information they need to instruct your children from where they, not you, are at.

The next step in preparing for the curriculum of life is chores.  Mogel says in her experience “chores lead to better school performance because they teach teens how to organize their time and their actions.”  Still, Mogel does believe surrendering to a messy bedroom is a necessity with an adolescent in the house.  “If your teen consistently cannot find things he needs, such as schoolwork, money, car keys, or important papers, or if he is hoarding old food or dirty dishes, it’s time for him to clean up.  Other than that, the room is not your business.”

Finally, Mogel argues that a paid job is better than an exotic volunteer experience when it comes to impressing college admissions officers.  “Why aren’t colleges awed by kids who lay pipes in Kenya?  When teenagers participate in a community service program paid for by their parents, whether in Africa or closer to home, they are not working for money.  The adults who run the program are.”  If you want to prove your child is responsible, skip the ‘internships’ in a parents’ office as well because colleges know that responsibilities re minimal and often manufactured.

“A paid job is the exact opposite of supervised transcript fodder like volunteer experiences and internships.  In a paid job, the teen is often working for adults, so she has to cater to them.”  But perhaps most importantly a paid job teaches them to walk in the “shoes of people who work very, very hard for low wages.  It teaches you that service is not servility and that any job can be done with dignity.”

The Blessing of a B Minus believes when your teenager is need of an attitude adjustment, you should make sure that you’re modeling a reasonably reverent attitude toward chores.  Are you creating a double standard?  Are your clothes neatly put away?  Do you leave all the cleaning to a housekeeper because you work so very hard?  Do you perform chores but complain all the while?If the answer to any of these is yes, then Mogel believes you’re teaching your child that chores are a dreary substitute for life, not a practical way to enhance it, and you both might have a few lessons to learn.

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