Summer time is Chore Time

Posted July 15, 2015 by Susan
Categories: allowances, attitude, Daniel Pink, expectations

Tags: , , ,
Chores teach kids grit, self confidence and self-discipline

My 17-month-old grandson helps with the Brussells sprouts preparation. He was curious about what I was doing, so I included him. It’s never too early to get kids started contributing around the house.

With all of the busyness of the school year, summer can offer some open-ended time to catch up on family meetings and re-establish a routine of chores. Kids thrive upon routines. It’s not too late to establish one for the summer. Have a family meeting and ask the kids what outings they want to take this summer. Challenge them to think of some free and local adventures, like walking up a creek in old sneakers.

Ask them what jobs they household jobs they want to take on for the summer. Encourage them to reach a little beyond their ability if they offer. For example, a nine-year-old can capably prepare a very simple dinner that uses prepared foods. When his/her family appreciates the food and effort, that is high encouragement and motivation to do it again.

When I was about 10, my mother assigned me the job of making dessert for the family, because all of the other jobs, like making dinner, had been taken by my eight other siblings. Most of them were older and it seemed like I could never catch up. I had a great deal of fun experimenting with homemade desserts. My mother rarely complained about the mess I made and was willing to pay for any ingredient. In those days, I hopped on my bike and rode a half-mile to the A&P to buy whatever was needed.

The result? I love to bake desserts and the confidence spilled over when I learned to cook other foods as well. I can still remember the feeling of satisfaction of contributing to our family’s dinners.

Summer is another opportunity to establish the routine of family dinners or at least breakfast together. Such connection, influence and closeness cannot be found anywhere else, or so conveniently, right in your own home. Move the meal outdoors if you can. My oldest daughter remembers, “Having dinner in front of the fireplace on the coffee table in winter made me SO happy.” Kids are easily pleased. Cherish that while you can.

My book on chores offers more information on how to chores can teach your kids grit, self-confidence and self-discipline while using the effective tools of family meetings. It’s available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback. “Raising Able: How Chores Empower Families” by Susan Tordella. There are plenty of stories of mistakes I made and successes, too, so it’s light summer reading.

One of the main things I learned about chores from surveying 500+ people ages 8 to 90 was the reason they did chores was simple: “My parents expected me.” Money is one of the lowest motivators for people of all ages. According to Daniel Pink, author of “Drive,” the most powerful motivators are mastery — learning something new and doing it well, autonomy — having freedom and choices over a task; and power — control or influence over a situation or people.

Most of what we parents do is free and is expressed through our body language and our actions. Our kids are always watching us. Get going today and set up a family meeting and talk about chores and family fun. Remember to encourage their input and give them the opportunity to run the meeting.

Why Choose Unisex Clothing – Guest post by Jenni

Posted July 1, 2014 by Susan
Categories: Alfred Adler, boundaries, don't interfere, empower, empowerment, Encouragement, give choices, independence, Make good decisions, self-confidence

The benefits of genderless apparel on the general well-being of children

children's clothing can be gender neutral

Some rights reserved, tippi t via Flickr Creative Commons

It’s a sad reality that we now live in a world where parents now believe it’s acceptable to spend thousands of dollars on their children’s wardrobes. Sometimes mothers even end up spending as much as $170 on a single item of clothing that their kids will soon outgrow anyway, while they themselves end up scrimping on their own wardrobes, and even feeling bad about purchases for themselves.
There’s also a worrying trend emerging: parents dressing their kids to look like miniature adults – stylish, hip, and fashionable. But while it may seem tempting to dress our kids in the latest trends, is it really what’s best for them? Should LBDs become the next priority purchase for little girls, and high-cut sweaters for little boys? Or should responsible parents, in fact, start turning to something much more practical, like unisex clothing?
Cultivating a Culture of “Letting Children Be Children”
Katie Holmes often came under attack for letting her daughter Suri dress in clothes that seemed to be inappropriate for her age, wearing makeup and heels while she strutted down New York City streets. But the reality is that playing dress up is a long-established form of childhood play, and as long as children aren’t dressing in wildly inappropriate clothing or putting themselves at risk for hypo- or hyperthermia, then we should let them be.

Conversely, Angelina Jolie also received some backlash for letting her daughter Shiloh dress like a boy. “She likes tracksuits, she likes [regular] suits. She likes to dress like a boy,” she told Vanity Fair magazine. “She wants to be a boy. So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys’ everything. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.” But this problem isn’t exclusive to girls either. Earlier this year, news broke out about a little boy who was taunted for wanting to dress like Sleeping Beauty for a schoolmate’s birthday party. Often, we end up imposing our own set of rules to our children, and forcing them to dress in what we think is appropriate.

This, however, shouldn’t be the case. Instead of basing our decisions for what our kids should wear on current trends, unisex children’s clothing designer Katie Pietrasik, founder of Tootsa MacGinty, tells Wales Online that decisions should be made based on the idea that “Clothes for children should be built for sturdier purposes than the changing vagaries of style – to be passed from sibling to sibling, or friend to friend regardless of gender.” As Clutch Magazine is quick to point out, while it’s nice to play dress up and photograph kids wearing stylish clothing, we have to ask ourselves, “are these outfits practical for everyday kiddie life?”

Unlike designer brands, unisex clothing is made with children’s lifestyles in mind. Comfort and practicality are key to unisex brands, allowing children to dress in appropriate styles, and still climb trees and play in jungle gyms. Rather than imposing stereotypes like “girls should sit at tea parties and play with dolls” and “boys should be little monsters”, unisex clothing encourages them to be themselves, and play at their own comfort levels. A child dressed to the nines in skinny jeans, a cropped top, or a little black dress may feel too intimidated to play at recess lest they dirty their clothes, but a child dressed in unisex clothing will feel confident enough to take on any and all of the day’s activities.

Let’s not forget that one of the most important things to remember when trying to build confidence in our kids is to let them make their own decisions. Sometimes, this could mean something as simple as letting them dress themselves, as Katie Holmes has often done with Suri. While her struggles with making sure that Suri dresses in clothing appropriate for the weather is all too real, investing in unisex clothing keeps these incidents to a minimum. Unisex clothing is easy to mix and match, and key pieces can be worn at all seasons. With items being made from quality, sturdy material, and most of them even being made to be adjustable to adapt to growth spurts, spending $170 on one outfit for our kids should soon be a thing of the past.


Take time to cook and eat together

Posted May 29, 2014 by Susan
Categories: connection, cooking with kids, expect, family dinner, Family meetings, Food and children, give choices, raising vegetables


In the following interview from the Boston Globe, author/activist Michael Pollan talks about the importance of food in our lives. By taking time to cook with your kids, you’re spending time together, teaching them a life skill, and increasing the likelihood that they will eat what you prepare because they saw what went into it. Let go of the mess in the kitchen. It’s an investment on so many levels, including health. Remember to use family meetings to decide together on menus and meal plans.

Take it one step further and plant a few tomato and cucumber plants in a pot on the porch or in the garden.

  • 28 May 2014
  • The Boston Globe
  • By Michael Floreak GLOBE CORRESPONDENT Interview was condensed and edited. Michael Floreak can be reached at michael

Cooking is time well spent

 Author lauds the social and health benefits of preparing family meals

Michael Pollan’s 2006 book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” detailed the complex system of farms, feedlots, and food science laboratories that deliver food to the modern dinner table, and helped fuel a growing food movement. His newest work, “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” recently published in paperback, turns his attention to how plants and animals are transformed into meals and explores why cooking is important.

After “Omnivore,” Pollan focused on the human end of the food chain, looking at food choices and their impact on health. “I realized cooking was the answer to a lot of questions that I’ve been exploring in my work,” Pollan, 59, says. For “Cooked,” he apprenticed with a series of culinary experts— from a North Carolina barbecue pit master to a celebrated baker— to understand the ecological, nutritional, and cultural impacts of cooking from scratch.

“I got into this as someone who was very interested in the environment and how we engage with the natural world,” Pollan says. “I like to cook and I knew how to grill, make pasta, pretty basic stuff. But there was a lot for me to learn.”

Q. How did it happen that you turned your attention from agriculture to cooking?

A. I began to realize that if people insist on having their food cooked by fast food corporations or processed food corporations, we weren’t going to build this alternative agriculture system.

Q. Why is cooking important to one’s health?

A. The best marker of a healthy diet was whether the food was cooked by a human being. Even poor people who still cook have healthier diets than rich people who don’t.

Q. Explain how cooking and health are so closely linked.

A. If you cook, you’re not going to have french fries every day. Homemade french fries are delicious, but they’re such a pain to make. There are things built into the process of cooking that guard against those very tempting, but ultimately not very healthy, foods. You don’t even have to worry about what you’re cooking because you will naturally gravitate toward simple things. You will not make a lot of junk food.

Q. You also talk about the social benefits of cooking and eating together.

A. Cooking isn’t just about preparing the fuel for your body. Cooking is a social act and it has been since we started. Go back 2 million years, and we discover the power of fire to change food and make it more delicious, easier to digest, safer. But as soon as we do that, we have to learn how to share. Cooking gave us the meal and the meal gave us civilization. And that’s what we’re now blithely giving up. Forty-six percent of meals in America are now eaten alone. We have this centrifugal force that’s driving us away from the table. And a lot of that goes to food marketing. They make more money if we eat individually.

Q. While you were writing the book, your son suggested taking a night off from cooking to have “microwave night.” How did that work out?

A. What a surprise. To get four entrees on the table took 45 minutes, which is plenty of time to cook a very nice meal. We just never got to sit down at the table at the same time because we were each in a different stage of defrosting and eating. It was the most disjointed family meal we had in a long time and no time had been saved. We have to reexamine this assumption that convenience food is really convenient.

Q. What do you say to the argument that cooking is also expensive?

A. I dispute that. You have to pay those people to process food. It’s very labor intensive on their end, so therefore they charge. Cooking is economical. There’s still a lot of healthy food in regular markets as long as you shop the periphery and avoid the processed foods. It is more time-consuming. We have dropped the amount of time we spend on cooking by about a half an hour since 1965. I think it’s important to look at what you’re doing with that half-hour and whether it’s more valuable to you.

Q. Clearly you see that cooking is time well spent.

A. My contention is that as a way to spend a half-hour or an hour of your leisure time, cooking is a really good way to do it. It has all these benefits, but it’s actually intellectually very engaging. It’s sensually very pleasurable. It’s a great way to reset. But the key is not doing it alone, I think. Get your family involved. Get your kids and your partner in the kitchen. Make it a social event.


Posted April 14, 2014 by Susan
Categories: Uncategorized

Hello Raising Able subscribers,

Apologies about the previous post with Rep Niki Tsongas and ending mass incarceration.
The two blogs got crossed in blog-land.
This site is about parenting to keep your kids and you out of prison!


“You’re perfect…” And other lies parents tell

Posted April 25, 2013 by Susan
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As you can tell from my blog, my goal was for my children to become independent, resilient, hard working [thus the emphasis on chores] and capable.

They were far from spoiled. Lone Coombs book, “You’re perfect…” and other lies parents tell; The ugly truth about spoiling your kids caught my eye at the library. Hurrah, someone else besides me is against praising kids’ every breath, crayon scribble and effort.

She believes in family connectivity  and offers 13 steps to build a better family, including some of my favorites. Number 1 on the list is Eat together, then establish a regular family night. I call these family meetings. Others include: build a family identity, schedule family service projects [one more thing on the to-do list, but valuable], laugh together [essential – I add PLAY TOGETHER], create one-on-one parent-child time [I regret not following this at least once a month], never play favorite, build traditions, share values, and know when to seek outside assistance.

Author Coombs is a lawyer, mom and step-mom who isn’t afraid to tell the truth about how over-coddling leads to dangerous and destructive teenage behavior.

Treasure and take advantage of the first twelve years to connect with your kids, teach them how to handle disappointment. Expect them to sweep the floor and scoop the dog poop. Allow them to experience cause and effect of their less-than-perfect decisions.

Coombs warns that pampered kids who are given everything Mom and Dad never got “are setting up an insidious mentality in their kids, instilling in them both an overwhelming sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy for others. The combination of these two factors can pave the way to completely ruin a child’s life because it robs them of two crucial influences: the concept of rules and consequences and a concern for other people’s feelings.”

Get this book and read it, no matter how old your children are. Then follow the suggestions. Fear is a great motivator. I lived on the fear of messing up my kids and the guilt that I was too … whatever. Today, my kids might be too independent. They are not entitled, drug-addicted, or living in my basement. We have the foundation for a life-long relationship, in part, thanks to family meetings.

Schedule your family time TODAY. Put up a blank family meeting agenda [see tip sheets]. It’s worth the investment and prevention of future problems.

How to talk to kids about tragedy

Posted April 16, 2013 by Susan
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here are some resources if you’re struggling with how to explain to children heinous violence, like we did yesterday at the end of the Boston Marathon.

The Riverside Trauma Center offers tip sheets on Talking with Your Children About Traumatic EventsChildren and Trauma, and Practicing Self-Care After Traumatic Events

Below is a brief list of resources from other reputable organizations:

 The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) offers Resources in Response to the Bombings.

 The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) offersTips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope after a Disaster or Traumatic Event. This document provides specific information for talking to children of different ages.



A Letter to Victoria’s Secret From a Father

Posted March 26, 2013 by Susan
Categories: Uncategorized

A Letter to Victoria’s Secret From a Father.

Yes, I agree. Victoria’s Secret is wrong to introduce a line of underwear for young girls called “wild.”



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