Posted tagged ‘family meetings’

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

April 25, 2013

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.

Homework hassles, headaches and happiness

February 18, 2013

Homework and children, parents and homework, how to solve homework. Help, my kid won't do homework. My kids refuse to do homework. "Homework" , "homework and kids"Homework is the source of great angst between parents and children. Take the example of John, 8, and Mom (names changed to protect the real people).

John, 8, is highly intelligent with many behavioral issues and learning disabilities. “When he wants to, John can do his homework in a snap,” says Mom. “When he’s at school, under supervision, he can do it in a snap.”

Well, then, what happens at home? We parents get snared in the complex web of parent-child emotions, power sharing, and time management.

Here are suggestions to give your children the opportunity to learn responsibility through trial and error, free parents from this onerous task, and free up time and energy for positive parent-child time.

Q: Whose problem is homework?

A: The child is responsible for homework. The hare-brained schools that assign homework to children younger than third grade assign parents homework, setting up the bad habit of making homework a parent’s problem.

Unfortunately, until your child is in third grade, parents must share the responsibility. From third grade and up, schools have excellent structures in place for miscreants and parents can step back.

Q: How do parents encourage children to do homework?

A: Put “homework” on a family meeting agenda. At a quiet, neutral time when everyone is in the problem-solving mode, say, “Let’s talk about homework. When is the best time for you to do homework? Where would you like to do homework? What role do you want mom/dad to take in homework? I will expect you to ask for help if needed.”

You get the idea. Talk about it. LISTEN to their suggestions. Decide on a plan. Implement the plan for at least a week, to show you respect them, take them seriously and expect them to take on homework as their problem. Expect three weeks to learn the new habit.

At the family meeting, say, “I’m going to let you [kids] take on this responsibility. I will support you however you need it. Let’s follow your suggestions for this week and we’ll meet again to talk about how things are going.”

You are now promoted to “consultant,” not a parent, homework cop or nag.

Q: How to follow through?

A: You must allow time for children to learn new habits, for them to realize that you are serious, not just “trying” something new.

YOU MUST BE PREPARED to allow them to fail. To ignore their decisions that might cause them to miss a homework assignment. 

Schools have built-in structures for students who do not complete homework assignments. Allow your child to make decisions about when and where to do homework, or not, and allow him/her to feel the cause and effect of his/her decisions.

Q: How can I allow my child to fail to turn in homework?

A: Perhaps you’re reading this blog in desperation, exhausted from struggling with homework every day. Let it go. Think of the valuable lessons you have learned through mistakes and failure. Do not deny your child this opportunity to learn cause and effect.

Keep reading, unless you want to continue to go crazy by forcing kids to do homework on your terms.

Q: How do I motivate my children to do homework, without nagging?

A: Daniel Pink, author of “Drive: the surprising truth behind what motivates us,” says humans are motivated by three things: Mastery, autonomy and purpose. Notice what’s not in the top three: money, recess, good grades, or pleasing parents. Money, according to Pink, is the lowest form of motivation.

Mastery means to feel good about doing something. Autonomy translates to freedom. Purpose means that there’s a reason to do something, which could be to avoid punishment. True motivation comes from within. It’s your job to nurture it through mastery, autonomy and purpose.

Q: What will other parents and teachers think and feel about me?

A: Most other parents will be jealous that you’re no longer going crazy over homework every day, and that you can use the time and energy to connect with your child in a positive way. Teachers will understand, especially if you privately mention your new stance. Ask him/her for support for a few weeks until your child learns the new habit of taking responsibility and choosing when and where to do homework.

Teachers and parents can recognize school projects completed by parents, not children. Your kids’ efforts will be more realistic and rough around the edges. They can feel the mastery, autonomy and purpose from doing projects independently.

Q: Am I totally absolved from my kids’ homework?

A: No. You are a consultant. You will ask questions, provide encouragement, and guide them to make good decisions. If your child does not complete a homework assignment and gets punished at school, do not inflict additional punishment at home. Let him/her handle school, where experts know what children are capable of.

I like to share with parents a list of famous high school dropouts. School isn’t for everyone. There are alternatives, like the General Equivalency Diploma, home schooling, charter schools and community college for older teens. Academic success is a child’s choice, not a parents’ demand. Unless you want them to work for your praise.

Remember that childhood is a process of letting go, of transferring power and responsibility from your side of the seesaw, when you do everything, to the child’s side of the seesaw, when they take over responsibility and power for their lives. Homework is an excellent example of a safe place they can experiment with power, success, failure, mastery, autonomy and purpose. They can take on this responsibility.

See more in my book, “Raising Able: How chores empower families”  [available on Amazon in print and Kindle] on family meetings and encouragement, the most potent ways to foster everything you want your child to do and become in life, and establish a positive lifelong connection.

What I wish I knew as a young mom

September 6, 2012
What I wish I knew as a young mother- spend more time, less worry. love them, set limits and love with logic. Limits set kindly and firmly are the most important. I had NO IDEA how much parenting support groups would help me be a better mother

This is three families at a cottage off the coast of Maine. My family is in the front two rows. Our friend Bruce is on the second row in the plaid shirt and Colin is wearing the baseball cap.

There’s so much to know to be a good mother that young moms can’t know it all. They can learn it from their kids and from other moms. Here’s ten things I wish I knew, or I discovered along the way.

1. Time is short, even though it feels long when they’re young. Cherish their childhood. It will be gone faster than you can believe. I know everyone says this and the days are long.  Go the extra mile even when it’s hard.

2. Motherhood means sacrifice. You will eventually have more time for you. See #1. Learn to give as much as humanly possible. They’ll always want more anyways!

3. Take care of yourself. It took me a few years to learn this one. Self-care makes you a better mother. Spend some time and money on YOU. Then you have more to give.

4. Don’t fool with regret and guilt. Do your best. There is no perfect mother out there. As long as you get it right at least half the time, you’re good. Get help! See #5.

5. Other mothers and experienced mothers can help. Parenting support groups saved me and showed me how to have a respectful and healthy relationship with my kids, without yelling, threatening, spanking, bribing and punishment. It was an investment of time and effort that paid off.

6. HAVE FUN. Your kids will cherish the good times and hopefully forgive and forget the not-so-good. Kids thrive on fun. Laugh, play games, tell stories, play Charades together.

7. Kids don’t have to have it all. Learn to say “no” in a kind and firm way. Encourage them to earn money to buy more stuff. Show them how to have fun without spending a dime.

8. Kids are wonderful teachers. They are patient and kind. They will reflect back who and what we are. Sometimes the reflection is painful. They are flexible and can learn from us, especially through our actions. My kids let me make the same mistake over and over again until I figured out a different way.

9. Having family meetings and having kids do chores and family dinners are like putting money in the bank, an investment in everything you want your kids to become in the future.

10. Don’t sweat the small stuff. When my two young sons discovered a mud bath and got really dirty, my choice was to reprimand them or surrender and get out the camera, quickly, and laugh.

Family dinners are a the mother lode

August 28, 2012

I’ve just finished going over the manuscript for “Raising Able: How chores empower families” for about the 25th time to prepare to publish it on Amazon’s Create Space, where it’s available on Kindle and print-on-demand.

It has caused me to re-read the book, published more than two years ago. There are some great stories and examples to prove that family chores, family dinner and family meetings provide a solid foundation for your crew, for life.

YES it takes time to plan dinner and make it. Get them involved. See this blog post for ideas on how to make it easier. This photo of my gang on the blog along with ideas to make family dinner easier, especially as school starts and schedules start to collide.

Family dinner is one of the most important and powerful traditions. Here's the author of "Raising ABle: How chores empower families" sharing a dinner with her four grown children and their boyfriends and girlfriends.

The lure of family dinner never wears off. This was taken at our daughter’s apartment where she had cooked us dinner.

My tips to make family dinner easier:

1. Plan dinner in the morning or the night before if you work outside of the home. Make use of a crock pot, time bake and kids at home after school to put on the potatoes and make pizza dough.

2. Involve tots-to-teens in every step of planning, preparation and cleanup. Use family meetings to plan menus and volunteer to cook and cleanup.

3. Eat family-friendly meals and encourage and expect them to try new foods, within reason.

4. Encourage them to start cooking independently as soon as possible. Buy ingredients they need, experiment and have fun. Don’t complain about the mess! Compliment the chef. Eat their food with gusto. You’ll be developing confidence and a lifetime skill and avocation.

5. Learn to stock your pantry, freezer and fridge so you can cook from what’s on hand. Learning to cook from what’s on hand is an art, too.

Bon appetite!

 

Kids have more time for chores in summer

July 2, 2012
Kids and chore are important, especially during summer when they have more time for chores. Get children and teens to choose their own chores at home during a family meeting to help out. Use encouragement, not praise.

Borrowed this wonderful photo from http://fabandfru.com/2009/10/kids-chores/.

Kids like structure. Kids like to feel connected and competent. Summer disrupts those opportunities at school, so parents have to work a bit harder to compensate.

Summer is a great time to teach kids good habits and life skills by involving them in what you’re doing — laundry, yard work, cooking, dishes, fixing things, or anything else around the house. The earlier you start including them in chores, the more natural it will seem. The younger they are, the more they love to help out. Ironically, the older they get and more skilled, the less likely they are to contribute.

We raised our four kids frugally — probably to a fault. However, they learned how to manage  money and avoid the debt epidemic. We didn’t hang-dry laundry when they were growing up. It’s an excellent kid-chore because the youngest kids can do it.

I created a hang-dry system near our washing machine to give up the dryer. It took some time to install and some help from Reliable Bob.  I saw instant savings in my electric bills since we’ve started hang-drying most laundry. I like coarse air-dried towels — they’re like a spa, and soften up after a few uses. Sheets dried outside have a wonderful smell. Usually I’m too lazy to go further than our little dry furnace room right next to the washing machine to dry sheets.

Here I am creating a new energy saving system that the kids got used to to hang dry laundry and save money. it's an excellent chore for kids to hang up laundry, be frugal and save the planet. Using less energy is what we all need to do.

I’m attaching a thick cable to the wall to install a strong indoor clothesline.

Take some time to set up energy-efficient systems this summer.  A work ethic, frugality and knowing how to fix things can take your kids a long way in life. Take the time this summer to set up green systems. Let your kids take apart some old appliances and electronics to see how they work and challenge them to put them back together.  See if they can fix things. Find appliance parts at PartSelect if needed.

Let them make a mess. Encourage them to experience trial and error by taking apart appliances, tinkering with old computers, cooking, growing seeds, sewing or whatever interests them. Investing in messes and chores plant seeds that will grow for a lifetime.

Allow transition time to summer vacation

June 25, 2012
college students are like lame ducks. They've experienced the freedom of college and now have to spend summer with mom and dad. Parents need to communicate with college students about expectations.

Close the door if you can’t stand the mess and let kids of all ages keep their rooms how they choose. You have bigger concerns on which to pour parental energy.

Most kids despise transitions. They like routines, the safety of knowing what’s coming next.

Give them at least two weeks to settle down into the new summer schedule, whether it’s more time at home, with relatives or at camp or summer school. Until they settle down, cut them extra slack when they are quick to anger, resist doing chores and squabble with you and siblings more often.

Expect less and show more patience during the two weeks of transition. You’ll be calmer by adjusting  expectations and having a plan.

If you have the revolving door of college students, have a family meeting or at least a chat about how you expect them to contribute, keep track of their belongings and communicate about their whereabouts.

The start of summer is a good reason to have a family meeting with kids of all ages to set up summer plans for fun, chores, routines and agreements on screen time. Figure out a way that they will self-monitor screen time so you’re not the cop.

Family meetings pay off in the long run because they engender every positive characteristic you want kids to develop. They especially promote the priceless gift of connection that eventually keeps tweens and teens making good independent decisions.

Whatever you do with your toddlers, school age, tweens and teens this summer, make sure it involves some outdoor time reveling in the woods.  Allow them to feel boredom without plugging into a screen. They will discover resource and creativity through boredom. It is a problem they can solve without plugging in. Remember the four most powerful words in the English language: You can do it.

How do you handle the big transitions around the school calendar? Do your kids act out?

The long-term benefits of family meetings

February 20, 2012
Here Ian is shovelling snow, an excellent activity for a 20-something who lives at home. Adults who live at home can be expected to pitch in. Use family meetings to stay in contact, set expectations and encourage each other. Mutual respect is key to discipline for teens, tweens, school age and toddlers

Ian shovels snow -- when we had some last winter -- during a long visit. Family meetings are key to setting expectations and open communication with "kids" of all ages.

My son Ian, 27, left, has no health insurance. We’ve had several discussions about the merits of health insurance.

During his last visit home, he said calmly, “Mom, I don’t want to talk about health insurance any more. I have decided to pay later instead of paying before.”

I listened. I didn’t like it. I heeded his boundary, set respectfully. I was grateful that he told me, instead of calling his girlfriend and complaining, “My mother won’t get off my case about health insurance! I can’t wait to leave.”

I credit our tradition of family meetings for Ian’s ability to respectfully communicate his feelings to me.

When I ask parents to list the attributes they want their children to develop, the list usually looks like this. Happy. Have good friends. Good social skills. Have a good job. Good relationship with me. Confident, capable. Don’t abuse substances. Find work they enjoy. Good self-esteem. Live independently and not in my basement.

I guarantee that family meetings will provide the foundation for every one of those attributes. Family meetings are the most effective discipline method  for toddlers, school-age, tweens, teens and young adults.

Notice I didn’t say “speediest” or “easiest.” Discipline means to teach. Family  meetings teach children the skills, attitudes and attributes we want them to absorb and use for life.

Read the attached notes from a first Family meeting held by a single parent and her two daughters, ages 13 and 10. Their agenda is on the second page. They held the meeting at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning, the time the 13-year-old agreed to in advance.

Here’s what worked about their first family meeting.

  • Mom asked what time they wanted to hold the family meeting, and then followed through even though the 13-year-old was lying on the couch during the meeting. (Teens can’t been seen as too cooperative.)
  • Mom posted the agenda in advance, which gave the kids time to post items, such as “Star Wars symposium outfit for Johanna.”
  • Johanna also posted, “Spend more activities together.”
  • Mom didn’t overload the agenda with problems and demands. She started small.
  • Mom followed the format. Someone took notes to keep for posterity, (humor later on), and to record their agreements. They had a snack and family fun.

Two big wins: Johanna posted two items; the 13-year-old showed up. It’s easier to set up the habit of family meetings when kids are 3 to 12 years old.

Kids will want to come to the meetings when they have a turn to run the meetings, there’s a snack, and family fun. Fun is like a magnet for kids, and long-term family glue.

You can do it. Family meetings reap huge rewards forever. They are worth the time and effort. See my tip sheet on how to get started and read about them in my book “Raising Able.”


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