Parenting Blog

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"Dr Laura....I'm trying stop yelling, but I can't. And I can't imagine getting my kids to listen if I don't yell at them. ...Can you move in with me for a week?!” - Cheralynn

Like Cheralynn, most parents think they "should" stop yelling, but they don't believe there's another way to get their child's attention. After all, it's our job to teach them, and how else can we get them to listen? It’s not like yelling hurts them; they barely listen, they roll their eyes. Of course they know we love them, even if we yell. Right?

Wrong. The truth is that yelling scares kids. It makes them harden their hearts to us. And when we yell, kids go into fight, flight or freeze, so they stop learning whatever we're trying to teach. What's more, when we yell, it trains kids not to listen to us until we raise our voice. And it trains them to yell at us.  READ POST

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 | Permalink

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change." -- Carl Rogers

"Our wounds can heal and become our source of power." -- Gail Larsen

Sages say that raising children is one of the best paths to enlightenment because it stretches the heart and teaches us to love.  Parents have daily opportunities to dig deep in search of patience  and compassion. Luckily, we're strongly motivated by our love for our children, so we stretch.  READ POST

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 | Permalink

"Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild."- Welsh Proverb
  READ POST

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 | Permalink

My Aha! Parenting Moment last week came while my son was home for winter break. He had an operation on his knee and couldn’t do much besides lie on the couch and read. So he spent a fair amount of time playing computer games, something he doesn’t have time for at college. Now,  I loved having him home, but it took a lot of time to wait on him hand and foot while he was healing. I have to admit I was happy when he was occupied with the computer and I could focus on my own work.

So I would look up from writing at my computer and see him playing a computer game, and then feel guilty.  True, he’d already spent the morning reading philosophy for school.  But shouldn’t I do something with him?  Play chess, or make a photo album, or help him revise his resume to look for a summer internship? If only I wasn’t so busy, I knew I could interest him in something better for him than playing computer games.

Then I read a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The study found that the average 8 to 18 year old American now spends practically every waking minute — except for the time in school — using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device.

So is technology use terrible for kids? Well, we can’t really study kids who don’t use technology because they don’t seem to exist in this country. Although one of my son’s friends doesn’t have a facebook page, and she did get perfect SAT scores, so my study of one supports the theory that kids do better without technology.

But in the Kaiser study, the kids who use technology three hours or less per day seem to do ok.  Presumably, that leaves them time for other passions, schoolwork, and relating to their families.

Excessive technology use, on the other hand, is associated with bad grades, depression, bad family relationships, and kids getting into all kinds of trouble. Of course, this is a chicken or egg problem, since maybe the kids with the problems are the ones most likely to retreat into technology addiction – but either way, the technology use isn’t helping.  

So the amount of time the average kid is spending with technology, which is every waking minute, really is bad for them. The authors of the study said they were shocked by their findings.

My Aha! Moment came when I started thinking about the study finding that more than 70% of kids have a TV in their bedroom, and about a third have a computer with Internet access in their bedroom. That’s what shocked me. I have to admit that I think my kids  spend too much time on their computers. They’ve always needed my help to resist the addictive lure of computer time, whether with Facebook or computer games. And while I consider myself a relatively permissive parent about many things, I know that a ton of money gets spent figuring out how to make my kids, and all kids, want to spend more time playing computer games or just hanging out on Facebook.   

So in the same way that I’ve taught my kids to eat right and brush their teeth, I’ve given them help to learn how to keep technology addictions from cutting into more productive time, whether that’s for schoolwork or reading or even sleeping, which experts say virtually all kids spend too little time doing.  So the idea of letting my kids have a computer or TV in their bedrooms seems roughly analogous to letting them have a drug dealer in their bedroom.  Why would I not protect my child?

Then I thought of my son playing computer games while I worked.  Aha!  Kids by themselves can’t handle that computer addiction. We know that. Reading or chess or artwork are all hard work.  Rewarding, yes, but hard.  They just can’t compete with the lure of the screen. Parents need to set that limit.  But we’re busy, as I was, on our own computers.  So we let our kids play one more computer game.  We let them retreat into their bedrooms, glued to their screens, so we can get one more thing done.  Who among us has time to play a game of chess with our kid, or make a photo album?

You’ll be happy to hear that the Kaiser study also showed that in homes with rules and limits on technology, like no television during meals or in the bedroom, young people used less media.  So parents who are brave enough to set limits about when and where kids use technology ARE effective in protecting their kids. And they’re rewarded -- with kids who do better in school, who are healthier, happier, and who relate more warmly with their families.

And, of course, it isn’t just setting limits, it’s actually spending time.  These parents might be getting another reward too. Working with your kid on his resume is a perfect time to talk about his future.  That photo album is great opportunity to ask your son about that cute girl.  And even that game of chess gives ample opportunity for your son to open up about what’s on his mind.

Excuse me while I close my computer and go spend time with my son.  READ POST

Friday, January 22, 2010 | Permalink

My Aha! Parenting moment last week came when my husband called me three times to email him something at work. He often works on a computer at home and then emails himself documents so he can access them from the computer at his job. A couple of times a year, he’ll forget to send himself something important, so he’ll call me and ask me to email it to him.  Luckily, I have a home office, so it’s easy for me to go to his computer and email it.  

Last week, this happened not just once, but on three different days. My husband was very apologetic about interrupting my work.  He was grateful I was able to help him out.  But I found myself wondering if maybe he would have done a better job remembering to take care of this task himself I wasn’t so available to help him.  After all, the advice parenting experts always give parents is not to “rescue” kids if they forget their homework or their lunch, so they’ll “learn a lesson.”  

Smiling, I fantasized a scenario in which I would tell my husband that I loved him very much but couldn’t email him the document, because that would just encourage him to continue this irresponsible behavior. He might THINK I would be helping him if I emailed his important document to him, but it was really for his own good that I wasn’t going to send it. I knew it wouldn’t be easy right now that he didn’t have the presentation he needed for his meeting, that he had worked so hard on, but I was sure he would learn an important lesson from this experience. I knew that someday he would thank me for helping him learn this valuable lesson.

I considered what my husband’s response might be.  Disbelief, of course, and then begging.  Then anger.  And when I continued to hold to my position, he might even conclude that I don’t really love him. After all, if I really loved him, wouldn’t I do everything in my power to help him when he asked me for help?  

I had to laugh at this scenario.  Of course I would never do this to my husband.  And for exactly the same reasons, I would never do this to my child.  I’ve had the opportunity, although never three times in one week. But probably twice in my son’s high school career, he called and asked me to email homework to him so he could access it at school.  And probably once a year while my daughter was in middle school, I walked the five blocks to her school to drop off something she’d forgotten at home. If I’d said No to them, they might indeed have learned the lesson not to forget their work.  But I’m afraid they would also have learned another, unintended, lesson, about being unsupported in the world, and not being lovable enough, important enough, to their mother that she would do them a small favor they desperately needed. Would that have been worth the cost?

I asked my 14yr old daughter what she thought of the standard parenting advice not to rescue kids in these situations.  “Is the favor easy for the parent to do?” She asked. “Obviously, you wouldn’t leave your job to go home and get something the kid forgot.  But you mean the experts say you shouldn’t walk in the other room and email the kid his homework, or walk five blocks to the school?”

“That’s right,” I told her.  “They say that trains kids to let you wait on them hand and foot, and not to be responsible.”

“Anyone who says that is an idiot,” she answered.  “Teenagers need to know they can count on their parents. Parents who follow that advice will raise teenagers who won’t come to them when they’re in trouble. Besides, asking for help is a life skill everyone needs.”

So why IS this the standard parenting advice?  We think we’re teaching kids to be more responsible.  Instead we’re teaching them that they can’t count on their parents.

And it isn’t just the forgetting things issue.  Most parents punish their kids with “consequences” so they learn lessons, unwittingly teaching them the wrong things.

So, have I taught my kids to be irresponsible by rescuing them occasionally?  I don’t think so.  They’re both straight A students. They do their homework the minute they get home.  They seem to forget things less often than I do.

Now maybe you’re wondering what would have happened if my kids forgot something three times in one week.  And then three times the next week.  Wouldn’t I refuse to rescue them THEN?  Wouldn’t I make sure they suffered the consequences, to learn a lesson?

Actually, no.  I would work with them to help them develop a habit to help them remember.  Like always printing out homework the night before, packing the backpack, and leaving it by the door.  Putting a sticky note on the backpack if something needed to be added, like lunch from the fridge. And never going to sleep until they emailed whatever they’d been working on.  

Which is exactly the habit I’ll be working on with my husband this evening!  READ POST

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | Permalink

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.”  -- Hodding Carter  READ POST

Sunday, November 01, 2009 | Permalink

My Aha Parenting moment this week came during a dinner party.  A conversation about the recent furor in the New York TImes and on NPR about Alfie Kohn and timeouts led to a discussion of discipline methods, including spankings. I felt compelled to point out that both timeouts and spanking are punishments, not discipline.  Discipline means “to guide” and there are more effective ways to guide kids than punishment.  As always in these social conversations where no one has hired me as their parenting expert, I tried to walk the line between saying what I think --  punishment gets in the way of raising cooperative kids -- and making other parents wrong.  I do understand, after all, how a parent can feel at the end of her rope and use a timeout.  READ POST

Wednesday, October 07, 2009 | Permalink