Tag Archives: kids

The Age Transition for Parenting Teens

A house full of boys is a little bit of what you would expect but also a little bit of not what you would expect. There’s bumps, bruises, things broken, and fart jokes, but there’s also everyone being afraid of a stink bug and wholesome full house moments too.

I can’t speak on what it might be like to raise girls but I do have a little bit of experience when it comes to raising boys and am just getting my feet wet in regards to raising a teenager. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned to do differently as my boys have grown older then it’s how I approach my parenting.

When kids are little they often times crave structure. Since they themselves have very little concept of time and no real control over their own lives (like do they even get a choice on if they have to go to the grocery store with you, nope they’re going), a routine and structure helps them navigate their daily lives and know what to expect.

As they start to get a little older there is still a need for structure and routine. Actually, up until they can start to make some real choices about their lives (like if they want to stay home by themselves while the family runs errands) routine and structure are a good way to go.

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Once opportunities, like staying home, start presenting themselves in the early stages of teenagerism (yes I made that word up) is when your parenting approach needs to start changing (actually it should already start to transition, slowly, as your kids become more mature).

The transition itself is one of providing less structure and routine for your teenager and letting them start to grow their own structure and routine. You essentially have to transition yourself as a parent from providing direction and playing Supervisor to sitting back and playing Advisor.

For some parents this is extremely difficult. For others it comes as second nature. Neither is right or wrong but making the transition is what matters. As kids start to get older, as teens start their journey towards adulthood they will have to begin facing a number of life challenges that, as parents, you will have very little say in.

What friends they hang out, what they think is important in life, what choices they make, what adversity life throws at them, and all the hurdles there are to becoming an adult. What’s important as a parent is that you do these two things to make sure that you transition as a parent from Supervisor to Advisor.

Let life dish out the consequences.

When kids are little we dish out the consequences. Timeouts, groundings, forced apologies, and so on. This is how it works when kids are little. As kids approach their teen years and on, this strategy does not work. It’s not to say that your kids should never get in trouble but if you’re relying on groundings aka ‘teenager timeouts‘ as a way to discipline your older kids, you’re doing it wrong.

Punishing your older children will only create a situation where life has already punished them and you’re simply icing on the cake, because that’s what’s really happening. As kids get older, life hands out the punishments. Kids get bullied or teased, they have moments of failure and rejection, their challenged to exceed expectations in school work and sports all while trying to navigate a social life and trying to figure out who they want to be. Trust me, life will dish out the punishments.

photo cred: Joshua Hoehine

Stay involved.

It’s not enough to let life just raise our kids once they become teens though. Yes they are becoming more mature and independent but in no way are they ready to fly solo. This is where it’s important to begin to become the Advisor in your teens life.

Instead of telling them what they should or shouldn’t be doing, or even forcing it, you want them to go out and make some choices on their own. Then let life provide the rewards and punishments for those choices. When that happens, that’s where you want to interject yourself.

You want to jump in right after life has given your teen the consequences of a choice, whether good or bad, and you want to provide some reflection on that point.

Now, some kids may need a little more time before they are ready to talk about something but ALL kids want to talk about their wins and losses. I promise you, ALL kids want to talk about their wins and losses. Most kids just put on a tough front at first.

As parents our job is to always leave the door open as an Advisor. We want to stay involved. You do this by actually staying involved. By asking about school, but also following up on their grades. If you notice them slipping, put some time into helping your teen study. Ask about friends, but also be watchful of the conversations and actions that are taking place. If you suspect something might be off, offer your Advisor role.

This can be done simply by saying, “Hey just wanted to let you know, if you ever want to talk about something you can. If you feel like it’s hard to talk about you can just text me too.

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The idea here is to make the barrier to having your child ask you for advice as little as possible. This is what we really want as parents. We want our kids to ask for advice, but that will never happen if they feel like you’re going to treat them like a child and tell them what they should do. If you’re going to go back to being a Supervisor.

So as your kids get older remember that they will begin to change and your parenting strategy should follow. Remember that we want to go from Supervisor to Advisor and that there are two parts to being a good Advisor. Let life hand out the punishments and remember to stay involved. Don’t feel like you have to do these perfectly but rather use them as guidelines. I hope this helps someone with a teenager and Godspeed. 😉

Are Your Mornings with Kids Hectic?

You wake up at the very last minute possible to give yourself just enough time to get ready and then get the kids ready and it seems like you’re the only one with any concept of how time actually works. You’re late, the kids are late, everyone’s late and someone’s probably crying…

The kids can’t find a shoe, still haven’t brushed their teeth, and if any one thing goes sideways the entire morning comes crashing down

And then we send our kids to school. Ship them away for the day (or now maybe we ship them to a computer screen for remote learning) and that’s how everyone’s day starts.

It’s the morning rush. It comes 5 days a week and we fight through it Monday through Friday. What we don’t realize is that the morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day and for our kids it can an incredible difference in how their day plays out.

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What we don’t typically realize is how much of an opportunity the mornings really are (see last week’s post Parenting by Opportunity). We don’t realize that our rushed mornings with quick good bye’s and the go-go-go mentality is the foundation of how we are setting up the days for our kids.

Think about it, we start their day with a, “let’s go, hurry up, come on!” and we top it off with a list of directions to get them on track. We shove a bowl of cereal in their face that’s crammed with sugar and then we check in on them every 5 minutes, “Is your jacket on? Did you brush? Is your bookbag packed? Are your shoes on?

What we don’t do is empathize with this situation. We don’t think about what our day would be like if we were in their shoes, what it’s like being rushed around and only having a bowl of sugar to eat before we have to go to a place where we’re told more of what to do, tested for our abilities, and then try and attempt to navigate a forced social life.

photo cred: Haley Owens

As parents we can do so much better if we stop and take a second to do it and it doesn’t take much either. When we really stop to consider how valuable the mornings can really be we realize there is an enormous amount of missed opportunity there, BUT there are some things we can do to really cash in on this time.

For starters, we can wake ourselves up a few minutes earlier. Even fifteen minutes earlier can make an incredible difference in the morning routine and if you really think about it, are you going to be any more rested than you were with fifteen more minutes?

We can also wake the kids up a little earlier. I’ve found this actually works really great even though it seems like it would be harder. When I wake them up I give them time to get up at their own pace. They don’t have to rush out of bed and the first thing they see is me rushing them. Instead they can wake up gently and get moving.

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The next thing we can do in the mornings is provide something better to eat than a bowl full of sugar. I don’t see how we can expect our kids to perform at school during the day when they load up on cereal in the morning. There’s better ways to give your kids the energy that they need to stay focused at school if they are going to perform well (read Rocket’s Need Rocket Fuel).

A morning checklist also does wonders for the kids that can’t seem to remember everything they need to do or stay on track. When I have my kids write a checklist the night before of everything they need to do in the morning they typically end up getting it all done with time to spare. For whatever reason, they really focus in on the list and get things done. It’s great!

And finally, the number one thing you can do that is the MOST IMPORTANT thing if you are going to do anything, do this one thing, is to talk to your kids in the morning. Just take a few minutes to talk to them about how they slept. What they think their day is going to be like. What they want to do later that day after school. Just talk to them because while life is long, childhood is short.

I hope this helps give you some fresh ideas on how to make mornings a way to super charge your kids for the day! If you have any tips or advice on how to take advantage of mornings let me know in the comments!

The Value of Sign Language at a Young Age

Sign Language is one of the most effective ways to communicate, not just with the hearing impaired, but with children too.

Children have this amazing ability to pick up on body and visual cues far before they are ever able to articulate their thoughts into words. Not taking advantage of this feels to me like you’re leaving a lot of opportunity on the table with your kids.

Most kids don’t start speaking, at least some form of complete sentences, until around the age of 2 (give or take a few months). At this stage they can at least speak enough to tell you that they want another cookie (too bad they won’t tell you when they’ve crap their pants and they’re about to take their diaper off….).

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As many parents know… those first few months and years can be extremely difficult. No sleep, no understanding of what baby wants, and you’re basically just winging it and trying shit until something works. Now you’ll still have to do that from time-to-time but why not make it a little bit easier? Sign language can do just that.

I’ve found my kids were able to pick up on sign language from somewhere between 6 to 9 months. They couldn’t tell me they needed a diaper change but they could tell me when they wanted more milk. This doesn’t seem like much but consider this.

Your kids have 1 of 2 ways to tell you that they want or need something. They can:

A) Scream their heads off until they turn blue in the face and you play the guessing game for 20 minutes trying to figure out that they just wanted a drink of water.

OR…

B) They can sign it to you.

I preferred not to be yelled at by a tinier version of myself…

So here’s a couple of signs we use most often in our house. I’ll share them in the order my kids were able to learn them. The key trick to teaching these is repetition.

You sign it, you say it, and then you take their fat little hands and you make them do the motion while you repeat saying it again. That’s it. If you do that every time, over and over, they’ll pick it up within a couple of weeks and, oh praise the Lord!!, no more screaming.

More (as in give me more of that cookie):

My kids don’t actually bring their fingers together like this BUT they do it in a clapping motion. As long as your child knows he is saying more and you know it too, it’s good enough.

Milk:

Very easy, just like milking a cow.

All Done:

This one is great and we use it most often to know when our little dude is done stuffing his face and ready to get out of his high chair.

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Book:

My youngest really picked up on this one. He loves just thrashing through the pages, but hey, at least he’s into books.

Eat:

When we do this one. Baby loses his freaking mind. If he’s hungry and he sees me do this he is ALLLLLL about it.

So these are the ones we use most commonly. Again, the trick is just repetition. You do it, say it, and take your child’s hands and have them do the motion.

The best times to practice these isn’t in a sit down and let’s practice style. The best time is when you actually need to use it.

Keep at it and you’ll thank yourself later, when instead of screaming in church or at the dinner table your little guy just signs for milk.

Raising Independence

When our kids are first born the level of dependence they have on us is incredible. A newborn flat out cannot survive without their parents. Yet so many other species on this little blue marble do not operate like this.

A giraffe can begin to walk nearly 60 minutes after birth! My last child didn’t walk until after his 1st birthday… A number of reptiles will lay their eggs and never return to the nest. My kids can’t watch a Halloween movie and not sleep in my bed for the next three nights. Sea turtles somehow always manage to find their way back to the ocean. My kids get lost in clothing aisle at Target…

photo cred: Picsea

There’s plenty of reasons things are this way though. Our species has the luxury of being able to raise our children with minimal threat to their well-being. There’s also a plenty of mental development that occurs in those early years, as opposed to the physical development we see in nature for other species.

And from that first day, we are required to give that high level of care and attention to our children. There’s no other way to go about it. Our children simply require that we are there caring from them 24/7. However, the mistake we make as we raise our kids is transitioning from this dependent care to independence.

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Our kids get older and we still get them a glass of water, cut up their food, help them get dressed, do their chores, clean up after them… and before we realize it, we’ve gone from parenting to nannying. Instead of doing things because our children can’t, we start doing them out of convenience.

We tie their shoes for them because it’s just faster. We keep changing their diapers because potty training is so difficult. We bail them out of situations when they get in trouble. We let them sleep in our beds because we’re just tired too. We continue to baby them and baby them as they grow older, creating more and more dependence on us.

And then what do we do? We send them out into the world and expect them to be functional adults. We expect them to be able to organize their lives, build relationships, start a career, be home owners, know how to balance a budget… the list goes on and on because as parents we’ve failed to smoothly transition them from dependence to independence.

We’ve let our children grow up in a world that doesn’t really reflect what life is really like. Now don’t get me wrong, every child deserves a childhood free of worries BUT if we’re raising our children to think that life is care-free and someone else will always be there to do it for them, we’re setting them up for a difficult adult life.

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Our childhood is just a small fraction of what our lives are and what good is it to have a great childhood and then grow up and spend the other 75% of your life miserable because you don’t have the tools and training you need to make a better life for yourself?

So… the best way I’ve found to allow your kids to still have a childhood and also give them what they need to be successful adults is to start teaching them independence. Start small and look for opportunities.

When they’re old enough, let them pay for their own snacks at the store with their own money. Give them an allowance so they can learn the value of a dollar and give them chores to earn that allowance. If they’re thirsty, teach them to get their own glass of water. If they’re hungry, teach them to make their own PB&J.

photo cred: Chloe Skinner

They won’t be perfect at it, they’ll fail, and they’ll screw it up BUT that’s all a part of the learning processes. We learn by failing, let them fail now, early on in life, when you can still be there to guide them. Don’t wait until they’re 25 to teach them how to manage their money. Start teaching independence now. You’d be surprised at what your kids can actually do at a young age, on their own.

Sports and Youth

Ahhhh… youth sports… the best place to find one generation ruining sports for the next. The only place you’ll find parents slugging it out over whether or not the teenage umpire made the right call at home plate. The number one place to find parents living out their unfulfilled dreams through their children. Too bad we don’t get this fired up about our kids education…

But really, this isn’t what youth sports is. These are outliers and rare occurrences. Most games are actually much more boring than this… I know because I’ve been to about 167123,123431245,21354 tee ball games…

Youth Sports is so much more than any of that though. Youth sports is one of the best opportunities to teach your children a number of highly valuable life lessons. You see while they’re at school, your child’s life lessons are coming from the world. From their teachers, from their classmates, and from their experiences that you’re not a part of. And these are good as well but you really don’t have any say if your kid learns to pick his nose in kindergarten or comes home from 2nd grade and asks what a ‘vagina’ is because he heard some other kid say it at recess….

That’s just life and you just have to get over it. But sports, and specifically youth sports, provides a huge opportunity for you to actually get in and get involved with your child’s growth. Not as an athlete but as a strong, resilient, highly motivated individual. No I’m talking about screaming at your kid from the sideline because he dropped a pass on 4th and 3. That’s not it. Don’t be that person…

What I’m talking about is teaching your children how to grow on their own and how to handle adversity. These two key points are infinitely valuable in living a happy, successful life. Let’s take a look at why each of these two points is valuable in it’s own regard.

Let’s First talk about adversity as I feel it’s more valuable and beneficial to our mental health in the long run. Facing Adversity is the ability to over-come incredible challenges that are presented to us by life. I say incredible because most the time, we don’t truly face adversity. Having a tough day at work is not adversity. Getting bullied everyday at school is. Adversity is facing something that has no clear cut answer or solution. Adversity is a challenge that makes others question if it’s even possible to over-come.

Youth sports provides one of the best training grounds to teach your children how to deal with and over-come adversity. When they lose, when they strike out, when they make a mistake, when they try hard but still lose… each of these moments, in our children’s eyes, is adversity. And because it’s on a level that is relatable to our children it’s the perfect opportunity to start teaching them how to deal with that.

So how do we actually do that? How do we teach them to handle and over-come this adversity? It’s two-fold, or as I like to say, it’s Good Cop, Bad Cop. We first need to provide positive reinforcement. At that first moment of failure no kid, teenager, adult, or person wants to hear any criticism. So first things first, let’s get our mindset in a positive place. I do this by just following up with my kids and saying, “Hey good try buddy.” That’s it… it’s that simple. And it can be more than that but it honestly doesn’t take much to set the right tone.

Now one of two things happens after this. Your child accepts the failure and moves on OR they hang on to it, they don’t let go of it, and they dwell on it. They pout or throw a fit. They cry or complain… and this is where it gets tough but it’s also where you have to be the Bad Cop.

photo cred: Kelly Sikkema

This is where you have to come in and say, “look, we’ve still got a lot of game to play. We’ve got other opportunities and a chance to try again. We are NOT going to sit here and dwell on this.” And as children they may or may not respond to this. We have to remember we’re dealing with children that can’t always make themselves make the right choice. Shit as adults how many times do we make the right choice?

So keeping it in mind that we are dealing with someone who is, by nature, very immature we then have to help them make the decision for themselves. If they are still dwelling, still pouting, still throwing a fit because they struck out or because they lost. Now is the time to remove them from the situation. Literally, pick them up, tell coach BRB, and go sit in the car. Let them vent, throw down, cry, whatever they’ve got to do. And when they’re ready, when they’ve gathered themselves back up. Ask them, “Are you ready to go back out and try again?”

If you repeat this process. If you stick to it and stay on it, your child will learn how to deal with adversity. They will start to learn that just because something bad happens doesn’t mean life is over. It doesn’t mean I have to let 10 seconds of my day ruin the other 24 hours. It also teaches them to first respond to adversity with positivity. This is what your teaching your child. You’re teaching them the process to over-coming adversity. Positivity first. And if that’s not good enough, take a break from the situation and when you’re ready, go try again.

The Second opportunity you have to teach your children is how to grow on their own. At a young age, this isn’t very realistic so it’s important that as parents we serve as coaches towards this end goal. We do this be coaching our kids up. Once our kids are able to over-come their loses and adversity you can start to teach them how to grow from those moments. All you really need to do to accomplish this is to be involved. It’s so easy to walk up to your child in the dugout and say, “Hey great play on defense buddy you were right there. Next time let’s try to get our glove all the way down into the dirt and stop that ball, okay?”

photo cred: Keith Johnston

And if you repeat this. You do this over and over and over in a positive, growth oriented manner your children will grow. They’ll improve and even better, they’ll learn the process of growth. They’ll learn that it’s really all about hard work and practice. It’s about doing it over and over and over. That’s all it is.

So get your kids into youth sports. Get them out their competing, facing adversity, winning, losing, growing, learning, getting exercise and get yourself involved. Be positive and focus on taking advantage of this short time you’ll get to spend with your kids in Youth Sports.