The Underrated Power Of Clear Parenting Principals

Creating and living with a simple set of parenting principles makes the entire journey richer and more enjoyable for everyone involved. Here are mine.

Did you know that parents spend more time choosing a baby name and designing a nursery than they spend on outlining principles that will guide all of their parenting decisions?

It’s true. And it explains why so many parents struggle as their children’s personality takes center stage and they begin to question authority, ignore requests, tease siblings, refuse to go to bed, refuse to cooperate, throw a bit of sass your way, hide homework assignments, or lie about their tech use.

Creating and living according to a clear set of parenting principles will make the entire parenting journey more enjoyable for everyone concerned.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Creating and living according to a clear set of parenting principles will make the entire parenting journey more enjoyable for everyone concerned.[/su_pullquote]

These principles make it possible for parents to get on the same page from day one and work cooperatively in raising capable, cooperative, connected and happy kids.

Beyond that, without a set of guiding principles it’s easy to find yourself in the weeds and parenting is tough enough without the added stress of a flim flam approach to raising our kids.

To launch your creative juices here is my list of guiding principles that I created more than 20 years ago and which I still use to keep me on the straight and narrow in my role as mom.

1. When my children are 35, I want them to say I was a mother of Radical Faith. That I made parenting decisions that showed I had faith in myself, in my children and the world at large.

2. I will give my children choices so they understand the true power that one choice has in creating a meaningful life.

3. I will hold my children accountable to their choices so that they know I have faith in their abilities to handle those choices.

4. I will adequately represent to my children what they can expect from the outside world.

5. I will not save my children from adversity but rather instill in them the confidence that they can bounce back from anything the world may throw their way.

6. I will never talk negatively about my children to anyone other than my closest friends. The ones that I would talk to if I found out my husband was cheating on me. If my husband talked about my faults to others, I would never trust him again with my heart, my body or my mind.

7. I will never over power my children lest I teach them that it is acceptable to overpower others if they do not succumb to your demands.

8. Above all else, I will make sure that each day my children hear from me, what it is I most admire about the way THEY walk through the world so that they have the ability to show others the same deep respect.

By creating and then implementing your own set of guiding principles, you will be on your way to raising emotionally healthy, well adjusted, engaged and resilient children. In other words, you are creating a roadmap for growing a grown up.

Use A Safety Deposit Box to Get Kids to Put Their Stuff Away

Messes are a part of life with kids. Here is a simple and effective strategy for clearing the clutter: the Safety Deposit box.

Messes are a part of life with kids. Here is a simple and effective strategy for clearing the clutter and bringing order back into your life: the Safety Deposit box.

The Safety Deposit box is a large cardboard box or any other container that you place in a central location to hold all the “junk” that is left out after a designated and agreed upon time of day.

This box which can be moved to a garage or basement will hold all the “junk” that was left out.

The “junk” will remain in the safety deposit box until an agreed upon time when everyone is allowed to remove anything that belongs to them from the box.

Here’s How It Works

Gather the kids together and let them know you are tired of nagging, reminding, and threatening them to pick up their stuff so you are not going to do it any longer.

You have an idea for a solution you would like to run by them and if they agree it might work, you will try it for a week.

Ask the kids what time of day you should ALL do a “cleaning blitz” and explain that at that time you will all have 5 minutes to pick anything of yours up and put it away or it will go into the Safety Deposit Box until Sunday at 10:00 am (or whenever you decide. ).

Decide that you will use a creative way to let everyone know the blitz has started, like special music.

Anything left out after 5 minutes goes into the Safety Box.

You may want to wait until the kids go to bed before you grab everything they left behind and store it in the box.

Depending on what’s left out you may have kids who could care less that some of their stuff is missing, you may have kids who are annoyed that a favorite toy is missing or you will have a child who is completely distraught that their shoes or backpack ended up in the safety deposit box, “wiithh myyyyy homewooooork thaaaat issss duuuee toooodaaaay!”.

One missed homework assignment will not be the undoing of your child, but it could be a powerful reminder of the importance of picking up at the end of the day.

This strategy is powerful in that no one is in trouble for leaving stuff out, it applies to everyone in the family, it is fair, you set things up from the beginning, you are consistent, there are no exceptions and the time limit is short.

Instituting new strategies takes courage and confidence.

Give it a try and give it time to work. Instituting new strategies takes courage and confidence. So muster them both up, dive in and watch the magic happen.

This is part of a series of our favorite advice, tips, and behavioral insights from Vicki Hoefle. For more useful parenting advice, visit VickiHofle.com and sign up for her newsletter.

Procrastination Parenting

Looking back at the long list of worries that kept us up at night (and then resolved themselves) when our first son was born.

It all started the night I switched off the baby monitor. Oliver had been born early, and we spent eight months dealing with colic, reflux, and an underweight baby. Exhaustion did not describe it. I was the walking dead…when I could walk.

The little screamer had yet to sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time. Because of his low birth weight I wanted to get every drop of milk into him that I could, ignoring the fact that he would spew it out in his version of the Exorcist. I never missed a mew or a wail that might signal his hunger. Night and day I was sitting vigil to feed him. To my new mother brain hunger equaled death.

After months and months of this I realized that MY death might be approaching faster than his.

In one moment of clarity in the mushy mess of my brain, I realized that my proactive stance towards feeding might not be serving either of us. We both needed to sleep. So I unplugged the mechanical tether of the monitor and slept for 6 hours. I told myself that if he really needed me I would hear him down our short hallway. I’m not sure how many of those six hours Oliver slept, but he was less fussy the next day and then less and less with each day that followed.

This was when I learned the power of procrastination in parenting. My vigilance was fueling excessive worry, contributing to a negative cycle of sleeplessness, and taking away my kid’s chance to self-soothe. Luckily my husband agreed to try to work together to work less.

Ten years later we have a lengthy list of concerns that cleared themselves up with our concerted lack of intervention.

Reversing b’s and d’s – Of course there are many learning differences that can benefit from early identification. In our case our son’s teacher never mentioned it, so we didn’t either. One bay he knew how to write day, and that was the end of that.

Suffering from a clogged tear duct – The pediatrician suggested we press our pointer finger against my older son’s eye multiple times a day. We did it multiple times period. I’m not sure when the clog ended, but it did. I’d say it was a relief, and maybe it was to our toddler, but it was out of sight out of eye for my husband and me.

Holding up an oversized head – It wasn’t news to me that my younger son had a huge head. Off the charts, the doc told me with a smile. My mother was there for the checkup and managed to ask about our friendly bobble head for the next few years. Those repetitive conversations were the only time his head entered mine. Now he is proportional.

Wetting the bed – This one brought on a little more angst than the others. Our boy worried about it himself, so we did think and talk about this problem more than most of the bumps of boyhood. However, we didn’t restrict his water or buy the alarming sheets. We were confident he would outgrow it. He did. And we never had to treat it like a problem viewing it instead as a natural difference in speed of maturity.

Eating selectively – The reverberations of the reflux continued into Oliver’s early years. What I learned is that a child can grow and thrive on Pirate Booty, a glass of milk and a daily vitamin. Now he eats cabbage and pulled pork, broccoli and tacos. He welcomes protein and vegetables in all textures and colors. We never made food a battle. Despite his smaller size he was following his growth curve and had energy and a healthy attitude. We let that be our guide rather than the diversity of his plate.

Having almost no friends – This was tough to ignore. Yet we did. We never forced playdates or signed him up for teams. We allowed Leo to skip birthday parties as long as he offered a polite and timely decline to the host. As it turns out he now has loads of friends and invitations, he pops by neighbor’s houses and welcomes them in when they stop by ours. Without the awkward scaffolding that inserts a parent directly into his/her child’s social life Leo found his way to friends and can support those relationships solo.

Stuttering – There are many cases of speech differences that require a proactive approach. Our older son had a recurring and remitting stutter. We did consult with some speech-language pathologists informally and followed their advice about noticing and remarking on the times that he had “smooth speech.”  We also made sure to stop other conversations and give him our attention when he was struggling though sentences. It was minor and mellow and after three years of bumpy speech his stutter has been gone for the following four.

Waking at night nightly – Instead of drawing a hard line with the boys we allowed them to make “little beds” on our floor with their pillows and blankets.  After just a few nights of this they realized their own beds were cozier than our hardwood floor. They began to put themselves back to bed after a quick kiss. Now we don’t see them between 9pm-7am. Unless there is a stomach bug. But that is another issue.

Never wanting to leave the house – We did worry a bit about this. Our younger son would sabotage our family outings with resistance in the form of tantrums. He was a flopping fish, a stubborn mule, a screaming hyena. Finally, we just left him behind. At first we were hesitant, we worried that we were “rewarding” his bad behavior. It didn’t take long, though. A few missed adventures while he stayed home with a sitter, and he was opting in.

Not knowing how to hug or kiss – For a few years we contemplated the possibility that our son might be on the autism spectrum. He needed to be prompted to hug and kiss. He was a limp noodle in our arms, and his kiss was a dim press of his lips soundlessly against our cheeks. After setting aside our disproportionate worry, we simply modeled the hugs and kisses that we wanted to give him. And eventually we received them in kind.

Having a floor made of dirty clothes – After a renovation I wondered why we refinished our sons’ floors. They weren’t visible anyways. I spent my childhood being nagged to pick up my room and clearly remembered pretending I couldn’t hear my mother as she called up the stairs to get my attention. It was likely I was being taken to task for skipping my tasks. Steve and I vowed not to do this with our kids. Following the Parenting On Track philosophy, we simply acted out the natural consequence of no place to step and stopped entering their rooms. No tucking in. No good night kisses. We did less, and they did more. Now it is only yesterday’s outfit on the floor.

Of course, we have had some fails….Leo limped around on a broken femur for three days while we assumed it was a self-healing sprain. Perhaps a bit of proactivity would have helped here, but in the end we suffered only from a bit of guilt not a gimpy kid.

What about you?

What don’t you do?

If At First You Don’t Fail, Try Again

We preach about the success factors of flexibility, resiliency, and self-control, but we rarely let our kids practice those skills in their daily lives.

He is standing in front of me shaking as much from anger as from cold. It has been three days since I allowed him to walk out of indoor soccer without his new winter coat.

Eventually, I will realize that we both learned a lesson from this. Leo never lost a coat again, and I never bought him a brand new Patagonia anything. For now, though, we are still in a miserable place. He is covering his guilt with rage.

How did he get so unlucky as to have a mom who lets him lose his things? His friends have lovingly packed lunches, carefully checked homework, and pairs of mittens that are kept together by responsible adults. They race out of their parent’s cars to the playground while moms and dads follow behind toting backpacks and art projects. Leo and I walk to school together with my arms swinging free at my side.

During the 45 minutes that other families fight over homework, the four of us sit at the table together in silence. Steve and I read or work on our calendar or bills, the boys do whatever it is they do.

For Oliver, our older son, it is always homework carefully matched to the assignments on his planner. Meanwhile, Leo might write or read, or he might work on a packet of math that may or may not be the packet for this week.

There is an outer calm at our table. It doesn’t tell the story of what seethes inside me.

I look across the worn wood and realize that Leo is toiling over a worksheet from three weeks ago that dug out from some pile growing in a corner of his room. I see this week’s homework hidden under a folder, completely out of his sight and mind. Keeping my mouth shut and letting him fail is hard. Harder for me than sitting next to him and prodding him to finish his work, pointing out mis-read word problems and missing capitals. I would rather him fail now though. Fail fast, hard, early and often.

We preach about the success factors of flexibility, resiliency, and self-control. It is lip service, though. We rarely let our kids practice those skills in their daily lives.

There’s no question that I am a better third grader than my son.

It is annoying but efficient to nag our kids and insert ourselves into their routines. We are better at cleaning and cooking than they are. We are better at spelling and better at math (except for the super confusing new math). But what good does this do any of us?

He turned nine last month. Parent educator Vicky Hoefle reminds us that he should be halfway trained to leave the house. When I worry that we are not far enough along I remember my friend asking her ten year old if he needs to go potty. I think of a nine-year-old that doesn’t choose his clothes let alone wash them.

I listen to a mom list her top middle schools fully admitting that her daughter doesn’t like any of the top three contenders. I watch friends choose their kid’s passion projects for them, somehow thinking that passion for Pokemon isn’t high-minded enough for intermediate school.

It is hard to be hands-off. It is messy.

We have lived through bloody slices from sharp knives as Leo cut his own apples. He has come home hungry after his lunch of single box of chicken stock failed to fill his belly. We have school pictures featuring stained shirts and unwashed hair. He has skipped birthday parties because he hasn’t saved enough of his own money to buy a gift.

Even though I know natural consequences are the best possible teachers it has been hard for me too. There have been months when I can’t enter his bedroom to tuck him in because his floor is covered in clothes. I’ve thrown his sneakers in the trash because he has stunk them up with his sock-less feet. I have held my nose at the moldy laundry he left in the washer for four days. I have skipped our goodnight kiss because he has refused to brush his teeth. I have had to stay strong during whispered conferences in the hall as his teachers explain he has not handed in homework for months.

I have stood by as he wept, feeling unsupported by his mother. Feeling too young for the crushing responsibilities of his life. It is harder to watch him struggle to make myself integral to his success. I believe in giving them this latitude. I trust all of the times that he will fall down in his single digits will help him navigate life in the long run.

This morning he left for school with a smile.

He had his snack and Friday folder to return; he wore sneakers for PE, his GT math folder contained a note that he had written his teacher. He remembered an extra layer for our crisp weather. He walked into the kitchen after scooping the cat litter and charged his iPad. I sat sipping my tea, chatting with him about next weekend, and how much more cuddly our cat has been.

I may not pack his lunch, but I am right there with him in ways that I would not be able to be if I were a sherpa, chef, and proctor. As I kissed his minty mouth goodbye, it seemed that we really might be halfway there after all. Thanks to my bitten tongue and his bruised body from falling and getting up and falling and getting up again.

It’s Time to Stop Shaming and Humiliating Children

Now is the time for each of us to come together against one big parenting trend that has no benefit: it’s time to stop shaming and humiliating children.

No matter what you believe, or what style of parenting you are using to raise your kids — Attachment, Tiger, Free Range, Feminist, or anything else — now is the time for each of us, as parents, grandparents and educated adults – to come together against one big parenting trend that has no philosophical relevance or psychological benefit.

It’s time to stop shaming and humiliating children.

For those of us who are appalled at these incidents, it’s time to do more than merely complain or judge. It’s time to take a stand.

Here are 5 things you can do today to bring awareness to this issue and to take an active role in changing it – and perhaps save one child from experiencing the effects of humiliation at the hands of a parent.

1. Don’t Bully the Parents

If you’re going to blog about it or chat it out publicly, focus on what can be done to change the trend, not a running list of why these parents are “doing it wrong” or are “bad parents.”

Remember, parents are doing the best they can with the information they have.

Also, attacking people makes them defensive – closed to new approaches to parenting.

Let’s stay away from play-by-play editorializing and instead, bring awareness to the unintended realities and effects of their actions. Remember, there is no good in making the parents feel guilty by shaming them for their choices and subsequent actions.

We want to encourage new thinking, not “punish” or “humiliate” them for their old thinking. Otherwise, we’d perpetuate the same cycle!

2. Use Facts in Comment Threads 

If you have the time, jump in with a comment that refers to objective, identifiable facts – that public shaming can rally up a mob mentality (one video mentions people were swearing at a child forced to wear a sign), affect the child’s dignity, leave an undesired effect on a child’s legacy, fracture the parent/child relationship, teach submission to a bully, degrade human spirit, and so on.

3. Use Social Media Proactively 

Nearly every parent on the street will say they don’t support bullying, but they haven’t made the connection that humiliating and shaming kids is a form of bullying.

Make the point that if teachers or employers decided to publicly shame students or employees, it would be a series of explosive, high-profile HR complaints and obvious lawsuits. If we, as a society, accept one form of public shaming, we’re teaching that it is okay to bully one another.

Simply put it out there that shaming our kids isn’t “creative discipline,” it’s bullying.

4. Offer Alternative Options and Ideas

Instead of trying to get the kids to comply with our every demand, focus on developing mutually respectful relationships. Over time, this ensures that we’ll raise a generation of thoughtful, respectful, rational adults.

The shaming trend is just an impulsive new twist on every other “quick fix” strategy meant to force kids into complying with parents expectations (sometimes reasonable, often not).

5. Share Good Information  

Give people positive, thoughtful, realistic examples or insights that will shift their thinking.

Share simple ideas and good information on the subject, as well as the basic human value we all carry in this world.

We’ve all been overwhelmed, we’ve all be embarrassed by something our kids did or said, and we’ve all had moments of bewilderment when raising kids. That does not give us the right to shame and humiliate them and then to brag about it in cyberspace. There is a bigger picture here that get’s lost in the sensationalism of this topic.

If you value mistakes as vehicles for growth, then you cannot value the public humiliation of those who make mistakes. If you want to teach children not to bully, then you cannot play the role of bully. Take it seriously as it’s critical to society that we see the connection and educate those who do not.

Good luck and we’ve got your back!

What’s The Parent’s Role With Homework?

If we want kids to invest in their education, we have to allow them to take on the responsibility of managing their school and homework.

The relationship our children develop with school (and yes, it is a relationship) begins as soon as they enter their first classroom.

School work and homework play an important part in our child’s first decisions concerning their education and their parents’ role in their education.

If we want our kids to invest in their education, then we have to allow them to take on the responsibility of managing their school and homework.

Here are some tips on how to stay involved, without taking over.

Tip #1: Set clear and reasonable expectations for both you and the kids. 

This might include:

  • We will require the kids set aside 15 minutes for homework or reading.  If the kids choose to noodle away their time, then we will bite our tongues and let the natural consequences do the teaching.  Obviously, as the kids get older you can revisit this issue and decide how much time they need to complete school work so you can factor that in to their busy schedules.
  • We will ask the kids about their classwork, homework and projects, but will not demand that they inform us.  If the kids choose to share, we will keep our opinions to a minimum and if the kids choose not to share, we will respect their decision.   The more you can promote their independence in this area, the quicker they will learn the lessons that will help them take responsibility for their learning.
  • We will provide a place for the kids to do homework but understand that they might not all use the space as we intended.
  • We will offer our assistance if we see the kids struggle, but we will not monitor their homework or demand they let us check their work.  After all, homework is suppose to help the teacher assess the students in her class and if you help too much, the teacher isn’t getting accurate information.
  • If our kids choose not to do their homework, we will support the school’s consequences which might include a loss of recess time or staying after school or taking a zero on the assignment or project.
  • We will do our best to help the kids create healthy study habits but will not jeopardize our relationship with them by forcing the issue.
  • We will remember that the mistakes our kids make when they are young teach them valuable lessons when the stakes are low. They will grow to understand the importance of investing in their education as they grow and mature.

Tip 2: Take into account Your Child’s Style as it pertains to homework.

Consider the following:

  • Some kids need to take a break
  • Some kids need to stay at it until they break through the frustration
  • Some kids need to engage in some physical activity to allow their brain to relax and refocus before returning to their studies
  • And some kids need to plug into their ipods or a tv or a computer game and go inside themselves to reenergize and refocus.

Many kids are beginning to identify the subjects that are difficult for them and subjects that come easy.  This may lead them in a direction of study later on in their lives.  It will certainly help them navigate the rest of their lives if they understand these key indicators of what interests them and what doesn’t.

Remember your kids are developing important life skills and taking responsibility for their own homework is the perfect place to allow these skills to blossom.

It is more important that our kids learn how to become organized, manage their time, problem solve, accept responsibility and build confidence in their ability to make choices and navigate their education, than it is to get perfect marks on their assignments.

Consider:

  • What is your child’s learning style?
  • Does your child want downtime after school? Or is she able to jump right in?
  • Is your child able to tackle school work independently?
  • What is the biggest concern you have about handing the job of homework over to your child?
  • What does your child enjoy the most and the least about school?

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Try This Next Time Your Kids Ignore You – And Before You Start Yelling

As parents, most of us will ask our kids to get dressed, or brush their teeth, or go get their homework so we can get in the car.

As kids, they typically ignore that first request.

We then follow with a few more requests using a really nice calm voice. The kids continue to ignore us. And it’s at that point that we change from nice to screeching, yelling, demanding, and threatening.

It appears that this is the way our children get engaged –  when we escalate into screaming, which of course isn’t what we want to be doing.

It’s important for parents to understand that most kids are parents deaf. It’s a little bit like the Charlie Brown scenario. What they hear through those first requests is [wah-wah, wah-wah].

All of these requests and reminders train the kids that they don’t really have to move until we escalate. So one of the ways to break that pattern is to start out by giving our kids choices, because they have to answer you.

When you speak to your kids change from a direction to a request or a choice. “John, would you like to brush your teeth now or after this commercial? Mary, would you like to get your homework now or after we finish dinner. Jamie, do you want to brush your teeth now or after we finish reading the book?”

The child is required to then respond in some way. Once you receive a response, you can move the conversation forward. Even if the child replies by saying, “neither”, you have the beginning of a conversation started and you can answer, “I see. When would you be willing to…?”

Try it and see if this helps you to stop screaming.

Self Control: Who Has It?

If I ask 100 people about their thoughts on control, 99.5 will whisper “I am a control freak,” as if this is a bad thing. Personally, I embrace and celebrate my “control freakish” nature. Why? Because the truth is, being a control freak is not the problem.

If I ask 100 people about their thoughts on control, 99.5 will whisper “I am a control freak,” as if this is a bad thing. Personally, I embrace and celebrate my “control freakish” nature. Why? Because the truth is, being a control freak is not the problem.

The problem comes from trying to control the external world instead of developing control of your internal world, which really means – demonstrating consistent self-control.

Of those same 100 people, 99.5 of them will readily admit that they spend the majority of their time trying to control everything outside of themselves. Why? Because it’s easier to try and control someone else or something else (ha) then it is to control your own thoughts, words and actions and to a certain extent, I agree.

I agree that it’s easier to “try” and control other people and situations than it is to develop the discipline necessary to control yourself. But the truth is, and we all know it, is that we can’t control ANYTHING beyond our own thoughts, words and actions.

Now when we think about the many ways, we well-meaning parents try and control our kids, it’s important that we also look at the consequences of our decision to try and control them.

Subtle Control– Subtle control can best be described as a friendly dictate from a well-meaning parent. You know? A parent who has their child’s best interest in mind. A parent who only wants their kids to experience the brighter side of life. A parent who KNOWS that if the child would just do what they say, the way they say to do, the child will most certainly turn out to be a happy, well adjusted, never sent to the principal’s office kind of kid. But alas, the child who is subjected to subtle control soon loses their voice and as the voice goes, so does the mental muscle to navigate their way through the world with any sense of confidence and enthusiasm. In other words, we create kids who will follow along with little resistance but who in essence are sitting on the sidelines of their life, while their parents do it for them.

Overt Control – Overt control can best be described as the bossy, dictatorial, I-said-so kind of control. These parents don’t care to disguise their decision to control their kids and their kids’ lives. And surprisingly enough, their motivation to control is much like the subtle parents reasons. To ensure the kids make few or no mistakes, cruise through life with ease, and make their parents lives as easy as possible.

There are some inherent problems in this kind of parenting, not the least of which is that the kids begin to “push back” under all this heavy handed controlling. They quickly learn that controlling other people is a primary goal in life. After all, they are learning from the most important people in their life. Is it any wonder the kids begin to assert their own kind of control of their parents. But the other problem, and one far more concerning to me as a parent, is the fracture it leads to between parent and child. In an overtly controlling dynamic, constant jockeying for position replaces other, healthier ways of connecting.

If you wish to model for your children the benefit of developing and maintaining self-control, start with these simple exercises:

Start paying attention to what you are thinking. Seriously. So often, a parent’s mouth will start moving before they have paused long enough to “THINK” about what it is they are going to say next and if it will enhance or interfere with the relationship they have with their child.

Teach yourself to pause and to change what you are thinking. Learn to spin the thought on its axis until you have sniffed out any desire you might have to control the wee little one in front of you. As you begin to develop mental muscle, your ability to actually decide on your thoughts will become easier and easier. And if we are to believe that what comes out of our mouths is based on what we are thinking, then controlling the words we use will be infinitely easier. The words we choose will be in line with our thinking and our thinking is to demonstrate self-control and enhance the relationship with our child. Fabulous.

Remember, your body works for your thoughts. As your thinking and speaking shifts from directing and reactive to thoughtful and intentional responses, your actions will follow. Imagine actions that are kind, patient, intentional, supportive, forgiving, loving, kind and understanding. Picture yourself influencing your child’s life from this perspective and you can quickly see the distinct advantages of practicing self-control rather than wasting time and energy trying to control the external world.

And: have fun.

A Pediatrician Warns About Traps Around Food and Parenting

With all this focus on obesity, it’s easy to understand how we can let fear drive our decision-making process around nutrition, but it’s important that we recognize that swinging the pendulum too far the other way is just as dangerous.

“You know, all those kids whose parents were sending them to school with carrot sticks and avocados and 3 oz of lean turkey 5 years ago are now showing up in my office as pre-teens with serious eating issues.  They are starving and now they have this wonky idea about the role food plays in their lives.  I wish I could record some of the conversations I have with these kids, so their parents could hear how messed up their views on food and nutrition are. I spend half my time trying to re-educate them, but many of the kids say they have to sneak to eat anything that isn’t sanctioned by mom or dad.”

I almost fell out of my chair when my friend who is a nutritionist and pediatrician shared this with me.  I asked her to share three tips she would give parents that would help correct this dangerous trend.

I have listed her suggestions for creating a more balanced approach to nutrition.

1.  Keep your own eating issues out of the equation. When talking to the parents whose kids communicate unhealthy ideas around food, eating and nutrition, it is immediately understood that it is the parents’ issue that is driving the decisions around their child’s nutrition.

Either parents are afraid kids will struggle with weight issues and start focusing too heavily on calorie counting at a very young age or they are hyper vigilant about disease and limit any and all processed food.

2.  It’s tempting to connect nutrition, food, and fuel for the body, to body size, body type or body weight in order to “motivate” kids to eat in healthier ways.

Unfortunately, the minute parents begin making those connections is the minute many kids start thinking there is something wrong with their bodies.

Teaching kids about healthy nutrition starts by inviting them to look at cookbooks to find tasty meals, weighing fruit and veggies at the grocery store, selecting healthy snacks and sometimes, not so healthy snacks, and then being invited into the kitchen where they have the opportunity to develop a healthy relationship with food.

3. Everything in Moderation. Whether you are Vegan, Paleo, or somewhere in between, your kids need a variety of food to not only stay healthy, but to develop that healthy relationship with food.

Limiting certain foods or denying them all together will only create power struggles and eating problems. When kids see their friends eating those tasty treats and they know what the “food policy” is in their homes, the more tempted they are to sneak which leaves them feeling badly about who they are and nervous about talking to their folks.

Parents must first examine their own relationship with food, health, nutrition, and disease and deal with those issues personally.

Then, seek out a nutritionist who can help address concerns and assist in helping the parents create a more balanced approach to nutrition.

With all this focus on obesity, it’s easy to understand how we can let fear drive our decision-making process around nutrition, but it’s important that we recognize that swinging the pendulum too far the other way is just as dangerous.

Helping Your Child Develop Resiliency Through Healthy Social Interest

The healthiest human beings are those with the highest social interest. If we want to ensure that our children are emotionally healthy, we must raise them in a home where parents demonstrate social interest as a way of life.

Adler said that the healthiest human beings are those with the highest social interest. If we want to ensure that our children are emotionally healthy, we must raise them in a home where their parents demonstrate social interest as a way of life.

Social Interest is not the same as Social Action. Social Interest is defined as “Meeting the needs of the situation.”

Or, to quote this study from Portland State University,

“According to Adler, social interest protects individuals against feelings of inferiority and promotes better coping and a healthier attitude toward stressful situations.”

Here’s how a parent would demonstrate high Social Interest in daily life with kids.

Situation: Your toddler has been fighting you all morning and demanding that she goes to Day Care in her pajamas.

Self-Interest: What will the Day Care Providers think of me as a mother if I allowed my child to arrive in their PJ’s? With that thought you begin to muscle the child out of the PJ’s and into what you consider appropriate clothing for the occasion – whether she likes it or not.

Social Interest: The needs of the situation require that I support my child’s budding independence and interest in making choices, that I am not overly concerned with what other people think of me as a mother, remember that I am raising a thinking child and at times it can be messy and that I believe that mistakes are opportunities to learn. I believe tomorrow I will offer two choices that are reasonable for the weather and see if we can’t work more cooperatively together.

Situation: Your 5th grader has left his science project till the last minute and he wants you to run out to buy supplies at 9:00 pm so he can finish up and turn it in on time.

Self-Interest: What will the teachers think of me as a mother if my son goes to school without his science project? With that thought you begin to lecture about time management and procrastination and being better organized. Eventually, you head to the store to pick up the supplies and then continue with the lecture while the child tries frantically to finish the project. In the morning you are still resentful and may throw in a few more lectures – but at least no one at school will judge you for sending your child to school unprepared.

Social Interest: The needs of the situation require that I allow my child to learn a valuable lesson about time management, following through, the discipline it takes to turn off the television and get down to work and allow him to go to school unprepared and face the consequences. In doing so I am helping him build the courage to accept his mistakes, to learn from them and the ability to make another choice next time he is in a similar situation. I will talk with my son about how confident he feels in setting deadlines and managing his time and if he needs my support we will think of a solution together.

Situation: Your teenage daughter arrives home from school and begins picking on a sibling, refusing to answer your requests that she help with dinner, and then turns the music on to the point that no one can hear themselves think let alone carry on a conversation.

Self Interest I don’t have to put up with this nonsense. I am the adult, I am the parent and I will put an end to this and let my daughter know just who is in charge.

Social Interest: The needs of the situation require that I assess what is really going on with my daughter who is normally good-natured, polite and loving. It requires that I not take what is happening personally and remember that she is struggling with something and needs some encouragement. I will walk away until I am calm, and look for a moment to make a connection, and find out what is behind all this disruptive behavior.

When we teach ourselves so slow down and answer this one question – “What do I do based on the needs of this situation?”  – we tend to make thoughtful, respectful and wise parenting decisions. Try it and see if life doesn’t improve for both you and your kids.