Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Learning to Lead

As it turns out, good parenting really can keep your kids safe. Or at least it helps your chances of doing so. A recent study came out about teen driver safety and the findings are astounding.

5,600 teens were asked to place their parents in one of four categories:
1. Authoritative (high support/high rules)
2. Authoritarian (low support/high rules)
3. Permissive (high support/low rules)
4. Uninvolved (low support/low rules)

The kids who reported their parents as authoritative reported 50% fewer crashes than their counterparts! 50%!!! You can read about the whole study here.

As a parent, we are supposed to lead our children into adulthood. We are supposed to be the authority in our own homes. I think most of us know this, but in reality, few of us practice this. We tend to drift to the extremes where we are either too hard on our kids or too soft on them. Both extremes indicate that we aren't comfortable and confident in our role as a leader.

Finding that middle ground - that loving authority where we establish boundaries and allow consequences to do the screaming for us - is the ScreamFree way. We know that it works. It's good to see the researchers catching up to us. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Attention Walmart Shoppers

I try to avoid Walmart when I can. No, I'm not protesting their business ethics or anything like that - I just don't like the store. Invariably, I'll get to the end of my list and realize that I passed up the pharmacy section, located approximately 4 miles on the other end of the store.

Plus, I just find it a depressing place. Usually. Not the other day. I witnessed something so funny that I think I may have snorted.

It was a Saturday (mistake number 1) around 11AM (mistake number 2) when I walked into the store the weekend before school started (need I say it? number 3). As you might imagine, it was so crowded that I had to wait for someone to finish shopping so that I could use their basket. The aisles were in disarray as pencils, lunchboxes, and the occasional half opened pack of children's underwear lay strewn about. It looked as if a kid had just exploded and there was nothing left of him except his batman underoos.

As I said before, it was the weekend before school started, so the place was crawling with kids. Literally. Babies were crawling in the aisles while tired looking mothers read from school supply lists trying to find wide ruled paper through bleary eyes.

That's when I heard her for the first time. The Walmart Woman - you know, the employee who comes over the intercom and calls for clean ups and extra cashiers. The voice from above who sometimes reminds you of sales and who is supposed to sound like she wants you there in the store. I will just record her announcements in the order I heard them and let you decide what kind of day she had been experiencing...

"Attention Walmart shoppers. We have just opened two extra check out lanes for your
convenience. Allow me to remind you that your children should be with you at all times. Thank you for shopping with us."

"Attention Walmart shoppers. Our seafood section is offering free samples of shrimp dip at this time. Come on by. And also, please remember that children should not be throwing bouncy balls in the aisles now or at any other time during your visit."

"Attention Walmart shoppers. Please note that not only should bouncy balls not be thrown in the aisles, but they should also not be thrown at other customers."

"Attention Walmart shoppers. Hi. It's me again. Maybe I wasn't clear in my last announcement. Find your children and tell them that just because they can't throw balls INSIDE the store, does not mean that they can ride the bikes for sale into other people's carts. It's rude and it's dangerous. I beg you."

The funniest part is that the only people who even heard her were the ones without children with them! I wanted to find her and tell her that she made my day, but I also wanted to get the heck out of there before I ran into those kids who were apparently terrorizing the store. In the end, I got what I needed and made for the exit, but not before I heard her one last time...her voice thinly disguising her irritation.

"Attention Walmart shoppers. Seriously. You will be held responsible for your children and any damages that they incur, bodily or otherwise. If you need help corralling them, that can be arranged."

At ScreamFree, we preach that you are not responsible for your children and the mistakes they make, but you are responsible to them. But there are some cases when you will be held responsible for your precious offspring. I still say that responsible TO is more important. Being responsible to your children and setting guidelines for behavior before you go in the store - and then following up with consequences if they act up - will help prevent them running through the aisles launching bouncy balls like hand grenades. I'm just sayin.

In all seriousness, I've been there. So tired you can't see straight. Work deadlines and babysitter issues so you have no choice but to bring your kids to the store in the first place. But it's precisely in those times that we all have to rise to the best parts of ourselves and act like the grownups we are called to be.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Your Time is Precious

I ran across an interesting article yesterday while waiting in the orthodontist's office. I can't remember which magazine it was in, nor can I remember the name of the article (...many apologies, article writer getting no credit for your grand idea...) but I can remember what it said. And I thought it was worth repeating.

It was talking about one simple way to refresh your parenting. It suggested spending one hour doing nothing but simply being with your child. I know that doesn't sound like a radical idea to some of you - especially those of you who stay home with little ones - but every now and again, it's good to revisit those common sense notions and remember why they have merit.

As the author stated, when you give your kids your undivided and agenda free attention, they don't need to seek it in annoying ways so much. I don't know about you, but there have been times when all I want is 20 minutes to myself with a magazine and I can't even find the time to rip out those irritating postcard advertisements before I'm interrupted by a chorus of children needing one thing or another.

I know you're busy - we all are. But you had these kids for a reason, right? Take an hour - heck, make it 30 minutes - set your timer, and just BE with them. No strings, no teachable moments, nothing. Just you. And them. I think you'll find that the more you do this, the less you'll have to worry about.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two Minutes - A Lifetime of Emotion

I can't decide if I think this video is cruel or funny. It's probably a little bit of both. Some dad captured his kid's terrified and then gleeful ride on a coaster. Sure, this kid will probably be in therapy years from now talking about how he fears vulnerability because 15 million people saw him cry like a little girl, but other than that, I think it's great.

Roller Coasters provide such a great metaphor for life. The thrill of adventure comes with a price - usually sheer terror. But without that fear, without those leaps into the unknown, there is no payoff.

It's hard to remember how scary life can be for kids - there are so many of these hills that they haven't experienced yet. While we can sit in relative comfort knowing that usually things turn out alright, they just aren't as sure. Walking alongside them as they experience the thrills and terrors of life can be just as exciting for us - it gives us a chance to experience that adventure again. And be sure to video precious moments like this so that bloggers all across the world can draw pithy wisdom from your kid's efforts at not-puking.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tennis Anyone?

This has been a banner week for reactivity in the news. First, there was Joe Wilson's notorious "You Lie!" outburst and now, there is Serena Williams' infamous meltdown at the US Open. Surely you've heard about it by now - Serena was down 30-15 in the semifinal of the US Open. She was called for a foot fault on her serve by the line judge which brought her opponent, Kim Clijsters, within one point of victory.

And Serena LOST it. I mean, lost control of all rational behavior. She walked over to the line judge and verbally abused her in an effort to... well, I'm not really sure what she was hoping to gain. But I can tell you what ended up happening. Because she was so upset about losing a point she reacted in an immature way which caused her to ...lose another point.

Not just any point, mind you - MATCH POINT. Watch it here Then, in a press conference, she doesn't even sound remorseful! Her response, "People do way worse things out there."

Ouch. Cringeworthy. She embarrasses herself and takes away what should have been a great moment for Clijsters and the crowd who had cheered them both on. Granted, it was a rough call. It came at a terrible time. But, such is life.

We can't control the bad breaks that come our way. But we can control how we handle ourselves when they do. The truth is, I have probably handled myself just as immaturely at times when my kids (or my husband) "push my buttons", I just didn't have the whole world watching.

It is my sincere hope that Serena learns from this - that we all do. Pausing before reacting can save you a few match points and a whole lot of heartache.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


This week, there was been so much uproar about this speech in the media and out in the blogosphere that it became impossible to ignore. At ScreamFree, we advocate taking a pause before getting reactive in all the things we do, especially when it comes to parenting our children. Apparently, we have a lot of work to do.
Many well meaning parents, got caught up in the tempest and decided not to allow their children to hear President Obama's speech to the schools. From what I can gather, their reasoning had something to do with a fear of "indoctrination" and "socialist ideas".

Now – this is not a blog about politics – this is about something far more important…parenting. So, my main concern as I curiously observed the furious flurry this past week had nothing to do with what the president might or might not say. After all, if I was truly curious, I could simply go to the White House website and read the whole thing in its entirety. My main concern was the attitude of those parents who so vigorously cried foul that their children were being used as targets by the president.

I think that some very well meaning parents missed a golden opportunity. Talk WITH your children instead of AT your children about what it was that they saw. Encourage them to discuss what they agreed with and what they disagreed with in the speech. Instead of sheltering your kids from the big bad world, prepare them for it. That doesn’t include sticking your fingers in your ears and humming to yourself when someone is talking with whom you do not agree.

Teach your children how to disagree with civility, with grace, and with honor instead of with insults. Teach them how even those you may not agree with can, on occasion, teach you something wonderful. Above all, teach them respect for their county, their heritage, and themselves.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Do You Really Want to Know???

Well folks,
I have not posted in many moons and this is why. We are in the thick of book writing time. Our deadline for ScreamFree Marriage is looming - November 1 - and we are on pace to finish a chapter each week.

Not an easy task, I have come to learn.

Many of you are curious as to how we actually work together, how it all happens. And here's your answer. Lots and lots of note cards and computer time. Book writing in the movies looks so much more glamorous than it really is. Rarely is there ever any sort of Zen moment where our fingers just can't keep up with our thoughts. Mainly it's like root canal work. Tedious, painful, and best accompanied with drugs.

Each week, Hal writes his thoughts down and gives them to me. I read them and we white board more ideas together. Then I use note cards to place the different elements that he's created together with the stories and other material that I've collected. Once I have the outline down, I start sewing things together.

Want to know something funny? As I type this, Brandon, Hannah and Hal are watching Young Frankenstein (the TBS version) in the next room. How ironic that I'm talking about sewing different parts of something together....hopefully this book will be something more than Abby Normal.