Wednesday, January 26, 2011

To Help or Not To Help

Recently, I had the opportunity to “help” my son, Graham. Well, I thought I was being helpful. Now, I’m not so sure. You see, he was leaving for a 3 day school trip to Jekyll Island where he would study marshes, explore the history of the island, and learn to seine. (Seining involves using a dragnet. Yeah, I didn’t know what it was either.) So this was a pretty exciting trip for my 12 year old.

The night before he was to leave, he was bombarded by homework, so that’s where my “helpful” nature stepped in. While he studied away, I took the packing list and headed to his room to get him ready. I about wore that list out, making sure he had all he needed for the trip. After gathering everything together, we worked together, putting everything into the duffel bag. (Of course, he was also checking to make sure I hadn’t given him any uncool outfits.) With everything packed and ready to go, we headed to bed only to rise early for the 6 am loading of the bus. After putting him on the bus, I stood around waiting to wave them off. There were over 200 7th grade kids going on the trip and I quickly noticed that they’d segregated the boys and girls. I spoke to Graham’s teacher, Mrs. Barrett, who’d been assigned (drew the short straw?) to one of the boys’ buses.

“So, Mrs. Barrett, are you riding with the boys?”


“I’ll be praying for you.” [Chuckle.]

“We’re just hoping they shower every night,” she said.

“Or at least change their underwear,” I responded.

As I was enjoying my joke, I heard my words again… underwear …underwear… underwear.

Oh, my. Oh, no! Yep, you guessed it. It wasn’t on the list, so it didn’t make it in the duffel bag!

I stood there looking up at Graham on the bus and wondered, “Do I have time to go home and get him some underwear?” No. Even if I did, how would I get them to him? Would I walk back on the bus and hand my 7th grade son a bag of underwear? I don’t think so. Then I started wondering, “Does he know he can wash the pair he’s wearing every night? Does he know he can at least turn them inside out? Will he just go commando?”

I felt helpless, which is weird, because I’d been so “helpful.” I waved as the bus pulled away and silently prayed that my son wouldn’t hate me when he made the eventual discovery.

Three days passed with no communication from him. (Not because he hated me but because the kids couldn’t call home.) I picked him up that Friday afternoon, and as soon as we were in the car, I got the answers to my many questions: No, he didn’t know he could wash them. No, he didn’t turn them inside out; they’d gotten wet in the ocean the day they arrived. Yes, he’d gone commando. No, he didn’t hate me. In fact, he showed incredible maturity in the way he handled the entire situation.

I learned something that day. My son may still be my baby, but I don’t need to treat him like one. He’s maturing and he can handle his own responsibilities. Yes, I was trying to be helpful, but I may have robbed him of the opportunity to grow up a little more.

A few days after Graham returned home, I headed to the airport for a quick trip to DC. On the way there, I got a phone call from my 8 year old daughter, Hannah. “Mom, did you pack your underwear?”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Teaching Your Children to Fly

“The most beautiful sight in the world is a child going confidently down the road of life after you have shown him the way” – Confucius

Confucius had it right – isn’t that what our job as a mom is, getting our kids ready to leave the nest?

I don’t know about you, but I certainly am not interested in accompanying my child at age 19 to his first job, carrying his briefcase for him or dropping off his lunch that he forgot at home. Okay, that is an exaggeration (I hope….but I bet there are some moms who fall into that trap) but at what point do you start truly putting forth that effort to develop independence and self-reliance in your kids? It can start a lot sooner than you think.

Allowing your child to do more for himself is surely one way to let them grow up. Often times we make the mistake of continuing to “do” for your children what they in fact can do for themselves because we want to be nice, or feel it is the right thing to do. Not necessarily true. The best thing you can do for your child is give them realistic expectations to reach for and then encourage them along the way.

Learning to let go of rescuing your child every time they encounter difficulty will allow them to develop skills so that they can thrive without you. That is the ultimate goal we have as parents, we often say we are raising our children…..honestly we are “raising adults”. Everyday you have opportunities where you can allow growth for your child, are you allowing it to happen. You cannot expect your children to become self-reliant and resourceful unless you are nurturing those traits in them and allowing growth.

Here are a few ideas to help your child become self-reliant.

1) Examine what your child can do alone and then take a step back!

I think you would be surprised how many tasks your child can actually accomplish on his own if you just get out of the way! Often times we jump in trying to get it done faster, or better or because we don’t give them the chance to try it. We assume it is beyond them. Maybe it’s time to examine what your child can do on his own, instead of relying on you?

Can your 3 year old make his bed? I bet he can, it may not look like you would want, but ultimately you are allowing him to grow and take pride in a job.

How about making his own lunch, doing laundry or cleaning up after himself in the kitchen?

Everything will depend on your child’s age, maturity and current abilities, but when I work with mom’s who allow this opportunity to become reality in their homes they are AMAZED by what their child can accomplish!

Remember the goal is not to overwhelm your child by one day giving him 10 new tasks, but gradually increasing his role in his own care.

2) Allow your child to problem solve.

Do you jump in when your child finds himself in a pickle?

The next time try stepping back and walking through the process of problem solving with him. If he has forgotten his math book at school and needs it for homework, instead of running him back to school, ask him how else he can solve his problem.

Help him come up with ideas if he comes up blank. Calling another classmate to get the problems could be a possibility or doing his assignment the next day in study period. Allow him to brainstorm to come up with other ideas instead of you just running him back. You will want your child to learn to deal with situations they get themselves into without having to always call mom.

3) Help build organization skills in your child

Do you find yourself always repeating your daily schedule to your child?

Do chores often get forgotten because there is no way for him to realistically remember those tasks?

Do they often misplace items?

Instead of jumping in to help locate these things, ask him what he can do to solve the problem?

If he forgets his chores, ask him what he can come up with in order to remember. If he is constantly asking about the daily schedule, ask him how he could keep track of activities on his own.

Do you have a battle in the morning routine trying to get your child through those daily self-care tasks?

Help your child make a list with those duties that he can refer to. If they are not old enough to read, then draw pictures that they can identify. You will find your child is a lot more capable to remember when they are given some tools or the opportunity to find out what works best for them.

If you take the time to deliberately “step-back” in some areas, you will see your child blossom to become self-directed, responsible and able to problem solve even when you are not around.

How can you allow that to happen today?

I would love to hear your thoughts or ideas on how you will do this in your home. You won’t be sorry!

Susan also writes at The Confident Mom where she loves inspiring moms to make small changes managing their home and family life giving them more time, order and less stress! She is passionate about helping moms become the Calm, Cool and Confident Moms their kids need. She enthusiastically wears the hat of mom, step-mom and foster mom to 4 awesome kids – ages 18, 14, 10 and 14 months; is married to her very own prince charming, loves coffee, cloudy days, and does think the “bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle. Empowering Moms, Strengthening Families and Embracing God’s Design is her mission and you can find her at her other day job, The Confident Mom, stop by and get a copy of her FREE ebook, “Getting Kids to Cooperate and Become Team Players.”

ScreamFree Marriage

ScreamFree Marrigae will be released on Feb.1! Have you ordered your copy yet?
Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer
Through the best-selling ScreamFree Parenting, Hal Runkel showed thousands of parents how keeping their cool can revolutionize their family life. In his groundbreaking new book, ScreamFree Marriage, Runkel now shows couples how learning to stay calm, in the face of common marital conflicts, is the key to creating and enjoying a deep, lifelong connection. Every committed couple strives to hold on to the marriage they envisioned back when they first said "I do"--before the end of the honeymoon phase, before kids, mortgages, health crises, and all life's inescapable issues. But the truth is this: conflict is unavoidable--it's impossible for two people to see every single thing, face every issue, and experience every situation in exactly the same way. What results are couples "screaming" at each other--sometimes literally yelling out loud, sometimes shutting themselves down and shutting their partners out, and sometimes avoiding the issue altogether--none of which leads to the passionate, intimate connection we all crave. In ScreamFree Marriage, Hal introduces some radical new concepts about marriage, teaching couples how to embrace this inevitable conflict as a profound vehicle for strengthening a marriage. Rather than just a source of pain and disagreement, these "Fires of Commitment," as Hal describes them, can actually be the exact experience needed to grow couples into new levels of maturity and intimacy. By simply learning the ScreamFree formula of Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer, you too can cross through these fires and end up with a closer and more passionate marriage than ever before. Using accessible anecdotes and the disarming humor that readers have come to love, Runkel disproves prevailing marital wisdom, puts couples on a path to "intimate independence" and reveals a whole new, fresh approach to marriage.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Work With What You've Got

It's amazing what a good hairstylist can do for you.

Disclosure: I am 38 years old and I've never had a regular hairstylist. Never. I've migrated hither and yon in search of The One who could turn my baby fine thin locks into a Jennifer Aniston-like mane. I've given it the old college try with Supercuts and I've given Hal a heart attack with a Buckhead Salon. And each time, I've walked away feeling "less-than". 

"Less-than" is a feeling that I've struggled with my whole life - and not just in the hair department. I am not sure why, but ever since I can remember, I have fought to silence a little voice inside that tells me that I'm not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, wealthy enough, kind enough, mature enough...well, you get the point. It tells me that I am less-than I should be. 

It's an evil little fault finding voice for a number of reasons, mainly because it stops me from really enjoying what's right under my nose. What really gets me is that if I feed that voice instead of silence it, it begins to tell me that my family is "less-than" as well.

If I'm not careful, I end up comparing my children and their accomplishments, behaviors, looks and personalities with their friends instead of enjoying the brilliant people they are becoming. What a waste!

So, what does this have to do with my hair issues? Everything.

The veil was lifted from my eyes two days ago. I visited Eve. I'd been to her a few times before with high hopes and "so-so" results. I told her what I wanted and even showed her pictures - long flowing hair that made me look glamorous. Eve took one look at the pictures and one look at my hair and uttered the words that I've been repeating nonstop ever since. "You're going to be unhappy as long as you keep fighting what you've got. And I don't know why you're fighting it because it's great. Why not work with it instead?"

So, together we found an adorable short-ish layered spunky cut that actually accentuates my hair and face instead of struggles against it. I. LOVE. IT.

And I've decided that her fateful words to me will be my motto for 2011. I can apply that thought to everything around me: my body, my kids, my relationships, my bank account, my house, my job - you name it - it fits. I already feel lighter and I haven't heard that little voice in 48 hours now. I'm sure I will hear it again, but next time when I do, I won't let it get to me. I'll treat it like an angry, whining tweenager and I'll know that it doesn't really mean what it says - it just doesn't really know how to express itself in a mature way. And it usually will quiet down with a little TLC and a lot of patience.

Happy New Year to all - may this year be your most ScreamFree yet.