Where's the Manual for this Kid?

Archive for the ‘responsibility’ Category

Since my mom passed away I have not been the same. Not just because I lost her, but because of what I learned about my two grown sons. I have been in awe of them ever since.

The first thing they each said when I told them of her aggressive cancer diagnosis was, “How soon can I go see her”, halfway across the country. Neither had the time or money and neither gave it a second thought.

They spent an entire weekend devoted to creating last memories with her, building a snowman in her front yard as she watched from inside with her oxygen and cane until she couldn’t contain herself anymore and ran out in socks to have a picture taken with them and the now famous snowman.

They baked Christmas cookies and threw pieces of dough at each other until she joined in laughing. When they had to say their final good-byes, both were incredibly strong.

I raised my boys as President of the Mean Mom’s Club, with a plan to teach responsibility and compassion. Sometimes they called me mean when I refused to give in to things that I knew were unsafe or against the family’s values. This experience taught me that I was successful beyond my highest goals for them. I am in awe of these compassionate young men who are my sons.

In a world where we continually hear about young people getting into trouble and being focused on just themselves, this is a story that needs to be shared.

How did they become responsible and compassionate rather than self-focused? I believe this is learned behavior and I believe that being a “mean mom” with a plan taught them that behavior. No, I don’t mean a mom who is a tyrant or who uses physical punishment. A true mean mom is one who knows from the beginning what kind of person she wants her child to become, creates a plan to get him/her there, and sticks to that plan all the way through, no matter what. That’s not easy to do. It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, and heart breaking at times. But if you have a plan to follow, you can get through it. And when you find yourself looking at such amazing young people as my sons, every hour of lost sleep, every tear, and every gray hair was worth it.

If your goal is to raise kids to be responsible, compassionate adults, you need to plan how you will teach that throughout each stage of their development. As kids grow physically, they also grow emotionally and cognitively. That means they focus on different things in different stages and can only understand certain things at those stages. That means teaching new behaviors and values as they grow.

  • Infants need to feel their needs will be met and that they have a positive social connection.
  • Toddlers need to learn to explore their world and realize others share that world.
    • Keep him safe when his emotions are out of control and keep your own emotions in check to help balance and calm him.
    • Preschoolers need to learn to include others in their world.
    • School age kids need to learn to socialize with different types of people and accept their differences.
    • Teenagers need to learn that other’s needs sometimes come before theirs.
      • Assign responsibilities to younger siblings such as helping with homework.
      • Get them involved in some type of volunteer experience.
      • If old enough, find a part time job, even for a few hours per week.
    • Meet his needs when he expresses them. Making a baby wait teaches only that his needs will not be met.
    • Talk to your baby and keep her in your presence when awake, in a walker, swing, etc.
    • Allow independence but stay close while she explores and learns to be around others.
    • Arrange social experiences, especially if not in pre-school.
    • Focus on the cause and effect of the situation (when you do this, this is what happens).
    • Use logical explanations that include actions and consequences.
    • Involve them in team or group activities.

As you watch your kids grow through each stage, create opportunities to teach them to be responsible and compassionate within their understanding and focus. Plan ahead for what you can provide that matches your family’s values. You will be in awe of the result!

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Scene:

No, not a corporate boardroom or military strategy bunker. This scene is much more intense with much more at stake. You might even have been a part of one like it.

 

Stakeholders:

No, not powerful board members who hold the future of a conglomerate in their hands. Not generals deciding the fate of the free world. You have probably been a stakeholder in this negotiation.

Picture it…

WalMart, K-Mart, the grocery store. A frazzled mom and a fussy kid in a shopping cart. Feel the tension build as the demands start and the players hit walls of resistance and look for strategies to win. The whining revs up and the voice begins to gain a sharp edge. Observers look wary and some move away so as not to be caught in the fallout.  The situation could deteriorate to disaster with one wrong move.

 What will the strategy be that averts this crisis? M&M’s! M&Ms doled out one at a time to keep control. “I want to buy that toy.” “No, you can’t have that toy and if you stop whining you can have 3 M&Ms. Three, count ‘em three: doled out carefully into his little hand. “I want more.” “You can have 2 more when you go potty.” Wow, now that’s negotiation!

 I witnessed this scene just recently and it made me think about what was really being taught.

 In my opinion this negotiation will result in one of two things. One, that child is going to develop an unreasonable aversion to M&Ms that even his shrink will have trouble curing someday. OR by the age of 6 he will become a master negotiator and will do absolutely nothing without getting something in return. I’m not sure which is worse, though as a mom, I believe creating a great negotiator is far more dangerous.

 It’s one thing to reward good behavior. It’s another to teach your kid that every good deed will be paid for. Some good deeds are expected. It’s expected that when you give an instruction it will be followed. It’s expected that, as part of a family, you help with chores and show consideration for others. It’s expected that, as a student, you do your homework and put out your best effort. What is this negotiation trend? Is this what we want to teach as a strategy for getting through life?

 If we grow up believing that everything we’re asked to do is negotiable, we’re in big trouble when we get into the work world and the boss says, “Here’s the assignment. Get it done by end of the week.” How many bosses have you seen offering  3 M&Ms for meeting that deadline? And how many employees have you seen successfully hold out for 5?!

What is this Toyota commercial teaching?

 First of all I’m annoyed in general by any commercial that sells adult items through kids. I hate it when kids tell adults what they should be eating or what they should buy, especially when the product is something a kid could know nothing about.

 But this commercial goes beyond annoying. This commercial uses kids’ peer pressure to tell parents to keep up with the Jones’s so they don’t embarrass them. Are you kidding me?!

 In this commercial, one kid’s father is picking him up from school in an old car. When the kid sees the father he hides for fear other kids will see it. Then the star kid proudly saunters up to the Toyota Highlander. As he struts up to the vehicle, he tells us that just because they’re parents, they don’t have to be lame. The clear message is that parents embarrass their kids if they don’t drive a Highlander. What?!

 The first time I saw this commercial, I thought it was a joke. When I realized it was intended to be serious marketing for Toyota I was angry.

 Does no one else think this is sending a terrible message? As parents, we have an obligation to keep up with the Jones’s so as not to embarrass our kids? Is this the value we want to teach?

 A friend once told me she worried that her kids were deprived because she didn’t drive a new car and didn’t have the most recent electronics in their home. And people wonder where this “gimme” entitlement generation has come from.

 If parents are buying into this, then we’re really in trouble.

Ahh, the bugle cry of back to school. Does joy at the sound of the school bell make you feel like a mean mom? That alone should not do it. But that, along with a plan based on the three R’s to take charge for a smooth transition, should. It takes a mean mom to get everyone back in the structured mode of the new school schedule.

 Remember the three R’s of being a student? Well, now that you’re a mom of students, you have a whole new set of Three R’s to live by:

  1. Reality
  2. Responsibility and
  3. Routine

 We all know that our reality is totally different from our kids’ realities. So here lies the first challenge. Mean Mom’s Club: The Mean Mom’s Rule Book  includes the rule There’s a difference between need and want…and I’ll tell you which it is. This rule is critical in following the first of the Three R’s. When your son says he needs that t-shirt that hangs down to his knees and has the manufacturer’s logo splashed across the front, all for a measly $45, somebody has to bring this dude back to reality: mean mom reality! His reality is of course that of strutting down the hall looking cool. Your reality is that you have $150 for his total back to school wardrobe including shoes, socks, and underwear. The t-shirt is not happening.

 My 11 year old son once stood in the store aisle in tears because I refused to buy that t-shirt. I told him to let me know when he was finished so we could get on with our errands. He lived without the cool t-shirt and was not ostracized from his friends, much to his dismay. If we all refused to buy into this nonsense, the kids would be dressed in basic, inexpensive clothes and the competition would go away. We’re in charge, mean moms!

 As a mom, it is your primary goal to teach your kids to become responsible so that when they grow up they can take care of themselves and will move out. A good mean mom does not have 22 year old children living at home. By that age they are adults on their own and that bedroom is your party or yoga room! Back to school is a perfect time to work on responsibility skills. The rule You’ll always be my baby…no matter how old you are will help to set up a realistic plan for responsible behavior at different ages. Kids progress through specific developmental stages, each with its own milestones regarding how they think, how they see the world, and what they can manage.

 The responsibility R must be done with both developmental stages and your family values in mind. What rules are important in your house? Do beds need to be made in the morning? Do kids need to get themselves up and fed on their own? They might be able to do some or all of this depending on their development.

The other critical consideration in this part of your plan is enforcement. The rule I brought you into this world…and I can take you out talks about the difference between punishment and teaching and when each might be most effective. This part of the plan absolutely must be set up and communicated from the beginning, not thrown in helter-skelter as rules are broken.

 That point leads to the last of the Three R’s, routine. Kids feel safe when they have a routine they can count on. They feel safe and loved when the rules are always the same and always enforced. The job of a good mean mom is to be on top of those rules every day and enforce them consistently no matter what.

 This R is sometimes the hardest to stay on top of. Two rules will help.  I’m going to be the perfect mom…yeah right emphasizes the need to have and use a support network. Being a mom is the toughest job out there and it never ends. I get to be President of the mean moms club gives you the strength to stay on top of the plan even in the face of tantrums and tears and “I hate you!”

 It’s up to us as good mean moms to help kids understand what they need vs. what they want, learn to take responsibility for the things they can do, and to create and reinforce a routine they can count on as they transition from the freedom of summer to the structure of the new school year. Back to school can be a smooth transition for kids and parents if you just follow the Three R’s: Reality, Responsibility, and Routine.

Have you ever met someone that just struck a cord…like you needed to know that person and s/he just came along at the right time?  That was the case with meeting Maureen, aka Mean Mom President.  Having already seen one of her TV segments that left me very intrigued, I happened upon her online! Soon she became a sponsor http://sandiegobargainmama.com/business-spotlight/mean-moms-club to San Diego Bargain Mama.com and shared with my mom circle her awesome book.  Seeing that indeed we live in a small world, I found that she just lives down the street and was headed to the same meetup (good ol’ social media)! I was eager to share with her some headway I was making with my 5 and 7-year-old kiddos and asked her thoughts on the matter during the drive. 

 I recall Maureen asking me to tell her what one character trait I wished most of all to instill in my kids/family.  My instant answer: “Integrity”.  Fast forward to earlier this month.  I was compelled to tweet out to her that my DD (Twitter talk for dear daughter) for the second year in a row was chosen as the student of her class to receive the Integrity Award.  I had to hashtag that I was one “#proudmama”!  I shared this with my girl’s current teacher who said she got the chills.  How cool is THAT?

 In reflecting on HOW I have consciously instilled integrity in my kids, I would love to share one thing: Just as self-esteem isn’t really taught, I believe that integrity is, rather, instilled and modeled during teachable moments. 

 Instilling integrity means:

  • Showing compassion toward others, yet also
  • Discerning and modeling appropriate behavior in various circumstances.

 This requires:

  • Demonstrating how to be honest and honorable and, key for little ones…
  • Having them demonstrate and witness self-control.

 We do this by:

  • Guiding our kids to choose wisely in situations, and also by…
  • Sharing our (as parents) decisions and what led us to make them. (discussing how our actions impact others, putting ourselves in others’ shoes).

 Some of my everyday examples of “teachable moments” include: 

  • My husband and I owning up to our quarreling and having us “rewind” to model conflict resolution (yes, in front of the kids)
  • Having our daughter turn in money she found
  • Encouraging her to brainstorm suggestions to help with her “wandering eyes” during class spelling tests
  • Enforcing an age-appropriate chores checklist
  • Walking her little brother to his classroom line each morning, etc. 

 When I see her demonstrating integrity I ask her what part of integrity she thinks she just modeled and let HER say what she is proud of (ownership) vs. my assigning it. 

 The cool part is that she can now identify it in others and model it for her younger brother (who has a problem sneaking M & M’s from the trail mix bag in the pantry)!

Learn more about the San Diego Bargain Mama at http://sandiegobargainmama.com.

What? A mean mom? Yes, a mean mom.

But don’t you want to be the nicest mom, the bestest mom, the sweetest mom, the biggest pushover mom?

 No, you don’t! Not if you want to be the mom who looks forward to a relationship some day with responsible, independent, caring young adults who can take care of themselves.

 Now, it’s not easy to be a mean mom. I know because I am President of the Mean Mom’s Club and my sons will vouch for me. They happen to be two of the most responsible, compassionate, independent young men you will ever want to meet who are my pride and joy. But as one son says, “We didn’t always like each other.” And that’s ok.

 In fact, that’s essential in raising independent, responsible kids. But it’s a tough thing to do for moms who believe that a good mom is the nice mom, the sweet mom, the pushover mom.

 As moms we have a job to do and we have to always keep that job in mind, even when the going gets tough; even when the toddler is screaming in the store aisle for that candy & people are giving you the evil eye; even when your 10 year old tells you all the other moms are ok with that movie and you just live to make his life miserable; even when your teenager claims you can’t keep her from getting that belly button ring.

 So, here are five tips on how to become the best mean mom.

 

  1. You are not perfect and never will be; give it up. Get and use a support network when it gets tough.
  2. Know what’s important for rules in your house and make sure they are teaching the values you want your kids to learn.
  3. Enforce those rules in different ways at different ages.
  4. ENFORCE those rules! Every time, no matter what. Learn to say NO & mean it.
  5. Remember that your job is not to be their friend. They have friends. They need a person in charge who will give them security & safety in the form of consistent boundaries every single day. It’s a scary world out there. They’re counting on you to be mean enough to protect them from it and teach them to cope with it.

 And when they ask why they have to follow those rules, tell them “Because it’s in the Mom’s Rule Book.”

Cornerstone Schools in Detroit are setting very high expectations for their students. And the students are meeting them. CNN featured this unique charter school system in which students attend 11 months of the year and attend mandatory after school programs. College banners for Yale and Harvard are visible along the hall walls. 95% of students in this depressed inner city area graduate high school! Why? Because it’s expected!

 Now, we can’t send our kids to Cornerstone schools but we can set the same high expectations in the schools they do attend, even if those schools don’t.

 I was told by several of my son’s middle school teachers that they reduce assignment grades by one letter for each day an assignment is late. If it doesn’t get turned in at all, the student can do extra credit to make up for the missed assignment. My response to that? I wrote a letter to all his teachers and the principle instructing them to give him an F if an assignment was not turned in on the due date. Then they were to call me and tell me the assignment so I could make sure he did it, even though he would receive an F. They were instructed not to allow extra credit for poor grades. The expectation is Do the Work Well When it’s Due! It didn’t matter what the school policy was. MY policy was to be followed and my son knew exactly what was expected. And if he failed the class, he took summer school, no questions asked.

 It’s our job to set expectations for our kids and to make sure others support them. The notion of rewarding kids for expected behaviors never made sense to me. You’re expected to get up in the morning, to do your chores, to do your school work. Another school was reported to pay its students, yes with cash, for showing up for school every day of the semester. What?? Can you see me jumping up and down screaming while watching that one? What are they thinking??

 We will achieve what we’re expected to achieve. Our kids need to know what we expect and we need to be sure those expectations are met, not just for school but for all the values we want them to learn.


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