inside-fpo

Articles for Parents

Check out these articles that cover a variety of parenting topics. From newborns to teens, we're here to give you guidance when you need it.

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    6 Things to Remember When Your Kids Mess Up

    Many parents would agree that a great deal of parenting time is spent teaching children right from wrong, the importance of honesty, responsibility, good character and much more. These are many of the essential qualities they will need to be successful in life. 

    No matter how much effort we put into teaching our children, there are bound to be times when they disappoint us for one reason or another.

    “I can remember the first time my son really disappointed me,” says Jim Smith.* “I was angry at him and at the same time I was beating myself over the head trying to figure out where I had gone wrong in raising him. For a long time, I felt sorry for him. Instead of trying to help correct what happened, I tried to compensate. Just when I thought things had turned around, he would do something else. It is hard to get past not thinking it is always your fault when your children make poor choices.”

    This type of response from parents is common. Whether it’s bouncing checks, drug use, risky sexual behavior, driving recklessly, unhealthy relationships or lying, it hurts to see our children make mistakes, especially when their choices affect their future.

    Often when children, young or old, do disappointing things, the first reaction is to try and fix it. When problems arise, parents often try to control their child’s choices and remove the consequences, thinking that their actions are the loving thing to do, but that may not be true. Sometimes the most loving thing a parent can do is let go.

    When children are young, parents are typically directing behavior. When children enter the teen years and beyond, a parent’s role ideally shifts to coaching their children, along with helping them make their own decisions and accept personal responsibility for their choices.

    If you are dealing with disappointment in your older child’s behavior, consider these things:

    • See your child as separate from you and making his/her own choices.

    • Understand that their behavior is not a direct reflection of who you are.

    • Stop rescuing. Let them fall and experience the consequences of their choices. Experience is a great teacher.

    • Recognize that you can love your child while allowing them to make their own choices, as painful as that may be.

    • Make a conscious decision to go on with your life, knowing you have done the best job you knew how to do.

    • Take responsibility for those areas where you believe you fell short. Then move on and model healthy actions going forward. 

    Smith says that he finally realized that he did everything he could to teach his son right from wrong, but his son continues to make poor choices. 

    “I finally told him that it isn’t that you are a bad person; it is the choices you keep making, and you will always have difficulty because of those choices,” Smith says. “At some point I had to stop taking it personally and let go, realizing I could not change him.”

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    Dinner with the Smileys

    In November 2011, Sarah Smiley’s husband, Dustin, was preparing to leave his family for a 13-month military deployment. Before he left, his three sons, Ford (10), Owen (8) and Lindell (4) said that they would be sad to see their dad’s empty chair at the dinner table. As he was making preparations to leave, Dustin encouraged his wife to invite folks over for dinner periodically.

    Having made it through two of her husband’s deployments in 2001 and 2003, Smiley knew that dinner time could be a lonely time for the family. She realized that her husband was probably right about inviting people over for dinner. Yet, she found herself questioning how she would add one more thing to her already full plate.

    The idea of making sure the house was spotless and that the boys behaved well - then cooking something great for dinner - seemed overwhelming.

    After months of persistence from her husband, Sarah decided to float the idea past her boys about inviting people to fill her husband’s seat at the table. During one of their Skype sessions, Dustin asked the boys who they would invite to dinner if their mom did weekly dinners.

    “My teacher!” said Lindell.

    “Maybe the Mayor,” said Owen.

    Ford said he had thought about asking Senator Susan Collins since he was studying government in class.

    Ford extended an invitation to Senator Collins to join his family for dinner, and to their surprise, she accepted. This turned out to be the launch of Dinner with the Smileys, a year of weekly dinners with interesting people that ultimately led Sarah, who is a syndicated columnist and author, to write the book, Dinner with the Smileys: One Military Family, One Year of Heroes, and Lessons for a Lifetime.

    The book chronicles their experience as Sarah holds nothing back and doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat the year without her husband. You will be laughing and crying as she describes the very real and sometimes messy moments deployment brings.

    For example, shortly after Ford extended the invitation to the senator, he decided that was a big mistake. When people started asking questions, it began to feel formal and full of expectations instead of fun. Sarah was not going to renege on the invitation; however she did decide the dinners would be on the boy’s terms. This meant casual, no expectations, no pressure and no dress-up.

    Although there were moments Sarah questioned what she had done, she was ultimately thankful she put forth the effort during her husband’s deployment.  She endured arguments with her tween son, a basement incident involving raw sewage, along with tears from missing her husband. She also had the joy of watching her boys do things they probably would not have done under different circumstances. Plus, the boys will never forget the friendships and memories made.

    The Smileys learned lessons through this experience that are too numerous to mention. They're too rich not to share, though – thus the book is a must-read.

    Here’s to all the moms out there who make it work no matter the circumstances.

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    Embracing the Second Half of Life

    A few years ago my mom attended the Wednesday night program at her church. Afterward, she called me and shared the speaker’s topic: “Your Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff.” Then she asked me the dreaded question: “You really don’t want all these treasures I have accumulated through the years?”

    While I appreciate the sentimental significance of some of her things, I honestly appreciated the speaker’s point. This is just one of the complicated moments the second half of life often brings.

    Our daughter surprised us with a visit a few days ago and as we were talking with friends, someone commented to her, “I can’t believe you’re 25!” She responded, “I know, I realize I’m halfway to 50!” 

    It occurred to me that if she’s halfway to 50, I’m halfway to 114. Whoa. This second half of life does have a way of sneaking up on us. Growing old is hard, especially when you still feel young and vibrant, but your body is screaming, “Not!”

    Recently, my mom shared that her best friend was really struggling with giving up driving. She was trying to help her understand that it really was a loving gesture from her kids. I couldn’t help but wonder what it will be like when I have to have that same conversation with her or our daughter has to make that decision for one of us.

    Plenty of us are independent folks, and the idea of losing that independence is really scary. In fact, many of us are unwilling to think about it, much less have some of the difficult conversations we need to have with our loved ones. When it comes to living life well to the end, what will your legacy be where relationships are concerned? 

    Many of us can look in the rearview mirror and think about situations or relationships we wish we had handled differently, perhaps with our children, our own parents or a close friend. Sometimes we believe it’s too late to do anything about it. If you’re reading this, you still have time.

    While working on my Master’s in counseling, I completed an internship on one of the cancer floors at UTK Medical Center. I will never forget the many times I walked into a room where the patient was literally ready to die but held on because there was unfinished business with the people standing around the bedside.

    Do you have unfinished business to take care of with the people who mean the most to you? It is abundantly clear that people take their relationship with their parents to the grave. And, I can tell you based on research, a parent’s words and actions matter.

    I recently heard a very successful man share that his parents have never told him they loved him, and he become very emotional. There was this big, burly, manly-man in his 60s who still longs/wants/needs/wishes to hear his parents say I love you. 

    What is your relationship like with your children? Do they know you love them and believe in them? If that’s a hard place for you, remember that you can’t control their response, but you can control what you do.

    When our daughter was growing up, I used to tell her that I loved her but I didn’t like her behavior. Over time I transitioned to telling her there is nothing she can do to make me love her more or less. That doesn’t mean I will agree with all of her decisions, but I want her to know I believe in her and I love her, period. If I unexpectedly died in my sleep, I don’t want her to wonder how I feel about her. 

    A young man in his 30s with a brain tumor was talking with his father after a medical appointment, and he reminded his dad that our life on this earth is “terminal.” There is some serious wisdom. A lot of us hate talking about dying, yet it’s inevitable. So here’s another question: How do you want to live until you die? That’s a huge part of your legacy, and you are teaching those around you.

    There is no super-secret formula for this. We are all different. Whether it’s driving, turning over the reins of the company, moving out of the house you have lived in forever or getting rid of your stuff, what do you want to pass on to the next generation?

    If you don’t already have a plan, there’s no time like the present to create one and share it with your loved ones. Make sure there are no surprises, because it’s often the surprises after someone is gone that create huge rifts in families. Talking about it might be hard, but it’s healthy. It really is important for us to model, even for adult children, how to live and die well.

    Finally, perhaps life hasn’t gone as you planned it and anger and bitterness have taken up residence in your heart and mind. Instead of talking about it, perhaps you behave badly and take it out on the ones you love the most. Growing old sometimes stinks, but there are lots of shifts and decisions to make, and things to talk about. Seeking help in this area isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and health. 

    Moving forward, how will you go about creating a meaningful life with your family and friends?

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    10 Things Healthy, Happy Families Do

    Have you ever had one of those moments where everything seemed to be going right and suddenly, for some unexplained reason, a meltdown occurs?

    It could be your 4-year-old, your 14-year-old, or even yourself. A perfectly fine moment ripped to shreds in seconds and you ask yourself, “Why me? I don’t recall signing up for all this drama.”

    This is one of those "good news, bad news" moments. The bad news is meltdowns come with the territory. Any parent who has walked the road will tell you even with the “easy child” there were trying moments.

    The good news is you’re not alone. If you compared notes with families everywhere, you would find that everybody deals with drama; some of them just have less of it. And that’s what people want: less drama, more fun and adventure as a family.

    Experts examined the qualities of healthy, happy families and found that there are specific things families can do to decrease drama and increase family well-being. Here they are in order of importance. 

    • Problem-solve. Couples and families who are able to identify a problem and agree on a solution tend to do better over time.
    • Affirm. Families who verbally express high regard for one another and show interest in other family members and what is happening in their lives tend to be healthier.
    • Openly communicate. Weekly family meetings where schedules, chores, and issues are discussed teach children how to express their feelings appropriately, how to listen to others and how to problem solve.
    • Have well-defined boundaries and organization in the family provide security for children which helps them feel in control and safe.
    • Establish family rituals and traditions. Studies show that family meals, no matter when they occur, can improve educational performance, lower depression rates in girls and boys, decrease the risk of alcohol and drug abuse and help children feel more connected. Family traditions connect children with family history, giving them a foundation upon which to build future generations.
    • Build trust. Children and adults in a healthy family environment experience high levels of trust. Spouses place trust in each other and model what it means to be trustworthy in a relationship. Children learn they can count on their parents to meet their needs.
    • Discuss sexuality. Age-appropriate, ongoing conversations about body image, the opposite sex and healthy relationships are common in healthy families.
    • Develop family history. Children who are loved and nurtured typically grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults.
    • Share religion, faith and values. Sharing the same faith beliefs and values plays a significant role in family health.
    • Support community connectedness. Families who are well-connected in the community and know where to find help in times of need appear to be healthier than those who are disconnected.

    The more of these characteristics a family has, the more likely they are to be resilient in difficult times. Healthy families find ways to adapt, adjust and stick together as a team no matter what life hands them.

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    8 Ways to Manage Family Time

    The beginning of the school year, for some, actually feels more like a new year. Families are getting acquainted with new schools, new teachers and new schedules, not to mention a buffet line of new opportunities for extracurricular activities. If parents aren’t careful, they will have kids involved in three different activities, going in opposite directions. As a result, what little family time there was is now non-existent.

    How many times have you found yourself grabbing the kids from school, running by a fast-food place for dinner and heading out to practice with one child trying to finish homework in the car and the other throwing on their practice clothes? Many parents have resigned themselves to believing this is life as we know it and the goal is to survive.

    Before your family life becomes a runaway train, consider what is best for your family when it comes to afterschool activities and the amount of time you spend together. Many loud voices will tell you all the things your child needs to participate in for future success. Certainly, extracurricular activities can make your child’s life richer, but they can also create additional stress and anxiety for the entire family.

    When you rarely sit down for a meal together or have the opportunity to connect, relationships can suffer. Plus, trying to keep up can be exhausting. So, how much is too much?

    Here are some suggestions from kidshealth.org to help you manage activities and family connectedness:

    • Set ground rules ahead of time. Plan on kids playing one sport per season or limit activities to two afternoons or evenings during the school week.
    • Know how much time things require. Does your child realize soccer practice is twice a week or more, right after school? Then there's the weekly game. Will homework suffer?
    • Set priorities. School comes first. If kids have a hard time keeping up academically, they may need to drop an activity.
    • Know when to say no. If your child is already active but really wants to take on another activity, discuss what needs to be dropped to make room for something new.
    • Stay organized with a calendar. Display it on the refrigerator so everybody can stay up-to-date. And if you find an empty space on the calendar, leave it alone! Everyone needs a chance to just do nothing.
    • Even if kids sign up for the season, let them miss one or two sessions. Sometimes hanging out on a beautiful day is more important than going to one more activity, even if you've already paid for it.
    • Try to balance activities for all of your kids — and yourself. It hardly seems fair to expend time and energy carting one kid to activities, leaving little time for another. Take time for yourself and spend time together as a family.
    • Create family moments. Plan a few dinners when everyone can be home at the same time.

    Family time is a precious commodity, and your children will grow up in the blink of an eye. Plan now to set your family priorities, avoid unnecessary activities and be intentional about spending time together as a family. 

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    5 Things I Would Say to My Freshman Self

    “I was excited about going away to college,” said Grace Hopkins. “I have basically done everything my entire life with my sister. This will be the first time for both of us to be on our own for an extended period of time.”

    As excited and prepared as Grace thought she was, she experienced some rude awakenings as a freshman.

    “My parents made it a point to teach us how to do laundry, clean our rooms and manage money. I thought I was totally prepared for being on my own,” Grace said.

    “It was kind of a shock when things like time management and budgeting got the best of me. I have always been good about managing my time, BUT I was with friends who were also excited about the newness of college and wanted to have fun first. They encouraged me to have fun and I let some things fall behind.”

    Even though Grace budgeted her money before she went to college, she wasn’t used to having to pay for everything herself.

    “It was just so tempting when your friends wanted to go grab something to eat,” Grace shared. “I figured out pretty quickly that if I kept spending money like this,I was going to be broke before we made it to midterms.”

    Grace is in good company. Many college freshmen have struggled with exactly the same issues. Here are Grace's thoughts on what she would say to her freshman self:

    • Time management is key. "As a freshman, you will want to do it all and experience as much as you can but you have to consider your responsibilities first. You don’t want to wake up at exam time and realize that you are really behind.”
    • Get involved. “I joined a couple of clubs. That was a good way to meet people outside of the people you meet at orientation. It’s a great way to get to know some upperclassmen.”
    • Be prepared for the "roommate thing." “I had not shared a room with someone in many years so it took some getting used to,” said Grace. “We put together a roommate contract the first day about things like expectations concerning bedtime, who could be in the room and when. Even with the written agreement, there were still challenges.”
    • Beware of the little expenditures. "Everything adds up real quick."
    • Getting enough sleep makes a huge difference. “Staying up with friends until 2 a.m. and having to get up for a 9 a.m. class did not work out real well for me.”

    Many teens are anxious to transition to this new phase of life. On the outside, they act confident but on the inside they are wondering: Am I really prepared?

    Encourage your teen to take Grace’s advice. Help them with strategies for balancing their newfound freedom and responsibility.

    Discuss potential risks and the difficult choices they may have to make. Mistakes are inevitable, but you can prepare and empower your teen to enter into their freshman year with confidence. In the end, experience will be their best teacher.

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    4 Tips for Handling the College-to-Home Transition

    When college students return home for breaks after spending 10 months basically without a curfew, not having to answer to anybody about their comings and goings, and no chores, the homecoming has the potential to be a bit rocky, especially for freshmen.

    “We weren’t exactly sure what to expect when our daughter came home from her freshman year,” says Kim Clausen. “She was used to being on her own. When I asked where she was going and when she would be back, I got looks like, ‘Why do you need to know that?’ We had to re-acclimate to her being home and she had to get used to being with us. We all survived, but it took some adjustment on everybody’s part. Things were definitely different.”

    Planning Ahead for Adjustments Can Help

    Like so many families, the Clausens had settled into a new routine with their two remaining teens at home. Excited about their daughter’s return, they honestly didn't think a lot about making adjustments as they brought her back into the fold.

    “If we had it to do over again, we would have a conversation prior to her returning home about expectations, schedules and the like,” Clausen says. “When she is away she can do what she wants, but when we are trying to juggle work, the schedules of our other two teens and life in general, we need everybody to be on the same page.”

    Clara Sale-Davis also found herself in the same position as the Clausen family. Before her daughter came home, she thought about how to make the transition easier.

    “I remember when I went home for the summer,” says Sale-Davis. “I thought I was going to be running around doing whatever I wanted. Mom would wash my clothes and have dinner ready. I quickly found out I was delusional. While I am honored that my daughter wants to come home for the summer, I wanted to be proactive with her so she would know what to expect.”

    Sale-Davis let her daughter know that while they wanted home to be a safe haven, it would not be a resort. She encouraged her daughter to find a job and told her that chores would be awaiting her. She also discussed what seemed reasonable for everyone when it comes to staying out late with friends.

    “I thought it would be better to have the conversation ahead of time,” Sale-Davis says. “We talked over the phone and I could hear her eyes rolling. It isn’t that I don’t trust her. We just don’t need to worry unnecessarily.”

    Here are some suggestions for making it a pleasant break for everyone.

    • Establish expectations. Know your priorities, communicate them clearly and discuss what is and is not negotiable. Be clear about what will happen if they do not adhere to your expectations.
    • Don’t expect your young adult to have the same mindset they had when they left for college. They have been making decisions for themselves, so encourage them to continue to do so while respecting the house rules.
    • Choose your battles carefully. If you are encouraging them to make their own decisions, realize that they may not make the same decisions you would make for them.
    • Take this time to help your college student understand what it will be like when they are finally out on their own, paying rent, bills and doing their own laundry.

    The transition to home from college can be interesting, to say the least. While young adults are in the process of becoming more independent, they still rely on their parents in many ways - including providing a roof over their head during the breaks - not to mention paying college tuition.

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    The Basics of Leaving a Legacy

    In his booming voice, Dr. Rick Rigsby, author of Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout and former professor and coach at Texas A&M, recently spoke in Chattanooga. He asked, “Are you living the kind of life that’s worthy of somebody following?” 

    Everyone is leaving a legacy. That legacy is either “It’s all about me,” or “I’m going to make excellence central in my life so I can leave something worthy of someone else following.”

    Rigsby learned his most important life lessons from a third grade dropout: his father, who dropped out of school to help on the family farm.  

    “My father, the wisest man I ever knew, told me, ‘Don’t expect other people to do for you what you can do for yourself.’ If you don’t have somebody teaching you, you aren’t going to know that. He also taught me, ‘It’s not about you.’ Can you help other people? My father had nothing. But he had such an impact on my life.”

    For 30 years, Rigsby’s father left the house at 3:45 a.m. to get to work by 5 a.m., even though it was only a 15-minute walk. One morning his wife asked him why he left so early, and he replied, “There may be a morning when my boys see me get up, and I want them to know that showing up on time is the basic minimum. I’d rather be an hour early than a minute late.”

    Rigsby challenged us to raise our expectations and grow our hearts for the disadvantaged. “The goal is to die broke after giving your best. When I was a child,” he said, “we were required to eat together at the table...at the same time. Expectations were high. That time was a blessing. What are you going to do with the blessings you have received? My mom would tell us, if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

    During Rigsby’s teen years, his father told him, “I’m not going to have a problem if you aim high and miss, but I’m going to have a real problem if you aim low and hit.” 

    His father also taught him to stand and be a man. To make his point, Rigsby shared this story: “When I was 16 years old, I had an Afro so big I couldn’t fit into a VW. I came home with an attitude one day. I told my dad, ‘Dad, that white man told me I had to scrub toilets. Daddy, I don’t scrub toilets. I fry French fries. I make hamburgers.’ 

    “My father responded, ‘Son, what does the color of one’s skin have to do with you displaying excellence?’

     “I realized this was not going to go the way I thought. He asked me, ‘Who signs your paycheck?’ 

    “I told him and he said, ‘As long as he signs your paycheck, you do what he tells you to do. When you own your own restaurant you can do what you want. I want you to leave your car in the driveway. I want you to walk back to Jack in the Box and tell your boss your daddy said you are honored to volunteer for an eight-hour shift and all you want to do is scrub toilets. And when I see your boss later in the week he better tell me you’re his best employee.’”

    That exchange between Rigsby and his father still impacts Rigsby today as he raises his own children.

    Here are some of the other life lessons Rigsby learned from his father:

    • Look for opportunities to help people who need help the most. Not everyone has the luxury of having healthy role models. The goal is to give your all so you can give somebody else the opportunity to grow. 
    • Challenge yourself to be the best you can be every day. Great people are always stretching, growing and doing things that other people don’t. Ask yourself how you can be great today, not for yourself, but to get others to go where they will not go by themselves. 
    • Give people a reason for which to listen to you. When you go beyond the chains and shackles of your own sense of self-importance and commit to inconveniencing yourself for the sake of others, people will listen to you. We aren’t drawn to people who think it’s all about them.
    • Tell the truth, do what you say you’re going to do, and think the best of people.
    • Be a servant and make sure you have a smile on your face because somebody’s day might need uplifting. It’s not about you. 
    • How you do anything is how you do everything. You are what you repeatedly do, therefore excellence should be a habit, not an act.
    • Don’t ever be on time again. You will grow your influence when you show up early.
    • Don’t judge people. Evaluate yes, judge never.

    “I have been all over the world,” Rigsby said. “We look at somebody different than us and decide whether or not we will connect with them based on our limited perception of them. How can you help somebody that you have already deemed unworthy? If all you see is what you see, you don’t see all there is that needs to be seen.” 

    As he concluded, Rigsby shared about his first wife, who died of breast cancer. He said that a dying wife taught him how to life and be a man. His third grade dropout daddy, who wept as he stood with his son over the casket, told his son, “Keep standing. Just keep standing.” His father challenged him every day to put first things first.

    Through the grief, Rigsby continued to stand. Eventually, he found new love with his wife, Janet. Together, not only are they building a legacy with their own children, they are also challenging others to seek to do the basics of relationships and leave a legacy better than anybody else. 

    “Don’t quit. Keep standing. Pride is the burden of a foolish person. You will never impact anybody if you make it all about you. Serve at the most inopportune time.” 


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    5 Tips for Teaching the Value of Work

    In late 2018 Geoffrey Owens, known to many as Elvin on “The Cosby Show,” was spotted bagging groceries at Trader Joe’s. Social media blew up when a picture of Owens appeared, but instead of praising his willingness to work, people made disparaging comments about his job.

    After discovering what was happening, the first person Owens contacted was his 19-year-old son, saying, “I’m really sorry if this embarrasses you.” His son sent a beautiful response that moved his father to tears.

    An interviewer on “Good Morning America” asked Owens about the social media comments. He responded by saying, “This business of my being this Cosby guy who got shamed for working at Trader Joe’s, that’s going to pass… but I hope what doesn’t pass is this idea... this rethinking about what it means to work, you know, the honor of the working person and the dignity of work. And I hope that this period that we’re in now, where we have a heightened sensitivity about that and a re-evaluation of what it means to work, and a re-evaluation of the idea that some jobs are better than others because that’s actually not true… Every job is worthwhile and valuable.” 

    What message are we sending to our children when society is willing to shame someone for an honest day’s work?

    According to Fit for Work, both paid and unpaid work is good for our health and wellbeing. It contributes to our happiness, helps us to build confidence and self-esteem, and it rewards us financially.  

    Additionally, working keeps us busy, challenges us and gives us the means to develop ourselves. It can create a sense of pride, identity and personal achievement. Work enables us to socialize, build contacts and find support, and it provides us with money to support ourselves and explore our interests.

    There are health benefits, too. Working people tend to enjoy happier and healthier lives than those who do not work, and work has been shown to improve physical and mental health.

    Perhaps a paradigm shift is in order where instead of teaching children that certain jobs are beneath them, we teach them about the importance of a work ethic and doing every job well.

    Here are some ways we can all promote the value of hard work:

    • No matter what the job, encourage others to work to the best of their ability.

    • Model a strong work ethic.

    • Equip your kids with the skills they need to earn a living. Chores can help them get ready for work outside the home.

    • Avoid the temptation of giving your child everything. Allow them the opportunity to work for it.

    • Help them connect the dots to how the work they are doing (or not doing) impacts others.

    If people weren’t willing to fulfill certain positions, imagine how it would impact your life. It's definitely a great teaching moment for kids to think about as well. Every job is important. In fact, a ripple effect takes place when one person does not fulfill their responsibilities at home, in the workplace or in the community.

    Tyler Perry once said, “Developing a good work ethic is key. Apply yourself at whatever you do, whether you’re a janitor or taking your first summer job, because that work ethic will be reflected in everything you do in life.”  

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    Parenting and Your Child's Independence

    I remember the day well. I went to pick up our daughter from school. She got in the car with a smirk on her face and blurted out, “Why did you let me fail my tree project?” I asked her exactly how I let her fail her project. “You didn’t help me,” she replied. However, I distinctly remember asking her if she needed any help when she brought the assignment home, and she said no. She then told me I needed to go talk with her teacher about it and fix it.

    I reminded her that I did not have a problem with the teacher, but I mentioned that if she would like to talk with the teacher, I would be happy to stand in the hallway. I don’t think she was super happy about my response, but we headed up to the teacher’s room and she did all the talking.

    Fast forward to today. My daughter still talks about this experience, not because she is still angry at me, but because she learned some important things that day: how to talk with an authority figure about a difficult situation, what it means to problem-solve, and that while her parents are supportive, they will not snowplow the road of life for her. Don’t think for one minute that there wasn’t a lot of drama around that moment or that we got it right all the time as parents, because we didn’t. 

    One thing is for sure though: teaching young people how to stand confidently on their own two feet is a powerful gift. When parents take the lead in situations such as this, they can rob their children of a potential transformational experience.

    Karen Fancher, a college professor, lamented in a blog post about the number of students who show up on campus unprepared to navigate life on their own. 

    “We are now observing a different parenting style: ‘Lawnmower Parents,’” says Fancher. “These are the parents who rush ahead to intervene, saving the child from any potential inconvenience, problem or discomfort… this kind of parental behavior can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on your child.”

    According to Fancher, this parenting style can lead to children being poorly equipped to deal with routine growing and learning experiences, along with a lack of personal motivation or drive since they only know how to follow the path the “Lawnmower Parent” has already prepared. Perhaps the most potentially-devastating outcome occurs because the “Lawnmower Parent” repeatedly demonstrates their lack of trust in their child’s ability to accomplish things on their own. As a result, children may feel they aren’t good enough to do things for themselves. If that sounds really scary to you in terms of preparing your child for the real world, there are ways you can intentionally avoid being a “Lawnmower Parent.”

    For example, let your children speak for themselves. When you go out to eat, let them order. Teach them to ask for directions. When they ask to do something after school with a friend, let them orchestrate the details instead of doing it for them.

    As your child enters middle and high school, there are opportunities for them to do even more for themselves. When it comes to dealing with things at school, resist the urge to take matters into your own hands. Process with them, but let them handle it as much as possible. When drama occurs in friendships, ask them how they think they should handle the situation instead of jumping in with the answers.

    In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey makes two powerful statements worth remembering when it comes to raising children. First, begin with the end in mind, as in, don’t lose sight of your goal to raise confident adults who know how to function independently of their parents. Secondly, seek to understand before being understood. Be curious. Ask your child to tell you more. Many teens complain that their parents never listen, but seeking to understand requires us to listen. 

    As parents, we may or may not have the answers our kids need, and it’s not always easy to step back and let them do things on their own. It may even be messy. Although we may fear that they will fail or get hurt in the process, remember that many people learn best from their mistakes and gain confidence through independence. And sometimes, they just need to figure things out for themselves.

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    9 Ways to Play with Your Kids

    Do you remember those lively dodgeball games during recess? What about freeze tag, kickball, Four Square or climbing on the jungle gym? Many parents today likely have great memories of running around outdoors during school recess. And, chances are pretty good that once you got home from school, you played outside after finishing your homework. However, that is not the case for many children in 2018, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is concerned about the impact that lack of play is having on children.

    In a recently-released clinical report, the AAP states that the most powerful way children learn isn’t only in the classroom or libraries, but rather on playgrounds and in playrooms. The importance of playful learning for children cannot be overemphasized.

    Experts define play as an activity that is fun and engaging, which could define a number of activities. But the difference in play and other activities is that play has no set outcome, no score to achieve and nothing to produce. It’s just good, old-fashioned fun.

    "We're recommending that doctors write a prescription for play, because it's so important," says pediatrician Michael Yogman, M.D., lead author of the AAP report. "Play with parents and peers is fundamentally important for developing a suite of 21st century skills, including social, emotional, language and cognitive skills, all needed by the next generation in an economically competitive world that requires collaboration and innovation. The benefits of play cannot really be overstated in terms of mitigating stress, improving academic skills and helping to build the safe, stable and nurturing relationships that buffer against toxic stress and build social-emotional resilience."

    Research indicates that family playtime enhances communication and tends to create a positive environment. Another benefit of letting the child direct the playtime is that it can help parents learn their child’s areas of interest.

    Through the years, children’s playtime has been threatened, especially as schools have removed recess from the schedule in an effort to focus more on academics. A national survey of 8,950 preschool children and parents found that only 51 percent of children walked or played outside once a day with a parent. Additionally, surveys have found that as many as 94 percent of parents have safety concerns about outdoor play. 

    No one will be surprised to know that technology also impacts play. According to media research, the average preschooler watches 4.5 hours of television a day, which is associated with greater risks of obesity. If you factor in the time that kids of all ages spend on their personal devices, and it’s easy to see that playing outdoors has been replaced with screen time.  And, it’s not just preschoolers who are living a sedentary lifestyle.

    "Media use such as television, video games, smartphone and tablet apps are increasingly distracting children from play. It's concerning when immersion in electronic media takes away time for real play, either outdoors or indoors," says pediatrician Jeffrey Hutchinson, M.D., a co-author of the report. 

    The report encourages educators, pediatricians and families to advocate for and protect unstructured play and playful learning in preschools and schools because of the numerous benefits it offers in all areas of life and development.

    If play isn’t something that comes naturally to you, here are some suggestions to get you started:

    • Have a water fight with buckets, squirt guns and the hose.
    • Build a fort in your back yard or with the furniture and sheets in your family room.
    • Blow bubbles.
    • Visit a children’s museum.
    • Make chalk drawings on the sidewalk.
    • Rake the leaves into big piles and jump in them.
    • Go for a walk in the rain and stomp in the mud puddles.
    • Play with Play-Doh.
    • Build something out of Legos.

    "The next time your child wants to play with you, say yes. It's one of the best parts of being a parent, and one of the best things you can do for your child," Dr. Yogman says. "Play helps children learn language, math and social skills, and lowers stress. Play is important both for children and their parents since sharing joyful moments together during play can only enhance their relationship."

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    Boys and Porn

    In Dr. Phil Zimbardo’s TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talk about the demise of guys, he states that boys are flaming out academically and wiping out socially with girls and sexually with women.

    In response to Zimbardo’s talk, Dr. Gary Wilson explains why guys are flaming out and what we can do about it. He bases his reasoning on years of research concerning the neuroscience of reward, sex and bonding.

    According to Wilson, most boys seek porn by age 10. At that age, a brain that is suddenly fascinated by sex drives the boys. Thanks to high-speed internet, boys have access to unending novelty. The boy's brain releases dopamine with each new image, and he will keep going as long as he can keep clicking.

    Eventually, the brain wires itself to everything associated with porn such as: being alone, constant clicking, voyeurism, shock and surprise - instead of learning about real sex, which involves interaction with a real person, courtship, commitment, touching, being touched and emotional connection.

    Porn Is A Serious Addiction

    In 2009, a Canadian researcher attempting to study the impact of porn could not find any college males who weren’t using porn, so he had no control group for his research. He asked 20 male students who had been using porn for at least a decade if they thought porn was affecting them or their relationships with women. All of them said they didn’t think so. However, many of these males were dealing with social anxiety, performance anxiety, depression and concentration problems.

    “Of all the activities on the internet, porn has the most potential to be addictive,” says Wilson. “Everything in the porn user’s life is boring except porn.”

    Interestingly, there are thousands of men, young and old, who are giving up porn. Why? Because it is killing their sexual performance.

    A guy in his 20s reports, “I have been to psychologists and psychiatrists off and on for the last eight years. I was diagnosed with depression, social anxiety, severe memory impairment, tried numerous medications, dropped out of college twice, have been fired twice, used pot to calm my nerves, and have been approached by women but they quickly left because of my weirdness.

    "I have been a hardcore porn addict since age 14,” he says. “I stopped porn completely two months ago. It has been hard. I have quit all of the medication I was taking. My anxiety is nonexistent… My memory and focus are sharper than they have ever been and my erectile dysfunction is gone. I feel like I have a second chance at life.”

    “Widespread youthful erectile dysfunction has never been seen before,” Wilson says. “This is the only symptom that gets their attention.”

    The high-speed internet has taken porn to a new level and it is messing with our children. Watching porn digitally rewires boys’ brains in a totally new way for change, constant arousal, novelty and excitement. This creates real issues when it comes to romantic relationships that grow gradually and subtly.

    Do your children know what healthy relationships look like? Have you taught them about the perils of the internet? Are you paying attention to their computer use?

    It’s time to take back our boys. Their health and future relationships are hanging in the balance.

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