Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Doing the chores - Asking for help

How many reminders does it take to get that chore done? As many as it takes. Think back, when you were a child or teen, did you always do the jobs that you were expected to do without reminders? Yes, a few of us were born organized, with a large dose of self-discipline. But this is rare and really goes counter to the development of most kids. They have very different things on their minds. Most of them are not automatically remembering to do that chore before they go on to the next fun activity. That chore is not on their agenda or list, it is on ours!

I have always been willing to give reminders. And because my kids grew up with the ethic of family work, they rarely complained. Sharing the load is part of being in this family. So, they usually got to the chore after a few nudges in that direction. Did they do it "perfectly?" No. But, there too, I really wanted them to learn about family cooperation, not about doing everything the "right" way. And after all, there really are several different ways to fold towels. We just want to be able to put our hands on a clean, dry one when we are wet!

What are the reasons behind our efforts to get kids to do chores? I wanted to share the load, and I wanted to raise sons that knew how to take care of the details of home life. They are grownups now. How effective was my teaching? Not very. My brother-in-law is quoted as saying "What's so big about neat!" when he was a boy of about 8. Well, my sons would probably agree, even today. They didn't seem to catch my desire to have a tidy house. It doesn't matter to them like it does to me, even though they did chores from the time they were very little. But they know what's important to me and they help when I ask.

The bottom line for me is that I like the help! So, I will keep asking. And maybe they will realize the value in doing daily chores when they can find something they need, like a clean, dry towel!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Curbing the Influence of TV

I grew up with TV. Before we had our own television, I could be found in front of the neighbor's. I have spent many hours in front a screen. I still have some favorite shows that I like to watch while I knit a pair of socks or just relax.

But I also know that Americans watch way too much TV. This sedentary activity is at least one of the reasons why many Americans are getting less exercise and becoming overweight. Childhood obesity has grown to epidemic proportions because our kids are eating too much junk food and not moving their bodies enough.

Yes, there are some excellent educational shows. Children can be exposed to other cultures and other ideas. But taking weekly trips to the library can do the same thing. Also, playing at the local playground can give kids opportunities to meet children from varied backgrounds.

There are many pros and cons to television viewing. But the reality is that too much is too much! A mom in one of my classes shared her recent experiment. This year she decided there would be no TV or video games on school nights. At first her teenagers complained loudly. Now they are used to this routine and don't even ask. And there was a huge benefit. All three of her kids saw major improvements in their grades at the very first quarter. The only thing they had changed to account for this was their TV viewing.

We can curb the negative influences of TV and spend more time together. What a concept!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Starved for Attention

They want it.... they need it! Yes, the need our attention.

Children respond to unmet needs in their own ways. Some become whiny and fuss about everything. Nothing seems to satisfy them. This behavior can be very demanding and takes all of our energy.... and their's too. Others become complacent. They stop asking and learn to make do with the life they have been given. And some other children learn to meet their own needs. They are resourceful and watchful. They are always on the lookout for their own solution. No one knows exactly why children can be so different in their responses to life. But they are.

Our job is to observe them, noticing what is going on. Though it can be hard to tell for sure, our job is to assess their needs and do our best to meet them. Children need love, social interaction, food and shelter, consistent routines. A question that can help in the moment might be, "What is this behavior telling me that he/she needs right now?" Because they are trying to let us know.

During this season of Thanksgiving, let's try to remember to give the attention that our children long for.... enjoy!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

"Be all that you can be"

Many American kids grow up and go into the military. They do this for a variety of reasons. Some want the educational support they get after they serve. Some are looking for job training for the future. Some need a way out of their communities and want to see the world. Some want to do the right thing, and fight for the ideals of democracy. For many reasons, our young men and women make this commitment.

This morning I heard a shocking statistic. More than one quarter of the homeless people on our nation's streets are military veterans. Many of the young people coming home from the conflicts in the Middle East have physical and emotional health issues that this country is unprepared to deal with. Affordable housing is nearly impossible to find. Other important services have limited capacity to really meet these great needs. So, what was once the richest nation in the world, is becoming bankrupt by the war machine. And we are not caring for our sons and daughters.

This web journal is about kids and our desire to do our best to guide our children to become all that they can be. This is even the language used by the army with its slogan "be all that you can be." What are we really doing to help kids in their efforts to grow and use their boundless potential?. Some are meant to be artists, some scientists, some farmers, or architects, or sales people. The possibilities are endless. We need all kinds of gifts and talents to support our communities.

Americans are generous, capable people. What are we doing to assist the young men and women who have given all to serve us and the ideals of freedom? The time is overdue to stand up with them and help them make their transition back into civilian life with the support of their community around them. No one should be homeless in America! And certainly our service people need the respect and care that will help them be all that they can be. These are our children!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

In the heat of the moment

Someone asked me for a "reality check" yesterday. She wanted feedback on how to respond to her teenage son's deceptive behavior. He didn't check in with her after school (as is their custom) before going to hang out with friends for Halloween. Her son knew his mom had concerns about this particular friend and the lack of supervision at his home. She wanted to drive right over there and get him, knowing that he would likely resist and then they would be in the middle of a conflict. One of his other friends had called their house, so she had asked him to have her son call home. I suggested she wait and give her son a chance to call. She set a timer for herself, and he did call. The evening resolved way more peacefully than it might have.

After this call, I started thinking about what I would have done in a similar situation. Out of my fear and concern, I, too, would have wanted to check on my son and make sure he was safe. I might have driven right over there and given him a mini-lecture on keeping in touch with me. Then, depending upon his response, I would have gone back home, with or without him.

When we are in the middle of something with one of our kids, our feelings often take over. Our fears and frustrations can get the best of us and we sometimes over-react. We usually already know a "better way" to deal with our kid's defiance or misbehavior. We don't always remember in the heat of the moment.

So, last night, I was reminded how important it is to stop, breathe, and take time to consider our responses. There are definitely a few from the past that I would like to take back. I can't. But, I can try to remember today to think before I respond. This always helps!