Raising Successful Children

Here is an article from the New York Times Sunday Review that explains the benefits of authoritative parenting. The author talks about the importance of allowing children to do for themselves when they are capable or nearly capable. When we rob this of this opportunity we deny them the chance to build a healthy, capable sense of self.

Here is the article. Raising Successful Children by Madeline Levine, published August 4, 2012

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$$$$$ Allowance $$$$$

How do you feel about giving your children money? “It doesn’t grow on trees” you say. Too true…unfortunately.

Also true is the sad truth that financial smarts don’t just appear overnight. We must learn how to manage money effectively. Learning to do this when the contents of the piggy bank are in the three digits or less can be a lot less painful than learning the lesson later in life. For this reason giving your child an “allowance” can help them learn the value of money and how money works within the world of adults.

Many parents have their children complete specific chores to earn their allowance. Love and Logic encourages parents to give their children a weekly allowance “just because”. Once the child is around 5 or 6 years old, she receives the money regardless of what she is doing to help around the house. Once given the money is the child’s and the parents should not force the child to save it or spend it on things of the parents’ choosing. Does this feel scary?

Here is where the learning comes in. Adults use money primarily to purchase goods or services. Same is true for children, although children typically focus on the goods rather than services. Here are some examples of times when a child may use his allowance (or a parent may garner the money given to the child) for goods or services:

1. Johnny: “Mom I don’t want to empty the dishwasher. I know it is my job but I don’t want to.” Mom: “No problem. I’d be happy to empty the dishwasher for you and you can pay me for doing your job.”

2. Samir threw the football in the kitchen and broke mom’s vase. Mom: “Samir, I’m upset that you threw the ball in the kitchen when you know not to. That vase was important to me and now I’ll need to replace it. Let’s sit down and figure out how you can help pay for it through your allowance.”

3. Melisssa: “Dad! I really want some candy for my field trip. Everyone else gets to bring candy.” Dad: “I’m sure they do. And you can bring candy too when you are able to pay for it out of your allowance. How much do you have in your piggy bank now?… oh, only $0.50. Well, that sure is a nice teddy bear that your bought and I know that you love it. Are you going to take your bear with you on the trip?”

4. Fatima: “Mom, I have my license now. So can I drive the car over to Caroline’s house?” Mom: “I’m so impressed that you passed your driver’s test on the first go. You seem to be an excellent driver and you are welcome to use the car anytime I don’t need it provided that you can show me that you have deposited $500 in your savings account. That way if you damage the car we are able to pay the deductible and get the car fixed right away.”

(Refer back to the post on chores for additional information about kids’ contributions at home.)

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Play first. And often.

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If this pyramid were an iceberg, the only visible parts would encourage parents to use time out, ignoring, redirection and distraction. While these techniques are important parts of an effective parenting toolbox, healthy child development is built on the submerged portions of the pyramid. Playing with children helps to promote positive adult-child relationships. Staying involved or at least aware of what your child is doing creates opportunities to praise positive behavior. If parents build strong foundations within these areas there will be less need for the tools at the top of the pyramid.

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Kids solving their own problems

When adults take the burden of the natural and logical consequences away from kids we rob them of the opportunity to learn from their own mistakes. It may be tempting at times to do for our children – it may be faster, or it may be done to a higher quality if we do it ourselves – however, we need to think long term rather than simply in the moment.

If 12 year old Brenna is playing soccer in the living room and in the process knocks over a vase, the logical consequence would be for her to sweep up the mess and maybe even to earn money to replace the lost item. If dad cleans everything up for Brenna what will Brenna learn from the experience? That when she makes a mess Dad cleans it up? That if she breaks the rule about kicking the ball inside that nothing really happens?

We certainly don’t want to shame or embarrass kids. Similarly we don’t want to leave them with consequences that are beyond their ability to handle. Brenna is 12. If her 2 year old brother broke the vase perhaps Dad should sweep up the mess and little brother could help him put the broom back into the closet afterwards. Each family will need to decide consequences as each child is unique, but a major message in Love and Logic is to allow kids to learn from their mistakes. The only way they will do this is if we allow them to deal with the natural/logical consequences of their actions. This shift in control is powerful for kids and freeing for parents.

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Parenting styles … for a laugh

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Chores

Chore: A routine task, esp. a household one.

Some Love and Logic thoughts on chores:

1. What message do you send to your children with regard to your work ethic? Do you push the vacuum cleaner around all the while grumbling under your breath about how you hate housework? Do you procrastinate on your cleaning routine until the house has tumbleweeds rolling through?  If so, is it any wonder that your children procrastinate, rush through, or completely avoid doing their chores? Our attitude matters, so chin up and put on a good face for the sake of the message you send to your kids. You will thank yourself in the long run.

2. When do you ask your kids to complete their chores? Do you wait until the sink is full and then drop the bomb on your child that the dishes need to be cleaned up now! When you walk through the living room and see clutter from the week do you holler at Jr. to clean it up right now, or else? Love and Logic parents allow their kids some amount of control over their lives. In the case of chores this control may look something like this: “Son, would you be able to get the dishes done sometime before you leave for practice? Great thanks.” “Daughter, the living room is looking like a tornado came through. Do you suppose you could pick up your things before bedtime tonight? Thanks.” Notice the wording – you leave the child with the option NOT to do what you ask. “Would you be able to…” “Do you suppose…” – You are not forcing a power struggle – one in which you may lose. Rather you are providing your child with a choice. If they say “no thanks, no can do…” you can follow with “No problem, I’d be happy to do the chore for you and I’ll just take it out of your allowance.” or “No worries, I’ll do that for you during the time that I was planning to take you to practice – I’m not going to have the energy to do both.” – Refer back to the blog entry on Choices for more examples of this type of dialogue.

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Gossiping and “Side Door Messages”

Here is a fact of human life: we believe what we hear people say in secret. If we stumble across people whispering about us when they think we can’t hear we will believe what they say. In fact we believe it much more than if the same words were uttered directly to us. So when our kids hear us talking about them behind their back the message we are sending can be a powerful one.

“Gossiping” is a technique that can be used with kids of all ages. Effective teachers use this technique in the classroom and parents can do the same at home.

Here is an example with a toddler (one that resulted in Gracie beginning to pick up her toys):

Mom to Gracie’s stuffed bunny: “Gracie does such a good job picking up her toys. Don’t you think so Ms. Bunny Rabbit? She works so hard and mama is so proud of her hard work picking up her toys! Aren’t you proud of her hard work Bunny?”

Another example with a middle school son:

Dad to random person on the phone: “I’m really impressed with Jordan’s work ethic. I can tell that he is really working hard in his classes and I can tell that his efforts are paying off.”

A “side door message” is a message that enters via the side door. It is a message we send to someone indirectly. When we gossip about our kids in a productive way and they “happen” (aka we have planned for them) to overhear us we are sending them an indirect message of our expectations, praise, or disappointment. This side door message is often more effective than a direct “front door message” because it allows the child to save face and to jump from A to B on their own rather than doing so because we asked/cajoled them to.

Try it!

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