Archive for the ‘About Parental Wisdom’ Category

Sorry if I’ve caused you any grief

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

sully1
Apologies can be sorry things as we’ve learned over the past few years as ‘celebrities’ such as Spitzer, Madoff, ARod, Blagolveich, Michael Phelps, Chris Brown, etc. fall from grace.

Even in my local town, the former treasurer of an elementary school Mother’s Club was recently sentenced to four years in prison for stealing approximately $136,000 of school proceeds during a five year period.

You don’t have to a victim to feel victimized. We find ourselves waiting for the next news story to break as we build protective walls of distrust.

What do our children think? What can we tell them and teach them about these blunders headlining the news?

Do what you’ve always done – teach by your example and don’t expect celebrities to be role models – that is your job. Be the kind of role model that does your personal best and doesn’t look for a silver bullet to meet unrealistic goals. But at the same time, don’t set unrealistic expectations for your children.

• Don’t fight to have them in the honors class if they really don’t belong there
• Don’t argue that the high school coach should give them more playing time if they aren’t the best players
• Don’t challenge the director of the play if the lead went to another child

It’s about putting the right person in the right job.

Which brings me to a person who said he was “simply doing his job” when he miraculously landed his 100,000 pound jetliner in the Hudson without losing a single life. Capt. Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger said he trained his whole life for that landing, as he shared the credit with his crew.

Imagine if Sully hadn’t earned his wings, done the work and was put in the job without the right skill set – the story would have had a different ending. Instead, he did it the old fashioned way; he did the work.

The people your kids look up to should be real, make real mistakes, and most importantly recover from them. The best lesson to teach your kids is that you don’t drown by falling in water, but by staying there.

I don’t have to know you to know that you, like me, have made more than your fair share of mistakes. Let’s enter a new era of responsibility and accountability and sing that old classic to our kids – – “just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.”

I resolve to – New Year, New Start, New Parenting Resolutions

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

new-years-baby

December 31st is often about reflecting on the past year while resolving to have a better tomorrow.

But are we really transformed by a date on a calendar or is a change in habit more sustainable? Are we better learning something new or simply applying the wisdom we’ve gained?

I guarantee there is nothing on this list about being a better parent that you don’t already know…

1. Respect your children. When they display a quality you are proud of, tell them in very specific terms.
2. Listen to your children. Demonstrate eye contact and active listening which builds social skills.
3. How well do you know your child? Ask them their favorite color, story, or what they dream about. Encourage them to share their feelings.
4. Play and laugh more. We love to check off things on our to-do list forgetting the most important things aren’t things at all.
5. Lower your standards. In an achievement oriented world, this statement doesn’t fit. But who’s setting the standards and what’s their agenda? Set your own long range goal to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children. That doesn’t mean a perfect child but rather one that is perfectly normal.
6. Let go. We all struggle with protection paranoia. What you really want is to teach your kids resilience and the ability to bounce back from a mistake. You don’t drown by falling in water, but by staying there.
7. Grow with them and encourage your family to do the same. The best thing we can learn from our children is their ability to learn new things. That means they are not the same kids they were last year. Appreciate that, recognize that, learn from that and point it out to extended family.
8. Point out life lessons. With the constant news reports of the economy in a tailspin, point out to your children that perhaps we were all a little too greedy. The challenges we’re facing were in many ways self inflicted and need time to balance out. Talk about what it was like when you were growing up and managed to survived with so much less.
9. Plan more adult time. The airlines got it right – put on your oxygen mask before you put on your child’s. Take time as a couple and take time as a person to take care of yourself. You’ll do a better job as a parent if the world doesn’t revolve around your children.
10. Make family dinners a priority. When speaking at a Principal’s conference on getting better parent attendance at school events, I suggested that the school administrators understand the best place parents can be at night is home with their families. The schools should think out of the box on different ways to communicate and get their message out. Family dinners are one of the best ways to let the most important people in your life that you mean it.

Like I said, nothing new.

(more…)

You can only spend time

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Recently a few dads mentioned they are not spending enough time with their kids, or in other cases, they felt the time slipped past them since their children are now older.

As I noted in my book Because Kids Don’t Come With Manuals® time and money have much in common, but one very clear distinction: you can make money and you can spend money, but you can only spend time – you can’t make time.

Despite what you might think, if given the choice, children would much rather spend time with you as compared to you working harder or longer hours to make money to buy them things. The best plaything in the world is you.

I point this out as Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon Professor who gave the famous Last Lecture recently passed away. The famous speech, which is now a book, was really meant for his children, but the rest of us eagerly listened in.

The world wanted to hear more from Randy, but he didn’t want to miss any time that he could spend with his children, so he collaborated via cell phone with Jeffrey Zaslow of the Wall St. Journal as he rode his bike an hour a day for 53 days.

Putting myself in his shoes, I can’t imagine not being there for my children in their moments of joy and more importantly in their moments of need. But it comes down to being there, which is about the choices we make. As Randy reminded us, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

If you don’t know how to play with your kids – find someone who does effortlessly and do the same things. If you think the time has passed where you didn’t teach your son to ride a bike or throw a ball, ok, but you can still talk to your grown son and learn about him.

The key to time is making the most of what you have.

The Umpire Said ‘Play Ball’

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=zNOAhdvRVtc]

As the baseball game between the NY Mets and the Texas Rangers began on June 14th, the umpire said the words that start the game.

He said Play Ball.

But as the rain poured down and the tarp was brought out to cover the field, it became clear that the rain wasn’t going to stop anytime soon, and the game would be cancelled.

The Texas Rangers listened to the umpire. After all, he did say to Play Ball, and play they did.

What a wonderfully spontaneous act for grown men to display. Who knows, perhaps we’ll all start to play.

How do men learn to be fathers?

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=vwNcuikop8A]How do men learn to be fathers? By the example set by their own fathers.

I was watching the new coverage of the passing of Tim Russert and was so saddened by the loss. Having also come from a blue collar background, I appreciated his sense that true wealth was simply being happy with what you have.

To the new fathers out there – remember, your sons are watching.

-Happy Father’s Day

Pee Pee Targets

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Pop quiz

Question: What do toilet training targets have to do with census data?

Answer: Everything.

We start early by giving our kids rewards for doing things they should do. We understood this sort of positive reinforcement encourages children to do the behaviors that we want them to do.

Ah! Therein lies the problem, the word behaviors. Are we raising children or seals?

Somewhere in this generation of parenting, we were told that giving children things to get them to do things was a good idea.

It is not. It is a terrible idea.

To make matters worse the concept of rewards for doing things you should do is creeping into all areas of our life.

School districts are rewarding children for grades by giving them monetary incentives. I was never in favor of giving kids money for good grades and now school districts are doing this.

I remember hosting a school clean up while PTO president as a way to have families connect with each other. A 4th grader, who had just swept the steps came over and told me, “I’m done, what do I get?” I replied, “The good feeling that comes with a job well done.” He was surprised that there wasn’t a ribbon or sticker or trophy.

Companies reward people for doing the job they are supposed to do. Isn’t a job an agreement to do certain tasks for a certain salary? If that is the case, then rewards only come into play when the job objectives are exceeded, not met.

More recently, the Census Bureau is looking at ways to increase the response rate, including the use of prizes as an incentive. The incentives can include winning an iPod, getting a Starbucks gift certificate or cash.

We have lost our minds. The reward for doing anything is intrinsic. The reward for your child getting good grades is about how he feels about working hard or even trying his best to get well deserved grades. The reward about peeing in the potty is that great feeling that comes with learning something new.

Whether the reward is stickers or candy or money please think about this. How and when will you wean them off the reward and simply get them to do the right thing?

After all, isn’t teaching our kids to do the right thing is a key objective of parenting?

Another Reason Families Love Steven Spielberg

Monday, May 12th, 2008

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPTJ4v6KPrg]

Tell me a fact and I’ll learn,
Tell me a truth and I’ll believe,
But tell me story and it will live in my heart forever.

-Indian Proverb

One of the many happy memories I have of my children when they were little, was my son Michael walking around town with a Fedora as shopkeepers would call out, “Hi Indy.” My son loved the Indiana Jones movies so much, that at four-years of age, he wanted to be an archaeologist-adventurer.

A good story teller gets you to believe. As a family, together we enjoyed every movie Steven Spielberg made because you were told a great story and felt a part of that story.

Last night, with children now young adults, we went to the movies and saw the trailer for the new Indiana Jones movie with a fully grown Indiana Jones – and we can’t wait to once again enjoy it together.

Tina Nocera, Founder
Parental Wisdom

Resident Evil

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=X5tgR–_YL0]

This is what evil looks like.

This story is the most horrible, unbelievable story I’ve ever heard. Read the news story.

Happy Earth Day Microsoft!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Where do I begin? I just sent out an email to Parental Wisdom members (below) which talks about how we’re stopping our children from enjoying the most wonderful lessons on earth in a rush to excel. I came across a piece by the senior product manager at Microsoft that I have to share:

You helped her learn to walk. He’s totally potty trained at last. Just when it seems you’ve conquered the most angst-ridden issues faced by parents of toddlers, here comes another source of concern: In a world increasingly dominated by technology, familiarizing your child with a computer and online tools is more important than ever.

Parents can’t afford to wait until their children start school to introduce them to technology, says Craig Cincotta, senior product manager at Microsoft Corp.

“Schools are incorporating computers into their curricula at very early grade levels. It’s not unusual to find a computer loaded with learning software in preschool and daycare settings,” he says. “Children who have experience with computers at home will have an edge over those who first encounter technology in the classroom.”

Boy, is this person ever wrong. Children are becoming frustrated and angry, even at young ages because we are not allowing them to be children – children are meant to play, especially outdoors.

Have you ever tried to toilet train a child too early? It doesn’t work. When children are ready, toilet training is easy. The same is true of education, computers and sports. Let children play freely, and when the time comes for studies and computers and organized sports, they will come ready to learn.

Here is the email sent yesterday to Parental Wisdom members.

We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.
-Ancient Proverb

Global climate change, pollution and how large a carbon footprint you leave behind may seem like many issues parents face – overwhelming.

The answer is actually quite simple and lies in the ancient proverb that states we borrow the earth from our children.

Unfortunately, we take our children from the very thing they gravitate to, the wonders of nature. We put them in schools too early, in front of computers too early, in organized sports programs too early, all because being inside and educated means they will be safe, smart and ready for a cutthroat world.

According to a recent article in the Wall St. Journal, the birthplace of kindergarten is returning to its roots – quite literally. Children ages 3 to 6 walk into a forest outside Frankfurt Germany to sing songs, build fires and roll in the mud. To relax, they kick back in a giant ‘sofa’ made of tree stumps and twigs.

Fredrick Frobel, the German educator who opened the world’s first kindergarten actually called it a “children’s garden.” He suggested that children of this age learn far more by playing in nature than they do immersed in letters and numbers.

Let’s move from ‘No Child Left Behind’ to ‘No Child Left Inside’ and stop our 5-year-olds from what some educators call ‘early academic fatigue.’ If you can’t change the education system, at least you could give your children the gift of spending time with nature. Take a walk with your child and see what he sees, it’s amazing what a young child can teach you.

Perhaps if we made this a habit, there wouldn’t be a need to set aside April 22nd to remember the Earth; everyday would be Earth Day.

Mud pies anyone?

What Do You Do?

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Thursday, April 24th marks the 16th annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work® Day.

It is so much more than a career day. It demonstrates to our children why education matters, but more importantly, our children can be inspired to learn what it is they might love to do. You can only be really great at something with passion and persistence and that begins by doing what you love.

Now for the bad news. If you’re negative about your current job then I recommend you don’t pull your children out of school for the day since you’ll be doing more harm than good. Instead use this as an opportunity to think about the advice that you would give to your grade school age child so that she is not in the same position.

Here are some ideas:

Do what you love. As a young child, spend the time finding what it is that you love
Test the waters. You can’t know if it’s right until you try it. And then if you think you like something, try it again.
Talk to people (as many as you can) in the field you think is for you. Even be courageous enough to talk to people who have left the profession so you could understand why.
Think about the kind of a life you want to live. Do you want a family? Would you love (or hate) to travel? What if you had to constantly relocate? Do you want to be home for dinner every evening (if this is important to you, don’t even think about politics).

Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure;
Where your treasure, there is your heart;
Where your heart, there your happiness.
-Augustine