Archive for June, 2007

Parents are actually bus drivers

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

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Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.

-Albert Einstein, US (German-born) physicist (1879 – 1955)

Have you noticed how conscientious first time parents are? They research product safety better than Consumer Reports as they begin parenting by the Hippocratic Oath which says, ‘First, do no harm.’

When children are little, we understand our job is to keep them safe. But as they grow, we have to remember their safety is still our job. A toddler asking to wear stripes and polka-dots is negotiable, but being safely secured into a carseat is not.

As parents, we get numerous job descriptions but it can be summarized to one title – bus driver. We take our children on a journey from infancy to adulthood. Just like a bus there will be stops along the way in the form of outside influences such as family, friends, teachers, coaches, the media, our children’s friends, the list is endless. But the bus will go where the bus driver steers it.

Sometimes parents like to put the bus in cruise control and not think for themselves, or take the easy way out. Children are required by law to sit in carseats, later in booster seats, and that they wear helmets when riding bikes. There are laws that prohibit teens from drinking until they are 21, but parents take a lackadaisical attitude when they get push back from their kids; especially true regarding teenage drinking. “Well, they’re going to drink anyway.” If they did homework on the effects of teenage drinking they would have a totally different perspective.

Are these the same parents that got down on their hands and knees to look for exposed electrical outlets to protect their toddlers? What we know about teenage drinking is that 40% of the people that drink before age 15 go on to become alcoholics at some point in their lives. What we now know about the teenage brain is that the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for reasoning is the last part of the brain to develop. That is why it is hard for teenagers to distinguish the difference between going home after school to do homework, or going drinking with their friends. In fact that area of the brain isn’t fully developed until age 24. Interestingly, you have to be 25 to rent a car.

The best approach to trust and teens is the same theory that Ronald Regan used in foreign policy; trust but verify.

An awkward conversation between teen parents may involve one parent verifying with another that their teen is invited over, that an adult will be home and there will be no alcohol.

A far more awkward conversation begins with a knock on the door, and opens to find a police officer and member of the clergy on the other side.

Parents – please, drive your bus.

Adapted from Because Kids Don’t Come With Manuals by Tina Nocera

The Real Secret

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

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On February 8, 2007 Oprah Winfrey presented ‘The Secret’ on her show. Email responses were so overwhelming her website nearly crashed.

In case you haven’t heard about it, The Secret is a DVD based on the law of attraction which says like attracts like; we attract into our lives the things we want and create our own reality which is fueled by our thoughts.

That might explain why we have such problems with young people and destructive behaviors. We are focusing on, and giving too much attention to the wrong young people.

Their lives are filled with rehab, DUI, and drugs. Their celebrity status gets them into clubs, creates media frenzy, and introduced words like paparazzi to our regular vocabulary. Does our interest in these stories cause legitimate news networks to run them as lead stories, or is it that we simply can’t escape the news about these women? I will mention their names just once; Paris, Lindsay and Britney, and that’s all I’ll say.

Instead, let’s turn our attention to some positive adolescents. Perhaps the real secret is as simple as focusing on, and talking about good influences. That is, if you want to see more of this behavior….

Mattie Stepanek was a young man who had every reason to be angry. He was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy and had lost three older siblings to the same illness. He began writing poetry as a toddler and published five uplifting books with messages of hope before he died in 2004, shortly before his 14th birthday. Former President Jimmy Carter delivered a eulogy at Mattie’s funeral and said that although he has known kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, Mattie was the most extraordinary person he has ever known. I met Mattie when publishing a parenting newsletter for Toys “R” Us, and he wrote that how important it was to remember how to play after a storm.

In January 2006, Kari Janisse was a young woman busy working and planning a wedding. But she put herself second when she heard that a former high school teacher was very ill. In her senior year of high school, ‘Mr. B’ as she liked to call him taught a class that was supposed to be about communication. In reality the class of 22 learned a lot about life. The effect of that class had such a positive impact on her that when she heard her teacher was gravely ill, the student became the teacher. Every Tuesday evening for the year and a half he struggled with brain cancer, Kari would drive to Mr. B’s house after work and read to him. She started with Tuesdays with Morrie, and when done, went onto to The Five People You Meet in Heaven, both by Mitch Albom. He died before she could read For One More Day. As she told me, when people thought he was so lucky to have her constant dedication, her answer was simple, “No, I’m the lucky one to have this special time with him, to thank him for what he has done for me.”

Jason McElwain informally nicknamed J-Mac, is an autistic American teenager who graduated from Greece Athena High School, a suburb of Rochester, NY in 2006. You may have heard about his amazing feat of scoring twenty points in four minutes during a high school basketball game on February 16, 2006; the last home game of the 2005-2006 season for Greece Athena. Jason wasn’t supposed to play that game, and in fact Jason had never played any game, but the coach grateful for Jason’s constant support and encouragement for the team, told him he could suit up and sit on the bench. When the team was ahead, the coach signaled Jason to play. Everyone was thrilled for Jason’s incredible accomplishment, but I was also overwhelmed by the students in the stands. They didn’t know if Jason would actually get to play, but they were prepared waving his picture for every basket he scored. When he threw his last three-pointer with no time left on the clock the crowd went crazy. These were kids who totally supported this autistic boy. Too often we hear about bullying and teasing, but perhaps the support of his classmates is why Jason was able to accomplish the impossible.

Perhaps we all need to hear more about good kids. It also be might be why CBS is introducing a show in their fall lineup called Kid Nation – 40 kids, 40 days, no adults. The question is – can they build a better world than adults? One can only hope.

Dad, I want to be just like you

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

A wise person once said that a father’s love for his children is greater than the children’s love for the father. The magnitude of that love cannot be appreciated until a child becomes a father himself.

We’re featuring stories about dads each day this week on Parental Wisdom’s Daily Inspirational Call Line. Dial in (641) 985-5999 ext. 24290#. You can participate by sending a story via email to stories@parentalwisdom.com or leave a message on the call line number (above).

Today’s fathers are very involved in their children’s lives. They change diapers, coach sports, chaperone school trips, help with homework, give baths, and tuck children into bed. Non-custodial fathers without even knowing the schedule, show up at their children’s sporting events because it’s important for them to be there.

Dads are good at being dads. But are we still good at being children? If your father is still with you, do you appreciate him? The objective of our daily inspirational call line this week is simple; to remind you how lucky you are that you can tell your dad how much you care. Better yet, perhaps we can even change some behaviors:

You will not let the call go to voice mail when you see his familiar number appear on caller id.
You will listen to his stories one more time, just as he read the same story to you hundreds of times.
You will tell him how much you appreciate what he means to you now, and how much you learned from him rather than wait till you deliver a heartfelt eulogy
That he taught you everything you need to know about character and perseverance by the simple eloquence of his example

I was inspired by Annie Fox, a Parental Wisdom advisor, who wrote a letter of thanks to her dad, who she lost too early.

We’ll be reviewing a great new book for dad for evaluation of the Good Parenting seal entitled Big Slick Daddy: Poker Strategies for Parenting Success by Mark J. Borowski. If you are interested in reviewing this book, simply send an email to tina@parentalwisdom.com and I can share more information.

Finally, please visit Parental Wisdom Free Reports to get some fun Dad Coupons that your children can share with their dads.
Hope you tune in to the daily call.

What High School Graduates Need Most

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

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“I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and advise them to do it.”
– Harry S. Truman 33rd President

As parents we celebrate a series of ‘firsts’
First smile
First word
First day of school

And in the blink of an eye, we celebrate ‘lasts’
Last spring concert
Last ball game
Last day of school

It’s a rite of passage for all of us.

We have grown up with the families of our children’s classmates for 13 years and have shared many memorable events. At graduation, one last time we’ll sit together with our cameras positioned as happy tears stream down our faces. We’ll look at these accomplished young people, but remember them as little children with missing teeth, which then turned to braces, and have now become beautiful, confident smiles.

We have nothing but hope for their future, and are blessed with the memories they’ve given us. It’s funny when raising the children the hours go so slowly but the years fly by.

Despite the many gifts they’ll receive for graduation, the one they need most is the one we’ve already given them. But a gentle reminder won’t hurt. The best gift is a life compass which will help guide our children through the next phase of their journey. It’s our teaching what’s important; something that each family can decide for themselves.

As your children chart off to college, write them a letter reminding them of your own family’s life compass. It will be something they can refer to since you won’t be close by to pick up their socks or their spirits. This way if they go off course, they can find their way back again.

Be grateful to the people who had a positive influence on your children including their teachers, friends, family and others that treated them with respect and expected the same in return. Finally, be proud of the person you raised, and optimistic about the world they will create.

A wonderful gift that I’ll be buying for the high school graduates in our life is the new book by one of our advisors, Dr. Rob Gilbert of Montclair State University (NJ) entitled How To Have Fun Without Failing Out: 430 Tips From a College Professor. which was just awarded the Good Parenting seal.

On Monday June 4th, we will have an interview with Dr. Gilbert on our Daily Inspirational Call Line (641) 985-5999 ext. 24290# and feature exerpts from his book every day this week.

Child of the Day

Friday, June 1st, 2007

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Kathy couldn’t handle her two young children’s bickering; each one was vying for her attention. More importantly, she didn’t like playing the role of an umpire. To turn it around, she started “child of the day” at her house. Each day, Mary or Kenny would be child of the day, and his name would appear on the family calendar that hung on the fridge.

“Child of the day” was a combination of responsibilities and rewards. For example, the child of the day gets to choose which book is read first, who takes a bath first, etc. Although each child is responsible for his or her own chores and cleaning up after himself, the child of the day is responsible for the little things that come up, like getting a spare roll of paper towels.

It worked so well that the petty arguments virtually disappeared. Years later Kathy asked each child to tell her who her favorite was. They each replied, “Me!” That’s when she realized “child of the day” worked. Both children were right; each child is her favorite.

How else could you explain how parents find enough love in their hearts for each child that comes along?