Category Archives: Great Parenting Tools

Creative Consequences for Teen Behavior: More Independence


Well, you can bet that when I don’t write for over a week that I must have a pretty good excuse. And I sure wish it was a glamorous one like “I was at the Grammys” or “I got invited to the White House”.  It’s not even a dramatic reason like, “I was in the hospital all week.” Nope, usually when you don’t hear from me it’s because I’m wiped out from dealing with kid problems, and that is a mild way to describe what we’ve been going through.


I can never usually write about things in as few words as possible but I’m going to try really hard—maybe if I start by summarizing things in list form it will help:


1.)    Oldest teen gave all sorts of attitude and sass to Mom while riding home from school one day.


2.)    Mom tells teen if that kind of attitude happens again on the ride home tomorrow, teen can get their own transportation back to school at 6 for the school production teen was in (just  a background part, by the way, and several of these dancers have had to miss at least one show so if she’d missed it, the world wouldn’t have come to an end). 


3.)    Teen sasses Mom big time on the way home from school the next day, before the car is even out of the parking lot.


4.)    Mom takes teen home and says she’s not taking teen to school for the show and goes for a walk, but makes sure that the aravan is behind the “teen car” so teen can’t stupidly try to drive that car because she doesn’t have a driver’s license yet.  She could call friends for a ride, walk, or ride her bike.


5.)    When Mom (and Dad) return, they discover teen has miraculously backed the car out of the garage, around the aravan and has driven it to school.  (Later they learn she also went through the Whataburger drive-thru before she got to school.)  After retrieving the car from the school parking lot and bringing it home, Mom and Dad discover that the front end of the car is damaged, the back end, as well as the side of their backyard fence, and that other things have been damaged in daughter’s haste to back out the car, items that were “in the way”.


While it ran through our heads to have the school security guard yank her offstage, Andy chose to be waiting for her in the lobby at the end of the show to deliver the news of her consequences.  Many people thought we should have called the police and had them “pull her over”, but we chose not to go that route.  We chose to make it as close to a jail at home as we possibly could. In-room grounding (even meals eaten in room), cell phone service cut off, iPod taken away, computer on lockdown.  Driving class suspended indefinitely, at least a month, and the online part of the course is about to expire so she’ll have to pay to reinstate it.  Volunteer work in the community and extra jobs around the house; once getting her license, she’ll have to have paid for the damages to the car (and fence) or she won’t be driving it.


And how do you think she took these consequences? Contritely, with head down and profuse apologies? Remember, we have a defiant kid here, and things have not been pretty.  So as a result, we pulled a couple extracurriculars, and things got worse. “I can do whatever I want, whenever I want!!” has been the mantra coming from her. She doesn’t think what she did was that much of a “big deal”.


Just when we were about to give up and throw our hands up in the air from all the turmoil, I had an “ah-hah” moment.  It suddenly occurred to me that if this kid is “bucking the system” so hard, she must want some independence.  So let’s give it to her, I told Andy.  “You don’t like it when we take your extracurriculars away?” we asked her. “Okay, you can have all of them back.  But anything that’s not required for a grade or any part of an activity not required, we’re not going to support, not financially or with transportation.  You get to own them from now on. You have that freedom now.”   


Andy felt like we’d still given up, that she was getting everything handed to her on a plate, but I said, just wait.  If we stick to this, she’ll either get more responsible or get even angrier, and I’m ready for either one.


So far, we’ve seen a mixture of both.   She’s still mad because she’s still not going to be able to enter an upcoming solo and duet dance competition, and she still doesn’t see that what she did was that big of a deal. But I heard her make a phone call on THE LAND LINE for I think the first time ever the other day, as she arranged for transportation to the Sunday performance of the school show.  She stopped demanding that I go buy her supplies to add to her stage makeup because she knew I wouldn’t do it.  She packed her own sack dinner because I refused to “make a special trip to bring takeout dinner to her dressing room “like all the other parents do”.  And for the first time, yesterday she got herself up early enough to actually come in and wake us up, as Andy had told her she needed to do if she wanted a ride to school.


I may be a fool, but I’m not foolish enough to think this new parenting stance is instantly going to make things better.  But at least it is giving us hope.  And it sure feels good to unburden ourselves of some tasks and give them to her, which probably should have been done a long time ago. 

WAHM on the Run: A New Approach to Ending Arguments and Getting Older Kids to Be More Responsible

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Moms (or Dads) of teens (and other kids that try their patience) need a place they can retreat to, at a moment’s notice, to get away from them.  To think before flying too far off the handle.  To de-escalate a situation, eliminate whining and cut the exchange of words short, with the promise of discussion at a calmer time.  To be alone in order to come up with really good consequences for certain behavior rather than “grounding them from everything for life” in the heat of the moment.  In other words, when the kids are too old to “go to their rooms” for a time out, you need to go to yours. Or take a walk outside.  Just get away… only, sometimes that’s not so fun to go to your room, like when your husband hasn’t picked up his underwear and socks for awhile… and, kids can still knock on your door.  Or yell outside it. Or worse, kick it. (Nothing makes a defiant kid madder than to have a door shut in his/her face!) And, while going outside can be refreshing, sometimes it’s too dark to walk, or the weather’s bad.  And again, kids can follow you  (no, let me re-phrase that…they will follow you!).  So I must say, once my husband gifted me with a laptop almost two years ago, it turned out to be the gateway for another kind of “parent retreat”– I’ve been having fun discovering all the local places that have free WiFi, good coffee, and long hours.  Lately, thanks to a nifty carry bag said husband got me for Christmas, that laptop, plus my planner, phone, and a couple of books, are “ready to go” at a moment’s notice, and I head to Starbucks, the public library, or other local spots, and take my work on the road.

It’s been interesting– I can now tell you which Starbucks within five miles of my house (and there are 10) has the most power sources, which are the least crowded at certain times of the day, which give you the most privacy, which have the best tables on which to work, and which ones have the best lo-carb food selections.  I can also tell you the best spots to get work done at the library and which coffee is the best out of their machine. I am a Freebirds Fanatic, a “My Panera” member, and carry a Cup of Joe punch card from Corner Bakery. 

While I haven’t gone to any of those places enough for their staff to know me by name, they might soon, because I’m thinking of making my office-away-from-home a regular gig.  At least in the mornings. 

See, as kids get older, they need to take on more responsibility, but I think when you’re a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) or Work at Home Mom (WAHM), they get short-changed a little on this. Because they assume that because you’re home all the time, you can always be their emergency back-up.  Not only are they more forgetful on remembering things because they always think there’s the slight chance Mom might bring to school whatever they forgot, they get lax in other areas as well.  They head to the school nurse’s office for minor hurts, not major.  They run late to school more often.  Did they miss their ride with Dad? No worries, they think, Mom is still at home and she can drive.  It doesn’t matter that that’s a waste of gas, that Dad goes right by their schools on his way to work…and Mom doesn’t.  The important thing is that Mom is there.  Did they “sleep in” and decide to skip a couple classes? Well, good ‘ol Work-At-Home-Mom is there to take them in the middle of the morning so at least they can sashay in and make it on time for third period.  No thought is ever given that maybe Mom has better things to do than re-arrange her schedule to accommodate theirs. But of course she will, because she doesn’t want kids lazing around the house all day!  (And as far as us using grounding, phone gone, etc. as punishments for being late or missing classes? Hasn’t changed the behavior!)

I’ve seen miraculous things happen on those rare days when I’ve had early meetings outside of the house.  The kids seem to move a little faster. They know Mom is going to be gone “all morning” so they get their act together.  There is no “sleeping in”, no whining to Mom about how they’re-running-late-so-could-she-PLEASE-make-them-a-lunch… On those days, things happen the way they should for two teens.  They take on more responsibility. So I’ve decided I’m going to re-create that scenario as often as possible from now on and start heading out each morning, whether I have a meeting or not, before the rest of the family crew is scheduled to leave, and head to one of my trusty offices-away-from-home. Which means I’d have to get there pretty early, but that’s okay– my favorite Starbucks opens at 5!  True, that means I’ll have to spend at least a couple dollars each time (I’ll take a tall regular of the bold Roast of the Day, thank you very much!) but it will be worth it.  I think it will force my kids to be more responsible on a regular basis and I will probably get more work done as well.  And if my husband (or child) calls to tell me that one of them “missed the boat”, oh, well, I guess I’ll just spend that day out. Maybe I’ll keep a duffel bag filled with workout gear in my car so I can head to exercise class in between stops at my “offices”…  

Does that make some of you sad, thinking I’m going to be missing out on those June Cleaver, stay-at-home moments by not being present when my family leaves for the day? I’ve had plenty of those moments. Of smiling and waving to the car as it backs out of the driveway; of running after it with shoes or lunchboxes or hairbrushes in my hands; of having crispy bacon or freshly-baked chocolate chip muffins ready for husband and children as they pass thru the kitchen on their way out the door…but in the sitcom of my life, kids being routinely late to class or skipping them all together is much more serious business than smiling and saying, “Wait ’til your father gets home.” And since our school district’s rules on unexcused absences are ridiculously lenient and aren’t providing the “natural consequences” that I’d hoped, this June Cleaver is going to have to go away.  Literally.  (But I still plan to hug each family member every morning before I do…)

The Unbearable Lateness of Being: Breaking the Tardy Habit

I’ll never forget it.  I was in first grade, and it was the last day of school.  My teacher, Mrs. Cook, was wrapping things up for the day and passing out things for us to take home, like art projects, old papers, etc. “I’m going to pass out the attendance cards for you to take home to your parents,” she announced.  “Some of you have no tardies, and some of you have a few.  SOMEbody in here has been late in arriving to class TWENTY-ONE times! Can you believe it?” We all dropped our jaws.  We couldn’t imagine who that was.  After the white, 3 x 5 cards were distributed, I looked at mine.  In the blank next to the word “Tardies” was a penciled “21”.  The 21-timer was ME.  I was mortified, and even more mortified was my mom, since she drove me to school, sometimes in her nightgown and robe, rushing to get me there (and I lived less than a mile away).  “I had no idea you were late that many times,” Mom said.  “I never heard the bell ring.”  And the teacher had never said anything to me or my parents about it, but had been quietly writing it all down, all year.  So much for helping a kid learn and improve!

Over 40 years later, I’m still late to things probably about 60% of the time, even when I think I’ve carefully planned ahead.  My teen’s rate of being late is even higher, that is, whenever there are not harsh consequences like those imposed at her school.  At home, we’ve had to leave her behind at times when we can’t wait any longer (if you’re a longtime blog reader, you may remember the time she had to bike the 2.5 miles to church after the rest of us had left…). Emmie is much better about being on time, although as I type this she is serving day 3 of a 4-day “lunch detention” for being late to her science class four times.  “Mom,” she says, “I literally walk through the door right as the bell rings and my teacher still counts me tardy!”

Is being habitually late something in our genes, or skills that weren’t taught and passed on through generations? An article at nytimes.com says that some experts believe we can be hard-wired for lateness, something embedded deep in our brains.  I have a feeling that at one point in his life, my dad may have battled lateness because by the time he had me, he was uber-on-time everywhere he went.  For example, if an airline told him to be at the airport two hours before check-in, he’d be there with three hours to spare.  I’ve often thought that planning to the extreme like that might be the only solution for folks like me—just plan to get places way ahead of time, and take a book along.  Only when folks like me try that, stuff always seems to get in the way…

Dad always used to tell me when I was growing up, “You’re going to be late to your own wedding!!”, so when that day finally arrived, I was determined to prove him wrong.  I got to the church with one of my bridesmaids at least three hours before everyone else, so I felt pretty good about that—until Andy pointed out that I was still delayed a few minutes in getting dressed and being ready when he knocked on the Brides’ Room door to take me to the photo shoot (we took pictures a couple hours before the ceremony)…

Is there anything a chronically late person can do? Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out, says on WebMd.com that first you need to figure out what kind of late person you are.  She says there’s a difference between people who are late by varying amounts of time, and those that always run, say, 10 minutes late.  The former is a “technical” reason that might be able to be cleared up with more realistic time expectations; the latter has underlying psychological reasons.  “If you are literally always 10 minutes late,” says Morgenstern, “it’s psychological. You’re arriving exactly when you want. The question is ‘why?'”  The article goes on to say that it could be leftover rebelliousness from your youth, or the inability to get moving unless there is an adrenaline rush to push you. (Hmmm…not sure exactly which camp I fall into there…)  Diana DeLonzor, a former late person and author of Never Be Late Again, says in the nytimes.com article that there’s another type of latecomer, kind of a composite of those mentioned by Morgenstern: “the producer”, who gets an ego boost from getting as much done in as little time as possible. “Many late people tend to be both optimistic and unrealistic,” she said, “and this affects their perception of time. They really believe they can go for a run, pick up their clothes at the dry cleaners, buy groceries and drop off the kids at school in an hour. They remember that single shining day 10 years ago when they really did all those things in 60 minutes flat, and forget all the other times that everything took much, much longer.” (Yep, and probably forget that the street lights don’t usually all turn green like they did on that day…I think I’m a “producer”!)

The WebMD article says that the majority of people who are late fear boredom, and can’t stand the thought of being somewhere early with nothing to do (yeah, that’s me, too, when I don’t have a book or a pen and paper or a working cell phone…)

Both Morgenstern and DeLonzor offer some helpful suggestions, like keeping a written log for a few days of the actual time it takes to do everyday tasks, so you can better estimate time in the future.  Or always having something absorbing and meaningful to do while you wait.  Or making yourself walk out of the door at the time you plan to do so, and not get distracted by answering the phone or doing other last-minute things.  I would offer another hint to go along with that–  to find your keys and gather everything you need to take with you an hour before you need to leave, and put it in the car (the girls and I never plan for this “last minute gathering of stuff” and even if we’re dressed on time, it can really delay things as we rush to grab everything, not to mention we end up forgetting stuff).

The folks at EmpoweringParents.com offer some good suggestions specifically for kids who are chronically late, such as making them pay for lateness (5 minutes off of their computer or video game time for every 5 minutes that they’re late somewhere) or allowing them to suffer the natural consequences of being late, like being benched from playing in a game or getting a tardy slip.
One strategy that has worked around here, the few times I’ve used it, is simply giving a false time about when we’re supposed to arrive somewhere, for example, telling Allison something starts at 5:30 even though it starts at 6. That’s worked wonderfully, although I’m not sure it’s teaching the right coping skills since technically she’s still running late when we get there right on time!

But I really do want to equip my girls to be successful adults, and if I want them to be adults who get places on time, then first and foremost, I have to be that kind of adult.  They need to see me making an effort to change if I’m going to expect them to do the same.  And right now, having dramatically altered my eating and exercise habits for almost five months, dropped two sizes and lost 13 pounds, I’m feeling pretty capable of change! 

So how do I propose to be a more punctual person? Through writing.  I plan to get places 15 minutes ahead of time, and later, write about what happens in a journal.  Both the good stuff, and the crazy stuff that might get in the way.  Mostly for my own use, but because I know that others struggle with this same issue, I’ll post an update on the blog at some point.  And if that doesn’t help me be on time, then I’ll increase the time frame to 30 minutes.  Will I be bored out of my mind as I wait? Doubt it.  Something just tells me that it’s going to be very interesting.  I may read 10 more books in a year as a result. Or make a new friend.  Or pray more.  Or have the most buffed up fingernails in town.

At the very least, I will be on time. I hope my kids notice.

When Kids Steal

One day last week after I picked up Emmie from school, while concentrating on navigating the aravan out of the parking lot and keeping with the school zone speed limit out on the street, I caught the words “hundred dollar bill” as she chattered about her day.  It took me a few seconds for it to fully register on my brain.  “Wait a minute—back up,” I said.  “What did you say?”


“Frankie gave me a hundred dollar bill today,” she said. Of course I’m thinking it was one of those fake bills, like the old $3 bill with Bill Clinton on it, but I asked to see it anyway.  She passed it up to me, and I almost pulled the car over.  It looked, smelled and felt like a real hundred dollar bill (not that I handle a lot of those on a regular basis, but this was definitely not something out of a Monopoly game…)  

I examined it further at the stop light.  “Emmie, this is real, and this is weird,” I said.  “Why would he do this?” She shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know,” she said.  “He said something like he felt bad that people give presents to each other and that he hadn’t given me a birthday present, so he wanted me to have it.” It still didn’t make sense.  Emmie’s birthday was four months ago. My mind raced—it had to be that he felt guilty having it and needed to get rid of it.  Either he’d found it when walking to school or on the playground, or had taken it from someone in his family.  “I should probably go ask the principal if anyone has reported lost money, or ask the teacher about this, or talk to his parents,” I said. “Someone is missing this money, and you shouldn’t be keeping it.”  She burst into tears. And not because I was talking about taking it away from her. “Please don’t,” she begged.  “I don’t want him to get in trouble.” This was a kid whose family was known for harsh punishments—he’d definitely shared stories with his classmates of past “whoopins”.  “Please, just let me give it back to him tomorrow,” she pleaded.  “But Emmie, a hundred dollars is a lot of money,” I said, and explained to her that he might not do the right thing with it if he got it back, and that someone may not be able to pay their rent, or buy groceries, if they’ve lost it. “But what if it’s really his money, and he just wanted to give it to me?” she asked. I told her n that case, his parents should still know, because if it’s his, he’s probably not supposed to be giving it away.  “That might be a gift from a grandparent or someone else,” I explained.  “And if it really is his to give away as he chooses, we’ll find that out.”

I stopped by the principal’s office first. No money had been reported lost, so I went home and called his parents.  His dad said he’d look into it and call me back. It turns out the child admitted he’d stolen the money from his older brother, who had been stowing away cash under his bed while saving to buy a laptop.  Surprisingly, the father sounded perplexed rather than matter-of-fact mad, as I’d expected.  “I don’t know what to do,” he said.

I could relate.  Emmie is the big saver among our children and sometimes stashes cash in easy-to-reach places, and Allison has stolen money from her on at least two occasions.  After Andy and I had gathered enough evidence to convict (and our sleuthing skills were definitely worthy of an episode of CSI), I remember being completely flabbergasted.  I mean, with our kids, we’d dealt with backtalk, temper tantrums, noncompliance…even broken windows, but never stealing. I had never been a stealer or a liar as a child and neither had Andy.  While we required her to pay back the money (and in the second case, pay it back with interest), I never felt like we’d done enough.  Yes, I know a lot of kids steal at one point in their young lives (a friend of mine who is a great mom/outstanding citizen recently told me she once shoplifted a bathing suit when she was a teen) but I still have a hard time coming to terms with stealing, knowing the right way to address it, and it sounds like Frankie’s dad does, too, and probably other parents. 

So, today I surfed online and read many “expert” opinions on the topic.  Here is a good one I found, one I wish I’d read two years ago: 
http://www.empoweringparents.com/is-your-child-stealing.php  I’m sure going to use some of its advice if this ever happens again in our family. But I sure hope and pray it doesn’t!

A Good Alternative to Preteen Cell Phones

Just wanted to put in a plug for something we’ve used when our kids get to that age when you really don’t want them to have a cell phone, yet they need to be in communication with you: good ‘ol walkie talkies.  Not the nerdy, bulky walkie talkies of yesterday– today’s two-way radio can fit in the palm of your hand, and your child’s (and some can clip on bike handlebars, belt loops, etc.).

For as little as $20 a pair, you can give your child some of the freedom that comes with a cell phone, but you don’t have all the “baggage” that comes with one (the cost of the phone, “the plan”, possible higher phone bills, texting, games, etc.)  It’s a great after-school communications tool–  when we plan ahead, my 12-year-old and I both turn on our walkie talkies when school lets out, and I can remind her to bring certain things home, she can ask me things like “Mom, can I go to a friend’s house after school?” or tell me that she needs to stay for tutoring or a student council meeting.

We’ve also used the walkie-talkies when she wants to bike to meet a friend at a neighborhood park.  Safety-wise, I think they’re even better than cell phones.  I mean, imagine this: your child is riding his bike to a friend’s house or walking to school and needs to reach you ASAP—it could be he’s fallen and hurt himself, or sees bad weather approaching, or thinks a stranger is following him…so he gets out his cell phone.  First, he has to get it out of “locked” mode, then get to the “dialer” menu or contacts list, then click on your number, and then wait while the phone rings.  It may roll to voicemail if another call has come in.  Or, as soon as you pick up, the call might be magically “dropped” thanks to your wonderful cell phone reception, so he has to start all over again.  Meanwhile, that leg is bleeding…or that stranger is getting closer.  With walkie-talkies, you turn on yours when your child sets out on his journey, and your child turns on his, and you make sure they are both on the same channel.  Then if he needs to reach you, he just presses a button and you’re talking to each other. Instantly.  And chances are you won’t get bad reception, because there are many different kinds of walkie talkies with different ranges (i.e. how far one can be from the other and still hear the other clearly) so you can find one that best fits your needs.

For sure, even as sleek and tiny as walkie talkies can now be, they can’t begin to compete with a cell phone in the area of “coolness”– but my kids have been willing to put that aside in exchange for the freedoms we’ve granted if they use them.

(To see the latest in walkie talkies, check out this link or find them at any Radio Shack store, Target, Academy Sports, or other stores that sell electronics or sporting goods.)

“I’ll Do My Homework Later”: Helping Kids Battle Procrastination

It’s tough sometimes being an anti-helicopter parent, who seeks to help their children learn life lessons by not jumping in and taking over everything.  It’s like standing by and watching a train wreck, after you’ve warned the engineer several times of danger ahead.  To borrow again from the train metaphor, lately our house is like “Procrastination Station”, and even though I keep warning my kids, the trains keep wrecking. 

“Emmie, get your schoolbag packed before you go to bed,” we’ve told her many times, but no, she decides to do that two minutes before she’s supposed to leave for school in the morning.  Often, lunch money and/or needed supplies get left behind, and unless I happen to be going by the school during the day, I won’t bring the gear to her.  “Allison, break your reading assignment down into small chunks and do a little bit every day,” we tell her, but no, there she is a month later, the night before the book report and its accompanying poster and Power Point are due, panicked because she never finished the book, and staying up until 5 a.m. to try to complete the assignment (and true to Murphy’s Law, last-minute children will always have technical difficulties trying to load that Power Point onto a USB flash drive or print that report on the printer, adding to the panic). “Emmie, your science fair project is due in a month and you’ve got to get started now,” we tell her.  One week later: “Emmie, your science fair project is due in three weeks—don’t wait until the last minute, since your experiment involves people, and they may not be available when you think they are.” This week: “Emmie, your science fair project is due next Tuesday, and you only have a couple free days until then to conduct your experiment. I’m not going to buy your supplies until you’ve written down the procedure and invited your subjects to come over to the house.”  I’m mentally biting my knuckles.  Even our 17-year-old exchange student from France has issues with procrastination—she’d much rather text or go on Facebook than do homework, and she’s still putting off studying until late in the evening, then sleeping too late and having to rush almost every morning in order to make it to school on time.  What’s a parent to do?

I checked online to read what the “experts” have to say, and it turns out I have already been doing, or at least thinking about, some of the things they recommend:

Help Kids Break Things Down Into Small Parts.  Check. 

Model Positive, Self-Regulatory Behavior.  Also known as “Set a Good Example for Your Kids”.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this one lately.  Yeah, I juggle a lot of things in my life, and some people are impressed, but I’ve realized lately that my kids often see the downside of that: me running late to my own appointments, and being late in picking them up from school or activities; me having a desktop that can rarely be described as “organized”, me waiting until company is coming over before I do a major house-cleaning, then it’s an all-day, crazed and panicked effort; me being too busy to fill out parent paperwork on time and getting reminder emails from the teacher…yes, there are definite areas where I could be a better time and organization role model for my kids! 

Limit Electronic Media. Those who read this blog a lot know we already do that, and it just so happens that a few days ago we decided to set even more limits. Our house rules now include, in addition to “all Internet shuts off at 11”, more limits on TV watching and cell phones.  Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., who specializes in the study of procrastination and writes a blog called “Don’t Delay” at psychologytoday.com, calls the extensive use of electronic media by students “cyberslacking on the procrastination superhighway” and likens it to a serious compulsion, such as gambling. I agree.

One piece of advice I hadn’t thought of, at least lately, includes Help Your Child Set Up A Daily and Weekly Planner (I see hand-written schedules and To-Do lists often sitting around the kids’ rooms but I’ve never shown them other “systems” they might want to try, to prioritize and get organized).

Of course, as much as we parents may bite our knuckles, the best time planning teacher is a tough mistake.  Kids need to be able to feel the gut-wrenching panic and anxiety that are usually the outcomes of poor planning (and what it feels like to get a poor grade as a result) in the hopes that, on their own, they won’t want to repeat that and will be motivated enough to “plan ahead next time”.  (There are great resources to help them do that, which speak directly to them.  PBSkids.org has a section for older kids called It’s My Life, with lots of tips on time management.  A funny book for kids entitled See You Later, Procrastinator, by Espeland and Verdick, gives kids “20 Ways to Kiss Procrastination Good-bye”.)

But what if your child is, in the words of clinical psychologist Linda Sapadin, a crisis-maker? “Crisis Makers like to live on the edge, and tend to get bored unless they perceive an ‘emergency’,” she says in her book, Beat Procrastination and Make the Grade .“Crisis provides motivation, so Crisis Makers will frequently choose to wait until the last minute to meet deadlines, only to then heroically pull it off. They don’t like to tackle projects in pieces, over time. They prefer to do it all at once, and their ‘mad dash to the finish line’ can be very disruptive to family life.”  Umm, has she been spying on my family? I can think of at least one of my children who fits this description to a T. For this type of child, she suggests setting “fake” or “family” deadlines for a project, i.e. an earlier deadline than the real one, the point at which family members will no longer be available to help troubleshoot with the printer, answer questions, etc.  Or, the point at which the child must be done or else they don’t get to do something they’ve been looking forward to—an outing, a party—parents can fill in the blank. “Rather than fight your child’s need for an adrenalin rush… use it as a motivator,” she says. Expanding on this idea, I could even see purposefully scheduling something fun on the very night before a big project is due, so that the child will try hard to get their project done at least a day earlier in order to participate.  Sounds like something all my kids might like. 

But I think for next Tuesday’s Science Fair turn-in, I better make the family deadline three days in advance. Because Emmie has decided to do her project with a fellow classmate…who is also a fellow procrastinator, only with a busier schedule.

(Is that a train whistle I hear in the distance? )

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The Parental Power in Being a Bookworm

You’ve heard that some people become a better parent by reading parenting books, but here’s another thought—have you ever considered that reading any book (or magazine or newspaper) helps with parenting? No, I’m not talking about the old adage, “Be a reader and your kids will be one, too” although I think that’s true.  I’m talking about the fact that being “into” reading can help you calmly get through some “trying” times that would make some Moms and Dads jump out of their skin.


 


I’ve already mentioned on this blog how I head to my car to read on school mornings, about 10 minutes before my teenager “blows” downstairs on her way to school.  I ease the seat back, turn on the radio, take a drag of coffee and prop my newspaper on the steering wheel while I wait.  I don’t have to hear Allison blame me for her own lateness, or deal with her frantically shoving a paper at me to sign, or any other number of last-minute headaches.  By the time she gets to the car, she’s gotten her act together and so have I.  Mornings always start off better when I’m out of the house, reading.


 


I’ve been taking notice lately of all the other ways that being a reading fan is such a great parenting asset.


 


For example: It’s time to pick up your child from gymnastics (or basketball or whatever) practice and you’re waiting at the gym and the team is running late, or you’re picking up your child from school and get a call on your cell phone that she has to stay after school for 15 minutes to work on a project. This kind of stuff happens all the time when you’re a parent.  Do you nervously pace back and forth, counting down the minutes and mad that you have to wait? If you’re a reader and you’ve got something good to read, it’s just no big deal.  My life is usually so busy, it’s great to be “forced” to enjoy myself and spend a few minutes reading.


 


Spending lots of time playing chauffeur? I know, I know, I’ve complained about how the driving nearly drives me insane—but the times I’ve had a good book-on-tape or book-on-CD going, I’ve actually looked forward to getting in the car, because I can’t wait to listen to the next chapter.  (And when a team or group needs volunteer drivers, I’m much more likely to raise my hand when I know that once the group is dropped off, it’s just me and the audio book, for 20-30 minutes while I drive back home…)


 


Taking a bunch of teens out to eat, and they want to sit at their own table (i.e. No Adults Allowed) and you have to dine solo? I’m quite happy to do so when I have something to read…“That’ll be a table for two, thank you—for just me and my newspaper.”


 


Last weekend on the day of the big freshman dance, Allison decided to use the gift certificate she received at Christmas for a manicure and pedicure.  My husband called me on my cell phone to say he felt sorry for me, having to spend an hour or so at a spa/nail salon, just waiting on her.  Not to worry, I told him, this was one trip to Northpark Mall I didn’t mind.  I was in hog heaven, catching up on my reading and glancing up occasionally to see all the bling and flash that was stopping by to get primped for the NBA All-Star Game…hmmm, was that LeBron James in the corner getting a moustache wax? Who knows—I was too into my book to spend much time wondering.


 


You’d think my family would “get it” by now, but Allison actually made the mistake not long ago of thinking she could use “making me wait” as revenge.  She wanted to go shopping with a friend but it was her plan that when I came to pick them up, I’d come in and pay for whatever was being held for her at the cash register. When I told her that wasn’t part of my plan, she fumed. “All right, well then I’ll just stay inside the store and won’t come out and you’ll have to wait and wait!” she said triumphantly.


 

I just smiled and said, “That would be great…and I can wait all day, if you need me to!”