Non-Parenting Parenting

When he has a day off, Sean likes to take Riley to our local Starbucks during her quiet time.  There they can share a treat, catch up a little, and just enjoy a Daddy/daughter date.  They love it.


But on their most recent trip to Starbucks, they encountered some behavior that left them both a bit rattled.


A group of older boys (about Middle School age) sat at an outdoor table of a neighboring restaurant.  They threw food at one another, yelled at one another (although not in anger), and did not seem concerned about the welfare of those sitting nearby.


Like the father holding his baby girl as he attempted to enjoy his coffee, holding onto her for dear life.  More than once, these boys almost hit that baby with food thrown carelessly about.


Recognizing that new dad look in the other father’s eyes, Sean jumped into action.  He asked the boys to stop.  He reminded them to act appropriately at a restaurant.


One of them talked back to him. A few of them laughed.  Only one remained quiet.


Clearly these boys are the product of non-parenting parenting.


They don’t understand limits.  They don’t understand appropriate social behavior.  They don’t understand right from wrong.  They don’t know how to interact with adults.


They don’t know when to stop.


They follow their own rules, ignore input from adults, and use unkind words and voice tone simply because they can.


I would love to say that these instances are rare, but sadly I encounter them on a regular basis.


I have park rules for my kids.  Really just a few guidelines to keep them safe and help them play well with others.


Climb UP the ladders; slide DOWN the slides.


Sand stays in the sand box and should never be thrown.


Take turns.


Use friendly voices.


Invite others to share toys.


They know the rules.  Occasionally they try to push me on the slide issue.  I do let them climb up there own slide at home.  But at the park?  We have to think about others.  We have to be considerate.


Last week Riley saw some other kids climbing up the slide.  They we were falling all over each other, and two of them ended up in tears.


At one point, Riley looked up at me as she started to join in.  All I had to do was shake my head.  She approached me and said, “All of those kids are going up.  I’ll be careful.”


I sat her down on my lap and quietly pointed out that one boy was crying because he took a sneaker to his eye.  I reminded her that we always have to think about others when we play.  I reminded her that rules exist for a reason.


What I didn’t realize is that a little boy was standing behind us, listening in.


“I don’t have to follow any of those rules.  I get to do whatever I want.  Watch me!”


He ran off and went back up the slide, glaring at Riley the whole time.


We moved on to the swings.  He followed us.  He teased her.  I redirected him.  He talked back.


This went on for fifteen minutes before we decided to head home.  It was getting late.


As I put the kids in the car I finally spotted the little boy’s mother.  She sat at a table, very far removed from the play structure, eating a subway sandwich and staring at her iPhone.


Disengaged.  Practicing non-parenting parenting.


Kids crave structure.  Structure takes the guesswork out of the day.  They actually like rules because rules help them know what choices to make.


Sure, they test boundaries from time to time.  That’s part of being a kid.  That’s part of learning right from wrong.


But that also requires active parenting.


We have to pay attention.  We have to teach them right from wrong.  We have to teach them to respect others and listen to adults.  We have to be involved.


Non-parenting parenting results in a generation of disrespectful, unfriendly, and behaviorally challenged kids.


Active parenting results in the opposite.


The choice is simple.  It’s up to you to make it happen.

The Rule Keeper

Sometimes it feels like a burden, this insistence I have on following the rules.  Sometimes it feels like maybe my kids are missing out.  Like I’m interfering with their natural inclinations to play without restraint.

Up the ladder, down the slide.

Let’s keep the sand in the sandbox.

Let’s sit on the bouncer, just to be safe.

Everybody needs a turn…

At times, it’s lonely out there.  Every once in a while I meet another rule keeper, but, for the most part, it’s just me.

These days, they don’t need many reminders.  The rules, it seems, are understood.

You can climb up the slide at home, but at the park we just slide down.

Inevitably, they are up against kids who play without rules or limits.  Kid who don’t feel compelled to give someone else a turn.  Kids who climb up the slide every time, preventing the others from sliding down.  Kids who pelt one another with tennis balls and take toys without asking.  Kids who take sand from the sandbox and pour it all over the concrete…creating a significant safety hazard.

Always, when we are up against these kids, someone gets hurt…

Please stop by Mommy Moment to continue reading “The Rule Keeper”.

Tears, Tantrums, and Whining…Oh My! (Tips for structuring your day to keep the tears away)


As both a mom and a psychotherapist, I know the importance of structure.When kids know what to expect each day, they have less to worry about.When they follow a routine, they don’t have to wonder what comes next.When they get sufficient sleep and eat at regular intervals they are less likely to have temper tantrums, become easily frustrated, and are more successful both in school and in social settings.There will always be slight changes in routines:Birthday parties, play groups, vacations, etc.There will always be a few temper tantrums and tears for seemingly no reason, that’s part of the difficult job of growing up.But if you develop a routine that works for your family and stick to it as much as possible, even when you’re on vacation, you might find that your children will appear more calm and happy, get frustrated a little less, and sleep a little better.
There are people who would say that my refusal to skip a nap to attend a birthday party is a little too much.I can take it.I would rather have a well-slept, happy two-year old child than one who will spend the day feeling cranky and most definitely suffer a sleep terror that night. Below are some tips to structure your days (believe me, I know the routine can get boring for the parent, but isn’t the end result worth it?) to keep the tears away:
1.Wake-Up/Bedtime Checklists:Toddlers and preschoolers love lists. My daughter is constantly creating shopping lists for me. Simple checklists (including pictures for each task) for the morning (ex:wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, use the potty) and bedtime (ex:take a bath, put on pajamas, brush teeth, use the potty, read stories, hugs & kisses, lights out) help them know what to expect.It also gives them some responsibility and control over their routines.They can run to check the list and then complete each task along the way.Post them on the bedroom door at eye level. It’s a great way to start and end the day.
2.Eating/Snacking:We’ve all heard it hundreds of times, but do we always remember to do it? It’s important to give your child their meals and snacks at the same time (or at least as close to the same time as possible) each day.This is even recommended for adults.When you don’t refuel your body regularly, your blood sugar can crash.The result?Crankiness, tears, and frustration.Keep snacks and water on hand in your purse and your car so that you never leave home without them.They don’t always remember to tell us they’re hungry, we have to remember for them.
3.Downtime vs. Over-scheduling:Toddlers and preschoolers love their classes.They love gym, music, art, and just about everything else that you might find.But the truth is, they don’t need all of these activities.Many kids are over-scheduled these days, which results in exhaustion.Your child won’t be any less intelligent because he/she only took art and music and skipped gym.Find a couple of classes that he/she likes and stick to that.Change it up every few months if you like, but don’t keep adding on extras.If you have a child in preschool, he/she will need even fewer outside classes.And remember, kids also love their downtime.Toddlers and preschoolers are constantly learning and processing new information.It’s exhausting.They need to decompress.Whether or not they nap mid-day, they can have a quiet time where they engage in quiet activities of their choosing and just slow things down for a couple of hours.It will help them get through the remainder of the day.It will also help increase their feelings of success and improve their self-esteem.
4.Responsibility:It won’t be long before you have older children complaining about chores.But right now you have toddlers and preschoolers who love to help AND to be praised for the amount of helping they do.Let them help!Setting and clearing the table are met with cheers in my house, and cleaning up the toys is always enjoyable when it includes a dump truck or shopping cart.“Look Mommy!I put my dishes in the sink!” is music to my ears, and my daughter genuinely feels pride in her ability to be helpful.Not to be outdone, baby brother is right behind her.Consider installing a small coat rack somewhere for little hands to reach.They love being able to choose and put away their own outerwear as well.
5.Weekends:It’s easy to let the routine slip on the weekends.You might be over-booked with birthdays and other activities.Or maybe you just want to cram in as much family time as possible during those two very short days.Don’t fall victim to the loss of routine.You don’t have to say yes to every party.In fact, it’s good for kids to learn that sometimes we have to make choices that work for us.They can still pick out a present and make a card for their friend.Friendship isn’t about birthday parties alone!
6.Keep it Positive:Kids love their routines, and they love to be praised along the way.Everyone has a bad day. Children learn what we teach them.We are modeling behavior all day long whether we like it or not.Start the day with a huge smile (even if it starts at the ungodly hour of 5:30am) and offer lots of praise along the way.Your children will thank you in hugs, kisses, and big smiles.I promise.
Children don’t know how to ask for more structure.They know how to whine, cry, and, if all else fails, throw a temper tantrum.Take the guesswork out of it for them by setting their routines for them.And, by all means, enjoy the resulting sense of calm!