The Top 10 Things Children Really Want Their Parents To Do With Them

what children really wantThis wonderful article by Erin Kurt (originally appeared here).

It’s a great reminder to us.  It is really easy to forget it is the simple things that ‘feed’ our kids most.  This is one top ten list I plan to put into action…. more often.

What do you think matters most to your children? You driving them to lessons and practices, or is it the smile and hug you greet them with after school? If you guessed the latter, you are correct.

Sixteen years of teaching and giving the same assignment every Mother’s Day has led me to the exact same conclusion. You see, every Mother’s Day I would ask my students to give me advice on being a mother. They were to think about things their mother or guardian did for or with them that made them feel happy or loved. The classroom would go silent as the students wrote intensely for longer than they had ever written before. Often smiles would appear on their faces as they reflected on the happy experiences they were remembering. After reading their responses I would add to my list all the ideas they mentioned. Surprisingly, many of the responses were the same. Year after year, in every country I taught, and in every type of demographic, the students were saying the same things and had the same message: It’s the small things that their mothers did that meant the most and that they remembered.

Many moms today feel as if they are not good mothers unless they are racing around, shuttling their children from lessons, to practices and back to lessons again. I’ve had mothers tell me that they want to give their children every opportunity they did not have. While this thinking might bring the mother some comfort, it really does not do the same for their child who is potentially feeling overextended, stressed and tired.

After speaking endlessly about this topic with my students, it became clear to me that children today are involved in too many activities and are in turn becoming less in touch with themselves and their families. In addition, my students told me they really wished for more time to “just play”. Of course many of them enjoy their extra curricular activities, but it is not necessary they said to be allowed to do everything. What they enjoyed most, and what made their hearts happiest was when their mothers did simple things for or with them.

Here is a list of the top ten things students around the world said they remembered and loved most about their mothers.

  1. Come into my bedroom at night, tuck me in and sing me a song. Also tell me stories about when you were little.
  2. Give me hugs and kisses and sit and talk with me privately.
  3. Spend quality time just with me, not with my brothers and sisters around.
  4. Give me nutritious food so I can grow up healthy.
  5. At dinner talk about what we could do together on the weekend.
  6. At night talk to me about about anything; love, school, family etc.
  7. Let me play outside a lot.
  8. Cuddle under a blanket and watch our favorite TV show together.
  9. Discipline me. It makes me feel like you care.
  10. Leave special messages in my desk or lunch bag.

Children are incredibly wise and tend to see the world more simply than we do.

Perhaps it is time we start taking their advice. Maybe we would all feel a little less stressed and be satisfied with the fact that doing little things really is… good enough.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.

Harassed Mum? No, Just Multitasking!!

Harassed-Mum-post-image2Yesterday I had to stop and laugh.

I was in the kitchen preparing and serving lunch for 2 year old while simultaneously feeding babygirl and expressing milk while on the phone/computer organising 6year olds upcoming birthday party.

No wonder I felt slightly(!) frazzled.

So I stopped and took a big, deep breath.

And laughed.

Then continued.

After all. There was the school run to prepare for, clothes to wash dry and put away.  Afternoon snacks to organise ahead of time and dinner to start preparing.

Oh and a couple of feeds for baby girl.

Plus answer a couple of queries for my copywriting business.

Harassed Mum?  No!  (Breathe, just breathe!)

What is your day like?


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.

26 Things No One Told You About Life as a Parent

sleeping-babies1. Many, many mornings at 5:30 a.m., you will spend inordinate amounts of time bargaining with God for just one more hour of sleep.

2. There is no painless way to extract a baby from a womb. You will spend lots of time arguing with other mothers about which is less painful, a C-section or a vaginal birth. In reality, they both hurt more than any other hurt you’ve ever experienced in your entire life. But it’s the kind of pain that’s worth it, for the most part.

3. You will become so used to touching your child’s bodily fluids-snot, urine, poop, spit, and blood-that they will no longer gross you out.

4. You will become an expert at the art of “poop reading,” which is the ability to tell whether your child is sick based on the size, color, shape and frequency of his or her bowel movements.

5. You will develop a condition known as “momnesia” at the moment of conception. Experts say it lifts about a year or two into parenthood, but any honest mother will tell you that it lasts a full 20 years, at which time you will develop senility instead.

6. During pregnancy, you will find all sorts of crud in your underwear, crud that makes your worst yeast infection ever seem very, very, very tame.

7. After you give birth, you will begin to hate your spouse and wish he or she would just drop dead.

8. Your child will embarrass you on a deeper level than you’ve ever been embarrassed in your life, especially when you are standing in line at a store and your 3 year old exclaims, “Whoo-wee Mommy, you farted! It stinks in here!”

9. Your boobs will look Pam Anderson fantastic during breast-feeding. Love it while it lasts. As soon as your child weans, your boobs will deflate faster than a balloon with a hole in it. And they will get saggy, too. This is the single most common reason why many women decide to have more than one child.

10. Not long into parenthood, you will trade off your goal of being the “perfect parent” for the goal of “just help me survive this experience.”

11. There will be a day at some point after parenthood when you find yourself out in public and realize any or all of the following: a) your shirt is inside out b) there is food on your shirt c) you forgot to brush your teeth… and your hair d) you forgot to put on your pants.

12. All of those expressions you learned from your parents that you swore you would never repeat? You will say them to your child, and you will say them many, many times.

13. If you did not curse before parenthood, you will afterward. If you cursed before parenthood, you will curse even more.

14. Your child will start to manipulate you starting around 4 months, a process that will last until your funeral. You will learn to see this for what it is: how your child displays his or her love for you.

15. You will find yourself Googling all sorts of oddities, from, “How to teach a kid to poop on the potty” to “I have a crush on my pediatrician. Is this normal?”

16. You will ask yourself, “Is this normal?” many, many, many times, and you will never really know the answer to that question. For instance, while eating dinner at a restaurant, your child might slip his or her hands up your shirt and exclaim, “I’m touching your nipples!” Is that normal? I’m still not sure.

17. You will realize just how much you really do not know, especially when your child asks you, “Whose head is on the quarter?” and “Why do Zebras have stripes?” and “Why can’t I put my hands up your shirt when we are out in public?”

18. You will constantly worry that someone will call Child Protective Services on you, even though you are truly a good parent. Your child is just clumsy.

19. Time will become your most precious commodity, and you will haggle with your spouse over it as if it were gold.

20. You will learn to fear birthday invitations.

21. Grocery shopping will never quite be the same experience again.

22. If you had extra money before you became a parent, you won’t have it afterward.

23. Diapers cost more than you would ever imagine. Daycare costs even more, and don’t even think about the cost of a college education. If you do, you will probably decide not to have children.

24. The expression, “All shit stinks” is inaccurate. The poop of newborn breast fed babies doesn’t stink. Poop only starts to stink once babies start eating solids, and some solids make it stink more than others. You will soon become an expert at sniffing poop and knowing exactly what food led to that precise odor.

25. You will find yourself throwing away all sorts of things that make you feel guilty, such as your child’s artwork.

26. The day you give birth, your hair will start to gray and you will start to grow a mustache. It happens to the best of mothers. Thankfully, there are plenty of cheap hair removal products, not to mention dye.

A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of The 7 Day Slim Down andProject: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.

A great post and so true – life as a parent!


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.

Common Sense Parenting – What Children Need

What children need is commence sense parenting

6 things kids really needShould you let your child play unsupervised? Allow her to walk to school alone? In this age of information overload, parenting advice is everywhere. Go online and you’ll find a tidal wave of tips aimed at helping you raise your kids. But what is it that they really need?
Above all else, children need common sense from their parents. Childhood has become “a pressure-packed preadulthood,” says Edward M. Hallowell, PhD, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy. “Kids are trying to make partner in the first grade.” It’s not that their parents don’t love them; they’ve just confused raising children with turning out perfect products. Instead, he says, parents should focus on making their children feel connected to their family and their community, and success (and everything else) will follow.

1. “I Love You”s

Of course you love your kids. But do you remember to tell them? “I never knew a kid whose parents told him too many times that they loved him,” says Laurence Steinberg, MD, a psychology professor at Temple University and author of The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting. And it’s more than just the words: It’s consistently showing them interest, affection and concern. That’s why Odette D’Aniello of Tacoma, Washington, makes sure every morning to offer her young children “special love.”
“I sit down and I cradle each one, wrap him or her with a warm blanket and softly scratch their back while chatting about random stuff, and telling them how lucky I am to have them,” she says. But for many parents—especially as kids get older, busier and less communicative—telling them how you feel can be more easily expressed through actions.
Louise Morgenstern of Santa Monica, California, shows her three teens love by getting to know their friends. She even keeps a gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer—for her son’s best friend. “It’s his favorite flavor, and he comes into the house, goes right to the freezer and scoops himself a bowl,” she says. “With teenagers, it’s not about telling them you love them but showing them you know what they care about. At that age, it’s their friends.”

2. Structure and Limits

Have you ever been in a restaurant where the child at the next table is simply out of control, throwing things or refusing to stay seated? You watch as the indifferent parents ignore her behavior and you wonder, What’s going on?
“American parents err on the side of leniency compared with parents from most other parts of the world,” says Dr. Steinberg. “In the last generation or two, there has been a blurring of boundaries between U.S. parents and their children, and it makes parents more reluctant to impose their authority.
“Parents too often fear that their children will be angry with them if they try to discipline them.” But the anger is only temporary, and besides, it’s the parents’ job to teach their child, not befriend him. “The rules you make when your child is young ultimately become the ones he or she will live by,” says Dr. Steinberg.
Boundaries actually make kids more confident, says Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry). “That’s what gives kids the reassurance to try things. Say you’re at the beach, and you tell your child she can only go so far into the water. If she knows going this far is OK, then she can frolic with abandon in that area without wondering, ‘Are there sharks here?’” Think of discipline as the strength of parenting: You can show your kids where the “sharks” are and where they’re not.

3. Conversation

On their way to registration for her daughter’s ninth year of piano lessons, Maureen Anderson of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, asked Katie, 14, a simple question: “What do you like about taking piano?”
“Being able to say I haven’t quit,” Katie said.
“What don’t you like about it?” her surprised mom then asked.
“Practicing. Lessons. And the recitals.” Basically everything. When they got to the music school, instead of registering for more lessons, Katie unregistered for piano. “I learned what Katie thought by asking a couple of questions and listening to the answers,” Maureen says.
Take the time to really “hear” your kids, because that will make them more likely to talk to you regularly. “A lot of parents rush to solve things for their children,” says Casey Decola, MSW, a counselor with the Rye Youth Council in Rye, New York. “Especially with teenagers, we tend to panic. We say, ‘You know what you should do?’ and then we tell them, instead of listening and allowing them to fully get out what they’re trying to say without judging it.”
Instead of offering advice, ask questions that can help them come to conclusions on their own. “Make eye contact. Sit with your kids and give them the respect of listening in a way they deserve,” Decola says.
But how do you get your child to talk? “It’s normal for adolescents to want more privacy than they did as children,” says Dr. Steinberg. “But if parents engage their teens in genuine, interested (and interesting) conversation, the kids will talk. The problem is, too many parents ask perfunctory questions like ‘How was school today?’ or equate talking with lecturing.”
And keep in mind that to get the dialogue going at all, you first need to be around. So schedule a regular walk or board game to give you uninterrupted time together.

4. Something Shared

Have you had a moment today where you really connected with your child? Did you share a joke, a hug or a game of catch? It’s easy to go through the day telling your child what to do and never fully engaging with each other. When kids feel connected to you, they learn that they’re connected to people outside the family, and that the way they act has an effect on others. “Feeling like you have a place in the world and people who support you leads to happiness in adulthood,” Dr. Hallowell says.
Connectedness should happen naturally in everyday life. “A family dinner, car trip or regular activity can be a shared joy that leaves you feeling close,” he says. “A lot of parents approach parenting as drudgery, a job that’s a lot of work. What parents and kids need to feel connected to one another is to have fun. Sometimes that can mean doing nothing, but doing it comfortably together.”
So plan family activities, shared challenges, even regular dinners to reclaim a sense of fun and joy. Research has shown that children brought up this way are more socially skilled, have a better self-image and think of home as their haven when things go wrong.

5. Playtime

“The loss of free, undirected play is the biggest loss in modern childhood,” declares Michael Thompson, PhD, author of The Pressured Child: Freeing Our Kids from Performance Overdrive and Helping Them Find Success in School and Life. “Kids need time away from their parents to just play.” And it’s not just because kids enjoy play—it actually helps their brains develop properly.
Play is the driving force of childhood, says Stuart Brown, MD, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul. That’s because it helps kids discover their talents and their resourcefulness, and hones their abilities to problemsolve and get along with others. Play exercises their imagination and stretches their creativity, while allowing them to try and fail at things in private without judgment. All of this helps them do better in school, says Dr. Brown, because kids who play have nimble minds and can look at things from different sides.
The next time you’re thinking of signing up kids for an activity, first think about whether or not they’ve got enough time each week to just hang out and let their imagination guide them.

6. Independence

When New York City mom Lenore Skenazy wrote in The New York Sun about letting her 9-year-old son take a subway home by himself, she was vilified in the press and blogosphere as “America’s worst mom.” She has since become an advocate of giving kids more independence and writes about it in her book and blog,
“The way many people parent today does not prepare kids for adulthood,” Skenazy says. “We wait for them, cheer for their every move, take them to soccer, dance and every other lesson—and we take away their chance to do things on their own.” Her decision to let her son ride the subway came only after years of navigating the subway together and they both felt confident that he could find his way.
Doing things independently is very important for a child, says Dr. Steinberg, because children feel confident when they feel competent. So letting him go to the store by himself or walk to town tells him you believe in him. The same confidence emerges when a child completes his own science fair or other school project. Of course, help him collect the materials and ask him questions that will guide him to its completion, but let it be his. So what if it doesn’t look as put-togetherk as the other parentinfluenced designs? Your child will feel satisfied knowing that he has produced something on his own.

The One Thing Kids Don’t Need: More Stuff

“Today’s kids have too many toys,” says Dr. Thompson. This teaches kids to always look for “the next new thing” instead of enjoying what they have. “If they’re always looking to material things to entertain themselves, they’ll soon get bored,” he says.
It’s easy to substitute toys for affection and attention because “it takes only a little time to buy your child a toy, but much more time to spend an afternoon together doing something fun,” says Dr. Steinberg. “But ultimately, it’s time spent together that will lead to happier kids.”

By Andrea Atkins

This article first appeared in ‘Woman’s Day’ here.

Here’s to common sense parenting!


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.


This Story Will Make You Smile

A wonderful post about the kindness of strangers.


Dear ‘Daddy’ in Seat 16C

kindness of strangers
Dear “Daddy,”

I don’t know your name, but Kate called you “daddy” for the entire flight last week and you kindly never corrected her. In fact, you didn’t even flinch as you could probably tell that she was not confusing you with her own “daddy,” but instead making a judgment regarding your level of “safety” for her. If she calls you “daddy” then you better believe she thinks you are alright.

I sat Kate, my 3-year-old who has autism, in the middle seat knowing full well that there would be a stranger sitting next to her for the duration of this flight. I had to make a quick decision and based on her obsession with opening and closing the window shade, I figured she might be less of a distraction if she sat in the middle. I watched the entire Temple basketball team board the plane, and wondered if one of these giants might sit by Kate. They all moved toward the back. She would have liked that, she would have made some observations that I would have had to deal with, but she would have liked those players. I watched many Grandmotherly women board and hoped for one to take the seat but they walked on by. For a fleeting moment I thought we might have a free seat beside us, and then you walked up and sat down with your briefcase and your important documents and I had a vision of Kate pouring her water all over your multi-million dollar contracts, or house deeds, or whatever it was you held. The moment you sat down, Kate started to rub your arm. Your jacket was soft and she liked the feel of it. You smiled at her and she said: “Hi, Daddy, that’s my mom.” Then she had you.

You could have shifted uncomfortably in your seat. You could have ignored her. You could have given me that “smile” that I despise because it means; “manage your child please.” You did none of that. You engaged Kate in conversation and you asked her questions about her turtles. She could never really answer your questions but she was so enamored with you that she kept eye contact and joint attention on the items you were asking her about. I watched and smiled. I made a few polite offers to distract her, but you would have none of it.

Kate: (Upon noticing you had an iPad) Is dis Daddy’s puduter?

You: This is my iPad. Would you like to see it?

Kate: To me?????? (I know she thought you were offering it to her to keep)

Me: Look with your eyes, Kate. That is not yours.

Kate: Dat’s nice!

You: (Upon noticing that Kate had an iPad) I like your computer, too. It has a nice purple case.

Kate: Daddy wanna be a bad guy? (She offered shredder to you and that, my friend, is high praise)

You: Cool.

The interaction went on and on and you never once seemed annoyed. She gave you some moments of peace while she played with her Anna and Elsa dolls. Kind of her to save you from playing Barbies, but I bet you wouldn’t have minded a bit. I bet you have little girls, too.

Not long before we landed Kate had reached her limit. She screamed to have her seatbelt off, she screamed for me to open the plane door and she cried repeating, “Plane is cwosed (closed)” over and over. You tried to redirect her attention to her toys. She was already too far gone at this point, but the fact that you tried to help your new little friend made me emotional.

In case you are wondering, she was fine the moment we stepped off the plane. Thank you for letting us go ahead of you. She was feeling overwhelmed and escaping the plane and a big, long hug was all she needed.

So, thank you. Thank you for not making me repeat those awful apologetic sentences that I so often say in public. Thank you for entertaining Kate so much that she had her most successful plane ride, yet. And, thank you for putting your papers away and playing turtles with our girl.

This post originally appeared on Go Team Kate.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.

Praising Kids: How Proper Praise Helps Children, Part 2

Praise your child constructivelyPraising Kids: “Good Job!” Doesn’t Cut It Anymore, Part 1 discusses the problems with over-the-top, glowing praise that focuses on stroking your child’s ego instead of constructive praise that teaches him what it means to do a good job. By focusing on a child’s efforts, not on the child himself, you help build a child’s self-esteem.

When Praise is Good

Before you throw out praise, let’s look at when it’s good:

PRAISE IS GOOD IF IT’S REALISTIC. When praise is consistently reality based, you give your child a fair yardstick with which to judge himself.

PRAISE IS GOOD IF IT’S EARNED. “The yard looks wonderful; you did an excellent job of collecting all the leaves!” Or: “Thank you for helping clean up the corner of the garage, it looks really organized and tidy thanks to you.” Earned praise reinforces your child’s effort and is encouraging.
PRAISE IS GOOD WHEN IT IS SPECIFIC: The more specific, the better. Specifics are more instructive than blanket praise; specifics teach your child that she is in control of what she can accomplish. It also helps keep a child from believing that he is infallible which in turn will prepare him future criticism, disappointments or losses.
PRAISE IS GOOD USED SPARINGLY. When you repeat a compliment too frequently, constant, arbitrary praise gets tuned out in the same way that yelling does.
So if the right thinking is to moderate praise, how do you make your child feel valued? How do you build his self-confidence?

6 Paths to Effective Praise

With sweeping praise “out,” here are praise approaches you can implement easily:

1. Encouragement. Encouragement is effective because it: a) allows you to select a characteristic or behavior you want to develop or foster in a positive and constructive way, and b) lets you call attention to the process; you support the process and make progress in building your child’s confidence. When she comes home with a poor grade on a test, you might say: “I like the effort you put into studying. Maybe a bit more next time, you think?”

You are praising the process, not the outcome. You are making her responsible.

2. Mirroring. If you are consistently responsive, your child is more likely to be confident. It can be a trick on a skateboard, a gymnastic feat, a piano piece mastered or almost mastered, a tennis match won or almost won. Let her know that you see her and recognize her accomplishments, large and small. Ask to see her collection of dolls, or rocks, or something similar. Observe and talk about how orderly it is; how well she’s protecting it. Or ask, “Where did you find all these things?”

Your undivided attention is worth more than platitudes shouted from another room. Showing an interest in what’s he’s interested packs more of a punch than simply saying, “What a fabulous collection.” It positions your child as an expert — what a confidence boost!

3. Listening. Most of us are overscheduled and distracted — often too distracted to give children what they need. They need you to acknowledge them and give them an honest assessment of what they’re doing. Take time to listen, and make sure your children know you’re listening. Listen to complaints and be empathetic. Don’t immediately take your child’s or the teacher’s side, for instance. Hear his point of view.

Allowing your child to explain tells him you value his point of view and observations. Being heard is a powerful motivator.

4. Rewarding. Focus on the direction your child is moving in. You might say: “You improved so much since your last report card. Aren’t you proud of yourself? You should be.” When your child is memorizing a poem or words for a spelling test, you might say: “You almost had it. You’ll get it.” And when your child succeeds (a grade improvement; a sports milestone, for example), you might say: “You got an A! You just proved to yourself that you should never give up.”

You are teaching your child to internalize her abilities and to eventually be able to evaluate herself accurately.

5. Reinforcement. You might say: “I like the song you sang for grandma and grandpa. Would you sing it for me now?” Or, you might ask your child to retell a joke or ask for instruction: “The dog seems to respond so well to your training. Show me how you get him to do that, please.”

Reliving bright moments reminds children of their “strong suits.” You are telling your child she has something worthwhile to offer and share with you. Showing a genuine interest allows a child to relive accomplishments—and this kind of response can cultivate diligenceand determination.

6. Questioning: You might say: “How did you choose the colors for that picture? What did you use to make those lines? It’s so unusual, interesting, real, pretty, cheerful…”

You’re asking about the process—making your child think about how he created his work or tackled a project and what he might do next time.

When you combine these techniques and use them regularly, you put your child on a direct, merited path toward self-confidence. Isn’t that what praise is for in the first place?

Related: Praising Kids: “Good Job!” Doesn’t Cut It Anymore, Part 1

This post was written by Susan Newman, Ph.D., she is a social psychologist and author. Her latest book is The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.

Praising Kids: How Proper Praise Helps Children

The Problem with Hollow Praise

Praise your child constructivelyWhen you say, “good job,” “beautiful painting,” or “great performance” to a child, the comments become “white noise,” or empty words with little meaning — eventually platitudes not even heard. While it may seem like the mark of a loving parent to do so, praising your child expansively not only devalues the praise, but also prevents her from actually knowing what doing a “good job” means.

Praising in glowing terms — especially if it comes after less-than-perfect behavior or performance — can actually send a message that he or she doesn’t need to try harder to improve. Children who don’t receive specific feedback may come to feel they’re entitled to praise no matter what they do. They start to believe that they can coast along, assuming credit will come anyway. When it doesn’t, they will be unprepared to cope.

In her study, “Mothers’ Daily Person and Process Praise: Implications for Children’s Theory of Intelligence and Motivation,” University of Illinois’ Eva M. Pomerantz used interviews to assess mothers’ praise in response to children’s success in school over a period of 10 days. The results: “the more mothers used person praise (i.e., ‘You are smart.’ and ‘You are a good kid.’), the more children held an entity theory of intelligence and avoided challenging work in school six months later, which prior findings suggest undermine achievement.”

Person Praise vs. Process Praise

Furthermore, when you praise a child who is not doing as well as she could, she ultimately learns to believe she doesn’t have to do better to be accepted. She can coast or she feels entitled, expecting that everything should be coming her way whether she strives for her best or not.

Another problem with too much praise is that you are not training your son or daughter to deal with criticism and failure. You run the risk of having your child dissolve when he fails his first test or gets a C; when he isn’t invited to a party or included in a get-together with friends; when he doesn’t get into the college of his choice. He will think, “I’m great — that’s what my parents told me my whole life, so what’s wrong with me?”

You cheat your child when compliments are hollow. Recent findings reinforce these points; Scientists at the University of Chicago and Stanford University discovered that the kind of praise a parent gives a child influences attitudes toward difficult tasks later on. The researchers describe two types of praise: “Person” praise (which includes those unspecific phrases like “You’re awesome!”) and “Process” praise, which revolves around more valuable specific feedback on a child’s actions and accomplishments. The authors found that having more “process” praise will better mold a child to have more perseverance in approaching and solving tough challenges.

Constructive praise with specifics and emphasis on performance encourages a child to strive and work harder. What does constructive praise sound like? Read Part 2

This post was written by Susan Newman, Ph.D., she is a social psychologist and author. Her latest book is The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.

Letting Your Child Be Sad

sad child


A timely article by Sarah Fernandez exploring the consequences of raising our children ‘wrapped in cotton wool’.  See her blog here.

Want Your Child to be Happy?  Let Them Feel the Opposite

In the July/August issue of The Atlantic psychologist Lori Gottlieb explores why she has so many patients in their 20s and 30s who have it all, but aren’t happy in her story “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy.” While the story is lengthy, it’s worth taking the time to read and to consider how you handle situations in which your child is faced with sadness and disappointment. It appears that a lot of parents are swooping in the moment their child so much as falls down on the grass, looking for learning disability diagnoses in order to explain why their child isn’t as good at math or reading as another child, and letting children quit an activity the moment they show any dislike for it. Gottlieb’s theory is that as a result these children are growing into adults who have “awesome” parents, “great” husbands, and “good” jobs, but they don’t feel happy. Not only that, but when they don’t get the job they want or something goes wrong, they have no idea how to handle it because their parents have always made sure that things are just peachy keen for them.

So many parents are so involved in making sure that their children always get what they “deserve” that some colleges are now creating a position for Dean of Parents to help control the influx of parent phone calls and are having to set up special events at orientation to separate the parents and children because the parents are lingering around and don’t want to leave the children. Oh, and did you hear the story about the Long Island, NY woman who stalked and threatened the baseball coach when her son didn’t make the team? Where do we draw the line?

“Suck It Up” Parenting

I like to say that I was raised in a house of “Suck It Up” parenting. Life isn’t perfect, and my parents made sure we knew that we can’t always get what we want. I remember not wanting to do any activities at one point when I was in grammar school, but my parents believed it was really important so they told me I could do whatever I wanted whether it was a sport or an art class, but I had to do something. They allowed me to have some control over what I wanted to do, but they weren’t going to let me sit by and let me do nothing despite my disappointment. Not only that, but once we committed to something, we were committed to it for the session. We were taught to finish what we started, and I think that is something important that I have carried with me into adulthood. There were no days off from school “just because” or even if we had a headache. We were expected to help around the house and with yard work whether we wanted to or not, and as a result I knew how to do things like put a dishwasher on and my laundry when I went off to college and eventually into my own house. And I’d say that my brother, sister, and I have all developed into successful, generally happy and well-rounded people despite our “imperfect” childhood.

Allowing Disappointment

However, recently I’ve struggled a bit with how to handle my son’s disappointment. Of course we never want to see our children hurt physically or emotionally. When his best friend from school didn’t show up to his birthday party, he was really upset. I thought about picking up the phone and calling his parents just to find out why they couldn’t make it (not to berate them for disappointing my son). But ultimately I knew that if they weren’t there, there was a good reason so there was no need for me to call them. Instead I just explained to my son that something must have come up, and we knew the boy’s dad had to work that day so maybe he had ended up working late. And I explained that rather than sulk around his party, he should enjoy playing with the friends that did come which he eventually did.

Later that week, my son wanted to buy a board game with a gift certificate that he received for his birthday. I dreaded this because he tends to get upset when he doesn’t win, and when we brought it home, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should let him win so that I could avoid the meltdown that follows, but even that I knew was really for my own benefit and not his. I just didn’t want to deal with it. Ultimately, I decided that I would be doing him a great disservice and that he needed to learn how to lose gracefully. He is only five and I don’t want him to lose all the time, but I’ve found that playing a few rounds of the game so that he wins some and loses some has taught him to take losing in stride much better than he would have only a few weeks ago, and I think it’s appropriate for his age.

Life Isn’t Perfect

The bottom line is that no matter how much we protect our children, at some point they are going to have to go out into the world without us. There will hearts broken, sports teams they don’t make, friends who let them down, and colleges they don’t get into. It may even rain on their wedding day. It is just as important that we teach them how to handle what they will encounter on their own as it is that we do our best to protect them and show them how much we love them.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.