Archive for January 7, 2011

A Good Problem to Have

I hope everyone is having a terrific day.  We are approaching another weekend where many of us will be involved watching our children play their various sports.  It’s in this context that I will answer another parenting question.  Although the blog will focus on school age children, even if you have younger ones- pay attention.  You may be fortunate enough to have this problem one day. 

The dad, who I will call Mike, is married with 3 children.  The kids are doing great academically (mostly A’s sprinkled with a B here and there).  Athletically, they are also doing well- especially the middle child (So far, it seems like I need Mike’s advice).

Here are the concerns.  Mike’s kids work extremely hard and he wants to know how to maximize their abilities without burning them out.  My interpretation of the email was he was especially worried about this happening athletically. Mike doesn’t want to push his children to the breaking point.  He singled out his middle child who is very gifted. Mike wonders about this child playing sports with his age group because he would be so much better versus playing against older children so he wouldn’t always be the best on his team. He’s also wondering if there are burn out signs to look for.  My first reaction to this email was (I hope my readers are slowly enjoying a cup of coffee because this might take a while). 

Before you read on, please take a second to think how you would answer Mike’s question.  If you would like to help Mike, feel free by adding a comment at the bottom.

I hope Mike along with all of my readers know I’m not one to tell people what to do (on most occasions) but I will give you some things to think about.  Therefore, I’m not going to tell Mike which age group he should allow his middle child to participate.  The point is I want Mike to make the best decision for his family.

Three questions came to my mind that Mike should answer in the privacy of his home.  What are the goals for the children?  What’s the point?  Who’s calling the shots?

What are the goals for the children?  By this I mean what does Mike hope to achieve when his children play sports?  Is it physical fitness, learning teamwork skills, an athletic scholorship, a professional career, etc?  Knowing the goals will help Mike choose a path.  For example, if his kids only played for fun, they wouldn’t get burned out until it wasn’t fun anymore.  Contrarily, an athletic scholorship requires a lot of drive, extra time on the ball fields, and a commitment to excellence.  When thinking about the goals, everyone had better be on board.  (Specifically Mike’s wife and the children)

Understand, I don’t mind how Mike’s family approaches sports of choice as long as the children’s grades remain high.  What troubles me is when I see parents who dog their kids repeatedly over a sport. It often means they are trying to get their kids to accomplish something in sports they didn’t have the ability to accomplish.  Sports are supposed to be an outlet for the children- not the parents.  

What’s the point?    Most parents (including myself) want to see their kids excel in sports- but why?  Is Mike looking for his children to develop self confidence, a sense of pride, and/or friendship with the other players?

Could there also be a slightly darker point?  I talk in depth in my book that some of my former coaches had only one point- winning.  We are talking about amateur athletics.  If a parent’s or coaches sole point is to win, that could be a problem.  The pressure for any child to always win may be enough to drive him/her out of the sport.

I think Mike is safe if he genuinely didn’t care how his kids performed in a sport as long as they tried their best and had fun.  Sometimes as a parent, it’s wise to tell yourself to “back off” and it isn’t easy-especially if your child excels.

Who’s calling the shots?  I would like Mike to be as encouraging as he wants.  In the end though, let the children make up their mind on how far they want to go with sports.   The truth is there is only a miniscule chance the kids will be playing next to Kobe Bryant or Derek Jeter in the future.  More likely than not, the children will need to use their brains to earn the same things Mike has in life (a college degree, stable income, and great kids).

Derek JeterAs far as pushing kids to the breaking point and signs to look for, that’s a bit tough for me because I don’t think I’ve pushed a child that hard.  Therefore, I haven’t seen it firsthand. Subtle changes in behavior or attitude may be something to watch for.  One question I would have for Mike is this. “Does quality time with your kids revolve around anything besides sports?”  Truthfully, if Mike does lots of activities outside sports with his kids, the odds of burning them out on sports would be minimal in my opinion. 

Keep this in mind as well.  If Mike is a strong authority figure in his house, I wouldn’t expect his children to come to him and explain that they need a break or they no longer wanted to play a particular sport.  It probably wouldn’t happen because of the mere possibility of disappointing their father.  That’s why looking for more subtle changes is important.

Depending on their family dynamic, if Mike’s wife happens to be more sensitive than him (as is the case in my home), she may be a valuable resource.  I believe Mike should consider expressing his concerns to her, explain he really needs her help, and tell her to let him know if the children are giving her some negative vibes.  This only will work though if Mike promises not to argue when she speaks up.  Any arguing could result in Mike losing the one resource that can help keep his fears in check.   

Let’s get this straight as well.  As long as Mike continues to quietly monitor himself, it’s less likely the kids will burn out.  Just by writing me this email, I have the feeling Mike is already accomplishing this. 

 I hope my general thoughts and questions help. I want Mike and all my readers to have all the fun you can watching your kids play the sports they love.  Be encouraging and only push as long as the children express an interest in being pushed.  It’s a special time so savor every minute of it and allow your children to do the same thing!

If you happen to enjoy today’s blog, please pass it around to some other parents who would like it as well.  Thanks so much!!!

On Monday, I’ll be back with an education blog. There are several topics I have in mind.  Hopefully, it will be worth the wait.   

Changing Lyrics

I hope all of you are having a wonderful Wednesday.  Thanks for stopping by.  Today’s behavior blog was set and ready until…my oldest son decided to misbehave and become my new blog topic.  Cameron is a great kid.  But, like a lot of great kids, he is still prone to messing up.  As a matter of fact, there are a lot of great adults who fit that mold as well.  Therefore, it’s on that note where I will begin.

The Gambler, by Kenny Rogers, gave me the “beat” of how to approach today’s blog.  He sang, “You have to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”  My lyrics doesn’t have the same smooth style but it goes like this:  You have to know when to be mad, know when to be glad, know when to close the distance, and know when to step back.
21 Number OnesImage via Wikipedia

Last night, Cameron brought me his library books around 6:30pm and asked if we could return them together.  He knows I am a sucker in a library.  Instead of just returning books, he would get to peruse and get more books even if it meant staying up past his bedtime on a school night.  It’s a game I love playing to tell the truth- but don’t tell him I said that.

I was busy finishing an email on my computer in the basement.  I told him to get his coat on and we would be on our way soon.  Right before I finished my email, I heard a familiar walk across the main floor overhead.  The hard footsteps meant only one thing- the wife was coming to see me and she was not happy.   I tried to think of what I did wrong so I could weasel my way out of it- but came up blank. 

The good news was I had avoided trouble (this time).  The bad news was Cameron had “back talked” her and was currently hollering and throwing things in his bedroom.  Back talking is a behavior that’s pretty common in children and I will address it more fully in a future post. But due to his back talking, his library privilege had not been “renewed.”  The other behaviors came after mama laid down the law.    

My initial reaction was shock but it shouldn’t have been.  Cameron had smaller behavior problems earlier in the afternoon.  He could have been tired after a long school day plus “daddy school.” Though I don’t know the reason, we now had a problem in the Thomas household.  Sometimes I want Lauren to handle behavior problems.  This time though, it sounded like a war was brewing and I wanted to show support to my wife.

Here’s where my “song lyrics” come into play:

You have to know when to be mad- Truthfully, I wasn’t mad at all.  Lauren had already handled the situation.  Although she didn’t ask me to help her, I don’t think she minded the added support.  A tip I learned long ago was it’s not always prudent to handle an angry child with anger.  That’s because anger between two people typically builds off of each other.  There are some exceptions to the point but this was certainly not a case that qualified.   

Know when to be glad- Maybe it was just me but I was excited he was so upset because he could NOT go to the library.  It tells me my wife and I are doing something right.  I’d be much more concerned if he didn’t like the library.  I remember heading up the stairs with a small smirk on my face. 

Know when to close the distance- I was two floors away when the problem occurred.  There was no doubt I was going to be in Cameron’s room.  As for how much more distance needed to be closed, I’d have to wait to see how this situation was going to shake out.  I don’t mind placing my hands on a child who is completely out of control; but I like to evaluate things before I take it to that level. 

Know when to step back- Right as I entered the room, Cameron had slammed his closet door.  I gave him the “I dare you to do that while I’m here” look.  When Cameron saw me, I received the “fear of the father” glare I suspected I would get.  I’m sure he thought to himself  “What is my dad going to do to me?”  It was at this point I threw a proverbial curve ball.  Instead of speaking harshly, I calmly said “I can’t believe you would act like this because you love going to the library.  You are much smarter than what you showed to mom.”  I held his gaze for probably 5-10 seconds (which to most kids feels like 5-10 minutes) then I walked out.

I could have handled the situation in a variety of ways but what would have been the point of piling it on?  Lauren laid down the consequence and I helped Cameron get his behavior under control.  In short, I got what I wanted.  All it took was an eye gaze and two sentences.  You might be surprised to know that even with the toughest kids in my professional life, this tactic worked almost all the time.  Later in the evening, Cameron cried and gave mom a heartfelt apology. That’s when I truly knew the problem was resolved. 

This Friday, I will be answering a parenting question.  The crux of it is what do you do with good kids in terms of making them better?  Think about it for a couple of days, come back Friday, and we’ll compare answers.  Until then, all the best to you and the ones you love.

Achieveing a New Year's Resolution

New year - which direction?Which direction will you go in 2011?

Happy 2011 to all of you.  I hope you are reading this post in good spirits and with an open mind because we have some work to do.  The first thing I want to talk about are some of the best ways I have seen in achieving a New Year’s resolution.  The next thing is talking about my resolution because I’m going to need your help.

New Year’s resolutions seem to be difficult for a couple of reasons.  The first is the highs and lows of life and how it gets in the way of what we are trying to accomplish.  The second is that a year is a long time. Having the same drive to achieve a goal on day 1, day 122, and day 364 can be difficult.

It’s important in a family for everyone to help everyone else achieve their resolutions.  Life will still have it’s highs and lows for each individual; but having the support of your family can help offset them.  Though I don’t have a shred of statistical evidence, I would bet many resolutions are not achieved simply because people try to accomplish them alone.  You can actually help your kids with their goals as well by showing a passion while working on your resolutions.  After all, iron sharpens iron. 

It’s also a good idea to make goals as a family and post them somewhere for all to see.  You’ve got to be accountable to each other and willing to have your own feet held to the fire when you are not sticking to the goals.  

For example, my wife had the goal last year of running a 10k (6.2 miles) on a treadmill.  To some, that may not be a big deal but to her- it meant everything.  I tried to help by keeping up with my workouts, giving her positive encouragement, and allowing her time to go to the gym while I took care of the kids.  I’m proud to tell you that on December 31, 2010, the goal was accomplished.  I couldn’t be more proud.

The second tip I would give would be to break a year into parts and attack your New Year’s goal incrementally.  For example, if you’d like to loose 20 pounds this year, try stating the goal like this:  “I will lose 1.66 pounds per month.”  That’s it.  According to what I have heard from Weight Watchers, losing a pound per week is reasonable. Therefore, losing 1.66 pounds in a month isn’t too hard.  Is it?  In a year’s time, the resolution will have been accomplished.

Now for my goal.  My New Year’s resolution is to sell the Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures book to a publisher.  I have three reasons for this.

1.  Selling the book may allow my wife to work a little less.  She has been our sole bread winner for 4 years.  Without her sacrifices, the book nor the blog would have come to fruition.  Please understand that if you have learned something from my writings or have applied one thing from this blog to your household, part of the credit has to be given to her.

2.  Selling the book would mean reaching even more people with the positive messages I am sending.  I believe I can help a lot of good parents become even better; but they may be harder to reach if the book is never published.

3.  The final reason I want to get Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures published is I already have an outline for a follow up book.  After writing the first book, I was so drained because it took 11 months.  Honestly, I didn’t believe I had another book in me.  It looks like I was wrong.  The follow up book will have more stories and anecdotes and really fun lessons for parents to think about.  Right now though, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to write a follow up book until the first one is published.

I told you in the beginning of the blog I needed your help.  Here are my requests.

I want you to hold my feet to the fire like I suggested earlier.  Encourage me if you read good blog posts.  Tell me what you liked and why.  If the posts were not up to par, tell me why as well and how it should have been improved.

Continue sending me parenting question and referring people to this site.  I believe in the six degrees of separation.  I’m not that far from having Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures in the hands of a publisher.  Sooner or later, this blog will receive enough hits that a publisher will come across it and want to know what all the commotion is about.

If you have happened to see the children’s movie Horton Hears a Who starring Jim Carrey, I feel like we are on the speck of Who-ville shouting “We are here, we are here, we are here!”
Horton Hears a Who!Image via Wikipedia
Thank you for all the time and encouragement you have given.  Here’s to a great 2011!


Hear CPT's interview on the Dr. Carol Radio Show