“The Gift of Failure” – From Book to Real World Lesson

Posted by on Oct 21, 2015 in Domesticity, Education & Learning, Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

This weekend, my son forgot his soccer cleats. We had traveled an hour away from home; there was no way to retrieve them.

“The one day you don’t ask me if I’ve got every little thing is the day I forget them.” Thirteen-year-old “Jack’s” voice rose as his eyes, shoulders and mood plummeted. The next few hours of Jack’s life began to take shape in his mind, and they didn’t look good.

Not a coincidence, I thought. I bet you don’t forget your cleats again. But all my husband and I did was tell Jack there was nothing to be done about it now. We didn’t get upset, or raise our voices. We simply informed him that he would have to present himself to his coach, tell him he’d forgotten his cleats and face the consequences.

As soon as Jack skulked out of the minivan in his uniform and his sneakers, I grabbed my phone and sent a message to Jessica Lahey,* author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. I told her what happened, letting her know that she’d inspired me to stop running through the “Do you have…?” list with Jack as I always had prior to his soccer games. He is, after all, just a few months shy of fourteen years old. Shouldn’t he be able to collect all his gear for a game on his own?

Yes, I believe he should. But I’d never given him the chance to carry this responsibility before.

The Gift of Failure takes on the American trend—one might even call it a crisis—of overparenting. Writer, speaker, middle-school teacher and mother to two boys, Jessica expands on her excellent writing in the New York Times and The Atlantic to offer breathing room to parents and kids struggling to keep up with crazy schedules, hyper-competitive parenting and other pressures that never seem to let up. In The Gift of Failure, she explains how our kids are capable of more responsibility than many of us parents allow seem willing to let them take on. By not granting our kids that responsibility, we’re depriving them of the much-needed experiences of trying, failing and learning how to recover. Our kids need to build, over time, the necessary skills and confidence to succeed on their own so that they don’t end up living in our basements when they’re thirty-five years old. (My words, not Jessica’s.) And that means we have to allow them to fail.

How does this philosophy play out in practice?

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Banned Books Week 2015: It’s Perfectly Normal

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Education & Learning, Growing Up, Health & Sleep | 7 comments

BBW-logoWelcome to Banned Books Week 2015! I love Banned Books Week, and not just for the obvious reason that it’s about books. This annual celebration is actually less about books than it’s about freedom of thought, of exploration, and of the opportunity for each person to decide for herself what’s appropriate for her family.

(Look below for an opportunity to enter a Banned Books Week giveaway as part of our annual celebration with Book Journey!)

You don’t want your kid to read something? Okay. I suppose that’s your decision. But don’t tell me my kid can’t read the same book. That’s not your decision. It’s mine, or, more likely, it’s my kid’s. If you don’t believe a particular book that the teacher has selected as part of the curriculum is appropriate or you personally think it has “no educational value,” you are absolutely free to raise an objection. Feel free to discuss it with the teacher. But why should you get to say that none of the kids in a class or a public school get to learn from the book just because you don’t like it?

Each year, I peruse the list of the previous year’s top ten list of banned books and pick one to read and review for Banned Books Week. This year, I knew as soon as I saw the list which book I would read: It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley.

You undoubtedly could anticipate the reason for the challenges to this book before you finished reading its title. Despite its universal application, the book delves into an area of adolescence that makes some adults uncomfortable—even squeamish. Some find it immoral. So let’s look at the book’s approach to the subject.

It’s Perfectly Normal is divided into an introduction followed by six sections: “What is Sex?”; “Our Bodies”; “Puberty”; “Families and Babies”; “Decisions”; and “Staying Healthy.” Together, the material covers everything from the basics of how a baby is made to gender identity to puberty to deciding to have sex to staying safe on the internet to making healthy choices when sexually active. That’s a lot of ground for about 100 pages. Cartoonish drawings of a genderless bee and bird take opposing viewpoints of the material as they accompany the adolescent reader through the pages, with the bird feeling confident about its changing body and feelings, and the bee tapping into a tween or teen’s uneasy side.

There’s much that’s good about this book.

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Help Your Tween Start the School Year Right—with an Organized Closet

Posted by on Aug 20, 2015 in Domesticity, Education & Learning | 0 comments

Wow, that was fast. Summer is coming to a close, and the school year is upon us. It’s time to see reset sleep schedules, see how many sizes your kids have grown over the summer and buy them new clothes and supplies because inevitably, nothing they wore last year will fit them now. 

But once you buy the new stuff, what will you do with it? 

Today Uncharted Parent welcomes Danielle Hegedus, for Modernize.com, who offers some great tips regarding how to encourage your tween’s independence and start her school year on an organized, positive note by spending a little time on her closet. (You know your tween’s closet; it’s where the scary, fuzzy things live.)

Rubbermaid HomeFree series closet system

(Image: Rubbermaid via Flickr.com)

By Danielle Hegedus

Sometimes you have to take a step back and let your kids fly solo. As your child approaches middle school, think about ways in which you can better prepare her to start navigating the chaos of her own life. Help her develop organizational skills to manage her time, chores, homework and extracurricular activities.

Your child’s closet actually factors into a lot of that chaos. Yes, there is always laundry to do, but one of the of the best ways to get your child to start preparing for what each week will bring is to use her closet as an organizational tool. With some simple organizational tips and your guidance, you can help your child breeze through the week, minimizing forgotten permission slips and soccer cleats.

With hectic schedules, “organizing closet” may feel like just another thing to do on both of your to-do lists. Try not to think of this activity as a dreaded chore. Rather, it’s an opportunity for your child to practice her organizational skills and a chance to spend some quality time together.

Prepare for the Week Ahead

Work with your child to help her pick out her outfits for the week on either Saturday night or Sunday morning.

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How to Be a Good Sports Parent: a Real-Life Example

Posted by on Jun 17, 2015 in Education & Learning, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

A shout-out for the parents of the U13 boys from this soccer club!

A shout-out for the parents of the U13 boys from this soccer club

Sports parents. Ugh. If you have a kid who plays sports, you know who I’m talking about. The guy who screams at his son from the sidelines because his kid didn’t make the play dad thought he should have. The woman who, during the game, scolds the kids on the other team for their rough play, the parents who fling loud condemnations at the ref, who hover as close as possible to the bench—and the coach—during the game, who call other parents obscene names, who drink alcohol during games or show up drunk, who talk about how bad the kids on the opposing team are as they stand right next to that team’s families, who yell at their seven-year-old kids to defend their f*&#%! goals, who threaten fistfights…shall I continue? No, that’s enough.

Obviously, most sports parents are not like this. But I didn’t make up any of these examples. We parents of kids who play competitive sports often catch glimpses of this behavior, and we witness some of it on a regular basis. It’s unfortunate, it’s appalling, and it diminishes what ought to be a positive experience for kids and adults alike.

This is why I want to tell you about the parents from the Central Maine United Soccer Club from the Greater Waterville area of Maine. My son’s club soccer team played one of their U13 (under age thirteen when the fall season began) teams a few weeks ago in a tournament, and watching that game with these Maine parents offered the most enjoyable sideline experience I’ve had since my son began playing competitive soccer.

For those unfamiliar with youth soccer sidelines, the spectators all sit or stand in a line down the length of one side of the field. (The players and coaches are on the opposite side of the field.) Spectators often organize themselves so that they are grouped together in the line by team, either on opposite sides of the center line or in small clusters up and down the field.

From the start of the game, the Maine parents near me kept their commentary on the game positive. When one of their boys made a mistake, they talked about it, but they didn’t yell or belittle; they mostly laughed it off. They called out encouragement to their boys rather than criticism. And when the ref made calls with which they disagreed, they noted it, but they didn’t become incensed like a five-year-old whose cookie had just been taken away.

Then there was their approach toward our boys.

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Teaching Your Tweens & Teens About Money

Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Education & Learning, The World We Parent In, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

SAKURAKO gets money from a cash register !

What did you know about money when you were a kid? Take a moment to think back; I’ll wait.

Maybe you grew up with very little money, and you developed an inherent sense of how precious every dollar was—a sense your adult family members affirmed on a regular basis. Or maybe you grew up surrounded by money and the things it can buy, and you were taught how to stay wealthy—or simply assumed you always would be.

For most of us, I suspect the answer lies somewhere in the middle. This is true not only for how much money with which you grew up, but for how much you knew about the way money works. Parents talked to or around you about the need to save money, tried to direct you toward careers that pay well, perhaps refused to spend money on foolish fads. (How are your Cabbage Patch dolls doing these days?) If you obtained a little money of your own—birthday money from Aunt Jill or Uncle Joey—a parent probably took you to the bank to open a passbook savings account. Remember those? In the pages of those little books you learned the small-scale lesson of compound interest. It was so exciting to watch your money grow.

But what about the rest of lessons kids need to learn about money before they go out into the world on their own? What about budgeting? How a credit card works, and why it’s important to avoid credit card debt? How, when and why to invest? What are benefits worth when you are looking at jobs? What are benefits? How do health care and insurance work? (Okay, so this one remains opaque to most adults to some degree.) In the area of discretionary income, how do you determine the difference between wise and foolish expenditures? When is it okay to blow a little money, and when is it not? How do you weigh decisions, make choices?

In my house, growing up, money was an enigma. It was discussed, but only mysteriously and in terms that conflicted with each other. One plus one never equaled two, and it’s small wonder that I found myself in a credit card hole as a young adult.

I vowed that my kids would learn about money earlier than I did. Money is a critical part of the world we live in, and kids need to have a firm grasp of it by the time they leave to live on their own.

Here are 11 steps to helping your tween and teen understand money:

  • If they haven’t already shown interest, begin to share with them the costs of everyday life. You don’t have to inundate them, but mention the cost of your weekly grocery trip, the price of gas and its fluctuations, the cost of your monthly utility bills, etc.
  • Give them insight into some of your family financial decision-making. Where will your next vacation be, and can you even afford to take one? Let them know how money factored into this decision, or let them participate in the process if you’re comfortable with that.
  • Explain how a credit card works. Show them a monthly bill, and how much you would end up paying in the end if you only made the minimum payments. That number always horrifies me. May it do the same for our kids.
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7 Rules for a 10-Year-Old with an Email Account

Posted by on Apr 8, 2015 in Education & Learning, Kids & Technology, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

iPhone work

Approximately three years ago, then ten-year-old “Jack” asked me if he could have an email account. I reacted as any parent would when her first-born stretches into uncharted territory: I peered into the future, envisioned every kind of horror that lay in wait, freaked out, then accepted reality and gave the kid an email address along with a list of seventeen rules to guide his behavior. My elder child, who thrives on structure and always likes to know where he stands, has managed his account well, and we all survived.

Now my younger child has reached the age of ten, and it is time for her to acquire an email address, too. Not because ten is a magic number, but because my husband and I have begun to find ourselves in situations where we would like our daughter to be able to exchange texts with us. We don’t think Emmie needs a cell phone yet, but she can text us via wifi on her iPod if she’s equipped with an email address. (In case you’re wondering: yes, we are aware that we are providing the catalyst for what will undoubtedly be a lifetime of nonstop texting. Well, someone had to do it.)

“Emmie” likes structure, too, but not in the same way Jack does. Seventeen rules would overwhelm Emmie, and she would end up following none of them. So while Emmie receives her email address with the same expectations with which Jack received his, for Emmie I trimmed the list of rules to seven. I explained to her that these rules are designed to keep her safe and to make sure she treats other people with the same consideration with which she would like people to treat her. We discussed the meaning of each rule when I gave her the list, and I provided examples to illustrate my points.

Emmie’s 7 Email & Texting Rules

  1. Protect your personal information. Don’t send anyone your last name, phone number, address, birthday, social security number or anything else private via email unless we tell you to do so.
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