Posts Tagged ‘ No Regrets Parenting ’

Going “From Frazzled to Focused” for Father’s Day

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Busy dad's plannerEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

As a dad and a pediatrician who has worked with families of all types and sizes for more than 30 years, I want to tell you about a great book written for moms that dads should read, too. After all, why should moms be the only ones who know the secrets for turning chaos to calm?

From Frazzled to Focused: The Ultimate Guide for Moms Who Want to Reclaim Their Time, Their Sanity, and Their Lives is written by Rivka Caroline, a Florida-based time management and organization expert who juggles seven kids, a speaking and consulting career, and graduate school. I discovered this book when the author asked me to review it for a possible endorsement because of my own time management book, No Regrets Parenting.

I loved Caroline’s book, and endorsed it with this quote: “From Frazzled to Focused is a brilliant blueprint for recapturing minutes, hours, and days otherwise lost to inefficiency and disorganization. This book will change your life.” Yes, it’s that good. But notice nowhere in that endorsement do I mention moms — or, for that matter, dads. This is a really wonderful book for moms and dads because efficiency, effectiveness, prioritization, and systemization are gender-neutral goals. This is not a book full of platitudes and bumper stickers. Instead, it’s a concise, organized, and focused 180-page playbook with an action plan for achieving, de-cluttering, and systemizing your work and home life.

Whether at home or at work, these From Frazzled to Focused guiding principles and recommendations apply to all parents:

  • Switch from doing it all to doing most of it (and know that’s okay)
  • Lack of time is actually a lack of priorities
  • 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of your time and effort
  • Work expands to fill the time available for its completion
  • Create a “to don’t” list
  • Streamline your home and your head
  • Avoid decision overload

You’ll learn when to “do,” to “delegate,” and to “delete.” And deleting some of the items crowding your thoughts and your desk may be the most important paradigm of all for many of us. You’ll come to recognize that “practice makes good enough,” that perfection isn’t the be-all and end-all. This realization is really liberating.

Dads can particularly benefit from Ms. Caroline’s advice for systemizing, and her supermarket analogy is spot-on: When you go grocery shopping, you put more than one item in your cart at once so you’re not constantly driving back and forth to the store. Get ahead by always thinking, “What can I do now that will make things easier later on?” Batch your tasks, and block out chunks of time for doing them — returning phone calls and e-mails, paying bills, and filing should be done in batches, not piecemeal as the e-mails or bills arrive. Although the second half of the book is devoted to specific spaces in your home, taking control of those spaces isn’t just mom’s work; dads live in those spaces, too. Both Mom and Dad can use the principles in this book for equally effective rethinking of the workplace and the work mentality.

So, with Father’s Day approaching fast and the usual panic setting in about buying yet another necktie, take this message from Caroline’s book to heart: “Last-minute problems are a lot easier to take care of when they aren’t actually happening at the last minute.” Get this book for Dad. Do it now, while you’re thinking about it, so you don’t have a last-minute problem on June 16.

Happy Father’s Day!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Image: A busy daily schedule book via Shutterstock.

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Celebrate a New Holiday: Monthly Mother’s Day

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Mother's Day BreakfastEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

First conceived by Julia Ward Howe (the composer of the “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”) in 1870, advocated by Anna Jarvis in 1908, and officially established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, Mother’s Day has become a proud American tradition that is now observed in more than 70 countries worldwide. A 2010 study by VIP Communications found that Mother’s Day has the highest phone call traffic of the year, exceeding Valentine’s Day and New Year’s. Another 2010 study, by the Society of American Florists, found that more than one quarter of all floral purchases in the U.S.  each year are for Mother’s Day. Everyone knows everything there is to know about Mother’s Day, and writing about it is a little like writing about love or money or religion: What more can anyone say about it that hasn’t been said? Well, for the first time in the century since it became a national holiday, I think it’s time for a fundamental change to the Mother’s Day ritual. Drum roll, please

From this Mother’s Day forward, I propose that the first Thursday of every month be declared Monthly Mother’s Day. And the third Wednesday of every month shall henceforth be declared Monthly Father’s Day. Every household with a mom gives her special treatment on the first Thursday of the every month, and every household with a dad gives him special treatment on the third Wednesday of every month. Each of these new monthly “‘holidays” gives us 12 additional opportunities to celebrate parenthood with our kids, and 12 times the number of traditions, memories, and family moments.

Why am I not making my new holidays on Sundays? Because weekends are for big traditions, and these are small observances that don’t require a whole day; they can fit into school nights, early bedtimes, and daily routines. These are family traditions that should take little time and no money – they don’t have to involve dinner out, gifts, flowers, or even candy — but they do require a fair amount of thought, something special that isn’t done the other days of the month. One month, give mom the night off after dinner so she can read, take a bath, or watch her favorite show. The next month, cook her favorite dinner. Create a handmade card or hand-painted picture frame for another month. Ditto for dads on their special monthly Wednesdays. Best of all, you still get to celebrate the “real” Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. While we’re at it, why not establish a monthly Kids’ Day, too? Like the second Tuesday of every month. On these days, parents can prepare kids’ favorite meal or dessert, have Scrabble night, or plan a Wii table tennis tournament.

Life is short. The years go by fast. You can never have too many reasons to celebrate each other. And thinking about ways to honor moms, dads, and kids is good for the soul, and good for the whole family. May 12, 2013 may be the “real” Mother’s Day, but the one after that will be coming up soon, so start planning. Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Image: Breakfast for Mother’s Day via Shutterstock.

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Giving Up the Extra Legroom for the Kids

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Airplane seatsEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

My career was taking off, and so was I. As my star rose in the very, very small firmament that is my specialty, the invitations for the honor of my presence increased: keynote speeches, advisory boards, prestigious panels, exotic meeting locations, all-expenses-paid trips with notes saying, “Please bring your wife if she can get away.” Success was intoxicating; it was nice to be recognized and admired by peers. My kids were little, and I told myself they were sleeping for most of the time I was out of town, anyway. My wife caught me up on the milestones I missed.

As the kids turned 5, 3, and almost 1, they weren’t sleeping as many hours as they did when they were younger, and they were starting to have experiences – in kindergarten and preschool, at playdates and Gymboree — they would remember without me. T-ball was starting in a month for our 5-year-old, and our 3-year-old’s hair was just long enough for first pigtails. The baby was walking — running really — to keep up. I tried to keep up, too. To know their friends’ and teachers’ names, what they liked best on TV (how badly do I date myself if I tell you it was Barney?). But even when I was home and they were animatedly telling me about their day, my mind wasn’t with them. Instead, my mind was on the next colloquium I had to prepare, the next flight I had to catch, and the call I should make to a colleague to discuss the seminal lecture I would be giving in Scandinavia. It was during our middle child’s third birthday party that I had my fateful Dorian Gray moment. I was filming my kids running around in party hats with ice cream cake on their cheeks. As I filmed my daughter opening her presents, I had a stark vision of my future, but I didn’t look like me; I looked like Rick, Mike, and James.

Rick, Mike, and James were real people, colleagues I knew from my hotshot meetings, established megastars in their universes of influence. Million Milers! There wasn’t a major meeting in my field without one or more of the MMs on the dais. In the lounges after the meetings, they regaled us with travelogues; they had been everywhere and seen it all. For small talk, we compared frequent-flier miles and upgrades, and chirped about the legroom. Rick had trouble remembering if his second child was in 10th or 11th grade, but worried that his oldest, a college freshman, was probably drinking a little too much, as she did in high school when she got a DUI. Mike’s three teenagers were estranged from him since he left them and their mother back east to move west for a big promotion. He was confident they would reconcile when the kids were old enough to understand adult responsibilities. James’s divorce came with a brutal custody battle. His wife made wild accusations about his extracurricular activities on the road. I was on my way to becoming George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air while George was actually still an intern on ER. There was just one big difference between George and me. Okay, maybe more than one big difference. But the one that matters for purposes of this discussion is: George’s peripatetic character didn’t have kids, but I did.

With a vivid and terrifying vision of becoming Rick, Mike, or James, I stopped filming the birthday party and started to really see it. I realized a few things: I liked hearing my kids tell me their adventures better than I liked hearing those of the MMs. I liked sleeping at home with my wife better than alone in a luxurious hotel room that I could only describe to her by phone. I liked hearing my baby giggle better than I liked hearing polite applause from colleagues in a far-off ballroom. I wanted to be at the first T-ball game. Heck, I wanted to coach the T-ball team.

That was the day I grounded myself. Not all at once, of course. I still had obligations to fulfill. But I learned to say no, and I learned to be a lesser player. I was fortunate that my job didn’t require the travel or the renown — those were merely accoutrements of my success. I could still earn a decent living and sleep at home, as long as my ego would survive a cut in prestige. And it did. In a matter of months, I went from budding superstar to just being a regular star. If any of this story sounds familiar, if you are superstar wannabes, ask yourself these questions before you get too hooked on the fanfare: How much status and stature do you need? How much do you need to know your kids, and how much do they need to know you? And how much are you willing to miss during all those hours on the tarmac? For me, even though I lost my Premier Executive status with the airline and gave up the extra legroom, I gained something more precious — time with my kids that I’ll always be grateful for. And, yes, I did end up coaching T-ball, too.

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Image: Well-lit empty airplane interior with window and blue seat via Shutterstock.

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A Valentine’s Day Love Letter for Your Child

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Editor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

I remember when I first held you in my arms and instantly knew how deeply I loved you. You were so tiny and helpless. You knew nothing and depended on me for everything. I was nervous because there was so much to learn and so much to teach. You were a tiny, gorgeous blob of clay. Since that first moment, it has been my joy and privilege to be your sculptor, to shape you into the beautiful child you are today and to continue shaping you into the responsible, moral, and loving adult I pray you will be someday. It’s my job to make you feel happy and loved. To protect, comfort, guide, inspire, and motivate you.  It’s a wonderful job, the best in the world. But it’s a hard job, and sometimes I still get nervous.

There are times when I do or say things that you don’t yet understand, and they upset you. I try to explain but some things will make sense only when you’re older. As a parent, I have to make rules and set limits that may seem unfair. Like when I make you eat vegetables or do homework, when I say something isn’t healthy or something is too expensive, when I tell you it’s bedtime or you’ve had enough TV or you need to clean your room.  You may think I don’t love you when all I do is say “no,” especially on days when it seems like I’m saying it a lot.

My days are very busy, with lots of grown-up things I need to do. Sometimes I have less time and energy to spend with you than either of us would wish. You may think I don’t love you when I’m too tired to play or when an important phone call interrupts us, when I have to work on the weekend, when I have a meeting during your soccer game, or when I come home late or have to leave town. You may think I don’t love you when I say, “I can’t right now,” especially on days when it seems like I’m saying it a lot.

As hard as I try to do things right, sometimes I make mistakes. Grown-ups aren’t perfect. You may think I don’t love you when I lose my temper or raise my voice, when I blame you for something you didn’t do, when I don’t notice the good things you did do, or when I say something that hurts your feelings or embarrasses you.

But I want you to know this: Even during the times when it may seem like I don’t love you, I really do. Very, very much.  With all my heart and soul. I love you more than anything else in the world.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my sweet, wonderful child.

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Image: Red paper envelope with white heart via Shutterstock.

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Give Kids Holiday Gifts That Will Bring Joy to Parents

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Editor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

This year, consider an unconventional strategy for holiday gift giving. No, this isn’t an altruistic piece about charity and volunteering—although both are wonderful expressions of the holiday spirit—since reality is reality, and most of us use the holidays to give fun gifts to our kids. Instead of buying budget-busting individual gifts that end up gathering dust by Valentine’s Day, invest in inexpensive presents that will turn your home into the “go to” place for your kids’ friends. Parents’ time with young kids goes by fast, and once they become teenagers, it’s even harder to corral them, see them grow, and eavesdrop on their lives. So, starting in your kids’ pre-teen years, turn your home into a kid magnet.

When I was growing up, my best friend Steve’s dad bought a pool table for himself and his adult friends, but he let us use it as long as he was supervising or within earshot. Steve’s house became “the” house for our friends, and his dad had a front row seat as we turned into little pool sharks. My parents missed seeing me in all of my adolescent bluster on those billiards nights; my wife and I didn’t want that to happen to us.

So, when we stumbled on what seemed like the perfect holiday gift for our tweens at a garage sale years ago, we took a $55 chance; if it wasn’t a hit, we would resell it. But it turned out to be the find of the decade: an honest-to-goodness adult-sized poker table, with a felt-covered center and felt-lined cup holders on each of the six sides, priced at an amazing $25. And, for $5 each, we also bought the six retro orange vinyl chairs that sat around the table. Yes, the table and chairs had seen better days, but none of the cosmetic damage was beyond the cure of a little glue, tape, and paint. By the time my wife (the handy one in the family) finished the tune-up, the set was pretty cool looking, and it fit in with what was already in the basement: the indoor mini-basketball hoop (purchased for $12 at a previous garage sale), the shelves full of board games (including “Twister,” the ultimate game for the awkward tween years), the sports and national parks posters, and the makeshift ping pong table.

We never imagined the impact that poker table would have on our parenting experience. Our basement became the epicenter for our kids’ middle school and high school friends for the next 10 years, until our youngest left for college. Penny-ante poker, blackjack, Texas-hold’em, and “War” alternated at our table. There were Coke cans in the cup holders, chips (poker and potato) scattered across the table, and cards tossed about in celebration or disgust during wonderful weekend nights. Even today, with our kids in college and graduate school, they gather with their old friends over vacations to play poker in our basement! We never figured out what it was about a real poker table—versus a folding, kitchen, or ping pong table—that could create such a profound and prolonged attraction in our basement. But it was a joy to be “the” house that everyone wanted to hang out in, the place where we could eavesdrop on our kids’ very own “World Series of Poker” games, cater the snacks, and watch our kids grow up rather than watching them gravitate to their friends’ houses where the cool stuff was.

Should you buy the biggest TV on the block or the best video game system to draw kids’ attention? This is a very personal, and philosophical, decision. But for my money, the best activities are unplugged and get kids talking and laughing loudly enough that you can eavesdrop from the top of the basement stairs. Only you know your kids well enough to pick the perfect gifts for them and their friends, but pick ones that are age-appropriate. Here’s a short garage sale shopping list, in case you can’t find a poker table, for transforming your house into “the” house: foosball table, air hockey table, pinball machine, board games (trivia, strategy, wordplay, charades), electric train set, mini car racing track, construction toy sets, camping tent, magic set, homemade stage (for music, theater, puppet, magic, and fashion shows), wardrobe cabinet (stocked with cool old clothes, hats, and costume jewelry from your closet or the thrift shop), makeup table, doll house, and play kitchen. You may not stumble on the “find of the decade” on your first try, but with all the money saved by avoiding toy stores, you’ll be able to afford shopping garage sales again next year.

Happy holidays, and happy eavesdropping!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Image: Beautiful living room decorated for Christmas via Shutterstock.

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10 Special Traditions Beyond Thanksgiving

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Mother and daughter in pile of leavesEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

At Thanksgiving time, we are reminded again of how important traditions are in a family’s life and legacy. But many parents express anxiety about how to find the “right” traditions for their family. Should traditions just “evolve,” or should parents consciously establish them? The right answer is do both – allow some traditions to evolve by embracing the activities your kids naturally gravitate toward, and consciously experiment with other traditions to see which ones work within your family dynamic.

There are two secrets to establish lasting family traditions: repetition and anticipation. When you find something that brings out smiles, repeat it on a regular and predictable enough basis that it becomes an ingrained part of the family repertoire. For those traditions that need planning ahead, begin talking about the event days before it occurs to build excitement. Anticipation can be as much fun as the tradition itself.

Traditions come in two sizes: big (national and federal holidays, birthdays, anniversaries,); and small (those unique to your family). Both are important in a family’s legacy, so personalize them with these 10 ideas for creating special traditions:

1- Make the big holidays your own. Serve meals at the homeless shelter on Thanksgiving morning. Play backyard football before Christmas dinner to work up an appetite. Bring flowers to the local military cemetery on Memorial Day or July 4th.

2- Turn birthdays into unique celebrations. Hang balloons in the kitchen the night before so the kids arrive to a party room on their big morning. Eat pancakes for breakfast in mom and dad’s bed. Sing “Happy Birthday” in the most off-key way possible.

3- Double (or quadruple!) the number of birthdays. Serve a cupcake on quarter birthdays and half a cake on half-birthdays. Avoid gifts on these fractional celebrations, and instead focus on laughter, singing, and fun. Add a balloon or two. Celebrate your pets’ birthdays, too!

4- Have monthly Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Give mom a night off from household chores on the first Tuesday of every month, and make a special dinner for her. Do the same for dad on the second Thursday of every month. Pick which day of the month works best for you, but your family will have 22 more “celebrations” each year.

5- Share quirky inside secrets. Make a funny noise in the elevator when it’s just your family taking a ride, or give a whoop every day when the clock strikes your address number (if you live at 920 Elm Lane, cheer at 9:20 every morning and night). Invent a secret family hand shake.

6- Have the same meals for special occasions. Serve Chinese food for every anniversary, Indian food for good report cards, or hot dogs on the opening day of baseball season every year.

7- Get dressed up for a candlelight dinner. Once a month, have everyone wear their best party clothes and eat a fancy meal at home by candlelight. Put on soft music, bring out the good dishes, and use restaurant table manners.

8- Celebrate the first sign of seasons. Have a family leaf fight every fall when the leaves begin to pile up in the yard, go sledding after the first snowfall, eat fruit salad in the garden to celebrate the appearance of the first spring flower, and have a family water fight on the first summer day that reaches 90º.

9- Have family-only activities. Plan a family comedy night or a talent show, make holiday cards from scratch, or write personalized lyrics to an old song and then sing the new composition together.

10- Give back to the community together. Identify a favorite charity and participate in its fundraising each year – walk, run, bike, volunteer, and/or donate.

Try lots of different ideas. There’s no such thing as “failure” – if an idea doesn’t work, you’ve still spent wonderful moments with your kids. Plus, you’ve created unforgettable memories and, perhaps, given them something to tease you about for years to come (“Remember when dad thought it would be fun to have all of us join the “polar bear club” and jump into the lake in December?”)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Image: Mother and daughter in autumn yellow park via Shutterstock.

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5 Essential Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Back to School colored pencilsEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

Ready or not, it’s that time again. Your kids are trying on fall clothes, cleaning out backpacks from last year, and shopping for school supplies. Another exciting year of growth and development is on the horizon for your children. Here are five sure-fire ways to make this a year of growth and development for you as well.

Hold a weekly calendar meeting.

Each new year of school brings more complicated choreography to your kids’ schedules – and to your schedule as well. Every Sunday night, sit down with your kids and enter every commitment and event of their upcoming week into your personal calendar. There are 3 important reasons to do this: a) you should always know where your kids are; b) you have a head start on dinner conversation if you know what your kids have been up to all day; c) you may get a pleasant surprise – a meeting of yours is canceled in time for you to make the second half of a basketball game. But you’ll only know about the game if it’s on your calendar.

Volunteer at school.

Every school is underfunded and shorthanded. Your kids’ school can use your help and participating in an after-school activity can be a meaningful experience. Depending on your kids’ ages and their level of pride (or embarrassment) in seeing you at school, there are many roles to fill: homeroom parent, teacher’s aide, hall monitor, coach’s assistant, team parent, crossing guard, PTA, office volunteer, and field trip chaperone or driver, to name a few.  Spending a part of your day at school gives you an up-close look at interactions with teachers and friends, hallway dynamics, and locker lore. All this can lead to more good dinner conversation!

Drive a carpool.

Whether it’s driving back and forth to school or to and from after-school activities you learn a lot about your kids by driving the carpool. Mysteriously, the carpool driver becomes practically invisible to the passengers, especially when it’s more than just your own kids in the car. This allows you an invaluable “fly on the dashboard” opportunity to eavesdrop on your kids social interactions, catch up on grade school gossip, and hear about homework without even asking.

Help with homework.

Be involved with your kids’ homework every night. When they’re in grade school, sit with them for part of the time they’re doing work – not to catch every math mistake but to make sure they get the big picture. In middle school, just look over their completed work regularly for overall quality. Show you are happy to see them doing such a nice job. Your pride in their work will become their pride. By high school, it’s enough to ask each night if they’ve finished their homework and occasionally review a teacher’s comments on the graded work.  No matter the age, if your kids ask for help, do your best to guide them without doing their homework. Remember, you’ve already learned “times tables,” so now it’s their turn.

Manage extracurricular activities.

Beware of “potpourri parenting” – soccer Mondays, violin Tuesdays, karate Wednesdays, etc. Kids’ options for extracurricular activities are limitless, and you may be tempted to enroll your kids in everything, thinking you’re “enriching” them.  As long as your kids are enjoying these activities, and you’re not missing chances to spend more time with them, there’s nothing wrong with having many varied experiences. But if programming begins to replace parenting or if your kids are showing “enrichment fatigue,” reduce the amount of activities. Your time together as a family is almost always more enriching, especially since time with your young kids is fleeting. Don’t give it all away.

The school years won’t seem to pass by as quickly if you get involved in your kids’ school lives. So have a wonderful fall semester!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado.  He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).


Image: “Back to school” and colored pencils via Shutterstock

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Teaching Kids Perseverance on the Monkey Bars

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Playground monkey barsEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month.  He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

Let me say this right up front – not every child masters the monkey bars. Unlike sitting, standing, walking, potty training, or riding a tricycle, the monkey bars are not considered a developmental milestone. At well-child visits, doctors don’t ask, “Has your child mastered the monkey bars yet?” the same way they ask, “How many words are in your child’s vocabulary?” Trust me, I’m a pediatrician. There are even successful adults working alongside you who have never been able to master the monkey bars.  Trust me, I’m one of them.  I was never able to climb a rope or do a pull-up either. I always blamed my inabilities on a poorly-centered center of gravity. But enough about me. This is about our daughter who, happily, did learn to master the monkey bars. She absolutely had to.

Emily’s best friends in grade school were tiny wisps of girls who didn’t touch the ground when they walked because they were too light for gravity. For them, the monkey bars were as natural as breathing – they didn’t have to think twice before sailing from one end to the other, with each girl outdoing the other in speed and panache. When the monkey bars became the “must” place to be during recess, Emily was in a tough spot.  Her feet did touch the ground while walking and the monkey bars were not automatic like breathing – they were more like hyperventilating. Not being a wisp came in very handy for Emily when she played sports later in life, but this was first grade and nothing mattered except the monkey bars.

Knowing no one would be at the school playground on Saturday, we packed everyone in the van and headed there for a monkey bars crash course. First, our oldest child (who was in third grade) tried to inspire Em by hopping onto the launch step and zipping all the way across, gracefully swinging from each arm to get to the next bar.  He dismounted and encouragingly said, “See, Em, it’s easy!” Emily didn’t find this inspiring. In fact, she started crying. Next, the youngest child (who was in preschool) needed a turn. We held him up and walked beneath the monkey bars as he touched each one with his hands. Then he was off to the sandbox.

Finally, Emily stood on the launch step, grabbed the first bar with her left hand, stepped, and…just dangled there.  Her right arm waved toward the next bar, but her body did not obey. She dropped to the ground and sobbed, “See?! I told you I can’t do it!” Of course, we asked ourselves how much of the obstacle was physical or mental.  We pretended to be sports psychologists for a little while, probing her deepest monkey bar phobias. Yes, she was afraid of failure.  Yes, she was afraid of embarrassment.  Yes, she was sure everyone else was better at monkey bars. Yes, she would never, ever, ever have friends, in her whole life, if she couldn’t conquer the monkey bars. Ok, enough psychology – there were fewer than 48 hours before Monday’s recess. A miraculous cure was in order, and it had to be immediate.

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