Category Archives: Parenting

8 Unhealthy Habits You May Be Teaching Your Son

Sad

As parents, there are times when we are so busy trying to raise a good kid we lose sight of the power of our daily interactions with our kids. We forget that they watch us and learn by our example.

1.Nagging– If you’re nagging someone, you know it. I know when I’m being a nag and I even annoy myself. Nagging doesn’t motivate, empower or encourage anyone to do what you want. It’s a waste of energy and it creates more conflict.

2. Pessimism-If you focus on the negative events in your life, you are not in the position to embrace what’s good in your life. Being a negative person damages relationships and is detrimental to your emotional and physical well-being.

3. Worrying-Of course you are, you’re a mom! However, worrying about every little detail, sniffle and scrape will make your son an anxious child. Constant worrying only leads to fear filled thoughts.

4. Anger-Do you blow up for any little minor infraction? Deal with your anger issues. Your son shouldn’t have to be on the receiving end of your anger.

5. Passive-Aggressiveness-You’re still an angry person, you just manage to pretend you’re not angry. Being passive-aggressive is a weak excuse for not addressing challenges or conflicts in your relationships. Giving your son the silent treatment doesn’t teach him how to properly deal with conflicts.

6. Being Over-Indulgent– Whether it’s overspending or overeating,anything in excess is not good for you. Kids need structure. Too much of a good thing can be bad. Set limits and enforce rules.

7. Distress-There is good and bad stress. Good stress intrinsically motivates us to persevere. Bad stress robs us of our health. Kids pick up on their parents stress levels. Do your best to find techniques to deal with the stress in your life.

8. Ignoring Depression-Depression is a debilitating disease. Unfortunately, too many moms don’t address or properly deal with depression. We choose to ignore or dismiss our depression as “the blues” or occasional sadness. Break the cycle of depression by getting the help you need.

Sometimes we allow the situations in our lives to control or dictate how we behave. Making a conscious decision to be aware of your actions and behavior will help you to be the example of social and emotional wellness for your son.

Image Courtesy of Flickr

The Seasons of Your Son’s Life

As we get ready for the summer season, I think about how we go through various seasons in life. We are reminded in Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. As  we watch our kids finish the school year and prepare for the summer,  their physical transformation during  these brief months can leave us baffled by the brevity of childhood.  Just as the seasons change, our sons go through their seasons of emotional, mental, spiritual and physical change. Whether your son is in kindergarten, middle/high school or college, the season of his life will be filled with hope and challenges. While we wish we could easily prepare our sons for these transitions, we can’t predict with accuracy what will happen in each season of our son’s life.

Seasons of Your Son's Life

A few years ago, middle school felt like the coldest winter ever. Like a harsh winter season, my son’s school year was unpredictable and arduous. As a parent, sometimes all I could do was offer support and encouragement while feeling helpless and unproductive.  There were days the more I tried to help, the more he resisted. I learned to adapt to my son’s changes by being consistent with my presence without being overbearing. As my son grew older and learned how to manage his emotions, I also learned how to manage our mother-son relationship. I learned to be present when he was talking and when he needed me to guide, coach or direct him.

I learned to appreciate the seasons of my son’s life. Parenting doesn’t prepare you for unexpected power struggles, the moments of uncertainty, or the quiet emotional storms. Someone once told me, “Raising boys is deceptively simple”, and I agree that sometimes we make assumptions about the emotional lives of boys.

You may not notice the season of your son’s life until he reaches puberty. Then you may notice the varying degrees of emotions and behavior. Like rain on a sunny summer day or snow in the spring, be prepared  be caught off guard with unexpected changes. What’s most interesting about boys is that most of them are intricate, sensitive, and fragile, yet they mask this by being flippant, apathetic and indifferent.  Be patient with the passing storms and be grateful for the mild days. On days when you’re tempted to let the circumstances take over, remember like every season, this too shall pass.

 

Lions Do Raise Lambs: Embracing Your Child’s Personality

Lions Do Raise Lambs

Years ago, I adopted a phrase that a friend’s mother used to say “Lions don’t raise lambs.” I thought it was a powerful statement to make and soon made it my parenting motto. That is until I decided to take a look at myself. Who was I kidding? The only lion I was like was the Cowardly Lion or Alex the Lion from the movie Madagascar. After all, I’m the one who had to sleep with the lights on after watching The Sixth Sense (it’s not even a horror film).
The more I thought about it, I realized that this statement reflected my relationship with my mother. My mom is one tough cookie who is sweet and loving at the same time. She’s the kind of lion that would hug you and warn you that you’re about to be mauled.
As a kid, my mom tried for years to mold me into, well.. her. I was a skinny tomboy who enjoyed doing everything she wished I wouldn’t do. I hated dresses, the color pink, dolls and anything remotely girly. I was also a quirky and wildly imaginative introvert. Yet, my mother prevailed. She was determined to make this square peg fit into a round hole. What she got instead was an octagon, the confused offspring of a circle.

I can understand how why mother felt the need to mold me into something else. It wasn’t that she didn’t appreciate my strengths and my interesting character, she feared that if she didn’t refine some of my rough edges, I would be a walking mess. Even though secretly she appreciated all my antics, she worried that I would be a wild card. As her only daughter, she wanted to ensure that she gave me the proper tools to become a woman of substance. She longed for me to be ladylike and proper. The one thing she didn’t consider is that I’m not like her. Although she wanted to create a clone of herself, my mom never made me feel that her love was conditional or that I was good enough. My moms loves fashion, makeup, gardening and baking. My mom is cardigan, skirt and heels and I’m Converse, jeans and a t-shirt. Funny thing is that my mom was never critical, she was just hopeful. For all her lioness efforts to not raise a lamb, she got an alpaca, which is much worse. Have you seen an alpaca?

It took years of power struggles for my mom to understand that I wasn’t going to change. While she admired my independence and self-reliance, she was annoyed by my non-compliance. Although some of her refining methods work, deep down I remained that quirky girl who rather hang out with the guys. I remember thinking as a young woman, “I hope I don’t have a daughter, because I would screw her up.” Pretty dramatic but it was how I felt.

Which leads me to why I abandoned the “lions don’t raise lambs” way of thinking. What would that have meant for my son? It wouldn’t have been fair to him to try to make him someone he is not. I’ll be honest that since I was raising a child of the opposite sex, it was easier to let it go. The truth is lions can raise lambs or whatever animal they choose to raise. The beauty of having a child who is different from you is that you can appreciate the world through his eyes. As parents, we are the strong force in the development of our children’s confidence and self-esteem. When we start to lean towards creating clones, we deprive our children of their self-discovery and self-awareness. Character building is about working with the child you have, not changing him to the child you want him to be. I knew that I wouldn’t want to do anything that would negatively influence my son’s perception of himself.

Whenever I was worried about whether I’m doing things in the best interest of my son, I would allow him to show me the way. Now that we have two sons, it’s interesting to see the difference in character and personalities. So this alpaca takes it all in stride and enjoys the journey of raising a badger and a eagle with her bear, which makes our home an interesting place.
If you’re ever in doubt if your parenting expectations are clouding your ability to see your child as whole and self-reliant, remember the words of Kahlil Gibran:
On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

Repost from The Good Men Project

The World According to Little Kids

The World According to Little Kids

Walls look so much better when they are decorated with artwork. Markers and crayons work best.

The living room is so much better for running around and making noise than your own room. A couch makes a great trampoline.

Things that belong to parents are made to taken apart and explored.

Just feel the music and dance. Don’t worry about how you look.

I won’t play with that kid just because you’re  friends with his parents.

Stop asking “Why did you do that?” I don’t have an answer.

Some of us like to play quietly and some of us like to run wild, don’t judge.

Weekends are made for waking up at 6am.

It’s fun to flush stuff.

Parents are confusing. They tell you not to speak to strangers, then when you meet a stranger, they tell you to say hello.

Saying, “You look like Squidward from SpongeBob Squarepants is really a compliment.

No matter how many times I watch the same TV show, listen to the same song, read the same book or watch the same movie, I can never really get tired of it.

You can never have too many Thomas the Tank Engine trains, Hotwheels cars or Lego pieces.

I don’t like to hug or kiss certain family members. Ask me to do it again and I’ll embarrass you.

You are responsible for  the whereabouts of all my toys.

Even though I  have my own bed, I just have to sleep in my parents’ bed.

If parents laugh when I say bad words, I’ll just keep saying them.

I am never tired. Never.

I may hear you say, “Who wants ice cream?”, but I can’t hear when you say, “It’s bedtime.”

I may not know time, but I know when all my favorite tv shows are on and that it’s too soon to leave when I’m having fun.

Clothing should  always be optional.

Never tell me anything you don’t want me to repeat in public.

Farts are funny.

The dirtier, the noisier, the faster, stickier the better.

I am deceptively simple.

Why do I need to know how to tie my laces, when there are velcro straps on my shoes?

Scarves, gloves, hats, and sometimes jackets will get lost at school.

Five minutes is a long time to wait.

Sand and mud are fun.

When I’m on the move, don’t get in my way.

Don’t try to figure me out.

Why should bread have crust?

There’s alot of things to do in the bathroom.

Keys, credit cards, and cell phones like to play hide and seek.

A french fry is a vegetable.

One day I will climb that wall.

I am invincible.

 

5 Tips To Help Your Son Think Like a Champion

Champion 

“Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.”-Muhammad Ali

Growing up, I remember Wheaties cereal being a staple on our breakfast table. I’ll admit that I hated the cereal but loved the tagline: Breakfast of Champions. Yeah, they sold my parents on that concept and my parents were shortchanged (well not my brother, just me).  But seriously, we love the idea of being a champion yet some of us believe that it’s reserved for those high achievers in life.  What if we didn’t talk to our kids about being champions but instead gave them the tools to develop a champion mindset. You’re probably thinking: “What’s the difference?”

The problem is that our society has distorted the concept of championship. We focus on the outcome but not the hard work, sacrifice, and dedication it takes to be a champion. Most people who are champions are not slackers, or have a sense of entitlement. What they have is strong work ethics and a way of thinking that helps them to accomplish their goals.  If my sons have a champion attitude, imagine what they can do in life.

What do champions do differently?

  • They set priorities. 
  • They set realistic and attainable goals.
  • They have organized thought patterns.
  • They analyze their action plans. 
  • They trust their instincts.
  • They are intrinsically motivated.
  • They align their actions with their strengths and values.

Here are 5 tips that can help your son develop the mindset of a champion. Keep in mind your son’s temperament and level of motivation. Most champions are passionate about their work and dreams. You can use these tips to guide your son to doing his best for whatever he is most passionate about.

1. Pay Attention to the Details

Olympians do not wing it or make assumptions. They take into consideration their strengths and their weaknesses. They also do the same for their competitors. Besides the hours they spend practicing, they also review what they need to do to excel.  Help your son to pay attention to details by asking him open ended questions that utilize his critical thinking skills. For example, If your son failed his science test, ask him “What could you have done differently to pass this test?”   “What will you do to ensure you pass your next test?”

 

2. Avoid Negative Distractors

Our  kids have so many distractions, that it is easy to get sidetracked and lose focus. As adults, we know how social media or television can distract us, so imagine how much more challenging it is for kids. Keep your son focused by setting limits and helping him create a plan for work and for play. Get him tools that will help him to organize his time .

 

3. Envision Winning

This is pretty simple.  You don’t win by envisioning yourself losing. Help your son create a vision board for what he wants to achieve. Help him set short and long term goals. Olympians always have the end in mind.

 

4. Role Models and Mentors

Champions do not work alone. They have family, friends, coaches, and mentors that keep them motivated. In order for your son to excel, he needs to have a support system. Having a trusted mentor is one of the best resources for your son. A mentor can help him better understand his strengths and weaknesses.

 

5. Have Passion For What You’re Doing

One of the mistakes we make as parents is not paying attention to the difference between encouraging our sons to succeed and pushing our sons after they’ve lost passion for an activity or hobby.  When your child is no longer interested in something, forcing, bribing or threatening them to continue only creates a power struggle. It’s not about us, it’s about them. we have to help them identify if they have lost  their passion because they feel discouraged or they lost it because they develop new interests. Champions practice, study and work hard because they love what they do.

 

 

 

Mom, You’re a Bully

 

As we sit in frustration and horror about the bullying epidemic, we continue to look around for someone to blame. We point fingers at everyone and refuse to acknowledge that we all play a part in the bullying situation.

Our generation has started a bullying trend that is now out of control. Let me make this clear, EVERY child is involved in the bullying the situation, including my child. Our children are either the bully, the victim or the spectator. Even if you are sighing with relief that at least your child is not the bully or the victim, the tides turn quickly. Today’s bully can be tomorrow’s victim.  While we search for solutions, it’s important that we take a look at how we present ourselves in person and online. It’s unfortunate that people who are hurting have to anonymously attack others because they do not have the tools or resources to deal with their pain. However, as adults, when we take a stand against bullying, are we being sincere when we unjustly criticize a celebrity for their appearance?

It seems that yesterday’s “mean girl” has become today’s “mean mom”. Instead of teaching our sons and daughters how to resolve conflicts, we’re getting involved in these conflicts and sometimes even instigating more drama. Mom, stop trying to be cool and just take responsibility for your actions and your child’s behavior. Unless you plan on raising your child to be a reality tv star, then it’s time for an intervention.

Speaking of reality tv, it seems that almost every fake housewife on these shows engage in some form of bullying. Yet, it seems the bigger the bully, the better the reward (More exposure, endorsements, etc).

When adults post mean and hurtful pictures and comments, they send mixed messages to children. This is why the cycle continues.  If we want teens and kids to stop bullying each other, we all have to be mindful of what we say and share online. If we  don’t practice what we preach, our kids see us as hypocrites. We just publicly do “what is right” but forget that our kids also see the wrong we do in private.

Despite all the campaigns and prevention methods, we still have a growing bullying issue in our country. It takes more than sharing tweets and posts about bullying. It takes  being a model of  upstanders instead of bystanders. It takes speaking up about injustice. It takes you teaching your child to not just be a spectator. It takes you being accountable for your behavior and your speech. It takes you raising a critical thinker. It takes you having enough self-esteem to not make other people feel bad, so that you can feel good. It takes you teaching your child to be inclusive, not exclusive. It takes you reminding yourself and your child, that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

 

Photo Courtesy of M. Pratter

 

5 Healthy Habits to Teach Your Son

Imagine it is 15 years from now, what do you see your son doing with his life? To answer that question, you need to think about what your son is learning about life now.

1) Be of Service to Others

What will be your son’s legacy? His life defines who he is and the choices he makes will impact his the lives of others. Teach him to understand the power of his words and actions. Remind him that he was uniquely created to make a contribution to the world. Surround him with people who are supportive, positive and encouraging. Staying small and thinking small will not get him where he needs to be in life. Starting today, show him how to have a new perspective on life. He has to believe in his abilities and discover what he has to offer the world.

2) Love Unconditionally

When was the last time you loved without hesitation or caution? Withholding love is a means of control that only leads to distrust and resentment. Loving unconditionally means loving without judgment. Teach the following by being an example:

  • Allow yourself to love and be loved
  • Do not expect your needs and wants to be fulfilled by someone else.
  • Allow those you love to express themselves without fear of rejection.
  • Do not punish yourself or loved ones for past mistakes.
  • Be responsible in how you show love.

3) Do the Impossible

Think it can’t happen; then it won’t. Tell your son the following:

  • Learn from failures and take responsibility for your life.
  • Listening to your inner critic can sabotage your dreams.
  • Dream big and be excited about your future.

4) Be Grateful for Opportunities

Everyday your son is given many opportunities. Some may go unnoticed. Help him to recognize the simple little blessings that come his way daily. Give him a strong foundation on which to build his faith. His life will be more rewarding when he is aware of how much he has to be grateful.

5) Take Healthy Risks

Don’t allow fear of failure to dictate your son’s life. Fear inhibits success. Everything in life involves a risk. Your son will limit himself if he doesn’t step out of what is safe, comfortable and familiar. It is important that he is curious about life. Help him to develop strategies to deal with rejection and disappointment..

By encouraging your son to develop healthy habits, you are giving him the tools he needs to have positive experiences in life.

 

 

Could You be Raising a Misogynist?

I know a mom who frequently says how much she doesn’t like women or girls. She believes that her way of thinking is fine because she has raised boys. Unfortunately, she has also raised misogynists. What she failed to realize is that in all her years of making negative comments about women and creating an environment of distrust and disrespect for women, she has conditioned her sons to share in her belief.

Raising a Misogynist

A misogynist is a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts, or mistreats women. Despite your best efforts to teach your son to respect, like and trust women, you may inadvertently be conditioning him to have misogynistic views of women. We often forget that children don’t remember so much what we say, but what we do.  Boys learn as much from their mothers as they do their fathers. As moms, we are as responsible as fathers for influencing our son’s views on the opposite sex. If you’re thinking, “There’s no way, I’m raising my son to be a misogynist”,  see if you behave in the following ways:

1- You use derogatory terms in reference to other women. Before you say, “I’m just joking when I say that” or “All women say that”, let me correct you, not all women do it. If the word “bitch” seems to fly off your tongue for any minor infraction from another women, you are showing your son that it is fine to disrespect women when they piss you off. Don’t be surprised when your 7 year old calls his sister a “bitch” for breaking his toy.

2-You send him mixed messages about respect. You reprimand your son about respecting you but he witnesses men disrespecting you and you accepting it. If you’re being unauthentic in how you present yourself to your son, he will see through it. You are your son’s teacher and mentor. How you conduct yourself teaches him what he should think about women. By giving men permission to disrespect or mistreat you, you’re also giving your son permission to do the same to women. If you want your son to respect women, he needs to see mutual respect in the relationships with other males in your life.

3-You don’t value your own and other women’s contribution-There’s nothing noble or honorable about playing small in the world. When your son sees you downplaying your greatness or your hard work, he learns to believe that what women contribute is insignificant or unimportant. Expose him to nontraditional activities so that he has a better understanding of the different roles we have in the world as women.

4-You teach him to have an overinflated sense of entitlement-You can’t teach your son that he is entitled to respect and love without having to be respectful or loving. As moms, we are often consumed by the need to provide our sons with “perfect love”. What we fail to realize is that in offering “perfect love”, we are conditioning our sons to believe they are entitled to this kind of love. He has to learn that in life what he puts out into the world, he gets back. He won’t be able to engage in meaningful, loving and mutually respectful relationship with women, if he is so self-centered, that he can not give of himself.

5-You’re intolerant of other women-If you dismiss women who do not behave or think like you, you are presently a narrow view of women to your son. If you’re highly critical of other women, your son will be too. I’m not saying that you have to surround yourself with women who you clearly have nothing in common with, but do not feed into the negative stereotype of women as being conniving, superficial, emotionally unstable or fragile.  We have different experiences in life, so it’s important to not be quick to judge other women based on a limited perspective.

Your son will be exposed to various messages about women through media, music and other boys and men in his community. It is imperative that we as mothers do our best to dispel many of the myths about women our sons are learning. Instead of teaching gender differences at an early age, we need to teach gender acceptance and tolerance.

Are You Losing Your Compassion?

Compassion RGM

I recently signed up for a course that focus on compassion. At first, you may think “Why would someone need to learn compassion?” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less compassionate and empathetic to the needs of others. This change in me has been subtle. Over the years, the person who cared too much has become the person who cares a little.  I noticed a bubbling of apathy when someone shared a story that in the past would have compelled me to take action. I slowly was becoming a rigid and polarized thinker.

This awareness was brought to light as I looked at my life through my sons’ eyes. As the parent of a teen and a toddler, I have a varying perspective of my role. To my toddler, I am the person to emulate; to my teen I am the person to scrutinize. So as I live my life as a daily segment of ABC’s ‘What Would You Do?’, I am challenged to confront my growing apathy towards human suffering.

When I first started on this journey, I was critical and defensive of this awareness. I pacified my thoughts by telling myself, “You care.” You’re a nice person.” “You have manners.” However, none of this reflects true compassion and empathy. Yes, the little things I do every day matter, however to whom I  show compassion is more telling of my character. Was I more compassionate towards a person or situation when I could relate to it?

Being on social media made it easy for me to appear compassionate. It’s easy to tweet or post something that makes others feel good but to extend service to another in need is the power of compassion. Human suffering is universal but our compassion towards those suffering can be limited.

The recent killing of unarmed teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has brought the bubbling racial tension in our country to a boiling point.  In recent cases of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, I’ve witnessed how others are quick to judge, villify and condemn these three unarmed young men as thugs. I bet some of these people who posted hateful and racist messages would consider themselves “good, caring people.” Yet, they can not relate to the pain of particular group of people because of their perception of that group.

How about when we see violence in Gaza, Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Ukraine? Do we recognize and acknowledge the pain of parents who lost their children or children who lost their parents? Are we indifferent to their suffering because they are not like us?

What about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Do the videos you inspire to donate to the ALS Association? Or are you complaining about having to see these videos on your stream? Anthony Carbajal  shared a moving and honest video about what it’s like for him to live with ALS and his family history which includes his mom and grandmother.

What does compassion mean to you and how does it show up in your daily life? How do you respond when you hear or see the suffering of those who are different from you?

Compassion is easy to talk about but challenge to live by.  It requires that we practice forgiveness of ourselves and others. Compassion moves us out of our comfort zone and forces us to put aside our prejudices, our anger in order to be of service to others. Through compassion, we learn to love unconditionally and we learn to take baby steps towards the concept of humanity.

I’m seeing a positive change in myself and I hope it is reflected in my sons’ actions and behavior. For me, compassion means that I will practice listening more than speaking, that I will practice being patient and understanding, especially with difficult people.  My intention is not to become a compassionate person but rather a person who practices compassion. The best gift I can give my sons to not let them think I am so strong that I can not fall or fail.The best gift I can give them is to teach them to have compassion for self and others.

Photo: AsAlexander/Flickr

Ten Things Your Son Wants to Hear From You

RedHeart

1. I Love You, No Matter What

Let your son know you love him unconditionally. Emphasize that he does not need to be good, successful, or smart for you to love him.

2. I Respect You

Your son deserves respect too. You will teach your son a lot about respecting other people’s values and boundaries, when you show him respect. Mutual respect is key to a strong relationship with your son.

3. I’m Here For You

Be supportive in his decisions, as long as it is not something that will cause him harm. There are many adults living with resentment and regret because their parents did not support their dreams and goals.

4. I Am Listening

Listen without judgement or criticism. Listen with out self-referencing.  You don’t need to relate or like what he is saying. Just listen.

5. You Brighten My Day!

Let your son know how much joy he brings into your life. Show him that he is a blessing.

6. I Believe in You

Tell him what unique qualities you admire. Support his strengths, dreams and goals.

7. Tell Me More

Be inquisitive in a good way. Show enthusiasm when he is speaking. Use your tone and body language to show you are paying attention. Be curious about what he is saying.

8. I Want To Understand

Let your son know when you do not understand what he is going through. Ask him to explain and elaborate. Don’t jump to conclusions and attack his character.

9. Thank You!

Show gratitude for the little things. Thank him for helping out.

10. Let Me Help You

Your son may not always ask for help, even if he needs it. If your son needs help, be there with your love and encouragement.