I love my kids. Yet the degree to which I shelter my kids from life's challenges, or do things to make life easier for them, is not necessarily a measure of my love. I've found that loving and letting go, witnessing failure and despair, and withholding my opinions and advice can be extremely hard. Yet doing this with kindness and support shows my kids that I am there for them and that I trust in their abilities, that failure is OK, and that they are capable of getting back up again. By no means do I excel in this - it is a continuous practice.
The recent college admission scandal brings up many thoughts on today’s parenting challenges. My recent column in Jackson Hole News & Guide is the first in a biweekly four-part series that explores our deep love for our kids, anxieties we may have about their future and how we can help our kids to grow into thriving adults.
What thoughts do you have about the college admissions scandal? Are there areas where you could let go a bit and hand over some of the reins to your kids? I know there are for me!
Read my latest article in Jackson Hole News & Guide to ponder these ideas more - and check out my newest class "Raising an Adult" if you want to explore these ideas in your family.
During my kids' school spring break my family and I spent five days backpacking through canyons of Escalante National Monument in Utah. We car-camped the night before our trip, and the minute we got out of the car to unload our gear, I felt the layers shed from all of us. A feeling of freedom and levity filled the air. The next day, as we descended into the canyon toward the Escalante River, the de-layering continued - the stressors of daily life slipped away. We laughed, reconnected, became playful. We all came back into ourselves.
Often I feel at best as a parent when I am away from home with my family. Read my latest article in Jackson Hole News & Guide where I ponder how we can retain our strong family bonds even while we are immersed in the busyness of our daily lives at home.
Rarely do we talk about the challenging reactions and experiences we have as parents - yet we all have them! We worry that we will be judged, but we might feel more connected if we share our stories - both the good and the bad. Just as we laugh together at the crazy antics of our kids, we can also lend a listening ear and support one another when we are at our wit's end. Sometimes it's nice to hear these words from another parent: "I know, I've been there".
Read my latest article in Jackson Hole News & Guide to dive deeper into the idea that we all have hard times as parents, and wouldn't we feel more supported if we felt like we were all in it together?
I was talking with a friend the other day about raising kids. We discussed how we as parents, myself included, can get triggered by our kids' behaviors and strong emotions. Many of us grew up with parents telling us to stifle our emotional responses - the real feelings we had to certain situations. Now that we have kids of our own, we find it hard to be around our kids when they express their true feelings in strong ways. Some of us grew up with parents who had strong emotional reactions of their own. They yelled or had otherwise angry outbursts. And some, like my friend, grew up with parents who never yelled.
How we were parented impacts how we parent. There is nothing wrong with us - or our parents. Living with another person whether they are 3, 13, or 23 can be challenging - especially if they don't play by the ordered, rational adult world we are used to. It is normal for us to feel triggered. Yet reacting strongly to these triggers does nothing to maintain a strong relationship or teach our kids how to manage their strong emotions.
What is it you need to maintain calm so that you can respond to your kids and give them what they need in the moment? Read my latest article in Jackson Hole News&Guide to dive deeper into the idea that the first step in responding to our kids has to do with us - the parents.
There have been countless times as a parent when I have thrown my hands up in the air with no idea of how to respond to my kids in certain situations. I often find myself turning to parenting books or online articles looking for ideas, but I can sometimes leave feeling more confused than when I started. The articles, often backed by evidence give me great ideas in theory, but don't always help me when I'm in the trenches with my individual kids, my individual triggers, and our individual interactions.
My latest article published in Jackson Hole News and Guide talks about parenting styles: strict, permissive, uninvolved, and authoritative. Parenting styles are determined by the balance of support you give and expectations you have for your kids - or the balance between how responsive and demanding you are. Research shows that kids who are parented in an authoritative way are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, report less depression and anxiety, do better in school, and score better on measures of self-esteem.
But how do we get there? What does "authoritative" parenting look like in my individual situation?
Read more in the Jackson Hole News and Guide.
JACKSON HOLE NEWS & GUIDE: In my last column I talked about the simplicity of being present with our kids. Simple, yet not so simple.
Simple when there is ease in the situation and our interaction. Simple when we are having fun together, sharing an activity or cooperating on responsibilities.
Not so simple when there is a power struggle, whining, talking back, not doing what we ask, dilly-dallying, or any other hair-raising behavior from our child. So what do we do in those times when it is not so simple?
Many of the problems we have in our parenting lives involve what we might call “discipline issues,” in which we feel we need to correct or change our children’s “bad” or challenging behavior. When I ask parents in my classes what they think of when we talk about discipline, the two most popular responses are timeouts and punishment, but the root of the word means to teach.
Read more in the Jackson Hole News and Guide.
JACKSON HOLE NEWS & GUIDE: I have a folder in my computer files titled “What kids need.”
In it I file articles and research papers that talk about children’s outcomes given certain experiences. Along with the linear part of my brain that so wants a formula for parenting, some day I might dig through and synthesize those files to create the “Manifesto on Parenting.”
Obviously I haven’t quite let go of my desire for a formula, despite my Oct. 10 column, “There is no formula you can use to parent.”... Read more here.
I will admit: my kids’ use of digital media is a trigger for me. I’m not sure why – there were periods in my childhood where I watched 4 hours of TV a day. Still, I see my kids walking around the house or sitting on the couch plugged into their devices and it’s all I can do to hold back my judgment and nagging. What I’ve come to realize with much practice and patience is twofold: 1) our children’s use of technology affords them many learning experiences beyond what is immediately at hand, and 2) having clear and firm boundaries around their use preserves the relationship I have with my kids. Ok… there’s a third: I have to keep my use of digital media in check too... Read the full article published in Getting Smart and Education Week.
JACKSON HOLE NEWS & GUIDE: Ask yourself these questions: When was the last time you took a risk or tried something that was beyond your comfort zone? Did you dive right in, start by testing the waters, precisely measure all the angles or shy away from it altogether? What was the outcome of how you approached that challenge, and how did you feel about yourself after?
The level of confidence we feel determines how we answer such questions.
Confidence is a belief in our ability to take risks, overcome challenges, and find mastery or success - even, and especially, after failure. While this article in the JH Woman's section of Jackson Hole News & Guide focuses on girls, many of the ideas about confidence apply to boys as well.... Read more here.
JACKSON HOLE NEWS & GUIDE: When I became a parent and my firstborn hit the age of having a will of his own, I wanted a formula on how to parent.
I had been a wildlife research biologist. I took calculus in high school and college. My mind likes linear rules. Formulas are nice and easy. A+B=C. Parenting books and research articles on child development talk this way: Certain ways of parenting are correlated with certain positive outcomes in children. The science was there, so give me the formula. I soon realized two things: Children don’t know the formula and parenting is messy.... Read more here