10 Steps to Teaching Responsibility and a Peaceful Household

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I had a very interesting conversation with some parents a little bit ago.  They came over for dinner and heard me ask my child to do the dishes.  Their jaws dropped! 

“You have him do the dishes?!” They asked in astonishment. 

“Yes.  He has chores around the house.” 

“Wait.  He has more than doing the dishes?  What else does he have to do?”

“Oh, clean his room and bathroom, feed the animals, pick up the dog poop, and fold and put away his laundry.”

“I think that is too much! He is a kid.  Kids should be out playing and being creative.  Their job is school and that is where it should end.”

To which I graciously responded.  “You are right.  He is a kid.  For this short time, I have him, I am responsible for teaching him how the real world works.  I have a full-time job as well.  Then I teach him home school and take care of his social and health obligations.  My house still needs cleaning, the laundry still needs to be done, and the dishes still need to be cleaned.  Simply because I have a job that does not change the responsibilities at home.  We have chosen to teach our son that as a family who resides in the same household, we all have responsibilities and must contribute.”

They sat in contemplative silence for the next five minutes and then agreed.

So, how do you teach responsibilities?  What is too much?  Where is the balance?  Here are 10 easy steps to taking the work out of teaching work responsibilities. 

1)      Whose Responsibility? It is important to not just teach how chores are done but whose responsibility things are.  For example, as a kid, I learned multiple instruments.  If I forgot my instrument for band practice, I was not allowed to call my parents to bring it for me.  They had full-time jobs as well.  I remember my mother saying to us when we forgot our homework/backpack/coat/instrument/etc. “Whose homework? Whose responsibility?”  Boy, did we hate hearing that!  She was right.  We do our children no favors when we come in to save the day every time they mess up and forget.  This does not mean never be that hero (life circumstance often teaches us we need help from others), but we should not make it the norm.  Let them learn and grow.

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2)      Chores, Chores, Chores:  No one likes chores.  Don’t fool yourself. You don’t even like chores.  They are a part of life, that also teaches us to work ethic, responsibility, and diligence.  Check out the downloadable document below on Age Appropriate Chores for Children published in 2013 for a place to start. (Thank you, Pastor Lisa for making this great resource available.).  Remember, each child is different and has different needs.  This is just a guideline. We also introduced one chore at a time so our son could perfect before he got overwhelmed.

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3)      Planning: Weekly I try to get some idea of the menu for the week.  Or at least when I get the grocery shopping done.  Sometimes, I am just out of ideas.  This is a great place to have children help and teach responsibility.  Let your kids help plan (and cook) a meal.  They will love being involved and usually will like to eat what they make (for you picky eaters out there).  Let them help at the grocery store.  Teach them how to pick produce, how to get the cheapest item or the best quality for your money.  Give them a budget for their “impulse buys” they will undoubtedly ask for it. Start the conversation on money and taking care of the groceries – a life skill they will need for the rest of their lives.

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4)      Kids Help Kids: For those with multiple children, use this opportunity to develop leadership.  Let older kids help younger kids learn things like how to tie shoes, or send them on an errand together to pick something up.  Kids learn a lot from older siblings and teammates.  Use this to teach generationally.

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5)      Play-dates: I know it is really easy to want to be present at all playdates all the time.  But this is just no necessary.  It is ok and good to leave your children with a trusted adult.  If you trust the parent, and it is age-appropriate, leave your child to have fun without you.  This helps build confidence in children.  Knowing Mom and Dad trust you to make good choices without them is empowering to them.  But more importantly, it gives them real-world experiences.  Not one house is the same, not one human is the same.  This opens the door to some really wonderful conversations.

6)      Volunteer: Generation Z is known for a passion for social justice.  But, they are also known for not following through.  They were taught the issues and a passion was ignited.  But they were not taught the practicality of the hard work, critical thinking, and diligence it takes to make a change.  Simply posting a meme on social media does not change make.  Teaching volunteering gets to the root of this problem. Volunteering showcases need, teaches work ethic, dependability, and commitment.  It also allows the first-hand experience of need, bureaucracy, and politics.  All those things play large roles in adult life.  Teaching volunteering at a young age starts a healthy foundation for these areas that can easily become toxic later if not healthy discussed.

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7)      Students keep track of their own work and test: It is great to know about your child’s schoolwork.  But their work is not your work.  You already went to school.  You already know it.  Don’t do their work for them.  Set them up to succeed.  We use this great Student Smart Planner Academic Planner (I use the Wordsworth Goal Setting Planner for myself) for our home school (it has places for long term projects, schedules, grade tracking, and monthly and weekly calendars).  For younger kids, this is a great planner as well. For those in school, we used a checklist morning and night for our son to know what was needed each morning and what was completed. 

8)      Organize your own schedule: Today in America we are socially judged by the number of activities our child is in.  We are told kids need perfect grades and extracurriculars out the ears to get to college. Our kids are tired, stressed out, and overwhelmed.  A great documentary on this is Race to Nowhere.  Let’s give our children the power to decide what extracurriculars they do – if any.  Some kids might need extra time for school.  Some kids might want three or four a week.  Some might just want to do one thing they can learn to do really well.  Let’s stop making Jack-of-all-trades-and-masters-of-none.

9)      Independent Thinkers: Kids need to learn how to think – not just memorize facts.  Set them to succeed in this by encouraging independent and critical thinking.  Let them learn about themselves and how they learn.  ReadTheory helps kids in reading comprehension, Learning Styles is a great place to learn about how your child learns.  When you know how you learn, you equip yourself with the ability to better learn the more difficult skills and academics.

10)   Entertain Yourself: You are a parent – not a Hollywood movie star or singer-songwriter.  You were charged with raising compassionate, intelligent children into wonderful adults.  You were not charged with being your child’s friend, entertainment, and all-around everything.  Release yourself of that stress.  Teach you, child, to entertain themselves.  This is critically important to brain development, social play, and creative and critical thinking.  It is also entertaining to you as a parent to see what they come up with.

Starting Home School? Here Are 10 Great Curriculums

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This week I have had a significant amount of requests to discuss homeschool.  Questions like “How do you homeschool while working?  What curriculum do you use? How do you socialize your child?” and so many more have poured int.  I will not answer all of them here (in August I will be focusing on the daily tricks for homeschoolers).  Today I will focus on curriculums.

With changes in education due to COVID-19, a lot of parents are really considering homeschool.    It is not an easy choice (even without the pandemic).  If you are anything like me, you wonder if you will be a good enough teacher?  Will your child fall behind in academics, social skills, and emotional development?

The good news is there is so much good news! 

Homeschooling is not new to the world.  In fact, for most of human history, parents taught children or tutors came to houses (if you could afford it).  You know your child better than anyone, so you know where they struggle the most and where they can just breeze through.  You can essentially create your own IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for each of your children.  As my mom used to say, we have “different children with different needs.”

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  SOCIALIZATION

The first major concern is socialization.  I get that.  It was a big one for me.  I will talk more about that next month.  For those who have worked with me in editing or social media marketing, you know how much I value data.  I have even used data in helping with behavior challenges with my own kid

As any good data analysis would do, the first thing I did in answering that question was to track how much socialization my child actually got in school (note, this was done when my son was in elementary school).  My son left the house at 7:30 on a bus and came back at 3:00.  When I learned he was not allowed to talk on the bus, I removed any transportation time from the social component.  Lunch was 20 minutes and the recess was 15.  There was no talking allowed in hallways.  And interactive work with children in the classroom had significantly declined – other than 1 class project a week, my son was learning next to and not with his peers.  Taking all that into consideration, as well as really speaking with his teachers, my son was really only allowed to socialized 30 to 45 minutes a day.  With home school, that increases so much with play dates, co-ops, small groups, sports, and so much more. 

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 CURRICULUMS

There are so many curriculums out there.  And the best part of home school, is you do not have to pick and choose.  If your child is a verbal learner, there are curriculums for that.  A visual learner?  There are curriculums for that.  Learns kinesthetically?  There are curriculums for that.  There are so many, we actually mix and match for our son.

As a researcher at heart, I spent six months reviewing and researching curriculums prior to starting homeschool.  Here are some we use, why we use them, and some we don’t but think are pretty great.  Many of the below have Facebook groups, local co-ops, and more for additional help and socialization for the kids.

1.       Time4Learning***: They are relatively inexpensive with a monthly fee of $25.00 and a military discount.  They also use a refer a friend program that helps decrease expenses.  This is a DOD approved national standard-based curriculum.  This is a great curriculum for kids with special needs.

This is our foundational curriculum.  This is great for military families that move a lot because it is national standards and teaches to that.  They have 4 foundational courses (math, science, social science, and language arts). Their curriculum is interactive, game, and video-based teaching a variety of methods to problem-solving.  They also have built-in Time4Fun (recess of fun games) and the app is mobile so it can be done anywhere.

As I work from home, and reports are due to the school district, I particularly like the freedom this curriculum gives me to work.  It has so many tools for reports (attendance, duration in class, scores, etc.)  It allows me to input the amount of time a week, length of the school year, and pick and choose what I think is appropriate for the mental development of my child.  It then plans the school year for me allowing to change the plan at any time to add in breaks, modify curriculum, and more.

This curriculum also allows my son to have a bit more control of his learning by giving weekly or daily assignments and checklists.

2.       Easy Peasy: This is a completely FREE (yes, FREE) curriculum.  They recommend a once-yearly $15.00 donation, but even without the donation, you can still use the curriculum.  This is a Christian based curriculum. This has all basic subjects as well as Bible, computer, PE, music, Art, Critical Thinking and so much more.  They offer Spanish as a language for middle school.  (Time4Learning does offer Rosetta stone at any level, but it costs a bit more). This is our supplemental program. 

This curriculum also has cash prize contests for writing and science.  For those who want to simulate science fairs and excellent writing, this is a great way to help develop those skills with a great incentive!

3.       Adventure Academy:  This is a fun exploration web-based learning curriculum.  They allow the learner to take some control of their learning process.  I have not used this curriculum, but I like what is offered.  This allows for a more social learning environment by allowing the learner to create their own aviator and work with other online learners.  They are currently having a sale of 49% off the subscription – which drops this curriculum down to approximately $10.00 a month.  It is super fun!  This is interactive and has a lot of visual components. 

4.       Abeka: Based out of Pensacola Christian College, Pensacola, FL, this Christian based curriculum is used throughout the country and states both in homeschool and private schools.  This curriculum has all basic foundation classes, reading, and Bible.  They offer video lessons and standardized testing!  Depending on your state requirements, that can be an essential factor.  This one is more expensive ($100s to over a grand a year and increases with each grade).  HOWEVER, they offer flexible pricing, accredited contents, and for those in high school, a DIPLOMA.  That diploma will essential for those military families using the GI bill for their kids. 

5.       Classical Conversations: The basis of this Christian based curriculum based out of Southern Pines, NC is trifold: Classical, Christian, Community.  The community that comes along with this curriculum is great for those worried about socialization. As you move to high school, the success on the SAT and ACT for those who use this curriculum is high.  For middle school and high school, they offer trained tutors once a week.  This is a great curriculum for kids with special needs! This curriculum grows both the social community and the independent investment for kids.  If you are a working parent, the requirement for in-person get-togethers may be a challenge, but definitely worth looking at.  If you cannot due the community part, you can still access their bookstore with great resources!

6.       Liberty University Online Academy: This Christian based curriculum is fantastic.  This one is pricey, but offers family discounts, military discounts, and payment plans.  They offer structured and customizable learning plans, around the clock access to the curriculum and certified teachers.  This curriculum does offer dual enrollment for up to 60 college credits.  This is something to consider if your state does not offer this.  Dual enrollment has the ability to let your child graduate high school with an associate degree as well!  This curriculum also allows your student to graduate with a diploma recognized nationwide!

7.       Duoling: This is not a curriculum, but a FREE learning resource.  This teaches almost any language with an interactive online environment.  Learning a language at a young age can help with communication, critical thinking, and socialization.  This free program sends weekly progress reports and daily reminders to practice.  With built in incentives of rewards and trophies (much like a video game), this allows your child to move at their own pace.  We do use this, but we do not grade our son on this.   

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8.       Supplemental Learning: I am an avid reader and believe, like Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln, that learning is done through reading. For those of you who follow my son’s amazing history, you know reading taught him to speak.  In addition to the above, we incorporate state level reading into our year.  This is approximately ten books a year.  The book is read, a paper is written and a project is done.  Projects have included everything from building Lego diagrams and book reports to writing a play.  This is usually a month-long process, so my son learns how to executive plan at the same time.  

9.       Unschooling: This is a relatively new idea.  This allows teaching children based on their interests and not following a curriculum.  This is often termed “natural learning” or “independent learning.”  This is not a curriculum, not a method, but a way of looking at children and life.  A great example of this is the movie Captain Fantastic about a family that homeschooled their children in the wood.  (Do not watch this with your young kids; this is rated R and has adult themes).  This type of “curriculum” is an opportunity for you as a parent to educate your child in the way you think is best. 

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10.   Tutors: Yes, tutors still exist. They are also great resources throughout the education of your child. A quick google search will generate thousands of results for tutors near you.  A lot of homeschool curriculums offer tutors, but if you choose one without that and need one for your child, this is a great resource to consider.  Prices will range with each depending on course work, grade level, frequency and more. This is a great resource to have in your back pocket as your children get older as well.

The best part about homeschooling is that it is fluid.  What works for one child might not work for another.  What worked one year might not work the next.  There are so many options out there.  You do not need to feel stuck in one curriculum ever.  Do what works for your family.

Know too, that this is a change for your family.  Anticipate growing pains for everyone.  Give yourself GRACE.  No one expects you to be perfect.  We don’t expect teachers who go to school for years of getting trained to do this to be perfect.  Teaching your kids will be hard (teaching anyone is).  I have a teacher friend who once told me, “I love teaching, but there is NO WAY I could teach my own kids.”  That is a teacher.  Teaching your children is not without challenges.  But, picking a curriculum should not be one of them.

 Go forth in decision knowing you are not alone.  There are tons of communities out there to help.  Reach out to me anytime.  I would love to know how I can be of better service.

*****As a member of Time4Learning, I have been given the opportunity to review their program and share my experiences. While I was compensated, this review was not written or edited by Time4Learning and my opinion is entirely my own. For more information, check out their standards-based curriculum or learn how to write your own curriculum review.

6 Steps to the Right Balance of Independence and Growth

"Nothing is #impossible the word itself says I'm possible." #AudreyHepburn
“Nothing is impossible the word itself says I’m possible.” – Audrey Hepburn

What do toddlers, pre-teens, and teens all have in common?

They cry out for independence.  “Don’t help me!” “I can do it myself!”  “I’m not your little girl/boy anymore!”

Sound familiar? 

They are not wrong.  Kids can do so much more that we think they can.  So how do we know when to step in and when to let failure happen? How do you teach accountability and responsibility to children who think they know it all already?  Here are 6 tips I use in my household.

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1.       Pick your battles:  I hate messes.  Call it a pet-peeve or OCD or what you like, but I like a clean, neat and tidy home.  My siblings (sorry guys) growing up and kiddo now, have other ideas of what home should feel like.  I learned early on as a parent, to pick my battles with my very strong-willed* child.  Now, when the room doesn’t get cleaned, I shut the door (out of sight out of mind) and my kid knows he doesn’t get to watch TV, play video games, play outside, create anything until the chores are done.  It has created a much more harmonious environment.

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2.       Offer Choices:  When I was younger, my parents divided chores by age (ignored gender rules).  Occasionally they would re-arrange as family dynamics changed.  I liked this.  But recently came across a “Chore Market.”  (This works very similar to Silent Butler). What is that?  Much like the Stock Market, a Chore Market is when your children bid on chores they will do.  The catch?  Lowest bid wins and that is now their allowance. This is a great way to start teaching financial responsibility, family responsibility, work ethic, and start the conversation on investments as they get older.

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3.       Provide Flexibility:  Flexibility is a key to success.  This prevents kids from thinking they must be perfect all the time.  Perfection can be rehabilitating.  So, teach flexibility with deadlines.  One of my favorite practices in home school is offering a Fun Friday – this is a five-week school scheduled offered to be completed in four days, at their pace.  We do not set days for subjects to be taught, my son gets a weekly schedule and he can finish it at his own pace.  Some very motivated weeks, he does two weeks in one, and some weeks there is carry over to Fun Friday.  But, he has the flexibility to finish his tasks as he needs.

Japan’s Independent Kids

4.       Support Growth: This one is hard.  We always want to be the protection for our kids.  It is nature.  Reality is – we will not always be there for our kids.  We must support them.  When I was five, my mom took me on a mile walk from my house to my kindergarten class.  That was it.  After that walk, I was on my own for getting to and from school.  As my younger siblings joined, I became responsible for them as well.  Different times, I know.  But, really, not all that different.  Teaching kids how to play in the neighborhood, get to and from school, and ultimately fail at school or chores teaches independence and that we are all human and make mistakes.  

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5.       Encourage healthy risk:  My son loves to cook!  But, he is also easily distracted.  But, when he asked to learn to cook his own breakfast at age seven, who was I to stop him?  So, he learned (first very closely supervised) how to make his own eggs.  This has now become gourmet eggs, sausage, and fruit in the morning.  After six months (I could have let go of the reigns sooner), he took over his own breakfast.  He knows makes all his meals except our family dinner.  But he also catches our family dinner often – taking responsibility for providing for our family.

Einstein was a Failure?

6.       Embrace Mistakes: We are not perfect!  Your kid will be less perfect than you.  Embrace the mistake.  Everyone spills milk.  Everyone burns a dish here and there.  Everyone skips to the back of the book at least once for the answers.  The trick is not to dwell on the negative and failure but to use that to encourage growth and learning.  As Einstein put it so well, “Failure is success in progress.”

Our kids are miraculous beings.  Our job is to help them see that – without inflating their ego. Finding a balance between independence and responsibility is hard.  But possible. The more we practice these steps the easier they become.  The more we encourage independence in a healthy way, the more our children will learn problem-solving, critical thinking, and fundamentals of life. 

How have you found this balance? What has worked?  What has failed? 

RESOURCES:

*If you have a strong-willed child, like mine, I really found Parenting a Strong-Willed Child: The Clinically Proven 5 week for parents of 2 to 6-year-olds by Rex Forehand and Nicholas Long to be very insightful.

5 Tips for Teaching Kids to Be More Independent

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COVID-19 has brought parents and children of all ages closer together than ever before.  Working from home while being parent, teacher, entertainment, psychologist, and a doctor can be overwhelming and exhausting. 

Parents are tired. Parents are short-tempered.  Parents are at the end of their rope.

How do we move from exhausted to active parents?  We teach #independence.

According to a Psychology Today article, the difference between independent children and contingent children is simple. Contingent children are dependent on others for how they feel and think.  Independent children believe themselves to be capable and competent themselves. 

How do we set our children up for this success?

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1.       Evaluate: Take stock of your situation.  How old is your child?  What environment are they in (sibling versus only child)? What age grouping is in the house? What abilities do they have?  What are the limitations?  How much time do you have to spend on a task?  Are you doing more as a parent than is needed?  Take honesty inventory of where you are as a family. Make sure all parents are on board.  This will fail if one or the other does not support the new plan.

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2.       Target Priorities: If this is a new change for you, it would be really easy to give all the tasks over to the child right away.  I caution you away from this.  This will fail.  Target your priorities focusing on one thing at a time.  A younger child should focus on things like getting dressed on their own (yes, let them pick their own clothes and dress themselves) and brush their teeth.  Young elementary should focus on things like cleaning their room and cleaning up their messes. Older children can learn how to do laundry, do the dishes, sweep and mop.  (Later this month we will talk more about chores).

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3.       Forget perfection: You will always do the chores in your house better than your child.  You have had years more practice.  This is not the time to point out all the flaws and imperfections.  Use this as teachable moments.  If milk spills, teach how to clean up and remind the child it happens to everyone.  They put the dish in the wrong place, remind them where it goes without criticism.  The time for constructive criticism is when they have been working on the task and “mastered” it; not while they learn it.

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4.       Praise Something – but not everything: Teaching responsibility is hard.  It is even harder on the child who thinks all a parent does is point out the failings. Praise goes a long way.  Authentic appreciation goes a long way. Americans, in particular, believe that we get praised for everything. A trophy for participation.  An “A” for effort.  But this leads to self-entitlement and arrogance.  When we praise everything, praise means less.  Praise success.  Praise hard work.  Those things will get repeated.  This positive re-enforcement will help with accountability, responsibility, and follow through as you increase the workload or the difficulty of the task.

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5.       Circumstance Matters: Sick, tired, stressed affect adults’ quality and production. Expected this from our children too.  Let them take a day off if they need it.  Help out with a task if they need it.  Don’t rush to solve minor problems.  Let them problem solve.  Give them a chance to figure out a solution.  This shows them you have faith in their ability. 

Independence is essential to becoming a productive adult.  Our job as parents is to raise kids into quality members of society.  We will not always be there for our kids.  Let’s use this time to teach them they are capable of. Let’s teach them they are confident.  Let’s teach them it’s ok to fail, but not quit.  Let’s teach them perfection is not the goal – success is the goal.

Sensory Survival to Independence Day

Fireworks.  Cotton candy.  Music to pull on the heartstrings.  Smiles. Parades. 

This is the time of year, in America, we celebrate #freedom, #independence, and #liberty. For most, this is a time of celebration and joy. Independence Day is the very core of what it means to be American.  It means freedom.  It means prevailing over adversity.  It’s a celebration of the rights we have today because men and women decided the prevailing government systems of the world were incomplete and inadequate.  We celebrate the recognition of human rights for the first time in history.  We celebrate a government by the people, for the people. 

On the other hand…

Crowds. Loud noises.  Booms so big you feel them rattle your bones.  This holiday is full of intense sensory overload children (and some adults) have a tough time navigating around.

It is hard to enjoy a celebration that is designed with everything that makes one feel out of place. 

We want to ensure our family experiences all the same things as any other child.  But we want it to be enjoyable – for everyone.  My family believes the world will not bend to the needs of our family, so we must find a way to adapt.

So how do we get through this wonderful holiday in one piece? 

I asked my son this very question and here are his tips and tricks to succeed.

1.       Bring Headphones: One of the most valuable tools in our toolbox for this holiday is headphones.  We keep extra earplugs in our cars for those who need them and forget about them.  Headphones help dampen the noise-making this more enjoyable for our son.  We bring these with us to theme parks, movie theatres, parades and the like.  There are tons to choose from.  We have found, that as our son grows, his preference and needs change.  So here is a list of the 10 top headphones for travel that I think you will find useful.

2.       Snacks:  But sensory is often processed through taste.  Snacks are essential to enjoying any celebration.  Food brings people together and encourages fellowship.  It often allows for the processing of sensory throughout the body.  We like mints throughout regular days.  But, for events like this, snacks with a crunch are great.  We usually bring some form of water (we like to flavor it with either lemon or Axio – which helps with focus), some vegetable chips or caramel-covered apples, and maybe a nice fruit dessert to cool down during the hot humid night.

Enjoying the show from afar

3.       Watch in your car: We have celebrated Independence Day in large and small cities across the country.  We have usually found a great way to limit crowds and sensory overload is watching the show in your car.  We have a hatchback that allows us to lift up the back and watch in the comfort of our trunk.  This keeps the loud noises, massive booms, and crowds at a minimum.  We enjoy the show and have the ability to leave before the masses exit (I hate traffic) and avoid the crowds.  With an increase in #COVID-19 cases across the south, this little tip is one of my favorites for health and wellness.

4.       Blankets and masks: If you cannot watch the show from the safety of your car, bring a large blanket for the picnic and remember your mask.  The blanket will act as a natural barrier from other groups.  The masks will be added needed protection against the virus.  Of course, you can always stay home and enjoy the show from your home (if you are close enough) or watch a broadcast of the show on television. 

5.       Stay with your group: This is smart advice regardless of the event or the current pandemic. Watch your young children who might wander off.  Events of this proportion are notorious for nefarious characters.  This is a great opportunity to talk to your children about “stranger danger” and work on social interactions with community workers like police and firefighters. We like to have a 2:1 ratio of adults to young children. When this cannot be done, you can always go old school with hug-and-tugs or backpacks with wrist connections.  This will give deep pressure (when full of snacks) and help keep kids near. 

With a nation in unrest due to the current pandemic and questions of how to process rights or man and rule of law, this holiday is even more important than ever. 

I hope this Independence Day is safe and fun for everyone – no matter how you celebrate it.  I would love to hear how you help your little ones get through events like this.  Send in your tips.   And let this be a year we truly appreciate the long history of freedom, liberty, and bravery Independence Day honors.  Thank you to all the servicemen and women who make it possible for us to have freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the numerous other freedoms our country allows for all its citizens.

Find Something Worth Dying For

“You can’t trust kids these days.”  “They never do what you ask.”  “Kids always talk back.”  “Kids today don’t know how to follow through.”  “If it doesn’t require a social media post, don’t count on your kid to do it.”

Sound familiar? 

I have worked with youth and their parents for more than 20 years.  I hear the same things time and time again from parents, youth leaders, coaches, and the like.

But, in my experience, kids act this way because of the models they have.  In my experience someone meaningful in their lives is absent (maybe spends 60 hours a week at work or just not there at all).  Someone may be in their life but has broken promise after promise.  That weekend promised to teach them to ride a bike or go see them in the school play comes and goes with an apology only.

Children are taught how to behave by adults in their lives. Great children are taught to be great adults by adults who invest in them. It is that simple. 

I was lucky to be raised by a man who worked long hours during the day and went to school at night.  But, every school play, every graduation, every school assembly growing up, if I asked, Daddy would be there.  

Daddy taught me three significant lessons that have instilled in me the very foundations of who I am and how I raise my little one.  These lessons are at the very core of what it is to be me.  These lessons are what I hope to pass on to all those young kids who come into my life.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Honor Those Who Came Before You

There is no one in the entire history of the world who accomplished great things on their own.  Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Martha Tereasa all built on pioneers like Martin Luther, Thurgood Marshall, and John Weasley.

Women today have the right to vote, to work in respectable jobs, and to be educated in the United States because of people like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

American freedoms, the very foundation, were built on the hard work and determination of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson who tirelessly worked together writing not just the Declaration of Independence, but researching every known government in preparation for the Congressional Congress created our Republic.

Great-great-great Granddad John Adams, though admittedly opposed to the rule of law of the day, represented the British soldiers accused of the Boston Massacre to ensure they received a fair trial successfully negotiated the Treaty of Paris (ending the American Revolutionary War), and went on to be the first American Vice President, Second President and his son became the fourth President. 

These men denied everything, fighting for life and liberty, for a world that NEVER existed before.  In fact, it took over 20 years, war, and near collapse of a nation under the Articles of Confederation from the Declaration of Independence to the signing of the US Constitution and the birth of American freedoms.  Our nation, imperfect as it is, was the first in the world to allow basic human freedoms to the average citizen. 

When I look back at my accomplishments (graduate degrees, excellent job, published, author, award-winning public speaker), I know that those accomplishments are a direct result of those who invested in me.  My parents, my coaches, the amazing adults who poured into me through Youth Focus, Inc. all impacted not only my success, but the trajectory of my life.

Daddy taught me, not only to be aware of this, but to thank and acknowledge those who invested their time, money, and energy into me.  Thank you, Coaches, Mr. & Mrs. S; Mr. and & Mrs. G, Shim, and Brandy, Florence, Carl and Mary Carol, Patty, and most importantly, Mom and Dad. Your efforts have helped create the amazing life I have.  I could not have done this without you.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

               Let Your Yes Be Your Yes and Your No Be Your No

Daddy taught us, no matter what, yes is yes.  Sounds easy.  But in a world where we glorify a social hierarchy that loves self-image, self-entitlement, and immediacy, this is a hard thing to grasp as a kid.

Simply put, if you make a commitment, follow through.  If you said you would help you kid sister learn to ride a bike, but the lead cheerleader invites you to a party, you help your sister.  If you said you would watch your little siblings so Mom and Dad can have a date night once a week, you do that instead of going to the weekly football games.  It means, if you said you were committing to the school play, track team, debate team (pick a team), you follow through with your best the entire season long – especially when it gets hard.

This allows everyone to trust your word – the very basis of integrity.  People will know they can count on you in the big things because you showed up in the small things every day.

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

               Find Something Worth Dying For and Go Live For It

The most important lesson Daddy taught me is to “Find something worth dying for, and to live for it.”

That has been Daddy’s motto for as long as I can remember.  And when you think about, it is perfect for finding and understanding your calling.

A key characteristic of leadership is the belief in the cause.  The causes that pass the 24-hour news cycle, are those whose leaders are willing to walk the walk, and lay down their life, if need be.  IF we want to raise excellent leaders, we need to know what their passions are and help teach them how to cultivate them for good.

As our children grow, we often ask them, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” or “What are you going to study in college?”  But these do not get to the root of a person’s passion.  Passion is what will keep one motivated through the dark woods of real life.  Passion is what will change a weak leader to a strong leader.

Instead, let’s ask our children, “What excites you?” or “What gets you fired up?”  “What are some things that you want to change?”  When they tell us, regardless of what we believe about those passions, celebrate them.  Help them cultivate them. Because they will find a way with or without your help. Use the opportunity to help lead and teach them to be the best at whatever they chose.

These questions will start leading our kids to find their passions so that they may LIVE for them. 

This #fathersday week, let us honor those who came before us.  Let us stay true to our word.  Let us find those things worth dying for, and go live for them.  Let us be the beginning of positive change for our children. 

Lessons for Our Children: Life is Sacrifice

Sacrifice.  Most of hear that word and think of sacrificing sleep, or spending time at home for one more hour of work. 

Throughout history and religion, there are countless stories of father’s laying down their lives for their children or sacrificing happiness for the happiness of their children.  From Abraham and Isaac to God and Christ, to Guido Orefice, a Jewish Italian bookshop owner, who uses his rich imagination to shield his son from the horrors of internment in a Nazi concentration camp in the movie Life is Beautiful.

But sacrifice is more than just the grandiose gestures.  Sacrifice for your children is a daily cross to bear.  Although moms across the world sacrifice sleep, beauty regimes, time with friends, and often put dreams on hold, fathers sacrifice time with children, being at games and recitals, and seeing the tiny changes that lead to the big results.

How many times did your dad sacrifice watching his favorite movie so you could watch yours?  Or your husband sacrifice sleep to get the yard ready for your kid’s birthday party or build that Christmas present?  Or sacrifice a promotion for time with you and your child so your child could stay in the same school and graduate with his friends? Or when their country calls on them to serve, unceremoniously answer the call. 

Sacrifice is life.  Men have an uncanny way of showing this without making it an “all about me” parade.

Father and Son competing at ESPN Wide World of Sports together

My husband has made countless sacrifices to create a better life for our family and our son.  It is scary to hear your child be given a lifelong diagnosis.  It would be easy, and we know parents who have, let the diagnosis become a crutch, a way to explain away poor behavior, a way to not invest in the next generation.  But my husband did not.

Enjoying the gym Dad made for him

He took this word from the doctor’s and decided it would NEVER define our child.  He sacrificed his money to new tools, modalities, and things that would help our son learn to grow into the great man he is sure to be.  He built an entire Ninja gym in our garage so my son would have somewhere to go when it rains (which happens almost daily here), sacrificing his “Man Den.”

My husband sacrificed his time – in the critical ages of birth through five – as he deployed half the year every year, during the war so our son could have the medical care, quality home, and best education possible.

He sacrificed his career switching career fields so our son would have more of a chance to have a father in his old age.

Dad coaching in the long jump

The sacrifice of time is just not away from the children.  It is away from the things they prefer.  My husband has spent the past three years coaching my son in football, track and field, and long-distance running.  He sacrifices his Saturday mornings of sleep to get up at 5:00 am to run, work out and coach our little one to be better today than he was yesterday.  And those lessons extend beyond the field and track. They cross into school, family obligations, and even into what he wants to do when he grows up.

Sacrifice.  It is hard.  And we ask our fathers to do that every day.  Yet, we seldom say thank you to them.

This #FathersDay week, let’s make it a point, to continue to thank, celebrate, and edify our fathers.  Let’s remember that #dadsmatter.  Let us show them we know this and we are so grateful for them.

Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

Loitering. Looting. Larceny.  The streets are full of people making awful choices.The headlines read of significant disruption.  It is scary – regardless of race, religion, political affiliation or health.

We live in a society where we wonder, where have all the good men gone, as a popular Bonnie Tyler song puts it?

We wonder how we have come to a place of violence over diplomacy, hatred over love, and narcissism over selflessness.

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

It starts with our dads.  It takes a dad to teach manhood. 

Moms are great teachers of academics, compassion and mercy, but, sorry moms. There are somethings we women just cannot do as well as men. One of those things is teaching a man how to be a man. 

What our society is calling out for is for dads to be recognized for their importance and necessity. 

Before you read this and think, “I am single mom, I don’t have a choice,” or “my son’s dad walked out on us,” or “that is just not an option;” let me encourage you in is.

There are so many ways to be a father figure to the next generation that does not require biology.

There are so many ways to be a dad to those in your neighborhood, community, and churches.  All it takes is the willingness to pour into the hearts of kids and the effort of setting aside an hour a week, a call a day, showing up to the milestones.  Be a coach.  Be a mentor. Be a Big Brother.  Be a youth leader. Be willing to answer the call.

There are men who want to help. Men who want to teach and mentor; all they need is someone to ask. A group of 600 men answered a call to come to a breakfast at school. The results were astounding!

My brother and his beautiful family

One dad who has really epitomized this heart for love and mentoring is my brother, Jason Black (if you have time, check out his story of surviving two near death experiences and rising above it; you won’t be disappointed). 

Jason spent his years growing up helping take care of us (there are seven in total).  Having spent this time investing in us, we were not surprised he delayed having children.  What did surprise us was that he had four biologically and found he still had more love to give.  He then adopted two more. 

I was privileged to live with this family right after grad school for a couple of years.  I got to see firsthand the heart of this father.  He faced challenges of multiple kids, finances, and the strange looks as people saw his two children of color and one child with special needs.

Never did he let these challenges affect how much love he poured into his kids.  Each child, with different needs, are loved the same amount.  They are held to the same standard of excellence.  They are encouraged, challenged to be their best, and taught how to stand up for what is right and excellent while accepting responsibility and accountability for their actions – good or bad.

Khristian – the Strong and Confident

My nephew was adopted from the foster system at eight.  He struggled with identity, self-esteem, and accepting love – for good reason.  He had been in the system his whole life, in more than five foster homes by the time he came into our family life, and the stories he could tell you would astonish the most hard-hearted.  He had lived a hard life no child should have to live. 

When Jason and Tausha took on this opportunity to love someone more, they knew it would be a challenge (what kid isn’t).  This actually disrupted the birth order in the family making my nephew the oldest; it brought in anxiety and frustration to the house as everyone transitioned to a new normal.  They had been warned about having a child of color and the stigma, racism, and anger that would follow them around the rest of their lives. It would have been easy to quit or say no from the get-go. 

But they did not. They chose to love instead of ignoring.  They chose to accept this little guy the way he was.

Khristian is now a star athlete on the high school football team.  He was featured as an upcoming athlete to watch as he begins embarking on transitioning from childhood to adulthood and the college world.  He has grown from a shy child into a confident, loving, intelligent man.  This was possible because he was invested in by a man who was not genetically tied to him but is now tied for life through the bond of love.

Khristan and his three younger brothers

Khristian is a man who steps up in times of trouble and anxiety.  When his younger brother was bitten by a Western Diamondback Rattle Snake and spent two weeks in a hospital having multiple surgeries and treatments, Khristan stepped up at the house as a leader to his younger five siblings. While his parents took shifts at the hospital, he helped with homework, calmed nerves, and helped with all the little things that often get missed in times of great stress. He took the leadership learned from his dad and invested love where it was needed.

When I look at this family, I see exactly what our society needs.  We need more men to pour into the others. We need more Jasons who are willing to step up where there are holes in the community.  We need heroes.  We need to celebrate men and the importance of them. 

We can do better than looting in the streets.  We can do better than ignoring men.  We can do so much more than accepting the narrative women are better than men.

Let’s celebrate how much men have, and continue, to do for our children, our communities, and our nation.   Let’s spend this week leading up to #FathersDay remembering how important the family unit is.  The father unit is.  Let’s celebrate #DadsMatter, #BackLivesMatter.

Get involved. The nation has spent the past two weeks calling out for dad’s, mentors, and leaders to step up. The phone is ringing. Are you going to answer?

An easy way to celebrate dads this week is to join a youth group, coach a sports team, volunteer with a literacy program, or join Big Brothers Big Sisters. 

Don’t let genetics be what stops you from being the mentor and coach so many of our youth are hungry for.  Let me know what you did. Send me you stories and be sure to use the #dadmatter.

For more resources on how to get involved, check out Mentor, The National Mentoring Resource Center, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.  

Why Dads Matter

“It is the primary task of every society to teach men how to father.”

Margret Meade, Anthropologist

Women are superheroes.  Women have, and continue to, change the world.  Women have been changing the world since the dawn of time.  Women’s suffrage, flying across the Atlantic, serving in politics on cabinets, supreme courts, scientific revelations, and Nobel prizes and incredible sports achievements are just some of the incredible feats women have contributed to bettering the world.  

It is easy to get drawn into the rhetoric that women do so much and should have equal rights (if not outright better treatment) with men.

Although I am all for women’s rights, equal pay for equal work, and representation in political fields across the world, I fear we are devaluing the very crucial role men play in developing not only society but our children.

Our children are bridges to the future. I do not believe there is anyone out there who feels there is nothing left to improve in our world. If you want a better future, we need to pour into the next generation.  We need to teach them lessons from both women AND men.  We need to take back the narrative for men and celebrate how very important they are.  Men, dads, and those in dad-like roles offer valuable teachers to our children. 

I am not saying women and mothers are not important to raising kids.  We are.  But in bringing attention to the value of women, we have diminished the value of men.  We celebrate when a woman gets a job, she is unqualified for, over a man.  We take little boys’ heroes like Thor and Iron Man and make them women.  We encourage women to “wear the pants” in a relationship. 

We wonder why men today and young boys can’t step up when the time is right. Don’t know how to treat a woman with respect and dignity. We wonder why little girls grow up to be in a relationship with bad and abusive men.  We wonder why women have low self-esteem and self-worth.

Fathers are so essential to teaching children to grow into wonderful adults who contribute to society and the family.  Science has shown involved, active fathers help have a positive impact on both the dad’s mental and physical health and the child’s ability to positively interact with society.

Recent research on the value of dad has shown some interesting correlations to the success of children. The involvement of dads in a child’s life has so many positive outcomes on the child.  Positive outcomes that then affect society in positive ways.  The presence of an active father changes the the world in four significant ways.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

1.       Less likely to be criminals: According to Dr. Kyle Pruett, a child psychiatrist and clinical professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, kids without attentive fathers are three times as likely to find themselves in the juvenile justice system before the age of 18 compared to those with involved fathers. This is echoed in Kevin and Karen Wright, in their paper Family Life and Delinquency of Crime. Children who are disciplined by both a father and a mother are better problem solvers and less aggressive resulting in decreased delinquency.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

2.       Do better in school: Who doesn’t want their child to do better in school except for the parents of Matilda?  School is where kids learn socialization and self-worth alongside academics. A study published in Sex Roles in 2016, found that U.S. teenagers with supportive fathers had higher optimism and self-efficacy which transferred to doing better in school. These results even occurred when the father figures had little education and limited English.  Daughters, in particular, performed better in math. Sons did better in language.

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

3.       Stay at jobs longer: Commitment is a huge deal in life.  Everything from an RSVP to knowing your job will be there in the morning is critical to a functioning society.  It used to be, not even two generations ago, people worked for a company for forty years and retired.  Now, a company is lucky to keep an employee for three years.  Research is showing dads are critical to teaching commitment to their children. Involved dads tend to raise children who are more committed. 

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

4.       Less likely to gender stereotype: My dad taught me how to change a tire, mow the lawn, and install an electric switch (all traditionally male chores).  He also taught me how to study, how to do laundry, and make an excellent stew. When a father is involved, children see how men and women handle situations differently.  They lose the idea that only one gender should do a particular task.

It is unsurprising the value of dads in shaping our children and playing a significant role in changing our society for the better.  Sometimes we just need a little reminder. 

This #FathersDay let’s remember to thank Dad for all he does.  Take a little extra time to think about him and maybe get him something more than a tie or new pair of socks.

Over the next few weeks, I will be focusing on some of the valuable lessons Dad’s teach us as children and showcasing some of the stories you have shared about your dads.  Send me stories on how you were taught, or your spouse was taught, one of these lessons for a chance to bring some positive light on these awesome men.

Click here for more resources on fatherhood and being and becoming a better dad.

Failing the Apocalypse on Easy Mode

Abandoned grey brick building ob blue sky day

“I can’t seem to find a groove.”  “All the doors keep shutting in my face.”  “If schools don’t open back up, my kid and I might not be on speaking terms till graduation…eight years from now.”  “Last night I ate an entire bar of cookie dough and hid in my closet for an hour just for some peace and quiet.”

Sound familiar? 

Parenting was hard before COVID-19, but at least there was a break with school and playdates.  At least there was a distraction with school projects and team sports.  At least it did not feel like you were in this on your own with no instruction manual.  Can you relate?

Countless friends of mine who were so excited for a “forced stay-cation” with their spouses only a few weeks ago, are now praying diligently for their spouse to go back to work and leave them alone.

Work, for those who are blessed to be employed, has begun to feel like every move is the wrong move.  Teams no longer work like well-oiled machines.  The discord and frustration have heightened as plans to re-open and get “back to normal” seem to be weeks away or worse ill-advised.  Minutia seems to be the focus instead of quality production.

Design desk with woman head in hands

Emotions are high. Patience is low.  The threads of relationships have started to fray. As a friend jokingly stated a few weeks ago, “We are failing the apocalypse on easy mode.”

Before those emotions take over, think about what that statement means.  We are not combating corpses that have come to life to eat our brains.  We are not fighting Thanos.  We are not fighting aliens who want to take over the planet. 

We are fighting a virus invisible to the naked eye. We are fighting our own selfish desires to have what we want when we want it how we want it.

The playbook for this fight?  Be in the comfort of our homes, watch Netflix, eat bonbon, and enjoy a walk outside with the people we love the most. 

So why is domestic violence growing at an alarming rate globally?  Why are we finding ways to yell at each other?  Why do we feel like we are alone in the fight?

 “Why” is the wrong question.  We know why. 

It’s time we ask what are we going to do to change this behavior and emotional state?  In ourselves.   For our families, friends and coworkers. 

Data Charts and Bar Graphs

1.       Metrics:  Anyone who has worked a single day in any industry hears the word metrics and knows their bottom line will be affected by this one six-letter word.  Those in production industries work diligently to get their metrics up and keep them up.  Metrics are great for giving us an insight into how we are doing and where we need to work a little harder or differently.  This is a successful model in businesses across industries.  Let’s use this model in our personal lives. 

Set a metric for the production of quality family life.  How much time do we spend investing in our families compared to watching that Netflix show?  How often do we have to nag/ask our teenager to do their laundry versus them doing it themselves?  How often are we serving others versus serving ourselves?  These key metrics can give a great baseline for significant growth in our personal and professional lives. 

One Small Positive Thought in the Morning Can Change Your Whole Day

2.       Change your Focus: The most impactful leader in history, once stated, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Another way to say this is where your focus is, there your heart will be also. 

In his book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, Hans Rosling gives an excellent realistic view of the world using stats and studies from his years as a physician and academic.  Rosling uses global trends in health economics to show how much better the world is than we allow ourselves to believe.  Understanding stats and metrics are so much more important than the number.   Let’s use stats as therapy.   Change the focus from the negative to focusing on the positive and the progress made and keep moving forward.

Enjoy the Little Things

3.       Be Grateful: We are not fighting zombies!  We are not fighting aliens!  We get to spend time with our families.  We get to have a home-cooked meal at the kitchen table.  We get to get back to our roots.  1950’s America has been idealized for decades.  Now is our chance to get that back; only this time we are working from home on a more flexible schedule. For more ways to shift to a grateful attitude check out my blog on the power of words

New Years Resolution Quit Making New Year’s Resolutions

4.       Work on that New Year’s Resolution: Did you know 80% of New Years Resolutions fail?  There is a lot research into why this is.  Time. Thinking not doing.  Doing it alone.  Not tracking progress.  Forbes, BusinessInsider, and Psychology Today all address this.

We have been given the opportunity to not only have the time to work on these resolutions, but to do it in an environment with our best support system – our family.  Want to lose weight?  Use the time you would have been commuting for a work out with your partner.  Want to get better in your industry? Read together for one hour a day.  Want to know what is really happening in your teenager’s life?  Get on the video game with them.  You get healthy, spend quality time, and invest in each other.  For more ideas check out my blog on surviving social distancing

Woman pointing a viewer to be the solution

5.       Be the Solution: We know there is a problem.  Instead of complaining about the problem, choose to be the solution.  Find ways to get involved.  For some great resources on how to get involved in all aspects of the community including first responders, teachers, religious leaders and more, check out my articles on ways to give back and Captain Corona and the 19-COVID Warriors by @MelissaGratia.

 This is not the apocalypse. There is time to redeem 2020 and really begin to change the world, our world, our communities, for the better. We don’t have to fail quarantine and social distancing.  We have everything we need to use this time to reset and refresh.  It’s time to choose.  Where is your focus?