Tag Archive for independence

Become Your Child’s Friendship Coach

Social skills are foundational to the human experience. They bring us into relationship with others. They give us the opportunity to experience community as well as the joy of intimacy. They enable us to communicate our needs and clarify our desires. They empower us to work together and accomplish greater things. They help us develop friendships. In other words, social skills serve as a foundation to our relationships, our values, and our growth. Let that foundation weaken and the whole house starts to crumble. I mean, the whole house starts to crumble. In fact, poor social skills contribute to poorer mental and physical health (the whole house). One researcher actually notes that poor social skills increase loneliness and chronic loneliness is “as serious of a risk [factor] as smoking, obesity, or eating a high-fat diet with lack of exercise (Read Poor Social Skills May be Harmful to Your Health for more). In brief, our children fair better physically and mentally when they have good social skills. Fortunately, social skills are learned over time and that learning begins in the family. Parents are their children’s first and most significant social skills coach, their friendship coach. How can a parent become a great friendship coach to their children? Here are 6 tips to help you get started.

  1. Enjoy time with your children. One of the best ways to coach social skills is by modeling and practicing them yourself. Interact with your children and practice good social skills in the process. Treat them politely. Show them how friends treat one another. Share. Laugh. Play. Set boundaries. Express emotions. Negotiate disagreements. There is no better coach than one who can play the game well and engages his trainees in the process. Enjoy time with your children. (I love the time of Enjoying Your Child–Priceless!)
  2. Talk about thoughts and feelings with your children. When you watch a movie, talk about the subtext of thoughts and feelings that motivate a character’s actions. When a friend interacts with your children in a way they don’t understand, talk about the subtext of thoughts or feelings that may contribute to that interaction. Explain how your own thoughts and feelings contribute to your actions. Label feelings you and your children experience. The broader a child’s emotional vocabulary, the more understanding they become…the better friend they become. (More tips @ Teaching Your Child to Handle Emotions)
  3. Allow for individual style. Not everyone is an extravert. Not everyone jumps into social settings. Some people are more introverted. Some slowly warm up to activities and interactions. Allow for those differences in style. Let the introvert enjoy interacting with small groups and the extrovert enjoy the loud social settings. Allow time for your children to slowly warm up to an activity if that is what they need. Allow your children to move quickly into an activity if they are comfortable doing so. Allow for those individual styles and don’t force your children into a style that does not fit their personality. (Read Honoring Variety)
  4. Create opportunities for social interactions. When your children are young you do this by scheduling play dates. As your children get older, they can become involved in various groups like scouting, church youth groups, choirs, musical groups, sports’ teams, or volunteer groups. You might also consider family games nights with various board games that encourage social interactions. Invite other families over for game night. Play a few games together then let the children go off to play together while the adults chat for a time.
  5. Turn off the technology and “go face-to-face.” Technology has a way of limiting social skills. Twitter does not allow children to learn the art of reading facial cues or hearing voice tones. Facebook does not let us see the ups & downs of life since people tend to post the happy days. “Face-to-face” interactions, on the other hand, teach us to understand facial expressions and interpret voice cues. They help us learn how and when to ask for clarifications that can deepen our understanding of one another. With this in mind, limit technology. Encourage face-to-face interactions. (More @ Welcome to the Dead Zone for more)
  6. Give your children space. It may sound contradictory to give our children space, but they need time to practice the skills they are learning without our intervention. They need the opportunities to resolve conflicts, negotiate difference, and enjoy age expected interactions with peers. After all, practice makes perfect. So, take a breath, step back, and let them go. Give them space to practice on their own. (Good Parents Do Nothing!! tells more)

Well “Coach,” follow these tips and you are well on your way to “Coach of the Year.” And your children will develop the social skills necessary to navigate their world independently and successfully!

How to Spend Quality Time with Your Children

Our children crave quality time with us, their parents and families. In fact, they need quality time with us. Quality time is the currency of love in our children’s world. It purchases their sense of security and it is crucial to their emotional and mental health. Quality time creates a sense of safety that allows them to explore their world, learn about their life, and grow more mature. One of the best ways to spend quality time with your children is to enter their world rather than expecting them to enter your world. When you enter your children’s world of play, imagination, and thought you learn so much about them and you help them grow more mature. Of course, sometimes we find it difficult to enter our children’s world. After all, it’s just so… well…childish.  But the benefits to their emotional and mental health are enormous. Here are some tips to help you enter their world.

  • Let them lead the play rather than you leading them. As they direct the play, you can narrate what is happening like a sport’s caster narrating the play. When you do this, your children feel valued and appreciated. They know you consider them significant enough to pay attention to. (Investing Time & Attention in Your Children will give you more ideas for letting your children lead the play).
  • Let your children choose the toy. When children are expected to play with a toy not of their choosing, they quickly become bored. Their attention span shortens and their interest wanes. You actually help increase your children’s attention span when you follow their lead and let them choose the toys and objects of play (For more read Nurture Your Child’s Attention Span).
  • Be available during the play without imposing your desires on them. Instead of suggesting what your children “could do,” delve into what they are doing and enjoy it. Enjoy their imagination, their ideas, and their activities. Your children will learn the importance and power of their ideas.
  • Allow children to enjoy independent, unstructured play while you remain available to them. Studies suggest that children allowed to engage in independent play have higher IQ’s than those who engaged only in adult led and structured play (Read Make Your Child “a Head Taller than Himself” for more).

In other words, a great way to have quality time with your children is to let your children teach you rather than trying to teach them. When we allow our children to teach us, we let them have the joy of discovering themselves.

Why Our Kids Need Time Alone

Sue looked exhausted, frazzled, and run down when I arrived at her house. I thought she’d be more rested at home. We had hoped to go out for coffee and conversation, but she couldn’t find a sitter. So, I figured I’d go to her house and enjoy some time together. It didn’t go as I had imagined. We did not sit at the kitchen table to enjoy conversation while her son played nearby. No, her son demanded her constant attention. She was constantly on the go responding to his unending demands for a drink, a playmate, an interaction…constant entertainment. If he wasn’t making demands, he was getting into something that forced Sue to run over and stop him, redirect him, and then entertain him. We “couldn’t get two words edgewise” because Sue’s son required constant engagement. That’s when I realized the importance of giving our children a place where they can play safely without adult intervention. Giving our children a safe place play alone, without adult intervention, demands some preparation. First, you have to organize a child-proof room. But once you have established that safe area, children can play independently with nothing more than their parent’s observation. Parents can sit comfortably or engage in other activities knowing their children can play safely alone.  And, allowing our children time to play alone without adult intervention will benefit our children in many ways. Let me describe just a few of the benefits of allowing our children to play alone.

  • Playing alone, without adult intervention, sparks children’s imaginations and creativity. Observe your children as they play alone and you will witness dragons, princesses, cowboys, doctors, and monsters come to life. You will see detectives and firemen working together to capture invisible villains and put out imaginary fires. Playing without adult intervention frees our children’s creativity.
  • Playing alone, without adult intervention, gives our children the opportunity to learn problem-solving skills. When we stay out of the way, our children find their own solutions to problems that arise. They brainstorm and find ways to banish their boredom. They learn to negotiate and compromise with one another. They learn to set boundaries and assert themselves kindly. These are all lessons learned in the classroom of play when we don’t interfere with the teacher of experience.
  • Playing alone, without adult intervention, helps children become more comfortable with themselves. They may explore new activities and, in the process, develop their interests. They learn they are “OK” without constant entertainment because they can entertain themselves by exploring novel activities. As a result of these things, they become more comfortable with themselves.
  • Playing alone, without adult intervention, teaches children to manage their time. Rather than having their time managed by scheduled activities, these children learn to enjoy the quiet. They also learn how to entertain themselves.
  • Playing alone, without adult intervention, allows children to learn to soothe their own emotions. They learn emotional management skills like distraction. They learn to focus their attention on what they have rather than what they do not have. They learn to soothe themselves.

As you can see, allowing children time to play alone helps them grow. Children learn so much in the classroom of play when allowed to play alone without adult intervention. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we never need to play with our kids. Our children need time to play alone and they need time when we engage them in play.  Giving our children time to engage in unstructured, independent play without adult intervention carries many benefits we don’t want our children to miss.

Letting Go One Step at a Time

Our youngest daughter moved out of our house and into her college room today. I won’t get to tell her “good night” at the end of each day, hear her come down the stairs in the morning to start her day, or enjoy our “Tuesday Daddy-Daughter Days” now.  On the other hand, I won’t have to ask her to put her stuff away every day or work my way through her leftovers in the fridge. I will really miss her daily presence in my life. Still, I have to say, it’s not the first time I’ve had to watch her take a step away from me and toward independence. This is just another step in a series of steps that began many years ago with the words, “No, I do” as she pulled away from me to zip her own coat. Some of her steps have been sure-footed, some hesitant. Most have proven more difficult for me than they were for her. She has learned the pace most comfortable for her in stepping toward independence. She has grown more confident in her abilities. Me…well, I’m just a “therapist with separation anxiety” (her words, by the way). I don’t completely agree with her assessment, but I have to admit…I have experienced some separation anxiety with each step she has taken. Overall, watching my daughter mature and walk toward independence has increased my joy. But, I have experienced some separation anxiety…and, I have learned at least two things from this adventure of letting go.

  1. I learned the importance of observing my daughter closely. Observation builds a foundation for understanding our children’s strengths and interests. It allows us to learn about their competencies and their developmental abilities. Observation allowed me to see what my daughter had learned, what she already knew, and what she was ready to learn and do. With all this knowledge, I was better able to present opportunities that fit my daughter’s readiness to learn while still challenging her to grow. It allowed me to keep the environment conducive to her abilities. Observe your child closely and you will learn the same things about your children. Even learning all this, you might struggle to learn the second lesson. I know I did.
  2. I learned to trust my daughter to initiate and explore herself and her world. This meant I had to learn to believe in her competence to learn. Sure, I supported her exploring and learning (just check my pocket book), but I had to trust her enough to let her go, to take a step away, and explore more and more independently. I had to trust her ability to manage the discomfort of trying something new with only my distant watchful eye for support. I had to trust her to learn from her mistakes without rescuing her…or sheltering her from future mistakes. I had to trust her to learn her limitations and strengths. And, as she did, she became more confident. Her judgment improved. And, I could trust her more. Trusting your child to takes steps toward independence throughout life will do the same for you as well.

Observing will increase your ability to trust. As you trust, you will observe all the more and rejoice in the growth you see. All the while, you will find yourself letting go one step at a time and trusting each step of the way…even if it does still remain difficult to watch them grow up and leave home.

The Healthy Balance of Family

Establishing a healthy family is a balancing act. It requires finding the best blend between diametrically opposed traits. For instance, a healthy family finds balance in at least these three areas:

  1. A healthy family lives in the balance between structure and freedom. Too much structure and a family becomes rigid. Spontaneous fun and laughter disappear. Family members feel trapped and imprisoned by the constant demands of an imposed and unbending structure. Too much freedom, on the other hand, and a family experiences chaos. Limits and boundaries become broken or even disappear. Predictability flies out the window and, as a result, family members experience insecurity, confusion, and even fear. Healthy families find a balance between these two extremes by establishing a flexible structure. Flexible structure provides a daily family schedule and daily routines while leaving room for down time and unstructured play. It leaves open the possibility of making adjustments as situations and circumstances change. A flexible structure provides the best of both worlds: structure and freedom.
  2. A healthy family lives in the balance between connection and independence. Too

    much connection and family members becomes entangled and boxed in. They feel intruded upon, unable to develop their distinct interests or pursue their individual opportunities. No one can develop their individuality, their unique character. Each person in the family will even experience great difficulty establishing their identity. Move too far toward independence, however, and family members find themselves alone, isolated, and without support. They have no one with whom they can enjoy life, no one to help them develop as unique individuals. We need relationships to discover our own identity. Healthy families find balance between these two extremes by developing interdependence. Interdependence empowers family members to engage one another and enjoy individual time. Relationships become the springboard for individual identity development by providing a safe harbor from which to explore interests and ideas as well as a safe haven in which to find comfort and reassurance. Interdependent relationships become the place of safety, comfort, encouragement, and empowerment for each individual and the family as a whole.

  3. A healthy family lives in the balance between “mine” and “yours.” Too much focus on “mine” and family members becomes self-absorbed and self-centered. Stinginess undermines sharing. Greediness leads to excessive competition for resources that everyone perceives as limited. But, when the focus turns completely to “yours,” at least one person becomes a doormat. After time, she will feel taken for granted and used. Eventually, she will rebel. She may lash out in anger or shut down in defeat, bitter and resentful. The whole family suffers as a result. Healthy families balance “mine” and “yours” with “ours.” Finding “ours” is no easy task. It requires a growing knowledge of each family member. It demands a long-term vision, a willingness to postpone “my own” agenda and even sacrifice for the good of the family. In short, finding “ours” requires love and acceptance. “Ours” presupposes differences but learns to tolerate, accept, and even celebrate those differences as opportunities to learn, love, and serve.

How does your family balance these three areas?

Cut the Puppet Strings

Children are not our puppets. We cannot control them. (Learn more in Children Are Not Our Puppets.) In fact, if we hold our children on puppet strings, we do them a disservice. We interfere with their healthy self-image, intimate relationships, and ability to assertively take a stand for what they believe. What can you do as a parent to cut the puppet strings and let go? What can you do to keep your children safe while not controlling them? These five actions can help you let go of over-control while encouraging your children to mature.

  1. grandfather and granddaughter with computer at homeGet curious. Encourage conversation with your children. Learn about their interests and opinions by asking open-ended questions. Learn about their friends, their dreams, their fears, their hobbies. Our children are fascinating! Get curious and learn about them by talking with them often.
  2. Get your own life. Don’t live your life through your children. Don’t encourage your children to fulfill your dreams. Get your own life and let your children have their life. That will mean allowing them to become involved in activities without you. It will mean allowing them to meet other adults they can look up to and go to for advice. Let your children have their own life may mean allowing them to have no interest at all in something you find exciting. Let your children have a life that is separate from your life.
  3. Be consistent and flexible. Children need us to be consistent in our love for them and our expectations of them. They need to know the rules and the consequences of breaking those rules. As they grow, they benefit from knowing the reasoning behind the rules as well. Our children also need us to be flexible. They need to have the opportunity to talk about the rules and give their explanation for why they believe an exception or a change is called for as they mature. They need to know we will listen and consider their opinion. They need to know we are willing to make changes in the rules or expectations when they make sense and show maturity. We grow as they grow. The rules changes as we all mature.
  4. Accept their choices. Children and adolescents need to make choices. Let them make age appropriate choices. You may not let your preschooler choose where to go for vacation, but let them choose between two outfits to wear for the day. As your children grow, let them have more choice and responsibility. They might make choices you disagree with. Sometimes these choices are merely opinion, like whether to wear a pullover shirt or a button up shirt. Other times their choices will just be wrong. When these wrong choices are not dangerous or life threatening, accept them. They will suffer the consequences. Let them. We learn when we make wrong choices and experience the results.
  5. Lean in. No matter what your children do, lean in to your relationship with them. Our children really need to know we want a relationship with them when they do suffer consequences for bad choices. They need to know our love is unconditional. When they do something that makes you proud, lean in to the relationship. When they make a mistake or fail, lean in to the relationship. When they disobey and you have to discipline them, lean in to the relationship. For love covers a multitude of sins.

 

These five practices can help you cut the puppet strings and train your children to become real boys and girls. No, they will become even more than that. They will become mature and responsible young men and women.

Parenting Advice to Parents of Teens…From Teens

Parenting teens is tough. They often seem to believe they have all the answers. They “know” exactly what they need, exactly how a parent can best parent, and exactly what their parent is doing wrong. Well, I decided to listen in on the vast wisdom of a few teens and learn some of their parenting tips. Actually, they did offer some pretty good advice. So, I’m sharing their advice with you—advice to parents straight from the teen’s mouth.

  • Cute Teenage Girl with Serious Expression“Get a hobby.” Healthy teens are moving toward independence. They want to establish their own identity, to individuate and become their “own person.” So, they begin to spend more time with friends and less time with parents. The joy of having a parent by their side now becomes the annoyance of “my parent, the stalker.” Don’t misunderstand this advice. Teens still need parents. Even more surprising, teens want their parents to remain available and attentive to their needs. They need a safety net only their parents can provide. Remain available to your teen. Let your teen know you are available. Talk with them. But “get a hobby.” Do not make them the sole focus of your life. Invest in your own interests and friends. Have fun with other adults.
  • “Quit interrogating me.” Many teens have told me they “can’t stand” being asked “a lot of questions.” They don’t want to walk through the door into a barrage of questions: “How are you? Where did you go? What did you do? How was school? Did you remember to put gas in the car? How come you look unhappy? Are you OK? What’s wrong?” Quit asking so many questions and simply greet your teens when they come home. Ask one, maybe two questions. Tell them about your Give them space and allow for some silence. Develop the conversation of friendship with your teen—one which involves both people sharing information about themselves and their day. Honor your teen by trusting them to reveal information to you in their time and in their way while you simply keep the door open.
  • “Let me be me.” Too many teens feel compared to a parent, brother, sister, neighbor, or “me when I was your age….” Comparisons leave us, and our teens, feeling unaccepted or “not good enough.” In response, our teen might just give up and say, “Nothing I do is good enough anyway.” Comparisons hinder our teens’ self-esteem. Instead of making comparisons, simply acknowledge what your teens do. Accept their level of ability, acknowledge their interests, and praise their efforts to improve. You will watch your teen grow in maturity as a result.
  • “It’s my life. Let me make my own mistakes.” Of course we do not want our teen to make a life threatening mistake. However, most mistakes are more of an inconvenience than a true threat. Teens learn from their mistakes, just like we did. So, let your teen make some mistakes. Keep the lines of communication open so you can warn them of the dangers. Remain available to offer guidance. Rather than telling them “I told you so,” show empathy for the discomfort and negative results your teens experience when they make the poor choice. Doing so will allow your teen to learn from that mistake…just like you and I did.
  • “Life with you is boring.” The teen brain is undergoing a whole remodeling. During remodeling, teens’ “reward center” operates differently. They need a greater thrill, a bigger risk, to activate the reward center. But, when it is activated, they experience a greater rush, a bigger thrill, and are ready to do it again. In other words, what excites you and I will often bore our teen. So, they seek the next thrill; and when they find that thrill they get a rush of chemicals in their brain’s reward center. We don’t want that thrill to be life threatening or dangerous. Taking the time to know your teen is a healthy practice to help you manage their risky behavior. Take time to discover your teens’ likes and interests. Gently guide them toward taking healthy risks based on their interests. Help them learn how to find that rush of excitement while remaining safe.

Believe me, teens have a lot more to say about parenting, but I didn’t want to overwhelm anybody. Just let these 5 pieces of teen parenting advice sink in and maybe we can learn more “teen wisdom” in the future.

5 Ways to Check the Teen Attitude at the Door

If you have a pre-teen or teen, you have probably encountered “the attitude.” I can imagine all those who have a teen nodding their head in agreement as you recall the condescending stare, rolling eyes, exasperating sigh, impatient shifting of weight, and sarcastic tone of voice. If you are like me, just thinking about it raises your blood pressure. As hard as it is to believe, this new “attitude” does mean that your child is reaching a new level of maturity and independence…and that’s a positive thing. The “teen attitude” is often an attempt to assert some independence from the parental control they experienced and needed as a child. However, their brains are still not fully developed. The emotional networks of their brain are more developed than the planning networks of their brain. As a result, their words come out laced with sarcasm and anger while revealing little forethought into whether this helps or hinders them reaching their goal. Sarcasm, by the way, also shows growing mental ability. They have matured to the level of knowing that tone impacts the subtle meaning of what is said, expressing a “double meaning.” They have not learned how to plan ahead in using that new understanding, but…. (Sarcasm, a new mental skill…woohoo, let’s celebrate.)

In their growing desire to become “their own person,” our teens want to know how everything will affect them. They have also learned how to look at the world through someone else’s eyes. Combine perspective taking (a fairly new ability for pre-teens), wanting to know how everything affects me, a well-developed emotional brain, and an underdeveloped planning brain…and you get a teen overly concerned with every little blemish or misplaced hair.  This translates into “attitude,” complaining about appearance, getting overly upset about seemingly small issues, thinking the world revolves around their schedule…you know the drill.

Even though a teen attitude is a normal part of their development, we still want to help them grow beyond that attitude. We still want to help them learn to use their planning brain, to shift concern from themselves to others, and to speak respectfully. Understanding some of the origins of their “attitude” merely helps us not take it personal, remain calm (rather than throttle them as they roll their eyes), and discipline with love. With that in mind, here are 5 ways to help your teen mature, in spite of their attitude.


1.   Talk to your teen when they show their “attitude.” Don’t get an attitude back. Take a deep breath and respond with love. Ask them what is going on in their life. Sometimes an attitude flows out of frustration over problems at school, hurt feelings in peer relationships, or fear about some future event. Sometimes all we need to do to lose the attitude is listen…listen well.


2.   When possible, ignore the attitude…especially when your teen still follows through with your requests and rules. Realize that some attitude is normal and even beneficial in helping your teen establish healthy independence. Knowing this, don’t respond to them when they approach you with an attitude. As you ignore the attitude, your teen will learn that they do not get what they want when they ask with “attitude.” ignore the evil eye, the rolling eye, the exasperated sigh…realize that these too shall pass.  


3.   If your teen’s attitude turns to name-calling, defiance, or disrespect, discipline. Attitude is fleeting, disrespect needs adjusting. Be prepared to discipline. Know the natural consequences and calmly discipline in response to disrespect and defiance. Stand strong to say, “No, I don’t want to lend my car to someone who treats me so disrespectfully.” Or, “No, I won’t give you money for the movie because you didn’t do the chores you said you would do.”


4.   Point out sarcasm when it occurs and explain how sarcasm affects the person hearing it…like you. Encourage them to say what they feel and want directly, politely, and without sarcasm. Even if they don’t get what they want, the discussion will still prove more satisfying for both parties involved. Oh…and watch your own sarcasm. It is hard to end sarcasm in your teen if they hear it from you all the time!


5.   Avoid being all things to your teen. You do not have to serve as cook, chauffer, bank, tutor, clothes washer, secretary, water bottle washer, alarm clock, and schedule manager for your teen. Sure, you will help in all these areas, but teach your teen to do these tasks independently as well. Doing so will strengthen that planning brain. Put them in charge of some meaningful household chores to teach them that they have a role in keeping “our home” running smoothly.


5 tips to help deal with the teen attitude. If you’d like more information on the teen brain, check out
A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain. And, keep reading our blog for more ideas.

Get Your Own Life! Leave Me Alone!

Have you ever felt like your child just wanted you out of their life? You want to be a good parent and remain involved with them, but they just seem to want to do things independently…on their own. Let’s face it: they want to do things without you! I know one of the main goals of parenting is to raise a child so they can live on their own…without me. Still, we may feel hurt or even jealous when our children start to choose friends over us, “light up” for their peers but look like a curmudgeon old scrooge around us, or proudly inform us, “No, I don’t want you to go…I want to go by myself.” Here are a few tips to help you think about and prepare for those times when you feel your child say, “Get out of my life!”

·         Children of all ages need their own life. They need a life independent from their parent’s life. When a child becomes the sole focus of their parent’s life, they feel too much pressure to perform. They may fear disappointing their parents by not doing “good enough.” This fear of falling short of a parent’s expectation while always under the parent’s watchful eye will limit their exploration and, as a result, their growth. So, parents do their children a great favor by allowing their children to have a life independent of them. In their independent life, children can try different activities and perhaps even fail without feeling as though they have disappointed the watchful eye of their parent. In practical terms, this means letting your children become involved in some activities without you.

·         Parents need a life independent of their children. Let’s face it: our children only live with us for 18-25 years before they move out and start their own families. Hopefully, we will become involved in their new family, but probably not on a daily basis. We need a life of our own—a life that will continue after our children leave for college. We may raise children for even 25 years, but we hope our marriage lasts well beyond that; so we need to maintain our connection with our spouse. Go on date nights and spend romantic weekends together without your children. Keep your connection with your spouse strong. Also, maintain connections with friends and coworkers. Remember to get together with the “guys” or the “ladies” for a night out. Have friends over to your home for a night of games. Go out for dinner with another couple. Whatever you choose to do, keep the connection with your adult friends and family strong. Strive to become the couple in this commercial (with or without the car).

·         Finally, balance your children’s need for increasing independence with your need to know they’re safe. This can prove a difficult balance to attain. We do not want to over-control or micromanage our children’s lives. Helicopter parents interfere with their children’s growing independence. We really are not our children’s best friend—they generally pick a peer to fill that role. At the same time, we don’t want to throw our children to the wolves either. We have to find a balance…a way to maintain a parent-child connection that allows them to grow independent while we increasingly trust God to keep them safe. We teach them safety skills and trust they have learned those lessons.
 
With these three patterns firmly in place, we can navigate our changing parent-child relationship as our children grow into independent adults. Together, we will learn to negotiate the balance between intruding and participating, nagging and advising, suffocating and remaining involved.

The Lazy Days of Summer

Remember those school-free days of summer you enjoyed as a child? I could not wait until summer arrived and I could relax during the long, lazy days of summer. I could swim, ride my bike, play with friends, go on a family vacation, sleep, and walk around town…the list seemed endless. Well, the list of possibilities seemed endless when summer began. Sometime in July, though, I began to get bored. My friends went on vacation at different times than I did. Riding my bike to the same old place day after day just lost its luster. Although I enjoy my sleep, you cannot sleep all the time. Besides, without air conditioning in the house it generally got too hot to enjoy sleep. That’s when I would hear it…the same old line every summer. I would approach my mother and say, “Mom, I’m bored.” She would look at me and smile before saying, “Well, find something to do.” That was not the answer I was looking for. I was hoping for a little relief…some direction…some sage advice that would direct me to the next exciting, over-the-top activity. But no, I’d just hear a simple, “Well, find something to do.”
 
As I look back, I realize what a great favor my mother did for me when she told me “find something to do.” She let me know that my boredom did not control me. I controlled it. It was under my power to be bored or not to be bored. Psychologists call the sense that “I have some control over events in my life” an internal locus on control. By throwing the responsibility for my boredom back on me rather than giving me something to do, my mother instilled an internal locus on control in me. This sense of control came in handy when I went to college. I knew that I had the control needed to manage my time. I could allow myself some boredom or I could find something to do. I did not have to rely on my peers for activities. I could decide for myself.
 
“Well, find something to do” also encouraged me to discover, get creative, and take some healthy risks. Sometimes I would do something unusual when allowed to “find something to do.” Maybe I could go for a bike ride, call a friend, mow the grass, go for a walk, or build mud pies. Many times, I chose to walk or ride my bike. In the process, I found interesting spiders, unusual leaves, and short cuts (adventures to a middle school child) to various places. I found my first record store while “finding something to do.” I learned how to “jump” my bike off a ramp and how to throw little green apples off the end of a stick. I found friends to ice skate with and I learned to skate backwards. I discovered what I could do, what I needed help with, and what I didn’t even want to try because my mother was kind enough to tell me to “find something to do.”
 
I also learned to entertain myself. I learned that I could have fun listening to music, playing music, reading, building, creating (I have to admit, my parents were less than happy with some of my creations—like the washtub bass I built), or just walking through the neighborhood watching people. I also learned that it is alright to be bored once in a while. Boredom did not kill me. In fact, boredom created the space for me to think and contemplate the world and the people in the world.
 
I realize we do not want to leave our children to their boredom all the time. But, boredom has its place…just as supervision and guidance do. Boredom encourages the development of many positive traits, like an internal locus of control, independent decision-making, discovery, time-management, and creativity. These traits come in handy when our children are faced with the peer pressures of high school and the sudden freedom of college. So, do your children a favor this summer. When they approach you to say, “I’m bored,” don’t tell them what to do. Don’t schedule their every waking moment. Simply reply by saying, “Excellent! Now you have a great opportunity to find something to do.”
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