Fun = Connection

Have Fun with Your Child ASAP

Good parenting has an order of operations. Insides come first. A child should feel connected to his or her mom or dad in a profound way, first and foremost. Then, and only then, the child will think about what the parent is communicating.

A strong emotional bond between parent and child is the single most important aspect of raising children; the rest is details.

snowmanKids bond with people who make them smile and laugh. As a parent, you don’t have to be all that funny or crazy, as long as you will share what makes you laugh. If you think something is funny or cool, then in all likelihood, a kid will think so, too. Sharing a laugh is a force multiplier in the war for a child’s heart, especially when there is tension between parent and child.

My sister once grounded her son for several days, but instead of neglecting him or shaming him, she took advantage of his presence around the house. They played games, went bowling, and played practical jokes on each other. This may seem like a strange way to punish a child, but punishment is not the goal. Connection and correction are the goals. It worked nicely for the whole family; the fun and laughter cut through the tension and created a stronger bond, which means her son is less likely to make that kind of trouble again.

There are no guarantees that our children will grow up well, but the inside-out approach is always the better way. Children are far less likely to engage in problem behaviors when they feel deeply loved, known, and respected by their parents. Continue reading Fun = Connection

The Connected Family

2014 is the first year in American history in which everybody has a mobile device. We are at the saturation point with smartphones, tablets, laptops, and TVs. They are in our pockets, purses, cars, backpacks, and bedrooms. We all have screens with us throughout our days, and some of us are never without a screen.

Now we are considering how to live well with the screens. Most of us are not yet comfortable with where and when and how to use our devices in a healthy way.

Digital family

Today, I received an email from AT&T about how to become better connected. This is their vision of the ideal family connection.

At first glance, it looks great. Happy parents. Kids sitting content nearby. Well dressed. Clean home. No worries.

But on further review, how ideal is this? Continue reading The Connected Family

Book Review: Hands Free Mama

hfmbookHands Free Mama is for parents who can’t seem to get enough kid time because of the relentless distractions from all the screens and undone tasks surrounding them. It is for busy parents who continually say to their kids things like “Hurry up!” and “Give me a minute.”

This is the book for 2014 parents, the first year in history when every parent and child has a computer, a smartphone, a tablet, a TV, and a host of other screens telling them what to do. We are all bombarded with messages from people who want something via email, social media, telephone, text message, and more. We are distracted by the siren calls of the world, and as a result we are disconnected from each other. Continue reading Book Review: Hands Free Mama

Helping an Orphan Grow Up Well

A friend of mine told me that, while reading my book this week, she had a random idea come to her about how to help her 15 year-old goddaughter who is an orphan. As she told me her idea, I was blown away by her wisdom. It’s the kind of story that I find deeply inspiring.

Her goddaughter — let’s call her Heather — has had an incredibly difficult childhood. Heather’s father abandoned her at a very young age. Nobody knows where he is. Her mother was a drug addict who spent years in prison, then died in her late 30’s of cancer. She probably could have survived the cancer if she had followed her treatments, but her drug addiction disabled her from caring for herself.

Heather, now 15, has been an orphan for a few years. She lives in an apartment with her older sister and her cousins. Due to her circumstances, Heather is very independent. She can take care of herself, to say the least. Because her older sister works long hours, she goes to school and does her homework on her own. She stays out of trouble. She doesn’t mess around with boys or drugs. In fact, she is a cheerleader and has plenty of good friends, the kind who stay out of trouble as well. She’s a really good kid, by all accounts, but her grades are pretty low, and she lacks direction about her future.

Still, my friend is concerned about her goddaughter. Continue reading Helping an Orphan Grow Up Well

Phone for the Holidays

Watch this video first, then read on.

I applaud Apple for making a video that affirms the family. This ad does an excellent job of showing how wonderful family can be. Yes, it’s sentimental and pulls at the heartstrings in ways that some would call cliche, but it’s very well done. It’s a beautiful portrait of a family that loves each other and enjoys life together in the everyday mundane socks-on-the-kitchen-floor sort of way. And I love that. In addition, it shows how blessed the boy is to have such a wonderful family. In the end, he affirms and accepts the blessing. Even better, he reciprocates the love in his own special way, a way which is deeply appreciated. He is actually contributing to the family by chronicling and highlighting its beauty. It’s a wonderful family. We need more portraits of functional families on TV. So, thank you, Apple, for bringing some warmth to TV.

On the other hand, I wonder if this depiction is based in reality. Continue reading Phone for the Holidays

The Story of the Book

Everyone has at least one book in them. Critical Connection is mine.

Ever since I was ten, I wanted to grow up and have a happy family.  Since I was sixteen, I wanted a career in which I could help teenagers to grow up well. As a teacher, coach, and parent, it has been my privilege to do so – often ineffectively, of course. One of the things I have learned along the way is that there are very few good books out there about parenting early adolescents (10-14 year olds).

In 2009, I started blogging here at Growing Up Well, and over the next few years people would say to me, “You really need to write a book.”  Continue reading The Story of the Book

Connect With Your Young Teen

First Connect, Then Guide

celebrateThe best parents are the ones who are deeply connected with their children and offer support and guidance all along the path of life. They’re the ones who care enough to say, “No, you can’t do that, because I love you too much to let you settle for that.” And their children know that they mean it.

Good parenting is about being confident that you have a far higher calling than to just be a friend or dish out punishment. It is about being an authority who loves always and takes the time to guide and train a child to grow into an independent person. Continue reading Connect With Your Young Teen