Advice Tyranny

Pregnant Woman SilhouetteFunny, isn’t it, that I should write an observational advice blog on parenting and then give advice on avoiding advice?

Seriously though, advice is a very powerful thing and should be taken carefully and with great forethought. Does it really fit your style and your child’s personality? Is it appropriate for where you are in your child’s development or time of life? Do you trust the advice giver’s credibility or do you just think it’s an interesting idea?

That is totally okay, you know. You can take wisdom or usable techniques where you find them without particularly thinking that the person you have heard it from has done a great job of applying it themselves.

After all, think about all of the mediocre managers you have had in your professional career who somehow managed to impart just one nugget of usable information that helped you do your job more efficiently or to understand a difficult concept more clearly

As I have gone through both professional and parenting careers, I have learned to pan for gold in the most unexpected places.

It starts with pregnancy. Have you ever noticed that once you start to show, everyone you meet who has ever had a child wants to share their birth experience or experiences with you? And maybe it was just me, but it seemed like the more frightening the tale, the greater relish they took in sharing them. I got to the point with Daughter 2 where I would cut the reminiscences off at the pass with an, “Oh that sounds just fascinating and I would love to hear about it sometime soon, but right now that just makes me so queasy…”  🙂 Amazingly effective. Continue reading

When Your Child Starts to Swear

Boy with face in hands

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Will all children experiment with profanity? Probably. Some are better at applying a parental censor chip than others but trust me, that is just a juicy bowl of noodles waiting to be gobbled up and evaluated by your budding adolescent.

Our wake up call came when Daughter 1 came home from school one day, cocked her curly blonde head to the side, and asked, “Mommy, what are all of the bad words?” 

My first thought (after the shock that she was even asking about them) was, “Yeah, right…like I am going to give you a punch list of profanity? I don’t think so!” I asked her why she needed to know. She said, “Well, the boys on the bus are saying a lot of words I think are bad but I don’t know for sure, and I don’t know what makes a bad word.”

She had an excellent point. We had not actually explained profanity or inappropriate words to our children yet.

I swore from time to time when I was younger and was cured of most of that by two things. First, when I was dating my husband, he casually mentioned that people who swear generally lack the imagination or intelligence to think of something better to say. Ouch! Second, when I had children I became even more aware of what was coming out of my mouth, and that little ears were recording it for life, whether consciously or subconsciously.

I carefully explained that “No, I would not give her a list of bad words.” Continue reading

Sorry – The Hardest Word for Kids

I'm Sorry We have seen good businesses make very bad decisions about taking responsibility for an error. The fallout can be devastating, and much of the damage is done because the business refuses to apologize or “make it right.”  

As your kids grow up, they are going to make mistakes. They are going to hurt others, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and they will bear the consequences of these events.

How do we raise children who know how to apologize, and more importantly, who know how to make reparations?

I won’t pretend it is easy, but you can do it.

There are three steps to a truly effective apology: Continue reading

Kissing Values and Kids

Two children kissing on the cheekWho would have thought we would need them? And yet, a young mother I know asked me this question recently:

“…  Our five-year old daughter got in trouble at school yesterday for kissing a boy in her class. Yikes! It occurs to me as we work on this, that we don’t have a family value about kissing. I mean, I can tell her now that she shouldn’t kiss boys, but it always makes more sense to me if the message I give her now at five mirrors the message I give her at fifteen.”

This mom is one smart cookie, because she is thinking ahead now to years in the future when the value messages of your family should still match up. This is analogous to strategic planning in corporate life, and if you aren’t spending as much time and energy doing it for your family as your business, you are missing an opportunity.

These were the thoughts and experiences I shared with my friend:

Our generation was given a societal message of appropriate behavior in a variety of ways that do not exist for our children. Everything seems hyper-sexual from the media, and even though her five-year old is not putting it into that context, we have to be sensitive to the messages they are getting along the way.

When this came up with our daughters, we put it a few different ways to them as they matured. Continue reading

The Emotional Construct Concept

Management Parallel: Strategic PlanningEmotional Intelligence

Parenting is a tightrope walking, high-wire aerial act, and there is rarely a net to catch you if you fall. Small errors are recoverable, but big ones will send you flailing and failing all the way down. Scary? You bet! But there are some things you can do from the beginning that will give you some sticky glue on your feet and a trampoline to catch you.

My friend Hjalmar and I talked about this the other day as I exercised and he encouraged. (He is an awesome personal trainer!) I shared with him the “emotional construct” theory and practice that my husband and I developed over the years.

We don’t claim credit for this concept. It comes from the knowledge we gained from “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk,” by Faber and Mazlish. We just took it a little further.

The emotional construct is made when you are not emotional, and so you need to do it long before you need it. This requires some foresight and communication between you and your partner, but it is well worth the effort. Emotional Intelligence is something that children acquire over time, and you can role model it by using the emotional construct.

Think about the most emotional battles you had with your parents as you were growing up. Often, they were only battles because you felt strongly about something and your parents had not made their expectations crystal clear. In that scenario, emotions will ignite and something that should be simple can become a battleground.

Here is an example. Let’s say your child is completing his driver’s ed course and about to get his permit. In his mind, once that card is in his hand, the keys to your car should land there, too. This may not be what you are thinking at all. His emotions will be running high, and if you are not prepared when he assumes he should be able to drive your car, yours may kick into high gear as well. As Gary Larson wrote in his great cartoons, “Trouble Brewing.” Continue reading