Tag Archives: responsibility

Amy

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Yesterday I saw Amy, a bright and delightful six-year-old girl. While I was speaking to her mom, Amy walked over eating from a bag of Cheetos. I looked at Mom and softly said, “You know those aren’t good for her, right?” (I thought that Amy had been ignoring us, but I was wrong.)

Amy’s mouth drops open and wide-eyed she looks at her mom and says incredulously:

“Soooooo—why do you give these to me?”

Soooooo parents, why do you give such things to your kids?

Our children trust us. They trust us to take care of them and taking care of them includes making good choices and at times, hard choices. One of those choices is providing them with and teaching them about good nutrition. Amy’s assumption was that her mother wouldn’t give her anything harmful. Amy’s mom, a really super mom, certainly represents the majority of parents. Parents that often find it easier to give children what’s easy and convenient, what they like and to be truthful we like making our kids happy—but at what price?

Parenting isn’t easy.

The Road to Independence Starts with Short Journeys

Here is another video from Japan talking about how to help move children along the road to independence and become a successful adult. In my previous post I talked about how children learning to take care of their personal and self-help needs and learning to be responsible for chores is vital to their development and independence. Now let’s look a step further.

From everything I can discover, our country is a much safer place than it was 50 years ago; however, because of national media attention most people feel it’s getting more dangerous every year. We as parents are being pressured to feel and believe that the world is really dangerous and that our children shouldn’t be permitted to play alone in their front yards, let alone walk down the street to a park, or heaven forbid, walk to school by themselves. Times certainly are a-changing.

I grew up right outside of the city limits of Philadelphia in a rather typical 1950’s suburban neighborhood. Our house happened to sit on a highway, US route #1, a very busy road that happened to sit at the intersection of another busy road. I prided myself in my ability to wake in the middle of the night from a deep sleep at the sounds of tires squealing and get to my window in time to see the cars actually crash. My sister and I walked to school along and across that highway for one mile every day, starting with kindergarten, as did every other kid in the area.

At the age of eleven I started a snow removal business, having contracted with many of the families and a few businesses in the area and having hired a couple of my friends to work for me. On school nights if it was supposed to snow, I would stay up and wait for the snow and would hit the streets as soon as it started coming down, often working from two or three am until it was time to go to school. My parents were proud of my initiative, and if they had anxiety over my being out on the streets in the middle of the night, I never knew it. I suspect they might have had a twinge or two of apprehension; but if they did they kept it to themselves.

Before I start getting hate mail, let me say that I’m not suggesting that you let your kids go out by themselves and roam the streets in the middle of the night, or that you have your seven-year-old daughter take a couple of trains by herself though a busy city to get to school. But I am saying that as parents we need to look for opportunities for our kids to do things independently and take some journeys.

I’ve had a number of occasions during my meetings with kids and their parents to challenge and push the parents. When traveling to our chapters, I often do evaluations out of suites in hotels and more often than not, Embassy Suites hotels. Most of these hotels have fewer than ten floors of rooms built around a central atrium, with glass front elevators at one end. Riding the elevators is often the highlight of the child’s trip. While working out of these hotels, I have on many occasions encouraged a parent with a teenage child with perhaps Down syndrome or one on the autism spectrum or even learning or attention problems to let their child go down to the lobby and retrieve the other parent. Often the suggestion is met with shock. The child wasn’t shocked, the parent was. To put this into perspective, because of the layout of the hotel you could watch the child go down the hallway, into and down the elevator, and even look down and watch them in the lobby. It should also be mentioned that during the day when we are doing the evaluations, the hotel is pretty much empty. As many times as I have done this, I’ve never had a child have the least bit of an issue. They listened to the directions, followed the directions, and just did it. The problem wasn’t with the child; it was with the parent.

We need to give our children the opportunity to do things independently to teach them independence. Independence teaches confidence, self-reliance, and initiative, all very important, very necessary lessons for all children, whether typical or special needs.

Lest you think that I just talk the talk and don’t walk the walk, my son, Laird, who now at 27 basically runs daily operations at NACD, was hauling 40-pound bales of hay to our Scottish Highland cattle first thing in the morning, in the dark, through the snow, often at temperatures below zero by himself at the age of 5. He didn’t need to be pushed or prodded or given candy as a reward, it was simply one of his jobs and he was proud to do it. He is better for the experience.

As parents, each of us needs to look at our children and evaluate their capabilities, determine what challenges they can handle, and let them go. It’s part of our job.

Teaching Chores Better Than Teaching Algebra?

Why might teaching your child to clean toilets be more helpful than teaching them algebra?

I love this video. All schools and parents should learn from this school. I have been extolling the importance of teaching chores and giving children responsibilities for decades. Sadly, parents and schools seem to do a poorer job of this every year. Many parents and most schools don’t understand the importance of teaching their children to work and contribute and how to become what I like to call “highly capable.” If I could I would raise every child on a farm or a ranch or around a family business so that there were always plenty of chores and jobs to do–lots of opportunities for growth.

Most of today’s kids don’t have a clue about chores or real “work.” I can ask a parent about what chores their kids do and get blank stares as though the concept is completely foreign, or a reply like he helps clear the table sometimes and will take out the garbage if I ask him. It is extremely rare that I have a parent reel off a list of real chores and responsibilities that their child assumes responsibility for. The norm is more like Mom having to get her children out of bed and on the bus in the morning, and perhaps when pushed they sort of clean up their room or help with dishes. And, sadly, the list tends to get shorter as the kids get older.

Many parents appear to feel that the more they do for their children, the more they are demonstrating their love and support; with the net result that they are teaching their children that they are both dependent and entitled. The outcome is often conflict and negativity and children growing up with the belief that what you give them and what you do for them is the true measure of your love for them. The more they are given, the more they demand. Along with the entitlement comes more and more pushback so it becomes easier and easier to do everything for them and hope that some day they will learn to be responsible and not so self-centered.

I see high school students who can’t be responsible for even getting themselves up in the morning, let alone taking care of their personal space, fixing themselves a meal, assuming responsibility for and contributing to the family and the home–their home–and often even their school assignments. Parents who remind their children that they have assignments that need to be completed, that they have upcoming tests that they need to study for, are assuming the responsibility for their children and are shocked when their children do poorly and that their children don’t feel responsible for their failure. But why should they? They’re not responsible, you are.

Many parents think that what their children need to learn is centered on academics and skills taught in classes and on teams. The children need to learn to read, to do math, science, perhaps play the piano or kick a soccer ball, etc. Are there benefits to these things? Certainly. They’re critical; but it’s not enough–not close to enough. Could learning to clean a toilet and having the responsibility to keep that toilet clean lead to better outcomes than getting artificially good grades in algebra because your mother got you up every morning and helped you with your assignments and hounded you to study for tomorrow’s test and having a teacher who let you take the test over again because you blew it the first time? In the big picture, in the long term, could learning to be responsible for cleaning the toilet produce better outcomes?

Children need to learn how to be independent, to take care of themselves, to be responsible for themselves, to learn that the universe doesn’t revolve around them, and that they need to learn to serve and do things for the family and others.

Children who are given jobs and chores and are held responsible gain tremendous self-respect and self confidence, demonstrate maturity beyond their peers, learn to be independent not dependent, learn to look for what needs to be done, do it, and learn to be responsible.

Irresponsible children tend to become irresponsible adults.

Entitled children tend to become entitled adults.

I love watching children grow and develop into adulthood with a strong sense of who they are, independent, confident, and having the courage to push themselves, think for themselves and to have respect and compassion for others. These things don’t happen by accident. They happen when parents understand that they are raising their children to be adults, not self-centered, dependent, irresponsible, entitled, very large children.

Teaching your child how to do chores correctly and teaching them to assume the responsibility for doing those jobs and chores needs to be seen as a fundamental part of their education.

Many parents and schools have lost the vision. Perhaps this is why we are becoming more and more of an entitled society.

May 15, 2013 – International Day of Families

bucuresti2Today I have been seeing families in Bucharest, Romania. This is my second of eight days of seeing children and families here. I arrived in Bucharest after seeing children in Barcelona and London. Between these three cities I will have seen families from many different countries. All of these families have children with developmental issues; all of these families are dedicated to their children; and all of these families are assuming responsibility for their children and their children’s futures. They are all exceptional and can serve as models for parents and families everywhere, not just families of children with issues, but all families.

In all of my years of travel, seeing children and working with and through families, there is one glaring truth. Wherever the families live, whatever their nationality, whatever their heritage, whatever form of government they live under, whether the family is defined as one parent or two, as only one child or a house full, grandparents or extended family in the home, whatever constitutes the family, they are all united in the care of and dedication to their children and the assumption of responsibility for their children. These families are not looking for their governments to do the job; they rather universally only ask that the government stay out of their way. These are dedicated parents who are absolutely amazingly alike.

In the seventies I was the clinical director of a large United Cerebral Palsy organization. I received grants from the state and federal governments and created model programs and was by most definitions quite successful producing significantly better results than other schools or agencies. But I came to a realization: that whatever I was able to provide for those children within our school and clinics, it was not enough. I also realized that the governments were never going to have the funds to give the children enough, and that expectations were not based on potential, but on the economic realities of what the system could afford to give, and that over time everyone bought into and accepted this distortion of reality and potential. Actually, not everyone–not the families I have been working with all these years. The families who say, “This is my child, this is my son, this is my daughter and I am responsible. I am going to help my child be all they can be. Help me or get out of my way.”

So on this International Day of Families, I am happy to offer up our NACD families from all over the world as models for what families can and should be. All of us at NACD are privileged to be able to know and assist these fantastic families.

Related Links

NACD International

Here Comes Super Bowl XLVII – CTE Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Here Comes Super Bowl XLVII- CTE Chronic Traumatic EncephalopathyNext Sunday a huge percentage of our population will be watching the Super Bowl. I won’t be one of them. I will actually be seeing kids in Cincinnati, or I would probably be one of the millions watching the game. I honestly try to watch the Super Bowl more as a piece of cultural literacy than out of a great passion for watching the sport. My passion for organized football ended in junior high school in my very first and last “organized” football game. My coach directed me to go in and “take out” a player on the other team. I proceeded to walk off the field, never to return.

This morning, Sunday January 25, on ABC News- This Week, I heard George Will make some meaningful statements about football, statements that mirrored my own thoughts. George Will said, ”The most important letters in football are not NFL, but CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the cumulative impact of brain damage of small unrecognized, unrecorded impacts in a game that is inherently dangerous.”

My boys wanted to play football, but I would not permit it. Spending your life trying to fix brains tends to give you tremendous respect for an intact healthy brain. If we are fortunate enough to have healthy children, we really need to do everything we can do as responsible parents to protect and nourish that brain. We parents are responsible. These decisions as to whether our children engage in inherently dangerous activities are not their decisions to make; they are ours. In like manner it’s not our children’s decisions as to whether they eat healthy food or do the things that are required to learn responsibility or to develop their brains or become educated. As adults they can make all the decisions they want; but responsible parents do not abdicate important life altering decisions to children who are ill equipped to be making such life altering choices. As parents you can decide whether or not football is safe and establish your own opinions on nutrition, education, and everything else concerning your children; but you need to be the one making the decisions, not your children. In the end you are responsible for the consequences; they just have to live with them.