The Purpose Behind Homework

I’m often challenged when talking with kids about their homework (and when I did homework myself), as to the reason we do homework, especially if it’s on a topic we’re probably not going to use in the future. I don’t always have a good answer to the question, because I don’t really see a point to some of the work or the topics, especially with how technology has developed in recent years. I know the biggest challenge is that no one can anticipate what a child will grow up to be and what knowledge they’ll need. For example you can’t anticipate who will be a geologist, who will be a president, who will be an accountant, who will be a teacher, and who will be a stay at home parent, so to some extent you have to teach a little of everything until they’re at an age that they can make those types of decisions.

What’s important are some of the things that we don’t talk about or specifically connect with the homework and other schooling kids do, and that would be things like discipline, creative thinking, interpersonal relationships, researching, the challenges that happen as you’re working towards a goal and/or persistence. It’s through learning these practices and habits that can give you a good foundation regardless of what you do with the rest of your life. It’s easier to teach those skills and habits through something like math homework than it is to tell someone to go home and work on being persistent (which someone might take to mean saying “mom” over and over for an hour?!).

So if your kids struggle with homework or studying it may be helpful to them to understand what they’re really learning or how it could apply to their life. Sometimes the answer is just that there probably isn’t a need to learn that topic for the future, but the skills of writing or reading or critical thinking they’re using to do the homework are what will benefit them in the future and that’s the practice they’re really getting. But what’s really more important than them getting the homework done, are the habits you help them create by having them do their homework each night, study with sufficient time before a test or exam, and invest effort and creative thinking into the projects they’re assigned.  The period of history or animal they’re studying right now won’t stick with them, but those important skills will.

“Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.” Julie Andrews

Growing Beyond Perfectionism

The other day I was going through a list of things I needed to do in my head and was heading to get some tea from the kitchen and noticed a few things like little spots that need painting or things that needed a little extra help along the way that I added to my mental to do list. It got me thinking that if we really added everything we needed to do to a to do list and tried to do it all perfectly, we’d probably never get it all done. You may be able to make some great inroads, but there will always be something new to add to the list, and the more we add the more discouraged we may get which would result in even less getting done.

The same holds true for our relationships. We could constantly be pointing out things our kids aren’t doing right or what our partner is doing wrong. No one is perfect and we all have things that we do that annoy some people more than others, not to mention the things we try and fail at. So the question has to be asked: are we more concerned about appearances and perfection or are we willing to let love, trust and forgiveness prevail?

This is one of the reasons why communication is so important for families and in relationships: because you have to talk about what the lines are that shouldn’t be crossed or have to be followed. In general there should be a no abuse line, there should be a line about the importance of education and growth, there should be one about communication, and there should also be one about respect. Beyond that every family and relationship are different, and every person is different. You may have a more open relationship, or believe more in having your kids explore the world and try new things, or you may be less open than someone else. The question is are you all/both on the same page when it comes to the most important things, and willing to work through just about anything because you’re committed to loving and respecting each other?

As we enter this month that is often the topic of fears, violence and scaring others, I encourage you to consider if perfectionism is causing separation between you and those you love or hurting the quality relationships you could have. I’d rather do “good enough” and have healthier relationships than try for perfection.

Persistence and Patience

I don’t know about you but I get a lot of emails each day. Almost all of them I’ve signed up for in one way or another, and my preferred method of communication is typically email. So at least 15% of the time I’m excited to open some of the emails, another 55% of the time I’m opening some emails hoping they’ll have something good in them, and the last 30% I’m not opening or sorry I opened because it’s a repetitive email that I’ve read 6 times already from them or someone else or it’s another request from a political candidate asking for money. Being in business I know there’s some value to sending repeat emails because some people do skip them or miss them or something along those lines and appreciate the reminder down the road, but that’s a rare case for me.

But it got me thinking about how we raise our children, what we’re teaching to the next generation about responsibilities and listening. I think it first reflects poorly on who we are as people and the fact that we need 6 emails, calls, texts or messages to be reminded of something or to get around to doing something. I’m not suggesting I do things the minute they cross my life or my desk all the time, just sad that too many lives have gotten so busy that many need multiple reminders of things. What about needing to say things 6 times before someone else hears them? I know I see that with kids today that a parent or sibling is doing something or talking to someone and they say that person’s name several times during the conversation or while that person is clearly busy. Besides the obvious of needing to learn to wait for their turn in a conversation, there’s blame on both sides of the line for those who think it’s OK to poke someone physically or verbally 6 or more times to try to get their attention, and on the other side for someone to not ask them to wait a moment after they hear the first request.

The third part of this is about persistence. Yes, it’s good to teach persistence to the next generation, they have to learn to be persistent if they really want to achieve their goals in life and become the best they can be. Few people will tell you that they got their success efforts right on the first try or were accepted with their first request. And thanks to technology today if you’re willing to make the effort there’s a good chance you can succeed on your own doing your own thing too.

Persistence is important to teach the next generation, but almost as important if not more is the lesson of patience. There’s no denying how far hard work can get you, but sometimes, especially when dealing with other people as we frequently do, the best thing you and your kids can do is slow down and wait. It’s not a forever wait, just waiting for a few seconds or maybe even a few days.  What are you teaching your kids and the next generations by your words and actions when you’re around them?

Father’s Day Dreams

Father’s Day is Sunday in the US which has me thinking about dads and parenting.  It’s great for parents to be involved in their kid’s lives (it’s what they’re supposed to be doing); to expose them to what’s in the world, help them learn how to navigate interpersonal interactions, share your childhood stories and travels with them, and be active in their education. I wish more dads were active in their kid’s lives, having conversations with them and doing things with them and going to their school events and other activities. There’s also nothing wrong with substitute dads (uncles, friends etc.) being a male role model in a child’s life as well.

What came to mind as I was thinking about parenting and Father’s Day is the idea that parents have dreams for their kids. I think it’s great when parents have dreams and goals for their kids. Parents who have dreams and goals for their kids are consistently more active in their lives, inspire their kids to be more motivated, and inspire their kids to dream dreams too. The issue comes in if parents have dreams for their kids but they are so focused on the child attaining their (the parent’s) dream that there’s no other option or openness for their lives.

It may be that they decide they love the dreams you have for them and they feel inspired to see them through to fruition. But more often than not, the dreams you have for your child, as specific as they are (i.e. a football player, a runway model, a doctor etc.), only act as a foundational inspiration and starting point for them.  The good news is, the lessons they learn through the exposure you give them regarding your dream for their lives (i.e. practices and movies and events and books and lectures) helps shape them and give them tools and knowledge to use in their future, a future they dream up for themselves.  There’s nothing wrong with them having a dream that’s different from your dream for them, as long as everyone is working together to dream dreams that make each other’s lives and the world better.

So this Father’s Day I do encourage you to dream big dreams for your children, and to share those dreams with them. Then take the time to ask what their dreams are and how you can help them explore and/or fulfill those dreams.

A New Plan for Parenting?

I’m always interested in how parents raise their children, how children grow up, how our past influences how we raise children and what the future might look like for our children and grandchildren. I recently read an article about Dutch families and what one parent found when she looked into studies that supposedly Dutch children were happier than any other in the world. The article doesn’t share anything surprising or odd, but it emphasizes some things we know are important but don’t always place a lot of priority on.

The Dutch have a serious focus on making sure babies get lots of regular sleep. They also spend a lot of time at home. They also spend a lot of time with both parents during the day, and breakfast is a priority for everyone to attend. As they get older, school is seen as important but not near the priority we place on it here in the US. Finally, all-weather biking is encouraged as both a means of transportation as well as an opportunity to develop resilience.

Grades don’t really mean a lot, no one asks me how many A’s I did or didn’t get in history or any other class. I can’t say that I feel my horizons were expanded by my education, but I did feel that the times with my extended family as well as the road trips we took were helpful to my upbringing. Another article helps bring home the point of exactly how smart the Dutch are with their parenting, because this article emphasizes the importance of community, teaching your kids to care, prioritizing service and purpose, all things this author-mother taught her 3 daughters who are heads of well-known businesses or highly successful.

Maybe it’s time we take a step back and rethink not only how much we’re trying to do with our children, but also ourselves. Is your day so crammed full that you don’t have a moment to care or help your community? When was the last time your whole family sat down together for a meal?  This week I encourage you to think before you book another something in your life or your kid’s lives, is it really necessary or just something you’re planning because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do?

Celebrating Moms Who Live and Love

With Mother’s Day just a few hours away I wanted to share a quote with you from Mahatma Gandhi that I feel really speaks to the best that moms can be:

“Where there is love there is life.”

We’ve talked in the past about moms that are that because of biology only, that they have no influence on their offspring after they were born or their influence was so negative that as soon as possible the child (adult) has no more contact with her. That’s not the mom I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the best moms, the moms that we have fond memories of, that helped shape us, helped inspire us, and have taught us valuable lessons that help us live and thrive. It’s these moms that I want to celebrate and thank today.

Moms aren’t perfect, no one is, but moms teach us something that can help us see beyond the mistakes and learn to forgive in most situations; that something is love. When we learn to love the world opens up to us. It gives us the strength to forgive others, to be the better person, to choose relationships that are good for us, to do our best raising the next generation (and caring for the world that we leave them).

There are lots of different ways you can live, different experiences we can have during our lives. What matters most is that we choose to live and love above all else. I believe if we choose life (for ourselves, others and the planet we share) and love everything else will work itself out and we’ll be happier and healthier. I’m thankful for the moms who live love day in and day out, who helped us get to this point in our lives. I encourage you to give back to a mom you love this Mother’s Day.

Chores with the Family

With Mother’s Day just about a week away I was thinking about gifts that kids give moms and one of those gifts is often coupons for chores or activities that moms like to have done but kids aren’t always so thrilled about. I did that for a couple of Father’s Days but I don’t remember them really being used so I must not have picked the right things to offer. Regardless, the whole line of thinking led into a conversation with my partner about kids doing chores (and parents doing chores as well). We got to talking about appropriate ages for various chores and appropriate chores for kids but it all boils down to one question: what are you teaching your kids?

I totally believe it’s essential to let kids be kids and have lots of playtime and opportunities to be creative. You’re only a kid once and some of the play and creativity are essential for helping to shape and educate kids. But I also believe that it’s important to teach kids about responsibility, and one of the ways to do that is chores.

Chores can include all manner of things from laundry to garbage to homework to cleaning and cleaning up. You can get really creative with it or just keep it simple and straightforward. I think it’s good to expose your kids to all manner of chores so they can know how to deal with those responsibilities as they get older, but you should not disregard a child’s request to do one set of chores over another (I always hated making my bed and still do but don’t mind most other chores). Most kids can help with chores whether it’s something as simple as setting the table or picking up toys and putting them in a bin.

I think part of the issue is that we as adults haven’t done as good of a job as we could showing our interest in chores or at least our willingness to take care of them. I’m not suggesting that I’m going to enjoy making the bed anytime soon, but I’ll do it because I know it matters to my partner. So maybe it’s not that your kids dislike chores, just that you haven’t framed it right for them yet, or helped them see how it makes them part of the team of your family.

So what fun (chore) activities are you going to do this weekend with your family?

Time for Explanations

Explanations are tough. There are many funny stories and explanations that people have come up with for kids with regards to the typically titled ‘birds and the bees’ discussion, but that’s only one of the many things that parents have to explain to their kids throughout their lifetimes. Sometimes those discussions are hard when they have to talk about things like Alzheimer’s or violent/racial incidents. Others are just part of the course of life like sex and Santa. There’s definitely a wrong way to have discussions, one of the worst things can be refusing to have any discussion at all.

One of the hardest things is not having a good explanation, there are some things that you just can’t explain, and some things that the truth is very hard to accept or believe. A really simple example would be some of those cop/investigation shows where they get to the end of the investigation and it seems like 3 random things happened and as a result someone’s dead. It sounds kind of logical, but at the same time really doesn’t seem like it, and it’s even harder to accept that that’s actually something that happened in real life.

But explanations are important to us, regardless of the age we are. We like knowing how things work, how they’re connected or what leads/led to what. Explanations are great because so often we’re able to get one, with as much investigating as we’ve done over the years and as connected as we are in this day and age thanks to technology. But as I said, sometimes the explanation doesn’t make sense. Sometimes you can investigate further and find out how it does make sense, but other times you’re left at a loss and unable to make heads or tails of it.

In the case of the extreme flooding parts of the world have seen over the past year, several serious shooting incidents including the one in Christchurch a day or so ago, there really isn’t a good answer to give your children, or yourself. Sometimes bad things just happen. So in response you can teach your kids to be smarter, more caring, more considerate and to always do the research. You can’t protect those you love from harm, but you can give them the tools to make the world a better place, and give them the best chance possible to have a life filled with less hurt and loss.

Women of the Future

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on raising a women in 2019 and beyond, and what that might look like, and how we can support the future generation of women in being the best they can be.

Encourage them to explore their passions, but not be completely ignorant. So if your girls want to play with dolls, they should. If they want to build with Legos, they should. If they want to cook, they should. So while you should let them choose their passion, that doesn’t mean you should skip teaching them the skills of cleaning, planning, organizing, finances, healing, using tools, cooking and anything else that will help them with the things they need to be adults. I grew up at a time when Home EC wasn’t really a thing, that we were leaving some of those shop-type classes that taught people skills that everyone should really have some awareness of that helps us become more rounded individuals culturally. It’s about helping them be as educated and well-rounded as they can be.

Encourage them to have friends, teachers and role models of both genders. I think it’s important that we’re all able to have healthy relationships with all types of people, that we’re able to start up and have polite conversation with just about anyone we meet, for girls to see what healthy romantic relationships look like, how to be successful in all areas of life, and how to protect themselves whether we’re talking a violent guy/girl on the street or a cutthroat boardroom executive. Girls/women can’t learn that from just women alone, it has to be a team effort.

Finally, I would encourage you to teach them to love. Men are capable of love, but there’s something that’s inherently female about love. We’re able to add that softness and vulnerability that men often have trouble reaching and sharing. Women have been taught through experiences and from others that maybe love isn’t a great thing, but I’d argue that it’s one of the most important things in the world. So along with all the skills, experiences, abilities and opportunities, I would encourage you to expose your girl to love and the amazing impact and benefit that love can have on an individual and on the world we share.

Women can and should be celebrated every day, we play a big part in contributing to the future of the world, and with happier, healthier, more courageous, more educated women, the future will be a better place for all of us. What are you celebrating about women today?

Raising Kids to Do The Right Thing

This week there was an incredible story in the news about a girl who wrote a note to someone whose car was damaged by a bus that fled the scene. It was incredible because accidents happen every day, and all too often there’s not any way to get compensation for the damage because you don’t know who was involved. But thanks to this girl and her note, the driver is able to get his car repaired by the bus company.

I was really impressed by this story because it said something important to me about how at least some of this next generation is being raised. The fact that this girl wanted to write a note and return to the scene with it says that someone taught her that sometimes something as simple as telling the truth can make all the difference in the world. She didn’t have to write the note, she didn’t have to get involved, and she wasn’t involved in causing the accident and wasn’t even on the bus. She just happened to be passing by, was familiar with the bus and knew that someone would be upset when they got back to their car.

Her good deed also speaks to the importance of being aware of what’s going on around you, and the skill of giving attention to detail that seems to be a dying art. Knowing the small detail like the bus number, something not everyone would know, meant she could not only give the car owner the story, but also the details that would help him get the situation resolved.

There are lots of things that parents try to teach their kids today, especially about navigating this rapidly changing and technologically advanced world and all the people we share it with.  But this girl and the story shows that it’s not always about the new and advanced, something as simple as a hand written note, the truth, and a willingness to speak up are all that this girl needed to save the day.   This girl’s story gives me hope that parents and teachers are imparting to at least some of the kids how to help others.

Are you teaching your kids to do the right thing?  This holiday season is a great time to remember and support the community you live in and the people you share it with.  So whether it’s volunteering at a food bank, donating to a coat drive, donating toys, or just saying “thank you” even the kids can help make someone’s holiday season special.