What parents should know about success

The “Developmental Assets” is a list that research has found of components that predict success for a teenager. I would like to share this with you so that you can reflect about it, and think now, when your child is young, how can you best position him/her to be rated high on these “assets” so they will be successful adults.

As parents of young children, some of these assets relate to you: How involved are you in the community? In your child’s school? How many friends do you have, so your child will have more than you as role models? What community service do you participate in? How supportive are you of your child’s teachers? Do you work together with them? Do you help them understand your child better? Do you coach your child to respond positively to his/her teacher’s expectations?

And: Are you preparing yourself to let your child have power over his/her life? To you give him/her small responsibilities NOW to practice that freedom? The time is now, when your child is young, to coach and model empathy, collaboration, and peacefully resolving conflicts.

Years of research by the Search Institute of Minneapolis have identified 41 “developmental assets” that have a proven relationship to healthy youth development. These assets include both external experiences which provide young people with support, empowerment and boundaries and the internal values, strengths and commitments that they need in order to thrive. As Asset Charts demonstrate, there is a direct relationship between increasing the number of assets and decreasing the incidence of high risk behaviors such as violence and drug and alcohol abuse.

1. FAMILY SUPPORT Family life provides high levels of love and support
2. POSITIVE FAMILY COMMUNICATION Young person and her or his parent(s) communicate positively, and young person is willing to seek advice and counsel from parent(s)
3. OTHER ADULT RELATIONSHIPS Young person receives support from three or more non-parent adults
4. CARING NEIGHBORHOOD Young person experiences caring neighbors
5. CARING SCHOOL CLIMATE School provides a caring, encouraging environment
6. PARENT INVOLVEMENT IN SCHOOLING Parent(s) are actively involved in helping young person succeed in school
7. COMMUNITY VALUES YOUTH Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth
8. YOUTH AS RESOURCES Young people are given useful roles in the community
9. SERVICE TO OTHERS Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week
10. SAFETY Young person feels safe at home, school, and in the neighborhood
11. FAMILY BOUNDARIES Family has clear rules and consequences and monitors the young person’s whereabouts
12. SCHOOL BOUNDARIES School provides clear rules and consequences
13. NEIGHBORHOOD BOUNDARIES Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people’s behavior
14. ADULT ROLE MODELS Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior
15. POSITIVE PEER INFLUENCE Young person’s best friends-model responsible behavior
16. HIGH EXPECTATIONS Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well
17. CREATIVE ACTIVITIES Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts
18. YOUTH PROGRAMS Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in the community
19. RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY Young person spends one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution
20. TIME AT HOME Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do” two or fewer nights per week
21. ACHIEVEMENT MOTIVATION Young person is motivated to do well in school
22. SCHOOL ENGAGEMENT Young person is actively engaged in learning
23. HOMEWORK Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day
24. BONDING TO SCHOOL Young person cares about her or his school
25. READING FOR PLEASURE Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week
26. CARING Young person places high value on helping other people
27. EQUALITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty
28. INTEGRITY Young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs
29. HONESTY Young person “tells the truth even when it is not easy.”
30. RESPONSIBILITY Young person believes accepts and takes personal responsibility
31. RESTRAINT Young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs
32. PLANNING AND DECISION MAKING Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices
33. INTERPERSONAL COMPETENCE Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills
34. CULTURAL COMPETENCE Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds
35. RESISTANCE SKILLS Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations
36. PEACEFUL CONFLICT RESOLUTION Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently
37. PERSONAL POWER Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.”
38. SELF-ESTEEM Young person reports having a high self-esteem
39. SENSE OF PURPOSE Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.”
40. POSITIVE VIEW OF PERSONAL FUTURE Young person is optimistic about her/his personal future
41. POSITIVE CULTURAL IDENTITY Young person feels proud of her/his cultural background*
*Cornerstone established this asset through local community input.

Dalia Orr

Dalia Orr

Parenting is not a second class vocation!

Parenting is not a second-class vocation!

I was so delighted to find a blog that reflects my personal experience, that I am sending you the link to read it yourself:

When my first child was born, IBM had just hired its first female researcher. Being a working mom was new and exciting, but challenging. Many “glass ceilings” had to be penetrated.

With all due respect to those mothers, I was a stay-home mom. I was educated, and I left my career behind; staying home was not a “default” choice. I wanted to be a stay-home mom, and I did what was necessary to be able to afford to do it.

Many experts warn women that a choice to stay home with one’s children is a step backwards, career-wise. I would like to differ: The time a woman takes to stay home can allow her knowledge to ripen, sharpen her people skills, and deepen her understanding of the problems she love to solve. Stay-home moms have the opportunity to read widely and deeply, to gain more complex perspectives on any number of fields, and to be able to come up with an interdisciplinary view of issues–and so to become more powerful and creative when she chooses to return to her career.

Maybe the return will not be into the corporate world–a loss to the corporations, but not to the women. But there is a growing trend of entrepreneurial ways to monetize one’s expertise and establish, grow, and nurture reputation.

So, I say: Go for it, stay-home mom! Create the new image of what women can do, so that childraising will not be kidnapped by “professional child-rearers”!

On having a problem

Upon hearing I am a parenting coach and educator, parents often ask me: “So, what do you do with a screaming child?” Or something similar. It sounds like they are testing me, to see if I know the one single miracle maneuver that will relieve them from a stressful issue in their life.

This is embarrassing. What can I say? Should I say: “Do you want a “one size fits all” answer? Are you a parent like everyone else, or like some standard, or an ideal? Is your child like all other children? Does he or she eat like everyone else? Sleep like everyone else? Smile like all children?”

If you and your child are unique, how can a “one size fits all answer” can help you? Even if I tell you all that research has to say on the subject, how would you know if your situation is a replica of the laboratory’s assumptions?

What I end up saying to the parents is simply: “It depends.” And from here a process of learning can start.

Fathers’ Day Thanks

I want to share with you the poem my husband write to all the fathers in his life:

This is a poem for Father’s Day
Because rhymes sometimes can help me to say
The things that elude the words conventional
Which often sound flat, and two-dimensional.

Fatherhood’s not a role that you or I take lightly;
It affects what we think and feel, daily and nightly.
It connects us to children, as well as to wives;
And makes us remember our own dads and their lives.

Our dads and their dads did the best that they could
To bring us up right, to know all we should,
To give us the heart to be good dads and men,
Who know when to say, “No!” and when, “Amen!”

As father, step-father, grandfather, or “other,”
I want to share what I once told my dear brother:
“Our dad always loved us, and wanted the best
For us. What we do with that is how we’ll be blessed.”

Said Wordsworth, “The child is father to the man.”
So father we ourselves, as best we can.
And as to other children we become “father”–
My experience says: It’s worth the bother.

Worth the sacrifice, worth the pain;
Because of love, it all becomes gain!
And when the sons take flight as dads–
We take joy in having been their launching pads!

Parenting is Life Coaching

There are two main ideas I liked in the article I just shared with you: One is that parenting is like life-coaching, and the other is Xeroxing.

Parenting is life coaching. The goal of the parents is to prepare their child to be a healthy, productive adult in society. For that goal, they create many experiences that will teach the child how to become such an adult: They send him or her to school, read to her, listen to him.

That metaphor might not be clear if you do not know much about coaching, so here it is in a nutshell: Coaching is creating a relationship between two individuals, where one is giving the other information, encouragement, and support to reach the recipient’s goals. If it is a swimming coach, for example,  s/he does not have to be a great swimmer, but has knowledge of what a great swimmer needs: When does the swimmer need to be pushed to work harder, when does s/he need to go easy on the swimmer, what will inspire him or her, what will help the swimmer stick to the work, the practice, the discipline it takes to reach the swimmer’s goal.

You can see how this describes the parents’ role as well: A parent cannot live his or her child’s life. A parent cannot decide what the child likes, what moves him or her, what s/he is good at – and what is his or her passion. The child is not a mirror-image of the parent. S/he is different genetically, emotionally, has different strengths and weaknesses and lives in a different historical context. If in one century it was a good idea to become a doctor, later on it seems to be better to be a lawyer, or an engineer, or have a degree in business.  A career choice that worked for the parent might not be a good one for the child, for many reasons.

That is why I like the concept of “Xeroxing” – it is such a good metaphor for explaining to parents what is wrong with asking children to fulfill the parents’ dreams. Let your child have her or his dreams – and coach your child the best you can to reach them!

The day after MOTHER’S DAY

Is every day Mother’s Day? Should it be?

It is nice for us moms to receive special attention on Mother’s Day: the flowers, the presents, the hugs, and the kisses. Yes, it is nice to be noticed and appreciated. Do you want it every day?

To me, it would feel awkward. I do not do what I do as a mother to get attention, to get flowers and all the rest. I don’t make breakfast, do laundry, go shopping, wipe tears and give hugs to be noticed. I do it for the family, to make my vision for my family come true, to support the one who needs support, to guide and re-direct and teach right from wrong. To hope.

As a parent, I know a thing or two about what is ahead on this winding road, and I want to prepare my children to deal with the things they do not know about yet, to be able to get up when they fall and try again. I want to tend to their well-being, present and future. I want to accompany them all the way to that future. I want to be their cheerleader, and witness their journey and their accomplishments.

And for me, being acknowledged at every step would just be distracting. Parenting is not about me. It is about my children, about my family. I enjoy getting feedback once in a while, but not at every step. Parenting is about flowing with the river of life, and not sitting on the river’s bank and watch it flow without you.

That is why, as much as I love Mother’s Day, I love the days after Mother’s Day. The days that I AM a mother, day in and day out, with all its ups and downs, frustrations and exuberance, certainties and doubts–a whole year of struggles, learning, teaching, crying and laughing, until another Mother’s Day.

By then, it is nice to get the attention and be recognized….

Radical honesty – should you?

I found a blog entry in a parents’ conversation site that encourages parents to be “radically honest,” and I stopped, thinking: Can I really be completely honest with my child? Should I?

To be radically honest suits me fine. I came from a family in which no one talked about or shared their feelings. Bad feelings were to be ignored, gotten over quickly–an it’s been hard to get over THAT. To get to know my feelings, listen to them, learn from them. Only then could I go on with my choices. That leads me to think that practicing radical honesty with children might be a good idea.

Now I want to consider another side of it: Can young children really handle everything? Is it good for them to have a radically honest parent?

From the child’s point of view, it is not fair to burden him or her with things he/she cannot handle. A parent should always remember the young child is dependent emotionally on him or her. He is the child’s rock, anchor, and stability.

The small child is self-centered enough not to be able to worry about the parents’ well being. No matter what the parent goes through, this place in the child’s life should be guarded. That brings me to think that the child does not need to know everything, all the time.

So what is a parent to do?

This is a question for balance: Balancing the parent’s inner dialogue, the growing awareness of his/her life, the process of having better understanding of self, and with what he/she chooses to communicate. To commuicate, giving the child a clue of what the parent is going through, is important, as long as the emotional trust the child has in the parent for love and security is not in question.

You might ask: When will the child figure out that the parent cannot control everything? The answer to that is: It will happen; do not rush it. As long as the child needs to imagine you can provide this stability–you need to provide it. Life will present itself to kids soon enough.

I remember the day that awareness dawned on my own children: In the big earthquake of 1989 (CHECK!!!!!) I could not tell them I will make sure they are safe. They were old enough–9 and 11–to watch the news on TV and see the devastation on their own. Now was the time to shift to giving them their own tools for survival. [NEEDS A BIT OF EXPLANATION]

So, these are my thoughts for today about radical honesty. What are yours?

What does a mother want on Mothers’ Day?

Mother’s Day

Yesterday I had a wonderful experience:

I was in the elevator of this fancy Whole Food market, and two young man were chatting. I overheard one say to the other: “Next week is Mothers Day–what are you getting for your mom?” The other guy say he doesn’t know yet.

I was trying to let them have their private conversation, and I am not sure why one of them started to talk to me: “What do you want for Mothers Day, Ma’am?”

He was very polite. He was wearing a  huge straw sombrero, like he just came from a fun party. But his smile was honest, and I was honest with him. I told him what I like best for Mothers Day is time with my children. I do not want to be in restaurants, or get presents. I do want just to spend a day with my already grown children.

This young man smiled with relief: “Oh, yes, you are so right. Thank you for your advice. You are so right!” I could see I touched him in a deep way, that it made sense to him; that he, too, would like to spend time with his mom. Doing that would directly express his love and appreciation, without the need for a meal in a crowded restaurant or a gift that just stands in the way of a good hug.

Happy Mothers Day to you!

Co-sleeping – or not?

Just like breast-feeding, co-sleeping is now on the mind of many new parents. The bonding with the baby, the ease of night feedings, the possibility to sleep longer – if this is all so good, why are parents still have questions?

Here are my thoughts and observations:

Co sleeping, or “The Family bed” is a cultural issue. Those who were raise in such a way do know how it works, might feel more intuitive and comfortable to do that. They have a different point of view from those who read about it and consider it without personally being raised that way.

For me, this was never an option. My husband would not allow children to sleep in our bed, or even in our room. I felt his opinion is important to me, so my children slept in their crib, in their room, from day one. I remember being able to respond to their changes in breathing from my room, and know when they are to start crying to call me to be fed. For my husband this worked, so he could sleep through it. I was a stay home mom, and could nap with the baby during the day, which I did. he was working hard and long, and sleeping was important for him to be safe at work. Also, it was important for him to sleep with me, alone, together. I liked that.

So, I did not experience the separate rooms as something to interfere with bonding with my babies. At the same time, I can see how just turning to the side to nurse, instead of getting up to do that would have been great, too. I can see how sharing the bed can add touching, codling and relaxing time. I can see how my husband could have taken part in it.

So, if you were NOT raised in bed with your parents, here are some things for you to think about:

  • This is not a pre-requisite for bonding. It is just one way to express it.
  • Like any other parenting decision, this has to fit EVERYONE’S needs. So: do not do it “for the sake of the baby” only. Make sure you enjoy it, and so is everyone else in this bad. I know for sure it would not have been good for my husband, but some other man might like it. And on this note: make sure you and your spouse talked about how, when where and how you are going to communicate about your intimate times. Co-sleeping is not an excuse to demote the partner in your life. Some observations have indicated that many man feel rejected from their wife’s attention after a baby arrives, and that might be because mother is getting now a lot of physical touching, as she holds the baby a lot, and she does not go to her husband for that anymore…
  • Be aware you are going to have a wining process ahead of you. You do not have to decide right away how long this co-sleeping is going to take place, but your baby will never decide it likes better to sleep anywhere else. In some cultures children have access to their parents bed until they are in their late teen. Are you ready for that? The longer your child share your bed – the harder moving him/her to another bed is going to be.
  • Do not feel pressured to do co-sleeping if all this is stressing you out. It is better to listen to your intuition than be politically correct (I feel the same about breast feeding…) The best thing you can do for your child is be a happy and fulfilled mom!

If you have more questions, or experiences to share _ please ask and share! We can all learn.

Parent: teach your child about charity

I am very fortunate to live in a neighborhood with a small-town feeling within the large suburb of Silicon valley. And one of the things that makes us such a neighborhood is the parties we have s few times a year.
Last weekend I discovered a small organization that I would like to tell all the world about: Animal Beacons of Light.
On a quarter-page size flyer it says:
”Animal Beacons of Light gives people specific, tangible ways to share their love, care and nurturing with children of all ages. Donations of new and gently-used soft stuffed animals are freshened, energized with love, joy and Reiki and gifted to recipients around the world. We operate through the generosity of others, whether their donations come in the form of money, time, energy or stuffed animals.”
What a wonderful cause, and what a great way to model to your child how charity works!
A word of advice: Do not rush to donate your child’s animals without his or her consent. You do not want your child to feel his or her parents care for someone else more than they care for them. You can start by talking to your children, and get an extra animal to donate when you get one for them. Charity should not hurt the giver, and a child that is attached to a toy  is not in a position to give it to anyone.