Monday, May 27, 2013

Call out to Fathers: "Lean In" to your presence as a parent

This past week, I was reading a blog in the Huffington Post on parenting.  I happened to notice that the "Parenting" section in the Huff Post is actually a subsection of their "Women's" department.  I find this so disturbing and so telling of where we are as a culture in terms of our views on parenting.

As far as we have come in some things, it is still viewed as the "women's department". I was about to hop on my soapbox and fire off an op-ed exclaiming what a bad message this sends to fathers and what a poor reflection it is on our current views on parenting.

I still might write that letter but a second thought quickly followed- an awareness that just as Sheryl Sandberg has been working with women to "Lean In" to their potential in the workplace, her same concepts could easily be applied to men on the homefront.

Heads up, Dads.  This is a call to action.

First.  Do an inventory.  Have you been sitting at the table?  Do you feel present in the day to day goings on with your kids?  Are you active in decision making and in their fun? 

You should have days where you are the "good cop" and days when you're the "bad cop" but whatever your role, you should be present.  Just as Sandberg calls out women for giving up their voice in decision making, men sometimes to do the same in their families.

Usually, it's with good intention.  It's easier to let the moms lead and be in charge while they are at work or doing other household tasks. The whole divide and conquer thing has a lot of appeal and let's face it, sometimes moms can be downright controlling in how they want things run!

It's important to be involved in parenting and not just behind the scenes in side conversations with their mother but out loud and in front where the kids can see.

It's important that kids see both parents present in the decisions and activities that affect them.

Dads, you have to sit at the table.  Get involved.  Have a point of view.  Share it. 

Secondly, make your partner a real partner.  Too often I see a divide in families where women are in charge of the kids while men are in charge of the house maintenance, financial planning, and upholding discipline.  This creates so many problems in families as it builds resentment in couples and runs the risk of creating unnecessary distance between dads and their kids. Not always but sometimes.

Mostly, when there is such a rigid division in roles, families as a whole lose out.  Parents each bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table and having both present adds for closer relationships, improved communication, and more consistency in living according to family values.

Moms, this is a call out to you, too.  If Dad wants to be more involved, you have to let him.  That might mean a few extra steps in the decision making process.  You might have to give up some control and your well established routine may be challenged.  That's ok.  Let it. 

Lastly, Dads, don't leave before you leave. In her reference, Sandberg calls out women who check out of their professional growth once they decide they may be leaving the workforce.  I see families where dads have a tendency to do this. 

While still at the table, hanging out with their kids, or getting ready in the morning, they disengage and are already in "work mode" before they have even left home. They are distracted, checking work email and making work phone calls.  We all know this is a necessary evil sometimes but not all the time and not as often as we have a tendency to do it.

Dads, as much as possible and within reason, when you're home, be home. 

Stay connected and in tune with the goings on in your home and in the lives of your children. 

You are the parent and an integral part of your child's life. 

Society and culture may be telling you in subtle and direct ways that you have a supporting role and this is simply not true.  You are important and you have important things to contribute to your family and to your relationship with your children.

Be present.  Stay connected. Don't leave your seat at the table empty.  Lean In.

Monday, May 20, 2013

What I Learned about Parenting from a Pepper Jelly Vendor

This weekend was one of those perfect spring weekends here in New England and I took advantage by attending a craft fair. I couldn't help but people watch as I saw vendors selling their crafts.

Some vendors were animated, waving me to their table to see their items. 

Some vendors sought out communication with their visitors, telling them stories and anecdotes about their products.

It was clear that some were interested in connecting and relating while others were not.

Some vendors didn't look up when I approached their table.

Some carried a bored expression when I approached, almost as if they were assuming I wasn't going to buy something.

One man stood out from the crowd.  He was selling pepper jelly, something I am sure very few came to the fair hoping to find.  Yet, his table was crowded as he engaged a group of visitors at his table.  He held a spontaneous game of truth or dare as he dared us to try his habanero jelly.
I wasn't brave enough to try the jelly but I did walk away with some talking points for all of you:
As parents, are you present for your kids?
Strange as it may seem, that pepper jelly was his "baby" and he knew every nuance about it.  It's important to know your kids.  Know their likes, dislikes, opinions, friends.  Know what they think about things. Staying present and attentive helps them shine.
Don't parent on autopilot. It was clear that for some vendors, selling their wares was so "been there, done that".  They seemed bored, disinterested.  Their bored expressions made me wonder how attentive they still were to their craft. My story was that they were just stuck with a stale formula that seemed to work.
The pepper jelly man was not stagnant. He kept trying new things, much like I encourage parents I work with to do.
     Bringing new ideas to the proverbial kitchen table helps parents tune in their kids. 
          It shows kids that their parents are paying attention. 
               It illustrates your investment as parents.
While some vendors wore expressions assuming no one was buying what they were selling, the jelly salesman acted with a positive attitude, as if he knew he'd make a sale.
Parents could learn a lot from him. So often, I see parents who move through their world assuming their kids will act out, do drugs, try something unsafe.  It is such a given for them that sometimes, they don't bother telling their kids what they want them to think.
Yes, it is natural and expected that kids and teens will test boundaries and limits.  It's almost in their job description.  That does not mean, though, that you stop telling them your values, what you believe and what you expect from them.
Yes, they may act out anyway but make the pitch.
Stay present.
Connect with them on your message
They may act disinterested.  They may walk away.  They will also remember and learn what you think and they may come back.  By staying silent, you almost force them to choose their own direction.
Stop that sabotaging behavior today. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Quick Tip for Raising a Confident Child

Did you know you are holding an easy parenting tip right in the palm of your hand?

Want to raise a confident child?

Start today.

Take the time to teach your child how to deliver a confident handshake.

Sometimes, it really is that simple.    
A firm handshake.   
Eye Contact.
A smile.
Teaching a child to initiate an interaction with an act of confidence builds confidence.
Think about the last limp handshake you received and the impression it left you with and what you thought about that person. Teaching your child  how to make a good first impression increases their likelihood for success in any number of situations.

Any time a child has an opportunity to shake a hand, reinforce the skill.
It communicates self-confidence.
It welcomes a favorable response.
It's literally a life skill that will last a lifetime.
If this quick tip has you considering a stronger grip the next time you shake a hand, even better.
Raising confident kids starts with being a confident parent.