Stay On the Couch

Posted December 8, 2018 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Miscellaneous

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… and watch a movie.

Hello again. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like writing here. Of course a lot has happened while I’ve been away, I just haven’t written about it.

I don’t know why today is different. It just is.

Fenner and Ellen are off at college and Charlotte, my youngest, is now 16. I took Charlotte to the doctor for a regular check-up. I love our pediatrician. She’s funny and disarming and humble. I respect her opinion.

I left the exam room half-way through the appointment as usual so the doctor and Charlotte can talk privately. We all think that’s a good idea. Of course I’m always tempted to listen in, but I don’t.

When they were done talking, the doctor came out to find me. She said, “Oh my gosh, she is so wonderful. I usually ask my teenage patients, ‘So, does your mom drive you crazy?’ you know, as a way to get them talking, but when I asked her she just said, ‘No, not at all!’ Wow. I hope I do as good a job with my kids as you have with yours.”

That meant a lot coming from her, and I felt a flood of gratitude. I’m not special or any kind of genius, I was just lucky enough to stumble upon some very good information and I picked it up and ran with it.

I wanted to take a minute and give her a nugget of what I’ve learned, pay it forward just a little. But time was up and she needed to see her next patient. If I had time here’s what I would have said:

1) Imagine yourself sitting beside your child in the horse-drawn carriage of their lives and every single day look for any opportunity, big or small, to hand over the reins. The small ones add up fast into something much bigger.

2) Make connecting a priority even if just for a moment— a high-five, a joke, a song, ten seconds of undivided attention.

In a nutshell: Remember to stay on the couch and watch a movie.

I’ll explain.

Just the other day, I was sitting on the couch reading when Charlotte called from the kitchen:

Charlotte: “Mooooom!!! The freezer won’t close!”

My brain: [Oh shit. Please don’t let there be anything really wrong with the freezer.]

My mouth: (without looking up) “Ok …”

Charlotte: (rummaging sounds, pushing on the door) “Mom, it won’t close! I don’t see anything in the way!”


Me: (still reading … and hoping) “Huh.”

Charlotte: (shoving harder on the door) “Mom! What should … wait … oh … It was a piece of bread! I got it! We’re good!”

Me: “Cool. Hey, what was that movie you wanted to watch tonight?”

After all this time, do I still have the urge to jump up and do the “lemme see, oh here’s the problem, good thing I was here to fix it” routine? Absolutely.


(sorry, couldn’t … um … resist)

This isn’t easy and you won’t be perfect, but even a 50% increase in staying on the couch will make a world of difference toward not driving your kids crazy.

That’s my most important nugget.


ps Do you have a stay-on-the-couch story? Tell me about it!



Beating out Abe

Posted September 17, 2014 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Miscellaneous

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The other day Charlotte handed me her school journal and said, “Here, you can read this.” About halfway through, I saw this entry. I didn’t make a big deal, I just said, “Wow, that’s really nice. Thank you.”

But it is a big deal. I stared at it and thought, what a huge perk of raising thinking kids: To be a person that your kids enjoy being around. If this is how Charlotte remembers me after she’s out in the world … yeah … I can live with that 🙂
Charlotte's journal entry

If I could spend the day with anyone I would go with my mother. I choose her because if I spent time with Abraham Lincoln there would be nothing to talk about. He would be a total stranger. With my mom I can talk about anything or go anywhere. She is so fun to be around. —Charlotte

Quotables 3

Posted July 24, 2014 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Miscellaneous

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First post in a long time … here’s a glimpse of our continued progress:

  • “I thought about just staying home, but last time I skipped school on purpose, it was really hard to catch up.”
  • “I figured out if I do jumping jacks when I first get up then I won’t go back to sleep.”
  • “That’s because I’m smarter than you, mom.”
  • “Ok mom, if you won’t tell me ‘no,’ then I’ll use my frontal lobe to tell myself ‘no.'”
  • “My friends say our bathroom is disgusting. We need to fix this!”
  • “Well that was a fail. Oh, well, live and learn!”
  • “Mom, what would you do without me?”
  • “Mom, it was better before you fiddle-fuddled with it!”
  • “I hate when I need help with a little thing and then I got it and then they keep helping me even though I don’t want any more help…it’s like, just answer my question and then stop.”
  • “You don’t have to go to school, but it’s a good idea.”
  • “After that, I still have like $450 left!”
  • “I have a plan for my new phone — at bedtime I’ll plug it in all the way across the room so I don’t look at it … that’ll work for me.”
  • “They should do a show about us. We have the best family!”


Posted March 14, 2014 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Contributions

Tags: , , ,

“My dad complains about wrappers left around the house while he goes around picking them up! Then he nags us about the dinner dishes while we’re still eating, and then starts cleaning those too! We’re like, cool! You can do it all for us!”


But I want another cookie…

Posted December 12, 2013 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Miscellaneous

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The Holidays can wreak nutritional havoc on any child’s eating habits—and picky eaters can contribute much undue stress and conflict if we choose to let their preferences take center spotlight…Let it go.  The bottom line is—one day of bad eating will not ruin your child’s health, and most likely they will remember the party as a whole lot of fun!…Besides, if you’ve ever had too much of a good thing, then well, you know there are lessons to be learned that you’ll only discover for yourself via indulgence. — “Holiday Parties and Picky Eaters” by Vicki Hoefle

I’ve got three pick…um…kids who prefer to have complete control over what they put in their mouths. I gave up the fight a long time ago and it has done wonders for our relationships with each other and for their relationship with food.

“Follow your own path and let the people talk.” —Dante

Daughters with Pringles beaksNowhere have I had to do that more than in the area of feeding my kids. Judgements and opinions about kids and food flow freely and fiercely. Work your boundaries and shut them out. Give your relationships with your kids priority and fit your food values in around that. Figure out how to give…up…the…fight.

I’ll tell you the basics of how I did it, not so you can copy me, but to share just one story of someone following their own path:

  1. I set a few clear limits and enforce them at the grocery store to keep food debates out of the house (e.g. I’m not willing use my money to buy candy, soda or other sugary drinks, or anything with high-fructose corn syrup).
  2. At restaurants I’m willing to pay for one sugary drink, but no refills.
  3. Every day they have a choice to either have what I’m having or make their own meal. (We enjoy a lot of family time cooking side-by-side.)
  4. Parties are treated as opportunities to make their own choices and experience natural consequences.

This approach has worked well for us. A few recent quotes to give you a taste of the results:

  • “I didn’t like it. But I tried it!”
  • “Don’t worry, if I eat all of this then I won’t want it again for a long time. That’s what always happens.”
  • “I don’t want all that sugar. It puts plaque on my teeth.”
  • “Don’t ask if I want broccoli. Just put it in front of me.”
  • “I told my friends not to get me candy for my birthday.”
  • “I know from experience that if I eat chocolate all day I don’t feel good.”
  • “Mom, can we get this? It doesn’t have any high-fructose corn syrup and the ingredients list is pretty short!”

So find your own way to let it go…unless you want to spend a lot of precious time having conversations like this:

Do nothing, say nothing (advanced version)

Posted October 14, 2013 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Contributions

Tags: , , ,

For the past several years I’ve been living the “do nothing, say nothing” philosophy of staying out of my daughters’ way whenever possible. That includes the “when in doubt, don’t say anything” approach, as well as the “when you feel the urge to help, wait at least 30 seconds” rule-of-thumb.

But I’ve never repeated that first solid week of completely stepping back…until now. Last week I went on a business trip and my girls, now ages 11, 13, and 15, were alone in the house for five days.

As I prepared for the trip, I felt grateful to PoT for showing me how to trust my kids and foster their independence. Because of that, leaving them alone didn’t seem like a big deal. I stocked up on groceries, taped a list of pet care duties to the fridge, and told them which family and friends they could call for emergencies and rides.

Then, after the chorus of nonchalant “bye-mom”s, I drove away.

I called them each evening to say goodnight. Charlotte called me once with a question (that I don’t remember now), and at one point I listened to a short debate about who was going to scoop out the cat box first.

On day four Ellen sent me this photo collage entitled, “Home alone”:

Home alone collage

Then she added, “Mom all of the milk in bowls in the sink is sour and clumpy and it smells disgusting.”

I replied, “Hmm, what to do, what to do…” and braced myself for the mess as I headed home the next day.

But after all these years I should’ve known that Vicki Hoefle was right: “Have faith in your children and their abilities – BEFORE they have proven they deserve it.”

And, voila…welcome home.

Clean kitchen

Walking the walk … of trust

Posted September 18, 2013 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Contributions

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“I indicated that I would not be signing homework logs or reading logs and that I would be giving my child permission to sign my name. And then I told the teacher why. And I was clear about this. I went back to my original statement – I am raising a thinking child and I have no intention of interfering with their thinking by lecturing, nagging, reminding, scolding, bribing or saving them from their first chance at investing in their own educational success. Homework I stated was between the teacher and my child and if there were consequences for not turning in homework I expected the teacher to dole them out to my child. I would support the teacher unless humiliation was involved in the consequence.” —Vicki Hoefle

Last year I said something similar to Charlotte’s 5th grade teacher and after the initial shock wore off, he said, “All right then, I guess we’ll give it a try.”

Later, at a parent conference he remarked, “I must say that the other day Charlotte hadn’t signed her reading log and when I pointed it out she said, ‘Oh…well…I forgot to do my reading last night.’ So, what do you know? It’s working!”

This year, I wrote the following note. Charlotte happily took it to school…

Reading Contract

The difference 3 years can make

Posted July 31, 2013 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Contributions

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It’s been approximately 3 years since I cleaned out Ellen’s room for her. She actually likes to keep stuff off her floor and she vacuumed at least once in a while, so it was relatively easy for me to stay out of her way on this one. But she has also enjoyed collecting things, and her bedroom has only so many shelves and drawers. Still, I stayed out of it. Gave her lots of space and time. And here’s what happened last week:

Ellen's clean out“Mom, I’ve been cleaning out my room. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t want anymore.”

“Wow. What motivated you?”

“I looked around and saw trash everywhere. Plus I could only vacuum small parts of my rug because of all the stuff. I’ve gotten rid of more stuff than I own now. It looks a lot better but I still have more to do. I want to be done by August 26th. I don’t know why I picked that date. That’s just my goal.”

Kids need time and space to get to know themselves. Sometimes a LOT of time and space. Yes it can be messy, inconvenient, and hard to watch. And so, so worth it. Self-knowledge is part of self-love. Give your kids that gift and it will serve them for the rest of their lives.

ps Amidst the piles I also found this note:

Ellen's note to herself

The difference 2 years can make

Posted June 23, 2013 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Problem Solving

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Going through photographs today, I stumbled across two photos of our family problem board taken 2 years apart. This shows what can happen when kids are given time and space to solve their own problems. Two years can seem like an eternity, I know. But this slow, steady progress is the kind that sticks. For life…

2009 Problem Board

2009 Problem Board

2011 Problem Board

2011 Problem Board

Dear _____

Posted June 7, 2013 by flockmother
Categories: Weeks following: Miscellaneous

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Recently, I took a “Leadership Workshop for Girls and Moms” offered by my friend and fellow Parenting-On-Track-er, Cindy Pierce. Since it was for middle school girls, only my 7th-grader, Ellen, was eligible to attend with me. One of the exercises Cindy had us do was write a letter about our hopes and appreciations for each other. For each letter she provided some structure (italics) and had us fill in the blanks. Since I know my Parenting-On-Track training greatly influenced my letter, I wanted to share it with you.

Ellen-airportAnd if anyone reading this is concerned that my parenting style could result in children who feel alone and abandoned, perhaps Ellen’s letter will provide some reassurance (published with permission):

Dear Mother,

I appreciate that you are always there for me when I need help, and you always listen to what I want and let me choose my own life.

I am proud of you for accepting the mess I give you.

Without you I would not have an outlet for stress and probably would become a homeless person, and because of you I will always have a place to go.

My greatest hope for you is that you find a good place to retire.

Love, Ellen

Dear Daughter,

I hope that you grow up to be your own best friend, loving and trusting yourself.

I want you to experience both success AND failure, and to always have confidence that you will figure things out.

I know you will learn to know what’s in your own heart and will also build the courage to stay true to yourself and say what you need in relationships.

My greatest hope for you is that your love and respect for yourself will guide you in your continued love and respect for others and be the foundation for a life full of intentional courage.

Love, Mom