Required Reading

Amid the information overload of recent weeks, two articles have captured my fickle attention. Here they are, and here’s why.

What Happened to American Childhood?

“How do you inoculate a child against future anguish? What do you do if your child already seems overwhelmed in the here and now?”

The Atlantic, Kate Julian

How to Stop Thinking Your Teen is ‘Pushing Your Buttons’

“Do clothes on the floor make you crazy? Experts say that the tension is often about the way the parent responds.”

NY Times, Cheryl Maguire

The Atlantic article is a long one, but my favorite takeaway is this: “The more fearful parents become, the more they continue to do the things that are inadvertently contributing to these problems.” It’s not our fault. But our own parental anxiety prevents us from addressing our children’s anxiety.

The NY Times article provides a practical application. Parents know by now that their kids need to learn life skills, like picking up clothes off the floor. And they know what doesn’t get results:

  • nagging
  • doing it for their child
  • ignoring it and hoping the child will eventually fall in line, because everyone likes a clean room, right?

So what should parents do? Maguire suggests:

  • describe the problem differently
  • respond differently
  • act like a coach, rather than a boss
  • trouble-shoot with your child

How will I do that in my own home?

  • Communicate expectations clearly, like with a list or a chart
  • Tailor expectations to each child’s developmental level
  • Alter the environment, if it’ll help them comply
  • See how they respond, and adjust accordingly

Why is that so hard?

  • My children are oppositional, just like their father. He prefers to call them anti-authoritarian. Whatever.
  • One of my children functions at a much lower developmental level than would be expected, given that he’s 13. And what does that say about him? About me? About the future?
  • I have to change my house to accommodate my children? When can I change my house to accommodate me? Who’s in charge here?
  • Wait. If I start a new plan and immediately change it, doesn’t that undermine my authority?

Two great articles to read right now. But if you don’t have time, maybe I’ll have time to go into further detail about my takeaways from both.

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