The soccer dad, dressed in cream-colored fleece and green pants, eerily blending in with the soccer nets and the field as he stands there like a fixture all Saturday and half of Sunday; The friend emailing with gaze fixed at the computer outputting an update to her friends: “We have hockey three times a week, dance class, violin, and karate…”, with hardly a mention of herself at all (except to tell you that she's upped her dosage of Prozac); The mom, who suddenly short-circuits when after dropping her son off at school he asks her to drive back with a different sandwich for his lunch and yells, "This is what I’ve become?! My kid’s employee?!...

Meet the Automamoms and the Daddroids.

The six-year-olds staring into their i -Phones with masked, not mischievous faces; the kid coming home from a full day of planned activities with two hours left before bedtime who asks, "What are we going to do when we get home?"; the fifteen-year-old cheating on his test because if he doesn’t get the highest score in the class he feels he’s worthless…

Meet the Botkids.

Welcome to Robotic Parenting. Had enough?

With our quest to be perfect parents, we have reduced ourselves to mere machines. We have renounced our own goals, dreams, and needs, for the sole function of raising the perfect child. With the quest to raise the perfect child, we have reduced our children to robots. We have programmed our children simply to perform, while neglecting the development of their inner selves: their imagination, compassion, self-awareness, motivation, creativity…

We are the Automamoms and the Daddroids. It’s nice to meet you. Don’t ask us about ourselves because we really can’t answer – we have lost our identities. Ask us our names and we will pause only long enough to tell you, “I’m Jane’s mom…” and, “I’m Justin’s dad…”

Meet our Robokids. Please note that they won’t care about meeting you unless you talk about them. Ask them their names and anything else that concerns them, and they will tell you. Then they will be silent. Perhaps waiting for instruction.

In our impossible quest to be perfect parents, we have lost our selves as people. And we are destroying all that makes us – and our children – human.

The good news is parenting is a behavior and behavior can be changed.

This is your wakeup call. Hello? Are you in there? Life is calling…

The Ten Steps for going from humanoid parent back to human being

  • 1. Put yourself first (at least sometimes).
  • 2. Keep the family together.
  • 3. Don't be your child's friend.
  • 4. Get disorganized.
  • 5. Bore your kids.
  • 6. Put your children to work.
  • 7. Miss the soccer game.
  • 8. Pare down.
  • 9. Tell your children they did not do a good job.
  • 10. Get back in the real world.

Quiz: Are you a Robotic Parent?

Instructions: choose (1) or (2). Add up the points at the quiz's end.

1. For you, a "driving range" is defined as:

(1) green grass, blue skies, and your yellow golf balls
(2) the miles between hockey rinks (soccer fields, etc.) your child plays on during traveling team games

2. How well does your child know spiderman (barbie, etc.)?

(1) pretty well, by reading or watching a dvd they were in
(2) very well, as spiderman (barbie, etc.) has come to see him personally, at his birthday party

3. You artfully arrange a double sleepover (away) for your two kids on a Saturday night so you can:

(1) seduce your husband
(2) finish up studying how to help your kids with their homework

4. After a game of tennis with your daughter, you:

(1) give her a bottle of water, to rehydrate
(2) give her your remote control, thank her, and leave the room

5. You are cleaning the dinner dishes yourself because:

(1) your kids are in full body casts from a freak accident and can't help
(2) your kids are busy texting their friends

Scoring: If you scored 5 points, you are still a human person. If you scored 7-9, you are in the danger zone. If you scored 9 or 10, you have crossed over and become a robotic parent. Time for the 10 steps...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Going from Humanoid Back to Human: The Ten Steps

more on The 10 Steps
to go from humanoid back to human:

1. Put yourself first (sometimes).

Putting yourself first lets you show your children that you are a person too. Your children need to know that there are others in the world besides them. They need to know that others have needs too and that the world does not revolve around their needs. If your children don't learn this, they risk becoming entitled, self-centered, and even narcissistic.
So take a job, a hobby, a class.....or just take a walk around the block. Schedule something for you rather than scheduling another activity for your child. Doing something for yourself - you'll be happier. And a happier parent is a better parent.

2. Keep the family together.

Do things as a family rather than going from one individual's activity to another. Maintain the family unit and your couplehood.

The man or the woman who helped you bring your kids into the world shouldn't be relegated to mere "roommate" status once your kids have arrived. Spend some time with your spouse. Try going with him or her to one child's soccer game one week and the other child's soccer game the next, instead of splitting up so that one of you is at each game each week but apart from each other. Studies have shown that satisfaction with marriage tends to decrease once people have children. Lack of time for each other plays a part in this. Engaging in activities together is believed to be something that bonds couples.

Plan some family activities to do with your kids, rather than just watching them as they perform on the field or watching them in the rearview mirror as you drive them to their next activity! The family is a traditional unit, needed for our happiness and survival. Honor it and keep it alive!

3. Don't be your child's friend.

You are not your child's peer. Your child is not your equal. You are an authority figure. You don't have to listen to your child but your child has to listen to you. Make this clear in order to teach your child to identify and respect authority figures.

4. Get disorganized.

Loosen up, lose the schedule Instead of scheduling a "playdate", just send your child outside to play and see if the neighborhood kids can join in.

5. Bore your kids.

Actually open the Sunday paper. Let the kids fend for themselves. You might be amazed at what they come up with to do! Teach your children how to entertain themselves. Allow them to develop their creativity and exercise their imaginations.

6. Put your children to work.

Have your child help out around the house during the weekend instead of play on that second soccer team. Teach him to contribute to the family rather than just taking from it. Teach your child to give to others and let him experience a sense of accomplishment and responsibility. And working together - side by side - can foster connections between you and your kids, by providing a safe, non head-on, non-confrontational environment in which to relate to one another.

7. Miss the soccer game.

Go for a run when you drop your kid off at the game. Do something you enjoy while your child does something he enjoys. Let your child know that sports is not about who's watching them. You don't need to watch them play while they don't need to watch you run.

8. Pare down.

Give your child a new football rather than the latest cell phone for his 8th birthday. Throw an old-fashioned birthday party with musical chairs and the limbo rather than a "ball" in a rented hall with an appearance by Cinderella.. Teach your children to appreciate the simple things in life while leaving them something to look forward to when they get older. Get back to moderation n material things as well as in scheduling.

9. Tell your child she did not do a good job.

Give your child a sense of reality and a basis of comparison. Do not set her up to have to be perfect. This is not fair and can cause problems in the future such as low self esteem, eating disorders, cheating behaviors, etc. Let your child mess up and learn from her mistakes. Teach her to handle criticism.

Accept imperfections in your own self. And admit them: model your behavior for your kids.
This includes physical imperfections, and acceptance of aging. This is particularly challenging in a world in which younger and younger people are seeking cosmetic surgery...According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, total cosmetic surgery procedures increased by 87% in 2011 from 2000...

10. Get back in the real world.

Limit "screen time" on computers, video games, and t.v. Got out and get some real exercise instead of playing Wii Sports. Play some real music together instead of playing Wii Rockband. Spark up some creativity and your energy levels rather than your electronics. Research has shown that overuse of media is harmful to kids' social skills. For example, check out:

Dev Psychol. 2012 Mar;48(2):327-36. Epub 2012 Jan 23.

Media use, face-to-face communication, media multitasking, and social well-being among 8- to 12-year-old girls.

Pea R, Nass C, Meheula L, Rance M, Kumar A, Bamford H, Nass M, Simha A, Stillerman B, Yang S, Zhou M.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

get in the game

I am choosing to be in the game rather than watching from the sidelines. What game? The game of life. The game I practiced for during my entire childhood. Through school, college, and beyond. Through decisions about jobs, relationships, and through negotiating with my own parents until I grew up and became a parent myself. We've worked hard to grow up! And now we can live life the way we want to. We can go after our goals and dreams.
We can play the game after all our practice. But how do we remember to do so?

Our children have come to expect that we will watch them do almost anything. And that we should. My son is one example. The other day, he asked me why I never came to his hockey clinic. (His clinic is essentially a class in hockey during which he learns to turn, do cross-overs and other such hockey skills, and that usually ends in a scrimmage.) When he asked, I was tired and irritable and I just initially blurted out, “Why should I watch you practice?” I went on to ask him if I expected him to watch me practice things, like swimming laps. I quickly then realized that this was a teaching moment and that maybe my son really waned to know why I didn’t watch his practice and so I changed my tone. “I’m sorry for being harsh with my answer.” I told him. “I’m sorry for being rude. I didn’t mean to be rude. And then my son was listening to me and so I continued. I told him again that his hockey practice is doing sports and sports are not about who’s watching. And practices are for him, as sports are. My son responded, “But why does Dad come watch my practices then?” (I am divorced from his dad). I responded “I don’t know.” My son replied, “Because he loves me.” "Yes, dad loves you," I told my son, “adults enjoy seeing their kids do things and they get pleasure from what their kids do.” I told my son that I enjoy watching some games, but that I don’t necessarily get pleasure from everything he does, and that he likes; that I get pleasure from seeing him do things he enjoys and from doing things I like. I added that everyone has their interests and that’s good.

By the time we got to hockey practice and it was time to drop him off (this discussion happened on the way to practice, in the car) I added my final point. I told him that although I wanted to write on my laptop during his practice, I realized I had to go to the grocery store to get the night’s dinner. I told him that instead of going to the grocery store and instead of watching him practice, I wanted to do some writing. I told him I wanted to do something for myself.

Then my son called me selfish. I responded that I wasn’t being selfish. I told him that all day I’d done things for everyone else: I’d taken care of the baby during the day, and then him and his sister. I asked my son if when he became an adult, would he like to not doing anything for himself – just take care of everyone else? He responded yes, but hesitantly. I asked him if he wanted to do anything as an adult – did he think he would have plans for his life when he was an adult or did he think he would just do everything for everyone else. I mentioned he would probably have plans for his life and ambition for himself. I reminded him that I have plans and goals and ambition.

He was then silent. I had gotten through to him.

You can get through to your kids by being honest. With them but first with yourself. Honestly, it’s o.k. to want things for yourself. You are a person. You don’t have to give up being a person when you become a parent. Your kids need to know that too. My son called me selfish for wanting to work toward one of my goals, writing, instead of watching him pursue his. Who was being selfish? Our kids are acting selfishly if they expect us to give up ourselves for their every act of being. It is not their fault. We are encouraging them by attending all of their sports and even practices. We need to stop not only for their sake but for ours as well.

Waking up from Robotic Parenting means remembering that you are a person too. And showing your children so that they will realize that you - and all adults - are worthy (of respect, consideration.......but that is another post!.)