Keep your fears and hang-ups to yourself!: Active Parenting Part 5


So many words that come out of a parent’s mouth are words of worry and reminders to be safe, or words that limit or stifle action. I’d like to put in a word for words that encourage! Keep in mind the end goal is to raise independent children who are successful and productive adults. What good comes from hovering, limiting and instilling your fears on your child?

Encourage new skills. Don’t baby your children, unless of course they are babies! Let the kids figure things out, expose your children to new environments and see what inspires. Curiosity is one of the greatest strengths of children (we know that it is not tidiness!). If your little one reaches into the river to move a rock, don’t tell him to “watch out for crawfish!” If your school age child wants to help maintain the campfire, don’t yell to “watch out for the flames!” If your high school age child needs to stay up all night to finish a project, hold off on the lecture. Let him connect the dots and figure out how to make up for a lost night of sleep, and manage his time better in the future. In each case, the child is experiencing something new, building life experience and learning.

Encourage challenging tasks. Sometimes I have the feeling that parents have a need for the stream of non-stop talk in order to feel useful and engaged. I suggest just sitting quietly and letting your children handle, or figure things out on their own. They know you’re there, just in case! For example, when a child is young and struggling to get onto the jungle gym, let him work it out. Resist the urge to comment, give advice, boost him up, etc. Their success and self-confidence will be so much more valuable if it comes from themselves, in their own time. They are developing important life skills: independence, self confidence and physical awareness.

Encourage stepping out of the comfort zone. It’s easier for parents and children to fall back on “safe” activities which include staying indoors and playing video games. The parent knows where the child is and feels that no harm can come to him (oh yes, it can!). The latch-key child is encouraged to do indoor activities. I can assure you that there is much more danger with an unsupervised child at home on the computer than there is with a child out on the driveway shooting hoops or riding a bike over to a friend’s house down the street to play football. Our perception of danger is often skewed. Have an agreed upon plan for your child when he comes home from school if you are not there to meet him.

Let your children handle their own risk management (based on their life experiences, not yours!). We are raising four boys. We are not an “indoor” family. We choose adventures and activities that are inherently risky and there have been many harrowing moments along the way! However, I know that keeping my worries to myself, although sometimes very difficult to do, has been the right thing to do. We parents are there to handle the serious safety issues, but we do not need to micromanage every bluff they choose to scramble, every river they choose to cross, or every construction project they take on. Over the years, they have built such a cache of personal experiences that they are self-confident, yet know their limits. They manage their own risk. We are frequently awed by what they can do and manage themselves, with ease now.

Enjoy watching your children grow. Growth occurs when kids go beyond their normal routine. A confident parent doesn’t need to control their child’s every move and decision, but you do need to expose them to new experiences and activities. If you have worries and hang-ups, don’t burden your children with them right from the start. Stay nearby, encourage, be quiet and let your children figure out how to climb the tree. Keep your “I told you that was too difficult” comments to yourself if they don’t succeed. They will hopefully learn the value of perseverance and working hard. They will grow, and they will amaze you. There is nothing better than watching your kids navigate their world. Remember, that is your goal as a parent!


No slackers allowed: Active Parenting Part 5.

Cianciolo -Smokies

If you are using your brains or your brawn, you are being “productive.”  The rule around here is that everyone needs to be productive most of every day.  Productive activities include the obvious like playing sports, doing homework, practicing music, doing chores, going to work, walking the dog, mowing the lawn, taking a bike ride, doing crafts, making a picnic lunch, raking.  It also includes less obvious activities such as reading, playing outside with friends, jumping on the trampoline, creating a special snack, making a cushion fort, shooting hoops on the driveway, sorting baseball cards, playing solitaire, building a “creation” from wood scraps, and playing Legos/marbles/board games.  Being productive is a choice.  Choosing to do something productive often requires a little more effort, but the payoff is worth the effort.  You have to come up with an idea, you may have to gather materials, call a friend, change into your work clothes, drive somewhere, etc.  There is usually some setup required by the child and often by the parent to get started.  By not choosing to do something productive, you are effectively grabbing the easiest thing around which is frequently the couch in front of the TV/video game, or the computer; that’s why so many people (children and adults alike) make that non-choice.  However, the easy activities are usually the ones with little long-term value.  Growth occurs when the brain and the muscles are working together.

Opportunities for productive activities come easily when you have school, sports, work, and volunteering in your family life.  There is always something to do or someone to help.  We started early with our boys and always encouraged “doing” over “watching.” No one gets to “hang out” all day.  No one gets to sleep in till noon.  There is too much fun to be had!  Plenty of parents make excuses for their children that feed the psyche that being active is hard work.  They excuse their children from the days’ activities and let them rest.  Being active is a habit.  Encourage your children to be active by providing lots of activity – commonsense, right?

Maybe this sounds too busy for you and your family.  Maybe it sounds like you would have to act like a cruise director providing personalized activities for every member of the family.  It’s not that hard.  Once the standard is set, once the habit is in place, it becomes easy.  The kids feel restless if they sit too long, they get themselves outside to play.  If we have an open day with no scheduled activities, the oldest son will plan a hike for the family or another will help load all the bikes on the van and the kids will head out mountain biking.  Our second son makes desserts when he has free time.  The little one plays roller hockey on the driveway.  Your goal is to make it more natural that your children choose something productive over something easy.

Keep the end goal in mind; we all want to raise children who will be hard-working, productive, and useful adults.  Best to start when they are young!


Real Play vs. Screen Play -healthy habits and hobbies!

Rowan hi res pic #22 Apr.'07One of my favorite professionals, Cris Rowan,  is joining our monthly meeting via Skype this month! Cris is the author of The Virtual Child and has been working for over a decade with children who have screen related disorders. She will be discussing the importance of real play for brain development and overall brain health for children and adults. She will also answer questions about childhood stress, anxiety, ADHD, and how to know if your child is in danger of overusing tech. You will be so glad you came! Click here to register. Bring a friend and join us this Thursday March 5, from 9:30-11am at Covenant Day School.

Next, are you new to MMM or did you miss The Big Disconnect book discussion last year?  Join us every Wednesday morning in March at the JCC in Charlotte to learn more about how to manage screens in your home! Contact gosborne [at] cjdschool [dot] org to register. This is a perfect opportunity to get more informed and get your questions answered on how to balance media and technology use at any age. We love this book!



Finally, check out our new project on Charlotte Parent! We are now a regular on the parent blog page on their site.  Check it out here!logo

Oh,  and if you have not clicked on the short video clip on real play from Charlotte Today from this week, here it is again : )  MMM on Charlotte Today !

We have been busy!

Don’t forget to unplug a few hours with your kids this weekend and have fun!


Save the Dates:

April 23: Parenting in the Digital Age.  7-9 pm

May 7: Preparing for Summer!  9:30 – 11 am Tips for how to get your kids more interested in Art, Music, Sports and Reading.

The Power of Chores: Active Parenting Part 4.


One of the many things I know about cores: it is impossible to do chores and play a video game at the same time! In our day of gaming use and obsessive screen entertainment, research tells us that kids are forfeiting chore time for game time. (Did we really need research for this?!) Do you blame your kids for making the trade? What are they really missing out on?

It takes a very active parent to instill the values that can be learned only by hard work.  Thanks for sharing some great tips and inspiration, Maureen! You are an outstanding member of the MMM Mom Squad!


Chores can be a divisive thorn or a source of powerful bonding and fun within a family; it’s all about the intent (and the marketing)! Chores have a triple purpose.

  • The most obvious purpose is to get projects done.
  • Another is to build a work ethic and character.
  • Lastly, chores are an easy training ground for learning useful skills.

As parents, we would never question whether or not our kids should do chores. Of course they should! We would be derelict in our duties if we sent even one of our sons out into the world with limited training. Chores are great training. What good would our son be to his future roommate, wife, and employer if he had no hands-on skills and problem-solving practice? We actively choose to include the boys in all house projects and we have even been known to take on projects just to teach a new skill. Keeping the end-goal in mind, we hope to raise boys who are competent in many areas (cooking, mowing, weeding, trimming, stonework, gardening, electrical, plumbing, building, house cleaning, laundry, babysitting, wood cutting, etc.) and confident enough to succeed in untested areas. We often choose volunteer work at the schools and church and neighborhood in which we feel like we can work hard and learn and be productive. We parents are often learning alongside the kids on some projects.

The fact is, we are a family of 6 and it takes a lot of work to keep up with the meals, projects, repairs, schedule, yard work, cleaning, etc. As a group we create a lot of work, but we do a lot of work! No one over the age of one is off the hook. But how do you motivate everyone to be helpful? You have to believe in the bottom of your heart that chores are useful. Working for the betterment of all is useful. Tackling a project and seeing it through to its completion is useful. Working hard builds muscles. Model a positive attitude and your children will follow. Remember, you are trying to raise hard working, productive young adults. Instead of looking at chores as “chores,” look at them as “projects” and “learning opportunities.”

A few chore tips from our house:

· The actual activities change over time, but children of all ages are perfectly capable of working. When they are young it’s best to work nearby your child as they tackle their chore so that you are ready to help out, instruct, and keep them on task. For example, while you are doing laundry or sewing, they are folding clothes nearby. Working side-by-side fosters communication and builds relationships too.

· Keep chore assignments loose. We have some set jobs (Charlie does bathrooms, Paul does dishes, Owen does garbage/recycling), but I can call on anyone at any time to help. In some families, siblings watch carefully how much the other does and the kids turn every request into a battle “But that’s not my job!” It’s better that your children know that they are “on call” at all times to help.

· At any time, we can call for 15 minutes of clean-up. Everyone stops what they are doing and pitches in. The benefits are immediate and no one cops out.

· There’s nothing like having a party to make a chore list even longer. If adults and kids alike chip in on the party prep and cleanup, the party will be all that much more special. Kids appreciate events when they know how much work went into prepping for them.

· Add a little music to your chores, work in pairs/groups, or add a competitive element and the work flies by.

· If the timing isn’t critical, write lists of the tasks to be done on a Saturday and let the kids divide them up and get them done at their own pace. Let the kids sprinkle in fun activities and homework along with the chores. They cross items off the list through the day and feel a sense of accomplishment.

We definitely feel like it’s “all for one and one for all” when we work together as a family. Set expectations high, model good behavior, and have fun. Chore days can make for great camaraderie, learning and family togetherness and of course, you’ll get some work done too!

Have fun with your chores!


Saying “No” to some things means saying “Yes” to others.

4 boys

Sometimes parenting can make for long days. Maybe you feel like you had to say “no” too many times or you kept doling out negative comments to keep your kids in check. As part of being an active parent, it’s our job to think about actively building a family environment in which our kids have a good chance of becoming the caring, productive young adults we envision for them. I’m going to suggest that rather than thinking about things as “no,” instead realize that you have bigger and better plans for your child. You want more for them and many “no’s” are really an attempt to change to a more positive behavior or activity.

For example, many readers on this website are wondering about all the time their child is wasting on video games and YouTube. “It’s time to get off the Xbox” you say. Maybe you even feel guilty about saying it. But that is a good “no!” Saying “no” to video games gives our kids more time to do other more meaningful activities. Then why do so many parents struggle with saying “no” and turning off the screens? By limiting screen time you are giving your child opportunities to do more things, even better things. Fill your home with good things and activities, then anything your child chooses to do at home in their free time is going to be something you approve of. Common sense, right!? I don’t want things in the house that I need to limit or don’t endorse or that don’t fit our family values. Make your home an oasis in the world where everything is a “yes.” Eliminate the things or activities in your house that have little or no value.

Here are a few examples of how my husband and I have said “no” to some very common things and how those small decisions have turned out to be big positives in our family, and made parenting easier:

· Saying “no” to sleepovers means saying “yes” to family game night, make-your-own pizza, and ping-pong tournaments. An occasional sleepover is fine, but a child who is gone from Friday after school to Saturday afternoon on a weekly basis is missing out on their own family’s fun. Of course, you do have to have some fun activities happening at your own house to benefit from this! Many moms say “yes” to “half overs” when there is an invitation for a sleepover. Simply allow the child to participate in the activity or birthday party then pick them up after dinner. That is generally a win-win and a great option in this age of unsupervised screens.

· Saying “no” to Xbox and PS3 time means saying “yes” to raking leaves, shooting hoops, playing capture the flag with neighbors or working on a new hobby. Get off the screens and go outside and play.

· Saying “no” to keeping a perfect yard means saying “yes” to letting the kids practice their mowing and edging skills, letting them launch their bikes off homemade ramps in the back yard, building a tree fort, and mowing a temporary golf hole. The grass does grow back!

· Saying “no” to technology/phones/entertainment in your children’s bedrooms means saying “yes” to interacting and connecting with your kids! “Out of sight out of mind” is not what you want if your goal is to raise personable young adults and build stronger family bonds. Time together is what you and your children need most.

· Saying “no” to technology/homework in your child’s bedroom means saying “yes” to interacting with your kids and “yes” to limiting internet surfing. We all use computers for our jobs and homework. If the computers are right around the corner from the kitchen and very accessible to all, then we know what the others are working on and we can be helpful with homework if needed. Younger siblings hear the older ones talk about their homework or classes and learn the ropes. We as parents know more about what’s going on at school. Consider converting your infrequently used dining room to a study hall while your kids are school age and still at home.

· Saying “no” to mature-themed TV shows means saying “yes” to watching re-runs of Gilligan’s Island and Bonanza, and episodes of Treehouse Masters and Planet Earth. There will be plenty of time in future years to watch the more mature stuff. Let your kids be kids now while they can.

· Saying “no” to running the TV all the time means saying “yes” to making it a special event. On the nights that we are able, we wait until everyone is done with their work and then close out the night with a board game or a TV show – together. Imagine how positive this is for your family; our together time is our reward for getting our work done, a special event.

· Saying “no” to filling the bonus/play room with nice furniture means saying “yes” to building Nerf forts and having handstand competitions and wrestling matches. It’s great to have one place in your house where the kids can have their space and physically goof around.

· Saying “no” to DVD players in the car means saying “yes” to interacting and enjoying the ride! Kids learn conversation, debate skills, and patience in the family car. Car time offers an opportunity to build family relationships while talking about big subjects, playing cards, signing along to Billy Joel, and daydreaming while enjoying the beautiful scenery out the window.

· Saying “no” to expensive clothes/hair means saying “yes” to making your own style and saving your money for a family trip. Maybe you can learn to cut your children’s hair? It will save you a lot of money and time! We figure that we’ve paid for several vacations this way.

Parents set the tone for the family. If your end goal is to build a caring, loving family then make conscious decisions through the years in which you say “no” to the things in the world that take away from your family and say “yes” to the things that bring out the best in all of you.

As the years go on, you’ll find that you rarely have to say “no” at all!


Relationships don’t drop from the sky! Active Parenting Part 2.

Maureen, you are so inspirational! Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

Death Valley (46)

Our boys are very close to one another and to us, their parents. That goes against conventional wisdom as they are teenage boys and teens in general aren’t supposed to be so close to their family. Two points about that idea: first, don’t always go along with the conventional wisdom! And second, teens and children of all ages want to be an integral part of the family and want to be surrounded by fun, humor, security, and a caring family. So how do you build a family that chooses to spend time together and enjoy it? How do you build solid relationships within your family? The first requirement is that you have to spend quality time together. Common sense, right?! “Relationships don’t fall from the sky!” I say to my boys.

You have to spend time listening, sharing and doing with someone to build and maintain a relationship. Texting and online group video games and Snapchat don’t build relationships, they isolate people from one another. Simple activities like playing board games, doing yard work and cooking together build relationships. As a mom, I have made many decisions through the years to develop that together time. First, encouraging activities that bring the family together and second, discouraging activities that isolate.

Here are a very few examples about how we encourage family time:

· Keep the same schedule. We parents are always up with the kids in the morning. Due to our school schedule, our HS senior wakes up at 5:45 to leave for school at 6:30am. We get up, we read the paper together and do the jumble puzzle and talk about the day while eating breakfast before he goes to school. Our child is perfectly capable of getting out the door without us, and many of his peers are on their own every morning, but we choose to spend that time together. I wouldn’t want to miss the morning puzzles! We are around for the next two children as they read the comics, share stories, and head off to school at a more reasonable 7:30am bus time. Morning routines together make your children feel secure and loved.

· Do chores together. You can’t beat chores for bringing people together! Indoor chores can get knocked out quickly and if we’re all working at the same time, no one feels like they are “doing all the work.” Whenever the house is looking rough, we call for 15 minutes of cleanup and everyone gets to work. 15 minutes is nothing and yet with 5-6 people working, you can get a lot accomplished. The boys know the work it takes to keep up the house/yard. Chores build camaraderie and gratitude.

· Take neighborhood walks. After dinner we often take a “popsicle walk.” We call it that because when the kids were younger, the dessert of choice on hot TN days was a popsicle. When the dinner is over and the kitchen is all cleaned up, we all head off for a short leisurely walk. Kids usually bring a Frisbee or football and throw while we walk and sometimes we do still have popsicles or ice cream cones, but mostly it’s just the time together relaxing. I imagine that in many homes after dinner the kids head for their bedrooms and their electronics and the parents head to the TV. Electronics (and especially electronics in bedrooms and other quiet corner locations) isolate family members. Family walks bring us together and keep us part of our neighborhood. Walks build relationships.

· Play games. Board games are a great place to build family fun. We are loud and we are competitive and we laugh a lot. We play board games nearly every night, even if it’s just a short game of Racko or Rummy. Whoever has the time joins in. When the boys have friends over there is almost always a game involved (current favorites are Resistance and Spoons). All ages and abilities play and it is amazing how quickly the youngest becomes an equal! Outdoor games are just as important. Though I’m no basketball player, the kids cheer when I join them to shoot hoops. There’s always time to throw the Frisbee or baseball if even for a few minutes. Games and sports are naturally fun and encourage physical fitness. Keep the end goal in mind; children learn how to be in a relationship from you, their parents. Playing together builds memories and deepens family relationships.

· Bond in the car. We travel a lot and actually enjoy long car rides. Early on, we decided that we were not interested in any personal game systems, or a DVD player for the car. We wanted our kids to know they were in the car and appreciate the experience, and not feel the need to be entertained while we are all “stuck” together. We read maps, read books, do mental math problems, snack, play cards, nap, do puzzles, play music (one family iPod that is crammed with a wide variety of music), talk at length, laugh riotously, and daydream while looking out the window. We travel a lot and usually long distance with very few stops. Our car rides have lasted as long as 41 hours with only gas stops and still the kids get out of the car and say “That didn’t even feel like a long drive!” Car rides can build patience, communication, imagination and family fun.

This essay is going a little long and yet I’ve only scratched the surface. I feel so passionate about this topic. It feels like this is the crux of everything when it comes to parenting. Our best family times – the times when we are having fun and challenging ourselves come when we are working and playing together. As parents, we interact with our kids in meaningful ways every day. It is an opportunity! Every child has their own sports, homework, and friend time, but we always make room for quality family activities because that is what makes our family a fun group of people that care for each other.

Family relationships don’t fall from the sky, they have to be nurtured.


Active Parenting!

Common sense thinking about being an ACTIVE parent – What is the end goal?

We are excited to hear from one of our MMM moms as she shares her thoughts about her low tech journey with her four boys! Maureen will be contributing a short series “Active Parenting” for our MMM readers! Thanks Maureen!

Lassen (29)Parenting successfully in today’s world takes a lot of guts.  It is important to think about what we are doing, what our priorities are and what type of children we hope to raise.  Keeping the end goal in mind can help when it comes to making all the daily decisions that build our families. It’s the small daily decisions that make up parenting.

I am the mom of four boys (ages 19, 17, 15, 12).  These boys are energetic, positive, independent, well-rounded, hard-working, responsible, giving, outdoorsy, athletic and interesting young adults.  So far so good!  Thanks to a great and supportive husband, good health, faith, luck, and maybe some “old-fashioned” parenting, I love our boys and our family time.  My husband and I parent “actively” every day.  To me, that means that we take an active role in our children’s lives and we actively make decisions that create our family world, and we have high expectations of our boys. For example, if your end goal is to raise children who are hard workers, you might decide to have the family do yard work together, or stay late and help clean up at the school fundraiser instead of immediately running off when your shift ends.  The kids get to learn firsthand that it takes a lot of hard work to organize an event. Besides, it sure is nice to help out those who have worked hard, and it’s great fun to push the cart loaded with folding tables through the empty school hallways!

Our sons are great kids – not perfect kids.  They get good grades, work hard, and enjoy time with their family. We truly enjoy working and playing together! We live in suburban Knoxville and have one child at the University of TN and the others in the public middle and high schools.  My husband is a scientist and I am now an at-home mom with a science background.  Our priorities are family, education, volunteering, and nature.  Over the years we have made many small choices that have supported those priorities and built our family identity.  I believe that our family works because of the many small decisions that we have made – some mainstream and some counter-cultural and “geeky.”  Through these small, daily decisions we have accomplished some big things (more about some of our parenting decisions in future posts).  Through the years, keeping the end goal in mind has made parenting relatively straightforward.  Notice, I did not say that it has made parenting easy!


Our favorites!

We had a fabulous low-tech holiday, hope you did too! I hope you were able to get some good creative ideas from our gift series! Please share your ‘big hit’ gifts on our FB page so others can take note as we head into this New Year… birthdays are around the corner!

One of our top favorites was the pop up soccer goals. Thanks to another MMM mom, Santa was on top of his game with this gift idea.


Not only did the boys immediately light up with excitement but this gift was perfect as it provided hours of instant fun on Christmas Day and everyone (of all ages) could take turns! The obvious benefit to this gift was the exercise that it provides along with the eye hand coordination, strategy, team building and patience. I love the gifts that have multiple purposes. The goals fold into a small case making them very portable too.

Our next favorite was certainly a wild card (one of those gifts that really surprise you). The Simon Game. This game was passed around all through the holidays, young and old all tried to beat the game. It was very challenging! It required you to remember the light patterns and came complete with a fun song and an annoying buzzer noise when you miss (I became very familiar with that noise!).


The third hit was the corn hole game! Again proving hours of family fun for all ages and many ‘good sport’ lessons to boot!



A few new basketballs and some new (used) nice baseball bats were a big hit too. After Christmas, a young friend was over looking at all the boys’ gifts…  “Cool, you got real toys for Christmas! All I got were video games!”

We are looking forward to some MMM moms sharing their ideas on parenting without ‘the game.’ Stay tuned for some great inspiration coming this week!

12. The gift of Your Time.


The most valuable gift you can give them.

The most valuable gift you can give your child is the gift of your uninterrupted non-tech time. We spend our money and our time on the things we love and our children know this even better than we do.

Think in terms of talking, building your relationship and relaxing or playing with your child one on one. Sometimes it may just be reading a book together in silence. Whatever you are doing there are only 2 rules:

1. You are physically present with your child.

2. You are not connected to your technology (TV, laptop, phone).

It doesn’t really matter what you are doing but rather that it sets the stage for you to bond with your child. The purpose of this gift is also to get to know your child better (making him feel loved) and exposing your child to your values and beliefs. Sometimes just grabbing an unexpected 15 minutes with your child will be easy but most of the time it needs to be scheduled to make it happen.

The gift of time:  Coupon book can include a trip to get ice cream or yogurt on a regular basis, a regular one on one dinner out, a trip to the bookstore to browse.  Eat. Reading a book together, cooking something together or taking the dog for a walk with just one child, fishing (a fishing pole and a note from you), camping or going to the park. This gift of your time will make even your older kids feel loved and special more than any other gift you can wrap up or plug in. Trust me on this one!

* * * *

Enjoy these precious magical moments with your child as he discovers all that childhood has to offer; soon they will become the memories that will hold your family closer together and will be the memories that your child hangs on to when life gets hard.  It won’t be long before his childhood door is shut completely and you both realize that all that screen time didn’t count for much.

While this 12 Days of Non-tech Gifting is not a complete list by any stretch,  I hope that you are able to get some new ideas for making Christmas special for your child.  Begin with a plan and a purpose to make your child feel special on Christmas Day and leave the screens at the store for now! Merry Christmas!

12 Days of Non Tech Gifts