Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Minimize Toxic Summer Entertainment!

Parenting expert Randy Rolfe, together with her husband Jay Rolfe, has raised a son and daughter to adulthood and helped thousands of families with their parenting through her counseling, workshops, and talks. One of the most frequent questions is how to keep kids occupied when they aren't in school. Her answer is that one of the biggest drawbacks to school and all the associated extracurricular activities is that today's kids have very little chance to learn to entertain themselves. They seem to demand that the video screen entertain them or their phones, or their friends, or their parents. In fact, let them get bored. If a child is bored, it is either because they are exhausted by too much activity or exhausted from too little sleep. Their creative faculties have been dulled. Many of us adults are in the same mood, using noise or food or caffeine to keep us functioning. In the summer, insist your kids vegge a bit. Tell them to go take a nap until they can think of something to do with themselves. Inevitably, they will actually begin to think creatively. Something that doesn't come easily during the school year.

Take Home Tip. It is not your job to entertain your kids. Your job is to keep them safe, to be a model of how humans live in this world, and to be a resource for ideas for their work and play when they ask. Let them do the work of living their life. Resourcefulness is a childhood gift we hope they will hang on to. Check out Randy's books You Can Postpone Anything But Love and more at her website www.randyrolfe.com.

Monday, June 30, 2008

When a Child Threatens to Run Away

Family counselor and TV therapist Randy Rolfe had a client whose 8 year old kept threatening to run away. His mother was at a loss what to do. She had told him he couldn't, had told him he wouldn't last an hour by himself, told him to go ahead - she didn't care, told him his father would be furious, and told him to stop being silly. Yet nothing worked. Almost every day he would be packing up his favorite clothes and toys and fighting with her at the door.

Randy talked with her about what he might be feeling. His father had been away a lot on business, and she had been very busy keeping the house together in his absence. They wondered together if he might be upset he was getting less of her time and attention. She protested that she did everything for him and loved him very much. Randy asked if she had said so lately. She admitted she had not. So they rehearsed a short dialogue.

The next time he threatened to leave, she said, "I guess you are really angry at me. You must be really angry if you want to leave home. I guess I haven't been listening to your problems, have I? Well, why don't you tell me exactly what's bothering you that's making you want to leave, and I promise I'll listen."

He didn't say much, just that he didn't know what to do with himself when she was so busy all the time. She gave him a quick hug, thanked him for telling her, and offered to go to his room to play video games for a little while before supper.

He never threatened to run away again.

Take Home Tip: When you feel your frustration growing because your child is doing something really unfathomable, just ask him what he's feeling and give your total attention without judgment. Most weird behavior is an attempt to get attention when all else has failed. Read Randy's books You Can Postpone Anything But Love and The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents for other creative answers to tough situations.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Empty Nest Syndrome

Someone asked family counselor and parenting educator Randy Rolfe today to help her with her feelings now that she faces "the empty nest" - one child is moving away after college and the other is leaving to go to college. This is the answer Randy gave her, and she said she was so grateful to know that her feelings were quite "normal" and okay. Hopefully it may be helpful to you too.

This is the simple bottom line. Restructuring is the right term. Make sure to tell your husband how you are feeling and that you need more time and attention from him to help you adjust to the new smaller family community.

Things around the house stay where you put them, for example! It’s crazy-making!

Parenting is a life-long process of letting go that starts when you give birth. Humans are designed traditionally to have at least some of their children in their daily lives for life (think tribal living), so this kind of thing we are not well adapted to and it does take mental energy to deal with it.

Let the kids know too that you are feeling a bit needy and it’s not about them, it’s just that you are transitioning to them being who you always imagined they could be.

Make a list of all the great things you did for your children and pat yourself on the back that your job is done. Now you are meant to enjoy the fruits of your labor, even if just from afar.

Have a chat with each child about how often seems right for you both to connect by phone, and keep generally to that schedule. Then they feel you are confident about them and just want to connect regularly out of your love.

Often you hear stuff like get a hobby, blah, blah, blah, but don’t worry about that. It’s about processing your great parenting experience and appreciating it fully, so that you can move on into the second half of your life!

The second half will indeed be wonderful. Randy talks to her children about once a week and sees them monthly or quarterly depending on geography. If it goes longer than that, boy, she feels it in her bones!

But we moms have the glorious gift of love and that pulls us through always!

Take Home Tip: Parents feel separation feelings as deeply as their children. Talk about it freely and confidently. It's all about love.

Read Randy's books You Can Postpone Anything But Love, and The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents to understand more about the gradual process of letting go and celebrating your family all through your life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Secret to Parenting

The movie and book The Secret have caused a sensation around the world by telling people that their own thoughts can change their world. As a mother myself and in my more than 20 years advising parents, it has been made obvious to me that your thoughts are truly the ONLY way to change your parenting world. How you think about your child will in large part determine how you interact with him or her and how she responds to you and also to the rest of the world.

For example, if you know your child is sweating a test coming up at school, you may be thinking, "I sure hope he studies hard enough to get a good grade so he won't be disappointed." He will feel your fears and doubts. Even if you say nothing. What if instead you changed your thoughts to, "I know he will succeed at whatever he puts his mind to and if he wants to do well he will." Imagine the different vibes he will get from you without a word passing between you.

TAKE HOME TIP: A nice way to check yourself is to imagine what kind of vibes you would have liked to have from your parent in that situation. The Secret is that you attract the reaction you expect. Expect your child to manifest her best self, and she will. And never doubt it. And let her know it.

Find out more, for other specific parenting situation, in my books You Can Postpone Anything But Love, and The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Uppity Teanagers

Randy Rolfe has a few suggestions for dealing with uppity teenagers. Her book The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents gives many scripts for responding to your teenager without inviting another smart-alec remark. The third of the Seven Secrets is Listening. If you don't listen first, you don't have a chance of saying something useful.

But listening is the hardest thing to do when your teenager says they want to go do something you can't imagine could be a good idea. Instead of reacting, hear out their plan. Then bite your tongue for a moment. Don't say, "No way! That's a reallly stupid idea. Why can't you come up with something better than that! I was doing great things at your age!" Relax your shoulders, really, and say something more like this: "It sounds like you would really like to do this, and I can see why because it sounds like fun and could be a good adventure. I'm going to have to think about it because I'm not comfortable with it so far, as your parent. You think some more about it too, and we'll talk about it this evening." And then be sure to focus on it in the evening! Whether they bring it up or you do. If they don't, you should.

If you can't get comfortable with it and they is still adamant on doing it, tell them exactly what are your concerns. And meanwhile, be sure you have thought about it seriously enough to be able to express and focus on your biggest objection. Nothing is more frustrating to a teenager than the feeling that you as the parent don't really know what bothers you and are just coming up with multiple excuses to say no. If you can't agree, then take another break and both try to overcome that main objection with a modification of the plan. Your teenager will of course say your suggested modifications are corny and unnecessary, but it's your job to set limits as long as your child is under your roof.

Too often today, parents are so busy they try to give short quick answers and leave the child feeling unheard and disrespected. With those feelings they're likely to try to get away with the plan behind your back! Teenagers want parents to care, and they actually want them to express their concerns based on their own experiences. If no modifications make the plan acceptable to you, then acknowledge the child's disappointment. Don't make up some lame substitute. Simply say, "I'm really sorry I couldn't go along with your plan. I wouldn't be the kind of parent I want to be - and I hope you will be one day - if I didn't set the limits I believe are approriate for your age and stage of life. I love you that much." Okay - it's mushy. But believe me, they like mushy, though they seldom let on.

Randy Rolfe's Take Home Tip of the Day: Make sure your teenager is fed, watered (that is, not dehydrated), and rested before you attempt any negotiations! If they are all worked up about something, suggest sharing a snack and a tall glass of water while you talk! If they say no, go ahead and serve yourself anyhow and chances are they will join in. In today's fast paced world, we're all hungry, thirsty and tired more than we know and it comes out in lazy careless interactions with our loved ones!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Have a Family Friendly Year!

Welcome to 2008! I, Randy Rolfe, haven't really gotten into the blogging habit yet, but it's growing on me. I want so much to share with modern parents the secrets to raising great children and enjoying the process!

The holidays are always very big and special to our family and we had a blast! Now the new year is moving forward quickly and I want to share some more tips!

There is so much you can do to make this a special year for your family. And not to worry, it doesn't have to be things to do, it may be things not to do. Like overscheduling yourself and your children, or feeling you must perfect your decisions or theirs.

We are the parents of our children because we have a longer view of things and can share with them the benefits of our experience. It may seem obvious, but it has profound consequences, that human beings have a longer childhood than any other species. Instead of following rote instinct, we must learn from our elders how to prosper in this world. I always remind parents that their children are genetically programmed to pay attention to their parents, even when it seems that's exactly what they don't want to do. But we always have that going for us.

This power cuts both ways. On the one hand, if we don't give them the guidance they crave, they may feel good about all the freedom, but deep down they will also feel a sense of abandonment. Human parents are meant to oversee their child's development. On the other hand, when we do give them guidance, it is their job to resist, and think, and decide if they will follow our guidance. This is how they develop their judgment and independence. And we must experience that bit of resistance and not take it personally.

But meanwhile, if they have come to appreciate our guidance in the past - being helpful more often than not - they will tend to integrate our guidance and judgment into their own thought processes and in this way progressively become more "mature."

This may sound awfully theoretical. But how does it play out? When a boy of 7 has been playing with some rough school mates and comes home and plays too roughly with his 5 year old sister, what do you do?

If you leave them to work it out for themselves, the girl may not know how to stand up for herself at that age. So the parent can intervene. If the boy gets punished, does he learn anything? Perhaps separating them for 10 minutes and telling them how to moderate their behavior and to think about how they can get along better and have more fun together would be more helpful.

Here the parent is relying on the children's desire to be guided, as well as to get along with parent and sibling. It is amazing how effective small changes like this can be!

Take Home Tip - Take your time to consider the wiser response to your child's behavior this year, each time you feel that frequent parental feeling of: "Now what do I do?" Remember why you are the parent and she or he is the child and count on the time-honored purpose of this powerful family relationship. Let your children see how you deliberate your response and they will learn from your example to be thoughtful and deliberate in their choices.

Come back for more!