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Entries in Parenting (4)


It's Okay Not to "Like" Your Kids

As a consultant, most of my days are spent making observations to help clients make positive improvements.  While the observations are often intended to be more thought provoking than concrete “how to”, the conversation around the observation is where the magic happens.  We call it providing the “unvarnished truth.”

As a parent, you often need to guide your children.  You need to let them observe the right behaviors all the time and “coach” them when needed.  They often need to hear the unvarnished truth.

Somewhere along the line they mature and ask for their privacy.  Doors get closed, parents get a bit shut out.  It’s all good, all normal. 

Around the same time, they start experimenting with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media outlets.  We always took the approach of letting the kids have their privacy, counting on the values we instilled to guide them.  Yes, they were exposed to all the weirdoes in the world…just as they would be in real life.  They knew we were there to help and guide.  We can’t keep them in protective bubble wrap forever.

As my kids got older, they “friended” me on Facebook.  As a Dad, I take great pride in being able to share in their lives.  And while they may be mercifully shielding me from some of their more raucous exploits through judicious use of security settings, we share enough.

One thing learned the hard way is not to weigh in on their posts.  A harmless comment, or even a simple “like,” is often met with immediate unfriending.  I’ve always tried to live with the adage of “praise publicly, punish privately” and even praise is viewed negatively.  While everyone has parents, they do not want you weighing in on their personal “wall” for their friends to see. 

The same applies when the grandchildren come.  Children do not come with an instruction manual, and as a grandparent you observe things where your experience can be helpful.  You can’t offer observations without being asked, or you will be shut out.

I was having this very discussion with a recent grandmother.  We were discussing her daughter and some “opportunities” for the grandchild. 

“Have you shared these thoughts with Whitney?  They seem very solid.”  “No, I must wait until asked….and then you KNOW I will share my thoughts.”

Good advice indeed.  Unless the grandchild is in mortal danger, I will respect my kids’ in their parenting skills, continuing counting on the values we instilled to guide them.  When asked, I will bring all my experience to bear on the answer.



Recently I was waiting for a meeting in a university student lounge, and observed a young woman stand up and walk away from her laptop and bag.

She walked to the far side of the crowded area to get a coffee.  She was at least 50 yards away, and out of sight to the laptop.

To be clear, she left the laptop unattended, without friends keeping an eye on it.

As I observed this, I have to admit my parental genes were kicking in.

I did not have fond thoughts for the young lady and her behavior. 

What went through my mind is:

  • Her parents worked hard to buy that laptop
  • She’ll cry if she loses the laptop
  • She’ll not have her homework or music
  • Anything confidential is compromised

So my view is she was simply irresponsible.  (Note, I have no clue what the real story is.  I have no idea who bought the PC; perhaps the student worked hard for it.  She may not cry.  Perhaps her machine is fully backed up.  Maybe she runs encryption.)

My thoughts were about the parents, and the theft of the machine.  Full disclosure: she returned with her coffee and the laptop was still there.

Now it is your turn.  Is my view too narrow or jaded?  Or should the young woman take better care?


What’s a parent to do and how much?

Guest post author Karen Ocean examines some of the thinking around what I call Helicopter Parenting

What’s a parent to do and how much?  I’m thinking about children that is!  When I think of kids I think how wonderfully lucky I am to have them.  I am so fortunate they are “ok”.

When children are babies, parents do abundant amounts of things on behalf of their child.  When they step into preschool or kindergarten the first string is cut.  When they go to school and they don’t look back at you, that’s the second!  So much more happens along the way and that’s what I’m after. 

What are the answers to these questions?

When do you catch them when they are falling?

I’m at my child’s favorite playground reading the latest news article on my phone.  When I see my toddler wobbling two feet from me, he looks like he might fall, do I drop my phone and scoop him up or do I let him learn to protect his own fall?

I volunteer, do you?

  • When do you volunteer and for what do you volunteer for – in school and out of school activities?
  • Are you the soccer/hockey/football/etc. mom or dad? 
  • Are you the parent volunteering to help with SO many school activities? 
  • Do you stop volunteering when they go into college?

When do you stand by and just watch?

  • Are you the parent who says to themselves “Oh no, I’m not a helicopter parent” and are there for everything to show your child you are PRESENT in their lives?
  • What about the parent and child connected and involved with each other JUST RIGHT FOR BOTH OF THEM?   Are they lucky?
  • Are you the parent who says I am confident my child knows I’m there for them, we have a good rapport?

How much do you help with homework?

  • Are you sitting there each step of the way answering questions?
  • Are you helping with each piece of work, guiding, suggesting, thinking outside the box?
  • Are you the one whose child has the best class project (I wonder if the child received help from you)?
  • Do you stand in the wings & wait to see how it turns out?
  • How much did you help with their college entrance essay?  I didn’t at all, should you?
  • And that college paper they wrote in your specialty area, did you help there?  And why wouldn’t you?

When do you talk with your child about the birds, bees, drugs, drinking and everything this and that side of?

I was watching a show recently and the scene was like this “so and so” 19 year old was with her boss on a business trip and it starting getting VERY personal and connected.  Somehow a parent finds out about it.  Do you jump in your car and disrupt what’s going one?  Or do you let the issues play out?  OHHHH, so much to think about.  What about the party they are at?  What about the kids they hang out with?  And on and on it goes?  And it doesn’t stop until, when, end of high school, end of college, when the child - NOW AN ADULT- gets their first job?  Speaking of the first job, fess up, we all know you helped them get that first post college job!

I hope I’ve stirred some new ideas in your parenting style.  Given you some tips and insight into what your child might have thought or might be thinking may happen.  Either way, don’t exit your child’s life as a result of one issue or another.  They learn, didn’t you and so will you on an experience by experience basis?

When is the final cut?  Really, there isn’t one is there?


Parenting via Text

When I moved to Boston from Cleveland, I kept in regular touch with my parents.  This was the early 80’s, a timeframe the local “oldies” radio station now considers in their wheelhouse.There’s little need to text when you’re together

As I would drive home from Boston, I would call to check in on the parents.  Often, I would be bored on the call listening to mom describe what color the neighbor across the street had painted their front door.   Sorry mom, I really wasn’t concerned with the color of the door.

Fast forward 30 years, and I’m now the elder male in the family.  Staying in touch with my kids is an important part of my life.  I do silly things to try and engage them, like setting up a camera so they can watch a Tropical Storm. 

Communicating with young adults is different now than 30 years ago.

The phone is passé.  While they each have smartphones (iPhone or Android), and both carry their smartphones like they are jewelry, neither have learned how to enter a number and press the green “call” button.  In fact, my son claims the Verizon phone service is so poor in his neighborhood he can’t make/receive calls…although Verizon does offer an extender.

This generation only talks when they are in trouble.  Then the phone will ring, with an immediate loud, staccato greeting of, “Dad!  So and so has happened…..”

Otherwise, this crowd prefers texting.

Here are some samples…take note of the times:

Son: You are completely welcome to stay here until the power is back on.

(After the hurricane)   Sun 7:12PM

Dad:  Thanks, Bud.  If this goes to tomorrow night, I might.

Sun 7:12PM

Son:  Any idea when the power is coming back?

          Mon 9:52AM

Dad: Thanks for asking.  I’d guess 7:21AM (It’s back.)

Mon 9:52AM


Or this status update from Daughter:

Daughter: I did an orientation for a blind person today.  Makes u want to stop taking everything for granted.

Tues 6:45PM


Dad:  No kidding!  Be happy.

Tues 6:45PM


A couple things I’ve learned from this:


  • The children select the communications time and the medium.  Consistently, they choose text over other vehicles.

    Text is NOT my preferred communications vehicle.  I’d rather see them (first), or talk (second).  They choose text.
  •  If I don’t hear from them for a while, I’ll send them a quick message…something simple like:
Hey…how are you?
A missing person’s report has been filed on you.
$1,000,000 if you see me in the next 5 minutes.

And patiently wait for a response.  They may be in the gym, or on a call, and not immediately see the message.

  • If I find myself exchanging a long series of texts, where I believe we are arguing or “talking past each other,” I’ll insist on a phone call.  If necessary, I’ll let them know we need to talk, and disengage from the texting. 
  • You’ll need to understand a new language.  Because texts are limited to 140 characters, abbreviations are used.  Here’s a great list.
  • Texting is a big part of the next generation’s life.  So, when we actually are in person…I insist for some “electronic free” time.  This is hard, especially for me, as I’m always reaching for my BlackBerry.
  • Texting eliminates the “flowers” around the communications.  No small talk.  I try to close my communications with ILY.  And frankly expect ILY2 back.

GTG.  Hope this has you LOL. 

Now, it’s your turn.  Share what works and doesn’t work communicating with your kids.