The Manny Ends the Debate: Should You Be Friends with your Kids?

“We’re doing the same thing!”

The online debate rages: Should you be friends with your child?

With echoes of Amy Poehler saying “I’m not like a regular mom, I’m a COOL MOM” in Mean Girls, some profess that they have to be on their child’s level to get the scoop. The caricature of these friend-parents includes allowing underage drinking, failing at jargon, and standing idly by as their kids make prodigious mistakes.

And in the red corner: the heavy-handed authoritative parents step into the ring. Like the God-fearing residents of a pre-Footloose Beaumont, they worry that if they give an inch, their child will take a mile. They clutch to their parental role as the only remaining thread of a severed rope preventing their child from plunging into the abyss of egregious deviance.

If you’re even asking yourself this question, you’re far from the reason for parenting.

It’s preposterous to think that loosening the reins will result in the child running wild and, conversely, that your child won’t open up to you if you don’t feign interest in One Direction. You can build structure and define expectations without being domineering. And you can have common interests and a repoire without being a pushover.

Your goal should be to build a RELATIONSHIP with your child. That relationship should be built on trust, respect, and communication (and those all go both ways). Aiming for or avoiding a “friendship” has no bearing on any of these pillars. The more caveats, restrictions, rules, or expectations you attach to the relationship, the more you limit what it might become.

So instead of asking whether you should be friends with your kids, why don’t you think about whether your child really knows the authentic you. Consider if you’re staring at your phone when you could be engaging with your child and whether you’re really modeling healthy behavior. We can dedicate our love and energy to more productive parenting ventures than labeling the relationship.

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Things You Should Never Say To Your Kids

I never say never. But I never say these things to children:

Any Command

Authority is in direct conflict with a Practice Life Method philosophy. Our goal is to allow our children the freedom to cooperate, not to force them into submission. Issuing commands is not only verbally abrasive, but it reaffirms a tiered power-structure and invites power struggles with the child. Instead, frame things as “It’s time…” or “We need to…” to present circumstances clearly and objectively so children can understand expectations.

“You’re acting like a baby…”

I don’t believe that any particular facet of humanity is age-specific. Grown-ups can finger paint, kids can have responsibilities. Building a hierarchy based on age is discriminatory and won’t help empower your child to actually be a productive, constructive member of the family.

More specifically, comparing a child’s behavior to that of an infant’s is increasingly dangerous if there is a new baby in the home. As big sister watches and builds associations between baby brother’s behavior and the attention he gets, big sister may mimic similar immature behaviors to get attention. Then when you say “You’re acting like a baby,” all big sister thinks is “I know, that’s the point, now where’s my attention?”

Best case scenario? “Are you a baby? I thought you were a big girl,” confuses the child. Worst case scenario: you’ve crossed wires and your child doesn’t understand what’s wrong with acting like a baby, so she continues to act like one.

False Threats

We’ve all heard it. “If you don’t ___ right now, I’m gonna take your ____ away for a ____!” The child hardly winces because he knows that the parent is full of it. False threats represent an adult’s intention to parent by forced submission, which goes against our big-picture parenting goals. And, more immediately, false threats simply teach children that adults are not worth respecting because they don’t mean what they say.

“Stop crying!”

Elliott Cortez, Ph.D. says, “Telling a child not to cry is telling a child not to feel.”

My goal is for children to be outwardly expressive and internally critical with their emotions. That means they express their feelings to those around them while being mindful of what those emotions are telling them about themselves. To achieve this goal, we cannot diminish feelings or any representation of them. While I don’t allow feelings to change a circumstance—if he’s sad that he doesn’t get a toy when we go to buy a present for his friend’s birthday, that still doesn’t mean that he’s going to get one—I’m always willing to listen to him process his emotions and support as necessary.

A Lie

When Leslie Knope tells her triplets that “peas turn into cupcakes in their tummies” it may seem like a harmless little fib. But as we get to “Don’t go into the garage, there’s a boogey-man out there!” then it’s a little clearer to see that our white lies might do some damage. If you create boogey-men, you are inventing something for the child to fear. And at that point, what are you expecting to happen when you eventually do ask her to go out to the garage?

To avoid stepping over the line, don’t draw the line at all. A lie to get a child to (or not to) do something is a manipulation and circumvents reality (not what PLM aims to accomplish because we are striving for mindfulness).

If she shouldn’t go in the garage right now, then “The garage is closed.” And eating veggies should be implicitly expected and structurally supported. The Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Santa can still come around (tradition has its own merits), but full out lying is unnecessary and obtrusive to parenting.

 

Our words should be a clear representation of reality. If we can accurately articulate circumstances and our emotions, then maybe, just maybe, our children will use communication, not as a crude tool, but as an authentic means of expression.

Would Mary Poppins survive in The Walking Dead? How to Hire a Nanny

Hiring a nanny (or manny!) is stressful because you’re seeking a person to trust with that which you hold most dear.  There are many factors to consider when deciding whether the person will be the right fit with your family and the right person to nurture your child’s development.  But, before you make an offer to your top candidate, how can you really be sure that person is qualified to assume such crucial responsibilities?  I’m not talking about resumes or references—I’m talking about the essential prerequisites for the position.  If I was hiring a nanny, the one question I’d ask myself would be:

“Would this person be someone I’d want around during a zombie apocalypse?”

Initially, you might think that caring for kids seems unrelated to fending off attacks from flesh-craving corpses.  But the following four essentials for surviving the onslaught of the un-dead are also quintessential for surviving the antics of the recently born.

Makes Good Decisions despite Intense Stress

Feeling anxiety is not unusual when your life is in danger.  But in the widespread pandemonium of a zombie apocalypse, it will be essential to extrapolate scenarios so you don’t escape the immediate peril for an overwhelmingly ghastly result.

When children present a problem—fussing, fighting, refusing to brush their teeth—your instinct may be to stop the problem as quickly as possible.  But appeasing fussing teaches kids to use fussing to get what they want.  The best reason not to fight is that you might get hurt, so breaking up a fight might interfere with the child learning that valuable lesson.  And if they won’t brush their teeth, playing the long game and withholding sweets the next evening makes a greater impression than threatening or bribing them to cooperate.  You and your nanny should be open and communicative regarding the enforcement of consequences, but if she can’t weather a few crocodile tears or some urine on the carpet*, she’s not cut out for the job.

How can you judge?  If she’s rattled during a simple interview, she probably won’t make it through a week with kids.  If she’s calm and collected, try to throw her a bit of curveball—take a phone call in the other room, something to get her one-on-one with the child—and see if she maintains her cool.

*We’ll talk more about potty training next week!

Physical Fitness

“Zombie Runs” are offered as one variation of the popular “Mud Run” races.  The runs feature a simulation of running from “the infected.”  You might want to consider making the successful completion of one of these races a prerequisite for your nanny applicants.

Children need to be physically active.  It doesn’t matter if it’s soccer or yoga or any other activity, as long as kids can exhaust the manic energy inside of them.  If not, it will come out in another, destructive way.  Your nanny should be able to fulfill this duty, even if your child is enrolled in physically active sports camps or leagues.

It may sound judgmental, but a basic observation of an applicant’s response to questions about their fitness level will tell you if they consider a brisk ten-minute walk to be intense exercise.  Otherwise, inquire about the candidate’s athletic activities and relate your child’s current, or potential, interests.

Good Group Member

Whether you’re on the road or hunkered down, it takes a cohesive effort to outlast zombies.  Communication is crucial to clarifying everyone’s job.  And if someone isn’t pulling his weight, he’s dead weight.

Consistency is the key to a child clearly understanding expectations.  If the parents and the nanny aren’t on the same page, it is more confusing for the child and more erratic behavior is likely.  And while her focus must be on the children, the nanny also needs to understand the collective family goals such as adherence to a schedule or maintaining an orderly house.  So while it may not be her job to clean the house, being a member in that shared space means that she is partially responsible for its cleanliness.  Furthermore, being part of a team means not only following plans, but also interjecting opinions when relevant.  Good team members have useful knowledge and they are willing to share it for the good of the team.  You’ll appreciate having someone on your team who has some good ideas of her own.

If the applicant makes it to a trial day, give her the rundown and see how well she’s able to follow the schedule.  Then, as you come and go, pay attention to how well she integrates herself into the daily rhythm of your home.

Can Wind Down

What’s the point of avoiding death if you can’t live a little?  If you’re driving down an open highway, you want someone nice to talk to in the passenger seat. And if the base is secure, you’d enjoy having a person who can sing or tell a funny story around the campfire.  Otherwise, you might as well shoot them in the leg and leave them for zombie bait.

Kids need to explore their imaginations and be silly frequently.  If you hire someone dull, it may dim or extinguish your child’s creative impulses.  On the flip side, a fun, encouraging personality cultivates an environment where a child can be aptly expressive.

The last phase of the hiring process should be getting to know your new nanny as a person.  Take her out to dinner with your family.  Do you enjoy her company?  Can she be playful and engaging?  If so, you’ve found a winner.

And if the dead do rise… double-win.