Monday, August 5, 2019

The Great Outdoors


First of all, thank for all the previous advice I've been given.  It has all been helpful.
This may be a silly question, but I was wondering what is an appropriate age to send my kids outside to play by themselves.  We have a fenced in back yard with a garden and moderate sized swingset.  It is a medium to large backyard.  My little girl is 4 and my little boy just turned 3.  I want them to be safe outside, so I wanted some advice for when is it okay for kids to be left generally unsupervised??

Thank you for your thoughts.


The fact that you asked this question regarding safety makes me believe that you will be a responsible parent when it comes to your children's well-being. That being said, I find a tendency among responsible mothers to be a bit too overprotective and fearful when it comes to our youngsters. Sometimes, we just have to relax, trust God and ask Him to watch over them.  Without knowing your neighborhood, and  knowing you do have a fenced-in backyard, my advice:  LET THEM PLAY! Unstructured outdoor play is of no small importance at this age. Compare the hours they could spend outdoors in all sorts of weather on a swingset, learning how to share and create and take care of each other-----to watching screens indoors, with all the negatives that that entails.
 Instilling in them a love of the outdoors is a wonderful thing and should begin at a young age.

Mike Smart, CLPC
"Parenting Outsmarted"

Monday, April 29, 2019

Parenting Question: Parental Reason is a Dish Best Served Cold

Image by avitalchn from Pixabay 


What do you recommend for two little ones ages 3 and 4 for not wanting to eat what I fix for meals? This has just started and we want to nip it as soon as we can. Do we make them sit until they finish their plates, send them to their room for not eating, or only serve what they like out of what I fix? Or let them get up and no snack etc until it’s ate.... I don’t have a microwave so reheating meals is very time consuming. I want them to eat the time we that something that can happen and how?


 My answer is a version of what John Rosemond himself recommends:  Allow your little ones to eat with you, and inform them that they cannot complain about foods they don't like; NOW is the time to start emphasizing good manners. At each meal give them a serving of everything you have fixed, regardless of whether they like it or not. The portions should be small--just a few bites per portion.  Tell them they can have as much of any food  they want once EVERYTHING is eaten that is on their plate. If they choose not to join the "Clean Plate Club", then allow them to be excused from the table after a predetermined number of minutes. Take the uneaten portion of food, cover it and save it for later. If they get hungry later, uncover their food and serve it. Remember, no other food can be eaten until they finish each item completely, even if they don't eat again until  the next day. The hungrier they become, the more likely they will eat it--even when served cold. Once they clean their plate, they may have more of anything. I will admit that on occasion with my grandchildren, I have added a spice or an ingredient to a leftover to make it more palatable--especially if it is a food that you sense  to be overly undesirable to the children.  But I would do that only on rare occasions. As a side note: If you're good at sniffing out deals, you can get good microwaves for cheap at garage or yard sales.
Mike Smart, CLPC

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Parenting Question: iScreen, uScreen, We all Scream 4 more Screens

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay 


Notwithstanding the answer to my preview question, my 11-year-old son exhibits an addiction to computers and we restrict his exposure because of this. Currently, we have one computer in the house and his use of it is heavily monitored. However the public schools issue iPads to all of the students and he uses it each day to access textbooks, books and supplementary materials. When he has completed his work, he also browses YouTube and plays video games. I have worked with the teachers to keep the iPad at school, but since the school year began his behaviors -- temper tantrums, lack of self control, deceitfulness and all-night computer games -- began exhibiting themselves again. He has even downloaded VPNs to bypass our blocking programs and figured out how to unlock our computers. Before school began, we were free of all these behaviors. We are already working to establish and maintain our authority. The computer issue, however, is an entanglement that hinders this fight because the behaviors have worsened throughout the school year. From what we can tell, there are 3 private schools in our area that offer education without or with limited usage of computers but the price tag is high. The other option is homeschooling. I do not want to keep feeding his addiction but I don't know if keeping him home until his brain can handle technology better is going to help him, either. I do not want my son to struggle with this addiction, but I am not sure he and I can handle homeschooling. How can I help my son who truly cannot manage this addiction?


You are wise in your concern. Moreover,  I will stress that something needs to be done--NOW!
 One option:  I would march in to the school with the proper attitude, and tell the administration that "my son exhibits an addiction to screens", and detail for them your son's symptoms----those that you noted above, regarding his behavior. A public school should have accommodations/modifications for those parents who want a somewhat "screen-less" education for their child.
      There is one thing about which you may be wrong: his brain may NEVER be able to "handle technology." I have friends MY age who struggle with various technology-related addictions and health concerns; so there is little chance a child or teenager can manage it in a mature fashion.  I would also do whatever you can to avoid allowing your son any unmonitored use of any screens(TV, iPad, video games, iPhone, etc.).....With the recent explosion in technology, we don't have enough data to know the extent of harm excessive screen time causes. Some examples of said harm:
          obesity, avoidance of family members; no longer attending social functions; depressed, irritable, anxious; tantrums and
          meltdowns; lying/deceit, back problems, eye discomfort and early onset of myopia; the viewing of pornography, violence, and
          verbiage/thought not designed for 11-yr olds; pain in muscles/joints and neck; likely to suffer from attention disorder; less time
          given to exploring, creating and using their imagination; negative effects on brain development....and so on.
And trust me, no parent or child ever estimates accurately the amount of weekly screen time being used by the child. Whenever I ask a parent to stop,watch, and record her child's usage for one week , the parent is typically mortified to discover that her child is in front of a screen far more than estimated. You will need to be a MEAN MOM when it comes to this.  Do not underestimate the necessity for him to break free immediately from the chains of his addiction.
     Other options:
1.   See the administration(see above)---tell them because of his addiction, he will no longer be using the iPad at home. Ask them for other effective means for him to be educated.
2.  Change schools
3.  When he has the iPad at home, he must use it for homework only, and he must be in a high traffic area.
4.  Use an alarm clock. When it goes off, he must stop his homework and give you the iPad--whether he's done or not. Keep it until he goes off to school the next morning.
5. Is there a monitored after-school program where he could do the homework, then leave the iPad at school?
5.   Never should he be unmonitored when using screens.
6.  Go on a "Screen Fast" for a week or two--No screens whatsoever. Summers are ideal for this; there is no school and the weather is nice.
7.  No screens in his room--ever.

There are a lot of parents in your shoes who are now waking up and becoming counter-cultural when it comes to their child's use of technology. It is time to be one of those parents.  Get ready---his reactions to your pulling the plug on him will be over-the-top and intense. Stay strong. He will become the son you used to have once again. Keep me updated.

Mike Smart, CLPC, "Parenting OutSmarted"

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Parenting Question: Prevailing not Travailing

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

My question is am I being too harsh by taking the one sport that she loves to play away?  Is there a more effective consequence I should consider?  I should mention that she also suffers from depression and has been hospitalized for talking about suicide.  She needs to keep busy so I'm not sure I'm doing the right thing by taking away something that is good for her and gives her confidence; however, she needs to learn some respect and other methods of discipline haven't worked.  Any suggestions?

Thank you!

A daughter who hits puberty and has become "defiant, rude, and disrespectful" is NOT "normal." For most of our country's existence, teens were typically mature, responsible, and able to self-restrain. However, the idea of a child going from compliant to defiant once the teen years hit has definitely become more and more common the past few decades. One of the most common prevailing and travailing sentiments I hear from parents of teens is, "she wasn't like this when she was younger."  Being a public high school teacher and basketball coach for many years gives me the qualifications--at least to some degree--to make a substantial comment on this matter.
    A 14-year old wants(and needs) more independence as emancipation approaches. Tell her you want to stop "parenting" her and that you will allow certain privileges if she shows responsibility. Do not micromanage, or try to find out everything that is going on in her life.  Teens do like to be left alone. However, tell her you will be glad to step back as long as she is responsible in her behavior and in helping around the house, etc. If you told her that you would not pay for travel basketball as a consequence for her misbehavior, then follow through.  If you want to modify it slightly, tell her she can earn the money to pay for the travel team, and then assign her some extra duties around the house that will be strenuous and time-consuming enough that it will imprint a memory. And even though  you have taken the phone away for months, and that didn't appear to work---you did the right thing; and maybe you should do it again. Just because your consequence didn't obtain the desired results from your child, doesn't mean you cave or question yourself. SHE is to agonize over her misbehavior, not you.  Even though your child continues to do the wrong thing, you should continue to do the right thing. Defiance, Disrespect, and Disobedience should never be overlooked or allowed in a household.
        I totally disagree with your ex-husband. His making excuses for your daughter will only enable her misbehavior. Her text to her friend was inappropriate and should not be shrugged off.   It appears you and your ex are on different "parenting pages", but that's okay. You do what is right when she is with you. She may initially hate you for it, but your firmness and stability will win out in the long run. Keep your boundaries firm. And if she understands them and stays within them, you may allow her more privileges and freedom; and then you can begin to become a "low-involvement" parent.
     One caveat: If she is seeing a therapist for her possible depression, my advice should be waived in favor of that of the mental health professional. However, in my experience, I believe she is most likely just being a rebellious teen that needs a memorable extraction of privileges. Discipline may be "painful for the moment, but will result in a harvest of righteousness and peace"- IN TIME.
     Contact me, if needed:
Mike Smart, CLPC

Friday, March 15, 2019

Parenting Question: Toying with Grandma

My six-year-old granddaughter is terrible about helping her sister put up toys. She always has been. Before my daughter died, she was trying hard to get her to obey without all the drama, and the child stayed grounded most of the time.  Also, she acts like she doesn't hear adults most of the time. I only have them for a weekend about once a month, along with their two year old brother. It's very exhausting.  How should I handle this?

I'm sorry about your loss. My sister was lost to our family when she was in her 30's, and I remember how much my mother grieved. And I'm sure more than anything, you want to provide a conducive environment for happiness in your home during the monthly weekend when you are the "parent."  And the one thing that research and testimonials continue to prove is that the happiest children are obedient children. So your six-year old needs to learn the art of obedience. There is a tendency to give leniency to the child in that regard due to the loss of her mother; and expecting and demanding obedience from her can seem less than compassionate. Don't fall for that belief! It's nothing more than enabling bad behavior.

Suggestion:  The next weekend when you have the crew, sit down with your six-year-old first thing and tell her that you enjoy having her over and that you want her to work on two misbehaviors:  1) Pretending not to hear adults (which is a passive act of disobedience, but a misbehavior nonetheless); and 2) Not helping when it's time to pick up toys. You can simply write in marker on an index card: 1. Picking up Toys; 2. Hearing Grandma when She Speaks. Write these two target misbehaviors on an index card and attach the card to the refrigerator. Then play "3 Strikes, You're Out." Once she commits an offense in either of those two categories, put an X on the index card (or maybe have her put the X on the card). When she gets her third X that day, then she has to have a memorable consequence; one that will make her feel bad enough that she won't do it again. YOU need to decide what consequence that will be.  Send her to bed 90 minutes early. Do an extra chore for you. Don't allow her to go to a friend's house. No TV that weekend. If she cries, that is probably a sign that you chose the correct consequence. Once she knows you are serious about following through, she will eventually get with the program. 

Mike Smart CLPC "Parenting Outsmarted"

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Trim Teen Talk Time?

Photo Credit: Image by ArtWithTammy on Pixabay

My son will be 16 In a month.  When he was younger, he and I (his mother) would have 'talk time' - when we would lie in bed before he went to sleep to talk, share, etc.  We stopped doing that a couple years ago.  A couple months ago, he went through this phase where it seemed he hated my guts - it seemed as if I was his worst enemy.  It was extremely hard for me; but I chalked that up to his growing up and trying to separate from me (I also did a lot of praying and adjusting in how I communicated with him, trying to treat him more like a young man, etc.).  Now, our relationship has taken a 180 (I honestly don't know what to attribute that to); and our relationship is very close, warm and trusting - actually, in some ways, better than ever; but he is also requesting 'talk time' again.  I don't want to say 'no' because I am only too glad that he's wanting to share and talk; but my husband feels it is inappropriate given my son's age.
What do you think I should do?

The following truisms need to be understood:
1.  Teenage boys typically yearn for more and more independence---and they should.
2.  There will be many phases throughout the teenage years, where the teen  will not see eye-to-eye with his parents and may even "hate their guts."
3.  Communication is rarely a bad thing.
        You need to be applauded for establishing the kind of relationship with your son that has allowed for "talk time" throughout his growing-up years. And the fact that he wants "talk time" again and your current relationship is "in some ways, better than ever", is something to relish and enjoy. Don't read too much into it , and enjoy the re-emergence of "talk time" while it lasts.
4.  However,you and your husband need to be on the same page regarding you and your son's relationship. Discuss with your husband why he thinks Talk Time is NOT a good thing. Make sure your husband is specific in his responses. Saying the boy is too old for that is not a good-enough response.  What are his concerns? Does he feel your son is not wanting to be independent and strongly emancipated? Is your son in some sort of a codependent relationship with you? Hear your husband out.
      But based on my limited knowledge of the situation, I see Talk Time with your 16-year old son as a strong positive in preparing him for the real world in a few short years.

Mike Smart CLPC "Parenting Outsmarted"

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Parenting Question: Left Out in the Cold

Our son will be 3 in January and refuses to wear a jacket in the winter months.  At times, we have forced him and other times we have allowed him to wear a sweater/vest in the hopes that he would realize he needs a jacket!  In a situation like this, do you think it is better to allow them to see the consequences themselves or force them to do something?

As the parent and authority figure in the house, do you think it is best for him to wear a jacket? If you do, then make him wear one. If you feel it is more important for him to learn the consequences of not wearing a winter jacket, then let him wear the sweater/vest.  Unless this is character/obedience training, maybe this is a molehill issue, not a mountain. Maybe it's best to let it go.
As a boy, I remember so well the times I had to wear a big "blumpy" coat. It seemed to restrict my ability to run and have fun and play outside. It just got in the way.
       Based on my limited knowledge of the situation-and if you feel it is a character/obedience issue-- I would say that he should wear the winter jacket. This is the best age for a child to learn that his job is to pay attention to his parents; it is not your job to pay attention to him. For his first two years of his life, he has been used to everyone doing his bidding. Age three is a perfect time to retrain that line of thinking. He has to learn to do YOUR bidding now. He needs to be retrained. And whenever he throws a fit about doing your bidding, apply a consequence that is fittingly memorable. When he does become "retrained", your relationship  will become fondly memorable.

Mike Smart, CLPC

The Great Outdoors

QUESTION: First of all, thank for all the previous advice I've been given.  It has all been helpful. This may be a silly questi...