Posts tagged: parenting


By , February 9, 2010 7:21 pm


Lately I have been extremely impressed with my 7 year-old son’s Lego-building skills.  Homework completion however, has reached an all time low.

Lately I have been extremely impressed with my procrastination skills.  Mandatory Boring Tasks completion however, has reached an all time low.


He sat ALL AFTERNOON at his desk with homework in front of him reading books.

I sat ALL AFTERNOON at my computer with bills, bank statements and half finished snail mail letters in front of me fiddling about (not very “unplugged” of me).


Wouldn’t you think that my son could just come up with a simple poster about a book he loved
(we’re not talking 200-page PHD dissertation here).

Wouldn’t you think that after 20 years of intense homework I’d be able to buckle down and write my long overdue letter, an essay for a contest, or even update my pilot logbook (that used to be my obsession in the old days when I wanted to be an airline pilot).


I think my son is struggling with his first experience of being overwhelmed and behind.

I think I am struggling with a mid-life Mom Crisis of not being sure of my role in life besides that of laundry and cooking machine.


Excuses, excuses, excuses.

Pointers on Points

By , January 13, 2010 4:14 pm

I am annoyed.  My 7 year-old son has begun frequently yelling at his sisters, my 4-going-on-44-year-old is becoming bossier than me, and horror of horrors, I swear I caught my 9 year-old ruffling her feathers and giving me an eye roll!   It is clearly time to reinstate our point system which has fallen by the wayside of late.

Here’s how it works:  Everyone starts with 5 points.  Each child can earn points for “good” behavior and lose points for “bad” behavior.  The goal is to reach 30 points at which time that child chooses from a list of non-material rewards, for example a “date” with Mom or Dad, ice cream in the middle of the afternoon, Kids Cook Night, make cookies, etc. (no money or purchases).

If someone gets to 0 points then they must miss the next bi-weekly class ski/swim trip (during the school year), or they must choose a random chore from the chore basket (summertime).

We keep a list of sample point-gaining behaviors and point-losing behaviors posted on the wall next to the point chart.  The children and I came up with the list together so they have ownership of the consequences of certain actions.  The list is not definitive and I am the final decision-maker as to when a point is earned or deducted.

The system is flexible.  For example when I got tired of all three children having “bad dreams” and ending up in my bed every single night, I started the policy that they would lose a point for every night they came into bed with me and earn a point for every night they stayed in their own bed.  That didn’t work, so I changed it to losing 2 points for coming into bed with me but earning 1 point for staying in their own beds.  Like magic, the “bad dreams” disappeared!  (Note:  Of course if they REALLY have a bad dream, they can still come to bed with me – for free.  Like most mothers, I can tell when the need is real.)


  • Flexible to suit changing behavioral goals.
  • Not entirely negative/punishment based.  The system rewards positive behavior.
  • Easy to keep track:  I track all points on a dry erase board hung on the pantry wall.
  • Does not rely on money, allowances or material goods as an incentive or punishment.
  • I can spontaneously say “Go give yourself a point” when I observe (or am told of) a random really kind or helpful behavior.
  • Sorry, but in my house this is NOT a democratic process.  I am the final judge, jury and arbitrator of points, rewards and sentences, (although the children can make recommendations or defend themselves).

What do you do to maintain order?

The Self-Packed Lunch

By , August 24, 2009 10:55 pm

Today was the first day back to school for my oldest two (9 and 7), and they were VERY excited.  OK, OK, so was I (choirs of angels and all that).

The two of them were up early and dressed before I even managed to open an eye.  By the time I had dragged myself reluctantly out of the shower (I am NOT a morning person) they had already made their own breakfasts and packed their own lunches.

What?? My heart sank when I heard they had packed their lunches.  This was new, and entirely their idea.

Of course I immediately inspected their lunch boxes expecting to see cookies, chips and goldfish crackers, plus perhaps even some candy that had been squirreled away somewhere. What would you have packed in your lunch at that age?

However I was shocked to find that they had actually done a good job!  There was leftover pasta (kept warm in thermoses), sugar snap peas, apples, yogurt, and…one Oreo each. I could live with that.

I plan to continue this self-packing of the lunch, and hope it does not fall by the wayside as school becomes less easy to wake up early for.

One less job for me is good.  I am a lazy mom.

Fairies and Philosophy

By , March 3, 2008 9:47 pm

On Saturday my 7 year-old daughter had her always homeschooled 9 year-old friend over. I went about my business listening with amusement to the chatter and negotiations involved in a complicated game of “fairies,” complete with multiple changes of fairy outfits.

In the context of the recent NPR reports about the disappearance (and importance of) good old-fashioned imaginative play, the afternoon of overhearing the girls play fairies resonated with me even more than usual. In case you missed it, I wrote about both these reports recently (Imaginative Play and Cognitive Function and “Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control”).

Side note: I wonder how many 7 and 9 year-old girls play fairies any more?

I have spent a lot of time in the past week reflecting on my “parenting-style,” such as it is. Here are a few highlights:

1) Obviously I believe that too many electronic toys, games, video games and TV can be harmful. You only have to look at the title of my blog to figure that one out!

2) I have also never felt that I needed to be my children’s activity-director (like Julie on The Love Boat, to bring a TV-related image into this). See: How to get by Without the Electronic Babysitting Box. My mother didn’t spend all day entertaining me, although I certainly would have liked it if she did. There is a very common belief out there that if your children are TV-free, more input and direction are required of the parents. Many feel that a TV-free life means getting fewer things done for yourself, and a commitment to spending lots of time with your child. I have to say that I respectfully disagree with this school of thought. Which leads to…

3) I think there is nothing wrong with children being bored. In fact I believe that out of boredom comes creative play. See: Let Your Kids be Bored.

4) I feel that children today are overscheduled. I can already see that overscheduling is an easy trap to fall into, especially as children get older. I am precariously attempting to maintain a delicate balance between an activity or two, and lots of free time “to be bored.” I feel a bit like a tightrope walker… See: The Six Year-Old and Her Executive Secretary.

True Confession Time:

I absolutely adore my children with all my heart and I love spending (some) time with them. I enjoy the Unplugged Project because we can all sit down together once a week and have some fun. Yet I don’t want to be communing with my kids all day long. I wish I did, but I don’t. I have interests and goals too, and I don’t want to ignore that part of myself just because I am a TV-free, stay-at-home mom.

I am in complete awe and admiration of all those moms (and dads) out there who homeschool. (I expressed my feelings about the first day of school here: The Rapture). I would certainly attempt homeschooling if I was unhappy with the current school situation (a small Montessori school that has been wonderful for us), but honestly I think homeschooling would be hard for me. Have any of you homeschooling parents felt such things, and if so, how did you overcome it?

My friend Wishy and I talk about this subject often. We have come to the conclusion that we must be missing some sort of “mothering gene.” We worry about being Bad Moms, or at the very least, Slacker Moms.

Wishy is a big believer in “Love and Logic” parenting and she has kindly passed along a few of the podcasts. “Love and Logic” calls for a consistent approach to parenting (with which I completely agree, although consistency can be hard to carry out successfully sometimes). In fact in one of the podcasts, they go as far as to say (kind of jokingly, yet kind of not) that it is even OK to be a substandard parent, as long as you are consistently substandard. “Consistently substandard.” I like that!

And now that there has been this recent public revelation of the value of leaving kids alone to just play in creative and imaginary ways without adult involvement, I am beginning to feel like my Consistently Substandard Slacker parenting style might not be so bad after all. (I call it: CSS Parenting).

The Superbowl and Flying Pigs

By , February 9, 2008 5:13 pm

A sports post??? From Mom Unplugged? Has the Earth tilted on its axis? Do pigs now request landing clearances from the control tower?

At the conclusion of last Sunday’s Superbowl I received two phone calls within 30 seconds of one another (I have call waiting), both to announce the news of the NY Giants’ unexpected victory over the New England Patriots.

Having no TV and less than no interest in football, nonetheless even I knew who was playing and who was supposed to win. So…lesson number 1: just because you are TV-free doesn’t necessarily mean that you are uninformed (although sometimes it does).

The first call was from my sister, who also normally prefers the Puppy Bowl to the Superbowl. The second was from my husband who had urgent business to attend to in Albuquerque last weekend and stayed at his house there instead of coming to Arizona. I wonder….could the “urgent business” have had anything to do with the fact that the Superbowl was on and I have no TV? Hmmm…..

Both of them were wildly excited about the upset and said it was the most exciting football game they had ever seen which, in my sister’s case, doesn’t mean a whole lot, but in my husband’s case it does.

On to lesson number 2: Obviously, New England was feeling cocky and far too sure of themselves, therefore they lost (Annotation: this expert opinion is coming from me who knows very little about football and didn’t even see the game).

What a life lesson! How do we teach our children self-esteem and confidence, yet also ensure that they develop humility and perspective?

This is a tricky balance indeed. I do believe that there is a recent trend toward the creation of over-entitled children and young adults who are incapable of accepting any responsibility for their actions. Why this is, I am not entirely sure, but it is one of those big parenting issues that I ponder regularly.

I am trying to come up with a strategy for encouraging self-confidence, yet thoughtfulness, humility, and perspective in my children. My kids are still young, so many of these ideas are plans for later years, but I have come up with a few things that I am hoping will help my children achieve this delicate balance:


+ Have them work a “real job” as soon as they are old enough. If you are afraid of work interfering with academics, then at least encourage a summer job.

+ Let them find and apply for their own job. Try not to interfere. That way the success, or lack of success, of their choice is their responsibility and not yours.

+ Before they are old enough for a “real” job, have them babysit, mow lawns, shovel snow, sell lemonade…anything! The point is to encourage them to learn to earn and save money.

(More thoughts on kids and work coming in a new post soon!).

+ Have them save and pay for their own “extras.” (One tangential note: TV-free kids are exposed to far less marketing than kids who watch TV, so their list of “must-haves” tends to be shorter.)

+ Give them chores at home. Even at a very young age, children are capable of doing something to help out. Personally I don’t believe in paying for chores since this just leads to a bargaining battle if you ask them to do anything extra (“But how much will you pay me to empty the dishwasher today?”). I feel that chores are simply part of living in a household and should not be remunerated. DO let them know however, that you appreciate their chores and how much their work helps you and the other members of the family.

+ Encourage volunteer work. Volunteering yourself is the best way to get them interested in volunteering. Volunteering (and working) can introduce them to people they would never normally encounter. I think it is important for children to actually see that there are people less fortunate then themselves. This is a hard concept for a child to absorb without actually experiencing it himself, and it is a big step towards developing compassion and a desire to help others.

+ Teach kids about different charities and what they do. Have them contribute part of their allowance or savings to the charity of their choice, or start a Candy Bank to earn money for charity. Here is a good book that we have about kid-friendly charities:

+ Buy books about other countries of the world. Books can be a wonderful starting point for discussions that help children understand how people live in other countries. Here are some good ones:

For more book suggestions, please read my International Children’s Book Day post.

+ If possible, travel internationally.

+ Teach kids a skill that they can later teach to or share with others. Knitting, crochet, french knitting (aka. knitting mushroom), or of course a musical instrument are all good ones. Sharing something that we are good at instills confidence and feels good to all concerned.


How interesting that a sports event has actually inspired me to examine life! Perhaps pigs really can fly after all.

PS. Any regular readers might notice that I have mentioned these books a few times before. I don’t mean to be boring, but I feel they are such a fascinating and valuable addition to any home library. Plus they just seem to “fit” with a lot of things that I write about.

Photo (NOT of the Superbowl) thanks to Wikimedia Commons and photographer Cpl. Michelle M. Dickson.

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