June 6

Today’s Kids Need Yesterday’s Cures

Today’s kids face challenges much different than previous generations. There is no doubt they are growing up in a much more complicated and pressured world than we ever did.

The pressures of social media, and media in general, high levels of communication with cell phones, laptops and tablets put the people they know, and don’t know, at their fingertips.

It’s a scary world at times. We used to let our kids play outside until it got dark not even knowing where they were. Now we panic when they get out of our sight.

And, to be fair, they also have greater opportunities.

Social media presents kids with opportunities to market themselves and their accomplishments to colleges and future employers. They can stay in touch with distant relatives. The internet and technology make researching and writing a paper for school easier than it has ever been.

But, even with all this pressure, and opportunity, we should not feel sorry for them. But many of us do. Every generation has its challenges. In the fifties, there was the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation. The sixties had race riots. And, in the seventies we had out of control inflation and Jimmy Carter.

Today we have a tendency to want to shelter our children from the realities of society. There is certainly some ugliness out there but there are positives too. Especially when you look for them.

We even want to protect them from their own feelings. The feelings of injustice, unfairness and losing. This kind of protection does not help children grow to realize their greatest potential especially in today’s very competitive environment.

Too often parents are paying more attention to their children than they do to each other weakening the marriage in the process. The children have become the focus where we place their needs above all others. Where is this leading us?

Children today end up growing later because they are not taught the fundamentals they need to care for themselves and cope with their own feelings. They end up leaving the home later in life than previous generations. Some kids, called boomerang children, end up returning home unable to the handle basic responsibilities necessary to begin an independent life.

Most parents are good people that love their children and want what is best for them. But, have we gotten confused in this society of convenience and instant gratification as to what is really best for our children?

When you look around you see too many instances of institutionalized fairness as in participation trophies. Go to any store or restaurant and you see children talking to their parents in tones and language that would have earned you or I the reprimanding side of your father’s hand. What are we doing?

I have been to friends’ homes for dinner and watched the parents clear table, do the dishes and take out the trash while the kids jumped onto the latest version of Madden Football. And, the schedules we keep for kids today with one activity after another makes me think they need Personal Assistants. And, they have them in their parents. Where is all this leading to?

I interview many young people for jobs. Fresh out of college, the jobs they seek are often the first ones in their young careers. Some of these recent grads ask questions around promotions, expense accounts and corner offices before they have even been offered a position. They never make the second round of interviews. And, I’m sure they sulk away thinking how unfair my company was.

This is what today’s youth looks like. Entitled, self-centered, and more concerned with the reward they think they deserve rather than the contribution they need to make. But, it is not their fault.

We raise kids differently these days. We lean towards comforting and coddling them more than we should. We are not doing them, nor ourselves, any favors. We need a return to some of the classic values that were the hallmark of previous generations.

Here are five of those values:

1. Family Time – this starts at the dinner table. This daily meeting is a hallmark tradition of the family unit since the dawn of time. In the earliest time of human existence, when food was scarce, the family would gather around the harvest or the kill to eat. Of course, this has evolved as food sources have become more abundant. But, the premise is the same. We gathered daily to be together, eat and bond. And, it doesn’t end there.

Family time spent together playing games, watching movies, doing chores would all contribute to the building of a bond that would strengthen the family and establish its value systems. It is time well spent.

2. Allow Failure – as parents we need to stop shielding our children from the natural consequences of competition and life. It is unfair of us to prepare them for life this way. Life is not that way.

We should be preparing our children with the tools to be able to deal with the inevitable times when they will fail. For more on that see “Should You Let Your Kids Fail.”

3. Good Manners – nothing says more about the kids we meet than the manners they keep. Yes Sir, Yes Ma’am, Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, etc. These go a long way when our kids meet other parents. But, they go an even longer way when they use them with their own parents.

The manners kids use outside of the home start inside the home with their siblings and parents. If you insist on the best manners at home, you won’t have to worry about them using them outside the home.

And, tone of voice counts. Nothing says more about a kid’s personal self control and respect for his parents than when he yells at them in public. And, it says even more about the parents.

4. Chores – kids who end up becoming responsible, productive and contributing members of society weren’t born that way. They learned those basic values by taking care of some simple responsibilities at home from a very young age.

Making the bed is less about the bed and more about child. The good habits, discipline and sense of pride that grow in a child from this simple responsibility spill over into other areas of their lives and sets the stage for a productive adult life.

5. Playtime – remember “Kick-the-Can, Hide-and-Seek and Tag?” Whatever happened to these games? They involved imagination and physical activity. These days kid’s dexterity is found in the speed of their thumbs on a game controller. And, forget about imagination! Every time I hear a kid say their bored I wonder what planet they woke up on.

The job of parents is to prepare their children to be productive, contributing members of society. The principles used by parents in previous generations were more effective at reaching that objective than what parents are doing today. We need to give those values more serious consideration for today’s youth.

Not only do they need it, the parents and society need it.

— A guest post by Sean Coen.  You can read more of Sean’s articles, including this one at seancoen.blogspot.com

March 15

Becoming Your Family’s Matriarch

Becoming your family’s matriarch doesn’t happen by accident.  It’s not a job that is passed down to you.  You don’t just grow into it.   If you want to be your family’s matriarch–the woman who leads them, who keeps them close, who everyone turns to for direction, then at some point you have to decide that you are going to be that woman.   You have to answer the question:  Are you ready to be your family’s next Matriarch? And then dedicate your life to fulfilling the role the best way you can. Family's Matriarch

They are rare these days–matriarchs– and getting more rare as time goes by.   The days of a strong woman leading a family in a way that only a mother can do are fading away as more and more women change their focus from family to work place.   Nowadays it is more common to find working moms, part-time housewives, and lots of woman who don’t have the time or energy to devote to such an enormous responsibility.  More than ever those same women need someone else to go to for guidance and reassurance.   They just want to get through the day without collapsing from exhaustion.  I know.  I’ve been there.

And by lack of example, even stay-at-home moms and wives are often more focused with their own day-to-day activities than to taking on this greater role.  I believe lack of example is why there are bored and lonely housewives.   They aren’t aware that there is something greater to aspire to.  Nobody has ever shown them the way.

It takes a clear-headed, committed soul to fulfill such a huge role.  So what is it exactly?  What makes a  mother a matriarch?

A family matriarch is the foundation upon which her entire family is built.  She is the constant.  She is the one whose face can be depended on to be at every important event, and many of the seemingly unimportant ones too.   She is the one who never forgets to send a birthday card–to her parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, in-laws, and friends.   She makes everyone feel special.  Valued.  Important.  She goes out of her way to ask how your life is.  And she really listens because she believes you are significant.

She is the keeper of the family traditions.  She hosts every holiday and expects as many of the family to be present as possible. She keeps them all close.  She makes the traditional foods and hangs the traditional decorations.   She tells the stories behind those traditions to her children and grandchildren to instill the importance of them well into the next generation.  A sense of community, of belonging, springs from traditions carried down throughout the generations, and she knows it.   She wants to be sure that when they speak of a holiday or event they say, “My family does ______. Or my family eats ______ every Christmas.”   Not because the food is important, but because when they say “My Family” they know they are part of something that is reliable and constant.  Something inside them will know that family will be there for them always.  No matter what.  Just like those family traditions.

She is the keeper and teacher of the skills needed to make a house a home.  She patiently shares those skills with her descendants and with the women who marry into the family as well.  Cooking, sewing, knitting, quilting, gardening, canning, whatever her skills are, she teaches them to her children and grandchildren starting when they are very young.

She is the first to scold  you when you are off course, and the first to hug you and tell you she loves you anyway.  She has a way of making you feel more loved despite your transgression, and eager to correct course, if only just to please her.   For that same reason, she is the mediator for all major family squabbles, with an almost perfect success rate.

When you are sick, she is the one to show up with soup, or an herbal remedy to take right along side your  over-the-counter medications.   And she’ll stay to be sure you take it.  She seems to have an old remedy for everything, and most of them work!

Her house is the epitome of home, and you always feel welcome there.  But you’d better be hungry before you show up because she’s going to feed you before you leave.   And that’s okay because she makes the best foods.  They all remind you of a comfortable, happy childhood.

When the family is grieving for a loss, she carries them through it.  And when the world goes crazy, it is she who everyone turns to.   She always knows what to do.  Gathering at her house only seems natural.

Would you know what to do?  If the world went crazy today, would your family gather around you?  If that is what you want, it is never too late to become the woman you aspire to be.   It is this that I strive for and it was with this purpose that I originally began the Modern Day 50s Housewife blog.   I know there are women like me out there who aspire to be that woman.  And I believe that when we support each other and share our skills and ideas, we can and will get there.

So I ask you again.   Are you ready to be your family’s next matriarch?

February 22

Earn About $1500 a month (or more) by helping one child.

Did you know that you can earn about $1500 a month (or more) by helping one child?  Tax free, no less, so it’s more like the equivalent of say $2200ish.  Well, you can.  We did.  That’s how I was originally able to leave my corporate job and stay home with my kids back in the mid 1990’s, and those very same programs are in need of your care and nurturing today. 68280_4356183015948_534235669_n

I’m sure you have heard of foster care.  This is a little bit different.  In your state it may be called Specialized foster care or Intensive foster care.  It may even be called something else.  Google it.  See what you find.  Basically it’s just like regular state care except the children or adults that you agree to care for have additional needs. Some have health needs.  Others have emotional or behavioral needs.   You are given all the training you need by the agency that you choose, and you decide who –which child or adult–you  take in. You also have 24 hour a day support, 365 days a year.   They will even provide you with respite (babysitting) options when you need a night off or have an event to attend.

It’s pretty straight forward, and it’s immensely rewarding–even without your daily stipend of $50, but that $1500+ a month certainly helps make it all possible.  Check rates in your area.  They vary.  I was actually shocked to see that $50 a day is still the going rate for my area as that is exactly what we were allotted back in the 1990’s.  That is per child, with a few exceptions.   We specialized in taking in parenting teens.  For those, we received $70ish…per day.

So how does it work?  And what do you need to do?

It starts with a Google search.   Look for all of the agencies in your area.   In Southern New England, for example, we have several:

NAFI (or NFI),
The Home for Little Wanderers,
Dare Family Services,
You, Inc.,
Youth Villages,

and several others.   These are just some of the ones that came up when I did an internet search for Specialized Foster Care Massachusetts.  There are many agencies and all of them have their own little corporate culture. Call.  Talk to them.  Ask questions.  Ask how their programs work and what, if anything, sets their programs apart from others.  Do they do things differently? Do they have any special programs?   If you look into one and it doesn’t feel like a good fit, try another.  There is an agency for you out there.  Once you find one you like, ask to fill out an application. Some are available on line.  Others will mail them to you.

Part of the application process includes a criminal background check.  They are looking for major offenses and anything that might put a child in danger.  If you are 35 and you stole a pack of gum when you were 18 but have had a clean record since, don’t stress about that.   They won’t stress about it either. They’ll ask you what happened.  Be honest.  Sometimes what you think is a negative is not.   Who better to teach a teen about stealing and its consequences than someone who did it and paid the price?   See.  You are an asset in this case.  So don’t let your past haunt you.  Don’t assume something will disqualify you.  Often times it won’t.   However, domestic violence, drug issues, etc. absolutely will.

Next would be what is called a home study.   A home finder will come out to meet you and your family.   They’ll look at your space and determine if it meets the guidelines set by the state.  Do you have a bedroom big enough?  Some placements can share a bedroom with another person.  Others can’t. Your space will be noted for suitability.   Are there any major safety issues involving your home? etc.  (Later in the process there will be a fire inspection as well to be sure you have the appropriate smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, that they are working properly, and that you have the furnace shut off switches required by law.)

Once all those initial requirements are met, the home study questionnaires begin.  Each person in your home will be interviewed by the home finder.   They want to be sure that everyone agrees that taking in a new person is a good idea and won’t cause family strife (beyond the normal rivalries often encountered with children.)  They also need to know a little bit about your background.  Okay.  A lot.  They will want to know everything.  They will start at birth and ask you to tell them about your life.  What  experiences have you had?  Good? Bad? Ugly? How were those experiences handled?  What did you learn?  etc.   It feels fairly invasive at the time but it’s over quickly and they will use that info to help with placement suggestions.   Maybe you have something to offer that another doesn’t because of your prior experiences.  You would get priority placement, in that case, over another.  So, again, don’t hold back.   Everything you bring to the table has value.  You are just fine as you are.   Nobody wants you to hide your past.

After the home study is completed, there are some trainings you will participate in, and then a packet is submitted to the state for licensing.  They don’t usually take long for approval.  There are many children waiting for placements so your state won’t fool around here.   They will review and process quickly.

Viola.   You are now ready to begin looking at files.    The clinicians who have children to place will present to you files of children that they think are a good match.   The final say is yours.   You look over the file.  Ask questions.  Talk to their counselors and social workers.   If everyone thinks it looks like a match, you’ll meet the child (or adult).   There will be visits.  And then an over night.   If those go well and you are still feeling good about the match, a transition will occur.  Sometimes quick.  Sometimes a little more drawn out.  Whatever works for you, your family, and the child.

After they move in, you have constant support available to you.  The clinician will visit weekly.  You will have monthly trainings to keep you on top of the skills you need to work within different situations and populations.

Your placement may stay with you for a few weeks, a few months, or even possibly a few years.  Each state has different guidelines.  Each placement has different needs.   Some are working toward transitioning home to their biological family.  You become a huge part of that.   Some will never go home.

And while some may eventually go up for adoption, it is important to note that foster care providers should never go into foster care with the intention of adopting.   You should always be prepared to help that child go home to his or her natural parents.  Always.  No matter how you feel about those parents.  You may be asked to work with the parents who are trying to fix the issues at home and get their little ones back via supervised visits.  (Never alone.   Always supervised by a clinician or agency rep).  That’s part of your job.  You must be prepared for that and willing to do that, or you need not apply.

Mr. C and I became care providers for two very good reasons.  First, Mr. C was a foster child himself and he wanted to repay that debt to society.   I was a parenting teen.  I had my first daughter at age 17, and I wanted to teach young girls that pregnancy did not mean disaster.   They would be okay.   So we combined those two things into being foster care providers for parenting teens.   Eventually we branched out to other populations as well, once we were comfortable doing so.

And while we thought that the benefits and satisfactions would be all ours, we had no idea the effect that the entire experience would have on our children.   It was profound.  I didn’t know that until one summer day in the mid 1990’s.

I was cleaning my kitchen when the door bell rang.  We were living in a townhouse condominium complex at the time.  I opened the door and standing there was a man, about age 30, with tear-filled eyes.  He could barely get the words out when he spoke.   He said, “Hello.   You don’t know me.  I live over at number 1119.  I have the little boy you sometimes see playing with the water hose for hours on end.  He has a severe form of autism. He’s . . .  I’m sure if you’ve seen him you figured out something was different.   Well… (tears now streaming down his face)  I just want you to know that for his entire life I have looked out at the other kids playing in the neighborhood and it pained me to know that he would never play with them.  They would never have him. I just knew that he would never be accepted.  He can’t communicate at all, much less play.   I new that until today.  When your daughter rang our bell and asked if my son could come out to play.   (Now we are both crying.)  Thank you, he said.   Thank you so much.  Your children have the most amazing hearts of any that I have ever met.”

Enough said?

Call.   What have you got to lose?

July 27

Answers and Solutions for Depressed Housewives

Depressed housewives. Bored housewife. Lonely housewife. Page_1
These are some of the top search matches for women who find my page and the things I am asked about most often. They are also the reason so many women feel helpless and hopeless when faced with the back-to-work or stay-at-home decision. For most, neither option presents as palatable, but it need not be this way. There are answers and solutions for depressed housewives, and for most of us, the solutions are closer than we think.

“Do you ever just feel like there is no point?” one reader recently asked.

“How do you deal with the monotony?” another wanted to know.”I can’t stand it.”

“I just feel like I’m treading water and not going anywhere.”

“I know I should be happy. I’m lucky to be able to stay home with the kids. Not everybody can do that. But I’m not happy. I can barely get off the couch these days. It all just feels so pointless.”

These feelings of dissatisfaction and hopelessness are rampant today, and that’s not surprising when you look at the societal atmosphere that we are living in. The glorification has been misplaced and now goes to those who have achieved much success and accumulated great amounts of money and on those who have managed to capture youthfulness (by any means necessary.) But would it surprise you to learn that the emotional challenges facing you, dear depressed housewife, are exactly the same as those facing most highly successful Hollywood movie stars? You don’t believe me? Take a moment right now and try to think of one person who you know who isn’t unhappy in some way. Go ahead. Think about it.

Right. None. At the very core, you and they are the same.  We are all the same.

The only difference is that for most housewives, the answers and solutions are more readily available. That is, once you understand the real issue at the heart of the matter, which is that we, as a modern society, are lead to believe that we ought to be always happy. We are told that we have a right to be happy and that we should not settle for less than being deliriously happy.  We are taught that if we are not happy then there must be something wrong with our circumstance or with our mind.  Medication is typically prescribed.  But it’s a quick fix that seldom fixes anything.  Why?

Because nobody teaches us where to find true happiness, and certainly nobody mentions that in order to find it, you must first endure suffering. We all must. Suffering is part of life–everyone’s life. Nobody mentions that. And why would they? It goes against the grain. It clashes with the constant barrage of inspirational messages we are inundated with daily. It’s not popular. And, sadly, most believe it’s not true. But it is.

Instead we need to start teaching and learning that into every life there will be unpleasantries and suffering, but it is through this very suffering that we are here to learn meaning and find true, deep satisfaction within our lives.

Do not fret. I am not here to tell you that you must endure many more years of unhappiness. The suffering that you must endure needs only to last as long as it takes you to change your mind about how you think about the challenges at hand. And that is what we are going to do today.

Let’s begin with a little historical review. Think back to what you know of pre-historic times. Imagine life back then. The Middle Ages? What do your recall about that timeframe? And how about more recently. Let’s say the early 1900s? What was life like? What was happening in the world? What was daily life like for each of these stages in history? Now let me ask you this. Think about the life of a pauper. And now of a prince. A Hollywood actress? A corporate executive? Your dentist? What do all these things have in common? I can tell you without hesitation that no matter what time frame, no matter what era, and no matter what station in life, everyone experiences difficulties and sadness. Everyone. Some will have difficulties and sadness to a larger degree than others, but everyone suffers.

I can also say with absolute confidence that it will not matter whether you are a stay-at-home mom or the president of a large corporation. You will not escape your feelings of unhappiness. So stop feeling guilty about being unhappy. It’s pointless.

Life, however, is not pointless. Realizing this truth–that we are all subject to boredom, tedium, sadness and unhappiness, is the first step toward climbing out of the abyss of misery.   Once you realize that some pain is going to occur, you may proceed to the next step, which is figuring out if our pain is avoidable or unavoidable.

If avoidable the answer is simple. Remove all sources of suffering that are indeed avoidable.  For example, you don’t rip candy out of a child’s hand just to hear them scream. You don’t spoil a child and then have to bear their tantrums.  And you don’t stick your hand in boiling water.  Only masochists do things to purposely create suffering in their lives just to experience the pain.  Most of us are not masochists.

If you are experiencing discomfort that you do not see as avoidable, after all someone must clean the house and cook day after day, someone must care for the babies, then you must take the next step, which is to begin to look into that suffering to find purpose.

Let me ask you this.  If you were to project your life forward to your deathbed and imagine that you had never married and had children and were now looking back on your life, what do you think you would see?   Perhaps you had a wonderful career.  Perhaps you traveled the world.   But did your life have meaning?  Did you matter to the world?  Did you matter to anyone in particular at all?  Who is with you beside your deathbed?  For most, this picture creates a feeling of loneliness and separation.

Now go back to that same deathbed and look back on your existing family.  What about then?  When you look back at your family, did your life have meaning and purpose?  Did you matter?  Are they there with you?  Are you surrounded by your children and their children?  Do they adore you?

It is easy to see the meaningfulness of a life when looked at as a whole.  It is very difficult to see the contribution that our day-to-day cooking and cleaning and diaper changing has because we are only seeing those things as individual pieces of the whole.  We experience them as individual moments.  They are perceived as difficulties in your day, but I want to remind you that we do not find meaning in things that are easy.  We find meaning to life in those things that challenge us and in those things for which we make sacrifices.

So how can you turn your experiences around into ones that are meaningful and satisfying?   By changing the goals associated with them.  You know, for example, that you are going to clean house to some degree every day for the rest of your life.  You can look upon those daily tasks as monotonous drudgery, or you can think about them as a cumulative achievement: A goal of keeping your environment sanitary for your family throughout their lives.  It’s bigger than just washing that dish.  It’s about the big picture.

Did you know that according to Dr. Joel Fuhrman and many other leading authorities, the food you feed your toddler can have an effect on his health thirty years from now?  You control your family’s future by your planning and preparing of healthy meals.  You and you alone can direct that.  Your child has no say in the matter.  This is a huge responsibility that only you can bear.  You can look at it as fixing dinner, or you can see it as building strong and healthy bodies for life.

You can look at the daily challenges of dealing with crying toddlers, rebellious pre-schoolers, independence-seeking teens and at times irresponsible young adults as painful, boring, tedious experiences as a mother.  Or you can look at the big picture and remind yourself that you are teaching these young ones how to be responsible citizens for a lifetime.  Your efforts more than any other person’s are going to have the biggest impact on how they live out their entire lives.  You are molding their character every day.  You, Mom, are their greatest teacher.

You can sit on the couch and watch t.v. all day feeling sorry for yourself or you can declare yourself the matriarch of your family in charge of the care and feeding of all of your descendants and living ancestors.  You alone bear that purpose.  And guess what?  You are in the unique position that you and only you CAN bear that purpose.  Nobody else can be you.  Nobody else can be your child’s mom. Nobody else can have such a profound effect on him.

And likewise, nobody else is your husband’s helpmeet.   Did you know that in Genesis 2:20 the word used to describe Eve as Adam’s helper is the Hebrew word ezer.  Traditionally people have taken that word to mean Adam’s wife and mother to his babies.  But what you may not realize is that the word ezer is used 21 times throughout the Old Testament.  Only twice is it used to describe a woman.  The other times it is used to describe military assistance, but mostly it is used to describe God’s assistance to Israel–God as Israel’s helper.  God as ezer is described as a shield and as a defense, watching over his people.  So what can we draw from that?  God didn’t put you here just to be your husband’s housewife.  He put you here to be his partner in the battlefield of life.  You watch his back.  He watches yours.  You are important to him.  You are his shield and sometimes his sword.  You are a team.  You have things you can be doing to live up to that role.  What are they?  Find out and do them.

Your life has great meaning.  You are not useless.   You are not purposeless.

Victor E. Frankl said “… a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to be happy … “

The truth is that you can not be coerced into being happy.   You can’t be forced to be happy.  You can not be commanded to be happy.  In fact, you can’t even seek happiness because the very act of making happiness the goal of any endeavor makes it much harder to achieve.  (Think about an event you look forward to because it’s going to be “so much fun!” and then it’s not as amazing as you expected.  Now compare that to an event you expected to dread but ended up having a wonderful time.)  Pleasure has to occur spontaneously for it to be truly pleasurable.

You must change your mindset from one of seeking the end of boredom and of one constantly seeking elusive happiness to one where you are seeking to fulfill your purpose.  Only then can pleasure spontaneously occur.

Isn’t it true that you can not enjoy eating your home made cake until you have gathered the ingredients, mixed them, and baked them.  Only then can you eat cake.   But the true enjoyment comes from the process of preparing it and then sharing it  with those you love.

Dear Lady, life is short. Let us eat cake!

July 7

Kids and Cleaning — Old fashioned methods that work

Page_1Back when I was growing up, our home was always clean.   I don’t mean tidy.  I mean practically white-glove-test-clean.   Some used to call my mother “The White Tornado.”  She’d just shrug and laugh it off.   The thing is, though, I don’t recall ever seeing her spend endless days cleaning.   In fact, most days in the summertime we were all up (all five kids and 2 parents), dressed, the grill and a massive lunch spread packed, and out of the house heading for the ocean by 6 am–leaving behind a spotless home to come back to.   So what was her trick?  How did she do it? She didn’t.  We all did.  All seven of us.  Kids and cleaning — old fashioned methods that work.

I remember it fondly, actually.   There were times during every day and also every Saturday morning when the music would go on–nice and loud.   Sometimes John Denver’s Country Roads.   Or maybe Engelbert Humperdinck.  Or Sonny & Cher.  It was always something peppy and happy.  Mom or Dad would put an album on and everyone would gather around to get their assignment.  Then off we’d all rush to get our chores done.   It was a family event.  It was truly fun.  We’d all be scrambling around doing our thing.  Mom and Dad would be puttering from room to room supervising, helping and guiding where necessary.  And it was finished quickly because we stayed on top of it all the time.

It wasn’t drudgery.  And we didn’t feel like our parents were mean to make us clean.   It was just something that everyone did back then.  We knew it needed to be done, so we did it and then carried on with our day.  Oh yes.  I can remember that feeling when it was finished and the whole house smelled so fresh and then mom would tell us we could now go out to play.   It was a race to the door!

Compare that to today.   You can walk into almost any home with young children and find empty toilet paper tubes with piles of toilet paper on the floor beneath them, piles of stuffed animals, play forts at every turn, mountains of tiny-clothes laundry piles and Legos virtually everywhere.  TV’s are blaring a constant stream of kid videos while little faces run–screeching– from iPad to one stack of toys to another.  The children are typically over stimulated and cranky.  And so is mom.  She’s doing all she can, yet everything just seems to get worse as the day goes on.

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 11.24.44 AMWhat’s going on?  And how do we get back to the way it used to be when good old-fashioned parenting prevailed?

Today we are going to talk about ways to get back there.  We’ll learn to teach kids how to clean up after themselves and to contribute as a meaningful member of the household community–at any age.

When I talk about my cleaning story, the first thing that should really stand out is that our family cleaned as a team.   When we were younger, this was key.  A sense of community made all the difference, and to me the “community” aspect is probably the most important reason to teach these skills to our children.  When you are focused on teaching children how to clean, you are actually teaching them how to live within society–how to contribute.  How to fit in.  How to feel like an important part of a working whole.   Everyone needs to feel like they belong somewhere and that they are needed.   Giving a child a legitimate role within the family helps fill that need.   But what’s considered too young to begin?

You can begin to teach a child how to clean up after themselves starting as young as 12 months, but most people start getting serious about it at around age 3.

In a report by CBS they said that:

 Marty Rossman, associate professor of family education at the University of Minnesota, finds that the best predictor of a child’s success — defined as not using drugs, quality relationships, finishing education and getting started in a career — is that they began helping with chores at age three or four.

And we agree.

If you’ve not started yet and your children are older, it’s never too late.   Just begin today, and stay consistent, and you’ll have them busily sorting and stacking, folding and wiping, sweeping and bed-making in no time.

There are some basic rules to follow no matter what the age.  We’ll go over the basics and then I’ll break it down and describe how each of those rules fits into the different age brackets along with some age-specific tips, because one size does not fit all here.  Every age is different.  Every kid is different.  But the basic ways of teaching are always the same.  Here they are:

  1. Start Small.
  2. Make it fun.
  3. Chunk it down.
  4. Give options.
  5. Work as a team.
  6. Make it non-negotiable.
  7. Never let them hear you complain.
  8. Be okay with “good enough.”

Ages 1-3  Toddlers

Start small and start young.  That’s the best-case-scenario.   But how do you do it?  With toddlers it’s all about mixing fun and games with a regimented schedule of tidying up.   I highly recommend for all young children that there be designated clean up times throughout the day. In our home our clean up times–complete with the singing of the Clean up! Clean up! Everybody everywhere! song were before nap time, before lunch, before daddy got home, and before bedtime.

I also highly recommend limiting the number of available toys.  Oh don’t fret.  Think back.   We didn’t have very many toys at all when we were young.  We didn’t need them. We played outside and we used our imaginations. We played games together where we got up and moved our bodies, not just our thumbs. We were happy.  We were never overweight.  We were never under or over stimulated.  Life was great back then–without all the clutter and distraction.

Having too many toys scattered around creates over-stimulated and cranky toddlers.   Limiting and rotating toys every few weeks keeps your toddler interested and calmer.  Go into old-fashioned mode here.  Sort down to 5-6 toys at a time at the most, and rotate them every week or two weeks.  That’s more than enough.

Once you’ve gotten those two things in place, it’s time to start teaching the skills of cleaning.   The toddler years are interesting because you will notice your child going through different developmental stages.  There will be the “line everything up in rows” stage.  There will be the “sort everything by color” stage.  And there will be the “put everything in one giant pile” stage, amongst others.

The most logical thing to teach first is how to pick up toys and put them away.  Some children learn this by watching you demonstrate.  Some will need you to physically hold their hands while you scoop up a toy and place it into a box or bin. Try to make this fun.  Cheer like the dickens after the toy drops in.  Clap.  Dance in circles.  Make a huge deal out of it.  Then teach that this super fun activity is going to happen at each of your designated “clean up times” throughout the day.

11222446_10204341925655797_2127339203877194384_oOne mom I know sets an alarm and when the kids hear the alarm they all jump up, mom puts on some music, and everyone claps and sings and cleans up.  It takes approximately 1-2 minutes.  She makes a fun game out of it.  Everyone participates.  No exceptions.  No grumbling.  No crying.

If your toddler is at the sorting stage, you can also play into that and have clean up time include sorting the toys into bins by color.  Or sort the toys into bins by type of toy. (Let him decide.)  Work as a team and cheer loudly when he gets his sort choices right.

She likes lining things up?  How about you make it her designated clean up time chore to line up all the toys on the shelves.  Let her choose the order, just so long as they are all on the shelves or in the bins.

See a pattern here?   Do small things, give them choices, make it fun, make it non-negotiable, and work as a team.  And even if it’s not how you would have chosen to sort or stack or line up the toys, be okay with the job they do as long as the toys are off the floor and put in the general vicinity of where you would like them.   Be flexible.   You are not just cleaning. You are teaching life-long skills.

Other things you can work on after they’ve mastered picking up toys:

  • dusting the lower portions of furniture
  • throwing rubbish in the trashcan
  • bring dirty clothes to the laundry area
  • help mom mix when baking
  • help mom wash the plastic dishes
  • help with the sweeping

When my grandson was two, I used to give him a spray bottle filled only with water and a rag so that he could help me dust the furniture.  He would spend an hour or more spraying and wiping the coffee table.   This also gave me time to get some other items done while he was content and happy.   If I needed to clean the bathroom, I had him spray and wipe the cabinet faces with his water while I worked on the rest.  It’s a great (harmless) way to buy some time while teaching those valuable skills.

Experiment and try what works.  One thing I would try to avoid is assigning cleaning as punishment.  You never want to attach a negative feeling toward something they are going to have to do for the rest of their lives.

If your toddler has made a mess, they do need to clean it, but if your toddler colored the walls, for example, frame it in an “Ut oh!  Let’s fix that mistake!”  And work together to clean the mess.  You can talk about why mommy and daddy and sister and brother don’t write on walls while you do it, so that they learn.

Ages 4-5  Pre-schoolers and Kindergarteners

Kids at this age are in a funny transitional stage.  They still like to do things like “big boys and girls” but they are starting to really figure out that they may dislike cleaning because they have to stop playing to get it done.   So it’s especially important that you be aware of number 7 all the time.   Never let them hear you complain about having to clean.  Ever.  Hopefully you’ve learned to find some joy in the day-to-day routines of your tasks.  If not, perhaps a refresher read of this prior post will help.

1510887_639594892849302_8931604121767193276_nAlways speak of cleaning as part of the responsibility of living within a family or community.  “It’s time to set the dinner table so everyone can finally eat after this busy day!”  or “Let’s get these dishes cleaned up so we can keep everyone healthy and have them ready for breakfast.” (Talk to them about germs and why dishes need to be washed.)  “It’s time for everyone to make our beds so we can keep our home clean and sanitary!” (Explain what sanitary means.) Or maybe “Woah.  Look at these toys scattered everywhere.  Let’s do a quick clean up time so nobody gets hurt!”  Use the opportunity to talk about all kinds of community service and volunteerism too, if you’d wish.   The little ones soak this type of information up, and if they can see how what they are doing is part of a bigger picture, then they are more likely to do it willingly.   Kids like to know “why” and not just be told what to do. Actually adults like to know the same thing.   I suppose that makes sense, right?

If you introduced cleaning up after themselves starting at a young age, this is all habit already and you just need to introduce new chores as they get older.   But if you’ve never been good at enforcing the duties of chores before , you will need to start right away and be prepared to be patient, consistent, and persistent.

I suggest you start small–by first having a conversation with them about how they are big enough now to begin to work as part of the family team.  Tell them how proud you are of them for growing so big and strong and smart and how excited you are to include them in the team.  Then tell them a few of the things that you think they are ready to help with.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Pick up toys
  • make beds (keep bedding super.  Maybe even just a single comforter.)
  • feed pets
  • set the table
  • dust furniture
  • empty the silverware tray from the dishwasher

Let them know that “we are going to start with picking up toys” and then ask which other item from the list they would like to try as well.  (Give choices.)  After they’ve chosen one, you will need to now be very specific as to when and how to do each chore.  You will have to demonstrate and reinforce.  In the beginning, children can become easily overwhelmed.  You should be there to help chunk down the job.  If there are a lot of toys out, help them sort into piles and then guide them on how to put them away.   Then check the work, being prepared to accept “good enough”.    Then Praise! Praise! Praise!  Make a big deal out of telling Daddy how much of a great job they did today.

11695532_1643313332554084_1662343109223793744_nPractice makes perfect, so stick to your non-negotiable clean up times. Elizabeth Pantley, author of parenting books including Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging, and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate, (I’ve provided a link direct to our amazon affiliate site) says if your kids aren’t expected to regularly follow through, they might start putting chores off in the hope that someone else will do them for them.   Don’t fall into that trap.  Stay consistent.

It’s ideal if everyone in the home at clean up time helps clean so that the community aspect is reinforced.  Put on some fun music.  Make it a cheerful event.  And then be sure to admire everyone’s work when you are done.

Ages 6-9

By now the routine of cleaning up is established and the designated clean up times are likely reduced to before school chores and after school chores.  (If cleaning up is not yet established in your home, refer to introductory techniques in the age 4-5 section. )  You can begin now, to build on the solid foundation of group or team work clean up times by introducing very individualized chores.  And even though these are typically before and after school, it is still very important to keep the community aspect to them.  In other words, even though the child is doing his or her own chore in a less supervised atmosphere, you should still try, if possible, to have everyone doing chores at the same time and you should still be going room to room to check in and guide.   You don’t want them to feel alone in their endeavor and you want to make sure that the chores are getting done in a timely manner.

11694235_10153391662612660_486388711_nThis age range is also a good time to switch all basic bedroom tidy up entirely to your child.  You will still need to chunk it down into one-step-at-a-time instructions for him so that he doesn’t get overwhelmed or discouraged, but this can be done with a picture guide tacked to the inside of a closet door.   Take a picture of his made bed.  Then a picture of sorted piles of toys, clean clothes, dirty clothes, books, and trash.    Then a picture of a broom (or vacuum).    He will know to first clear off and make his bed.  Then sort and put the piles away where they belong.  Then sweep or vacuum.  I’ve always found picture charts far more effective than chore charts that get ignored after the first week.

You can also add in other small chores like these:

  • folding clothes
  • feeding and walking pets
  • setting the table
  • clearing the table
  • gathering trash from around the house
  • matching socks (we used to do a race with this to see who could match the most in 2 minutes)
  • dusting furniture

Occasionally ask your child if there is a chore she’d like to try.  Always try to give options wherever you can.

Ages 10 – 12

The busier they get, the more important those chores are going to be. In our home,  if someone wanted to go do a sleep-over, chores had to be done first.   Sometimes that meant doing them the night before so that they could leave right from school the next day.  Whatever the case, they needed to get done first.

If your child participates in sports or other outside activities, be sure they are aware that those activities are privileges that they get BECAUSE they stay on top of their responsibilities at home and at school.   Again, reinforce the community aspects of the chore list and be clear that privileges will go away should those responsibilities be neglected.

Kids in this age range can do all of the basics of picking up after themselves and their bedrooms plus things like this:

  • rake leaves, weed, or shovel snow
  • wash the car
  • help with meal prep
  • load/unload the dishwasher
  • empty the dryer and fold clothes
  • changing bed sheets

This is also the age where the subject of giving allowances begins to really show up.  That will be an individual decision you will have to make.  We never gave allowances  in our home to kids in this age bracket because, as I’ve said all along, we presented cleaning up as part of an individual’s responsibility to the family unit.   People don’t get paid for being responsible.  That’s just good citizenship.   You will need to make your own decisions for how to handle this topic.

Ages 13+

By the time I was 13 I was babysitting for most of my neighborhood and almost never home.   I started paying for my own clothing and other needs by the time I was 15.   How you will negotiate the chores with your teens will depend entirely upon the activity and maturity level of each of your children individually.    As they reach different levels of maturity, it’s your job to focus on the fact that you are no longer raising children.  You are preparing young adults for real life.   Therefore, it’s important to introduce a wide variety of adult chores such as:

  • sewing and mending
  • sorting and washing laundry
  • planning and cooking meals
  • washing walls and floors
  • running small errands (I remember the first time my mother sent me to pay a bill.  I was terrified and then thrilled and proud once I’d done it!)
  • mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges, spreading mulch
  • washing and detailing the car
  • changing the oil in the car (with supervision)
  • changing a flat tire (with supervision)
  • scrubbing the tub/shower and toilet

Again, allowances are up to you.   We didn’t give allowances for regularly scheduled chores, but around age 16 we did start leaving lists of optional chores for pay.  This gave the girls an opportunity to earn money for things they wanted to buy and do, and it helped me immeasurably since by then I was also a foster care provider to pregnant teens or teen mothers.  We had a house full of girls and just one bathroom.  Ohhhh…I remember it well.   I don’t know how Mr. C survived it. <snicker>

I think the last thing to discuss would be chore charts.  I tried them.  They never really worked for us, but everyone had a very good idea of what was expected and we almost always cleaned as a team, so they weren’t really needed in our home.  If they are something you want to try, we’ve posted some great chore chart pins on our “old-fashioned parenting” board.  You can find us on Pinterest here.




June 27

How to Build a Father, Step by Step (Part 3)

If this is the first time you are joining us for our How to Build a Father series, please be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 first, so you can catch up!  We’ve been talking about Fatherhood and its challenges and how we, as wives, can help build up the best fathers that we can.   Today I am answering questions from readers.  We received a few really important questions, so let’s start right in.  Let me remind you that these are only my opinions, and I am very old-fashioned.  For anything that you consider a serious issue within your home, you should always seek professional assistance.  Ok…here goes.

Question:  How she I repair the damage I’ve done by venting to my children about their father behind his back?

Answer:  I think that this answer starts with a question.  How old are your children?   If they are still very young, simply stop doing that immediately.  Begin at once to stand as a united front and never belittle your husband again.   Time will repair any damage you may have done.

If they are older, tweens or teens, you will need to do more damage control.    I would start with making it a point to say things like “Your father is right when he says _______________.”  Or “Your father made a great point when he told you that ________________.”   Try to get at least one of these every day or every other day.  Ideally say these things both in front of their father and when he isn’t around.   This will begin to lay the new groundwork for rebuilding dad’s image.

The next thing I would do would come into play at the next opportunity where you would have normally done some of that behind the scenes venting.   Except this time I would say something like this:  “You know in the past I have questioned your father’s actions, but I was wrong to do that.  He was doing the right thing all along, and I know that now.  I agree with him on this issue too, so I’m sorry but (fill in the blank here with a reiteration of whatever dad said.  If it’s a consequence, repeat it.  If it’s a loss of privilege, repeat it.)”   You may need to remind yourself that your number one roll right now is as wife and mom.  You are not here to be your child’s best friend.  You are setting a life example.  Do it well.

Lastly, make it very clear to your children that you and their dad are a united front and neither of you will allow anyone to try to play one against the other.  ALL decisions are discussed between the two of you from now on.  Period.  Then move on.

Question:  What if I vehemently disagree with my husband’s decision and actions with our child on a certain issue?

Answer:  First, a disclaimer.   Are his actions abusive?  If so, seek immediate professional help. Never stand for that.  Ever.

If his actions are not abusive, I must then ask if you have previously discussed your parenting styles and come to an agreement on what will be the agreed upon methods and mannerisms for raising your children (forms of discipline included).  If you have not, please stay tuned beginning next week for our Marriage Agreement series.   I’ll be going over exactly how to come to an agreement on this and many other issues!  Once you have worked out all the details this should never really be an issue again and that will take care of your problem.

If you have already had these discussions and you find yourself in a place where your husband is staying within the agreed upon guidelines and it’s just that you disagree with his conclusions and decisions about a particular issue, there are two possibilities.  First, if this is a new issue and you have not had an opportunity to discuss the happenings with him, request that you have a little talk before he issues any consequences with your child.   When the child is well out of earshot, present your view calmly.  Explain your thinking, then put it back in his hands to make a decision.  You must be prepared to live with whatever he decides, however.

If the punishment has already been doled out or this is a recurring or older issue, this is where you have to step up in your wife role.   Bite your tongue.  Turn the other way.   Go for a walk.  Do anything you have to, but under absolutely no circumstance do you allow your child to catch wind that you disagree with dad.  If your husband knows your thoughts on this matter and is going against them anyway, the man must believe what he is doing is the best for his family.  Why would he invite that kind of grief upon himself otherwise?  So you must stand by him and present a united front!! No matter what.  Even if it’s hard.

But remember, this too shall pass.  It always does.

and lastly–Question:  What if we can’t agree on what forms of discipline to use for raising our children?   He believes in spanking, and I don’t.  I want to use time out and loss of privileges.  He thinks that’s not enough.  We just can’t agree.

Answer:  I think a deeper conversation is needed here.   Why do each of you feel the way you feel?  What is your background experience that brought you to feel that way?   Take turns talking and really listening to each other.  Discuss your childhood experiences.  Discuss your experiences with your parents, siblings, and other authority figures.   Discuss how you feel about other people’s parenting skills and methods.   Get to the bottom of why you each feel how you feel.  Then perhaps you can find a common ground.

Did he witness a disastrous result with a child who was only given time outs?  Is he afraid that his children will end up like that?  Did you witness corporal punishment or abuse and you are afraid that a “pat in a diapered backside” is or will escalate to abuse?  Where are the feelings originating from?   Is there a level of each that you can agree upon?  Is there a compromise?   Is there a “hard limit” that you can each agree to?

In our Marriage Agreement, I have agreed that ultimately if my husband and I can’t agree on any issue, he has final say.   So, for me, that would be the final answer to this problem.  If we had all these discussions and we still couldn’t agree, it would be whatever he says.   Ideally that isn’t the best answer.  I would  talk and talk and talk some more to find a compromise that we could both live with, and I suggest you do the same.

That wraps up the questions from our readers.  Of course, you are always welcome to send any questions over any time you’d like.  We will do our best to answer each and every one.


June 23

A Review of the Discover the Dinosaurs exhibit (currently touring the US)

This past weekend we had an opportunity to visit the “Discover the Dinosaurs” Exhibit while it was in Massachusetts. Since it’s touring the US, I thought we’d do a review of it so that you can know about it and be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to visit when it comes near you. So here’s what we experienced.11430140_10205821429588124_5021070795591409951_n

The exhibit describes itself as a fun way for kids to learn about the pre-historic past. They tell us that there will be 8-10 exhibits with 40 dinosaurs of “museum quality” for kids to look at and learn. And for an extra $5 kids can also participate in a dino dig, watch a movie, color and do some other fun activities.

Mr. C, my daughter Jenny, my grandson Max and I all decided it sounded fun, so off we went. Fortunately for us, parking was nearby, and the lines to get in were short. We paid $20 per adult and $25 or $26 for Max to get in. Yikes. Pricey, but Max was excited since we had just finished reading a bunch of books about dinosaurs and dinosaur bones and he really wanted to see some.  So we hoped it was going to be worth it.

Immediately upon entering the exhibit area, we were greeted with a picture taker.  I should have asked how much the photo would be, but I didn’t think to at the time.  Just be aware that he will be there.  And it will cost you some money.

11058050_10205821428228090_7193477005591243009_n Then we were in.  There were 8 exhibits for our event.   They were all fairly small, I think.   It took approximately 12 minutes to walk through the entire exhibit area, including the time needed to read the info cards and participate in the scavenger hunt.  (There were clues and you had to find the matching dinosaurs.)

Some of the exhibits included dinosaur movement. 11539760_10205821429828130_6577088920935420028_n  You can see Max leaning to look at this guy sweep his tail back and forth.   And then, shown below, there is this triceratops that appeared to have deformed legs that stretched forward and back.  I’m still not sure what that was about.  I suspect it was assembled wrong, but I can’t be sure since, admittedly, I’ve never seen a triceratops in person.  20997_10205821430708152_6072152558900680966_nJust a hunch.  🙂

Much to Max’s disappointment the only dinosaur bones were the individual bones hanging around as part of the “realistic” dinosaur displays.   But he had fun pointing to those every time we saw one.

There was a small curtained-in movie area with folding chairs for seating.   It was quite loud, so we were able to actually watch part of it from outside the doorway.  Max decided he wasn’t interested in going in, so we went off to the dino dig.   This was, by far, his favorite part of the event.   Not surprisingly. 22308_10205821424908007_2809091929023130006_n It was, after all, all about digging for dinosaur bones!

Here’s a photo of “Pop Pop” (a.k.a. Mr. C.) digging with Max.    There were 3-4 different sand boxes with buried bones.   Max enjoyed this part of the exhibit very much and spent most of his time here.

And then it was off to the play area, but first, of course, we were forced to walk through a gift shop full of colorful and enticing toys and stuffed animals.  O_o

10568819_10205821425948033_8982191380567825460_nA small stuffed triceratops cost us $14.  We were fortunate that Max was uninterested in anything else, and even more fortunate that he was the only small child with us.  I saw a family with 4 children trying desperately to get their crew through this section without having to drop another $80.

The play area included a coloring station, where the kids had two choices of coloring pages (both including a prompt to visit the online store.)  There was also a large bounce house where each group of kids was allowed to bounce for approximately five minutes before being told to clear out for the next group.  There was also a smaller bounce house that was the same.  For us, that five minutes was enough as there was significant commotion and crying in that area.  I was happy to leave.  Max was too.

We stopped at the snack bar.  (No outside food or beverages were allowed in.)  Popcorn was $4.25.   A pretzel was $3.75.  Again, thankfully we just had Max.   We were now 25 minutes into our stay at the event and had already spent $105.

1978747_10205838012922697_6841992325718534331_nThere was a dinosaur ride that looked much like kids riding an elephant.  They were a good size with a nice seat on top that looked sturdy and safe for the little ones.  The line was long though, and Max lost interest after waiting for 10 minutes, so off we went to mini golf.   He liked that.  There were several sizes of clubs to choose from–good for kids of any size.  It was not overcrowded because only a few kids were allowed on the course at a time.   When one child finished with the ball, they came and handed off that ball to the next kid in line.  So it was metered very well.  Also, nobody rushed anyone. If it took 30 tries to get the ball in the hole, that was okay.    It took Max about 5 minutes to complete the course.

Then it was time to hand in our scavenger hunt sheet and trade it for a small sticker or small toy dinosaur.   And exit.

Total time at the event: Less than 50 minutes.   $105.

I almost forgot to mention that there were even more activities available, for extra money.   Face painting was around $8-12 each! and there was a gem dig that was pricey as well.

For us, this wasn’t worth the money.  We have the great Boston Museum of Science not too far from us.   For us, our money would have been better spent visiting there rather than this particular dinosaur exhibit.   For the same money we could have seen a large display of dinosaurs, bones, and many other interesting things.  We could have been there for hours.   But for you, if you don’t have that option, a visit to this exhibit could be fun.   Just be prepared to add some of your own teachings to it in order to lengthen the time in the exhibit areas.  And if you don’t plan to spend the extra $5 for the additional kid activities, plan to have to explain to your children why they have to walk through the crowds of all the other kids doing those activities in order to leave, as there is no other way out.

I hope this was helpful!

June 15

How to Build a Father, Step-by-Step (Part Two)

How to Build a Father, Part two.  In Part One of this series, we talked a little bit about men and fatherhood and some of the problems we see effecting today’s dads.  Today I want to get into a bit more of the history of why and when things began to go awry within our homes and communities so that we can create a plan that will put things back into their proper place and give every home a strong foundation for parenting.  As with any plan for the future, we first must understand where we’ve been.  So let’s begin.

If we were to go back 100 years to the 1920s, we’d find a picture of fatherhood that is very different from what we see today.   Being a father in that timeframe meant, primarily, for him to financially provide for his family and offer disciplinary back up, but very little more.   This was not because fathers didn’t care to have much more to do with their children.  It had more to do with extreme work hours and having little time or energy to do any more than offer those types of support.  Being the provider was his role within the home, and he knew it and understood it well.   He did it well.  But to do anything within the home was considered beneath him.  That was women’s work.

Thankfully there were positive changes.  In the 1920’s there was an effort to establish the early labor unions in the United States.  This helped to create more favorable working conditions, and as a result by the late 1930s there was a greater push for fathers to take a more active role in parenting the children.   And things seemed to be going well until WWII hit.

In the years after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, many things happened.   First, the vast majority of men of fighting age in each community were drafted into the military to fight the war. americagoestowar5-405x248 Most spent years away overseas.  (Many never returned.  Over 180,000 children were left without fathers after that war.)

Out of necessity during the war, several changes happened with the women who were left behind.  First, they found themselves responsible for providing all of the day-to-day needs of their families.  Many had never seen the banking, much less been responsible for bill-paying.   But it didn’t stop there.   There were few plumbers or repairmen remaining on the home front.  Women began to figure out for themselves how to repair their homes and fend for themselves, all while acting as single parents–some to upwards of 6, 8, or even 10 children at the time!tumblr_inline_nelloiwN3R1smmqgg

Also, for the first time in history, women were encouraged to find employment outside the home.  They were needed in the factories to produce ammunition and other war effort required items as well as to keep the economy moving.   Factory owners did not want to have to halt production for the duration of the war, so they turned to women.

Working in the factories or in any position that supported the war became a symbol of her Patriotism.   The government even provided free daycare centers so that moms could go to work each day, and for many of these women, they found great satisfaction in their work.  It was a delight to bring the children to a safe place to play all day while they went on their way to learn new skills and work in factories.  They prided themselves on providing their children with all of the needs that the children’s father used to provide.

Prior to the war there was already a push for female equality.  Everything that happened during that war pushed those efforts even further ahead.   For some women, that was exactly what they longed for, but for many of us, we now know of that war as the beginning of the end of life as we long for it.

After the war ended and the soldiers began to return to their homes, the glow of return soon faded into a gloomy reality.   In his book Of War and Men, Ralph LaRossa quotes from one woman’s letter to her soon-to-be-returning husband:

“Sweetie, I want to make sure I make myself clear about how I’ve changed.  I want you to know now that you are not married to a girl that’s interested solely in a home–I shall definitely work all my life–I get emotional satisfaction out of working; and I don’t doubt that many a night you will cook the supper while I’m at a meeting.  Also dearest–I shall never wash and iron–there are laundries for that!  Do you think you’ll be able to bear living with me?”

The men began to realize that while they were away, they had essentially become dispensable.    Many of the young children didn’t know their now-returning fathers at all and were terrified of them.   The majority of men felt that the children were now spoiled and undisciplined, yet when they attempted to step in, the wives would stand between father and child.   It was only natural that the wives all over the nation who were very accustomed to acting in the role of mom and dad resisted dad’s attempts to re-enter as disciplinarian and leader.   Divorce rates doubled.   Men no longer knew where they fit in at all.

Magazine articles, new articles, and even comic strips from the late 40’s and early 1950’s often depicted men as incompetent.  Note that that is the exact opposite of how men were depicted in the early 40’s when they were away at war.  At that time those same men who were fighting the enemy to protect their families were considered heroes.  Apparently, those days were forgotten.

Some believe men’s roles as leaders within the family unit never quite recovered from the blow of WWII.  I would have to agree.  And things only got worse as we entered into the 60’s and 70’s when feminism really began to rear its ugly head.

Yes.  Some positive things came out of the feminist movement.  Yes.  Some things were long overdue.   Overall, however, I believe that for every positive movement for women in the workplace, there was a negative movement for women at home.  No.  Let me correct that.  There was a negative movement for everyone at home.

Look at young men today.   Years ago a 20-something year old man would have been working, marrying, focusing on providing for his family.   Today it is rare to find a 20-something-year-old male who isn’t focused on playing video games.  And why not?  He doesn’t need to find a wife.  There are plenty of scantily-clad young women strutting around who don’t ever wish to marry, but who will gladly take those young men to their beds for a night or two.

And young women who are interested in marrying are absolutely in love with the idea of planning a wedding, but they have little idea of what being married is really about!  Traditional relationships are not taught anymore.   The ones who would be teaching these concepts to their daughters are the ones who were brought up in the middle of the feminist movement.   They were taught the exact opposite.   Therefore, the traditional marriage is essentially dead.

And who’s to blame?  Women are.  Those who were content in their domesticity and would never have wished to leave it didn’t speak up when the feminist movement was in full-roar.   They were struck by the bystander effect, I think.    And now we live in an age where it is difficult for a young woman who wants to be a stay-at-home mom to find support and encouragement.  In fact, it’s almost financially impossible to be a stay-at-home mother at all.  This would never have happened if those who pushed domestic life away had been equally opposed by those who wished to maintain it.

So.  That’s where we stand.   That’s the bad news.   But there is good news.  It’s not too late.  We can do something about it–if not in our communities, then in our homes.   We can decide how to live within our own four walls.  But to do so, there is first some healing needed.

If you are coming from a conflicted marriage, I encourage to you go back and read the articles in the Love & Marriage section before proceeding.    As you can see, we have been taught to mistreat the very men we proclaim to love.   Until we undo the damage, he is going to be suspicious and likely non-cooperative.  But you can undo the damage.

If your marriage is stable and you are both on the same page for where you want to take you parenting, the next step is actually achieved within your Marriage Agreement contract, within the section on Parenting.  (An entire post on how to create a comprehensive marriage agreement is coming in the first weeks of July.  Please stay tuned!  Your marriage will thank you for it!)

It is incredibly important to have a long discussion with your spouse to discuss all aspects of parenting your children.  (Yes he will groan at the thought, but that’s because you likely haven’t allowed him to parent before.  Why would he think you will now?   You must explain that you are trying to change and you need his help.)  I will outline all of the intricate details of preparing that agreement in a few weeks, but for now you can begin by having a talk about what being a mother means to you, what you see his fatherhood meaning to you and then by listening to his views of those same things.   Start by openly and calmly discussing your individual roles.   Who is responsible for what?  Agree upon it.  Write it down.

Next talk about how each of you was raised.  What types of discipline were used?  It’s important to know this frame of reference for each of you.  What do you think worked?  What didn’t?  Which do you want to utilize for your own children?   Agree on it now. Because the next step is going to be the toughest.

Once you agree on roles.  Once you agree on the path on which you want to raise your children.  Once you agree on forms of acceptable discipline, you must then get out of his way.   Allow him the same respect you wish from him.   Prepare to bite the inside of your cheeks until they bleed.  And then watch as a miracle happens.

Over the weeks and years to come, watch him blossom as a father.   I have witnessed that when a man is free to discipline, he also becomes free to become tender and loving.  When he knows he is a role-model, he will step it up in all aspects of his living.  When he interacts with your child, it is on a new level.   He will bond unlike ever before.

When he sees that he has a definable role within your home and that you are prepared to give him the respect and space that he needs to fill that role, he will step up.  But if you have demeaned him or interfered with his fathering in the past, it will take time for him to believe you.  You will have to stick to your guns, bite those cheeks, walk away silently when you can’t bear it.  You have to trust him.

Disclaimer:  This does not in any way mean that you are to stand by while abuse in any form occurs.  That is an entirely different story and should be addressed immediately.  Never stand for abuse.  Ever.  But if you see him chastising your child for something the child did that was against your agreed upon parameters, and he is using an agreed upon form of discipline, you must clamp your lips shut and step back.  Let him work it out.   Difficult?  oh yes.  Almost impossible sometimes.  Almost.  But not impossible.   If you want it, you can do it.

The last thing I’m going to talk about here in Part 2 is a unique clause that I think ought to be in every Marriage Agreement, regardless of whether there are children in your home or not, but is especially important if there are.    Every afternoon men by the millions pour into the local bar rooms and taverns to have a beer or two (or more) before they can get themselves to head home.    If you ask them why, they will tell you that home is not a pleasant place.  They walk in to a badgering wife, unruly kids, and chaos, so it’s easier to not go home.   Please consider including in your agreements the following clause:   A buffer zone.

Help with dad’s transition from work to home by granting him 20 minutes of peace when he walks in the door.  Let him come in.  Settle in with a drink.  Relax.  Read.  Shower.  Whatever helps him unwind and make the transition.  Give him an agreed upon amount of time to prepare himself mentally to go from the war zone of his workplace to the peace zone of his home.  And then take it one step further.   Do not attack him with bad news about you day or how the kids have been behaving.  Wait until he asks about your day (which he will when he is mentally prepared to help you through what you have to report.)  Make coming home a pleasant experience for him, and then ask for the same courtesy when you arrive home from running errands and such.

In fact, why not turn this idea into this year’s first Father’s Day gift.   1950s-Pop-reading-paper-wm-LCreate some kind of certificate granting him 20 Minutes of Peace and Quiet every day for the next year.  The kids can help create it.  You can even get them on board with the idea if they are old enough to understand the concept.  Then when he walks in you can remind the kids that it’s time for dad’s 20 minutes of Peace!! Shhhhhh…

Later this week:  part 3 in the series.   We’ll wrap up with answering questions submitted by readers, more father’s day ideas, some vintage photos and celebration ideas, and more!




June 8

How to Build a Father–Step by Step (Part One of the Fatherhood Series)

If you want a man to be a great father, you have to give him the time, the tools, and the title that he needs in order to succeed.   It’s that simple.Page_1  How to Build a Father–Step by Step.

Men are not complicated creatures.   If they’ve had an opportunity to grow and mature into men, the rest is pretty simple.   Give him a mission and some space to work out his own way to accomplish the mission, and he’ll get it done.   Fatherhood is no different for him.
Give him the title:  Dad.  Pop.  Father, or whatever other title you decide.   Give him his mission: Raise happy, healthy, well-rounded, disciplined children.  And give him some space to figure out how to get that done.  Then stand back.  And, most importantly, resist all urges to meddle with his methodology.  Let him decide how best to be a father.  Let him decide how he will interact with, guide, and discipline his children.  Do not try to alter his methods.

I’ll bet those last few lines made your stomach lurch, didn’t they?   Well it’s true.  I think what makes poor fathers is meddlesome mothers.  I think what makes aloof fathers is nagging mothers.   And I think what makes absent fathers is wives and mothers who drive those men away.

Now before you get your tail in a twist, I acknowledge that there are bad seeds in every bunch.  Some men are just not cut out to be husbands and fathers from the start (just as some women shouldn’t be wives or mothers).   Some simply don’t want to be there.   I’m not talking about those.  I’m talking about the men who set out to be amazing husbands and fathers and put their all into the job just to have their wives and sometimes even the children demoralize them and beat them down until they throw their hands up in frustration and quit trying.

There was a time when dad’s rules ruled.   I believe we need to get back to that.  Here’s why.

If you want your man to provide for your family and lead your family …
If you want your man to commit to your family …
If you want  your man to put his family before his very own life . . .

then you have to agree to be lead by him.
You have to agree to commit to him.
You have to know and understand in your bones that to him, you all come before everything else.
You have to trust him.

And if you do that–truly honor him, respect him and trust him– he’ll give it everything he’s got.  The man will die fulfilling his commitments to you.

If you second guess him, correct him, belittle him, reverse his decisions, sneak behind him, make his children question him, nag him, laugh at him, or ignore him, he will not know where he fits in to your home life, so he will steadily remove himself from it.

That’s how most men’s brains operate.  Yes, there are exceptions, but the vast majority of men need to know where they fit into the family dynamic in order to take their role seriously.  And once they know where they fit in, and once they know that you have placed full confidence in them to get the job done, they will move mountains for you.

As part of our fatherhood series, we are going to talk all about how to create a plan for parenting that you can both live by that will strengthen your bond as husband and wife as you grow as a mom and dad.    But it all starts right here.   Today.  Ask yourself these questions:

Do you want a strong father figure in the lives of your children?  Or do you want to make all the decisions and do all the work of raising the children alone?

Do you want a father figure who is mentally and physically available to your kids?  Or do you want a man only on the periphery, merely providing a paycheck to help with financial support?

Do you want a parenting partner?  Someone to help with frustrations? Someone to offer ideas and support?  Or do you want to navigate the waters of parenting alone without anyone meddling in your decisions–be they right or wrong, good or bad.

Lastly, what are your biggest fears as a parent?

Think about those, and then move on to Part Two.

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June 7

A Very Vintage Father’s Day

In honor of Father’s day here in the US and the UK coming up on July 21 (and soon in September for Australia), I’ll be taking a look at Fatherhood and all of its twists and turns in history, particularly the interesting changes that happened during the Post WWII period in the 1950’s and how it still effects us today.   We’ll call this one A Very Vintage Father’s Day.fathers-day-seaforth-wmkBelieve it or not, fathers are a sensitive bunch and how they feel they “fit” into our home lives plays a dramatic role in how they will parent!  Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing different posts about that and how you can insure a proper fit for dad in your family.  Stay tuned to see what I mean by that.

But first, a little history of Father’s Day.  It wasn’t until 1972 that Father’s Day was declared a National Holiday in the United States, but the idea had been around for a very long time.

In July of 1908 a church in West Virginia sponsored the nation’s first father’s day–an event really– in honor of fathers.  They featured a Sunday sermon in memory of the 362 men who had died in the previous December’s explosions at the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah.  735c51ca5f5c60ab194d53bcf302f951

The next year, Sonora Smart Dodd, a Spokane, Washington woman, tried to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for fathers.  She was one of six children in a motherless family and she wanted to honor her father and all fathers, so she went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and she was successful: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910.

Slowly, the holiday spread. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day, but believe it or not, many men hated the holiday.   They saw it as a commercial venture that only caused their families to buy frivolous gifts with the very money he had just worked so hard to earn!

UnknownFinally, in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday.  Today, economists estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts.

My goal this year is to help you come up with a gift for dad that doesn’t cost a cent, but that will change his life dramatically in a positive manner.   The benefits for your family are immeasurable.   Of course, we’ll also feature some cute little projects for the kids too, because hand-made gifts are, in my opinion, always the best gifts.

What are your Father’s Day traditions?  Share them here!  You can also share them with our Facebook Community.  We love hearing from you.