Parenting -The Riskiest Job in 2014?

Happy New year my friends!. 2013 was a busy year, and I found myself writing less than what I wanted to or even planned to. It was not for a lack of ideas, simply a lack of time, as I juggled all my different roles at home and at the office. I hope to do better this year.

As I’ve watched my kids grow this past year, watched their interactions with others, read the news and watched their idols on TV, I’ve thought a lot about this generation which comes across as being very materialistic, very entitled and very selfish (disguised as independence). Unfortunately I realize that our culture encourages our kids to think of themselves in this regard with the constant message, that they are very important and it’s all about them.

If you don’t believe me, look at your kids christmas requests. Most of them were for electronics or toys, all preceded with the word “Me” or ‘I”.  How many of those items were for somebody else, especially somebody needy that cannot reciprocate the gesture?

But I’ve also thought long and hard about the part we as the parents are playing in nudging them in this direction. I’m not thrilled by some of the conclusions I’m making, and I pray I’m wrong on some of them. I plan to explore some of this ideas in the near future.

As they grow and change daily, I’m appreciating more and more, just how tough the parenting job is, and I can’t help but wonder about the challenges ahead. But I know that outsourcing the job or taking a sabbatical to a far, far away land is not an option (even though it’s so tempting at times) and as parents we have to keep teaching our kids right from wrong, pushing through the difficult times ahead, teaching them to not be “Those kids”. We cannot afford to slacken even for one minute, regardless of how tired we are, or how much they and the rest of the world push back.

I’ll have to constantly remind myself and the kids, that I’m the parent, and there are things they need to do, places they need to go to because, I their parent have asked that of them, and it has nothing to do with what they want or don’t want to do. Off course I have to worry about what their friends are telling them, or what their movie and TV idols suggest they do, not to mention all the parenting gurus who are recommending that we treat them as “little adults” and give them their due.

I expect the phrase “Because I said so” to become my new mantra in the new year. I suspect though, that I’ll have to work very hard to silence the small voice that will be niggling at the back of my mind, questioning some of this decisions, reminding me how expensive it is to pay for therapy to fix parenting mistakes.

As we start the new year, I wonder if am setting myself up for failure or for blazing glory?

A Love-Hate Relationship with Chuck E. Cheese’s

Chuck E Cheese's

Chuck E Cheese’s (Photo credit: milletre)

Chuck E. Cheese’s is one of those places that parents love to hate or absolutely adore. For kids, the big attractions are the birthday parties with Chuck E Cheese himself, in addition to the video/games that litter the place. On a recent birthday visit, I found myself observing my fellow parents and categorizing them based on their behaviour and their interactions with the little ones on their watch.

1) The-Super-Competitive-Type. This type is exemplified by the parent who is there with his  4-year-old son Jimmy. He is happy to help little Jimmy play most of the games, but after a while he takes over, and forces his little one cheer him on, as he goes about conquering the world, leaving Jimmy frustrated and a mere spectator.

2) The-Go-Do-Your-Thing-Kind Parent. This parent gives his little ones all the money they can handle with requests to periodically check in to make sure, they are still around and haven’t left with a stranger. They are quite happy to spend a ton of money on the games, as long as the kids are happy playing and are willing to leave them alone, to enjoy their drink/pizza

3) The-Nervous-Buzz-Around Parent. This one can barely keep up with his two kids, since he insists on accompanying his children (doesn’t matter how old his kids are) to every game. It’s gets complicated when each of his children wants to play a different game  with their friends, as he is so afraid of  letting them be.

As I identified the different kind of parents, as well as a whole slew of the in-between-kind-of-categories, I had to give it to the Atari  founder Nolan Bushnell who started the company in 1977 based on his knowledge of the entertainment industry and his love of the Disney company.

The wild success of Chuck E. Cheese’s is a great lesson for kids and those young at heart, actually for anybody. You can succeed in just about anything, if you study the field, are passionate enough, and you are willing to give it your best.

Question: Do any of the above categories apply to you now or in the future?

College Choice: Deserved or Earned?

On a recent visit to my daughter’s class, this declaration got me all excited. It’s something any parent would love to hear from their child.

College.jpg  

  This got me thinking, it’s great she wants to go to college, but what college does she want to go to? I don’t expect her or any 6-year-old to have an answer, but I think this is the point where we as parents sometimes miss the point.

The question is, where should she go to college, not where does she want to go to college?

Most parents approach this question in a couple different ways

Let the child decide. As our kids grow older we ask them what school they want to go to, and we take that as their college choice. The problem with this is that their decision is most likely based on;

  1. What they think they’d like to major in.
  2. What schools their friends want to go to.
  3. What their guidance counselor suggests they should look at.
  4. What schools they think their parents want them to go to.

We are the parents so we decide. Nothing wrong with this option but interesting to find out the logic the parents use to come up with this ideas. Some of the interesting ones include the following,

  1. Prestige sometimes over common sence – my child can go any school as long as it’s Ivy League School.
  2. Family tradition  –  our families go to XYZ college no reason our child will not go there. It’s my alma mater or nothing.
  3. College costs.

Taking into consideration the last one, I took a look at a calculator that will give you an idea of how much money, one needs to save for college. Here is the example Saving for College Calculator

Using the average cost of a 4 year degree at a state school ($37,000), I need to save $1,192 a month to cover 100% of the costs ($307,260) for my 7-year-old.

An Ivy League school at $50,000 today calls for saving $1,610 a month to come up with the expected cost of $415,216 for the same child.  I have two kids who will be going to college around the same time, so whichever way we look at it, it’s a ton of money.

This is a lot of money to save, but it gives an idea of what we can expect in future. It does also create another option for picking out the college our kids will attend.

There are many colleges that will give academic scholarships to bright kids, if they apply for them. They constitute the list of colleges earned by the kids, and should be at the top of the choice list.

So my answer to the question, what college should my kids go to, is simply this. It’s not the one they deserve, or the one they think they want to go to, or the one I want them to go to, or the one their friends are going to, but it’s the school they earn!

Question; What kind of college is your child going to?

Expand Your Kids Minds by Travelling – Picture Review

One of the best ways of bringing up balanced and well-adjusted kids is to expose them to different cultures, and the best way I know to do that is via travelling. A few days in a foreign country will expand your kids mind way in a way a month of class work can never do, so I consider travel part of the education experience our kids will inherit from us.  With the right approach and attitude, it’s also a lot of fun.

To end the year, I’m including a couple of pictures of places we’ve been with our little ones the past couple years. Enjoy!

The girls have adopted two baby elephants from the Sheldrick Wildlife Orphanage in Nairobi Kenya. We visit them every chance we get – a  recent visit.

Kenya_Hol_2009 027

Baby_Elephants2 A chance to practice bargaining skills in an open air market.

OpenAirMarket_2

Open_Air_market_3

Exploring different building techniques and architecture (London, Nairobi, Bogotá)

London_1 Colombia_1 Nairobi_building_1 Building_2 Heritage_1

Animal interactions (Wild and Domestic)

Tortoise_ride1

Cows_1 Giraffes_1

Food and different ways of preparing it

GoodFood_1 Good_Food2 Milking_Goats_1

Exploring art – museums and gallery visits (Nairobi)

Museum_1 Museum_2 Museum_3

Food Crops (Mangoes, Tea, Bananas)Mango_tree_1 Tea_Farm Banana_tree_2

Happy New Year!

Snow Shoveling – An “Easy” Chore Over the Holidays

SnowStormSchools are out this week, and most kids are home hanging out with friends, or playing Video games, with a small majority whining about the electronic games they didn’t get for  Christmas.

The Christmas week vacation is too short for kids to have a regular job, but not too short for a lot of this kids to make some serious money, and to really understand that “Money does not grow on trees”.

I believe chores are one of the best ways of helping kids develop their “Money Muscle” by allowing them to actively participate in generating some sort of income, as well making spending decisions on that money. The current snowstorms in the North East present an enticing opportunity for youngsters that want to earn some serious money.

All they need are a couple of snow shovels, the courage to walk up to a neighbours door with a smile, and the simple explanation that they are looking to make some money. Most people I know will respond positively to this type of request, and many times, they’d be happy to refer the kids to others looking to get their driveways cleaned up.

The enterprising kids might consider making some sort of fliers or calling cards, that they can easily drop off with the neighbours, or post at the local coffee places.

Have the kids start in their own backyard, and price it per the space, not by the hours they put in. With this experience, and the tangible results, it will be easy to extend it to the rest of the neighbourhood, creating a positive image for themselves, and some serious cash flow.

A lot of the chores I’ve discussed here are best worked at home, mainly because of the age of my kids, but snow shoveling is a chore that allows the kids to start interacting with other members of the society in a professional way, which is a great opportunity for them to start practising skills acquired at home in a safe environment.

As as you get ready to celebrate the new year, please encourage your kids to earn some extra money by shoveling if you live in a snow bound area.

Question: What do you think is the right age for kids to start looking to do this type of paid chores outside of the home?

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Merry Christmas!

By now you’ve probably found the perfect gifts for the loved ones in your life especially the Merry_Christmaslittle ones.

We place a ton of emphasis on getting the right gifts or ensuring we get to the right parties to the point where we sometimes forget the reason for the season.

Christmas is a joyous time spent with family and focused on celebrating the birth of Christ, which is the best gift anybody can receive. It’s the reason for the season. Explain to your little ones why we celebrate the holiday, and stress on the fact that with or without gifts, Christmas can still be an exciting time, spent with friends and families or spreading some holiday cheer in other ways.

As parents, we want the best for our kids, which for a number of us translates into trying to get them everything on their list, especially if it’s on the list of the current hottest toys. We sometimes drive ourselves to a complete distraction as we chase after the perfect gift amidst the bustle of our lives.

It does not have to be this way, for ourselves and our kids. It calls for a change in our mind-set and for being satisfied with what we have. We have to teach our kids to be content with what they have, to think of others and be less self-centered. It’s the right way to celebrate this very special holiday.

There is nothing wrong with gifts, the issue is how we use them and when we place too much emphasis on them.

If you have already bought your kids a ton of presents, don’t lose heart, there is still a very important lesson you can share with your kids about the holiday. Don’t give the kids their presents hoping they’ll disappear into their rooms for hours on end, instead plan to play with them for a couple of hours with each of their new toys. Make it all a part of sharing family time and being with each other at this time.

Merry Christmas!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Red Sky at night....

Red Sky at night…. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you enjoy some great food tomorrow and relax with friends and families,please take a moment to think of you those less fortunate than you.

Use the opportunity to discuss with your kids all the different ways in which your family is blessed. Let each child know what you are thankful for as it relates to them. In addition discuss about those less fortunate, and have your kids brainstorm on different ways in which they can assist. Then plan to help them make it happen.

Enjoy the holiday!

Question: What are your thanksgiving plans?