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The Secret to Empowering Your Kids- Leave Them Home Alone for the Weekend

This is us.... without kids for the weekend!

This is us.... without kids for the weekend!

Recently, I was lucky enough to discover that East Coast based, New York Times Best-Selling author, Jessica Lahey, (FB: @jessicapottslahey, www.jessicalahey.com) was speaking a mere hour from my house (that’s like practically next door in LA terms!). I immediately cleared my calendar for that evening and drove excitedly over to hear her speak about her book (now in it’s 11th printing), The Gift of Failure (Harper).

It was a small gathering of 40-ish parents at the La Canada Elementary School library. Jessica, a middle school teacher and engaging storyteller, whose realization about the short-comings in her own parenting came to light while she was teaching middle school. 

As with so many of us, it is so obvious what needs to be done when someone else has a problem, however, it’s perplexing that when we are struggling with how to find a solution for one of our own issues, we can’t see the forest for the trees. She says she had this epiphany about her own parenting short-comings as she was seeing many of the parents of her middle schoolers swooping in and “doing the work” for their children. 

Whether it was a project which used language far beyond a middle schoolers vocabulary level (but quite on par with a college professor's, which a few of her students parents were) or it was merely over-involvement on homework or just consistent rescuing the child by racing the forgotten homework assignment over to the school so that they wouldn’t get a zero.

Jessica came home one afternoon to her then, 9 yr old, wearing rain boots three sizes too big, only to find out that he had worn his brother's boots to school that day (and missed playing in PE- his favorite subject) because he didn’t know yet how to tie his shoes!She said, “It just hit me hard. I realized all this time, I’m thinking I’m doing him a favor by taking care of this little thing for him so we can get out the door to school on time. So we sat down and you what, within an hour, he had it nailed.” Problem solved.

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Before you keep reading...

Download my FREE Parenting Tips on how to encourage FAILURE (gasp...I know...)

We can all relate, right? I have said to myself in the past…. I would let my kids make their own lunches but it drives me crazy when I walk into the (formerly clean kitchen) and see the mac and cheese all over the stove, and the counter, and in the sink, along with the dirty pan used to make the mac and cheese. And don’t forget the spilled milk on the counter and the butter dish left out with a couple pieces of mac and cheese now soaking in it.

I decided to make peace with that butter dish and the cheesy stovetop. And here’s why.

Because today it may be the rain boots or the butter dish, but before we know it we’re going to be waking up and they are going to be gone. Out of our daily lives and off trying to conquer that big, scary, messy world.

No longer will it be only be rain boots or mac and cheese problems, thanks to us over-rescuing them for everything they do, they will be completely incapable of handling the stuff in life that really counts.

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Last weekend, my husband and I were set to go away for the weekend for an event in Orange County. We did something we’ve never done before… we left the kids (ages 17, 14, and 11) home alone for the night.

I figured, the age-appropriate equivalent of Jessica’s "rain boot" story for me was testing the waters around empowering them to learn how to fend for themselves for 24 hours. I know, this isn’t a long time, and that’s why it’s so perfect. It's a baby-step. We need to take lots of them and so do they.

Before we left, we sat them down and we told them, “This is a test.” (Yes, just like those tests from the Emergency Broadcasting Systems. Remember those?)

We know that you are capable and competent and we’re excited to give you this opportunity to “go it alone for a night.” They all smiled and nodded in agreement, “We got this."

Throughout the course of the night at the event, my aunt kept asking me, “How are the kids doing?” I have to say, it actually felt really good to reply, “I don’t know. I left my phone in the hotel room!”

The following afternoon, when we returned home, I was absolutely floored by what I saw when I walked in.

Immaculate.

The house was immaculate. And when I say my oldest child is not a tidy person, I mean that he has a gift at spreading clothes around a room faster than a gardener can spread Miracle Grow. Yet his room was spotless.

Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I oh-so casually mentioned, “Thanks for cleaning up. Your room looks great.”

“Oh thanks, Mom. We all pitched in. It was no big deal.”

So I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised (but I am) when this week, he worked four hours on a English paper. In fact, he took it into his teacher TWICE for review with her prior to the deadline so he could make edits. Wha-wha?

This from a kid who crawled through Freshmen English with his eyes closed and phoned it in Sophomore year scraping by with barely a B. Hmm... so you're saying my kid wants to be empowered?

In fact, they are really asking us to let go. In 18 months, he will be gone from my watchful eye on a daily basis, anyway, so I might as well empower him now. He has figured out how to be successful by getting lots of coaching and feedback around what he's most passionate around, basketball. So it's our job, as his parents, to teach him that this approach can work in all facets of his life. 

It’s not easy, and it doesn’t always go smoothly, but they will thank us for it later. Hopefully.

Do you have any stories to share about parenting a teen (could be school, sports or socially) and letting go? I’d love to hear them!

Much Love & Successful Parenting!

Kirsten 


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Gratitude of the week:

I had so much fun speaking to the 30+ high school students at ASLA, which is Matthew McConnaughey's Foundataion, Just Keep Livin'. 

We talked about what it means to go after our biggest dreams and how to get there. 

These kids have HUGE goals: Everything from curing Lupus (for a Mother who struggles with it) to attending Julliard. 

Or, my personal favorite, from a Senior named, Sebastian, "I want to graduate from high school next spring. Not because I want to go to college, because most likely I won't, but because I know I'll be very proud of myself if I do. And that's what matters." Truth. 

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TOP 3 Mindset Tips in Helping Your Teen Prior to their Next Game

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"His stomach problems have disappeared since he started working with you four weeks ago."

I just LOVE coaching teens for Peak Performance! I was so thrilled to hear this report from the mother of one of my clients this week.

Lisa said, "John (not their real names) had been having major stomach issues, which would get triggered in times of stress. With the tools you have given him over the course of the last month, they have completely been eliminated from his life (on and off the court). He had a great tournament last weekend, it didn't all go according to plan, by the way, but he worked through the issues and came off the floor with a huge smile on his face. Thank you. We are so thrilled!"

We, as parents, can think of no worse pain than to see our kids in a limiting mindset that is potentially holding them back from reaching peak performance. And, so often it is this pain that keeps them "playing small" and not believing in themselves, which ultimately leads them down the path of relative unhappiness. And what parent doesn't want to see their kid happy? We are all guilty of that, right? Why is that seemingly simple request so complicated some times?

Hint: It starts from within. It starts with you.

Here are my TOP 3 Mindset Tips in Helping

Your Teen Prior to their Next Game-

1) Meet them where THEY are. The evening before their game, when you're saying goodnight to your child, ask them what they are most looking forward to about their game tomorrow?

  • "Finally beating that team"
  • "Playing my best and scoring 20 points!"
  • "Seeing my friends and wearing those cute new purple socks we all got!"

After they have answered the question and you have really listened to what it is they want you hear. Then you can respond in kind by meeting them where they are. I.e, if your child only cares about the purple socks, you worrying about the outcome of the game is pointless, right? If they do want to talk about their performance and how they hope to play, ask them to tell you a story.

Ask them, "If the game could go exactly as you'd like, how would it go?" (hint: don't forget the juicy details!) The more specific they can be the better. They are literally painting a picture of what is going to happen tomorrow, make it good.

 

2) Seal it with a KISS. Wherever the vision for their game takes them, whether the focus is on the socks or the 20 points they want to score, give them a little "homework" assignment and you kiss them on the forehead.

You can say, "Did you know that whatever goes through your mind last, is what your brain processes over night? Spend these last 10 minutes of awake time picturing what that will feel like tomorrow. I can't wait to watch you play."

 

3) Go slow to go fast. And finally, this 3rd step is for YOU. It seems counter-intuitive, we're busy, we've got a lot to do over the course of the weekend. Who has time to slow down?

Here's what it sounds like at the Jones household on most Saturday mornings:

"Grab your water. Load the snacks. Don't forget your equipment! Did you eat? And for Pete's sake, would you please brush your teeth! We're going to be late! I'll meet you in the car! Where is the game this morning, anyway?"

You want me to slow down? Yeah, right! But, yes, I do. I want you to set your alarm 20minutes earlier than you normally do.

  • Before you turn on your phone and check your email.
  • Before you wake up your kid.
  • Before you even turn on the coffee pot.

Check in (with yourself). It's an easy 5-15 minutes of letting go. Sit up tall, back against the couch and your head free. Close your eyes and surrender. You can take deep breaths, or count 1-5 and then 5-1. You are letting go. You are not thinking about the 20 things you will do today, you are enjoying this little alone time.

End your little self-imposed "time out" with a prayer of gratitude:

"Today is a gift. We GET to go enjoy this beautiful day together watching our kids play sports! How lucky are we?" Whatever comes to mind that morning.

Now you are ready to seize your day And the best news? You've already succeeded for the day. If NOTHING else goes to plan that day, it doesn't matter, you've already won. But given that you took the time to "do the work" and prepare for success, I think you'll be surprised how often things do roll your way! 

Have an awesome weekend! I can 't wait to hear how it went!

Much Love & Successful Parenting~

Kirsten