Developing Teen Leaders: Expanding the Family Meeting

Whether your children are toddling about beneath your feet or are asking to borrow the family car, organizational skills are a must. We’ve thereby utilized a monthly family meeting since the kids were wee ones to plan holidays, discuss our goals, and essentially take our pulse or discuss any issues or concerns.

Now that my children are a bit older and they are taking on leadership positions of their own, I find myself sitting back and smiling – admiring how the professional skills we’ve implemented into our family life now help them in their academic and social circles.

young boy scout addressing the city council with text overlay Developing Teen Leaders: Expanding the Family Meeting @EvaVarga.netFor an overview of scout activities, school performances, orthodontic appointments, etc., a shared calendar is critical for us as a family. Using the color coding and invite features, we can improvise when unforeseen changes (sick teachers, additional music lesson, or a Scout Board of Review) are needed. However, we are not always on the same page despite having electronic devices.

Expanding the Monthly Family Meeting

My husband and I have noticed a gap with how to make the upcoming appointments and ‘to do’s’ more tangible for our children. Like us, the kids are more prepared and less stressed when they know what to expect each day. No one likes getting woken for a surprise dental appointment or getting pulled away from a coding issue on their Minecraft server for a haircut. Now that they are older and are beginning to schedule appointments of their own (art lessons, podcast interviews, etc.), we need to be aware of their plans as well.

We tackled this nuance with a family meeting on a weekly basis – or Weekly Overview Review. This meeting takes place next to a whiteboard in the dining room (essentially my VIPKID classroom each morning), and lasts about 15 minutes – usually on Sunday after breakfast, or in the evening if the morning doesn’t work out.

Our shared Apple calendar is color coded and thus using colored markers is a natural extension of our digital schedule system. It helps everyone to visualize the week and understand it better.

The focus is on the coming week, and the board therefore is divided into columns from Monday to Sunday. Everyone enters the most important dates with his or her color and introduces them to the others, e.g. “9-11 volunteer at marine life center”, “6:30 Board Mtg at the hospital”, “piano lessons”, “debate club”. We are thereafter fully engaged and aware of the activities planned through the week.

These revised meetings have been such a success that I’m looking forward to purchasing a magnetic calendar whiteboard. Having a visual reminder that we can refer to throughout the week will also help alleviate conflict. No longer will my son have an excuse to say, “What? I have a doctor apt? You didn’t tell me!”  or “I forgot to look at my calendar. I must have missed the notification.”

Questions We Ask the Children

Once our obligations are recorded on the white board we take time to discuss the details of the week. We also encourage the kids to take more ownership in their learning – to strive for academic and career goals.

Additionally, we all share in the management of the house – doing our part to assure the chores are completed and the burden doesn’t fall on one person’s shoulders. Everyone has a role and helps to contribute to the success of the others.

• What are you doing this week?

• What do you need from us (financial assistance, transportation, etc.)? Are there any permission slips that we have to sign?

• Is there anything from last week that isn’t finished yet?

• Did you schedule time for learning? What creative project(s) are underway? Do you need help studying or with a project?

• Who will take over which household chore in the coming week? 

• What meals would you like this week?

Input in these areas really helps reduce my stress during the week. I’m able to shop for groceries just once (generally) and have a clear plan for the week. No more evenings with me scrambling at the last minute trying to figure out what to cook with what happens to be in the pantry. This also helps assure the menu is more diverse and appealing to everyone.

Questions We Ask Ourselves

As the kids have become more independent, it has also enabled me to go back to work on a part time basis. At first, I was substitute teaching and thus I would be away from home for the full day. This created difficulty in regards to scheduling and transportation. With VIPKID, I rarely substitute anymore but I do volunteer regularly. These obligations require us to sometimes be a little creative or seek out outside support (Grandpa, for example).

• Do either of us have to adjust our weekly plans because an important appointment for the children has been added?

• Do we have to organize outside support on any day?

 

You may think a family meeting like this is too formal. Our experience, however, is that the kids develop a much better understanding of each other’s plans, find their way much better with their own daily lives, and thereby become more independent and self-reliant.

Raising Teens While Saving Your Sanity: 12 Must Read Books for Parents

When my children were toddlers, I recall our pediatrician giving me his sage advice, “You have one child of each sex. When they are young, your son will cause you the most frustration. When they reach their teen years, things will change. Raising teens is different. Parenting your son will become remarkably easier than your daughter. Your daughter will cause you the most concern and frustration when she is a teen.” These words have swirled about my head often since then.

When my son was climbing up the shelves to reach the garage door opener, I recalled his words.

When I found my son atop the kitchen counter digging into the used coffee grounds and observed a dozen raw eggs smashed on the floor below him, I recalled his words.

When we found him inside the dryer, I recalled his words. When our babysitter found him inside their dog carrier and she later shared her revelation, I recalled his words.

When I found him atop the rubbermaid tubs playing with the baby powder, I recalled his words.

callmetrouble

Struggles of Raising Teens

Now that they are both teens (or nearly so – my son will be twelve next month and my daughter is fourteen), I expected things to change. To be sure, I am no longer finding him in precarious places. Yet, the tides have not yet turned.

My daughter dutifully does her lessons without a lot of nagging from me. She keeps her room organized and tidy. She helps around the house, often doing the laundry or putting away the dishes without prompting.

She helps keep me on my toes, reminding me of appointments and lessons outside the house. She rarely ever complains about having to go to swim team (when she does, red flags go up as I realize she is coming down with some bug).

My son, on the other hand, is a different creature all together. His life motto is, “If it isn’t my idea and also fabulously fun, I want no part.”

We constantly butt heads over accountability. I have become a nagger. But don’t take my word for it …

I came across a great post on Facebook recently, encouraging us to sit down with our child, ask certain questions without any prompting, and then to repost the questions and answers along with our child’s name and age. My friend posted her 12-year-old son’s answers. They were so funny and endearing that I decided to do the exercise with my children.

Here’s an excerpt from my interview with my 11-year-old son:

What is something I say all the time?
“Go do your schoolwork”

What makes me happy?
“When I do my schoolwork”

What makes me sad?
“When I don’t do my schoolwork. No. Actually, when Prince died.”

Do you think you could live without me?
“No, because I’d never get my schoolwork done.”

What did I tell you? I am a nagger. I must admit I am at my wits end. I am frustrated and perplexed. I have begun to question if homeschooling is the right path for him. Would he be more successful being accountable to others?

 Raising Teens While Saving Your Sanity: 12 Must Read Books for Parents @EvaVarga.net

12 Must Read Books for Parents Raising Teens

I have thereby been doing a lot of reading lately. Here’s my top 12 list of must read books for parenting teens while maintaining your sanity. Admittedly, I have not yet read all of them. I have provided a little snippet for those I have, while the others came highly recommended to me by a dear friend. (Thank you, Aubrey!)

Parenting Teens with Love & Logic by Foster Cline & Jim Fay ~ I have had a lot of success with the Love & Logic techniques, especially when the kids were toddlers. As they’ve gotten older, however, we have not been as consistent, evidenced by the attitude and behaviors that are now magnified. This is one of the books I own and revisiting these strategies every now and again has been really helpful.

Queen Bees and Wannabes, 3rd Edition: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boys, and the New Realities of Girl World by Rosalind Wiseman ~ I first read this book when my daughter was about five years old. She wasn’t dealing with cliques or gossip at that age but it really helped me to better understand my own experience as a teen. I want to read this one again.

Odd Girl Out by Rachael Simmons ~ Similarly, I also read this one years ago. It was actually a book club selection and it provided a great opportunity to reflect on and share our own experiences.

Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World by Rosalind Wiseman ~ Having read her previous title (noted above), I was very eager to read this one. I found myself constantly taking pictures with my cell phone of passages I wanted to remember and/or discuss with my spouse. Ultimately, I made the decision to purchase this book along with Queen Bees and Wannabes.

The New Strong-Willed Child by James C. Dobson ~ My son is indeed strong-willed and is skilled at wearing us down to get his way. I look forward to reading Dobson’s advice for creating a home filled with love and how to discipline a difficult child while making it evident to the child that they are loved, special, and cared for.

In Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, Lisa Damour outlines seven transition phases that girls experience as they progress from childhood to adulthood. The phases are relatively self-explanatory. They are 1) parting with childhood, 2) joining a new tribe, 3) harnessing emotions, 4) contending with adult authority, 5) planning for the future, 6) entering the romantic world, and 7) caring for herself. These phases aren’t necessarily experienced at specific ages in one specific order, but Damour offers a general guide for how most girls mature. I recommend it for parents who have a preteen daughter so they can be prepared in advance to handle situations as they arise.

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon & Michael Thompson ~ This title was actually recommended to me by our pediatrician years ago and I recall enjoying it. Now that my son is nearly a teen, it warrants another read. As children age, they undergo many changes – both physically and emotionally. What I gleaned from this book when my son was a toddler will not serve me well now that I am raising teens.

Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons by Meg Meeker ~ I have not yet read this title but from the synopsis, I am very intrigued. The author explores the secrets to boyhood, including why rules and boundaries are crucial–and why boys feel lost without them as well as the pitfalls parents face when talking to their sons.

Meg Meeker has authored two additional titles that strongly interest me. The first, Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men, acknowledges that raising sons presents a challenge that raising daughters does not. After all, I as a woman can remember being a girl and young woman; I can never fully understand what it is like to be male. We still have a very important role to play in our son’s development, however. We “lay the foundation for how he will relate to women for the rest of his life.” 

The second, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know, is a powerful book for fathers. As one reviewer on Amazon stated,  “If you want her to grow up emotionally healthy and able to face the pressures that our parents never knew and therefore didn’t know how to equip *us* to deal with, read this book, it will tell you how.”

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively by Gary D. Chapman has been all over social media this past year. Though I haven’t read the book, I have read numerous blog posts and even asked each of my family members to take an online quiz to determine our individual love languages. This one is definitely on my “books to read list”.

This last title is more for your teen, than for you as a parent. Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens: … Helping You Manage Mood Swings, Control Angry Outbursts, and Get Along with Others by Sheri Van Dijk will help teens find new ways of managing their feelings. Based on dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a type of therapy designed to help people who have a hard time handling their intense emotions, this workbook helps teens learn the skills necessary to ride the ups and downs of life with grace and confidence.
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You’ll find more lists of Must Read Books at the iHomeschool Network linkup.