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Why You Need to Go Ahead and Buy that School Yearbook

Sure it may seem like a waste of money.

Maybe our kids don’t seem to care if we purchase one or not.

It might appear as a material item that will just sit around and collect dust.

Does our child really need another school yearbook?

School yearbook sales are in significant decline today. Students seem disinterested in the costly product. Mom and Dad don’t want more stuff hanging around the house either, so they are choosing not to buy.

Is the yearbook a dying American tradition or does it still have value?

I relish this time of year when my kids bring home their yearbooks. Perhaps I have an affinity for the product because I was Editor in Chief of mine as a high school senior, but more so, it provides me parental value today. 

Those of us still buying yearbooks know we are investing in a keepsake that our child will hopefully treasure in the future. We understand that social media posts will eventually be lost yet an analog book of memories is forever. We’re also supporting and funding a group of students’ creative, hard work throughout the school year. 

What if you buy the school yearbook simply as a way to get your family members connecting today?

The hardcover Class of 2018 edition of my children’s high school yearbook sits on our coffee table surrounded by our comfy sectional couch. The book sits right where family members slowly gather around the television throughout each evening.

At this time of year, I strategically seek out an open area on the couch and begin to flip through the pages of the yearbook.

“Oh, he looks cute,” is usually all I have to say to get my freshman daughter to bound across the room to squeeze up next to me to see who in the world I could be talking about. 

“Uh, Mom. No. He is so weird. He’s in my biology class.”

Oh ok. Well, what about him? I say while pointing to a different picture. And our bonding begins….

There’s something magical about a school yearbook that allows normally off-limits conversation between my guarded daughter and myself. I can’t ask her about a friend’s Snapchat or Instagram post without coming across as intrusive or annoying. Somehow the compiled photos and stories wrapped up in this yearbook are fair game.

“Do you know her? She looks nice.”

“That doesn’t look like Michael. He has changed so much since elementary school.”

Organically the brothers can’t help but get in on the action too. They squeeze in wanting to add their personal two cents to the conversation. And the dialogue opens up between sister and brother, who typically pass in the high school hallways without even saying a word to one another.

I learn who’s funny in my child’s eyes. Who’s smart. Who’s mean. Who cheats. Who Juuls. Who kisses in the hallways. Which teachers they want for next year and which ones they hope to never see again.

The school yearbook allows us a window into our kids’ world that we may never gain access to otherwise. It is a private space somehow made public in the beauty of this hardbound memory book.

The purchase of the school yearbook may seem like a waste of money unless we understand it’s potential in the present. The compilation of photos, stories and memories inside can be a key to unlock your child’s world if you are willing to sit down with it and begin the conversation.

“He looks cute…”

Let the school yearbook be a simple and effective tool for strengthening relationships and communication in your home. We parents must purposely seek out ways to get our children off screens and into real conversation and the school yearbook is a perfect way to achieve that this time of year.

I hope that my children will value their books in the years to come, but I know I will always treasure the moments we spent laughing and talking our way through the pages year after year.

The annual school yearbook is one investment I will continue to make during this precious season called childhood and my hope is that you will too.

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3 Things to Do if your Son is Obsessed with Fortnite

My son was never a gamer. He played sports, hung out with friends and did typical dirty boy stuff.

Enter Fortnite: Battle Royale.

The popular video game is now my son’s competition of choice and playing Fortnite is his way of hanging out with friends. Even though it makes me out of my ever loving parental mind watching my offspring sit there with headphones on shooting at animated characters on a screen, I’m allowing it in our home, but not without limitation.

Playing video games should be an earned privilege, according to Dr. Lisa Strohman, Founder of Technology Wellness Center in Scottsdale.

Is playing Fortnite an earned privilege in your home?

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As summer approaches and more downtime is on the horizon, I urge my fellow parents of Fortniters to begin to set family guidelines around gaming now. 

FIRST UNDERSTAND WHY YOUR SON PLAYS FORTNITE

Belonging

Kids naturally have a need to belong and be part of the group. Playing Fortnite fulfills the human need for attachment to other people. The team approach of the popular video game is like being on a playground with friends.

It’s Addictive

There is the ability to have rankings and feel accomplishment and status, so it’s exciting…. and addicting. We must be careful that video games are not medicating our children, just as we adults might turn to alcohol, shopping or other deterrents to mask our reality.

It is ‘Free’

Battle Royale is a free game yet comes at a cost. “There is always a trade-off for the free video game, says Dr. Strohman. “It costs our child no money to begin playing, yet Epic Games collects all of our kids’ data.” Fortnite generated $223 million in March alone. What appears to be free at the onset, is costing our kids along the way.

All the Cool Kids are Playing

It doesn’t help that our sons are watching their heroes play Fortnite in their downtime. “The game industry is very savvy bringing in the celebrity aspect to further entice our kids and create even more frenzy around it,” says Dr. Strohman. “They want to see who they can rub elbows with. Of course, our teenager would love the opportunity to take Rapper Drake down.”

Parenting the Fortnite Addict in the New York Times

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3 THINGS PARENTS SHOULD DO FOR THEIR FAVORITE FORTNITER

1. Communicate about healthy consumption

According to Dr. Strohman, parents must treat technology the same as they do food.  “We would never allow a steady diet full of sugar, so why would we allow a steady diet of video games and technology? she says. “If you saw your children eating gummy bears for breakfast, you would sit them down and talk about how it is unhealthy.”

Parents must do the same thing when it comes to video game consumption. We must talk to our child about why a diet full of screens isn’t healthy and then we must be willing to set firm boundaries around gaming in our homes.

2. Create opportunities to build empathy

How are these first-person shooter games affecting our kids?

There is no research to show that first-person shooter games, such as Fortnite, creates actual violence. “But, what it has shown is escalated aggression,” said Dr. Strohman. A heightened alert system increases aggressive tendencies which reduce empathy in our kids. The concern is that this is becoming habitual.”

The world needs us to raise empathetic humans. Parents must mindfully create plenty of opportunities for our children to learn empathy through real-world experiences in our families and communities. Especially if we know that video games are numbing our children to this critical value.

4 Technology Battles Parents Must Fight

3. Write out your parental expectations for earning the privilege of gaming

How does your child currently earn the privilege to play video games in your home?

I asked Dr. Strohman if the list I gave my 16-year-old Fortnite playing son was perhaps over the top? Was I crossing the line from a firm and loving authoritative parent to a demanding authoritarian parent with my expectations? 

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“Your list is absolutely awesome,” said Dr. Strohman. “If your son isn’t responsible enough to wear his retainers then how can he earn the privilege of playing video games?”

Nothing like an expert to tell you that your parenting tactics are spot on. Sorry son….

Before summer comes, decide what boundaries you need to place on video game play and overall technology use in your home. 

It’s okay if our kids think we’re crazy, mean or super annoying. It’s fine if our expectations make our child temporarily unhappy. It is our job to teach and lead our children to a life of significance and meaning and I can guarantee you too much time on an addictive video game is not achieving that goal.

Have you set boundaries on your son’s Fortnite play? What’s working for your family?

Want more wisdom from Dr. Lisa Strohman? Check out her website here!

To learn about Dr. Strohman’s book Unplug and other books on parenting our kids on screens check out my Parent On Purpose Amazon store!

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8 Ways Parents Can Combat the Stress of Growing Up in Today’s Competitive Culture

What do you mean you have a B?

What do you mean you got third place?

What do you mean you’re not taking that honors class or that SAT prep course?

What do you mean you don’t know where you want to go to college or what you want to study yet?

And our parental anxiety heightens as we question if our child is falling behind in this race toward college called childhood.

It’s no wonder youth suicide rates, depression and anxiety are at an all-time high. The pressure to keep up is intense as our children are constantly evaluated and expected to compete at a high level in every aspect of their life.

Teenagers are taking their own lives because they feel they can no longer keep up with the competitive culture they are living in. When are we going to wake up to the fact that just maybe the expectations we are putting on this generation of kids are too much?

What can we parents do to combat the crazed competitive culture that our children are growing up in? 

1. Make your Home a Haven

Let your home be a place where your child can relax, restore and be rejuvenated. We need to purposely provide a calm away from our kid’s daily storm by providing them a peaceful home away from the craze of the outside world.

This doesn’t mean that we never raise our voice (a.k.a. yell) and let our child continuously veg out on the sofa, scrolling a device, while we run around and serve them. It means that we, as a leader in our home, purposely create a low-stress environment, as often as we can. Gather around the family dinner table regularly so that authentic conversation and relationships may be strengthened.

2. Refrain from Promoting Parental Pride

It’s only natural to be proud of our son’s big win or our daughter’s accomplishment but it doesn’t mean we need to constantly post about their successes online. Our children are always watching us. When winning the games and earning the awards become what we regularly promote on our social media feeds, we subconsciously send the message to our children, and our friends, that this is what we deem most important.

If you don’t own the school or team you are promoting with the sticker on the back of your vehicle, maybe you should remove it. Because even if you don’t voice it, that logo slapped on your window or bumper tells your kids, and all of us trailing behind you, what you prioritize.

3. Say No to the Parent Portal

The parent portal apps where we can monitor our kids’ academic activity only add to the pressure and stress for all involved. How can our child own their own learning if we are constantly getting on them about missed assignments or low test scores?

If we are regularly checking the portal to see where our child is falling short than our son or daughter will never learn to feel the consequences of their mistakes or successes themselves. They will naturally come to rely on Mom or Dad to tell them what move to make next.

Set yourself up for success in this area by removing the portal off of your devices. Every now and then ask your child to pull it up on their device and show you how things are going.

4. Prioritize Play

What happened to the fun? We mustn’t take life so serious all of the time when raising kids today. Our families and homes need more laughter, play, and silliness. Don’t mistake sitting on the sidelines of your child’s life watching them perform and compete as playtime. Figure out where your family playgrounds are and head there more often. How Playful is Your Family?

5. Normalize Failure

Our children must feel the pain and discomfort of failure. They must face the consequences of not studying or forgetting to do their homework. Kids must gain experience failing and learn to recover from their mistakes in order to build resilience.

Talk regularly in your home about times when you mess up as an adult. Let them see you embrace failure. When we as parents expect straight A’s and winning sports seasons, we wrongly teach our kids that perfection is the goal.

6. Set Limits on Technology

Our children come home from school, fall on the coach and begin mindlessly scrolling and gaming in their downtime. As the parent, we must allow them the space to unwind while setting limits for technology use in our home. Kids need a break from the pressuring world around them, but always seeking reprieve in a screen is not healthy.

Children of all ages need space without digital devices to experience boredom and opportunity to build relationships with friends and family face-to-face.

7. Allow them to take a Mental Health Day

This is a recent shift in thinking for me. It wasn’t until I witnessed the negative effects of my high schoolers’ juggle of honors class homework, club sports, academic clubs and working a part-time job, that I began to allow my teens to turn off their alarms and take a day or morning off to regroup once in a great while.

How to Know If Your Child Needs a Mental Health Day

Managing normal stress is a healthy part of life, so know your child well enough to know when he or she is overstressed. If you see your son or daughter has time for playing video games, scrolling social media or watching television than they probably don’t need a mental health day off from school. They may need to learn to manage their time better. Know the difference between when your child actually needs a break and simply wants one.

8. Drop the College Conversations

There is so much pressure on kids, in middle school even, to begin thinking about where they will go to college and what they will major in. Friends and family discuss GPA’s, class schedules, scholarships and college essays on a regular basis.

Parents have their children join clubs and organizations hoping it will help their child appear well rounded and heighten their chances of getting into college. We as a society have begun to worry so much about building up our child on paper that we are forgetting to build up the real person.

Even if we parents aren’t pressuring, our child is still growing up today surrounded by stress and expectations. How are you purposely combatting the competitive culture that your child is growing up in?

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5 Gifts to Give Your Kid for Their 16th Birthday!

How does this…

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Turn into this… in a few blinks of an eye.

I’m not sure how we’re already at this stage in our family, but I have to say these guys are way more fun now than they ever were 16 years ago!

The big question I’m asked is did we buy them three cars for their milestone birthday?

Not a chance.

If there was no car with a bow, no epic party or promised iPhone X, then what did we give our 16-year-olds besides a little cash?

Sometimes we can get so caught up in what material item to buy or what Pinterest worthy event to throw, that we forget what’s really important to give our kids- the gift of lifelong values.

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1. The Gift of Desire

All my sons desired for their birthday was to get their drivers’ licenses and hit the open road. They wanted the gift of freedom as they turned 16, and that’s what we gave them- a ride to the DMV.

There was no party, no promise of the latest electronic or a new car. We had simply instilled in our boys the desire to set up their own appointments online to take the driving test the minute they could on their birthday. I wasn’t even aware that you could do that. Good for them.

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7 Things Your Daughter Should Not Post on Instagram

223 likes.

527 followers.

We know that Instagram numbers matter to our daughters.

You are so perfect.

Love you so much.

The feedback our girls receive on their Instagram posts matters even more.

But does your daughter know what matters to you when it comes to her presence online?

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5 Things Parents Must Tell Their Children

We parents today are fantastic at telling our babies how wonderful they are at everything they do.

We slap stickers of their sports team logos and the schools they attend on the backs of the cars that we shuttle them around in.

We happily tout their sports victories and weekend wins on social media for all to see.

We parents are proud of our kids.

Perhaps what our kids need from us more than constant pats on the back is a healthier dose of reality. Along with telling Johnny what a gift to the world he is, we need to also make sure he understands these things…

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How to Stop Reacting to your Child’s Pleading Texts!

Forgotten homework. Instrument. Water bottle. PE Uniform. Lunch. Cell phone. And the list goes on.

You name it and our kids will forget it. And then they’ll want us to deliver it.

How do we respond, instead of react, to their pleas for help?

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5 Books that Help Me when I Want to Overparent

My post on 8 things you should stop doing for your teen resonated with a lot of people.

The truth is, it is tough parenting resilient kids in today’s culture.

As a stay-at-home, work-from-home Mom, it’s easy to over parent my kids because I adore them and want them to wholeheartedly know and feel that.

I have to really work at not over functioning as a Mom.

Raising four not so-youngsters, I’m constantly fighting the urge to over parent. From the time my feet hit the floor each morning to the time I crawl into bed, I am trying to balance being there for my kids and showing up in my own life.

Why is parenting today so much more difficult than when we were growing up?

Or does it just seem that way because we are so heavily involved?

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Stop doing these 8 things for your Teen this School Year

Don’t judge me if you happen to see my kids eating packaged Ritz crackers for school lunch.

Don’t judge me if they’re on the sidelines of PE because they forgot their uniform.

Don’t judge me if they didn’t turn in their homework because it’s still sitting home on their desk.

What some may view as a lack of parenting, is what I deem parenting on purpose, as we work to build necessary life skills in our kids.

I stopped making daily breakfasts and packing school lunches long ago.

I don’t feel obligated to deliver forgotten items left behind at home.

School projects and homework are not any part of my existence.

How do we raise competent adults if we’re always doing everything for our kids?

Let's parent our kids to be capable adults! I love this Ann Landers quote!

Walk away from doing these 8 things for your teen this school year

1. Waking them up in the morning

If you are still waking little Johnny up in the mornings, it’s time to let an alarm clock do its job. My foursome has been expected to get themselves up on early school mornings since they started middle school. There are days one will come racing out with only a few minutes to spare before they have to be out the door. The snooze button no longer feels luxurious when it’s caused you to miss breakfast.

I heard a Mom actually voice out loud that her teen sons were just so cute still, that she loved going in and waking them up every morning. Please stop. I find my sons just as adorable as you do, but our goal is to raise well functioning adults here.

2. Making their breakfast and packing their lunch

My morning alarm is the sound of the kids clanging cereal bowls. My job is to make sure there is food in the house so that they can eat breakfast and pack a lunch.

One friend asked, yeah but how do you know what they’re bringing for school lunch? I don’t. I know what food I have in my pantry and it’s on them to pack up what they feel is a good lunch. It will only be a few short years and I will have no idea what they are eating for any of their meals away at college. Free yourself away from the PB and J station now.

3. Filling out their paperwork

Have kids fill out and sign all school paperwork and put on clipboard before you sign

I have a lot of kids, which equates to a lot of beginning of the school year paperwork. I used to dread this stack, until the kids became of age to fill all of it out themselves. Our teens are expected to fill out all of their own paperwork, to the best of their ability. They put the papers to be signed on a clipboard and leave it for me on the kitchen island. I sign them and put them back on their desks.

Hold your teens accountable. They will need to fill out job and college applications soon and they need to know how to do that without your intervention.

4. Delivering their forgotten items

Monday morning we pulled out of the driveway and screeched around the corner of the house when daughter dear realized she forgot her phone. “We have to go back, Mom!” Another exclaimed that he forgot his freshly washed PE uniform folded in the laundry room. I braked in hesitation as I contemplated turning around. Nope. Off we go, as the vision surfaced of both of them playing around on their phones before it was time to leave.

Parents don’t miss opportunities to provide natural consequences for your teens. Forget something? Feel the pain of that. Kids also get to see, that you can make it through the day without a mistake consuming you.

We also have a rule that Mom and Dad are not to get pleading texts from school asking for forgotten items. It still happens, but we have the right to just shoot back “that’s a bummer.”

text message

5. Making their failure to plan your emergency

School projects do not get assigned the night before they are due. Therefore, I do not run out and pick up materials at the last minute to get a project finished. I do always keep poster boards and general materials on hand for the procrastinating child. But, other needed items, you may have to wait for. Do not race to Michaels for your kid who hasn’t taken time to plan.

This is a good topic to talk about in weekly family meetings. Does anyone have projects coming up that they’re going to need supplies for so that I can pick them up at my convenience this week?

6. Doing all of their laundry

laundry time

“What? YOU didn’t get my shorts washed? This response always backfires on the kid who may lose their mind thinking that I’m the only one who can do laundry around here. Every once in awhile a child needs a healthy reminder that I do not work for them. The minute they assume that this is my main role in life, is the minute that I gladly hand over the laundry task to them.

Most days I do the washing and the kids fold and put their clothes away, but they are capable of tackling the entire process when need be.

7. Emailing and calling their teachers and coaches  

If our child has a problem with a teacher or coach, he is going to have to take it to the one in charge. There is no way that we, as parents, are going to question a coach or email a teacher about something that should be between the authority figure and our child.

Don’t be that over involved parent. Teach your child that if something is important enough to him, then he needs to learn how to handle the issue himself or at least ask you to help them.

8. Meddling in their academics

National Junior Honor Society middle school induction ceremony Cocopah Middle School

Put the pencil down parents. Most of the time, I honestly couldn’t tell you what my kids are doing for school work. We talk about projects and papers over dinner, but we’ve always had the expectation for our kids to own their work and grades. At times, they’ve earned Principals Lists, Honor Rolls and National Junior Honor Society honors on their own accord. At other times, they’ve missed the mark.

These apps and websites, where parents can go in and see every detail of children’s school grades and homework, are not helping our overparenting epidemic.

Every blue moon I will ask the kids to pull up their student account and show me their grades, because I want them to know I do care. I did notice our daughter slacking off at the end of last year and my acknowledgement helped her catch up, but I’m not taking it on as one of my regular responsibilities and you shouldn’t be either.

What is your parenting goal?

Is it to raise competent and capable adults?

If so, then lets work on backing off in areas where our teens can stand on their own two feet. I know they’re our babies and it feels good to hover over them once in awhile, but in all seriousness, it’s up to us to raise them to be capable people.

I want to feel confident when I launch my kids into the real world that they are going to be just fine because I stepped back and let them navigate failure and real life stuff on their own.

So please don’t judge me if my kids scramble around, shoving pre-packaged items into that brown paper lunch bag, before racing to catch the bus.

It’s all on purpose my friends.

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For You, Our Middle School Teacher

Dear Teacher of my Beloved Middle School Student,

It’s that time of year that I have been asked to send in daily treats of Monday’s flower, Tuesday’s favorite snack, Wednesday’s gift card, Thursday’s school supply and Friday’s personal note all in the name of National Teacher Appreciation Week. I thought that in middle school perhaps I would be free of this daunting schedule, put out lovingly by our APT, but obviously, that is not the case. The problem is, I’m in the business of picking parental battles and asking my 14-year-old son to carry a flower for you on to the bus, isn’t one I’m willing to fight for. Please don’t take this personal.

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