When talking is the wrong way to show support

by Honolulu Mother

I was interested in this Washington Post article suggesting that sometimes the best way to be a supportive parent is to stay quiet, at least until your child is ready to talk:

The first rule of sports (and all) parenting: Don’t speak

This is not a natural response for me. I have learned over time that there are times it’s best to say what you have to say and then drop it, or wait for a better time to raise a thorny topic — this isn’t limited to parenting, either — but I hadn’t really thought about the option to say nothing in a situation such as the one described in the article (disappointing loss in a big game). I’ll have to remember that as another tool in my parenting toolbox.

Is the don’t-talk approach something you would use, or have used, in a similar situation? What do you think of the advice?

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254 thoughts on “When talking is the wrong way to show support

  1. My son lost two major sporting events and while my heart broke for him, I just told him I was sorry. I had a million things I wanted to say but realized my son didn’t want a lot of platitudes or my opinion of a couple of rulings by the refs.

  2. My kids definitely respond better to the “don’t speak” aka “listen first” approach.

  3. Sometimes the hardest times to keep quiet have been when the kid or person screwed up royally and it’s best not to give advice right at that moment, even though part of you thinks this is a great opportunity to have a teachable moment. No!

  4. OMG, this is SO right on. And SO opposite my natural inclination.

    What I couldn’t do is physically turn my back on them and meet them at the car — I would be afraid they would see that as me being disappointed in *them*. So I wait, and I maybe put a hand on the shoulder, or say “I’m sorry” or “you must be so disappointed,” but don’t otherwise look at them/force them to engage and then just shut up and let them take it from there. DD will almost always start venting (for which my role is to make sympathetic noises and agree with her complaints, even when she is completely wrong). DS almost never wants to talk about it — the worse the loss was, the longer he needs to be left the hell alone to work through it (his Valentine’s Day loss just crushed him; thank God for the privacy of a dark backseat to cry in while we pretended not to notice).

    I have to say, this is one of the hardest parenting skills I have ever learned. Not the platitudes — those always bugged me, because they seemed to minimize and deligitimize my feelings, as if I had no right to be this upset because in the grand scheme of things it didn’t matter — yeah, no, sorry, it mattered TO ME, and it mattered A LOT. But my dad was the total coach — there was always something you could improve on, always something to fix and do better, always helpful suggestions for next time. It bugged me as a kid, but here I find myself as a parent hearing my dad come right out of my mouth — because I know this stuff! I’ve done this! I have helpful things to say so she can learn to avoid the same thing happening again! Even just out throwing the ball for fun, there’d be times that DD would storm off because she just wanted to throw, not turn it into a lesson.

    So for this I try to channel my mom instead: she has many opinions and preferences, but she was never an athlete, and more fundamentally, she always viewed my life as my life, for me to figure out. My job is to be my kids’ cheering section, the Smother who can see no wrong. So I bite my tongue and sympathize and let them take the lead — and then some other time, when they are interested in learning and open to it, I might work in a suggestion here or there. And not surprisingly, the more I shut up, the more they actually ask. :-)

  5. This is a great topic. Not speaking is the approach most often needed as kids turn into young adults. It’s also very useful with others, especially those facing a loss of some kind.

    When my kids were swimming, I found that, if a comment was appropriate, the best one was “how did you feel about that swim?” That let him take the lead.

  6. We currently have a joke about saying “really? and then what?” in response to nearly anything. It started when I responded to a video he showed me of a baby Harp Seal by saying exactly that, in a high-pitched “mommy” voice. Seal sounded like a kid, working out speech. I couldn’t help myself. He sees me as very tender-hearted and loving; I’m pretty sure the frequent referencing of that moment reminds him of that. It gives me an easy way to say “I’m listening to this very important thing because I really care about you and what you think and…” in very few words.

    I absolutely have to follow a “don’t talk” rule, because my son will clam up otherwise. Even little interjections or questions (like “the kid in your x class?” or “how much”) can frustrate him and shut him down. When there is big stuff to discuss, I have to let him go first or else he says “what you said” When I catch myself starting to goof up, I stop mid-sentence and say “I’m sorry. I talked over you. What you think is important to me. Please tell me” He usually does, but not always.

    Today I get to support Little Tenderheart in lobbying congress. He burst into my room a couple hours ago in tears about a bill that will endanger his Harp Seals. He’s rolled his eyes at me so much over the past 2 months that this will be fun.

  7. “part of you thinks this is a great opportunity to have a teachable moment. ”

    Doesn’t the “teachable moment” work best when the kid can focus on the lesson, not what we have to say about it? When I see he’s gotten the message and is nearly recovered, I can say “looks like you found out x” and he’ll agree. These days he often says “You were right about x. I should listen to my mom more”.

  8. Laura, the author didn’t turn her back on her kid as she was standing right there. She walked to the car as the daughter was crossing the field, apparently caught up to her, and they walked to the car in silence. The car would have been a meeting place and time together anyway.

    The no coaching thing was hard for me, until I realized I have a video camera in my pocket. I take movies of him playing, then show him the clips that include what I think he needs to work on (the whole play, not just where he goofs up), sans comment or maybe with comment on what another kid did. I wish, I wish, I wish I could find a way to do that for schoolwork!

  9. “Laura, the author didn’t turn her back on her kid as she was standing right there. She walked to the car as the daughter was crossing the field”

    Right — I know she didn’t turn her back directly in front of her kid. But I envisioned her turning around to go to the parking lot, and the daughter walking in the same direction and ultimately catching up to her from behind (because that’s how our fields are oriented). IDK, if I were a kid, looking up after the loss and seeing my mom walking to the car instead of waiting for me would tell me she was disappointed in me and didn’t want to talk to me right then. I always wait for my kids so we can walk together, even if we don’t talk.

  10. My daughters are very different from my son. When life has handed them a lemon they want to talk about it and analyze it from every angle, dissect everything they said or did and what the other person(s) said or did. If they made a mistake in dance or onstage in a play, they would castigate themselves and my role was to minimize the mistake – yes I knew it was a mistake because I knew the routine or lines that were to be said – but pointed out that the audience didn’t know and they covered well. Having a boy was a totally different experience. My husband and son can’t stand when my girls and I go over conversations and things that happen over and over pointing out new nuances as we go. Fortunately my son’s girlfriend fits right in with us and even though we don’t know the person(s) she is talking about, we know the right questions and how to commiserate.

  11. I’m certainly not the perfect parent.

    But I learned fairly early on that letting them make the first move worked better than me making the first move. Win or lose, really. Although I’ve never been given the real, or moral equivalent of, “shut up, Dad” after a win.

    Related, I am very much a “leave it on the field/ice/course” kind of person. I just don’t like discussing ad nauseum, the official’s call (or lack of a call), unbalanced approach – calling more penalties on our team vs the other team, the coach’s decision to play (or not play) some kid vs another, or approaches to a game. Unless the kid really wants to discuss it, then I’ll go along for a limited time. DW is the opposite. She’ll bring up one or more of those things as soon as the car door is closed. Guess which one of us the kids bring up sports issued to more.

    It’s youth sports, even up to HS varsity. Participation is for fun, to do stuff with friends, to learn something, to show off your skill. Winning is way down the list. Really. Kids have been polled about this stuff http://assets.ngin.com/attachments/document/0037/9955/Why_kids_play_sports.pdf

  12. We usually have a period of no talking until we are on our way home. Everyone finds it easier to talk and decompress while we are well underway in our car. There in our private pod we can vent and discuss.
    With DD, she doesn’t seem outwardly nervous but doesn’t want to talk BEFORE dance competitions. Even if she didn’t have the best day, she doesn’t mind talking afterwards. One rule I discussed with her when she viewed her results was no crying. There are going to be many dance competitions over years and each result has to be take in stride. You can’t be crushed. You have to

  13. “Sometimes the hardest times to keep quiet have been when the kid or person screwed up royally and it’s best not to give advice right at that moment,”

    This is a huge problem for me, and to make it worse, I tend to veer into yelling mode. This became a pattern with my oldest when he was in middle school, and it took counseling to really get out of it.

  14. I need to be better about being quiet. We usually ask after every practice/game if they had fun. My kid hates losing, so I don’t think we say much of anything after those games.

    My dad was the best about being supportive and not saying anything. He always waited for me to speak. His best advice to me on how to respond to a bad loss was to say nothing to my teammates or coach as everyone is upset and to wait until we got in the car to vent.

  15. Rhett, that JD Vance is so bogus. Moving to Columbus is somehow a move to his hillbilly roots???? Columbus, a major university town with art galleries, swanky small bite restaurants, brewpubs, liberal politics, and PhDs galore????

    Maybe because I know a number of people in real life who are quite similar to him, but I find JD Vance a pretentious bore.

  16. As Fred said, I’m definitely not a perfect parent, but this is an area I have down pretty well. I have perfected the art of the distraction. I ALWAYS have a cold drink in my hand waiting for them. If it was a terrible game, and someone is on the verge of tears, they’re able to be distracted and compose themselves when I toss a Gatorade and they take few sips.

    I read an article once that really struck home about how you can’t let your kids highs and lows be your highs and lows. When they’re low, they depend on you to be distanced from any drama. And when they’re high, they should get to own it (whatever the accomplishment was) without having to share it. I’m not putting it as eloquently as the article, but I thought it made a really great point.

  17. I didn’t realize the Hillbilly Elegy guy was from Ohio.
    Mooshi Mooshi is right–Columbus has changed a lot since we were growing up! Even 15 years ago, when I was considering a job there, it was much more hip. It’s continued on that path.

  18. JD Vance is such a fraud. He’ll probably buy a house in Upper Arlington or New Albany. What a con.

  19. Just looked it up: Vance grew up in Middleton. It’s a suburb of Cincinnati, in an area I’m familiar with. The things he says he’s looking for in Columbus–basically, an airport and the internet–are also available in Cincy, but it is not as cool these days.

  20. On the keeping quiet thing, my goal would never be to get the kid to not cry or get a hold of themselves. I see sports and other competitions as a great place to practice dealing with emotions rather than stuffing them away, so that similar emotions won’t be so overwhelming when they come up elsewhere in life. But of course, I’m dealing with a kid who was the extreme in putting on a happy, socially acceptable face and hiding emotions, even from himself. All the stuff about girls being “pleasers” and neglecting their own feelings applies to him pretty directly.

    Lark, if you have that article tucked away somewhere, please post it. Sounds like many of the conversations I’ve had with my family. It would be nice to see that idea –let it be his emotion, not mine– expressed eloquently

  21. Cincinatti where the river winds
    ‘Cross the Mason and the Dixon Lines
    There’s a place for me, I know in
    Cincinatti, O-hio
    Cincinatti, O-hio.

  22. Why all the JD Vance hate? How many people who live/work in Silicon Valley move to Ohio? I think this is a good thing. Is he not authentic enough because he’s successful?

  23. What I think he should do is not publicly pat himself on the back for somehow “slumming it” back to Columbus. I respect that he wants to run an effort to combat opioid abuse, but he should just discuss that and not pretend that he is moving anywhere but to another enclave of educated, smart young strivers. There is actually nothing wrong with Columbus – I know it pretty well because a relative who I frequently visited lived there for a number of years. But if I were moving there, I would be honest – I would be moving there because being among well educated, cultured people is GOOD.

    If he was serious about getting back to his roots, I might suggest a place like Harlan KY or maybe Whitesburg KY. His California bred wife could get a little culture since Appalshop is there, and he could confront the realities of black lung disease, industrial dumping in the water, and mountaintop removal mining methods more directly.

  24. Houston – I’m supposed to love J.D. Vance, and I’m sure that as soon as I borrow my mom’s copy of his book, I will, but I read that article earlier and thought he’s perhaps bought a little too much of the hype surrounding his recent fame among the chattering classes. He seems to think that the Columbus will be so fortunate to be graced by his residence. How fortunate they locals will be to have a lawyer among them!

  25. He’s not authentic enough because it is all a made up story.

    There are quite a few former Silicon Valley folks in Ohio. Look at Drive Capital. They are actual Silicon Valley people who have made actual money. Not told fanciful tales.

  26. “I read an article once that really struck home about how you can’t let your kids highs and lows be your highs and lows. When they’re low, they depend on you to be distanced from any drama. And when they’re high, they should get to own it (whatever the accomplishment was) without having to share it. I’m not putting it as eloquently as the article, but I thought it made a really great point.”

    I love this, and it is something that I need to take to heart. (the lows part more than the highs although that’s a good reminder too)

    Middletown, Ohio is obviously first & foremost the hometown of Kyle Schwarber. (Cubs rookie phenom and World Series Hero) It’s an UMC suburb, no? I assumed so from the video of Kyle doing HS show choir. I have no opinion on what JD Vance should do with his life.

  27. Back to silence…. That became a good approach recently when we had a very serious situation in our family. Some of you guys know this from RL, but about a month ago, a good friend of my oldest son suddenly passed away. Not suicide, not drugs, the kid just suddenly died. We were called pretty early on, before most other people in the school community knew. There was a lot of concern that the kid’s close friends not find out via text message, but directly from their parents. Gulp – I was so not ready to be the parent who had to break the news. So I called my son into my bedroom, shut the door, and told him matter of factly what happened. Like any 16 year old, he was just kind of puzzled and stunned. He sat on my bed, clearly wanting more but not knowing what to say. I told him about my brother who passed away at an age only a couple of years older. My son wanted to know what he should do, so I told him some of the things my brothers friends did that were helpful to my parents. But mainly we just sat in stunned silence for an hour or more. There wasn’t anything that could be said. He just wanted to be in the room with me.

    I still don’t really know how he feels about it. Being a teen boy, I suspect he doesn’t know how he feels about it. Heck, I am not sure I know to this day how I really feel about my brother. When the school counselor has checked in with me a couple of times, that is what I told her.

    DH told us that when he was a senior in HS, a friend of his killed himself. DH said he couldn’t have told anyone how he felt at the time because he didn’t have words himself and he wasn’t sure how he was supposed to react. But, DH said, every year on the anniversary, he stops and remembers his friend.

  28. I see why that OpEd is annoying & a bit pretentious. FWIW, Clinton beat Trump in Franklin County (Columbus) 60%/34%

    And no, Columbus is not exactly a blighted Rust Belt town.

  29. My comments were on the idea in the NYT article Rhett posted, that moving to Columbus is somehow “moving back home” for a guy who’s made his name on being from Appalachia. It is not. Even when it was smaller and not cool, Columbus never was Appalachian. I was going to say that Middleton, where he grew up, is as Appalachian as my hometown, as both are at the edge of the ARC, the closest to an “official” definition as I can come up with. But then I pulled up a map to show how far Columbus is from there and realized that Middleton is much further West than I thought. It’s in Butler County, which borders on Indiana, and is not Appalachia (even though parts of it are still rural, as of Dec, when I was there).
    On the idea of JD Vance as a sell-out, this was on my Facebook this morning. I haven’t read his book, nor have I claimed to. http://www.alternet.org/economy/hillbilly-elegy-working-poor

  30. “mainly we just sat in stunned silence for an hour or more. There wasn’t anything that could be said. He just wanted to be in the room with me.”
    I am so sorry. How good that you intuited this approach.

  31. Dude had a crappy childhood. Joined the Marines. Worked hard. Went to state school then Yale. Wrote a successful book. Moved back to Ohio to help drug addicts. God bless him.

    I still don’t understand why we’re complaining. His tone might be off, but his actions (to me) speak louder than his words.

  32. JD Vance will now be invited and then disinvited by college students complaining that he didn’t actually understand the plight of the white working class. His sellout behavior demonstrates this.

  33. Houston, none of that is part of his public persona. It’s all “oh no, I came from Appalachia where life is hard and now nobody likes me. My rich friends say it’s those roots and back home they say I’m rich. It’s so haaaaarrrrrrrd” (in a whiney voice)

  34. It isn’t unusual for families from deep Appalachia to move to southern Ohio or central KY, and to bring their culture and poverty with them. I knew a bunch of kids from families like that when I was in junior high. I suspect his family was among those who migrated in similar fashion, so I totally believe his story. My objection is more to the idea that moving to Columbus is somehow moving back to his poor Appalachian roots. It just isn’t so. Columbus has its very own deconstructionist style art gallery, its own makerspace (the Idea Foundry), its own Waldorf school, and two dozen microbreweries.
    http://www.archdaily.com/557986/ad-classics-wexner-center-for-the-arts-peter-eisenman

  35. MM, what a terrible thing. Devastating for the family, of course, but this must be so hard on your son too. I am so sorry.

    Does your son have a wide circle of friends, or was the boy who died one of his few close friends?

  36. Honolulu, my son and his friend were part of a group of 5 kids, all very geeky and studious, who had hung out together since elementary school. They did birthday trips to the Natural History Museum or the Botanical Garden, had sleepovers where they played Axis and Allies all night, did academic bowl together and engineering competitions together, and maintained an endless group chat in which they trade memes and political and scientific arguments.

  37. For want of a comma, we have this case
    The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

    (1) Agricultural produce;
    (2) Meat and fish products; and
    (3) Perishable foods.

  38. They’re going to miss him dearly, aren’t they. It’s not much consolation, but perhaps a small blessing that the remaining members of the group still have each other to talk to and to mourn him with.

  39. @Houston – I agree with you. I’ve got no problem with JC Vance & think actions speak louder than words. But the tone of that OpEd was off. I don’t care all that much though.

    I get annoyed by the current use of the work “hack” too. And I am pro-Oxford comma. I also type 2 spaces after every sentence even though they get autocorrected away in most programs. I am just old enough to have taken typing class on an actual electric typewriter.

  40. Ivy – my kids use ‘hack” (and hacker) all. the. time. It’s a minecraft /youtube gaming thing.

    “I also type 2 spaces after every sentence even though they get autocorrected away in most programs.” – Me too!

  41. MM that really stinks. I’m sorry that your son has had to experience losing a close friend. You bring up a good point about how just keeping our mouth shut works well in numerous situations. In my k-12 years I lost 6 friends or classmates (1 freak medical and rest accidents). In all cases I remember my mom telling me what happened and then just letting me be. I didn’t want her to talk about it at all. The only time she brought it up again was to ask me if I wanted to go to the wake and/or funeral.

  42. Mooshi, that is so sad! My thoughts are with all of you.
    We came close to loosing my brother to a health scare in his mid 20s, and though he is good now, we are all scarred and it still hurts in unimaginable ways.

  43. On the “being quiet” idea, this rings very true to me. I have 3 boys and I found they would open up when doing an activity together or eating with me, as opposed to me trying to have a conversation. As they got older we had the family dinner every night, but then we were all there, so I tried to find a way to be hanging out doing an interruptible activity so one of them could approach me easily if they needed to talk one on one. So I took up knitting and always had a jigsaw puzzle going. Both these activities made me a very patient listener. The “approach rate” was way higher than if I was watching TV with DH or reading.

  44. Somehow I only noticed recently that Louise is a “dance mom”. Maybe others here are also. So spill the beans. Is it as cutthroat as reality tv would have us believe? :)

  45. I have always hated watching my kids perform because I would get very nervous for them. The worst was probably when my son was at bat. But maybe because I felt so relieved afterwards I rarely was a motormouth in trying to comfort or advise them after the events.

  46. CoC – my kids used to play chess competitively. The kids went to a separate room to play, so the parent’s could not watch. Tons of dead time, punctuated by elation or sadness of the kids depending on how they played. Ugh. At least with dance or sports, parents can watch and cheer.

  47. am just old enough to have taken typing class on an actual electric typewriter.

    In my 8th grade typing class we still had manual typewriters.

  48. The worst was probably when my son was at bat.

    I thought that was bad until mine started pitching. I could barely watch at times.

  49. “I thought that was bad until mine started pitching. I could barely watch at times.”

    OMG, we had one of those last year. Luckily, DH and my mom were both there, because it was totally intolerable — he pitches soooooo slooooooowwwwllllyyyyy, and then he started walking the batters, and of course the more trouble he had finding the strike zone, the slower he went. I think they had a three- or four-run lead, and then it went down to one, and it ended up with one of those bases-loaded, two-out situations, and he *finally* got the last out. After like a 20-minute inning (it only felt like 6 hrs). Words cannot describe the pain of that inning — it was epic.

  50. Mooshi – so sorry, that must be really tough.

    Our kids don’t play sports, or are sporadic at them, so we haven’t had any of the major-loss disappointments yet.

  51. “I find breakfast and our walk to school the most chatty times. Otherwise I get nothing or eyerolls.”

    For me, it’s the walk to school and bedtime. Breakfast – everyone is still grumpy, including me

  52. LfB, my worst time was DD was pitching in a playoff game last fall. We came back to tie it in the top of the last inning, so she had to hold them scoreless in the bottom. She got through it and we took the lead in the top of the extra inning. They got the tying run on third with two outs, but DD got the last out to win it. I could barely breathe. I have no idea how she got through it.

    The worst disappointment was in a baseball playoff game last spring. We took a 5 run lead into the bottom of the last inning and we lost it. DS threw two balls away and blamed himself for losing the game. As the coach, I felt like I had to say something to the team, but there’s nothing you can say that will help. We did come back and win our next game so at least we didn’t end the season that way.

  53. ” thought that was bad until mine started pitching. I could barely watch at times.”

    See, I could deal with that…9 bad pitches in a row punctuated by a swing at another bad, but closer, pitch. I think because I was a pitcher from 9yo thru HS. So I knew what was going on as I had had the same exact experience.

    Now being the dad of the ice hockey goalie, that took some getting used to! Like 10 or so years. The last couple have been fine.

  54. Ivy – at breakfast, DH whips out a book on puns or other silly sayings. Everyone groans about them, but it gets the conversation flowing. I rely on my first cup of coffee for the same effect.

    Never kiss your honey
    when your nose is runny
    cuz you may think its funny
    but its snot

  55. With only 1 at home, it’s definitely quieter and DW is one who will ask one detail beyond.
    e.g. “Today at school some junior got in trouble for __________.”
    DW: oh, who?
    “I dunno, some kid on the lacrosse team.” (DS is not on the lacrosse team)
    She can’t stand that.
    I’ve tried to suggest she takes what he’s willing to give in terms of general conversation when it’s not really impacting him.

  56. OMG Fred, my mom and dad would do that to me all throughout HS. I hated it. Every thing I said would led them to ask more questions about who, do we know them, how do you know them, where do they live? It would drive me bonkers, and eventually I stopped talking to my dad about school or friends for a few years.

  57. Lemon, I’m working on that very thing right now. When he’s upset I can just give him a hug or whatever without talking, but when he says something like that, I can’t for the life of me figure out how to keep the conversation going without asking questions or doing a “oh, so-and-so did that once”, which turns the conversation away from him & the story he’s trying to tell.

    No joke books for us, but we did recently rhyme slurpies (actually sealurpies, ’cause we had work in his favorite), burpies, and herpes.

  58. Lemon – its sorta the opposite problem I have with my mom now. She mentions someone I am supposed to remember, but don’t (and probably haven’t ever met) and then proceeds to tell me way too much about them.

  59. When mine got talkative on the way to school, I was so happy. Starting in second grade, that time was all about putting on his game face and steeling himself for the day. Way too intense for one that age, so it was a relief when he got to a place that it was not necessary.

  60. Even now, if I mention we had friends over for dinner on Saturday they’ll ask who it was, and then want to know all about them. Keep in mind that we don’t live the same state and when they visit we aren’t introducing them to our friends, so they have no clue who I am talking about. It drives me crazy. But I know I will be the exact same way when my girls are older. I’ll have to remember this blog and keep my mouth shut.

  61. S&M – I learned the Oxford comma in school to be told in college this was wrong. I was also taught English spelling, i.e. light for lite, fibre for fiber, harbour for harbor. When I started using a computer, it kept correcting my spelling – took me a while to figure out that I learned British spelling. Very disconcerting since I won a lot of Spelling Bees.

  62. I’ll have to remember this blog and keep my mouth shut.

    Just go with it. You know Helen, Bill and Peggy’s daughter? She lives in the old McMurphy house across from where the farm stand used to be.

  63. So, same question again, even when it’s about grown-up you:

    TB: We went out for dinner with Bob & Sue.
    TB parent: silence
    TB: We just met them last month
    pause At Jr’s dojo
    TB ‘rent: Um-hmm
    TB: The kids caught fireflies with their babysitter.

    How long can this go on? At what point do the parentals need to speak actual words to continue the conversation? What sort of non-question words can they be, without changing the subject?

  64. S&M, I figure it should go like this:
    TB – we went out to dinner with some friends on Saturday
    TB parents – oh, where did you go?
    TB – there is a pizza place near us that has been on Food Network
    TB parents – was it good? Do you think we’d like it?

    The conversation doesn’t have to be about people that the other party doesn’t know and will never meet. It totally stems from my childhood of my parents always wanting to be in my business. But I sort of like Rhett’s suggestion of just making stuff up. I should note that i’m an introvert. My dad is an extrovert. My DH is an extrovert, and he is not bothered by these questions.

  65. Hm, I was trying to think of responses that don’t involve questions; DS has gotten irritated over “too many questions” when I was asking just that sort of thing. Sounds like you agree that those are hard to come up with.

  66. I always thought my mom was gathering ammunition for some PTA meeting. “Someone did x today.” “Oh yeah? Who? Is that so-and-so’s little sister? Doesn’t his sister run around with the druggies?” I still kind of feel that way – cares about the mechanics behind what is going on in others’ lives, but not the content.

    Always makes me think about the quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

    Anyway, I think the way to keep conversation flowing is to settle on a bunch of “interested but noncommittal phrases.” “Is that so?” “That’s surprising.”

  67. Quick random question. Updating my CV for an internal job. Had a temporary position 8 years ago for a few months, in my specialty (in addition to another job I was working). Can I drop it off? Do I need to include every place of employment? I think it adds clutter without content, but I’m not sure if it seen as incomplete/deceptive to get rid of it.

  68. “As the coach, I felt like I had to say something to the team, but there’s nothing you can say that will help.”

    A couple of suggestions:

    1. Pizza!
    2. Ice cream!

  69. Updating my CV for an internal job.

    On a resume I’d say yes. I don’t know if an MD’s CV has different standards.

  70. “It’s youth sports, even up to HS varsity. Participation is for fun, to do stuff with friends, to learn something, to show off your skill. Winning is way down the list. Really.”

    That matches my experience with DD. Some of her teams did not win very frequently, but that didn’t stop them from having a lot of fun. It helped that teams that beat them weren’t jerks about it.

    When she start playing on the school team, is was much more about winning, and became less fun, and that’s when she quit.

  71. Ada – I think of that quote often, and I conclude we here are a cross between great and average. We come here to talk about ideas and events, and rarely people in the gossip sense.

    Lemon – my mom was like that with us until fairly recently. Until he lost his hearing, so was my step-dad. They would also always ask about work, but one step further than ‘how’s it going?’ I suppose the bigger me could have concluded that it’s nice they’re interested in my/our life/lives. DW works for her family’s business and my step-dad used to run his own business so he always asked too much and it got to feel like prying, so that strained the relationship. Besides, DW & I never really like talking about work. Yes, we work and make decent money, but it’s not what really makes up tick. I’d much rather talk about politics, social policy, or what makes people make decisions the way they do (the behvioral economist in me), or sports, or movies (sometimes). That’s the stuff my good friends and I talk about.

    I hope I don’t turn out to be like my parents.

  72. “Lemon – its sorta the opposite problem I have with my mom now. She mentions someone I am supposed to remember, but don’t (and probably haven’t ever met) and then proceeds to tell me way too much about them.”

    My mom does this too. Must be universal. She seems disappointed when I don’t remember people that I barely knew >20 years ago, like ladies from her church which I haven’t set foot in since the early 90’s.

  73. Finn – I usually had the kids say something good that happened in the game. Even when we lost. Somebody always made a nice play, hit a home run.

  74. “I hope I don’t turn out to be like my parents.”

    I hope I’m a good reflection on my parents, and become like them in the best ways.

    I hope DS turns into Finn 2.0, like me but better.

  75. Always makes me think about the quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. – Ada

    I think of that quote often, and I conclude we here are a cross between great and average. We come here to talk about ideas and events, and rarely people in the gossip sense. – Fred

    I find all three interesting. And as I understand the current thinking, the impetus for us to evolve the big wonderful brains that allow us to think about stuff like prime numbers and 12-tone composition and the infield fly rule was actually our status as a social species in which the individuals best able to keep track of who was grooming / feuding with / related to whom were more reproductively successful, thus selecting for greater intelligence over time.

    So in other words, my interest in which friend is that and have I met her before is my legacy as the descendant of reproductively successful primates.

  76. Hmm. I like it when my parents have gossip about their kids’ friends! :) I never forget the people who were kind of peripheral to my growing up, though, so that’s probably why.

  77. L – Oh I love the gossip my parents feed me from my hometown. My dad is a really quiet guy but can gossip with the best of them and he happens to be friends with a lot of the parents of people I went to high school with. I like hearing what’s going on with people that aren’t on Fb.

  78. Interesting line from the Vance article:

    “The sociological role we play is to suck talent out of small towns and redistribute it to big cities.”

    And that’s why it’s so important to have healthy state college/university systems, especially the regional/directional campuses.

    Locally, flagship U’s med school is extremely important to our state, although perhaps the state might want to also support more residency positions here.

  79. Ada, that quote is a favorite of mine, yet when I’m told a story, I do like to know who the main characters are & if I’ve heard anything about them before.
    I can deal with “All these promposals in the hallways keep making me late for class”.
    When it’s “In science class today, Gere said ‘…'” and he’s told me about a Gere making a different class unbearable by sneering at kids’ comments during discussion, I want to ask if this is the same kid.

  80. “I dunno, some kid on the lacrosse team.”

    As a teen, my conversations with Mom would go like this:

    Me: Mark Schultz got in trouble for smoking pot in the parking lot.
    Mom: Who’s Mark Schultz?
    Me: He’s a guy.

    It became a running joke. The thing is, I was conveying significant information. He’s a kid who goes to my school; he’s roughly my age; there is nothing particularly odd or unusual about him. He’s just a guy. The other variation was “She’s a girl.”

    One really useful feature of my DIL’s personality is that she’ll happily go into detail when we ask follow-up questions about who they went snowshoeing with, or whatever. DSS will just say, “Some people.” If we’re lucky it’s “Some people from work”.

  81. Yeah, for a 1-off I’m fine. It’s more the continuing characters I want to know about. It would help if they each had a leitmotiv that would play when they came up, or if they weren’t all new.

  82. Now being the dad of the ice hockey goalie, that took some getting used to!

    I’ve always thought that would be incredibly hard other watch.

  83. DW is a very big questioner with the kids and it drives them crazy. I’m the opposite and figure they’ll talk when they are ready. I figure both styles have their place.

  84. I think we’ve made it clear to our kids that we care about who they hang out with. So when they talk about the kids they deal directly with, whether hanging out or in the same classes, we’ll ask for names.

    If they were to mention stuff like what RMS mentioned, I’d be inclined to ask if it’s one of their friends or peers, and let it go if not. DW doesn’t deal with that level of ambiguity as well and is more inclined to ask for more detail.

  85. DD, you respond this way when your son has nearly all-new peers as you did last year, when he was with kids who you’d been hearing about for 8 years?

  86. My kids love telling me about the random things that occur in a school day. DS says his MS is full of odd incidents like kids getting stuck in the elevator. And then the rumor mill has to know who it was, if they were panicked or crying etc. What happens in class involves no description of the academics but pranks by the kids. Here about all this, makes me feel a deep sympathy for the principal of the school.

  87. My DD’s stories with people I don’t know are just the names she’s given them. From Shakespeare class, there was Blame The Patriarchy (brother for short), Militant Boots and Cute New Guy. I can get a better mental picture with her names

  88. An unrelated aside. No editorial comment.

    I was babysitting at the cracks of dawn because one of the students and her mom were at a before school student directed teacher conference. The student is 5 years old.

  89. I never heard of a student directed conference until several of you posted about it. I don’t think the teachers in my district would go for it.

  90. DD, you respond this way when your son has nearly all-new peers as you did last year, when he was with kids who you’d been hearing about for 8 years?

    Yes. I can see how much it annoys him when DW asks him a bunch of questions, so why would I do something that I know will annoy him? I’ve heard quite a bit about his new friends without too much prompting. I ask some questions, but nowhere near to the extent that DW does.

  91. We refused to go to DD’s student directed conference last month. We didn’t see the point in schlepping down to school to talk to her when we talk to her at home every day. We went to them last year and they were a complete waste of time.

  92. Our kids had student-directed conferences from about 4th through 6th grades. The kids were there for the first half of the conference, then would go back to class for the 2nd half.

    The kids would present what they’d covered, and what they did well and what they needed to improve. I think the self-assessment aspect worked well, and the kids were more likely to work to improve areas they’d identified as needing improvement.

  93. We had a different kind of sports disappointment this year. DS who is in elementary school was not selected for a team that he had played on for the last couple of years. Many of DS friends are on the team and we are friends with many of the parents. Selection is made by the coach who is a parent of one of DS friends. DS is an average player and the new players are better athletes. DS was super disappointed when he went to his first practice with his new team and his old team was on the field next to him. He told us after the practice that he wished he had been on the old team with his friends but he knew the coach didnt like him because he didnt play well enough. DH and I were equally upset. It is hard to believe that sports can be that cutthroat in elementary school. We became even more upset the following week when DS came home and told us that his best friend (who made the old team) told him that whenever someone makes a mistake during practice the coach starts calling them by DS name. What are you supposed to do with that?

  94. “We became even more upset the following week when DS came home and told us that his best friend (who made the old team) told him that whenever someone makes a mistake during practice the coach starts calling them by DS name. What are you supposed to do with that?”

    If you’re confident that the friend is giving an accurate report (and that, for example, the coach didn’t make an honest mistake about the names of presumably new players), then your only recourse is to talk to the coach. That behavior is inexcusable. But unless you spy on a practice session, you can’t be certain of what is going on, can you? And, to some extent, the damage is already done. Your son was hurt. So sorry.

  95. I think you have to accept the team assignment. That happens in many towns. It’s not so nice, but it happens.

    You should NOT accept any name calling by a coach or adult. This is the last thing that an adult that is supposed to lead by example should be doing. If you are not comfortable going to this person directly to ask him to stop, then you have to go to the head of the league. This has to stop.

  96. MBT, the. nicknames thing is brilliant. Thanks!

    CoC, yep, that’s a well-established pattern in Florida, where there are a couple of state flagship unis.

  97. OK, this problem is related to the topic since it involves communication with my tween daughter. As she approaches 11 (ack!) she is getting more and more difficult to deal with. Since this is my third go-round, I recognize that a lot of the surliness and obstinateness is typical of the age. But she is taking it to a whole new level, and pushing everyone’s buttons, which results in all of us being angry. And I fear it is pushing her away. As an example, she has been mad about her winter jacket all year because I wouldn’t buy her a new one – her old one fits her perfectly nicely and and is in good shape and is nice and warm. Good winter jackets are expensive and I would prefer to wait until she really needs a new one. So she has been battling over that jacket all year, refusing to take it or wear it. In 20 degree weather she will insist on going to school in a lightweight hoodie. But that is a problem because then she can’t go outside at recess which she really needs. I started insisting that she at least carry her winter jacket, but this had turned into a nasty battle every morning, with her screaming at me, and ostentatiously dragging the jacket through mud and dirt and then turning her back on me at the bus stop. She looks like a rude mean kid in front of the other kids, and in fact, I think she is being rude.
    She does this on all kinds of things. She now refuses to eat breakfast because none of the choices are to her liking. We have tried offering everything we can think of, from cheese to bread to yogurt to cereal to hardboiled eggs. My older kids eat dinner leftovers – nope, she doesn’t want that. Sandwich? no way. Toast? Nope. Oatmeal? Nope. What she currently wants is for my husband to make fried eggs. He doesn’t have time and doesn’t want to make a fried egg mess in the morning. Could she have a hard boiled egg? Nope. So she sits in gloomy silence, arms folded, watching while everyone else eats. The she stomps upstairs and glowers on her bed.

    This same pattern happens with many things, so these are not isolated examples.

    So how do I deal with this? Do I continue to insist she wear a winter jacket? Well hopefully, it will warm up soon enough so that battle goes away, but it will continue with something else I am sure. Do we give in and make her the fried eggs, which will work for about 1 week and then she will decide what she really wants is chocolate cake. I am sick of her glowering at us, and standing with her back turned at the bus stop. I recognize that this is a power struggle, but how do I keep our lives sane and still keep the power struggle from escalating?

  98. Anon, we went through something similar a few years ago. DD got cut by her old softball team and we ended up with the old team practicing on the field next to her new team. She wasn’t too upset about getting cut at first, but then when she saw they kept a player who DD thought wasn’t as good as her, she was pretty upset. But that girl’s dad was an assistant coach. But DD got over it pretty quickly when she realized she was going to get a lot more opportunities on the new team. The old coaches were never going to let her pitch, and she became one of the top pitchers on the new team. She’s in her third year on the new team now and it’s been great for her. So these things have a way of working out.

    I do think you need more confirmation on the name-calling thing before you talk to the old coaches. One kid, even if it is his best friend, saying that is happening isn’t enough evidence.

  99. MM,

    Can she fry her own egg? As for the jacket – is she getting teased about it or have some other legitimate (in her mind) concern about it?

  100. Mooshi – I will explain my point of view to my kids once (you need to wear this jacket till you outgrow it because new jackets are expensive, we can have fried eggs on weekends if you want). I ignore the sulky, glowering behavior. One part of growing up is understanding where others are coming from, why you can’t always have it your way and being able to meet others part of the way (this bit is also explained to the kids).

    I am sorry to hear about your DS’s friend. My DS too has a small group of friends and he is very close to them.

  101. MM,

    IIRC you’ve mentioned that your middle son has some issues related to not caring about what others think. I believe your oldest does as well. Is she just more typical in her concern about appearances?

  102. Mooshi – if there are specific concerns about things encourage her to talk with you and meet her part way but I wouldn’t be up for negotiating every single thing.

  103. MM – I do think with the breakfast thing that she is probably old enough to make her own breakfast if she doesn’t like what is offered, including frying her own eggs & cleaning up. But I fear the bigger issue is the power struggle, and I don’t have any advice about that, just commiseration. I’m not sure that it’s really about the eggs or the jacket.

  104. “As an example, she has been mad about her winter jacket all year because I wouldn’t buy her a new one – her old one fits her perfectly nicely and and is in good shape and is nice and warm. Good winter jackets are expensive and I would prefer to wait until she really needs a new one.”

    This is an anti-Totebag response, but why not buy her the jacket? Do you really want to die on this particular hill?

    Remember that your first two kids are boys. They may not care so much about the jackets they wear. The jacket may fit and keep her warm, but from your descriptions of your DD in the past, she has a definite sense of style and would not have chosen this one (or at least would not have chosen it for this season). There is lots of outerwear on sale now — why not let her pick out a new one that will spark joy?

  105. MM – walking the line is tough (re pushing away). I’m thinking mostly about the breakfast thing. I don’t have girls, so my experience means I am probably unqualified to speak on this matter, but my approach with my kids at that age would have been, and probably was, fend for yourself, allow enough time, and act within the house rules of cleanliness before you leave for school. Eventually they would all come around to simple is better. She wants fried eggs? Fine. At 11 I think she can make a fried egg breakfast and clean it up.

    And maybe since she’s your youngest she’s learned from observation through the years how far exactly she can push you. Tough to know what the right response is.

    Good Luck!

  106. MM, I agree with most of what’s been said. She’s old enough to make her own breakfast, so let her make what she wants.

    On the jacket, I agree with Scarlett about getting her a new jacket, but first I would tell her she needs to explain why she doesn’t like this one. And remember she’s 11, so there’s a good chance her reason(s) will seem ridiculous to us, but they are very valid to her. And she might not even be able to give a good reason. I know I drove my mom crazy with how picky I was with my clothes and I couldn’t explain why I liked one shirt over another.

    The similar fights we’ve had were over backpacks with both kids. We finally resolved them by telling the kids they needed to contribute to the cost of the new one, with the amount varying depending on how much allowance they were getting at the time.

    Good luck. I know how exasperating these things can be.

  107. We actually do ask the kids to make their own breakfasts, but she has a habit of stalling so long that there is no time, which is why my husband started doing it for her. The outcome we don’t want is for her to miss the bus and have to be driven to school because that is a pita for us.

    And it isn’t about the egg. If we let her make an egg, tomorrow she will want chocolate cake, or sardines, or quiche.

  108. Oh fu(k this.

    I wouldn’t stay married to a spouse who sulks and glowers at me when something doesn’t go her way. I wouldn’t keep a job if my coworkers or my boss acted this way toward me. I wouldn’t entertain friends in my house who sulked and glowered if they didn’t like the food. I wouldn’t attend church services if the pastor glowered at me for not living up to whatever standards he set. I wouldn’t even accommodate my own parents if they sulked and glowered at me for some perceived shortcoming of mine.

    And those are adults in positions of reasonably high esteem relative to me. So wtf would I tolerate the same from an 11-year-old? (And I have a 10-year-old who occasionally tries this out — my wife and I shut it down fast. There are extra chores — baseboards can always use some scrubbing with a bucket and rag — and there’s what LfB refers to as Scary Bear, but basically we’re not going to tolerate it.) This isn’t a toddler who can’t control tantrums. This is a young adult who knows exactly what she’s doing to get under the skin of her family, and no, you don’t get to act like that. If you do, you will really have something to sulk about. This is not about a power struggle or a hill I’m not willing to die on. I’ve come too far in life to spend my adult years living with someone who purposely and intentionally tries to make me miserable. And if not even for ourselves, we owe it to our other kids who don’t want to live with someone who glowers at them every morning.

    To be clear, there’s a difference between being generally glum, quiet, reserved, taciturn, and melancholy. All of that is totally understandable. But don’t cross the line where you’re actively trying to make others miserable.

  109. Now, for the specific issues, you want a new jacket for whatever reason even though your old one is perfectly fine, well let’s see what you have saved, and let’s see what extra chores might be needed around the house. Then we’ll talk about splitting the cost. And fry your own egg.

    But like you said, that’s probably not the real issue here.

  110. Mooshi, all I can tell you is that my own mother dealt with it by coming down on us with the white-hot fury of ten thousand suns. It was a power battle and she won it by never letting up for one single second. She would stand outside our rooms at night and scream at us through the door about what ingrates we were while we were trying to sleep.

    It works. Kind of.

  111. “She would stand outside our rooms at night and scream at us through the door about what ingrates we were while we were trying to sleep. ”

    LOL. I wouldn’t scream through doors. But, for example, I wouldn’t continue paying for equestrian lessons for someone who treats her family like shit. That’s just stupid.

  112. ” She would stand outside our rooms at night and scream at us through the door about what ingrates we were while we were trying to sleep.”

    Um, I think I am not going there.

  113. MM – if you’ve explained to her why you won’t get the new jacket, and she’s still acting this way, for me the choices are (1) let her buy herself a new jacket with her savings and (2) let her go without. Natural consequences.

    On meals, I offer options but do not cater. I am not a short order cook.

    It sounds silly to draw a line over a jacket, but you do have to draw a line on something. Actively making everyone else miserable is not an option.

    Tough love followed (later, at a separate time) with a discussion about what it means to be part of a family and sussing out what else may be going on.

  114. Kid has no savings because she never does the chores she is supposed to do for allowance, and when she gets money, say from relatives, she promptly loses it in the chaos of her room (and picking up her room is another battle that ends up in a full day of fury and door slamming). She isn’t going to be contributing in any significant way for a new jacket.

    The thing is, she liked that jacket – she picked it out – and she gets constant compliments on it. The reason she was mad about not getting a new jacket is because oldest brother got a new jacket this year.

  115. We actually do ask the kids to make their own breakfasts, but she has a habit of stalling so long that there is no time, which is why my husband started doing it for her. The outcome we don’t want is for her to miss the bus and have to be driven to school because that is a pita for us.

    If she stalls too long, then she goes to school without breakfast, simple enough.

  116. Mooshi, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Tweens can be really tough.

    As I’ve written before, my oldest is a pretty strong willed kid. I’ve found the most effective thing with him is to let him own his own consequences. For your jacket example, I would back off 100%. If she doesn’t take it, fine. If she misses recess, fine. I think you should remove yourself from that equation altogether. Same with breakfast – tell her she may fix herself anything she wants, so long as she eats and cleans up before it’s time for the bus. If she dwaddles too much, she doesn’t get breakfast. (If she dwaddled to the point of missing the bus, that’s when I would come in and enforce my own serious consequence, because that’s the point where it impacts you.)

    For every single interaction that seems to escalate to a power struggle, take a step back and ask if there is a natural consequence that comes from it (like being cold, or being hungry). If so, she doesn’t need you to step in at all.

    If there is not a natural consequence, and instead the effect lands in your lap rather than hers (like driving her to school), impose your own logical consequence over the following weekend (you took up my work time this week when I had to drive you to school, so you will have some extra chores to do before you can have screen time/play time/whatever matters to her).

  117. “If she stalls too long, then she goes to school without breakfast, simple enough.”

    Well, that is what happens regardless. She doesn’t seem to care. I feel sorry for her teacher, though, who now has to deal with a hungry cranky kid. In 5th grade they don’t have snacktime any more so she has to wait for lunch.

    A couple of issues with this kid. One is that she has ADHD, the extremely hyperactive type. She is on meds, but I think the meds are only somewhat effective. The other is that consequences have never had much effect on her. If she is cold and misses recess, fine, she will just be cold and miss recess, and glower about it and think everyone hates her. If she is hungry, she will bug her friends to give her candy. If we take away a privilege, fine, she will just go lay on her bed. I honestly have never had much luck with consequences with any of my kids – they all seem a bit impervious – but she is the worst.

  118. @MM: I can honestly say BTDT — the six months from 11 to 11.5 were THE worst, rivaled perhaps only by the shrieking out-of-control tantrums at 3. (Note also that DD had her period at 11.5, and things improved *tremendously* afterwards, at least for 3 out of 4 weeks).

    So, based solely on my own experience: this is all about independence. It is her biological imperative to assert her independence from you, even though she isn’t capable of actually managing that appropriately. This is the age at which I developed the “rubber bumper” approach — I give DD as much freedom as I possibly can, while still keeping her generally headed in the proper direction.

    Breakfast: she can make her own, and make what she wants, within reasonable limits (a/k/a it has to be healthy — no cake, but if she wants sardines or quiche, and it’s in the fridge, who cares?).

    Coat: you and she can figure out a clothes budget and all that. If this is actually about the coat (e.g., if her friends are making fun of her at school because of it), get her a new coat — but you need to make that call at the beginning, when she first raises the issue, not after you have said no for months. Bigger-picture: she can wear what she wants and live with the consequences. You can draw the connections for her — you know, if you don’t have the coat, you won’t be able to go outside — but when she ignores you, it’s truly not your issue — as long as she meets the school dress code, whatever. *You* know she needs recess, but she is at the age she needs to learn that for herself rather than just because “mom said so.” Her job for the next few years is to question all of the “because mom said sos” in her life.

    Note also that your two examples involve how she treats her own body — what she puts in it and what she puts on it. This is *the* first area of significant autonomy for teenagers; you will never, ever win a power struggle over what she puts on or in her body — and you don’t *want* to, because you want her to know that she does have the right (and responsibility) to control that, and that no one else can force her to do anything with her body that she doesn’t feel comfortable with. This is really, really important long-term. Do not win this battle at the cost of losing the whole war.

    Now, on the flip side, the attitude and yelling and all that has to stop. Like Milo said, you cannot let her learn that that is an acceptable response to frustration. But that means you can’t yell back. You have to have clear behavioral expectations — I still have them posted on the fridge, they just change by age — and any violation means they leave the room. Go back to reading 1-2-3 Magic again, because the issues are exactly the same as they were at the toddler stage. And frankly, sometimes leaving the room is a relief, because they have big emotions and want privacy to get them under control.

    And under no circumstances does this take longer than the time to get to the bus stop. If she isn’t ready, she can go un-ready. You do not bear the consequences of her failure to get done in the time allotted, she does. Do not cover for her by driving her to school when the failure is caused by her own rebellion.

    Tl;dr: Extract your fingers and opinions from the minutiae of daily preparation. It is your job to lay out the basic criteria for morning — i.e., clean, dressed, fed, backpacks, ready to go by XX:XX. It is her job to figure out how she wants to execute that. Give her more space on the details, and draw the line in the sand at treating others reasonably and getting out of the house on time.

  119. PS — It DOES get better. IME, 11-12 was the age of demanding independence while still being completely unprepared to actually manage it. DD was cold, hungry, and sulky a *lot*; every natural consequence was evidence that the universe — and I — hated her.

    But by 13, she had started to put the pieces together and learned to give herself more of what she needed. I agree with you, the ADHD makes the progress to get there exceptionally slow, painful, and difficult; some days it feels like 2 steps forward, 3 steps back. But you have to send her the signal that she is a smart and capable human being, that you know she can figure this out, and that you are in her corner as a backstop and support while she does that. And you send that signal by setting her loose in all those areas where the consequences don’t really matter and letting her try and fail, and fail again, and fail again. Even though it makes your teeth hurt to watch it.

  120. One is that she has ADHD, the extremely hyperactive type. She is on meds, but I think the meds are only somewhat effective.

    When was the last time she was re-evaluated?

  121. I imagine you know this, but most ADHD meds really decrease appetite. She may not be hungry in the morning. She may be cranky at school, but it may not be hunger. As long as her weight is in the healthy range and her eating isn’t disordered (eating 2,000 calories every evening in an hour), I wouldn’t worry about breakfast.

  122. Mooshi – On the ADHD front, you know one of mine has ADHD too. He is the kid who wears his pjs under his clothes to school, who (still) wants to bring in a stuffed animal to class, and who generally is not aware of his impact on others and that his desires are not the only ones to be taken into consideration.

    Right now, he is fine, with a remarkable degree of self-confidence. It’s either complete lack of awareness or he truly doesn’t give a sh!t – or both. He’s had the same classmates for years and they know and tolerate his quirks. BUT, I truly worry about him in middle school.

    We still take a “natural consequences” approach with him. If he forgets his jacket, he gets cold. We give lots of reminders, but then it is up to him. Afterwards, we discuss the natural consequences and lay out options – prepping stuff ahead of time, etc.

    LfB – nailed it – its all about autonomy and independence. (love the bumper analogy)

    And if you’re completely losing it and turning into a screaming banshee on occasion, well yeah, me too. Parenting is hard.

  123. Totally off-topic, but at the recent home show, I bought an infrared radiant heater to replace our little plug-in electric one in the family room — it is something like this, except ours goes vertically on a stand:

    I LOVE it! It’s the radiant heat that I have been missing since DH took the radiators out. I have been putting my little floor heater almost directly under my chair, with my blanket over top, to keep the heat in (which is *totally* the “Old Lady Dies in Tragic Fire” headline waiting to happen and drives DH nuts). This thing, even on the lowest setting, just radiates the warmth from its spot several feet away. And we calculated that it costs like 22 c/hr to run at full whack, which has gotta be cheaper than trying to keep the whole house warmer just to keep that front room tolerable.

    The only drawback is that I can’t run it full-out with all the lights on or it blows the fuse. :-) But I can run it on 1 or 2 with two of the three lights on, so good enough for me.

  124. LfB,

    Have you thought about radiant underfloor heat for that room? I’ll channel Milo in pointing out that your’e way too rich to be putting up with this nonsense.

  125. Radiant heat transfer was always the least intuitive for me, and I suspect for others, so it tends to be ignored. Exceptions are when we follow different baking directions for glass vs metal pans, or if we cover the Thanksgiving turkey in aluminum foil for the first two hours, or wonder why tanker trailers are shiny, or why a white shirt is cooler than a black one.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_radiation

  126. Our family room fireplace is in a direct line of sight to the downstairs thermostat. When the fireplace, which is horribly inefficient, is lit, the thermostat on the wall gets warmed by radiant heat just from the flames behind the glass 20 feet away, and is perfectly happy with the temperature and keeps the heat off while the air temperature throughout the downstairs is slowly dropping.

  127. @Rhett — :-) ITA. This is an issue of time-poverty vs. limited funds. We actually went to the trouble of having a whole-house energy audit with a company specifically recommended by BGE, hoping those guys would pinpoint the source of the problem and we could then hire them to fix it. They gave us a total crap report of the “sleazy home repair salesmen” variety — like $40+K, beginning with insulating the house (completely ignoring all the info we gave them about all of the insulation we had specifically added). When I pointed out the factual mistakes in their report and asked for a revised quote, the guy just fell off the face of the earth. So that sucked up, like, 3 months of my available headspace trying to get that done. And by then it was spring and other things took priority.

    The problem is that adding another heat source is just a patch — the real problem is how to get insulation and weatherseal around the floor joist areas (I think the problem is where the porch joins the house, both floor and roof — it is almost impossible to access those joist spaces, and you can feel the cold in the floor in those areas. I really want the TOH guys to come tell me what to do.). So, yeah, I just need to get some reasonably competent guys down to the basement to start ripping stuff out. But I don’t know who to call who does that stuff that I can trust, since my first effort struck out. So basically, this thing bugs the crap out of me for a few months every winter, and then before I figure out how to deal with it, it goes away and my head moves on to something else.

    But at least until we get around to it again, my new heater is freaking awesome. :-)

  128. @Milo — Luckily for me, I don’t need to understand how it works. :-) I just know that radiators always felt warmer than forced air (which DH *totally* didn’t get or care about), and my new little toy is bringing that feeling back, and I am happy happy happy.

  129. “I just know that radiators always felt warmer than forced air ”

    That’s because forced air is a multi-stage process of conduction/convection from the heating element to the surrounding air, then bulk transfer (fan) of that air from the heater in your general direction hoping that most of it gets to you, then another conduction/convection stage from air to skin.

    Rhett’s ultimate solution to your HVAC woes:

    https://www.trulia.com/property/1091778429-801-Key-Hwy-152-Baltimore-MD-21230#photo-1

  130. Milo,

    They way I saw it explained is that the underfloor heating element can be thought of as a light strip. Imagine a light strip set into the floor that is shining light into the room. The main difference is that the radiant floor element is emitting infrared radiation rather than visible light radiation.

  131. Rhett’s ultimate solution to your HVAC woes:

    I bet it doesn’t cost $900/month to heat.

  132. yep to both.

    It’s the Ritz Carlton Residences, so the maintenance charges might be $900 per month, though. We had some kin who lived nearby here:

    so we would walk by the Ritz condos a lot going to the Harbor.

  133. Yeah, I know those condos — they are directly on my (old) running path downtown. They are pretty sweet — I used to daydream about which unit I’d want as I run by. Just can’t see bringing myself to pay that price.

    And our house has not cost $900 to heat even one time this winter. (Let’s just ignore the fact that it was the warmest winter on record, shall we?)

  134. Mooshi, I don’t think it’s just that she’s a girl. She’s also Asian, and her brothers and parents aren’t. My kid says he’s felt kids make a big deal about his race and about him looking different than me since first grade, To me, there was a difference in his awareness of it when he was in seventh grade, which she must be close to by now. There isn’t much logical connection between race and the particular power struggles you mentioned, but if something is eating away at a kid, their resultant concern can come out in all sorts of ways. Do the parents in your group who adopted kids from China at the same time say they’re seeing similar things?

    On power struggles in general, I agree with the people above who said to tell her what your bottom line is and then let her deal with it–have her fry her own egg (even if she has to get up earlier), give up other things to pay for a new jacket, keep an extra sweater for recess in her locker, etc–but your daughter is smart. She has picked issues that she knows matter a lot to you. She knows you don’t want her hungry or missing recess. If you could get the teachers to send her out no matter what and have her run around to stay warm, that’d be great, but that probably isn’t going to happen. On other issues, she might take more consequences than you’d expect. My kid went without a computer a whole summer to avoid writing a journal, and teachers who try to beat him in a power struggle come away amazed at how stubborn he is. He will not be forced into things.

    Talk to her about it. Take a lovely moment in your bright sunny kitchen or whenever you’re in your happy place together, tell her something is bothering you, and lay it all out. Talk about the connecting thread of power struggles, not just the individual challenges. This doesn’t have to smash your sunshiney time; the connection of the moment can help. I use humor as much as I can, and I try to phrase things so it isn’t all bad, like “you are so clever in the way you’re trying to do x”. She probably hasn’t consciously thought of her behavior that way, but she can, and maybe she’ll have a reason or an idea of how to resolve them. Or she might just let loose with a bunch of other feelings, angry or crying or whatever. If that happens, than repeat in a few days or a week later so she can get out whatever else has built up.

    An article from my favorite parenting group that talks about moody preteen girls might help. There is a link to their booklet on adolescents at the bottom of the page. http://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/helping-angry-preteens/

  135. Thanks LfB, I think you make some good points. She is very strong willed and I am trying to weather this without pushing her away, but at the same time trying to teach her that rudeness is not something we tolerate. And she pushes my buttons and I snap sometimes – I have been working on that for a while, and can generally stay calm and even keeled, but geez, it is just so constant.

    I started thinking about the jacket thing. I think my current plan is to tell her: since the weather is changing, you are going to need a new springtime jacket. If you can wear the winter coat on days when it is below 40 (which it has been) without protesting or whiing, we can go to a store of your choice and you can pick a new spring jacket (usually we just look at jackets online and do it quickly). And I promise you there aren’t too many more days that will be below 40 so it won’t be that hard.

    Whaddya think?

  136. Milo, that’s quite a display of hierarchical world view at 9:00. But besides being lower down the power scale than MM, this is a kid who is learning how the world works. Her place in it should not be “bug” in her own mind.

  137. “My kid went without a computer a whole summer to avoid writing a journal, and teachers who try to beat him in a power struggle come away amazed at how stubborn he is. He will not be forced into things.”

    My daughter would totally do this, and so would my boys. This is why I find consequences to be a fairly useless parenting tool

  138. Mooshi – I think that sounds like a negotiation, which I recommend avoiding. I think you should remove the word “coat” or “jacket” from your vocabulary entirely for 3 weeks. Let her wear it or not wear it. And then, in 3 weeks say – in a manner completely unrelated to the winter coat – say, I think you need a lightweight jacket for spring. Would you like to go pick it out?

  139. This is why I find consequences to be a fairly useless parenting tool

    This is why consequences need to be natural – ie, affecting only them, not you. If she doesn’t wear a coat, you don’t get cold, so you don’t need to be in the middle of that decision. Her refusal of food doesn’t make you hungry. So don’t worry about it.

    Only once their behavior spills into affecting you (missing the school bus) should you impose your own consequence. And, then, to the extent you can, it’s got to be an unemotional, matter-of-fact consequence.

  140. The other thing I have been working on for at least a year is really emphasizing positive moments. I took her on my trip to Seattle – they have a kids camp at the conference and since this is her 3rd year, she knows most of the kids and looks forwards to seeing them. This year, she was really amazing – helpful, never whiny even once, and fun to talk to. So when we got back, I told her how much I enjoyed travelling with her this year and that I really look forwards to doing more of it. I am trying to work on finding more situations that stay positive so that I can show her the right way to do things rather than complain about the wrong way.

  141. “Her place in it should not be “bug” in her own mind.”

    Saac – Think about what I wrote. I’m looking to treat kids the same way I treat adults. I don’t tolerate rudeness and glowering and bullshit from adults, I’m certainly not going to tolerate it from my own kids.

  142. I like Lark’s approach, which also prevents arguments inherent in the 40 degree metric (40 degrees at what time of the day and which weather app to follow). You can come up with a new strategy for next winter. By then your DD may well have moved on to another battle anyhow.

  143. Lark, natural, unnatural, it has never ever mattered with my kids. My daughter would go coatless for an entire winter and miss every single recess because winning is more important to her than being comfortable. And she has been going hungry most mornings.

  144. I don’t think of this as negotiating, I see it as a positive consequence. With my daughter, positive consequences work much better than negative ones. It removes the power battle aspect from the equation, and lets her work towards something she wants (without realizing it is something I want too).

  145. Mooshi – just doing things, her and you one on one might be helpful. You could take her when you run on weekends, or certain times when you grocery shop.
    A few things on a daily/weekly basis without the whole family might help.

  146. Lark, natural, unnatural, it has never ever mattered with my kids. My daughter would go coatless for an entire winter and miss every single recess because winning is more important to her than being comfortable. And she has been going hungry most mornings.

    But Mooshi, this is exactly my point. If that is her preference, why does it bother you? I ask this sincerely. So she’s not bothered by the cold or missing recess. That’s totally fine! (Do I agree with that recess rule? No – I think it would be much more effective to let the kids play outside and feel the cold, but if that’s the rule then that’s the rule.) It’s not worth a power struggle between the two of you or hurting your relationship over it.

  147. Lark – I’d guess part of the concern is that “no recess” does affect everyone because of MM’s daughters ADHD. She needs recess.

  148. I used to daydream about which unit I’d want as I run by. Just can’t see bringing myself to pay that price.

    You’re not really spending money, you’re just moving it from one asset class to another.

  149. “You could take her when you run on weekends, or certain times when you grocery shop.”

    Omigod, she HATES grocery shopping. I either have to leave her in the car or buy her gum. Which she then proceeds to leave in wad form all over the house.

    And Kerri is right. She needs recess badly. And the teacher complains when she is underdressed for the weather, because he wants her to do recess too.

  150. “you’re just moving it from one asset class to another.”

    from productive to non-productive.

  151. Lark – I’d guess part of the concern is that “no recess” does affect everyone because of MM’s daughters ADHD. She needs recess

    Yes, maybe. But here’s my only real insight with parenting a strong willed child: you can’t change their behavior. You can only change yours. Theirs might change in response to how you are handling yourself, and I think frequently does. But what I find is that parents really just want to know how to change their kid, not change anything they (the parent) are doing.

    All of that said, I’m far from perfect. I’m just sharing what has been really effective for me. I think strong willed kids are awesome and going far in life. I think we should not seek to stomp out their stubborness and persistence, as I think those are really important traits. But we should also recognize where we set up the power struggles and sometimes even seek them out, and avoid those. It allows us to direct energy where it is really needed on behavior that can’t be tolerated.

  152. from productive to non-productive.

    You of all people objecting to residential real estate as an asset class?

  153. “The reason she was mad about not getting a new jacket is because oldest brother got a new jacket this year.”

    Then she can have one her senior year in high school too.

    You said she doesn’t have money to buy a new jacket because she doesn’t do the chores to get the allowance. You could start expressing the payment for chores as portions of the new jacket.

    But yeah, stubborn kid hitting puberty = not fun parenting. But I completely agree with Laura about the importance of supporting her belief in herself and her abilities. Her stubbornness is a pain for you now, but could serve her well down the road.

  154. I was going to write the same thing as Lark. To stop the power struggle stop the power struggle. Don’t negotiate on the coat.

  155. Also, have the doctor write a note that recess cannot be withheld for any reason, including her choice of clothing. Perhaps include that she has been found to be warm-blooded and able to generate sufficient heat.

  156. “I think strong willed kids are awesome and going far in life”
    Totally agree. If we can get her through the teen years, she is going to have a great future.

  157. winning is more important to her than being comfortable.

    And that’s why my husband’s ex is his ex, and why she never again formed a lasting relationship, and why her son doesn’t like her. I kind of think it’s useful for people to see that winning Pyrrhic victories sometimes leaves you cold and alone and without recess. Might as well learn that while you’re young.

  158. Totally agree. If we can get her through the teen years, she is going to have a great future.

    She does sound like a tough cookie who can fight for what she wants.

  159. And the teacher complains when she is underdressed for the weather, because he wants her to do recess too.

    Why does she care if you’ve said it’s OK?

  160. MM, what you said about your trip and wanting to do stuff together makes me think you’d like Hand in Hand’s approach. And I hear you on her physical comfort mattering to those around her because of her behavior. Maybe let her misbehave & get in trouble a couple times, then point out the link. And why not let her pick whatever she wants from the fridge (as long as it’s not in a spot set aside for what’s planned for dinner very soon)?

  161. “You of all people objecting to residential real estate as an asset class?”

    Owner-occupied real estate is 99% consumption. And that property has a current tax assessment of $600k something, with annual taxes of $15,000. Just wait until it sells for over a million. The taxes will be $25k.

  162. If it’s a firm rule at school about recess attire, have her keep a wrap in her desk/locker/place in the coatroom.

  163. The taxes will be $25k.

    Good thing LfB is rich.

    There was a funny line from Billion. He asks his secretary to buy up all the first editions Churchill’s history of WWII anywhere in the world. And his scecretary say, “That’s going to be expensive.” To which Axe replies, “Good thing I’m rich.”

  164. I think that DW’s relatives who lived in the same neighborhood treated the property taxes in the same way that Louise’s relatives thought of private school tuition: too scary to do the math on or even think about, it was just something that they wanted, and how bad could a $30k property tax bill really be?

    Then they moved away for a bit, and when they came back to the area, they did not return to the city.

  165. FWIW, I think Lark has it exactly right. You are still trying to control the decision and her behavior via coats. You cannot try to control her, manage her, negotiate for the “right” decision. Set wide boundaries and then let her execute within them. Act like you trust her to decide for herself, even — especially — when you think the decision is stupid.

    A few more thoughts:

    1. The problem is that “consequences” can mean “natural” consequences or “human-imposed” ones. Adults tend to conflate the two, while smart kids are awesome at distinguishing the former from the latter.

    2. The concept of natural consequences is not a bludgeon to force a different decision — that’s just you controlling her another way. It’s not a test, where if she chooses poorly, you need to step in and try another approach, and then another, and then another, until she ultimately does what you want. Natural consequences means you stepping back and allowing her to make a decision, without shielding her from the consequences of that decision. Period — that’s it. If she hates the coat so much that she would rather stay inside all winter, that is her choice to make; doesn’t mean you failed, or the approach didn’t work; it means her priorities are different than yours, and that’s ok.

    3. The examples here about the coat and the computer are not examples of natural consequences in action. They are the result of a determined kid intentionally subjecting herself to human-imposed consequences to win a power struggle — she is accepting something that she doesn’t actually want or like, specifically because she knows it will piss you off, because her independence is more valuable than physical discomfort. I secretly admire kids with this level of determination, but boy are they hard to live with! :-) But if you remove the power struggle from the equation, I bet you the decision changes, too — I know because I have seen it happen. E.g., next winter, she can wear what she wants — with no opinion from you, no grumbles, no passive-aggressive disapproval — you are not invested *even the slightest bit* in what she chooses to wear when it is cold out. She will spend the first month wearing a t-shirt or a sweatshirt, just to test you. But when she realizes there is no battle to pick here, and that wearing the coat does not mean that mom wins and she loses, then it becomes “safe” to wear the coat again — and then, when she misses recess a few times because she’s wearing a sweatshirt, she will probably pick up the coat now and then and at least shove it in her bag.

    4. This is why you start with things that really don’t matter. Where things DO matter, you must set very firm, clear, not-to-be-crossed boundaries. What matters is appropriately distinguishing between the two categories, so that the latter is as small as possible.

    4. I periodically still lose my shit, too — it’s just not over the fact that DD now thinks it’s cool to wear slippers to school every day (now I just laugh when, say, she walks home and steps in a big old icy puddle in her inappropriate footwear). :-) It tends to be limited to when she is being a giant-ass shit to her family. Which, not coincidentally, tends to be less and less, the more freedom/responsibility we give her over managing her own life, because she isn’t always on edge feeling like she has to defend herself/fight for independence all the time.

  166. “Also, have the doctor write a note that recess cannot be withheld for any reason, including her choice of clothing.”

    Isn’t this kid in middle school next year? If recess is so crucial, what’s going to happen then?

    I agree with LfB at 12:02.

  167. Milo,

    Is that a Baltimore thing? Here the rate for residential property in the city is 20% to 40% lower than in similarly priced suburbs.

  168. @Rhett — yes, it’s a Baltimore thing. When we were househunting, comparable homes downtown had more than 2x the taxes (e.g., one place I liked online was $11K; the place we bought was at the time under $5K). We could have gotten an even better home for the same money in many areas, but add in the taxes and private school, and the ‘burbs were cheap by comparison.

  169. Interesting here it’s (per thousand)

    Boston 10.29,
    Wellsley 11.79
    Dover 13.05,
    Newton 11.38

  170. That’s nice and low in Boston. Do they assess income taxes that the surrounding towns do not?

  171. Mooshi, I am late to the party here, but I agree with everyone above re: the coat – let her wear it or not and then write a note so that she can still go out at recess.

  172. Maryland State: $0.112 for every $100 of assessed property value

    And you have state property taxes as well?

  173. I had recess in middle school, and so do the schools here.

    Weird that Boston’s property taxes are lower than its suburbs.

  174. “Just wait until it sells for over a million. The taxes will be $25k.”

    Couldn’t those be avoided by spending enough time in the condo?

  175. “Perhaps include that she has been found to be warm-blooded”

    LOL!

    Thanks, a good laugh is always appreciated.

  176. Weird that Boston’s property taxes are lower than its suburbs.

    I always thought that was the case in most areas due to the ratio of commercial to residental property. The John Handcock building as an example is on a maybe 1 acre lot and is worth almost a billion dollars.

  177. “avoided by spending enough time in the condo?”

    We’re talking annual property taxes, not capital gains. The asking price now is over a million.

  178. @Rhett — Looks like yes, though it is all part of the same bill. I pulled up mine online, and here are the various elements:

    County Tax
    State Tax — comes out to about 10% of county tax
    Bay Res Fee — think this is a flat $60 fee
    Sewer Service — little higher than state taxes
    Storm Water Remediation Fee — de minimis ($ 17.00)
    Water Distribution — numbers suggest that this is 25% of the sewer service fee
    County Homestead Tax Credit — net credit — in my case it was almost exactly the same as the state tax

    All told, all of the “other” stuff netted out to about 25% of the county taxes, or 20% of the total.

  179. “Storm Water Remediation Fee — de minimis ($ 17.00)”

    Is that what they meant by Martin O’Malley “taxing the rain”? Trump would have had fun with that one in the general election.

  180. I find all the responses to MM’s question to be so interesting. Strong willed children can be very challenging.

  181. @Rhett – City property taxes are generally significantly lower here too (although it depends on the specific municipality & county). I always thought it was for the same reason – the commercial property base. The county also matters as some exurban areas have extremely high property taxes since they are still building/expanding so much infrastructure to make the transition from small farm town to large exurb.

  182. Mooshi, I can empathize. I’ve been through similar with DD. I wish I’d heard a lot of the advice here a few years ago, especially Lark’s and RMS’.

    I’ve had similar issues with DD and food. From the time they started K, I’d packed lunches for both kids to take to school. DS usually eats whatever I give him (sometimes he gets busy and forgets to eat), has expressed a preference for bringing lunch from home (avoiding the walk to the cafeteria and the wait in line there), and has even occasionally expressed appreciation for the lunches.

    OTOH, DD about in MS started to not eat what I packed more often than not, and would go to the cafeteria and buy something which would show up on our monthly bill. I got tired of that and stopped making lunch for her, and took from her allowance whatever she spent at the cafeteria.

    For this year, we’re working on a deal where I don’t make lunch for her at all. I’ll pay the cafeteria bill up to an estimate of what the home lunches would’ve costed, and she’s on the hook for the rest. That’s still a work in progress, as she’s struggling to get a handle on how much she spends.

    We also had some breakfast struggles, although I think they were less about winning a battle for DD as opposed to being picky. She is quite stubborn in that she’ll go hungry rather than eat something she doesn’t like, and she didn’t like what I was serving for breakfast so she wouldn’t eat it. I continued to try things, and we’ve recently found that she likes a small, quick breakfast (she struggles to wake up and get ready, so she can’t have a big, slow breakfast) of a cup of OJ and some protein, either a couple sausages, a couple chicken nuggets, or a microwaved omelette.

    Like others here, I eventually decided not to try to force her to eat anything, and let her go hungry. I think she’s found that she prefers to get some food into her belly in the morning, and seems to have become more willing to try things to see what would be acceptable breakfast food.

  183. Are we the only parents whose 10-year-old and 8-year-old fix whatever they want for breakfast, and either pack their own lunches or decide that they want to buy from the cafeteria?

    They either go grocery shopping with me, or just put a request on the list for certain cereals or oatmeal or Eggo waffles (my oldest loves Eggos). Sometimes DW will make a dozen hard boiled eggs on Sunday night.

    Eat or don’t. No skin off my back, either way.

  184. In our district, you pay for lunches electronicaly by putting a bunch of money in. Lunches are expensive. The kids all had money in the accounts with the idea that they would only buy lunches when it was something appealing. The lines are long so they mainly stuck with that. Then DD’s account ran dry really fast, a couple of times. And I discovered she was buying chips, several bags at a time, to hand out to her friends even when she had brought a lunch. So we cut her off. If she had an allowance, the scheme above could work (you can buy your friends chips but it is coming out of YOUR money) but since she loses her money before she spends it (this is an ADHD thing), she doesn’t have any money.

  185. Mooshi – If I’m running a little slow, then they’re sometimes coming down and getting breakfast when I’m walking out the door. (I don’t eat breakfast during the week.) On the Fridays that I’m home, DW is typically in the office during breakfast time checking work emails. So if anyone were prone to drama, she’d be hard-pressed to even find someone to indulge it.

    When I was that age, it was rare to see either of my parents in the morning. My dad would have already left for work, and my mom tended to work late in her office and sleep in, so she’d still be in bed (or getting ready upstairs) when I walked out the door. You poured your own cereal and left for the bus stop, and if you didn’t eat, nobody was any the wiser. If you were picky, you’d be complaining to the cat.

    Maybe parents just see way too much of their kids in these instances.

  186. Milo – mine can get themselves cereal or a waffle if they choose, but they’re sleepyheads M-F and breakfast is one our family meals together so DH or I often make it. One parent gets ready for work, the other parent gets coffee/breakfast ready and hustles the kids to get ready and out the door. Works for us, mostly.

    How early can kids start drinking coffee? I really think it would help.

  187. During the week I will cook a hot breakfast for anyone who wants one. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, waffles, sausage, etc. But if I have no takers, that’s okay.

    Weekends everyone is on their own for breakfast.

    Lunch they have to eat at school, it’s not an option to take your own. Lunch is included in tuition.

  188. I was thinking about large families the other day. My parents accounts of growing up…
    Food, clothes were provided but there wasn’t much or a choice. You could eat it or one of your siblings would gobble it up. Parents had limited bandwidth.
    I told my kids this. They did think about it.
    My DS knows a kid who is one of six and kids who are one of four.

  189. And my parents probably thought that was perfectly appropriate because my dad’s mother was a nurse who worked night shifts and his father was a cop who would have already left for work. My dad walked to elementary school, and took the subway to high school.

  190. My kids used to eat whatever they wanted (usually nothing) for breakfast by the time they were about 8 or 10, but I still packed their lunches until they were seniors in HS. And my oldest stopped wearing a coat when he was about in middle school. Both kids walked to school and both can stand a lot more cold than I can.

  191. Mooshi, have you considered putting your DD on a clothing budget?

    If she were on such a budget, you could point out that if she wants a new winter coat, she could use some of her clothing budget to buy one. That makes it her decision, not yours, to buy or not buy a new coat.

  192. Milo – I used to get my own breakfasts growing up and hated it. I would have loved for someone to make me a real breakfast. I at least convinced my parents to let me buy school lunch. By 7th grade I hated ham sandwiches with a passion. Course then I bought hostess cupcakes from the vending machine for lunch but they didn’t know that.

  193. Old Mom might know something about this. My dad’s also said that as an elementary school kid in Catholic school, you didn’t go to Mass on Sunday with your family, you attended with your classmates. And the nuns or the brothers kept an eye on you to make sure you behaved.

    Then his parents sent him away upstate to camp every summer, all summer. Also run by the brothers.

    It’s hard to imagine any ongoing proxy battles about coats and recess.

  194. When I was that age, it was rare to see either of my parents in the morning.

    Same. In my case that doesn’t mean much. In your case I think we can infer it was fairly common. When did the morning being a production start? I though it was mostly people who drive their kids to school but MM was taking about the bus.

  195. “Course then I bought hostess cupcakes from the vending machine for lunch but they didn’t know that.”

    And you’re not 300 lbs now. :) So it really was fine. But if a Totebag kid today said “I want to buy a Hostess cupcake for lunch” we’d have to have a long, drawn-out discussion about making healthFUL choices, come up with some negotiation plan, see if there’s an acceptable Annie’s alternative…

  196. Milo – There aren’t vending machines in schools that sell Hostess cupcakes these days. =)

    We do have lengthy discussions about Gatorade, Fanta and Mountain Dew (yes, no and no) but they’re still young. Once they have pocket money and some freedom, they’re on their own for snacks. I’ll turn a blind eye (mostly).

  197. I’m a miracle of modern chemistry. I ate about 10 foods growing up. Partly it was because my mom was super controlling about food. The minute I went off to college I was eating cactus leaves at Mexican restaurants and octopus at Spanish restaurants, and so on. For decades Mom would watch me eat all this variety and say, “I did something wrong”. To which the obvious answer was “You sure did, Mamacita, you should have let me make more of my own decisions.” But I usually just kept quiet.

  198. My Dad cooked a hot breakfast for us every morning, and packed my lunch every single day, all the way through high school.

  199. A packed lunch was a rare treat for us. Mom said there was no way she could make a lunch that nutritious for the price. Just one of the unacceptable circumstances we dealt with, along with puny showers. There were usually 5-8 kinds of cereal in the pantry. We could choose any type we wished. When she unloaded the dishwasher, our mom set out breakfast dishes and set the table. Evenings we set the table and might help get dinner (my sisters more than I) but we had to get up early enough as it was, and she would not have stayed in bed once we were up in a school morning. Some mornings she made eggs and would ask us what kind we wished, if any. Sometimes she offered us oatmeal. So, limited array of choices, and we stayed within them. That doesn’t mean we didn’t rebel–we just found different forms. I was probably around MM’s daughter’s age when I began writing “mom” with a small “m” at the beginning of notes to her, or anything which referred to her. It took a few times before anyone asked why I did it, and I could proudly respond “because you capitalize the first letter of a name to show respect for a person and I have no respect for her.” Not appreciating our mother was about the worst thing we could do, as far as our dad was concerned. I was in big trouble, but continued for a while. Can’t quite remember when I gave it up, but if stubbornness is hereditary, I know where my son got his.

  200. And I will say, even as a kid/teenager, I really appreciated it. It definitely was not the norm among my friends.

  201. My mom made breakfast and lunch for anyone who wanted it through high school. She also made our beds every day and I never knew people reused bath towels until I went to college. She had half as many kids as siblings, so it didn’t seem like that much work to her.

  202. Milo – we weren’t allowed to leave the school during lunch time but we snuck out and a few of us made our way to the food carts.
    My parents were quite lax about breakfast and lunch. I ate whatever I wished but I also put on weight, so leaving me to my own devices didn’t work either. My friends mothers prepared and packed their lunches which were all quite healthy.
    Only after I went to a nutritionist was I able to correct myself.

  203. I never saw much of my parents or my sibs in the morning when I was growing up. We all grabbed a breakfast from the cupboard and slunk off to our own corner of the house, growling at each other in passing. Seriously.

    My DH grew up in a family where his mother cooked a full breakfast every single frickin morning, so for a while he was at least pouring the kids cereal for them. But at some point, the boys said they preferred to grab the dinner left overs (yes, curry for breakfast) so he grudgingly stopped.

  204. Oh, and my sister and I each started drinking coffee in about 6th grade. And Sis often didn’t eat breakfast at all, because she’s not hungry in the mornings (and now the nutrition gurus are all muttering about how maybe breakfast isn’t essential to a well-lived life), and I had Carnation Instant Breakfast and coffee. And Sis went to Stanford! So there was a happy ending for one of us, anyway.

  205. My son’s HS has free breakfast, and coffee for sale. He generally avoids caffeine, because of the energy drop afterwards. There are limits on what they can get for lunch in the cafeteria. I prepay his lunch, with most money in the account that can only be used for the full lunch, less in the discretionary spending Acct.

  206. The breakfast scenes on TV always made me feel deprived. Mostly because the sun was always up and shining. But also because everyone was sitting nd together having waffles or other fun stuff instead of cereal as they dashed out into the cold darkness to the bus stop like we did.

  207. Ok, FWIW, we did all of that stuff too – kids can get their own breakfast and make their own lunches, it’s your job to get things together and be ready to leave by 7:15, etc. It is just flat-out different with (a) ADHD, (b) strong-willed kids, and (c) hormonal pre-teens — and each of those factors is basically exponential in effect.

    Don’t get me wrong — you still have to do all those things. You just can’t expect them to work. At least not for a long time. It is a constant effort to find the right battle to fight, to not be too harsh or too soft. Especially with a kid who is making a point of getting in your face every day, because YOU are the most powerful figure in her life, which means YOU are the one she has to prove her independence from. Even the best days you just sort of get through sometimes.

    If you don’t have one of those kids, thank your lucky stars. This discussion is bringing back memories of that time, and I would not go back there for any amount of money. I have almost never felt less competent as a parent on a daily basis.

    Which is why it is important to remember that it does get better. Really.

  208. I just wanted to thank the board for bringing up the technology addiction post some months ago. The wisdom of the board was that the kid was addicted to the game and acting out because of too much screen time where as the article implied that the kid used the screen to pacify deeper emotional issues. Our daughter was acting out and the first thing I did was check for screen usage and found she was playing games at 4 am. We changed the lock code on the screen and she was back to her old self.

  209. I started drinking coffee and tea fairly early but with my kids they will probably still be drinking milk till who knows when.
    What’s the Totebag norm for coffee or tea for older kids or never ?

  210. The breakfast scenes on TV always made me feel deprived.

    I felt the same way, which is why my kids get a hot breakfast. Next year they’ll have to catch a bus, early. I am really going to miss our current routine (breakfast together, walk to school). (Mind you most days DH or I have nearly lost it because we’ve repeated “get your shoes on” ten times, and they always have some last minute thing they need signed. But through my rose colored glasses where the past is almost always better than it really was, these days will be missed.)

  211. I started giving my oldest coffee-lite (like those powdered mocha mix things) in upper elementary b/c I thought it would help with his executive function / distractability, and it did. And then of course for his younger sibs it become open season on coffee-ish drinks so they probably started having them a little earlier. Now we have flats of the various Ito-En canned caffeine out in the carport (cappucino, green tea, oolong), packets of powdered chai or powdered Vietnamese coffee in a jar that kids can grab, or if they have the time in the morning they can make up a pot of the real thing.

  212. “Mom said there was no way she could make a lunch that nutritious for the price.”

    I hear hints of WCE in this, especially if you follow it with a discussion about the artificially low price to the consumer of school lunches due to federal and subsidization…

    “and I had Carnation Instant Breakfast and coffee. And Sis went to Stanford! So there was a happy ending for one of us, anyway.”

    LOL!

  213. One of mine drinks a cup of decaf coffee almost every morning. Has since he was about 5, he just loves the taste of it. Some mornings if he’s dragging I splash in some of my regular.

  214. MM, I don’t know if you’re still reading, but we had similar issues, albeit less extreme with my son. He still goes to school without breakfast sometimes. It was an issue in elementary years because there were related behavioral issues, but now he’s just dealing with being hungry. I didn’t eat breakfast from middle school in because my family would talk to me. I didn’t want to be talked to (I was a #blessing). It’s probable not the recommended approach but people don’t become malnourished from skipping breakfast. I would talk to her about it on a weekend when things are going fine, and ask her how she wants to solve the problem. Maybe she’ll participate if it’s outside of the power struggle.

    My DS could take our punishments all day long. It just cemented his view that he was being mistreated. So we changed most of life to be about earning privileges instead of taking things away as punishment. We knew what he valued, so to get those things he had to be pleasant and cooperative, in addition to the chores and homework we expected. I did meet him partway by relaxing a few of my usual rules while we got things straightened out. I would definitely let go of the coat thing, again with the discussion at a calm time about how it would allow her to do recess. I recommend the book The Explosive Child if you’re looking for a resource.

  215. When DD was about in 7th grade, Starbucks started showing up in the mix of gift cards she was receiving.

  216. May I say one more thing, and then I’ll try to shut up…

    But I think so much of these kinds of struggles with kids are about temperamental fit with parents. I was a strong-willed child, but I had easy-going parents (easy-going to a fault, I think, but that’s a different essay). So there was very little conflict. But it sure seems like a lot of us strong willed totebaggers have strong willed kids, and that’s just asking for conflict. Another reason to step back on these types of conflicts and really think about whether you’re trying to make a decision for your kid that they should make for themselves, and how much of the problem is the parent, not the child.

  217. “(I was a #blessing)”

    Man, MBT, you are sure giving Rocky a run for her money today. 😉

  218. I started giving my oldest coffee-lite (like those powdered mocha mix things) in upper elementary b/c I thought it would help with his executive function / distractability, and it did.

    Some mornings if he’s dragging I splash in some of my regular.

    Makes you long for the days of over-the-counter Benzedrine inhalers, doesn’t it? Well, I long for those days, anyway.

  219. I had to google Benzedrine. That must be one of those generational fracture points. A Tom Lehrer line that I never fully understood!

    Anyway, I think I’m happier having introduced them to coffee than to Benzedrine.

  220. “May I say one more thing, and then I’ll try to shut up…”

    Please don’t feel the need to stop posting. You’ve made a lot of very good points here.

  221. I had to google Benzedrine. That must be one of those generational fracture points. A Tom Lehrer line that I never fully understood!

    REALLY?? I’m astonished, mainly because you’re so very well- and widely-read. Kerouac, Cassidy, all those Beats were into Bennies and Dexies (Dexedrine). IMO, Lenny Bruce’s last months were one long episode of amphetamine psychosis. And livin’ on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine — there are a lot of musical references too. But I find drugs fascinating from a sociological and historical perspective. Mom said people didn’t smoke pot in her day at Paly because that was for the Mexicans. Every thirty years some new hallucinogen appears, smart but unstable people embrace it, and it becomes a cult drug. Well, anyhoo.

    Anyway, I think I’m happier having introduced them to coffee than to Benzedrine.

    You’re no fun anymore.

  222. LfB, thank you again. You hit the nail on the head with your comments about the exponential effects of ADHD, being strong willed, and pre-hormonal. There is a gulf between what we would like to expect her to do, and what she is capable of, IMHO. That is a lesson we also learned with my oldest, although with different issues. The key is to move the capability part towards the expected behavior part. It was easier with my son because he was a bit older when this stuff hit and was pretty invested in finding a solution. Now, I am really feeling my way through.

  223. You’re no fun anymore.

    Did you know Adam Ant wrote a song about me?

    Goody two, goody two, goody goody two shoes
    Goody two, goody two, goody goody two shoes

    Don’t drink don’t smoke – what do you do?
    You don’t drink don’t smoke – what do you do?

    I do drink, though. ;-)

  224. “Vargas does not drink; does not smoke; does not make love. What do you do, Vargas?”

  225. You might be right, Mémé. I once had an hour-long argument with someone about whether “there’s a little yellow pill” in Mother’s Little Helper was Valium or something else. Really, it’s Valium. Valium’s yellow. But I might be wrong about the Grateful Dead’s reds.

  226. Isn’t this kid in middle school next year? If recess is so crucial, what’s going to happen then?

    She’ll go out for recess just like all the other kids. I’ve never heard of middle schools that don’t have recess.

  227. The breakfast scenes on TV always made me feel deprived.

    I’ve always wondered if there are people who actually have family breakfasts in real life.

    My mom was long gone when I got up. My brother and I were totally on our own to get to school, but we walked or rode our bikes, until my brother got his license and drove us.

    With our kids, we need to drive them to school. Plus they start earlier so I have time to drive them before I go to work.

  228. “I’ve never heard of middle schools that don’t have recess.”

    Fairfax County didn’t have recess for middle school students when we lived there. The Catholic elementary schools we toured here dropped recess around 4th grade, which was one reason we didn’t send DS to any of them.

  229. Didn’t read the rest of this thread until now. Thanks everyone who shared their experiences with their strong-willed children. Our oldest is so strong-willed. I find myself thinking a lot that it will serve him well to be so strong-willed as an adult, but Jesus F-ing Christ could he just do what I’d say for once! And then I also think how much he is just like DH and sometimes they/we are like magnets where sometimes we click/stick and other times repel each other (bad science terms I know). Our second is only 18 months younger and not necessarily planned to be that close. But thank God he is – I learned after about 2 days that kids have their personalities right from the get go and that I needed to lower my own parenting expectations a ton. Now my main check to see how I’m doing with my kids is to ask if they are still alive. Baths – less than once a week is fine. Nutrious balanced meals – I do my best but I’m not making homemade organic baby food any more. I try to channel parenting from the 1980s as much as I can.

    But I still have the parenting struggles and blow up way more than I’d like. It’s helpful to hear about others dealing with strong willed kids and what works and what doesn’t. Lark, I recall you recently describing an interaction with your son where he was rude and you lost it. I saw my own kid’s exact personality in your story, although he’s a few years younger. I appreciate what you share.

    My favorite meme is one of those smart ass antique looking pictures of a Mom rocking her baby daughter that days “I sure hope you are this hard to get into bed when you are 16.” It reminds me how strong-willed kids are awesome as long as we all survive.

  230. I’m pretty sure “26 reds and a bottle of wine” does not refer to uppers. But that may be an obscure reference.

    Milo, you’re missing the point again. My parents did not like to spend money. I know that conflicts with your narrative of me growing up as the inspiration for Hall & Oates “Rich Girl”. Federal price supports didn’t bother them in this case–and my mother delivered Meals on Wheels.

    MM, $55. Would she wear it?
    https://www.nordstromrack.com/shop/Kids/Girls/Coats%20&%20Jackets?sizes%5B%5D=10%20(Big%20Girl%20M)&sizes%5B%5D=12%20(Big%20Girl%20M)&sort=price_asc

  231. Laura/Mooshi/MBT, I recall a drop in ability to get it together, remember things/ not lose them. Yours as well?
    MBT, nice that the rewards work. When mine is depressed, he’ll stare at a wall for hours (very slight exaggeration). Not only do rewards not work, but there are times when the thing he enjoys is the only thing from keeping him from going off a cliff, so putting requirements on it would be counter-productive. He does what he should pretty much because it makes sense to him. Sometimes even that requires a bit of haranguing, say, to hang the towel up and straighten it out on the bar.

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