Mom? Dad? Do You Have the Courage to Just Say No?

Think Safety First
Think Safety First

It was early in the morning and still dark outside.  A colossally foolish jogger, donned completely in black, decided to cross the street in front of my SUV which was travelling at 40 miles per hour.  Thanks to my attentiveness I slammed my brakes, swerved, and skidded to a halt.  The jogger ran off into the darkness and I breathed a sigh of relief while simultaneously screaming an expletive.  As I began to drive away,I felt grateful about the decision I’ve made to never, ever use my cell phone while driving.  If I didn’t have both hands on the wheel, I wouldn’t have been able to swerve. If I was peering at my keypad or an “important” text, I doubt I would have seen the jogger in time to stop.My decision not to use a cell phone while driving came when my son was 10 years old.  Somehow, I had a fleeting realization that in six short years, he would obtain his driver’s license.  If he observed me operating heavy machinery while talking or texting, he would argue fervently to do the same.  Did I really want to engage in this double standard dispute?  Wasn’t it really in everyone’s best interest if mom drove as safely as possible?

Sure, like any parent, I could justify using a cell phone while driving.  It is convenient, time efficient multitasking, and even entertaining when there is an interesting conversation taking place.  I could say that my years of driving experience made it safer for me, but I know that statistics negate that.  No matter how I could justify it, I knew I’d be setting a bad example, and creating potential peril for myself, my passengers, and other drivers around me.  My decision was simple.

Fast forward.  My son is now 17 years old and he knows that if mom can drive without texting or talking, he can too.  Mission accomplished!  So far, so good.

Did you know that in 2010 more people were killed due to distracted driving than we lost on 9/11?  We are quick to point fingers at teens but parents (as well as non parents) are equally to blame.

I know you’ve seen them too. Moms and dads all around us use cell phones while driving. Shockingly, some of them are toting their children, or even an entire carpool of children in the back seat!  These are the same parents who in many other ways practice exemplary parenting to raise healthy kids in the safest possible settings.  They buy healthy organic foods, petition for school buses to have seat belts, and lug car seats onto airplanes to provide a safer ride for their precious progeny.  They talk out loud with their peers about the “idiot” who was texting and driving and almost caused an accident.  They even lecture their kids about driving safely.

Why then do parents fail to practice what they preach?   

The idea that it will take an accident, injury, or death to convince anyone to drive safely is ridiculous if not pitiable.  The answer is simple.  Just say “no.”  It’s what we guide our kids to do so let’s practice what we preach and be a shining example of discipline.

Here are 9 excellent reasons to break the distracted driving habit:

  1. You are setting an outstanding example for your passengers particularly your children and their friends.
  2. You will avoid the double standard dispute that is sure to arise when your kids get their driver’s license.
  3. You are a respectable example for your family, friends, and colleagues when you tell them that you will not answer a call (unless you are using Bluetooth) or text while driving.  They will likely admire your courage and feel inspired, giving themselves permission to do the same.
  4. You are less likely to annoy the drivers around you.
  5. You are lessening the risk of a car accident and potential peril to yourself, your passengers, and others who are driving in your proximity.
  6. You are avoiding a traffic citation (in those states where driving with a cell phone is against the law), a lawsuit, time in court, and possibly time in jail.
  7. By heeding #’s 4 and 5, you are keeping yourself in this beautiful world where your joyful presence will bring happiness to all those who love you and cherish you, including your kids who desperately want and need their mommy or daddy.
  8. Your kids will admire you if not thank you for a being a great role model.
  9. You’ve got G.U.T.S.  Go out and Use This Stuff!

Please add to this list by leaving us a comment.  It does take a village!

Parenting Touchdowns: A Lesson taken from NFL Commissioner Goodell


An October weekend in 2010 brought three heart stopping games for college and professional football players, teams, and fans.  During a Saturday Army / Rutgers game, Rutgers player Eric LeGrand was paralyzed below the neck after a hard hit in which he ducked his head.  On Sunday in the NFL, the Falcons played the Eagles, and the Steelers took on the Browns.   Four players were seriously injured due to “head first tackles” that are clear violations of the rules.   Now I’m aware that there is some controversy as to how “violent” or “clean” these hits were, but that’s not what this blog is about.  This blog is about parenting and we’ll get to that in a moment. I have been a quiet observer of the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, for the past five years, and I like his leadership.  In 2007, after a year of consequential scandals involving NFL players, he instituted the NFL Personal Conduct Policy.  Players, who crossed the line with weapons, drugs, drunk driving, or using banned substances, were suspended without pay and/or fined up to $100,000.  Players who were held in “higher public regard” than other players on the field were given more severe penalties.  Why?  Because they were role models who were powerful enough to positively or negatively influence millions of viewers including our impressionable children.

Two days after the injurious October weekend, Mr. Goodell and his Commission decided that they had to keep their players as safe as possible.  They also had to help them stay accountable.  If players could not regulate themselves in their pursuit to win, they would have new incentive. 

Any player who initiated a “dangerous and flagrant” hit that violated rules, particularly those including helmets and a “defenseless player” (a receiver in the act of making a catch) would be suspended and possibly fined.  This new rule would punish careless or downright defiant players who took rules for granted. 

What is most significant is that Roger Goodell and his NFL Commission have had the backbone to enforce their rules.  Players know this and take their consequences more seriously. 

Fast forward to the upcoming 2012 season.  Mr. Goodell and the NFL aren’t just taking care of their own players, and they’re not just being punitive.  Proactive and practicing what they preach, the NFL is donating one million dollars a year to Heads Up Football a health and safety resource for parents, coaches and players in youth leagues.

Furthermore, Mr. Goodell, in response to the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal for which he imposed harsh penalties to players and coaches, released a 2012 preseason letter stating that “there was no place for bounties in football.”  He re-emphasized NFL rules and his commitment to enforcing them.  I particularly appreciated this statement: “Our players do not make excuses on the field; we will not make them off the field.”

So what does all this have to do with parenting?  Roger Goodell is like a parent to the NFL players and even coaches.   If he can straighten his backbone to set standards and enforce them, for player welfare, and for the NFL family reputation, why don’t we take his example and do the same for our kids and our families? 

Your kids, like some football players or coaches, will test your rules by breaking them, either unknowingly or intentionally.  Pause for a moment and evaluate how you have handled this type of situation thus far.   Do you need to create and enforce a personal conduct policy for your children in sports and in the game of life?   How would this help to keep your kids and other kids safer and out of trouble? In other words, what's in it for all of you?

Once you create rules, how effectively do you enforce them? Are your approaches punitive, proactive or both?  How well do you model the behaviors you wish that your children would demonstrate?

If there is one thing we know from decades of research, it is that children like to know what they can and can’t do.  It takes some of the guesswork out of life.  In other words, they want limits.  Who better than a parent to set them? 

You are the Commissioner of what happens in your family.

Let us know your thoughts and ways you’ve helped your kids to regulate their personal conduct.

30 Days to New & Improved Family Success

Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday that heartily welcomes one and all to engage in at least two ubiquitous human practices; eating good food, and of course, giving thanks.  If we ponder just those two things, we notice that the typical family eats three times a day and gives thanks… well… hmmm?   How often are we really giving thanks?  Surely it is not just on Thanksgiving Day!  Most would agree that this noble act “should be”, “ought to be” practiced daily.  And I agree!

Parents and children alike have much to gain by conscientiously giving thanks.  Research proves it!

According to Psychology Today, participants in a study about gratitude reported greater levels of optimism, positive mood, and feelings of belongingness. 

These individuals were more likely to help someone struggling with a personal problem by rendering emotional support with pro-social behavior.  Study participants also complained of less physical pains and boasted better sleep.  And guess what?  All these benefits came without lifting an elbow, finger, knee, or toe for exercise!  That alone makes me feel thankful!

Ah yes! “Feeling” thankful is as important as “thinking” thankful.  When you are authentically thankful, where do you feel it in your body?  Do your shoulder’s drop?  Maybe you are like me and you sense warmth over your heart.  Some of you may feel the corners of your mouth form a smile while others will inhale, and then exhale deeply with content.  Psychological well being doesn’t just have to come from our thoughts; it is accompanied by gratified emotions that are sensed by our bodies.  Go ahead.  Sense yours!

You’ve heard the saying “It takes 30 days to make a habit.” 

This November I’d like to invite you and your family to join me for 30 days of giving thanks.  Let’s not wait for a New Years “resolution” to experience psychological, social, and or physical benefits.

Starting today November 1st, ask each member of your family to verbalize something that they are thankful for.  This five minute family conversation not only allows joyful bonding, it opens windows of opportunity for parents to learn more about their children’s thoughts and emotions.  What a great forum to praise or guide your children as they mature!

Your family’s thanks can include joyful occurrences or difficult life lessons that allowed your wisdom to grow.  You can be humorous, serious, or exuberant.   Your may express a current experience or one that you recall from the past.  It should, however, be sincere.

Here is an example of something I’m grateful for.  Last year Atlanta was hit by an ice storm.  While that is not unusual, the fact that the ice didn’t melt for six days was highly atypical.   After being stranded in our homes for nearly a week, we finally headed out to run an errand.  Another car decided to pass us on what turned out to be a slick patch of ice.  Yup… you guessed it.  His car slammed right into ours.  I was thankful that no one was hurt.  But that’s not where my thanks stopped.  My son was with us.  He had just received his driver’s permit and this experience taught him several lessons including what not to do in challenging road conditions, and the steps to take when one has a car accident.  Lastly, the gentleman who caused the accident took full responsibility for his actions and that fueled my faith that good honest people do exist in the world.

The accident was a dark cloud with several bright silver linings.  It taught me to remember to always seek the good in any difficult situation and I’m thankful for that lesson too!

So what about you?  What example of thanks will you share with your own family today?  How will all of you become a deep well of support and inspiration, poised to benefit each other and those around you?  

Please share your thoughts and thanks in our comments section!  Oh… and THANK YOU!

Susan Boyle, Bullying, Judgment, and Your Kids!

"Look!" "Lauren is wearing Ugg boots." "She thinks she's hot so let's teach her a lesson and just ignore her!" (Lauren got the boots as a gift from her grandmother. She was nervous about wearing them because she usually doesn’t wear designer brands.) "Josh's dad drives him to school when he lives only a few blocks away and could walk." "What a lazy loser!" (Josh’s peers don’t know that he has a fragile bone disease and that doctors have asked him to avoid tripping and falling on uneven sidewalks.)

“Those kids get straight A’s.” “They’re such bookworm nerds!” “No wonder they have no real friends.” (The straight A students are funny and personable if only some of their peers would give them a chance.)

We all pass judgment. Sometimes it can serve as a 6th sense that protects us from danger. Most of the time however, passing judgment is an unjust allegation. Kids in particular observe something and make up their minds about it before acquiring any facts. Their observation is a mere sliver of the big picture. Kids then go on to express this observation as an assumption using words that can be hurtful because they are not necessarily true. The words in turn can become nasty rumors and lead to schoolyard pranks that hurt, alienate, or otherwise harass the person being judged. Suddenly an innocent child is subject to teasing or full-fledged bullying. So what can we do to help?

Parents and teachers can choose from an array of ideas to help their kids to be fair and friendly instead of judgmental. My new favorite is the old classic video of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent. I know. You’ve already seen it, but would you please consider watching it again with your kids or students beside you? Pay close attention to the judges and the audience. Assess their facial expressions and ponder what they might have been thinking both before and after Ms. Boyle sings. Then ask the kids what they observed. Query them on how passing judgment can be unfair. Ask why one of the judges called the incident “the biggest wake-up call ever.”

To really connect with your kids, consider sharing your own experiences related to passing judgment or being the recipient of it. Then ask them to share theirs. You might just learn something new about their “secret” life at school, sports or other extracurricular activities. Lastly, solicit your children’s solutions. Gandhi said “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” How do your children think they can be that change?

It takes a village so let’s support one another. After you watch the video please come back and leave us a comment of the wisdom you and your children shared.