The Lifecycle of the IDEAL Relationship

When kids are little, they want to be just like their parents. You can see them trying to copy a parent’s mannerisms and pretending to do the things they do at work and at home. It’s part of what we find so adorable about little kids. They just love their parents to bits and wish they could be exactly like them. It feels like the ideal relationship.

But lurking in the distance is adolescence when kids want more than anything to be nothing like their parents. If a parent does things one way, you can be sure a teenager will do the exact opposite. It’s purposeful and it can hurt at times.

The funny thing is that when they grow up and have children of their own, they go right back to where they started. They imitate their parents’ behavior without even realizing what they’re doing. Adult children become just like their parents in every way, copying both the good and bad parental traits.


According to psychologist D. Charles Williams, this is just the natural evolution of the relationship between sons and their fathers. But as a parent, I see the same thing happening between daughters and mothers. Williams has an acronym to describe this parent child phenomenon, with each letter capturing the essence of the five stages of this lifecycle process: IDEAL.shutterstock_146561972


As small children, parents can do no wrong in the eyes of their children. They think their parents are capable of amazing feats. They think there is nothing a parent cannot do. In short, the small child idolizes a parent and wants to be just like him or her.

A son may copy his dad’s manner of walking, while a daughter may enjoy using her mother’s lipstick. In either case, a child strives to please a parent and gain acceptance and approval by actively imitating parental behavior. Children recognize the disparity between what a grownup can do and what a child can do. They hope that in mimicry of adult behavior, they will become more capable, too.



Teens, on the other hand, go through a prolonged stage in which discord is the primary theme of the parent/child relationship. Conflict is the teen’s main method of relating to a parent. Whatever values a parent has, his expectations for his children and the course he has chosen for himself, all this will be rejected by his teen. The teenager will seem to embrace the oddest philosophies he can find and will express disdain for the parent’s beliefs.

The spirit of rebellion can be intense and generate painful emotions. A teenager may resent or be fearful of parents at times. This stage of the parent/child relationship often carries over into the young adult years of the child’s early 20’s.


In adulthood, the nature of the distance between parent and child evolves into something else. In their 20’s children shutterstock_96894358may even go so far as to cut off the relationship with a parent or take evasive action such as ignoring phone calls or avoiding family gatherings. The adult child is still trying to be different than the parent but rather than adopting behavior that stands in direct opposition to that of the parent, the child appears to be one-upping the parent. A mother known for her culinary talent, for example, may end up with a daughter who is a five-star restaurant chef who now sneers at her mother’s attempts at food preparation. Whatever mom can do, daughter can do it better.

This sort of competitive spirit is a sign that the child admires the parent’s path, but hopes to do things at least as well if not better than the parent. It’s a form of flattery no less than the idolization of a small child who imitates everything a parent says and does. Mark Twain had a great way of putting this behavior into words:

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”


By the time the adult child reaches his 30’s or 40’s, there is a move toward acceptance of the parent. Not only has the child “forgiven” the parent for his perceived parenting mistakes, but the adult child begins to recognize and appreciate a parent’s talents and qualities that seemed so repugnant, once upon a teenager’s time. The child now realizes he didn’t know it all then, and probably doesn’t know it all now, either. But then again, neither does anyone else, including parents.

The adult child accepts that parent and child have valid differences and that this is okay. Parent and child may become friends at this point, sharing interests and learning to have polite debate without things becoming heated. By this time, the adult child may have a child of his own, further illustrating the difficulties and challenges inherent in raising children. Charles Wadsworth said:

“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.”


The older adult child, at the age of 50 or so, becomes a parent’s legacy, the finished product created under the influence and direction of his parent before him. The child will be an imperfect mix of things, say cheerful, lazy, hot-tempered, easy-going, or funny, depending on the upbringing he received from his parents. The anger and hurt from the teen and young adult years has been tempered with time and in its place may be understanding and honor for the difficulties the parent must have had in raising a child.

There may still be issues in need of resolution between parent and child. If the parent dies before these issues are resolved, the adult child may repeat the same parenting “script” with his own child or children. If the child is lucky enough to have an elderly parent, there may be a form of role reversal in which it is the child who extends care for the aging parent. It has been said that the best revenge of the parent is to live long enough to become a burden to his children.

As we make our way through our lives, opportunities to learn life lessons are boundless. We have many chances to resolve our issues. If we’re blessed with children somewhere on down the line, we get to pass on our legacies to the next generation about what it is that makes life worth living.

Getting through each of the stages of the parent/child relationship and making it to the next—from idolizing to discord to evolving, acceptance, and morphing into the final stage of becoming the parent’s legacy, is the IDEAL goal that every parent and child can and should aspire to reach.


Clean Up That Mess! Getting Kids to Clean Their Bedrooms

“Clean up that mess!” Getting kids to clean their bedrooms could very well be the factor that unites all cultures in every location in the world. It is extremely unlikely that the “clean up that mess” refrain is not heard in places as far-flung as Siberia, Japan, or Denmark, let alone in Texas, where granted, the messes are probably bigger than in other places. So what is it that is so hard about cleaning a bedroom anyway, and why don’t kids want to do it?

A question for the ages.

One week, I counted the number of times my wife recited the “clean up that mess script.” When I got to that fifth diagonal tally mark, I suggested she try varying the tone. She was not amused.

I offered to take over for my wife to give her vocal chords a bit of a vacation. “Fine,” she said. “Let’s just see how effective you are in getting the kids to pick up their rooms.”

“No problemo,” said I, affecting a nonchalance I did not feel. “Watch how the master does it.”

The next day was a Sunday. “Perfect,” I thought. “No school today. We’ll get those rooms into tiptop shape by sundown.”

At 8 AM I woke the kids, “I’ve got a big, hearty breakfast for you, kids. Come eat while it’s hot. We’ve got a big day ahead of us.”

shutterstock_77747272Somewhere in the vicinity of where I think my eldest child’s bed must be, under a mound of candy bar wrappers, colorful rubber bracelets begging me to save the seals, Pringles cans (jalapeno flavor), a poster of Miley Cyrus licking a hammer, the cat, and some dubious smelling gym clothes, I hear a muffled groan. Nothing from daughter number two, but I do see her foot sticking out of a similar pile on the opposite side of the room.

“Big day ahead,” I repeat superfluously. “Come and get it.”

I go down to the kitchen. I figure I’ll feed them well—the way to kids’ hearts being through their stomachs, or thereabouts, and then I’ll have this very reasonable talk with them about the state of their room.

Except they never show.

I go back up. “Time’s a tickin’,” I tell them with a jolly lilt, hoping they can’t hear the desperation creeping into my voice. My wife has gone out for the day, knowing I’m taking over her parenting duties for the day. She will be back at 4. Not enough Clorox in the world to make it happen. The mess is just too big and the kids are so well, ASLEEP.shutterstock_119325310

10 AM has come and gone. I go back upstairs. I cajole. “Who wants tickets to the Justin Bieber concert? Aaaaaaaall you have to do is get your room clean!”

Younger Daughter calls out from under the covers, “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew. Justin BIEBER?? No one likes HIM. He’s like so YESTERDAY, Daddy.”

Elder Daughter does her sister one better and sits bolt upright in her bed sticking her index finger down her gullet while issuing gagging sounds for dramatic effect.

By now I’ve had enough. “Get UP. CLEAN UP THAT MESS. RIGHT. NOW.”

At precisely that moment, the wife walks in, complete with smug smile plastered across her face. “Why, D-d-d-dear,” I stammer. “A little early, aren’t you?”

“I just figured that right around now you’d be needing me. You don’t quite have the right intonation. Try it again,” she encouraged, “The sound should come from deep within,” she said and then giggled. Loudly. And at length.

By now I felt a total fool. And then I laughed. And laughed some more. Before we knew what was happening, our two daughters were laughing with us. We were, the four of us, rolling on the floor. The spell had been broken. We were ready to tackle the mess. Together.


We came up with a plan:

Divide and Conquer: We told the girls to imagine their room divided into quadrants and to tackle only a single quadrant at a session. That made the task more manageable from a psychological standpoint.

Show Them How: There’s a right and a wrong way to clean, just as there’s a right and a wrong way to do everything. Even if you’ve been showing your kids how to clean their entire lives, they may need a refresher course. The “wax on, wax off” scene from Karate Kid may offer inspiration here.

Don’t Make it About You: Cleaning their room is for their own benefit. Don’t fall prey to the martyr mommy (or daddy) script. And for heaven’s sake, don’t clean their rooms FOR them. You can help them, as long as you’re chilled and they know you’re doing them a favor and that ultimately, it’s their room, their responsibility.

Tie Responsibilities to Privileges: There is everything right with telling your child that she’s free to go hang out with her friends as soon as her room is clean. Or you can say that she can have time on the computer, as soon as her room is straightened. Cleaning isn’t a punishment, but privileges are earned through good works and after carrying out basic responsibilities. It’s as simple as that.

Relax—They Grow Up:  Like I said, it’s universal, the messy bedroom syndrome. Just as universal is the fact that kids grow up and move into homes of their own. Most of the time, they become just as house proud as their parents and learn to keep things neat and tidy with time and experience. In the meantime, it’s okay to pick your battles and to look the other way on a day when you’re feeling frazzled or stressed. You can totally talk to them about their rooms on a different and better day. For now, a few deep breaths (and eyes closed shut) will get you through. Tomorrow is another day.

EDUReview 3/6/2014

The latest trends in education and parenting  March 6, 2014

Winter break has come and gone but your nightmarish memories of traveling with your little ones are still as fresh and as painful as ever. Can Spring break be far behind? Yikes. The good news is this resource of 50 ways to keep your children occupied during a long stint of traveling by plane or by other means.shutterstock_44043907

The bad news is that most of the ideas here are impractical to say the least. Playing with Play-Doh on a commercial airline? Oh my. Those folding trays are awfully small. Methinks the airline will not appreciate getting bits of modeling clay ground into their carpet.

On the other hand, the very first idea on the list is wonderfully educational. Called Travel Tickets, parents are directed to this website, where “tickets” can be printed out and cut into individual tokens. You give your child a bag of these tickets and have her give you a ticket every half an hour (or whatever predetermined time period you decide on) until all the tickets are gone. This helps orient your child to the true length of the trip. It’s both a kinesthetic and a visual means by which children can gain understanding of the passage of time during travel.

As of this writing, Huffpo blogger Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis has 311k Facebook  likes on her article 10 Common Mistakes Parents Today Make (Me Included). It’s a darned good list. I totally related to Mistake #10: Worshipping Our Children. My house has always been child-centric. Kubiszyn Kampakis makes the point that we’d do better to take the focus off of children, thus promoting selflessness rather than selfishness. I would have added yet another parenting mistake to the author’s list: Over-Praising Children. When we tell children that everything they do is wonderful, they end up with an unrealistic inflated sense of self. I’ve seen it. It’s not pretty. Especially when said children grow up.Languages

Do you have preschoolers at home? The best way to prepare them for school is to let them hear and experiment with all sorts of sounds. Here’s a woman with a remarkable talent for languages. Well, kinda sorta. She’s not actually speaking any real languages, just has a remarkable facility for mimicking sound impressions based on various languages heard during her travels around the world. I think it would be great to play this for children and then practice fake-talking in various languages. It’s fun. And believe it or not, it’s honing a child’s preliteracy (pre-reading) skills.

Do you worry about your child getting enough sleep? Is your child struggling to keep up in school? It may be she needs to eat more fish. Of course, if your child hates fish and doesn’t mind swallowing capsules, she can just chug down fish oil capsules to improve the quantity and quality of sleep she’s getting. That’s according to a study out of Oxford University in the UK. Children aged 7-9 years judged as both poor sleepers and struggling readers were given Omega-3 supplements or a placebo for 4 months. Getting more omega-3 fats in their diets did the trick—helping them sleep better and improve their reading scores in school.


Have you been following the coverage of the Rachel Canning trial? What’s your take on this 18 year-old who demands emancipation from her parents while at the same time expecting them to give her weekly child support and cover her tuition? Being a parent of many, I couldn’t help but take the parents’ side. Adolescence is rough and even the best parents can have a rocky road. I felt for them. My take is that Rachel is doing something incredibly hurtful to her parents by putting their parenting skills on trial in front of the entire country. Not nice. I hope they manage to work things out and get back on track. I hope that someday Rachel will understand the difficulties of parenting and will apologize to her mom and dad for the way she treated them.

But of course, that’s just me. Watch the clip and leave a comment to tell me what you think. Spoiled brat much? Or righteous abused child doing something canny and clever?

Is Your Child Faking Illness?


“Mommy, I don’t feel so good.”

It’s the phrase that no one wants to hear. Just as you’ve finished showering and getting dressed for work, slapped sandwiches together for bag lunches, fed the dog, and served breakfast, here comes a spanner in the works—for more than one reason. If your child is sick, well, you can’t help but be worried about him. But what if he’s faking it?

In a way, that’s worse because you have to go with your gut. Decide his symptoms don’t warrant staying home from school and you run the risk of worrying you made the wrong decision, all day long. Worst of all is if you make him go to school and then he returns home flushed and feverish. Then you really feel like the evil mommy from Hell.

Is Faking Illness Common?

Sometimes you know your child is really ill. But what happens when you’re not sure? What should you do? And how faking illnesscommon is faking illness in order to stay home from school, anyway?

As it turns out, faking sick is not really all that common. Most children aren’t capable of the type of true deception needed to fake illness. Experts suggest that only 10% of school children try to get out of school by playing sick. However, a child may interpret the discomfort of anxiety as illness.

That means that if your child isn’t a hotshot in math, for instance, math class or a test in math may be anxiety-producing. If your child is the target of bullying, that could also be the catalyst for a child’s morning claims of feeling unwell. Anything related to school that evokes unpleasant feelings can in fact, lead a child to plead illness with an accompanying request to stay home.

Your primary parenting task is to protect your child’s well being. That means that your first order of business will be to establish whether or not your child is really ill. If your child is ill, he may just need chicken soup, love, and rest. But sometimes a child needs to see a physician. It’s your job to spot the hallmarks of true illness and to provide appropriate care in case of illness. Here are some guidelines to distinguish between real illness and the simple desire to stay home from school:

1) Check for Signs of Illness

Start by taking your child’s temperature. Normal body temperature can range from between 97-99 degrees depending on time of day and other factors. Doctors deem anything over 100.4 degrees a significant fever.

If your child has the flu, it will be self-evident. In addition to fever and flushed cheeks, there may be sudden fatigue, headache, body aches, and a cough that fails to bring up sputum. A cold virus produces milder symptoms such as a stuffy or runny nose. If your child complains of a sore throat, take a look—you can use a flashlight. Ask your child to say, “Ahhhhh,” while sticking her tongue out. If the tonsils look very red—almost bloody—sometimes with white spots, this is a sign of infection that requires a trip to the pediatrician.

2) Evidence of Fake Illness

The “symptoms” of fake illness come and go. Does your child have a hacking cough at 7:30 AM but laugh uproariously at a television cartoon 15 minutes later? Sick kids tend to drift in and out of sleep. Is your child sitting at the computer with no signs of fatigue even after a lengthy period of time? Rapid changes in behavior or typical behavior in a child claiming illness tend to suggest your child is not really ill.

Symptoms that are hard to explain or that migrate from one spot to another should be viewed with parental suspicion. The child that says, “My head and my right foot hurt,” and then an hour later states, “Now my elbow and my tummy hurt,” is probably anxious about school and not truly ill. Keep in mind that real illness can cause body aches which may appear to mimic the vagueness and migratory nature of fake symptoms.shutterstock_130275485

3) Process of Elimination

In making your decision as to whether or not your child is really ill, you’ll want to look for a reason your child might want to miss school. If you know that your child is having issues with a friend or having a major test in a difficult subject, this can be factored into your decision about whether or not to keep your child home from school. It’s possible for a child to come down with the flu on the day of a major test, so you may have to wing it and go with your parental instincts.

4) Work Through the Problem

Sometimes a child just needs to work through whatever is bugging her. Draw your child out and see if you can get her to identify and describe her issue at school. Staying home may be your child’s way of avoiding a problem she doesn’t know how to resolve. If you can discuss the issue, you can lead her to finding her own solutions and coping measures or suggest some of your own.

Don’t Reward Avoidance

It can be tricky to spot the difference between real illness and faking it, but it’s important to make the effort. Showering your child with love, toys, and special treats when she plays sick may reinforce the desire to fake illness in the future. As a parent, you want to avoid rewarding a child’s behavior when she’s trying to avoid the classroom.


Parenting Styles: Know Thyself

A parent should have a firm grasp of his own parenting style. He should know how he wants to parent. Because more than anything, kids respond to self-confident parenting. What exactly does that mean?

It means that as long as a parent remains true to his own vision of parenting, the kids will come out fine. Think of the old adage, “Know thyself.” The ancient Greek aphorism could well be applied to parents in search of a signature style.parenting styles

Years ago, I read an intriguing article about parenting styles. A research trial was cited in which half the parents were strict and half were lenient. The kids came out about the same no matter which style the parents had adopted as their own. In other words, strict or lenient, it made no difference. Both are fine ways of parenting, as long as parents remain consistent.

Never Really Sure

Problems began, however, when parents tried out different parenting methods because they felt unsure of themselves. Rather than sticking to one parenting style or another, they bent to advice from one parent or parenting expert or another, never really sure they were doing the right thing. The result of this sort of inconsistent parenting parenting syles1led to children with all sorts of issues: issues with school work, delinquency, drug abuse, and mental health issues.

The moral of the story? A consistent parenting style leads to emotionally healthy, emotionally stable children.

It makes sense if you think about it. If the parents are insecure about their parenting skills, their children are bound to pick up on that and feel, well, insecure. Insecurity causes anxiety, confusion, poor self-esteem, and in general a negative outlook. Kids want predictability. They don’t want to have to guess when dinner will be on the table or whether they can stay up only until 10:30 or as long as they want.

Parenting Styles Consistency

Which takes us back to “Know thyself.” Knowing yourself is the key to being a consistent parent. If flexibility is your style, be that kind of parent. Be open to discussion about bedtime. Feel free to allow kids some freedom in terms of their behavior at table if you’re that kind of parent.

If bad manners at table, on the other hand, really bug you, don’t let chewing with an open mouth go unremarked because you’re trying to be a different kind of parent than you really are. If you leave it be you run the risk of giving your child a confusing double message. It’s okay, on the other hand, to realize that your child needs a softer touch on occasion. As long as you’re not trying to be someone you’re not.

Personality Test

I thought of this today when a friend posted a personality test online, the 16 personalities test. This test is based on the premise that there are 16 personalities comprised of various combinations of the following characteristics:

  • Extraverted (E)
  • Introverted (I)
  • Intuitive (N)
  • Sensing (S)
  • Thinking (T)
  • Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J)
  • Prospecting (P)

Online tests are often a silly waste of time. But this one proved surprisingly accurate, perhaps because instead of the usual ten or fifteen questions, this test asks 60 questions and takes some 15 minutes to complete. I came out as an IFSJ personality or introverted, feeling, sensing, and judging.

I was impressed with my results. Taking the test and reading the interpretation of my results gave me insight into my personality as a parent and in general. Take the test here and tell us what you learned about yourself. Did the results accurately reflect your personality?

Related Posts:

Children as Harsh Social Taskmasters

Babies Are Fascinated By Photos

Safety in the Sandbox



Children as Harsh Social Taskmasters

When an adult makes a social faux pas in the office or at a party, most of the time, nothing happens. The other adults in the room will overlook the poor choice of words or behavior. They may even try to put a spin on what happens so it doesn’t make Mr. Malaprop look bad. shutterstock_2886211

But kids will do nothing of the kind. In this type of setting, kids can be downright mean. For a very good reason:

This is how kids are taught what is and isn’t acceptable thought, speech, and behavior, within a given peer group.

Teachable Social Moments

It’s only through such blunders that a scenario is created for correction, which one might even call “a teachable moment.” Except that it hurts like heck for the kid whose reputation is on the chopping block.

Unfortunately, there is no way to evade this necessary step in a child’s socialization. For the most part, that is. This is how kids learn social norms of behavior.

It’s always been this way.

Kindness To Othersshutterstock_2886212

Still, there is a way to raise kinder, gentler, children. You do this by talking to children about kindness to others and about setting good examples of friendship. Speak about their friends and if you sense one of the crowd is being emotionally brutalized for awkward behavior, see if you can’t encourage your child to befriend that other lonely, suffering child. Have your son imagine the boy’s feelings in that setting and what he might do to ease the victim’s entry into the social scene. At the very least, discuss how your child might keep that boy from permanent disgrace by becoming his staunch and loyal (possibly sole) friend.

Offer to host the boy for an after-school snack, study, and play time. Show your child how much kindness means to this boy. See if he can’t make headway in getting the boy accepted into schoolyard games, activities, and cliques.

Monitor the situation to make sure your own child doesn’t become the victim for befriending his less socially-adept classmate. But if that does happen, let him know his sacrifice is appreciated and that someday, his friends will need and count on his loyalty in their own awkward situations somewhere down the line. It’s never pleasant to be on the wrong side of the society of one’s peers, but a parent can make a child feel like a secret Superman, dedicated to good deeds.shutterstock_71683897

A Social Hero

Let him know that to you, he’s Clark Kent. He’s your quiet hero for being a true-blue friend. And help him ride out the tough storms of childhood, that necessary unavoidable rough patch of time in which kids become the harshest social taskmasters of them all.

Related Posts:

When Should Parents Get Involved?

Honesty is the Best Policy (Usually)

The Master of Empathy

Babies Are Fascinated By Photos

babies are fascinated by photos
Babies are fascinated by phones and photos on phones (photo credit: SparkCBC for flickr)


Babies are fascinated by photos. Lucky for them we all have smartphones so we’re camera-ready at every moment. We snap so many baby photos we hardly think about what we’re doing. That one didn’t come out so great? Click delete and take another.

Smart parents take advantage of the mesmerizing effects of photos to keep babies happy and occupied and to teach concepts and skills to babies. Sitting in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office with a bored and fussy baby? Show the baby the photos in the gallery on your phone. It’s an activity that never grows stale.

Besides their seductive pull for small-fry attention, photos can be a great starting point for a conversation with your baby. You can point to a photo, say “Baby,” and then say, “What is this?” to see if you can elicit a response: “Bah!”

“That’s right!” you might say, and repeat, “Baaaaaaay-by.”

Photos Teach Early Literacy Skills

That’s a lesson in early literacy skills. Your baby is watching your lips and trying to repeat the sounds you make. At the same time, your baby attempts to connect the shape of your lips, the sound you make, and the sound she tries to repeat, with the image depicted in the photo. Yup. You guessed right: it’s just like reading. That’s why experts call these various facets connected to this learning process “pre-literacy skills.”

fascinated by photos
Babies love phones (photo credit: janetmck for flickr)

You can extend these pre-literacy skills lessons by using photos to talk about activities or even emotions. “What is the baby playing with?”


“That’s right! Ball. Can you say ‘ball?’

“Is this baby happy or sad?”

Depending on the age of your baby, you may have to supply the answer. You might say:

“Baby crying. C-c-CRY-ing,” enunciating the hard “c” sound of the word “crying.”

If your baby tries to make the hard “c” sound, she’s learning! Be patient. It may take more repetition and more sessions, but understanding and ability will come with time and practice.

Emotion Book From Photos

When my eldest was a baby, I used photographs to make an emotion book. On each page, there was a photo of my little girl experiencing a different emotion. We’d name the emotions.

If my daughter was angry, I’d tell her to go get her emotion book and find the photo that showed how she was feeling. She’d show me and I’d say, “You’re angry.”

She’d repeat the word and feel comforted that I understood what she was feeling at that moment.

This is important because children don’t always have a way to describe what they are feeling and this can cause them a great deal of frustration. They count on us as their parents, to correctly interpret the sounds they make and how they are feeling about things. We may not understand them all the time, but parents become fairly adept at interpreting the utterances of their own children.

Resourceful parenting is all about using common everyday experiences to teach important lessons. Kids are fascinated with smartphones and photos. Exploit that fascination to help build your baby’s knowledge base about the things in her world, to increase her language skills, and to better understand the human experience.