The Trust Meter

Trust is one of the most important characteristics of a successful relationship or partnership. That extends to the relationship between parent and child. How often has your child asked you to do something and your nervousness or lack of support related to something related to your lack of trust in them?

My wife and I converted this concept into both a parenting tool and a piece of valuable vocabulary we used with our three daughters as they grew up.

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Using the “Give More Rope” Analogy

Parenting AdviceMy wife and I decided early in our marriage that one of our most important responsibilities as parents was preparing our children for the day when they leave home and live on their own.  Enabling them to be ready to make important decisions for themselves.  Knowing how to react in stressful or dangerous situations.  Effectively managing their own money.  The list goes on and on.  But the way we mentally visualized this parenting challenge with the “giving more rope” analogy.

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The Power of the Word “Proud”


Word type:  adjective

Definition:  feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one’s own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated.

Synonyms:  pleased, glad, happy, delighted, joyful, satisfied, thrilled, gratified

I found the word to be possibly the most powerful one my wife and I could use as a parent.  Far more impactful than any of its synonyms shown above.  Most kids thrive on making their parents proud.  “Mom/dad, look at what I just did!”  Next I’ll explain a bit more about how my wife and I used this as a parenting tool.

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Sit-Down Conversation Prior to High School

Going from junior high to high school introduces a tremendous amount of change and exposure to new levels of challenges and risks.  Because of this, we had a face-to-face conversation with each of our girls sometime during the summer before entering high school.

In the best case, the adolescent will heed some of the advice.  In the worst case, they will ignore the advice, but later find at least some of it to be truthful, which gives more credibility to later advice.

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Father – Son/Daughter Getaways

The title says “father” only because I’m writing this post from my perspective and incorporating actual concepts I used with my daughters.  My original objective was to somehow make up for years of job assignments that called for extensive travel.  I actually modified an idea one of my IBM bosses used with his kids for the same reason.

The extra bonding I was able to achieve with my daughters and the stories we both are able to tell forever have immeasurable value.  I’ve shared this idea with friends and co-workers, many of whom have adopted or modified it for their own use.  If you also like the idea, help me spread it to others.

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Sticking to the Important Stuff (Teen Years)

Increasingly throughout the teenage years, you will notice mistakes, annoyances, and bad judgment calls exhibited by your child.  Everything from not waking up to their alarm or having a messy room to handling social relationships and exploring things that are illegal.

You might find yourself wanting to just tell them exactly what to do, and that’s understandable.  But often this just causes them to ignore or reject your directions.  And it also doesn’t equip your teen with the skills, experiences and tools they’ll need when they later leave the nest.  One of the best ways for your child to learn is by making your own mistakes.  But what types of issues and mistakes are worth worrying about as a parent?

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Establishing Standards (if Have Multiple Kids)

One of the things we quickly realized is how easily a precedent can be set as a result of decisions made or rules put in place for the oldest child.  This is fairly obvious for anyone that grew up in a family with multiple children, but we found that we had to really step back and think about things, not only from the perspective of the decision at hand, but also the possible precedent-setting implications it might have for the younger siblings.

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Establishing a Special Parent-Child Activity

This idea is for families with multiple children.  I didn’t invent the idea but can’t remember how I learned of it.  The premise is that each child should have some activity that is special and unique with each parent.  I’ll speak from my perspective as a father of daughters, but it works in parallel with the mother or with sons.

I’ve discovered a couple of things that are important to consider while putting this into place:

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Once Your Teenager Gets a Car …

What a liberating freedom for your child.  Before sharing my experience and advice on this, I  have one heads-up.  That is to forget about seeing them near as much after they have their driver’s license and access to a car.  There will be a million reasons why they need to be (somewhere else).  We had to set a goal of eating together as a complete family 4 times per week, yet were sometimes lucky to make it happen 2-3 nights.  Part of this is due to the fact that a driving teen also possibly has a job, club memberships or sporting activities in addition to all the social possibilities that pull them away from home.

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Collectables – the Gift Answer for Road Warrier Parents

Do you have to travel a lot for your work?  If so and if you have kids, you’ll know where I’m coming from on this one.  When the kids are young, it’s pretty easy to get them a small gift while you’re away, because the act of giving them anything is mostly all they care about.

But as the kids get into late elementary school, it gets progressively more difficult to find something.  And then there are the times when you’re rushing to/thru the airport to catch your flight and still don’t have a gift.  Oops, no time to really shop and, therefore, either a crappy gift or no gift that time.

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Umbrella Liability Policy – Do You Have One?

The parents of adolescent kids have increased legal liabilities.  Imagine they have some friends over and someone gets badly injured, especially if you have a swimming pool or live on a lake with a boat.  Or think about a car accident that is your kid’s fault and bad injuries or worse are involved.

When our oldest daughter entered junior high school, we got an umbrella liability policy from our insurance company to cover more than the standard liability coverage in our homeowner’s policy.  It doesn’t cost much for this coverage, even for $1M worth of coverage.  Your insurance agent can explain what is covered and how much is the right amount to get covered for.

See my other blog posts on parenting here.

Penalty-Free Ride Home

This is something my wife and I instituted at the beginning of junior high and extended all the way through high school graduation.  If the kids ever found themselves in an uncomfortable situation that they wanted to get out of, they could call home and we would come get them with no questions asked.

We told them we could park a few blocks away, if needed, to be discreet.  Basically, whatever it took to make them comfortable exercising this offer if in a bad situation.  We made it clear that we wouldn’t interrogate them into telling us the reason for the call, if they would rather us not know.  The important thing was that they know this safety net was there.

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The 50 / 50 Tool

50-50 graphicWe tried to teach our kids about the difference between things they need and things they want.  My wife and I provided them the things they needed.  Things like clothes, lunch money on a school day, a bike for riding to school, etc.  But what about the things they wanted?  Birthdays and the holiday season only come around once each per year.  We used our 50/50 tool a lot during the rest of the year.

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Driving Contract – For Your New Teenage Driver

Driving Contract TemplateClick here to download a template I’ve used with my three daughters to make it crystal clear what our obligations are as parents and what theirs are as new drivers.  Since the document is editable, you can add signature lines, revise the terms or add more terms to make it match your standards and philosophies.  About 6 months after putting this into effect, pull it out again and review it with your son/daughter as a reminder.

You Want the Teenagers to Hangout at Your House

I know, teenagers can be loud and obnoxious.  But when your kids get into high school and especially once they start driving, it’s easy to lose track of where they are and who they are hanging out with.  It won’t seem like it initially, but if you’re lucky, your kid’s teenage friends will want to come to your house to hang out.  And you can possibly influence this if you try.

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Does Your Teenager Have a “System”?

The concept of defining and refining a System is something I regularly stressed with my girls during their high school and college years.  We discovered that each of our three daughters had different methods for planning, organizing, studying, remembering and deciding.  What works well for me and my wife didn’t necessarily work at all work for a given daughter.  One of the most important things we wanted to help them accomplish during their high school and college years was to develop and refine a system that worked well for them.

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What’s The Worst Thing That Could Happen?

My wife and I found this to be a fabulous concept to incorporate into our parenting practice.  We used it in conjunction with explaining decision-making best practices to our kids.  Starting when they were as early as about 13 years old and regularly reinforcing it all the way through the day they left home for college.

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Tips for Optimizing Your Grades in College

Sorry but no rocket science here.  Mostly common sense, but I can virtually guarantee that following these 7 basic steps will make a huge difference in your grades during college.  I can’t promise a 4.0 GPA but am willing to bet that systematically following these basic principles will add at least a single grade point to your freshman year average versus the typical student.  After a couple of years, most college students naturally figure these things out as they develop and refine their own personal system.  But during your freshman year everything is so new, exciting and DISTRACTING.

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10 Golden Rules for Entering College Freshmen

By the time a young adult graduates high school and is ready to head off to college, they shouldn’t need to be given a full set of rules to follow.  After all, moving out of the house means they have the freedom (and burden) if making their own decisions.  Nonetheless, after going through this a couple of times with my kids I decided to capture my personal list of “golden rules”.  They seem so basic and obvious.  But then again aren’t most of life’s rules basic and obvious?  If you are an entering college freshman, check out the list below and see if you can’t stick to it.  Then, if you can remember to do so, look at the list again at the end of your freshman year and see how many of these rules you think are truly Golden.  Continue reading “10 Golden Rules for Entering College Freshmen”

Teaching Your Kid to Ride a Bike – Could It Be This Simple?

How many ways can there possibly be to learn to ride a bike?  Most of us probably use the same method that our parents used with us when we were kids.  And it usually involves some combination of holding onto the seat and/or handle bars while we run along side our learning child.  Then, at some arbitrary point when we think they are ready, we let go.  For a while we run along side, just in case we need to grab quickly.  And then, magically, when we think the kid has it down we let them ride ahead until they either decide it’s time to stop and figure out how to hit the breaks, crash into the curb, or fall into the grass.

I’d like to share a much better method with you.

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