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"How to Be A Happier Parent"
A Guide for Grauer Parents and Friends

Motto for our parents: Parenting can be tough: Stay steady. We have each other's back!

Welcome to our "book café by blog" which will walk you through the book, "How to Be A Happier Parent," by KJ Dell'Antonia. With the following guide, you can consider big parenting questions, or even guide others through some of parenting's biggest, toughest issues. I hope all parents I know will share more experiences, learn from each other, and connect through our diverse perspectives. No matter what your family make-up or situation, I believe consideration of these issues alone or in groups will make you happier.

I spoke to author KJ Dell'Antonia, who advises us all, first off, to start by giving our own selves some credit as parents. We've already got a few of these areas down: "Pick off a couple and focus on the others." She adds: "I almost never bring up screen time because it sucks all the air out of the room."

"Our teenagers know screen time is a problem and are working on it—our job as parents is to raise kids who are thinking about it...It's so scary for us because we didn't have it." KJ notes. "Encourage people into NOT putting all their energy into it." Tell your kids that you, too, are working on this, and talk about that with them.

And last, she advises: "Remind the parents that their goal is not to raise a child who has been happy every moment of their lives, because they make the world's worst college roommates." Thanks to KJ Dell'Antonia! She will share a blog with me in the near future.

Top Topics for Parent Unhappiness:

Unpleasant mornings
Sports and Activities
Screens and Screen time
Food, Fun, and Family Time
Free Time and Vacations


Below you will find some big questions about parenting, along with some juicy quotes. Ask yourselves or one another the following questions to really challenge yourself and to think more deeply and happily about your life, patterns, and behaviors as a parent. Host a dinner where you share ideas about them. Talk to your favorite school official or expert about them. Let them each coax you into your most positive voice and attitude! Talk to your kids about these questions! Have fun with these questions!

Café Question #1:
Blockages: What are the things that are most blocking your happiness as a parent?

Café Question #2:
Discuss the quote: "You can be happy when your children aren't. It isn't my missing Thomas the Tank Engine. It isn't my homework. It isn't my sports team. It isn't my college admission. Our kids will have disappointments. They will make terrible decisions. Other people will screw them over. Luck won't always fall their way. Sometimes we will ache for them."

I. Mornings:

Café Question #3:
Discuss: "If you are counting on me to remember your things, you have backed the wrong horse." ... Letting them feel the consequence of a failure will make everyone happier, as they learn to take care of their needs." Decide: Where is the line of when to help?

Café Question #4:
What role does screen time play at bedtime and in mornings trying to get out the door in time?

II. Chores

Café Question #5:
"But when children don't help out with household tasks, their absence, and our resentment, gets in the way of being part of a larger whole. Children do not have the satisfaction that comes from having had a job to do and seeing it through." Are household tasks working for you?

Café Question #6:
"Studies show that it takes, on average, five years of nagging before a child will, without a reminder, clear her own plate from the dinner table." What are your reminders like? Is it easier just to do it yourself? What do you do when your children ignore or resist your requests for help?

Café Question #7:
Do you prefer to raise a child you can hothouse and coddle into the Ivy League, or raise an adult who can balance a caring role in a family and community—how is your balance?

III. Siblings

Café Question #8:
"There are no innocents." Discuss.

Café Question #9:
"You can be angry, but you can't be mean." Discuss.

IV. Sports and Activities

Café Question #10:
"They spend more time on sports and other activities. Unsupervised "free" playtime has decreased for all children since 1981 and most significantly for the children of better-educated parents. Time parents spend with their children has increased, but not necessarily in fun ways." What are the trade-offs here?

Café Question #11:
"High schoolers participating in fifteen to twenty hours of extracurricular activity a week have more emotional problems like depression and anxiety, sleep less, and are not happy." Discuss what is worth it and what is not...

Café Question #12:
If your child wanted to quit an activity, could they, and if so, why and how?

Café Question #13:
Why is the ride home the part of the activity kids find the worst part?

Café Question #14:
How do you know whether to treat activities as favorite pastimes for fun, or as career builders?

V. Homework

Café Question #15:
What amount of time, when your child is doing homework, is he actually, really doing homework? What else is happening?

Café Question #16:
Electives like photography compete with academics, and college prep electives add to homework. "There is never a break. Never" Discuss.

Café Question #17:
"Parents: It is not your homework." Discuss the role you believe your school expects you to have in homework?

VI. Screens

Café Question #18:
Parents report seven-plus hours of personal screen time and 78% declare themselves to be "good role models" when it comes to media and technology use. Discuss this apparent conflict.

Café Question #19:
a. Who is the decider on screen time in our family? What kind of limit should we set on screen time? (And is it different on weekends or on trips? And do you use apps to control it?)

Café Question #20 in 4 parts::
a. How much television or screen watching is reasonable on a school night?
b. Is screen time creating different than screen time consuming?
c. When is the latest your think a text should come in or go out?
d. Is it hard for your student not to look at the phone while doing homework?
e. What will your student do if she gets a text that's scary, sexy or otherwise worrisome?
f. Many parents have charging cabinets, for instance, in the kitchen. Discuss.

VII. Discipline

Café Question #21:
"Kids learn by exploring, pushing the boundaries, and having things go wrong. Our job as parents is not to prevent that." What are the boundaries?

Café Question #22:
"It starts small, with things like leaving them to pack their own bag for sports and school, and to handle the consequences of the lost or forgotten item. It expands as older children are left at home alone, trusted with Internet passwords ..." Discuss how you develop independence.

Café Question #23:
82% of students said they lied to their parents in the past year about friends, money, parties, alcohol/drug use, and dating or sexual behavior. It is probably more. Do you get the truth from your child? How?

VIII. Fun, Food, Family

Café Question #24:
How can you reinforce the value of family meals? Does this ever seem impossible to achieve even though you know it is your value and goal?

Café Question #25:
What would make meals happier? And, do you follow the "one family, one meal" rule?

Café Question #26:
What goes into the mouth is not the only important part of the meal." Discuss the purpose of your mealtime, realistically.

IX. Free Time and Vacations

Café Question #27:
Discuss: The increasingly materialistic nature of children's parties is a form of consumption that is not merely an extension of women's domestic work –it is rather a testament to the ways in which mothering and consumption have become mixed up. (Casey and Martins) Are mothers trapped into consumerism through things like the birthday party circuit?

Café Question #28:
"I felt some part of me still felt that my role was to correct them every time they did wrong. I realized I had to let more things go." "The right thing to do 90% of the time was just to tune out." What will you let go?

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