Family Ties

Updated 1/9/99

Tips on having a happier marriage, raising your children and enjoying family togetherness.

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The main family subjects:
Mom or Dad the Teacher  (5/02)
Flying children to the ex-spouse  (5/02)

Enjoy Disney World more  (12/98)
Keep children from breaking toys (5/98)
Too much toothpaste came out of the tube
Too many chores? Drop a school course.
Don't buy Disney meal plans
Tame the child's grabbing paw
Share the chores equally

Flying Children to the Ex-Spouse

(or buses, trains, etc.)

This article was inspired by some reader comments on the web page TheTrip dot com about unaccompanied children on airplanes.

We are urging each parent to follow good medical practice and make sure doctor and dentist appointments are honored ahead of sending the child to the other parent. At this time, if the only choice for appointment is during school hours or after the child is due back at the airport, we suggest pulling the child from school. For those parents who are able to arrange with the divorce judge a late delivery to the other parent, it is not necessary to pull the child from school. Do not fly the child less than 24 hours after a dentist appointment where a tooth was filled, whether to Disney World or to the other parent.

How often have you heard your child say, "Mommy  (Daddy) I don't want to spend every Saturday on the plane?" You should say, "You may play more Nintendo and spend more time with your train set on Sunday instead of going to church with us."

Yes, children can enjoy the trip. You the parent's responsibility is to make the child comfortable after s/he gets to the destination.

Get everything ready before picking up the child at the airport so you can spend quality time with him/her.

Let the child relax. Let him/her do what s/he wants when s/he wants to. Exceptions: Schoolwork, meals, bedtime, activities involving other kids such as drama or sports.

If the child is not hungry don't force him/her to eat.

Do not give the child a list of things to do unless s/he is bored.

If the child squanders time ... oops wrong word, no such thing as squandered time at your house after the child spent so many hours on the airplane and will have to spend so many more hours flying back.

Take #2 ... Except for schoolwork, if the child doesn't accomplish what you think s/he should have accomplished for you when the time comes to fly back, smile and pack him/her off to the airport on time.

If the child is scheduled to take lots of trips to see you during the year, try cancelling some of those trips and you fly out to visit him/her.

Do not expect the child to do reading or homework on the airplane! Some kids can, most including this writer (both school age and now) cannot without getting airsick and possibly vomiting over some other passenger.

More travel tips

Spouses should live in the city where they got married until they both agree on a different city. Then every move should be only to where they both agree.

Mom or Dad the Teacher  (5/02)

It is difficult enough when your children go to the same school where you teach It is better not to have your children in any of your class but sometimes this cannot be avoided.

It is OK to expect your child to call you Mr. Smith / Mrs. Smith at school. But you should quietly forgive any slip up if s/he calls you Dad or Mom at school, or Mr. Smith / Mrs. Smith at home. All you need to tell your child is that nobody other than his his/her classmates will ridicule him/her  if s/he slips up.

You the parent will also have to be careful not to call your child "dear" or "sweetheart" at school. If it is your policy not to call pupils by their nicknames, you will have to treat your child the same way in school. If you slip up, you should explain to the class the preceding paragraph and ask that your child forgive you the same way you forgive him/her for these mistakes.

Ever wondered why the bride's side during a wedding ceremony is on the left as you walk down the aisle? Long ago, when marriage by capture was the standard, the bride stood on the groom's left because he needed to hold a sword in his right hand - to fight off other men who might try to grab her away. (As heard on Paul Harvey "Rest of the Story")

In modern Christian weddings, that tradition is maintained symbolically; the bride's family and friends sit on the left side of the church and the groom's on the right (CNS, published in the 1590 Broadcaster newspaper in Nashua, NH, March 11, 1998)

Share the Chores Equally  (Feb. '98)

Husband and wife should each spend about the same amount of time working, commuting, caring for children, and doing necessary household chores. This of course means that if one spouse has to work overtime or has a longer commute, the other should help out around the home more.

A chore is not necessary if spouses disagree on whether it should be done. If one spouse complains about the cobwebs on the ceiling or the dusty Venetian blinds and the other spouse doesn't, then the one who complains should do the chore and it does not count towards the equal time rule.

Children in a family should each spend about the same amount of time doing chores. If a child has a job, the job and commute time is deducted from his/her share of chores only if the paycheck goes to help support the family (proportioning is allowed). Of course children can buy, sell, or trade free time or time to do homework assignments.

Teamwork, not competition. Brothers and sisters should help each other. Parents should every once in awhile but not constantly remind children that when they get up into old age they will be relying on each other for care and therefore should not get each other upset and should learn early to help each other. Never force one child to finish a chore while the rest of the family has dinner or goes out. Instead delay dinner while everyone helps out, or postpone the chore until after dinner.

Siblings should share intelligence with each other too. By this is meant: when one child knows a shortcut to finish a chore faster, s/he should then help the others finish their chores.

Included in equally shared chore time is helping handicapped parents or children including themselves, e.g. time spent for hygiene etc. over and above what a non-handicapped person needs to spend. When one child is handicapped, the other children need to be careful not to belittle him/her while also helping out. Sometimes shortcuts should be ignored so that the handicapped child can feel s/he is not falling behind. The following line can be used once in awhile by a smart person trying to expedite an intellectual chore assigned to a retarded person: "Can I practice some magic to help us both finish this job sooner?"

If a child is involved in shared custody and spends a lot of time traveling, the travel time counts as equally shared chore time.

"Band-Aids (R) cost money. Don't waste." When a child gets injured, chores should be re-assigned to fit the child's reduced capabilites. The equal time spent on chores rule still applies. If bandages are soiled or otherwise need to be replaced after chores, the time spent is deducted from chore time.

While children need to learn responsibility, that must not be confused with excessive expectations. Most mishaps and accidents are due to excessive expectations. Therefore the following rules are given.

Children are not responsible for mishaps during chores except if the mishap is deliberate and intentional. Ignorance IS an excuse. (Coming soon to this web site will be a series on Bad Bosses.)

The child has the duty to ask for help if s/he forgets something. The parent has the duty to graciously answer requests for help.

In each case of mishap the parent should consider this question, "What could have been done or should have been done to prevent it?" The equal time rule still applies. The correct answer to the question shall not require that the child spend some of his or her money. Sometimes the correct answer to the question is "By not starting the job.".

Once you the parent ask a child to do something, the child has the right to try and fail. In case of failure everybody pitches in to fix any damages. Only after you forbid the child to try again and s/he does it again anyway is punishment for disobedience appropriate.

The child also has the right to refuse an order claiming inability. It is your the parent's duty to accept that refusal at face value or to analyze why. One good way to analyze the situation is to step through the task with the child little by little to find the stumbling block. Examples of stumbling blocks: "I have trouble balancing the tray of dishes on the palm of my hand.", or "I don't want to walk past the red house where the vicious dog jumped on me.". Inability applies when there is any chance of discomfort (I did not say failure here) even if the child succeeded most of the time during practice. Yes you should look for easier ways to accomplish a job and yes the equal time rule still applies. Coming soon to this web site will be a series on Job Choreography.

Parents have the responsibility to keep children from interfering with each other's chores. The equal time rule can be quite effective, if no one can figure out who hid the cleaning supplies or someone's checklist, then everybody has to work longer.

Too Much Toothpaste Came Out

Recently I have had some tubes of medicine where no matter how careful I was, too much came out of the tube. So don't blame your child for squeezing too much toothpaste. S/he doesn't have the same dexterity (finger skills) as you do.

Save those empty 35mm film canisters, they are good for holding excess toothpaste or medicine that came out of the tube.

Reduced Course Load

Gifted children who live in a family with little wealth and/or plenty of chores and/or handicapped persons should explore a reduced course load at school. There comes a point where there is not enough time to do homework and chores and get a good night's sleep. Normally the result is bad grades when the child admits s/he could have done better. Instead a welfare family can receive additional public resources in the form of extra years of public school in a manner that is unnoticeable to the public. A typical example has the child taking two courses each year instead of the usual four. The key ingredient is a formal declaration of dropping a course and doing studies and homework during the class periods that are freed up. With the parent's help the result will be a continuation of studies and improved performance in the remaining courses instead of outright suspension for cutting classes.

Of course a case must be presented as to what the child is doing and what his/her responsibilities are that prevent a normal course of studies. Documenting the circumstances all along will be especially valuable when the child applies to colleges. Coming soon to this web site will be a series on Children's Activities Choreography.

Examples of reduced course load:

1. Part time college students, often referred to as night students.

2. My college (Dartmouth) officially had such a program with the name "Reduced Course Load" although restricted to very special circumstances.

3. It is many years after I graduated, but I from time to time have a dream I am back in school and doing just as I described above, without permission.

Skeptical? Consider the following alternatives:

1. The gifted child goes to boarding school, most likely with added public expense somewhere along the line. S/he is insulated from the rigors and responsibilities of life at home. Siblings are insulated from the non-participation of this child in household chores (out of sight out of mind). But with fewer hands around the household the remaining family members have to work harder.

2. The parents give the gifted child special privileges, specifically fewer chores. That means the parents and the other children have to do those chores. Siblings get resentful.

3. The gifted child is desirous of but unable to excel intellectually because s/he is really not prepared to learn upon arriving at school. What is missing is a good night's sleep or completed homework. In the long run we have wasted the potential of a person who could have moved into a higher paying career and become a more productive taxpayer.

This writer believes that the reduced course load is a win-win situation for everybody including the taxpayers.


The high school I attended also graded attitude with a number from one (excellent) to 4 (unsatisfactory). If the school insisted in grading dropped courses with F's, the attitude grade will always be 4. Any intelligent college admissions officer will recognize excellent scholarship in a consistent pattern of F-4 followed by A-1 or B-1 for the same subject the next year.

Don't Buy Disney Meal Plans

Going to Disney World?  Don't buy meal plans. A typical meal plan goes with a hotel stay and costs fifty dollars per person per day  (as of 1998) and you get to put $55.00 worth of restaurant meals per person on a charge account per day. Note that there are no refunds at the end of your stay. You may think that you save money because your teenage kids have ravenous appetites. But you don't save because

1.  It is almost impossible to eat your money's worth and not risk putting on unwanted weight and fat.

2.  Much of what your kids eat is potato chips and ice cream cones or other between meal snacks that are not covered by the meal plan.

3.  If you should become ill, you may have to skip meals and you don't get a refund for unused meals.

4.  You might intend to go to all the exotic expensive Epcot restaurants but because of long waiting lines you end up going to the cheaper fast food stands.

More Disney World advice

Keep Children from Breaking Toys  (May '98)

Christmas gifts should be addressed to both a parent and the child. This way the child must understand that the parent has half ownership of every gift. Every now and then the parent will formally ask to take the toy at bedtime or just before the child leaves for school "because it is Daddy's or Mommy's turn to play with it". In reality the parent has more important things to do than play with the toy so the only thing the parent does is inspect it for damage. If damage is discovered, it is not pointed out when the toy is taken away but rather when the toy is about to be given back to the child the next morning or after school. The parent asks the child casually what happened to the toy and does not give it back. The parent tells the child the toy has to be fixed. If the fix is easy to do the parent can ask the child to "help fix it" and they both fix it together. If the damage is too complicated for the child to help fix, the toy is not given back and instead is stored away from the child for at least a few days. Most of the time minor damage will be caught before it gets out of hand.

You Gotta Tame the Child's Grabbing Paw (12/97 rev. 1/99)

Several years ago Ann Landers (who has a newspaper column similar to Dear Abby) published a book, "Truth is Stranger". One of her responses to a letter from a parent with a cranky child went something like, "Write to me when you find out who is boss".

I was on an airplane when a lady next to me was dealing with her fussy toddler. The child kept whining for a glass of milk and kept kicking the seat in front. The mother offered the child a handful of peanuts and the child swatted the outstretched hand, sending the peanuts all over the floor.

How many times all across the land did a child swat the hand holding a glass of milk, and now Mom has to clean it up and miss her bus and be late to work? Or maybe it was the last spoonful of cough syrup that was splashed onto the wall. It hurts me to even think of things like this.

Yes, the child's grabbing paw is a nationwide menace!

Anyway I ended up talking to the frustrated mother sitting next to me on the airplane. She admitted that spills of that type happened at home. I suggested that she speak in a soft voice that she was going to count slowly to twenty (or maybe ten if the child can't also count that high). She would have to say that she will specifically not give the child any milk unless the child sat perfectly still and quiet while she counted. If the child did not sit still, the parent would re-explain the rule slowly and softly and then start counting from one again.

Note: The primary reason for not giving the child food or drink until he quiets down is to avoid spills.

It is a good idea to write what you are going to say as a script, so you can read it mechanically and slowly. Learn to chant and think of this as chanting.

"I will get you some milk but you are going to quiet down first. You are going to stop crying. You will stop kicking the seat in front of you. I will count to ten slowly and you will be quiet and keep still. If you move or say anything I will start over from one again". Repeat in a monotone voice over and over until the child quiets down or (if in flight) the airplane lands..

If Mom had to catch a bus and the child failed to quiet down in the time allotted, the child gets no milk until Mom returns home again. This applies only to children who are old enough to drink the milk from a glass; infants need different treatment in the form of more immediate feeding without the counting rule.

If possible I would insist that the child hold a glass of water without spilling while I counted. This will further reduce the chance of milk being spilled when it is finally given to the child.

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