What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood

a podcast with Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson

Month: March 2017

Episode 13: Birth Order- Parenting Each Child Best (More or Less)

 

 

 

The study of birth order— how one’s placement amongst siblings can shape one’s personality— began in 1874, when Charles Darwin’s cousin noticed that eldest sons were overrepresented as members of the Royal Society.  In other words, sibling rivalry is survival of the fittest, playing out in real time right at your dinner table.

Some say that assigning personality traits to an only child or a middle child is like reading a horoscope—the traits are vague enough it’s easy to assign them to anyone.

But we are firm believers in the power of birth order. Amy is the oldest of six and annoys all those around her with her insistent list-making. Margaret is third out of four, and she says her car keys have to be around here somewhere. Recognizing the strength of these roles in our families is important because we can work against them— or inadvertently reinforce them— with how we parent.

In this episode you’ll find out:

  • why oldest siblings love rules
  • why middle siblings are more able to change their minds
  • why younger siblings are such smooth talkers
  • how your own birth order affects what kind of parent you are

And we also talk about:

  • how to tap the brakes on your oldest child’s intensity
  • why you should give your middle child the power of small-decision-making
  • why you should resist intervening on the youngest child’s behalf

We can’t fully counteract the influence of these familial roles— nor should we, they’re not THAT big a deal— but awareness is a good thing. Let the middle kid pick what’s for dinner once in a while.

Here’s links to some further reading on this topic:

Ingela Ratledge for Real Simple: What Your Birth Order Says About Your Personality

The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are by Kevin Leman, PhD

Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives  by Frank J. Sulloway

The Secret Power of Middle Children: How Middleborns Can Harness Their Unexpected and Remarkable Abilities by Catherine Salmon,  phD

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Episode 12: Helping Kids Deal with Disappointment

 

 

Not to toot our own horns or anything, but when it comes to disappointment, we’ve got vast experience. Amy claims an acting career is a surefire express route to let-down expertise; Margaret claims a screenwriting career might be even more useful.  And while we’ve still turned out quite nicely, thank you, that doesn’t make it any easier when we as parents have to help our children handle disappointment.

We don’t want to coddle our kids. We know we can’t protect them from every moment of sadness and regret. But what’s the best way to help them through such moments?

Dr. Jim Taylor explains what we as parents need to focus on– and it’s not the disappointment itself:

Disappointment is a natural response to failure, but some children react to their disappointment in ways that increase the likelihood of more failure and disappointment.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • why disappointments are developmentally important
  • why silence is the best policy, at least during a child’s “wet cat mode”
  • why “tantrums belong upstairs” is a useful household rule
  • why resilience and grit may be the most important traits our children need for success
  • why some kids take what Margaret calls “the brambly path,” and how to guide them (or not)

And here’s some advice we talk about in the episode and find really useful:

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Episode 11: Do Manners Still Matter?

Manners have been around since at least 2300 BC, when Ptah-Hotep wrote on papyrus that one should refrain from “speaking evilly” and from staring at people.

And as parents, we say manners still matter— to quote Margaret’s mother, no one likes a bratty kid.

But which manners still matter? We think author Tamar Adler put it best in her “Manners Manifesto”:

Perhaps the way to distinguish useful etiquette from frippery is to discern which rules help us be good rather than seem good… Whatever unites [us] merits keeping, and what divides can be folded and stored away with the linen too old and ornamental to use.

Eating the food you’re served, saying please and thank you, holding the door? All that makes other people happy. So our kids should do it.

Although getting them there? That’s easier said than done.

In this episode we talk about

  • why manners are all about context
  • why other people’s manners rule (even if they’re not yours)
  • whether it’s okay to expect (and perhaps forcefully elicit) good manners in your friends’ kids
  • why thank you notes suck but we have to make kids do them anyhow
  • why manners require constant reinforcement
  • why everyone should stop listening to videos in public places without headphones because that’s just absolutely the worst

Here’s some further reading we liked:

And here’s two classic books on manners that will have your kids curtsying by week’s end:

How To Behave and Why, by Munro Leaf

Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book 

What manners matter in your house? Do your children end every request with “sir” or “ma’am”? Stand when ladies enter the room? Call grownups by their last names? Tell us in the comments!

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