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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother | Tag Archive | Parenting
Tag Archive - Parenting

4 Ways Suzuki Applies to Family Social Media Training

I was a Suzuki mom. My kids started violin lessons at age 3. We later moved beyond Suzuki, but I applied many of the things I learned as a Suzuki mom to later help my son with speech therapy when he was a preschooler.

Now, as I train parents, youth leaders, and teens on social media, basic tenets of Suzuki training apply to teaching teens to use it well.

  1. Learning begins young. Age 13 is the minimum for social media sites like Facebook. I support that minimum and also believe that’s a good time for parents to introduce their kids to limited social media use where they learn to use it well.  It is easier to friend and guide a 13 year old than it is a 15 or 18 year old. Teach them well while they are more likely to listen. As we moved back driving ages, more teens have opted not to do any drivers ed but to simply get their licenses at age 18. And now studies are showing an increase in traffic fatalities among these 18 year olds because they never learned to drive well or with training. The same applies to social media.
  2. Nurture by love. Kids who feel loved and connected are going to be more likely to reflect that in their social media content. Once I heard a teen refer to another mom, “I feel sorry for her kids when they are sick. She complains on Facebook about it so much they must think she hates them.” What is she teaching them?
  3. Good examples inspire greatness. Parents and youth leaders who model using social media for good lead by example. Teach teens by example to promote their communities and encourage others. Kids learn to talk by listening to their parents. They are still listening – and reading – as teens.
  4. Listen. Suzuki parents listen to their kids play and help them improve, a little at a time, with positive encouragement.  Sometimes I tell parents to see what their kids are doing on social media, and they refuse. Their kids might be asking for help or need some encouragement. Other times, parents listen, and we help their kids avoid driving off a cliff. Many parents have no clue what their kids are posting on Facebook or Twitter.

Savvy social media use will matter for teens when they pursue jobs, college entrance, and scholarships. Social media background checks are and will be the norm.  

My kids know I can access their latest Facebook statuses with 2 clicks on my smartphone. In my parenting via social media classes, I tell the story of how I responded and what happened the day my phone joined the wrong teen’s Facebook profile to my daughter’s contact – and the OTHER girl posted an expletive ridden update about her family.

Families invest time and money helping their teens prep for college entrance exams. They often hire tutors if needed and make sure their kids have well-rounded outside activities.

It is now equally imperative that families work with teens on smart social media use that helps – and doesn’t hurt – their future college and career options.  

Teens who use social media well, especially those who are funny, can set themselves above the pack at scholarship time.

How Not to Parent on Facebook

I am absolutely sick.

I just watched that viral Youtube with the angry dad who shoots his daughter’s laptop. I won’t embed it because it embodies on many levels what can go wrong with parents who don’t interact well with their teens on social media.

The mistakes?

  • Don’t humiliate people online. Even if people are out of line, public humiliation never improves a situation.
  • Don’t post when angry. I’ve done it, and I’ve learned from mistakes. When angry, step away from the keyboard and put down the phone.
  • Don’t destroy property. This is hard as a parent – there are times as a parent of teens, I have gotten that angry. Physical violence does not solve problems.
  • Don’t respond to anger with more anger. Anger + anger = more anger, not resolution of a problem.

I teach community classes to youth organizations and church groups – on how to work with young people on social media. I share my own mistakes and experiences as a mother of Facebooking teens.

Like every parent of teens, there are moments I have felt that absolute hit the wall frustration. The best advice I was ever given was by a more experienced mom who advised me to approach discipline issues with a perspective of how to address the problem but not block lines of communication.

Shooting a teen’s laptop and posting it on Youtube will not improve family dynamics.

My older teen will leave home in 6 months for college. With each day, I realize that our time before she leaves is precious; even when we’re angry at each other, I’ve got to find ways to make it better.

We all know our time with kids passes quickly; what happens if a tragedy strikes right now, with this family, before they can make peace and find resolution? This angry video would stand as the tombstone on the grave of their family peace and happiness for lifetimes.

I’ve been at the receiving end of public humiliation. Once when I was a toddler in church, as my parents were musicians, I sat in a pew and decided I had had enough being good in church. So I kicked the pew in front of me with my dress shoes. And I kept kicking and pounding the pew, which echoed so loudly I woke up the guy in choir who always slept through the sermons. The lady who was supposed to watch me did not stop me. As soon as the service ended, my mother marched into the congregation and whipped me in front of everyone. I never kicked a pew again.

Yes, I needed to be taught a better way to behave. Public humiliation was not the way to make that happen. I still remember that Sunday morning over 40 years ago.

Like the dad in the video, I had a tough road and worked my own way through it. Thank God my teens have an easier life and know what it’s like to have the childhood I didn’t.

Parents do need to monitor and respond to how their teens interact on social media.

This video, however, is a tragic testimony in how not to socially parent.

GMO Wars Across the Dinner Table

I'm here with you.photo © 2009 Kevin Lallier | more info (via: Wylio)
When I decided my daughter’s first birthday cake would be a carrot cake made with whole wheat flour, I should have known God’s humor would one day smack me.

Though I have relaxed, when my children were babies, I was a nutrition Nazi. Processed foods didn’t touch our table. When my daughter was three and ate her first Twinkie, she buzzed for 3 hours like she was on a drug-induced high.

I have relaxed but still grind my own wheat when I bake bread and buy the no corn syrup, no additives wheat varieties when I buy bread.  We grow a garden, and I preserve as much as I can.  When we have enough produce, I’ll make our own pizza and tomato sauce, applesauce, pearsauce, and more to last through the next year. We have backyard chickens so our eggs have a higher nutrition content and better flavor. 

So how will God show humor to the mother who cringes at lunch meat and refused to allow her children to ingest any artificial sweeteners before they were 10?

  • My son loves junk food, especially white bread and ravioli out of a can. His favorite food is hot dogs, and he could host Teen Boy Versus Food, with weekly dares on how much junk he can ingest in a single sitting.
  • My 17-year-old daughter likes nutritious foods, but her interests took a different tack. She is passionate about food production and agriculture and plans to spend her life working in the marketing/business end of food and agriculture. In the farm to fork spectrum, she’s more interested in the farm.

Now the clincher:

My daughter loves GMO foods and wants to help create more of them. She’s opposed to the introduction of any animal or human strains in plant breeding but passionately believes that GMO can reduce world hunger in a world of increased populations and decreased land availability to grow foods.

How can I argue with a teen who tells me she wants to find ways to feed starving people in third world countries? She’s researched agriculture business and GMO foods for school research papers. I made sure she read the naturalist point of view. Her mind hasn’t changed.

My mind hasn’t changed either. So we agree to disagree. When I unload our produce from our CSA, community supported agriculture, which only raises non-genetically modified or chemically treated seed raised in a sustainable manner, she looks at the produce and sniffs, “You’re just one of those NON-CHEMICAL people.”

Yesterday, as we ate corn on the cob at lunch, I told her it was from the CSA, and her reply was: “I knew something was wrong with it. Look at the smaller ears and the smaller kernels of corn. Imagine if you raised a hybrid how much more productive the land would be and how many more people it would feed.”

I agree with her that I’m a non-chemical person. And I have chosen not to argue with her point of view. She’s on her own journey.

And I count my blessings: there are worse ways a 17-year-old could rebel than to support GMO foods.

Her family’s lifestyle will always be in her heart – I know that every time I see her feeding our vegetable peelings to her chickens in our backyard.

As she journeys on her path to feed the world, I’ll always be proud of her.


First, Last, First Again

Eternal clockphoto © 2009 Robbert van der Steeg | more info (via: Wylio)
As the mother of teens aging faster than I can imagine, I’ve spent this spring feeling like a countdown is on. In just over a year, my daughter goes to college. Two years after that, my son leaves. Already, I’m being hit with “lasts.” There are some things she is ending now, because she’s narrowing her focus her senior year to what interests her the most. Last concerts. Last field days. 

My life this spring was measured in spoons full of last, last, last, last. With each, the taste grew more bittersweet. 

On the rare occasions both kids are home and have family time, I savor and try to make the most of it.  It may not be a “last,” but it is a “passing fast.”

In the process, I forgot the Bible verse that the last will be first and the first will be last.  As I think of the lasts, my kids seize the ladle of life and go for firsts - first jobs, first driving experiences, first solo ventures.

This is not a funeral, and I need to adjust my attitude. Instead, it is a springtime of renewal, where I get to see my kids venture on their own paths, to discover and pursue their own dreams.

Go for it!

Physics and the Art of Parenting

Bad Parentsphoto © 2009 Ward Kadel | more info (via: Wylio)
After learning the military engaged in kinetic military action, I realized that I, too, have engaged in many types of action as a parent, and I should update my parenting vocabulary. Parenting and physics have a lot in common. At times, they can be unpleasant or uncomfortable, but they are key to the source and balance of the universe.

Glossary of Terms and Formulas to Memorize

Action = ability to parent

Potential Parental Action – Parenting that is stored, ready to take effect. This is when you see your kids playing Ninja karate fighters in the store aisle, you’re paying for your groceries, and you know if you don’t do something soon, they are going to knock over the whole candy display or Bubba Jr. is going to whack his sister Sweetie Pie till she falls and screams.

A potential parental action is calculated by PPA = mgh. Your action is the product of multiplying the height of Bubba Jr. with the acceleration due to gravity of his Ninja kick and the speed by which you can get to him.

Kinetic Parental Action – Parenting in motion. This is when you pay for the groceries with one hand while you use your parenting voice with Bubba and Sweetie Pie while you grab whichever one is within your grasp to get them to stop.

A kinetic parental action is calculated by 1/2 mv squared. Or it is the product of the mass of said children, the velocity or speed by which you can get to them times 1/2 since you will probably only be able to grab one of them at a time.

Total Parental Action, or TA = KA + PA – The total action of parenting, combining the potential of you know what you gotta do and getting it done. Your children may be engaged in random motion, but your actions are the sum of everything you do to encourage their random actions into some semblance of order.

Mechanical Parental Action – this is the movement or potential movement of objects used in parenting, which might include carseats, leashes, or other restraining devices. Unless of course Bubba Jr. is a Houdini who can hack any computer, pick any carseat lock, and broke the leash an hour after you put him in it.

Chemical Parental Action – some who parent rely upon chemical bonds to coordinate actions. Some medicate the kids. Others self medicate to survive parenting.

Electrical Parental Action – parenting associated with the motion of charged children. This is the type of parenting required after your child has consumed a Red Bull without your permission.

Heat – parenting action that is transferred from one parent to the other as a result in a difference of parenting expectations or standards.

This is the end of my first parental physics study unit. When I have energy, maybe I’ll write the next unit, “Momentum,” otherwise known as the parenting of teen years.

(This blog was inspired by my teens’ studying physics this year, which holds the same interest for me now as it did when I studied it.)

Teach Your Kids To Be Prepared

joyful and chaotic music from first ever concertphoto © 2010 woodley wonderworks | more info (via: Wylio)
Caution: I was frustrated when I wrote this blog, and it probably shows.

If you have your kids in an outside program, music group, or sport, please help teach them a simple lesson: Be Prepared.

I write this after 15 years of having my kids on sports teams, music groups, clubs, and classes.  Yes, I’m sure your week was busy. So was mine. But there are times in life we still get things done during tough times.

Let’s imagine there is an activity with 10 kids. Then imagine of those 10 the following:

  1. 1 is always late
  2. 2 never practice
  3. 1 tries to practice the night before to make up for skipping the rest of the week
  4. 1 never brings the right tools or equipment
  5. 1 has a terrible attitude.

If those roles rotate from week to week, that means the teacher, leader, or coach has 40% of those involved on time, practiced, prepared, and ready to go. The other 60% hold those who did what they were supposed to back.

A music class cannot play harder music if half the class refuses to practice. If your kid is in a group music class, and you don’t make sure your kid practices every night, then the whole group plays simpler music. Then MY kid doesn’t get what I paid for – a challenging, fun music program. It could be music or anything else.

I understand different families have different standards. However, when I pay for opportunities for my kids and your kids’ failure to prepare drag down the bar of expectation, I grow frustrated. When I’m the teacher or leader of such groups, I’m doubly frustrated because I know what the kids were capable of, prepared for it, but we can’t get there.

What are the secrets to success for a great class or activity? Be:

  1. On time
  2. Practiced
  3. Tools ready to go
  4. Attitude ready to focus and work.

Parents can impact their kids’ future work ethics. It can be a positive or negative impact.

If you take the time to schedule an activity and get your kids there, and often to invest in it, doesn’t it make sense to make the most of the opportunity?

Kids who know to be prepared are better prepared for life.

Ode to My Sharpie

Wherefore art thou, Sharpie? How do I love my Sharpies? Let me count the ways.

  1. Public Speaking. Writing cue words on a note card or paper makes it easier for me to glance and speak without reading.
  2. Grocery Lists. It’s easy to write with a Sharpie on my magnetic refrigerator list. Pencil is too faint to read. Ballpoint pens fade by the time I get to the end of the word. Sharpie works best.
  3. Organizing. When I’m doing something like planning my life or my business, I write notes with Sharpies. Sharpies keep me focused on the big picture, the forest, instead of being bogged down in the trees. I also think more creatively – I can write all over the page instead of logically like I’m more likely to do with an ink pen.
  4. Food preservation. When I can foods, I write the product and the date on the lid on top.
  5. Connect the Dots. Or Dogs. Once when a friend was napping, her son used their black Sharpie to connect the dots on their dalmation.
  6. Community Organizing. My son saw me make so many lists with Sharpies that when he was 5, he wrote a list of his friends he wanted to invite to his He Man Womanhaters Club… on the back seat of my car.
  7. Substitute Socks. Once, my daughter went to a choral camp and forgot to pack her mandatory black socks for the performance. The director informed the choristers anyone not wearing black socks would have black duck tape as a substitute. So she bought a value pack of black Sharpies and colored her ankles black. Then she decided to design her legs. She got no duck tape. She wore shorts showing off her artwork on her bus ride home from the final performance. When I called her on the trip home to tell her we were getting our family portrait taken as soon as she got off the bus, she burst into peals of laughter and hung up on me before telling me what she had done. When I finally saw her “art,” I was so relieved nothing was pierced, and her hair wasn’t flourescent, that I was relieved it was only permanent marker.

Hint: permanent marker can come off skin and carseats with soap and hot water. (I don’t know about the dog.)

Sharpies help me think outside the box and try new things. That can be a good thing. In an adult.

Spawn Day?

As soon as I read what my teen had written as a birthday greeting on a friend’s Facebook wall, I nearly collapsed to the floor in a combo grand mal seizure/stroke.

“Happy spawn day.”

Where did he come up with this? What was he thinking? Then the dreaded:

What will other parents think when THEY read what MY kid wrote on Facebook?

I dashed to the intercom and paged Richard, “Get here right NOW!! Emergency!”

He raced up the stairs to find out what catastrophe had struck. “Look at that post! Talk to your son right now and get him to delete it. I can’t talk to him about spawning!”

He read it and told me, “Spawn means something different to a gamer. In video games, when you get a new life, it’s a spawn day. The status if fine. I’m not talking to him.”

So it ended. I resigned myself that all the other parents who know nothing about gaming would congratulate themselves that they were doing a better parenting job than the Bievers.

But then I got to thinking.

Don’t we want spawn days in life? If a spawn day is like a second chance day, then I’m glad to get them when I can. Maybe I can’t undo every mistake of the past.  Consequences last a lifetime.

However, I can forgive the problems of the past and make peace with them and spawn a new outlook in the present. Even if the same problems hit that have hit hundreds of times before, I can resolve to look at and repond to them differently.

When I change me and make who I am right now more giving and forgiving, I can change my whole world.

Which reminds me of a lesson I taught teens over and over again when I used to teach religious education classes on Sunday mornings:

God gives us room for second chances. No matter how badly we mess up, He’ll be there to listen and love us when we’re ready to ask.

I know I’ve made more than my share of mistakes. Even so, I got the chance to begin now, reinvent myself, and build a better life.

Thank God.

Today is my Spawn Day. It can be yours too – if you decide to make it happen.

Here’s to second chances! Cheers!

My I Spy Summer


Mary Biever, International Woman of Mystery

 This is a parable of why you should search your name on the Internet to monitor your brand.       

Several years ago, I noticed 2 of my kids’ friends, twin brothers, behaved strangely around me. They would walk around me, sometimes almost seeming to hide so I wouldn’t see them. I thought they were just odd.       

After 6 months, I learned they had made up a game about me – the Email Mary Spy Game. (My nickname used to be Email Mary because I organized nonprofit communities by way of email for many years.) They pretended I was an international spy, and their mission was to keep me under surveillance. They got extra points if they could walk around me without my noticing them.       

Kids were not going to outdo me on that one. I blogged it with a challenge. I invited hundreds of local families to join the Email Mary spy game, see when they would spy me, and tell me where later. For an entire summer, some played the game with me.    

It was a Where’s Email Mary Game. With 2 kids involved in everything, I was spied lots of places.       

Two years ago, I searched my profile on ZoomInfo. My listed occupation? International espionage agent. You never know what a spoof blog will do to your social media brand.       

I cleared it and knocked it off search but must make a confession.       

I’ve never been a spy.  My laugh alone would disqualify me.       

The golden rule of social media is CYA – cover your avatar. Be real. But be vigilant, especially if you’re a pranker.       

You never know which gag will land where on the Wild World Web. If my children one day write a book – maybe Life with Email Mary — or Mommy Social Media-ist, you’ll know why.

Llama Drama and Leadership Training

Her Llama invitation

“I want to have a llama program and llamas for bring a friend night,” my daughter, the new president of an urban 4-H club, told the planning committee last fall.

A city girl turned Future Farmers of America member who participates with a Livestock Club and raises backyard chickens, she wants to study agriculture. After seeing a llama program last year, she’s been obssessed with them.

I stayed out of her way to see what she would do.

She asked the church hosting our meeting’s permission. They said yes.

She scheduled the llama lady. Then she messaged the head leader it was set.

I called to give him warning before he saw her email. Dead silence on the phone. “She told us she wanted it in the planning meeting,” I explained.

“But I didn’t think she was serious!” he answered.

“You’ve known her for years. If you don’t tell her no, she does what she decides. If you do tell her no, she may still do it,” I told him.

I knew the girl who designed her 5th birthday cake with an erupting volcano on a Pacific island filled with palm trees, with cowboys and Indians fighting in canoes off the coast didn’t joke. (Yes, I decorated it.)

The church called. Because the meeting room had carpet, they wanted tarp on the floor.  She assured them and me that the llamas wouldn’t poop indoors. And she packed our tarp.

She drew a llama graphic and created a Facebook event so members could invite friends.

As we spread the tarp, I gasped in panic that it was close to a denim couch. “Won’t they eat the denim couch cushions?” I asked.

“Mother. Llamas are related to camels, not goats,” she admonished me in her strictest voice.

I shut the classroom door, worried the llamas would get loose and charge through the church halls.

Meeting time began. The llamas stayed on the tarp. They did not escape. They did not eat the denim couch. And they did not poop indoors.

And several kids brought friends.

Huge sigh of relief.

A leadership lesson smacked me when it was over.

If we want to groom teen leadership skills in a changing world, sometimes we have to give them space to try their outside the box ideas.

Some fail. Others work. All teach lessons.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

Hakuna ma-llama!

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