Parenting Resolving Conflict Teens and Tweens

Teaching Our Kids the Value of Friendship

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

As a stay-at-home mom turned work-at-home business owner, I don’t meet a lot of people. Since Dave works from home, too, it’s difficult for us to make new friends. The only people who come to our door that we don’t know are the Mormon Missionaries. Luckily, the friends I do have are ones to cherish. Dave is still friends with his best friend from grade school, Ed; and I’m still friends with my first friend, Rachelle.

Friendship is such an important aspect of motherhood. I’m still friends with a few friends from high school. And I’ve made great friends with some of the mothers of my daughters’ friends (cheer practice and dance lessons used to get me out of the house). These friendships are important, not just for me but to show my children how important friendships are.

According to research (Ferrer & Fugate), “Friends are vital to school-age children’s healthy development. Research has found that children who lack friends can suffer from emotional and mental difficulties later in life. Friendships provide children with more than just fun playmates. Friendships help children develop emotionally and morally. In interacting with friends, children learn many social skills, such as how to communicate, cooperate, and solve problems.”

Friendships last when the people in the friendship know how to be good friends. Kids learn that from the friendships they see. Do you treat your friends with respect? Are you there for them when they need help? Do you do thoughtful things for your friends? Are you a loyal friend?

Parents can foster friendship skills in children through (1) positive parent-child interactions; (2) parents’ roles as supervisors, coaches, and advisers during children’s play; and (3) parents’ roles as providers of social opportunities.

It takes time to build friendships and establish and maintain that sense of trust. It is important for children to understand and develop the skills for building and maintaining different types of friendships and relationships with their peers as well as other people in their environment. When our kids see us behaving in a way that demonstrates the power and value of friendship, they will model that behavior in their own friendships and relationships.


Family Teens and Tweens

Don’t Be the Asshole That Turns Away Teenagers on Halloween

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

Halloween is for all ages, right? That’s what everyone says. But apparently, according to sanctimonious buttheads, trick-or-treating is only for young children. Who decided that? Where is that rule written? Personally, I’ve never seen a manual for the rules of trick-or-treating. Yes, I understand labeling parties and events for certain ages, but that’s where it should stop. I’d rather see teens trick-or-treating than doing who knows what else on Halloween night.

Refusing candy can cause real damage.

There is no reason why teens shouldn’t be given candy at the same discretion as little kids. Refusing to give candy can also really hurt those kids who are just a bit tall for their age or look older than they are. Unless you’re asking every child, who comes to the door how old they are, you risk making a child feel self-conscious and damaging their self-esteem. Not only are they potentially navigating puberty earlier than their friends, but now they must deal with an asshole like you refusing to hand over the chocolate bar.

There aren’t many alternatives for teens.

Some towns or schools may offer a Halloween party or dance for the older kids, but many don’t. They are either stuck at home handing out candy to younger kids or left to their own devices. This could range from some relatively harmless wandering (but what could really come of wandering) to toilet paper and eggs flying all over the neighborhood.

Let kids be kids.

If kids want to trick-or-treat up until they are college graduates, let it happen. I’d much rather a child be wolfing down packets of m&ms than chugging cans of cheap beer. Some kids aren’t even allowed to trick-or-treat at a young age, leaving their teen years the only opportunity that they’ll ever have. It’s a nostalgic experience, which is why many parents take their own kids every year. It’s supposed to be fun, so don’t be a witch.

Don’t be the asshole that robs kids of a fun and safe night out. It’s just candy. If you have such a problem with it, leave your damn porch light off and let the rest of us enjoy our Halloween. And I hope your house gets egged by the kids you refuse to give candy too. Sorry, not sorry.

Parenting Raising Healthy Kids Teens and Tweens

Stay Engaged with Your Teenagers

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

After being a parent for 20+ years, I can tell you that it’s OK to get tired. Motherhood is a full-time job, and when you’re balancing the needs of multiple people for that many years, you can get a little burnt out. They say the youngest child gets freer reign because parents are too exhausted to keep the same stringent effort going. I think it’s because we’ve learned what’s really important to draw a line in the sand about, and we’ve just become more efficient parents. While it’s funny to joke about, it’s so important to stay engaged with your teenagers, whether it’s your first or last.

My daughter, Anika, is the youngest of five kids. Although we have successfully raised four of our children to adulthood at this point, she still needs us. There are still two adult children living with us, along with the spouse of one of those children, their toddler, and their soon-to-arrive newborn baby. There’s a lot to juggle in this household and a lot of demands, so it can be easy to forget the teenager who doesn’t cause much of a fuss is still just a 15-year old girl.

Anika doesn’t cause trouble. She loves and excels at school, does her homework without a fight, does her chores, and is a joy to be around. Her list of extracurriculars is impressive, and she spends her free time quietly reading or working on her next book. Anika has skipped two grades, is set on her plans for the future, has already applied for college, and is researching scholarships to help fund her dreams. What does she need us, her parents, for? Anika seems to have a handle on everything.

However, despite the chaos of our household and having been through the teenage years four times already, my youngest daughter needs me now more than ever.

There are some real positives to being the youngest. I can afford things like season tickets to the Broadway series at our local playhouse. I can buy what Anika needs without worrying that it is taking from the grocery budget to do so. Kira, our oldest daughter, did not have that luxury. But it can really suck being the youngest, too. All of Anika’s siblings have privileges as adults that she doesn’t yet have, whether it’s voting or going to events without asking permission. She wants to keep up. She wants to do what her older siblings do. She doesn’t want to sit at the kid’s table, so to speak. So she feels pressure to have all the answers and to “keep up,” or risk being left out, lectured by everyone older than her, or made to feel like she’s still a baby. For as mature as Anika is, she still has very little control over her life.

Right now is when Anika needs me the most. All of our teenagers need us to stay engaged, even when they seem completely in control. There are still emotions that need worked through and questions that need answered, even if they act like they know everything or have a handle on it all. They need to know that you’re there for every step, even if you’re not necessarily needed.

Most importantly, as the youngest, she needs to know she’s not a burden. I might be tired and stressed because of adult kids, kids-in-law, and grandkids, but right now, Anika is my priority. Our teens may be creeping towards adulthood, but they deserve the same time and attention and support as the firstborn as they get there. Hopefully you’re less anxious the second, third, and fourth time around, but each child brings new challenges. Each child has unique needs that emerge at different periods of their life, and you simply don’t know when your teenager is going to need you.

I won’t lie that it’s hard to balance everything in my life, but my teenager deserves the priority. My grandchild has her own parents, and the rest of my children get a different type of support now that they’re adults. We’re on the last leg of my youngest child’s journey, and it’s too early to let her loose. She still needs me, even when she won’t admit it, and I’ll do everything I can to demonstrate that I’m here.


Adult Children Parenting Raising Healthy Kids Teens and Tweens

Don’t Expect Your Kids to Have all the Answers at 18

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Do you have all the answers? If you don’t, why should your kids?

The career I chose at 18 is not anything close to the career and business I have built today. But I grew up with a dad who got a job when he was 18 and stayed in the same industry his whole life until he retired. He was with the same company my entire life, so I tried to do the same. A dozen jobs later, I finally realized there was no corporate fit for me, especially not with all the atrocious (read: misogynist) bosses out there.

So why should I expect my own kids to choose a path at 18 years old? Between 18 and now, my path has changed a more times than I can count, and I would have never predicted that I would be where I am today (in motherhood, in my career, in my location, in my future goals). But it’s easy to forget that as our children graduate high school and are expected to launch their own lives.

The second our children step foot into middle school, the interest inventories begin. When Kira first took these tests, she wanted to be a professional cheerleader. Parker wanted to be a musician, then a filmmaker. Anika wanted to be a dancer, then an actress. Those career choices don’t fit neatly into the school counselor’s box. My interests happen to include painting, something I didn’t even take up until I was 40.

Your personality and interests are then cross-matched with your career testing, which measures your skills. The test results tell you a list of fields you should consider, all of which require college for at least 4 years. The school counselors certainly aren’t going to encourage a non-traditional path like “move to Hollywood and try to break into the movie industry, or move to New York City and work as a waitress while you try out for plays.” But by the time you’re in your junior year of high school, you’re expected to know what your life plans are. You took all the tests, so it should be easy, right?

When has standardized testing ever offered a reliable answer?

Our children’s brains haven’t even finishing developing by the time they’ve graduated from high school. Most young adults are well into their college degrees by the time the frontal lobe has fully matured, and at that point, decisions have been made that make many kids feel obligated to keep going in the direction they started – and with loans that keep them bound to work to keep paying loans. These students feel locked into careers and choices that they made because they were forced to have all the answers when they were just kids who really just needed more recess time. Turning 18 somehow is supposed to mean that you know what you want to do with the rest of your life.


Having all the answers is an unrealistic expectation that places unnecessary pressure on our kids. What do you want to do with your life? What is your next step? At age 18, why is “I don’t know” such a horrible answer? I wish I had had the guts to say that when I was 18, because I truly didn’t know.

I’m not saying you should let your kids graduate from high school and then sit at home playing video games all day long. Your kids should still be designing their own lives and learning to care for themselves, but rushing off to college and loans and debt may not be the answer. Let them get a job, an internship, or take some free online courses to help them define what they want to do. Let them spend a year backpacking across Europe. As long as they are doing something to help them learn about who they are, they’re doing the right thing.

The biggest mistake a parent can make is to expect their kids to have all the answers at age 18. Your kid may legally be considered an adult, but they still need you for guidance.

I don’t have all the answers as an adult, so no, I don’t expect my 18 year old to know everything either.


Parenting Sponsored Content Teens and Tweens

Raising Confident Sons with High Self-Esteem

This post is sponsored by Mirum, but opinions expressed are my own.

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

We talk so often about raising strong girls and raising girls with high self-esteem, but we don’t often talk about how important it is to raise confidant sons who have high self-esteem too. They need our support and guidance, our love and encouragement just as much as our daughters do in order to become confident. My youngest son (of 3) just turned 18. At 18, our sons still very much need us to be part of their support system. Here are five ways to help raise  confidant sons with high self-esteem.

Don’t Withdraw Affection

As our sons get older (and taller than us) it might seem like they are more men than boys, but our sons still need us to be loving and affectionate. I tell him I love him every day. My youngest son is still at home, and we still sit together each night before bed and talk about our favorite parts of the day and share a hug. It’s something we’ve done since he was two, and something that has continued into his late teens.

Spend Time Doing Fun Things with Your Son

My son loves movies and concerts. I let his dad head to all the head banging metal shows he likes to go to, but we go to movies together quite often. It’s a fun way to get out and spend time together and have a shared experience. Since the movie theater is about 40 minutes away, we get plenty of time to talk while we drive to and from the movie. It’s  great time to chat about anything – you’d be surprised how quickly your teen son will open up when you’re focused on driving and not looking at them.

Let Your Son Be Himself

Teenage boys are under so much pressure to fit in, find their way, and survive high school that what they really need from their moms is the ability to just be who they are. I’ve never wanted my kids to be mini-mes or think just like me. I strive to raise kids who think for themselves, question everything (including me), and challenge me to grow. My son does just that – whether we’re debating the merits of a movie or a political movement. He feels comfortable doing that because we encourage him and all of our kids to be themselves and be proud of who they are – with no pressure from us to conform to our beliefs or ways of thinking.

Teach Your Sons It’s OK to Feel

Why do we still try to push this version of manhood on boys where they have to be tough all the time? Why can’t a “real man” be sensitive and kind? In our house, our boys have always been encouraged to be kind and thoughtful; we’ve never discouraged them from having emotions or feeling deeply. And crying is definitely allowed in our house.

Teach Your Son About Life and Living

I want my sons to understand how to take care of their bodies and their minds. Raising confidant sons means teaching them about self-care just like we teach our daughters. We discuss everything from healthy eating to getting enough sleep to hygiene. In fact, I’m the one who taught my son to shave, how to use aftershave, and the importance of showering, wearing deodorant, and using body spray appropriately. Our son recently reevaluated his future plans – college, career, etc. and we’ve been talking about how his future is not a dead end but more like a Phoenix – the bird that burns up in fire only to be born again from the ashes. So it’s appropriate that we’re headed to Wegmans today to check out these AXE products. Having the right hygiene products really does boost confidence. Right now, AXE Phoenix products are on sale at Wegmans (our favorite store).

AXE Phoenix Body Wash – This body wash smells great and lasts a long time.


AXE Phoenix 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner – Mint and rosemary, my favorite combination of scents, works well and offers so much convenience.

AXE Phoenix Deodorant Stick for Men  – AXE Phoenix deodorant stick is long-lasting, giving all-day confidence.

Get $1.50 back through Checkout 51 on ANY AXE product at Wegmans through 9/19/2018

Raising sons to be confident and have high self-esteem is so important. As a mom, it’s often easier to find ways to connect with and talk to my daughters about life, but our sons need to hear from us too. Our sons have been very lucky to have a hands-on, work-from home dad who cooks and does laundry, but how do boys learn how to treat girls if it doesn’t start with their moms and sisters? I talk to my sons about everything, from no means no to not giving their heart away too lightly to making sure they take care of their bodies and minds.

How do YOU inspire confidence and build self-esteem in your sons?

Share your tips with the hashtag #AXEplanations to @MomsGetReal on Twitter or share in the comments below!


Adult Children Parenting Teens and Tweens

Letting Your Kids Fail is Good Parenting

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Letting your kids fail is good parenting. There are risks in every decision. As moms, we encourage our children to try and try again, but sometimes it’s easy to skim over what failing teaches us. Sometimes it’s not as simple as getting back on that bike until you can successfully ride it. There are life decisions, especially as children get older, that are much more complicated. Try and try again doesn’t pertain to every scenario and believing that success must come after failure can be really harmful.

Failure is not as negative as it’s portrayed.

We’re often taught to believe that failing is disastrous, but letting your kids fail teaches them so much. Our inability to accomplish something doesn’t mean that we’ve either made a mistake somewhere or that something is inherently wrong with who we are. Failing is a critical experience, and it’s a strong guiding force in future decisions. With support, our kids can realize that failing can be a positive experience.

There is a lesson in every failure.

Life is an experiment. Every time your kids fail they learn something. As parents, it’s our job to protect them from the most drastic consequences, but we should also encourage them to get up and brush themselves off. If plan A didn’t work, don’t push them right into plan B. It’s ok to let them know that sometimes it’s time to go back to the drawing board. It’s ok to change your mind, change directions, change your path – no matter how long you’ve been working toward something. Sometimes, you have to scrap the plan completely or change some of the strategy and try again. Your kids will discover what went wrong and they will have you right there with them to help figure it out.

It’s about the journey.

Failing is not the nightmare everyone thinks it is. Even successful corporations are discovering that when their employees feel safe to fail, creativity and innovation soars. People are happier and feel confident that they can try something new without being punished. Your kids deserve the same freedom, and if you are there to prevent every tragedy, they aren’t going to learn anything. Failing builds confidence in that they can succeed if they keep persisting. Failing teaches that it’s ok to regroup and start over.

This is especially important as our kids start to venture out on their own. Our kids know that if things don’t go right, there is always a place for them with us. There is no chastising for not succeeding. There is only celebration in the journey, the learning, and the experience. There is only encouragement to figure out the next step. You don’t want to miss letting your children know that it’s ok to decide that maybe bike riding isn’t their thing, and that it’s ok to never learn to ride at all. Simply because your child fails at one thing, doesn’t mean they can’t succeed at another. The only way to know is to try and fail, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.


Love Parenting Teens and Tweens

Your Anxieties Are Not Your Child’s Problem: Don’t Make Your Kids Neurotic

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Your anxieties are not your child’s problem. As mothers, we have worried about our children since conception, but it’s not fair to voice every one of those concerns. Doing so will transfer that stress to your children, and for what? Are your concerns even rational? Some may certainly be, but others, not so much.

For example, my youngest son Parker, is heading off to college in just a few short weeks. I am so proud of Parker and I am very excited that he is reaching this milestone. However, I’m a wreck, to put it nicely. To be fair, in my mind he is still the two-year-old boy who insisted on drumming songs for me at every turn.

So I’m not sleeping at night, because I’m imagining every scenario that could possibly go wrong from the most minuscule event to worst case scenario. What if his roommates are horrendous people? What if he falls into the wrong crowd and engages in underage drinking? What if he oversleeps, misses all his classes, and then flunks out of college? He is going to starve outside my house, or get mugged, or who knows what else! I want to bombard him with every lesson I can think of before he steps foot into a dorm room and put that record on repeat.

But I cancelled the hotel reservation for the two nights after he moves into the dorm because he really doesn’t need us there “just in case.” He’ll be busy with orientations and settling in and getting to know his suite mates and figuring out where his classes are. It’s me that’s basket-casing about this step, not him.

Parker will be just fine.

This is my internal struggle. Sharing all these concerns frantically is not going to do Parker any good. He has his own anxieties, like any young adult heading off to college, and adding mine to the pile will only make things worse. This is an important independent step that my child is choosing to take, and he doesn’t need another lecture from me about how to stay safe, make good choices, or the more reasonable things, like to not ever get in a car with another human being. He’s heard it all before, and at this point, it won’t be helpful. All I will communicate is my lack of confidence in his abilities, and that could crush him. And the thing is, I am totally confident in his ability to handle this. The worry monster is my own hangup.

What Parker does need is my support.

Parker needs me to be his cheerleader. I need to encourage him in this adventure and life-forwarding step with enthusiasm and confidence, even if he decides to do something that I’m not the biggest fan of (like move across the country next year to finish his schooling and be 2,500 miles away from me or…date). If it’s legal and safe, he is an adult. It’s none of my business, other than offering support.

I can force myself to step back and be more rational with my own anxieties, because we’ve already done most of the hard work. We have spent time raising independent kids who are capable of thriving in the world without us hovering over them. What I’m struggling with are my own irrational worries, and even if they are valid, Parker must take this next step without me.  Deep down, I know that Parker will be just fine, and we are always here if he needs us. It’s simply time for him to fly solo, and even if I’m not ready, he certainly is. That’s what’s important.

Parenting Teens and Tweens

Should I Let My Child Work Part-Time?

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

When I was in high school, I worked 20-30 hours a week during the school year and full time in the summer. My husband did not work at all during high school. Our initial reaction to our children working during school was based on experience—we both thought it was unnecessary. I looked back on my high school work experience and thought about how the cooks at Pizza Hut taught me to play quarters and how the first time I ever was exposed to pot, it was from the guys at the restaurant where I worked on summer, and I absolutely didn’t want my kids to be out in that. Dave thought working during school took away from the ability to focus on homework and participate in school functions.

I recognize that not every family has a choice. Sometimes, the kids get to work as soon as possible to help support the family. We are lucky and privileged to not be in that position, but when there is a choice in the matter, it can be a tough one. Having a general rule about whether or not our kids should work part-time didn’t work for us, though, as each of our children had different needs.

Our oldest son was not involved in many extracurricular activities at school.  He had a lot of free time on his hands and was not very active socially.  He wanted to save money for after graduation.  He had very good grades.  When he wanted to continue working his summer job when school started, we had no reason to say no.

When Kira was 16, she wanted to work. She never had enough clothes and always had a busy social calendar.  We discouraged her from working because she was a varsity cheerleader who had several obligations during the summer and school year and barely had time to keep up with homework and spend a small amount of time with her family.  She was a straight A student, but the demands placed on her by being on her team were more than enough for someone her age.  We allowed her to baby-sit (and paid her to baby-sit her younger brother and sister). Babysitting was a great way to make extra money while still allowing her the flexibility she needs. Eventually, she got a job at Cafe Ole, where she worked until the jerky boss wouldn’t deal with the jerky cooks who kept hitting on her.

Parker and Anika benefit from us owning a business. Parker is actually responsible for much of the repair of this website. When I moved from one host to another, it wiped out all of the images. He has painstakingly gone through the older blogs and reviewed them, adding images and pulling blogs that no longer have any relevance. Anika is just getting to the age where she can work, but because she’s graduating from high school early, she won’t even turn 16 until part-way through her senior year, making it unlikely that she’ll have the time to get a job. She also has worked for us in the past, and she’s publishing her first book and working on her second, so I’m not worried.

Whether or not to let your child have a part-time job depends a lot on the child. Like everything else with raising kids, whether or not you should let your child work part-time is an individual decision based on that child’s needs and abilities.


Parenting Teens and Tweens Toddlers

Quit Wrestling. Let Your Toddler Dress Herself

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

By the time our youngest daughter, Anika, was 3, she was a fashion queen. She was a confident and happy little girl who liked to make a statement.  She wore hats—a baseball cap to the side, or a flowery concoction, or even a winter cap as a part of her outfit. Fast-forward a decade-plus, and Anika’s fashion sense has matured, but it hasn’t changed. She still loves hats and wears unique combinations. She also wears wigs and lives for moments when she can get away with a little more than the school dress code typically allows.

Now, I feel like I’m reliving Anika’s toddlerhood through my granddaughter, Hallie. Hallie, who is not quite 2, has already learned how to dress herself – not because she wants to get dressed, as she prefers to be naked – but so that she can have control over what she wears. And l’m reminded of all the tricks we used to keep Anika dressed, especially when it was too cold for her skirts and sandals.


Don’t Restrict What They Wear – Just Add Layers

A pair of pants or leggings underneath a skirt will keep her legs warm while still letting her wear what she wants to wear.  She can do the same with a turtleneck underneath the top or dress to keep her arms warm.  Since hats of any kind make a great fashion statement, a collection of wool caps in all colors can help keep their little heads covered without forcing the stubborn little fashionistas from sacrificing their own personal style.

Let Them Have Control

Let your child feel like she is in control.  If she has to wear covered shoes instead of sandals, let her pick them out.  If she picks them and likes them, she will be more apt to wear them. Do the same with socks – and quit worrying whether or not the socks match.

Make Mornings Easier 

When Anika was young, we had to be out the door early in the morning to get her to daycare and me to school. To make it easier on everyone, we set out the clothes the night before—but I let her pick them. That way, she knew exactly what she would be wearing when she woke up.

My struggles with Anika and clothes started around the time she was 3. Hallie is not quite 2 and already demonstrating the same stubborn inflexibility about who gets to pick her clothes.


At the end of the day, though, no one is going to care if her socks match or whether or not she had coordinated her outfit with her shoes. And she’ll be happier for it.

Oh,  and it’s great practice for the wrestling you’ll do about clothes when they’re teens … But that’s another story!

Adult Children Parenting Raising Healthy Kids Teens and Tweens

Raising Independent Children, Part One

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

During our oldest son’s junior year in high school, he decided to look into military service as an option after graduation. Reports of young men and women dying in service were on the news regularly. However, we had always tried to teach our son to be independent and think for himself. He had strong convictions about serving his country as well as practical reasons like getting college funding.

We went with him to meet with the recruiter, and asked nearly as many questions as he did. We left the recruiter’s office and explained to our son that it was the recruiter’s job to “sell” him on joining, but that he was free to change his mind and go to college or work after graduation. Most importantly, we told him we would support his decision and then we let him decide what to do. (That doesn’t mean I didn’t go to bed many nights and fear for his safety).

Helping our child grow up into a happy adult meant allowing him control over his destiny, even when it was not what we pictured for his future. He had always wanted to be a math teacher, and now he wanted to become a soldier.

He ended up spending 10 years in the Army, including an 18-month tour in Iraq and three years in Japan before, during, and after the tsunami. We were proud of him even as we continued to lose sleep worrying about his safety.  Now, he is out of the Army and happily working in the private sector. He is happy—happy with his life and his choices.  That’s all we could ask for. Getting him to keep in touch is another story!!