GUEST BLOG POST: Creating a Fantastic Relationship with Your Kid at Any Age by Fran Capo
I’m blessed. My son and I are best friends. People often ask what makes you and your son, Spencer so close? So I thought about it, talked to him about it, and here’s what it narrows down to.
To start with, I believe I had the best mom in the world. She was supportive, loving, fun, positive, spiritual, a great listener (that’s probably how I became a fast talker) and taught me nothing was impossible. I could tell her anything. Everyone wanted to adopt my mom as their mom. My mom was a housewife, and although she worked before she had us (I have a sister), when we came along, we were her world. It wasn’t until much later in life, after we were grown, that she worked again and became an assistant teacher.
Okay, so fast forward….
When I had Spencer, I was determined to be that same kind of mom, only I had to balance slightly different challenges. I was divorced when he was only four months old (no pity, my choice), and I took sole custody and remained friends with my ex. I also had a full time career as a stand up comic traveling all the time. I had to come up with a strategy of how to raise a kid I didn’t want to disown later in life. I needed to institute the Capo plan.
BE A HANDS ON MOM
I was determined not to be an absentee mom. I was determined to raise my own kid and not let somebody else do it. To make that work, I had to bring him and my mom on the road with me. She’d watch him while I was onstage. If my mom couldn’t do it, I’d work out deals with other comics or club owners. Together we toured the country, almost like a vaudeville act. This worked great until he was ready to go to school. Then I just took more local gigs, or writing assignments, and left the traveling to weekends when he could be on the road with me. I managed to never miss a school play, a tournament, a parent teacher’s conference, a birthday or any holiday and he had perfect attendance! Plus we bonded and he got a ton of cool experiences.
GIVE HIM (OR HER) POSITIVE PROGRAMMING and EYE TO EYE CONTACT
From the beginning, I wanted to give Spencer a heads up on life I would have to program him with positive thoughts. I had the words, ”I am a winner; God guides me always; and Nothing is Impossible.” Of course he was still just babbling in his crib, but I would run my finger over the words from the day he was born and read these out loud to him. I wanted him to be armed with self-esteem and a belief in a higher power to counter negative influences. I wanted to teach him the stuff they leave out in school. Now, being a normal kid, there were times I needed to get his attention. So, I would kneel down to be on eye level with him. (Hey it works with hit men, why not with kids?!) and I’d look him straight in the eyes, “Spencer, Mommy needs you to do this now. Do you understand?” It always worked. It makes a huge difference in the response level, if you are talking soul to soul, and are not just some barking mouth from another room, or looming over him pointing the accusing finger of doom at his forehead.
MAKE HIM PICK HIS OWN PUNISHMENT
Now even with all these methods of bonding, I did not raise a Stepford child. My kid did his fair share of not listening, missing homeworks assignments and kid pranks. So, like any good mother, I would have to instate a suitable punishment. But why go with the traditional when you could make them pick their own? I’d ask, “So Spencer, you didn’t do your homework…how do you think you could learn the lesson not to do this again? What would you do if you were a parent?” I’d give him suggestions; No TV? Time out? Game Boy taken away for a week? Cat litter duty for a month? He was usually harder on himself than I would be, and he could never say it was unfair because he chose the punishment.
SCHEDULE QUALITY TIME
As career women, there is not always a lot of time. But don’t mistake quantity for quality. I always made sure we had daily “Mommy-Spencer time.” It could be as simple as reading a book together, coloring, playing hide and seek, meditating in the woods or as elaborate as doing a whale watching adventure, rolling down a grassy hill, an ultra-light flying lesson, sleeping in hammocks in a tree or climbing Kilimanjaro. Anything that created memories, was fun, and would make for a great photo album shot.
MAKE THE WORLD A LESSON
You can learn from everything you do. It could be a simple as shopping in the supermarket where I’d have Spencer read me the ingredients on the back of a soup can, or to very complex observation games, “So Spencer, what kind of job do you think that pedestrian over there has” Really, why do you think she’s a dentist?” I’d also get a kick out teaching him big words. I remember when Spencer was two, we were in an elevator in Vegas, and he was in his carriage sucking on a pacifier. A man said, “Oh, how cute. What does he call his pacifier?” I said, “He calls it a pacifier”. The man said, “No, mam, I mean what does HE call it. A bo-bo?” I repeated, “He calls it a pacifier?” Meanwhile Spencer was just sucking away on it. Finally the man asked a third time. Spencer took it out of his mouth, looked right up at the man and said, “PACIFIER.” The man was shocked. We laughed. Kids have an amazing power to learn, just teach them.
TANTRUMS WERE NOT TOLERATED
Luckily, only on one occasion did I ever have to experience Spencer having a temper tantrum. We were in a K-mart and he started to scream for a toy. I laughed, “Really is that the loudest you can scream? Please scream louder. I don’t think the manager can hear you.” He took me up on my offer and bellowed out. Meanwhile his face turned bright red. I smiled and ignored him. Parents stared, I shrugged my shoulders. When he saw I didn’t give in, he realized his method wasn’t going to work. Kids learn quickly what they can and cannot get away with.
ANSWER ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING AND BE A ROLE MODEL
No matter what question Spencer asked me, I’d answer. Yes…anything; about sex, my life, why I divorced his dad, anything. Of course, I made it age appropriate…but I’d never said, “You’re too young to know that, or go ask someone else.” Luckily, I led a pretty straight life. The bottom line is you can’t be a hypocrite and tell him not to do something if you’ve done it. But, you can guide them and say, “Wow I did this really stupid thing and messed up, so probably not a good idea to do it.” Now I’m not saying, burden you’re child with heavy adult problems, I’m just saying all questions deserve an honest answer. And for goodness sake if you tell your kid to clean his room, make sure yours is clean as well. None of this, “Do as I say, not as I do” crap. We all want to protect our kids from stupid things, but they will learn their own lessons no matter what.
MAKE YOUR HOME THE COOL HANG OUT
Want to know where your kid is at all times? Simple…make your home the cool hang out. Create the place where he and his friends can make the movie (Not R rated), stay up till 3 am during sleep overs, play music loud (till 11 PM) or get home made chocolate chip cookies. Also let them know there are definite rules of respect. Guide them, but make it okay to be a kid. Have an open door policy.
KNOW WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOUR CHILD
Each of us are individuals. Is your kid sensitive? Does he need to talk or be left alone when something bad happens? Is he a pouter? Work with who he is so you can know when to communicate to be most effective. Also administer tons of well deserved praise and appreciation. Everyone likes to be thanked, even kids.
HUMOR IS KEY
Okay, humor may be a defense mechanism, but it’s also a great stress reliever, and helps put things into perspective. Always find the humor in a situation. When Spencer was younger, we’d have pillow fights, or tickle fights. Now since we both are comics, some sarcastic lines back and forth brings smiles and laughter. And yes, occasionally, we still have pillow fights, snowball fights or play box.
BE A PARENT FIRST, FRIEND SECOND. BUT ALWAYS TALK FROM YOUR HEART AND IN TERMS OF HONEST FEELINGS
Some parents are so concerned with being “liked” by their kids that they try to be their friends first, then parents. Nope. Parenting is not necessarily a popularity contest. Kids need to feel the security. They need rules, discipline and guidance. But you can do it in such a way that they know you still love them, and that leads to a great friendship.
ALWAYS BE READY TO LISTEN, EVEN AT 4AM
I cannot tell you how many times Spencer comes home from a night club at 4AM, and I hear him come in, and I can tell he’s excited. I say, “How did it go?” He’ll come into my room, lie on my bed and tell me about his night. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out talk, just enough to say, “Hey, I’m your mom, and I’m happy when you’re happy.” And if he’s upset, and I’m in the middle of work, I’ll say, “Okay give me a minute, I need to finish this up so I can give you my full attention.” Sometimes his timing is awful and I’m on deadline for something, but the few minutes that he needs to feel I care, is worth the time out.
TEACH YOUR CHILD GRATITUDE and MEDITATION
A good way to keep things in perspective is to be grateful, so I taught Spencer every morning the simple exercise of start out everyday with thoughts of gratitude. I also told him one of the most important things he can learn in life, is to know himself, and for that he needs introspection. To ask himself questions as to why he does what he does? I also taught him to meditate, a practice I follow.
SAY I LOVE YOU EVERY NIGHT
Simple. Never go to sleep without telling your child you love them. To this day, even if Spencer is not home, we text each other, “Goodnight, love you.” As a kid I would give him, “a million hugs and kisses.” I still do that to embarrass him in front of his girlfriends, but the odd thing is, he never gets embarrassed by it, and his male friends all think it’s nice.
Spencer is now 22, (although I tell him to lie about his age so people don’t figure out mine) but anyone who knows us, knows we are extremely close. Everything we did together growing up, we still do now; we hang out together, talk, listen, say I love you. Sure there were times I may have wanted to kick his butt for worrying me, or needed to straighten him out about something stupid he did without thinking, but the love is always there. (I also know there were times he wanted to tell me to lighten up on him). But to this day, we are best friends. He is the light of my world. And the beauty is, anyone can have this relationship with their kids. If you have this relationship already….great, if not, start now. Go out there, hug your kid, and tell them why you love them. It works miracles. Respect comes from love, not fear.
Fran Capo is a comedienne, 16-time author, keynote motivational speaker, award-winning TV host of “Live it Up!”, spokesperson, adventurer, and Travel Adventure Mom blogger. She’s also a five-time world record holder, known as the Guinness Book of World Records fastest talking female. She has been on over 4500 radio shows, and 350 television shows worldwide including; Entertainment Tonight, The Late Show, Larry King Live and Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Her “Cuppa Capo’s” humorous motivational Vlogs can be received by subscribing at www.youtube.com/cuppacapo. She publishes the e- newsletter, “Capo update” where she shares publicity tips, movie reviews, her appearances and adventures like Tornado Chasing, and going down to the wreck site of the Titanic. She has spoken to Fortune 500 companies re: “Dare to Do it”, “Creativity in Marketing” and “Humor in Business Speaking and Everyday Life.” Visit http://www.francapo.com/. Follow her on twitter.com/francapo and facebook.com/francapo.