No Job Too Small

Caroline Manzo tackles questions on spoiled children, gift giving, and handling learning disabilities.

Got a question for Caroline? Send it.

Angie from Ramsey, NJ says: Caroline, how do you keep your kids so grounded and generous when you give them all they need? Like you, we live in a more affluent area in New Jersey. My kids do not want for anything, and I'm struggling with it and worried they won't appreciate what they have. Even things like dance lessons, singing lessons, camps, etc. They just seem to take all these luxuries for granted.

Caroline says: I think that today's parents are losing sight of the simplicity of childhood. What I mean by that is we put our children in every extra curricular program we can think of. You run from dance to gymnastics to hockey to singing lessons, etc, etc, etc. 

It's overload! Children need down time, and they also need to keep themselves busy and motivated by doing simple things; reading a book, playing jump rope on the sidewalk, going outside and playing with the dog. No need for constant entertainment.  

My kids had a great childhood, but they weren't involved in every activity under the sun. They were home a lot and were expected to do chores around the house. They came with us when we dropped clothes and toys off at shelters and we explained to them that others were grateful for receiving things that we had outlived our use for and were prepared to throw away.

As they grew older they each had to go work with their dad so they understood how hard he worked to provide us with the lifestyle we lived. They cleaned garbage pails, swept floors, washed dishes, and even cleaned vomit when necessary. No job was too small. We raised them to respect what they had by showing them the value of hard work and sacrifice.  

Giving your child too much without teaching them how to give of themselves is a mistake. They need to understand and appreciate their blessings.

Amy from Commack, NY says: I wanted to ask you if you had some pointers for helping ADHD/ADD boys in school. Both my sons have ADD, and it seems difficult to get them to do their homework and study. I want them to have the best options in life, but I'm afraid without some good study skills they won't be able to make it to college.

Caroline says: I hear what you're saying, Amy, but I don't want you to allow negative thoughts to get the best of you.

Your sons have the capacity to learn, they just learn differently. You didn't mention if the boys are receiving special services through your school system. If they are, you should be in constant contact with their case manager and together try to come up with a study pattern that works for your child. For example, if they have an issue with visual perception have their study materials dictated to them, their auditory skills may be stronger allowing them to absorb the information by listening rather than reading.

When doing homework don't put them on overload. Take your time and give them what they can handle at a pace that works for them. I'd rather the boys not finish the workload and hand in one or two completed assignments that were given their undivided attention instead of a bunch of assignments that barely registered because their concentration level was off.

When my kids were little and they had a challenging assignment, I'd sit with them and do the work as if I were a classmate and talk it through with them. I'd ask questions and complain as if I didn't understand the subject and they loved it. They responded with laughter, and believe it or not, they focused on the subject and got the work done. Have a conversation with your child's teacher, explain your issues, and hopefully together you can come up with some creative ways to get homework done. It may take them a day or two to turn the work in, but make sure they do it, dismissing it is not an option.  

Your sons may become frustrated and act out from time to time, Amy, that's completely understandable. You have to keep your composure, take a step back, and breathe. Your boys have a learning disability; that doesn't mean they don't have the capacity to learn. It means their ability to learn is different than others, so what?

Have an open line of communication with your boys' school and especially the special education department. Be proactive in their education and never lose faith in their ability to learn. My son Albie has a learning disability and graduated from Fordham University with a degree in business in 2008. By the way, his guidance counselor told us that he probably would never make it into Fordham, let alone graduate. I'm sharing this with you to make you understand how important it is to have faith in your kids; don't ever let anyone knock them down.

Good luck, Amy!

Maheen from Dix Hills, New York says: I would like advice. It's my mom's birthday in two weeks, and I need tips on what to get her. She already has a lot of clothes, bags, watches, and jewelry, but I really want to surprise her.  What advice would you give me?

Caroline says: It sounds to me that your mom has everything she needs in a material sense, Maheen, so why don't you go a different route -- give her you for her birthday! Take her out and spend the day with her doing things that she loves. Maybe do dinner and a movie, if she likes to garden, go to the nursery buy a flat of flowers and plant them together. The options are endless. I think the memory of a fun filled day with you will mean more to her than any dress or handbag ever will!

Nidhi from New York, NY says: I am a 31-year-old and looking for my Mr. Right to settle down with. At the same time, my parents have been looking as well. However, it's kind of difficult when my parents seem to look at what's on paper as opposed to the whole package, and more importantly, what makes me happy. I understand we have grown up in different times, and they will always want what's best for me, but how do I explain to them that what they decide is not always best for me? I want to say it in a way which will help them understand while bringing us closer together.  

Caroline says: You just did a pretty good job of explaining your feelings in your question, Nidhi. Every parent wants their child to find the perfect mate, live in a perfect home, have perfect kids, have the perfect job, and live a fairytale existence. Well that's not too realistic, wouldn't you agree?

When choosing a partner, the decision is yours to make based on what makes you happy and what you want out of life, no one else's.

Tell your parents that you appreciate their concern and love them for their efforts, but they have to let go and realize that you're an adult who is more than capable of making her own decisions.

I've seen girlfriends and boyfriends come and go in my children's lives. Some I've liked, and some would make me cringe. The bottom line is this -- I want to see my children happy.  

It's your life, Nidhi, no one can live it for you -- live it your way and be happy.  


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