There is a 50% Chance I am Fucking it up, royally!

Or, I wish I had better tools to raise my kids.

Every word, every action, every value, every comment I make thinking they aren’t paying attention, every question, every belief and every interaction will determine who they become. Can you imagine a harder job to do in life? Yet we are not equipped to play a role that will impact the future of society. We keep applying old logic, habits and belief systems to a reality that is in constant evolution. When I think of this I get vertigo, and I tend to question absolutely everything I have done and do. I bring into my parenting a few suitcases filled with terrible habits, beliefs and even daddy-issues (my Dad was a drug-addict and left when I was only 8 months.)

My shrink — if you live in NYC you must have one, advised me to be OK with knowing that no matter what I do there is a huge change I will screw my kids up. I believed it for a while, but felt this way of thinking put me in a complacent place. So in order to decrease the 50% “fuckage” I was doomed to deliver, I made a decision to play a more active role and learn new tools and methodologies which should improve the way I parent my kids. I wrote about the mindset needed to be able to apply new tools and strategies in an article a few months ago… So when I am not yelling at them for not answering me (after the 6th time I ask them to do something) or getting frustrated because they fight with each other, I try applying effort to these areas which I hope can be useful to you too:

Habits building and replacing

Our actions become our habits and our habits become our values. This is something known by many, but few people are self-aware about the power habits have on our destiny. Yes, it is «that dramatic» (as my 8 year old would say.) Fortunately I didn’t come up with this, someone far brighter than I did. We, as a family, have chosen to embrace this way of living; where we are intentional with our habits and committed to developing new ones and replacing the bad ones. As for almost everything, there’s an App for that {Way of Life} and we are all using it to develop 3 new positive habits. It takes 21 consecutive days to develop a new habit, and the kids have embraced this challenge brilliantly.

We started this mindset shift with an exercise called STOP. CONTINUE. START. And from those each of us chose the behaviors we needed to do to develop better habits and get rid of the toxic ones (these are super hard to erase so it is said it is best to replace them.) Even our 5 year old Iker has embraced this habit building lifestyle. And the best part? This lifestyle is contagious and everyone around us (my brothers and my mom, and even the cleaning lady) have also chosen to live a habits-building life.

The girls and their habits, reading like Daddy, is one of them!
Part of the family exercising as it became the most popular habit to build.

Financial Literacy (don’t you wish someone had taught you this one?)

I kept feeling I would let our kids down over and over every time they asked to buy something and I would say “no.” I read a long time ago that kids relationship with money is built between the ages of 3 and 6; so I was horrified of saying “no, we can’t afford that” or “yeah sure go ahead and buy that useless thing you will forget about in less than 4 hours.” We explored many techniques and strategies to help them understand they can’t buy anything just because they walk into a store, and while many have failed these are the ones that are working somewhat well:

  • Every time they get a toy, they need to give 2 toys to less fortunate kids. This helps them at a few different levels. From learning to share and dispose of material things to really thinking twice before they ask to get a new toy. Self-control and generosity.
  • Budgeting, never too early to start. Any time there is a trip to a museum or the weekend arrives it means there is a great opportunity for the kids to research, price out and assign money to various activities. From the Uber to the gas and from the entrance tickets to the food (restaurants or sandwiches). This, besides helping them develop one of the most important skills for their adult lives, works like magic because the ownership of the money shifts from Mom and Dad to them. Which means that if they want to get something that wasn’t budgeted for they need to either reconsider or redo their math 💰. As added bonus they get to play with Google Drive and practice collaboration.
  • An important shift we model for the kids is ONLY buying what we NEED versus what we WANT. This one isn’t as easy because they haven’t developed self-control yet.

Nutrition — Mindfulness of what we put in our bodies

This is another of those I-wish-I-had-learned-this-early-in-life skills. The importance of what goes into our bodies and what it does to us physically, emotionally and mentally. Iñaki and I are also developing the habit of eating clean and of learning the power of good nutrition and its impact. So you could say we are learning with the kids to eat a balanced diet and most importantly to be mindful of what not to put into our bodies. We’ve always been careful with what we feed our kids greatly because of our 11 year old daughter, Alani, has life-threatening food allergies (now only to milk). This, paired up with our need to stay healthy while we travel has helped us set a few healthy boundaries when it comes to food:

  1. No sodas. This is very hard to manage in Lima with Inka Cola!
  2. No sugar after 7pm, we only use brown sugar.
  3. No dairy. We have found cashew milk is the best.
  4. Avoid airplane food (this is really tough)
  5. Exercise regularly because when you do your body naturally asks for clean food.
  6. Cook together a lot so they are familiar with ingredients.
  7. Learn together about vitamins, how the body works, calories, carbs, the effects of gluten and the benefits of protein.
  8. We try, I emphasize the word try, to eat at a restaurant only after we’ve had 6 homemade meals.
  9. Try something new at least 14 times before saying you don’t like it. This rules applies to a lot of things in life that are acquired taste.
  10. Lots of water and no boxed juices.

Because we are focused on eating healthy this gives us freedom to indulge once in awhile.

Autonomy and consequence

The kids make fun of us because we are always saying “autonomy, autonomy guys” If there is something we are now convinced should have been the focus of our parenting all these years, it would be to help our children become autonomous. To own their responsibilities and to do chores. To let them learn by doing instead of doing it for them so they learn by seeing. An important outcome of autonomy is consequence, in both positive and negative ways. Rather than punishing them, which I have heard once they become teens this doesn’t work because they don’t fear us anymore, we are focused on helping them see that actions have consequences and they need to live with them. This has become such a big relief, and I *sigh* here, because it takes away the “mad parent” and places the responsibility on their actions. Which is how the world operates.

Self-Control and Effort —Directly related to screen-time

There is a lot of confusion amongst parents, including ourselves, around the right amount of screen time kids should have. The truth is, we don’t know enough yet; but what we do know are 2 scientifically proven facts:

Boredom develops creativity, imagination, and problem-solving.
Too much screen-time becomes addictive. Recent studies show that there is a significant amount of dopamine released every time we (adults and kids) use an iPad or a smartphone.
Kids can’t [yet] self-regulate, especially with something as addictive as an iPad or youtube.

For these reasons, and based on what we are seeing happening with our kids* we have implemented a few healthy boundaries:

No iPad during the week unless it is for homeschool or reading on Kindle.

On the weekends they need to go through this exchange strategy using the word iPad:

i is for IMAGINE or INVENT. They need to think of something, create it and share it with us.
P is for PLAY. The must play at least an hour.
A is for ASK QUESTIONS. They have to ask questions and find answers to them and then share with us in either writing or with any other way they choose.
D is for DRAW or DEBATE. (Thinking of changing this one to Do Chores) They have to draw something or set up a debate about a topic.

Unless they do all these they can’t use their devices. They have agreed and are creating this with us, so they own and understand they need to invest in what they want. Work hard for their obsession. Which we hope also helps them develop grit.

We aren’t very popular parents right now… We have been called “evil” “mean” and “heartless.” But no, they are not addicted ;)

*disclaimer: We are advocates of technology and of the rapid evolution it is providing to the whole world.

Play

While probably the simplest of all, the one we (parents) drop the ball the most. When you as a kid “what would you like your parents to do more?” 9 out of 10 their answer is “play with me.” That is all they want and need, but unfortunately work and rest —from working too much, get in the way of us being able to play with them. In the last 7 months we have made a conscious effort to prioritize play with our little ones; from soccer to Peruvian and Spanish games, and from playing superheroes to magic tricks with cards.

Get off Facebook for 10 minutes and play with your kids, because soon they won’t want to.

Airplane rules —Happily married

A few years ago my husband and I were going on a trip sans kids and I was feeling guilty —side effects of growing up in a catholic society; but then a friend of mine shared this brilliant thought with me: Parenting requires airplane rules… You need to put on your mask first before helping others. Which translates to: If you are good with yourself in your marriage, by default you will be better equipped to help your kids with whatever task is thrown your way. We make sure we take care of our marriage so the ripple effects are positive on the kids.

We ‘escaped” to a beautiful hotel in Barranco, Lima; to recharge and spend uninterrupted time.

Follow our adventure: 
Video diaries on youtube (edited by our 11 year old,) daily tips for parents on instagram, live videos about learning moments on Facebook, and if you want to know where we are in the world we are on Swarm, Google Mapsand on our website . We are funding this journey ourselves so if you believe in what we are doing and would like to pitch in, you can donate to our campaign here.

Waving hello from up in the air on my way to San Francisco[I still can’t get over the fact that we have wifi on international flights.]