Harley Rotbart, M.D.

Back-to-School Tips for No Regrets Parents

Ready or not, it’s that time again. Your kids are trying on fall clothes, cleaning out backpacks from last year (Ewww, those moldy cookies!!), and shopping for school supplies. Another exciting year of growth and development on the horizon for your children. Here are 5 sure ways to make this is a year of growth and development for you, as well.

Hold a weekly calendar meeting

Each new year of school brings more complicated choreography to your kids’ schedules – and therefore to your schedule as well. Every Sunday night, sit down with your kids and enter every commitment and event of their upcoming week into your personal calendar. There are 3 important reasons to do this: a) you should always know where your kids are; b) you have a head start on dinner conversation if you know what your kids have been up to all day; and, c) you may get a pleasant surprise – a meeting of yours is canceled in time for you to make the second half of their basketball game. But you’ll only know about the game if it’s in your calendar.

Help with homework

Plan to be involved with your kids’ homework every night. When they’re in grade school, actually sit with them for part of the time they’re doing their work – not to catch every math mistake, but to make sure they get the big picture of what they’re doing. In middle school, just look over their completed work regularly for overall quality. Show them you are happy to see them doing such a nice job. Your pride in their work will become their pride in their own work. By high school, it’s enough to just ask each night if they’ve finished their homework, and occasionally review teacher’s comments on the work that gets handed back. And of course, at any age, if your kids ask for help, do your best to guide them without doing their homework for them. Remember, you’ve already learned “times tables,” now it’s their turn.

Manage extra-curricular activities

Beware “potpourri parenting” – soccer Mondays, violin Tuesdays, karate Wednesdays, etc. Kids’ options for extra-curricular activities are limitless, and you may be tempted to enroll your kids in everything, thinking you’re “enriching” them.  As long as your kids are enjoying these activities, and you’re not missing chances to spend more time with your kids because of their busy days, there’s nothing wrong with many and varied experiences for school-age kids. But when programming begins to replace parenting, or your kids are showing “enrichment fatigue,” back off. Kids’ time with you is almost always more enriching than any extra-curricular activity; and the time you have with your young kids is fleeting. Don’t give it all away by over-programming them.

Volunteer at school

Every school is underfunded and shorthanded. Your kids’ school can use your help and being there for part of a school day or after-school activity can be a meaningful experience for you. Depending on your kids’ ages and their level of pride (or embarrassment) in seeing you at school, there are many options: room parent, teacher’s aide, hall monitor, coach’s assistant, team parent, crossing guard, PTA, office volunteer, and field trip driver to name a few. Regularly spending part of a day at your kids’ school gives you an up-close look at what your kids see—their teachers and friends, hallway dynamics, and locker lore. More good dinner conversation!

Drive carpool

Whether driving back and forth to school, after-school activities, or field trips, you learn a lot about your kids by driving carpool. Mysteriously, the carpool driver becomes practically invisible to the passengers whenever it’s more than just your own kids in the car. This gives you an invaluable “fly on the dashboard” opportunity to eavesdrop on your kids social interactions, catch up on 3rd grade gossip, and hear about homework without even asking.

The school years won’t seem to pass as quickly if you become involved in your kids’ school lives. Have a wonderful fall semester!


Are You “On Track” as a Parent?

Parents know most of the important developmental milestones of childhood – when babies roll over, sit, walk, talk, ride a tricycle, etc. You’ve probably looked them up to make sure your kids are “on track,” or compared your child’s progress with the Jones baby next door. But you may not know that there are well-defined developmental milestones for you as a parent, as well. Now revealed for the first time, “Harley Rotbart’s Developmental Milestones of Parenting,” my post this month for Parents Magazine. See if you’re “on track” in your growth as a parent.

Click here to check your progress, and send comments letting me know if the shoe fits…

Division of Labor for a No Regrets Father’s Day

If you haven’t been following my friend Lauren Warner’s wonderful blog, “3 Things for Mom,” you should. It’s a very special daily collection of bite-sized truths, tips, and finds for moms. This week, Lauren is featuring DAD writers in honor of Father’s Day, and I’m honored to kick off the week for her.

You can read my whole post, including my famous recipe for burrito pie and my shout out to Rivka Caroline’s “From Frazzled to Focused” by clicking here 

Here’s an excerpt:

Last night, our 23 year-old daughter called with a plumbing problem – the toilet in her apartment wasn’t working again. She asked to talk to her mom.

Our 3 kids are now young adults, living on their own in college or graduate school; our oldest is married. We speak with all of them often (not often enough, of course), usually just to catch up on their exciting lives. But, despite their burgeoning independence, they still need us on occasion. When that happens, they know which one of us to call. Our division of labor was established early on.

Blessed that my wife, Sara, and I have been able to share parenting responsibilities, we have never been bashful about letting the kids know who does what best.

Sara always jokes that my job is to earn the money, hers is to spend it. That’s really not true, though – she earns money, too, and I’ve done my share of spending. But there are much clearer distinctions between our parental roles, and the kids grew up fully understanding them.

Sara took the kids to doctor appointments because, as a doctor, I’m much too neurotic. Computer and other highly technical problems (like turning on the TV) went to Sara because I can barely even manage texting. I handled homework questions and test panics because Sara still suffers from her own residual test panic.

Sara did all the home repairs because she held the flashlight for her dad growing up, and because I consider a hammer to be a WMD. Sara did most of the cooking because otherwise we had to eat my burrito pies (see below). She balanced the checkbook, but I was the budget bad guy. I taught the kids sports, but Sara taught them to have fun.

On this Father’s Day, as emasculating as it may be to admit, I’m very grateful our kids have a mom who understands the flapper flush mechanisms in their toilets.

To My Dad

I hope you will take a look at a very personal essay I wrote for the New York Times last week about my dad and my medical school graduation 34 years ago.  In addition to the post itself, please take a few minutes to read through the scores of extraordinary comments from readers. The human spirit is alive and well, and that should be an inspiration to all of us this Memorial Day and on Father’s Day in a couple weeks. Here’s the link to the NYT piece:


Let me know what you think by sending a comment on this blog, or by adding your comment to the 180+ readers who wrote in to the NYT.

Thanks and Happy Mother’s Day to “Mighty Messy Mama”

What a lovely review of No Regrets Parenting in the 5/7/13 blog post from Shannon at mightymessymama.com. Thanks for all the kind words. On this coming Mother’s Day, I wish Shannon and all the moms in the blogosphere a fulfilling and memorable day with your families.

Hope you’ll take a look at  Shannon’s blog and her No Regrets Parenting review: http://mightymessymama.typepad.com/

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