10 fun things to do with kids in Austin before school starts

Less than four weeks until school. Egad! Already?

Earlier in the summer we offered Camp Austin 360, with a things to do this summer. You can read that story at specials.mystatesman.com/camp-austin360. Now, I offer you 10 things to do with the kids before summer ends.

1. Dip into natural watering holes. This summer, there’s water in the lakes, the creeks, the rivers and the swimming holes. We love dipping into Hamilton Pool, splashing around in Barton Creek and floating the Guadalupe River. Don’t forget your sunscreen, bug spray, water bottles, and, often, life jackets.
2. Try out a new park or hiking trail.
Go early or go late — don’t go in the middle of the day — but summer is a great time to step outside your neighborhood park. We’re a fan of Mayfield Park for its peacocks and trails, Inks Lake State Park for its views and Lake Park in the Mueller neighborhood for its playground.

The Austin Zoo puts on Boo at the Zoo next month. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
See the bears at the Austin Zoo. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

3. Head to a cave. There’s nothing cooler (amazing-wise) and cooler (temperature-wise) than a Central Texas cave in summer. Start at Inner Space Cavern for beginners and work your way up to Cave Without a Name.

4. Head to an animal park. Try out the relatively new Texas Reptile Zoo in Bastrop, but we also love the kitsch of the Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo in New Braunfels, the safari of Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, and the closeness of the Austin Zoo and the Capital of Texas Zoo.

5. Hit a museum. Summer is a great time to be in a museum. Hooray, air-conditioning!

The Bullock Museum has these events coming up: Storytime Mondays: Texas Animals, 11 a.m. Aug. 1; Summer Memories, 11 a.m. Aug. 8. Wednesday Workshops: Create a Fossil, 11 a.m. Aug. 3; Nature Writing, 11 a.m. Aug. 10. Discovery Fridays: Native Mammals, 11 a.m., Aug. 5; Exciting Artifacts, 11 a.m. Aug. 12. Summer Free Family Film Series: “A Cat in Parts,” 2 p.m. Aug. 6 and “The Secret of Nimh,” 2 p.m. Aug. 20.

The Thinkery offers these weekend workshops next month: “Silly Science.” For 12-24 months, 9:45 a.m. Aug. 6. $20 one child and adult. For 24-36 months, 10:45 a.m. Aug. 6, $20 one child and adult. “Tracking Termites.” For ages 4-7. 11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Aug6-7, 20-21. $8 per person. “Simple Stitches.” For ages 4-7. Create a stuffed animal. 12:15 p.m. Aug. 13-14, Aug. 27-28. $8 per person. “Polymear Wearables.” For ages 8 and older. 2:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. Aug. 13-14, Aug. 27-28. $8 per person. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. Thinkeryaustin.org.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden has Family Day noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 14. Enjoy yoga, story time, sculpting and more for free. The Kids Kraft program on Saturday afternoons for kids in kindergarten through second grade. Shadow Sculptures, 10 a.m. Aug. 6; and Mad Mobiles, 10 a.m. Aug. 13. $15.  umlaufsculpture.org.

The Contemporary Austin’s Families Create! program is free. Make ice paintings.. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 13. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. thecontemporaryaustin.org.

Texas Museum of Science & Technology Star Party happens every Friday in August from 8-10 p.m. Science Saturday will explore the science of flavor with Amy’s Ice Creams. 4-6 p.m. Aug. 27. Texas Museum of Science & Technology, 1220 Toro Grande Drive, Cedar Park. txmost.org.

Kyle G. Stephens as Shrek and Sara Burke as Fiona star in "Shrek the Musical" at Zilker Hillside Theatre through Aug. 13. (Photo credit to Dave Keslick, courtesy of Zilker Theatre Productions)
Kyle G. Stephens as Shrek and Sara Burke as Fiona star in “Shrek the Musical” at Zilker Hillside Theatre through Aug. 13.
(Photo credit to Dave Keslick, courtesy of Zilker Theatre Productions)

6. See a musical. Summer Stock Austin has three shows: “The Addams Family.” 7:30 p.m. Aug. 1, Aug. 5-6, 10, 12-13. 2 p.m. Aug. 7. $34 adults, $27 children and seniors. “The Steadfast Soldier.” A new musical from The Biscuit Brothers. 10 a.m Aug. 5-6, Aug. 8-10, Aug. 12-13. $17 adults, $12 children and seniors. “Carnival.” 7:30 p.m. Aug. 3-4, 7, 9 and 11. 2 p.m. Aug. 6, 11-13. $34 adults, $27 children and seniors. Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org.

See “Shrek The Musical” under the stars at Zilker Summer Musical.. Free. 8:15 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays, through Aug. 13. Zilker Hillside Theater, 2206 William Barton Drive. zilker.org

“Mary Poppins” flies onto the stage at Zach Theatre. $29-$79. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 4. Zach Theatre’s Topfer Theatre, 202 S. Lamar Blvd. zachtheatre.org.

Head to jolly old England for “Robin Hood and Maid Marian’s Wedding.” Sherwood Forest Faire presents this play. 11 a.m. Aug. 6-7, 13-14, 20-21; 8 p.m. Aug. 13. $12 adults, $8 children. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org.

7. Go to a circus. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey brings “Circus Xtreme” to the Erwin Center, Aug. 24-28. It’s the first time the circus will be here without elephants.

8. See a movie. The Paramount’s summer movie series includes “Aladdin,” 1 p.m. Aug. 6. “Jurassic Park” 5:30 p.m. Aug. 6 and 2 p.m. Aug. 7. “Annie,” 1 p.m. Aug. 14. “Mary Poppins,” 1 p.m. Aug. 20. $10 adults, $5 kids. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org.

The Alamo Drafthouse Kids Camp is showing “Babe,” 10:55 a.m. Aug. 1-4, Lakeline. “Minions,” 10:25 a.m. Aug. 1-4, Slaughter Lane. “The Karate Kid,” 10:20 a.m. Aug. 5, 145_Group Clown Alex Irina_010:25 a.m. Aug. 6-11, Slaughter Lane. “The Dark Crystal,” Aug. 12-18, Slaughter Lane. “The Lego Movie,” 10 a.m. Aug. 19-25, Slaughter Lane. “Horton Hears a Who,” 11 a.m. Aug. 1-4, Village. “Shaun the Sheep,” 11 a.m. Aug. 5-11, Village. Reserve tickets for $1-$3 donation online. drafthouse.com.

Regal Summer Movie Express has 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays shows at Westgate Stadium 11. “The Croods” and “The Lorax,” Aug. 2-3. Tickets are $1. regmovies.com/movies/summer-movie-express.

Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse offers $1 movies Monday through Thursday at Round Rock 8 and Cedar Park. “Shaun the Sheep,” Aug. 1-4. “Max,” Aug. 8-11. cinemark.com/summer-movie-clubhouse.


9. Eat ice cream. The Austin Ice Cream Festival is 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 13. $15. Fiesta Gardens, 2101 Jesse E. Segovia St. austinicecreamfestival.com Find other ice cream sundae ideas with our list of favorites. 

10. Find new reading material. Hit your Austin Public Library branch, where this month Literature Live! presents “Puppet Olympics,” you can learn about fish in Texas and visit with animals from Crowe’s Nest farms, hear Echo and the Bats and Positive RePrecussions, see Gusto the Great and explore Hogwarts again.

At BookPeople this month, Carnival of Books will celebrate all things books for all ages. 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 13. 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com


Looking ahead to the summer: My top 5 things to do with kids in Austin


There’s a lot of family activities to do this summer. Here are my Top 5 things we’re looking forward to this year:

1. Spend the day at Barton Springs Pool, then head over to Zilker Hillside Theater for the Zilker Summer Musical. This year “Shrek: The Musical” takes the stage Thursdays through Sundays at dusk July 8-Aug. 13. It’s free, but donations are appreciated. zilker.org

Explore pollinators and other creatures during Wildflower Center's Nature Nights.
Explore pollinators and other creatures during Wildflower Center’s Nature Nights.

2. Explore nature at the Wildflower Center for Nature Nights. The free weekly program explores a different topic 6-9 p.m. each Thursday night, beginning June 9. Learn about the power of fire from the Austin Fire Department and Texas A&M Forestry Service on June 9; understand the lifecycles of plants and animals, June 16; discover po;linationators like bees and butterflies, June 23, and meet predators like birds of prey and snakes, June 30. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org

3. When the weather heats up, head indoors to the movie theater for low-cost family-friendly movies. The Alamo Drafthouse Kids Camp is happening daily with a different movie at each theater each week. Reserve tickets for $1-$3 donation online. drafthouse.com. Regal Summer Movie Express happens 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Westgate Stadium 11. Tickets are $1 and movies run June 9-Aug. 3. regmovies.com/movies/summer-movie-express. Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse offer $1 movies Monday through Thursdays at Round Rock 8 and Cedar Park, 6-Aug. 11. cinemark.com/summer-movie-clubhouse

4. Hear the symphony at work. Children’s Day Art Park happens 9:30 a.m. every Wednesday, June 8-July 27, at Symphony Square Amphitheatre, 1101 Red River St. It’s 50 cents a kid, but you get to hear local musicians Sara Hickman, Beto and the Fairlanes, The Hey Lollies, Joe McDermott, the Flying Balalaika Brothers, Mr. Will Music and Staci Gray. You also can make art, and touch and try musical instruments. You also can see the symphony for its annual July 4 concert and fireworks begining at 8:30 p.m. at Auditorium Shores and 7:30 p.m. every Sunday at the Long Center City Terrace for the Hartman Foundation Concerts in the Park, June 5-Aug. 28. www.austinsymphony.org

5. Try a new-to-you museum. Sometimes we get stuck in the rut between the Thinkery and the Bullock Museum — both great, and if you haven’t been to

Jude Kozakiewicz, 3, paints a picture at the Blanton's WorkLab on in 2014. Art supplies are provided for children of all ages to create, paint, draw, design, and doodle. Julia Robinson/ for American-Statesman
Jude Kozakiewicz, 3, paints a picture at the Blanton’s WorkLab on in 2014. Art supplies are provided for children of all ages to create, paint, draw, design, and doodle.
Julia Robinson/ for American-Statesman

either, what are you waiting for? But if you’ve been a thousand times, try something new. Head to the Blanton Museum for their 3ft Deep art program for ages 3-5, Tuesdays, June 14-28; Artists and Authors for ages 5-8, Thursdays, June 16-30; and Deeper Dives for ages 8-12, Fridays, June 17-22; or play in the WorkLab, Wednesdays June 15-27. blantonmuseum.org. Go to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, which now has Kids Kraft program on Saturday afternoons for kids kindergarten through second grade, or the Family Day on June 12, July 10 and Aug. 14. umlaufsculpture.org. Hit Contemporary Austin’s Laguna Gloria for Families Create! Saturdays on June 11, July 9 and Aug. 13. thecontemporaryaustin.org. Farther afield, explore science at the Texas Museum of Science & Technology in Cedar Park and the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City. TXMOST has the Genesis exhibit its unpacking with many dinosaurs as well as a planetarium. txmost.org. Hill Country Science Mill lets you create an avatar as you become a scientist. sciencemill.org

And for adults, the Austin360 team is putting together a Camp Austin360 guidebook filled with adult fun to have in Austin.  You can earn the Camp Austin360 badge and have a whole lot of fun getting to know your city better.

Look for the guide May 27 and online at austin360.com.

Quick, where are your kids going to summer camp? Don’t know? You need our guide

campguideEach summer, while your kids are exploring camps in Austin and further a field, Pam LeBlanc and I are exploring camps, too, in anticipation of next year’s Summer Camp Guide. It came out today. Find it at campguide.austin360.com.

In it you’ll find a lot of listings of local camps, but you’ll also see how I learned about the Maya culture at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center and how Pam  got a taste of the X Games at ATX Action Sports Camp.

I also offer my 15 things to think about when choosing a camp.

We also have sponsored camp articles from local camps, touting what they do, as well as listings of local camps.

Check it out.


Planning ahead: Family events for March not to miss

I’ve spent the day putting together my calendar of family events in March. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. Missing something? Email me at nvillalpando@statesman.com.


“James & the Giant Peach.” The Roald Dahl book comes to life in musical form. 11 a.m. March 5, 12, 19, 26; April 2, 9. 2 p.m. March 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27; April 2, 3, 9; and 4:30 p.m. April 10. 11 a.m. $29 adults, $26 children. Zach Theatre’s Kleberg Stage, 1421 W. Riverside Drive. zachtheatre.org

“Jamie Doesn’t Want to Take a Bath.” For children ages 2-4, see what happens when Jamie refuses to bathe. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. 9:30 and 11 a.m. March 31, April 2, 6-9. pollyannatheatrecompany.org.


Thinkery Workshops: Forensic Investigators for ages 8 and older. $29 adult and one child. 10:30 a.m. March 5 and 2:30 p.m. March 6. Silly Seuss for ages 2-3. 10:30 a.m. March 5. $29 one adult and child. Spark Club: Exploring Arduinos for ages 8 plus. Four-week class beginning March 2, $80 each child. Screenprinting for ages 8 and up. 10:30 a.m. March 12 and 2:30 p.m. March 13. $29 one adult and child. Wet Weather for ages 1-2, 10:30 a.m. March 12. $29 one adult and child. Soap Making for ages 4-7. 10:30 a.m. March 19 and 2:30 p.m. March 20. $29 one adult and child. Frankentoy Shop for ages 4-7. 10:30 a.m. March 26 and 2:30 p.m. March 27. $29 one adult and child. Little Builders for ages 1-2. 10:30 a.m. March 26. $29 one adult and child. The Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org.

Bullock Museum. Free First Sunday: Texas Independence Day. Noon-5 p.m. March 6. Play historic cames, encounter costumed interpreters and make your own vintage photograph. Living History Days. The museum comes alive with historical characters. 10 a.m. -2 p.m. March 2. Science Thursday. Try some science activities. 10 am.-2 p.m. March 10. Spring Break at the Bullock. Each day explore different activities. March 14-18. Bullock Texas State History Museum. 1800 Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com.

Art Free-For-All. See the Contemporary Austin’s educational offerings with an open house. Free. Noon-4 p.m. March 12. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. contemporaryaustin.org.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden Family Day. Enjoy free activities including art making, stories, yoga and more. Noon-4 p.m. March 13. Umlauf Sculpture Garden, 605 Robert E. Lee Road. umlaufsculpture.org.

South by Southwest

SXSW Creates. Make things and learn about the makers spirit. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. March 13. Free. Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. sxsw.com/exhibitions/sx-create

Mark Anthony, 13, plays a virtual reality light saber simulator made by Sixense at South by Southwest Gaming last year. Efren Salinas/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

SXSW Gaming Expo. This is one free event where you can try out all kids of games and watch people play games. noon-8 p.m. March 17-19. Free. Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St. sxsw.com/exhibitions/gaming-expo

All The Children Boogie: A Tribute to David Bowie. Family radio show Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, LiveMom, and the Austin Scottish Rite Theater are presenting this show, which includes musicians Jon Langford, David Wax Museum, Riders Against the Storm, Nakia, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, The Deedle Deedle Dees, Rockaroni & Cheese, Joe McDermott, Groundwork Music Orchestra, Hey Lolly Band and more. 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. March 18. Free. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org


Girlstart Starry Nights. Learn Maya skies in a mini-planetarium. 5:30 p.m. March 3. 1400 W. Anderson Lane. girlstart.org

Daniel McLean, 7, gets excited as he runs behind a kite with Julian Martinez during the 86th annual ABC Zilker Kite Festival on Sunday, March 1, 2015. Doug McLean, Daniel McLean’s father says that his son has charge syndrome and loves bright colors and the kite festival. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Daniel McLean, 7, gets excited as he runs behind a kite with Julian Martinez during the 86th annual ABC Zilker Kite Festival last year. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Zilker Kite Festival. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. March 6. Free. Zilker Park. abckitefestival.org

Spring Holidays Fair. Learn about Holi from India, the Taiwanese Dragon Festival, Merrie Monarch Festival, 1,000 Cranes, Tet, the Lantern Festival and more. Noon-4 p.m. March 5. Free. Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road. austintexas.gov/aarc.

Cowboy Breakfast. 6 a.m. March 4. Free. Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. www.rodeoaustin.com.

Explore UT. Explore the university, its museums and hands-on demonstrations and experiments. Free. March 5, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. exploreut.utexas.edu

Rodeo Austin. 10 a.m. midnight Monday-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays March 12-26. Fairgrounds admission $8 adult, $5 kids, free children 2 and younger; $10 parking. Travis County Expo Center, 7311 Decker Lane. www.rodeoaustin.com.

Mother-Son Adventure. Go kayaking on Lady Bird Lake. 10 a.m. March 12. $15. Camacho Activity Center, 34 Robert T. Martinez Jr. RVSP: barbara.garcia@austintexas.gov.

Under the Springs. Meet a mermaid. See a new exibit: “One Square Foot of Barton Springs. Enjoy kid-friendly activities and more. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. March 16. The Splash Exhibit, 2201 Barton Springs Road. austintexas.gov/splash.

Flashlight Friday. Explore the Wildflower Garden at night and learn about nocturnal animals. For kids 5-12, 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. March 18. $10 adults, $5 child. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org

Easter Eggstravaganza. 10-1 p.m. March 19. Dove Springs Recreation Center, 5801 Ainez Drive.

Search for Lost Eggs. Crafts and egg hunt. Noon March 19. Dittmar Recreation Center, 1009 W. Dittmar Road.

Family Wildflower Cave Tour. Explore the Wildflower Cave with the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department. for ages 10 and up. 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. March 26. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Cross Ave. wildflower.org.


"Fantastic Mr. Fox." Fox Searchlight
“Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Fox Searchlight

Alamo Drafthouse Kids Camp. “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” 10:30 a.m. March 11-17, Lakeline. “Batman: The Movie,” 4 p.m. March 11, 10 a.m. March 12-17, Village; 10:30 a.m. March 18 and March 20, 10 a.m. March 19, Lakeline. $1-$3 donation. drafthouse.com

Dr. Seuss Film Festival. 3:30 p.m. March 3, Yarborough Branch.

Preschool Drive-in Movie. 11 a.m. March 3, Yarborough Branch.

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” 6:30 p.m. March 8, Twin Oaks Branch.

“The Peanuts Movie,” 4 p.m. March 15, Cepeda Branch.


BookPeople events: Obert Skeye reads “Lost & Found.” 6 p.m. March 4. Carmen Oliver reads “Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies,” 2 p.m. March 6. Cassandra Clare reads “Lady Midnight” at St. Edward’s University. 7 p.m. March 16. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com.

Barnes & Noble. Saturday 11 a.m. story times at all locations. “Wonderful World,” March 5; “Too Many Carrots,” March 12. “When Spring Comes,” March 19, “What to Do with a Box,” March 26.

Lego Event with Expert builder Stephen, 6:30 a.m. March 8, Sunset Valley. Batman v. Superman Day for teens. 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 19, Round Rock.


“Literature Live! Presents: The Selfish Gardener Puppet Show,” 3:30 p.m. March 1, Pleasant Hill Branch; 10:15 a.m. March 2, Dove Springs Recreation Center; 10:15 a.m. March 3, Windsor Park Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 7, Howson Branch; 10:15 a.m. March 8, Cepeda Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 10, Little Walnut Creek Branch; 2 p.m. March 13, Faulk Central Library; 6 p.m. March 14, University Hills Branch; 11:30 a.m. March 17, Ruiz Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 22, Twin Oaks Branch; 10:30 a.m. March 23, Terrazas Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 29, St. John Branch; and 6:30 p.m. March 31, Manchaca Road Branch.

Sew Happy, learn to sew for ages 10 and up. 5 p.m. March 1, Manchaca Road Branch.

Crafternoon, 4 p.m. March 4, Spicewood Springs Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 7, Manchaca Road Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 8, Terrazas Branch; 4 p.m. March 10, Twin Oaks Branch; 4 p.m. March 17, Cepeda Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 22, Terrazas and Howson branches; 3:30 p.m. March 28, Manchaca Road Branch.

Felt Friends. Make a fleted bluebird. 4:30 p.m. March 8, Howson Branch.

NBTween Book Club for ages 8-12. Read “The War that Saved My Life,” 4 p.m. March 9, Howson Branch; “El Deafo,” 6 p.m. March 16, Yarborough Branch; “The London Eye,” 6 p.m. March 17, Twin Oaks Branch.

Preschool Crafty Kids, 11 a.m. March 10, Yarborough Branch.

Maker Mania: Meet a Scientist and Make Something for ages 5-12. 3:30 p.m. March 10, Faulk Central Library.

Circuit Break, for ages 10 and up. 7 p.m. March 11, Ruiz Branch.

Art Smart, ages 5 and up, 6:30 p.m. March 15, Willie Mae Kirk Branch; 6:30 p.m. March 22, Wilie Mae Kirk Branch.

Art Lab for Littles, ages 3-6, 11 a.m. March 24, Terrazas Branch.

Book Circle: Lite Brite, Games and Bowling, for ages 5 and up. 3:30 p.m. March 24, Yarborough Branch.

Family Craft Night, 7 p.m. March 24, Hampton Branch.

Mother Daughter Book Club, “The BFG.” 6 p.m. March 16, Hampton Branch.

Parents: You’re not doing your job. Sincerely, expert and author Leonard Sax

Dr. Leonard Sax wrote "Girls on the Edge" and "Boys Adrift."
Dr. Leonard Sax wrote “Girls on the Edge” and “Boys Adrift.”

Family physician, psychologist and author Leondard Sax wants parents to know that they are “raising kids wrong.” The author of “Boys Adrift” and “Girls on the Edge” is back with “The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt our Kids when We Treat them Like Grown-Ups.” (Basic Books, $26.99)

“Most American parents are completely confused and going utterly in the wrong direction,” he says. “There’s a collapse of understanding what parenting involves.”

In his book he talks about a scenario in which parents and a 6-year-old child, who had a sore throat, came into his office. When he said, “Next I’m going to take a look at your throat.” The mom turned it into asking for permission by saying, “Do you mind if the doctor looks in your throat for just a second, honey? Afterward we can go and get some ice cream.”

That led to the child refusing to have the doctor look in her throat to do the strep test and the child having to be restrained to get the test accomplished.

“It’s not a question,” Sax says. “It’s a sentence: ‘Open up and say, “Ahh.”‘ “Parents are incapable of speaking to their children in a sentence that ends in a period,” he says. “Every sentence ends in a question mark.”

Some parenting expert told them they should always offer their children choices instead of telling them what to do and parents believed them, he says.

"The Collapse of Parenting," by Leonard Sax. Basic Books, $26.99, available at barnesandnoble.com
“The Collapse of Parenting,” by Leonard Sax.
Basic Books, $26.99, available at barnesandnoble.com


The hierarchy of parent over child isn’t there, he continues. Instead of parents exercising their authority because they know what’s best, they are focusing on making kids happy and boosting self-esteem.

“They now see their job as facilitating whatever a kids wants to do,” he says.

Instead, Sax says, their job is to teach kids right from wrong, teach kids the meaning of life and keep their children safe.

“In doing that job, you’re going to do a lot of things a child won’t approve of and not understand,” he says. You have to be the bad guy.

Parents should be focusing on helping kids develop skills such as self-control, humility and conscientiousness, meaning they think of people other than themselves.

Those are things that are the biggest predictors of future success in adulthood, he says, not education or affluence.

One point of irony: this is a generation of parents that is spending more time with children than any previous generation. But instead of spending time with family meals, this generation is spending time shuttling kids from one extracurricular activity to the next or spending time doing the work for them.

“It doesn’t help to spend more time with kids if they are spending it in the wrong ways,” he says.

Sax makes the case through citing numerous research studies that our lack of parental authority is the reason why obesity is on the rise, why more kids are on anti-anxiety and attention deficit disorder medication, why kids are have a culture of disrespect, seem fragile, and why American kids no longer lead the world in education.

Some solutions he’d like you to do right now:

Have family meals at home and make that a top priority. “You have to communicate that our time together as a parent and child is more important than anything else,” he says. One study found that for each additional meal a family had together the less likely kids had internalizing problems such as anxiety or externalizing problems such as skipping school. It also helped kids develop good nutrition habits, lessening the obesity problem.

Take screens out of the bedroom. This includes cellphones, computers, TVs, video games. Kids are chronically sleep deprived, which leads to poor behavior and can even be the reason why kids are getting mental health diagnosis.

Put screens in public places and limit how they are used. This generation is living life in a virtual world. Their online friends can quickly become more important than the friends they see in person. They don’t know how to communicate with someone face to face or have outside interests and hobbies. Video games also rewire the way their brains work. And remember, what they post online never goes away. Install software like My Mobile Watchdog, which will share every photo they take or post with you.

Teach humility. Give lessons that show kids that they are not the most important person in the world. They need to be able to see the world through another lens and be able to handle rejection or failure. It really cannot be “everybody gets a trophy.”

Have an alliance between school and you. If your kid did something, don’t come at teachers or administrator with suspicion and distrust. “Parents swoop in like attorneys demanding evidence,” he says. Instead lessons of honesty and integrity should be enforced. That means your brilliant kid who cheated takes the 0.

Parent what they do. No, your 14-year-old cannot go to a party with college kids or to the beach for spring break. No, they will not be at parties where alcohol is served, and you will not be the one serving it. You have to think of worse-case scenarios like drinking and driving, alcohol poisoning, and sexual assault, and know that these are not decisions that they are ready to make because they are not adults. They need an adult, and that’s you. And even if their peers’ parents are fine with something, you don’t have to be. “Other parents don’t have a clue at what they are doing,” he says. “That’s why what they are doing doesn’t have good outcomes.”

Know that some of these things, especially if they are new for your family, will be difficult and might be hard to enforce at first. You just have to keep at it. Your kids will thank you, not today or maybe not tomorrow, but some day, perhaps.

What do Austin parents and grandparents think about Dr. Sax’s ideas and the state of modern parenting?