Thank You Notes and Being Intentional about Your Dreams

Many of you have heard about a new young buck on the golf scene named Jordan Spieth. Last month, Spieth claimed a prestigious, preppy green jacket of his own, at the age of 21, when he conquered Augusta. He even tied the all-time record for The Masters with his stunning score of 18 strokes under par.

Near as I can tell, Spieth’s reputation and his character seem to be stellar. Let’s hope this remains the case, so young people can continue to look up to this rockstar and admire him for his talents and his goodness.

Jack Nicklaus weighed in on Spieth:

 “I like everything about the young man. He’s polite. He’s humble. He handles himself so well, on and off the golf course. And he’s obviously a wonderful player and now a Masters champion. I think Jordan Spieth is a great person – just as I think Rory McIlroy is – to carry the mantle for the game of golf.”

Not a bad comment to receive from the most successful golfer who ever walked the earth, eh?

Another super-cool tidbit that I learned about Mr. Spieth is that, back in 2009, he received a scholarship through his high school’s work grant program. This newly-minted golf superhero took the time to write an authentic note of thanks to the scholarship donors to express his appreciation.

Jordan spieth note

Not only did Spieth have the class to send the thank you note, but he also had vision; in his letter, he shared his dream to someday win the Masters. From a parent’s perspective, I think the lesson that we can impart to our children is twofold:

  1.  Show gratitude for the opportunities that come your way.
  2. Figure out what your dreams are and what you want out of life so you can go after it!

Gratitude and dreams – now those are two great concepts – so simple yet impactful…and positive!

So, Jordan Spieth, thank you for the inspiration and for being the gold standard of polish and class, on and off the links. While I may not guide my kids to perfectly duplicate your heavenly swing of irons (hey, it’s their call on what dreams they pursue), I can certainly share your playbook around taking the time to do the right thing, all while keeping focus on your goals!

Choose kind,
Leigh Ann

P.S. Want to help your kids make a habit out of expressing gratitude to those who gave them something to appreciate? Try Wear the Cape’s Gratitude-Strong Thank You Cards. Ten come in a pack, and they’re perfectly-suited to teach kids what gratitude is AND what it looks like in action. They even have wide-ruled lines to make writing a brief note easy. Order by clicking here.

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5 Tips to Avoid Overbooking Your Kids and Create Life Balance

Overbooked kids and parents can miss some of the best parts of being in a family. For parents far and wide, Wear the Cape’s resident expert on character education Philip Brown, PhD has compiled “5 Tips to Avoid Overbooking Your Kids and Create Life Balance”. The list was created to help parents balance the responsibilities of providing economic security and meeting the needs of all family members for emotional support and personal fulfillment.

“Finding balance is not an easy task in a society of great abundance,” said Dr. Brown, who is a senior consultant at the National School Climate Center. “Our interests and our desire to give our children every opportunity to succeed can inadvertently pull us into adding an ever increasing number of activities, dates, plans and obligations.”

Dr. Brown added, “Saying ‘no’ when demands become more than we can handle, or to children who may feel that they are supposed to be involved with everything their friends are doing to keep up, is not easy, and can be particularly difficult if our sense of self, who we want to believe we are or should be, seems dependent on saying ‘yes’ and doing it all.”

 5 Tips to Avoid Overbooking Your Kids and Find Life Balance

  1.  Let your kids know that you care about them for who they are, not just what they can do. Children need to know that your love is not contingent on their achievements.
  2. Remember that children do not have the same sense of time that you do. Part of growing up is being able to put things in perspective. There will likely be another friend, another team, another trip if this one does not work out.
  3. Working hard at something you love to do is one of the best parts of life. It takes some of us a lot of experimenting to find those things we love. Kids need that free time to try new things, as well as the permission to give them up and try something else.
  4. Some kids organize their time and find their interests with just a little exposure; other kids may need a bit of a push to try things that don’t seem attractive or interesting (or may be threatening). The trick here is to be sensitive to individual needs and persistent in offering opportunities. If you need to be pushy, try to offer alternatives, so kids have a voice in what they will be doing. For example, some children thrive in competitive sports, and others may find their niche in hiking or dancing.
  5. Remember to include exposure to helping others in your family activities. One of the best ways of developing empathy in our children (and ourselves) is to feel the gratitude that is expressed when we help others. This doesn’t happen if we don’t have the opportunity of interacting with others in need or whom we help. This can happen within the context of the family itself, as well, and doesn’t necessarily require a formal charity event. Create opportunities in which children can feel that they have meaningfully helped other family members or the whole family accomplish something. The combination of caring, responsibility, feeling respected, and gratitude is a powerful stew that nourishes the soul.

“When we’re overprogrammed and feel we can’t keep up, or are constantly running on empty, stress can lead to anxiety, depression and take a toll on our minds and bodies,” commented Dr. Brown. “For children, this can surface in many ways – trouble sleeping, frequent irritability, aggressiveness with siblings, trouble in school, moodiness or frequent illness are all common signs that something is not right and needs to be explored.”

To raise children of good character, a combination of guidance, freedom, and support in the context of shared values should be provided. Most 21st century parents in America experience tension between their roles as providers, parents and having adult lives, a phenomenon that is widespread and not limited to one class or location. Reflection may be valuable, even if parents are not sure if they are overbooking.

“For most parents, laying the groundwork for their children’s happiness and fulfillment is a top priority,” said Leigh Ann Errico, CEO and founder of Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation. “But it’s important that families step back and assess the hours being devoted to various activities on the never-ending list of possibilities. Downtime can be time well-spent.”

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Curt Schilling Throwing Some Heat at Cyberbullies

Googie man at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Googie man at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Note to Bullies: This guy is very good at striking people out, so think twice before you are cruel!

You may be aware of the recent controversy that arose when Curt Schilling, former Red Sox champion and three-time World Series winner, tweeted about how proud he is of his 17-year-old daughter Gabby, who is going to college next year at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island to pitch for its Seahawks softball team.

Deplorably, the famous pitcher’s kudos for his child was greeted with some horrid tweets from people that were graphic, cruel, and downright abusive. Schilling posted some of the disgraceful tweets that even broke the law—attacks against his daughter, who is still a minor.

schilling tweets

A devoted dad, Schilling was not willing to walk away from what had transpired. Taking action to hold people accountable, he researched and EXPOSED the cowards hiding behind their Twitter handles in cyberspace. Once revealed, everyday heroes turned over the identified thugs—and good for them!

One digital assailant, for example, was from a community college in New Jersey, and another man was a part-time ticket salesperson for Red Sox rival the New York Yankees. Some of the tasteless tweets even came from students at Salve Regina University.

Speaking to their actions, Schilling said in an interview,

This is not Twitter’s fault or the Internet. That’s like blaming Ford for someone being run over. This is people. None of these people want to be connected to anything they said. There’s a reason for that. Now the goal is, if you’re a young lady and being harassed, first of all it’s against the law. As a young lady and a human, no one, anywhere, ever, is allowed to talk to you that way. Under any circumstances. If you’re a man and you do this, you’re not (a man). Being a man is about having integrity. This isn’t a mistake. This is a malicious attempt to be evil, and if you talk like this you’re a piece of garbage.”

So what were the outcomes with the people who tweeted the explicit and violent things about Schilling’s 17-year-old (read: minor) daughter? It’s a hard-hitting lesson. Of the aforementioned perpetrators, some were suspended from school, some were kicked out, and one was released from his employment with the Yankees. And all must regret that the offense will be inked on their records.

As explained in a recent column that I penned for the Star-Ledger, digital footprints can leave scars forever, so we must post and tweet wisely. I suspect the men who typed these nasty things are regretting clicking “Tweet”, because Schilling has clearly thrown right back at them a curveball with some heat.

Parents, share this cautionary tale with your older kids. Many of us learn best with examples of what not to do and why. They might mistakenly think that they’re anonymous online, but this case study proves that they can still be held accountable for their actions—think before pressing send.

Hopefully we can draw inspiration from the Shillings’ experience, as cyberbullying is spreading its tentacles. I recently learned from my teacher friend, who is a mom of teens, about a website called “Smack High”. Apparently there are “Smack” sites for various states. You can gather—thanks to the appropriately reflective title—that these websites glorify “talking smack” and saying unkind things to each other about athletics and other school topics. I went onto one of the “Smack” sites and was as disappointed as I expected to be…NOTHING positive or productive at all.

So, a couple questions come to mind: Why are people promoting this negative energy, and how can we fight love back with kindness and encouragement?

Reminds me of the Coke commercial: Let’s all flip things around to the positive.

Well, Mr. Schilling, I hope your lovely daughter Gabby has a strong career like you have achieved and absolutely loves Salve. As an alumna, I can say that I sure did. I noted that you were a good guy for all you have done to raise awareness around amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) sufferers, and of course, thought you were super tough when you pitched a win with a severely and visibly injured ankle during the 2004 American League Series against the Yankees …but, now, I really think you are a superhero—you WEAR THE CAPE!

Choose kind,
Leigh Ann

Showing over Preaching: Teach Your Kids by Example

In today’s guest blog, Cape Kid and kidkind foundation Hero Award Winner Frank Piacenti reflects on the way his parents raised him, identifying what most powerfully shaped who he is today. We are thrilled to share this wise young man’s perspective on parenting – it’s sure to make you stop and think.


It’s hardGuest blog icon being a kid today. Without much experience in the world, it’s easy to feel lost or overwhelmed with all the stress put on a child’s plate. Between the spheres of academics, home, extracurricular activities and social life, kids can often lose sight of what is really important. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to some negative side effects: bullying, unkindness, or even just the simple inability to discern right and wrong. What’s worse, these issues have only been magnified by social media, a growing outlet for our children to virtually interact with each other in today’s evolving world. Now, I’m not a parent quite yet, but I can imagine that most must stop and think once in a while, “Am I doing a good job parenting my child? Have I raised them to understand how to handle and deal with these problems?” This question is probably as daunting and stressful for parents as it seems.

To be clear, I do not think that children who may struggle with these problems are bad kids, nor do I think their parents have raised them incorrectly. Through my experience with my own parents, I’ve come to realize that parenting is much more of a give and take. If parents do what is right themselves and love their child as best as they can, then most often their child will never need to worry about such issues in their lives.

I grew up in a loving household. My parents were strict on grades and required that we were home for dinner most school nights. They would never hesitate to read a book or watch a movie with my sister or me when we were younger. Sure, they maintained order (I wasn’t even allowed to walk to a friend’s house down the street until I was 11), but I never held it against them; I always knew they just wanted what was best for me. They were strict but fair, teasing but loving. Most of all, they led by example; they did what was right, no matter what the cost. It wasn’t always perfect; nobody’s childhood is. We had some disagreements along the way, and sometimes I strayed from what they taught me. After a while, though, I would always find the path again, often with a little push from my mom or dad. A couple years and two more siblings later, I’m out of the house and on my own adventure now, always looking back to the basics they taught me. Ironically enough, I’m not sure they realized just how much I was learning from them. The interaction was enough; I followed their examples and continue to today.

My advice to parents, from the humble mouth of a childless college freshman, is this: Do what you think is right. Show your kids you will do what is right, no matter the cost. In the long run, setting that example will be the most effective tactic in encouraging your child to do the same. Remember the process is a give and take. A parent can’t just say how important it is to be kind and then yell at co-workers on the phone. Children learn much more from example than from preaching — they’re excellent imitators. My 8-year-old sister, who loves to rant about politics (just like my dad), is my favorite example of that. She’s learning just as I did, and all other children do. I can imagine she’ll succumb to some of the traps the world offers along the way, but I’m sure if she follows the example of my parents as I did, she’ll learn to overcome those obstacles by always and unquestioningly doing what is right.

Frank Piacenti
Cape Kid and Winner of kidkind foundation Hero Award
Frank Piacenti

Star-Ledger Publishes Guest Article by Leigh Ann about “Online Survival Skills” for Young People

The New Jersey Star-Ledger this week published a guest article by Leigh Ann Errico, founder of Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation. Her piece outlines the new challenges young people face growing up and pursuing their dreams in an everything-online world. Read it on the Star-Ledger‘s website here or below!

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Digital footprints can leave permanent scars for young people: Opinion

pic for star-ledger column

In this file photo, parents listen to a seminar conducted by Connecticut State Police Sgt. Jim Smith of the state police cyber crimes unit in Windsor Locks, Conn. Teenagers’ increasingly common habit of distributing nude self-portraits electronically — often called “sexting” if it’s done by cell phone — has parents and school administrators worried. And some prosecutors have begun charging teens who send and receive such images with child pornography and other serious felonies. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, file)

By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist

on January 09, 2015 at 12:00 PM, updated January 09, 2015 at 12:04 PM

By Leigh Ann Errico

A cautionary tale that resembles a nightmare—that’s what the 2014 Sayreville War Memorial High School football team will pass down through generations. For alleged hazing, bullying and sexual assault, the team was forced to forfeit its football season. One student linked to the investigation even lost his scholarship offer from Penn State’s football program. He, no doubt, would take it all back, if he could.

The new year offers a blank slate, but thanks to our frenemy the Internet, some choices of years past are recorded and can bring consequences, again and again. It used to be that if someone had a lapse of judgment growing up, more often than not they could sweep the mistake under the rug and, with time, it would slowly fade away. What young people do today, however, can come back and haunt them. According to a sheriff’s office spokeswoman cited in the New York Times, releasing a minor’s name is the department’s standard practice for a juvenile “charged with a felony or three or more misdemeanors.” Once released, a quick Google search could bring up the name on dozens of sites many years later.

Teens, tweens and ages sandwiching them on each end also often fail to consider that what they type, snap or film and post, send or share could greatly impact their lives. Sex video scandals, for example, are rocking schools across the country. Showing off to the kid in math class or teammates in the locker room, minors are using their cell phones to record sexual acts, usually without both participants’ knowledge. Not only is this beyond-bad judgment inviting charges of unlawful filming, but adolescents themselves are facing child pornography charges. And, most tragic, young victims of this foul crime are being pushed into suicidal mires. As uncomfortable as it may be, share stories like these with teens as a warning. Making the wheels turn in those brains that lack fully-developed frontal lobes just might prevent tragedy.

As a human resources professional, I so often encounter people who think they have a job offer in the bag, but are soon wildly disappointed. These days, a formal background check is just the beginning. For employers, due diligence includes checking social media accounts and doing Google searches on candidates before formal offers are extended.

Because the Internet has been around to record the mistakes of their youth in permanent, digital marker, presenting a clean slate will be even more difficult for millennials and their successors — just ask the team captains of the Sayreville football team in 10 years.

As kids head back to school for second semester, help them prepare for the new jungle out there. Here’s what they need to understand from a young age:

Every day, you choose how to live your life—not only how you conduct yourself as a human being, but also how you treat other people (choose kind). Think of yourself as a brand. You build value in your brand with upstanding behavior. Living a life of good character will pay off in endless ways.

Anything you or others post of you online will be in the public domain and will likely be out there for all to see forever. Think before you press send.

Beware of being filmed unknowingly. Even if you think you are in a setting that is private, don’t assume and be cautious.

There are consequences and penalties for demonstrating questionable character as you age and strive to reach your goals. Don’t let a lapse in judgment get in the way of your hopes and dreams.

Select your friends carefully. If it feels wrong in your gut, it probably is. Channel that good sense of direction and avoid following others down the wrong path. Remember:
Your digital footsteps, in particular, are tracked nearly everywhere you go.

All being said, tell young people that if something should happen to them that is humiliating, there are options for ushering in tomorrow, a new day. With the help of parents, friends and counselors, there is always a path toward healing.

In the past, learning by trial and error was “the hard way,” but today it’s even harder as rumors and incriminating photos spread like wildfire throughout peer groups over the Internet. It is our job to teach the younger generation online survival skills now to minimize the obstacles they encounter as they grow up and pursue their dreams.

Leigh Ann Errico is a certified Leadership Coach and the founder and CEO of Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation (www.wearthecapekids.com).