Monday, December 30, 2013

Five Simple Parenting Resolutions

Being a better parent is a goal that can improve your life immensely.  Having a warm and nurturing relationship with your children that is based on respect will create a harmonious home environment and better equip them to grow up and face the real world with success in the coming years.  So what are some concrete goals to improve your parenting?

1.  Yell less:  Yelling seems to be the "go to" method of communicating with your child when you are frustrated.  But a better method is learning to calm yourself down into a reasonable adult and deal with the situation in a mature manner.  I know it is easier said than done, but with practice it is attainable, and you then become rational rather than a maniac in the eyes of your child.  Not a bad thing, right?

2.  Listen more:  We are becoming a culture that is incapable of listening.  If you are constantly on your phone or at your computer as your child tries to talk to you, don't be surprised when he/she does the same to you.  Put the tech down and offer up some eye to eye contact with ears open and mouth closed.

3.  Set limits:  It has been shown in countless studies that self control is key to future success in children.  So how do your children learn self control?  Not from a parent who allows anything and everything.  If you ascribe to "lazy parenting" your children will never learn self control.  You need to be in control and limit screen time, enforce a bedtime, monitor sweets and junk food, so that your children learn to control their desires and themselves for future success.

4.  Educate yourself:  Don't be the parents who uses the excuse "I didn't know!" when it comes to issues with your children.  It is your job to know what they are up to and who they are hanging with at all times. 

5.  Communicate your love:  Not through buying things, or being a push over, but through your words and actions.  Your children need to know you love them and support them no matter what- always, everywhere, end of story.  Tell them everyday, and also tell them what you specifically love about them.  They need to know, it makes a difference to a child.  You may assume they know, but they don't.  So make sure you hug them and cuddle them and tell them everyday what they mean to you.  And you will never regret it!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Feeling Stressed and Anxious?

The holiday season is an overload of stress on parents.  Gift buying on an already tight budget, hiding gifts from prying eyes, flying around from event to event, meal planning and preparation, extended family gatherings and family expectations, and on and on and on!  It can feel like complete and utter madness.

Here is my prescription:

Breath again.
Repeat the simple mantra: "It will all get done, and if it doesn't-it wasn't meant to!"

Everything happens in its' own time according to plan.  Tomorrow will come.  Celebrate each moment and view the season as a gift, not a burden.

"It will all get done, and if it doesn't-it wasn't meant to!"

Hug your children.  Smile at passing shoppers.  Dance in the kitchen as you cook. And remember:

"It will all get done, and if it doesn't-it wasn't meant to!

Merry Christmas and God Bless Us, Everyone!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Five Gifts for my Daughters

It is not easy to be a young woman in our modern world.  Our culture glorifies images of females who have been strategically modified via computers to reflect "the ideal".  We all are assaulted constantly by images of women who have flawless skin, skinny arms, flat stomachs, shiny perfect hair and white, perfect smiles.  When we turn on the tv or scan the internet, we hear endlessly about women "sellebrites" as I like to call them.  They have sold their morals for fame and fortune.  Many have achieved stratospheric monetary success by appearing in porn videos, or living the public partying lifestyle that is spread all over the tabloids and internet.

Women of substance are rarely touted or talked about.  So I created this list of gifts that I hope to pass along to my three daughters.  They are gifts that will help them to live a fulfilling and passionate life.  They are truly what is important to me and hopefully to other women across the globe.  See if you agree with my gift list this year:

1.  Healthy Body Image:  I want my daughters to love their bodies as they are.  Contrary to popular media, there is beauty to be found in a woman who loves herself.  Beauty from within is where it is at.  There is beauty in all of us, and those who are kind and loving and genuinely interested in other people possess the most powerful beauty secret of all.  Beauty is not found in a zero size jean, or under the knife at a plastic surgeon's office.

2.  Global Awareness:  The world is an exciting and wonderful place.  I want my daughters to have a passion for the world we live in and the knowledge of places and people outside their own little world.  I want them to realize that being global citizens means not only traveling to other places, but caring about what is happening globally and educating themselves about what we all can do to preserve our planet and connect with our brothers and sisters in far away places who may need our attention.

3.  Passion for Learning:  Curiosity is a gift that keeps us young.  I want all three of my daughters to be life long learners.  Whether in a classroom or in the real world, my wish for them is that they never stop learning and experiencing new things.

4.  Strong Self Concept:  This gift will protect my daughters from being involved in relationships filled with abuse or emotional drama.  A woman who loves herself simply cannot be tied to an abusive lover.  She would never stand for it.  She recognizes that she is worth more and does not tie her value to a relationship that disrespects her.

5.  Faith:  I pray that my three daughters will have a fulfilling, spiritual life.  I feel that this gift allows them to navigate the ups and downs of their years with an anchor of faith.  Believing that there is more to life than our material world, and acknowledging with a grateful heart that our lives are precious gifts adds a depth to our existence that defies explanation.  Thinking about concepts such as grace and humility and lives of service, put our everyday activities into focus and hopefully make us better people during our time on earth.  We can believe that we are the center of our universe, but I hope that my daughters choose to believe that they are part of a universe created by a loving and just Creator, and acknowledge that although we don't have all the answers, a life of faith creates a depth of experience that is not found in the secular world.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Savor the Season with your Child

The holiday season has it's stresses for parents...hectic schedules and demands to buy the gifts and bake the cookies and attend the programs at school and send the cards and the list goes on and on.  But if you are completely stressed out and dragging yourself through this amazing season, YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT!

Take a breath and look at your schedule.  Cut out what is not imperative and refocus yourself on enjoying the specialness of this beautiful time of year.  Here are some simple ideas of ways to enjoy the holiday with your family, which is really all that matters anyway:

1.  Go for a walk or drive and look at holiday lights that are sparkling around so many neighborhoods at this time of year.

2.  Clip a recipe and bake cookies together.  Even if you just buy the cookies in a tube, and frosting in a tub...make an evening out of decorating them together.

3.  Help your child to create a gift for his/her grandparents.  Something simple and handmade like a painted birdhouse, a stitched welcome mat, woven potholder or decorated ornament.  The point is to spend time planning and executing a handmade special something.

4.  Build a fort out of a table and blankets.  Bring in a flashlight and read some holiday themed stories.

5.  Pop popcorn and watch an old holiday movie together.

Share the joy of the season with your child, by not allowing the hectic pace to suck all the joy out of you.  Time that you spend enjoying your children is time you will NEVER regret--don't let it pass you by.  Realize that your children grow up fast and so don't wait!  Spend some time and effort creating lasting memories of enjoyable family time spent together!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Please? Please? Please? Can we get a dog?"

Is a pet in your family's future?  Pets can be wonderful additions to your family.  My niece was here last week, and she was so animated and happy as she shared photos of her two cats.  My college age children were so eager to reconnect with our family dogs as they spent their college break back at our home.  But pets are a big commitment and adding one to your household should be a carefully thought out decision.  I did not grow up in a house with any pets, and now we share our home with two dogs.  So I have lived on both sides of the fence (as a non pet family and a pet lover).  Here are a few tips to consider before you hit the pet store or animal shelter.

1.  Pets require time and attention.  Families must agree that the work of having a pet is a shared responsibility.  And responsibilities help children to learn and grow.  It is not always fun to walk the dog, or feed the cat, but it must be done.  And in life, this is a VALUABLE lesson.  It is not fair to take on a pet and then ignore it or make it suffer from lack of attention.  So only get a family pet if you all are committed to taking on the responsibilities that properly caring for a pet requires.

2.  Pets can help your children cope with outside stress.  Studies have shown that petting an animal can lower a person's blood pressure.  I have seen this as I have watched my kids cuddle with their dogs after school, or on a bad day.  Therapy dogs have a purpose and a family pet can have a similar purpose within your home.

3.  Pets can bond you with your children.  My husband always takes our dogs to play frisbee on Saturday morning, and my youngest daughter gets up almost every weekend to go with him.  These mornings have become a special time for both of them enjoy, which is rare for a dad and teenage daughter.  I never dreamed that this wonderful benefit would grow out of having a dog.

4.  Pets help children understand the cycle of life.  Pets die and life goes on.  It is a painful process, but also a learning and growing experience.  "Tis better to have loved and lost than have never loved at all" is a profoundly insightful quote from Shakespeare that brings this one home!

5.  Pets are expensive.  Do not adopt a pet if you are not financially able to care for it.  It will require food, equipment, vet visits, and care if you travel.  So don't make the mistake of getting a pet you cannot afford.  It will be extremely difficult to give up a pet once you bring it home.

6.  Pets should not be impulse purchases.  Adults must consider all the circumstances within a household before committing to a pet.  Getting a pet and then returning it because it didn't work out is not fair to the pet, or your children.

7.  Adopting a pet can be very fulfilling.  Many pets are looking for good homes.  Do your research on the internet if you are thinking about a certain breed or type of pet.  Maybe you can give a home to a pet that needs you as much as you want him/her.  This is a powerful message for your children.

8.  Pets need training.  Teaching or training a pet can help build a child's confidence.  You may discover you have a "dog whisperer" in your household.  This can prove to be a very positive experience for your child.  But whether it is you or your children training your pet, you all need to be consistent and know that a well trained pet is a pleasure, a poorly trained pet...well not so much.

So give it some thoughtful consideration, and if you decide to add an animal member to your household, I wish you the very best of luck--and keep a camera handy!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Embrace the Simplicity of Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday!  Thanksgiving embraces all my favorite things, family, food, togetherness and appreciation.  It is a "chill" holiday.  Cook a warm and nourishing meal, sit down at a lovely table.  Share stories, laughs, memories, and a meal.  Don't let the media push unrealistic expectations on this holiday.  Don't stress about having everything perfect.  Don't try to imitate Martha Stewart or Ina Garten.  Just put some thoughtful intention into sharing a meal with the people in your life.  Plan a fun craft or game to interest the littlest guests.  Make an effort to set a pretty table.  Allow others to help.  Savor the simplicity of this humblest of holidays.  Save your shopping for later.  Embrace this one day to remain in the company of your family and be thankful to have them.  And if you are in the position to share, make a donation to your local food pantry, so other families can enjoy Thanksgiving, too.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Key to Parenting Success: Guest Post by Best Selling Author, Dr. Christina Hibbert

The Key to Parenting Success
By This is How We Grow Author, Dr. Christina Hibbert

We all want our children to rise to their full potential, to become contributing members of society, to treat us with respect. And all of that is good. But the most valuable thing I have learned in my many years of parenting is that parenting is more about the parent than the child. We can discipline our kids and tell them what to do, or we can model good behavior and show them who and how to be. As I write in my article, Parenting Success, “Parenting is more about the parent than the child. That’s why it’s called parenting and not childing”

Children learn best by example. Think about yelling. Have you ever found yourself yelling, “Stop yelling!” to your children? Does it make any sense at all? Do you ever find yourself, in a fit of frustration, trying to teach your child about controlling their emotions? How can you teach them something you can’t do well yourself?

I learned this in an intense way when my family went through one of our toughest times. In 2007, my brother-in-law died of skin cancer. Two months later, my sister suddenly died. They had two young sons, my nephews, and my husband and I inherited those two boys. I was also pregnant at the time with our fourth baby. Our new sons came to live with us, I gave birth, and went from three to six kids in a matter of weeks.

The years after these events were tough—for all of us. Between trying to create a new family, dealing with difficult new extended family members and courts as we tried to adopt, and simply trying to help us all heal, needless to say, I was overloaded. I was faced with heavy grief and postpartum depression. I was desperately trying to be there for my husband and kids, who were also struggling to make sense of it all. At times, it became too much. I would take out my frustrations on my family, complaining that my kids weren’t “helpful,” or “responsible enough.” Soon, however, I would realize—it wasn’t my kids’ fault they weren’t helping as much as I wanted them to. After all, they were also dealing with grief. Also, I hadn’t been communicating and teaching them effectively what I needed them to do because I had been so overwhelmed. They needed my instruction and guidance before I could hold them accountable. And they needed my example if any of us were to get through.

As I write in my new memoir, This is How We Grow ,** I had to model for my children how to “choose to grow, no matter what life throws your way.” Through the years that followed, I continually reminded myself that parenting is about being a good parent, and being a good parent is doing my own work, then teaching my kids how to do theirs. (Read my article, Parenting Success Skills: #1 Do Your Own Work First ) I reminded myself that if I wanted my kids to behave and to become their best, I had to do the same. I shared my emotions with the kids and invited them to share theirs with me. We talked often. We cried together. When I made mistakes, I apologized and showed them how I can change and do better. And they have learned to do the same.

Yes, parenting is a tough job. We all make mistakes and say and do things we later regret, but what matters is, we try. We show our children we are in this together—that we are also trying to be better, that we are practicing what we preach. We let them see some of our failures and struggles and emotions, and then we let them witness how we work things out. We model for them, and they learn from our example. This is the trick to good parenting. This is the key to parenting success.

Dr. Christina Hibbert’s Brand New Book, This is How We Grow,
is already an Amazon #1 Bestseller!
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Brain Growth through Experiences!

"This is How We Grow!" 
Blog Hop 2013

As a preschool teacher, my students teach me lessons everyday!  Their little minds come alive when offered the chance to experience something new.  Yesterday, we played a simple board game in class and they were fascinated with spinning the spinner, taking orderly turns, and talking with one another about the rules and the winner.

Our art table offered them a chance to "bedazzle" the letters of their names with shiny jewels and glue.  As they sat and concentrated on the work at hand, they were making comparisons to the other letters in their classmates names,  "Look Christopher ends with an er, just like my name, Oliver!".

Real life experiences never fail to illicit a reaction of excitement and positive energy in these precious little children.  My concern is that we-adults, are robbing them of these experiences.  We are allowing their little brains to be pacified with electronic devises rather than stimulated with real experiences of creativity and problem solving.  We are handing out I-pads during restaurant visits rather than crayons and paper and plugging them in for cartoons in the minivan for the short drive to school.

So what is a modern day, stressed out, worn out, craving some quiet time, parent to do?  Remember to give your child your best on a daily basis.  Give them your attention while driving in the car.  Talk to them about what they can see out the window or where you are headed.  Put the I-Pads away when you walk into a restaurant and spend the time talking with them about manners or nutrition or books or their brothers and sisters.  And DO THINGS WITH THEM!  Pull out markers and paints and draw pictures.  Call them into the kitchen and make a fruit salad.  Cuddle up on the couch and read a story.  You will never regret doing this.  I promise!  But you may regret NOT doing this, as they will quickly grow up (as mine have) and you will have robbed them and yourself of experiencing life together.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Parents: Scheduling is Everything!

I am about to let you in on a HUGE parenting secret...and I only learned it through trial and error over the course of many years!  Scheduling is a key to parenting young children!

Young children learn through experience, and the more safe and secure you can make their world for them, the more safe and secure they feel.  And you can achieve this through scheduling or patterning their days.  The bonus is a child who feels safe and secure is able to learn better, and exhibit self control, and in general is much more pleasant to be around.  There are many obstacles to following a schedule that allows for your young child to feel safe and secure.  We all have busy calendars and high expectations and so we end up racing from here to there often times completely unaware as to how this chaos is affecting our young children.

If you want your young child to feel safe and secure and calm and peaceful, you must make it a priority to offer them a schedule and commit to keeping it.  The more you can slow the pace and offer an easy, predictable, rational daily schedule for your child, the better it will be.  You not only offer the child a world that they understand, but you also are developing important bonds of trust because you allow your child to count on a schedule and in turn they count on you and your word to deliver what you promise. 

There will be plenty of time as they grow older to be out and about and enjoy many activities.  But when they are young, make a commitment to them and their best interest to slow the pace.  If you have a nanny, cooperatively work out a simple, daily schedule that meets your child's needs and then commit to following it on weekends, too.  If your child is in daycare, make sure that you find out how the day is spent, and try to loosely pattern your days in a similar fashion.  Young children need naps and playtime and require feeding and hygienic care--as they grow there will be plenty of time for enrichment opportunities.  But while your children are young, embrace simplicity and help to bolster their confidence by offering them a simple routine rather than a chaotic and upsetting schedule.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Put Your Kid's To Work!

 How many parents out there have had the following scenario play out in your home: Ask child to perform a simple task, followed by child pushing off task for a few minutes, followed by parents asking a second time, followed by child pushing off task for a few more minutes, followed by parent asking (or let's be honest-Yelling) for child to do the task, followed by child yelling back and still not performing the task.  Finally followed by exasperated parent giving up...and doing the task!

Every parent at one time or another has thought, "it is just easier to do it myself!" but by repeating this scene day after day in your home, you are hurting yourself and your child.  Why?  Because you are not garnering respect from your child.  You are not giving your child life skills to use when he/she doesn't live under your roof any longer. And you are not developing your child's inner voice that will speak to him/her about the importance of doing everyday the mundane tasks that ultimately need to be done.  Think in extreme cases you are creating a future hoarder or worse, a child who grows up to be incapable of doing anything for himself/herself and lives with you forever!

The goal of parenting should be to support your child as he/she grows into an adult able to support himself/herself in the real world and thrive both socially and emotionally.  A great way to help your child become more capable is to have expectations about tasks that he/she needs to perform within your household--CHORES!

Even the littlest of children can begin to help with family tasks.  Have your two year old put toys and/or shoes and away, set the table, or even "make the bed".  Efforts of little ones will not always be up to your standards, but be patient and capitalize on the fact that are eager to help.  As they grow, their responsibilities should, too.  Kids can lend a hand on garbage day, by taking out the trash.  They can help with pet care.  They can set the table and wash dishes.  Having no expectations of your children, is granting them a free ride through life, and that is not your job.  Your job is to teach them how to thrive in the real world.  Chores also are a great way to reinforce that you are a team, your family works together and that you as the parent, are the "coach".   All these are powerful lessons for the healthy development of your children.  And though it might be a struggle at first, keep in mind that implementing chores for your kids will benefit them for years to come.  Stay strong and have high expectations!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Parents: 5 Hints to Better Communication!

As a mom of teenagers and young adults, I recognize the importance of communication.  Communication with teenagers often times allows a parent to guide teens into making better choices, or finding a voice when confronted with conflict, or advocating for themselves when negotiating with a teacher, coach or boss.  In short, having open lines of communication between you and your teenagers is imperative, and those lines begin their formation when your child is young.

So here are a few tips to help parents maximize the formation of good communication between you and your child--no matter what their age.  The earlier you practice these, the better!

1.  Good Listening is Key:  Often times, we don't listen enough.  When our children talk to us we immediately begin to interrupt and chime in with our opinions or criticisms.  Children will only continue to talk to an adult who actively listens to them.  So practice being quiet and really listening when your child has something to share with you.

2.  Eliminate Distractions:  When your child wants to talk to you, nothing should be more important.  Put down your cellphone, turn away from the computer, mute the television.  Show with your body language and your eye contact that you are tuned in and attentive.

3.  Search and Discover Effective Environments:  As anyone of multiple children knows, all children are very different!  So try to figure out what environment allows each of your children to open up and talk.  Recently my preschoolers took a walk together, and a little boy who is as quiet as a mouse in the classroom, talked the entire way around the block.  Kids have preferences about where and when they talk.  It may be when riding in the car, or laying in their bed before falling asleep.  Maybe they come home from school ready to talk, or maybe they need time to relax but like talking at dinner.  Sometimes all it takes is a mug of hot chocolate!  Anywhere and anytime, your job as their loving parent is to encourage them to open up to you as a willing and ready listener.

4.  Don't Embarrass Them:  A common mistake of parents is to overshare with others information that they hear from their children.  If your child thinks that anything he/she says to you may be broadcasted to the world, they will opt to not share much.  Kids are very sensitive to this and respect a parent who can keep things within the house and not advertise everything to the neighborhood.

5.  Trust is Imperative:  Just as any parent wants to trust in their children, children want to trust that you keep your word.  If you make it common practice to call teachers or other parents about issues, even when you told your child you would not, you are risking their trust in you.  At times, you will have to step in to situations, but first make sure that your child is aware of what you plan to do and don't play the roulette game of telling him/her one thing and behaving differently.

These five tips, when practiced consistently will allow the communication between you and your child to grow and blossom into a beautiful relationship that will serve you both in the years to come.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Kind Heart of Children

Working at a preschool, I am frequently reminded of the kind heart that young children possess.  I see it revealed when they rush in to help a sad friend or offer excited ideas about helping in any situation brought to their attention.  I truly believe that children are born into our world with the tenderest and most loving heart.

The challenge for parents is to protect that young heart and help a maturing child not fall prey to our selfish societal norms, but to help a child's heart grow in kindness and helpfulness as their bodies and minds grow and mature.  A few examples come to mind.  I remember when Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast in the U.S. and a group of school age children responded in my Chicago area neighborhood by raising money for the American Red Cross.  I know children who have held lemonade stands and donated proceeds to a local animal shelter, or a neighbor girl, who instead of birthday presents, asked for donations for a local charity.  And most recently, I know of a group of fourth grade boys, so moved by the courage of a child suffering with cancer, that they mobilized their grade school to make donations to help support the family during this difficult time.

So what can parents do to foster this type of love and concern on the part of their children?  Here are a few ideas:

1.  Model kindness and charity in your own lives.  Set goals for yourself, such as an act of kindness a day, or an act of charity each month.  Whatever makes sense for you and is achievable.  Then share your goals with your children and allow them to witness your participation.  Children truly learn what they by doing this you will be planting the seeds of kindness within them.

2.  Encourage them to think of others.  Research confirms that children who have greater social and emotional skills fare better in the world than those who do not.  So by taking the time to teach your children to think of others, you will secretly be benefiting them as well.  A good place to start is your local library where you can find books that can help you teach your children about thinking of others and practicing kindness.

3.  Acquaint them with religious beliefs.  Universally, religion emphasizes ideals such as caring for your neighbor and thinking about issues larger than your self.  These ideas can motivate individuals to work for the greater good, and not be completely dependent on worldly possessions and a life of self satisfaction over personal relationships.

4.  Support their efforts.  If your child has an idea that involves reaching out to others encourage it, support it, and help them to make it happen.  All of this effort will be worth it to you and your child, as it will strengthen the relationship between both of you and help your child to develop confidence in his/her ideas and ability to make them happen.

5.  Take pride in making the world a better place.  By raising a compassionate and caring child, you will be offering our world a gift.  The more we as parents can do to encourage our children to mature into caring and kind adults, the better off your family, your community and ultimately our world will be.  So make this a priority.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Families Rule with Family Rules!

Everyone knows that different environments have different rules.  When you are in school, you are taught early on what rules you are to follow.  When you have a job, your training includes what is expected of you.  When you play sports or games, there are always carefully defined rules.  And in learning to drive, you must understand the rules of the road.  But often times, in our homes, where we spend the majority of our time together as a family, we forget the importance of having rules that are clearly understood and recognized by all family members.  Every strong organization needs rules and so to have a strong family you need rules, too!

It helps to think about your family as a business or team.  What are your long term and short term goals?  What structure have you put in to place (either formally or informally) to accomplish these goals?  What is your mission as parents, and what do you hope to achieve when it comes to the raising of your children?

In the groups of parents that I have worked with, we often devote time to creating a family mission statement and then the creation of family rules.  This exercise can help all members of the family to understand one another and also come together as a cohesive unit.  The first step in creating family rules is to have parents sit down and discuss what rules they can agree on to enforce and honor within their household.  It does no good to have rules, only to allow them to be broken with no consequences.  This makes the entire process null and void.  The rules should be simple and easily understood.  Some suggestions might be "Only Kind Words Spoken" (no swearing) or "Only Hugs" (no Hitting or Kicking) etc.  Parents must also be able to honor the rules because the "Do as I say but not as I do" method WILL NOT WORK!

Once the rules are agreed upon, it is time to have a family meeting where the rules are unveiled and discussed.  In addition to introducing rules, the meeting should be a time where the family can discuss the consequences for breaking the rules.  Parents need not be too specific as to what the consequences might be because different age children require different consequences.  But younger children benefit from a clear understanding that the consequence will result when the rule is broken.  PARENTS MUST BE CONSISTENT IN CONNECTING THE CONSEQUENCE WITH THE RULE BREAKING!

If your family has never outlined any rules, my advice is to start slowly.  Pick a few key rules and be ready to share them and enforce them.  It is never easy at first, and your kids will definitely test your resolve.  But stay strong in the interest of building a healthy and happy family.   Remember, baby steps down the road of improved parenting is always the key.  Just tackle one or two major issues at a time.  Once those improve your parenting confidence will grow and you will be able to move forward toward a more harmonious and fulfilling family life.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

YOU are the Captain of your Family's Ship!

As a parent, you are a captain of your ship.  So why is this important? As with most relationships, as you get comfortable with your role as a parent you begin to establish certain patterns of behavior that your children quickly identify and respond to.  Their responses usually differ from each other, hence the "he is so different from his brother!" statement.  But the fact is that your children read your behavior and then respond.  Kid's see you as the captain, but if you don't live up to the role, mutiny will ensue.

For instance, first thing in the morning your children turn on the tv, don't eat their breakfast, begrudgingly put on their clothes, forget to brush their teeth or hair, and when the clock is reminding you it is time to leave, you angrily begin yelling at them about everything including the fact that they don't have shoes on and haven't packed up their backpack.  Sound familiar yet?

But rather than setting aside some time for personal reflection, you find yourself repeating the pattern over and over and over again.  Stressful mornings that you attribute to your kids lack of effort is really not about them at all--IT IS YOUR FAULT!

Now this is not written to heap mountains of guilt onto your platter...oh no, I have walked this path before and want to share the hidden secret that will transform your need to change your behavior.

First of all, you are the captain of the you need to regain control.  Rules are made for this, so tell your children that their will be no tv or computer in the morning until they are completely ready for school--and this means all siblings are all ready.  (All hands on deck to reference the captain idea).  Next, don't cave.  I mean you cannot cave into whining, pleading, anger, tears, whatever your crew throws at you.  That is just their way of trying to regain mutiny status.  And if you allow them to win, the next time you try to establish authority will be that much harder.

All good captains have procedures.  So it is your job to teach your kid's what the morning routine is supposed to include.  Make a  poster or write it in magnets on your refrigerator--whatever works.
Make sure that they understand the rules.  No tv or computer until everyone is completely ready to walk out the door.  That means they have backpacks and lunches packed, shoes on feet or at least nearby and accounted for, and coats and outerwear lying at the ready.  No exceptions.

And as the captain, you need to refrain from yelling.  Just calmly go through the morning responding with encouragement and reminders to keep them on track, but refrain from the tv or computer reward until you inspect the troops and confirm that everything has been done to your satisfaction.

It really is as simple as that.  At first your children may test your resolve, but if you remain calm and strong, this routine will help you sail smoothly into many peaceful mornings.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Be a Good Sport Parent

 When you look up "sport" on the online dictionary ( the third definition is this:

diversion; recreation; pleasant pastime.  
And yet, how many of us parents see our kid's sports as this?  A diversion?  no.  Our children's sports activities are played in order to fill our days and give us much more than a simple diversion.  Why else would we be hooting and hollering, yelling at coaches and refs?  Ranting about bad calls and unfair practices!  I think not.  Much more than a simple diversion.
Recreation.  Well, that sounds all fine and good.  We don't want our children to be fat oafs like the Dursley child in Harry Potter.  They need recreation.  Especially when recess and gym class are being cut in favor of academics.  But recreation sounds so purely enjoyable.  Recreation never got anyone a scholarship.  Sports are supposed to be teaching tenacity and discipline and toughness, but I digress.
Pleasant pastime?  Who are you kidding.  Have you seen the cost of sports lately?  I mean, it starts with the uniforms and the shoes and equipment, but then it includes the cost of transporting them from state to state, and the snacks and the meals and the end of the season parties.  Where is the pleasant in all of this?
My question is this, Where has this definition of sport gone?  Parents have kidnapped it and held it hostage.  We have replaced it with do or die competitiveness beginning in preschool.  We have demanded that our children play more than park district or little league.  They need travel sports and leagues that offer elite interstate matches.  We need to push and push and yell and yell.  We need to attend not every game but every practice as well-where we critique the coaching and the officiating and anything else that might stand between our child and stardom. Can I just offer this simple reminder to all Sports Parents:

CHILL OUT PEOPLE!  Let your child play sports in order to have fun.  Watch them play and cheer them on but leave your own ego at the door.  Allow coaches to coach and officials to officiate.  Remember that they are only human, and make mistakes.  But they are volunteering there time and doing the best that they can.  And don't scream at your child to correct anything that he/she does.  It is not your job.  Just enjoy the game.  And after the game is over, get in to the car and simply say the following phrase.  "I hope you had fun, I did because I love seeing you out there doing your best."  End of story.  That is all you need to do as a good sport parent. Let's all collectively agree to end the madness so that our children can truly experience the definition of sport: diversion, recreation and pleasant pastime! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Night, Night, Sleep Tight!

  Establishing bedtime routines for young children can often times be a struggle.  And the sad truth of it is, the longer parents delay this "chore" the more difficult it becomes.  Parents create major struggles for themselves when they fail to stand up to their children and be the adult in the relationship.  Many parents love to cuddle and snuggle their small children and love to see them fall asleep on the couch of the family room.  Somehow as the toddler grows, this behavior morphs into a child who can't or won't fall asleep in his or her own room.  The child who stays up until all hours of the night cannot be expected to function academically, socially or emotionally.  This is not a healthy practice because the child who is going to bed at late hours of the night, needs to sleep late in the morning.  Then school begins and this becomes a major problem.  A child cannot function at his or her peak ability level when he/she is not getting proper sleep.

So what are parents to do?  Revisit their approach to bedtime.  Communicate to the child that there are going to be some changes.  Teach the child that the new routine will be a scheduled bedtime preceded by a bath and book.  Warm baths calm their nervous system and help the child relax.  The book allows for some parent/child bonding and snuggle time.  Then it should be lights out, with the understanding that the child is not to get out of bed until morning.  If the child tantrums, it will take about two weeks of staying STRONG and calmly repeating the pattern to firmly establish it.  Each time the child gets up, a non emotional and non communicative parent, places the child back in bed.  An older child may require positive reinforcement such as a special outing or reward earned when he/she stays in bed all night for an agreed upon period of time.  But the understanding must be that there is no going back to the old, bad habits.  Older children have had years of practice manipulating their parents.  So for this to work, the parent must stay strong and NOT negotiate.  It is in the long term interest of the child to learn to calm themselves and sleep in their own space.  And putting a television in the child's room should NEVER be an option.  Television offers no redeeming benefits to children of any age when it is being watched in place of sleep.

When the going get tough, keep the long term benefits in mind.  Your child will be healthier, happier, more alert, and able to cope with quality sleep.  These benefits far outweigh the short term annoyance of dealing with an unhappy child.  Your job is to parent, and good parenting means making your child unhappy at times, for their own good.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Don't Like Your Child's Teacher? Here's some advice!

Many years ago, as a young grade school student, one of my children was assigned to a be in the classroom of a very popular teacher.  As the year progressed, I had many occasions to interact with this teacher, and on each occasion I came away with a slightly sick and confused feeling.  The teacher had a way of speaking to me that caused my jaw clench and the back muscles in my neck tighten.  And I interacted with this teacher quite a bit, as I was a mom volunteer on several major events.  My daughter, on the other hand, loved this woman and everything that went on in her classroom.  She was an extremely happy child and loved this teacher throughout the year.

Can anyone relate to this story, yet?  Well things actually got worse.  A situation arose where the teacher said something to my daughter that did not sit well with my husband or I, and at the time we had a friend on the school board, who we called, who then called the principal, who then called the teacher and things were rather uncomfortable for a few weeks.

Why am I reliving this embarrassing drama? Because I would be the first to say that we mishandled this situation from start to finish.  Hopefully, outing my mistake can help other parents who are facing a similar dilemma.  So here are my tips to dealing with "difficult" teacher situations:

1.  Don't dis the teacher in front of any of your children, ever.

2.  View your relationship with the teacher as distinctly different than your child's because it is a relationship between two adults and has nothing to do with the day to day experiences your child is having. 

3.  If you have an issue with the teacher, take it up with the teacher.  It is the mature and respectful thing to do.  Would you want someone with an issue about you to go straight to your boss?  If you are worried about repercussions, ask another professional to sit in on the meeting with you.

4.  Let minor things go, only get involved if something is major.  Will this problem still be a major problem two weeks from now?  If not, let it go.

5.  Go into the meeting with the attitude that you are looking to increase understanding and common ground, rather that to "win".

6.  Don't poison your child's attitude about the teacher, a year is an awfully long time to have to suffer through a poor relationship.

7.  Remember that there will be loads of adults involved in teaching your child throughout the years.  Learning to deal with different personalities and persevere when the going gets tough are life long lessons for your child...and for you.

8.  Don't make your first step to call your friend on the school board.

9.  Try to always take the high road, and give the teacher the benefit of the doubt.

10.  Remember this too shall pass.  Don't embarrass your child with your actions.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Wanted: New Disney Teen Idols with MORALS!

I need to rant for a moment.  Where has good taste gone?  Does NO ONE in the entertainment industry have it any more.  Did they all sell their souls to the devil in the almighty quest for shock value rather than real values.  When did it become so laughable to have morals that we now take it for granted that former child stars who continue to seek fame and fortune end up to be drugged out, oversexed, classless trashies ala Britney, Lindsey, Amanda, and now Miley?

All four of these young women had scores of girls who grew up idolizing them.  They all are pretty, and talented, and had such potential to shape a generation of young girls by being role models, instead of models of bad behavior.  When I think about what they could have done to promote women's causes and be inspiring voices to combat important women's' issues like anorexia, date rape, or sexual harassment.  Who guides these young stars?  Clearly the type of parents who push their children into the business must be sorely misguided about the long term benefits, other than financial.

As the mother of three daughters, I am urging those in the entertainment industry to feel some shame and reflect on the fact that their business shapes our ideas.  Please raise the bar on entertainment, and kindly lose the stripper pole when it comes to television that is aimed at our younger generation.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Parents: Let your light shine!

Once, I visited a friend's cottage that had an annoying electrical problem.  When you turned certain light switches on in the house, other lights would dim.  Something wasn't working quite right, and I found it annoying and dysfunctional.

On another trip, I stayed in a lovely hotel that had the tradition of lighting the foyer each evening with a hallway of large lanterns.  As the candle lighting concierge made his way through the lobby, it was transformed into a scene of exceptional beauty.

These two scenes parallel the parenting decisions many of us make.  Let me explain.  In the first example, the room that you needed light in was bright enough, but the only way it got the light was from taking the power from the other rooms.  Some parents give all of their time and energy to their kids, and forget that it is dysfunctional to sacrifice all of your inner glow on behalf of your children.

Yet it is easy to fall into this trap.  If your goal is to be a great and wonderful and loving parent above all else and you lose yourself in the process, ironically you are failing.  Why?  Because your children won't respect you and won't even know who you really are, because you are focusing all  your attention on them.  You should be the example of what you want them to grow up to become.  And if you constantly sacrifice your needs on behalf of your children, you are teaching them that you are not worthy of having attention and focus placed on you.  If you lose your inner glow because you are giving it all to your children, you are like the cottage.  And the cottage was not functioning properly and was somewhat annoying.

The goal should be to find and maintain your inner glow as you pass it along to your children.  Your children should know what your passions are.  They should understand that you have interests that are outside of their existence, that you have accomplished things in your life that they were not even a part of, and that you deserve time each week to take care of some of your needs and wants.  If it is all about them, all the time, you are short changing yourself.

So how do you get your glow back?  It is very hard to do with young children underfoot but be creative.  Hire a sitter for a few hours each week or swap your kids with a friend, or call grandma or grandpa and make arrangements for you to have some time.  Start a journal that has personal goals in it.  Spend some time reflecting on what makes you happy and how you can get more of these things into your life.  Make a vision board or collage or pinterest board of your short term and long term dreams and ambitions.  Just by doing some self reflection, you will be lighting the spark that will help you begin to glow again and spread that glow to others around you, including your children.  You deserve this!  Now go and get it, by making some changes.  It can start today.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Launching from the Nest

My only son is just about ready to launch.  The countdown has begun, t-minus 15 hours and counting.  My living room is filled with boxes and bags reminding me of Christmases past, and don't get me started...everything reminds me of the past.  His hockey duffel lies on the floor and I flash back to years spent cheering him on in cold, dank hockey rinks, or freezing in the bleachers during his football seasons.  I wash his laundry to help him get ready (yes, he knows how to do his own laundry) and think of the school uniforms, and baseball uniforms, and practice jerseys and the memories of all the uniforms that have covered him and protected him and molded him into the young man he has become.

He is a helpful and kind soul.  Always ready to lend a hand and eager to please...except when his little sister asks him to walk the dogs.  He is loving and thinks nothing of giving me huge, warm bear hugs.  I will miss those.  But I am so proud of the person he is, and am eager to share him with the world.  I am eager for him to taste independence that comes with being a college freshman.  I am excited for him to meet new friends, and find new experiences that light him up.  Yes, I know I will miss his deep, booming voice calling out from the garage door, and the texts that always let me know where he his and what his plans are.  Hopefully, at least some of the texts will continue. 

Our family is shrinking again.  I've been down this road before.  Now we are three and the spotlight will shine a little more intensely on our youngest daughter.  She made a joke that now at dinner we will have to listen to her.  I only hope she is ready for this...but she has no choice.  And neither do I.  So, good luck my son, not "good bye" but "see you later" and I hope you know how much I love you!