Thursday, December 3, 2015
There was a shooting in Parkland, Las Vegas, Orlando, Paris, San Bernardino, Newtown and Columbine and Chicago and on and on and on. The list is long. And disturbing. What are we to do? How do we raise children in this violent and frightening world? The answers are simple.
Meet hatred with love.
Teach peace to our children.
Be hope for the hopeless.
Love and care for your family and community
Turn your back on violence and violent messages and guard your children from them.
Count your blessings.
Be generous to others.
When you need it, ask others for help.
Get to know your neighbors.
Do something for someone else.
Create art that inspires peace.
Invest/Spend your money in socially responsible companies that don't see weapons or promote violence.
Reach out to your government leaders to enact common sense gun and weapon laws.
Pray and develop your spiritual life.
Stay off social media or only follow those who do not spew hatred.
Resolve to live a life of love, rather than be scared into a life of media promoted paranoia.
Be a solution by being a good human being.
We all can do something. We all have our gifts and talents to share with the world. Don't lose hope. Carry on and make it your mission to fight violence and chaos with LOVE and action--in whatever form you have it in you to offer up to our struggling world.
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Our society gives the message that things make us happy. This falsehood is shoved upon us repeatedly from the day we are born. We are programmed from a very young age to want more and better and bigger and more expensive. We are assaulted with advertising and our media outlets barrage us with messages about when and where to shop. Black Friday and Cyber Monday seem to get as many mentions on social media as legitimate, calendar based holidays. And we, parents, get caught up in the current. Our children make us targets for their wish lists--and we oblige as best we can. The tragedy in all of this--is that it is based on a basic lie. Things don't make us happy--at least not in the big picture of it all. They make us happy in the little picture, immediate gratification picture, fleeting picture. The picture that fades out when something bigger and better comes along. Giving our children "stuff" makes us feel good in the moment. Giving our children stuff allows us bask in the temporary glow of their excitement and appreciation. But that glow is only temporary...and so may be their appreciation--especially if you have never taken the time to teach them gratitude.
This is a cautionary tale. Some of the most miserable young adults I know, have been given everything they ever wanted. And the result is either they are hopelessly shallow and narcissistic, or they are never satisfied and directionless. Or a combination of both. Being a parent does not mean that you sign a contract to give your child every material thing that they desire. In fact, being a good parent means withholding things and allowing your child to learn what it feels like to wait and work for something. If you serve everything up without any struggle, you are robbing your children of feeling the accomplishment when they earn something on their own. Being a good parent means saying no sometimes. It is hard to do. I know. But it is crucial!
In this holiday season of excess, take a moment to think about what is really important to you and your family. Don't allow yourself to become the mindless, zombie shopper that is hell bent on making each and every one of the items on Santa's list magically appear under the tree. Limit your gift giving to a few special gifts that are meaningful or educational. Reflect on what knowledge would be a gift to your child and his/her successful future and put a plan in place to teach these valuable life lessons. Thoughtful and intelligent parenting is the best gift you could ever give your child.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Teaching preschool is my passion and allows me to enjoy the gifts my preschool students give to me each and every school. Here are the lessons they teach me each day:
- Greet Each Day As A Gift: Sunny, windy, rainy, and snowy days are all met with a level of excitement that gets lost in adulthood. Leaves changing color--that's so cool! Pumpkins and apples have seeds inside--how interesting! When we are at school, half the world is asleep--Imagine that! Joy in the simple gifts of our natural surroundings.
- Passion for your Favorite Things: I had a student who colored every single picture in the color orange for an entire school year. Enough said!
- Spontaneous Kindness: It is not unusual for me to receive a totally random hug or complement from these little darlings. They feel love and express it freely!
- Energy is Contagious: I dare anyone to spend time in our classroom and not feel energized. My little students love to be busy! They love to create, play, run, jump, sing, clap, dance, color, learn, paint, build, and imagine. They remind me that sitting on your backside is a complete waste of time. Dive in to things rather than let life pass you by.
- Curiosity: My students are eager to learn. They have a drive to understand and look at things in unique ways. They are not yet afflicted with the common adult affliction "Know it all Syndrome". They inspire me to keep an open mind and try to look at things from more than my first perspective.
- Perseverance: At the beginning of the year, there are always tears and fears of the new classroom and by the end of the year, those same students are confidently striding in the door and smiling from ear to ear. Anything new always seems difficult at first, but don't give up--you will rob yourself of the benefits you receive from sticking with it and conquering your trials.
I am truly blessed to spend my weeks in the company of such powerful little teachers.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Children only have one chance at childhood. It's brief. It's precious. It's fleeting. As a preschool teacher, I have noticed an odd and disturbing trend...children don't know how to play. In the past few years, my students (3 to 5 year olds) have come into my preschool room, bursting with toy filled play centers; and wander around in a confused fashion. My co-teachers have noticed this same behavior. It is as if we need to teach these young children how to play! It takes a few weeks for the children to rekindle their curiosity and delve into building with blocks, caring for the baby dolls, and putting on the dress up clothes. We gently demonstrate, participate and encourage pretend play. And once they understand the concept of free choice playtime, they look forward to that part of our day above all others.
What has changed? Why are we seeing children who need instructions on how to use their imagination and play with simple toys? This is a new trend. I have taught many years and would say that this has occurred in the beginning of the year during my last three years of teaching. I admit this evidence is experiential and anecdotal. But it has been confirmed by other experienced preschool teachers. So what gives? My only guess is that electronic devises have pushed real hands on playtime to the side in these young children's lives.
The holidays give parents an opportunity to encourage the very thing that enriches childhood, PLAY. As a preschool teacher, I am pleading with all of you gift givers...use your money to purchase gifts that will enrich your children's childhood experiences; gifts that encourage imagination, problem solving, interaction, and real world experiences. Here are my suggestions:
- Blocks, Puzzles and Building Sets: encourage creativity and spacial awareness.
- Props for Pretend Play: dress up clothes, dolls, toy cars, plastic food, doctor kits, doll houses, farm sets, and stuffed animals all foster and encourage pretend play.
- Books: fill their minds with rich vocabulary and beautiful illustrations to capture their imagination.
- Art Supplies: unlock creativity through crayons, markers, clay, stickers and stamps for crafting artwork together or independently
- Board games: teach important social skills and often times foster counting and number recognition. Be sure to choose games that you will enjoy playing with them, otherwise they will just gather dust on a shelf.
This list includes the toys that preschool children gravitate towards in my classroom. Give the special children in your life real world toys that encourage them to use their imaginations and teach them the joy of childhood play.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
|Start forging a strong relationship with your child when they are young.|
Nothing gets to me more than seeing disappointment in the eyes of one of my preschool children as a result of poor parenting. It cuts me wide open. And every year I have to deal with seeing it in some form or another...and the saddest part is it usually is totally preventable. Here is a list of ways I have seen my little students inadvertently hurt by their loving parents.
- Constantly bringing your child late to school. It seems like a little thing, but children like to fit in, and be like everyone else. Bringing a child late to school means that he/she has to figure out what has been missed, and get up to speed on what is going on. It is stressful enough for a young child to be separating from the parent, but throwing him/her into a class that is already in session is heaping another stressor onto the child.
- Not telling your child who will be picking him/her up. Preschool children want to understand what the day will bring. Having a relative or nanny pick up your child is necessary at times, but inform your child who will be there so he/she knows. This small courtesy means the world to a young child. A lot of parents believe that shielding children from unwelcome news is the best method. But if you know your child will be disappointed that you are not picking him/her up, deal with it rather than surprise him/her at the end of a preschool day with an unfamiliar face or the unwelcome realization that you are not there.
- Constant chaos. Young children thrive on routine. They learn from it, grow from it, and develop self confidence through it. Serving up a daily dose of chaos is not doing your children any favors. Chaos is when a child has no idea what is going on in his life. Chaos is when a child doesn't know what his/her day will look like. Chaos is shuttling your child to a range of nannies or friends or relatives to be looked after, rather than caring for him/her yourself or establishing a caregiver who your child knows and trusts. Chaos is not good for children.
- Adult Problems. Some parents have big issues on their plates; divorce, illness, poverty, unemployment, substance abuse. These big issues can steal a parent away from connecting and interacting with your child. If you are facing personal challenges that are compromising your ability to be a good parent, search for support. Support can come from extended family members, religious organizations, physicians and/or friends. Investigate ways to get the support you need in order to be able to handle your adult issues without sacrificing your child's well being.
- Distractions. Ignoring your child in favor of your cell phone causes hurt to your child. Handing your child a video game or playing a movie when you pick up your child from preschool is robbing you of establishing communication between you and your child. Make the effort to focus on your child at pick up time or when you get home from work, so that he/she understands that you care about him/her and want to hear about his/her experiences. At least act happy to see him/her. Your young child misses you while he/she is away from you. Make sure your child understands that you miss him/her as well. And make the effort to communicate with him/her each and every day.
It takes effort every single day to be a good parent, and doubly so when you are a single parent. The days are long. The job is exhausting. But you owe it to your child to be the best parent you can be and good parenting started early makes everyone's life richer and more fulfilling.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2015
As the mom of four grown children, I watched loads of friendships form, strengthen, stand the test of time, and others crash and burn. Watching this process can be painful for a parent. Our protective "mama bear" claws want to come out when we see our children hurting, feeling left out, or being surprised and disappointed with a friend. At other times, our children bond with children that we don't really like. We feel conflicted about how much we should interfere. It has been my experience that a parent's role when it comes to friendships in your child's life, should be similar to a driving instructor. And here is why...
A driving instructor has the responsibility of keep his student safe. And a driving instructor is instructing from the passenger seat. When someone is learning to drive, they are in the driver's seat and have to ultimately make decisions. Similarly, when parents are analyzing their children's friendships, parents should focus on safety (the emotional and physical safety of your child) but friendships and their success or failure should be in the hands of your child.
In simple terms, in most cases, parents need to butt out. Friendships are the subject matter of the people who are involved in them. Give your child the freedom to choose his/her friends and learn from the success or failure of those friendships. It is not healthy or appropriate for parents to micromanage your child's friendships. You are there to love and support your child. You are there to listen to your child when he/she is looking for advice. You are there to teach your child what to look for in a friend, and how to be a good friend. If you get over involved in managing your child's friendships, your child will either resent your involvement or take it as a sign that you have no faith in his/her decision making abilities. So take this from someone who has made all of these mistakes. Learn from my experience to back off and let your child navigate his/her way toward the skills of making and keeping good friends.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015
|Great minds are formed through reading. Read to and with your children.|
Okay, we all know this...our lives our hectic. We are so busy juggling our commitments and checking our facebook pages that we are forgetting to take advantage of the simplest pleasure of being a parent...reading to our kids. Come on, fess up...when did you last read a story to your child? Last night? Well if that's true then--CONGRATULATIONS! But I'm guessing, not last night...or even the night before...or, well you get the picture.
So start tonight. Or right now. Sit down and read a book together. Share a story. Or start a chapter book, or dive into a series. Share some snuggles. Expand your child's vocabulary. Bond. This is the good stuff of parenting. Don't deprive yourself of the good stuff because you are too busy! No one should be too busy to sit down and read a book to a child. And then, do it tomorrow night and the next night and on and on. You will grow, your relationship will grow, your child will grow. It's all good. So no excuses. Read a story to your child...and continue to build on that. You will NEVER look back on that time as anything but precious.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2015
|Timeouts are effective for young children. They should be one minute for each year of the child's age. This time allows them to reflect on what they did and gives both the child and parents a brief break to calm down.|
Writing a parenting blog does not mean that I think my husband and I were perfect parents...far from it. We made our share of mistakes and learned from our missteps. Hopefully, as you read my blog and you can learn from our experiences. When we were young parents, I remember using threats at times to get our toddlers to behave. And I also will admit to relying heavily on the Santa threats when the hectic holiday season was upon us. But as our family grew and our parenting knowledge grew along with it, my husband and I stopped using threats to get our children to behave. We started to rely on our own confidence as parents. We expected our children to behave because we said so, and they understood that if they were choosing to be uncooperative there would be consequences. Consequences that we all knew about. When they were young, it was timeouts, and when they were older it was a whole host of things; losing a play date, having a toy taken for a certain amount of time, extra chores or even writing a paper! My husband liked to get creative.
This type of parenting was a lot easier than making scary threats and hoping the threats scared them into doing what we wanted. And through the years I have heard of parents using some whoppers! I understand that parents, when utterly frustrated and embarrassed will resort to saying just about anything, but threatening that the police are going to have to come to your house and take your tyke to jail, or the pilot of the plane will be coming back to deal with your child's behavior are empty and frankly ridiculous ploys on the part of the parent! You can do better and your children deserve better. Using fear and humiliation are not effective or healthy ways to discipline your child. Remember that you are the adult in the relationship. Your child looks up to you. Therefore, learn discipline techniques that are positive and relationship building rather than destructive and negative. There are classes and books and blogs that discuss positive discipline techniques. Educate yourself and your parenting partner so that you both are committed to effective and mentally healthy methods of disciplining your children. You might also enjoy reading this:
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Tuesday, October 13, 2015
As a parent, you are your child's legal guardian. But there is another type of guardian that you need to be. You need to be your child's guardian charged with the duty of protecting your child's innocence. You are the guardian of your child's childhood. Why is this important? Because in our technologically advanced society with smart phones and tablets within an armed reach of your child, we are oblivious to the fact that we are committing a crime against our children. WE ARE SYSTEMATICALLY ROBBING THEM OF THEIR CHILDHOOD.
Children who are swiping from the time that their chubby hands can hold a phone or tablet are losing out on real world experiences, and conversations and an innocence and simplicity that childhood should include. We all have seen how adept children are at figuring out devices. And parents love the fact that a device can keep a child quiet in a restaurant or at a family party or when a parent just wants a few minutes to check their own device. And often that minute turns into a half an hour, or longer. Think of the last time you took your children somewhere. Did they use a phone or tablet to entertain themselves? Was the use of the device sacrificing real life conversation with others? Were they missing out on a life lesson that they could have had? Maybe if the phone was put away they would have had a conversation with their grandpa and learned something new. Maybe you would have asked them a question that lead to a discussion about something they are curious about. Maybe you would have noticed at the restaurant that your children need a lesson in polite conversation or table manners. They are missing out on other things when they are constantly looking at a device. We parents need to reflect on what our children are missing out when they are interacting with a device instead of interacting with others.
Not only is it a proven fact that children are getting way more screen time then is good for them. This observation doesn't even take in to account that what they may be watching or playing can also have a negative affect on them. Games featuring violent themes, aggression against women, smart mouthed humor, or gruesome images can desensitize our children and convey ideas that we don't want them exposed to, and yet most parents don't even know what their children are doing while online. We tell ourselves that they are just playing games. But in reality they know how to search and find all kinds of things. So what is a parent to do? Here are my suggestions:
1. Less is more: When it comes to screen time, set limits on how much screen time you allow your children.
2. Educate yourself: Find out what your children are doing when you hand a smart phone or tablet over to them.
3. Explain: Let your children know why you think it is important that they limit their online time, in order to have real life experiences and form relationships with other people.
4. Protect: Don't allow your young children to be exposed to adult themed games or movies. Childhood is such a brief period in our lives and children deserve to experience a time when imagination and creativity and "happily ever after" themes are embraced and celebrated.
5. Read: Read books to your children. This is a pleasure that reaps great benefits to both you and your children. The stories you read, the bond your form, the shared experience, the exposure to a wider vocabulary, are just a few of the countless reasons to make it a daily ritual to read together.
I am not anti-technology. I firmly believe we adults owe it to our children to protect their precious minds and offer them real life experiences in their childhood that will fuel their curiosity, their imagination, their social and emotional stability and resiliency. And they won't get that with their faces glued to a smart phone or tablet.
Here is what they American Academy of Pediatrics has published about TV/Screen guidelines:
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Good Morning America (GMA) is a nationally televised network program that most if not all Americans are familiar with. Yesterday the program featured an interview with a woman who works for Yahoo Parenting. You can find the report here:
The report featured the results of a survey on Yahoo about how parents are feeling judged by others and are fighting back with the hashtag #noshameparenting. The report itself featured a graphic that 50% of parents spank their children. This whole segment made my blood BOIL!!! And here is why...the report focused on parents who feel victimized by the perceptions of other parents. The report and interview conveyed that we all are too judgmental about other parents and how they are parenting. Poor mommy and daddy are feeling judged for the job they are doing when they are out in public with their kids who have no manners or our out of control. Whine, whine and more whine! There is a crucial piece missing from this report. How are their kids fairing? How are the kids who grow up in families who believe spanking is a wonderful parenting method? How are the kids who grow up in families where the parents are bothered by other's perceptions of them? Is it beneficial to your family to play the victim?
Shame on GMA for running such a poorly thought out segment that benefits NO ONE! Why can't a powerful network that is watched by millions feature a segment that empowers parents with solid parenting advice. Why can't they feature a roundtable of experts who explain the most effective parenting techniques and the research that shows spanking your children is using fear and violence to control their behavior and results in more aggressive children. Instead, they feature a ridiculous survey on the "hurt feelings" of parents, as a way to advertise one of their sitcoms and a method to direct people to Yahoo Parenting.
Parents who feel shame about the job they are doing as parents might have some work to do. Why don't we all strive to be the best parents we can be--for the benefit of our children and their future.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Rudeness is fashionable. We see celebrities and politicians routinely calling each other out, tweeting hateful or spiteful messages, and in general behaving badly. This disturbs me and causes me to reflect on what affect this has on our young children. What is the result when our children are constantly exposed to a vulgar, mean spirited and negative culture? It is almost as if our society has made it cool to be rude and lame to be nice.
I feel strongly that parents need to stem this tide. It is our job, and our responsibility to the greater good to raise our children to be kind, thoughtful and empathetic. Sounds like a lofty expectation and responsibility...but it is possible. The very essence of kindness is the ability to think of others. Here are some simple ways to help your children grow in kindness and empathy.
- Teach the rule of leaving everything better or the same as you found it. For example, have your children put away their toys when they have finished playing with them. Take a plastic bag to the park and make a habit of grabbing any cups or bottles left lying around by others. At the end of a car ride, clean up the wrappers or cans/bottles that have accumulated.
- Expose your children to older people. Elderly people delight in watching and interacting with young children. Allow your children to spend time with their elderly relatives, and teach your children how to be respectful of older people and to lend a helping hand when in their presence. Older people appreciate having a seat at a gathering, having a door held for them, having items carried for them, or being walked in or out of a venue. These are all simple gestures that school age children can be taught to offer when in the presence of older individuals. You can do your part by modeling these behaviors and then as your children get older, expecting them to demonstrate these same kindnesses.
- Expose your children to babies and toddlers and preschoolers. Maybe you have them in your own family. But if you don't, make sure you spend time in the presence of younger neighbors, cousins, or friends. These experiences can help your children to understand how to be gentle and loving towards a younger person. Also, children benefit from feeling older and having more skills in the presence of a younger child--this can help grow self confidence in your child. In these busy times, the neighborhood gang of friends has all but disappeared, so it takes parental effort to seek out younger children to interact with and allow your older children these valuable experiences.
- Demand kindness in your own family. Don't allow your children to be routinely unkind to you or their siblings. Set the bar of behavior high. You will never regret this. Your children will grow into polite and loving individuals that will make you glow with pride.
- Shut down gossip and unkind language of any kind. Teach your children not to ever post, tweet, facebook or text anything that would hurt someone else's feelings. Use the golden rule as your guide. "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you!"
- Model kindness. Children learn what they live.
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Thursday, August 27, 2015
|Great memory of Giverny--April 2007|
My youngest child left for college last week. For 26 years I have devoted myself to my children. Now they are all gone and I am left with the empty nest. I have been contemplating the empty nest this week--In the silence. By myself. You see, my husband still leaves early every morning, as he has done for years. And the house is quiet just like it has been for years. But then it stays quiet. Just me,
myself and I--and my lonely dog in the quiet house, visualizing an empty nest. And it is depressing.
Don't worry. I don't sit here all day. I haven't been crying for days as some of my friends have reported doing. I haven't binged watched bad TV or eaten myself sick on chocolate or Doritos, but I have been tempted to. And I have been thinking about that damn empty nest. And the empty nest is too damn depressing. It looks dead and lonely. I feel the need to rescript the empty nest because I just can't go there anymore. So I have come up with a new visualization. Instead of any empty nest, I prefer to think of this transitional time in my life as Monet's Green Bridge.
I have visited Monet's garden. The place is as magical today as it was back in the late 1800's. The famous green bridge crosses a small, lazy river. And when you are standing on it, you see the artist's palette of gardens showing off in all their glory, decorating the river banks for as far as your eye can see. It is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever encountered.
My garden of children may be grown, but my life is far from over. I want to take inspiration from Claude Monet. I prefer to think of this time in my life not as an empty, lifeless nest but as the transition of one garden to the next. I want to think of nests as full of nurturing mama birds, laying their eggs, feeding their young and nudging them into the sapphire sky to take our breath away. And I choose to think of this time in my life, not as an empty, deserted, used up space--but a colorful and stunning bridge to a new horizon.
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Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Childhood is a precious time to make lasting memories. Parents, it is truly a gift when you share your children with others. Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and Grandparents all can expand your children's life experiences and teach them valuable lessons about getting along with others and looking at things differently.
We recently had the honor of having my soon to be fourth grade niece accompany us on a weekend getaway. She was such a wonderful guest, and we enjoyed that special time when we got her all to our selves. By coming a long with us, she got to be in the spotlight, away from her talkative, older brother...and we got to focus on her. While we were playing in the pool one lovely afternoon, a large loud, Italian family complete with cousins and grandparents, aunts and uncles came to swim. It was a joy to watch them playing and laughing and enjoying their time together. It made me reflect on how these extended family times are so important to the development of your children.
Family time reinforces family ties. If you don't emphasize the importance of family when your children are young, they will most likely not look to connect with extended family members when they are grown. This is such a missed opportunity. Family relationships model love. Family members are truly the people that you can count on for support in the difficult times of your life, and we all have difficult times. Relationships with grandparents offer your children a chance to experience unconditional love and acceptance. And although all of these relationships have their trials, they teach your children about life. Life has trials. We don't always see eye to eye. That is okay. We can still love each other even if we look at things differently. These are valuable lessons.
I know not all family relationships are healthy and positive ones. But sometimes it truly is petty differences that separate us from one another rather than serious issues. Do some reflecting on the relationships you have with your extended family members. Are you too judgmental and stubborn about small things to allow these relationships to work? Maybe come at a troubled relationships with less defensiveness and take baby steps to restore it. Think of the value of the relationship from your children's perspective. Could you be the catalyst for mending a broken relationship that you all could benefit and grow from? If so, take the first step. Reach out with a phone call or note. Set up a short visit. Remember that these relationships are not just about you, but about your children and the future relationships that can truly mean a great deal in the years to come. Life is too short to ignore your family relationships. When things are messy and difficult, be the bigger person and do what you can to make amends. Nothing is more important than family.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Earlier this week, my daughter asked me to run an errand with her. She needed a new pair of shoes. Now I have been buying various pairs of shoes for four kids for countless numbers of years. Everything from soccer cleats to running shoes, tap shoes to prom shoes. When I think of the number of pairs of shoes, the number must be in the hundreds if not thousands...but these shoes caused me to reflect.
You see these shoes are to be worn at her high school graduation. And she is my baby...the youngest of four. And so I paused to think about all of those shoes! The white high top baby shoes that helped them all learn to walk, and supported them as they attempted those precious first few steps. Sandals that kept their feet cool in summer months and winter boots that protected them from our fierce midwestern winters as they walked to school. Wellies for the rainy weather in London during our brief but amazing year abroad. Sport shoes of every size and color--soccer, baseball, football, basketball, lacrosse, running, and dancing. Boots for horseback riding, Sneakers for cheerleading, Dress shoes for church, or at least a clean pair in good repair (a mom can hope), and of course flip flops for the beach or pool.
But these shoes needed to be different. She was asking for platform shoes, because her graduation is to be held on the football field of her high school. She needs platform shoes to support her as she makes her way across the grass and up to the stage to accept that diploma. No girl would want to be sinking into the soft spring lawn on spiky heels as she is carefully stepping into her future. So stylish platform shoes are the perfect shoe solution. And I am here to serve it up, one last time. I am here to go with her and help her and guide her, just as I always have been. But I know these times are precious and few. I recognize that soon she will be leaving me for her new life in college, where she will make her own decisions and run her own errands and pick out her own shoes. So Claire, this post is for you:
(aka Mcgee, Claire Bear, Baby, Coo Coo, and all of your other silly names)
Your dad and I, and sisters and brother realize you are all grown up--our baby is now a young woman, and you have done us proud! You are beautiful, kind, smart, hardworking, funny, and have incredible insight. Your love for your friends, family, grandparents, dogs, horses, pickup trucks and the outdoors has touched us all. Your ability to make us laugh, and remember to enjoy the simple pleasures in life is unparalleled. We all know that petting your dog, or looking at the stars or sharing a breakfast with your dad at Corner Bakery give you immense joy. This has taught us all to be better people by reminding us what is truly important. You have a talent for finding and keeping amazing friends, and an ability to work hard and accomplish goals that others might have never attempted.
Your dad and I hope that you will forever think of us as your new shoes--Platforms, that are here to support you in every way as you walk through life with confidence, on your path to wherever life leads you. You are such a blessing to us and to everyone in your life. Enjoy these next few days, and relax in the knowledge that God has a plan for you, and it is guaranteed to be beautiful, just like you.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Dear Sweet Five-year Olds:
Not too very long ago, when you were mostly 4 and a half, it began. Miss Julie and I put the final touches on our colorful and cosy room; books were in the book corner, your beloved Legos stored neatly in the drawers, yellow pencils with bright orange erasures waited to be held in your little hands, colorful scissors waited to be pinched between your fingers.
"Make the scissors bite like a shark" we would remind you throughout the year. "Go choose a book from the book corner" or "let's all work together to clean up our room!" The echoes of our incredible year together keep bouncing through my mind.
Miss Julie and I were so eager to meet you and begin our journey together. We had so much to teach you, and the year stretched ahead like a ribbon of highway disappearing in the distance. So how have we reached the end of our year so quickly?
You have been the most incredible group of students. You have challenged and stretched Miss Julie and I more than we ever imagined. We have learned so much from the twelve of you, much more than we ever expected!
Your curious minds--Zander, Peter and Owen's questions at circle time about dinosaurs or meteors or carnivores! Your abilities to grasp BIG ideas--Jack on religion, or Lucia on global awareness. Your kindness and compassion for one another--Beau, Landon and Veronica, doing all you could to make Ava feel special before she moved away. Your enthusiasm for trying something new--Nathan and Franco, who embraced every learning activity and encouraged others to do them same. Or your complete ability to live in the moment and fill the room with laughter and kindness--Emily and Ava! All of your stories and questions and jokes and giggles have filled our room with so much fun and filled our hearts with wonderful memories.
All these lessons we hold dear in our hearts, as we say Goodbye and Thank you. You all are amazing, bright, compassionate, curious, and wonderful children who will be a gift to your kindergarten teachers and beyond. Thank you to your dear families for sharing you all with us this year, and know that we are better teachers today because of all of you!
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Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Free Time! Children need free time. They need time to play. They need time to go outside. They need time to interact with other children--siblings and friends. They need time to
They need free time. They need to experience boredom and learn to combat it with imagination.
Give your children the gift of free time. Put the electronics away. Resist the temptation to sign them up for every club, class and activity. There is value in free time. Don't forget this. You are giving your child a gift if they have some time to just PLAY!
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Tuesday, May 5, 2015
I teach preschool and when my students get dropped off via the carpool line, memories flash through my mind of all the mornings I spent rushing around getting my four children ready for school--lunches to pack, permission slips to sign, uniforms to wash, calendars to update, dentist appointments to schedule, and on and on and on. My husband always left for the office on an early train, so this territory was exclusively mine.
In spite of this, today's blog is a huge thank you to my husband, because even if he was able to escape on that early train, his presence in my life and the lives of our children has allowed me to be the mother and wife that I always wanted to be. His love and support meant that I didn't have to face parenting alone. He was always prepared to listen and help me sort out an issue I was having with one of our children, and also let me vent when the monotony of being a stay at home mom crept in, or my list of household chores felt overwhelming. He always affirmed the job I was doing as a mom; and appreciated my efforts to run our household and manage our children's lives.
In working with many single parents over the years in my parenting classes,and it is easy to see how truly difficult it is to parent flying solo. This has reaffirmed to me how lucky I am to have this man as my husband and my children's father. He is the rock of our family and his love and encouragement have been the biggest gift in my life.
If you are in a happy marriage. Take some time to let your spouse know how much they mean to you. And let your children know, too. A family built on the solid foundation of a happy marriage is something to be celebrated and appreciated.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015
|The cover art from my parenting handbook: Available on Amazon.|
Do your kids think of you as:
D. All of the above
Moms and Dads: You are not doing your job unless you have been thought of as all of the above by your kids at some point! The correct answer is "D".
This kernel of wisdom was told to me by one of my fellow teachers (thanks, Nancy) and has stuck with me all week. Truer words were never spoken!
Stay strong! Parent with loving authority. Your children want you to set limits and not try at any time to be their friend. They want and need you to be their parent.
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Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Saturday evening a group of us went out to dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants. While we were eating, a little league team of boys in their red uniforms tumbled in along with a large group of parents. I'm guessing that the boys were all about 9 or 10 years old. That is when things started to get interesting.
The parents immediately seated the boys at a long table and then separated into a mom's table at one end and the dad's booth across the room. And that is when the 'parental' interaction ceased.
The parents did not look up from their respective sides of the room to give these boys ANY attention. The boys held it together quite well for awhile, eating their pizza and generally behaving. But as the time wore on, the hijinks began.
It started with spit ball throwing and escalated to bits of food being thrown and soon it was becoming an all out food fight with chunks of bread being dipped in water glasses before getting launched. The wait staff at the restaurant picked up on what was going on and creatively interceded with some materials to distract the boys and save the restaurant from utter destruction. And all the while, the dozen or so parents were choosing to completely IGNORE their boys and their inappropriate behavior.
I and the other parents in my group were left scratching our heads. When did it become acceptable to surrender your parental duties in a public place to strangers? Why did these parents feel justified in ignoring their children? I am baffled! Are parents so lazy now that they truly have given up on trying to teach their children anything? I do not blame these boys--the blame falls squarely on the immature and selfish parents who could not be bothered to monitor or even interact with their own kids. What a shame!
Have you seen other examples of selfish and immature parents?
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Tuesday, April 7, 2015
|Each rose is perfect and beautiful, just as it is!|
We live in the age of immediate commentary. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the countless other forms of public online forums allow us the ability to weigh in with our opinions and observations in real time. And not only can we do it, we see it being demonstrated for us everywhere. Television shows and news reports reference tweets made by anyone with a twitter account. So what is everyone commenting on? It seems lately that we are all commenting on other people's looks. Why are we so obsessed with how other people look? Frankly, I think this ideology is being sold to all of us. It is good for the economy. When people walk around in fear of being judged, what do they do? They spend money, on plastic surgery, haircuts, new clothes, diet programs, health clubs, and any other number of things to "fix" themselves. The truth of the matter is, none of us needs fixing. We are all unique and beautiful in our own right. So how do we fight back against this constant unhealthy tide of judging ourselves and others by appearances?
Let's teach our children the powerful message of love and acceptance. That is where it all begins. At home. At the beginning. As they are growing and learning about their world. Don't let the media serve our children up the idea that we all have to live up to some unrealistic vision of universal beauty. Be the voice in their heads that reminds them that there is beauty in the essence of every person on this earth. Teach your children that a person's actions and character are much more important measures than bra size or BMI (body mass index). Let them know that it is not cool to say unkind things about another person. "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all!" is a mantra that was repeated to me and then my own children over and over again.
Be the parent who teaches your children to look deeper than the clothing that someone wears, or the size and shape of a person's body, into the very heart of a person in order to get to know them. Encourage your children to choose friends who are honest and interesting and loyal and truthful. And as with anything, you as the parent need to model these behaviors. Don't gossip about other people in front of your children. Don't be that critical voice that freely puts yourself or others down in front of your impressionable little ones. If they hear you criticizing your own body or physical features, it hurts them because they love you so much. And it also sets them up to do the same to themselves.
The message is clear. If we want our children to feel good in their own skin, we must help them understand that they are beautiful--as are each of us. Beauty comes from within. The rest is merely marketing. Don't buy into it--for the sake of each of your children and their well being.
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Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Writing a parenting blog affords me the opportunity to voice my opinions--whether popular or not. And my opinion on this topic will not be popular with many but...it is my firm belief that High School Seniors have not earned some type of automatic privilege to celebrate their Spring Break with an unchaperoned trip to Mexico.
I am fully aware of all of the excuses parents make in order to justify sending an 18 year old on holiday with their friends to Mexico. The prices are affordable. They are of legal drinking age in Mexico. Parenting from guilt makes you feel as if they deserve it because they have endured the college application process. They are most likely heading to college in the fall, and you won't be controlling their decisions or even be aware of them when they are living on campus and not with you. Parenting from exhaustion makes you give in because your teen wants to go and is making your life miserable unless you say yes. Or you fall into the "all the other kids are going" trap. Reach out to the other parents and confirm what your teen is telling you. Then, perhaps some of the parents can agree to go and chaperone. To me, this sounds painfully awkward...but it is more responsible than sending them on their own.
The reality is 18 year olds are still painfully immature. There are truckloads of research confirming that their brains have not fully matured. And the part of the brain that remains immature is the impulse decision making area. Therefore, they are physically incapable of making good decisions 100% of the time. And much more likely to make poor ones in an uncontrolled, unsupervised environment. Poor choices that in some cases may lead to alcohol poisoning, drug use, and date rape. Does it make any sense to send them to a foreign country that has a lower drinking age as well as other safety issues? You have just dedicated 18 years of your life raising this child. Do you really want to risk this precious investment? The risks are enough to keep me and my husband saying "No!" and planning a family trip instead. They will have plenty of time to drink alcohol and experience the partying lifestyle in the years to come if that is what they are seeking. It is not your parental duty to serve that up to them on a silver (all expense paid) platter.
Seniors can be very persuasive. I get that. But stay strong, parents. And safely launch them onto a college campus in the fall rather than a Mexican nightclub this spring.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Think of a father who doesn't raise a hand to them in anger, but patiently sets limits and teaches his children self control. Imagine a father who respects the personality, likes and quirks of each of his children. Imagine a father who models strength and comfort and protection. Imagine a father who loves the mother of his children and one who is proud of his children. Imagine a father who's words carry weight and meaning. A father who uses his words to build his children up. A father who teaches his children to trust in his words...no matter what.
Imagine a father who is the ideal father. The one who instructs his children about life and love and happiness. Imagine a father who encourages his children to dream and helps them learn to accomplish those dreams. A father who has high expectations of his children, and helps his children learn to work hard, set goals and achieve success. Imagine a father who lives his life in such a manner that his children want to grow up to be just like him. Imagine a father who is a hero to his children.
Now be that father.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Parents are the gardeners of their children's lives. Do you grow an over tended bonsai child? Do you pick and prune incessantly? Do you overwater your child? Too much attention, too much stepping in to his/her life, too much anxiety, too much everything resulting in a child who feels weak and
Or are you a naturalist? Do you free range your child? Let him/her go and do and drift and float where he/she chooses. Don't concern yourself with the media messages he/she is picking up. Don't worry about the friends he/she hangs with. Let him/her decide what choices work, what limits to self impose. What boundaries to keep or cross. He/She will grow into the person that he/she is meant to become without your input. Without your guidance. Without your wisdom.
Neither of these methods will result in a happy, self sufficient and well adjusted child. And isn't that what you are trying to accomplish? So what is a parent to do?
Here are the do's and don'ts:
1. Don't over manage your child's life--Do allow him/her to make decisions (simple ones at tender ages and larger ones at older ages) and require him/her to stick with the consequences. But also have faith in him/her. Hold high expectations.
2. Don't constantly criticize your children--Do let them know that your love for them is unconditional and support them in growing into the people they were meant to be, not what you WANT them to be!
3. Don't give them everything they ask for--Do help them appreciate things by making them work and earn privileges and material possessions.
4. Don't allow your children to do whatever they want--Do set boundaries and have rules. Young people raised without any boundaries or limits will continue to push the limits of behavior in an effort to find where their parent(s) will finally draw the line. Young people interpret a lack of boundaries as a clear message that they are not cared about or loved.
5. Don't ignore your child's friendships but don't engineer them--Do get to know their friends and help them understand what makes a true friend and a valuable friendship. This area is a tricky one, as sometimes children need your support and guidance when it comes to friendships, but also you can become too involved and should strive for the role of coach on the sidelines not referee in the middle of the action.
Growing a child to adulthood is exhausting, exhilarating, damn hard work! Keep in mind that an unattended garden results in weeds choking back the true beauty and essence of a flower, and an overwatered garden becomes soft and weak. Balance is the key to both gardening and parenting!
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015
|The beauty of a rainbow reminds us of the power of reflection! Take a moment to reflect on your parenting.|
Being a good parent requires some thought. We all fall into patterns or habits that work when our children are a certain age, but good parenting requires change and adaptation. If we stick to what worked before and never look at if it is working now, we are doing a disservice to both our children and ourselves. Good parents evolve as your children grow and develop.
Often when I am giving my parenting workshops, I can see that as parents begin to reflect on the job they are doing, they discover some areas that need "tweaking". They may come to realize that it is time to try a new strategy or idea in order to help their child grow. So I have put together a simple assessment that can help you decide where your parenting might need a little attention and/or a fresh approach.
1. What are your goals as a parent? Do your children know these goals?
2. Do your children know the rules in your home? Do you have any rules?
3. Is yelling your most frequent method to get your children to do what you want?
4. Do your children have age appropriate chores?
5. Do you treat your children with respect? And do they respect you?
6. Are you proud of your children?
7. If you have a spouse or someone who co-parents with you, do you both have a common understanding of discipline and expectations?
8. Do you use effective consequences when your children misbehave?
9. Have you taught your children morals and values?
10. Do you often feel love and affection towards your children?
By honestly answering these ten questions, you can begin to see areas that might need some attention. If you are at a loss as to where to start, read some of my earlier posts on chores or positive discipline. Those can be found here:
5 Tips to better parenting
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
I love to study young children and I have learned a few things over many years of being a teacher and a mom. Young children use what works for them. If they realize that whining adds drama to their speech, and mom and dad respond more quickly to dramatic speech patterns than to normal, conversational speech tones--you can bet your next lotto ticket that they will use whining voices to get what they want more quickly. Young children are SO MUCH SMARTER than we adults give them credit for.
Often times these behavior patterns are so established that mom and dad don't even realize that their children use whining to get what they want. But Grandma and Grandpa do! And preschool teachers do, too! So what can a parent do to curb the whining? I have a fail proof and light hearted solution. First, have a simple conversation with your child about what whining sounds like to your ears. Pick a time when you and your child are calm and alert...not during an argument or before bedtime. When you have the right moment, it is time for the whining discussion and role playing to happen. Speak in a normal tone and then speak in the "Whining Voice" and let your children hear the difference. Have them mimic both the normal voice and the "Whining Voice" back to you, so you can be sure that they understand.
Now for the lighthearted part. Help your children give the "Whining Voice" a name. Our family always used "Wendy and Wayne" but any name that your children want to assign to this character will work. Then, whenever you hear your children slipping into the dreaded "Whining Voice", calmly ask them to restate their request because you cannot understand "Wendy Whiner" or whomever they have named their "Whining Voice". If you consistently refuse to acknowledge them during their whining and playfully use comments to remind them that you cannot hear or understand them when they are whining...I promise you it will not take long for this behavior to extinguish itself.
Case closed--in a fun, simple and hugely effective manner. Try this and let me know how it works for you!
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
I was in a parking lot today as a mom was walking out of a building with a crying preschool aged child. She didn't see me in my car but I could hear her loud and angry words as she opened the doors to her van."Stop your crying. You are being such a baby. Grow up for God's sake! Buckle your seat. Hurry up!!"
Clearly she was exasperated, annoyed, displeased with her little girl. I have been there. Every parent has been there. But as I heard her words, I felt the guilt and shame of ever acting like that towards my children. And I'm guessing that if I was to play a recording of this back to this mom at a later date, she would feel the same way.
Please use this story as a reminder. Give your children your best self. Be the adult in any situation. Don't use sarcasm and humiliation to discipline your child. You are better than that and your child deserves better from you. Don't fall into a pattern of disrespecting your child and his/her feelings.
A calm and measured response is always a better idea. And for those times that you fall short, remember to be the adult and apologize. Your relationship with your children will be built on the foundation of your behavior. Make it a strong and solid one.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Just like the flowers in a field and the snowflakes that fall from the sky, children are unique and wonderful. Our children are not born to us in order to fulfill our dreams and expectations. They are gifts to us, who depend on our love and care and affirmation of who they are, not what we expect them to be.
Watching a child grow and develop is the precious reward of parenting. Often we are surprised by the talents and interests of our own children.
Parents: take the time to help your children recognize and develop their own special interests and gifts. Support them in exploring their ideas and allow them to express themselves. Pay attention to them.
It sounds so simple but in our distracted and Internet connected lives, our children may not be getting the attention they deserve.
Remember that you have been given the amazing blessing of being a parent to a completely amazing, uniquely talented child. It's your job to educate, nurture, and allow that child to develop into all that he/she can be. So get busy loving, affirming and discovering everything about that wonderful blessing--that is your child!
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Watching my four children grow up, my husband and I would notice certain allegiances would form from time to time. For instance, when my youngest daughter was in preschool she would follow her slightly older brother around and do kind things for him. She used to sneak into his room when he got up and make his bed! She would laugh at everything he said. He was her hero and her best friend.
Fast forward to their middle school years. They had a hard time speaking to one another. Everything she said, he would argue with or correct. They seemed to have nothing in common, and it was hard to believe they ever got along.
There were other times when my oldest daughter and second oldest daughter would gang up on the younger ones or avoid them at all costs, but times when the middle two children would form an alliance. Sometimes it was difficult to predict who of the four were getting along.
The one consistent message that my husband and I delivered over and over was that our children treat us and their siblings with respect. It was not okay to call each other names or hit or fight with each other. Did my children follow these rules? NO--Not always! Were these rules difficult to enforce? Yes!
No one ever said being a good parent is easy. It's not. Effective parenting takes work. But it pays off. Now that my children are grown, they actually like each other. They reach out and call one another. They enjoy each other's company and look to each other for advice and support. They look forward to the time they spend together and seek out ways to see each other. They celebrate each other's successes and are always willing to offer support if someone is going through difficulties.
It's very important that you set the standards for the behavior you want from your children. Don't allow them to bully and fight with you or their siblings. Expect more from them. And when the going gets tough--persevere. This is the secret to growing a close knit family.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Children crave independence. And yet, they are lost without direction. Parents love to tell children what to do, but are driven to distraction when children don't listen. This is an age old problem, so what how can it be solved? Two simple words: LIMITED CHOICES!
Using limited choices with your child allows him or her the feeling of independence and the positive experience of getting to voice an opinion. If your child usually fights you in the morning about what to wear, give him/her a choice..."would you rather wear the green shirt or the red one?" Involving children in decision making can also help to encourage them to eat their vegetables. Ask your child which one to cook for dinner "would you rather have broccoli or peas tonight?". When he/she has the opportunity to make a choice, he/she will "own" the decision.
The limited choice strategy can even help solve disagreements. If your child wants to do something that you are not comfortable with, you can offer two other choices and distract him/her from the original goal and still allow them to feel as if they are able to determine the outcome. For example, if your child wants to attend a sleep over at a friend's house but you don't really know the family very well. You don't want your child to attend the party. You can explain that you don't feel comfortable with your child attending the party and were going to say no, but if they would like to go and get picked up at 10:00p.m. you would agree to that. By giving your child the choice to either miss the party or get picked up early, you are allowing your child to feel as if he/she determined the outcome, even though you ultimately set up the situation.
Choices can help convince your child to do something that they might not want to do. He/she may not like wearing a bike helmet, but convincing him/her to always wear one is easier if you allow your child to help pick out the helmet. Letting your child have "skin in the game" usually can smooth out most arguments.
This strategy has served me well through my many years of parenting. I am sure that it will do the same for you. Remember to offer your child limited choices to help them grow in confidence and independence.