ISSUE 1 – FEB 2009
Tricky Transitions : A Checklist for Making them Smooth
“Leaving the house each morning is total chaos. My kids are never ready on time, and I’m tired of starting out stressed and furious,” sighs a mom of three. ”My son’s well-behaved most of the school day, but he constantly makes trouble in the halls,” shares an embarrassed dad. “I dread our visits to the playground. Sally throws a full-blown tantrum every time I tell her, ”It’s time to leave,” admits another mom.
Besides painfully stretching our parenting muscles, what do these scenarios have in common? They’re examples of transitions, the often ambiguous period between one specific activity and the next. Kids feel safe when they know what to expect, and they usually behave when they feel safe. Transitioning between two events can be confusing, and this is where trouble rears its ugly head.
Transitions are the elements in triathlons that link the swim to the bike (T1), and the bike to the run (T2). They are timed and must be executed with speed and efficiency. Now, while each event has a specific route and rules for racing, switching between events in the transition area consists of scurrying among hundreds of racers to find your bike, gearing up, and jetting out to find the next START line. Imagine running running wet, barefooted and out of breath from the lake to T1. Where did you rack your bike? Ah! There it is. Put your shoes on your gritty feet, take a swig of water, grab the handlebars of your bike without dominoeing the other ones. Put on your helmet while racewalking your bike to the next START, but don’t hop on until you’re told to do so by one of the gazillion volunteers enthusiastically yelling and pointing directions. How’s your anxiety level now? With a bit of planning and preparation, even this transition can be made smooth as butter.
Building comfort into any transition (from any “Event 1 to any Event 2″), requires anticipating needs and getting familiar with the unknown. (Simply add your child to these steps if the transition involves them).
1. Prepare ahead: Make a list of items needed for Events 1 and 2, and organize them for ease of accessibility.
2. Take a mental walk-through: Imagine yourself leaving Event 1 and preparing to go to Event 2. How are you (and your child) feeling? Were you mentally ready to leave 1? Would a 5 minute warning help? What do your surroundings look like? Where do you physically need to be? Would a visual cue help? Now focus on Event 2. Do you need to take anything with you? What does the path look like to 2? What does the entrance look like? Where do you go once you are there? What will you be doing in Event 2? How will you know when to begin? (With kids, try to make Event 2 look exciting, fun, or at least comfortable to keep them focused in the right direction).
3. Practice: Take an actual walk-though, verbally, visually and physically, if possible. Stage needed materials in visible locations. Hang signs or observe landmarks to help guide. Talk it through, then practice again. (If this if for your child, have them guide you on the third or fourth walk-through).
4. Celebrate: Talk with your child about how it felt to learn something new. Ask them how they feel now that it’s more familiar. And be sure to congratulate them for using their courage and “stick-to-it-ness” to overcome the challenge.
Power Prayer: Prayers for the Novice Pray-er
- Give thanks. Mealtime blessings are great way to connect as family around the table and offer thanks to God for our food.
- Ask for strength. Silently or out loud, eyes open or closed (it totally doesn’t matter), “Heavenly Father, I’m feeling exhausted and stressed out. Please give me the strength to make it through the day.”
- Ask for perspective. God maintains perfect perspective even when we’re in the midst of ugly. “Lord, help me look past this Terrible Twos Tantrum and see my daughter just as you do, precious and lovable.”
- Say Goodnight. As you lay your child in bed each night, say a soft prayer to help sooth him or her to sleep, thank God for a specific blessing you experienced that day, and ask God for peace and protection during the night.
It may feel uncomfortable at first, but take comfort in knowing there is really no wrong way to pray! And learning to pray is one of the most powerful gifts you can give yourself and your children. Besides, God is never too busy to hear our prayers. In fact, He waits expectantly to hear from us.
Issue 2: March 2009
Manners and Weight Loss?!?!?!
Manners are easily, (though not quickly) taught. Anytime your child wants something from you, the power is literally in your hands. Mom asks, “Would you like a cookie?” Jani, drooling and wide-eyed pleads, “Uh-huh!” Mom firmly but lovingly corrects and models, “Please use your manners. ‘may I please have a cookie?’” Jani refuses. Mom puts the cookie back in the pantry. Jani realizes mom is serious and says, “An Oreo, please?” Since these are not Mom’s exact words, Mom has 2 choices: 1. Engage in a power struggle for not following directions exactly OR 2. be delighted that Jani used PLEASE and took ownership by using her own words! While #2 seems like the obvious answer (and it is!), #1 rears its ugly head when we’ve had a bad day and try to regain control by demanding our kids follow orders just as we dictate. Just food for thought.
Manners are worth it! A child who uses manners consistently is admired, praised and respected by adults and kids alike. In turn, I’ve seen polite kids start chain reactions of pleases and thank yous along their paths. Teaching manners may be an exercise in perseverance, consistency, willpowers and prayer, but it has far reaching effects.
Race for Space in Their Minds
When our boys were toddlers, my husband and I banned the show RugRats from our TV. Having heard about “Garbage-In Garbage-Out” accounting, we did not want our boys sponging up the bratty tones of these inappropriately funny cartoon characters and spewing disrespect back in our faces. Our censorship worked. And during play dates, I could tell which impressionable friends had not been so lovingly protected. Their attitudes and tone of voice mimicked the garbage they were viewing and hearing.
Protecting our children from the ick of society is far more difficult now. Not only are our kids more aware, they are also bombarded by messages from unsuspecting places. TV shows and ads are the tip of the iceberg. Bumper stickers on passing cars, magazine and tabloid covers at grocery check-out stands, window displays in shopping centers, bulletin boards, even tattoos on the lifeguard at the swimming pool. The garbage is flooding into our children’s minds at record pace. Unless we get there first, their prime property will be crammed with trash, leaving little room for the Good Stuff. The time is NOW to build steel pillars of respect, modesty, and goodness. Build them tall, strong and beautifully.
Here are some ideas how:
1. Help your child to appreciate himself for who he is, his unique personality, skills and ability to overcome weaknesses. Help him to recognize the strength in his feet, not the perceived power in the $100 shoes he’s eyeballing.
2. Talk about sexuality and modesty. Begin early. Teach the proper names for body parts and plant seeds of modesty and self-care. Point out physical and social differences between men and women, and help your child embrace his/her own gender while respecting the other. Remember that we are miraculously designed by God. He created every part of us for a special function and purpose. 3. Show respect to your child, and insist on respect back. Watch the words, tones and actions you use. Firmly but lovingly point out disrespect when you see it, offering a respectful alternative to try instead.
4. Love your child from the inside out. Build them up with genuine, encouraging, specific praise. Encourage them for who they are, not who society tells them they should be.
5. Pray. Thank God for each individual child, and for the privilege to be their parent. Pray for courage and wisdom and for the ability to resist the enticing messages of mainstream culture.
It can feel lonely trying to uphold values in a Society-Gone-Wild. Be assured you are not alone. Ask God to race along side you. He’ll even bring like-minded parents along too. TOGETHER, we can win this race!
Issue 3: April 2009
Taking the Sting Out of Anger
“I’ve had enough!,” I roared at my 2 bickering passengers sitting in the back seat. My voice wound tight with frustration. Yup! Mom was mad. “I’ve told you two to stop picking on each other, but you have NOT stopped. I’m TIRED of hearing it. If I hear it again, you will lose TV a week! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”
“Yes, M’am,” squeaked back in response. Then POOF! The Mommy Guilt Airbag instantly inflated, forcing me back into my seat and blinding me with questions of doubt. Was I too rough on my boys? Did I actually sound as furious as I felt? Bickering in the back seat is not a criminal offense, so why do I FEEL the need to throw the book at them? After all, polite consideration was all this taxi driver was asking for. Is that too much to ask? Am I really just a mean mom?….Aaaauuuggh!… What could I have done differently?
Anger can be a scary thing. When swarming out of control, it can become mean and violent, leaving a painful sting of wrath. And that’s not a fear I’m wanting to instill in my kids. On the other hand, anger is an emotion with much potential for good. Not only can it fuel us to act when we disagree with a situation, but anger can empower us to set clear boundaries when we might have chosen to “let-it-go-and-regret-it-later” instead. The trick is that WE must control the anger and not allow the anger to control us. And this is the gem that we need to role model and teach to our kids.
Tips for “using” anger wisely:
1. Do not attack the person. Instead, aim your anger at the unwanted behavior. “I love you dearly, but your hitting MUST stop.”
2. Use “I” messages to express your feelings and set boundaries. “I do not like your whining! I will listen to you when you use your grown up voice.”
3. Give clear warnings before taking action. “Please keep your voices down to a whisper until we get home to play. If I hear yelling again, you will spend time alone in your room as soon as we get home.”
4. Be just in your discipline. Make the consequence as logical and fitting to the “crime” as possible. We want our kids to fear the consequence NOT us. 5. If you feel your anger ramping up (and a deep breath and prayer are not slowing it down), tell your kids you are too angry to handle the situation fairly right now. Assure them that you will get back to them when you have calmed down and can think clearly.
10 creative ways to read a book together
1. Huddle under the covers with a flashlight before bedtime.
2. Sit outside under a shady tree.
3. Distract in the bathroom during potty training.
4. Use the illustrations to play “I spy.”
5. Speak with a foreign accent.
6. Read in a whisper.
7. Use as motivation to eat raw veggies. “You eat a veggie, then I’ll read a page.”
8. Camp under a tent made from sheets and chairs.
9. Create a private, in-home story time with stuffed animals and dolls sitting “quietly” in a circle.
10. Theatrically act out favorite characters in the exam room while waiting for the doctor to pay you a visit.
Issue 4: May 2009
Now Serving: Brain Power
Time to set the table: Napkin?…. Check. Fork?….. Check. Drink?…. Check. Knife?…. Don’t need it. Placemats?…….. PLACEMATS?!?!
Ever since my boys were old enough to eat at the “big table” with the family, we have used “learning” placemats. Credit goes to Aunt Beth, Liam’s very bright and chic godmother, who gave them as a gift when Liam was quite young, (too young, I thought, to benefit from the advanced concepts portrayed on each mat). I was wrong! The bright colors and shapes, numbers and counting games, letters of the alphabet, and US map fascinated that child at just two years of age.
Since then, picture placemats have grown up with both of my boys. After the basics, they graduated to dinosaur, insect, and animal mats. And now that my kids are well into elementary school, they have favorite placemats, which they competitively reserve each night. When I ask the boys to set the table, they scramble to the kitchen drawers yelling, “I call the world map, “I want U.S. presidents,” or “I call the elements” (a periodic table with actual photographs of each element). Seriously, who knew placemats could be so much fun?
Competitive trivia games and rich conversations have also been sparked by these plastic coverings. The boys constantly challenge family members and unsuspecting dinner guests (child and adult alike) with questions like “Who was the 23rd president?” “What is the largest river in Africa?” “What elements are radioactive?” Most of the time I have no idea what the answer is, but the young placemat holder proudly whips out the answer and often remembers the facts long after the meal. I’m pretty sure this mealtime knowledge is rubbing off in school, as well. Two weeks ago, Liam scored 126% on his U.S. states identification test in class. He successfully labeled every state and many of the extra-credit nicknames without much formal studying. Some might argue he’s had an “unfair” advantage over the years, but I prefer to think of it as creative parenting sparked by Aunt Beth!!!
Just this week I replaced a few tattered mats with new, updated ones. These durable, laminated rectangles last well over a year in our house, and $3 will getcha a new one. You can find them on-line, at local educational toy stores, or at science and museum gift shops. During my latest purchase, I was surprised to find that the newest U.S. Presidents mat includes our present commander in chief. This discovery has sparked on-going political intrigue in our home, and mealtime conversations have intensified.
Power to the placemat!
My son’s brain has been taken over by aliens! What eels could possibly explain the sudden and dramatic shift in his mood and behavior this week? Normally he’s such a well-behaved child, so playful, generous and obedient. But during the last few days, he’s become a monster. Talking back, picking on his brother, and marching around the house with a snarl glued to his face. My first instinct is to “drill sergeant” him back into loving compliance. But this doesn’t work…my controlling reprimands evoke out-of-the-ordinary tears and more resistance. What in the world is going on? I’ve been having a rough few weeks myself. And I certainly don’t have the time or energy for high maintenance problems this week….
GULP! I’m suddenly aware of the enormous knot twisting in my throat. That’s it! As much as I hate to admit it, I bet it’s MY stress that has created this alien abduction! With all the projects I’ve taken on, I’ve been less available and much more irritable. This is not about my kids. This is about ME! OOOO, I hate when that happens! No one to blame but myself, and now I have to fix it. “Dear Lord, I’ve been so wrong. Please help me make it right,” I humbly pray.
During dinner, I apologize to the whole family, “I realized today that I’ve been a real crab lately. I’ve been yelling and taking my stress out on you guys. None of it is your fault. I was wrong, and I am sorry.” Our eyes tenderly meet, and I can see the relief wash across their faces. As brows unfurl, shoulders relax and smiles appear, I’m convinced I’ve done the right thing.
Over the next several days, I feed my hungry children with extra servings of snuggles, praises, giggles and prayers. The aliens disappear, and my boys are restored to their happy-go-lucky selves.
Issue 5 June 2009
Leave ‘em Wanting More
The beginning of summer break reminds me of getting a giant helping of my favorite dessert during my strongest sugar craving. My instinct screams, “Dive in and devour the whole thing!”, but my tummy reminds me of the yuck I felt the last time I did that. Besides, if I gobble it all up, there’ll be no leftovers for tomorrow…. But it’s so tempting… my appetite is on overdrive. How do I pace myself???
With a little self discipline, I’m learning to cut my dessert into pieces, keeping a portion for immediate consumption and “hiding” the remainder in the fridge for tomorrow. And I’m learning to take little bites, savoring each piece, so that my small portion lasts longer.
Summer, too, begins with a rush of excitement, and it’s tempting to dive in with reckless abandon, but beware: summer break is several weeks long, and it won’t be long before the “I’m Boooorrrrred!” whine spills out.
Here are some ideas for dishing out the fun all summer long.
- While ideas are fresh, label a calendar with events to look forward to throughout the break. Post it for all the family to see.
- Lookout for free and exciting summer events in the local paper, library bulletin boards, and free local magazines geared to families. (Like Vancouver Family Magazine)
- SWAP! Encourage your kids to swap a favorite toy, game or book with a friend for a week. When the week is up, swap back and repeat with another novelty.
- Offer to pet sit for a friend. Give the precious critter back to it’s owner just as your kids get tired of caring for it. (This usually takes about a week or two).
- Use Facebook or Twitter to host a spontaneous pot luck at the pool or park. No RSVPs needed. Just ask everyone to bring their own water and fruit or snacks to share.
- Turn the “same ole boring” into “new and interesting.” Periodically let your kids sleep on the floor in sleeping bags, eat spaghetti with no silverware, blast Hits from the 80s over breakfast, have a “no electricity day,” make up songs all the way to the store, read under a sheet tent in the livingroom, play with ice cubes in a warm bath.
Keepin’ It Real
Many parents are asking, “How do I make the summer fun for my kids without losing our grip on reality?” If you are concerned about your children’s brains turning to mush this summer or their manners flying away like kites, read on!
Summer’s freedoms can lead to chaos. Chaos breeds insecurity. And insecurity can make for cranky and unruly monsters. Routines and consistent expectations help kids feel secure. So keep everyone happy this summer by sticking to the basics. Here are some examples:
- Allow kids to “sleep in” but still enforce a routine. I have my boys make their bed and get dressed before heading to breakfast. (Yes, in the summer I often let them get away with simply adding shorts to the t-shirt they slept in the night before).
- While you are making each meal, have your kids wash hands and set the table just before dishing up the grub. As you plate up the dishes, have the kids deliver them to the table. Having worked together, you can now relax and enjoy eating together!
- Before bedtime snuggles or book reading, have the kids tidy up their bedrooms. Staying on top of the mess prevents the need for major cleanups. For maximum results, phrase it like this, “I’ll be happy to snuggle and read with you as soon as you clean up the toys and dirty clothes from your bedroom floor.”
- Don’t let manners take a vacation in public OR at home. “Please,” “Thank you,” “May I help you?,” firm handshakes, and good eye contact are always in season!
Not only do kids need to feel loved, they need to feel needed. And as an omni-busy mom, I NEED their help! In addition to personal responsibilities like teeth brushing, body bathing, bed making, room tidying, and table clearing, I assign tasks that benefit the whole family. Beginning around age 3, most family members should be able and expected to contribute in some age-appropriate way. Here are some ideas for simple tasks:
- Empty garbage pales from bathrooms
- Take out the garbage and/or recycling
- Feed the pets
- Water plants on the porch
- Bring the mail or newspaper into the house
- Help plan and make a meal once a week
- Match socks
- Put groceries away
You may face a bit of resistance at first, but don’t give up! Consistently will lead to a natural routine in no time.
Issue 6 June 2009
How to Fill and Empty Tank
Consider this: Life is going along just fine. Your child seems happy and everyone is getting along well. Then suddenly, BOOM! Ugly behavior creeps onto the scene and attacks you with a Vulcan Neck Pinch. Some kids may whine or cry, others get sassy or talk back. Others act needy and clingy, and still others start picking on everyone around them. While each behavior is annoyingly different, these actions are often a child’s way of communicating the universal message, “Help! My emotional tank is empty!”
Just as a car needs gas in its tank, we all need emotional fuel to function smoothly. And just as throwing our keys at the engine will not solve the problem, sometimes simply filling the tank is all that is needed to get running again.
Here are 5 ways to refill your child’s heart:
1. NOTICE and acknowledge GOOD behavior. (You know, the stuff we easily take for granted).
2. ADD a short but special RITUAL to your day. (Snuggling or reading a book before bed time, singing a wake up song with a playful back rub, or praying as a family over the Cheerios).
3. Clear your calendar. (Maybe it’s time to just ELIMINATE one third of the “To Do’s” on your list… are they ALL really THAT important?)
4. TAKE a HUG BREAK. (Periodically, out of the clear blue, STOP and HUG your child! When you release them from your loving grip, make eye contact, and proclaim, “I love you!”).
5. Doodle a picture or a scribble few words on a POST IT Note and stick it to a mirror, lunchbox, pillow, toothbrush, cereal bowl, toilet paper, or shoe for your child to find. (I’ve never met a child who does not eat these notes up!)
There are tons of ways to keep your child’s emotional tank full. So next time, before jumping to discipline bad behavior, check the fuel gauge. It may be time to fill up on love instead.
Issue 7 August 2009
Easing “Back to School”
Imagine you’ve been savoring a generous helping of your favorite ice cream, when a familiar “clink” signals your arrival at the bottom of the bowl. In utter disbelief, you tilt the bowl slightly and scoop up the last remaining sip. Still dissatisfied, you glance around the kitchen to make sure no one is looking, and contemplate breaking the #1 Rule of Etiquette … licking the bowl. The coast is clear, so you raise the dish to your tongue and hastily squeegee its cold ceramic sides to a crystalline brilliance. Placing the empty bowl down on the table, you slowly let out a sigh of surrender.
The end of summer is here, and thanks to a powerful defense mechanism called denial, that news will seem to come as a surprise to most kids. To make life a little easier, here are some ideas for helping the whole family transition into a Back to School frame of mind.
Rinse off the denial. Begin to talk about summer’s ending. Reflect on the memorable events of the break and begin to talk about the upcoming school year.
Pour on the love. Transitions can be scary and difficult for everyone. Be sensitive to increased irritability and behavior issues that will likely pop up. Keep in mind that children often express unspoken concerns through their behavior. Think: What is that behavior trying to tell me?
Brush off the cobwebs in the brain. Give your kids a head-start by reviewing math, spelling and other concepts learned last year. Try to make reviewing fun with games and hands-on activities.
Organize for success. Clean out the kids’ closets, and organize their rooms for independence. Make school clothes easily accessible, and designate one special parking spot for the backpacks.
Make a check list. Talk to your child about evening and before-school routines. Create a checklist then post these routines on a bedroom wall or bathroom mirror as a visual reminder for the first few weeks of school.
Use a combination of pictures and words for young children, and have older children write the list in their own handwriting.
Break back into the routine. A couple of weeks before school starts, gradually adjust bedtimes and wake-up times to match a typical school day. In addition, get familiar with your new Morning and Evening Checklists by practicing the steps. Physically walk through the list together a few times, then encourage independence while verbally prompting and reminding your child to “check the list.”
It’s sad to say, “Goodbye,” to the final tastes of summer. But this year’s Back to School menu offers scoops of sweet promise and fresh excitement. So get ready to dig in!
RECIPE: Scrumptious Pot Roast
An Easy Meal for Busy Nights
3-4 pound chuck or rump roast (most of fat trimmed)
2 TBS cooking oil
1 1/4 cups water
1 envelope dry onion or onion and mushroom soup mix
1 (10 3/4) can cream of mushroom soup
Potatoes (sweet, baking, Yukon gold or a combination of all)
And handful or two of sliced mushrooms (optional)
In a large pot (that can be covered and used in the oven), brown all sides of roast in oil. (Any chef will tell you, this extra step is WELL worth the time! Get it nice and brown and try to create crispy brown bits at the bottom of the pan). Remove the roast and place it on a plate temporarily. Now deglaze the pan by adding HOT water while scraping the bits off the bottom and sides. Once you have a rich brown broth, add the soups and blend well. Add the roast back to the pot and cover the pan. Bake 3 1/2- 4 1/2 hours (depending upon size of roast). Add peeled veggies and sliced mushrooms the last hour of cooking. Salt and pepper to taste just before cutting and plating up. Serve with crispy French Bread to mop up every bit of gravy. Is your mouth watering yet?
Make pot roast sandwiches for leftovers and serve with apple sauce on Night 2.
Issue 8 September 2009
Preparing for Puddles
“Whatever you focus on, increases.” This law of perspective has stuck with me since reading it in best-selling author Andy Andrew’s, The Noticer. Jones, the lead character in this engaging and powerful novel, wisely suggests that when you focus on life’s problems, they seem to magnify and obscure the view of all that is good. For instance, when we fixate on the one, ugly, brown patch in the middle of our lawn, we miss the rainbow of colors exploding in the surrounding flower beds.
This law holds true for how we deal with our kids. In any given day, we are bound to face puddles of annoying behaviors and mishaps. But, as parents, we have a choice. We can either allow ourselves to get swept up in a flood of frustration, OR we can put on our bright yellow rain-boots and splash our way through to dry land.
Here are some ideas for maintaining a healthy perspective with our kids (and maintaining our sanity in the process).
- When Ginny redecorates your bathroom walls with Mommy’s special make-up, try to focus on how much you love your precious child WHILE you firmly but fairly address the artistic infraction.
- When reviewing Matthew’s last math quiz, zero in on the 83% answered correctly, then review his mistakes and have him correct them, proving to himself that he CAN get them right.
- When your teething baby is crying yet again, turn on some soothing music on in the background to help YOU redirect your ears as your hands gently tend to her tears.
- When trying to rock an upset infant to sleep, hold him tenderly in your arms and literally think calm and soothing thoughts. Babies feel and respond to the tension in their care-givers’ bodies. The more successful you are in calming your own heart rate, the faster baby will respond in kind.
- When your head finally hits the pillow and you begin to beat yourself up for all the mistakes you made as a parent that day, sit up and write down 5 positive accomplishments that you can build on tomorrow.
It’s all about perspective. I invite you to put on your rain boots and come splashin’ with me.
Issue 9 October 2009
Reclaiming Time in the Dreadful Car Line
Did you realize that if you spend about 20 minutes a day sitting in carlines (waiting to pick your kids up from school etc.), you may actually be wasting up to 7 hours a month sitting idle!!! And if your schedule looks anything like mine, you barely have enough time to eat or use the restroom during the day, let alone waste precious hours!
In the spirit of maximizing time, I’ve devised a list. With a tiny bit of prior planning, we can all reclaim those sacred, fleeting moments!
- Jot down 3 things you admire about your child. (Share them when he gets in the car)
- Clip, sort and save coupons
- Listen to an audio book or radio talk show
- Open and sort today’s mail
- Pay bills that arrived in said mail
- Write a quick note of thanks to a teacher, administrator or volunteer
- Carry tape and scissors in your console and wrap a birthday gift or two
- Start a chain of sunshine: wave and smile to the other parents-in-waiting
- Floss your teeth…but not immediately after making eye contact with your line-mate (see #8)
- Call your doctor or dentist and schedule that check up
- Update your latest To Do List
- Write a check and complete the order form for SCRIP or the Scholastic book order
- Look intelligent: Read a book, magazine or newspaper
- Got the car all to yourself? Celebrate the silence in prayer or relaxation
- Grade papers for a teacher
- Stuff envelopes with holiday greetings or birthday invites
- Wash the interior windows of your car
- Armor All your dashboard
- Collect trash from seats and floorboards
- Brainstorm your next holiday party
Issue 10 November 2009
Bicker, fight, biker, fight. Siblings at it again??? On the surface, sibling rivalry is an annoying and destructive irritant that baffles parents. “How do I get my son to stop picking on his little sister? How can I get my ‘tween to show a little love for her step brother? Why do they fight so much?” These are questions I’m often asked in coaching sessions and workshops. The answer may surprise you.
At its core, sibling rivalry is a quest for power, a need to feel important, noticed, or in control. When parents try to squash the bickering by attempting to “make” their kids get along, they often find their approach backfires and actually adds fuel to the fire. Why? Well, when parents step in to take control, they seize “the power” that their power-hungry children are fighting over. And even if “peace by force” is accomplished, it is shallow and short lived. For peace to be sustained, kids need to feel loved, respected and worthy. I like to call this “having their emotional cups filled.”
This is where parents can really make a difference. In reality, sibling rivalry typically stems from children feeling empty in some way. If one child thinks that their sibling is getting extra attention by the parent (for good OR bad reasons), the perceived inequality can spark a feud. Likewise, tensions can arise if a child thinks Mom or Dad has been too busy to spend loving, quality time with them. (And please realize that children usually do not consciously know that these “injustices” are causing their hard feelings). But parents can help to reduce sibling rivalry by filling those emotional cups. Here’s how:
- Pay extra one-on-one time with each child.
- Remember to verbally recognize the efforts and good behaviors each child demonstrates each day.
- Ask each child to help with a task. Work as a team, alongside him or her to accomplish the mission.
- Take time to tuck each child into bed, offering special time to talk, if the child chooses.
- Look for opportunities to give your children extra choices (within your parental limits). This will help them feel they have a healthy sense of control and influence.
So the next time your kids start to incessantly pick at each other, step back and examine the emotional climate of your entire family. Shower your home with love and encouragement, and watch sibling strife wash away.
STOP THE TATTLING!
“MOM, Mikayla took my soccer ball!”
“Ms Jones, Tommy cut in line!”
“She’s bugging me…she’s bugging me…SHE’S BUGGING ME!!!!”
Tattling is a child’s cry for help and often a needy attempt to get someone else to “fix it.” Its piercing whine is enough to drive any parent crazy. And while our ears beg us to silence the tattler, it’s important to use caution when handling the complaint. On one hand, we want our kids to feel safe coming to us if they legitimately need help. If we simply scold them for tattling, they may become too scared to seek help in a real time of need. On the other, we want our kids to learn to handle their own problems. If we are quick to hush them by solving the situation for them, we rob them of a perfect opportunity to grow and learn. So what’s a parent/teacher/caregiver to do?
|First, determine if the child has made an attempt at handling the situation for him or herself. In the soccer ball example, you might ask, “Timmy, what did you do when Mikayla took your soccer ball?” If Timmy says, “I came and told you,” this is a certifiable case of tattling, and responsibility needs to stay in Timmy’s hands. Here’s how to proceed:
However, IF Timmy shares that he DID attempt to get his ball back before running to tell you, acknowledge his shot at independence and empathize with his continued plight. “I’m proud of you for trying to solve this on your own. It looks like that solution didn’t quite work out. Would you like me to help you find another solution?”
We also want to encourage our children to always tell a grown-up when someone is hurting them or someone else, or doing something dangerous. Remind them that this is not tattling, and to help clarify that distinction, have fun role playing a variety of scenarios and solutions. When kids feel equipped to handle problems on their own, tattling ceases, eardrums are saved, and sanity is restored. Ahhh….
Do your kids need extra help with spelling?
Well look no further! SpellingCity.com is a fantastic, FREE website that takes your child’s weekly spelling list and creates on-line games, tests, and teaching helps for that specific list. As your child navigates the list, the site offers corrective helps when a word is missed. It even says and spells the words out loud! This site is so fun and easy to use, you may even want to create a few spelling lists for yourself!
ISSUE 12 January 2010
Homework does not have to Hurt
When it comes to homework (HW), if you are working harder than your child, something is wrong. Here are 10 tips to boost independence and empower our students.
- HW is the student’s responsibility. Parents should provide guidance and encouragement when needed, but stay focused on the ultimate goal of fostering independence.
- Get it in writing: an assignment notebook is a wonderful way to remember what is due and when. Help break large projects into smaller, short term goals. Write mini-deadlines, project due dates, test dates, etc on a calendar seen daily.
- Engines cannot run on empty. Be sure your child is FULL before attempting HW. A healthy snack low in sugar and high in protein can boost energy, brain power and mood.
- Clingy Kiddo? Take a few minutes to connect with your child in a meaningful way before leaving them to work independently.
- If your child insists you stick by his side while doing HW, make sure he understands his assignment and knows how to get started. Then offer to stay in the same room and work on your own project/read a book/make dinner.
- Ants in the Pants? Allow time to run, dance, and be goofy particularly if your child is high-energy.
- Make sure HW usually matches your child’s ability. If it’s too tough, kids get discouraged. If it’s consistently too easy, kids get bored. Talk to the teacher if this is a problem.
- If your child seems overwhelmed, clear the clutter off the work area and put one assignment on the table at a time. Sometimes it helps to cover the bottom part of the assignment with a sticky note, to be uncovered once the top is completed.
- Turn on the music, sit on the floor, and walk around while reciting spelling words… some kids actually do learn better with noise, movement, or a snack/drink on hand. Get to know your child’s unique learning style and help her to better accommodate it.
- Allow for breaks and motivate with time to play or relax. “As soon as you finish your spelling and math, feel free to take a break and play outside. You can finish history after your break.”
Links your Wallet will Love
Want to save big bucks on groceries and other purchases? I’m not talking about a few savings here and there: I’m talking hundreds-of-dollars-a-month! (Seriously: Since January 1st, I’ve already saved over $250 in COUPONS and in-store sales on stuff I’d ordinarily buy! HOW? I’m learning the art of clipping and combining coupons and e-coupons (savings you load directly onto your grocery club card).
Here are some of my favorite (FREE) links:
www.FrugalLivingNW.com – This Portland-based Website is where I got started. This blog takes the guesswork out of combining coupons for the best value. You’ll find specific scenarios and Web links (if necessary) for combining manufacturer’s coupons with Store Doubles and in-store coupons. The results? FREE or very CHEAP groceries EVERY week! Be sure to sign up for their email to receive the hottest deals daily.
www.Shortcuts.com is a great site that allows you to load coupons to your registered grocery club card or print them at home. Many stores did not accept home-printed coupons until recently, but technology has caught up with savings and most stores WILL accept them now.
www.Parade.com Your Sunday newspaper’s Parade Magazine insert now offers TONS of coupons. My recent visit uncovered many $1-off and multiple-dollars off coupons on food and house necessities.
www.CouponMom.com is another multifaceted savings sight that people rave about. It pays to visit!
Issue 13 February 2010
Are You Feeling the Love?
It’s hard to share or be kind to others when we feel empty, with nothing to give. And the same is true for our kids. But when everyone’s emotional tank is FULL, loving kindness spills freely, making people feel more receptive, appreciative, generous, and loved.
Each day for the rest of February, see if you can do one extra-loving, emotional-cup-filling activity for your child. It takes an investment of effort up front, but once you experience the results, I bet you won’t want to quit.
1. Plant a brightly colored message in your child’s lunchbox or homework folder.
2. Show your appreciation with three Post-It notes. Recognize three things you love or appreciate in your kiddo and post each of them on the bathroom mirror, closet door, front door, pillow, fridge…you get the picture.
3. Wake ‘em in the morning with a mini back massage.
4. Serve up the fun. One random night, spread a blanket on the living room floor and have a picnic dinner. Eating fork-free favorites (like fried chicken, French fries, and apple slices)and ice cream sandwiches for dessert will have everyone giggling through dinner.
5. STOP! And take a HUG, SMOOCH, or HIGH-FIVE “I LOVE YOU” break. REPEAT later in the day.
6. Make a surprise detour to the donut shop right after school.
7. Invite your child to help you make dinner (or any other task that you would normally “shoo” them away from.)
8. Have a dinner table round robin. Going around the table, ask each person to say something nice about every other person in the family. This may be challenging at first, so set the tone by making the first round.
9. Take time to snuggle that extra few minutes at bedtime.
10. Issue a “Get Outta Making Your Bed” FREE CARD. Then make their bed for them that day (without complaining about how many candy bar wrappers and pairs of dirty socks you find between the sheets!)
Everyone has a different way of loving. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell call these our love languages. Take time to discover which kind of affection your child likes most, and don’t be surprised if his or her language is not the same as yours.
Issue 14 March/April 2010
The War on Modesty
“But Mommmmm… EVERYONE is wearing them,” your daughter pleads as she tries to coax you into buying her the latest, belly-button revealing apparel. You cringe and raise your deflector shields, preparing for another battle. Of course you want your daughter to fit in with her friends… but not if it means compromising values. And how do you convincingly instill modest principles when worldly competition is forever screaming, “BE SEXY!”?
Moms, dads, grandparents and role models, if you’ve been trying to shoot down the perceived enemy, you’ve no doubt met with great resistance. You may want to try a new strategy: one that takes aim at your child’s heart. Concentrate your efforts on joining forces with your child, strengthening her
defenses and empowering her to make wise decisions. Society’s influences aren’t going away anytime soon, but here are some ways to plant everlasting wisdom into a precious and impressionable heart.
Look at clothes catalogues, take a walk though the mall, or watch TV together. Then TALK about what you see. To keep communication flowing, avoid lecturing and sounding judgmental. Instead, ask open ended questions: What do certain outfits say about the person wearing them? Are these the messages you want to send to others?
Have Dad or a big brother chime in with a candid, male perspective. It can be VERY influential to hear, “Yeah, when girls wear _____, guys can’t help but focus on _______.”
Dressing sexy attracts attention. So, if attention is what she is after, explore that need. What kind of attention or sense of belonging is she really after? What are other ways she can fill those needs?
Celebrate inner and outer beauty – not sexy. Help her to be aware of her God-given talents, strengths, and unique characteristics. Then brainstorm ways to celebrate and build on those gifts.
Don’t focus on what she shouldn’t wear. Focus on what she can. Set a clear and reasonable limit. Then focus on outfits that accentuate your child’s personality and individuality. Help her explore what colors, patterns, and styles fit best.
Focus on nutrition and active lifestyle…not diet and exercise. Maintaining a healthy body by eating right and staying active can boost self-confidence, while focusing on weight loss and dieting is often self-defeating.
I recently had the honor of doing a modesty talk for a group of girls at a local Christian school. I left them with this simple rule of thumb: Each time you get dressed, put on a fashion show for God and ask, “Is this outfit pleasing to God?” You can trust His opinion: His fashion sense is impeccable!
Issue 15 May 2010
Messy Myths about Communication
Back talking. Fighting to have the last word. Monosyllabic answers. Colorful *@&!?% word choice. Who knew parent-child communication could be so eclectic…or, at times, so stinkin’ frustrating? If dialoging with your child has become messy or even stagnant, it may be time to do a bit of housecleaning (and I’m not talking about scrubbing toilets). I’m referring to myth busting: clearing away faulty thinking that can interfere with lines of communication. Once you know what you’re looking for, myths are fairly easy to spot. And when you do, flush them out with the facts and get ready to enjoy clearer paths to communication.
1. MYTH: Parents should have all the answers.
FACT: When kids are looking for advice or help, they will typically ask. But if parents dispense advice to unwilling ears, kids are bound to reject it or resent it. As The Adult (with decades of experience and wisdom), we often put undue pressure on ourselves to have The Answer to all of our kids’ problems. But if we resist the temptation to rescue or repair, we allow our kids the opportunity to grow and experience the thrill of finding their own solutions.
2. MYTH: Questions are the best dialogue starters.
FACT: Craving to connect with our kids after a long day at school, we typically ask, “How was your day, Honey?” And, very often, a mumbled, monosyllabic “Good,” is all we get in response. For a more meaningful ride home, try sparking a conversation with a warm greeting or statement like, “I really missed you today.” OR “From the looks of those purple fingers, I bet you had art class today.” OR “You’ll never guess what happened to ME today…”
3. MYTH: When a parent says, “No,” the children interpret it as, “No.”
FACT: I’m convinced that deep within the cerebral cortex of 98% of children is a faulty connection which makes a child think “REALLY???” when his ears hear, “NO.” To stop a child from doing something we don’t want them to do, I believe we have 2 basic choices: repeat the word NO until you are blue in the face, or use a YES alternative. Examples: “Yes, you may go to your friend’s house to play as soon as you unload the dishwasher.” OR “The kitchen is not for yelling. Feel free to yell in your room with the door closed or out in the garage.”
4. MYTH: If your child is using colorfully inappropriate language, he’s destined for a life of debauchery.
FACT: Young kids are experimenters by nature. When they are introduced to a new word (on TV or from potty-mouthed neighbors, for instance), they are wired to try it on for size. Often they do not even know what the word means. They just know it must be pretty cool because it gets a huge reaction from listeners. The next time Junior experiments with a new word, try to keep your cool and calmly ask if he knows what the word means and who he heard it from. Then, in age-appropriate terms, define it and explain why it is not to escape from his precious little mouth again. (It also helps to brainstorm an appropriate alternative to use in place of the new word).
5. MYTH: Kids and adults speak the same language.
FACT: Sure, if you are an English speaker, chances are your children are too. But that does not mean that you share the same style of communication with your kids, and that difference can create frustrating misunderstandings. To enhance understanding, find out if your child is a visual, kinesthetic or auditory learner. If she is visual, try hand signals, notes and visual cues to get your message across. If she is kinesthetic, you may need to gently touch her shoulder or use hand signals when you talk to her. And if she is auditory but still does not seem to get what you’re verbally asking, try to simplify your instruction. She may simply be overwhelmed by the amount of information she is processing at once.
As we head into summer, I’m doing a little spring cleaning. I’m clearing out the myths and trying out new strategies to keep lines of communication flowing. And I’m dusting off my sense of humor, too. After all, laughter IS a universal language and the SuperGlue of relationships.
Issue 16 June 2010
The Secret to Unplugging Kids from TV and Screens
It began as a typical morning but quickly became a spectacular revelation. I was productively multitasking around the house with the dishwasher and washing machine humming in the background. The sounds of giggles and karaoke could be heard from distant rooms, where my boys and their overnight guests were playfully multitasking between the Wii, two DSIs, and an episode of Phineas and Ferb. Suddenly, every light, machine, and screen in the house dimmed to an eerie glow or shut off completely. Our smoke detectors let out a quick, painful screech, and the boys scurried to me, looking for answers.
“That was scary,” I could hear them mumble.
“Yeah, freaked me out,” said one, wide-eyed child.
“Hey, let’s go outside, suggested an ingenious problem solver.
In unison, they leaped to their shoes and flew out the door as if the ice cream man had pulled into our driveway with free Bomb Pops.
Silence in the house. Children playing outside without prompting, prodding or pleading by Mean Ole Mom. Screens and electronics abandoned in the blink of an eye. Frightened by an unexpected power surge in our house, creativity synapses in those precious young brains were jolted into action. “What a magnificent discovery!” I announced to myself. (I was sure my exuberance matched that of Ben Franklin’s when he discovered that famous flash of electricity). My hope for summer brain cell preservation was restored!
Suprisingly, there were long lasting effects, too. Eventually the boys scampered back into the house. I feared an immediate migration back to the mesmerizing lure of the screens. To my surprise, I heard instead eager hands rummaging through our arts and crafts drawer, impromptu songs being composed on the piano, and excited voices planning activities even a great grandparent would be proud of. Those boys surfed on waves of creativity the rest of the day.
P.S. While I’m not ready to formally suggest that parents should scare their kids into more creative summertime activities, I remain astounded by the effect that fear had on my clan. Perhaps a temporary power outage in certain rooms of our homes may have similar lasting effects. (Much like a camping trip or a day in the park has on the imaginative processes).
Whatever your unique strategy may be, get those nature-deprived, screen-absorbed children out into the great outdoors this summer! And don’t forget the SPF.
Issue 17 October 2011
Someone PLEASE Tell Me This is Going to Get Easier!
Last month, as the summer came to a close, I competed in a sprint triathlon with a great friend of mine. My first tri in 6 years, it was a blast and a real challenge. Flash back to early summer: I had already been training for the Portland to Coast Walk Relay, so I figured it would be a piece of cake to add a little biking, swimming and running to my workouts. OK, seriously, WHAT was I thinking?
One warm, sunny day, I cheerfully set out to ride my bike with my local tri buddies. I was able to keep up with them for the first couple of miles, but when they whizzed by and left me in the dust, I secretly wished for upcoming traffic lights to turn red, just to help me close the gap and save face. “Someone PLEASE tell me this will get easier!” I cried out pathetically to the oncoming traffic. A faint but reassuring voice responded, “It will. I promise. Hang in there.”
Roads of momentary desperation are familiar to most athletes and to virtually every parent who performs athletic feats of toddler chasing, child discipline, multi-tasking, and sleep-deprived decision making. The trick is to not get stuck in the quicksand of the moment. Here are a few ways to drive on and finish strong.
Use your remaining energy to preserve your sanity. As difficult as it seems, if you can look past the ugliness of the present, the Finish Line will come into view. Stop, breathe, and focus on five positive things about your life, your child, or your journey, and use those blessings to improve your attitude about the present challenge.
Refresh your perspective. A child’s tornado-like tantrum can feel like the end of the world, but in the big picture, it’s really just a momentary blip on the radar. Have faith, it will pass. Take precautionary measures to reduce the fallout by keeping your cool and remembering that you are not alone. Temper tantrums are an inevitable test of parental fortitude. Use a life line and phone a friend for help!
Don’t underestimate the abilities of your child. For months you labor in vain to teach your child to use his manners, tie his shoes, stop whining or stop interrupting. Despite your relentless efforts, it seems he will never get it right, and you’re just about to give up when, WHAMO! He executes the moves flawlessly. (Cue the resounding chorus of HALELUIAs). Many times a child’s inability to master a certain concept is not due to hard headedness, but rather young brain development. Be patient and keep planting those seeds. And be on the lookout for another sprout of maturity!
No pressure, but for many of us, holiday gatherings are sometimes the only occasion we get to “share” our kids with extended family and friends. Share or show off… it’s all a matter of perspective, but the reality is that our kids and their manners (or lack thereof) are on display…for all to see…in an already festively stressful environment. Will your kids be the ones shining with gratitude, respect, and politeness, or could their manners use a dab of silver polish? Don’t panic! There is still plenty of time to tidy up. Just start right away, hit the highlights, and be consistent. By Thanksgiving, your child will shine so brightly, your relatives will be begging for sunglasses!
1. PLEASE. I personally believe this word should be used as often as butter and sugar in a bakery: generously scooped into every request and reply. Help your children practice their pleases by role modeling in abundance, accentuating it when making requests, and insisting upon it when your children ask something from you or someone else. (A helpful hint: people are naturally motivated to use please when they know the request will not be fulfilled until the nicety is uttered!) Yes, please… May I please… Would you, please… Excuse me, please… Seconds on dessert, please?
2. THANK YOU. Seal the deal with appreciation! Whether it’s, “No, thank you.” or “Oh! Thank you!” this phrase is music to the ears. (And it’s even more effective when said with sincere eye contact, (though, realize eye contact is a difficult skill for most kids and can take years to master). Practice THNK U by role modeling, and by reminding the child to use it whenever she answers NO to a request or is given something.
Play a game at home: Walk through the house handing objects to your kids and having them hand them back to you. With every exchange, have the recipient say, “Thank you,” in a creatively different accent or tone. Thank yous have never been so fun!
3. WAIT YOUR TURN. This is no easy task for some adults, let alone toddlers, but it’s a skill worth developing. Key times to teach this for family gatherings: waiting for the hostess to be seated before taking the first bite at the table and waiting for the conversation to pause before interjecting.
4. MAY I HELP YOU? BEWARE: This one is sure to knock Grandma’s socks off. There is no better way to show appreciation and love than to serve another! Begin by teaching your children to be aware of when someone may need help. (Take your child people watching: try to watch for folks who look like they may need assistance and spot people who are being helpers). Then practice applying that new skill at home. For example: during dinner prep time: May I help you by setting the table, Mom? OR When everyone is frantically racing out the door with arms overflowing: Can I carry that for you, Dad? And here’s the bonus: teaching kids to serve others is a self-motivating task. Once they realize how good it feels to help another, they will want to do it again and again.
Issue 18 January 2011
Beyond Happiness: Helping Your Child Find True Joy
Joyful people are a blessing to be around and the kind we long to imitate. To be filled with joy, resilience, and gratitude in any situation is what I pray for my children, but getting there is not that simple. I do know that joy cannot be forced. It’s more like a habit that must be learned and embraced. Similar to appreciation, it’s a mind set that comes naturally when life is going great but hard to find in a fog of disappointment or despair.
As loving parents, we are driven to make life as wonderful for our kids as possible, often shielding them from the tough stuff life throws at us. Ironically, in order to grow rich character and wholesome joy, life’s manure is exactly what we need. So, here are a few ways to love our kids through the muck in order to produce an abundant harvest of joy.
Balance anticipation with disappointment: Sometimes daydreaming about an upcoming vacation can wind up being more exciting than the trip itself, especially when ugly surprises (like bad weather or illness) come along for the ride. Without raining on your own parade, help your family build contingency plans into upcoming events. Encourage everyone to weigh in with suggestions so that each person will be better prepared for the possibility of disappointment.
Put others first: It never fails. You excitedly bring home a mouthwatering pastry from the local bakery, unveil it to the drooling ooo’s and ahh’s of your two children, and tenderly announce that, due to it’s tremendous size, your kids will need to share it. After unappreciative moans erupt from the greedy onlookers, a fight breaks out over who gets to choose their piece first, quickly causing you to regret bringing the darn thing home after all! Here is a recipe for peace and instant equality: ask one child to cut the pastry in half, and let the other child choose his piece first.
Do not get trapped in the Culture of Entitlement: When forced to face reality or partially fend for themselves, disappointment can be particularly shocking to the child who is accustomed to always getting their way or being rescued. When we (parents, teachers and caregivers) cater to a child’s every whim or struggle, we rob them of the chance to grow through the challenge. Instead of giving them what they demand, encourage them to give all they can give. Provide age-appropriate opportunities for them to do for themselves (make their own lunches, make their bed, have sports equipment ready for each game and practice). Teach them how to earn and save money for their wants, and show them the art of problem solving in tricky situations. Of course, use your parental judgement when it comes to keeping them out of real danger, but also be prepared to let go where you are able.
Rejoice in mistakes – they are the spinach of Popeye: Mistakes have a bad reputation. When reviewing graded tests and assignments, parents often zero in on the ones that were missed as the child sulks in embarrassment from across the table. Some children will even quit performing for fear of making mistakes (after all, you can’t get it wrong if you don’t even try). This, by the way, is the gateway to perfectionism- and I have never known a truly joyful perfectionist! Making mistakes is essential to learning, so show your child how mistakes build stronger muscles. Then give them the opportunity to correct their mistakes and demonstrate how they’ve grown.
Inventory the simple things and imagine life without them: It’s easy to take our “little” daily essentials for granted. Electricity, water, a cozy bed, a warm shower…when working, they’re easily overlooked. But once they are unavailable, our appreciation grows immensely. To help your family learn to appreciate even the little stuff, try living like colonial pioneers for a weekend, support a needy family for Christmas or back to school time, sleep on the floor (without a blow up matress!), or just take time to give thanks for your blessings and encourage your family to imagine life without them.
Issue 20 March 2011
Fueling our Brains and Bodies for Maximum Performance
Our bodies (and our children’s bodies) are incredibly complex structures, requiring far better nutrition than most Americans recognize. Sadly, even moms and dads who think they are feeding their families nutritious diets are often fooled by the “healthy” labels on foods that barely meet minimal standards to qualify for that seal of approval. I’m guilty of falling for that clever marketing, particularly when my family’s hectic schedules beg for convenience foods. But I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my family’s energy level, attention span, attitude and general health since adding a dash of discernment to our menu selections.
As a general rule, experts advise that we get back to the basics. The less processed and more natural our food, the better suited it is for our bodies. I’ve become particularly cautious of foods that have artificial colors, chemicals (particularly those I have trouble pronouncing), and high levels of sugar, sodium, and fat. These ingredients have been frequently targeted as culprits behind misbehavior in the classroom, lack of energy on the ball field, irritability, figity-ness, and hyperactivity. (Of course, if your child exhibits any of these behaviors, particularly for an extended period of time, it’s important to consult with their doctor for a more complete assessment).
Our bodies and minds need to be fed wholesome and nutritious food throughout the day to keep us fueled and focused from dawn till dusk. To complicate matters, some bodies are allergic or sensitive to certain foods. So, while I have a few ideas to get you thinking, I encourage you to do a little research or meet with a nutritionist to create a diet that is ideal for for each member of your family.
- BREAKFAST IS CRITICAL After 8-10 hours of no food, our bodies NEED fuel to get up, go and think. PopTarts, sugary cereals and donuts are not going to cut it. Sugars (simple carbohydrates) are used up quickly in our systems, often leaving our bodies even more depleted than before we ate. To begin the day strong, fueled and focused, we need a well-rounded breakfast. Some of my family’s favs: plain oatmeal or hot cereal made with milk and topped with fruit, natural peanut butter on wheat toast, or scrambled eggs on a whole grain English muffin. Do you notice the theme? Simple and complex carbohydrates paired with proteins are a winning combination.
- KEEP THE WATER FLOWING. Our bodies are made up of roughly 75% water. Water is essential for the digestion of food, transportation of nutrients, elimination of wastes, and a host of other metabolic functions. And when we are not hydrated enough, it can interfere with moods, energy, attentions span and a laundry list of other health issues. So, drink up! To help, I make sure my kids carry a bottle of water to school every day, drink water routinely throughout the day, and drink a glass of water before offering juice at mealtime.
- SNACK ALL DAY LONG To maintain energy, brain power and emotional stability all the day long, make sure small snacks (containing carbs and protein) are eaten throughout the day. Note: a package of gummy fruit snacks “fortified with Vitamin C” or a “kid friendly” yogurt in a tube may seem like healthy options, BUT check the label. Sure, they may be healthier than a candy bar or a handful of cookies, but NOT by much! Remember, the goal is not to fill the tummy: it’s to fuel the brain and body!
- THINK NATURAL: Make the switch from processed to natural foods more fun by enlisting your kids in the gathering of colorful fruits and veggies from produce displays, nuts and trail mixes from bulk barrels, and wholesome wheat crackers and breads to be paired with cheese or topped with almond butter. Other possible favorites:
- hard boiled eggs
- homemade granola
- tortilla roll ups with a layer of refried beans or cream cheese and veggies
- ants on a log made with natural peanut butter
Our hectic schedules often have us dining on-the-go, but when hasty eating leads to compromises in nutrition, our bodies suffer and we often see “problem behaviors” skyrocket in our kids. To help your body keep up the demands placed on it, be sure to give it the complete nutrition, rest and exercise it truly needs.
For additional reading on healthy eating, please visit Web-MD:
Child Nutrition and Shopping Tips for Busy Moms: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/child-nutrition-shopping-tips
Simple Healthy Snacks for Kids: http://children.webmd.com/child-nutrition-8/simple-sweet-snacks
Need help talking to your kids about their bodies, the way they are changing, and about s-e-x??? Here are a few recommendations:
DVD: Simple Truths with Mary Flo Ridley (A Simple, Natural Approach to Discussing Sex with Your Children) www.JustSayYES.org
BOOKS: Learning About Sex (a Series by Concordia Sex Education)
Book 1 Why Boys and Girls Are Different
Book 2 Where Do babies Come From?
Book 3 How You are Changing
As always, preview materials before sharing them with your kids. Make sure they are compatible with your family’s values and what you want your kids to know about sex. And don’t let books do all the talking: kids want and need to hear from their parents on these important topics!
Issue 21 May 2011
Staying Mentally Sharp…all Summer Long
Summer is on the horizon, and cobwebs are threatening to invade our children’s brains, rendering them powerless against the learning that will resume next school next year! Some parents may try to defend against this cognitive atrophy by declaring a home school session of SUMMER SCHOOL! While others may take a more lackadaisical approach and allow their children to ride the tides of inertia in the relaxing summer seas. I personally attempt to combine elements of both approaches in my children’s summer schedules. For, I find the process of Back to School Cobweb Clearing far too painful or this mama to bear. Here are a few FUN ways to keep those youthful brains active and web-free.
- Write letters to an overseas soldier, relative, or missionary. On a map, locate where the Pen Pal is living and see what you can learn about that part of the world. (Writing, geography, penmanship)
- Spit out the facts. Serve your kids a juicy piece of watermellon. Then set up a seed spitting contest in the backyard. Before a participant may take a turn spitting, they must first correctly answer a math problem or spell a word dictated by the judge. The more questions they answer correctly, the more chances they have to spit the furthest. (examples: Multiplication, spelling, state capitals)
- READ READ READ! Talk to your friends and get recommendations on books their kids love to read. If your child gets hooked on a series, chances are she may want to try to finish the whole series by summer’s end! Click here to see some of My Kids’ Favorite Books in Series.
- READ FOR Wii A huge summer hit at our house is reading to earn Wii Night (a night of endless Wii playing, video watching and snack eating with an overnight guest). We set incremental reading goals (by page number) and allow the boys to earn prizes along the way. I stipulate which books and reading levels qualify for points, (and I even throw in a biography or non-fiction requirement). The Motherload of Prizes is Wii Night, usually not earned until late summer.
- Hit the trails. Just getting outdoors and exploring nature is a wonderful way to grow and learn. No formal education required. Just NOTICE what is happening around you. For younger kids, make a wide bracelet out of tape (put the sticky side facing away from the skin), and have them collect and stick small treasures to their bracelets while on the hike. (Science)
- Eat around the world. Dig for international recipes that you and your kids can make together. Have them help you create a shopping list and shop with you. Don your aprons and cook together, following the recipe. At dinnertime, see who can locate the country the dish came from on the map or watch a video of that country together. (Math, science, geography)
- Wash the car. Kids love to get wet, so car washing can actually be FUN for them. Encourage big and little scrubs to help with fine and gross motor skills. BONUS: If their arms stretch across the midline of their bodies while they are reaching to wash, both sides of the brain are working and strengthening many cognitive bridges. (Check out the Brain Gym Teachers Edition, Revised 2010, by Paul and Gail Dennison, for more whole brain learning ideas).
- Make a pinata. Have your kids help you find a recipe for paper mache’ (a great incentive to learn how to search the Internet or search the good ole’ fashioned library). As you mix up a batch of goop, have your kids figure out what needs to be done to achieve the perfect consistency. Also, have them brainstorm about what object to use as a foundation for the pinata. (What could you make with different sized balloons? Papertowel or t.p. Rolls? Thin boxes? Ziplock baggies?) Then get goopy! (Library skills, fine motor, science, art, problem solving)
- Listen to books on tape in the car. Going on a long ride? Crank up the CD player, then talk about the audio book as a family. Make up new endings for the stories, talk about what characters you liked or disliked, try to imitate a character, and see who in your family most resembles each character. (Creative thought, listening skills)
- Babysit a friends’ pet. Are your kids bugging you for a pet guinea pig, dog or lizzard? Here’s the chance to fill that wish…temporarily! Before committing to sit, be sure to research how to care for the critter and what will make it most happy while living in your care. (Responsibility, science)
- DECLARE A NO-SCREEN DAY, WEEK, or even MONTH! (Actually, I’m not sure if it’s possible for any parent or child to survive the deprivation of an entire month, but I suppose anything’s possible!) Under these primitive conditions, encourage your kids to go into survival mode and create things to do that do not require use of TV (or TV accessories), computer, iPod, cell phone, DS, or even electronic readers. Get the “caveman creativity” flowing!!
Issue 22 June 2011
Keys to Perseverance
No matter how hard I train or prepare for a race, if the weather on race day morning is too hot, too cold, or too wet, the temptation to press Snooze and bag the race altogether is overwhelming. OK, call me the Goldilocks of Sprint Triathlons, but I’ll admit, I’d rather race in conditions that are “just right” than freeze my hiney off. Seriously, on inclement mornings, the cost of writing off the registration fee and the bragging-rights t-shirt seems a small price to pay for a few extra hours of cozy pillow time. However, to my credit, despite the temptations, I’ve never actually bailed on race day. (I’ve got accountability partners to thank for that…more about those later). And I find that once I actually leap into the water to begin the first leg of the tri, I’m glad I stuck with it, after all.
Perseverance is a tough trait to learn and just as hard to teach, but it’s an essential and empowering part of life. Whether you’re a parent tempted to hit the snooze button on a chaotic morning, or you’re trying to keep your discouraged child from quitting a task, sport or project, the rewards for staying the course are invaluable. Here are some strategies for sticking with it:
- Set Goals - WRITE DOWN and keep track of your short term and long term goals. Make them practical, attainable and measurable. Celebrate milestones of accomplishment.
- Pick an Accountability Partner or Two - Find family and friends who are willing to check up on you and ask, “So, how are things going? Are you meeting the goals you set a week ago?” Find someone who has the courage to push you when you need pushing and confront you when you need that, too.
- Breathe in Encouragement - “Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.” This quote by George Matthew Adams is one of many inspirational thoughts captured by John C. Maxwell in his powerful book Encouragement Changes Everything. Soak it in and be ready to face any challenge!
- Embrace Mistakes – If you stumble or even fall, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move ahead. Celebrate setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. Teach your kids that mistakes are blessings in disguise. Mistakes are proof we have the courage to attempt new and harder things. Mistakes are what we learn and grow from. Without them, life would be quite boring.
- Put Self Defeating Thoughts In Their Place – What would have happened if The Little Engine that Could bought into the notion that he was not strong enough or powerful enough to face the mountain ahead? That little guy had what it took to succeed, and he was NOT about to let negative, invasive thoughts get the best of him.
Every time we push ourselves a little farther, persevere in the midst of struggle and overcome the uncomfortable, we walk away more empowered to embrace LIFE. Isn’t THAT a reward worth racing for?
Each summer, my boys look forward to Wii Night- an all night Wii playing-video watching-fun food eating- celebration for completing their personal reading log goals. Based on the summer reading programs offered by many libraries, we came up with our own program filled with hand picked motivators, and the kids dive into it every year. Friends have asked me to share what I do, so here is an idea of how ours works:
First, determine how many pages you want your child to read by a certain date at the end of the summer. (This year, my boys need to read 2500 pages by August 21 to qualify for Wii Night). Then, assign rewards to smaller sub-goals, so the kids can earn them as they go. This year we chose:
500 pages – I buy them a book of their choice from the store
1000 pages – a big candy bar and video rental with a fun movie night
1500 pages – $15 iTunes card
2000 pages – water park admission
2500 pages – Wii NIGHT
Incentives do not need to be expensive! In fact, they don’t have to cost anything at all. Just find out what will motivate your kids the most and use that. Create a chart where they can check off their completed reading in chunks of 10 or 25 pages. It’s fun for them to check off their accomplishments as they go. (To ensure accountability: I must approve the reading level of each book before I will sign off on their logs Some parents ask their kids to give a brief oral book report, as well).
The fine print: This year, I have an added stipulation that they must each read a biography and a historical fiction novel as part of the their 2500 pages. They balked at first, but I offered to help them find one that they will love.
Encouraging your kids to read is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. So head to the library and dive in!
Issue 24 September 2011
Living Beyond the To Do List
It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic schedules of every day. Zipping through To Do lists and running kids here, there and everywhere. But isn’t LIFE so much more than that? I’ve found that if I live life with purposeful passion, everyone seems happier and more motivated to tackle the To Do Lists anyway! So here are a few ideas to embrace life…even in the midst of chaos.
Go, Fight, WIN…but at what cost? We all love to win and be on the winning team, but what happens when we make the entire battle all about the win…and then wind up losing? I’m a firm believer that, if we give our 100% BEST effort in anything we do, our determination and perseverance are worthy of celebrating!
Choose Your Battles In our quest to be best…and for our kids to be the best, we may find ourselves exhausted from fighting too many battles, and we’re probably building resentful kids as a result of butting heads too often. Reevaluate your struggles and see if you can lighten up in certain age- appropriate areas. Then sit back and enjoy the pockets of peace you’ve created.
Fill Up with Premium It’s next to impossible to run on empty, let alone be cheerful with a growling tummy, heavy eyelids or overstimulated brain. Taking refuel breaks is not a luxury: it’s a necessity! When I allow myself to take a little afternoon snooze on days I’m dragging, I end my day with a spring in my step and cheer in my heart. STOP and take a snuggle or hug break, reconnect with the family over a meal, or schedule a few moments of fun into your day, and watch your family come to life.
Reach Out and Serve Someone Helping out a friend, contributing to a good cause, or stepping up to serve where there’s a need are incredible ways to experience LIFE. Life IGNITES when we are in relationship with others. Purposefully seek out ways to serve and honor others…the rewards are priceless.
Notice and Appreciate Take time to smell the roses. Force yourself to find the brighter side of a bad situation. Thank the kids for not arguing the entire grocery shop. Celebrate that they cleaned their rooms without your asking. (Hey, we call can dream, can’t we!?) Intentionally seek out the things you usually take for granted and verbally express gratitude!!!
Forgive It’s all too easy to hold grudges over disappointing mistakes or blatant violations. But how’s holding on to that residual bitterness working for ya? Perhaps it’s time to let it go. Try loving the person while rejecting the unwanted behavior…you may be surprised at how beautiful an ugly situation may become.
With a few minor tweaks in the day, mundane schedules really can burst to life with deeper meaning, more loving connections, and cleansing showers of grace. And isn’t THAT what freedom is all about?
Issue 25 October 2011
Helping Kids Think for Themselves
Lately, I’ve been feeling quite prophetic, but I don’t think that’s working out all that well for me. My abilities seem to be sharpest when my days are most chaotic and when I’m in the presence of my kids or husband. Bless their little hearts: they try so hard to please Mama; but Mama ain’t always easy to please. Consequentially, when I find things not going quite my way, prognostication spills forth and floods the room with self-righteous indignation.
Want a few examples? Here you go.”If that rancid football jersey doesn’t get into the washing machine in the next 3 seconds, we are ALL going to suffocate!” “If you continue to leave your backpack in the middle of the kitchen, someone is going to trip over it and break their neck.” Or, “If you keep procrastinating like that, you’ll NEVER get that project done, and you’ll get an F!”
Of course, when using absolutes (like ALL, NEVER or an F) my credibility wanes, much to the amusement of my irritated audience. This leads to their ignoring my astute hypotheses; and making Swami Mommy even more displeased, to say the least.
I wonder what would happen if I stopped telling my kids what the consequences of certain actions would be, and started asking questions (to make them think) instead. Like, “I wonder what might happen if…” as in “I wonder what might happen if you wait until the night before to begin studying for your test?”
Then it’s just a matter of containing myself long enough listen to their answers; respond with a non judgmental, “Oh, I see. Sounds like you’ve got it figured out;” and then back off and allow natural consequences to take effect.
Something tells me that a little less fortune telling and a little more listening might spark embers of personal responsibility in those precious kids of mine…and that would make this Mama plenty happy!