If you are looking to improve your parenting, you are not alone. It’s one of those areas that anyone who is trying to parent continually works on, sometimes daily, even those of us with fancy academic degrees and lots of experience. What is beautiful about improving your parenting, is that your kids benefit, too.
As with any resolution, it is important to honestly examine where you could be doing better. What are areas you feel you need to improve? If we’re being honest… I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions in the ‘typical’ sense. My resolutions tend to be ‘Enjoy Life More’ or ‘Eat More Chocolate!’ So, maybe this blog should be called “4 Non-Resolutions to be a Better Parent in 2018.” Or maybe my first parenting resolution should be to make a resolution?
All kidding aside, I do try to create a list of goals for the year that I re-visit often. Once I have this list, I pick one goal – just one – to start with. I tend to go with something that is just out of reach, but highly achievable so I won’t fail… Some people have criticized me for not making “real” resolutions, but I find that success leads to success. If I can accomplish something almost “do-able” then I can accomplish something else.
This is true when you are working on your parenting skills, too. You might have a long list of things you want to work on and that’s ok. However, if you choose one that you are pretty sure you can do without a huge amount of change or effort on your part, you can be successful. Then you can move on to being successful at the next skill and the next skill. Maybe a more challenging skill won’t seem so hard after all of the “do-able” improvements are taking shape.
Here are 4 parenting resolutions, or non-resolutions, to get you started in 2018. These are areas that many parents express need improvement in their lives. I’ve included a few suggestions with each to help you be successful.
1. Connect With Your Child.
When you are with your child, be WITH your child. Give them your full attention. Listen, respond, engage. Give them the attention they long for. Put down your phone, don’t let email or Facebook interrupt your time. You don’t need to spend hours with your child every day (unless you can!). Even 10-15 minutes of quality time, focused completely on your child, will make a huge difference in your parenting over time by decreasing arguments and increasing your bond.
2. Let It Go.
Take time to think about the things that are most important to you and those that aren’t. Are you concerned with what others think about your parenting? Let it go. Please don’t compare yourself to anyone on social media. People tend to only post the perfect side of themselves, so you don’t see the sink full of dishes or the toys strewn all over the living room or the crying child on the floor kicking his feet in the air…
Are you concerned that your child doesn’t measure up to developmental achievements? Let it go. Children develop at their own pace… in ages and stages, not according to a set schedule. Kids tend to walk, talk, read and write when they are ready, not necessarily when the book says they should be. My mom once said, “she won’t be walking down the aisle with a pacifier in her mouth.” You can substitute any word you need for pacifier (i.e., diaper, training wheels, etc.).
Focus on the things that are most important such as connection, sleep, healthy food, and being a good person who is kind and cares about others.
3. Yell Less.
This can be a tough one when you are feeling overwhelmed and are at your wit’s end. And I haven’t met a parent yet who can claim he/she has never yelled at his/her child at least once.
Easier said than done. Remember the last resolution? Let it go. Think about what is important. It is nice to get out of the house and to school on time – especially if you’re concerned about what other parents think when you show up late. However, you, or your child, might be having an off day. It’s better to slow down and be a few minutes late than to constantly yell at your child. Yelling can cause lower self-esteem and behavioral issues in children.
Ground yourself. You’ve probably already heard that you should take deep breaths or count to 10 to stop yelling. Try focusing on your feet being on the floor while you do this. As you lower your stress-response, you will be able to respond better, in a calmer manner.
Please note – it’s still OK to yell if your child is in immediate danger. If you don’t yell often, this might scare your child. If you yell all the time, this might not phase your child. In case of danger, be ready to act, too, not just yell.
4. Take Care of the Care Taker.
I talk about this a lot. As parents, we are constantly taking care of others. Parents give so much of themselves, especially if they have young children, and are often exhausted as a result. Constantly taking care of others while forgetting to take care of yourself causes resentment and burnout.
Remember how I said that kids benefit from our working on our parenting skills? While all of these resolutions will benefit your child, taking care of yourself provides one of the biggest benefits to your children. When you take care of the basics (sleep, nutrition, and exercise) you feel better and can be a more effective parent. Things that might bother you when you are stressed out and overwhelmed are less of a big deal when you feel somewhat ‘human.’ When you take care of your emotional self (getting together with friends, doing meaningful things, being creative, spending time alone), you enjoy your life more and model being a happy person for your child.
You Can Do It!
Which one of these resolutions seems like it will be easiest for you to be successful?
Can you schedule 10-15 minutes of special time with your child this week and next?
OR Can you try to figure out what is most important and what are things you can let go – and then work on actually letting one of those things go this week? Does your child really need a bath and shampoo every day, or can they get by skipping one this week to spend special time with you?
OR Will you set up some kind of system to yell less over the course of the next 48 hours?
OR Can you schedule a date for yourself (with your spouse, a friend, or even with yourself!)? One moment that you write in your calendar, in pen, to take care of yourself…
Remember, mistakes happen. Mistakes are actually a great opportunity to model for our children that we are all human. We can pick ourselves up, learn something, and try again.
I know you can do this. Pick one resolution above and go for it! Here’s to your small successes leading to more success!
As always, I am here to help you on your parenting journey. Whether you gain insights from my blogs and emails, sign up to get my (almost) Weekly Tips (hey, I’m a parent, too!), or you’re looking for more personalized parenting advice and direction. I am excited to welcome and interact with you. I am here to encourage and help you to be the best possible parent you can be.
It’s that time of year – with El Nino and winter storms roaming about, kids (and parents) can start to get Cabin Fever.
Well bundle up and have the Hot Chocolate waiting!
Here are a few ideas gathered from my Weekly Tips to get you out of the house and connecting with your child in a fun way:
Make Snow Angels. Imagine what different animal snow angels might look like and try to create them.
Build a Snow Man or a snow family. Use sunglasses and sombreros or find other creative ways to decorate your snow people. Don’t forget to make some snow pets.
Follow the Leader. Have one person create a path that another person has to follow. It can involve jumping, zig-zagging, or even crawling through a snow tunnel (or under low branches).
Tunnels and Igloos. If you live where the snow is deep, create an igloo or a snow tunnel.
Snow Cones. This is one my kids love, even when there isn’t a foot of snow on the ground. We gather clean, white snow in a cup and then pour juice over it to make homemade snow cones.
If it’s too wet and cold to go outside, or if you don’t have any snow… you can still have fun connecting with your child. Here are few in-door ideas:
Snow ball pictures. Grab some glue/glue sticks, cotton balls, and some construction paper and create a snow scene.
Indoor Snow ball races. Using a table or the floor, blow cotton balls to race them across a finish line. You can add to the fun by blowing the cotton balls with straws.
Finger paints in the bathtub. Turn on the heat, put on the bathing suits and plop your child in the tub to with finger paints (or bath soap/paints). We have tile on our walls, so I just let my daughters paint right on the walls. It was great fun, a little messy, but in the end both the bathroom and the girls got clean.
Baking/Cooking. While cooking can be a challenge with kids, if you plan to cook something together, and get things planned out in your mind ahead of time, it can be quite fun. Not to mention the fact that baking/cooking can help heat up a cold winter day.
I would love to hear from you in the comments below what you do when your kids, or you, start to go stir crazy with Cabin Fever.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I always have big plans for celebrating holidays. Sometimes these plans come close to reality, sometimes they don’t! Once I had kids, I had to learn to alter my Martha Stewart or Disney-perfect plans a bit in order to be successful. Here are some tips to help you enjoy Valentine’s Day with your child.
1. Plan in advance. If you are going to have a special meal, do any prep you can in advance. Get the decorations out and ready a few days in advance. Set the table the night before. If there is any food you can prepare in advance, do it.
2. Lower your expectations. I don’t mean this in a bad way – you should not settle. You should, however, communicate everything! Children, and husbands, are not mind readers. Don’t expect to be pleasantly surprised if you haven’t communicated what you are hoping for. As scary, painful, or foolish as it might feel, stating what you want will get much better results than hoping your family has been looking at Pinterest or paying attention to your needs.
3. Celebrate when you can. If you are not with your child on Valentine’s Day (due to travel, divorce, etc.), remember there is no rule that you have to celebrate on February 14th! One of my favorite Valentine’s Day celebrations was when our oldest daughter was about 6 months old. My husband and I had a busy February 14th, so we planned, in advance, to celebrate on the 15th. Tim had been very generously giving me roses for Valentine’s Day ever since we started dating. This particular year, he came home with 2 dozen roses! One for me and one for our daughter. While I was pleasantly surprised (I love flowers!), I teased that he could be setting an expensive precedent. What if we had more daughters? (We did!) That’s when Tim told me that the flowers were 1/2 off! I decided we should try to celebrate a day late for years to come. Consider this your heads up – I think the stores have caught on… it takes at least 3-5 days for our local stores to reduce the cost of flowers and candy after Valentine’s Day. Now Tim just buys flowers for me to share with our daughters.
4. Be flexible! For years I have been decorating our bedroom doors the night before Valentine’s Day, while everyone is asleep. I hang one streamer for each year my child has celebrated Valentine’s day, and on our bedroom door, I hang one streamer for each year that my husband and I have been celebrating Valentine’s Day as a married couple (21 Valentine’s this year!). I attach paper hearts and Valentine’s stickers to each of the streamers. One streamer will have one heart, another will have two hearts/stickers, the next three, and so on. This year, we have a wonderful Korean exchange student staying with us. My plans were to decorate her door with the correct number of decorated streamers, too.
However, after a busy day full of activities, by the time everyone was in bed, it was almost midnight. While I had thoughtfully saved many of my streamers from the previous year, I realized it was going to take a bit of time to cut 17 ribbons and count & stick hearts and Valentine’s on each of them. I decided I would share some of my daughters’ streamers and some of ours, too. While it wasn’t what I had envisioned, the flexibility allowed me to go to bed much earlier than if I had stuck to my plan. Another great way to be flexible is in the morning. Even though home made heart pancakes and waffles are great, I would recommend using a heart shaped cookie cutter on store bought waffles when you’re in a hurry.
I hope these tips help you enjoy your Valentine’s Day and every other day of the year, too. I would love to hear from you what tips you have to help you enjoy Valentine’s Day with your child(ren).
Don’t Forget to take advantage of my February Special: One-on-One Coaching sessions are only $49
Click the picture for more information.
This is not just for new parents – if you have worked with me before, you can take advantage of this, too!
I am posting this a bit early. I wanted to give you a little time to try the ideas below so that you don’t have to start them at midnight on February 13th!
Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day, or just love chocolate, love seems to be in the air this time of year.
According to Dictionary.com, LOVE is…
A profound tender, passionate affection for another person.
A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
I remember when we first brought our daughter home. In between the sense of overwhelm and fear that if we didn’t “do it right” someone would come take her back, I developed this incredible sense of love for our tiny infant. It was something so strong I couldn’t describe it in words.
I was a actually a bit worried when we brought her sister home that this would hurt, or somehow diminish, the love I had for her. It didn’t. It’s amazing how much a heart can grow!
Some of you are going through challenges with your children and aren’t feeling that love right now. I get it. Believe me – we have both teen and pre-teen girls in our house! It can be very hard at times to remember the love you felt when you were first getting to know your child, whether that was at birth or any age you brought a child into your life.
Here are three things to help you get that feeling back. It won’t happen overnight, but try one – or all three – to help you feel the love between you and your child more often.
1) Write a Love Letter to Your Child
Take some time to think about what you most love, admire or enjoy about your child. Put this in a letter and mail it to your child. Be sure to include what makes you most proud to call him/her your child.
2) Create a Love List
If writing a letter is not your thing, write a “Top Ten Reasons I Love You” list. Some ideas to get you started: I love your smile, kind heart, how you care about your friends, share your toys nicely, how you cuddle with our dog, when we brush our teeth together and see who can get their teeth the cleanest, …. Be creative.
3) Love Notes
Write a short and sweet love note to your child and put it in his/her lunch box or leave it at the breakfast/dinner table each day of Valentine’s week. “Have fun in school today” or “I love your smile” are two ideas.
Here is an easy craft idea I sent out to my weekly Tip subscribers:
Cut out large hearts in different colors. Write notes on each of the hearts and tape them to your child’s door. The notes can be things you love about your child or you can use candy-heart sayings (Be Mine, I Luv U). You could even stick one heart per year that your child has been alive – this is easier for kids to understand when they are older. Be aware that younger children might wonder why they didn’t get as many hearts as their older siblings, so just be ready with an explanation.
If you have a young child who can’t read yet, glue or draw pictures onto the hearts. The pictures can be of family and friends who love your child or fun/cute pictures from magazines or the internet.
Sometimes it’s the little things that can melt a heart and see big changes.
If you are feeling the challenges of raising a child, please take advantage of my February Special: One-on-One Coaching sessions are only $49
Click the picture for more information.
This is not just for new parents – if you have worked with me before, you can take advantage of this, too!
Focus on the Positive
Last week I wrote about the self-fulfilling prophecy: “You will find what you are looking for.” So why not look for the good?! I invited you to take some time to really stop to notice all the things your child can do and some things about him that make you smile.
This week, I invite you to focus on your parenting through a positive lens. Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world. And I bet, that even though you might not always feel that way, you are doing a pretty good job at parenting.
Stop and think for a moment. What is one thing that you are doing right as a parent? Do your children know that they need to stay buckled in their car seats to be safe? Are your kids going to bed nicely at night? Do they enjoy grocery shopping with you because you keep them engaged?
We are very hard on ourselves as parents. It’s so easy to dwell on the mistakes and regrets. It’s easy to freak out in the moment instead of looking at the bigger picture. Sometimes we need to stop and think if this will actually matter a year, or even a month, from now.
As a parent, it’s also easy to assume that every other parent has their act together. I used to giggle inside when people assumed that because I was so involved and organized outside my home that the inside of my home was just as organized and spotless. To be honest, the organization part isn’t bad, but even the few years that I had a maid didn’t seem to keep my home spotless! I was spending more time playing with my kids than washing baseboards so that made it OK for me.
Think of this as permission for you to spend a few minutes as you are getting dressed in the morning, or ready for bed at night, to pat yourself on the back. Think about some of the things you have done as a parent that have been successful. Be specific and authentic with your thoughts. Some days, that might include a sentence like: “My kids are still alive today!” and that’s OK. The fact that they have made it this far with your help and guidance, is an accomplishment.
Congratulations! Raising a child isn’t easy and you’ve made it this far. There will always be ups and downs, but focusing on the positive will improve your outlook and spill over to make the downs not dip quite so low.
I am a strong believer in the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:
“You will find what you are looking for.”
So why not look for the good?! Focusing on the positive is the foundation of all the work I do with parents.
We get so caught up in our day-to-day activities that we often forget to look at all the great things that are happening around us. Unfortunately, our brains are wired to notice the negative. It is simply easier to focus on what is going wrong. Taking note of the negative does help prevent mistakes from happening again, but it can be a real downer! Rather than dwelling on what could be better or what you should be doing, why don’t you pay attention to the things that are already going well.
Your mind is an amazing entity. Look for the good that is happening, think positive thoughts and you can transform your life.
I know, you’re thinking, “Sounds great Dr. Renee, but HOW can I do this?” The fact that you are interested in learning more, indicates to me that you are already on the right path.
Start by looking for the good in your child. I know this is hard when you are exhausted and stretched beyond anything you ever imagined parenting to be. But I promise you, it is worth it.
Take a few moments as you get dressed in the morning, or ready for bed at night, and think about your child. What are some of his positive qualities, traits, and abilities? If you are feeling a little more ambitious, pick an entire day to try to look for positive things your child says or does.
Positive things can be something as simple as ‘sitting in a chair for an entire meal.’ Even if he’s strapped in a high chair, your child is sitting and not climbing/fussing to get out. Maybe your daughter smiled at you this morning. Maybe you took a few seconds to notice, and really enjoy, the sweet, little hand holding yours as you walked to the car. What about how he played with his friend and shared his toys? Or how she called a friend who was feeling lonely or looked sad at school? Open your eyes and look for the positive.
I am often asked, “Should I tell my child about all of these positive things I am seeing?” Then almost immediately, there will typically be one of two follow-up questions: “Will this boost his self-esteem?” or, “Won’t all that complimenting go to her head?”
It is OK to comment and praise occasionally, especially if you can point out a specific behavior/action and you are being authentic. However, just spouting off compliments all day could backfire. Your child might come to expect your input on everything in life (= not be able to think for himself). Or she might begin to tune you out well before she hits the pre-teen years!
Focusing on the positive is more for YOU than for your child. Trust me, your child will benefit because your upbeat mood will have a ripple effect. Focusing on the positive is really more about a mind shift for you. It will help you find ways to be happier and feel a purpose as you go through the everyday tasks and necessities in life.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog. It’s Part Two of Focus on the Positive and it’s going to help you even more with your ability to parent.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.- JK Rowling
I like to think of a theme for each year. It helps give me focus and something bigger to aim for in all areas of my life. My theme for 2016 was “Take Care of the Caretaker“. For 2017, my theme is “Anything’s Possible!”
Like most of you, my 2016 had its ups and downs, and yes, even some upside-downs. However, I choose not to beat myself up about things I had hoped to accomplish but didn’t or about things that didn’t go exactly as planned. I prefer to focus on the things I got right and how I have a chance to get more things right. I love to think about what new and exciting things will happen in my life this year.
Getting into a mindset of “Anything’s Possible!”, I have a New Year’s Wish for you:
My wish for you is lots of fun time with your family- anything’s possible.
More time playing with your children and less time yelling at them – anything’s possible!
More time when your child is well-behaved and less time when he is challenging or defiant – anything’s possible.
More time when your children will be playing nicely together and less time fighting with each other – anything’s possible.
More time connecting with your children and less time in power struggles – anything’s possible.
And my New Year’s wish is for you to spend more time in “Positive Parent” mode and less time in the “I Didn’t Sign Up for This” or “Help! Things are Out of Control” mode because – anything’s possible!
Here’s to a great 2017-
a new year full of possibilities.
I am here to help you on your parenting journey. Whether you gain insights from my blogs or (almost) weekly tips (hey, I’m a parent, too!), or you are looking for more personalized parenting advice and direction, I am excited to welcome you. Sometimes it takes a bit of courage, or nerve, to ask for help, but it usually ends up saving a lot of time and frustration in the long run. My goal is to encourage and support you being the best possible parent you can be.
Organizing the Disorganized Child
Your son/daughter has been in elementary or middle school for a while and things should be flowing along smoothly at this point. Right?
Unfortunately, for many kids, this is not the case! Papers from school might, or might not, make it into your child’s backpack. Homework assignments that are done, seem to vanish into thin air between your kitchen table and the classroom.
Just like learning to read, learning to be organized to succeed in school, needs to be taught in small steps and reinforced regularly. When a child first learns to read, he learns what the letters look like and sound like. Then he learns that when you put letters together, you create new sounds and eventually words. Many letters together in groups (words) can make a sentence, a paragraph, or even a story!
Once we’ve taught our children to read, we don’t send them off to fend for themselves. We don’t even let them choose whether or not they want to read. We encourage them to read, and even require it of them in school. Our world constantly provides opportunities to read (street signs, words on food packaging, t-shirts, etc.). And all of this happens at a stage where the brain is open to and able to learn this new skill. Notice I said ‘stage’, not ‘age’ because this does happen at different times for different children, and that is OK!
The executive functioning of the brain, the part that acts as a personal assistant, or office manager, doesn’t fully develop in humans until they are almost 25 years old. Our executive functions enable us to make a list, remember to look at it, and then cross things off as we complete things on that list.
So, GIVE YOUR CHILD A LITTLE BREAK, and GIVE YOURSELF A LITTLE BREAK!
Your child’s brain is still developing!
Your child is really not mentally capable of keeping track of all of the things that he/she needs to keep track of during the school day. Can some kids do it? Sure. But many can’t remember all of the details without a little bit of help.
So what do you do?
Put strategies in place.
Just like reading, your child will get to practice certain skills on a daily basis (i.e., bringing assignments home and bringing completed homework back to school). Many teachers will provide your child with tried and true strategies. One example is having one duel-pocket folder for all papers. One side is marked “HOME” and the other side is marked “SCHOOL.” All papers coming home are put on one side and then all papers going back to school go on the other. While this might seem obvious to you and me, it really isn’t that obvious to your child.
If you would like to learn more simple strategies to help your child succeed in school, please contact me at DrRenee@HelpingParentsParent.com .