Category Archives: Uncategorized

13Mar/17

CABIN FEVER

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.

16May/16

Chores Shmores!

Do you feel like you are doing all of the work around your house?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little help so that you could play, too?

Young children love to help!  If your children are young, you have a huge advantage here, please don’t let this slip away.  If your children are older, it’s a bit more work, but in the end, you will have well rounded, knowledgeable children who can take care of themselves when they are off on their own- not to mention a little more time for yourself before they leave!

It’s important to find age-appropriate chores and to realize that you will need to teach, and re-teach these chores on occasion.  It’s also important that you pick chores you can live with being done at a ‘child-level.’  If you need to have the mirrors wiped without streaks, or it will bother you all day long, this is not a chore you should give to your child. If you don’t care that there is a smudge here or there, give it away and put your feet up for a few moments!

Obviously young children will need more help and supervision, and older children will need to be taught and supervised in the beginning, too.  Just remember, you are training your child for the long run.  If you can stick with it, the benefits are worth it.

Here are some examples of a few age appropriate chores and a few tips:

Young Children (3-5 years old)

  • Pick Up Toys:  You can make a game of this or have your child race a timer.

  • Set/Clear the Table:  If you put the items on the table and have taught your child (or continue to teach) where to put the plates, napkins, forks and spoons, your child can start this task as early as Smiling Breakfast3-4 years old.  Encouraging your child to clear his/her plate and silverware can start as early as they are able to carry something from the table to the counter.

  • Vacuum/Mop:  Young children love to help.  In the beginning, a toy vacuum is a great way to have children help and enjoy doing the chore.

  • Laundry: Children love to make pairs and find matches.  Have them help by sorting socks.

5-8 Year Olds

  • All of the above chores with a little more responsibility.

  • Pick up Toys: We have a saying at our house: “Whatever you take out, you must put back.”

  • Set/Clear Table:  Your child can set the table with items you have put on the table and can also start helping to bring food to/from the table.  Clearing can include not only his/her place setting, but also parent place settings, too.

  • Vacuum/Mop/Dust Mop: Children can start using ‘real’ vacuums and mops at this age.

8+ Years Old

  • All of the above chores and…

  • Pick Up Toys and Crafts:  At this age we added the saying: “If you can’t clean it up withing 15 minutes, it might be too much.”  My daughters prefer to spend more time playing than cleaning, so this saying seemed to resonate with them.

  • Load/Unload Dishwasher:  When my children first started unloading the dishwasher, they were too short to put some of the dishes and cups away in the high cupboards.  They started by putting the things on the counter and I would put them away. As they grew, they were able to stand on a stool to help them be tall enough to finish the job.  And, yes, for those of you who know me, I have to use the stool sometimes, too!

So, there you have it.  A list of a few age-appropriate chores you can try at your house.  My suggestion would be to pick one or two chores and experiment with those chores, not to try all of them this week.  Once you have established a routine, or a system that works with one or two chores, you can add another one.  Slowly, over a few months, you can continue to increase the responsibility.  Just don’t forget to figure in the “Fun Factor” to keep things from seeming too much like work.

                                                                               

 

Check out my upcoming Webinar:

How to Get Your Child To Cooperate and Complete Chores

If you sign up through this link:  http://supersweetdailydeals.com/ 

by May 25th, 2016, you will be able to attend this $27 Webinar for FREE!

There are a multiple dates/times available.

                                                                               


14Dec/15

A Bad Case of the “Gimmes”

Does your child have a bad case of the “Gimmes” or the “I-wants”? “Give me this” and “I want that!”

 

Parents often struggle with providing for their children while keeping their child from feeling entitled or falling into the “spoiled” category. Many parents feel like they are earning enough, so why shouldn’t they provide everything for their children? It’s also easy to want for your children what you didn’t have. Watch out and think twice before you provide everything!  Material things end up meaning less if they are easily available.

 

If you want to break the “Gimmes” or “I-wants”, or if you are lucky enough to be reading this when your child is very young and want to prevent these sneaky creatures from entering your home, you need to have a plan. As a parent, you are in charge. You do not need to be mean, but you do need to think about your priorities and teach them to your children. Will you give them everything they need at any time, or only when you feel they need something? What about things they ‘want’ (the $200 pair of jeans, when you can get very nice jeans for $20-30). Will you provide an allowance and ask your child to provide for herself (clothing, activities, outings)?  Will you ask your child to split the cost of the extras (movies, shopping for items that are not needed-just desired, such as his 8th hockey stick)?

 

If allowances or a demand for new things aren’t the problem but you feel like your child has too many things (notice a big mess around the house or things that get ignored for months?), think about having your child clean out his toy box right before the holidays or his birthday. See if you can find a homeless shelter, women’s shelter or another ‘real-life’ place to take your child to donate the old toys.   Help your child understand that these children might not get any toys/clothing if you did not help out. Explain that these children can still be happy and healthy and loved, but their families most likely do not have enough money for fun things or things above and beyond the necessities.

 

And what about shopping trips to the grocery store or for another person’s birthday? As a parent who needs to take a child on a shopping trip, you face extra challenges than someone shopping alone. I’ll be the first to admit to buying a toy from the $1 section on more than one occasion to entertain my child throughout the shopping trip… See my blog on The Joys (not!) of Shopping with Children for more. If you buy your child something on every shopping trip, he will learn to expect it (and the “Gimmes” will be there in full force). If you give in to a tantrum because he wants something you are not willing to buy, he will learn that throwing a tantrum gets him whatever item he wants.

 

Some parents have children keep a list of things they want. Every time a child says “I want” something, they are politely told to write it down on the list. Parents review the list with the child close to birthdays, holidays and special occasions to see if the things on the list are still relevant. If they are, they can be shared with relatives or others interested in buying a gift for your child or the child can be encouraged to save and buy the item with her own money.

It’s not too late to get rid of the case of the “Gimmes” or “I-wants.” If there is something your child really wants, have her earn part of the money to pay for the item. Helping a neighbor or doing extra chores around the house can help a young child earn some spending (or saving) money. This is a good practice even when it’s not around the holiday time!

07Dec/15

3 Ways to Beat Holiday Stress!

Let’s face it. In America, holidays are a stressful time of year, no matter what religion you practice. From mid-November through the end of December there are family dinners, travel plans, presents to wrap, extra concerts and activities, school assignments, not to mention meetings and gatherings or parties at work and wrapping up the end of the year activities. (Breathe.) All of that can add up to stress! If you are stressed, your kids will pick up on your stress and become stressed as well.

So what can you do?

  1. Write down exactly what needs to be done, everything you can think of and a guestimate of how much time it will take. Remember things often take longer than anticipated, especially with little helpers or frequent interruptions, give yourself some extra time. Please don’t get overwhelmed, you are going to be able to tackle this list. Note what day/time each of these items needs to be done. Mark the items you can do in advance and start doing them. This will help prevent the last minute rush.

  2. Prioritize. How many of these things need to be done? What can you honestly live without? Do you need place tags at your family dinner table for Thanksgiving? Do you need to make every dish for your big family dinner or can you let someone else prepare a meal for the family to eat? It is OK to share and let someone else enjoy a compliment, even if it’s just for a side dish or hard boiled eggs.   Do you have a teen aged neighbor who would like to earn a few dollars by playing with your children while you get things done? Or maybe that teen is willing to do some chores around the house or yard so that you don’t have to do it all. Give yourself permission to drop a few things from your list that would probably be lovely, but not absolutely necessary. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and it also lets other people feel useful and needed.

  3. Take Care of Yourself. In the middle of all of this crazy-ness, plan some Anti-Stress activities. Of course, you can go to an all day spa, but taking care of yourself does not have to be super expensive or time consuming when you’re feeling stressed for time. Take a few moments to sip your favorite tea. Go to the gym or take the dogs out for a quick 10 minute walk if that’s what helps you to calm down. Give your child a big hug! Call or email friend you haven’t talked with in a while.

Remember to breathe and to compliment yourself! You CAN do this!!

23Nov/15

3 Things For Which I am Thankful

I have many things in my life to be thankful for. I have learned, however, that just being thankful, is not enough. Thinking about why I am thankful for these things and verbalizing them outloud or writing them down has brought my gratitude and happiness to a whole new level.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sending out tips on how to enjoy life and focus on gratitude – so if you haven’t subscribed to receive my Tips, check out the box on the right side of this website and sign up!

  1. I am thankful for my health so that I can enjoy all of my senses.

  • I can hear the laughter of my children.

  • I can taste chocolate – hot chocolate in the winter, chocolate chip cookies year round-and I am fortunate to have the capacity to be able to drink/eat whatever I choose to drink or eat.

  • I can smell of roses, and babies, and bread baking on Friday mornings.

  • I am able to see snowflakes and beautiful sunsets and occasional sunrises.

  • I can feel hugs and wet puppy noses on my cheek.

  1. I am thankful to have grown up in America and to have been able to live in a foreign country for a few years when I was younger.

  • I am free.

  • I am a female who can do many things.

  • I have had and still have many opportunities many people don’t have.

  1. I am thankful for you.

  • You ask fascinating questions and are brave enough to ask some questions that many other parents want to ask, but don’t have the courage to do so.

  • You have the courage and strength to ask for help or guidance to get your life to a place that is easier and more enjoyable.

  • You share your life and experiences with me and teach me so much.

 

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy finding things to be thankful for this week and always!

09Nov/15

Catch Someone Being Good!

While I have often challenged parents I work with to catch their children being good, a few years ago I decided to challenge my family to catch each other being good. I think it was a busy time of year and we were all tired and running in multiple directions. It seemed as if there were more complaints and arguments than usual. I wanted to shift our stinkin’ thinkin’ from the negative to the positive.

 

I cut long strips of colored paper and put them, along with a few markers, in a box labeled “Can You Catch Someone Being Good?”   The goal was to make a chain with all of the strips of paper. I was surprised that this was difficult for my daughters at first, and will admit there were days that this was hard for me to do, too. However, after a little while, when the girls realized that being good didn’t mean doing big things, it almost became a competition to see who could catch the most people being good.

 

Each day I tried to find something that was good about my children and to look for a variety of things as often as possible. Here are some of the things I wrote on my slips of paper:

Alanna went to bed nicely tonight.
Megan brushed her teeth well for 2 whole minutes.
Alanna fed the dogs.
Megan played with the dogs.
Alanna held the door open while Mommy brought in groceries.
Megan walked to school with a friend so her friend wouldn’t have to walk alone.
Alanna donated allowance money to a friend who was in a jump-a-thon at his school.
Megan asked for items for the Humane Society instead of birthday presents at her birthday party.

 

Here are some of the things my girls wrote on their slips of paper:
Mommy put away the dishes from the dish washer (this was before it became a ‘life-skill’ assigned to my children…)
Daddy, Mommy and Alanna – for being you
Mommy walked the dogs today when they needed exercise.
Megan shared her toys.
Alanna is good at Irish Dance.
Megan played soccer great today in her game.
Alanna played dolls with me.

 

So, what do you think? Can you Catch Someone Being Good?!

05Oct/15

The Joys (not!) of Shopping With Children

7 Tips for Shopping with Children

As a parent who needs to take a child on a shopping trip, you face extra challenges than someone shopping alone. I’ll admit to buying a toy from the $1 section on more than one occasion (blush, blush) to entertain my daughters throughout a shopping trip…

  1. Be Prepared. Know what you are going to buy when you go shopping, have a list. It is very easy to get side-tracked or distracted when you have children in tow. Know how much your child(ren) can actually handle. Some children are calm and sit quietly while shopping. Many others don’t and have a definite time limit of how long they are willing to help you shop.

  2. Timing. Ideally, the best time to shop is when you are feeling energetic, happy and are by yourself. However, reality hits and you have to get to the store this afternoon during a 20 minute window if you are going to have anything to eat for dinner. Oh, and you are going to have to take all of your children and get them into and out of the store within those 20 minutes. If at all possible, shop when your child is not tired or hungry. You will have more success.

  3. Be Willing to Leave. Yes, sometimes, if your child is having a meltdown, you just need to leave. It is not fun to be the parent who is herding a crying, screaming child out the door to the car, and it stinks to be going home empty handed. It is, however, worth the life lesson and the future peace if you do not tolerate meltdowns and tantrums.

  4. Bring a Goodie Bag

  • Pick items that won’t get lost easily (i.e., avoid Polly pockets or small Lego parts)

  • Dress up items (glasses, hats) can make walking down aisles in a grocery store a whole new experience. Have your child pretend to be a cowboy and point out items such as horses or cows that cowboys might be interested in along the way. What does a princess eat to grow strong, be smart and stay healthy?

  • Bring a noisy toy. Some parents aren’t sure about this. When my daughters were little, I would bring a little ‘giggle stick.’ It’s a 1-2 inch stick that you shake and it makes noise. I’ve also had rain sticks and little squeaky toys (note: I don’t recommend the little squeaky toys). Some days I would let my daughters shake as desired, other times, I would ask them to shake along to a song on the store radio or a song we would sing.

  • For slightly older children, bring a calculator. Have them add up each item you are putting in your cart and see how close their total is to the store cashier’s total or subtotal (you might want to explain about taxes).   Even young children (3-5) like pushing the buttons on the calculator to help out.

  • Play detective…have your child hunt for and count all of the blue items in one section or aisle. You can focus on items or on people – how many kids are shopping at this time? How many are in carts, walking, crying? Older children can write their answers down on a pad of paper.

  • Snacks! Most people buy more things at the grocery store if they are hungry…most children get fussy or cry more when they are hungry. Bring a few snacks in a baggie or container for your child (or you!) to munch on along the way.

  1. Runaways. If you have a child that likes to wander or is at the age when he wants to run and hide from you, try not to take them shopping! I have seen the fear in a mother’s eyes as she searched for her child who was eventually found hiding under a display. If you must bring your child, and she won’t sit in the cart or is too big, have her hold onto something (the cart, a furry boa that you bring from home, your belt). Make sure “she can see you” at all times. It’s a great lesson to teach a child to know where you are (“be able to see you”) and is more effective than telling her to stay where you can see her. Have a plan in case you get separated. Let your child know who he/she can talk to (a store employee – point out what their uniform looks like; a police officer; a grandmother) and how to call for you (he should know your first and last name!) if he/she is lost.

  2. Provide a list for your child. If she is too young to read, you can draw or cut out pictures from a magazine (or from the computer) for her to follow while you shop. Have your child check off items on the list as you shop.   If she asks for something extra, it’s easy to reply “If it isn’t on the list, we can’t buy it on this trip.” Quick parent tip: You (the parent) really need to stick to the list if you want this to work…if you are constantly buying extra things, you aren’t modeling this concept well. As an insider’s tip, put 5-6 parent stars on the list, or question marks. That way, if there is something you forgot to put on the list, you can still buy it in place of one of the stars or question marks.

  3. Watch the Clock. Talk about time and see how long it takes to go down each aisle or how long it takes to find an item that’s in the middle of the store (to keep child’s interest a little longer). You can tell your child you anticipate the shopping trip taking X minutes (always add 10-15!) and see how close you are to checking out on time. Imagine her surprise when you end “early”! Watching the clock also means know your child. If your child can handle a 15-20 minute shopping trip, try to stick to that to avoid meltdowns.

While it would be ideal to be able to go shopping on your own, or better yet, to have someone else go shopping for you… sometimes you just have to bring your children along. Using the tips above will help make it easier on everyone involved!

21Sep/15

Please Go To Sleep!

While the ultimate goal is to teach your child to self-soothe and to fall asleep easily on his own, getting there can be accomplished in many different ways. It’s important that you find a strategy that works for you (the parent) and then practice it.

My neighbor swears by the “Ferberizing” or the “Cry-it Out” method (Richard Ferber). It worked wonders for my neighbor, she loved it. I did not have the nerves of steel needed to let my daughters cry it out. The one time we tried it, every cell in my body was jumping up and down and screaming for me to go pick her up. For more than an hour.

The strategy that worked best for me was a special bedtime ritual (book, then lullabies and cuddling) and a sweet good night wish. Most of the time that worked just fine. However on a rough night, I would offer to sit in the room with my daughter after I tucked her in as she fell asleep (even as an infant when I wasn’t sure she totally understood what I was telling and offering her). One daughter liked to have me next to her -I did not need to cuddle after she was tucked in, but she wanted me nearby, leaning against her crib at first, then sitting on the end of her bed. My other daughter was fine if I sat across the room and read a book with my itty bitty flash lite (bonus!). It was just comforting for her to know I was there. On busy nights, I didn’t sit long, but would offer to check back in after a specified number of minutes ( sometimes 5 or 10 or 18 – the number was less important than the knowledge that I was coming back and not leaving her alone).

As my children got older, we used special night lights and sometimes special music to help them fall asleep. The music selections changed as they grew, but it was always calm and quiet. White noise, such as a fan, has also helped to calm children down or hide other noises in the house at bedtime.

Whatever method you choose. Give it a solid two to three weeks before you give up (unless every cell in your body is jumping up and down and screaming!). I love that even now, with my pre-teens, every once in a while I hear “Mommy, will you sit in my room for a little bit while I fall asleep?” I get to watch one of the loves of my life as she quietly rests in bed and occasionally I even get to read a few pages of a good book.

References:

Ferber, Richard. (2006) Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition Paperback. Touchstone

Pantley, Elizabeth. (2002) The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night. McGraw-Hill Education.

Weissbluth, Marc. (1999) Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Ballantine Books.

13Sep/15

Loads of Laundry

I know you might not believe me if I told you that my girls started doing their laundry when they were 3 ½ and 5 ½ years old. And now that they are pre-teens, they are, in fact, doing their laundry on their own!

Think about how much free time you would have if you didn’t have to do so much laundry. If you have an infant, laundry, lots of laundry, is a fact of life. But your child will grow out of that stage and you will have a jump start because you read this in advance.

So, what have you got to lose? A sock? The possibility of a shrunken shirt? Or what if it’s a total flop and you end up going back to doing all of the laundry by yourself?

If you choose to start with the laundry, begin by teaching and modeling. This might take multiple loads, even a few weeks. Most young kids love to sort clothes and put them into the machine. They also like to measure and pour detergent into the machine and press the buttons or pull the knobs. It’s a bonus if you have a see-through door so your child can watch the water come in and the clothes spin.

Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Draw a line with a permanent marker on the measuring cup to the “fill” line you want.

  • Put detergent in a smaller container if necessary to make it easier to pour.

  • Put arrows where your child should press buttons or pull knobs to start the machine. Sticky notes or flags work well.

  • Sorting clothes offers a great chance to teach/review colors.

  • Teach your child how to ‘inside out’ any shirts with designs (prints) on the front.

  • Teach your child to check the pockets. I often let my children keep any coins they find (bonus!).

  • Let your child play basketball to put the clothes into the machine. This works for both the washer and the dryer.

  • The older your children are, the more you can let them do (under your supervision) without your help. You will still need to be very involved while your children are younger, but I promise you it’s worth it in the long run.

I often still help my daughters when it comes to determining which clothes go in the dryer and which clothes need to be hung up to dry. They are old enough to read the labels, but it is quicker (and there are fewer complaints) if mom helps. Sometimes I’ll even help them hang the up those ‘line dry’ clothes (great time to connect!).

When my girls were younger, when the clothes came out of the dryer, they would help by sorting clothes into each family member’s pile and help by finding clothes I was looking to fold, such as ‘Mommy’s shirts’. They could also match socks and learned to roll them together earlier than I expected.

For the most part, my girls are pretty good at doing their laundry from start to finish. We have had a few bumps here and there along the way. I have heard more than once that “no one else has to do her own laundry” and I’m sure I’ll hear it again. I’ve also witnessed some ingenuity and creativity. My younger daughter is ahead of her time. She used her allowance to buy more underwear so she wouldn’t have to do laundry as often – a trick most people don’t learn until they get to college…

So, was it worth teaching my girls how to do their laundry at such an early age? For my family, I have to answer “You bet!”

Pick a life skill, any life skill: mopping floors, making a meal, washing the windows, or weeding the garden just to name a few.   I’m challenging you to teach, supervise, and then to trust and let go.  Under your gentle guidance, your children can learn to do all of this and more.

01Sep/15

Putting the Fun back in DysFUNctional

When was the last time you played as a family? Or just “hung out” together? Sometimes you need to call a Time Out of your hectic schedule, ignore your To-Do List and just take time to play. The laundry and the dirt in the corner of the bathroom can wait until tomorrow. When you take a break from the rat race, you give your family time to get to know and enjoy each other.

While time away can be a vacation or a pre-made adventure (amusement park, mini-golf, roller skating), it can also be simple and cheap. Here are the top 5 favorite Family Fun Escapes contributed by some of the families with whom I have worked:

  • Have a Picnic in the Den. Instead of sitting at the dinner table, lay a table cloth on the floor and eat picnic foods. You can play music that reminds you of summer and have popsicles or ice cream in cones for dessert!

  • Go on a Night Walk. One night, when no one has a super busy schedule the next day, surprise your kids after PJs and teeth brushing and go outside for a walk. Listen to the night sounds, look at the night stars or the snow if it’s falling. What does the night smell like? Is it the same as during the day or does it smell more clear and fresh?

  • Go on a Hike. Explore your local parks and paths. Bring plenty of water, a few snacks, and most importantly a camera to save your family memories!

  • Have a Family Game Night. Depending on how much time you have, each family member can choose a game to play or you can write down everyone’s ideas and pick one out of a hat. Serve a special snack (popcorn or fruit kabobs).

  • Have Ice Cream for Breakfast! You might have heard me mention this as a special surprise to get kids out the door on time or as a reward for getting all of their “To Do’s” done, however, if you haven’t done this in a while (or ever), serve ice cream for breakfast for a fun morning. You can balance it out with fruit toppings, or go all out and enjoy chocolate syrup and sprinkles. It’s such a fun way to start the day off with smiles and giggles, give it a try!

These are just a few ideas you can use to get to know your children better and to experience how much JOY and FUN you can have playing together. Can you think of more?