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.
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 3-4 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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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!!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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?!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.