Category Archives: Parenting Tips

Are Social Media Challenges Worth Doing?

It seems that every time I log onto social media nowadays I come across a host of videos showing various individuals performing different social media challenges. The person is either being doused with cold water, eating something

Facebook challenge

ice bucket challenge

nasty, or doing something seriously bone-headed (like lighting oneself on fire in a shower or playing the “pass out” game).

It’s unfortunate that so many teens (and even preteens) are seeing these videos and deciding to take part in them as well.

Knowing that this is the case, I decided to have a talk with my daughters about this popular yet unsettling trend.

I began by asking my daughters why someone would want to do any of these challenges. My daughters were correct in saying that most people (especially teens) do it for attention or in an effort to “be cool.” I then asked if they would ever do a challenge for either of those reasons. Both said that they would not (I hope they were being honest, and I expect that they were).

I then asked if there were any challenges that would be okay. My older daughter (who is eleven years-old) quickly responded that it would be okay to do a challenge so long as it wasn’t dangerous. I thought that was a pretty good answer and we discussed a few examples of challenges that might appear on the surface to be safe, but that might have hidden dangers (for example, eating something nasty might force someone to swallow too quickly, which could lead to choking).

But what about challenges that may not be dangerous but that are instead intended to embarrass or humiliate the person taking the challenge? We discussed the seriousness of these challenges as well.

We came to the conclusion that three questions should be asked before taking part in any sort of challenge:

1. Is the challenge dangerous? If so, then don’t do it…it won’t make you cool, it will make you look ignorant.
2. Does the challenge have the potential to embarrass or humiliate? Again, don’t do it if this is the case.
3. Is the risk worth the reward? In most cases it will not be…so why do it?

If teens (or preteens) actually took the time to consider the answers to these simple questions then perhaps there wouldn’t be so many of these videos cluttering up my Facebook page. Also, if teens are getting enough attention at home then perhaps there won’t be any need to accept these challenges for attention.

Daily List of Things to Do

Wake up with a smile
If you’re going to start the day out right, then start it out right! Wake up with a smile and let that smile endure throughout the day!

Tell your kids you love them
…and while you’re at it, tell them WHY you love them! Your children can never hear “I love you” too many times!

Drink plenty of water
Re-hydrate yourself regularly…you’ll look and feel better!

Smile at a stranger
Why? Why not? Smiling is contagious. Give one and you just might receive one in return.

Call someone just to say HI!
Catch up with an old pal or simply call a friend or relative.

Do something to make someone’s day
Leave a note, pay for lunch, help someone out, bring treats…whatever it takes!

Compliment someone
It just might be the only nice thing that person hears all day.

Spend at least 30 minutes being active
Get up off that couch or away from that computer and BURN some calories!

Complete at least one chore
Get ‘er done!

“Lose” my phone for at least 1 hour
Cut your lifeline…an hour per day won’t kill you!

Floss!
Do any of us actually do this as often as we should?

Put away at least 10 things
Hey, it all adds up to a consistently cleaner home!

Listen to music (at least 5 songs!)
A good inspirational song can do a lot to turn your day around…for the better!

Put a quarter (or dollar) in a “rainy day” jar
When that “rainy day” finally comes, you’ll be glad you did!

Remember that things could be worse
Sometimes we become so focused on the negative things going on in our lives that we forget just how lucky we really are.

Complain about one less thing
Save it for when it’s really necessary!

 

This concludes Daily List of Things to Do.

11 Self-Soothing Skills to Help Your Child

Self-soothing skills are a great way for children (or anyone for that matter) to relieve stress, calm nerves, diffuse anger, and to basically manage their difficult emotions.  Below is a list of self-calming behaviors that can be used when the situation dictates:

1. EXERCISE! Whether it’s jumping jacks, sit-ups, or running in place…exercise is one of the greatest ways to relieve stress and to release some of that pent up “negative energy.” Not only is exercise good for you emotionally, but also physically!

2. Take a bubble bath. A nice warm bath is not only relaxing, but it is a great way to calm one’s self down when life gets a bit chaotic. Add a couple of candles and some soft music and you just might not want to get out.

3. Listen to music. Music is very cathartic. It can set the mood, change the mood, or intensify the mood. Sometimes a good “angry” song is the best way to “get it all out of your system!” For others, relaxing music might do the trick.

4. Go for a jog/run. Just like exercising, running is a great way to release pent up negativity and to “clear the mind.” If running is a bit too much, then try jogging. If jogging is too much work then go ahead and walk…either way, get out of the house and get moving!

5. Do “brain exercises.” By this, I mean try doing a jig-saw puzzle, a crossword puzzle, a number puzzle, or any other such activity. Exercise your brain to help you stop perseverating on negative thoughts.

6. Write poetry or song lyrics. What’s more cathartic than “putting it all out there in writing?” Writing your feelings down in this manner is a great way to get those negative thoughts out of your head.

7. Write in a journal. Much like poetry and writing song lyrics, journaling is a great way to deal with negative thoughts and feelings.

8. Pet your cat or dog. Studies have shown that this behavior is very calming and therapeutic. I’m sure the cat/dog would enjoy it as well!

9. Be productive. Use some of that negative energy to get things done around the house. Do some cleaning or organizing. Not only will you feel better afterwards, but you will have a clean and/or organized house (or room).

10. Read. Nothing takes one’s mind off of negative thoughts or feelings better than a good book. Curl up with a blanket then open one up and start reading…you’ll feel better in no time.

11. Pray. Not everyone is religious…but for those that are, praying can be very comforting.

happy

child running (Photo credit: greg westfall.)

 

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Parenting Q & A

Katherine having fun

Katherine having fun (Photo credit: Kiifu)

PROBLEM:

Hi, I’m Heather. I have 2 kids, ages 3 1/2 and 6. My issues with discipline are self-induced. I don’t follow through, and I need some help staying the course. I don’t want to feel helpless anymore! My kids have reached a point where almost all they do is fight with each other. Adam is 6 and Katherine is 3 1/2. Katherine is really good at antagonizing her brother, and Adam has a really hard time ignoring her or letting things roll off his back. I want to nurture their brother/sister bond, but am at a total loss as far as where to start. Help?

ANSWER:

Hi Heather. Here are some tips that you may or may not have already tried:

Find ways to put Adam into a role of “teacher” for Katherine. Make it fun for him and praise him when he does a good job. He could teach her age-appropriate topics such as letters, feelings, manners, etc.

Purchase a toy or activity that they could do together and only allow them to use it when they are playing together nicely. Supervise them as they play and intervene as necessary. If problems persist, then take the toy/activity away and try again another day.

Find ways to get them to work together to accomplish a task. For instance, you could
have them work together to make cookies then let them each have one if they work well together well.

Teach positive social skills. Many times, children don’t get along because they don’t know how to or they don’t have the necessary skills to do so. Practice role-playing various situations and use that activity as a way to reinforce positive social skills.

Make them feel good about their actions each time they do something nice for the other. Point it out when possible then give praise. When both of my daughters antagonize each other, I send them both to their rooms and tell them that whoever goes to their room the quickest and the quietest will get out first. I also tell them that if they both go straight to their rooms and both remain in there quietly, then they both get to come out sooner and at the same time. This works almost every time.

I hope that you can use at least a couple of these tips to your advantage. Good luck and happy parenting!

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The Benefits of School Volunteering and Parent Involvement: How You Can Help to Drive Your Child’s Success

What would you expect to be the biggest problem facing the American public school system? Is it poor teaching? Lack of proper facilities for inner-city kids? Wasted resources down the infinite drain of petty politics and bureaucratic snafus? In fact, research shows that lack of parental involvement is the biggest problem facing America’s public schools. Children enrolled in the education system spend 70% of their waking hours outside of the classroom, and decades of research consistently demonstrate that parent involvement is of cardinal importance with regards to their child’s success in school. Students with engaged parents, on a whole, tend to have lower rates of suspension, fewer instances of violent behavior, decreased rates of drugs and alcohol, better school attendance, increased motivation, better self-esteem, and higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates. I argue that parenting, like teaching, requires talent and social aptitude, not the least of whose tenets revolve around self-insight and the active pursuit of furthering a child’s prospects of success in an increasingly competitive world.

“When parents are welcome in the school and are consulted about decisions affecting their children,” Project Appleseed elucidates, “an atmosphere of trust and collaboration develops between school and home.” The school is the omphalos of its community, as the quality of its services determine not only the success of its students, but the insurance of its own future utilizing advance systems hr systems, as well. Indeed, the earlier parents get involved in their children’s education, the more powerful the effects. Here are seven ways you can be a true superhero in your child’s scholastic upbringing:

Establish a daily household routine: Studies show that when parents encourage reading at home, students fare better in class and progress more rapidly than if they were only to read in school. Be firm with bedtimes, leisure time, and household responsibilities, but not stringent to the point of authoritarianism. In a world defined by flux and social upheaval, the importance of providing stability and encouragement for children at home cannot be stressed enough.

Monitor extracurricular activities: Children spend the vast majority of their time with parents, either at or near home. Surely, parents need time to work and run errands, and families can’t always afford babysitters or day care. Get your kids involved in extracurricular activities like sports, school clubs, and community support groups for children. With some targeted research and effort, you’ll find that a wealth of community resources are available to provide your children with enriching, fun, and collaborative environments, even if you can’t be there to participate.

Be a great role model: Being a parent is more than just being a caretaker. Communicate to your children that self-discipline ranks up there with eating properly and getting good grades, and explain to them why this is so. Demonstrate, through your own hard work and conscious decisions, that achievement and happiness come from a self-directed desire to succeed.

Set expectations and encourage their progress: “If you expect [students] to be losers,” admonished the revolutionary calculus teacher, Jaime Escalante, “they’ll turn out to be losers. If you expect them to win, they will.” Express high expectations for your child, but don’t overdo it by piling their little plate so high with the fruits of academia that they can’t see the reasons for, and benefits to, working toward lofty goals. Recognize their talents, and encourage their progress in a way that will bring sustained joy and a sense of commitment to their lives. Without embarrassing your children, share your pride and satisfaction in their efforts with family and friends: statistically, children are inordinately more likely to stick with activities and routines if they recognize their social importance.

Communicate with their school(s): While maintaining a progressive, learning atmosphere at home is critical for the longitudinal success of any child, these efforts become undermined if you fail to maintain communication with their school. Stay in touch with teachers and other faculty members who may be doing interesting things in their classrooms, but don’t harass them by hoarding all their time or droning on about the glories of your child. Be supportive and communicative, and open yourself up to the needs and wants of both the school and your children.

Volunteer your time and effort at school: Unfortunately, learning institutions across the nation are presently facing drastic budget cuts and obstacles to methodical, effective teaching strategies. The nature of volunteering is quickly transforming from optional to necessary. Teachers need to know that their students have concerned parents at home, but they’ll shy away from seeking parent involvement if they feel it will be too burdensome for their lesson plan or psyche as a whole. Instead of worrying about your level of involvement in your student’s academic track, encourage your school to use volunteer scheduling software like Parent Booker. Such programs conveniently facilitate parent-school interactions on many levels, allowing faculty to organize and publicize events, while parents coordinate their own schedules with the needs of the school.

Spend time with your children, individually: Kids need their own space to be with friends or turn over rocks by the creek, but they also crave and necessitate the focused support of adults. Make sure that you take enough time out of your daily schedule to be with each of your children. Whether you teach them to make the perfect pasta, learn how to use an iPad together, or just listen to them talk about their daily activities, be a sounding board for your kids.

The benefits to getting involved with your child’s education are clearly apparent, and it is of cardinal importance for schools to generate parental support; oftentimes, parents feel left out of the whole equation, insinuating that their children would be better off in the hands of professionals. This misguided, “leave it to the teachers” attitude negatively impacts students’ education. It is well-documented in cross-cultural studies that a parent’s socioeconomic level, race, ethnicity, religious creed (or lack thereof), and even their own academic history have little bearing on their child’s academic success; there are myriad ways to impact the development of your child’s life, but being there for them when they need you is far and away the most important one. Children won’t be able to recall every line of the songs you sing together, and they won’t remember every art project you helped them glue together, but they’ll remember a feeling: “my mom and dad were always there for me,” or; “my parents just didn’t really care, did they?” Simply by showing them that you genuinely have a vested interest in their world, and not just the extension of your own ego, you’ll be the most important role model in your kids’ lives. This factor alone will ensure their success above all others.

Common Parenting Mistakes

Parenting Mistakes

The following is a random list of parenting mistakes. These are my own personal ideas about what I consider to be the most common and/or most detrimental mistakes that parents make.

1. Giving in to tantrums, threats, and other manipulations made by the child. Doing so only reinforces that negative behavior.

2. Using consequences that are belittling or humiliating to your child. Nothing destroys a child’s self-esteem faster than this type of discipline.

3. Setting a poor example (being a negative role-model). It’s amazing how many parents act like idiots in front of their children. Don’t be one of them.

4. Over-reacting to minor misbehavior. Okay, so your 16 year-old just swore in front of you for the first time ever…no need to ground him/her for a month. Be reasonable, fair, and, most importantly, be calm.

5. Setting unreasonable expectations for your child. Let your kid be a kid. There’s no reason why he or she should be burdened with the stress of living up to expectations that most kids wouldn’t even be able to meet.

6. Making excuses for your child’s misbehavior. This only enables your child and sends the message that the behavior is okay.

7. Being distant or unavailable. When you aren’t there for your child then he or she will seek out others and get from them what they should be getting from you. This doesn’t always end well. Take the time to spend frequent, quality time with your child.

8. Lack of structure and/or consistency. Children thrive when their environment is structured and when their behavior has predictable consequences (whether positive or negative).

9. Ignoring “red flags.” If your teen stumbles home with bloodshot eyes and is slurring his words then it might be time to accept the fact that he has been drinking. Address the issue.

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them!

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them!

Back in my daughter’s “toddler” days, I used to find myself confronted with the “oh, so regular” tantrums that parents of toddler typically face. Usually triggered by mentioning the word “no,” the inevitable outburst would begin, almost on cue.

As a parent, I tried various ideas to fend off my toddler’s tirades…but to no avail. Suddenly, I remembered something that I learned at work one day (I used to work at a psychiatric facility for children and often dealt with difficult behaviors…though it’s definitely different when it’s your own child).

Anyway, I was once taught by an insightful co-worker to embrace the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. I once saw her “join” a child as he was throwing a tantrum and trying to destroy a toy that he had. She literally asked him if he wanted help breaking the toy.

I decided to try and apply the idea to my situation. After two or three unsuccessful attempt to try to end my daughter’s tantrum, I decided to just join in. I got on the floor and mimicked the very tantrum that she herself was engaged in, flailing and screaming and all!

To my surprise, she stopped instantly and yelled, “Stop it!”

I said to her, “You seem to be having a lot of fun and I don’t want to miss out.” Then I continued.

She screamed “Stop it!” again.

I then told her that I’d make her a deal. I’d stop it if she’d stop.

End of tantrum! It worked! And it worked time after time until the tantrums basically ceased to exist. I never expected the old adage of “If you can’t bet them join them” to be applied in this manner but it certainly proved successful.

Next time you’re faced with a “tantrumming” toddler…give it a shot…it just might work.

Spending Quality Time with Your Child: A List of Things to Do

Spending quality time with your child:

We all know how important behavior management is to raising a child. We also know how important it is to provide supervision, to encourage healthy meals, to boost the child’s self-esteem, and yadda, yadda, yadda…

What busy parents often forget is just how valuable their time is to their child. Spending quality time together undoubtedly strengthens the relationship and builds memories that linger on for many more years. Unfortunately, many parents these days are too busy working long hours and dealing with the seemingly endless tasks and chores that tend to fill up their days.

Often, when the time is available and “quality time” is an option, many parents simply have no idea how to spend that free time with their child. Lacking any creative ideas, parents (and sometimes the children) simply resort to “watching TV” or “putting in a movie.”

With that being said, I have decided to write a list of 20 things (activities) that I enjoy doing with my kids…perhaps this will offer some ideas to parents looking for ways to spend quality time with their own children…

1. Build a fort! What child doesn’t like building forts?
2. Go for a walk.
3. Go through old photos and/or videos together.
4. Organize a neighborhood game of “kick the can” or some other fun game (invite other neighborhood kids to play).
5. Teach your child(ren) how to play a new card game…then play it.
6. Play catch at a park (or kick a ball back and forth).
7. Have a picnic.
8. Have a pillow fight!
9. Write a song or poem together.
10. Go to the library.
11. Wash the car together (believe it not, some kids really enjoy this!).
12. Go fishing.
13. Have a lemonade stand in the summer.
14. Learn then practice magic tricks together (find them on YouTube or elsewhere online).
15. Make a meal together or bake something.
16. Work on a project together (build a birdhouse, a tire swing, etc.).
17. Create a newspaper that focuses on the household…be creative.
18. Work on a craft or art project together.
19. Start a garden or plant some flowers, try hiring a Dallas tree removal company if you need to do any tree removals.
20. Talk, talk, talk…

Hopefully, this list will help you come up with ways to spend quality time with your child each day. Take it one step further and “log” the activities that you do together so that you have a reminder of the good times you spent together.

Teaching Children to Express Their Feelings

Teaching Children to Express Their Feelings

Ask any young child how he or she is feeling and you’re likely to get one of the following three answers: happy, sad, or angry. Forget about excited, frustrated, or ashamed…children don’t experience those feelings.

Okay, okay, so I’m being a bit facetious. Children use “happy,” “sad,” and “angry” to describe their feelings because these are the three most common terms used to describe feelings. Children can’t quite articulate the various “off-shoots” associated with these feelings.

•Instead of using words such as excited, cheerful, pleased, or relaxed, children simply say that they are happy.

•Instead of using words like annoyed, irritated, frustrated, or jealous, children tend to identify as being angry.

•Instead of labeling themselves as depressed, lonely, disappointed, or ashamed, children say that they are sad.

As a parent, there is a huge benefit to teaching your children the various words for different feelings as well as what they mean. A child that can express the appropriate feeling can also manage that feeling much more effectively. Role-playing can be a very effective way of teaching these “feelings” to your child.

Here is a list of feelings that children should be able to describe or explain (besides the typical “happy, sad, and angry”).

Embarrassed
Ashamed
Worried
Lonely
Excited
Irritated
Frustrated
Bored
Jealous
Anxious
Disappointed
Restless
Overwhelmed
Relieved
Depressed
Proud
Afraid

Feel free to look these up in the dictionary if you need help explaining them to your child. Also, feel free to come up with additional “feelings” to add to this list.

Ask your children about something that would make them experiencel each of these feelings.

Also ask them to discuss the last time they felt each of these feelings. This is a great way to spend quality time with your child teaching him or her a valuable life lesson.

Good Personal Boundaries: Does Your Child Have Them?

Children and Personal Boundaries

Most parents understand the importance of teaching a child to be respectful, responsible, and safe. Personal boundaries, however, can easily be overlooked by parents who focus too much attention on other character traits.

A child has poor personal boundaries if he or she…

• warms up to strangers too quickly
• refuses to (or forgets to) knock on doors before entering rooms
• constantly seeks affection from other children or adults (hugging, kissing, grabbing, etc.)
• seeks inappropriate affection from either parent (consider age-appropriateness)
• is invasive with regards to the privacy of others
• asks personal questions without regard for the other person’s feelings
• is overly trusting of others, especially strangers
• uses other people’s things without asking
• talks about things that most people would keep private
• wears clothing that is overly revealing or doesn’t cover up appropriately
• often “snatches” things from others (this could also be a “poor impulse” issue)

If you have a child with poor personal boundaries, then it might be helpful to discuss the importance of good boundaries with your child. Role-playing is another great way to teach appropriate boundaries to your child.