December 20, 2007

Lasting Impressions

Can you list the gifts you gave or received two years ago? How about last year? It's not so easy to do is it?

We go in search of the perfect gifts each holiday season. Maybe expensive gifts are not the ones that have the most significance. Maybe something simple or handmade will make a greater impact upon the recipient. Quite often a child will have more fun with the box and packing peanuts his gift came in than he will have with the electronic toy that's inside.

Here are some gift suggestions for young children:

* Buy a book and record yourself reading it. Wrap up the book with the recording for a special book and tape gift.

* Create a coupon for a special time for just you and the child. Choose an activity they would enjoy doing and include an object that symbolizes the time.

* Make home play-dough (See November 7th entry for recipe) and include cookie cutters, plastic knives, popcicle sticks and a six inch length of a 1 inch diameter dowel for a rolling pin. Put the kit inside a cake pan with a lid.

Simple gifts can create the fondest of memories.

December 19, 2007

My Christmas Memory

Growing up on the farm in Kansas, Santa would visit our home while my family was attending a worship service on Christmas Eve. The year I was four, after opening all our gifts, there was a knock at the door. My father opened the door and in walked Santa Claus!

After handing each of my family members an orange from his bag, he approached me to wish me Merry Christmas while giving me a hug and a kiss. His breath smelled of alcohol and he was wearing bright red lipstick. After he left, I noticed he had gotten lipstick all over the hair and face of my brand new doll. I spent the rest of Christmas Eve crying while my mother tried unsuccessfully to remove the lipstick.

It wasn't until I was a teenager that I learned the identity of Santa. He was the owner of the only restaurant in town and before he traveled the community that Christmas Eve, he had indulged in a few too many drinks. Mr. Blaske passed away many years ago but I will forever have a wonderful memory of the Christmas Eve I had a visit from Santa.

December 18, 2007

Selecting Toys

The toy aisles are jammed packed this time of year. I have no young children in my family to purchase toys for but I enjoy walking the aisles to see what toys are being marketed.

The vast number of electronic toys amazes me. Technology has become a big part of our lives and it's no different for children. However, I can't help but wonder what kind of an effect electronic toys have on children. I feel they inhibit creativity by not encouraging a child to use their imagination.

If you're purchasing toys for children this holiday season I'd like to offer these suggestion:

Blocks, board games, Legos, puppets, art supplies, Lincoln Logs, a tea set, puzzles. Think back to the toys of your childhood. Which ones bring back memories? By giving a special child in your life a toy that doesn't require batteries you will be encouraging their creativity. Once the child has opened your gift, get down on the floor and play with them. You'll be making new holiday memories for both you and your favorite child.

December 8, 2007

Awaiting The Holidays

As Christmas looms closer, your children may be bouncing off the walls in anticipation of holiday preparations, parties and the gifts they hope to receive. Even though they are exhibiting happy energy it can get out of hand.

An over-eager child might break ornaments while helping decorate the tree. They might drop the plate of cookies you baked for the neighbors or give away secrets about what's in the packages.

Here are some suggestions for how to get things under control without curbing your child's excitement.

* Write down on the family calendar when special events will occur. This eliminates your child continually asking when events will occur.

* Even with all the extra events, keep your child's routine as consistent as possible.

* Enlist your child to help with gift wrapping, making place cards for the family dinner or even helping clean the house in preparation for guests.

* Suggest they play a board game or other quiet activity. This will have a calming effect and bring their excitement level down a notch.

By helping your child find ways to channel all of their holiday excitement, things in your house will be much more manageable.

December 2, 2007

De-Stress The Holidays

You're trying to wrap gifts, address holiday cards and bake cookies for the neighbors. When you add all of these tasks into the mix of your usual household tasks it can certainly be overwhelming. You might find yourself with little patience and feeling short-tempered. If you have children, they're probably picking up on your tension and reacting in inappropriate ways.

Resorting to telling them they'll be on Santa's naughty list might not be effective. There are some simple things you can do to ease the tension.

* Enlist your children to stuff envelopes and put stamps on holiday cards.

* Have them help bake cookies. They can stir in chocolate chips and add sprinkles.

* Involve them in wrapping gifts. Just be sure to have an extra roll of tape on hand because kids love to play with it.

* When a squabble breaks out, start singing a holiday song. What child can resist a chorus of Jingle Bells or Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer?

At the end of a hectic day plug in the lights on the tree, gather your children on your lap and read a cherished Christmas story. After all, that's what Christmas is all about.

December 1, 2007

Holidays and Stress

The stress that surrounds the holidays can make family gatherings uncomfortable. This is especially true in families with there is already some tension amongst family members.

During family gatherings, treat your family members with respect and try to focus on their good qualities rather than what has caused the tensions between you. If someone becomes confrontational with you, take a deep breath and tell the person that you will discuss things with them another time and that you want the family event to stay positive and focused on the spirit of the holiday season.

Making a plan about how you will deal with an uncomfortable situation will put you at ease and allow you to enjoy family gatherings.

November 7, 2007

Let's Make Play-Dough!

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Food coloring

Mix dry ingredients in a saucepan. Add oil, water and food coloring and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when dough begins to pull away from the sides of the saucepan and forms a ball. Pour out and knead a few minutes. Store dough in a plastic bag or airtight container.

WARNING: Use of play-dough can cause creativity to go wild!

October 18, 2007

One on One

When was the last time you gave your child your undivided attention? Maybe you are long overdue for some on one time with your child.

Let your child pick out what the two of you will do together then put it on the calendar. You might even want to do a countdown to the special time. Build it up so your child will know how important it is to you.

When the day arrives both you and your child will be excited. Keep the excitement alive by really being present with your child. Turn off your cell phone. Keep the focus on you and your child.

When your one on one time has come to a close; schedule the next one. Make it a regular event in your life. Your relationship with your child will take on a whole new dimension.

October 9, 2007

Power Play

I love to watch children play. As a play therapist, play is an integral part of my work. I'm always searching for toys to add to my play therapy room, so it's not unusual to find me wandering the toy aisles at Wal-Mart.

On a recent toy shopping excursion, I found myself drawn to the superhero aisle. From the top shelf to the bottom shelf, from Superman to Spiderman, they were all represented. There were superhero action figures, sports balls, board games, battery-powered toys and costumes. In the electronics department were several superhero movies. The clothing department featured children's T-shirts, shoes, pajamas and even underwear containing images of superheroes.

What is it about a superhero that children find so appealing? Perhaps it's the extraordinary power of a superhero or the fact that superheroes triumph over villains. Maybe it's the distinctive costumes they wear. No matter which of those characteristics attract a child's attention, children will imitate superheroes.

Children also will imitate their parents. Realizing your child is watching you and imitating you can lead you to a greater awareness of the behaviors you are modeling. That awareness can lead to intentional behaviors. I wonder what might transpire if a parent intentionally strived to become their child's superhero?

Yes, I know parents are busy, but if Clark Kent finds the time to sneak away from his daily commitments and transform into Superman, surely parents can take 15 minutes out of their day to don a costume, assume extraordinary powers and engage their child in some superhero play.

Imagine the adventures that await you. Together you and your child can invent your own superhero names and create an insignia. The next time your child is facing a challenge, grab your capes (it can be as simple as blankets tied around your necks), put your hands on your hips, jut out your chests and morph into your superhero personas.

Imagine you are soaring above the challenge. Encourage your child to come up with a solution to his problem by using his super powers. By letting him assume the responsibility for making a decision, he will begin to feel powerful. A child who feels powerful will find the courage to face a challenging situation, and his problem will feel less daunting.

I know what some parents are thinking. You're concerned that once your child starts leaping around the house pretending to be a superhero, things will get out of hand, furniture will be broken and maybe a trip to the emergency room will be necessary.

Allow me to lessen your fear. When you're participating in the play, you can direct it and set the rules. If your child becomes overly aggressive, you can stop the play. By engaging your child in superhero play, you will be teaching him the importance of boundaries, cooperative play and of working together to solve problems.

Superhero play also will encourage creativity in your child. Make your own costumes and props. An empty cardboard box could become your fortress or your cave. Write a superhero story with your child in which the two of you are the main characters. Your superhero characters not only could be powerful, they also could possess traits of being kind and helpful.

Illustrate your story using photos of you and your child in your superhero costumes. Go a step further and use a video camera to film a superhero movie starring you and your child. Make some popcorn and invite other family members to movie premiere night.

Children need heroes in their lives. What parent wouldn't want to be their child's superhero? I think it's something certainly worth donning a cape for.

October 2, 2007

Junk Food Day

Do your children incessantly beg for junk food? Mine did and I went to extremes to get it to stop.

One morning they stumbled downstairs asking what was for breakfast. I offered cake or ice cream. They looked at me with startled faces.

I explained that today was Junk Food Day and only junk food could be eaten. They happily ate both cake and ice cream, with sprinkles, for breakfast. Their mid-morning snack was candy and lunch was milk and cookies.

Mid afternoon snack time arrived and I offered soda and chips. My daughter asked if she could have carrots. Request denied. Tears flowed as she begged me to not make her eat junk food. I relented.

Junk Food Day never occurred again.

Mission accomplished.

September 25, 2007


Yesterday I drove by a golf range that had a sign posted out front that read:

Golf Lessons
Half Hour for $40.00

Next door to the golf range was a church with this sign:

Parenting Seminar
How To Understand Your Teenager
Saturday, 10- 1 Cost: $10.00

I'm not a sports fan so I wouldn't consider paying that kind of money for a half hour golf lesson. But as a parent and as a professional who works with families I would certainly pay or encourage another parent to invest $10.00 in a parenting seminar.

Parenting is one of the most challenging roles you can ever take on. Learning how to be a good parent takes an investment of your time. Additionally, investing in seminars, buying books, etc., can be helpful and put you on the path of becoming the best parent you can possibly be.

September 22, 2007

Affirmations For Children

A child's self-talk does not just happen. It emerges based upon what they hear from other people, especially their parents.

When children hear words of encouragement they learn to respect themselves.

When they hear words of criticism and blame they learn to feel worthless.

Here are some examples of affirmations to tell your child that will encourage their self-talk to be positive:

You Followed Directions

You Like To Help Others

You Stayed Calm

You Have Great Ideas

You Are Special And There Is No One Else Like You

September 19, 2007

Positive Affirmations

Find some positive phrases that speak to you and repeat them several times over the course of the day. This will help you develop a new thinking pattern and will encourage your self talk to become more positive than negative.

Here are some affirmations you might want to use:

This Too Shall Pass

I Am Doing My Best

I Can Stay Calm Under Pressure

I Choose To Be Positive.

What positive affirmations do you find helpful?

September 18, 2007

Self Talk

Self talk is an internal dialog. What you say to yourself effects your feelings and your actions. Your self talk can be positive or negative depending upon your outlook on life. People who practice positive self talk are more confident and successful. People who use negative self talk lack confidence and have low self esteem.

Learning to control your self talk will make it more positive than negative. Find some positive phrases that speak to you and repeat them several times over the course of the day. It will help you develop a new thinking pattern.

Let's say that you're trying to get into the habit of walking 5 times a week and have been successful for two weeks. The next week you only walk 3 times and your negative self talk says you're a failure and you can't do it. Your positive self talk would say that you accomplished your goal two weeks in a row and that you've had a minor set back but you'll get back on schedule next week.

Which self talk would be more encouraging?

Positive self talk is a simple thing that, when incorporated into your daily routine, can make big changes in your life.

September 14, 2007

Active Listening

Often when your child is talking to you, you don't listen attentively. You might be distracted or thinking about something else. An important skill for parents to learn is "active listening."

When you listen actively, you send your child the message that they are important enough to have your undivided attention. Problems can be solved and perhaps even be prevented if you take the time to use active listening.

How to actively listen:

· Stop what you are doing.

· Look at your child.

· Give your full attention.

· Listen to what is said.

· Comment on what you think you heard.

Active listening focuses on what your child is saying. It does not mean you agree with, but rather understand, what they are saying. It will validate what your child is feeling and will strengthen your parent-child relationship.

September 13, 2007

Encouraging Children to Listen

The best way to teach children to be good listeners is for parents to model listening. Families spend a lot of time in the car. I suggest you turn off the radio or the CD player and encourage your child to talk to you about where you are going and what might happen when you get there.

When at home turn off the TV and talk with your child about things that interest him or her. Talk about some of the things each of you did that day. Soon these special times of talking and listening will become a pattern. A pattern of healthy communication.

September 11, 2007

Take Time To Nurture Yourself

Think of the last time you got on a plane. Do you recall the instructions from the flight attendant?

"Passengers should be advised to don their own oxygen masks before assisting children with their masks."

Often, parents think they are being selfish when they put their own needs ahead of their children's. How effective can you be at parenting if you don't?

What measures do you take to nurture yourself? Do you read, get a massage or go to lunch with a friend? Find something that you enjoy and fit it into your schedule.

September 7, 2007

September 6, 2007

More Parenting Reflections

How would you respond to the following statements?

  1. What have you have inherited?
  2. What you would have liked to inherit?
  3. What you most dislike inheriting?
  4. What would you like your children to inherit.?

September 5, 2007

Parenting Reflections

Take a few minutes to reflect on what parenting means to you. Grab a pen and paper and post your thoughts to the following statements.

1. Three things you enjoy doing with your children.

2. Your favorite parenting moment.

3. What your children would say they like about you.

4. The best thing about being a parent.

September 4, 2007

Using "I" Messages

One way for parents to model good communication skills for their children is to use "I" messages.

There are three parts to an "I" message.

1. I feel_________________(use an emotion)

2. when_________________(describe a specific situation)

3. because_______________(say how it affects you).

"I" messages tell your child how you feel. It's more effective than yelling. It teaches your child more appropriate ways to share their feelings and solve problems.

September 3, 2007

Logical Consequences

When you discipline it’s vital to be consistent. Consistency shows your child that you are serious and dependable. Discipline is not effective unless it’s done consistently.

In order to be consistent you need to have a plan. Without a plan you will simply react when your child misbehaves. Yelling, threatening and not following through with consequences are not effective. “No video games for a week” might be uttered in the afternoon but an exception will be made an hour later.

With a plan, you will react differently and your discipline will be more effective. Your plan should include consequences. Consequences enforce the rules, make a child accountable for his actions and help the child learn and change. A consequence is related to the behavior and must outweigh the pleasure of the disobedient act.

For example, a seven year old is tormenting his sister. The parent says, “Since you are not treating others kindly, I’m canceling your play date with Brian this afternoon.”

Consequences need to be different for each child. Once you find a consequence that works you can almost guarantee that after a period of time it will no longer be effective and you will have to find another one. Consequences will also need to be altered as your child gets older.

Spend time discussing the rules and expectations with your child. Spell them out and stick with them. Children will follow a rule better if you have explained why you have the rule.

Finding consequences that work requires time and thought. The investment in effective, fair discipline is crucial to your child’s growth and the dividends will be great.

September 2, 2007

Look How Far You've Come

Do you deal with your problems or do you deny them? It’s much easier and less painful to deny them. If you deal with your problems it will involve a lot of soul searching and the journey to healing will include pain. The thought of that pain is enough to scare some people into denial. If they don’t think about it then it won’t hurt so much.

Those who decide to take the journey to a peaceful place will suffer as they drudge through the muck and the mire. Often, while moving forward, there will be times when they find themselves stumbling and perhaps even sliding backwards. Yet they continue because they want that peace that awaits them on the other end of the journey.

It can take weeks, months, even years depending on the severity of the problem. One day they wake up and realize the journey has come to an end. They feel lighter, as if a heavy weight has been lifted from their shoulders. They no longer smile to hide the tears; they smile because they feel a true inner happiness. Perseverance has paid off. All of the tears, pain and sleepless nights are now but a distant memory. Joy has taken the place of the pain.

It’s a sense of satisfaction, a sense of pride in knowing how far you’ve come.

September 1, 2007

Grandpa Butch

I adored my grandfather. I was his only granddaughter and he doted on me. One summer he built me a play house complete with a sliding glass window. None of my friends had glass windows in their play houses and I felt so special.

I was seven and at my grandparents home the night my mother went to the hospital to give birth to her third child. We anxiously awaited a phone call from my father. I already had a younger brother and I desperately wanted a sister. When the call finally came and my father announced it was a boy I was devastated and couldn’t stop crying.

My grandparents tried every trick in the book to calm me down. Finally, Grandpa Butch suggests that if I stop crying he will take me into town in the morning and buy me a new red wagon. That was music to my ears. I dried my tears, put on my pajamas and went straight to bed.

Grandpa Butch always kept his promises to me so the next morning, after breakfast, he drove me into town and we went to the hardware store. It no longer mattered that I didn’t get a baby sister. I had a brand new, shiny red wagon.

August 31, 2007

The Hardest Job in the World

When I was a child I watched the Andy Griffith show, the Brady Bunch and reruns of Leave it to Beaver. Television fathers made parenting look so easy. They were wise and had all the answers. They never seemed to struggle with finding solutions to problems and there was always a happy ending.

When I became am parent I realized it’s not that easy. You don’t always have all the answers and quite often you’re just experimenting. There is not a handbook attached to your child when you bring her home from the hospital and even if there was it could never begin to cover all the various aspects of raising children.

If you’re struggling with the challenges of parenting keep in mind that it’s trial and error. You're learning as you go. You’re doing the best that you can.

August 30, 2007

A Simple Gift

Send a “thinking of you” note or an “I noticed” card to someone who wouldn’t expect it. A friend, your spouse, a child, a neighbor, a waiter whose service was superb.

Send it anonymously. Imagine the smile it will bring to the recipients face.

August 29, 2007

A New Pair of Socks

Nothing is more comforting to me than a new pair of socks. I always keep a couple of new pairs in my dresser drawer and when I’ve had a stressful day I put on a pair and snuggle up in my favorite chair with a good book. There’s something about that feeling of new socks that comforts me.

Send a new pair of socks to someone who is going a through a difficult time. Include a note detailing what the socks are for. Ask that they do one thing in return. Send a new pair of socks to someone else who is in need of some TLC.

August 28, 2007

Number One Parenting Tip

Find a parent whose children are a developmental stage ahead of your children to be your mentor. They can offer you insights and encouragement.

Return the favor to a parent who has children younger than yours.

August 27, 2007

I Did It!

I’m a list maker. I make one at the start of each day. Making a list assures me that I won’t overlook something important. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve found that the real reason I make a list is because I love to scratch the items off as they are accomplished. My daily goal is to tackle each and every item on the list.

Quite often my daily list contains more items than are humanly possible to accomplish and by the end of the day I feel defeated. I beat myself up for not completing everything on the list.

Realizing that this approach wasn’t doing anything to improve my sense of self, I decided to turn things around. At the end of each day I now take a minute to review the things from my list that I was able to complete and I pat myself on the back for a job well done.

If you’re a parent, use a similar approach with your child. During their bedtime routine have your child list three things they did that day that they are proud of. It will foster self-esteem and put the focus on the positive rather than the negative. Even better, write those three things down in a journal. What fun you and your child will have reviewing those lists. What a boost to your child’s self image.

August 26, 2007

A Father’s Arms

Growing up on a farm included chores. One of those chores was walking the cow’s home each evening to milk them. Before my brother and I were deemed old enough to walk them home ourselves, our father would occasionally take us along.

He was running late one hot summer evening and decided to take a short cut through a soon to be harvested wheat field to get to the pasture where the cows were grazing. He told me and my little brother to stay behind. We waited until he was out of sight, grabbed each others hands and followed him anyway. Soon the wheat was over our heads and I lost the grip on my brother’s hand. I hear him crying and I push my way through the billowing wheat trying to find him. It was futile so I resorted to calling for help.

Suddenly, I am lifted off the ground by two strong arms. Our father had heard our cries for help. He carried the two of us through the wheat and deposited us at the end of field with strict instructions to go directly home.

We feared a reprimand and a spanking but it never happened.

We also never followed him again into a field of wheat.

August 25, 2007

Healthy Release of Anger

When I’m angry I vacuum. That back and forth motion helps me release negative energy and calms me down.

I like to make my own greeting cards so when the carpet doesn’t need to be vacuumed I get out some card stock and my paper cutter. Lifting the handle of that paper cutter and slamming it down helps me get rid of a lot of aggression.

What do you do to release your anger?

August 24, 2007

Older Than Dirt

As a child I attended church with my family every Sunday. To a young girl, the sermons were long and boring so I occupied my time by flipping through the red hymnal found in the pew rack in front of me. The book contained more than just hymns. There were Psalms, prayers and calendars for the church year.

One thing that always intrigued me was the chart on page 158 (yes, I remember the page number) that listed the days Easter would fall from 1941-2000. I would imagine how old I would be on certain Easter Sunday’s. In 1969 I would turn ten a month before Easter. My 19th birthday would fall three weeks prior to Easter. But the year 2000 was always the one that made me shake my head. That was the year I would be 41! To a child, that was older than dirt. I could not, in my eight year old mind, fathom being alive at such an old age.

I’m certain the denomination I was raised in has published a newer hymnal. I wonder if it has a chart for the days of Easter and how close Easter Sunday will be to my 100th birthday.

August 23, 2007

Separation Anxiety

Start leaving your child with people you trust at an early age. Start out with short periods of time and then slowly increase the length of time. It will make your child and you feel more comfortable with the separation.

Never sneak away when you leave your child. Create a good bye ritual. Include a hug, a kiss, and an “I love you,” You might also want to kiss the palms of your child’s hand and have your child save those kisses in their pocket. If they miss you, they can reach into their pocket, pull out a kiss and place it on their cheek.

August 22, 2007

The Empty Nest

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings. ~ Hodding Carter

That quote served as my guide during my children’s formative years. Parenting was hard yet rewarding work. Each developmental stage had its challenges. Each stage also had its joys. Today I find myself approaching what has become known as the empty nest phase.

The empty nest can be challenging but with a little planning you can make that adjustment much easier. I knew that one day my children would fly away. I also knew that I would need to find ways to occupy my time when my children no longer needed a mommy. Having hobbies and other interests during the years my children were young was important to me. I wasn’t always able to indulge in them like I wanted to but I knew that one day, when the children were grown and on their own, I would be able to invest as much time and energy into my hobbies as I wanted to.

My daughter is 21 and my son is 18. Soon they will be spreading their wings to fly. It’s bittersweet for me. I adored them as babies; I struggled with them as teenagers. I smile at them as young adults. I miss having children in the house but I am enjoying the adult relationships we are creating.

My nest is not empty. The contents have simply changed.

August 21, 2007


My son used a rusty screwdriver to etch the words KEEP OUT in his window sill. As a six year old he was on a mission to keep burglars out of his room. However, unless a burglar was crawling backwards into his second story bedroom window, it’s unlikely the message was observed. You see, John had overlooked an important detail. The direction of the letters. They faced in, not out.

August 20, 2007

Back to School

She has a baby in the shopping cart and two school-aged children walking alongside her. “Mom, can I have this one?” “Mom! Look! It’s a Spiderman lunchbox!” Mom sighs and glances down at the school supply list she is clutching. Yes, it’s back to school time and the school supply aisle at Walmart is so crowded I can barely maneuver my way down it. But I do because I love to observe the interactions of the families.

Making sure your children have all the necessary supplies is important. So is helping them adjust to a new school year. A couple of weeks before school starts implement a bedtime routine. Make plans for incorporating homework and study times into their schedules. Once school is in session, ask your child about their day at school. Don’t resort to the typical questions of “How was school today?” or “What did you learn in school today?” Instead you might ask, “What’s the funniest thing that happened at school today?”

Make a point of attending parent meetings, curriculum nights and open houses. You’ll be showing your child that their education is important to you.

By the way, I no longer have school-aged children. Observing family interactions is not why I was in the school supply aisle. The truth is that I love the smell of new pencils.

August 19, 2007

Whose Birthday Is It?

My daughter Emilie was eight when she walked into the dining room as I was setting the table for dinner. She asked, “Whose birthday is it?” I replied, “It’s no ones birthday, I just thought it would be nice to have dinner in the dining room.” She gave me a puzzled look and walked away her ponytail swaying behind her.

Her question made me stop and ask myself, “Have I been giving my family the impression that they’re not special enough to eat in the dining room unless it’s their birthday?” Who can be more special than family?

Use the good dishes and light some candles. Even grilled cheese will look like a gourmet meal

August 18, 2007

Taking a Stand

Eighty percent of communication is nonverbal. Be aware of your facial expressions and tone of voice. Don’t be afraid to take a stand with your child when they misbehave. Make sure your voice sounds firm not angry. If you appear angry your child will see you as being mean and dictatorial and you will be ineffective. It doesn’t harm a child when you speak to them in a firm voice. A firm voice will be much more effective.

August 10, 2007

The Wood Man

Emilie was as proud to be a big sister as any three year old little girl could possibly be. She loved talking to people about her baby brother. While in a store at the mall one day a clerk asked her the name of her little brother. She proudly stated, “John Edward. “ The clerk misunderstood and responded, “John Elwood in a nice name.”

My husband and I tried to contain our laughter. Our baby’s nick name was born.

We started referring to him as John Elwood. As time went by we shortened it and began calling him Elwood. Months later he would answer to Wood. When he began to walk he resembled a little man so we started calling him Wood Man.

He’s eighteen and everyone calls him John. But to me and his father he will always be our little Wood Man.

August 9, 2007

“Don’t Be Afraid Of Making Mistakes”

“What do you first do when you learn to swim? You make mistakes, do you not? And what happens? You make other mistakes, and when you have made all the mistakes you possibly can without drowning - and some of them many times over - what do you find? That you can swim? Well - life is just the same as learning to swim! Do not be afraid of making mistakes, for there is no other way of learning how to live!" ~ psychiatrist, Alfred Adler.

Don’t be afraid to try something new with your child in respect to discipline. You will make mistakes, that’s a given. When you do, apologize to your child. Tell them you’re doing the best you can and that sometimes you will make mistakes. What a great way to be a positive role model for your child.

August 8, 2007

When Siblings Continue To Be Rivals

Sibling squabbles are an inevitable part of family life but what happens when children grow up? If they continue to squabble it can affect family dynamics, especially when it comes to parenting styles. Brothers and sisters growing up in the same family will, when they become parents, either mirror their parents’ child rearing style or reject it.

Most of us can recall a family gathering where one set of cousins was blamed for sneaking cookies before dinner while another cousin raced through the house and pulled the cats tail. Some families become so frustrated that they resort to limiting the amount of times their children see their cousins.

An alternative might be to have family members sit down and address the issues. Don’t get caught up in trivial matters but rather come up with specific rules that can accommodate all parenting styles.

Treat your siblings with the same respect you give your friends. Recognize that you were siblings before your children were born and you will still be siblings when your children leave the nest.

August 7, 2007

“Mom! He’s touching me!”

"Mom! He's thinking about touching me!" Ever hear those comments from your children? Sibling squabbles are normal. Being part of the same family doesn’t mean your children will have compatible personalities and styles of relating so it’s not realistic for parents to expect them to get along.

You can prevent friction between your children by the way you set up your home and daily schedule. Each child needs some space to call their own even if it’s a shelf or a corner of a room.

Notice when your children are getting along and reward that good behavior with comments like, “You did a good job of settling that argument, “ or “Thanks for playing quietly while I was on the phone.” If you give siblings attention for the nice things they do, they will be less likely to squabble to get your attention.

When siblings do begin to squabble, wait at least five minutes before you intervene to allow them time to work things out on their own. If it becomes necessary to intervene you can say, “I know you two can work this out in a way that’s fair to both of you.” Then walk away. They may come running back to you complaining trying to get you involved. Use empathy and respond by saying, “That sounds frustrating,” or “I can see you’re really upset. Once they realize you will not get involved they’ll settle the squabble on their own.

By using these approaches you will be teaching your children skills in how to negotiate. Skills they will find invaluable as adults.

August 6, 2007

Teachable Moments

Parents spend a lot of time in the car with their children. It’s easy and convenient to pop in a DVD or a CD to keep your children entertained while you're driving. Instead, try using the time to initiate a conversation with your child. If you have young children you might point out things to help them learn to recognize letters and numbers. Ask them, “What letter does McDonald’s start with?" or "Who can find two red cars?"

You can do something similar at the supermarket. Ask you child to be on the lookout for items that begin with a specific letter of the alphabet or that are a certain color. Encourage them to help you count the number of items you put in the cart.

There are many opportunities in our daily lives for teachable moments. You just have to look for them.

August 5, 2007

More Parenting Quotes

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings. ~ Hodding Carter

Parents forgive their children least readily for the faults they themselves instilled in them. ~ Marie Arie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Pretty much all the honest truth-telling there is in the world is done by children. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

August 4, 2007

My Favorite Parenting Quotes

"Having a family is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain." ~ Martin Mull

"Raising kids is part joy and part guerrilla warfare." ~ Ed Asner

"Before I was married I had six theories about raising children. Now I have six children and no theories." ~ John Wilmot, earl of Rochester

"When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out." ~ Erma Bombeck

August 3, 2007

Guranteed to Make a Child Smile

Write a letter to your child and mail it. Children rarely receive mail so when they do it’s special.


I was just thinking about you and

what I was thinking is you are so__________


August 2, 2007

“I’m Running Away From Home!”

My daughter Emilie and I had a disagreement. It ended in my favor so Emilie decided to do what most five year olds would do in a similar situation. She decided to run away from home.

She packed her little pink suitcase full of Barbie’s, her teddy bear and a change of clothes. She walked into the kitchen carrying her suitcase and announced that she was ready to leave. I told her I would miss her. I also told her that she might get hungry so I offered to make her a peanut butter sandwich. She accepted. She stood in silence while I slowly made the sandwich. I handed it to her and told her goodbye.

With her head hung low she headed toward the door. Her little hand turned the knob and she stepped outside. I watched from the window as she walked to the circle in the middle of our cul-de-sac and climbed onto the bench that’s found there. Her little feet swung back and forth as she sat there with her teddy under her arm.

After about fifteen minutes she climbed off of the bench and made her way back to the house. I quickly moved away from the window and back into the kitchen, pretending to be busy. She walked up to me and said that she had changed her mind and wouldn’t be running away from home. I turned around, smiled at her, gave her a hug and told her that I love her.

I’ve often wondered if it was because I gave her permission to run away that Emilie never did it again.

August 1, 2007

"Not Me!"

Upon waking this morning I went into my family room and after surveying the six remotes on the coffee table I found the one for the tv and I turned on CNN. I noticed an empty soda can on the end table. Not an unusual thing to find since I have two children, but it caught my eye because it was sitting between two coasters. Not on top of but between. I shake my head.

I head to the kitchen for some breakfast. Cereal sounds appetizing. Four boxes and not one with enough in it for a serving. I’m really hungry so I dump the contents of all four into a bowl. Now for some milk. As I remove the milk container from the refrigerator I realize there is barely enough to cover my cereal. I sigh, dump the cereal into the dog’s dish and do what any respectable mother would do. I put the milk back in the refrigerator.

If anyone asks who put the milk back with barely enough left for a serving I'm going to shrug my shoulders and say, "Not me!"

July 31, 2007

Values are like Viruses

I once read that values are like viruses because they’re caught in the environment within which they reside. That statement had a powerful impact on me as a parent and brought to my attention that you have to begin teaching your child values from the time they are very small.

Children learn from what they hear and observe so the best way to teach values is to set a good example. Albert Schweitzer, French philosopher and physician, suggests that adults teach children in three important ways: “The first is by example. The second is by example. The third is by example.” If your child grows up observing you being dishonest with yourself and others, this is what your child will imitate.

Tell a story about how you learned a lesson when you were young that will help your child better understand the difference between right and wrong. Kids will listen. Explain your reasons for what you say and how you act. This will demonstrate how you use your values to make decisions.

Have a discussion with your children. Ask them how they would spend $100.00 or what one thing they could do to help someone less fortunate. Share your responses with them. Lead by example during the ordinary interactions of everyday life. The values you share will stay with your children and they will make them their own.

July 30, 2007

Modeling Stress Management

The word stress brings to mind negative feelings of being overwhelmed and overloaded.

Too much stress can cause exhaustion and impede our judgment. However, it’s important to recognize that stress can be good. Stress provides a rush of adrenalin that gets us through life’s challenges. Stress itself is not the problem. The way the body responds to stress is the problem.

When we react to stress we’re making a choice. We respond without considering every possible way of handling the situation. By preparing for stress and considering your options, you model for your children appropriate stress management.

There is no single right way to cope with stress. Some people seek out more information about their problem such as during a medical crisis; others avoid it. Some people need to take action, like exercising; others seek comfort. Still others need to be distracted or ignore the situation. No two people respond to stress in the same way so remember to respect your child if she isn’t affected by a stressor in the same way you are. Her reaction reflects her limited life experiences.

One of my own ways of responding to stress is through deep breathing. It’s recommend by author and physician, Dr. Andrew Weil.

Relaxing Breath

“4-7-8 Breath”

1. Slowly breathe in through your nose to the count of 4.

2. Hold the breath for a count of 7.

3. Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. When you exhale make a soft “whoosh” sound by holding the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth.

4. Repeat three more times.

I have found this to be very useful and it’s something I always have with me. I use it whenever something upsetting happens – before I react. I also find it useful to help me fall asleep.

One mother practiced this deep breathing and whenever she started to snap at her children her young daughter would say, “Mom, remember to breath!”

Children learn how to cope with stress from watching adults handle their problems. Are you satisfied with the way you respond to stress? What stress management skills would you like your child to learn from you?

July 29, 2007

You Want Fries With That?

I love this quote from comedian Robin Williams: "Everyone has these two visions when they hold their child for the first time. The first is your child as an adult saying 'I want to thank the Nobel Committee for this award.' The other is 'You want fries with that?'"

I was a teacher for twelve years. During a parent teacher conference a father shared with me that his son would be attending graduate school. His son was four years old.

It’s natural to envision what our children will become. We may see our son as a professional athlete. We may want our daughter to go to law school. Contemplate these two questions: Are you persuading your children to become what you want them to be? Can you be supportive and encourage them to become what they are destined to be?

July 28, 2007

Love You Forever

One of my favorite children’s books is Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. It’s the story of how a little boy goes through the stages of childhood and becomes a man.

It started as a song:

"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
as long as I'm living
my baby you'll be."

Munsch wrote the song as a tribute to his two stillborn children. One day it occurred to him to make a children’s story out of the song. The book was selling very well but not solely as a children’s book. It was being bought by parents for grandparents and by grandparents for parents. The message speaks to both children and adults of how love passes from one generation to the next.

One of my friends read this book at her mother’s memorial service. It was her way of saying goodbye and bringing closure to her mother’s death. I encourage you to get a copy of this book. You’ll read it over and over again.

July 27, 2007

Thirty Second Burst of Attention

As I mentioned yesterday, children love attention and will do anything to get it. When my children were young they would try to get my attention while I was on the phone. I'd be attempting a conversation with my friend Brenda while my son was tugging on my pants leg trying to show me a rock or trying to talk me into letting him have a cookie. How frustrating for both me and my son. I wonder if Brenda could sense she also wasn't getting my undivided attention?

Last week I attended a two day play therapy conference which featured Garry Landreth. He is known for his writing and work in promoting play therapy. He suggested that when a child is needing your attention you stop what you're doing and give him a "Thirty Second Burst of Attention."

When I was on the phone with Brenda and my son approached me I could have said, "Excuse me for thirty seconds, Brenda." I then put down the phone, get down on my son's level, look him in the eye and say, "I have thirty seconds to listen. What do you need to tell me?" As he would share with me his enthusiasm over the rock he found, I would nod my head to communicate that I am listening and that I care about what he is saying. At the end of thirty seconds I would say, "John, thanks for sharing that with me. Now I'm going to finish my conversation with Brenda."

John's need for attention would have been satisfied in thirty seconds. Thirty seconds! Not a hardship at all on my time.

I wonder if those thirty second bursts of attention work on husbands?

July 26, 2007

Catch Your Child Doing Something Right

How quickly do you respond when you notice your child is doing something wrong? I wonder if you can remember the last time you called attention to your child when she was doing something right. Children love attention and they will do anything to get it. If the only way to get your attention is to do something wrong, it's not hard to figure out which behavior she'll do repeatedly.

Instead of making a big deal over your child's wrong behaviors, try to catch your child doing something right. Call your child by name when you see her doing something right. You might say, "Kelsey, I saw you help your brother put on his jacket. That's great!" After she gets over the initial shock of hearing her name followed by something positive rather than negative, she'll smile proudly, stand a little taller and make an effort to get caught doing something right in the future.

Stay away from generic praise such as, "You were good today." Find specific incidents which define good behavior. "Thank you for remembering to pick up your toys," and "You took turns with your sister," describe the behaviors you want from your child.

Praise and attention are powerful motivators. Catch your child doing something right this week and comment on it. Your child will love the attention and you will have added something new to your bag of parenting tricks.

July 25, 2007

Rituals Give Hope, Add Dimension To Family Life

If you're a parent, I suspect you can remember saying, "If we can just get the baby out of diapers,
things will be so much easier." Perhaps you were a stay-at-home mom who uttered to herself more
than once, "I cannot wait until the kids are in school all day."

Fast-forward 15 years. Your baby turns 16 and he has a driver's license. You wish he were still driving
his Cozy Coupe around the cul-de-sac. Fast-forward another five years. Your daughter turns 21 and
she stays out all night partying with friends. You get misty-eyed remembering when she used to toddle
around the house and take afternoon naps.

You ask yourself where the years went. What you wouldn't give to sit in your grandmother's rocking
chair and sing your son to sleep one more time. You rummage through a stack of old VHS videotapes in
search of the one with the footage of your daughter getting on the school bus for her first day of

Parenting is a journey full of momentous occasions. Some of them are happy, some are sad and some
are bittersweet. Moments don't have to end. As a parent, you can keep these moments alive by
establishing family rituals.

For my son's first birthday, I bought a personalized audio cassette of a space creature singing Happy
Birthday greetings to him from the moon. Every year on his birthday -- he's now had 18 of them -- that
audio cassette awakens him. He grumbles about how juvenile it is, but there's a smile on his face that
tells me he would be disappointed if one year I didn't play that birthday greeting for him at the crack of
dawn. I really need to have that cassette transferred to CD to extend its life if I want to be able to
continue to play it for many more years.

I always insisted my children eat dinner before they would go trick-or-treating on Halloween. I suppose
the maternal side of me was convinced that dinner would cancel out the sugary treats they would be
enjoying later that evening. The year my children were 2 and 4, I made Sloppy Joes and served them
with barbecued potato chips and dill pickle spears. It was an easy dinner to prepare, and one they
could eat quickly before heading out the door. I've made that same meal every Halloween. My daughter
calls from college each Oct. 31 and says she wishes she were home for that traditional meal. I hope my
future grandchildren will enjoy eating Sloppy Joes.

Each year on the first day of school, I would position my children on the front porch. With their new
lunch box in one hand and their new backpack in the other, I would snap a photo that would go into
the family photo album. The day I overheard my two teenagers flipping through photo album, talking
and laughing about those first-day-of-school photos, I paused, smiled and told myself that this moment
is what parenting is all about.

Rituals can be serious. They can be funny. Rituals build memories that last forever. In times of stress or
sadness, they can provide hope. Rituals give us something to look forward to. By incorporating rituals
into your family life you will be adding another dimension to your parenting journey. Now sit back and
enjoy the ride.