The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Boomwriters

Looking for a new way to energize your budding authors into submission? (Hah - I actually planned that pun for this post!)  Started in 2010, Boomwriter is an engaging creative writing website that has students reading, writing, and assessing content in ways they’ve probably never done before. 
Here's how it works:
  1. The teacher selects or produces his or her own story start, and the students let their imagination and writing skills take over.
  2. One chapter at a time, the students write, read, and then vote on the submissions they like the most. The winning chapter is then added to the story and the process continues.
  3. The teacher determines the total number of chapters to be completed, and when the competition is over a new book is ready to be published
In Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognition, the highest levels of thinking and learning are “Creating” and “Evaluating.” BoomWriter guides students to do both... and have fun in the process!

Teachers also have the option of providing instruction for students in the form of “Guiding Notes” prior to the creation of each new chapter.

BoomWriter is standards-based and can be used for “in action” practice of specific genres (from Science Fiction to Drama), and even for test preparation: collaboratively creating a top-scoring essay.

NOTE TO PARENTS AND HOME-SCHOOLERS: BoomWriter is extremely safe for your children. The site is password protected for teachers and students, and only the teacher is able to have direct communication with the students (for the purpose of instruction). Students’ individual identities are protected by the avatar that they create, and this allows them to have a persona without compromising their identity. All student chapter submissions are screened by the teacher before being submitted for the peer voting process.

If I were still teaching 7th grade language arts, I'd definitely use this program to motivate my students.

And did I mention this is a FREE website?  They make their money by selling the books that kids create.  What fun!  I can also see this being used in other classrooms to satisfy the writing across the curriculum requirement.  The possibilities are endless!

Watch the video of real teachers using this program with real students: 


Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'Tis the Season for ... Poisons!

In order of poisonous interaction: Mistletoe ( The berries can cause excessive salivating, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urination, heavy breathing, and a fast heart rate.), holly (The berries can cause gastric intestinal distress, vomiting and diarrhea in small children and pets), and poinsettia (The sap around leaves can cause skin irritation and vomiting). These three plants, while holiday staples for decorations, are also poisonous to humans and pets.  The longer these plants sit around in a heated home, the more likely they are to drop leaves and berries. If ingested, call poison control immediately.

It's also the season when parents and other caregivers become preoccupied and don't watch their children as closely as other times of the year.  Here are the nine most common household poisons posted by www.nanny.net:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), unintentional poisoning results in almost 82 deaths per day in the United States, and an additional 1,941 emergency room visits. Proper storage and handling of poisonous materials is a common-sense approach to safeguarding your family and pets, but do you know all of the poison hazards in your home? Of all the potentially dangerous products in the average home, the following are the 9 most common household poisons:
  1. Medicines – If not kept out of the reach of children, or if not taken as prescribed, common medications in the home can be poisonous. Cold and flu medicines, and analgesics account for a large number of poisonings.
  2. Cosmetics / Personal Care Products – Among children under the age of 6, who account for more than half the cases of unintentional poisonings in the U.S., these products are most commonly involved. Perfumes, nail polish remover, mouthwash, even toothpaste are poison risks for children.
  3. Cleaning Products – Bleach, ammonia, solvents, furniture polish; drain cleaners, oven cleaners, lye and detergents all need to be stored properly and kept out of children’s reach and away from pets.
  4. Pesticides – When treating the home for pests, it is important to take care in what areas are treated and to observe the label instructions very closely. Rodent poisons should never be placed within reach of children or pets, or in food storage areas. Always wear gloves when handling pesticides.
  5. Paints / Paint Thinners – Whether via fume inhalation, ingestion, or lead poisoning, paints and thinners are potentially hazardous products. Care should be taken to use proper ventilation when using these products.
  6. Plants – Some household plants can be toxic when ingested by pets or small children. Around the holidays, hazards include such common decorative plants as mistletoe, poinsettias and holly.
  7. Small Batteries – The combination of their size and chemical composition makes these miniature batteries, like those used in watches and hearing aids, a serious choke and poisoning risk.
  8. Antifreeze – Can be fatal if swallowed. This common household item is particularly dangerous because it has an attractive smell and taste to pets, and is readily accessible to them if spills are not cleaned thoroughly.
  9. Hydrocarbons – These products include gasoline, kerosene, motor oil, lighter fluid, and lamp oils. They are not only a choke hazard, but pose a risk to the lungs when ingested. Another leading cause of poisoning death in children.
Happy Holidays and Happy Parenting!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What to do when a student dies

Unfortunately, if you've taught long enough, you've encountered the situation when you must return to class the day after a student has died, whether that child was in your class or in a school somewhere else.  For those of you in this sad position, I offer you a synoposis of advice I found around the web:

When the student who has died was in your class or one of your classes this year, it will be a very emotional and difficult time for you and your students. The first days that you come back to class will be very different and emotionally charged. Here are some tips and ideas for you and your students.
* Share your emotions and memories. Make sure that you are the first one to speak in the beginning of the bell that first day back, and always make sure that you are sharing what you are going through with your students. You should be modeling what effective grief looks like.

* Have a new box of soft tissues available.  School-issue boxes aren't very comforting. 
* Sometimes, teachers want to be the "pillar of strength" for their students and think that it will be best to stay strong, not share their feelings or allow themselves to cry in front of the students. It is hard to be emotionally vulnerable in front of your students, but if they do not see you grieving, they will not think it is okay for them to grieve. Sharing what you are thinking and the emotions you are feeling is one of the most important actions that you need to take in those first days back at school.
* Allow the students to write a note or create a memory board.  This will provide closure.  Memory board instructions:
  1. Have long white paper spread out in a hallway or in your classroom
  2. Have colored markers spread out along the paper.
  3. Explain that our memories are important to hold on to after our classmate and friend has died and sometimes it makes you feel better to make a physical representation of those memories.
  4. Allow each student to decorate the paper in any way they want. They can draw pictures, write memories, write a letter to the student that died, or just sign his or her name. Anything appropriate can go on the paper.
  5. When the students are done, ask them what they want to do with the paper. Should it be hung up somewhere in the class? Should it be given to the family? The choice is theirs.
* Go to the funeral and encourage your students to do the same. Every student and teacher should have the opportunity to go to the funeral. It is very important for you, as the student's teacher, to go to the service. It will mean a lot to the family and your surviving students. The opportunity to go to the funeral should also be extended to your class.
* Send home any of the student's work you still have in your graded pile.  Make sure the paper you sends is memorable for some reason and put a personal note at the top.

*Try to resume normal classroom procedure as soon as possible, even on that first day.  The subject matter will help you and your students to go beyond your grieving and into the thoughts about your subject matter.

* You also have the unpleasant task of what to do with that student's desk. If you are in a grade school where the child is in the same desk all day, you might make a simple sign or collage for the desk. If you are in a middle school or high school where students switch classes every bell, you are going to want to discuss with your students if there is anything special they want to do with that desk. Also be aware that the first time you switch seating arrangements will be difficult for some students.

* Never judge a student's grieving process. One of the principles of grief is that every person grieves differently and for a different length of time. As long as your student is grieving in a safe way, the way they're grieving is okay. Some students will never cry and some will not be able to stop crying.  If a student is out of control, send him or her to the guidance office where there will likely be an army of counselors from other schools to help with your students.

* Take care of yourself. Make sure you are talking to someone about what you are feeling and how this death is affecting you. As a teacher, you may want to just focus on your students and how they are doing, but you must take time for yourself. If you find a time when you just cannot teach, go to an administrator and explain how you are feeling; tell them how you are being affected and just need an hour break. They should understand, because everyone will be in the same boat.

Friday, December 16, 2011

On the value of music education ...

Most research shows that when children are trained in music at a young age, they tend to improve in their math skills. One particular study published in the journal Nature showed that when groups of first graders were given music instruction that emphasized sequential skill development and musical games involving rhythmn and pitch, after six months, the students scored significantly better in math than students in groups that received traditional music instruction.  Therefore, Once considered dispensable during budget cuts, music education is back on the agenda at school board meetings in many communities.  Read more studies here - they're truly fascinating: http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr123.shtml

Given that research and my own firm belief that classical music education increases a child's ability to concentrate and develops coordination, I offer this guest blog from www.nanny.net:

Studies abound regarding the effects of music on children. From the Mozart Effect to the question of violent lyrics, scientists are working to find out what exactly happens when the brain is exposed to different types of music. Most of the studies are still inconclusive but one thing is certain – music is an integral part of life, and for children, the older they get the more important music becomes. Schools have cut music programs due to budget deficits, so teaching music appreciation to children is often left to the parents. Here are some ideas to help you teach your kids to appreciate music more.
  1. Start early – Studies show that even in infancy music has an impact on the human brain. They have also shown that classical music can lower the blood pressure and calm an upset infant. Singing simple songs to your children is the beginning of music appreciation.
  2. Teach your child to sing – Fun little rhyming songs are very easy for children to learn, even with a very limited vocabulary. They will pick up the words and tune quickly and find that singing is a great way to lift their own spirits.
  3. Music and dance – Expose your kids to different types of music through the avenue of dance. For example check out your local college or university to see if they have a dance series. This can be a wonderful way to show your children how culturally diverse music is, and they will enjoy seeing the different dance forms from a variety of cultures. Dancing to different styles of music is fun and an added bonus is the exercise it provides. You can teach the kids different rhythms as they move their feet to the beat of the music, and you can talk about the different types of music used in the dancing.
  4. Show good music videos – Some kids enjoy watching music videos. There are also music videos that are inspiring, uplifting and just plain entertaining, such as Disney’s Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. Animusic has been featured on PBS and is a company that specializes in unique 3D computer generated music videos. Kids are intrigued by the images they see moving to even the subtlest of musical nuances. Many teachers use these videos to teach about tempo, harmony, rhythm, anticipation and other related concepts.
  5. Introduce your child to an instrument – “If you make friends with an instrument you will have a friend for life.” Many great musicians will attest to this credo. Learning to play an instrument can lead to a life-long love of music. When possible, create opportunities for your child to see a soloist playing her particular instrument for inspiration. Keep in mind that the voice is an instrument also. Voice lessons can bring out a shy singer and work miracles for the tuneless. Always encourage your child even when you must suffer through the squeaks of the strings and squawks of the woodwinds or the wrong notes on the piano. Practice makes pretty good, if not perfect!
  6. Sing in the car – A long trip can be made shorter and more fun by singing. Old standards can be enjoyable and teaching your kids some of the songs you grew up with can also be fun. Try harmonizing and singing to different rhythms. There is a plethora of sing-a-long CD’s and downloads available, so create a travel mix, and not only will your children appreciate the music more, they will also appreciate the fond memories of the family singing together on the trip to Grandma’s house.
  7. Make a date – Many orchestras have children’s programs throughout the year. Take advantage of these opportunities and make a pleasurable date with your child. Dress up, attend the event, then go to lunch or dinner and have a discussion about the music. Find out what your child liked or didn’t like or what had the most impact. High school musicals, local church or community choir events and chamber concerts offer inexpensive alternatives to the more formal orchestra setting. The main thing is to choose an event that you feel your child will enjoy.
So, turn up the volume (just a little!) on the car radio and enjoy the effect on your children!

Happy parenting!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CPR for Babysitters

Around the holidays, children tend to get into more serious trouble than any other time of year - there are small parts, poisonous plants, and preoccupied parents.  Most parents, I would hope, know the basics of CPR, but does your babysitter when you're out at your Christmas party?  Below is a guest blog post from www.babysitter.net:

You may think that CPR training is not important for a babysitter, who is only going to be taking care of kids for a few hours at a time. This is far from the truth. CPR training is very important for babysitters to have, no matter how infrequent their babysitting jobs and how short the time is that they are in care of the children. Here are five reasons why.
  1. Caregiver – Any caregiver needs to know CPR. Being a caregiver means that you are the person responsible for the well-being of those you care for. In the case of a babysitter, you are responsible for the care and well-being of other people’s children. This is a very weighty responsibility and should be entered into with training that will cover as many different scenarios as possible.
  2. Kids get into trouble – Kids do not fully understand all the dangers around them and seem to manage to find ways to get themselves into dangerous situations, no matter how hard you try to keep them safe. They find their way to water, which could drown them. They swallow things that can make them choke. They ingest things that can be harmful to them. They wrap things around their necks, put bags over their heads and shut themselves in small spaces. When a babysitter has more than one child in her care, at one time, it is especially easy to lose track of the most adventurous one. Even with just one, it is amazing how fast they can disappear, when you turn your back.
  3. Emergencies cannot be predicted – To think that ‘nothing’ is going to happen in the few short hours that a babysitter is caring for children is na├»ve. Although, the risk may be lowered, it still remains. Emergency situations can happen at any time. They only take moments to develop; they cannot be predicted.
  4. Time is of the essence – When a person has stopped breathing and/or their heart is no longer beating, you cannot wait for someone else to arrive; CPR needs to be started immediately. The longer a person’s brain is deprived of oxygen, the lower their chances of being revived and recovering. If a child should require CPR, while in a babysitter’s care, the babysitter is most likely the one who will need to provide it.
  5. The only ‘adult’ in the house – The children are not the only ones, whom a babysitter may need to administer CPR to. Unexpected situations can arise where a babysitter may find themselves giving CPR to a parent, prior to or upon returning to the home. In other cases, it may be a neighbor who is in need of emergency assistance.
CPR training is important general knowledge for everyone once they reach their teenage years and beyond. Emergency situations can arise at any time and in any place. You never know when the sitter will be the only one available to administer CPR.

Here is a link that you can share with your babysitter and use as a refresher for yourself: http://depts.washington.edu/learncpr/infantcpr.html

Happy parenting!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Really, Mom?

I was just coming into the women's locker room when a mother and her four-year-old daughter were leaving.  Daughter had a pouty mouth and Mom had a furrowed brow.  Neither was happy.  Mom said, "So do you want to spend the rest of the day listening to what Mommy says or spend the rest of the day in your room?  Which one would make you happy?"  Obviously the mother didn't actually look for an answer because when the daughter failed to respond, Mom didn't press her for the reply.  It's no wonder!  If I had the choice of working for Hitler or staying in my room, I'd pick staying in my room!  And I'll bet that poor little girl couldn't even opt for the room scenario.  If she had, I can pretty much guarantee that Mom would yell for her to come downstairs - NOW!  Mom was on the ultimate power trip and daughter was having a very bad day as a result. 

Those of you who have been reading my blog regularly or who had me as a teacher would probably know how to change this from a dictator parent to an effective parent. Right - guided choices.  I don't know what pouty mouth did or didn't do to deserve Mom's wrath, but let's assume she was dawdling, which I see frequently in the locker room.  Mom could have said this:  "We need to hurry so we can pick up your brother on time.  Do you want me to help with your shoes or your shirt?"  Hmmm... Pouty mouth gets a choice, angry mom gets some cooperation, and everyone leaves the  locker room in a much better mood, offering the blogger little fodder for her blog!

This was a classic case of offering an ultimatum rather than a true choice.  What's the difference, you ask?  An ultimatum usually gives the child nothing she can live with (eat spinach or go to bed) when the parent knows which answer will ring the right bell with her.  A guided choice will give the child the information she needs to comply (finish dinner) with the choices that BOTH parent and child can accept (one more spoonful of spinach or sweet potatoes).  Granted, the child may not like either of those choices, so the parent should make sure he or she knows the child's taste before giving a choice like that. 

Parenting isn't easy and it doesn't come with a step-by-step list of instructions, but with a little patience and creativity, offering guided choices will make your life easier.

Happy parenting!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Is your child moody?

One day your child is happily skipping down the street to visit a neighbor.  The next day, she's moping around the house, seemingly apathetic.  Yet another day, she eagerly asks to help make cookies with you.  Is there something wrong with this picture?  Perhaps. 

The first thing you should do is determine a pattern.  Keep a mood calendar using specific words to describe your child's mood.  Use the emotion thesaurus at this website if you need help putting your child's mood into words: http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/2008/01/introducing-thesaurus-thursdays.html.  This will help a professional if you need a consultation.

When you plot the pattern, you can see whether you have a problem worthy of a professional intervention or one that you can treat by removing a trigger.  That trigger might be a specific babysitter, a day when your child goes to the other parent, or a certain day of the week when he must stay after for extra help. 

If you have a child who is moody to the point where she causes problems in school, at home, and with her friends, she needs professional help.  Consider the likelihood of drug or alcohol abuse if the moodiness has a sudden onset. 

Also called manic-depression, bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes a person to cycle through abnormally high and low moods. It was once thought to be rare in children, so little attention was paid to the issue. But the latest research shows that not only can bipolar disorder begin very early in life -- as early as age 5, though it typically manifests in kids around the onset of puberty -- it’s much more common than ever imagined. In fact, according to the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation, the condition is now diagnosed in close to one million children and adolescents in the United States each year.

While a trip to the pediatrician may be the first stop, parents should realize that he or she probably isn’t trained to pick up on the symptoms of bipolar disorder, many of which mimic other more common disorders. Since bipolar has a strong genetic link, they should ask for a referral to a child psychiatrist or a psychiatrist who specializes in bipolar disorder, particularly if they know the illness is present in their family.

Be very careful.  Consider the circumstances around your child's moodiness and try to determine if it's environmental before you consult a physician who may prescribe strong drugs to counteract an alleged physical problem.  After all, parents know their children better than the professional.  Notice your child's habits and see if you can talk through the source of the moodiness before jumping to any conclusions that will result in drastic intervention.

Effective parenting works!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Eight no-fuss ways to get kids to leave the park

Today we have another guest blogger from www.hireananny.org.  I couldn't have said it better myself!

How many times have you been at the park and seen a parent dragging a kicking and screaming kid to the car? They are screaming that they don’t want to go home. It’s no picnic to watch and witness another parent going through this with their child and it’s certainly no fun to go through it yourself. Are you destined to do battle with your child after every trip to the park? What can you do to get your kids to leave the park with no fussing? Check out 8 no-fuss ways to get kids to leave the park. These ways can probably help with leaving other places as well, but we’ll concentrate on the park.
  1. Set expectations: Before going to the park tell your child that you will be walking (or driving) to the park and they will be allowed to play for an hour (or whatever you decide). Let them know that when you say it’s time to go that they will need to get up and leave without fussing so that they will be allowed to come back and play another day. Once you lay out the plan with your child they will be better prepared and no how they are supposed to act when it’s time to leave.
  2. Buy in: Some kids do better if they get to have input in what is happening. You can give them 2 choices and make sure that either choice is good for you. You and the child can either feed the ducks at the pond or play at the park for an hour. Let your child choose and then explain that then that when it’s time to go they won’t throw a fit. Wait for them to agree that they won’t throw a fit when it’s time to go. Some children respond better when they are empowered and don’t feel like they never get to do what they want.
  3. Warnings: No, not the kind of warning that you use to threaten your child, but warnings to let them know that it’s almost time to go. “Okay Johnny, we will be leaving in 15 minutes. Ten more minutes Johnny. Okay Johnny, start cleaning up because we are leaving in 5 minutes.” When the child knows what to expect then they are better able to cope with leaving.
  4. Dangle a carrot: A real carrot is not necessary unless your child just loves to eat carrots. Often time’s kids will throw a fit when leaving the park because they feel like their fun is over. Letting the child know that when we get home we are going to have a cookie and some milk, or we are going to get out the Playdough, is enough to get them excited about leaving instead of dreading it.
  5. Limit the time: Sometimes fussing is more a result of being overly tired than just about leaving. Make sure that you only stay for the amount of time that is appropriate for the age of the child. If the child is under 3 then maybe only stay 30-45 minutes. If the child is only you can extend it to an hour and if they are 5-7 maybe an hour and a half. That’s probably the most a young child can play and not be overly tired at the end.
  6. Positive reinforcement: Give your child a gold star or something else that you come up with when he/she does what she is asked without fussing. Once your child collects 5 stars they will get to do something fun. Have lunch out with Daddy or have a friend over. Make sure that your child knows that they will earn a gold star on their chart if they leave the park without fussing. I would still give them a 10-minute warning just so they can be prepared that their time at the park is coming to an end. Remind them again at the warning that they will earn a gold star for their chart if they leave without fussing.
  7. Avoid being out at naptime: Often children will be less able to deal with the disappointment of leaving if they are ready for a nap. Taking them to the park first thing in the morning when they are fresh is the best time to avoid tantrums when it’s time to leave. It’s still a good idea to let them know how long you will be there and not stay too long as well as giving them a 10-15 minutes warning that the time to go is approaching.
  8. Bring a snack: Some children are more likely to throw fits when they have low blood sugar and are hungry. Sometimes it’s best to build in a snack time to your trip to the park. Let you child play for 30-45 minutes and then have them come over and get a snack. Let them know that after they enjoy their snack that it will be time to go. The snack serves a few different purposes here. First of all you are making sure that their blood sugar is not low when it’s time to go. Secondly, you are giving them a bridge activity between playing and leaving that will give them time to adjust to the idea of leaving. Thirdly, the snack is a fun thing to look forward to so you can say, “Okay, playtime is over, it’s time for a fun snack.” If the snack is indeed fun then the child will look forward to the next thing.
Happy parenting!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Twin Connections

As the mother of twins and a singleton who are now all grown with homes of their own, I can look back fondly and remember all the fun times I had raising my girls.  Gone are the less than memorable moments of cleaning soiled bed linens, midnight croup treatments, boyfriend rejections, and a myriad of other problems.  So, I thought I'd make the lives of the twin parents a bit easier by filtering some websites and links for your review:

http://www.twinstalk.com/ - Lots of parent-to-parent advice about the day-to-day effort of raising twins.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More  - Inspirational reading for those times when you know you've added five gray hairs for every waking hour!

Juggling Twins - Well not really, but you get the idea! 

http://www.twinsdoctor.com/ - Advice from a doctor who is also the mother of twins.  You can't argue with those credentials!

http://www.raising-twins.com/ - Tons of advice and links to more advice.  If you can't find the answer here, it doesn't exist!

http://www.nomotc.org/ - The National Organization of Mothers of Twins clubs.  What? You're not a member?  Start a chapter in your area. 

http://www.twinslaw.com - Yes, even twins can have their own special laws, especially if parents want to have their childen separated (or together) in certain school districts.

Raising Twins: From Pregnancy to Preschool - Common sense solutions to some uncommon problems.

Raising twins is really no different from raising two children born at different times.  Parents need to be careful that they raise their children as individuals, rather than as a subset of each other.  This leads to lifelong dependency on another person, which is not emotionally healthy.  I dressed my girls differently, put them in different classes through elementary school, and even gave them separate birthday parties on succeeding weekends.  I would have done the same for two children born a week apart in two different years.  So, when I found one of my twins becoming the non-dominant twin, I sent her to one of those Outward Bound style camps in the Adirondacks to develop independent thinking.  She joined five other tweens and two leaders for a week of intensive orienteering and self-reflection.  To this day, my daughter says it was the best thing I ever did for her.  The experience was rather expensive at the time, but worth every penny in producing the strong, independent woman that she is today.  Maybe I should write one of the resources I've linked you all to above!

Happy Twin Parenting!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Consider your child's motivation - Part 4: Withdrawal

Adults have exhibited this form of misbehavior for generations -- quite literally!  You know them - the people who say they haven't talked to their parents for years becuase of an arguement they had when they were twenty-five.  Or then there's the classic case of the Hatfields and McCoys.  When people determine that they don't like another person, they decide that they don't need to talk to them - ever again!  Let's see how that works with children.

WITHDRAWAL - When I was a child, this was my favorite form of classic misbehavior.  My mother would yell at me for something I had allegedly done wrong, so I'd stomp up the stairs to my room and slam the door behind me.  I'd stay there for hours, sometimes through my mother's continued reprimands outside of my door.  But I was safe inside the sanctuary of my room.  Years later, that same behavior showed up when I had my own children.  We'd have an argument about something and I'd get in the car and leave for a while to calm down.  The car became my new sanctuary.  Perhaps this was more of a defense mechanism than misbehavior, but it's still considered mis-behavior because it's not what should have been happening.

Why is this considered misbehavior?  Because it's simply not emotionally healthy to withdraw from the situation.  Psychologists will agree that talking through a problem with another person is the best way to solve that problem.  Walking away solves nothing.  Counting to ten before opening your mouth definitely has its advantages in discretion, but total withdrawal from the situation is unhealthy and can lead to lifelong abandonment from family and friends.

Sometimes children just give up when they think they can’t get the attention they need. They may not do what you ask, or they may do it so poorly that you won’t ask them to do it again. They may offer excuses like “I can’t” or “That’s too hard.” They may simply withdraw from you or the family so that you won’t ask them to do anything. If you feel helpless or like you don’t know what to do, your child’s motive of misbehaving may be withdrawal.  Help your child to understand that he or she can always come to you with problems.  When they're teenagers, you'll be very glad for the open lines of communication!

Happy Parenting!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Consider your child's motivation - Part 3: Revenge

Ah, sweet revenge! It is a crime of imitation and offers a momentary catharsis, but the feeling is not long-lasting. If somebody hurts you, your knee-jerk reaction is to hurt that person right back. If a child feels wronged or hurt by others, he or she may seek revenge. It may be simply by saying, “I hate you." Sometimes children get revenge by destroying something that belongs to you or to the person who hurt them. If you feel hurt, disappointed, or shocked by your child’s actions, your child may be seeking revenge.
REVENGE - Consider this scenario: When my twins were about four years old, they were responsible for making their own bed after they got dressed.  Their rooms looked relatively neat throughout the day and their beds welcomed them again at night.  One day, I must have blamed the wrong twin for a misdemeanor (I really don't remember the cause of this scenario now 27 years later!). To get even with her sister for not speaking up about being blameless, she did the ultimate revenge on her sister.  Yep, she UNmade her bed and messed it up.  I tried not to laugh at the simple act of retribution, however it was that act that showed me who actually should have been blamed for the initial problem.  As I recall, I sat both of them down and discussed revenge with one and apology with the other.  The rest of the day went much better!

According to child psychiatrist Rudolph Dreikurs, "A child who seeks revenge is really hoping to find love. Their vengeful behavior is showing us that they feel so bad about themselves, and so misunderstood, that they are resorting to wanting others to feel what they feel. Respond with affection and caring.  'I really care about you and I didn't raise you to be vengeful. That's why I have asked you to go to your room now until you can treat us better.'  Don't engage in the power struggle, remove the audience (siblings, friends, etc), and insist on a logical, dispassionate consequence."

I firmly believe that if parents help children to understand that revenge is not an acceptable form of retaliation, that our prisons would have many empty cells.  What are alternatives to revenge? 
  • Communicate - if you tell the other person how you feel and why you were hurt, the other person will be emotionally hurt by the explanation. 
  • Walk away - By denying the other person the negative attention, you are thereby cancelling the other person's wrongful intent. 
  • Re-think - When you restructure your thinking and tell yourself that the other person needs your help more than your revenge, you'll feel better about the situation. 
  • Forgive - Forgive the other person for the hurtful behavior and redirect your activities to something more positive.
The alternatives to revenge are not easy becuase of our natural fight or flight reaction, but with practice, you can help your children to eliminate revenge from their emotional vocabulary.

Happy parenting!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Consider your child's motivation - Part 2: Attention

You've heard it many times before: "Ignore him, he's just looking for attention."  JUST looking for attention?  Don't we all crave attention of some sort?  Women like to receive flowers once in a while "JUST because."  Men JUST want a pat on the back for a job well done within their job description, whether at home or at work.  Everyone JUST wants to be recognized as a person who is appreciated by those around them.  Why are children any different?  They may look for positive attention in negative ways because they don't know any different.  When they throw a temper tantrum, the well-meaning parent may give the child plenty of attention by yelling right back at her.  A better approach would be to give negative attention for negative behavior (walk away and ignore the tantrum!)  Then when the child is doing something right no matter how small (like coloring within the lines), it's our job as parents to recognize the little successes in life so children learn that they can get positive attention for positive behavior. 

ATTENTION - Consider this scenario:  Many years ago, I was at the home of my daughter's friend and his younger sister.  Their mother had gone off to work, leaving two teenagers at home to fend for themselves (more on that topic in another blog!)  The big brother made dinner - a steak on the barbecue with a baked potato and a salad.  Not bad for a 16-year-old boy!  He set the plate down in front of his sister and that's where the trouble began.  She said, "Would you cut my steak?"  She was 14 and totally capable of cutting her own steak.  He retorted, "Cut your own (bleep) steak."  She whined back, "Pleeeese?"  The converstion repeated like a stuck sound track.  At that I could see a nice dinner turning into a shouting match, so I pulled my daughter's friend aside and explained about motivation.  I told him that she didn't really want her steak cut. "Yes, she does," he responded. "Not really," I said. Then I told him that she simply wanted her older brother to take care of her in a way that their mother was  not doing at that time.  He misted up then went in and silently cut his sister's steak.  I left and he later told me that they actually enjoyed their dinner together. Crisis averted!  To this day, if his own children seem to be demanding undue attention, he'll look at me and say, "They want their steak cut, right?"  I simply smile and nod. 

The most common reason children misbehave is to get attention. When adults don’t give children needed attention, they will try to find other ways to get it.  Unfortunately, we don’t always see the positive things children do to get attention, like making good grades in school or doing their chores at home. Instead, we are most likely to notice them when they do something that we don’t like. Children would rather have negative attention than no attention at all. If we give children attention only when they act up, we teach them that misbehaving is the best way to get our attention, and they act up even more. If we give children attention only when they are doing things that please us, we teach them that behaving is the best way to get the attention they want. If you feel annoyed, irritated, or guilty by your child’s misbehavior, the child probably is seeking attention.  So, ignore the negative attention-getting devices and reward (hugs, recognition, etc.) the positive attempts to gain parental attention. 

Happy Parenting!
 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Consider your child's motivation - Part 1: Power

Children misbehave in a variety of ways, but they have only four common motivations for misbehavior: Power, Attention, Revenge, and Withdrawal. When a child acts up, consider the motivation, and you'll be better able to handle the behavior. I'll look at each one separately over the next four posts. 

POWER - Yesterday, I witnessed the following exchange between a mother and her daughter in the gym locker room... Mom wanted Julie to put her shoes on. Julie refused, whining she wanted Mom to put them on for her. (That last sentence is the clue to the motivation for the misbehavior.) Mom insisted that Julie is quite able to put her own shoes on. Julie became even more irate. Finally, Mom picks up Julie in the ultimate control move. Angry Mom and angry Julie leave the gym with Julie wailing and Mom stomping. How might that scenario have changed? If Mom had realized that Julie simpy wanted to regain control for some reason (sometimes we never know the reason, but we can see the motivation), then she should have stated her position, given a reason, and then offered choices: "Julie, you need to put your shoes on because your feet will get cold on the concrete outside. Which shoe do you want to put on first? (Or ... which shoe do you want to put on? I'll put on the other.) I'm willing to bet a million dollar inheritance that both would have left the gym hand in hand!

 Children may misbehave to show that they have control over their lives. Children want to do things for themselves and to think for themselves. If parents don’t let children have some power to make decisions when they are ready, children may misbehave by going against what their parents want them to do, as Julie did in the above scenario. If you feel like winning the fight or proving that you are the boss when your child misbehaves, the child is probably seeking power. There’s nothing wrong with a child wanting power over her parents – that’s a perfectly natural way for kids to behave. How you react as a parent determines how that power struggle will turn out. Look for a win-win compromise where both the child and the parent can feel in control. That usually happens with the guided choice I illustrated above.

This happens in classrooms and at home.  Too often, the teach dictates (yes, that's a form of the word dictator) what will happen next:  take out your books, do this worksheet, fill out this lab report, write down your homework assignment, line up for lunch, etc. etc. etc.  Teachers, think if ways to give control back to your students and I think you'll find that you'll regain some classroom management control in the process!

Happy Parenting and Happy Teaching!


Monday, November 28, 2011

10 games to play on car trips

With the holiday season approaching, many families travel many miles to be with family.  Here are a few games to keep the kiddies amused for a while from www.aupair.org:

Car trips. They can be every parent’s worst nightmare when travelling with kids. No one can ever seem to coordinate wanting to stop to eat at the same place or the same time, everyone has to go to the bathroom at different times, and it’s inevitable that you will hear someone say “I’M BORED” at least a hundred different times. Not to mention even siblings who are the best of friends outside of the car can turn into the worst of enemies on car trips, enticing fights with each other by hogging seat space or finding various ways to annoy their backseat companions. Even the shorter car trips can seem inexplicably long when you have kids fighting with each other and endlessly complaining. And as much as we hate to admit it, after hours in the car listening to bickering and bantering, our worst sides tend to pop out and we utter phrases we used to hate hearing our own parent’s yell at us, such as “If I have to pull this car over …” and “Do NOT touch your sister again!”.

Yes, car trips. They’re an unavoidable fight just waiting to happen. So what can you do to pacify your kids and ease your own mental pain for at least part of the trip? Play car games, of course! When the hours of driving boredom are setting in it’s a great way to have some fun, break up the tension, and getting everyone involved. After a few minutes you’ll see even the most reluctant participants cracking a smile and chiming in with their contributions.
  1. I Spy… Probably the most famous of car games, I Spy has pacified kids for years upon years of car trips. It’s also incredibly easy to play – you just appoint the person doing the “spying” and pick out an upcoming object. In a sing-song voice you declare “I spy something… (insert color)” and your kiddos will start frantically looking around trying to figure out which landmark or sign you’re looking at that has the defining color, shouting out answers until someone stumbles on the right one.
  2. The Alphabet Game - This was a favorite from my own childhood. With this game participants start with the letter “A” and look for the letters on license plates, billboards, restaurant signs, and anything with words on it and call out the letters of the alphabet and the word you found in which you found the letter in order until they reach “Z”. While some letters are easier than others to find, it’s always a hunt as to who can find something with the letter “J” in it and other obscure letters not often used. For instance, if there was a McDonald’s sign and you were on the letter “M” you’d call out “M! On the McDonald’s sign!”
  3. The Counting Game - Playing the counting game is great for teaching small children how to count – you just pick a certain thing to count – such as cows, black trucks, number of Taco Bells, etc. – and then start counting as you pass by them. You’ll be amazed how many of the same things you see over and over on the roads.
  4. Celebrity Name Game - With this game you start with a certain celebrity, such as Angelina Jolie, and the next person has to name off another celebrity whose first name starts with the first letter of the previous person’s last name. So in the case, if you started the game with “Angelina Jolie” the next person could respond by saying “Jennifer Aniston”, and then the next person would say “Anne Hathaway”, etc. This game is good for older kids and you can apply the same principles to other things such as states or cities.
  5. The License Plate Game - Since there is an infinite number of license plates on the road this is an easy and fun game to play to pass the time. You start by calling out the letters on a license plate and then making up a silly string of words to go with them. So if the license plate had the letters WJQ on it you could yell out “Water Jumping Quickly”! Each person can come up with a different combination of words for the license plate’s letters, making it a fun game that involves everyone in the car.
  6. 20 Questions - Who doesn’t love a good game of 20 questions? Pick a person to be the answerer of the questions and then have them pick an object, animal, etc. Traditionally players will start off the game by asking if it’s an animal, vegetable or mineral. So if the question answerer picked a cow they would answer that it’s an animal. From there the other participants can ask questions that dictate a “yes” or “no” answer until someone guesses the correct answer.
  7. Fortunately-Unfortunately - This fun game also involves everyone in the car and is a good way to break up the time. A player will start by saying something ridiculous like “Unfortunately a dinosaur is coming to eat us” and another player will respond by saying “Fortunately I brought an invisibility cloak to hide us”. Players alternate who says the “unfortunately” scenario and who answers. Aside from being a fun way to pass the time, kids will also learn to look for the good in situations.
  8. My Father Owns a Grocery Store… You will have fun testing memory skills with this game. A player will begin by saying, “my father owns a grocery store and in it he sells (something that begins with the letter A, such as artichokes)”. The next person will then follow with, “my father owns a grocery store and in it he sells artichokes and (something that starts with the letter B, such as beets)”. The game continues with each player repeating what the others have said and adding on something that starts with the next letter of the alphabet.
  9. The Storytelling Game - One person will start this game by giving the first sentence of a story, and then the next person will follow with another sentence adding onto the storyline. Each person in the car will keep adding in their own tidbits to the story, and your family will love all the different twists and turns that each person will add to the tale.
  10. The Theme Song Game - A player will hum a theme song to a popular song – it can be a children’s song, one from a TV show, etc. – and the other players will have to guess which song it is. For example you could hum the tune of “Happy Birthday” for a few verses and then the other players would have to guess the song you’re humming. This is a great game for little kids to play with their parents on trips.
Car trips may invoke feelings of dismay when you first start out, but they don’t have to be something that everyone dreads. Instead get the whole family talking and laughing by playing one or more of these popular car games. Not only will it keep everyone happy, but it will make the time fly by and before you know it you’ll have reached your destination and everyone will still have a smile on their face.

Happy parenting and happy traveling!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

8 Reasons to Love your stubborn child

Parents of a stubborn child can find it exasperating. They will obstinately refuse to do what they’re told and defy discipline with a steely determination. What most people fail to see is how stubbornness can be a positive attribute. There are many ways headstrong children can have an advantage over the more docile counterparts. Here are 8 reasons to love your stubborn child.
  1. Perseverance – A stubborn child is going to be much better at accomplishing difficult tasks because they have perseverance. If at first they don’t succeed they will keep trying until they get the results they desire. From learning to tie their shoes to figuring out a complicated math problem, these kids will doggedly keep trying until they get it done. This is a great advantage over other children who tend to give up easily.
  2. Can’t be bullied – Childhood bullies have gotten to be a big problem, so stubbornness can give a kid the toughness they need to stand up for themselves. No playground bully is going to push them around. The defiance they show to their parents easily translates to other situations, so the local bully doesn’t stand a chance.
  3. Mental fortitude – This toughness will also help kids to develop the strong mental fortitude they need as they grow from childhood to adults. Mental toughness will help them to succeed in many aspects of their lives and make it easier for them to cope with stress or traumatic events. The demands of college, the military or a prestigious career are more easily met by the people who used to be stubborn kids.
  4. Schoolwork – Children who give up easily are going to have a harder time learning difficult problems in their schoolwork than those who are more resolute. Whether this results in getting better grades depends on each child’s mental capabilities, but stubbornness can be an advantage to even learning disabled children. Teachers and parents should encourage stubborn kids to channel their determination into their homework.
  5. Employment – Once kids get old enough to get a job, the stubborn ones will be more likely to find employment and keep it. It takes strong perseverance to find work in a bad economy, especially for teens. If their determination pays off, their employers will be pleased if they apply their stubbornness to their work ethic. Stubborn kids can be good workers.
  6. Sports – Another way a headstrong kid can excel is in sports. What they may lack in physical ability can be made up for with sheer determination. Stubborn kids are very competitive and will not give up until they make the team or are the best in their field. They can channel their obstinacy into succeeding at whatever sport they choose.
  7. Successful career – That successful doctor, lawyer or actor you admire probably used to be a stubborn child. The bullheaded kids are much better equipped to succeed at whatever careers they choose. Their ability to persevere will vault them to the top of the corporate ladder.
  8. Survival – Another reason being stubborn can be good for a kid is pure survival. Whether it’s illness, injury or a natural disaster, those who aren’t willing to give up will overcome any obstacle to survive. Stubbornness is a key element in personal survival.
So the next time you encounter your child’s stubborn streak, turn the negatives into a positive. Parents would be wise to recognize the potential of their bullheaded kids and help them to use their stubbornness to their advantage. By channeling that willful determination, these children are much more likely to succeed in life. In this dog eat dog world, survival of the fittest reigns supreme. The stubborn kids are better equipped to deal with whatever comes their way.

Thanks from the folks at www.findababysitter.org for this insightful blog post!

Happy Parenting!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Politically Incorrect Fairy Tales

I've never been a proponent of fairy tales and nursery rhymes (Down will come come baby cradle and all - really, folks?), so when I found this marvelous tongue-in-cheek analysis of common fairy tales at www.babysitters.net, I had to share their thoughts on my blog.  The message is strong: When you read to your children or students, make sure you help them understand about sexism, ageism, sizeism, and any other assorted forms of discrimination that you find.

The famous fables and fairy tales that earlier generations of children grew up with are being re-written or are completely falling out of favor with those who aspire to “Political Correctness”. What people don’t realize is that many of these tales have been “sanitized” repeatedly over the years, having started as truly gruesome stories. In early versions of the “Cinderella” tale, the two cruel sisters mutilated themselves in order to fit into the slipper, and the two of them ended up as blind beggars when birds pecked out their eyes.

Most stories and lore evolve over time, and fairy tales are no different. Here are some examples of old stories that have come under the modern microscope.
  1. Rapunzel – This grim tale from the brothers Grimm is too dark, say many people today. They point out that this story contains violent imagery, blatant sexism, and criminal child abuse. Imagine, a little girl being given up for adoption by thieving parents, only to find that the poor child is then placed in solitary confinement, and only a man can save her.
  2. Cinderella – In a corrected version, Cinderella might not be burdened by cruel sisters and the sexist drudgery of menial housework. Instead, she might end up stuck in a dead-end office job, just like everyone else.
  3. Goldilocks and the Three Bears – Another potential “Amber Alert” situation, though there does not appear to be any great hue-and-cry over a missing girl’s whereabouts. Didn’t anyone in the olden days have any parents (historical note: when some of these tales were first written, life-expectancies were only in the 30s, so there probably were a lot of parent-less children)?
  4. Jack and the Beanstalk – Why is it never “Jane and the Beanstalk”? Well, it is probably just as well. Jack turns out to be a little thief who doesn’t follow his mother’s instructions very well. He steals from an ogre, and then kills the poor guy to boot. In today’s version, Jack might have just gone out to get a job so he could help his poor mom out, and he certainly wouldn’t have jeopardized his future by stooping to thievery and murder.
  5. Sleeping Beauty – Another motherless story, this one also involves probable nudity. When the king forbade the spinning of all materials in order to thwart a witches curse, the realm probably ran out of clothing for the citizenry. This is another one where it’s a guy rescuing a girl in trouble, instead of maybe the other way around.
  6. Hansel and Gretel – Wrong in so many ways, this tale involves child-abuse, spousal abuse, inhumane treatment of captives and poor nutrition. The modern version might have the cottage windows made of Splenda rather than clear sugar.
  7. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – The term “dwarf” has come under fire in recent years, but “Frozen Caucasian Water and the Seven Altitude Challenged People” isn’t a title the folks over in Marketing are looking for.
  8. Red Riding Hood – “Sam ‘The Sham’ and the Pharaohs” admonished Red, singing that she shouldn’t “. . .go walking in these spooky old woods alone”. Good advice for a small child who was sent, unattended by a parent, to visit an aging relative who was probably in need of 24-hour in-home care. Of course, there is also the wolf, a stalker and an abuser of the elderly.
  9. The Pied Piper – The Piper of the tale was obviously a cult-leader who had lured not only the rats, but also the children of the beleaguered township of Hamelin. The Pied Piper obviously had anger-management issues, which might have been addressed with classes and counseling in a modern version of the story.
  10. The Emperor’s New Clothes – This tale has a pair of swindling tailors hoodwinking a vain emperor into thinking that the “nothing” they have made for him is a fine suit of clothing. A little kid busts the scam wide open, but the emperor is held out as the selfish patriarch that he is.
Almost every story has elements that may not suit future generations. Who knows, in a few hundred years, Cinderella’s step-sisters may turn out to be kind and gentle care-givers.

Happy Parenting and Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

10 Common Ways That Kids Show Disrespect For Their Nanny or Babysitter

This guest blog comes from www.liveinnanny.com, but the advice applies not only to nannies, but also to babysitters and a step-parent.  Disrespect should never be tolerated with anyone.

Even the most well-behaved child can have trouble adjusting to a full-time childcare provider, especially if they’re accustomed to having a parent at home during the day. Here are some signs that your youngster may be finding the adjustment difficult.
  1. “You’re Not My Mom!” – Kids know how powerful a weapon this phrase can be, and will not hesitate to use it if they get upset enough. If it’s brought to your attention that this is becoming a problem, it may be time to sit down with your child and have a talk about what’s causing the behavior.
  2. Going Over Nanny’s Head – As tempting as it is to solve the problem that an unhappy child presents, it’s important never to undermine your nanny’s authority. Once this precedent is set, it will be nearly impossible for her to regain control.
  3. Ignoring or Defying Commands – Defiant behavior and deliberately ignoring requests to do chores or homework is one of the most common ways a child displays their lack of respect for the person in authority. Be sure to keep an eye out for signs of this behavior, as it can be very difficult to correct if left unchecked for too long.
  4. Blatant Disregard For Rules – If your child knows bed time is at eight, but is still running wild when you get home at nine, it may be time for a conversation with your nanny. If you find that there’s an established pattern of flagrant rule-breaking, this could be a sign that there are respect issues between your child and the nanny.
  5. Invading Personal Space – Your live-in nanny’s quarters are often the only place that she can view as a sanctuary. It’s very important to explain to your children that Nanny’s space is her own, and is off-limits unless they’ve been invited. A child that frequently ignores this request is being disrespectful of the boundaries you and your nanny have set in place.
  6. Ignoring a Live-In Nanny’s Off Hours – Much like her personal space, your nanny’s free time must be just that. Children that don’t respect their nanny will often place unfair demands on her, such as expecting her to attend to their needs when she’s off the clock.
  7. Breaking Curfew – A child that has no respect for their caregiver will often ignore curfews and time limits. Aside from creating a stressful work environment for your nanny, it may be dangerous for the child.
  8. Lying – One of the most common signs of disrespect, habitual dishonesty can cause chaos in a household. Untrue statements made by a child to a parent about the nanny’s behavior may injure the trust that parent has, straining the relationship and even leading to the loss of the nanny’s services. Try to give your nanny the benefit of the doubt, at first, especially if your child has a history of stretching the truth.
  9. Frequent Temper Tantrums – A child that throws themselves on the floor to scream every time they’re gently reprimanded or asked to complete a task is a nanny’s worst nightmare. Most children will only attempt this behavior with people they think will allow it, but it can also be a sign of defiance.
  10. Talking Back and Arguing – This is par for the course with most teenagers, but if your younger child is in the habit of arguing with your nanny or talking back to her, it’s a clear sign of disrespect.
While good communication is a key part of your relationship with a childcare provider, it’s also important to be observant. A nanny with a soft heart may be hesitant to “tattle” on your child and may not be developing the respect needed; also, acting out can be a sign that your child is under stress. Either way, quietly keeping your eye on the interaction between your child and their caregiver is imperative.

Happy parenting!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Little Beggars

I support the Girl Scouts when they sell cookies (I donate my portion to the troops.)  I support the Boy Scouts when they sell popcorn (I donate those boxes to the troops, as well - I don't need all those carbs anymore!)  I even support the local high school band boosters when they sell their $20 discount cards.  But I have a huge problem when organizations stand by the door to the supermarket or WalMart with a bucket, expecting handouts.  I look at it this way.  If a sports team needs money, their participants are strong enough to work for their donations, right?  If the soccer team canvassed our neighborhood at this time of year and offered to rake my yard for $X, I'd gladly pay what they charged.  I'd be happy, my yard would be leaf-free, and the kids would have money for their trip to the soccer competition.  I'd even be more likely to donate to the cheerleaders if they did one of their routines in front of the store. Or to the football team if they helped carry my bags to the car. 

When did it become acceptable for children to become beggars? What does this teach them?  That begging on a street corner will get them free money for doing nothing at all except smiling at the people walking by who have money in their wallets.  Did I say begging on a street corner?  Last summer, the girls' softball team had a coin toss in the middle of town on Memorial Day weekend, catching all the unsuspecting shore traffic as people sped through town on their way to vacation.  Not only does this send the wrong message to the kids, it's downright dangerous! 

So, leaders and coaches, listen up - teach your young participants the value of hard work or getting something (anything!) for your money rather than begging for money.  I will refuse to donate to you every time if you beg; offer me something and I'll support your effort!

Happy coaching!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stop bullying your children

We all do it - we yell at them when we're tired, we order tem around, we tell them what's in their best interest, and we expect them to follow us around like little serfs.  If you observed this behavior on the playground, you'd likely haul the child into the principal's office and accuse him of bullying the other kids.  Is it any wonder, then, that bullying has become epidemic around the world?  Instead of helping children to stop bullying, perhaps we should educate the parents on how to stop bullying their kids.  When children have positive role models that don't bully them, they will be less likely to bully others. 

Families where discipline is inconsistent and where there is little warmth and adult attention are more likely to raise children who bully. The children in those families are looking for positive attention for negative behavior.  Conversely, families where discipline is harsh and unwarranted, are also more likely to raise children who bully. That's the role model scenario - a child who is physically or emotionally abused knows no other way to get what he wants from his peers than to use the same behavior as his parents. 

Hmmm... there must be a happy medium between inconcistent and harsh discipline, right?  There is - it's called democratic parenting.  Consistent, fair discipline teaches self-control and responsibility. Warmth and time spent together teach connection and empathy. 

Yes, I know it's difficult at the end of your own difficult day to deal with quarreling kids, but you must adjust your mind set from yelling at them to stop fighting to asking them to sit down and calmly discuss their differences.  Yep, I know that's not always going to work, either.  However, when the children see that you calmly react to their problem, they'll be more likely to calmly react in the future and on the playground with their peers. 

Do you use sarcasm?  (I'm going to start buying you baby clothes because that's how you're behaving.) This teaches kids that verbal bullying is acceptable.

Do you call your kids names? (Don't be so stupid!)  This is another example they can follow for verbal bullying.

Do you slap or spank your children?  This sets them up to accept physical bullying.

Do you get even with your kids? (Fine, if you're going to be like that, then I won't ....) This shows them that retaliation is an effective means to gain cooperation.

The bottom line is that your own bullying, whethere with your kids, their coach, or their teacher, will provide a negative role model for them.  So, when your child's principal calls and says your child has been bullying another student, don't look at the child's behavior, look at your own! And then change your parenting style to be more supportive, understanding, and accepting of your child's inevitable mistakes.  Spend quality time with them so they know they are wanted and needed by the persons who matter the most to them.  Show them how a non-bullying person reacts to a disagreement.  You'll be glad you did when they are adults!

Happy parenting!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thirty-one years after my identical twin girls were born, I hold these truths to be self-evident...
  1. No matter how hard you try to make them into individuals, the magnetic pull of twinism is always stronger than momism. (Example: When they met each other at a spa weekend for their 25th birthday, one traveled east from NC, the other traveled west from AR and they met within only ten minutes of each other at the spa in Nashville, despite my recommendations on when to leave!)
  2. There will always be one dominant twin and one submissive twin, although the relationship may reverse occasionally. (That's why I sent the submissive twin on an outward bound camping trip when she was twelve.  To this day, she says it's the best thing I ever did to foster her independence.)
  3. In a family with three children, the twins will always form a united front against the third, or their parents, or their grandparents. (Like I said, it's a strong bond!)
  4. When they're younger, identical twins don't like to do anything the same - dress the same, have the same hair, etc. so their friends can tell them apart.  However, when they get older, they may unintentionally do things in an identical manner.  (Example: When one visited the other for the first time in her new home, they discovered that they had purchased the exact same sofa in the exact same fabric from two different furniture chains in two different states.  What are the chances of that happening?)
  5. They will always watch each others backs. (Example: When you go to college and nobody knows you're a twin, you can easily study for one test, trade IDs and retake the test for your sister!)
  6. Watching identical twins grow and mature into responsible adults has been an interesting voyage of love and amazement!  I am so glad I was blessed with identical twin girls and an older child who paved the way for them.  
For suggestions on how to help identical twins mature independently, read my related article: Declaration of TWINdependence

Saturday, November 19, 2011

School Lunches vs. Government

First, read this article in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/16/us/politics/congress-blocks-new-rules-on-school-lunches.html?_r=1&src=tp&smid=fb-share

Now consider the ramifications....

In the twenty years that I taught at a local high school, I gained 60 lbs, which I managed to lose over the past two years since retirement.  I ate the school lunches much of the time while my girls were little and I had no time to prepare a fresh lunch for myself.  So, in the interest of time, I ate the breaded (translate that to fried) chicken sandwich (see all the carbs?), french fries (more carbs), and a can of soda from the faculty room vending machine (not diet - I don't like the aftertaste, so yes, more carbs).  As a Family Consumer Sciences teacher, I should have known better, but I disregarded my education in the interest of convenience.

Young bodies are still getting the same very poor nutritional choices at lunch.  Is it any surprise then that our children are overweight?  We force them to sit all day long in their seats, then feed them fat and carbs at lunch.  Their only exercise is during their gym classes and walking through the hallways.

I'm sure a creative cafeteria manager could develop ways to serve nutritious foods that children won't discard while that person also considers the cost to the school district.  I agree that carbs are inexpensive foods. Protein in the form of meat and dairy products is more expensive.  And fresh fruits and vegetables the most expensive. Why is it that the healthiest foods are the most expensive?  I don't have a good answer for that question.

Perhaps the Federal Government should be considering ways to subsidize only the healthy parts of the school lunch program.  Districts would pay full price for the carbs, fats, and sweets while the government subsidizes the healthier proteins and fresh produce.  Hmmm... nifty idea - think it would fly?

In addition, schools need to implement healthy eating programs in much the same way that they implement anti-bullying and character development programs.  After all, the health of our future citizens is in the hands of bureaucrats more worried about their support bloc than the health of the children of their constituents. 

What's more important - economy or health?  Personally, I don't think we should have to decide!  So until the government gets its priorities straight, I recommend something I should have done thirty years ago:  Get up fifteen minutes earlier to prepare a health bring-to-school lunch for you and your children.  Here are some helpful links:
http://www.healthychild.com/healthy-school-lunches/healthy-school-lunch-ideas-for-kids/
http://www.parents.com/kids/nutrition/lunch/healthy-school-lunches-snacks/
http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipes/healthy/ideas-kids-school-lunches

Happy parenting and Happy teaching!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Top Ten Reasons Parents Choose a Nanny over Day Care

When parents are considering childcare options, daycare centers will generally be one of the possibilities on the list. There are several reasons why a family may choose a nanny to meet their childcare needs instead of a daycare center. Here are the 10 top reasons that parents give.
  1. Work schedules – Finding a daycare center that has hours which fit variable work schedules for two spouses can be difficult to do. With a nanny, a schedule of hours can be determined ahead of time that will fully meet the parent’s needs.
  2. Safety – Even though licensed daycare centers are limited in the number of children per worker that are allowed, some families still are uncomfortable leaving their children in the care of individuals that are caring for a large number of children at the same time.
  3. Convenience – The fact that parents don’t have to take the children out of the house in the morning or pick them up again at the end of the day is a great convenience and time saver for the parents.
  4. Exposure to illness – Daycare centers, like schools, are places where viruses and germs are often shared among the children, no matter how hard the daycare provider attempts to prevent these situations. Keeping the children in the home, limits their exposure to illness.
  5. Personal attention – A nanny has no other children to attend to (in most cases) than your children. Parents can be assured that their children’s personal needs are not being overlooked.
  6. Chauffeuring kids – Parents want their kids to have the opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities. A nanny can also serve as the kid’s chauffeur to these activities or to and from school, a service not available through most daycare centers.
  7. Flexibility – When engaging a daycare, parents are told what the rules are and how the daycare handles situations. With a nanny, a family has more flexibility in coming up with an agreement that fits their specific needs.
  8. Specialty needs – Children with special physical needs cannot always be accommodated at a traditional daycare center. A nanny working in the home will have everything she needs to care for the child, right in the home.
  9. New infants – Most daycare centers do not accept newborn infants. For parents needing childcare help during the early weeks, a nanny can provide professional care for the infant and professional support to the parents.
  10. Extra duties – Many nannies are contracted to perform some light household duties along with their childcare duties. This is not an option available when using a daycare center.

There are many advantages for a family that chooses a nanny to meet their childcare needs. The personalized service of in-home childcare can hardly be compared with the setting of a daycare which is providing services to many different families at the same time.

This is a guest blog from http://www.fulltimenanny.com/  Their website is filled with helpful suggestions regarding nannies and basic child care.

Happy parenting!
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