Is my child normal?

One of the most common questions from parents is about whether their child is normal. Parents of babies and toddlers have many questions like:
  • Is this behavior normal?
  • Should my child be able to say more words by now?
  • My child isn't walking yet. Is this normal?
Parents of older children also have concerns:
  • My child is easily distracted and has trouble focusing.  Could this be ADHD? 
  • My teen seems really withdrawn. Should I be doing something?
  • My child seems really influenced by peer pressure.  Is this normal?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has information on developmental milestones:
Understanding what is normal at each age can help you figure out if your child needs some special attention or if it's simply age appropriate behavior. 

Sharing isn't easy!

I was recently reading a book to a group of preschoolers in which the animal characters were fighting over a toy. We talked about the problem these animals were having and I asked the kids if they thought sharing was difficult. They all enthusiastically agreed that sharing is really hard!

These children know from experience how challenging it is to share. When they play together there is often an argument over who can play with which toys. For example, Max had two cars - one in each hand and Tommy wanted one of the cars. Max quickly put both his hands behind his back refusing to give up either car.

I've found that in situations like this one of most effective responses is to describe the problem and then ask the kids how they are going to solve it. I explained "I see a problem. Max has two cars and Tommy would like to have a car too. How do you think you can solve this?"

Simply pointing out the issue typically causes the children to stop, look at me and start thinking about what's going on. Often these creative preschoolers come up with their own unique solutions. By leaving it in their hands, they are increasing their problem solving skills while also becoming more aware of the feelings of others.

Parental caring matters long term

All the loving care you give your children matters not only now but for the rest of their lives! Researchers asked college students to rate their parents on their level of caring. They then followed up 35 years later to check on these people's health.

They reported "87% of subjects who rated both their mothers and fathers low in parental caring had diagnosed diseases in midlife, whereas only 25% of subjects who rated both their mothers and fathers high in parental caring had diagnosed diseases in midlife." The diseases were everything from heart disease, hypertension and ulcers to alcoholism.

The care and understanding you give your children every day will help them for the rest of their lives!

What Will Your Children Remember?

The holidays are a busy time of year especially for parents. You plan special meals, wonderful gatherings of family and friends, and search for just the right gifts to delight your children. It's all a lot of work and so it's interesting to consider what your children will remember a year from now.

A mom recently told me that she was busily pondering the gifts she should buy for her two grade school children. Trying to find meaningful gifts, she decided to ask them what they could remember receiving last year for Christmas. Neither one could remember a single gift they received. Here she put so much time into finding just the right gifts and only a year later they don't even remember them!

Well then what do they remember? What do you remember from your childhood holidays?

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Stessing out

Do you ever feel stressed out over the holidays?  I sure do.  Every year I try to figure out ways to change things so that I'm less stressed.  One year I wrote down all the extra tasks I do in December - there were 30 additional tasks!  No wonder I feel stressed!

As I looked over the list, I didn't see any tasks I wanted to eliminate.  My son's birthday and my husband's birthday plus a number of relatives' birthdays fall in December.  The birthday celebrations plus Christmas make for lots of activity.

Seeing all those extra tasks written down did help me realize why I was feeling stressed.  While I can do some things ahead of time, I also decided to give up on some of my routine tasks.  For example, the weekend I wrote Christmas cards the house did not get cleaned.  While the bathrooms were a bit grungy, we all survived!

Prioritizing what I really want to get done helps reduce the stress.  Since I can't do it all, I have to choose to do what's most important ... and be satisfied! 

Traveling with tots

Whether taking a young child to a restaurant or on a plane trip, you have your hands full keeping your child entertained and behaving appropriately. One mom shared that her key to success was creating a special plastic box to take along on these occassions.

In this box she put simple things that would entertain her 2-year-old daughter for quite awhile:
  • an empty snap top pill bottle
  • a empty screw top lotion bottle
  • an old cellphone
  • a squishy ball
  • a few silly strings
  • painter's tape
A number of moms chimed in that painter's tape was a favorite with their children. Ripping little pieces of the tape and creating art in various places was a popular activity.

By having a box filled with everyday items, she kept her young daughter happily playing away!


Pushing your buttons

Does your young child know just how to push your buttons? Many parents report being pushed to the edge when their 2-year-olds or 3-year-olds start really misbehaving. When children reach this age, they will try doing things they know they are not supposed to do. How do you respond to this open defiance?

Most parents report feeling angry and frustrated when their children purposely misbehave and their natural reaction is to yell or spank. This often leaves both parent and child feeling bad.

If you want to learn some excellent parenting techniques that have helped millions of parents, take the online "Priceless Parenting - Ages 5 and Under" class.

Talking to young kids about their bodies

Amy Lang from Birds + Bees + Kids shares some important thoughts on keeping young children safe from sexual abuse:



You can learn more at the Birds + Bees + Kids web site.

There are also many books on sexuality that can help you talk to your children about these important topics.

Drop off drama

If you're the parent of a young child, you play a huge role in how your child reacts to being left in someone else's care. Your child looks to you for clues on how to respond in various situations.

You've probably seen your child look at you after falling down to see how big a deal it is. If you react with fright, your child breaks into tears; if you say something like "Oops, you fell down." your child gets up and continues playing.

Similarly, when dropping your child off at somewhere like preschool, your child looks to you for how to respond. Recently, two-year-old Ben's parents were dropping him off at church school. Ben happily began playing with the cars.

Mom and Dad both asked Ben if he needed anything before they left. He continued playing. Dad asked "Do you want a hug?" Ben continued playing without responding. Dad asked again and then finally said "Well, Daddy needs a hug!" At that point Ben gave both his parents a hug and guess what? Ben was no longer feeling confident about being left behind!

Ben's folks had added drama to the drop off. He picked up on their discomfort with leaving him and now wanted to go with them! A short good-bye given in a matter-of-fact way would have worked better in this situation.


Giving thanks for children

Last night my 18-year-old daughter arrived safely home from her college in Spokane. What a blessing! Given the blizzard conditions in Spokane and the snow in Seattle, I am so thankful to have her safely here!

My husband, our 14-year-old son and I dropped her off at college at the end of August and this is her first time back home. She's so happy to be home and we're so excited to have her back!

She was just beaming last night ... hugging, eating, laughing, playing cards ... looking around to see what has changed ... not much ... "it feels like I've never left". Being able to go home and fit right back in, it's a wonderful feeling.

"When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses." ~Joyce Brothers

Happy, happy Thanksgiving!

Getting preschoolers to take a nap

You know your child needs a nap but instead of falling asleep he just keeps coming out of his room. Every time you put him back in his room he just comes out again in a couple minutes. What do you do?

One mom told me what worked with her son. She decided to give him five pennies when he went into his room to nap. If he came out of his room before naptime was done, he needed to give her one penny. After naptime, he could turn his pennies for jelly beans.

This simple idea motivated him to stay in his room during nap time and saved her a lot of arguing with her son!

"I don't have the time" or "It's not my priority"?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the things you need to get done each day?  Children make a lot of demands on our time.  It can certainly be challenging to fit everything we'd like to do into our days.   Do you ever find yourself telling your kids that you don't have the time to do something?

What if instead you replied "It's not my priority."?  One mom explained the impact this change in thinking made for her.  She often found herself telling her preschooler that she didn't have the time to play with him right now.  When she tried substituting "it's not my priority", it made her realize that she sometimes had her priorities wrong! 


Great Parenting Stands the Test of Time

Some parenting ideas come and go like fads. Others stick around for decades. The ideas that last are those that work well in the long run to help parents with the challenging job of raising children.

The common foundation for many current parenting ideas is Alfred Adler’s (1870-1937) philosophy of treating each other with mutual respect. Parent education pioneers like Rudolf Dreikurs, Jane Nelsen and Adele Faber extended the Adlerian ideas into practical parenting tools.

Guess what year a child psychiatrist wrote the following: “The problems that our children present are increasing in frequency and intensity, and many parents do not know how to cope with them. They somehow realize that children cannot be treated as they were in the past; but they do not know what else to do.”

This statement appeared in Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs and Vicki Soltz’s book, Children the Challenge, written in 1964. That book is filled with practical ideas that form the basis for many current parenting programs. Their ideas include using encouragement, using natural and logical consequences, relying on action instead of words, avoiding power struggles and staying out of kids’ fights.

For example, they describe a few situations of siblings fighting where a parent tries to intervene with little success. They go on to explain “Whatever the reason behind the children’s fights, parents only make matters worse when they interfere, try to solve the quarrel, or separate the children. Whenever a parent interferes in a fight he is depriving children of the opportunity for learning how to resolve their own conflicts.” I can attest that staying out of my children’s fights worked like magic in decreasing their fighting!

Below are a few more examples of parenting ideas that have stood the test of time.

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

You’re not my best friend anymore!

Words really can hurt and even preschoolers know how to wield the power of words. When young children are upset with another child, they may express their anger by saying things like “You’re not my best friend anymore!” or “You’re not invited to my birthday party!” Ouch!

These words are often spoken when children are at the end of their emotional rope. They are a way of communicating frustration or anger. Ideally, parents or teachers can intervene before kids reach their boiling point and start spewing threats. Children need help learning to express their feelings in more appropriate ways.

For example, if you notice children beginning to argue over a toy or how something should be done, you can state what you see. “I see there are two hungry dolls and only one highchair. I wonder how you can solve the problem so that both dolls get to eat.” Encourage the children to come up with a solution agreeable to both of them rather than just telling them what to do.

Eventually the children will learn to problem solve without your help. Then you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Why did you do it?

If you ask your children a question like “Why did you do it?” they are likely to interpret it as an attack and respond defensively. The question implies that they acted without thinking or were inconsiderate. No wonder they get defensive!

When children’s behavior causes a problem, it’s better to help them figure out a solution rather than focus on defending their actions. Let’s pretend a child is coloring a picture and proceeds to do some coloring on the table instead of the paper. You could simply state “I see you’ve got some crayon marks on the table. Do you know how to clean that off?” With this type of question, you are guiding your child to finding a solution.

Asking children questions like “What were you thinking?” or “How could you do that?” encourages them to defend their behavior. When you can help them focus on finding a solution to the problem at hand, they learn to make amends for their mistakes instead of excuses for their behavior.

Kids and guns don't mix well

A recent story in the Seattle Times about a 4-year-old who accidentally shot his mother prompted this video.

Verbal judo

Verbal judo is a training program developed for police officers. What does this have to do with parenting? When I listened to Mike Manley, Verbal Judo instructor, speak to Ross Reynolds on National Public Radio, I realized the techniques he teaches are also good for parents.

On the radio program Manley emphasized the basics of using empathy and good listening skills when dealing with someone who is experiencing a problem. These are the same skills that work well when your children come to you with a problem!

He also discussed being in control of your own emotions so that you don’t add fuel to the fire. This is another skill I teach in my parenting classes.

Manley explained that they recommend officers ask somone to cooperate rather than commanding them. He gave some examples of commands and the unspoken message that goes along:

“Sit down!” Idiot is implied at the end of it.
“Stand over there.” Stupid is implied at the end of that command.
“Sir, could I ask you to stand over here.” Rather than saying “Hey, you, stand over there.”
To ask someone is much more courteous.

These Verbal Judo ideas are great for parents as well as officers!


Teens share experience to help others stay safe

Last Halloween Melissa Robles and Hailey Vileta were out trick-or-treating with a group of 15 friends. Tragically they were struck by a car and ended up in the hospital with serious injuries. Now they are using their experience to try to help other kids avoid a similar tragedy.

They are telling their story at local Seattle schools. Yesterday they were at my son's school telling about what happened to them last Halloween. It certainly left an impression on him.

You can read more about their story on their website, Stay Alert & Stay Safe and also hear them discuss it on Good Morning America. It's really inspirational how Melissa and Hailey are sharing their story as a way to warn others. Be sure to talk to your kids about making safe choices when they are out this Halloween!

Helping kids avoid online traps

It's very easy to fall for an online trap - downloading content containing viruses, giving away personal information to thieves or sharing passwords or pictures with people who eventually misuse the information.  These are very common problems encountered by kids and adults alike.  Common Sense Media has put together a short video where three kids share their stories of how they fell into one of these online traps.

It's a short video worth watching with your children:



Children Dangerously Breaking Rules

We establish rules to help keep our kids safe. We'd all like to believe our children would make the right choice when presented with a situation like whether or not to answer the door to a stranger. But what would they really do?

What would your kids do?

Recently NBC's Dateline tested a few kids in tough situations in a program called "The Perils of Parenting". Although it wasn't a scientific test, they demonstrated how easy it is to get kids to break rules.

They set up various situations where the kids were recorded on hidden cameras. Parents were interviewed ahead of time and asked how they thought their children would respond. Parents expressed how they hoped their children would act but often had nagging doubts as to how their kids would actually behave.

In one scenario, 12 and 14-year-old siblings were home alone when a man with a badge knocked on their door. Much to their parents' disappointment, they opened the door and let him in when he explained that he was in the neighborhood inspecting milk. This scenario had been used successfully by a real child predator.

Does the way you word a rule matter?


(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)



Parenting rises to the top of the pyramid

A team of psychologists has revised Abraham Maslow's pyramid of needs based on recent research.   Maslow originally proposed the pyramid in 1943 in a paper titled "A Theory of Human Motivation".  The pyramid showed five levels of needs with physical needs at the bottom and self-actualization at the top. 

This is Maslow's pyramid of needs (Credit: Doug Kenrick, Arizona State University):


The revised version also has "Immediate Physiological Needs" at the bottom but now parenting is at the top - where it belongs!  This is the revised version (Credit: Doug Kenrick, Arizona State University):

When the researchers looked into what makes humans successful in surviving as a species, then mate acquisition, mate retention and parenting came in at the top.  Their research paper explains why parenting is seen as more critical to evolutionary success than self-actualization.

I always felt that parenting is the most important job that any of us will ever do ... and now we have the pyramid to back up this claim!

Criticizing other people's parenting

I was recently talking to a mom who has been struggling with her teenage son's behavior. This past summer they sent "Carl" to spend some time with an uncle's family on a ranch. Carl told his uncle and aunt all about what rotten parents he had.

When my friend and her husband came to pick Carl up, they were unprepared for the criticism they received at the dinner table about their poor parenting. Nobody likes to have their parenting criticized and certainly not in a public situation. Needless to say, this experience has put a huge strain on those family relationships.

While it can be tempting to judge other people's parenting and set them straight, it is not a helpful or compassionate approach. In situations like these it's good to remember the Golden Rule - treat others the way you would like them to treat you.

Bullied into suicide

How are you guiding your children in the ways they should treat others? Do you talk about challenging situations where another child is from a different race, religion or sexual orientation? What values do your children see you demonstrating?

Given the recent tragedies involving teens taking their own lives after being bullied, it’s clear that as parents we need to be more frequently discussing these moral issues. We especially need to talk about how to treat others who are gay or lesbian since these kids are singled out more often for cruel bullying.

One of the most recent tragedies was Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University, who took his life on September 22nd after his college roommate posted video of him and another man making out. The two 18-year-old students who posted the video are being charge with invasion of privacy. They face 5 to 10 years in prison if convicted.

How did these teens ignore the legal and moral issues associated with their behavior? Clearly they are very intelligent to have gotten into Rutgers but they seemed to be lacking any empathy towards Tyler. What went wrong that they didn’t develop this empathy?

It is up to us to teach our children about the importance of treating everyone with dignity. Their future and maybe even their lives depend on it.

Please read me a story!

If you have young children, are you reading stories to them every day? According to the Reach Out and Read organization, “Reading aloud to young children is the single most effective thing parents can do to help prepare their children to succeed in school.”

Unfortunately, not all children are read to daily. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study followed 14,000 children born in 2001. What percentage of those children were read stories daily by family members? I was shocked to find out that in all age groups, it was less than 46%!
  • 9-months-old: 32.5%
  • 2-years-old: 45.3%
  • 4-years-old: 38.6%

Besides spending some wonderful time together, reading stories together provides opportunities for discussing your values with your children. Recently I was reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to a group of preschoolers. We got to the part where Alexander’s best friend has just demoted him from best friend to third best friend at which point Alexander says to him “I hope you sit on a tack.” We had a great discussion around questions like “Is it ok to say mean things to people if you’re really mad at them? What else could Alexander have done?”
 
Enjoy reading a story to your children tonight!

Bullying at school

NorthWest Cable News' recent "Back to School with NorthWest Families" program covered the problem of bullying at school. This is a significant problem in the lives of far too many students. By gaining a deeper understanding of what is really going on in schools, you will be in a better position to help your child.

Bullying takes various forms including threats, taunting and spreading vicious rumors. Now with the internet, cyberbullying takes bullying to a whole new level. I participated in this program by discussing some of these challenges with Shaniqua Manning, the show's News Anchor.

Click this picture to watch the 5 minute video:

Do your children hate your phone?

What do your children really think about the phone calls you answer and the texting you do when you’re with them? NBC’s Dateline producer Kate Snow did a short interview with young children about their feelings on this.

During the discussion, one boy states "I wish phones were never invented!" Snow responds "Ouch! That’s right parents. Our need to always be plugged in is sending our kids a message that they’re not as important."

This two minute video provides insight about how children feel and react to being interrupted by phones.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

3 Keys to Developing Children's Empathy

Children are not born with empathy. They are born with the capacity to have empathy but it only develops under certain conditions. Parents play a critical role in developing their children's empathy.

In their book, Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential - and Endangered, Perry and Szalavitz write “The essence of empathy is the ability to stand in another's shoes, to feel what it's like there and to care about making it better if it hurts.” They document numerous cases where children have not experienced adequate empathy while growing up. These kids' behavior towards others also reflects a lack of empathy which often leads to serious problems.

There are three key things you can do to help develop empathy in your children:
(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

What would your kid do?

We’d all like to believe our children would make the right choice when presented with a challenging situation like whether or not to answer the door to a stranger. But would they make the choice you hope they’d make?

"The Perils of Parenting" program, produced by NBC's Dateline, tested kids in tough situations like these:
  • A stranger comes to the door with a badge asking to come in to inspect milk. Would your child let him in?
  • What would your child do if she were playing a video game with a group of kids and one of the kids started bullying another one?
  • Would your child approach a car when the driver calls out to them that he needs help finding his lost puppy?
  • Would your teen get into a car when he knows that the driver has been drinking? 
  • If your young child was told not to peek at a toy on a table behind him, would he peek?
They tested these situations using hidden cameras where the parents were in a room watching as the scenes unfolded. Parents knew the choice they hoped their children will make – but often they expressed doubt as to whether their child would really make the wise choice. In this unscientific test, parents who periodically drilled their kids on what to do in situations like these made better choices.

What would your child do? This show just might encourage you to have a few more discussions with your children about handling tough situations!


Why, why, why?

Recently I spent time with a family whose 3-year-old was seriously testing his parent’s patience by asking "why?" after almost everything they said. Their older boys had not gone through the stage of relentless "why?" asking and they certainly wished Caleb would have skipped this stage too! They were ready to scream the next time he asked that question!

What's going on with young children that cause them to act like this? According to the Adlerian theory of behavior, children's behavior has a purpose with the goal of feeling belonging and significance. By looking at Caleb's behavior from this viewpoint, he feels a sense of belonging when he can participate in the conversation. Given his limited conversational skills at this age, one of the easiest ways he can continue the conversation is by asking "why?"

He also gains a sense of significance since asking "why?" typically gets a response from his parents. They can sometimes get a break by asking him in return "Why do you think that happened?" Soon Caleb will develop more sophisticated conversation skills, but until that day they are working on their patience!


Formula for Communicating Better with Children

It's easy to respond to your children's behavior in ways that shutdown communication.  If your child comes to you upset because his sister won't share a toy with him, the response that pops into your mind might be "I'm so tired of your fighting!" or "Stop complaining and play with something else."  Saying something like this may get him to go away but probably won't make him feel understood.

In her book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, Naomi Aldort describes her SALVE formula for better communication.

S – "Separate yourself from your child’s behavior and emotions with a Silent Self-talk. This is the hardest step; once you can do it, the rest flows easily. Notice that when your child’s action elicits your reaction, your mind puts words into your mouth. … To avoid hurting your child, read the words on the automatic window silently in your head."

A –“Attention on your child. When you have silently investigated the conversation inside your head (which has nothing to do with your child), shift your attention from yourself and your inner monologue to your child.”

L – "Listen to what your child is saying or to what his actions may be indicating; then listen some more. Make eye contact with your child and ask questions that would provide him with an opportunity to speak some more, or if the child expresses himself non-verbally, to let him know that you understand"

V – "Validate your child’s feelings and the needs he expresses without dramatizing and without adding your own perception."

E – "Empower your child to resolve his own upset by getting out of his way and trusting him. Show confidence in his resourcefulness by not getting all wound up and by not rushing to fix everything."

In the situation where your son has come to you upset because his sister won't share a toy with him, the SALVE formula night work like this:

S - You think "I'm so tired of your fighting!" but you don't say this.
A - You look at your son.
L - You listen and summarize, "You asked to play with her zoo animals but she said no."
V - You validate his feelings, "You're mad because you can't play with the zoo animals right now."
E - You let him decide on what to do next.

The Listening and Validating steps may take awhile as your son continues to discuss the situation.  By not jumping in to solve the problem, you empower him to figure out how to resolve it. 

Check out her book for a more indepth explanation of the SALVE formula plus many other examples:

Seeking guidance from other parents

Parenting is challenging in many ways. However, there is a lot of help available. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel or go it alone. By reaching out to other parents I learned that almost everyone is struggling with similar issues.

Other parents are usually happy to share what they’ve learned when asked! The Priceless Parenting discussion forum is a place where you can ask other parents for their ideas and it's free to join.

Celebrating your parenting success

When's the last time you took time to recognize and celebrate one of your parenting successes?  From small parenting accomplishments like keeping your cool while your child melts down to big ones like launching your teen into college, give yourself a pat on the back!

We are so busy raising our children that it can be difficult to take time to slow down and think about what we've done well.  What milestones has your family recently accomplished?
  • Your baby's first birthday - parenting the first year deserves a celebration
  • Your child getting potty training - now there's something to really celebrate!
  • Your child starting kindergarten, middle school, high school or college - milestone events
We recently dropped my daughter off for her first year of college. I knew that letting her go might be challenging since it's an area my parents struggled with when it came time for me to leave the house.  So I worked especially hard to see the exciting transition from my daughter's viewpoint and not burden her with any guilt for leaving.  I think I did well.  I have a real sense of accomplishment in helping her successfully get settled into college.  Now that's something worth celebrating! 

Wherever you are in parenting, whatever success you've experienced, take time to appreciate the hard work you've put into parenting!

Threatening kids into better behavior

Threatening people works. It works quickly to change their behavior. If a guy with a gun asks you for your wallet, you hand over your wallet. It's not because you've suddenly decided that he deserves your money but rather that you have little choice. What thoughts would be going through your mind in this situation? How would you be feeling towards the gunman?

The same ideas about threats applies with children. We can threaten them to get them to behave but it deteriorates our relationship with them. Threatening children who are misbehaving may get them to change their immediate behavior but it doesn't help them learn to make better choices in the future.

Back to school, back to bullying?

We certainly hope that back to school does not mean back to bullying! Unfortunately being bullied at school is the reality for too many children. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, "Bullying has become a tidal wave of epic proportions."

Everyone's Role

In her book The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander, Barbara Coloroso explains "Breaking the cycle of violence involves more than merely identifying and stopping the bully. It requires that we examine why and how a child becomes a bully or a target of a bully (and sometimes both) as well as the role bystanders play in perpetuating the cycle. A deadly combination is a bully who gets what he wants from his target; a bullied child who is afraid to tell; bystanders who either watch, participate in the bullying, or look away; and adults who discount bullying as teasing, not tormenting;"

When Your Child is the Bully

If your child has bullied someone, it's important to help him build his skills so that he finds better ways of acting in the future. Punishing him by grounding him or taking away privileges may only encourage him to find ways to avoid being caught in the future.

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Turning 18 - legal ramifications for parents

My daughter will soon be turning 18.  My sister-in-law, who is a financial planner, recently sent along some important information about things parents need to think about.  Once children turn 18, they are legally considered adults. This applies even if they are still in high school.

Since they are now adults, parents no longer have the same level of access or authority over their child's financial, educational and medical information. This can cause problems in cases where the child needs help in these areas.

Lowry Hill's article "The Transition to Adulthood: Readying Children for the Real World" discusses things to be considered from a legal and financial viewpoint. They recommend preparing and signing these documents:
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • Durable General Power of Attorney
Having these documents can prevent parents from needing to go to court. For example, they state "Without a Health Care Power of Attorney, parents may end up spending time in emergency court hearings trying to obtain legal authority to make time-sensitive medical decisions for their child."

While filling out legal documents is not the way most of us like to spend our time, these documents could save us a lot of heartache in the future.   These legal documents vary by state and most can be obtained online. 

Educating kids about advertising

Children are bombarded with ads every time they watch TV or use the computer. How saavy are your children about advertising tricks?

There's a fun, educational site called "Don't Buy It: Get Media Smart" that helps kids learn about advertising. There are activities like figuring out what toy is really in the box based on the ad on the box. It's not as easy as it looks ... I got the first one wrong!

My favorite part of the site is their banner ads. They look just like real banner ads you see all over the web but when you click on the ad you see information about that type of ad.

This site does a wonderful job helping kids learn about advertising in a fun way. Best of all it's free!

Constantly correcting children

A dad was at a hotel swimming with his six-year-old daughter. He apparently was in the habit of giving her many warnings even when she was behaving just fine.

He told her many things like
  • “If you don’t put on sunscreen, you’re not going swimming.”
  • “Don’t splash anyone. People don’t like to be splashed.”
  • “If you run, you might slip and get hurt.”
However, she wasn’t splashing, running or refusing to put on sunscreen. He was just warning her in advance.

The problem with these types of warnings is that the unspoken message is “I don’t trust you to know how to behave so I’m telling you.” This is not a message we want to be giving our children!

It’s easy to get in the habit of trying to protect our children from any and all mistakes. However, they’ll do better if we can show confidence in their ability to make good choices.

Letting Go as Children Grow

Letting go isn't easy - especially when it comes to our kids. It can be scary to let go and perhaps to not be there to rescue them from trouble.

However, if our children are to launch successfully as young adults, we need to continually encourage them to become increasingly independent. Most of us find it easy to encourage our babies to take their first steps. It's so exciting to see them learn to walk!

It is far more difficult to leave them for the first time at daycare - especially if they are crying and reaching for you as you walk away! Eventually they learn that you will return and they learn ways to comfort themselves while you are away.

Every day our children take small steps towards independence. Some days our children take big steps - like when they leave for college.

We'll soon be driving our daughter to college for the first time. She'll be living on the other side of the state and starting a new phase of her life. Although I'm excited for her, I'm also saddened knowing how much we'll miss having her at home. Letting go certainly isn't easy.

The online course "Ready to Launch: Parenting Teens Through the College Transition" is a wonderful resource for preparing parents for this change.

Being online - talking to your kids about it

Once your children have access to the internet, there is a whole new set of risks and responsibilities for parents to consider.  From setting up anti-virus software to configuring appropriate parental controls, there's a lot to know.  Besides configuring computers and cellphones, parents also need to talk to their kids about a range of topics from protecting their personal information to cyberbullying.

The Federal Trade Commission's booklet  "NET CETERA: Chatting with Kids About Being Online" provides practical advice on talking to your kids about being online.  This booklet contains a good overview of topics to discuss with your children to increase their abiility to stay safe online.

Are you teaching your kids moderation?

Messages pour into our children about all the wonderful things they should have – from the latest video games to the best tennis shoes. Do our children need al these things? No, but they certainly want them!

We are left with the challenging task of teaching our children the difference between “needs” and “wants”. Learning moderation and that you can’t always have what you want are not easy lessons.

In her book Life is Short – Wear Your Party Pants, Loretta LaRoche cautions “Kids are told over and over to get the latest and the greatest, and it becomes a relentless testing of parents’ willpower. It’s hard to say no when all the other kids have something. But that’s where moderation comes in. If you don’t say no to them, when will you? Giving in just because other kids were able to torture their parents into saying yes isn’t good enough. Perhaps it’s time to gather your family and spend a few hours discussing your values – and moderation needs to be one of them.”

What parents need to know about video chatting

If your children have access to a computer with a webcam and an internet connection, they can use video chatting through their social networking, instant messaging accounts or a program like Skype.  While video chatting adds a richer dimension to communication, it also requires a higher level of responsibility and maturity. 

Is your child ready to handle the responsibilities of video chatting?  Do you have the time and energy to monitor your child's use of video chatting?  Common Sense Media provides some helpful parenting tips on video chatting

Video chatting led to serious problems for 11-year-old "Jessi Slaughter" (her screen name). Using her computer's webcam, she posted videos which included inflammatory language, profanity and violent threats.  Her videos quickly spread across the internet leading to mean pranks and death threats.  According to the ABC News story on Jessi,
Jessi created an Internet firestorm when she posted a nearly five-minute video raging against online bullies who had called her names and accused a friend of raping her.
But her online rage, posted to Stickam, a video-sharing site, and uploaded on YouTube, only prompted more hatred, this time from more experience and vicious computer junkies.
No family wants to go through this horrible experience.  Before giving your children access to video chatting, make sure you and your children are ready to handle the increased responsibility. 


Teens learning about becoming parents

The Parenting and Paternity Awareness (p.a.p.a.) curriculum developed by the State of Texas helps teens learn about the realities of being a parent.  Their site explains "Key themes in the curriculum focus on the importance of father involvement, the value of paternity establishment, the legal realities of child support, the financial and emotional challenges of single parenting, the benefits of both parents being involved in a child's life, healthy relationship skills, and relationship violence prevention."

Since this program was developed with taxpayer money, it is available for free to any teacher who goes through the 6 hour training program.  However, even if your teen's school doesn't offer this program, they can still watch the videos that are part of the p.a.p.a. curriciulum.  It's powerful to see teens explain the impact of having a baby on their lives. 

Four Things That Matter Most in Parenting

What four things matter the most in parenting? Could they be the same as the four things that matter most in life? It is likely they could be the same since our relationships with our children are some of the most significant ones we have in our lives.

The Four Things That Matter Most

In his book, The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living, Ira Byock proclaims these are the four most important things to say to those you love:
  • Please forgive me.  
  • I forgive you.
  • Thank you.
  • I love you. 
Byock explains "Comprising just eleven words, these four short sentences carry the core wisdom of what people who are dying have taught me about what matters most in life." The book contains many moving stories of people who have healed relationships when they've been able to say these things to each other.

Forgiveness - The Hardest Thing To Do

One story in the book is about Avi who had been rejected by his father when he was a boy. He harbored a deep resentment against his father for his cruel behavior. When he found out his father was dying, he realized how much his hatred of his father was still controlling his own life. It was even interfering with the relationships he had with his own young sons.

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Characteristics of bullies and victims

Recent research reviewing 153 studies over the past 30 years on bullies and victims found consistent characteristics of bullies and victims.  The press release published by the American Psychological Assocation summarizes the findings from Clayton R. Cook, PhD, of Louisiana State University and co-authors from the University of California at Riverside:
“A typical bully has trouble resolving problems with others and also has trouble academically,” said Cook. “He or she usually has negative attitudes and beliefs about others, feels negatively toward himself/herself, comes from a family environment characterized by conflict and poor parenting, perceives school as negative and is negatively influenced by peers.”
“A typical victim is likely to be aggressive, lack social skills, think negative thoughts, experience difficulties in solving social problems, come from negative family, school and community environments and be noticeably rejected and isolated by peers,” said Cook.
Given these underlying issues, programs that focus on temporarily removing the bullies from the environment aren't very effective.  A better approach is recommended in the report:
“Intervene with the parents, peers and schools simultaneously,” said Cook. “Behavioral parent training could be used in the home while building good peer relationship and problem-solving skills could be offered in the schools, along with academic help for those having troubling in this area.”
While there are no easy solutions, working to address the underlying issues is in everyone's best interest.

TV and tots = language delays

As tempting as it is to put a young child in front of a TV for a moment of peace, resist the urge!   Evidence is mounting on various developmental problems in babies caused by watching too much TV.  Babies miss critical practice with language and reading emotions when they or their parents are distracted by TV.    
Discover Magazine reports research by Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a University of Washington pediatrician, showing that "for every hour a television was turned on, babies heard 770 fewer words from an adult, the new study found. Conversational exchanges between baby and parent dropped 15%, as did the overall number of vocalizations made by children."  

Babies brains are wired based on the input they receive.  They need lots of loving attention to develop their language and social skills.  These are the things a caring parent can provide but that a television does poorly at!


Tell me more

All the grandchildren wanted to spend time with my Grandma. What was it that made her so special? Why did we excitedly look forward to spending a few days with our family staying in her one bedroom apartment at the top of an old house?

Grandma had a wonderful way of making each of us feel treasured and appreciated. She asked about everything we were doing and listened carefully to all we had to say. We simply glowed under her attention.

Children thrive on positive attention. The next time your children mention a challenge they're struggling with, try replying “Come here and tell me all about it.” Let me know what happens!



You're being watched!

Have you ever noticed how closely your children observe your behavior, even when you think they're not paying attention? Many parents have grimaced when their young children can't seem to enunciate clearly until it comes to repeating a swear word that they just heard their parents say!

When I realized how carefully my children were watching my every move and often imitating me, I was motivated to become the best role model I could be. I learned that by treating them with respect and teaching them to treat me with respect, they treated their friends and teachers with respect. By showing compassion to them, they showed others compassion. I saw my behavior reflected in their behavior.

Allow children’s constant surveillance to bring out your finest behavior!

Dealing with a picky eater

What's a parent to do when their children regularly complain about their food? It's too crunchy, too mushy, too hot, too cold or worse yet it's touching other food!

According to a Zero to Three article, "Picky eating usually peaks in the toddler and preschool years. Many parents worry that their picky eater is not getting enough nutrition to grow. But in most cases, he is."

For ideas on handling your picky eater, read their article "It's Too Mushy! It's Too Spicy! The Peas Are Touching the Chicken! (Or, How to Handle Your Picky Eater)".

Parents being too self-critical

I’ve spoken to a number of parents who are working hard to be the best parents they can be. Yet they are very critical of themselves. Unfortunately this criticism sometimes stems from their own parents or other parents disagreeing with their parenting approaches.

It may help to remember that there are no perfect parents. Give yourself credit for being committed to doing the best you can in the difficult job of raising your kids. Acknowledge all the times when you know you’ve gotten it right.

When you make a parenting mistake, don’t be afraid to apologize to your children. Let them know how you plan to handle situations like this differently in the future. Your children will appreciate your honesty while learning how to make amends for mistakes.

Parenting is hard work! Do something for yourself in appreciation for how hard you’ve worked to create the family you have.

Limiting screen time for kids this summer

Do you feel your kids are spending too much time watching TV, playing video games and being on the computer? Do ever find it challenging to get them to turn off the TV or computer and go outside to play? If so, join the crowd!

How much time are kids really spending with media?

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report in January 2010 showing the average amount of time kids 8 - 18 are spending with media. These are the numbers for a typical day:
  • TV (4 hours, 29 minutes)
  • Music/audio (2 hours, 31 minutes)
  • Computer (1 hour, 29 minutes)
  • Video Games (1 hour, 13 minutes)
  • Print (38 minutes)
  • Movies (25 minutes)
This adds up to 10 hours and 45 minutes of media exposure. When using more than one media concurrently is taken into account, the media time is 7 hours and 38 minutes.

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Asking for help

Like many moms I know, I'm reluctant to ask for help. I feel like I should be able to balance everything ... and do it with a smile!

However, one recent day I was overwhelmed and I knew it. Within an hour I needed to have dinner made, served, eaten, clothes changed and my son ready to go in the car to drive to his band concert. When I realized I wasn't going to be able to get everything done while still maintaining my sanity, I declared "I need help!"

My husband and daughter immediately responded that they would take care of making dinner. What a relief! Belonging to a loving family who supports each other is the greatest gift of all.

When a little princess gets cancer

When Isabel was 3-years-old her parents attended one of my parenting classes. We discussed all the typical parenting challenges from tantrums to sibling fighting. Little did we know the heart wrenching parenting issues that lay ahead.

A year ago, shortly after turning 4-years-old, Isabel's knees started hurting. The first doctor thought it was a bruised knee. When the pain worsened, they took her to Children's Hospital where they learned she has Burkitts Leukemia.

She was immediately started on the first of nine rounds of chemotherapy. She spent 5-6 days in the hospital receiving each round of chemo plus had many pills to take at home. When her mom was at wits end trying to get Isabel to swallow one of her pills, she called me to see if I had any ideas. Yikes ... far outside my parenting expertise ... but perhaps she might swallow it along with some of my homemade plum jelly. I could offer jelly and emotional support. The jelly didn't work.

I got to know Isabel and her family over the 6 months of her treatment. Isabel's mom was at the hospital with her every step of the way. Her strength and ability to stay positive was truly inspirational.

Saturday Isabel celebrated her 5th birthday with a princess birthday party theme. She loves the magical world of princesses and was very bothered by her hair falling out because of the chemo. All the princesses had long, pretty hair so how could she be a princess? Her hair is now growing back but with or without hair, she has always been a beautiful princess.

From babies to graduating seniors

Last night my daughter graduated from high school. I felt so proud and happy realizing what a wonderful person she's blossomed into. I also felt sad knowing this is a turning point. She will leave for college in August and our family will never be the same.

She's been an awesome teen and a lot of fun to be around. One day a couple months ago I came home to the delicious smell of homemade bread she had just made. I told her this was why she couldn't leave for college!

However, it will soon be time for her to leave. How did so much time go by so quickly? I remember when she was born my parents told me to enjoy every minute because she'll grow up too fast. They were right! Although the days are sometimes long, the years go by fast.

Wherever you are in raising your children take time today to have fun with them. You will never regret the happy times you've spent with your children.

Encouraging Words for Parents

You work hard as a parent to do the best for your kids.  For the most part, it is a thankless job.  Watch this video for some encouraging ...