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Posts in Parenting tips Category


Parent Speak

Posted by Kristen on September 6, 2010 at 6:58 AM in Parenting tipsTalking with kids
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I'm a big speller in my house. I find it to be the best form of cryptic communication with my husband on most matters involving children. More often than not my children realize we are speaking about them but for some reason let it slide. Every once in a while someone will ask what we are talking about but normally that would require someone to actually stop talking to hear me speak. Luckily that never happens.

Ethan has started to catch on every once in a while and has learned to spell big ticket kid words like "ice cream" and "park" and "zoo." This has really brought me down. I knew this day would come but I was hoping it would last forever. In order to combat the imminent decline of our top secret communications, I have begun to spell faster.

Unfortunately for us, my husband has a mild case of dyslexia. These two are a horrible combination. Add to the fact that our generation uses Google for spell check (what's a dictionary?), my spelling has become a little shoddy. Long gone is my efficiency of being able to spell "acquaintance" in a snap like I could in the third grade. So now I'm misspelling fast.

Derek also has a communication problem before his second cup of coffee in the morning. When you wake up ready to go without coffee, it sometimes slips your mind that others are not so lucky. So when I wanted to rehash a middle of the night incident of getting up, I thought I would start out slow.

K: Did you ask him "w-h-y" that happened last night?
D: Why what?
K: Seriously. I was spelling.
D: But why would you spell "why?"
K: I don't think that my spelling "why" is the issue regarding why you said "why." I spelled "why" because I didn't want him to know what we were talking about yet.
D: But does "why" really give anything away by just saying "why?"
K: Probably not but now we'll never know.

The best part about the whole situation was that Ethan was standing right there and he didn't even blink in our direction when we were not-so-subtly talking about him. I'd like to think I have just numbed him by spelling all the time. It's clearly just a habit of mine to randomly spell and has no relation to my desired level of secrecy.

I spell with everyone in front of my children and I have come to the startling realization that my husband is EXCELLENT at mental translation. Who knew? In fact, I've been known to spell while out with my friends and not in the presence of any children.One of my friends recently asked me to never again spell in her presence because she cannot spell and it stressed her out. I should have asked her how we are supposed to talk about the children in front of the children because now I don't know.

And I feel a little bad about giving Derek a difficult time about not keeping up at 5:45 a.m. on mornings like this morning. Even if I don't understand why.


Six Tips for Moving with Kids

Posted by Patience on August 6, 2010 at 5:30 AM in Parenting tips
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In ten years of parenting, I have moved seven times with kids. Even just writing that sentence makes me tired. I thought for a long time we were just nomads, but I realized it was really a kind of family strategy. No one place or space defined family for us. We are a family wherever we go; every move called and reminded us to stay close to each other and not our surroundings or things. It felt like we were on a new adventure together whenever things started to get stale.

Luckily, our kids are pretty laid back and never seemed too bothered by the change. It helped that we managed to stay in the same city for all the moves except one. This last move, however, was pretty brutal. I kept a running list in my head of all the tips that would have made things easier.

So here you are, from the moving mother:

1. Spread out the move out over a couple days. Moving an entire house in one day makes for very exhausted and grumpy parents. It is more work than anyone should do. If you are moving locally, see if you can get into your new house just a few days early, it is worth every penny. Moving room by room is one thousand times better than trying to sort out a sea of boxes. It makes for an easier transition for the littlest members of your family, too.

2. Hire multiple babysitters or enlist family and friends to help. Hype up a play date extravaganza week for the kids. Pick their most favorite people and friends to watch them for short or long stretches depending on their ages. Trying to do anything on a timed schedule with kids around is near impossible and having kids gone will let you go at lightning speed. Also enlist helpers for after the move, which will be a life saver when you really need to get settled and make your space finally feel like home.

3. Honor your old home and welcome the new house. We left a pile of boxes one day to take a break and go pick berries for our old and new neighbors. We made a list of all the things we will miss in the old and all the things we want to do in the new. We wrote thank you notes to our old neighbor who was always so kind to our kids.
If you are moving far away you may want to self address envelopes and hand out to your kids' most important people and friends to send them a letter during the first few weeks when everyone may start to feel homesick.

moving love2.jpg

4. Make a check list and give everyone a job. Most small children worry about if all the things they care about will make it during a move. Make a check list with your kids listing the things most important to them. Pack the "special box" together and take it in your car if at all possible. Pretend like you are going on vacation; pack a bag of snacks and loot to pull out in difficult moments or to buy some needed busy time.

Give kids simple jobs to keep them feeling connected and part of the decision to move. Call family meetings to check-in with each member about how things are going and what everyone might need throughout the move.

5. Don't wait to make connections. Find local list serves, co-ops and other neighborhood connections that might make your transition and introduction to your new place smoother. Introduce yourself on the block or floor as soon as you can, knowing your neighbors is the best way to get the lay of the land.

6. Invite some art into the process. Big brown boxes might be the most popular toy of all time. Buy a pack of markers and let the kids go to town coloring and making their own playhouse out of discarded boxes, or even create a box city in the back yard. Hours of fun, I promise!

Are you a mover, too? Tell us your best moving tips in the comments.


Toddlers and Tantrums

Posted by Patience on July 23, 2010 at 10:30 AM in Kid problemsParenting tips
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Don't let the cuteness fool you. Just moments after this picture was taken, a full-blown tantrum unfolded right there in the Fine Arts Museum's lobby. It was the perfect place for a tantrum: expensive art to break, high ceilings to echo the screaming, lots of people to watch.

I guess the real question is, "Who would take a toddler to such a place?" My answer:
The mother who loves art, who includes her children in every day life, who believes somewhere deep down that conflict is okay. The seasoned mother of four who has lost her mind!

The truth is, I don't believe all places are meant for children, but the opening day of a new wing at the museum was okay. Besides, tantrums can happen anywhere. So, what's a parent to do? Here's what I'm learning (with more practice than I care to admit):

1. Get face to face. Sometimes, all it takes is for me to get down to her level on my knees and be close. Talking close to her face and resisting the urge to raise my voice can draw her in, if we are at the start of the tantrum. My body language sends the message that I'm open to listen.

2. Validate and ask questions. Even though Lyra can't totally communicate (hence the tantrum), the validation and the questions can give her a chance to nod her head to help me know how to help her.
"I know you are sad, angry, frustrated, etc. I would like to help you...Can I get you _______?"

3. Know the point of no return. When we're past the point of helping or sorting through the tantrum and are just crying, flailing, yelling, it's time to leave. Removing your child from the space helps everyone. A change of scenery might diffuse the reaction and is respectful to others around you. Of course there are the moments when you can't leave. Why do these things always happen in the check out line? In these moments, I pick one reassuring phrase and repeat it.

"I know you are upset, I will help you as soon as I can. It's okay. It will be okay."
When we finally get out of the store, she's fine and I feel like I've just been to war, but sometimes, it is about just getting through.

4. Remind them that hands are for hugging. I often have tor remind my kids what there hands, feet and mouth are for in the moment of misuse: "I can't let you hit me, and besides your hands are for playing, hugging, building, etc... Or, "These are the things you can hit- pillow, ball, etc. " It sounds silly, but it works in the long run. It gives an appropriate outlet for the frustration and reminds the child of her other capabilities. It's a good segue to offering to fill a need, too: "My hands can hug, too, do you need a hug?" Kindness melts me when I want to tantrum; it often works on the kids, too.

5. Be honest with yourself. Sometimes, I just need to bail. I need to call in reinforcements, and I'm not afraid to tell my kids. "I love you, but I'm really tired from our hard day (even though she doesn't remember the 253 tantrums). Papa is going to help you, and I'm going to take a break."

What do you do about tantrums? Give us your best tips in the comments.


25 Things I Know Now as a Parent

Posted by Jen on July 14, 2010 at 7:23 AM in Parenting tips
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1. Silly string really is worth the unjustifiable purchase when you're being lobbied hard in the store.

2. Nothing good can come from leaving the cake batter unattended, even for one minute.

3. Your example will be followed faster than your rules.

4. If you always say yes, it's probably time to say no.

5. If you always lean towards no, say yes.

6. Your intuition is a better guide than everyone else's opinion of how you should do it.

7. There's nothing like dancing in the living room to get everybody in a better mood.

8. Kids never stop needing you at bedtime, and it's never about the extra glass of water.

9. No matter what they say or how they act, your kids really know you care.

10. There's no such thing as too much time playing outside.

11. Regular bathing is way overrated.

12. Regular haircuts, however, do something mysteriously good for self-esteem and sometimes self-control.

13. Playing together is just as important as eating right and going to bed on time.

14. Your kids are on your side, willing to comply, more than you know.

15. Being tough is important, but you have to know how and when.

16. Mistakes will be forgiven.

17. Your presence is more important than any opportunity you could provide.

18. Kids aren't the only ones with too much screen time.

19. How you handle your own relationship troubles will teach your kids how to handle theirs.

20. No one is too old to be snuggled.

21. Listening is the most powerful way to get through to your kids, no matter what's going on.

22. If you buy the big thing of bubble stuff, it will get spilled in the first five minutes.

23. Without a doubt, a big cardboard box is the best gift they'll ever get, no matter what the age.

24. Telling stories about yourself at their same ages is an endless source of delight, especially if you tell the ones where you got it all wrong trying to get it all right.

25. Committing to your own personal growth and well-being reassures kids and creates a safe space for them to tackle their own challenges, without worrying about yours.

Wanna play? Write your own list of 25 Things you know now as a parent and leave a link to your blog or facebook page in the comments below! You can even tweet your 25--just be sure to follow @pbssupersisters, so we can find you!


The Spelling Candy

Posted by Patience on February 19, 2010 at 10:48 AM in Kid problemsParenting tipsSchool
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spelling candy.jpg

It was Wednesday again, the homework day that Jack dreads each week. I have to be honest, I do not look forward to it either. It's the day when he must write five sentences using his spelling words. Reading has come very slowly to Jack so forming words is like his worst nightmare.

"It's so hard! I'm so, so frustrated!" he says with his palm on his forehead. We sound out each word slowly, he writes until we get to the third sentence. I suggested a break but he just wanted to be done. There were computer games to be played and outdoor sword battles waiting for him.

"I think I know what you need." I said.
"You do?" he replied somewhat intrigued.
"I think you probably need some spelling candy. It may or may not work, but it's worth a shot. Whaddya think?" I waited to see if my very alternative idea would work.

"Yes! Whatever it is mom, I'll try it. I mean, candy sounds good anyway." he said.

I went into the kitchen to dig through my junk basket. My house is way too small to be provided the luxury of a whole junk drawer, so basket it is. At the bottom I found a very tacky diamond shaped plastic box I got months ago in a gift bag I received from an awards event I attended. It was from a local jeweler hoping I'd come pick out some lovely ring or anklet I'm sure.

I remember thinking how nice the bath salts would be but when I opened the tiny box to smell them, I quickly realized much to my disappointment, it was rock candy. It seemed though the entire repurposing made total sense for this moment.

I handed him three little tiny candy crystals for his last three sentences. He held them like he had just discovered the holy grail and promptly returned to his work.
"Mom, I think this spelling candy is really working. " he said.
"Oh, I'm glad. I thought it might but I was a little worried it wouldn't. I'm just happy you are feeling better about the whole thing."
In just a few more minutes he was finished.

He still asks me every now and then for the spelling candy when he feels a little stuck. Jack carefully rations the candies out as I told him he probably won't even need them by the end of the year. I sometimes wonder if this is a terrible idea on multiple levels but he has seemed to find the balance of not relying on it too much yet finding a tiny bit of power in the jewelry store swag.

I remember the kindergarten days I made power pancakes for Josiah when he was struggling to find his own. What do you think of this alternative parenting idea? Is it misleading or just creative?

What do you do when your kids get stuck? Tell us your ideas and thoughts in the comments.


Parent to Parent: How to Work Together without Judgment

Posted by Jen on February 10, 2010 at 7:00 AM in Parenting tips
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more love notes

It's bound to happen. You're in a conversation with a spouse or another parent about some aspect of child development, education or parenting and you get your buttons pushed. Or worse--you find yourself in a discussion with a partner or relative over how to handle kid conflict and you stumble into someone else's sweet spot of insecurity or defensiveness. How do you keep your conversations positive so you can work together to give your kids the parental support they deserve?

Ask questions first. Sometimes I think I understand a situation, even after hearing just a few sentences. It's easy in these instances to jump in with an opinion or advice and be on my way. But sometimes--especially when someone is really upset or struggling--there's a lot going on behind the scenes that make the circumstances much more complicated than I could possibly realize. The best way to avoid an unwanted fight is to check my assumptions by asking questions first. By asking for more information, I give the other person a chance to reflect. I give myself a chance to really understand what's going on.

Listen for the need. A lot of times we talk, talk, talk about the problem--usually about what someone else is doing that is driving us nuts--be it a child, spouse or friend. Things tend to resolve more quickly, however, when we can identify what we really need. Whether you are the one in crisis or you are trying to offer support to someone who is, things don't start moving in a positive direction until our needs are on the table. One thing we can do for each other as parents and friends is try to help each other identify what we really need. Here's the short list of things that parents need while raising kids: support, encouragement, factual information, friendship, knowledge of current research/trends, mentoring, appreciation.

Notice the emotion. Even when someone is asking for advice, many times what they really need first is understanding and empathy. When those two things are in place, it is much easier to really listen deeply to the input from people around you. Without understanding and empathy, all the advice in the world doesn't feel quite right--and you can even feel attacked, when the other person was just trying to help. Try this experiment: Listen to the problem and try to guess what emotion they are experiencing. Then check to see if you were right. "Wow! Are you feeling frustrated about this situation? or are you more disappointed?" Presenting your guess as a question helps everyone involved feel safe and heard.

Pay attention to your gut. If you feel your blood pressure rise when you read a particular article, there's a chance that you have some important history with this topic that demands your full attention. For example, I had a very traumatic birth with Carter, so I'm not exactly the most objective person in the world when people start offering the same advice I took before things headed south. In these cases, I know it's better for me to take a step back and not jump into the conversation until I can offer my advice without judgment or an agenda. The tell-tale sign this is happening? When I think there is only ONE way to address the problem.

Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. When conflicts arise between partners, know that you both care tremendously about what happens regarding your children's well-being. There's no one expert on parenting and there's no one expert on child development. Consider the possibility that you both have something significant to bring to the table.

How do you handle conflicts over kids or parenting advice when you and your partner or friend disagree?


Cabin Fever Fun

Posted by Patience on February 5, 2010 at 7:07 AM in Parenting tips
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snow day luce and papa.jpg

We are on our 4th snow storm for the year here in Central Virginia which is positively crazy! The snow hasn't blessed us with her presence so much since like 1961. While I am still delirious over the snow, the untimely stomach bug sent our cabin fever over the edge. I imagine even all of the brave people in the greater snow areas eventually hit some level of crazy with kids indoors so even as a novice, here are a few ideas to cure the boredom:

1. Stop and play!- Just surrender, stop the chore, task or other productive idea and play. After being interrupted for 5,234th time yesterday I asked the kids if they wanted to play four corners. After we got bored of that, we played hide and seek. Playing with children cures almost always cure every angst you got going.

2. Change the scenery. Bring the outside in. Get a flat under the bed stoarge bin or just a big mixing bowl. Bring a pile of snow inside to sculpt and watch melt. Sticks from the outside or even straws are perfect for constructing tiny snow creations. Throw in some tiny plastic animals to make a snow zoo.

3. Get creative. We are deep into art these days as we recently turned an old sunroom into an art studio. Flip books are our recent latest obsession. You can learn how to make them here. If you are feeling super adventurous, create your own mini-art station or studio on a table for the week. Set out different art supplies everyday inviting new creativity.

4. Read and Watch. There is a big media rule in our house, you must read the book before you see the movie. The kids both loathe and love this rule. There have been a few moments it has been broken but not very often. Being stuck at home is the perfect time to read The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, or some other gem that has been turned into a moving picture. Thanks to Netflix you can promptly watch the movie and discuss which was better.

5. Cook Together. Put those kids to work! Here are some great ideas about inviting kids into the kitchen and here are some tips for keeping it healthy.

Okay, give us your cabin fever remedies in the comments! We could all use them right about now.


Celebrating When Things Go Well

Posted by Jen on January 27, 2010 at 7:00 AM in Family ActivitiesParenting tips
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rock on2

What do you do when things go right? When major milestones are reached? When stubborn behaviors give way to great new habits? You could reward your kids, but that can get exhausting after awhile. You could use praise, but research shows that verbal rewards can sometimes end up not being particularly effective. Here are a handful of joyful alternates that will help you as a parent let your child see your relief, delight and pleasure in their very important process of growing up.

Woohoo world! You'll have to test the waters and see if this is something your kids like or not. I learned this little form of celebration from a woman named Kirby who routinely opened windows and doors to shout to the world her happiness. Today Carter found his missing jacket and put it right back on the hook where it belonged. After an agonizing series of weeks where getting Carter to take responsibility for his clothes seemed like a herculean task, I felt a "Woohoo" was in order. I opened the back door and yelled for the whole neighborhood to hear, "Woohoo World! Carter put his jacket on the hook without being told!" Carter thought this was really funny and I felt great having a chance to put some volume to my relief that we are finally making progress in this area.

Let me tell you a secret. My kids love it if I call them over for a little whisper in the ear. I use these occasions to tell them how relieved, happy, delighted I am to see a specific way they are learning and growing. It's not praise per se; just an honest account of how i genuinely feel when I see they are conquering their developmental tasks. Ending my whisper with a hug lets my kids know that I'm noticing all the ways they are becoming people who care about their family, friends and neighborhood.

Total appreciation. Sometimes the nicest way to celebrate an accomplishment is with an old fashioned thank you note. Imagine what you would write if your kid was a co-worker who had really given that last project his best. When kids start to take responsibility for their schoolwork, possessions, living space or relationships, it's time to take notice. Make a list of the things that meant the most of you and close with a special thank you. Leave your gratitude note somewhere it can be discovered with joy.

Party down. When things are going well, it's totally worth it to you as a parent to make sure your kids know. Too often we wait for the wheels to fall off the wagon before we communicate how important things are to us. Go out for pizza, eat ice cream together out of the carton--do whatever it takes to communicate to your kids that life (and learning!) are worth celebrating.

These are just four ways to let your kids know that you notice all the ways they are learning, growing and engaging in the world. What else can we add to this list?


The New Year Revolution

Posted by Patience on January 1, 2010 at 7:15 AM in Connecting with kidsFamily ActivitiesHolidaysParenting tips
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glow stick mustache.jpg

I'm always torn by New Year resolutions. On the one hand, it seems like the natural time to work on something in your life and on the other they always seem to be some sort of set up for personal failure. I went back and forth in my parenting mind if I should even bring the subject up with the kids who completely live in the moment anyway but Jorge unintentionally decided for me at dinner the other night.

"So guys, do you think our family should have any New Year's resolutions this year?" he said.
"What's a New Year's revolution?" Jack replied.

We both laughed and Jorge went on to explain. Instead of the usual set up for personal development he framed it a little differently by asking the kids if there was anything new they think we should try together, or anything different they wanted to be part of our family life. I was sure someone would insist we should get another dog and I would be toast but surprisingly they got the whole concept.

"I think we should be outside more, that should be our revolution. " Jack said.
"That's perfect because we just ordered the new trampoline today that Marmie and Opa gave you for Christmas." I returned.
"And I want to ride bikes with papa now that his knee is better." Josiah piped in.

So right there at the dinner table, we crafted a plan for our Salgado family outdoor "revolution". Here are few things I learned in the process.

Keep it positive. I think I would have just said, "We should exercise more, don't you think?" Jorge's approach to "enhance" our life instead of "fix" it made the invitation/goal feel more positive and attainable.

Brainstorm together. Letting the kids direct the idea gave them ownership and investment in its success. It also leaves the door open for further development down the road if this plan doesn't really work and we need to come back to the drawing board.

Keep it simple. Being outside together is pretty general, there are about a million things to do outside. This leaves our options wide open and makes it easy to add to our everyday lives.

Create a visual. Get a large roll of paper and markers. Write or draw pictures of all the ideas or things you want to try in creating your revolution. Hang it on the back of a door you open and close a lot in your house to remind you of all that is possible.

We'll see how it works out over here, I promise to let you know if our resolution turns into a totally (as Jack says) revolutionary idea. What do you think about kids and resolutions? Do you do them for yourself? Do you think they are a teaching opportunity or a waste of time?
Let us know in the comments.


Pay Attention--or Else! How Giving In Can Break the Cycle of Negative Interactions

Posted by Jen on December 2, 2009 at 7:56 AM in Parenting tips
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guinea pigs

Here's a lesson I tend to forget over and over again:  Kids crave attention in whatever form they can get it--even if the only attention they garner comes in a negative form. Forget this one and you find yourself in a constant struggle, wondering how you can break the cycle and get back in sync with yourself and your kids.

When my kids were smaller and starting to act up, I liked to ask them this simple question:  "Do you need attention right now?"  Almost always they would respond with a wimpering, whiny "yes!"    I then followed up with a very kind and quiet-- "Do you want the getting-in-trouble kind of attention or the gentle-loving kind of attention?"  You can guess what the answer was to that one. 

From there I tried to help them narrow down what would feel best right now from this laundry list of options listed below.  Before long, they learned how to ask for exactly what they needed---not always as quickly as I would like, but at least they were beginning to understand that their feelings were connected to their needs.  Now that they are older, we still work on this point all the time, but at least we've laid the groundwork for the vocabulary we all require to solve these kinds of problems.

The point for me as a parent is to recognize that very often naughty or annoying behavior isn't so much true rebellion as it is a request from my child for me to engage in a more thoughtful manner.  The funny thing is that kids aren't the only ones acting up to get what they want--think about all the times you might huff around the house when you just need your partner to focus and listen instead.

Now that my kids are hitting new stages of emotional and physical development, their need for connection is as great as ever--a fact I'm trying to remember when tweenage moodiness puts a strain on communication and a burst in cognitive development keeps the younger one knee deep in the need for new data.

Here's the kinds of attention my kids at 8 and 11 have been longing for:

Physical affection. I try not to question the obvious. That grumpy girl still wants to crawl in my lap even though her raging pre-adolescent hormones are keeping her in a cloud of negativity. I'm learning to reach out anyway.

Listening attention.  Being a captive audience while my kids expound on playground politics or the intricacies of a new game makes a huge difference in everyone's mood and beats listening to fighting.

Playing attention.  Right now nothing makes my kids happier if we crank up the music and have a dance party where they have my focus and participation without any distraction. When I choose to give them attention in this way, the need for negative attention is easily kept at bay.

How are you breaking the negative cycle of attention seeking and getting back on track with more positive playful interactions? Do you believe attention is a requirement for children or that they need more practice managing their need for interaction on their own in order to be well-balanced adults?

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