My Top 10 parenting blog posts from 2014

As this year comes to a close, I wanted to take this time to highlight some of my parenting posts from this past year (in no particular order). If you missed out on these and want to read more, simply click the “more” link to see the complete post.

listening1.) Eight tips to end the “my kids never listen to me” dilemma – You’ve repeated your request a thousand times – or at least if feel like that. But there sits your child ignoring what you just told them to do. The funny thing is that even though we know our kids may tune us out and choose to focus on their TV program we keep doing the same thing. Sometimes it feels the only way to get the kids to listen is to raise my voice. Then I feel guilty about yelling at them. (more)

2.) If you have children, you need a will (and life insurance) – Most people don’t like to think about death or dying – especially when it is their own life they are considering. And this fear of thinking about it causes many to ignore the subject all together, falsely believing that it won’t happen to them. Or perhaps they have decided that they don’t care what happens after they die. I mean they are already gone, right? (more)

3.) The thing I hate most about party planning – the RSVP (part of 3 part series on parties) – Throwing a party for your child can be a lot of work. I don’t mind the actual party or even the planning of my kids’ parties. In fact, I love designing their invitations. What I hate is waiting for people to RSVP. (more)

4.) Adding a Lego-twist to an army-themed birthday party – After Jase’s birthday party in 2013, I decided that we were done with throwing a party and inviting the whole class to some sort of party place. As Jase gets older, I want to scale back his parties. So we started talking about doing one at home or maybe something with just a few friends at another location. (more)

5.) My kids’ lack of care with their possessions – Just an instant before it hit the water, I realized the doll my daughter tossed into the bathtub was a singing (electronic voice box) doll. Even though my son fished it out quickly, I feared the damage had been done. (more)

CIMG28986.) Planning a trip to Disney World – Part 3 – Our Disney World vacation is getting so close – just a few weeks away in fact. There are so many things I could cover, but I think today I will talk about an ever-changing development as well as one of their annual events. (more)

7.) One down, three ups – “You’re stupid.” “You’re so ugly.” “Poopyhead.”  “You big baby.” Yep, these are all things out of the mouths of children – specifically those would be my children earlier this summer. Some people may brush this off as kids just being kids. Often times kids simply repeat things they hear on TV or from other kids without thinking that these things can hurt others. But they can and they do. (more)

8.) Scheduling Time for Family Dinners – My kids are lucky enough to live within close proximity to both set of grandparents. My parents moved to a city 20 minutes away before my son was born, and my in-laws moved to a small town about 20 minutes north of here about 2 ½ years ago. (more)

9.) Avoiding the Summer Slide – school work in the summer – “Ahh, mom, do we have to?” This is the typical response I receive from my kids when I announce we are going to do school work today – during school vacation. Yes, this summer I am making them review school work and read books so all the knowledge they learned last school year stays “fresh” in their minds. (more)

10.) Why the Otterbox Commuter is so worth it  – When I got my iPhone 4 back in December of 2011, one of the first things I did was look for a cover that would protect the phone if I (or more likely, one of my kids) dropped it. I had heard Otterbox phone cases were very popular and after reading reviews decided I needed one. (more)

So here is to hoping everyone has a wonderful 2015 and I hope you will join me in the new year for more parenting posts.

Living with a “shy” child brings back childhood memories

Jase has always been reserved. He is more likely to sit back and observe first rather than jump into the action. I would call him “shy” but everything I have read discourages you from labeling your child, whether it be shy (Jase) or a drama-queen (Lexie).

And it seems Jase has gotten worse this past year as all of a sudden he is worried about what others think of him. He was all for using colored hairspray for the crazy-hair day at school until it was time to walk to school. Then he became worried about what others would say or that no one else would have crazy hair. Nothing I said seemed to help him.

The thing is I remember feeling the same way as a child. I wanted to blend in. I didn’t want to be the center of attention, and I certainly didn’t like people laughing at me. Jase is definitely the same.

Even his teacher said her focus this year would be to build Jase’s confidence. He has been hesitant to participate in class and to talk to her in a one-on-one conversation. When we bought his teacher a book from the school book sale, he slipped it on her desk when she wasn’t looking. He tried the same thing with a karate permission slip he needed signed before taking his last test.

This reserved attitude is one of the reasons we held him back from kindergarten and enrolled him in the “Gift-of-Time” program. When in preschool, he didn’t actually talk to the teacher until April. He never looked most of the adults in the eye as they helped him during drop off or pick up. That extra year did a lot for him.

As he continues to grow, I hope he will grow out of his shyness. Both my husband and I were shy as children. We both have shed some of that shyness. I am still reserved in groups. I wish I knew how to help Jase, but all his shyness does is remind me of my own childhood.

Recently, I turned to the Internet for some help. I really liked the advice from Parenting Your Shy Child from the Shake Your Shyness website. They at least understood that all kids are not shy in the same way. Jase is confident at home and with his best friend. It is in group settings such as school or settings such as at Lexie’s soccer game where he didn’t want to ask for a donut after the last game of the season. (The coach brought extra for siblings.)

They list some activities to try and there is even some suggested reading. One thing that I found interesting is that parents can be reinforcing their child’s shyness by their actions. I think to help Jase it will take some time. But hopefully, I can put away my own memories of childhood and have the patience to help him overcome or at least better handle his reserved nature.

Eight tips to end the “my kids never listen to me” dilemma

listeningYou’ve repeated your request a thousand times – or at least if feel like that. But there sits your child ignoring what you just told them to do. The funny thing is that even though we know our kids may tune us out and choose to focus on their TV program we keep doing the same thing. Sometimes it feels the only way to get the kids to listen is to raise my voice. Then I feel guilty about yelling at them.

What needs to change is my behavior. I mean doing the same thing and expecting different results seems ridiculous. So I turned to the Internet to look for some new ideas or maybe just a reminder of things to try. Here is some of what I found.

  • Consider their age – I think sometimes we as adults expect our kids to think and behave like we do. But they are not little adults. It is our responsibility to teach them what they need to do. So instead of yelling at them and repeating the same thing over, consider telling them once and then “helping” them to do what you asked. I have often found especially with Lexie that she sometimes just doesn’t understand what we want her to do – even if she had done it before.
  • Consider what you say – Take some time to listen to what you say to your kids. Is everything negative? Are you constantly lecturing them and yelling? If so, it is natural reaction to tune someone out and disconnect from the negativity. Change your approach and maybe the results will be different.
  • Don’t give them repeat chances – Tell them once. Don’t say by the time I count to three (or ten or whatever) because you know they are going to wait to the last second to comply. I remember reading one parenting book that said you should tell them once but lay out the consequence of not doing whatever you asked. “Please pick up your toys in the living room. Any toys I find when I come back in ten minutes are going in the time out box for a week.” And then follow through.
  • Try lowering your voice – I have heard this time and time again. Instead of yelling, try talking softly. I have yet to try this. I fear that talking softly would be lost during the crazy loud noise my kids are usually making at the time.
  • Practice Listening – Listening is a learned skill. Make sure you take the time to listen to your children. And I mean really listen. Turn away from the computer or put down the book and listen to what they are telling you. Model for them how you want them to behave.
  • Be close – Don’t yell out directions from the other room. (Yep, I am guilty of this one.) Though they may be able to hear you with the TV on or while you are banging around pots and pans in the kitchen, they are not focusing on what you are saying. So go to them, get down on their level, look in their eyes and tell them what you need from them.
  • Keep it short – Don’t list off a long list of things that need to be done. Young children can only process and remember one to two commands at a time. So have them complete one thing before moving on to the others.
  • Repeat – No that isn’t you repeating the message or request again and again. We already covered how fruitless that can be. Instead, have your child repeat back to you what you just asked them to do. “Now tell me, what are you going to do as soon as you finish breakfast?”

Now like I said, a lot of these are advice that I have heard before, but sometimes it bears repeating again and again. Maybe this time I will be listening.

You can’t control others – just your reaction

“He won’t play with me,” my daughter complains.

“Honey, you can’t make him play with you.”

Or another time she will come to me in tears.

“Jase called me a baby. I don’t like him anymore.”

“Now, he shouldn’t have done that,” I say, “but you can’t control what your brother or anyone else does. All you can do is control your own actions.”

Both instances reflect a common theme that I often repeat to the kids. You can’t control others. You can only control your own actions.

This is a hard concept for kids to understand. Heck, it is a difficult concept for adults to understand. People are going to say things and do things that aren’t what you want them to say or do.

You rush to tell someone you are pregnant. Instead of the expected “congratulations,” you hear something like. “Oh really? That’s….nice.” or “Again?”

Yep, that wasn’t what you were expecting. You can either choose to let their reaction affect you (whether it is by making you sad, or you challenging them to explain what they meant) or you can let their reaction roll off your back and continue to be happy about your situation. The choice is totally up to you. But how you react, can define how the conversation or even the relationship develops.

If Jase teases Lexie in order to upset her or make her cry, I often tell Lexie the answer is not to give him the response he is looking for. If she just ignored his taunts, he would stop doing them. Or she could tell him that she doesn’t like how he is behaving and won’t play with him. She has many other choices than crying about something he said.

Figuring out that your own actions entail how the conversation is going to go is a hard concept to learn. But lessons abound all over the place for my kids.

A boy on the playground pushes ahead and grabs the last open swing right before Lexie was going to get on it. A classmate makes fun of the shirt Jase is wearing or the way Lexie’s glasses look. I could go on and on. The lesson isn’t that they can’t control these other people. It is all about how they react in these situations.

Does she pull the boy off the swing? Does she call him a name or go tell the playground monitor? Does she shrug it off and find something else to do? Or perhaps she bursts into tears until he gives her the swing.

Does Lexie cry when the person makes fun of her glasses? Does she insult the classmate in an attempt at retribution? Or does she shrug it off and go on her way because she is comfortable with who she is?

It is about teaching my kids that it is their choice on how they handle the situation because they can’t control how others will behave. I can only hope they choose an appropriate reaction to those behaviors.

Scheduling Time for Family Dinners

My kids are lucky enough to live within close proximity to both set of grandparents. My parents moved to a city 20 minutes away before my son was born, and my in-laws moved to a small town about 20 minutes north of here about 2 ½ years ago.

When the kids were not going to public school, they saw my parents quite a bit – Sea World, the zoo or even just spending a day over at their house. However, now both kids are in elementary school, and our schedules have gotten busier – karate, gymnastics and homework.

The chances to see the grandparents have dwindled down to the few date nights might husband and I go on or only seeing them on holidays or birthdays. It isn’t just that we are busier but both sets of grandparents are busy with doctor appointments and other activities. (My dad is on the city council for his city and my parents are both active in their church and with the police alumni group.)

So last year as we drove back from a trip to the beach, my husband and I decided to introduce “Family Dinners” once a month.  We would set aside two evenings each month – one for each set of grandparents. We would then alternate having them at our house or going to theirs.

5298 040903 uid 1634107Both sets of grandparents quickly jumped on board with this plan. The actual idea came from the fact that my husband’s grandparents use to have everyone over EVERY Sunday. That included the grand kids so hubby and I would make the one-hour drive about every other Sunday. As college students, it was always nice to have a home-cooked meal.

So this July, we will have been at the Family Dinner thing for a year. Has it gone as expected? Well, no. We haven’t actually had a dinner every month as planned. My mom spent some time in the hospital which caused us to miss three months in a row. We also missed three months with my in-law due to sicknesses or scheduling conflicts.

But the dinners (or sometimes lunches) that we have had are great. I usually have them come over to our house about an hour before dinner to hang out and see the kids. When my in-laws have done their turn, they have always chosen lunch over dinner. They have a go-kart at their house, and they want the kids to ride it in the daylight (and when the temperature is at its best.) My parents have done mostly dinners, and since they have a huge train layout in the backyard, the kids are easily amused.

Part of the family dinners is the person hosting it gets to decide what they want to serve. I enjoy cooking so I always make something, even trying out a new dish for my monthly featured recipe. My in-law opt for ordering pizza a lot while my parents have gone both ways – picking up fried chicken or cooking a meal.

We plan to keep up the Family Dinners as long as we can. Now that school is about to get out for the summer, I expect we will be seeing both sets of grandparents a little more often, but it is nice to have those set days to plan for too.

Y is for Yelling #AtoZchallenge

Sometimes it seems the only way to get through to my kids is to raise my voice. It is as if they tune me out when I tell them something and only respond when I yell.

YToday we are up to letter Y in the A to Z Challenge, and I wanted to blog a little about yelling. I am pretty sure every parent out there – even those with awesome amounts of patience – has yelled at their kids once or twice (if not more often).

No, these aren’t moments that any parent is proud of, and I honestly feel crappy when I have yelled at my kids. But like I said, sometimes it seems the only way to get their attention.

I think my problem is that I sometimes have too high of an expectation for my kids. I forget that they are still learning, and that they do not think the same way as I do.

I recall reading a blog where a mother decided to go the opposite way and try whispering instead. She had success with it, so I may have to give that a try because yelling certainly is NOT an effective way to communicate. I know that by yelling, I am not modeling good behavior for my kids. I am teaching them that it is okay to yell. It is teaching them that they don’t have to listen until someone yells. It teaches them that they are not worth speaking to in civil tones. None of these things are my intention.

I wish it was as easy as saying, “I am no longer going to yell.” But it isn’t. I know this habit will be a hard one to break. All I have to do is look at my kids to remember why I want to stop this horrible pattern.

Teaching your child to be a good friend #AtoZChallenge

FToday on the A to Z Challenge we are up to the letter F. Since this lands on a day that I typically talk about parenting, I decided to post about teaching your child to be a good friend.

Learning to be a good friend is an important life skill to master. Children do not automatically know how to be a friend. Typically, many little kids are all about pleasing themselves and not worried about others. Being a good friend is not a skill that they will just pick up from hanging out with other children on the playground. It has to be taught. The best way is to set a good example yourself.

What I have always told my kids is that you need to treat others as you would like to be treated. This means you do kind things for them and use kind language. You don’t tell your friends what to do. You don’t ignore them. You don’t want to hurt their feelings.

friendsLexie (at age 4) was heartbroken one day when one of her friends (who is older than her by two years) decided to have a play date with some friends and didn’t invite Lexie. It was hard to explain to Lexie that her friend wanted to spend time with girls her own age.

But I use this example for the kids to not talk about events in front of friends unless they are planning to invite them too. As an adult, if you talk to your co-workers about the upcoming birthday party for your husband, they might expect an invitation, especially if they know him. But if you are talking about your upcoming family reunion, they probably won’t.

Kids can’t always make these distinctions. Sometimes when Lexie hears about other events, she tries to invite herself. I have to explain that she can’t be included in everything. You have to let your friends spend time with other friends.

As I watch Lexie navigate this area, it is sometimes hard to know when to step in and offer advice and when to let her figure it out on her own. It is difficult to watch your kids get hurt by their friends but dealing with conflict and problems in a friendship is inevitable. There will be heartache. Friends are not always easy.

Even Jase who is polite and thoughtful is going to slip up sometimes. Kids don’t always realize that what they say and do affect others. Often when Jase is teasing his sister, I remind him to think about how he would feel if she or someone else was treating him that way.

I am glad my kids have friends in the neighborhood that they can walk to school with and look forward to playing with. And I don’t know how long these friendships will last as kids’ interests will change and develop over the next few years which could cause them to grow apart. But these are their first friends and their first chance at becoming a good friend. And it is a lesson I hope they learn well.